Category Archives: training

Flat in the Dark

I’ve found something that I love. Finally. It’s not a person. Nor is it running. Well, okay. I do love running, but that’s not what this post is about. I’ve been converted to night riding.

My first true night ride was about a week ago. I took off after work and rode about a 60 mile training ride. Before that I had commuted while it was dark, but that was always less than 5 miles. My first night ride I turned the headlight on about 1/3 of the way into the ride. It was a little awkward at first having to get used to only seeing a small bubble right in front of you. But the views of the sky were gorgeous.  It was made even better because I could view the stars without looking up the sky was so clear and non light polluted.

That night I was riding the infamous Shootout route. From Tucson, I went south on Mission Road, used Duval Mine Road and came back north on Nogales Highway. In total it’s about 60 miles, but riding from home adds another 6 to that. Unfortunately, the end of the ride takes place inside the city of Tucson, so seeing the stars is harder not only because of the light, but because one has to pay more attention to riding and avoiding cars.

2011-oct-26_map

Route ridden on the 26th of October, 2011.

Last night I once again planned a night ride. I would take off after work and ride about 40 miles. Have a looksee at the map I rode, taken from Garmin Connect. Garmin has updated their site to include Google Maps with bicycle routes on it. I don’t know if I rode on any on this ride because the real route ridden in red covers the green bike routes.

Anyway, I took off westbound at around 4pm when the winds were west-northwest at 30 gusting to 48! As the night progressed, the winds died down, luckily for me. I went out on St Mary’s and transitioned to Gates Pass Road. Riding up Gates Pass into that wind was so hard. But I made it up and over and all in the large chainring! My heart rate got pretty high, and the legs were burning bad, but I knew I had a long decent ahead of me.

2011-oct-26_metrics

Speed, elevation, and heart rate data from the October 26, 2011 ride.

After cresting the pass, I enjoyed the long downhill on Gates Pass Road until Kinney. I made the left on Kinney and now has a quartering tailwind. Not the greatest, but at least it wasn’t a headwind. I was really looking forward to making the turn from Kinney onto Ajo and having a full tailwind while going downhill! What I didn’t plan on was flatting. At the corner of Kinney and Ajo I noticed the telltale signs of a flat tire. I dismounted, checked, and yup, a flat. My first flat at night. We’d see how well I knew how to change a flat.

Looking at the data, it seems it took me about 20 minutes to change the tube. Not bad considering I made sure to check for glass and other crap in the tire that may immediately puncture the tube. I took the descent a little slow because I didn’t want another flat going downhill with the wind going at 40 miles per hour! I will note that road is much steeper than I previously thought. I had only ridden it going the other way, and it doesn’t seem that steep. I was wrong. Holy crap!

When I got to the intersection of Ajo and Mission I had a decision to make; should I head home or should I continue on the planned route. Since the tube had held up through the descent, I decided to go on the planned route. Besides, I had 2 more CO2s and tubes in the saddle bag in case of more flats. The planned route is visible in the image above and took me south on Mission to San Xavier Road where I headed east. This took me past the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, which I couldn’t see because it was dark. I continued past Desert Diamond Casino and the Tucson International Airport and turned north on Nogales Highway. A quick jog east at Valencia to Park and it was a straight shot north to home.

All-in-all it was a fun ride, even with the flat. My next night ride might be the same except extending the southbound leg so that I do the entire Shootout route. That would increase the total distance up to 100 miles. It’d be fun to complete a century all after dark. I’m not sure when I can fit that into the training schedule, hopefully next week.

Keep the rubber side down…

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Filed under cycling, daily report, training, tucson

Force reps

force reps map

Doing some force reps along the multi-use path.

Today the training plan called for something I haven’t seen before: force reps. The description that came along with the plan said to find a straight-and-level surface to do them on. Then, select a gear where you can only manage 50-60 revolutions per minute (RPM) while seated and mash for up to 20 revolutions. The training plan didn’t say mash, but that’s what it would be. Repeat up to 10 times. Sounds easy, no? See my Garmin Connect activity profile.

The first step was finding a suitable flat spot in Tucson. The Rillito River park is about as flat as you can get. The path along the Santa Cruz River park may be flatter, at least it seems so to me, and it always seems to have less walkers and runners, but it’s a long way from my house and wasn’t prepared to do the commute first, then the workout. So the Rillito it was. I took Campbell over the river made a 270-degree turn westbound on the path and I was off to start my warm-up. Looking at the metrics below, you may be thinking, “where’s the warm-up?” It wasn’t a very good warm-up, but it was actually better than usual. I got the legs spinning at pre-dawn hours and the blood flowing a little. Heart rate only got up to 130 beats per minute (BPM) but I was feeling a bit warm. Not sweaty, but ready to start the reps.

After 20 minutes my watch beeps at me. I can set it to do intervals, which is basically what this training session was. It was time to do the first rep. I start changing to harder gears while simultaneously slowing my cadence. I wish I had a cadence meter so that I could show that data in the metrics. As long as I’m wishing, I wish I had a power meter too. C’est la vie. I quickly find that I’m in the 50×12 (my hardest gear) and standing. Doh! I wasn’t supposed to be standing. Even so, after a minute I started to get really tired. You see, I had set the intervals on the watch for 2 minutes. How did I come to that number? I have no idea. At the most, the intervals should have been 20 seconds. 20 revolutions divided by 60 RPM equals 1/3 of a minute or 20 seconds. I think I got confused and just put the 2 in the wrong slot in the watch. I actually didn’t realize that while riding, so these were actually about 1 minute intervals.

force reps metrics

Speed (blue), elevation (green), and heart rate (red) during the reps.

If you count the spikes in the heart rate in the metrics, you’ll see that there are eleven. I can’t even get that right. In my defense, the beep that starts the cool-down sounds very similar to the beep that starts an interval. It was only after that 11th one that I looked at the watch and it said I was supposed to be in cool-down mode. Jeez, I can’t get anything right with this workout.

So it turns out that 50×12 at 60 RPM isn’t that hard to do on a flat surface. As an aside, 50×12 for those that don’t know the lingo means that I had the chain in a 50 tooth front chainring and a 12 tooth rear cog. Why is the front called a chainring and the back a cog? I have no idea.

If my hardest gear wasn’t hard enough, what was I doing wrong? I had already quickly dismissed the idea that I was already at the top 1% of 1% of all athletes in this particular drill. A little searching on the web turned up this blog post by none other than Joe Friel of TrainingBible fame. It turns out that I was doing them wrong. Friel explains that they work best when done on a hill with a 5-8% grade. Hmm. Why not just call them hill repeats then? I think because the gear is specified to be such that RPM is maximized at 60 instead of sitting and spinning all the way to the top. And not standing too. But “sitting low-cadence hill repeats” would have been a clearer name for what I was supposed to be doing.

He also explains why he calls them reps and not intervals. See, his intervals always have a set time between each set. So an example would be 10 1-minute intervals with 1 minute rest. With reps, there is no set rest period between sets. So you get to rest until you feel you can complete the next rep. He also explains that this exercise is for more advanced cyclists who should ideally have several years of racing under their belt. Actually, he doesn’t say that in the blog post. I remember that from the TrainingBible. Why would I, a new cyclist with less than a year experience and no racing experience, be doing this workout? Because I don’t have a coach; or more accurately, I’m trying to self-coach myself, and I screwed up.

What I’m finding is that coaching yourself is more difficult that I ever imagined it would be. It was really nice having someone tell me what to do everyday and all I had to do was go do it. Sitting down, making a plan, and executing that plan is hard work. But I’m determined to stick with it until at least the end of the year. I have the Tucson Marathon coming up and before that a whole lot of other shorter races. After that, I will re-assess my goals and see if I need (and can afford) a coach.

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Filed under cycling, daily report, training, tucson

Weekly Roundup: September 12-18, 2011

It’s been a long week. So long that I haven’t had time to post anything juicy in a while. Don’t worry, I have 2 other posts in the works and they’re both really good.

So I’ve seen these weekly recaps on other training blogs and I think they’re a good idea. Since this is my first one and I haven’t been keeping track, this one kinda sucks, but I promise next week’s will be much better. The last 7 days saw me training for 16.5 hours with one recovery day. I logged over 40 miles running and over 150 miles biking. That seemed like a lot, and to tell you the truth, I’m more than a little beat today. This week is also going to be weird because I’m flying to Omaha to run a half marathon with my lil sis, so this is sort of a recovery week. But I need to step it up it up if I want to make my goal of a peak week of 50 miles running, 250 miles biking, and 10 miles swimming.

I eventually want to log all the food I’ve eaten, weight training sessions, and weight (as in body mass) too. But I don’t have those numbers for this week.

So here’s what I did:

Training:

Summary:

  • Weights: 2 session for 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Running: 40.69 miles in 6 hours, 19 minutes, 27 seconds
  • Riding: 154.79 miles in 9 hours, 30 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Swimming: None. Shoulder/arm still too sore.

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Should I try for a PR at Omaha? Semi-random musings

A few days ago, I was musing about trying to set a new PR at the Omaha Half. Don’t worry; procrastinator that I am, I haven’t made a decision yet. But I’ve been thinking about it. I have two competing thoughts on the matter. On the one hand, the only half marathon I’ve run has been the Lake Havasu Half. I signed up for it on a whim about three weeks prior to the event. At the time I was training for the Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott. There was no specific training that went into the Havasu Half besides showing up and running. There was no taper period involved since the week preceding the event consisted of a full running schedule. Even so, I was able to mount a very reasonable 1:42:06 for a first half-marathon. Since then, I’ve continued to run and am in much better shape now than I was then. Therefore, all things being equal, I should have no problem breaking my record set at Havasu.

But all things are not equal. The most important difference is that I am not only training for a running event. I am also training for cycling. At the moment I am not swimming because I broke my arm a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a serious break and it was in a location where they can’t cast it, so all I could do was take pain medication. It still hurts once in a while, but I’ve been riding and running for the last two weeks. The broken arm hasn’t slowed down my running that much. It’s the training hours I’m putting in biking that have me worried. I spend about 75% of my training hours on the bike. In terms of distance, it’s a lot more due to the speed differential. But the load on the legs feels about the same for each discipline. So at the moment I’m basically training for a marathon – twice! I’ve also added a weight lifting routine that I didn’t have before.

Last week alone I had 17 hours of training on the bike. That doesn’t include the average 34 minutes daily commuting to and from work. I also had 4.5 hours of training scheduled running. I don’t have easy access to my TrainingPeaks account right now, but I think I was pretty close to hitting all the biking hours and I was right on for the running. So it was a hard week. This week’s load is lighter, but not by much. For instance, I have today completely off besides commuting!

Last night I ran 8 miles in the rain. In 80 minutes. Yes, you read that right: 10 minutes/mile. That was what I put on the training plan, so that’s what I did. But it was slow running because I had lifted immediately prior. And because of my broken arm, I am restricted to leg work in the gym. Actually, both the gym and run yesterday went great and I’m sort of bummed I don’t get to do anything today. Although that’s mostly because I like eating, and when I workout I get to eat a lot.

So I’m not sure what I should do. Any random passersby have comments?

Life on the road continues…

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Thoughts on self-coached endurance athletes

Should I hire a coach or can I do this alone?

There comes a time in every athlete’s training when they think that they might need a coach. For some people, that point comes when they first decide to get into endurance sports. There are many coaches that specialize in taking someone who is not particularly active and putting together a training plan to get them to their goal. Usually that goal is to finish an event of some kind; that could be a 5k, marathon, or Ironman Triathlon. For some people running or walking for 5 kilometers (3 miles) is an enormous feat and they have no idea how they can get from their current level of fitness to a level they had only dreamed of before. It makes sense that if you’re starting a completely new activity that you seek out the guidance of someone who is more experienced that you.

On the other end of the spectrum is the professional endurance athlete. For obvious reasons, someone like Lance Armstrong is going to need a coach. In fact, Lance Armstrong during his prime probably had at a coach, a manager, a sports psychologist, a nutritionist, a doctor, and probably more dedicated to him winning the Tour de France. Unfortunately, you are not Lance Armstrong. That’s why you’re reading this article. But it’s not just top professionals that need coaches. Elite amateurs are likely to need, or at least want, a dedicated coach. In the sport of road cycling, this would consist of those who compete as category 1 and 2 racers. Most elite athletes have accumulated the knowledge to coach themselves, but what they usually lack is the time. Self-coaching takes a lot of an individuals time and someone who trains 40+ hours per week simply doesn’t have it!

This leaves a lot of ground in-between and I don’t want to lump all these people into the same category. But there is a wide spectrum of people who may want a coach, should have a coach, or don’t need a coach and they just don’t know where they stand from high-school to masters athletes. What these athletes have in common is that they are endearingly referred to as age-groupers. This simply means that they are not competing for the overall win in an event, but are competing against other athletes of the same age, gender, or skill. Running and triathlon events will typically split age-groups in age and gender; cycling events are sorted by skill level, with pros racing with the elite riders. Generally there are awards, monetary or not, that are given to age-group winners, so there is competition among them!

Background

Growing up, I was active in sports. Throughout grade and high school I played basketball, baseball, soccer, and golf. Baseball is almost exclusively an anaerobic sport, which means that the body uses energy from a system that provides bursts of up to 2 minutes. Soccer is primarily an aerobic exercise where one needs to run almost continuously for a long period of time, with short bursts of speed every so often. But even a soccer match is only an hour and a half long. Someone new to running, for instance, could take well over four hours to complete a marathon. Then I met my match. During my last year of high school I did not make the soccer team, I barely made the basketball team, and golf doesn’t really count. After one year of baseball, I gave that up. I had spread myself too thin, both in terms of athletics and academically. I was never a great athlete, so during high school I focused most of my time on studying, which contributed to the decline in my athletic abilities. During that year, I got my first taste of coaching: I was asked to coach the 5th and 6th grade soccer team where I went to grade school. It was great fun, and I learned a lot, not only about coaching, but about myself.

As I went to college, my participation is sports dropped to zero… unless you count bowling. And while it’s certainly a sporting competition, there is very little aerobic about it. Then I got accepted to graduate school, where my studies took an even further step forward. The limit of my physical fitness was now walking up three flights of stairs. I ballooned to 220 pounds. I was feeling crappy pretty much every day, and feeling run down most days. Then I decided to change everything: I was going to lose the weight I had gained since high school. I made a goal of finishing a marathon within a year.

That first year was hard. I still remember those first few months. I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to run outside, so I took up running on the treadmill. I would put the treadmill on 6 miles per hour and run for 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. That first time I reached 3 miles was the turning point. That’s just shorter a tad than a 5k race. I knew at this point I could make the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. But I knew I needed a plan: I couldn’t just wing it. So I searched the Internet and found Hal Higdon’s novice marathon training plan. It looked good to me, but what did I know? I had never done this before! As it turns out, I would still recommend that plan for a first-time marathoner. What’s more, I learned through those 18 weeks what it meant to be self-coached. And there’s a whole lot more to it than simply following a pre-packaged plan you find on the Internet.

Since that first marathon, I completed several half-marathons, many shorter running races, and a sprint triathlon. And most importantly, I’ve hired two coaches along the way to help me out. One was a coach to help me with the triathlon and the other was a swim specific coach. I signed up for the triathlon 9 weeks before the event and didn’t know how to swim. I’m glad I got both coaches. There are definitely positive and negative aspects of hiring a coach.

At present, I do not have a coach. I am training for the 2011 Tucson Marathon and at the same time training for a full season of cycling during 2012. While I have no delusion of grandeur, I no longer consider myself a newbie endurance athlete. I am entering the world of the self-coached athlete. These are my thoughts, subject to change, about being your own coach.

Your Job as a Coach

The first job of a coach is to sit down with a new athlete and talk about their goals. As a self-coached athlete, this may not require any spoken words, but it is still a very important part of your job as coach. It is important that your create S.M.A.R.T. goals: they need to be (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)ttainable, (R)elevant, and (T)ime-based. As an example, one of my goals is to run the Tucson Marathon on December 11, 2011 in under 3 hours and 40 minutes. The setting of goals is a job of both the athlete and the coach. As a self-coached athlete, you must make certain that your goals are realistic to achieve, yet not so easy as to not provide a challenge.

Once the goal is set, it’s now the coaches job to sit down and make a training plan to accomplish that goal. For my goal, I am using a modified version of one of Hal Higdon’s intermediate marathon plans. But because I’m also training for a full season of bike racing, I need to add that in too, which makes the job harder. A very important thing you need to realize about being your own coach is that it’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes a lot of time to effectively coach yourself. It probably takes a lot of time to coach others too, which is why it costs so much to hire them! So don’t sell yourself short: allocate an hour per day to really looking at the daily, weekly, and monthly schedule and see if it still fits in with your goals.

Setting a truly customized training plan takes a lot of time an effort. There are many books dedicated to the art and science of taking the human body to the edge and achieving peak performance. This article simply cannot distill all that knowledge into a coherent summary. I would suggest looking on the Internet for free training plans for whatever it is you’re trying to achieve or visiting a local library. Joe Friel has training programs for both triathlon and cycling called Training Bibles. They are written for advanced athletes, but are probably useful to all but the most beginning self-coached athletes.

Your Job as an Athlete

The hard part is over, right? Now that the training plan has been made, it’s now your job as an athlete to simply follow the plan. If it was that easy, then there would be one plan available for each sport and there would be no need for coaches at all! The fact is, there is an enormous amount of work you need to do outside of training. There is a need for communication between athlete and coach that as a self-coached athlete is both easier and harder. When you have a coach, it’s easy to become lax and just follow the training plan without knowing what the coach is doing behind the scenes. You just send your daily workout log to the coach, look at the schedule for tomorrow, and complete the job. If you have questions, aren’t feeling well, or whatever, there’s always a chance to call the coach and see what she thinks.

A self-coached athlete still needs to provide feedback to your coach! It’s just in this case, you are the coach. Being your own coach makes you less objective than someone else would be, but it offers the advantage of knowing exactly how you feel. Did you just have a terrible workout in the pool and feel you need to work on your swim stroke more than running or biking? It’s easy for you as an athlete to tell your coach (you) that’s what you want. It’s harder as a coach (you) to make an objective decision based on what you’re feeling.

One of the main jobs as a coach is to push an athlete to their limit but not passed that limit. Overtraining is a condition when the body has endured too much stress without adequate recovery. It is extremely easy for self-coached athletes to overtrain. It is also extremely easy for self-coached athletes to undertrain. As an athlete, you need to provide feedback to yourself so you can make an objective decision about coaching. I would suggest using a program like TrainingPeaks.com. They offer a free place to log workouts, meals, and daily metrics such as body weight. The pay version allows you to pre-plan workouts, meals, and lots of other great things not available in the free version. I forget what exactly you get with the pay version, but it’s well worth the money. I forgot to renew my membership, and was horrified to find that most of the tools I use were no longer available. TrainingPeaks, or similar logging tools, provide a way as an athlete to tell yourself as a coach what exactly you are doing.

TrainingPeaks works best if you have a heart rate enabled GPS device. I use a Garmin Forerunner 405CX. It is very good at what it does, and I highly recommend it, although any GPS would work. For cycling, a power meter would probably be a good product to buy if you have the money. I don’t currently own a power meter, but it’s on the wish list. The GPS, heart rate monitor, and power meter provide quantitative (as opposed to qualitative) metrics on daily workouts. If you don’t have a GPS, heart rate monitor or power meter, it’s important that you log how hard each workout seemed based on a rating of perceived effort. There are several common scales in wide use; I prefer the 1-10 scale. Make sure to log any qualitative comments you may have as well! I’ve left comments like these: “felt slight twinge in left knee” and “very hard workout in pool (8/10), but HR not above 150”. These will allow you to go back, as a coach, and see how you’re progressing and, as an athlete, if you ever need to see when you sustained that injury that keeps recurring.

Concluding Remarks

I certainly cannot tell you whether it is better for you to be a self-coached athlete or not. I’ve only been self-coaching myself for a few months, and I’ve only recently forayed into the arena of endurance sports. However, I can tell you that I am having a great time not only being an athlete, but being a coach as well. They are different sides of the same coin. It is possible to be a great athlete but a horrible coach; it is possible to be a great coach and a horrible athlete. It takes a special blend to be a great athlete and a great coach, and a spectacular blend to be your own great self-coach.

But I do think that in this age, where almost everything can be found for free on the Internet, that self-coaching in the future. Most athletes that are not extreme beginners or extreme professionals will be self-coached. So take the plunge and join the ranks of self-coached athletes. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not a waste of time. It will make you a better athlete to have a coach, even if it’s yourself.

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Filed under coaching, cycling, goals, marathon, running, swimming, training, triathlon

Friday fun day!

another cloudy morning in tucson

Rolling down River Road looking east towards the rising sun.

After the long day on Thursday, I decided to prolong the fun by getting up early on Friday and doing a brick workout. The day started with a 42 mile bike ride with 1800 feet of elevation gain. That was followed by a flat 3 mile run along the river path. The training plan again called for zone 1-2 on rolling hills. This time for three hours. I brought along the point and click camera and took a few snapshots along the way. My favorite was going down River Road near the end of my ride. It was pleasantly cool do to the clouds and as I looked to the east, I didn’t have to wonder why. Look at all those clouds! Well, for Tucson anyway. This would be a clear day for San Francisco, Seattle, or Portland.

The ride started off well. Heading east on River there were few cars since it was still before the morning rush hour. There’s a weird intersection between River, Alvernon, and Dodge that’s a little dangerous for bikes when there’s traffic. On the odd days I do this loop counter-clockwise, I usually cut to the river path at this point and take that to Craycroft. It’s easier since it’s flatter, but I also don’t have to deal with the cars. But I stayed on River Road and got to do the rolling hills. They’re always fun for me because it seems like they’re downhill both ways! Love them.

Nothing notable happened during my travels along River. The left turn through the River-Sabino Canyon intersection was non-notable; which I guess makes it notable in itself. There’s usually something funky happening there. Must have been the early hour that everyone was behaving. On the way up Sabino I had a decision to make. Should I continue straight on Kolb and ride the Kolb/Craycroft loop or head out to Sabino Canyon. The Kolb/Craycroft loop is not nearly as much climbing and coming from this direction it’s not very steep. I could have gone over and started it on the Craycroft side, but then there would have been backtracking and the perfectionist in me would not have liked that one bit. Plus, that road is really rough. And I don’t like that one bit either.

So Sabino it was! I was expecting there to be a lot of bikers, runners, and walkers out since it was Friday morning and the weather was so nice. However, much to my surprise, there was hardly anyone there! The first biker I saw was at mile post 1. For a while I thought that I had somehow missed a notice about there being no bikes today. But there was hardly anyone out there at all. So the ride up was uneventful and the ride down was uneventful. I forgot to take any pictures though, so you’ll have to use a search engine to find some and then use your imagination and superimpose me in them.

A little pseudo-sprint at the top of the hill got the heart rate to 169 beats per minute. Up until that point I had been averaging about 130 bpm. On the mostly downhill way home, I’d average only about 120 bpm. In terms of heart rate it was a very easy ride. Actually, in terms of a lot of metrics it was an easy ride. But during the whole ride I couldn’t help think of how my legs felt like jelly. And I had a run to do after this as well! Oh goody.

ina road morning rush hour traffic

At the top of the hill looking down on rush hour traffic. Halfway into the 3 hour, 42 mile ride.

On the downhill on Ina, I picked up a rider wearing a TriSports Cycling kit. I tried to keep up with him as he passed, and did a decent job for a bit, but then lost him at a stop light. Heart rate got up to 140 bpm and speed up to 30 mph, so I wasn’t pushing it too hard.

Last time I rode this route I made the left turn from Ina onto La Cholla. This time I went up to Thornydale. This had two major consequences: one was planned and the other not so much. Firstly, by going this extra few miles I cut off one left turn from the route. This is good. I don’t like left turns that leave me sitting unprotected on a bike in the middle of traffic. However, it also was bad because the intersection of Ina and Thornydale was extremely busy. I couldn’t get into the left lane to make the turn. As I got up to the light, I was planning on going straight across and then riding south on Thornydale. But the light turned green in the opposite direction just as I was getting to the light. Some quick thinking, and I decided to walk my bike from the bike lane in front of the cars waiting at the red light to the left turn lane. Totally illegal, but I did it anyway. And as I did, I notice there’s a Pima County Sheriff’s deputy sitting right at the front of the line. Doh! He has his window down, but doesn’t say anything to me. Whew.

The ride down Thornydale, which turns into River, saw a crosswind, and as River starts more westerly that turned into a headwind. At this point, River also starts to head uphill. My legs, which had been feeling like jelly all morning long, now felt like mush. My speed dropped to 15 mph and I was counting the miles until I got home.

I make it home, change into running gear and head out. East, north, east, north, path, and back. 3 miles. 10 minutes per mile pace. Just getting the miles in the legs. Boring. A lot of runners and coaches don’t like runs that just put in the miles. Even though they’re boring, I’m a big fan of them. Non-elite runners, like myself obviously, need to build their base endurance. That is accomplished by running lots of slow miles in zones 1 and 2. You’ll notice this is the same training I’m doing for the bike. Putting in the miles in zones 1 and 2 to increase my cardiovascular endurance. This is also the method advocated by Hal Higdon, who is quite possibly the most notable person ever in the running world.

After nearly three and a half hours training, I still had to get to work. A quick shower and lunch making later, I get back on the bike for the 3.5 mile to work. I’m pretty sure walkers were passing me I was going so slow. At this point, I’m still planning on riding 4-5 hours on Saturday, thinking my legs would get better as they usually have done before. On the ride home, my legs still feel extremely tired. I have a quiet Friday night at home, trying to decide whether to do the Shootout or Lemmon on Saturday. Then it occurs to me. It’s 9 o’clock and my legs still feel like crap! Plus, if I want to do the Shootout, I need to make breakfast and get to sleep ASAP. Since the Shootout has always ended with me getting dropped at the bridge, I decide I don’t really want to do that. Then I realize that I don’t have any portable nutrition to take on a 4-5 hour ride. Thinking again about my extremely tired legs, and my thoughts about overtraining from yesterday, I made the hopefully wise decision not to ride at all today. Well, I did ride into work. And since I’m a total doofus and forgot my keycard to get into the building, back home and then back to work. And since I won’t be sleeping here tonight, there’s a plan to ride home too. So about 14 slow miles today.

This is my first day in a long time without any training of any sort. I’m sort of worried about my calorie intake. I can usually just eat and eat and eat and eat and come out pretty close to a calorie neutral day. Today I didn’t eat anything besides a walnut or two before riding into (and back and in) to work. But I brought along a fruit salad consisting of two apples, two bananas, and two plums. This is actually more calories than I usually have with my breakfast cereal. But I was out of cereal (on purpose, more on that in a future post), and I usually have a mid-morning snack. The fruit should get me through lunch. And since it’s 12:15 as I’m writing this, it has. A chicken salad from Chipotle (black beans, fajita, tomato salsa, corn salsa, no vinaigrette, no cheese, no sour cream) for lunch is about 440 calories and quite filling. Dinner looks like chicken with a small veggie salad.

Racing tomorrow…

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Zone 1 doesn’t mean it’s easy

Last night started off so well. I was in a great mood; my package had arrived. In it, I found a rear rack, two shopping panniers, and a bike repair stand that I had ordered a week ago. It had arrived from Amazon.com about a week early. Sweeeeet! After unpacking the oversized box and cataloging the contents, I got to work getting the rack and panniers on my old Giant Cypress hybrid bike. After only about 2 minutes of work, 1 of which was opening the plastic bags, I found out that I had bought a rack that doesn’t fit my tires. I was super bummed, especially after I had spent so much time researching what to buy. Anyway, I headed over to Bikeforums.net to seek help. I ended up not getting into bed until 10, and not falling asleep until after 11! This would turn out to be a problem, as I was planning on getting up at 5 like most mornings to get my workout in before it becomes too hot. I ended up getting up at 5:30.

The first workout of the day was supposed to be an easy 3 mile run. You can see the path I took here. Usually an easy run for me is a 10 minute per mile pace. This may seem fast or slow to you depending on your typical pace, but for me it seems like a turtle when I have to run that slow. Unfortunately, before I set off I didn’t switch my Garmin to the correct pace and it wanted me to run at an 8 minute / mile pace. Umm, no thanks. While I could have done it, and recently did in my 8-miler race, that wasn’t the plan. So I switch to plan B: run by perceived effort. If you followed the link, you’d have seen that I started at an 8:30 pace and ended at a 9:30 pace. That’s much faster than I wanted and I would regret it later, because today’s training plan, like a lot of them, called for a bike ride as well.

Not only was I pulling double duty today, it was a long ride. Not necessarily a hard ride, in fact, the plan said to make sure to take it easy and not go hard. Sometimes that’s hard. 😉 So immediately after my run, I put on my biking gear and head out in what’s called a brick exercise. As my now-former (thankfully) officemate would say (often), “no rest for the wicked”. As I started riding, I noticed that my legs were not responding as they usually do. Well, that’s normal for bricks I tell myself, so I keep going. I start off on the Rillito River Path, which is really flat. See the map and metrics at this Garmin Connect link and the images below.

riding route for 9/7/2011

A seemingly random path through the city.

I had planned to ride the river path out to Sabino Canyon and then ride up and down the canyon road and then tool around in the foothills a bit, but then I remembered that for some unknown reason bikes aren’t allowed to ride the Sabino road on Wednesdays. And today is a Wednesday. So when I get to the end of the path, I make a decision to test out the Aviation Bikeway. I was going to link to a webpage on the bikeway, but couldn’t find anything from Pima County or the City of Tucson. Someone should get on that. Anyway, in the map above, it’s the portion starting in the south-east corner going west-northwest along highway 210. It connects Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) to the downtown/4th Ave/University area. Along the way, I’d get to ride south on Craycroft and hit lots of red lights.

Getting on the Aviation Bikeway from Craycroft is both easy and hard. It’s easy in that it’s easy to find: just make a hard right at the intersection of Craycroft and Golf Links. The hard part is that you need to be in the right turn lane, and there’s a lot of cars turning right at this intersection because Craycroft dead-ends into DM. So as a biker you get to queue up in the turn lane with cars behind wondering what the heck you’re doing. I get the same thing everyday when I have to turn left, but it’s still weird and a little dangerous. One would think that if you want to encourage bikers to use a bikeway, you’d give them a safe way to get on.

But that’s not where the safety issues with the bike lane end. Oh no. The bikeway runs along the north side of highway 210 and is basically a glorified sidewalk that’s usually separated from the road by barricades of some kind. At several crossings of side streets, it looks and feels just like you’re riding on a sidewalk. You’re not, of course, but it offers the same limitations of riding on sidewalks: most notably, it’s dangerous! When I came to the first of these, I couldn’t believe that the City of Tucson would want to encourage this type of cycling behaviour. Luckily, I only saw one other cycling on the path. Although I heard later in the day that a cyclist was struck trying to cross one of these intersections.

During my excursions on the bikeway, I kept my heart rate in low zone 1. Basically just keeping the bike moving. Even so, I caught up to another cyclist and “drafted” off of him for a bit. I stayed back about 20 feet, so there really was no draft, but I didn’t feel like passing. At Highland Ave he got off the bikeway and presumably went north to the University. I continued on, not knowing where I’d end up. As it turns out, I ended up pretty close to downtown, so I headed in that direction. This slowed my average speed considerably. Especially since I sort of got lost in all the one-ways and no left turns. Zoom in on the map to see what I mean. Eventually, I got spit out the west side of downtown and decided to ride up A Mountain. As I got to the enterance of the park, I noticed that it didn’t open until 8. It was about 7:50. What to do? I saw another cyclist go around the gate, so I followed.

9/7/2011 metrics

Speed (blue), elevation profile (green), and heart rate (red) data for the ride today.

In the graphs above, the A Mountain ascent is the fairly sharp peak in the green curve that starts at about mile 20. You can see my heart rate shoots up pretty good too. For that climb, my HR maxed out at about 160 bpm. Still in zone 2. After a quick descent, avoiding the gate again, I head out south on Grande Ave which later turns into Mission Rd. with the itent of riding west on Ajo and climbing Gates Pass from west heading back toward the city. A very short time later, I decide that would take too long and reverse course to ascend the pass from the east. Plus, it’s easier from the east and my legs were still a little sore, but feeling much better than when I started.

Getting to Gates Pass was uneventful. I’ve done it many times before. HR peaked at 172 bpm as I reached the top of the pass, a little into zone 3, but not for too long. I quickly flip a bitch, and make a beeline for home. Well, not a beeline exactly. I make a detour south on Greasewood where they have markings for 1k and 200m to the finish line of the Tucson Bicycle Classic. This is the peak in the HR at mile 40. I tried to sprint to the finish line from 200 meters, but by this point I just didn’t have it in me. I sat up, feeling dejected with 100 meters to go, watching imaginary opponents pass me by as I crawl to the finish.

And that’s exactly what I did on the rest of the ride. I was out of water and extremely tired. I made it home, but that wasn’t the end of things. I originally was going to take a quick shower and get right back on the bike and head to work. But then I got caught up looking at my Training Peaks data for about 15 minutes. And in that time, I decided I’d take my lunch with me to work, but that meant I had to make and pack my lunch. So I made some veggie hash, basically a baked potato cut into bite-sized chunks with eggs, tomato, and onion. It tastes pretty good, but isn’t that great to look at. I brought along 3 kiwis, a plum, and a raisin-walnut mix to balance out the rest of my food intake for the afternoon. While I was making lunch, I drank a hemp protein shake which added another 5 minutes to my delay. By the time I got to work and settled in my desk, it was 11:30 and time for lunch already! Luckily I brought my lights so I can ride home after sunset tonight. As for food for tonight? I haven’t decided yet. It’s either hash again or making a trip to the grocery store. I’m leaning towards the store.

Tomorrow starts another day…

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Filed under brick, cycling, daily report, nutrition, running, training, tucson