Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: cycling (Page 1 of 5)

Six Gap Training – Home Stretch

Well, here we are just a few days away from Six Gap Century, and I’m writing my final update. As usual, I’m excelling at the taper part of the training program.

The move up to TN definitely caused a few ripples in my training for the final two weeks, but that’s ok. It also gave me a chance to get in a couple of confidence-boosting rides that make it easy to take my foot off the pedal.

The morning after we got here I met up with some former co-workers to put in a pretty tough ride on Foothills Parkway. One of the guys has done a good bit of Six Gap recon, and he lined us up a route that looked like a little mini version of what we’re facing in Dahlonega. It even had some extra juice squeezed in with the Sweetie Pie segment showing us something much steeper than we’ll be seeing on September 26.

This was the perfect ride at the perfect time. Temperatures were in the mid 50s at the start of a beautiful day that eventually reached 80 degrees. 8,500 ft of climbing in 63 miles made sure that there wasn’t much time for “just riding”. We were either climbing or focused on descending for most of the way. These long descents really gave me confidence–haven’t done them in quite a while–but also were the source of my soreness the next day. My lower back and neck aren’t used to being in that position for long periods of time, but I can deal with that on September 27.

The big piece of information I got on this ride was that my rig was set up correctly. I purchased a new cassette earlier this year in case I needed it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find one with just a couple of weeks left, but I didn’t want to change it out until I knew I actually needed it. There were a couple of spots where I needed to stand and put in a hard effort on this ride, but I was able to comfortably spin most of it.

I got in a couple of Zwift rides during the next week, and there was plenty of exercise unloading trucks, carrying boxes, and building furniture, so the “rest” was pretty active. Then, last Saturday we went out to Tellico Plains and road the River Road at Cherohala Skyway in Cherokee National Forrest. This was a really cool ride– a really gentle 25 mile ascent with a big boy climb at the top. Once we were on the River Road section of this ride we saw less than a half dozen cars. It was another beautiful ride, and a real confidence builder.

From there, it was off to the bike shop for a tune up, and I’m hoping to get just a couple of gear check rides in between now and Sunday.

The final results aren’t in, but I’m really happy I chose to do most of my training on Zwift for this event. The lack of mountains, or even hills, in Florida is a tough obstacle to overcome unless you can go out and find spots with a good headwind. Zwift has plenty of virtual hills that work the same way as real hill–if you don’t keep pedaling, you stop going forward. That constant cadence required to finish a route is feeling like the most important aspect of training. I realized in the last couple of weeks that this event is about being able to spin your legs for 45 minutes to an hour without stopping while keeping your heart rate in check, then being able to recover and do it again and again.

The rides I’ve done in the past few weeks like Mega Pretzel and Four Horsemen lined me up for just that. As a bonus, I feel much better climbing real hills than virtual one. Not having to worry about where all that sweat is going to go, having something real to look at, having climbing partners to talk to…all of that should make Six Gap much more enjoyable than the training.

2021 Six Gap Training – Four Weeks Out

10.5 hours | 161 miles | 10,407 ft climb

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.

Epictetus

I tried to make it a pretty big week. We’re headed up to TN for a bit, and this coming week is going to be hectic. I’ll probably get to ride on Tuesday and Friday and Sunday for sure, but the other days are toss ups. So I need to make those three rides all matter–no junk miles. Friday is already planned to be a longish outside ride in the mountains of God’s country! Can’t wait!

So this was my last week of Zwift racing before Six Gap–time to buckle down, focus, and forget about 1 hour hard efforts for a few weeks. I did the last Zwift Classics race on Tuesday, and I thought I was really going to do well in this one. The London Classique course is set up perfectly for my size and riding style–big guy going a steady speed/effort the whole way. But for some reason I was feeling off–just couldn’t hang on after the second sprint effort. My HR never really recovered, and I was probably stupid for going for points there. That big-burst sprint is not what I’ve been training for. Again, I’m lucky that our boy Hal Wye posted this race. Wish I could have stayed with those boys the whole way!

And thanks to all of the fine folks who raced the Eastern European time zone this season. Huge turnout every week, which made for fast times. It was great to be able to hit these on my lunch break and never have to worry about being stuck out on a course alone for long. There’s always someone to ride with in Eastern Europe!

On Thursday, I was back at it with the Dirty Wattz for the ZRL Team Time Trial. We had some strong Bs in our squad this week, and I think I was in the front of the train for less than 2 minutes total. I was barely hanging on the whole time, even though I was being pulled and protected. I’m telling myself this is a good thing, because it means I’ve acclimated myself to longer but less intense efforts. One thing I’m encouraged by is the amount of time I’ve spent during this training with constant cadence. Even when I’m not on hills, I’m not taking a break from spinning (except on the downhills). The ability to spin for a long time should pay off on long climbs at Six Gap.

On the other hand, it was a really good course for me, and I struggled with it. I was definitely putting up bigger numbers in May on these TTTs, and I was heavier then. Robbie got a pretty good screencast of the first 20 minutes or so of this one before he peeled off–I love his setup.

I had zero left for the finish on this one. Again, telling myself this is a good thing, because it’s not what I’ve been training for. But the pace was hot, and the competition between the Dirty Wattz teams definitely fuels the fire.

I took Friday and Saturday off…sorta. I did jump on the bike briefly on Friday to knock out a really short ride with a 37 m climb so that I could finish off the Tron Bike. That sucker was painful to get, but I got it.

Though I prefer to ride long on Saturdays I bumped it to Sunday this week. I was dreading doing the Mega Pretzel, after bailing on it mid-ride a couple of weeks ago. But this one had to be done. No Radio Tower climb, and no trip up Alpe du Zwift like in Four Horsemen, but that second time up the Epic KOM in this one is just mentally defeating. You feel like you are always going uphill on this course. The downhills just aren’t enough time to really feel rested. At least on ADZ, you can jump off the bike, go get some food/liquid, come back and your avatar is still going 65 kph down a mountain. Not so here–if you get off the bike for any amount of time, the avatar stops. It keeps you pretty honest.

But, I got it done in a little over 5 hours. I switched to the MTB for the jungle sections (ick), and looking back I wish I’d used a TT bike for most of this one. I was on my new Tron, and it didn’t occur to me until about 10k left that I’d not drafted AT ALL for the whole ride. Watopia was pretty empty yesterday, so I did this one as a solo effort.

An update on weight–I was below 184 pounds when I got off the bike after this ride. I made sure to re-hydrate all afternoon/evening, and did my best to clean out the fridge and put some calories in me. I’m good at this–it’s my forte. I was able to get up to 190 by bedtime, but I think I’ve broken through that weight loss plateau I hit a few weeks ago, and I may be able to shed another few pounds by pain day.

Zwift Classics 2021 – Innsbruckring Race Report

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men. Gang aft agley,. An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,. For promis’d joy! Still, thou art blest.

Robert Burns

I don’t know the proper past tense of “gang aft agley”, but hoss I tell you one dang thing…my schemes ganged afted agleyed in this race.

The idea was to hit the Leg Snapper like a maniac on every lap and use my…uh…”corpulence” to carry the attack on the downhill and pressure people to keep up for the sprint. Then lay back in the cut/draft for the rest of the lap.

Almost at the top of the Legsnapper on the first lap, I knew I was in trouble. I lost touch with the front 4 or 5 riders just as we crested the hill, and I was toast. Even before this race when I was warming up it felt like my heart rate was much higher than was being registered on the screen.

I know what was going on here–I still haven’t recovered from Saturday’s massive workout. It really took the mustard out of me. I rested on Sunday and did a pretty easy ride yesterday hoping it would get the jelly out of my legs.

No dice.

I did find a solid group for the 2nd lap, which included my weekly frienemy, Hal Wye. I can’t overly express my appreciation to Hal for screencasting and posting these videos to YouTube so that I can watch them later and share. He was pretty upset with me last week for getting caught in my sticky draft, and he exacted his revenge this week when he Burrito’d me. It’s all queue’d up below–you can see the exact moment when he rang my Taco Bell.

This group helped me get through lap 2 at a decent speed, but I knew the whole time I was just hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I expected to get dropped, I just didn’t know when it would happen. So I finished this race up at a pretty easy pace after getting dropped from this group. I have my first TTT with DIRT (my new team) on Thursday, and I don’t want to embarrass myself there.

Still, thou art blest…

Good lesson learned here. The ZRL season 4 opener is a TTT two days after the 6 Gap ride. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be on the bench for that one, unless my team is hankering for a loss.

Six Gap 2021 Training – Week 9

5 Rides | 6.5 hours | 101 miles | 7661 ft

Kind of a step back week, right after a do-nothing week. That wasn’t the plan going in, but I hit a little hiccup on Thursday and changed the weekend plan of doing tough rides on both Saturday and Sunday.

The week started off great with the Crit City Slam as part of the WTRL racing series. I was feeling pretty good and actually looking forward to doing the Specialized Roval Climbing Challenge up the Alpe de Zwift. I just knew I was going to snag a PR on the climb with this awesome bike and pretty good rest coming in.

I did not account for the heat in the fart barn, and I’m having to concede that the elements have finally caught up to me out there. I’ve done my best to get it all sealed up and insulated from the joy that is Florida in July/August, but in doing so I think I may have stopped so much air from coming in that I gassed myself. Check out this HR chart.

That’s not the way I wanted this histogram to look. What had happened was…

I was going for it on the first few segments of the ADZ–not killing myself, but hitting a pace I thought would get me the PR. My heart rate was quickly rising though, and by the 16th bend I was already up in the mid-upper 160s. Anything over 170 is when I have to start backing off when there’s a lot of ride left. Well, I tried, and tried, and tried, but recovery wasn’t coming.

There’s a silver lining here, and I’ll get to it later. But I had to slow down to a crawl to get any kind of drop at all. The SHTF moment happened with about 2.6km left in the climb when I started feeling a little dizzy. Thankfully, I wasn’t too proud to get off the bike and stand directly over the portable AC to try and cool off for a few minutes. I felt better when I got back on the bike, but the heart rate screamed right back up.

I basically pushed the bike up the rest of the hill virtually. Very disappointing– I really wanted that PR, but happy to know I can finish a really tough workout. That’s the type of mental training I hope to get on the trainer.

Now, for the silver lining. I went 30+ minutes with my HR > 170. So that can be done. Now I know. Heart rate is not my real limiter. When I’m feeling like I’m on the rivet, it must be my legs that are failing me, not my cardiovascular system.

So I know who I can rely on now. Spinning my legs is a better option for me than mashing on the pedals. The low cadence work I’ve been doing hasn’t hurt me any, but when it gets hard on race day I’m going to dance with the one that brung me.

Took some time over the weekend to recover. Did a sorta hard ride on Saturday, and I was still feeling this effort, so backed off again on Sunday.

Looking forward to the Richmond Challenge this week. When I looked at the WTRL schedule originally, I was a little disappointed that the C5 course was only a lap, which wouldn’t give me much of a chance to compete on the hills. Luckily, autocat for this week put me at a C4, which means I’ll get two laps, and a chance to make up for my poor climbing.

2021 Zwift Classics – Crit City Slam Race Report – C5 – Americas East

What do you do when you want to get over?
What do you do when you want to get through?
What do you do when you just can’t take it?
What do you do when you just can’t fake it anymore?

Deal with it. That’s what you do.

Henry Rollins

How many ways can my competitors break and demoralize me? We’ll find out, because I plan to keep coming back until I make it through in one piece. This, however, was not the week for that.

I was really looking forward to this race, especially after having missed the Everything Bagel race the previous week. Although I’ve done this course quite a few times, I’ve never done it in this direction and never for this many laps. Even without Sherpa Dave’s excellent recon series. The keys to this course are the cobbled climb and the rollers at the end of each lap–both are good spots to attack.

Or, in my case, to be attacked.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of this category and time zone on Youtube. Come on people! Get with it! I’m relying on you to provide content for me! But I’m embedding an exciting race from my cat in another time zone provided by JLC so that my readers (me) have a reference. I really like how JLC’s video has a cam attached, so you can see the IRL suffering.

I usually like to include a link to my Strava analysis of my ride and include screenshots and such, but I can’t do that for this race because the ride details were corrupted by a bug in the Apple TV app which prevented the data being uploaded. Luckily, the data still made it into ZwiftPower, so my results stand.

This was only my 3rd ride using Apple TV after a PC crash. I have to say that the 4k graphics are amazing with Zwift, and the operation is super simple–except for that pesky remote…that is not good! Overall, I think the Apple TV device is the way to go with Zwift, and I wish I’d just started out with that. All the crashes and video card upgrades and stuff I did just weren’t cost effective.

And Zwift sent out a patch to fix the problem that affected me on this day. I just didn’t get it in time.

I really don’t understand why Zwift isn’t selling their own device that is marketed just for their software. I think they could sell a ton of these at the $100 price point, especially to new users. They could even sell a bundle with device/trainer/HRM all together and make a killing.

Anyway, back to the race.

This does give me a chance to document my lack of understanding of how the points are awarded for these races. My reading comprehension is generally pretty decent (at least that’s what I understand from what I’ve read–haha), and I’m pretty good at math, so I’m having trouble understanding how the results I’m seeing for the FTS and FAL results on ZwiftPower translate to only 2 FAL points for this race. The scoring system seems pretty clear, and the FAL results on ZwiftPower are too, so I’m not sure what I’m missing.

Just looking at the FAL points for the hot laps, I’m seeing 16 points for me. But I only received 2 points. I guess as long as the scoring is happening consistently, and I’m sure it is, there’s no problem. And it’s not like we’re playing for money. I’m more interested in this because I like the gamification.

My gut feeling was that I’d be able to stick with the race leaders for most of the race, but would eventually get dropped and finish in the top 3rd or so. Knowing this, my strategy was to try to get as many FAL points as I could while I was in the mix, get with the chase group as soon as possible once I was dropped, and then fight for the highest placement I could get. I executed this plan pretty well (I thought), although I did lose some steam once I joined the chase group and finished at the back of it. It was pretty disappointing that I wasn’t able to compete more in that group. But, when I looked at the results from other time zones, I realized that we were going at a pretty screaming pace compared to them.

My original guess based on the other time zones was that I’d finish in around 36:00, but I ended up finishing in 34:03. It was one of those efforts that had me lying in the floor in a pool of sweat when it was over, just trying to recover and get my heart rate down. There is no spot in this course where you can relax and recover, and 12 laps of that is brutal, even if the time to complete isn’t that long.

I stayed with the main group until the climb of the 10th lap, where I expected a little bit of a reprieve once we crested. Unfortunately for me, that’s when there was an unexpected attack. I was positioned at the back of the group and just didn’t see it coming. Once I was detached they were gone. Lesson learned here–I was trying to stay in the middle of the pack most of the race to prevent this exact situation, but I got caught napping, and ended up 24th out of 56 starters.

Next time.

I’m really loving these races and the format. I’m a little worried about this race upcoming in Richmond though. The climbs happen early and then it ends mostly flat. I’m not a strong climber, so it’s going to be tough on me to stay in the lead group to the flats. If this course was reversed it would suit me much better.

Six Gap Training – Week 11

5 Rides | 9.5 hours | 169 miles | 5988 ft

Astute loyal readers of this blog (0 people) will note that there was no Week 12 Six Gap Training report. It’s not that I didn’t train during week 12, but it was pretty uneventful outside of the autocat beta race I did.

This past week was way more eventful. It was the first week of the Zwift Classics series, which was pretty awesome, with some low key rides mixed in throughout the week. But I did take on a big event on Saturday, doing a 100 mile virtual effort. Hard to call it a real century since the bike didn’t move at all, but it was a five and a half hour effort, and that has to account for something.

I sort of made a badge hunt out of this event–why not use the opportunity to level up? So I got the 10x and 25x badges for laps around volcano circuit, then I navigated over to Tempus Fugit to finish up the final 60k. There’s also a 100 mile badge you get at the very end of a century ride. I have to admit, I was expecting to only go EXACTLY 160 kilometers, but had to do almost 161. That last bit of a kilometer was pretty brutal mentally.

But mental toughness is what I’m going after with rides like this. There’s not really much climbing involved on this route, even in the laps around Volcano Circuit. It’s all about sitting in a tiny room for a long time and making circles with your legs. And that’s what makes riding outside so much easier when I have to do it.

I was really happy to get that distance out of the way–it’s been out there haunting me for a while. That’s the good news. The bad news is that my desktop computer I was using for Zwift appears to have died. I did a little research and found that the most economical option for me was to go with the Apple TV solution. Way cheaper than a computer, and the only other thing I had to purchase is a bluetooth HRM since my old school Garmin straps are Ant+ only.

I’m going to be missing a few days of training for a family funeral, which will give everything time to get delivered, and I’m gearing up for a big weekend next weekend as well.

Six Gap Training – Week 13 – Stop Piss Farting Around!

Titled in honor of an old football coach who didn’t curse, but used these two words liberally. I never really figured out for sure what “piss farting around” is, but I know he would yell it at us for doing it twice a day in the late summer. And that’s the theme for this week…

Two-A-Days!

The big ride(s) of this week were both virtual, and both around 60 km each by the pixel count. I did two group rides on Saturday of the Petit Boucle course and the Tire-Bouchon course. I have no idea what those words mean, but I had about an hour between finishing one and starting the other. That gave me some time to go inside the big house, eat, refill water bottles, and literally chill for a bit before going at it again.

The first was really nice. It was a ‘C’ ride, and of course I was dropped early because I couldn’t hold that pace for 60k. Luckily, a couple of us slower folk hooked onto the wheel of a guy who was doing 2.4 w/kg steadily, which let us run at just under 2. Eventually we were the only two in our group, and I was able to pull the hills for us. He was even bigger than me, so the downhills were really nice.

Not so lucky in the second ride. I was solo the whole time. 🙁 The only bonus is that we were on a course that was not one of the Zwift worlds of the day, so once the group ride was over and I kept pedaling on an empty course I ended up with a KOM jersey. Had to take a picture, because you won’t ever see this again.

I also did a couple of easy rides, and another trip up the Alpe de Zwift. I’m doing this ride repeatedly and using it to experiment with cadence. I’m going to need to keep my heart rate in check to have a good day at Six Gap, and that’s means being aggressive (but not TOO aggressive) on Hog Pen Gap. I worked on a lower cadence here while continuing to push the watts.

It felt like I was getting a PR, but I ended up about 3.5 minutes off my best time where I pushed more watts at the same cadence at a lower heart rate. I need to do some more work to figure out why that was because it could give me a hint of what will work for me on pain day and my fitness/freshness leading into it.

Zwift Group Rides – Y’all Just Chill On This

It’s been a long time since I read a blog post and then wrote a blog post responding to it. Like, it’s been years. But yesterday I read this post on ZwiftInsider around group rides, giving feedback to group leaders, ranking group rides, etc.

I joined one just last week, led by a pro rider. (This, by the way, is often the kiss of death on Zwift – pro riders are notoriously bad ride leaders.) The ride details stated a pace of 2-2.5 w/kg. He messaged before the ride began to say he would be holding a pace of 2 w/kg. Then promptly launched off the front, messaging 10 minutes into the ride that the pace would be closer to 3 w/kg.

It’s funny, because last week I did a couple of group rides that I normally don’t do, and both of them went poorly. Well, poorly for some of the people doing the rides. I didn’t have a problem with the rides or the leaders, even though they didn’t stick to the advertised pace. I just rode my own ride, found a couple of other people who were doing the same, and finished my workout. But I was amused with the whiny riders complaining about the leaders. Even while I was in the rides themselves I was thinking about this. I mean, it didn’t really irritate me, because the little text/message boxes popping up on my screen with people upset with the leaders didn’t affect my ride at all.

And that’s kind of the point.

Look, a virtual group ride shouldn’t put nearly the amount of expectation on ride leaders as in-person group rides. Safety is not a concern–nobody’s getting hit by a car on the trainer. Cues and steering are not a concern–nobody is getting lost out here. And really, speed shouldn’t be a concern–at least not one big enough to get upset about.

I get it. It’s fun to “go fast” on the screen because you are riding in a big blob while only putting out 2.5 w/kg of effort. But at the end of the day, what does it matter if the leader (and most of the peloton) want to bump it up to 3.0 w/kg and you can’t keep up? Why would you get upset about this? No one is stopping you from continuing on at 2.5 w/kg. That’s on you. That’s your inability to be disciplined with your pace. Take the opportunity to work on it.

Is it because you’re trying to get PRs on Strava segments or get more “miles”? Um….this isn’t real riding. What you’re really doing on a trainer is X watts for Y minutes. Spoiler alert–you aren’t actually going anywhere.

So if you don’t like the way the group ride is going, don’t complain. Just ride. Or just get off your bike. It’s not like the leader drug you out 25 miles away from your house. You’re already home. And guess what. There’s probably another virtual group ride starting up in 30 minutes or so.

Then you can get mad at whoever is leading that one. They are probably getting paid exactly the same thing ($0) as the person who was leading the last ride you whined about.

I get the point of the post is that there should be a way to provide feedback, but that’s so the leaders can get better and have more successful rides in the future. I’m all for that. What I experienced last week was anger and whininess during the ride. The feature I’d ask for is the ability to mute the Debbie Downers.

2021 Six Gap Training – Week 14 – All About That Pace, Bout That Pace

5 Ride | 8 hours | 160 miles | 2,690 ft | Training Score: 414

This was a pretty light week of climbing, coming off a week where I’d struggled with hilly longer rides. My legs definitely appreciated the little break. Focus this week was placed more on doing a couple of longer rides (63 miles and 39 miles) along with a short but intense TT on Tempus Fugit.

The long ride was the highlight of the week–done on actual terrain with actual people, eating actual food. I overate on this ride, and I don’t regret it. I’ve been trying to eat every 1.5 hours, but that didn’t seem to be cutting it for rides that were taking bigger effort. This time, I opted for every 45 minutes or so. I didn’t resort to carbs though–snacked the whole way on egg/guac mix and some beef jerky. Went through just under 4 bottles of water as well. Hydration hasn’t been much of an issue so far in training, but I haven’t run out of water yet either.

One huge difference I noticed in riding outside was comfort. This ride was planned kinda last minute, and all I had clean and ready to go was a pair of triathlon shorts–very little padding for a 3+ hour ride. I was surprised at how comfortable my booty was. There are more opportunities to move around in the saddle and adjust when riding outside that you get on the trainer. Another reason I’m happy to spend most time on the trainer–anything that makes the real pain day more comfortable.

I did find myself in want of some gloves. It was pretty dang muggy, and we even had some rain at the end of the ride. I never felt unsafe, but I was aware of my hands and that I needed to be mindful of them. Another big difference in riding a road bike that I’m just not used to. In the aero position on a TT bike you don’t have to worry about this.

More climbing for the next couple of weeks, and hopefully at least one session outside each week. I haven’t been doing the weekly TTTs on Zwift for a few weeks, and although I miss them, I think this opening on the schedule has given me a good chance to focus on what I need to do for Six Gap.

2021 Six Gap Training – Accepting The Saddle Time (Reluctantly)

This post is part of a series where I’m overthinking my approach to training for the 2021 Six Gap Century ride in North Georgia. All time spent thinking and writing probably would have been better spent on the bike

At first glance this would appear to be the main issue–sitting on a bike for hours and covering 100 miles. The problem here is that, because of the climbing involved, and because I’m kind of a big guy, this ride probably looks more like 175-200 miles when you’re thinking of it in saddle time. To put it in running terms, I’m not training for a marathon, I’m training for an ultra.

If I were doing a normal century ride, I’d be able to count on some things like riding in a big group with a lot of draft. I’d also be able to discount some things like nutrition and hydration. It’s not that I could ignore those things, but they’d be less important. Riding at a pretty easy pace for 4-5 hours is a lot easier to manage than riding 7-8 hours on a roller coaster of effort.

One part of this is adjustment in equipment. Most of my bike time has been in triathlon training, so I’m accustomed to tri shorts with minimal padding–something I can swim and run in. I’m planning to switch over to a bib for this event. I haven’t had a chance to purchase yet, but it’s my cart along with a heaping helping of butt paste.

I’m trying to account for the saddle time by working out how often and how much I have to eat to stop the bonk. That means regularly doing 2-3 hour rides pretty often, even 3 months out from pain day. Something else I’m going to incorporate is two-a-day workouts–doing a long easy ride in the morning, followed by a shorter but more intense ride in the afternoon.

I did a mini-test this Tuesday with a pretty easy one hour ride at lunch (intensity = 73%), followed by a time trial sufferfest in the afternoon (intensity = 101%). Counting the warmup time for the TT, that ended up being an hour and 45 minutes of saddle time, but broken up by a couple of hours. What I’m trying to achieve here is not just the saddle time, but saddle time at different effort levels.

To be honest, the plan was to do a similar test earlier this week, but suffering from the keto flu (see weight loss plan) had me bonking on what was supposed to be a relatively easy route for the first ride. I’m definitely going to have to play with this approach and adjust as I go.

The bottom line is that I really don’t like being on the bike for a long period of time. I can do it once on the designated day, but I’d like to get there without having to do a 6 hour ride weekly. It may come to that, but I have time to check out some different options for now.

2021 Six Gap Training – A Complete Dummy Taking A Stab At It

It’s hard to call this a plan, especially since there’s a lot of playing by ear going on. It doesn’t have specific workouts laid out over 20 weeks or anything like that. This is more like a framework for a training approach, and it’s not based on any experience as a coach. It will be based on a bunch of data, which I’ll write about later. I’m the guinea pig, and I’m going to have to live with the results on pain day. I have some assumptions, some limiters, and a hefty dose of experimentation going on here.

What’s tough about training for Six Gap Century is that it isn’t just a century ride–covering 100 miles isn’t the only challenge presented here. Actually, the distance itself hardly factors in when you look at the big picture.

Six Gaps is a complicated problem. It’s actually a set of problems.

Yeah, yeah…I know there are lots of cyclists out there who have banked enough miles, climbs, and saddle time that they can just show up on September 26, ride Six Gap, then go out and to a 100k recovery ride the next day. But I’m not really a cyclist; not even a triathlete at this point. I’m just a dude who has done a variety of endurance events, but nothing this big that’s cycling focused. I’ve always pretty much middle of the pack, and if I can accomplish the same thing here I’ll be pretty happy.

I need some kind of training plan. And I don’t enjoy cycling all that much, so I need one that keeps me engaged.

So I’m going to approach this problem like I’d approach any other–what are the challenges I’m trying to overcome for this event? What are the problems that need to be solved?

For me, the big issues that need to be covered are:

I’ll start with mental toughness. In the end, I think this is the most important muscle to exercise. How do I plan to do it? Lots of time on the trainer, and not a lot of time outside. My past experience with mainly-trainer training has worked really well for me, and I definitely feel a difference when I go outside for an actual ride–it’s way more stimulating.

Imagine spending a few months listening to podcasts about nature, and then going in and watching a documentary about the National Parks on an IMAX screen. It’s that different.

The side benefit here is that the trainer allows me to work on almost all of the other aspects I need to address, excluding bike handling skills. I plan to go over my plan for each of these other issues in later posts, but I’m definitely going to use the trainer as my main training tool.

I’m going to break it down further in the next post. I’m always surprised at how much I have to say about stuff.

FTP Test – For Real

After my humbling performance in the Team Time Trial #95, I knew it was time to get on to the real business I have to take care of on Zwift. Not riding tours or group rides. The focus has to be on getting better.

Like, real results.

Still, I did want to do the makeup stage of the 2021 Tour de Zwift. It happened to be the climbing stage, and since I was only going to do one ride in this stage, I chose the most advanced one. Gulp. This took about 20 minutes longer than I was hoping it would. It was brutal. Another confirmation that I’m not where I need to be.

I did take a day off, but wanted to stick to the schedule. Legs were pretty heavy, but I went ahead with the FTP test. I’d done these before, back in the Trainerroad days, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Luckily, Zwift has a different type of FTP test that doesn’t take nearly as long and isn’t as grueling. I did a ten minute easy rise to get my trainer warmed up and did a quick calibration, then on to the test.

Unlike the 45 minute efforts I’ve done before, this one went pretty fast, and it only hurt for a little while. It’s a 5 minute warmup, followed by 1 minute intervals at increasing wattage. It didn’t even take me 18 minutes to complete and for my HR to get to critical.

I ended up at 243 for and FTP–for real this time, not virtual power. That makes sense. I was hoping for somewhere around 250. It’s funny to read back through old posts from before and see that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. I’m at 2.6 w/kg, and my goal (once again) is to get to 3.0 w/kg. Roughly, that means increasing my FTP to 270 watts and getting my weight down to 198 pounds.

Totally doable. In fact, I’ll have a hard time keeping those 7 pounds on if I’m doing all the workouts. My raw wattage may not jump all the way to 270, but if I weigh in at 195 pounds and hit a raw score of 265, the result is the same.

First Experience in Zwift TTT Racing

Alternate title: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: I have an image that proves I was actually with this group at some point of the race

The Bad: It was evident early on that I couldn’t hang

The Ugly: My heart rate and recovery

Some background…

I’ve been doing a weekly Zwift recovery ride on Wednesdays with the Vikings – Valhalla team. This ride is super-fun, super-inclusive, and they seemed like a great group of people to ride with and represent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the team for me. I’m doing this for fun and health, not for champeenships or money. Is there any money in Zwift racing? A different topic to explore.

After doing a race where I was not up to snuff, I can confirm that these are some cool people. No one dogged me out for not being able to keep up. In fact, they did everything they could to keep me in the group and only dropped me after the 2nd or 3rd time I told them that they should drop me.

As a member of a team I definitely feel like I let them down. But the best thing I could do was to let them go on without me. These guys were way stronger than me, and as I watched them finish as I continued to putter along the course I was amazed at the effort they put in. I have a lot of work to do before I try one of these again.

Race Report – Or at least the part I participated in

Zwift TTT is made up of up to 8 riders, and the time of the top 4 riders to cross the finish line is what counts. In the league we were in, there can be 3 “B” class riders and the rest “C” class. I’m a C rider, which means the responsibility to pull the group and ride at the front didn’t fall on me as much as others. We had a team of 6 in the start pen, but one of our riders had a technical issue, which had us start with 5 riders.

The call was to ride on raw watts over w/kg because we were riding a flat course. We were shooting for 300 watts at the front.

That’s 3.2 w/kg for me.

*Gulp* That’s hot. I was already a little worried. In the start pen I noticed my HR was over 100, and I wasn’t even pedaling–just nervousness and adrenaline, and that didn’t serve me well at all. Then again, they were only asking for 15 seconds of effort from me for my turns. I was determined to stay on for as long as I could, and I knew it was going to be about recovering for the 1:45 seconds my teammates would be pulling.

Since I’ve started riding again, the highest HR I’ve touched so far is 173. And I mean that I TOUCHED it. I can’t stay there for any amount of time. So I was really mindful of where my HR was and paying close attention to it. Two minutes into this ride I hit 158 on a pull, then I recovered. I hit 160 at ~4:00, and I recovered.

At ~5:00 I hit 161, and I climbed up to 169 in the next three minutes, and it just wasn’t recovering.

Somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes I fell off the back, and teammate Sylvan pulled me back to the group. I stayed in the 4th position for the rest of the time I was with the group, until the 20:00 mark or so. But I was stuck in the mid 160s and still struggling, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this for another 25 minutes. I fell off again, and Sylvan slowed down to try and help me catch back up, but I was cooked. I was having some trouble with Discord to tell the guys to go without me–wasn’t sure they could hear.

When they made the call to drop me (great call!) I was tasked with “just finish”. That way if someone else had an issue we would at least get credit for the race…just a horrible time. It’s clear from the power graph above that I immediately started soft pedaling and trying to recover. I knew my best chance for a better time was to get my HR under control and then ride the best I could.

It took me 12:00 to get my HR under 150! Once I recovered, I tried to keep my HR at a reasonable rate and get the best time I could. Pretty boring work, so I decided to watch the rest of the team finish. Wow–the effort those guys put in was inspiring to watch. And it was great to hear how happy they were at the finish line!

They finished at ~44:00. There’s no way I could have stuck with them. No way. It’s crazy to look at the graph of Sylvan’s ride to see how much he was recovering when trying to pull me back to the group. And the work he put in after I dropped is just crazy.

I still had 2.6 KM to go after the team finished, but now there was zero pressure to get any kind of time. Just riding for pride at this point, and I’d already had that taken from me LOL. I pedaled into the finish and did the sprint at the end. Woopity Doo!

Ok, so how do I fix this?

I learned a lot on this ride, and it’s pretty evident what I need to work on:

  1. Increased FTP–I have a lot of room to grow in the C class
  2. Weight loss (to give me better w/kg)
  3. Intervals, intervals, intervals

So Friday was a light swim day–just short and easy to get the heaviness out of my legs. Today I’m doing the last Tour de Zwift ride that I missed to get every stage completed and a short easy run. After that (and a rest day on Sunday) the work begins.

Monday: FTP test. I need to baseline exactly where I am. I think my rating on ZwiftPower is a little inflated at this point because I’ve only had a smart trainer for a week. It’s evident that the power readings (estimated) from my dumb trainer were super inaccurate as the power increased. So I need a better baseline

Tuesday I’m going to take a rest day. Well, a rest from cycling. I’m actually going to get to roll on Tuesday! Woot!

Wednesday is going to be the start of a 6 week FTP builder. That takes care of increasing FTP, and if it’s like other plans I’ve done before there are lots of intervals on the menu.

And for the elephant in the room…almost literally…weight. When I was at BJJ peak fighting shape, I was walking around at ~190 pounds for most of the day. I was never under 200 when I was doing triathlons back in the day, and I think that extra 10 pounds made a big difference. I just hadn’t been small in so long I thought 200 WAS small. Now I’m aware of how much more athletic I feel at 190, and I’m motivated to get there from my current 205. Picking up some BJJ training is going to help with that for sure, but it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

Daily Reading List — April 25th

Triathlon Fatalities Aren’t Going Away – Really hope someone can figure this out. Everything I've heard is that most of the people who die are fit and experienced, but have an undiagnosed heart condition.

And, uh, we also really need to do something about the number of people getting mowed down by cars when they are out training on their bikes. I stay inside the house because of that. Also there is Netflix.

Inspiration and Outrage in Boston – Outrage! If you're worried about the integrity of bandit runners, stop using your company's computer and bandwidth to try and track down bandit runners using Twitter and Facebook.

Ronald McDonald gets a makeover – Ronald McDonald now *serious* about being creepy. No more messing around.

American Teamwork–How Ryan Hall Helped Meb Win Boston – Great story about sacrifice for your teammates. Ryan Hall has smarts real good.

Why There Will Be A Robot Uprising – Some touch screen devices seem to have already achieved the desired outcome of preventing people from turning them off. #NoDisassemble

Drone Footage of a Rocket Taking off and Landing is Spectacular – The takeoff and landing is amazing on its own. Drones for the +1!

Post-Run Yoga – I blindly clicked, guessing low lunge would be the first thing on the list.

Google’s Secret Weapon To Keep Amazon And Microsoft On Their Toes – Race to the bottom of prices with a concurrent race to the top on speed? Sounds good to me!

4 Manly Lessons from the Minor Leagues – Some great stuff in here for triathletes too, even if you aren't trying to be a pro or get some sort of sponsorship. "Dominate the things you can control." and "Action without vision just passes time." are two of my favorites.

Unfollow Chocolate Milk! – It's about time someone with a louder voice than me said it. I bet Kool Ade, Tang, and every other sugary drink company wishes they'd thought of this scam before the Chocolate Milk cartel did.

Weekend warrior: mastering the art of the triathlon humblebrag – Really, there's no reason to be humble about it. If you're going out and doing ultra distance events regularly, or kicking ass in your age group in short and mid distance events, you are a bad ass. You are MUCH more of a badass than 90% of the population.

Flaunt it while you have it. You're not getting any younger.

Penn State Rugby Team Suspended – Here's the thing–college kids like to drink cold beer and, apparently, set things on fire.

When you have a problem with scholarship Division 1 athletes behavior, you can expect to have similar issues with non-scholarship club sport participants.

Ok..it's probably fair not to expect them to set things on fire because they aren't happy with their coach, but still.

Daily Reading List — February 18th

Helmets not even in top 10 of things that keep cycling safe – Have to agree with this. My biggest fear on the bike is that it will somehow come dislodged from the trainer in the middle of an interval and I'll go slamming into my desk.

Dispelling Lactic Acid Myths – Gyah! I learned a ton reading this article!

"The takeaway? Concentrate on exhaling."

5 Myths About Running That Are Ready to Be Retired – "Chocolate milk as a recovery drink" needs to be added to every list like this.

Calf Heart Attacks – Ouch! Glad I've never had this. You'll never believe what the number one thing you can do to help this running injury get better. Yep…stop running.

Tour of Sufferlandria recap – Best. Haiku. Every

Angels Haiku
Pain pain pain pain pain
Pain pain pain pain pain pain pain
There were no Angels

The Pleasant Places to Live – Cool map! Take into account the sea breeze, and I'd argue that our June and July on the East Coast of Florida is pretty dang nice. Boost our numbers!

Cycling ‘much safer than playing rugby’ – Well, now that's finally answered.

Google Releases Chromecast SDK To Developers – Avalanche of game updates coming in 3,2,1…

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