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 … 🤔

North westerlies … 😣

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Yesterday was a rest day.

Today I was fresh, and fully recovered.

I did my regular mid-week eastern ride to the lake and back. It’s only 35 km, and relatively flat although there is a 1/2 km climb mid-ride that averages about 5%. But, and this is a big but, there was wind. The normal wind for these parts. A north westerly. Which means it was helping on the way out, and hurting on the way back.

I started slowly, spinning easily for the first 8-10 km, and then picked up the pace averaging 25-35 kph depending the grade and wind. After the mid-ride climb, I felt strong. So strong that I hammered the whole way home into the hurting 20 kph headwind, averaging a 90-100 cadence.

When I unsaddled and sat down for a post-ride drink, I was surprised to see that I had spent over 30% of my ride above Zone 1. Who said I need hills to train effectively. I just need to work harder.

It’s funny. I got into this mind set that because it is relatively flat in these parts, It is easy cycling. It can be for sure. But if I challenge the wind, and hills, like I did today, and push hard, I can get into and maintain an effective training zone without long, steep hills.

Intellectually, I knew this. It’s just that where I live, there are no flat rides. There are always hills not matter which direction I head. It’s just that some are longer and steeper than others. I know it takes considerable effort to average 40 kph on the flats into a hurting wind. Even without the wind, it is hard work. That’s all I have to do while at Camp PedalWORKS.

So, as a result of today’s ride, I have modified my training schedule. One day a week, I am going to do this eastern ride all out, regardless of the wind. Warmup on the way out, and flat out  all the way back.

Sounds like a plan.

As the sun sets on another week … 🤔

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As the sun sets on another week, I have things to celebrate, this the second week at Camp PedalWORKS.

I purchased a vacuum to clean the pine floors at the cottage. The floors had never seen a vacuum before. They were accustomed to frequent sweeping and Murphy Oil baths. I was amazed, really amazed, at how much dirt and dust was captured by the upright. For years, dirt had accumulated unnoticed between the cracks in the boards. It took a week of daily vacuuming to remove it all.

I also cleaned the oven for the first time in at least 25 years. I am a vegetarian, stove top cooker, and never really wandered into the oven. Now that it sparkles, I’m tempted to start baking again. And here I thought I needed to replace the stove.

More importantly, well maybe more importantly, I began cycling regularly. Apart from 2 days of rain, I have been cycling every day. It was my goal to average 200-250 km a week by the end of June. Last week I cycled 241 km, and I’m certain as the warmer, drier weather takes hold, I will be cycling much farther. So, from that standpoint, I am ahead of schedule.

I have started a polarized training schedule, meaning that I spend 80% of my cycling time in heart rate Zone 1 and 20% in Zone 4. Well, I did spend 81% in Zone 1 but 0% in Zone 4. Zero! That’s because there are no hills in this area. None. Well, there is a .5 km hill nearby with a 5% grade but it doesn’t really tax me or get my heart rate up even when I push. I need longer hills. Once a week, beginning next week, I’m going to head over to the the Niagara Escarpment where there are 5-6 km climbs where I can do meaningful hill repeats, the holy grail of the road cyclist.

I also spent the week on the small chainring. The goal is to maintain a 90-100 rpm cadence. Well, I almost did. I averaged 86 rpm over the 241 km. I’m happy with this. On these cold, wet mornings, it takes me 5-10 km to warm up. Once I am, I found I could easily maintain 90-100 rpm except when heading into a strong hurting wind.

One last thing, one other goal I have while at Camp PedalWORKS is to lose 7-8 pounds to get back to my optimum cycling weight. In the last 2 weeks, I have lost ~ 4 pounds largely because of a simpler, more natural diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. If this continues, I will be at my optimum weight in 2-3 weeks.

Reasons to celebrate with a 🍺 tonight.

I have made a few changes …

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I have made a few changes recently.

I have stopped drinking coffee. I am tired of frequent “nature breaks” interrupting my morning rides. I switched to a polarized training schedule. I needed a change as I transition outside on the road bikes. I switched to body-weight strengthening exercises. I won’t have a fully  equipped gym available while at the cottage for the next 2 months. I grew a beard! I wanted a different look. Something more mature, and sophisticated 😂 And, I was so tired of shaving most days.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I purchased an electronic book to read.

I was largely impressed with the ebook reading experience using the iBooks app. The books are displayed in full color, and the page turns are lifelike and smooth with the swipe of a finger. Books can be read in landscape mode. A link at the top takes you to the table of contents, and you can adjust the brightness or text size as well. – LifeWire

I’m late to this party.

Others have been reading electronic books for years. I resisted because I like the feel, and look of hard cover books. I like the look of them on my bookshelves. It’s a tactile thing.

Well, all that changed this week. I have a new friend at the club. I can call her that. I think. We don’t know each other well, but always speak to one another at the gym. After several months of sharing pleasantries, I learned she is an English Professor at one of the local universities.

She looks too young to be a professor but that is another story.

When I learned the focus of her PhD dissertation was autobiographies, and in particular, the impact social media has on personal narratives, I was intrigued. You see, for the past decade, I have studied the various social media platforms from a different perspective. A business one. I thought to myself what better way to come up with an informed, impartial summer reading list than to ask an English Professor with similar sensibilities.

Several weeks ago, I explained to her that I was spending 2 months alone at the cottage without TV or the internet, and asked if she could recommend a few books to read. I read a lot when I’m there but have difficulty selecting good books. I select books like I pick wine. By their cover. Not such a good idea.

To my surprise, my new friend approached me while I was on the spinning bike yesterday holding a type written list of 7 books. Several she “loved” reading. One that she teaches in her classes. And, 2 she thought I would like. One about an adventurous cyclist, and the other a murder mystery set in Ontario cottage country. How appropriate. When I got home, I Googled reviews of the books, decided I want to read them all, and immediately headed to the local bookstore.

One of the books was in stock. All of the others have to be special ordered. I don’t have time for that. I leave in a week. And, they were expensive. Several $35-40. I didn’t want to spend that much. So, I looked on-line for electronic versions. They were all available. Immediately. And, for a fraction of the cost.

I purchased and downloaded one of the books, and spent last evening reading it with the iBooks app available on my MacPro. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the experience. I could change the contrast, background colour and text size, making the pages easy to read. Easier, in fact, than a hardcover book.

Since I always travel with my MacPro and iPhone, it makes sense. I have all I need – photos, internet, blog, books – in one place. I now do all of the things on-line that I said I would never do. Banking. Shopping. Photography (Who would want a camera in their phone, I once thought). And now, reading.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks 😂

Who knows. I may even try a recreational ride soon 🤔

I don’t do recreational … 🤔

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I don’t do recreational.

I no longer do leisurely, recreational rides with friends, and family. Not ever. I used to. However, these days, every ride is a training ride. I like cycling fast. And, I like to climb. Not everyone does. I ride to get stronger, and faster. I’m not riding to relax.

Today, while taping updated heart rate training zones to the stem of my road bike, I realized I no longer do recreational rides. How could I with those zones staring me in the face every pedal stroke. The VDO M6 cycling computer tracks the time spent in each of 4 user-defined training zones. Coaches use a different number of zones ranging from 4-7. I tailor the M6’s zones based on the 6 zones reported by the WattBike power calculator.

Now that I have switched to a more polarized regimen, I focus on zones 1, 3, and 4. Zone 2 is the “garbage” zone where I do not want to spend much time. These workouts are not hard enough to have any training effect, and yet stress the body enough to require additional recovery time. Whereas Zone 1 workouts are easier, also have little training effect, but stress the system less, and aid recovery, particularly for the older athlete. For the next 2 months, I plan to spend 80-85% of my time in Zone 1, and 15-20% in Zones 3 & 4,  where the greatest training effect takes place.

Polarized.

One end of the scale to the other, with no time spent in between,

This is how endurance athletes train.

What does this training look like? Well,  I’ll complete 1-2 hard rides per week at my lactate threshold level, or higher. Or, in practical terms, hill repeats. I find a 3+ km hill with a 5% (or steeper) gradient, and race up it 4-6 times. 7-8 minutes up. 2-3 minutes down. Times 4.

Hill repeats are not fun. If done correctly, they hurt. But there is no better way to improve power, and stamina on the bike. This is the reason I need training zones taped to my stem. I need to see that I’m pedalling easily enough to stay in Zone 1 for extended periods. And, I need to see that I am working hard enough on the hills to get into, and stay, in Zones 3, and 4.

Like any lactate threshold workout the key to Climbing Repeats is accumulating time at intensity. If you have 3×8 minute Climbing Repeats you’re accumulating 24 minutes at CR intensity. You could also achieve those 24 minutes by doing 4x6minute intervals or 2x12minute intervals. Generally, less experienced and less fit athletes should start with more, shorter intervals (4x6minutes) so that each interval can be completed at higher quality. As you get stronger – and as the training plans progress – the individual intervals typically get longer even if the total time at intensity stays the same. Recovery between intervals is typically half the time of the interval, or 3 minutes between 6-minute efforts, and 6 minutes between 12-minute efforts.

“Why can’t you make your Zone 1 rides recreational rides with friends and family?”, you ask.

Well, I suppose I could. The problem is I use them to build a solid base, gradually increasing ride times up to 3-4 hours, working on maintaining a high cadence, keeping properly fuelled, and hydrated. This is not recreational for most.

So, I don’t do recreational.

I ride solo mostly, particularly for those Zone 1 workouts. Other cyclists I know, don’t like the easier pace. They think there is no training effect, but are they doing regular hill repeats as well … 🤔 No. They don’t like the hills either.

So, what do you think?

Are they improving their conditioning? Are they making the most effective use of their rides?

Is this how you train … 🤔

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“.