Posts Tagged 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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A Case of Guilt Gut

I remember the term “guilt gut” as the feeling you get in your stomach when you knew that you did something wrong.

Tonight was going to be a ride day.  Turns out, I get stuck in traffic on the way home from work.  It took about 3 times as long as usual.  So I get home and I’m a little stressed and tired.  Mrs. Stallion suggests riding tomorrow and going out for dinner.

The combination of being a good husband and lack of discipline made the decision for me.  So of course, I could do the right thing health-wise and get a satisfying light meal.  I do the exact opposite; an Italian Mix sub.  At least I was able to resist the temptation for dessert.

The feeling afterward was that of Guilt Gut.  In a literal sense, I felt very full.  This was a big, big sandwich eaten with a 20 ounce soda.  In a figurative sense, I felt terrible for the 180 degree turn my evening took.  Instead of exercise and oatmeal, I ate an unhealthy dinner and watched TV.

There have been times like this in the past.  Most of the time I don’t learn from it.  Sometimes, however, the light goes on and discipline returns.  I want that to happen this time.  I hate the guilty feeling because I know what I did was wrong.

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I can’t believe I’m thinking this

A thought crackled through my brain as I was looking at the weather forecast for this week.

“I do better on the Trainer”

Blasphemy.

I utter this in the middle of July?  What the Hell am I thinking?  The trainer is supposed to be the embodiment of a tortuous, monotony-filled, claustrophobic bore-fest of a winter season that seemingly drags on forever.  I should be reveling in the delights of a summer season filled with new personal bests, long rides pushing up against 3 hours and the occasional unsupported metric century.

The reality: I have been doing about two rides a week since Memorial Day.  My fitness has taken a big hit and my weight is creeping up (slowly, thank God).  Most of last summer and into the current one my riding has become increasingly sporadic.  Goals go out the window and I’m happy just to get something in.

The irony is that during the winter my rides on the Trainer are scheduled out.  I can say with a high degree of certainty that I will do 3 rides every week, and occasionally a bonus one.  Also, I’m realizing that the quick weight workout I do after trainer rides is more beneficial that I thought.  The loss of tone is really evident even if the strength losses themselves are moderate.

The solution?  Difficult to say; “ride more” is easier said than done apparently.  I may need to change focus to shorter rides so I can get home from work, do a short (under an hour) ride with a little intensity and still have time to do the other things that may have gotten in the way.  To draw the TdF analogy, now I’m hunting for stage wins.

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A right good ass kicking

Through forces beyond my control, I was unable to get out for a ride for a solid 9 (!) days.  Suffice it to say that going out for a 40 mile ride on a Saturday morning with little wind and temps in the 70s was enticing.  I was psyched – I needed this ride.

I went out on a route that I am very familiar with and I knew would take a little over 2 hours.  The first climb up Schauber Road was what I expected:  a steep grade that takes a couple minutes to get up.  I went into the red zone for the last 100 yards or so.  That’s the standard plan for that climb; short anaerobic bursts are needed for fitness gains.  I got to the top a little slower than usual, but I wasn’t expecting to hold on to all of my form after 9 days.

The second climb is a very steep but also very short “berg” about 4 miles later that takes around 30 seconds to ascend.  I got up it, but holy cow it was tough.  I was still feeling the first climb all the way out to this one.

This was the theme for the ride.  I had one more serious climb and a bunch of rollers thereafter.  I felt winded and worn out for the duration.  This is what it’s like to lose form this quickly – the first big effort is doable, but the subsequent ones are where the lack of fitness shows itself.

I purposely added a mostly flat 3 miles to the end of the ride in the hope that I would get a small endurance benefit from it.  There’s no two ways around it, I felt it.  I really hope that this ride gets me some fitness in return, but it was a toughie.

Some of you have noticed the dearth of posts lately.  I’ll try to put up more frequent posts, but the Mrs. and I are in the process of moving to a new house so all the craziness that goes with selling, buying, agents, lawyers, mortgage, etc. exacts its toll.  I’ll need more frequent rides to balance out my sanity.

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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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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. 

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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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