Training Tales – A Pain in the Ass

There comes a point in time, if your training is holding true, that obstacles like hills, rain, wind become less of a factor in your decision to head out on a training ride. Last season the threat of rain, or of high winds, on a day when the plan called for 2000 feet of climbing would have had me scurrying back to my bed. Not so this season, and it has been a change I have noticed.

This is not to say that I still have an easy time in any, or all three, of these conditions, but it is more to say that they no longer scare me as much because I know I can do them. Saturday’s ride tested me in all aspects of this, so I felt the need to share.

I have been training with the Team in Training group again this year for the Lake Tahoe century ride in June (America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride). A lot of climbing (almost 5,000 feet) and the addition of elevation, which actually worries me more than the climbing. Our coach always has the plan to train us for more than what we are going to face, which I agree with, but that includes some climbs in the 12% grade range. Doable, but not easy.

I have been reading “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald. Not something I would recommend to the overweight crowd, because he is basically stating throughout the book that unless you have 12% body fat you should accept that you are going to be slow, and that you are going to hurt.

Not that this is not true, but reading this assessment from a thin guy both irritates and motivates.

Look, I know that I am going to be slow going up hills, and that wind is going to be hard on me because of my size. I get it. I also know that the reality of me getting to “racing weight”, as defined by Fitzgerald in this books and a couple of others (“Diet Cults” also comes to mind), is not something I really want to do. Do I need to lose weight? Absolutely. Do I want to lose weight? Absolutely. According to his racing weight calculator, my ideal weight is 187 pounds and 13.8% body fat. That is a 77 pound weight loss goal (and a decrease of 25% body fat). Now, if we are talking body fat I am ALL for a loss of 25%, but if we are talking weight loss, 187 is never going to happen with the amount of muscle I carry. Currently I have @91-95 pounds of muscle mass. In order to keep that, plus drop 25%, my weight will be in the 210 range, which, shockingly, IS my goal right now. But according to Racing Weight, I would still be 23 pounds or so over my ideal.

Would 23 pounds make a difference?

Of course.

But here is the real question, at least for me …

Would the decrease in weight from 210 to 187 (23 pounds) be more than or less than the improvement I would see with the drop from 264 to 210, and from 39% to 25%? I would think, coming from a purely math point of view, that the improvement would be minimal, and I think, though I am not an expert in this area, the loss in muscle mass that it would take to drop the weight that low would decrease my power-to-weight ratio. We have talked about this before, teammates and I, about how much better you would be right now if fitness stayed the same but you were 20 pounds lighter? I think it would be a HUGE difference. So how would losing muscle while trying to get weight down be better for you?

I’m not sure I buy the premise, but like I said, not an expert.


So there we were Saturday, Jennifer and I waiting at her house for coach to arrive. Jennifer had an event out-of-town Saturday night and through Sunday so I agreed to ride the course with her, and then coach decided to get a ride in with us. Made us both feel better having him there since he knew to route well and was strong enough that if one of us (probably me) fell out he could get aide to us. We knew storms were heading in, but coach said that as long as we got over the railroad tracks and over Sugarloaf (the highest climb) before it hit we would be fine.

The Sugarloaf portion of the ride
The Sugarloaf portion of the ride

Sugarloaf was 30 miles in, and I actually felt good until mile 25 or so. There were some climbs before we hot the large portion that I actually found harder that Sugarloaf, and by the time we got there my back was seizing up pretty good. The thought entered my head to stop before the climb and stretch out, but Jennifer was so far in front of me by that point I just hot it as best as I could.

And I made it up, slowly, dipping below 3 mph more than once, but got to the top and down the backside (40 mph descent), but knew after this I was going to have problems.

The rest of the team hitting the climb on Sunday ...
The rest of the team hitting the climb on Sunday …

I was heading downhill at this point. Back was hurting, which caused me to keep shifting, and that caused my feet to start going numb and hurting. No cramping this week but legs were losing strength each mile, and I was well behind them for most of the last 30. To top it off we had winds over 20 mph in our face for the majority of the ride back in. I have never wanted a ride to be over as much as this one. I kept hoping a second wind would come and I would power through the last 20 or so, but it never did. The rain hit at mile 35 or so and it was cold, but I kept going … head down … legs spinning.

When we got back to Jennifer’s house it hit me … I finished that ride. I was hurting for 30 miles, well behind everyone, back seizing up, feet hurting, shoulders cramping, legs dead, and my tailbone yelling at me (which it kept doing driving back to Tampa) …

But I finished that ride …

Last year not only would I have not finished it, I would have never started it.

And that is progress.

At 264 pounds and 52 years old, with psoriatic arthritis, I finished that ride.

2 thoughts on “Training Tales – A Pain in the Ass

  • April 30, 2016 at 11:45 pm
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    Just started listening to your podcast. I’m 253 but I’m also 63 years old. Doing Gulf Coast 70.3 next week. Checked the registrants and the next closest Clyde is 7 years younger. So now I’m questioning what does everyone else know that I don’t? When you talk about difficulties I feel like you’re talking about. Grew up in Ocoee but live in South Alabama. Thanks for your work. It’s nice to hear about the rest of us occasionally

    Dave Holmes

    • May 1, 2016 at 4:43 am
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      Always helps to know you’re not alone. Good luck at Gulf Coast. Shoot me a line and let me know how you did.

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