Mini Enduro – Forest of Dean

Landing the drop on Stage 1

Landing the drop on Stage 1

Hot, dry, loose, dusty, rooty and loads of fun, nicely summarises the Mini Enduro this weekend at The Forest of Dean.  It was a sell out event as usual for these relaxed and friendly events with un marshalled practice on the Saturday and then racing on the Sunday.  The 4 stages provided a number of different challenges that would test the riders’ skills, fitness and line choice with wide-open taping and some pretty cheeky lines appearing over the weekend!

For me, this race was my first of the season and I wanted to treat it as a warm up for the UK Gravity Enduro season, starting in May, so although I wanted to do well, it was mostly about confirming where I am at and getting my setup dialled in.  When I was planning my season, this was a lower priority race, meaning that I trained all week as normal and was prepared to sacrifice aspects of this race in order to prepare for UKGE.  For instance, although not mandatory, I chose to wear my Bell Super 2R full face helmet this weekend as that is what I will be required to wear at the UKGE races all summer.  It was hot, sweaty and I would have preferred to wear a trail lid, but I wanted to get a feel for the best way to race with this helmet and practice detaching the chin guard etc.

Spicy on test for Wideopenmag

My race-ready Lapierre Spicy on test for Wideopenmag.

Early season races can be valuable tools for reviewing your current level of fitness and conditioning, so I have spent some time this morning reviewing my performance and seeing if there is anything that I can address in my training programme over the coming weeks.  I purposely did a lot of riding on the Friday (at my local trails) and on the Saturday, practicing at FOD in order to simulate the sort of mileage I may be covering at the UKGE races.  I found that my all-day endurance and ability to ride hard on consecutive days was absolutely fine and I went into the final stage feeling pretty fresh.  A big part of this was down to getting my nutrition right before during and after riding each day.

I felt strong on the bike all day and my conditioning over 2-3 minutes for the stages was pretty good.  I think I could still do more work on my anaerobic engine for hard and prolonged sprints between sections or up short climbs.  Having said that, you can always be a bit fitter in that respect and improving your anaerobic endurance is an almost constant aspect of MTB race training across many disciplines. Either way, I will be getting on the pain-train over the coming weeks in order to improve this aspect of my racing.

Overall I had a great weekend with my best result ever, 16th out of about 120 in Masters.  I missed a couple of my lines and made some small mistakes, so plenty to work on skills and concentration wise, but I am really happy with my performance and can’t wait for Triscombe in a couple of weeks!

Stay Strong

Ben

MTB Strength Factory First Birthday!

MB - 0004

This last year has gone so fast and it has been loads of fun.  MTB Strength Factory is now a year old and is going from strength to strength.  I am busy training riders in the gym, getting loads of riding and training in and more people visit the website every week.  It was a real gamble to fully commit to starting MTBSF, but I am glad it is paying off as it lets me work with amazing people and around the sport I love so much.

I have learnt a lot over the past year and continue to invest a lot of time, effort and money in my own professional development and education so that I can bring you the best training services possible.  Later this year you will be able to complete lab tests like VO2 Max and lactate threshold and I will be in a position to offer complete power based training packages for riders of all levels using cutting edge products and techniques.

This summer is going to be a busy one with so many riders racing all over Europe and I can’t wait to see them on podiums or just beating their personal bests on the trails.  My own racing is going to be a lot of fun and I am really excited about going to watch the World Cup at Fort William as well.

Loads of people on the Bristol MTB scene and beyond have helped me get to where I am now, and I want to say a massive thank you and high-5.  You know who you are!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Training By ‘Feel’

These days it is easy to become convinced that in order to train properly, you must have all the latest tech toys and gadgets on your bike and body…….. GPS, cadence sensors, HR monitors, power meters, smart phones and apps, turbo trainers and the list goes on.

Whilst all of these items can help your training if used correctly, there is another way that is both cheap and simple, and with practice it can be quite reliable.  Training by ‘Feel’ is where you use your own perceptions of intensity to gauge how hard you are working at any particular time on the bike.  It is about getting to know your body and learning the signs that tell you how hard you are working.  Once you can do this, you can then train at certain intensities for specific periods of time as part of a training programme and you will need nothing more than a watch.

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is the name given to the scale that sports coaches and scientists use to monitor efforts in athletes in training.  It is simply a number that reflects how hard you are working at that time or that reflects how hard you worked over a period of time.  Whilst there are different RPE scales, I like to keep it simple and use a scale of 1-10 with my athletes, with 1 being really easy, barely breathing or moving and 10 being the hardest you could possibly work.  With a simple scale like this I can use it in the gym; “How hard was that last set?” or I can use it for programming rides; “I want you to ride at RPE 2-3 for 3 hours.”

Training by feel you get to know certain markers that give you clues as to how hard you are going.  Can you hold a conversation?  If so you are probably at an RPE below 4.  Speech practically impossible?  RPE 9 or 10.  Feeling moderately uncomfortable?  Probably RPE of 7-8 and so on.

Whilst it takes time to learn the signals that your body produces, if you concentrate on using this technique for a few weeks of properly structured training you can start to become fairly effective at using it to gauge intensity.  The beauty is that you don’t need to charge anything up, monitor numbers or download any data.  You simply make a plan and ride.  Learning to train like this also has one real benefit for those of you who regularly use a heart rate monitor for training.  As you may know a HR monitor is great for monitoring intensity over longer efforts, but is very limited for short efforts of 2-3 minutes or less due to the fact that it lags behind.  If I want somebody to perform 3 x 2 min efforts at a high intensity, the HR monitor is pretty useless until the end of the first minute as it is trying to catch up the whole time and so there is not point using it.  Training by feel and knowing how hard you can go for 2 minutes without any outside assistance is a great skill for an athlete to have.

Table showing RPE:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 16.18.30

The message to take away here is that by learning about your body and how it works and feels, you can effectively monitor how hard you are working and therefore you can train effectively.  It will never be as accurate as a power meter, but then a power meter costs hundreds of £’s and training by feel is free.

Stay Strong

Ben