The start of yet another new year presents a prime opportunity to take stock and make some plans for the season ahead. I've been a serious cyclist for 25 years now and consider myself reasonably competent across several disciplines. Like many long-time riders, though, I'm also painfully aware that my fitness and skill levels have largely plateaued in recent years so I've decided that it's time to shake things up.
I'm well aware of the areas that need work, and my guess is that most of you are aware of yours, too.
For one, my fitness has never been where I'd like it to be (then again, whose is?). I can hold a decent pace but my redline has dropped considerably as I've gotten older. Plus, my refusal to pass on dessert (I do love pie) means that even when I'm relatively fit, I'm still carrying around more mass than is ideal. Despite living for nine years now in unrelentingly hilly Colorado, I still approach climbs somewhat begrudgingly and there's far too much gorgeous terrain up there for me to roll across it as infrequently as I do.
Goal #1? Get better at terrain like this
I started on the road but my true love is for the dirt and yet my skill level on a mountain bike isn't where I'd like it to be, either. As I learned to ride off-road in the US Midwest, I feel right at home on fast, tight and twisty trails where you need to fluidly link turns and maintain momentum. Traction is in abundance there, however, whereas in Colorado it's nothing but kitty-litter-over-hardpack. Most tires don't work well here and while I've grown more comfortable sliding around, the full-on foot-out, flat-out style eludes me.
And then there's airtime. I'm quite comfortable on reasonably sized drops but when the trajectory is directed skyward, I'm not nearly as relaxed. In many situations it's simply faster to go over an obstacle than around it, plus jumping is just plain fun.
Thankfully, all of these issues can be fixed and as of today, I've got 349 days left to get moving. So what's the plan?
For one, ride more. This sounds silly but as someone whose job legitimately includes riding bikes, I all too often find myself stuck behind the keyboard (mom and dad raised a worker bee, that's for sure). I know from past experience that I'm pretty horrible at carving out time in the middle of the day or walking away from a job to go pedal so instead, the plan is to get back in the habit of heading out first thing in the morning, even if it's just for an easy spin. If some of you notice that my byline appears less frequently than it once did, you'll know why.
Tweak my diet. Specifically, eat less crap. Many of you are already well familiar with my love of real Haribos and European dark chocolate but neither is exactly helpful in terms of power-to-weight ratio. Aside from my mild sugar addiction, things are already pretty good in this department so thankfully I don't have too much work to do. Don't worry, though; I'm not giving up either completely but as they say, everything in moderation. I know what my easily sustainable race weight could be and it's high time I got there.
Do more activities off the bike. A brief stint of yoga a while back yielded noticeable gains not just on the bike but off it as well with fewer aches and faster recovery. And while there's certainly no triathlons or duathlons in my future, I might actually – gasp – try my hand at trail running.
Buy more bikes. Now I know what you're thinking but there is a plan here. I've long wanted a dirt jumper and with the stellar Valmont Bike Park literally four minutes away by bike path, it's practically criminal not to have one. Along those same lines, I've been lusting after a proper gravity setup for years and with so much fantastic lift access on tap within easy reach (both Winter Park and Keystone ski areas are nearby and offer fantastic bike parks) I think it's time to move on from my old – but beloved – Giant Reign SX.
Granted, neither dirt jumping nor downhill is the wisest segment of the sport to take up after 40 but hey, that's what health insurance is for.
Another goal: More air time
Ride smarter. I'll put it bluntly: I'm the king of junk miles with rides that aren't as hard or as easy as they should be. There was once a time when my legs were shattered after most rides with regular periods of rest in between, and I know from experience that that cycle yields predictably good results. Much as a coach and specific training plan would be ideal, my heavy (and often unpredictable) travel schedule likely won't cooperate with either so let's hope that the 'keeping it fun' plan is at least moderately effective.
Crash more. Wait, this is a goal?! Pushing yourself in terms of fitness may come with little real risk but expanding the skill set isn't likely to come without a few setbacks. I generally consider it a good thing that I don't crash often but that also means I'm probably not pushing it as hard as I could.
This is but one stage of the Breck Epic, a six-day mountain bike stage race with heaps of climbing, held in the high mountains of Colorado
So what about that BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) thing? After years of letting it pass by on the calendar, I've finally decided to suck it up and signed up for the Breck Epic – a six-day, mountain bike stage race that covers about 240 miles and 40,000ft in total distance and climbing, much of it on gorgeous singletrack in the Colorado high country. Goal number one is to finish comfortably and preferably with a smile on my face.
Goal number two? There's this 'whale tail' jump feature at Valmont Bike Park…
Here's to an uncomfortable 2015!
The Whale Tail at Valmont. Just... have... to commit...