All posts by hammonjj

The good the bad and the ugly of where I currently am and, to be completely frank, the season is heavy on the ugly with scattered rays of good.

The Ugly

I’m going to start with the ugly, because it has been a serious area of frustration for me and that is my DNF rate at races this season.  Of nine races, I’ve had mechanical issues in four of them.  In all but one of them, it has been an issue with my tubeless tires.  I am, at this point, blaming it specifically on my Specialized Tracer tires as I didn’t have this problem last year on Schwalbe tires.  In fact, last season I only DNF’d three races and all three were related to crashes.


For better or worse, I bought a set of Specialized mud tires, the Terra Pro, that I am going to mount.  At the very least, they will get me away from the Tracer’s, but it remains to be seen if this will fix my issue.  My hope is that the Terra’s are a crappy tire and that the burping issue isn’t something that all Specialized tires have.

The Bad

Overall, the title of “bad” might be a bit of an overstatement.  This area is probably better suited to stay “needs improvement”.  With that in mind, the biggest issues I have here are:

  1. TTE is too low for my given events (~33 minutes for a 40 minute race)\
    • Most noticeable at Schoolyard CX where I felt a noticeable drop in power on lap 4 and rebounded on lap 5
  2. I don’t have the horsepower to jam up short/steep climbs
    • I ride them at a high power, but it’s well within the bounds of FTP/V02 instead of in the high FRC range


Regarding TTE, I’m already on the right track, but this is one of those metrics that will be hard to move in season.  I’m doing extensive SST work, up to 45min intervals, which should slowly bring TTE in line with my goals.  For my second limiter, raw horsepower, I am going to replace FTP/FRC intervals with Tabata style intervals as they are scientifically show to increase power at and above V02, plus they are extremely cross specific.  This was recommended to me by Frank Overton of FasCat Coaching.

The Good

Believe it or not, there are good things too!  Mentally, I’m doing a great job of keeping up intensity when the race gets hard, although I still find myself braking too much when I get really fatigued.  In fact, I had the highest normalized power of the season at Schoolyard CX by over 20 watts.  I’m finding that concentrating on forced exhales when I am red lining to be really effective.  Additionally, even though skills are still not top notch, they are way better than last season and I can see these as being a strength in the next season!

That’s all for today, I think I’ve unpacked enough of my training baggage for now.  It’s time to put the plans into action and see if I can make a strong course correction for the second half of the season.

Result: DNF (Crash at Start)

Starting Row: 2nd

Call Up: 14th

I was super excited about this race, especially given the amazing call up that I had.  I was called 14th, which landed me in the middle of the second row.  However, I got taken out in the first 10 seconds of the race. I had the tiniest slip of the pedal, I got clipped on the second pedal stroke easily, which allowed another racer to veer into my lane and take me out; his hip checked my handlebars. I might have been able to continue, but the impact exacerbated an issue I already had with my front tire (more below), so I was forced to withdraw.

Overall, the damage is pretty minimal and the onsite mechanic from was amazing. He did a once over on my bike and straightened my rear disc as well as tightened my headset. My sunglasses were also snapped in half.  Beyond the minor damage to my equipment, I’ve got a good size bruise on my hip and some road rash on my right calf, but I think everything is OK. I had my camera, but I messed up the recording, so I don’t have footage of the crash.

The only mitigating factor of this race is that I already had an issue with my front tire that I discovered as I lined up. I was actually losing air due to some debris lodged between the tire bead and rim, so I’m not 100% sure I was going to be able to finish the race anyway. Despite the drawbacks, I think I’m going to try and scrap some cash together for next season and get a set of alloy tubular rims.  I’ve only had a couple of issues running tubeless, but each time it’s a massive headache.  I only get to race so many times a year and even giving up one or two to something silly is more than I want to deal with.

On the up side, a very minor upside, since this course had minimal preview time, I was forced to warm up on the trainer and I tried something new. I had read a while back about team Sky’s warm up protocol they use for basically any kind of race (prologue all the way to road races) and it seemed to be pretty effective. While I obviously didn’t get to test my legs much, I rolled up to the start feeling really good. I’m going to try the same thing tomorrow and see how I feel. As an added bonus, it’s only 20 minutes long!

Oh well, time to go by some new shades and prep my gear for tomorrow’s race. Hopefully I don’t suffer the same fate!


  • Tried the Sky warmup and it had me feeling good


  • Didn’t actually race
  • Minor pedal slip made the other guy’s sketchy move possible

Result: 7/20

Starting Row: 2nd

Call Up: 12th

Yet again, I pull off the best finish of my cyclocross career! While the field was only 20 riders, I did finish within the top 10 for the first time (7th place). To make matters even better, I had a relatively poor start where I wasn’t able to move up at all and even lost a few spots going in to the first turn. Overall, I’m super happy with this result, but I need to keep two things in mind before I celebrate too much:

  1. The USAC quality score meant this result means as much as my 19th at Valmont
  2. I didn’t push through the race to get to sixth.

Now, there’s nothing I can do about point number 1, but I need to keep point number 2 in mind. I could easily have gotten up to sixth position and, given the gaps, possibly made my way up further. I fell short in two ways, the first is that I wanted to maintain what I knew was going to be my best result. The second, was not racing the course correctly. For months, I’ve been pushing myself to race courses in an even and paced manner, but that’s a problem at a venue like Rhyolite because the course is so punchy. When you race here, you are either going full out for ~30 seconds or recovering through a technical or downhill section. I road like I would at Valmont, sustained, but you can’t sustain power here and, next time, I’ll race accordingly.  In fact, I will keep this in mind when I race at Cross of the North this weekend as it rides very similar to Rhyolite.


  • Rode smart after poor start
  • Technically I rode a sound race


  • Needed to push harder for 6th
  • Need to race the course as it is intended (punchy vs. sustained)

Result: 19/61

Starting Row: 5rd

Call Up: ~35-40

This was, far and away, the best race that I have ever had.  Not only did I have my best placing to date (19th), I also did well in both my technical skills as well as having a solid start. To make it even a little sweeter, I had 15th in sight, but couldn’t close the gaps.  However, with the confidence that I gained from this race, and ranking, I believe that this is only the start of some very good work in the future.  There’s more work to do, but I can take a lot away from this race!

The only thing I can really nitpick about this race is my willpower to close down gaps.  I was so concerned with racing within myself that I didn’t close down certain gaps that would have almost guaranteed a higher placing.  For example, at the beginning of the second lap, I was overtaken by a couple of riders that ended up in 15th and 16th.  There’s really no reason that I didn’t hop on their wheel other than I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace, but I shouldn’t have worried about this especially on this course.  Valmont is known as a roadie course.  Having a big guy (which the Lucky Pie rider was) block the wind for me would have both saved my legs and pushed me up a couple more places.  I won’t make that mistake again!

Other than that, my only other issue is my tire selection.  I’ve now given the Specialized Tracer’s three races to show themselves at varying tire pressures and I am not impressed.  Tracking along the front wheel seems to be really good, but the rear is leaving a lot to be desired.  It’s becoming common for me to slide out a couple of times a race and it needs to stop.  Last weekend, it cost me 10+ places.  This time I managed to not go down and keep my placing, but it definitely put me on edge for the rest of the race.  I’m probably going to suffer through these tires for the next month and switch to mud tires for the rest of the season.  In the spring and summer, I’ll look into trying a few others, like the Clemente MXP.


  • Great start – moved up a lot of positions
  • Kept pushing through and didn’t give up


  • Slid out on rear tire again even at 24 psi
  • Needed to make more aggressive passes mid-late to make up more positions

Result: 31/48

Starting Row: 3rd (People left openings instead of filling in)

Call Up: ~30

First race of the CycloX Series

Was sitting in top 20, but three big mistakes cost me 10-12 positions, but power was there.

I’ll update this with more details when I’m not so tired!


  • Pushed through much better than last race
  • Excellent start, but I should have played it more aggressively


  • Too much tire pressure in the rear tire (27 PSI)
  • Didn’t defend my position well enough at the start

Result: DNF (likely 5th-8th)

Starting Row: 2nd

Call Up: 13th

It was the season opener, hopefully a validation of all of the work that I have been doing since January and it almost paid off.  To keep a long story short, I was staged in the second row and, after the initial sprint off the line, I moved up to fourth before being caught by several riders behind me, placing me in 8th.  However, I clearly had better technical skills than the 3 guys in front of me, although less power, so I was making up time in the back two thirds of each lap.  With a minute or two left in the third lap, I went up a steep section that immediately went into a hard left hand turn and pushed my tubeless tire off of the rim, unsealing it causing me to flat.  Thankfully, being so close to the start, it was a pretty short walk back to the car.  I would like to have a spare set of wheels, but that’s not in the financial cards at the moment.

Overall, I feel really good about this race and the course might become one of my favorites.  It had a fair amount of technical stuff, but also a good mix of power.  This was almost perfect as I prefer courses that are more technical in nature since I’m a light rider without as much sustained power as someone 20 lbs heavier.  That said, I felt that I held back too much on the power sections.  I was so concerned with not blowing up that I road too far within my comfort zone when I should have been mashing the pedals.  In the future, if I am on a power section like this, and Colorado courses are full of them, I need to be at no less than 95% of FTP.  I was around 85%-90% and could feel that I was too recovered when it came time to navigate some of the more technical sections which are, inherently, easier aerobically.

Another place I need improvement is on technical skills when I am fatigued.  Everything was clicking the first two laps, but, as time went on, I started feathering the brakes more and struggled in some of the technical sections that helped me get into fourth place to begin with.  I’m not sure how I should go about training this, but it’s something I’m going to have to figure out if I this season is going to be successful.

On a side note, I chose to wear a long sleeve skinsuit when the temperature was going to be ~60 at the start.  In hindsight, I short have gone with the short sleeve version as I was a bit overheated although I don’t think it was too much of a detriment.

Tire Notes:

I ran the Specialized 2Bliss tires at 25 PSI and I think, given the tame nature of the terrain, I should have run them at 27-29 PSI.  Additionally, this would be an excellent course to run a file tread on.


  • Excellent start (best I’ve ever had)!
  • Technical skills coming around


  • Need to commit to sustained power sections
  • Fatigue in later laps lead to some major mistakes
  • Should have worn short sleeve skin suit

Today was my first “real” FTP test of the season.  I am defining it as real because my last one, on 1/28/2016, was more about feeling out where I was starting the season.  I wasn’t really sure how many watts I lost over my end of season break, so I did a bit of riding in the weeks previous and then took a shot in the dark, which turned out to be pretty close (245).  One setback to my previous test was that I didn’t know that Lefthand Canyon is actually closed during the day and will be for the next couple of months due to construction, so the interval itself was done in two parts with a tiny amount of rest between as I transferred from Lefthand Canyon Dr. to the back side of Lee Hill.

This brings me to today’s test.  Given the issues with Lefthand Canyon, I decided to head over to Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder.  It’s a climb I’m very familiar with and it’s one of the only options I have within a reasonable driving distance.  While an iconic climb of the area, it does have its issues, the biggest one being gradient.  This sucker is extremely steep for the first 8-10 minutes.  Average over the first 8:00 minutes was 7.7% with pitches into the double digits; the duration of the climb average ~6.5% with several steep switchbacks.  I was worried the steep grade would lead to an abnormally low cadence during my test and I was right.

While I can’t say for certain that the steep grade kept me from producing my best power, I doubt it helped.  Over the first 6 minutes, I only averaged 69 RPM with the remaining averaging a paltry 76 RPM.  As I suspected, I’m not quite ready for this best and I think I will try to head over to Lookout Mountain for my test next month, although it is a longer drive without as many parking options.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results of this test.  I managed to achieve my goal of gaining 10 watts on my FTP and, for that, I can rest easy.  However, I can’t help but think that, had I been able to maintain a sensible cadence, I could have held on to my average power at 10 minutes of 271 watts (giving me 4-5 watts on my FTP).  Next time, I’ll make sure that I am using a sensible climb for my FTP tests when Lefthand Canyon isn’t available.

FTP Test:
Duration: 20:01.33
Cadence: 74 RPM
Heart Rate: 179 BPM
Average Power: 268 Watts
Normalized Power: 268 Watts

SMART-goalsAs with anything you want to get better at in life, it helps to have clear, specific goals in mind.  The gold standard are S.M.A.R.T goals, so I’ll be expanding on them as time goes on, but I think I’m off to a good start!  I’ve broken them down into Physical Goals, things I want to achieve in training, and Racing Goals, things that I want to accomplish during my races.  I have also included a small list of “unofficial” goals, which are things I would like to do both on and off the bike.  These goals probably won’t directly lead me to winning races, but are things that I should know how to do.

Physical Goals

  • Increase FTP to 280 watts by season opening
  • Begin and maintain a strength training program until build phase (June/July)
  • Do light recovery runs once a week until June

Racing Goals

  • Upgrade to Cat 3
  • Be ranked within the top 10% by season end in my category
  • Win a race
  • No DNFs with the exception of mechanicals

In addition to my official goals, I would also like to learn to bunny hop sets of barriers.  This is an extremely high risk/high reward maneuver, but I think that in ideal scenarios, where the barriers have a nice run up and are on flat terrain, (ex. Feedback Cup, Regional Championship), it will be worth it.  At the very least, I would like to have the option.  Hopping barriers isn’t necessarily a key to winning races so I don’t want to make it an official goal.  There are a lot of pros that don’t bunny hop, so it clearly isn’t a necessity.

A final addition to my non official goals is to learn to do most, if not all, of my own mechanical work.  I spend far too much time riding on equipment that isn’t properly tuned or trying to get my bike to a shop that it’s time to learn to do it myself.  I plan to go out and buy a stand either this month or next and begin the process.  There are a few tools I will need as well, so I included them along with the items I most want to learn how to do.

Repair List (In Order of Importance):

  • Adjust Derailleurs (Repair Stand: $150)
  • Rebuild Pedals (Torque Wrench: $70-$100)
  • Replace derailleur cables (Cable Snips: $25)
  • True Wheels (Truing Stand and Spoke Wrenches: $100 + $20)

My first season of cyclocross is in the books and I can safely say that my first foray into the mud has been a resounding success.  Not only did I accomplish all of my goals for the season, but I had a truck load of fun and am definitely hooked on cross.  In fact, despite being incredibly sick the final two weeks of the season and only getting a few rides in, I managed my best result at the State Championships.

I did struggle early season with the mental side of racing.  In the first five races I did, I had three DNFs.  In the interest of fairness, one of those was from a gnarly crash on an off camber turn, but the other two were from a lack of mental toughness.  In search of tools, I read Matt Fitzgerald’s new book “How Bad Do You Want It”, which gave me some things to think about.  The biggest of which was going into the race knowing that it will be incredibly difficult and breaking up the courses into manageable section where I could plan my efforts.  This is something I will have to continue working on, but I’m on the right track.  My only relapse was during the State Championship, but I persevered and had my best result of the season.

The adaptation that I am most proud of during the season was the change of pedals.  After two quasi-muddy races it was apparent that my Shimano XTs were not hacking it.  I was struggling to clip in after a couple of dismounts and was becoming increasingly frusterated, so I moved to Crank Brother’s Candies.  This was a great decision and I wish I had done it sooner.  The platform is as stable as the XTs, but the mud clearance is far superior.  My only complaint is that the pedals disengage a little too quickly, but I managed to work around it as the season progressed.  Also, if the cleats are flipped, you get an extra five degrees of float, which might be worth investigating.

Race Review (time differential):

Race Date Top 20 Top 10
BRAC CX State Championships 12/20  n/a  3:13
Rocky Mountain Regional Championships 12/5  0:59  3:30
Cyclo X – Sienna Lake 11/14  0:41  1:53
Cyclo X – Interlocken 11/7 1:33 2:14
Feedback Cup 11/1 1:16 2:58
Cyclo X – Flatirons 10/25 1:12 2:34
US Open (Day 2) 10/18 4:50 6:17
Cross of the North 10/11 3:36 5:10
SOCO – Rhyolite 9/13 2:38 4:54

Progress throughout the season was steady and consistent leading into the final races of the season where I actually cracked the top 20.  As one would expect, when we got to the championship events at the end of the season we see some sandbagging, which shows itself in the increasing differential between myself and the top 20.  Overall, I’m super happy with how the season played out and I can’t wait to start drilling it in the off season.  I plan to hit the ground running at the season openers next September!

Result: 20/38

Starting Row: 4th

Call Up: 30th

My best result of the season!  This result also completes my final goal of the season of being in the top 20, albeit barely.  The race is made all the better because I have been sick for the last two weeks and have only had a few rides leading up to this race.  Additionally, during the second lap, I had a bit of a mental breakdown where I really wanted to quit.  In order to push myself, I started breaking the course up into pieces in order to manage where my effort would be spent and was able to push on.  I can only credit Matt Fitzgerald’s new book “How Bad Do You Want It” for these kinds of tools.  Mental toughness is a weakness for me and this book has helped me steady myself during difficult moments.

63936044-20151220-_BJM0722Lastly, this was my first chance to really test the Crank Brother’s Candy pedals that I purchased a few weeks ago.  Previously, I had been riding on Shimano XTs and struggled to clip in at several muddy races earlier in the season.  The verdict: the Candy pedals are amazing.  Today’s races was a complete mud batch and I NEVER had issues clipping in.  These things clear mud like I never thought possible and I will not be switching again any time soon.  My only complaint is that the pedals disengage a little too easily, but I’ve learned to work around this.  Additionally, I read that if you flip the cleats around that you get an extra five degrees of float, which will help me disengage the pedals alter; this might be worth investigating in the future.


  • Overall handling was good
  • Made a strong comeback during the second lap
  • Rain pants during the preview lap were a great idea
  • New pedals have far superior mud clearance


  • Fell apart during the beginning of the second lap
  • Illness kept me from riding and I felt it in my form
  • Poor clip in and sprint at the start

UPDATE (12/24/2015): I went to the doctor yesterday and it turns out that I have had pneumonia for the last three weeks.  This would explain my lack of energy and the mental collapse I had during the second lap of the race.  It really makes me wonder where I would have come in if I was totally healthy.  Anyway, back to taking in some nice off season recovery!