Training for Conquer the Coast

It’s been quiet on my blog the past month or so. It has been a busy two months for me. I’ve had some health issues to take care of, super busy at work as we complete the merge of two universities into one and finally I have been busy training for the Conquer the Coast (CTC) ride. I’ll save my health issue for another time, but I did want to go over how I am training for the CTC ride.

Conquer the Coast is held every September in Corpus Christi, Texas. It’s certainly not a hilly ride but rather is flat and very windy. You do have some large bridges to cross especially near the end of the route at a point when you are really tired. The route starts and stops at Whataburger field. The first thing you do is cross the bay bridge heading over to Portland and work your way to Aransas Pass. From there you cycle to the ferry at Port Aransas. Did I say ferry? From there it’s a windy ride along Mustang Island to the other bay bridge to take you back to Whataburger field along Ocean Drive. The sun and wind really do a good job of beating down on you. Challenging! I did this ride two years ago and wanted to do it again this year with some friends that have not ridden it. To help me prepare for it, I love the structured approach to training.

For those looking for the route of the ride, here is the one straight from the Conquer the Coast website Conquer the Coast Tour – 66 miles. If you haven’t signed up, do it! It’s a Well organized fun ride to participate in.

What do I mean by structured approach? Simple, training rides that includes intervals. Most people that I know of start working up longer and longer rides until they can do the metric century. This is a favorite method chosen by many cyclists. This is a great way of training that doesn’t require a lot of equipment investment. You just need a good bike in working order, basic bike computer (or phone with bike app) and time. Lots of time. Also known as the low tech method (and there is nothing wrong with it either). Me being who I am, love using technology and in this case my power meter. There is that old saying, “Work smarter, not harder”. That’s where using my power meter and intervals come into play.

I use the power meter to measure the intensity of my ride and intervals to maximize my workout in a short amount of time. This method is great for those that are short on time and want to maximize effort in the time they do have for riding. Some people call it riding with a purpose. If you look at my Strava postings, I name the ride something like, “Endurance Pace”, Endurance w/Sweet Spot”, or “Tempo Ride”. Those names describe what it is I’m trying to accomplish for the training ride. Basically, it is the power zone that I’m riding in as described in my training plan.

Where do I get all these plans? You can Google it and find plenty of free plans on the Internet. I like using an all-in-one approach. TrainingPeaks is where I go to find, buy, implement and track my training plans. The site is great for runners, swimmers, cyclists, for those training for duathlon, triathlon and Ironman competitions. Set your goals, get a coach (optional), buy a plan (and reuse it as often as you want), upload your results, analyze the results, track nutrition and body metrics. They even have a nice app for the phone too! I love this place.

I like using TrainingPeaks because of the plans and the calendar. Once you buy a plan of your choosing, you can tell the system when you want to start following the it. It then loads up the schedule on it calendar detailing what days you workout and what days you rest. Workout days are broken down into details as to what you need to do for that work out. For my cycling the breakdown is usually a warm up, the main set and then a cool down. It gives me the overall amount of time for the ride and what zone and cadence I should be in. Here is a sample workout:

This is a typical weekend workout where you are riding at the endurance pace. It’s the pace that I will be riding at when I do the Conquer the Coast. Some things to make note of. The plan doesn’t go by miles but rather by time. In this case, the plan called for a 2:15 hr ride. Within those two hours and fifteen minutes, twenty minutes are consumed by a ten minute warm up and a ten minute cooldown. The rest of the time I should be in my Endurance zone. The goal is not to ride x amount of miles but to complete the training session. It is the combination of all the training sessions that gets you at your peak when it’s time to do the event. In essence, you don’t want to burn out from over training but puts you in a position where you have the strength and stamina to successfully complete your event. Remember, you are short on time and you want to maximize effort you are on the bike. This is the best way of doing that.

The other thing to make note of is that the plan doesn’t tell you how fast you should be going but rather the intensity (zone) you should be at. Why not speed? Simple, the weather and terrain play a big role as to how fast you can ride. If you’re trying to maintain 17 mph pace going up an incline and into a strong headwind you can end up blowing up your legs by expending all that energy trying to maintain that speed. Instead, use the intensity to determine the pace and go as fast as the intensity would allow. It could be slower but at least you will have the energy to complete the ride and finish strong.

There is a madness to the method of the intervals and the plans. Typically the plans are broken down into three phases: build, rest, sustain. The first three to four weeks is the building phase where they ramp up the intensity and duration. Phase two is the rest period. Usually one week with one or two endurance rides and that’s it. This phase is important because this is where body catches up to the overload you placed on it. Without the rest period, your body becomes over taxed and performance diminishes. The last phase is at the peak intensity but for longer and longer durations. When the plan is complete you should be at peak performance. Rest one week then tackle the ride you have signed up to do knowing that you will be at your best physically and mentally. The plans vary in length but the phases are generally the same, build, rest, sustain. Choose the one that matches your current fitness level and goals that you want to achieve and you should be fine.

I used this method when I did the Fiesta Wildflower full century in San Antonio. I knew before hand that the route would be hilly (compared to the flats here in the Valley) so I went to TrainingPeaks and found an eight week hilly training plan from Allen Hunter (a premier power based cycling coach). I followed that plan as best as I could (some intervals I could not complete due to the high intensity and duration) doing all the training rides here in the Valley utilizing the strong head winds to my advantage. The longest training ride I did was a 3:45 hour ride and I think that amounted to about 45-48 miles. Never once did I spend all day doing century rides. I saved that for the actual event. On the day of the Wildflower ride, I finished the metric century (hilliest portion of the route) with lots of energy and good stamina, so we pressed on to complete the full century.

So, with results like that, I’d like to repeat it again at Conquer the Coast in mid September. For this training regimen, I’m again doing the same “Hilly Century and finish strong” plan from Allen Hunter. I think it’ll be harder this time around simply due to the heat. It has been getting over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For the longer weekend endurance rides I have switched to 7 am start times. The same as the event so that I can be accustom to the time of day and heat level.

I do other things besides cycling to get ready. Diet is important. I’m watching what I eat by eliminating/reducing my intake of sugar, salt and carbohydrates. I’m not on any fad diet or purges. It’s rather simple, I equate those three items as poison and do what I can to avoid it. People often complain that they can’t eat their favorite foods but why would you? It is those very same foods that got you overweight! Learn to like new foods! There are over a gazillion recipes out there, surely you can find something healthier and tastier than tamales! On long rides I do eat a bowl of quality whole grain cereal for the long-lasting, slow releasing carbs for energy. I’m trying to lose as much weight as possible for the CTC event in mid September. The lighter I am the better and faster I’ll be. I’m still considered a Clydesdale but I’m getting closer and closer to dropping out of it!

Besides diet, I work on strengthening my core. You need a good strong core to help maintain your posture on the bike. A strong core will help you stay upright, improve your cycling and not let you lean on your hands. Leaning on your hands contributes to hand numbness. I really hate that. To avoid that, I do the basic core training consisting of planks, push ups, and light weights. If you were to do only one exercise, choose planks. Even if they are the beginners version (hing on your knees rather than your feet) of planks, do them and work your way up to full planks.

So there you have it. I use interval based training and TrainingPeaks to plan, track, analyze and share my results. I watch what I eat to reduce my weight and I do exercises to strengthen my core. Do I have bad days? Yes I do. Do I cheat on my Diet or forget to do the exercises? Yes I do, but that is the minority not the majority. Sometimes it’s fun to the workout and other times it’s work and I can’t wait to get it done. That’s normal! I don’t expect it to be fun and games all the time. Hopefully, by the time the Conquer the Coast is here, I’ll be at my best and have fun riding that route.

Stick to the Plan

We all have good intended plans to do this or that. Mine so happens to be to lose the weight. I really need to do this for medical reasons as I mentioned in my other post (2015 New years Resolution Follow Up). We all struggle to stick with it and sometimes it’s easy for me and other times it’s not. The month of June has been hard for me. Doctor or family visits have taken my off my rhythm but the one thing that I have noticed is that I have developed a battle cry or mantra, “Stick to the Plan!”.

June has been several Dr Visits to the urologist and that means getting off the bike prior to and after the visits. Add wet weather and family dropping in for visits and you get a recipe for disaster. It’s during these time that I tend to eat more than I should and of the wrong things too. I know I gained two to three pounds and that is the direction I do not want to be going. Losing, not gaining weight is my goal. That’s why keeping a rhythm is very important. When you in it, everything is clicking and falling into place. Even a stutter won’t affect you because you get back into step and keep going. It’s when you have to stop for one or two weeks that everything falls apart. You lose that momentum you had going and can be very difficult to get going again especially when you have to stop again within the same month.

I see others struggling with their weight loss and the bad habits they have formed (and cling to). They refuse to give up their old ways (type and quantity of food they consume) and go out to discover new healthier foods to eat. I have to tell myself that I can’t help everyone. I need to focus on myself first so that I can be there for them later in the long run. All I can say is if you don’t have a plan, get one and stick with it. At the very least, start with drastically reducing SALT and SUGAR from your diet. Toss that Salt shaker and those artificial sugar packets out of the house.

For me, words of encouragement or recognition that I have lost weight is a tremendous boost. That in turn fuels my motivation to help myself and others. If I discovered that the kingdom of Old Ways have invaded with their armies of bad eating, overeating and laziness, I rally my troops with the battle cry, “Stick to the Plan!”. I may lose some battles and win many others but that’s how war goes. Carry on!

Bike Upgrades

2015 Rouabix SL4 Comp Ultegra Di2Recently I’ve made some changes to my bike. My trusty 2013 Roubaix Apex Comp has been replaced with an updated version. I am now a proud owner of a 2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Ultegra Di2. I saw this bike being displayed at my favorite local bike shop (LBS), Bicycle World RGV in McAllen and immediately loved the paint job. Finally Specialized splashes color on their bikes. I am tired of the all white, all black, or shades of grey. To me those are lazy, unimaginative paint jobs. This bike also had electronic shifting too! I knew I had to get it for my Freddyness (is that a real word?) in me. Before I could, I would need to sell my existing bike.

My bike had 9200 solid miles on it plus my first century ride (see Wildflower Centurion), so it has a special place in my heart. It’s all stock except for the Richie handle bar, Crank Brothers Candy pedals and the Specialized FACT carbon CG-R seat-post. The bike is in excellent shape so I knew I could sell it. So happens that I ran into a friend of mine at the LBS and over heard him talking about wanting a new bike, a Roubaix! Long story short, he bought my bike and I got the new one. I had the LBS swap out the pedals, handlebar, handlebar stem, bottle cages and nick knacks. They also transferred the measurements of the old bike to the new one so it should be the same fit.

I had ordered some new speed and cadence sensors from Wahoo (Wahoo Blue SC)and I installed them when it arrived. Yesterday was my first ride, the shake down ride. Get all the glitches fixed and verify the bike fit. I had to tweak the spoke magnet a little to get steady reliable speed results. Since the Blue SC is dual band I used bluetooth to connect to my Magellan 505 and ANT+ to connect to my iBike Newton power meter. The speed matched up correctly between the two units but the cadence was about two beats slower on the Magellan. Close enough for me.

How does the bike ride compared to the old bike? Night and day difference! I felt that the new bike was a lot smoother ride especially over chip seal surface even with the 700×23 tires (Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II). I don’t know if it’s the difference in tires, rims or both, but the new bike was also faster and more nimble. Shifting is a dream! Gone is the long or short throw to shift. I just click click click like using a mouse. Sweet! Loving it!

Now to get back to training and keep on losing that weight!