Brian Kramer is a life-long mountain-biker and loves to go fast!
Having spent the majority of his saddle-time on downhill runs, he has recently turned to the world of Cross-Country (XC) MTB racing to quench his competitive thirst. He now regularly competes at the Southern California Over The Hump Tuesday-Night Races and the Kenda Cup XC Series.
Having enjoyed a number of impressive wins that propelled him to the overall title at the Kenda Cup Series, as well as leading the Over The Hump Race Series with two events remaining, Brian is in the middle of a break-through season.
Following his championship win at the final round of the Kenda Cup Series at Snow Summit in Big Bear, California, we caught up with Brian to ask him about his success in our four-question Athlete Profile interview. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: MTB Racing
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 6-8/hrs.
Upcoming Goals: The Final Over The Hump Series Races
Brian Kramer has quite a win streak going at this years' Over The Hump series. Photo Credit: Brian Kramer
Question #1: You have racked-up quite a win streak at the Over The Hump weekday MTB races this year, congratulations! What has been the biggest factor in your training & racing to make this success possible?
Brian Kramer: The combination of structured training as well as more hours on the bike has been the key to my fitness gains and ability to generate more sustained power at the races.
In the past 5 to 6 months, I have more than doubled the number of hours, per week, that I spend riding & training.
When Coach puts a structured ride on the calendar, I almost always find a way to get it done, even if it is on the trainer at 10:00pm at night!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: It has been incredible to watch Brian achieve so many race-wins in a row. He has won ten…yes 10, races since May, how cool is that?!
When we started working together it was clear to me that Brian was a pure competitor, he loves the thrill of “battling it out” against his opponents.
With that in mind, we adjusted his training to include more competitive-type rides as this would break the monotony of interval training.
Although we still include plenty of focused interval training, it was very important to create training that would fuel Brian’s competitive-spirit and maximize his performance.
The results have been exciting to watch as Brian has been 'crushing-it' at the races and having a blast doing it, which makes me so proud!
Brian won the last few races and the overall series at this year's Kenda Cup. Photo Credit: Brian Kramer
Question #2: Most of your week-day training is performed on an indoor-trainer, yet you are still able to race well on the trails. How do you balance your indoor and outdoor training to prepare for the races?
BK: I have spent the last 25-years mountain biking with an emphasis on bombing the descents… Unfortunately, I have the concussions and surgeries to show for it!
As a result, the “rubbing is racing” component of XC events is not a problem and I simply need to be efficient enough to stay with the leaders on the climbs.
The time on the trainer works really well for me because on the easy days I can actually get work done (emails, calls, etc.) and the interval days really improve my recovery from hard efforts.
The only downside to all the Endurance/Zone 2 training is that the hard days on the mountain bike seem to hurt more than before.
Coach Brian: Brian has a busy schedule that means he must maximize his training time, making the indoor-trainer a great option.
As we discussed the benefits of indoor workouts, it became clear that embracing trainer work would help take his training to the next-level.
The bonus was that because he was not loading-up his bike to head for the trails he could get this benefit for not much more time investment than he was currently allocating to his workouts.
The result has been a sizable increase in his training volume and a significant increase in fitness, both of which have translated into success at the races.
As with any increase in training, a majority of the time has to be at sub-threshold levels as recovery time (generally) cannot increase as much as training time. This is a small price to pay, as Brian would say, for the performance gains he is experiencing.
It hasn't all been success for Brian Kramer, he has the dubious honor of sharing a father/son hospital room following separate MTB crashes while on vacation in Park City, Utah. Photo Credit: Brian Kramer
Question #3: What is one of your long-term cycling goals? And what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list?
BK: That’s a good question. Since I won the Cat 3 Kenda Cup series, winning the final races by a decent margin, I believe that I can be competitive in Cat 2 next year.
In terms of Over the Hump, at the beginning of the year my goal was simply to “podium” and now it looks like I have a good chance of winning the Sport Class series overall.
With that said, I will move up to Super-Sport next year and possibly get hammered by the fast guys.
Beyond Super-Sport I have no aspirations to move up to Elite or Cat 1 (45+) because those guys are either super-human or dedicate a huge amount of their lives to racing.
I have far too many commitments to family, kids, and work, not to mention the enjoyment of wine, beer, & fine food for that level of racing!
Coach Brian: It is exciting to be having the conversations Brian and I are regarding racing and moving-up in category.
Given his limited training time we will adjust a few things leading into next-years series of MTB races, but for the moment what is important is enjoying the success he has worked so hard for.
Once the Over The Hump series is over, and Brian has had some down-time, we will craft a plan for next year, but I can say with confidence that I am certain he will be very competitive in the Super-Sport category.
Brian's favorite riding buddies call themselves the El-Mo Crew, as you can see the vibe is all about fun! Photo Credit: Brian Kramer
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program. Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
BK: I really enjoy the interval work, other than hill repeats, because I have never really done them.
I also love doing the long, slow days on the bike because I get a chance to enjoy the ride.
The greatest racing advice I have received from Coach Brian is to breath very deeply, and rapidly (almost hyperventilating), during the first minute or two of an Over the Hump race.
I used to kill myself just trying to be mid-pack after the first two minutes, which often left me dropped when the trail got congested. Now I am able to get out front with, what feels like, relatively low effort and there is no longer a wave of pain that hits me. Thanks Coach!!
Coach Brian: It makes my day to hear that the breathing techniques we discussed have made such an impact on Brian’s racing.
For many racers, but especially MTB and Cyclocross riders, the opening moments of a race are faster and more intense than the rest of the event. Coming from a dead-stop at the start line can make this effort overwhelming.
To combat the shallow and rapid breathing that is natural, I suggest Athletes breathe deeply and forcefully in order to get as much oxygen into the body as possible.
I think of it as proactive breathing as opposed to reactive breathing, which is what the majority of racers do.
As for Brian enjoying interval training, that is excellent news as there are more great interval workouts in his future as he tackles the final two races of the Over The Hump series and Super-Sport next year!
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about Brian Kramers MTB success as much as we have enjoyed watching him achieve it!
Performing to your potential and pushing your limits is a great feeling, whether it’s at a week-day MTB race, group ride, big event, or even a low-key training ride with friends.
At Big Wheel Coaching we believe that performing to your potential is about more than numbers, it’s about finding your own balance of performance and passion as well as harnessing your competitive-spirit.
As coaches, it is our passion to help Athletes find and perfect their individual recipe for success, in events of all kinds, on-road or off… And something we would would love to help you with!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching