So after I got the results from my VO2 Max test, Tony & I went over what the prescription to increase those numbers would be. I’m not a fan of Time-Trialing. But I am a fan of being a Strong cyclist. So, to get the training started I went to the North Georgia mountains and did a ride known as the gaps – well, a variation of the gaps. Climbing the mountains will allow me to get my Heart Rate in my zone for the prescribed period of time and allow my legs to increase strength by climbing these mountains!
I drove up and parked at the Turner’s Corner store and headed up Neels Gap – aka Blood Mt. I haven’t ridden my bike in the gaps for at least a year now & it showed on the first ‘warm-up’ climb. I seemed to be in my largest cog almost as soon as the climb started. There is no cheating the Mountain, The mountain can make a bad day worse.
I was hoping that after the warm-up/re-introduction to climbing that my legs would loosen up and feel good for the 1st actual climb – Nope… wrong again. I basically played mental games against my body, for about half of the climb up the mountain – brain saying we have to keep doing, keep pedaling, at least get to the top…. the body was on defense. Stop, hold it right here, I need a break.
I was suffering and I was hurting, and honestly your reading this blog and this test was part of what kept me going to the top. Each subtle relief in the terrain is a test – do I take a relief from the pain, or do I keep my heart rate at the prescribed intensity?!
I wanted a 12×25 cassette to make the climb more bearable – I usually always start my training season on that cassette then switch to a 11×23 later in the season as my legs no longer needing the 25. And my brain was angry for not finding it this morning, and the body was paying the penalty.
Out of the saddle through the hairpins, flop back down in the saddle on the straights. I keep my Heart Rate between 165 & 170 for the duration. The body is again in conflict, it is burning fuel & creating lactic acid & now must flush it out as fast or faster, as it is creating it. This is the prescribed workout.
Slowly I dragged myself upwards until I could see the sign for the AT (Appalachian trail) – only a 1/4 mile to go. I get to the top and soft pedal as I catch my breathe and check out the view.
I hydrate, and ingest some fuel as I debate going home or pushing on to climb another gap, taking me further from the car. I finally decide to attempt the next gap, Wolf-Pen. This is a climb that is always tough for me. For me it is a little deceiving. At first the switch backs seem to allow for some acceleration, but the next section feels a little steeper each time. The uphill sections keep my heart rate maxed out. Slowly I make my way to the top.
There is a section on this climb that always ‘seems’ like it should be easier than it is – but today, although it is tough, I am taking it steadily. Slowly crawling my way up. There isn’t much speed involved, but that is ok, I’m going purely off of Heart Rate today. 1 switch-back at a time.
If you watch old stages of the Tour De Georgia, about the only reason you know this is a climb is they are out of the saddle…. not me. I’m in anguish in these hills, however there is the other side of the coin today, the downhills will be my REWARD!
After reaching the top, and take a brief break, I turn around and descend what I just finished climbing.
Thanks to my buddy ‘HillBilly’ for the video:
Now, I still have 1 more climb to make it back to the car, back up Blood Mountain. On this climb, I am feeling better, the body is working more with me, but I also feel fatigued. I do what I can, and stay in my target HR range and make my way to the top.
Although I can feel the fatigued setting in, I am trying to keep up with the gel & hydration. The legs are responding fairly well, and this climb actually seemed easier than I had thought it would be. This is only the 2nd or 3rd time I had climbed it in this direction. It seems to kick hardest early on, then mainly level off more than the other climbs. With a little speed to keep the HR up, I can now kick little with each incline – then settle back into a decent pace.
View 3 Gap! 2011-03-23 1 in a larger map
After the final descent I do a little exploring on some roads that were fairly early in the ride. I always seem to be curious what is around the next bend.
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Read what it was like for me to go through the TEST
Before I even get off the bike Tony is going over some of the results.
He (again) stated something that I was surprised about – you have a fantastic base – you would be a type of person that would waste their time doing base work. Because of the graph, he could see that I was able to stay very aerobic throughout a lot of the test.
SO, then he says – I bet you hate time trialing, don’t you? Yes. Tony says ‘well guess what you most need to do to see improvements…. tempo work just above your threshold’.
Tony explains to me that the results show that the strength and the aerobic base is there, but my blood system can not keep up with delivering the oxygen and flushing the lactic acid as fast as my muscles are creating it. So, on the trend plot you can see that my Heart Rate stayed above my VO2 for nearly the whole test…. not ideal. My body needs to get used to flushing the lactic acid more efficiently & for that to happen, the body has to be creating it also….. so that means, I have to ride at a high Heart Rate for a duration of time, ala Time-Trialing, or what I like better extended climbs.
Now, we are talking about how/why of genetics, strengths and weakness that I have, how that reflects what the graph shows & and how that will effect the events that I can do well in and the one’s that I will have more trouble with and may just get discouraged with trying to attempt. Which is funny, a good friend once said to me, I’m not built for climbing – once I stopped trying to race all the little climbers and focused on the races that suited my body, I became a much happier bike racer. She ended up placing in US National Crit championships that year.
Train your weakness, race your strength!
Results and REVIEW of MY VO2 Max test is:
So, you can see from the graph that my anaerobic threshold is 166.
My VO2 maxed out at 55. Not bad, not great – and room for Improvement with the proper workouts!
PRO: Very Good aerobic base – again, I’m shocked. But the numbers don’t lie.
Good power at Lactate threshold – over 400 watts.
Needs Improvement: RECOVERY. look at the 2nd chart, the drop off of Heart Rate is too slow. For competitive cycling, you want your recovery rate to be much quicker so that you can attack, recover and attack – repeatedly. My HR took a little too long nearly 2 minutes to get back down from 180 to 120. Although this will easily change with intown group rides and interval training.
The GOAL: More efforts at Threshold. Or I can do more long Hill Repeats, mountain climbs.
It almost like cheating, but not really. I can do the same workout if I go to the North GA mountains where I can do long climbs of 10-20 minutes at my target heart rate.
Knowing where your baseline numbers are is a Huge benefit for cycling. A VO2Max test will show you where your strengths and weakness are, and from that you can find out the workouts that will best benefit your riding and racing! This is the way to train more effectively and more efficiently in less time.
Up Next: My workouts to change my VO2 Max!
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I partially got talked into doing the Cherohala crossing #3. I knew Hammering Hill Billy and FarmerG have done this ride before, and although I heard it was on/off road with 3 climbs, it would have some of the beautiful views of North Carolina and the Cherohala parkway.
I finally made it to Paradox, although a little later than anticipated. After some bites of steak & some veggies fresh from FarmerG’s garden we huddled around the campfire & told tall tales of our mis-adventures of bike racing over the years.
A bit a late evening of jocularity and sipping adult beverages around a campfire before we finally turned in for the night. I was camping for a 2nd night, 1st being at Mulberry Gap for the Drama Queen ride – and was fortunate enough that FarmerG had some extra blankets because the sudden N.C. night time low of 48 was most unexpected after our months HOTlanta heat.
as more people pulled up before sunrise, I rubbed my groggy eyes, they were anxious for the day of riding to get started. We on the other hand we dragging slightly. Andy was there and soon Mr Paine himself pulled up – an unexpected surprise – now I know this ride was going to be a brute.
We had an great breakfast of coffee & pancakes, jittery with anticipation of what might be in store for the day. Troy was our designated team driver of the vehicle – many Thanks to Troy, who was saving his legs for the infamous US100K on Monday.
Climbing was the game today – 3 long climbs and descents, all on dirt. I was on a 2Niner Mt bike with a knobby up front and a Maxxis CrossMark in the rear, probably the best rear tire for this ride. I was at a disadvantage going uphill, but on the downhills the Mt bike was a huge advantage over the cycle-cross bikes.
We readied ourselves and left from the park of Murphy, NC, and headed to Andrews, NC – but not until I had the ONLY flat of the day. Onward we marched rolling along the small rollers, each 1 taking it’s toll already on my legs. The Drama Queen was starting to show her evil backside to my quads. I would be mid-pack of a moderate moving group, then slightly off the back, then have to re-gain ground once the road flattened out.
We made a left turn on what was a paved road, which soon turned to a dirt road. The group was now starting to split up. The grade of the road would change every so often, however the usual ability to get out of the saddle and pedal to maintain speed in a steeper section was lost due to traction on the dirt road. It was a ‘sit & spin’ kind of a day.
I tried not to think too much about the gearing I was using because it wasn’t long until I realized that my legs didn’t have much left in the tanks. I was running low on fuel and the reserves had not been replenished. The gravel this year was reported as much looser than the previous year. And clearly they had recently put down new gravel on 1 of the descents.
Once to the top would re-grouped with everyone, and I was inhaling all food that I could, and re-filling water, then adding Nuun tablets. I found out that HillBilly and Shane were duking it out for the KOM on a day that I was trying to survive. The descents were long, somewhat loose gravel and Fast as you wanted, most everyone had pains in the forearms and calves from standing while braking down the descents.
The flat sections we quite fast for being on a Mt bike, I was able to grab a wheel of Greg and put my head down to hold his wheel. Then we would regroup, ride awhile until someone got frisky again – back to the races, then slow enough for everyone to catch up.
On the 2nd climb, the body went on strike: said ‘no mo, until we get supplies’ I got some gel, got a bite of cliff-bar, but it just wasn’t enough. My body was on ‘E’ and I felt like I was holding everyone up – the day was going to be long enough as it was so, I hopped in the follow vehicle and snapped some photos of the other riders climbing up this mountain. Meanwhile, I was eating anything available: cheez-its and Pnut butter wafers, and drinking more Nuun. At the top, we regrouped again before another awesome descent – I was on a mt bike, descents were tough for those with the cyclo-cross tires. Somewhere either on this climb or on the descent we crossed into Tennessee. Hit some flatter roads and the 2nd store stop. Luckily for me, I found a pop-tart in my pack that I had forgotten about – I don’t think I had ever been more excited about a pop-tart ever before.
After the store-stop at the bottom of this gap was along the river, and we had to gradually climb out of this area. I was holding pace with the group along the flats, then once again, I was falling off slightly on the rollers and catching back on. We were heading out for the final climb of the day.
What this last climb lacked in length, it made up in short steep sections that whether from tired legs, lack of gearing or lack of traction, several people had to walk up. Once re-grouped at the top, we started again down the Mountain. Just after passing me, Shane moved his way up to the front, and out of sight through the next turn. I was slowing down because the edge was on our right and the turn went out of sight to the left. About mid-way through the turn, I saw a pick-up truck that luckily was now stopped on the far left side of the road, and luckily again, there was Shane just a little passed the truck looking back at us, as if to say ‘Holy Crap!’ We were all able to safely get around the vehicle.
Once again at the bottom, Greg was an instigator and was Hammering this section all the way to the stop sign. There we waited on everyone and headed back out for the final leg back to Murphy. Just as I thought the worst of this ride was over and seemed to have some energy again, the upcoming climbs were to take their toll before I was able to drag myself back into town. Greg and Wayne stopped and waited on everyone before getting back to the cars.
After 15 minutes of beverages and munching it was time for the all-mighty HillBilly recovery ice bath in the Hiawassee river. After soaking for a bit, we motored on back to FarmerG’s for some beef burgers and pasta with sauce straight from Farmer’s garden – Awesome sauce to top an Awesome weekend of riding with great friends!!
Cherohala crossing #3:
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