Archive for July, 2009

Riding with Floyd?

July 15, 2009 9:46 am

I see that Floyd Landis is riding on the Ouch Pro team on the Tour of Utah.  John and I are doing the Park City to Snowbird stage as part of the 1000 Warriors ride.  We get a 5 hour head start so I hope I don’t get caught by the pros.  It will be a tough stage with 96 miles and 10,880 feet of climbing.  Here is the route profile.


I did the same stage last year and the final climb up to Snowbird was a killer.  Since John will be ahead of me and Anne will be providing SAG support for both of us, I need to figure out the timing when we will get to each meeting spot to get watter and food.

Here are my splits from last year.

Tour of Utah Stage 4 – Actual Splits

Distance: 98 mile, Climb: 10,880 feet
Avg. Spd
Start in Park City
0 5:54 am
Main Str. in Midway
33 21.5 7:25 am
Start of Alpine Loop
47 21.0 8:09 am
Alpine Loop Summit
56 8.1 1:05 9:14 am
Start of Suncrest
70 26.7 9:48 am
Suncrest Summit
75 9.4 0:31 10:19 am
Start of Snowbird Climb
90 17.0 11:08 am
Finish Snowbird
98 6.3 1:15 12:23 pm

Riding Faster with Intervals

July 14, 2009 1:16 pm
Riding Faster with Intervals

Anne and I went for a 4.5 mile run this morning.  She was going to have lunch with a friend so there was no time for cycling together today.  I thought it would be a good day for some interval training.  The weather is getting warm and I knew that it would be in the high 90’s today. so I did not want to wait too long.  Around 11:00 am, I headed out on my single bike for the loop I have done before.  I did not have aerobars on the bike right now and did not want to bother to put them on just for this speedwork since I need to have them off for the race next month.

The good thing about doing speed work on the same course is you can compare your times between days.  Since cycling speed is greatly affected by the wind, I have a loop course with each of the four intervals after I make a right turn so the wind should average out.  I felt I did very well today, even though I did a speed workout two days ago running.  I was able to get my heart rate up to a high level during each of the four 7 minute intervals, averaging around 165, with a maximum heart rate of around 172.  With interval training you want to push your heart rate well above your lactate threshold.  The recovery portion is such that you get your heart rate back down before the next interval.

This chart shows my heart rate and speed.  The course is not completely flat so you get some varations in speed during each 7 minute interval, but the total climb is only 400 feet for the whole loop.  Notice how the heart rate goes up quickly at the start of each interval and stays in the red zone and how I slow down enough for the rest portion to get my heart rate down below 130.    Click on the graph to view enlarge.


I record the data on my Polar heart rate monitor so I can compare each workout with the same course on other days.  Even though I was no using aerobars today (which would account for another 1 mph) I did well compared with prior workouts, especially getting my heart rate up high, which I find hard to do on a flat stretch.

Cycling Interval Training

Flat Loop Hecker Pass, Watsonville Road, Santa Terres.
7 minute fast, then 3.5 minutes easy
Max HR
Avg HR
7/14/09 No Aerobars
1 7:01 2.537 21.7 168 161
2 7:00 2.555 21.9 174 166
3 6:58 2.548 21.9 173 166
4 7:00 2.728 23.3 171 165
Total 27:59 10.368 22.2 172 165
1 7:01 2.117 18.1
2 7:01 2.328 19.9
3 6:26 2.583 24.1
4 7:31 2.734 21.8
Total 27:59 9.762 20.9
Total 27:45 10.373 22.4 155 152
Total 27:51 9.899 21.4 159 153

Being a Faster Climber

July 13, 2009 6:38 am

In a prior post I reflected how I thought I was climbing much slower than last year.  But then my son pointed out that my time on Saturday up Mt. Diablo would have put me in 3rd place for men 60+ in the Mt. Diablo Challenge race last fall.

I did some additional research on the subject of how to be a faster climber.  There are three keys including 1) mental attitude, 2) light body weight and 3) smart tactics.   While some cyclists will want to avoid some tough climbs, I seek them out.  My weight is also down, although not as low as it was last fall when I was getting ready for the Everest Challenge.  So what is left is tactics.  Here are a few that I am thinking about:

Use the right gearing

I do almost all my cycling with a double crank.  Although I have put on a 12-27 cassette, it does not seem quite enough on some of the real steep hills.  Sure I am able to make it up every hill, but when the grade gets too steep, my cadence really dips.  If a pro cyclists goes up in a 39/21, with their speed of travel, they may have a cadence of over 80 rpm.  It has been shown that while climbing, a cadence of 80-90 will result in a faster climb time.  The slower you climb, the lower the gearing you need to keep that type of cadence.  It is time I move to a compact crank. With the ability to use a lower gear that will give me the option to remain seated more.  I know when I stand my heart rate climbs.  Although I find standing frequently a help with my legs, too much standing would not lead to the best time.

Avoid Going too Hard too Early

Last Wednesday I did a climb up Henry Coe with some cycling buddies.  Fairly early in the climb I was taking the pace up to see who was going to be able to hang with me.  My pulse rate was now over 170, well above my lactate threshold.  Since one other rider kept up, I had no choice but to keep the pace to see who would last the longest.  He finally dropped off the back but I had to keep driving long enough to form a gap.  But by then I was too expended and my overall time suffered.  I was surprised at the end of the climb that he was only a minute behind me.  You can see this on the attached series of charts, the top one being last week and the other two from an actual race on the same climb during the last two years.  Click on the chart to view enlarged.


Of course I would never expect my time on a ride with some friends to ever be as fast as an actual race where I make sure I have fresh legs and I give it all I have for just that one climb.  However I feel that if I had kept my heart rate down a bit earlier in the climb and then took it up late in the climb I would have finished faster.

Doing Speedwork

One thing I have done in the past is doing some speed work, both intervals on the flats and hill repeats.  That is significantly improved my performance on a long climb.  Although you get some benefit of just climbing certain hills at a hard pace, one should not ignore the benefit of repeats, with short recovery periods in between.  See my article on speedwork.

Cross Training

When I was training for marathons, it not only kept my weight down, but I believe it made me a faster climber.  I started to get out of running for the most part over the last year, due to some issues with my knees.  But I met a guy on our 10 day bicyle tour who also ran the Boston Marathon and he gave me some information one what was causing my problem so I started some exercises to stretch my IT band.  The issue seems to be solved so I have been increasing my running again.  Yesterday I did a 4.5 mile run, with 3 miles at a tempo pace.  On those three miles I was averaging an 8 minute pace.  Not very fast considering I use to run a marathon at a 8:20 pace.  However it was fast for my conditioning because I woke up this morning with sore legs!  Although I don’t plan to run a marathon again anytime soon, I do plan to take my running back up to at least 25 miles a week and add in some interval training.  All cycling and no running makes Franz a dull boy.

Climbing like a Slug

July 11, 2009 10:03 pm

Now that we finished our 10 day long bike tour, I decided it was time I get more focused on improving my climbing speed.  John and I have the Tour of Utah race next month and with 100 miles and some long and step climbs, I need to get my climbing speed back up to a strong level.

On Tuesday I went on the mountain bike, which is always a tough climb.  But my first chance on the road bike was Wednesday, up Henry Coe.  I was riding toward the front of the pack and decided to take my heart rate up to a high level and see if I could hold it.  Even after taking it over 170 bpm, one rider, Jim W, stayed with me.  I figured that if I could hold that pace long enough he would fall off, which is what happened.  But I was so wasted after that that I had to lower my heart rate to finish the climb.  It was not the best way to set a good time up the hill, but it was a good training exercise.  Here is the heart rate graph.  My total climb time was 6 minutes slower than my best time last year (set during a race), even taking my average heart rate to 163 for the climb.  For each graph below click it to see it enlarged.


The next day was the weekly Metcalf Mauler ride.  This week we went on the tandem and we pushed the pace all the way up the hill.  Our total time was about 1 minute slower than our best time set last year.  Here again is the graph.


On Friday John and Jeff were visiting.  They joined Anne and I, all on single bikes, for a 33 mile ride around the reservoir.  Not much climbing that day and I really needed the rest.

On Saturday, John and I went to join a club ride up Mt. Diablo.  Anne and I had done that same hill on the tandem last April, but this was a chance to see if I could break an hour on my single bike.  As soon as we went by the start point at the South Gate, we picked up the pace.  Soon after that a rider came by us and John jumped on his wheel. I kept focused on my heart rate, knowing that I needed to keep it below 160 in order to be able to keep the pace for a whole hour.  My legs felt trashed from the other days this week of climbing hard.  I was keeping track of my feet per minute climbing rate and after about 40 minutes I realized it was unlikely I would break an hour on the climb.  It was exactly one hour when I reached the bottom of the very steep final narrow road up to the parking lot.  I ended up making the climb in 61:52., about 20 minutes faster than we had done the same climb on the tandem earlier this year.

John was using one of my Polar 625X heart rate monitors so I had a chance to download his data.  I put both graphs together below.  It is remarkable how close we were in terms of heart rate.  Kind of like Father, like Son.  Since John had gone ahead of me his was not quite sure where the top was and had stopped at a parking lot at the bottom of the real step final section, so his actually time would have been closer to 58 minutes.


I think that is enough hard climbing for the week.  I need a day or two to recover.