San Diego Cycle
MTB Clinic with LUNA PRO Danelle Kabush
San Diego Cycle
Wow! What a great way to spend an afternoon!
Meeting at the UCSD campus, mountain bikers of all abilities and backgrounds gathered Sunday to experience an afternoon of bike riding, bike handling skills and coaching with LUNA pro rider and 2x XTERRA Championship medalist Danelle Kabush. Not only were pro roadies in attendance, but the mountain bikers ranged in age from nine to… OK so nevermind on the upper limit, the youngest person there was nine years old!
After a brief discussion of proper shifting, trail etiquette, and introductions, Danelle led the group of 26 riders over to a gently sloping grassy area to coach us on some body position techniques. She emphasized the importance of understanding how your bike will move and react to your body position. Ultimately, you want your body and the bike to act in concert as one entity, not as two separate units. Taking time to pedal through the grass and note the responses from your bike when you brake first with the front, then the rear, then lean the bike from side to side as you ride is vital to developing confidence on your bike, and to understanding its nuances. (Yes! Your bike has nuances!) I remember during my second year of racing downhill, I finished a practice run and one of my teammates told me with a smile, “Hey, good work! Looks like you’re finally riding like you’re in control of that bike and not the other way around!” Danelle’s techniques would have really facilitated that transition back then!
From the grassy hill, we headed north on campus, past the library and into the Eucalyptus Grove. A popular running trail, the Eucalyptus Grove offers the beginner as well as the advanced mountain biker a bit of everything, with wide double track, winding singletrack, challenging rocky climbs and rutted descents. Since there were so many of us, we broke into two groups, with the more advanced riders (along with the bursting-with-enthusiasm school-age crowd) chasing Danelle down the trail, and the more novice riders following me. Throughout the clinic, we tried to be sensitive to the desires of the advanced riders to challenge themselves while taking care not to overwhelm the less experienced riders. With so many options for different routes and trails at UCSD, we were able to strike a nice balance, split off and meet back up when necessary, giving everyone a fun and challenging ride. At the base of one of the hills, Danelle talked to us about the importance of finding the perfect balance point and gear ratio when climbing, and encouraged us to practice climbing a hill at different speeds and in different gears, so that we would be better able to predict the best gear and body position to use when on group rides. We then ascended the hill one by one, the young kids going first and the rest of us cheering for them as they crested the hill.
To give the advanced crowd a challenge, we took them to a short steep roll-in. The degree of difficulty was partly in rolling the descent without flipping onto your nose, and partly making the 90° turn and not rolling off the edge of the cliff. Once a couple spotters were in place, the intrepid riders lined up to make the short steep descent. Many of them had never done anything like this, and would not have thought anyone would even attempt it. Seeing so many riders take a deep breath and go for it, descending to the bottom to the cheers of their friends and fellow riders was a huge boost. I think everyone felt the collective mood and spirit of the group bubble over with excitement at having conquered the challenge.
While the advanced group made a loop down the narrow singletrack and back up a challenging climb, the rest of us wove our way through the trees to an open area that contains a winding twisty trail. This trail helps you to practice working on your body position, keeping your chin up, and anticipating the next turn. Once through these areas, we all regrouped on the fire road and headed over to the final section of trail for the day, the bridges section.
There are two bridges in the Eucalyptus Grove, one is long and wide, about 3 inches off the soft ground and has a few slight turns, the other is short (only eight feet across) but spans a dry creek bed about 3’ down and is no more than six inches wide with raised edges lining the sides. While we all charged across the first bridge with most riders making it all the way across and the others simply riding off the edge like it were a curb, we all stopped at the narrow bridge to take a look and think about the technique to cross it. In addition to being confident, you have to spot the entrance, immediately spot the exit, think about giving an extra pedalstroke at the exit to make it past the roots, all while not losing your nerve or looking down. Danelle assigned two spotters to stand in the dry creekbed while the riders came one-by-one and triumphantly crossed the bridge. As with the steep roller, some of the riders had never attempted anything like this, and you could tell by their faces that they were both surprised and delighted by their having stepped up to the challenge and conquered it!
The last skill Danelle introduced us to was the pop-over-the-log skill. We didn’t have enough time to do a real bunny-hopping session, but Danelle laid down the foundation of the move and encouraged us all to do our best popping over a log in the trail. Our two spotters really earned their LUNA bars this time, as they caught three or four riders in mid-air, their front wheels bouncing off the log as they anticipated the log too early. Everyone got a chance to try, and Danelle was on hand to give individual instruction to anyone who was having trouble.
From the moment we all arrived, we were excited to be there, knowing this was a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and improve our skills. The added bonus was that as we started testing what we were learning and cheering for each other, the collective enthusiasm began to grow, and we began to see ourselves less as individual riders, and more as a part of a pack. As time on the trail passed, we were more and more thankful that we were there and a part of the action.
With time running short, we finished up the trail ride and headed over the the Outback Adventure Center on campus. There, Danelle spoke to us about sports psychology. She asked us to think about what we each liked most about mountain biking or cycling, and what mental skill we saw as most important to being successful at it. She then discussed different ways in which our minds play as important a role as our bodies in truly preparing us for success in our sport. I’ve been racing mountain bikes since 2004, and know the importance of focus in a race, but Danelle took it one step further to say that it is important to know how to re-focus when the visualization we had for ourselves and our race is not met, be it by doing worse than we expected or even better than we had expected. What a great point! She also talked about how vital relaxation is, and that as an athlete, you must know how to actively relax your mind and body. That sounds like an entire class in and of itself that I would love to take.
Our session with Danelle at a close, we gathered our things and prepared to head back to the parking lot where we’d met before the ride. The riders all thanked us for a great ride and clinic, and filed out of the conference room, leaving just the San Diego LUNA girls and Danelle to pack up while we chatted together about how successful we felt the afternoon had been. The air was still crisp with the excitement of challenge and triumph, and we all felt it. After packing up our things, those of us on bikes headed back to the parking lot, wondering if any of the riders would still be there, even though we were only a few minutes behind them. Imagine our delight when we rolled around the building into the lot to hear one of the young girls shout, “Here come the LUNA girls!” and all the participants from our clinic stop and begin to cheer for us.
Indeed, it was a great afternoon.
Special thanks to Jay Hines and Steve Kowaluk who helped on the trail, to the Outback Adventure Center staff who provided us the room, to all our attendees, and especially to Danelle. We hope to see you all out on the trail again soon!
Combining the smooth sweetness of honey with the salty crunch of peanuts and pretzels.
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Join a group, stay motivated.
We’re all in this fitness thing together. One surefire way to stay motivated is to work out with a friend or join a group, like a local team LUNA Chix, that meets to run, cycle, swim, whatever. Not only is more fun to exercise with some pals, it also gives you a sense of obligation to get your butt out the door on even the nastiest days.
Drinking while cycling.
When you’re on the bike, 12 ounces of water every half hour is a good rule of thumb, so make sure your bike has room for a couple of bottles. For longer rides where you’re not planning to stop (woo hoo!) you’ll want to kick your gear investment up a notch with a large hydration pack.
For long races, change is not good.
For an endurance race like a triathlon, fueling well is essential, but DON’T eat or drink anything during the race that you haven’t already practiced with during your training. Think of long training sessions as “race simulations” for your fuel plan on the big day. This will help you avoid indigestion and “potty issues”.
Triathlon fashion tips.
While having a lot of clothing options is great for a weekend in Vegas, in a triathlon you really want to shoot for something you can wear throughout the race to make transitions as easy as possible. Tops and shorts specifically designed for triathlons are a great choice—they’re made to go into the water, on the bike, etc.
To clip, or not to clip…
Clip in pedals are a better choice for power efficiency, but they can be a bit intimidating for newbies. Go with flat if you are really uncomfortable, you can always switch to a clip in pedal later. If you do get clips, it should only take a few rides to master how to quickly twist your foot out.
Turbo charge your run.
If you always practice at the same pace, you’ll always run at the same pace. You need to do intervals if you want to get faster. Start with 30 seconds hard every five minutes and work your way up to five minutes hard and five minutes easy. Play AC/DC, Jack Johnson, AC/DC, Jack Johnson…
Running requires patience.
If you are really new and running doesn’t come naturally to you (and really, it doesn’t come naturally for most of us!) start with a combination of running and walking. Run for four minutes, walk for one. Keep repeating this until you get to 30 minutes and then add in longer phases of running the next time you work out.
Building endurance for a triathlon.
If you are ready to try a tri, each week of training you’ll want to do one longer workout in each sport, to build up your endurance.
Be kind to your knees.
Running on dirt trails provides the best cushion. Concrete is the worst because there’s no shock absorption. Asphalt is somewhere in the middle. Choose wisely if you have problems with your knees.
85-90 leg strikes per minute (count on one leg) is what you want to aim for to work on improving your running speed and time.
Be a stronger swimmer.
To improve your swim performance, practice rotating from the hips, and dragging your fingertips on the recovery. Use a kickboard to focus on strengthening your leg. A pull buoy and paddles can help you work on your arms.
Land with your foot flat.
If you land on your heel when you run, you’ll put a lot of strain on your knees. Landing on your toes strains your calves. Land with your foot flat, and more importantly, land it under your body for good momentum and shock absorption.
Let’s get this (cycling) party started!
Looking for a group to ride with? If there’s local LUNA Chix team in your area, you’ve already found a great way to connect with other women who ride. You can also find out about groups at your local bike shop, in cycling magazines, or just ask other cyclists—they usually know.
Glide out of your wet suit.
Wet suits can leave nasty hickey burns on your neck, and really, who wants to explain that? Before a long swim, lather your neck and ankles with Body Glide and you’ll be much more comfortable while swimming and get your suit off with ease. Plus, you won’t have to show up at work the next day looking like you’ve been mauled by a vampire.
Another great way to stay motivated? Enter an event. Whether it’s a charity ride for a cause you really care about or a competitive race, having a goal to work towards can really give you that extra push to pull on your workout gear and go.
Riding with turtles and hares.
Whether fast or slow, ride with people you know! It’s more fun that way. Fast friends will push you a bit more, which is great if you’re prepping for a race, and you can draft off them on big climbs. If you’re the quick one, get out in front and give your less experienced friends a break!
Have you checked your tire pressure and brakes? Did you give your bike the once over to make sure nothing’s cracked or otherwise out of whack? OK, now you can go.
Chasing those elusive zzzz’s.
Hard-core trainers will tell you that 8-10 hours of sleep a night, plus a daily nap, is optimal while training for a big race. Back in the real world, those of us with busy jobs or little kids can only dream about this much. Shoot for as many hours as you can and stick with a consistent schedule—quality rest will help your muscles repair and protect your immune system.
If your knees are sore after a ride…
It could be that your saddle is too low. Try putting your saddle at a height where your knee is soft, but not locked at 6 o’clock.
Cycling time, optimized.
If you have an hour or less and want a good cycling workout, crank it, sister! You can go high intensity by hitting steep hills hard or by going out with a riding group that challenges you speed-wise and hanging on as long as you can. If you’re feeling really feisty, get out in front and “take pulls” every chance you get. Just don’t forget to warm up for 15 minutes first.
Keep those hands where they belong.
On your bike’s handlebars. Road cyclists don’t use hand signals much, aside from pointing out hazards like potholes or rocks. It’s also polite to indicate a turnoff. Otherwise, give a yell if a car is coming or if there’s a need for a quick stop.
Let your bike do the work.
When riding off road, your bike should be moving more than your body. And unlike road cycling, you’ll need to use your upper body as much as your legs to absorb those bumps. And don’t forget to look ahead… that way your body will have a chance to anticipate changes in the terrain, like that tree.
Tired muscles need a little TLC. Massage is great as a recovery aid, and working out extra hard is the perfect excuse to indulge. Yoga is also wonderful for increasing flexibility and focus. Distance runners can benefit from 8-10 minutes in an ice bath. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, have a tall Starbucks on hand.
Say no to saddle sores.
Think only cowboys get saddle sores? Nope, they’re also a problem for cyclists. Finding the right bike saddle can help, but if you ride long enough, you’re occasionally going to end up with a sore butt. A good chamois cream can help soothe those sores, but many bikers swear by a cow utter cream called Bag Balm. Who cares as long as it works!
Cyclists are drafting when they line up behind one another to conserve energy. The rider in front breaks the headwind, those behind get a break. Mastering this move can be tricky: the closer you ride to the person in front, the better the draft, but you also risk a pile-up! While learning, stay at least three feet away from the tire ahead.
Building tri strength with “bricks”.
A “brick” is a workout where one activity is directly followed by another (a bike ride + run, for example.) Training this way 1-2 times a week is a great way to gear up for a triathlon.
New to the dirt?
Go out on easy unpaved roads or wide fire trails with a more experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Relax your arms and legs, and let the bike do the rest. And remember, there’s no shame in getting off and walking for a stretch if the terrain gets hairy.
Dust off that road bike.
Been a few years since you’ve cycled on the road? Before snapping on your helmet, take your bike to a local shop for a safety tune up. At minimum, have them check tire pressure, brakes, the chainring and gear shifts to make sure everything works and that all connections are snug. Now you can feel the wind on your face without worrying about your brakes giving out!
Shape up for cycling.
A hour long ride once or twice a week is just about right for a beginner looking to get her legs (and butt!) in cycling shape. And if you want to enjoy that post-ride high all day, set your alarm and head on out there when the sun is coming up.
Climbing with conviction.
Positioning yourself for a big climb can be tricky. Common mistakes are leaning too far forward, putting too much weight in the hands, and straining your quads. Lean back a bit so you’re centered over the saddle, let your glutes and hamstrings do some of the work, and go easy on those handlebars.
Aching arches in the morning?
Most likely it’s Plantar Fasciitis—an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. Caused by increasing your running volume too quickly, bad shoes, or poor foot mechanics, this annoying injury requires some TLC, ASAP. Slow down for a few days, do some stretches and apply ice. And see a doctor if there’s no improvement.
Training for open water.
There’s no black guideline in the ocean. To prepare for an open water swim, practice in the pool with your eyes closed. (No cheating!)
Surviving the inevitable tumble.
If you mountain bike long enough, there will come a time when you will dismount and tumble unexpectedly. The good news is that most crashes happen at low speeds, either when clipping out or on switchbacks. But if you are really moving, let go of the bike, tuck your arms and legs into your chest and try to “roll” with one shoulder in and your back to the ground.
Pain while running means one thing: STOP.
A mild pain can turn into a major injury over the course of a single run, so listen up when your body says “ouch!” Most problems can be alleviated with a few days rest. If you still feel bad after taking a break, it’s time to call the doc.
Time to go shoe shopping.
Running 300-500 miles is the perfect excuse for a new pair of shoes! Once you’ve gone that far, they lose their support, shock absorption and the wear can mess with your foot biomechanics. Might as well throw in those new wedge sandals too—you’ve earned them.
Lycra or baggie shorts?
Well, that depends on whether you are casual girl at heart or like showing off that booty! Some mountain bikers like the non-racey, looser look of baggie shorts off road, but there is one caveat: when you are bouncing around coming downhill, they can get stuck on your seat.
Try a bike ride.
When giving cycling a try, the objective is fun! Borrow a bike, keep it under an hour and don’t let your Lance-obsessed neighbor talk you into some crazy 100-mile loop. Bring a helmet, water and LUNA Bar in case your energy flags. Also important: a portable pump, tube and repair kit for flats that hopefully the more experienced friend you’ve invited along knows how to use.
Beyond the obvious helmet, no cycling woman’s wardrobe is complete without a pair of tush-friendly chamois shorts, a lycra jersey, gloves and sunglasses to deflect bugs. Any kind of soft-soled athletic shoe will work for flat pedals, but cleats are a must if you clip in. A light jacket is a great accessory for colder climates, as is a safety light when riding after dark.
Stop that stitch!
While the cause of the always-annoying side stitch is up for debate, deep, full belly breathing can help chase it away. Namaste!
Buying a mountain bike?
Before hitting the shop, ask yourself how you want to ride. If you just want to have some weekend fun in the dirt, a bike with full suspension will ensure maximum comfort off road. A more light-weight cross country bike is best for climbing and racing. And if you like tearing it up in the mud, disc brakes are must!
A bike that fits.
Like your favorite black bra, a bike performs best when it’s fitted specifically for your body type. Many pro shops offer this service, so check in with your favorite local outfit to find someone who can take measurements and help make the proper adjustments to your bike.
Saddle up your bike.
Just like a too-soft mattress can be bad for your back, a too-cushy bike saddle can be bad for your butt. Flat and slightly wide is best, with a women-specific slot up the middle. (Trust us on this one—you’ll be thankful.) It doesn’t hurt to check out what the pros use—they definitely put their tushies to the test!
Tart up your transition towel.
Triathlon transitions can slow you down big time if you’re wandering around like a doof looking for your stuff. Buy the loudest, brightest towel you can find (think 80s neon) and park your gear near an obvious signpost in the transition area. Even if your mind is still rehashing your last leg, you’ll be able to transition quick.
Ah, the simplicity of running gear…
Not much is needed to get up and running. Good shoes are essential, of course, and a running specialty store can help you with the best fit for your foot type. You also might want some socks, shorts and tops that can help wick away sweat to keep you cool. Add one iPod for cool tunes.
Fueling for a ride.
Carbs are what you want—about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour, depending on your weight and pace. This can either be in solid or liquid form (try a LUNA Bar or some Clif Shots) but be sure to eat before you are hungry. Forgetting to fuel means you’ll run out of gas mid-ride and have to call your roommate to come pick you up in her car. Embarrassing.