Posts Tagged cycling training

Picking up the Tempo

To my faithful readers, I ain’t dead.

For some reason, this winter has been a rough one.  Particularly January with double the normal snowfall and decidedly below average temps.  Add to that December’s hit parade of high intensity trainer workouts, and you have a recipe for trainer burnout.  For a 3 week stretch I begrudgingly rode once or twice a week, skipped weights often and found reasons to avoid riding.

The trend is reversing as of late – at least I have enough motivation to write another post.  This past week saw a long-overdo thaw before returning to the freezer.  Being that it is now late February, there is at least some hope on the horizon.  The distance to Spring can be counted in weeks, not months.

Along with this refreshing of spirit, I have shelved the mind-bending anaerobic pain cave workouts for something entirely mundane; the zen of the Tempo ride.  For the longest time, I treated them as a necessary chore to throw in once in a while; a mental test of holding a moderate pace for an hour.  Out of my recent doldrums I decided to give them a revisit.

Now after my warm up and stretch, I begin a 45-60 minute ride at a moderate pace (a 5 or 6 out of 10).  That pace is good for 12-15 minutes.  In that time, my engine gets fully up to temperature and I get comfortable.  Then I step up the effort level to a 7-7.5/10.  This is a high aerobic effort, but I can hold it for a long time without drifting anaerobic.  Holding this effort level for a solid 15-20 minutes really does the trick.

I know that this time of year is for base building and I think I get it now.  I was upside down; instead of rides with high intensity spins and killer anaerobic intervals dominating my schedule, I am now committed to the opposite.  No fewer than 2 (preferably 3) Tempo rides for every interval workout.  I need to keep the intervals in there to keep some power level around for Spring, but being able to go for a long ride out of the gate once it warms up is more important to me.

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It’s Been A While

So, I haven’t posted in a few weeks and that’s OK.  We’ve had some odd weather here lately and it affected the rides I was able to take.

We had a stretch of well-above average temps toward the end of March, so I got off of the trainer and got back outside to try and get some endurance back.  I scheduled a Spring tune up at the LBS and it all looked good.

I get our bikes back and the temps drop and the rains arrive.  Fantastic.  I get new tires mounted and I have to ride the trainer again.  Ugh.  Fortunately I only did 3 rides on the trainer before the weather turned and now I’m back on the road for the season.  In fact, I just completed a three day stretch of good rides.

Some observations:

My new tires for this year are Continental Gatorskins.  The initial verdict is a B+.  They give a comfortable ride, but they could be livelier.  Definitely a training tire.  I have them at 110 psi, but I think I actually want a harsher ride out of them so the next rides will have them up to 115.  People rave about the puncture resistance and the sidewall reinforcement is immediately obvious.  It’s too early to tell if that’s true, but I have been able to avoid flats on any tire I’ve used for the last 4 years or so.  I’m sure by May I will know how much I miss the old 4000s.

The spring tune up also included a drive train cleaning.  That thing looks brand freaking new.  I couldn’t believe how good it looked.  wow.  I actually wondered if they replaced the cassette and chain.

Mrs. Stallion’s bike also got a tune up.  Now, it’s an old Huffy but all bikes Great and Small deserve to be in good riding shape.  To her great credit she has been riding the trainer more and more in addition to other exercises.  In fact, she went for a ride around a route we checked out over the winter.  It’s about a 7-8 mile route she can loop around.

When she got back from the ride we were discussing how it went.  She told me that the gears shifted much better since the tune up.  In fact, she noticed early on in the ride that the LBS returned the bike shifted on to the small front chainring.  To which she replied, “I ride in the big ring, bitches!”.

It’s going to be a good year.

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Topics to Ponder

Last year at this time I was musing the year that was.  However, this time around I just didn’t have the motivation to look back.  Overall it was a sub-par year for me.  There was a metric assload of rain in July and August and my total miles were down around 25%.  Now it’s January and I am wrestling with the traditional winter issues of weight gain and trainer rides.  I need to look forward, not back.  It’s time to do a status check.

Here’s what’s going on right now:  Starting 4-ride weeks on the trainer.  I have just enough cycling clothes to do this.  They will take the form of two interval workouts and two tempo rides.  I need to increase the volume and I don’t want to burn myself out on constant lung-burners.  No January Champions here.

I’m going to do one tempo ride on the weekend and fit the other three in mid-week.  This should be a fun exercise in reovery.

I want to train for a century this year, but not like I have done in the past.  No, this will be what I’m calling a “Circuit Century”.  This past summer I added a loop route to my stable of rides.  It measures about 10 miles per lap.  Yep, I want to take a shot at 10 laps.

If it’s anything like riding a more conventional century, there will be at least two brief stops.  I’m going to need them to to refuel and keep my sanity.  I’m liking the idea.  I just hope it’s not stupid.  (FYI, 4 laps was my max last year on that route)

Speaking of riding longer distances, I need to give my most precious contact point greater support.  More specifically, the Canari Velo II shorts I have had since 2006 are nearing the end of their run.  I bought a pair of Performance Elite bibs with a gel chamois, and mostly like them.  The gel chamois is a little rough at times, but nothing a little chamois cream shouldn’t help.  I’d like to get a couple more of these, but experience tells me to go for the foam padding.  Ride and learn.

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Consistency at Last

A quick check over at Winning Stats shows I had 11 rides for November.  Not bad, considering that my goal every month is for 12 rides.  I consider three rides a week to be a good pace.

It’s also a good number of rides considering the paltry amount I did over the summer.  We set a record for rain here in July, and August was only slightly better.  I think I had 12 rides over the course of two months.  Blech.

Factor in that I packed it in during the second week of October, and the road season this year sucked.

I’m glad that the Sufferfest is putting out new material, as I’m finally fully adjusted to trainer mode.  I think that I’m learning what training works best for me during these cold, dark months.  The outright thrashing of some of the Spinervals videos isn’t what I’m looking for.  I guess that the Sufferfest is dishing out similar punishment, but I have a good time doing them.  The Trainright workouts seem to work well also, but they leave me in better condition afterward.  I feel that I definitely put out a hard effort, but I recover from them better and feel that I get a stronger fitness gain.

I have also been reading about the classic off-season “LSD” (Long, slow distance) theory of building the base.  Since I’m not a racer, I can feel free to take my own approach.  What seems to be working so far is mixing in at least one mid-tempo hour-long ride per week.  I throw in a time trial-esque 10 minute high aerobic interval to make it a little harder, but it’s just a good calorie-burner.

The mix of tempo and interval workouts is feeling like a good mix.  I just have to be able to keep at it and hope for better weather come April.

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Feeling Loopy

loopMost of us cyclists have a handful of reliable routes that we ride.  I am no different.  Whether I’m heading south into Vischer Ferry or north and west toward Charlton, my routes are a point to point affair – beginning and ending in my driveway.

Surprisingly, one thing that had never occurred to me was to define a loop course and do laps around it.  About a month ago, I decided to do just that.  It took some getting used to, but I now consider it a welcome addition to my cadre of routes. 

My observations:

  1. Directions: It’s weird riding 11 miles and only making one left turn.  Like most of the terrain out here, it’s rarely flat for more than a half mile.  You’re either going up or down.
  2. Poor man’s hill repeats:  There is a nice Berg about 5 miles into the loop.  Every lap takes me up it one more time.
  3. Passing the finish line (temptation):  I always set out with a predetermined number of laps to complete.  However, if it’s one of those days that I have dead legs, it’s very tempting to just bag it early when I see the start/finish line.  I haven’t done it yet, but it has crossed my mind.  Also, there are two points along the way where I can take a shortcut home.  I always ignore them and consider them for emergencies only – a storm fast approaching, a mechanical problem, bonked, injury, etc.
  4. A nice way to measure out a ride:  It’s almost exactly an 11 mile circuit.  I ride about 2 miles total getting to and from it.  That way, it’s easy for me to know how many calories to bring along and about how long the ride will take (One loop takes about 40-45 minutes).  It’s funny, but when I do the longer point-to-point rides, I feel weird not doing the whole route.  When I ride the loop, it’s ok to only do one circuit because I’m crunched for time.

All in all, I’m glad I did it.  Once again I prove to myself that there can be something more to discover on roads you’ve ridden countless times.

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It’s Go Time

When I saw the forecast for this week, I knew it would be a good one.  I planned on riding four days this week, and that’s saying something this year.

This season has been pretty bad in terms of riding volume.  I counted 7 rides for all of August.  That’s it.  In a normal year that total would be around 12.  They would also be longer rides.  I was averaging about 2½ hours per ride last year and this year it’s dropped to about 2 hours flat.

It’s been the same old gremlins that get me: weather and schedule conflicts.  July was the rainiest on record, and August had a host of non-cycling commitments.  Ergo July and August combine for 15 rides.  Pathetic.

Then there’s this week.  The weather is awesome – 70s, low humidity, light wind.  I’ve already been out twice and have two more on the calendar.  It’s such a small thing, but it’s huge in my riding confidence.  My average speed on rides is down a good half a mile per hour.  If I can push it as I have done so far this week, I can have good form going into the cool weather season of late September and October.  If the vest I’m purchasing works out, I could conceivably ride at least a week into November.  Anything to delay the trainer season.

They say Spring is the season of renewal.  If things go as planned this week, Spring will move to September.

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Why The Hell Am I Doing Hill Repeats?

So I did a hill repeat ride this week.  It consisted of 5 trips up a grade on Schauber Road.  Each climb only took a few minutes, but the recovery between each was about the same time.  After the third repeat, I had that “why am I doing this?” feeling.  The fourth one really hurt. 

SchauberClimb_sm

By the time I started the last one I knew that was it, so I eased up mentally – once I separated my mind from the sting in my legs I was really gliding up the hill.  That probably impressed me more than anything else.  I finished up with about 10 miles of flat to rolling terrain.  I sure felt it the next day, but it wasn’t that bad – a good hurt.

It was about 150 feet gained each time and I definitely went into the red zone in the final 200 feet or so.  According to Map My Ride there was a section at 13%!  But it begs the question – why do it at all?

There’s something to be said about the purity of the effort but I think it goes a little past that.  I’m not training for a race or anything that has a lot of climbing – I just want to impress myself.  Prior to my time as a “serious” cyclist (about 5 years now) I was never an athletic person.  In high school, I got a JV letter for bowling – an activity that can be aided by beer.

In some small way, suffering up a climb gives me a sense of worth.  I know that I could never have dreamed of being able to do what I did on this ride back in my 20s.  I guess the old saying “because it is there” applies here.

I hope I can wax so philosophical when I assault Lake Desolation Road later this year.

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