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 😏

 

Advertisements

I’ve been at the cottage a month today. 

IMG_7401

I’ve been at the cottage a month today.

Alone without TV, or the internet.

Time has passed quickly. I’m never bored or lonely. There is always something to do. Cycle. Shop. Cook. Eat. Read. Cut the grass. Vacuum the floors. Write. Text the kids.

I have accomplished a lot. I found necessary services easily. A gym nearby that I never knew existed. A hair cutter that does a better job than the one at home. A group of like minded cyclists who do a weekly group ride. A contractor to install double-paned windows. A local shop where I could purchase a light touring kayak I have wanted for years. An arborist to trim back a 50 foot blue spruce. A contractor to install a gas fireplace. And, a seamstress to make curtains for the bedroom windows.

I’ve read 5 books. eBooks that I could find, and pay for easily. Books from a summer reading list provided by a gym colleague I respect. Books that have given me insight into South African apartheid, the Haiti earthquake, cycling around the world on a “safety”, West Coast indigenous culture, and a “who-done-it” set in northern Ontario cottage country. And, I listen to CBC Radio One throughout the day. It’s commercial-free, informative, and an entertaining glimpse into Canadian culture.

I cycle everyday. Well, everyday it doesn’t rain. There is always wind. A north westerly wind ranging from 10-30 kph. A hurting wind that tests my metal. No matter which direction I head out, I always find the wind. If not on the way out, on the way back. I ride on-the-drops most of the time. There may not be hills, but there is wind.

I eat well. Homemade energy gels for cycling made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, peanut butter, and a pinch of salt. Homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, more peanut butter, and almond milk. Frittata. Quinoa salads. Cold pasta and vegetable salads. Imaginative stir fry with rice. Wraps with tofu, rice, vegetables, and baby spinach. And, veggie burgers when I want a quick, easy meal.

This is the first year I have been here in the spring to witness the area awaken. The leaves form and blossom on the trees. The Canada Geese parading by with their young in tow. Mosquitos. Lots of them. This has been an unusually wet spring, perfect breeding ground for the little pests. Higher than usual water levels, the result of unusual rainfall. Farmers ploughing and sowing their fields. Weekenders arriving to open up their cottages, and launch their boats for the season. And birds. Geese, Osprey. Herons. Loons. Owls. Robins, And, a plethora of wetland birds I’m unable to name. All harmonizing to the tune that is spring.

I’ve frequently seen the hot, humid summer days. And, the cooler, more colourful fall ones. But I have seldom witness spring here.

It’s the change of seasons that I miss on the West Coast.

Rest days … 😠

IMG_7228

Rest Days.

They are the hardest. Harder than repeat hill climbs. Harder than all out sprints. Harder than a century ride. Resting when the weather is sunny and warm is difficult. I don’t mind taking a day off when it is raining or cold, but when the weather is nice, I’d rather be cycling.

This time of year, I have to force myself to rest. I know I must. I know that rest is as important as working out. I know that if I don’t rest, my workouts will suffer. I know that without sufficient rest, I am more prone to injury. I know that as I age, it is even more important. I know that full recovery takes longer now. As carefully as I manage my sleep and diet, I must still rest. I am careful to get 8-10 hours of sleep a night. At Camp PedalWORKS, I go to bed when the sun sets, and rise when it comes up the next morning. And, my meal plans include a 4-1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins, proportions recommended by many coaches.

So, at least once a week (sometimes more frequently), I take a day off. No cycling. No gym workouts. A day to putter, do household chores, food shop, clean and tune the bike, and these days, sit in the sun.

When I was younger, it didn’t seem to matter as much. I recovered more easily. Or, thought did. I was invincible. I also suffered a number of injuries that I still suffer from today. I wonder why 🤔

So, today is a rest day. I drove to the dump to discard some “hazardous materials”, old paint cans, and met up with a local cycling legend for coffee. Like me, he is a “senior”, and organizes weekly, Sunday morning group rides in the lake region ranging from 30-100 km. I have decided to join them for the summer while I’m at Camp PedalWORKS to help prepare for the 2017 Whistler Gran Fondo, meet other road cyclists in the area, and learn new cycling routes.

Last week, I discovered a gym that I didn’t know existed. And today, I discovered a cycling group, some of who are also training for the 2017 Whistler Gran Fondo.

It is a small world.

Hydrotherapy … 🤔

 

IMG_6889

I spent the past weekend in Whistler|Backcomb where my daughter treated me to a Scandinavian Spa experience. I was sceptical. I have a steam bath most days at the club. Why would I want one with a whole lot of other people for 3 hours?

Boy, was I wrong. I can’t wait to do it again!

Do you know what hydrotherapy is? I didn’t. I get wet a lot, but never considered it as therapy.

This is how the Scandinave Spa Whistler’s website defines hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water with contrast in temperature to revitalize, maintain and restore health. The recuperative and healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its thermal effects. Generally, heat quiets and soothes the body. Cold, in contrast, stimulates and invigorates, increasing internal activity. Alternating hot and cold water improves elimination of toxins, decreases inflammation and stimulates circulation.

For 3 hours we wandered the facility, experiencing the heated pools, saunas, cold baths, and relaxation rooms. Heat for 10-15 minutes 😀 Cold water for 10-20 seconds 😕 And, then relation rooms for 10-15 minutes 😀 We did this circuit 5 times.

Oh. I forgot. You can’t talk. There are hush signs everywhere 🤐 Three hours of heat, cold, relaxation, and quiet. That was the hardest part. I’m gregarious by nature. I like talking with people, even if I have never met them before. I didn’t dare make eye contact with anyone.

At the end, we sat in the sun with a warm cup of tea before having a cleansing shower.

Now I take my steam baths at the club differently. I stay in 10-15 minutes, take a cold shower for as long as I can stand it, wash off in warm water, and then slowly towel off, dress, and pack up.

Heat. Cold. Relax.

 

Well, I finished the 2017 Pacific Populaire👏👏👏

IMG_6853

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?

How to roll your IT Bands and Quads … 🤔

I had a leg massage today.

This is the first massage I have had in years. I want to see if massage can aid with recovery. Many professional cyclist swear by them. I have been training hard for the past 3 months, and despite an increased focus on rest days, quality sleep and restorative nutrition, I have noticed increased muscle soreness, particularly in the legs.

Will massage help?

Massage is as integral to a professional cyclist’s daily routine as riding the bike is. What does massage do for a cyclist?  First and foremost massage promotes recovery by flushing the toxins up to the heart so that new oxygenated blood can circulate. If you notice, the massage therapist will always rub the muscles upwards towards the heart. The massage is actually pushing out the muscle’s carbon dioxide rich blood to the lungs and heart which is then filtered to come out as oxygen rich blood that goes back into the muscles.  The body will do this naturally but massage drastically speeds up the process.

It’s too early to tell. I just had the massage today. I’ll have to wait several days to know. But I can say that the massage made me more aware of which muscles need attention. I learned that my IT bands and quads are tight, and sore, probably the result of overuse. Could this be the reason my right knee and hip hurt at times?  It’s possible 🤔

The masseuse suggested I begin using a roller regularly to self-massage these muscles  following every workout, and long ride.

IT Band – The illiotibial band (ITB) is a thick strap of soft tissue that extends down the outside of your leg. It’s notoriously hard to work on using traditional stretching movements but, if allowed to become overly tight, can be at the root of a number of common and painful knee problems. The best method for keeping your ITB functioning optimally is to use a foam roller.

Quads – This muscle group at the front of your thighs consists of four muscles, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and sartorius. The rectus femoris especially is responsible for driving your pedals around but, if allowed to become too tight, can have an adverse effect on both posture and biomechanics, resulting in lower back pain and potentially hip and knee problems.

I see people in the gym using rollers, and noticed we have several. Some harder than others. The masseuse suggested using one after every workout when the muscles are warm, gradually building up the number of rolling repetitions over several weeks..

This is not the first time rollers have been recommended to me. My son, who is a personal trainer, even made me one with a re-cycled cardboard tube and inner tube. It’s around somewhere, but I found it too hard, and short to use effectively. The masseuse suggested beginning with a softer version that is 2-3 feet in length.

Knowing these muscles are tight, and that they may be causing discomfort, or possibly injury, I’ll try using a roller for the next month, and then book another massage. I’m not ready to begin to taper for the Pacific Populaire but will treat this rolling regimen as part of the tampering process. I want to be rested, and injury free for the event.

If you have had experience with a roller, I’d like to hear about it.

 

The New Road

IMG_3396

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.”

IMG_3395