What's Cool In Road Cycling

Real Rider #3: PEZ Gets Intervalled!

The Real PEZ has been hard at it the last 2 weeks, as FasCat Coach Frank Overton’s Real Rider Training program takes shape. But it’s an ugly, hurtful shape, as Pez whips himself into race ready fitness with high powered intervals. It’s been a real test of mind over pain the past two weeks…

As faithful readers will recall, the Pez is being put to the test by our own ToolBox contributor and coach Frank Overton, in prep for an upcoming 67km mtb race. As a “real rider”, this series will hopefully guide our fearless leader onto a personal best time in the fearsome cross-country “Test of Metal” race, by fitting some super-high quality training into the few hours available each week. So, if you’re in the category of “I have more going on in life than the good ol’ days when all I had to do was ride, ride, and ride, but I still want my fitness and quality time on my bike”, then this series is for you.


After setting the baselines, Coach Frank made sense of the numbers, zones,
and thresholds in this handy Zone Chart.

WE KNOW THE BASE, NOW WE GO UP!
Last time I established some key baseline standards in the forms of my maximal sustained power, MSS heart rate, and a real world standard of how far I could ride up my local benchmark climb in 10 minutes. Armed with this info, I was ready to get into the hard stuff – as Frank prescribed some serious intervals, and I discovered some serious pain.

The key part of the training for the next 6 weeks (race day = June 19) is to lay out the plan that will elevate my fitness. Frank asked how much time I have to ride each week, and I figured on 2-3 sessions of 1-2 hours each midweek, plus weekends to include one long 3-4 hour ride, plus a recovery ride w/ Mrs. Pez (note how I combine real life with real training? – go ahead and try this at home…) So total weekly rides – about 3-5, total ride rime about 5 – 10 hours.

Get TOUGH! Get INTERVALS
We’ve been talking A LOT about intervals in recent weeks – because the bottom line is that only by pushing yourself harder will you improve your fitness. A simplistic ideal, but basically the truth. So for the past two weeks, Frank prescribed a healthy dose of climbing intervals, designed to get me operating at or above my power at threshold in order to increase my maximal sustained power output. I.e. go faster for longer for my race.

For the first week of intervals, Frank prescribed:
Four 6 minute zone 4 intervals with 3 minutes of rest inbetween and a total ride 1.5 – 2hours . He instructed me to go as hard as I could at my MSS heart rate of 170-172bpm. In other words a steady brisk pace.

Pez Sez Cool, my first set of prescribed intervals – I was pretty stoked to get out there and hammer the climb – testing myself, and beating the mountain into submission. The first two 6 minute intervals went well, I was riding at about 166 bpm heart rate, and although felt like I was at my limit, I also felt good to keep going.

Towards the end of interval 2, I did have to downshift a gear to maintain my cadence, but my breathing felt good, and I was definitely into a zone of hard work which was rather unfamiliar. Sure my legs and lungs hurt, but mentally I was happy to be there.

Interval 3 was noticeably slower than the previous 2, and it took a bit more effort to get my body and “mind” back into the zone of effort I had reached in the first 2 intervals. Interval 4 was even slower, my legs had clearly expired, and it was more of a survival ride than one where I was pushing any limits.

Afterwards my legs were pretty sore, so I did some self massage before bed. Unfortunately, Mrs. Pez could not be convinced to help in this area, apparently the Bachelor’s “most dramatic rose ceremony ever” was more interesting.

SATURDAY: The LONG COURSE PRE-RIDE
The long weekend ride was our first complete pre-ride of the course in several years. I headed out with my training partner and race-bud Ron. We figured that keeping the group small – just the two of us – would speed up the pace, and offer fewer chances for mechanicals, etc. The strategy worked well – we finished the course in 4 hours 30 minutes – including stops for food, and one rest that included a self-applied foot rub. We rode at a steady pace, mostly Zones 3 and 4, and watching to see how our bodies would react to such a long ride over rugged terrain – which neither of us were used to. The final half hour was a real grunt, the fun of spending a Saturday on my bike passed aout hour 3:45, and by then all I really wanted was to be done with it. You know what I’m talking about – sore legs, sore feet, sore ass, sore hands, and enough left over powerbar paste in your mouth to caulk your gutters…

That night Mrs. Pez consented to apply a much needed leg and lower back massage, but even her stimulating hands could not prevent me from drifting off to dreamland at 9:45PM.

WEEK #2: IN SEARCH OF RECOVERY
The next day I was wasted, so no recovery ride, and Monday was also off, since I was still quite tired and feeling it in my legs.

Frank Sez: Deal With The Devil
I hear ya on still being tired, no problem. It’s all a part of overreaching, adapting, and super compensating. For tomorrow I want you to ride tempo intervals. Technically a tempo falls in Zone 3 but it is perfectly okay for your heart rate to go well above zone 3 and also below zone 3. What you want is for your average heart rate to fall within zone 3 for the each 15 minute work period. Choose terrain that is undulating and not entirely flat but avoid long sustained climbing. As you climb over short hills maintain your speed and this will force you to increase your effort on the climb and effectively raise your power output and heart rate. Keep the ride short and sweet and save some for the harder workout on Wednesday.

The idea behind this tempo workout is to force valuable physiological adaptations See Frank’s Article here while also not hitting the hard stuff too soon after your big weekend. Since a Zone 3 workout is not as difficult as a Zone 4 or 5 workout, you should be able to go for it on Wednesday with the 5 minute hill intervals. For these efforts give it all you got. Sell out, make a deal with the devil, do what you have to do go as fast as you possibly can. I admit, these intervals hurt, but man they make you so soo fast!

PEZ Does
The Tuesday tempo intervals ended up being impacted by the real world appearance of our own Dr. Stephen Cheung, who was in town for a few days. Since I was still feeling the effects of Saturday’s epic, I was happy to have the company for the ride, even if it changed our plan somewhat. We ended up doing about 2-1/2 hours on the bike at zone 2-3, plus a coffee stop to enjoy the afternoon sun. It was a great way to spend too many hours away from work, and remind myself about the pleasures of bike riding. This was probably a good thing considering Wednesday’s prescribed climbing intervals.

FRANK SEZ: Wednesday Intervals
“2 sets of 3 x 5 min On 5 min Off w/ 10 min inb/w sets; total ride 2 hours” There are 6 total intervals for this workout, 3 in the first set and 3 more in the 2nd set. Go as hard as you can for 5 minutes and then take a 5 minute break where you can catch your breath, soft pedal and reposition yourself for you next interval.

PEZ Does
Oouuch! I did it, I did it, I did it. But it still hurt. The legs did not have the snap to them this week and the intervals seemed to go by slower. It’s amazing how long a minute really is when you’re blasting uphill at 166 bpm, sweat filling your eye-sockets as the sink backwards into your cranium.

So Thursday and Friday were complete rest days, then Saturday was back to the 3 hour solo road ride, mostly zone 3-4. This was a grunt, I never felt crisp, and sort of struggled into some big headwinds on the open flat roads I had chosen, then sort of easy pedaled the last hour back home. That was a ride I was happy to be finished.

The good news was that I did get my recovery ride in with Mrs. Pez on Sunday – a very pleasant 90 minute pedal around Vancouver’s gorgeous waterfront bike paths. On Monday, my legs are still a bit tired, but I am looking forward to tomorrows return to intensity and some more hills!

FRANK SEZ: What We Learned
Now that I am becoming more familiar with PEZ the cyclist and athlete, I have a much better understanding of how he tolerates the training load I have prescribed and just how far I can push him 🙂 I’ll continue to dial that in over the next 4 weeks (yes, only 4 more weeks) as I prescribe his workouts on a week to week basis. The overall aim of his training is to raise his power output. Therefore, we are going to stay the course and continue with his zone 4 and 5 intervals.

Three weeks ago when PEZ took the “FasCat challenge” he had 8 weeks until his big race. I divided his time into 2 three week “mesocycles” with 2 rest weeks. This coming week Rich will be training harder and longer than the prior two weeks but after that he is going to enjoy a well earned recovery block. Keep your fingers crossed for him this week and send him your speedy thoughts.


Frank Overton
Frank is a USA cycling certified Expert coach and category 1 road racer. Got a race you are training for? Consider contacting FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO for expert training advice and customized training plans for your best performance yet!
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