Monday, July 21, 2014

2014-15 CX Season Schedule & Goals

Today is a recovery day (despite the fantastic riding weather), so I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to work through the CX schedule and chart out some more detailed plans. 

My season revolves around the #1 goal of getting on the podium at CX Nationals in Austin, TX in early January. I will be racing in the Masters 45-49 age group for the first time, but so will Peter Webber and other heavies, so getting on the podium will be a tough but I think realistic goal. After some reflection, I've come to three important conclusions about attaining that goal:

1. Obviously, I have to plan to peak physically and mentally in January. To that end, I've mapped out a season that has 3 minor peaks building up to that highest peak. My first peak will be for the Trek CXC Cup on 9/20 & 9/21. My second will be for Jingle Cross on 11/14-16. And my third peak will be for the State Championship race on 12/6. Then I will have a full month to recover and rebuild for my final peak at Nationals.

2. I have to do all I can to get a front-row start at Nationals. This means doing races that help my points. Since my points are already very good, it does me no good to race in the masters category at WCA races. So for that reason alone (I'll go into my other reason below), I'll be racing in the Pro 1/2 category at all WCA races. But I also need to be doing national-level events whenever I can afford to travel to them. So I am hoping to get to the Gateway Cup in St. Louis on 10/25 & 10/26, the Cincy3 races on 10/31-11/2, and the Derby City races on 11/8 & 11/9 in addition to the Trek CXC Cup and Jingle Cross.

3. At Nationals, it is all about the start and the ability to chase the fastest guys like Peter Webber and Mark Savery. I'm good at starts, but I need to spend my season chasing people who are faster than me. I need to build not only the physical ability to sustain that high pace but also the mental fortitude to avoid cracking and to limit my losses if I do crack while chasing. This is my other big reason to focus on the Pro 1/2 category at WCA races and to travel to bigger events whenever possible. So I hope to chase my teammates Brian Matter and Joe Maloney a lot this year as well as other strong WI guys like Isaac Neff & Tristan Schouten. 

But don't worry, Wisconsin masters racers: the new WCA schedule puts the masters races AFTER the Pro 1/2 race, so I will likely be lining up to do my second race of the day with you! I know you would miss me otherwise.

Next post I'll explain what I'm doing in this first phase of building toward the Trek CXC Cup. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Official Launch of the 2014 'Cross Season

For me, this week marks the official launch of the 2014 'cross season, so it's time to get blogging. Why, you ask, is this the week I'm starting my season? Mid-July would be a smart launching point for anyone since the earliest 'cross races are just 7-8 weeks away, but my personal reason is that I've had to cancel my plans to compete at the 2014 MTB XC Nationals in Macungie, PA. I competed there last year and had a great result despite 2 flat tires, and I really wanted to return this year to contest the podium, especially since I grew up close by in NJ and could have visited my mother as part of the trip. But reality harshly intruded: I'm going through some tough financial times and just couldn't afford the trip. That being the case, it made sense to have the WORS Subaru Pro XCT race at Cascade Mountain this past weekend mark the end of my focus on MTB XC for 2014. I'm planning to have 2015 be all about MTB racing, but it's full steam ahead now to the 2014 'cross season.

Since I'm switching gears, it's a good time to take stock and consider what I've done since CX Nationals in January and where I'm at now with my condition. After Nationals, I took 2 weeks off the bike except for some tough winter commuting; I mainly rested, got caught up on work, and did a little XC skiing. Then in February, I started P90X3, kept up with the XC skiing, and began doing some easy road rides on the 'cross bike 2-3 times per week.

That was my routine in February and most of March, but by mid March I dropped the skiing and started doing 3-4 rides per week, still just keeping my rides unstructured. In April, I started going a little harder and longer on my rides, though it has to be said we endured a horrible winter and spring here in Wisconsin, so it was tough to do the consistent long miles that are crucial to the base training period. I'll also admit that I lacked motivation to do any structured training during the spring. I did over 50 races in 2013, so I was kind of burned out on race efforts, though fortunately I still was psyched to be riding a bike.

By May, I had finished a full, 90-day round of P90X3 and had started doing some basic hill repeats to get ready for the first MTB race of the year. Sometime I'd love to give a full account of P90X3, but for now I'll say it is the best total conditioning program I've done yet in the base season. I did P90X in 2012, P90X2 in 2013, and now P90X3 in 2014. These programs have laid the foundations each season for my success since they so effectively address every aspect of fitness. This is especially important for an aging cyclist such as myself--the core strength, the flexibility, and the agility in particular. I also like how the lower body routines and the more general aerobic conditioning routines don't overemphasize any particular muscle but instead focus on developing all of the muscles in the legs, including the "merely" supportive or minor muscles. Strengthening those muscles obviously enables the larger muscles to be more efficient.

May saw the start of the MTB race season, and I immediately could see that my lack of structured training in the winter and spring--my avoidance of interval training--put me at a huge disadvantage. In fact, even though I started doing more structured training around May 15, I didn't feel my usual self at any of the MTB races this season. Specifically, I kept having good starts but then blowing up at around the hour and a quarter to hour and a half mark in these 2 hour races. It was as if I still had my excellent 'cross-specific fitness from 2013 but not the muscular endurance required to go hard for the full 2 hours. It took me 3 races to really understand the problem and begin to address it in my training, but by then I was just not having a good season because of mechanicals and other sorts of bad luck, not to mention the stress of my personal life. However, I did have 2 races that I'm content with: the Red Flint Firecracker, where I felt strong the whole race and ended up 15th in the Pro/Elite field and the Subaru Pro XCT Short Track event, where I rode well and managed 9th place in the Cat 1 / Elite field. So I leave my MTB focus behind with ambivalent feelings about it. I do still have some MTB racing ahead this year: WORS Mt. Morris, WORS Reforestation Camp, WORS Treadfest, WORS Colectivo Classic, and of course Chequamegon. But these are now just hard training rides in my mind; I won't get too invested in them psychologically.

Cyclocross is another story! There I am fully invested in my pursuit of a podium at the National Championships in Austin, TX in January, as well as my quest for a win at Jingle Cross in Iowa this November (my favorite race of all) and at the Trek CXC Cup right here in Wisconsin in September. I have 10 weeks until the Trek CXC Cup, which is the perfect amount of time to prepare given where I am at. I have a great base thanks to P90X3 and all the MTB racing I've done so far; I'm close to my ideal racing weight and have a great nutritional strategy going forward; I have an amazing new bike (my 2014 Trek Boone Cantilever) and a good pit bike (my 2011 Specialized Crux Disc); and I'm finally getting my life sorted out so that it's less stressful. On top of that, I've been getting out on the cyclocross bike every Tuesday for 6 weeks now to work on basic skills at the practice sessions I've been running at Estabrook Park. And for the past 2 weeks, I've also done some harder efforts on the 'cross bike on Thursday evenings. I've even been doing a little running.

Next time I'll outline my season plan and perhaps discuss my nutritional strategy a bit.