Friday, November 6, 2009

CX Season Blues. The dawg days of CX? Really?

Attendance are numbers down, and races are still blistering fast; which means the pain and suffering factor is through the roof.  Could it be?  Could the Dog Days of CX be here?  Completely possible.  CX is like any other sport.  Too much of a good thing causes burn out or burn up.  There are few reasons and the rate of burnout varies across any sport but here's an overly generalized shake down of the Dog Days of CX.......

First.  CX is a tough sport to apply any sort of periodization model to because of the compact season in the US.  We're talking late September to mid- December (Natz).  Sure it's different for the guys going to Europe and/ or World Championships; but how many of us is that really.  Seriously, don't kid yourself.  Anyways, because it's so short, any athlete trying to "get in shape during CX" is already behind the curve (which is why Source Endurance ran a CX Promo in August).  Training blocks are not and can not be the typical 3:1 week system that most coaches diligently adhere to.  Any build/ rest cycle must be very subtle and the athlete may not even notice when the 'rest' takes place.  Taking a stab at the CX season without periodization, usually leads to a general decline in performance right when you need to be going the fastest, at the end.  These cycles are all varying degrees of top end and MUST BE MONITORED VERY CLOSELY.  It doesn't take much to overreach an athlete into a slump in a truly CX specific program.  Factor in the shortness of the season and illness or slump could cost the athlete 1/4- 1/3 of the season very easily, or more!

Second, CX is hard.  Plain and simple. CX is all the power and fatigue of a grueling 4 hour road race compressed into about 45-60 minutes of pure punishment.  Sure its short but the mental toll of that much high intensity does wear on most riders.  I've heard lots of talk about TSS and IF numbers in reference to CX.  These numbers are misleading and CX requires a different method of using them.  If you didn't understand the last two sentences, don't worry.  You don't need to.

Third, most of us have already raced a full 2009 road season.  This increases the number of competition days from 20-30 to 45-65 for most riders.  That's a lot of days on the road, eating Subway, drinking bad gas station coffee, and breathing hotel air conditioner air, all of which adds even more travel stress.  And finally, the weather.  October was cold.  Coldest on record in the Midwest.  That makes training tough and racing more cumbersome.  Factor in the thought of doing it for 6 more weeks and people tend to get tired just thinking about it.

Bring it all together and there you have it.  A perfect recipe for the Dog Days of CX.  This is the time of season where most athletes take one of two routes.  Sometimes they choose the path.  Sometimes they don't.  Down one road, athlete either has already topped out in his/ her CX abilities for the season and will now start a steady decline in performance while they expand their repertoire of excuses to explain the slipping form.  Or, taking the other turn, the athlete will seem to "find another gear" and continue to improve, getting faster to the point where (relatively speaking) they seem to be riding on a sidewalk while the others are slogging away on grass.  Either of these scenarios sound familiar?