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Over the Hump #1: 9th (Intermediate, 40-49)

After nearly two years, the Over the Hump Tuesday-night races are back on the calendar. Instead of two six-week blocks with a hiatus in between, it's a single eight-week series. I'd love to see more racing, and a longer season, but after 22 months of waiting, I'll take what I can get.

My goals were super-simple: stay with the leaders as long as I could, and race smart. I've been watching a lot race tactics videos on YouTube this year, so I like to think I'm a smarter racer than I was two years ago.

Because of some delays at the venue, organizers shortened the race from three laps to two, which I was slightly bummed about. The last lap is usually where I'm able to pick up a few places. And a short race means a brutal pace I wasn't sure I could hang with.

I got off the line clean, and everyone seemed to take their time getting up to speed. I was with the leaders into the first turn, and felt really solid. As we crested the top of the hill & headed down to the road along Irvine Lake, gaps were forming and I was crosseyed, but I had the leaders in sight & felt okay about my position.

I did my best to breathe & conserve energy on the flats, but the pace was still super-high, and as we came through the park & onto the "back 40" section, I'd been gapped pretty good. I figured with just two laps in the race this was the best time to do whatever passing I was going to manage, and started to work my way up through the traffic.

It was amazing to push along the flats solo at 280W, then tuck in behind someone and watch that number drop to 170W without losing any speed.

The flat finished with that hard left up the nose & into the CX section. I decided not to burn my matches there, and I feel like that's the smart move there. It's maybe a 30-second climb, so going into the red just gains you maybe 5 seconds, which can be made up with minimal fuss later.

My trail skills are rusty after so much fire road riding in my training, and the course was really loose & dusty. So I feel like the back section took more out of me than it should have. (Or at least, more than it used to.)

I headed into lap 2 with no clue what position I was in. I just tried to remind myself that there was no point saving any matches, and that I really had maybe 15 minutes of racing left.

I managed to pick up a place coming through the park, and as I headed into the "Back 40", I spotted a huge train motoring along about 40m ahead. I've learned my lesson from so many crit videos, and I know that I've gotta catch that.

So catch it I did. I kept myself just shy of redlining, but managed to join the back of that train & get into that sweet, sweet suction. I took a minute to rest, but realized that I had one competitor just ahead, and another behind.

The train started to split apart, so I jumped on my competitor's wheel & went with him for the rest of the flat section. A glance back showed a nice gap, so I stopped looking for the guy behind, and just focused on moving up.

The guy I was following attacked up the nose climb, and I just couldn't go. I hoped that if I could stay in striking distance I could make up the time later in the lap, but after that he was gone.

I had a nice gap after the final climb, but didn't want to take that for granted. And I'm glad I didn't. A guy in my division wearing all black managed to sneak up & passed me going into the second-to-last corner. Very fortunately, there was a guy in another division just ahead of us and we all hit that corner at the same time. Mr. All-Black was forced to go outside of the other guy, but I had space to pull inside & get past them both. I spun up the hill as fast as I could & held on for 9th place.

(My GPS says I hit 130+ RPM there, which seems unlikely, but matches my experience at the time of just spinning as fast as I could.)

I had high hopes for this race. I spent several months at the beginning of 2020 building muscle, and I've been pushing hard on the bike to build my fitness.

Unfortunately, it looks like I've mostly just maintained, rather than improved. That's... disappointing.

On the other hand, I'll get to do eight races this year instead of just four back in 2019, and I improved significantly during those four races back then. I'm hoping I can do likewise this year.

So, goals for next week:

  • start harder- stay with the leaders. I'm not 100% convinced this will get me my best possible results, but I really do feel like at this race the top finishers pull away quickly & stay away.
  • more burning matches, more coasting. I spent a lot of time just above FTP, and that meant I had nothing when I needed to push harder. I want to see what happens when I, for example, start hard, then coast & draft along the flats, then attack up the nose, then recover in the CX section, then attack up the longer climb, then coast through the start/finish, etc. Might be a terrible idea. Dunno. I want to find out.

2021 OtH 1

Training Update: Upgrades & Saddle Sores

Training Update: Upgrades & Saddle Sores

Upgrades!

First, I got a Stages left-crank power meter for my mountain bike. The change has been phenomenal. Instant feedback on technique means I'm really focusing on getting faster rather than just building aerobic capacity as a proxy for power output.

That set the stage for joining TrainerRoad's training program. So far, that's been awesome. I'm clearly getting much stronger & faster, and I like the variety it provides over something like Time-Crunched Training Protocol.

And I've upgraded GPS unit, replacing my old Garmin Edge 500 with a new Edge 130 Plus. Wireless sync has been awesome, and the screen is so much clearer. Both units support structured workout downloads from TrainierRoad, but the workout screen on the 130 Plus is so much better than what's available on the 500.

I also decided to try using a base layer just for grins, and I'll never go back to just a jersey. I'm using a Pearl Izumi sleeveless mesh base layer, and it keeps the chilly days from being too chilly, and noticeably helps make hot days manageable as well.

Saddle Sores

I've never had trouble with saddles before this year. But now... I do.

I suspect that the biggest reason is that I've been doing much more training (indeed, most of my training) on flat fire roads along the Santa Anna River Trail. On trails (where I did most of my riding until now), there's much more weighting & unweighting the saddle, shifting positions, etc.

Whatever the reason, saddle sores have been a persistent problem for me for the last few months. So far, I've been lucky. They haven't caused any disruption in my training or gotten beyond merely annoying. But they're not going away, and I want to get that resolved before it becomes a real problem.

On the calendar, the next two weeks are rest & prep for a race in Big Bear followed by a recovery week. So the plan is already calling for very little time on the bike with lots of rest, and workouts to maintain fitness rather than build it.

I won't be doing the Big Bear race, so I'm going to take advantage of that low volume to get some extra rest & minimize my time in the saddle. I'm hoping that doing just 2-3hrs over the next couple of weeks will let my sores heal completely.

I've also ordered a new seatpost that will give me more fine-tuned tilt & setback options, and I have a new saddle with a slightly wider body & more padding that I hope will help spread some of the pressure & minimize hip rocking.

And finally, once I'm healed I'm going to book a bike fit at Bosco Bike Fits to get my bike fit nailed down properly. I've never had a proper bike fit, and I like to think that if I had, I'd wouldn't be dealing with this now.

2021 Goals, Recovery Methods

2021 Goals, Recovery Methods

I've plotted a rough training outline for 2021, with the Over the Hump races as B races, and some more classic style race series on the radar as possibilities for A races if/when racing resumes.

My goal for 2021 is to get on the podium as an Intermediate racer, and set the stage for a move up to Sport in 2022.

For now, I'm using Strava's workouts (based on Charmichael's Time-Crunched Training Protocol), and making solid progress. Two-hour rides at 140 BPM feel easy, 150 BPM feels normal, and I'm doing intervals at 155-165 BPM to push my FTP up.

It's been a long time since I did real climbing repeats at 170+ BPM, so my climbing is garbage at the moment. Looking to get that back in order by April or so.

I've ordered a power meter, and I'm planning to start with TrainerRoad once that's fitted & working, which I think will really help me make better use of my training time.

And I've started doing a few things that are really helping recovery & getting more out of my workouts.

Fueling During the Workout

I've been fueling with Gu Roctane during my workouts, which has made a noticeable difference in how I feel in the second hour, especially when I need top-end power.

  • 1 bottle Roctane, 1 bottle water
  • drink ½ bottle every 30 minutes
  • finish the Roctane 30 minutes before the end of the ride
Recovery Drink After the Workout

I've been taking BCAAs & water for years. A full recovery drink is better. Gu Roctane Recovery Mix, or a basic chocolate milk & protein shake:

  • 8 oz milk
  • 1 scoop (25g) protein
  • chocolate syrup to taste (~2tbsp)
Stretching & Foam Rolling

I usually do this at night, immediately after doing my nightly housework so I'm warm & moving before I start.

  • some version of my usual stretching sequence
  • some strap-assisted work on hamstring & hip mobility
  • short foam rolling session for legs & glutes, focusing on slowly rolling toward my torso
  • I sleep better when I do this- my legs are more relaxed & I don't feel that "gotta stretch" feeling.
  • I move around much more easily, especially getting up/down off the ground.
  • I feel noticeably fresher the next day. No leftover stiffness or soreness.
Vitamins & Krill Oil

I'm still doing my usual dinner-time supplementation:

  • 1 multivitamin
  • 1 vitamin D
  • 3 capsules krill oil
Focus on Sleep

Dan John said it well: "Recovery = Sleep. Everything else is FOMO."

  • I make sure I get 7+ hours every night. 8+ as much as possible.
  • I now use a device called a Smart Nora to eliminate snoring, which helps my wife sleep, which in turn means I'm not catching elbows in the middle of the night.
  • I nap when I need to, and focus on getting to bed at a normal time the following night.

A Year of Progress

A Year of Progress

My bike performance & strength gains are pretty much done for the 2020 training year. I'm going to spend the next couple of months getting leaner, and then in October I start the the 2021 training year. That makes this a good moment to take stock & see what I've accomplished since October.

continued

Training Update: Quarantine

Training Update: Quarantine

I have nothing poetic or insightful to say about what's happening in the world right now. For the moment, my wife, daughter & I are all healthy & employed, and able to sequester ourselves at home, which is awesome under the current circumstances.

Training continues to be my little bubble of emotional safety. So I'm going to keep doing that, and I'm going to keep writing about it here.

The Over the Hump schedule was first pushed to May 19, and is now listed as July 21, but I'm writing off my 2020 race season. I think of it as playing the long game. Instead of focusing on getting race-ready for 2020, I've taken a step back from riding and instead spent some time on barbell work to build a generally stronger, more capable body.

Goals

I've cobbled together my long-term strength goals from articles, books, blog posts, YouTube videos, and my own experience.

  goal current
squat 1.5 x BW (270#) 195#
deadlift 2.0 x BW (360#) 245#
bench press 1.5 x BW (270#) 140#
pull-up 10 @ BW 4 @ BW

Methods

I've taken a step back from bike-focused training, and centered my training around body composition and building strength & muscle mass. I've been down this road before, with disappointing results, so this is something of a leap of faith. But, I've made a couple of key choices this time around that have really helped.

First, I've stuck to the basics, and added one complementary movement where I felt it was appropriate.

Second, I've ruthlessly avoided changing too much over time. I want a solid framework within which I can apply progressive overload to make my body stronger.

Third, I've tailored one workout a week to addressing general mobility & core strength, with some emphasis on a couple of problem areas.

It's really tempting to add too much. But I find that most of these workouts clock in at around 1:15h, and on the hard days they leave me wobbly. That tells me I'm doing enough.

Workouts

The primary goal is to build strength, and not necessarily to build muscle mass. (I covered hypertrophy back in late 2019.)

For the primary movements (bench, pull-up, squat, deadlift), I've taken a note from Mass Made Simple and adopted a cycle of set/rep/load that seems to be working well:

  1. Workout #1: 3 x 5, 2 min rest between sets
  2. Workout #2: 5 x 5, 90 sec rest between sets
  3. Workout #3: 3 x 8, 2 min reset between sets
  4. Increse the load & repeat the cycle.

Basically, start by doing enough volume to get used to the load & trigger some growth. Then push up the volume, and finally, consolidate the reps back into 3 sets to push the growth further.

That's working well. While I was doing Mass Made Simple, my bench press max double was 135. I can now do that for 5 x 5.

Lower Body/Back (Wednesdays)

  • deadlift (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • squat (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • crab walk 3 x 45/60
  • kb snatch 3 x 20

Upper Body (Mondays & Fridays)

  • bench press (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • pull-up (3x5 | 5x5 | 3x8)
  • face pull 3 x 10
  • front raise 3 x 10
  • barbell complex (5x5 | 3x8):
    • bent row
    • deadlift
    • power clean
    • military press
    • squat
    • Romanian deadlift

Complementary Work (Saturday)

  • circuit x 3:
    • back extension
    • axe chop
    • Jefferson curl
    • hanging knee raise
  • stretching

Random Notes

I feel like the crab walks (which I do more in an ice skating motion due to space constraints) have been a fantastic addition to my workouts. I decided to try that after seeing that it was part of Emily Batty's gym program.

And the day of core strength & hip mobility has been great. I added the back extensions after watching Jeff Cavaliere talk about how just doing squats & deadlifts is not enough to really build a strong low back.

Together, the crab walks, back extensions, axe chops, and mobilty work has massively improved how I feel on standing climbs, and improved how my low back feels after tough/long rides.

I find it interesting to note that this has been more effective even than the Foundation Training low back sequence.

Preliminary Results

My measurements are virtually identical to when I finished my hypertrophy block back in November, which is great. I'm not trying to add bulk, and I'm not adding fat.

I'm comitted to "playing the long game", which means moving consistently toward those strength targets, and genuinely letting go of 2020 and aiming to hit next summer in the best cycling shape of my life.

Just the same, I was worried what several months of prioritizing strength work would do. Nobody likes to move backward.

So after taking a rest week and doing a couple of rides to wake up my legs, I did a ride up Coachwhip to see where I stand.

Result: I hit my fastest time in nearly a year.

That's still ~80 seconds off PR pace, but I'm no longer worried about losing huge levels of hard-earned bike fitness. I'm confident that prioritizing strength over the last few months is paying dividends, and I'm on the right track for a great 2021 race season.

What's Next

During my late-2019 hypertrophy block, I gained ~10# of muscle. I'd like to now shed ~10# of fat, so that I'm back at my 2019 body mass with a much-improved composition, and massively better strength. That'll take up July & August, and maybe a couple weeks of September.

And I'm reading up on targeting slow-twitch hypertrophy, so that may be on deck for September/October.

older stuff