Thursday, February 26, 2009


Taking the extra rest day seems to have been a good move. I immediately felt better as soon as I "officially" decided to do it. I was still tired last night, but my stress level had dropped.

After putting my daughter to bed last night, I spent a little time working on my bikes, and then I went to bed (about 8:30pm). Even though I had to get up early for a 7am meeting today, I still woke up feeling refreshed. A few more days of this, and I'm sure I'll be ready to go at it again!

I touched on it a little bit yesterday, but I think a key thing for me this year is to make sure I'm doing high-quality training sessions. That means putting forth my very best effort at every session and making sure I'm mentally and physically prepared. That's one of the reasons I've liked doing the breathing sessions at night before I work out.

I've considered switching my weekday workouts to the morning instead of the evening. I notice a definite difference with my strength workouts if I do them on a weekend morning as opposed to a weekday evening. I've just accumulated more fatigue on the weekday and the quality of my training session is reduced.

I'm also considering doing some of my weekday riding at lunch time, mainly for time management purposes, but also since I'd be a little more fresh than I would be at night. It would be a long lunch break, but I don't think anyone would have a problem with it, especially since it would only be 1-2 days per week. We have showers at work, so that wouldn't be a problem. The other advantage is that we have some big hills around the office, and hills are always good!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the Edge

- For the last few days this week (since Monday), I've been in a pretty bad mood. Easily irritated with the family, the dog, you name it. It was especially bad last night, and today, I woke up in a bad mood.

- Including the Preparation phase, I've been working the Morris Strength plan since Dec 30, without any breaks longer than 2 days.

- There's usually a reduction in the quality of my training on a weekday compared to a day on the weekend, but I thought last night's workout was worse than normal. I noticed it with the upper body work. Saturday I did a total of 22 pullups (a little better than normal), last night I struggled to get a total of 17 (worse than normal).

- My legs are now not recovering very well. Last Sunday, during the day, my legs felt terrible... just walking around, going up the stairs, etc. Napping didn't help much; rolling them didn't help much.

- I'm just starting the 2-week Strength-Power phase. There's no scheduled rest block between this and the 4 week Endurance phase.

When you put it all together, the problem and the required action are pretty clear: I've been going too hard for too long and I need to rest. The hard part is that, unless you put it all in one place like I just did, it's not always so easy to see. It's also hard to battle your ego and decide that the best thing to do is to rest. I like to call this the "art" of training.

So, I'm going to postpone the Sprint Interval workout I had scheduled for tonight. My plan is to take the next three days off and see how I feel by Friday night / Saturday morning. I think this should be enough, but we'll see. Then I'll get going again.

Over the past few years, I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing you can do is to avoid getting sick. Say you get sick, maybe you miss a week while you're actually sick. Then it takes maybe another two weeks to build back up to where you were before you got sick. That's three weeks where you made no progress. If the decision is between missing 1-2 days of training or making no progress for 3 weeks, the choice is pretty clear!

Monday, February 23, 2009


I wrote a post a while back about how I'd started working with the book Sports Psychology for Cyclists. I read the whole thing, and then I went back and started working on the exercises. I've been doing this for two weeks now.

The two exercises that I wanted to write about involve breathing and visualizing smooth riding. I always start with several minutes of breathing. I've found it to be very relaxing. It also tends to clear my mind and leave me with more energy than I started with... this is nice if I still have a workout to do at night.

After some breathing, I start visualizing riding smoothly, emphasizing good technique. It actually took me a little while to get this right. Initially, my legs in the visualization were not turning smoothly, and, for the first few sessions, it took a few minutes for me to fix it. In particular, I kept "feeling" a lot of movement with my right hip. The way I eventually got it was to imagine my hips as a stable platform that I could pedal from.

Here's where it gets interesting. The book also suggests that you practice your breathing a few times while riding, particularly while doing intervals or other harder efforts. At this point, it doesn't ask you to do much more on the bike, just go into the breathing. So... here's what happened Saturday. I was just doing a moderate effort (nothing too hard scheduled in my plan yet) and I started focusing on my breathing. So, that was fine, it also has a calming influence on the bike. What I didn't expect was that my pedal stroke also immediately cleaned up (just like I had visualized!); with the more efficient pedal stroke, my cadence and speed crept up a little.

Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but I think it's pretty cool. It means, that without thinking about it, going into the breathing triggered the improved technique! It makes me wonder, as I progress with this mental work, what else can be linked or triggered by the breathing?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ending Strength Phase

I had a really nice strength workout yesterday. I was really fired up and I did some good work. Pushing heavy weights around is hard, but it's pretty fun.

Yesterday was my last "Strength" workout; I move into the Power phase next week. Weights are lighter, but the movement is more explosive. Should be fun.

I'm really getting excited about doing some more and harder work on the bike. I start with sprint intervals this week, and I'll also be trying to get my body (mostly my rear end) ready for some longer rides next month.

Drag Torque Experiments

I'm in the process of getting my bikes cleaned up and rebuilt for Spring. I thought that this would be a good time to explore something I've been interested in, namely, the extra drag that I notice on my external BB cranksets and Time ATAC pedals.

My idea was pretty simple: I don't have a torque wrench that's sensitive enough to measure the drag directly, but I do have a pretty accurate scale. So, I hung weights (washers) off of the crank or tip of the pedal until it started to turn, then measured my weights. Since I knew the moment arm, I could calculate torque and then power.**

I checked three cranksets and two pedals. Here's what I found:

Crank 1. No-name square taper cranks: torque was 0.005 N-m, so power at 80rpm is 0.042W. This is an old and cheap crankset/BB that I've never messed with. With no chain on it, the thing spins like crazy... you start to wonder just when it will stop!

Crank 2. FSA (Mega-Exo) Gossamer cranks: torque was 0.060 N-m, power at 80rpm is 0.503W! I just took this crankset apart, so maybe the drag is a little higher than it would be after it had been ridden for a while and everything got re-seated.

Crank 3. Shimano (Hollowtech II) XT cranks: torque was 0.033 N-m, power at 80rpm is 0.280W.

Pedal 1. Shimano M520: torque was 0.653e-3 N-m, power at 80rpm is 0.005W (for 1 pedal).

Pedal 2. Time ATAC XS: torque was 12.4e-3 N-m, power at 80rpm is 0.104W.

Then, I added up the total power (2 pedals + cranks) for my three setups:

1. Road/trainer bike (the square taper cranks and Shimano pedals): 0.052W at 80rpm.
2. 'Cross bike (FSA cranks and Time pedals): 0.711W
3. Mountain bike (XT cranks and Time pedals): 0.488W

So, relatively speaking, there's a big difference in power loss between the square taper and external BB setups (about a factor of 10!), and a big difference between the pedals (a factor of 20!). But, the numbers are all so small, maybe 0.2% of the total power I'm putting out, that maybe other factors need to be considered.

For the cranks, the external BB setups are much lighter than the square tapers. They're also much stiffer, although I'm not sure how significant the difference in stiffness is for me.

For the pedals, the whole reason I went away from the Shimano's was that I had trouble clipping in and out while riding in sloppy conditions. This definitely outweighs a small difference in drag.

So, I probably won't change my setups. If I had seen numbers more like 1W in drag, I might have changed my mind...

** There's a key implied assumption here, that drag doesn't change with "static" load. That is, I'm assuming the drag is the same with no load on the pedals/cranks as it is with someone pedaling the bike. My first thought was that this probably wasn't a significant effect, but the more I think about it, I'm not so sure. I suppose this could potentially change my conclusions...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reality Check

Velonews has Gustav Larsson's power file from Stage 1 of the Tour of California posted. The first thing that I noticed was that his average power over the stage (241W) seemed pretty mortal. Sure, I couldn't hold that power for 4 hours, but I see numbers like that...

Then, I looked at his "mean-maximal" 20 minute and 60 minute power numbers. 380W over 20 minutes, and 324W over 60 minutes. Uh, OK... now that would take some work...


I was joking with my wife over the weekend that this is the time of year when I get pretty delusional about racing. I sort of forget the hard parts and only remember the fun parts. I also start thinking, "yeah, I could win this race, I could win that race"... we'll see, hasn't happened yet...


Since I didn't post this yesterday when I wrote it originally, you can now see Larsson's Stage 2 power numbers.

The authors are estimating Larsson's FTP is around 415W. It says he weighs 80kg, so that's 5.2 W/kg... pretty awesome. For me to hit that power to weight ratio, I'd have to pick up another 90W (+36%!) or so, without gaining any weight! (See, the delusions continue...)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Zone 2

I got on the bike (trainer) last night for some riding. I'm a little concerned about building up to do all the volume required in Morris's Aerobic phase. Anyway, I rode for an hour, which is the longest trainer ride I've done in a while (usually, I've been riding about 45 minutes max). Per the Morris book, after a warmup, I kept power and HR in Zones 2 and 3 (a LSD ride).

Since I haven't done a threshold power type test this year, I estimated it based on last year's results and my typical drop in power over the winter. Threshold heart rate doesn't really change. So, it turns out that the Morris zones are a little different than others I've seen... basically the low limit of Zone 2 is higher.

Similar to what I found last year, the ride was manageable, but uncomfortable. Basically, it's a hard enough ride that you have to pay attention or your power will drop, but it's not so hard that breathing gets difficult or HR shoots up. My legs didn't feel particularly good, but that's no surprise since I haven't been riding much, but they did feel strong.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Two Books

Hockey was tough last night. I felt like I expected to feel two weeks ago... my legs were tired and I had no jump. We had all of the "energy" guys there though, so it was a fun, fast skate.

I mentioned that I'd been reading a couple of books:

Ride of Your Life, by David Rowe. This e-book is essentially about goal-setting and time management for cycling. It's really geared toward long-distance cyclists, but I think the process is essentially the same for racers. I thought the first half of the book was particularly good. The exercise of evaluating past performance on the bike turned out to be very worthwhile for me. Also good was his advice about managing your relationships while in pursuit of your cycling goals.

Sport Psychology for Cyclists, by Saul Miller and Peggy Maass Hill. I had a terrible time getting my hands on a copy of this book. I think that it's out of print, although the Velopress website doesn't say this. I've read through the book, but I haven't officially started the exercises. Each chapter presents a concept, and then there's some "homework" at the end. It's set up so that you do each chapter's homework for about a week before moving on. The first couple chapters are about breathing. Then it gets into some imagery, power talk, etc.

One part that really stuck out for me was the chapter about commitment. The discussion was about how you handle the adversity that comes up in a race (or in training, or in life). You basically have two choices, you can let it use you, or you can use it. If you're committed, your only choice is to use it!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Movin' On

I finished my last workout in the hypertrophy phase today. I can't say I'm sad to be done with it. Because the volume of lifting was so high, I found the workouts to be pretty tedious... my legs were also pretty trashed at the end of every workout.

That's the bad side of it... the good side of it is that it seemed to do what it's supposed to. My legs (and to a lesser degree, my upper body) are noticeably bigger. I gained two pounds over this phase, and I shed just a little fat, so... not bad.

I'm looking forward to reducing the lifting volume, lifting some heavier weights, and starting to get on the bike a bit more.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Steve Tilford Article

Cool article about Steve Tilford here. I met him briefly last Fall.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Colorado Dreamin'

I just got back from a trip to Boulder, Colorado with the family. The synchro team that my wife coaches was competing, and she wanted to bring our daughter, so I was there mainly as a babysitter. It made for a slightly dull trip, but it was OK.

After seeing a picture of a traffic jam of people heading into the mountains on a Friday night, I have always joked that "it must suck to live in Colorado." The trip reminded me that, alas, Colorado does not suck. We had clear blue skies every day and temperatures into the 50's over the weekend. I saw people out riding and running in shorts! Not only that, but, if you did want to go ski, we could see the snow clouds back deeper into the mountains (we heard that chain laws were in effect).

Boulder sort of fits my idea of where you'd want to live in a place like Colorado. It essentially butts up to the mountains without actually being in them. So, you don't have to deal with the problems of living in the mountains (remoteness, snowfall, etc), but you could still access the mountains very easily.

I managed to mostly keep up with my lifting while I was gone. The hotel had a decent gym with a weight machine and I hand my elastic bands. The weight machine was interesting; I couldn't do most of the lifts that I wanted to. I thought, here's this expensive piece of equipment, and I can't even do a squat with it! It was also interesting to watch the other people in the gym; since I work out in my basement, this isn't something I'm used to.

I read some good books while I was gone; I'll try to post about those later. I also got a lot of sleep. There's only so much you can do in a dark hotel room while your kid is taking a nap...

Of course, when I came home on Sunday night, I found my driveway covered in a few inches of snow and plowed in. There were also 4 newspapers scattered around, thanks to the paper not stopping delivery when I'd asked. Wonderful...