I’m learning as I go that the more fit I become the faster I recover – and the more time I put in the saddle of my bikes, the quicker my rebound. At the age of 40, I assumed that I was on the downslope of my sporting career. As a fairly long time runner, I could feel a change in the way I recovered after pushing myself on a longer run. This change was evident when I started ramping up my miles in training for the Crim 10 mile race. I was a three time a week runner for several years until I got to a point where my legs hurt too much in between runs, it got to a point where running was fun but the other four days a week weren’t miserable, but they were sore days and that grew tiresome. To combat this I cut down to two days a week and found myself infinitely more happy, but found that I had to watch my diet a little more closely.
Last year, after deciding to buy a bike to try my hand at triathlons and I started riding on a very regular basis that I wasn’t experiencing the same level of pain that I had when I was running three days a week. First of all, I started out slowly. Last may 21st I bought my first mountain bike. I’d run a 10 miler on Saturday so I took the rest of that day off, but I rode 4 miles on Sunday in a little more than 17 minutes (and that was some serious work at that, I can remember finishing quite gassed). Over the next few weeks I rode that same 4 mile route every other day or thereabouts. The following Saturday (June 4th) I started riding/running bricks. On the 18th of June I upgraded mountain bikes from a Huffy to a properly fitted Trek and started taking off. I went from 3 workout days a week to 4 and then 5 – two runs and five rides and per day miles increased as well. By August I was riding six to seven days a week, 8 to 11 miles a few days a week, 21 on Saturdays and a 12-16 mile ride when I had time during the week, still maintaining the two running days. In September I bought my first road bike and increased my mileage again. Instead of 8-11’s during the week I started riding 13-16’s. On Saturday it was 22-26 with my run in the middle and only took rain days off – maintaining my normal 6-7 days a week as weather allowed. This schedule held through November when it finally started getting too cold for me to enjoy running – so I set up a trainer in my office and still rode at least a half an hour every day, ran Thursday night, took Friday off, ran (or rode my mountain bike to the running club and ran) on Saturday and took Sunday off. This held all the way through February when it finally started to warm up enough to ride outside again and I picked up right where I left off in November. 6-7 days a week, only taking rain days off, and that’s where I am today – with the exception of one day a week, I’m throwing in a 35-39 mile day once a week on the bike.
Now, this is where it gets interesting…I’d never rode 63 miles in one day before Sunday. The closest I came was 49 with my buddy Pete in November, so after that 63 mile ride I expected to hurt – a lot, no matter the fact that I really never peaked over my lactate threshold on Sunday (though I sure came close a couple of times), but I didn’t – I don’t. Sure I’m a little tight, but I expected to be sulking for at least two days after that effort – had it not been for rain yesterday evening, I’d have been back out on my bike, albeit at a slower recovery pace. In fact, I’m going on my normal bi-weekly club ride this afternoon (I sent my dues in last week so I’ll be an official club member shortly) and I plan on staying with the horses. To say that this is unexpected is an understatement of monumental proportions. The reality is, I’m completely flummoxed. If one considers the 100k as the marathon of riding (or possibly the 2/3’s marathon if the 100 mile is the marathon), I would imagine that I should be hurting enough to want to skip riding for a couple of days, but I don’t – I’m rarin’ to go.
There are a couple of things at play here of course, in addition to plain old fitness level.
First is nutrition and hydration, both of which I must have handled properly on Sunday because I tired but I never bonked. I went through several Gu Roctanes and 32 oz’s of Gatorade and as much as I could drink when I got back (several waters, a couple of lemonades and another 24 oz’s of Gatorade (8 oz went down just before the race). I ate a healthy breakfast before the ride and really ate well afterwards.
The second, if I had to guess (and I am) is that I kept my effort under control. I pushed, but never hard enough that I had to slow down to a crawl to regain my composure. This goes back to the lactate threshold. Add to that the fact that I learned how to breathe with my belly on a bike.
The last really big change that I implemented on my 100k was proper cadence, and guessing (again), this was incredibly important – I know what gear I have to be in to maintain a 20 mph average. I know it by feel, I don’t even have to look down. On normal, everyday rides, if my cadence slows too much for that gear to be comfortable I push through it. I’ll hop out of the saddle and wind it up to where I can maintain that gear at the right cadence, sometimes even when I’m climbing hills. I absolutely did not do that on Sunday, not once. I chose the proper gear to keep my cadence up and worried about picking my speed up when I could. I got the idea, and I don’t necessarily know if it’s right or wrong, by reading a bunch of cycling blogs, but mostly by watching the faster guys in the group ride – seeing it done is a lot different from reading about it for me… By going out on those rides and matching the cadence of the horses, I improved – I just implemented that and altered it for my pace on Sunday.
Even considering those three factors, and they are admittedly huge, I was sure I’d hurt a lot worse yesterday than I did.
I also happened on this page while looking for “belly breathing” articles to illustrate how I changed my breathing rather than write it all out, and now that I’ve finally got some serious time in the saddle and had time to work on a lot of what I’ve read about, that page really sums up a lot of good information.
My Endomondo Cycling Challenge Continues through the month of May – I’m currently 628 of 19,238.
The calorie challenge is over and I ended up at 1,313 of 27,274 – Top 5%. Total Calories burned for April: 28,472, or roughly 8 pounds. Just for giggles, the winner, who goes by “Ferdinand G” was at 184,778 – that’s not a typo. He put in 2,827 miles last month on his bike… And he’s old enough that he appears to be retired, from his photo.