Saturday, April 26, 2008

White to Horn Mountain Training Ride

Motionbased Ride Data - Web Link

Before this ride Gary and I discussed what type of riding should we do on our last big ride before 3 State 3 Mountain. We both agreed that in the past several weeks we have done hill repeats on Wednesdays, we have been to Burnt Mountain twice and we have been out to Fort Mountain. It just seemed right to get in 80 miles on familiar roads with rolling terrain, but there were other factors. Once again there was a threat of rain and storms heading our way and has been the case for a number of weeks now. There was one more place we could have gone to get more climbing training and that is the north Georgia gaps. We had some friends going there today to watch the Tour de Georgia as the race is in the gaps today and also ride the gaps, but for me I wanted to stay away from the crowd and I believe the other guys were pretty content about our peaceful day today.

When I pulled into the parking lot a little after 7 am to meet Gary Quellet and Mike Quick, I saw Neal Bowers and Glen Hittel and thought they were supposed to be at the gaps today, but maybe they will link up with us. They asked what we were planning and I told them about 80 miles with maybe Johnson Mountain (a small bump compared to what we have been doing lately) and wouldn’t you know Neal and Glen were planning to ride 80 miles, but go out to Horn Mountain, which is a more substantial climb. My heart and my head thought sweet plan, but I believe my legs were not too happy with the news yet we were determined to go for it even with the threat of storms coming our way. As we started I could tell my legs were a bit fatigued from several weeks of being beaten with climbing training because my heart rate was running a little higher. Sweet!! The sun is out and no rain clouds in sight and I am with a good group of guys, who are set on getting perhaps their last big training ride before 3 State 3 Mountain.

From the start to mile 34 the terrain was pretty mild with rolling hills, but now we were at the base of Horn Mountain. Though I had done Horn Mountain before it has been at least a couple of years and I remember having to stop several times, but now things are different. I have been training with intention and consistency for two years with good mentors like Gary and others helping me go from NARC’s slower group to riding in the faster NARC group, but how was this last climb going to be? Glen calls back to me and asks me if my Edge 305 will give a road gradient reading. I answer, “I have 6%….7%……8%…..11%.” I had to shut my mouth as the gradient went up to 15%. I see Gary, Mike and Glen pull away from me fairly quickly as my heart rate begins to climb quickly. I think to myself, “I have got to get this under control. I need to take my focus off their pace and concentrate on my own pace.” I settle back to a slower cadence, use my 28 cog and get my heart rate under control. My heart rate begins to calm down and I am able to shift back to the 23 cog and my speed increases a little more, but around the hairpin turns the gradients increase again to 15% forcing me to drop back to the 28. There it is the summit!! The climb was only 2.8 miles with 850 feet of gain, but it seemed fairly intense to me. At the summit big Cal, another NARC member and a friend were chatting with Mike, Gary and Glenn. Neal comes by us and keeps going to the descent and all the guys follow. After talking with Cal, I take off to catch up with the guys and it was a steep descent with a lot of twisty roadway. As the roadway flattens I see the group off in the distance and don’t see anyone soft-pedaling to wait on me. Maybe it was the few drops of rain that hit my face that indicated their faster pace. I wasn’t sure because they were pretty far off so I shifted to the 11 cog and settled on my drops and put a pace to span the gap if I could. Thankfully they must have eased up a little because I was starting to catch up, but the terrain had a particular look to it that makes one fully aware that this is the type of road Mike Quick gets excited about. Rolling hills with a slight downward slope and sure enough when I caught up to the group Mike was just sinking down into an aero position. “Ooohhhh….here we go”, I thought. I took a position behind Glen and the pace was running about 23 mph. We sustained that speed for another few miles before Mike pulled off to let Glen take a turn pulling the group. We go another couple of miles and now it is my turn, but fortunately I heard someone say the store stop is ahead. Good news for my legs because they were starting to reach threshold pulling the group.

For the remaining ride the sun stayed with us and the roads were fairly mild. We had a few spontaneous races that broke out like Gary enticing me to after Mike as he did a little breakaway once again on his favorite type of road. I briefly saw my speedo reading of 35 mph as I went by an unsuspecting Mike, but that was short lived as both Mike and Gary blow past me. As we approached the parking lot I just kept thinking what a day this turned out to be. Perfect as our last big training ride, a great group of guys to be with, no rain as predicted, 80 miles and a descent climb.

The day and the route couldn’t have been better for 5 guys needing a fix for their cycling addiction.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Seeing and Achieving - Visualization

We have heard the phrase, “seeing is believing” but have you ever thought about “seeing is achieving?” With upcoming goals I reflect back to my days of practicing visualization regarding weightlifting goals. When you set a realistic goal there may be times when that goal seems intimidating and that intimidation becomes a mental barrier to achieving the goal. When I first start lifting it was really intimidating to step up to the squat bar with weight that I thought would crush me and yet I really wanted to achieve this goal. Almost anyone that has lifted seriously can tell you that the majority of people that lift weights do not like to do squats with free weights. Setting my first goal to squat a certain weight I simply could not progress because mentally I did not truly believe in myself and mentally I could not get past the discomfort of loading my back with a heavier bar. I am not sure where I first read about visualization in the early 80’s, but I knew that unless I could find belief in myself I was not going to progress at my desired pace if at all. If you cannot see yourself doing something more than likely you are either going to really struggle or fail so to change my view I had to see myself doing what intimidated me. Visualization can apply to many types of goals, whether it be weightlifting, cycling, dieting and even corporations have a “Corporate Vision” as to their desired goals and many other items can be added to the list where a vision can help bring confidence to the goal.

The Technique
During the first couple of weeks I really had trouble getting this mental image, which is more like forcing a day dream. It may take some time to get the mental focus and meditation to see the images, but with practice the images become clearer. I would imagine a loaded bar on the squat rack, I begin to see myself going through my pre-ritual psyche measures, I could see my spotters yelling at me and then I would see myself get under the bar and prepare to back out of the rack. At that point was the next hurdle because if I did not truly believe at that point the daydream image would stop and I would loose focus, but once I broke through mentally in confidence I could see me performing the maximum lift. After several years of meeting goals and becoming more experienced with visualization my body would react to the images. As I would see myself getting psyched up to do the lift my heart rate and breathing patterns in real life would increase even though I would be lying still on my bed. There are times when I would do a quick visualization on the drive to the gym or even while warming up. Have you ever noticed while watching TV, an athlete preparing before their event as if they are looking into space, moving their hands and body as if going through the motions. They are practicing visualization. It is an important skill that will give you confidence if you are lacking confidence. It will add to your confidence even if you are already well trained.

How does this apply to my new addiction to cycling? Well I am finding climbing is to cycling what squats are to a weightlifter. It can be a very discomforting aspect to many cyclists. 2006 I feared and rejected opportunities to go to the north Georgia gaps and do extended climbing up the same mountain roads the pro cyclists use on the Tour de Georgia. 2007 I started climbing, but I struggled mentally with the discomfort. 2008 I can visualize myself becoming a better climber and now that I can see myself being a better climber, I really am becoming a better climber because hill training has changed from something I avoided to something that I now welcome. Like the old days of lifting when I eventually came to the point where I enjoyed the discomfort of heavy squats, I am now welcoming the discomfort of extended climbing up roadways that many cannot see themselves cycling.

For me seeing is achieving and visualization helps me get through those mental barriers much more quickly.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Favorite Shop - Do You Have One?

Most cyclists and even those who are just looking into cycling may have experienced the negative aspects of many bike shops. Some look large and sterile. Perhaps a bit too busy to talk to you or too snobby. Why most of these shops have to be this way I don't understand, but for me I have found the perfect local shop for the cycling addiction.

Since my first visit to Outspokin the owner of the shop, Kevin and all the guys there have been great in customer service, keeping my bikes finely tuned or just to hang out talking about epic rides or about new gear. By the way check out the new 2008 Outspokin kit that I am sporting. If you are in the area of Woodstock, Georgia stop by and see the guys at Outspokin. Or if you are visiting the area give them a call about their local rides.

Training for 3 State 3 Mountain

Photos by: Quellet Cycling
Me and my cohorts in cycling are 3 weeks away from our season's first big ride and for me it is a doozy. Starting last summer my friends have been trying to talk me into this ride so I started preparing mentally and physically for the challenge. Last season was my first season to really start the more challenging climbs like north Georgia's 3 gap, which included Wolfpen. I was also introduced to Fort Mountain and Burnt Mountain on 3 occasions. In September 2007 I crashed while descending the east side of Burnt Mountain at nearly 40 mph, which resulted in a fair of amount of physical injury including a separated shoulder that is still in therapy, but the injury also kept me from training in the challenging climbing rides. The 2008 season is well underway and we have encountered my arch nemesis, Burnt Mountain a few weeks ago and will hopefully return tomorrow morning for a 71 mile training ride. We also did an 80 mile epic ride last weekend from Jasper, Georgia out toward Dalton and climbed 9 miles on the east side of Fort Mountain and back to Jasper (Fort Mountain summit pictured above).

For weeks now I have been hearing about Burkhalter Gap, which will be the goal to overcome for the 3 State 3 Mountain ride. I have heard all the stories as if it were some great legend, but the fact is this climb is for real and from all accounts may be my toughest climb yet with a road grade of 20%+.