Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton
14:25

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Last Saturday, we attended the 2015 Lancaster bicycle rally, hosted by the greater Dallas bicyclists. Tracy and I met up with our neighbor Brian Bacon and rolled down through town for the 17 to 18 miles that it took to get to the gazebo that started the event. The rally is now 17 years old, and it is usually held on one of the best weekends of the year to ride a bike in Texas. The bluebonnets are looming, the Indian paints are out, there are some yellow buttercups, and recent rains always make the rest of the fields lush and green.

We were met at the start by several of our past and present clients. It is always heartening to see your work in progress. However, as these rallies have come to replace road racing, due to the lack of usable venues, and in general unwillingness to pay for other things,The events have become a venue for all of the faster cyclists to get in a vigorous workout on varied terrain. In years past, I have attempted to host "Ride with Richard" events, but this year, because of the extended spring, Tracy and I decided to instead just make it our ride.

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We actually turned this into a century by departing at 7 AM from our house in East Dallas. We were joined by our neighbor, Brian Bacon, who is a retired cat one. The trip down took just about an hour, and we rode past the Audubon Park, and the new horse Park that the city is promoting. Once we got to Lancaster, it was interesting to see how that area is developing with all of the warehouses being built in preparation for the large rail terminal that has been proposed and built finally for about 15 years. The roads down there to look to Lancaster were pretty smooth, but we knew that as we rolled into Ellis County, they would get more rural, and rough.

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When we got to registration, the place was busy and filled with cyclists, all of them clickety clacking in their bike cleats and talking general bike jargon. We met up with two more of our coaches, Wendy Hazelwood, and David Lopez, posed for some photographs with clients, and then made our way to the staging area.

One of the great things about the Lancaster rally, is the drum line. These talented musicians actually receive some of the funds raised by this rally, and they never disappoint. Our Star-Spangled Banner was played by another musician using a saxophone, and when the classic aircraft performed their flyover at the top of the hour, we all rolled out.

Early on, it was obvious that the pace was going to be high, with little room for mistakes. A lot of risky behavior was evident, as athletes tested their legs. I was near the front, with several of my friends, when maybe five minutes in, right before the turn past the airport, we were shocked to hear a lot of banging and clanging and scraping behind us. That almost always signifies a bike wreck. Turning the corner, we all sat up and looked over our right shoulders and saw that yes, there were a number of cyclists down. I also saw several of my cycling center jerseys among them. We neutralized, and I rolled back 100 yards until we reached the scene. Unfortunately, Tracy, David Lopez, and a client, Travis Pope, were all off their bikes and were either on the ground, or were trying to straighten out wheels and handlebars. David's front wheel was trashed, and after a brief analysis and test of range of motion, it became very obvious that Travis had suffered a broken right collarbone. Those of you that follow my Whareagle word press blog, know that in 2005 I broke my collarbone in late July at the goat neck rally, and it was unfortunate to see the same thing happen to a client and friend. All of us waited until we were certain that Travis and David had an easy way to get home and get back to their families, and for Travis, to get in touch with his parents, and then we continued our ride.

By this point, 10 or 15 minutes had passed, and it was up to us to properly announce ourselves and safely pass as a group of four. I believe over the course of the entire 63 miles, we probably passed almost 1400 riders. There is something to be said about proper passing etiquette, announcing yourself and your intentions, and just basically being a good diplomat or ambassador. We knew we were successful in this endeavor when we received a complement about this from a client and her husband on the following Monday.

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As the miles rolled by, Wendy, Brian, Tracy and I all shared the lead and rotated through very easily. We got to ride some incredible terrain, and because of the previous wet weather, the bluebonnets, Indian paints, and yellow buttercups that are so connected with this rally, were out in force. Around 40+ miles in, we passed another coach, Steve Nelson, and he had a helmet cam that captured our group for a few special moments. Tracy was feeling really strong, and she performed several surges throughout the ride that left us all suffering. Wendy, fresh off of a successful Ironman New Zealand, road exceptionally well in an even pace, and Brian showed his experience with smooth poles, and solid positioning when he was not in the lead. I'm not sure what the ridewithGPS.com link will say, but I believe we averaged about 23 mph as a foursome.

We got to the finish line just as we were about to sort of run out of energy. Once again, we were met with several friends and acquaintances who had either missed the rack or written past it, and we spent a lot of time thanking the organizers, almost all of whom are members of the greater Dallas bicyclists. Tracy and Brian both decided that they wanted to hitch a ride back to the neighborhood, but I decided to make it an epic day, and I rode home.

Steve Nelson Handlebar cam

The science behind the ride is a little bit interesting. I need to preface this by saying that I honestly have never been this heavy, nor was I ever this unfed, through the winter. I am now weighing in at about 166 pounds, and in mid-March my threshold was below 230 W. I vowed that I would never let the wattage number drop that low again, and I am working very diligently on trying to get my weight back down to about 158. The weekend in Fort Davis was a kick starter, and it does help now that we have regular weekend events planned throughout the rest of the spring and the summer. I believe the ride was well over 3000 kJ, the intensity factor was around 78%, and my turning stress score was well above 300. If you're using Skiba scores it was just under 300. I believe I drank a 70 ounce camelback +2 24 ounce water bottles of Osmo, and I did also eat two separate 380 cal bars during the ride. I probably could've used a third bar, but I believe I gave it to someone. And I mistakenly thought at the finish line that I had adequately refueled with the cookies and fruit that they were offering. I kind of bonked at around 96 miles, but was still able to control my effort enough to make it home without a pitstop. Finally, when I weighed myself at the end of the ride, I was at or near my exact weight that morning, which was about a 163.

I guess this just reiterates the theme about Which Cycling Ctr., Dallas and online bike coach are centered… When you train for your quality intervals indoors, using perfpro, and then focus on solid aerobic cycling during the week outdoors, it really does make a difference on the weekends! When you combine that with a solid hydration plan and nutrition schedule, your stamina, speed, and strength all improve. I am happy to say that I'm now at about 257 W for threshold, and I'm actually looking forward to testing again soon, maybe even today.

That's really about it, we will have a bigger report on the next rally, and some of Tracy's racing next week. Until then, a member to take the lane, remember to stay on top of your hydration and nutrition, and always be visible, and think positive thoughts for Travis' speedy recovery!


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Coach Wharton
16:38

A Weekend in Oklahoma!!!

I have a framed quote in the Studio in Richardson, that was pulled from a magazine a long, long time ago. It comes from Gary Klein, who was one of the pioneers of Mountain Biking. It reads like this... :

"Mountain Biking is about adventure and the rediscovery of your childhood freedom. It removes you from the daily grind and puts you in an environment with endless possibilities. Wildlife, Epic Views, a personal epiphany about what really matters, and tasting your own endorphines after a long, hard climb. The reward is looking back at obstacles, that are now behind you, and realizing that anything is possible."

I think this very theme should be applied to road cycling on hilly or even mountainous terrain, and on the weekend of September 27th, that's EXACTLY what I did, with clients Brian Terrell and Kyle Keeter.

The morning began with a 2-hour trip North, to Ardmore, Oklahoma. It's interesting - when we live and spend most of our days in North Texas, getting outside of that bubble is revealing and refreshing. I've noticed before that the moment I cross in to Oklahoma, traffic on 35N just begins to space itself out, until there are moments when you feel that you're the only vehicle out on the road. Furthermore, the lack of traffic tends to lead to a better highway ride, and I certainly felt that. Second, the terrain becomes noticeably more rolling, and you find that your Cruise Control sometimes has to shift down to help you hold speed. It's times like this, when I know that I'm in the type of cycling terrain that I love the most!

I got to Ardmore early enough to eat breakfast right off the highway, and it brought back a vague memory of a time when I traveled to Kansas City with my grandparents by car. Both of them are gone, but I remember they used to stop at Ponders, which was a great place to eat breakfast. Well, Ponders has been sold to a chain, but I did get to have a good healthy breakfast, and I'm glad I did, because we ended up riding over 80 miles that day, on some GREAT terrain!

I met up with Brian and Kyle in a city park, and after prepping our bikes and ensuring that we had enough food and water, about 12 or 13 of us rolled out. It was about 10 degrees cooler than D/FW, and we rolled DUE NORTH on US77, for about five miles, before the challenging terrain began to present itself. Now, I was with a number of cyclists with whom I was not familiar, other than my clients, but we remained friendly and comfortable, until around mile 12, when the first true incline presented itself. This actually ended up being our longest climb of the day, but it was deceptive.

I'm going to provide a link to the ride through www.ridewithgps.com. I think it's public, but you may have to register. I prefer Ride With GPS to the other guys because I helped them early in their development, the owners are friends, and they don't have nearly as much gobbledy-gook junk and advertising as the other map-based trip sites. The image is the link, so click on it to follow along. While we're here, lets' have a quick lesson in wattage, slope, pacing, heart rate, and how to use a power meter effectively. 


Climbing North of Ardmore, Oklahoma.


Once you're in to Ride With GPS, use the zooming feature to look at roughly miles 11.75 through 13.25. Click on Watts, HR, Cadence, and elevation, and then look in the upper right area, and make sure you're on the 'Metrics' tab. Everyone's results will vary here and there, but here's the gist of it.

First Hill in Ardmore Loop

Now, look at the timeline image on your browser, and then look again at the image above. We've got moment-by-moment, and then summaries of the block. Now, let's get my description of what happened and why...

I was concerned in the morning rollout, upon seeing just how calm things were and how far we could see, that the climbs, when they arrived, would prove challenging, and honestly, I was right. These rides usually end up becoming ego-fests, and since I was unfamiliar with the territory, I did my utmost to let others lead. That said, I knew it when I felt it, that this hill was going to be a long, gradual effort to a peak that would be unseen and gradual. There just aren't any real immediate conversions from climb to descent in these mid-continent hills. So the mental plan I made for myself was to marshall my watts, let the natural leaders do the work, and then, when they'd punished themselves, to ride at a pace that was sustainable for me in my current condition. 

That said - it didn't quite go to plan. 

Terrain and company tend to dictate effort, and as slope rises, you have to respond with more raw power to the pedals. Right now, I calculate my Critical Power, which is the highest average power I can sustain for an extended period of time, right around an hour or so (similar to Functional Threshold Power) to be about 270 normalized watts, and if you follow my training programs, I believe I have about 22,000 Joules of energy available to me above that Critical Power. At 11.78 miles, I crest 269 watts, and I don't dip below that number again until 12.63 miles. I burned at least 100 KiloJoules, averaged 314 watts, though it FELT LIKE 325 watts (on this chart, it's called "WR" Power, but we usually refer to it as "Normalized" Power... it's a better way to measure power because it takes in to account what's going on inside your body on a metabolic basis, and what energy systems you're burning through), and my heart rate went from an active 147 beats per minute, to a near-max value of 193 BPM. I THINK my max is about a 196 or 7, but honestly, when a rider gets there, he or she kind of knows that there's not much left in the legs, and the lungs are going to take a while to recover. I burned almost 13,363 Joules above Critical Power, which was about 60% of my reserves, so while I probably could have soldiered on, the HR, the high Normalized Power, and my relative lack of training at or above Critical Power, had me actually backing off and settling down to a more stately sub-CP wattage of 250, then 230 watts, for the next 2 minutes, as my HR dropped, my breathing became a bit more normal, and as the slope lessened, my cadence went back up. 

For the record, I was NOT the strongest rider on the day. In fact, there were at least 3 other cyclists who were stronger on the climbs - some younger, some older. But the point is that I rode that hill, and others that I'll describe next in this post, with a pacing strategy that worked for me, and allowed me to improve over the course of the day, while also teaching my clients some of the same concepts. 

Here's an image of the 'Meat' part of that first climb. 


Not surprisingly, once I dropped my wattage BELOW Critical Power, HR dropped, cadence rose, and my Critical Power began to reconstitute itself, so that I could hopefully be better prepared for the next set of climbs. 


Now that the first real "Hill" was out of the way, and I knew my limits, I spoke with my clients, Brian and Kyle, and asked them how they'd paced themselves. Though I don't have their files with me at this time, I did learn that they, too, had basically pushed themselves to a point where they couldn't sustain their effort, all in an attempt to 'keep up' with other cyclists, and they'd taken themselves to a point where their HR and cadence just could not be sustained. In other words, they "Blew Up", and were unable to sustain even modest wattage below Critical Power, for a period of time. We then decided that on the NEXT hill, which was several minutes away, when we'd be more fully recovered, we would attempt to roll up the hill at a rolling 30-second average of 120% of FTP. How did that work? Well, here - have a look. 


The next hill was roughly 8/10ths of a mile, at a noticeable 6.2% average gradient. If my FTP/CP is roughly 270 watts, then 120% of that is ~325 watts.


So, with a goal in mind, I didn't quite average 325 watts, but I DID average ~315 watts for 4 minutes, which comes out to about 115% of that Threshold FTP/CP value, and THIS time, I was SLIGHTLY stronger, and kept myself a bit closer to the leaders. HR didn't go through the ceiling, Cadence was modest, around 84 rpm, 

With an FTP of 270 watts entered, the predicted cadence, riding in the easiest gear on my bike, which is a 39 tooth chainring up front, and a 25 tooth chainring in the back, while weighing in at 82 kilos, riding 170mm cranks (I like them short for my hips and for aerodynamic positioning), yields a predicted cadence of 86 rpm. What did I actually average? .... 84. That's ~2.5% off. NOT BAD! NOT BAD AT ALL!!! Interestingly, when we look at my predicted speed of 16.87 kph, vs the actual speed of 11mph, which is 17.70kph, the delta there is about 4% above the prediction. Again - you know, I will take that any day, and the reality is that there were probably some efficiencies in my setup or aerodynamics that may have affected those numbers. I was riding tubular tires on aero wheels, for example, and I was wearing an aero skinsuit. Stuff like that. ALL of it matters!

But back to the hills of Ardmore.

We rode like that for the rest of the day. Climbing at or near 120% of FTP for the longer climbs, not worrying too much about what our rolling 30sec and per-lap Normalized Power numbers were for the shorter hills. The day ended up being just about perfect in terms of temps and wind, but this leads me to a final thought to share.... When it all matters, at the end of a ride, it's how you managed all of your energy in the hours and minutes before, that count the most.

The 10 miles back to the car were a straight shot south, along the route upon which we had traveled outbound, and the return home, in the early afternoon, ended up just hitting that period of time in the day when the WIND picks up. And if you live in North Texas, or in this case, Southern Oklahoma, most of the time, in late September, that wind comes STRAIGHT OUT OF THE SOUTH or SOUTHWEST. So we were in for a LONG, HAUL, HOME.

Now - Hop back on to the RideWithGPS tab, and look at the final ten miles or so. Specifically, take a look at the wattage profile... Here's a glimpse.



Kyle and I both had to get back to Dallas for early evening appointments, so we left the bunch and did our best to paceline ourselves back to the cars. However, with the winds only growing, and the fact that Kyle is roughly 8" taller than me, and just less experienced with wattage pacing, we turned it in to another teachable hour. 

We started off agreeing to NOT go above our respective thresholds, and to attempt to alternate pulls for about one minute before dropping back. We also agreed to communicate if one of us was just simply pulling too strongly and dropping the other cyclist. When that proved too much, I took longer pulls, and made sure that when we both pulled in our turn, that we did so further and further below FTP. Finally, when Kyle was just hammered, I took over and pulled us both in. It was TEAMWORK that led to the grand finale, but it was also the fact that these were the final miles of a HUMONGOUS effort, for which we were only mildly prepared. 

Any chance you get to head out to new scenery or location or elevation, please, go do it. Trap that data on your power meter. Analyze it. Use the tools I've mentioned above so that NEXT TIME, you get out there, you'll remember what you're capable of, what your limitations may be, and how you can optimize your ride, in the moment, as well as before and after. Wattage and Science and Training really CAN serve to make it more fun. You just have to know how to look at that hill, at that course, at that day, and both prepare for it beforehand, and make the most of it while you're there!

Ride on! - I'll try to get a post of the Glen Rose Rally up shortly. Thanks for reading!!!

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