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Incredible cardio boost; New PR smashes old best; Santos Epic group rides?

Thursday, September 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

September
6
2012

In yesterday’s blog I discussed an interesting observation about my heart rate during fasted LISS cardio. In short, my heart rate while exercising on Tuesday was significantly lower (roughly 10%) than it usually is when using the same resistance/cadence.

It seems clear to me that the 42 mile mountain biking ride I did on Sunday is responsible for the change. After riding for more than 4 hours with my heart rate averaging 85% of my maximum, I suspect that my body simply adapted and became more efficient.

The question is, how long will this after-effect last? More importantly, how can I make sure this positive cardio improvement not only continues, but becomes more pronounced? I’ll address each question individually with my thoughts.

I can report that this phenomenon was definitely still in full effect when I rode yesterday. I rode at Mt. Dora with my friend Mike and, in short, I felt incredible out there–probably the best I’ve felt in months.

I rode in the lead position coming down Gravity Destroyer and went right into the first lap when we reached the main trail. When I started the first lap I was riding hard, but I was not going all out. I felt like I was cornering pretty well, and the pace felt fairly fast. As we approached the first juncture Mike yelled up to me, “Do you want do this one for time?” I said sure, and continued on the Strava “The Loop” segment.

When we completed the segment, Mike mentioned that he felt like it was a sub-eight minute lap. Now, keep in mind that my personal record up until that point was 8m22s. I set that PR back in May, and I rode that all-out holding nothing back. I was surprised that Mike felt it was such a strong lap, as I didn’t feel that I’d put forth the same effort that I did when I rode the 8m22s. Added to that, I got hung up on an easy feature, and that cost me at least 10 seconds.

My time? 7m51s–a full 31 seconds faster than my previous best. I could not believe it! The lap just didn’t feel that fast to me, and I even made a significant error that cost me time.

My old PR of 8m22s was already 2nd on the Strava leaderboard (to Mike’s blazing fast KOM time of 7m12s) and, while I’m still not even within spitting distance of Mike’s time, after yesterday’s ride I’ve widened the gap between 2nd and 3rd quite a bit:

New Personal Record on 'The Loop" segment at Mt. Dora.

New Personal Record on ‘The Loop” segment at Mt. Dora.

 

I’m confident that I can shave at least another 15-20 seconds off of yesterday’s time if I ride all-out and don’t make any serious errors. It feels great to join Mike in the “7 minute club”, but Mike’s already told me that he feels a sub-7 minute lap is possible (I think that’s his way of letting me know if I get too close for comfort he’s going to be that guy). 🙂

So, getting back to the question at hand: why did I improve so much on yesterday’s ride? I think there are several reasons…

First, equipment changes. The Wild Grip’r tires I’m running right now reduced my rotational weight by more than 1.5 pounds. That’s HUGE. Not only that, the tires roll much faster than my old tires. I have to say, the more I ride these tires the more I love them. They are excellent performers, particularly when cornering.

Second, my saddle height. I’d already raised my saddle quite bit compared to how low it was a year or so ago, but the second time I rode with Mike he said it was still way too low. Like 3 inches too low. I raised the saddle so that my legs were just short of lockout at full stroke, and the power increase was considerable.

Third, I’m cornering better than I ever have. I still have a lot of room for improvement in this area (especially when it comes to speed control entering corners), but I have made a lot of improvement over the past month or so. Also, that 42 mile ride at Santos on Sunday gave me about a million corners to practice on, and I did so conscientiously throughout the entire ride.

Finally, my cardio. As I mentioned above, I didn’t feel like I was exerting myself nearly as much as I did when I rode my previous best time. The heart rate data backs that up: when I set my previous PR my average heart rate was 187 BPM and I hit a high of 194 BPM, while yesterday my average heart rate was 184 BPM with a high of 190 BPM. Keep in mind I rode 31 seconds faster yesterday, too.

It seems clear that the positive benefits of Sunday’s ride are still being felt. As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, the question now becomes, “How can I not only continue to enjoy these improvements, but also build on them?”

The answer seems very simple and extremely obvious to me: ride more, ride longer and ride harder. 🙂

I need to make long 40+ mile mountain bike rides a regular part of my training. If I did a ride like Sunday’s once or twice per month I have a feeling my cardio abilities would continue to improve drastically. Of course putting in all of those miles will make me a more skilled rider, too.

Locals: I’d love make Epic group rides at Santos a regular occurrence. Maybe once or twice per month. Anyone interested?

John Stone Fitness Comments

36 Responses to “Incredible cardio boost; New PR smashes old best; Santos Epic group rides?”
  1. Hey John,
    Great news about your cardio improvements! Less rolling resistance and lighter weight do contribute to a significant amount of energy savings. Also, proper seat height is CRUCIAL to efficiency in cycling. I do believe it is now time for you to MAYBE invest in a ROAD bike to improve your ability to increase power (watts) for extended amounts of time. When I use to race MTB I would train using big gears on group rides with the local roadies. That training was the best increased power along with road bike hill climbing. If you have some local LONG bridges in your area, I would suggest doing 1-2 minute steady climbs in a bigger gear that is comfortable and practice pedaling efficiency at 80 rpm with the new seat height. Be careful that you do not go TOO high with seat height and also make sure that your knee is not over your toes in the 3 o’clock position. I would suggest Ned Overend’s “Mountain Bike like a Champion” I have a copy and could send it out to you if you would like. Or I am sure you could find it on Amazon. Hope this helps. Great Job. BTW. Been doing INSANITY along with Body Building program. Have lost about 4 inches on my waist and ripping fat off of me like a freak. Take care.

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    • Hey, great job on the continued fat loss, tank!

      It seems like most serious XC mountain bikers eventually add road riding to their training. I suppose at some point I might, too, but I’m not wild about riding a bike on the roads around here. Florida is infamous for its unfriendly roads for bikes and pedestrians, and many of the drivers around here are absolute morons who have no business being behind the wheel.

      I’ll check out that book, that’s a new one for me. Thanks!

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        • Nice speed there! When I first started riding I rode the West Orange Trail a few times with my wife (on a mountain bike, lol). I even have some GoPro video of us riding there on Youtube somewhere. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. If I were to ride a road bike, it would be on trails like that, no question. Was pretty crowded with families the few times I’ve been, however.

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  2. It’s a generally agreed phenomenon in sports performance that people perform better when they are being observed. It could be that you found an extra few percentage points just from being with other riders.

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  3. I’ll second tankhead’s recommendation of doing cardio rides on a road bike. Before I got involved in mountain biking, I used to ride 30-50 miles at an average pace of 20-21 mph on my Trek Madone every weekend. At the end of the ride, I’d be so drained that dismounting and walking back to the car was difficult. I can’t reach that level on a mountain bike because riding on rough terrain simply beats me up too much, even with full suspension. Nor is it possible to maintain a steady speed and cadence, which is critical to riding right on the edge of my physical abilities. While I much prefer riding a mountain bike for a variety of reasons, there is no question in my mind that my endurance has dropped drastically as a result. Mountain biking at Santos or any of the local trails is more like doing a series of sprints rather than putting in a maximum effort for a long period of time.

    Tell you what, I won’t be riding the Madone again until things cool off a bit more so you’re welcome to try it out. You’re the same size I am, so it should already fit you perfectly. You can even put your own clipless pedals on it if you like. If you’ve never ridden a high end road bicycle before, the experience will be a revelation. 🙂

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    • I appreciate the offer, Andrew–very cool of you! I’m almost afraid to try road biking, as I would probably enjoy it. I can already hear my wife, “WHAT?! ANOTHER BIKE?!” Not only that, it would be really hard for me to shell out the bucks for a road bike when what I’d love to build right now is a carbon 29er. I don’t even have the budget for one of those bikes right now, let alone both!

      Why do all my interests always involve so much friggin’ money? 🙁

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      • LOL, you’re not alone, trust me. Seriously, you should at least try riding it – if only for future reference. Not only does the Madone seem weightless compared to even my CF mountain bikes, it feels as if there’s virtually no rolling resistance. The Trek store in Lake Mary is located next to another bicycle trail which I used to ride on weekends. When I was shopping for my first mountain bike, they let me take out a Trek Fuel on that trail. I couldn’t believe how fatigued I became in a relatively short time. The Fuel is not heavy by mtb standards, but at the time it felt like lifting a barbell. I was used to my Madone, which I can carry on the tip of one finger. 🙂

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        • Was that the Seminole-Wekiva trail you rode on in Lake Mary? Back in November 2009 (right after I first started mountain biking) Lisa and I rode that trail on our Trek 4300 hardtail mountain bikes starting from the Prado trailhead all the way over to Big Tree park (almost 40 miles round trip). That was the time I first discovered (quite by accident) the trails at Soldiers Creek. I’ve got video of that ride on Youtube somewhere, too.

          Which Madone do you have? How much does it weigh?

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      • Hey again,
        If you get that 9’er you could easily put road wheels on that. However, if you were to do that you could put a compact road crankset on that with a 50/34 for training. And if you were to get into racing you could race the Trek. I have many secrets to shedding weight on that Trek. My TITUS RACER X weighs 24.5 # with my race wheels.
        BTW just got back from fasted LISS on the MTB. Average speed 10.9; average heart rate 128; Exactly one hour. Thanks for kind words.
        Chris

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      • Road bikes can be bought very inexpensively here:

        http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/road_bikes.htm

        I use one with a trainer during the winter when there is too much snow to ride in the hills. The nice thing about a road bike is that they are very low upkeep (cheap!). No suspension, V brakes are simple, drive train doesn’t pick up much dirt, etc.

        Also, the difference between an inexpensive road bike and a very expensive road bike aren’t terribly much.

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        • All good points. Also, because I have no interest in road bike racing, the added weight of a less expensive bike would probably only benefit me.

          A road bike + fluid trainer would be a real nice combo for indoor cardio and sufferfest sessions. I could sell my recumbent bike!

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          • Yeah, well that was my argument when I saw the price tag. After all, my last road bike was a 1975 steel framed Fuji ten speed that my parents paid $200 for, and who needs a 16 lb bike anyway? lol But in retrospect, I’ve concluded that the nicer the bike is to ride the more you want to ride it, and since this is a bike I’ll never outgrow, it’s worth the money in the long run.

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              • Not true! I’ve ridden it once since I started mountain biking. 🙂 But that’s mainly because riding a road bike in Florida’s Summer heat is about as pleasant as spending an hour inside an oven. When temps drop in October, I’ll be laying down some rubber on the Madone again. Unless I happen to be on the trails at Santos of course…

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                • The rainstorm we’re experiencing now just reminded me of another reason to have a road bike. Paved trails dry up quickly after a rain, whereas mtb trails can be out of commission for days!

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  4. Try a Virtual Trainer if you don’t want to go out on the road:
    http://www.bike-discount.de/shop/k1008/a79650/t2000-i-genius-multiplayer.html?lg=en&country=227&cr=USD#

    Connected to a video projector you can go wherever you want 🙂 I have not tried one myself but is strongly considering to buy one this winter.

    I bought a road bike this season and have strongly improved my XC race results. Last year I was in to top 50%, this year I have participated in 4 XC races, going from top 40% to top 15%, but guess what, I also joined a Road race for a few weeks ago, and finished in top 5% in my first road race ever (8 out of 157), average speed 24.5mph for 48.5 miles, so yes road racing will definitely take you to the next level.

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    • WTG, Skeen! Impressive improvements there!

      If I do wind up getting a road bike one day and want to use it for indoor training, I’d hook it up to a fluid trainer and use the killer Sufferfest videos. Have you seen those? They are very cool.

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      • Thanks John! I’m very surprised of my improvements myself also, but of course I have been training harder this season than last year, I also started doing uphill intervals with my MTB to get more strength and stamina.

        I have heard about the Sufferfest videos but not seen them, one of my training buddies talked about how good they are, so if I get a trainer I will definitely get those videos also.

        OT: how do I get my avatar visible here? I have uploaded one to my profile but why isn’t visible when I comment?

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    • Thanks tankhead! Of course it is not possible to keep such an average speed for 48 miles alone, but when riding in a group and you use a rotating system you just do a short time in the wind and then go back into the slipstream. But of course you need to be strong enough to go up and pull also because no one like wheel suckers that just stay at the end of the paceline 🙂

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  5. Deviating a little off topic from the road bike discussion, but if you are looking at 29ers, check out Airborne bikes. The have very nice components for the price and come 90% assembled…toss in the wheels, pedals, and the handlebar and you are good to go. Very simple, especially for someone who is used to wrenching on a bike. The are similar to bikesdirect.com, but Airborne gets a ton of positive feedback on the mtbr.com forums. I recently bought a Guardian…haven’t had a bike in 15+ years. It was easy to put together, now I just need to get it on the trails…mostly been riding in the neighborhood w/ my kids. There is a “new” Goblin that they just released and an “old” one. Both are regarded to have great components for the price, especially compared to bikes that have similar components at your local bike shop.

    http://www.airbornebicycles.com/category/55-cross-country-2629.aspx

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    • Thanks pack, I appreciate the information. While those bikes do look like very nice deals, I’m actually looking forward to building my 29er from scratch. I don’t know which frame I’ll be using yet, but I’m going to handpick everything down to the last bolt. It’s going to be a pure speed bike built for XC racing. There’s no budget for that right now, but that’s definitely going to be my next big bike project. 🙂

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