The Barry-Roubaix

After this post, I will no longer be posting my training plan every week. Now that I’ve officially entered my race year, what I work on from here to Iceman will be proprietary and I can’t afford any of my competition finding out how I will be training to beat them. I may occasionally provide a glimpse now and again, however, it will be very generic to protect trade secrets.

O.k., I don’t have competition trolling my blog and they certainly wouldn’t be trying to steal a page out of my training plan 🙂 I’m just finding that posting my training plan is overwhelming my blog content and I’d prefer to keep my updates about getting outside (still boring you with the details, of course) rather than becoming a training blog.

BARRY ROUBAIX

Pre-Race Preparations

 

So, the 2013 Barry-Roubaix was held yesterday, and I joyfully participated for the 3rd year running. This year’s event had several significant changes, which in my opinion, worked out phenomenally. The first and largest was that the start finish was moved to the city of Hastings. Hastings is a small rural town about 40 minutes south and slightly east of Grand Rapids. It has a population of approximately 7,400 in about a 5.4 square mile area. It has a neat downtown area with restaurants, breweries, retail, and parks. It is approximately directly opposite of the previous race start at Gunn Lake/Yankee Springs. By moving the start/finish venue, Rick Plite, the race founder and promoter was able to increase the participant cap from 1,500 to 3,000. 2,873 riders registered, nearly selling the race out again.

Because of the additional participants, the race start was split up into more waves. First off were the 62 mile competitors who went out in 2 waves, followed by 10 waves of 36 mile competitors, and rounded out with 2 waves of 24 mile competitors. This race start strategy resulted in wave sizes that ranged from 130 to 230 riders, which was both crazy and energizing all at the same time. I was in wave 3. Hastings shut down several streets for the weekend to help direct traffic away from the race course and create space for the festivities. Several parking lots were converted into team pit areas, temporary food court’s, awards area, and the beer tent.

Unfortunately, I mis-judged the time at which I should line up in my wave, and ended up very near the rear of my group, initially. As the 1st and 2nd waves left and we transitioned towards the start line, I did my best to jockey for better position, but still ended up in about the middle of the pack. When the gun went off, we were led out of town via motorcycle at about a 16-18 mph pace, which allowed me to quickly move up to the rear of the lead pack of 20-30 riders. Once the race hit gravel, a group of about 10 quickly separated and began pulling away. I decided that I needed to be a part of that group so I gave chase, crossing the gap with the help of a slight tailwind. Once on, I simply worked to stay in the slipstream of this group until I could get a feel for the course, the other rider’s strengths, and what advantages I might have. The pace was quick, particularly in the climbs, but I was able to keep it, never falling more than 10 feet behind on any climb and always able to out descend the group (often having to apply some brake). Within the first 5 miles we lost 3-4 riders to falls, which 1 was able to rejoin us.

As we caught the tail end of the two 62 mile waves, the icy road conditions became very apparent as a handful of riders (mostly on cyclocross bikes) went down. I could tell that the riders in my pack were very tentative once riders started going down, and felt the pace slow just slightly. The gravel roads up until that point were either snow/ice covered, or exposed but riddled with pot holes. Friday afternoon had been in the upper 30’s and sunny causing many of the gravel roads to become really wet and puddle up. But overnight, temps dropped into the 20’s and all of those puddles and moist areas froze. It was still only 28 degrees at the start of the race, and clouds prevented the sun from re-softening the patches of ice.

As we continued, I began developing a strategy of simply hanging on no matter what the cost on the hills with the expectation that the pot holes would take their tole on the cyclocross riders as they constantly stood up out of their saddles and hopped their bikes over unavoidable potholes. I was quite comfortable on my Epic, sometimes navigating around obstacles, and sometimes simply hammering through them just to hand over a little psychological message that I wasn’t going to get worn out because of the road conditions. The group was a bit schizophrenic in that we’d peloton out in the flats, bunch up in the climbs, and kind of stagger in areas that had either snow or pot holes as no one trusted the rider in front of them. Again, I didn’t care what line the guy in front of me took, I figured if they could handle it, I’d be fine. I was starting to settle in.

About 8.25 miles in, the course begins a small climb as the road ends in a ‘T’ where we then took a left into a short steep climb. The road at this particular intersection was covered with about a 1/2″ of crusty ice/snow. Traction was scarce. I saw an aggressive inside corner line that looked clean and decided to take it. It wasn’t my intention to make a move, but I was in about 3rd or 4th position at that point because of the aggressive line. That ended up being mistake #1. The line ended up being solid ice and I went down. Fortunately I didn’t fall hard, but I ended up getting caught on a fairly wide area of ice so getting back up and on my bike proved challenging. On top of the road challenges, I was in the wrong gear to start out at the bottom of a steep climb, but I had no choice as shifting gears under that much load had a high likelihood of tweaking something in the drivetrain. My guess is that I lost 10-20 seconds on the pack.

At that point, I had a decision to make: overcook myself to catch back up to the lead group, or; keep a pace I could push and hope that the road conditions would finally wear the lead group down (all on cyclocross bikes I believe). I chose option 2, and thus, made mistake #2. I never regained contact with the lead group, and ended up having to push my own wind for the next hour until the leaders from wave 4 and 5 caught me. Once they did, I realized my earlier mistake as I was able to latch on to that group and had no problem following them in for the last 4-5 miles of the race. I sprinted into Hastings with this group, making sure I stayed out of their way as I wasn’t in it anymore and didn’t want to cause any unnecessary mistakes for any of them. My final time was 1:54:43, about 5 minutes behind the winner of my wave,  which looked like a fun finish as the gap between 1st place and 4th place was 5 seconds. I know there were a number of riders that passed me when I spilled, but didn’t realize that there were that many as I ended up placing 11th.

I had no expectations of winning and have no elusions that I would have either been able to maintain contact with the lead group or had enough left in the tank to offer competition in the final sprint for a podium spot. What I was most proud of was that I took about 2 minutes off my time from last year and moved up 6 spots from 17th to 11th. I was able to capture a little bit of the day on my iPhone. I planned on capturing the race on my GoPro, but unfortunately left the camera on overnight on Friday night so when I went to turn it on just before the race, the battery was dead.

As far as my training plan for last week, I planned a very light week of essentially just keeping my legs fresh by doing some non-stressful spinning on the trainer. I put in 50 minutes on Monday, an hour and a half on Thursday, and just 30 minutes Friday night to liven up the legs in some pre-warm up preparation. Because diet can have just as much of an effect on performance as the race week routine, I went with a high-carb rice filled burrito Friday night and several banana’s and a Mojo bar for breakfast. I staggered my breakfast over a two hour window immediately prior to the race and it seemed to work out well. I also made sure I drank plenty of water as I didn’t want to have the same problem as Iceman last November.

After the race I enjoyed a couple of hours laughing with riders and having a couple of Founder’s ale’s and eating some taco’s from What The Truck’s mobile food truck. This 100% serious here, no matter where you’re reading this from, you need to find out where that truck is going to be next and drive however long it takes to get to it for the tacos. They’re that good.

Barry-Roubaix 2013 rounded out to be a great event. Rick is proving to be a master race organizer and pulled off a perfect event despite nearly doubling the attendance. I’m looking forward to 2014’s race.

My next post will be the milestone 100th post. I’m brewing up a doozy which will dive into a rather personal, but significant realization that has changed some of my behavior over the past couple of weeks, but has also given me a method of understanding decisions and actions. Consider this a teaser….

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Michigan Mountain Biking Race Season!!!!!

This weekend has been wild for me as I think through my final preparation for my first race of 2013 next Saturday. While it sure doesn’t feel like race season outside, I’m getting a firm boost of excitement with the Absa Cape Epic kicking off this morning and next week’s Barry-Roubaix (technically a cyclocross race, but mountain bikers are welcome). I celebrated with hot lap to Dunton Park with my daughter (7.1 mph average) for some playground fun in the warm sun. I wasn’t planning on riding hard today, but she kept pushing me to go faster 🙂

Epic Ride

 

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a pre-ride in of the new Barry-Roubaix course this year. It travels about 95% of the same roads as last year, but the race start/finish has been moved to Hastings, MI rather than the Yankee Springs State Game Area campground. It actually changes the course quite dramatically because Hastings is essentially on the opposite side of the race loop from the historical start/finish. The major concern this year has been course conditions as the killer gravel road race utilizes several seasonal roads that either don’t get plowed, don’t get plowed often, and/or are in the shade limiting the sun’s ability to melt snow off the road. I’ve been scavenging and devouring up every pre-ride report I can find. If you, too, are looking for some idea of what you’re in for, here’s a link to a Flicker page from today, and here’s some YouTube footage (6 part series) from last weekend.

The long range forecast for next Saturday is currently sunny with a high in the low 40’s and a low of 30. Considering we’ll be starting at or shortly after 10a.m., I’m guessing its going to be on the lower end of that range. However, with the sun and warming temperatures, it could cause whatever snow is on the road to soften and create some major road suck as well as make them squirrelly. Top that off with snow forecasted for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week, and this has all the makings for one painful race for the record books. Someone I was talking to said this could be one of those races that everyone talks about for decades and those who participated will be able to boast “I rode THAT year”.

As far as the Absa Cape Epic goes, today marks the beginning of the 7 day event with the prologue. There are a few teams riding in honor of Burry Stander, the South African professional mountain biker who had won the last couple of Absa Cape Epic’s but was tragically killed by a taxi this winter while training. His teammate, Christoph Sauser, is partnering with last year’s Olympic Gold Medalist, Jaroslav Kulhavy for this year’s event under the team name Burry Stander SONGO. They proceeded to hammer the field this morning, opening a gap of 1:06 in just 55 minutes. As a comparison, Burry and Christoph took the prologue by just 13 seconds last year, but went on to win by 27 minutes. I have to believe that there were some emotions driving today’s action as Kulhavy pulled Sauser from line to line. Here’s an intro to the Cape Epic and this year’s race course.

Although MY first true mountain bike race won’t happen until the Yankee Springs Time Trial in late April, I’m beginning to ramp up the adrenaline and excitement.

Michigan Mountain Biking Trail Ratings

Consider this one way to peel the banana. I’ve created a formula (a couple of different formulas, actually) that begin to assign trail ratings for the various Michigan Mountain Biking trails throughout the state. I chose to focus on trail difficulty for now. I started by trying to break down trail difficulty into a few key factors: elevation gain, technical nature, and length. Notice I did not include an ‘enjoyability’ factor because different people find different types of challenges ‘enjoyable’. An argument could also be made for not combining the three factors into one score, but simply giving each trail 3 ratings (one for each characteristic). However, because the factors are related and their combination can create entirely different difficulty levels, I felt combining them somehow was appropriate.

So the first factor I tackled was the elevation. At first I was going to just take overall elevation gain for one lap (the longest possible lap), but because each trail is a different length, I chose to simply calculate the average elevation gain per mile for each trail. Data is available at the Michigan Mountain Biking Association on each trail’s length so that was easy enough. Elevation gain is always hotly contested, though, so what I started doing was going back to my new favorite app, Strava, and grabbed elevation gain data from Strava Segments at each trail. You can double check that the segment matches the trail on the MMBA by matching up the length (which should approximately match). I simply divided the overall elevation gain by the length of the trail (in miles) and calculated the average elevation gain per mile. Then I took the average elevation gain per mile for all trails (this number will change as the spreadsheet is filled in) subtracted the specific elevation gain per mile for the trail in question, then divided it by the average elevation gain for all trails, multiplied by 5 and then finally added 5. Somehow that worked 🙂 In all seriousness, I ran a bunch of trails through that equation and was simply satisfied with the comparative results. Fault: some hills are harder to climb than others so pure elevation gain may not fully be representative of elevation difficulty. Mitigation: Include steepness of climbs in the technical nature rating.

Second I attempted to calculate the technical nature aspect of the rating. This is and will remain somewhat subjective, but I’ll rely on comparison logic and the rule of the masses. For example, Bass River in Grand Haven is what I would consider a rather technical trail. It’s pretty twisty-turny and requires solid steering skills to negotiate with any amount of speed. It has almost zero elevation gain, so it can’t be the highest in technical difficulty, but it still ranks rather high. Egypt Valley (Cannonsburg State Game Area) on the other hand is a much more flowing, cross country trail that has some elevation gain, but one descent and subsequent climb in particular has some nasty roots. How do they relate? Well, I’d gave Bass a 3 (with 1 being the most difficult) and Egypt a 5. But on the overall difficulty, Egypt will end up with a more difficult overall rating because of the lack of elevation gain at Bass River. We’ll see what responses I get to that.

The final factor was really pretty easy. Length in miles. I know some trails have multiple loops, inner loops, short-cuts, etc. that might affect this, but I chose to use the longest available loop without duplicating trail. Someday, someone might dive into this further and break down some of these trails into sub-trail ratings. It just won’t be me right now. To calculate some sort of rating that matched with the way I was rating the other factors, I decided that 5 miles was a good average trail length and worthy to have each trail compared to. So the math is (5/trail length * 10). The multiply by 10 was to move the decimal back over after the division.

Finally, the question became how do I combine the three factors for an overall score. The three ‘Overall Course Rating’ numbers are three different ways in which the individual characteristic scores could be factored. The first is a simple addition of the three factors (E+T+L). The second multiplies the three factors together and divides by 100 ((E*T*L)/100). The third is simply an average of the three ratings ((E+T+L)/3). I obviously haven’t decided on which is best, yet, as all three are still in the sheet. The question is: are each of the factors equal in weighting? Ah, so after all that, I still may not have slain the beast of developing a logical trail rating. I’d love some thoughts on that if you have them.

Here’s the link to the spreadsheet on Google Drive: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AlIZePieMofJdGl5VndsVE5hOXpfMnk5N0U4eHFvVkE&usp=sharing

It is an open file, meaning anyone can edit and save data. If you see data that is missing that you know, or if you know that trail information is out of date for either trail maintenance or new Strava Segment info, feel free to make the necessary changes.

Have Fun!

Milestones

Gravel Groove

 

With yesterday’s ride of just under 3 hours, I surpassed the 10 hour weekly training mark for the first time. Ever. I’m paying for it a bit today with a sore lower back (legs are tight as a drum pulling on my lower back muscles) but I’ll fix that with an extra warm-up period each ride and plenty of water. That’s a major accomplishment for me. It will be important that I keep up that level or higher saddle time. I also am beginning to work harder on the trainer and have begun what I’m calling “Spring Training”. I’m working on a vide (imagine that) that I’ll post sometime after the Barry-Roubaix.

Our ride yesterday was much better than my ride of the same route last Sunday. The shoulder of Lakeshore Drive had firmed up over the week making it feasible to ride on. Most of the snow had melted off the shoulder as well and drained leaving very few puddles to dodge. The gravel roads were also free of snow/ice for the most part so there were no spills (or even close calls). I rode with two other shop teammates up to the northernmost point and just as we were reaching our turn-around spot, two other friendly faces came riding around the corner. So, we made the return south with five of us, which was great because we were heading into the wind on the way back.

It’s still muddy and cold out there, but there’s just no better feeling than spending time outside on the bike. I had some really wise advice over the past couple of weeks that is allowing me to relax going into the Barry-Roubaix in 2 weeks: don’t worry about the podium, it’s supposed to be a fun race for me and just a part of the training for mountain bike season. I’m still going to give it all I have and am a bit anxious that I’m not in the same shape this year as last year at this time, but I’m no longer placing the same level of expectation on myself as compared to, say, Iceman. It’s going to be a great ride and a fun day.

So on to my training plan. Did anyone notice my scheduling conflict last week? I didn’t think so. I had planned two rides for Saturday which made the plan seem relatively easy until Thursday when I realized the error. I simply added a 45 minute recovery spin on Friday night, which was helpful for Saturday’s ride anyway. I try to plan out my rides around known events, but my actual rides usually vary a bit in response to conflicts that come up and how I’m feeling. Here’s the plan for this week (Sunday is actual):

TRAINING SCHEDULE: WEEK OF MARCH 10, 2013
Total Completed ?
Recovery Spin:
Spin the lets out 80 Sunday
Sustain:
10 10 minute warm up – 30% 90 Monday
30 20 minute sustain – 80%
35 5 minute rest – 30%
55 20 minute sustain – 80%
60 5 minute rest – 30%
80 20 minute sustain – 80%
90 10 minute cool down – 30%
Strength Training – Upper Body
Outdoor Fun Ride:
Whatever for however long 120 Wednesday
Strength Training – Upper Body
Sprint Intervals: 105 Thursday
10 10 minute warm up – 30%
15 second on – 100%
20 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
25 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
35 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
40 5 minute rest – 40%
15 second on – 100%
50 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
55 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
65 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
70 5 minute rest – 40%
15 second on – 100%
80 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
85 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
95 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
105 10 minute cool down – 40%
Strength Training – Upper Body
Recovery Spin:
Spin the legs out 45 Friday
Outdoor Lakeshore Ride:
Wherever; just at 75-80% effort 150 Saturday
Strength Training – Upper Body
TOTAL 9.8

Ultimate Cycling Challenge

I participated in the Ultimate Cycling Challenge at Ridgepoint Community Church in Holland as a part of the Cross Country Cycle MTB team last Saturday. The fundraiser was started several years ago to help raise funds for the LiveStrong Foundation. Needless to say, eyes darted around the room when it was announced at our team meeting that we’d be participating again this year. Fortunately, despite Lance’s recent banishment and ‘coming clean’ (to any extent that can be believed), the place was packed.

Our team had two spots side-by-side which made spending a couple of hours on the bike much more enjoyable as I got to know one of my teammates whom I’ve ridden around, but never had the chance to get to know that well. Here’s a brief video of the venue and example of the activities going on while we rode:

 

And some pictures:

Jason & I Don & Mark

Ice Ride

Ice Ride

So I took my Epic out today for it’s inaugural ride for the 2013 season. It was a welcome return of both suspension and gears.  It was a bright sunny day over in my neck of the woods, but the temperature was hovering right around freezing and there was a pretty stiff North West wind so I bundled up pretty good. With the Barry-Roubaix now 3 weeks away, it was time to find out where I stood in my preparations.

I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was going to be in after not having a great winter of getting outside for rides. Last year’s abnormally warm winter put me (as well as many other Michigan riders) in great shape for the spring race season. I planned out a 42 mile route that included my well traveled Lakeshore Drive gravel shoulder routine as well as the gravel road route that I found last fall. As soon as I started heading out to the big lake, I knew I was going to be in for a challenge. Here’s the link to my Strava:

http://app.strava.com/activities/43044286

The bike path out to the lake is now 70-80% clear, but with my Epic the little bit of snow didn’t bother me or present much of a problem. With the sun beating down on it, the covered areas were pretty soft without any ice. Then heading north on Lakeshore Drive, the wind and conditions became a real factor. I always hop off the bike path at that point and jump over to the shoulder for the gravel training, which was a real mess. Some areas were totally clear and dried out; some areas were still snow covered, but hard-packed; and some areas were so soupy from snow melting that I felt like I was dragging a couple of riders with me. Add in the headwind and I started to become pretty discouraged at the speed I was carrying. I started fighting my typical mental battles around cutting my planned route short, coming up with every logical, acceptable excuse in the book on why it would be o.k. if I couldn’t complete my plan today.

I won at that point and continued on. I found out, though, that this would not be the worst of the work. After my Lakeshore Drive tour, I head a bit north and then east at the power plant to head over to farm country where the few gravel roads left between Holland and Grand Haven exist. Less than 30 seconds onto the gravel, or should I say Ice Road, I was sprawled out in someone’s driveway. Normally I like to carry a pretty good sense of humor and self deprivation about these things, but that really hurt. I wasn’t down long before collecting myself and hoping back on the bike but I felt like I had broken my hand for the next 10 minutes or so. I found later that I had given myself a pretty good bruise and scrape on my upper hip as well.

The gravel road did improve and all was going pretty well up until I hit M45. Once north of it, the road becomes lined with tall, mature trees that hide the street from direct sunlight that would normally melt the snow. I tentatively navigated the last couple of miles to where my turn-around was. Immediately, as soon as I stopped to turn around and grab the last of my chomps, the combination of my lack of studded tires and hard soled shoes provided for another excellent opportunity for me to lay on the ground. Fortunately I didn’t land as hard as the first time, but it still pointed out to me how slick the road actually was. My ride back south was at a snail’s pace, despite now having the benefit of the wind.

I was able to make it out of the worst section without incident, and started enjoying the support of that North West wind. Though I did realize, that when you’re heading directly south, you still tend to forget the effects of the NORTH part of that wind in favor of the still evident WEST crosswind J. My speed picked up dramatically and I headed home without further incident. My bike was caked with mud that had been frozen to my bike and the final score was 2 hours, 45 minutes. I’ve completed that ride in far less time, so I have my work cut out for me, but it was still great to get outside, figure out where I stood in my conditioning, and enjoy the sunshine.

For the week, I am removing all off-the-bike leg strength exercises as I kick up the time. I’m looking forward to a good week.

TRAINING SCHEDULE: WEEK OF MARCH 3, 2013
Total Completed ?
Outdoor Fun Ride:
Whatever for however long 165 Sunday
Strength Training – Upper Body
Recovery Ride:
Strength Training – Upper Body 60 Monday
Sprint Intervals:
10 10 minute warm up – 30%
15 second on – 100%
20 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
25 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
35 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
40 5 minute rest – 40%
15 second on – 100%
50 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
55 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
65 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
70 5 minute rest – 40%
15 second on – 100%
80 15 second rest – 20%    –   20 total reps (10 minutes)
85 5 minute rest – 40%
40 seconds on – 90%
95 20 seconds off – 40%    10 total reps (10 minutes)
105 10 minute cool down – 40% 105 Tuesday
Strength Training – Upper Body
Outdoor Lakeshore Ride:
Wherever; just at 75-80% effort for 90 minutes 60 Saturday
Strength Training – Upper Body
Sustain:
10 10 minute warm up – 30%
30 20 minute sustain – 80%
35 5 minute rest – 30%
55 20 minute sustain – 80%
60 5 minute rest – 30%
80 20 minute sustain – 80%
90 10 minute cool down – 30% 90 Thursday
Strength Training – Upper Body
Outdoor Lakeshore Ride:
Wherever; just at 75-80% effort for 90 minutes 120 Saturday
Strength Training – Upper Body
TOTAL 10.0