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 … 😂

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Well, I finished the 2017 Pacific Populaire👏👏👏

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Well, I finished safely 👏👏👏 This was the first group event I have completed since crashing last fall.

And, I posted the fastest time ever, despite batting a 15-20 kph headwind 50% of the time 👏👏👏

I have completed the Pacific Populaire 4 times now, and proudly display my event pins in my den. The Pacific Populaire is the first local century ride of the season, and I look forward to it each year because it keeps me motivated during the coldest, wettest months of the year in these parts. It is the same route each year, so riders learn where to safely attack, and where its better to hold back. The route is 100 km long with 17 km of climbing with grades averaging  3%, up to a maximum of 9%.

For most of the route, I rode with two other cyclists, each of us taking turns pulling, and averaging 25 kph for the entire course. It seemed faster than that. We were often travelling 30-40 kph, but had to battle a strong headwind half of the time, and because we cycle through the city, we must obey all traffic lights. You wouldn’t believe how much they can slow you down. There are ~ 25 km of the course where we were affected. We seemed to catch all the red lights 😠 So, a 25 kph average is not bad considering.

However, I feel I could have gone harder, and faster. I averaged ~ 80% of my maximum heart rate over the 4 hours, and yet had “gas left in the tank” at the end. I could have worked harder. Also, my cycling comrades pushed a more relaxed pace for 20 km, and then took a shortcut back to the finish with 20 km remaining. They tired.

In general, I was pleased with my result. I prepared differently this season, and it payed off. I felt strong, and confident on the bike, despite not having many hours in the saddle beforehand.

This is what I did differently.

  1. For 3 months, I trained 6 days a week including a modified cardio program, strength training, particularly for the cycling muscles, the legs and core.
  2. Most of the cardio workouts were completed on a Keiser spinning bike. It was too cold, icy, and wet from January – March to train regularly outside on the road bikes.
  3. I used the built in power meter on the Keiser to regulate the workouts instead of my heart rate monitor. It is a more accurate measure of effort.
  4. The cardio workouts were varied, including endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and recovery rides lasting 45-60 minutes.
  5. I had specific FPT and strength goals, and retested at the beginning of each month so that I could revise my training zones (both heart rate and watts) accordingly, gradually increasing my training load.
  6. Leg workouts included leg press, hamstring curls, and leg extension exercises twice weekly. And, I lifted differently than I have in the past, lifting one-legged, and until failure, for 6-8 sets. I have lifted “heavy” for several years but this time I made an effort to balance my leg strength by doing each of the exercised one leg at a time.
  7. Core workouts included crunches, planks, pallof presses, core twists using the cable machine, and leg raises three times a week. Again, I workout “heavy”, and the pallof press was new to me.
  8. Using the Garmin activity tracker, I tracked and recorded my resting heart rate, and sleep quality every day. I had never done this consistently before and was surprised to learn that my RHR on average is in the mid forties, and that I average 9+ hours of sleep a night, including ~ 5 hours of “deep” sleep.
  9. I maintained a detailed daily log tracking every workout. I did this so that I have a guide for the next 3 months, and for next year when I plan to start the process over again.
  10. I tapered for 3 weeks prior to the event, maintaining training intensity while reducing the duration of the workouts – 30% the first week, 20% the following week, and an additional 10% the final week. I had never tapered “gradually” before, and never for 3 weeks. It worked. I felt refreshed, and eager to race by the end of it.
  11. I only managed to complete 5 road rides before the event because of the weather, gradually increasing the distance over a 2 week period, never riding more than 65 km. This was a concern but I learned you can train effectively inside.
  12. I stretched regularly, particularly on rest days. I seldom does this in the warmer months when I’m on the bikes more. I need to change this up. Stretching aids with recovery, particularly when training hard.
  13. I rested 1 day each week, and 2 days at the end of each month. This was difficult. I’m not accustomed to rest days.
  14. I paid better attention to my diet and nutrition, adding more protein, and making certain I ate within 60 minutes of every workout.

This schedule and training technique seemed to agree with me. I improved my strength, VO2 max, flexibility, and endurance.

So, what is next … 🤔

Well, I have things to work on.

For starters, I didn’t lose as much weight as I hoped. A reduction of 5-10 pounds will improve both my speed and climbing ability. Once I am at the cottage, cycling longer distances, and eating my own cooking for a few months, I will shed 10 pounds quickly.

Also, I need to cycle on the roads more frequently. Now that the weather is improving, I can switch from the spinning bike to the road bikes. I plan to ride 250-300 km every week while I’m at the cottage.

And, I had better hydrate better. I left with two full bottles, one with electrolytes, and the other plain water. I returned 4 hours later with only half a bottle gone.  I didn’t seem thirsty at the time but quickly downed 2 beer when I settled in to watch the back nine finish at the Masters. I need to do a better job of this.

Oh yeah. I need to cycle with a team of 3-4 other cyclists prepared to work as hard, and long as me. I’m going to call it Team PedalWORKS 😂

Interested … 🤔

I have registered for another century ride (MEC (Toronto) – Horseshoe Valley Century Ride) on July 15 while I’m at the cottage. That gives me another 3 months to lose the weight, accumulate more road miles, and learn to hydrate better.

I’m also going to experiment with a more polarized training schedule, but let’s leave that for a subsequent post.

Are you planning to complete a century ride soon?