New Year’s Goals

Forget resolutions. I usually break mine within a week, anyway. Instead, I’m going to recap 2009 through my biker’s eyes, and look ahead to 2010.

2009 stats:

  • Total miles: 3,053
  • Avg. speed:14.9
  • Highest avg. speed on a single ride: 17.2 mph
  • Highest maximum speed on a single ride: 39.2 mph
  • Longest single ride: 77 miles
  • Avg. ride distance: 21.6

2009 Recap:

The highlight of the year is total distance ridden. I topped 3,000 miles for the year, 375 miles more than last year. That would be like adding a 13th month of riding to my 2008 totals, so I’m pleased that I got more saddle time in. I didn’t do a century in 2009. As you’ll recall, the first day of the MS 150 was cancelled, and the second day was 77 miles. That was the longest ride distance I had all year. Many of the stats are down a fraction from last year. Average speed fell from 15.1 to 14.9, highest avg. speed fell from 17.65 to 17.2. But my avg. ride distance is up, from 20.6 to 21.6 miles per ride. If I step back and put it all into perspective, 2009 was nothing to crow about. But if I look a little deeper, I know that my stamina is up, my hill climbing has improved, and I feel better about my ability on the bike. I’m more at home in the saddle.

2010 Goals:

I don’t have a lot, which is probably wise. The ones I do have will challenge me both on and off the bike:

  • Ride the MS 150 Houston-to-Austin, this time completing both days.
  • Ride the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, Texas, next August.
  • Learn bike maintenance, and diligently maintain my bikes.
  • Expand my riding horizons by riding new routes in new areas.
  • Get my weight below 200 pounds.

I’m embarrassed about that last goal. Last year at this time, I indicated that I would work on dropping 30 pounds. But I finished the year at almost exactly the same weight as I finished last year with, so I obviously didn’t take the goal seriously. But the other day, I tried on a pair of trousers I got as a Christmas gift, and was stunned to find they didn’t fit in the waist. Two months ago, they would have.

The third and fourth goals are not specific or measurable, but they’re personal goals, and I’ll know if I’ve met them to my satisfaction.

Now, we’ll see how life cooperates, and whether it throws any roadblocks in my way. I’ll be helping my wife start a new business, and I have some things coming up in my own work that will make 2010 challenging. But I suppose all of us face challenges with each coming year. Here’s hoping you are able to surmount yours.

Off-season training

Here we are with just a few days left in 2009. For many of us, the weather outside is frightful. For those of us in milder climes, we can still get out and do some riding. But I think it’s fair to say that this is a down time for cyclists generally — we’re looking ahead to our goals for the New Year.

So, how should we spend our riding time this winter? There are lots of online and print resources available, and it’s tempting to curl up with a book that lays out training schedules of “easy” “pace” and “brisk” days. However, most of us are here because we’re still relatively new to biking, and maybe we’re not pointing toward a major competitive event anytime soon. We just want to maintain fitness and be ready to pounce when the nice weather returns in Spring.

The web site Pez Cycling News features a regular column on training, and is looking at this very question. But Pez is a web site about racing, for the most part, and its tips are geared to the faster, stronger riders among us. However, a current column by cycling coach Matt McNamara offers some ideas for recreational riders about off-season training.

In a nutshell, it’s this: LSD. That’s Long, Slow Distance (not to be confused with the other thing). Athletes have used this training method for years, and it works well for runners and other endurance types — not just bikers. To train with LSD, you’re encouraged to do a lot of distance riding at an “easy” pace. “Easy” would be below lactate threshold (that is, you’re not huffing and puffing).

How much easy riding? Follow the Pareto Principle: 80/20. Eighty percent at low intensity work, 20 percent at high intensity. Some training regimens get more specific, with 77 percent at low intensity, or “easy” pace, 3 percent at “pace,” or the speed at which you would ride your target ride at (say, a century), and 20 percent at “brisk” pace, or high intensity, where you really push yourself.

So much easy riding can be problematical, when we’d all like to push it a bit on all of our rides — maybe attack that hill, or pound a long straightaway. Elite athletes have the same problem. They might think they’re training at a 77-3-20 mix, but when their heart rates are monitored, they’re really doing 65-21-14.

When recreational riders make the same mistake, they wind up falling into what some researchers call the “black hole” of training, where every workout is done at roughly the same level of intensity. That leads to no improvement.

So when you’re out there this winter (or on your indoor trainers) remember to take it easy. You might have to force yourself to keep it down, but long, slow distance mixed with a little tough work will yield results. And if we’re all going to make New Year’s resolutions to get better, this might be the best way to do it.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons.

It Ain’t Pretty, But I Like It

Guest poster Don Blount takes a new road, and finds that just going somewhere you haven’t gone before is its own reward.

It was an early morning and I was trying to get a ride in before going to work. I took one of my usual routes, this one being about 16 miles. I approached the turnaround point, which is located at a boat park at the top of a hill. It’s a pleasant place for fishermen, families who want to picnic as well as the many boaters who dock their boats or set sail from there.

It’s a dawn to dusk park with free entry for bikers and pedestrians. The guards usually just wave me through without a second glance.

But this day, I didn’t head up to the park.

Instead I took a right turn down an access road that I’ve passed many times but had never traveled before. I suspected it was on the other side of the waterway but had no idea what else was over there.

The short hill taxed my legs only a little, and as I crested the hill and began following the road I had a number of different perceptions. I found the road was bumpy and not smooth sailing at all for a road bike. I slowed down so as to not rattle the fillings out of my teeth.

It was a mostly undeveloped area, some marsh and quite a few people, most of them fishermen. I saw a motorboat heading out but couldn’t get to my camera quickly enough to get a photo.

I found myself going slowly because of the road surface and really taking in more of the scenery because it was all so unfamiliar. I think I only went about two miles on this road because I had a deadline and had to get back home.

But I found that I enjoyed it.

When I have more time I’ll go back and go farther, not for the conditioning of the ride or even for its beauty but for the variety that it brings.

Does anyone else have a route that isn’t necessarily a great biking route but one you enjoy for another reason?