Al’s insanity, days 8.5 – 14.5: A funny thing happened on the way to the veloreviews forum…

OK guys, sorry for not checking in a bit sooner, but this past week was one of time crunches and tiredness.  I really wanted to, but first I couldn’t fit it into my busy schedule, and then I could barely be bothered to lift my head off the pillow.  However, I am back and in blathering form, hence this workout report you’re reading now.


OK, where had I left off…? I believe that it was last Tuesday, I had a sore lower abdomen, and I was preparing for a round of hill repeats.  Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…  Probably two hours after I posted that report, my schedule for the afternoon and evening got scrambled, and so I needed to scramble my schedule in response.  Since I can do the rapid riding workout in about 30 minutes less time[1] I decided to swap it with my hill repeat workout on Thursday.  Eventually, the time came to roll out of work and hit the streets, and that’s when something funny happened. It wasn’t a complete surprise, there had been flashes of it on Monday and even that morning on my commute to work; but as I rolled out of the parking lot, they weren’t flashes anymore.  What had happened is that my pedal stroke had changed.  It was the kind of change that you probably wouldn’t notice if you were watching (unless you were a cycling coach or perhaps an experienced bike fitter), heck, it took me almost 30 minutes to figure out just what was different, and I was feeling the difference 80-100 times each minute.


What had happened is that a good part (most? it’s still a bit hard to tell) of the muscle activity in my pedal stroke had moved from the inside part of my quads and my groin, to the outer part of my leg, primarily my hips and glutes. Not so shockingly, much of this musculature lies in the areas that Al has us working in our strength routines[2].  As a result of this switch, it feels as if I’m getting more power from my body into the pedals with each stroke. I managed to push the bike up to 28 MPH on one of my intervals on Tuesday, up a slight incline with no wind.  That kind of speed, for me at least, is usually reserved for full effort sprints or wind aided efforts, not pushing at an RPE of about 8. I think that part of why I’m getting more power is the added muscles that are contributing to the stroke, and part is that it has straightend out my leg a bit.  I hadn’t really noticed before (I spent a decent amout of time on my commutes diagnosing my strokes, old and new), but when I was riding before, my legs weren’t staying parallel to the top tube. Rather, my knees would point in a bit do to the effect of the use of the inner leg muscles.  Now with the muscles on the outside of the leg doing some pulling, my legs have straightened out. 


As a side effect of this, my stroke has gotten longer, and I’m finding myself in a position where I need to adjust my saddle position. My old position was just too low for the longer stroke, and if I wasn’t careful, my left knee would actually move outwards, away from the tube.  I strained my knee like this a few times as my stroke was changing, so I’m hoping to get the new position properly dialed in soon[3].   Anyway… as far as training goes, I finished out the intervals feeling strong and in plenty of time to handle the rest of my schedule for the evening, so it seemed like a good idea to switch the workouts.


Wednesday was another round of strength training that ended with me lying on the ground, not wanting to move my legs while my dog Jasper was dancing in front of my face as if to taunt me.  Good times, good times.  This was followed on Thursday with my hill repeat workout that got pushed up from Tuesday.  The new pedal stroke worked well in the hills, and I had a decent tailwind (which was an evil headwind for my morning commute), so I knocked out five three minute repeats without much difficulty.  But by the time I got home, the tiredness had started to set in.  I was ready for a break, but instead of getting a nice rest day the next day, I still had a commute to work to look forward to.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but the winds and my schedule combined to make it harder than it needed to be.  I had some strong headwinds to fight through on my commute, both on the way in to work, and after work, as I was headed out to an appointment with my massage therapist (that’s his recumbent trike next to my bike). It felt like I was back to doing hill repeats, only steeper, longer hills than I climb for my repeats.  By the time I got to my appointment, my legs were just beat, and my therapist ended up doing lower body work for about 80 of my 90 minutes on the table, leaving me to ride home on jelly legs.  And of course, the winds had died down by the time I was done, and couldn’t even help carry me home. Thanks a lot nature; thanks for having my back… jerk.



Saturday hill repeats? Yeah, not happening. I had nothing left in my legs and still had to do the weekly shopping; those damn repeats could wait another day. I was getting my damn rest day and I wasn’t even going to look at my bike for another 24 hours.  Sadly, those 24 hours felt like about 24 minutes, and I was still bone tired as I stepped over the top tube to ride out for my long hill repeat session. Man, I had nothing left, so I cranked out my repeats in a low enough gear to make me sad with every revolution, and then I headed straight home, cutting my planned ride about an hour short.  I’m sorry Al; I just didn’t want to half-ass it for an hour just to get some time and miles in.  If this happens again next week, and if you feel there would be a benefit to doing the extra riding, I’ll do it. But I had an executive decision to make, and since I’ve been told that my brain is located somewhere in the vicinity of my glutes (which were just exhausted), I called it a day, limped home, and ate a giant brisket sandwich with pickled red onions, beef gravy, and a fried egg while following yet another Cavs loss.  Damn that was a good sandwich.


So that catches us up to the current moment (well, there was yet another commute into a big headwind this morning).  Tonight is the strength routine; I don’t expect anything special to happen there, so I probably won’t check in again until Tuesday or Thursday.


1: I can do it along the path of my normal commute home, with just a bit of extra riding as I have to add in two small loops.  I have to go out of my way to reach the few decent hills in the area.

2: I don’t know how much of this comes directly from Al’s workouts and how much from the extra glute/hip work I’d added to my routines a couple of weeks prior to starting this training, but I do know that I can really feel a difference, especially in the area targeted by Al’s unabashedly evil leg lifts/circles. It almost makes me not hate them so much.

3: There may be a bit of a delay here, as I’m starting to feel an additional adjustment to my stroke, where at the bottom of the stroke I’m really starting to feel a bit of a snap into a full extention at the hip.  It feels a bit like at the end of a deadlift, where the hips drive forward to finish the lift, only one leg at a time.