Thursday, August 26, 2010

Xterra Indian Peaks Race Report

Xterra Indian Peaks was on August 8 at Eldora Ski Resort in the beautiful Indian Peaks Wilderness just outside of Nederland, CO. My dad came into town to visit from the Thursday before to the Tuesday after. It was great having him in town and for him to be able to come to a race.

I was going into Indian Peaks hoping for some redemption from the BC race. My training leading up tot he race had been solid and I felt like the changes I had made were starting to result in better Xterra specific fitness. I was definitely hoping to land on the podium in the 25-29 AG.

The swim is in the snow making reservoir just down the access road from the base area of the resort. Because it is just for snowmaking, there isn't a lot of real estate for the swim. This mean a shorter swim, about 1,000 meters, which I wasn't going to complain about. The race course base elevation is at 9200 feet, which is definitely the highest swim I've done. The swim was a time trial start, so it really reduced the congestion a ton. I was slotted 53rd based on projected swim time and mountain biking ability. The idea is to minimize traffic on the mountain bike course. More on that later. I started off the swim really well...a little too well. I went into the red zone early and had to really back off for a bit. I just forgot about the elevation I guess. Eventually I settled in and got back to a reasonable pace. Once we made the turn at the first buoy, there was some nice waves cracking from left to right because of the stiff wind. Luckily the distance to the 2nd buoy and the final turn back to shore was short. So, I made the return and we swam back into the wind and waves. For the 1,000 meter swim I had a time of 17:03 which was 2nd fastest in my AG, but only 66th fastest overall. The swim still needs work, but then again, I think it always will.

This race is unique in T1 as you have to run for almost 1/2 mile to transition. So, you can choose to run w/your wetsuit at your waist, or carry it. You put your shoes down by the lake, take your wetsuit off, put the shoes on and head up to T1. I managed to move up through some people on the run to T1 and was quickly out on the bike.

After a short climb up the ski slopes, the course is 2 loops on the nordic trails. This bike course is a lot of fun, with a near perfect mix of fun, rocky singletrack and wide doubletrack for passing. The course was more technical than BC, but by no means would I consider it technically challenging. There were a few greasy spots out there due to the large amount of rain in the 2 weeks leading up to the race, but otherwise, just some rocky parts to deal with.

I felt pretty good on the bike and steadily moved up through the field. The shift to a more mountain bike focused training plan really paid off I think. I felt like I had the power to really attack the climbs and power through some of the more technical sections. I ended up with a 1:14:11 bike split which was 3rd in my AG and 33 overall. There is still work to be done on the bike as far as building a bigger engine, but I felt I was much improved from the last race.

I hit transition and absolutely blew through it in 24 seconds! This was the fastest time, including the pros. I really have T2 down to a science now.

Out onto the run and back onto similar terrain as the bike. The course is a lot of short punchy climbs that will take you above lactate threshold for a bit, and recovery on the downhill side if you can keep turning your legs over. This is a really fun run with all of the ups and downs. The run also went through a little marsh section that had me knee deep at one point. Totally Xterra! The end of the run is in a wooded section that is very twisty/turny, with plenty of roots to trip you up. Oh, and the climbs are in there too.

I felt that my run was much improved from BC. I had a lot of snap on the climbs and kept moving up on the run. The hill intervals are really paying off, so i will continue to make those a key run workout in my plan. I finished the 7K (4.35 mi) run in 32:23, which was 3rd in the AG and 21st overall. That left me with an overall time of 2:09:21 which was good for 27th overall and 3rd place in my AG, so mission accomplished. This was a much better race for me, other than the swim. Overall I'm feeling good about the changes that I've made to training and I'm looking forward to the next test; Xterra Lory this Sunday August 29th.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lessons from Early Races - Applied to Future Training

Coming out of the Beaver Creek race I was pretty disappointed in how I raced. I really thought that my fitness was, or should have been greatly improved. I had really put in a lot of quality intervals on both the run and the bike. The good side of a bad race, if you have the right approach, is a renewed vigor to just kill it in training. That was my mindset as I formulated the plan to bring me to nationals. First, let me explain what I think I learned from the BC race.

1. I need to warm up better, longer, more race specific.
2. I need to take my cycling training to the mountain, on the mountain bike.
3. See number 2 above and apply to running.

To be more specific with #2 and #3, I need to work on more explosive strength in both cycling and running. On the bike, I put in a lot of quality threshold, VO2 and anaerobic capacity work through focused intervals on the trainer. The problem is, those intervals were done with a resistance/cadence in the mid 80's to low 90's. Many times due to the terrain on a mountain bike you have to generate the same watts at a lower cadence. This was a big hole in my fitness as I found at Xterra 4 corners and at the BC race.

On the run I had done a lot of hill training, but not a lot of intervals on the hills, so I was lacking the ability to be strong for 1-5 minute hills and on hills that are long and steep like BC. I experienced the lack of snap on short, punchy climbs in Xterra 4 corners, and the lack of strength on the long, steep hills at BC. I attributed my lack of snap in the 4 corners race to having just raced the Bolder Boulder, but I think my results at BC proved that it was the hole in my fitness more than fatigue.

So, with that, more mountain biking with plenty of climbing will be on the training schedule. One day of focused higher intensity hill repeats of varying lengths, and another day of long mountain bike rides in the mountains around 2.5 to 3 hours will be 2 key workouts, with the rest of the cycling training being done either on my road bike, trainer, or mountain bike, with less structure, and more of a time/aerobic endurance work. When I do have to do my training on the trainer, whether due to weather or time constraints, I will focus more on lower cadences. One of the key workouts that I will do on the trainer no matter what is a ride with 2x20 mins at threshold wattage, with 30 second bursts into the anaerobic power zones every 2 minutes. This will closely simulate the extended climbing for Ogden.

On the run I am incorporating on long trail run that is around 1.5 hours and a trail hill interval workout into the schedule as the 2 key running workouts each week, with probably 2 other mid-distance, aerobic intensity runs worked in.

Jaime has been great in helping to redesign my approach to swimming as well, with more sprint work, and changing pace more often. She's great at coming up with tough workouts that keep things fresh in the pool. That's important, because when the weather is nice like it has been, and it gets later in the season, my motivation to swim drops quite a bit.

So, this was my plan coming out of the BC race. I felt confident in the plan and was ready to attack it. I came out blazing and had a good 1st run in the first training session after the race. Then the wheels came off and I couldn't get the energy to do anything later that day. I took the evening off, and then ended up basically taking the whole week off from structured training. I quickly realized that I needed a mental and physical break after building for the BC race for 20 weeks. The decision turned out to be the right one. The break allowed me to really recover physically, and I found that coming out of that week I had gained quite a bit of fitness. In hindsight I went in the Beaver Creek race a little bit overcooked. A really good lesson to learn for future planning!

So, the newly developed approach just got a one week delay. The next post will be about the Xterra Indian Peaks race and an assessment of how the changes in my training has worked.

Keep it in the big ring.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beaver Creek Race Report

The Mountain Regional Championship/Xterra Beaver Creek was my first "A" race of the 2010 season. I had designed my training so that I would peak for this race. Qualification for the Xterra World Championships in Maui and the ITU offroad world championships in Spain were on the line. The race course starts at around 7000 ft and only goes up from there. The bike course has about 3600 feet of climbing, while the run has about 1500 feet of climbing.

My training leading into this race was pretty intense and very race specific, i.e. brick workouts on Mt. Falcon with lot of climbing on the bike and run.

We stayed at a friend's house in Frisco on Friday night, so the wake up call luckily wasn't as early as it could have been. Good food and good company. So far, the weekend was starting off well.

Race morning rolled around and we went to set up transition areas. This was a split transition race, so we had to drive up to the resort to set up T2, then drive back down to the lake for warm up and T1 set up.

The Swim: The swim was a two lap swim in Nottingham Lake in Avon, CO. To fit in 1500 meters in this little lake, we used just about every bit of the space. The swim was a deepwater start. I was in the 2nd wave, so I had a minute to get settled after getting in the water and then the gun went off. The swim was a pretty bad one by my standards. Because of the size of the lake and the number of people, it was full traffic for the entire swim. The worst part was that I got kicked on my wrist, which knocked my Garmin 310XT off. It must have broke where the pins on the strap meet the face of the watch. So, it is now somewhere at the bottom of that lake. So, needless to say, the race didn't start off very well.

Out onto the bike and my bad day continued. I just couldn't find my legs. I lacked snap again on the bike, similar to 4 corners. I just kept getting passed on the first stretch of singletrack climbing until we got to the part of the course that gets onto an access road at Beaver Creek. My legs finally started to come around and I started to pass some people back. The entire time I was having a hard time pacing, since I didn't have my heart rate monitor to use as a guide.

The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful, other than I kept slowly picking off some more people and bridged back up to a group that had passed me in the first half of the race.

So, at this point I have my first 3 takeaways from the race.
1. Wear the Garmin under my wetsuit.
2. I need a longer, more focused warm up on the bike and run before the race.
3. More strength and mountain bike specific training is needed, with less emphasis on super focused trainer sessions.

I came into T2 and flew through it. It was one of the best T2 times of the day. Out on the run I felt decent to start, but faded quickly on the steeper climbs. The ascents were even steeper than what I had trained on. In addition, the heat was starting to get pretty intense. I passed a few people and then got passed by a few. In net, I moved up a little bit on the run, but my time was a long way away from what I expected.

In the end I posted a time of 2:52:15 with swim, T1, bike, T2, run splits of: 25:14, 1:40, 1:35:29, :53, 48:57. That was good for 8th in my age group. Unfortunately that means no Maui or Spain. I learned more on the run though. I need more hill work. Again, I need to take the good fitness I have and make it more Xterra specific. In my next post I"ll talk about the changes I'm making, what the real key workouts will be, and the general plan for Ogden (US National Championships).

Happy Training