Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Riding the Range

Saturday morning I got up and headed out for a training ride. I haven't hit nearly the hills that I need to, so I pedaled over to Percy Warner Park, an interesting patch of urban wilderness on the southwest side of Nashville. There are all kinds of activites there for riders and runners and even the general outdoor enthusiast. I saw tons of deer, wild turkeys, foxes, and other wildlife, so there's plenty there to entertain. More importantly though, it has some pretty steep hills which make for a decent workout.

Five years ago, when I first arrived in Nashville, a couple of friends of mine and I decided to ride the 11.2 mile loop through the park. At the time, I was thirty pounds heavier than I am now, I hadn't done any aerobic exercise in years, and my bicycle was a $200 Diamondback Sorrento purchased five years earlier that had been ridden a total of 500 miles over the course of its life and had never been serviced. To me, a bike ride was something one did for leisure. Distances NEVER exceeded 15 miles at a time. My friends both had other ideas. For the next two hours, they rode up the hill ahead of me, stopping every 500 meters or so to wait for me to catch up, huffing and puffing, red in the face and feeling burning sensations in the back of my legs and lower back that I did not know whether to pass off as just "good old fashioned muscle burn" or something much more serious. I was WAY out of my league with these guys. I felt horrible for holding them up and making them drag me along. They were upbeat and very positive towards me and my level of fitness. I kept trying to say that I was extremely out of shape, but they blamed the 35 lb bike with 2" wide knobby tires. That day, I developed a strange fear of Percy Warner Park. The hills were too steep and the ride too difficult for me to want to go back there. They never invited me back, either.

My first long ride forced me to return to the roads that I still felt were capable of killing me. Only this time I was better equipped. I was thirty pounds lighter, an experienced marathoner, and in posession of a brand-new 18 lb. road bike. I surprised even myself, finishing the loop in a surprisingly short time and with a lot of energy.

Cut to Saturday, June 17. It was time to make Percy Warner work for me. I had a training ride to fulfill and something to prove to myself. I figured that two laps through the park would be sufficient. Combine those two laps in the park with my ride there and home, and I had a nice 37 mile ride (which I finished in 2:04.) I rode the first lap in 41 minutes, stopping once to put my chain back on the big crank (next post, Bike Maintenance 101.) After the first lap, I stopped at my starting point, sucked down a HammerGel and some water, and set out for lap 2. I rode hard, but felt a little fatigue set in about 7 miles into it. I toughed it out, though, and finished the second lap in just over 39 minutes. It was a great ride and I was very pleased with myself for finishing the second lap faster than the first. I am glad I didn't try for a third lap because by the time I was about 3 miles from home, the HammerGel energy was used up and it got hard to hold a pace above 16 mph. I really need to increase my mileage in the saddle, getting out on 50 mile rides or longer every week.

Training Alone.

I don't expect anyone to ride with me at 3 in the morning. I can't talk to anyone while I am swimming. There's little to talk about when I am on the track for intervals (and little air in my lungs to talk with.) I suppose that triathlon is a solitary sport, especially when you are a competitor in your age group or division. I have friends with whom I can ride, run and swim, but our levels of training are so different, I either end up cheating myself out of a solid workout, or they cheat themselves. So I train alone.

So how do you do it? What motivates, what distracts, what encourages during the more difficult parts of a workout?

I have an MP3 player with a pretty fun playlist, but I don't feel safe riding with the MP3 player, so I use it for runs only. While on the bike, I am obsessed with my cyclocomputer. When I need extra encouragement, I look at that little face staring up at me and see if I can't make it give me some numbers that I can be proud of: Average pace: 25 mph, Cadence: 99 rpm, Maximum pace: 40 mph.

Some of these numbers I see more often than others, but when I hit a new high, I am glad I have my own little "witness" to keep urging me on.

What works for you? I'm interested in knowing.

The Need for Speed


Crank, crank, harder, harder...HARDER!


Since I got my cyclocomputer, I have been obsessed with going faster on my bike. My daily commute to work is only 14 miles round trip, with slight a negative elevation change on the way out, which naturally leaves me with a slight positive elevation change on the return trip. As I cannot change clothes at work, I ride in my work clothes, which consist of jeans and a t-shirt. I do wear my cycling shoes and carry my work boots and other necessary accoutrements in a backpack on my back.

(I'm setting the scene here, okay? Be patient and I'll get to the meat of this thing in a minute.)

My shift begins at 4 am and lasts around 5 hours. Average ride time for trip to work: 22 minutes. Average ride speed: 19 mph. Average ride time for trip home: 28 minutes. Average ride speed: 15 mph. Average speed for round trip: +/- 17 mph.

This reflects a minor improvement over the past two weeks since I have been keeping track of my speed (with the aid of my Vetta V100.)

What I really care the most about is my maximum speed on these morning rides. Two weeks ago, I maxed out on the longest downhill stretch at 37.7 mph. Yesterday morning, I finally broke 40. 40.2 mph to be exact. Now remember, I am in jeans and a t-shirt with a 15 lb. backpack on my back. I'm not the most aerodynamic of riders in the morning.

The feel of the wind in my face and the absolute rush of riding at such speeds is tremendous! I'm sure there's a lot of speed that I can gain once I get into my cycling kit and can ride in the crouch position. I'm going to keep working on increasing my speed. I have to find some nice hills on some quiet roads, but I think I can actually break 45 mph or better with the right conditions.

Faster. Faster. Faster.

It really makes the pedaling uphill seem worth it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

My recovery weekend is past, I still feel pretty cruddy, but that's because of allergies rather than illness. It's time to get moving again. I'm going to take it slowly getting back into the training this week, but after last week's garbage food binge, I have been able to police my diet a little better. I've cut back on the junk food and that's probably one of the more significant factors in my recovery.

I have been without a bike for a few days and I can't believe how much I have missed it! The other morning I got up to ride to work and my rear tire was flat. Now, a flat tire shouldn't be a serious obstacle, but it has been for me this week. I am still quite new with my bike and although I am a fairly efficient and skilled do-it-yourselfer, I haven't had the time to fix the blasted flat. I was also a little reticent to get into the mess of it partly because of laziness, partly because of an irrational fear of damaging my bike. (I don't know what kind of phobia that translates into...)

Anyway, I got past that feeling and on Sunday night I sat down and fixed the flat...without checking the tube for the offending item. I replaced the tube and promptly found the repaired tire going flat once again. UN-FREAKING-BELIEVABLE!!! I kicked myself many times for that little error. So I now had two tubes to patch instead of one. On the bright side, I got some much-needed practice in repairing a flat tire. I have a century ride coming up in a couple of weeks and it would be pretty miserable if I were to flat and not know how to fix it myself. I have another fear, that of being identified as a novice, which I am, but I try and fake it as much as possible. I hope to ride the Harpeth River Century with some experienced riders and get used to riding in a group, but if they see me as a novice, they may be less willing to let me ride with them. As a cyclist friend of mine puts it, "If you don't look the part, people might be nervous to ride with you because they'll think you're squirrely." So, I figure it's a lot about the image, including shaved legs, cycling jersey, cyclocomputer, and all that jazz.

Speaking of cyclocomputers, I just got one, a Vetta V100 wireless with cadence. That little machine is amazing! I only got a 15 mile ride in today, but the information I gleaned from the computer made me understand a lot about my current ability and potential on the bike. I'm excited to get out there and really work this weekend.

I'll finish with one last anecdote. As I was leaving work this morning, the security guard laughed and said, "Amazing." I asked what he meant and he said, "I think it's amazing that you ride in here on your bike almost every day because you like to and there's another guy who is doing the same thing, but he constantly complains about having to ride. I don't get it." We chatted a little more and I rode home proud of the fact that people notice my riding and are actually impressed by it.

I'm probably reading more into it than there is, but it's definitely worth some points for incentive.

In the words of the legendary Eddy Merckx, "Ride lots."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Garbage In...Garbage Out

I've been run down and miserable all week. I couldn't finish my interval run on Tuesday and haven't felt well enough to run or work out at all since. I hope it's not psychosomatic, but I know that a great deal of my suffering I owe to my own foolish decisions.

It's time to take my diet seriously.

On Tuesday morning I stopped in at the grocery store for a loaf of bread and got a great deal more than I needed. I walked out with a bunch of junk food and over the next two days devoured it all. My gluttony has been my undoing this week. I have not had energy to run, I haven't slept well at night, my stomach has been upset all week, and all I can think about is when and where can I get my next Snickers Bar. (Okay, that's a little dramatic.) I haven't eaten well by my standards and I have noticed a tremendous change in my mood and energy level. I feel like Morgan Spurlock of "Super-Size Me." (At least I can say I haven't eaten any fast food this week.)

The first step is to recognize the problem, the second step is to remedy it...

I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to know what causes my low energy and fatigue. (9 of 10 times it is diet related.) I'm pretty sure most any person with a moderate level of fitness can do this, but I still have to work on having the strength and will-power to avoid the many pitfalls that come my way in the assorted shapes of junk food. Years ago, I remember my grandmother refusing a piece of pie at a party because she knew that if she ate even the smallest piece of pie that night, she'd "pay dearly for it" the next day. This was long before I began running, but now that I am a runner, I know EXACTLY what she meant.

So now I have to detoxify. I have a long day of work today and also tomorrow, so there's little chance I will be able to get in a lengthy workout on either day, but if I can use this weekend to cleanse my system of the toxins and get away from my dependency on sugar, I will be quite able to train effectively come Monday.

Remember: Garbage In...Garbage Out

Monday, June 05, 2006

Finishing out the old week before starting a new one.

Here I am at work, trying to get geared up to actually do something productive and I figure that since I have to write more on my dissertation, I might as well "prime the pump" and write a weekend workout report on my blog. (That still seems funny to me, that I am actually "blogging.")
I don't feel like being overly creative today, so I'll just lay it out without any drama.

Friday afternoon I had to go get my car from the shop before they closed at 6pm, but I wanted to get in a swim after work at 4. I got hung up at work, but did manage to get myself into the pool for a short workout. It was only about 750 yards total, but it felt good to get into the water nonetheless. Fortunately for me, I had ridden my bike to work in the morning and had already put in about 15 miles on the bike. The next big advantage was that I only had my bike to get me to the shop to pick up my car, so I got another 5 miles in there. It was certainly a light day as workouts are concerned, but I needed to rest a little after the tempo run on Thursday. I was almost dreading Saturday's run because my legs were so sore and tired...

I ended up staying up way too late Friday night. I think Cynthia needed me to go to the grocery store for a few things and I didn't get out of the house until 9:30 or so. Mind you, I am long asleep most days by 8:30, so I was up pretty late. I guess I finally fell asleep around 11:00 or 11:30 Friday night and slept right through my 5:05 alarm Saturday morning. I slept in until 7:30, which by my calculations means I actually got eight hours of sleep that night. First time in over a month! I got up and the kids were kind enough to stay asleep until 8, so I go in a half hour of yoga and then went for my 10-mile run. The temperature was almost perfect and the humidity was so low, it felt like I wasn't in Tennessee at all. I ran the 10 miles in 1:20, so it was a bit slower than I had originally intended, but I didn't struggle with the gremlin inside. It was a good, solid workout, and although I hate to admit it, the first time I had run 10 miles since the Country Music Marathon in late April.

The rest of the day was family day. I wanted to steal some time away for a bike ride, but when you get up three hours late, you are going to have to sacrifice something. I suppose I needed the sleep more than the ride... Unfortunately, I didn't get to bed before 10:30 Saturday night and was up at 6:30 for early Sunday meetings. I spent most of Sunday quite tired (and grumpy, Cynthia tells me.) I was really afraid I wouldn't have the energy to get back into my regular work routine this morning. I didn't ride my bike to work, which bothers me a little, but I am feeling quite energized, so I can probably get in a good workout this afternoon.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Triathlon training plans

I just found this website with a 36-week triathlon training plan for the Ironman distance. I have yet to look it over entirely, but what I have seen looks to be solid.

Check it out here.

Forget the pace, just run the distance.

Tempo runs are always fun. Yesterday I had an 8-mile tempo run @ 7:20 planned. I am (perhaps not very wisely) training in warmer weather these days, trying to acclimate myself to the warmer summer runs and rides that I will be participating in. Yesterday I ran at 5pm. It was still quite warm out. I got moving and realized one mile into my workout that I was about 50 seconds faster than the projected pace. Not surprisingly, 6:30 was the pace I ran the triathlon in on Monday, so for me to get off to such a quick pace is understandable, but I should know better. I tried to correct my error and ran mile 2 in 7:13, still faster than pace; mile 3 in 7:16, getting closer, and mile 4 in 7:24. Now begins the breakdown...

I had drunk a lot of water before my run and expected to be able to run the full hour without stopping for a drink. Fortunately for me, at the 4-mile mark, the running store had Gatorade and water out for the runners. I stopped and drank about 8 ounces of Gatorade and a couple more of water, but then found myself unable (or unwilling) to resume running. The gremlin came back, trying to convince me that I could head straight home from there, having only run four miles. I toyed with the idea as I walked along the course. After about three minutes of walking I found my energy again. I started running, slower than pace, but it was running. I kept thinking about the gremlin in my head and a post that I read in Lana's blog, "Lana wins!" As I moved up the road, I controlled the gremlin and decided at that point to forget the pace and just run the distance. I ran the last four miles in increasingly faster times, finishing the last one in 8:00. It may have been a far cry from the 7:20 I had scheduled, but I won another battle against myself and my gremlin.
My total run workout yesterday--8.5 miles, total time (including walking) 1:09. Not quite pace, but not too far off either. Tomorrow I want to ride some hills on the bike and then put in 10 miles on foot.

Good luck to you racers this weekend!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I hate missing workouts

Missing a workout can lead to a tailspin-type slump. It's best to avoid that at all costs.

Yesterday was a cross-training day and I had everything set up to go swimming right after work...

Then Cynthia called. The car had broken down and left her and the kids stranded at Kroger. I spent the rest of the afternoon taking care of that mess and before I knew it, the pool was closed and I had to get to bed so I could get up and ride to work at 3:30 this morning. The car is in the shop and my only other transportation is my bike, so the "forced" workout created by not having a car to drive to work will have to suffice for now.

I really was looking forward to getting in a good swim yesterday. Oh well.

Today I am going to run 8 miles @ 7:20 pace. It may be pretty tough, especially since my quads are still sore from the intervals on Tuesday and I am utterly exhausted from a week of pretty hard work. But I am going to do it.

Cynthia has her book club tonight and if I can get the kids in bed early enough, I may be able to get in a good yoga workout before going to bed. That may help me regain some of my energy.

Today's advice to myself: Revel in the recent victory and focus on the next goal. Set your sights on the challenge at hand. Don't let yourself lag behind.

I'm sure the mental aspect of training is just as difficult (if not moreso) than the physical training at times.