Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sue Haywood Mountain Bike Skills Clinic

I first learned of Sue's clinics after seeing a FB post by Shanna Powell last year.  I had been wanting some formal instruction and with Shanna's positive review, I arranged a private clinic for 7 ladies this past weekend.

For those of you who don't know Sue Haywood (shame on you), she is one of the most down to earth world class racers you will ever meet.  With championships and podiums in almost every style of mountain bike racing there is, she was and still is a force to be reckoned with.  Couple that with her ability to communicate those skills and you have an instructor that can teach an old mountain biker new tricks!

Mary showin how it's done, with a smile!

The group of women I invited are all expert level riders.  Despite our years of experience, we all learned a ton!  The biggest take away for me was how to drive the bike, not just ride it.  Unlike operating a car, on the bike you need to be aggressive, not defensive.

Kathleen is like C4 ... a small package of explosiveness!

I believe we all left with alot more knowledge and a little more skill.  Now I need to practice, practice, practice.  At this point, my mammalian brain knows what to do.  And with practice, my reptilian brain can take it to the next level where I don't have to think about it.

Rachel with a nice drop in.

It was great to have an all ladies clinic.  No machismo interfering with our self confidence.  Even though ladies do have egos, we know when to leave them at home.

Learning the basics before applying them on the trail.

Now I just need to "unlearn" some bad habits and work on the core skills.  I figure that I am as fast as I can be on the climbs.  Where I can gain speed is on the flats and descents by applying Sue's teachings.  She is a level 2 IMBA certified instructor and has also been an instructor with Gene Hamilton's Better Ride clinics, before branching out on her own.

Sue loved Live Wire and High Voltage

Sue runs a series of clinics throughout the year.  She is also willing to come to your neck of the woods and instruct a small group.  I would highly recommend taking a skills clinic.  My only regret is not having done it sooner!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Progold Xtreme Lube Test Wrap Up

Last November, I began a durability test of two Progold Lubricant products.  I applied ProLink to my road bike and Xtreme to my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  After last week's muddy "ride" during the Snake finale, the test was concluded.  Although I did not have any shifting issues, there was an irritating noise coming from the drive train.  For most, this would probably not be a factor, but for me, anything more than the "whrrrrr" of my I-9's drives me crazy!

A typical race day at The Snake

The final tally was 100 miles and 12 hours of ride time.  This included 4 rides 2 of which were the Snake Creek Gap TT), all of which were wet and muddy.  After all, it was winter time.  If but for the nasty conditions, I feel confident that this mileage/time could have been doubled or even tripled before I ended the test.  I plan on conducting a second test once I am back on the bike and during more favorable riding conditions.

Meanwhile, after 600 miles and 39 hours my drive train is still "happy, happy, happy" on my road bike.  I was hoping to have concluded both tests by now, but I have been off the bike for 4 weeks due to overtraining.

I was able to clean my bike in no time with ProGold Degreaser + Wash and Chain Shine.  A little goes a long way.  I add 1 part water to 1 part Degreaser + Wash and I pour a tiny amount of Chain Shine into a cup and apply it to the drive train with a small paint brush.

After allowing both products to sit for a couple minutes, I then use the above tools to clean.  James Stankowitz showed me that a cheap paint brush gets easily into all the nooks and crannies of a full suspension rig.

Hard to believe she is in her 4th season of racing.

White stays white with ProGold!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snake Creek Gap TT "Ride" Report

After 3 weeks off the bike and 1 race away from securing the belt buckle, I made the decision to kit up and "ride" the finale.  I was unsure of how well my body was recovering and needed a spin to let me know if I was making any headway or not.  Probably not a smart move physically, but I needed the mental satisfaction in order to keep me going for another 3 weeks of rest.  And if I felt like crap, I could always bail at the 1/2 way point and drive Zeke's truck back to the start.

After horrendous winter conditions the past few weeks, the trail would not allow for many PR's.  That combined me starting in the back of the field would ensure a slow, enjoyable ride.  Never knowing how my legs truly feel until the race starts, I stood patiently waiting while at least 150 riders began their TT.

Normally I am freezing at the start, but today I chose to layer ... alot.  Being warm at the start was a bonus.  As I began my ride, I soft-pedaled to the creek crossing.  Many passed me, but I did not care.  I was happy just to be on the bike, enjoying my time with nature.  I was wearing my heart rate monitor, to keep me honest.  As I settled into my granny to begin the double track climb, I glanced down at my monitor.  Heart rate of 150 with an RPE of 4 and no "burn" in my legs.  That was a fantastic sign.  3 weeks ago while attempting a tempo work out at the Dry Creek system, my HR was 130 with an RPE of 10 and legs of lead!

The trail was slicker-n-snot in alot of places.  My bike and I were soon covered in a couple pounds of mud.  I chose to work on skills today.  After "granny-ing" the climbs, I would put it in rock-n-roll mode on the descents.  With lots of energy being conserved, I do believe I rode the descents faster and better ... although a couple trees did get awfully close!

Starting in the back allowed me to make several new observations:

  1. The 26" wheel is not dead!
  2. The men smell so much better.  Over the course of the race, I rode behind 4 guys that had on cologne.  Not overpowering, but very pleasant.
  3. The size of the hydration packs!  OMG, it made my neck and shoulder blades hurt, just looking at them. 
  4. The aid stations are packed full of racers.  They did not appear to be making any NASCAR style pits.
  5.  The racers are really the same as the frontrunners.  Although not as fast, they are equally determined to enjoy the ride and accomplish goals.  

Arriving at the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I mosey'd over to my cooler and had a brief picnic. After refueling and shedding a layer, I began the climb up Mill Creek Mountain.  After remembering last month's painful, demoralizing experience of this section, I reveled in the fact that today was so much better.  

Just before the washed out, rutted descent prior to The Wall, I was able to catch up to Grace Ragland and ride with her for a couple miles.  I know Grace pretty well, but I have never ridden with her.  WELL, LET ME TELL YOU!  THIS CHICK HAS SKILLS!  She slayed that downhill!  I was most impressed by her descending skills, as well as her ability to negotiate the rock gardens.  WOW!  This, from a woman, who had her 55th birthday today ... and has multiple sclerosis.  Truly amazing!  

Snake bit!

Having conserved so much energy over the first half of the course I was able to clean so much more of the last 8 miles of single track.  I almost made it up the wall; just too many walkers to negotiate around led me to spin out at the halfway point on the short rocky ledge.  Ooooh ... so close!

I rolled through the finish line in 4:07.  This was 34 minutes slower than last month, but 
100 times more enjoyable!  Last month my average HR was 155 with an RPE of 10.  Today was an average HR of 144 with an RPE of 5.  I will take this and enjoy the next 3 weeks off the bike and any structured training.  I truly needed this mental boost as I was doubting my abilities to recover and be able to strive for a successful 2015 season.


I must apologize to all my cycling friends, but I am groovin' on next week's forecast.