Wednesday, August 29

Beating a Dead Horse With an Old Dog's Tricks

I'm repeating a life long pattern in my MTB training (it's all training). 

As I've explained before, back when I was an avid hiker I would pull up to a trailhead in the Red River Gorge, I'd get out of the car and start walking, and I wouldn't stop moving  until I collapsed against the car many hours later. I walked over, under, around, and through any and all obstacles that presented themselves before me. 

My hill climbing tactic was to just keep moving, no matter how slow I ended up going, never stopping to rest, and when I'd reach the flat ridge top I would just keep walking until I'd recovered. Without knowing it I was teaching myself to recover while still on the move. I think that's a key skill for endurance athletes.

I relearned that lesson on the Mordwand climb recently. I learned it again with a vengeance. Recovery comes later, on easy ground. Never stop the fight while the battle rages hot around you.

Another lesson I've relearned, which I've alluded to, is that becoming a better boulderer makes you a better climber. I've been applying that to my cycling. Even as I sat in my starting corral at Leadville I knew I had neglected to refine my MTBing skills. For two years I'd focused my efforts for on mileage alone. Even my training for speed involved just upping my overall average speed over moderate to long distances. 

Immediately after Leadville I embraced two realities: one, that I needed to become 100% comfortable riding 100% of the time clipped in, and two, I needed to foster my bike handling skills far beyond my current abilities. Number two included technical ascents, burly steep ascents, more confidence in descending, and staying on the bike at all costs.

I need to get comfortable with the bumps and bruises associated with giving it my all. Then I can throw out fear and focus on effort. I'm not saying I will ever be comfortable with the idea of breaking myself, or causing irreparable damage to soft or hard tissue. I want to enjoy my life, not spend it regretting and healing. But, having said that, I also realize I'm not pushing myself as hard as I could.

My last ride on South Table Mountain I stayed clipped in the whole ride, up the short, steep, loose climb from Quaker, all over the top of the mesa over rock and yucca, past a rattler, down the cobble-choked road, and then I started down the Ancient Palms Trail. There's one crux move on the descent: a tall a-frame rock crossing the trail. I've ridden over it clipped in before, but as I approached this last time I unclipped in fear, went to pedal to get over it, accidentally clipped back in, hit the rock and stalled and fell over into a bed of basketball sized igneous rocks. Ouch!
You could say the rides I've been doing lately have been more like boulder problems than long rock climbs. In the relative scheme of things, a long ride like the Leadville 100 is a long route while my wallering around on North Table Mountain in the predawn darkness is a boulder problem. 

So, combining my tried and true tactics, if I can successfully tackle the technically and physically harder sections of Leadville, or other rides, with ease and confidence, and then use the easier sections between the major challenges to recover from my efforts, then I should be able to up my speed significantly.

You might ask how I pull speed out of that equation. Remember, I'm really bad at algebraic thinking. I'm a spatial genius, not a math geek.

No longer am I a closet mountain biker. I have come to all of these realizations in the context of my Leadville and Alpine Odyssey training, but I also want to get much better so I can just enjoy mountain biking to the fullest.  

I've been trying to articulate a post in my mind expressing why mountain biking appeals to me so strongly and why I denied it for so long. Soon...

For those non-climbers out there...

The difference between a boulder problem:

And a roped rock climb:


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