Wednesday Weekly Update

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a Weekly Update published, but now that I’m back to regular training, I’ve got a few things say.  Training has been going along, and I’ve had a few good and (more) bad days.  One advantage of keeping detailed training records, is that I can see that for the past two seasons I’ve been disappointed in my power numbers and sensations on the bike this time of year.  Thanks to old training logs, I can see that I need to continue to trust the system and keep riding my bike.

In years past, I’ve been expecting great things based on my success in my recently completed cyclocross season.  This year I’ve had some additional time off, but I am still feeling (and riding) about the same.  At this point, an ‘about the same’ season would be great, so I’m going to try to replicate as much as I can with a few small tweaks.

I also wanted to talk about fatigue again.  I know it is only my first cycle of training after an injury, but I was cooked after 11 hours of training last week.  Some of those hours could even be ‘discounted’ as not training: An hour of bodyweight core/strength training, an hour run, and an hour of an ‘easy’ isolated leg workout with low average HR and power.  This left 8 hours of Zone 2 riding for the week, and by Sunday’s scheduled 3.5 hour ride, I was feeling somewhat fatigued at the start, and cooked at the end.

Remember, I am only a case study.  What happens to me may not be normal for everyone.  But I want to reiterate that last year I was destroyed after a 14 hour week with mostly Zone 2/3 riding and had to take an unplanned rest week.  Perhaps I don’t recover as well as others (Last week I didn’t get much sleep (4-5 hours on two consecutive nights), and have some significant family and job stress), but I wanted to say that for me, consistency seems to be more important than massive training volume.

This week has also been a bit of a bust with a lot of things to do around the house, and today, bad weather.  As I write this the city of Boulder is quiet with near blizzard conditions.  On twitter I mentioned how convenient our last snow storm was, on Monday, most cyclists rest day.  Well, unlike most cyclists, Thursday is my day when I am free to ride as much as I can; a very inconvenient day for a blizzard.

I have resolved to do something for a few hours.  I doubt it will be a couple hours on the rollers.  It may be a long hike, or possibly a mountain bike ride if the weather isn’t too dismal.  Luckily at this point in the season, regular aerobic activity is the most imporant thing I can be doing.

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Why the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge WONT include Flagstaff Mountain

Since the host cities announcement last week, everyone in Boulder has been going with of a finish up .  Personally, I think this would be the most awesome thing in the whole world.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen for this edition of the race.

However, the climb does have a good chance of featuring in a future edition of the race.  It is close to the population centers of the state and would create huge buzz and attendance.  Logistically it is a very good choice, since the road is public, but almost all the land along the climb is Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land.  It would be quite easy to get the route approved if the City is interested (and it should be).  Next is traffic:  There are residents past the summit, but there is also a ‘back way’ to get down the mountain on Gross Dam Road, so there would be a workable traffic plan.

Not This Year

The primary example of what to expect is taken from the Tour of California.  Shawn Hunter is the CEO of USAPCC and former CEO of AEG Sports, which organized the ToC under his direction until last year.  The ToC did not feature a summit finish until its sixth edition, in 2011.  The reason for the delay is the following: Organizers couldn’t afford to make the race too hard.

At first, this may seem like strange logic.  A harder race, and especially a summit finish, is more exciting and should draw more fans.  This may be true, but keep in mind that a big part of a new, world class race like the USAPCC is attracting riders and sponsors.

Many teams spend all year racing in cycling’s heartland, Europe.  Most sponsors of World Tour teams have interests in the US, and are eager to show off their stars on US soil.  It is very good for fans, since they can catch a glimpse of their favorite rider, now that there is such a big race in the central part of the US.  So, the teams want to bring their stars to the race.

Unfortunately, the race is less than a month after the finish of the Tour de France.  The race also conflicts with the Vuelta.  That means most superstars on top form will be racing in Spain, and we will continue to see riders looking to ‘take it easy’ at the USAPCC.  Last year we saw the tour podium and other superstars in attendance.  If the race were too hard, some of these top riders may choose to pass on the race, to the detriment of the fans and the race itself.

Two of cycling biggest stars, Ivan Basso and Andy Schleck finished 33rd and 35th, respectively.  I would argue they came to the race to get some miles in the legs and to get their sponsors some great exposure on US soil.  A hilltop finish on one of the hardest climbs in the area might sound exciting to us, but maybe not to a tired racer after finishing both the Tour and Giro a few months before.

Once the race is well established, riders and teams will start to target the race.  This has already happened to some extent, with American riders for teams with the biggest US interests targeting the race specifically.  (The top 5: Leipheimer [Radioshack], VandeVelde [Garmin], Van Garderen [HTC], Danielson [Garmin], and Hincapie [BMC])  Once the race gains international media exposure and can compete better with the Vuelta, it will attract on-form international superstars and can feature the exciting route we all crave.

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2012 Annual Training Plan

Planning is critical for a successful season, but first you must know what you’re planning for.  The first thing I do is set goals for the upcoming season.  I look at the dates of the goal events (usually from the prior season’s schedule) and see when I want to start training to be on top form to realize my goals.

Rather than the spreadsheet I linked in Last Year’s Post, I decided to try the TrainingPeaks.com Annual Training Plan (ATP) Wizard.  I stumbled across it by accident and put in the date for my #1 goal for the season.  It automatically put in the training cycles I use and built my ‘mesocycle’ schedule back from the date of the race.

So what is my Big Goal? The Colorado State Time Trial Championship!  I placed 4th last year, and was only just a minute off the winning time.  2011 featured a new course (a proper 40k) and I put in a good time, finishing in 52:14 (28.5 mph).  I think next year I have a good chance to win if I focus my efforts.

My other goal is to qualify for the .  The top Cat 1 amateur finisher from each qualifying race is invited to the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  They race as a composite team for the week with full ‘Pro’ team support.  Although the race doesn’t perfectly suit me (three criteriums and two road races), I am still interested in the experience and like the idea of this goal.  The closest qualifying race (as yet unconfirmed, from last year) is , near Salt Lake City, in April.

I will probably select some later season goals as the year progresses, but for now I haven’t planned past the State Time Trial.  There are some races that I have interest in later in the summer: Cascade Classic NRC Stage Race, epic one-day Crusher in the Tushar, and many more.  I’ll wait to see how my season is going, travel considerations, and team interest before making plans for later summer.

2012 Annual Training Plan - TrainingPeaks.com

I was surprised to see that my training for the State Time Trial started last week!  2011′s training started a month earlier than 2010 in anticipation of Tour of the Gila’s relatively early slot on the calendar.  This year I want to be at the pinnacle of my fitness in early June, so training will start one month earlier still in 2012.

In addition to shifting my training earlier in 2012, I have also again lowered my hours.  I planned 550 in 2010, 500 in 2011, and now 450 in 2012.  Last year’s reduction was to align my goals with my actual training, as I hadn’t been able to achieve the 550 hour volume.  This year I am going to ease the burden and lower my overall hours by 10%, but my goal events are of shorter duration.  If I make sure to train consistently, I am confident I can succeed with slightly reduced volume.

Considering I’ve already have two months without racing I am more than ready to begin preparations for 2012.  Next up I’ll detail my plans for the first training cycle.

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2011 Reader Survey

I’ve decided to conduct a reader survey.  The blog has been consistently growing and I wanted to take a quick minute of your time to see how I’m doing and get some quick feedback.  My goal is to best suit the blog to its readers.   If you have any comments (positive or negative, this is your chance to be heard), please leave a comment on this post with your thoughts or ideas for a better blog in 2012.

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2011 Year in Review

The first step in planning for 2012 is to look at how my 2011 Annual Training Plan worked.  Of course, I didn’t always stick to the plan, but here is a quick summary of my goals and achievements in 2011.

My first goal was to “Win a race”.  While I never won a road race, I got a few small wins: a 30+ master’s training crit, the time trial stage at the Cat 2 Tour of the Gila, and a small out of town cyclocross race.  I also won a large local Cyclocross race (in the top category: Men’s Open) at the Boulder Cyclocross Series, which I count as my highest single accomplishment of the season.

My second goal was to earn 15 ACA upgrade points.  These points would have to be earned with high finishes in local Pro/1/2 races.  I don’t have the official count (Since I upgraded to Cat 1 and stopped counting), but I did earn about 15 points in Pro/1/2 races.  My unwritten goal was to upgrade to Cat 1.  It seemed like too much to write down, but my motivation (and blog title) were obvious.

My third goal was to travel to at least one large “Cat 2″ race.  This was a critical part of my goal to upgrade to Cat 1.  At Tour of the Gila (another overall season highlight), I was able to earn a majority of my upgrade points.  I also gained a lot of experience in this tough, five day stage race.  I completed this goal, and also traveled as a Cat 1 to a National Racing Calendar Criterium (Boise Twilight Criterium).

2011 Season Highlights:

The Team: This was my first full season on the ‘s Elite squad.  The team, with many experienced members, really took me under their wing this year.  Dirk Friel and Jon Tarkington became my occasional winter training partners.  Both are coaches with international racing experience, and they also rode me ragged in the early season.

The team also saw that my equipment was dialed to perfection and that I had the resources and support for four out of state trips, and four national level events.

DU City Park Criterium:  Although this was a smaller collegiate race, it was my breakthrough Pro/1/2 race, and it was early in the season (late March).  I got myself into a successful three man breakaway on the classic and technical circuit.  My break mates were Chris Winn (Fly V Australia Pro), and Colby Pearce (Long time pro and multi time track national champion).  I knew I was on track for a great season after this race.

Tour of the Gila:  This was far and away the hardest, biggest, and longest race I have ever done.  Five days and almost 400 miles of racing, with the final stage covering two mountain passes and over 100 miles!  I still can’t believe I even completed this grueling race, yet I excelled and placed on the podium without any team mates in the race.  This was one of my major goals of the season and it was great to see dedication, planning, and consistent training pay off.

North Boulder Park Criterium:  This was another important race.  The race is a classic and was once an with past winners including Ron Kiefel.  There were about 20 riders with pro contracts on hand (including Rory Sutherland) and I was able to make the winning move and finish fifth in front of a large hometown crowd.  I earned my Cat 1 upgrade at this race.

Boise Twilight Criterium: This was my first crack at the National Racing Calendar.  About half of the capacity 120 rider field had ‘Pro’ contracts, and the rest were Cat 1s.  It was also my first night race!  The energy of the 20,000 spectators jamming the entire course was a feeling I won’t soon forget.  I narrowly avoided the numerous crashes in the finale to finish 22nd.  I also flew to the race alone and was in and out of Boise in under 24 hours, like a true pro.

2011 Best All-Around Rider: Although I never won a qualifying road race, my earned me the title of the top amateur road racer in the state.  I’m proud of this accomplishment, but may not be able to attend as many races next year to defend my title.

Boulder Cyclocross Series #2: I won a race!  There are dozens of racers on race day, but only one winner.  I had won a few races prior to this one, but in my mind each of those didn’t quite count.  The fields were too small, or the competition out of town, etc.  This race was a no holds barred ‘cross race with a large, strong field.  I crossed the finish line first and the feeling was overwhelming.  I went from clinging to the group behind the leaders, to beating everyone, over the course of the season.  Both my parents were also watching and this could be my best memory of 2011.

UCI Cyclocross Races (CrossVegas and New Belgium Cup): Finishing on the lead lap of these internationally ranked races is a major achievement.  Unlike road racing, there is nowhere to hide in a cyclocross race.  If you don’t have the legs and/or skills, you won’t be finishing the race.  It was a signal that I was ready to take my ‘cross racing to the next level… Until I broke my collarbone, that is.

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Clavicle Fracture and ORIF – 8 weeks and Final Update

Today is 8 weeks after my clavicle fracture, and seven weeks since my surgery.  My recovery was uncomplicated, and combined with a conservative return to activity I have healed quickly.

Last week I went to for my six week post surgical followup.  My X-rays look great.  The bone was knit strongly and there was no sign of fatigue in my plate from overuse.  I was cleared to return to normal activity, with a recommendation to ‘ease into it’.

At this point I’ve had a couple weeks with 8-10 hours of activity (running and riding), but most have been closer to 3-4 hours per week.  I’ve been climbing steep hills out of the saddle and also completed a nearly four hour ride recently without pain.  I returned to some very light strength training, and did three sets of ten pushups from my knees.

I have full range of motion.  Although, the very limits of shoulder mobility cause some discomfort (like reaching into a jersey pocket).  I can roll onto my left side in bed now, but only for a few minutes at a time.  Mostly I’ve been living day-to-day just like normal, with only occasional reminders of how injured I was just two months ago.

The low point so far has been the realization of my current fitness level.  When I crashed, I knew that my cyclocross season was over, and I would be rebuilding for road season next year.  But now that I have arrived at that point, I see that I have a long way to go.  I’ve done a few harder rides and have seen my power numbers are 10-15% below their peak just two months ago.  I’ve also gained 4 lbs of weight.

Last winter I learned just how far a consistent base period can bring fitness.  Looking over last year, I am convinced that March is when I got fast.  With the end of the year coming up, look for some ‘year in review’ posts coming soon.

I know the blog has been a bit quiet lately, but I’ve had some pressing family matters over the past week.  Look for some details on my plans for 2012 next Monday.

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Sacrifice

This blog frequently features tips for racers and cyclists that are inspired by my racing and training.  I am a cerebral person and tend to focus on facts, figures, and race reports.  I’m also an optimist and I think that also shows in my blog.  However, a few recent tweets by Joe Friel, and particularly my recent injury, got me thinking about the subject of sacrifice.


Last season I was quite successful and met all my goals.  I was also willing to make significant sacrifices.

Time:

I trained 8-10 hours per week, and 12-14 hours on a few occasions in the spring.  There is a constant effort to find times during the week that I can ride my bike with minimal impact on my family.  Since training is a regular occurrence, it has less impact than racing.

I had just over 40 days of racing in 2011!  This was a huge time commitment but allowed me to gain a lot of experience.  Some races required minimal sacrifice (a small criterium a mile from my house) and others were multi-day stage races and/or out of state.

Also, don’t forget this blog itself.  I have written over 100,000 words over two years, which is enough to fill an entire book!  Most of my posts take an hour or two to draft, although I usually sneak them in during downtime at work.

Money:

My wife will kill me if I itemize everything from this season, but I can give some rough numbers.  I skimmed through our 2011 bank statements and here is a quick look:

Tires:
Training Tires (Specialized Armadillo Elite) x2: $120
Race Tires (Continental Sprinter Tubular) x3: $180
Cyclocross Tires (Dugast Typhoon Tubular) x2: $240

Equipment:
SRAM Red partial group: $600
Odds and ends (Stems, bartape, tubes, chains, etc): $280

Travel:
Laramie, Wy: $150
Silver City, NM: $800
Boise, ID: $300
Las Vegas, NV: $400

Race Entry estimate: $30 per racing day for 40 races: $1200

I will admit that a portion of these expenses were covered for me through various avenues, but I had to pay for all of these things up front.  Not included are 2010′s major expenses, $1600 in wheels, and a top of the line cyclocross bike.

Injury: My broken collarbone has thus far cost me $4000 in insured medical bills (much lower than the $15,000 surgery cost), and six weeks out of work.

I’ve been feeling sheepish about being injured, especially among my healthy colleagues.  However, I went to work for a meeting and was surprised at their attitude about it.  I was happy to be appreciated for being ‘hard core’ and as my boss put it, “Suffering for my art”.

Summary:

I don’t mean for this post to be a ‘downer’, but more to detail my specific sacrifices required for a successful season at my level.  I am in the early stages of planning for 2012 and I am looking for high level goals, but also choosing goals that are attainable within the level of effort and sacrifice that I am comfortable with for the coming year.

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Training for Bike Racing – The Basics

I received a question from a reader last week and I wanted to answer it here.  I think it is a pretty common situation for many cyclists to find themselves in this time of year.

As a beginning racer I’m trying to get a good plan established for this next season. Living in California provides decent riding weather even in the winter months and I want to capitalize on that good fortune. I don’t do cycle cross and am looking for some direction as to how to best ready myself for the spring. Any recommendations on training plans, books or websites?

First, I would recommend The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe Friel.  This was the book that got me started with training for cycling.  It is very good at teaching basic principles of training and periodization.  There are different types of periodization, and this book describes the ‘classic’ approach to training for cycling: long, easy miles in the winter, and harder workouts as the race season approaches.

Second, to address the specific question of riding over the winter:  getting a good base of fitness in the winter should be possible in all but the most extreme climates of the US.  Here in Colorado the high temperatures average just over freezing for December and January, but the roads are often dry and training is adequate.  I have a lot of cold weather gear and ride down to about 20 degrees.  Riders in rainy climates tend to have a ‘rain bike’ that can get grimy and wet constantly, and are usually equipped with fenders.

One of the biggest mistakes I see riders make is to be over-zealous in their efforts.  When you’re new to the idea of ‘training’ rather than simply riding, it can be hard to notice the body’s subtle signals of accumulated fatigue.  Even experienced racers are prone to riding too much.  Even last season as a Cat 2, I had difficulty riding more than 12 quality hours per week without taking a few days off to recover afterward.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t or can’t do more than that, but be aware that riding more won’t always make you faster.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Friel’s training regimen starts 24 weeks before high priority racing.  Domestic Pros looking to the Tour of California in early May (28 weeks away) have just begun their first phase of training, or will soon.  Many areas with colder climates won’t get into the heart of the season until June, July, and August, so training can start later (January, or February).  If you live in Colorado and don’t race ‘cross, I’d suggest doing other things off your bike to stay fit through December.  Patience is critical in success for cycling.

In areas with racing in early spring, it would be appropriate to start training now if you’re so inclined.  The focus of the first phase is to build an endurance base.  These are long, steady rides which train your body to pedal efficiently, burn fat for fuel, and have systemic aerobic effects.  The rides are steady, staying seated on rolling hills, and pedaling as much of the ride as possible.  I find the pace to be slightly harder than I would voluntarily ride if I was going for an easy ride for fun, but not hard enough to make conversation difficult.  Strength training and spinning drills are also usually included in this phase.

Last year, after two months of training similar to what is described above, I had a breakthrough performance in the first sanctioned race of the season.  The race is a 20 minute time trial.  It is very counter intuitive that 4 hour ‘easy’ rides would prepare me for a all-out 20 minute effort.  Obviously I was able to TT even faster after more specific training later in the season, but a few weeks of focused endurance rides can do amazing things.

To summarize I would recommend The Cyclists Training Bible and building a training plan as recommended in the book.  I’ll be building my training plan soon and will start training in the second week of January.  Also, be sure to keep in mind that you will likely be better off doing the minimum amount of training to see benefit, rather than the maximum you can handle without over-doing it.  I saw plenty of riders last winter doing 20+ hours per week, only to have their season sidelined with an early season injury or mediocre fitness.

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Local Politics: The ACA vs USAC

If you have a good memory, you’ll recall that I wrote in detail about some of the local issues with race sanctioning and how it related to my racing.  There is a big vote by local teams and promoters on Friday which may resolve these issues.  As always, 303Cycling’s has gone haywire on this topic.

First, I’ll summarize the situation: In the US, the internationally recognized ‘National Governing Body’ (including by the US and International Olympic Committee) is USA Cycling.  USAC Cycling oversees most road racing in the US, receives US Olympic Committee funding, and oversees elite athlete development.  Although USAC oversees most road racing nationwide, in Colorado an organization was formed about 15 years ago in response to various local disagreements with how USAC operated, called the American Cycling Association (the ACA).

The ACA has become a great entity.  They oversee a successful racing calendar, growing membership, and local junior development, while charging low fees to riders and promoters.  While the ACA has been doing a terrific job, USAC has decided to increase pressure on the ACA.

First, there was the enforcement of a rule which barred riders from Pro teams from racing in ACA events.  I think the effect of this change is under-estimated by many.  The ability for a fan to go watch local race and see some high profile racers is one of the unique aspects of bike racing.  This attracts spectators to races and new fans to the sport.  Fans, spectators, and racers bring sponsors, and more money for better events.  Yes, I am an elite racer now, but when I was a Cat 4 I was be interested in who showed up for the ‘pro’ race, and would frequently watch.

In response to Pros being unable to race, some races in 2011 were dual sanctioned, with the ‘amateur’ categories through the ACA, and the ‘pro’ categories through USAC.  Again, USAC is increasing the pressure and will not allow dual sanctioning next year.

Also, my upgrade to Cat 1 was severely hampered by the fact that I could only race USAC events to earn upgrade points.  As of next year, there will be no reciprocity for any category.  If you’re a local Cat 3 and you want to race out of state, you could easily be stuck racing the Cat 5 race.

We have already started to see some conflicts in the calendar, where there are USAC and ACA events held on the same date.  While racing in Colorado is successful overall, the numbers don’t support multiple events on the same date.  I can only expect date conflicts to increase as USAC continues to increase the pressure, especially if a new Local Association is formed (a USAC Local Association would take $10 from every USAC License in Colorado, and possibly use the money to further undermine the ACA next year)

Rock – Hard Place

To summarize: The ACA has been wildly successful in promoting grassroots growth of amateur bike racing in Colorado.  Unfortunately USA Cycling has always seen this as a threat and is increasing the pressure to reintegrate.  While there are some benefits to reintegration on its own merit (no need for dual licenses, national rankings/events), the potential downside from an increasingly hostile relationship with USA Cycling makes reintegration necessary.

I don’t believe I am acting purely in my own self interest with this opinion.  Yes, I am elite racer who may race Elite and/or Master’s Nationals next year (USA Cycling events), and I also pay for both licenses.  But if I were acting purely in self-interest, I would probably like to keep the status quo and keep Pros out of the races.  Big prize money attracts big names, but last year the pros were gone, yet at many races the big money remained.  I won over a thousand dollars this summer, which I will have to work much harder for after reintegration. I also have a ‘stick it to the man’ personality and feel angry about USA Cycling exerting political influence in their own self-interest, putting racing in Colorado at risk. Nevertheless, I believe reintegration is our best option.

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Broken Clavicle – 4 weeks post surgery

Okay folks,  I know you probably come here for stories and analysis by an elite racer.  Going a week without any posts (longest drought ever?) and coming back to find another injury update may not be what you’re looking for.  I am working on a few good ideas and will have something on a more interesting topic midweek.  I usually get my post ideas from riding, training, and racing.  Since I’m not doing much of that these days, if you have any ideas or questions, feel free to comment.

I feel like I really turned a corner last week.  I’m not supposed to lift anything, but this week I felt like I could start using my arm normally, with the exception of things that are quite heavy.  I can do the dishes, even manipulating our large stew pot.  I can lift the baby by both of his arms with mine.  I rode my bike to the grocery store and although it was only a few miles, I rested my arms on the handlebars perfectly normally.

My arm isn’t much use above the level of my shoulder yet, but it is starting to feel like muscle weakness and tightness is most of my restriction, rather than pain in my clavicle.  The swelling has come down quite a lot and I can feel some of the hardware now.  Some of it is just below the skin.  I’m going to see the doctor in two more weeks and I’ll get some more information on what I’m allowed to do.

I rode my bike for a two hour ride last week.  One of the nice aspects was riding some new roads away from home that I hadn’t seen before.  Also, I’m still riding my cross bike so I’m without any telemetry or data to tell me how slow I am.  Since my arm is feeling much better, I’ll soon have the road bike off the trainer and get out on the road a bit.

I’ve also been feeling well enough to cross train.  I would really like to go hiking, but the trails are a little icy and I can’t afford to fall.  I also normally would carry the baby in the backpack but I don’t think I can do that quite yet.  I was able to run three miles last week (again, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to do this, but I was pain free).  I am going to take the rest of this month and December to spend some time on the bike to get comfortable, and as much time as I can cross training to rebuild/stay fit.

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