A week in CONI Island...

Last Saturday afternoon, Dr. Brad was my partner in crime on a 3-hour spin out and around Scituate Reservoir...the operative word being 'spin', for after my debacle of a TT last week, I decided to call time on big gears and power intervals, and was determined to get back to basics... some good ol' fast pedalling, particularly on the hills.  Old school.

The reservoir ride is one of the best loops we have around here in Rhode Island.   It's up and down, but not very hard climbing-wise.  But throw in Chopmist and Rocky Hill, and it's a pretty good training route.  My focus stayed on turning the legs.  Fast.

Snuck away from the computer for a similar three and a half hour training spin Tuesday afternoon.   Rain was starting to fall in the last hour or so, but that never bothered me, in fact it was nearly perfect.

De Bowenberg.  Add it to the list Jongens!
The night before, I did an hour of hill repeats over on the East Side of Providence while waiting for my son to do his own hill workout at summer cross country practice.   There are some really killer steep climbs there I'd never ridden a bike up before, can't believe after all these years living here I'd never discovered them.  The one up South Court street feels like it's about 15%, gets cobbled for a short section and keeps going up as it turns into Meeting street, where somebody chalked on the pavement the exhortation to 'sack up'.  Haaa!...never saw that one before.  Appropriately inappropriate.

And then it was back down to try Bowen Street - which I've just christened the Bowenberg.  This one's a cobbled ramp that goes up and gets steeper and steeper until you basically can't ride up it on a road bike anymore...the cobbles start to go missing, the dirt is overgrown with weeds and the grade reportedly goes up to 30% as it dead ends against a guardrail holding back the street above.   It felt a lot like the Koppenberg, and looked like those old auto test track hills that ramp up till almost vertical.

These multiple College Hill climbs are not very long, but they're killer steep, and just long enough so that when you go up and down and link together 7 or 8 of them, pretty soon you're panting like crazy and seeing stars.   Would be good Muur prep for the Ronde Cyclo event.   Here's a great blog that's got a lot more about these Providence bergs.

Anyway, back to the 'spin' theme.   The bible for the church of spin is the CONI book.  Back in the seventies, before Friel, Carmichael, Training Peaks software, power meters and the internet, all we Neandrathals had to guide our often misguided training was this light blue paperback and its complex, yet thoroughly entertaining, too-literal translation from the original Italian.   The 1972 CONI book was developed by the Italian olympic cycling federation as a textbook for coaches and aspiring cyclists, and it's fun to look at it.   OK, a lot has changed - the bikes, the gear in particular.  But the principles of training and some of the wisdom it contains is timeless - even if a lot of it has probably been debunked now.

Here, in no particular order, are a few typical CONI book quotes.  Totally old school.

(Doping...)  "If in fact there existed substances capable of increasing the muscular power of an athlete (which has not to date been scientifically proved) their use would constitute a sports fraud, since the morality of the sport is to compete loyally in natural conditions of parity."

(Early season fixed gear training...)  "On the average, the ratio most suited to the agile and powerful type of racer is the 44-45/22; necessarily the racer who counts on power only will use the 44-45/20 or 21; while the racer having recourse to agility alone will use the 44/23...(!)"

(Losing weight)   "In the case of the athlete having to lose a good deal of weight in order to reach his natural limits and those of form, the instructor will take care to see that he wears sufficient woollen clothing including on the legs, especially if the lower limbs are covered by a layer of fat.  In addition, the athlete should cover his chest immediately under the last sweater with pages of newspaper, or else a cloth corset to protect the abdomen.  If the layer of fat on the athlete's body is uniform and abundant, the newpapers should also be spread over his back..."

(Climbing advice);   "If the uphill stretch may be considered decisive from the point of view of results, the climber will bring his action to bear, going all out and without letting up in order to place between himself and his immediate pursuers the advantage which will enable him to reach the finish, if close at hand..."

But I digress...so anyway, I spent the past week or so in the school of spin, hoping it would correct my recent form trend.

I'm sorry to report that it didn't help much.   For today was the Tokeneke Classic -the New England Road Championships.  44 miles of climbing, up and down around a reservoir in western CT for 50+.

A great course, and great weather... it poured just after the start.  Warming up, Keltic's super strong Bill Thompson joked about this being 'my kind of weather', and said he thought I looked like I'd lost some weight.   Bill's a great guy, and I hoped his kind words would be a good omen.

Alas, the engine room had no power today unfortunately jongens.  As the race shattered, I came off on the long stair-stepped climb on the first lap - what's been a familiar and now totally frustrating theme for me this year.  In the 40x23, 26 and fighting, but it was not enough to try to fight.  After getting gapped, I tried the ol' 'one last big effort' to sprint back on.   Twice in fact.  It didn't work.  KaBLOOM!  Some came by.  Got in a chase, we caught a few more.   Then I got dropped by all of them on the finish climb, pedaling slowly in a low gear.   Same story.  Not competitive.  Game over.   After coming off today, my heart wasn't in it.   Sincere apologies to blog followers for not living up to the code of the flahute.

My only consolation was seeing both of my Flandria Cafe teammates Jay Trojan and Marc Tater racing superbly today.   Jay was off and in breaks from the start spartacus style... I have a feeling he was right up in the action all day, and hope he got a good result.  Marc was up there from the first climbs as well, out of the saddle, at the front.   Both were racing like flahutes... aggressive, fighting the whole time.  Today, they both lived up to that moniker.

"Drum that so called Flahute out of the Fort Capt. ..
his suitcase of courage is empty"
I on the other hand, didn't.  In fact, my flahute stripes should be ripped from my jersey like those on the jacket stripes from a 7th Calvary Corporal about to be drummed out of a frontier fort.   Fast Eddy, me arse.

On the long drive home, anger and frustration simmered in a mental ping-pong match.   'I used to be able to do this... I should be able to do this...why can't I do this'   That's when post-mortem over-analysis usually takes over.   Uh-oh...

Looked at objectively, the year was built, and based upon the time crunched training program.  Carmichael tells you up front it's a deal with the devil, and he's right.  I thought I'd get cute and feather it through the summer by picking a few events and backing off the intensity a little bit without really shutting it down, but it didn't work.   Chris would probably say my aerobic system has started to 'weaken'...eroding under me.   I'd like to believe that's part of it.   Seems plausible.

Then I stepped on the scale at home first thing, as habit.  I'd had nothing to eat or drink since 7am.  165!  Yikes, 6 lbs over what I expected, the level of my best rides this year, and about 15 over where it really ought to be for me to be competitive (I could go uphill between 147-150).   How the hell I put on 6 lbs. in three days while abstaining from beer is beyond me.  It's not rocket science really, it is?  Another timeless CONI quote comes to mind...

"Generally speaking, the climber is a tall man, with 'long' muscles, and is not very heavy even if of strong constitution.  In fact, apart from the qualities which permit him to practise cycling, the athlete's weight in relation to power acquires fundamental importance for the purpose of being able to 'climb', with greater output for lesser expenditure of energy.  Thus it is natural that the lighter cyclist has a greater performance uphill than heavier athletes.   The factor is extremely important when the uphill stretch has a very steep gradient"

Well jongens, today's 5-6% grades weren't that steep, but the point is still well taken.   I'm not a very tall man, and probably not 'of strong constitution' either.

But for now, I'm throwing the switch to off flahutes.   And taking off with my long suffering family for a few days of non-cycling oriented fun and good life.  The timing couldn't be more perfect.

But after that, I think if I'm going to get back in the game, I'm going to have to get back to basics a bit.   That means building a good aerobic base, figuring out a way to correctly (healthily) shed some weight, and investing in getting some objective performance data to monitor my naturally skitzoid training tendencies.

Now, where'd I put those old newspapers?


  1. The ride home with no copay for urologic analysis was omitted from this tale, the reminder of power-to-weight ratio and when the road turns up this has pertinence - oh what a selective blogger you remain!

  2. Selective? C'mon Doc., you've got your photo in there, don't 'cha??

  3. If your schedule allows - I would be doing the Scituate course everyday for the next two weeks with different intensities - for example MONDAY spin and go easy - TUESDAY use it as a speed day with intervals - WEDNESDAY do double the miles of Monday and Tuesday - THURSDAY speed again FRIDAY easy spin SATURDAY motorpace around the course ESPECIALLY if you have a race on Sunday - a lot of riders make the mistake of going to easy before race day.
    Check you pulse every morning too- less carbs in the diet and more miles will shed the weight.

  4. You said it yourself....this a limited training program. The lack of base, and over work with intervals, short fuse.

    Take a week to ten days off the bike. Use the late summer, cool fall to build base, do a race for fun. I have this book, and it spelled out a
    way to be fit for a short time. No base, tough late summer.
    Chin up Eddy, good times ahead!


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