Summarizing the hours from the first three days of the bike tour, we rode 278.4 miles, climbed 17,283 ft, ride time was 19 hours and elapsed time was around 24. (Elasped time on Garmin Connect was incorrect on the first three days because of operator error.)
At the end of day 3, we saw people (I assume triathletes - and specifically Ironman athletes) putting on running shoes after riding 119+ miles. A cyclist asked me if there are significant training benefits for Ironman athletes to run after riding for three days and accumulating some 19ish hours of ride time.
My answer was, “No significant training benefits.”
The cyclist asked, “Then, why do triathletes feel compelled to run after long bike tour rides? Are they just ego maniacs looking for attention?”
Ah, an interesting question.
I think some triathletes get a warm fuzzy feeling by running after a long ride, believing that it somehow helps them be faster Ironman athletes. Know that I’ve coached endurance athletes for over 25 years and I’ve never seen any benefit from running for 10-30 minutes after a huge bike tour ride. That is never – not one time.
If you are a triathlete feeling compelled to run during a huge volume training week provided by a bike tour, then do it on your day off or after a shorter ride. I’ve coached plenty of Ironman athletes that eliminated all swimming and running during a bike tour. They focused on the bike and put all quality training time towards a strong ride. They were better triathletes for it.
Isn’t that why an Ironman athlete is doing a bike tour – to be a better triathlete?
A few years back there was a self-announced “serious” triathlete that rode one of the longest days of the tour in his speedo. He was doing this because he “needed to train the same way he was going to race.”
Ah yes, he was the talk of every aid station and the butt of many jokes about triathletes. What would have made the whole picture better was if he would have been wearing arm coolers, compression lower leg socks and a heart rate monitor strap. But, that was before the days of coolers and compression wear.
Are triathletes, specifically Ironman triathletes, just ego maniacs?
In a previous blog I gave you summary data for my most recent bike tour. Because I want to get the most from a bike tour, I plan key days to ride fast. Other days will be recovery or aerobic. I suggest you do the same.
How many key days to plan as "key" depends on you as an individual. Some where between two and four days, of a seven day tour, can be fast.
On any mountainous area bike tour I suggest you select the best climbing days to be your key days. Make the big climb(s) your focus and the place where you plan to ride your best.
Basic strategy for most bike tours:
Take the first day of the tour easy and mostly aerobic. (I know it’s tough to do, but worth it later.)
Pick two or three days to ride your best – and often it’s the key climbs.
Be flexible and willing to modify the plan where necessary to optimize the tour experience.
Before beginning my most recent bike tour, I targeted the three days with the biggest climbs to ride as strong as possible. That was day two, day three and day six.
Day 1 of the tour ended up being much, much harder than I anticipated due to wind. We fought gusting crosswinds (I’m told up to 50 mph at times) most of the way to Laramie, Wyoming. Effort on this day was much higher than I planned it to be – but – if I would have kept the effort level low it meant extending the day much later than I wanted. We got a late start, the day was hot and I broke a saddle. All that put us on the road late into the afternoon. You can find the day 1 file here. Put all view settings on either distance or time to get a better idea of what was going on. If I would have stuck to original plan, I would have kept heart rate below 142. That didn’t happen. Notice the average speed of 13.5mph.
On day 2, the infamous Wyoming wind didn’t disappoint. We rolled out earlier to try to avoid some of the wind, but from the start line we had headwinds around 15mph. The winds steadily grew so that we had a mostly steady headwind at 24mph. There was still some gusty side winds, but not nearly as bad as day 1. If you put both elevation and heart rate settings on “time” you can see an elevated heart rate section that corresponds with the climb. Heart rate variability is associated with attempting to follow a strong wheel. Notice that heart rate plummets before the end of the climb and that is associated with a viscous leg cramp – I think Gracilis muscle. (I think a result of effort and lots of sideways leg motion to balance in the wind.) Average speed at 13.8mph.
Day 3 - I was whipped from the previous two days, but I still wanted to maximize the climb best I could. I decided to ride the climb at my own pace and try to peg a heart rate of 145 (Zone 3 for me). You can see from the file that I was pretty good at pegging a zone of 145, +/- 2. I knew this day would be tough at a predicted 115 miles (turned out to be 119+) and it delivered. Two flat (and ruined) tires, rising temperatures and three days of accumulated fatigue had me ragged at the edges. I needed an easy day.
Key points to take away:
As you build fatigue in your legs it is very typicalto see low heart rates and high rating of perceived effort.
Some people will see very high and erratic heartrates coupled with low speeds, but I find this is less common.
If you are in a state of fatigue, you will not be capable of producing sustained high speeds.
In the next blog I’ll show you files of a rested state and let you know how the tour ended.
Those that have read previous blogs and my books, know I’m a fan of large training weeks to boost fitness. These are often called “crash training blocks” because you increase volume significantly more than your curren tnormal.
Before heading into daily specifics and how to structure your own crash training week, or use a bike tour to your advantage, first I’ll give you a summary of my last week of bike riding. A group of us did the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. Because I live in a city near the 2012 start, a couple of us rode from my doorstep to begin the tour, which is why my mileage is different than that shown on the website.
Ride time – The time spent moving on the bicycle (pedaling and coasting). This includes rolling easily and waiting for others, warm up, cool down and toodling along at an easy pace just because.
Elapsed time – Total time accumulated in the activities associated with cycling on a tour. (Stopping at aid stations, clothing removal time, sunscreen application, changing flat tires, inspecting broken seats, popping into a bike shop, etc…) This time begins when cycling starts for the day and stops when the bike gets racked.
Average speed – Distance divided by ride time.
For six days of riding, the totals are:
26,528 feet of climbing
28:51:32 ride time (near 29 hours)
15.9 mph average speed (you'll see big swings in daily averages)
36:53:00 elapsed time (near 37 hours)
I’ve done plenty of week-long bike tours, around a dozen or so. This tour wasn’t the biggest mileage tour I’ve done, but the ride and elapsed times were both more than I’ve done in the past. The reason for that is a single word – wind.
Tomorrow’s blog will include goals for the ride and some specific file details.
I was able to download a KLM file of the High Park Fire from the Denver Post site. Last week I had loaded a ride we did in Horsetooth Mountain Park and Lory State Park into Google Earth. (The ride that I'll eventually tell about because it has the rib-injury story attached to it, along with my first chiro visit.) Because Google Earth allows me to show both files on the same view, you can see below how the edge of the fire touched the edge of the Timbers/Kimmons loop in Lory State Park and it looks like the fire burned across part of the trail. I think it burned across right where I had taken a photo of the turkey vulture a few weeks ago and posted it on Facebook.
You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
A wider view is seen below.
It looks like – so far – that the impact to Lory State Park is minimal.
I’ve been struggling to write anything related to endurance sports. This is because a wildfire is raging in the mountains just a few miles from my home. One life has been lost and around 100 structures.
It feels selfish to write about endurance sport while someone has just lost everything they own – and several nearly lost their lives. I know disasters happen frequently and I continue to write about all things endurance.
But this one is in my backyard.
In a day or so, I’ll get back in the saddle and tell you about some things I’ve learned recently that may help you too. I’ve learned more about mountain bike equipment adjustments and I’ll tell you about my first trip to a chiropractor – the experience and why I went.
In the mean time, send good vibes to all the fire fighters working so hard to contain the High Park Fire that has grown to over 43,000 acres in just three days.
Yesterday when I wrote about planning tough rides because they’ll make you tough, I was referring to all you other humans. I wasn’t referring to myself or feeling any particular need to be tougher.
I suspect I’m not alone.
Today several of us did a pre-ride, mini-camp, check-it-out view of a mountain bike race course some of us plan to do in July. I had done sections of the course, but not one entire loop. Today was one loop and if I feel up to it on race day, I’ll aim for two.
Today’s ride was 20.5 miles with 3638 feet of elevation gain over the 20 miles, giving it a 177 ft/mile ranking. The ranking is tougher than the Leadville 100 course that I plan to do to in July, but the course isn’t as long (41 miles vs.103 miles for Leadville - that's right, the Leadville 100 is more than 100 miles).
Technical riding isn’t my strong suit, but I am improving.
I was reminded today that when you get better technically, you need to make adjustments to fork, shock and tire pressures. I’ve been adjusting fork pressure over the past four months or so – increasing it some 25 pounds total to accommodate drops over obstacles. What I learned today is that I also needed to be increasing tire pressure.
Today I unknowingly belched my front tire, making it soft. Heading into a completely benign section of trail (nothing technical) my front tire washed out turning 90 degrees into the sand, stacking me into a pile on the side of the trail. Skin mostly in tact (one elbow scrape) it was the impact to the muscles below my scapula (shoulder blade) that caused me the most problem. It felt like they were in knots. After the crash, each rock I hit on the descent sent a stabbing pain into those muscles.
On the upside, damage was relatively minimal and I was able to complete the ride.
I don’t know that today’s ride necessarily made me tougher, but it did allow me to refine my personal strategy for race day on this course – and that’s critical.
For intermediate and advanced riders, when you’re planning out your preparation for key events for the season, it’s good to include a ride or ride block that is tougher than your event. If your expected race completion time is less than about 5 hours, you can do a single ride that is either about the same time and tougher (more climbing), or a ride that is longer (6 hours), or a ride that is some combination of both - tougher and longer.
If your race will take you over 5 hours to complete, I like to break the tough session into two days. Put the highest intensity in the first day – and more intensity than you plan to do on race day. On the second day, ride at an accumulated intensity that totals about what you plan to do on race day. How you split the hours, (i.e. three hours on day one and two hours on day two, or three hours each day) depends on your athletic specifics.
This type of training, of course, boosts your physical fitness - but - only if you’ve done the preparation work to fully absorb the training.
Secondly, a really tough ride or ride block will give you a mental edge. On race day, knowing you’ve completed training that is more difficult than the race, you can ride with more confidence - and if you’ve planned correctly, more speed.