Retrospective analysis is an incredible tool for improvement. Without it, I imagine my gains in fitness and skills over the past 5 years of racing would have been significantly smaller.
This year I worked with Cameron Cogburn to develop my fitness and hone it specifically for races. That involved getting detailed and highly structured workouts from him on a day to day basis. So in some senses, he was primarily responsible for how my fitness was coming along. However, I provided feedback along the way which he used to point me in the right direction. I gave him the foundation, he constructed the frame, and I put on the roof.
With that though, the foundation I provided him was imperfect and often times the my efforts at building the roof weren't whole hearted. I slacked off. I didn't give every workout the full prescribed effort. Hence, this list.
1. Timing. I came to form later than I ever have, in 2015. I wasn't back to 2014 threshold numbers until June, long after some of my races. I need to clarify exactly when I want to be on form in 2016, and start working on the engine 6 weeks prior to that.
2. Skill. I improved immensely in my bike driving skills in 2014-2015. But it wasn't enough. Riding a mountain bike helps develop them. Riding it on the same terrain all the time is unhelpful. I need to get more time on non familiar trails to keep working on my skills.
3. Speed. Along with skills, I didn't do enough of my prescribed intervals in the woods. I opted for the easier route and did them on the road where I wouldn't have to focus on flying through trees. If you want to race fast, going very fast in the woods has to be second nature.
4. Adaptation. Riding on the road is paramount to getting steady efforts in that the woods simply can't provide. For this reason I have a road bike that I use for such workouts. While that is the logical tool for such a job, being on a different bike in a different position changes my muscle adaptation to a bike that isn't my race bike. I need more time on the mtb even if it means doing the 5 hour road rides on knobs.
5. Gear. Keeping your gear, specifically your race gear, functioning well for both training and racing is obviously important. But I let too many little issues progress that led to downtime for bikes I needed for training. The offseason is when you service your bikes, not during 15 hour high intensity training weeks.
6. Trainer. This excellent tool is not my friend. I don't like it. I use it infrequently. I suffer in the cold instead doing subpar workouts. In past years I have done whatever it takes to ride outside; suffering through 0 degree temps in order to avoid suffering on the trainer. It's a bit ridiculous and it's time to get over it. The trainer sucks, but it's highly effective. I'll be sucking it up next year and going for quality over preference.
7. Tires. The absolute pinnacle of details one should think about for mtb racing is tires. I used two tires all year. Schwable Racing Ralph's if it was muddy, rocky or technical, and Maxxis Aspens for everything else. That is not how you win races. Every race has different terrain, and being lazy and simply just running whatever I have set up is not conducive to optimal performance.
8. Back to backs. Ultra Endurance mtb racing is no joke. Racing for 7, 8, or 9 hours is a special kind of masochism. Cogburn often prescribed me two rides on back to back days, one 4 hours and the next 3 hours. Not only do these workouts work, they are exactly what the body needs to be able to race at a high level. I can't even say I completed 5 of these workouts at their prescribed lengths. Now, it's not easy to steal away on a weekend for 7 hours of riding, but if that can't happen, then maybe i shouldn't race 100s. One or the other. These workouts need to happen when they're prescribed.
9. Power. As a big believer in training with power, I always look at the numbers I'm doing for specified intervals. Because of that, I know what limits are down to the watt. The problem is I let this often control my efforts. When I reached my limit, I would stay there instead of trying to push past that limit. Mid way through the season I realized it and started to change my mindset. It made a huge difference. I'm looking forward to keeping that going next year.
10. Recover. This year I carried over some older habits for recovery from previous years. Instead of doing recovery rides I might take a day off instead. While taking days off is great, it doesn't do the same thing as a super easy ride. It's time to listen to the coach on these too, and do every prescribed recovery ride that I'm given!
2015 has been (and is still is) a great year with all kinds of incredibly valuable lessons and failures that have taught me a ton about myself as a person and an athlete. I'm definitely excited to see what I learn in 2016!