Three River Rumble, hosted by Rockwood, TN played host to the 2017 Tennessee State Criterium Championships. The day was set to be beautiful weather, with bright sunny skies and not overly hot. My race didn’t start until late in the afternoon so I decided to volunteer as a corner marshal for a couple hours. I always appreciate the work organizers put into the event and I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to help them out. I parked myself on a corner and helped direct traffic. I learned, yet again, how much some of these rural towns hate cycling and being healthy. It truly was disappointing and saddening to experience the anger and hatred towards us. I had quite a few people not care about the cyclist safety and ignore my instructions to stay off the course. I do not understand how people immediately degrade/dehumanize cyclists once they clip in. What makes this even worse is that the county and city approved the race, and has for a couple of years. If the citizens don’t appreciate the business the race brings to the town then they should go to their town meeting and complain. Do not put the riders’ safety at jeopardy because you are not involved in your local politics. Alright, time to step off my soap box and on to the race.
The story of the day was breakaway. Now, I spent most of the day on turn 5 being the corner marshal so I could not see when attacks happened. None of the attacks happened coming into turn 5 or right after turn 5. Actually, most of the time there was already a break established coming into my turn. I took this as people were attacking on the long tail wind section after turn 6 or going into turn 3. The stretch between turn 3 and 4 was a cross wind which was then immediately followed by a long tailwind. A gap needed to be established before the final turn because it was a long wide open headwind section.
My race had a smaller field, which was surprising for a Saturday crit and the state championship. I felt that my chances were pretty good for a podium and overall win. The whistle blew, and yet again I struggled to clip in. This is something I clearly need to work on because it has caused me to have crappy starting position on every crit I have done this year. Spending the first couple of laps moving up is a waste of energy. The first two laps started out with a medium speed, 24.2 mph. They ended up being below the average speed on the day, 25.6 mph. I averaged 245 watts over the first two laps while the eventual winner, Jeremiah, averaged 215watts. It wasn’t until the 4th lap that attacks really started happening frequently. Looking back at my power data I can see 10-12 attacks over the remaining 30ish minutes of the race.
The payoff for these attacks were minimal. At most I put some fatigue into some of the guys hanging on but it didn’t do much in regards to the contenders. This is one thing that I need to work on, patience. I tend to be extremely impatient in a game that requires it.
It wasn’t until 19 minutes in that the decisive move was made. At this point, I put in a huge attack with the goal of not letting up in order to finally split the field. This dig required an initial 486w 76 second effort which was part of a 5 minute @ 416w effort. This broke the field down into 5 riders. Only two of the riders were really willing to work, with the eventual winner kind of sitting in and doing weak pulls. After this the race was really on. There were an additional 5 attacks, most made by me, in order to reduce the field even more. The digs were usually shorter efforts down the backstretch, with the tailwind. One of the attacks did separate one rider from the breakaway. It wasn’t until the final 3.5 minutes, though, that the real damage was done. This is when Jeremiah’s patience paid off. He went to work and made two significant attacks on the final 2 laps. The first one was a leg ripper going into turn 6 but we all held on. Jeremiah then attacked again into turn 1. I was at the back of the group and the rider in front of me couldn’t handle the attack. I had to slow down and move around him which created a gap between me and the two riders. I knew I had to close that gap so I pushed the pedals so hard (601w for 45 seconds with a HR of 181 BPM. I could feel my eyeballs wanting to pop out of my head. I thought I had closed the gap coming out of turn 5 but at this point Jeremiah attacked again. He opened up a small gap and I had to chase again. This gap was one I couldn’t close. We rounded the final corner, two riders only a bike length or two in front of me, but with a strong headwind it was too much. I did not have enough protection and power to contend for the win.
STRAVA FILE: https://www.strava.com/activities/986304265/analysis
Matt Bach is a storied Age Group Athlete that has a long list of victories, including Ironman Maryland. He has the experience of balancing a normal work life and setting sights on a World Championship title. Along the way though Matt started to notice signs that were not normal to endurance training. Matt couldn't shake the constant fatigue, and he struggled to find any enjoyment in racing or training. Matt, similar to me, suffered from chronic overtraining which lead to some severe low testosterone. Matt dives into his experience and his new found knowledge about low testosterone in this guest blog. You might recognize the name from his appearance on ENDURANCE PLANET podcast, TRS Radio, as well as Slowtwitch and The Wall Street Journal.
Overtraining and Low Testosterone
What it is, how to prevent it, and how to get back into balance
I may look healthy, but I’m not. I am a triathlete suffering from fatigue, low libido and osteoporosis. I have the bones of a 73 year old. I’m 29.
I write this blog so that you might be aware of the issues that can arise from too much endurance training, but also to inform you that it is preventable and reversible. Life is about balance, and I screwed up my balance and my health. You may like what you see in the mirror, but you may not be healthy either. I am a case study for what NOT TO DO, and I hope you will learn from my mistakes.
Symptoms of Low T (<300ng/dL)
It has been shown in numerous studies since the 1980’s that overtraining in endurance sports can cause reduced testosterone levels. The most common symptoms include fatigue, low libido and impaired performance, but low T can impact many aspects of life including energy levels, sleep patterns, mood, sex life, fertility, cognitive ability, frequent illness, bone health and body composition. The symptoms that each person experiences are different; for me, it was fatigue, low libido, and impaired bone health (osteoporosis at age 29), but for other people it could be any combination of the other symptoms that I listed.
Careful! Most people, including myself, write off their fatigue and lack of desire to the rigors of their training, but in many cases, it is something deeper.
If you have low T like I did, know that we are not alone. It is a very common thing for triathletes, and if you have the type A, overly-disciplined personality that so many of us triathletes have (and many take pride in), then you are at high risk for suffering from low T. If any of the below apply to you, then you might be driving yourself into a hole:
It’s not just triathletes that suffer from hormone issues, but other endurance athletes too. Many of you may be aware of Ryan Hall’s story, which has helped to bring the low testosterone issue into the limelight. Ryan ran the fastest marathon time ever by an American in the 2011 Boston Marathon, 2:04:58. He also broke the American record in the half marathon running a blistering 59:43. Last year, he retired from the sport, at the young age of 33, struggling to run just 12 easy miles per week because of the devastating effects of low testosterone.
Soon after I discovered I had low testosterone, I went on a fact-finding frenzy. I wanted to see how common low testosterone is in endurance athletes, and ask them what they’ve done to manage it. I chose to focus on elite endurance athletes, about half professional and half elite amateurs, because they typically take on higher volumes of training, which I’ve come to understand is the biggest factor leading to low T. I polled 22 elite triathletes and an astonishing 13 of them have had diagnosed hormone issues due to endurance training. Out of the remaining 9 people, 6 of them have experienced symptoms of low testosterone but have not been formally diagnosed. Just 3 out of the 22 elite triathletes I polled claim to have never experienced hormone issues! Further, at least 6 from the list have also had low bone density due to hormone imbalances, and bone stress injuries like I have.
Finally, a researcher in the area of exercise-induced low testosterone has informed me that a study will be published soon that reports low testosterone in approximately 50% of male Kona athletes.
Matt Bach, A Case StudY
Below I will describe what I’ve done over the past six years to cause such devastation to my health. I do this so that you might have a better understanding of what it took for me, and you can compare to yourself. We are all different though, and some of our bodies can sustain a lot more stress than others before they break down. Note that you may be training far less than I, and may be getting more rest, but still could experience issues. On the flip side, you might be training far more and sleeping 5 hours a night, yet haven’t experienced any problems health-wise. Lucky you!
How I Dug My Hellth Hole
Overtraining / Under-recovery
2010 – The year my wife and I began triathlon. Spinning classes, some running, practically drowning in the pool, and some killer abs classes at the gym. This was not when I began overtraining.
Weekly Average: 6 hours
2011 – Met a group of tremendously dedicated triathletes in Hoboken while I was living in Jersey City. Saw their knowledge and company as a way to get good quickly, and I was right! Upped my training and they showed me the ropes. I did 3 half Ironman events that year, along with some shorter triathlons and running events. I was self-coached and partook in “leech training” where I would join in on my training partners’ workouts, usually created by their coaches.
Weekly Average: 12 hours
2012 – My body seemed to be able to cope with more training, so I gave it more training, as I was still self-coached. I saw improvements in fitness over the past couple of years simply by increasing volume, so I, like so many others in our sport, figured improvement must be linearly correlated with volume. My attitude drifted in the direction of trying to fit in as much training as possible given my work and sleep schedule. I noticed that if I got under an average of 7:15 sleep per night, I would get sick, so determined that 7:15 was the right amount. While it was not my goal, I missed qualifying for Kona by 1 slot in my debut Ironman going 9:59 at Ironman Lake Placid.
Weekly Average: 16 hours
2013 – Seeing how close I was to qualifying for Kona, I was determined to get there. I remained self-coached, increased my training even further, and fit in as much training as possible. In fact, I stretched the limits of what was possible to put into my schedule. I rarely saw my wife during the week, and spent only a handful of hours with her each weekend. Nearly every Saturday for three months, I rode a century+ then tacked on a run afterwards. For a five week period before tapering for Placid, I had not given myself a single rest day. I ended up having a terrible race at Placid, missed Kona by 1 slot again and went 9:58. Frustrated but knowing the fitness was there, my wife allowed me to sign up to race Ironman Louisville four weeks later where I succeeded in qualifying for Kona by winning my age group. Another factor was that Jared Tootell, a training partner and friend of mine, informally coached me after Placid, and taught me the value of the trainer and quality vs. quantity. This was my first foray into “less is more” and likely saved me from digging myself even further into this hellth hole. I competed in Kona 7 weeks later to complete my 3rd Ironman in as many months. This year was the peak of my overtraining / under-recovery, and when my life balance was most out of whack.
Weekly Average: 17 hours
2015 – Having won Ironman Maryland in 2014 in a 51 minute PR of 8:51 on what felt like “light” training, the prospect of going pro became real. I felt compelled to train more this time and see how big of a ripple I could make in Kona, targeting the top amateur spot. A great result there would put me in a good position to go pro either in 2016 or 2017. My volume stretched again and I felt as though some of that extra bandwidth was gone. Then in March, I noticed two symptoms of low testosterone, unusual fatigue and low libido, for the first time, but I didn’t know that’s what my issue was until August when I was first diagnosed. I had total testosterone of 153 vs the “normal” range of 300-1000. By then it was too close to Kona to just stop training, especially when the only things I noticed were fatigue and low libido, and I was continuing to improve performance-wise. In fact, I had a number of massive breakthroughs in training last year and was top amateur at Eagleman 70.3 by over 5 minutes. I kept the testosterone issue in mind, but decided to continue training at a high level through Kona, and then I would address the issue. I placed 72nd overall in Kona, failing to execute the race I knew I was capable of, and then took time off. After 2 weeks, my testosterone levels had already risen to 256, more than a 100 point increase over my known low point, though still not in the range of “normal.” Several more weeks off would help, and learning more about what could be done to improve my levels naturally would set me up well for 2016.
Weekly Average: 16 hours
2016 – This is when I finally started doing a lot of the right things, though it turns out it was too little too late. I developed a stress reaction in my right femoral neck in May due to having low bone density, the low bone density being a result of low testosterone and underfueling. I slashed my training to near zero and after gathering tons of info from doctors, studies, google, Cody Beals, and ancient cave paintings, I decided to pursue a smattering of natural methods to improve my testosterone levels. By September, my testosterone levels had climbed to 599ng/dL, just shy of the “average” T level for 30 year old males of 625ng/dL. I gradually resumed and increased my training throughout the remainder of the year.
Weekly Average: 13 hours until injury, then 0 building to 8 hours by the end of the year
2017 – I was running ~10 miles at a time, or about 20-25 miles per week when I suffered a recurrence of the stress reaction in my right femur. While my testosterone levels were back to normal, my bone density levels were still very low (it takes a lot of time to regrow bone and bone loss is partially irreversible). I stopped training again, then resumed swimming, then had my first child on April 7th.
Weekly Average: 5 hours until injury and baby, then 1
In early 2015, one of the experiments I ran on myself was to see how low I could go before losing muscle mass or feeling like dirt. I had begun employing metabolic efficiency training in 2014, so thought that maybe with my new nutrition regimen, I could go lower than 140lbs and still feel strong. Every pound less I weigh is one pound less I have to carry for 138.2 miles (the swim doesn’t count) through the lava fields right? Right, but it’s not sustainable! My body rebelled and I couldn’t even drop below 145. I pushed and pushed and just couldn’t do it. It turns out that your body’s response to having low testosterone is to retain body fat. Also, by not giving the body enough fuel, it goes into survival mode and begins to draw from other resources in the body (i.e. your reproductive system, your bones, etc). Note that in females, this biological mechanism results in a loss of their period (amenorrhea), but it’s not so obvious for men. It all makes sense now, but I am fairly certain I did some damage during those months.
I’ve always wondered why professional triathletes are all heavier than me, even if they are shorter. I think I now understand the reason why. I think I also understand why Mark Allen said “be fat in July to race well in October.”
Time for a little side story! After Kona 2015 when I was determined to get a handle on my testosterone levels, I met with an endocrinologist. I thought I had a good idea of how the meeting would go…I’d explain that I have low testosterone, and that I thought it was because of overtraining. The doc would say, ok, we’ll slap this testosterone patch on you and you’ll be good to go. I’ll say “no, doc, I can’t do that because I’m an athlete and it’s against the anti-doping rules” and then the doc would say “ok, then let’s take natural measures to remedy this.” Doc would then list a bunch of natural ways to do it that would probably overlap quite a bit with the methods I had already learned from Cody Beals. Maybe I’d learn a thing or two, and would consider the appointment a success. NOPE! We didn’t even get past the first part. I explained that I have low testosterone due to endurance training, and the endocrinologist, someone who is an expert in hormones, wasn’t even aware that the link exists! Needless to say, I walked out and never saw that doc again.
The point I am making with this anecdote is that while hormone imbalance is prevalent, it is hardly spoken about. Barely anyone understands the problem or how to fix it, even among the medical community. In order to help the multitude of athletes dealing with this, I’ve begun offering consultations to help them get their health and performance back on track. You can email me at email@example.com to request my Athlete Questionnaire, which you would fill out and send back to me in order to get started.
Performance Enhancing Drugs
I won’t take supplemental testosterone, and here’s why:
Natural Remedies for Endurance Athletes with Low T
These last couple of years have been a roller coaster emotionally. Though I typically excel at remaining rational, it’s been hard to keep my head on straight. At one point I was on the verge of turning professional in the sport, but have since been nearly driven out of the sport altogether due to health issues that I never even knew could arise because of a sport that I thought was healthy. Am I doing the right thing for me, my wife and my newborn daughter? Should I be trying to be competitive at this sport, at a pro or age group level, if it’s going to be a detriment to my health? Will I find the right balance between training and recovery? Will that equilibrium translate into enough training to compete at a high level? Or should I just throw in the towel?
While I’ve wavered periodically between the two extremes, quitting the sport and pursuing triathlon at a pro level, and everything in between, the place I seem to be settling is that I will do what I can to restore my health and to return to the sport. Whether I am able to compete again or not, though, will not impact my desire to help those suffering from low testosterone due to endurance training. Let’s all raise awareness of this problem so that others can prevent the hellth hole I’ve fallen into, and so that those who are facing the debilitating effects of low testosterone or low bone density can recover. Preserving your health and being competitive at the sport is possible.
What I Hope For You
Get blood work done. It’s either free, or nearly free (just a co-pay) and really easy to get. Simply talk to you primary care physician about your level of exercise and concern that it may be affecting your hormone levels. Routine blood work does not typically call for testosterone measurement, so be sure to have your doctor request it specifically.
If you think you have experienced symptoms of hormone imbalance, do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you my Athlete Questionnaire.
Also, if you meet the following criteria, and want to be considered for a research study will be starting in the coming months, then email me. The study will be over the course of a year and will assess endurance training’s impact on testosterone, general health, and performance for endurance athletes.
1.) Male endurance athlete
2.) Average 10+ hours of aerobic activity per week
3.) Have either:
a.) qualified for Kona (or have come close) or 70.3 worlds, with an overall placement that would be considered "elite" (i.e. a 75 year old man who qualifies for Kona, while very respectable, would not be eligible unless he were capable of being in the top ~third of the overall field)
b.) run a marathon under 2:50
c.) raced competitively in 3+ sanctioned cycling events
d.) or have achieved something in an endurance sport that would be considered "elite"
4.) Can commit to testing once every 2 months for 1 year at either Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) or Armstrong University (Savannah, GA)
If you are interested, you can subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the upper right hand corner of my website (www.ironmattbach.com) and you can follow me at @IronMattBach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
Keep your priorities straight. Remember what is important in life! We love endurance sports, but your health comes before training and competition, as does your family, and if you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be there for them.
There comes a time when you have to admit to yourself that you’re on the way to over-training. As most of you readers know, 2017 is my first year focusing completely on cycling. I began with a pure focus on running in 2013, moved to duathlon, added in swimming in 2016, and dropped swimming and running in 2017. I also started to completely self-coach myself. I started out the training season in November of 2016 coming off of a bout of low testosterone and chronic over-training. I vowed to myself that I would not fall back into that trap. Did I fall back into it?
To just answer the question right off the bat, physiologically speaking I don’t believe I am over-trained. Looking at the mental side, also called burn-out, I don’t believe I am at that level either. Now, I do think if I keep going on my current path I will quickly approach both of these levels within a month. There are a couple of obvious signs, besides my flat TrainingPeaks fitness level, that brought me to the conclusion.
The second point is pretty obvious. TrainingPeaks has a tool called the power curve which shows your maximum power from 5 seconds all the way to 3 hours. You can overlay two curves, which I usually choose last 90 days and last 180 days. I choose 90 days because most of the time that chart gives you a good representation of your current maximums. It allows you the ability to capture data from a wide variety of workouts and races while not being too wide of a range to capture workouts that won’t be affecting your today. 180 days out is wide enough to capture the tail end of the previous seasons end as well as this seasons build up. So how do you know if you are doing it right? If you are supposed to be peaking today and your 180 day values are still higher then you probably timed it wrong or are starting to become over-trained. Let’s look into my power curve from February and compare it to today’s. One thing that is obvious is February’s lack of power on the upper edge of the curve. This is completely normal for winter training. I was also just coming off of my triathlon training, where peak power means nothing. Looking at today’s chart, we can see it is a smoother curve, which is definitely one of the goals of training, but my bread and butter power is starting to drop. Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed a little bit more gray. I have also noticed that workouts involving 2-5 minute power have been harder to hit, almost impossible. So do these charts really show any signs of overtraining, not really. I would say I timed my peak wrong but power overall, my power levels are still close to where they should be.
Finally, another important chart to look at for clues into overtraining is the Performance management chart. This chart gives a good picture of your fitness and fatigue. You can see from my chart that I have been stagnant since pretty much November. There was a big drop in fitness at the end of October because of forced time off from a crash. After that I never seemed to have enough volume or intensity to gain any true fitness. Just prior to the crash I was doing 15-17 hours a week on the bike. I was keeping the intensity lower but volume high. Once November hit my volume dropped because the weather got rougher and I was relegated indoors. I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the chart because my power curve chart was showing good improvements. My performance chart was still being affected by the previous year where I was training 15-20 hours a week for triathlon. I had a higher daily/weekly stress score than I could match with just cycling training. The problem is that I haven’t allowed any significant time for the chart to drop and my body to recover and adapt. It is never good to keep your form level in the -10 to 10 range, which I have been stuck in for 6 months. This means you probably aren’t doing as much as you actually could (not taking into account life events and work stress). If you are building you want to be under -10 and if you are racing you want to be above 5. Staying in the one area is a recipe for overtraining because of a lack of variety and stress in training. You are going just hard enough to put some fatigue in your body but not enough to make any real changes in fitness.
What is next? Well I have one more race next weekend, the Tennessee State Criterium Championships. After that I will take just over a week off, go on a cruise with the wifey, and relax mentally and physically. Once I get back I will start a build for Cascade Classic and the second half of 2017. I will end this with my current Power Profile. This compares your maximum power to weight ratio from the past 180 days to what the average Cat 5 - World Tour rider can do. I will use this chart as a stepping off point with the goal to get 1 minute, 5 minute, and 20 minute power up to CAT 1 level by the end of the year. Always keep in mind that raw power doesn’t mean you will win races though, it just helps to be strong as well as smart.
Weather: Miserable, Severe Thunderstorms, Hail, Heavy Rain, Flooding, Mid 60s, Low Wind
Course: Modified stick and lollipop north of Sparta, TN
Field Size: 35-45
Teams: Novo Nordisk Dev Team
All week long I was glued to the Weather Channel’s weekend forecast for Sparta, TN. Every day the forecast would fluctuate from 20% chance of rain on Saturday to 100% chance of severe thunderstorms. Sadly, come Friday the forecast was sticking to their 100% chance of storms. I woke up Saturday morning to gray skies and an ominous mass of red and yellow moving towards Sparta on the radar. I figured that the storm would pass by race start or at the very least be almost done. I get just outside of Sparta when I finally hit the storm. The storm was so severe that there was a clear line on the road where on one side it was torrential downpour and the other was dry. It is still just over an hour until the race start and the storm was moving fast, but my hope of it passing by that time was starting to wash away with the rain. So 30 minutes out from the original start time the race officials push back everything by 30 minutes. It still ended up being a wet start but at least it was hailing.
Right out of the gun we were going hard. I had a NP of 362w and average HR of 156 bpm. What made the first 30 minutes even more difficult was the lack of warmup (no warmup at all) and the cold rain. Within the first 3.5 minutes I was already at 174 bpm even though there weren’t any attacks. The first part of the course had a tight turn with some severe run off water. We were going fast (24.7 mph) so the pack stayed slightly strung out which kept it safer. The attacks started once we made our first right onto Blue Springs Rd. Most of the initial attacks came from a Novo rider. For some odd reason they would only try to send one off the front. So the first 2 or 3 attacks from the group were single Novo riders just sitting in the wind. The smarter tactic would have been to try and send 2 or even 3 riders off the front. When you have 12 riders you can sacrifice a couple to try and establish an early break. Due to the fact that the early attacks were all solo efforts they were brought back in a fairly controlled timeframe. I also tried my hand at an early break but couldn’t establish a gap so I abandoned the idea quickly. I knew that there was a climb coming up and I would have my opportunity there.
The road leading up to the climb was extremely sketchy. There was a lot of debris in the road, big branches, leaves, sticks, rocks. In addition to the debris there were multiple spots of 2” deep water runoff. This wasn’t your normal water runoff either. This runoff had a decent current to it and made a hairy situation going through. Luckily, nobody crashed at least that I know of. I know there were a lot of mechanical issues because of the water and debris. So the peloton rolls past a point where we should have turned to go up a climb. The road was blocked by emergency personnel because a tree had fallen in the road. The race official made a quick change and modified the loop. The modified loop still held a good length climb in it. So let’s look at the climb. The climb is 3.4 miles long averaging 5% with a couple flatter sections for respite but finishes with a steeper section. The first time up there was a lot of separation happening. I began the climb towards the back of the pack and had to spend some extra energy getting to the front. It took me about ¾ of the climb to get to a select group of 4 others. One of the 4 is Kenneth Hall, who ended up finishing 3rd overall. Kirk Bjorling, a friend from Asheville, was also at the race and you can see his data for the climb. He ended up making the second select group also known as the chase pack.
As you can see, my average heart rate was a little higher but my power was significantly lower. The reason is I kept my cadence high during the climb. My average cadence was 96 rpm compared to Kenneth who was climbing at 84 rpm. This requires him to put out more power which will fatigue the legs a little bit more.
A select group of 5 make it over the climb with a 20 second gap. On the way up the climb we were informed by the moto that it was going to be a one lap race. As soon as we crested and realized we had a gap we put the hammer down. For the next 45 minutes we executed a solid pace line and averaged 26.3 mph to extend our gap. We get to the turn to go back to town but the pace car turns left and we head back out for another loop. This confused us because the moto stated that we were only doing one lap. After 10 minutes of debate with the moto and official we find out that we are doing two laps which extends the race to 84 miles. We all take in some calories and simmer our pace down. Our gap at this point was over 2 minutes. The second time up the long climb was a good bit slower for everybody. We decided to take it easier to conserve some energy.
As you can see, our select group gained some more time over the climb to pad our lead. Now, we didn’t have radios or even a moto, at that point, to give us our gap but we knew it was safe. After the climb we averaged 24.4 mph all the way to the finish. During this race to the finish I began to have some rear shifting problems. I couldn’t get my rear derailleur to shift into the 3 smallest cogs. This made it difficult to contribute to the group and destroyed my chances at a sprint. In the final mile I tried to eliminate the sprint all together with an attack but everybody in the group covered. I ended up coming in 5th because of the mechanical.
Stage 3, Joe Martin Stage Race in Category 2/3, was a criterium located downtown Fayetteville, AR. The course was somewhat technical with two long, straight downhill sections that bomb into 90 degree turns. One of the downhill sections included brick crosswalks and ate up pavement. There was one section, after the second downhill section that had a strong head wind. After this head wind section there was a right hand turn into a short but steep climb. The climb is a 20-30 second effort that crests at the finish line. According to Strava my fastest time up the climb was 22s averaging 567w (7.5 w/kg). Not surprisingly this was the final ascent of the climb.
Our race started just before noon with gray skies but luckily no precipitation. The length was set for 45 minutes which resulted in 14 laps around the course (average lap time 2:58). The first lap was hard and fast as always. Everybody was jockeying for position. I was stuck in the middle of the group but moved up during the first downhill section. The first downhill section was wide enough to make moves. You just had to make sure to push back to the right as you got to the bottom so you could take the left hand turn without losing speed. My game plan going into the crit was hold nothing back. I had lost too much time on the road race to have a shot at GC so I figured I would just mess around and maybe see if I can get a breakaway to stick. I made at least 3 attempts throughout the race for a breakaway. The first time it was with a small group (total of 3 guys). Once we hit the headwind section, just prior to the climb, we gave up. Another time, towards the end of the crit I attempted to go solo. There was an attack from a COGA rider and he had a gap to the field. I chased for an entire lap but couldn’t bridge the gap. I ended up getting caught at the top of the climb with 2 laps to go. At this point I decided to recover for a lap and then try to move up on the final lap. I made up some ground on the final lap but it wasn’t enough to make a difference. The COGA rider soloed to victory and I ended up getting a pack finish.
When our mind is out of balance, our body will follow. When our body is out of balance, our mind will follow. The important aspect of life is to live in that middle area where the mind and body are working towards beautiful harmony. Falling out of balance will place undue stress on the mind or the body. This unnecessary stress in our life, especially an endurance athlete, can hinder your quality of life and performance. How does the body or mind fall out of balance? Humans are naturally suited for habitual practices, and if they make you feel good in the temporary moment then these habits will stick. We need to become aware and re-enter a state of balance.
When the body is out of balance it begins to guard itself. The end goal of our body and mind is to preserve life. This is the most basic goal but when we are unhealthy, emotionally or physically, our energy is spent repairing. In this state we are in pure survival or preservation mode. Everything in our peripheral, and sometimes in your direct line of sight, becomes blurry and out of focus. We begin to just focus on surviving and not learning or even “living.” During our stay in the preservation state our relationships begin to slowly fall apart. We become too focused on fixing our own health out of our own control. Like I said, this is out of our control. We need to focus on the things we can control though, awareness. You need to become aware of this survival state and work on returning to a healthy balanced life.
A common trap that we fall into is a negative feedback loop. Something goes wrong in our life, big or small, and we focus on this negativity. It starts with you eating a donut, which turns into you feeling bad and telling yourself you are fat. Then you tell yourself that you are fat because you are a failure. You say you are a failure because you have negative thoughts… And you can see how that can just keep looping into infinite self-destruction. Athletes are not immune to this negative feedback loop. Athletes can easily slip into the loop through doubting their training and abilities. Breaking this loop is pretty challenging but only because it is tough to recognize being in the loop. This is why beginning daily rituals to set your mind and body into a positive path is important.
What kind of rituals or habits can you begin to ensure you are setting yourself up for a positive day?
Weather: Sunny, Low 90s, 7 mph winds ESE w/ occasional gusts at 15 mph
Course: Fayetteville, NC JMSR Road Race Lollipop Course
Field Size: 52
Teams: DNA Racing/Garneau, Silcarbon Racing Team, COGA Elite, 303 Project, Yokohama Racing p/b Bikeline, Experience Fayetteville
I had a big gap of time to fill after the conclusion of the time trial. Later on the schedule was Stage 2 which was a 68 mile hilly road race. It was scheduled to start just prior to 1500. I got back to my car from the TT around 1000. That gave me plenty of time to get back to the hotel, grab some lunch, watch some bike racing and relax. There was only one thing on my mind for lunch… Chipotle. There was a location right up the road, within walking distance. I was at the door at 1100 to order and then scurried back to my room to chow down and watch one of the stages from 3 Days DePanne.
I headed over to the start line around 1330 so I could get situated and get my spare wheels into the truck. Once I got there I found out that they had pushed back the start times by 15 minutes. The temperatures started to rise and the day was actually turning out to be somewhat hot (91°F). I knew from experience that I don’t handle hot races very well but it wasn’t melt your face off hot like those previous races. So yeah, race starts 15 minutes later than scheduled and my group is the last to go. The road course is a “lollipop” course which means you go out to a loop and then come back the same way. Our group did the loop twice.
My plan was to stick to the back for the first half and just let the race happen up front. This goes against my typical strategy but due to the number of well represented teams I knew they would cover all of the early moves. I did make sure to pay attention to what teams were attacking though. There were a couple of attacks on the way out to the loop but for the most part it was a pretty calm ride. Once we made the left onto the loop we began to climb. The loop starts with a 1.2 mile climb named Hogeye road. Now, the climb starts pretty gentle but you round this left corner and you see “the wall.” The wall is a quarter mile section that averages above 10% grade. My first time up, riding caboose and keeping it easy, averaged 285w (3.5 w/kg for 6.5 minutes).
The first loop around was a similar flavor. I rode towards the back and just tried to stay out of the wind but with some crosswinds and climbing my Normalized Power was still decently high (for being protected). I had a NP of 297w for the 1 hour loop which is a 0.78 IF for me. A part of this included a 2 minute chase out of the feed zone. I struggled to find room to grab a bottle of water and when I eventually did the peloton was moving up the road. Gaps were created and I chased on for 2 minutes averaging 420w. Halfway through the first lap a group of 6 got away and started to make a gap. The breakaway included a representative from DNA Racing/Garneau (which was the largest team in the peloton).
The second time up Hogeye was slightly more intense but still controlled. I don’t remember what teams were working at the front but the gap to the breakaway was still growing. At this point we couldn’t see them up the road. I knew that if I wanted to have a shot at GC I needed to try and move up the road. After we completed Hogeye we turned right onto AR170 and continued to climb. At the top of the gradual climb there was a slight lull in the front because nobody wanted to work. This confirmed that I needed to make the move. I jumped out of a poorly organized peloton with only one rider following, a rider from DNA/Garneau. For the first 5 minutes of the breakaway I had a peak 10sec power of 716w with a NP of 400w (4.62 w/kg). During this initial period my companion would not work, rightfully so since he had a teammate up the road. Eventually we started to bridge the gap, making up 1 minute of the 2 minute gap. This proved that there was a good chance we could successfully bridge the gap. I convinced him that two teammates in the breakaway would be better than just having one and he started to share the load with me.
About 20 minutes into the breakaway my bladder started yelling at me. To be honest, it was actually sending signals out at the beginning of lap 1 but when I tried to pee while moving my bladder got shy. I mention this because while I was in the breakaway all I could think about was how bad I had to pee. I had only felt that pain 1 time before and that was during my auto-accident when the nurse had to eventually give me a catheter. No time to do that during a bike race so I just mustered on. I believe these bladder signals were causing some cramping in the legs and taking away some power as well. My legs really started to cramp up with 10km to go. We still couldn’t see the peloton so I figured just keep pushing hard. Well, that didn’t last too long because 1 mile or two later we turned around and saw the chasing peloton. They finally started working together and pulled us back.
Stats for the breakaway
I latched on to the peloton without too much difficulty and was just planning on taking the short ride back home. There was still one minor climb to get over though. I made it to the top but cramped hard and couldn’t latch fully onto the back of the peloton. I had to finish the last mile solo. I ended up losing a minute to the peloton and 2 minutes to the breakaway. I crossed the finish line caked in salt and a bladder that was screaming. I immediately went to the port-a-potty and let the feeling of relief wash over my body. I truly believe that the bladder situation had a significant effect on my breakaway attempt. Additionally, the heat of the day did not help my case. In the end, I believe I made the right move.
Day 1 of the festivities began with a cool morning uphill time trial. My roommate and I awoke dark and early overcome with eagerness of the day to come. The alarm was set for 0530 but neither of us actually needed it. The coffee was brewing 10 minutes later and Nationsnumber1beast was on the TV getting us motivated. Coffee of choice was Roasters Choice from Bell Lap Coffee. We all know that the best way to wake up is not having hotel knock off Folgers in your cup. While enjoying the coffee I decide to take a step outside for some fresh air. I was startled by the brisk air. It was in the high 40s but luckily projected to be around 60 when I went off for the TT.
I left the hotel room at 0700 because I wanted to make a quick detour to the local car wash. I was planning on washing my bike the night prior but ended up putting it off. After a quick $1 wash I was off to Devil’s Den State Park. My start time was 09:27 and I planned on getting there around 0800. The drive was on twisty rural roads that took you up and over a couple of mountains. It was definitely a great drive to the base of the TT. I did end up arriving around 0800 and quickly came to the conclusion that I was there too early. So I went to the bathroom and sat in the car for 20 minutes listening to some podcasts. At 0820ish I did a 2 minute power pose to get the testosterone up and get in the zone. So the parking area was in a little valley with no real flat area to warmup. Not really a problem since the event is an uphill TT. Might as well use the climbs to warmup the climbing muscles. Just needed to keep it in the little gear. My warmup plan was 40-50 minutes with a couple 1 minute power testers.
So being an engineer and a former triathlete I really wanted to nail down a TT power plan. What is the best way to do this? The team over at Best Bike Split have done a phenomenal job with their race prediction tool. The website is very easy to use, even the free version. All you have to do is plug in some numbers, like weight and FTP, as well as selecting what kind of gear you are using, like deep wheels or aero road bike. Best Bike Split has some general CD values depending on your gear selection that they use in their algorithm. I did use the wrong course to predict my time but the power plan for the first part stayed relatively the same. I used the longer professional course (.7 miles longer) compared to the amateur course. The amateur course is 1.8 miles long at an average gradient of 6.4% which includes 7 switchbacks. Best Bike Split uses all of the data and gives you a power plan graph and split chart, like seen below.
How well did I execute? I would say I executed the plan perfectly and even adjusted my power output slightly to account for the shorter distance. I was definitely nervous pulling up to the start line, but not as nervous as I thought I would be. So I am sitting in the gate, clipped in, watching the clock click up. “10 seconds” says the USAC official. I take a couple deep breaths to relax. “5, 4, 3, 2,” and what feels like a minute the beep finally rings out. I shoot out of the tent in the perfect gear. My legs feel powerful as I currean through the initial technical section. It takes me a minute to get to the climb proper in which I averaged 537w (7.16w/kg) to reach. At this point I remember the odd thought cross my mind, “I am working so hard but I am going so slowly.” Obviously this is the case because it is a freaking uphill time trial. But for that split second my mind couldn’t grasp this simple fact and expected to be going 30mph. Up the road is the athlete that went off 30 seconds prior to me. I set my sights on him and lay down the power. For the next 6 minutes I chase him up the climb averaging 426w (5.68w/kg). With each pedal stroke I get closer and closer to him. I knew that making up 30 seconds on the climb would be pretty big. As soon as it started though, it was over. I crest the top of the climb right on his rear wheel. His teammate, who is starting to come down the mountain, points to the finish line up the road. I honestly wasn’t expecting the finish to be right there. I popped out of my saddle and increased my power to average 500w for the final minute. I finished in 8:14 seconds which essentially created a three way tie for second.
Wow. What an absolutely stressful week. I will state that this week was easily the most stressful week of my 26 years of life. Why? Thanks to Chase Mortgage our closing date got pushed back two consecutive weeks because of their incompetency. The bank waited until the last minute on the original close date to say they were missing paperwork, which we had already sent to them. Fine, we had another weekend to easily move out of the apartment. I tried to stay on top of them that next week and by golly you bet they failed miserably again. Same story as the last time. They said they were missing paperwork, which we sent emails proving we had provided them the paperwork a month ago… Coming down to the wire of the rescheduled closing date and they failed to get an official closing disclosure out. I say official because I received a CD with 3 days prior to closing date but it was a draft so it didn’t count. This means we had to reschedule one more time. This time it was the week of the Joe Martin Stage Race. I had to re-organize all of the moving parts; relocation delivery, closing date and time, closing funds movement, utilities for new house, figuring out how to move out of the apartment. All of that had to be done in 3 days, on top of working a normal 8-5 job. Come closing day I was an absolute wreck. I had a headache for 3 days straight and was physically vibrating from overload. The text messages below were sent to my wife the day of the closing. It pretty much sums up the first half of my week.
Of course everything worked out in the end, but it is just so difficult to see that happening when you are overloaded with stress. I kept telling myself that everything was going to work out but the stress of everything just kept overwhelming my mental pep talks. At one point I had to do an hour of meditation to just calm down. So that all took place from Monday to Wednesday. Thursday was the actual move date. There were a lot of moving parts and I was so grateful that my wife was there to help. The original plan was for me to tackle it on my own but due to some closing issues she had to come out. I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without her. It would have been an absolute mess. I finished moving and cleaning my apartment by 2pm and hit the road to Nashville. After about an hour of driving my headache subsided and my stress levels dropped significantly. I was stopping in Nashville to break up the 10 hour drive and to see one of my good college friends. I got there around 4pm Central time. Gave us plenty of time to tour the town of Franklin, TN and hit up Whole Foods for some dinner items. What was on the menu? Tofu Asian Stir Fry with rice noodles. We cut up a ton of veggies, mushrooms, tofu, and mixed it all with rice noodles and a peanut sauce. Yummmm. I now regret not taking pictures. I really feel like I should start taking some pictures to add some more content to these longer posts. Either way, we (as in me) washed down the savory meal with a cheap bottle of cabernet sauvignon. My buddy went to work and I then went to sleep. Early to bed, early to ride.
I woke up at 0530 eager to hit the road. It was about 7.5 hours to Fayetteville, AR. The drive was pretty easy. One just takes US40 to US49. That is it. Two highways. I got to Fayetteville at 2pm, quickly unpacked, and went for a spin with my teammate. We toured the Northern Fayetteville area which passes through the Tyson Chicken Headquarters. Being a vegetarian I couldn’t say it was too amazing but business is business. Not a place to rant about Tyson and their subpar morals. After an easy hour spin we cleaned up and headed downtown to pick up our packets. We did grab some grub downtown and this understaffed restaurant. The sad thing was that the food was delicious but they seemed to only have two people working the entire restaurant. It took 40 minutes to just get some Bruschetta! But like I said, the food was delicious. I had this grilled veggie sandwich that had eggplant and cauliflower on it. We got back to the hotel room around 8pm. We turned on the tube, pinned our numbers, did last minute equipment prep, and then off to sleepy land. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.
Two weeks until the race. I am definitely putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I know my potential and I know I can do well. I just need to execute. What did I do last week? I was supposed to be closing on my new house on Friday and moving in on Saturday but due to JP Morgan Chase’s incompetency we had to push it back another week. This meant another weekend of being pretty relaxed with my wifey and some solid bike training.
Goal: Easy Recovery Spin
Workout Duration: 1 hour 17 minutes
TSS: 39.6 IF: 0.56
Goal: Original plan was to do 4 x 8 minute intervals but found out about a group ride in south Knoxville. The group ride was Tuesday Night Worlds and some local domestic pros were showing up. Figured it would provide the same stress levels and be better training.
Workout Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes
TSS: 107.5 IF: 0.80
Goal: Day Off – Stress from house stuff was overwhelming and needed to focus on mental and physical recovery
Thursday (Double Day)
Goal: 0430 Zone 2 sustained training
Workout Duration: 45 minutes
TSS: 30.7 IF: 0.62
Goal: Get a mix of all different types of race efforts. (sprints, breakaway, maintain gap). Wasn’t feeling good coming into this workout. Stomach was a little upset and I was struggling to find motivation mentally.
Workout Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes
Workout: 3 Minutes all-out effort, 8 x 10 sec all out sprint, 6 x 1 minute Z5, 2 x 15 minutes FTP (usually it is 3 x 5 minutes at Z4-5 but switched it up)
TSS: 161.3 IF: 0.85
Goal: Recovery spin before the wifey arrives
Workout Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
TSS: 41.1 IF: 0.57
Goal: Coffee Shop Ride – Getting in volume when I can
Workout Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
TSS: 79.4 IF: 0.73
Sunday (Double Day)
Goal: Quick V02 work using Tabata protocol
Workout Duration: 45 mins
Workout: 8 x 20 sec all out w/ 10 seconds easy, 10 mins easy, 8 x 20 sec all out w/ 10 seconds easy
TSS: 36.1 IF: 0.70
Goal: Final long ride before JMSR. 3 hours rolling with most in Z2-3. Secondary goal was to get the KOM on Mt. Larry
Workout Duration: 3 hours
Workout: Mt. Larry KOM, SST/Tempo up Frozen Head
TSS: 159.1 IF: 0.72
New 10 and 12 minutes power max established: 411w (5.46 w/kg) and 415w respectively