Friday, September 30, 2016

Re-imagining Trihardist

View from a recent ride in Page County, Virginia.
I started this blog mostly because I wanted some cool cycling workouts that I could download and use in workouts that didn't have crappy music and coked-out instructors and didn't cost an arm and a leg. I couldn't find any, so I started making my own. They've been pretty popular over the years, but the whole idea has started to feel dated to me. There are lots of other (and better) options when it comes to structured, guided training for indoor cycling: there's Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, Zwift, Peloton (which seems to have the coked-out instructor vibe going), and plenty of workouts available for free on YouTube. In this crowded marketplace, I feel like my workouts lack utility. There are more and better options now.

This post isn't meant to be a pity party, though. Rather, it's to get feedback from you, my readers and listeners and clients, on what will be edifying for you. I've thought of going in a few different directions:
  • I plan to make some free video workouts for distribution on YouTube, in the vein of what I've done before with my audio workouts. I'll also give the option of commissioning custom workouts with your choice of video, music, and programming. For example if you have race course footage that you'd really like to use to prepare, or need something to help motivate you through your toughest coach-assigned workouts, I could make a custom video for you.
  • I'd like to do some product reviews, especially of women's kit. There are a few websites, mostly online cycling magazines, in that space, but they mostly seem to cover boutique companies that sell kit in Australia, Europe, and the UK. I haven't found as much that covers cool women's kit in the US. The tough part about getting this going is the high start-up cost. Nice kit is expensive!
  • I will eventually use my yoga expertise to make some video classes for cyclists and runners. I think yoga is a great tool to improve performance for endurance athletes.
  • I've considered doing a Cycling Maven style vlog (love that guy), but I have a hard time believing anyone thinks I'm interesting enough to want to watch me live life. And I don't like talking about myself. And I have trouble making eye contact with the camera. I suppose these are all things I could overcome, if I get an overwhelming response that says, "Yes, Jamie! We really want to hear about all the mundanities of your life!" Otherwise, I would rather do something more . . . useful (and that's not a dig at the Maven; that guy is awesome, and he has some super useful videos with tips for criterium racing). Besides, every Tom, Dick, and Harry (for some reason, it's mostly men who think that the internet will be interested in what they have to say) is starting a YouTube cycling vlog right now.
Those are the ideas that I have so far. I'll still have my audio workouts available, both the free and paid ones, and will still do custom workouts for anyone who wants them. I'll still do my race reports and general life updates. And I'll still call myself the Trihardist, even though I'm not doing triathlons right now. It's my identity, at this point. Besides, I like the way it sounds.

Anyway, let me know what you think! How can I make myself useful to you?

You can contact me with ideas by leaving a comment on this post; by tweeting @trihardist;by leaving a comment on my Facebook page; by e-mailing me; or by sending a smoke signal, if you live in the DC Metro.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finally got my Ironman tattoo!

This past Sunday was the fourth edition of Ironman Mallorca, which makes it a full year since I did an Ironman. I always said that I would get a tattoo after doing an Ironman; it's the only thing I can think of that I would want on my body for the rest of my life. After hemming and hawing for a full year, I finally got some ink. Observe:

It hurt. Way more than I'd expected or planned. I shouldn't be surprised, considering a tattoo involves getting stabbed over and over again in the same basic area. But it was definitely more painful than doing an Ironman.

And the finished product:

What do you think? Am I badass, now?

Friday, September 16, 2016

TrainerRoad Review and Giveaway

In times gone by, I would routinely tell clients, "This is the perfect exercise to do while you're at home watching TV!" It always sounds like a great idea. I could be strengthening my core and building flexibility in my hips while I follow 10 home bakers as they compete around Britain (RIP Mel and Sue)!

But I don't do planks while I'm at home watching TV. I watch TV while I'm at home watching TV. Sometimes I eat potato chips or cookies (or both) while I'm at home watching TV. So I stopped extolling the benefits of planks and bird dogs and other multi-tasking exercises. Because if I can't make myself exercise while I watch TV, who else can?

Which brings me to TrainerRoad. I'm a personal trainer, and I have read and learned enough that I could probably write myself a decent training plan. But you know what? I don't want to. I want someone else to tell me what to do. And since I'd rather buy more bikes than hire a coach, I've gone with the semi-DIY option: TrainerRoad.

I became aware of TrainerRoad through their terrific podcast, Ask a Cycling Coach. The podcast gives me a little bit of a "drank the Kool-Aid" feeling, but I think it's because all of the coaches really believe in their product. And it's always full of useful information presented in an articulate package (which can be a little hit-and-miss with scientifically-based cycling podcasts). After listening in for a few months, I took the plunge and signed up.

So far, I enjoy it. I've noticed an increase in my power and performance on outdoor rides, and my FTP (main power metric used by TrainerRoad) has increased by 20 watts or so. I was using Zwift before, and I miss the gamification elements, but TrainerRoad's workout library is so much better, and it adds more structure to indoor training than you can get with Zwift. As the weather starts to head south (the good weather, that is, to the southern hemisphere), I may sign up for and use both. But right now I use a mix of indoor workouts on TrainerRoad and outdoor rides.

I'm going to need a new trainer soon, though; I'm starting to wear the metal off the drum on the one I've had for the past 8 years. Buy one of my cycling workouts if you want to help me get a new trainer!

Getting back to TrainerRoad, I like it. It's not the end-all-be-all to training, but it's a valuable tool, and it's helped me.

More importantly, once you've been a member for a certain duration, you get a referral month to give to a friend. And you guys are all my friends. So who wants a free month of TrainerRoad? Leave a comment beloooooooowwwww! Be sure you leave me a way to contact you, though, preferably by leaving a Twitter handle. Or you could leave a comment on my Facebook page. Just make sure I can reach you to let you know that you've won and get your e-mail address so TrainerRoad can send you the invitation. I'll choose a winner randomly on September 30, which is in two weeks.

Ready, go!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Race Report: Luray Caverns CX

Hooray for the first real cyclocross race of the season! My last cyclocross race was in 2009. 2009! That was 7 years ago! I have much more fitness now than I had then (it helps that I'm not running and swimming anymore), but the 'cross scene here is way more competitive than it was in Kansas. In Kansas, many race directors would completely waive the entry fee for cat 4 women to try to get more of us racing. I think the biggest field I ever raced in was 13.

Our cat 4 women's field had 17 racers. I think around half of them were doing their first cross race! The women's masters field went off 30 seconds before us, and there were another 9 in that field. There were another 15 entrants in the 1/2/3 and 3/4 fields that raced a couple of hours later. I'd considered doubling up for the 3/4 race, but it was hot as balls and I was pretty sure I would explode if I stayed out in that heat for another 45 minutes of racing.

I got a spot in the second row to start, but took a bad line in the gravel and fell to about 8th wheel. I managed to pass a woman or two in the first quarter of the course. I was sitting about 6th wheel coming into the barriers. Did fine on the dismount and cleared both barriers without eating turf, but I set my bike down with something less than what you might call grace and dropped my chain. Tears. The pit was right after the barriers, so I can in there to get my chain back on. It took all of 10 seconds, but I lost probably 5 or 6 places there. I got back on and started trying to claw my way back.

I went deep on the first 2 laps. Apparently, there was a crash right in front of me on a steep off-camber--I'd decided while pre-riding the course that I would take it as a run-up, after trying to ride it twice and sliding out both time--where a couple of women tried to ride it and failed. I guess I got off and ran around them, but I don't remember doing it. The only reason I remember the crash at all was because my teammates told me about it after the fact. That's how deep I went on the first 2 laps.
Which is why I decided to run this part. Picture courtesy of velogirl22 (follow her on Instagram!)
I picked up a few positions in that crash, picked off a couple more in the third lap, and passed one more (someone whom I've raced in road--Anna--who has ridden me into the ground plenty of times) at the end of that lap. I wasn't sure where I was in the field, at that point, but I figured top 10.

Somewhere in the third lap my psoas started spasming. I've had this happen before in cross races (although I can barely remember that far back) and even while teaching spin classes. It also used to happen sometimes when I was running. I'm not sure what causes it, but the pain is almost incapacitating. I've had to leave spin classes in the middle of of teaching before, it's been so bad. I didn't quit the race in the middle, but I did have to slow down a lot. Anna passed me back, and I could see two more women I'd passed earlier gaining some ground back on me. Standing breaks bought me about 20 seconds of relief, so I stood and coasted on the downhills as much as possible in the last 2 laps. I managed to hang on for the last lap without letting anyone else re-pass me. And that was the race!

I ended up finishing 5 out of 17 women. I was also the last rider who did a full 5 laps. I think I might have been able to finish in third if I hadn't dropped my chain. But who knows? It doesn't matter! First cross race of the season is in the bag, and I enjoyed it. I rode myself into the ground and had two beers afterwards. So I've already got a great start on my season goals.

Regarding the psoas, I think it's a combination of factors: the course was really bumpy, which puts extra stress on my psoas as it works to help my core stabilize against the movement of the bike on the ground; 'cross bikes have laid-back geometry to help with handling, which puts me into more anterior pelvic tilt and compresses my hip flexors; and I'm hammering super hard on the pedals. I need to resolve the issue so it doesn't hold me back in future races. One of my coworkers who specializes in athletic training (I specialize in functional training and stability for older adults, so my needs are a little outside of my wheelhouse) is helping me come up with a core stabilization routine. I'll also work on my pedaling technique to take some stress off of my hip flexors, and I'll make a point of standing and coasting more in races to vary the stress on my body. I suppose in some courses there will be more natural variation, too, which will reduce my time grinding out in a single position. And if it continues to bother me, I may adjust my bike for a more upright position.

Next race is Hyattsville CX on Oct. 2, which gives me 3 weeks to increase my fitness (and adjust my chain catcher)!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Finding my strengths

My quads look exactly like this.
I had three main goals for training this year: find a team, get back into racing, and figure out my strengths and weaknesses. I've achieved the first two, but the third has evaded me. I still don't feel like I have a good handle on what I'm good at in cycling.

In triathlon, I always told people that I was best at transitions, because I didn't think that I was very good at any of the three sports. Of the three, cycling was my strongest and the one that I enjoyed the most.

Because of my background with triathlon, I'm pretty good at time trials. But that time trial skill doesn't carry over into races; I can't hold high power for long duration in races, like in a breakaway. Or the power that I can sustain isn't high enough to keep me away from a pursuing group, anyway. So I'm decent at time trialing, but it doesn't carry over to actual races.

I've considered that I might be a good sprinter, because I'm kind of built like a sprinter--small frontal profile with massive thighs. I've also assumed that I'm not a very good climber, because I'm so heavy relative to my size. But when I think back to this season, I've done well in hilly races. I think I might be a good climber. Sprint-wise, I have an okay kick, but I'm never positioned well enough for it to really matter. So I'm good at climbing, but I lack the right build to be excellent at it; and I'm good at sprinting, but only during workouts (I haven't won any races out of sprints . . . or at all).

Then the other day I did a TrainerRoad workout that got me thinking. It was intervals of 30 seconds overgeared (slow and heavy) followed by a ramp from just below threshold power to just above. And I was really good at them. I could lay down 500+ watts for 30 seconds. In my highest gear and with the resistance cranked on my trainer, I couldn't slow my legs down below 80 RPM. I don't suppose it should be very surprising, considering the size of my quads, but I'm really strong. I think that's my strength, cycling-wise. Strength. I'm strong at . . . being strong. Yay!

Now if I can just figure out how to use that in racing . . .