The Dream Path to Your Start Line


I have been busy. I think a lot about living in NYC region and how busy people are around here – I am one of them. With 15 hours/week to commit during peak training loads, I would like to race a few endurance MTB races this year and see how I can handle that distance at a certain intensity. You prepare, you race, you learn. I am trying to generate a training system that accomplishes two things: the training best fits my current training availability, and I am never set up for disappointment along the way. I want to build through summer, final race of season is the Stewart 45 on July 17th. Boom.

Manic Mondays are my heavy workday at Elite Endurance and I prepare for that by making Sunday easy, local, home, on top of things. Every Monday, wake up early and wake up charged, I need to be ready to perform at A+ level for 10-12 hours. I am finalizing schedules for everyone and then going through emails coming in, making sure everything is perfect. I also am blocking out training ideas for the coming week. Getting done with work by 7 is an A+++.

On Mondays, busy, no real time to train – I do try to powerwalk the dog early Monday to set precedent for good week and then take her out at lunch to get body moving, get loose. I have excellent wooded trails out my back door and also can do a 2-mile walk around the canyon Grand condo complex, up and down, spectacular views. I love Riverdale NJ. I try to drink tons of fluid on Mondays, water and tea, making sure hydration is zero issue after hard weekend. I try to snack on fresh fruit and salads all day.

On Mondays when the weather is shit or freezing, I will go to the gym from 7-10pm and do long circuits of exercises focusing on legs, light upper body, core, stretching, each circuit is about 15 minutes. Depending on time of year, the workout is either excruciating death pain or is high-rep, no-fatigue training stress. Either way, the goal is near-zen meditation and natural focus.

From mid-March to mid-August, the lunch Friday gym workouts are very light, high-rep leg presses and body-weight exercises, perfect form, no fatigue, splicing in relaxing balancing, core, stretching – I have come to love this Friday time.

Saturdays are a heavy day for training and this Saturday I did the Hell of Hunterdon (will comment on that in a moment).

With a heavy weekend day, I try to keep the other day very light, to catch up on everything and also get 100% recovery enhancement. Today (Sunday) I am going to do a light spin easy for 2 hours over flat-rolling terrain, low-endurance pace.

Monday, I am planning a light tempo ride for 50+m outside on the PowerCranks, peppering the legs for business on Tuesday: a 3-hour brisk ride from my house towards Park Ridge and Tappan and snaking back through Ridgewood and going up the backside climbs of Hawthorne and Prospect Park. If I ride hard and keep tempo+ pace on the flats and drill all climbs at steady subthreshold/LT pace, my time is around 3 hours. This ride will give me good gauge of current fitness. I have years and years of data riding this loop, hill lap times, PRs in power, splits, elapsed time overall, etc, and I am curious where this TUE ride stacks up.

Wednesday will be 4 brisk hours in the woods, getting the Superfly dialed. I don’t know what my first race of year will be, probably the H2H endurance race at Allamuchy in April. I wanted to race in March but part of me almost wanted more of a test, racing not necessary. I had that test at Hell of Hunterdon.

Which reminds me: if not this Wednesday, but certainly by April 5th or 12th we will start the Wednesday Worlds MTB Practice. Wheels down 6pm at Lewi Morris, meet at Sunrise Lake. We will do one easy lap, one throwdown lap, and then a final lap, where I suppose everyone will ride 100% how they feel. Can have rad conversation or food/meal post-practice, whatever. Wednesdays are long days for me, will always plan to get endurance work Wednesday, then ride each WWs in appropriate fashion.

Thursdays I try not to ride. A day to catch up on work, get dinner with my father, and try to relax into evening and get to sleep early, beautiful sound sleep. Sets the tone for a relaxed Friday morning, doing some red-flag work that must be attended to, then going to the gym for a loose 2 hours, early meal, just getting ready for the weekend….

Saturday was the Hell of Hunterdon – closet to me, just over an hour south on 287. I coach one of the promoters for this super event, one of the biggest and notorious rides in New Jersey – the roads of this route are exactly as advertised – you are ripping a Belgian classic. He had asked over the winter if I could ride, and I also advertised it amongst EE athletes and we had a strong turnout – all riders rode better than they had previously.

I didn’t really have a plan. I didn’t know what the front group would do, but I wanted to be down for anything. I knew the lead group of the ride could go very fast, make for a super-hard day. Uncharacteristically, I got a late start on Saturday morning by sleeping through my alarm (COMA sleep) and had to hustle to walk dog, get bike/gear to car and then vaminos. I went to the Montgomery HS parking lot, parked, got ready like a fireman in the car, then pedaled briskly to the lodge, where it was bedlam with crowds and people hustling around last-minute. The scene was surprisingly very well-run, I was impressed. I felt like I was late, I was able to go to the bathroom within minutes of entering the lodge, still with time to get to the front group at the start line.

The crowd was immense. I slotted up near a few racer guys I recognized, and after a two-minute warm-up by the announcer, the siren sounded and the motorcycle caravan boomed off. The line of riders moved forward into a wedge and I squeezed forward and found myself near the front, in that pocket up front, a steady tempo pace early on.

The motorcycle took us through a few towns. The police blocked off and opened stop-sign intersections for us, we railed through in swift manner. Riding bikes feels good, I must say.

In the rhythm of the day, I just wanted to stay up front, see what would happen. I had other friends doing the ride who wanted to get to the front so I was excited to see how the entire day would shake out – I could not believe how many bike riders were at the start of this event – it was surreal, like a crowd to see the pope.

I had two bottles and two Hammer flasks and three Clifbars. The terrain was fast, rolling all day, wide wooded roads, narrow dirt or path climbs with fast or techy-turned downhills. There were many dirt sections throughout the day.

Early on, we rolled into an off-road section at max speed and some of the turns got a bit loose. I have been MTBing, I ride cyclocross, I’ve done Battenkill, I knew nothing of the course, so my goal was to just keep a clear vision in front of me – ride to my limit but make ZERO mistakes. Some of these guys were bombing these dirt roads like professionals on-course – the site was impressive.

I worked to stay up near the front, assessing the situation. I was overdressed with headband and glove choice, was looking for a place to strip down and change gloves. The first hour was fast and I managed to do both. I also had to pee, which I was not used to, I timed that wrong, I had to pee BADLY 40 minutes into the ride and was able to get to the back on a fast steady downhill, a farm downhill into nowhere,  drop back, pee, and get in aero-tuck and catch back on. That was a great moment, being able to do that without having to drop from the group.

Through the chaos of the dirt and ruts and FAST downhills, I lost both of my bottles. I used strong metal cages, too, but I just jarred both loose, and different times, too – goodbye lucky bottles. Eh, rituals are for the weak, anyway.

Amongst the front 6-8 riders, in this group, I felt the weakest on the climbs. I was fine on the flats but at their mercy up the climbs. On a long dirt climb mid-way, I began to lose pace, the grade wasn’t even that steep, I just do not that sustained power at that distance or threshold yet, I was fading fast and pinned.

I had to back off – it happened once before. I would back off on the climb, still redlined, just below redline, try to get my bearings, try to recover, push through it, this is the time you need to go, you crest the climb, then rip the downhill with smooth fluidity, then get onto the flat county road, get the cadence up, get low and aero and look to pull back the group. Not fun, staring around the beautiful greenery and sunshine of Hunterdon forest and you’re alone, not necessarily closing that 20-second gap to the group in front of you. Just over halfway into a hilly 88-mile ride and you’re gapped and hammering 27 mph with the wind to hold the gap. This is my Saturday LOL.

The third time I was gapped, I was gapped for good. I resigned myself to riding a brisk tempo+ pace on the flats, I can handle the rest, whatever happens happens, head down and ride, it’s time to ride.

We had blasted by the first rest stop early on – I was prepared to not stop at all, so this was fine. I was hammering alone for about 15 minutes when I rolled up to the second rest stop at a house at the top of a long dirt downhill. The leaders were all there.

I rolled up with zero bottles. I leaned against the table. A woman gave me a red Amrita bottle that had sports drink in it. I took a Clifbar out of my pocket and devoured it. I guzzled some water from a paper cup, then bounced.

The guys behind all followed, and the one mistake I made was I wasn’t paying attention through a loose dirt section, I went sideways a bit, I went from 2nd to last as these guys all trucked past me. I had to chase hard to get back on, and then on a long paved highway climb I was dropped. Permanent departure.

I put my head down. 20-25 miles or so to go? I dunno. I didn’t look back much, just stayed low in the drops on the flats, cadence up, and trying to never feel dead up the climbs. I had a 39×25, so my gearing was a bit big for some of the steeper portions on dirt. I found myself standing or grinding. No escape.

I knew a group would be catching me at some point, and it was 5 riders. The guy leading goes, “We spent thirty-five minutes trying to pull you back!”

We worked well together and rode to the final hill section. On the climb, a tall fellow with an accent was able to accelerate away, out of the saddle and attacking the bottom of the climb. I was at the front and riding steady hard. He rode away from me, I rode away from the group, he and I stayed 20 seconds apart to the finish and we both passed one rider. Pretty rad, a solid 15+ minute chase to the line. Someone told me I was 7th finisher. If true, that would be A+ performance on my part.

As I hit the first climbs of the day, I realized I wasn’t prepared for what I getting myself into LOL. My weight is high at 167 and I’ve been doing virtually zero V02+ work – the pace was pinned, I felt at the mercy of the leaders. The goal was to finish with main group with zero issues so I was very pleased with the 4-hour performance. With exact same training build, I would like to come to HoH next year with smaller gearing and weight at 157, that would be gnarly day. #goals

April-July is the season for me. I would like to race at the Allamuchy endurance race in April and feel competitive. I imagine there will be a few very fast guys, I hope to hold with the front of the main group, that would be a great first race. To feel strong throughout and have zero disaster, that is winning.

With the warmer weather now coming, I am excited to get outside more, start to train hard on the climbs, just get on the MTB more, the volume will come easy, the training has prepared for it. I am trying to balance the year so I’m not nuked by May or June – these will be prime training months.

I am excited for the year. Laura Slavin is already performing at very high level. Our DietRx nutrition counselor is also an Elite Endurance athlete and is the #1 short-course triathlete in the state of NJ – Gabrielle Czernik, you’re gonna hear from her more often. My neighbor finished the guesthouse and now we will start guesthouse podcasts with select guests every week. I am planning to travel to VT a week before the Millstone race in mid-May, a fun week up in Vermont, working hard from the road, then having a solid race, then quick drive home.

The warm nights will soon be here. To the side of the garage, a firepit is already built. My friend is going to build a ledge deck on an overlooking rock, just near the woods – with the fire going at night, with the wind off the mountain and coming through the forest, that ledge will be an awesome place to start writing from.

One goal for 2016 is coming up with a weekly schedule (work, training, personal) so I can write more. All morning, I work on training schedules. Afternoon, I am writing emails. I train at 3 or 4, I would like to find time to write in the evenings. The days are getting longer at perfect timing. I would like to start writing the book, Elite Endurance, the Bible for Endurance Sports Performance, by late-May, it is all outlined, I just need to write the chapters.

So many things. Life is good.


Coach's Diary | Sunday, April 24th, 2016 | | |