Monday, March 28, 2016

It Hurts Somewhat Less and You Go Incrementally Faster

I can’t believe that three weeks have flown by since my last post, but with fat bike season over, I’ve been bogged down in the trenches of the “off season”. This kind of cracks me up because I’m to the point that I’ve completely flipped the script on the traditional cycling year. ‘Cross began as off-season winter training for roadies, which morphed into a full-on primary discipline for many amateur American racers who go out hard in September and are hanging on by threads by Thanksgiving. Being a proud member of that tribe, I’m usually ready to sink into longer training in January after losing all of my endurance through the fall. But winter is cold and snowy, so luckily the good folks of the upper Midwest pushed another form “off-season” riding into (sort of) mainstream racing such that I can now motivate myself through (theoretically) snowy winter miles with the thrill of competition. Or just ride fat tires through lots of mud in New Jersey. So what happened to that whole training hard all winter to be ready for spring races? Luckily, crits and gran fondos don’t appeal to be much, so I finally get to lay down my base during that beautiful fresh sunny time of the year when everyone is motivated to ride.

While I’ve definitely been motivated to ride, and have been quite a bit, resulting in being too tired for bloggery of late, I can’t say that I’ve necessarily been motivated to do the riding that I feel like I “should” be doing. As my last post described, my first attempt at beginning my Wilderness 101 training didn’t go so well. It actually turned out to be so bad that I developed a spasm deep in my shoulder so intense that it hurt my chest and throat while breathing for a few days. I turned sour on the W101 route pretty quickly and spent my next two opportunities to do longer rides on the singletrack of the RothRock TrailMix course. I have since made one other attempt at W101 training, and it seems that while getting over Seeger on a mountain bike without it feeling terrible is only Step 1 of like 12 to putting together a decent W101 race, I’m still hung up on that one. Now it seems that each time that I’m “supposed” to make another attempt at Seeger, I start to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, wimp out, and go for a lovely singletrack ride instead.

So what? I'm still a rock star.

Luckily, the singletrack riding is going better than the W101 training. In the last three weeks, I’ve gone under an hour for the XC Loop not just once, but twice, and I’m right on the cusp of my long-held goal of 42 minutes for Tussey Ridge. These are pretty big jumps for me so early in the season, so it seems that my winter did me some good. On Sunday, I did the short course plus Croyle and Gettis which is the most TrailMix that I’ve actually done in one ride before, and I think I still felt better at the end than I normally would after just the short course last summer. I was sort of disappointed that it took me about 3.5 hours, which is about a half-hour too much to be on pace for the five-hour long course goal that I’ve been working toward for nearly two years now. It’s weird seeing how far I’ve come and how far I still have left to go. I had no idea what I was in for when I moved to State College.

Greenshoot, you don't scare me anymore.

When I first saw these sudden improvements, I was reminded of the saying, “It never hurts less, you just go faster.” While it may truthfully apply to time trialing and the like, I think that in my case it does hurt less and thus I am going faster. After Saturday’s ride I realized that I really can’t remember much about climbing Greenshoot, and the fact that I was spaced out yet still going relatively fast is a good sign. Until I returned to it three weeks ago, this long, steep, rocky climb was always an exercise in eyeball-bleeding concentration just keep my front wheel tracking on the trail and continuing to move forward in my easiest gear. Now it just feels like steady threshold climbing and requires way less concentration to not run off the trail. I’m starting to learn that technical skills are actually about 60% fitness.

I’ve decided to just enjoy the singletrack riding while I’m enjoying it and not force myself to climb Seeger again until the urge comes back without the accompanying nausea. With nearly four months left, I still have time for my W101 motivation to come back and perhaps finally meet my white whale TrailMix goal along the way.

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