Thursday, April 29, 2010


Over the last few weeks my work outs have been progressively easier. Tonight... I put numbers to the gains with a battery of tests. Found out a few things:

  • My FTP is up almost 25% since last test in Jan. Normally, that would be an eyeopening gain that would bring accusations of doping. But, it's not uncommon after an extended layoff. And 25% of not very much is... not very much! HA!

  • My right/left imbalance has improved a lot since my last test. Nearly dead even. I haven't done anything to address this. Perhaps my left leg atrophied faster than my right?

  • My 5s, 10s, and 30s were all up. My 5sec time was waaay up. This is total surprise, as I've focused on aerobic threshold improvement. All training is good training.

I've been debating what to do with the next 4-week bloc. My philosophy will be to continue with the FTP work. But I'm going to incorporate some significant skills practice and dirt time. I've also got to focus on dropping the injury weight. Also have a few specific strength issues to work through. Looks like I'll need to go to a 2-a-day schedule to pack in the long threshold rides...

Monday, April 26, 2010

At last DIRT!

It's about the easiest place to ride on dirt. Double Lake Recreation Area. But easy to ride is exaclty what I needed for my first post-elbow frx trail ride.

As I drove to the trailhead I was both nervous and excited. Also curious how I'd do off road after a 5-month absence and an unsure elbow.

It took 5-seconds before I became all smiles! It was absolute beautiful weather. The first half lap reaquaints me to the sights and sounds of trial riding. The hum of the tires through the ground cover, the squish-squish sound of the suspension, and the rush of wind through the trees that sounds like the roar of a cheering crowd. No worries about being mowed over by a car. No red lights. Just me, my legs, my bike, and the trees!

There is precious little to impede progress at Double Lake. That makes it perfect for testing out the elbow. It also makes the trail *fast*. Because my joint strength isn't 100%, I deadman the handle bars a lot. As a result my turn-ins and apexes are more yanked than smooth. I struggle at picking lines, and make a couple of decisions that nearly put me into the trees. Today, my legs can easily propel the bike faster than my cornering skills can keep it on the trail. I use the brakes today. A lot. The flow just isn't here.

After the first lap... I use a trick I haven't used in a long time. I pretend I'm going twice as fast as I really am. Such a simple trick. It works for me. It forces me to move my eyes up the trail. That makes everything feel slower, because perception of speed slows as things are further away. That inperceptively draws me into riding faster.

This trick also makes me smoother on the trail. Looking ahead I don't see all of the smaller trail obstacles. Our brain tries to "solve" for the smoothest route. Trying to calculate a route with too many options, leads to routes that wiggle across the trail too much. Looking ahead dissolves those details. They wash away into the context of trail. You simply float over any insignificant bumps and roots rather than trying to avoid each of them. By seeing less of the trail, the brain is more clear. Less cluttered. And the riding improves. It's quite Zen actually.

I rip 12-minutes off the first lap's time. Limiter remains trail techniques and not my legs. That helps me form the plan for my next training bloc. By the end, my elbow's a bit sore. Clearly still not upto full strength. Wheelie hops are unpossible at the moment, for example. But what the heck. A "bad" day on the dirt... after a long abstinence... is a great day no matter what! It's a wonderful feeling to be out in the forest again! From the moment I awoke it was clear this would be a special day. I'm solidly on the trail to recovery and working toward being a better rider than ever before!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Some times the spark just isn't there. The plan was simple enough. Over-unders. This is a great ride. Three minutes just under threshold (85%) then three minutes just over threshold (120%). Go for an hour, bookending warmup and cool down. I never got into a solid rhythm. Not sure why either. The effort felt do-able. And I did the effort per plan. But it never felt "right". I never acheived the strong feeling this ride usually evokes. My mind seemed to wander all over the place as well.

I looked over the power file and I can't pinpoint anything specific. I'm not showing the unusual HR that turns up before I get sick. Perhaps it's more mental than anything? Donno. And it really doesn't matter.

The training lesson I take away... is to remember that an important part of training is turning out good efforts on bad days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pushing Through

Tonight I'm dragging. Don't want to ride. My legs still feel tired despite yesterday's rest. I'm tempted to tank this one. After about an hour of wrestling with the ride/don't ride decision... I'm getting dressed. As I roll out my legs are stiff. I don't feel like a champion today. I get through the motions of warming up. The legs are opening up, but still not feeling good.

"Go" I mumble as I start my first work interval... That was it? "That wasn't so bad," I tell myself. After the recovery portion the second interval feels even better. Ah! This is why I got off the couch! By my fifth interval I'm feeling fiesty. By the sixth and final interval the fun factor returns. It feels too easy. I reaaaally wanted to bury the needle today. I talk myself out of it. I've got to leave something in the tank for the rest of the week.

That's the hard part of endurance training. It's all quantity, not intensity. Go too hard one day, and you'll be wrecked for the next. Counterproductive. It feels like you aren't doing much. But the fitness gains I'm observing tell a different story. Counterintuitive. The chronic fatigue that's setting in also points to the cummulative effect this block of training. Pushing through this week before taking a few days off.

The next bloc of training is an open question. In fitness terms, I'm ahead of where I though I'd be when writing my season plan back in February. I'm considering using the next bloc for rehabbing the dirt skills and strengthening the elbow for the trail. I didn't expect to be trail-ready until late May. I'll beat that expectation. I'm probably ready for something easy like Double Lake now. There is dirt in my future! The next bloc's crucial, and likely the most important of the year. Much to consider...

Reco Day

Yesterday was recovery day. Only training activity was stretching. Able to do some poses that I've been unable to do with the injured arm. Sooo close to 100%. With the increasing workload and my inconsistant stretching practices my flexibility has taken a turn for the worse the last couple of weeks. Flexibility is so important. Nothing will make one feel older than waking up stiff.

Was in bed by 8P. Back to it later today...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day of Unusual Sights

Today's mission. Consolidate the work from yesterday. I like following up endurance efforts with a low intensity, but semi-long effort. Today I have an errand to run cross-town. Tailormade for what I want today. A long, but leisurely pace ride.

Off I go. I'm on the Elysian Street Viaduct and hear an unusual noise. I look over the other side and see a steam engine. A genuine old fashioned steam engine!

What a unique sight and sound. I catch another glempse of it as it crosses over.

After finishing my errand I run into this doggy. Don't worry he isn't driving. I don't think. But he's indeed huge!

Nearing home I see this unfortunate sight...

From a distance this looked like bad news. Tons of smoke. Eight or nine fire trucks. Luckily it looks like someone only had a damaged garage...

Returned home glad my house wasn't on fire. The driving dog didn't run over me. And I saw a steam locomotive today. Legs felt great after the ride. The fitness is coming back. In some ways I'm ahead of where I thought I'd be. Satisfied for now, looking forward to the road ahead.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Long One.

I bedded down last night a bit apprehensive about today's ride. My allergies were kickin'. This morning I awoke to the sound of rain! Hooray! It rained until about midday. Effectively knocking all the pollen out of the air.

I start a bit late, but well fueled on pancakes, canadian bacon, and banana.

I'm rolling out late because of the rain delay. It's a nice day. Clearing clouds. Temperature perfect. Winds are out of the east. My route today... starts with a looong stretch to the... east! I fight the urge to pin it. When I stay in my zone... I'm moving slow. I'll need patience today. If I go too hard... I'll only suffer later.

While climbing the Tidwell railroad bridge I run across this interesting peice of litter. Look closely. Hmm... good for a laugh on a challenging slog.

Last time I was in this area I saw a goat. Today I spy horseback riders.

Saw several more horse riders later on as well. Northeast Harris County has a lot of horses. Neat.

My destination today was Lake Houston. Unfortunately, what looked like a cut through on Google maps... was a locked gate on a high school campus. The only way to get to my route was to double back about eight miles, or ride on the Beltway. The Beltway... not the feeder. NO!

I never make it to the lake. Bummer. Turn tail for home. The wind's enough crosswind to make it feel like a headwind. My PowerTap craps out about an hour from home. Dead battery likely. I'm zapped, too. The only thing keeping me going is the scratch made jambalaya I have waiting at the house.

Soon enough I'm home. Fed. Tired. Total for today 78-miles. Longest ride since September. Feels great! My only remaining task for today is climbing into bed, elevating my legs, and drifting off to slee....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pollen Shortened Ride

Today's ride calls for 90min of over-under intervals. I get about 50min into it and the allergies hit. My eyes poof up. Snot galore! Lungs crackly. I back down from the interval for hoping it will clear. It doesn't.

What to do? I decide tomorrow's long endurance ride is way more important than pushing through this ride. Doing over-threshold intervals while having breathing problems is akin to running a motor too lean. Usually ends in a bang.

The pollen this year has been prodigous. It's everywhere. Like the entire town's been dusted in yellow powder. Back home I go, slightly dejected. Some anti-histamine, relaxation and sleep. Tomorrow will be better. I hope.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pinched for Time

With house guests and thunderstorms coming in the evening I use my lunch break for today's ride. The plan fits great. Two 20min threshold intervals with only a short recovery between. The ride goes well. Too well. The first interval is too easy. Hmm... my threshold isn't where it was a few weeks ago. I bump up the wattage on the second interval... and flirt with that good ol' LT burn. This gives me a better idea where my threshold is. Today is an example of why one should listen to the body, and not the gadget sometimes.

Cool down, zip back to work, realizing I've forgotten my lunch. DOH! Luckily, I keep food around the office just for such times. Lunch is a mish-mash of deli chicken, yogurt, a banana, and pretzles. Actually, a good calorie profile!

I'm really pleased with the fitness rehab. At the onset I feared it would take as long to build my fitness up as it did the first time. But it seems re-building isn't the same as starting from scratch. Maybe I've gotten better at training? Either way, I'll take it. Starting to get hopeful for some summer challange rides.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

System Check

Today's ride is a system checkup. It looks like this: 8 minute block alternating 15sec at 150%FTP then 15sec recovery. Recover fully for 10min, then 10min right at FTP with a 10sec maximal out of saddle burst every minute.

The point of this workout is to tax the lungs; it does so very effectively. After weeks of doing base work, today's program is simply to check on VO2 system. It's way too early in my training to try and carve out gains on the "high end". But I do want to know where I stand... just 'cause.

The workout starts out feeling way easy. But it always. The first couple of minutes feel like a breeze, but by the end I'm usually seeing spots and getting faint tastes of my previous meal. Thus, I stick to the plan. But it never quite gets to that intensity. I'm still feeling strong at the end. Darn, should have gone harder.

Looking over the power/HR traces after the ride show better than expected. Am I ahead of were I thought fitness wise?
Maybe... I'm slowly becoming a believer in base training. Endurance athletes know that sub-threshold training holds benefeits across the physiologic ranges. I'm becoming warm to the idea that endurance work holds benefits for non-endurance focused riders.

I'm very curious to see where I'm going to be when I performance test in a few weeks. Two weeks remain on this bloc, followed by another 4-week base building bloc. Then the heavy work begins as I try to put on strength, power, and speed in preparation for fall.