27 October 2012

Next week's schedule

As I suspected, when I got up this morning I could feel that my legs and lungs were not recovered enough from yesterday's effort to do another ride. So, today became a rest day. I still feel like I'm getting back to where I was, when I was in the middle of riding on more days than I didn't ride, so I feel confident about getting the training where I need it to be for El Tour, and as a base, from which next season's training and racing can springboard.

In recognition of the need to migrate back into the cycling a bit more cautiously, I'm posting a more reasonable schedule for next week. It will incorporate some easy spinning on the recovery days, with some light weightlifting on two days (before spins). I do have two scheduled activities but should be able to cover those days as the recovery days with gym spinning and weightlifting days.

So, here's the schedule for next week's rides:

Oro Valley/Rancho Vistoso short route
Approx. 18.29 miles

Recovery day for ACLS teaching
Gym workout with light weightlifting and 1hour-ish of easy spinning (hr zone 2 only)

Pantano River Park Sprint Intervals
Approx. 13.45 miles

Pistol Hill via Camino Loma Alta
Approx. 26.95 miles

Recovery day for CE
Gym workout with light weightlifting and 1hour-ish of easy spinning (hr zone 2 only)

Broadway Bikes loop
Approx. 16.4 miles

26 October 2012

Excess of ambition

I realized early yesterday that this week's schedule was too ambitious for just having come off of eight weeks of not riding due to injury and illness, and so I took yesterday as a rest day and moved that day's ride to today.

Which, it turns out, was a fantastic idea, because if I had done this ride yesterday I would be wiped out today (much as I am likely to be wiped out tomorrow, and may not be able to handle that ride ... I'll know more when I wake up tomorrow).

Today's ride, though rough as it was, still rocked hardcore. And I did change the route mid-stream; instead of taking Old Spanish Trail (OST) all the way to Pistol Hill RD (PH) and then turning back just after the crest of the hill, I elected to head southbound on Camino Loma Alta (CLA) past RVFD station #1 all the way down to Colossal Cave RD (a.k.a. Pistol Hill RD and other names), then head westbound up Pistol Hill the back way and back to OST.

I like this route, maybe better than taking OST all the way down. The route from OST to PH, once you get south of CLA, has several washes with steep descents and climbs, leading up to Pistol Hill proper. Because I'm not really in the kind of shape I would like to be in (or, soon will be), that extra climbing really wrecks my thighs before hitting Pistol Hill. Coming the other way, though ... CLA is a mostly uphill climb from OST, and the back side of Pistol Hill is a nice long climb.

I am wasted after that ride though. So I'm going to lie down and probably crash. Have a great Friday night everyone!

24 October 2012

24 OCT ride and notes

Since I had missed Tuesday's ride due to a forgotten item on my calendar, I needed to make up that ride and do it early enough to be able to make the beginning of ACLS New Provider, day 2.

It's definitely fall here in Southern Arizona, seeing that the ambient air temperature to start the morning, pre-dawn, was about 60 ° F, and dropped to 54 ° F where I passed through low-lying washes and riverbeds. Since I didn't realize it was fall yet, I hadn't bothered to put on or carry long leg covers or arm warmers, and I was flipping freezing for part of the ride.

But, it was still awesome. Even before the plumbers-crack of dawn.

I did the full ride as planned, got in all the distance I wanted, and got it done about four minutes faster than anticipated (I was moving about 0.3 mph faster than I planned. Go me!). Maybe because it was chilly! I've also decided that though I don't think I always want to have to get up that early to get in a ride, it's not a bad time to try. The route I took is very lightly traveled that time of morning, and since much of the route does not have street lamps, there's not much opportunity for me to sneak a peek too far ahead and get discouraged about how much hill there is left to climb.

So far, I haven't noticed any movement on the donation page for Brandon and Tu Nidito. I'm hoping that's because it's not quite payday yet! Remember that donations go to a great kid and a great cause!

23 October 2012

Slight shift

I had scheduled myself to help teach an ACLS New Provider class today and tomorrow, and forgot until I woke up today, so I was unable to get my morning ride in as planned. Instead, I made today a rest day, took out the rest day scheduled for Thursday, and moved today's ride to Wednesday and Wednesday's ride to Thursday.

I did my Monday ride as scheduled, mostly, with one slight modification: instead of backtracking eastbound on Moore RD all the way back to Rancho Vistoso, and then taking Rancho Vistoso south to Tangerine before turning around, I detoured onto Woodburne AVE. It shortened the ride by about 0.85 miles, but it allowed me to take a road I've never ridden on a bike and allowed me to ride right past Golder Ranch Fire District station 375, which was also nice. It looked like the guys were all inside doing a CE or some kind of training so I didn't disturb them, but it was cool to ride up to the station.

I felt pretty good during the ride overall. I am still pretty heavy, so climbing is still really my biggest weakness on the bike, though overall power and aerobic endurance are pretty poor right now as well (mostly due to my having had to miss two months of riding due to my back). Even on the climbs, however, I didn't really blow up my heartrate like I thought I might. I think I popped into HR zone 6 (anaerobic threshold, for the unaware) once or twice, but not for more than a few seconds at at time. Since I was trying to stay out of my anaerobic threshold, that's a good thing.

I really do enjoy biking up in Oro Valley, although I don't ride along Oracle RD. Ranch Vistoso has generous bike lanes, as does much of Moore RD. Rancho Vistoso is also not terribly jammed with traffic (at least, not at the times I'm on it), and in the places where Moore RD does not have a bike lane, it's very lightly traveled (again, at the times that I'm usually on it). The scenery is amazing, especially when you are heading back down Rancho Vistoso eastbound from the Sun City BLVD area.

Tomorrow, going to swing around on my Broadway Bikes loop route. Until then, good night!

20 October 2012

20 OCT training ride listing

For Monday:
Oro Valley/Rancho Vistoso short route (just over 18 miles)

For Tuesday:
Broadway Bike Shop loop route (just about 16.5 miles)

For Wednesday:
Escalante to Old Spanish Trail to Pistol Hill out-and-back (about 27.5 miles)

For Friday:
Escalante to Old Spanish Trail to Pistol Hill and back to Broadway Bike Shop loop (just over 39.5 miles)

For Saturday:
Broadway Bike Shop loop route (just about 16.5 miles)

If you're interested in pledging for a ride, just leave a comment below, or send me an e-mail, or head to the donation page! GPS links from completed rides will show up on the Strava sidebar, and I'll also be posting small blog entries when I complete a ride.

Thanks again for all your help!

el Tour de Tucson, and Tu Nidito

I'm signed up with Tu Nidito, a non-profit organization here in Tucson that provides support to children affected by serious medical conditions and to their families, to "Ride for a Child" in El Tour de Tucson on 17 November 2012.

Now, what that means is that Tu Nidito has registered my name for el Tour, in exchange for me fund-raising for one of the kids in their program. I have to raise $500 total by the middle of November, so that I can ride!

I'm paired with Brandon, a 16 year old boy with rhabdomyosarcoma (a cancer of connective tissue). The money I raise helps fund his therapy, the treatments, and the family support as well. He's an active kid, builds model planes, and is really a good young role model for the community.

I'm signed up for the 42-mile Tour, starting at the Savonti Aventis facility in Oro Valley, and heading generally down Tangerine to Silverbell and downtown from there. It'll be a good ride, and it's for a great cause.

But it can't happen without the donations. I have been able to get a few, but it's crunch time and so I'm making a plea to my friends, co-workers, family, and compatriots. A plea and a deal. A plea deal, if you'd like !

Here's the plea: please donate on the donation page, to help Brandon continue treatment, and to allow me to ride in el Tour.

Here's the deal. I'm going to put up a blog post each Saturday until November 10th listing my planned training rides, routes, and estimated distances. I propose that if you're interested in donating, to pledge to donate $1/mile for a given training ride (this also keeps me honest about doing the rides!), with a minimum of $10 (no training route is less than 10 miles) and a maximum of $50 (I don't plan any rides longer than this ... even if I manage to go through a long ride, and it ends up being more than 50 miles, I think capping it is fair to you if you pledge). If you wish, you can leave a comment on the ride you'd like to pledge, or send me an e-mail, or just donate anonymously on the donation page.

Thanks to everyone in advance for all your help!

16 August 2012

There's a plan?

Back again, after another long hiatus. As you can see from the strava entries, this time it's not just from the blog, but from the bike as well.

Lots of things have been going on in the background, but as far as the riding is concerned, I've been pretty unhappy with how some things have turned out (or, not, as in my weight loss).

I have been dropping calories galore, and my diet has changed (not as completely as it will eventually; I take the food changes more slowly than the rest of it. Digestively, I think this is saner for my body and my compatriots). I'd been doing 1000 KCal + workouts several times a week (3+ for a while there), and the pounds just would not budge. I'll admit, I got kinda depressed about it.

But I've had a chance to think, and get away from the bike for a bit, and I think I have a partial solution. Also I've been reading up a bit more on both the Carmichael Training Systems' (CTS) Time Crunched Cyclist (or TCC) as well as Joe Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible ( or CTB), in addition to some independent research on skeletal muscle physiology and some other research on endurance sport training, and I've been working too hard.

Specifically, although my HR Zones are based on a pretty solid time trial effort, I think my workouts are too hard by quite a lot. I'm routinely pushing my Zone 3 and borderline Zone 4 even during long workouts, and I think it's 1) overtraining me as a human, and 2) forcing the wrong adaptations for what I want to change.

For me, this whole process is first, and most importantly, about getting to a healthy weight. In doing that, I've been pushing harder than I should, I think, and training my muscles improperly for that purpose.

There seems to be a lot of debate in the exercise community about effort, and the current prevailing opinion of much of the media outlets (Rodale, for example, who publishes Men's Health as well as Bicycling Magazine, is big into putting people who espouse this line of thinking into their magazines) is that short bursts of high effort intervals with short recoveries, done in a relatively short workout, is the best way to lose weight.

I say balderdash. (Before you write me hate mail, let me say that intervals have a place in an overall workout plan, and are a very good tool both for getting through plateaus in workouts, and for switching stressors. But I digress.)

The basic line of thinking is this: running for twenty minutes burns more calories than walking for twenty minutes. This is true. Running for two hours, and walking for two hours, they do not have anywhere near the same caloric load, and you will burn more calories running for 120 minutes than walking for the same amount of time. Since more calories burned is better, the higher intensity should be the right way to go. So they advocate the high-low interval as a fundamental weight-loss tool, with the idea that doing a half-hour(ish) workout of 30-60 second high-intensity (80-90% of max) with 60-90 seconds of recovery eight, ten, twelve times with a warmup and warmdown will be a better overall calorie burn than a steady-state workout at the low intensity of the same duration. And in that respect, they are correct.

The problem isn't the calorie load, it's that the energy-generation system, and the recovery afterward, are all wrong. High-effort output of any kind is going to tap either the anaerobic energy production systems, or will tap primarily muscle glycogen stores aerobically (this will depend on whether the interval takes you into anaerobic metabolism, or merely pushes you to the top end of your aerobic system). Muscle glycogen is used in both of these systems, of course, although the first few seconds of a 90% effort interval may hit up the creatine phosphate shuttle.

But, this trains the wrong kind of body response for long-term weight loss. When your muscles start to drain their glycogen stores, they signal for replacements. Because of the ongoing high-stress demand, the body doesn't liberate fat through β-oxidation of fatty acids; instead, it liberates liver glycogen into glucose and dumps sugar into the muscles. This then creates a cycle that trains your body to be more efficient in glycolysis (and glycogenesis), and more efficient in storing liver glycogen. Which is fine as far as it goes, but unlikely to have much effect on weight loss.

The only way to convince the body that the best tool for the job of creating ATP to replace that used in the muscles is through lipolysis is by keeping the demand low, and going for long periods of time. When the stress levels are kept lower, but still high enough to tap into muscle glycogen stores, the body responds by oxidizing fatty acids for fuel. This, in turn trains the body to burn fat preferentially, and the more efficient the body is at liberating fat, the higher the heart rate can go and still be in a primarily fat-burning metabolism.

So, what I have been doing has been going way too hard for what I need to accomplish: get better at burning fat, burn primarily fat during the majority of any cycle workout, and save the interval workouts (which do have a place) for later.

With that in mind, what are intervals good for? Well, they absolutely shorten workouts. It is definitely possible to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time with an interval workout. Different kinds of intervals will help develop different kinds of adaptations. For example, the CTS Steady State (SS) intervals are very good tool for improving performance at the Lactate Threshold. This interval is done for relatively long periods of time near the LT power or HR threshold, but just below it, and trains the body to deal with high levels of lactate, with a short-ish recovery period, followed by another interval. The TCC SS intervals call for several of these intervals, with a recovery period of about half of the interval itself, during a workout. This workout would be done just a couple of days a week, because it's a high-stress workout. There are lots of other examples.

In any case, what I'm advocating here, though mostly for myself as a tool to focus on the weight loss, is the low-power, low-HR, long workout, focusing on forcing fat burning and teaching my body to burn fat preferentially. And until I get that done, there's little reason for me to do more than the occasional high-intensity effort, in order to shock the system a little from time to time.

So, what's the plan, then? Long, slow rides five days out of every nine (I am still working a 3/4 shift schedule, so I have to modify my timing to accomodate that), of probably 2.5-3.5 hours each ride. By slow, I mean just above the Zone 2 line of my HR (at the moment, roughly 146 BPM, though I think maybe keeping it around 140-148 is probably a good guide). Continuing to monitor the on-bike intake, and continue to limit the use of the gels and blocks (GU Chomps, btw, are really good after about the third hour). Keep up with the food changes (which I haven't gone over yet, but I've done a lot more home cooking. I bought the Food Zone Cookbook by Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim, which I will review here in the next few days). Check back in a couple of weeks and see how the body feels, and whether the clothes fit any better. Re-evaluate.

So that's the plan.

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.