04 June 2012

Just a little note ...

When reviewing my dashboard and weekly summaries in Training Peaks, I noted that the week ending 03 JUN 2012 was the first week of the 2012 ATP that I was able to actually get as many hours on the bike as the ATP called for.

For the unfamiliar, just a quick briefing. First, ATP is "Annual Training Plan," and is one of the really cool things about Training Peaks premium. Basically, what happens is that at the end of the season, or toward the beginning of a new season, you can go into Training Peaks and give it some information about the upcoming season; how many races you will do, what kind of races they are, how long they are, what your personal priority for each race is (A = highest priority, C = lowest), how many yearly hours you want to dedicate to training, and some other little information, and it creates Training Periods complete with workouts for every week of the season, with Base periods earlier, Build periods in the middle, and Peak periods right before race weeks. Then, you go through week by week and add individual workouts to the days you want to do them, and BAM your whole season is scheduled. You don't have to add every workout of every week right from the beginning–in fact, as of right now I've only put in the workouts through to the end of June–but if you wanted to sit down in late December and schedule every training, rest, and race day for the whole year, you could do that.

Anyway, I had created the 2012 ATP just after the 2011 El Tour de Tucson, and did so knowing that I was a fat load and would not be able to match the weekly training load, especially early in the season. I did schedule a decent number of annual training hours (350, I think), with the goal of being able to ramp up to being able to perform the scheduled number of hours as I went through the season, and with the aim of finishing the season feeling like I could schedule 2013 for more hours, and actually meet them. In addition, I have a goal every week, and though the weekly hours can get pretty high I still wanted to have a high bar to shoot toward.

This past week, I met (actually exceeded) my ATP-scheduled hours (by about 12 minutes) for the first time since the start of the season, and I feel like it's not out of reach for me to hit the goal hours every week from here out. For me, that's a huge win.

Hydration review

Yesterday, I mentioned that I'd post a review of the hydration drink mix I'd started using, that is probably the last and best and forever-est hydration mix I'll use.

The secret is out.

Yes, it's the drink mix formerly known as SDM (Secret Drink Mix), developed by Dr. Allen Lim (now of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team) as a solution to "rot gut" experienced by pro cyclists during races. I'll let them tell you the whole story, but the upshot is that Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix (formerly known as SDM) is a fairly low-calorie, high-electrolyte hydration mix. As I've always noted, the real problem with hydrating during exercise is not replacing glucose (though, that is an issue), it's the replacing of sodium and potassium. Most drink mixes don't do a very good job of replacing those electrolytes over the long term exercise that marathoners, triathletes, and cyclists perform, but instead focus on glucose uptake to prevent glycogen depletion-related "bonk." That's fine, for the ninety minutes or two hours that most athletes are expected to perform, but not for cyclists, who may ride in their aerobic or tempo heart rate or power zones for five hours at a time.

Why do I like it? First, it's extremely light in taste, which makes it a total non-issue to drink and swallow. Second, it's got the spot-on electrolyte profile that I've been looking for, which means that I don't need the extra electrolytes from the gels (which I'd wanted to cut out for calorie reasons anyway). Third, it's made with real fruit for the flavor; and finally, it's the first drink mix I've used that COMPLETELY DISSOLVES when I mix it with cold water. That alone would make it a top-three mix, but the other reasons push it over the top.

So far, I've used the lemon-lime and orange on a ride-after-ride basis, and I am going to try out the raspberry and pineapple flavors as soon as I can, but even if those two don't fit my taste, the other two do.

I do want to point out that if all you do is a couple of hours here and there, then you might find other mixes to be adequate. If, however, you are getting along past three hours, I strongly recommend you give Skratch Labs a try. I think you'll find, as I did, that they got it right.

03 June 2012

Continued training

Since abandoning the Tucson Bicycle Classic during the Road Race stage, I've been focusing my training efforts with two primary outcomes in mind: lose weight, and get faster.

The losing weight stuff is coming more slowly than I'd prefer, but it is coming along. Only a few pounds down (last measured at 223#) from where I was at the very beginning of this process, but my body shape has changed a fair amount. My tummy is a lot flatter than it used to be, my calves and forearms are much skinnier, and my sides are thinner, as is my face. I've learned some things from a former road racer who is also a paramedic with the organization I work for, and he's given me some tips (especially on eating while training) that have started to pay off in my training, and my weight. More on that in a bit.

Second, the getting faster part. I've been quite good about getting in 5 days of training during every tour & four-day, and have been getting faster while riding in a better HR zone for several weeks now. I've made deliberate efforts to observe things like which gear & chainring I take hills in, and watching in which gear & chainring I ride stretches of my training routes, and I've been able to keep a high cadence while up-gearing and still able to maintain my HR in a good zone for the training day I'm on for that particular workout. My Strava rides are filled with new Personal Records time after time (example: Frontage RD to Ina segment, along the Santa Cruz River Park, has been a new personal record like four straight rides). I feel better, I feel stronger, I am clearly faster (yes, by tenths of a kph, sometimes. To paraphrase Depeche Mode: Everything Counts in Small Amounts), and I feel like this bodes well for next racing season.

I do still intend to race a couple more times this season; I have PTO from work for the 12th of August, which is the 3 Bears ITT (2nd edition) up in Marana, AZ, and of course I'm also doing El Tour de Tucson (42 miler edition, for now), and I want to ride a road race sometime this year before it's all said and done (not necessarily in Tucson; in fact, there should be several rides later in the year in northern NM and CA that might be possible with good planning). After El Tour, I'll take stock of where I'm at for the 2013 racing season. I already know that I intend to do A Race Against Time, the Tucson Bicycle Classic, and Heck And Back (Dugway, UT, Road Race) next season, with possibilities for the Old Pueblo Grand Prix, Bike The Bricks (McKinney, TX), one of the 3 Bears ITT (they run two editions every year), and the UA Criterium.

My paramedic friend from work, who used to be a road racer, gave me some good advice about fueling while training (advice which I asked for :), and the main take-home lesson for me was: stop eating during the ride (for the most part). I had been following this hydration/fueling strategy nearly to the second: eat 300-ish kcal for breakfast about 2 hours before riding, drinking water through the morning. Take a 100 kcal gel 15 minutes before starting, along with an endurolyte cap (hammer nutrition; it's basically sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium with a few other electrolytes), drink 1/4 bottle of plain water (or water with calorie-free Nuun in it) every 15' with another 100 kcal gel at 45', drink 1/4 bottle of sports drink every 15' after the first hour with another 100kcal gel at 1h 30', continued to the end of the 3d hour (1/4 bottle sports drink every 15') with another gel at 2h 15' and again at 3h. His advice was to not eat the gels at all, not the first one and none during most rides. Carry a couple, just in case, but leave them alone unless you either 1) bonk badly, or 2) get REALLY hungry. Drink the sports drink enough to keep hydrated, and eat maybe a banana at about 3h. By doing that, and keeping the HR low and cadence high, I can force my body to learn how to burn fat preferentially, which is of course my whole stinking point. (In fact, it was my own observation that I was working pretty hard for not much loss of weight, and thinking that examining my on-bike nutrition might be a good place to start that started the whole conversation.) I've been using his advice ever since, and I am easily able to go 2+ hours on just sports drinks and the electrolyte tablets, as long as I get a little bit of real food for breakfast before I start.

Speaking of sports drinks, after a bit I'm going to post a review of the one I use now, and will probably only ever use for all of my riding from now until forever.