Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Riding to Warmaug and training w/ power

I've been able to log a few decent outdoor rides since arriving home from Tucson a few weeks ago. I did my first Lake Warmaug ride last week on a beautiful 65 degree sunny day. Riding around Lake Warmaug is extremely popular to any cyclist in Western Connecticut. I have done this route so many times and yet it never loses it's allure. It's not just the eight mile beautiful loop around the lake though - to me, this part of the ride is just an easy section to recover and get in some nutrition along with beautiful scenery. The round trip ride from my house is roughly 85 miles give or take (I have a few different route options that can lengthen or shorten the trip by a couple of miles) and the whole ride is picturesque, riding along New Englend country roads. The ride out through Southbury and into Roxbury, then Washington is relentless with hills. Nothing to big, but there is one right after the other and some very steep. The return trip is not much different. This course takes it's toll on you. But I love it and just like putting the top down on a convertible or opening up all the house windows on that first spring like Saturday of the year, it signifies a change of seasons for me, putting a period on the end of winter. Sure, we may get a few crappy, cold wintery days still, but my mind is now focused on Spring time and, again, I love it! I love the thought of early Saturday bike rides, and running in daylight at 7:30pm. As much as I try to make each year a bit different, there are traditions and events I've become accustomed to that just feel good. The Warmaug ride is one of them.

I took my Cannondale Slice out for the first time of the year on this loop. I rode my road bike in Tucson and do most of my early season training on my road bike, but I felt like taking out the rocket. The combination of my position being dialed in on this bike, the fact that the bike is just plain fast, and also that it looks extremely fast (yes, there is a huge placebo effect here) meant that I was riding probably harder than I should have, but that's ok. Sometimes you need to bend the margins a bit. When you do it regularly, that's when we get ourselves into trouble.

I was thinking a lot about training with power while riding out to Warmaug and keeping an eye on my own wattage. Training with power has become extremely popular and yet I feel most really don't know how to use their expensive power meter correctly. There are some great books on training with power yet, they can be overly complicated and take some of the enjoyment out of training in general. plus, I feel that many of the tests that are set up for testing threshold are inaccurate. Take functional threshold for example; this is measured by the average power you can exert by going as hard as you can for an hour. many athletes and coaches do and give this test and then extrapolate training plans based off of this number. Yet, most don't really get a super accurate depiction of one's functional threshold because it's extremely hard to push as hard as you can for one hour. Many will do the test and come up with a number. Then, they race an Olympic distance triathlon or bike race and see that they maintained a much higher average power output during an hour portion of the race. So how do you figure out what power zones are correct for you? You ride a bunch, and review your power information and/or have your coach review it. I have athletes that are training for an IM, and they give me their average watts for a 5 hour training ride, yet this number may be front or rear loaded. I want to know where there power was early in the ride, late in the ride, and what their heart rate was doing in correlation to their power, and also how they refueled during the ride. I'll also have them ride a set course at a certain heart rate every six to eight weeks and we will analyze their power output for this course. If their weight hasn't increased and the conditions are similar, then it's a pretty accurate depiction on whether you are making decent training gains, not recovering well, training ineffectively, ... The point is, don't get to fixated on a certain number because it may in fact limit you. It's quite similar to all these triathletes and cyclists that spend a good amount of hard earned cash on a bike fit where they are analyzed on a trainer indoors, and even though the fit may take over an hour, they are pedaling easily on the bike for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Well, then you see them 90 minutes into a hard outdoor ride and they are sitting on their bike in a totally different manner than their "professional" fit suggested mainly because they are uncomfortable, not generating decent power, ... What I'm saying is that real world analyzing and testing trumps a lot of the lab junk.

Enough on this though, the main idea behind this post is that Spring is here, so get out there and enjoy it!



Friday, March 05, 2010

Finally finishing Tucson Camp Report and other crap.

I came back from my Tucson camp into a busy life that included catching up on my PT business, working with some new athletes to the EH coaching group, my kids busy schedules amongst other things and before you know it, over a week has passed. I wanted to get down my final thoughts on the Tucson Camp since this camp not only went off really well, but I also had a hell of a lot of fun.

Five years ago I put on a camp in Palm Springs/Joshua Tree National Park area. Brian Grasky from Tucson was there and asked if I'd be interested in putting on a camp in Tucson - in which I did the following year. The very first time I rode up Mt. Lemmon, I knew that this was the place for my winter camp.

Day 5 of camp began with a swim session. The group was in the pool at 7am and I put them through a short yet challenging session, banging out a bunch of fast, descending 50's. Big Leo did most of them under 30 seconds! Quick breakfast at Jamba of course and then we all prepped to ride up Lemmon. I broke the camp into three groups, leaving at staggered times from the hotel, with the idea to get everyone to the top of Lemmon around the same time. It was in the mid 70's at 2500 feet as we spun the 30 minutes over to the base of the climb.

Once you hit "mile 0", the constant elevation begins. The first seven miles are probably the most challenging on Lemmon. There are some steeper gradients higher up, but the first seven miles is a very constant climb. The temperatures were still warm during this early climbing phase. At my camps, whenever we have a big challenge in front of us like Lemmon, or Whiteface in NY, or the Saturday CT Camp ride, I can tell right away that most of the campers really want to do their own thing for the session. The fact that everyone shows up with their ipod headphones in ear is a subtle hint that says "leave me the f'k alone today!" So as we started to climb, I settled into a rhythm and just rode, instead of worrying about spending time with each camper. I did ride up on most and spend a few minutes with each one, gaining a sense of how they were doing and if they did indeed want some company. But for the most part, everyone was focused on doing their own thing and probably solving life's problems as they climbed and climbed listening to whatever it is that adds that touch of rhythm or motivation.

About half way up, I was alone and so I turned on my Oakley Thumps and the first song that pops on is ironically the Foo Fighters "Times like These". I'm riding in shorts and a sleeveless jersey in March up one of the best climbs one can do, pedaling my bike on this gorgeous sunny day and thinking it doesnt get much better.

I had good legs this day, yet kept the pace controlled and aerobic, reminding myself often that it's only March, and so I just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. At about mile 20, the climb descends for a bit then rolls. Now you are up over 8000 feet and there is a few feet of snow on the ground and the temperatures were in the low 50's. I'm still in shorts and no sleeves and I felt fine except for my hands which were getting numb from the cold. I hit the right turn for the ski area at the 25 mile mark in two hours flat and climbed the last two miles - the steepest two miles out of the 27. People were skiing at this small ski slope on top of this mountain!

A quick descent and we all gathered at the cookie shack for a snack, before adding a bunch of layers of clothing and descending back down. There were lots of cyclists riding Lemmon today, including a few from the Garmin Transitions squad.

Over two hours to climb, and maybe 45 minutes to descend. The descent is a blast, with big sweeping turns and nice roads. You barely have to touch your brakes. Some of the snow run off up top did make me a bit nervous, but otherwise, it was let er rip.

These days, the ones where you do something that you can only do at certain places in the world, are the ones that mean something. These are the days that make these training camps memorable and that give you confidence to carry into the big training towards the season when you get home. On December 31st, 2010, when one is reflecting back on what they did in 2010, this is a day that will stand out.

We all regrouped at the hotel and did an easy 30 minute brick run, and followed this up with some great food from Zona 78 including some great beer and wine.

The camp wasn't done however. Friday, we awoke to make the short drive over to Sabino Canyon to run the telephone line once again. I gave the campers three options, all which would take somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. The two hour option was to run the telephone line trail up, over, and down to the road, then turn and head back up, over and down, traversing back the way we came. This is a grueling yet beautiful run. Kerri from last years camp and a friend of hers joined us for this run. The sun pops up over the mountains sometime between 7:30 and 8am and seems to warm you instantly. Sabino Canyon is just incredible - I sat next to a guy on the flight home who's lived in Tucson for 18 years now, maybe 5 miles from Sabino Canyon, and yet he's never been there!? That's just pathetic, and I told him this.

Molson was heading out Friday afternoon which meant he'd miss the last long ride. Jeff, who has had his share of back issues, did amazingly well with the training this week. He seemed to get stronger each day as well. But where he really shined was the energy he added to the camp. Jeff seems to really embrace the experience and enjoy every moment of it. This enviroment - this is where he shines. He had us laughing all week, so thanks for that jeff! He and Gus have become very frequent campers. These two have attended almost every camp I've hosted over the last six or seven years, and as much as I appreciate their loyalty, I appreciate their friendship more. Enough on them though because they may actually read this and I don't want their heads to swell.

The final camp ride left from the hotel and headed west on a bike path through town to Gates pass, climbed over Gates pass and then did the McCain loop through Saguaro Park west. Very solid ride, everyone held up really well and yes, it was sunny and in the 70's. I could elaborate more but this post is already lengthy and I'm getting a bit bored with it, so until next year, adios Tucson!

OK, the other crap is going to have to wait until my next post.



Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tucson - Day 4

Day 4, everyone is typically a bit tired and emotions can run high when you are tired. It's easy to overanalyze and over dramatize. I was suprised at, given the fact that many were quite tired, attitudes were still excellent. So we decided to be adventerous and start the day with one of my favorite places to run which is back at Sabino Canyon and this time we would tackle Bear Canyon/Seven Falls. I knew that with the wet winter Tucson had and the snow melting from the mountain caps, the river would be flowing, so I told everyone to prepare to get wet.

This trails follows against the river, go up the canyon. it's a constant elevation gain on the way out and you have to cross the river six or seven times to stay on the trail. the water crossings were deep and most had fun spplashing through the cold water as though they were kids again.

I'm always interested at these camps to see who responds well to some of the training I throw at them. Running these trails takes an adventerous heart. Many endurance athletes are to focused on numbers. Their pace per mile, their heart rate, their distance, ... But in March, when most arent racing for awhile, the benefits of a run like this far surpass any other type of training run they could be doing. Why? because it builds aerobic fitness, strength, agility and lateral stability, and most importantly, it's a blast and something you will remember. I reminded those with me that soon they will be back at home running there same old routes and that they should cherish this experience. Gus, Brad, and Brian took it all in, and the huge grins on their face was enough to let me know they were loving this trail run. They all commented that it was the best run they have ever done, and you know what? I have to agree.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tucson - Day 3

I always think that I'll get some solid sleep while at my camps given the fact that we are usually back in our rooms by 8:30pm, I don't have the kids who may wake me up, and we begin each day around 6:30am compared to 4:30am when I am home. It never happens though - the solid sleep that is. I've been up at 3:30am everyday thus far, and I usually adapt quickly to a time change so I don't think it's that.

Tuesday was a great "typical" day at camp keeping in mind that no camp day is typical compared to what we are used to back home. I thought I'd run through what takes place:

6am: Starbucks run (I get a grande quad americano)

6:30am: meet in hotel lot to drive over to Saguaro Park East for a 1 hr run

7-8am: run in the park which was amazing this morning once again. The run starts on a hilly road that has you feeling as though you are on a roller coaster. The sun was just popping up and the air temps were perfect for running in - in the upper 50's. The views in this desert park seem fake, given that everything looks perfect. The trail that cuts through the center of this park is one of my favorites. it's a constant gradual climb, something the campers are getting used to out here, and to me, it's just amazingly peaceful.

8:30am: breakfast at Jamba Juice and Brueggers (i prefer the peanut butter moo'd shake with a whey protein boost and a couple of bagels with nothing on them)

10:30am: meet to drive up to Oro Valley Pool.

11am: ride from the pool north up to Oracle. This again is a constant gradual uphill on the way to Oracle. It was bizarre in the sense that it felt like the crest of the hill was just ahead yet it never came?. The pace started very social and then some of the campers were feeling a bit jumpy and it started to get fun. The descent back was a blast yet there was also a strong headwind which meant that you couldn't just coast. The group was still hitting it hard and i have a feeling that they are going to be a bit beat today (Wednesday). I reiterate constantly that this is base training and stay aerobic the majority of the time since we are piling on some solid volume, but hosting camps for over ten years now has taught me that most athletes want to hammer without thinking to much about the next few days.

3-4pm: swim - We did mostly drill work and stroke and form evaluation.

5-6pm: Bill Daniels reviewed video of the campers swim strokes.

6:15pm: Dinner at El Charro. Gus out did himself this evening, putting on an eating clinic. They had negro modelo on tap which meant that I was happy. Dinner was followed by Frost gelato once again.

Solid day! Great day.



Monday, March 01, 2010

AZ day 2

ok, super short because it was a very busy day and I still have a bunch of schedules to write. But it was a great day! Sunny and 70 - hard to beat. started with a 90 min swim at an amazing outdoor pool with what appeared to be 80 lanes, sitting at the foothills of the mountains. Breakfast, then 4 hour ride out to Colossal Cave and then a few loops in Saguaro Park East, and I wore just bib shorts and a sleeveless jersey - nice! Followed up the ride with a short brick run. We just came back from dinner and Frost gelato, which we will hit every night this week. Tonight I went with 1/2 peanut butter crunch, 1/2 vanilla. The group did really well today. There's been no bitching at all. Everyone is fun - not a single person getting on my nerves!

For a more detailed version of today, check out Molson's blog post that includes description, pictures, elevation charts, ... He got the MVP last night and he still angling for more I think.

Tomorrows a big day, including a 12 mile climb up Kitt Peak.