Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting stronger

I'm coming back from a true off-season, which coincided with the winter holidays, three subsequent trips (skiing in Pennsylvania, visiting family in Ontario, driving cross-country), and a coast-to-coast move. My training log from that time looks like this:
Those "walks" are actually skiing. So I taught a spin class, did yoga, went skiing . . . that was it for that month! It felt good to take time off; I burned myself out with racing last year. I did 18 road races between April and August and 15 'cross races between September 10 and December 10. The experience of burning out towards the end of the season has given me a better sense of how much I can race, and I'll apply that this year and in future seasons.

Right now, though, I'm having to re-build my fitness from a much lower place. With the beautiful weather and places to cycle here in Northern California, I'm having to hold myself back from doing more volume and intensity than my body can handle right now. It's also harder to make myself stick to any kind of structure, since the outdoor environment isn't chasing me onto the trainer. I finally broke down and bought a power meter--a Saris PowerTap that is attached to some sick carbon wheels. I'm hoping that will help me structure my training outdoors, and will give me a better way to monitor my training stress so I don't overdo.

The bike fitness was a planned loss, though, and relatively short-term; I knew I would need to slow down, let some fitness go, and build back up for the next season. There's something else that I've lost over the past two years that I didn't plan: strength.

My legs are still strong, of course. One of the guys on a group ride I did last weekend said, "I can see by your legs that you don't like climbing, either," and then we suffered at the back of the bunch together on every uphill. My legs are still strong and powerful, like a frog's! But the upper body strength that I built up over years of strength training in the gym has slowly faded away, as I neglected the weights for the bike. Because who wants to be inside lifting weights when you could be outside riding a bike?!
I would still win this cycling competition, boys.
Chris Froome's arms aside, cyclists still need upper-body strength, especially if they're planning to do off-road events like cyclocross or the Dirty Kanza. Shoulder and core stability are especially important for me, because of my bad shoulder. All of that hasn't been enough to motivate me to get into the weight room, or the yoga studio, or even to do a few corrective exercises at home in the evenings. Over the past 6 months, I've started getting incapacitating headaches, usually the day after hard races or long rides; I think I've lost so much strength and flexibility that my spinal erectors are putting pressure on the base of my skull and causing mind-numbing tension headaches. I've had to stay home from work a couple of times, they've been so bad!

Even excruciating pain hasn't been enough to get me to strength train, though. You know what's made me get back to strength training? Dirty Kanza. Because 200 miles of gravel on a bike with no suspension will demand a lot of my arms and core, and I don't think I have that right now. I don't want to pull out of DK200 before the last checkpoint because I have an unmanageable headache, and I don't want to crash because I lack the endurance in my core to handle my bike well after 12 hours in the saddle.

Ultimately, being strong all over will serve me in my whole life. But I can't seem to motivate myself to train for it except as a means to be a better cyclist.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Things that are happening


There's been plenty of action in my neck of the woods this winter!

I live in the Bay Area now. The weather and cycling are awesome, the housing prices not so much. Actively looking for a racing team, and they all seem friendly and terrific!

I'm applying for doctorate of physical therapy programs to begin this fall. Other than that, not working yet. Lots of free time for exploring the local cycling scene.

I won a lottery entry to Dirty Kanza 200! So I guess I need to put some water bottle cages on my 'cross bike.

If I were a better blogger I'd write more about this stuff, but for right now I'm too busy riding outside in the awesome California weather!