Sunday, September 27, 2015

Edinburgh Cyclocross Challenge - Photos

The third weekend of FLCX took place at Highlander park in Dunedin, Florida and it was another hot one, at least for the first day. Saturday's races took place under a scorching sun which was ironic considering that Highlander is also a water park. Right next to the course was a full size pool and children's sprayground. If only there had been moisture on the course. A well timed rain would have made for a completely different experience. As it were, Edinburgh was mostly flat grass with a dust cloud sand pit, some shaded singletrack and a couple cement bike paths. These made for a fast race. Ryan Woodall held the Saturday record of 5:25 a lap which he took as part of his Pro win.

This was my return to racing after a disastrous start at Veterans park. There I overheated and had an asthma attack, here was I was determined to avoid those traps. It was not an easy task. Electing to take on the crowded category 4/5 race was a great idea. I found them to be a varied assortment of riding styles and skills. Despite entering the chase with a singlespeed I was able to cruise well in the corners but lost time on the straights. My asthma still caught me but not until the second lap and it wasn't a bad attack so I was able to keep huffing forward. I finished the race and had a great time doing so.

I need to thank some people for their support: Race Promoter Zach Fout for some nutritional advice, The Champ Ryan Woodall for cheering me on, Uber Heckler Michael Toth for lifting my spirits in the later laps, Patrick O'Shea for suggesting that I race Cat 4/5 and I want to thank the man I was chasing, John Tenney. I never did catch him, lol.

My lovely wife Terri was there to take some pics so be sure to check them out at the link below.
Feel free to tag yourself and others.

Thanks again to my sponsors: Bicycles International, 661 and Luksha Reconstruction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Racing with Exercise Induced Asthma

The whistle blows. I'm racing along with the pack, keeping an eye on the jersey in front of me, barely aware of the rider behind me. My pace is steady and the obstacles are manageable. Then suddenly I notice that my breathing is a little forced. I'm taking larger gulps of air and trying to calm them down by breathing through my nose. I ignore the discomfort and keep on. Half a lap later my gasping is so loud that spectators can hear it. Instead of cheering they pause and listen. They know that something is wrong. They might even spot the problem before I do.

In my mind I'm thinking: It's a race. It's supposed to be hard. There is supposed be pain. I'm pushing the pace. I'm focused on a goal. It is within this mentality that I am often the last to acknowledge what is happening, I was hyperventilating. My lungs were restricting, closing up, depleting the oxygen that my muscles desperately needed. I was growing weaker, getting slower. The obstacles became too much. I had to churn the pedals to make it through the sand and mud. People were passing me. Then I was off the bike, pushing it up a hill and suddenly I couldn't even do that. I couldn't take another step. It was over.

Exercise Induced Asthma is not uncommon among athletes, especially cyclists. Perhaps more than 10% of cyclists deal with the occasional attack. There are many theories as to why but the most likely is that cyclists breath in large amounts of pollen and pollutants from the air as they ride. These allergens narrow airways starting a negative reaction cycle. However, the true source of EIA is still largely unknown and its triggers vary greatly.

Of the ten bike races I have participated in this year, only two have been interrupted by EIA. Both of them were on particularly hot days so in my case that is the most likely trigger. As for treatments, there are many suggestions from Albuterol inhalers to corticosteroids to the Buteyko breathing method. The one that works best for me is running intervals. On the day of the event I need to open my lungs up, so to speak, to lessen the chance for an episode. Even so, it can come out of nowhere.

EIA is not a new development as noted in a article that came out earlier this year:
In a study published in 1998 in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,” researchers studying athletes at the 1996 Olympic Games found that U.S. athletes participating in cycling and mountain biking had the highest rate of asthma. A later study published in the June 2006 issue of the “Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness” tested the pulmonary function of a professional cycling team and found that 72 percent of the subjects had upper airway or bronchial symptoms.

Many great athletes have suffered from this condition and managed to move forward in their careers. The most notable in our sport is Katie Compton. She has suffered from a number of illnesses but most notably allergy induced asthma. Some attacks have been so serious as to land her in the hospital. Still, Katie has managed to perform on the highest level. How? Her response is, "I'm stubborn and I hate quitting." Thanks to her unstoppable attitude she has won the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships 11 times. We couldn't ask for a better example.

I wrote this to reach out to anyone battling the same challenges and remind you that you are not alone. Take the best steps available (Warm-ups, meds, breathing exercises), keep yourself educated and watch for the signs. Most importantly, don't give up. I put in three months of training and yet still could not overcome the effects of a particularly hot afternoon. It all felt like such a waste. My frustration was beyond words but I've been down this road before. It was only one race. My happiness depends, not on winning, but on participating. I'll be back and so will you. The season has only just begun.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Veterans Memorial Park CX Race Photos

The first race of the Florida Cyclocross Season was a hit. Veteran's Memorial Park in Hudson was well attended despite weather conditions that might have frightened less hearty sportsmen. On Saturday, Sept 5th, 2015 the heat was on. Literally, it was like 95 degrees in the sun. Around mid show there was a brief interval of rain to cool things off but then it went right back to scorching. Still, nothing was going to stop these riders.

Big thanks to Zach Fout of Cycology Coaching Solutions for crafting a fun course full of sand traps and mud pits with a few tricky off cambers bits to keep riders on their toes. Even the kids had an entertaining race with one ambitious young man who rode under the tape several times creating his own loop. While there I managed to get a few photos of the event and competitors then pasted them on Facebook. Feel free to tag yourself or friends.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Season is Upon Us!

The summer is almost over and CX Season is about to start! I have been training in a manner befitting someone who has to visit every five minutes to make future decisions. Regardless, things have gone smoothly. No injuries, no major mechanical issues. I was banging out the reps, running up my cardio and biking over everything that can even vaguely be considered an incline. For example: Hill repeats on the Venice bicycle bridge. It takes 20 laps of that 50 footer to make 1,000 feet of climb at 5%. That's about as big as it gets around here but results should follow.

I have always had trouble sticking with a training plan for very long. However, I have found the cure to that problem - Crossfit. I've been dabbling with CF for a while but this summer I decided to look more deeply into this phenomenon. I read a couple books (Inside the Box & Learning to Breathe Fire). I watched dozen of videos and got my wife Terri involved. We do solid warm-ups followed by WOD's (Workout of the Day) at home usually a few days a week. We scale down the weights and times but always use high intensity. The early results are encouraging and since it is a variable system I never get bored with it. Moreover, Terri enjoys the challenges.

On a related note, during July I was happy to take part in a CX gathering at Payne Park in Sarasota. There were about two dozen people who showed up to learn the ropes or just practice their skills. The meet up was run by Kate Adams of Liv Giant and taught by Florida Pro Josh Thornton. We chatted about the upcoming races and ran through a series of drills, most of which were a lot of fun. If this gathering was any indication, we should have a very active season.

Back to training. After a particularly smoldering morning slaving my way through a top speed 40 min grass circuit, I managed to exceed my previous distance. That means I scored a new PR! Yeah! Right? So why didn't I feel elated by this victory? Because I managed 3.90 laps over the previous 3.75. That is about a quarter of a mile further. This is a win! Right? So why was I feeling flushed by the effort? Why wasn't I excited?

This was what you call a hard gain. It is proof of improvement but in a small amount. Sometimes we'll look at a minor achievement and scoff because, well, it's minor. It is hard to brag about these tiny perks and easy to discount them. Still, it's a win. You have to let yourself enjoy these moments. They are steps towards the eventual goal. Small, steady gains are often better than big leaps because they represent gradual improvement, the building of a foundation that can be relied on for future success.

If I have learned anything this summer it is that since you are already hacking away at your soul with hot laps and voluminous reps, you might as well give yourself credit for that toil. Our trick was to buy a small wading pool and set it up in the shade to act as an ice bath for after workouts. This has been a godsend. While we all want to leave the competition in the dust this fall we can't do it if we are stressing out over marginal improvements so find a way to cool off. The great thing about amateur competition is you have nothing to lose and everything to gain just by showing up.

See you at the races!

Be sure to visit my sponsors.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer of Sweat: Part Two

July 4th, 2015 (Englewood, FL) - Training is a process of self-discovery. This is where you feel out your limits and work beyond them. It's the self-study part we need to pay attention to. In this update about my CX training summer of sweat I'm taking note of the some the things I'm learning about myself. In addition I'm training my wife Terri and I have quite a bit to learn about that process as well.

Why Easy is Never Easy - My tendency towards intensity has to be bound with sturdy strings. This first week is all about habit so we're talking low reps and easy pace. However, there is always an evil little bird humming in my ear saying, "You can do more." No matter how many times you try to swat this bird, it keeps coming back. Resisting that temptation is the difference between floating and drowning. When floating you might not be going very fast but at least you're above water. This is the explanation for why easy is never easy, it keeps you busy.

Don't be Tripin - Personal Records (PRs) are our measuring sticks for progress. However, if you rack your limbs climbing a mountain on the first day then you could miss a week of training while trying to recover. This is especially true for older athletes. I'm 42 so setting low hurdles keeps me from getting tripped up. This works for beginners as well. What we do is conquer several small goals that can all be built up over time into bigger ones.

You Can Do it! - Remember when you first watched Rocky 4? Those training montages were powerful, they made you want to train. Lately, watching weight lifting videos on Youtube is one of my big motivators. Barbell Shrugged, Crossfit and GRID videos are the best! I also discovered that they work well for Terri. She watched an emotional Crossfit competition video like the one above and was excited to exercise afterwards.

Blowing Up with a Smile - Probably the best lesson this week was taught to me by a friend. Gary Vasbinder is the owner of Real Bikes Englewood, a local bike shop. He was leading a MTB group ride at the Palmetto Trail in Myakka State Forest on Tuesday night. Gary was at the front of the ride setting a killer pace for the rest of us to follow. I did my very best to keep rippin, giving 110% for the first 6 or 7 miles before I blew up. I soft pedaled the rest of the way back and felt awful about my performance. That was until Gary said that he blew up with about a mile to go. Really? All that time I felt weak because I couldn't maintain at such a high level but here was the fastest guy saying he had also hit the wall. That made me realize that no one has it easy out there. We are all struggling. All of us are pushing hard and as a result we are all getting faster.

My First Week of Sessions
MTB Singletrack Group Sprint - 10 Miles
CX Standing Sprints - 6 Miles for 8reps
Stationary Bike - 1 Hour
Total Running - 2 Miles
Total Jumping Jacks - 700
Total Strength Training - 1 hour 50 min
Additional physical activity - 55min

If you enjoyed reading this post be sure to check out my book Twisted Trails

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer of Sweat: Part One

Mon, June 29th, 2015 (Englewood, FL) - I love training. Not more than competition but there is a real sense of purpose that comes from pushing yourself to a new level with a clear goal in mind. This is my second day of an eight week build up to the fall Cyclocross season. Last year I tried CX for the first time and fell in love. It combines all the things I love about Mountain Biking with all the things I enjoyed about BMX Racing. Last year I could only afford to do 4 races but this year I have sponsors and a schedule. A little help goes a long way.

As for the process, I'm already sweating. Weighed in at 175.6 and will check that number as the summer goes on. I have a series of conditioning exercises plus CX riding blocks all lined up on my white boards (Of which I have 3). I'll be keeping careful track of RPE's, nutrition, hydration, miles and hours on the bike as well as personal records for each exercise in my home gym. I plan to suffer, OCD style! It is crazy hot every day and most of my focus is on intensity.

If you are wondering about all the creepy pictures, those are from today's session. They were filmed using video then taken out as snapshots. I wanted to do a video diary but I still don't like how I look and sound on camera. Anyway, Day One was very quick and Day Two was nice and mellow. For the first two weeks I'll be keeping things simple in order to fulfill required training blocks and establish proper habits. After that we start to push the pace.

If you want to follow my progress check back here over the next eight weeks. I will eventually get the courage to post video of some sessions and talk about how things are going. In the meantime be sure to check out my sponsors.

Bicycles International of Venice, Luksha Reconstruction and SixSixOne.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SCORR Builds a Bridge

Sat, June 27th (Venice, FL) - Remember that pesky water crossing on the BoldyGo trail in the Carlton Reserve? Well, it's still there but you no longer have to get your feet wet. A trail addition has been added that bypasses the creek and the steep rollers but reaches a newly built wooden bridge that spans the water farther upstream. Hoorah for trail progress!

A dozen members of the Sarasota County off Road Riders (SCORR) carried an 800 pound log, equal to half a telephone pole, through the woods to a selected location. This pole was used as the core of the wooden bridge which was built on site. The bypass has been cleared and will allow riders to choose the hard route over the rollers and through the water or the easy route over the bridge. This bypass will be especially useful in the deeper summer months when the water crossing becomes impassable.

Yours truly was on hand to help out and I also managed to take a full array of pictures that show the construction process. You can see them all at the link below.