Back in the Saddle Again – First Ride

Cycling became my adult athletic pursuit once my childhood days of team sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer were long gone.  It pretty much has been since I graduated college back in the early ’90s.  I’m what you call an enthusiast, or nowadays can be termed the “Gran Fondo” rider.  I’m not into racing simply because I don’t want to go down like a domino and break my collarbone in a criterium – I’ve got a wife, three kids and a business to run!  But I admire those who train to compete in amateur bike racing, especially those Masters guys who also have families and a career.  Probably like the majority of cyclists out there, I enjoy both the group ride and solo rides.  The midweek or weekend group ride is more social and forces you to step up your game, lest you get dropped.  Fear is a powerful motivator!  The solo training ride helps clear your head from stressful days.  Over the years, my riding consistency has waxed and waned depending on what was going on in my life.  Invariably something would come up, like the birth of a child, a move, a new job, etc. that took me away from my weekly riding routine.  Soon a few weeks would go by and I could feel all that hard-earned fitness slipping away.  And then weeks might turn into a few months.  Since my non-cycling spouse liked that fact I was around more to help around the house, I figured it was good that I took some time off.  But I would get restless, missing my fitness and time outside.  All the time, I knew that getting back on the bike and into a new routine was GOING TO HURT.

IMG_3003So it was that one of those life interrupters came along at the end of 2015 – this time a local move.  But add to that my volunteering as an assistant baseball coach for my son’s Little League team and my riding time went to nil.  Before I knew it, it was nearly halfway through the year and I had hardly ridden my bike.  Fast forward to mid-June and the baseball season was now over (Little League must be the longest and most time intensive of youth sports!) and we were for the most part in our new house.  So on June 21st, the second day of summer, I decided to get back in the saddle again.  Can’t you hear those Gene Autry song lyrics?  Or Aerosmith?  At lunch time, I hopped onto the shop’s demo Pinarello Dogma F8 – which just so happens to fit me 🙂 – and decided to dip my toe back in the water.  One of my favorite short rides from the shop is the Newport Back Bay Loop.  It’s scenic and fortunately, pretty flat.  No serious climbing for me as I ease my way back!  The first couple of miles and I’m thinking, “this feels pretty good.”  But as I jumped on the bike trail and headed towards the coast, a nice 10 mph headwind smacks me in the face and suddenly I see my average speed start to drop.  And now it was starting to hurt.  I tell myself not to get hung up on what the Garmin says and just go at a comfortable pace.  I’m not going to get back to my previous fitness overnight, it’s going to take some time and consistent riding.

I finished that ride feeling more tired than I wanted to admit but happy to have completed that first ride back – it’s more of a psychological barrier than anything.  It was much easier to go on my second and third ride that week having completed the first one.  Clearly my bike fitness has a ways to go, but it was nice to get the sensations of getting outside and spinning those legs again.   Going through this process is giving me the chance to utilize some of the services we promote regularly at ARB Cyclery – in other words, to become a customer of my own shop!  Having been off the bike for awhile, it’s definitely time for my bike fit to be re-evaluated.  Some changes could be made to help me ride a little more comfortably until I can improve on my fitness, strength and flexibility.  The subject of my next blog post in this series will be my visit to the SoCal Endurance Lab’s Senior Fit Specialist, Barrett Brauer.  After that, I’ll pay a visit to the SoCal EL’s Exercise Physiologist to find my current level of baseline fitness.  Stay tuned!


What Physiologic Qualities Make for a Great Endurance Athlete? Part I

TwilightCritLet’s qualify what I mean by endurance athlete: an individual that competes in events using large primary muscles in sustained motion lasting two and a half or more hours.

Is it a high aerobic engine with a VO2max score of 65 ml/kg/min-1  or more?  (Definition: The maximal oxygen uptake value captured at peak exercise in milliliters of O2 divided the weight of the individual in kilograms per minute of time).  More on this in a separate blog post.  While it sure doesn’t hurt to have a high VO2max number, the highest does not always win the race.


Is it the individual with that steel trap mind and blinders that tolerates the most pain seemingly without notice?

Though there are some people that seem to have more resistance to lactic acid production than others, eventually even they fatigue out over time.  As a great coach once said “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Is it the individual that can perform at the lowest heart rate throughout the entirety of the race that wins?   Not necessarily.

People are like motorcycles, a Harley chugs and a Yamaha revs but both engines still deliver the same 80 HP to the rear wheel.  Engine cylinder size (cc’s) per stroke differs in displacement, just like two different human hearts eject different volumes of blood per beat called “stroke volume” expressed in milliliters of blood/beat. (Stroke Volume x Beats/min = Cardiac Output)

While everyone has heard of the 220 – Age = Maximal Heart Rate, this is simply not true in most cases.  Only direct measurement can really give you these values.  Two people of the same age and gender can be running at the same pace together and have as much as 20 beats/min differences in heart rate.  The size of the chamber and the ejection rate differs, it’s all relative.

How about fuel utilization?  The ratio of fat to carbohydrate burned during competition – now we are on to something!  We’ll delve into this in tomorrow’s post.

Saul Blau, MS is Director of Power to the Pedals, LLC, a Unit of the SoCal Endurance Lab at A Road Bike 4U