Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mid Season

I can't believe that we are at the middle of the cyclocross regular season already. Where the heck did the time go? For that matter, the year is pretty much shot as well. Dang, time is flying by. Must be (getting) old.

This is the point in the season that it become really important to retain focus. It is also the point in the season where it becomes really difficult to retain focus. The days have gotten much shorter so weeknight after-work light is reduced to next to nothing. This is soon to be compounded very soon by the time change, which will guarantee that we have no daylight left in the evenings. Accept the fact that it is going to be dark. Riding at night is actually really fun. Invest in the best light system that you can afford. There are some really good and pretty reasonably priced models out these days. For cyclocross I've found a 350 lumen LED system is mostly adequate. A 500 or 600 lumen system is plenty and you can get one of the all in one LED systems like that for a little over a hundred dollars. I like the Niterider and have used their systems since I started night riding, about 20 years ago.

At this point the weather also starts to come more into play as well with temperatures that swing wildly from the start of an evening ride to the end, after the sun is long gone. We are forced to overdress for the start of the ride, which results in getting sweaty only to be cool later in the ride when the temperature drops along with the intensity. Fight the urge to overdress and instead dress for what you have at start time and then throw a vest in your back pocket for later. Use accessories like arm, knee or leg warmers to compliment your shorts and jersey rather than bundling up in tights and jackets. Being comfortable during the main portion of the ride is the goal. Being a little cool at the bookends of a ride is less important.

The other important thing to realize is that you not only need to be training hard, but you must listen to your body. If your motivation is low and you feel sluggish or if your legs feel like lead, you may need to take it easy for a couple of days. Personally, on recovery days I like to actively recover, which means a short really low intensity spin on the bike. These are the bike-path evenings where I literally go out for an hour and just spin. No power meter needed, just listen to the legs. You should never, ever feel them loading up. The goal is to be recovered for the weekend. As we all know, during cyclocross season in New England, every weekend has a cross race both days. Because there is a cross race each day of every weekend and due to the fact that we just can't get enough cyclocross, we are compelled to race every weekend. That takes toll. Effective planning and training during the week is crucial if the competition goals are to be met.

By the way, I'm historically really bad at all of this. That said, I'm getting much better at it. It has only taken seven seasons to make the realization that I can't race every weekend of the year from April through December and expect any kind of results. You need to pick and choose and tailor your race schedule to match your realistic limitations. For me that means less racing in general, at least during the summer months. That helps with the physical aspect but also helped with the mental aspect.

For years I beat my head against the wall trying to race a full road, MTB and then cross season. I've never been much of  a road racer so scaled way back on that front this year. I also scaled back on the number of MTB races as well and cherry-picked the ones that had the better courses or were convenient. The result was that I ended up with pretty good results and more importantly, I wasn't burnt out when the cyclocross season started. I'm also not burnt out half way through despite having 7 straight double weekends in a row (plus one triple) and 16 races in already this season. I'm honestly still looking forward to the rest of the season and am even starting to give some thought to extending the season into January. Will hold judgment there though.

This is what seems to be working for me and I'm not trying to be preachy or anything. Everyone is different and what works for someone in their mid 40's isn't always the hot setup for some in their 20's. My point I guess is that if you are going to take the time and make the effort to compete, you should consider doing the best you can with your ride schedule for the rest of the week. The hope is that they compliment each other and help you attain whatever your goal may be.

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