Monday, August 28, 2006

One of those days

Woke up this morning and before looking out of the window, I knew what was waiting out there for me... Lots and lots of cold rain. The weekly plan said 15 minutes of threshold intervals, repeated 5 times (15m x 5). I have to admit, it was really hard to force myself out there today.

After a longer than usual breakfast and, as my wife remarked, a very slow "pre-training" ritual - I finally got out there. The warm-up wasn't great, the start is always the worst in these conditions. But, as I started the first interval, I couldn't help smiling. Why? Because I knew this was going to be one of those days where my legs felt incredible. The whole session was absolutely great and the smile never disappeared.

It just goes to show - it's never as bad as you think it is. And hey, the coffee afterwards tastes so much better after a good, quality session like this. This one went into the training log under 1.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tufte

Olaf Tufte from Norway qualified himself for the World Championship final in rowing today, even with some traces of illness in his system. Good luck in the final this weekend, Olaf!

GI GASS!!

For the ones that are familiar with the extremely fascinating sport of rowing, you know that top international rowers train more than any other athletes across the board and Olaf takes that to new extremes. Maybe that's why he's one of the best in the world?

Get well and go get them, my man!

Monday, August 21, 2006

GI GASS!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Small changes - great improvements

I've been thinking and critically evaluating my time trial position lately and yesterday I did a lab-test on my position. We evaluated power, technique and efficiency. I wanted to confirm my suspicion that my seat-height was too low.

You might be surprised to hear that the majority of pro cyclists never have any professional fitting done to their race bikes. Most of us probably do just what you do. But after spending a day in the lab yesterday, I can highly recommend spending the extra money on a professional fit.

The reason I suspected my position was off, is that after taking a closer look at my pedaling technique when I time-trial, I have discovered that I pedal slightly toes down. This has in effect "extended" my effective leg-length and since I had been using the generic measurements for determining seat-height, my numbers were off. This nicely illustrates why generic formulas only get you in the ball-park, you also need to take a look at individual differences.

So, this all resulted in raising the seat 1.3 centimeters. Muscles produce more power the longer they are allowed to extend, so not surprisingly my power numbers improved quite substantially.

Eager to test the actual results in the field, I ran through my 16 km TT course today and improved with almost 30 seconds. Needless to say, I'm giddy like a school-girl.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mystical

I had a great late-morning training ride. Although it didn't start out as anything special, considering I got rained on for the first 30-40 miles or so, it soon changed. As i started entering one of the oldest forests in my area and the road narrows and snakes through the valleys and ridges, the mist was thick and although the rain was gone - the patches of fog remained. As i rode along, i was climbing in and out of these small areas of mist and fog, giving the forest a very mythical and fairly-tale like appearance.

I wished i had brought my camera, and had the ability to take great pictures, because this ride was one of those that sticks with you all day long. These conditions endured for the next 20 miles and i was totally lost in the scenery. On days like this, i thank the high heavens for the opportunity to do what i do. I wouldn't trade a day like this for anything, it is what makes it all worth it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Future

Well, after much thinking, considering and discussing - it looks like I'm going to make the leap and start a leadership and coaching education at a very reputable European university. Now, this does not in any way mean that I'm going to abandon my racing career. Not at all.

This program is uniquely created for, and only available to, top-level athletes. It follows a very laid-back 50% study-load, mostly long-distance learning supplemented with a few camps. Following the recommended timeline, I should be done in about 3.5 years. I'm interested in starting this, simply because I would like to share some of my experiences and be involved with training the new generation of athletes, once my own cycling career is over.

This has all be cleared with my team, sponsors and it will in no way conflict with my overall career goals. Most of the courses will be very familiar topics and mostly just organizing my experiences and put my own "touch" on some of the theories. The course starts fall 2007 and the group of athletes look very interesting. We will be about 20 students, consisting of a mix between riders, track and field and cross country skiers.

So, for the people that know me, your worst fear has become reality - I will be in a position to taint the minds and bodies of our future stars. :)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bonsai

Winners are not created overnight. In fact, in endurance sports such as cycling, it takes years, even decades. Expecting that changes should happen any faster usually leads to either mental burnout and giving up, or the so-called "overtraining" scenario.

It is crucial that you stay goal oriented and measure progress in relation to yourself and not your competitors. Any energy spent on measuring yourself with other riders is a waste of time and is energy that could have been spent developing your own skills.

Create a list over your work tasks; items that you need to accomplish during training and competing. The items need to be things that you control, not your finishing time in a TT or a placing in a mass start. Every time you train and race, rate your execution of these tasks on a scale. 1 - all the tasks where executed 100%, 2 - 75% execution, 3 - 50% execution.

Use this scale on competitions and quality training sessions (intervals / distance training). As preparation for a season, I can fairly accurately determine how well my season prep as been by counting the number of sessions rated 1. If most of the quality sessions have been assigned 1, I know my preparations have been good. If I look back and see lots of 2s and 3s, I've got a problem that needs attention. This provides a great evaluation tool.

Keep in mind that not only is it important to have quality during training and racing, it is even more important to ensure proper quality of your recovery. Without adequate recovery, that training you are putting in is only making you weaker. Consider your total training load, including work, school, personal life etc. These factors all influence your recovery rate, which in turn decides how much training you can put it.

The challenge for a full-time athlete is to reduce all "unnecessary" loads, in order to maximize training loads and proper recovery. If you are working / in school you cannot train as much, but the principal still applies.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Adventures

As always, I'm looking for new adventures and new places to push my limits. Since the season is slowly drawing towards an end, it's time to start looking for a new off-season challenge. My requirements are simple; the "event" has to build fitness towards the new season and most importantly, it has to put me outside of my comfort zone and challenge me mentally as well as physically.

So, I've started to develop a short-list and thought I'd present it here to hear if anyone has any recommendations. Without further due, here it is:

1. Mt. Blanc. It's the highest mountain in Europe and a fairly easy, non-technical climb. Maybe too easy, in fact. The mountain is climbed by thousands every summer and the record is a little over 5 hours round-trip from Chamonix. With a bit of acclimization to the high elevations, it could at least prove to be a good 1 day training effort.

2. Mera Peak. This is a 6500m high peak in Nepal. It's one of the highest, non-technical climbs in the Himalayas. This is certainly more challenging than Mt. Blanc, mostly due to the longer trek up the Hinku valley. This climb would most likely take 15-20 days, including the trek up the valley and some time for acclimization.

3. And finally, crossing Greenland on skis. Much more of a flat adventure, but being exposed to the Arctic weather would surly create a challenge. The length is about 600km and would most likely take around 18 days to complete.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

One step at a time

Slowly, but surely, my form is starting to build it's way back up after my slow period in July. With a mix of longer, relatively easy rides and some harder efforts, my body seems to be responding fairly well and I'm getting stronger every week. I've still got 5-6 important races left on the calendar, along with a handful of races where I'm a proud bottle carrier.

On the topic of training, I would really like to stress the importance of finding out what works best for you. If you have spent a little bit of time researching training methodology, you know that there is a ton of well-meaning advice out there, but it may not all work for you.

We are all a bit different, both in genetic make-up and more importantly, training background. So, some riders may respond very well to lots of high intensity training while others progress more with longer, easier sessions and a few hard efforts. How do you find out what works for you? Experiment. Don't be afraid to try out various things.

It's important that you have the guts to do something, even if there is a possibility for failure. Playing it safe all the time will not give the results you want. You have to have a "killer" mentality to certain degree, both in training and racing.

Dare to train hard, harder than you have before. Next time you do a TT, go out harder than you have - test your boundaries, find out what is too hard. If you haven't blown-up in a TT, chances are you are racing below your potential.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pain

We're a group of riders, on various teams, that meet up on a fairly regular basis to blow out some gunk through a short, 20k TT course. It is a fairly flat, non-technical "out-and-back" type that usually posts some fast times. It serves a few purposes, but mainly it's a great field-test of performance and equipment. This course has been used by riders in this area for years and years, so there is a of "history" in it.

Such a course really requires a full-out effort and is, in that respect, easy to pace. It hurts like heck, but is not very challenging in other aspects. It's easy to find and maintain your rhythm and just "go with the flow". I'm a firm believer in this type of training, since it teaches correct pacing and develops a feel for how hard you can go. As long as the course is short enough, you recover quickly from it and therefore you can safely do it at least once a week. Combined with traditional interval training, you will build a good capacity.

At a less frequent interval I run through a longer, 50K course. It's rolling and exposed and a great challenge. Since it requires longer recovery times I might only run through it once a month. As for a training effect, it's not much more effective than the 20k course - but it helps as a performance gauge.