Packed … 😞

Well, I’m packed.

It’s a bitter sweet moment. I’m sad to leave, yet pleased to go home.

I have been at the cottage for 2 1/2 months, mostly on my own, without TV or internet. Few would think this would be much of a holiday. No amenities. A lot of cycling. 200-250 km a week. A lot of reading. 10 eBooks – biographies, historical and mystery novels. And, simple, wholesome meals.

Time alone helps me focus. I train better. I’m more sensitive to what needs the most attention. Cycling is different in these parts. The terrain is flatter but there is a relentless north-westerly wind almost every day. I ride on the drops mostly, and stay on the small ring when fighting a headwind. I eat better. I prepare simple vegetarian meals – vegetable wraps, frittatas, salads, sandwiches. No desserts. No sweets. And, I sleep better. To bed at dusk and at sunrise. This is the recipe for successful training, and why I have begun to refer to the cottage as Camp PedalWORKS.

On the side of my bike travel case, I have an oval sticker of a cyclist heading down a windy road. What do you think? Would this make a good tattoo? And, if so, where would you put it? On the forearm where it can be readily seen and enjoyed? On the back of the calve so those in hot pursuit know you will not be easily passed?

What are your thoughts?

I’m serious about this. I figure it’s about time. While I was packing my bike this afternoon I began looking more carefully at this sticker, and thought, it is me. It is how I enjoy cycling most. Alone on quiet, rural roads. It would make the perfect tattoo for a cycling enthusiast like me.

How appropriate! The perfect tattoo 😏

 

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.

Camp PedalWORKS … 🤔

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When I was a young boy, before mom and dad purchased their own place, we spent numerous summer weekends at my uncles cottage on Balsam Lake. I swam, fished, fetched water at the community water pump, and walked the forested lakeside roads careful to avoid any poison ivy. I had fun but was always alone. I have no siblings, and there were no other children my age staying at the nearby cottages. I often sat on the dock peering at the children’s camp across the lake, watching them play, swim, learn to canoe and sail, and sing songs every night in front of a large bonfire. I always wanted to go to camp, but never did.

I still spend a lot of time alone. As an only child you quickly learn to amuse yourself. I never get bored, or have enough time in the day to do all I want. I spend a lot of time at the cottage alone. I prefer it. There is always something to do. Swim. Kayak. Fish. Read. And cycle of course. I love the quiet, scenic, rural roads.

I think of my time at the cottage as a training camp. When I am here, I am usually training for an upcoming cycling event. And, because I have no distractions, I can focus on training. I cycle a lot. Eat better. Simple, wholesome meals. Eat less, usually losing 10 pounds when I am here. And, I sleep better. All of the activity, and the fresh air tires me out, making me rise and fall with the sun.

I have been doing this for a decade now, so often in fact, that I have begun to call the place Camp PedalWORKS. I am going to have a sign made, mount it on an old painted bicycle, and place it at the entrance by the road. That way people can find me more easily. Next season I’m going to organize weekly rides for other road cyclists in the area interested in training for one of the local century rides.

We will begin and end every ride at Camp PedalWORKS followed with a cold beer and swim 😂

Do you want to sign up?

Remember me … 🤔

Remember me?

I have been remiss. For the past few weeks I have had family visiting at the cottage, and little time to post. They left at the beginning of the week, so I’m back 😂

A lot has happened in the past 3 weeks. We caught a lot of fish. Northern Pike and Smallmouth bass mostly. We paddled and explored the water in the canoe and kayak. We enjoyed shoreline fires in the evening watching the sunset glisten off the water. I read several murder mysteries. The perfect cottage read. And, we swam continually. Summer finally arrived in these parts.

I cycled most days, 35-75 kilometres, visited the gym at least once a week to do squats, and lunges, in preparation for the Horseshoe Valley Century ride. I completed the century ride last weekend, and was pleased with my result, but was surprised with all of the climbing, 1,200 metres of it throughout the entire course. I finished in 4 hours, averaging just under 25 kph, and felt good afterward. My goal this summer was to complete the century in good time (I was happy with it), and get down to 160 pounds. I tipped 161 on the scales today, so not far off, with a week left. My optimum cycling weight is 155-160 pounds. All of this is in preparation for the Whistler GranFondo in September. It is a 122 km course with 1,900 metres of climbing. Longer, and more climbing.

And, I buzzed my beard off, the day after saying how much I liked it. I was by myself, got the buzzer out, and decided I needed a change. I liked it but have to admit it was a food magnet. I no longer have any grey 😂 and am told I look younger. That’s a good thing. Right? I thought I might lose all my strength, but completed this morning’s ride in record time with less effort. Maybe the beard was slowing me down.

I track a lot of numbers. I’m a slave to them. But they keep my training focused. Among other things, I record my resting heart rate (RHR) first thing every morning. I use it to determine if I am adequately recovered for another workout. 2 months ago when I first arrived at the cottage to train (Camp PedalWORKS), I was pleased if I recorded a RHR in the mid forties. 42 was unusual. After 2 months of “polarized” training and regular gym visits, my RHR is often in the 30’s. I have seen it as low as 34 bpm. This morning it was 37. The new normal. This tells me that regular cycling, cottage life, and being alone more frequently agrees with me.

It has been a good visit this year.

 

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.

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 … 😂

That’s progress … 🤔

I have been making a lot of noise about cycling numbers these days, and admit I am a slave to them, despite my best intentions.

Nothing measured, nothing managed. Right?

If you have been following this blog, you know I installed a cadence sensor on my road bike. I had been training indoors on a Keiser spinning bike during the winter months, and became accustomed to both the power and cadence displays. There is a direct correlation. It takes more power to turn a larger gear, but you tire more quickly. On the other hand, if you spin a lower gear at a higher cadence, you generate similar power, but with less effort, and can last longer. Why? Because you are using your cardiovascular system, not your leg muscles, to do the work. If you watch the pros, they spin fast, AND in a high gear. That’s why they are pros.

My goal this season is to ride at a higher cadence. This will help with the endurance events I have planned. The ideal, apparently, is to spin at a rate of 90-100 RPM. That is my goal. Easy enough inside on a trainer. Something else again on a road bike over varied terrain, and weather conditions.

Well, today is a landmark day.

I rode ~ 35 km, averaging over 25 KPM with an average cadence of 91 RPM. Before you boohoo this, let me say it was not the easiest of routes. It was partly into a strong wind, and there was 6 km of climbing, some hills with a 6% grade. And, I did repeats on one of them. So, it wasn’t a flat ride. It isn’t the hardest, but it’s not the easiest either. I have never seen these numbers before. Anywhere. And keep in mind. There are averages. I saw 45 KPH and 106 RPM displayed more than once. I must be improving. I can average a 90-100 cadence more easily, even while climbing, and it seems, in a larger gear.

If I can do this on the harder of the 2 weekday rides I do, maybe I can average 30 kph on the easier route where the hills only average a 2-3% grade.

That’s progress … 🤔