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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi folks,

Qualifier: while I've done a lot of training specifically for running (average 70k/week with two days of intervals of different lengths and one long run of up to two hours on trails), this morning I had only my third ride of the season. So 'aerobically' I'm fairly fit, I'm pretty lean but really strong (145lbs, 17% body fat, female). But I haven not been riding at all.

So this morning, I went out on a group ride. It was awesome! However, after a bit of a warm up, we were up around 31-34kph on flats. We then did a loop (a sort of interval I guess) where the pace sped up to about 42kph. I could not hang on at either pace and kept falling off the back. It was cool because someone would drop back and bridge me up to the group. I was looking at my heart rate monitor and I was up around 175 trying to hold on to the 42kph group (without success).

On my own, I'm probably only averaging 26kph right now and that keeps my heart rate at 144 or so (i.e. easy pace). The group doesn't always ride at that pace, but it sort of depends on who's leading it.

I come from a really competitive background (NCAA college athlete), so my inclination is to train way too hard, way too fast (I also simply love to train). Last year, I really burned myself out by doing two days of super intense hill interval workouts a week and then jumping into 80k rides without much prep again (as I had run over the winter only).

I really want to be able to ride with this group of guys (who don't always ride that fast) because they're awesome. I have no issue with it being a group of all men (in fact prefer it in some ways because I'm a tech geek and so I can talk about components, parts, and training and not social type stuff i.e. I hang out with people because of common interests!). Anyway, any suggestions or advice to ensure that I build up to be able to hang with these guys, but not get burned out. I'm cool solo training too, and I usually run a 2-3 days a week so run or ride 6-7 days a week (but would be fine with swapping running out for more riding). I'm pretty strong and have good power, but just not enough power to drive speed I guess. So thoughts on a decent training plan to get me up to speed would be helpful.

Forgot to add: one of the 'biological realities' is that as a female, just given my proportions and I guess, lack of testosterone(!) it will always be harder to keep up with really fast guys (and obviously women don't race with men). But I would imagine if I trained correctly, I could do 31-33kph averages in the group at moderate intensity (i.e. heart rate). So that's what I'm trying to figure out.

Sorry for such a long post.
 

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Your CV fitness from your running (NCAA) days and through today will serve you well as cycling is largely aerobic. Every runner (male or female) I've met who transitioned to cycling have done really well and I'd bet money you can move O2 better than most. Now you need more time on the bike.

I'm no coach but it's not hard to understand that your body will only gain fitness after you stress, rest then adapt. Stress in this case is a combination of volume and intensity. So you can skin a cat about a thousand different ways but, the important thing to remember is you need to increase the stress.

In the back of Training and Racing With A Power Meter Vol2 by Allen and Coggan is a bunch of training plans. They give you %HR and power depending on what you use. I'd advise just riding more for now and save the training plans for later as they can suck some of the fun out of it. I only suggest as they may give you an idea of the big picture how to stress...don't forget rest! Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Awesome! Thanks for this perspective! It's so hard not to just jump into a training plan because I'm so used to it with running. But it's really a different sport using different muscles. I even noticed that in a 5k trail running race at max sustainable pace, my heart rate average was 182, whereas riding that hard for probably 5k was only 175, so many differences to get used to I guess!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Also, one more question tied to all this: would it be advantageous to get a power meter to improve (down the road)?
 

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Awesome! Thanks for this perspective! It's so hard not to just jump into a training plan because I'm so used to it with running. But it's really a different sport using different muscles. I even noticed that in a 5k trail running race at max sustainable pace, my heart rate average was 182, whereas riding that hard for probably 5k was only 175, so many differences to get used to I guess!
You certainly can and perhaps with your background easily manage a training plan. Many new to cycling here seem to be new to training in general and just way over do it and burn out quickly.

Take a look at that book I mentioned. The entire book might be useful for you to read even though you don't have (nor need) a power meter as the training principles are universal.

As for HR running v. cycling...I think it's very typical if not universal across the board with people that it's much easier to elevate HR while running.
 

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Also, one more question tied to all this: would it be advantageous to get a power meter to improve (down the road)?
IMO PM's are great tools but, aren't necessary to become a powerful cyclist. Genetics and past athletic history seem to dictate most of a riders potential. Tactics and reading the race/group help as well which don't have anything to do with a PM.

A PM can help you train more efficiently though especially nailing intervals and pacing. Problem is guys new to it over watch the screen during every ride and forget just to ride sometimes. Hard to explain.

One good reason to not buy one right away is as you increase your training load you will invariably increase power across most metrics quickly. If you are doing correctly you will set zones just like with HR which become pointless unless you test every couple weeks. As time goes on the power PR's slow and you will eventually plateau. This will also be the point where you find your time to ride is maxed out. That might be the time to invest in one. So maybe a season or two from now but just my opinion.

For the record I use power.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nice. This is a helpful perspective. More than anything, I want to make sure that I recover properly. I'm not one of those people who dreads training. My issue is that I love training so much and like going faster and harder day after day, which has the obvious consequence of eventually burning me out. I suppose my HRM and just the knowledge that I should not be doing anymore than two hard/interval rides and one long ride a week (maybe even less than this while just getting back into riding).

It makes sense to wait as you've described though. Wait for the plateau when I need to fine tune in order to make progress. Thanks again for all you help here!
 

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That ride sounds great. I love those kind of rides. I'm no expert, but I'll comment anyway.

Bike fitness
I'm sure that with regular group rides, your cycling muscles will build up quickly. That should help.

I'm "trying" to do some long, easier paced rides to build up my riding efficiency. It's not easy to go that slow, where I'm not breathing hard and can talk in full sentences. I want the endurance for 50, 75 or 100 mile rides.

Cadence
A lot of newer riders have a fairly slow cadence. Try shifting to one rear cog larger, to speed up your pedaling. See if that helps. Fast cadences need a good aerobic system, which should be one of your strengths. After 10 years of serious riding, I still use my cadence readout to remind me to pedal in a good cadence range for me, around 95 rpm when I'm working hard. Low 80s for easy cruising. And 105 for those big sprints!


Aero
Aero is my key to hanging onto fast-for-me rides. A rider 3 or 4 riders back, right in the draft, can save maybe 30% power. Two wide is even better. I stay within a half wheel length of the rider in front, and if a gap does open, I put out a short, hard effort to close the gap quickly.

Wind is often from the side. I turn my head until I'm facing the apparent wind direction. I can feel it on both sides of my head, and the wind noise evens out, too. That facing direction is where I want to see the rider in front of me. Sometimes I'm a couple of feet offset if it's really windy. That's not always practical on roads though. If the group is two wide, try to be on the downwind side if possible, there's way more draft over there. (The faster you go, the more the apparent wind shifts toward the direction you are riding. So even a 90 degree straight side wind seems to be coming from an angle closer to the front as the bikes move through the wind.)

I have my bars a little higher than many riders, so I can comfortably use the drops. I can immediately tell the difference in power to hold my speed. If the speed bumps up, I'll be in drops even back in the draft.

Few or no pulls
If your group is the kind that rotates to take a pull, then moves to the back of the group: take a very short pull, just get to the front and pull off in a few seconds. The group won't mind, it's better than having to regroup.

If some strong riders tend to stay at the front, just sit in the draft. Or if the group is rotating, leave a gap and tell the rider coming off the front to slide in in front of you.

And if the group repeats the same routes, you'll get familiar with the easy and hard sections and know when to go all-out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the tips here! I will try increasing my cadence. Oddly enough, I'm actually really quite strong; in fact I might have greater strength capacity than aerobic (time will tell I guess). I know I'm definitely not a climber, but likely a pretty good sprinter. I feel like I'm riding faster with slightly harder gear.

Apparently the head of the group said they usually don't ride that fast -- picked a good first ride, I guess -- doh! I tried to hold the pack for a while but just got spat out the back because I couldn't hold the pace. It was fine once we were back down to 30-31kph on the flats. I could easily tuck in then. But hopefully in 3-4 weeks (most of them have been riding regularly for about that, maybe even 6), I'll be able to stay on (also, if they usually ride more slowly, I should have no issue).

What a great idea with your bars! I'm going to look at that option. I'm usually at the hoods so yeah, I'm sitting up a little more and it'd definitely be helpful to be more aero. I was fortunate in that a couple of the guys just dropped back and let me draft. We were still going 36-37 but I could hang on to that! What's really funny is that these guys are just 'social riders' i.e. none of them race. They're incredibly nice guys too and I really do like to be pushed and I like to be able to talk 'tech' and specs (had a conversation about potential wheel sets on the way back in from our fast loop). So I can't wait to be able to easily stay with them. Thanks again for the suggestions!
 

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Hmm...not knowing you or your age or anything it's hard to give really useful advise. But, just from your NCAA running background I think you can do much much more than 2 interval sessions and 1 long ride/week. i come from an NCAA background as well. Many of the endurance athletes were doing something similar to what a researcher named Dr. Seiler coined as "polarized training" or 80/20 training (years ago). 80% of your time is spent training very easy and slow and 20% is spent going extremely hard. I don't know if this is right but, I subscribe to it with the amount of time I can afford to devote to the sport. Others who have less time subscribe to HIIT (high intensity interval training) only. Basically the theory goes if you only have 5 hours a week make each hour count. Fine. But, if you have time and want to really find your potential time on the bike is important. All that slow time goes somewhere and I've found that it may not increase power metrics noticeably but, what it does is shorten recovery time between hard efforts. It allows you to go well beyond threshold more times than the other guy which is what wins races etc...how is that possible? All that low intensity makes it possible to do X amount more time doing the 20% (intervals).

At what point does someone transition from HIIT to polarized? I don't know. That is a loaded question and one that I don't think can be answered easily by anyone but the athlete.

Watch Dr. Seiler HERE

Info on HIIT HERE
 

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( I edited my comments after you responded. )

This ride sounds like my fast ride of the week (and is usually led by a woman in her 40s.) A 18 mph / 30 kph average, and a fairly flat route, usually. I can hang on quite effectively at 30-34 kph / 19-21 mph, but can't hold a 40 kph / 25 mph pace for more than a minute or so.

But I can't keep up very well if there's lots of hills. The aero savings is small at the slow climbing speeds, so the power of most of the riders lets them get quite far ahead on the climbs. So the aero benefits on the flats lets me ride with faster riders.

Your other riders may have a lot of miles already this year. I'm over 1900 km / 1200 miles since January. And some bike fitness carries over from the previous year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Oh, sorry, I meant in terms of quality sessions when I was talking about two quality days and one long ride. The other days I ride easy.

So I usually take Sundays off or just do some basic core and body weight arm strength training (pull ups, push ups, rows, military press and dips, then pistol squat, step ups, side lunges and hamstring pull back (with cable). Then Monday is a quality session of intervals, Tuesday, Wednesday are easy, Thursday I want to be another quality session, Friday easy and then a long ride on Saturdays. That's what I've been doing with my running. So I'm trying to recalibrate what I've been doing in running with what I will do on the bike. That said, I'm not sure I'll ride every day. I usually run commute into work on Thursdays (15k) and do intervals of 2-5 minutes and have been debating, other than Thursday, how much to focus on running and how much to focus on biking. Of course that's dependent upon goals. I have no immediate plans to race so mostly it's about getting faster in cycling (without burning out) so that I can keep up with groups of guys (I think I put this in my first post but I'm female!). I have 1.5-2 hours M-F and then as much time as I want on Saturdays as it's my one day off work.
 

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As you ride more you'll also gain pack riding experience. Being more aware of what's going to happen will mean that the gaps you need to close are smaller, and you will have learned the lesson that it's easier to close a gap by going hard than by time trialing. You'll also be better at drafting and positioning. All that will make you more efficient in a group- you'll be faster for the same energy expended.

A power meter can be useful if you (or a coach) take the time to analyze the data. I normally recommend that people first read Allen and Coggan's Power Meter book, then get a PM. The GoldenCheetah analysis software is good and free, there's other good software that's not free. One of the primary uses I make of power data is to tell me when I need a rest. I have a tendency to keep going when I should rest.

As you ride more you'll get 'bike fit'- cycling is not as natual a motion as running and uses the muscles less evenly. If you keep at it, with your background you'll progress fast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for this perspective, Eric; very helpful. I think I have the same issue in terms of not taking adequate rest. I've tried to use the heart rate monitor not so much for ensuring I'm in the right zone during intervals (in running), but for making sure that my recovery days are really recovery days.

I still run twice a week at this point (one day 12k with 1 min on 1 off and hard sprint strides - mostly for bone density reasons, and then one day 18k as I run commute into work). I haven't decided whether to switch exclusively to riding or stick with running. I've been concerned by so many studies out there that have said cyclists end up with osteoarthritis issues (apparently weight lifting is the best activity to prevent this ... so maybe incorporating that instead of running is the way to go). While I love running, I actually think I have more potential on the bike given that I have a much larger and stronger body than is optimal for distance runners. So I'd like to see what I can do with cycling.
 

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I think that osteoporosis takes a number of years. Also that weight lifting is not as good as running for bone density- it's the pounding that helps bone density. But I lift weights as I can't run a reasonable distance any more. That's the reason I got into cycling in the first place.

I've ridden with a number of women who are national or world champs, olympians, ex-pros, etc. They can pretty much hang with the fast guys at will, or the fast guys of their age group anyhow. They're not quite as fast as the fastest men but close enough for group ride purposes, and often faster than us pack fill men.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of lifting (I do more body weight stuff, pull ups, push ups, dips, weighted shoulder presses and then step ups, pistol squats and side and front lunges for the legs). I do love running a lot though, especially trail running (and my run commute!). So I'll probably stick with that a couple days a week for a while and just see how it goes.

Sweet! This is really good to know (although I highly doubt I'd be at that level!). Right now with a group I could average 28-30 (33-35 on flats) without really taxing my aerobic/anaerobic systems. The group I was with was averaging 35 through the first part of our ride and then 42 at the 'interval loop,' which I'm told was faster than usual. Most of the groups around here are mostly men (as was my group that morning). I know some of the groups have women riding with them, but it seems that a lot of women prefer riding with women's only groups (I'm not sure why).
 
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