With the BME schedule announced and a few other series starting to put races on the calendar, now is the time to begin preparing for the new season. It may feel like it’s a long way to go before we can ride dusty, rocky singletrack again, but if this year is anything like the last, I was ill-prepared for slapping a number plate on the bike and trying to race against some of the West’s best.
This year I’d like to be a little more prepared and am beginning to plan things out ahead of time. There are a lot of things that should be considered, and trying to manage them all two weeks before a race means something gets forgotten or deprioritized.
Racing enduro requires a rider to have the endurance to complete a multi-hour event, but also the speed and power to be able to accelerate and sprint certain sections of trail. This is made even more difficult by the constant abuse the trail dishes out. It truly is a full-body effort and it is HARD.
To hopefully perform better than I did last year, here is what I am going to focus on.
Mobility & Flexibility
I sit at a desk all day and hop on my bike expecting my body to function just fine. This is naive and something I need to work on. At speed, my bike is getting knocked off course by rocks and I’m having to take corners that are loose and uncertain. Riding with a stiff posture and poor form only results in mistakes and getting booted off line when that’s the last thing I want. Riding relaxed, and being able to move with the bike when it gets rough, will help keep everything on track.
I recently took Dee Tidwell’s Mobility Test (here’s an example) that is a part of his MTB Enduro Training program and the results weren’t so hot.
Part of improving my mobility will be working on my recovery routine and loosening up my muscles, but it will also take deliberate practice and stretching to get things going. Dee has a mobility section in his program and I also need to bump up my frequency of yoga practice. My sister is a yoga teacher, yet here I am doing nothing. For a quick session I’ll take 15 minutes and go through one of Abi’s routines. For something a little longer, I’ll pop over to the gym for a class.
I have a foam roller, but it mostly sits in my closet unused. Things are going to have to change around here and I’ll need to start focusing on my recovery so that I can bounce back from the training I’ll be doing.
At Home Recovery
In the last few weeks I have started to foam roll and self-massage a bit and the odd thing is that the areas I work on tend to feel sore the next few days. This is because those areas have been knotted up for so long that now I am loosening them up, they’re actually being used.
I’ll be using products from RAD, based out of Denver, to keep myself loosened up. Specifically the Rod and the Axle. The big, chunky Axle foam roller is great for the legs and the small Rod is perfect for pinpointing problem areas. My neck is notoriously tight, thanks to that desk job, so the Rod is going to get put to work there.
Getting Trigger Point Therapy
When I’ve had enough of torturing myself at home, I frequent Zap Zing Bodyworx over in Cherry Creek. Christine is amazing at what she does and works out issues that I either can’t do at home or am just too much of a wimp to deal with (like my psoas – ouch!). She specializes in trigger point therapy which is much more useful than your typical spa day massage. Rather than pouring oil on your back and gently kneading you like a cat, she finds the knots wherever they are and works them out while you wince in pain. It’s worth it though, trust me. You’ll leave feeling better and it makes a noticeable difference.
Last year my training consisted of riding my bike after work with friends and occasionally going to the gym to wander around with weights in my hands. This wasn’t ideal, so I’ll need to be a little more specific on what I do for fitness.
Once a week I take an Orange Theory class which is great for some cross-training and getting some intervals in during the week. It’s also been perfect during the winter while the trails are covered in snow as it is more fun that going for a run or going to the gym.
For actual mountain bike specific training, I’ll be using Dee Tidwell’s MTB Strong program while also making up some stuff myself. It’s a very comprehensive program that covers what you should be doing on any given day, but once it gets warmer outside and I can start riding more often, I can see myself wanting to sneak in some extra rides versus rest days. Weekends are also the perfect opportunity for some doubles – hitting the gym in the morning and riding in the afternoon.
Beyond just training to get fitter, I’ll also be working on my technique, too. Manuals, bunny-hops, jumping, pumping, and more are all essential trail skills and can help with maintaining speed through different sections of trail. Getting better at these will just require seat time on the bike and getting out and riding.
I’m not a nutritionist by a long shot, so I won’t bother going into too much detail here. The main goal with nutrition though is to be more conscious about what I eat and cut out as much sugar as I can.
The office I work at for the day job has jars of candy, cookies, and other treats sitting out in the kitchen all day. While it’s easy to snag a few of those if I’m feeling hunger pangs, it only results in a sugar spike and guilt. Instead I’ll bring a banana and some other snacks from home to keep myself satisfied during the day.
Outside of the office, I’m adding in more greens and going with a few less carbs. So, instead of pasta all the time, I’ll go for some quinoa instead and mix in lots of vegetables.
The training program I’m using comes with a nutrition guide, so I’ll reference that if I’m either looking to get a little more creative with what I eat or just want some help on figuring out if I should be eating something or not.
Bike Preparation & Gear
For the longest time I was a spandex wearing XC racer, but a few seasons ago I switched to a long travel 29er. Going from a short-travel hardtail to the Yeti SB5.5 changed everything and the newfound speed was addicting.
Flat Pedals vs. Clipless
As part of the change from a hardtail to a trail bike I also switched from clipless pedals to flats. I was using clipless pedals as a crutch and was wanting to re-learn proper technique on the big bike. Those flats have been awesome 90% of the time since I can hop on the bike and ride in the same shoes I drove to the trailhead in. But, in a particularly rough and rocky race last year, my feel slipped off the pedals twice. I needed to pedal through the rocky section, but properly weighting everything while getting bucked every which way proved to be a challenge. This year, I’ll be using clipless for racing and training and saving the flats for fun casual days or times where I want to focus on technique.
New Parts for the Yeti
The Yeti SB5.5 (the predecessor to their newer SB130) I’ll be riding and racing is pretty much where I want it at this point. I’ve made a few changes from when I’ve bought it and it’s in a pretty good spot. The only updates I’ll make this year are a slightly larger chainring and a bashguard. For the bashguard, I’ll be going with the AMg V2 in alloy from MRP, which is a company based out of Grand Junction, CO.
Getting Everything Dialed
Once the parts are squared away I’ll use a lot of early season rides to get everything setup to my liking. This means adjusting the suspension, playing with tire pressure, moving bar height and tweaking a number of other small things. Colorado trails are pretty rough and rocky and I’ll need to make adjustments to my rebound to handle that. Last year I raced at Moab and the morning of the event I made tweaks to my rebound settings on the rear shock. While it may have helped, race day is not the time to try a new rebound setting.