Friday, May 22, 2015

Build A Bigger Bike Motor

Over the past several weeks I’ve had cyclists ask how to train for a summer cycling vacation in
the mountains with others asking what they need to do to simply become stronger and faster on their bike.

The answer to both issues can be described in three words: strength, threshold and hills.

Unfortunately, many recreational cyclists avoid doing bike workouts “with a purpose” and instead just go ride at the same easy and comfortable pace over the same familiar route every day.

The problem with consistently easy and comfortable rides is that the human body becomes very proficient at doing things it does over and over, so if you pedal along at 12 miles per hour for 45-60 minutes on flat roads day after day your body develops into a world-class 12 mph “motor.”

When you increase the speed to 15 or 20 mph or if you try to ride hills, that well-tuned 12 mph motor bogs down like a low-power compact car trying to pull a camper trailer.

What you need is a bigger engine with more power and — repeating the key terms — that is accomplished by focusing on strength, threshold and hills.

It’s also important to note that developing more power on the bike isn’t just for competitive cyclists. Both casual Saturday morning riders as well as serious racers will benefit from increasing the amount of power that can be applied to the pedals.

Strength on a bike is simple — it simply means you’re able to apply more force to the pedals. However, unlike strength in the weight room where the goal is to simply lift or press a certain number of pounds a few times, strength on the bike refers to applying a somewhat high force 70-100 times per minute during a ride and having the muscular endurance to continue that force application for extended periods of time.

Threshold, the second key term, is defined as the maximum sustained effort that can be maintained for one hour. It’s a general indicator of how fit you are in that a higher threshold means you can sustain a higher heart rate or power level for an extended period of time.

Although most recreational cyclists (or even professional racers) will rarely ride at their threshold for long periods of time, improving (raising) your threshold means that it becomes easier to go faster or climb hills even at sub-threshold heart rate levels. In other words, easy becomes easier and hard becomes not so hard.

Hills are the third magic component of becoming become stronger and faster on the bike because riding up hills increases power-to-the-pedals strength and also provides a great workout to improve threshold.

If you do nothing else to become stronger and faster on your bike, just adding one or two rides per week that include sections of going up hills will yield positive results. If hills are not available, you can simulate them by doing 5-15 minute interval repeats at a slow 50-70 rpm cadence in a hard gear on a flat road.

So, how do we include strength, threshold and hills into a workout schedule so that by midsummer we’ll develop that powerful motor we need for bike rides in the mountains, the bike leg of a triathlon or the local group ride?

As noted above, building strength in the gym will translate to more power on the bike (and, as an added benefit, help burn more calories). Some common exercises for strength include walking lunges, step-ups onto a box, hamstring curls and leg presses. Do several sets of these exercises twice per week, gradually increasing the repetitions and weight used if on a machine.

After a few weeks of in-the-gym strength training, start adding “big gear intervals” to one or two of your weekly rides. Warm up for 15-20 minutes, shift into a much harder gear than normal and pedal at a slower 50-70 rpm cadence “muscling” the pedals around in a circle. Start with two five-minute big gear repeats with an easy five-minute spin between and gradually work up to 15-minute intervals.

Hills also help to increase functional leg strength. The workout is similar to big gear intervals, but instead of relying on a hard gear to provide increased resistance you’ll ride up a nice hill, coast down to recover and then repeat the “go up” fun several times.

Traveling to a location with big hills such as Burma Road or the south end of Susan Peak Road isn’t necessary. I’ve done a lot of uphill repeats on local hills such as on 2288 between Highway 67 and Arden Road and also on the short uphill next to the Nature Trail at the end of Spillway Road.

Concurrently, dedicate parts of one or two weekly rides to increasing your threshold. To avoid getting into detailed specifics of heart rate zones, assume that “threshold pace” for your current level of fitness is significantly harder and faster than what is comfortable for you (breathing will be labored, legs will burn a little and you’ll be cussing the idiot who suggested this).

Just as with big gear repeats, you'll want to warm up for at least 10-15 minutes, then accelerate up to speed and hold the harder threshold pace for 5-10 minutes. It will be uncomfortable, so focus on a smooth pedaling cadence, keep applying pressure on the pedals and try to maintain the hard pace for the duration of the interval. Spin for five minutes in an easy gear to recover and then repeat the fast interval. Start with two 5 minute repeats and build up to 20-30 minutes of maintaining a hard pace.

Remember — strength, threshold and hills are the keys to developing a more powerful “motor” for your bike.

Upcoming Events

May 30: ECVFD Stop, Drop and Roll,
June 5: Relay for Life 5K,
June 13: Run in the Sun,
July 12: LakeNasworthy Triathlon,
July 25: Goodfellow Triathlon,
Aug 9: San Angelo Triathlon,

Friday, May 8, 2015

Overuse Injuries Are Self-Inflicted Wounds

Although many people think of ‘getting injured’ as being some type of physical trauma such as a torn muscle, sprained ankle or a broken bone, the most common cycling and running injuries are actually due to overuse.

I consider myself to be an expert on overuse injuries. During my 35-plus years of cycling, running and multi-sport competition, I’ve racked up enough overuse injuries to have earned a Ph.D. in ‘How to Hurt Myself by Being Stupid’.

Overuse, defined as repetitive micro-trauma to tendons, bones and joints, is usually the result of doing too much exercise without appropriate recovery. If you have pre-existing conditions related to previous physical trauma such as an injured knee or poor bike/run biomechanics, overuse will often further exacerbate those conditions.

The most common causes of overuse injuries are increasing the intensity or duration of workouts too quickly, doing too many workouts without taking recovery days, not doing enough flexibility and strength exercises or changing equipment without allowing for a reasonable period of easy adaptation.

Most athletes (at all levels) tend to be highly motivated individuals with set goals they want to accomplish. To reach those goals of biking or running faster and further, we often fall into the trap of ‘no pain, no gain’ and try to do hard workouts day after day.

If the athletic improvements don’t come as fast as expected, we’ll usually chalk it up to not working out hard enough and increase the duration or intensity of our workouts even more.

The inevitable end result is some ‘weak link’ in our body breaks down and we develop overuse injuries such as rotator cuff tendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band friction syndrome, iliopsoas tendinitis or painfully tight lower back muscles.

Medical terminology aside, overuse injuries are a pain for cyclists and runners (pun intended) and they are almost always self-inflicted wounds.

The good news is that overuse injuries can usually be prevented if we follow common-sense guidelines related to both our workouts and to the selection/use of sports equipment.

The first line of defense against overuse injuries is to accept that our bodies gradually adapt to new training stresses (the key word is ‘gradually’). We get faster and stronger by applying a small overload stress to muscles and then allowing the body to adapt to that overload by resting or doing easier workouts until the muscles have recovered and become stronger.

We then continue the improvement process by applying a slightly larger stress, recovering again, and continuing this gradual improvement process over time.

The most common mistakes (and what leads to most overuse injuries) are trying to increase the workout load too quickly without taking the recovery days or continuing to push hard even though your body says it’s time to ease off for a while.

Using myself as an example (and also proving that years of experience doesn’t automatically make a person smarter), I recently wrapped up an eight-week period during which I trained for and raced an off-road half-marathon, a 50-mile road cycling race, an epically long bike workout that included a hilly one-hour time trial race and finished things up by competing in a tough 100-kilometer dirt road cycling event.

Instead of responding to the signs of doing too much without rest and recovery (i.e., constant aches and pains) I continued to ‘train through the pain’ with the end result being a severely inflamed knee that makes even easy bike and run workouts painful.

Another trigger for overuse injuries is changing equipment without allowing the body to gradually adjust. New running shoes may alter your foot strike, a new bicycle that may or may not fit your body properly, or items such as aero bars or different pedals on your bike can all lead to overuse injuries because of the new stresses placed on muscles, tendons and joints.

The bottom line is that most of us will develop some type of overuse injuries, so the key to getting past them is to identify the root cause, correct it and then follow the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) until you’ve recovered.

A proper recovery plan for an overuse injury should also include strategies such as walking instead of running, icing sore muscles and joints, resting more, running on soft surfaces, spinning in an easy gear on your bike instead of mashing a big gear, stretching after every workout, warming up well before workouts, and focusing on strengthening the muscles that stabilize joints.

Those same recovery plan strategies will also help preventing overuse injuries, so work them into your routine and listen when your body tells you to back off for a few days.

It's actually very simple - doing too much without appropriate recovery will usually result in an overuse injury.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Start Triathlon Training Now

The first of three local triathlons in San Angelo during the 2015 season will take place on July 12, which means you have less than 90 days to prepare for the event.

Although a few individuals may already be doing some form of a structured training, the majority of people seem to wait until the last minute before beginning their tri-specific workouts.

If you wait until a few weeks before the event to start, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be one of the stragglers limping across the finish line near the back of the pack.

On the other hand, you could start training now and be ready to have a great race come mid-July.

Most single-sport athletes (i.e., cyclist, runner or swimmer) have good aerobic fitness in their primary sport. That’s a decent starting point, but preparing for an event that combines three unique disciplines requires a different approach compared to a single sport.

The hardest part will be adapting your body to doing progressive quality workouts in all three sports during each training week.

You’ll also need to identify your weak disciplines and improve technical skills in those weak areas while concurrently building fitness.

Using the above-mentioned 90 days as a framework, a good approach is to structure your training program into four distinct phases: adaptation, endurance, intensity and peak/race.

Phase 1 (adaptation) takes place during the first 3-4 weeks of your program. During the first week or two, you should do a baseline assessment of what your fitness and skills are in each of the three disciplines to identify strengths and weaknesses, and begin doing one or more workouts per week in each area (bike, run and swim).

The first phase of your training program is when you should start developing skills in your weaker disciplines. If you are a poor swimmer, then now is the time to start working with a coach or swimmer friend to improve those swimming skills.

You’ll also want to gradually increase the length of each workout by 10 percent or so during Weeks 2 and 3, and then take a ‘recovery week’ with total weekly volume reduced by 25-30 percent compared with Week 3.

Your weekly schedule should include easy days to let your body recover from hard days. For example, your schedule might have a long bike workout Sunday; a shorter ride Wednesday; running workouts Tuesday and Thursday; low-impact swimming sessions on Monday and Friday; and then wrap the week up with a bike/run combination (brick workout) Saturday.

Bricks are important since they help prepare for the difficult bike-to-run transition at the end of a triathlon. These can initially be a normal bike workout followed by a short, easy five minutes or so of running, but as your training program progresses you’ll want to start doing longer off-the-bike transition runs that mimic the run distance in your selected event.

Phase 2 (endurance) will take place during Weeks 5-8 and will be a continuation of Phase 1 with the goal being to gradually increase the length and pace of workouts in each discipline. Ideally, by the end of Phase 2 you should be comfortably doing the races distances for the bike, run and swim of your target event at an easy to moderate pace.

You can also substitute occasional single-sport cycling and running events to get in good hard-effort workouts.

Just as in Phase 1, the final week of Phase 2 should be a recovery week with reduced volume and more recliner time.

Phase 3 of your triathlon training program (intensity) will cover Weeks 9-11 with the last week also being a recovery week. During this phase, you want to start doing at least one bike, run and swim workout each week at a faster pace. The goal will be to develop your ability to go faster, tolerate a higher heart rate, and improve your body’s ability to process and clear lactic acid.

These faster workouts are hard but also more fun since you’re simulating ‘race pace.’ You don’t have to go hard all the time — try starting with two 5-10 minute intervals in each sport with a five minute easy-pace recovery between hard efforts and then increase the interval length the following week.

The final two weeks are the ‘capstone weeks’ of your 90-day training program. Two weeks out from your goal event you need to reduce your workout volume by 25-30 percent while keeping the intensity high and making sure that you are fully recovered before the next hard session.

The final week before your event should have even less volume — cut back to only about 50 percent of the previous week. During this final week, concentrate on short, fast intervals every other day with full recovery between efforts. Take a complete day of rest (no workout) two days before your race and then do a very short session the day before your triathlon to ‘open’ the legs and lungs.

If you start now and follow a program similar to what is described above you’ll be ready to rock, roll and splash come triathlon season.

Upcoming Events

April 25: Lone Wolf Run,
April 25: Ballinger Bikefest,
May 30: ECVFD Stop, Drop and Roll,
July 12: Lake Nasworthy Triathlon,
July 25: Goodfellow Triathlon,
Aug 9: San Angelo Triathlon,

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Spring Classics

If you consider yourself to be a tough cyclist who can excel no matter how difficult the course and weather conditions, take a spring break vacation, head to Europe and ride some of the infamous ‘Spring Classic’ race routes.

Take pain meds with you for after the rides — the Spring Classics are arguably the most grueling one-day cycling events in the world.

Although multiweek stage races like the Tour de France capture the attention of the general public, the eight early-season classics held during March and April of each year are events that determine who the real ‘hard men’ are within the ranks of professional cycling.

These early season single-day races are held on brutally long 155-165 mile routes through Europe’s narrowest, most difficult country roads with sections of rough cobblestone pavement, mud, dust and unrelenting short steep hills on some routes.

The long race distances mean that cyclists will be in the saddle racing for 6-7 hours in unpredictable spring weather that may range from dry, dusty and windy to rain, cold, sleet and snow.

Although these races are for top-level professional cyclists, thousands of amateur riders test themselves each year by riding tours over the routes the day before actual races.

One of the most challenging of the eight spring classic races, Paris-Roubaix, will take place on April 12 this year. This 157-mile race, sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Classics or the Hell of the North, was first held in 1896 and is considered to be the hardest ‘cobblestone classic’ because of the 27 sections of cobbled roads (32 miles total) included in the route.

Paris-Roubaix is so demanding that many top professional cyclists skip the event. Those who race will be on specially equipped race bikes that may have stronger frames, wider tires with less pressure that normal, extra padding on handlebars and strong wheels to withstand the jarring impacts from bouncing over cobblestones.

Where possible, racers will often ride on the ‘smoother’ dirt adjacent to cobblestone surfaces in an attempt to avoid the roughest patches of rock-paved areas.

Team cars loaded with spare bicycles and replacement wheels follow the racers to deal with the inevitable flat tires, damaged wheels and broken bike frames.

Even though the cobble sections in the Paris Roubaix are much like riding over river rocks in a dry creek bed, the racers still manage to go fast. Recent winners have averaged over 27 miles per hour.

After surviving Paris Roubaix, the Spring Classics racers will turn their attention to Liège–
Bastogne–Liège on April 26, one of the oldest classic races that was first held 1892.

The race starts in the town of Liege and goes through the areas around Bastogne, made famous during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, before heading back north toward Liege through the challenging hills of the Belgian Ardennes.

Racers competing in Liège–Bastogne–Liège will encounter rough roads and a few areas of cobbles, but the biggest challenges during this 160-mile race are the 11 tough climbs in the Ardennes.

Some of these climbs are so viciously steep and narrow that riders must compete for a position at the front of the pack just before an uphill to avoid the congestion as riders are squeezed onto uphill roads where only two or three cyclists can ride side by side.

Unfortunately, most of us will never have the opportunity to ride one of these classics routes, so the next best thing would be to ride our own West Texas version over a course that simulates some of what racers face in events such as Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

A 150 mile simulation course might start in downtown San Angelo, head east on FM 380, south to FM 765 and then east on 765 until reaching the first unpaved section of Gesch Road (FM 1520) and then continue on narrow rough back roads to Paint Rock.

From Paint Rock, the route would go north to Ballinger, then across to Bronte and on to Robert Lee with occasional short ‘cobblestone’ sections over rough gravel roads.

After leaving Robert Lee the course would continue on to Carlsbad, then south over the Burma Road hills to Arden Road, back into San Angelo on Arden and then into downtown for a high-speed sprint finish on Concho Avenue.

Pick a day when it’s cold, windy and wet and go ride this route at race pace on your narrow-tired road bike to fully simulate a classics race.

Although the route as described is less challenging than the Spring Classic courses in Europe, you’ll still get a feel for what the pro cyclists face as they race the classic events.

Upcoming Events

Mar 21: Habitat for Humanity 5K,
Mar 21: Steam-N-Wheels cycling race,
April 11: Castell Grind cycling ride,
April 25: Lone Wolf Run,
April 25: Ballinger Bikefest,

Friday, January 30, 2015

The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps

Do you think you're a strong cyclist, able to ride long distances in harsh conditions over rough
terrain? Could you do a long bike tour carrying camping equipment and food on your bike?

If so, try replicating the ride that a group of Army soldiers in the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps did in June and July 1897.

As part of a "field test" to determine the effectiveness of bicycles for transporting infantry troops long distances, this group of hardy cyclists rode, pushed and carried their bikes 1,900 miles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis.

The Bicycle Corps officer who led the expedition was Lt. James Moss, a West Point graduate and avid cyclist. His volunteer soldier-cyclists were all Buffalo Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Regiment.

Their route went from Fort Missoula to Yellowstone and then southeastward through Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri to St. Louis.

The "two-wheeled forced march" took 41 days to complete with 34 days of actual cycling. The soldier-cyclists averaged almost 56 miles per cycling day with an average speed of 6.3 mph.

Rough and unpaved dirt tracks made up the majority of the route, with roads being so bad that the soldiers often dismounted and pushed their bicycles on railroad tracks. Expedition reports indicate that the soldiers pushed or carried their bikes for almost 400 of the trip's 1,900 miles.

Conditions during the trip included cold and wet weather, deep mud, strong winds and heat exceeding 110 degrees.

One of the bivouac points during this cycling expedition was at the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place 21 years earlier.

The Military Specification bicycles they rode were manufactured for the military by the AG Spalding Co. Each of the heavy and cumbersome steel-framed bikes weighed 32 pounds.
When fully loaded with blanket roll, tent, rations and extra clothing, the total weight of each bicycle was 59 pounds.

In addition to the bicycle and field gear, each soldier also carried a 10-pound Krag-Jorgensen rifle with 50 rounds of ammunition.

The Spaulding military bicycles used by the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps had only one gear (single speed), with a gear-inch ratio of 68 inches. That gearing would be about the same as a modern single-speed bicycle equipped with a 36-tooth front chain ring and a 14-tooth rear cog.

On July 24, the infantry cyclists completed their trek and rolled into St. Louis. The St. Louis Star newspaper noted that the soldiers had completed "the most marvelous cycling trip in the history of the wheel and the most rapid military march on record" at that time.

This experiment by the 25th Infantry wasn't the first time that bicycles had been tested by various military units. Both the United Kingdom and France had experimental bicycle units as early as 1886.

The first documented combat use of bicycles occurred in 1895-96 during the Second Boer War, during which cyclists served as messengers.

The use of bicycles continued during World War I with bike-mounted infantry, scouts and messengers being used by the Italian Bersaglieri light infantry as well as in the German and British armies.

Japan used an estimated 50,000 bicycle troops during its 1937 invasion of China, and the Finnish army deployed bicycle units as the spearhead of its attack during its 1941 campaign against the Soviet Union.

In 1997, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the development of a tactical folding mountain bike designed for use by airborne rangers. This bike, manufactured by Montague, had a 500-pound load-carrying capacity and would quickly fold into an air-droppable package.

Although the military use of bicycles today hasn't changed significantly from what the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps did back in 1897, the next military bicycle evolution may be about ready to happen.

A researcher in Japan has modified a small bipedal robot and configured it to ride a bike just as a human would (Google "PRIMER-V2 robot"). The future could include ground-based robotic "surveillance cyclists" pedaling through combat zones performing military tasks.

Remember, bicycles are a part of military history.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cyclocross Nationals Postmortum

I raced my third Cyclocross National Championships this past Thursday in Austin, Texas, joining
2,000 other racers who came to test their fitness and technical skills on the challenging  course in Austin's Zilker Park.

2,000 other racers who came to test their fitness and technical skills on the challenging  course in Austin's Zilker Park.

The fitness was there, but my ability to maintain speed and apply power through the technical sections of the course was sub-par compared to the top racers in my category.

 After turning in a poor performance in last year's icy and snow-packed race in Boulder, Colorado my year-long goal was to finish in the top 10 in this year's event.

With that goal in mind, I spent most of the past year focused on training for this year's Nationals, doing base miles, tempo rides and strength training during Feb, March, April and May before transitioning to a structured cyclocross training program in June.

The structured program included many miles of 15-20 minute threshold intervals, trail rides on my CX bike, some running, skill work such as barriers and run-ups, VO2 max efforts and endless miles of hard race simulation laps on a practice course.

Unfortunately, I did not accomplish the top 10 goal, finishing 16th in the Master's 65-69 field of 22 racers.

I was positioned to achieve the top 10 goal, but two critical mistakes during the race coupled with a less than stellar job of keeping the speed up through the technical sections dropped me down a few places.

Although I was staged in the back row of my field since I didn't earn many USAC points during the season (only two races), I moved up to mid pack by the time we hit the first dirt section with my heart rate 'comfortably' just a beat or two over my threshold.

Shortly after that, I made my first mistake by running into a rider who stalled in front of me on a short hill. The resulting dab and loss of speed let several racers pass me.

Later in the race, I completely biffed a right hand off-camber corner and ended up falling into the course marking tape.  Again, I lost several places while getting upright and then having to run up the short but steep climb that followed the corner.

My gut feeling is that unless I figure out how to improve my technical skills, I'll need a flat and fast course with the only technical sections being off-the-bike run-ups to crack the top 10 in my age group.

I can also keep racing until I'm in the really old age groups that have less than 10 racers :)

Speaking of older racers, I had a 'race encounter' with the ageless Walt Axthelm of Durango, Colorado who won this year's 80+ category.

His field started 20 seconds behind my 65-69 group, but by the 2nd lap of the race he had bridged up to my wheel and was telling me to " Go - go- get off the dammed brakes" as we traversed through a section of off-camber turns and steep ups and downs in a ravine.

Axthelm continued to stay right me through laps 3 and 4, rolling faster than me and some other 65+ riders through the technical sections.  The only places I could gap him were on the flats and run-ups.  He says his normal training partners in Durango are all fast racers in their 50s.

During the Thursday open pre-ride of the course, the weather was sunny and 70 degrees. That changed dramatically Tuesday evening as a cold front ushered in frigid temperatures and a forecast for rain, mud and sleet for the Wednesday through Sunday championship events.

When I started warming up at 7:30 am on the morning of my race the air temp was 23 degrees with a reported 16 degree wind chill. It did not warm up much by the 9:00  start time.

My race kit for the day for the day was double socks with plastic bag over the toes, duct tape over the vents in my cycling shoes, medium tights over thin tights, two long sleeve base layers under the bike jersey, polypro liners inside wind shell gloves and an insulated skull cap under the helmet.  During warm-up I also had wind pants over the tights and a down jacket.

The Zilker course was a challenging 3.5 kilometer per lap loop adjacent to Barton Springs pool that includes pavement, rolling sections through rough grass, run-ups over limestone outcroppings and plank barriers, and challenging descents that drop 75-100 feet down the face of the park's ridge line.

The starting stretch was a 400 yard gradual uphill on pavement that veered off onto a bumpy up-and-down grass/dirt section with multiple 90 to 180 degree corners in loose dirt and numerous 'curb ramps' where the course crossed streets.

After reaching the flatter high part of the course, the route headed back down toward the start area
with multiple descents that terminated in sharp off-camber corners leading to immediate short steep climbs back up the hill.

Most corners on the descents had frozen mud ruts and rough washboard areas making bike handling skills and a 'no-fear' attitude important while riding on narrow 35 mm or smaller tires cyclocross tires. Since I lack both great technical skills and the 'no-fear' attitude I lost quite a bit of time through these sections.

There were two longer descents including a rough and rutted dirt downhill and an interesting wooden ramp that bridged down over a 6 foot limestone cliff.  Each of the descents terminated in a 180 degree turn back uphill into dismount and run-back-up sections.

There were three dismount/run sections and several more run-ups if riders who failed to stay upright through the rutted off camber corners that preceded short up-hills. Two of the run-ups were over rough natural rock outcroppings that climbed 15 to 25 vertical feet up the ridge with the 3rd section being a double set of 16" high plank barriers situated on an uphill stretch of grass.

 One of the things that I've done for many years (in every sport I've competed in) is to do a post-season and post-race analysis to determine what I need to improve on for the next event or next season.

My list is long this year, but there are also a few bright spots such as an improved threshold based on field test heart rates, no crashes this year that resulted in injuries, and no difficulty with steep run-ups.

Here's the 'to do' list that reflects what I need to improve on during the off-season and the strategies I'll use to make those improvements.

1. Improve technical skills on corners and descents: Do more mountain biking, ride my CX bike more on mountain bike trails and (whenever possible) do these rides with other riders who are more skilled than I am.

2. Improve 'no fear' attitude: This is largely related to #1 above since better skills will improve my confidence in sketchy situations, but ... I'm also considering enhancement surgery to see if some bigger 'brass boys' will help :)

3. Improve power on short steep climbs: Do more hill workouts (especially big gear uphill intervals), spend more time in the weight room, and find a practice course that has more difficult uphill power sections.

4. Regain running fitness during the off-season: This one sounds strange, but my best cross seasons happened during a period when I was training for and racing duathlons and running events during the spring, summer and early fall. I'm going to add in more trail running and duathlon workouts (bike/run bricks) this year to see if that results in a higher fitness level and more overall strength and agility.

5. Build a stronger endurance base: This involves all of the above, but I suspect that that increasing my miles and total workout hours during the off season will let me train harder later in the year and - as a side benefit - will help me lose a little more weight. I'm currently around 184 and think that I would race better at about 175. The mileage goal for this year is 5,000 or more.

That's it ... the season is over ... time for a few easy weeks and then time to start training for the 2015-2016 CX season.

Upcoming Events
Jan 17: Trail Running Series 10K,
Jan 31: Trail Running Series 12K,
Feb 21: Trail Running Series 15K,
Feb 21: Funnel Cake 5K,
April 11: Castell Grind cycling ride,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Losing Weight in 2015

(Old Guys Who Get Fat in the Winter, Patrick O'Grady)
Many of you made New Year’s resolutions that involve losing weight and getting back into shape.

You’re not alone — most Americans need to make (and follow through) with that same resolution. Statistics indicate that 69 percent of people over the age of 20 are overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) and within that group 35 percent are considered obese (BMI over 30).

The good news is that — over time — overweight individuals can lose the flab, increase muscle tone and reverse the effects of too much food and not enough exercise.

Simply put, weight loss means burning more calories than you take in and it takes approximately a 3,500 calorie deficient to burn one pound of fat.

Eat less food, cut back on high-calorie drinks such as beer and soft drinks and increase the amount of exercise that you do.

‘Calories burned’ is the sum of exercise calories plus your basal metabolic rate with basal metabolism accounting for approximately 70 percent of all calories burned. You can approximate your base metabolism using a calculator such as the one online at

Your base metabolism will stay about the same or even decrease somewhat as you age, although you can ramp it up with cardiovascular exercise and strength training that builds muscle.

Increasing the amount of lean muscle is good because it burns more calories than fat, thus increasing your base metabolism.

Lack of exercise intensity is one key area where many people fall short related to burning calories during exercise.

Short slow walks with your dog or those twice-weekly ‘no sweat’ 20 minute workouts in the gym, while still beneficial, will not accomplish what’s needed if you’re trying to lose weight and tone muscles.

Instead, you need to consistently exercise long enough and at a high enough intensity to really make a dent in those fat cells.

Aim for at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, five to six days a week, with a combination of low intensity aerobic exercise (60-65 percent of your maximum heart rate), some high intensity (75 percent of max heart rate or higher) and several days that include strength training.

You can get an estimate of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 and then use a heart rate watch to make sure you’re ‘in the zone’ during workouts.

One good way to structure your fat-burning exercise program is to do at least two days per week of higher intensity interval sessions (body pump, spin classes or interval workouts on gym equipment) with one or two days of lower intensity aerobic exercise between each of the high intensity days.

Fast walking or walk/jog is also a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories. Start with 20-30 minute sessions on a treadmill or on a soft dirt/grass surface (avoid pavement). Warm up with a brisk walk for a few minutes, then alternate one minute of fast walking with one minute of easy jogging. Gradually increase the length and speed of the ‘run’ segments (i.e., two minute run and one minute walk; three minute run, etc.).

You can do the same type of interval workout on an indoor or outdoor bicycle. Warm up with easy riding, then go harder for 1-2 minutes, relax and spin easy for recovery and repeat that cycle for 20-30 minutes.

Add in strength exercises on several of the days and you’ll have a solid program that, when coupled with smart eating habits, will result in a slow erosion of the pounds that you’re wanting to lose.

One additional suggestion is to keep a workout journal. Write down the minutes per day of exercise, note what the workout(s) were, track your daily weight and then calculate your average weight for each week. The data in the journal will keep you honest about what you’re actually doing and it also lets you look back and see what worked based on weight and fitness improvements.

My final tip is to set some goals with a time line. Establishing goals means you’re working toward something instead of just working out. Goals can be something like ‘lose five pounds by May 1’ or ‘complete a 4-mile walk in 70 minutes by June 15.’

Last but not least, be sure to consult with your physician before starting any type of new exercise program.

Remember — the best weight loss formula is to eat less and exercise more.

Upcoming Events
Jan. 10 (rescheduled date): Resolution Run,

Jan. 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships,

Jan. 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series,

April 11: Castell Grind cycling race,