Lower Priority Races – What to achieve

Spring is fast approaching and athletes everywhere are starting to think about key races to do well at and secondary races to use for training and motivation. Lower priority, B and C races, are commonly used earlier in the season, but these races can also be used throughout the year for training and more. Secondary races provide experience, training benefits, and as a stage to assess your early or mid-season form. So, targeting a handful of races throughout the year to use as a learning experience, in addition to training, is a good idea.

Experience

A race environment is unique in many ways. From the arrival to the finish line, a race can be a nerve wracking experience, especially when you realize there are a few hundred to a few thousand others looking to do the same thing as you. Gaining experience in this environment is important to helping you feel more comfortable, confident and able to avoid distractions leading up to and during the race. Athletes commonly get psyched out over the looks or attitude of their competition, creating self-doubt and a loss of focus. Practice and experience will help you avoid these types of distractions the day of the race. Continue reading

Core Strength for Endurance

Most, if not all, athletic movements require you to activate your core group of muscles to help complete the movement. From a quarterback’s throw to the pedal stroke of a cyclist, your core provides you with the stability and power needed through every motion. Every time you lift your leg, you rely on core muscles to do so. Each time you hop a log with a bicycle, ride through technical terrain, or make a turn, you rely on core muscles. So during a long ride or a race, a core that fatigues fast will lead to weaker legs, upper torso, and arms, which will lead to a loss of power, loss of coordination, and a slower effort. A weaker core will ultimately reduce your overall potential as an athlete.

Building endurance requires a repetitive movement such as the repetitive movements used to run or ride a bike. When you think about it, while you’re running or riding your bike, your legs are moving anywhere between 4000 to 6000 repetitions an hour. That’s a lot of movement. Moving your legs that often over hours and hours of time builds endurance. Continue reading

Bikepacking – The Coconino 250

With all the talk about bike packing going around, I decided I had to check it out for myself to see what the buzz was all about. I made the decision to bike pack the Coconino 250, a 250-mile mountain bike ride through the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. The Coconino was my first bike packing adventure indeed, and an adventure it was. I learned that mountain biking 250 miles on a mix of single track and dirt roads has its own unique set of rules and guidelines, different than any other form of back packing. Carrying everything you need to survive in the wilderness while riding trails on a mountain bike for three to four days is not easy.

Bikepack set up

Bikepack set up

Bikepack set up

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Fall Season Training

The thought of fall racing is like the flick of a switch when cooler weather arrives. The need for arm warmers, light jackets, and lights are all fun thoughts to have. I like to think about the change in scenery, riding my bike or running in a new atmosphere, as well as what type of training I need to focus on. So, whether your goals are to prepare for shorter events such as cyclocross races on the bike or a half marathon on foot, you are going to need to be extra smart. A full year of training will provide plenty of wear and tear to your body.

Entering into the fall season and continuing to train with the same amount of volume and intensity is not wise. The body can only handle so much training stress in one season whether your limits are to race 20-30 times a year or 5-10 times a year. The goal for most is to push individual limits for the season, which means you are going to build a good amount of fatigue mentally and physically.

Jordan Villella

If the year has been a busy one with races and training, you are going to need to reduce your volume of training as you transition into fall. A primary goal should be to focus on shorter, harder efforts with plenty of easy days, and recovery days. This will help elicit further gains in top end power. If your year has been a light one with fewer races or hours, you may be able to handle more volume and intensity in the late season but you will still need to be smart about it. Continue reading

Heat Acclimation

Dealing with the heat, at least initially, is always an issue. I think it is fair to say that most if not all endurance athletes have experienced some degree of cramps at one time or another, and most likely while racing or training on a hot humid day. Even those who live in hot climates need to acclimate somewhat to the hotter conditions of the mid-summer months of June, July and August, especially if you plan to race during that time.

When it is hot, especially when temps are in the 90-100F (36-40C) range, your body needs to work harder to keep your core temperatures in a safe range to allow the organs to function normally.

Jason Betz

One of the ways your body keeps cool is by circulating blood to the skin. This allows the internal heat building inside to be transferred to the environment. Core temperatures of 104F (40C) have been observed with marathon athletes. So, transferring heat to the outside plays an important role in helping your core keep cool. Continue reading

Strength and Conditioning needs of a MTB Athlete

As trail racing grows in popularity, the physiological needs of a mountain bike athlete become increasingly important to examine and understand. Racing a bike along a trail will require a different set of skills compared to racing on the road. Knowing how to power through a turn on the trail at 20 mph takes skill, and your entire body. Core strength is an essential element in off road cycling, as is the ability to produce greater amounts of power and force, working above your threshold ranges, for short to moderate durations. But core strength and the ability to perform short powerful efforts is not the only need of an off road cyclist. The ability to recover from each effort while continuing to pedal at a moderate to fast pace will play an even more important role.

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Developing muscle endurance is one of the most important performance factors for all mountain bike athletes. More than 50% of all mountain bike races are done at a moderate intensity, which requires muscle endurance. Approximately 30% of all races are spent working at a high intensity.

Trail races will require navigating rocky terrain, hopping over logs, or climbing short steep hills.  All of these challenges will require a rider to produce short to moderate bursts of power at threshold or above. The ability to recover from hard short efforts, while continuing to pedal at a fast pace, is a key element to increasing fitness and speed as a mountain bike athlete. Unlike a road cyclist who can draft from a team of riders while recovering, or coast downhill, a mountain bike cyclist needs to recover without the help of others while pedaling uphill or downhill on the trail. Riding downhill on a trail is work, requiring isometric muscle contractions and a strong focus. So the more power you can produce while recovering, working in your aerobic power ranges, and dealing with other forms of muscle fatigue, such as isometric contractions, the faster you will be in the race. Continue reading

Winter Training and Cycling

The extreme weather of each season makes training outdoors difficult, and at times, impossible. That does not always make it easy to maintain a steady training schedule, but that’s the way it goes. Both the cold temperatures of winter and precipitation can, in their own way, affect training outdoors. So, with seasonal limitations from Mother Nature in mind, you must keep realistic weekly goals, cross train with other activities, and ride outdoors when you can.

When temperatures are between 10-30F for most of the winter, and especially when there is precipitation along with those temperatures, indoor trainers provide the only option at times. Cycling indoors is different than riding outside, so logging a ton of hours inside often can be a tough task to accomplish. Continue reading

A coaching viewpoint

When coaching athletes, there is always a lot to think about on an ongoing weekly and monthly basis. Keeping in mind the goals for the upcoming season, weaknesses and strengths of each athlete, the seasonal focus, current weather conditions, available schedule, current training fatigue and more. So what is the best training focus for one athlete may not be the best focus for another athlete. The goal with each person is to create the most individualized program possible to push personal limits, but to also gear training towards a specific goal, whether the race goal is a short or longer distance event. Continue reading