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Dean’s Letter: Make Yourself Do It


I gave my 1000th racing class this week on a typical rainy Seattle day. I taught a few new guys the ropes, told them about protecting their front wheel, riding straight and predictable, looking before moving around. I described how the pack moves like an amoeba and explained how to save energy by drafting off your fellow riders. For almost an hour I gave them racing tips as we rolled over the course to get warmed up and scout out obstacles. Then it was time to decide whether to race or not.

In my class advertisements I say that I ride with my students, but I have a personal policy not to race in the rain at Pacific Raceways. Cars leave so much oil on the roadway that racing in the rain can get sketchy fast. But I made a commitment to ride, so I donned an extra layer and headed to the start line. I would race with my students, at least for a lap or two.

On the first lap I was yelling comments out to all the riders. This was a beginner race, so I had plenty of coaching to do. Road grit and water clung to my teeth, leaving a nasty taste in my mouth. I noticed one of our guys was fading fast so I drifted to the back of the pack, giving him a wheel to focus on catching. By the end of the circuit, he had pushed forward and rejoined the group.

The race gained intensity on the second lap and we split into two groups. I tried to glue the pack back together, encouraging my racers to work steadily so they didn’t overexert themselves early on.

Our third lap around, my straggler was barely hanging on. He was struggling to keep up but gritted his teeth and stayed with the group up the hills. The other riders were doing fine, so I stayed back to support him. As we were approaching the next big downhill I yelled for him to stay back, but he powered to the front. He was first on the descent, but he had ignored racing tip #74: Don’t attack on the downhill when you are tired. You will get chewed up in the ascent and spit out the back of the group. Sure enough, it was his last lap anywhere near the chase group.

One of the lighter riders in our group made similar mistakes. She was blown back on downhill stretches by heavier riders with more momentum, but climbed back to the front every time. I explained to her that on descents it is better to stay behind the rider you are following, even if you are 20 feet apart. The draft has a tail which helps you coast up into the bottom of the next hill, making it easier to climb. After giving her a few tips I moved on, coaching my way around the chase group.

Before I knew it, we were on the last lap and I had done the whole wet miserable race, loving every minute of it. I was reminded that the hardest part can be convincing yourself to just get out there and go for it. I am so glad I didn’t talk myself out of racing before I had a chance, and I hope you do the same. Putting your nose out there and going for it is the only way you will find out how much fun you would have missed.

C U on the Road,

Craig Undem





Blog, Dean's Letter, Uncategorized

Dean’s Letter: Step up to Fitness!

Spring has sprung and excitement for riding season is at its peak. This is the time of year when everything is possible. This year, you will set your personal record up Goat Hill. You will finally tackle that epic ride, your own personal Tour.  Whatever your goal or target is this season, now IS NOT the time to double down on your training.  Pushing yourself too hard this time of year is a recipe for poor performance and sickness later on.

It is very tempting to overwork yourself in the spring. Riders who want to improve over the summer season often feel  faced with two choices :

A.Vow to double down on their training in the next month so they quickly reach their goals or  B. map out the next 8 weeks with a step by step plan, building ride length and intensity with plenty of recovery riding in between.

Although it is natural to pick A, the correct choice is B. Pushing yourself  too hard early in the season can cause overuse injuries. To avoid over training, steadily build your training hours as the days get longer. Taking small steps will allow you to achieve your goals without causing injury.

The key to Plan B is  scheduling. If it isn’t in my schedule, it doesn’t get done.  When I started teaching two  noon classes each week, I realized that I needed to keep those rides as a part of my schedule year round. The foundation of my week is based on that two ride plan. I always make sure to complete two good rides during the week, then a bonus ride on the weekend. Working towards the cyclocross season in September, my training plan builds steadily in intensity.  Stepping  my way up to big events allows me to bring the heat without burning out.

C U on the trails!

Craig Undem