Been pinned all day with tax and mortgage stuff, and I need to spread some quick love. This was originally posted March 21, 2004.
Summary: If you train in a rounded and expansive way, racing will never shock you.
Imagine your event is a sphere. Each dimension is an aspect of your competition: the duration, the intensity, the technical demands, the stress, etc.
Think of your training as a bubble around your event. Ride longer, harder, on more difficult terrain and under even greater pressure. The bigger and rounder you make your training bubble, the more leeway you’ll have in competition.
I love the thrill of racing, but I think I enjoy training even more. It’s fun to devise ways to challenge yourself and round out that bubble of domination. Here are some examples:
Be a foul weather fool. If you only ride in nice weather, you’ll be shocked in your first mud race. When the conditions get nasty, get out and practice. Are you stuck in a perfect climate? Run crappy tires with too much pressure.
Air? We don’t need no stinking air. The other day Steve Wentz was leading me down a rocky singletrack (with worn out tires at 60 psi), and he flatted. I expected him to stop or at least slow down, but he kept charging. As he said, “If I flat in a downhill race, I’m not gonna stop.”
Cope with camber. An aggressive soccer ball can rail a berm. Flat and off camber turns require skill. Find a hill (preferably muddy), put down some flags and learn to corner the old-fashioned way. This isn’t as glorious as pulling Gs in perfect bowls, but it builds victories. When you wear in a line, move the flags. Keep it tricky.
Put your worst foot forward. Here’s another one from the Wentz school of training. You never know when you’ll hit a jump or other section with your non-dominant foot in front. Lead with your lame foot. Alternate feet in rhythm sections. Hit jumps with a foot down. The weirder you make it now, the sweeter it’ll be later.
Have fun, be creative and don’t let racing burst your bubble.