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SuHere are a few images from this morning's intervals.
The goal for these was the following:
- First 2 minutes at 90% of Critical Power (Threshold).
- The third minute at 95% of CP.
- Fourth minute right at 100% of CP.
- The fifth minute, we would rise above CP, and ride at 105%.
- Finally, in the sixth minute, the riders were set to ride at 110% of Critical power,
This was repeated four times, with 3 minutes of recovery in between.
Finally - the last interval for the day was 90 seconds at any intensity the riders felt like attempting. It's usually a good way to end with a bang!
The results were pretty nice - here are some images from riders as they completed the intervals.
The goal for the intervals was exactly what's being displayed; start below Critical Power, learn to persevere, then increase the intensity slightly, until it's either at, or just above CP. Time above CP is always limited, but it's good to spend time up there, and really stretch out the lungs as Vo2 drift occurs.
And that's the point - to get into Vo2 max areas of intensity. The workout is deceptively difficult, and now that the 7:30am class is undertaking it, they're a bit more awake and alive, and they're nailing it!
Suffer in the room, so you can enjoy the rides you take outside!
More to come!
Kurt Chacon is mentioned in this blog from previous years, when he helped riders understand that cycling is not just about legs and lungs, but is instead a Holistic sport that requires the entire body. Sure, certain muscles are emphasized, but that's at the expense of other muscles and parts of the skeletal system that can help reduce fatigue, reduce wasted effort, and transmit power to the pedals as well.
When you look at Kurt, he doesn't look like a cyclist. He's larger, more muscular, and the impression is that he might be better served with a more short-distance sport, but here he is, a recreational cyclist, capable of a solid power output and endurance in the 3-5 hour range. That said, he loves his anaerobic intervals, and has studied the information that has come out of XertOnline.com.
The intervals we built for the class, based on this Xert protocol this month, are HARD. REALLLY HARD. They're in the 200 to 300% of FTP range, and they're anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes. People that have been coming to the studio for years are now commenting that they're actually SORE from the workouts, and they're having better rides outside. So we plugged in Kurt's information from a ride to see what's actually happening per the MPA model.
If you look carefully, you'll see that Kurt's MPA dropped substantially as the intervals increased in intensity, and for the entire duration of the effort, MPA never returned to full capacity. However, let me zoom in on something that I am fascinated by - the 4th and 5th intervals of each set.
On interval 4 of the first set, and almost every set thereafter, MPA actually dipped BELOW the interval's Peak Power, but it did it JUST AFTER the interval ended.
You can see it even more clearly on the 5th Interval. Here is a close-up.
Here, you can see that while Kurt was able to complete the interval, his MPA and wattage actually touched, though there was no breakthrough, but he continued to suffer as his power backed off, and the MPA dropped further.
Now scroll back up and look at he first image. Intervals 4 and 5 for most of the sets revealed an MPA that dipped BELOW the intensity of the interval, but did not INTERCEPT the effort. In my opinion, this was probably one of the BEST workouts he, or any client, could have performed. He accomplished the task, finished each progressively harder interval, but saw a dip in his MPA, from which he basically never really recovered. So for this athlete, this was probably the most COMPLETE workout in recent history. The breakthrough will come, probably next week, when we attempt 1 minute intervals at 160% of Threshold.
Performing intervals that are STRAINFUL, yet REPEATABLE, allows for greater adaptation and confidence. Up until Xert, however, we only had the W' model to predict what the 'penalty' was for an effort, and even the developers of that protocol admitted that shorter, harder, more repetitive intervals didn't work with the model. MPA does, and I continue to be amazed at how uncannily accurate the Xert model is, for EVERY athlete.
We'll see how his testing goes next week and again in a traditional effort in September. Until then, grab a registration on Xert and see for yourself. It's pretty fascinating.
It's got my MPA and Power on the first 3rd of the screen, my Fat and Carb use in grams in the middle, and Xert's "Focus" and "Strain" on the bottom.
Obviously, I'll use MPA and rolling 3-sec power most, because it'll tell me, based on color schemes (Green, Blue, Black, Yellow, Red) what general 'Zone' I'm in, and basically how much Power I have left in the tank. I've described some of the details of this on a video I posted months ago, and it's also up on my YouTube page, so hopefully that explanation will help. Here are the links: https://youtu.be/7tbfbe_0D0Y and https://youtu.be/P1u3oLroef4.
Basically, if your power is Green, you can go forever. Blue is Tempo-ish, Black is Threshold-ish, Yellow is Vo2Max-ish, and means you've got less than 3 minutes of MPA left, and Red is Anaerobic, and it means you've got less than 30 seconds of MPA left. If it's Purple, congrats! You've had a fitness breakthrough!
Now, for the Fat and Carbs area on the screen, this is an interesting way to look at how we USE STORED AND INTERNAL ENERGY to GENERATE POWER, which in turn, helps us GET FIT. It also tells the cyclist just how freaking hard it is to actually BURN FAT. Remember, 1 gram of FAT yields 9 Calories, while 1 gram of Carbs yield 4 Calories. Our bodies prefer burning the Carbs, so this teaches you how to ride slower and in a zone that will burn more fat, thus preserving the carbs and teach the body how to better use that stored fat. Finally, I actually use it to help stave off bonks and also to try and stay on top of my hydration. If you know how many grams of food and sugar are in your pockets and bottles, you can come up with ways to mentally stay on top of your stamina through an eating and hydration schedule. The Carbs area turns red when you're mostly burning Carbs, or red when you're mostly burning Fat, and it's tied in to the information Xert puts in to your Garmin Express Code, so it's unique to every individual. Finally, if you're in to Polarized training, then THIS APP IS FOR YOU. I'll tie it in to the 3rd app next.
Now for the last 1/3 of the screen, I include "Focus" and "Strain". I don't want to get into debates about specificity, but readers, I have to tell you - this is a pretty darned cool app. If you've signed up for your free account with Xert, it'll ask you things like "What type of athlete are you?" And you look at a power-duration curve and basically think about where your strengths and weaknesses are, and make a selection. In this image, I selected "Breakaway Specialist", which in Xert's world means the focus will be on optimizing 5-minute power.
Now, when I go for a ride, as soon as the app gets enough data, it starts telling me where my "Focus" is, in terms of minutes and seconds. Ironically, it doesn't take much to get that "Focus" in to the lower numbers, from 1-4 minutes, and it's MUCH HARDER to get the Focus in to the numbers that are higher. Now, where the tie-in comes is this: Let's say, like me, you dabble (and I do mean dabble) in the Ultra-Marathon Cycling World, and you're looking to train for great power over 2-6 hours at a time. Well, here's your truth-teller, right here. You'll be pedaling and generating so little power that you'll be S L O W, and your "FAT" grams ID in the middle will be RED, RED, RED, while your 3-second wattage in the UPPER screen will be GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. It's boring, it's embarrassing, it's risky when it's hot, you hate yourself, you hate everyone else that's passing you and probably having more fun, and you hate your coach for forcing you to do these "Old School" rides. But that FOCUS will help. Furthermore, if you're really wanting to hit your FOCUS goal, you can literally ride as hard or soft as you like, knowing that this is really a good way to "Focus" on specificity. We all waste our time on rides; that's actually kind of the point of riding - it's dynamic. But this FOCUS can really help you hit your goals, or truly see how hard a group ride is, let's say, in your current condition, so you can then "Focus" your workouts using Xert's workout generator.
Finally, you've got "Strain", on the bottom. Like KiloJoules, Strain only goes UP. Now, it's NOT KiloJoules, but it's KiloJoule-esque, and if you put yourself through low-strain rides, it'll creep up, but if you put yourself through high-strain workouts, it'll jump up. Call it a new way to measure volume. Some of my indoor 60-minute workouts are in the 175 range (with a FOCUS down in the 2:30 range), and some of my longer, 3-5 hour rides with clients, at their speeds, are in the maybe 300-350 range.
SO - to sum things up on this screen....
- MPA is there to tell me what I can do RIGHT NOW, THIS INSTANT.
- Rolling 3-sec Power is there to give me an idea of zones as well as output.
- Fat Grams tells me what I've burned, and if it's red, it's my primary source of energy.
- Carb Grams tell me what I've burned, and if it's red, it's my primary source of energy.
- Focus is there to help me understand what I'm getting out of a ride,
- Strain is there to tell me how much volume I've accomplished or not.
Enjoy the ride!
The latest method of doing just this comes from Baron Biosystems of Canada. Their platform, called Xert, provides a unique way to take instant and empirical data from a cyclist, measure its’ effects on the body, and then determine some crucial elements that can determine the effectiveness of a workout, and the effective trend towards a goal. I’m really excited about this technology, and I think that it will be incredibly useful for riders and racers of all levels here at Cycling Center Dallas, and via the internet through Online Bike Coach.
Let’s start at the beginning.
First – a cyclist just creates an account on XertOnline.com. If the rider has an account with Strava.com or Trainingpeaks, older data can be imported and analyzed. If the cyclist has data on a Garmin with a .FIT or .TCX series of files, then the data is imported just like a thumb drive. The meat of the setup is found in the area titled “Athlete Type”. Here’s an image.
There are twelve different types of cyclist described, from a 10-second “Power Sprinter”, to a “Below Threshold Power” Triathlete. Just read through the descriptions, and select the area where you think your cycling strengths best apply. Some knowledge of ability is required; if you’re in doubt, defer to something in the middle, like “GC Specialist”, which focuses on your 8-minute average power-to-weight ratio.
(One thing to note is that, even though the categories reflect cyclists that participate in longer, multi-hour events, when you look these athlete types and at their particular strengths and weaknesses, they all boil down to an ability to perform at a given duration. Everyone is unique in their ability and this chart helps capture those differences.)
The website churns through your past data over a period of minutes, to help determine several parameters for fitness. It then presents you with a summary page, showing the following:
- Total # of activities
- Average Ride Time
- Total Ride Time
- Average Distance
- Total Distance.
The next line down is where things start to get interesting. The data provided for this continues to grow with more people getting on to Xert, so the data is being filtered by age and gender, and is perpetually updated. You get a “Fitness Comparison and Ranking”, showing your BEST and CURRENT value. In this case, my ‘365’ watts over 5 minutes is just 97% of my Best watts of 375 over 5 minutes, which I have hit in the last six weeks. The Median for this age group is 336 watts, and the 90% percentile is 422 watts. My 365 watts puts me at about the 66th percentile for the population.
*** Now – I DO need to make something clear, because it can be confusing. Xert’s ‘365’ is NOT the ACTUAL VALUE that I may or may not have achieved in the last 42 days. Instead, it’s the MAX POTENTIAL VALUE that I COULD have achieved on this day. I’ll make that more clear in a paragraph or two. Xert's unique algorithm determines this in the background and I have found it to be REALLY close every time we've tested it.
On the next section of the page, there’s a GREAT image, affectionately known as the “Spider Chart”. It basically looks at the 12 different power categories, and determines where you rank in relation to ALL of them. This can help you identify holes in your training, or strengths. In my Spider Chart, shown below, my most recent training has tilted me slightly toward the short-and-mid-intensity specialties, between 2 and 8 minutes, while my time schedule has prevented me from riding longer events or rides.
You can mouse over the orange dots, and it will re-state your current records, and where those records sit in relation to the rest of the population.
Finally, there’s a ‘Progression Chart’. Now, this is a bit complicated, but there is a method to it, and it does help you understand what’s going on with your fitness.
The first thing to focus on is the left-side “Y” axis. The left Axis is showing, in my specific case, that “MAX WATTAGE POTENTIAL” for my chosen Athlete Type - Breakaway Specialist - 5 minute power. The circles (Best Activities) correspond to activities where I reached my 5 minute max wattage potential on that day. Mousing over these circles shows what my maximum 5 minute wattage was on that day. In addition, if you mouse over the vertical bars, “Best Activities”, which is that small script on the lower left side of the graph, acting as a key, changes from day-to-day showing your maximum 5 minute wattage.
In this example, March 9th of 2016, Xert calculated that, based on everything I’d entered in prior to this day, I had the POTENTIAL to hit a ‘359’ watt average over 5 minutes. However… after a solid block of Specific, hard training, which again, I’ll explain in a short while, that value bumped up to 371 watts on April 2nd.
So that’s a roughly 3% boost in 3 weeks, which, honestly, is pretty realistic. So look at that first when you get down to the Progression chart.
Next, slide all the way over to the FAR RIGHT “Y” axis. There, you’ll see “Weighted Average Daily Accumulated Energy (KJ). This is NOT a part of the Progression Chart. Instead, it’s a way to see, through the vertical red/purple/green bars, just how much WORK you’re doing on a regular basis. Again, it’s NOT a fitness indicator so much as it is a “VOLUME” indicator. We can debate the pro and con of any scoring system, but this is just a convenient way to look at work, and how it’s being used on a daily basis, out to about six weeks. But it gets even MORE detailed.
Take a look at the Key along the bottom of the graph. You’ll notice that in the chart above, it says
for that specific day of April 3rd, 2016. This is a measure of how much training I had been doing. On that given day, which was actually a race out on the Scenic Loop of Ft. Davis, TX, my “Weighted Average” of WORK, measured in KILOJOULES, breaks down to:
- 811 kJ of Low Intensity Energy Use (Largely Aerobic energy use)…
- 56 kJ of High Intensity Energy Use (Largely Vo2 and Anaerobic energy consumption)…
- And ~12 kJ of PEAK energy Use (completely anaerobic and near-maximal effort).
You’ll be able to tease a couple of more things out of the graph at this stage of learning.
First, that ‘Wandering Trail’, can help you improve on your SPECIFICITY, and basically, stay away from rides that don’t suit your goals or purpose. The more intervals you perform at a specific intensity and duration that is based on your goal, the more that ‘Wandering Trail’ rises or falls toward your w/t goal.
Second, the vertical bars are designed so that you have a light-red to imply ONE workout in a 24 hour period, and you have a darker-red rectangle, to reveal TWO workouts performed in a single day.
Now – let’s finish up with the Progression Chart by looking at the circles and dots, and understand just what those mean.
The circles show you just how well you did on a given day. A purple circle generally means you worked hard by didn’t accomplish anything special that. Sometimes when you’re tired, purple circles may provide indication that you weren’t able to produce your best results that day. Gold, silver and bronze circles indicate that you had shown an improvement.
A SMALL purple circle, like the one found on March 20th, symbolizes a ‘but that ‘Best’ wasn’t hard enough to merit a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal. The LOCATION of the dots is in relation to their wattage.
So, just to review:
- Purple dots are ‘Highs’, but not ‘Record Highs’.
- Medals mean you hit a new breakthrough in fitness.
- The size of the medal means how definite the achievement was.
Let’s look at one more thing before we leave the Progression Chart…
Take a look at that ‘Wandering Trail’ or, the ‘Focus’ Line. You’ll notice that it rises and falls. While I think there might be a better way to show this metric to the viewer, it really IS an interesting category. What it’s saying is that, based on ALL of the work you’ve done over your recent training, the ‘FOCUS’ centered on one particular category in the Spider Chart or ‘Athlete Type’ mentioned above. As I did my workouts and tried to focus exclusively on intervals that would improve my 5-minute Power, the FOCUS line rose. When I performed rides that had longer durations, and gaps between intervals, like on weekends, my FOCUS line actually dropped. If you look at the past 3 days of workouts, you’ll see that my FOCUS line once again rose, as I resumed training after a two-week hiatus.
I think there is some REAL potential here, because if you follow Xert’s premise, it’s not just the rethinking of power and time-in-zones and recovery that is required, it’s the actual CONTENT and INTENSITY of the INTERVALS that makes for such incredible potential. And THAT is where we’re going to go next…
PART II – APPLYING THE NEW IDEAS INTO ACTION VIA INTERVALS
I’m going to skip over Xert’s Power-Duration Curve stuff, and will return to it later, but the reason I want to discuss the Intervals Builder first, is that it is, in my opinion, the absolute strongest feature in Xert’s arsenal. Furthermore, once you have your Fitness Signature, there are APPS, available on Garmin’s Connect IQ and via Android (iphone coming soon), that will allow you to further exploit Xert’s Power-Duration Model and Maximum Power Available information. Again, I’ll get to that later, but for now, let’s discuss Xert’s Interval Builder and why it’s so important to your fitness goals.
Once you’ve got your fitness profile, and established your goals (3 minute, 5 minute, 8 minute, stuff like that), it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get there. To do that, head over to the left-hand bar of options, and click on ‘WORKOUTS’.
You’ll get two options in the sub-menu; “Standard Workouts” and “My Workouts”. Let’s start with some “Standard Workouts”, and then we’ll tinker with some custom workouts to sharpen the blade a bit.
Now, remember – my goal is to have a stronger FIVE MINUTE POWER. That puts me in the “Breakaway Specialist” category. So, I’ll go the THIRD COLUMN, which is “WORKOUT FOCUS”, and click through until I find some appropriate intervals. If you click on the Title, it will sort by “Focus”, and “Breakaway Specialist will be on Page 1.
Now, let’s click on the second workout – Seiler – and see what it looks like…
This interval set shows that, UNIQUE TO ME, if I were to perform FOUR SEPARATE, FOUR-MINUTE INTERVALS, at 372 watts (OUCH!!!!!) each, with just TWO MINUTES of recovery, that the amount of STRAIN (see middle of the image) would be adequate to optimize my 5-minute output, over time.
HOWEVER – take a look at the PURPLE LINE. That PURPLE LINE is an indicator of “MAXIMUM POWER AVAILABLE”, and you can see that it intercepts the RED LINE of the SECOND INTERVAL, the THIRD INTERVAL, and the FOURTH INTERVAL. Now – if you believe Xert’s programming, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! Let’s ZOOM in so I can explain why.
Xert’s Foundation goes like this: When you ride a bike, you use “Low-Intensity Energy” (your aerobic system), “High-Intensity Energy (Your Vo2 and Anaerobic Systems), and “Peak” Energy systems, which is your Phospho-Creatine System and Sprint power. The “Maximum Power Available” curve declines as you cross over your Threshold Power, and it rebounds when you recover beneath it.
For the first interval, that purple line of “MPA”, and the red line of “Watts”, don’t cross paths. The interval ends with an “MPA” of less than 600 watts, while the interval’s overall 4 minute effort was at “372”. But, for the SECOND interval, the decline of “MPA” intercepts the red line with about 23 seconds to go. In the image above, there is theoretically NO WAY that I can hold 372 watts at that moment, with an MPA that is at 343 watts and declining. This happens again, a bit earlier in Interval #3, and again in interval #4. So I have to alter this workout if I know that I’m going to be able to even complete it.
If I go down to the bottom of the screen, I can see that there are three options in this interval. I’m going to extend the recoveries out to 2:30, and see what that does for me.
When I click on “Calculate”, I get this…
So – I pushed my ‘Point of Failure’ out for the three intervals I’m concerned about, but not quite. Also – look at the ‘FOCUS’. I’m still in ‘Breakaway Specialist’. Let’s see if I can buy myself some more recovery, and be at least theoretically successful in these four minute intervals.
BOOM! At 3 minutes of recovery, I am going to be JUST ABLE to COMPLETE the intervals, if I can hold 372 watts!
Now – as an Indoor Studio Professional, here’s an ADDED Bonus. Go to that upper right hand corner of the chart, and you’ll see either “TCX” or “ERG” buttons. If you click on them, they’ll export the workout in to a “watts over time” protocol, for your Indoor Ergometer!!!
Here’s what this protocol looks like in PerfPro Studio, the system that I use with Online Bike Coach and Cycling Center Dallas.
Now – we don’t have ‘Maximum Power Available’ just yet on PerfPro, but we’re lobbying for some type of licensing deal that is satisfactory to all parties. But this literally re-writes the book on interval training with power.
A couple of quick notes:
- Traditional Zones are thrown out the window. We know what aerobic rides feel like, we know what “Threshold” feels like. Xert has apps that define zones based on CURRENT MPA, FATIGUE OVER TIME, and ENERGY USE. Thus – THEY SHIFT, based on fitness, and real-time work spent at different intensities.
- The intervals can sometimes be MUCH, MUCH HIGHER INTENSITY than we’re used to, and are LONGER than you may feel comfortable with. Sometimes they are the opposite SINCE THEY DON’T HAVE YOU ATTEMPTING SOMETHING YOU CAN’T DO. And THEY WORK. They REALLY, REALLY work. Many times, the workouts bring you RIGHT TO YOUR EXACT LIMIT meaning, you won’t complete the very last part of the interval. THAT IS FINE. YOU ARE STILL GETTING THE RECOMMENDED TRAINING DOSE.
I think I’ll stop here – and will focus on the Apps in another blog post, but you should go through the workouts, look at them, and then, click on the “New Workout” option, and experiment with building your own. You’ll see how changing the three deltas of intervals – Frequency, Intensity, and Time (FIT) can alter your specialty, and can determine your Maximum Power Available, to determine whether the workout is doable or not. YOU CAN BREAK THE MODEL!!! And that’s a GOOD THING. But the more information you put in to Xert, the more it’s going to learn about your fitness and capabilities, and the more it will ‘Tune’ the workouts. One Day’s “Breakaway Specialist” workout, may be tomorrow’s “Rouleur” workout, as Threshold or Anaerobic Capacity Wax and Wane.
I’ll be back with a full Blog about Xert’s Apps on a Garmin, but for now, read through, download the FREE BETA, and insert your data. I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Enjoy the ride!
Special Thanks to Texas Aerial Solutions for the image and the drone this past weekend! That was awesome!
The 2015 Aledo ride for heroes was held this past weekend, and I was excited to attend and participate in the 70 miler. I'm always in favor of a good cross country route with rolling terrain, and once again Alito did not disappoint. The majority of the course is now south of the interstate and it goes through some beautiful, rolling terrain.
I ended up getting to register early for this event, so I was not up for arriving too early. I thought I might be able to sleep in. Unfortunately, some rain came through on Friday night that kept us awake, and it did not get as much sleep as I may have wanted. Furthermore, as I rolled out from Dallas to Fort Worth, it was kind of interesting in that there was a lot of fog. There was so much fog, that when I arrived at the venue, I was surprised to see so few cars and cyclists present. In the past, this event has filled both parking lots, and there usually lines to get a proper spot, but that was not the case this year, and I just have to believe that it was the rain and later the fog that may have kept people away. While disappointing, I believe that the cyclists who stayed home or may have done an MS ride over the weekend down from Austin to Houston, missed out on a really good experience.
I rolled out to the starting line with about five minutes to spare, and made my way to the front with the lead riders. Interestingly, this was probably the first time that I ever got photographed by a drone. This drone was hovering probably 30 or 40 feet off the ground about 100 feet from the starting line, and it was an eight rotor heard device that held a Nikon digital camera beneath it. The drone stayed afloat throughout the Star-Spangled Banner, and then it filmed us as we all rolled out. The fog stayed with us through the first hour of the day at least, and it made for some interesting corners and help keep us cool, all while continuing to limit our overall visibility. I have no idea that if those images from the drone really came out or not but it was still interesting to see how things are going in terms of these events and how they are promoted.
I made several mistakes at the beginning of this rally that did not serve me well. The first of course is that I did not arrive early enough to get a proper warm-up. The older I get, the more important that warm-up is and it should be a requirement that there is a Mac or fluid trainer in my car on weekends. Even for a bike rally, warming up should just be part of the program. It truly did take me about 30 minutes, but by that point I was already suffering as if I had been punched in the gut and I ended up losing the lead 12 riders until I was maybe 45 for 48 minutes in. At that time, it felt like a weight had finally been lifted off of me, and I was able to ride a solid tempo or sub critical power intensity and caught several of the riders who had been dropped from the lead. Within the hour, we were still maybe three minutes off the lead, but we had a group of between five and seven that worked together to pace ourselves more appropriately. There were still several marked climbs(by the way, I am not the biggest Strabo fan, and I tend to prefer ridewithgps.com, so if you want to see my results, you may friend me up over there.)
We ended up with about five good cyclists from our one through about our two. I was able to organize them into a good, strong, rotating paceline, and was quick to try and acquire names for my ersatz friends. One of them was a cycling Pastore and after about 30 or 40 minutes, he proclaimed that this had arguably been his fastest average speed and ride ever. Unfortunately, it eventually got to him and at one of the eight stations he backed off.
I do have one other interesting comment about this initial group. There was a sixth cyclist who rode with us, but he wore earbuds and refused to participate in the paceline, taking it upon himself to get the free ride and anchor us as we rotated through. We tried to speak with him and encourage him to join, but he would have none of it. I find this whole debacle with earbuds and group rides, urban rides, even rallies, to be really vexing. Even Tracy still does it when she rides solo. I'm to say right now, I know it is controversial, but folks one of the reasons that cycling is so safe is that we have an inherent advantage by using all of our senses. We can hear things that are occurring around us that give us an advantage for situational awareness. It really irritates me when a cyclist rides in a group, and either rides with earbuds in, or rides with one ear but in, which they may think is safer, but in my opinion is actually more distracting to the brain. Cycling should be about the wind in your face, the sweat dripping off of your nose and eyebrows, and listening to the velocity of the air as it enters and exits your lungs. We eventually dropped this individual, and we did not look for him after the ride ended.
Anyway, the five of us eventually were reduced to four, and the fourth cyclist was dropped around the midpoint, where there are several two-minute hills. We did slow down and wait for dropped riders to regroup, but with their permission to let us go, we would then roll on. We ended up with a strong group of three that was really good, and we rolled through at about 22 or 23 mph for a good 10 miles. We did catch more stragglers, and a fourth rider in a time trial bike ended up riding with us, but he was not terribly keen at pulling through. By this point, however, the three of us had lost just enough of our edge that we were not able to shake him, and we just welcomed him for his company.
I did have one other incident occur that was unique on this rally and that is that I suffered a bee sting on my right temple maybe two or 2 1/2 hours in. It was just a minor inconvenience, but of course it always hurts the moment that the sting occurs. Later, Tracy said she's found the stinger in my four head and plucked it out that afternoon.
We rolled along as a group of 3+1, and I learned that the other two cyclists were friends. One of the two cyclists also had a Cervelo and was riding with a stages power meter, and was well-versed in his own ability as well as how to interpret the information on his garment. It's always great when you've got a smart recreational cyclists next to you, and we were able to talk shop quite a bit. His name is Wayne and he is a regular at the Wednesday night criterium races in Fort Worth, and I have no doubt that he will continue to improve.
I think our final 70 mile average was around three hours 15 minutes, which, while certainly not my fastest 70, was an incredibly effective training workout and it left me adequately sore for at least 24 hours. I did ride again on Sunday, but it was at a very low intensity and was focused exclusively on recreation. More about that in another blog. I'm going to provide a link to the ride via ridewithgps.com, and I will certainly be purchasing pictures that I will add to this blog post once they become available.
Suffice it to say, that I am really enjoying these rallies, and I'm looking at them as a way to continue improving my fitness, and ride with Tracy when she is available. We will both be attending the monster rally next weekend, which is one of our favorites excavation Mark special shout out to David Simcoe, a client and friend whom I met at the starting line. He and I both remarked that it was a great day of cycling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The 2015 HammerFest was an excellent example of Texas Bike Racing, complete with fantastic stage challenges, a healthy mix of athletes and categories. And, of course, epic views and terrain.
I need to provide a few caveats before beginning the breakdown of the weekend the biggest being my fitness. Bike racing in Texas is pretty small, and we all know each other to some degree or another.
However, this is my first race in-state since February of 2012, and my first since relocating my cycling studios to new locations. I was completely void of any real degree of fitness and entered the weekend with a wattage threshold about 60 watts below my prime. Additionally, my body weight is about 3 to 4 kilos heavy.
For me, doing this race was strictly for the benefit of the camaraderie found in racing. The challenge of the venue, and as a service to the new promoter, who, like many, continues to pour her heart and soul and resources into this sport we all know and love.
The weekend turned out to be perfect, weather-wise, as about 100 of us made the trek to the Big Bend area. Racers were spread out among hotels, and B&B’s in the triad of Ft. Davis, Alpine, and Marfa. Registration, rollout, and even the finish line were all within 100 feet of the ubiquitous Limpia Hotel on the main strip. Categories were combined for racing; although they were scored separately, in a Points Race format.
There were three stages - the first, on Saturday morning, to the summit of Mt. Locke, the second, a point-to-point out on the Scenic Loop to the park of Crow’s Nest, and the final stage on Sunday morning. which either performed the infamous complete Scenic Loop, or did an out-and-back along the Stage 1 route and beyond.
My wife, Tracy, and I, brought along professional videographer and cycling aficionado, Dean Markham, With him, we used about five separate cameras, on handlebars, saddles, helmets, and in follow vehicles, to capture the essence of the races and its’ participants.
I know we were not able to get everyone interviewed or get all categories reviewed, and you know how things always end up on a cutting room floor when editing, but I assure you - we tried. Expect a promotional video in the next few weeks, and longer videos and video segments on our YouTube channel as time allows and Spring progresses.
This was Tracy’s first time racing out there, and there was a healthy audience of over a dozen women, from all around the state and beyond. She is much more competitive these last few years than me, and while I considered it my goal just to finish each stage, she was ready to compete a little.
Still, our combined focus on coaching and running a startup these last two years have taken their toll on her as well as me, and she was unused to the altitude and gradients this race provides. That didn’t stop her from having a blast, and it didn’t stop me from enjoying her races and stories as much as my own.
We both finished out of the money but left with enough experience and enthusiasm to ensure that upon our return next year, we’ll both be better prepared. Sometimes you have to experience a race, just to experience it, rather than attempt to race it.
The Racing: Stage 1
The climb out to Mt. Locke started out a little chilly, as expected, but it quickly warmed up about halfway through the route, and I was dropped early on the first real climb, thus making the effort a quiet, solo affair.
The second climb, the longest of the three, was just beautiful, as I rode within my limits and focused on good posture for the sake of the camera on my head. Unfortunately, right at the transition from climb to flat, where there is a good chicane in the road, I derailed. An awesome helper in a trailing vehicle was kind enough to help me get the thing back on for the final assault.
I was well over 15 minutes behind the leaders but managed the climb, and then waited at the top for Dean and then Tracy. Client Paul Konrad also made the assault, and it made me proud to see a rider who had put so much time in at the studio, perform so well! Our descent together was a blast, and ALL of it was videotaped, so expect to see some significant action from that segment soon!
The Racing: Stage 2
Stage 2, held midafternoon, was another point-to-point, this time held out on the first part of the Scenic Loop. Traditionally, Ft. Davis suffers from increasing winds as the afternoon wears on, and Saturday was no exception. The racers formed tight packs, played defense, but the riders with teammates sent rabbits up the road for the rest of us to reel in.
I was quickly dropped, along with a rider from El Paso, and together we took turns pulling until we reached the finish, a few minutes back from the leaders. I then went back down with some of the riders, this time enjoying a great tailwind along with the descent, and pulled over to rejoin Dean, who was filming the women’s race.
Now I need to note -- THAT was a great display of racing. Watching the ATC women dominate by sending a talented cyclist off the front, and then holding back the rest of the pack like a tight champagne cork, while finally sending another rider off, to dominate the podium, was just artful. The other riders and teams never stood a chance.
An interview on camera afterward only confirmed my thoughts - these were true amateur professionals. They thanked each other, congratulated each other, displayed consummate sportsmanship to the other competitors after the event ended and were cheerful and humble throughout. They credited each other, and I later learned that they disbursed the winnings equally through the club. THAT was incredible!
Dinner at Marfa’s famous Jett’s Grille, at the Paisano Hotel
Dinner that evening was in Marfa’s famous Jett’s Grille, at the Paisano Hotel. We were engaged by Dean’s stories of his cycling adventures in the 80’s and his return to the sport through our studio just a year ago. He’s since lost over 40 lbs and purchased a new road bike, and he’ll be eagerly anticipating the local rallies and events that we travel to this year.
The Racing: Stage 3
For me, Sunday’s race, covered the Scenic Loop while Tracy’s event was an out-and-back along the Stage 1 course and beyond. Once again, I was reminded just how incredibly fun the course is, as I rode with the group the first 20 miles.
I rolled off the front a short bit on the back side to get some excellent camera footage, and then rejoined the pack until the base of Bear Canyon, the first steep climb in the race. After that, I was solo, and I made a point to focus on cadence, staying hydrated, eating on a good schedule, and enjoying the challenge and the beautiful, mostly windless day.
On the ride into Ft. Davis, two Cat 4’s passed me, and they both had that eager, assertive look as they chased each other into town. I was running on fumes by that point, but reminded myself that there WILL be a next year for us, and we WILL be bringing more people with us to this unique event.
Ft. Davis’ Hammerfest is back, and everyone including TXBRA racers should embrace this classic stage race. There’s something for everyone, regardless of ability or experience, and it is worth the trip. Call it a pilgrimage, but it is just a fantastic way to see Texas, experience three great rides, and make plans to improve your fitness and enjoy the results.
Thanks to Peri and her hard work making this possible, and the citizens of Ft. Davis, who volunteered.