Rat Pac and Teanaway

Escaped the rain in Seattle by heading over to the other side of the Cascades. Sunshine and wind in Cle Elum were a reasonable trade for a 2.5 hour drive due to heavy commuter traffic in the morning. The snow has pretty much melted there at the Teanaway Ridge, but a few patches above 3300 ft on Rat Pac and up at the Teanaway remained and made a few small push-bike-through snow necessary. Riding down through some snow drifts was super fun – no need for a fat bike.

Stats: 24 miles, 4200 ft., GPX track

Rat Pac forest trails

Rat Pac forest trails

Suddenly: snow

Suddenly: snow

A few patches of snow remain at the top of Teanaway Ridge at 3750 ft.

A few patches of snow remain at the top of Teanaway Ridge at 3750 ft.

The snow clouds clear up minutes later and the Steward Range comes out of hiding.

The snow clouds clear up minutes later and the Steward Range comes out of hiding.

The Teanaway basin is pretty much clear of snow. Time to ride some trails there.

The Teanaway basin is pretty much clear of snow. Time to ride some trails there.

Spring flowers on the Teanway Ridge.

Spring flowers on the Teanway Ridge.

 

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Signs of Spring

The rides during the last 3 weeks have progressively shown that spring is nearing. First, there was a trip to Ancient Lakes. GPX track.

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Babcock Bench trail

Babcock Bench trail

Since the Wanapum Dam is damaged, the water level in the preceding reservoir along the Columbia river has been reduced.

Since the Wanapum Dam is damaged, the water level in the preceding reservoir along the Columbia river has been reduced.

Sign of Spring #1

Sign of Spring #1

Ready for retirement?

Ready for retirement?

Frenchman Coulee

Frenchman Coulee

The next ride, was on a sunny Tuesday making an out and back going over Blanchard mountain, then over Chuckanut ridge, past Lake Padden, up Galbraith and back again. GPX track.

Sign of Spring #2

Sign of Spring #2

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The third ride south of Ellensburg along the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route covered some new ground for me. Colin joined me and braved the trails on a cross bike after telling him that I think it should be rideable. After flatting, bending his rim, and getting bucked off his steed by rocks on steep climbs, he’s now looking into a new bicycle to more easily overcome the torture of rocky dirt roads in the eastern Cascades. GPX track.

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So far, so smooth!

Going down into the Umtanum drainage, before heading up to the radio towers on top of Umtanum Ridge.

Going down into the Umtanum drainage, before heading up to the radio towers on top of Umtanum Ridge.

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The Umtanum Creek canyon.

The Umtanum Creek canyon.

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Riding along the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route on the Umtanum Ridge.

Riding along the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route on the Umtanum Ridge.

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Sign of Spring #3

Sign of Spring #3

Coming down the northern end of Umtanum Ridge.

Coming down the northern end of Umtanum Ridge.

Back along a smooth gravel road with grand views of Umtanum Ridge.

Back along a smooth gravel road with grand views of Umtanum Ridge.

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Am I getting stronger?

Sunshine and bird song are occasionally greeting me in the morning now that the days are getting longer. Longer days mean longer rides, which hopefully means more training, which should allow me to go on even longer rides. Ahh, the benefits of training.

A year ago, I started to keep track of my training not just in terms of the elevation gain, time and distance, but also in terms of how much effort it took, and hence how much benefit I received from this training. Now, as a physicist, I know that effort is not a well-defined concept, and so what I think I am trying to say is that I’d like to optimize the combination of maximum power, average power, and speed so as to minimize the amount of pain.

Not having a power meter on my mountain bike, I keep track of the training stress via my heart-rate. Results of becoming more trained would be that the same circuit could be completed in
a) less time at the same heart rate or,
b) in the same amount of time, but at a lower heart rate.

Thus, a convenient way to measure average heart rate and total duration is needed. The training stress score (TSS), is one way to quantify the training effect. It takes into account the intensity (based on your heart rate zones) and duration spent in that heart-rate zone to quantify the equivalent stress at aerobic threshold. I don’t fully understand it, to be honest, but the concept seems appealing – at least all that heart-rate data from my Garmin becomes 1 number at the end of a ride. I can understand 1 number, the TSS score. 100 TSS points correspond to 1 hour at aerobic threshold (more correctly, functional threshold power).

The downside to training is that it leaves you exhausted, you get tired. The beneficial effect of training arises when you train hard, and then allow enough time to fully recover. This is a bit like a pendulum. A hard ride pushes the pendulum away from equilibrium. With time, your body recovers, corresponding to the pendulum swinging back and over-shooting the equilibrium point: resulting in over-compensation. This is the purpose of training – letting your body overcompensate.

My own training can then be summarized by the Performance Management Chart from TrainingPeaks.com, below. Each red dot shows the training stress score. This creates an impulse in the acute and chronic training loads. The body’s response is fatigue, shown by the acute training load (red) which goes away quickly (~2 weeks to 30%). The cumulative training load (blue) has a longer time constant (~6 weeks), and measures the total gain from your training sessions.
Heart-rate based training stress ATL: acute training load CTL: cumulative training load TSB: training-stress balance TSS: training stress score

TSS (red dots): training stress score (from 1 ride)
ATL (pink): acute training load (from the last ~2 weeks of rides)
CTL (blue): cumulative training load (from the last ~6 weeks of rides)
TSB (yellow): training-stress balance (how much over-compensation has resulted from the training)

Usually, I only have time for 1 big ride per week, so you see one big training stress point per week. Doing these big rides requires me to wait about a week to be fully recovered. You can see that the Training-Stress Balance (TSB) hovers around 0. When the TSB stays negative for too long, I am hitting my body too quickly with too much training. If that is a long-term state, than this training is a waste of time as my body is not allowed to fully recovered and won’t over-compensate from the training load. Resting really is as important as training! No rest, no gain.

I can look back now and see that 1 year ago, last April, I was basically in the same shape that I am in now. This isn’t quite true, though, because the TSS is estimated from my heart rate, and not from my actual power output. So, what this only really means is that I am pushing myself as hard as I did last year this time. But hopefully, some lasting increase in power-output has resulted from all that riding I did last year.

The real answer to the question if all this training is helping would really have to come in the form of a race, where the identical course was ridden with the identical pre-ride training-stress balance. This seems really hard to achieve, as I had a couple colds last year. But, then what is all this training for anyhow? To win races? Nope, I am too slow to do that. I suppose the honest answer is that I just like big rides, and that playing with GPS and heart-rate data is just another hobby of mine.

Happy riding!

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Beach crusing at Ocean Shores

13 miles of beach, hazy-sunshine, and 45 F. This was the second year we drove out to Ocean Shores, and I did a nice little ride up and down the beach. I forgot to post the ride last year, so pictures from this year and last year are mixed below. Here’s an overview of the area:

Ocean Shores beach route. The Olympic mountains are up right.

Ocean Shores beach route. The Olympic mountains are up right.

Heading towards the beach along a network of little streets.

Heading towards the beach along a network of little streets.

Here’s where my beach ride began at the southern tip of Ocean Shores.

Non-fat biking the Ocean Shores beach

Non-fat biking the Ocean Shores beach

If I had a fat bike, I would have brought it for the coolness factor, but it really isn’t needed. Instead, I rode an old 21-speed with 2″ wide tires at 15 psi. The beach isn’t the best place for an expensive bike anyways, lots of muck and sea spray get in the drive train.

Riding along the beach is pretty cool in the beginning, the scenery is so different from what I usually ride.
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20130323_161022smallOn the other hand, riding the beach becomes a bit monotonous after a couple hours.
20130323_160719smallLuckily some entertainment tends to come along. There is the occasional car stuck in sand:
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There are horses being ridden around:

Horse-back riding at Ocean Shores.

Horse-back riding at Ocean Shores.

And, more cars stuck in the sand:

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20130323_152114small_1Quite a fine ride to do once a year.
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