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Building Cornering Skills

I did a series of "Race Notes" videos covering my 2021 Over the Hump season, and trying to note what I could do better.

One thing that was really clear in 2021, and again this year in 2022, was that I need to improve my cornering, especially on loose trail. So I've been practicing.

My favorite video on cornering a mountain bike is this one by The Loam Ranger. I love that he establishes that leaning the bike is key.

Focusing on that really helped. But something still wasn't clicking. The video above on cornering motorcycles really helped.

What I noticed was that the rider was setting up for the U-turn by shifting his hips to the outside of the turn. Basically, for a left turn, he'd put his left butt cheek on the saddle, and vice-versa for the right.

When I tried that, a few things happened naturally:

  • I made more space for my saddle to lean into the turn.
  • Rather than trying to drop my outside foot all the way to the "6 o'clock" position at the bottom of the stroke, I adopted a stance with my inside foot slightly higher than my outside foot, which I've heard called the "60/40 stance".
  • That, in turn, let me lean the bike much more easily, getting those all-important turning lugs planted in the dirt.

And all of this felt much more natural than ever before. I feel more secure in the turns, and it feels so much more secure than ever before.

And the proof is in the pudding. There were so many moments during last night's race where I was clearly carrying more momentum through turns than before. In places where I used to just be part of the conga line going through a twisty section, I was often picking up time on the riders around me.

My training goals for the rest of 2022 boil down to:

  1. get leaner (ideally, weight around 175#)
  2. build trail skills
  3. build my ability to sustain race pace with periodic 30- to 90-second punches at 400-500W.

It's really great to be making solid progress on #2 there.

Executing on the Fat Loss Plan

Executing on the Fat Loss Plan

I've adjusted my training & nutrition to prioritize fat loss, and it's working ever so gradually, just like it should. But man? doing this The Right Way is... HARD.

It's going well. I'm down ~10lbs over ~4 months. I spoke with a dietitian & implemented a few of her recommendations:

less sugar/simple carbs

On days I don't ride, I've swapped my high-carb oatmeal breakfast for scrambled eggs & a slice of toast. Snacks feature veggies/hummus, etc.

prebiotics & probiotics, fiber

I now supplement to support gut biome health:

  • breakfast: fiber supplement
  • lunch: prebiotics
  • dinner: probiotics

more sleep

It's easy to stay up watching TV or playing games or doomscrolling, and for me that results in ~6?hrs of sleep per night. Getting in bed earlier & pushing that toward 7?hrs has really helped.

NOPE: more veggies

I've gotten some more veggies into my diet, but not nearly enough. There's 100% room for improvement here.

I've also made some adjustments to my training to prioritize fat loss.

consistently make time for weight training

My love of biking often leads me to want to skip my Thursday's barbell session so I can give Friday's ride my all. But for me, consistently doing SOMETHING every day is FAR more conducive to fat loss than going hard every other day.

I have to remember that a new PR is nice, but what I really want is a whole stack of new PRs as payoff for dropping this extra fat I'm carrying around. I'll be healthier & significantly faster if I drop the extra weight.

on-bike fueling

I usually put Gu Roctane in both bottles. That keeps me fueled through the end of the ride, which is good for recovery. But it also means more sugar in my system than I really need. So now it's 1 bottle of Roctane, 1 of water.

That cuts just 250 Cal from my daily intake, and my rides typically burn 800-1400 Cal. But I find that cutting sugar in particular has an outsized effect on body composition.

What's the Goal?

I'm starting to notice clothes fitting differently, and I'm maybe starting to notice that I'm feelign stronger on the bike. So that's encouraging. I'm down from ~205# to reliably under ~195#, and I'd love to get back down under 180#, where I was in April of 2019. I felt great back then, and wasn't strugling or pushing myself to maintain that.

2022 OtH Winter Series #2 (Int, 40-49): 11th

2022 OtH Winter Series #2 (Int, 40-49): 11th

I didn't catch the first Winter Series race, but I was determined not to miss the second. My result wasn't great, but I had fun, and it renewed my motivation to trim off the fat that I've gained ever-so-slowly over the last couple of years.

I'm looking forward to race #3 on Feb 26, and I'm determined to line up for the Summer Series on May 3 leaner & fitter than I've been in years.

Prioritizing Fat Loss

Prioritizing Fat Loss

This winter, I'm finally doing what I said I need to do, and focusing on getting leaner. The scale & my body measurements have been telling me for a couple of years that while my hypertrophy block was a raging success, it left me with extra fat that I never managed to shed.

Here's what seems to be working.

Daily Routine

  • ~550Cal, high-carb breakfast of oatmeal, bagel, etc. (I've been enjoying Biju's Oatmeal.)
  • workout/ride (I fuel with Roctane mix, usually 1 bottle @ 250Cal)
  • post-workout protein shake (protein powder, milk) (~360Cal)
  • light lunch (~300Cal)
  • RIDE DAYS: snack (~250Cal) & coffee (~80Cal)
  • LIFTING DAYS: just coffee

Weekly Routine

  • MON: Ride 90min
  • TUES: Strength & Conditioning
  • WED: Ride 90min
  • THURS: Strength & Conditioning
  • FRI: Ride 2hrs

Strength & Conditioning

I'm doing a 10min warmup run or KB session, then the barbell complex from Dan John's Mass Made Simple.

  • 5 rounds
  • 5 reps each movement
  • each round should take under 1:45
  • rest 1:30 between rounds
  • movements:
    1. bent row
    2. power clean
    3. front squat
    4. military press
    5. back squat
    6. Romanian deadlift

I'm currently doing this with 85# on the bar, and that's feeling just a hair light, so next week will be at 90#.

Add more weight when you're consistently under the 1:45 mark for each round. If you want to go up in 10# increments, the first workout with the new load should have rests of 2:00 between rounds. Trust me on that.

This seems to be working. Over the last month or so, I've dropped from ~205# to consistently weighing in around 199#.

I was genuinely surprised to see that I'd gotten under 180# back in 2019. No wonder I was quicker back then.

So far, this rhythm is letting me drop fat while still getting quicker on the bike, which is ultimately my goal. I'll continue this as long as it keeps working. I'll re-evaluate priorities when I get back down under 190#.

2021 OtH #4-8, Season Wrap-Up

2021 OtH #4-8, Season Wrap-Up

Races 4-8 were a steady progression of feeling stronger & getting better results. Each week I did better & better, climbing from 18th to 13th, which is great. I only placed 16th overall, but that's to be expected when I spent the middle of the series finishing around 20th each week.

8 individual races kind of blur together, but I did learn plenty during this time.

Initially, I was soft-pedaling into spots where I knew there would be an accordion effect, thinking that I was saving energy. "We're all gonna be wheel-to-wheel in a second anyway," I'd think. And then three riders would dive in ahead of me, which would hold me up and/or push me off the fast line, and I'd come out the other end of the accordion having surrendered 5 positions.

In later races, I reframed the typical rhythm of open trail punctuated by tight turns or bottlenecks. I relized that in a 40- to 60-minute race, it's a sprint from start to finish. Saving energy is nice, but you've gotta do it opportunistically rather than tactically.

Meaning: if someone is going a little faster than you, and you can draft, then draft. But it's almost never a good call to draft behind someone slower than you in hopes of "resting" or "recovering".

I worked on my cornering, and discovered that (possibly because of the current state of my skills) I'm far smoother carrying speed through corners if I stand.

And I found that I can totally stand & power up climbs & pass people, and that this works much better for me than trying to sit & spin.

Between standing for power and standing through corners, my approach to most of this race completely changed. I'd brake late, carry speed through the corner (leaning the bike as much as possible for more grip), then stay standing & power out, rinse & repeat.

And honestly, I think pushing myself each week did great things for my fitness. Not only was I performing better each week, I felt better after the race.

I haven't seen my heart rate hit 185 BPM in a long time, but it did duringing these races.

Take-Aways

Most of what I learned from the 2019 Over the Hump series served me well. A few additions:

Pass when you can: the twists & turns of this race offer little windows where passing is possible. Make the most of those opportunities. Pass, then use the course to defend your position & recoup for a few seconds, then go again.

Foam rolling: foam rolling is amazing and completely eliminated any need for Sudafed/NyQuil after races. Never even thought to reach for them.

Base layer: I have a few sleeveless base layer tops, and I'm now religious about wearing them. Even on the hottest days on the race course, I felt like my sweat was actually cooling me rather than just dripping off or evaporating uselessly.

Bike fit: after getting frustrated with lingering saddle sores, I got a fit from Bosco Bike Fits, and it was money well spent. My sores disappeared as if they never existed, and have not returned.

Roctane Recovery Mix: It's not cheap, but I really do love it. Fantastic recharge after hard workouts. I ran out during the last couple of races, and replaced it with a simple mix of protein powder, milk, and chocolate syrup, and that seemed to get the job done well enough.

OtH #5 (Intermediate, 40-49): 17th

OtH #6 (Intermediate, 40-49): 16th

OtH #7 (Intermediate, 40-49): 15th

OtH #8 (Intermediate, 40-49): 13th

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