Friday, July 18, 2014

Bawk bawk

Bawk, bawk, bawkkkkkkkkkkk!

Have you heard this sound in the woods?  It's not what you think.

The Chicken

And it's not the little voices in your head.  Not this time.

That noise in the woods is something you recognize.  Some portent of things to come.

It's a bird..

it's a plane....

It's your friend. Or a pack of friends. 

Teammates and friends - Chad, Bonnie, Jay, and Slip

Here they are.  There they go.  Heckling you as they ride by.  "Bawk, bawwwwk, bawk bawk bawwkkk!" and then they wait for you at the next trail intersection and share a sugary block or half a bar even if it is their last one.  This is one of the many reasons why mountain biking is so much fun.  You get to tease, challenge, and play tricks on your friends..  and you make sure everyone makes it back to the trailhead safely. 

I love mountain biking.  Wouldn't want it any other way. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Toughness and Other Stupid Stuff

Ok, I hope I am ready. I think I am, I know I am, but I suppose I need to keep proving it to myself. With short track over and the race season in full swing, I can’t help but wonder if I am really there, really READY to do my best this season. With two excellent finishes under my belt so far, it seems logical that I would be feeling confident, and I am, most of the time… I think that somewhere in every racer’s heart is a tiny seed of self-doubt, of nervousness about the season ahead. Have we put in enough time, have we pushed enough, logged enough hours, done enough strength training and even had enough rest to equal some improvements this season? This is when we need to remember to trust the training. For me it is all there in TrainingPeaks, in notes to coach Laura and in the strength of my legs. This is the beginning of the new season, and we are all excited to line up and reap the benefits of our hard work. But what to do when a bit of nervousness or doubt creeps in?

At times, training is an exercise in enduring miserable crap in order to achieve a larger goal. Freezing cold base miles over and over again. Wet slogs over muddy trails. Mindless monotony on the trainer. Sweaty sessions in the TotalCyclist Paincave. If we are lucky, the winter will (finally) recede into the distance. We’ve taken our medicine, built our tolerance. The results will come – at least this is what I tell myself.

Training builds our ability to tolerate the inevitable pain of racing. We know we can do it because we have done it before. I was reflecting on this the other day while riding alone in the woods, and remembered a poem that I learned in high school.(Bear with me because I am about to supergeek out.) The title is ‘Terence, This is Stupid Stuff’ by A.E. Housman, and does not refer to either Terence on the TC MTB team. I will spare you analysis of the entire poem (look it up, though, it’s good), and cut to the analogy that Terence the poet (not a cyclist) spills at its conclusion:

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.


The king in the poem is pretty sure that his buddies are going to try to poison him. Instead of living in fear, he decides to try and control his fate by building immunity to said poisons. He does so slowly, methodically, until he is, to his comrades surprise, blissfully unaffected by the arsenic and strychnine intended to take him down. The punch line refers to old Mithriadates dying old, and I think it means that he died happy, knowing that his preparation cleverly saved his life. I suppose that’s what I want to feel in the middle of a really hard race. I want to know that I have the mental and physical toughness to be immune to fatigue, negative thoughts, steep climbs or grueling conditions. I know it is there, but I believe we all struggle with wondering if the toughness – the immunity – will be there when we need it most. Was Mithiradates nervous too? Even if he was, the audience would never have known it….

So this spring, I will try to trust the training and let my legs do the rest. Here’s to ‘dying old’ on the bike this season, and to doing a little bit of stupid stuff along the way. We probably are indeed tougher than we think.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Race Report US Cup #3 Fontana

Digging the Catlike Mixino
A planned work trip to CA with bike in tow turned into an unplanned weekend of new friends and racing. The timing was good so I decided last minute to register for the US Cup #3 in Fontana and give it a go. With a couple days to get acquainted with the terrain I knew right away my Schwalbe Thunder Burt 2.0’s that had performed so well in the Winter Short Track Series wouldn’t provide the grip needed on the steep, rocky technical climbs and gnarly descents out there. A special thanks to Anthony P. who was able to round up a Bontrager XR2 2.2 for the front that made all the difference. After watching Chris W rip it up with the Pro X/C class on Saturday we were fortunate to get a lap with motocross legend and Nat’l age group mtn bike champ Johnny0’ Mara along with some other really cool locals. They were quick to point out the good lines and give some pointers on strategy with the race format.

Fast-forward to the start line Sunday morning and I was stunned at how many Cat 2 racers were there and how fit they looked. The CA mtn bike scene is serious!! The course would be 4 laps around SouthRidge Mtn that totaled about 22 miles and 2600’ ascent, so a hilly race by most standards with a mix of tight singletrack, technical climbs, an asphalt climb section and some teeth rattling downhills. After an 8 mile warm-up thru the local neighborhoods with multiple anaerobic run ups I head to the start line. I’m 15 min prior to the gun expecting a front row spot only to find a gaggle of guys on high end bikes lined up 10 wide at least 3 rows deep. I tried to squeeze my way to the front for a good slot only to be quickly body blocked or evil eyed back to where I started. So there I was fighting for a spot on the 3rd row for what seemed like forever. The start was fire road wide for a ¼ mile with a few 180’s and a short climb; I was able to work my way up to the top 20 before the singletrack hit. Settle in line now and recover, then for some reason I glance at the HR and BAM it’s 174 leading up to the big asphalt climb, uh oh. I didn’t need to check that. Time to hit the asphalt and go to 95 rpm and a gear that’s not too taxing knowing I have to do this 3 more times. I ride a singlespeed regularly and my riding style is more stand up and grind, but I keep hearing a mini Chris W on my shoulder saying "sit down and save for later", so that’s what I do. Then it starts working, I can breathe now and I start passing people, and that’s motivation. I settle in somewhere around the top 5 by the top but not exactly sure as there are other classes we are merging with. An hour goes by and the laps wind down, I’m concentrating on attacking the climbs while staying seated, I'm not getting any Strava KOM’s on the downhill’s but am riding smooth and under control, not really my norm if you know me. I’m doing a decent job of finding drafting partners battling the headwinds around the backside of the mountain. The last time up the asphalt climb I take a peek back and the coast is clear. “Sweet” I think to myself, just cruise to the finish line and the podium is mine (they go 5 deep out there based on the class size), then out of nowhere 2 riders drop me like a brick batt. I stand up for the first time and put in a big effort just to keep #2 in sight. Welcome in the mind games; those earlier flash-forwards of podiums and trophies are now images of the Garmin with a 180 HR that I’m terrified to look at. We still have 4 miles to go and I feel like I’m hanging by a thread. 
 I try to settle in and get a rhythm going but it’s not working, they are getting away. I know they had to put a massive effort in earlier to catch me so I just try and hang on and slowly they come back to me. Suddenly #1 loses it on the last sketchy downhill and we shoot by him as he gathers it up, #2 starts to get away again as we hit the last fire road section into the headwind, so I burn another match to get his wheel and try to recover, that works and I’m able to get by him up the last climb of the day and end up with a :20 advantage for 4th place.  Mission Accomplished. 

EFFORT and ATTITUDE get results.

Keep digging,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Its All About BASE-ics

you need to build a big base to reach high

In a previous post I mentioned stepping up and hiring a coach.  If you are serious about the sport you compete in hiring a coach is one of the best performance improvements you can make and its money well spent.  There are many benefits to hiring a coach, accountability, experience, motivation to name a few.   Anyone can read a book or pay for a training plan but nothing can replace the the personal interaction, experience and motivation that a coach can provide.  For me its more about the accountability.  While I believe myself to be at the higher end of the self motivation scale, having someone to answer to is the kick in the tail I need as an athlete. So what does hiring a coach have to do with BASICS?  When I first sat down with my Total Cyclist  coach, Jackie Crowell  and analyzed my data there was a huge glaring component missing form my training, BASE miles.  I had none!  all my riding was done at Tempo, Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity and Neuromuscular Power…huh? in layman's terms too hard!  BASE miles are done in Zone 2 or Endurance.  The above terminology is used when training with a power meter. a power meter measures in watts (energy) the effort it takes you to propel the bike, it is a more accurate calculation than using heart rate.  The training zones (in the chart below) are based off of LT or FTP otherwise known as  Lactate Threshold. LT is determined with a power test.

•               Level 1 Active Recovery = < 55% of LT
•               Level 2 Endurance = 56-75% of LT
•               Level 3 Tempo = 76-90% of LT
•               Level 4 Lactate Threshold = 91-105% of LT
•               Level 5 VO2 Max = 106-120% of LT
•               Level 6 Anaerobic Capacity = 121-150% of LT
•               Level 7 Neuromuscular Power = maximum effort

Going into this off season I knew there would be a lot of BASE miles. So what is BASE.  “Base training is the foundation upon which everything else rests,” says Danny­ Suter, USA Cycling Level 2 coach and founder of the Boulder Performance ­Network. When you build endurance, eventually you can get more out of higher-­intensity riding and a heavier training load. “Riders who go straight into speed work can get fast on the bike,” says Hunter Allen, coauthor of Training and Racing with a Power Meter. “But they won’t have aerobic endurance, so their fitness lasts just a few weeks before they slow down.” 

When you ride for two or more hours (or less for new riders) at a steady pace—a typical base ride—your body responds with changes that allow you to use more oxygen and burn more fat as fuel, says coach Joe Friel, author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible. For starters, these rides build more ­capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. Your mitochondria—the parts of your cells that produce energy—also multiply and enlarge. And you churn out more enzymes that help turn stored fuel into energy. The result: You can ride faster and longer. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Out With A Bang: NCCX

By: Jay Forgione

The race on Sunday was the finial race of the NCCX series. It was on the grounds of the Biltmore Estates. This was a test course for CX Nationals that will be held at the Biltmore in 2016. My race was the first of the day at 10:00am. In a combined class of Masters CX 4/5 (35/45/55), I raced in the 55 category. It was a crowded start as there were a total of 48 riders in my class! I finished fifteenth overall and first in my category, so the day was certainly a victory!
I really enjoyed the course. It was a mixture of pavement, grass and  gravel, with a lot of fast sections going into a couple chicanes. There was a tricky off camber right hand down hill in to a hard left to an up hill where I really had to keep up my speed to make it up the hill. It also had a short run up, but the best part of the course was a really steep down hill behind a barn to a tight chicane between the barn and a rock wall. The start-finish line was a paved section, so I had a good 50-yard section to sprint to the finish line which I used on the last lap to gain one more spot.!I really enjoy cyclocross racing. It's fast, the courses are challenging and you are wide open the whole time. I can't wait till next season!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Suffering.

Lofty title I know but stay with me. Far from some facile Nietzchean  "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger" notion this is a blog about cycling not philosophy (duh) and besides, the good philosopher died at 46, quite possibly of syphilis. Keep that in mind the next time you quote a pop song. Ahem.

On New Year's Day I left my house for a training ride under grey skies and a temperature of 37 degrees (lack of effort on the part of the weather gods, who apparently took the day off as well). Heading into a chilly, windy metric on a mountain bike no less, my brain told me I was probably missing the point of the holiday. Be that as it may I remembered an article passed on by fellow lunatic Mark Drogalis of Toasted Head Racing - - which is one coach's diatribe on what separates good athletes from the elite: namely one's ability to suffer.

I pedaled my way through Waxhaw and into the nether regions of Lancaster County and recalled a quote from the article: “The true vision of a champion is someone bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.” -

Far from an elite athlete I nonetheless kept this quote in mind as my intervals began, which in this case consisted of out-pedaling  doublewide-ejected canines  every mile or so (I don't think it counts if dogs are watching…).  After 60 miles it seemed as if my clothes no longer fit (they did), it was colder than when I left (it wasn't), and my legs felt like two foam rollers sticking out of my leg warmers (they were).

It struck me that I hadn't been willing to do this in previous years. Why was I doing it now? Well, because Training Peaks told me I had to, of course and my coach, Dr. Evil.

Wait, not that one, this one.

Professional Mountain Biker and TotalCyclist Coach Chris Wieczorek

would be waiting to look at lines on a graph and send a text telling me what a great job I'd done (I wouldn't see the text, I'd be crying in the shower). Let's just leave it at that.

Now the holidays are over and it appears the weather gods are back on the job (they do seem to lack focus…).Thankfully (in a way) we still have plenty of opportunities to push the suffer line out further so that next summer we might look back and be reminded that this is the time of year when the season is made.

Without a strong aerobic base and power training done months ahead of time, the best bike and fancy tires won't help you in July in the heat, at altitude, or in your most anticipated race . You'll be like that old Mazda we've all seen with the spoiler on the trunk.

Don't be the old Mazda with the spoiler on the trunk. If you live in the southeast you already know about TotalCyclist and classes designed to enhance your fitness and power on the bike. Did you know they also have expert coaching, fitness classes, Yoga, and everything else you need to get you all strong and bendy for the upcoming season?

They can rebuild you
So head over to and pick a day to suffer. Some truly dedicated athletes even work out at 5:15am (they serve donuts….ok, not really but the staff is awfully chipper for the time of day). There are now four locations so you shouldn't have to go far to make your legs hurt. Don't be afraid to crack…or crack a smile.

Even more fun (and surely more painful), the Winter Short Track series began January 12th, so borrow a mountain (or CX) bike and come fill your lungs with icy air at Renaissance Park Neil Boyd and his minions have categories for racers of any age and ability (c'mon kids!) and there is always great food and hot cider.

I'll be the old Mazda at the back with the spoiler on the trunk….

Thursday, January 9, 2014

One to Go!

People always ask how I can sit on a trainer for hours on end. Truth is it’s not easy. In fact it’s fairly miserable at times. The weather this past weekend was just as miserable; cold, rain, wind, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Yes, I slipped in a line from Ghostbusters. It just had to be done.

Since the weather outside was frightful I spent four hours on the trainer. While not the best solution in the world my training regimen required it.  How did I make it through? Here are a couple of tips to make the time go by a little more quickly. Give them a try and see if they help.
  1. Do intervals: it’s amazing how much more quickly the time goes by if you throw some ten minute intervals into the mix. They don’t always have to be intense. Try some intervals at heart rate zone 3.5 followed by five minutes of easy pedaling. Do this five times with a 15 minute warm up and you’ve already gone 90 minutes.
  2. Harder intervals: if you want to go a little harder try this: five minutes at HR zone 3.5 followed by five minutes at zone 4. Do this for 45 minutes and you’ll be cooked.
  3. Do an indoor group cycling class. Riding with others is a great way to break up the monotony. Try doing classes back to back. The time in-between sessions is a good way to recharge and get ready for the next one.
  4. Watch TV: yes, I know this isn’t a huge revelation but make up some games to pass the time. Try going all out during the commercials and cruise during the program. Personally, I like the show Gold Rush. For those of you that follow the program you know how much Todd says “frick”. Every time he says it sprint for one minute.
  5. Break it up: if you have multiple hours to burn break it up. For instance, if you have four hours to train ride for two hours in the morning and two at night. It’s a lot easier to handle mentally opposed to four straight hours.
If you have any time tested ways to make your time on the trainer go by more quickly please feel free to share.