A 4-week training schedule … 🤔

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I am on a 4 week training schedule. I begin the month with a week with more rest, and less intensity. As the weeks progress, I gradually increase the duration, and intensity of the workouts, building on the previous month’s efforts.

I have just completed week 4. This week will see more rest, and less intensity. I will still cycle, but will reduce the mileage, ride 4 days instead of 5 or 6. And, I’ll still visit the gym, but do fewer reps. This is a recovery week.  A week enabling the body to fully recover from the stresses of the past four weeks.

This is also a time to reflect on the past 4 week cycle. I track a lot of numbers. Too many numbers some think. I track my weekly sleep patterns, RHRs, average speed, and time spent in each heart rate training zone. I do this to see if my fitness is improving, or not. This way I can adjust my workout schedule accordingly.

This is what I discovered.

  1. I lost 6 pounds. One of my objectives was to get to my optimum weight by the end of July which means I need to lose 4 more pounds.
  2. My average resting heart rate (RHR) went down by 6 beats, from 47 to 41. I use my RHR to monitor recovery. I know when it is lower, I am fully recovered. And, when it is higher, I need to schedule a rest day, or lower the intensity of workouts. Last week, my RHR was a low as 34 beats / minute, the lowest I have ever recorded.
  3. Despite the unusually wet weather, I averaged 200 km / week on the bike. When it rains, I normally do not ride. And, these 800 km are training km, not recreational rides.
  4. I spent 72% of ride time in Heart Rate Training Zone 1, and 15% in the higher, more intense zones. The goal with Polarized training is to spend 80% in Zone 1, and 20% in higher zones.
  5. I averaged over 5 hours of “deep” sleep every night. This is the sleep needed to fully recover.
  6. My average cycling speed was 24 kph. Given the high winds throughout the month, this is relatively fast. Every ride I battled a westerly headwind that would reduce my speed to 15-20 kph. Otherwise, I recorded 25-35 kph speeds, sometimes higher.
  7. My average cadence was 86 rpm. I spent most of the 800 km on the small chainring, trying to maintain a cadence of 90-100. Apart from the headwinds and a few climbs, I was able to do that.
  8. And, I learned that high repetition body weight exercises has strengthened my legs and core. I wasn’t sure. I am accustomed to lifting weights in the gym. High rep squats, lunges, hamstring curls using an exercise ball, windshield wipers, sit-ups, and leg lifts have strengthened my legs and core.

So, what is next? More of the same. More distance. Higher intensity. And, more reps.

I have a century ride schedule in 3 weeks. I plan a 75-80 km this weekend to get used to the distance. And, the week before the century, I’ll taper by reducing the volume, but keeping the intensity high.

And, I’ll maintain the same low fat, vegetarian diet of cereal with unsweetened almond milk, stir fry vegetables, vegetable and tofu wraps, vegetable frittatas, veggie burgers, homemade energy gels made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, and peanut butter, and homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, peanut butter, and almond milk.

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The perfect motivator … 🤔

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If you are like me, you sometimes need motivation. Motivation to get outside on your bike. Motivation to work hard, harder than you usually do. Motivation to push a little harder, beyond where it is comfortable, where it hurts. It hurts your legs, when they feel they can’t continue. It hurts your lungs, when they are gasping for breath. And, it hurts your heart, when it is working as hard as it can to pump oxygen enriched blood to your needy muscles. This is the kind of motivation I’m talking about.

Group rides can get you to this level of exertion. Sometimes. It depends on how well matched you are with the other members of the group in terms of fitness, and motivation. For me, this seldom works. There are always stronger, and weaker cyclists in the group. If it is a no-drop group, you will always slow down for the slower riders. If it is a drop group, when you are left behind if you can’t keep up, you are left on your own, or with slower cyclists. The value of group rides for me is the social aspect. It is fun to ride with other like-minded cyclists. It’s not the place to test your metal.

Younger cyclists, particularly women, that pass me on the road are also a motivation. I don’t intend to sound sexist, but I hate being dropped. I work to catch up and stay on their wheel, if I can. But again, they made be too strong, or too weak, to give me the motivation I’m talking about.

Today, I discovered the perfect motivator.

Today was supposed to be a relaxed, Zone 1 ride. I had already put in over 200 training kms this week, and simply wanted to spin lightly to work out some leg muscle soreness. The first 25 kms were just that. I battled a 20 km headwind going out but I simply geared down, maintaining a high cadence. I decided mid-ride to stop for a coffee and sit in the sun. As I was finishing up, I noticed the sky to my right, the direction I was heading, was blue with numerous billowy white clouds. Perfect I thought. However, the sky to my left grew increasingly dark grey, even black. A severe thunderstorm was heading my way, and quickly. That’s what can happen in these parts.

I gulped down the remainder of my coffee, hopped on my bike, thinking I could out run this imminent storm. I was 25 km from the cottage, on quiet, smooth roads. Once I got onto the road, I realized the storm was gaining on me. I felt the wind strengthen, and a few drops of rain. I got onto the drops and large chainring, put my head down, and hammered as quickly as I could hitting speeds of 45-50 kph for 10 km before turning south. As I rounded the corner, the wind picked up, and it began to rain heavily. I dug in, lowered myself on the bars, and pushed harder. But the harder I worked, the worse the condition became. I was battling a 50 kph sidewind, and then hail. Large pieces of ice were pelting my face and bare arms.

I could barely see, but continued. There was no point stopping. I was already soaked, and cold. And, I was frightened of possible lightening strikes. They are normal for these storms. The sooner I got back to the cottage, the sooner I could dry off, and warm up. The sooner I would be safe.

My heart rate was high. My legs burning. And, my lungs aching. I was at my limit. Beyond my lactate threshold. This was a 25 km sprint. A 25 km time trial. No stops. No stop signs. No stop lights. No traffic. Just me, my bike, and the road, in the eye of a thunderstorm.

Fear is what motivated me. Fear of the storm. Fear of possible lightening strikes. This storm taught me that I could work harder, and longer, than I thought possible.

I got home in record time. I cycled faster than I ever have for 25 km. It was a sprint on relatively level ground. No drafting. No descents. Just me motivated like never before.

This storm has changed my training goals … 😂

A 17 year project … 😎

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My mother passed away 17 years ago, and left me the family cottage. A cottage that my father built when I was a youngster. A cottage where we spent summer weekends, and holidays.

When my mother passed, I thought I would sell the place. I live on the west coast now, and seldom visit. My kids are grown, and although they love the place, it is difficult for them to spend much time here. So, several years after her passing, I arranged to meet a realtor at the cottage. When I arrived, I was horrified to discover significant water damage in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom. The rood had been leaking for who knows how long. I couldn’t sell it like that. My parents would have never forgiven me. I can hear them now.

So began a 17 year project to restore, repair, and renovate the family cottage. I would steal long weekends when working in the area, and spend a week or two whenever I could. Over the course of the past 17 years, I have put on a new roof, restored the water-soaked bedroom, replaced the bathroom floor, built new decks, installed a floating dock for swimming and moorage, reupholstered an old sectional couch and chairs that belonged to my mother, installed double-paned, picture windows, replaced the Franklin wood burning stove with a propane one that is more convenient and easier to use, and had an arborist trim the numerous pine, red maple, silver birch, oak, and cedar trees that populate the property. There is always something to do it seems.

When my mother passed, her girl friends brought a poem my mother had written in 1988 about the cottage, and placed it on the chapel stage during the service. I copied the poem and several of the pictures, had them framed, and mounted it on one of the cottage walls. In 2008, I wrote a similar poem highlighting the changes that had been made to the cottage. Again, I had the poem and several more current photographs framed, and hung it on the wall beneath my mother’s poem.

This summer, 2017, I wrote another poem called “I have seen it all”, attached several current photographs, and will have it framed and hang it on the same wall with the other poems. These poems, and I use the term loosely, have recorded the transition of the cottage, and its meaning to us, over the span of 30 years.

When my son visits, I encourage him to pen a poem about the cottage, but he refuses. He doesn’t think he can do it. Write a poem. I tell him I didn’t think it was in me either. And I’m not suggesting that I have a talent for it, but when I am here alone, the words come more easily.

He’s visiting next week. It’s time he continues the tradition.

Chatter fixed … 😤

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Yesterday I spoke about an annoying chatter when I was pedalling on the small chainring. It got progressively worse as the week progressed. Perhaps longer. I tried everything I could think of but without a bike stand, I could not get a close look.

Was the derailleur misaligned? That’s possible. The bike was packed in the travel box on the flight here. Maybe it was pushed out of position.

Was the derailleur out of adjustment? I tried as best I could to adjust the cable tumbler but it seems fine.

Was the chainring worn or damaged in transit? It’s possible but I’m careful to pack extra foam around them, and the crankset is only 2 years old.

Is the chain itself worn? Again, it was new last fall, and has relatively few miles with over 50% showing on the chain wear gauge. And, it only happens on the small chainring. If it was the chain, the chatter would be heard on both of the rings.

Is the cassette worn? That doesn’t make sense. There is no chatter when pedalling on the large chainring. Besides, it was new last fall as well.

What’s left? Oh yeah. Is the chain rubbing on the front derailleur? The chatter seems to be at the front, not the rear of the drive train, although it’s difficult to tell while cycling.

Well, I could’t stand it any longer. Either I take it into a shop where there is a proper stand, or fashion a makeshift stand at home. I don’t like anyone else touching my bikes, particularly this one. So, I fashioned a bike stand.

That’s all it took. Get the rear wheel off the ground so I could turn the pedals easily, and get my ear close. It wasn’t the chainring. I wasn’t the chain. It wasn’t either derailleur. It wasn’t the cassette.

It was the end front derailleur cable. The excess portion beyond where it is secured to the derailleur.

It had been bent downward, probably in transit, and it rubbed against the right crank when positioned on the small ring. The lever moves out towards the chainrings when it is positioned on the smaller ring, so that on every revolution it hit the right crank. At first, it was only in some gear positions, but in the end, it rubbed all of the time when I was on the small ring.

How embarrassing.

It was easy to fix. No tools were required.

I just had to bend the end of the cable back.

Glad I didn’t take it to the shop 😂 I would never live it down.

LARGE or small chainring … 🤔

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I have been pedalling on the small chainring. I idea is to pedal faster with less effort, with an average cadence between 90-100 rpm.

This past week, maybe longer, I have noticed an annoying chatter when I’m pedalling in some gears. So annoying that I would change into a larger or smaller one just to quiet it down. It kept getting worse despite my attempts to adjust the cable tensions, or the position of the front changer.

Today I had had enough. I rode on the large chainring. There is no chatter there.

I was once told that pedalling on the large ring develops strength. I was climbing up one of the local mountains, when I came along side a young rider turning a big gear. He said he did this climb once every week or two pedalling in the largest gear he could. It developed power he said.

Well today was supposed to be a slow day. A recovery day. A Zone 1 day. I did 48 km on the large chainring averaging 25 kph but with a slower cadence. Eighty-one. So, I was turning a larger gear but spinning about 10 rpm slower on average. Did I feel more tired? No. It was all in Zone 1, at a lower heart rate. Did I travel faster faster? No. The same as I do in a lower gear but at a faster cadence. Did I develop more power by doing this? I don’t know. But it certainly felt comfortable, and easy. Maybe I am getting stronger.

I’ll stay on the large chainring until I can figure out the cause of the chatter. At first, I thought it was the BB but I have now isolated the problem to the small chainring. Maybe it is loose.

Compact or Race … 🤔

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Several years ago, I holidayed on Maui with my kids. I call them kids, but they are really young adults. We all cycle, and wanted to do the West Maui Loop together – an epic, breathtaking, 100 km ride around the base of the smaller volcano. They are good enough to still want to cycle with me.

We didn’t take our bikes on this trip. We were only there for 10 days, and there were many other things we wanted to see, and do. So, we visited one of the local bike shops looking to rent road bikes. They had them. Carbon bikes all equipped with Ultegra compact cranksets (50-34). I was worried about the ride, and had been advised there were several short, but difficult climbs. I asked if they had a triple for rent. The owner smirked at me and said, “We find the compact is all most people usually need here.”.

A few days later, we returned with our pedals and shoes, rented the road bikes equipped with the compact cranksets, and off we went. This was my first experience with this setup. I had always ridden with race cranksets (54-39), even on the west coast. I thought that’s what good cyclists did. Push big gears. Thought that was how you got stronger, and faster. And when I had difficulty climbing, I just needed to train harder.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the West Maui Loop. The climbs weren’t as difficult as I imagined. The compact setup was more than adequate. I never felt like I needed a lower, or higher gear. I pedalled more easily, and for longer periods without tiring.

I’m not going to debate the relative benefits of the compact or race cranksets. Plenty has been written about them already. I will tell you that after I returned home, I installed compact setups on both of my road bikes. I climb more easily. I maintain a higher cadence with less effort. Travel as fast, if not faster than before. And, I ride longer without tiring. I completed a 40 km ride yesterday averaging 25-30 kph with little effort, all in Zone 1 (if you are familiar with heart rate training). The only time I may feel I need a higher gear is on long descents, and in those instances, I remind myself that 60 kph is fast enough.

It is the perfect setup for me. I live in a hilly, mountainous region. And, I like to ride most every day.

I’m just say’n 😉