Sunday, February 25, 2007

What do you do when you have a cold?

Training has been somewhat limited this week for two reasons: 1) I spent some time in the white room, and 2) I've had a cold (probably caused by 1).

Regarding 1), on Monday, we woke up to something that has been foreign this winter, snow. Although Solitude reported 10" we were surprised to discover over 24". In the chutes and bowls off of Summit, I am willing to swear that the snow was up to my waist -- before bending my knees to make a turn. There are face shots and there's the white room. You'd think that being blind and having all open orifices filled with snow wouldn't be that fun, but it is. I usually have to go into the backcountry to find the white room, but we found it at Solitude on Monday.

Tuesday through Saturday, I had a bad head cold. For me, it's hard to know how hard I should train when I'm sick. However, I've learned that your fitness usually doesn't go anywhere in a week and, more importantly, resting while you're sick is better than training and getting sicker and then having to sit out longer. So, I generally rested this week.

I managed to get a nice 3+ hr endurance pace ride in this morning in Sanpete county before Aaron's mission farewell. It's nice to get to the country once in a while. I rode in the middle of the road for at least 2 hrs of the ride without worrying about traffic. Of course, I also had to ride 2 miles of gravel, pot holed roads.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Phil, It's Not a Mistake

Listening to Phil and Paul speculating that Jason Donald's near record time in the prologue of the Tour of California was kind of funny. I knew that it wasn't a fluke as they went so far as to suggest.

In 2005, I raced the High Uintas Classic. It was my 3rd or 4th race ever, and I was a Cat. 5. As I pulled my bike out of my trunk, a 4-Runner pulled up next to me. As I made my race preparations, so did 4-Runner guy. He pumped up his tires, mixed a couple of bottles, and hopped on the trainer. We greeted each other and started talking. He had just finished college; he was formerly a runner; he was from Colorado. But what struck me and what has caused me to follow him over the last year or two was the fact that, like me, he had started as a Cat. 5 in 2005. What I was impressed with was that as of June 2005, he was a Cat. 2!

Later, talking with his father, his father mentioned that Jason was trying to go pro. As expected from a father, Jason's father was quite supportive. His father mentioned that he had just finished college and Jason's wife was supporting him. Because I'm a skeptic by nature, I was less impressed by this story. I'd met several riders who were trying to make the big time. While I wished them the best, I always took their amitions with a grain of salt.

But when he won a stage at the Tour of the Gila and when he rode the Tour of Utah last year, my skepticism waned. Then, on Sunday, watching Jason Donald's time stick even after the likes of Hincapie, Cancellara, Zabriskie, Basso took their shot, I was transfixed. Going from a Cat. 5 in 2005 to nearly winning the prologue of a Pro Tour race in 2007 is quite a story -- one that should make me more of a believer.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Base Training

Me and Ethan got in base BMX miles in at Wheeler this weekend while Miya chased the chickens.

Something I've wondered about and don't fully understand is the concept of base training. Since I'm not an expert, I don't dispute their conclusions or arguments regarding the effect and importance of base training. Last year, during the winter, from September '05 to March '06, I attempted a traditional base training program. This meant relatively no high intensity. I generally kept my HR below 150. In Feb. and March, I would push it up hills and began to get some intensity. I don't doubt that this training program was beneficial. It helped develop my endurance and transformed my metabolism. I did a large portion of the base training in a "fasted" state and limited caloric intake. This taught my body to feed itself and, hopefully, to rely more on fat stores, than rely on the carbs I poured into my body. This, of course, helped me endurance-wise.

However, when race season came, my strength and LT threshold level were inadequate. I cramped and simply did not have the necessary output. By July, however, I had developed the necessary output, but it was only average, and it took a fair amount of effort to get there.

This year has been different. During this year's off season, my thought process was as follows: I don't have enough time to base train properly and to get in the necessary miles. Furthermore, in Utah, it's impossible to log the miles necessary for a good base training program. What's the point of doing a half-baked low intensity program, especially when I'll fall out of shape and especially when I'll have a big hole to dig myself out of in the spring? So, my plan? My plan is what I call the "do what you can plan." My plan was to get in all the miles/time my schedule and the weather would allow without setting any parameters on intensity. In my head, I thought that if I can only get in 1 hr, then I should try to get the most out of it.

So, after LOTOJA, when I was a bit tired of road riding and when road riding had lost some appeal, I dusted off the mountain bike and did some trail riding. Since it's not possible to do mountain biking without intensity, I got intensity. I also took up trail running. Trail running in the Wasatch also demands intensity. The nice thing about a trail run is that you get solid blocks of intensity. I would say that cardio-wise, a 1 hr mountain run is as good as a 2-3 hr bike ride.

Then, in November, I got sucked into cyclocross racing, and I'm glad I did. Although cross races are only 45 min to 1 hr, it's a solid 45 min to 1 hr of intense racing. After the races I logged some lower intensity/base miles.

Then, it got too cold to ride a cross bike. In years past, I've done a fair amount of backcountry skiing. Last year, I also bought some cheap skate skis. This year, inspired by Bart, I got some faster skate skis and learned the tecnique. I have even done a few nordic ski races this year. The thing about skate skiing is that it's very hard to do without being at or above your LT threshold. Skate ski racing is more intense than a 30 min. time trial. So, I've gotten lots of intensity skate skiing.

In sum, I've gotten lots of intensity during this year's off season. So, what's my point? My point is that yesterday I did a four hr. endurance ride and decided to push it up Traverse Mountain. My average power for 20 min. (20 min. peak power) was the same as the highest level of 20 min. peak power I *recorded last year -- a sustained power to weight ratio of about 4.5. My point is that in Feb. I am at approximately the same level (for 20 min peak power) as I was last year at the end of the season.

My hope is that I improve on my current state and achieve even a higher output level. I guess the good news is that I don't have a very big "hole" to dig myself out of. The downside is, I might be lacking a base, but right now, I'm not feeling that. Only time will tell.

Friday, February 16, 2007

2007 Powder Keg

So, a new Powder Keg course has been revealed (see below for a history of my affair with the P-Keg). 'Till now, for the last few months I've been caught up in nordic skate skiing. It's fast, fun, challenging. I've told my BC buddies that I've retired from the BC thing and now prefer to wear lycra year-round. But, the 2007 Powder Keg was just recently announced. And I am a bit giddy at the prospect of racing it again, this time in the race division. Perhaps some Euro racers will show? Last year I was advised that if I wasn't going to "bring it," I'd better not show up in lycra for a randonee race. Well, I'm planning on wearing my tights this year.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Good Time to Saddle Up

Look at Cardiac now . . . wall to wall pullout. Scary!

Did a little BCC ride to the top of the S-turns this morning. It was nice to be back on the bike and riding in the canyon. Generally, I did threshold work and kept it high tempo and steady. However, at Storm Mountain, I had to let the legs go a bit, and then at the Wasatch Sprint, JS sprinted me and I had no choice but to follow. This morning was the first time with the power meter on, so I collected some data. Though I'm better than I was at this time last year, it appears I've got a ways to go. I'm glad it's only February, especially since I just finished a rather large bag of chocolate covered raisins.

Aaron is making his debut here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Big Cottonwood to Millcreek Ski Tour

Since Aaron is leaving on a mission soon, we thought we'd get in a tour. The problem was/is that this is SLC's worst snow year for a long long time. It didn't deter us though. And though we've had better snow days, it was worth it.

A illustrated report can be found here:

Powder Keg -- march 18, 2006 (a memorable adventure account)

So I entered my first race of the season -- a backcountry ski race, not a bike race. Let me preface the following by disclosing that there were two main divisions in this race: recreational and race. I entered the recreational division, not the race division. The race division does about 5,000 vertical feet, while the recreational does 3,500 vertical feet. More importantly, the best randonee racers in the USA race in the race division. Last year, the race division was a World Cup venue, dominated by lycra-clad, super-human Europeans with names like Francois and Giberto. So, not wanting to throw down with the better-adjusted Bode's of rando racing, I entered the rec division. Ok, in short, I'm somewhat of a wuss.

PREP: My race prep began at least a week ago. I bought a sewing awl and sewed bungee cords on the tips of my climbing skins (so I could rip them off faster). Several times each night, I practiced stripping my skins and putting them on my skis, all without clipping out of my ski bindings. I rigged a special lightweight pack that was just large enough to hold the essentials (as required by the rules of the race): my hydration bladder, a shovel, and an avalanche probe. I chose the right jacket taking into consideration the weather forecast, and packed a better-than-expected and worse-than-extected weather contingency bag (learned this lesson from LOTOJA 2005). The night before, I assembled all of my gear together and left it in the foyer. Just as I did when I was in 6th grade on the first day of school, I laid out what I would wear for race day. I was ready.

FROM HOME TO ALTA: Start time was 7:00 am. I left my house promptly at 5:45 am with an ETA of 6:15. Although snow was forecast throughout the night and for race day, the weather looked fairly decent. I was in good spirits. I reached the mouth of Big Cottonwood canyon and started running through my mental checklist: boots, check, skis, check, poles . . . . I flipped a U turn at the 7-Eleven.

At 6:15, I left home for the second time to go to Alta. Boots, check, skis, check, skins, check, poles. Okay good to go. ETA: 6:45. A warmup wouldn't have helped anyway. Just get to the start on time.

At 6:38, I was midway up Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was snowing hard now. I got going a bit too fast, started to slide, and before I knew it I was facing down the mountain. Subie's nose came to rest, rather harshly, in the snowbank on the non-dropoff side of the road. Luckily, Subie wasn't stuck and I continued up the road to Alta, more slowly of course. ETA: 6:48.

I rounded the bend into Snowbird and was greeted by Sherrif's vehicles and barricades: avalanche control. Traffic was diverted through Snowbird on a narrow bypass road. ETA: 6:55.

Losing hope, I parked in the Alta parking lot, jumped out, donned my ski boots, grabbed my skis, put my skins on and went to grab my special pack. But, my special pack wasn't there. It was sitting in my foyer, filled with Cytomax, and ready to go. Honestly, I think this was the lowest moment of the day. I thought for a few seconds that my race -- a race I have been thinking about since 2003 when I was doing well but got DQ'd after I missed a checkpoint -- was over before it had even started.

There was one last hope though. No longer worried about conserving energy, I sprinted to the start and started asking if anyone had an extra shovel and probe. Fortunately, I also was informed that due to avalanche control work, the race start was delayed to 7:30 am. Fortunately, one of the race volunteers had an extra shovel and probe. Since I was desperate, I didn't care that the shovel was as heavy as a farm scoop shovel. For $2.50 I was able to purchase a 24 oz. bottle of Gatorade at the ski lodge. At precisely 7:24, I was ready to go.

FROM ALTA TO BRIGHTON: Skiers lined up without their skis, the gun went off, and then skiers ran to their skis, clipped in, and were off. I was slow getting into my bindings and had to run a few hundred yards. From there I led the race up Patsy Marley (a 10.5 k peak), down to Michigan City, and up Black Bess. It hurt, but I was happy. Going up Patsy Marley, I had a 300 yd gap on the 2nd place racer. This gap was closed, however, when I caught a tip and put a human-sized crater in the untracked face of Patsy Marley. Using some ancient Chinese recovery secrets, I opened another good gap going up Black Bess. Not having my special pack filled with Cytomax, I had to stop a couple of times to get drink out of my pack. Note to self: Enervitene without water burns one's mouth and hurts one's stomach.

I straightlined Twin Lakes pass and began the slog across the lake. Before beginning the slog, however, I put on my special secret weapon -- mini skins. Skins that only covered part of my ski, allowing traction, but also allowing glide. While I was putting on my secret weapon, however, second place guy overtook me. Bummer. I tried to turn up the heat and I went across the lake as fast as I could. There was a photographer in the middle of the lake, and I look forward to seeing myself with snot, spit and hurt on my face. With my special mini-skins I overtook second place guy three-quarters across the lake and again, using ancient Chinese secrets, opened up another gap. Cool.

I reached the top of Brighton well-ahead of second place guy and thought that the curse had been broken and that I was going to win the first race of the year. I straigtlined a mogul field, then I tucked down a winding path through the trees. I looked back, and was surprised to see second place guy on my tails. I tucked harder.

The path emptied out onto a powdery face with the finish at the bottom. I tucked it up and and leaned forward. Any crash at that speed would have resulted in a world class yardsale. 50 meters, 10 meters, 5 meters . . . . Doing my best Liggety lean, I went for the line. About 10 inches before my ski crossed the line, I see second place guy's ski come across. He pipped me at the line! Second place guy became first place guy, and well, I became that guy I know all too well -- second place guy. (For those unaware of my second place history, I finished second about 6 times last year in bike races.)

FROM BRIGHTON TO ALTA (first attempt): Since I parked at Alta and didn't want to ride UTA down Big Cottonwood and back up Little Cottonwood, I figured I'd just walk back to my car. Doing my best to look ski-patrolish, the lifties at Brighton let me ride the Millicent chair lift up to Twin Lakes. I skinned up and was about halfway across the lake when I thought that I'd better make sure I had my car keys. Of course, I didn't. Somewhere along the course, It had fallen out of my pocket. Back down to Brighton.

FROM BRIGHTON TO ALTA (second attempt): Lucky for me, cousin Chris was in town. I hiked across the Twin Lakes divide to Alta.

So, I had a good day today. And I had a bad day today. I'm thinking that with all that happened today, the '06 biking season can only bring good luck. '06 I have one thing to say: bring it.