Monday, September 12, 2022

Coaching Philosophy

I've been coaching youth mountain biking since 2021. It's been very rewarding, particularly since both my child and several of her friends she's had since she was a toddler also participate. After one of our races, we had a rider come in dead last. She was pretty distraught, had a bad race, and was crying. I didn't know what to do, so I patted her on the back and said "good job, you'll get 'em next time". It felt hollow and I know she thought I was full of it. It was at that point I decided to find some way to communicate with the kids to help them set goals that are realistic and offer an individual level-set. That way, if you have a good race or a bad race you can look back at your individual chosen goals and see why things went well or went poorly. 

Feel free to use this philosophy, just cite me (or those I've cited when I've borrowed from others). 


Philosophy

This philosophy is designed to give everyone, from the riders who are hyper-dominant to the first-timers, proper expectations and goals for themselves, teammates, and their community.

We want every participant to have expectations, goals, and stretch goals. That way, even if they don’t do well relative to their age group, they can still compare what they did with what their goals were and hopefully have a sense of accomplishment or at least see a path to improvement and a reason for their poor performance.

 

Presentation

At every practice, race, or when we’re on our bike we will have 5 points that we’re going to check in on. We’ll have expectations of ourselves for each point. On race day, we’ll have a 6th set of expectations that will include goals and stretch goals.

 

5 points for every ride: FEATS

F - Focus
E - Energy
A - Attitude
T - Technique
S - Strategy

 

Focus

We want you to focus your thoughts on the task at hand. We don’t want your mind wandering, don’t let small talk or nervousness distract you from your FEATS and EGGS (below). Take deep breaths, focus on the task at hand, and visualize the obstacles, crux moves, the course, and the race.

 

Energy

Maximize the energy you have every ride. Don’t waste energy accelerating when not necessary (mitigate with proper cornering/breaking technique). Did you sleep well? Did you eat ~2 hours before the ride? Do you have proper snacks for 2+, 3+, 4+ hours, etc. (eat 2 hrs before the ride, 2 hrs into the ride, and every hour thereafter)? 

On race day you’ll have a special kind of energy to harness - nervous energy. Everyone has nervous energy before a race, it means you care about the outcome - it’s a good thing. Use focus techniques to prevent the butterflies from making off with the energy you’ll need to meet your race day expectations, goals, and stretch goals. The best way to address nervous energy is to take deep breaths and ask yourself if there is anything you can change to affect the race right now. The answer will almost always be no, and as you move closer to your start time the answer will be more and more likely to be no. By the time you’re lining up, you won’t have anything to be nervous about - there will be nothing you can do other than concentrate on your strategy and review your techniques as they apply to the particular race you’re doing (flat corners, technical ups/drops, punchy climbs, technical descents, berms, jumps, etc.).

 

Attitude

There are 3 types of attitudes you will need to be cognizant of: attitude towards yourself, attitude towards your teammates, and your attitude towards the other participants. 

 

Most importantly is your attitude towards yourself. Negative self-talk is a killer. You must be kind to yourself, and treat yourself with respect. If you fail on a climb, your internal dialogue might be "bad job, me!" Instead of that, you might want to say “Your weight wasn’t back far enough, try to keep your saddle in your chamois and give it another try”. Instead of “I can’t do it,” try to think “I can’t do it yet”.

 

Attitude towards your teammates. Always keep in mind that your teammates are the people who most understand what you’re going through. They have the same coaches, the same practices, and the same love of the same sport. Show your teammates love and respect. If you need some help, encouragement or inspiration lean on them. If you see that they're having trouble, offer them support. 

 

Attitude towards other participants. Note that even though the other racers are your competition, they’re also, to an individual, your people. These are bike people. These are folks who’ve made the personal decision to invest in practicing, riding, and racing. As you grow up you’ll find yourself continually in groups with the kids you’re meeting and competing against. You’ll be in clubs, on race teams, approaching your HOA to get money to build a pump track, or organizing a letter-writing campaign to petition the city to open up a park to a new jump line. Trust me, these are your people so treat them with an attitude that shows respect and care. 

 

Technique

We will be teaching a lot of different techniques over the course of the season. The 4Ls of cornering (Low, Look, Lean, Load), body/bike separation, ready position, technical ledge ups, technical drops, ledge drops, technical rock, race starts, and measured output to name a few. You’ll build your technique quiver over the course of many seasons and you’ll want to review your technique before and after a ride or race to see how you fared.

 

Strategy

During the season you’ll find yourself reviewing different strategies with your coaches and peers. You’ll find a way to formulate your own strategies for practices and races from what you’re told, what you learn, and your own experiences. Once you’ve concocted a strategy it’s best to try to stick to it during the ride or race. Know, however, that about 10 different age-old adages communicate that the first thing lost in any endeavor is the plan (the best-laid plans of mice and men…). Some examples of strategies you can create/tweak/perfect for yourself:

 

  • Warm-up strategies
  • Practice strategy
  • Race day strategy
  • Passing strategy
  • Measured output strategy

 

 

Race day addition: EGgS

E - Expectation
G - Goal
S - Stretch Goal (or Season Goal)

 

Expectation

The expectation is that you will finish every race you start. Unless you are physically unable to finish the race, you finish the race. If you find yourself walking and dragging a bicycle that’d better serve as a boat anchor - you still finish the race and you drag that anchor across the line with you. That is the expectation we as coaches have of you and it is the expectation we want you to have for yourself.

Goal

This is a goal you set for yourself that you will be very happy with and it’s within the bounds of reason. I.E. - if you’ve only ever got 10th place before, a good goal might be 5th. 1st would be a good stretch goal, but your goal might not be 1st unless you have reasons to pick it (increased training, modified (proven) strategy, different participants/competition).

Stretch Goal

A stretch goal is a big goal, maybe a goal you have for yourself for an entire season. Stretch goals should be hard to attain, and might even seem impossible. A great stretch goal would be something like:

1st place

OR

1st place by X:XX min. I.E. - your stretch goal is either you win or you win by 30 seconds, 2 min, 5 min, etc.

 

 

Credits

FEATS was brought to my attention by Marty Christman and is based loosely off this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us6onnynhN4.

I made up EGgS (and it shows, lol)

Marty Christman and I made up the four Ls of cornering, kind of on the spot, at a Bulldogs practice in early 2022.

Mountain Bike Cornering. The "Four L's"

Being good at cornering is a life-long pursuit, you'll forever get better. That said, there are 4 main points that you need to keep in mind that'll keep you rubber-side down and ripping.

Note, the 'Four L's" was an impromptu presentation that Marty Christman and I came up with late in 2021 at a Bulldogs MTB practice after being inspired by Lee McCormick in this vid

The "Four L's" are:

Low  - Low to the bars
Look - Look through the turn 
Lean - Lean the bike
Load - Load your outside leg





We're going to be using this pic as an example and discussion point, mainly because the riding position of this rider is so exaggerated. You will note that this pic has a berm, but the rider is still using best techniques. We'll note below which techniques you can fudge when you're riding bermed turns. 


Low

Keep your weight low & towards the bars, generally in what you think of as an attack position. Move your chest towards your stem, if that helps you think of it. Staying low will keep your weight centered (both left/right and fore/aft). When you're low to the bars you have more motion in your elbows allowing you to extend your inner elbow and pull your outer elbow in. This allows you to push the bike down while keeping your center of mass midline of the bike, right between the contact patches left to right. The second reason to be low to the bar is to keep your front contact patch weighted by centering your mass more to the front. It's a natural reaction of riders, who've all gone over the bars at some point, to slide back in any intense situation to prevent an endo. Back is safe in most cases. However, when cornering (or jumping) sliding back is decidedly less safe. 

Look

Look at the beginning of the turn until you break the plane of the turn, eyes on the entrance to the turn. As you approach the turn, I want you to scan the turn briefly and then look back at the entrance to the turn. As soon as your front tire breaks the imaginary beginning of the curve I want you to immediately turn your head, shoulders (a small bit), and even your hips towards the exit (or as far as you can see along the turn if you can't see the exit comfortably) until you actually exit the turn. If you see people blowing through turns it's because they're not watching the exit, they're almost assuredly looking directly at where they blew through the turn (generally the apex). 


Lean

Lean the bike, not your body. To do this you'll need good body/bike separation which is a technique we'll cover later in detail. In brief, body bike separation means elbows soft, knees soft, standing above the seat in a neutral (left/right fore/aft) riding position allows for good body bike separation. While leaning the bike is something you can fudge if you have a berm, it is still good practice to lean the bike while trying to keep your body in a more verticle position, just in case there is a dry/loose patch along the line. In our example, the rider's body position isn't vertical but you can see that their upper body is more vertical than the lean of the bike. If this were a flat corner without a berm, this rider would be sliding on their side already. Thus, this is one of the "Ls" you can fudge on when in a corner



Load

Load your outside leg. This technique is of utmost importance when riding a flat turn. You must drop your outside leg to keep the weight as low as possible. If you fail to do this on a flat turn, you'll either have to slow down to keep the friction at your contact patch as high as possible or you'll find yourself in the weeds. This isn't necessary when riding a berm unless the berm is loose/dry or you're more comfortable that way. This is the other "L" you can fudge on, you can feel confident cornering with level pedals if the berms are significant enough. 


Monday, April 25, 2022

NICA Reveille Peak Coaches Race

An endurance rider's twilight zone...


This race is so far out of my wheelhouse that I felt I needed to note it here. My races are usually 50+ miles and take hours and hours. This was a single 5-mile lap that took < 30 minutes, lol. Basically, a bunch of
NICA coaches raced around the next day's course. It was an all-out sprint and I inhaled 30 min of aerosolized granite dust and cow patties leading to a few weeks of uncontrollable coughing. I did OK on my 32x20 SS against the geared masses. My required minimum speed on an uphill managed to keep me in 2nd until we got to a nice long straight double-track and then, voila, I'm 4th. That's how I finished, it was fun. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

2019 - 2021 Recap post

Mea culpa - I got lazy. I did the races but I didn't do the ride reports. I regret this and I'll try to do better in the future. For 'The Lost Years' of 2019, 2020, and 2021 I'll try to get a blub, results, and a Strava link to any significant rides I did. 

11/21/2021 - Dragon Slayer

  • Time: 11:13
  • Miles: 90
  • Elevation: 7923
This was a special year because my daughter was going to ride my final lap with me!

I was running about a 9:45 pace before my daughter joined me and I would have come in around ~9th. My kid was flying though, and I still came in 11th! She was awarded for the youngest to ever attempt a Dragon Slayer, she's almost certainly the youngest woman ever to make a full lap of the lake, and potentially the youngest ever. 

10/30/2021 - Enchilada Buffet

  • Time: 8:50
  • Miles: 81
  • Elevation: 5750
2nd Single speed behind Jason Smith by 11 minutes. Beckett (a kid that races on my daughter's mountain bike team) finished 1st with the Joels in friggin 7:11! My official time was 8:50 and I'm listed as 9th overall

03/13-14/2021 - Death March

  • Time: 7:26
  • Miles: 43
  • Elevation: 4285
This DM was different but fun. Todd had spread checkpoints across the Barton Creek Greenbelt you could scan with your phone and it'd send him your start time, each time you hit a checkpoint, and your checkout time. I rode this one with Rob and my 10-year-old daughter on my fully rigid SS. Ellie and I finished in 34 miles and 19:45 hours. Ellie was awarded for being the youngest participant and finisher. 


11/21/2020 - Dragon Slayer Cancelled due to Covid

10/17/2020 - Enchilada Buffet

  • Time: 9:22
  • Miles: 81
  • Elevation: 5932

The EB this year was self-supported. You could start where you wanted and just turn in your GPS for inclusion in the results. I won SS and came in 6th overall. 

9/26-27/2020 - Death March in 2 parts

  • Time: 7:26
  • Miles: 43
  • Elevation: 4285

Impromptu Death March. Don't remember the actual impetus for this one, but it appears I threw out 42 miles in 2 days. Pretty silly.

3/19/2020 - COVID HITS

12 days after the Slayer. Lockdown begins. Battles for toilet paper and trying to get groceries delivered took a front seat to riding yer bicycle. 

3/7/2020. Death March. 

  • Time: 9:07
  • Miles: 51.70
  • Elevation: 4991

This was a tough ride. Started out leading maybe 15 or 20 guys in my group (the hard(er) group), I think we ended up with around 6? I recall Brian Schoolcraft doing having several epic could-have-been-really-bad falls but he stayed upright and just bounced around like a ballerina. I remember Skoofer looking at me like I kicked him in the nards when I told him we were saving Cheesegrater for the very end, lol (we started it at mile 49). I skipped no gnar and rode no roads that weren't necessary. 

11/24/2019. Dragon Slayer.

  • Time: 10:38
  • Miles: 92
  • Elevation: 5750

Looks like I was 12th out of 27 3-lap finishers. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Enchilada Buffet - 2019


For the ride down, EB Officials had asked me if I could lead us out of the park, but since I only ride Walnut once or twice a year I elected Shane. I did agree to lead the road section once we got on the other side of Mopac. Even with Shane's familiarity with WC, we still missed the turn so the ride started out with a silly bottleneck trying to get off the concrete path. Once we got onto the street I felt like I was spinning way too fast and I was pretty sure I'd regret it once I hit dirt. A single speed isn't the bike to spin on, especially if you're used to riding the Greenbelt. I've got no opportunity for that kind of conditioning (and who am I kidding, if I did I wouldn't take it anyway).
Once we got neared Zilker some dude ended up flying off the path into a storm drain. It's a pretty dangerous turn and I'm actually surprised that's the first time it's ever happened. Apparently he was fine. I happened to turn around and see it, just saw a back wheel about 4 feet in the air and then it disappeared.
I was following the GPS course but the bulk of the group had different ideas and ditched me right near the pedestrian bridge. I got back into line about 30 spots back b/c the GPS route was a bit longer and then again when they turned down towards the park and I went around the way Fruhe led us a few years ago. No big deal, we all got there but I ended up way past mid-pack.
Passed a lot of good natured riders. Pretty cool being back in the pack, able to walk up the pack but not really wanting to get crazy. Ended up leading 3-5 guys through the GB for a while, they passed me when I'd walk the ups and I'd catch them eventually. It was a really good, chill greenbelt EB. I think I'm gonna flash back to the original intent of the opener of the EB in future years, a nice chill social pace on the way down and bullshitting with dudes on the trail.
Got to see my family on the Hill of Life, as usual, but they had a special guest with them. Jason Smith's back is decidedly worse than mine and his doctors told him he was disallowed from EBing this year.

 Got my yearly 'illegal emotional handup' from my kids and hit the road. I did have Jason to keep me company, making the road much more bearable. Ended up rolling up 360 with several guys including 1/2 of the single speeders in the whole ride!


The roads, allow me a moment to gripe about the roads. Running a 32x19/18/17 makes the GB, CP, Eds and Thumper miserable but running that 20 makes the roads terrible. I'm not sure what my strat will be going forward, but man, those roads are about as fun as the dentist.
Passed the leaders coming out of City Park as I was about to roll in. Holy shit.
It was great to see Gary Crowell - hadn't seen him since the old ATX100k days, we did a bit of catching up and I headed in, cramping a good bit from the road on the way over. The trail did me wonders and by the time I was rolling out of CP I was feeling great. However, the road struck back and I was cramping about 10 min later. Sigh. Caught up to Dan and Travis (SS) and we once again headed out.
Rode up Eds with Yeamans, he got lost coming down. Entered Thumper with Travis but lost him pretty much immediately (he was on a 32x17 - yikes).
Thanks for the aid station. Cold water was a life saver.

Thumper sucked. no surprise. It was VERY hot on the 2nd half. Ran into Octavio and he needed some water.
Did some Zen breathing exercises and managed to take a micro-nap while riding on the way to Walnut. It was kinda nice, not sure how safe, however.
After the first bits of Walnut, I was feeling really good. Cooled down and the road cramps had subsided. Wrapped up in 9:14 with Shawn Boher (he'd had a plug come out of his tire like 3 times).
Officially I'm 3rd SS to cross, 13th overall. ~60 started, ~40 finished. There was a good bit of confusion about the route this year but that's the way it goes. 

My suffer score was 964 which seems incredibly high. I felt bad most of the ride but good lord, that seems like a waterboard score.



 

Coming into the EB this year I'd had some health issues. My back when out on a ride, a decent amount of pain, left leg went numb for a few days. Took some chiropractic and physical therapy to walk right but I'd say I'm 90% at this point. The leg is just a little weak, basically, it's probably mostly OK but the nerves in the leg are lying to me. That's all for excuses.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 EnduraRace Dragon Slayer



TLDR: 3 laps. Start time 07:00. Finish time 5:15. Total time 10:15 (1 hour slower than last year). Single speed. 21st out of 41 3-lap Slayers. 138 folks finished at least one lap (holy crap!).

This year I rode my Vassago VerHauen with a 32x20. That gear is a bit short on the flats, but it's what I run for any tech. Lessons learned from SSing the GB, EB, CP, Thumper, etc. - walking technical is more demoralizing than spinning roadie sections is annoying. This years's race started off with a bit of banter; discussions of Make Out Point and how my absurd handlebar mustache does little to keep me warm but really gets other folks hot. The actual ride, however, devolved quickly into me figuring out that I'd be spending the next 10 hours off the back. Guys I usually ride with dropped me like a fat kid on a Huffy. I had zero power to put into the pedals, what the hell? That was about how the whole day went: the ride was hard (expected), the cramps weren't bad (unexpected), but the cold was rough. I dreaded the dam every lap b/c I'd end up shivering by the time I got off it. I'd get warmed back up in the rocks but the final 6 miles would chill me again. As far as the overall ride went, I wasn't standing on the gears on the climbs b/c that's how I threw my back out last year, so I did a fair bit of walking on the longer climbs. My pit stops were pretty quick, maybe 5 min each, mostly thanks to Infinit. If you're having issues with proper nutrition on long rides, check them out.

Let it be known now, I hate the cold. Anything under 50 degrees is usually a hard no-go for me. I certainly won't ride for training/fun and I tend to avoid winter races. However, the Dragon Slayer needed ridden, so I spent cash on a rather audacious Alarming Yellow Jacket and figured 'how bad could it be?'

Cold. It could be really damn cold. My core stayed pretty warm but my extremities were cold enough that my words weren't coming out right when I'd speak and I was having handling issues (lots of shoulder-checking trees).

Turns out, when I got home, I felt sick. Sore throat, etc. Initially, I figured it was just from huffing cold air for 10 hours but the wife took the kids to the doctor the next morning and turns out we have strep. So the chills I was experiencing had more to do with the fever and less than the temperature. It does kinda suck to know that, in the elastic of my shorts, I had 8 Advil and could have had a much different ride if I'd have realized that I had a low-grade fever. The next day I got a prescription for Penicillin, so in keeping with the ATX100k/EnduraRace theme of 'throwback to a better day' racing, I'll be dosing with an antibiotic that's been developing resistant strains since the 1920's! Fun.

On that note, it's really nice to see EnduraRace taking off. Not sure if you know, but back in 2011 (?) Todd posted to BikeMojo that he wanted to start a bike race series that wasn't geared towards cry-baby Stravatards, where all the B lines would be roped off, and where you'd be required to ride the gnarliest things we could find. Based on that premise, trying to take cross-country racing back to a proving ground for how good of an off-road rider you were and moving away from a test of roadie fitness, we created the ATX100k series. EnduraRace spawned from those early ATX100k races and learning experiences. We learned that folks don't want to know they'll finish; people want a real challenge. Riders seem to crave a setting where the risk is real and the outcome isn't predetermined. That you're going to get congratulated if you roll across the line, not just if you roll in top 3. The final ATX100k race that first year was held at Reveille Peak Ranch. 43 people started that race, only 3 finished. Coincidentally, one of the 3 finishers of that brutal race was the winner of this brutal race.
Johnny and the fam

Speaking of the devil, my boy Johnny 'Moto' Russell finished 2018's DS in 8:20 and had more than enough time to hang out with my family while they were waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for me to show up. Congrats man, awesome finish. Hopefully next year I'll be able to keep up a bit better :)

In all honesty, the 2018 Dragon Slayer was a rough time for me. After last year's Slayer, my back went out (pinched a nerve) leading to a pretty long recovery, physical therapy, etc. I'm basically 60 hours and 900 miles short on training this year. This year's triple really drove that home for me, with a bullet. Big plans for next year - stay healthy and ride my bike more.

Me with my rock & my kids with marshmallows.
Not sure who is happier ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

EB 2018

TLDR: Started at GB. 9:18 total time pumphouse to pumphouse.
Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1942043673
Relive link: https://www.relive.cc/view/1942043673

2018 has been very rainy. The original EB date was postponed until November 3rd. The EB board made a call that the creek was still dangerous on the 3rd and postponed the ride until Jan 12th. Since I handle the cold about as well as Lindsey Lohan handles rehab, I decided to do it solo.

Jason and I were discussing doing solo rides (he rode the next day, the 3rd, so I got to win the EB for one day - thanks J...) and I got pretty freaked out about dying in commuter traffic. I made a spreadsheet that would tell me when I'd be in certain sections of the ride, depending on when I left and how long I figured the ride would take. It has further use, if you have a significant other or buddies who want to meet you along the ride, so I've shared it. Feel free to use it if you want.

I decided to do the EB from my house (basically the Pumphouse trail on the GB). I headed out at 7:10; it was just barely light enough to see the street in front of my house. Riding Pumphouse down was OK, but the lack of light made judging ledges a bit hard and I donked into a few simple ledge-ups while it was still fading dawn. Also, it was cold as balls (40s). I was, honestly, very worried about crossing the creek and getting wet in those temps. Turned out that the water was noticeably warmer than the air, which was nice (until I got out). The creek was down ~6 inches from the previous weekend and noticeably slower.

Traveling in commuter traffic turned out to be OK. The only issue was crossing to Courtyard on the other side of Pennybacker - I had to wait a good while for an opening. I was the only person at City Park, which was kinda cool. A tiny bit of mud but overall it was really nice. About mid-way through CP I started to be able to feel my toes and fingers which was also really nice ;).

I stopped at the firehouse on the way back for my first rest. Talked with a firefighter while I mixed up some Infinit. I've been using a custom formula for years and the results speak for themselves. I can ride for 24 hours and at the end I'm not even hungry. I do 1 serving every 1 hour, so the EB breaks up into 2 refuel stops for me (3 servings per 2.5L hydration bladder). Hopped back on the bike and booked over to St. Ed's. The St. Ed's climb is no longer a fitness/technical challenge, it's just fitness. Some good Samaritan has smoothed out all the ledges so you can just ride up them. Sad.

Rode back to Thumper, had to get off the road a few times to let cars pass. Drivers were very safe and respectful, I must say. Rode Yaupon all the way up. Thumper was a real beast. It's not like the trail has much flow anyway, but with all the timber in the trail getting into a rhythm was nearly impossible. I thought that Jason was kidding me when he told me that at one point I'd have to belly crawl, dragging my bike by the handlebars behind me - he wasn't. I felt GOOD in Thumper and my time was almost as bad as the time I considered setting an alarm and going to sleep...

Popped over to Walnut, stopping at the 7-11 @ Duval and Mopac for a gallon of water and mixed up my final servings of Infinit. Walnut was pretty deserted. I got a bit turned around at first trying to follow my Garmin until I realized that the route didn't seem to have the new sections. I ended up just doing the route I know and throwing in all the new sections I could remember. Wasn't really sure what the proper way to get over to the road was, so I just re-rode up Endo Valley to the high-line.

The road South to home was a trial in mental endurance. Spinning the 32x20, all alone, good lord. By the time I was entering the trails near Enfield, there was enough traffic that the feeder road folks were a bit jammed up and I felt pretty safe with their speed.

The final leg in the greenbelt was quick. The creek crossings were welcome, the chilly water felt nice on my legs by that point. Ended up hitting pumphouse @ the 9:18 mark.

One of the better Fridays I've spent, for sure. My total time 9:18, which is pretty damn slow, but I had a lot left in the tank. I guess, w/o extrinsic motivation, it's hard to keep on the gas. I should have gone harder, but I had a good day w/o pain or cramps which was nice.

The 2018 official EB Podium - overall AND single-speed. 



See y'all in January (as long as it's not freezing)...