Tag Archives: training

A Series of Setbacks

Setbacks are not sexy, but they happen and must be dealt with. This blog has been a little quiet over the last couple weeks because that is exactly what I’ve been dealing with. I had hoped they would pass quickly, and my training path would continue towards a triumphant descent into Nice, France next year.

The first setback was the nagging hip injury that bothered me throughout the latter part of the cycling season, specifically on Six Gap Century. It had gone away for awhile until I experienced soreness after riding up in Asheville. No problem. I could rest a couple of days. Unfortunately it became worse, and continued in that direction for a few days. I knew that this was going to slow me down significantly, as the hip heals very slowly.

Since I cannot afford to spend the next few months on the couch, I made another appointment with my doctor. He talked to me, looked me over, and told me that since I’m an athlete, I need special treatment. I almost laughed when he told me that. Me? An Athlete? I’m just a dude that rides a bike, but I agree that the normal measures are not going to work.

As it turned out, I started getting a sore throat the day before my appointment. Uh oh. Yes, I was getting sick. When I’m training, I hardly ever get sick. Sometimes I’ll get a little something that will slow me down for a day or two, but my body usually fights it off. This time I had not been training, and it ran over me like a mack truck.

The doctor diagnosed it as a common cold. Good. That would pass in a day or two, and I could resume some light training. Coach Bobby told me that as long as the cold symptoms remain in my head and not my chest, that I would be able to continue.

That wasn’t happening. As the cold progressed, it knocked me down hard. I was on the couch, drinking sodas, chewing cough drops, and eating as much soup as I could stomach. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was watching episodes of Breaking Bad.

This private hell continued over the next couple days. Training of any sort was out of the question. I started to clear up yesterday. The dry cough became productive and phlegmy. My sinuses loosened up, the voice cleared up, and I could feel it flowing out of me. For the first time all week, I felt like I could function, and I wanted to get outside.

I’m still not there yet. The cold is passing through slowly, and might not be completely gone until the middle of next week. Hopefully the rest and the new doctor will be just what I need, and I can continue going hard in a week or two.

By the way, Breaking Bad is a fantastic show.

Another Fall & Winter Diet

I’ve been slacking lately. Big time.

My race weight for Mount Mitchell this year was somewhere around 148. Thanks to too many Colorado microbreweries, too many special occasion dinners, too many carbload sessions, and too many late night snacks, that number is now 156. Eight pounds might not sound like a lot compared to where I’ve been, but in that short of a time-frame, 5% is a big swing.

Yesterday marked the first day of the new Haute Route diet. My goal was to reach 140 lbs by next August, when rubber touches French pavement. The new coach told me today that he wants me at 10% body fat by late spring. Since I am probably at around 16-17% now, that could mean dropping as much as 15 lbs. Yikes! This could be a tough winter.

Cannot eat from this menu in 2012-13.

Since I am still at least a week away from serious training, the best way to start is by drastically reducing my food intake. This means I am going from a daily 2,300 calorie diet (at best) to around 1,800 calories. I am not too concerned with the lack of cardio, as I know that I’ll be making up for it soon.

One of the reasons for my gain is lack of oversight. After Mitchell, I stopped working with Kelli at Apex Nutrition. I may have learned how to eat, but I still lack the discipline to stick with the plan. I will again be entering everything I eat into a calorie tracker. Kelli is re-hired, and will be monitoring my intake carefully. She will correct me about anything that’s not contributing to my goals. She will also steer me towards the healthiest options nearby.

No fried butter for me.

The focus will be familiar. For starters, the diet will be low carbs, high protein, and no junk. At some point I also plan to cut down on diet soda. Healthy carbs will come back into play when needed to fuel workouts, only without going crazy. I think I’m at the point where I don’t need to overfill myself. It is time to learn new combinations to reduce the bottom line.

For example, here is today’s food:

Breakfast: Lara Bar, banana, almond latte

Mid-morning snack: Granola bar

Lunch: Grilled chicken Caesar salad

Afternoon snack: 100 calories of almonds

Dinner: Baked chicken, green peppers, onions

Evening snack: Celery with coconut oil, peanut butter

To many this sounds like a nightmare of a diet. For me, it isn’t bad. I enjoy veggies and chicken. Of course I also enjoy stuff that I cannot eat, but thanks to my cycling hobby, I’ll get the chance to eat enjoyable foods without cheating.

2012 Ray Tanner Home Run

As an avid South Carolina Gamecock fan, the Ray Tanner Home Run was an event I’ve wanted to run for awhile. I couldn’t three years because of my running injury, and the last two were date conflicts with cycling events. With my recent injury, it looked like this might be another scratch, but determination counts for something. I kept my registration with the intention of walking the course.

Ray Tanner, for those who don’t know, is a local legend. He was the Baseball coach who led the Gamecocks to consecutive College World Series championships. He has since been promoted to Athletic Director, and is now overseeing the best football team in years under Steve Spurrier. On the day of the race, the football Gamecocks would be away playing the LSU Tigers. A win would vault them to the national championship race. Needless to say, this is an exciting time to support the program.

What’s great about this ride is the location. It begins bright and early at Carolina Stadium, where the Gamecocks play their home games. It ends at home plate, with the awards presentation at left field. With just over 1,800 athletes participating, it was a crowded and festive atmosphere.

Because of the Ray’s new position and the LSU game this evening, he could not make it to the event. Instead, Karen, his wife, hosted thousands of riders, family members, and volunteers. She gave us some thanks and words of encouragement before a young girl (sorry, missed the name) started the race with an air horn. The 12k runners started first, with the 5k pack leaving half an hour later.

The weather changed my plans. It was a cool morning in the low 50s, with a chilling breeze. As we lined up, I moved further and further towards the back of the pack. I was only allowed to walk, as I kept reminding myself, and didn’t want to be motivated by other runners.

The race started, and I started walking with the pack. This wasn’t working. I had to jog slowly to warm myself up. Oddly enough, it felt alright. I kept at it for maybe half a mile. Then I forced myself to stop and walk. I walked/jogged the rest of the route, not wanting to push myself further into injury. When I crossed home plate, it had taken me 37:29, which I will take for my injured state. According to the official results, I finished 393rd out of 659 finishers of the 5k. Having expectations of being close to last, this was fantastic.

The run was encouraging. The hip was slightly sore afterward, but it mostly held up. It should be fine to train on in the next week or two. I could also tell that the rest was good for me. I had a lot more running power than I expected, especially on the hills. There were times I felt I could pick up the pace, but kept myself in check just to be safe.

The event was awesome. It is a great feeling to finish at home plate to a cheering crowd. The ride director, Ken Lowden, did a phenomenal job. As Karen said at the beginning, it simply would not happen without he and his volunteers.

Running is probably not going to be in the training plan for France. This will most likely be my last one for quite awhile.


From Cashiers to Mitchell

My 2nd Assault on Mount Mitchell is less than two weeks away.

I’m glad that I had a couple struggles at Cashiers. To me, this was like the powerhouse team that loses a big game before the playoffs. It happens often in sports. The teams lose, then have to regroup, re-focus and come out on top. Kentucky’s basketball team is a great recent example.

Most of my Mitchell training is now finished. There will be a couple more rides, including one more century this weekend, but the hard stuff is behind me. Now I have to use what I learned about myself to formulate a plan for the big ride.

Cashiers reminded me not to overestimate myself or underestimate the ride. That’s exactly what I did this weekend. I have been training hard and making great progress that I forgot some of the little things.

  • The week prior to Cashiers, I didn’t ride at all. I was due for a recovery week, but could have benefited from an easy spin or two.
  • I didn’t drink a lot of water prior to Cashiers. Most of my hydration came in the form of two cups of coffee before the ride, which is not ideal.
  • The biggest mistake was in my eating the night before the ride. I made poor choices ordering from a German restaurant. I got a small side of potatoes when I should have ordered a pasta dish.
  • On top of that, I forgot to eat something just before the ride as I usually do.

No wonder I struggled out of the gates. My tank was empty!

So I have one more (relatively) flat century to use as a testing ground. That will be at this weekend’s Tour de Midlands. The plan this time is to fuel intelligently, stay on the bike without stopping (much) and ride as fast as I can.

This One Goes to Eleven

Over the last two weeks, my volume has increased dramatically. That’s why I have been neglecting blog updates and have pretty much abandoned all social networking activities (Sorry Twitter, Facebook followers and blogger friends). The last few weeks have been about getting rides in when I can. Since I am also a husband, an employee, and a student, that has left scarce time for anything else.

How much volume? A lot, trust me. Ever since my hamstring scare, I have been averaging about 250 miles per week. Before my Tuesday/Thursday group rides I’ve had my own little solo pre-rides, where I get anywhere from 25-30 miles. After the group ride I end up with 55-60, the last half of which are strenuous and spirited. A couple evenings I have arrived home with a higher mileage than temperature reading on my Garmin.

The heavy volume period is going to last one more week. My mountain plans for tomorrow are going to fall through due to potential weather, so I will be riding Tour de Lake again, which I enjoyed last year. That will be a slow century for me.

After some weekday rides, I’ll cap my training period with a 3-day weekend at Table Rock State Park. I’ll be with a dozen other cyclists, who I will ride with on Friday and Sunday. On Saturday I will be participating in Issaqueena’s Last Ride.

Last year I couldn’t have imagined myself capable of this sort of volume. There have been two things that have really made the difference. The first is a new type of recovery drink. As soon as I arrive home, I prepare a cup of whey protein, soy milk, organic fruit juice, ice and water, mixed together. The taste and temperature hit the spot after a hard ride, but more importantly, it really does get the muscles in recovery mode.

The second thing is foam rolling. I have a humongous foam roller that I used to stretch out in the evenings in front of the TV. To supplement that, I use a rolling pin on my quads and hammies. I work most of the tension out and generally feel refreshed and ready to ride the next day. Even on days when I take a rest, I feel that I could be riding.

It has been a successful training season for me. Soon I’ll be slowing down, tapering, and preparing to tackle the big mountain once again.

The Aftermath of Lake Lure

Lake Lure was quite an experience and I learned a lot about where I’m at physically. Since I am in the final phase of training, I figure now is a good time to discuss the progress I’ve made.

The Hamstring: Some people asked about this and I guess I didn’t provide closure last week. The hamstring was a mess for about 4-5 days, very sore and inflexible. I was not able to extend my leg straight out without resistance and soreness. I was worried this was a pulled hamstring, which it may have been.

The massage worked wonders. It was sore the rest of that day, then the next morning – voila! – it was fine. It has remained fine ever since. I have been making sure to warm up before attempting any difficult riding (like climbing), and it hasn’t flared up ever since. Hopefully it was a very minor pull and will not resurface. I did not bother me at all on the Lake Lure ride.

Final Phase: Since I am back in the fold, I am pushing the volume back up. I have ridden about 150 miles since the injury and will be back up to 200+ miles each week. The next few weekends will be busy — all out of town. This weekend is Assault on the Carolinas. Depending on how things go, I might get crazy and climb Caesar’s Head twice. The following weekend will be a test run to Mount Mitchell. After that will be a cycling weekend from Table Rock State Park, with lots of climbing and Isaqueena’s Last Ride mixed in. After that I will slow down my weekday riding, test out some things on Tour de Cashiers, do the Tour de Midlands, then taper for the big event.

Climbing Challenge: Taking some time off the bike was necessary even without the hamstring injury. I had pushed for a few weeks and deserved some recovery. Unfortunately that set me back on the Strava Climbing Challenge. At first I wanted to waive the white flag and not worry about it. Now that I’m back and have some upcoming climbing events, I’m pushing towards it again. Barring any setbacks, I have a shot at success, but it will be close. I am still trying to get climbs in when I can.

Lake Lure: Marathon runners will know what I mean when I say this was like doing Yasso 800s. This is a series of shorter runs one can do to get an idea of what their marathon time will be. Tour de Lure has a lot of similarities with the Spartanburg to Marion ride, including sharing a number of the same roads. Lure has some additional early climbing and Spartanburg has an early fast and flat section. The Spartanburg ride also has about 5 more miles. In my opinion, you could probably take 15-20% off your Lure time and that’ll roughly be your time from Spartanburg to Marion.

Because of the hamstring issue, I was almost fully tapered for Tour de Lure and time was 4:15, which was not at full effort and included some short stops. This would put my Marion time at 3:45, much better than my 4:30 from last year. My goal was to beat last year’s time by half an hour, which I am certain to blow out of the water. Now there’s a good chance of under seven hours.

Lake Lure always helped with the eyeball test. I got to experience the rolling hills into Marion, which is probably the toughest part of the Mitchell course. They were tough and kept coming, but I felt okay. They didn’t seem as imposing as last year.

Another good sign is that, although tired, I could have kept going on Saturday. Mitchell is now 40 days away and I’m feeling more confident with each ride. Hopefully this continues.

Strava Classic Climbing Challenge

Now seems like as good a time as any for a new challenge. My last attempt at Strava’s Base Mile Challenge was not serious and I fared poorly (Rank #3243). I had 300 miles while the leader had 3,000. Their new challenge is closer to my wheelhouse.

The Strava Climbing Challenge is a lot closer to my wheelhouse. It allows cyclists to compete by climbing as many feet as possible between March 15th and April 30th. I don’t expect to be anywhere near the leaders. Right now the leader has over 30,000 feet climbed (!) while I am close to 1,500 place. In this case I don’t have to win to succeed. Those who reach just over 105,312 feet will receive a Specialized water bottle and a surprise gift. While that’s a lofty goal, it is not out of the question. Since I’m already training for Mount Mitchell and have training rides planned, there are already plenty of climbs on tap. Now that daylight savings time has come, I will also be riding more during the week. That said, this will still be a challenge and I’ll have to squeeze in climbing at every opportunity. .

To accomplish this, I’ll need a good plan. My schedule is pretty difficult to maneuver around, so I’ll only have Tuesdays, Thursdays, weekends and occasional Fridays. Fortunately I have an early work schedule that allows me to ride for over an hour before meeting a group ride. This past Tuesday I managed 46 total miles and about 2,500 feet of climbing. That’s perfect. I’ll also be participating in Assault of the Carolinas and Tour de Lure, which will give me about 5,000 feet each. The training period ends on April 30th, which coincides with a planned weekend at Table Rock with friends. Assuming our legs can survive, we plan on a ton of climbing, perhaps as much as 20,000 feet over the weekend.

I mapped out my probable rides in the next few weeks. If they all go as planned, I will get to around 80,000 feet. There should also be a couple additional mountain trips that will get me closer. As for the rest, I’ll just have to grunt it out. When choosing routes, I’ll look for hills instead of flats, however small, and repeat them if time allows. This is a sprint, not a marathon, and it all adds up.

If I accomplish this, I should be well on my way to an amazing performance at Mitchell. You couldn’t ask for better motivation.