Spent Christmas in Virginia with my girlfriend's family. Her dad has a farm outside of Orange. It is beautiful there. I was able to ride out his back door on country roads with very little traffic. Seeing all the grass and the hills was a nice change from the pine trees of Georgia.
I am back in Georgia now and I am getting ready for my first attempt at the Snake. The Snake is either a 17 mile or 34 mile point to point time trial. 34 miles doesn't sound like much but apparently the trail is very rocky and steep. I checked out some peoples times from last year and I think it will probably take me between 5 and 6 hours. The cool thing about it is that the promoters give you three attempts at the trail (one in jan, one in feb, and one in march) all for one price of $55.
I thought about just doing the 17 mile version in January to get a feel for the trail then moving on to the 34 mile version in February and March. For some reason the promoters don't want you to switch mid way through. They make you pay twice if you want to switch. My cheapness overrode my wimpyness and I signed up for the 34 miler. It should be good practice for my attempt at the Cohutta in April.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Spent Christmas in Virginia with my girlfriend's family. Her dad has a farm outside of Orange. It is beautiful there. I was able to ride out his back door on country roads with very little traffic. Seeing all the grass and the hills was a nice change from the pine trees of Georgia.
Posted by James Bigler at 10:29 AM
Monday, December 18, 2006
Did my performance test on Saturday. I planned to do an hour, but I quit after 20 minutes. I was just not having fun. My average watts for those 20 minutes was 1 Watt higher than the test I did 8 weeks ago before I started training and 15 watts lower than the test I did 4 weeks ago.
Not sure what happened. I did the first two tests on the road and I did this one on my trainer. Some people say you get higher numbers on the road.
The second test I did I went out really hard and faded the last 10 minutes. That might have artificially bumped my numbers up on the second test.
Who knows? I am not going to think about it too much.
I have four more weeks of training before my winter plan is up. I figure the best thing I can do is concentrate on that and execute the next 4 weeks to best of my ability.
Posted by James Bigler at 4:54 PM
Monday, December 11, 2006
Amy and I went on another one of our "adventure's" yesterday. An adventure consists of
- a long drive to a bike trail with lots of conversation and bonding between Amy and I
- a bike ride with both party members lasting approximately 1 hour on a fun trail
- the ride should be peppered with frequent words of encouragement and praise
- after the ride there is more bonding with hugs and kisses before the party members separate for a short period
- Amy will take the car and find a local restaurant for some lunch. After lunch she will spend the remainder of her time exploring local cities looking at shops, neighborhoods, and tourist attractions. At the end of explorations, she will return to the trail and her read a book.
- I will take his bike and finish off his workout for the day. Riding his bike at whatever pace his workout calls for hoping to get enough endurance to finish his next race.
- After James finishes his ride, the party members will reunite at the car. I will stretch and eat any goodies Amy purchased for him on her exploration.
- After the leaving the trail the party members will start the drive back home and stop along the way for dinner. Both party members will share any fun stories from their time apart.
Our first adventure was at Chicopee Woods in Gainesville, Ga.
We rode down to the waterfall and back to the parking lot with a little exploring along the way. After our joint ride Amy went for lunch and learned her way around Gainesville finding a cool "Old Town" district. I rode the red trail, zig zag, outer loop (twice), some new trail I found that I probably shouldn't have been, and the lake loop. We tried to find a barbecue place off exit 13 on 400 on the way home but couldn't find it. So we ended up at our favorite Mexican place on exit 7.
Yesterday we went to the Dauset Nature Trails in Jackson, Ga.
We rode the entire 3.3 mile beginner loop together. Yay Amy! I think this was Amy's longest ride to date. She rode really well and didn't have to dismount for any of the tricky sections. At the end the ride, I asked her if she was tired and she said not at all. Next time she suggested we add in some more sections. The trail is kept up really well and it is very scenic especially with all the fallen leaves. We stopped several times picking up nicely shaped pine cones for Amy's home decorations. After we separated Amy drove to Jackson and Locust grove and explored those towns. She found a really good barbecue place called Fresh Air Barbecue.
I rode the expert loop. Then I finished off with a repeat of a Pine Mountain and backwards up Huff N Puff. We stopped at the Cracker Barrel on the way home. Great day!
Yesterday also ended my three week block of tempo rides. I have a performance test this weekend. I think I am going to skip my 20 minute time trial on the Silver Comet and do an hour time trial on my trainer. I know I would get higher numbers on the road, but I can't justify driving 3 hours to do a 20 minute time trial. Plus an hour long time trial would be better for estimating my functional threshold. Maybe this is dumb idea, but it wouldn't be my first.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:46 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tried to make a cake for my girlfriend's birthday like the cake mama made for her birthday last Saturday.
Mama was nice enough to give me a recipe for the ganache and the mousse, and my girlfriend gave me a recipe for the cake.
I am not much of a baker, but I tried to follow the instructions the best I could.
I think the icing and the mousse came out pretty well. However the Droste cocoa
I used for the cake made it taste a little funny. It was almost hot and spicy instead of milky and creamy. I had never used the cocoa before but it looked fancy and was expensive so I thought it would have been good. Oops.
Plus the cake was a little dry. Not sure how I messed that part up. Next time I think I will just be safe and use one of the mixes from the baking aisle.
Betty Crocker knows her stuff.
Posted by James Bigler at 9:58 PM
Monday, December 04, 2006
Went on a fun ride this weekend. We rode the Stanley Gap and Flat Creek trails. This was my first time on either trail. The trails were tough but fun. The climbs were long and sustained. A couple of the climbs had some good technical sections. The descents were brutal though. I did my best to try and keep up with the other riders, but they were too fast.
I ended up taking a pretty good header on really steep downhill with a log crossing. Tweaked my knee and shoulder. Broke my rear shifter. Had to do three quarters of the ride with only my front derailleur. Luckily the chain was in the 26 tooth rear cog when my shifter broke, and the chain stayed there for the rest of the ride. I had just enough gear for the climbs and the downhills were so steep I didn't really need to pedal anyway.
The ride was organized by a local bike goddess named mama. She is famous for taking regular joe schmoes like me on these long epic rides. She rushes ahead with her super human strength, gets out her camera, takes pictures of you suffering, gets back on her bike, and catches back up to you in a blink of the eye. Later she writes up these really funny ride reports for everyone to enjoy. Here is her report from this weekend. I really like this picture.
It really shows the steepness of the trail.
The ride was little longer and much more difficult than my training plan called for but I am so glad I went. Mama and her husband raja are awesome people. They have a huge group of friends and it is always fun and to meet and hang out with their group.
Since Saturday was so tough, I knocked a couple hours off my Sunday ride to try and get my total TSS for the weekend to what the training plan called for originally. Other than my weekend deviations the rest of the training for my week went really well.
My girlfriend let me put her stereo in the basement where I do my trainer rides. I downloaded some new music from itunes, and I have been rocking out while I ride. The music really helps me get pumped and angry. My intervals are so much easier when I am in this state of mind. I can't wait for tomorrow to do my last three day block of tempo rides.
Posted by James Bigler at 9:30 PM
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I guessed TSS values for all the ride data that was lost last week. Here is my current PMC.
I made a lot of progress those first three weeks. Notice the blue line (CTL) sloping upwards. This line indicates how fit I am.
During my rest week you can see CTL dipping back down. This is a necessary evil. Yes you lose fitness, but your body needs to rest. Notice the yellow line TSB slope upwards during this same period. This yellow line indicates how fresh I am.
I lost 7 points off my CTL, but I gained 44 points on my TSB. I lost some fitness, but I gained a ton of freshness. Besides my total CTL for the 4 week period was still up almost 13 points.
I started my next 4 week block on Monday. Instead of suicide sprints straight up a hill like the first 3 weeks, I am now doing tempo intervals. I tried to think of way to describe a tempo interval.
Imagine holding you hand above a candle. What you want to do is find a height above the candle where the flame hurts your hand but doesn't actually do any permanent damage. You want to feel pain, but you don't want to burn your flesh. Yes it hurts and your brain is telling you have to stop but as long as you don't actually burn yourself there is no real reason why you have to stop. After about 30 minutes, you can take move you hand away from the candle, let it rest for 10 minutes, then put it right back at that same height. This is a lot like a tempo interval.
Basically you find a speed or power level where your legs are burning but your aren't going so fast that you blow through all your energy and can no longer turn the pedals. Your mind begs you to stop, but you have to stay tough and keep pedaling.
I think having the right mental attitude is the key to these workouts. I like to psych myself up and get mad. It seems silly but it really works for me.
Posted by James Bigler at 8:02 PM
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I had dreams of posting this cool Performance Manager Chart showing off all the hard work I did in my first three weeks of training. Unfortunately I opened up WKO and my data was no longer there. I have no idea what happened. I contacted cyclingpeaks but they were not able to help me either.
I know it is stupid to get upset, but I am really bummed about losing the data. If you read any of my previous posts you know that I was really excited about using this data to help me track whether I am improving or not. Now I don't know what to do.
The good news is that I did bump up my average power on 20 min TT from 242 to 258. The 258 number might not be a good estimate of my functional threshold power however. I have been doing some reading and it turns out that using a 20 min TT to estimate a 60 min TT is not really a great idea. Especially if you over inflate the number by going out really hard then fading at the end. Saturday my first 10 minutes averaged 279 watts and the last 10 minutes I only averaged 239.
To get a better estimate for function threshold power, I can either do a 60 min TT or a series of TTs over multiple days ranging from 3 to 30 min. Then plot the results and do a linear curve fit to extrapolate a number for 60 minutes.
Right now this is all talk because I have been sitting on my butt doing absolutely nothing since I lost all my data. Gotta pick myself up and keep going. D Wade says it not how many times you get knocked down, it is how many times you get back up.
Posted by James Bigler at 1:56 PM
Monday, November 13, 2006
The 12 week training plan I am following is split up in 3 week blocks. First you do three really hard weeks. Then you get one week to rest and recover. Next you perform two more three week build one week rest cycles to complete the plan.
At the beginning of the 12 weeks and at the end of every rest week, you perform a 20 minute time trial to estimate your functional threshold power (geek speak for see how fast you are). The idea is to test yourself at the beginning to see where you stand. Then after each three week build you want to test yourself again to see how you improved. The reason you test yourself at the end of the rest week is to make sure you are not tired while you are testing.
Today I started my first rest week, and my test is coming up Saturday. I hope to see some improvement from the test I did three weeks ago. I feel like I have worked really hard. I did my best to follow the workouts in my plan exactly as they are described.
However I did blow off one workout. Mentally I just couldn't force myself to do it that day. The workout I missed was a pedaling drills workout. I don't think that particular workout would have made or broke my training goals so I still feel good about the work I did.
One good thing about my power meter purchase is that I will know for sure if I have improved. For the test I did three weeks ago, I calculated 230 Watts as my threshold power. Seeing how I weigh 75 kg that is really not a very big number. Looking at the cyclingpeaks power profile, it looks like I am either a pretty good Cat 5 or a really poor Cat 4.
The Cat numbers are really road racer categories. Cat 5: Beginner, Cat 4: Novice, Cat 3: Sport, Cat 2: Expert, Cat 1: Elite. Above the Cat 1 category are domestic professionals and above those are World Class Professionals (think Lance and all those guys that routinely lose to Lance).
I never plan to race road, but I would like to be able to finish a 100 mile off road race in a reasonable amount of time. I compared my time at ORAMM to another rider's time that has raced both ORAMM and the Cohutta 100, and I think it will take me a little over 12 hours to complete the Cohutta 100. I want to shave an hour off this time. A time of 11 hours and change would at least get me listed on the results page of last year's race. :)
Anyways I will retest myself Saturday and compare my numbers. I know that even the tiniest bit of improvement will really help motivate me. If I don't improve or get worse, I think that will be good to know as well. Last year it sucked not knowing if all that hard work was helping. At least now I will know before the race that I really need to step it up.
I am starting to think a lot of this training process is mental. If I really want to I can move my pain threshold and get better. If I start feeling sorry for myself and feeling like I am working too hard as it is then I may never get better.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:22 PM
Monday, November 06, 2006
Well I got pretty good response about the high cadence and one leg drills. Seems like most people think they are a pretty good idea. It looks like I will have to continue suffering through those things. I did get some pretty good advice with the responses though.
I have been spinning too fast. I shouldn't be bouncing all over the saddle out of control when I do my high cadence drills. If I am bouncing I am not using the proper form. Proper form is essential for improving my spin at normal cadence. I bet if I stop bouncing my saddle sores won't be so bad. Slowing my cadence is a win win for me.
My power question on the wattage list was not as successful. Seems like the consensus was that the charts will look different due to the relative slowness with which heart rate responds to changes in actual exercise intensity. I got this response from one of the authors of the power training bible which was pretty cool.
The reason I created those two graphs was to try and find a way to estimate TSS for days I don't have a power meter. Many of the rides I do are mountain bike rides, and I don't have a power meter on my mountain bike.
I was hoping to keep my performance manager chart up to date with TSS scores for every ride to try and help me learn how to predict when I am training too much. I have had a problem with over training in the last two seasons.
My plan for estimating TSS on my mountain bike was to record how long I spent in each heart rate zone. Then guess an intensity factor for each zone and use that IF to calculate TSS using this formula.
TSS = IF^2 x duration (hours) x 100
After calculating a TSS value for each zone, I would sum them up to calculate a TSS score for the entire ride.
I assumed it would be better to estimate an IF value for each zone that it would be to estimate an IF for the entire ride. My reasoning was if it would be better to estimate an IF for a single ride than estimating an IF for an entire week or for an entire month, it should be more accurate to break a ride up into many parts and estimate an IF for each part.
To try and test the accuracy of this assumption I created the graph for a ride where I had both heart rate and power data. What I found though is that the graphs are entirely different. I don't think the heart rate graph is very useful for predicting the duration I spent in each power zone.
I tried posting these comments back to the Wattage list, but I didn't get any responses. I did start a new debate on over training versus over reaching. I have no idea which category I fell into last year.
It would be so much easier to just buy a power meter for my mountain bike though. I wish there was a good option out there.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:39 PM
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I completed my first week of training with a power meter. I really enjoy downloading my data and analyzing it.
One of the cool things I found you can do with WKO is graph your power data by your training zones. Here is a graph of my ride from Saturday.
This lets you see exactly how much time you spend in each zone.
You can also graph you heart rate data the same way. Here is a graph of my heart rate from the same ride.
It is interesting that my heart rate graph is nothing like my power graph. I can think of a couple reasons why this would happen
1) I have the wrong value set for my lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR)
2) My power changes instantly when I stop pedaling but heart rate takes much more time to change
3) The graphs just show that heart rate is not a good metric to use to determine which training zones your efforts occurred in.
It is very possible I don't have my LTHR set properly. I forgot my heart rate strap when I did my 20 minute time trial to determine my functional threshold power. I do the test again in 3 weeks though. I will make sure I bring my heart rate strap this time. The number I am using now for LTHR is slightly higher than my average heart rate on a previous 2 hour max effort group road ride.
I think I will post this question to the Wattage list and see what the experts say.
I also posted a question on mtbr about high cadence and one leg drills. I don't like these workouts. They give me terrible saddle sores. I read this article that said they are not even beneficial. I think the workouts would be more tolerable if I knew for sure what I was doing was helping me get faster.
Posted by James Bigler at 1:56 PM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
When I first started training two years ago, it was pretty easy to see that I was getting faster each month. I made huge changes in my fitness those first couple months. However as the length of time I have been training grows longer, the increases in my fitness have grown smaller. The changes seem so small now that I wonder if I am actually making improvements. Wondering whether I am improving by killing myself on a threshold interval makes it really hard to stay motivated.
I feel like I started a new adventure yesterday. I did my first functional threshold power (FTP) test. This is a hard number that basically tells me how fit I am. I can repeat this test every month and compare the number to previous months to see if I am getting faster or slower. I can also compare my number to a chart of rider profiles to see how I compare to other riders.
You might not just ask why don't you go ride the same loop every month and time yourself? That is much cheaper and simpler way of doing it I guess. It doesn't take into account though things like changes in the wind or rain or tires or temperature or etc... I think if I had been timing myself every month for the last two years it would have been better than what I have been doing which was nothing.
The power meter also buys me some other things.
I can track how hard and how fast I have to pedal on different types of rides using a techinique called Quadrant Analysis.
This is important because it not just how long you train but how close your training matches your actual races. They call this specifity. Basically it just means if all your training rides were long slow flat rides and your race was a short fast hilly ride then you probably won't do very well.
I can also use my functional threshold power results to create Power levels. These levels will help me make sure I actually resting on my recovery rides or make sure I am actually over my threshold on my high intensity rides.
I can also track how much power I can produce at different intervals using the Mean Maximal Power Curve.
This will tell me what my strengths and weaknesses are. For example a very good sprinter can go for 15 seconds or longer without a significant slope change on their MMPC. Someone with excellent VO2 power(3-6minute power) will have a slight 'rise' in the curve during that time period. For a Time trialist, the curve will have very little slope change throughout the entire curve.
I can see after a ride where I went over my limit and how that affected my power afterwards. The WKO software will quickly highlight where I went over my threshold power.
Cylists call this burning a match. The idea is that when you start a ride you only have so many matches in your matchbook. Everytime you go over your threshold you burn one or matches. Once you use up all your matches then you run out of energy and either quit or limp home.
While I am riding I can see how much effort I have expended and at what intensity. My ergomo pro power meter will track Total Stress Score and Intensity Factor. Total Stress Score can be seen as the total amount of energy I have expended. The Intensity Factor is basically the rate at which I am expending my energy. As my IF goes up, the duration I can ride goes down.
I can also track my training loads through a season to make sure I am not overtraining or undertraining using the performance manager chart.
This chart will show me both my long term and short term training loads. It will also give me a numerical value to tell me how rested I am. It is up to me to find through trial and error how much stress I can handle before I need to rest and how much rest I need before I can race, but once I figure these numbers out I can use the chart to repeat those same numbers in the future.
So considering all these things I think it was smart to get the power meter. I have a mathematical brain and having hard numbers makes sense to me.
Posted by James Bigler at 3:46 PM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I went to Gene Hamilton's Betterride clinic this weekend in Fruita. I have always wanted to go to Fruita so the clinic gave me a great excuse to fly out there.
We flew to Salt Lake City then to Grand Junction. The views from the plane were amazing. I always thought Google earth looked fake but after flying over those mountains I stand corrected.
The mountains really do look cartoonish once you get to a certain height. How the land can be perfectly flat in one section then rise up into the crazy folds and peaks in another is incredible.
After we got off the plane we stopped at a pretty good coffee/sandwich place called La Paninoteca. The sandwiches were actually paninis. Now I not would call myself a panini man per se, but as far as paninis goes these weren't too bad. I got some spicey sausage that tasted pretty good. All of the ingredients were very fresh and of high quality.
After lunch we drove to Fruita and found a great place to stay for $45 bucks a night. The Balanced Rock motel looked a little sketchy on the outside, but the inside was really nice and clean. Our view overlooked the interstate and railroad tracks. The noise from the trucks and trains reminded me of home. :)
I picked up my bike at Over the Edge Bike shop. The guys there were great, and the shop is really nice. They did their best to get my 7 year old bent front derailleur adjusted properly. I think next time I will just rent one of their high end bikes. Shipping your bike to and from somewhere is a hassle.
Friday morning I got up early and rode my bike over to Reed park for the clinic.
Gene went over bike setup, body placement, vision, and wheelies. We did drills in the parking lot so we would feel comfortable while learning new stuff. If we had started on the trail then we would have probably been paying more attention to the trail than the skills we were learning.
I had a hard time looking up. I guess I normally look a couple feet in front of my wheel. I usually clear the first obstacle I am staring at, but if there is another obstacle immediately after the first obstacle then I just crash into the second obstacle and fall over. If I can force myself to keep my head up, then I am sure I will be more prepared for the things ahead of me.
Later that afternoon we drove over to Rustler's Loop and practiced the skills we learned on the trail. It was great having Gene giving you advice as we rode. He also stopped several times and had us play around on some interesting trail features.
Friday night all the campers went to Fiesta Guadalajara for some Mexican food. It was nice sitting around talking getting to know each other off the bike. The food was excellent and the margaritas were even better.
Saturday the rains came down. We ended up in small covered parking pad in Grand Junction. It was freezing but it was better than sitting around in my hotel. Gene taught us about cornering, step ups, bunny hops, and switchbacks. My cornering has gotten really crappy lately so I was really happy to learn how to corner correctly.
We practiced cornering by setting up a figure 8 out of orange plastic cones. Gene showed us how to weight our outside foot, lean the bike not the rider, apply counter pressure to the inside grip, lean forward with elbows out to weight the front tire, and most importantly look up and through the corner. It is hard to do all those things at one time so we practiced each piece at a time. I will need to do this drill a couple times a week for as long as I ride my bike.
Sunday we met again at Reed park.
The rain had stopped but the trails were still soaked. We spent a couple hours reviewing what we had learned the previous days and did some fun slalom runs in the parking lot. Again Gene showed us how much easier things are by keeping our head up and looking past the cones. I admit it was almost comical how much easier the slalom was when I stopped looking right in front of wheel.
Then we headed over to Rustler's again and practiced our cornering skills. We did repeats on this one long downhill. Gene would ride in front of and behind us giving us tips as we rode. It really helped solidify the things he taught us the day before.
Monday I woke up and didn't feel really good. I ended up taking my bike back to the bike shop early and spend the day exploring the Colorado National Monument with Amy.
It was a good decision and I had a great time.
I didn't get to ride any of the trails I wanted to but the clinic was better than I expected. I learned a bunch of drills that I can use to improve as a cyclist. It is going to be tough because I have so many bad habits to break. I feel confident that I can do it though now that I have the knowledge Gene gave me.
Posted by James Bigler at 4:37 PM
Monday, September 25, 2006
Every year a couple thousands roadies show up in beautiful Dahlonega, Ga to ride 100 miles over 6 mountain passes. I think the total elevation gain is 11,000 feet. It felt more like a million. A picture is worth a thousand words.
The day started off well. My girlfriend and I arrived about 1.5 hours before the race started. We just missed the long line that forms trying to cram all those cars into the Lumpkin County High School parking lot. It was nice sitting in the back of my car holding my girlfriend's hand watching those poor suckers who came thirty minutes late. I felt relaxed and ready for the race. My only concern was the weather and what clothes should I bring to prepare for it.
As I rolled up to the line, I saw my parents standing there. My mom snapped a bunch of pictures, and my dad came up and talked to me about the race. It was nice having them there.
The horn sounded and we sat and waited for 1000 riders ahead of us to get rolling. As soon as we left the parking lot it started raining. I knew I should have brought my arm warmers. The rain wasn't too bad though. I tried to settle in a pace slightly slower than last year. If I am going to climb six big ole mountains, I don't see any point in trying to race people on the flattest part of the day.
The rain got a little worse and the downhills started to get interesting. I don't ever remember riding a road bike in the rain so this was a learning experience for me. I learned your brakes no longer grab like you are used to. They slow you down some but you couldn't really stop if you needed to. I was going so slow around corners that I never really noticed my tires slipping out from under me. I will have to experiment with that some other day.
After about 20 miles of rolling stuff, we hit the base of Neels. I remember from last year this climb being somewhat difficult for me. I tried to keep with this other rider for most of the way, and I felt pretty worked when I got to the top. This time I took it easy and did my own thing. I sped up a couple times to get around cars but other than that I stuck to the game plan and felt fresh as daisy at the summit. The climb seemed so much shorter this year.
The rain was coming down really hard by now. I contemplated chickening out and doing 3 Gap. Luckily some guy said "We are already soaking wet. We are not going to get any wetter. Might as well go for it." Thank you to whoever said that. That was good advice and just the encouragement I needed to hear.
On the descent, I started shivering pretty bad. It was cold. Cold enough to make me think about 3 Gap for a minute but not cold enough to quit. At the bottom of the hill, I was happy to be pedaling again. I kept checking my heart rate hoping it would come up so I would get warm again. Finally we hit some hills, and I felt myself warming back up.
All day I ate as much as possible when I wasn't going straight up or straight down. I mixed my energy drink really thin this time, and I never felt the naseau I normally get. I also stayed more hydrated than normal. I did lose energy towards the end of the race. I might add a little more mix next time.
Jack's Gap was steep. This was the first time I felt my back hurt a little. It wasn't too bad though. I practiced pedaling in circles and stretching my back. Other than the cold everything went pretty smoothly over Jack's and up Unicoi.
At the summit of Unicoi, my girlfriend and some family were there. It was nice seeing them. They were giving me a weird look but I figured they were just trying to figure out if I was dying yet. My girlfriend gave me some arm warmers. At this point the arm warmers were more of luxury than a necessity but a little pampering never hurt anybody. I filled up my bottles and took off. The descent was more enjoyable now that I wasn't shivering so much.
Then came Hogpen. This climb is really steep and long. I would sit and pedal focusing on pulling up and over. I would try to count to 100. When I got to 100 or I couldn't stand the pain anymore, I would stand up and count to 30. After 30 I would sit back down and repeat. Why would I sit back down if standing was easier you ask? While standing made the climb less painful, it would however send my heartrate rocketing. I had to limit my standing time so that I wouldn't burn myself up and not have enough energy to make it to the top of the climb.
I repeated this process of sitting and standing for a really long time. Then I saw a rest stop that I thought was the top. I saw my family so I turned it on a little sending my heart rate soaring. When I get there I learn there are a couple more miles of climbing to go. I kept rolling and tried to let my heart rate come down. After that there were so many false summits I stopped counting. I was hurting by the time I got to the top.
I filled my bottles and took off down a super steep downhill. I rode the brakes most of the way. This was beyond my comfort level. I need to go back here and practice. I am not comfortable in the drops so I rode down the whole way on my hoods. My hands kept feeling like they were going to pop off the bars. I tried wrapping my pinkies around the bar for extra control. I worried the whole way I was going to hit a pothole and loose my grip on the bars.
I was glad to see the bottom, but I was worked. Climbing back to the 3 Gap turn was hard work. I was already dreading Wolfpen. I ate as much as I could.
Halfway up Wolfpen my right knee gave out. I could no longer pull up or push down with any real force. It still hurts now as I type this. I am not sure what I did. I think I may have stayed seated too much. I remember standing more last year because staying seated would make my back hurt. I guess the weakest link moved from my back to my knee this year. I thought about quitting. I decided that if I made it over Wolfpen then I could probably limp home the rest of the way.
I used every trick I could think of to get over Wolfpen. I would grab my knee with my right hand and force my knee up and down with my arm. I tried standing for 100 seconds and sitting for 30 seconds instead of the other way around. I tried moving my knees further in then more further out. I tried riding bow legged. I tried favoring my left leg and letting my right leg be almost limp. Nothing really helped but it was good distraction. Somehow I made it to the top. By this time both my knees were hurting. The right one still a little more than the left.
My girlfriend and sister were there. I remember giving my girlfriend my best "I am hurting so bad and I want you to tell me to quit look". Not sure if she noticed but she said "You are doing great. You can do it. You are almost done." And that was that. I slumped back on my bike and kept going.
The downhill of Wolfpen was the most fun I had all day. It wasn't too wet or too steep. It was twisty and fun. I swooped down the mountain and forgot about my knee until the climbing started again.
I felt sick at this point. Not sure if I was tired or hungry or what. I took off my rain vest while I was riding. I thought it was cool trick but after I did it, a guy rode by me and looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe it wasn't a good idea but it was fun and made me feel like one of those guys in the Tour de France. I even felt a little bit better without the vest on.
Luckily none of the rest of the climbs were as steep as Wolfpen or Hogpen. I made it over Woody's in considerable pain but I made it. The downhill was long. The rain started heavy again and it was hard to see. The sweat stung my eyes and I had to slow several times because my eyes were closed.
Eventually the hill got more gradual and I was able to pedal some of the time. Lots of riders passed me on this section. I was pretty passed caring at this point. I just wanted to finish. I was going to be proud no matter what my time was.
I couldn't believe it when I saw the high school. It didn't seem real. I pedaled as hard as I could but I must have looked pretty pathetic. I rolled over the line in 7 hours and 30 minutes.
My family was there to congratulate me. My nephew pushed my bike up the hill. It was nice talking to my family about the race. I grabbed some spaghetti dinner and talked with them some more. On the way home I stopped and got a blizzard from DQ. It felt really good to have finished the race.
Posted by James Bigler at 8:13 PM
Monday, September 18, 2006
Climbing up Bear Creek has never hurt so much. Every pedal stroke is a mental struggle not to quit. I am doing my best to pedal in complete circles focusing on applying force for all 360 degrees. My mind keeps drifting thinking about what I did to make something that is normally effortless for me become so difficult.
I guess it started in December. After several months of absence from my bike, I bought some Spinervals DVDs and started riding my trainer in my living room. For the next several months I rode that trainer into the ground literally. Starting with an hour at a time, I worked my way up to over 6 hours on Sundays. Hard workouts too. Not just sitting there and spinning in the same gear. One week I think I logged like 16 hours.
When the weather got better and the trails started drying out, I got out on my mountain bike. I remember the first time I rode Ft Yargo. After two laps I was toast. Barely had enough energy to drive home. A couple months later I did 5 laps and was bouncing around like a school kid afterwards. Could have rode more if they didn't close the park at 10 pm.
My first race came and rode around Yargo for 12 hours. The last lap was tough but for the most part I felt really strong. How I went from being dead after 2 laps to riding strong for 9 laps, I don't know.
After this race, I decided to work with a coach. I can remember those first couple weeks working with him. Those intervals were brutal. I got saddle sores so bad I cried.
I remember one week I had during training where I felt invincible. I climbed faster than I ever had in my life. Climbing was no longer a struggle but just pure joy. Every pedal stoke made me feel stronger instead of weaker.
I remember crashing after this week. I kept trying to do the workouts my coach gave me, but every day I just felt like I was getting more tired instead of more fit. Eventually my coach stopped giving me the intervals and basically just told me to do whatever I felt like I could do.
ORAMM came around and I was still tired. I did my best, but didn't put in a very good time. I did still feel strong afterwards and was proud I finished. The course was very technically challenging for me.
After ORAMM, I did some group rides both on the road and on the mountain bike. I commuted some which always makes me feel good. I stayed away from the intervals. It was a hard decision but I decided to stop working with my coach. He taught me so much, but the pressure I put on myself to validate the need for a coach was too much.
That brings me back to today and why I am so tired climbing Bear Creek. Maybe my being tired has nothing to do with anything that happened before today. The last four hours of riding have definitely been enough to zap me of my strength.
The day started out with the combination climb of Windy Gap and Tibbs.
In pictures the bottom of Windy Gap looks so smooth and harmless. In reality it is pretty difficult. I am not sure if it is the steepness that makes it a hard climb or the fact that the climb starts directly from the parking lot
and you have no time to warm up. I remember singing happy birthday to Barry and the next thing I know I am suffering on the wall of death.
While I am climbing, I kept looking up hoping to see the sign that marks the turn off to Milma and brief respite from the climbing. I must have looked up a hundred times before finally I saw the sign and turned off on Milma. I grabbed my energy drink and drank as much as I could without getting sick. This climb was tough but I think I still should be able to climb Bear creek without suffering completely.
After Milma next comes Tibbs. It is hard to describe Tibbs. Think about that tricky rocky uphill section on your favorite trail. You know the one where you are in your granny gear barely moving. Trying to pick your way at super slow speed through a mass of boulders, loose gravel, and dirt. Hoping not to run into a rock and fall over or move your weight too far forward and spin out your rear wheel. Now instead of that section lasting 5 or 10 minutes imagine that section lasting 30 minutes to an hour. That is Tibbs.
Riding up Tibbs, I remember passing a rider on their first look at Tibbs. This rider gave me a look like this is not real. Are we really supposed to ride up this thing? It looks like an avalanche of rocks fell where a stupidly steep road used to be.
The truth is many people can ride this trail. In fact people try to ride all the way up to the top without putting their foot down for fun. I met one guy a couple weeks ago that can actually do this. I think I dabbed (put my foot down) at least 5 times today. Compared with the number times I dabbed a couple weeks ago on my first attempt of Tibbs I was quite happy with 5.
I checked my watch at the top of Tibbs and I had been riding for 1 hour and 25 minutes. I was happy with this time. I almost died a couple weeks ago trying to follow the inhuman mama up that climb. Counting her breaks to wait on me and the rest of the humans we were only 5 minutes faster that day. I felt much better at the top, then I did that day. I didn't push my pace so fast that my heart rate went out of control. I felt like I controlled the damage as best I could. I imagine the deadness in my legs on Bear Creek has something to do with this climb. Still I should have more than one match to burn after all of my training.
From the top of Tibbs, I turned right on the long forest rode ride over to Mountaintown. There were a couple of good climbs on this ride but nothing really scary or remarkable. It was nice chatting with the other racers as they went flying by me. :) The view from the overlook was spectacular. Surely this almost leisurely death march over to Mountaintown could not have done my legs in. Cars can even ride on this road.
After a couple of moments of confusion on the proper turns I found the trailhead to Mountaintown. The trail starts off pretty steep but rideable. I remember thinking this isn't so bad. Then you hit the deep woods where sunlight does not shine. The steep and somewhat dry trail turns into a steep and super slick trail.
In the beginning I tried to ride some things I probably shouldn't. I came down this super steep section filled with round mossy hundred pound boulders. When I realized it was steeper than it looks, I tried to hit my brakes. Instead of slowing down my tires lost traction on the inch of moss on the boulder and I started to speed up. Luckily I saw a big patch of boulder free moss and dove off my bike into the big green blanket. Other than the embarrassment of the guy asking me if I was okay I was fine.
From that point on I decided to follow this guy. He seemed to know when it would be better to just get off your bike and run. I think I would have gone faster if I wasn't behind him, but I am sure I would have also fallen several times. We ended up running maybe 30 times. We crossed probably 15 creeks plus there were some rocky sections that just didn't seem worth the effort. I didn't really enjoy this trail. It would be a pretty hike, but I don't really enjoy riding/walking on wet muddy trails.
Mountaintown was mostly downhill, but there was a lot of running. I admit I started feeling weak on the last little climb before you get back to Gates Chapel. Maybe all the technical parts kept me from drinking and eating like I should. Who knows?
After Mountaintown, I climbed up the gravel road to the trailhead and hit the one and only rest stop. My girlfriend helped me make a super quick stop including new energy drink, camelback bladder, and chain lube.
Rolling out I immediately notice that I am out of gas. What follows for the next hour is pure torture. Tick, tick, tick my pedals are turning over but at the slowest rate possible. Any slower and I would fall over. I climb all the way up Bear Creek past the overlook and on to the forest service road that leads to Potato patch. This part is the worst. No technical features to take my mind off the pain. Just the sun, loose gravel,and dust from the cars that drive by. I pedal seated for as long as possible. When my legs feel like they will explode if I pedal one more time, I stand up. My heart rate shoots up while standing and after counting till thirty I sit back down.
People pass and ask how I am doing. I must look awful, but I nod and either say I'm okay or sometimes I just say "shitty" which makes them laugh. I reach Potato patch which is good moral victory but the climbing is not over. I turn left and heads toward Windy Gap. Those easy rolling hills of the morning have turned into gigantic almost unpassable mountains. I give everything imagining what it will be like to coast down Windy Gap back to the parking lot.
Finally I see the sign to Windy Gap, it has been about 2 hours since I left the rest stop but it feels like a lot longer. I turn left onto the Windy Gap trail and guess what greets me? Not a pleasant downhill but a tough rocky climb. Sweet. After the climb, the rocks increase. I ride some, walk some, and repeat for a really long time. The trails are amazing. I would love to have pads, a full face helmet, and downhill bike. I think a lot of the stuff I walk I could ride if I was willing to pay the price for falling.
Finally the rocks let up a little and I am riding. Flying down the mountain. There are huge banks on the turns taller than a man. Giant whoop-de-doo water bars at least waist high. Every muscle in my body is screaming as I try to find some balance between rocketing out of control and riding my brakes so much that I take all the fun out of it. Luckily I make it back to the parking lot with only a handful of close calls.
I look down at my stopwatch.
6 hours 25 minutes. Average heart rate 154.
As I pedal towards the cars, I hear people cheering and clapping for me. I see my new friends Roger and mama sitting in their chairs looking rested and relaxed. One of the organizers hands me the bottle of Firewater to take a swig and everyone cheers me on. The drink burns but it feels so good to be done.
I collapse on the ground and listen to everyone's stories of the day.
The nicest man ever makes me a grilled chicken sandwich off the camp fire. It tasted amazing. My girlfriend shows up from manning the rest stop and congratulates me. We hang out for a couple hours and cheer the people coming in. What a great day.
Posted by James Bigler at 1:28 PM
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Been feeling really crappy about training and riding in general. Tired most of the time. Went on a group road ride for the first time in a long time and feel like my energy and desire for riding has been renewed. Here are the comments I sent to my coach.
Just wanted to let you know I went on the group road ride tonight and
had a really good time.
I was having really bad thoughts in the parking lot when I was warming
up. My legs felt very stiff. Pedaling around in the parking lot was
hard. Even though I was in my smallest gear it felt like I could
barely turn the pedals. I spun around for an hour but it never really
got better. I tried a couple sprints. They were easy to do so I
figured it was all in my head.
The ride has two groups A group (fast) and B group (slower). I
decided to leave with the B group. The ride starts off mostly flat
with some downhill. I got dropped quick. I mean they were gone. I
couldn't even see them on a straight road as far as I could see.
Finally we(since I was all alone I should say I) hit a big climb. I
started catching the stragglers pretty quick. Eventually I caught
glimpse of the back of the pack. After the climb and long downhill,
the pack got held up a red light and I caught back on.
After the red light it was flat and I had a hard time hanging on.
Luckily there was more lights. Eventually the group got split into
two groups by a light. With the help of the lights, I made it through
the flats and onto the next climb.
At the start of this climb, I was the last rider in what was left of
our pack. I was able to maintain my heartrate (168 almost the entire
ride - 166 AHR on my monitor) but still pass people on the climbs. I
am definitely more efficient on the climbs than on the flats. I
passed almost the whole pack except for a couple people. I sat up and
let them lead since I didn't know where I was going.
Once I got to the the front it was much easier to stay there. The
back seems to speed up and slow down so much it is hard to keep a
rhythm. In the front it easier to pass and leapfrog around so you can
keep the speed that is comfortable to you.
I was able to hang onto the front of this group for the rest of the
ride. The flats were still really tough. I noticed that my RPMs
would go up over 100 if I didn't pay attention. I had to force my
self to shift to bring my RPMs down to 90. My body definitely
resisted this amount of tension in my legs. It wasn't that I couldn't
do it, my body just didn't want to. It felt a lot like a core
interval now that I think about it. I was faster with the same
heartrate when I shifted and forced myself to push the harder gear.
Focusing on my pedal stroke and relaxing helped as well.
Many times in the beginning I had bad thoughts that I would blow up if
kept this intensity. I don't think I was ever in any real danger. I
think my mind just tries to make me back off when I really don't have
I would look over at people at the top of climbs and it looked like
they were going to have a heart attack. My breathing was barely above
normal when climbing and would immediately go back to normal when we
sat up. I don't think those people were really in that much better
shape than me. I think they just know how to push themselves harder
than I do.
I had a really good time and felt great at the end of the ride. I
would have been happy to go around again.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:47 PM
Monday, July 24, 2006
Raced Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell(ORAMM) Sunday. ORAMM is a 64 mile bicycle race with 11,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain. The race takes places on mostly a combination of forest roads and singletrack with some paved sections thrown in to connect the dots.
After watching Landis ride his way into the yellow jersey Saturday, my girlfriend and I packed up the car and headed up to Marion, NC. We booked a room at the lovely Super 8 motel overlooking the Sagehouse Steakhouse and Saloon.
My instincts were to walk over to the Sagehouse for dinner, but we were swayed by the recommendation of the hotel clerk to try this cool cafe in downtown Marion. Turns out the cafe was just an Applebee's-esque chain restaurant. The food was pretty bland and uninspired but maybe that was best kind of meal considering my pre-race bathroom rituals.
I don't want to get into too many details here since it is pretty gross but let's just say I usually have to make frequents trips to bathroom before any race or other similarly stressful event like public speaking or a job interview. To be clear it is not the quick kind of bathroom trip where I can remain standing. Usually though these trips only start the day before the race. However this race must have really scared me, because my trips started on Friday night.
Any ways enough dirty talk. We woke up at 5:30 am on Sunday, made several bathroom trips (actually this part I did alone), put on my BCVelo kit, packed up my crap, grabbed some continental breakfast, and headed to Old Fort. The race starts at Gateway Museum in downtown Old Fort. We grabbed a nice parking spot and headed to the registration line. The line moved quick and I got my number plate and a cool t-shirt that I am currently wearing as I type this report. The back of the t-shirt has the elevation profile for the race. This makes it really easy to explain to my coworkers what I did this weekend. My girlfriend packed up my drop bags(thank you!) and I got busy prepping my bike.
All 360 racers lined up at the start
and after a short speech from the organizer we were off. It felt really cool to be riding with so many riders. The hum of the tires sounded like a million bees swarming out of the city into the mountains. I looked around a lot and noticed all the smiles on people's faces.
As soon as the road turned up the crowds started to thin out. I slowly moved from the front of the pack to close to the back. I kept a close eye on my heart rate monitor. I knew if I went too fast now I would pay for it later. The first climb turned out to be fairly long and all on a paved road that was now closed to traffic. The road was lined rhododendron and the pavement was starting to crack and disappear in places. It looked like the forest was trying to reclaim something it lost.
We topped out of the first climb swung a hard left, blew through a parking lot, and onto our first patch of dirt. When we got to the start of the Kitsuma climb, everyone jumped off their bikes and started hiking. I saw a line of bikers pushing their bikes as far as the eye could see. It reminded of the stories I have read about climbing Everest and the crowds they get there on the days where there is good weather.
The trail was slick as snot, steep, and the switchbacks were tight and rutted. They switchback were also filled with big ole rocks and roots thrown in to keep things interesting. There were so many people hiking and moving so slow that it was impossible to ride your bike even if you were a good enough rider to clean those switchbacks. Many riders were complaining about the crowds that forced them to walk. Secretly I was happy I had to walk, because I knew I couldn't have made those switchbacks even if I had wanted to.
After more hike a biking up, some hiking a biking down, and more hike a biking up the crowds finally thinned out enough that you could actually ride your bike. Well at least some people could ride their bike. I was having major difficulties. The trail was so rooty, slippery, and steep that I was all over the place. I am positive I wrecked more than times than I pedaled on the descent down Kitsuma (I thought of that line while I was in the race, it sounded bad ass at the time). None of the training I had done previously prepared me for this trail. I kept thinking about the speech that the organizer gave and how he said the next section was the really hard one. I was thinking to myself how much harder can this get. I saw all kinds of people fly off the side of the trail. People were as far as 20 feet over the side hiking their bikes back up to the trail. You could hear the thuds and screams in front and behind you. I must admit though some people had no troubles and rode this descent like it was nothing. Hats off to those people is all I can say.
At the bottom of the hill you pop out in a nice little campground and ride a short paved section to the first rest stop. I grabbed my drop bag and filled my bottles. My last race I had some nutrition problems. The energy drink I use really gives me a huge amount of energy and leaves me feeling mostly human even after riding all day long. The only problem is that it also sometimes makes me nauseous which makes it hard to keep riding. I tried everything I can think of in the last couple months to come up with a better system. Nothing really worked though. A couple days before the race, I got an idea though. I decided to bring two 30 oz bottles. One I would fill up with water and the other I would mix water with enough energy drink for two hours (two hours is the maximum time I thought it would take me between rest stops). My plan was drink the energy mix until I would just start to feel gross (burping with bloated feeling) then switch to my plain water bottle. When I felt better I would switch back to my energy drink. My way of looking at it was to eat till I was full then just switch over to water. Then eat again as soon as I felt like I could. This plan worked out really well and I had no problems with my fueling.
After the first rest stop, you go through another incredibly steep section (see star gap above) with even tighter switchbacks that almost everyone walked. We would ride for 30 feet get off our bikes, push our bike through a switchback, remount your bike on a steep hill, ride 30 feet, get off and so on and so on. On this section and the Kitsuma hiking section I noticed my heart rate was 15-20 BPM higher than I wanted it to be. After a while I was having a hard time remounting my bike because the fatigue was affecting my balance and coordination. I decided then to do whatever I could to force my heart rate back down. I walked slower. I breathed more and concentrated on not blowing up. It helped and finally I made it over that wall and started a really fun fast descent. This descent was much more like what I was used to. The trail was dry and I could actually feel myself starting to relax and recover. I may have even smiled once or twice.
After the fun singletrack descent we did a long rolling forest road, followed by an even longer doubletrack descent to the second rest stop. My girlfriend was there to greet me. She helped me with my bottles and I started up the famous Curtis Creek forest road climb.
This climb is 9 miles long and it looks like it gains somewhere around 2500 feet. Pretty much everywhere on the course I was getting passed like I was going backwards. At the bottom of the climb where the grade was still gentle, things were no different. Finally when the road got steep and the real climbing started, I got to see the benefits of my training (thanks coach). I was able to reel in most of the people that passed me and then some. As I climbed I imagined what it would be like if I had started this sport when I was young. I pictured myself leading out my team on one of those big climbs in the Tour de France knowing that I was hurting people as they dropped off the back.
At the top of the climb was the third rest stop. I was feeling a little dehydrated so I filled up a water bottle half way and chugged the whole thing (this seemed to help so I decided to do it at every rest stop from then on out). Then we started another long forest road descent. I read in Ashwinearl's blog about a trick for cornering while descending. Basically he said to keep your bike perpendicular to the road and lean your body. This felt awkward at first but it really made a huge difference in traction. I was reeling in people that were flying by me on previous descents. The descent was short lived, and we hit the second big forest road climb. This one was not as long as the previous one, but it was hard because we just did the previous climb.
At the top of the climb the fourth rest stop awaited. I refilled my bottles and watered the bushes (woohoo no longer dehydrated). The started on another climb up the Blue Ridge Parkway. As soon as I started climbing I noticed my tire going flat. So I stopped and added some air to the tire hoping the sealant inside would do it's job and keep me from having to change the tire. Luckily it worked. I got back on the bike and finished the climb up the road. After the road there was another short hike a bike and then we hit the single descent on Heartbreak Ridge. The descent was fast, fun, tight, and super long. My whole body hurt after a while and I was glad every time the trail went flat for minute so I could relax my muscles.
At the bottom of the hill was rest stop 5. My girlfriend was there to help me, and we refilled my bottles. I checked my rear tire and it still felt fully inflated. Foolishly I decided to borrow a floor pump just to check to make sure that the tire really was still fully inflated. I added maybe 2 pounds of air and took off. I looked down at the clock, and I was at about 7 hours. I got really excited thinking I could finish in under 9 hours. 15 minutes later my tire was flat.
Pumping more air in the tire must have dislodged whatever had sealed my tire. I tried to see if the same trick would work twice so I used my mini pump to reinflate my tire. After about 1000 strokes from my tiny pump, I was back on my way. 15 minutes later my tire was flat again. This time I bit the bullet and put a tube in my tubeless tires. The process took awhile from the combination of trying to clean the sealant out enough so that I could check for thorns and the 1000 strokes with my mini-pump. I watched as all those people that I worked so hard on the climbs to pass rode by me. I felt bad for a little while. Then one of the guys that I rode with earlier came by and said look what happened to me. He turned his head and showed me this scrape on his cheek that had swollen up to the size of grapefuit. Then I didn't feel so bad about my flat tire. I will take a couple flats any day over a grapefruit head.
I finally got back on my bike. I started up Kitsuma again. I cleaned a couple switchbacks. I still had to push some. The trail had dried by now and there was no traffic so it was a little easier. The descent was still hard but much much easier now that it was dry. I popped back onto the road and hammered all the way to finish. I think my time was like 9 hours and 15ish minutes. Not great but I was happy to be back and safe. I felt like I put in really good hard effort.
Afterwards I sat on the grass and ate some excellent spaghetti and meatballs and had some delicious Highland Ale. This was the best post-ride meal I have eaten. Thank you to the organizers. It was a great race. Everything ran smoothly. Course was well marked. Also thanks to the all the volunteers. It was so nice of you guys to help us out. Thanks to all the riders for being so cool and keeping it fun. Finally I want to thank my girlfriend for being there and supporting me (not just this weekend but also all during my training).
Posted by James Bigler at 7:59 PM
Monday, July 03, 2006
I think the training is starting to catch up with me. The last couple weeks I have been tired and flat. This week was a little bit better. Here are the comments I sent to my coach.
Better week than last week. Not great but better.
Yesterday's ride went okay. I started off probably 85%. Legs didn't
feel snappy but not dead either. The first couple hours I tried to go
harder than I needed to like the workout called for. It felt good to
work hard even though I didn't feel like I was going very fast.
The third hour started with an hour plus climb. This hurt. It felt
more like it was attacking me than I was attacking it. It was pretty
much all I could do to keep my legs spinning. It got better after
maybe 30 minutes. I noticed my heart rate monitor was displaying
average heart rate instead of current heart rate. Once I switched the
display I noticed I was doing 165 instead of 150 and that made me feel
better. Then at the top I was in the sun most of the time and that
made things harder. As soon as I saw the top though my energy came
back and I picked up the pace for the last part.
After the long descent it was hard to get revved back up. I felt like
I hit bottom a couple times over the next 30 minutes. I started
thinking about how long I had left (45 minutes) and imagined myself
slowing letting out all my energy so at the end I would be completely
drained. Kinda like slowly letting the air out of a balloon. It
still hurt but this imagery helped me keep going without feeling like
I was empty.
I got back to my car about 20 minutes early. I had parked in the
middle of a huge forest road climb. So I took off up the climb. I
tried to go as fast as I could. I kept hearing this voice in my head
about you are going to crack, this is crazy, you are too tired, etc...
I wanted to see what would give out first so I kept pushing with
everything I had. Everything did hurt legs, lungs, back, hands,
shoulders, etc ... But none of those things hurt so bad that it would
make me stop and none of those things were making me feel as bad as
that voice in my head. I finally decided to turn that voice off. For
the last 10 minutes I just climbed without the voice. Everything
still hurt but I wasn't scared of it. It just was it was.
I need to work on that voice. Instead of it being my biggest weakness
I need to make it my biggest strength.
You asked me earlier what my biggest pressures were. I think the
biggest pressure on me is feeling the need to always be getting
better. I felt so much better 4 weeks ago at the end of our last 3
week block. These last 4 weeks I have felt flat and weak. Not
knowing whether I am getting better or worse really stresses me out.
I wish we did some kind of regular test so I could see if I am getting
faster. Maybe something like a 30 minute time trial on the Silver
Comet or a timed climb on a forest service road every couple months.
I could then compare my times to see how I am doing and I would know
one way or other if I am getting stronger or weaker.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:40 PM
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Been having some pain in my knees.
The pain is mostly around the kneecap. Especially on the front of the
kneecap and on the top. It hurts when I walk up stairs or squat. It
is mostly a dull ache but the kneecap is sore to the touch if I push
I noticed it last Tues for the first time while I was doing a push
interval. I had it in a really hard gear and I was pulling up
forcefully on my pedals to maintain cadence. It felt kinda like
weight lifting where you tear your muscles slightly to get stronger.
I don't remember any pain on Thurs or Sunday. This tues morning I
noticed it was a little sore when I was riding my bike to work. I
rode monday and don't remember any problems.
It isn't terribly painful. Just feels not right if that makes sense.
All of the muscles in my legs are tight as steel cables. When I
stretch my hamstrings a little it takes pressure off my knee.
Coach recommended I get one of those foam rollers. I have been using it and it helps.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:36 PM
Monday, May 08, 2006
Raced 12 hours at Fort Yargo Saturday.
Weather turned out better than I expected. The rain held off and it was sunny and warm all day. The course was a little slippery from rain earlier in the week but not too bad.
It was really cool to see Tinker Juarez there. Before the race people were taking pictures with him and shaking his hand. I really enjoyed being passed by Tinker. He was always really nice and said something encouraging. I want a jersey that says "I got passed by Tinker Juarez".
The race started with a parade lap on a dirt road through the campground. I started in the middle of the pack and rode conservatively.
Everything was going good till we hit the singletrack. I didn't feel very comfortable on my bike. I almost fell down 10 times. I was sliding out in turns and skidding over roots. I wasn't really going that fast, I think I was just nervous. I tried to talk to myself and calm myself down. It helped a little bit but not completely.
There were so many riders on the trail. It was asses and elbows for the first hour. The pace was probably a little faster than I wanted to go. Whenever there is group of people riding my wheel, I have a hard time going my own pace. I don't like holding all those people up.
Finally we got to the big hill and people really started to spread out. I was relieved to finally get some breathing room, but I also started thinking about having to climb this hill multiple times.
My girlfriend and my best friend were waiting for me at the start/finish line. They handed me a new bottle, and I was able to keep riding without stopping. I think this saved me a ton of time. I was very lucky to have them with me.
The course started to dry out on the second lap, and I started to feel more comfortable. I also think being a little tired from the first lap helped. I focused on keeping a good tension in my legs. I reminding myself over and over again and forced out any other thoughts that would distract me.
After about 4 hours I started to get nauseous. My stomach felt like it was the verge of cramping. When I was going downhill the bumps would cause my stomach to shake and make me feel like I was going to throw up. I ended up braking on the downhills so that it wasn't so bumpy. This wasn't great for my time but I was just hoping to finish at this point.
I did a lot of research and trial and error and decided the best way to fuel for this race was to use a food replacement drink made by Hammer Nutrition. The one drawback I found with using this drink is that in training I found it would make my stomach hurt every once in awhile. The first time it happened I thought it was because I had gulped down too much drink at once. When it started to hurt I tried to remember if I gulped any drink but I don't remember doing that so I decided it must being something else causing the stomach problems.
I decided to make my drink a little thinner thinking maybe my stomach was getting too much food and not enough water. Luckily my friend had run down the trail to see if I needed anything. I told him to thin out my drink. He took a short cut back to the start finish line, and my thinned out drink was waiting for me at the start/finish line. Now that is service.
The thinned out drink helped a little but not enough. The next time around I told my friend to give me a bottle of water and a bottle of drink. I drank the whole bottle of water before I started on the drink. By the end of my 5th lap I started to feel a little better. I asked my pit crew to keep giving me both water and drink bottles for the rest of the race.
By the time I hit my seventh lap I was feeling really good. I thought I had licked the nutrition problem. My stomach felt great. My energy felt great. My legs felt great. I turned in one of my fastest laps.
Coming into the pits for the start of my 8th lap, I had planned to put on my lights, put on my vest, and oil my chain. I talked about this with my team before the race and I thought we were on the same page. As I rode across the line, I couldn't find my pit crew. Finally I spotted my girlfriend, and I rode around the barrier to try and get to her.
Once I rode around the barrier I noticed she was on the other side of this huge mound of dirt that I could not ride across. She took off running to try and bring my light to me. Once she got there, she handed me my helmet with the light attached, but the battery was missing. So she ran back across the mound to get it while I put my helmet and vest on. When she got back, I hooked up my battery and off I went.
I didn't get to oil my chain, but all in all it really wasn't a huge loss in time. I was only in the pits a couple minutes. At the time though it seemed like an eternity. I kept going over and over in my head what went wrong. Even though I know now it wasn't fair of me to feel this way, at the time I was pretty pissed. It took me about 45 minutes to calm myself down.
Finally I realized how lucky I was to have a pit crew at all. I thought about how many minutes they saved me on all the other pit stops, and how they adjusted my drink concentration and saved me by giving me water as well as drink. I felt better after that and went back to focusing on the race.
While I was busy over analyzing my last pit stop, my bike developed a problem. Turns out my rear brake line got wrapped around my suspension linkage. This caused my rear brake to compress and drag against my rotor. The whole time I could feel like that it was much harder to pedal. I thought I was hitting one of those false walls I had in training. So I just tried to focus and power through it. I blamed my lack of focus on my pit stop.
Well turns out it wasn't a false wall, I was actually riding with my rear brake 75% engaged for at least half of lap. I am also not sure my training false wall were real either since I learned last week that my trainer is malfunctioning and needs to be sent back for repairs. Finally I got off my bike and spent several minutes figuring out what was wrong and adjusting the cables so it wouldn't happen again.
The eighth lap was definitely my slowest/hardest lap. I am not sure what caused it. It could have been that I let myself get so upset over my pit stop. It could have been that I was drinking more water and less energy drink and I just ran low on calories. It could have been that I rode for more than a half a lap with my rear brake on. It could have been that it was getting dark and harder to see. It could have been a mental let down since I had set a goal for 8 laps and I was quickly approaching that goal. Or it could be something simple like I just got tired. I don't know for sure.
Finally I got to the last lap, my pit crew did a great job of motivating me to finish strong. I rode the best I could but my legs had trouble on the climbs. I ended up walking at least 4 times. I kept telling myself that if I could just get to this section by this time then I will make the cutoff.
Somehow I kept it together and as I made my way to the final climb, I saw this girl talking on her cell phone. I couldn't imagine how anyone could have the energy or time to stop and take phone calls at this point in this race. So I slowed down and listened to what she was saying.
Apparently her light malfunctioned and she was calling her husband to come get her. I turned back around and offered her my handlebar light. After some back and forth with her husband she accepted. I took off my light and put it on her bike.
The handle bar light is really small light that was meant to be used for a commuter but doesn't really give enough light to ride on a trail. If she would follow close enough to someone to share their light though, she would probably have just enough light to get her back. She seemed to understand this without me telling her, and she followed me half way up the big climb. At this point, another rider passed. I told her she should probably follow him because I was tired and would be walking the rest of this hill.
She took off after him, and I had a nice walk. 5-10 minutes later I see her talking on her cell phone again. I slow down and look at her, but she keeps talking. So I keep pedaling slowly waiting to see if she will latch back on. 30 seconds later she is back on and asks if she can ride the rest of the way with me. I say sure as long as she doesn't mind going slow. She happily agrees.
Besides one minor fall on the last section she had no problems keeping up with me and I rode my normal pace. Having her talk to me and just having someone behind me probably actually helped me go faster. I think the time I gained by riding with her more than made up for the time I spent swapping the light onto her handlebars. Plus it made me feel good that I wasn't so wrapped up in the race that I wouldn't stop to help someone.
Finally I saw the finish line, and I did my best to sprint it out. My pit crew was there to congratulate me and refuel me with recovery drink and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I got a little award for third place in my class and had lots of people cheer for me. It felt really good.
Posted by James Bigler at 8:02 PM
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Discovered some new things with my pedal stroke last night. By concentrating on where the pressure is applied in my pedal stroke I found it easier to hold my core interval. Here are the comments I sent to my coach.
I had a great workout tonight. Kept my heart rate up for all three
intervals. The best part is that I was playing around with pedal
stroke a little and found something that made me feel a little more
comfortable and smooth. I normally press my toes down into my shoe.
At the end of my rides my big toe is raw on one foot. Tonight I
lifted my toes up a little. I focused on feeling my heel press into
my shoe as I pulled back. I felt the tops of my toes push into my
shoe on my upstroke, and I felt the balls of feet press into my shoe
on my downstroke. I also noticed that it was easier to maintain my
cadence if I paid more attention to the tension in my hips and shins
on my upstroke. I think the push intervals really helped me focus on
keeping tension in my hamstrings and tonight I was able to maintain
that tension even though I was really focusing on the tension in my
hips and shins. When I started doing this I noticed I didn't hit as
many false walls. When I did hit one it was much less severe and only
made a minor change in my cadence 5-7 RPM instead of 10-15 RPMs.
Also it was much easier to maintain my heart rate. I didn't feel like
I was pedaling straight up in hill in BR 12. It felt more like I was
hauling ass on some rolling singletrack in my middle ring.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:27 PM
Monday, April 17, 2006
Had some revelations on the bike about attitude and shifting my front chainring. I learned if I act like I am tired I will tired. I also learned it feels much more efficient to ride in my middle ring unless I am climbing something really steep. Here are the comments I sent to my coach.
My workout yesterday was more laid back. I didn't pay too much
attention to my heart rate. I glanced down every once in a while to
make sure I wasn't slacking too much or using too much gas on the
hills. I tried to be as smooth as possible and not waste any
After about 4 hours I started having a little pity party in my head.
Telling myself how hard this was. Thinking about how I was tired.
Then 30 minutes later this little kid sees me go by for another lap
and comes flying up the trail after me. I let him go by then take off
after him to see how fast he is. Turns it out he was fast. I stayed
behind for about 10 minutes. I glanced down and noticed my heart rate
was about 180 and I could feel how much this was taking out of me so I
let up. It was a lot of fun trying to keep up with him though. I
also noticed as soon as I heard coming after me I was no longer tired.
All those bad thoughts were instantly pushed out of my head. Even
after I let up I felt a whole lot better than I did 30 minutes before
I saw the little kid.
I thought about one of my bad habits yesterday. I hardly ever use my
front derailleur. I normally keep my bike in my granny gear and only
shift in the back. I think I started doing this because my front
derailleur would never shift. Plus when it did there was about 50
percent chance that it would throw my chain off onto the frame or I
would get chainsuck. Only using my granny gear makes my riding pretty
inefficient though. I mostly coast on the downhills and spin out on
the flats. Then on the climbs, I probably go harder than I need to
make up for being slow everywhere else.
I tried yesterday to use my front derailleur. I did feel faster and
more efficient in the flats. I ended up not downshifting though. I
started climbing everything in my middle ring. After awhile this
started making my back hurt because I lost my form and posture. After
that I switched back to my granny gear and only shifted back to the
middle ring a handful of times. I will keep working on this in future
rides. Plus I think I will buy a new front derailleur. Mine is 7
years old. Probably hardly used though. :)
Posted by James Bigler at 12:24 PM
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Did my first core interval. It was much easier for me hold this pace than the push pace which is weird because the core interval is at a higher intensity. Made a mistake and gulped this Hammer Nutrition stuff between intervals. It ended up giving me a stomach cramp and forced me off the bike. Here are the comments I sent to my coach.
Here is my summary from last week. Sorry I took so long to get it to you.
The workout tonight didn't go so well. It started off pretty good. I
bumped my EM heart rate up to 135-140. I didn't hold 140 the whole
workout but it was better then it had been. I also did the 3 x 2 core
interval warmups. I found a gear where I could hold 90 RPMs and still
get my heart rate up. After a couple core warmup intervals I noticed
it was much easier to spin in my EM gear. I was able to hold 95 to
100 RPMs where before the core warmups I was probably only pedaling 75
- 80 RPMs. Also the false walls went away.
Then I did my first 8 minute core interval. I was able to get my
heart rate up in a couple minutes and I was holding around 95 RPMs.
My heart rate was staying around 163-165. I felt good the whole
interval. It was much easier for me to hold this pace than the push
pace. The push pace always feels like I am bouncing in and out of
working hard. This pace I was able to just dive in and relax. It
felt normal and familiar. After my interval was over I sat up and
pedaled with my arms off the bars. After a minute or so my stomach
cramped. It was really high up almost in my chest. I couldn't take a
deep breath or bend over and hold my bars. I kept slow pedaling for 5
minutes hoping it would go away but it didn't. So I got off and layed
on the ground for 10 minutes until I felt better. Then I got back on
warmed back up and did my last two intervals. My RPMs dived with each
interval. It went from 90-95 to 80-85 to 70-75 RPMs. I was able to
keep my heart rate up for all three intervals. It wasn't overly
painful. I felt like I had plenty left but I could tell from the RPMs
dipping that I wasn't as fresh as my first interval.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:20 PM
Monday, April 03, 2006
Sunday I felt fast for the first time. I could really feel the effects of my training on the trail. It was a huge motivator for me to keep working hard. I pasted my comments to my coach below.
Sunday I rode my mountain bike. I felt a little run down before I got
on the bike. My legs were snappy but I think mentally I was just
tired. I couldn't really ride at 120 AHR. I was in the granny gear
the whole time. I basically tried to it in the smallest gear possible
that I could still keep a smooth pedal stroke. Every time I looked
down though I was doing at least 150 AHR (unless I was coasting
downhill). I kept working on it the whole day. I think it is just a
matter of me keeping a more constant effort instead of my rapid
acceleration/decacceleration thing that I normally do.
My pedal stroke seemed choppier than I expected. Also the back of my
leg above the knee was sore after Saturday's recovery ride on the
mountain bike. I wondered if I should lower my seat a little. Felt
like I couldn't pull my pedal stroke all the way back. When I got to
the back of my stroke (after pulling through the bottom) my leg would
be pulled up back to the handlebar. Didn't mess with the height
though because I wasn't sure if this was the way it supposed to be or
I did the Snap Intervals in my big ring. Man it was fun to go that
fast. I am not sure I have every gone that fast on flats and up hills
before. I was catching air going uphill. Pretty cool.
I broke my training on the second interval. This guy was annoying me.
Riding my wheel and skidding all over the place. He claimed he lost
his riding buddies on wanted me to pace him. So I messed with him a
little. Every time he would get on my wheel I would speed up and ride
him off my wheel. After I gapped him a couple hundred yards, I would
slow down and let him catch up. I did this 3-4 times before he
finally popped. I probably wasted about 15 minutes and I saw my heart
rate go as high as 180. Not good for training but fun none the less.
I was surprised at how calm I was when cranking up hills. I knew I
was working but I never felt out of control and sloppy.
After my little racing session, I went back to doing my snap
intervals. For some reason I thought I was supposed to do 5 sets of
snap intervals instead of 3. Once I got on to my fourth set, my mind
started to get a little hazy. My handling was degrading as well. My
legs never felt tired. Again I think it was all mental.
When I got home I felt spent, I just layed around for a little while
and sipped recovery drink and ate some pasta. It took a couple hours
but finally I snapped out of it. I feel fine today.
Posted by James Bigler at 12:15 PM