This Saturday I set out on a cold (but warming) morning out on a ride. I was determined to ride up Old La Honda twice, as last time I only did it 1.5 times, completely wiping out in the middle of the second try.
It was my quest to increase my hill climbing strength. Previous to Old La Honda, I was doing hill repeats on a smaller hill and got up to about 6 reps, which each rep being about 5:15 minutes. It was time to move up. Old La Honda is about half an hour, sometimes many minutes less for those who like sprinting up a 3 mile hill with steep switchbacks and no flats at all. My legs were getting stronger, but I was determined to improve this part of my fitness as I’ve always felt that hilly courses wipe me out too much and leave me nothing for the run afterwards.
I went to low gear as I spun up the hill. It was tough but I reached the top in about 27:30 which was pretty slow compared to pros…or those guys with triple front chain rings who just easily went up that darn hill fast and easy. I have compact cranks, so I’m a tad better than those without compact cranks, but nowhere near the mechanical advantage of triple chain ring folks. Most of us frown upon those guys, even if they do blow by me up Old La Honda. Bah! I am going up twice and these turkeys are probably going to quit after one rep!
I pause at the top and rest, suck down a GU gel, put on my windbreaker, and then turn around and make a chilling downhill run and almost freeze my tail off coming down the hill. Cooling down with no effort, coupled with the fog up top makes for a super uncomfortable downhill, sometimes even in the middle of summer.
Then, at the bottom, I sit in a sunny patch for a minute to warmup. I take off my windbreaker, and then head back up. It’s definitely much harder this time. My quads are feeling very wiped out and I’m off my seat to vary my muscle usage as much as possible. I make it up in about 29 minutes this time, but I don’t care about losing 2 minutes. This is a strength workout and I so psyched to make it up the second time!
Next time, 2.5 times up Old La Honda, and then onwards to 3 times. It will definitely suck, but the benefits outweigh mere pain.
When I started using my Computrainer (CT) by Racermate, it was hard to figure out how to use. So I thought I would post some discoveries about it in the last 2+ years of using it while training.
The CT is great because it’s like weight lifting for the bike. The wattage settings are consistent with the CT from workout to workout; with a regular trainer, you aren’t consistent with the pressure the roller is pushing against the rear tire and you may not be working out as hard one day to the next. On the CT, a calibration step makes the wattage consistent from workout to workout.
Add to that the ability to ride simulated courses and you have the perfect companion for indoors training.
Here are some tips about it:
1. Make sure you go through the calibration step. You need to pedal at least 8-10 minutes to warm up the tire itself and then the CT will be calibrated to the rubber of the tire against the roller. When you hit both the +/- keys together, you enter the calibration mode. Then you pedal to at least 25 MPH and then stop pedaling until it stops. It will then reveal a number related to the tension of the roller against the rear tire. This will change from the beginning when the tire is cold to when the tire is warmed up. However, according to Marc Evans, he says that you can still have some variance in wattage consistency across workouts if you don’t push the roller against the tire with the same tension, and have the same air pressure in the tire. I am too lazy to make it consistent from workout to workout. I just calibrate as is. Marc inflates to 100 lbs and adjusts the roller until the unit says 2.00 during the calibration step.
2. Ergometer mode is where I do most of my workouts.
3. You can do a benchmark test to measure your fitness and give you a sense for your workout wattages, and tell you where approximately your bike LT is. This is a 2 minute 20 watt step test which is in the manual. Here is my benchmark from last year:
||Breath begins change at 170, goes labored at 174-176
||Stopped about 45 sec into this interval
Record time, watts, HR and RPE. Change watts every 2 minutes by going up 20 watts until you can’t continue. My LT is around HR 174, where I really go labored.
It also told me that I can do 2-3 min intervals at about 170w-180w.
4. Generally interval workouts are about 30-60 minutes in length. I do usually 2, rarely 3, per week which is in addition to my long bike on the weekends.
There are ladders you can do, gradually increasing wattage progressions, and also see-saw type workouts where you have 2 minutes at high watts, and then drop 30 watts for a recovery, but not all the way down to spin watts (ie. 50-100).
5. Neural activation workouts which help you get used to more watts, are short intervals at high watts.
6. Strength workouts are done with low RPM but high watts and lots of rest.
7. My warmup usually includes the calibration step. So I’ll spin at low watts, 50-100 for 8 minutes, then enter calibration mode, calibrate, then exit calibration mode and raise watts to 100w until 9th minute. Then I’ll do :30 high watts, :30 low (100w), and steadily increase the high watts until I’m past my workout watts. Warmup is at a minimum of 15 minutes and better up to 20 minutes. I find sometimes that even though I warmup 15 minutes, my first few intervals are tough to handle, but I feel better as the workout goes on. But usually I’m time constrained so I only warmup for 15 minutes.
8. I have never tried doing an interval workout beyond 1.5 hours. It’s pretty hard and taxing to maintain that kind of strength for that long. My coach gave us all his mega interval workout of 2.5 hours. I have never tried it and don’t think I will ;-).
9. Spinscan is way cool. It’s great to practice neuromuscular training by focusing on creating perfectly round circles and even circles between the left and right legs. You can see the unevenness you may have in pedaling on this graph.
10. I also use Powercranks on my CT. It’s a great strength workout and helps in balancing the strength output between legs. Ergometer mode is perfect for adjusting watts during a workout. Powercranks workouts only last about 30 minutes. You’ll find they are much more taxing than normal crank workouts.
11. I don’t like to ride the 3D bike courses. You can’t coast downhill and uphills are super tough as the CT sometimes locks down on the rear tire on steep uphills. I do use the Challenge PC1 app and ride on simple rolling courses to practice maintaining constant wattage during a ride.
Here is a website with courses:
One thing that helps on course rides is to make sure you jam the roller on the tire as much as possible, as sometimes the rear wheel slips against the roller on hills. This was from a Racermate rep I met at an Ironman expo in Kona one year.
Definitely one of the coolest, most useful training gadgets around.
Many times after we work out, all we want to do is just take a shower, eat, and maybe take a nap.
Nowadays, I have to pay attention to what I do afterwards because if I don’t, I’ll pay for it with lesser performance during workouts in the following days.
This was brought to the forefront 2 weeks ago when, on Friday, I ran some hard hill repeats and then the day after I went to climb Old La Honda on my bike. Both were very difficult and taxing, and the day after my bike ride I was tight but feeling not so bad. But 2 days after, my quads and hams really got tight and felt really non-recovered after 2 days. Working out was tough as the warmup loosened them up somewhat, but not as much as I liked. Each workout was harder for me to put max effort into, and I didn’t feel optimal although I did get through my workouts. It wasn’t until I hit my weekly ART and Graston treatments that the muscle knots were finally released and they felt back to normal.
I thought about this and thought about my usual post-workout ritual, which I had not been doing. After I get home from a hard workout, this consists of:
1. Down a glass of Endurox recovery drink.
2. Jump in the shower.
3. Stretch everything.
4. Foam roller.
5. Ice (optional).
6. Go eat a big meal.
The last few workouts, and especially my last hard one, I did not foam roller. This last weekend, I did one more hill repeat on the run and was planning to see if I could do Old La Honda twice (but only did 1.5 before I ran out of juice). I knew it would be hard on the bod and resolved to go through my complete ritual, even if I didn’t feel like it.
It worked like a charm.
The missing element this time was foam rolling my legs post-workout. I rolled them (it was definitely painful at points) but mostly it was good to massage the muscle and help clear out all those annoying by-products like lactic acid which will tighten up muscles the next day or the day after.
Now that it’s a day after, my legs feel amazingly good even after completing a harder workout than the previous week. It just reinforced the fact that I shouldn’t skip any steps in my post-workout ritual, or else it will result in reduced or more difficult performance in subsequent workouts in the next week. This is not a good thing for triathletes, who have to stuff 3 sports into one week and recovery is important to be able to get to the next day’s workout, which is sometimes two sports, or even all three.
Marc Evans once asked me during a private swim session if I could actually do a drill and count how many strokes I do. It was a strange question, but very relevant as the task was very simple, which was to do 3 one arm-left arm strokes, then 3 one arm-right arm strokes, and then stroke both arms together for about 6 strokes (3+3).
I thought it to be a funny question, but then I jumped into the pool and did what he asked, although I did lose concentration a few times and stroked more or less than the instructions.
I asked him why he asked me, and apparently there are beginners who have not either not practiced enough, or even have the ability to focus on a particular drill. He was pleased that I could do it most of the time, but apparently enough people go through his swim session who cannot.
I think about this conversation a lot when I jump in the pool. It’s hard to do long distance in a 50 meter pool, and even harder in a 25 meter pool, simply because counting is tough, and doubly tough in a 25m pool.
This last Wednesday, we do our monthly 30 minute swim as a measure of fitness and also for stamina building. Sometimes I absolutely hate it, because I need to count. In order to do that, I have to really have razor sharp focus and I still screw it up. For 30 minutes, you can swim over 15 laps (or 30 lengths) and if you’re not used to it, it’s really tough to count the laps without phasing out somewhere in the middle and then you wonder, “wait was that lap 9 or lap 10?” Once you get there, you’re dead. You’ll never get back on count.
Swimming 30 minutes is definitely great mental training. It trains your brain to maintain power and stroke rate for a long period of time, but it also trains your focus for counting.
To make things easier, I switch workouts for 50 meter pools versus 25 meters. If I jump into the YMCA or Spectrum Club pool, I pick a workout with more 25/50/100 meter intervals. The most I’ll do is 200 m intervals. Beyond 200, I start wigging out because on a 25 m pool, you have DOUBLE the counting. And that really sucks. To do 250/300/400 m intervals multiple times is way too hard. I also try to do more speed sets, which tend to be shorter anyways but still stresses the muscles in a big way.
Passing that dude at Rancho San Antonio made me think of all the times I’ve managed to pass people in a race.
It’s a weird feeling to pass someone during a race, especially if you are very close in velocity. It isn’t like driving a car where you press on the gas and you zoom up behind someone and then you pass them by. Visually, the other car grows in your eyes and then whooshes by and then shrinks behind you.
Since there isn’t this acceleration for humans, the visual effect is much different for me. In fact, it’s much slower.
I pull up behind someone. I usually think I’m faster than him, but can’t tell for sure. I seem to be gaining, but his speed is often shifting as well, so sometimes I gain and sometimes I lose ground. But generally I maintain speed and have confidence that my constant speed is better than surging and wasting energy by accelerating. There is time left in the race and I can slowly overtake this guy. But visually, it seems as though I am barely gaining at all.
That is…until I get about 2-3 feet away. For some reason, as soon as I get to that distance, and still running at constant speed, the guy I’m passing seems to pause, and then rush up all of a sudden. I seem to accelerate and pass him in a flash.
It’s weird. But what a rush to pass someone during a race.
Yesterday, I ran Rancho San Antonio and did my painful hill repeats.
The turkeys were out in force. Ten hens with one big male, tail feathers all spread out like he was somethin’ else. Peacockin’ ain’t just for pickup artists! But it was fun flying past them and seeing a whole bunch of wild turkeys struttin’ about while I was doing my intervals.
4 loops this time. I was going to do 5, but on the 4th I’m going up the hill and I come up behind another dude. He was running ok but I managed to pass him. I keep going at steady pace, but then I hear steps and his heavy breathing right behind me. I pick it up a bit just to keep ahead, but I hear him breathing and know he is only a few steps behind me. I get a bit more competitive. I pick it up more and he is still just behind me and I’m running hard now but not so hard that I’m flaming out.
He on the other hand is taking heavy breaths. I know his flame out is near and wonder if he will pass me. I pick it up a bit more and then…as I pull up to the top of the hill, I hear Mr. Heavy Breather drop off and know he just flamed out. I soar up and over and proceed fast down the other side.
Turkeys and a bit of pick me up all in one day. Nice.