Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year 2018

If you're looking to get in shape for 2018..make sure you set a goal (or have a plan) and that it's measurable. i.e. lose 20 lbs. in 8 weeks.  Increase my FTP by 25 watts by April, etc. Also, make sure you have the discipline, willing to sacrifice, and have the motivation to stick with your goal/plan.  Otherwise, it aint goin' to happen.  Wishin' (or dreaming) you get in shape will never happen on it's own.  You have to want it and you have to do it.  Just do it.  Good Luck!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Happy New Year everyone.  Looking forward to a healthy & happy 2018.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pedal Stroke Explained

I don't think most people think about their pedal stroke when they ride their bike and I suppose unless you're racing or logging a lot of miles as a recreational rider- who cares.  I can't tell you how many times I ride behind recreational riders and notice they're bouncing in their seat because the seat is too high or their knees are pointed outwards like they're riding a beach cruiser at the shore wearing flip flops.  I don't even want to mention their pedal stroke..because it's all over the place.  But, if you're racing or you're a recreational rider that logs some pretty long miles you'll not only want to be fitted properly to your bike, you want to ensure you're pedal stroke is as efficient as it can be.  By the way, if/when you buy a bike, you should have the bike fitted to you, not the other way around.

The best way to explain the most efficient pedal stroke is through this clock diagram (below).  I'll start with 12 o'clock.  At the top of the pedal stroke your foot should be at the same position as it is at 6 & 9 o'clock.  That is, the heel should be slightly elevated from the toe.  Your hip extensors or glutes are ready to kick in and drive the foot forward at the top.  At this position you'll feel the toes hitting the fronts of your shoes.  At 1 o'clock, your knee extensors, or quads, are ready to kick in and supplement the glutes.   The 2 o'clock position is the position of max power applied to the pedal because your glutes and quads (the biggest muscles) are both fully engaged. Your heel will drop down from its elevated position so that your foot is horizontal to the ground.  At the 3 o'clock position your foot will be horizontal and your heel may drop slightly below the toe level depending on the grade and/or how hard you're pedaling.  At the 4 o'clock position your glutes will acquiesce and let the quads takeover.  At 5 o'clock, or bottom of the stroke, your calves kick-in and takeover for the quads.  At 6-7 o'clock, your ankle dorsiflexor or shin muscles kick-in.  At this point you should feel like you're scraping mud from the bottoms of your shoes.  The hamstrings do all the work from 8-9 o'clock.  At this point you're actually pulling up slightly on the pedal (a lot if you're climbing).  You may not feel it but you are.  At 10 o'clock through 12 o'clock it's all hip flexor.  Again, you're pulling up slightly on the pedal.
Notice the foot position on the pedal is just about the same at the 6, 9 and 12 o'clock position.  Also, notice when pedaling correctly you're utilizing ALL of your leg muscles- front and back including the glutes.  You want good balance.  i.e. you don't want strong quads and weak hamstrings or glutes.  You want everything strong.

The Winter months are the months you want to work on pedaling efficiency.  One leg pedaling drills are probably a good idea to inject into your winter training plan/workouts.  You'll know if you have a good pedal stroke if it isn't jerky or erratic.  If it is, work on being smooth throughout the entire clock.

Check out the photo of Bradley Wiggins below.  Notice the foot position at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock.  i.e. heel slightly elevated.  That's what I'm talking about.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

New Year, New You

It's that time of year again, the New Year, where resolutions are made only to see resolutions being broken/ignored.  Here are the top 5 New Years resolutions:

I agree, everyone could benefit or improve their lives from the Top 5 list.  But it's also a known fact 92% of  all New Years resolutions fail.

Why is that?  Why do 92% of all New Years resolutions fail?  The primary reason why resolutions are broken (or fail) is because either a) the goals were unrealistic or not specific enough to begin with.  i.e. goals need to be measurable, or b) there was no motivation or self-control to keep/maintain the goal or c) both a and b. 

Lets start with a). unrealistic or non-specific goals.  And, we'll use resolution #4 (as an example) which seems to be the number 1 New Years resolution on most peoples list.  Lose weight.  How much weight?  By what date?  How are you going to lose the weight?  Starve?  Exercise?  Eating Healthy?  Combination of eating healthy & exercising?  Ok, so you need to make a measurable goal.  How about losing 1 lb. per week for 20 weeks.  Or, I want to lose 10 lbs. by my wedding.  That's good, that's definable/measurable.  How are you going to do it?  By eating healthy and exercising.  Good.  Now, what's your motivation for meeting that goal?  You want to be healthy?  You want to look good?  Ok, good.  Now, the biggest impediment to meeting that goal is- what's your motivation?  Do you have a wedding?  Do you have a special event?  Is that enough motivation?  Do you have enough self-control throughout the dieting and exercising period to stay on track to meet the goal?  Do you have a support group?  That is why 92% of New Years resolutions fail.  People have the "desire" but they don't have the "motivation" or "self-control".  If you don't have the desire AND the motivation and self-control, it's never going to happen. 

I saw a great movie last night (true story), that I've seen probably a half-dozen times before, with Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr. called, "Men of Honor".  In the movie, Cuba Gooding Jr. wants to become the first Black Master Diver in the US Navy.  That's his goal, his desire in life.  Robert DeNiro, who was the Master Chief running the Master Diver program for the US Navy asked Cuba Gooding Jr., "why do you want to be a Master Diver so much Cookie?".  (Cookies are newbie divers.)  Cuba Gooding Jr. responded, "I always wanted to be a Master Diver sir...and because they said I couldn't do it".  So, Cuba Gooding Jr. had the desire and he had the motivation..and guess what?  He became a master diver despite being black and having his leg amputated.  

So, before you make your New Years resolutions for 2018, don't think so much about the resolution goal, think more about how you're going to have enough desire, motivation and self-control to stay the course and meet that goal.

Good Luck in 2018 and Happy New Year.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fitness, Freshness & Form

Just wanted to highlight a BEFORE and AFTER Fitness, Freshness & Form chart from a ride on Zwift this morning.  This was the first time in a long time, my Form was actually a positive number.  (If you want more info on Form, search my blog).  Therefore, I should have been strong on my ride today.  I really didn't feel any stronger because I did nothing but eat/drink the last few days.  I know for a fact that I don't have good workouts after drinking copious amounts of beer like I did over Christmas.


You can see that AFTER my ride, my Fitness increased by 1 point (supposedly it made me stronger, when in reality workouts make you weaker because of the micro-tears and muscle inflammation), my Fatigue increased by 9 points (which makes sense since I'm tired) and my Freshness decreased by 7 points (which also makes sense since I'm not fresh anymore).  My ride was a 45 minute virtual reality training ride on Zwift.  My average power for the 45 minutes was 190w.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone from our family to yours.

Looking like a White Christmas at my Pocono Home!

Fat America

For those that don't know me, or for those that haven't seen me in a while..I've lost 35 lbs. since last year this same time.  Last year, on Christmas Day, I weighed 195 lbs.  This year, I weigh 160 lbs.  That weight loss was due to me "getting back in shape". i.e. eating clean/healthy and exercising regularly by cycling 3-4x per week.  Although I don't look great (according to friends & family), I feel great.  Friends and family say I look sick and they're asking my wife if "I'm ok".  Yes, "I'm ok".  It's not like I haven't been here before.  When I was 50 yrs. old (I'm 58 now), I dropped from 220 lbs. to 195 lbs. then from 195 lbs. down to 175 lbs.  I stayed at 175 lbs. for 5-6 yrs. until I let it slip back up to 195 lbs. last year.  The reason?  For those years that I let my weight gain from 175 to 195 were the years I stopped riding my bike.  Not sure why I stopped..well I do somewhat.  I used to race my bike when I weighed 175 lbs. and then I crashed at a big race (that I trained over a year for) and wasn't able to finish.  I thought to myself, why am I doing so hard and eating so clean only to crash in a race I prepared so hard for...for who..for what?  So, I gave up riding and racing altogether (and ate/drank whatever I wanted) which was pretty stupid because I lost all my fitness I worked so hard to obtain.  I just didn't care anymore.  I don't expect to race again anytime soon (although I did hear that USA Cycling may open up a 60+ Masters Category that has me thinking about it), I do expect to ride recreationaly in the future- this time for good.  I always want to continue to ride my bike- God willing.  There's just something about it..the free/liberating feeling of riding.  I still remember my first bike, at Christmas, almost 50 yrs. ago today.  It wasn't much of a bike.  It was a single speed stingray design from Sears second hand store called Cozi's. It had a banana seat, sissy bar, high handlebars, etc.  It wasn't even close to being as nice as my friends 5 speed Schwinn Orange Crush but it was mine.  When I rode it, I got that free liberating feeling.  I get the same feeling these days when I ride..whether it's my bicycle or my motorcycle.  Later, when I was 13, I received my first Schwinn 3 speed Varsity road bike on Christmas.  I was so proud of that bike.  I rode it every day even throughout the Winter.  So, for me, riding a bike has been a part of my life since I was 8.  Tricycles don't count- ha.

Out of curiosity I looked into the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart to see if my height to weight ratio was in the normal, underweight or overweight category.  I knew I wasn't in the overweight category.  According to Wiki:

"In 1998, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought U.S. definitions in line with World Health Organization guidelines, lowering the normal/overweight cut-off from BMI 27.8 to BMI 25. This had the effect of redefining approximately 29 million Americans, previously healthy, to overweight.[20]

So, if you're BMI is over 25 you're overweight, over 29 obese.  Did you know that over 35% of Americans are "obese"?  Fat America for sure.  That's why when people look at my svelte physique they ask, "Is Rob ok?  Is Rob sick?".  No, he's not sick, you're just so used to looking at fat/overweight/obese people which seems to be the norm these days.  Here's the BMI chart with recommended guidelines:

For me, since I'm 5'11" and I weigh 160 lbs, my BMI (according to the chart) is 22.  That is near the middle of the green band.  Actually, it's closer to the overweight band (yellow) than the underweight (blue) band.  So, according to the National Institute of Health (and CDC), I'm where I should be- in the healthy range.  Are you?

Power ON!  Coach Rob 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Power Meters and Triathlons

Saw a chart today from Alex Simmon's blog re: the usage of Power Meters at Kona's World Championship Ironman Triathlon.  Seems like the Triathlon people are slowly catching on to the benefits of a Power Meter.  At least the more experienced triathletes are. See chart below.

 So, why are they gaining in popularity?  Either these athletes have more disposable income these days or power meters are more affordable- or both.  I think it's more the latter.  Regardless, I think it's great.  When I was actively coaching both road cyclists and triathletes back in 2011, there were hardly any triathletes with power meters on their bikes.  Yes, I admit price was probably a deterrent since even in 2011 a decent power meter would set you back $700.  But, what I found more common was that they didn't know how to use them even when they were given one to demo.  That is why I joined Todd Wiley (TWiley Sports) for his annual Lake Placid Triathlon Camp in May.  I gave a presentation during the weekend camp on the benefits of power meters for triathletes.  One of the primary benefits to someone doing the Lake Placid Ironman is/was pacing themselves.  The Lake Placid course bike ride is 2 x 56 mile laps that are very hilly.  If you go out too hard on your first lap, you'll most likely cook yourself for the 2nd lap and more importantly wreak havoc on your marathon run.

Good stuff.  Glad to see it.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

London Calling

When it's raining outside and it's 40-50F degrees I'd rather be riding indoors- in my pain cave.  Today's Zwift virtual ride was in London.  I've been to London about a dozen times in my life and I must say, the Zwift game graphics is as the Brits would say, "spot on" to the real-life scenery.

Today I chose a 15 mile loop in Zwift called the Greater London Loop.  It's flat for the most part until you reach the 10 mile mark where there is an average 6-8% grade hill for approx 2.5 miles.  Then, it's as the Americans would say, "balls-to-the wall" to the finish line (it's an aviators expression from the old days).  I think I reached 50 mph on the descent to the Tower Bridge.  It was fun and I got a great 45 mile workout- and I didn't even get wet..ha.

Here's a close-up of the Hill Climb:

Here's a chart of the ride metrics:

The printouts (shown above) are from Golden Cheetah (open source) Software which I've grown to love after ditching Training Peaks software.  Golden Cheetah does everything Training Peaks software does and more.  The best part- it's FREE..unlike Training Peaks.  I definitely recommend downloading the program.

This is my last workout til Christmas.  Until then, everyone have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, December 21, 2017

SKS Front & Rear Fenders for Mtn Bikes

Wanted to highlight the SKS Front & Rear Fenders on this Mountain Bike.  I've always had the SKS Rear Fender on my 29er Mtn. Bike but I recently purchased the Front SKS Shockboard Fender because my legs were getting wet on long rides with puddles.  It's real easy to mount.  Takes about 5 minutes.  The Fender/Kit comes with a sleeve that fits (and expands) inside your front fork tube/post.  The Fender clips on/off with a single press of a button.  All plastic construction for no rust worries.  It's durable too.  The plastic can be bent/twisted/etc. without any damage.  Cost $25.  When you want it for wet conditions, clip-on.  When you don't want/need it, clip-off.  The Rear Fender clamps on to the seat post and has a height adjustment.  All well made.  Made in Germany (they make quality stuff).  Take it from a German Engineer (moi).  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zwift Racing

I completed my first Zwift race tonight..woohoo!  The first time I entered a race on Zwift I got shelled.  Dropped like a hot potato.  I had no idea the races go out so fast.  In Zwift, if you lose the draft, good luck getting back on.  And, that's exactly what happened in my first race. So, this time I was ready.  I just didn't know how long I could hang before I was dropped.  The race tonight was a 10km, 1 lap race.  The shorter the race, the higher the intensity..just like in real life racing.  I entered the "D" category which is supposed to be between 1-2.4 w/kg.  The "C" category is supposed to be between 2.4-3.2 w/kg.  My power to weight ratio is about 2.9 w/kg.  So, why didn't I enter the "C" Category?  Well, that's because I got shelled from the last "C" Category race which is why I signed up for the "D" Category.  Tonight's race when out hard/fast.  I think I was averaging over 300w for the first few minutes.  It settled down after that, but I was still averaging over 200w.  On the last climb of the race, I got dropped by the field.  But, unbeknownst to me, our "D" race merged with the "A" thru "C" Category riders.  That is, we were all riding together.  I didn't know that.  I thought all the riders around me were "D" riders.

The results: I came in 2nd place in the "C" Category averaging 2.9 w/kg for 15 minutes.  My Normalized Power was 232w and Average Power was 226w for the race.  So, I pretty much rode at my max power to weight ratio.  It also seems like Zwift automatically upgraded me to "C" Category based on my performance..which is fine with me.  My FTP right now is about 220w.  I want to get that back up to 250w by the Spring of 2018.  I don't think I'll ever get it back up to 275w where it was in 2015..but that's ok.  I weighed 175 lbs back then.  I only weigh 160 lbs. now.  It's much more fun to ride at 160 lbs than 175 lbs..especially when you hit the hills.  I know.  When I first started riding in 2003 I weighed 195 lbs.  It was no fun climbing any hill..not even the shortest of climbs back then.  Climbing when I weighed 175 lbs. was much easier.  It's even easier at 160 lbs.  It's fun passing all the fatty patty's on a climb..haha.  Hey, I used to be one.

I'm starting to like Zwift racing.  Why?  Because it's a great workout.  You're expending close to maximum effort..more so than if you just did a solo workout.  The other thing that's nice about it is that there's no crashes..haha.  And, you don't have to listen to all the BS talking/chatting/yelling/etc. that normally goes on with real races.

Check it out.  I think you'll like it.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, December 17, 2017

You are what you eat!

It always amazes me when I read an article about the Food and Drug Administrations recommended daily food allowances.  What amazes me is how ANYONE can stick to their recommended allowances.  Lets take sodium for example; they recommend 1500mg or less of sodium intake per day.  How the hell is that possible?  I don't eat anything with salt on it and I can't get close to 1500mg per day.  I'm double that.  If I buy nuts it's unsalted.  If I buy pretzels, I rub all the salt off.  I don't put any table salt on anything and I don't eat soup which is loaded with sodium.  Even when I eat peanut butter it's low sodium peanut butter.  Sugar is another one.  The FDA recommends 38g of sugar intake per day or less.  Another WTF on that one.  How is that possible?  I don't eat any sweets at all.  No desserts, no ice cream, no cake, no cookies.  I only drink water or an occasional beer.  I don't even drink Gatorade anymore because of the High Fructose Corn Syrup.  If I get any sugar in my diet it's sucrose or fructose from fresh fruit.  Ok, I lied, I get a little from breakfast cereal in the a.m. but I make sure the Kashi breakfast cereal I eat is low in sugar.  And, I get a little from a protein/energy bar while I'm working out.  And, maybe once in a while I'll put a touch of ketchup on a burger.  When I say a touch I mean less than the size of a quarter in diameter and in height.

So, where am I getting all the salt and sugar?  It's in everything.  It's even in bread, milk, lunch meat, peanut butter, fruits and some vegetables, etc.  This morning I ate a Burger King Ultimate Breakfast Platter. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know but I was on the road in the poconos and had to get home fast and didn't have time (or money) to stop at a diner.  If you're not familiar with this breakfast it consists of: 3 pancakes, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 sausages, 1 hash browns,  & 1 biscuit (w/ syrup & butter).  That's a whopping 1200 calorie breakfast w/ 2800mg of sodium and 36g of sugar.  So, what I do is take one bite of the biscuit and throw it away.  I do the same with the hash browns.  Not because they don't taste good but because it's absolutely garbage for you.  Next, I throw all the condiments away: ketchup, syrup, salt, butter, etc.  Then what I do is take the egg and sausage and I slap it between 2 pancakes and I eat it like a breakfast sandwich.  No butter, no syrup, no extra salt or sugar.  It's actually pretty good.  I figure I cut the sodium, sugar, carbs, etc. in half by doing that.  There's sugar and salt in the pancakes.  The sausage is probably loaded with salt.  But, if you ate the entire meal you pretty much pegged yourself of sodium, carbs, fat and sugar for the day.  The entire day!  That's over 1/2 your recommended daily calories too.  So, it really is a sh$t meal.

Anyway, the point is..start becoming a label reader of find yourself a good online food database that gives you the nutrient breakdown of what you're eating.   Then, keep a diary/journal of what you eat for at least a month.  That's right, every day for a month and see what you're average daily nutrient intake.  I've done it for the past 7 weeks. i.e. kept a diary/journal of everything I put in my mouth for 7 weeks..every day.  (BTW, I use MyFitnessPal as I believe they have the most comprehensive online food database.)  You can see my two main concerns are sugar and salt.  Just can't seem to get that down near the recommended FDA daily allowance.  Check it out:

Yes, it's a lot of work doing this (keeping a food diary).  But, it's the only way you'll truly know what your daily intake is.  And, you ARE what you eat wisely.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mtn Bike Riding in the Snow

I led a group ride in the snow last night on the canal/tow path near my home.  It was in the teens cold.  When I got in my car after my ride, my car thermometer read 13F .  The snow was 1-2" with occasional icy spots.  Everyone stayed upright.  The ride was 22 miles long and took just under 2 hrs. averaging 13-14 mph with a couple stops for water and an energy bar.  Normally, I drink while I ride, but last night was so cold that my Camelbak Hydration Pack hose froze solid.  Here is my essential riding list for the snow:

BIKE- gotta have the right bike with the right tires.  I don't recommend a hybrid bike or a cross bike in 2 inches or more of snow.  Yes, I'm sure you can ride it in 2" of snow but it's not very stable.  Not stable like a Mtn. Bike or Fat Bike.

PEDALS and SHOES- some people still use clip-in pedals in the snow.  I don't because you'll invariably need to stop and when you do, your pedals will fill up with snow.  I use flat pedals with stiff sole shoes and flat bottoms.  You don't want to wear shoes with an aggressive tread pattern.  You want the tread to be flat so the metal nubs/barbs on the flat pedals can dig in for grip/traction.

GAITERS- these should be waterproof and cover the entire shoe including the tops.  This will keep the snow out which will prevent the snow from melting inside your shoes.  If you get your socks wet from melting snow, your feet will get cold in a heartbeat.

POGIES and/or GLOVES?- I don't like Pogies.  They're the big muff looking things that attach to your bike handlebars and grips- that you insert your gloved hand into.  They're too poofy for my taste.  Besides, I want my hands free to do whatever: get a drink, press a button on my bike computer, get a drink, blow my nose, scratch my ear, eat, etc.  I like Ski Gloves.  They work well.  If your hands still get cold, pop a hand warmer inside.

FACE/EYE/HEAD PROTECTION-  I lumped these all together because you want them to fit together.  You want your goggles or sunglasses to fit our helmet.  When it gets real cold and windy outside, I ditch my bike helmet and use my ski helmet w/ goggles or sunglasses.  If there is a chance of frostbite, I'll use a balaclava (full face/head mask).

FENDERS- I have a clip-on fender for my rear wheel (and it works great).  I should get one for the front.  They make them but they're just harder to find.

LIGHTS- for night riding you need a good hi-power (hi-lumen) output light.  You'll also need a high capacity battery to run the light for at least 2-4 hrs. since you never know how long you'll be riding or caught outside in the cold.  Make sure your light battery is fully charged.  The cold has a way of zapping your battery (even Lithium batteries).

BIKE RACK- I see people disassemble their bikes and throw them in the trunk after their ride.  To me, that's too much of a hassle.  Plus, it dirties up the back of your SUV or trunk. I like the hitch mounted bike racks.  It takes all of 5 seconds to safely secure your bike to the rack and it keeps all the dirt/salt/gravel/etc. outside of your car.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Let it Snow!

I know there's a lot of people that live near me in PA that don't like the cold or the snow.  They bitch and moan about it.  I never understood that.  If you don't like something, why do you put up with it- year after year after year?  It's not going to get any better.  Winter is still going to come and dump some snow on you if you live in the Northern latitudes.  Just move to Florida or wherever if you don't like it.  For some, that's not possible..they just can't afford to pack up and move.  Or, maybe they have older parents in the area to care for, etc.  I'm guessing the REAL reason why they bitch and moan is because they don't know how to enjoy the snow.  That is, they don't sled, ski, hike, snowmobile, walk, or bike in the snow which is a shame.  Some of the most beautiful nature photos I've taken over the years have been snow scenes where I was outside skiing, biking, walking, etc.  Plus, who doesn't like the fresh clean air after a recent snow and the warm sun on your face?

I bike in the snow with my mountain bike.  As long as the snow is 2" or less it's fine.  When it gets above 3" it can be a little tricky unless it's one of those powdery snows (which we don't get very many of here in the Northeast).  I just deflate my tires from 50psi down to 30psi for more/better traction.  Fat bike tires can run as low as 10psi of air in the tires.

The next thing I recommend is to change your pedals from the clip-in type to flat pedals.  Because you're going to put your foot down sooner than later and when you do, your cleats will fill up with snow and make it hard to clip back in.  Plus, your reaction time is much faster getting your foot on the ground for stability with flat pedals vs. clip-in pedals.  And, you're not going to have to worry about your foot coming off the pedal when you're climbing because you shouldn't be climbing in the snow anyway.  You also want to stay seated while you ride.  No need to stand up on the pedals.  The bike is going to wash out a little from side-to-side.  It will feel weird/unsafe at first but you'll get used to it.  Just spin at a good high rate (80-90 rpm) and don't mash the pedals.  Also, get used to the fact that you're not going to be riding at your customary speeds. If you normally ride at 15 mph on dry trails, don't expect to go faster than 8 mph in the snow.  And, you're going to use much more power to go 8 mph in the snow than you would 15 mph in dry conditions.  If the trail becomes slippery you can always put on some studded tires.  I've never done that yet, but there's always a first time.  If I do, I'll report it here.

As far as clothing, I dress for Winter bike riding the same way I do for skiing..except I don't wear the baggy pants that I do when skiing.  I wear long winter stretch riding/cycling pants.  They're comfortable and warm.  I also wear the lobster gloves where the thumb and index finger have their own sleeve, and the last three fingers of your hand share another sleeve.  If your hands still get cold you can always pop a hand-warmer inside your gloves.  I'll wear sunglasses or ski goggles depending on conditions.  Always wear goggles or glasses of some type with UV protection from the sun.  Don't forget your sunscreen too.  For shoes/boots, I love my specialized winter riding boots.  Except for the snow, I change to flat pedals and hiking boots.  If your feet get cold, pop in toe warmers- they work.  Lastly, don't forget to hydrate.  Riding in the snow is a workout.  It's tough riding and you're going to work up a sweat just like X-Country skiing..regardless of whether it's in the 20s.  I wear my Camelbak hydration pack on my back.

So, get out and ride and enjoy the snow... LET IT SNOW!  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Train Hard...recover Harder!

You don't get stronger by training harder, you get stronger by recovering harder.  When you cycle train hard, you're essentially tearing down the muscle fibers of the quadraceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves- in your legs.  Those small muscle membranes are torn-up/damaged.  That's the muscle soreness you experience 8-12 hrs. after a hard ride that can last 24 hrs.  When you recover, those muscle fibers in your leg are re-building stronger and acclimating to the stress they've been seeing lately..and readying themselves for the next hard effort.  Yet, most cyclists don't spend much planning on the recovery phase of training, just the workout/training phase. 

Recovery isn't about sitting on the couch with your feet up on the coffee table drinking beer and watching football all day/night long after a hard ride.  When we talk about recovery it should be "active" recovery.   I'll get to active recovery later.  Recovery should start at least 5 minutes before the end of your hard training ride.  It should consist of a nice cool down of high rpm low intensity pedaling.  This will help clear the lactate accumulation in the blood.  As soon as you get off the bike, you should ingest some carbohydrates and protein to fuel the muscles.  According to sports physiologist Joe Friel, in the first few minutes after getting off the bike, there is a potential for a 300% increase in glycogen resynthesis as compared to waiting 2 hrs.  Miss this window after your ride and your recovery may take more than 24 hrs. to get back in the saddle.  A good post-workout recovery drink is chocolate milk.  It's got the right amount of high glycemic carbohydrates and protein.  That combined with a high glycemic carbohydrate and high protein energy/protein bar should do the trick.  Within 2 hrs. after the ride, you want to eat a more substantial meal composed of lower glycemic carbohydrates and quality protein such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.  This meal will keep blood glucose and insulin levels high.  This post ride meal is not a time to be thinking of eating less and losing weight.  It should be a time to be thinking of feeding and repairing your damaged muscles.  And, don't forget to consume plenty of water that was lost sweating during your your hard training ride.  Even if you don't think you sweated very much during your ride (such as in the Winter months), your body loses a lot of fluid.

In addition to eating/drinking properly, many professional riders find that a massage is a highly effective way to restore muscles after a hard ride.  However, for the everyday amateur rider (like you and me) that is not practical nor feasible.  But, what is is stretching and using a foam roller.  Ten to fifteen minutes of stretching and rolling out your leg muscles on a foam roller goes a long way to a speedy recovery.  Don't forget to get plenty of sleep the night after your hard least 7 hrs.

So, what is "active" recovery?  Active recovery is just that- recovering while being active instead of passive.  Active recovery from the bike can be taking a walk, swimming or hiking as long as the intensity is low.  Active recovery can also include getting back on the bike as long as the effort/intensity is ridiculously low and slow.  Pretend you're riding with your grandmother of 80 yrs. in your flip flops.  You want a low intensity ride of no more than 20-30 minutes.  I find that I recover faster with "active" recovery vs. "passive" recovery..again, as long as the intensity is low and doesn't exceed 20-30 minutes.  I think most cyclists would agree with me.

Remember, your recovery is just as important, if not more important than your training ride/workout.
Power ON!  Coach Rob

The Pain Cave

I always have people tell me how much they hate indoor training- so they don't.  That's a shame, because it really doesn't take a lot of effort or cost a lot of money to build your own Pain Cave- as I like to call it- for indoor training.  What are the pain cave essentials?  First, and foremost, you need a a cave.  I finished 1/2 of my basement to make my pain cave.  Carpet, drywall walls, drop ceiling, all basic stuff.  The 2nd, you need a bike.  I use my old (circa 1995) Cannondale Aluminum bike.  It's still a great bike.  The 3rd, is a good "smart" trainer.  What do I mean by "smart"?  It's a trainer that changes resistance automatically as the bike (in your training video) either ascends a mountain/hill or descends.  There are plenty on the market these days.  I have a "Lab Quality" Computrainer that I bought years ago.  It's compatible with all of today's virtual reality software programs like Zwift and ErgVideo.  It's also one of the most accurate trainers on the market.  That is, it reads power output in watts +/- 1%.  Yes, it's pricey ($1500) but I got a great deal from Racermate for being a USA Cycling Power Based Coach.  You don't have to spend that much on a good trainer.  There are a bunch on the market made by Power Tap/Saris, Tacx, Wahoo, Kinetic, etc. that cost half of that.  Fourth, you need a good computer to run the virtual reality software.  I find that a laptop works just fine.  Just make sure the processor speed is fast enough, the video graphics board is fast enough, there's enough memory, and make certain you have a fast (wide bandwidth) internet connection.  Fifth, you need a good monitor/display to project your ride on.  No, a phone doesn't hack it, not an iPad either.  I don't even like laptops since they're still too small for me.  You gotta go big on the monitor.  I either recommend plugging your laptop into a big screen TV or plug it into a projector and project it on to a screen.  I used to project onto a projector screen but now that I have a big screen TV within earshot of my laptop, I connect via an HDMI cable.  Speaking of phones, that is sixth on the list.  If you use Software such as Zwift, you need a smart phone to act as a remote.  Seventh, you need a good fan.  I'm talking near industrial strength/grade to keep you cool during your training ride.  Eighth, you need some tunes..either provided by your phone or by a stereo.  I use my stereo from my college days which still kicks out some amazing sound with good bass.  Ninth is all the other stuff: towel, water bottle, shoes, HR monitor, etc.  You definitely need a HR monitor that is either ANT+ or BLE protocol that talks to your computer and the software on it.  If you use an ANT+ trainer and/or HR monitor you're going to need an ANT+ dongle in your computer so they talk to each other.  My Computrainer plugs-in directly into the laptop so I don't have to worry about dongles or wireless connections.

So, stop making excuses on why you don't train indoors or why you hate training indoors.  If you don't train indoors (or you hate it) you probably don't have a decent set up.  Yes, I know these things/equipment costs $$$.  So does every other hobby/sport I know of.  If you're serious about cycling you'll find a way to come up with the $$$ to build/create a similar pain cave to mine.  Beg, borrow or steal some $$$.  No, don't steal..just kidding on that one.  And, who said you had to build it all in a day/weekend.  Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was my setup.  Mine took years to build.  So, start building.  I actually look forward to training in my pain cave on inclement weather days.  Is it as much fun as riding outdoors?  In general, "NO"..but it's the next best thing.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, December 8, 2017

Interval Workout

Most cyclists think the only way to do training intervals is inside on their trainer.  That's not so.  You can do intervals outside as long as you find a road/path where you have time/distance to perform a steady-state interval effort.  That is, a road/path void of any stops.  I have just that path/road.  It's a canal/tow path near my home that runs adjacent to the Delaware River.  It's flat, and at night, it's deserted.  The only slow downs are 2-5 second slow downs for road crossings and/or bridge crossings.  In the interval workout last night, I completed two intervals at L3/L4 (sweetspot) zones: the first being 25 minutes long and the 2nd being 45 minutes long.  Each interval was separated by a 5 min. rest.  The rest interval was when I dismounted my bike and walked across a Delaware River bridge (on the walking path).  At the end of the 45 minute interval there was a 10' cooldown period  Here's the workout:

5' Warmup
5' RI (Rest Interval)
10' cooldown

Here's what it looks like graphically:

What I really like about this graph is the W' curve (red line).  It shows how my stress went from positive to negative during the interval workout.  They (experts) say when your W' equals zero that you're nearly out of gas.  That was true last night.  In fact, I was running on fumes at the end of the 1st interval.  The second interval was no different...running on fumes at the end of the interval.  You can see how the 5' Rest Interval (RI) re-charged my batteries but that they were drained shortly thereafter- again.  No doubt a good interval workout that stressed the legs.  My legs were sore when I got home last night.  In fact, they're still a little sore this a.m.  Now, I need to get some rest and recover so the leg muscles can rebuild (stronger) and get ready for the next effort/workout on Sunday.  Until then.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Ok, so I said whenever a cool product hits the market I would review it.  Well, this product isn't necessarily new but it's new to me and it's WAY COOL!  The program (or game) is called Zwift.  What is Zwift?  It's an online (internet) game, it's an interactive cycling software program, it's a training aid, and it's FUN!  See

What you need to set up Zwift is a bike, a cycling trainer with a power meter, a laptop or desktop computer and an internet connection.  You can even run the Zwift program from a phone or iPad.  That power meter can be built into the Hub of your wheel (provided it can communicate via Bluetooth or ANT+ protocol with the computer that the Zwift software is installed on), it can be a HR Monitor/Power Meter strap (such as the PowerCal from Power Tap), it can be a trainer such as Computrainer (by Racermate) or one by Cycleops or Tacx.  The more accurate the power meter, the more realistic the online experience.  The computer should have a good network or Wifi connection with hi-speed internet service.  It should also have a fast graphics card/adapter.  If not, the Zwift software program won't run properly or won't run at all.

Once set up on your computer you can go for a group training ride, sign up for a race, or just ride alone.  The first thing to do, once you sign-on is to determine what your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is.  You can do that by clicking on the FTP test.  You have the option of doing a 1 hr. FTP test or a 20 min. abbreviated FTP test.  I chose the latter.  Once you determine your FTP (mine was 210w when I tested it last night.  My FTP is actually closer to 220w) you divide that number by your weight in kilograms.  To do that, just weigh yourself in lbs. and divide by 2.2.  I weigh 160 lbs. so my weight in kg is 160/2.2= 73kg.  Now, take the FTP (210w) and divide that by the weight (73) and you get a power to weight ratio (w/kg) of 2.9 w/kg.  If you want to race online, you need to know this number so you can ensure you sign up for the correct race.  The races are rated/categorized A thru D.  Here is the Zwift w/kg per race category:

A> 4 w/kg
B= 3.2- 4 w/kg
C= 2.5- 3.2 w/kg
D< 2.5 w/kg

Based on this, my w/kg was smack in the middle of the C-category.  So, I entered a Cat-C race and I got shelled/dropped...ha.  I could clearly see that the people ahead of me were not Cat-C riders, their w/kg was close to 4, some even over 4 w/kg.  By the way, these people are real people from all over the world.  So, just like in real life racing, there are sandbagger racers online.  It's easier to sandbag at an online race than it is a real race.  The easiest way to do it is to enter a weight (into the software program) lower than your actual weight.  The other is to use a Power Meter that is not calibrated properly and reads high.  I know that the PowerCal HR monitor/power meter reads 10% higher than my Computrainer Power Meter.  I know Zwift is trying to police this somehow/some way.  Here is a screen shot of a race:

The Zwift software tells you everything you want to know about the race/ride.  It tells you your power output (watts), your Heart Rate (bpm), your cadence (rpm), your speed (mph), the distance and time into the race and the time remaining.  It also tells you the other racers around you, their names, where they're from, their w/kg, etc.

All of this Fun is not free however.  After your free 7-day trial, you must pay $15/mo. to continue.  But, that's cheap considering one spinning session at your local gym where they play Beyonce music for 45 minutes charges $25.  That's $15/mo. for unlimited riding, races, etc.  Even if you only sign-up for the Winter months (December thru March) it's well worth it in my opinion.  Because there is no better cycling training than racing.

Check it out, I think it's a cool program that's only going to get better.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving Day.  Did you get a ride in today before the big dinner feast?  I did.  Now I won't feel as guilty downing all the food/drink.  Don't forget, the average Joe gains 5-10 lbs. from Thanksgiving to New Years day.  For me, it's a time of year I start watching what I eat because it's too easy to start drinking and eating too much.  Every where you go over the Holiday's there's food- mostly junk food.  So, riders beware!  Don't forget to get a long ride in this weekend.  It's supposed to be mild temps (50F ish).

PowerCal vs. Computrainer Power Output

Let me just say this before I begin, this post was not intended to compare the merits of a $100 power meter/HR monitor made by Power Tap to that of a $1500 power meter made by Racermater aka Computrainer.  There is no comparison.  What it's intended to do is show/highlight the PowerCal for what it is.  That is, it's an inexpensive tool to get you into the "power meter" world without taking a 2nd mortgage out on your home.  Just like you can go to a store and buy a $100 micrometer vs. $1000 micrometer, they both do the same job..measure things.  It's just that one does it with better accuracy/precision than the other.  Naturally, the higher the price the more accurate.  Same applies with power meters.

From the research that I've done, I read/heard the PowerCal power meter/HR monitor has better reliability (closer accuracy) with longer steady-state efforts rather than shorter intervals.  So, I set out to see if this was true, and lo and behold- it is/was.  Granted, this is not a scientific study and the sample size is not large enough to give it any statistical significance.  Nonetheless here it is.  See Chart below:

You can see that as the intensity increases (L1 thru L4) the change in watts (delta) between the Computrainer and PowerCal increased.  I can only assume that's because of the short 5 minute intervals.  So, I decided to do a longer interval at L4 (20 minutes instead of 5 minutes).  You can see that the delta decreased from 30 watts to 10 watts.  That is, the PowerCal was more accurate at longer steady-state intervals.  I tried to maintain the target watts of 225w at L4 but I could only muster 205w.  Just not on my A-game since I rode hard on Tuesday night and it's currently Thursday night.  Yeah, I know, it's 2 days..but I'm almost 60 and I seem to need 3 days rest before hard workouts rather than 2 of yesteryear.

I'm really happy with my PowerCal power meter/HR monitor for $100.  It does what it was intended to do and that is get you in the ballpark of the power meter game.  As I said before, it's not intended to compare with the more expensive power meters on the market, but it will get you in the game/ballpark..and that's what I wanted.  If I want better accuracy I'll use one of my more expensive power meters on a ride- that has better accuracy.

BTW, I own 2 computrainer power meters at $1500 ea. (one is Lab quality), an iBike Pro power meter at $400, 2 Power Tap power meter hubs at $700 ea.  And, now a PowerCal power meter/HR monitor.   That's over $4000 worth of power meters. So, it's not that I don't have any other power meters or I can only afford a $100 power meter.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Blood Pressure & Pulse

One of the reasons why I ride is to stay healthy.  I don't have to tell you that eating healthy and exercising is the key to good health- that and good genetics.  Actually, it's better to have good genes than anything else.  I've known many people to die early on in life from nasty diseases such as cancer, heart disease, etc. despite being in great physical shape.  We have no control over the hand we were dealt re: genes, so it is what it is and you are what you are.  For the things we do have control of- why not eat healthy and exercise?

As far as your heart goes, it's wise to keep track of your blood pressure and your pulse.  I like looking at pulse as well as heart rate because it gives me a good indication of my current fitness. i.e. normally the lower the pulse the better shape (in younger people).  There is a condition called bradycardia and it usually affects older adults (>65).  Bradycardia is a deterioration of the electrical system of the heart.  Bradycardia lowers the pulse rate in older adults.  There are also many drugs out on the market place that lower pulse rate.  When I'm not in shape, my heart rate/pulse is normally around 65bpm.  When I'm in-shape it's generally in the mid to high 40s.  Currently my resting pulse is 47bpm.  This past May when I was out-of-shape my pulse was 65bpm.  So, in 5 months I was able to lower my pulse (resting heart rate) almost 20 beats per minute due to eating healthy and exercising.

What's a normal heart rate/pulse?  According to the Mayo Clinic anything from 60-100bpm is considered normal.  (Although to me, anything over 80 seems high).  Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. An elite athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40bpm or even in the high 30s.

So, what's a normal blood pressure?  According to the American Heart Association the recommended or normal blood pressure is 120/80, read one twenty over eighty.  The top number is the systolic blood pressure measured in millimeters of mercury (mm-Hg).  Systolic pressure is the pressure that the blood exerts on the artery walls when your heart pumps.  The bottom number is the diastolic pressure measured in mm Hg.  Diastolic pressure is the pressure that the blood exerts on the artery walls when your heart is resting or in-between beats/pumps.  Here's a chart from the AMA:

My current blood pressure and heart rate is: 107/71 mm-Hg with a pulse of 47bpm.  That's with taking no prescription medication.  I take my blood pressure and heart rate at least once per month.  I try to make a habit of checking it once per week.  A lot of the CVS/Rite Aid pharmacies have blood pressure machines/monitors that are calibrated regularly.  I used to use them but I bought one for home instead.  It's made by Omron and is one of the most reliable home blood pressure monitors on the market (according to my research).  It takes 3 readings/tests and gives you the average.  It also stores the information in the unit for future comparison.  I'm not sure of the price but I think it cost $100.  Yes, it's a little pricey but with the higher price you get higher accuracy/reliability.  I don't calibrate the unit but I do compare the readings with the local pharmacy blood pressure monitors to make sure it's comparable/in-line.

Is high blood pressure really a big deal?  I think so.  Here's a pictorial of what high blood pressure can do to your body:

Vision LossHigh blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.

Heart AttackHigh blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood from flowing to tissues in the heart muscle.

Kidney DiseaseHigh blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to effectively filter blood.

Sexual DysfunctionThis can be erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women. 

Heart Failure-The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body. 

StrokeHigh blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst or clog more easily. 

Next time you're in the pharmacy (or doctors office) get your blood pressure taken and ask what your pulse is.  Or better yet, buy a blood pressure monitor for your home.  I think it's worth it.  Until then, eat healthy and keep riding your bike.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bike Light & Battery

A few posts ago I told you I bought a 5000 lumen 2x Cree XML bike light, battery and charger for $22.   Hard to believe huh?  Well, it was hard to believe because the 4400 mAh battery that came with the light could not power the light on the med setting for 1.5 hrs.  So, I was in search for a new battery that would last at least 1.5 hrs. on medium power which projects about 500 lumens, not 5000 as advertised.  Well, I found one for $15 and the best part is, IT WORKS!  Here it is:

The Mfg. claims it's a 6600 mAh capacity battery.  It could be.  I ran my light on medium setting last night for 1.5 hrs. and the bike light showed a minimum of 80% power left in the battery at the end of the ride.  That's pretty damn good if you ask me.  The only thing I didn't like about the new battery is that the coax end connector didn't have threads on it so that the lights coax connector could screw onto it providing a waterproof secure connection.  So, what I did was cut the connector off the 4400 mAh battery that had threads and swapped it out with the 6600 mAh.  It took me 20 minutes to solder and tape the connector on.  The best part is, it's now secure and waterproof.  There's an internal o-ring at the end of the bike light connector.

For $37 you've got a "waterproof" high power LED light, battery and charger that rivals an LED light that cost over $200 just 5 yrs. ago.  Plus, it's smaller and a lot lighter than bike lights of yesteryear.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Why I ride!

There's a lot of reasons why I ride: to keep in shape, to get outdoors, because I like it, etc.  Another reason is because I like the competitive nature..whether it's organized racing or just out on a group ride for fun.  Last night it was the latter.  I was on a group night ride for fun.  The ride was advertised as a B/C ride but the group that showed up last night was mostly "B" riders.  A "B" rider on a recreational club ride would be synonymous with a USA Cycling Cat 5 group race (which are mostly beginner racers).

Whenever I ride with a group, I always size up the strong riders at the beginning of the ride.  I can normally pick them out- for the most part.  At the beginning of each ride I normally "sit-in" and warm up and conserve energy because I know I'm going to be pulling (out front) for at least 1/2 the ride.  Last nights ride was 1.5 hrs. long with approximately 1 hour of  steady riding.  The other 1/2 hr. is spent walking over bridges, stopping, slowing, etc.  Of that 1 hour steady riding, I'd say I'm riding in the L3/L4 (sweet spot) zone and L4 (threshold) zone.  When one of the strong riders pass me and go out front and try to separate themselves from the pack, I'm the first one on their wheel.  I don't like anyone getting away.  That's what happened last night on the PA side of the ride.  I was out front pulling at 16.5 mph and one of the strong riders passed me, so I jumped on his wheel.  We were now averaging 17.5 mph.   BTW, riding at 16.5 mph on a heavy mountain bike on the mud/gravel is probably equivalent to riding at 22 mph on a light road bike on asphalt. You can see from the graph below, I wasn't utilizing any more power and my heart rate didn't increase any more than when I was going 16.5 mph pulling out front vs. drafting at 17.5 mph.  Ahh, the beauty of the draft.

On the NJ side of the ride, the same thing happened.  Except the guy that passed me was sitting in the back for 3/4 of the ride. i.e. conserving energy.  That kind of pissed me off.  The guy doesn't share in any of the pulling, and then when everyone else is tired, he pulls away and separates himself from the pack.  I tried to reel the guy in by myself but every time I got close he pulled away.  I tried to recruit the guy behind me to help me pull and reel him in but the guy just didn't have enough gas left in the tank.  That's when two more riders a strong woman rider (Nora) and some other guy got in front of me and we chased him down.  You can see we were averaging 18+ mph at the end of the ride.  We came within 50 yds. of the guy when we finished.  It was fun chasing him down.  I know he knew we were gaining on him.  At the end of the ride, I  saw the guy in the parking lot (he was an older guy like me) and I told him, "we almost got you, good riding".  He smiled, he knew we almost caught him at the finish.  I was still kind of pissed that he sat in for 3/4 of the ride though and then when everyone was tired he decides to break-away.  Here's the graph of the final chase:

Anyway, if you want to know (one of the reasons) why I ride, that's why.  Good Fun!

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, November 17, 2017

IF and TSS

There's a couple metrics worth looking at after a ride and they are Intensity Factor (IF) and Training Stress Score (TSS).  I'll define each:

IF (Intensity Factor)= NP/ FTP

where: NP= Normalized Power (watts)
           FTP= Functional Threshold Power (watts)

Normalized Power (NP) is an estimate of the power that you could have maintained for the same physiological "cost" if your power had been perfectly constant, such as on an ergometer, instead of variable power output.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is your "hour power".  That is, the maximum sustained average power for 1 hour.  This can be estimated by performing a 20 min TT and multiplying the max sustained average power for 20 min. by 95%.


I rode for 1.5 hrs. and my Normalized Power for the ride was 230w.  My FTP is 220w.  Therefore, IF= 230/220= 1.05   BTW, that's a pretty intense ride/workout.  Normally, tough workouts are around the 0.75-0.85 mark.  When I see an IF over 1.0 I'm suspect of the NP or FTP, or both.  I think in this example, the NP was too high since I know my FTP is definitely 220w.

TSS (Training Stress Score)= can be manually calculated or determined by an algorithm inside your bike computer or software that looks at the power zones you ride and time you ride in those zones.


My ride consisted of 30 minutes in L2 Zone, 1.5 hr. in L3 Zone and 1 hr. in L4 Zone.  
By definition, an TSS of 100 is equal to riding at your FTP for one hour.  

L2 (1.3 weight factor) x 30 min= 40 points
L3 (1.5 weight factor) x 90 min= 135 points
L4 (1.7 weight factor) x 60 min= 100 points

Training Stress Score (TSS)= 275 points  BTW, that's a pretty hard ride/workout for 3 hrs.  And, that's NOT the exact weighting factor that's used to compute TSS but you get the idea.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rolling resistance- revisited

I made a post a year or two ago on rolling resistance and how different mountain bike tires have different coefficients of friction based on tread pattern.  But, what I didn't mention is how tire pressure affects rolling resistance (generally the higher the pressure the lower the coefficient of friction between the tire and the road due to less tire contact with the road) not to mention the road surface. i.e. how rough it is.

After analyzing one of my post rides the other day, I was wondering why I was putting out more watts (power) on my mountain bike but my average speeds haven't been increasing.  That's because it's been very wet/cold recently and the ground has softened up on the tow path upon which I ride.  The tow path is comprised of dirt, gravel, leaves (lot of them lately), chunk rock, etc.  When it gets wet, the dirt turns to mud and the gravel mixes in with the mud and the leaves.  Thus, a softer surface to ride on.  I'm not sure what the difference is in watts between a soft tow path surface and a hard surface but I'll guess and say it's close to 10% or 20 watts at 200+ watt output.  Here's a table (below) with road surface coefficient of frictions and you can see that concrete has twice as less friction than asphalt does.  And, a rough paved road (I'm assuming something like chip seal) has 4x the friction that a smooth concrete road has.  So, you can imagine what the difference is between hard dirt and soft mud.

So, what does all this mean?  A higher coefficient of friction between the tire surface and the road surface means less speed for a given power output.  How much depends on a lot of things: road surface, bike tire rubber composition, bike tire width, bike tire tread pattern, bike tire sidewall stiffness, tire pressure, road surface temperature, etc.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Sunday, November 12, 2017

W prime (W')

Since I'm using Golden Cheetah software more often these days, I came across a metric called W prime, written W'.  I think it's a really neat/cool metric that wasn't and probably still isn't available in Training Peaks Software WKO+ 4.  It's new to me, that's for sure.  Before I tell you what W' is all about, you first must understand what CP (Critical Power) and what FTP (Functional Threshold Power) are.  Let's start with the latter.  FTP is your "hour power".  That is, it's your maximum sustained average power output in 1 hour in watts.  It's your average sustained power during a 40k TT.  Another way of determining your FTP is to do a 20 minute TT and find your maximum sustained average power.  Then, take 95% of that value and that's your FTP.  Critical Power (CP) is synonymous with FTP.  To find your CP do a 3 minute, 5 minute and 10 minute Time Trial with a Power Meter.  Or, do a 3 minute, 8 minute and 14 minute Time Trial which I heard is a little better for plotting.  Plot the power (3 pts.) versus duration (time).  Your CP, in watts, is where the line levels off.  You'll need a curve fitting software program to properly plot the graph and find your CP.  i.e. hyperbolic curve fit.  Want an easier way to compute your CP?  Download Golden Cheetah software and use their CP and W' Estimator.  See graph below:

Now, the amount of work that you can do above your CP, shown by the red hatched lines above, is your W'.  It's a fixed amount.  If you're a math geek, and you want to calculate the actual W' value, all you have to do is find the equation of the CP line and integrate (using calculus).  How quickly that fixed amount lasts is dependent on how hard you go above your CP and if you get any rest or breaks.  Go hard above your CP and you're not going to last long.  Go easy above your CP (say 250w in the graph above) and you'll last longer than if you went hard (say 300w in the graph above).  If you get a chance to recover during your ride, or take a break, it will replenish the W'.  How much it replenishes depends on many things such as the amount of time you recover, the power you recover to, etc.  Sooner or later though, whether you go hard or easy above your CP you're going to bonk/crash/run out of gas.  The value of W' where you start to crash and burn is around zero (0).  The units for W', or sometimes labeled W'bal, (balance) is in kiloJoules (kJ).   How long you can keep up the power at W' varies.  How negative a value you can have for W' varies too.

Here's a stress graph (from Golden Cheetah) showing W' for my latest ride today:

Not sure why Golden Cheetah gave me a W'bal of 20 kJ to start with.  I suppose it's based on my FTP of 220 that I entered into Golden Cheetah.  The segment of my ride highlighted in red is a 3 mile Time Trial on my Mountain Bike on the Tow Path.  You can see I started out a little hot, close to 300w, and backed it down to about 250w.  I should have done this TT fresh, if I wanted a personal best time, but I had just ridden 8 miles prior.  Nonetheless, you can see my W'bal plummet because 250w is definitely above my FTP or CP of 220w.  In fact, W'bal went negative at the end of my TT.  Was I exhausted at W'bal=0, hell yeah, but you could see I still had about 1.5 miles to go.  So, at 250w (30w above my FTP) it only took about 5-6 minutes before I was near 0 W'bal.  It doesn't take long.  Lessons learned, if you want to do a TT do it fresh and don't start out too hot (rookie mistake).  You can also see that my W'bal didn't start to recover until I walked over the bridge from Bulls Island, NJ to the PA side.  The PowerCal HR monitor/meter showed 100w when in reality I wasn't even on the bike.  I was walking my bike across the bridge because of the heavy pedestrian traffic.  Anyway, that's W'bal and I think it's a neat/cool metric for post-ride analysis.  Probably even better for post-race analysis.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cold Flu Season is Here

Just saw this chart/graph today from Training Peaks showing that moderate intensity exercise is better than no exercise (sendentary) for staving off the cold, flu, sore throat, etc. during the Winter season.  But, that with intense exercise you're more at risk of infection.  To me, this is obvious.  It's all about a healthy immune system.  If you're healthy and your immune system is working as it should, you'll most likely be able to stave off most colds, flus, etc.  But, if you exercise at a high intensity level you're more susceptible.  That's because you start to run your immune system down at high intensity levels.  Even if you don't train intensely, it's still probably not a bad idea to get a flu shot.  Flu shots are not a guarantee you won't get the flu, because when they develop the vaccine, they pretty much guess at what strain will be the most prevalent in your area when flu season rolls around- which is right about now.  They manufacture this vaccine in late Summer, months before the flu season, so they have enough to go around and can get it to market on time.  So, if they make strain A of the flu vaccine (and disseminate it and you get the flu vaccine shot), and they discover that strain B is the actual flu bug going around it will help but you're still susceptible to getting the flu.

Other than exercising at moderate intensity what else can we do to lower your risk of infection during the flu season?  Here's a list:
1.  Wash your hands often- with soap.
2.  Get plenty of sleep.
3.  Eat well.
4.  Stay away from sick people.
5.  Avoid sharing cups/utensils/water bottles/etc.
6.  Avoid crowds, public venues, planes, trains, etc. if you can.
7.  Avoid binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption.
8.  Wash your pillow case and bed sheets at least once per week.
9.  Use two towels in the bathroom: 1 for your body and 1 for your face.
10.  Use a humidifier if your house is too dry.
11.  Hydrate often.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Strava Ride Segment

I created a ride segment the other day on Strava.  The ride segment is from S. Washington St. in Frenchtown, NJ to Kingwood Stn Rd 3 miles down the towpath from Frenchtown.  What's pretty cool is that Strava will give you all of the metrics for your ride segment.  Does anyone know how that works?  Is it being done real-time?  I'm not even sure my phone was on.  I know Strava wasn't running on my phone.  Does Strava do it all post ride when I download my ride from my Garmin Edge into Strava?  That is, Strava looks at my ride and says, "hey I've got a segment along that ride in my database so lets capture the metrics for that segment for you".  The average Power is a little high but that's because I was wearing my PowerCal HR monitor/power meter instead of my hub based power meter on my road bike.  I'd say it was 5-10% high...closer to 10%.

Anyway, I think it's pretty cool that it gives the metrics for the segment- see chart/graph above.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

PowerCal Ride Segment

Here's a ride segment from my ride the other night wearing my PowerCal HR Monitor/Power Meter estimator.  I was pretty happy with the results.  I'd say the power numbers were a tad high, maybe 5% high, but that's not a problem since I can adjust the power output (across the entire ride) using Golden Cheetah software (open source).  Just go into the main menu, choose Edit then choose Adjust Power Values and Enter "-5" (in my case) and it will adjust the power profile 5% lower for the entire ride.

Here's my ride profile:

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bright Lights- revisited!

5000 Lumen 2x CREE XML U2 LED Cycling Bicycle Bike Light Lamp HeadLight Headlamp

I had purchased the 5000 Lumen 2x Cree XML U2 LED bike light via Amazon this week for $22.  I used it last night for the first time.  My impression?  Fair at best.  You get what you pay for.  The light has 3 brightness settings: High, Med & Low.  It puts out a good flood light with a width of about 30-40 ft.  The length of light (ahead of the bike) is about 20 yds.  It definitely doesn't put out 5000 lumens.  I'm not even sure it puts out 2000 lumens.   If I had to guess, I'd say it's more like 500 they had a typo in their advertised output. 

I fully charged the battery pack (4 x 18650 Lithium-ion batteries) before I connected it to the light.  I have no idea what the capacity of the 4 batteries are.  There was no paperwork.  If I had to guess, I'd say each battery had only an 1100 mAh capacity.  And, I'd say two of the batteries were connected in series and two in parallel from looking at the case.  Since Li-ion batteries have a terminal voltage of 3.7v that makes for a 7.4v on-load voltage for the battery pack (2 batteries in series).  The charging voltage of the battery pack is 8.4v and is advertised as such.  Therefore, the battery pack is an 8.4v 2200 mAh battery pack.  Why do I think the capacity was only 2200mAh?  Because 3/4 of the way through my 1.5 hr. bike ride, the light shut down completely.  It just shut off.  And, that was on Med power.  I knew there was no way the battery pack would last the entire 1.5 hr. bike ride on high power. 

Anyway, I'm in search for a new battery pack for my new light.  I'll probably end up paying more for the battery and charger then I did for the entire kit...but that's ok.  I knew a 5000 lumen bike light for $22 was unrealistic.  When I get a new battery hooked-up, I'll give yet another report/update.

Until then, Power ON!  Coach Rob