Tag: featured

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!

Looking for Balance on the Bike? Think Yin & Yang

“IN Ancient Chinese philosophyyin and yang (/jɪn/ and /jɑːŋ, jæŋ/Chinese yīnyáng, lit. “dark-bright”, “negative-positive”) is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” — Wikipedia.

AS a martial arts practitioner from a dojo that focused on this give and take in its teachings I may be more comfortable than most with this somewhat abstract idea. In fact, I often remind myself, my friends, my colleages, my family, and anyone that will listen to my nuggets of wisdom (IMHO) that “it’s all about balance.”

Yin/Yang can be simply described in day to day concepts that we’re all familiar with: e.g. good v. evil, black v. white, day v. night, etc. yet it can also be described more intricately, as it is here in this image from Yinspired Yoga.

But How Does That Apply to Cycling?

IN many, many ways Grasshopper. 😉

FOR this post, however, let me speak to something that struck me while I was on the trainer this morning doing some sweet spot training. I was focused on maintaining that power at a certain level (the sweet spot), watching my cadence, paying attention to my heart rate and contemplating my breathing. In other words, I was locked in on the data. The Yang.

LAST Friday, though, I wasn’t. Instead I took Beast (a Trek Rail eMTB) out (or it took me out, you pick) for an OaB to Diamond Valley, one of my favorite rides here in Alpine County.

MY legs were sore from the previous week’s training but I wanted (needed) to ride and so I thought an eBike ride would be just the ticket; I’m still pedaling but the bike is helping so much that I can make it a recovery ride.

  • I rode without a power meter.
  • I didn’t focus on my heart rate.
  • I cared not one iota about my pedaling circles.
  • It was wonderful!

I just enjoyed the time, and the scenery. It felt like it did when I used to ride as a kid. And when I got back on the trainer the next day I felt more symmetry. I was more joyful and I was grateful that I had taken the time the day before to just have fun; to just be a dude riding a bike.

NOW this was my balance exercise. It doesn’t have to be yours. Hell, maybe you don’t even have an e-Bike. Maybe you’re a purist and would never ride one, let alone own one. No worries! You could also do an easy walk after a hard ride. A mountain bike ride after a walk with the kids. A yoga session one day instead of hammering like you did the day before. You get the idea.

THE point isn’t that you should do this or that or shouldn’t do that or this.

INSTEAD, we might all spend some time practicing getting out of our own way (i.e. not being so focused on what should or shouldn’t be) and just enjoying the moment!

Riding in Peanut Butter – Gravelly Lessons Learned

MY ride last Thursday was quite an adventure: a slippery, sloppy, peanut-buttery, very short (as it turns out) ride on the East Carson River Trail, just outside of Markleeville.

“Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure.”

NO doubt Selene! Yeager, that is… Her words from “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training and Grit You Need to Crush It” certainly ring true. More so today than last month when I wrote another post about gravel. That post, “A Brief What and Where,” didn’t include the trail to which I’m writing about today so do give it a read when you get a chance; it has a few more gravel grinding factoids for you.

It All Started Innocently Enough

ROSCOE (II, a 2017 Domane 600 Series Disc) and I headed out from HQ here in Markleeville on an almost 60 degree day knowing that some mud was possible — but unlikely or at least navigable we thought after a couple weeks of dry weather.

THE trail starts at Hangman’s Bridge, just about two (2) miles from Markleeville, and I had hiked it before. A few little rollers to kick things off, and a couple others about half-way out, but other than that it’s a fairly flat, non-technical out-and-back trail that tracks the East Fork of the Carson River for about 3 1/2 miles or so. Click here to check it out on All Trails.

THAT first pitch wasn’t rideable (at least for me) so I kicked things off with a little hike-a-bike. Little did I know then that I would get a bit more of that (hike-a-bike that is) pretty quickly.

I was having a great time riding through the squishy, pine-needley (is that a word? not sure) muck and was really enjoying the sound of my tires hitting that squishiness. Some fish-tailing, some mud-splattering, some big ol’ rocks and some pine cones; all of which made for some serious, shit-eating grin kinda fun. Roscoe and I were really enjoying ourselves and then we hit IT and as soon as we did we knew we were in a bit of a pickle.

The path from whence we came – that track that looks a little like a thread was ours. ‘Twas okay as long as we were moving. Then we hit that patch of thick peanut butter mud.

Now What?

THERE was no more progress to be made and I had to dismount. It all went very much downhill from there and it was a veritable laugh-riot. I was cackling like a madman as I surveyed the scene. I had seen mud but I had never experienced THIS MUD.

MY wheels would not move. No problem, I thought. I’ll just grab one of these sticks and clear ’em out. Snap. Okay, let’s try another one. Snap. No joy there. I need a better (not necessarily bigger) stick. Again I tried. Crack.

OKAY, let’s pause for a moment, I said to myself, and look at the shoes. Holy sludge Batman, this stuff is incredible! There was no way any stick was going to clean out this caca.

I realized at this point that we were doomed, Roscoe and I. And yes, that is hyperbole. We weren’t really doomed but the ride sure was. At least we were fairly close to the trailhead. So, I swallowed my pride and called for extraction. Luckily, I still had cell service so that made it easier. I also had, if needed though, my inReach Mini. So if I had too…

For more on that little gadget of wonder, by the way, take a gander at this post. I think it’s the most valuable thing I carry when I’m riding, or hiking, or snowshoeing, or pretty much doing anything here in the California Alps, or any adventurous location for that matter!

We then did a little hike-a-bike, Roscoe and I, laughing (just me) all the way, and my lovely assistant (and wife) Patricia was there lickety split.

Those Lessons Learned?

THE ride that I hoped for instead turned out to be an afternoon of shoe and bike washing and the first thing I learned was that regular water (i.e. from a garden hose) does not work on this stuff. That cold water just made the mud harder.

LESSON #2: When you are riding a road bike (albeit an endurance-oriented, Paris-Roubaix tested model) made a gravel bike with the simple addition of some gravel tires, mud is a problem. It wasn’t designed with enough clearance like today’s true gravel bikes. Sand, check. Loose dirt, check. Rocks, check. Gravel, check. Mud, negatory. Better clearance is better!

LESSON #3: SPDs can be problematic in the muck. I did have a small swiss-army knife in my kit but it would have been a long slog to use that little thing to clear out everything to the point where I could actually ride. I should have installed those hybrid pedals (SPDs on one side, platform on the other) before I left.

LESSON #4: Use warm water (and brushes) to clean off the caca. Like I said earlier, that cold water just made things worse. I even had to use a steel brush to clean off the tires. Thankfully I have a big ‘ol laundry sink in the bathroom off the garage so I was able to apply that hot H20 liberally. Still, it took a surprising amount of time.

LESSON #5: This one I had applied before: wadded up newspaper in those wet shoes make for fast, efficient drying. I cleaned the shoes before I started on Roscoe, by the way, and did so in the sink, with warm water and a nylon brush.

IN case you’re wondering…Yes, I did clean the chain (I use Park’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber) and lubed it as well. Roscoe needed a bath anyway.

  • Time actually riding the bike: ~ 22 minutes
  • Time cleaning the shoes and the bike: ~ 2-3 hours

ROSCOE and I are still laughing about that day’s adventure. It was pretty much an epic failure of a ride I admit, but those lessons learned? Priceless.

ESPECIALLY as we gear up and train for more gravel riding. Lots more learning to do, to be sure.

YOU?

Deathride 2021 – Five Reasons You Need to Attend

As you know, we had to postpone the Deathride, aka The Tour of the California Alps, until next year, due to the pandemic. We were looking forward to the ride, which was to take place on July 11th, for so many reasons. Alas, it was not to be this year so let’s talk about why you need to be here next year.

Reason #1 – It’s an Amazingly Beautiful Area!

Especially one to ride a bike in…And, in case you forgot, you can ride about 70% of the course without worrying about cars.

Take a look at these photos we’ve taken, some of which are from past rides:

Reason #2 – It’s the 40th Anniversary of THE RIDE!

Yeah, ’twas to be 40 this year but since the ride didn’t happen then next year is the BIG 4-0! The ride will be extra special for that reason but also because:

  • We have a new executive director at the chamber and she ROCKS!
    • She and her staff have a renewed energy and direction
    • They’re already doing cool shit, e.g the Ghost Ride.
  • We have a professional ride director (Curtis Fong of Bike the West) and he has an AMAZING staff.
    • These are the same individuals who put on America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and the Tour De Tahoe.
    • We’re talking professional traffic control and mapping, radio communications throughout the course, sweeps, and course marshals
    • The Bike the West team has experience with hosting events in the Sierra that is second to none!

Reason #3 – It’s Markleeville’s Largest Fundraiser

The Deathride is the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce’s largest annual/regular influx of ducats, by far. Sure that helps us continue to support the ride, and our amazing staff and members, but most importantly it (riders, really) pumps a whole lot of money back into the community. Without the ride this year our community has taken a big hit (as have many others, no doubt, some much worse) and therefore so have many of the organizations that we help.

Last year we pumped about $90,000.00 back into community businesses and nonprofits, including the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Alpine County Fish & Game ($ for fish plants is a fairly large chunk of our budget).

Reason #4 – Pacific Grade Instead of Carson Pass

Now before we get too excited (and I know…some of you purists want to keep Carson) let me caution you that a new route into Bear Valley (the ride won’t go quite that far but close) is NOT YET APPROVED.

The map and profile of Peter Stetina’s FKT ride on the proposed new DR route for 2021.
103.41 miles, 5:15:45 moving time (AYFKM?!), 14027 feet climbed

Curtis and team began the process of working with the various stakeholders, including Caltrans, the CHP, the Alpine Co. Sheriff and Alpine Co. Fire, last year and the discussions were fruitful. Most importantly, everyone got to know each other a bit better. There are many things to consider in order to pull off an event of this magnitude and so there is still work to be done and discussions to be had. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that we can get this new route approved for 2021.

That brings me to reason number 5…

Reason #5 – Because Peter Stetina Says So

Yesterday Pete rode the new course and set the current FKT (Fastest Known Time) – see the map and profile above. I hadn’t met Mr. Stetina (this guy definitely deserves “the Mr.”) until yesterday but I had heard lots of good things about him and I’ve followed him on Strava for some time.

He’s an extraordinary gentleman and giver of his time, name, energy and largesse. Yesterday was no different. As I understand it he didn’t have much time to prepare since Curtis, Becky and team made this little event happen pretty quickly. Still, he spent most of his day riding this course and promoting all the area has to offer, for no compensation from us (other than some little gifts of appreciation).

From L to R: Pete’s trusty steed; Di (Bike the West); Pete; and Becky (DeForest-Hanson, Executive Director of the Alpine Co. Chamber).

In Pete’s own words…

A screen grab from Peter Stetina’s Strava post on his Deathride FKT attempt of 8-11-20.

Oh, and perhaps there’s one more reason, or twenty-seven reasons actually, for you hard-core Deathriders to attend.

There are now twenty-seven, yes, you read that correctly, 27!!! KOMs that you can attempt to take back.

For this mere mortal that will never happen but perhaps you have it in you?

What About Covid-19?

Certainly we’re thinking positively in that we are planning on not having to social distance on July 17, 2021.

Let’s hope this virus has been vanquished by then, for many more important reasons than this ride, which in the overall scheme of things, with people dying, losing their jobs and suffering immense heartbreak, is trivial.

Still, it’s something to hope for, train for and pray for…

We hope and pray that we’ll see you here next year!

Stay safe, ride on and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ (and the virus’ ass, too) Asses!