Friday, August 21, 2009

This is My Cross Bike

There are many like it, but this one is mine...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Burn Out

I'm burned out.

This is how I feel - or maybe like this

There's not a doubt in my mind. I'm tired, unmotivated, a general sense of malaise surrounds me, I feel like going to a Dunkin' Donuts and eating 24 double chocolate donuts, AND I have very little desire to ride.

Burn out is stealthy. It always starts off as an ever so slight sensation that things might be a little off-kilter. You chalk it up to lack of sleep, or needing to eat better but these only provide temporary relief. Then life starts to feel a bit... stale. When I finally started to take notice, I didn't feel like riding anymore - my motivation was pretty much gone. This is a telltale sign of burn out and, unfortunately, when recognized, it's already at an advanced stage.

Not sure what to do now. Here I am, at the beginning of my second cross season, I should be excited as hell. And, in some ways, I am. But at the same time, the thought of throwing my leg over a top-tube of any kind (cyclocross or otherwise) doesn't even register a blip on my anticipation meter. Doesn't seem like I'll feel like it in the foreseeable future.

Looking back, it's not that my riding volumes were exceptionally high or that intensity was too much. I think for me it was more a mental thing. Too many expectations in too many realms of life. Oh and I'm pretty sure it doesn't help that my work is basically a legalized form of torture. Something akin to Chinese water torture, where it gradually wears you down until you loose all will and leaves you a broken, battered husk of your former self. Good times.

Note to self: focus what little energy you have left into a possible job change.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Cyclocross Time!

Did my first real cyclocross workout of the season last week. There's this nice community park about 10 miles from my house that has all the components for a cross course. It's got a nice steep hill for run-ups and fast descents, lots of bumpy, grassy field, a section of dirt/wood chip trail through the woods, and even a sand volleyball court if you want to hit the beach. I've constructed a set of portable barriers from PVC tubes that fit into a backpack (a variation of the Greg Keller design, with longer sections making for fewer pieces). These work really well in a pinch, although not quite as formidable as a solid piece of plywood staked into the ground, it at least helps resurrect that buried muscle-memory.

I forgot how fun/hard cross is. It's one of those things that can't be mimicked on the road or trail. After about an hour, I noticed my lungs hurt, cross forces you to breathe a lot deeper, drawing breaths from the depths of your thorax. My aerobic capacity is up there from road racing all summer, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer oxygen debt that cyclocross brings with it.

My buddy Steve joined my at the park and he made me realize I need a lot of practice with the bike handling skills. He could literally turn circles around me, especially on the off-camber stuff. He's a mountain biker, so I can learn a lot from him in that department.

I'm so excited for the cross season that I almost want to just ditch my last couple of road races and immerse myself in the 'crossy goodness.

Mud, Snow, Rain, Embrocation, Frozen Toes, Oxygen Debt - Cyclocross Season is almost here!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thursday Night Worlds and the Effectiveness of Team Tactics

Thursday Night Worlds this past Thursday was an outstanding success for our team. While I didn't entertain any personal results, my fellow team members secured 1st - 4th, which was amazing. How did we do this? We had a plan. Maybe even more importantly, we were all working toward that plan. The plan was to get several team mates in a break-away mid way through the race, whoever was left in the group would do some blocking to discourage any potential chasers. This tactic is probably the most rudimentary of cycling strategies, but it's simplicity is key to its effectiveness. Here's how it all played out:

For the first half of the race nothing really happened. A few attacks but nothing with any spunk. About 1/2 way through the race, a lap or two after a prime, 4 of our guys shot off the front with two others from another team. There was 5 of us left in the peloton as the break-away furthered the gap. What happened next is what made this tactic effective; all five of us took turns coming up to the front and slowing the pack down. Whether it was taking slower pulls at the front, blocking open lanes to thwart attacks or just chasing down any attempted break-aways, we managed to keep the gap at a comfortable level to give our quartet in front a chance at victory.

My team mates up front did everything they were supposed to do, and secured the top 4 podium spots, making our efforts worth it. Since this race has a purse, The top 4 split their winnings with the team, my first money made from a race!

So we had a plan and it paid off. But we've had plans before and they haven't worked in the past. What was different this time? I think, the most important thing I learned is, some team mates have to be willing to sacrifice personal ambitions for the greater good of the team. In the past, there's always been one or two team mates who insist on chasing the break-away. This can't happen. Everyone needs to be unified. Maybe next time, I'll be in the break and my mates will be blocking for me!