Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thanks Whitney!


Whitney got me a helmet camera for xmas! I tried it out on the Lake Desire "test track" behind my parent's house. This thing is going to be too much fun!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Season Complete

Last Sunday was the grand finale of my 2010 cycling season, where I raced the collegiate and elite races at Cyclocross Nationals in Bend, OR. I was really looking forward to the collegiate race especially because I knew my WWU teammates and I had a good shot at winning the collegiate team title.

Whitney in the mud.

I watched Whitney, Hannah, and Courtenay throw down in the women's race while I warmed up. They all did amazing and placed 13th, 7th, and 3rd respectively! Awesome!

In the collegiate men's race, I started a couple rows back but worked my way forward on the first lap. Once on the second lap, my teammate Steve Fisher, was off the front by about 15 seconds. I was on the wheel of Ryan Leech, the '09 national champ, but was able to separate myself cleanly from him in one of the slow swampy sections. I was now free to work my way up to Steve.

Photo Credit: here

After another lap I had closed the gap and Steve and I were riding together with nobody near us. Taking turns leading, I think both of us were excited just to see that the race would most likely be won by a WWU rider.


It wasn't until the final lap that Steve and I ended our truce and began throwing down attacks and really pushing the technical sections. The crowd seemed to really go wild as we battled back and forth all the way to the final corner into the finish. Steve came out of the final turn ahead and held me off for the win.

Photo: Debbie Driver

I was really happy to take second place to Steve. It's always a great day when you go 1-2 with a teammate! Ian and Ben also delivered the goods with 8th and 16th place respectively! Nice work!

After all of our individual results, we were confident we would take the overall Division 2 team title. Sure enough, we were indeed awarded the win! Go Vikings!

Photo: Debbie Driver

Remembering that the fun was only half over, I started warming up for my second race of the day. I knew I didn't have any UCI points to help my starting position in the Elite race, but I did end up getting a lucky call-up that was relatively close to the front(behind only 70 people instead of 100+).

Once the race was underway, I didn't hesitate to pass dozens of riders in a short period of time. Knowing the course so well from my previous race must have been a big advantage because I was already in the top 30 at the end of the first lap.

Until... I plowed into a rider who crashed in front of me. Hooking my handlebars in his spokes, we fought to untangle the puzzle of a mess. Finally free to ride again, I was close to dead last. Temporarily heartbroken, I rode slowly until finding my rhythm and starting to gain back lost time.

Until... my crankarm broke. My pedaling started feeling really weird and I realized that my right pedal was at an angle coming out of the crankarm. Fearing that I would tear the pedal out completely, I didn't dare stand up and pedal hard. Relief came soon enough when I was pulled from the race before being lapped by the leaders.

61st place. Not exactly the kind of result you would write home about. However, I did have a ton of fun racing and suffering. Plus, the amount of spectators was totally unreal! I'd say at least three times as many as the World Cup in Aigle! It was really cool seeing first hand how big the sport of cyclocross is becoming in the US.

Photo: Dave Pearson

2010 has been a long year filled with some of the best races and experiences of my life thus far. Whether it was collegiate road racing in the spring, mountain biking in the summer, my two months in Europe, or cyclocross in the fall, I made big personal improvements that I had previously only dreamed of.

A good collegiate race report from CX Magazine: here

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going home!

I can't believe it has already been two months since I arrived in Premanon. There have been highs and there have been lows, but most importantly, this has been an experience of a lifetime! I am mostly glad to be going home, but also sad to be leaving this amazing place. Sometime in my lifetime I hope to return for some riding or skiing in the Jura Mountains of France and Switzerland.

To wrap things up, I thought I would post some numbers about my time here:
- 11 VO2 max tests to measure aerobic capacity
- 6 indoor 30km time trials to measure sub-maximal power
- 2 muscle biopsies to measure muscle cell mitochondrial function
- 7 CO rebreathing tests to measure blood volume
- 2 arterial catheters used to measure cardiac output
- 6 wingate tests to measure anaerobic power
- 12 electro-stimulation tests to measure muscle fatigue
- 30 or more blood draws

And most importantly, all of the time spent riding in an incredible setting with:
- 78 hours of riding outside
- 1200 miles
- 110,000 feet of climbing

Now all I have left to do is to invent teleportation and instantly transport myself back to Seattle and not have to deal with the long miserable journey ahead...

The complete Live-High Train-Low crew before saying our goodbyes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

World Cup Cyclocross

Today we had the treat of spending the day in Aigle, Switzerland watching the first World Cup Cyclocross race of the season. Pretty amazing to see the world's best in person. American Katie Compton won the women's race!

Zdenek Stybar leads Sven Nys into a tricky off-camber section.

Tim Johnson, US national champion.

Jeremy Powers of the US.

The race course surrounded the UCI World Headquarters.

Bart Aernauts of Belgium after the barriers.

Drunk spectators from Premanon.

Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic continued his winning streak today.

Stybar 1st, Niels Albert 2nd, Kevin Pauwels 3rd.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rough evening in Premanon

Yesterday evening, I decided it would be nice to spend a little time in the sauna, like we often do here. Turns out I would have been better off doing something else...

After spending 12 minutes in the sauna with a few friends and some French skiers, I showered, dried off, and started walking back to my room. Next thing I knew I was waking up facedown on the floor with Ian standing above me asking me if I was ok. As I slowly regained consciousness, I could taste blood and feel the pain setting in. Apparently my blood pressure must have dropped dramatically and caused me to pass out.

But anyways, don't worry, I am alive and doing great. Last night I had a couple stitches put in my forehead and this morning I visited a Swiss dentist's office. Walking into this place was like stepping onboard the space shuttle! Super nice facility and staff! After all the invasive testing over the last month and half, it was so effortless and painless to just lay there while they fixed me up. I think they did a good job, but you can be the judge:

Before

After

I should also mention a similar funny story(some of you have heard this one, I'm sure). Two years ago, while working at the Black Diamond Bike Shop, I smashed my finger in a disc brake rotor and passed out from shock in the same fashion. I smashed my face up pretty good, but my finger was really the worst injury. As if this wasn't a random enough event, TJ, a friend here in Premanon, just told me about when he had also smashed his finger in a disc brake rotor and also passed out. The world is small, it seems...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The final hurdle

Today was a major turning point of my time spent here in Premanon. This morning was the 2nd and final muscle biopsy which was the last of the invasive tests. I was pretty nervous of the procedure, but was looking forward to getting it over with. During the biopsy, Carsten used local anesthetics to numb an area in my quad. He then made an incision and used a special device to "suck out" a sample of muscle. Painful, but quick. Thankfully, this time around was not as rough as the first biopsy because I knew what to expect.

This evening we will be moving back downstairs into normal single rooms. Everyone is excited to get out of our cramped, stuffy, noisy hypoxic rooms. I can't wait to open the window and hear the cowbells and breath the fresh mountain air again! Our final two weeks should be pretty plush. We are not on a time schedule and there are not many tests.

video

Above is a video that Carsten took of me performing the final few minutes of one of many VO2 Max tests. In this one, I topped out at 475 watts and you can tell I'm really suffering by the way I start fighting the bike!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Testing begins again

The last few days here in Premanon have been a little rough on me. After a block of hard training days, I began having problems in my right knee. Forced to rest, I suffered cabin fever and boredom in the training facility. Unfortunately, riding seems to be the only good form of entertainment here. Thinking my knee had healed, I performed the Submax test, which caused the pain to return.

Start line

Russ

During my time off the bike, I was able to watch Russell and Jesse race another local cyclocross race. I had a lot of fun taking pictures and seeing both of them have good days on the bike. Russ was 4th and Jesse was 8th!

Jesse

Russ rode the run-up when others couldn't.

After more rest, I did two VO2 max tests yesterday and was relieved to find that my knee no longer hurt. The sun is shining today and I can ride again. Life is good!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Euro cross race

After last weekends incredibly road racing experience, I was really excited to see how a local cross race would compare. The race was on a lake in a small town, Montrevel en Bresse, about a 2 hour drive from Premanon. Rain was coming down hard until an hour before our race when the weather cleared up a bit. This made for wet grass, sticky mud, soft wet sand, and even some loose dry sand.

Team Premanon, cross style.

Jesse, TJ, Russell, and I were there to race, but we were also lucky to have a full support crew of Ian, Shaun, Adam, and Robby. During our race, they cheered like crazy which definitely made us go faster!


After a slow back of the pack start, I began working my way through the field quickly. Despite riding with a semi-slick hutchinson pirhana rear tire, I still felt good in the slippery stuff. I had tons of fun passing people and riding the different features of the course. Several times, when I would come out onto a long paved section, a couple strong riders would come charging by me, staying ahead only until we reached a technical section, where I was back in my element. The most difficult part of the course for me was the long beach section, where we rode through sand into a stiff headwind for 300 meters. Slow painful grind.


In the end I probably finished just inside the top 20. Russell had a great ride to around 10th place, as did Jesse and TJ, coming in shortly after me. It was so refreshing to race some cross, especially in the mud. Now I'm really itching to do some more races!


Thank you for the great pictures, Adam and Ian!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Road racing in the Alps

I figured it would be hard, but I didn't know it would be that hard...

There were 7 of us, including teammate Russell Stevenson and Ian Terry from Seattle, who drove the 120km to the start of this local French road race. We were a bit concerned about being allowed to race, especially when we realized that none of the officials spoke english. Much to our relief, registration actually went smoother than most US races and only cost 7 euros! After warming up, we arranged ourselves at the start line. The seven of us, Jacob, Ian, Sean, Laust, Russell, Andrew, and I discussed team tactics. Techno music blasted as we looked around and were shocked to see 100 riders at the start line. There were a lot of serious looking racers and even a couple AG2R guys. Oh shit, this could be really really hard, I thought.

Team Premanon, ready to race.

I should also mention that I was rocking my cross bike, mountain bike shoes, and hairy legs. Images of the movie Breaking Away flashed through my head and I was fully prepared for somebody to stick a pump in my wheel...

Elevation profile.

The race got underway and the pace was hot. We did three 30km loops followed by a 20km finale loop with a huge climb in it. Each of the three main laps featured two low-grade climbs that left the field strung-out and shattered in the wind. Reminded me a lot of the first stage of Walla Walla, but in the Alps with Mont Blanc towering overhead. Several breaks formed but were brought back. On the third lap, a huge split of roughly 30 riders went away. Andrew put in a big dig to try to close the gap. A few minutes later, I followed a move and found myself with 3 others out in no-mans land attempting to bridge to the lead group. We hit the second climb and two of my compatriots took off and the other dropped back. Now I was really all alone in the wind. I rode probably 15km before I was relieved to be caught by another chase group. This group contained Russell and about 10 other dudes, one of which was quick to yell at me in French for not pulling. Well, at least I assumed that was what he was saying.

Yours truly with Russell 2 riders back. Survival mode on lap 2.

Now on the 20km finishing loop, our group pace-lined the next 10km until we hit the base of the big climb up Mont Saxxonnex where it became more or less every man for himself. The climb was really spectacular, following a steep ravine along waterfalls and huge limestone cliffs. I think it was only a 5km climb, but steep! I guess the average grade was around 12% which made me glad I had put my 28tooth cassette on. I kept thinking of yesterday's Vuelta stage, where Nibali had defended his lead on a similarly steep and painful-looking climb. I pushed over the top through a small village and began the descent to the finish. This part I really loved! Technical, fast downhill. I think I must be an ok descender because I caught and passed several riders, hitting speeds of up to 50mph in the process. After the fun descent, it was only 1km of flat into the finish. I could see Russell and some other riders about 20 seconds ahead on the finishing straight when I rolled in.

Leaders going over the top of Saxonnex.

Looking at my computer, I knew the race was hard because my average heart rate was almost 170 for 3 hours! The organization and professionalism of this race really amazed me. We had the entire road and there were course marshals with flags and whistles at all the traffic furniture and roundabouts, just like the Tour. The local spectators were even out in force along the road in every village we rode through as well as on the climbs. All in all, an amazing day on the bike! Thanks for reading and good luck to all you cross racers back home!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Premanon week 3

Not a whole lot to report from here in Premanon. The days are really flying by now. Highlights include improved food, lots of hours in our rooms(we are required to be in them for 16+ hours per day for hypoxic effects), more fun rides, and even some downhill mountain biking!

Russell and the Jura countryside.

Yesterday, Thomas, Carsten, Christof, and I rode a cool mountain bike trail that descends down one of the local ski hills. It was complete with slimy roots and rocks, steeps, and lots of mud! Carsten, the leader of the altitude study, very generously let me borrow his old mountain bike, full-face helmet, and body armor.

video
Me, followed by Christof. Thanks for the video, Thomas!

There are a couple road races this weekend and a UCI Marathon(100km) mountain bike race. I'd like to do at least one of the events, but don't know which it will be yet. I'll report back after the weekend...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Big rides and hypoxia

Last night was our first night in our new rooms on the fifth floor. Two thirds of us are in hypoxic rooms, while the other third are not. Nobody knows who are in the hypoxic group and who are in the placebo group except for Carsten, the leader of the study. The rooms are equipped with an atmospheric-controlling machine that circulates the air and possibly(depending on hypoxic or placebo) releases Nitrogen into the room, thus decreasing the percentage of O2 and simulating a higher elevation. As the machine runs, it sounds a lot like a fire breathing dragon is sleeping in our room, emitting a constant loud hum and a puff of air every 12 seconds.

Hypoxic sensors, intake, and exhaust(aka"fire-breathing dragon").

Now that I think of it, I realize I have not really talked much about the overall goal of the study. The idea is to study the effects of "live high - train low" style training on elite-level cyclists. I originally found out about the opportunity to be a part of this when Russell Stevenson sent me this very informative and enticing link.

Lake Annecy from Col de la Forclaz.

Nearing the top of Chatillon. Mont Blanc in the distance.

The last couple days, I was able to get out on some big rides. On Saturday, Russell and I rode with Tim, a friend from Seattle, and his buddy Miles, from Chamonix. We did a spectacular loop around Lake Annecy in the French Alps. Big climbs, castles, crazy bike paths, and amazing views! Being in Annecy was also a bit of a shock. Seeing so many people, cyclists, and tourists everywhere was the opposite of our hideaway in the Jura Mountains!

Big Stella at the top!

Yesterday's ride was another good one. Lots of miles in both France and Switzerland at a brutal pace, thanks mostly to Jacob from Denmark. This week's training should be a lot lighter to allow for some recovery and acclimatization to the (possibly)hypoxic room.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Premanon week 2

It's been a few days since I last posted and a lot has happened around here. I had my first muscle biopsy performed and it was pretty uncomfortable and gross during the procedure, but healed-up quickly in the days following. Of course, I've been on some more great rides too! Two days ago, Thomas from Denmark, and I did a big ride leaving from the hospital in Switzerland. We climbed narrow paved roads up Mont Tendre, the highest mountain in the Swiss Juras, while looking across massive Lac Leman into the Alps and Mont Blanc. Spectacular!

Parking?

Yesterday was our first really rainy day and it felt like home! Rather than riding in the rain(too early in the year for that), Russell and Nikole(visiting for the week) took me around in their rental car and down into Geneva. We walked around the old city streets, had an awesome Swiss lunch, and some good beer. It was cool seeing Geneva, but it did seem mostly to be a city for wealthy shoppers.

Veinous and arterial lines in place.

Today was a pretty crazy day at the hospital, to say the least. I performed two VO2 max tests; one at current altitude(about 1000 meters) and one at a simulated 2600 meters. During these tests, I was hooked up to an insane amount of sensors and gadgets, including veinous and arterial catheters, cardiac sensors, a brain-blood ultra-sound, and some sort of other muscle sensors(forgot to ask what they were for). As crazy as I looked, it was actually surprisingly easy to ride normally in the tests. The arterial catheter was really the worst part, which had to be placed by a certified anesthesiologist. Even this task wouldn't be a big deal if I wasn't so freaked out by needles. This trip is really helping me face my fear!

Plugging me into the matrix!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Premanon 4 and 5

The days are going by quickly as we have all gotten into more of a rhythm. Yesterday, I had my first VO2 max test. Never done one of these before and now I can see why people say they are so hard! I figure that since I have 7 more of these to do, I'll be pretty used to the pain by the time I fly home.

Looking down at Saint Claude.

I had the day off from testing today and I was able to get out on a longer ride. Rode on some really fun quiet roads out of Premanon down to Longchaumois, then dropped way down to Saint Claude. Out of Saint Claude I followed a bike path along the Bienne River Gorge, climbing gradually to Morbier and Morez. From there it was a quick, albeit tough, climb back up to Premanon.

A cool viaduct in Morbier.

Tomorrow is my first muscle biopsy and I'm not looking forward to it after seeing all the current victims limping around. Thankfully, we only have to do two of these throughout the whole study.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Premanon 3

As I sit here typing this, my legs and body scream at me. I feel like I just did one of my hardest races of the year.

The name submax does not do this morning's test justice. The test is actually quite involved and lengthy, starting first with electrostimulation and leg-force measurements. For this, electrode patches are used to zapp our quads as we do a leg lift against a measuring device. Not painful, but uncomfortable. Next up is a 30 second Wingate test on a stationary bike. This is an all-out effort against sudden heavy resistance. I think I measured about 770 watts max and 660 watts mean. I don't have anything to compare these numbers to yet, so I don't know how good or bad they might be(not that is matters).

After the Wingate comes the real challenge; an all-out time trial over the last 30km of the Milan-San Remo race. How, you ask? Well, on a very advanced Tacx indoor-trainer/simulator. During the effort, I was able to ride through the lovely streets of San Remo, Italy while viewing my wattage(something new to me), heart rate, etc. Pretty cool!

Indoor time trial. Thanks for another photo, Ian!

All within 30 seconds after the tt, barely able to stand, I was rushed/guided back over to the electrostimulation and zapped a final couple more times to measure muscle fatigue. After the tests, I rode slowly back to our home near Premanon. Looking back at this morning, I'm a bit overwhelmed that we will be doing 5 more submax tests but I am sure they will only help to make us stronger!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Premanon 2

Today we had our first taste of the testing that we will be going through during our two month stay in Premanon. I'll be honest, I did not think much of this before coming here, but now I can see that my time here may become quite the mental challenge. We have a schedule that divides everyone into different types of tests at various times, all of which are performed just over the border in a Swiss hospital. Today I did the CO-rebreathing test. This test is intended to measure the total hemoglobin mass in a person's blood, a number that is useful to know for athletes.

CO test. Thanks for the photo, Ian!

The test involves breathing into an oxygen-rebreather(similar to what astronauts and scuba-divers use) that is injected with a set-amount of carbon monoxide gas(CO). You may be wondering... Yes, CO is poisonous, but the dosage is very small and only induces some tiredness and slight dizziness. Blood samples are taken before and at the end of the 8 minutes of CO breathing and are intended to show the concentration of CO and thus, through the magic of science, the total hemoglobin mass. Looking back, this test doesn't seem too bad, but at the time it was pretty uncomfortable.

Quiet roads through the countryside.

The good thing about all the time that will be spent doing tests in a hospital is that it will make me appreciate the riding, fun, and relaxation even more. Oh, and I'll probably learn an incredible amount about my body along the way! Speaking of riding, today's ride was super fun! Ian Terry, Adam from Denmark, and I rode some amazing roads before I peeled off and did some exploring in a different area. Many of the roads seemed more like golf cart paths than roads, seeming to twist and turn endlessly through forests and meadows!

Lots of moo-cows = lots of fromage!

Tomorrow morning's test is the sub-max time trial and it sounds like it will be a real challenge. More to come...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Premanon 1.1

Russell took some photos during our ride this morning. Thanks Russ!


Rolling out as a big group.


Riding through downtown Saint Claude.


The beautiful Jura region.


Jacob(left) from Denmark was very strong today!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Premanon 1.0

After a long day of traveling, I have made it to my new home in Premanon, France where I will be participating in an elite cyclist altitude study for the next two months. There are 18 athletes total in the study, including friends from Seattle, Russell Stevenson and Ian Terry.

This morning I went out for my first ride which was incredible to say the least. The roads are amazingly twisty through beautiful countryside in the Jura mountains. We are fed three meals per day in addition to endless snacks, coffee, riding food, wine, you name it... So far, the quality of the food has been very good, especially the comte cheese(the local specialty) and loads of bread!


I will do my best to keep my blog updated with my latest rides and experiences.


The lodge where I will live for the next two months.


The lodge is the French National Training Center for nordic skiing!


View out of my window. The grass is our soccer field.


Outdoor ping-pong!


The riding is very hilly!