Double Trouble

Wednesdays are days that I look forward to and kind of dread at the same time…. This is my standard double training day. This day is all about running and cyclo-cross riding. Now I love getting out on my cyclo-cross bike (obviously!) and ripping around the trails and local parks but the running part is not the most fun. I used to be a runner – a very very slow runner – in fact I even ran a marathon back in the day.

These days my running is reserved for crack-of-dawn Wednesday morning 30 minute sessions with the focus on running up hills and running in the sand. I typically start slowly but by the end, I feel like I’m flying – of course this is all relative since I’m a cyclist first and a runner a distant second. I do have to say that over the last few weeks I have noticed that my running strength and hill running recovery has improved a great deal. For most cyclo-cross racers, running is not a favoured component of training but if you’re racing a lot and particularly in Europe – you need a running game. The rumour is that Bart Wellens used to run with his bike on his shoulder as part of his training – and if you’ve seen Bart run – wow this guy can fly!

As for the on bike training – Wednesdays are all about skill training. Now it is lots of fun to get out and practice the stuff you’re good at – the trick to cyclo-cross training is really focusing on weaknesses or “need to improve areas”. So what did I do today? Well, my starts aren’t the strongest part of my cyclo-cross racing game and I also struggle with steep uphill climbs. In my mind these two skills/aspects are related – both require fast punchy power and explosiveness. Today I sought out some steep climbs and worked on starting and accelerating up and over these climbs. I played around with gearing. I worked on distance as well – how close can I get to the hill and start from a stopped position? I learned a bunch today about gearing and where I start to bog down on the climbs. I also really focused on using my entire body to get over the last little bit of these climbs – my arms, shoulders, lower back and abs were all firing along with my legs.

Another thing I decided to work on today was descending. Some of the descents in Belgium really scare the “you-know-what” out of me. So my goal today was to find some tricky, technical, bumpy and longish descents. Luckily I found an area where some new roads are being built and there are a couple of massive hills made out of gravel, dirt and who knows what – this worked out really well. I was able to use these hills to work on my technical climbing skills and then turn around and focus on the descending – I played around with braking, not braking, feet clipped in, body position. The other thing I did to day was think about “always be pedaling”, this meant that my feet had to be turning over at all times. I find that when my brain starts working, my feet stop turning….

So this is how my double Wednesday played out. Needless to say, I’m a bit wiped now! But this is okay because Thursday is the almighty rest day – all I’ve got on the schedule is a hot power yoga class.

As challenging as Wednesdays can be – I really do look forward to them. I’m able to work on real cyclo-cross skills and get immediate feedback on how I’m progressing with my technical and running skills. I’m curious to know how you’re training your cyclo-cross technical skills….

Is It Spring Yet?

I’ve been home for two weeks now and I’d like it to be spring. Now. Not tomorrow or next week. Now. This white stuff is nice to look at but it makes riding outside hard. The trainer is okay but my brain is slowly turning to mush watching the television and pedaling to nowhere. Sure I have the rollers to keep me occupied and to give me something to work on. But still… I could skip all of the excitement the rollers bring and the guilt-free television watching for an early spring, dry roads, and an end to the snow.

It is times like this when I hear Tim’s voice in my head “But why do people live in such a cold place?”. Good question Tim. Wish I could answer it.

Complaining and moaning aside, I did get in a very good training session this morning. I waited until it was a balmy minus 11 (minus 18 with the windchill) and set out on a 30 minute run. This was my longest run of the season. Happy to say I ran farther than I expected and my legs and lungs felt pretty darn good. This slow and steady approach is paying off. When I got inside I did a quick change of the clothes and hopped on the trainer for 45 minutes of easy/moderate paced pedaling. Chased all this with some rolling out on the foam roller and some stretching.

Definitely a good training session. I’m nearing the end of my three-week training block of getting my body reacquainted with structured training. I’m looking forward to what is next. I’m expecting it will be a mix of more moderately paced rides/runs with some longer efforts combined with a bit more intensity. Whatever it is, I know that coach Steve has a good plan sorted out for me.

So my parents were here on the weekend and they saw the big box of Clif products we have in our kitchen… So of course, I let them sample the tasty goods. I think my dad is hooked on the Clif Kid ZBars (even though they’re made for kids, they make the perfect light snack) and my mom was intrigued by the idea of the Luna Caramel Nut Brownie bar (yes, mom a bar that tastes good and is good for you). All this to say, that I think we’ve got a couple more converts to eating natural and organic bars instead of the overly-processed stuff found in on the grocery store shelves. I couldn’t get them to try the Clif Shot Bloks or Clif Shot Energy Gels though… Next visit I guess… (I heard through the grapevine that Luna Protein bars will be gluten free in 2011 – yay!)

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. I think I’ll go look out the window to see if spring is here yet…