I am pleased to announce a new element to my offerings here at Smart Athlete.
As requests for speaking to groups and also basic skill clinics are increasing I have been looking for a way to get out and spend in-person time with more people in more areas and make booking such an appointment more straightforward.
Each event will consist of a combination of a Bike Skills Clinic that really gets back to basics to make your riding on or off-road a lot more enjoyable, and a Conversation event following the clinic, where Molly discusses the top tricks learned while writing Saddle, Sore: A Women-Only Guide to You and Your Bike. Often, there will be wine. There will always be hilarity, and an open space where you can ask your most awkward cycling-related women-specific questions.
For groups that want to open the clinics and/or conversations to both sexes, we will have a third option for Uni-Sex events discussing bike skills, cycling hygiene and enough women’s specific ‘stuff’ to help dads, coaches and friends be better assets to their women cyclist friends.
So in brief if you have a club, team, store, race or group that would benefit from a night of conversation on being more awesome on your bike please contact us through the form (HERE)
Today’s post is a rehash of a guest post I did several years ago for a friend and client named Dirk (see his Leadville journey for some great content on how a ‘normal person’ might tackle Leadville.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), Leadville is not as simple as riding for hours on end. What I propose in this article is that we are all restricted by how much time and recovery capacity we have. Our fitness might be a big part of the time we get, but we can make sure we use all the fitness we have by looking beyond training hours in our preparation. My focus in this article will be largely on everything BUT pedaling or fitness, because to me, the regular ‘desk’ athlete with kids, a job, 2 dogs and a mortgage likely has a different event to take on then the pro who can take a month of volume into the event and do quite well.
1) Be A Student of the Race: Leadville 100 MTB Trail race or other Endurance Bike Races tend to have huge followings and so there is lot of content out there. When I signed up in 2011, I was looking for every resource (Leadville Pictures, Leadville video, race stories, Studies) to help guide my preparation. Now this may seem weird, as I am a supposed to be a Pro MTB racer and a Coach with a university degree, but the fact that Leadville is a different event remains true and my lack of Leadville, or even 100-miler, experience had me scared. Experience the race before you get there via media and simulating terrain.
2) Get better at riding fast down hills.
– Leadville has 12,000-14,000 feet of climbing … Yes, you should be light and fit to get up those hills, but dragging your brakes down 14,000 feet of downhill is costing you time too. Practice on technical trails and also on event-specific double track, ATV trail and gravel road and your average speed goes up considerably. Being comfortable on technical trails will make the leadville double track and road much easier to do while fatigued. Check out Bike Skills project on Ready position and/or attack position (basically standing up on the bike) are key places to start
3) You should get ready for the altitude, but don’t freak out about it
If you can go on a few camps to simulate your race pace at even moderate altitude, that will help. In any case accept it will be a bit harder and not the same as home, it is part of the challenge and many/most people do no altitude adaptation. Altitude tents and devices such as SpiroTiger can be an asset in maximizing your adaptation to altitude and enhancing your respiratory system to help you be more comfortable with the increased breathing requirements at altitude, and while racing/riding/existing. Both devices can be rented from many companies. Smart Athlete can rent Spirotigers (email peterglassford @ gmail) . I also like getting clients to practice breathing through their noses during their day and while on rides (start slow and breathe deep with BELLY). You should find you can eventually build your wattage while nose breathing towards ‘tempo’ (about leadville pace) AND (in my opinion) this first experience with restricted breathing helps you be mentally, if not cardiovascular-ly ready in Leadville.
Beta-Alanine and Sodium Phosphate-loading are two potentially beneficial supplements to help maximize Oxygen dependent performance (under ‘threshold’), which is important at altitude. Ensure you have used both appropriately in training prior to Leadville and make sure you take care of all the (CHEAPER) basics first, such as fueling, sleep, mobility and bike skills. A special tip is to try to stay lower then Leadville the week of. There are many cool towns at slightly lower elevation and I think it is worth getting better sleep, with a few rides in Leadville vs. Being in Leadville all week.
4) Eat enough, but not too much. Minimize the digestive work your stomach has to do. Save that energy for pedaling.
Many athletes make the mistake of eating to many solids and overwhelming their stomachs with foods/fuel that they have not game-played over distances, at specific intensities and/or while not at altitude. We may not be able to test/Game Play any or all of these, BUT we can take notes from experienced athletes and the averages. Generally, focus on more liquid sources of calories at 2-300kcal/hr. Maltodextrin-based mixes/gels seem to be most digestible, possibly with some fructose or simple sugar. Solids earlier in the race are used by some to break up the fueling strategy and avoid overloading on a certain sugar or component. Many distance athletes (e.g. RAAM and 24 hour Solo) will use products like Ensure to get a digestible calorie source; at Leadville, having an Ensure at top or bottom of Columbine could work well. I have also always liked Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) and typically will ride/race with them in my bottles with some electrolyte to help with energy and focus. ( Nutrition basics with The Bike SKills Project here )
5) Mechanical Skill
Many a race is ruined, if not lost, based on little fixes on the trail. You should be able to take your bike apart on course and reassemble. Make a list and start practicing. A good and patient local coach or friend should be able to help you through sticking points. Bike Skills Projects on Mechanics HERE
6) Do Not Stop
It is very important that, within reason, we never go 0 km/hr. Leadville and many similar races are about average speed. Keep rolling steady. You should not stop in feed zone, or to eat or to transition to a hike-a-bike. Situations may arise, such as nature breaks (although some may find ways to do this one bike) but generally try to plan and train for minimal stops to preserve that goal pace. The feed bag pickup is a place I messed up in 2011 and actually fell (so pro!) … Again, these are the little things we forget when out doing 4 hours hard, and a couple Game-Plays with the feed bag could have save me minutes, if not gotten me a podium spot. Bike Skills Projects on Dismounts / Mounts .
7) Pacing is Imperative
While on our bikes, we can add benefit to our training by making sure we learn what a sustainable pace is and how to hold it over varying terrain. I believe HR is still relevant to optimal pace even at altitude, but we also need to use our brains and experiences to inform when it is time to go or if HR won’t be used on a given day. My goal during my 2011 prep at sea level was to see my pace on hilly terrain (Miles/HR) come up to 1 mile faster/hour then my goal Leadville pace (14.7mph for ~7hrs over 103mi ). ( Posts from Smart Athlete / Train With Peter on Pacing )
8) Be able to function off your bike and avoid cramps/tightness/back pain
Be able to walk/hike up hill efficiently and dismount/remount easily, even uphill. Walking can be optimal pacing strategy. Be efficient in mount/dismount and walking/jogging. Avoid getting stopped at zero miles per hour pace. Plan spots you will likely walk (top of Columbine and power-line on return for many). Have a daily mobility practice including standing often and walking a ton (i.e. on breaks at work and before-after meals). Bike fit and mobility are big causes of time off-bike so make sure these items are very well Game Played before the race. ( Smart Athlete Posts on Mobility ) ( Also check out the MobilityWod on Youtube)
9) Maximize aerodynamics, position, efficiency
Leadville is a mountain bike race but a lot of time can be saved by drafting and having a reasonable position on the bike (that you can pedal well in). Looking to optimize clothing (i.e. no garbage bag coats) and spend some time on the road in an aero position of some type (narrow hand position and maybe forearms on bar for SOME). There are many sites out there proving being aero is worth thinking about, such as here . Recently, a bike company tested hair styles and found that braided hair was more efficient then a bun or ponytail so even hair style on the day may be a consideration for those with long hair to play with.
While these concepts may sound basic and optimistic at times, I do believe that there is a ton of time to be gained for almost anyone looking at Leadville and similar races without even touching on fitness. We want to maximize the work we can do (fitness) and minimize the work we have to do with preparation, planning, health, nutrition and equipment creating our best performance on THE big day.
I would love to hear your feedback on these ideas, any questions they might spark or suggestions on ways to squeeze every last second out of your next big Endurance Race.
It was a super day at the races. I got what I trained for 10th Elite and with the depth of the field my 1.5 % further from the front left me 9 places further back overall and 5 further in Elite then 2013 (when using average speed of espoirs/elites). Course was amazing, crowd was super and enough jumps that I was in air 5-10 x a lap … whether anyone took their camera from the uphill switchbacks near the start is left to be seen unfortunately.
Thanks to Trek Canada for having a great setup and to Trek Store Toronto/Barrie/Aurora for supporting the Hardwood race over the last 10 years. It is always a highlight of the season.
KraikerPhoto catches Mitch & Leandre gong to war
… I couldn’t hold the duo for long when they caught me this year
Today we talk about riding over obstacles on the trail. This could be a log hop or over a pile of rocks/ logs. We use this skill constantly. The first step is to get comfortable standing up (the ready and attack positions I like to get people comfortable in first) then using a very small and subtle weight transfer to let the wheels roll over the logs.
This is our first method to clear obstacles
You can also check out the 5-steps to hopping Logs below
Find the Youtube link HERE
This episode uses a technical steep rock drop/garden at Hardwood Ski and Bike in Barrie Ontario to look at how control with our front brake can make very technical aspects safe and doable with a bit of practice. Keep your torso upright and build up to more technical bits slowly.
Cornering is essential to any type of cycling. We do it often and the better we can do it the faster we can go, the less work we have to do, the safer we will be and the more fun we can have. Many cyclists get caught riding their bikes like it is stuck in a trainer and so it is upright the whole ride. This creates a situation where the terrain asks the bike to move to the side (like on a berm, or corner or when standing) and the rider must slow down and turn the handle bar significantly instead of leaning the bike to carve the corner like we would on skis or in board sports. Take your cornering out to a safe area and use these drills to grasp the concept of cornering so that you can enhance the fun factor on your next ride.
Standing is one of my favorite skills to help people embrace. Yes sitting is efficient because we don’t support our body weight BUT it is not efficient on all terrains (ie. bumpy downhill or short climb or you find yourself in wrong gear or end of race sprint) AND it is not efficient if you get saddle sores or a sore back and don’t ride or finish your ride. For many athletes of all abilities they are missing the hinge at the hips (like all athletic positions), elbows out and the side to side motion of the bike under their body. The best way to practice is to do it more !
The pre-ride check is common sense but as with most things that are common sense many people do not adhere to the basics and will get into trouble eventually, if they have not already. These 3 min worth of little skills will help you stay safe and avoid major mechanicals on the trail. Often fixing things in the garage or from the car is much easier (I.E. Inflating tires with a floor pump versus a mini-pump) so make these quick checks part of your routine and look into learning more about the basic mechanical skills discussed here by practicing the skills before each ride. Many new cyclists (and some advanced) find the installation of wheels, bolt checks and tire/tube inflation and changes tough. Ask a knowledgeable (and patient) friend to help you (not do it for you) then practice at home and during this pre-ride check and you will quickly get better.