Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting back

I'm back in Boulder, Colo for the summer. Have been for about a month now. It's always a great pleasure to return to the Rocky Mountains. My winter home is now in Scottsdale, Ariz because after 30 years of living in Colorado I grew very tired of snow and ice. Frozen water bottles and riding long indoors is just not for me. But I also am not crazy about 110F degree weather. Hence, homes in Ariz and Colo.

The mountains are great for getting back in shape, also. I live at the top of a one-mile climb in Scottsdale but it just isn't the same doing hill reps there as climbing non-stop for several miles here. Two weeks ago I did the Colorado Bicycle Tour in the mountains in southwestern Colorado--440 miles and in the neighborhood of 15,000 feet of climbing. Last Saturday I did the Triple Bypass--123 miles over three passes with 10,600 feet of vertical gain. Two more centuries in the mountains in the next 5 weeks with intervals and tempo workouts in between and I should be in decent shape again. Hopefully, fit enough that my son, Dirk, won't drop me on his easy rides.

There is nothing like climbing for building force and muscular endurance. I've coached many athletes who live in flat places like the coastal areas of Florida. Their fitness would have progressed much faster if they had gotten some mountain time in their late Base periods. Unfortunately, that's not a possibility short of taking a vacation to ride some place like here.

The downside of living here is the altitude. I know that everyone thinks coming to Colorado for a couple of weeks will make them aerobic animals by the time they get back home. Personally, I don't think there's much aerobic advantage unless you go to places like Vail, Winterpark, Breckinridge or some other place above about 7000 feet. Boulder is about 5500 feet. There isn't much to be gained aerobically from being here for a few weeks. It's actually kind of a "limbo," if you will. It is high enough to slow you down when training which means the muscular system doesn't get worked as hard as it would at sea level. And yet the altitude is not high enough to produce much of an aerobic benefit.

Riding in the mountains makes up for a lot of this downside. The other thing I like about training here is the number and quality of athletes. There are people out running and riding every where you go and at all hours of the day. Boulder has to have one of the highest aerobic capacities per capita in the country, perhaps the world. There's always someone to train with who is in better condition.

I'm here until late September when it sometimes snows in Boulder. When that happens I'm outta here and back to the warmth of Scottsdale where I can continue riding in shorts year round.


At July 15, 2008 3:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My suggestion about getting lots of hills and mountains in a warm climate like Arizona? Move to Tucson. There are many more difficult climbs in Tucson that are relatively close to the center of the city. For instance, if you want to climb Gates Pass, you only have to ride about 5-10 miles before you get to the climbing portion of Gates. Mt. Lemmon? About the same from most parts of Tucson. If you wanted to, you could live at Summerhaven which is near the peak of Mt. Lemmon and means that if you went down to Tucson for any reason, you'd have to suffer for about 20 miles of climbing back up to the top. Honestly, based upon what you say about Scottsdale, you have a lousy place to ride, I'd recommend Tucson much more highly. The only caveat is that in the winter, Mt. Lemmon has a tendency to become snow-capped for short periods. But other than that, most of the time from October to April, Tucson is a hell of a place to live and ride bikes.

At July 17, 2008 12:35 AM , Anonymous Fredrik Eriksson said...

From a triathletes perspective, Tucson sounds nice. However, uprooting the family and switching jobs for the sake of age group competition probably wouldn't sit well with the rest of my family :)

Fortunately, I live in outskirts of Portland (Beaverton, OR, to be precise) which offers a nice mix of flat and hilly terrain for both biking and running. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't lend itself to outdoor biking during for much of the off-season...

Joe: I picked up your book for beginners last year after getting roped into my first triathlon by some co-workers (a sprint). It didn't take long to figure out that I'd found what I was looking for (even though I'm a lousy swimmer), so I bought the Bible soon thereafter.

I want to extend my thanks for an outstanding book. It has helped me immensely in planning this, my second, season, and I just finished my first real "A" priority race and was able to beat the goal I set for myself by following the training principles recommended in your book. Next up, a swim coach...

At July 18, 2008 9:12 AM , Blogger charlesb said...


I was there for Triple Bypass, and that is a HARD ride if you leave at sea level as I do. And that is my question.

I live outside Washington, DC, at about 350 feet altitude. I train for climbing rides mostly using Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge, which has pretty challenging climbs, but the altitude is between 1,000 and 3,500 feet.

In the past year, my vertical ascent numbers on Skyline have progress from about 2,000 feet/hour to about 2300 feet/hour. While in the past two years my climbing on Triple Bypass is about 1800 feet/hour. (I'm aware that none of these numbers are anything spectacular!)

Given that I've improved on Skyline and remain about the same at the high altitudes of the Triple: Is this just due to less oxygen?

I was disappointed to see my time on Triple Bypass almost exactly the same two years running, but if this is primarily an altitude effect, I don't know what to do.

My general fitness level: I'm 53, 13% body fat, max HR about 184, can hold 150-160 for the length of the Loveland climb with short efforts of 165-170. I'm 6' and 174 lbs.

It was a beautiful day for Triple Bypass wasn't it?


At July 18, 2008 2:21 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Chuck--Yes, it was a beautiful for the Triple Bypass. Much better than 2 years ago when it rained all day, I'm told.

I suspect your limiter for the Bypass is primarily altitude. Loveland Pass goes to almost 12,000 feet. The pressure of O2 at that level is quite low relative to what you are accustomed to in DC. The general line of thought on such events now seems to be that if you want to come to altitude it is best you arrive less than 24 hours before the event or two weeks before to acclimate. That doesn't mean it will feel like 350 feet for you. It just reduces some of the adaptive stress your body experiences by coming to such a level.

Of course, it could also be that the distance (120+ miles) wore you down so much that you weren't as strong on those last 2 climbs as you might have been had it been much shorter.

Regardless, the best thing you can do when going to altitude--assuming you can't arrive 2 weeks early--is to get in as good a shape aerobically as you can. I believe the best way to do that is with intervals (once your base is built), especially those done at your lactate threshold/FTP (functional threshold power) and above up to your aerobic capacity power (CP6).

Good luck with future Triple bypasses!


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