So 2009 was a stellar year for me, not just in results, but in a much broader sense. I remained injury and illness free all year, barring a minor cold this fall. Training was never laborious. I never have followed a rigid training plan or hired a coach. I doubt I'm coachable material anyway. Instead, I plan fun types of riding that stresses my body in ways to achieve results I seek in competitive events. Hills are often involved, as are liberal doses of off-road riding. Some may think there is no structure to my training, that I'm just going out for fartlek rides each day. Not true. The structure is hidden in the rides. It just doesn't consist of rote blocks of 5-by-5 minute intervals with a PowerTap. In fact, this year I never used my PowerTap or HRM on the bicycle once. I've learned much about myself when I first started using these devices, but I've grown past dependence on this type of feedback. So what was so special about 2009?
Road Racing Results
After spending little time on the bike last winter, I fretted when the first road races of 2009 came along. Battenkill had a huge, stacked field. The course was run in reverse from prior years. The weather was iffy. And I podiumed. It was a weird race though, with Roger Aspholm guarding the front of our pack to ensure his teammate's win. Jonny Bold double flatted out too. With a large pack coming to the final climb five miles from the finish, I did what I do best. Solo TT to the line. Roger of course dropped me, but I held off about a half dozen CCC/Keltic guys and other contenders clawing for that final podium spot. Not a win, but 3rd place in that masters 40+ field was quite satisfying. Doubts about fitness began to subside.
Next up were Turtle Pond and Lake Sunapee, two spring classics of New England racing. I won the masters 45+ field at both races. Turtle Pond started as a two-man break the final time over Oak Hill. A few miles from the finish, I dropped Paul Wonsavage and TT'd in for a solo win. Sunapee was a four-man break-away for much of the race. I managed to out-sprint the other three coming up to the line. Sunapee was a sweet win indeed for me. Racing this course many times, I've never come close to the podium before.
I achieved another podium finish later in the summer at the Bow road race, the day after the grueling Mt Equinox hillclimb race. That was a bunch finish, a case where traditionally I just get out of the way and don't even try. The Sunapee and Bow results have led some to suggest to me I may in fact be more of a sprinter type than I think. I still need to do the max speed test on a flat road sometime that Solobreak suggested.
I went back to Ironcross in Pennsylvania again this fall. It was the only 'cross race I did in 2009. Ironcross bears nothing in resemblance to a Verge series race. It is more like a hybrid between Battenkill and the Vermont 50. I dearly wanted to podium the masters field. There are only two regular fields, open and masters 40+. Some serious competition shows up for this thing, more along the lines of pro mountain bikers than traditional 'cross racers. Coach Andy Applegate always wins the masters, and this year I finally stepped up on the podium with him with a third place finish. I still haven't subdued the cramp demons that plague me in this endurance events. I had moments where letters DNF were dancing through my mind.
Mountain Bike Racing
In 1999, I did my first mountain bike race, the only race I did that year. For the next few years, I raced only MTB and hillclimb events. Then the road racing bug bit me, and before I knew it, I had completely abandoned off-road racing. I still rode off-road lots though. In 2009, I got back into mountain bike racing in a big way, completing my first hundred miler, the Shenandoah Mountain 100. I also raced the locally famous Vermont 50 in pea soup conditions, and a few other EFTA and Root 66 races. No category wins, but solid results racing Cat 1 with a couple top 10 overall finishes. Some of these races I did after road or hillclimb races. Results were not an important objective. I had hoped to do better at the SM100 though. The cramping demons cut me down in a bad way. I plan to do more endurance racing in 2010, and cramping issues are something I plan to work on through training and nutrition.
In 2009, I did more ski races than in prior years. Most of them were short, Tuesday night sprint races at Weston. Awesome anaerobic training and wicked adrenaline rush at the same time. I did do a couple 50km marathons though, including going back to Lake Placid where I did my first ski race a few years ago. I was nearly an hour faster. I plan to do more ski racing in 2010. I joined NENSA and the CSU club. My goal is to finish 50k races sub-3hrs. I came close last season at Sugarloaf, finishing in 3:02. That is a long time to be going all-out, and the cramping demons that haunt me in long cycling events also taunt me on skis. There's no way to "sit in" the last hour of a ski race when you are bonking or cramping. It is all work.
New on the northeast hillclimb scene in 2009 was the BUMPS challenge. I had been involved on the periphery of getting this started as a "racer advisor" to the hillclimb race directors. I was very excited to see something like this get organized. I never planned to go for the KOM jersey at the beginning of the season. The first hillclimb in the series, Whiteface Mountain in NY, went very well for me. I crushed my PR from a few years earlier by two minutes and place 4th overall. Okemo Mountain was next, and another PR and solid finish there put me in the overall lead. To claim my leaders jersey, I had to show up for Newton's Revenge on Mt Washington. I had not planned on doing this race. It's not cheap, but I really wanted one of those jerseys. If I didn't do Newton's, several other contenders were poised to take the lead and I would never see the jersey. I capitulated, zipped up a leaders jersey, and placed 4th overall. This kept me in the lead. Now the series became more of a big question mark for me. Would it be possible to keep the jersey all the way to the end? There were surely stronger climbers showing up, and any number of them could take the jersey from me if they did most of the remaining races. You gotta try, right? I had already signed up for the August Mt Washington race back in February anyway.
So I did all but one of the remaining races, just barely keeping the jersey to the end. I never overall won any of the races, but consistency is key here. Some years, the winner of the Tour de France doesn't win a single stage. Consistently placing well matters most. When I think about it, winning BUMPS is really quite a marvel. I've been an asthmatic nearly all of my life and used to be 70 lbs overweight in my mid 30's. At 47, I won a climbing championship. Just goes to show what anyone can accomplish with commitment.
I went on four significant cycling trips in 2009. Family and friends trip to Hawaii in early April, spring training with Brett to North Carolina in late April, Colorado in August, and Tennessee at the end of October. Even if I never raced again, little would change in my training. Instead of training for races, I would be training for trips. The fitness I need for the kinds of racing I do is the same kind of fitness I need for the places I like to ride on trips. Lots of climbing is involved, often steeply at anaerobic levels. The weather cooperated on just one of the four trips, the solo trip out to Durango, CO. I had a flawless week out there. I'm so fond of epic rides in the high country that I would trade race wins for another week like that. I live for that kind of riding.
Ok, now for some boring stats from 2009. Interestingly, I rode the least number of miles and hours than in recent years. Surely a quality vs quantity thing going on here. Total cycling miles were about 7000, roughly two-thirds road, one-third off-road. Skiing hours were up though. I'm a firm believer that XC ski cross-training will improve your cardio base fitness by spring, not simply maintain it. I also believe XC skiing improves hip flexor strength, something many cyclist don't realize is weak until they try power cranks. Bringing hip flexors into power generation on the bike can improve efficiency. Below is a summary of my 2009 training distribution. I just achieved my overall aerobic training goal of 600 hours. What has changed dramatically from 2008 is I biked nearly as many mountain bike hours as road bike hours. I hope this pays dividends in a few 2010 off-road events.
Then next chart shows weekly training volume. Some will look at this and ask, "where's the periodization?" It's in there, but not in a planned, textbook kind of way. Many of those hours you see there are active recovery. Also interesting to note in 2009 is that I took the most complete rest days since I started a training log in 2002, 35 days.
My mean weight over 2009 was 164.3 pounds with a standard deviation of 1.8 pounds. Too much info you say? Yeah, probably. It is one of those things I'll probably stop keeping track of in 2010. It is sufficient to know that at my activity level, 160-165 lbs corresponds to 7-9% body fat, a healthy level for a guy my age.
If you made it this far, here's what I'm thinking for 2010:
- More MTB races, including Leadville 100 and other hundred milers.
- Potentially a European cycling trip.
- Target fewer hillclimbs, leaving dates open for other events I haven't tried.
- Sub three hours in a 50k ski race. Highly conditions dependent though.
- Dabble more in CX? Have to see how I feel about it next fall.