Don: Cycling Tech

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!.





IM Mt. Tremblant—About the Bike

posted Aug 9, 2015, 2:36 PM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Aug 10, 2016, 11:26 AM ]




Click for larger view of course map.




Ironman Mt Tremblant has very similar elevation gain as IM Lake Placid, but rather than bunching the bulk of gain in two, long climbs, climbing takes place throughout the entire course at Tremblant.  Tremblant’s course has excellent quality roads and while there are no long climbs (save for Cheminn Duplessis at approximately the 40 mile mark), plenty are steep, topping out at 8%.  None of the descents are technical; as this is an out-and-back-course, you’ll get to bomb down the same hills in the opposite direction.    From the official Mt. Tremblant site:




When looking at the course, there are three extended sections that link climbs together:



The approximate locations of the climbs are:



Sections

Section One: Montee Ryan
This section is located in the first nine miles of the course.  The first few miles contain two traffic circles (if I recall correctly) and generally trend downward from the start—but this is the general trend, and you will note that course is rolling on the way out.  Between miles four and nine, you will hit your first extended elevation gain through a series of short, steep hills.  As the hills come in rapid succession, use the descents—which also are short—for recovery.  Go into a bigger gear on the descents, soft pedal, and rest your legs, while dropping your heart rate.  When climbing the hills, go to a smaller gear and try not to let your cadence lag much below 70 RPM.  Shift into smaller gears in before their use is necessary, but do so in stages.  Try not to immediately drop into your smallest gear and over-spin your legs--this only will make you tired.  This is a course where you can use your momentum to help flatten out the hills.

 

Section Two: Route 117
This is mostly a wide open, rolling stretch of road between miles 9 -30.    While there is no single large climb in this section, you will face a series of rolling hills, with very little flat terrain.  This section can be windy, so try to stay in your aerobars as much as possible—stand and stretch on one of the many uphill sections for recovery.  Aero is especially important in this section!

 

Section Three: Back through Montee Ryan
On this section, you will return to the center of town and have an approximately 1 ¾ mile climb up the hill that you descend on the way out from the start. The grade averages ~5% and is steady; consider going to a smaller gear to rest a bit, making sure that your cadence does drift excessively high or low.

 

Section Four Chemin Duplessis
This is the hardest part of the course, which begins at approximately mile 40 and continues to the 46 mile mark.   The hills are steep, but short—think in terms of the hills at Rev 3 Quassy, rather than the opening continuous climb at Lake Placid.  In a lot of ways, Chemin Duplessis is somewhat similar to the Three Bears at Lake Placid, though the individual hills on this climb are shorter and steeper.  

 

Strategies, Notes, and Other Stuff

  1. Click here for RPE chart. 

  2. While some hills have grades of 8%, most are much less steep.  This is not a climber's course; it is a course the emphasizes a conservative approach to pacing.

  3. The course is two 90km/56mile laps.  On the course are five aid stations; the special needs station is on Montee Ryan.  You don’t have to carry hydration for a full 112 mile ride! 

  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 course of the event) and power data.

  7. 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.    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. Mt. Tremblant is a course that can be ridden quickly, but at 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 ~70% 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. 

  10. Stay tucked on Rt. 117 as much as possible, as this is an open road that is as close to flat as you will get.  On the 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 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. 

  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.  

 

Best of luck to all Vmps athletes, as well as all athletes competing at Mt. Tremblant.








Bicycle Hydration Strategies: Optimizing Aerodynamics

posted Jul 8, 2015, 4:18 PM by Donald Vescio

As the summer heat is upon us and preparations are in full swing for our "A" half and full distance events, it's time to turn our thoughts to hydration.  Exercise performance can be significantly impacted with the loss of approximately 2% of bodyweight due to dehydration.    Other studies indicate an approximately 30% decline in work capacity can result with as little as 5% loss of body weight due to dehydration.   Clearly, it is critical that an effective hydration strategy is developed as part of event preparation.

 

How we carry our fluids on the bike is an important component of our overall hydration strategies, and improper configuration of our bikes to accommodate hydration needs can create significant aerodynamic penalties.  The most aero of bicycles can lose their advantages with poor bottle placements; in some instances, careful placement of our hydration equipment may even lead to measurable aerodynamic gains.  Don't be this rider:


Keep in mind that cycling primarily is an event centered on airflow management.  Effectively managing airflow enables greater speeds with less effort.  (Remember, approximately 90% of our work on the bike is used to overcome aerodynamic drag.)  The goal Is to enable air to flow smoothly as possible around our bodies and our bikes; as air passes over us, areas of low pressure and turbulence will form, which increase aerodynamic drag.  The greater the aerodynamic drag, the harder we have to work to maintain a given speed.




In the image above, notice the zones in blue, which represents turbulent air flow.  The red areas are regions of significantly disturbed airflow, most of which is associated with the movement of our legs.  As we ride, air flows around and over our bodies, eventually collapsing back on itself behind our bike.  The area behind the seat is critical in this regard: while the airflow is disturbed in this region, it can be  extended rearward and made much more turbulent through the introduction of non-airfoil items.  Unfortunately, this is the location where most triathletes add water bottles to meet their hydration needs.




Note the distance that separates the two saddle mounted water bottles from the rider in the above image.  In this instance, as air flows over the rider's back and begins to collapse, it encounters a large, distinctly non-aerodynamic water bottle placement.  This, in turn, increases turbulence and drag, which means that the rider has to work much harder for a given speed.    Ideally, saddle mounted water bottles should be buried underneath the seat as much as possible, which partially removes them from air flow:




Additionally, no more than a single bottle should be placed behind the seat.  Riders can zip tie a standard cage to their saddle rails (see image above) or rely on a simple Velcro strap to mount their bottle:




Again, the key is to minimize the disruption of bottle placement on airflow transition as much as possible.  Note the fairing (since declared illegal) on the rider below:





Obviously, an athlete will need more than a single bottle to complete a long course event.  Adding bottles to the center triangle of the bike's frame is a common strategy, but this can compromise aerodynamics:




For the rider above, rather than mounting two bottles inside of the frame, moving the bottle from the downtube to behind the seat, tucking it underneath the rails, will increase aerodynamic efficiency.  Leaving the bottle on the seat tube is an acceptable compromise, as this area already experiences significant aerodynamic turbulence and (in some instance) the seat tube placement can help split air around the rear wheel, thus shifting some turbulence further rearward on the bike.

 

Bottle placement on the seat tube is important, and the trend is to mount bottles as close to the bike's bottom bracket as possible to minimize aerodynamic penalties.  Cervelo designed their P4 bike with this in mind.  There are aftermarket bottles that can be used on most current triathlon bikes, some of which are brand specific, while others are adaptable to multiple brands:





Compare the bottle placement on the Giant above to the placement on the Quintana Roo below.  The placement on the Giant should yield a smaller aerodynamic penalty.




So far, we have looked at how to minimize the impact that bottle placement might have on our aerodynamic efficiency.  It is possible to use bottle placement to enhance our aerodynamics by focusing on the front end of our bikes.  The front end of our bikes represents the leading edge of the surface that presents itself to the wind.  It is possible to use a water bottle to strategically manage airflow, leading to aerodynamic gains.  There are a variety of handlebar mounted water bottle options available today and they fall into two categories: horizontally mounted bottles; and vertically mounted bottles. 




Vertically mounted bottles fit between the aerobars and when mounted closely against the frame, they can increase the efficiency of airflow around the top tube and stem of the bike; in some instance, a properly mounted vertical bottle will route air around items placed immediately behind the stem, such as a small bag for nutrition items or spare tubes.  A vertically mounted bottle also can mitigate a poorly designed front end of a bike by routing air around the head tube.  All of the examples above are acceptable options for the long course athlete.  Keep in mind, however that the convenience of the straw for hydration can be compromised by its length.  A cylindrical cross section is remarkably unaerodynamic, and a long straw will create significant and measurable drag.  The key when using vertical bottles is to keep the straw as short as possible.

 

The other option is to mount the water bottle horizontally between the aerobar extensions.  Do so fills in the gap between the arms, which helps direct air around the body, in effect functioning as a fairing.  Horizontally mounted bottle offer a measurable amount of drag reduction, so much so that the UCI (cycling's international governing body) has prohibited their use.  A standard bottle cage can be zip tied between the extensions; additionally, there are a number of dedicated mounts that one can purchase, though their benefits over a zip tied cage is minimal.




As the popularity of horizontally mounted bottles has grown, manufacturers have developed more sophisticated versions that enable their use without removing them from their mounts:




Hydration is critical for a successful long course performance, and smart athletes will pay an equal amount of attention to the aerodynamic impact that their hydration strategies might entail.  And part of this strategy is the planned use of feed stations during the course of the event--rather than carrying all the liquid that you need to consume during your ride, refill if possible during the course of the event.  The more accessories that you add to your bike, the greater the potential aerodynamic impact. 


General recommendations: 


  1. Be strategic in your placement of your water bottles.
  2. Seat mounted water bottles should be tucked as far underneath the saddle as possible; one bottle tends to be less aerodynamically disruptive than two.
  3. Some framesets are designed with the use of downtube mounted water bottles in mind; most are not, however, so avoid mounting a bottle in this location if possible.
  4. A seat tube mounted water bottle offer less aerodynamic disadvantage than a downtube mounted bottle.
  5. If possible, mount the seat tube bottle close to the frame's bottom bracket.
  6. Handlebar mounted bottles can be aerodynamically neutral, and possibly aerodynamically advantageous, depending on their design and how they are installed.
  7. Depending on the bike and its configuration, even an empty horizontally mounted water bottle should be used for aerodynamic gain.
  8. Minimize the length of straws used with front mounted water bottles.
  9. Aerodynamically shaped water bottles tend to be more efficient than standard round bottles.
  10. And don't forget, an empty bottle can hold your flat repair kit.

 

Even for 140.6 races, you do not have to carry all of your fluids.  Do some advance research and learn how many feed stations will be available day of the event and what their nutrition and hydration options might be.  Many athletes can compete very successfully carrying only two bottles--one with plain water, and the other with a preferred sports drink.  With a little planning and careful bottle placement, you will retain most of the aerodynamic properties of your bike and have a faster race.






But It's Nice Outside!

posted Apr 9, 2015, 11:16 AM by Donald Vescio

Now that the calendar tells us that spring has arrive and we’ve begun to turn our thoughts toward long rides in the warm sunshine, it might be a good time for us to remember why we spent so much time training indoors since last November.  While there are many athletes who will train exclusively indoors, regardless of the weather or the season--Andy Potts is one such competitor who comes to mind--you don’t have to give up the freedom of the trail or the open road to be successful.   There are many professional triathletes and cyclists, however, who incorporate indoor training year ‘round to optimize their performance.


Especially for time-starved athletes who need to balance the demands of their sport with career, family, and recovery, indoor training sessions offer great returns.  For mechanical and physiological reasons, riding indoors creates a greater training impulse than riding outside: riding outside, it’s difficult to realize a consistent effort due to environmental conditions (temperature, wind, traffic, etc.) and technical considerations (we get much more recovery pedaling outside, when we coast each pedal stroke, than indoors on a trainer, where we have to pedal with force the entire ride.  Because of the greater training impulse associated with indoor riding, we can assume that an hour on the trainer is roughly equivalent to ninety minutes out on the road, for a given training session.  


The short version of this is that you can achieve a greater training impulse indoors than out, which means that your session can be shorter.  For the most part, your body doesn’t care how training stress accumulates during a workout; what does matter is the volume of training stress per session.  One can train six hours outside for an IM competition, or four indoors and achieve the same level of preparation.


Perhaps more importantly, riding indoors enables you to control the variables that impact the quality of your workouts.  For the past several years, I’ve done all of my intervals--both in-season and off--indoors, as I can concentrate on producing as much power as possible, without having to worry about road conditions or weather.   These indoor sessions enable me to ride at an intensity that would not be safe outdoors; because the mechanical efficiency of riding indoors is less than that of riding outside, I’m also training myself to produce power for a greater percentage of my pedal stroke than usual, which translates into more power on race day.


Now that the 2015 season has begun, I’ll continue to ride indoors.  I’ll do all of my intervals on the trainer, where I can accurately plot my progression throughout the season and minimize variables that impact the quality of my workouts.  I’ll still do some long rides indoors in preparation for long events and to avoid the negative impact that cold, wet weather might have on the training stress that I’ve planned for specific sessions.  I’ll race outside, and when the weather is nice, I’ll do recovery rides outside, too.  And when I want to do light endurance rides, there’s nothing better than going out with a group of friends on a warm, summer day.



IM Lake Placid--About the Bike

posted Jul 21, 2014, 9:59 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Jul 20, 2015, 11:16 AM by Elaine Vescio ]

(updated 7.20.15)

Ironman Lake Placid has a rich, long history and is an event attractive to both first-time long course athletes and multi-long course finishers.  The bike course has a reputation of being very difficult, and depending on where you do most of your riding, the course can be characterized anywhere from rolling to mountainous.  The profile of the bike course is as follows (rumor has it that the swim predominately is flat).  See: http://www.mapmyride.com/us/lake-placid-ny/ironman-lake-placid-bike-course-route-403905

 

 

I've ridden and raced this course many times.  If you ride in central and northern New England, you won't have much difficulty with the climbs at Lake Placid.  Mt. Wachusetts is considerably harder than any climb at IMLP, and the ride around Quabbin Reservoir also is much more challenging.    The difficulty of Lake Placid is one of pacing.  The first significant climb is only two miles out of town, so it can be tempting to let adrenalin and excitement take over and ride too hard.  Similarly, a lot of athletes get into trouble when they try to make up time pushing big gears hard on the downhills.  Most of the potential loss or gain in time will occur in the middle twenty miles or so, and on the gradual stretches of the final climb.

 

All things being equal, riders should shoot for negative splits on multi-loop courses.  Lake Placid, long finish hill and occasionally windy conditions, make negative splits more challenging.  A good race strategy would be to use RPE to monitor your pacing, with heart rate and power data being used to provide additional secondary feedback.

 

 

 

The key to keep in mind that the course itself can be divided into a series of segments that roughly can be defined as follows, based on significant climbs:


 

Keene

S1: ~2.1 miles to 7.4: Opening pitch is steep, but once past pull-off area, grade decreased significantly.  The bottom is the hardest part of this climb.  Start the climb in an easy gear and try to keep well below threshold.  Use any slight downhills for recovery--and remember, they are not steep enough to go into a big gear and really push.  (Overall RPE 3-4 on the steepest sections)

 

S2: ~7.8 miles to 14.5:  Primarily downhill, some parts fast.  Use this stretch for recovery, hydration, fueling, etc.  On the steeper downhills, go into a bigger gear and soft pedal to keep the legs moving.  HR and watts should drop significantly on this segment.  (RPE 1-2)

 

 

 

Jay

S3: 14.5 to 23.2.  Rolling, but generally trending downhill.  Cadence self-selected around normal long course race RPMs.    You're mostly racing this segment. RPE ~3.

 

S4: ~23.2 to 25.4 and 26.4 to 27.8:  These are two steep poppers.  Gear down for the climb and use the descent between them to recover, fuel, and hydrate.  The key for these two climbs it to adopt a relatively steady cadence--don't gear down so much that you carry a high cadence, which will later impact your run.   RPE 4-5 on the climbs.

 

S5: ~27.8  to 42.25: Mostly rolling, with a 200' / 1.5% climb at 37.8.  Pay attention to respiratory/HR and cadence.  If your heart rate and respiratory rates become labored--difficult to hold a conversation, then go one gear harder and drop cadence by ~5 RPM.  This is another segment in which you are consciously racing, and not focusing so much on recovery.  RPE 3-4.

 

 

 

Whiteface

S6: ~42.5 to 55: This is your final climb.  In general, it's shallower than the opening climb, though there is a steeper pitch  ~46.7 to 47.6.  View this segment as a long headwind stretch in which you focus on HR and cadence.  At the 48 mile mark, the course still trends upward, but at a grade similar to 42 to 46 miles. RPE ~3-4.

 

 


Overall Strategies

 

  1. Click here for RPE chart.
     
  2. Multi-loop courses are ideal for negative splits (for instance, the second lap is faster than the first).  Given the hills and wind at Lake Placid, it is not unusual for riders to be anywhere between a 10 and 25 minute increase in time for the second lap.  The key is to 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.
     
  3. Go out on your first lap conservatively, with an overall average RPE of approximately 3.    If you're feeling good and conditions have not significantly changed during your first loop, bring the overall pace up to RPE 4.    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").
     
  4. For power meter users, think of riding the entire race at ~68 - 72% FTP, and perhaps up to ~75% for lap two (but be careful on this!).
     
  5. Stay tucked on the downhills and use aerodynamics to your advantage.  Remember, unless the descents are very technical--and IMLP's downhills are not!--then not much time will be gained on the descents.  On longer descents, go to a bigger gear and gently push down on your pedals to keep your legs moving.
     
  6. 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.
     
  7. 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.
     
  8. To accelerate, initially stay in a relatively small gear, slide forward on your seat, and try a slightly toes-down posture on the downstroke.  Gradually increase your gearing as your speed increases.
     
  9. 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.
     
  10. 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.
     
  11. Be adaptable!  Adjust your pacing strategies and data targets based on race day conditions and as situations unfold during the course of the race.
     
  12. Don't forget your nutrition and hydration schedules--these are just as important as any on the bike pacing strategy.
     

 

Good luck to all who are racing IMLP.  Preparing for a race of this nature is an accomplishment in itself.  When in doubt, be conservative, always cross reference any pacing schedules or on the bike data with your RPE scale, and (most importantly!) enjoy your race!

 

 
Reminders and Advice

  1. 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. 

  2. Remember, you don't have to carry all the fluid that you'll consume during the course of the ride as you exit T1.

  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. When selecting your equipment, always value aerodynamics over weight--the math is simple.  Aerodynamics will be far, far more important that lighter equipment on even very hilly/mountainous courses.

  6. Consider running latex tubes in your race wheels, but carry butyl tubes (which are easier to install) as your spares.  (And practice changing a flat before you leave for the Adirondacks.)

  7. You will not overheat with an aero helmet.  On the other hand, tell your competitors that it's dangerous to wear an aero helmet in July!

  8. When descending a long hill, it's okay to go to your base bars for greater stability and security;  when in your base bars, drop your shoulders when you want to go faster, and sit up when you want to slow down.  Try to minimize your use of your brakes, especially if it's a wet day.

  9. Use corners, descents, and high speed turns an opportunities to rest and recover.  You won't gain much time taking corners in your aerobars, and you'll lose more if you fall.




Additional Resources

Ironman Lake Placid Bike Course: What to Expect

[good breakdown of the bike course]

 

Ironman Lake Placid Guide
[10x Lake Placid competitor who offers advice on the swim, bike, and run]
 

Generic Carbon Clincher Wheelsets

posted Jul 6, 2014, 4:22 PM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Mar 4, 2016, 2:54 PM ]

I've been getting a number of questions regarding affordable carbon race wheels, so I thought that I'd share some information with the group.  Industry leaders in carbon wheels include Zipp, Hed, Reynolds, and Enve.  These companies make excellent wheels that have a solid track record.  They are relatively expensive, but their cost is, in part, tied to their research and development, as well as customer support.  If something goes wrong with them, you'll have direct access to the manufacturer or its authorized representatives.  Carbon clincher rims represent sophisticated material design and manufacturing, and these mainstream vendors pioneered the use of carbon fiber in this application.

 

Most of these wheels are manufactured in the East Asia, and the wheels are built using each company's proprietary molds.  There are two manufacturers in China, however, that also sell generic, unbranded carbon wheelsets.  While they don't have the name cache associated with the mainstream wheel manufacturers, they do offer very good value for the consumer.  These wheels normally include some of the latest design cues that are common today, such as wide rim widths to help decrease rolling resistance, toroidal aerodynamic profiles to help decrease rolling resistance, and structural carbon builds (rather than attaching a thin carbon fairing to a standard rim, the fairing is a structural part of the wheel).  Normally, these generic carbon wheels also come with carbon-specific brake pads and lightweight quick release skewers.  These are solid, workman-like wheels--while other manufacturers might offer hubs that are a bit better in quality, most users will be satisfied with the generics--and you can't beat the prices, which run approximately $450 - $500, shipped and delivered. So, for about one-quarter the price, you'll get 90-95% of the performance of high cost, name-brand wheels.  The trade-off is that you are dealing with a vendor who is located overseas, without a local representative.

 

Generic carbon wheels are available via Ebay and are built to order (you'll have your choice of hub and spoke colors, etc.) and normally are delivered within two weeks.  Vendor communication tends to be excellent, and your Ebay's terms of agreement protects your purchase in the unlikely event that something goes wrong with the transaction.  While most of the high-end manufacturers will offer a replacement cost for wheels damaged in use, these are so inexpensive that you can purchase an entire new set if you damage one of your wheels.

 

An Ebay search for "carbon clincher wheels" will yield pages of results.  I look for a seller with several hundred transactions associated with his/her Ebay identity.  In terms of offerings, a very fast wheelset combination would be an 88mm rear wheel, paired with a 60mm front.  This will give a fantastic balance of aerodynamics and handling.  A more conservative pairing would be 60mm front and rear, 50mm front and rear, or 38mm front and rear.  The shallower wheels tend to be lighter, while the deeper wheels tend to be faster.  I prefer to run a deeper rear wheel than the front, which stabilizes handling in cross winds.

 

Other details to consider--most of you will be using SRAM or Shimano for your drivetrain, so make sure that you purchase SRAM/Shimano-compatible rear hubs.  Otherwise, double-check to make sure that you are purchasing clincher wheels, or you'll have to buy special tires and glue them to the rims.

 

Here's a typical listing on Ebay--in fact, I bought this very set of wheels for testing  :



(click to enlarge)


Also, check for delivery times and shipping costs.  Sometimes shipping is included in the purchase price, while other times it is not.  Shipping usually will run approximately $60.  Also note delivery times tend to be very conservative and you'll likely receive the wheels well before the stated delivery date.

 

Generic carbon wheels are a viable option for cost-sensitive cyclists who are looking for good values in their equipment upgrades.


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