The New Road


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.”


What I am going to do about it …

I have been remiss. I have not written a post for a week.

For one thing, I am not nearly as inspired when I am not out on the bike. This colder, wetter weather keeps me inside on the spinning bike most days. And, I have been busy starting a work related blog. You can see I am not cycling enough.

I was disappointed not to have lost weight last week. It felt like I might have. I exercised more and, harder than in previous weeks. And, my diet didn’t change. You would think that would result in weight loss.

What am I going to do about it?

I need to make some changes. Shake things up.

One thing I have noticed, I workout in the afternoon this time of year and arrive home several hours before dinner. And, when I get home, I am hungry. So, I eat. I have a healthy snack. Hmmm. I didn’t realize I was doing this. Extra calories. In the warmer weather, I cycle more and arrive home shortly before meal time.

Maybe these extra pre-dinner calories are enough to keep the weight on. This is something to change.

The first hour following a workout is key. That is the time to replenish the fluids and nourish the muscles. This quickens recovery so that you can train harder and more frequently. I know this. I do this properly after long rides. But since adopting this new late afternoon schedule, I have neglected this key step. This is something else to change.

This is what I am going to do –

  1. I have taken my Vega electrolyte and recovery powders to the club so that I have them for indoor spinning workouts. I sweat a lot indoors. More than usual. I didn’t think I would need it for workouts under an hour but I sweat more indoors than I do on a 3 hour ride outside.
  2. Afterward, I like to relax in the steam room. Instead, of drinking water, I will mix the Recovery powder with water and sip on it as I relax in the steam room.
  3. I’ll push myself away from the table after the first serving. Seconds are not necessary.
  4. And lastly, I will take a few extra pieces of fruit to snack on throughout the day and after the workout.

I’ll see if this makes a difference.

I am 4 weeks into an 8 week workout scheduled designed to get me into “Excellent” condition. I have already noticed a difference. The workouts are getting harder and yet I can complete them ahead of the prescribed time. I am able to maintain a higher average heart rate than my “coach-on-the-wrist” is recommending.

The spinning workouts are more taxing than I have ever completed previously. Every workout is like a 10-15 km climb with grades ranging from 5-8 %. I get 1-2 rest days per week but there is never an “Easy” day. I am working for 35-55 minutes (not including a warm up and cool down) in the aerobic or anaerobic ranges.

Despite not losing any weight, I am certainly stronger and, because I am climbing most of the time, I notice I am pedalling more in circles all of the time.

Four more weeks and I’ll be “excellent” and ready to get outside more.

Some thoughts on recovery …

Since completing the Canada Day Populaire, I have been focused on recovery.  The ride took a lot out of me.  Despite my fastidious preparation, I hit that proverbial wall at the 140 km mark, something that has never happened to me previously.  Perhaps it was the heat.  It was 33+ degrees Celsius that day, hotter than it has been all year.  Or, I may have gone out too fast.  Whatever the reason, I have been thinking about how to recover more quickly from the effort.

I wore a heart rate monitor during the ride, a Suunto M5.  This model has a built in “coach”.  It tells me how often to workout and at what intensity.  At the end of the ride, this coach-on-my-wrist told me to rest for 8 days.  The day following the ride, I rode to the office and struggled with the 3 km climb back home.  I had to pedal in my “granny” gear and still it was an effort.  Clearly, I had not recovered.

It has been 8 days since the ride and, I feel much stronger.  In fact, I am planning a 50 km ride when I leave the office today.  I have not ridden this distance since the populaire.  It appears that the coach-on-my-wrist was correct.

There are several legal techniques I use to speed recovery – rest, hydration, nutrition, stretching and massage.  I have discovered that drinking a lot of fluids the first several days following an event helps.  And, extra sleep, if possible, does miracles.  I stretch a lot, particularly the hamstring and calve muscles.  The muscles that began to tightened and cramp.  And, finally, I make certain to eat nutritious, balanced meals making certain I get extra protein and iron.

So here I am, 8 days post ride and, I am planning for the next event.

What I can’t fathom is how the TDF riders race similar distances for 21 consecutive days at twice the pace.  All right.  They are a lot younger.  They are professionals and train full time.  But really!

It is simply amazing.

Kit and fuel …

The weather man is calling for a sunny, hot day for the 2014 Canada Populaire.  Clear blue skies with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius.  Hot.

I am going to wear one of my favourite Louis Garneau kits.

The full zip jersey has 5 pockets at the back.  The full length zipper will allow me to completely unzip the top if I am too hot.  It is made of a wicking material that draws perspiration away from the body but, at the same time, blocks the wind.  A terrific material.  And, the 5 pockets will make it easier to carry more fuel.  There is a pocket for my iPhone.  I want to take pictures along the way.  3 pockets are deep and intended for gels and bars.  I will load each with an endurance GoToob filled with my homemade gel and a Cliff Bar.  And, the 5th pocket is intended for used packaging so I don’t litter the road along the way.

The black compression bibs are particularly comfortable and, since they are relatively new, the padding is still in good shape for this long ride.  I also have some chamois cream to apply.  I don’t usually use it.  Chaffing is not usually a problem.  But because it is a longer ride than normal and hot, I apply it to the shorts and my bottom.

Fuel is key for a long ride like this.  Everyone is different but I have found that if I continually hydrate and refuel throughout the day, I last longer and perform better.  Every 20-30 minutes I sip on water and have some gel or bar, averaging 1 bar and/or 1/2 of a GoToob every hour in addition to 1/2 – 1 full bottle of water.  I have to make myself do this.  There is a tendency to keep cycling but, if I leave it, I’ll “bonk” after 2-3 hours.

LG Quartz helmet.  Check.  Sunscreen.  Check.  Lip balm.  Check.  Maratona Dles Dolomites white gloves and matching ankle socks (a gift).  Check.

All that is left is to make the gels. I’ll do this last thing tonight because I have an early 5:30 am start tomorrow.

Oh ya.  One more thing.  I am thinking of shaving my legs.  I have never done it before and, have always wanted to try.

What do you think?


Ride to Deep Cove

I cycled to Deep Cove and back today.  It is a 100 km round trip with some of the most difficult climbs I have experienced this season.  Some long.  And some, very steep.  25%.  Perhaps more.  When my pace falls below 10 kph, it’s steep.  There were times I was struggling to maintain a 6-7 kph pace. Tough.  But satisfying.

I am not certain I would do this ride again.  There are parts of the route that were very enjoyable.  Scenic.  Good road conditions.  Little traffic.  But there were other sections where there was a lot of traffic and no bike lanes.  And, crossing the 2nd Narrows Bridge (Iron Workers Bridge) is not fun.  There is a separated bike lane but it is narrow and very close to the traffic, mostly large trucks.  In the past, I have driven the bike over the bridge and then rode.  I think I would do that next time.

But this was a different ride.  This was not a training ride, although it was a good workout. I took the commuter/touring bike imagining I was on a trip.  Exploring.  No specific route in mind.  Cycling, and stopping, like I might if I was on the road for an extended period.  Although I cycled ~ 100 km, I only averaged 20 kph, in part because there was a lot of climbing and also, because I was not in a hurry.  Some of the roads were new to me and I wanted to explore.

I learned several things from this ride.  First, if I travel at a slower pace, I can cycle for a long time and cover a long distance.  Second, if I eat and drink regularly, I don’t tire as easily.  I went through several bottles of water, 2 Cliff Bars and a home-made gel (mango, banana, oil, salt, water, chia seeds and yerba mate) and, I stopped for a coffee and scone mid-way.

I felt like a tourist today, travelling a new, unfamiliar route.  It was exhilarating.  Difficult.  And, fun.



I am going to make my own energy gels.

For years, I have been using the Vega Sport Endurance Gel for rides of more than an hour, taking one every 45-60 minutes.  This gets expensive.  I started purchasing them in bulk to save a little but the more I ride, and I am cycling a lot more this time of year, the more I consume.

My son has been making his own energy gel for over a year now and, when I ride with him, he brings some along for me.  Once he got the recipe down, I found they are actually more sustaining than the commercial version.

This week I purchased 3 GoToob squeeze tubes from MEC.  They are designed specifically for liquids – shampoo, conditioner, lotions and energy gel – by a company called humangear from San Francisco.  They are made of food-grade silicon, have large openings for easy filling and cleaning and no-drip valves that keep the caps clean.  And, most importantly, they slide easily into and out of a cycling jersey pocket and are easy to use while riding.

I have included recipes from Vega above.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up.  Banana and avocado are good.  The key is the date and coconut oil.  Simply combine the ingredients in a Magic Bullet until you have the right consistancy and voila.  Energy gel like nothing else.  All natural.  Plant-based.

Now you are ready to “push harder, last longer”.

Vega – plant based fuel

I am a vegetarian.  Have been for over 30 years.  Vegan mostly.  And, I am active.  I am not competitive but have always enjoyed endurance sports – distance running and cycling mostly.  Sports that need to be properly fuelled.  Those of you that are vegetarian know that it is not always easy to eat nutritionally without a lot of planning and preparation.

Several years ago I learned of Vega, a series of plant-based nutritional supplements designed by and for endurance athletes.  Brendan Brazier is a Canadian professional Ironman athlete and founder of Vega.  He formulated plan-based products to improve his personal performance and shorten recovery times.  His experimentation and professional success led to the introduction of the Vega products.

I have included pictures of the full range of Vega products.  I use them all.  The electrolyte hydrator and endurance gel are my favourite and part of every workout longer than an hour.   If you are looking to work harder and recover faster, give the Vega products a try.