Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Now, we really have winter - it stinks

So, the last post regarding a light dusting of snow a week and a half ago is nothing compared to almost 12 inches of the white stuff on the ground at our house now. As a cyclist, this is very frustrating - to not be out on the road. I've been reading about a lot of people who are still commuting in the Seattle and Portland areas but, quite frankly, I take my personal safety very seriously. I know how treacherous it is while driving a car and just don't want to put myself in a position on a bicycle and having to deal with an out of control vehicle.

I attended my first spinning class at the Recycle Bicycle Shop last Thursday. There were five of us on stationary trainers with an instructor. The hour long workout was great and it was fun to be there with other riders who are interested in really staying in shape over the winter. I was the only one without a "modern" bike - I had my blue 1984 Gitane. And, it worked just fine.

Since, I'm stuck indoors I've been doing more training and contemplating something the instructor mentioned in our class last week. We were doing an extended "time trial" interval. For those who don't know much about cycling, a time trial is the rider versus the clock. You ride as hard as you can for a specified distance. During the class the instructor wanted our cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) between 70 and 80 and a consistent heart rate. I found through the entire 15 minute interval that I was riding a pace of 80-90 for a cadence and had a consistent heart rate of 170-180.

There are two types of riders: mashers and spinners. Mashers keep a consistent lower cadence while pedaling but tend to push a higher gear for a little more power. A spinner has a higher cadence and creates less power, thus having to use more revolutions to create the same kind of speed.

I found I wasn't comfortable in the class with the lower cadence because I have trained for years to instinctively ride between 90 and 105 revolutions per minute. The only difference with the higher cadence is your aerobic conditioning and lung capacity come into play a lot more. I guess my aerobic conditioning must be okay since I don't feel too stressed at the higher rpm's. At a lower cadence more lactic acid in the thighs which just makes for a more uncomfortable ride.

All this thinking just reinforces in my mind how individual this sport is. You have to do what feels right for your body type. So, for now I'll continue spinning and work on my aerobic capacity so I can ride faster, farther and longer next year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wow, winter has arrived and it sucks

Well, sucks for riding at least. Winter rolled in like a freight train this past weekend. The frigid temperatures and snow and ice on the roads will more than likely keep most of us indoor for training.

I have been reading on Bike Forums about folks in the Seattle and Portland metro areas that were commuting today on their bikes - some with studded bicycle tires. I have a new admiration for those that commute through these real cold spells. And, I pray they all stay safe and avoid any injuries, or death like the rider in Kent last week who was struck by a car. I guess I'm always more cognizant of my own personal safety and, if the roads are bad enough for a car, I'm not about to be out on my bike.

Enjoy this time of comfort indoor. We'll soon be back outside fighting the Ellensburg wind and getting in better shape each day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coming back to cycling

As you've read in my posts I am returning to cycling after a 4 yr absence. Now that I'm in my 40's I realize I can't do as much as I did 20 years ago and much of that is just in recovery time. I feel almost as strong on the hills - maintaining 10 -12 mph on the longer and steeper hills. When the wind is not blowing here (that's funny, right) I usually maintain an 18 to 19.5 mph average on shorter rides and depending on the terrain anywhere from 16 to 18 on longer rides. On one 54 mile ride this summer I averaged 19.2 mph.

I'm not talking about this to gloat but to make the point that after each of these harder, faster rides I have to take the next day off to recover. My legs feel heavy and I need time to feel alert and ready to go for another ride. Fortunately, I haven't had to take more than that one day off at a time this year. The second day after the harder ride, however, is usually at a moderate pace. It's all about staying in tune with your body and not pushing yourself past reasonable limits too often.

This article from Bicycling Magazine helps put some perspective on "comebacks" and help give you motivation to train hard, but smart.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


While doing some of my nightly reading/research I ran across an editorial by Alexi Grewal, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in road cycling. He admits to falling into the temptation called doping in the cycling world. It's an insider look at performance enhancing drugs. I have said for a long time that anyone who doesn't think "succeed at all costs" attitude of athletes, parents, coaches and fans hasn't created a monster in the form of performance enhancing drugs needs to do some serious reflection. This problem is rampant in all sports - even professional golf.

Most fans think it's just steroids or human growth hormone from the baseball, football and occasional track athlete scandals that are found in media reports. But, this problem includes so many more drugs and substances that are just plain dangerous.

My only hope is that one day we can wake up as a society and realize how detrimental these substances are to athletes. But, the almighty dollar, or euro, beckons and, I agree with Grewal, until an athlete serves some prison time the problem will just be ignored.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Other winter training ideas

I've discussed my personal winter training routine in the last couple of posts. One of the things important things to understand is you don't have to limit yourself to cold weather cycling and the indoor trainer. There are a lot of options to keep yourself fit and also add a little variety to your training to keep it from becoming too "stale".

The best options - they're free - are to start jogging, power walking or hiking. In some communities there may be weekly, sometimes daily, open gym time for volleyball, basketball or other fitness activities. Our local college allows people to work out during the noon hour for a small amount of money. I'll even add some log splitting and snow shoveling during the winder just to get extra activity for my body.

Another great option is joining a workout gym. Not all are for the gym rats who stare at themselves in the mirror during their entire workout. Ellensburg alone as The Gym, Jazzercise, Anytime Fitness and Curves. And, if you are a CWU student the new Student Union Building has a fantastic gym. The old Ellensburg Racquet Club on the Vantage Hwy is run by the city and has a small weight room and racquetball and tennis courts. Finally, the city pool also has a small weight room, several different lap swim times and water aerobics classes. All of these have their own unique features. The advantage is to figure out what activities you like to do in order to stay fit during the cycling off season.

Finally, in our area there is also the classic winter sport of skiing. Both downhill and cross country skiing are available. Add in some snow shoeing and there's plenty to do to keep your morale and fitness at high levels.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The commitment to training

I have to say it feels so good to be in the shape I am right now and realize how cycling truly is my first love when it comes to athletics. Baseball and softball were great socializing sports but there's something different about cycling. Maybe it's the time I can spend on my own - just me and a simple machine - getting alone time and thinking about my progress. Maybe I just like the pain when I push myself hard on a ride. Either way I'm glad I rediscovered cycling this year.

The training aspect of cycling, just like any other sport, is the most important phase of the sport. This is where you build the foundation and improve on your overall fitness. Consistent training prepares you for races and recreational rides. It gives you the mental toughness to withstand fatigue and lactic acid accumulation in the muscles on a hard ride. Consistent training allows your body to slowly acclimate to new stresses and learn how to recover much more quickly than if your training was intermittent.

I was watching highlights of the 2002 Tour de France while riding on my trainer yesterday evening. The preview of the first mountain stage of the race showed scenes of Lance Armstrong riding in the Alps on wet roads and low overhanging clouds in February getting a feel for the individual climbs in the that year's Tour de France. As he is climbing up a steep incline his team manager told him he could only go so far and then would have to turn around. Armstrong said, "Why?". His manager replied, "because there's three meters of snow on the road". The next scene shows Armstrong eating a banana in the back of a car and saying he felt he needed to ride more. So, he headed down the mountain 10 kilomters (6.2 miles) and turned around to climb back up.

In his book, It's Not About The Bike, Armstrong writes about riding in February and March for 100 kilometers or more, reaching the summit of a climb, and not liking how he road that day. He would turn around and do it all over again, sometimes spending 8-9 hours on his bike.

This is the type of commitment many of us don't see professional athletes put in. I train as often as I can and target at the peak of the summer to ride between 130 and 150 miles a week (one day the life of Lance Armstrong). Videos like the ones I watch and Lance Armstrong's book have me highly motivated. Some days I will lift weights for 30 minutes in the gym, then do 30 minutes on the treadmill and come home in the evening and get 45 minutes in on the bike - on a good day. Sometimes it is just 45 minutes on the bike, but it's a very hard workout. I always take a day off every three days or so.

I cannot wait to "hit" the hills in the spring. There are so many good ones around here and I I love climbing them and feel that is an area where I excel as a cyclist. Hills are also one of the best ways I can improve my overall performance. They are not nearly as demoralizing as fighting 20 mph winds.

So, motivate yourself to train hard and reap the benefits in the spring when it warms up and the roadways beckon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oh, the pondering

So, today was a record for me. The latest day of the year that I have ever had for a ride - just shy of 18 miles in high 40 degree F temps with sustained 10-15 mph winds and gusts over 20 mph. Gee, pretty much a normal ride for spring and summer around here, only this just happened to be in December. You can feel great cruising along at 26.5 mph with a crossing tailwind and then turn to take the steady incline home into the wind and all of a sudden you're down to 12.5 to 14 mph. Talk about humbling.

I was asked once, what do you think about on your rides? Well, here's a sample:

  • .5 mile - "holy crud that wind is really blowing hard - how far can I make it"
  • .75 mile to 3 miles - "that tailwind sure makes this feel easy"
  • 3 miles to 4 miles (turning back into the wind) - "ugggghhhhhh!" and "I have really got to figure out that vibration in my shifter"
  • 4 miles to 11 miles - wind is at my back, why think
  • 11.2 miles - "&&##*@ what's that big, Rottweiler looking dog going to do?"
  • 11.6 miles - "gees, another dog" followed by "come on legs, sprint harder"
  • 11.6 miles to 17.82 - "man, am I ever tired of this wind" and "why am I doing this?"

Ok, so maybe I've cleaned it up a little. Seriously, cycling is a great time to contemplate things going on in your life, day or even on the current ride. While you're body may be hurting from the ride itself, your mind has the luxury of clearing itself out or working through problems.

Unfortunately, the dogs were not a problem I wanted to deal with today as I tried to figure out which pedals I will go with on my Bianchi as my current ones seem to have a problem and may be at the end their natural life. I was lucky the Rottweiler looking dog dragging his leather leash behind him only wanted to sniff my bike as I went by. The fat, yellow lab had other things on his mind. Lucky for me he was fat and slow. After that encounter I tried to figure out why I am suddenly having so many encounters with dogs. Are there more people home at the time I'm riding? Are dogs just getting let out to roam more? Do people just not care? Or, maybe, all the dogs were possessed during the last full moon and brainwashed into chasing cyclists every time they see one. I'll just continue carrying a couple of rocks in my pocket for the ones I do know about and hopefully avoid those that are surprises.

I wondered why all but one of the vehicles that passed me on the Vantage Hwy moved over to the left of the lane of travel, if not completely over the center line, when they passed me. That one vehicle was a big blue Dodge Ram 3/4T pickup with matching canopy. I was over the fog line and riding on the 18 inches of shoulder and there was no oncoming traffic. Yet, he still passed with his mirror just a couple of feet from my head. I decided to give the driver the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe they felt they had enough room. Then, again, maybe it's one of those drivers who doesn't like cyclists and just doesn't care about moving over. I finally quite worrying about it and, like a good male, let it disappear from my brain.

So, that's the extent of my mental activity today interspersed with yelling from my thighs and lungs to stop. My legs may be tired, but my brain sure feels good right now.