Tag Archives: Cycling

The Zwift Effect

My iPhone beeped with a notification. I glanced at the screen to find that Strava was alerting me that one of my KOM’s had been taken by John James. Sure enough I found that John had taken Walker Wimps – one of the KOM’s along the Sunshine Cycle Shop Saturday morning shop ride.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 8.34.46 PM

The image above is a screen shot of the Strava leaderboard as of May 3, 2015. As you can see, John took the segment by one second. Since he weighs a “few” pounds less than me, you can see he was able to accomplish this at 720 watts. It is going to be a challenge to take it back!

Being the gracious (but competitive) person that I am, I commented on John’s Strava entry for this activity. “Of course, this means war!” John and I share a number of close KOM times – even sharing the top spot on a couple of them. However, especially recently, he has been getting the upper hand.

Actually, this post isn’t about our Strava battles. It is about his reply to me, “That is what Strava is all about. Maybe this will get you off that island.” Yes, Zwift had made its way into the conversation without me bringing it up. Frankly it didn’t surprise me.

So, what is Zwift? Check out this video from the Low Cadence YouTube channel.

I typed my reply, “I knew as soon as the app notified me of your comment that it would be something like that! Hey, I rode out to your neighborhood yesterday. That has to count for something.” I was finding myself defending my relationship with my trainer — or more specifically a virtual online world.

I could probably go into some type of philosophical and psychological essay seeking to explain the effect that this interactive simulation has on the cyclist’s internal drive and interpersonal relationships, but that isn’t where my mind first went. My first thought was, “Well, have I really spent less time on the road than I have in the past?”

I defended my Zwift addiction making the claim to myself that it had not taken away from my time on the road, but had only added to it. There was only one way to find out. The activity records from Strava would not lie. So, I went back to see how 2015 compared to 2014.

First, let’s take a look at 2014. From January through April of that year, I rode on the trainer 38 times. I ventured out of the basement and onto the roads 20 times. In January, I didn’t ride outside. In April, I spent the vast majority of my rides outside (12 out of 15). March was evenly split and February had 10 trainer rides to 1 road ride.

So, how does that compare to this year? Over those same months, I rode the trainer 71 times. I put rubber to asphalt 11 times. January (pre-Zwift) I actually rode outside in 2015 more times than I did in 2014. However, April was basically turned around backward with 21 of 25 activities taking place on Jarvis Island and Watopia.

Now, I have to ask you… does that need defending? From January through April of 2014, I was on my bicycle a total of 58 times. In 2015 that grew to 82 times. In 2015, I spent 96 hours riding my bicycle. During that same period in 2014, I amassed 77 hours.

I find people’s reactions to these numbers to be interesting. If you were to say that you did this on a trainer, they would say, “Oh, you are a hard man. I couldn’t discipline myself to ride the trainer that much!” However, if you lead with the fact that you have discovered this new “computer game” that makes it fun to ride the trainer, suddenly the trainer becomes a gimmick.

Well, I’m getting older and I find I’m less and less concerned about what people think of my training methods or my sock height. Bottom line is this… using Zwift has pushed my motivation button. It has gotten me back on the bicycle in a way I have not been since I before I broke my neck in 2010.

As my schedule (centered around a university setting) moves into the summer break period, I’m certain the number of rides on the road will far outpace those on the trainer. However, I know that should the summer showers come or work hours steal away the daylight hours, I still have a place in the Solomon Islands waiting for me. All I need to do is go to my basement.

The end result is that those times when I am on the road I will be stronger than I have been in several years. I will be able to maintain that fitness in a way I have not before. Zwift does not take away from my time on the road. It will simply enhance it.

Hear that, John James? I’m coming for you! Walker Wimps will be mine!

Update: Want to know what happened? Read about the ongoing battle here.

Racing on Zwift is the real deal

Each week there are a couple of training races that take place on Watopia. The Tuesday Night Worlds and the Friday Training Race are the two I will typically attempt. It is somewhat of a challenge because the TNW takes place during the time of the “real life” ride with the same name here in Greenville. The Friday race takes place at 1:30 PM — when I am typically at work. Yesterday I was taking a long weekend, so I was able to join in the fun.

Special thanks to Chris Wiedmann who organizes the events. It is an interesting exercise to organize a “virtual race” and then to report on it afterwards. Chris does a good job, and I wanted to share his report from Friday so you can see what it is like. I’ll have some comments from my perspective at the end of his report.

FTR Race Report 2014-05-01

Fifteen riders took the start for what we’ll call “Rund um Watopia” in tribute to the pro race that was cancelled today. A strong international field with representation from South America, North America and Europe rolled out promptly at 17:30 UTC for the neutral promenade to the bicycle statues. As usual the first half lap at race pace was relatively quiet with only a brief testing of legs on the back climb.

The first climb was the first real test of strength. Matt Wardle (UK) initiated the acceleration with H-G Becker (GER) following suit to push the pace. The field showed considerable depth with 9 riders cresting the climb in the lead pack. A little later in the lap, Becker and Francois Coppex (CH) again tested the field with an acceleration on the back field that opened a small gap. The gap was only a few seconds but took ominously long to close, with the group only coming back together past the start/finish line.

The second main climb followed a script similar to the back climb with Becker initiating a move and Coppex following. The pair then started rolling away from the chasers. Jonathan Pait (US) tried a bridging move after the hairpin, but was unable to make the junction. Just after the KOM line he came back to the chase group consisting of Wardle, Casey Schumm (US), Robson Figueiredo Rodrigues (BR) and Christian Wiedmann (US). Unfortunately the bridging effort had taken a toll and he lost contact on the rollers before the bicycle statue.

Becker and Coppex worked together well, slowly opening up the gap. Wardle was clearly strongest of the chasers and after pulling the group for a lap decided to go on his own up climb 3. He got to within 30 seconds of the two leaders, but then got stuck in no-man’s-land 30 seconds in front of the chasers.

This situation held to the finish. Coppex and Becker sprinted for the win with Coppex leading out and barely holding off Becker for the win. Wardle finished solo in third. Schumm won the sprint for fourth over Rodrigues.

Results:
1. Francois Coppex 1:00:16 (41.6 km/h)
2. H-G Becker s.t.
3. Matt Wardle 0:00:37
4. Casey Schumm 0:01:37
5. Nelson Figueiredo Rodrigues s.t.
6. Christian Wiedmann 0:01:55
7. Jonathan Pait 0:04:43
8. Frank Garcia 0:05:42 (completed three more iterations of the full ride distance afterward – 20 laps total)
9. Mark Howard 0:05:45
10. Jonathan Lemon 0:07:01
11. John Greig 0:08:17
12. George Thomaidis 0:12:04
13. Johnny Bevan -1L 0:05:24
DNF M. Trudell
DNS J. Purtell (gender disfunction)

Note: Time gaps for entertainment purposes only. Corrections to placings and race narrative are welcome.

Not placed because  I couldn’t locate the Strava activity
G. Christopher

I think it is easy for people to discount Zwift racing because you are not actually on the road. You definitely have a point in that the dangers or racing are not present. Road hazards, equipment failures, and close proximity with other riders are not an issue. However, when it comes to effort and strategy, this IS racing.

Consider the course. “Oh, you’re just spinning along on your trainer.” Nope. Here is the topographical map of the island. See that climbing? It is real. The data used to create this virtual course is sent to my Wahoo Kickr and the resistance on my drive train increases to match the incline.
watopiatopo

So, all the tactics of when and where to attack are there. This climbing is real! Actually, I think the one place where the island really steps out of reality is on the downhill. I found that the group seemed to pull away from me on the downhills and at times I was putting out 400+ watts just to get back to the group. Then I would go shooting through them and then when I tried to find the sweet spot that would keep me in the group, I would immediately start fading back to repeat the process. Frankly, that worked to wear me out early.

Consider the data from my participation in the race which lasted 1:15 hours and covered 29 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.26.22 AM

Now, compare that to the most recent road race in which I participated that lasted for two hours and covered 43 miles…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.29.13 AM

What about the work I put out? Here is the power breakdown from the above road race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.31.38 AM

Compare that with the breakdown from yesterday’s Zwift race…

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.36.27 AM

Keep in mind that the Zwift race data includes a cool down lap that lasted for about 20 minutes. So, the percentages above Active Recovery will be higher than what you see here. Even with that lap, the effort put out in the Zwift race exceeds that of the road race. Yes, the road race was longer, but I did not work as hard.

Now, you could say that I am comparing apples to oranges… maybe it is more like oranges to tangerines. The two activities are definitely NOT the same. Zwift racing puts the emphasis on effort and secondly on tactics. The software has some work to be done before you will see riders taking advantage of a pace line in a chase group.

However, it is cool to see the race develop. It is like having a TV monitor of your race as you are able to instantly see time gaps. You have the visual stimulus of seeing the riders ahead of you forming that gap or drawing closer as you chase them down. It isn’t like racing in a group, but it has its own camaraderie.

Zwift will never replace racing on the road. It will never match the thrill of racing on the road. However, as a means of competition in and of itself, it is a blast… and is the closest you are going to get to racing on the road while in your basement!

The main point I’m trying to make is don’t downplay the competitive nature and sheer workload of competing on Zwift… especially if you are using an intelligent trainer. It may not be the same as racing on the road, but I give testimony that it is RACING!

 

Race Day – Part 2

It is done. I have returned to the peloton. Today I completed my first official cycling race in several years. I came to the line with trepidation and left with confidence that the field hasn’t passed me by. There is a little left in the old man after all.

I’ll just break this down lap-by-lap as best I can. If anyone reading this watched the race or was in it with me, I’m very interested to hear if your experience matched mine. I’m often amazed at how people can be in the same race and their accounts can vary.

Pre-race

My family was spread out all over the place. My wife and daughter were heading up to Charlotte for a wedding shower. My oldest son was already in Charlotte for a conference. I was left with my youngest son who I ended up taking to his cousins house before packing up the bike for the race.

Getting signed in and warmed up was uneventful. I was able to get in a full lap, some stretching, and a potty break before coming to the line. I’m thinking about 40 guys (and two gals). We all gathered by the start for about five minutes hearing announcements and waiting to get the command to go.

Lap 1

There really isn’t a lot to say here. The group started out at an okay pace. I settled in about mid-field and tried to stay out of the wind. It seemed everyone was pretty content to just get warmed up. Thankfully the pace was constant and there was no need to alter my line or brake.

Perimeter road was awesome! The majority of it is newly paved. It was a joy to ride. The temperature was also great. Starting off it was a little cool, but it was absolutely perfect racing temps by the end. The only environmental challenge was the wind which was a crosswind and headwind for most of the event.

As usual, the field started to spread out once we got over the railroad tracks. Then is was a high speed dip before the climb up the the start finish. The field was starting to string out and by the time we got through the start finish, a break had started to form.

Lap 2

I started the second lap on Rodney Dender’s wheel. The Trappe Door guys were out in force and later that would have a big effect on the race. As a matter for fact, it started to make a difference during this second lap.

Once Trappe Door established a mate in the break, they began controlling the field.  The primary break ultimately was Shane Martin, from Harrisburg, NC, Patrick Waddell, of West Jefferson, NC, Erik Peterson, of Greenville, SC, and Todd Mion, of Greenville, SC.

Seeing the gap growing and realizing there was no organization to chase, I decided to move to the front and actually began to make some headway in bringing them back. Most of this was in a crosswind the entire length of the railroad track stretch of the course.

Having done my work, I wanted to let someone else move in to help nail back the break. I flicked my elbow for the rider behind me to pull through. He didn’t come. So, I looked back to find Chris Knetsche of Trappe Door.

So much for that idea. He had no obligation to move to the front. That being the case, I continued to pull down into the dip and then back up the climb toward the finish. It was at this point, I saw a flash of black, red, yellow coming by me on the left. It was Darrin Marhanka who was setting up Rodney to launch and bridge over to the break. Darrin, seeing Rodney successfully get away, settled back in the field to get ready for later damage.

Pulling the field across the start line to begin the third lap.

Pulling the field across the start line to begin the third lap.

Lap 3

I continued to pull in hopes of motivating some response, but no one came. I knew if I kept this up I would not make it to the end. If this was the way the field would race, then I would race in kind. It was on the climb up by the golf course that I faded back into the field to live to fight another day.

The point is, I knew I was not in shape to bridge over to the break. If I managed it, I would be slobber knocked and they would spit me out. That wasn’t my objective. Getting racy is fun, but not at the expense of cracking and ending up finishing a tough windy course alone!

So, I settled into the top 10 to 15 of the field and tried to recover for a final effort near the end of the race. The field slowed which was frustrating, but it also worked to help me recover. It also put us in a position where we were neutralized as another classification group (a two-man break) caught and passed us.

Lap 4

This lap was pretty much a repeat of the third one. The break was still up there though by the end of this lap Rodney Dender replaced Todd Mion for Trappe Door. Marhanka and Knetsche continued to cover most everything else that moved.

I made no big efforts and settled in just trying to stay near the middle of the field — which by this time was beginning to shrink. There were a few times where I watched an acceleration in front of me and had to put out an effort to catch the wheel in front of me.

I got a shock when I glanced back once to find I was on the tail of the field! Out of the 41 starters there were now only about 25 of us in the break and “chasing” field. However, I was hanging on and actually starting to feel stronger.

The feeling became fools gold when I got in a pace line that formed about halfway through the lap. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “now we can get somewhere.” It was probably too late, but if people were willing to work, I would do my part. The line fell apart on 3M hill and I was feeling a little worse for wear. So, back into the field to recover.

Lap 5

By this lap, I had definitely burned at least two matches. Once again I was starting to dangle toward the back. Then before I knew it, I was back at the front heading into the golf course climb. I decided to soft pedal and fade toward the back to conserve some energy. I knew I would  get back closer to the front as we descended off the hill.

Unfortunately, it was right then that I lost the battery in my rear GoPro. The front GoPro would soon follow suit. I hate it that they did not last through the entire race.

The pace was still good during this lap. The biggest challenge was making sure you got in the right position for avoiding the wind which had begun to pick up as the day warmed. I think I did a decent job of it and once again started to feel good as we began the sixth and final lap.

Bell Lap

I felt I had been smart on the fifth lap. I didn’t do any pulling and for the most part had not needed to close any gaps that had formed. As I came into the final lap I was starting to feel racy again.

I had set three objectives for the race: 1) start, 2) race near the front, and 3) finish with the field. The first two were pretty much already accomplished. Barring an accident, I didn’t see me missing the third one either. My mind began to think that I might even get a better finished than I had imagined.

I settled down to conserve as much energy as possible. As I did I began to feel better and better about the finish. Sure, I wouldn’t take someone like Marhanka or Knetsche, but if I played my cards right I might land a top 10 out of the field sprint.

As we came off of golf course hill, one of the riders (who had been in the pace line and had attempted at least one flyer) started to taunt us for not coming to the front. I shared in his frustration that there hadn’t been a lot of racing, but I was not going to be his sacrificial lamb. In my mind I thought, “Where were you when I was trying close down the break?”

As we came over the railroad tracks, I settled in behind Knetsche. I figured he would be a good wheel to hold in the finish. I stayed there until we started down into the dip. Then I found myself coming up along the left side of the front of the field. A crazy thought came to my head.

What if I attacked early?  I knew at least four riders were in the break — maybe five. I didn’t think there were any chasers between them and us. If I could push the speed up enough to compensate for the bigger wattage guys, maybe I could hold on for a few places and land a top ten.

I was confident I could do it. I knew I was good for 600+ watts for 800 meters. The field sprint would begin in earnest about 400 meters out at the fire station. I would need to get a jump, a surprise, and then make people work to come around me.

I set my sights on a large tree on the right of the road. I knew this was within the 1K to go. I stayed in about 10th position until that point. I launched. I went up to 800 watts and was feeling pretty good! I was excited!

Then it happened. It was a dull ache at first. My left calf muscle was starting to cramp. Looking back, I can see my wattage dropping to around 600 watts. Then, right as we were starting to reach level ground with the finish right around a slight right turn my muscle seized. This was not one I was going to be able to spin through. It was like rolling along and then sticking a post down a hole. I was stopped cold. I could not turn my leg.

I yelled, “I’m out!”, raised my hand and moved as quickly as I could out of the way. I watched the field come around me. I was coasting. Finally, I took my left foot out of the pedal and used my right leg to propel me across the line.

Just like that I dropped from around fifth place to twenty-fourth.

Final Thoughts

10978549_10155190167705650_1129288318169213538_nI’m happy. I met my objectives — even with the problem at the finish I came across the line just off the wheel of the last rider in the field. Then when I went and looked at the rear facing video of my big pull on lap two I had to chuckle to myself. I really put a hurt on the field with that. Riders were strung out in a long line and I could see multiple gaps form. That was fun.

Yes, I finished twenty-fourth. Yes, the overall pace of the race worked in my favor. Yes, I’m sure I wasn’t as tactically astute as I could have been.

But you know what? I had fun. I can also bet you that people knew I was there. I was a participant and not merely field fodder.

It was a good day.

A couple of minutes of why I love riding in Greenville

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to hop on my bicycle and head up toward Saluda, North Carolina. This would lead me out from downtown Greenville into Northern Greenville County to Old Highway 25 and the watershed. This route (officially beginning at North Greenville University) is known as the Bakery Ride.

On my way out I left the GoPro running and enjoyed seeing some of the video from the ride. I’m posting it here to give you an idea of the scenery and roads that we get to enjoy. Notice also the traffic — or lack thereof.

Now, go out and enjoy the ride!

The Bakery Ride – 35 miles
Head North on North Tigerville Road
Turn left on Old SC 11
Turn right on Dividing Water Road
Turn right on Old Highway 25
Turn right on County Road 23-17
Cross SC/NC border (becomes Mountain Page Road)
Turn right on Main Street (NC 176)
Get yourself a sticky bun at Wildflour Bakery!
Turn left on Main Street (NC 176)
Turn left on Mountain Page Road
Cross NC/SC border (becomes County Road 23-17)
Turn left on Old Highway 25
Turn left on Dividing Water Road
Turn left on Old SC 11
Turn right on North Tigerville Road
You’ve worked off that sticky bun!

Zwift has me daydreaming

When I discovered Strava, I found a new motivation to ride. Going “Strava segment hunting” helped meet a competitive desire now that I was no longer racing. Then I found that I wasn’t strong enough to beat my own times on Strava, much less up and coming whippersnappers. I’ll admit that when winter 2014/2015 came along, I basically parked the bicycle.

In November I rode my bicycle for all of 7 hours. In December, I rode for three times for less than 5.5 hours. Finally, on January 5, I started finding the urge to climb back in the saddle. It was just soon after that I discovered the online program Zwift. Suddenly, January found me racking up 18 hours on the bike. 11 of those hours came in the last week… and I’ve got one week to go.

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Sure, improving weather was a help, but just as Strava gave a shot of motivation, Zwift did the same. It is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll give a short description here and then let a video I recently published give you more details.

Zwift is part video game and part training tool. You download a program just as you would the latest version of Call of Duty. Once it is installed, you use wireless technology to connect your bicycle’s data collecting devices to your computer. The computer program then uses the data input to control your avatar on the screen.

Instead of this being a first-person shooter game it is a first-person cyclist game. What makes it interesting is that it takes the simple data from your trainer ride and combines it with the virtual world. It adds a new dimension to an otherwise static experience on the trainer.

On the trainer when you increase your wattage you increase your speed. The harder you pedal, the faster you will spin the rear wheel. To mix things up, you typically will use a stop watch to add variety (or intervals) to your ride. This works, but is so often still boringly sterile.

Zwift changes that up. For instance, you approach a climb. Obviously, the virtual world creates a change visually. However, it does something more. As you begin to climb a grade, you notice your speed on the computer readout begins to slow. You also get the audible cue that your wheels are turning less (even though your actual wheels are turning at a consistent speed.) So, if you want to go up the hill faster, you are going to have to increase your wattage.

Boom! There you have an interval. However, it is more than just a stop watch. You now have visual, audible, and self-generated force feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 4.25.01 PMI’m just getting started. To add to the motivation you have dozens of other people doing just what you are. My sons enjoy playing multiplayer first-person shooters on their Xbox. Zwift brings the multiplayer aspect to trainer rides. I’ve already found a consistent group of riding buddies!

I can see where this can go… How about riding a Tour De France route? What about a special interval training course that gives you visual cues to guide you through multiple sets of repeats? Want to ride with your buddy in Italy and chat while you are at it? Just log in with your “race radio” and ride side-by-side.

I even have my own app idea that I would love my software firm, Worthwhile, to build. It would be a phone app that allows you to use the camera function of your phone to bring your body within an outline on the phone’s screen. When you snap a photo of you in your kit from four different angles, you will find your team’s kit rendered on your avatar. This would then be uploaded to Zwift allowing you to enter the virtual world looking a bit more like yourself!

Oh, sorry. So much for a short description! Without further ado, here is the video.

Thanks for watching and get ready for the Zwift experience. Word is that the software should be available this spring. I’m thankful I was able to get in for the beta testing. You can learn more here at Zwift.com.

Strava Segment Installment: Nature Trail at Herdklotz Park

Sometime ago I started creating videos of Strava segments. The main reason was that I was enamored with the technology that allowed me to overlay my ride data with the video of the event. It gives the person watching the images a better idea of the effort it takes to ride the bicycle.

Feedback has been positive and so I will occassionally get motivated to sit down a create a new one. Here is one from this weekend. It is a favorite segment for those of us who have for years ridden the Sunshine Cycle Shop’s Hour of Power Saturday morning rides. It is a Strava KOM that I would love to have, but one I’ve never managed to land.

In case you are curious, on this attempt I finished in 1:58. That is 13 seconds slower than my best time and 18 seconds slower than John James and his KOM of 1:40 seconds. Consider that as you watch the video to realize how much more effort I would need to put out to capture the prize!

Thanks for watching! Also, for best viewing, make sure you switch the Youtube resolution to HD.

Fast Pedal promise

When doing the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan, you get to know several abbreviations: PI is Power Intervals, OU is Over/Unders and SS is Steady State. There are several more and one popped up on my workout plan for today. The thing is, it has been so long since I’ve used it I had to stop and think, “What is it that FP stands for?”

Of course, it didn’t take too long for me to recall that it stands for Fast Pedal. Today I am supposed to ride for an hour and during that period complete 4 x 3 minute FP intervals with 3 minutes RBI (Rest Between Intervals). It isn’t that I need to switch up from a low cadence — say 85 and under — I typically pedal at a cadence between 90 rpm and 100 rpm. This session calls for me to move it up even more.

The goal is to within the three minute interval to work your way up to between 108 rpm to 120 rpm without bouncing around in the seat. I can typically pull this off at around 114 rpm and hold it for the required period. I’ve pedaled up over 200 rpm, but that is when I feel like I’m about to fly off the bicycle!

So, what is the advantage of this? Well, there are two kinds of muscles in the world, Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch. Those Slow Twitch muscles are the ones that help you grunt through things. Imagine a weight lifter pushing up a huge barbell. The Fast Twitch muscles are the ones that help you get out of the way. A runner speeding down the track in a sprint is utilizing these muscles.

A cyclist will use both of these at various times. As such, you need to train for both… though studies have shown that a faster cadence — 85 rpm and above — are more efficient. However, as I mentioned above, I rarely train below that cadence. Why this high speed stuff?

Part of it is just to loosen your legs — shake out the muscle memory you have developed over the last couple of weeks doing the same work outs over and over again. I find now days when I get on the trainer and just spin without thinking about what I am doing, I end up each time sliding into a zone of around 88 rpm to 93 rpm. Raising your cadence for a period of time confuses that memory and gets the muscles to kick in to a new level of burning carbohydrates and sugars.

Another part of it is just to train your form. Fast pedaling is a good way to build good form — as long as you are paying attention. If you just go flailing your knees all over the place it isn’t helpful. It is tempting to do that as you are spinning at around 120+ rpm.

Imagine watching something spinning around slowly. You can see the object on the end of a string clearly as it spins slowly around the center point. However, you can reach a speed where the spinning object seems to turn into a solid line.

When spinning at a high rate and not worrying about the power you are producing you are able to focus on how your legs move around the crank. Push down.  Scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Pull up. Keep your knees coming up straight. Now, don’t think of those movements as separate actions. Make them all one continuous movement. Before long you are in a trance and the motions become second nature.

Another benefit of spinning at a higher cadence like this is that it is a good fat burner. Maybe if I do enough of these I’ll be able to start working off those love handles. It would be worth it just for that!

Let the spinning begin!

The weekend and its CTS Field Test is done and now it is time to focus on getting in shape for the season ahead. My plan is to take an altered approach to the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. We’ll see how it compares with last year.

I’ll let you follow along with me here. It is one way that I keep accountability. During the winter months of riding the trainer it is easy to let a session slip. It doesn’t help that things always seem to be busier during these times.

Well, the best way to handle it is to take it a day at a time. Today shouldn’t be too bad. My meetings for the day are all during the traditional work hours. I got in half of my strength workout this morning. I’ll finish that up after dinner tonight and then start my first spinning session.

Tonight it will be simple… 60 minutes on the trainer at 190 watts. This is what is termed “Endurance Miles” in the TCCP system. It is based on a percentage of my latest FTP of 260 watts.

One thing I do want to do differently this year is to take some longer rides. I know that goes outside the training parameters but I missed the longer rides last year. Not only that, I found that when I was riding longer rides — I wasn’t prepared for it.

I will also incorporate some longer higher intensity sessions. The TCCP might be good for those type of races where you accelerate again and again, it seems to be less effective in those road race type events where the field will peg it to weed out the weaker riders. I’m going to get in some 20 minute  plus high intensity efforts in there.

That will come later. Tonight, I am just thankful that I’ll be able to spin a bit easier while watching football. The hard sessions of the tomorrows will come soon enough.

Oh, one thing that surprised me was that my weight actually went up this morning. I weighed in at 178 pounds.

Ride for Mike – a life changing event

12 Days – $08,300

Pledge to the 2012 Ride for Mike

Today we have a guest writing a post for the Low Cadence blog. I think the first time I met Mike McCaskill was playing golf with his son Michael T. McCaskill. Of course, I didn’t think of it much back then and that is probably why I’m not sure if that was the first time or not. The point is, I never knew at that time how our lives would intertwine.

A week or so ago, I asked Mike to answer a few questions and put them down for me to post here. “What was your first impression of the Ride for Mike?” “When did it ‘click’ for you what the ride was?” “What effect has the ride had on you?” Here is his answer…

Mike McCaskill

Mike McCaskill

Mike McCaskill: “Where am I now, in regards to the Ride For Mike?” is best answered by looking at where I started. I love telling the story of the ride for Mike because I always feel that it will encourage others along the way.

When Jonathan began the Ride For Mike in 2007, Janet and I really didn’t know Jonathan that well, but we thought that it was a nice thing to do for the cause of fighting cancer and thoughtful to do it in the memory of our son. We supported Jonathan financially by giving to each ride he did over the next two years.

2009 Ride for Mike jerseyThen things changed!  In 2009, after Jonathan did the “Challenge To Conquer Cancer” relay from Greenville SC to Austin TX, he gave me one of the jerseys on which he wrote “RideforMike 2009 Jonathan Pait”. I was overwhelmed with his kind gesture.

I began to wonder what this was all about. I went to the Low Cadence web site and looked at some of the video of the ride. On that video, I saw my son’s name written on a pennant, and at that moment I began to realize the magnitude of Jonathan’s efforts and the depth of his love for his friend—our son, Mike.  Now I’m really getting curious about how I can help him with his yearly ride.

We talked some about the 2010 ride, but I still didn’t really understand the mind of a cyclist. One day Jonathan and I talked, and he told me that he wanted to switch gears. Little did I know how large a gear he was about to get into.

He said he wanted to ride for a different reason –not for the fight against what took Mike’s life, but he wanted to bring to light what Mike’s life was all about.  Janet and I had already started a scholarship fund in Mike’s name for students who were interested in going into the ministry to work with young people. That was Mike’s life. That was what the ride in 2010 would be all about — riding his bike down the path that God had taken Mike.

It was settled.  Jonathan would ride from Memphis  to Greenville, then on to Raleigh in seven days, a total of 700 miles. I still didn’t understand what it would take to do that ride.

Well, he came to Memphis and after attending morning worship, he hit the road. Starting out with him was Corey Nelson and Chris Phillips. Annette, the person he calls “the beautiful redhead” (whom I call his wife), followed in the sag car.

Janet, Lora and Grace (Mike’s wife and daughter), and I took off in the lead to help get him headed in the right direction and out onto Hwy 72. It was one of the most exciting things I had done in years. As we headed east, I could see the three guys in my rear view mirror riding and talking. Then about 20-30 miles out the two dropped and Jonathan was on his own.

We could only go about 50-60 miles that day with Jonathan, but it was enough to change the direction of my life. At that time I was 40 pounds overweight, struggling to keep all my numbers satisfactory for my doctors and extremely worried about having another heart attack. As I watched Jonathan, I thought to myself, “you know, I ought to get myself a bike and next year ride 10 miles or so with him. That’s the least I can do.”

We left Jonathan that day riding those hills on his way to Raleigh, North Carolina. It just about killed me to watch him and Annette ride off that day, but I wasn’t leaving my thoughts behind about getting a bike. He finished the ride in 7 days, a total of 700 miles, in one of the hottest summers we had in years. I went home determined to make a change.

Yep, I got a bike and I began to ride. Being so out of shape, and not having been on a bike since I was a kid just about killed me. All I could think of was Mike and how he would be encouraging me to do it. I remembered how he went through so many things and yet did not complain one time or even ask why.

I had to do it!! Someway or somehow, I was going to be beside Jonathan for the 2011 Ride for Mike. It wasn’t easy.

My first ride was less than one half mile. After I finished that half mile, I went in the house, flopped down in my chair with my helmet still on, gasped for breath and almost passed out. Man!! I thought if I could just get to one mile.

It was clear I had to lose weight and get in shape. I got a trainer’s name from Bike World located in Memphis and I called her. Lisa Burch began to work with me on nutrition and core strength. She is a triathlete so she could help me on my bike as well.

I lost 40 pounds and began to feel like I hadn’t felt since I had the heart attack. By the way, Mike saved my life the day I had the heart attack, but that story is for another day. I was getting ready to take the next step in this story.

The 2011 Ride for Mike included a fifty mile ride on Saturday followed by Jonathan’s ride of 220 miles in one day from Greenville to Charleston. This year would be a turning point for the Ride for Mike. Jonathan told me about a beautiful young girl, Rebeka Grace Ellis, who suffered from a congenital heart defect. Jonathan’s idea was to raise money for medical expenses and encourage the family. Great Idea!!

I loaded my bike and worried all the way to Greenville. Had I trained hard enough? Was I just fooling myself? Could I really do it? I had never ridden fifty miles — much less in the mountains!Are you kidding me?

I did it!! I rode next to the guy that got it all started. I was ecstatic.

Now, to bring us back to the present. Many people make resolutions about losing weight or getting in shape, but this was different for me. I had a purpose to be on that bike and ride. Not only because for the first time in ten years the doctor is telling me that all my numbers are in range or that I feel better or that I have lost the weight; The purpose now is not for me, but for others.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy riding or the way it makes me feel when I climb a hill or race with some friends. But if those were the only reasons, then it would get old for me. When Jonathan told me about his idea for the “I Do It For Foundation,” I knew immediately that this was it.

The Ride for Mike now had developed into what his life was all about. To be able to help others in their fight against whatever they are facing, to be able to come alongside of those in pain, and to be able to be an encouragement to them is a purpose that never grows old.

This year at The Ride for Mike I am going to try to do 100 miles with Jonathan and others. I’ve never ridden that far and don’t know that I will make it. I just know that the purpose will motivate me more than ever before to do it.

We are doing the ride this year to help fund the new foundation. I’m riding this year, not only for the memory of my son, not just the foundation, but for some other dear folks who are in the middle of a fierce battle for their life. My prayer is that those who read this will be encouraged to know that there are those that you have never met who care about you.

I Do It For You.

Warmup for George with a little Mike

20 Days – $02,700

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There is a little ride being held in Greenville the week after the Ride for Mike. Some fellow named George Hincapie is putting on a Gran Fondo on October 27. You have three options for distances to cover.


We’ll be having our Ride for Mike on October 20. You’re invited to come out and do a warmup ride as we cover 100 miles. “100 miles?” you ask. “How is that a warmup for George’s 80 mile Gran Fondo?”

Well, the Ride for Mike is as flat of a course as I could put together in the Greenville area. Also, the plan is not to average much more than 15 mph. So, if you are looking to get your first century, this might be the ride for you. If you want an easy ride to get some miles in your legs before George’s ride, you might want to tag along with us.

Seriously, whether you do the Ride for Mike or not, consider giving George a big “Thank you!” by participating in the ride. Hincapie has been a great ambassador for the United States in the sport of cycling. He is a wonderful representative for us Greenville residents. You can sign up for the ride here: Gran Fondo Hincapie.

There is no cost to ride the Ride for Mike (but we won’t have nice jerseys or nearly the ride support). You can sign at RideforMike.com.  Of course, we are raising funds to start the I Do It For Foundation. You can give toward the fund even if you do not ride.

The day will come when the Ride for Mike will be a Gran Fondo. Just like George started as a pro nearly two decades ago, it takes time to reach the place where he is now. Still, he had to start somewhere. For us, that time is now.