Coach’s Corner

What can I do this winter to get ready for my upcoming mountain bike season?

Coach’s Corner- By Alison Dunlap

What can I do this winter to get ready for my upcoming mountain bike season? Racing well during the summer requires a commitment to training in the off-season that you may not have done in years previous. The hard work you put in right now will pay huge dividends in May, June, and July. Even if you don’t have any plans to race, training through the winter can keep you from losing the fitness you worked so hard to gain last summer as well as create a solid aerobic foundation upon which everything else in cycling is built upon. There are three major areas you need to focus on in your off-season; endurance, maximum sustainable power, and anaerobic power (Dave Morris, Performance Cycling; Training for Power, Endurance, and Speed, 2003 p. 55). A carefully constructed training plan will allow you to be ready to race in April and then peak for the big events in late June and July.

The first component of your off-season training plan should be endurance. Endurance training enlarges the heart, increases stroke volume and blood flow, and increases the capacity of your muscular system; all necessary to be a successful cross country racer. Lots of rides at your recovery, endurance, and low tempo zones are great. Figure out how long the events you want to race are going to be and then do rides that are similar in duration. If you plan to race the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series, then you should work up to long rides around 5-7 hours on the weekends. If you only plan to do the normal XC races, then your long rides don’t have to be much more than 3-4hrs. I would also mix in some mid-level intensity on the weekends to keep your fast twitch muscle fibers from getting stale. This includes doing an assortment of sprints, leadout intervals, and “muscle tension” workouts (60 rpms in your tempo zone). Your endurance block of training can begin in October and go through the end of December. But it is February. Now what can I do??

The second component of your off-season training plan should be improving your power output. This happens in two parts. The first step in this process is increasing your short term power output. This is accomplished by doing lots of very high intensity interval workouts. The large amount of volume from the endurance phase drops dramatically and is replaced by short painful workouts. These intervals are more commonly known as Vo2 intervals. A typical workout might involve a 20 minute warm-up followed by 7×3 minutes on, 3 minutes off. You want to ride as hard as you possibly can for the entire three minutes. I like to mix it up with intervals ranging in length from 3 minutes to 10 minutes. At the intermediate or Cat 1 level you should be able to handle 3, 5, and up to 10 minute Vo2 efforts. There are no long rides during this block of training. You will ride really hard on your interval days and then have lots of recovery days in between. Vo2 intervals can be done during the month of January and February.

The second step in improving your power output is to increase your power output over long periods of time also known as your power at lactate threshold. You will take the power you developed last block and use it for intervals that are longer and slightly less intense. I personally feel like this is the hardest block of training, but will also do the most to improve your cycling. Lactate threshold intervals are theoretically done at a power output that you can sustain for an hour. Your lactate threshold zone will usually range from 5-10 watts below and above your lactate threshold. If you don’t know your lactate threshold power and heart rate I recommend doing either a field test or going to a lab. Intervals during this block are typically between 10-30 minutes in length with an equal amount of recovery time. Early in the training program I would do these intervals slightly below your lactate threshold power and heart rate. Later in the summer you can come back and do them slightly above. These workouts are very long and hard and will make you feel slow and flat. To keep from losing everything you gained last block I recommend doing hard group rides or an occasional training race on the weekend to refresh your high end intensity. Be sure to go very easy on your recovery days because you will need the rest. This block of training can be done during the months of February and March.

The third component of your off-season training should be improving your anaerobic power. This is the power you can sustain for only very short bursts of time. These efforts are done anaerobically or without oxygen so your body can only do such efforts for 10-30 seconds. As a cross country racer you may wonder why you would do these kinds of intervals. Many times in a mountain bike race you have to power up a very steep technical section or sprint up a short steep hill. Your body goes anaerobic for a few seconds. If you don’t train this system, then your body won’t be able to tolerate the huge amounts of lactate produced during these anaerobic efforts, which means your muscles will fatigue quickly and you will “explode.” Anaerobic intervals are typically very short with equally as short recoveries. A typical workout might be 15 seconds as hard as you can go, followed by a 30 second recovery, 15 seconds on, 30 seconds off and so on for 10 minutes. These intervals are fun because they are short and there are lots of variations which keep things exciting. I like to do these intervals right before my race season begins.

Now that your season has begun in April, how do you maintain your fitness and then peak for the big events in late June and July? I recommend doing high intensity training that mimics what you are doing in your races or big events during the months of April and May. In June I would go back and do more endurance work; tempo and lactate threshold. Remember these workouts make you feel flat so don’t do these leading up to a big important event. The 2-3 weeks before your big event I would fine-tune with very specific high intensity intervals. Try and match the length of intervals to what you think the course will be like at Nationals. If the race is on very short steep punchy climbs, then you probably don’t need to do efforts longer than 3 minutes. But if the race is up at altitude in Colorado and you know the climbs are at least 30 minutes long, then I would do some 10 minute Vo2 race pace efforts. Remember that a successful training program isn’t all about going hard all the time. Both active recovery days on the bike and rest days off the bike are a critical part of getting stronger. Ride hard but also rest hard. Hard training is all about creating a stress on the body and breaking it down. The adaptations to all this hard training don’t actually occur until your body has a recovery day or a rest week(s). With a good mix of both you will see tremendous gains in your fitness and power and all your friends will wonder why they can’t keep up with you.

Happy trails! Alison

The information for this article came from Dave Morris’ book Performance Cycling; Training for Power, Endurance, and Speed, 2003.

Favorite Trainer Workouts

TrainerCOACH’S CORNER: by Alison Dunlap

Now that winter is upon us it is time to become friendly with the trainer again.  If you get to ride outside all the time during the summer and fall, the switch to riding the trainer can be painful and unwelcome.  If you are one of those “time crunched cyclists” as Chris Carmichael calls it, you probably spend a lot of your time on the trainer anyways and the winter months won’t be much different.  Whatever level you’re at, whatever event you’re training for, there are lots of “fun” workouts you can do on the trainer.  “Fun” is relative of course because many of these workouts involve painful amounts of lactic acid.  Haha!

 Workout #1  Lactate threshold/Vo2 ramping intervals:  If you have very little time to ride and want to get the most out of your time on the trainer, then this workout is one of my favorites.  It is “short and sweet”.  But it is also quite painful.   I also use power on the trainer which I think makes a huge difference in the entertainment value.  Start a good movie and off you go.

  •  5 minute warm up
  • 10 minute ramping effort.  My lactate threshold is around 220 watts.  I start this 10 min effort at 150 watts.  Every minute I increase by 10 watts so the last minute of the effort is at 240 watts.   Pick a range that starts in your endurance zone and finishes above LT.
  • 2min recovery
  • 5min LT/Vo2:  I start at 210 watts.  Every minute I go up by 10 watts and finish at 250 watts.
  • 2min recovery
  • 5min LT/Vo2:  Start this second effort at 220 watts and finish at 260.
  • 2min recovery
  • 5min LT/Vo2: Start at 230 watts and finish at 270.
  • 2min recovery
  • 5min LT/Vo2:  Start at 240 watts and finish at 280.  This last interval will be more of a Vo2 effort.
  • 5min cool down and you’re done!  43 minutes total time with 30 minutes of intensity.  Not bad.

Workout #2  Vo2/anaerobic power:  These are short intense intervals that are done in a pyramid fashion.

  • 10-15 minute warm up
  • 90sec on at Vo2 intensity, 90sec off
  • 75sec on at Vo2, 75sec off
  • 60sec on at anaerobic power, 60sec off
  • 45sec on at AP, 45sec off
  • 30sec on at AP, 30sec off
  • 15sec sprint, Done!
  • 5 minute recovery
  • I would do 4-6 of these early in the winter and then 6-8 as you get fitter.
  • 20 minute cool down.

Workout #3  The Hour of Power:  This workout came from my good friend Jay Gump of Incline Training.  This is another one of those “get the biggest bang for your buck” workouts.  It is done either at tempo or your sweet spot (steady state) power.  I wouldn’t do this at your lactate threshold because the recovery time is too short.

  • 15 minute warm up
  • 10min at tempo, 2min recovery
  • Repeat 5 more times for a total of 60 minutes of work.
  • I would do 4x10min on 2min off the first week.  Your second week you could go to 5×10 and the third week you can do the hour of power; 6×10.  Then do a 15 minute cool down.

Workout #4  Microbursts:  This is a pure anaerobic power workout and is quite painful.  Don’t do this until you have a decent amount of fitness and intensity in your legs.  If you’re not training or racing (like me) then you can do this workout whenever you like.  It’s fun and the time goes by quickly.

  • 15 minute warm up
  • 2x3min Vo2 efforts with a 3min recovery.  This gets the legs opened up.
  • The 10 minute microburst starts with a 10 second sprint followed by a 20 second recovery.  Then another 10 sec sprint, 20 sec recovery and so on for 10 minutes.  Each sprint is a max effort best done in the drops.  The challenge of this workout is getting the power adjusted up and down fast enough on your indoor trainer.  If you’re using heart rate, just know that HR won’t respond fast enough in 10-20 seconds so don’t use it as a gauge of intensity.  If you don’t have power, perceived exertion is going to be your best bet.  Rollers might work better if you’re an extremely good bike handler and feel confident you won’t sprint off into the couch or fireplace.  You could also make these a little longer;  20 second sprint, 40 second recovery.
  • Take a 10 minute recovery after each microburst.  I would start with one 10 minute effort your first week and work up to 3×10.  Then do a 15 minute cool down.

 Obviously there are many other trainer workouts you can do.  Get creative and have fun with it.  Don’t look at the trainer as something evil lurking in your basement.  It is a valuable tool and can be very effective in the winter when it is 10 degrees outside with a foot of fresh snow on the ground.

Happy trails!

Alison

 Alison is a superstar in the sport of cycling.  She competed in two Olympic Games, won the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, the UCI World Cup Overall, and is the holder of thirteen US National Championships in road, MTB, and cyclocross.  Since retiring in 2005 Alison has been working full-time coaching cyclists and running skills camps and clinics. She is a USA Cycling Level I coach, a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor out of Whistler, BC, a Wilderness First Responder, and a very proud mom to her 3-yr-old son, Emmett.  Alison is a Colorado native and lives in Colorado Springs with her family.

 

WMBA Moab MTB Skills Camp with Alison Dunlap

Alison Dunlap

Alison Dunlap, WMBA member and sponsor, World Champion and 2-time Olympian, has offered to run a WMBA members only mountain bike skills camp in Moab, Utah March 28-30, 2014.  This camp is not open to the public and is being offered at a deep discount.

For those of you that already have a strong mountain bike background, come join us in Moab for a three day intermediate skills camp. This adventure is for riders that are comfortable on technically challenging singletrack, but haven’t ridden in Moab; or maybe you’ve already been to Moab but want to come back for the more advanced rides. In our Moab Camp we’ll spend the first half-day fine tuning our skills by reviewing the basics and then learning the more advanced riding techniques needed for Moab. We’ll spend the rest of our time on some of the big epic rides, practicing and becoming proficient on the technical sections, working on “enduro” style descending, and becoming more adept with our climbing. It’s a challenging weekend both mentally and physically, but when you head home you’ll have an arsenal of new skills and techniques that will make you a faster, stronger, and safer rider.

Skills covered in the Intermediate Moab camp:

Body position, balance, vision, maneuvering, and braking
Enduro techniques
Riding up and down big ledges
Riding off 2-3 ft drops
Wheelies
Tight exposed switchbacks with obstacles
Loose rocky climbs and descents
Cornering on loose tight single-track
Off-camber cornering
High speed descending
Whoop-de-doos

WMBA Moab camp participants should be comfortable with the following:
Clipping in and out of your clipless pedals on both sides under all conditions, quickly and safely
Riding moderate to difficult obstacles; ledges, rough rocky climbs and descents, exposed singletrack and slickrock
Riding 3-5hrs on moderate to strenuous trails, including long sustained climbs and short steep power hills
Dates: March 28-30, 2014
Price:  $685
Ability level:  Strong intermediate
Location:  Moab, Utah
Start time:  8:00am at Rim Tours

What’s included:
3 full days of skill work and trail riding with Alison
Transportation to and from rides
Gourmet lunches
Clif Bar and LUNA Bar products
Swag bag of sponsor goodies
ADAC T-Shirt

Who is Alison?
Alison is a superstar in the sport of cycling.  She competed in two Olympic Games, won the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, the UCI World Cup Overall, and is the holder of thirteen US National Championships in road, MTB, and cyclocross.  Since retiring in 2005 Alison has been working full-time coaching cyclists and running skills camps and clinics. She is a USA Cycling Level I coach, a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor out of Whistler, BC, a Wilderness First Responder, and a very proud mom to her 3-yr-old son, Emmett.  Alison is a Colorado native and lives in Colorado Springs with her family.

Founded in 2003, the Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps have become the go-to name for premier mountain bike camps and clinics in the Rocky Mountain Region.  With over 25 years of racing and riding, Alison uses her unique personal teaching style and methodology combined with her passion and love of the sport to offer guests the highest quality instruction in a safe, progressive, and non-threatening environment.

For more information and a detailed itinerary email alison@alisondunlap.com or call 719-439-9041.  You can also visit her website at www.alisondunlap.com.

Registration opens January 1, 2014. Space is limited so contact Alison today to reserve your spot!

My Experience on Alison’s MTB Skills Camp in Moab

By Diane Gilliam

alison and dianeSomewhere along a portion of the Porcupine Rim Trail as I was confidently maneuvering 3’ drops and other trail obstacles I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying three short days ago, I realized just how much I had learned at the Alison Dunlap Moab MTB Skills Camp.

This wasIMG_1820 IMG_1777 IMG_1889 the last day of Alison’s Camp where I and 5 other riders had enjoyed the pleasures of an all-inclusive package that included a 3-night stay at the Rim Village Condominiums, tasty meals with available vegetarian options, two massages, transportation to/from trails, bike tune-ups following daily rides, and most importantly, personalized instruction from Alison.
I had wanted to attend Alison’s camp ever since taking a weekend skills workshop offered by Alison and her husband Greg several years ago. I learned so much over that weekend that I could only image how much my skill level would improve while riding with Alison in Moab. I was not disappointed!
On our first day of riding, Alison and Beth, Beth works at Rim Tours and assisted Alison while also serving as our bike mechanic and shuttle driver, worked to sharpen our basic skills in a local park. Over the next few days they helped us transfer those skills to overcome the challenges of actual trail obstacles.
Alison has a unique talent, not just in her ability to teach skills, but of creating an atmosphere of trust. I tried things I never dreamed I could do based solely on my trust in Alison to know my abilities and encourage me to only try obstacles she was totally confident I could do. Oh there were definitely moments of fear as I encountered challenges above my comfort level. But with Alison’s guidance and encouragement from Beth and my fellow riders, my confidence soared and I was soon riding obstacles unimaginable just hours before.
One of the unspoken benefits from the camp was in meeting and riding with the other camp attendees. I didn’t know any of the other 5 riders at the start, but after 3 days of riding together, offering encouragement and watching each other overcome fears and improve skills, I was amazed at the strong bond that had formed and found it hard to say good-bye at camp’s end.
I’d highly recommend Alison’s camp to anyone who would like to combine a trip to Moab with a chance to improve their riding skills and confidence.

Training Article by Alison Dunlap

IMG_2330 (1280x960)Training Article

by Alison Dunlap

“What constitutes a proper warm-up for a race? Would it vary depending on my level of racing, i.e. beginner vs. pro? How would warming up for a short track race vs. cross country race vs. endurance race affect the warm-up?

Warming up for a race is one of the most neglected parts of our race preparation, yet a proper warm-up can have a dramatic effect on how you perform, especially in the first 15-20 minutes of the race. A good warm-up will activate your muscles at various intensities without creating a lot of lactic acid. An accumulation of lactic acid would inhibit muscle contraction causing you to start your race already tired. Without a good warm-up your muscles will be tight and “asleep”. The start of a race can be very intense and your HR can skyrocket within seconds. If your legs aren’t ready for such a violent start, you’ll feel terrible and you won’t be able to ride as hard as you’re used to or want to. You’ll most likely get dropped from the pack within the first 5-10 minutes.

Warm-ups vary depending on the length of the race. In general, the shorter the race the longer the warm-up. The longest and hardest warm-ups are done for prologues, track events (kilo, pursuit), MTB short tracks, and criteriums. There is very little warm-up for the ultra-endurance events, 100 mile/100km marathons, and big multi-day stage races.

When trying to decide what to do in your warm-up, ask yourself what kind of intensity you think you will be racing at for the first 10-20 minutes. If the race starts slow with a more social atmosphere until an hour or two into the event, then a moderate warm-up with some endurance and a little tempo work will do you very well. If you are getting ready for a short track or a 2hr cross country event, you know that you will be maxed out within 30 seconds of the gun going off. Warming up for this kind of event should include a lot of lactate threshold and vo2 intensity.

Age and experience on the bike are also things to consider when designing your warm-up. A very young cyclist that has only a few years of racing in his legs might not do well with a long warm-up. It might make him tired by the time he goes to the start line. I would suggest a 30-40 minute warm-up at most. For athletes that have raced for decades and have a high level of fitness, or may be racing at the pro/elite level, then a full one-hour warm-up works well for a short event, 45-50 minutes for a cross country race, and 20-30 for an ultra-endurance race. And for athletes that are above 50 and consider themselves “Masters”, an even longer warm-up might be needed. Older athletes tend to need a lot more time to get their legs going up to race pace.

So just what should you do in your warm-up? Up until 2005, the warm-up I used for all my cross country races was the following: 20min easy spin, 10 minutes at tempo, 5 minute easy spin, 4 minute lactate threshold, 4 minute easy spin, 3 minute vo2, 3 minute easy spin, 3 minute vo2, 3-4 minute easy spin and then off the bike and over to the start line. If I raced the short track the next day I would do the same warm up except skip the 4 minute lactate threshold.

I changed my warm-up slightly when I came back and raced cyclocross in 2009 to a shorter, more efficient warm-up. It consisted of: 20min easy spin, 2x5min tempo efforts with a 2min recovery followed by 2x2min vo2 efforts with a 3min recovery. Then right to the start line.

If you were warming up for an ultra-endurance event I would do the following: 20min easy spin followed by a 10min tempo effort. That’s it.

There are a couple of other things you should know about warm-ups.

1. They are best done on a trainer. You can eliminate the stress of trying to find a safe place warm-up, you don’t have to worry about flatting or having a mechanical while getting ready, and your food, drink, and clothing is right there next to the trainer.

2. Do everything in a nice high cadence around 100-110rpms. A lower cadence will load up your legs and fatigue your muscles.

3. Be conservative with your heart rate and power. If you are doing a 4 minute effort at your lactate threshold, ride at the low to middle end of the LT zone. Don’t try and set a record for highest power and HR in your warm-up.

4. It is easier on your legs if you do your efforts on a “bell curve”. When we do intervals in training we usually start the effort at the desired power and try and maintain it for the entire effort. When we finish the effort, especially a hard one, we are completely maxed out and we collapse on our handlebars. A lot of times we completely stop pedaling. When warming up for a race, slowly ramp up your effort so that at the half-way point of the interval you have reached your desired HR and power. Hold that intensity for 15 seconds to a minute and then slowly back down. This is much easier on your legs and won’t create a build-up of lactic acid. For example, if my tempo zone is 155-165bpm, I will take 4 ½ minutes to hit my desired HR of 160bpm. Then I will hold that HR for a minute before slowly decreasing my intensity so by the end of the 10 minute effort my HR is back down to 120-130. If my LT zone is 169-175bpm, I will take 2 minutes to build up to 172, hold it for 15 seconds, and then back off until I reach a HR around 140.

5. If you are doing a multi-day event or back to back races, remember that when your body gets tired your HR will be lower than normal. In this case I will do my warm-up using “perceived exertion” instead of heart rate. For example; when warming up for the 5th day of a 7 day stage race, your HR might be 10 beats lower for the same tempo effort that you did on day one. You might still be generating the same amount of power, but if you go strictly by HR, you will think that you’re not riding hard enough. Mentally that can be very defeating and you will end up thinking you’re going to have a bad day. Going by perceived exertion eliminates this. I will cover up my HR monitor and do the warm-up strictly by feel. If you are lucky enough to have a power meter, then this is something you don’t have to worry about. Power is power no matter how tired or fresh you are.

6. Always do your warm-up with an energy drink and food. If you warm-up with only water and you don’t eat anything you will be quite depleted in carbohydrate reserves and most likely dehydrated before you start your race. You’ve already dug yourself into a hole.

7. Time your warm-up so that you finish with only 10 minutes to go before call-up. A great warm-up won’t do you any good if you finish 30 minutes before your event and you stand around getting stiff and cold.

8. Eliminate distractions from family and friends. Encourage those folks to chat with you after your race. Your job isn’t to be social while warming up. Stay focused and be a little selfish. You’ll be glad you did when the gun goes off.

The best thing to do is practice your warm-up routine at training races and smaller local events that aren’t important. Be familiar with your warm-up schedule, know your body and how long it takes for you to get completely ready physically and mentally, know what kinds of food and drink work best for you and how much, and know how much time you need to get off the trainer and head to the start line. It is even important to know how many times you typically go to the bathroom before the start of a race. Then when you go to the big events your warm-up will be stress-free and something you don’t really have to think about; you just do it.

Good luck and happy trails!

Alison

Alison is a 2-time Olympian, MTB World Champion and multi-time National Champion. Alison has been coaching for ten years and is a certified USA Cycling Level II coach. She is also a WMBA member, a Colorado College graduate, and a Colorado native. Please visit www.alisondunlap.com for more information on the camps, clinics, and coaching she does through the Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps.

 

Firecracker 50 Registration is Open

Join us for the 2011 Firecracker 50 on July 4th. Last year WMBA walked away with all kinds of amazing finishes. Ask someone to team up with you or do it solo. If you have questions or need advise don’t hesitate to email us.

Information and Registration