no one line

The Flip Side of Scientific Training
February 14, 2010, 6:49 pm
Filed under: antiPRO, training

I’ll admit it. I have a training spreadsheet. I enter hours and the type of workout I do ever day. Some Excel wizardry adds it up for me. I can plan out a week or two, aim to have certain types of workouts on certain days.

This puts me firmly in the realm of “highly obsessive” compared to non-cyclists, and “slacker/ignoramus” to real training nerds who talk about wattage, zones, times, and whatnot.

It’s hard not to acknowledge the importance of taking into account some basic training science. Joel Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible has, in accordance with its audacious title, become the book of note. Its best feature is that one can get absorbed at different levels. You can train with power, heart rate, and zones. You can plan certain exercises for certain days – six months in advance. Or you can distill for yourself a few basic lessons, and work from there. I decided I needed to improve my force and muscular endurance while ensuring adequate level of aerobic endurance. From there I just planned to ramp up my volume conscientiously, in accordance with the Massachusetts weather improving from December’s constant 20-degree days. Different levels.

It’s a long way from the old standard of racing one’s self into shape, even if I’m on the tip of the iceberg. From Joe Parkin‘s blog is an excerpt about his training plan. He was of the old-school method: race a bunch and watch your fitness improve. His conclusion, however, is one that amateur racers might find very important:

In my final years as a pro (on the mountain bike side of the sport) I definitely employed some of the new training techniques and found them to be an enormous leap forward from what I knew. If I had it to do over again, I have no doubt that I would have been a better bike racer because of them. What would have gotten to me, however, was the constant solitude that so many of the current crop of racers have to endure.

As I look to the season I need to remind myself to find important balances in my life. It’s easy to burn out, especially for one only a few seasons deep into the physical demands of bike racing. It’s easy to blow off friends and family under the assumption that they’ll always be around, but the bike season is ephemeral.

But one needs only look at the many extremely successful amateur elder statesmen and -women of our sport, the masters who’ve been racing at high levels for decades, to remember that the bike season isn’t ephemeral: it comes around again and again, and there’s always time for more bike racing. Your love affair with the whistle, the pack, and the finish line can be a very long one indeed. No need to make too many sacrifices too early, lest you get too accustomed to them.

Ask No One Line #1
January 25, 2010, 7:23 pm
Filed under: ask no one line, training

I recently received the first letter for what will no doubt become a ground-breaking series of blog posts: Ask No One Line. That’s right.

Dear No One Line,
Why do pros train without gloves in the winter?  Well, not exactly the winter (cause it doesn’t exist in Majorca) but I swear that every time I see some photo set of “Protour Team Training Camp” in some warm Mediterranean winter getaway, the pros are completely bundled up except for their hands?  What gives? They’re wearing hats and mufflers, but no gloves?!? -missing in millbrook

Dear Missing In Millbrook,
Pros don’t have winters. They retreat to the perpetual laziness of temperate climes, where they bundle themselves up to make the readers of cycling news websites think that they are being hardcore – with their thirty-hour weeks in cold, thin air – but alas! The ruse is up: they forget about the gloves. Articles and photosets about “winter training camps” are just plain old misleading. Overdressing is PRO, white shoes are PRO, and wearing no gloves is PRO; actual winters, however, are not PRO.

Except for kids like the studly young Edvald Boasson Hagen, who, despite Team Sky’s training camp in Valencia (one giant orange, or so I’m told), is still in Norway, where his training probably consists of launching sprints after passing dogsled teams, descending fjords, and, in race simulations, imagining himself in a solo breakaway, throwing a quick glance up at the fiamme rouge while desperately trying to hold off the charging… glacier.

Here, in the winter wonderland of the NorthEastern United States, we ride on trying to hold off minor frostbite in our extremities, trying to hold off the creeping ‘winter weight.’ In twenty degree (that’s Fahrenheit, mind you!) weather, training means riding until you think you’re going to die, and then trying to make it home before you do.

With no races for another two months, we haven’t passed underneath the fiamme rouge yet, in our drive toward springtime. We’re still in that lonely no-man’s land, miles and miles away from the line, wondering if we can stay ahead of the pack or if we’ll tire ourselves out, get swallowed up and regurgitated behind, fatigued and weaving like a holiday drunk.

No One Line

Do you have a question for No One Line? Do you want to be published? Submit a question to our new lazy feature, Ask No One Line! Email at gmail. Dot com, of course.

Winter Hibernation Part II
January 6, 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: rollers, training

Snow on the ground means that it’s time to dig the rollers out of the closet, get back to working on a smooth pedal stroke, and queue up TV shows and movies on the computer, hoping they’ll keep you entertained enough to stay on the rollers long enough to get a workout.

From my friend and teammate Al comes this training outline:

Due to the shiiiiite weather I’ve been riding the rollers a ton and I’ve created the “Hulu Interval”!!!! Watch a hulu tv show while riding rollers. TV shows usually last around 22 minutes. In those 22 minutes there are three 30 second commercial breaks.

Step 1. Ride at a steady pace until the first commercial then sprint all out for the 30 seconds, then return to riding a steady pace and continue watching your show. Repeat this two more times when the commercials appear.

When the show is over get off the rollers, quickly change into sneakers and do 4 sets of squats with 25 reps per set. I’ve been doing it with a 25 pound weight held out in front of me. (You can also do tabata squats instead)

After the four sets immediately change back into road shoes, choose another hulu tv show, hop back on the rollers and repeat step 1.


Fenders. Or, Cyclocross Season is Over
December 1, 2009, 5:26 pm
Filed under: cyclocross, training

I’ve made a great step as a cyclist. I put full fenders on a bike. “Wait, how can this be?” you ask. “You’ve never had fenders on a bike?” Nope. I’ve had those mediocre clip-on affairs attached to the seatpost of my daily riders, but even after spending winters working outdoors, on my bicycle, I’ve never had a full set. Because, until now, I’ve never had a bike that has provisions for full fenders.

This means that cyclocross season is over. My right forearm is still sore from hoisting the bike – my shoulder is bruised from the beach run at yesterday’s StatenCX (last year’s race in Staten Island was my first cross race). I’ve compiled some good results, and some terrible ones. And I’ve had a few damn good weekends.

I’ve got a handful of 4th place finishes under my belt, and some more experience, which will be helpful for next year, if I decide to go for a full season. Cheshire, last weekend, was a miserably technical course with a brutally long run-up. Spooky ‘Cross, in Easthampton, MA, had plenty of racecourse on fast, hardpacked trails. I’ve made it to the far end of a sandpit on my bike. And I even won a frame from the kind folks at Spooky, which I can’t wait to pick up, build up, and tear around on. I’ll go with their Skeletor.

This morning, my sweetheart and I went on a cold two hour ride in twenty-something temperatures as the sun was climbing over the hills that ring the river valley. I anticipate being able to ride even in the rain – hey, even Cavendish fenderizes and utilitizes his bike for the winter -since it’s time to update the old training spreadsheet, think about base periods and build periods and weekly hours, and ride with an eye for the 2010 road season.

I’ve got hills around here. I’ve got time. Come April, I’m going to be lean and mean.

November 6, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: no one line, training

Despite an injury to a major typing finger, I’ve returned from spending many chilly autumn days restoring an old farmhouse in Duchess County, New York to update No One Line. No, I haven’t been too busy to post because of being best friends with Joe Parkin; rather, work and the necessities of setting up life in a new place have kept me away from idle hours at the keyboard.

Instead, I’ve spent my leisure time absorbing Joel Friel‘s The Cyclist’s Training Bible. Its audacious title is accurate; any rider new to serious training is bound to hear “Want to get faster? Read Friel.” I train with neither a heart rate monitor nor a power meter, as he recommends, but the book still offers a lot of potentially useful information. It took a bit of time wading through the chapters before getting to the bits that made all those pages sort of crystalize, but once I felt I absorbed it, I realized that the book contains information on what exercises will develop what areas, where to locate which developments within a larger training structure, and how to plan a season. It takes work, but it’s valuable.

And with that absorbed, I’ve been sliding back into the waters of serious riding, starting with the all-important Fun Riding. Friel calls it a Preparation Period, before the building of the base. Some off the bike workouts, combined with, for me, the re-experiencing of the joy that comes with throwing a leg over the saddle and discovering new places. There are farm roads here that lead out to nowhere, to climbs with thousand-foot elevation gains, to roads along ridgetops. There are flat river valley dirt roads perfect for stomping around on my cyclocross bike, fording muddy puddles and sliding around wet silt while orange-vested hunters call their dogs back from their run through endless cornfields. I could explore forever.

Yesterday morning, a buddy and I woke up early at the worksite. I slammed back a cup of steaming coffee and we launched our cross bikes at the equestrian trails running through the woods, bunnyhopping up to plank-bridges over small streams, picking our way through rocks and roots, and taking arcing lines through patches of mud. We were just out playing bikes, and it was excellent.

Booger Knights
October 1, 2009, 3:21 pm
Filed under: alleycat, training

My track bikes have all left town, but I’m still going to find a way to come to Boogie Nights, a five-week late-night track-bike race series in Prospect Park.

Yes, it’s safe.

It’s a great way to get some fun end-of-the-season racing in. It’s also a good way to get some first-time race experience under your belt, if you haven’t raced in a pack, or raced a track bike before. It will get you buying your USAC license and dreaming of Opening Day out at Kissena.

There will be good competition for noobs and for experienced racers, so if you’re in the city, come check it out.

Prizes will be multitudinous. A plan ticket to anywhere in the lower 48 states will be raffled off, with all proceeds going to support Gabe’s ongoing recovery.

Itching to Race
June 4, 2009, 1:47 am
Filed under: cyclocross, no one line, road racing, track racing, training

Track racing was canceled last night, due to rain. I had been hoping that the rain would hold off, or be over early enough, but Alan sent the email in the afternoon and I had to make other plans.

Al and I decided to hit Prospect Park on our track bikes for a handful of laps and some hard efforts thrown in. A few hours before we were scheduled to ride I called him and said, “I’m bored! Let’s ride right now.” He laughed and said, “I’ll meet you at the park in forty five minutes.” But wouldn’t you know it, when I was ready to leave the house it was pouring rain, and after the two of us and three others rode a few laps with some hill sprints, it eased up.

Among the reason that riding in the rain is good: it reminded me that, since it’s not freezing February rain, riding in the wet won’t ruin my day.

Now, I’m at work, waiting for the day to finish so we can go race in Rockleigh. Gui and I did this once last year, and I enjoyed the course.

I am just itching to race as often as I can. My moderate success and feeling of strength on the track is giving me confidence that I can turn around some of my marginally disappointing results in road races this year. My season has been consistently developing and I’m eager for that to continue. In that vein, along with weekly track racing on Wednesdays, I have the option of circuit races on Tuesday, crits on Thursday, and weekend races. There is a crit this weekend, a circuit race next weekend, a very hilly road race the following weekend… it goes on and on, and somewhere in there, I’m going to squeeze a Saturday trip to the velodrome in Trexlertown.

Amid this all, I have to stay aware of my level of exhaustion. With a busy month of racing, I don’t want to hit a wall and have either my performance or my attitude go downhill. If I’m starting to feel like I need a break, I’ll take a break. Last year, a combination fo racing and a very demanding work schedule conspired to make me very sick – sick enough to burn out my fitness and effectively end my season. Was it partly because it was my first season subjecting my body to the demands of racing? Perhaps. Fortunately, this year, my work schedule is much less demanding. I should be able to manage a busier racing schedule and, knowing the effects of overstressing my body, be able to more carefully back off of the intensity level when it’s necessary. If I have to take a week or two off in early July so that I’m still racing in August, I will do so.

I’ve got a lot to look forward to – I want to keep learning and improving all the way through the season. I’m halfway to my upgrade to Cat 3 on the track, and I’m starting to feel strong enough to earn more points toward my upgrade to 3 on the road. I’d like to make the most of the season by avoiding burnout, overtraining, overexhaustion, over-stress, or any of a myriad names for it…

…so that I can kick off cyclocross season with a bang.

Figuring it out
May 15, 2009, 6:19 pm
Filed under: bikes, no one line, training

Riding without a computer at the Bear Mountain Classic may have given me the confidence to bomb that descent a bit more aggressively than I would otherwise. Unlike at Battenkill, I know that I wasn’t eyeing the speedometer every few seconds, watching it climb higher and higher. We were over 50mph – of this I’m confident – but I had few of the wide-eyed high-speed what-if jitters that I sometimes get when I know how fast I’m going. Ignorance is bliss.

It’s important to ride, to just ride. Not for work, or to get to work, or to race and feel good about winning or bad about losing, so I’m starting to get very excited about tomorrow morning. I need some fast/casual fun/hard no-demands hours in the saddle. Housatonic Hills is coming up, and I can’t let track racing, with its fast scratch races and endless sprints, make me forget how to ride for longer than a few minutes or slower than 27mph (when necessary).

I have no interest in hitting a mid-season physical or emotional wall, which means that here on out it’s going to be important to monitor how I’m riding and racing so that I can keep feeling good and avoid burn-out. And that means opening up time for fun rides over the river and through the woods, for the dual purpose of fulfilling the sacred duty of going somewhere aimlessly, and getting strong(er, still), so that I don’t get caught out in the sprint (that’s my face peering out from behind the rider in red).

Connecticut Criteriums
March 9, 2009, 1:04 pm
Filed under: race, road racing, sprints, training

I spent a weekend in Connecticut and used the opportunity to race criteriums in Plainville and Bethel. I needed just a few more races before I upgrade, and I chose Plainville based largely on having heard about it from Sprinter Della Casa‘s blog and Bethel from its reputation in NYC as a good training crit. After racing both, I highly recommend each for some good weekend racing.

Plainville is an excellent course – fast and flat, D-shaped with two ninety degree turns separated by the home stretch and by a long, fast, winding part. The final turn was just before the 200m mark. The combined 4/5 category meant that the race was long enough to be satisfying (45 minutes plus 5 laps), and I found the racers and organizers, volunteers, and marshalls to be really congenial. I got there with enough time for a few warm-up laps before being called to the line, and when the race started I found that the quality of racing was pretty high. A few riders whom I wanted to be away from but nothing terrible, and some people who had that quiet confidence around them.

I separated the race into sections and executed my plan very well. I sat in and got a feel for it. Then I tested things out as an opportunist, putting myself in a good two-person break for several laps until we were decisively reeled in. Then, I sat in and recovered, and figured out what positioning I would need for the sprint (recovery was aided by an unfortunate 6+ rider stack-up on the backstretch; the officials stopped the race a few laps after as an ambulance needed to attend to one rider still down. Here’s hoping that everyone is not too bad off and riding again soon). And then I played my position very well, putting myself where I thought I needed to be. I saw an acceleration moving up the inside on the backstretch, jumped, got myself to be the third wheel, took the corner at 31mph and sprinted. I got into a rider’s draft and threw my bike at the line to take 2nd! I even won cash, which went right into lunch for me, my traveling buddy, our helpful friend, and our two hosts for the night. Burritos – my favorite post race food.

My traveling partner and I rolled up to Bethel in barely enough time to sign in and get to the line. I was able to take one (1) warmup lap: ninety degree turn, sweeping gentle downhill, wicked headwinds on the back stretch, and a hill that’s long and steep enough to change things. Sand on the course but nowhere particularly dangerous. The cat 5 race was only 12 laps and I figured I’d just patrol the front. The front turned out to be the eventual winner, a big young guy who liked to sit at the front and hammer. Had he attacked he could have done some damage. He also telegraphed everything he was about to do, so coming up to the finish line I jumped right before he did, opened up a huge gap, and rolled over the line first. Except I had made a mistake: there was the official, ringing the bell. One to go – how did I mess that one up? I sat up, got a wheel, and tried to chill out. I did but was tired enough that I couldn’t sprint the way I would have liked, and came in 3rd.

Good results feel good, but I’m happier about a few other things: I made plans for the races and I stuck to them; I read the races well, and I read the other racers well. But on the top of the list is that I just submitted for an upgrade to Cat 4. I’m also just happy that a weekend of traveling and racing worked out very well – I had a great time in Connecticut, hanging out with friends, enjoying the first weekend of Spring weather immensely. And we hit up some races that I do not hesitate to recommend broadly and widely (in fact, I just emailed my team doing so!). So, if you’re within whatever you consider to be worthwhile driving distance of either Plainville or Bethel I recommend that you get out to them. The people are friendly and the courses are good.

A Personal Best (and, On Losing Part II)
February 11, 2009, 1:38 pm
Filed under: road bikes, training

Stephen Roche on La Plagne, Tour de France 1987.

On Monday, three of us met in the morning and headed over the bridge for a training ride. We had no lofty goals for the ride, no intentions of long mileage or tough paces, but we did want to take advantage of the nice day and get some miles in to our legs. And we wanted to ride together, outdoors. Al and I went after some hills together, and on the flats Gui joined us for some traffic light sprints. On the way back from Piermont, Al and I decided to turn off of 9W to take a run at Sherriff’s Hill (the Alpine climb), one of the few challenging steep sections within a short ride of New York City. We were a bit exhausted from our ride (despite my intention to work on re-fueling during longer rides, I messed up and felt it), and so looked at each other and decided not to crush it up the hill, just to take it steadily and do it because it’s there. We descended the bumpy, twisty cliffside road, called Gui to ask him to time us, and set up the road.

On the bottom third, Al set a steady pace that reminded me that climbing hurts. Two-thirds of the way up I made my way around to embracing the pain, having it drive me with that teeth-gritting damn-the-torpedoes attitude that I’m not entirely familiar with in myself. Gui was there, circling where the road started to level out, and when we drew even he road next to me as I heaved side to side and yelled, “Faster! They’re right behind you! You’re almost there!” and then, “Six minutes and six seconds,” which is faster than I’ve ever climbed that hill – despite our set-no-records approach to the day. Needless to say it made me feel like I’m making progress and gaining strength for the upcoming season.

I can’t climb hills without thinking about Stephen Roche’s performance on La Plagne in the 1987 Tour de France. There’s a terrific video clip here, where you get to see footage of him collapsing and a later interview (“I just et the road” – priceless). I actually meant to post this as part of On Losing, but forgot, and never went back to edit. Take it as an example of a way to lose with style, pushing yourself so hard that you collapse at the end and your rival doesn’t even realize that he’s only gained 4 seconds on you at the end of the day. Utterly hard, utterly bad-ass

Roche also gets bonus points for being bashful about his cheeky comment, and translating it to hindsight-language as “I don’t think I’ll be going dancing tonight.”