The Subdivision Formerly Known as Nature

Northwest Colorado Springs

Tucked away against the mountains, in the northwest corner of Colorado Springs, there lie foothills littered with homes of the affluent – and rightly so: these views should not come cheap. Fortunately, unless your far east in Colorado Springs, there is no lack of scenery around town. It just so happens, that these views are the most secluded and probably least visited.

The road: West Woodmen Road. Cornering off a section just south of the Air Force Academy, this road at one point was probably the best place to ride in Colorado Springs. It probably still is, though I don’t think it should be – I’ll get to that later. Equipped with a bike lane for about 3 miles, the road winds this way and that, with gun-killing climbs and blinding descents. After enduring the torture of these climbs, you’ll be rewarded immediately with some stunning photographs.

iPhone 680

Southerly view from Woodmen

Mind you, this view is still in winter mode. These hills turn green when the grass and oak shrub come to life in the spring and summer. Still, the view goes on forever. If you blow this picture up, you can see bits of Colorado Springs in the background.

One thing worth noting, all of Colorado (except maybe Denver with it’s wonderful traffic pollution) has the deepest blue sky. Photos can’t do it justice, and anyone who’s visited Colorado can tell you the same. It just turns out, I enjoy the blue sky more when I’m surrounded by mountains.

So, if you fancy some climbs, there are 2 ways about tackling Woodmen. First, there’s the West-East route.

Woodmen - East-West

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the crossroads to show at this level. The start is at the crossroads of Centennial Blvd. and Vindicator Dr. and ends at Woodmen and Rockrimmon Blvd.

This route has a much smaller climb total, but the hills tend to come at a higher grade, so depending on how you roll, going West-East might be more appealing. Either way, you’re up for some hard word and great rewards!

The Downside

I’ll say this a lot while I’m writing about Colorado Springs – the roads are horrendous. Years of maintenance ignored thru snow storm after snow storm has left sections on the West-East descent terrifying. Prepare to slalom the potholes! If you’re running 23mm tires, you may want to think about changing out for Colorado Springs, especially this section of road. I ride 25mm, and am a bit heavy for the road, and every time I descend here, I pray for true wheels and inflated tires the entire way.

It’s also not uncommon that you’ll outpace automobiles on the descent, which, combined with the road conditions, makes a dangerous situation. In my opinion, best to keep your distance and brake to keep from passing or even coming close to autos here.

That being said, the descent on the East-West route is quite amazing asphalt.  If you don’t mind climbing out of the saddle most of the way up to save your rear the punishment, this is the better way to go. The descents are steep and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Hitting 50 mph is no problem! Just be prepared to corner well and with traffic around if you do hit 50!

Surprise!

There’s no shortage of Colorado Springs’ most abundant wildlife on this route. Always keep your eyes to the periphery for deer coming out of the fields and neighborhood backyards and driveways!

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Can’t seem to get started again…

AS TIME GOES BY

I find myself repeating my thoughts over and over when it comes to cycling. Last time I posted was in October. I made this grand plan to get back on the bike seriously again. I made graphs and charts, laid out my coming months, and made a heft blog post about it to keep myself accountable.

In the end…I did nothing. Only recently have I started to ride with gusto. Part of the reason why may be due to the weather in Colorado…and my disdain for trainer rides. Part of it may be due to my job – working 4 12-hour shifts a week now, and driving 1 hour each way really cramps my ability to ride effectively.

If I’m honest with myself though, it’s all due to the fact that I’ve made my whole cycling experience too involved. All the number crunching, all the planning, and all the disappointing thoughts as a result of the former, made me hate riding.

Yes, I said it. I hated to ride. And the way blogging fits into that is even more ridiculous. I blogged about the stuff that makes cycling boring – at least to me. I know some people just hear power meter readings and get figurative erections…I don’t. They lull me to sleep. And that’s exactly what I was doing to myself by blogging all the numbers and plans I had for myself.

THE RESULT

After torturing myself for months about the perfect plan, I gave up. Most of the crap on this page is going to go away. This blog needs to be about cycling at its core – to me. So, goodbye power meters, goodbye training plans.

THE NEW BLOG

Same place, more posts.

For me, cycling is about adventure. The journey on the road that is the ultimate expression of human ingenuity – the power of your muscles and lungs moving the most simple yet intricate of man’s creation, the bicycle. The adventure for me is all about the intrinsic meaning of adventure – seeing new places. The bike offers intimacy with those new places like no other means of travel. Don’t get me wrong, though – I love feeling my abilities become stronger and more tuned. In the end, however, I’d rather make it to the top of a giant climb to see the view, not to bask in my awesome glory of pedal mashing.

As it turns out, I have the perfect job for being able to adventure – I’m a  travel nurse. I move every 3 months, with nothing but the things I love and need. So, this blog is going to start focusing on each of the new places I move to and what they afford the prospective cyclist.

Don’t be fooled when you see that I still use a power meter on my trainer – I now only do it only to set a maximum during recovery rides. Don’t cringe when you see me talk about average speed or VAM, I’ll use them only to prevent myself from going too hard.

Yes, from here on out, it’s about seeing the USA. Possibly about losing all the weight I’ve put back on, but mostly it’s about the ride.

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time figuring out the aforementioned problems with my cycling. As I said before, I have been working 4 12-hour shifts per week, which is really cramping my cycling, but I’m starting to make it work now that Colorado has warmed up a bit (I say this, even though it just stopped snowing). The trainer has come in handy a little – but as I said before, it is really tough to get psyched about riding in place, indoors, with no wind, and no views.

I also had my first kid. She’s perfect, as I’m sure every dad says. Mine might actually be perfect tho…just saying. While she might cut into time, my wife has been amazing and she’s handling it better than I am in every single way, and that gives me a lot of hope that I’ll get back into the swing of things very shortly.

Other than that, not much…

To give you all a taste of what the Colorado I’ve been riding in looks like:

GoG-PP

Entrance to Garden of the Gods, view of Pike’s Peak, with Manitou Springs at its base.

 

Regression bringing on progression

Since you’ve been gone

It has been a great time since I’ve been on here, posting or reading anything. In retrospect, shame on me.

A quick recap – after my grandfather died, I stopped blogging due to time restraints. After much discussion, my wife and I plunged into the world of travel nursing. We moved from Central Florida to Santa Fe, NM. I picked up a night shift job and my wife works insane hours. That about covers the highlights. I bring these things up mostly because they’ve been a source of negative or positive forces in my life.

I’ve come to realize the blog is a source of accountability. Since stopping, I’ve decreased the amount of hours on the bike, even whilst still in Florida. That stops today.

Travel nursing, while very changeable from day to day, has been a great experience so far. The jobs themselves lend me to make excuses though. I use night shift and the fact that time with my wife is now a valuable commodity as cop-outs to riding. This also stops today.

I mention Santa Fe because I’ve also used it as a reason not to ride. This is a legitimate reason actually, given it ranks pretty high in bicycle accidents involving autos per capita in the US. But I’ve found a way around this (and the cold months incoming) – a smart trainer! So this excuse also ends today.

The Changes

Here’s a more comprehensive list of the changes going on and a very quick explanation of each.

  1. Incoming baby – due late March, excited as hell!
  2. Moving every 3-6 months – travel nursing! Lends to a lot of variety in scenery, probably prolonging time to burnout!
  3. Santa Fe, NM – elevation 7200 ft. The lack of oxygen is noticeable still, but far less so than 3 months ago. I’ll be headed to Colorado Springs, CO next, elevation 6000 ft.
  4. Along with #3 – hills! I got my ass kicked by the road to Ski Santa Fe three times. I’m done losing to hills. Florida was a great place to start riding again, but the Rockies is where I’ll be able to improve a hell of a lot more (so long as I stick to it).
  5. Smart trainer – Purchased an Elite Turbo Muin to play along on Zwift as well as use training simulations to get off the roads as well as have some simulated fun.
  6. Extra weight – I’m back up to 190 lbs., about 12 lbs. added since I last posted. Part diet, part lack of time on the bike. Somewhat to blame for Ski Santa Fe making me its bitch.
  7. Hyperthyroidism – I mentioned this before, and I’ve been neglecting it since moving. Once in Colorado and health coverage kicks in, I’m putting an end to this. I’ve noticed huge fluctuations in heart rate, even with medication, on and off the bike.
  8. New goals – more on this later.

There it is. All the things that will affect me in positive ways. Yes, the thyroid and weight I’m taking as positives. Anyone who has ever seriously tried to lose weight will tell you, it comes off quickly at the start. I’ll use this as motivation. The thyroid, well…control is control. Once I slap this into its place, I’ll feel better about having done so (not to mention just feeling better because it’s under control).

Action plan

At the suggestion of my cousin, I bought Joe Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible a while back. I skimmed thru it a few times and onto the shelves it went. Since getting my butt kicked on the hills, I picked it up again and found some motivation. The result: my action plan to become a better cyclist.

The basics of the plan: 2 weeks prep, 10 weeks of base, 20 weeks of build, then alternating weeks of base/build/recovery.

To those of you unfamiliar with Joe Friel and/or this terminology, I’ll explain later with a more in-depth explanation. To those who are familiar, you may be asking, why is this so much different than his plan?

Plain and simple – I don’t race. By shortening the build period and then giving myself a regular rotation of base, build, and recovery weeks, I’m preventing training burnout while attempting to maintain a fitness level with which I’m comfortable. This part may change…it’s too early to tell.

When I’ll start is still debatable. I’m still trying to iron out our move to Colorado. Rest assured, you’ll read about it.

Goals

I think goals are important for anyone and for anything. At first, I cycled so I could get in shape and lose weight. Not that this has changed, I think anyone who rides seriously wants to stay in shape or improve on their current fitness, but it is less of a priority and more of a side-goal to bigger ones.

As you can see from the menu bar, I have a goals menu. It’s going to change. The current ones there won’t go away. Monthly goals will take on the shape of my action plan, with random other ones peppered in there. Big-uns are still on the to-do list, but new ones will definitely be added. Also, a re-prioritization is in order.

  1. English century – complete
  2. Big hill (most likely Pike’s Peak)
  3. Cross-state
  4. Everest (more on this in a later post if you’ve never heard of it)
  5. Cross-country

And there you have it. Ill be making a more concrete schedule for my big hill ride in the coming weeks, but it will be in the next 3 months or so.

To all the readers out there, good to see you again! Thanks for coming back!

My recent absence

The thing about life is that it ends

I don’t know how many people read this, and it’s not important. This is for me more than any readers.

My ride across Florida was interrupted due to a death in the family. I’m not particularly sad, it was a good death and well-deserved. I know that sounds callous, but suffice it to say I know he’s happy with his life and his death.

In any case, the week became about being with family, attempting to find solace in those close. It was rough, but it was still good. Family and friends from Colorado came, and the community that has formed around my parents here in Florida is astounding. In the end, I spent a lot of time with my family and away from the bike and blog.

Also, life is a bitch

The other news is that I have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. A condition in which the thyroid (basically the organ that controls everything either actively or passively) excretes far too much thyroid hormones creating a semi-adrenaline state of mind and body.  For those who know me, my “asshole-like” attitude can be explained partially by this, the other part is pure Joel.

For the people who know me thru the blog, this translates into my excessively high heart rate and extreme fatigue, especially in the early days of this blog. For now, the only treatment I am receiving is a Beta-blocker called Inderal. It simply lowers my heart rate and blood pressure. To give you a taste of the discrepancies, my average heart rate on any given ride pre-Inderal was anywhere between 155 and 170. Post-Inderal average heart rates are around 135. Still too early to tell how my max heart rate is affected, but I’ll post more about that later.

Future testing and treatment will take place over the next week, so I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Rescheduling

I’m not sure how or when I’ll be able to do the cross-state trip now. It’s extremely hot in the summer here and therefore not very safe to ride long distances. Perhaps the fam will take a road trip to Colorado this summer and I’ll do it there. Although I’d have to plan for time to cope with elevation changes…so we’ll see.

IMG_1073

Grayton State Park

We’ve arrived at Santa Rosa Beach and are staying at Grayton State Park. The place is immaculate. 

Some good old fashioned camping is ahead of us tonight, s’mores and all. 

We’ve already set up camp and seen the beach. Now it’s reading time!

  

Tomorrow is day 1 of riding. 86 miles. I’ll be posting after each ride, so keep checking back for more updates. 

 

Fear the tan lines! 

Santa Rosa Beach, here I come!

The gauntlet has been set!

Beginning April 3, I’ll be setting off via bicycle from Santa Rosa, FL and traveling back home to The Villages, FL by April 7. The route is 417 miles, and will take me thru Panama City, Port St. Joe, around Apalachee Bay, thru the hills of Tallahassee, into Manatee Springs before entering familiar ground in Ocala and back home.

You can check out the entire route here,

or see it split into day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5.

I’ll have my wife, dog and an extra bike following me with supplies. More to come on the logistics and such!

POL training, Round 1

For the numbers during the first 3 weeks, go over to the POL training goal page.

After 3 weeks, the numbers aren’t lying. My heart rate zones are falling (quite a bit actually). I expect this to slow drastically over the next period, which is why I will be cancelling the third 3-week cycle and adding a stage-like ride to the first week of April. More on that to come.

As for the polarized training, I feel like I need to disclose that my heart rate zones were almost 4 months old when I started this, so they were probably lower when I began tracking. In any case, I have no doubt that this type of training is excellent for serious cyclists.

The only thing missing from my training is the distances. The first week I only rode 35 miles of below aerobic threshold (AeT). The miles increased in week 2 to 75.3 miles, and around 58 miles the final week. I’d expect the 75 miles to be around the mileage I need to be putting in, and I found myself bored with AeT training fairly quickly, hence the drop in mileage.

AnT training was difficult, very difficult. Four minutes is FOREVER when you’re laying the hammer down, no matter how slow you go. I found it challenging to keep a pace that raises my heart rate to 180 for 4 minutes. As my intervals progressed, I could feel my legs protesting and it became even more difficult to keep my heart rate up.

I added a twist to AnT training in weeks 2 and 3. First, a group of 3 thru the hills of South Ocala. The 2 other riders I was with are very strong and wanted a fast pace. Nothing crazy, but these hills are quite steep, but short (Floridians don’t meander up hills with their roads, they just go straight up). So I took these hills as my intervals. The pace became too fast for me, and I had to drop, not once, but twice. I felt bad, but only a little since they had to wait once on the go and the other time at a traffic light. Next time, it’ll be better.

The next week, whilst on a group ride, I forced myself to pull at a pace that was my AnT, which some of the guys in the group absolutely loved, since my pace is usually slower than most of the group’s pulling pace. The only problem is, trying to stay in the back after said pull. There were 6 riders on this one, so I had longer breaks than the hills ride, but I also managed by forcing myself to stay in front until there was a break given by a light. My intervals were longer on this ride as a result, probably not a bad thing. Quite fun if I do say so.

In any case, my heart’s getting better, so are my legs. That’s what it’s all about.

Anaerobic training

Yesterday was technically the first day I had gone out and done interval training (I’m sure I’d done it inadvertently in the past).

02.18.2015 AnT HR

Just by eyeballing the graph, I picked up on a few things. First, except the first interval, I ran into stopping points during my long sprints (stop lights and round-a-bouts), which sort of messes up the interval by lowering my HR down at least 10 bpm. I’m pretty sure the only way to fix this is to head out into the country where there aren’t any stops…anywhere. That’ll happen next week.

Second, my last 2 intervals were lower than the first 2. The reason being…I got tired. Really tired. It was difficult to force my legs to push down any more than is represented in the graph purely because my legs are weak. They have endurance capabilities, but any of this sprinting and my power weans. If this workout works, this should happen less or stop happening altogether in future AnT rides.

I had a really long cool down which, I must say, was a most welcome end to this ride. It felt amazing to be able to sprint for so long, even if I wasn’t all-out sprinting as in short distances. The downside to this type of training is the end, my lungs hurt, my legs felt like jello. The cool down allowed some blood to help repair the damage done as well as allowed my breathing and heart rate to slow, which is comforting to say the least.

All in all, I like this type of ride. It’s only down fall is that it isn’t long enough to really quench my thirst for time on the bicycle. I knew this would be the case, so I did this ride first this week so as to make my AeT rides and extra rides do the quenching.

More to come!

The first of many very slow recovery rides

Today, I completed my first strict recovery ride. Strict in that my eyes are on my heart rate at pretty much all “hard” segments of my ride. The aim is to keep my heart rate below 153 at all times, so no real effort really – almost pure slow spinning.

I have to say, I actually feel great right now, just 2 hours after the ride. But, I can see myself getting bored with these rides fairly quickly due to the fact that I’m not focusing on riding so much (because it’s slow), so I am forced to look around…at The Villages. All the trees, grass, flowers and people so pristine in their unnatural habitat. Palm trees aren’t supposed to be here, but there they are. And this neighborhood looks exactly like the ones before it. So boring.

The one hilarious thing that happened on the ride occurred outside a church as one of the services had to have ended with all the cars exiting onto the road I was riding. All the drivers noticed me on the road as I made eye contact with two that strolled on out. I needed to turn left and saw an opening between the 2nd and 3rd drivers. As I made eye contact with the 3rd driver, I flung out my left arm, signaling I was changing lanes to get to the left turn lane. I had plenty of room and made the switch just before the traffic signal in front of me turned red.

As he comes to a stop next to me, he yells something incomprehensible in my direction. I was feeling cheeky and yelled clearly back to him, “Looks like church failed you!” The man just stared at me for a second, probably realizing the truth to my statement as well as all of the other open windows of vehicles next to us. I added, “Yes, I’m talking to you,” pointing at the dumb-founded man. He quickly averted his gaze and sat in silence until the light turned green then sped off.

This isn’t a blog about religion or anything, but I’ve found a lot of these retired people to be just like this man. Christian on Sunday for 1-2 hours, then a bastard the rest. Makes for crappy society and even crappier cycling. It’s jerks like this who are road-ragers and get people killed, including helpless cyclists.

My last words on this episode – if you’re Christian, BE Christian. If you’re Jewish, BE Jewish. If you’re Buddhist, BE Buddhist. Don’t make it just a label, make it you.

On and off the bike.

In any case, the ride went well other than this SNAFU. I’ll be looking forward to my interval training for sure.

Training begets…training?

It’s been another long while since I’ve posted so I’ll sum up what’s been going on for a while.

First, I’m lazy when it comes to posting pics of me now for some reason. Part of that may be because the weight loss is slowing drastically now that all the ‘easy’ weight is gone. Rest assured, I’ll get one up sooner or later.

Second, I’ve been lazy posting here, and that’s going to stop. More accountability for me, more entertainment for the masses!

Third, my training is really messed up right now. I’ve been trying to pin this down ever since early January, and I’m not really sure where to go except down. Down in intensity (heart rate), up in mileage. “Why?” you ask.

Something’s gotta give

My heart rate has been ridiculously high for a while now. I attribute some of it to what I now call “road anxiety.” I’m nervous on the roads around where I live, since my last near-fatal run-in with a senile motorist. The population around here soars with ‘snowbirds’ escaping the snow-mess of New England and with them comes their inattentiveness and slow reflexes. Remember, these are old Americans we’re talking about. They do nothing except ruin walks with golf clubs, watch Fox News and bitch about the weather (no matter how perfect it may be).

In any case, my heart rate is visibly higher whilst riding in The Villages. As soon as I leave, it’ll drop 10-20 bpm regardless of intensity. But, believe it or not, it’s still high.

As I attempt to bring my speed to 19 mph on a windless day, I find my heart rate climbing to 180 frequently, with my sprints bringing it near 200. For those not familiar with heart rates, this is not normal. Give me a hill, and my speed will stay at 12-15 mph depending on the grade, but my heart rate will be climbing quickly as well.

This kind of physiology leads me to basically be doing interval training any time I need to work (winds, hills, sprints). I will gasp for air like no one’s business if I go really hard and will hit the wall pretty damn hard if I do it for a long time.

So, with some concerned looks on my cousin’s face a while back, he’s taken an interest in how I train and led me to a blog, which is definitely worth a peek.

Click to see Joe Friel’s blog

If you’d like to see his specific review of a training study, go here.

Starting next week, I’ll begin a modified schedule of POL training and letting you all know how it goes. I’ll probably be traveling slow as molasses at the North Pole, but if it’s going to make me a stronger cyclist, it’s got to be worth it.

The overall aim is to lower my heart rate zones (153/160/169/179/184/191)* and maximum heart rate (204) drastically, which in turn will help me more easily lose weight as well as get the ‘ol ticker healthier. As a result of these, my resting heart rate should drop as well (currently 62).

*Heart rate zones based on Joe Friel’s model.

So here’s the plan:

  • Week 1 – 1 AnT (interval or anaerobic threshold) training, 2 AeT (below aerobic threshold) trainings
  • Week 2 – see Week 1
  • Week 3 – 1 AnT<AeT training, 2 AeT trainings
    • AnT<AeT meaning 1 training session with more AeT than AnT

AnT training will consist of 4×4 minutes intervals with 3 minute recoveries.

AeT training will aim to keep my heart rate below 153 for the entire session.

I’ll start doing heart rate analyses after each 3-week training period and aim to do 3 of these cycles (9 weeks).

My resting heart rate will be measured at least 3 hours after my workout and very little acitivty (I’ll most likely end up doing these just before bed). Heart rate zones will be measured on the last day of the 3rd week, using Joe Friel’s model. They won’t be perfect just because this is the first routine training I’ve done since getting back on the saddle, but it’s as close to perfect as I can get.

Follow my progress here!

Wish me luck!