Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prep & Cross-Training

My name is Boyd Johnson and for 2011 my main goal for Mt. Mitchell is to cross the finish line in less than 5 hours (and maybe even ahead of everybody else!). The distance and climbing involved for the Assault makes it one of the toughest events I'll complete all year. Training and preparation for an event like this doesn't start the week or even month before, I am currently in the pre-season  portion of my training. During this part of the year I am focusing on raising my threshold level (sustainable wattage). The workouts I am doing currently are intervals of 20 or more minutes, usually performed around 88%-93% of what I can maintain for an hour.
One of the things that really helps gauge this effort and track my progress is my iBike power meter ( If you are not familiar with power meters, they are a way to monitor at all times the amount of pressure you are putting on the pedals. The output is expressed as watts. For an event like Mt. Mitchell the final climb is all about watts per kilogram, or how many watts you can maintain for every kilogram of body weight. The other benefit of doing longer specific intervals is that you can optimize your time available to ride. Most of us don't have 4-6 hours available to ride during the week, by doing these specific intervals you can accomplish more in an hour and a half than if you were to go out for a normal 4 hour ride. Keep in mind though that the Assault is a very long and gruesome event, at some point you will need to get out and put in some long mileage rides.

For a lot of you with the normal 9-5 jobs this winter will mean a lot of trainer riding. The trainer can be boring and hard to take, but it can also be a great way to improve. With no factors such as wind, hills, stop signs, etc you can really hold a steady wattage and optimize your workout. Over Christmas time I went back to my hometown in Western, NY. I had the time to ride, but the 2-3 feet of snow outside made it pretty hard to get outside. Instead I hopped on my rollers and in one hour had my warm up, 2 twenty minute intervals, and a cool down finished. It wasn't easy but because of how specific the workout was I was finished before riding the rollers got to be too much to handle.

The other thing I got to do while up north was cross country ski again! Living down south we can get spoiled by the great winters we have around here (I know it snowed here recently, but trust me you don't have a month straight where it never gets above 20 degrees). If you are in an area where you have the benefit of cross country skiing this is a great way to cross train and even though it's cold you'll build up quite a sweat!

Keep checking back here as I'll have some tips on good workouts, updates on my preparation for the Assault, and even advice on equipment selection for race day. Many of you stopped by the booth that we had last year at the expo. We definitely plan on being back at the expo the day before the Assault. We'll even have some new goodies on display and you'll get to see the exact selection I'll be making as I try to be the ride rider over the finish line.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My early training for the Assault

I logged heavy miles throughout 2010 from January into September (my 2010 total will be above 10, 500 miles), with three 100+ mile Saturdays and a 240 mile Friday after that in September—so by November I needed rest.

After a week+ of no riding and rest in late November, I committed to UWBL in December (and have used this strategy since the UWBL began). With the unusual cold this fall and winter, I have ridden mainly moderate intensity rides, including only about 50-65 miles on the long Saturday rides (I have a 77 mile UWBL and a 90 mile Sunday when the last UWBL was canceled this December).

But December into January is devoted to base miles, in which I try to complete one long ride (more than 75) at least once a week. My December miles will approach 700-750 miles (if the Christmas snow melts), and I am targeting completing the Terry's Tap Room Century on January 1 and riding most of the UWBL rides, which help increase both miles and intensity into February.

January into February will continue dedicated long Saturday rides (or once a week as weather permits) and a gradual increase in rides that push the intensity. For a point of reference, here are my monthly miles for 2010 (and note that I am pretty consistenet with riding 4-5 days per week throughout the year):

Jan 2010 = 824 mis
Feb 2010 = 943 mis
Mar 2010 = 956 mis
Apr 2010 = 1075 mis
May 2010 = 1066 mis
June 2010 = 796 mis
July 2010 = 903 mis
Aug 2010 = 861 mis
Sept 2010 = 1008 mis
Oct 2010 = 829 mis
Nov 2010 = 592 mis
Dec 2010 = 662 mis (through Dec 26)

Notice I use high mileage building up to the Assault in May, and then back off in June (miles while keeping intensity). I usual having higher intensity throughout the summer into fall but rebuild endurance until the beach ride before resting and then regrouping in December as a beginning build up to the next Assault.

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University

Winter Prep.

For the week of Dec. 20-25, I began some basic weight and stretching exercises to shake off a bit of the rust from 2 months of indolence.  My weight has not risen over the holidays, a good thing, but I feel out of shape and unhappy with myself for being out of shape.  This is normally a great motivator for me.  Beginning the afternoon of the 25th, I'm on the bike for a couple of short rides just to confirm that one doesn't forget how to ride a bike and then I'll move to a couple of longer rides.

And then, alas, I will be traveling for a month and will not be able to ride.  I'll be as dutiful as I can be about sit-ups / crunches, taking stairs rather than elevators, eating intelligently, and taking advantage of hotel fitness rooms if they are available.  And then I'll get serious on the 26th of January and begin to ride with a bit of focus. 

I'll use the Lance Armstrong Intermediate program to get going and then move to the Advanced program about the end of March.

Dennis M. Wiseman
Reeves Family Professor of French
Wofford College

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Wait when Trying to Focus on Weight (and Other Things)

The Assaults are about five months away, and that seems like a long time, especially in the bowels of winter.

But I have found that cycling preparation requires time, and the more time allowed, the better the results. This is especially true with issues related to weight.

First, many cyclists are focused on the weight of the bicycle. If you are planning any equipment changes, I recommend sooner rather than later, but I also suggest being reasonable about equipment weight.

Consider that most of us carry 2 or more water bottles on long rides such as the Assaults (the pros carry little to no water since they have support) as well as a saddle bag stuffed with heavy support equipment. Shaving grams on the bicycle is often more about having new stuff than offering any real gain for performance. So shave bicycle weight with some priorities in mind:

• Performance matters. A light frame is great, but if it doesn't fit you well or doesn't respond well (especially while climbing), a few grams lighter may not mean what you think. Look at wheelsets (moving weight is generally better to address first), again trying to balance weight with performance. I have found wheels that are the lightest often feel soft and have a tendency to fail (a broken wheel really doesn't help your time on a big ride) so I prefer reasonably light wheelsets that are durable and responsive. The drivetrain matters also—shifters and derailleurs that work well and last are as important as the lightest models (usually the next-to-the-top model is the best choice).

• Cost matters. When upgrading equipment for a performance benefit look at the cost. As with weight, this isn't as simple as it may seem.
• Make changes now, and not close to the event. All equipment (including clothing) should be in place well before the event—even new tires, chains, and cassettes.
• If you are going to make equipment changes, do them now, and check your bicycle fit now as well so you can make any needed adjustments months before the event, but especially saddles, shoes, and shorts/bibs.
Now, your weight. (I am no medical doctor so these recommendations are simply that—recommendations. No one should make changes to her/his weight or diet without medical advice.)
Monitoring and losing weight for an athlete, especially a cyclist, is much different than popular views of dieting.

First, weight loss for a cyclist should be about monitoring your body type—cyclists need to trim inefficient weight (love handles) but may see increased weight over the years due to more muscle mass (which cyclists prefer in the legs and not the upper torso). I ride with many fit cyclists who do not weigh less than me, but outclimb me. Their bodies are efficient.

Next, don't starve your body to lose weight. Cycling requires energy so we must monitor daily food intake as well as food during rides. This is a personal and complex process that requires each cyclist to manage these details for her/himself. No one can tell anyone else what is right because it varies by person. Study and experiment.

To lose or monitor weight, I have found that denial and "dieting" do not work. I find that monitoring and establishing some manageable guidelines do work. My simple message is create a plan for monitoring your eating and stick to it, but don't count on someone else's plan to work and don't make so many changes that you can't possible maintain your focus.

Give yourself months to decrease small amounts of weight per week or month, and you will likely benefit in your performance and your overall health.

Also, find some resources focusing on athletes, such as Cyclingnews, Velonews, or Runner's World. Here is a start:

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Assaut training, the basics

I have been riding a bicycle seriously for almost thirty years now, racing on and off in the middle of that time span and riding the Assault for a personal best time many of those years.

But, I don't train.

I ride my bicycle because I love to be outside (and I need to be outside). I ride my bicycle because, as an existentialist, I embrace "suffering" and "living" as synonyms; if Sartre or Camus had been athletes, surely they would have been serious cyclists. And I ride my bicycles because my cycling friends—the riding and the social time connected with our riding—are hard to beat (in several cases, I mean that literally—I can't beat them on the bicycle).

So I want to offer what I consider the basics for getting ready for the Assault, with the caveat that I don't train, and likely won't be offering anything on this blog about power meters, heart rate threshholds, or intervals. . .

(1) Ride with other riders, and ride in large packs as much as possible. And while doing so, learn how to ride well—holding your line, talking, contributing to the pack. One of the reasons I do Upstate Winter Bike League each winter is that the A pack is like the ride to Marion each year in the Assault. Simply put, if you are not adept at riding your bicycle in large aggressive groups, you are a danger to yourself and others—no matter how strong you are.

(2) Know yourself, and work to push beyond yourself (not other people). One of the great elements of the Assault is the event is like the running world; it is about PB (personal best). I like to see my finishing place each year (and I enjoy finishing ahead of some of those friends I mentioned above), but most of all, I am riding against an aging Me.

(3) Commit to riding regularly (X number of times per week from now until the Assault), and commit to one long ride per week that you extend with purpose and design to fit the climbing ride the Assault is. Look for extended climbs and build your base.

(4) Ride with variety in your efforts; don't ride the same pace ride after ride. It isn't good for your growth as a rider and it isn't good for you mentally.

(5) When you do climb, consider focusing on how you will climb at the Assault. Attacking every climb on training and then climbing at tempo on the Assault ride. . .well. . .that just doesn't make sense.

(6) Find, befriend, and coerce stronger riders than you to tolerate you on their rides. They are invaluable. . .

And, finally, realize that we are primarily recreational riders. The training must be recreational, and the day of the event may confront with you with many things out of your control.

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville SC 29613
"If education cannot do everything, there is something fundamental that it can do. In other words, if education is not the key to social transformation, neither is it simply meant to reproduce the dominant ideology" (Freire, 1998, p. 110).

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This year, we will feature several cyclists attempting to accomplish different personal goals in either the 36th annual Assault on Mt. Mitchell® or the 17th annual Assault on Marion®.  Tune in regularly (or click subscribe) to stay up-to-date with these inspirational stories!