Riding and training for riding over the past few years has been an awesome lesson in physiology and psychology. Progress has been elusive the last few months...basically ever since the Tour or Hermann. But that's completely understandable and totally natural: sometimes training 15hours a week is what is needed to be better, while other times 3-6hrs/week is all I can possibly handle physically, practically, and even emotionally. The past few months I've started to learn more from my sleep patterns, food cravings, and general hunger then I've ever been able to pay attention to in the past. For the first time, I've been interpreting the signs of consistently poor sleep and intense sugar cravings too mean; take a few extra days off, skip the ride or workout, and/or focus on eating better. My thoughts on nutrition have evolved significantly this past year, as I deviated from my normal diet for a period of time and attempted an experiment of absolutely no animal products for 6 weeks. The reason for the trial, was mostly based on curiosity for the sports-performance effects and as a long shot attempt to see if eating a 'anti-cancer' diet would have any effect on my tumor markers. After the 6 week trial, I resumed my normal diet with a few tweaks and now feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I need for good energy, focus, etc. In terms of the effect on cancer, I'm not convinced and in fact, I felt like my insulin/blood sugar was all over the place eating such an intensely Cho-rich diet. I much prefer eating more meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit...blood sugar stays much more stable and I feel overall more focused, recovery quicker, and generally feel better.
Training-wise, the last month I've only been putting in 3-7hrs total a week. But my intensity has been there in the form of short, crazy-hard stength/cardio work in the gym with these guys. Rides have been down to 1-3/week and have mostly been for mental clarity and fun.
With all of that said, I really haven't known what to expect in June as far as racing. Last weekend I felt really strong on the bike. Yesterday was the Lost Valley race that was put on by my friend Matt James and many of his co-workers at Mesa. I had been at a family re-union in Louisiana Thurs-sunday morning...so traveling the morning of the race and not riding for a few days prior felt pretty weird.
I had never ridden the course before, but knew that there were multiple sections of fire roads, with very little total elevation change. I also knew that I wanted to race Cat 1 and would be doing 3 laps on an 11-ish mile course. Gear choice for the week was the highest I've ever ridden on a mountain bike: 36/18. Gino from Team Seagal was there and gave me the advice to hold wheels like I was in a road race and hope I was geared high enough to hold on.
At the start, I felt pretty good. From the line until the first turn was probably about a mile of flat fire road. I managed to hover somewhere between 3rd and 8th wheel, but man was I spinning like crazy. My cardio system took a pretty big beating and the whole time I was thinking about the proprioceptors I learned about in med school which are located in extremities and cause the body to activate the fight/flight response...cus man was my heart racing. I think I must have been going 120rpm or greater (note: rpm= revolutions per minute, as in pedal speed...not heart rate).
After we turned, I descended and then started up the big gravel climb. I ended up making a little break and riding right behind a lead group of Ploch, Breslin, Shottler, Devin Clark, fast DRJ guys, and ultra-hella-fast-for-an-old-guy TK. But then we hit the flats up top and I got dropped. Quick. I just couldn't transition from the climb to the flats quickly on a single speed.
The rest of the race was pretty similar to the first few minutes. The gear choice was good, but I definitely need to ride the big geared SS some more. Adaptation will take place...I can feel it. It was definitely a sign of progress and a positive experience.
Despite the heat, it was an awesome race. Matt did an awesome job. Shottler crushed it again and good races were had by many (Drew Black and Nate Means looked super strong!).
Thanks to TTM for the hand-off and the post-race refreshment! You guys rock. Hope the bike turns out well for ya.