Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Managing the Load

Things are coming back around on my training and I am starting to feel a percentage better. Of course the real test will come this weekend if I can get out for a ride.

Now that I might be back on track I have to remember that eagerness to progress might be as bad as being a slacker. There is a balance to training, recovering and adapting (progressing). Just as there is this magical area that many cyclist call Sweet Spot Training, which is a zone where the largest physical effect may occur, there is a sweet spot in balancing many other factors in living, training, recovering and adapting. In the category of living most of us that are not paid athletes and have to balance work, home, financial and general living stresses that can impede recovery. After the living category there is the training category, which is training stress loads. Between those two types of stresses the body will be able to tolerate “x” amount of load and beyond that it is likely for injury, illness, over reaching and/or mental burnout if those heavy training loads continue.

In order to increase the ability to train more we need to manage living stresses as much as possible by trying to manage those loads. Working a lot of overtime will obviously create more stress load, getting into financial debt will create more stress load, not sleeping enough hours will create more stress load and so on. So we can potentially manage some of those external living stresses.

Next is managing training stresses. Of course you could take the safe route and add a very light training load and your incremental progress will be ultra slow, but if you are like me and suffer at the other end of the spectrum from an over eagerness to progress you may not be patient. Like me you create too much overload as I have once again experienced for the millionth time in my training history. So the eagerness and the love of training have actually hurt my efforts to progress. The guys at Science of Sport have once again hit this very subject on a blog entry concerning training errors and mention “zero to hero”, which seems to be the same characteristic of not being patient and trying to overload training stresses. Injuries, illnesses and mental burn out from being over zealous will and create a situation that may require unexpected time away from training altogether. The equation in my mind is train, recover and adapt. Finding that sweet spot that creates the right amount of training stimulation to progress with consistency over a longer period of time without injury or unexpected time off from a general breakdown is crucial.

I do not have a power meter, but I can understand how valuable a tool it can be to help a cyclist measure or find that sweet spot and train effectively with enough stress load, but also help pull the reigns back of an over eager desire to excel. Using a power meter is like speaking the truth about your training load. Used properly it will inform you if you are training too much or too little. It will help you stay right in that sweet spot.

For additional perspective on this subject concerning see the following at Science of Sports.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

White to Adairsville - Brewcrew

Motionbased Ride Data

After whining about fatigue the last few weeks, I had planned to do an easy spin at the Silver Comet. Actually I was looking forward to riding there and giving my body a little break, but I received an invitation to join Diane and Alan's group at the brewery and ride out to Adairsville. I hated missing the oportunity to ride with this group, but I knew there was a risk that I was going to go deeper in the hole concerning fatigue.

The terrain is fairly mild rolling hills with one minor climb up a road called CCC. The group was about 10 and most of them could hold a good pace. I knew it was going to be a tough day for me so I did short pulls at the front and tried to stay at the back most of the time. Toward the end it was pretty easy for me to stay at the back as I was starting to drop off the pace, but so were some others. The front four of the group bumped up the pace even more and broke the group apart. From that point we were sort of spread out. Once I was on familiar roads I was content to hold a mild pace to parking lot.

Thanks Diane for the invitation. Despite me struggling it was a great day riding with the gang.

One of these days maybe I may do that easy spin and get recovered.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Burnt Mountain - Take It Easy Ride

Motionbased Ride Data

Additional Ride Pictures

This year I had a goal to work on my biggest cycling weakness and who better to have on this goal, but with Gary Quellet, who loves to climb. Others have been training with us as well, but for months Gary and I have worked together on almost every ride working toward specific goals. First, was my goal to complete the 3 State 3 Mountain Century and that was accomplished. Second, Gary has the goal of a return to the Cherohala Challenge and today was our last training ride together as this goal will be next weekend. I have been struggling with the thought of entering the Cherohala because I have been part of all the training along with Gary and others leading up to this epic ride, but on the other side I have also struggled with fatigue the last couple of rides. Unfortunately, I will not be joining Gary and Mike Quick as they set out for Tennessee next Friday. This will be Mike Quick's first time for the ride and I believe a number of others from our club will also be going up. Again I am mindful of Neal, who had been preparing hard for the Cherohala doing a lot of work on Burnt Mountain and then the injury last weekend. My thoughts go out to Neal as he recovers.

Since the Tour de Georgia Gary and Mike have talked about following a portion of the tour route that goes from Cove Road to Grandview then the climb up the west side of Burnt Mountain. Based on the information on Friday night it appeared that it would be just me, Gary and Mike, but a pleasant surprise that David Marion showed up Saturday morning to join this casual ride. As we set out I could tell I was still fatigued. My legs were still reluctant to spin and my heart rate was racing, but I wanted to keep these thoughts subdued because today was just a joy to complete a series of hard training rides with this group of guys. With all 3 being much stronger climbers than me I was content to settle back and go my own pace.

Going across Cove Road and Grandview the terrain was a "sawtooth" as shown on the profile above. The profile really doesn't give a good perspective of the terrain. It was not too bad, but probably could wear out a person before reaching Burnt Mountain if they were hammering all the little climbs leading up to Burnt Mountain. The nice thing about these substantial rolling hills is the reward of some fast downhills. Grandview lived up to its name with a great view of a calm private lake surrounded by a heavy stand of trees protecting it from the wind. Down another fast section and Gary is almost wiped out by a deer that crossed just in front of him. At least that is how it looked to the rest of us.

At the end of Grandview is the intersection to Burnt Mountain Road, but the climb is somewhat shorter from our normal route that starts at the technical school. My legs were grateful that the climb had been reduced to 5 miles to the summit. It wasn't too long before the guys were out of my sight. I went through periods of coaxing my legs to put forth a little more effort, but they were not cooperating. It was probably my slowest climb up this slope in a while. Once I reached the summit the group of guys were waiting along with Alan Ezzell, who was doing hill repeats on the east side of Burnt Mountain as the last training ride before the Cherohala Challenge.

I was really happy about the descent down the east side. I cautiously passed the spot that I crashed and remained a little cautious since the Department of Transportation used tar to seal cracks in the pavement making it a little trickier than normal, but I was able to get into a groove and did the best descent since the crash. Just don't tell my wife please!!

After a turn onto Highway 183 / 136 and a few fast miles we reached our store stop. At this point I was grateful that most of the hard climbing was behind us. Ahead of us was mild rolling terrain and each of the guys had their turns doing a fast pace with each of us chasing. We kept trading back and forth like this for many miles until we stopped at the Kangaroo Farm. Yep, that's right a Kangaroo Farm out in the middle of the country and open for all those to go in and see some kangaroos. Of course it will cost something to see them.

Pretty much for the rest of the ride the terrain was rolling with one mild climb on Afton Road. The guys had a good pace and rode out of my sight within a couple of minutes. By the time I crested the next hill they were gone. I felt a couple of sprinkles of rain on my face and wondered if they were racing to the car. Once I crested each hill I would pedal up to the high 20's and expected to see them climbing the next, but they were gone. I finally met them waiting for me at the intersection of Afton Road and Steve Tate Road. Now we were just a few miles from the finish and stayed in a paceline on the busier highway to Cove Road and the finish.

At the end of this ride I can look at Gary and believe he is rested and ready, Mike looked strong as usual on climbing and in general even though he has not been able to ride much because of various work and family events and David rode strong on the climbs, was fast on the descents and was eager to chase anyone that looked like they were going to attempt a sprint. For me I am grateful to train with these guys and hang the best I could with guys that ride above my level. I look forward to hearing about their experience on Cherohala Challenge ride. I believe they are prepared.

After the ride we did something we don't normally get to do and that is hang out for a little while at a pizza place and talk. Thanks to David for picking up the tab. Next one's on me if you guys don't try to kill me on the next ride.

(pictured left to right: Gary, Mike, Jesse, David and the bottom is Alan Ezzell-one the strongest riders I know)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Listening To The Little Voices

This is a blog entry that I would hope not to make, but since I have the opportunity to give myself a public scolding and perhaps help others in the process I thought I would post about my struggle this past Saturday with poor performance and the severe cramps that I suffered.

Another reason I feel compelled to make this entry is due to the appearance to a reader of the White to Horn Mountain ride commentary that my severe cramps were related to heat, fluid intake and electrolyte imbalance, which in my opinion is not true.

On Wednesday of last week I had the little voice in my head say, "you need to stretch" on Thursday the same little voice said, "you need to stretch" and again on Friday the same little voice, but the other part of me ignored all of the little subtle thoughts and the result for my performance on Saturday was not only poor, but it ended up being rather painful. I would rate the cramps on Saturday about a 9 on the pain scale with 10 being the highest. I had to wait until Sunday to check the damage status and I do believe there was some tissue damage to my left and right inner thighs down into my calves. Fortunately it is not as severe as a muscle strain and will probably heal within the next few days.

After training for 25 years in one thing or another I have learned to listen to those little voices and what are those little voices? We are so blessed that God made us in such a way that the communication between the brain and body can relate with the nerve system responding and reacting with signals to the brain reporting in a variety of ways, but we must stop sometimes while our brain is fixated on external issues and listen more intently. Rather than pay attention to the signals last week I blew them off as not being important and focused on something else instead. Again it cost me dearly on Saturday.

If I had listened to my body I should have spent at least 45 to 90 minutes a day from Wednesday until Friday stretching and perhaps decreasing my training load a little. I have experience these cramps in the past and from external voices, such as, Ray Miller, NARC president telling me as I was new to cycling that stretching helped him with cramps and then with advice from the writers of the Science of Sport blog giving me direct advice about how fatigue plays a role in cramping and how stretching may relieve the onset of cramps, my own body telling me to stretch and yet I blew off all this knowledge out of stubbornness and it cost me.

I would love to say I have finally learned my lesson and from this point forward I will not repeat the same stupidity, but as smart as our bodies can be in relating these little signals to the brain sometimes the brain doesn't want to pay attention until it is too late. If we will take a little time each day as athletes and listen to what are bodies are telling us, whether it pain signals or otherwise perhaps our performance levels will also be consistent or increase.

If you are interested to learn more in depth about muscle fatigue and cramping the following is from a series on cramping at Science of Sport blog.

(June 11th update: My legs have recovered enough from Saturday cramps to allow me to stretch early this morning before training. What a relief one session made in just general activities like sitting at my computer is even more relaxing. It is amazing how tight all the muscles feel from the hips down. A couple more sessions Thursday and Friday and I believe my next ride will be much better.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

White to Horn Mountain - 80 Miles

(left to right: Edgar & Gary ready to start)

( a rare action shot of Glenn - usually he is too fast for cameras)

(left to right: Gary & Alan - cooling off at the top of Horn Mt.)

(left to right: Chris, Neal, Alan)

Last week we had the 4 Gap Sufferfest, but I was having a fairly good day despite the challenges and others not so much. Today was a different story and perhaps the Sufferfest should be applied to my ride today or maybe Neal's ride but more about that later.

Who picked this route anyway? Oh that's right. I am the knuckle head that picked the 80 mile route including Horn Mountain in 90 degree temperature. It's my route and I can suffer if I want to. Well that was not my intention, but I did struggle with a few things with heat being the major factor for this day. For Neal it was a loose dog that foiled his ride around the 23 mile mark. I was in front so I didn't see the dog come out. I never saw the dog, but I did see Neal do an Endo (head over the handle bars for the non-cyclists). Neal ended up with some road rash on his arms, back of his shoulder and perhaps other places, but he also hit the pavement hard in his torso that seemed to impact his deep breathing pattern, which is very important during hard climbing. I love dogs, but I hope that dog is having some deep breathing problems tonight. Maybe enough to leave a memory of chasing cyclists is not a fun thing to do. Glenn ended up with tire damage from braking to avoid Neal during the crash so they both took better discretion and headed the 23 miles back to the car. I was just glad to hear that Neal will be looking forward to the next ride. Some new bar tape and some Bactine to clean the wounds and he will be ready again. (June 10th update on Neal's condition is a few cracked ribs and collapsed lung. So our thoughts and prayers are with Neal as he recovers)

The remaining team members left to face Horn Mountain just a few more miles up the road were Gary, Alan, Edgar, Chris and me. We did this ride a few weeks ago as described in a previous blog entry. On the previous ride the weather was a little cooler and my legs were having a better day. Today was a different story as we approached this somewhat steep 2 mile climb. Right off the bat I knew it was going to be tough. My heart rate started climbing very quickly before we approached the steeper sections, but once we approached the steep sections I could feel not only my heartrate was jacked up, I was sweating excessively and my core temperature was too high. This time I stayed on the 28 cog and struggled all the way to the top of this short hard climb. Such a drastic difference from the week before when I climbed 4 much tougher mountains than this with a lot less struggle. My mind was messing with me to stop, I started feeling little twinges of pre-cramping, but I stayed down on the saddle to the summit. When I got to the top Gary, Alan and Chris were already there and I could not react or respond to them. All I could do is bow my head on the bar while my legs trembled and hoped that my core temperature would lower a bit. I was actually feeling chills on my back and arms at this point.

The downhill is a very twisty section with hard switchbacks, but at the bottom it straightens out a bit and one can really amp up the speed, which we all did for a number of miles. My legs still were not feeling right from the climb and my heart rate was still racing so much that the Garmin alarm was sounding. I thought it was someone's phone until I saw that it was my computer. After a few miles we left the Pocket, a section of road that parallels with a creek and has a nice canopy shading the road, to a what would be mostly open road for much of the ride back. The sun was in full force and I continued to struggle in the heat as I believe Edgar and possibly Chris were feeling the effects of the heat as well. We stopped at a convenient store off of highway 156, which was 51 miles into our ride, that had a nice shade tree and some picnic tables that provided a place for me to settle down a little and for all the guys to refuel.

As we set course to finish the remaining 30 miles we were on open highway and were able to get a good paceline going. I thought the worst thought possible. At least it always seems to happen to me when I think, "I'm doing pretty good today. I may be struggling a little, but I am not cramping." Because everytime I have that thought not more than ten minutes later I start getting cramps. I think the first severe cramp happened around mile 56 and was very painful. I was riding next to Edgar when it my right quadricep and calf felt like they were pulling away from each other. It was all I could do to stay on the bike and I have learned from past experiences to drop down to the lightest gear and spin as lightly as possible, endure the pain and wait or hope it subsides very quickly. That is much better in my opinion than getting off the bike because my past experiences with cramps have been a lot more painful situation. For the remaining miles I had to do my best to stay down on the saddle and climb each little hill in my smallest gear. Standing was a certain invitation to a full devastating cramp. I just kept hammering the fluids, though I knew that fluids and electrolytes were not the problem. It was not all bad since we were now in familiar territory with gently rolling hills and some near flat sections. I was still able to open up the engine in those sections and hold a low to mid 20's pace. With Gary and Alan having a pretty good day despite the heat and were able to stay out ahead of the rest of us. I think Edgar, Chris and I were just looking forward to finishing the ride at this point and it was good to hear Alan formulating the flattest route back for the remaining 15 miles because the 3 of us were struggling a bit more. Once we came to the main intersection near the T/A Travel Center (truck stop) Alan and Gary were probably already back to the cars, but I know I was relieved to be on this last flat section to the brewery parking lot. A day of struggling prompts these thoughts below.

Cycling is one of the greatest things I have ever stepped into. One it has improved my overall health and sometimes it has compromised it a little with some crashes, but I know Neal, who has to treat some road rash now will agree that staying off the bike is not an option. I don't really want to be that guy that strives to have the best lawn in the neighborhood or that guy who's biggest thrill is waiting for college football to return. I want to be that guy out on the road with friends that share the same determination to meet the challenges of cycling. To overcome the bad days, to endure the discomforts, to face almost every form of weather, to sneer at injuries, to top the mountains and to go the mileage that make non-cyclists say, "how many miles did you ride today?" in their disbelief. I want to be that guy that has the power to go back and help a struggling friend get back up to the pack and be accepting and appreciative of the help when someone comes back for me. These are the best days out on the road with friends that are willing to endure the same hardships and have the same determination regardless of personal performance. Who are not content to sit at home a channel surf, but are out striving to improve and who are out enjoying the friendship of those in the peloton. To all those I ride with I might not say much while we are in a fast paceline and you may not want to hear my chatter anyway, but know that I enjoy riding with you.

Today was a day my performance was off a bit, but it was still a great day of cycling despite how the last picture looks below. Though I think it somewhat humorous now that it is over.

(Sequence of events left to right: Always happy at the start, Riding strong early, Dying later)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Typical Daily Nutrition & Schedule

The following is an example of a typical day for my meal schedule and dietary habits during the weekday. On weekends it is a bit different because of the amount of time that I am on the bike and the type of foods, fluids and supplements that I use on an extended bike route.

5:00 am - mixture of water, BCAA powder and glutamine during training
7:00 am - 1/4 cup whole grain cereal, 20 grams whey protein shake
9:00 am - 1/4 cup whole grain cereal or 1 cup of oatmeal w/splenda
10:00 am - 20 grams whey protein shake
12:00 pm - 6 oz. of grilled chicken breast, 3/4 cup pasta
3:00 pm - 6 oz. of grilled chicken breast, 3/4 cup pasta
5:30 pm - mixture of water, BCAA powder and glutamine during training
7:00 pm - homemade taco salad*
9:00 pm - 3/4 cup Lite yogurt

*(2 - 3 cups of chopped lettuce, 6 oz. finely chopped and skillet browned lean ground beef, 1/4 cup fat free refried beans, 1/4 cup black beans, 3 tablespoons of low fat shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons of fat free sour cream, 2 tablespoons of salsa, crushed nacho chips - all ingredients mixed together to make this salad)

Saturday (typical long ride)
Pre-ride meal - 2 cups of cooked oatmeal, splenda
Ride intake - 2 Quaker Oats Breakfast cookies, 2 Hammer or GU gels, 2 - 24 oz. bottles*
Immediate Post-ride - 30 grams whey protein shake with 10 grams of glutamine
Post ride meal - what ever I want (typically lean steak, potato & veggies)

*( water, maltodextrin, Heed, BCAA powder, glutamine powder - amounts vary depending on the length of ride expected and how many gels I expect to use)

Sunday (varies depending on how recovered I feel and activities for the day)

Daily supplements:
Whey Protein
Glutamine (powder)
BCAA (powder)
fish oil capsules
vitamin E, D, magnesium, zinc (post ride recovery)

My resume is a former competitive bodybuilder with over 10 years of practical experience in preparing successfully for seasonal competition and 20 years of following the same nutritional schedule to maintain athletic performance and body composition.

The picture below was a couple weeks before winning the 1993 NPC Georgia mens open lightweight division.