The latest episode of the podcast has a couple interesting but not simple to answer questions.
These questions are really a matter of who you are, and what you are trying to do. What is your goal?
A second question is to ask what you are trying to do and what the main thing that you need to do is? If you want to mountain bike you should mountain bike. The other stuff (foam rolling, really low cadence, foam rolling, ice paths, altitude etc.) are just the extra 1% that you might add after you have done your time on mountain biking (or your goal)
Think about those ‘world class basics’ or the 80:20 concept … what makes the good people good? Is it the crazy balance exercises or the time they spend in the goal sport that isn’t as glamorous to post on social media?
Have you been trying to get the log hop figured out?
Do you want to learn how to bunny hop your bike? This post outlines the 5-step system that I use in Smart Athlete bike-skills sessions around North America. We use this system for cyclocross racers learning to barrier hop, roadies wanting to hop curbs and potholes and, of course, mountain bikers bunny hopping logs.
Thanks to Canadian Cycling Magazine we have some super production of my 5-step system to share. This is the basic system I use to help athletes of all abilities get better at logs. This might be a pro looking to hop giant logs smoother, or simply avoid race-ending flats. For beginners getting that first front-wheel-lift is so motivating. Whatever point you at in your log hop/bunny hops give these steps a try.
Regardless of the step that you are on, remember all of these steps are used during a ride. Sometimes we jump things and sometimes we pummel over them!
Whether you are new to cycling or an expert, taking time to review the 5 steps we use on the trail and road to clear obstacles is worthwhile. There is always an element we can progress, using higher logs, more abrupt roll-overs, more speed / less speed. Enjoy the never-ending process of moving your bike over obstacles!
Beginners often need to work on level 2 and 3 (wheel lifting) while advanced riders, who can do the Level 4/5 (‘bunny hop’), often surprisingly need help with level 1 to be smooth and over terrain at speed (rolling over things smoothly / rear-wheel awareness).
If you are looking to progress quickly or finding you are stuck on one of the stages why not try a skill session with Smart Athlete?
Inevitably or eternally, #CrossIsComing, so when you decide it’s time to get ready for CX season what workouts are best for you to do?
The best workouts for one athlete may not be the best ones for you. Your friend, or your favorite pro, may be very good at high power, sprints and spend the summer racing road while you may be a time-trialist all summer with limited time to train. You may be much older or younger, or you may have a background in BMX-racing or no cycling background at all! We need to consider many factors when choosing our key workouts to get ready for cyclocross to ensure we have worked on our limiters.
Below are three general scenarios that athlete ‘types’ that you may fit into. I have included some workout ideas that you may want to include as cyclocross season approaches. I am not suggesting all of these be done in a single week, but you may very well find yourself spending a month on each of these ‘scenarios’ as you go through the cross season and your abilities and strengths evolve.
1) Technically limited, struggle with continuous but undulating efforts of cross
If you haven’t spent much time off-road, especially racing off-road than cross practice will be your friend, and getting skill coaching will also be valuable. If you can get riding on a cross course frequently, or setup some obstacles around your house, this will be very helpful.
Workouts that require you to alternate your output and skills will also be great. Micro-intervals where you ride hard and easy (15 seconds hard /15 seconds easy and 30/30 are most common). Most often these are done for 10-30 minutes and should feel very much like the unrelenting hard work of cyclocross!
Including running in these micro-intervals can be another way to simulate race situations and improve technique (once you have the basics down at slow speed with low fatigue). Try building a short loop that makes you ride hard for ~30 seconds, recover on a descent or set of corners, then dismount for a barrier and do a run up a steep hill, then do a bunch of corners back to the start of the short loop for a 1-3 minute repetition.
I usually do 1-5 x 1-2 min rounds together, take a 5-10 minute break then do another 2 sets. Mix very short and maximal efforts with longer efforts in another session in the week to get really fun and specific workout.
2) Struggle with ‘going all in’, starts, attacks, sprints
This is common in endurance mountain bikers, gravel-grinders, Fondo-riders or time-trialists. Putting yourself into some criteriums, hard group rides or short cyclocross practice races will be helpful in developing the love of going hard!
Many times cross practices will include some start repetitions, which really help develop your ‘starting routine’ and your starting power. On your own, you can do this by practicing 6-10 short (10-20sec) start efforts from standing at the beginning of a few workouts each week.
If you are not a sprinter or struggle with maximal short efforts, it is worth putting a focus on this by doing a focused workout on sprinting or very short efforts with full recoveries (8+ minutes). It is quite valuable to get skill-coaching for standing and sprinting as your power can increase simply by learning the technique of sprinting.
These start efforts might be paired a workout that puts you on your limit and then makes you attack over that intensity. These might be called ‘over-unders’ or ‘threshold with bursts’ depending on the coach but basically, we want to ride at a hard pace and then surge for 15-60seconds before returning to that hard pace.
Start at 2-3 reps of 11 minutes (1 minute hard/4 min threshold/1 minute hard/4min threshold/1min hard). Use longer recoveries 5-10 minutes of light pedaling to ensure you will push the pace. While it is tempting to do this on cyclocross course it is best done on the road to ensure your power output is hard alternated with very hard, and to track your progress.
3) Great technical skills, low fitness, or tired/sick from a lot of summer racing
Did you spend the summer in the bike park, racing BMX, winning every criterium, or were you off the bike a lot for injury or vacation? If you believe you will be limited by your engine more than your driving skills then bias towards extended road-endurance sessions 2-3x a week. If your technical ability is sufficient this can be polished or maintained around the focused intensity days and/or at a weekly cross practice, which could be included after intervals, or for fit athletes with a lot of cyclocross skills, after some endurance road riding.
*If you are racing twice on a weekend during the cross season this can also be a nice way to spend your weekdays to provide enough recovery between weekends while maintaining some training load.
Once you are back to feeling good on the bike during these endurance sessions you can start to include 1-2 sessions of threshold intervals per week. Progress a set of 3 x 10 minutes towards a burly 2 x 20-minute session over 4 – 8 weeks keeping an eye on your intensity (more is not more). Recovery is 5-10 minutes typically.
In all of these scenarios, the focus/interval days will vary but these in all cases these couple of days should be surrounded by sufficient rest, cross-training and low end, steady endurance. 1-2 days of focused training (intervals/skills) with lower intensity and recovery will ensure you make progress in the desired areas. Work hard on the hard days then recover and allow yourself to improve!
I worked with Canadian Cycling Magazine on 3 videos to help enhance your cross experience. These 3 foundational skills critical to review and practice frequently if you want to have a great cyclocross season. The dismount and mount are also very important for mountain bike bikers and triathletes.
What is Your Big Crazy Goal this Season and Why did you pick it?
I did an Ironman last weekend. It was my first triathlon, which is sort of a crazy way to start doing a triathlon, but I like a good challenge and I had a lot of relevant experience that made an Ironman a doable but still Big Crazy Goal.
I thought a post on WHY a mountain biker would decide to spend time away from his mountain bike to learn to swim, ride hunched over in aero position and run for extended durations on the pavement.
Why and How can we pick BIG, CRAZY GOALS that will serve us well in the run-up to the event, provide a great experience during the event and provide skills/experiences we can use in life and future adventures?
Do our goals serve to let us grow or do they create stress at home because we miss too many important family parties, picking the kids up at daycare, missing dinner with your family? Do our goals move us further away from other bigger, longer-term goals?
For me, this meant considering if the time spent on swimming/running would hamper my ability to qualify for races or take me further away from being a ‘Consummate Athlete’, or have too much risk to health (ie. long term ankle/foot injury from running).
Crazy GOALS TO BOOST YOUR GOAL FITNESS
For a mountain biker, it might be worth scaring yourself by signing up for a big 200km Gran Fondo. The time on the road building endurance and speed skill will boost your fitness off-road. For a road cyclist looking at Leadville or a marathon MTB race the pedal stroke, technical skills and time spent climbing will often make road riding seem more comfortable and easier to focus on the steady road efforts.
MEDIUM VS. LONG TERM
Goal setting can be belabored, it is easy to spend too much time dreaming of ‘when we get there’. A goal in the long-term, dream stage might be intimidating but if success is achieved along the way, as a consequence of striving for excellence there are many wins before the ‘big-crazy-day’.
Giving thought to the process that you will take to get to the big-crazy-goal will help you decide if it is a goal worth chasing. It is, after all, largely about the journey.
WHY did I choose Ironman as my Big-Crazy goal?
A) scare myself into learning to swim, not just ok but sufficient that I could swim for extended periods, save my life, adventure at something like a Mudrun/OCR, Otillio Swim-Run, go surfing or just float down a river. Swimming WAS a basic human movement I lacked and one I wanted to really learn … anything short of an Ironman didn’t scare me enough to learn.
Molly on bike during Ironman Canada
B)Molly (my wife) wanted to do another Ironman. She had done one about 5 years ago, but very narrowly avoided DNF and was a wreck for much of it and for a while after. She was a second test subject to design/adjust training for, and since we had a similar goal this also meant we could do more adventures (err… training) together.
The social side of the goal and the fact we were stacking some learning/coaching with some social/relationship time made this big-crazy-Ironman goal make sense. We were able to go to the pool together and take over a lane, do a lot of running/walking together, some strength and a little bit of riding. This is not to mention the comfort of traveling to and navigating the hectic race-week environment and logistics!
Most importantly I was able to run and swim with a few friends in preparation and we have made a big summer trip out of MTB Nationals, the Ironman and a CX clinic in Virginia that we have been planning and looking forward to for many months. This is a big part of why goals and goal-setting with consideration on the process are important!
C) To Refine my aero position and look into tri/TT possibility and also understand demands for clients doing either discipline. Aero is becoming big in many disciplines, including mtb-xc, so why not force me to learn more. If a 2nd go at Leadville is in the cards–I am not saying it is–this will be very important as well.
** BIG thanks to Trek Torontofor helping get me on a very fast SpeedConcept for the event, I am going to have a post on all the gear I used in the coming days (will link here)**
D) Coaching – I like to know what athletes are going through. I can’t know every event but I pride myself on the range of movements I know well and this helps me build better training for clients. With more clients coming to Smart Athlete from the Tri-world to develop their bike/run I wanted to immerse myself in the training, literature, tools, tactics and race environment.
Through the Consummate Athlete Podcast, we had several guests provide really great information about doing your first Triathlon, going faster in one of the sports or learning the sports. Carolyn Gaynortalked about guiding visually impaired cyclists through Ironman,Rich Padywalked me through each sport and transitions,Terry From Total Immersiontalked about learning to swim for beginners and
Being able to chat with new coaches I wouldn’t usually chat with (i.e. swimming or tri specific) was a great experience. There are always concepts, technologies and, well, awesome people, in areas outside our usual. Pushing our boundaries in sport and being open to learning is awesome if you think about it this way.
Specific Ironman Bike training in Bromont, QC
So that is the story. I did it, I am done with triathlon but the year of adventures, skill acquisition, reading, new contacts/friends and training methods I can carry forward into new adventures, challenges and projects made this Big-Crazy goal well worth the investment and discomfort. Hopefully, this post will help you choose a great-big-crazy-goal this coming year.
So what is your next Big Crazy goal (and what are the benefits of completion and the process)?
Feel free to tell meabout it here, if you have questions or doubts. With some planning, many wild goals become much more accessible than you may think!
is the cardboard box route -> I still use this and breakdown is not huge … handlebars have to come off but that is usual with all bags I believe. Advantage is it is cheap, light (ie. pack other gear in it) and can be broken down to store easily in your rental car etc.
*if you can get a Trek Madone Box from a local Trek Dealer they are very big and open like a shoe box, which makes packing very easy !
The ‘Canadian’ Solution = Mid-Range with some Advantages
can also get a hockey bag (goalie bag – needs to be very big) and use that. Often Hockey bags travel cheaply or free!
=> Generally requires a bit more bike breakdown as fork has to come out usually.
-> I use this one I think key measure is 44cm or larger (often custom order)
I won a race on the weekend. This has happened a handful of times in my career, and only once before on a day with any mud (Crank the Shield 2008!).
I’ve been asked how I went so fast this past weekend numerous times over the last 24 hours. While I tend to avoid talking about my racing too much (well, apart from that 10 years of blogging about it … ) I believe that a few coaching clients and ‘questioners’ are missing the practical ‘how-to race in the mud’ skills/concepts and expecting that I had some sort of mechanical advantage or super secret PAM spray that kept mud from sticking to my ‘Blak Majik’ Trek Fuel. [Insert Technological doping, top tube and slippery tube jokes here to save time later]
I’m sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t any one magical thing that I used in the mud, cold and snow at the race, but there are a few things you can practice in your training and keep in mind next time the weather turns with the key items (explained below) being run more, move in a variety of ways, learn to dismount/mount and grab your top-tube if you are off your bike.
Photo of one of my most awkward moments in race. AVOID unexpected dismounts / dead-stops
by Hans “solo” Clarke on the Facebook (gallery here, need to be friends with her to view)
But before I get into it, I want to start with a caution: if you are an aspiring XC racer, the sport has changed. These days of mostly running disguised as mountain bike racing —are very niche and increasingly do not result in world championship titles, although they might be a small part of some high level races, the front runners are not running much usually. I am not getting overexcited by my win, I assure you that I am aware of my place in the sporting world and that many people would have beaten me had yesterday been a world cup or more lucrative points/money race. With that said, I have some sort of knack for running beside my bike, and you may find yourself in a race where that skill and the associated concepts help you achieve a result: they did just that for me at Bonelli this past March where I got UCI points in an UCI-HC event that had many very talented and motivated athletes… many of whom I ran past holding my top tube in the final few laps as several climbs turned to peanut butter, bikes got heavy, running became more important, and weather (motivations) worsened.
2005 Transrockies – This stage was one of the craziest days of my life, with the Mayor of Singhampton
An important background is that this ‘Snow-Cup’ at Highlands Nordic this past weekend aligned a lot of things I do often in training into an event. In my training, I am fairly specialized to mountain biking, but my rides typically involve sketchy sections, stairs, fences, giant logs, bush-wacking, significant hike-a-bike and frequent mounting (how to video) and dismounting (how to video). Clipping in without loosing speed and while on variable terrain is also part of this and worth practicing. Many of the people who know me well will describe certain sketchy rides that include those elements as rides that I would like or a “Pete ride.” Case in point, on the day after the race I was on my Trek Boone cross bike and tippy-toed across a river, was on gravel/grass for a bunch of the ride, scaled a sketchy barbed wire fence and ran through a wet ditch then remounted my bike with a cyclocross mount (onto my thigh) . It is just how I ride. I like to explore and put together crazy routes.
I run most days for 5-20 minutes in the morning, walk 5-20,000 steps a day, and Ride 12-18 hours most weeks. I think biggest week was maybe 25 hours this winter while down south. Strength is 1-3x a week and for last year has been mostly just some variation of my ‘anywhere core’ routine due to inconsistency of equipment with our travel. I also use a HIGH:LOW:OFF three-day cycle, meaning I go really hard on day 1, then long on day 2 and then off day 3 (walk/hike/light run/ light core routine/outdoor work). I Spiro-Tiger (respiratory training device) a couple of times a week and usually as part of race warm-up: it is most of my warm-up on crappy days to avoid getting cold and trashing my bike before the start.
My bike warm-up was about 15 minutes with 3 x ~1min efforts up grass hill by the start, getting HR >85% MHR (strava link to race/warmup). I also wear a lot of clothes to try and get sweating and warm before I get to the start-line, as we would for any race.
In terms of specific training, running is a very large part of ‘riding’ well in the mud. Skills to descend (attack position!) and pump/flow terrain on downhills is very important, if you over-brake you will be off your bike a lot more. If you have a smooth pedal stroke and seated power than you can stay on your bike more (I do not have this).
Should you train like me? It depends what your goals are. I obviously believe that we should all be able to move really well in a variety of ways–Molly and I did start a podcast on that topic–but if you are trying to be world class, you will need to focus on that disciplines key skills and not on finding swamps to run through while holding your bike. If you want to do an MTB stage race, like La Ruta or Transylvania Epic, then I would suggest working on your running, hike-a-bike, remounts and gravel road riding in addition to ‘standard’ mountain bike skills. (If you like ‘hacks’ then check out 10 ways to go faster at Leadville without training more). Being able to run, move well in a variety of ways (gym work helps) and perform in a variety of conditions is generally a good idea (and as shameless plug, the point of the Consummate Athlete Podcast…)
One of the athletes I coach and my TrekCanada team-mate, Sarah Fabbro, won the Junior Expert Women’s category. As I passed her, it was evident (to my delirious and biased mind…) that she was moving efficiently. Smooth dismount and running with her hand on the top-tube, using the bike to help keep her up on off-camber and not stressing that her tires were rubbing and/or that her chain was falling off. We had a laugh as we ran through a section together mid-race, the fun/smile is key. Run the flats/uphills and Coast/Pump the downhills. Clean the drive-train while you’re moving when long sections of pedaling arrive.
Following the example of the young riders who brave colder temps and often worse weather early in the morning
I have a rule that I don’t quit, and that I start if I register. The rule has been broken perhaps twice, three times at most. This rule of ‘the only way out is the finish line’ eliminates hesitation about the sanity or rationality of what we are doing and on days I feel like crap, it eliminates the option to quit. While I did cringe as we looked at the course before the start; thinking about what the race would cost in bike repair. We had committed to the day and so motivation to do the best I can, to see how my training experiments are going, is high. Eliminate hesitation, the only way out is the finish line.
I am also fortunate to have the support of a great mountain bike Ontario (and beyond) community. Highlands might be considered my ‘home course’ as well, indeed I have won another Ocup there and narrowly missed provincials last year. I have developed a reputation as a hard-man–I am not sure I deserve it given my affinity for the trainer and California–but when the race organizer and several racers are calling you for the win, there is a certain level of ‘social motivation’ where you need to/want to defend your ego/identity. I feel all of these things worked in my favor but are also possible for you to leverage by telling yourself and others that you like riding in the rain, that a race will be good for you and by committing to race/warm-up as you would expect someone who does well would. No complaining or hesitation in your routine.
I have the fortune of many years of great support from the Trek Store of Toronto/Barrie/Aurora and Trek Canada. We are a small team largely supported by “mom and dad” so while the store makes sure we have great equipment to minimize the chances of things like broken chains, flats, chain suck, etc. it is important to not use that as an excuse. I prepped my own bike, changed to bigger tires the day before a race and did a test-ride to make sure the discs didn’t rub and tires seated. I’m not sure that any of my equipment was that much different or specialized for the conditions. As I go through the results, perhaps there is something in the frame:tire clearance in the Trek vs. other brands, but I am not sure as many riders had good days for them on other brands: Liam on a dually Scott in second for Pro-Men as an example, where he (in his own words) had many new experiences on Sunday and was motivated to have another podium in his first year elite. Liam also has a cross-country running background. Even tires are debatable as many people did well with smaller/dry weather tires (e.g. Bontrager XR1).
The tires I used were Bontrager XR2 2.2 width, but I suspect a 2.0 or even classic mud tire with 1.8 and big knobs may have been tire of the day if you could find one. In a perfect, free bike world, I think a hard-tail would have been faster strictly because of less surface area for mud to grab onto and less overall bike weight.
Single-ring setups and drive-trains generally were an issue for both big component brands. We run SRAM and I had my chain come off a couple times. I wiped the ring with my hand and sprayed the cogs/derailleur and carried on. I believe not pedaling while spinning on low traction mud is a mistake that causes excess accumulation around the BB and rings and that is why so many people had problems. I dismount quickly to move forward faster for same energy if I am sliding. So this means many remounts/dismounts in sketchy areas and a lot of running. Many people rode more than I did, but if running is not efficient for them than that might have been their best option.
I tend to over-dress always so on inclement days I am usually wearing 1-2 more layers than others, so I am very used to performing (usually moderately) while wearing arm and leg warmers so I have ones that don’t fall down, fit well and that I am used to. During this weekend’s race I wore an undershirt, 2 jerseys with a vest in-between to keep the wind out, a trick I use this more often then I might admit to stay warm and not obviously wear a vest.
TextBook!! Grab your top-tube and run, lean on top tube as needed (Hans Clarke Photo)
The biggest thing to focus on is dismounting and grabbing the top tube quickly every time: traction is lost (basically any flat single track or uphill) and running for all you are worth. I rarely picked up bike the whole race, occasionally would lift rear wheel by lifting top tube and pushing on left grip/handlebar to keep rear wheel out of sticky mud areas. Having your right hand on the top-tube gives you something to lean on when running so when you slip you don’t fall. When tires got really gummy, I would jam my hand between the tire and frame at BB and seat stays while pushing forward and then hop on and mash until wheels rolled. Kyle Douglas of 3Rox, rode more than I did and was doing similar mud clearing while riding his bike.
I hit every puddle/wet area of dirt (look for rivers / puddles). All my water bottles went on drive-train, at key portions of race course where pedaling became more possible/efficient.
If I could race again today:
I would have put in the mud cleats into my shoes as it would have boosted my speed and prevented a few painful slips. I think narrower tires, 1.8 or 2.0 might have been really good given the mud accumulation / wheel rotation issues. Throwing down a gel might have added some extra pop for last 20 min of race, but at 1hr20 minutes and equal lap times it is hard to think fueling was huge issue.
It was a win. I cherish any I get, as there are few in most careers. Olympian Sue Haywood said something similar at this year’s Whiskey 50 rider meeting, where she was honored. Her point was to be a good person, have fun and enjoy your ability to get out there and work hard. I hadn’t really thought about it, especially for a rider of her caliber, but there has to be more to why you race than just the chance of winning, and for me, pushing my limits and riding stuff I find fun has been my goal for the duration of these 20 years. On the odd days that races line up closely with this skill-set I’ve created, I grab my top-tube and run for all I am worth, while the other races, I am content to pedal, learn something about myself and have some laughs with friends along the way. Perhaps this article gives you some ideas or motivation to find your favorite version of riding a bike and survival skills for the next mud-fest.