Friday, May 25, 2012

Bike Handling Skills: Bunny Hopping

Part of my Junior Training Program is to ensure they are taught how to handle their bikes.  It was actually something I was never taught to do even though I started racing at the age of 12.  I want to make sure that these young athletes have the skills to be proficient and safe.  Of course it does not end there, everyone can benefit from skills training.  If you think you need skill training then you probably do.   If you don't think you need skill training, then you definitely do.

The bunny hop is probably the simplest and most critical skill to practice.  I teach it in 4 parts:
  1. Front wheel over the obstacle:  At slow speed approach the obstacle and compress your handlebars down to "load" yourself.  Then "spring" up and take the front wheel with you over the obstacle.  Once this is proficient, we move to the rear wheel.
  2. Rear wheel over the obstacle:  With clipless pedals, the rear wheel could almost be pulled up from the pedals.  However, some of the best bunny hoppers are BMX riders not using clipless pedals, they are using momentum.  So even though the pedals are a tool, try and use momentum.  This is accomplished much like the front wheel.  Approach the obstacle at slow speed.  Ride the front wheel over it, then compress the rear wheel to "load" by standing and bending your legs.  "Spring" up and lean your body forward to bring up the rear wheel.  The wheel only needs to clear the obstacle, not high enough to endo yourself.
  3. Both wheels at slow speed:  When doing slow speed bunny hops, you will do the front wheel and rear wheel separately as stated above, but in one pass over the obstacle.  This is like timing a slow speed climb up on a curb.  Approach the obstacle, "load" and "spring" the front wheel over then immediately "load" and "spring" the rear wheel over.
  4. Both wheels at speed:  Now it is time to put it all together.  Approach the obstacle with enough speed to clear it.  When you approach it you will "load" the front and back wheel at the same time.  This is done by standing with pedals parallel to the ground.  Bend your arms to load the front and your knees to load the rear.  Spring them both up at the same time bringing your body slightly forward for momentum.  You only need to jump enough to clear the obstacle.  No need to get "sick air" here.  Try and land with both wheels at the same time.
Claire pulling too much from the rear and landing heavy on her front wheel.

Claire correcting the problem and landing perfectly.
 You can clearly see the difference in the above photos.  When you load your bike and then spring up and slightly forward, it truly is slightly forward.  To much forward movement will result in the rear wheel coming up too high.  The faster the approach, the less forward shift is needed.  Also you can see in the second picture Claire has returned to a lower position, shifting her center of gravity and thus making the landing safer.  She still has room to compress her landing so she doesn't hit too hard.

These skills, especially with young juniors, are best done in a grass field.  She is still using her road bike to practice.  I use a piece of PVC pipe for her to jump as the obstacle.  In one session she made an extreme level of progress.

Feel free to leave comments, questions or suggestions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nutrition for Better Performance: Post Workout

Many athletes will train hard, buy the best equipment, analyze their power files and develop training plans for optimal performance.  Recently I have taken a serious interest in a very overlooked component of performance which is nutrition.

The focus on this post will be eating after your workouts.  You should strive to eat your recovery food immediately after training.  For cyclist, this could mean getting extra chamois time.  The window really is 20 minutes, therefore your post workout food should be prepared prior to your workout.  When doing some research as to exactly what this food should be I ran into some contradictions.  It is widely accepted that the food should contain carbohydrates and protein, but how much of each?  I was taught that if you were mixing a drink for fuel during a workout it should contain a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein.  For recovery purposes it should be a ratio of 2:1.  Many suggestions today that can be found state the same, however there a plenty of studies that have shown that it should be a 4:1 ratio for recovery as well.

The purpose of this recovery meal is to replenish the stored glycogen that is found in your body and that was used during the workout.  Immediately following your training, you body is the most susceptible to replacing the glycogen.  The carbohydrates will be converted to the glycogen.  The added protein will double the insulin response and will increase the restoring of the glycogen.  In a study there were 100% increase in the glycogen restore in those that took a carbohydrate protein meal.  When doing a search as to what ratio was better, the studies that suggested a 2:1 were more strength related training while those that suggested a 4:1 were endurance related.

The post workout meal could be broken down into two stages, the snack and the meal.  The snack needs to be immediate and start the process of storing glycogen.  The meal needs to follow and be consumed within the 2 hours after the workout.  Here is a thought:  Within 2 hours after a workout you should consume 0.3-0.6 grams of carbohydrates.  I will take me for instance.  I weigh 185 lbs currently.  If I go out for 1 hour doing intervals I probably am closer to needing the 0.3 grams of carbohydrates.  That is 56 grams I would need to consume.  If I went out and performed threshold efforts for 3 hrs, I probably need to replenish more on the level of 0.6 grams per pound which would be 112 grams of carbohydrates.  Then when you add your protein in, it means, in keeping with the 4:1 or 2:1 ratio you will need to consume 14-28 grams of protein (4:1).  Lets say than I decide after my workout to eat 2 hard boiled eggs (12g of protein) and 1 banana (31g of carbohydrates).  I would then want to consume the remainder of the meal within two hours. 

If you take anything from this post it should be to treat your post workout meal like you would a critical interval within your workout.  Find out what works for you, whether it is a drink, food or a mixture of both.  Do some research on your own and play with different combination of foods.  Lastly, leave comments on this post as to what works for your and what are your favorite post workout meals.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Richmond International Raceway Cat 3/4 Race

I have really enjoyed this race for the simple fact that we tend to have large fields.  In the past 2 years we have had 100+ in the Cat 3/4 race, this year was smaller but still had 60+ riders start the race.  Of those 60+, two of them were from Virginia Beach Wheelmen.  With only two of us we know we would not be able to 'control' the race, but we still really wanted to race aggressively.

John Gray and myself got in a good warm up:

Photo taken and enhanced by Dan Gibson.
We lined up ready to go, and we needed to be ready:
Photo taken by Dan Gibson

This seems to be a hard course to get away on, but I didn't want to rely on history, so if it looked good, and we missed it, I was going to chase it down.  Right off the bat, Jake King and a rider from Richmond Velo Sports took off and got a little gap.  Jake is always dangerous off the front and since Richmond had like 15 riders in the race, I figured they could shut things down if needed.  I chased it down.  The chase down told me my legs were feeling pretty good.

I'm not in the best shape yet, but John has been having a stellar year so far.  The thought was this, if we missed a break that need to come back, I could chase it down before it got too far out.   If the pack did not go with me and I caught them, one of two things could happen.  If I felt good, join them.  If I didn't think I could stay in the break, then I would slow them down and break them up.  John then kept an eye out and attacked to join or establish breaks in the hope to get him away. 

With just a handful of laps to go, a small break was up the road.  It was close enough that we should be able to catch them on the run into the finish, but far enough away that if we didn't make the move they could slip away.  With 2 laps to go I decided I needed to attack to chase them down.  The pack would either come with me and give John a chance to sprint for the win, or I could join them and sprint for the win myself.  As I approached, two of the three riders gave up, but the third, Kristian from Fat Frogs, kept going.  I was catching him, but it was taking a lot out of me.  As we rounded the first embankment on to the back straight away the pack caught us.  John was near the front and as the pack slightly slowed, he attacked.  It was a good move to try and go for the win.  The pack reacted and I was unable to get back into the top 10 riders so decided to just sit up.  It was a good move on my part considering the riders that went down in the second embankment.  John's move put him in great position, but it was a little too long and he was swallowed at the line but still managed a 10th place finish.  I came across, safely, in 47th place.

Our moves didn't pan out in a win this week but we were proud of our racing.  I have told John that you must want the win more than you fear the loss.  Of 60+ riders in that field, even the non sprinters think they have a chance to win or place high if it finishes in a field sprint.  That is why a lot of times the fly away move with a couple laps to go will tend to work, because no one wants to sacrifice themselves to catch that late move, even when they have teammates.  For us, a win by one is a win by all of us.  No one on our team has a problem with sacrificing for the team.  We know that sometimes, if you want the win you have to go for the win and not just settle for a field finish.  That is what we did this weekend.  Both John and I made our moves to win the race, it just didn't happen, but we can hold our heads high.