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Daily Archives: October 23, 2013

Cycling on Dead Legs: Too fast, too often.

I wrote about my group ride earlier today and I almost put this post on the end of that one but this is going to go on my Noob’s Guide page because it’s just too important.

I have been struggling with sore legs for about a week now and they’re slowly showing decent progress to coming back.  I would say the easiest way for me to gauge how I’m doing, at least at this point, is to flex my leg muscles – if that hurts (and by hurts, I mean knots and cramps, it hurts ). This is partly due to the cold, I’m sure.  I had a tough time getting going this spring too and it was a very cold spring.  It wasn’t until we started getting into the 60’s when my speed jumped back to normal.

The other part is due to over-training and I know exactly how I got myself in this predicament.  Since I started riding I’ve used an active recovery strategy…  One hard effort followed by an easy effort (17-17.5 mph average solo), then a decent effort (18.5-19.5 average) followed by another hard effort.  Alternating meant I could ride darn near every day without toasting my legs.  Last year I would go two weeks on one day off and I ended up dead tired a few times so this year I changed my plan and took every Monday off whether I needed it or not.  I stuck with the exact same rotation too and it worked masterfully.  I rocked out an 800 mile month in August with ease and felt fantastic.

Then I bought my Venge at the end of August and this began my undoing.  The bike is only marginally faster than my old 5200 and the components are actually a grade lower…  Even with 13 years of technological advances the old Ultegra components are still a little bit smoother than the 105’s.  That notwithstanding, the bike is about two pounds lighter (three now) and a ton more comfortable to ride (something with the geometry that I haven’t quite figured out yet – but I’m working on a blockbuster series of posts that will expose the weakness in the Trek).  With the Venge, those 17-17.5 mph easy efforts became 18.5-19 mph and I justified the lack of active recovery rides by riding with my wife once a week on Fridays (16.5 mph on average) through September – once school started.  I needed two active recovery rides a week to stick with my schedule.  So, for August, I made it 800 comfortable miles.  September was a 650 mile month (with minimal active recovery) and that behavior followed into October where I was on pace, at least until last week, to put in another 800 mile month as of the 15th (397 miles) – and that’s where my month hit a wall.  I’ve been going six days a week, close to full-out every day, for a month and a half.

While it had been fun, I’m paying for it.  I spent a week with something that resembled restless leg syndrome and I’ve had to make sure I was never too far from a bottle of Aleve to ease the soreness.  Now, for certain, this isn’t a hydration thing, this isn’t a nutrition thing and I don’t think it’s a bike fit issue (I did tinker with my saddle five weeks ago but ended up only 2 mm back from where I started and it’s been great for four weeks now).  I took it very easy last week, dropping the mileage from 200 the previous week to only 88 last week over just four days.  Two hard rides, one medium effort and one easy.  The extra two days off helped but I’m not quite back yet.

So for this week, I took Monday off as I have for the last few months, and I rode hard yesterday.  The weather forecast is for cold temps but not much in the way of rain so for the next three days (at least) I’ll be concentrating on slow active recovery rides and see where I’m at on Saturday. 

To confirm my suspicions, I braved the sparse flurries and howling winds for a very easy spin (17.5 mph into the wind, 18.5 back home with the wind) and I feel better than I’ve felt in two weeks.

More to come…

Note to self: Cold gets colder when the sun goes down.

We were down to our last club ride of the year (we ride next week but we’ll take it easy – it’s a night ride) and it was ugly outside. Balaclavas, full finger gloves, thermal tights…one guy even wore snowmobiling gloves. I was pretty decked out myself – though I was in a bit of a pickle… I brought my cold weather jacket but I worried it would be too much – too sweaty, so I opted for a jersey, arm warmers and a light long sleeved jersey.

The warm-up didn’t give me the warm fuzzies either – I wasn’t exactly cold but it took almost four miles to warm up. I went back and forth but decided to leave the jacket in the car in the end because I figured I’d warm up once we got started. Oops.

My no jacket cut-off is 50 degrees. Anything below that, I’ll have to leave the long-sleeved jersey in the car and wear the jacket. I froze. Even at 22-24 mph (into a 15 mph wind) and taking each of my pulls up front I didn’t break a sweat. It was not good. After I took a pull up front (in which I stayed just a little too long) we hit the first decent set of hills and my legs tightened up…I’d had enough of the pain. I quietly slipped off the back, turned around and took a shortcut.

I ended up catching my buddies Brad and Joyce on Brad’s tandem and rode back with them at a fairly easy 20 mph. I say “fairly” because anyone who knows anything about tandems knows they don’t climb well. So while I had to push to keep up on the descents and flats (I rode beside rather than behind them – except where traffic was present) but climbing hills was, well I’ll just say it was easy.

We finished with just over 25 miles and I managed to hold a 20 mph average with stops. It took me 45 minutes to stop shivering.

On the positive side, my Venge felt amazing on the new wheels. Sections of cracked asphalt that used to have me cursing under my breath are no longer such a big deal. Also, even though I was woefully under-dressed, I did have a pretty good time (it sure beat sitting on the couch).

Over the next couple of weeks I’m readjusting my diet to reflect the fact that my riding will be sporadic at best. Michigan weather changes on a dime this time of year so I’ll be dodging a lot of rain days, and horror of horrors, it’s time to start thinking about riding on the trainer in my office again.  Damn.