Category: training

Riding Less but Getting Stronger – How’s That?

THE short answer is that I’m getting more rest and better sleep. I’m listening – to my body and to my gadgets.

GADGET may not be the best descriptor I initially thought but upon looking up the definition (a small mechanical or electronic device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one) I realize it is apropos.

THOSE gadgets to which I refer, and about which I recently blogged, include my Garmin Fenix 6x and my Whoop strap.

LISTENING

THIS morning I had planned on getting in a fairly hard training session before work. However, my tech was suggesting otherwise. And after a month of wearing said strap and “comparing notes” with the Fenix, as hard as it was, I decided to listen.

I need more rest and frankly I find that part of training to be the most difficult. It’s easier to just ride.

OUR cat Ditty (nothing knows how to rest and relax better than a feline, right?) consistently shows us how to get it done so I figured I’d follow her example, and actually pay attention to what my devices, and more importantly my body, were telling me.

THE Fenix’s display indicated that I need 31 additional hours of recovery and that my recovery was delayed by poor sleep. Indeed, I was up late, celebrating my wife’s birthday and so was not able to get my usual Zs.

WHOOP’s recovery screen advised that I was only 18% recovered – my resting heart rate (RHR) was up and my heart rate variability (HRV) was “33.1% below its typical range, indicating that your body is not fully recovered.”

IT seems counterintuitive, at least to me, but since I’ve been focusing more on rest and sleep and mixing up my harder workouts with walks, runs, Kenpo workouts, easy e-MTB rides, and long endurance rides, I’ve been getting stronger.

GO figure! Putting in fewer hours (and miles) on the bike yet getting stronger…And, having more fun in the process.

ON April 1st I was following my new guidelines and I jumped on Zwift for an easy 45 minute spin. It took me a minute to realize what was going on (that’s my avatar with the yellow wheels) but rather than stress about not having my “real bike” (one rider chatted “this isn’t funny anymore Zwift, give me my bike back”) I just enjoyed the ride and the memories that came flooding back. I had one of those Big Wheels when I was a kid, you know?

I was smiling and giggling almost the entire session; in the past I would have whined about it.

PERFORMING

THE reason I’m still in need of more recovery is three-fold.

  • An intense HIIT workout last Friday
  • An endurance ride on Saturday
  • A virtual climb (focused on a new personal best – which I attained) on the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent on FulGaz on Monday.

FOR the HIIT workout I went with rocket drills. My workout consisted of six (6) sprints, two (2) minutes each at full throttle, from a standing start, up a small hill on Hot Springs Road. The rest interval was five (5) minutes, by the way, and I did that by doing a bit of easy spinning farther up the hill as well as back down to the starting point.

ON sprint #5 I hit almost 900 watts – the highest I’ve ever done on the road and it was the penultimate interval!

SPRINT #6, however, was almost a hurl-fest. Thankfully, though, no technicolor yawn.

SUNDAY, after Saturday’s approximately 90-minute endurance ride, I joined the wife for a short and easy ride on our e-MTBs.

THAT set me up for Monday, where I was able to set a personal best on the entire climb, as well as one of the segments, and hold a heart rate of 159 bpm for 60 minutes (per Trainingpeaks), a 2021 best.

RESTING and SLEEPING

AND so it was that I scheduled yesterday as a rest day and joined the wife again on our e-MTBs, this time for an easy ride up to Grover Hot Springs State Park, where my wife got her first taste of gravel on her new Rail.

AS for sleep, that’s where WHOOP is really helping. Now that I’ve been religiously wearing the strap for over a month I’m finding that what I like most is the focus it provides regarding sleep. From the after-action report in the morning, to the alerts the night before, it is teaching me (and it’s validated in my performance results) that sleep is just as important to training as the actual workouts.

WHEN I pay attention to the feedback it provides, as well as the input from the Fenix and Trainingpeaks, I perform better.

WHEN I don’t, I don’t.

AND so while I find myself champing at the bit to ride, or do something else hardcore today, I’m not going to do that.

I’M going to heed the warnings and try to be more like my cat. And in the process I know I’m going to get even sturdier on my steed.

THE Deathride is just over three (3) months away after all and it’s going to be a doozy.

HAPPY hump day! I hope you too are conquering some of those training humps and as always your comments are most welcome.

Your Gut and How It Relates to Your Performance – Part One

LET’S face it. We’ve all had gut issues at some point or another while on the bike. I know I certainly have. I’ve also dealt with cramping too, although thankfully not as much as other riders I know.

NOW I’m no expert on the gut, not by any means, but thankfully they’re out there and my recent foray into the world of digestion and nutrition has been via the book “The Athlete’s Gut – The inside science of digestion, nutrition and stomach distress” by Patrick Wilson, PHD, RD.

ADMITTEDLY I just started reading it. I’m about fifty pages in, on chapter two (2), but I’ve already picked up a few nuggets and wanted to share them with you right away because in my mind they are surprising.

What is the Gut?

THE gut (aka the alimentary canal), an approximately 30-foot long system, starts at the nasal cavity, includes the mouth and the salivary glands; and as it heads “south” includes the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and finally, the anus.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each piece of anatomy but Dr. Wilson does so if you want those details order the book or do a bit of googling.

On a side note and and speaking of the gut…The photo of me at the top of this post is from 2013. I weighed more than 300 pounds then and as you can see definitely had a nice (er…large) belly.

The Small Intestine

THE small intestine is really where the magic happens! It is the longest portion of the gut and as you likely know, in order to fit all of it into your stomach cavity, it does a bit of coiling. Typically that sucker is about four (4) to eight (8) yards long and “that’s about the same length as a female green anaconda snake!” Not sure why Dr. Wilson goes with that particular reptile but it’s his book so I guess he’s entitled.

A bit more anatomy here…The small intestine is made up of three (3) segments and they are the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Okay, I’ve heard some of those terms over the years on various medical TV shows but didn’t really have a clue they were part of the small bowel.

“In addition to serving as a location for digestion, your small intestine is the alimentary canal’s most important site of absorption.”

What? It’s not the stomach? I always thought it was the place where that takes place.

Nope, it’s that little bowel!

Osmosis

REMEMBER that word, and those experiments from science class? Here’s a quick refresher:

“OSMOSIS is movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane.” – Merriam-Webster

PER Dr. Wilson: “The bulk of water absorption–perhaps up to 80%–takes place in our small intestine and occurs via osmosis. Ah, there it is!

WHY should we care? What’s the practical application for cyclists (really all athletes for that matter)?

WHEN you down a beverage full of carbs or electrolytes osmosis will move water from your blood into your small intestine lumen, which is exactly WHAT WE DON’T WANT when we’re working out!

SO, on days when you want to optimize the SPEED at which fluids are absorbed, don’t go hypertonic (where osmolality is higher than your blood plasma – apple juice and pickle juice are two examples) as these beverage types delay water absorption.

That’s All…For Now

THIS is only part one after all.

I’M definitely no scientist but for those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time now you know that I am into science. Especially this kind of science!

A better understanding of how things work internally leads to a better athlete and a more healthy individual over all.

STAY tuned for more on this fascinating and oh so important aspect of just how that gut affects our performance. Like I wrote earlier, I’m just getting started so I know there’s much more to learn, and therefore share with you.

RIDE on, stay safe and healthy and instead of kicking our own asses (due to a lack of alimentary knowledge) “let’s kick some passes’ asses!”

Take Aways from the Training Plan

LAST Sunday I finished up the Trainingpeaks 4-week FTP-Focus 2021 plan. On one hand I’m happy it’s over but on the other I’m going to miss the structure of just doing what the coach (Paul Ozier – Peaks Coaching Group) tells me to do.

AND so the challenge: how to keep the vibe going! I’ve been pondering that for awhile now; this after I just rode (on Zwift) Tuesday. Per the coach’s recommendation this is to be a week of just riding the bike. It was nice and I felt strong.

LUCKY me…I am finally employed (I started March 1st)!

However, that puts a serious damper on this former professional cyclist (dripping sarcasm here), so named by my brother from another mother, Scott Keno. I’m likely not going to be able to keep up the pace but maybe, just maybe, I can come close. The plan was designed for weekend warriors. I’ll just have to re-think how, when and where I’m going to execute it, right?

AND perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to lose the gains that the workouts brought my way.

What Improved

I hit one power PR on the last day, the FTP test, and some twos and threes, too.

  • I can produce more power at a higher cadence. The plan focused a bit on this since in a sprint it’s necessary to keep up the power while that cadence goes up – especially if you’re smoking and on your lowest gear.
  • I can breathe more efficiently (fewer breaths) at threshold (and everywhere else, really).
  • I can keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm) for longer and much more easily. A lot less rocking.
  • MY overall fitness improved. I was productive more consistently.

What Didn’t

  • MY FTP (290 or 287 – 2.87 or 2.90 w/kg depending whether I listen to Zwift or Garmin) went nowhere. I was surpised by this but am going to hold out on final judgment until I get the WKO files to the coach. My last test was in November (should have done a more current one, doh!) and I followed that test to the letter. I should mention that I am rather large for a cyclist (220 lbs – 100 kg exactly) so certainly dropping some lbs would help and I’ve been working on that: at the start of 2014 I weighed 307 pounds!
  • FOR this test, the coach had me go ALL OUT on the five (5) minute Vo2 max interval that was just before that ten (10) minute rest which was just before the twenty minute test. 🙂 That had to have made a difference (fingers crossed), right?

What Was The Most Challenging?

  • That’s an easy one to answer: the endurance rides. They were hard to endure!
  • As I read in the spring issue of VeloNews this a.m.: “Many riders underestimate the value of long endurance days, which in my opinion are the MVP of training.” – Coach Julie Young, former U.S. national team member and founder of JulieYoungTraining.com.
  • Those long days in the saddle at fairly low watts (205-ish for me) are interesting, especially the four (4) hour versions. It takes some focus to not let loose the hounds.

What Was My Biggest Takeway?

I can see why having a coach makes athletes better. Paul was responsive and helpful when I had questions, and as I wrote earlier, it’s pretty groovy when all you need do is what the coach, and the plan, “tell you” to do.

THANKS coach!

I can’t wait to see what he has to say about my FTP test. In the meantime, now that I have a job, I’m thinking some more coaching is in my future.

Most importantly, I hope some of my take aways resonate with you, fellow rider.

Let me know, will ya?

Feeling a Bit Sluggish on the Bike? Perhaps You Need a Plan!

MY fitness was flagging. There was no “go” in the gams. The brain was befuddled and my slumber was sub-standard.

a roaring lion

AND in addition to all of that I was a bit cranky.

YUP, you guessed it! I was overtraining. Over reaching. Well, just over.

IT was time to find a training plan I decided. I’ve done a few structured plans in the past (click here to read about one I did a couple years back that is climbing focused) and they’ve always done me right.

ZWIFT Academy had some options as did TRAININGPEAKS. I tried one of the workouts on Zwift and it was really good. I’ve done quite a few of the other generic workouts on Zwift as well but I was looking for something or someone to tell me what to do, and mayhaps more importantly, what NOT to do, or when NOT to do it. 😉

I needed some structure and I couldn’t really afford a coach. Frankly, I don’t feel I’m at the level where having a coach is even justified, anyway.

SINCE I’ve been using TRAININGPEAKS for some time now, and digging the feedback, I decided to go with one of its plans.

FTP FOCUS 2021 – Power/Threshold Improvement – 4 Weeks’ Training Plan

WAS the plan I chose. I went with it because it was only four (4) weeks long and I had a good base fitness. My new job starts on March 1st too (so stoked!) so I didn’t want to go with a longer program. As it was, I’d be doing that last week during my first week of employment, but in looking at the plan particulars I could see that was do-able; the last week was the easiest and least time consuming.

THE other reason I went with it, and this is a biggie IMHO, is that it syncs with Zwift. Once you purchase the plan you can access each day’s workouts in the training area of Zwift! You can pick any course and then just select the workout you want to run. Zwift will run in ERG mode, provide the prompts for each interval and “yell” at you if your watts are too high or low or your cadence is too fast or slow.

Get those watts up! Not low enough to get “yelled at,” though. The intervals that have been completed, and those that are coming, are displayed on the left.

HELPFUL tip: Pick a flatter course if you want to get more miles in or a hilly course if you want to get the elevation. Since you’ll be in ERG mode the trainer won’t adjust based on the terrain. Instead the resistence will be set according to the workout parameters.

Doing the Work

THE week before I started the plan I noticed my VO2 Max was flat. If I’m doing things right that doesn’t happen; it typically rises as the week progresses. That was another sign (of over-training) as was my steadily rising resting-heart rate.

SO, to kick things off I took two (2) days off, one of which was Day 1 of the training plan. Every Monday is a rest day. Each week ramps up and culminates in a tough weekend. The day before each workout I get an email reminder with the necessary details and the sessions also appear in my TRAININGPEAKS calendar (image below) so I’m prepared for the next day and focused on the current day’s nutrition, recovery and hydration.

My trainingpeaks calendar for this week. The calorie info. is there because TP also integrates with MyFitnessPal, yet another cool feature.

SO it was that on Tuesday, February 9th, I jumped in, or on really. That first week was fairly difficult. It started with a “Power and Fast Cadence” workout, some sweet-spot training (SST) on day 2, a two (2) hour endurance/tempo workout on day 3, some more endurance work on day 4, three (3) max FTP efforts on day 5 and it finished off on Sunday with a two (2) hour SST and endurance ride.

Let’s just say I was happy to have a rest day this past Monday.

UP to this point I’ve done all of the rides on the trainer, which for me is better because there just aren’t that many flat roads here and trying to maintain certain watts and cadence while hitting the rollers, for example, is problematic. Mentally, though, it’s hard being on the KICKR for two (2) hours and I find it somewhat formidable when the sessions are focused on maintaining the same power for a long period of time, like the endurance workout I did on day 4.

203 watts at the same cadence for an hour took some discipline!

WHAT about that four (4) hour ride that’s coming up this Saturday, the 20th? I’ll be doing that one OUTSIDE. In Monterey. The bonus: it will give my wife and me a chance to smell some seaweed, feel some fog and gorge on some good seafood.

The Data Points

HERE’S what I’ve noticed so far, after completing eight (8) workouts:

  • My VO2 max has gone from 45 to 49
  • I feel stronger
  • I’m sleeping better
  • My resting-heart rate is back to where it should be (low to mid-40’s) and is stable
  • I’m not “that lion” anymore
  • My Garmin watch is providing validation – I’ve been “productive” since I started the plan whereas before I was in unproductive mode for quite awhile.
  • FTP – Currently it’s 290. I’m certainly interested to see how (if?) it improves. The plan does include a test on the last day.
  • Weight – Currently about 218 pounds. Getting it down further, and FTP up at the same time, is an important bench-mark as to the overall success of the plan.

SO, whether it’s TRAININGPEAKS, Zwift Academy, TrainerRoad, or some other application, I suggest you give it a try if, like me, you were somewhat stagnant on your steed.

What are You Doing?

EVERY body (and mind) is different so please feel free to dole out your advice by commenting on this post.

IN the meantime, ride on, stay safe and healthy, and let’s train, so when the weather allows and this virus has been sent packing, we can kick some passes’ asses…together!