One last thought about STRAVA … 🤦🏻

I have one more thought about STRAVA.

When I first began using the app, I didn’t think of it as a journal or training log. For years I kept a spreadsheet detailing every workout, and training goals. At some point along my STRAVA journey, I realized there was no need. STRAVA actually keeps a more detailed record of every workout, helps me set goals, and monitors my progress. I use it to record strength workouts, walks & hikes, indoor smart trainer sessions, in addition to outdoor rides. Everything all in one place.

When I first began using STRAVA, I underestimated its usefulness. Now, years later 😂, I understand it’s value and potential for athletes of all levels.

Give it a try, if you haven’t already ✌️

This is what I mean about STRAVA … 🤣

Yesterday I mentioned how the social aspect of STRAVA has opened doors for me.

I outlined how I strategically follow men and woman of all ages that live in my neighbourhood (loosely speaking), and cycle regularly (3,500+ km year-to-date) – road cyclists like me that love to train, and race (sometimes).

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I headed out in the morning to ride a familiar route with a few climbs, and a long gradual descent. 35-40 km in total. I was stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, a young woman passed me in the intersection. She was keeping a good pace, and I could see she was experienced. She had a smooths, efficient pedalling stroke, and used hand signals regularly. I could tell she was an experienced road cyclist accustomed to riding in groups. I got on her wheel 😃

We kept a good pace for the first 10 km, averaging 25-30 kph to the base of the first long climb. I’m a good climber and thought I would pull alongside her to chat a little. Well, she put me in my place. She dropped me almost immediately. She was strong. She powered up the hill, and I never saw her again ☹️

Later, while going through my STRAVA feed, I realized we followed one another. I messaged her and we had an interesting exchange. We may never share a ride – I fear she is much stronger than me – but I hope to have more cycling discussions with her. I have a lot to learn from her.

This is the strength of STRAVA.

Thoughts on STRAVA … 🚴🏻

Unexpectedly, STRAVA has opened new doors for me.

I never appreciated the social features of STRAVA as much as I have since the start of the COVID lockdowns.

I have a new set of cycling mates 😂 I actively follow local cyclists that get out regularly to learn new routes, and share “kudos” and messages of encouragement. Since all of the cycling events have been cancelled, and group rides discouraged, I look forward to sharing rides with my new friends.

I follow men and women of all ages that live in the area, that have cycled 3,000+ km to-date this year. I’m surprised how many serious cyclists live nearby. And, I’m surprised how strong, and fast some of them are. Stronger, and faster than me ☹️ Some are a real inspiration. One woman gets out EVERY morning at dawn for a walk and coffee posting beautiful pictures of the sun rise. Another young woman, who just returned from Europe after completing her PhD, completes all of the local routes in record times. One fellow, a local cycling coach, climbs all of the local mountain regularly.

My new mates are an inspiration. They get out regularly, and encourage me to do the same. I actually feel I’m letting them down if I don’t ride 🤷‍♂️ And, they don’t just post rides. They also record swims, walks, SWIFT sessions, and Peleton workouts.

I walk a lot these days, taking every opportunity to get outside, and have begun to record these as well. A walk is a workout, right?

If you aren’t already using STRAVA’s social aspect, I encourage you to check it out.

“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?

Nothing.

Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

Camp PedalWORKS – a recap … 🤔

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I said previously, I am a slave to numbers. Here are some of the stats I have accumulated while at Camp PedalWORKS. The RED highlights indicate new lows. My goals for the past 2 1/2 months while at the cottage were:

  1. Cycle more frequently getting my weekly average up to 250 km;
  2. Get down to 160 pounds, an optimal cycling weight for me;
  3. Adopt a “polarized” training schedule, spending ~ 80% of the time in Zone 1, and ~ 20% in Zones 3&4; and,
  4. Complete the Horseshoe Valley Century ride in reasonable time.

Well, I accomplished all 4 of these items, and in so doing, also increased my daily average speeds, and morning resting heart rate. I’m leaner and fitter. And, I feel more confident on the bike, frequently positioned on the drops, even while climbing, and effortlessly switching between chainrings maintaining consistent power to the pedals. I even got in several fast-paced groups rides, working on my pace-line and drafting skills.

Average speed doesn’t mean much. On every ride the conditions are different. Hills. Flat terrain. Headwinds. Helping winds. But I noticed my average speeds were increasing to ~ 25 kph. That’s an average. Often I was doing 25-35 kph. Sometimes faster, particularly on descents.

I have 6 weeks to prepare for the Whistler GranFondo, a 122 ride with 1,900 meters of climbing. This week I am heading to the West Coast to cycle the mountains in preparation.

So, what have I learned from these past 10 weeks at the cottage, at Camp PedalWORKS?

  1. I have been without TV and regular internet all of this time. And do you know what? I don’t miss them at all. I’m behind with the news, but does it matter? I have missed a few yearly sporting events like Wimbledon, the Tour de France, and the Open, but does it matter? Not really. I get the headlines on the radio news, if I choose. What did I get in return? I read a lot. I have finished 10 books so far – biographies, mysteries, and historical novels. I trained a lot. More than I would otherwise. And, I had time to prepare better, simpler foods, and as a consequence, lost 10 pounds.
  2. I have not ridden in traffic. No stop lights. No stop signs. Just quiet, scenic, rural roads connecting the farms and nearby lakes. It was continuous cycling out the back door. I had 3 routes. West to the big lake. East to the small lake. And, north to another small lake. Each route is a 35-50 km loop. And, on the weekends, I might connect the loops together for a longer ride. Cycling in the city can’t compare. Although we have well developed dedicated cycle paths, traffic calm streets, separate bike lanes, some with dividers, it is not the same. It’s not continuous cycling. It’s not as safe. And, it’s not as enjoyable.
  3. I learned I don’t have to always work hard. Rest is good. You need to recover. Particularly when you get to be my age. I gradually increased my training load by riding longer distances, and increasing the intensity (i.e. hill repeats, sprints) but made certain to take rest days, and alternate hard and easy rides.
  4. I learned I was not the best house keeper. I vacuumed the pine floors for the first time in 50 years, and was devastated by the amount of dirt and dust dislodged from between the boards. I cleaned the oven for the first time in 25 years. I am (was) a stove top chef. Now I bake and roast! And, I cleaned the eaves for the first time in at least 25 years, maybe longer. They had things growing in them. The cottage has never looked, or felt, so good.
  5. And, I learned that time alone is cleansing, empowering, and cathartic. I need it more often than I am accustomed. Or, maybe it’s the company I keep. Anyway, it’s always an adjustment at first, but once settled in, everything opens up. I have more energy. I sleep better. The creative juices flow. I write. Poems even. I cook, and enjoy it immensely. I am more sensitive to the the world around me, particularly the wildlife. The osprey, loons, herons, blue jays, chickadees, wood peckers, robins, geese, ducks, beaver, pike, bass, and deer. And, time flies. I’m never bored, and there never seems to be enough time in the day.

So, Camp PedalWORKS has been good. The cottage and I are better for it. Cleaner. Fitter. Slimmer. Faster. Stronger. More confident. And, more relaxed.

I return to the city in a few days. Back to city traffic. Congestion. TV. The internet. And, people. I’m not used to having people around. Not used to making idle conversation. Any conversation. Back to hills. And mountains. The cycling will be different. Harder. More climbing. And the weather will be different too. No humidity. But warm.

I return with mixed emotions. It will be as big an adjustment as coming here.

Polarized training … 🤔

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I have been pleased with my indoor training regimen this winter. I got stronger, more flexible, and improved my VO2 Max. But training in the gym is not the same as cycling outside. Now that Spring has finally arrived, and the weather is improving, I’m switching things up. I’m going to get outside whenever possible, switch to a Polarized Training programme, and body-weight strengthening exercises so that I can train anywhere, even when a gym is not available.

Like at the cottage 😂

What is Polarized Training?

Training at an easy pace for 80% of the sessions, and essentially flat out for 20% of them is known as polarized training. It is how elite athletes train.

I’m not new to this technique. Just never knew it had a name. The key is to go slow most of the time, but work hard 1-2 times each week.

What is slow, and what is hard? 🤔

I don’t have a power meter on my bikes but I do wear a heart rate monitor integrated with my cycling computer, the VDO M6 pictured above. This particular display (there are several) highlights the percentage of ride time spent in each of 4 pre-defined heart rate zones, expressed as a % of MHR. The default zones, and the ones I use, are:

  • Zone 1 – 60-70%
  • Zone 2 – 70-80%
  • Zone 3 – 80-90%
  • Zone 4 – 90-100%

For the ride pictured above, I spent 12% in Zone 1, 59% in Zone 2, 34% in Zone 3, and 1% in Zone 4. This was a relatively hard 4 hour ride. With Polarized Training, I want to see weekly averages that look like this:

  • Zone 1 – 80%
  • Zone 2 – ∅
  • Zone 3 – 10%
  • Zone 4 – 10%

Once or twice a week, I will find a hill and do high-effort repeated climbs getting my heart rate up to 80-100% of my MHR.

Without the hard days you will only make minor gains, if any.
4 x 8 minute intervals ridden at 90% of VO2 max appear to generate the most gains. These hard days need to be done once or twice per week.

For me, that would be 4 climbs up a 3 km climb with an average grade of 5-6%.

The other days of the week, I will ride in Zone 1. That is easier said than done. That’s slower than I normally ride, and is best done alone. It means not challenging the hills, and staying off the wheel ahead.

I’ll try this for a month.

Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists.

The key benefit of this training method is that despite putting in a lot of time and accumulating high mileage, there is sufficient time to recover.

It is not possible to do all of this training at a high pace.
The majority of the time, around 75-85%, is spent in zone 1. The remainder of the time is in the other zones, with emphasis on high intensity. It appears that this low intensity training provides many of the adaptions required for endurance performance without over stressing the athlete.

If you are not convinced, I suggest you read Pieter Van Pietersen’s article entitled “Polarized training for cyclists“.

The New Road

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The new road is really not new at all. It’s old. Full of pot holes and cracks like an old, weathered face, the result of many long, cold winters. But part of it has been resurfaced. A facelift.

The new road heads east to a large lake best known for fishing – muskellunge, pike, bass, and perch. And it heads to the only real hill in the immediate area. A short hill – 500-750 meters at most. And relatively steep. Maybe a 10% grade. It’s perfect for fast, repeat climbs.

I head out to the new road during the week. It is remote, rural and has no traffic. I may pass a local farmer in his truck or tractor. Otherwise, it’s just me except for grazing cattle. The road cuts across part of the lake leading to the hill, providing scenic views along the way. This morning I headed to the new road with Chas. It was supposed to be a recovery ride following yesterday’s long, fast ride with Lou.

Chas: “You think I’m slow.”

It started slow, but I was feeling good. Full of energy. And again, there was no wind. Perhaps it was the new surface. I don’t know. It is perfectly smooth, inviting, and impossible to resist. By the time I reached the hill, I was warmed up and attacked it with all my might. By the time I reached the top, my heart was pounding in my chest and I was gasping for breath.

Chas: “You see. I’m fast. And, I can climb.”

This was not a recovery ride.

Lou: “We could have done the ride faster. Climbed that hill without getting your heart rate up so high. Chas is heavy. You have to work harder with him. Take me next time”

I don’t do recovery. I ride hard. Or rest. That’s the new road for me. I may do a longer warmup. I may work harder some days. I rest when I feel like I need it. But I don’t schedule rest days. I let my body tell me when it needs it. I may have an elevated heart rate in the morning. I may simply not feel like cycling. That’s when I rest. That may be once a week. Maybe every two. Sometimes longer.

Chas: “That’s why you have Lou and I. You ride differently with each of us. You go faster with Lou (or at least you think you do), and you ride longer distances with me. I’m more comfortable. Like a comfy chair. Lou is your middle age sports car, and I’m your best friend that doesn’t care if we ride slow or fast.”

Lou: “I like that. A Porsche. No. A Lamborghini. That’s me.”

I vary my rides. Vary the terrain. Cycle in all weather conditions. Hot. Cold. Wet. Wind. It doesn’t matter. Riding every day keeps it interesting. Challenging.

There’s no time for recovery. That’s what sleep and proper nutrition are for. I’ve learned in recent years how important they are, and that if managed carefully they dramatically reduce recovery time enabling athletes to trainer harder, and more frequently.

I’m no athlete but I would rather cycle than not. You see, I am like the new road. Parts of me are old, and can’t be refitted. And parts have been resurfaced. My technique has improved – in the wind, climbing, descending, shifting, and on the drops – and I pay more attention to nutrition. I eat to recover and fuel my rides.

Chas: “I’m like the new road too. My body is old but I have new parts. I’ve been resurfaced.”

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