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Early cycling training results: 7 new Personal Records set yesterday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

November
29
2012

The last time I went mountain biking at Wekiwa State Park was on September 16, 2012. I rode with my friend Jim Beyer, and I believe that was Jim’s first real tour of Wekiwa by mountain bike. I love doing training rides at Wekiwa, but unfortunately during the rainy season many of Wekiwa’s mountain biking trails consist of deep sugar sand in the higher areas and standing water/mud in the low-lying areas. When Jim and I rode there in September the conditions were very poor, but we had a good workout anyway. As Jim (quite accurately) put it while we were riding, “…this is like riding in a creek bed!” Indeed.

My original plan yesterday morning was to do a road ride out at Sugarloaf Mountain, but when I woke up I was really in the mood for some mountain biking. It’s been about six weeks since this area has seen any real rain, and I figured Wekiwa was probably (more or less) dried out. I decided that’s where I was going to ride.

A little Wekiwa backstory for those who may not be aware. I first started riding at Wekiwa a little over two years ago–October of 2010. At the time my mountain bike was a Trek 4300 hardtail, and I had only been a mountain biker for less than a year. As I explored the park I mapped out the entire trail system and figured out the best trails for mountain biking. This was in the pre-Strava days, but I would regularly time myself on several sections of trail in an effort to gauge my improvements. Many of the same sections of trail I timed myself on are now Strava segments (along with several others).

After a couple of years of hammering away at my times (and seeing some drastic improvements in those times), I thought my personal records at Wekiwa were pretty dialed in–especially on a couple of the segments.

So yesterday was the first time I’ve hit Wekiwa since I decided to get serious about my cycling training. I started doing TrainerRoad cycling training programs (my review is here) a little over six weeks ago, and over the past three months I’ve been ramping up the number of miles I ride per month considerably: 93.96 total miles in August, 345.78 miles in September, 490.66 miles in October and, so far, 513.98 miles this month (I’ll hit my goal of 550 miles). I’ve also put a lot of work into my bike handling skills. I was very interested to see if I would be able to break any of my existing personal records…

I not only broke just about every record out there, I absolutely destroyed some of them:

Seven personal records destroyed yesterday.

Seven personal records destroyed yesterday.

 

Here’s the breakdown of each new PR/KOM with some notes.

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – Sand Lake Trailhead to Marker 13 (Red Blaze) (2.7 miles)
Old Record (June 11, 2012): 12m31s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 11m01s
Time Improvement: 12.12%

Notes: I’ve been timing myself on this segment (and a shorter version of it) almost since day 1. I think when I first started riding the shorter version of this segment my times were between 17 and 18 minutes. When I created the Strava segment this past May I extended the distance a bit (so the segment would end at a physical marker), and I think at the time I rode it somewhere in the mid 15-minute range. On June 11, 2012 I set a new personal record of 12m31s, and that was my best time until yesterday.

After setting my old record of 12m31s I recorded the following in my blog the next day:

“When I got to the end of the segment I was destroyed. I unclipped from my bike and watched it roll away and crash into some brush as I collapsed on the forest floor. I was not a pretty sight: heart pounding like a jackhammer, completely out of breath, sweat pouring off me in buckets, snot rockets, drool on my face–complete and total exhaustion.”

I went on to say:

“I truly don’t see this new PR falling again anytime soon: I left everything I had on that trail yesterday.”

My average heart rate on that segment when I rode my PR time back in June was 183 BPM, and my average heart rate yesterday was 175 BPM. That’s an average heart rate 8 BPM less than before, and I rode the segment a full 1.5 minutes faster than my old absolute best time.

As you saw from my the snippet from my June blog, after riding the 12m31s time I was “destroyed” and suffering from “…complete and total exhaustion”. Yesterday when I completed the segment I stopped, checked my time, took a couple swigs from my electrolyte bottle and continued on–less than 1 minute rest, and that was the first and only stop I made the entire day.

Of all the new records I set yesterday, this is the one that I’m most pleased about. Because my old PR was such a strong, all-out effort on a section of trail I’ve timed myself on at least 100 times, I feel yesterday’s time is the best indication of the improvements I’ve made as a rider. There’s no question that the training I’m doing is working, and working well.

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – Marker 13 to Marker 19 (Red Blaze) (1.4 miles)
Old Record (July 5, 2012): 6m50s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 6m45s
Time Improvement: 1.22%

Notes: This is the segment that comes immediately after the segment I wrote about above. When I set my old record on this segment, I did it on fresh legs. Also, the trail conditions were much better when I set my old record: no mud and the sand was packed down from a recent rain). Yesterday the sand was deep and dry in many places, and as the segment transitioned into the forest there was thick, tar-like mud. Considering the trail conditions I’m quite surprised I managed to beat my old best time yesterday on this segment. Also worth noting, my average heart rate when I set my previous record was 191 BPM, while yesterday it was 174 BPM. Nice.

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – Marker 19 to Camp Cozy (White Blaze) (2.5 miles)
Old Record (May 22, 2012): 15m43s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 15m18s
Time Improvement: 2.65%

Notes: This is the other segment I’ve been timing myself on almost since the beginning. This segment is technically a hiking-only trail, and it’s the most technical of the bunch. It’s a low-lying area, and during the rainy season there standing water covering much of the trail. Even yesterday (after about six weeks with no rain) there was a lot of thick mud. There are also countless roots (both large and small) and small pedal-catching cypress stumps.

When I first started riding this segment back in 2010 it took me almost 30 minutes to complete it. In early 2011 I managed to get my time down to 21m41s with an average heart rate of 187 BPM. I remember being over the moon about that time. I recall dreaming about the seemingly impossible task of getting my time under 20 minutes one day. 🙂

So yesterday I rode that same segment in 15m18s–and my average heart rate was just 166 BPM. Back in early 2011 I was 5 minutes slower with an average heart rate of 187 BPM.

This section of trail was really muddy yesterday, and when it’s a drier I should be able to get my time well under 15 minutes.

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – Marker 19 to Sand Lake Trailhead “Sand Hell” (Red Blaze) (3.4 miles)
Old Record (May 10, 2012): 16m43s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 13m38s
Time Improvement: 18.44%

Notes: This second half of this segment of trail has some of the worst sugar sand at Wekiwa. Yesterday the sand was extra dry and deep, but I felt really strong as I plowed through it. I knew I was going to shatter my best time because every time I looked down at my speed I was around 15 MPH, which is a speed I’d never been able to maintain on the sandy section of this segment before. A huge time improvement of 18.44% over my previous best, and a very satisfying record since this was the very end of my ride.

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – Camp Cozy to Sand Lake (White Blaze) (2.2 miles)
Old Record (May 22, 2012): 13m10s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 12m01s
Time Improvement: 8.73%

Notes: This segment starts with lots of twists, mud and big roots, then the trail dries out and the roots become smaller and more numerous. This section sucks if you’re on a hardtail. I was pretty happy with my old personal record, but I smashed it yesterday.

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – The Bike Loop: Sand Lake Trailhead Red Blaze Loop (7.5 miles)
Old Record (May 20, 2012): 38m56s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 33m33s
Time Improvement: 13.83%

Notes: This is a compete loop of the official bike trail at Wekiwa starting from the Sand Lake trailhead. My old personal record, I thought, was very fast. I remember when I rode that old time of 38m56s feeling like I was going to die towards the end (the end of this loop is the “Sand Hell” segment mentioned above). Yesterday I rode this loop after already riding the “Big Loop” (below), and I beat my best time by more than 5 minutes. The best part is I never felt like I was “going to die”, I felt more like a machine that could not die. 🙂

 

Segment: Wekiwa State Park – The Big Loop: Sand Lake TH to 19 (Red Blaze) then 19 to Sand Lake (White Blaze) (8.9 miles)
Old Record (May 22, 2012): 51m35s
New Record (November 28, 2012): 47m56s
Time Improvement: 7.08%

Notes: This segment contains some of the same trails as the Bike Loop (above), but it also contains many of the more technical hiking only trails. For yesterday’s ride I rode this loop first, followed immediately by the Bike Loop. Another record goes down.

 

My average performance increase on the above segments is 9.82%. Put another way, a ride that would have taken me 2 hours to complete a few months ago I could now complete in about 1h48m. That’s a pretty huge improvement–especially considering I broke all my existing records on one big ride (the previous bests were set on multiple rides), and the trail conditions were far from ideal.

Here’s the complete ride on Strava.

There is no question that all the hard work I’ve been putting in (with credit to the awesome TrainerRoad software, of course!) is paying off BIG TIME. My conditioning, stamina, strength and cardio are better than they’ve ever been–and these improvements have all taken place in just a matter of a few months of focused cycling training.

Yesterday’s ride was very encouraging. I know I’m on the right path, and I’m going to train harder than ever now. If I can see these kinds of results after just a few months, imagine where I could be in a year? Two years?

Time to train. 🙂

John Stone Fitness Comments

10 Responses to “Early cycling training results: 7 new Personal Records set yesterday.”
  1. Jeez, this is impressive. You were already quite fit, and now you’re even more so. I’m not into biking, but I am into running, and your posts continue to inspire!

    I know you’re not into running, but I would be very interested to see how you’d do in a 5K. Without even training, I bet you’d have run it in under 17 minutes or so.

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    • I’m really encouraged by these results, and excited to see where I can take things with more training!

      Unfortunately I’m only good for about a mile of running before my bad knees (old injury) start screaming for me to stop. It’s a shame, too, because that’s what is holding me back from Triathlons. As a former state-ranked (Texas) distance swimmer and now an avid cyclist, I feel I could become a pretty strong Triathlete if I could run.

      Knee issues aside, I really dislike running.

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  2. Good job John. I’m looking forward to training with TrainerRoad, I can’t wait till January. I’m not sure about the notion of being bike fit translating to being a fast runner. I do both, while I feel I am pretty quick on the bike, I am not a fast runner, my fastest 5K is in the low 23’s, I know some elite level runners that do 5K in the low 15’s and 10K in under 32 and they fly when they run! I’m not sure why the two differ so much, the cardio conditioning is similar but the muscle motions are completely different in my opinion. I could be completely wrong as well. But I do know one thing from following you for the last few years, if you decided to start running, I’m sure you would push yourself to run a 17 min 5K.

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    • A little over a year ago some relatives were visiting and we all went hiking. A couple of people in the group became hot and tired before we got back to the car, and so I ran the final mile back to the car while they waited for me. Despite the fact that I was a regular mountain biker, I remember that my legs were incredibly sore in the days that followed–and that was just one mile! So yeah, I suppose the cardio benefits would translate well between the two sports, but many of the muscles recruited are entirely different.

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