Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beat the Heat!

It's not even Summer yet (June 21) and it already feels like July with this hot/humid weather we're having.  I HATE IT!  For one, I already sweat like a pig when I train in warm/humid conditions and secondly, I can hardly breathe when it's hot/humid.  That is why you will NEVER see me race in July/August when the racing temps are routinely in the 90s.  Unless of course, I can find a race start for my age group/category in the early morning hours when the temps are lower.  Then again, I'm not enamored with getting up at 0400 in the morning to get ready for an 0700 race.  Been there done that for Triathlons.  Yes, I'm a fair weather racer at my age.  After all, if it's NOT fun getting up at 0400 in the morning for a race..then why do it?  And, that's why I train/race on the bike..cause it's fun.  At least the way I do it it's fun.

Enough of justifying why I don't like training/racing in the heat.  If you have to train and race in the heat (like I do at times)..here are some suggestions/tips for you- for performing at your best:

a. become acclimated to the heat.  Gradually work up your exposure to the hot/humid conditions workout at a time...and day at a time.  Most of us work in air-conditioned offices..which doesn't help.
b. begin hydrating BEFORE you get on the bike.  Once on the bike, drink often- at least taking mouthfuls every 15 minutes.  Make sure you take enough liquids with you for the race.
c. ensure the liquids you are drinking are COLD.  If they are cold, you are more apt to drink and your body will utilize the liquids faster.  Throw some ice in your bottles or make a slushie.
d. wear light colors.  I can't tell you how many dark Jersey's/Kits I see out there during training and race day.  Any team that has a mostly all-black kit for racing in the Summer is just NUTS!  (Sorry Garmin-Cervelo)
e. ice your legs, back and neck during pre-race warmup on the trainer (in the shade).
f. hydrate with protein.  Protein helps the body retain fluid.  Accelerade has protein in it.  That's what I like.
g. unzip your jersey.  You won't believe the difference this makes.  You don't have to unzip it completely, just down to mid-chest level.  The airflow will evaporate sweat and cool you down.
h. wear sunglasses with ventilation holes.  It may not increase ventilation around the face/head but it will help clear your sunglasses of fog when you get re-started after a stop on a training ride.
i. wear a well-ventilated helmet.  There are some helmets that provide better ventilation than others.
j. do NOT use sunscreen that will block or impede sweating.  Some oil-based suncreens will do this.
l.  if you sweat as much as I do..you're going to lose a ton of sodium and you need electrolyte replacement: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, etc.  I like Hammer Products "endurolytes".
k. lastly, if you can avoid the mid-day heat..do so.  I like to ride early in the morning. i.e. 0530 til 0730 when it's hot.  Or, if I can't get out in the a.m. I'll ride from 7-9pm in the evening.

I know a lot of racers say that they like racing in the heat.  Well, the fact is: heat will rob you of your power.  So, although you might not feel the affects of the heat as much as others..there is scientific proof that your averaged sustained power will be lower in hotter temps.  If you don't believe me, go out and race a 40k TT in 65F, then do it in 95F and see for yourself.  I'll buy anyone a beer that has a higher averaged sustained power output in 95F heat.  It's not that we lose power in the heat, it's that our body forces us to slow down (or produce less power) to keep from overheating.  It's a thermostat of sorts.  Same reason why we sweat?  It's our bodies way of cooling us down through convective evaporative cooling.  Betcha didn't think your body was that smart eh?

Stay cool! Power ON! Coach Rob

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I’m sure if you’re an endurance athlete you know the meaning of the word “bonking”. And, no, I’m not talking about what the English refer to as “shagging” or “copulating”. Believe it or not, that’s what Wiki had to say about “bonking” on their website. Hopefully, you haven’t experienced it in a while because it’s NOT fun. It happened to me today on a fun training ride in Lake Placid with the TWiley IMLP group. I could list at least 10 reasons why I bonked but it could definitely have been prevented. Not only was I glycogen depleted I was dehydrated as well. And, the worst part is that the ride was only 56 miles and it wasn't a race. Granted, it was close to 4000 ft. of climbing, it was warm/humid, and I was riding with elite athletes: Todd Wiley and Rick Fesler.

I will tell you, however, what my BIGGEST mistakes were and hopefully you won’t make the same before one of your training rides- or worse a race. The first mistake, was not eating enough Carbs the night before or the morning of my ride…not to mention the ride itself. The second mistake, was not taking enough fluids in on the ride. Two bottles is not enough for me since I sweat like a pig. I should have stuffed a third bottle in a back pocket. Traditionally, the weather in Lake Placid is cool in May. Today it was warm and humid. The third mistake was trying to match the pace of the elite athletes I was riding with for 2/3 of the ride.

I started bonking 2 hrs. into a 3 hr. ride. I was cooked at the 2.5 hr. mark. It was NOT fun. In fact, it was ugly. If it wasn’t for Rick Fesler’s fiancĂ© Christina letting me draft her 12 miles back to the hotel I would have had to call Todd Wiley to come pick me up. (Thanks Christina) That’s how bad I bonked. When I got back to the hotel I consumed a lot of Powerade which helps replenish electrolytes lost in sweat: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. I also downed a liter of water. It really helped revive me. I also downed a PowerBar Protein bar to help repair the microtears in my quads and calves. My calves were cramping so bad. I couldn’t sleep. Every time I started to fall asleep the calf muscle would cramp. It was terrible.

Tonight I had a good pasta dinner which should top off the Carb levels. I’ll be sure to have a good carb breakfast in the a.m. and start hydrating BEFORE the ride. I might even find some room for a third bottle on my bike or person if I ride the same distance tomorrow. I’ll be sure not to ride at the same intensity either. If the big boys take off, I’ll let em..instead of chasing them down.

Bonking can happen to anyone at anytime if you’re not properly fueled and hydrated. Yes, it can happen to you…but after reading this blog (hopefully) you won’t let it happen to you. Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cycling Leg of Triathlons

In addition to coaching road cyclists, I coach Triathletes as well.  In fact, I'm preparing/packing for my Memorial Day Weekend Training Camp in Lake Placid, NY..the home of Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP)..one of the most popular Ironman events in the country.  For those of you that have never been to Lake Placid before, you're missing out on one of the nicest (most picturesque) cycling training venues.  If you want "hill climbing" training..this is the place.  If the Ironman bike route is NOT enough climbing for you, you can try the Whiteface Mtn access road climb..the Alpe d'Huez of Northeast USA sporting an average 8% grade climb for 8 miles.  The Training Camp is run/hosted by Todd Wiley of TWiley Sports (http://www.twileysports.com/).  I believe this is Todd's 4th season he's been running camp.  The last couple years, I've been helping Todd coach triathletes that need some sound coaching advice on a "successful" bike leg.

What is a "successful" bike leg?  To me, a successful bike leg is one that sets the Triathlete up for a successful run leg of the Triathlon.  After all, what good is a personal best/record bike leg if you have to walk the run leg?  Most triathletes don't realize that riding too fast (or hard) during the bike leg is the #1 cause of DNFs in triathlons.  The difference between a successful bike leg and an unsuccessful bike leg could be a mere 10 watts of average power during the bike leg.  Additionally, all it takes is one surge too many up a hill to fry your legs for the run. 

This is why "pacing" is the single most important factor in a successful bike leg of a Triathlon.  If you pace yourself correctly, you'll set yourself up for a successful run..capping off a successful Triathlon event.  Trust me!  So, how do you pace yourself correctly?  For me, it's with a Power Meter.  I can't think of any other way to pace yourself "correctly" on the bike.  A heart rate monitor will NOT help you pace yourself on a hilly bike route.  There are just too many variables which affect heart rate.  And, pacing yourself by Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) doesn't work either.  So, now, how do you pace yourself correctly with a Power Meter?  According to Allen/Coggan, you want to ride/race an Ironman Triathlon at 68-78% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP).  Remember, FTP is your "hour power".  Your maximum sustained average power for one hour.  If you don't know what your FTP is, or you don't have a Power Meter (shame on you), we're talking Zones 2-3..mainly your Tempo training zone.  Again, that is the average.  There will be times during the bike course where you exceed that, for example on the hills.  But, the average will be in the 2/3 Zone.  Again, this is an average for the average age-group triathlete.  Elite athletes will be able to go a little harder in some cases Zone 3/4 as an average and still do well on the run.  For you Power Meter owners, you definitely need to know what your "current" FTP is to pace yourself correctly.  Not only does FTP change from year to year it also changes from month to month..which is why I recommend periodic performance testing.

If you're an Ironman Triathlete and you'd like some help in pacing successfully for your event, email me: mullerrj@comcast.net and I'll give you some advice/tips..better yet, why don't you join us in beautiful Lake Placid so you can experience it first-hand.  I'll have some Demo Power Meters for you to try out and you can see, first-hand, how much easier it is to pace yourself on the bike with a Power Meter.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bravo Strava

I don't normally get excited about tech products since I'm a tech geek and I'm hard to excite..but, when I hear or see a product I do like..especially a cycling product..not only do I get excited about it I feel obligated to share the excitement.  In the past two days I had two avid cyclists tell me about this new company (well, new to me anyway) called "Strava".  So, I decided to check em out online to see what all the hype was about.  http://www.strava.com/  What I saw was a social cycling networking program where you use your phone or bike computer to record your ride data then you can upload the data to the Strava website.  You can use your Garmin Cycling Computer or use your iPhone or Droid (sorry B-Berry users..you got to dump the relic and get hip) to record the ride..and when you get home you upload the data to Strava.  The GPS route and ride data (speed, elevation, power?, heart rate, cadence, etc.) will then be posted on their website similar to MapMyRide.  But, what Strava provides, unlike MapMyRide and other web-based GPS cycling programs, is your ride data for all to see.  So, if you ride a similar route during the week you can race against yourself.  And, your friends can race the same route where you can compete for the Strava King/Queen of the Mountain honors on your local "bad boy" climbs.  I think that is cool..even though I'm no climber by a long shot.  But, what I like is the opportunity to race yourself on select routes..keeping in mind NOT to blow any stop signs or street lights...or worse blow by your friends when they stop to chat with you on the road..haha.  I can hear it right now.."dude, you didn't stop and say hi to me when you passed me last night..wtf?  All I heard you say was STRAVA"  haha.

Oh, and for you cheaters of the World out there..no driving the local route or hill climb on a moped, motorcycle or car to claim KOM honors.  We know who you are..and what you're capable of.  If not, we WILL hunt you down. ha

I'm going to try it out on the road tomorrow for the first time.  I'm going to record the ride with my Garmin Edge 500 and iPhone and post both..to see how consistent the data is.  I'll upload both if I can.  My ride is just a social ride with a friend..so don't be giving me any grief for the low average speed..unless of course we take turns drafting each other..haha.  Already, I'm finding ways to cheat/beat the system.

Good stuff.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Periodic Performance Testing for Effective Training

It's actually quite simple- we train then we race.  Hopefully, if we train well (and correctly) we race well.  But, how do we know if we're training well?  For those of you that train and race, and don't have a Power Meter on your bikes, the only way you can assess your training and race day performance is by race day results- how you finished.  Even before Power Meters arrived on the scene, I wasn't enamored with this method of evaluating/assessing performance.  Why?  Because if you did well on race day, how do you know your competition wasn't sub-par?  On the contrary, if you didn't do well, perhaps the competition was the best you ever faced.  Or, maybe the reason you did well was because the particular course was long and flat which suited your size/weight and endurance.  There are many variables/reasons for doing well or NOT doing well in races.  And, a lot of these variables can be attributed to everything BUT your power output.

I know there are MANY racers that scoff at the idea of training or racing with Power Meters.  As I said, they're training and performance assessment on the bike is based EXCLUSIVELY on race day results...not a bunch of numbers generated by a Power Meter that don't really mean much to them.  (Funny, the reason the numbers don't mean much to them is because they can't discern/decipher what the numbers mean.)  But, for you Power Meter owners out there..it's imperative that you periodically test yourself...even during the racing season.  Why?  Because performance testing will let you know: a) if your training plan is working and b) if your race day power is up to the demands of the Category Race you're entered in.  Take a look at the chart above and look at the columns with 1, 5 and 20 min. peak w/kg.  Each of these peak numbers is a good indication of the average Anaerobic Capacity, VO2max and Threshold Power of your competitors.  You may be at or near the 5 min. and 20 min. number for your specific Category and below on your 1 min. number.  (Perhaps that's why you got blown away in the final bunch sprint.)

Here's a real life example of Cat 3 racer that trains and races without a power meter.  He enters his first race of the season, a local Cat 3 Criterium (which is short and flat).  He ends up finishing 5th in a bunch sprint.  Now, this Cat 3 racer is flying high..looking forward to the racing season.  So, he enters another Cat 3 race (this time a little bit longer with hills).  This time, he's dropped on the 5th of 10 laps.  What was that all about he wonders.  He has NO clue at all why he got dropped.  Was the competition better than the last race?  Was it because of the hills?  Was it because he was training too hard before the race?  Was it too hot?  Was it due to poor hydration/nutrition?  Was he too stale before the race?  Without a Power Meter to record the race..there really isn't any way of REALLY knowing why the rider was dropped.  Did he burn too many matches?  Was his Threshold Power adequate but VO2max power inadequate?  If this same racer trained and raced with a Power Meter..he would know if it was due to a lack of power.

If you don't train and race with a Power Meter..perhaps you ought to seriously consider starting.  For those of you that DO train and race with a Power Meter..don't forget to periodically test yourself at the 1, 5, and 20 min. durations.  When you're done testing, compute your w/kg and see how they stack up with the averages from your competition (see chart).  Perhaps, your power is adequate in the 1 and 5 min. durations but your 20 min (or 60 min.) Threshold Power is inadequate.  Therefore, you need to increase your Threshold Training. i.e. 2x20@L4 workouts.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alpe d'Huez, France or Alpe di Catenaia, Italy?

All the talk in road cycling regarding tough-climbs will surely include the "Alpe d'Huez" climb in France- usually seen on TV during the Tour de France.  Actually, if you want to ride a similar climb, and you don't want to travel to France, you can climb Whiteface Mtn, Lake Placid, NY USA.  It's a similar climb..8 miles at an average grade of 8% on asphalt.

(Speaking of Lake Placid, TWiley Sports is hosting its 4th annual Ironman Lake Placid Training Camp in 2 weeks.  I believe there are some open spots available during the Memorial Day weekend camp.  If you're interested in training/riding the hills of Lake Placid..contact Todd: toddpwiley@comcast.net or myself: mullerrj@comcast.net )

Just recently, however, I climbed a tougher/steeper climb- if you can believe that.  I did it on a heavy Mtn bike, with a 10 lb. backpack, on my recent vacation to Italy.  It's a climb from a Villa in Chevrietto, Italy to Alpe di Catenaia, Italy.  It's only a 6 mile climb (felt longer) but it averaged 10.4% grade with a max grade of 26%.  I'm actually glad I did it on a Mtn. bike because I had a granny gear (3rd chainring) which really helped.  What didn't help, however, was the loose gravel on half the route (the white roads as they call them in Italy). 

What made the route tougher was not only the altitude but the fact that I had a 1.2 mile climb at the end of the ride (2.5 hr.) that included a 26% grade section.  Needless to say, I walked that section on VERY tired legs.  The course wasn't very technical but it was enough dirt/gravel roads for me.  I didn't want to venture too much off the beaten path because there was limited cell phone reception.  You never know if you're going to crash/burn on a technical section or be bitten by a bee, snake, scorpion, etc..all of which were local.

 Anyway, good time riding the hills.  I maintain, if you want to get better at climbing..there is no substitute for climbing during your training rides.   Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Make your training rides count!

All too often, I see many riders getting wrapped-up in the SAME training routine week-in and week-out.  They just go out on the same solo or group ride during the week thinking these longer semi-spirited rides til dark are money in the bank for their endurance races on the weekends.

The problem with this is: most riders will choose a group ride where they know they can hang. i.e where the pace will suit them for the duration.  Well, this may be good for the ego but it's NOT good for your training, and improving your performance, because most of the miles you log on these rides will be "junk miles".  What are "junk miles"?  These are miles you log on your bike where you're riding in the L3 Tempo Zone...that do nothing more than burn a few calories.  (These "junk" miles may be great for the off-season or during the build-phase of your annual training plan, but not for the racing season.)  On the contrary, you don't want to choose a group ride where you are dropped on the first hill climb either.  What fun is that?  What you want to choose is a group ride where you can JUST hang-in for the duration.  A ride where you are glad you're finished with little fuel left in the tank.  This type of ride will include the majority of your time in the L3/L4 Zone (or what I call the Sweet Spot Zone) with periods of Threshold and VO2max efforts..and even some brief time in the Anaerobic Capacity Zone (L6).  Very little if any time will be spent in pure L3 Zone.  You may have to look around for such a group..and you may even have to drive to the start...but it will be well-worth your time.

High intensity training is an important, or even critical, part of endurance training.  You only get faster by riding faster! The best way to increase your speed, in my opinion, is to ride with those who are much faster than you are. If you can't find a group ride, joining a weekly training crit may be the ticket here. Get out and hammer with the big boys and girls. Be forewarned, though: it can be humbling for a while, if not for a long while. But you’ll get faster for the long haul.  If you can't find such a group, and you'd rather train solo, turn a favorite local route of yours into a race.  That's right, ride it as if it was an actual race.  And, each week, see if you can better your average Normalized Power.  Notice I said, "better your average Normalized Power" and not your "average Speed"?  The last thing I want you doing is blowing stop signs and stop lights (and risking getting in an accident or causing one) so you beat your personal time.

Another bonus of this type of (hi-intensity) training is, on race day, you won’t get dropped right from the get-go when the lead pack of riders takes off like they’re doing a 40km time trial- which they usually do. You want to be able to hang with them in the first hours.  As my friend Jason aptly says: you want to "weather the storm".  I like that.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Photo: Seth Houston on breakaway attempt.  Photo credit: Anthony Skorochod, http://www.cyclingcaptured.com/

Monday, May 2, 2011

Liberty Sports Magazine

Keep a look-out for my Power Based Training article in the next issue (May) of "Liberty Sports Magazine".  For those of you that aren't aware of this publication, Liberty Sports Mag covers local Philadelphia running, cycling and multisport events.  You can pick up a FREE copy of the Mag at any local bike store, running store, etc.  Additionally, you can go online at: http://www.libertysportsmag.com/ 

Power ON! Coach Rob