Category: Blog

Two days after the first race of the season and a lingering cough that sounds like I have been a smoker for decades remains.  On my last post I said that I had learned a few things from the first race and my Garmin.  Today, I discovered another.  Racing, competing against others and thinking about the next time we all meet on a starting line, is fine motivation. 

As I was running errands this morning, trapped behind the wheel of a car, I saw an older gent on a road bike, all kitted up and rolling along at a smart clip.  Envious, I prodded the go-pedal a little harder, speeding up “The Brave Little Toaster,” my ’06 Scion Xb, and hustled home, to kit up, and get out there too.   All I have to do sometimes is see another rider, out there, on the bike and I get inspired.

Inspired by this rider, my thoughts turn to musing about the recent race and I find myself thinking,  “I wonder what the other guys- especially those eleven race-rivals – are doing today? How hard are they training?”  These thoughts are reminiscent of the past, when I would use thoughts of other competitors to spur me to work a little more and a little harder – an extra set, another climb, a few more miles.

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Not much to report today.  I slept well and was not very sore, but I did feel it in my legs when I saddled up to the stationary trainer for an easy spin, recovery session.  I only spent 40 minutes on that beast. The much more noticeable “hangover” was a slightly sort throat and a ragged, gravelly cough that had started right after the race and had persisted all day. 

One race day revelation is the file on my Garmin. 

I downloaded it and was shocked to find that at the start, in the first few minutes, my heart rate spiked to 200 beats per minute (bpm).  I’ve never seen a number that high before – ever – and did not know that my old ticker could bump-it that hard.  After a few minutes it “settled down” so that for the one hour and six minutes of the race, it pounded out an average 169 bpm rhythm.  As a former dance club DJ, I know that’s a beat hard to get your groove on with.  I’m sure a pair of Rate-A-Record teens on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand would agree.  “I like the lyrics, but it’s a little hard to dance to.”

I learned something – or maybe some things from this data.  I rarely get my heart rate up to what I use as my max –  165 – though with some intervals I do see 170 or so – briefly – before my vision starts to blur.  Now I know that I can reach higher heart rates, not unlike those I regularly achieved 28 years ago.  But the lesson here confirms what I have heard for years. 

Racing is the best training.  Competition makes going hard, going all-in, much more fun.  And in the interest of making training fun and moving closer to a podium finish, I will do more races and for the first time in my racing life, I will enter some USA Cycling sanctioned honest-to-goodness road races.

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Last night may not have been the best preparation for the first race of the season.  A pianist friend was in town from D.C. and he and some of his young gun musicians were performing at The Nash – a Phoenix Valley oasis of art in an otherwise cultural desert.  Initially I had wanted see Lexie play, but as race day approached, I begged off, and changed my statement to, “we’ll see how I feel on Friday.”  This bought me some time to reflect.  But, my love of live jazz won out and come Friday night I had dinner at a new Jamaican bistro in anticipation of some front row jazz.  The menu was not what you might find on the training tables of even the Jamaican bob-sled team, so I dove into jerked braised pork belly, butter bean mash with guava reduction and washed it all down with a cup that runnethed over with pre-race guilt.  The jazz show was an evening of improvisation and cutting edge complexity, that somehow worked in satisfying ways, and went a long way toward assuaging my race meal remorse.

In so many ways this is stupid.  I’m 58 and my racing age is 59.  I love jazz.  I love cycling.   I love to eat adventurously.  There has to be a balance in there somewhere.  While I want to win every race I enter, the reality, in my many years of racing, is that I have only been on the top step of the podium once.

In the mid-90s.

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A few days ago I installed a Ritchey WCS stem that was little lighter and a little longer than the stock unit that came on my 2014 Giant Anthem Advanced 650b mountain bike,  the bike that I will be racing this year.  At the same time, I added a set of Ritchey Superlogic Low Rizer Carbon handlebars.  That upgrade lightened my bike a handful of grams and my wallet by a fistful of dollars.  Is something like this worth at my level?  Is this going to move me onto a higher step of the podium?  Shave minutes off my lap times?  Probably not, but the difference in feel is apparent.  Not the weight difference, but the buzz that comes through the handlebars is diminished so all that pricey carbon seems to do its job dampening shocks and vibrations.

I rode the bike before I installed these pricey parts and then rode it again afterwards, same bumpy alleyway behind my house, with the same tire pressure and the same grips.  The difference was indeed noticeable.

But will that translate in the races?  Maybe. (more…)

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I Have a Coach

And so, I have coach.  Not exactly a coach since he does not particularly like that moniker.  Neil Stewart has been a part of the Pro Tour and Olympic cycling world for many years, going back to 1980 or so.  He was more of a Directeur Sportif, driving team cars and guiding strategy during races in Europe.  But for the sake of this blog and clarity, he will allow me to call him a coach since he will be managing my training, nutrition and answering all the questions a neophyte road racer.  I don’t have a team car or even a team – yet – so, he grudgingly will allow me to label his relationship to me as one of coach.

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October 1, 2016 – I began doing strength training on alternate days; one day, upper body and core; the next day, legs and back.  I had gained some weight and was at 191 pounds.  Weightlifting works best for me to lose weight and I was having lower back flare-ups regularly – especially if I would ride for more than about an hour.  My chiropractor had given me some exercises to do, which I took very seriously – they became the first part of my gym routine each visit.

As I shed pounds, I started to have fewer days of back pain and started riding more.  I looked about for a plan to get-fit-quick; I read and started using The Time Crunched Cyclist, by Chis Carmichael and Jim Rutberg. On November 21, 2016, I started keeping track of my training rides using a Bicycling magazine training journal I had lying about.  I also recorded most of my rides using a Garmin Edge 500 and Garmin Connect.  I enjoy geeking out about all the data collected, so I was mostly consistent using these Garmin tools.  Mostly.

And then I came down with a head cold that sapped my energy as well as my motivation.  I was depressed and angry.  I had been germ-careful; each time at the gym, I would wipe down the equipment before I used it.  In social situations I employed the fist bump instead of shaking hands, lest I co-mingle with someone’s cold or flu.  I turned to the Internet to find out whether to keep training, reduce training, or take a day or more off.  I found lots of information, of course.

Here are some of my mistakes.

I decided to keep training at a reduced level, fewer sets in the gym, modified sessions derived from The Time Crunched Cyclist.  That might have been wise, but since I was training less, I reduced my carbohydrate intake.  Only later did I discover – after I took forever to get well – that our immune system primarily depends on carbs to do its job.  I was getting lean.  I was not getting well.

When I started using Carmichael’s plan, I read in that book about strength training for cyclists, but because I have more time than most time crunched cyclists, I was doing more than he suggested. Still, nowhere in that book did I find the answer to this question that plagued my mind:

“How and when do you incorporate weight training into the difficult kind of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) promulgated by Carmichael.”

I searched the text and the web and was pretty well flummoxed.

This is when I started to get frustrated a second time.  There is too much info on the web and it has become ever more difficult to determine if the sources are credible.  Books are great, but you can’t ask them questions.  It seemed stupid for me to just bull ahead using guesswork and misinformation.  As renowned cycling coach Eddie Borysewicz once said, “Ride like bull – smart like bull.”

I wanted to cut through the bull out there and get some credible, accurate, focused direction from a human being. I wanted to ask someone my myriad questions and get credible, accurate, authoritative answers.  I wanted to train with a sense of confidence.

I wanted a coach.

 

 

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It’s 4:54am and I think I know that I should get more sleep, but my mind is racing. Bleary still, I have to use my fingers to count the days until Saturday and the first race of the Arizona mountain bike racing season. I know that more sleep is impossible , so I lie there and the questions flood my grogginess.  How should I train today?  Should I keep lifting and working on my core?  Do another round of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) like the one I did Saturday?  Or do a modified version of those three, 12 minute long sessions at 92-94% of maximum heart rate, punctuated by 6 minutes of recovery, followed by a cool down spin of ten minutes?  Should I?  Or should I? 

Help. (more…)

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After years of working in the bike biz, riding road bikes and racing mountain bikes, I find myself retired with too much time on my hands.  With 2017, I resolved to ride and race more and to commit to training for success.  I have read stacks of contradictory training books and plans and websites, and listened to the ideas of many fellow cyclists, but I have never truly committed to, and stuck to  a single plan. My training has been a mixed bag, borrowing from this plan and that, with mediocre success.  I need a plan.  I need a coach. This blog documents that journey.

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