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.

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