Monday, March 30, 2009

Conditioning Options

I was a little down yesterday about being hurt. Part of it maybe is that early season races have started here. My club had their first training race on Saturday, and Barry-Roubaix was Saturday. (My dad got 4th place in his category!) The other part of it was that I came to the realization that I had been thinking in a pretty limited way about what I could do to stay in reasonable shape. I was frustrated that I hadn't thought a little harder and done a little more during the week.

So, here's my new list of conditioning exercises to do that shouldn't bother my knees:

  • Swimming
  • Heavy bag drills
  • Swing sledgehammer
  • Skating / hockey (only because I know it doesn't bother my knees)
  • Upper body and core exercises following Tabata, minute drill, or density protocols for conditioning effect.

The list I came up with earlier in the week was: swimming. I decided that I probably didn't have enough time to get to the pool at the local school, and therefore I couldn't exercise! If I heard someone else say that, I probably wouldn't think too much of them...

Hockey was OK last night. I didn't feel particularly fit, but we also only had 3 on the bench, so it was a lot of skating. Only one more skate left this season already. My knees felt fine, but I did take a puck in the back of my leg (low calf area) so that's a little sore today.

Last point: I've been doing this training thing for a little while now (since the end of 2005), but I'm finding that some of the things I'm learning aren't carrying over from year to year. For example, I just learned (the hard way) that I should measure my bikes at the beginning of the season to make sure the setup is correct before I start riding a lot. Will I remember this at the start of 2010? It's a long way off... My experience with tapering is another thing that comes to mind as something that I end up re-learning every year. So, I want to write myself a little set of notes about my own training, broken out by time of year or training phase. Hopefully this will save me from repeating the same mistakes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I've been working on getting my knee back to a healthy state since my last post. Lots of rest, ice and stretching. Not too fun, but it's better than continuing to try to train and not getting any better.

My daughter turned one this week. We got her a cool little tricycle. I didn't think she'd be too impressed with it, and, mostly she's not. She was excited enough to see it and play with it a little that she made her dad happy though. Mostly, she just likes to spin the pedals.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Well, the ride at Stony last night was pretty disasterous. I felt really good for the first 20 minutes or so, then I hit the little hill back on the Nature Center spur and my knee started hurting again. By the time I exited the spur a few minutes later, I had decided I needed to call it quits for the day, so I just soft-pedaled back to the car.

So, I decided that I'm officially "injured" now, and I need to respond accordingly. I also decided that I wasn't going to feel bad about it, because there's really no point. I doubt that Lance Armstrong is wasting time feeling bad about his broken collarbone. He's probably focused on doing what he can to stay fit and thinking about his next race.

I may try to get on the trainer and do some very short and very easy spins in the next few days, but I don't plan to try to really ride until I go to Georgia. Even there, I plan to take it pretty easy. Fortunately, it should be ideal knee-recovery training ground there... warm and dead flat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Technical Difficulties

It seems that I've had a few technical difficulties this week:

On Sunday night, I spent about 20 minutes trying to adjust the rear derailleur on my 'cross bike. I'd put a new chain on and changed the cables, but I otherwise hadn't changed anything. So, I really couldn't figure out why the shifting was so bad. It looked like the chain just kept wanting to climb off the cog; it also sounded terrible in the bigger cogs. Then it hit me. I bought a 9-speed chain, for my 10-speed drivetrain! Doh! I went to the shop and got the correct chain; I had it on my bike and shifting fine in less than 5 minutes.

Last night I packed up my road bike for our trip to Georgia. I'm shipping the bike down ahead of time. It's the first time I've tried to box up a bike. I was a little frustrated by the experience; I had to take apart a lot more than I expected, so it took longer than I expected. Probably if my road bike were a little newer (like my other bikes), it would have gone more smoothly. Still, I got it all in there, and it will be nice to do some riding in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey.

I got on the trainer for a short, easy spin last night. I wanted to test out my knee before I start some more serious riding tonight. It felt much better than it did on my rides over the weekend, but it still wasn't perfect. I felt a few twinges. I think the plan for tonight will be to keep the intensity pretty low, but try to hit my target ride duration. I'm going to ride the road at Stony, so it will be pretty easy to soft-pedal and head home if my knee starts bothering me. I just need to keep in mind that it's only March, and spending a little extra time to make sure my knee is properly recovered won't have a big impact on most of my season.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Risk / Reward

I've been reading Joe Friel's blog lately. I knew that he started one some time ago, but he seems to have been posting more frequently. There's some great stuff on there. Some of the posts that caught my attention were about risk/reward and training consistency. They are relevant to my current situation...

So, I'm pretty much over my cold now. I basically missed a whole week of training because of it. Consider this though, I was starting to get a sore throat on Sunday morning. I elected to play hockey anyway, knowing that it would further stress my body and mean that I'd only get about 6 hours of sleep on Sunday night. Had I skipped hockey and taken the whole day off, I would have reduced the physical stress, and I could have gotten a lot more sleep. Maybe I would have still gotten sick, but maybe not. One of the points Friel made in a post was that professional atheletes are often much more conservative in their workout choices than amateurs. It's key to train in a such a way that you avoid illness, injury, etc. He makes the analogy of owning a million-dollar race horse; if you were responsible for training that horse, you'd never push it to the brink of injury or breakdown. Which leads to my next point.

As I started feeling better (Friday), I decided to get back on the bike just to do some easy spinning. I did keep the intensity and duration in check, so this wasn't a problem for my cold. But, my right knee soreness (PFS-type) came back almost immediately (this was a problem that cropped up on my long ride last Saturday).

It's really unusual for me to have pain in my right knee, and especially PFS-type pain. This hasn't happened to me since I was a beginner. So, after my ride on Friday night, I decided to check my saddle height. Sure enough, it was about a quarter inch too low. Having the saddle too low is pretty much a textbook cause of PFS. I should have been more careful with this on the Saturday ride in the first place, and turned for home as soon as it started bothering me, but I didn't. I probably should have also checked my bike setup before I started riding a lot again this year. I vaguely remember messing with my saddle at the end of last year now, and I probably just didn't put it back in exactly the right spot.

So, I'm fairly confident I've found the cause of the problem, but now I have to deal with the consequences. Probably if I hadn't pushed too far last Saturday it wouldn't have been a big deal, the time off from my cold would have been enough for me knee to recover, but it obviously hasn't been. I'll just have to take it easy on the bike for awhile until this clears up. Potentially, this also puts my participation in the Barry-Roubaix next weekend at risk... a couple hours of grinding out hills in the cold is not what the doctor ordered for knee recovery.

I'm putting Friel's risk/reward graph up on my training board (which I need to post about), so I'm frequently reminded about it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


So I've had a cold for a few days now. I went home early from work on Tuesday, which actually helped a lot. I just spent the afternoon on the couch, switching between sleeping, reading and watching TV... mostly sleeping though. I felt a little better yesterday, and much better today. We'll see how I hold up as the day goes on. I haven't done any kind of exercise since Sunday night.

I reread some of Thomas Prehn's "Racing Tactics for Cyclists", it got me thinking about efficiency during races, and how I kept getting dropped on the Thursday night ride last year.

I've been thinking about mountain biking technique again too, re-watching my Fluidride video, reading Lee Likes Bikes and watching him do the figure-8 drills. It's amazing how smooth these guys are.

Think you're really leaning that bike over? Think again...


The more I race, the more I come to realize that my main problem is not fitness (although, more fitness never hurts). What I mostly need to do is keep improving my riding technique, and keep learning how to use my energy more efficiently. Improving that would have a big impact...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Picture

I've had some frustrating days since my ride on Saturday. Due to my sore knees, I decided not to ride on Sunday; it would have been a very short ride anyway. I did play hockey on Sunday night. It actually went pretty well. I'm not used to skating when I haven't done some other workout earlier in the day; I had a lot more energy than I usually do. My knees didn't bother me skating at all, and they felt back to normal yesterday.

Sarah had been feeling a little sick over the weekend, and I seem to have picked up the cold that she had. I've been trying to get lots of rest, taking my Vitamin C and Zinc, but it doesn't seem to be helping yet. Unless I make a miraculous recovery today, I'll probably have to postpone my rides for the week. Today would have been a beautiful day to ride too.

Anyway, it's not fun, but I firmly believe that it's better to focus on recovery while you're sick and not try to ride (at least for regular Joe's). Looking at the big picture, I think it's better to completely miss a couple days of training than to do low quality training for a week or more.

I looked back at my training log for this same time last year (I was checking hours... I've done more total this year, but less on the bike), and I noticed that this was exactly the same week that I got sick last year. Aside from the time of year being the same, I also saw that I'd just started riding outside, just like this year. I also know that I was around a lot of little kids with colds (or their parents) at that time, just like this year. It's probably a combination of things, but I guess I need to be very careful around this time of year (and, I think, when the weather changes in the Fall).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Long Ride

I got in a decent 3 hour ride yesterday morning. I wish I could have waited until a little later in the day when it was warmer, but it wasn't too bad.

The first hour was sprint intervals. I found them a little tougher on the road than on the trainer. I think you end up cheating a little on the trainer when you get started because there's some wheel slip. The tires don't slip on the road, and it's tough to get goin in a big gear; I had to back off 2-3 cogs on the road to get started in a reasonable time. These intervals also seem hard on my knees. This time, they left my right knee a little sore... usually my left knee will bother me if anything does, so it's a little weird.

Anyway, I did the sprint intervals in a quiet neighborhood close to my house, and then I went on the road for the rest of my ride. I rode out to Indian Springs and back. It was good to be out on the road and to have the change in scenery.

Today, my right knee is still a little sore. I had planned a short ride for today, and I'm not sure if I want to do it or not. I'm leaning toward no... I'll still play hockey tonight though. It's most important that I get it feeling better so that I can go at it again next week.

This, by the way, was exactly what I was worried about with this Morris Endurance phase. I didn't do very much riding while in the lifting phases, so I was concerned that my body wouldn't be ready to jump into the longer rides, especially in the relatively cold weather. Apparently, it's not. If I want to do this again next year, I'll have to find a way to ride a little more prior to this phase.

A couple random pictures from my phone...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Outdoor Ride

Finally, I got to ride outside last night! It was my first outdoor ride of any significant length this year. I went over to Stony Creek after work and rode on the park roads for about 2 hours. The first 10-15 minutes were pretty cold, but once I got warmed up, it wasn't really too bad. Still, there was ice on the lake, and my water bottle was partially frozen by the time I was finished.

I figured that there might be quite a few people out last night. I only saw two other people on bikes, but there were a lot of runners. It was probably a better night for running than it was for cycling.

The first hour was just some Zone2-3 riding... just a little pressure on the pedals. That went fine, but it's always a little weird to be out on the road for the first time. The changes in resistance from the wind and hills feel strange compared to the steady resistance of the trainer.

The second hour was "muscular endurance" intervals. This was a new workout for me. You're supposed to keep the cadence low, resistance high, and go for 8+ minutes. Ideally this is supposed to be done on a hill or the trainer. Well, around here, there are no hills (that I know of) that take over 8 minutes to climb. The longest hills I've found are about half a mile long. What I did instead was to pick a slightly uphill stretch of road, with a headwind, and ride it in a big gear. The section of road ended up being about a mile long, and it took me about 3.5 minutes to ride. I just kept repeating that stretch until I'd accumulated about 20 minutes of work time.

At the time, my legs didn't feel too bad, although the last couple intervals got really hard. My legs feeling OK might have had something to do with the weather being cold. By the time I got home, I was starting to feel the effort though.

So, it seemed like the long false flat + headwind method worked OK, but I want to try it on a shorter steeper hill too and see how that goes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trainer Madness

I've started my Aerobic Endurance phase with a little trainer madness. I rode 2.5 hours easy on the trainer on Sunday. It was kind of cold and rainy, so I didn't want to go out. I watched Miracle; it's a good movie for the trainer, gets you fired up.

On Tuesday, I'd hoped to ride outside, but it was still raining. It wasn't terribly cold, so I probably would have been OK riding, but it wouldn't have been very fun. I rode the trainer again (another 2.5 hours), and watched some Stargate SG-1. My knee got a little achey around the 2 hour mark. I got off and stretched for a minute, and it was fine for the rest of the ride.

I'd wanted to ride yesterday (a little cold and windy, but sunny!), but my knee was kind of achey all day, so I decided not to ride at all. I spent a few minutes working on figure-8 drills in the driveway, and then I went to bed early.

So, today, my knee feels fine, and there's no rain in the forecast. The only bad part... it's going to be a cold ride tonight. It's not supposed to make it to 30F this afternoon/evening, and it's not particularly sunny either. I packed a lot of clothes with me, so hopefully I'll be OK.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Testing and Finishing Power Phase

Yesterday was a pretty big training day for me. In the morning, I got up and completed my first LT field test of the year. I was gunning for 250W (as measured by my, no doubt, super accurate trainer), a little down from where I was partway through the Base phase last year. I really had no idea what to expect though; I've mainly been doing strength training, just a little sprinting, and very few longer rides...

So, I blistered through the first 10 minutes (that don't count), right on pace for 250W. I was thinking, "Geez, this is too easy, I'll probably go higher than 250 for the test." 5 minutes later, I was starting to hurt a bit, and then I faded pretty badly at the 20 minute mark (10 minutes into the part that counts). So, I ended up at 240W.

I'm not too disappointed, 240W is about where I was at the end of Base 1 last year. I also matched my best ever effort over the first 10 minutes (which means I went out too hard). The point of this test was just to set the baseline. I will be disappointed if I don't see a big improvement at the end of the upcoming Aerobic Endurance phase.

We went to a friend's baby shower in the afternoon, and then I came home and did my last Strength workout of the year. I'm happy to be done with those. The lifting was fun for a while, but I'm tired of it for now. Just not enough variety. For sure, the lifting has made me much stronger; whether that translates into more speed on the bike remains to be seen...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekend Workouts

I had a good weekend of workouts, it seems that my rest time last week was worthwhile.

My strength workout on Saturday was good. I felt rested and strong. I got back up to my 22 total pullups. Two more strength workouts to go, then I'm done.

On Sunday morning, I did my postponed Sprint Interval workout. I have done similar workouts in the past, but not exactly like this. I think the big difference was that Morris has you starting from a dead stop. It takes quite a bit more effort to do that than it does to go from a rolling start. Anyway, it was a pretty nice workout. I can tell I'm not used to doing much intensity on the bike anymore. After the intervals, I stayed on the bike and did another hour at an easy pace. I'm still a little concerned about how fast my riding volume will ramp up in the Endurance phase.

With this in mind, I checked my total hours compared to last year and the year before. I've actually done more total training hours than I did at this point in 2008, and about the same as 2007. The main difference is in where I spent my time. My total strength time is much higher than at this point in past years, while my total bike time is lower. Of course my bike time will shoot up this month once I start the endurance phase. So, we have the curious result that my "low volume / high intensity" training program has, so far, resulted in more training hours. However, since I'm only training 4 days a week instead of 5-6, it definitely feels like I'm spending less time training.

Also, hockey was good last night, even though my legs were more than a little tired going in. I had a nice goal about halfway through the skate. I was trailing the play just a little, picked up a loose rebound and buried it in the upper right corner... it tucked right in behind the crossbar. Sometimes it's better to be lucky...