Tag Archives: cycling

Become a “Bonk-Free” Athlete.

You may be aware that I have been on a Low-Carb, High Fat (LCHF) eating plan since last September and although I have not been very public with my results, I feel that this is the best way-of-eating  for me. What is LCHF? It is where you get most of your calories from fats and the least from carbs. Typically your total calories are from 75% fats and saturated fats, 15% protein and 10% carbs.  On this plan I have maintained my weight at the lower end (about 144 lb.) of the last 15-years range (140 -160) without spending all my time running or riding. In fact, I took the fall and winter off from training, only doing small workouts and some weights. Those of you that ride with me on Tuesday night know that I am not as strong climbing, but my overall average speeds are not bad for not training, and I have good endurance.  Since I am now training for the Army 10-mile run race in October, I have been even more interested in how well I can perform on a LCHF diet.

I recently read a book on this subject — “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Volek and Phinney, two doctors who have evaluated the performance of LCHF athletes.  In this book they discuss that once an athlete becomes keto-adapted, that is where their primary source of energy comes from fat, their endurance levels will increase dramatically. We have about 2 hours of stored carbohydrate that can be used for energy in our bodies, but even the leanest person has more than twice that amount stored in fat. But that fat is not available unless you are keto-adapted.

I came across a blog post from Sami Inkinen, an elite triathlete that sparked my interest. It is an experiment of 1, but quite controlled and he has very interesting results. He has measured the type and amount  of energy used  during controlled tests using the same equipment 3 time while going from a high carb diet to a LCHF diet.  On the first test, he was eating a high-carb diet and guess what…. he has about 2 hours of carbs available and even though he had done hours of training  in his “fat burning zone” he could not exceed 200 calories per hour from fat-burning at race efforts. Hence he would run out of energy once his carb stores were gone.  A year later he did a second test on a moderate-carb/moderate-fat diet and his fat-burning numbers increased significantly, to 400 calories per hour at the same race effort.  Finally, he performed a third test on a LCHF diet with the same parameters  and increased his fat burning ability to 600- 750 calories per hour. The chart says it all.  At 300W his bonk-time went from 2 hours to 5 hours!  Interested? I am. I would love to see what happens with elite athletes such as marathoners and pro-cyclist if they were  to  go low-carb.  I’ll let you know how my “experiment of 1” goes…

Endurance on LCHF diets.


Cycling Thoughts — Sometimes You Just Have To Let the Legs Decide!

Questions for all the cyclists out there as the season winds down:

  • How has your cycling year been?
  • Did you have a great year?
  • Did you meet your goals?
  • What would you change?

I, like everyone sets goals for my cycling  in the early season. Usually I get excited in January about the upcoming season and the thought of getting back out on the roads, racing and riding with the local groups as the weather improves. It also comes from the fact that I have rolled my workout intensity back in the fall and in January I’m looking to get back into serious workout mode again. Image

This year has been very good for me and I have ridden some very strong rides, Battenkill, Trooper Brinkerhoff races, the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and finally the latest 50-miler: the “Bike for Cancer Care” group ride in Kingston NY last Sunday. It is a group ride with no timing and not a race, but the course is good with what I would call moderate climbs, only one is categorized (cat-4, but short).

I started out with no warm-up and just sat in with the second group of riders that were working fairly well together and pace-lining on Hurley Mountain Rd., waiting for my cold leg muscles to warm up and my attitude to improve.  Somewhere near the left turn at the south end onto Tongore Rd., I started feeling better and stronger, so decided to work at it a bit, instead of just riding.  Time to check the ol’ legs out and see if they were ready. Who knows, maybe they are actually working?  After the turn on Mill Dam Road the course gets more hilly and the pack broke up. Another rider (Bill)  and I, broke away on the climb and descent to Rosendale. We eventually rode together, trading pulls with each other for the rest of the ride (about 40 miles), averaging in the low 20’s for most of the rest of the ride. Eventually we picked up two more riders that were dropped from the lead group and finished strong, averaging 20 MPH for the entire ride. A nice effort and really a surprise for me, since I was not motivated and had no plan to ride that hard at the start.

The net of this long discussion is that this year’s training has been quite good and the results show it,  even though I have ridden less total miles this year than last year at this time. About 500 miles less and riding 3-4 days a week. I’m also stronger than at this time last year. How did I do it? Through focused, high intensity training for strength and speed, with longer rides for endurance.  This is the training that the Big Ring Riding group has been doing all season with excellent results.  We have done all types of intervals: high-intensity, short, long, sprint, tempo, threshold, VO2Max, hills and more hills. In addition, we also worked on pace-lines, criteriums, and time-trials, just for the fun of it.

bigringJrsyHere’s my offer to cyclists in the area.  There are a couple more weeks of Big Ring Riding  evening training sessions left this season and I am opening up the rest of the season for free to anyone who wants to try it out, no strings attached. Come out and train with us on Monday and Wednesday nights at 5:30 pm starting tomorrow, 9/18.  Sessions last 1 to 1-1/2 hours, typically.  Send me a message on our contact page or via FB to reserve your spot and get the details.

Sometimes You Just Need to Enjoy the View!

I have been leading group  rides for two years now, a task that is sometimes referred to as “herding cats.”  I really enjoy getting out there with the group, working those legs, talking about whatever comes to mind, dodging deer, cicadas and squirrels;  and even sometimes, working really hard at keeping up with a very strong group.

Last Sunday’s Big Ring Riding sponsored group ride was set up for 48+ miles with some good hills in the middle. The weather was to be nice, so it looked like it would be a good day.  I usually ride from my house to Rhinebeck for the start, stopping for a cappuccino and pastry on the way down, and last Sunday was to be no different. However, I got up feeling tired and disinterested, thought about skipping the ride down  and driving (not the capp and pastry, though) but decided to get out the door on time and take it easy on the flattest route to Rhinebeck.  A good group of seven riders showed up and we talked while getting ready to go.

Off we went west towards Rhinecliff, my legs still feeling fatigued and burning while going up the hill out of Rhinebeck. I settled in and let the more motivated riders lead.  Once getting to Rhinecliff I signaled an unplanned right turn and took the group down to the Hudson River at the boat launch. Most of the riders had never been there or didn’t even know that there is a nice spot to take a break during a long ride, have a snack at the picnic tables or just enjoy the view of the lighthouse at the mouth of the Rondout.  A big empty oil barge was rumbling south so we talked for a few minutes, marveled at the Great Blue Heron on the bank to the north, then headed back up the hill  to the planned route.

Heading south is the rolling hills of Morton road which got the group moving and pushing the ups and downs.  The pace picked up as we headed onto South Mill Rd.  but another excursion opportunity came to me and we headed for another unplanned right turn down Wyndclyffe Court to take a look at the now falling down, but still architecturally phenomenal Wyndclyffe  mansion. If you’ve never seen it, it is a huge brick house built in the 1850’s in the Norman style (according to wikipedia). The house has been abandoned since 1950’s and since the 1980’s has been crumbling, losing one tower and lots of brick.  Per Bob Yasinac, the house was “built for Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, a relative by marriage to the wealthy Astor Family, and it is rumored she is the source of the old adage: keeping up with the Joneses.” Sad to see these glorious mansions crumble into the woods.

So back to the ride we went and headed south, back to Rte. 9 and then right onto Old Post Rd. and guess what, another excursion into Staatsburg for a ride by the Mills Mansion down to the river again. Staatsburgh is another of the Hudson River mansions, but this one is  a NYS historical site and is very well maintained.  I’ve spent a lot of time there with the Red Hook HS cross-country team running and watching the team compete every fall. The grounds are open and free, go through the mansion on one of the paid tours  to see how the people lived in the gilded age.

Next we headed back up to the planned route and up the hill, across route 9 and onto the meat of the ride. By then my legs were into it, and my head was too.  So off we went for a lot of climbing and a very nice 16+ mph average over the route with a great group. We stopped to look at the great vistas of the Millbrook Winery at the top of Ernest Rd., had a couple of very nice dirt roads, climbed the east side of Salisbury Turnpike and flew down the west side. Successful day of riding, I think!

My training rides are hard work, head down, focusing and pushing those pedals for the entire workout plan. The group rides are much different for me,  much less focused on performance. It’s all about the group and the route. Although we do ride hard on these rides, I hope to make them fun for every rider, not just the strongest.

Sometimes it seems  that all I need is to just take it easy and look around a bit to get my motivation back. We ride in an area that has great roads and is full of the hidden gems like Wyndclyffe that we go by all the time without seeing.  Look around guys, there is more to riding than average pace and climb stats!

Cramping…. Do You Really Know What Causes Muscle Cramps?

I have been a continual cramping machine since I started running in high school and continuing ever since.  Mostly, it is the “charlie horse” cramp that occurs when stretching or sitting in a chair, but I also cramp on the long rides, usually after 50 to 60 miles of hard effort.  The cramps will affect my calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and the abductor/adductor muscles. Generally any muscle used to spin those pedals on those long, hard efforts. I like everyone else always thought it was caused by low electrolytes in my system due to the long effort.  In attempts or prevent cramping,   I have swallowed electrolyte pills at regular intervals, drank lots of water, drank less water, drank electrolyte drinks, and tried many different things in an effort to prevent cramping, all unsuccessfully. So I’ve been reading up on the subject.

I found an article where   Joe Uhan summarizes the state of the science concerning the true cause of cramping, see  his blog entry “Cramping My Style.” Here is what I learned:  Surprise…. the notion that salt, or the lack of salt causes cramping is based on a 100-year old scientifically-flawed study of British miners. As it turns out, there are no scientifically sound studies that link low electrolyte (or salt) levels to exercise-induced muscle cramping.   One study  (Schwellnus, Drew et al. 2011), found that no difference in hydration or blood sodium concentrations between crampers and non-crampers. So what is the cause?  Nobody knows for sure, but one new theory is that it is a neuromuscular mechanism to shut down the muscles to protect the body from harm that might result from continuing to perform at a high level. This is part of the “Central Governor” theory proposed by Dr. Tim Noakes (Science of Sport) in his books the “Lore of Running” and “Waterlogged.”

Oddly enough, it has been found that tasting salt (or pickle juice)  can stop cramping very quickly, too fast for the salt too have been absorbed into the blood stream. Hence the theory that it is the brain and the nervous system that controls the cramping response, not the electrolyte or water balance. Essentially fooling the brain into allowing you to continue cramp free.

Whatever you think, Joe Uhan’s blog  shed some interesting light on the subject and even gives a list of things that we can do to reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps and to manage them when you get them. Most of the recommendations are not about training your muscles or taking supplements, they are training your brain to allow you to continue.   Good advice to consider.

How Good are You in the Peloton?

The Big Ring Riding group did 26 miles of paceline work last night!


How strong and confident are you when in the peloton? Practicing these skills with others on a regular basis will make you better able to stay in the peloton no matter how strong your legs are.

We worked on pulling, drafting in high winds, signalling, staying on the wheel of the rider ahead, what to do when you are on the back and getting dropped, and other skills.

Active.com has a nice list of paceline skills here.

How good are your skills?

Exercise and Pain Relievers — a Bad Mix.

Using pain relievers such as NSAIDS (ibuprofen, acetomenophin, etc.) to train through an injury or get you to the finish line can be a very bad practice.  These OTC pain relievers just mask the pain, and do nothing about the injury and  according to physical therapist Bruce Wilk, may even result in crippling injuries.

In the last 10 years I have made it a rule to never use these drugs to train or race, in fact, I  will only use them sparingly even when I am not working out.  There are just too many side-effects in my opinion. Some pain is ok, severe pain is a warning sign. Pay attention.

So please read Bruce Wilk’s blog entry and make your own decisions.  Remember the goal is to able to do your favorite sport, whether it be running, cycling, or whatever for a very long time.

Big Ring Ride Announcement – Sunday 4-28

BigRingRiding Sunday Ride Announcement

9:00 AM Sharp, Sunday April 28th, 2013  B47 T2

I will be leading a B-paced (16-17 MPH average) ride on Sunday morning leaving from the Rhinebeck Municipal parking lot, open to everyone, so spread the word. Be aware that you must park in the front half of the lot due to the farmers market. Do not park in the back half.

We will ride north into Columbia County on a scenic and low traffic route. There will be opportunities for a rest break in Germantown, Tivoli, or Red Hook depending on the group’s preferences.

 48 miles , 2650 feet of climbing. 

Print cue sheets if you can. The route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2405195

 The weather is looking very great for Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 62. Northwest wind 9 to 13 mph.

 Will post here with any changes or cancellations by 7:00 AM the day of the ride.

 Also check out the Big Ring Riding and Training Group. This is the fourth week of training. Come see what it is all about. For more information or contact Coach Glen Brent.


We climbed and climbed and did some more!

The Big Ring Riding team had a great workout last night….  2000 ft of climbing in less than 20 miles!

Great job everyone!


Want to learn how to climb better, join the Big Ring Riding training group. Monday’s and Wednesdays 6 PM.  We do a lot of training in a short time.  Email Coach Glen using the Fitness Edge page.

Do Sports to Watch Sports!

Say it isn’t so.

Ok. I’ll admit that I’m not a big football fan, but sometimes I do watch a game or two.  Do you know that 2 quarters of a football game, 15 minutes each, can last  90 minutes in real time. Think about it — two thirds of the game is spent with the clock stopped without even adding in the half-time break.

According to funtrivia.com:

“The average Football Game lasts about 3 hours. When you take into account stoppage for injures, time to set up the next plays, time to review the last play, time to move the chains, time for commercials, time to set up the field goal, time to ice the kicker, and time to generally sit around and do not much of anything, there are only 8 1/2 minutes of action in a game.”

That probably explains why I sometimes will nap to a Sunday afternoon football game.  Golf on TV holds my interest better. And don’t get me started on MLB games! I don’t think I have stayed awake through an entire MLB playoff or world series game in years, especially since the games don’t start until prime time.

So I have decided the best way to watch sports is to do sports.  Diane and I are probably going to watch at least the first half of the Superbowl game tonight, our plan is to spin the first half. Can you do it? Can you ride that bike and trainer for 90 minutes and get a workout while watching the big game?  There is plenty of time to have a wing or two in the second half. And it will taste pretty good after being on that bike for 90 minutes.

ride the half

Here’s my setup for the Big 10 basketball  a couple of weeks ago  (Michigan State vs. Indiana). I rode 1 hour and 25 minutes watching the second half of that game.  85 minutes to watch a college basketball 20 minute half.

All right everyone… let’s ride the half. Think I’m going to start a new movement!

Sports Drinks — Who Needs Them?

I’ve been seeing a lot of commentary on the effectiveness of the mass-market sports drinks that make claims of improved performance and stamina. But do they really work?  One researcher, Tim Noakes interviewed by the BBC recently says for the average person just trying to lose weight and gain fitness, “you’ll lose more weight and go faster if you just drink water.”  Why?   Many of these drinks have the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar or more  in each 24 oz.  bottle (which is the same amount of  sugar that is in a can of sweetened soda).  I ask, in 30 minutes of  exercise do you burn up the 148 calories from 8 teaspoons of sugar? And isn’t the point of  doing the exercise to burn carbohydrates from your fat stores anyway, so that you can lose weight?

A 32 ounce Gatorade has  4 servings of 50 calories each. So if you drink that bottle  while you are doing your run, you have just had 200 calories, 10% of your 2000 calorie daily intake.  In one drink!  And I bet none of us take 200 calories out of the rest of  our daily intake to offset the calories we drink while exercising.
Notice the source of the carbs:  sucrose syrup (table sugar dissolved in water) and  glucose-fructose syrup. Sugar cane and sugar beet seem to be the typical substitutes for high-fructose corn syrup which has fast disappeared from labels following bad press.  A Princeton University study  linked high-fructose corn syrup to obesity and related chronic diseases.  The Mayo Clinic is not as convinced, but does say that women should not have more than 100 calories (6 tsp)   and men should not have more than 150 calories (9 tsp) from refined sugars in a day.  That is hard to do in today’s environment of processed foods, sugary drinks, and large portions.

The Mayo Clinic report also states:

“Some research studies have linked consumption of large amounts of any type of added sugar — not just high-fructose corn syrup — to such health problems as weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition, and increased triglyceride levels, which can boost your heart attack risk.”

Clearly, we should be careful when adding sugary carb replacement drinks to our diets for health reasons, but do they really improve our performance?

The Oxford University study referenced in the BBC article looked at 40 years of studies of the effectiveness of sports drinks for the average athlete or person just trying to stay fit. The result: they could find no benefit for the typical non-elite  athlete.   I tend to agree, since the typical runner or cyclist  is focused on fitness, not competition, and does not train for more than an hour a day nor at maximum intensity for long periods.  For short exercise durations  (<30 minutes to an hour) no supplemental carbs should be needed, your body should have plenty of those stored in fat.  Let’s burn that.  Drink water instead. For longer exercise durations, if you are going to use carb replacement drinks, look for ones with healthier sugars such as maltodextrin, xylitol and stevia.   These sugars are processed more slowly by the body, absorbed at a more constant rate, and don’t overstress your liver and insulin levels.

Next topic: how much you should drink.