The last week has been full of mountain biking ups and downs – and I’m not talking about elevation changes.
The 2nd Ohio Mountain Bike Championship race occurred last Saturday. I didn’t have good placement on the line or the strong start that I wanted, but I slowly worked my way up the field until I was in 1st place by the halfway point of the race. I felt great, but then a flat tire derailed my success with less than 3 miles left in the race. Why hadn’t I changed to tubeless? Why had I left my spare tube in the car? Even if I had my tools, would it have mattered. I’m not a fast mechanic, fixing my tire might have taken me longer than finishing on a flat tire. Why hadn’t I practiced fixing my tire? Oh yeah, because I’m busy being a stay-at-dad and I’m not really into wrenching.
I dropped from 1st to 9th out of 21 racers in the Sport Masters Division.
I tried not to let it get me down though. There were some bright sides to the race. I physically felt great and was managing my energy expenditure well for the short race. Both my muscles and my cardio system seemed to be holding up well to the short, high-powered effort that was required. Once I was in first place, I felt like I had the fitness to finish the job. Even though the final result was disappointing, the overall experience built my confidence.
Then, three days later, I got more good news. I was showing improvements in my training as well – a higher functional threshold power.
I have been using a power meter to help with my training. Basically, every so often you do a test to estimate your “Functional Threshold Power” and then you use that information to calculate training zones. Here they are in order from lowest intensity to highest intensity.
- Active Recovery – used for rest intervals, warm-ups, cool-downs and recovery days
- Endurance – long, slow aerobic efforts
- Tempo – long, higher-powered aerobic efforts that work muscular endurance
- Lactate Threshold – this is the point where lactate starts to build up faster than it can be processed in your muscles
- VO2Max – where your body is processing the maximum amount of oxygen it can with an effort of 3 to 8 minutes
- Anaerobic Capacity – High powered efforts between 30 seconds and 3 minutes that rely more on muscle glycogen than oxygen for energy
- Neuromuscular – Short sprints and high-powered efforts
Increasing your functional threshold power is a key metric when calculating fitness gains because it means that you are stronger and that all of your workout zones will be higher and more intense.
There are several ways to test functional threshold power (FTP), but I choose to use the method outlined in Joe Friel’s book, The Power Meter Handbook. Basically, you warm up for 20 minutes and then you ride as hard as you can sustain for 30 minutes. The amount of watts that you can sustain for 30 minutes is an estimate of your FTP.
My Peak test score in 2013:
- FTP = 289 Watts
- Weight = 165 pounds
- Power-to-Weight Ratio = 3.86
My First Test on March 10, 2014
- FTP = 276 Watts
- Weight = 158 pounds
- Power-to-Weight Ratio = 3.85
My Latest FTP Test on April 16, 2014
- FTP = 285 Watts
- Weight = 155 pounds
- Power-to-Weight Ratio = 4.05
Your speed on the trail is a function of both your power and your weight, so the key number to look at is your power-to-weight ratio. You can see that even though my power output was a little lower at the beginning of the season compared to 2013, I was actually able to maintain the same ratio with weight-loss. Now, I’ve increased my power a little and decreased my weight a little, enough to see a 4.9 percent increase in my power-to-weight ratio.
In theory, this means that I should be able to attack the trails this season a little more aggressively compared to last. Hopefully, I can continue to increase my FTP. I have a goal of maintaining my weight at the same level and increasing my FTP past 300 watts by the end of the season.
Finding My Weekly Routine
It took me a while to figure out my weekly routine this year. I added running to my schedule and at first it was a challenge to figure out how to balance the two sports. My focus is on cycling and I am using running as cross-training. I purposely try not to make the running too intense because I want it to also be a recovery session for my harder cycling workouts. I try to keep my heart rate under 70 percent of max while I run. This was a challenge when I first started running because I was so out of shape for that activity, but now my muscles are getting stronger, and my body is getting more efficient, so it’s easier to keep a decent pace without too much stress.
Basically, I am training 5 days a week. During the week I am in the basement and on the weekends I am trying to get outside, weather permitting.
- Monday – Rest
- Tuesday – Cycling
- Wednesday – Running & Elliptical
- Thursday – Cycling
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – Cycling – Long ride to build endurance for Mohican 100k
- Sunday – Running – Long run to build up mileage for the marathon that I would like to run in December.
I usually put my shorter, more intense workouts during the week and use the weekend when I have more time for endurance. I wake up between 4am and 5am depending on how long my workout is going to be and what else I have going on that day.
Initially I started with 6 days a week, 3 cycling and 3 running, but I found that to be too taxing. By the 6th day, I was really dragging and I could tell that it was affecting my mood and making me exhausted. I decided to drop one of the runs and now I feel more rested.
The Elliptical is thrown in on Wednesday, and sometimes before my run on Saturday, for several reasons. One, when you wake up at 4am and start exercising immediately your body can be a little stiff. The elliptical is a good warm-up exercise to prepare the body for running, which is more stressful on your muscles, tendons and bones.
Two, the elliptical allows me to fit in more cardio, without as much pounding as if I was running that whole time.
And three, it makes my workouts more well-rounded. When I first started running, I was shocked at how hard it was considering I was in great cycling shape. I was a little concerned about the muscle imbalances that I had developed by cycling all the time. I decided that I wanted to be a more well-rounded athlete and running, walking and elliptical help me achieve that goal.
Need a new bike carrier? Check out reviews for the Yakima Fullswing and see if it would work well for you.
Training Peaks ® 🙂
This year the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship series stretches from March 22nd to October 4th. This period is too long to try and maintain peak fitness so I have divided up the season to climax at several “A” priority races.
- Mohican 100k – May 31st
- Lake Hope State Park – August 3rd
- Alum Creek State Park – September 13th
- OMBC Championship Race at Mohican State Park – October 4th
- Palm Beaches Marathon – December 6th (Running Peak)
The good thing about having the Mohican 100k as my first peak is that it requires a lot of endurance training. This is great training for building my fitness base for the rest of the season. Basically I am spending most of my time right now training in the endurance, tempo, and lactate threshold power zones.
After the Mohican 100k, I will start to shift my workouts away from long endurance rides and more towards the higher intensity zones of VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity and Neuromuscular. These will help me improve my starts, short sprints, passing, hill climbing and acceleration.
My running is getting stronger every week. When I first started I was getting sore from 2 mile runs. This was taking a tough mental toll on me. I was starting to wonder whether my body could withstand training for two sports. Now my body is becoming much more accustomed to it and I feel great.
My long runs are up to 10 miles now and I am adding a mile to each run. My midweek run is shorter and I’m using that to focus on building up my speed.
I’ve gone out of my way to build up slowly to allow my body to adjust to running and avoid injuries. So far, it’s been a big success. I’ve gotten much better at listening to my body. If I start to feel any discomfort, I pull back until the discomfort subsides. In the past, I would have tried to run through it. I think that is why I got injured a lot when I ran in high school on a team and in college recreationally.
I set a goal of running a marathon for my 40th birthday in December. I finally chose my marathon and set a time goal.
I plan on running in the Palm Beaches Marathon on December 6th in West Palm Beach, Florida. My hope is that I will finish in under 4 hours, which means 9-minute mile pace. I may revise my goal as I see how my training goes, but right now this seems doable.
I’m looking forward to pushing myself to a distance that once seemed unfathomable.
Looking for more great reading? Check out reviews for “Ultramarathon Man”.
Thanks For Your Support!!!
I was amazed at how many people stopped by to say “hi” at the last race at The Wilds. It’s so motivating to know that people are enjoying Quickdirt and I love learning more about each of you. My race report from The Wilds was my most popular post to date. Thanks to everyone who shared it!
Hopefully, you’ve found something on Quickdirt that has helped motivate you to take your cycling to the next level. I’m trying to share my experience in an open way so that you can learn from my successes and failures. If you ever have any advice for me, then I would be happy to hear it. I’m always looking for new information on training and more fun events and trails.
Please consider subscribing to Quickdirt in the right column to get email updates when new articles are posted. Also, feel free to share this article on social media or with your biking buddies. Facebook and Twitter are both great ways to keep in touch with what is going on at Quickdirt too, so don’t forget to follow us there.