Friday, May 18, 2007

517 Miles in Three Days

One of the training suggestions for Elite Tour riders during the last month of training is to ride 500+ miles away from home over three days. The suggestion is to ride hard each of the three days; go to bed tired and get up tired and climb back on the bike. The idea is to simulate what you might likely feel like during the Elite Tour.

I had hoped to do this three days of riding closer to the end of May right before starting to taper for the Elite Tour, but because of work/family obligations, the only three free days I had in a row were May 13, 14, and 15. I felt I just had to do this ride to help with my confidence going into the Elite Tour.

The first day of the three, May 13, I rode 215 miles. I didn't taper for this ride at all but the previous day was a rest day. I did try and push just a little to see where my conditioning really was. I rode the first 200 miles in 11:35. (Eleven hours and 35 minutes). This included 4 convenience store bottle refilling/potty breaks. My speed on the bike was 18.2 mph for the whole 215 miles. (Now folks, this ain't bragging. There are plenty of Elite Tour riders who can ride considerably faster). But for where I am in my long-distance cycling right now, I was very pleased with this ride.

The next two days were 152 and 150 miles respectively for a total of 517 miles over the three day period. I did reduce my speed just a tad the second day just to feel like I'd have something left for the third day. The second and third day were ridden at 17.5 and 17.4 mph respectively.

Overall I'd have to say the three day ride was a good experience and a success. While there were some long stretches into head winds that made for tough riding, I can say that at no time did I feel anything close to suffering. I felt strong over the three day period and maintained a respectable speed with consistent, steady riding. Most importantly, I think the three days of riding did a lot for me mentally. The Elite Tour is not a race. But there is a minimum speed you must maintain or risk having to be shuttled ahead in one of the vans to keep up with the group. I do have a goal to to ride every single mile of the Elite Tour. This three days of riding I just did gave me the idea that I just might be able to do it. 17 days in a row is obviously a whole world away from three, but I can knock my speed down a couple of notches from what I've just done and still maintain a high enough average to acheive my goal for the Elite Tour.

Although the suggestion for this 500+ mile ride is to do it away from home, I figure I've spent enough time away from home as it is with all this training, so I did all the miles close to home and slept at home. Heck, during these three days of riding I even mowed the grass, took out the trash and cooked dinner for the family one of the evenings. Not bad, eh?

Oh, and by the way, I'm still going to sing the praises of my Brooks Team Pro leather saddle. The 3 day/517 mile ride left me a little sore down there, but no saddle sores whatsoever.

First Week of May

I have been posting monthly training updates, but as the start of the Elite Tour is now just a little more than a month away, I thought I'd begin posting weekly reports.

As I reported earlier, the last two weeks of April I got in 442 and 457 miles respectively. Well I may have overdone it a little. That was a pretty big jump up in mileage from the first part of April when the weather had been so poor. The first week of May I got a pretty bad cold. My wife and daughter had colds and by golly I got one too. So I had to take it a little easier. I did however ride 363 miles for the week with back to back rides of 150 and 109 miles.

The training schedule calls for riding 350-550 mile per week for the month of May. So I was glad I at least got in a few miles over the minimum suggestion and as a bonus for cutting back a little, I got over my cold pretty quickly too. The last thing I wanted to do was keep going too hard and carry that cold with me to the start of the Tour in San Diego.

Talking About Core Strength

I've always been a free weights kind of guy when it comes to strength training. I learned to lift in the weight room at the University of New Mexico from professional strength coaches. There has been a lot of information lately about the benefits of core strength. Until recently I sort of ignored it and just kept on doing my free weights.

Last fall I read an article in Bicycling Magazine about the benefits of core strenght training for cyclists. It specifically mentioned how this type of training could eliminate lower back pain and gave instruction along with drawings for how to do 8 very simple exercises. That grabbed my attention as I occaisionally suffered lower back pain on long rides and long climbs. Its funny, I could usually count on the lower back pain coming on somehwere between the 80-90 mile mark on a long training ride. It was like clockwork. It wasn't terrible, but it was uncomfortable and annoying.

I thought I'd give the core strength training a try. Of the 8 exercises, two require the use of an exercise ball and the other six are done on the floor. I got an exercise ball at Target for cheap and its still holding up perfectly well. I did these exercises 2-3 times a week all winter and am still doing them twice a week now. The difference it has made in my cycling has been incredible. I have no idea whatsoever if it has made me faster in any way or a stronger climber, but I can say with great relief that these exercises have completely eliminated my lower back pain. And hey, for that small vain streak in me, I'm a little more than a month away from turning 47 and my abs have never looked better. I'm still lifting the free weights, but I now always begin a strenght training day with the core exercises first.

Just passing this experience along in case core strengthening might be of some benifit to others........

Monday, May 14, 2007

Talking About Leather Saddles

Leather saddles are awesome!!--At least in my opinion.

As hard as I know the Elite Tour will be, one of my greatest concerns is saddle comfort. I take training as seriously as anyone, so I know I'll be as physically prepared as possible. But my real worry has been what happens if I develop nasty saddle sores and still have to keep climbing on the bike day after day in spite of them. Sounds fun huh?

I'd read over the past couple of years how a lot of the elite ultra-distance riders ride on Brooks saddles. (I think Brooks is the only company left still making leather saddles). In fact our Elite Tour director and two-time RAAM champion Lon Haldeman rides a Brooks model B-17. But I resisted trying one for some reason. They look as uncomfortable as hell and they're heavy. And besides they're like from the 1970's aren't they? I rode a Specialized Body Geometry saddle from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Sure I got saddle sores, but I got used to them. Ha-ha.

This spring I bought 2 Brooks saddles; the models B-17 and Team Professional. I love them both. Sure they required a little break in time but not as bad as people say. In fact the second ride I took on the Team Professional was 180 miles and I was comfortable. They say that a leather saddle is sort of like a baseball glove. After a while the leather conforms to your personal anatomy. I'm a convert I tell you. I've never been so comfortable on a bike. Sure they're a little heavier, but who wouldn't sacrifine a couple of hundred grams for all that comfort. And lets face it, people get so uptight about the weight of their bike. Who couldn't lose a little weight aroung the old beltline anyway? I'm not saying its like sitting on the sofa. I went out for a 215 mile ride yesterday and I'm a tad tender down there in my privates. But not bad at all.

I'm not going to knock any of these ultra light modern racing saddles. Hey maybe they work for some. If you never ride your bike more than 50 miles at a time, leather probably isn't for you anyway. But for the kind of training I'm doing for the the Elite tour and for the Tour itself, it is sure the answer for me.

For what its worth..................

April Traing Summary

Although the weather here in Cleveland the first two weeks of April more or less stunk, I did get in a total of 1244.7 miles for the month. The last two weeks of April I rode 442 and 457 miles respectively. Most importantly, I got in several back to back long days in the saddle. Those kinds of rides are supposed to help the most for the Elite Tour. So now since March 1st when I reset my bike odometer, I've ridde 2172.2 miles. Again, I've been mixing the long steady distance rides with some days dedicated to hill repeats to help improve my climbing: and I've been out hammering on some spirited group rides to help improve my speed. Not a lot of exciting news to report. I'm simply following the training guidelines of those with vast more experince than I have. The weather here lately has been wonderful. I'm so thankful that my wife Rachel has been so supportive during all this training as I'm spending a lot of hours away from home. And I'm feeling stronger and stronger on the bike every week. Cheers for now.