Friday, December 14, 2018

The season that it was

2018 became the season I needed.  The last couple years my drive to race, my competitive spirit, the focus to train hard had diminished.  The combination of slight boredom from 15 years of racing, which included a lot of the same events, an achy body from years of abuse and a transition to coaching made it pretty easy to go down this path.   After my wife suggested in the fall of 2017 that she wanted to ride a trail system in Ohio that happened to be part of the Mohican 100 miler,  I was pretty much volen-told that I was doing this for 2018.   It gave me a little focus to stay in shape over the course of the winter, more for survival than anything.  Lots of cross country skiing, a couple times on the trainer and one fat bike race which I still don’t like the thought of topped off with  recovery time  on the couch.  Spring comes fast.

 Storm the Trent adventure race has been a fun event I have done multiple times, as along as I am in generally good shape I can usually bullshit my way through the race.  This is a combo of paddling (kayak or canoe), trail running ( i did run one 5k before the race) and mountain biking (not technical more gravel) mixed in with orienteering (I CAN do this without a gps).  This year it wasn’t a race of the masses but a one on one battle with an old high school friend.  Mark and I have each won this event at different times in both solo and team categories, to say there had been a lot of smack talk over the winter months leading up to the race is understatement  Mark and I battled it out over the 60 km of running, paddling and biking, switching the lead multiple times.  At one point we both ran an extra 5km when we thought it would be a great idea to team up until the last stage then duke it out to the line.   I still think Mark intentionally lead us off course in that run/nav section to try and break me. Yes I cracked a bit when this happened. After 5 hours of racing we still came through less than a minute apart finishing 1-2 in the solo division.  Mark got the best of me on this day and I was reminded that running is still a self defence from big scary monsters and should only be done at that times.

The following weekend had us south of the border for the Mohican 100 miler in Loudenville  Ohio.   It had been a few years since I made my way to the states for a race and I was excited.   Huge mass start, the pace was high right off the start, I settled into a high tempo pace, waiting until we hit the single track  start moving forward in the pack.   I had pretty realistic goals for this race wanting to finishing in the top 1/4 overall.   I was at a race but wasn’t really racing, just there for the experience.   I loved riding single track that was fresh and new to me, the climbing was painful and there was a lot of it.   I believe they promote it at 12000 feet of climbing.   Hell the 15 km rail trail line has an elevation gain of just under a 1000 ft.  During the race is where I thought I was content to just be a mid pack rider,  someone would catch me and I didn’t put down an effort or attack, didn’t try and grab onto a group, just rode and enjoyed the scenery.  Again back to my “not really wanting to race but love the riding” headspace.   I managed to meet my goal, actually was better than hoping finishing 33rd in open men.  A really great event and well organized.   

The Hardwood summer 8 hour.   This was never really in the cards as a race but more as a support, one of the athletes I coach was doing his first 8 hour goal.  I made Phil a promise that I would help him through the race by riding with him,the deal was I would ride hard for the first 2-3 hours then spend the rest of the race with him.  2.5 hours in I pulled into our team pit, AWI Racing had 4 solo’s at this race, refueled and waited for Phil.  Phil had a goal of ten laps, a realistic goal for a first timer.  As we  hit the 6.5 hour mark we surpassed that, it was awesome to watch, I rode as a pace setter and pack mule, doing my best to distract him on the climbs.   I think we finished in the top 10 which again was awesome to watch him achieve on his first 8 hour.   

This lead into the highlight of my season, another destination event, the Quebec singletrack experience.   So this is where my head space towards racing began to change, the craving to race not just ride.   7 days, 7 different venues with each day ranging from between 2-4 hours of bike time.   I had a couple glitches mid week with not enough calories but I got that sorted pretty quick, I am an eating machine.   Every day I was usually in the top 10 overall and top 5 in division.  I learned pretty quick that there is Ontario gear ratios and then there are quebec gear ratios.   Running a 42 tooth wasn’t going to cut it for day after day of 2-3 thousand meters of climbing.  It was the last 2 days that was finding a little more of the old me, two of the more technical venues including the Shanahan sector of bras-du-nord.   I pushed, I turned myself inside out, I was in the top 5 overall, I flatted, I lost a few spots and a few more.  I had fun but it fired me up for the last day.   The last day brought out the old me, I attacked multiple times, I rode hard, I finished 2nd in division and 6th overall.   I rode the way I used to and it helped get me to my current head space.  I missed racing.    I finished 4th in my division and top 10 overall.

 2019 training has started, 5 major  endurance races including a return to Mohican 100 where I’m going to race not just ride.   I have a goal of top 15 overall, if the old me returns I think this is very attainable with a possibility of even higher up the overall.   I’m making an honest effort to fix all of the bad things I’ve done to my body over the many years, from diet (not always rehydrating with beer after rides) to fixing the muscle imbalance in my separated shoulder, to having core strength and flexibility again.  Having interval training that is hard and excited about it. 2019 is looking fun.

 A couple other highlights of 2018.   Helping bring this race team to a whole new level with the help of Andrew Watson.   Giving a couple of our athletes opportunities that might not have been there had we not done what we did.   Riding the Mont St. Anne world cup course with Brody, shitting my shorts a little at the top of the Beatrice and then only a few minutes later riding in a group with Nino Schuter and Anton Cooper.   I totally kept up, for a few moments.   Getting our kids development ride started, a non racing program that was based on having fun and learning basic fundamentals,  it was awesome seeing their confidence grow on every ride    It was a great high light every week.    Seeing a few of my athletes hit and destroy goals at their events.   I will say that 2018 was a great season as a coach, team manger and now a return to being a racer. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Getting back in the grove

The last couple weeks has been exactly about that, getting the head space back in to the rhythm of training again.   The volume and intensity is still low and the days per week are slowly increasing.   Oh the fun of looking 6 months in advanced.   What seems so far away, yes winter can be long when you are focusing on a summer sport, will fly by.   It’s a nice feeling having motivation to go out in some of the not so perfect conditions so far this fall.  The last couple weekends has had a couple 2 and 3 hour rides split between the road and fat biking. 
  Yes I’m fat biking, yes I’m still in denial that I have one, yes I’m still not admitting that I’m having fun on it.  There are things that I have come to accept with a fat bike.   Speed, ummm.  Ya they are not fast.   Ok let me rephrase that, the fully pimped out 20 lbs carbon fat bikes with super expensive wheels etc are fast, my 35-40 lbs ride is not.   So being slow and heavy that leads to hills, climbing is questionable.   Going up hill, even the slightest rise is work.  The difference between endurance effort and race pace effort is .3 km/h.  Brakes are not needed, need to slow down, just stop pedalling, this includes downhills.   Doesn’t fat biking sound fun????  What fat biking does having going for it, all those negatives are still way better than riding the trainer.   Yes I kind of like it.     
I’ve finally got yoga back into my weekly routine, something I have pushed on others for years and somehow let slip out of my to do list for time on the couch the last couple years.   When time permits I get to a class but usually done at home.   If you are looking at getting into yoga I would recommend this dvd.   
The benefits of yoga are way to long to list here.   Just do it.   Till the next time


Yes, I am expanding a little more for the 2019 season.  If you are looking for a coach for the 2019 season feel free to contact me at MATTHEWSPAK@GMAIL.COM.   I am planning another weekly youth development program that will be focused on athletes between 12-16 racing in minimee up to cadet divisions. The program will be based around the Ontario cup race season starting before the first event and finishing up with Provincial championships.  This include fundamental skills “climbing, descending, cornering, technical features, etc” leading into race craft “pacing, passing, etc”  and will have functional fitness incorporated in.     I will be finalizing the details over the next month or so.  The course will start in April.   Weekly workout training programs will also be available on individual requests.    Please feel free to contact me if your son or daughter would like to be in this program.       I will again be coaching ultra endurance athletes.   With 15 plus years of experience in 100 milers, 8 hours and 24 hour solo’s myself,  I will transfer  my knowledge helping you reach your goals.    Building a training program that works with your lifestyle and time restrictions.   Not everyone can commit to a 15-20 hour training week, getting the best bang out of your training whether you are trying to podium, distance or time goal focused or just trying to survive.  This can indlude race nutrition as well.    This will be built for you, after all it’s your race.   Rates are based on level of requirements from a weekly or monthly training program to ride days working on technical riding and skills.  

Monday, November 19, 2018

Making the best of what we have

Oh how my options have changed.  Starting to ramp things up a little now,  the first big race is still a long ways away but  time flies.   This is a great time to start getting my head back into focused training sometime going out in conditions that I really don’t want to be in or doing things that I know I don’t realy enjoy but want the benefits.   Normally in the winter I spend as much time xc skiing as possible and fill in the down time with downhill skiing and of course squeezing the throtle of my snowmobile.   Ok so the last one doesn’t qualify as a workout but you ever want to screw with people on strava.   With not enough snow yet for xc skiing I started out with some quality road miles and that had me thinking back to winter riding in previous years.   We were a tougher breed a few years ago when our infamous Man Ride challenge was on.   About 9 years ago a few of the root AWI Racing members used to try and one-up each other riding in colder, winder or down ride stormy conditions to try and out man the next guy.   I’ve had a few -15 two hour rides at night.   It took 20 minutes to get dressed putting layer over layer hoping you got the right combo of clothing.   You usually knew with in 20 minutes.   You either over did it, started sweating then got cold and went home or just got cold and went home.   Then you would have those perfect days where you are perfect and it’s an amazing time in the crisp air.   Now all I do is turn up my blue tooth controlled heated foot beds and put a set of hot pockets in my xc skiing lobster claw mitts.  So much easier now to get it right, still take 15 minutes to get dressed.    Saturday had a crazy wind coming off Georgian Bay, rule one, always start into the wind during those cold rides.  Made my way up to Severn Bridge on upper big chute road.  Super popular riding route and with clear roads I was kinda disapointed that I didn’t see another cyclist.  The minus 3 and 30km/h winds might have been a factor.  In to the wind, top of the cassette, tail wind found the bottom.   It actually was an amzing 40km ride.   
If you are wondering gravel tires do work on ice, sort of   Had a couple holy shit moments.  
Sunday was yet anther 2 wheeled fun day.  So I’m still in full denial that I actually am enjoying it but a great two hour fat bike ride in Copeland forest.   I will still pick on fat bikes, I’m still not fully admitting that I own a fat bike. Shhh, don’t tell anyone i won a fat bike.   There is a time and place for it and today happened to be that time and place.  
The difference between endurance pace, tempo and race pace on a fat bike is .01 km/h    Brakes are not needed either, just stop pedalling.   It does have some perks though, there was no way that i could have ridden the trails today on a normal mountain bike. Busting through unpacked trails can be amusing.   2 hours of, well not fast riding, was way better than being on the trainer.   We saw a few people out xc skiing, it looked horrible.  Yes I am looking for a justified answer of owning a fat bike.    Getting back into a routine, it takes a little bit but for the first time in a few years I’m excited.  I found that fire and drive again.  That competative spark is coming back.        

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What have i done to myself

What have I done? How have I let myself get this bad?   I thought with age you get wiser, obviously not.   So it has been 5 years since I have full blown legitimately trained with drive and focus.  Sure I’ve been riding lots these last couple years, hell I’ve been at a handful of races every year since I swept the 8 hour race series 5.5 years ago.  You can race, give them money and you can race.

Now in that time I’ve had a few, ummm slips.  Ok not slips, crashes.   Now they were not awesome crashes, they were down right stupid.   I separated my shoulder while sort of riding my snowmobile.   5 km/h and an icy parking lot led to a grade two separation.   Later that summer I cracked a couple ribs defending my mountainview 9 lives enduro title.  Oh I didn’t do it on the bike.  Nope, I did it during the slip in slide competition part of the event.  Stop laughing.    Now the comment I got from my chiropractor was at least i hit the left side for a change.    So this isn’t the first time I’ve cracked ribs, but in the last few years I’ve seen a progressive decline of effort to fix what I’ve continue  to do myself.   I began to have a harder time taking deep breathes,  all the damage to my chest left things super tight.  My ability to throw the bike around in the technical declined, that strong core I had become more of a weak noodle.  I’m not saying that I became a ball of mush but I was going that way.   All my good recovery practices became ideas,  a self suggestions that got pushed towards the back of the to do list, well behind the sit on the deck with a beer.  So why did this happen, easy answer. It hurts.

Fixing things hurts, training properly  hurts, sometimes.   You have to be focused to make yourself do something that hurts.  For me I was not focused.  12 years of racing with 7 of them with a crazy amount  of ultra endurance events my head was not in it.  I was bored with a lot of the same races,  my body was tired, I found a new distraction with a girl who became my wife, other sports and adventurers pulled my attention away from racing.   So all the good things that focus training includes like Yoga, full body strength training, core workouts, proper stretching all became things that I thought about but didn’t do.  Add in a couple more injuries and what I have is a 45 year old that was waking up each day moaning about how much the body hurt.  My loving wife would just remind me “you know how to fix it, quit whining and fix it”.  Back to the beer on the deck answer, that fixes everything doesn’t it?  

Actually it does, but so does a renewed craving to race.   This past summer I had a combinations of events that  built my craving to train and race again.   It started out with Hayley telling me “I should do the Mohican 100 miler so she could go and ride this 25 mile trail system”.  Not “hey lets go ride this cool singletrack”.  That followed to her pushing, not very hard, to do the Quebec Singletrack Experience stage race.   Add in Andrew and myself taking AWI Racing to a national and international level race team supporting some amazing up and coming athletes.  Coaching some of my young athletes and watching them gain confidence to getting one of my endurance athletes absolutely destroying his goal at his first 8 hour solo races.  Each thing I did I was reminded  a little more about how much I missed racing and training myself.  Real training, interval training, off season core training, etc etc.  So welcome to the comeback, do I hear LL Cool J????

And welcome to reality.  My body hates me, I’m into my second week of  “can I turn this limp noodle into a stiff *****”.   No a blue pill doesn’t instantly give you good core strength.   When was the last time you stood on  one foot only  with your arms over head.  Oh yoga how you are kicking my ass right now.  Tree pose my ass, tree’s don’t fall over this often.  I’ve been pushing hard but being smart, I had no idea my upper body had become as weak as it has, some movements are strong  but others shocked me, 10 pounds is heavy in the right situation.  With ultra endurance mountain biking there are no set in stone movements.  It’s going to be a slow rebuild but the bonus with being this messed up you get great results quickly.  It’s that last 5% that is incrediby hard to get.                                            

So what does this renewed craving of self abuse lead to.  At 45 obviously its purely for me, I’m pretty sure I won’t be picked up by a World Cup level race team anytime soon.  I was bugged for years about the u.s. 100 mile races and what I’m missing, well this year I’m doing at least 3 of them.   Mohican 100, Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah 100.  The combo of new trails, new competition and the fact that it’s all you can drink beer at the finish line who wouldn’t be in for this.   Because of my fear of running out of beer my goal is to finish top 20 in open men at all three.   I’ve put realistic and attainable goals and it also means any spot closer to the front means a shorter line up for beer after the race. 2019 is a building year, for yet the next round of goals, challenges,adventures. I’m lucky to have a wife that will support/push/etc for any crazy idea i have come into my head, I’m just looking forward to approaching them again at the best I potentially can be. Where is the Advil? My body hurts from this typing