A woman and her bike – a guest post

Penny is a friend, triathlete, mother, nurse and just an amazing, kick-ass kind of woman.  penny

She’s also a poet, at least I think so. What follows are her words, not mine, but I share in the feelings.

“Loading the bike up for a morning ride. My enthusiasm is almost palpable. 50 miles with a few friends. Clicking and whirring my way through part of the fastest growing county in the United States.

This will be one of the most therapeutic rides I take part of this summer. I have ridden a few of these roads before and developed a vocabulary that combines my trucker genealogy with the Philly girl that resides in my soul.

Why? Why put myself in uncomfortable situations that provoke the nasty girl in me?

It’s therapy.
It’s gutter girl meets phd.

I am not trying to tell you are wrong. I am trying to tell you why you need to cater to you sense of adventure. Or maybe adolescence.

When I was 9-13 I rode my bike everywhere. My parents didn’t drive me. They simply did not have the time.
I can see myself, almost upright, chasing a few friends across the playground. Riding as soon as my mother would allow, on a Saturday morning, to my friend Patty’s.
I feel it in my soul.

You see an inconvenience.
I feel my heart beating a rhythm I can not control.

You lose 10 seconds to a minute, while waiting to pass me by.
I feel your respect, annoyance, and or anger beating on my left shoulder as I give my heart and soul to rise over (and out of) your way.

You give a me a foot. I feel a few inches and fear whether or not your mirror will clip my hip.

What I want you to see?
Your child.
Rather than a phone or game in hand, they have the wind in their ears.

What I want you to see?
The power of a biological machine combining with a man made one. Finesse and strength beating down a pavement.

What I want you to try?
Dust of your bike. Give 10 minutes of your soul to the wind and the air.

What I want you to see?
The sunrise . The sunset. Your legs beating a path down the open road.

What I want you to hear?
The wind. That’s it. You can not hear your phone. You are concentrating on whether you hear a car, or the echo from the local highway.

What I want you to feel?
You. All the aches, discomforts and power you can wheel. You are a machine. Tune it up and control it.

What I want you to embrace?
No one can teach you here.
I am not saying leave your phone behind. You may have someone who needs you.
But that’s the point. You can avoid life for a few. They will find you if the need you.

What I want to avoid?
An inconvenience to you.
Truly. I pick random times to avoid rush hour. I am not intentionally slowing you down. I am intentionally beating the hell out of myself, so that I can handle what the world throws at me.

Put someone you know on that bicycle.
How does it change you?”

The F-U Headwind 53 Miler

This weekend was supposed to be an early season century for me. Uh, yeah, no. Thanks to some nasty thunderstorms off the coast of Delaware/Maryland, winds were forecasted at 15-20 mph and boy were they ever.

Mind you, I’ve ridden in some nasty headwinds during my end of the season century in just about the same area of Maryland so this was expected. I haven’t done a distance greater than 50 miles this year as here in the Northeast, it been too cold/wet and I was going to be okay with any distance I could get out of my legs at this point.

What wasn’t expected was temperatures near 90 with humidity at 100%.

What was truly serendipitous is when we arrived at the registration tent in Bethany, DE, we were met with: “What are you guys doing here?” from a gentleman that approached my group of three.

Lo and behold, my two mates and I all had a connection to one person, Dr. Leo, although none of us knew it.  Dr. Leo had been a regular to my morning cycling classes until about six months ago (life got in the way, he says), Stacey knows him because he’s her children’s orthodontist and Andrew had a nasty spill on his bike several years ago and Dr. Leo saved his teeth.

I stayed hydrated and didn’t push too hard, even though Dr. Leo and I did drop our slower mates early on; not that we meant to, they were just slower with the winds. I demonstrated to Leo the benefits of drafting and the echelon but the wind, heat, and humidity took a toll on us, although we kept a respectable 15 mph average over 53 miles in a little over 3 hours.

What did surprise me is that Stacey and Andrew went on to ride 77 miles, pushing on until after 3pm (we started at 7:30am).  I could have eeked out another 10 to make it a metric but have to and want to are two very different things.

I did take a peek at my Strava and I could see the parts of the route where we dropped below 14mph but it wasn’t often and was either due to the wind or for crossings and traffic.


Showing my colors #TwinSix #FatCyclist.com

The struggle (in sportives) is real..

via How to Help a Rider Who is Struggling on a Long Ride…

The above Total Women’s Cycling article lists some ideas that I have done in the past with my cycling pals. I encourage them to hold my wheel, eat more, drink more, don’t muscle it – drop a gear or two and pedal faster. I’ve become a great cheerleader through my indoor cycling career and take it on the road with me.

I have a century this weekend and my main concern isn’t about me. It’s about my friend who roped me into said century so early in the season.  She’s done very little training over the winter. Two weeks ago when we rode together, she struggled with 20 flat miles. I have a feeling I’ll be riding mostly by myself and seeing her at rest stops. Maybe.

But that’s okay. We’re at different places in the grand scheme of things. I’m still looking forward to spending time with her, both on the bike and off at the beach!  #notbikiniready

Great Minds Think A-Bike.


Displaying 20160724950934171.jpg


What’s this thing, “Functional” Threshold Power


I’ve been thinking about FTP more and more as I gear up for a century next weekend. I’m not saying anyone is wrong, just some food for thought

I teach indoor cycling at a big box gym. I have several certifications, most notably training with watts. I am not an aerobics instructor. I don’t teach at SoulCycle or any of that ilk. I teach using sound cycling principles, not push-ups on the handlebars.
The past two weeks I’ve taken my classes through 20-minute functional threshold tests. I’ve done this myself using Trainer Road and Sufferfest and both apps have increased my FTP based on my virtual watts. I’ve also watched many in my virtual communities go as hard as they can for 20 minutes and the apps call it their FTP.  In my education, this is incorrect.
FTP means ‘functional’ threshold power, an estimation of what you can function at for 60 minutes, not 20. It’s not balls to the wall, hard as you can, throw up at the end effort. One of my group called it her ‘forever pace.’ The rate of perceived exertion is 6-7 out of 10 – you’re breathing hard; you can recite a line of Mary Had a Little Lamb but need to take a breath. Train at too high an effort consistently and you will feel the effects of overtraining.
I have this problem myself – I get all jacked up about the numbers and go hard, hard, hard, but only end up feeling like complete carp halfway through the season. I was training at too high an effort when I should be at my ‘forever’ pace.
My FTP on both Trainer Road and Sufferfest is 220w. My indoor FTP on the Keisers at the gym is 240w. Which is right?
It doesn’t matter. 220w on my bike on the trainer feels the same as 240w at the gym: sustainable (rpe 7) for one hour. What matters is that I have a concrete number to work with, just like that evil number on the scale.

#Music Makes Me Move – Getting your #ClimbingLegs

I’ve been writing posts for the Indoor Cycling Association since last fall and I’ve had a great time doing it. Most have been for their ‘Friday Favorites,’ which is music suggestions for your workouts.

Artist: Russian Circles  (for info on the Chicago, IL based band)
Song: Station
Album: Station
Time: 8:43
Genre: alternative
BPM: variable
Category: climb
Available on: iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, Spotify

I tend to use music with a hard-driving beat and big, dramatic sound for my workouts. Unlike most instructors, I do not use bpm/rpm to gauge whether a song is good for climbing or flats. I go by how it feels. Is it angry and dark, edgy or do I feel like my legs are already pumping?  My tastes in music also run along the obscure and it is rare that you hear me use a Top 40 or popular song in my class, that is unless I’m forced. 

This Russian Circles track delivers on all counts. ‘Station’ is chock-full of fierce guitar riffs and rocking drums. What I especially love is that there are several changes in tempo throughout this song to challenge you. Tempo changes like this are rare (which is why Russian Circles is so great!). Every time you ride to this track you might do it a different way. 

Because of the tempo changes, you can include big-gear surging flats, a tough climb as the bpm slows down, attacks, respites, and a big standing effort at the end (with just enough left over at the finish to recover a bit before moving on).

How I’ve used it:

Climb at tempo at the beginning until 2:50 when the energy eases up. Then at 4:00 the aggressive guitars pick back up—bringing you back to a hard climb. At 5:20 the ambiance changes completely. It’s not as aggressive, but the tempo picks up, so you can surge harder here against the same gear, or maintain the intensity and reduce the gear at the higher cadence as if the road levels off a bit. This continues for 2 minutes, until just after 8:00 when the beat fades away—perfect for rolling over the top of this varied climb out of the saddle.

For another example, see my ride profile called The Grimpeur, a stage race simulation that follows American Mara Abbott up the famed #Mortirolo in stage 5 of the 2016 #GiroRosa, available here



You are Your Own Limits-Brief Pros/Cons of @TrainerRoad and @TheSufferfest and some whining

The 20 Best Inspirational Cycling Quotes » I Love Bicycling:

I often tell my class ‘you are your own limits.’

I feel training (for anything) is often more a mental game you play with yourself, than a physical one. In order to affect change, limits must be reached. You must test your mental and physical abilities to push past boundaries, often self imposed boundaries, of what you consider ‘hard’; of what you consider ‘pain’.

We all know real pain, and training on a bicycle isn’t real pain. It’s discomfort. Very intense discomfort, but it does end when you stop. (If it doesn’t you’ve got more of a problem than I can help you with).

I taught three classes this week and each had a different workout, but all focused on the same thing: Steady State efforts, with brief forays to and/or above Functional Threshold. Now, FTP (functional threshold power) is not 100% effort. FTP is an effort you can hold for an hour that is hard, let’s say 85-95%. Your breath is tested, your legs burn, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s real work and it’s often something you have to push yourself to do. [Unless you’re out riding around with your pals and well, heck, then it’s called FUN!]

The workouts were different in formatting of the intervals, but focused on keeping your watts steady at around 90% of FTP – something we test to find out. You will need a way to measure your output, which is why I pay for @thesufferfest and @trainerroad. Both apps have ‘virtual watts’ that use the information generated by my Wahoo speed/cadence sensor to compute my energy output, because I can’t afford (husband won’t let me buy) a watt meter for my bike.

Where I teach indoor cycling, we have Keiser M3 bikes which have a cycling computer. *Watts are not absolute but just like your scale, it’s a way to measure your effort. Some meters are better than others in calculations.*

On Trainer Road, the two workouts I do most often in my own training are “Cartwright” and “Deerhorn”.

Cartwright is four sets of 10 minutes. The first five minutes of each interval are steady state riding, rpm between 85-95 and watts are between 92-94% of FTP.  Part two is five, one minute increases of watts up to 5%. You increase 1-5% and hold it for a minute, then another increase of 1-5%, and another and again, heading to 110% of FTP. Pleasant, eh? Believe me, it’s gets more pleasant at set three, when the increases come at :30. The only saving grace is that they are 1-2%, which might just be 2-3 rpm.

Image result for clarkson, yes

Deerhorn is a similar experience with two sets of four intervals of :90 of steady state 90-95% with :30 of 105-110% of FTP. Even more pleasantries.

That’s right, Mr. Clarkson. Two Thumbs Up.

With Trainer Road, I can use my own music and there is a lot more variety in the workouts. But, without something to watch other than the black screen and a graph, it can be tough, mentally. Often, I’ll load up a profile and then put the TV on YouTube and ride to one of the many women’s pro races (if I can find one in its entirety). I love that because it’s great way to (re)inspire me to keep writing. (See previous post, Setbacks for why I need inspiration at this time.) But, I don’t always have the mental capacity and need someone taunting me.

Which is where The Sufferfest comes in. These videos are highly entertaining with footage of actual races and mostly good music. The cons are that there isn’t as much variety in the workouts (they have added more recently) and sometimes, (cringe) I don’t like the music. I have to mute the soundtrack, which also mutes the cues so I have to pay attention to the screen of my iPad Mini. It’s small; very small.

To sum up what has turned into a pros/cons of both apps, they’re both great for their own reasons and if you’re like me and are limited to the dark hours of the evening to train, having both is worth the price of one good lunch.

Do, or Do Not…. you know the rest

I am a Sufferlandrian. This is my National Flag. I devote 60-90 minutes most days to intense, mind-numbing, leg-burning, self-induced suffering on my bike attached a trainer in my basement. Alone.

Image result for sufferlandrian

I am also an indoor cycling instructor and twice a week, I put several other individuals through much the same torture, in person, on Keiser M3’s at LAFitness.


This is Dave. He’s the founder of Chief Suffering Officer of TheSufferfest. I’d like to say he’s my friend but honestly, I think he just hates all humanity. (he really is a nice guy, though)

Sometimes, as I recover from the beating by the Minions and reflect on the profile of the workout, I’m inspired. The Sufferest has a pyramid workout called “There Is No Try”.

From their website: A wise man once said, ‘There is No Try. There is only Do. Or do not.’ And, so, as you approach your turbo trainer for this video, you should only come if you are fully committed to doing what needs to be done in order to get faster. And getting faster is what this video is all about. Here, you come face to face with Sufferlandrian intervals. You see, Sufferlandrians get faster when other cyclists get tired. And our intervals do the same. It works like this: Every interval is broken into four parts. Each part is faster than the previous. You usually finish with a sprint. @thesufferfest

I took that idea and expanded on it – accelerations in rpm while keeping the gear/resistance the same, on a climb. When we mortals climb a hill outdoors, we would decrease the gear and increase our pedal speed to compensate for the steeper grade. That’s exactly what we’ll be simulating in this workout. The limiter here is aerobic capacity. Pedaling faster against increasing grade makes you breathe faster. You get better at controlling your breath by actually controlling your breath.  What a concept!

The following is a pyramid profile where the time of each interval increases, reaches a peak and then decreases.  Within each interval set, our rpm will also increase; however, our resistance will remain the same, simulating an increase in gradient. Now since I teach with watts, this is our focus. Small increments in rpm do increase watts but the goal is to not go over FTP (functional threshold power). Reach it, yes. At a maximum of 5 rpm for each increase, that ends up being 15 watts.

Interval 1 starts off with a moderate climb with a pedal speed that matches (maybe 75 rpm). Increase 3-5 rpm (and/or 5 watts) and hold for 15 seconds, then again for 15 seconds, and again for 15 seconds. We get one minute of recovery.

Interval 2 is the same, except we hold the rpm increase for 30 seconds, with 1-minute recovery. Intervals 3 and 4 follow the same pattern except going to 45 seconds and one minute, respective. Our recovery is still one minute.

Interval 5 is the halfway mark. We hold the rpm increases for TWO minutes before recovery for two minutes.

Intervals 6-9 are in reverse, going from one minute back down to 15-second increments with one minute in recovery.

Some of you might think, ‘Heck, I don’t climb like that. I just grind it out with a hard gear until I get to the top.’

Image result for superman on a bike

Bully for you, Superman.

But why? Try taking a little off the top and pedal faster. See what happens.


By the way, if you click here: Ask the Expert  you’ll find an excellent post on the subject of high resistance/low rpm written by such an expert, Jennifer Sage, of the Indoor Cycling Association.