Monday, September 21, 2009

Back At It - Making the Hurt Feel Good

This weekend kicked off the start of the '09 'cross season in the mid-atlantic with the first two races of the MAC series. For me, it was my re-introduction to 'cross after a short hiatus and my first double 'cross weekend in almost two years. This will also be my first year racing the Elite Master's field.

Saturday Mike Birner and I made the 2 1/2hr trip up to Trexlertown for the Nittany Lion race held at the Velodrome. After the first couple of warm-up laps my legs felt better than they had during the week, but I was afraid of this course as the long flat stretches never seemed to suite me, that and my back never holds up. Starting the season with no points from last year is a huge disadvantage, especially in a stacked field like the elite masters. I staged somewhere in the 5/6th row and the start prologue was short and fast with little time or room to move up. Lap one through the rooty section on the top of the course my chain bounced off and was sitting in the wasteland between my chainring and chain guard. Of course, the moment I decide to move out of the one good line to stop and fix it it pops back on leaving me to try and get up to speed again through the worst of the roots.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Smith

This photo is a perfect example of the importance of a good start in a 'cross race. On the right is Blair who finished 3rd. On the left, just in front of the guy in red is me. This is the start of lap 1, maybe 90s into the race and I'm already 35-40s off of the front group. I settled into a good rhythm sticking with groups and making moves to bridge up to the next group. I found this style course actually suited me more than it had in the past. Finished 33rd out of 73 so being in the top half was an accomplishment and I was within a few seconds of my marked riders and my time would have actually put me top 10 in the B field.

Sunday, Charm City, the biggest show in town as it pulls riders from all over the mid-atlantic. Lots of fresh legs in the 84 rider field to make the race harder on a slightly tougher course than the day before. Legs were heavy so I tried a longer warm up but felt I was just dehydrating myself sitting on the rollers. A few warm up laps and I felt pretty good about the course but the longer inclines and rough, choppy sections were certainly felt in the legs and back as well as the earthen stairs on the backside of the course. Another start at the back coupled with a fast, tight prologue and I was stuck chasing from the gun. The accelerations hurt and I found myself closing a lot of gaps early to keep from getting stuck in no man's land between groups. Last two laps hurt, my teammate Chip bridged up to a small group I was in and went to the front after the steps and helped us get clear. We picked off a few more spots on the way to the finish. Finished a disappointing 40th, with some 45+ mixed in ahead so still in the 30's for the 35+ field.

Need to work on the 2 day race fitness but definitely glad to be racing 'cross, relatively pain free.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Keeping Pace

Not much new, lately it's just trying to keep up with Maddy who has one speed, full throttle. Last couple of weeks has focused on getting ready for 'cross. Unfortunately I've only been on the 'cross bike once in those 3 weeks. I did however finally dig the mountain bike out of the back of the garage and had a few great rides at Patapsco.

The past couple of weeks I've been on the Paleo diet. If you you're not familiar with it it's basically the South Beach diet on a diet and is less of a diet and more of just a way of eating for better health. The premise is we as humans can subsist on the same foods that our Paleolithic ancestors ate, lean meats, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. That's it. No dairy, no sugar, no grains, no legumes and certainly no processed foods. For the general population the primary goal of the diet is simple, control the body's insulin response to high blood sugar ans reverse our body's increasing resistance to insulin, commonly referred to as Syndrom X. While it has long been accepted that high fat and cholestrol diets attribute to coronary heart disease and artherosclerosis, new research has been shown that in fact high levels of glycogen in the blood stream may play a larger role in this than fat and cholesterol and is the catalyst for these conditions more commonly associated with poor health. What's the difference? Well, not all carbohydrates are the same, especially when comparing fruits and vegetable to grains. In the end it comes down to the glycemic index and glycemic load of a specific food to reduce insulin. It's interesting to compare different fruits and vegetable to grain based food products. While GI may be similar, the GL for grains is far more disproportional. GL more accurately measures a food's long term effect on blood sugar while GI is more immediate.

Going cold turkey on a lot of foods I'm used to having and the constant hunger were the hardest parts, drinking my coffee black almost made me stop drinking coffee. For the first week I had a dull headache and needed to eat every two hours or so. If I wasn't at home I found myself looking for salad bars to get some fresh fruit to snack on. I finally found mixed nuts with some dried fruit like raisins was satisfying for longer periods. Eventually the constant hunger and headache subsided and it was easier to go between meals with less snacking, however I made the mistake of missing a meal a couple of times and this caused a complete crash. Since it's hard to eat enough fruits and vegetables for carbo loading and recovery eating, I did allow myself to eat potatoes and sometimes rice. The past couple of days I've fallen off of the wagon a bit, it takes a lot of preparation to have foods readily avilable so you aren't tempted by readily available processed and high carb foods sitting around in the pantry.

Last weekend I decided to get a hard race in my legs so I figured why not some long, hilly road race in PA? So Sunday I drove up to Reading for the PA St. RR Champs. Race was advertised as 75min on a 13.3mi figure 8 course. The math on the laps didn't add up and come to find out the race was actually 80mi. What's another 5 miles? Well, since I can't remember the last time I rode 75 let alone 80mi, I might as well have been 20 more. I was also a bit worried about bonking as I hadn't done any longer rides since starting the Paleo. For breakfast I has a grilled steak and two baked potatoes and on the drive up a couple of bananas. After adelayed start we finally go out on the road. The race started out slow and on the first long climb some kid goes off the front. Everyone sat around and laughed saying if he stays away 6mi into an 80mi race then he deserves to win. Well, after about 8 other riders managed to bridge up to him after the course of the next 60mi he still won. For me this was just training and I was just looking to finish and get in a good workout. From the start the rough PA roads started taking their toll on my lower back. Halfway though the back pain went away but my quads started cramping. By the last lap the cramping had given way to muscle spasms. I survived the two hard climbs and stayed field. Took about a top 15 in the field sprint but didn't realize there were close to 10 guys up the road so ended up 25th which was fine by me considering I haven't ridden that distance in months let alone race it. I also never felt hungry or had the feeling of bonking which was a good sign.

This weekend is a pair of crits to hopefully put some final hard, fast miles in the legs before 'cross satrts next weekend. Maybe this week I'll get the 'cross bike out and dust off the skills a bit. Don't want to be the guy smashing into the barriers and taking out the course tape!