Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway Cycling

Cindi and I returned from our 10th wedding anniversary trip to Asheville, North Carolina and while there without my bike this time I was able to scope out what it would be like to cycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stayed at a Holiday Inn located at 1450 Tunnel Road just a few miles east of one of the ramps to the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway). From that ramp at approximately BRP mile post 383 to the Craggy Gardens picnic area located 15 miles north of the Folk Art Center. The parkway is closed north of the picnic area to just south of Mount Mitchell because of a landslide and the detour around this closed section is about an hour in car. For someone who is new to the BRP this 15 mile section may be the best section that I observed. It is 15 miles of climbing a mild slope of 4 to 6% with maybe a flat or descending section once in a while. The section going up to the picnic area is much steeper, but there are restrooms available and picnic benches under the tree canopy to cool off. I observed more cyclists on this section of the BRP than any other section that we traveled.

The next best section I thought would be good to cycle on was from mile post 340 up to mile post 320, but it may be that the lighter traffic on these sections is due to the road closure compared to the sections south of Asheville, which had much more traffic. In any case one needs to have head and tail lights on the bike for the tunnels. One thing I noticed about driving a car through these tunnels that could be dangerous for cyclists is that for a second or two entering the tunnel from the bright sunlight is a second of blindness while my eyes adjusted to the dark tunnel and car headlights. A cyclists at that particular point may not be seen.

We saw a few more advanced looking cyclists between mile post 420 and 440. The roads look great in this section. There would be miles of climbing to the highest peak near mile post 435, but there is a lot more traffic traveling a higher speeds and there are a lot more tunnels to contend with. I think for me I will leave this portion of the parkway to the bolder more experienced cyclists.

As far as bike shops I wanted to visit a few and just check out friendliness of staff members, gear and bike brands. The first store I tried to go to was Pro Bikes, but we were not able to get there. The second store happened to be unplanned as we were making our way around the BRP detour driving through some smaller towns. We stopped in Black Mountain and I saw Epic Cycles. When I entered the shop I noticed the owner wearing a Road Atlanta shirt so I started talking to him as I purchased one of his shop caps. He had grown up cycling in Sandy Springs, which is located at the top of the perimeter of I-285 in Atlanta. I spent a few minutes talking with him and asking him questions regarding cycling in his area. I could understand his desire to move away from Atlanta and settle in a small quiet town of North Carolina. Plenty of great rural road cycling and long epic mountain bike trails to keep things interesting. On the way home I stopped in Liberty Bicycles in Asheville to see if I could buy a cap with their logo, but they did not have one. However, this is a well stocked shop, big maintenance area and a friendly staff that did give me a water bottle with the shop logo. If you are cycling in Asheville and need to pick up some items that you either forgot or need to restock like tubes and such, Liberty Bicycles can help you out.

Cindi and I discussed going back to Asheville for a fall trip sometime in the future for some more hiking expeditions and hopefully I will take the bike the next time around and get on the parkway at least once. Maybe I can talk some of my cycling buddies into going with us and doing a few sections on the parkway.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Riding with Friends

In the previous post I mentioned a new training style, but I look forward to continue riding on the weekends with my friends. I can see and understand why many guys and gals that use power meters desire to train alone because group rides can be so inconsistent at times. Among the reasons are inconsistent speeds, drafting, unexpected events like flats among other things can interfere with keeping a consistent training load. I know that at times in a pace line that I am coasting too much or the draft is taking some of the stress load off or the route doesn't flow too well with constant stops at intersections.

However, I will continue to ride with my friends on the weekends despite these things. I am really grateful to have fallen in with a great group of cyclists that typically form a group of 10 or so the same people. Despite those items that I listed above I can say that at the end of the ride with this group I know that my tank will be empty. This past Saturday was a perfect example with Derek leading the ride and the rest of the group was Diane, Edgar, Neal, Richard, Mike and me. Gary and Peter missed the action this time around. At the end I was worn out, but during the ride I wanted to keep my focus on having a consistent effort throughout with maybe a few antics here and there. The antics were great during those times as we sprinted a few hills as if we were on the Tour de France, but in general we all kept a good pace and the group riding etiquette amongst these riders is absolutely great.

I can't imagine getting to the point of training dedication to give up riding with this group to train alone for 50 to 60 miles. No way for me. I love training and riding with this group and look forward to many more rides with them.

Change of Routine

For a while now I desired to step up to training with a powermeter. For those who are unfamiliar with the device it is a more accurate method of measuring progress and allowing the user to determine and train within certain zones established by sports scientist. The problem was that it is a somewhat expensive tool and one that I could not purchase with the blessing of my wife and since we are a team I respect her thoughts on larger purchases.

However, on Friday evening I received a personal message on from Dave Ryan that he had an older PT Pro on a Mavic rim that he would sell me for a good price. I showed Cindi the message and she allowed me to make the purchase.

I knew that if I ever was able to step up to training with a powermeter that I would have to rearrange my training routine. I currently wakeup at 4:30 during the weekday and head off to the gym to use the spin bike for interval training and then train with weights. This routine has worked well with my work day and home life, but now I must shake up things a little and try to figure out a new schedule.

I plan to mount the power meter on my Felt and use it on my Kurt Kinetic trainer, which is a more realistic road feel compared to the spin bike. Not only must I try to figure out an efficient schedule that will not interfere with my bible study time and my relationship with Cindi, I need to figure out how to balance all the training aspects and recover from each event. I am one of those types of individuals that is comfortable in a routine and doesn't like much change and though I know change is coming and it will be uncomfortable for a while I believe the change will be very positive. I will finally be able to track performance, training stress loads and train within my zones, whereas in the past I was guessing at the training zones by perception of difficulty. More than likely my perception is lower than reality because those upper zones are very discomforting.

Training with a power meter will be a whole new training system to me and I will have a lot to learn. I expect that it will take years to become proficient at utilizing and reading the data, but I look forward to the start of this new journey.

Unlike those who race and often train alone while using a powermeter, I will still continue to do group rides with my friends on the weekends.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Impact of Visualization

This had an awesome training session on the spin bike while having a rather vivid visualization of Riccardo Ricco's amazing climb up the last mountain stage in the tour yesterday. I am a big believer in visualization as I wrote about it on my blog a while back. In short it is my opinion that if you cannot see yourself achieving something you probably will not achieve it.

Climbing is no doubt my biggest weakness and something I try to work on. I don't have a PM to prove anything, but I know that I seem to have more power tucked in a TT position, then it is sitting up with the hands on the hoods and then lastly standing is my biggest weakness. Maybe I am geared more that direction with body type at 5'6" and a fairly lean 170 lbs and why I tend to suffer more while standing during a climb. On rolling terrain I can power up a small climb with my hands on the drops while others are standing within my group.

This morning while working on my weakness I was doing my normal standing / seated intervals and with the ear buds and a climbing cadence beat I could vividly see Ricco's standing climbing cadence in my mind. My effort seemed to flow just as I reflected on his, no concern of the discomfort, but just a desire to keep adding tension and keeping the same driving cadence.

Bad thing is when the seated/standing intervals were over the next intervals were back to a tightly tucked TT position and my legs were able to go a faster cadence and handling more pain threshold with the same amount of tension. Oh well it I suppose that it what training is about as some say, "train your weakness, race your strength."

I just hope I can keep that image of Ricco's climbing ability in my mind as I continue to work on my weakness. If I were to magnify my ability by 10 and apply it to the TDF stage yesterday I would have been on the back of the peloton with all the sprinters.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Indoor Training Music

The following are a few iTunes tracks that I use while training indoors. This is not the type of music that I would normally listen to for pleasure, but are tracks that I use for particular cadence beat or training zone interval using a power meter.

(The following links will direct to the iTunes store. A 30 second sample can be played from the iTunes store link. )

Song                Time  Purpose
The Distance 2:59 (warm up)
Rods and Cones 5:57 (tempo)
Speed of Light 6:51 (standing/seated intervals)
Nine 6:54 (standing/seated intervals)
Speed of Sound 4:48 (SST-AC's zone3or4)
We Are Alive 6:28 (SST-AC's zone3or4)
Clocks 5:07 (SST-AC's zone3or4)
Take California 7:21 (SST-AC's zone3or4)
Master of the Univ. 6:05 (SST-AC's zone3or4)
History Repeating 4:02 (cool down)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Covington Century

2008 Covington Century Information

Proclaimed as one of the fastest century rides in Georgia and a new ride for me in my list of rides to do, I will be looking forward to August 2nd. As a NARC member my entry fee is covered and I expect several of my regular NARC riding buddies to be there to form a good paceline.

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 4th Weekend Events

On July 4th I joined the invitation to ride with fellow NARC members at the brewery. Diane was planning a fairly flat 56 mile ride from the brewery and that morning we had a good group of riders with most everyone in the group capable of sustaining good speed. This time around I wanted to show some restraint because this group does ride with some intensity (in my book) and I wanted to hang on for the duration of the ride. Something I had struggled to do the past several rides with this group. I did a few pulls, but for the most part I did not chase anyone except one brief sprint up a small climb to the crest. It was mostly to climb using the current momentum, but it did draw the attention of a couple out to chase me. About 20 miles my rear tire flatted, which may not be a significant thing, but there is more to this later in the weekend. At the end I held on as some of the stronger riders started to pull away and the paceline started breaking apart. I found myself riding with a small paceline that included Bill, Gary, Edgar and myself. Overall, I was very pleased with the group on Friday though there was one maybe two new members that did not seem to flow as well with our smooth riding style that our typical bunch normally has, but I won't go into that. I will just say that it was a very pleasant and intense day of riding.

The NARC plan for Saturday was Bill leading a group from Ellijay to Fort Mountain. I would have loved to join that ride because I love the climb up Fort Mountain, but I had promised my wife that I would spend the day with her doing some home projects. Cindi definately deserved my attention instead of me spending the day on the bike, but I did slip in 40 minutes of time on the trainer early that morning and that felt good. On our trip out to Home Depot I stopped in Outspokin to pick some more tubes and air cartridges.

Sunday, I had planned an easy day on the bike with Cindi's blessing to be away for part of the day and then spend the late afternoon and evening with my in-laws. I was somewhat excited about doing this ride and even though I had planned this easy spin on the Silver Comet the ride can be as intense as you want to make it. Unlike regular roads there can be inconsistent effort levels because of the rolling terrain and stops at the intersections. For those unfamiliar with the Comet it is a Rails to Trails paved pathway and relatively flat. One has to constantly pedal so the power output can be consistent. In other words if you want to work there are no hills to coast down so you have to constantly pedal to keep the bike moving forward.

Now to the disappointment of Sunday. As I started out dark clouds started moving in and it wasn't a mile later the rain was coming down. I was content to keep moving forward though my vision was limited. My legs were feeling great and pedaling smooth as the bike pressed forward on the wet path. The soaking rain actually felt refreshing as I approached the 4 mile mark. I see a couple of guys coming toward me and one yells at me, "you're riding into a storm." I respond with an, "okay" and I was kind of patting myself on the back for the diligence of training despite the rain, but thank the Lord for stepping in to give me some rational thinking. It wasn't a few minutes after the guy's warning my back tire blew. Luckily I had a new tube and cartridge with me and I was only a few hundred feet from a bike shop located on the path just in case things didn't go well with the install. I decided rather than walk down to the shop and change the tube in the dry I would go ahead and change it in the pouring down rain. I had so much road grit on my hands that I know debris was contaminating the installation of the new tube, but I got the tube aired up and decided to high tail it back to the truck as the crack of thunder and flash of lightning was lighting up the dense tree canopy. My legs were feeling strong and I was cruising in the mid 20's with hope that the tire would hold up as it seemed as if the thunder was chasing me down the path. As I got back to the truck a guy in a race wheelchair stopped to talk to me and we stood in the rain and chatted a little while. By the time I returned home the back tire was flatted again. It was disappointing to end the Sunday ride with only 8 miles, but I thank the Lord for watching over me to get back to the truck safely.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Not So One Dimensional

Yes, I have a cycling addiction, but I am also grateful despite my eagerness to become a stronger road cyclist not to give up some of my other passions. If one were to desire to become a competitive road cyclists one would have to consider the need for specific training. This often excludes other types of training or cross training because of time and interference with recovery.

However, I am a self-labeled recreational cyclist because I desire to have a broader range of training events because I simply enjoy a variety of things. I am a former competitive bodybuilder and have been training with weights for over 25 years so I will continue to train with weights. I enjoy hiking with my wife and will continue hiking, but there is another type of cycling that I really enjoy and that is mountain biking.

I don't mountain bike near as often as I would like, but when I get to go I really have a blast. I am not real adventurous and typically do one particular single track loop at Blanket's Creek. This past Sunday I did a one lap on the Dwelling Loop and bested my best time of 00:22:30 and completed with a 00:21:20 time. I felt pretty good about that since I had been struggling with fatigue for a while. Yesterday evening I gave it another shot when Edgar and I went to see how quick we could go. I ended with a 00:21:08 time and I imagine Edgar's time was at least 30 seconds faster. We stayed pretty close together until one corner nearing the end and he engaged turbo speed.

I can't imagine going out and doing a recreational ride such as this could be harmful to my road cycling training. It may in fact prove to be more beneficial than my spin classes. At the end of the loop my lungs were burning and my legs were a little shaky, but with a sub 30 minute high intensity effort I imagine my body will recover fairly quickly. My body must have recovered because 10 hours later I attended a spin class and felt pretty good.

It is great to be nothing more than recreational cyclist and be able to have some variety in my life. I do believe in the importance of specific training, but having no training boundaries it sure is much sweeter living.