Don: Cycling Tech

Climb to the Clouds

posted Jul 13, 2017, 11:30 AM by Donald Vescio

Best wishes to all riders who are doing Climb to the Clouds this weekend.  The course is rolling to hilly from the start in Sudbury/Bolton.  The longer routes (80, 90, 100 miles) includes Mile Hill in Princeton, that averages ~9-10% and ends at the Visitors' Center at Mount Wachusetts.    Apart from the challenges of the route, Sunday's forecast looks to be hot and humid, with a chance of storms early in the day, and again toward noon.


The bulk of the most difficult climbing will be at the midpoint of your ride, as you approach Princeton.  While the return route via Sterling and the Boylstons do not have long climbs, there are a number of shorter hills, some of which will be challenging on the run home.  



Pacing

Heat and hills will be your greatest challenge.  Head out at much slower, easier pace than your normal endurance ride, saving your strength and energy for Princeton and the big climbs.  On the return leg, if you're feeling good, you can pick up your pace, but be mindful that the route from Sterling through Boylston can be surprisingly difficult, mostly due to accumulated fatigue.

This is a very good ride to build long-duration endurance capacity.  Given the route and conditions, I wouldn't encourage you to be thinking of personal bests ;)



 

Nutrition, Hydration, and Heat Management

The key for hydration is to follow your hydration plan, if you've one already established.  And for those who do have a hydration and nutrition plan, think in terms of slight modifications, rather than wholesale revisions.


Try to drink frequently and at regular intervals.  It is important to take in electrolytes, as per the brand's recommendations, in order to avoid hyponatremia.  Hyponatremia is a risk for athletes who ingest large fluid volumes, without electrolyte replacement.    Symptoms include nausea and/or vomiting; headache; and confusion.  For a more detailed description of hyponatremia, click here.   The short version is that taking in liquid is not enough; you also have to be attentive to ingesting electrolytes.  Take in too little, you run risk of hyponatremia; take in too much, and you run the risk of G.I. issues.   If in doubt, drink frequently and err on the side of taking in electrolytes.


In terms of nutrition, hot and humid weather means that nutrients are absorbed slower than normal, which means that you need to eat smaller quantities at more shortly spaced intervals.  But because you will burn less calories on a hot humid day, as your intensity also will be lower than normal, you're nutritional needs will be slightly lighter than in optimal environmental conditions.  And remember, most athletes can absorb approximately 300-350 calories per hour, so ingesting a large quantity of food could lead to GI issues and won't contribute positively to your performance. 


On a hot day, consider the clothing that you wear and how you address heat.  Sun block is important for a ride of this duration; most riders find that sun glasses are helpful for comfort, too.   Clothing that vents easily is a plus on the long climbs in the middle of the ride.  An old school tip is to wear simple sweatbands on your wrists that you can douse with cold water.  Cold water on the back of the neck also can increase comfort; and on long rides on hot days, squirting water through your helmet vents can help, too.  (And if you have occasion to stumble onto some ice, placing some ice on the inside of your legs, along your femoral arteries, helps cooling, too.  You might want to exercise some discretion when stuffing ice down your shorts.


The key, though, is to be attentive to your pace.  The hotter the day, the easier the pace should be, and don't be afraid to take occasional breaks off the side of the road in some shade to catch your breath, have a snack, and take in some fluids and electrolytes.

 


 .

Most important in all of this is that you be safe and have fun!

 


Tire Selection: Width Basics

posted Jun 19, 2017, 6:58 AM by Donald Vescio



Tires are the next big area for performance gain in time trials or triathlon, and researchers are discovering that multiple variables should be factored into tire selection.  Details such as tire fabrication, air pressure, rim width, and frame design all impact performance.  For this entry, I want to focus on some practical aspects of tire width and their implications for time trialists and triathletes.

 

Today's trend is toward wider tires.  Not too long ago, the standard time trial tire width was between 19mm and 21mm; for road racing, 21mm-23mm was the norm.  While fast, these narrow tires are not very comfortable, which also impacts performance: the narrower the tire, the higher the tire pressure needs to be to support the bicycle/rider; high pressures ride rough, as compression of the tire is minimized, which increases road shock.  Wider tires can hold greater air volume, which means that lower pressures can be used to support the same bike/rider.  A benefit of lower pressures is that less road shock is transmitted to the rider; more importantly, wider tires and lower pressures shorten the tire's contact patch on the road, which decreases rolling resistance.*  An important ancillary benefit associated with wider, softer tires is potential increase in traction, which have macroscopic benefits (can corner faster, for instance) and microscopic benefits (the tire remains in contact with the road, even over rougher surfaces).

 

But simply slapping wider tires on your bike might not be the best strategy for race day. 

 

1.  A wider tire isn't always going to be faster or more comfortable--and the difference between a 23mm and 25mm on these two parameters will be minimal, within the range of error in tire pressure.
 

2.  Even if wider tires can be more comfortable and have less rolling resistance than narrow tires, they might not necessarily be faster--max width of a tire should match rim width; if the tire's width is too wide, then most aero benefits associated with the wheels will be lost, making for a much slower ride.
 

3.  Not all frames can accommodate tires 25mm or wider.  Tire width also is impacted by a rim's design, so the 25mm designation is only nominal, at best.  On a narrow rim, the same tire will be taller than on a wider rim, which makes the tire fatter (and which can cause clearance issues); on a wide rim, a tire will inflate fatter, which also can cause clearance problems.
 

4.  In general, narrower still is better aerodynamically than wider in timed events.  As frame and rim design evolve, wider tires can be better accommodated, with minimal performance loss.  And even then, in timed events, a narrower front tire will be quicker than a wide front tire, for a given series in a brand and for a given wheel

 

 

5. The safest recommendation for most bikes and wheels today is relatively simple.  Go with a high quality, 23mm tire in front (a Continental GP4000ii is a good choice); the same tire will work well in the rear, too.  If you have  modern, wide rear wheel, and if your bike has adequate clearance, then bumping up to 25mm is possible, though the performance difference over a 23mm won't be significant enough for most riders to note.

 

Tire pressure, though tied to tire width, is more critical than tire width alone.  Stick to 23mm in front, go with 25mm in back IF you are certain that it's a good match for your wheel AND if you have adequate clearance, and you'll be set.

 

 

 

*Tire patch and rolling resistance (for a future conversation!)





Escape from Alcatraz

posted Jun 9, 2017, 6:50 AM by Donald Vescio





The bike course is remarkably straightforward. Despite the number of climbs and descents, a tri bike is recommended, as approximately 40% of the course can be ridding in a full aero position to positive effect.

 

  1. The ~1.25 miles between transition and the Golden Gate Bridge are flat and follow the Bay (Section A)
     
  2. Taking a left away from the Bay introduces three steep climbs of varying length (Section B; this section is challenging)
     
  3. Descending back to the waterfront brings you to the middle section of the course, which is characterized by a long, but gradual climb to the turn-around (Section C)
     
  4. Returning back to the waterfront after the descent from the turn-around brings to the remaining three hills (Section D; this is the hardest section)
     
  5. Taking a right at the Golden Gate Bridge, you'll return to the final 1.25 miles to transition. (Section E)

 

Note that in ~18 miles that you will cover one-third the elevation gain (~1,100 feet) associated with the full Lake Place (112 miles) Ironman course (~3,000 feet)

 

The simplest way to think of this course is to

 

  1. Ride with a steady effort on the hills, attempting to maintain a cadence in the seventies/low eighties (if you can go quicker, so much the better, provided that you do not spike your heart rate). On the climbs, sit as upright as possible, making sure that your hip angle is open to facilitate power.
     
  2. Most of the downhills are relatively steep and technical; use the downhills in Section B and Section D for recovery (get out of the aerobars; drop shoulders to go faster, raise shoulders to scrub speed; think big gear, low to moderate cadence, very light pressure on the pedals to keep legs loose).
     
  3. This is a sprint triathlon, so I'd recommend that you push the hills relatively hard and use the downhills for recovery. Overall, your ride RPE should be a good 6 or so, low 7 if you're feeling good.  This should feel like one of your interval sessions (which it is, actually).
     
  4. A good amount of time can be gained or lost in Section C and Section E--this should be done at a high level of intensity, with recovery whenever you get a pause in the grade


Pacing

Section A: Use the opening 1.25 miles to transition from the swim and get your legs moving.  Suggest RPE 3; use your aerobars.  As you approach the Golden Gate Bridge--you'll be exiting a parking area), shift to your little ring before you make the left turn.

 

Section B:  Push on the hills in a smaller gear; no aerobars, try to maintain cadence in high seventies, minimum.  Use the descent after the first hill (shortly after a left turn, at the museum) for recovery.  The second hill in this segment is longer and tough; the descent after it is short, with a sharp left turn at the bottom--go easy.  The third hill is short; push it hard.  Use the long descent by Cliff House for recovery (RPE on the climbs--solid 7)

 

Section C: This is a long, gradual hill to the turn-around, and then a long gradual descent.  Use the aerobars whenever possible; monitor cadence carefully on the climb to the turn-around.  On the descent, push whenever possible; if your legs are feeling reasonably good, then go with a slightly bigger gear, slightly lower cadence, and let your HR drop. (RPE on climb 5-6; downhill 3-4)

 

Section D: This is the toughest part of the course.  When you return to the waterside, immediately go to a smaller gear and make sure that your cadence doesn't increase with the shift.  The goal in these few hundred yards is to rest both your legs and your heart.

 

The hill climbing by Cliff House is steep.  Go to your lowest gear at the base of the climb and be patient.  As the road breaks right at Cliff House, you'll get a slight break--use it to recovery, as the road then gets steep.  Climb toward a large blue-green building, which marks a left turn.  In the turn, rest; the next right turn opens on the steepest part of the course.  Stand as you exit the turn, and accelerate.  There will be two cross roads interrupting this climb--use them for recovery.  As you reach the top of the steep section of this climb, recover; you'll have a series of three short, but steep bumps before the climb actually is over. Recovery on the short downhill, and then push the next short climb (climb #6).  Recover on the downhill.

 

The last climb is long and hard, with the steepest sections toward the end of the middle third of the hill.  Push this hill over the top  (RPE 6-7) can try to maintain speed, but be careful as there are a few quick turns.

 

Section D: The final return--push hard, RPE 5-6, and back down speed once you get approx 1/4 mile from transition.  You'll see the boats in the marina as a cue. 

 

 

Notes, and Other Stuff

Click here for RPE chart.

 

While there is a lot of elevation gain on both courses, these are not  climber's courses; they are course that strongly emphasizes conservative approaches to pacing.

Ride this opening two-thirds of the courses relatively easy; get comfortable on the bike, take in nutrition, and easily spin your legs whenever you can.  On the short, steep hills, shift to a low gear, but be careful that you don't increase your cadence immediately after your shift  Use as little energy as possible on these climbs.  Watch for cadences below 70 RPM.

 If ever in doubt, be conservative in your pacing.  Any energy that you expend on your ride will carry a cost on your run; pacing too hard on the bike, even if you finish the ride strongly, will have a disproportionately negative impact on your subsequent run. 

 Always defer to RPE and not your HR or power data.  If it feels like you're riding at a hard pace, then you are.  Use HR and power as second level of importance information.

 

Focus on your RPE and cross reference it with your HR data (knowing that it likely will drift upward during the event) and power data.  Do not focus on average power for this course, as the variable nature of its terrain will depress your aggregate values.  On the uphills, try not to exceed 90% threshold power.

 While there will be fast segments on these courses, the key is determining where your hard efforts will get you a good rate of return.   Pushing the pace too hard will take a significant toll on your run.  Remember that you won’t be able to balance out a poor run with a quick bike split; be conservative! 

In the ideal world, where courses are flat to gently rolling, I’d suggest that power meter users think of riding the entire race at ~85-90% FTP, and perhaps up to ~90-93% FTP for lap two. Use your RPE, HR, and power data in terms of values NOT to exceed: “I will not exceed RPE of 7 for the steepest of hills,” etc. Immediately after these climbs, try to get your RPE down 2 -3. 

On the course's steeper descents, go to your base bars and drop your shoulders if you want to go faster, or lift your shoulders (don’t don’t lock your arms!) if you want to go slower.  Try to “float” on a bigger gear to keep some movement in your legs—use light force, at a relatively low cadence.  Consider the downhills as active recovery for the next hill! 

To repeat: if your HR and respiratory rates high: go to a slightly harder gear and drop your cadence by ~5 RPM; if your legs feel heavy, burning: go to a slightly easier gear and increase your cadence by ~5 RPM. 

Remember all the big gear work we did over the winter and spring.  On longer, steeper hills when your speed drops low, move up on your bars, slide back on your seat, push forward and down on your pedal stroke, and drop your heels on the downstoke. 

Be aero!  Tuck in your jersey if it's loose; minimize the number of large objects that you carry in jersey pockets, if any; use an aero helmet--and a rear disc, if you have one.

If it's raining hard and if rain is forecasted for most of the race, consider decreasing your tire pressure by approximately 5 - 10 lbs.  Brake well before a turn, gently applying pressure to the brake pads.  Try to cross any obstacles, railroad tracks, or road hazards as close to 90* as possible to minimize loss of traction.

In your race kit and special needs bags, include a simple cycling cap and four to five plastic grocery bags.  If it is raining hard, wear the hat brim forward underneath your helmet to direct water away from your eyes--this will help your vision considerably.  If it's raining and cold, consider placing one of your plastic grocery bags underneath the front of your jersey (not the back!), and even underneath the front of the legs of your cycling shorts.   This will help keep you much warmer.

 

Rev 3 Quassy (Olympic and Half)

posted Jun 2, 2017, 6:28 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jun 2, 2017, 6:31 AM ]




General Comments

 

Both Quassy courses feature significant elevation gain: 1,700 feet for the Olympic, and 3,800 feet for the half.  To put this into perspective, both the Lake Placid and Mount Tremblant full distance races total ~3,500 feet.  What this means is that elevation gain for Quassy is approximately twice that of two major Ironman races, for equivalent distances.

 

This said, Quassy really isn't a climber's course.  There are many steep hills and a general upward trend for both courses, most of the elevation gain takes place in the form of repeated shorter, steep climbs that are punctuated by false flats and brief descents.

 

It cannot be overemphasized that pacing is critical for both courses.  Overextending efforts at the beginning of the course will have a significantly negative impact on the later stages of the bike, and even more so on the subsequent run.

 

Recommended pacing strategies for both races should be based on RPE.  Power and heart rate data will be too stochastic to be of much utility.  A secondary pacing metric should include cadence, as the nature of both courses' topography will tend to depress effective cadence ranges.

 

Divide the courses into two segments of unequal lengths: Segment 1 (to ~14 mile; ~32 mile), which runs approximately 2/3 of course distance; Segment 2, which runs approximately 1/3 of course distance.  Ride Segment 1 for either course very conservatively; Segment 2 can be ridden more aggressively, if conditions and exertion warrant it.





More specific recommendations, based on RPE:

Olympic: Segment One: 3-4; Segment Two: 4-5

(Aquabike 4; 5-6)

 

Half: Segment One: 3; Segment Two: 4

(Aquabike 3-4; 5)

 

 

Most of the road surface is in good condition.  Hills tend to be steep and easily visible in the distance. 

 

Momentum will play little role in climbing the hills (nb: don't bomb the downhills!); go into the hills in a relatively easy gear and try to maintain a cadence above 70 RPM for the bulk of the climbs.  Use the downhills to recover.  The downhills are not significant or technical enough to gain an appreciable time advantage.

 

Shorter version: go easy at the start; maintain a steady pace on the climbs; and rest on the downhills.  This is not a quick course, so adjust your time splits accordingly.

 

Remember, the first two-thirds of both courses are most critical.  Be conservative; if you're feeling good, then push on the last thirds.




Notes, and Other Stuff

  1. Click here for RPE chart.


  2. While there is a lot of elevation gain on both courses, these are not  climber's courses; they are course that strongly emphasizes conservative approaches to pacing.


  3. Ride this opening two-thirds of the courses relatively easy; get comfortable on the bike, take in nutrition, and easily spin your legs whenever you can.  On the short, steep hills, shift to a low gear, but be careful that you don't increase your cadence immediately after your shift  Use as little energy as possible on these climbs.  Watch for cadences below 70 RPM.


  4.  If ever in doubt, be conservative in your pacing.  Any energy that you expend on your ride will carry a cost on your run; pacing too hard on the bike, even if you finish the ride strongly, will have a disproportionately negative impact on your subsequent run. 


  5.  Always defer to RPE and not your HR or power data.  If it feels like you're riding at a hard pace, then you are.  Use HR and power as second level of importance information.

     
  6. Focus on your RPE and cross reference it with your HR data (knowing that it likely will drift upward during the event) and power data.  Do not focus on average power for this course, as the variable nature of its terrain will depress your aggregate values.  On the uphills, try not to exceed 90% threshold power.


  7.  While there will be fast segments on these courses, the key is determining where your hard efforts will get you a good rate of return.   Pushing the pace too hard will take a significant toll on your run.  Remember that you won’t be able to balance out a poor run with a quick bike split; be conservative! 


  8. In the ideal world, where courses are flat to gently rolling, I’d suggest that power meter users think of riding the entire race at ~77-80% FTP, and perhaps up to ~80-83% FTP for lap two. Use your RPE, HR, and power data in terms of values NOT to exceed: “I will not exceed RPE of 5-6 for the steepest of hills,” etc.  On the steepest of hills, shoot for an RPE of high five; on the downhills immediately after these climbs, try to get your RPE down 2 -3. 


  9. On the course's steeper descents, go to your base bars and drop your shoulders if you want to go faster, or lift your shoulders (don’t don’t lock your arms!) if you want to go slower.  Try to “float” on a bigger gear to keep some movement in your legs—use light force, at a relatively low cadence.  Consider the downhills as active recovery for the next hill! 


  10. To repeat: if your HR and respiratory rates high: go to a slightly harder gear and drop your cadence by ~5 RPM; if your legs feel heavy, burning: go to a slightly easier gear and increase your cadence by ~5 RPM. 


  11. Remember all the big gear work we did over the winter and spring.  On longer, steeper hills when your speed drops low, move up on your bars, slide back on your seat, push forward and down on your pedal stroke, and drop your heels on the downstoke. 


  12. Be aero!  Tuck in your jersey if it's loose; minimize the number of large objects that you carry in jersey pockets, if any; use an aero helmet--and a rear disc, if you have one.


  13. If it's raining hard and if rain is forecasted for most of the race, consider decreasing your tire pressure by approximately 5 - 10 lbs.  Brake well before a turn, gently applying pressure to the brake pads.  Try to cross any obstacles, railroad tracks, or road hazards as close to 90* as possible to minimize loss of traction.


  14. In your race kit and special needs bags, include a simple cycling cap and four to five plastic grocery bags.  If it is raining hard, wear the hat brim forward underneath your helmet to direct water away from your eyes--this will help your vision considerably.  If it's raining and cold, consider placing one of your plastic grocery bags underneath the front of your jersey (not the back!), and even underneath the front of the legs of your cycling shorts.   This will help keep you much warmer.

Ironman Zurich 70.3: The Bike

posted May 31, 2017, 10:42 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated May 31, 2017, 10:48 AM ]



  • ·         Two 45km loops
  • ·         Two aid stations: Witch’s Hill and Goldengen; recommend feed at Goldengen, perhaps at Witch’s Hill lap two, and then Goldengen lap two
  • ·         Opening 10km is flat to slightly downhill
  • ·         First major climb is Witch’s Hill, at 10km (~1.5km, 7% avg grade, max grade 20%)
  • ·         Feedzone at top of Witch’s Hill; recovery for approximately 4km.
  • ·         Second major climb is Goldengen/Riederen at 14.5km (~4km, 5.5 % avg grade; long grind): NB, this is the most important climb on the course, where time is made or lost.
  • ·         Remainder of the course trends downhill
  • ·         Note that some of the course traverses narrow, single-lane roads
  • ·         A good Stava profile to visit is: https://www.strava.com/activities/681593 (note the consistency in power output on the flats and long hills—this is critical for a well-paced effort; segment data posted below)

  • ·         Assumptions: FTP ~270; fitness strong; CdA/Crr average.
  • ·         Strongly recommend negative splits, based on RPE and IF:

o   Lap One: RPE ~4, IF ~77-80%

o   Lap Two (assuming that you feel good) : RPE ~5, IF ~80-83%

o   NP Lap One :~ 215 – 220 watts; NP Lap Two: ~220-225 watts

o   Key is to monitor RPE—default to RPE if ever in doubt

  • ·         Hills—on Witch’s Hill, cap watts at 310; on Goldengen, cap at 270

  • ·         Manage effort on Witch’s Hill

  • ·         Recover on the downhill immediately after Witch’s Hill aid station; tempo on the long downhill after Goldengen (won’t make up huge time here; goal is to steady, but fast)

 

Strategies, Notes, and Other Stuff

1.       Click here for RPE chart.
 

2.       While Witch’s Hill have some steep sections, most of the course is much more moderate.  This is not a climber's course; it is a course the emphasizes a conservative approach to pacing.

3.       This is a two-lap course.  Ride this opening 10km at endurance pace; get comfortable on the bike, take in nutrition, and easily spin your legs whenever you can.  On the short, steep hills, shift to a low gear, but be careful that you don't increase your cadence immediately after your shift  Use as little energy as possible on these climbs.  Watch for cadences below 70 RPM.

4.       If ever in doubt, be conservative in your pacing.  Any energy that you expend on your ride will carry a cost on your run; pacing too hard on the bike, even if you finish the ride strongly, will have a disproportionately negative impact on your subsequent run. 

5.       Always defer to RPE and not your HR or power data.  If it feels like you're riding at a hard pace, then you are.  Use HR and power as second level of importance information.
 

6.       Multi-loop courses are ideal for negative splits (for instance, the second lap is faster than the first).  The key to this course is pacing.  Focus on your RPE and cross reference it with your HR data (knowing that it likely will drift upward during the event) and power data.  Do not focus on average power for this course, as the variable nature of its terrain will depress your aggregate values.  On the uphills, try not to exceed 90% threshold power.

7.       Go out on your first lap conservatively, with an overall average RPE of approximately 3- low 4.    If you're feeling good and conditions have not significantly changed during your first loop, bring the overall pace up to RPE 4 – low 5 on loop two.    Remember, if you go too hard on the bike, you'll have problems on the run.  At the beginning of lap two, assess and plan accordingly ("I'll ride the same pace/I'll ride a little harder").  

8.       Zurich can be a very fast course.  The key is determining where your hard efforts will get you a good rate of return.   Pushing the pace too hard will take a significant toll on your run.  Remember that you won’t be able to balance out a poor run with a quick bike split; be conservative! 

9.       In the ideal world, where courses are flat to gently rolling, I’d suggest that power meter users think of riding the entire race at ~77-80% FTP, and perhaps up to ~80-83% FTP for lap two. Use your RPE, HR, and power data in terms of values NOT to exceed: “I will not exceed RPE of 5-6 for the steepest of hills,” etc.  On the steepest of hills, shoot for an RPE of high five; on the downhills immediately after these climbs, try to get your RPE down 2 -3. 

10.   On the course's steeper descents, go to your base bars and drop your shoulders if you want to go faster, or lift your shoulders (don’t don’t lock your arms!) if you want to go slower.  Try to “float” on a bigger gear to keep some movement in your legs—use light force, at a relatively low cadence.  Consider the downhills as active recovery for the next hill! 

11.   To repeat: if your HR and respiratory rates high: go to a slightly harder gear and drop your cadence by ~5 RPM; if your legs feel heavy, burning: go to a slightly easier gear and increase your cadence by ~5 RPM. 

12.   Remember all the big gear work we did over the winter and spring.  On longer, steeper hills when your speed drops low, move up on your bars, slide back on your seat, push forward and down on your pedal stroke, and drop your heels on the downstoke. 

13.   Be aero!  Tuck in your jersey if it's loose; minimize the number of large objects that you carry in jersey pockets, if any; use an aero helmet--and a rear disc, if you have one.

14.   If it's raining hard and if rain is forecasted for most of the race, consider decreasing your tire pressure by approximately 5 - 10 lbs.  

15.   In your race kit and special needs bags, include a simple cycling cap and four to five plastic grocery bags.  If it is raining hard, wear the hat brim forward underneath your helmet to direct water away from your eyes--this will help your vision considerably.  If it's raining and cold, consider placing one of your plastic grocery bags underneath the front of your jersey (not the back!), and even underneath the front of the legs of your cycling shorts.   This will help keep you much warmer.











Bike Pacing and Nutrition Plan for Patriot Half Triathlon

posted Jun 16, 2016, 12:04 PM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jun 16, 2016, 12:15 PM ]






[From Don]

About the Bike

The Patriot Half Triathlon, hosted at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, MA, is a fantastic race for beginners or for those who want to optimize their pacing and speed for long course events.  The bike is a flat two loop course with little elevation change of note.   Most of the roads have relatively light traffic; there is one greater than 90* turn approximately 13 miles into the course, at the base of one of the course's few downhills.   

 

Because the this is a multiple lap, flat course, pacing strategies are very straightforward, provided two considerations are kept in mind.  The first is that all successful long course pacing strategies are predicated on the concept of negative spits. What this means is that the athlete rides progressive faster lap times as the race progresses.  In the case of the two lap Patriot course, the goal would be to ride the second lap faster than the first.   A negative split strategy provides opportunity for adjustment during the course of the event:  at the end of the first lap, assess whether you are feeling good or feeling poorly.  If you are feeling good, you can slighting increase your pace, shortening the duration of the second lap, while still remaining capable of completing a strong run.  If you are feeling poorly, then you can either maintain your current pace, or slightly decrease your pace in order to save energy so that you will have a reasonable run later in the race.   In terms of perceived exertion, for the first lap think in terms of a conversational pace in which you are breathing moderately heavily, but still can speak complete sentences. If you are feeling strong, pick up your pace for the second lap so that your RPE increases--you're breathing heavily, you can speak, but occasionally you need to pause to catch your breath before you continue talking.

 

The second consideration addresses gearing and cadence.  The nature of the course is such that you should not have to shift into your small chainring.   Try to avoid extremes of effort, using small changes in gearing to adjust your effort to your response and the conditions that you encounter.  The Patriot course offers an excellent opportunity to use cadence as a way to manage intensity and the systems that you use to produce power.  If your legs start to hurt, and if you want to maintain the same pace, go to a slightly easier gear and increase your cadence 3-5 RPM.  If you are breathing heavy and your heart rate seems to be drifting high, then shift to a slight harder gear and slow your cadence by 3-5 RPM to shift load back to the force part of the power equation.   Steady efforts, small changes, moderate pacing for the first lap are all key to successfully completing the bike portion of this race.  These recommendations are appropriate for athletes who are doing the full triathlon, as well as those who are competing in the aquabike division. 


Remember, if you go out too hard during your first lap, you'll burn all of your matches and fall into deficit for the remainder of the race.  For those competing in the full triathlon, the goal is to have a solid ride, but well within capacity so that you can have a strong run.  The run is the segment that holds the greatest risk for time loss, so exiting T2 relatively fresh is critical. For aquabike competitors, the same principle holds true--you always can go faster later in the ride if you feel good, but if you go out too hard, your pace will steadily drop, making a significant overall negative impact on your performance.

 

 

[From Elaine]

Nutrition

Most athletes love a good carbo load. And this is a good thing since research indicates that significantly increasing dietary carbohydrate for several days leading into an endurance event can enable you to perform at your desired race pace for a longer period of time. 

For a Saturday race such as Patriot, this would mean beginning on Thursday increasing dietary carbohydrates from healthy choices--veggies, potatoes, beans and lentils, whole grains, pastas and rices. The recommendation is consuming about 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight each day. For a 150 pound person this comes to 600 to 750 grams of carbohydrate or 2400 to 3000 calories from carbohydrates. Minimize highly processed foods and high fat foods; keep a moderate protein intake to maintain muscle and provide some satiety. Hydrate well with water, fruit juices, coconut water, and sports drinks, but don't overdo it. Sports drinks are an effective way to get in carb calories and electrolytes. From Friday morning through the event, avoid high fiber foods, raw veggies, and too much dairy. 

 

Breakfasts

  • Good choices oatmeal, pancakes, fresh fruit, fruit yogurt, juice, bagels, jam, fruit smoothies

 

Lunches

  • Good choices--lean meat/poultry sandwich on hearty bread, white rice, cooked veggies, frozen yogurt, fresh fruit

 

Have dinner on the early side on Friday evening. Good choices include pasta with marinara sauce, grilled chicken, baked potato, bread, white rice,and cooked veggies.

 

Handy high carb foods/ snacks

  • apple juice (8 oz = 27 grams of carb; 108 carb calories)
  • applesauce (one cup = 41 grams of carb; 164 carb calories)
  • bananas (one large banana = 30 grams of carb; 120 carb calories)
  • bagels (one bagel = 48 grams of carb; 192 carb calories)
  • energy bars made from real food with minimal added sugar (i.e. Powerbar Performance Bar has 45 grams of carb; 180 carb calories)
  • fruit lowfat yogurt (six ounces = 26 grams of carb; 108 carb calories)
  • muffin (reduced fat blueberry = 75 grams of carb; 300 carb calories)
  • oatmeal/old fashioned (half cup = 54 grams of carb; 216 carb calories)
  • pretzels (one ounce = 23 grams of carb; 92 carb calories)
  • rice (one cup brown ride = 45 grams of carb; 180 carb calories)
  • sports drinks (20 oz of Gatorade = 34 grams of carb; 136 carb calories)

 


The Quabbin Century

posted Jun 10, 2016, 10:34 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jun 10, 2016, 12:56 PM ]





What follows is advice that can be applied to any long ride.  The King's Tour of Quabbin is a hilly century located in central Massachusetts that takes place primarily on rural roads.  This ride long has been popular for athletes preparing for a long course event.



All three loops of the Quabbin Century ride (metric, 100 miles, 125 miles) are very hilly.   Many riders will use Quabbin as preparation for a long course triathlon event, while others regard it as a noteworthy tour in its own right.  I've ridden and raced the roads around Quabbin many, many times, and what follows are some general thoughts that I'd like to share with you.

 


  • The Quabbin ride is very hilly, so pacing is critical.   As you begin, ride at an easy, conversational pace, one in which you are not overly elevating you heart rate or generating a lot of force on your pedals.  While there are a number of hills on the routes, the biggest challenge is their volume--this is a high training stress ride, so keep in mind that hard efforts and fast paces early on will make the finish difficult at best.  Be patient--I guarantee that you will be tired by the end of your ride.

  • Gearing, cadence, power.   On any long ride, an awareness of RPE takes precedence over any other metric, including power, cadence, and heart rate.  Collect as much data as possible during the course of the ride for post-ride analysis.  During the ride, focus on your breathing patterns and leg fatigue.   Contrary to the belief of many, there is not an ideal cadence that everyone should use when doing a long event; in fact, most reputable researchers consider cadence a "red herring" in that riders naturally self-select their ideal cadences based on the specific conditions of their ride.  In other words, don't shoot for target numbers on your century, especially one  that is as hilly as Quabbin.

     
  • As the duration of a ride increases, intensity decreases, as does cadence.  Your power, cadence, and heart rate all should be lower than the values that you would record at a much shorter event.  For Quabbin, think in terms of pedaling with a moderate cadence in a small gear up the hills--don't push the pace.  Use the downhills for recovery; soft-pedal in a fairly large gear, allowing your legs a chance to recover and your heart rates/respiratory rates to decrease.  Again, the key is to ride at a pace in which conversation can take place easily.  For this ride, if you can't talk, then you're likely riding way too hard ;)

     
  • Assuming that you want to maintain a steady pace, if your legs begin to hurt, go to a smaller gear and slightly increase cadence.  If your heart rate/respiratory rates are too high, go to a bigger gear and slightly decrease cadence.  If you are completely exhausted, then go to a smaller gear and a slower cadence.  This will drop your pace, but will require less strength and energy to continue.

     
  • Most athletes can process approximately 300-350 calories per hour; a few can accommodate up to 400-425 calories per hour.  Most athletes will burn far more than 400 calories per hour while active, which results in a calorie deficit as exercise duration increases.  This means that you need to eat consistently throughout your ride and that you cannot make up lost calories by eating a big meal half way around Quabbin.   No matter how much food that you take in at once, you only assimilate so many calories per hour.  Excess calories will sit in your stomach, potentially causing digestive issues.

     
  • Like nutrition, drink at regular intervals throughout the ride, taking care to address your electrolyte needs.   Also, don't forget that some of your calories can be ingested as liquid; use this ride as an opportunity to find out what hydration and nutritional strategies work best for you during long endurance events.

     
  •  It is tempting to want to extrapolate your data from this ride and apply it to a future event.  Performance on your ride around Quabbin will not necessarily correlate with your performance at a future event.  Rather, regard this ride as an extended training opportunity in which you work on pacing, test out equipment, and practice your nutritional and hydration strategies.  (And, keep in mind that this isn't a race!)

 

 

Perhaps most importantly, make sure that you enjoy the ride.  This is a beautiful part of New England!



For more information on the King's Tour of Quabbin, visit: http://www.sevenhillswheelmen.org/index.php?a=centuries


Power Tests and Performance Assessment

posted Dec 29, 2015, 10:42 AM by Donald Vescio

There are a number of ways that we can assess our fitness and determine whether we are progressing toward our goals.    Some of the simplest metrics are time and distance, tracking how fast we can cover a set distance, or how far we can ride for a set period of time.  Another option might be to track how our heart rate responds efforts that vary over time and distance.  And then there's power--we can measure our average watts over a specific time or distance.

 

The problem with these metrics is that they are impacted by a number of variables that that make it difficult to get an accurate measure of performance.  Speed and time tests are impacted by wind, terrain, temperature, and traffic, while heart rate is dependent on such factors as fatigue, hydration, temperature, and humidity.  And even tracking average watts only offers on a rough approximation of actual performance, as this value doesn't express the relationship between power and body weight; if power testing is done outside, downhills, coasting, and tailwinds all have the effect of depressing overall average power.

 

A good performance assessment not only minimizes uncontrollable variables, it also provides useful and actionable information on which we can structure our training and anticipate our upcoming performances.   For cycling, one of the best means of assessing performance is through power testing, which helps us determine our thresholds and training zones and enables us to profile our strengths and weaknesses as cyclists.  Power testing doesn’t have to be complicated, but it is important to keep the following in mind:

 

1.       A consistent environment.  While it is possible to obtain accurate and repeatable data outdoors, it's critical to minimize variable conditions as much as possible.  Indoors is ideal, as conditions will be far more consistent throughout the year. 
 

2.       A good power measuring device.  A power meter MUST be consistent, accurate, and precise in order to obtain data that provides usable information.  Note that the better on the bike power meters (Quarq, SRM, and Powertap) measure power output from both legs; other power meters will measure the power from one leg and then double it.  The problem with the later approach is that we never produce power symmetrically across a range of cadences and effort; as a result, data that doubles one-sides power should be regarded as an approximation.

Similarly, there are a number of smart trainers on the market that offer a variety of features, but many of the newer models on the market fail at one or more of the criteria of consistency, accuracy, and precision.  For such indoor trainers,  data at best is an approximation.
 

3.       An understanding of protocols and data.  Even with a consistent, accurate, and precise power measuring device (a direct force power meter or indoor smart trainer) and a stable indoor environment, it's important that you understand what the data is telling you.  Average power isn't useful in itself; average power seen within the context of cadence, output variations, heart rate response, and body mass will tell a more complete story.  A good reading of data recorded after a properly structured test session will accommodate multiple factors when calculating FTP.
 

4.       FTP is a measure of how hard you can work for sixty minutes. You can use your FTP value to set training zones and calculate pacing strategies for your events.  For events shorter than 60 minutes in duration, you will be able to perform at a level above your sixty minute FTP; for longer events, you should plan on riding below your FTP, based on the anticipated time of your race. 

FTP is an important marker of how hard you are working; heart rate measures your response to work.  It is important to consider both FTP and heart rate during training and race sessions.  When you are tired, for instance, you might find it difficult to hit your target intensity as measured by watts; after a taper and recovery period, you may find that your targets feel easy.  FTP is a measure that reflects the specific time of the assessment and your physical condition on the day of the assessment.  It is not an absolute measure of your capacity for performance.

 

 

There are a number of different types of assessments that can be used to help athletes train more efficiently.  Most tests run approximately one hour, including warmup and cool down periods.  For athletes who train by heart rate, a ramp test is used  in which your heart rate is recorded at one minute intervals, as the resistance against which you are pedaling gradually increases over time.  By plotting your data, you can calculate your heart rate at threshold, which then is used to set your training zones.  Also, sport-specific training zones can be extrapolate from your ramp test.   For athletes who have access to a power meter or Computrainer, a standard power test centered on a twenty-minute time trial effort provides important information and can be used to set power-based training zones (twenty minutes is short enough to be able to pace consistently, and long enough to be able to calculate sixty minute values).  For those interested in learning more about the types of events most suitable for their unique physical characteristics, a series of short maximum power efforts placed within the context of a separate FTP test provides a remarkably detailed performance profile.  This combination of data will suggest whether short or long course events, for instance, are a good match for a specific athlete.

 

Knowing your FTP will help you maximize the effectiveness of your interval sessions by enabling you to establish targets hard enough to result in positive adaptation, while not so hard that recovery becomes problematic.  Placing your FTP in relationship to your body weight will determine your watts per kilogram ratio, which is a good metric to track within the context of your training goals.  And knowing the percentages of your FTP for your sessions enables you to calculate the short- and long-term training loads that you place on your body, which is invaluable in developing a sustainable plan for your upcoming races.  While it is relatively easy to design a range of assessments to profile different aspects of your performances, it is important that that the conditions of your tests are consistent, reliable, and accurate, and that you place the data recorded during the test in a context that reflects best practices and which accommodates time of assessment variables.

 

To learn more about performance testing or to schedule an assessment session, contact Vmps: info@mpstraining.com

Establishing Next Year's Foundation

posted Oct 15, 2015, 5:54 PM by Donald Vescio

The days are getting short and the temperature is dropping.  You've had a long, productive season and made gains in your training and racing.  You're tired from the long season, and it's time to take a break.  But taking a break doesn't mean putting your bike away for the next several months.  Don't give up your hard-earned fitness--start thinking about next season now.

 

1.     There are three primary attributes associated with cycling: strength (the ability to push down hard on the pedals); speed (the ability to spin the pedals at a rapid pace; endurance (the ability to pedal for extended periods of time). For most athletes, and especially for older athletes, strength is the most difficult attribute to improve, and it's the attribute that's most quickly lost after the cessation of training.  A good off season training program will focus on developing strength on the bike, enabling you to establish a solid foundation for the upcoming season.  Endurance is the attribute easiest to develop; it's also the attribute that's quickest to recover.  For November, December, and January, cut back the overall volume of your training and concentrate instead in getting in one to two high intensity, short to moderate duration cycling workouts.  Add endurance rides later in your preparation, when the winter weather begins to break.


 

2.     Don't neglect your core strength and overall fitness.  Resistance training and lifting weights will help establish and maintain overall body health.  Unfortunately, there is fairly extensive literature that indicates that strength training off of the bike does little to increase on the bike power.  But this said, strengthening your core will enable you to maintain an aero position for longer periods of time and extend the amount to time that you can ride at near maximal effort.  When considering off-the-bike strength training, focus on higher repetitions rather than higher weights/higher resistance, and carefully maintain your form and range of motion.  Also, make sure that your off-the-bike sessions don't negatively impact your on-the-bike strength training--if you want to lift weights on the same days that you ride, lift after you are done riding.


 

3.     There are many advantages to riding indoors, apart from protection from inclement weather.  Most indoor trainers have relatively small moments of inertia, which is a fancy way of saying that you have to work harder when you ride inside.    On an indoor trainer, you can't coast, and the dead spots of your pedal stroke is accentuated; because the conditions are so controllable, you can structure highly specific workouts to maximize your training time.  With a Computrainer or similar smart trainer, you can build erg workouts in which the trainer controls the resistance for you, enabling you to focus on developing maximum power on the bike.  Because you don't have to worry about traffic and variable road conditions, and because you aren't going to struggle to keep warm, time spent indoors on the bike represents a fantastic return on the time that you invest in your training.

 

4.     When possible, try to ride indoors with friends.  Use your weekday sessions for short, higher intensity interval sessions; on the weekends, dial back the intensity quite a bit and instead extend the duration of your sessions.  90 - 120 minutes is more than adequate for early off-season long course event preparation.  Ride at a conversational pace, watch a video, or listen to some music.  The goal is to ride at a light enough pace to recover from the prior week's intervals and to prepare for the following week's sessions. 

 

As November approaches and you're beginning to plan your off-season workouts, keep in mind that you're essentially trying to balance two different types of training: short, higher intensity interval sessions; longer, low intensity endurance sessions.  As the off-season progresses, you can manipulate the ratios of these workout types and introduce additional variables, such as high cadence efforts.  Maximize your on the bike training time by riding indoors and consider doing some of your higher intensity work on a smart trainer in ergometer mode, which will force you to ride at your specified resistance.  Rest by decreasing the overall time that you spend on the bike, but try to schedule one to two interval sessions per week.  A smart, structured training program will enable you to build off of your current fitness and set the foundation for an even better season next year.

 

IM Muskoka

posted Aug 21, 2015, 5:06 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Aug 21, 2015, 5:10 AM ]


Click on image to enlarge.

Ironman Muskoka has a greater overall elevation gain then Lake Placid and Mt. Tremblant.  Like Mt. Tremblant, there are no long, sustained climbs; rather, Muskoka is characterized by series of continuous hills that mark (as some riders describe) a saw tooth profile. None of the hills are overly steep, but they come in rapid succession, in much the same fashion as IM Wisconsin.   Muskoka is a two lap course that circles Lake of Bays.  On the course, there are two out-and-back sections, one of which is on Seabreeze Road, where you will have to do a 180 degree turn.  The other out-and-back section is on Portage Road, which connects the transition area to the course proper.     This is not a fast bike course and riders should expect to post slower times than they normally would record for a half or full IM distance ride.  This said, the setting for the race is exceptionally beautiful.  Muskoka is part of Cottage Country, a region renowned for its scenery.

 

The key to riding Muskoka is understanding its terrain.  This part of Ontario is known for its short, repetitive hills, none of which gain significant elevation, and none of which provide substantial opportunity for recovery.   Note that one of the most challenging section of the course is located immediately outside of transition on Portage Road. 



Click on image to enlarge.


Section 1

The first ~20km are on secondary roads, technical in nature, and varying in quality.  This section provides a good opportunity to establish your nutrition and hydration patterns for the remainder of the race.  The right turn onto Dwight Beach Road will lead to a short, steep downhill.  On this section, it is best to be on your base bars.

 

 

Section 2

From 20km to 60km, you'll mostly ride highway, and the hills will be longer and more gradual than those on the secondary roads.  At approximately the 35km mark, you will encounter a short, steep hill as you take a brief detour off of the highway.    On this downhill, consider remaining in your base bars.



Section 3

A right turn will take you onto Brunel Road at approximately the 60km mark and later the turn onto South Portage Road will bring you back to the spurt that connects the course with the transition.  This section, like the others, is characterized by a repetitious series of hills, and conservation of energy will be of paramount importance.




Strategies, Notes, and Other Stuff

  1. Click here for RPE chart.
     
  1. While some hills have grades of 6%, most are much less steep.  This is not a climber's course; it is a course the emphasizes a conservative approach to pacing.

  2. The course is lollipop-shaped, with an approximately 8km spur that links transition to the loop around Lake of Bays  Ride this opening spur easy; get comfortable on the bike, take in nutrition, and easily spin your legs whenever you can.  On the short, steep hills, shift to a low gear, but be careful that you don't increase your cadence when you do so.  Use as little energy as possible on these climbs.

  3. If ever in doubt, be conservative in your pacing.  Any energy that you expend on your ride will carry a cost on your run; pacing too hard on the bike, even if you finish the ride strongly, will have a disproportionately negative impact on your subsequent run.

  4. Always defer to RPE and not your HR or power data.  If it feels like you're riding at a hard pace, then you are.  Use HR and power as second level of importance information.
     
  5. Multi-loop courses are ideal for negative splits (for instance, the second lap is faster than the first).  The key to this course is pacing.  Focus on your RPE and cross reference it with your HR data (knowing that it likely will drift upward during the course of the event) and power data.  Do not focus on average power for this course, as the variable nature of its terrain will depress your aggregate values.  On the uphills, try not to exceed 80-85% threshold power.

  6. Go out on your first lap conservatively, with an overall average RPE of approximately 2-3.    If you're feeling good and conditions have not significantly changed during your first loop, bring the overall pace up to RPE 3-4 on loop two.    Remember, if you go too hard on the bike, you'll have problems on the run.  At the beginning of lap two, assess and plan accordingly ("I'll ride the same pace/I'll ride a little harder"). 

  7. Muskoka is a course that is not very fast, so pushing the pace will take a significant toll on your run.  Remember that you won’t be able to balance out a poor run with a quick bike split; be conservative!

  8. In the ideal world, where courses are flat to gently rolling, I’d suggest that power meter users think of riding the entire race at ~68 - 72% FTP, and perhaps up to ~75% for lap two. Given the relatively constant series of short hills, use your RPE, HR, and power data in terms of values NOT to exceed: “I will not exceed RPE of 5 for the steepest of hills,” etc.  On the steepest of hills, shoot for an RPE of high four or low five; on the downhills immediately after these climbs, try to get your RPE down to a low 2.

  9. On the course's steeper descents, go to your base bars and drop your shoulders if you want to go faster, or lift your shoulders (don’t don’t lock your arms!) if you want to go slower.  Try to “float” on a bigger gear to keep some movement in your legs—use light force, at a relatively low cadence.  Consider the downhills as active recovery for the next hill!

  10. To repeat: if your HR and respiratory rates high: go to a slightly harder gear and drop your cadence by ~5 RPM; if your legs feel heavy, burning: go to a slightly easier gear and increase your cadence by ~5 RPM.

  11. Remember all of the big gear work we did over the winter and spring.  On longer, steeper hills when your speed drops low, move up on your bars, slide back on your seat, push forward and down on your pedal stroke, and drop your heels on the downstoke.

  12. Be aero!  Tuck in your jersey if it's loose; minimize the number of large objects that you carry in jersey pockets, if any; use an aero helmet--and a rear disc, if you have one.

  13. If it's raining hard and if rain is forecasted for most of the race, consider decreasing your tire pressure by approximately 5 - 10 lbs. 

  14. In your race kit and special needs bags, include a simple cycling cap and four to five plastic grocery bags.  If it is raining hard, wear the hat brim forward underneath your helmet to direct water away from your eyes--this will help your vision considerably.  If it's raining and cold, consider placing one of your plastic grocery bags underneath the front of your jersey (not the back!), and even underneath the front of the legs of your cycling shorts.   This will help keep you much warmer.  

 

Best of luck to all Vmps athletes, as well as all athletes competing at Muskoka!.





1-10 of 106