Wednesday, November 30, 2005

busy

I was planning to write a longer piece today, but all my time just seemed to vanish away. I can't believe it did, since I only had 2 hours of training scheduled today... It seems like when problems pop up, they all pop up at the same time. When it rains, it pours, I guess. I've had problems with our central heat in the house (CO leak) and I've been busy getting estimates for a replacement, as well as using electric heat and our 2 fireplaces more frequently to stay warm. Anyways, I hope to be able to write more tomorrow. Have a good night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Life

It is amazing how training and racing at a high level completely consumes a person's life. As I've mentioned earlier, every day revolves around 3 simple, but yet very crucial, tasks: eating, training and recovery. Everything else will have to "fill in the gaps" and, needless to say, the gaps are very, very small. This requires quite a large sacrifice, both on my behalf and for everyone else that are close to me. Without proper support, both at home and as a rider, it becomes very difficult to accomplish the required tasks, season after season. In a sport where results come after years and years of hard training and racing, motivation can become hard. Setting tangible short term goals as well as long term goals is a must. This provides me with something to work towards, rather then aimlessly trying to suffer through long, cold wet rides or very hard intervals, over and over again. I've tried to explain what motivates me in a previous post: http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/rest-day.html But, what do I do to relax? Over the last few years we have all heard about the dangers of physical "over-training". We don't talk about mental "over-training" / burnout as much, but I think we should. Mental burnout will result in us not performing as well in training (not being able to hold the intensity during intervals and the lenght on long rides). I've become much better at "switching off" cycling when I relax. This has allowed me to avoid mental burn-out and therefore help me to sustain the high volumes of training. Since riding is more of a job then a "recreational activity", it can be hard for me to get on the bike every day. What I do after training helps me recharge not only my physical being, but also my mental state. So, what do I do? Well, writing this blog has actually become a nice way to relax. Right now I'm sitting in front of the fireplace, writing and watching "The Smurfs", yes the cartoon about the little blue guys. I'm a big fan of the old, classic cartoons. I really don't like all the new stuff that is being played. I try to spend as much time as possible with my wife, we live a pretty quiet and some might say dull life, but we are happy. I'm very happy going out for dinner with her or watching a movie. I'm a big movie fan, but it has to be in the theater. As I've said earlier, the outdoor plays a very, very significant part of my life. It always has. For the people that know my actual identity, I'm sure you can attest to this. I'm convinced that without the love I have for the outdoors, I would not be able to perform at the level I'm at. I can say that because one of my big motivators for all the training is the joy I get from running, skiing, hiking or cycling is the simple fact that I try and make it a "nature experience" every time. Will I see deer today? Maybe a moose, elk etc? This love for the outdoors also provided me with a solid base of training from an early age. This training has allowed me to handle the current high volumes of training that I need to sustain these days. So, to relax I often take the dogs out hiking or during the hunting season I'm always looking for an oportunity to hunt upland game (birds / rabbit), deer, raindeer etc. These week-long trips through the forests and mountains also provide me with a great base-training. It certainly is just as good as "organized" base-training. But relaxing sometimes means just kicking back with a good book. I love to read and if I'm going to sit or lay down, my favourite thing to do is read. I'm active in voicing my concern about the current state of the youth. The way kids grow up these days should be of concern to everyone. The complete lack of phyiscal activity, poor eating habits etc will create a strain on society in the coming years. I've also addressed this in a previous post: http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/rest-day.html We can still turn around this trend, but it means changing everything from what the kids eat and learn in school to how parents behave. Phyiscal activity in school is a big joke. The volume of PE per week needs to increase, lots. The food and drinks available in most public school are terrible. And what about what happens before and after school? How many kids eat a simple, healthy breakfast? And what about a good home-cooked meal after school? Parents needs to encourage physical activity in the kids. Soccer-practice twice a week does not cut it. It is proven that activities organized by adults leads to children being inactive 80% of the time. We need to encourage / teach children about the outdoor. Fishing, hiking, camping and hunting - anything that can get them out of the house and away from the Playstation and McDonalds burger. All while creating a fun, exciting atmosphere. So this is something that I enjoy particpating in and it gives me a chance to "forget" about cycling for a while. And finally, I'm a bit of an exotic animal freak, I love the world of exotic animals and try to learn as much as I can about it. As a side-note - Peder Pedersen, President of the Danish Cycling Union made a comment today regarding the Roberto Heras case that I agree 100% with. He said that he wished athletes that are caught cheating would stop seeding doubt about the testing procedures and just face the facts - they got caught. When riders like Heras start to "bash" the doping testing procedures he is hurting our sport even more. So, Roberto: It's time to face the music.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Motivation

Ahhh... The joy of a rest-day. After only 1 day of rest, I'm already anxious to get back on the bike. :) Motivation is high and I suspect it will be much, much higher after this recovery week. I'm a total training addict, but I could think of worse things to be addicted to. On the program for tomorrow is only an easy session in the weight room. No big deal. Oh, and I've also got to clean my training bike. I should have done it today, but I kept postponing it until it got too late. Tomorrow I will do, I hope... I should... I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying this blog. My posts have been very short the last couple of days, but I've run out of things to write about right now. If you have any suggestions - fire away!!! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Deer in the high-lights

Today was a first, well - almost a first. As I was flying downhill doing about 45mph through a curve a deer ran out right in front of me. I was close enough to reach out and touch the damn animal. Luckily the deer managed to avoid me and it all ended before I really had much time to react. The whole thing was a bit comical, the thought of having to explain a "deer strike" on a bike to anyone made me smile. Other than that, I felt great today. Very good. Tomorrow marks the beginning of my first recovery week, like I said yesterday. I am having a rest day tomorrow, which will give me time to take care of a few items around the house. I might even peek my head in at my part-time job.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

bits and pieces

Ahhh... Strenght training. I am seriously glad I'm getting closer to the end of these long, multiple sessions in the weight-room. I have trouble finding motivation for them. Tomorrow I've got 4.5 hours of moderate intensity on the bike, it should be a nice ride. Weather is looking fairly good. Next week will be a recovery week, with drastically reduced training volume. I usually try to have 1 recovery week, per 4 week period. This is just as much a "mental" recovery as it is physical. As a matter of fact, during this time of the season, I would strictly not need a recovery week since 99% of all the training is high volume, long easy rides. This type of training is easy to recover from physically (all that is needed is an afternoon nap and a good night of sleep). But, I have learned to appreciate the value of taking a mental break from training from time to time. These recovery weeks with lower volume allows me to do just that. After such a week I'm all rearing to go and ready for more training. After the recovery week I will start my 2nd Base of the season. I will introduce more higher intensity rides and start to focus on the goals of the season: Increasing force and muscular endurance (climbing and TT). Later in the season, when the intensity increases, I will also need the recovery week for physical reasons. But now, it simply gives me a much needed relaxation. Mental burnout / overtraining is never good. I will also find time for the season's first road test next week. I'm anxious to see the results and compare it to previous seasons. Of course, as my coach keep telling me, these road tests can be very subjective since there are so many variables, but I'm still excited about it. Maybe it's more of a mental "carrot" and I always like to see improvements, even if they are small. From one thing, to another - today was a good day for the Norwegian cross-country skiiers. Marit Bjørgen won the 10km classic World Cup in Finland today. Jens Arne Svartedal came in second in the men's 15km classic. As always, check www.langrenn.com for more info. The readers of this blog are becoming very "international" - we have an even balance between Europe and the US. Thank you to everyone that visit and read my blog!

Friday, November 25, 2005

A sad day for cycling

Well, I was planning to write about trivial stuff today - until I saw that Roberto Heras' B-sample came back positive. http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/nov05/nov25news2 This is very bad for an already struggling sport. We have suffered yet another blow, both in the mind of the public and internally in the sport. I'm sure Heras' lawyers will argue "testing error" and dig up a doctor that can attest to Heras' "vanishing twin" etc. We did not need this, nor do we need the upcoming fall-out from this B-sample. As if it is not enough that one of the top riders on the Pro Tour was just caught "red-handed", now he will drag the entire testing system through the mud. His support staff / lawyers will surely try to discredit a testing system that actually is very accurate. Like it or not, if both your samples came back positive - chances are VERY good that you cheated. I hope 2006 will be a better year... From one thing to another - I was originally planning to write about one of my biggest "fears" / area of concentration. In essance, the constant struggle against catching a cold / flu. Avoiding illness is very important and sometimes difficult when you train 850-1100 hours per year. Getting sick can easily hamper forward progress for 5-14 days and destroy some of the already established base. Long, hard rides makes the body more volunerable to catching illness. The immune-system is weaker after these rides. Combine this with colder temperatures and wet conditions and you might have the recipe for "the sniffles". So what do I do? Well, I take some precautions. Prevention is the key, in my mind. I make sure I get out of wet, cold training gear as soon as possible. I always try to stay warm, regardless of location. I take a high dosage of Vitamin C (1000 IU) and Vitamin E (500 IU) every day, along with a regluar vitamin supplement. I eat lots, and I mean lots, of vegetables and fruit. If I feel that I have a sore throat, maybe after a hard ride, I make sure to take zinc lozenges. Zinc is proven to be very effective in stopping a cold dead in it's track. But, to be effective the lozenges has to be taken at the first sign of trouble. And if neccessary, repeated every 3 hours. Make sure you purchase the ones without any sugar added. They don't taste as well, but work a lot better. Sugar reduces some of the effectiveness. But all this is not enough - when I'm out in public I turn into an anal creature. My wife thinks I'm crazy (which could very well be true, but what does that say about her, then?). I try to keep my "distance" from people that obviously have a cold/flu. I always, always wash my hands before eating etc. I carry anti-bacterial wipes / lotion so that I can clean my hands before eating. I cringe when I see people biting their fingernails or otherwise putting their hands in their mouths. I try not push buttons on ATMs etc with my finger tips. I use my knuckles instead. Although my body is more susceptible to illness during the winter months (even when I'm training in warmer climates), I follow these precautions year round. I become even more anal about it when the season starts. Getting sick before or during important races that I've been training for all year can be very, very, very, very, very de-moralizing. So, what if after all these steps - I still catch a cold? Well, if I see that I'm not able to win the war then I make sure I stop training and hit the bed as soon as possible. This is something I had trouble with earlier. I used to ignore the early warning signs and I continued training. This, of course, led to an even longer period of enforced rest. Now, with the help of my coach and medical support staff, I stop training right away and get lots and lots of sleep. I live in bed. I put all my effort into recovering as soon as possible. And when I'm recovered, I make sure I don't start out too hard. The immune-system is still weakened and too much hard training can throw me into a relapse. Of course, even with these precautions, chances are I might catch a cold - but this might help prevent it. Just a little bit. I hope and pray for an illness-free season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

short and sweet

Short posting today - I don't have much to write about. I'm a bit tired, even if I only had a 4 hour ride today. On top of that I didn't get my afternoon nap - so I'm a bit "zapped". Today seemed like the day to yell and scream at the cyclist... 3 cars pulled by with the passenger window down, screaming at me. For some reason some people feel a rage towards cyclists. I hope everyone that celebrates Thanksgiving have a good day tomorrow. Good evening.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Doping - again

Ok, I have to ask/comment about this; I hope that people don't think all elite level cyclists are using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Lets face it, to be a top level endurance athlete is a bit absurd in the first place. Why would anyone willingly submit oneself to so much pain and suffering? Regardless of salary, this is one of the hardest and most painful ways to earn a living. Some teams on the Pro Tour circuit have questionable medical procedures and a bit "shady" team doctors, but MOST riders are clean. For most, it's simply about one man's struggle against himself and the dream to succeed against all odds. Most elite level cyclists came from modest means and most have a very small chance of success. It takes an inner drive and will to compete at a high level, season after season. Most will not use PEDs for ethical, physical and financial reasons. Some riders, on some Pro Tour teams, are pressured into it, but most are clean. Sorry, I just had to put this in my blog, as a buffer against all the "experts" out there claiming that all elite cyclists are using illegal drugs.

Privileged

What a beautiful day. With the exception of the very strong headwind that turned a 15 mile stretch of flat-land into a climb - today was great. Sunny and not too cold. Once the headwind turned into a crosswind I started to enjoy myself. This was one of those days where I praise myself lucky for being able to do what I do every day. As I'm peddaling past the morning commuters, slouched over their coffee and McGriddles for breakfast, I appreciate my situation. An average day in my life starts out at around 7 am in the morning. I get up, eat a large bowl of oatmeal while watching BBC World News, then I feed the dogs. Around 8 am I start getting ready for my morning training session. I will be out on the road until about noon-2pm. After cleaning myself up, I eat and take a nap. Then, I either go training again or I attend my extremely part-time job for a couple of hours in the evening. The only reason I can sustain this type of lifestyle is because of sponsors, a VERY considerate employer and a great "support staff"(both at home and as a rider). I would not trade this for any "9-4" job. Instead of being stuck in traffic, I can ride on nice open country roads through beautiful terrain. I love the feeling it gives me, especially when my body is responding correctly. I would not trade it for anything.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Empty

Not sure what to write today, not anything exciting coming to mind. Does one have to blog every day? I wonder. I've had a fairly decent day - another day in the weight room, after a little more then an hour of running. I have always wondered how some people can motivate themselves to train in the weight room for hours and hours at a time, several times a week. I find it harder to find motivation for 30 minutes on a treadmill then I do for a 6 hour ride in cold, wet weather on my bike. I simply must get outside, I love the feeling of air on my face and the road rushing by underneath me. Maybe I'll see a deer today? Or a coyote? Fall brings with it beautiful colors, spring is when everything seems to come alive. Even winter has it's beauty. I must train outside, I crave the outdoors. Only 2 more weeks of these boring, long weight room sessions. Then all but one of them will be replaced by rides on the bike. Maybe even a few good cross country skiing sessions. Turkey Day is coming up this week. That is one American holiday I enjoy. Of course - I must train, every day. I praise myself lucky for having a partner, a wife such as mine. She is incredibly supportive and understanding of my endevour. On family vacations, birthdays, from Christmas to Thanksgiving, rain or sunshine - I must train. And she understands. From one thing to another - I love my bread machine! I can make good, hearty wheat bread with exactly the ingredients that I want. It's not as good as mom's home-baked bread, but it's the closest I can come. And the smell of freshly baked bread in the house is very nice. Along with lots of vegetables, fish and potatoes, this makes the core of my diet. In other words - a simple, traditional Norwegian diet. I don't eat as much pasta or rice as many cyclists do. I've tried that, but I felt as though I was lacking energy during my workouts. No, I need lots of freshly baked wheat bread, potatoes, vegetables and fish. Well, tomorrow is a new day and I need my sleep. Good night.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Who succeeds?

Ever wonder why the best became best? Do top endurance athletes have anything in common? The following is based on research and anecdotal information from several top performers; Most top endurance athletes come from modest backgrounds - they did not get anything handed to them for free. This will foster and encourage the will-power and attitude that is required - hard work and commitment is a must. Many also grew up in rural areas, a very low percentage come from larger metropolitan areas. Growing up in rural areas gives the children and young athletes access to the outdoors and outdoor activities. These activities leads to a high volume of "unplanned / non-organized" training. As I've mentioned again and again, this type of training prepared the young athlete for the high volumes of work that would be required later. Also, it creates a love for outdoor activity and movement. Most endurance sports require both training and competition outdoors. As a young athlete the top performer is active in several sports, not specializing until around 16-17 years of age. Interestingly enough, most are not "wonder-children" and did not appear to be "olympic caliber" before they reached 18-22 years. In fact, the "wonder children" tend to burn out and quit before reaching the level required to be successful as a senior. The jump is enourmous from the Junior class to the Senior level. Athletes that are impatient and that lack the long-term view will not have the dedication to continue with the high volumes of training required. The young athlete that will become a top performer as a senior often shows strong attention to detail, focused training and the ability to set long-term goals. In a sport where you in most cases will not reach the top before you are between 25-32 years of age, it can be tough for a young competitor that is used to high placements as a Junior to continue with all the hard work required as senior when the results are not as "expected" during the first 3-4 years. The backing from home is also important - parents play a vital role. Good attitudes and healthy values are created at home. Too much pressure to perform and reach results usually results in a burned-out ahtlete. Instead, top athletes come from families that encourage physical activity, good attitudes and a long-term view. The ability to find the positive and to turn everything into a motivational factor is an important value. Also, factors such as environment in the local club, the first coach and other infrastructural items affect the outcome of a young athlete. Well, that is it for me. 2 blog-posts in one day is entirely more than I had planned. This blogging thing is addictive. :)

A long ride

After completing a 6 hour ride today, I was thinking about how one's pysche and physical state can swing from one side to the other while riding. I started out this morning with an "inner peace / calmness". Everything was quiet, no wind, no traffic and very little people to see. I had a clear mind. A very nice start to a Sunday morning. However, at some point during this ride, my body and mind started to suffer. This feeling of wanting to turn back home and stop riding stuck with me for the better part of 2 hours, before my legs and mind came around and I entered the "zone" again. I've often wondered why this happens. This was not the first time and I don't think it will be the last either. Several other cyclists I've talked to have had the same experience, but nobody has given me a good explanation as to why it happens. Today wrapped up my second week of Base 1. It was the first week of higher training volume since last season. My body has felt very nice so far. It has been responding well to training and is recovering nicely. I have gotten much better at listening to my body and not following an annual training plan blindly. I used to push too hard, too often on training. I did far too much high intensity rides. I have lowered the intensity of my long endurance rides, which has allowed me to train more (higher volume). It has also improved the quality of my hard sessions (intervals etc). If my body starts to feel "run down" and tired, I am now able to force myself to take 2-4 days of rest. 1 day of rest is simply not enough when the body starts to move closer to, and sometimes over, the edge. Of course, active recovery plays a vital part on these rest days. I'm a big believer in writing a detailed training log. This allowes me to track progress, training volume etc. It has been very helpful for me when it comes to discovering "over-training" and it pinpoints what works and what leads to success in races. I now follow a more "traditional" endurance training method. Lots of long, easy rides, some shorter rides at race-pace and an even smaller amount of intervals. I have been toying with the idea of eliminating the typical "interval" session and replacing it with longer race-pace rides. My reasoning behind this is simply that longer rides at a race-pace would teach me to "know my body" better. Knowing how much extra strenght I have available at any time. I also spend more time focusing on stretching exercises this season. Soft muscles recover faster and is less prone to injury. Before I wrap up this post, and take a nap, I would like to thank everyone that has been visiting/reading this blog. I appreciate it! If you like what you are reading, tell your friends. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A good day - for many reasons

I know this is a cycling blog, and most of you will not be interested in cross country skiing, but I have to mention today's results of the World Cup event in Beitostølen, Norway. Tor Arne Hetland and Marit Bjørgen came in 1st. This promises well for the 2006 Olympics. If you would like to read more, please visit www.langrenn.com. Today was a good day. I ran for 1 hour as a warm-up for a strenght-training session. My body was responding well today, very well. It was one of those days where you are looking, impatiently, for the next hill to climb/run, so that you can use some of the boundless energy you seem to have available. You can feel the body respond well as you increase the pace. I hope to feel the same tomorrow, during my 6 hour ride. The weather has improved a bit and we had a nice day today. Sunny and warm. From one thing to another - Jan Ullrich. The big German. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, talent of the last decade. Unfortunately, the press seems more interested in his weight and less in his great results. It's hard to say what Jan himself thinks about all the fuss. Chances are he does not even pay attention to it - most successful athletes have the very important ability to focus on the positive things and disregard the negative items. Stressing over negative items only steals away important energy and concentration that could be used towards training and racing. Weight is important in cycling, no doubt about it. Extra weight will result in a greater energy expenditure, especially when climbing. On the other hand, many athletes take this to the extreme by limiting their caloric intake too much. The number one limiter of training is simply "how much you can eat". Of course, the food needs to be correct, but aside from that - the more I can eat, the more I can train. If I restrict my food intake too much, I cannot recover in time for the next session. Many cyclist gain weight in the off-season (winter months), which is ok. But too many cyclists don't try and lose the extra weight until spring arrives. The idea is that the harder training and early season races will lower the weight. This is true, but the problem is that the higher intensity sessions during the spring puts higher caloric demands on the athelete. This is not the time to restrict your intake. A much better approach is to start restricting the caloric intake during the base period(s) before Christmas. Of course, you should not gain much weight in the off-season, maybe only 5-6 pounds or so. Anything more would be "excessive".

Friday, November 18, 2005

Doping

Like many other in the cycling community, I am following the "Heras doping case". As most of you know, Roberto Heras' A sample from Vuelta a Espana 2005, stage 20, tested positive for EPO. The B sample will be tested on Nov 27th, by 3 different labs, to ensure accuracy (and to make arguments of "lab error" more difficult). For more info, check out www.cyclingnews.com, or http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/nov05/nov08news I am hoping and praying that the B sample comes back negative. This sport, and other endurance sports (cross country skiing comes to mind) has been plagued by doping scandales. Ask most people what they think about cycling and two things comes to mind - Lance Armstrong and doping. Some may even combine the two, but that is another story... The sport really needs to be cleaned up, completely. I believe that athletes that test positive (A and B) should be banned for life, not 2 years. If we really want to clean the sport up, lets get serious and increase the stakes for the cheaters. The athletes that willingly and knowingly use performance enhancing drugs do it because they feel the possible gain outweighs the risk of being caught (and the resulting penalty). So, lets put into effect much stricter laws and more unannounced out-of-season tests. We also need more effective control measures with regards to the team doctors' procedures. Much more control. There is simply too much "gray-areas" and "ethically questionable" medication and procedures used by most team doctors. Take testerone for example; when the body is subjected to hard training over time, the natural level of testerone decreases. Many team doctors would argue that it is legal, and ethically correct, to inject testerone to increase the levels and increase recovery rates. And I could mention many other examples like this. I am in many ways a "purist" and believe that all we need to take is a simple multi-vitamin supplement. That's it. Correct training, combined with correct natural recovery should be all we need. And, it should be all that is allowed, period. Too much "aid by doctors" in our training is bound to create situations that step into the "gray zones" and even further. To illustrate my point, I'll use another sport than my own, in order to avoid any "problems"; cross country skiing. Cross country skiing is in many respects very similiar to cycling. It puts the same demands on training and rewards the same physical attributes. One of the leading cross country skiing nations is Norway. The training culture in Norway is very simple and if I can say it, pure. Successful skiers became successful because of their simple, but very effective training methods - running, skiing, cycling and roller skiing through forests and mountains. Put together with correct rest, good backup from the national federation and a low-key medical staff, it has produced great results. The Norwegian national team uses very, very little "medical aids" compared to for instance the Finnish, Russians or any of the other big ski nations. As a result, not only do we have the best national ski team, we also have the best attitudes towards clean competition, with the use of no unnatural aids. We have one of the highest rates of out-of-competition tests and the lowest number of athletes using performance enhancing drugs. I believe that the reciepe for success in any endurance sport is very simple - lots of hard training, good simple food and water. Mix this with sleep and dedication and you have a top performing athelete. There is no need to mix in any other components. Of course, we also need a system that is void of any "hidden" agendas. An athlete is innocent until proven guilty, which means BOTH A and B samples has to be positive. We cannot create a system that punished athletes that did not knowingly cheat. The situation has become so bad that when we go to training camps in southern and central Europe we only drink from sealed water containers, never accept water from anyone outside the support staff and watch everything carefully. You never know who slipped what into your drink. Jumping from one thing to another - I wrote fairly long comment to a reader's post earlier today. For anyone interested, here is the link: http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/musings-on-future-of-endurance-sports.html I had planned to go hunting today (upland game), but before I knew it, the day was gone... Or at least the time I had dedicated to hunting was gone. The wife wants to go see a movie tonight, so there will be no time to hunt later either. Hopefully I will find time this weekend. Tomorrow is a strenght-training day, again. Sunday will be a long ride (6 hrs), with varying intensities. The weather forecast is fairly good for the weekend, temps are up a bit from earlier this week. I'll take whatever I can get. :) Have a great evening!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Musings on the future of endurance sports

As I've mentioned earlier, I believe that the future of endurance sports in the modern, western world is pretty grim. Take a look at my posting from a few days earlier: http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/rest-day.html I would like to address specifically what happens to the quality of endurance sports, when 90% of kids growing up today is not as active in daily life, as they were 15 - 20 years ago. Ask top atheletes in endurance sports about their life as kids and they will all tell you about how active they were. And I'm not necessarily referring to "organized" activities, such as practice etc. It is all the other little things, such as how did they get back and forth from practice (ran, biked etc). How did they get back and forth from school (ran, biked) and basically how active they were growing up, doing all sorts of outdoor activities. All these "little" things led to a very active upbringing, which easily included 15-25 hours of training per week. This training was not "planned" or organized, it didn't get recorded in a training log, it wasn't "planned intervals", but it all consisted of good, sound base training for endurance sports. This base "training" laid a very important foundation for their future success in their respective sports. Without this foundation the athlete is not able to sustain the high volume of training nesseccary for success (800-1100 hours per year). Today, more and more youth is sitting still. The hiking trips, fishing trips and all the other outdoor activities have been replaced by Playstation, McDonalds and TV shows. This is a terrible trend. To illustrate the point, take a look at medium and long distance running. Which nations have been dominating the scene the last 10-15 years? African nations. One of the reasons for their success is found in how these athletes lived as kids. Being active and eating simple, healthy food gave them the foundation for success later in life. I was once told a very interesting story, at a training camp: The Danish national long distance running team was at a training camp in Africa. On one of their long, hard endurance runs they ran past a group of young, African kids (12 years or so). These kids were so intrigued by these tall, skinny white guys that they decided to join the team on the run. They ran with the Danes for the entire session and then returned home to continue their game of soccer. This should clearly illustrate the problem we have in the western world. In the sport of cycling and cross country skiing we don't have the dominance from 2nd and 3rd world countries, mostly because these sports are very "equipment heavy". It is not enough to run every day, you need a certain amount of money to even start. Because of this, we don't have to panic in our sports, but the level of performance will drop. So, what can we do? Lets bring back the joy of outdoor activities! For the people reading this - what do you think? Any comments? Today I've had a fairly simple day. I ran for about 1 hour and then focused on strenght training for the reminder of the day. Leg press, leg extentions and leg curl was on the program. In addition to push-ups and sit-ups. I've got 3 sessions a week of strenght training during the first part of my base-period. Next month I will cut down to 1 session per week and transfer the general strenght gained in the weight room to bike-specific exercises in order to capatalize on the gains. Since I started my prep for the 2006 season I've had 3 sessions of strenght training per week, so that makes 12 weeks or so of very focused weight room training. That is more then I've done in the past, and I'm curious to see the results on the bike.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My own little Belgium

Well, the weather-man got it right, again. The weather on today's ride certainly had a "Belgium in the spring" feel to it. 25 degrees Farenheit (about -4 Celcius), snow and 35 mph wind, most of which were cross-winds. The water in my water-bottles turned to ice within 20 minutes. Boy, was it hard to find motivation to stick it out and complete the planned number of hours (5). I am proud to say that I did and it feels pretty nice now, sitting by the fireplace with my hot cocoa watching it snow outside. I don't mind riding in cold temperatures, but that very strong, bone-chilling wind is hard to deal with. Regardless of how many layers of clothes I wear - I always get cold, very cold. Especially my toes and fingers, it is almost as if they are ready to fall off... Not to mention the mucus / snot running very freely. At the start of a ride I try to blow it out of my nostrils without it piling onto my clothes too heavily. On a day like today though, I quickly give up my "cleanliness" and just discharge my nose whenever and where-ever I see fit. The end result after 5 hours of doing this is not pretty. My wife, which loves me dearly, will not come close to me after such a ride. Once she learned what that "white, crusty coating" on my clothes, face and hands were, she stopped asking for hugs and kisses on my return from a ride. I kept asking myself the same question on the bike today: "Why am I doing this?" It can be so easy to give in and cut the ride short. I mean, it is cold, wet and windy! And would it really hurt to cut it short, just this one time? As I'm asking myself all these things, I am trying to ignore my thoughts and simply focus on pedalling smooth circles. Improving the technique, increasing my work-efficiency. That is one of my main goals during the base period leading up to the 2006 season. And so far I'm very happy with the progress. Eliminating the dead-spots in my pedalling-technique, trying to use every single calorie towards increasing speed without increasing workload. Preparing for the 2006 season. So far - so good. My body is recovering nicely between sessions, I'm getting the needed rest and I have avoided illness. I setup this service that tracks visitors to my blog and I'm positively surprised. I didn't even think anyone would be interested in reading about my daily struggles, but apparently I was wrong. Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by this spot to read about a poor cyclist. If you have questions, comments or critique about anything, fire away!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Afternoon nap

Just woke up from my afternoon nap. The weather forecast was correct for today and I just suffered through a very long, cold and wet 5 hours on the bike. But it wasn't all bad - I saw 2 coyotes, a very nice buck and was chased by the same dog as yesterday. Friday I'm going to try and get some upland game hunting in. I really value the outdoor experience, regardless of the weather. My heart still races a bit extra and the adrenaline jumps up a few notches when I see wildlife on my rides. The hunter in me comes alive. I believe strongly in the fact that base training does not only have to be on the bike. Running, cross country skiing, hiking, climbing and yes, hunting all makes up my base-training. And if I can honk my own horn - it results in success later in the season. After my recovery meal, lunch and a nap, I'm ready for another meal. Like I said - my life revolves around eating, sleeping and training. Oh, and planning my next expidition - if all goes as planned, after the 2006 season I will hike across the Rocky Mountains. At least part of them. :) But back to my nap - sleeping does wonders for an athlete's body - that is where the real effect of training takes place. Your body releases more growth hormone and begins to heal. Getting in a short nap in the middle of the day really makes a big difference. I can feel the difference in my legs during the next session. I also try to get a good recovery meal in my body shortly after returning from a ride. It's important to refill the glycogen stores as quickly as possible. Do not underestimate the value of this. I felt good about my ride today, legs are feeling strong, body is ready to go and I don't feel particulary tired towards the end of my sessions. Things are on-track so far. My biggest concern is to avoid any illness. Riding in weather such as this can easily result in a cold or worse. But by taking the correct precautions - getting out of cold, wet workout gear as soon as possible, eating correctly, taking vitamin supplements (especially C and E) along with a good supply of zinc tablets does the trick. I've had great success with zinc tablets, when the body gets tired and wore down after a hard ride and you have a scratchy throat - taking zinc tablet can stop an oncoming cold dead in it's tracks. Just avoid any citrus products before or after taking the zinc. The weather forecast for tomorrow is more of the same - only colder, with snow. Maybe it's time to head south to get more effective training in (?). Well, I better go fix some food. I can feel the hunger build.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My winter equivalent?

A friend sent me a very interesting link: http://xcskiracer.com/freshies.shtml His name is Cory Smith and he has been one of the best (top 15) US cross-country skiiers. He blogged about his journey towards his ultimate goal; Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City 2002. The end result was negative, but that becomes almost insignificant. Although that is very easy for me to see. Never the less - It is very interesting reading for anyone. I hope I have more luck in reaching my goal, but I also hope I can work as hard as Cory did. Please, take some time to visit his site. On a personal note - the weather forecast for tomorrow is temps around freezing and rain/snow. I have a 5 hour ride scheduled. But hey, if the Belgian "hard men" can do it, so can I. I just have to keep telling myself this, over and over again. :)

ATP

Annual Training Plan. That would be the technical term of my yearly scheme. Many people think that our training is magic and that it includes some extreme high-tech top secret methods. But really, the only secret is that there is no secret. Only hard work, lots of it. Many top cyclists are turning more and more towards technology in order to improve a minute amount. And rightly so. But still, at the very base of our training lies a very simple concept - lots of long rides at easy to moderate intensity and a smaller amount of high intensity intervals and race-pace training. In endurance sports, most training is focused towards improving the aerobic engine. After all, that is what drives us forward. This time of year I'm focusing almost entirely on long, easy endurance rides and improving technique and leg-speed. First to second week of December marks the start of higher intensity training, closer to threshold. This season I'm also spending some time in the weight-room, primarily focusing on improving power and core-body strenght. But, very simplified - throughout the season I focus on long low to medium intensity rides mixed with shorter higher intensity sessions. I would say that about 85% of my total annual training consists of long, easy rides.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Torino 2006

Winter Olympics, 2006 - February 10th. 88 days to go. Time permitting, I will be watching as much as possible. That time of year means lots of hard training for me, with both intensity and volume, but I will do my best to watch. Cross Country Skiing and Biathlon are my two favourite disciplines. I must watch these. Watch and dream... 2012, here I come. http://www.torino2006.org Good night!

Winter is coming

Snow. The weather forecast includes snow-showers on Wednesday. On one hand, I'm looking forward to it, since I can supplement some of my generic aerobic training with cross-country skiing. On the other hand - I'm not exactly looking forward to the very cold bike rides I have in front of me, but it is all part of the package. The race schedule for next season is starting to firm up and I've got 2 planned peaks, with the possibility of maybe 1 additional period of top-form. To reap the benefits of good results during these form peaks, I need to put down the hard work in the build-up to the 2006 season. Food. Most cyclists have a love-hate relationship to food. For some, it develops into something very unhealthy and borderline dangerous. Few people eat as much as cyclists, especially during our high volume training periods. During some of my epic training days I will burn 6000-7000 calories per day. This means consuming very large amounts of food. Unnaturally large amounts. And it cannot be any kind of food, if I don't eat right - I don't have the energy to perform well during training. It's not enough to eat a lot, it needs to be the right sort of food. I'm 5' 10" (178 cm) and I currently tip the scale at 150lbs (68kg). To most people I'm a skinny, little guy. In the active cycling community I'm neither small or big. Cyclists are obsessed with their weight, extra weight means more to carry uphill. Every pound counts. I will be the first one to admit that I watch my weight, all year long. I watch what I eat and gaining weight is out of the question. By the time I reach my priority races next season, my weight will be down to 142-145lbs. This is my optimal race weight, balancing power and weight. That means I have 5-8lbs to lose between now and next summer. This will, of course, be no problem - the increased amount of training and intensity takes care of that without any difficulty. But, I still worry, even if the concern is not founded in reality.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rest Day

Rest day - no training today. My life evolves around 3 basic things: training, eating and sleeping. Everything else will have to wait until I have accomplished these 3 basic, but all-important, tasks. And they are all very closely related, the more I train, the more I eat and sleep. How much I can eat dictates how much I can train. My year does not start January 1st, like most people's. It usually starts around mid-October. This is when I start preparing for the upcoming season. I start with a 4-week cycle of preperation, before my first base cycle begins. I have now just about finished my first week, in my first base period. And I feel good. No injury, no sickness. This time of year means long rides with low to medium intensity. I'm mostly concerned about building the engine (aerobic capacity) and improving technique. Later down the road the intensity will increase and the real painful hard work starts. It's funny - people ask me why I do this. What drives me to get up at 6 a.m, eat and train for 2-6 hours, regardless of weather. And when I say regardless of weather, I mean REGARDLESS of weather. Why do this? why do it day after day, season after season? And to be honest, I don't really have a good answer. At least not an answer that would make sense to most people. Am I addicted to the endorphins released in my brain during exercise? Is it the quest to see just how far one can push the human body? Is it an overly strong competitive spirit? It's probably all of the above, plus factors that I cannot explain. People look at me like I'm an alien from Mars when I'm riding past the local McDonalds on my bike at 7 am in the morning. People are pulling through the drive-through getting their daily dose of "heart attacks" when they see this skinny, little white guy on a bike, peddaling by them in pouring rain. How could I ever explain what drives me to do what I do, to them? It's an act of futility. I have always been active, for as long as I can remember. From the time I could walk, I have been outdoors. Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping. These activities made up my child-hood. And they still play an extremely important role. The joy of being outdoors, exploring nature, wondering what lies around the next corner - these things have more then anything else made me who I am. I had a very active child-hood, our neighbor once described me as "not being completely tame". All these trips in the forests and mountains taught me to love outdoor activities. This partly explains how I can motivate myself to get out the door every single day, regardless of weather. Of course, it's not always easy to motivate myself, especially not for the long, hard intervals that I know are coming up later this year. But, I know that in order to succeed, in order to become better today then I was yesterday, I MUST train. The pain and suffering that intervals gives me, makes be better and stronger. Without them I will not reach my goals. But what about the future of my sport and other endurance sports? Recruitment into these "small" sports will never be able to compete with the large sports of soccer and american football, but there is another factor that is hurting us: Modern society and lifestyle. In order to become successful in an endurance sport, such as cycling, running or cross country skiing, an athlete needs to lay a foundation of training when they are young. Between 6 and 14 years of age is where the potential for success as a top athlete is created. Without a solid base of activity during this period, the athlete will not be able to sustain the volume of training required to succeed when the athlete reaches 20. I am not talking about organized training for kids between 6 and 14 years of age - the most important thing we can teach young althetes is the love for the outdoors and outdoor activities. Those hiking, fishing and hunting trips through forests and mountains will create a good foundation of training and more importantly, create a love for physical activity. I never called my child-hood activities training, but looking back at what I was doing - there was easily 15-25 hours of training there, per week! Now, kids are playing Playstation, watching tv and eating fast-food. Kids are not as active as they used to be. This will hurt much more then recruitment to endurance sports, it will create a dangerously unhealthy society. If children are not taught correct lifestyle habits when they are young, it becomes very difficult to change their habits as adults. We over-protect the children. Let them explore the outdoors, climb trees and yes, fall down from trees. Children are not as fragile as we think. I don't know how many bones I've broken and fractured as a child, or have many scars I have from falling down. But, letting a child explore their physical limits is very healthy and could avoid them looking for other, more unhealthy, ways of getting an adrenaline-rush as young adults. And bringing your kid to soccer practice twice a week is not enough. Watch soccer practice for 6-10 year olds and you will see something strange - 70% of the time the kids are standing still, listening to the "coach" explaining a drill. At that age - technique is not what they need to learn and develop. Activities organized by adults equates into children not moving. Instead - let them play more on their own. Divide them up into teams and watch them run and play. Technique can come later (10 years and older). Even then, twice a week at practice is too little - kids should be active every day, preferrably for several hours. Not to mention our eating habits. Fast food is not exactly health-food. Well, I'll get off my soap-box for now. This is something I burn and sometimes I start rambling.... Have a good day.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Introduction

I'm sitting here, or rather laying, in front of my laptop - wondering what to write for my first post. The purpose of this blog is to describe my journey towards a rather far-away goal. Also, I suspect I will rant about things I belive strongly in as well. But the question is - will anyone care? will anyone really want to read about one athlete's ego-centric life? Or his opinions? And shouldn't I be getting some much needed recovery (sleep) rather then writing this? Well, I will do my best to describe the daily/weekly events of my life as well as rant excessively about certain topics. I hope you stay tuned... :) Good night.