Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back at it

S - 15,400 yards
B - 70.3 miles (8.25hrs)
R - 23 miles

Time - 16.8 hours

So I suppose it is time to start back to this whole "training" thing. This was, admittedly, a bit of a shock to the ol' system.  What has been languishing for many weeks is now being forced to hop out of bed and go to masters. Run almost every day. Get back on the bike.  All the stuff it HASN'T been doing for quite a while.

On the plus side, I've really enjoyed riding my bike.  Specifically, my mountain bike. I haven't yet put a leg over the brand new road bike but I am sure that will be coming along soon enough. I've also had the time and/or the desire to create some videos from these trips to the trails.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where has James been?

The first thing you should ask yourself upon a reading of the title of this blog is why the heck am I referring to myself in the 3rd person?  Well, I have no clever answer to that question and so continue on unperturbed.  Where have I been since December 1st you ask?  Well, for a brief and fantastic moment I was in Mexico.  Then, I was back in Murrka doing a fairly foreign thing: relaxing.  This relaxing continued on for quite a while actually. Only now, in mid to late January, will I be discontinuing that protocol.

This extended break was both planned and un-planned I would say. I had quite a long year of training in 2013 (and racing, obviously). I NEEDED a physical and mental break. But I also got sick.  Then I was gone for a week for Inside Out.  So basically it all adds up to roughly 6 weeks of unstructured training.

For the past three weeks I've tried to put a little structure in my life.  Running almost every day (but short), riding trails one or two times a week, swimming as it fancied me. I am in somewhat decent out-season shape I would say.  I proved that to myself by winning a 40' short track race out at the US National Whitewater Center last Sunday the 12th.

There are several fun ways to talk about that race, not one of which involves me actually writing anything so let's go with that methodology as me writing can get kind of boring for everybody out there....

A pictorial article from, one of the most well-known mountain biking specific online journalism websites.

A brief video and thread on Slowtwitch (that I started, sorry JB!) about the crash of Mr John Behme, which unfortunately took him out for a couple of weeks with a mild left radial fracture near his elbow (or maybe it was his ulna, but who knows I'm just trying to sound smart).

Another video with footage taken by a Mr Scott Woodbury showcasing the 40' short track race.

W. Weaver is a fantastic action photographer and took a bunch of great event photos
Full Short Track Results can be found HERE

All in all, it was a fantastic and unique event put on by the USNWC, who has an ever-growing portfolio of excellent outdoor activities going on at their facilities.  If you haven't been out there you are seriously missing out on one of the best parts of living in Charlotte.

I did not get the chance to blog about my epic adventures (or myself) as upon waking on Monday morning following that race there were two things to do:

1) Realize how sore I was from that race (concrete is HARD)
2) Pack and fly out to San Jose, California to attend Specialized Body Geometry Fit Level 1 Course.

Now, #1 is fairly self-explanatory.  #2 involves a little more explanation (don't they always)

Specialized has a program that it calls "SBCU," which stands for Specialized Bicycles & Components University.  This set of classes is designed to impart on their retail sales professionals, technicians and fitters and increased knowledge base and skills with which they are better suited to both help customers and sell to customers.  There are retail sales management classes, suspension service classes, marketing and display classes and most importantly, 3 levels of fit "classes."

Since Inside Out Sports sells Specialized aero products, it makes sense that someone in the Charlotte store should attend the BG Fit course.  BG (Body Geometry) represents Specialized's brand philosophy when it comes to apparel, fit, and equipment.

Originally developed by Andy Pruitt, BG Fit is a science based, multi step process that puts the rider in the optimal position for their body on the bike.  Fit Level 1 deals entirely with road bike fit and the pre-fit assessment of the rider.

 This is the van that transported us to Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, CA every morning.  The class consisted of ~25 retailer people like myself with varying levels of fitting experience. I was the only triathlete-focused rider in attendance so a lot of my preconceived notions were luckily related to aero-fit and not road fit.

 Hard not to be intimidated by a public entrance that features Crowie, Cipollini and Sam Hill.  The headquarters just give off this vibe of awesomeness.  It's really hard to put into words.  You can tell Specialized is a HUGE company and everybody that works there LOVES bikes. If you didn't like bikes, you wouldn't want to work there.  Admittedly, 8 weeks ago the atmosphere surrounding Specialized and its vibe was a little more tense, but I wouldn't put the "blame" of that on the people that work there (except, maybe, for the slightly overzealous legal department).  Specialized is a brand that obviously wants to protect its identity and luckily, because of how big it is, gets to play that card.

Anyway, the class itself consisted of teachings from 4 different people, each of whom has vast experience with BG fit. Day 1 was a lot of classroom instruction and a brief ride. Day 2 was a morning of instruction and an afternoon of lab work (fitting, further lab-specific instruction, etc) and a brief ride.  Day 3 was all lab work (fitting, specific assessment instruction, video demonstrations, etc).

Specialized BG Fit Lab
One of the main highlights was getting to pick whatever bike you wanted from a huge stable for the group rides and the fit sessions.  On day 1 I rode a Venge Pro and on days 2 and 3 I chose an S-Works Tarmac SL4.

The SRAM Hydro recall-affected SL4 Tarmac
On day 2 we also got to tour the ~year-old Specialized Wind Tunnel (more casually referred to as the "Win Tunnel" and the "Breezy Hallway"). Considering I've had a fair amount of experience at a wind tunnel myself (3 visits anyway) and was the only person among the group that had tunnel experience I felt "special" in a way. The tunnel itself is very cool.  Interestingly, a lot of their modeling was done based off A2's construction (Specialized was one of the biggest clients of A2 prior to their own tunnel construction).  .

Engineer Chris Yu demonstrating drafting effect
Speaking of wind tunnels, I have a fairly exciting announcement that will likely wait until nearer to the end of the month...

1 hallway of bikes
At the end of 3 days of instruction and lab work, we all emerge as certified BG Level 1 fitters. What does that mean? Well, at the outset it does not mean much. Many fits down the road there will be a perfected (or at least more fully developed) practice and a bigger base of experience for each of us. At that point, maybe you tackle level 2 (although I would guess that the transition to level 2 does not happen for most Specialized dealers) and aero-fitting? Who is to say what the future holds.

I am very happy to have had this instruction because it means I'm basing what I am doing off more than just intuition and my own experience. I'm basing it off scientifically proven methodologies that have sound grounding and a huge "case load."

All in all, it's been a good, if off, 6+ weeks. I am excited to get back to working out on a regular schedule again. I am excited to start crushing dreams again. Even if they are my own, the time has come to get back to being a real athlete.

My 2014 schedule is not really set in stone yet because I don't really know what I want to do this year in terms of racing, but hopefully that will flesh out a bit in the next month.

Leavin' on a Prop Plane

Friday, January 10, 2014

Digging Holes

I am currently arriving at the end of a fairly long, straight road. I use that metaphor because it's not a twisty turny road full of surprises and fun; it's a predictable four-lane highway-style road. I entered the on-ramp for this classic highway way back on December 2nd.  Well, actually it was about mid-afternoon on December 1st if I am being totally honest.

This is the highway to recovery. To a recharge. To feeling motivated again. It is, really, the opposite of one of my OTHER favorite highways:

That highway is what you get on pre-race. When all you can think about is crushing dreams and taking names. Not necessarily in that order. But sometimes it is.

It's actually been the longest I've gone without Accelerate3 scheduling. I've even got one more week! The travesty of being slow and out of shape is debilitating, mentally.  But I can say with 100% surety that I am going to be friggin' READY when the time actually comes.

I am probably going to whine a lot (heads up) and complain about being slow but in the end I've experienced a great "valley" of sorts. Everyone needs to ride the Valley Highway (I'm slaying it with these metaphors, aren't I?) if they want to improve progressively over time.

Partaking of this recovery period means that I have dug myself a solid hole, however.

But I've dug a good hole. It's a hole that you WANT to be in, to a certain extent.  Too many people think they are digging a nice, round hole but they are really just using bad digging technique and tossing what little dirt they actually dig off to the side (for proper technique see above). You gotta really WANT that hole. Badly.

Have you dug a good hole? Have you used proper technique? Have you ridden the Valley Highway this winter? You should ask yourself all of these questions and then in June, reflect back on how you answered.

Or maybe I'm just saying all this because I'm self-conscious and sad about myself.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting Over Stuff

There are things that make me annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Those things most frequently revolve around racing and what goes into a race and can happen after a race and the consequences of racing in general.

Ok, racing. Yea that kinda covers it.

When you hold yourself to a high standard you ALWAYS want to reach that standard.  When something gets in the way that's out of your control you really can't do that much about it. Crazy swims, windy bikes, rain, heat, etc...can't do nuthin' 'bout them thangs.

But when I do something that I can only blame on myself well...then we've got ourselves a little problem.

I can think of one, very specific example of this from 2013. One shining, stupendous example of my own ineptitude. My lack of care. My poor preparation.

NC State TT

I came into this race off a relative high. I had CRUSHED the SC TT.  My time may not have been otherworldly, but I beat some of the best time trialists in the tri-state area. This little triathlete comes in and takes away their prize. It was SO. AWESOME.

As an aside, there are very few things I love more than taking prizes from roadies. They frequently look down on triathletes so crushing their dreams and making them go home and whine about it to their roadie, weight-weenie friends is spectacular.

24.99 miles in 54:56 at 27.3 mph AP/NP 287/288.

A great, relatively even effort.  Flat course, wind, hot. Great "fun."

Fast forward a bit to the NC State TT. A shorter, more rolling course. Last year I had ridden a 55:35 and come in a (fairly distant) second among Cat 3s and 8th OA.

In 2013 I was coming in with a faster bike, faster equipment, and more fitness. I was hoping to break 54 on the (slightly shorter than) 40k course.  My power was good but my time was not. I was extremely frustrated the last 5' of the race as nothing FELT weird but my time was much, MUCH slower than the year prior. I got off my bike completely flummoxed by what had happened. Something HAD to be wrong, right? Well, it wasn't until I was pushing my bike that I noticed what that might be. In my haste and time-crunched rush before my start time I had plopped my disc in without much care for carefulness.  I had shoved my rear brake and it was rubbing. Not BADLY enough to notice while riding but badly enough to where it wouldn't turn more than 1 revolution when you lifted the rear and spun the wheel.


It's important to note that you SHOULD be proud of your success.  You should also be aware of your failures but realize that they, in no way, represent you in your entirety.  They are but one paragraph in a small chapter of your life. They are learning experiences.  They help make us stronger.  Despite my 2+ minutes slower time I was still under 58 minutes. I was still third in Cat 3's. I still beat a LOT of people. Was it as fast as I could've gone? No, no it was not.

But I'll never know what I was truly capable of that day. That is what compels me to write this post. To advocate realizing your own mistakes and failures but to LEARN from them. So many people make mistakes but then never realizes the lessons that were in that failure. Either that, or they take the wrong messages away and let the failure itself bring them down.  Don't miss the forest for the trees.