I shall Escape from Alcatraz aka I'm going to be a triathete? -
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Display Name Post: I shall Escape from Alcatraz aka I'm going to be a triathete?        (Topic#37813)
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
11-01-21 06:31 PM - Post#914396    



I drew a lottery spot in the June 2022 Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. You can guess where the swim starts (from a boat just off the island.)

My last triathlon was an Ironman distance 25 years ago. I probably wouldn't get out of bed to do a non-descript tri, but this is a bucket list type of race that I first read about 30 years ago. I thought it was incredibly cool then. I still do, and since I'm on the West Coast only for another year or two, I decided to enter.

It's a 1.5 mile swim (that can be longer due to current or can be relatively fast due to currents. And the water is cold and can be choppy with swells.) Bike is a hilly 18 miles around San Francisco and run is a hilly 8 miles.

I'll really need to work on my swim because I don't want to get pulled from the water by the safety boat. The bike and run aren't daunting but will require training. I don't even currently own a road/tri bike.
 
Steve Rogers
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Total Posts: 5935
11-01-21 06:37 PM - Post#914397    



Sounds like a fun challenge. I guess you need to find a suitable bike and start training. Good luck!
"Coyote is always waiting, and Coyote is always hungry."


 
DanMartin
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Total Posts: 20621
11-01-21 06:45 PM - Post#914398    



Get some!
Mark it Zero.


 
Vicki
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Total Posts: 8184
Re: I shall Escape from Alcatraz aka Ichr('039')m going to be a triathete?
11-01-21 07:00 PM - Post#914400    



That water is COLD. I wouldn't want to be in it, just standing, for the time of the swim, but when I was a teenager I was one of the few who did swim in the water next to Morrow Rock in CA. It is COLD. I remember.

Can you wear a wet suit?




 
Dan John
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Total Posts: 12194
11-01-21 07:28 PM - Post#914402    



I applaud you!!!
Daniel John
Just handing down what I was handed down...


Make a Difference.
Live. Love. Laugh.
Balance work, rest, play and pray (enjoy beauty and solitude)
Sleep soundly. Drink Water. Eat veggies and protein. Walk.
Wear your seat belt. Don’t smoke. Floss your teeth.
Put weights overhead. Pick weights off the floor. Carry weights.
Reread great books. Say thank you


 
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
Re: I shall Escape from Alcatraz
11-01-21 11:06 PM - Post#914406    



  • Vicki Said:
That water is COLD. I wouldn't want to be in it, just standing, for the time of the swim, but when I was a teenager I was one of the few who did swim in the water next to Morrow Rock in CA. It is COLD. I remember.

Can you wear a wet suit?



Yes. Wetsuits are allowed and probably 99% of the triathletes will wear one. I will.

However, there's an open water swim club that organizes Alcatraz swims and reports that 15-20% of their swimmers opt not to wear one. Those folks must swim in the bay regularly and I would assume are accustomed to the cold water. Most triathletes log the majority of their time in a pool.
 
Vicki
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Total Posts: 8184
Re: I shall Escape from Alcatraz
11-02-21 07:33 AM - Post#914410    



You obviously know what you are doing and I bet you will finish well. It makes more sense to me to practice as much as possible in the conditions of the race. A pool swim is very different from an ocean swim. I've admired the swim club you mention but never had the desire to repeat the "freezing" swims of my youth.
  • Jim James Said:

Yes. Wetsuits are allowed and probably 99% of the triathletes will wear one. I will.

However, there's an open water swim club that organizes Alcatraz swims and reports that 15-20% of their swimmers opt not to wear one. Those folks must swim in the bay regularly and I would assume are accustomed to the cold water. Most triathletes log the majority of their time in a pool.








 
AAnnunz
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Total Posts: 24607
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
11-02-21 09:12 AM - Post#914415    



  • Vicki Said:
That water is COLD. I wouldn't want to be in it, just standing, for the time of the swim....


On the bright side, you wouldn't have to worry about the dreaded "s" word: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG2dF5PS0bI

Wishing you the very best, Jim.
Be strong. Be in shape. Be a man among men, regardless of your age or circumstances.




Edited by AAnnunz on 11-02-21 10:16 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.
 
Old Miler
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Total Posts: 1735
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
11-02-21 03:34 PM - Post#914423    



I thought part of the idea of putting a jail on Alcatraz was that the sharks would get you? Or was that just a myth they made up to deter escapes?

If it's safe, that race is a brilliant idea...
 
Justin Jordan
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Total Posts: 837
11-02-21 05:04 PM - Post#914426    



Just the cold water and the currents. But at least one escaped prisoner made the swim successfully - he was just too exhausted to get much further than the mainland shore.

It was pretty effective because it's fairly hard swim, so if you're an inmate who wasn't, you know, swimming, it's near impossible.
 
DanMartin
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Total Posts: 20621
11-02-21 05:25 PM - Post#914427    



I grew up swimming in San Francisco bay. I've sailed on it, water skied and fished on it too. It is never warm. I mean never. It's colder in the summer than winter.
Mark it Zero.


 
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
11-04-21 12:14 AM - Post#914470    



  • Old Miler Said:
I thought part of the idea of putting a jail on Alcatraz was that the sharks would get you? Or was that just a myth they made up to deter escapes?

If it's safe, that race is a brilliant idea...



I've read that (1)sharks do come in the bay but are small and tend to stay near the bottom (2) all the safety boats and safety kayaks spook anything away (3) the big sharks don't like the low salt water in the bay.

The race has been held for 40 years. I'm not aware of any shark attacks.

Guards supposedly spread the myth about sharks - but it's possible they were misinformed and believed it to be true.

Edited by Jim James on 11-04-21 12:29 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.
 
DanMartin
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Total Posts: 20621
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
11-04-21 01:24 PM - Post#914487    



  • Jim James Said:
  • Old Miler Said:
I thought part of the idea of putting a jail on Alcatraz was that the sharks would get you? Or was that just a myth they made up to deter escapes?

If it's safe, that race is a brilliant idea...



I've read that (1)sharks do come in the bay but are small and tend to stay near the bottom (2) all the safety boats and safety kayaks spook anything away (3) the big sharks don't like the low salt water in the bay.

The race has been held for 40 years. I'm not aware of any shark attacks.

Guards supposedly spread the myth about sharks - but it's possible they were misinformed and believed it to be true.



Shark attacks are so rare that it is not an issue.
Mark it Zero.


 
Pontyclun
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Total Posts: 2186
11-06-21 07:10 AM - Post#914530    



Congrats on getting an entry, it's an iconic triathlon!
Owen Brown, a Biomedical Scientist from Pontyclun, Wales.


 
Eric_
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Total Posts: 54
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
01-02-22 11:43 PM - Post#915798    



  • Jim James Said:
  • Old Miler Said:
I thought part of the idea of putting a jail on Alcatraz was that the sharks would get you? Or was that just a myth they made up to deter escapes?

If it's safe, that race is a brilliant idea...



I've read that (1)sharks do come in the bay but are small and tend to stay near the bottom (2) all the safety boats and safety kayaks spook anything away (3) the big sharks don't like the low salt water in the bay.

The race has been held for 40 years. I'm not aware of any shark attacks.

Guards supposedly spread the myth about sharks - but it's possible they were misinformed and believed it to be true.



In 2015 a great white shark took out a seal beside Alcatraz. It was a bloody mess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFumUdCSgOQ

At least formerly, hammerhead sharks were known to laze in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.
 
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
Re: I shall Escape be a triathete?
06-25-22 03:52 PM - Post#920100    



I successfully finished the race, which was held a few weeks ago.

TLDR:

Last year I decided almost on a whim to do this triathlon - my first in 25 years. I did an Ironman distance in ~1997. In December I bought a used road bike and smart trainer. I trained minimally using mostly low intensity bike rides as the cornerstone. I did two practice ocean swims that didn't go well and hurt my confidence. But on race day the swim was easier than expected. I finished behind 2/3 of competitors. I had a lot of fun and gained an appreciation for Zone 2 training.

----

What follows is a very a very long write up that covers a bit about the state of endurance training, my prep leading up to the race, and a race report.

After signing up for the race, I bought a decent used road bike, a ‘smart’ indoor trainer (Tacx Vortex) that connects to the rear wheel so I can ride indoors, and a subscription to a cycling training app. I went all in on cycling, partly because my wife moved to another country for work and our two young boys stayed with me. I wouldn't joined her until February. But with the indoor trainer, I could ride after the kids were asleep.

The indoor trainer connects via bluetooth to my phone and laptop and measures watts (and cadence and speed.) The app programs my workouts and controls the resistance at the rear wheel to produce the prescribed amount of watts. The app also plays videos to distract/entertain you during the ride. Less intense Zone 2 sessions might come with a cycling documentary or just scenic POV views of the Alps. Harder sessions have footage of the pro peloton filmed in real European races, and the intervals were synced/edited to what the race is doing. You have to sprint when the pack or your rider sprints, surge to cover breakaways, climb on the hills, etc. It’s a gimmick but I found it somewhat motivating.

--------

Skip this part unless you want a short look at the current state of cycling training. This won’t be news to anyone that’s done any riding within the last decade, but it was rather new to me. Cyclists, feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.

With the advent of power meters that measure your wattage, HR training is mostly out of favor and training based on your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is in. FTP is the estimated average amount of watts you can sustain for an hour. HR is out as it can vary day to day.


All the cycling training apps have a workout to measure your FTP. It’s usually a ramp test in which you must produce more and more watts at set increments. When you can no longer hit the prescribe watts, the test is over and an algorithm tells you your FTP.

The training rides are a percentage of your FTP. An base building Zone 2 ride might be at steady 60% of your FTP, while more intense sessions designed to increase your VO2 max might be intervals of 130% of your FTP, etc.

As best I can tell there are two schools of thought in the cycling community:

1) 80/20, or polarized training, in which 80% of your training is at Zone 2 levels and only 20% is at higher intensities. The story is that sport scientist Stephen Seiler observed that elite endurance athletes from different disciplines mostly trained at that ratio of intensity levels whether they realized it or not. If it’s good for the pro’s, it’s good for the amateurs. Big emphasis is placed on base building in the winter and spring.

80/20 does share some commonalities with Maffetone's concepts, with some exceptions. Maffetone, as I understand it, only prescribes high intensity training for a few weeks leading up to a major race. Maffetone also determines the proper intensity using solely heart rate following a set formula based on the athletes age with only minor deviations for the individual. With 80/20 you take a field test to determine your low intensity range, which could be measured by HR, pace, power, perceived effort, etc. I don't hear about many cyclist using the Maffetone method. I believe he has more of a following in the ultra and triathlon communities

At the other end of the spectrum is ‘sweet spot’ training, in which the majority of your rides are in Zone 3 or 4, or 85-90% of your FTP. The idea is that 80/20 is obviously better for pro and elite that are riding 20-30 hours a week and must do a lot of Zone 2 riding or risk burnout and overtraining, but a "time-constrained" amateur that’s only riding 4-5 hours a week can spend more than 20% of training at higher intensities. The risk is burnout later in the season. This seems intuitive, but some believe and there are some studies that even time constrained cyclists will benefit more from 80/20 training.

-------------------

I did a few weeks of Zone 2 base building just to get comfortable (I doubt I built a real base) and then hedged my bets and followed a plan that was in between 80/20 and Sweet Spot. Call it 60/40 or 70/30.

Naturally, just like a weight training program based on a percentage of your maximum, you need to retest so you know (and the app knows) your current FTP and you are riding at the right percentage.

My first FTP test was dismal. A month later I retested and had made a significant improvement. The ramp test is designed to make you fail somewhere before you hit the top at the end of 20 minutes. In my case, the program didn’t anticipate that much improvement and I was able to keep (barely) meeting the target until ramp didn't go any higher an the test ended after 20 minutes. Newbie gains, obviously.

Like retesting your press and setting a new PR, redoing the ramp test and having a higher FTP was motivating.

It's now February, and I haven't swam or run. I had a silly notion that if I kept improving on the bike (which I surely would), I might be able to sit in some local bike races. If you aren't aware, road bike racing has a huge barrier to entry in terms of fitness and pack riding skill. Unlike the charity 5k or 10k run, you can't show up with minimal training. You will be off the back of the pack in the first turn or hill and the race is effectively over. Even with a few months of hard training, that likely would have happened to me. At any rate, I got Covid in late February, which kept me off the bike for a few weeks and eliminated any notion of taking up road bike racing in my late 40s.

During this time I was still lifting kettlebells a few times a week in a very park bench manner with no goal other than not lose too much strength.

My Covid was mild, or so I thought. A week after testing negative and going back to work, I woke up in the middle of the night with sharp chest pains any time I took a breath. I went to the emergency room, and after a cardiac event was ruled out, I had a cat scan of the chest which showed inflammation in the lining of the lungs (pleurisy), almost certainly a result of Covid. Emergency room doc gave me a z-pack and said to follow up with my physician. Pain subsided quickly.

With the followup, my doctor said pleurisy was a common side effect of Covid and this wasn't a sign that I had long Covid. In a physical 9 months earlier, the doc had given me a few months to make lifestyle changes to see if my lipid panel would improve, otherwise I should be on statins. I had not gone back. Doc ordered another blood panel, and my numbers had improved across the board to the point that the formula no longer recommended statins. I might have eaten a little 'cleaner' in the last few months, but I mostly attribute it to the emphasis on 'cardio'. He still said I should considered statins to improve my numbers only because there's a history of heart disease in my family. I asked if it was reasonable to wait a few months and see if the additional zone 2 training would improve the numbers even more. He said that was fine.

No longer dreaming of bike racing, I switched from 'sweet spot' training to mostly Zone 2 training with a few hard days here and there. Even with Covid and not doing many intervals, I did a third ramp test and made a slight improvement, which surprised me.

In the middle of this, I also moved to a different country, started kids in a new school, sold a condo, and began a new work assignment. It was hectic.

I did my first swim in March, which was harder than expected. I would swim once or twice a week, pushing the distance each time. My longest swim would be 3k, which took a little over an hour. I did two practice swims in the Pacific, which went terribly. The first time I swallowed and threw up water due to the chop and swell. I reasoned that my mistake was swimming in the middle of the day when the wind had picked up. So I went back at dawn and the swim was just as bad. I knew that if I swam this poorly at Alcatraz, I wouldn't be able to complete the 1.5 mile swim within the hour cutoff.

I've never suffered from lack of confidence, and I've done a lot harder things with much higher stakes for failure than swim 1.5 miles. But the swim was the main draw for me (after all, that's the escaping part), and I really didn't want to experience the ignominy of being fished from the water before I could complete the swim portion.

However, Escape from Alcatraz is a little different. If you aren't going to make the swim cutoff, you are not disqualified. Rather a boat picks you up and drops you off a few hundred yards from the swim exit. There's no penalty other than knowing you had a little assistance on the course. And it turns out, most of the competitors that are picked up by boats is because they have not sighted properly and currents have pushed them off course, not because they are slow swimmers. So there's no shame in being picked up. But still.

But after those two poor open water swims I had to do some talking to myself to get my confidence back. It was strange to be that anxious.

I trained minimally in the months before the race, almost always in Zone 2. My longest bike ride was 22 miles on the trainer, and the longest run was 5 or 6 miles. As I mentioned, I swam 3k once. I rode a grand total of 7 miles outside just to make sure my bike worked. I never did a bike-run workout, which is a staple of any triathlon training plan. I did Easy Strength-style ring dips, pullups and goblet squats most days. On days I felt strong I would hang some weight to the dips or pullups.

The race itself was a blast. I had none of the anxiety I had experience in the weeks leading up to the race. I was soaking up the sights and atmospheres on the boat ride out. The cold water, which I had fretted about, didn't bother me in the least (I had a wetsuit like everyone else). My swim time of 35 minutes put me right in the middle of the competitors, and I would drop back on the bike and the run to right at the top of the bottom third.

I didn't know how much I could push it on the bike as I had never run 8 miles after biking 18 very hilly miles. And it was raining. I could have gone faster on the bike. The 1.5 mile swim, 18 mile bike, and 8 mile run took about 3h45m.

I'm no Greek Adonis, but with my shirt off I look like I train. A lot of the people that finished ahead of me were overfat and a few were clinically obese. More than few behind me were obese, yet they finished. Of course there were the skinny/lean competitors at the front that you expect at an endurance event. But I'd say that if you saw the competitors at the bottom half of finishers you'd be hard pressed to know they exercised. They were neither muscular (no surprise) nor wiry. Now I don't know how much time they put into training, but many of these competitors were into the triathlon lifestyle and competed often. Don't get me wrong, they were less obese than the average population, but not as fit looking as I expected.

The last few months did give me an even greater appreciation for Zone 2 training. I started using a heart rate monitor for my runs and found as long as I kept the intensity low I could run or bike multiple times a week without experiencing cumulative fatigue. I can do a trail run for an hour and cover six miles and not even feel it an hour later, much less the next day. When I was doing higher intensity 'sweet spot' training, I would experience fatigue the next day, and it is going to impact your strength training in some manner. Also, an interval session in the evening really messed up my sleep. Zone 2 in the evening isn't as bad.

This was a bucket list event for me going back to when I read about it in the 80s. I don't know that I'll do a vanilla triathlon. I'd rather do fun but very hard challenges in cool places. Next up is a single day Rim to Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon, tentatively scheduled for the fall. That's 44+ miles with 11,000 feet of elevation gain. I did just order high end indoor bike trainer and I will continue to do mostly Zone 2 training indoors on the bike. I just don't see a downside as I can easily combine it and Easy Strength. Adding one Zone 4 workout per week as recommended by Peter Attia might be as simple as making the following day a rest day from Easy Strength.

Thanks for reading.


Edited by Jim James on 06-25-22 10:09 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.
 
SpiderLegs
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Total Posts: 350
06-26-22 07:24 AM - Post#920105    



Good read. I just did a Grand Canyon R3 in May, feel free to ask for any pointers.
 
Chris Rice
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Total Posts: 675
06-26-22 08:54 AM - Post#920106    



Fun read thank you. "Zone 2" question - is this still the traditional heart rate based zone 2 or is this something the app gives you as well?
 
Steve Rogers
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Total Posts: 5935
06-26-22 09:19 AM - Post#920107    



Congratulations. Thanks for posting.
"Coyote is always waiting, and Coyote is always hungry."


 
DanMartin
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Total Posts: 20621
06-26-22 11:14 AM - Post#920108    



SAVAGE!!!
Mark it Zero.


 
Pepper
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Total Posts: 288
06-26-22 04:55 PM - Post#920113    



Wow! Congratulations!
 
jimi1942
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Total Posts: 15
06-27-22 03:26 AM - Post#920117    



Fantastic. Congratulations
 
AAnnunz
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Total Posts: 24607
06-27-22 09:01 AM - Post#920122    



Wow, Jim, that's really impressive! You are officially a BEAST. Thanks for taking the time to give us the details.
Be strong. Be in shape. Be a man among men, regardless of your age or circumstances.


 
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
I shall Escape from Alcatraz aka Ichr(chr(chr(chr(chr('039')039chr('039'))039chr(chr('039')039chr('039')))039chr(chr(chr('039')039chr('039'))039chr(chr('039')039chr('039'))))0
06-27-22 12:24 PM - Post#920128    



  • Chris Rice Said:
Fun read thank you. "Zone 2" question - is this still the traditional heart rate based zone 2 or is this something the app gives you as well?



Chris,
The cycling app calculated my zones based on a percentage of my Functional Threshold Power,(the average amount of watts I could sustain for an hour.) The app also computed my cycling Threshold Heart Rate since I wore a heart rate monitor as well. I found the two correlated well. If I was in Zone 2 based on power, I was also in Zone 2 with heart rate.

Incidentally, my cycling Threshold Heart Rate is 165bpm. According to that app, my Zone 2 HR range should be 117-144bpm on the bike. (117 seems more like Zone 1 recovery to me. I was never that low on the bike.)

For running, I used Joe Friel's 30 minute test, where you run all out for 30 minutes and take the average HR for the last 20 minutes. That came out to 173. He calls that the Lactate threshold heart rate (I've read it's normal for cycling THR to be lower than the running THR, and the less trained you are the bigger the gap.)

According to Friel, my Zone 2 for running would be 147-154bpm (85%-89% of the LTHR). To me, the low end seems a little high. I'm passing the talk test at 150, but just barely and that's kind of subjective. Friel is the pioneer of heart rate training, but other folks say Zone 2 is anywhere from 80% to 90% of LTHR, which would be 140-156bpm. I try to keep it in mid 140s if I can. Over 140bpm does not feel like recovery, so I'm pretty sure I'm in Zone 2.

As an aside, Maffetone would say I should be training at 131bpm while running (180-my age.) I'm not aware of him adjusting that for the bike.


If it seems I’m droning on about Z2, it is because looking back over the years I’m certainly guilty of going too hard on my easy days and too easy on my hard days.



Edited by Jim James on 06-27-22 03:52 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.
 
Jim James
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Total Posts: 97
06-27-22 12:39 PM - Post#920129    



  • SpiderLegs Said:
Good read. I just did a Grand Canyon R3 in May, feel free to ask for any pointers.



Thank you. I will reach out as I start doing more research and come up with questions.
 
Chris Rice
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Total Posts: 675
06-28-22 07:57 AM - Post#920161    



Thank you for the explanation. Just getting back into things after a surgery so I'm at straight heart rate zone 1 with an occasional step into zone 2. Maybe a zone 3 once in a great while when I have been at it a while. Right now I need to reestablish a base. At 73 my zone HR numbers are quite low anyway. Like you (and I suspect most) my HR numbers vary quite a lot by activity - breathing varies even more by activity. Perceived exertion levels versus HR versus breathing are an interesting contrast also. I'm enjoying reading about you journey - please keep posting. Share as much detail as you're comfortable with please.
 
WxHerk
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Total Posts: 317
06-28-22 12:49 PM - Post#920167    



Absolutely outstanding endeavor and writeup. THANK YOU for taking the time to post this fascinating, detailed look at your training and your event.
Just my 2¢


 
Mike L
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Total Posts: 43
07-01-22 03:18 PM - Post#920231    



great write up! I really appreciated the section on Z2, FTP, and sweet spot. I've gotten back into road biking and riding with a group and they all have smart trainers and power meters. I've been reluctant to invest in it but it clearly works as I am the slowest in the group. of course, I'm the only one in the group that can throw a sandbag over a wall and press a weight overhead so I've always got my space.

It's funny to me how many of them are not lean, stretch their cycling jerseys, yet can lay down some mean speed. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in endurance sports.

You might want to find a good cycling crew to ride with. I gave up racing a long time ago, but a good group ride can be a great experience and push you to new levels.
 
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