[When I moved to California, I changed my promised posting schedule from once a week to once a month. It has only been a week since my last post, why the change? First, I had accumulated a number of posts and worried that some of them would get stale if I only posted once a month. Second, this and the previous post are sort of Part A and Part B of the same post so that separating them by a month might be too long. This is a very temporary change; I anticipate mostly sticking to a once a month schedule going forward.]
As much as I love reading books about training, there is one thing about them that I find frustrating; finding the information for which I am looking always seems to require jumping around in the book, extracting bits of information from here and there, and sometimes, even going outside the book to find missing bits of information critical to actually figuring out what it is that the author would have me do. Maybe it's just me. I am a very fast reader, and part of the reason for that is that I tend to skim. Maybe if I could just slow down and read carefully I would not have this problem. Sadly, I am who I am and so reconstruction of what I read seems to be a fact of life for me. That being the case, blogging really helps me, it forces me to work through the books I read and the questions I have and to organize them in logical ways, so at the end of writing a blog post, I understand the topic much better than I can by just reading. That was what happened when I wrote my recent post on "Deconstructing the 100K". Although I had read "Distance Cycling" by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach ("Hughes & Kehlenbach") more than once, it was only when I wrote that post that I finally figured out what they wanted me to do during their "brisk" rides. In the end, everything I needed to know what somewhere in that book, but while I was in the middle of figuring it out, I noted their reference to an electronic article by John Hughes ("Hughes") on the topic, and I purchased it in the hopes of gaining clarity. This article, shown at the top of this post, is published on the "Road Bike Rider" website, and although I did not end up needing Hughes to decode Hughes & Kehlenbach, comparing the two proved interesting.
But why am I even doing this? As I mentioned back in that 100K post, one of the experienced cyclists who commented on my blog advised me to "Throw all that training literature away..." The problem is, this is just one commenter of several; if I consider all the comments I have gotten over the years, they advise to do pretty much everything: ride faster, ride slower, ride more, ride less, read no books, read more books, etc., etc., so at the end of the day I end up where I started, I have to decide for myself. But after all this time, have I not figured this out? Did I not just present a training plan in my 100K post? Yes, I did, but.....
- I'm still not sure. What if I am riding too fast? What if I am riding too slow? How would I know?
- I am chronically frustrated that I am so slow, and that I never seem to get much faster. Maybe if I did the right brisk rides, I could get faster?
- Anyway, I read the Hughes article so I might as well review it. One reason I purchased it was that it was "newly revised for 2016". Have the latest findings changed everything? Does it tell me the same thing as Hughes & Kehlenbach or is it yet another divergent opinion?
One difference between Hughes compared to Hughes & Kehlenbach is that the training zone heart rates have been revised down, so the recommended riding intensities are lower. In my 100K post, I argued that because my "GoTo" ride had so many hills, it forced me into all the different intensities (heart rate zones) as I needed. The change in zones shifted that calculation:
Compared to Hughes and Kehlenbach, Hughes makes my GoTo ride seem more like a Pace ride and less like an Endurance ride. If I take this seriously, this would suggest that I might want to include more rides on the flat parts of The Peninsula in my schedule, which happens to be something I want to do anyway. But that would reduce the amount of "hard" (red) riding I am doing, do I need to compensate for that? As I will discuss below, perhaps not.
Both Hughes and Hughes & Kehlenbach recommend the same three less-than-hard rides; Active Recovery (Zone 1), Endurance (Zone 2), and Tempo (Zone 3). Where Hughes and Hughes & Kehlenbach differ is that Hughes considers five kinds of hard rides whereas Hughes & Kehlenbach consider only one. The five kinds of hard rides in Hughes, in order of increasing intensity, are Sweet Spot (border of Zones 3 and 4), Sub-threshold (Zone 4), Super-Threshold (Zone 5a*), VO2max (Zone 5b*), and Sprints (Zone 5c*). The single hard ride Hughes & Kehlenbach recommends corresponds to the Sub-Threshold (Zone 4) ride of Hughes.
Another difference between Hughes and Hughes & Kehlenbach is that Hughes makes different recommendations for three different kinds of riders, Health and Fitness Riders, Club and Endurance Riders, and Performance Riders. I fall into the first group, or perhaps the second group on a good day, but never in the third group. Hughes & Kehlenbach consider only one kind of rider, one corresponding to the Club and Endurance Rider of Hughes.
For the Health and Fitness rider, Hughes recommends the following: "In addition to active recovery, endurance and tempo rides, you will benefit from sprints and VO2 max intervals; however, if you don’t want to do either of these—don’t!" For the Club and Endurance rider, Hughes says "In addition to active recovery, endurance and tempo rides you will also benefit from sprints, VO2 max intervals and sweet spot training; however, if you don’t want to push yourself that hard I won’t fault you." So the good news is that, according to Hughes, whatever hard riding I do, even if that is none, will be enough.
So are we done at long last? Not quite. Hughes lists nine benefits that come from including at least some hard rides in your schedule. I won't list all nine, but I want to mention one: Better Performance. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how I am disappointed with my speed and how I would love to find some way to increase it. If my enthusiasm and level of fatigue would allow it, might introducing some specifically hard/fast/brisk rides into my schedule be beneficial? Interestingly, the hard ride recommended by Hughes & Kehlenbach was at the low end of hard, in Zone 4, whereas the two rides Hughes recommends for the Health and Fitness cyclist are at the high end; Sprint (Zone 5c) and VO2max (5b). These last two are not intensities I reach during my GoTo ride, and thus rides at these intensities might add something I would not otherwise get. (For the Club and Endurance rider, Hughes suggests one more hard ride, the "Sweet Spot" ride, at the very low end of hard, at the border between Zones 3 and 4, an intensity that I reach often in my GoTo ride.) But is this madness? Am I about to complicate the beautifully simple schedule I developed for riding a 100K per month? I actually don't think so. I have recently been enjoying riding my 1960 Bianchi Specialissima around the neighborhood. (Because it has sew-up tires which are hard to change on the road, I have been keeping these rides close to home so I could walk home in the case of a flat.) One of the reasons I like riding this classic bike is because it feels fast. Although traffic is a consideration everywhere on The Peninsula, there are some stretches of this neighborhood ride a few blocks long where there is less traffic overall and virtually no cross traffic, so these might be places I could enjoy the speed of this beautiful bike and practice sprinting. If I do this, will it improve my speed? Stay tuned to find out.
* I have substituted Joe Friel's Zone numbering system (5a, 5b, 5c) for that of Hughes (5, 6, and 7) because Freil's system is the one I have previously used on this blog.