Mike's Blog

Turning over the pedals

Well after a pretty good start in week number one, weeks two and three fizzled out a bit.  In week two I only managed 4 hours 50 minutes and 71 miles.  This was in large part due to a flat incurred on my Saturday ride, turning it from a planned 2-2.5 hour ride to a 30 minute ride.  My Thursday workout got moved to Friday due to a family conflict; Thursdays are turning out to be difficult to get to for me thus far. Sunday I had a really great 3 hour ride with some locals, nothing difficult but the plan calls for endurance miles so that's what I did.

Week number three was slightly better with 5 hours 47 minutes for 88 miles, however I did stray from the plan slightly.  Tuesday I did my first set of power intervals: 2(sets) x 3(intervals) x 3 minutes with 3 minutes rest between intervals and 8 minutes rest between sets.  Blew myself out on the first interval averaging 310 watts for the 3 minutes and quickly realized I wouldn't be able to complete the workout at that level.  The remaining intervals were done at ~260 watts, which was difficult but I completed them all.  Wednesday I was blessed to join the HoCo group for their regular ride to see off one of the regulars who is moving back to England.  My legs were slightly toasty from the previous day's intervals and Wednesday is supposed to be a rest day so I headed out with B group.  It wasn't long (11 miles) before I realized that (probably) a combination of the heat and my legs were not going to allow me to complete their ride at the pace they were going, which sadly wasn't fast at all.  I split off and did the short ride with one other person and while I felt like I'd ridden very hard I only averaged 14. mph for the 24 mile journey.  Normalized power was 225 watts which is a pretty decent effort for my current fitness, but average heart rate was 157bpm which indicates that it was nothing special.  To make the night even weirder, turns out that the C group (which I waited for at the split for 6 minutes before continuing on) had a ride go down on a very fast left-hand bend and he had to be medivaced out; some broken ribs and road rash, but otherwise he is doing okay.  Thursday workout again was moved to Friday to allow some recovery; the was my first go at over-under intervals and they aren't so fun.  No ride on Saturday as the family spent the day at the beach, but I got out Sunday for 2.25 hours for an effort that exceeded the plan's endurance mileage requirement, having a normalized power of 231 watts.  Part of this was due to the ride leaving before the posted time and me doing a 20 minute time trial effort before I was able to chase them down; my normalized power for this effort was 275 watts.  These numbers indicate to me that I probably soft-pedaled my initial field test so I may make an adjustment going forward.  I felt this ride in my legs later that day but was fine the next morning.  I'll also mention that I've been stretching nearly every night trying to relieve my back issue; the Sunday ride was the first ride I've done outdoors in more than a year where I can't remember it bothering me.  My fingers are crossed that this continues.

So currently I am in week four, which is a rest week in the plan.  By rest week I mean that I have Tuesday off or I may chose to do some easy pedaling for 45 minutes; I chose the former and took the time to write this entry.  Below are the stats:

Week #2:

  • Weight: 208 lbs
  • Time ridden: 4 hours 50 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 71
  • Training Stress Score: 406

Week #3:

  • Weight: 208 lbs
  • Time ridden: 5 hours 47 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 87
  • Training Stress Score: 573

So, following up on my last submission, not a whole lot has changed.  Lucas is growing like a weed and cute as can be.  Brady too, is growing: nearly 1.5 inches since his birthday not standing 39 inches tall.  Brady's last day of day care was this past Friday and he will be home with Karrie and Lucas for the summer before starting up again.  He had been acting out and hitting us (never other people) for a month or so, but this seems to finally be coming to an end.  I feel for the kid as it has to be rough on him to suddenly have to share us with Lucas.  Having both boys all day, every day while I'm at work in an enormous effort for Karrie and she is working on finding activities to keep everyone occupied and happy.  I've been trying to get her to take some time for herself on a regular basis, be it the gym or some other outlet but I think she is a bit overwhelmed at the moment and sees that as something else she has to do, so it gets put off.

I decided that I need cycling to keep my sanity and have only autocrossed once so far this year; my current focus is to get in the best shape I can get into for cyclocross season.  To that end, I bought a power meter and last week I started the Time Crunched Cyclist (TCC) training program.  It is low volume (6 hours a week), high intensity training designed to boost your strength and endurance over a 11-12 week period, after which a 4-week "rest" block is needed before starting again.  To find the time to do this I ride the trainer in the basement during the week after the boys are asleep.  These sessions generally last 45-90 minutes and are where most of the interval training takes place.  The plan also prescribes two weekend rides which are mainly for endurance and can last 90-150 minutes.

The first week of the program called for rides on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; Wednesday and Friday were rest days.  Monday was an endurance ride for 45 minutes while Tuesday and Thursday were to be endurance rides with some steady state intervals thrown in.  Monday and Tuesday went well but Thursday was a non-starter due to the tension bolt on my trainer stripping; I've ordered a replacement that should be here in time for this weeks training, although another cyclist in my area was kind enough to lend me his spare just in case.  Friday I rode into work with my co-worker Scott and we pushed pretty hard which kinda made up for my missed workout on Thursday.  I say "we pushed pretty hard" but in reality I think it was kinda of an easy ride for Scott.  This wasn't always the case on our commutes and on the way home, in the spot where I normally dropped him, he stuck to my wheel without much effort.  Karrie was agreeable to letting me ride early (7am) for a couple of hours on the weekend so Saturday I planned a ride from my neighborhood and put it out there to a local club looking for company; four people showed up and we had a great ride.  One of them returned on Sunday and we rode the route backwards for another really good ride; hopefully I can continue to get these weekend rides in as they are integral to the training plan.  Today I am feeling it in my legs, but it is a rest day so I should be good tomorrow.

Some data points from the first week:

  • Starting weight: 208 lbs
  • Starting Functional Threshold Power (FTP): 215 watts (estimated)
  • Starting TCC field test 8-minute power: 226 watts
  • Starting Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR): 180 bpm (estimated)
  • Time ridden: 7 hours 52 minutes
  • Miles ridden: 119
  • Training Stress Score: 677
  • Peak power: 1344 watts (5s 1298 watts)
  • Best 1-minute: 427 watts
  • Best 5-minute: 273 watts

Since the tension bolt on the trainer was bad and I did feel some slipping (even though I didn't realize that's what it was until after the fact) and I did the field test and all my intervals on the trainer, it will be interesting to see if those numbers hold up.  I did feel initially that my FTP should be higher and thought perhaps the meter was reading low and I suppose the slippage could account for that but tomorrow I should know for sure.  If the numbers were off I'm not sure what to do.  Perhaps make an educated guess at adjusting them and continue on.  I'd hate to have to do the field test again because it would mean having to start the program again since it doesn't really fit into the schedule.

Anyhow, I plan to chronicle my efforts with this training program here, hopefully inspiring some other "time crunched" individuals to make time for themselves.

So now I'll try to address my cycling resolutions for 2009.  2009 was supposed to be "me year" according to Karrie, meaning I could what I wanted to do as far as a time commitment to my hobbies because come 2010 and the new arrival my priorities had to shift.  With that in mind, I set out these goals, most of which I thought were reasonable and most of which I failed.

  • Spend more than 300 hours on the bike and ride with a purpose (see #5-8).  (Fail)

There are many reasons while I failed at achieving this resolution.  Primarily I think "ride with a purpose" was something I was unsure how to do.  As a result I did ride but for the most part my rides did have any set goals attached to them.  The only time this wasn't true was early in the year when I was doing the majority of my riding on the indoor trainer.  During that period I did have specific training goals, those being sweet spot training.  That helped me get into the best April/May fitness I've been in since I started riding again in 2006.  I managed to do several rides with the A group on my club rides which was not even a thought for consideration in the past.  There were other pressures which limited my time on the bike to less than I'd have liked as well.  In total I did 150 rides including races for a total of 165 (80 hours average in prior years) hours and 2500+ miles (1300 was my previous best) for the year.  I had 10 weeks with more than 6 hours in the saddle; this is the minimum amount of riding I should be doing weekly to improve my fitness.  Complete stats at the end of this posting.  Grade: D- (hey, I doubled my previous best!)

  • Compete in and finish at least one road cycling race and not get pulled or finish last.  (Fail)

This was a fail in that I didn't do a mass start race.  A couple of factors at play here, primarily lack of fitness and lack of confidence; the first gets you dropped, the second gets you crashed.  I did participate in an Individual Time Trial though, which was my first one ever as I had never done them as a junior.  It was a 40K (25.2miles) race my goals were to average 20mph over the course and finish in 70 minutes or better.  The back problems I'd been struggling with (and still am struggling with) all year forced me to ease up my efforts about once every 10 minutes and stretch on the bike to alleviate some of the pain and this was the main contributor to me failing to attain those goals.  I ended up averaging 19.6mph and finishing in 75 minutes and some seconds.  Grade: D- (hey, I did /something/!)

  • Try a cyclocross race when the season starts up in the fall.  (Pass)

By far the highlight of my cycling year was cyclocross (CX).  Originally I had planned to simply try a race, using my mountain bike to see what it was like.  The my awesome friend Danny (who also came to one of my races and took pictures) donated his 1990-something Jamis Nova CX bike to my cause.  I took some bits off my old road bike and fashioned a pretty decent (if not a tad heavy) CX bike in early September, headed to a couple of the cyclocross clinics put on by Mike Birner of Mid Maryland Coaching and signed up for my first race, the only goals I had set were to finish and not be last.  I was still a bit freaked out in the technical areas of courses, specifically downhills and off-camber turns, residual from my mountain biking accident at the end of 2008, so I went hard where I could and took it easy where I got the heebie jeebies.  I started dead last (by choice) and finished 86th out of 125 starters, getting lapped on the very last lap of the race.  Not only had I accomplished my set goals, but I was hooked.  I went home and registered for as many more races as I could find within a 2 hour drive of the house.  I eventually competed in 9 races, finishing all of them and finishing in the top 50% of two of them.  I'm hopeful I'll be able to compete in more CX races this year.   Grade: A

  • Get below 200 pounds by the end of April (228.5 on January 1st) (Fail)

This goal just never materialized.  I struggled with managing portions at various times early in the year and only managed to get down to ~208 by May.  Grade: F

  • Get to ~190 pounds by the end of the year. (Fail)

Again, I struggled to reach my goal weight of 190, and again mostly due to portions, but also due to just not putting enough time in on the bike and having to limit my efforts during the time I was able to put in due to back pain.  I did manage to get down to 200lbs even, but Thanksgiving and Christmas meals got me back to 210 by the end of the year.  Grade: F

Month Num Time
Elev Net
HR Avg
Jan 2009 11 6:59:59 108.02 15.4 9,185 +9 -9 +0 2.3 151
Feb 2009 15 8:31:58 144.88 17.0 10,710 +642 -649 -7 2.2 157
Mar 2009 10 9:55:03 145.58 14.7 12,075 +9,498 -9,453 +45 3.6 159
Apr 2009 13 18:40:42 288.47 15.4 22,520 +18,689 -18,830 -141 4.2 154
May 2009 16 22:26:47 365.05 16.3 27,663 +23,582 -23,514 +68 4.3 151
Jun 2009 10 15:44:26 255.11 16.2 19,365 +17,837 -17,819 +18 4.3 157
Jul 2009 15 30:02:19 471.23 15.7 35,321 +35,568 -35,708 -140 4.9 149
Aug 2009 12 19:35:23 315.30 16.1 24,376 +20,088 -20,105 -17 4.2 159
Sep 2009 12 12:52:36 193.09 15.0 15,572 +13,929 -13,545 +384 3.4 153
Oct 2009 23 11:37:37 132.89 11.4 10,061 +9,047 -8,604 +443 2.5 155
Nov 2009 9 5:24:46 69.93 12.9 5,600 +2,208 -2,231 -23 2.4 171
Dec 2009 4 3:47:29 57.50 15.2 4,128 +4,175 -4,175 +0 3.5 155
OVERALL 150 165:39:05 2,547.05 15.4 196,576 +155,272 -154,642 +630 3.5 155

Let me preface this article by stating unequivocally that I hate running.  In fact, the last time I ran more than a couple of hundred feet at a time was probably sometime around 1999 or 2000 when I was in the Air Force and had to run for fitness testing.  There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is my tendency to acquire shin splints from partaking in the activity.  So with that bit of trivia out of the way, you may be asking how I've come to the conclusion that I could, if I so desired, do a sub-four-hour marathon.  Or you could just not care, but I'm going to tell you anyhow.

As most of you know, cycling is my sport of choice but with the weather we've had in the region this winter and the sudden onset of newinfantluenza in our house this past week, my available time for riding has been severely limited.  In fact, I've all but scrapped my plans to do some road racing this year and will try to focus on training over the summer for cyclocross season which starts in September.  At any rate, its been nearly 3 weeks since I've been on a bike and going on 2 weeks since I've been in the gym resulting in the loss of what little fitness I brought into 2010.  When I do manage to go out and ride, I like to be out for 2 hours or more if I can, which generally results in being unavailable for 2.5 to 3 hours or more after you include preparing the bike, getting dressed and then cleaning up when its all done.  Of late, this amount of free time has been difficult to come by as well as rather unpractical and guilt laden.  Today I just needed to do something to get in a workout of some sort, to relieve some stress and to stress my cardiovascular system some.  So I decided I'd go for a short run.

I decided on an out-and-back route which would total two miles and planned on being gone for 20 minutes or so.  I also thought it would be good to take Tyson (our 70lb boxer dog) since he hasn't had much activity this winter either and was starting to look rather plump.  Long story short, my two mile run took me 24 minutes, or 12 minute miles, or 5 miles per hour, a speed that was heavily canine restricted as Tyson decided several times that he was walking regardless of what I thought I was doing.  When I returned home my legs hurt, but I still think I could have gone a little harder had the dog not been in tow.  So if you weren't wondering about the title before, surely you are now, assuming you've actually read this far.

I have a simple five-step plan which almost anyone can follow to accomplish this goal:

  1. Never run for exercise again from this day forward.  Its not fun and you don't enjoy it.
  2. Sign up for a marathon.  It doesn't matter which one and it can be as early as next week since you won't be training for it.
  3. Leave the dog at home.
  4. The pace from your two mile run is too fast, so let's slow that down to 15 minute miles, or 4 miles per hour.
  5. After running approximately 15 miles (OR LESS!!!), call it a day (aka "finish").  Screw the "I told you so"s.

There you have it.  Follow this plan and you are well on your way to entering and doing (not necessarily completing) a marathon.  As for me, I'll be riding my bike.  Or sitting on the couch collecting dust.  Either way, you won't find me running as a form of exercise again.  Ever.  Unless its at a cyclocross.

Well, I've been bitching for a month now about how the weather every weekend seems to be crap and I can't ride.  Friday it rained all day and part of yesterday too, but the forecast for today was looking pretty decent with a high of 42F and sunny.  I tried to round up some company but found no takers so around 1130 I started getting my junk together for a ride and got started a few minutes after noon.  I didn't really have a plan, I was just going out to try to get in a few easy hours in the saddle and to test my back to see if physical therapy is helping at all.

It wasn't long after the first short climb that I realized my fitness has waned significantly since the end of cyclocross season (more on that in another post), not that it was great to begin with anyhow.  With that realization my motivation kind of dissipated and that was the beginning of the end for me.  What should have been a 30+ mile ride on a great day turned out to be a 10 mile ride on a great day.  Another thing I noted on this ride was that the few pounds I have gained back since the end of cyclocross season have allowed my asthma to begin to creep back in; it had all but disappeared when I was below 205 lbs.  I did have a couple of very minor attacks on the ride and did not have my inhaler so that also played into my decision somewhat, to cut the ride short.

What does this mean for me?   Basically, I suck, but aside from that I need to start ensuring I put some time in on the trainer during the week before I lose *all* of the little bit of fitness I had.  Yes the trainer sucks, but so does going out for an easy ride and realizing that an easy ride isn't easy when you are out of shape.