This SS thing is darn fun and it's tough to contain my excitement for it. Not that I'm trying ;) I promised I'd share my thoughts on actually training to be a better SS rider and that's the meat of this post...but some other interesting & related things are worthy of mention first.
It's taken about a month to adapt to the SS. I have limited gearing options (too lazy to buy more?) which are 32x (18/17/16). For a long time I futzed around on the 18. First time on the 16 I thought "holy crap this is hard." Last weekend I did (among other things) a 25 mile singetrack loop twice on the SS, first lap on the 18, then a lap with the 16 and gave it some gas (not that there was any choice!). To my huge surprise, I loved it on the 16 - and biggest shock to me - that was the fastest I'd ever done that loop and I've hit it hard on gears before.
Must be a fluke. As part of the new training plan I did 1.5 hour climb yesterday on the 32.16 - a climb I recently got spanked on in the 18. Pure folly, right? Well, I didn't think I was drilling it but another PR fell by the wayside.
Yet another observation: I don't seem to get tired on a SS like I'd expect to. It actually feels like I'm super energized like when in a power lifting program - weird! Hormones are fired up or somesuch...
Yet another: bike handling is getting better by necessity.
Yet another: my favorite of all, it's so stressful to the lower leg that it has forced my crappy foot to step up it's healing. I can run on it!
Yet another: SS for a few rides has been much more efficient than a geared bike. For the same routes - one a rolling singletrack loop, the other a long climb - the SS was faster and average power and hence energy requirements lower (normalized powers spot on identical). Higher variability index (normalized power/average power), less energy used, and less time pedalling by far. Hard when you're pedalling with lots of rest. The gist of this? Get your gearing right for a given course and maybe - just maybe - it's a better choice for endurance racing than a geared bike (OK I still don't know if I can climb all day on the SS). Did I just put that in black and white???
SS a disadvantage? Right...I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of Travis Brown's secret.
This whole experience rounds out my thinking on the demands of MTB racing. You see, I've used quadrant analysis in the past to determine demands of MTB racing and adjust training accordingly. The problem with this method, tho, is it tells you what you actually *did*, not what would have been best to *do*. The bottom line is I think the metabolic demands must be balanced with the neuromuscular demands when devising a good plan. The past few years I've been focusing a lot more on the metabolic demands. This is great for the long haul - but sure made the first 2 weeks of SS riding painful ;)
In a nutshell, the neuromuscular demands IMO don't get enough "attention" in most MTB training plans - at least the way I've tackled it. So whether training for 2 hour XC or 15 day races, a certain amount of on the bike strength work is called for in the right proportion at the right time. I don't think weights make the cut - not specific enough. Trail running, low cadence/big gear work, standing starts - these all make the cut. Of course you gotta be good at high cadence too so a little higher cadence work (at power otherwise it's wasted time) just before the racing begins is in the plan.
My first early season race goal is Vision Quest in Orange County. Whether SS or geared I haven't yet decided, but SS will play a large role in my training for the event since it's all uphill anyway. It falls on March 1...so without further ado here's the plan overview. If I get a lot of questions I'll do a follow up post explaining what the nutty professor is thinking. Click for the big pic.