Ever since the Trans-Wisconsin I've been focusing on shorter rides. 28-35 mile XC mountain bike races in particular. At times it's felt like a bit of a scramble or a game of "catch-up". I knew going into the year that it would be a tough year when it came to those races (with my schedule, plans to move up to cat1 and dislike of finishing far behind). Throw in the issues I've had with mechanicals recently (right when I started to feel confident and strong enough to have some good races too) and things start looking really bleak.
However, that's not at all how I'm feeling! The Thursday night races at River Falls and the road group rides have been an excellent opportunity to gauge my progress, and it seems I'm still seeing solid improvements every couple of weeks. One big thing that could really help would be finding a way to spend more time on my mountain bike. I've been riding a lot with Trevor and certainly he can get a bit more out of his effort due to better technical skills. This too has been improving, but I still find a way to take 2 or 3 falls each Thursday night while he rides cleanly. When you add that to the fact that he's 1-2 minutes "stronger" per lap I really get to push my limits to try to keep up. Thanks Trevor for making it to so many of the races. Perhaps next year we can get the trail cleared a bit better out at Stagecoach and I will make it a point to put in one more day per week of XC specific training (both technical and training for the kind of strength needed for accerating over small hills and out of corners).
I've gained 10 lbs since spring!!! I suppose that really goes along with the last bit there- but all these shorter rides and the repeated "strength" needed to ride the mountain bike and sprint on the road has led to some muscle gains. I think I've also gained a bit of fat, as I've really eaten a lot recently. My theory is that I need to be certain I get enough fuel in my body in order to avoid getting sick when doing high intensity work.
My plan all along was to focus on shorter and shorter races throughout the year- However, I've had so much fun with them this year (even without having a single "good" finish, well- YET) that I'm making plans for next year to continue more in that direction. I've made plans to attend and/or entered PTO requests for time at or around the following races-
TRIPLE D CIRREM RAGNAROK ALMANZO CHEQ 100 (making the assumption it's the "same" weekend as last year, and happens) DK200
then shifting gears and hitting MMBS and WORS throughout the summer plus (if possible)-
CHAIN DRIVE ORE TO SHORE DAKOTA FIVE-0 CHEQ 40
I can tell you right now that I'd love to have my best races at Almanzo/Cheq100 and then the FIVE-O/CHEQ40
One casualty of this focus shift has been my goal of riding a metric and a full century on dirt or gravel each month of the year. I didn't do it in AUGUST of all months. You'd think that would be the easiest month of the year, eh? I thought about fitting a ride or two in, but it just wasn't in the cards. I did get out for a couple of longish road rides though, but they just aren't the same. The longest gravel ride I've been on in the last 6 weeks was about 12 miles...
The Heck of the North is fast approaching. Interesting to see how that goes for me with the current combination of training etc.. I vow to be aggressive. I don't know how well I will feel 60 or 70 miles into it, but I know that with my choice of equipment and my skill set that I'd like to go out fast and limp in (somewhat like how I rode the Almanzo). I'll be very pleased with a solid overall placing and at least feeling of being competitive with the other SS guys. The course sets itself up well for riding SS (or at least it did last year), but to do exceptionally well on an Ss will require an emphasis on consistend speed on the flatter areas with the knowledge that the final climb will be a slog and a strong geared rider is likely to walk away from you. Conversely, gearing for the final climb would mean putting oneself out of contention from the start. Currently on my bike is a 46/18 gear combo.
Wish me luck at the WI SS State Championships this weekend- If the weather cooperates I'll be riding that race at 10 am tomorrow, the 3 hr "enduro" from 3-6 and then the road time trial from Blue Mounds to Barneveld and on up to the top of the "Mound" Sunday am (around 1k feel of climbing in the last 3 miles there!). After that I will be heading to Steven's Point and relaxing on the local trails there and in Wausau plus partying with some of the capital off-road crew.