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.
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.
Here’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.
According to the article in the Sept issue of Health magazine, “After a killer workout, hitting the gym again is probably the last thing on your mind. But… doing light exercise two days after a tough session is as effective as a massage for relieving aches.”
We all know that the soreness we feel is due to the tiny muscle tears that occur when we stress muscles to build muscle strength. Some light exercise a day or two after an intense one will increase your blood flow, promote healing and enable the muscles to move more easily.
The article calls out these mini workouts “to combat achiness”:
- Take a Walk – a 20 minute stroll at moderate pace around the neighborhood or on a treadmill.
- Hit the Pool – Swimming a few easy laps will warm up the body and boost circulation. And best of all – it’s super low impact so won’t jar your joints.
- Work Out Your Core – Balance, or core focused moves, like single leg squats or side planks improve blood flow, up overall fitness and still give whining muscles a break.
And when all else fails, I hear a day at the spa is a scientifically proven cure-all!
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!
Runner’s World published an article recently saying the barefoot fad is over, saying that the sales of barefoot and minimalist shoes have dropped significantly (13-14%) and shock absorbing or motion control shoes sales have increased by 25%. Actually they used the word “plummet” but I’m not sure that 13% is a “plummet.” Others are wondering the same thing: The Science of Sport (Sportsscientists.com) has an article published today that discusses this claim and the characteristics of barefoot/minimal shoe running. It seems to me that the drop in sales may just be a return to the mean since minimalist shoes were the biggest growing running shoe segment a year ago.
Shoe statistics aside, it is interesting to ask how runners are doing with minimalist/barefoot shoes?
A bit of history. The barefoot movement started in my memory with Zola Budd who competed in the women’s 3000M in the Olympics running barefoot in the 1980’s. She trained and raced barefoot almost exclusively. The barefoot trend became over-hyped with the popularity of the book “Born to Run.” At that time I was running in Brooks shoes, doing 5K an 10K races, running about 50 miles per week. I had no interest or knowledge of minimalist shoes. They reminded me of the spikes I ran with in high school and the way my knees hurt after an extremely hard workout (which was all we did at that time).
My experience with barefoot and barefoot shoes started back in 2003 when I was running with my kid’s high school cross-country team during the summer to help the athletes get a good base in for the fall’s cross-country season. We would run on the football and soccer fields in the early morning, eventually building up to 1 to 2 hours of barefoot running. No, I didn’t start out running 2 hours barefoot immediately, I see entries in my log that say 12 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. barefoot in the beginning, either at the start or end of a run. By the summer of 2004 I was running more than 60 minutes barefoot (8 miles or so) and enjoying the cool grass on my feet in the morning. There was the occasional sharp stone or bee-sting, but for the most part my feet were strong, uninjured and just a bit calloused. I attributed much of my running ability at that time to the long barefoot runs. Unlike Zola, my feet could not handle the coarse track surface or running roads barefoot, so I started buying barefoot shoes to wear on the rougher surfaces. I had the original Nike Frees when they came out and have worn most of the versions (the minimal ones) ever since. I wore them training and racing, although for racing I sometimes wore Nike’s “Mayflys” which was a minimal racing flat that was designed to last about 40 miles. They weighed about 4 oz. and didn’t last much more than 40 miles. Still have a pair in my collection, though I don’t race in them these days. The photo above shows the shoes that are sitting on my shelf, guess which ones I use most.
Recently I bought a pair of Vibram’s FiveFingers shoes to try. These are probably the epitome of barefoot shoes having separate toe pockets and protection on the soles. Somewhat like toe-socks with tougher soles. The challenge is to get them on quickly. I’ve been wearing them for short periods indoors to get used to them. No running in them yet, but will start in a few days with short runs (treadmill first, then outside on smooth surfaces). So far I find (to my surprise) that they are very comfortable.
So do I think barefoot/minimal shoes work? From my experience, yes. But you have to look at the mechanics of my stride also. I am a forefoot strike runner, so the flat shoes allow my feet, achilles and calves to work efficiently at storing and transferring energy from the foot strike to the push-off. I had very little knee, ankle or foot issues since starting barefoot running in 2003. In the 1980’s running in motion control shoes (which I broke down quickly due to pronation) I had lots of sprained ankles and sore knees. I could and did sprain my ankles on flat pavement. Hard to compare the two eras, but I ran just as hard and trained just as many miles in the 2000’s with less knee issues and almost never spraining my ankles.
The Science of Sport article discusses the difference between heel-strike and forefoot strike runners when it comes to minimalist shoes. They observe that not every runner changes to a forefoot strike when running barefoot, and for those that continue to heel strike, the impact loads on the feet and legs are 4x what the forefoot strike runners experience running barefoot. When they return to the shock absorbing shoes, both have the same impact numbers. This may explain some of the reasons why runners have tried these shoes and gone back. Not everyone can change their foot-strike. Some who are successful in changing their foot strike find that that they get injuries after some time that may be attributed to the new foot strike. Some runner’s experience with these shoes and changing their running stride mechanics resulting in injuries can be found here.
Another reason also discussed was the typical runner’s impatience with taking it slow, some have bought the minimalist shoes and tried to continue to do the same mileage immediately, with the expected result. Sore joints, stress fractures in the feet and other injuries. Our bodies are amazingly adaptive, but the process is slow. The Science of Sport article says it best:
“Ultimately, injuries will be caused by exceeding a threshold of adaptation, and footwear, biomechanics and factors like flexibility and muscle strength may contribute to this threshold. It can be shifted, higher or lower, but not in a manner that is yet predictable or formulaic, because it’s too complex to link A to B. “
So what is the answer to the question of whether or not the barefoot/minimalist shoe is a fad that is over? I say maybe, maybe not. We all have to do what works for us and not let marketing hype push us into something inappropriate. These shoes work for some, but not all. My personal sense of the debate is that less shoe is better, but it may not be for everyone. Drastic changes to shoes or running mechanics require long periods of adjustment that most runners do not want to wait for. So listen to all the information, but do what works best for you in the long run.
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?
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.
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.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily”
It takes time and effort to keep the motivation up, set goals, enjoy the process, learn from the mistakes, and celebrate the wins both big and small.
Good advice for all runners and cyclists:
Your Guide to Cycling Stretches courtesy of Active.com
Stretching will make you faster, but only if you do it right and at the right time.
Do not stretch when your muscles are cold like they used to do years ago, this can cause micro-tears and damage that slows you down.
Do stretch after warming up and especially when you are done with your workout. Don’t sit on the couch, get on the floor and stretch!
There are several other great pointers in the articles referenced above. Something we all should pay attention to!
It is less than 24 hours to the Tour of the Battenkill Spring Classic Pro-Am in Cambridge NY. Over 2500 professional and amateur cyclists (including yours truly) will descend on the small village of Cambridge for 3-days of cycling to race 62.4 miles of country roads including 10 segments of dirt roads (about 25% of the distance is dirt). Saturday is the Pro/Am with heats going off every 10 minutest from 8am to 2:40pm. Sunday is the Pro race (29 teams will compete this year), where they will ride two laps, 124 miles. To make it even more exciting, there are at least 3 steep(!) dirt road climbs. Juniper Swamp Road is the first big dirt climb and has a 20+% section. As my riding/racing friend says: “Juniper Road is a Beast! Only about .4 miles but it has an extended pitch of 16-18% with a max of about 21%”. This is were the lesser riders are separated from the stronger ones. Stage Road is the last dirt climb starting at 56 miles for 1-1/2+ miles of up to 10% grades. If you have any legs left that will finish them off!
I would like to think that I am one of the stronger riders.
But am I ready? I signed up for this race when the registration opened on December 22. More than 1000 riders registered in the first ten minutes, just a measure of how popular this race is. Categories were filled in less than a day. So after registering I looked at the calendar and thought about my training plan. How would I peak for the April 14th race, with 3-1/2 months to go. As a base, I rode 2800 miles in 2011, with the bulk of it in the last 6 months, including several 100 milers. So I felt that my base as good, but I took most of December as a rest month riding only a couple of days/week. But the real question is what did I need to improve? First of all: climbing ability, since Battenkill is a hilly course. Secondly, endurance to be able to ride my goal of 19+ MPH average over 62 miles.
Here’s the plan I created:
January: Base building on the trainer, treadmill, and doing boot camp style workouts. Workouts were focused on aerobic base with threshold-pace intervals and longer zone-3 sessions.
February was the Build phase: Worked on leg, upper body and core for climbing and endurance. This was mostly weight training and intervals on the trainer. Lots of push-ups, squats (weighted), crunches, and pull-ups. On the trainer, 2 to 3 days of either high-intensity intervals, progressive intervals, and/or threshold intervals with recover days inbetween. Most of the trainer workouts were 1 to 1-1/2 hours and exhausting.
March and April: Speed and endurance building towards the peak. Longer rides, longer intervals. Group rides with pace-lines to improve my pace-line skills. Now doing 40 – 50 mile rides at race pace at least once a week. At least one day a week is interval work on hills or rolling terrain outside on the roads. By the end of the first week in April, with 7 days to go, the fitness level is set, time to taper for the race.
From January 1st to today, I’ve ridden 1420+ miles, maxing out at 211 miles in the first week of April. I feel stronger than I ever have, and that shows in some of the climbs I have been able to do recently. So I’m confident I’ll be in the mix tomorrow. The weather is ideal, mid-60’s and partly sunny, light winds. We will see what happens at 1:50 in the afternoon!