Cycling in a Toque

Cycling in a Toque: December 2010

Friday, 31 December 2010

Whistler Training Camp

I just got back from a twelve days at home. It was a great rest. Since I only spent a night or two at home in July, when I took the Rubicon guys up after Delta, this trip was the first time I'd been back in a year. With a week of training still on my schedule, Darren and I spent some time in the gym and on the bike so I could earn a nice 3-4 days of rest over Christmas. A bunch of track/road riders from Vancouver (who I met at Canadian Track Nationals back in August) also came up for a big hike and a night out on the town. Usually when I have visited home during the holiday season, the snow is pretty good but this year was definitely an exception. I got to spend two days on the mountain with over 100+ new centimeters of powder. Amazing!

Whistler, BC
Darren drove me around for 4 hours one day as I preceded to tackle Kadenwood in the snow. By 5.30, it was dark, cold, and I'd climbed over 7,000 ft. The last two climbs were only made possible with the help of the high beams. Even with 40 psi I couldn't get out of the saddle, so I made my way through the afternoon averaging 295 watts over the 10 climbs, totalling 2.5hrs in the saddle. Thanks Darren! And thanks Dad for letting me borrow your bike!

I took good care of it though, it was shiny new when I gave it back
View from the top after climb 6 or 7....three to go!
Awesome sunset
The day before, Jesse, Jenny, Jasmin and Cody (Sarah's taking the photo) came up to go for a hike. Armed with snow shoes and extenda poles, they were pretty well prepared. When I told them that we wouldn't be using the snow shoes, I got a few weird looks. Snow shoes are too easy! We tackled Gargamel, a triple black diamond DH mountain bike trail above my parent's house. And by DH I mean you can only ride this thing down. I really enjoy getting out for long hikes during this time of year and with a crew of more than one, I was excited to see how far up we could get. In the summer it takes about 90 minutes at super ridiculous speed to climb the steep 1800 vertical feet to the top but I'd never made it past the swamp section in the winter. With six of us, we made our way across. We actually made great time and within 2hrs we were at the top. I had actually only been to the top once in the summer, which isn't even actually on the trail so I was stoked to find it in the winter.

Taking a minute at the 2nd lookout

The shenanigans continued during an evening in the village
A couple days later, Darren and I headed out to find a Christmas tree, from under the power lines of course. Here Darren readies the axe.

A nice find! 13+ ft!
On the 24th and 25th Whistler received something in the range of 100+ cm. Although it was a bit heavy the second day, we found a new chute, that although we've skied here our whole lives, had eluded us until this year. With everything else on the mountain tracked out, we skied freshies all afternoon, both days!


And before I knew it, I was back! Time to train! I ventured out to the end of Dairy Creek today. It was cold, quite windy, but......

Dairy Creek
Sunset of 2010
every body wants to be a bike racer....

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Portland Training Camp

Highlights of Team Exergy's unofficial team camp in Portland this weekend as follows:

1) Finishing a large portion of my work project for Contech Construction, which means that Training Camp could start!
2) A long and awesome training ride in the rain with Sam Johnson (Whitman Alumni '07 & Exergy Teammate) on Saturday. That was a lot of lactate and tempo! Haven't felt that good in months! An appearance of "The Blue Tights" made the camp complete!
3) Teddy Bear toss hockey game between the Portland Winterhawks and the Prince George Cougars. After the first Winterhawk goal 12,500 "to be donated" teddy bears were thrown on the ice causing a 20 minute delay halfway through the first period. The Winterhawks came out thumping in the third and took the game 7-4.
4) Sunday Team Ride to the castle at the top of Rock Bluff. Apparently I was supposed to look suave. Guess I missed the memo.
5) Of course no team camp is complete without doing something weird. We didn't make a human pyramid like some of those teams that race the Tour, we did learn how to use kettle bells in our boxers. Oh well. We tried.
6) Monday morning we were treated to Bison Pastry!
7) Then Zac and I went for a laundry ride on the Waterfront. Rocking out in our Whitman Kits!



8) Today I got to do a second fitness test at Portland Pace with Sean Coster. It was a great test, things are progressing well and I am happy with where I am at right now! Thanks Sean!
9) Extra Bonus, I have been lifting in the gym twice a week at Portland Pace so I WASN'T riding my bike around Portland when the Tornado touched down!!! Apparently there has been quite a few in the last fifty years...so all you 2012 Apocalypse people can stick a sock in it.



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Friday, 10 December 2010

Flash Team Exergy kits available for order now!

Why look like this!

When you can crush tarmac in this!

Support Team exergy now and get free shipping. With a new design for 2011, the Team Exergy gear looks great!


Order today and beat the rush, the first 25 orders will get free shipping inside the US. If you are interested in giving "the kit" as a holiday present we will send a Holiday card out, then when "the kits" arrive we will ship it out to you or the gift recipient, whichever you prefer.


Jersey: $100

Bibs: $175

Socks: $10

Cycling Caps: $15


There are also "friends of team exergy" opportunities still available, you get a complete kit and many other perks with this membership. If you are interested in this simply emailRemi (remimcmanus@hotmail.com)



Get some!


Ben


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Self-Justification

December is a time when students stress for fall semester final exams, when real people work their butts off to pay their holiday shopping bills and for a road cyclist, it's a time when training for next season comes to the fore. Now a couple of months into the off-season, riders often plan out their next season by asking the BIG questions. Stuff like:

What went well, what didn't?
What are my goals for next season?
How am I going to get there?
Am I going to get a coach or am I going to change coaches?
When am I going to start training intensity?

Since October, I have been working with five coaching clients. Each client has different time restraints, cycling abilities and long-term goals. I have also been coaching myself, which some may think is crazy or ignorant as next season is my first year as a professional and there is more on the line than ever before. However as a coach, both for my clients and myself, I have realized just how important trust is for any athletic success.

Regardless of everything that I have learned in terms of the types of workouts I need to do, the best stretching techniques or the latest and greatest in recovery practices, nothing beats trust. If an athlete knows that they are doing everything that they can to improve, they will push harder during their intervals and make smarter decisions during their recovery. There is no way a client will finish that last minute of a 20 minute interval as hard as they possibly could if they don't believe, down to their core, that what they are doing is the right thing to do. This may seem very old hat to some of you, but just hold on.

Some cyclists, after reviewing their season and setting lofty goals for the next, decide that a coach is needed to guide them along. However there are different types of coaches.

If you want someone to suggest a training protocol for your next bike ride, you can get a "trainer". This is essentially the lowest price point of any coaching program. It involves a generic training plan that accounts for your current time commitments and training availability at the outset of the relationship. Small modifications due to unforeseen stress and lack of sleep are usually made by the athlete and once a week to once a month, a rider will check in with their "trainer". This can be a very beneficial relationship if the workouts are completed. However, it can be extremely destructive if a client has trouble finding time or motivation to change their training or lifestyle habits. The classic example is missed workouts, which often culminates in the compounding and psychologically dangerous situation of attempting a planned workout without finishing those that precede it. Since the workout was a lot of harder than the rider expected, they may start questioning if there is a better way to reach their goals. Essentially, they stop believing in their "trainer" and their fitness program.

The next level, which should not be confused with a 'trainer', is a "coach". Often more accessible with a greater vested interest in the success of their client, a coach is there to suggest small things like race strategy and recovery techniques, as well as emotional support. The personal relationship is often much more significant which greatly lends itself to the formation of trust and an athlete's belief in all their training exercises. Anyone can be a trainer, but not everyone can be a coach. I don't know if I am a good coach. You'll have to ask my clients. But I do know that if your coach believes that you can do more than you ever thought you could, it shows and sooner or later, the client starts amazing themselves.

However, having a coach that believes in you during the good times, is like getting flowers on the podium. They are nice, but you don't really need them except to make a nice picture. You need a coach when you want to quit. When it's January 20th, the season is two months away, you are stressed, on the verge of getting sick, it's been raining or snowing for three weeks, you don't believe that the types of workouts you are doing will get you to where you want to be and if you don't get some answers quick, you might just do something crazy like coach yourself. In such a case, you better hope that your coach is a hell of a good friend and mentor that will help you dig yourself out of this massive hole you created for yourself by a lack of communication with your coach over the past few weeks. Trust and honesty are critical. Ask the tough question. A good coach, mentor or advisor will be able to answer these questions. You know you found a great coach when they say: "your training for the week is the sleep! or to take a week off! To write your damn thesis! Or finish those wicked hard intervals that you think might be easy but won't be, especially on Sunday as the season's peak event is only two weeks away."

In October, when I was making this decision to coach myself, I had a lot of doubt in my mind. What if I mess it up? What if I burn out? It wasn't until I MADE the decision that I got rid of the doubt. I knew that it would be very important to be objective during my program scheduling and just as subjective as I have been in the past when I train on or off the bike. And as a result, I have made small changes to my training plan over the past eight weeks to accommodate unforeseeable changes, but we are not here to talk about my training plan. The point is that I believe that what I have set out in front of me is realistic, completable and will get me to my goals by the spring. Of course if it is very important to have a mentor or an advisor so that a self-coached athlete can check in with a supporter for a completely outside perspective. I have been fortunate to find such a supporter and am very thankful for their insight.

So if you are having trouble looking at your training schedule and fathoming how you are going to complete it, then make changes! Cut out stuff! Make it manageable! Be proactive! Include enough time to guarantee that when you get on your bike you want to be there! That you want to crush this interval and that maybe, even though you know at some point it is going to be uncomfortable (like sitting on a couch for five days without riding because you need to get hungry to ride!), that it will take you one step closer to your long term goals. The most important part of your "training" is that you believe that today's "training" is productively building your capacity to crush fools and "take it" come race day, no matter what the "training" consists of!

If you don't believe, change your plan.



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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oh Ya

Some people wonder what on Earth cyclists think about when we train on the bike for many hours or put ourselves in the pain cave even when we are out training solo. So here are some notable thoughts that popped into my brain over the last two days.

At PACE:

"This is going to be easy!"

"That was super heavy!"

"Every body wants to be a bike racer, but no one wants to lift this heavy ass weight....PUT I DO IT THOUGH!"

"That was light!"

Yesterday's TT ride:

"Oh Yes"
video

"Its dark, I should turn around"

"I'm cold, put on your jacket"

"I'm hot, take off your jacket"

"What! You can't see my blinking light!!"

"Okay, Just don't hit anything, especially those random poles in the middle of the trail"

"It's 6 o'clock! Wow I guess I didn't have a tailwind on the way home. Felt fast in the dark though!"

Today's LT session:

"Is the llama going to pop out today and chase me?"

"Who wants this? I want this"

"Did I get transported to Walla Walla by the Navigator?"

"Nope, its just North Plains"

"This s**t is about to get done!"

"Time to finish this, all way to the top"

"Head wind on climb.....ugg....make me strong like bull later"

"I should take off this 11-23"

"2 more minutes"

"YAYA"

"That just got did!"

"Home Time"

"WWHA, ice bath cold"

"Hot chocolate warm"

"Yum"

Big thanks and shoutout to Ryan at Portland's oldest Bike Shop Weir Cyclery who helped me avoid a broken chain this morning with a quick pitstop before leaving town

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Light Weight Baby

So its December and now its time to get down to business!

video

Mt. Hood.....and Larch Mountain below it....NOT THIS WEEK
Larch Mountain.....last week
Zac Strode crushed tarmac
Portland Skyline from Indigo@12west (sounds classy? its got windmills!)
Portland Waterfront after a zone 4 training session




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Thursday, 2 December 2010

How did this Happen? Part 3

Part II took at look at the 2010 winter season at Whitman College, now its time for PART III.....

The team headed off to Boise for the opening NWCCC weekend on March 13th. It was the first weekend of spring break and everyone was wicked jazzed to crank out some watts. We found an amazing homestay and after a longer than usual drive in some ridiculous headwinds, we arrived to a schmorgesborg of food! The team was really excited and there was a great vibe as everyone had just finished up a week of midterm exams.

Here, Colin compares his piece of pizza to his first team time trial, which everyone will do tomorrow afternoon
But then when we woke up.....disaster!
There was over six inches in the valley and racing was called off as very high winds were also expected. I was so amped to race that I needed to do something to spend some enery...shoveling the driveway sounded like a good idea. But the driveway was really big. It was also heated. But I was going to shovel anyway, then clean the trailer and then get the team ride going. Five hours later the sun showed up and we all saddled up for a wicked team ride.

Colin, Brian and Mia (looking a bit awkward) as we head out of the palace
Rudy Projects helped us out in 2010 with some shady pink windshields, Rachel and Emily sport their new look
On Sunday, finally, it was time to race. The 4 corner criterium near the BSU football stadium was a great way to start the racing as it was safe (flat and technically simple) and difficult (with a headwind back straight and tailwind main straight). Compared to 2009, where we had a lot of crashes early in the season, our team came out of the box flying high with no major mistakes. The highlight of the day was an absolute crushing of the Women's C race by our new women riders, Sara, Aurora and Molly. They controlled their first race like pros and finished strong, taking a few podium places amongst them. Nice one! We had a few Whitman alumni in Boise come out to cheer us on as well, the Belgian flag was once again out in full force! All the HD photos from BSU weekend are here and the report here. Cropping Dusting happened!

Cheering crowd at the Criterium around the BSU football stadium
Molly, Aurora, BSU rider (eventual winner) & Sara
After the race, we headed back to Walla Walla for a team training camp during first week of Spring Break. Over the past couple seasons, we have held team camps during this time. In 2007, the Men's A riders went to San Francisco and last year the Men's and Women's A went back. In 2009 we also did a second week of training in Eugene where we would return in 2010. The seniors were also able to work on their theses during this time. Team Time Trial Practice also happened. It was cool, I mean warm all week! Like 70!

Down in Corvallis the next weekend, the first road race and TTT went well for the team. In the Men's A race, I launched a successful bridge to University of Oregon solo artist David Kuhns, but University of Washington's SEVEN A's (honestly....who has seven A's!) put a stop to that after a little team trial of their own brought us back.


The team camp in Eugene was stupendous! See Photos here and the report including David's "stitches-worth" crash. We had two amazing homestays this year and full details were expertly reported by Women's A rider Emily. We did some awesome climbs, with a follow car! And we had sun on both Tuesday and Wednesday! After a great ride with the team on Tuesday, I wanted to go do a really hard climb that Malcolm Dunn (who I was co-teaching the cycling class with) told me all about. Featuring a 2500 ft elevation gain over 75 minutes, extending up into the National Forest east of Cottage Grove, this climb had to be done! Our team chaparone for the week, John Meitus (Whitman's assistant coach and ex-pro B-baller) took me down and followed as I did my intervals and then tackled the mountain. It was rad. Every time I needed something, or wanted to drop a set of arm warmers, he would come up and grab them. Most of the climb was 1.5 lanes wide, with the top 40minutes just 1 lane of brand new pavement. The gradient was steep. I was glad to have a 27 as it averaged 10% for 3-4km near the top! A route for the bucket list! Beautiful scenery with views three old volcanoes at the top!

Custom Map.my.ride excel file I made, message me if you want it!


The week finished with a great bunch of races in Bellingham. See HD photos and report here. We had our super chaparone Justin Bannerman join us so after a brilliant Friday afternoon spin in Anacortes, he was able to take all the stress off the senior's hands as small mechanical issues and mentoring are his forte! Once back at school in late March, the walls came down for me. I was way behind on my thesis and the Tour of Walla Walla was only three weeks away. I didn't get to go with the team to Portland the next weekend (where Emrie won his first bike race then promptly broke his bike the next day! photos + report), in fact I didn't even see the light of day. My training switched back to extreme quality, like going out for a 10km TT or a bunch of small intervals, with a quick warmup at tempo and then a bee line straight back to work after the work sets finished up. I didn't even get out of the house if I wasn't on my bike. The library, a four minute walk away, was too far to waste my time with.

A week later, I emerged from my cocoon with a few pages of writing. As they went in for edits, I went back to pedaling. However my training was still in the range of 6 total bike hours a week including 1.5 hrs above my lactate threshold. I was getting lots of time off the bike to sleep, stay mentally as fresh as possible and even spend a little time with friends. But really, lets be honest, I was just doing all the regular academic stuff and I really had no free time.

The next weekend, I turned 25 and raced at the team's home race. Colin organized the whole event down to a tee, it was perfect. He made my life really easy! The event was a blast, the Sunday event especially. We planned to race out near Touchet on a 2.5 mile loop with one 500 metre climb per lap averaging 15%, but on Friday, the local wheat farmers shipped in the bees from California and we had to scramble. We decided to revert to our 'dream' course (which in December we had decided was too dangerous) called Climbing Gym, coined by my fellow Whittie alumni and Exergy teammate Sam Johnson '07. So the broom crew, (including myself) took off for climbing gym Friday afternoon instead of Touchet. We sweeped it to a tee! The neighboring farmers was also very amused, they said we should try curling. The course, a 2 mile loop, featured a 250 metre climb topping out at 20%, with a 120 metre false flat drag up to the finish line. The descent is fast and a 90 degree corner welcomes the riders at the bottom. From there, its all false flat uphill! Fast laps can be done in about 8 minutes, with only 1 of those minutes spent on the descent. When Sammy Jay first showed the course to Colin and I back in 2008, he warned us that it was so hard that you can only do it when you are in peak form, otherwise you just explode; of course that is doing 4-5 laps solo and we would be racing with a pack. Mind you when I bridged up to the winning breakaway that day, I remembered his words and made sure I got up there within a lap and a half. We had a ton of supports out that day. Even a few of our professors (in red below). The officials also liked the course so much that they want to add USAC categories in future years, possibly matching up with Spokane's Ronde Van Palouse.

Whitman Circuit Race: Grant & I during the bridge
Sprint Finale for 3rd place @ Climbing Jim!
The next weekend was the big show! What we had all been training for since October and visualizing since last April. We all knew the roads, some the of competition, some about our new teammates and no idea about where we would stack up. After always pushing for point finishes during my skiing years, with cycling I have the experience to know to trust my training and let my ability do the job on race day. So really, its all good. I'm always going to be as fast as I will be on that day. Well that weekend, I was super fast. Like a Skyline! Here is the play by play!

Sprint Finale @ Tour of Walla Walla Stage 1
Support Team @ Tour of Walla Walla Stage 2 (5mile Hill)
Colin crushing it over the summit
Duncan and David go nuts as I approach the top
Tour of Walla Walla - Stage 3 Criterium

Colin's first top ten cat.1.2 finish and I'm sitting 5th in GC with 1 stage to go
After the Tour of Walla Walla, the team had another three weeks to prepare for Collegiate Road Nationals in Wisconsin. We won the year before so we wouldn't be happy with anything less in 2010, when we had an even stronger team. I went back into work mode and passed my final exams, as well as finished my thesis and everyone pitched in to make our trip to Wisconsin a smooth one. We had our team Physiotherapist Dave Tupper join us, as well as legendary alumni Zac Strode '08 and John Klein '09 who drove the team trailer and all the bikes all the way from Walla Walla! Amazing! We saved over $800 in the $10,000 trip because of their support!

The road race course was very difficult with numerous climbs over 10% while the weather: foggy, rainy and forty degrees (6 degrees Celsius), made for a cold day. But we were amped! I was excited for Colin as he won the road race at Conference Finals two weeks before (photo + report) and he on the form of his life after some unlucky flats/mechanicals throughout the spring. I on the other hand just wanted to support Colin as much as possible and get ready for the Criterium and Team Time Trial as I had to miss the Conference finals as well as some sleep 36 hours before the road race to finish one final paper....what amazing time management skills I have.

But Colin made my life really easy as five minutes into the race, after a very wet neutral roll out descent, he jumped in the early breakaway and secured a four minutes advantage within the first 2 of the race's 5 laps. I flatted on the second to last lap and my day was over. Actually almost everyone flatted that day! No kidding. Our field, the D2 field, would come across D1 riders standing on the side of the road waiting for the sag wagon as both races ran out of neutral wheels! And Shimano brought a ton! Between the men's morning and women's afternoon races, all the neutral wheels have to be refitted with fresh tubes! Some serious road sweeping would have been in order if Chicago had won the 2016 Olympic bid and the day's course had been a part of the Olympic road race.

Collegiate National Road Race - getting amped
But Timba is way more amped!
And Zac is hella amped as Colin powers it in to finish 5th
YA BUDDY!!!!!!!!
I got to start on the front row of the criterium this year although I didn't race a ton in the collegiate races throughout the spring and Colin and Timba road all day in support of my chances in the sprint. In the end, it didn't pan out the way I wanted to and I finished fourth. It's been too long to talk about now.

Collegiate Criterium Nationals @ Madison, WI
But now the team time trial, that's something I could talk about all day. It had been tricky all spring as Timba, Colin and I, as you can tell by the photo below, are all very different sizes which makes drafting an absolute mess. Timba borrowed my TT helmet and I got to ride the rental discs (a set of 1080 front and rear!). They were fast. We finished 3rd! A great performance. Halfway into the event my big ring shifter stopped working properly. I would be pedaling along on the front at 400 watts and then my bike would shift into the little ring. WOW! Where is our team super mechanic when you need him! I found that if I yanked up on the lever as hard as I could, it would stay, but it seemed like it was failing over time so I really just wanted to get to the finish line. Once we got to the turn around, Colin estimated that we were already 25 seconds back of Mesa State's super team, however he said we were only 12. In the end, our good friends at Western Washington University (Bellingham), who had a bit of a mismatched season, brought it all together and finished four seconds ahead of us for 2nd. We were stoked for those guys! It was perfect day. Blue sky, warm but not hot, a little bit of a wind to make a good draft, 1 massive hill (250metres at +16%) and an award ceremony at the Trek's U.S. headquarters. A massive day! A great way to finish my collegiate cycling career. (Women's Road Race Report + Photos). Oh, and by the way, our women's team won their 2nd straight team trial title championship and sixth in seven years! I guess that is pretty good...what do you think? WELL IT'S RIDICULOUS!!!!! There is no better women's team in the country and I feel extremely fortunate to have been around to watch it all!

Timba, Colin and I....preparing as Missionaries would... I guess

Pushing it in the big ring with 1.5km to go
Note my steady grip of the left shifter
Kendi leading Mia and Emily in after a great start from Rox got the team to the turn around

"Everybody wants to be a National Champion, but no one wants to lift this heavy ass weight...."
But we do it though!!! LIGHT WEIGHT BABY!"

Advertising for 2011 started early, prospective students during the Tour of Walla Walla weekend all received a flyer in the mail! George Bridges what!
So that brings us pretty much up to date. Thanks for joining me as I looked back at the last year. This little recap has definitely been the first step of "the older you are, the faster you were" thing....imagine how good the story will be in 20 years! I want to also leave you with some photos from my favourite event of the year, which was the Berney bike rodeo the week after Nationals. Although we were all in the midst of final exams (Sunday was our only day off in seven days of finals), we had 18 of the team's 25 riders show up and it really made for a special event. Those young riders were very excited about the stars and bars jerseys. A great day! (Full Report + Photos from Berney + Green Park).

Carrie @ the Cone Slalom station
Emily @ the Pump Station
Emily @ trying out the Slow Race
Little Trooper #1 ripping up the Straight Line Drill
Winners of the Slow Race!
Jersey Donated by Alumni Rachel Patterson '09
2010 Berney Bike Safety Rodeo

Keep Riding,
Ben