Friday, March 30, 2007

Busy Week

It's been a busy week. I've been working hard at work and staying busy at home. I've been pushing to get my mountain bike rebuilt before today, and I finally finished it up last night.

I woke up at 4:45am again this morning for my Friday strength workout. Both times I've done it, this week and last week, I've been really fired up and ready to go in the morning. I think a lot of it has to do with knowing that Friday is the beginning of the "meat" of my weekly training. I've got 2 of my 3 strength workouts and about 70% of my riding hours between Friday and Sunday. It probably doesn't hurt that Friday is the last day of the work week too...

I took the bike out to Stony Creek for its inaugural dirt ride tonight. The idea was to hit the hills on the two-track for my "Moderate Hill" workout; I also rode some of the singletrack. The new bike worked pretty well, it seemed to go where I pointed it a bit better than the old bike. I think the combination of the longer top tube and shorter stem also made it feel a bit more stable on the descents. I'll need to ride it a bit more to get a good feel for it though.

I'm heading over to my parents' house this weekend to visit. If the weather is OK, my dad and I will no doubt get some good road riding in; even if it's not OK, we probably still will. Should be fun.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mt. Waterford

I had a nice weekend of riding. I did a road ride out at Stony Creek Friday afternoon. It was colder and windier than I expected, but it wasn't too bad. I did a longer road ride Saturday afternoon, leaving from my house and going out to Indian Springs. For both rides, I used my HRM to keep me in check a little. Especially on windy rides, I have a tendency to push harder than I probably should.

Based on the condition of the dirt road I was on for part of the ride Saturday, I can't imagine that the trails are close to being rideable around here. It's supposed to rain quite a bit this week too.

Sunday morning, I took the HRM off for my hill workout. I decided to climb the imposing "Mt. Waterford". OK, so there's not really a Mt. Waterford, but that's what I'm going to call the hills in my neighborhood. One side of my neighborhood is built on two little hills, and there are roads going all over the place on these hills (the delivery guys call our neighborhood "the spaghetti factory"). While none of the roads up the hills alone are particularly long, you can string together a couple and get some climbs that take about 2 minutes. Not really long, but long enough. There are enough different roads that I ended up riding for an hour and didn't take the same combination twice.

For whatever reason, my hill workout ride wasn't particularly taxing. My hills definitely fit Friel's criteria for a "Moderate Hills" workout (grade less than 6%, takes less than 3 minutes to climb), so I'm not sure what the deal is. Maybe I just didn't ride them fast enough?

Friday, March 23, 2007

I Love It...

... when a plan comes together.

I'm feeling really good about my training this week. I had a very good ride last night, I worked on single leg pedaling on the trainer. I didn't used to like the Speed Skill work, but I've gotten to where it's one of my favorites. Maybe because it's relatively easy?

I woke up early this morning (4:45am) and did my strength workout. I don't know if it's the extra motivation from doing something new or what, but I'm feeling really good about my strength workouts. I know that a big part of it is that I have confidence in my plan and I'm going after it with some intensity. To paraphrase a saying in the fitness world, you'll get better results with a bad plan that's well-executed than a good plan that's poorly executed.

I brought cycling clothes to work with me and my bike is in the car, so I can ride immediately after work tonight. Tonight is just a basic aerobic workout. Sunday, I'm doing my first official "hill" workout of the year. If the weather allows (and if I have a mountain bike put together) I'd really like to do this on the trail, but it's a long shot, the ground is still pretty soupy here. I'll most likely do it on the road.

Looking back to my training plan for 2006, I see that I literally only had 4 hill training workouts scheduled for the whole year! I'd have to check my training diary, but I bet I skipped or changed some of those too. I'm sure my thinking was, "Hey, I'm a good climber, I don't need to work on that stuff." It seems like 4 can't possibly be enough though. This year, I'm not going to skimp on the hill work, and I suspect I'll see a big improvement because of it. It makes me feel more confident about making up my 9 minutes!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Double Updates

So, the new strength plan seems to be OK. Not much can be said after one workout. I did like the self-massage at the end.

On the POTATOEE front, Dad is putting in a big effort to get to Cockeysville by the end of the month. He's into Maryland now and has about 90 miles left to go; at the rate he's going, he should have no problem making it. As for me, I'm in Bedford, PA with about 160 miles to go. But, I just checked my training plan for the next two weeks, and I think I should make it to Cockeysville too... if I do, it will be on March 31.

New Strength Plan

Work has been very busy this week, so I haven't had too much time for blogging. I did use my limited free time to work out my strength plan though.

I was initially just going to use the plan outlined in the Friel book with some small changes, but the more I studied the plan, the more problems I had with it. In terms of exercise selection, it's OK, although I think he uses machines too much. My real problem is with the overall structure as it relates to loading. I don't think it makes sense to be doing a Maximum Strength phase of lifting while in a riding phase that promotes high-volume, low-intensity rides. He does have you working on Max Strength for most of the year for some exercises, but just for maintenance. For most of the exercises though, he's got you doing low weight/high rep work. I really don't see the point of working on this extensively in the gym, at least once you've achieved some minimum level of endurance.

So, what does my plan look like? There are two components. The first component is a heavier lifting period using conjugate periodization during the Preparation Phase. Essentially, this allows you to do your most intense strength work with minimal sport-specific (ie- riding) demands.

The second component of the plan takes place during the season. During the season, we need to minimize time in the gym (or basement) so as not to interfere with the more important conditioning and skill work on the bike. My plan here is largely borrowed from Alwyn Cosgrove. In my opinion, he has the structured the framework of the workout to focus on the right things.

The points are:

1. Mobility, Activation and Movement Prep (Essentially a warm-up, but with a focus on loosening any tight spots.)
2. Injury Prevention (Work on any known weak areas. For me, my knees.)
3. Core (Everyone says that Core work is important, so why put it at the end?)
4. Elastivity/Reactive/SCC Training (Plyometrics and agility.)
5. Resistance (Strength training, 20-30 minutes max.)
6. Energy System Development (GPP, intervals, etc - will be optional for me)
7. Flexibility, Regeneration (Self-massage, stretching, etc. 10-15 minutes)

Progression was another area where my previous "plan" was lacking. I'm still not sure what is reasonable here, I may shoot for 5% load increases every 2 weeks or so; I'll have to get into it a little bit to see what is reasonable.

My first workout under the new plan is set for tonight. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Strength Plan

I retested my CP5s and CP1 tests this morning. I tightened the roller on the trainer by one more turn than normal, which helped prevent wheel slippage.

My new 1 minute power-to-weight ratio is 7.08W/kg (rated Fair/Moderate), and my new 5s power-to-weight ratio is 10.o2W/kg (still Untrained per the chart). While these are better than my earlier numbers, they're still not where I'd like them to be.

In the CP1 test today, I was probably limited more by Anaerobic Endurance than Force (essentially, I could turn the gear over, just not for long enough). For the CP5s test, even though I used different gearing this time, I still felt like I just couldn't turn over a big enough gear to get a better power number.

I've been thinking that part of the problem is the haphazard way I've approached my Strength training. I haven't been using the plan in Friel's book (hey, I have the Internet, I know better, right?); I don't think that's necessarily a problem, but I've replaced his plan with a very unstructured plan of my own. As I see it, there are two problems with my "plan". One is that it's fairly random in terms of exercise selection, so I'm not necessarily focusing on the right things (or anything!). That may be OK for the off-season, but it's not now. The second problem, which is probably more important, is that I haven't been diligent about progression. Essentially, I don't have any strength training goals and I'm not increasing loads on a schedule, so my results are limited.

So, to fix this, I'm planning to do two things: First, follow a real strength plan, whether it's Friel's or someone else's. I need to set some goals for what I want to achieve and follow a plan to get there. Second, I need to make sure my nutrition will support my training; it seems basic, but it's easy for me to let it slide.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Weakness?

A couple of things all came together for me this afternoon. Here's the brief outline:

- During my test this morning, my legs felt OK, but my lungs were struggling to keep up. (This is counter-intuitive, but stay with me.)

- During my full suite of testing in Jan/Feb, my feeling was that I just couldn't produce enough force to turn over big gears.

- Last weekend, I really struggled riding into the wind at Stony (in fact, I always struggle riding into the wind).

- This morning, Sarah commented that I should probably eat more protein. For whatever reason, when Sarah said this, everything started to click...

I've been re-reading Joe Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible this winter (and taking notes). One of the things that jumped out at me was that any weakness in the basic cycling abilities (Force, Endurance and Speed Skill) will produce weaknesses in higher abilities, and likely lead to poor race results.

Here's what dawned on me this afternoon: Force is likely a weakness for me. I had always assumed that Force was a strength of mine (or, at least, not a weakness) since I'm a strong climber. Pretty much everything else points against it though; probably the reason I'm strong climber is that I weigh a lot less than the guys I normally ride with.

The next thing I did was to plot my "power profile." I had intended to do this in February after I finished my testing, but I didn't get around to it. What I found seemed to confirm everything. I didn't test at all the same time intervals, but I feel that I'm close enough. Here's what I found:

- FT Power to Weight: 3.89W/kg (Good)

- 5Min Power to Weight: 4.36W/kg (Good) (I actually used a 6 min test)

- 1Min Power to Weight: 5.85W/kg (Untrained) !

- 5s Power to Weight: 8.35W/kg (below Untrained) !!! (I actually used a 12s test, but I'm not sure switching to 5s will help.)

I'm not sure that I buy the absolute numbers here, since my "Good" FT result should have meant that I shouldn't have gotten smoked so badly in the Hines Park TT last year, but I think the relative numbers are probably valid. I don't mind if my short duration power numbers are lower than my higher duration ones, but I think that they should be in the same ballpark. Essentially, I'm looking for all 4 power numbers to fall along the same line, not to have this big step between the 1 min and 5 min numbers.

Having poor 5/12s and 1min power results means one of two things. Either my anaerobic capacity is poor, or I'm not strong enough to turn over a big gear. While I wasn't doing hard rides on the bike in January, I was doing a lot of Ross's high intensity work, so I don't think anaerobic capacity was the main issue; that leaves strength (or Force in Friel lingo).

So, what next? Well, the first thing I'm going to do is retest my 1 minute and 5s threshold power (I guess I'll use 5s, there's nothing special about 12s) to make sure that this is really a problem. For the retests, I'm going to tighten the roller on my trainer a little more; certainly wheel slip is a factor for the 5/12s test. I'm also going to have Sarah work the computer and stopwatch for me; just one more distraction I can eliminate.

(Last point, the bit about the legs feeling OK and not the lungs. I read an article in Runner's World a couple years ago about this. They said that if your legs are burning but you're breathing OK, it's likely a problem of inadequate aerobic capacity. The reasoning is that your legs aren't getting enough glycogen because the lungs/heart are poorly trained. Conversely, if your legs feel OK but you're having trouble breathing, it's likely caused by an inadequatly developed anaerobic system... in that case, the problem starts with the legs and moves to the lungs/heart.)

Watt's on Second

I had been a little concerned about the LT field test for this Base1 phase I'm just finishing. Since I'd been sick a few weeks ago and took the trip to Colorado, I thought I might not be able to put up very good numbers.

I took the test this morning, and I felt like I was going to rip it up as soon as I climbed on the bike. The test went well, I averaged 233 Watts. I did 217W on my pre-season test this year, so it was a nice improvement.

For comparison, last year I did 214W at the end of Base1 and 233W at the end of Base3. In fact, looking at the other data, my test this morning was actually better than last year's Base3 test even though the average power numbers were the same. This morning, I covered an extra 0.15miles in the first 10 minutes (power in the first 10 minutes is not counted toward the average power). It looks like I also must have made a sprint at the end of the test last year, since max power was 373W; I kept it pretty steady this morning and my maximum power was only 266W.

So, I'm pretty happy with how the test went and I'm looking forward to starting Base2 on Monday. There's less cross-training with Base2 and a better variety of on-the-bike workouts.

Special Delivery

Look at what showed up on my doorstep this week!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tire Guy

Not too much interesting going on around here. I've been putting together the details of my training plan for the next block; I'm still in the Base phase. I'm planning to test this weekend, it's always interesting to see how that goes.

I've sort of decided that I should get a little more serious about picking my mountain bike tires and setting pressures. I had some experience last year that showed me the difference in performance that picking the right tires and pressure can make, but I didn't really do anything with it. I pretty much just ran a "most-conditions" tire at a pressure I knew worked and left it alone. While that approach is fine for just riding, it's not the way to go as fast as possible during a race. So, I'm going to be doing a little experimenting with different tires and pressures in different conditions and see if I can't get going a little faster.

My first race is in about a month now, the Yankee Springs Time Trial. I haven't ridden out there yet, but it's supposed to be a nice trail. I probably won't be in great racing shape for this one, but it will be good to get out there again.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Weekend Rides

For the first time this Spring (can I call it Spring yet?), we had nice weather for riding outside. It was sunny and in the mid-40's... a temperature that might make me think about the trainer in the Summer.

Anyway, I went to the Rhino group ride Saturday morning out at Stony. I had intended to ride for 2.5 hours, so I showed up half an hour or so early and did a solo lap before the group got rolling. The nice weather meant that there were a lot of people out. The group was 6 people when I joined up, but we kept picking up new people (including a couple guys from the Wolverine Sports Club) and dropping others. The pace was just a touch too fast for me. I finished my last pull with one of the WSC guys, and pulled off for good. So, it only ended up being a 2 hour ride for me.

On Sunday, I rode by myself around my house. I had skipped my speed skill workout Friday, since Sarah's college team had their banquet, so I did some spin-ups on the road. It was, I think, the first time I'd ever done this particular drill on the road instead of on the trainer. For the first two ramp-ups, I started bouncing at a pretty low cadence and felt pretty uncoordinated. The rest of them got progressively better though, and by the end I was doing about as well as I usually do on the trainer.

One other point... I had two sort-of close calls with cars on my ride Sunday. In both cases I was careless and left the door open for something bad to happen. This happened to me last Spring also; I think it's just because I haven't ridden on the road like that for a while and forgot my good habits from last year. So, for everyone else, pay attention and ride predictably!


This is either really cool, or really nerdy... I can't decide.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Training Status

When I got back from Colorado last week, I was feeling pretty unfit and concerned that I was well behind where I was last year at this time. What a difference a week makes! I feel much, much better right now after a week of solid training. I still don't feel race-fit, which is fine, since it's only March, but I'm feeling pretty good.

By the numbers, I am down on training hours from last year. As of last week, I had trained 15 hours more last year than this year. This is to be expected, since in 2006 I started my Base phase in January, where this year I started in February.

The interesting thing is the composition of these hours. Last year at this time, 47% of my hours were on the bike, 50% of my hours were strength training (!), and 3% of my hours were cross-training (ie- off the bike conditioning). This year, 50% of my hours have been on the bike, 25% of my hours have been strength, and 25% of my hours have been cross-training. To me, this seems like a much better mix.

This weekend will be a big riding weekend for me, and it looks like the weather should cooperate. Next week is a Recovery week, so I'll test at some point that week and we'll see how I really did this phase.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Ross posted an article about the benefits of juggling on his website. Like most things Ross suggests, I've been giving it a try; I'm learning the 3-ball cascade to start. After practicing a little (5-10 minutes) every day for 5 days, I can get through about 6 or 7 throws before my bad throws start catching up with me and I start dropping.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Monday, we went downhill skiing at Winter Park. It was still snowing and kind of windy, but it wasn't too bad. We stuck mostly to the beginner and intermediate runs. I managed to get through the day without falling, but I came close a couple times. In both situations, I ran into some bumps where I wasn't expecting them, so I was going a bit too fast.

The skis that we rented were significantly more "shaped" than I was used to. (I think that they were very similar to these skis.) I'm still not sure if it was the skis or the fresh snow, but the skiing felt very effortless to me. (As the guy at the rental place put it, "In Michigan, you ski on ice. Here, you ski on snow.") Regardless, by the end of the day, I was ready to sell my skis at home and get some newer shaped ones.

On Tuesday, we went over to Devil's Thumb Ranch and did some cross-country skiing. The weather was perfect: calm and sunny. It was warm enough that I took my gloves off pretty early on, and I was rewarded with some blistered hands by the time we finished.

After the cross-country skiing, we drove on over to Hot Sulfur Springs and took a dip in the pools. It was kind of neat I guess, but I think Sarah liked it better than I did. We both smelled like sulfur for the rest of the day, even after showering.

We got up early on Wednesday and drove back to Denver. This time, we hit a snowstorm as soon as we got over Berthould Pass, and it snowed all the way back to Denver. It didn't really cause us any trouble and we got to the airport on time and had a good flight back home.


I found this picture on the camera. Suzie obviously wanted to go on the trip with Sarah.

Travel to Winter Park

On Sunday we drove from Colorado Springs to Winter Park. Along the way, we stopped at The Garden of the Gods. Here are a few pictures of our walk through the park.

On our way out of the park, we saw a group of about 10 cyclists out on a ride. They were really attacking the hills for February, I surely would have been dropped had I been riding with them. As it was, they dropped our car on one of the descents and we never saw them again.

As you can see from the pictures, there wasn't much snow on the ground around Colorado Springs. This held true as we passed Denver and turned into the mountains. I was starting to get concerned that there wouldn't be much snow in Winter Park (that's typically the way my ski vacations go)... I was wrong.

As we started climbing up the Berthoud Pass, snow started falling, and it didn't stop until late in the day on Monday. The result was that we had about 5-6" of fresh snow on the ground by Monday morning. Driving up and down the pass wasn't too bad, the road was snowy, but not too slippery. Also, since it was a Sunday evening, most of the traffic was going the other way, back toward Denver.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Quick POTATOEE update:

Last time I updated, I was making a little comeback on Dad, but now he's crushing me again. He's put in 369 miles against my 315. The plan is for our little competition to end at the end of March, so I don't think it's too likely that I'll catch him, but we'll see.

As far as our progress toward Maryland... Dad is about 30 miles into Pennsylvania, while I still haven't crossed the border. It doesn't look like either of us are on pace to make it to Cockeysville by the end of the month.

Colorado Springs

I started my trip to Colorado in fine style last week, by missing my flight. I left the house about 2.5 hours before my left was supposed to leave, which I thought would be plenty of time. It took a little less than an hour to get to the airport, but then I must have stumbled through a rift in the space-time continuum or something, because by the time I got to the counter to check-in, I only had 20 minutes left... which was too late. It's a good thing Sarah left on Monday, she has a thing about getting to the airport super-early, so she would have been ticked. So, I had to wait around a couple extra hours to take the next flight out.

I drove down to Colorado Springs from Denver in rush hour traffic, but it wasn't too bad. It was sunny and warm and there were always mountains in the distance. The hotel was nicely situated. It was about a 10 minute walk to the competition rink and there were a bunch of restaraunts also within easy walking distance. I got something to eat Thursday night and did a quick workout (one of Ross's minute drills), but that was about it. I did find it interesting that the altitude didn't bother me as much when exercising as it did last year when I was in Vail. On the other hand, Colorado Springs is at ~6000ft, whereas Vail is at ~8200ft.

Sarah's team skated early Friday morning. It was an interesting flight. The team that won was clearly the best, and the teams that brought up the rear clearly belonged there. But the majority of the teams (maybe 9 of the 13) were not too much different from each other, so the marks were all over the place. Sarah's team skated well though; they certainly improved a lot from where they started late last Fall. Good coaching no doubt!

Later on in the day, we visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs (with the kids on the team and their parents). It was kind of interesting, but not really as cool as I expected. I thought we might get to see more of the 'scientific' training equipment, but that wasn't the case. We saw a few of the athletes: a bunch of wrestlers training, a cyclist that was riding his mountain bike while rolling his road bike alongside, and a female weightlifter (her back and shoulders were huge!). We saw the velodrome from the bus as we were leaving, it's a few blocks from the training center.

Saturday we watched skating all day. Sarah was pretty relaxed since her team was done competing. Actually, it was much better than watching skating by myself, which is what I'm used to.

Sunday, we packed up and headed to Winter Park, but I'll save that for another post.

Back Home

I'm back from Colorado now; I'll post again this weekend about the trip. For now, check out this little Q&A with Michigan racing hotshot, Mike Simonson.