May 27, 2008 posted by


“This is the most blantant case of overtraining I’ve ever seen. God, I love it!”
– David Brainard, to me, climbing Old San Marcos Pass during ’98 Tour simulation

Yesterday I woke up with my heart racing. I was overtrained. This was expected, at least to a point. If you never overtrain than you’re never pushing yourself hard enough. Sure, being 1% overtrained is worse than being 25% undertrained but you’ve got to walk that line, and step over it, if you ever want your training to get close to its potential.

During the ’98 Tour de France simulation I hadn’t ridden a bike in 8 years as I’d basically been climbing full time. I dusted off an old bike and began riding daily. During the two mountain stages in week 3 I was riding most of the peloton’s mileage and destroying myself. Sometimes the aim is break mental barriers and let the physical stuff catch up. That was my plan then. This time, not so much.

This time I’m far more calculated. The aim is to improve a lot more than to finish my simulated Giro goal. My hope was/is that I could do both. After 2 weeks of the Giro and P90X (while recovering from a surgery) I’ve been right on the edge. This weekend I knew I’d be pushing it, as I was upping my riding from pedestrian mileage to racer mileage. Could I handle real training with X? I’d find out.

Sat: Big Cottonwood and Mill Creek

This isn’t an easy day even in shape but daunting when you’re not. I chose it for its panache—a perfect simulation for with they were riding in Italy. I rolled out under threatening skies. It had been raining on and off and the top of the peaks were cloud covered. Since they were racing in the rain in Italy it seemed fitting, but not particularly fun. I warmed up into a headwind out towards Big. If it meant a tailwind later things would be perfect.

I begin up Big spinning my smallest gear. I suck, but didn’t I just see Contador riding a 34X27? Forget tradition; I’m breaking down and getting a compact crank.

The first steep section. There’s a rider up ahead. Don’t look. Don’t chase. It’s way too early to blow. I stand and watch the road ahead. Zone out. Don’t chase. Long day ahead.

I glance ahead. Sure enough, I’m gaining. I don’t want anyone pushing my pace. Should I slow down? Look down. Ignore it. Could I be fitter than I think?

She’s right up ahead. That’s right; I’m not fit. But wait, climbs equalize gender, since it’s all strength to weight ratio. Maybe I’m going okay. Maybe it’s Kim Anderson.

Getting closer. She’s old. Well, not old, but in her 40s. Probably my age. Jeannie Longo? No? I’d better pass her quickly; act as though I’m on a recovery ride. But my breathing is too hard. She’ll know. I suck.

I give my best nonchalant “bon journo”. No response. Her eyes are glued to the road; in full concentration. She’s suffering. Maybe I don’t suck after all.

In the false flat, mid climb, I’m cruising. Maybe I’m ready to ride with the team. No, can’t be. It’s too soon. But I’m flying, right? I glance back. Two riders, steadily moving up. Ride smart. Don’t accelerate.

A casual hello. They spin past smoothly. It looks so easy. Must be Louder and Zabriskie to be passing me so easily. Gotta be. But where’s the moustache? Must have shaved it.

Now I’m gaining. Maybe they weren’t going easy after all. Getting closer. Wait; I’m not gaining. They’ve hit the steep section. I’m on it to. They quickly disappear.

I’m standing and using my weight to turn the pedals. Mashing. Old school. I feel like Greg LeMond. I look like him, too. Except that I’m turning a 39X24 instead of a 42X15.

Near the summit someone passes me descending. Wearing a moustache. Zabriske, for sure. No one else would be up here on such a day. But isn’t he injured in Europe? Never mind. It’s gotta be him. That must have been Swindlehurst riding with Louder earlier.

At the summit I see the two guys who passed me, looking decidedly recreational except for their team kit. Will I ever be fit again? But those sure are nice bikes. And one guy’s sporting a $2,000 wheelset. Maybe they can ride a little. They’re waiting for some friends. I think about waiting to get some help on the descent but think 4” rims will be squirrelly in the wind—reason enough not to let this guy pull me. I head down alone.

Spin over to Mill Creek with a tailwind. Nice. A guy passes me as I’m eating and speeds off. I see him turn into my canyon. Another arbitrary rabbit. But who’s racing?

I catch him at the first steep section. “Hello.” “Hi again.” Good spirits all around.

I’m feeling good. Really good. Could I actually have some fitness? I can’t believe I’m this strong. What’s that sound? A guy flies past. “Beautiful day, eh?”

Surviving now. Just a few steep ramps, then it’s over. Up ahead, could it be?

He’s coming back. For sure. I get close. He stands and pulls away. At the next steep section I’m gaining again. Damn. Legs are way too sore to get into it. I slow. He’s still coming back.

I stand, shift, accelerate past. “Hi again.” Jesus that hurt.

It flattens out. I’m alone. A bathroom. Cool. I slow to pull over. The guy flies past. Head down. No hello. Must be going for the time bonus up ahead.

Sun: East Canyon, Little and Big Mountain

Dustin calls and cancels. He’s overtrained, too, and suffered in his race on Sat. He’s needs some time off—a mid-season break while I’m still hairy-legged and getting ready for any season.

Last night I slept like I was dead. Haven’t been so tired in a while. I was surprised how strong I’d finished the day. No bonk. Solid all the way home. Until that night when I was light’s out about 5 minutes into a movie—a boring husband on a Saturday night.

A late afternoon start means I’ve once again missed the rain. Cool. The first pedal stroke singes my thighs. Not so cool.

I nearly turn around on the warm-up. I’d eaten plenty but the tank is empty. At least get to the first real climb. This doesn’t help. I want to turn around. I tell myself how easy this climb is. I still want to turn around. Just turn the cranks a few more times. When can I go home? It’s a stunningly beautiful afternoon; just do some sightseeing. My legs are on fire. Romney’s fasting. For sure she’s suffering worse then I am. I keep going.

Halfway up Big Mountain I cash it in. I’m struggling. This can’t be doing my fitness any good. I’m only still here to get my percentage of the Giro’s climbing in. With under 5,000’ I’m about a third of today but I’ve got plenty in the bank from the last few days. Now to survive the ride home. I do. Barely.

Mon: Mill Creek Time Trial

My heart rate won’t drop; a clear sign of overtraining. Maybe the Giro simulation is too much too soon. Keep a cool head. I don’t need to finish if it’s worsening my fitness. I wake up slowly. Drink water. More water. Plenty of coffee. Feeling better.

It’s pissing down rain. Ugh. That’s okay; plenty of work to do today. Romney gets called into a training session at the last minute. This means she needs to break her fast so we hit the coffee shop. Still raining. It’s getting late. It’s snowing on the top of Mill Creek, for sure.

P90X is on the agenda. Chest & Back would be an interesting “warm up”. Romney heads to Gym Jones. Tony starts yappin’ at me. Still raining. Doing P90X in full kit, waiting on the weather. That’s it, folks. The mother of all P90X workouts. Yeah, great warm-up. I’m about to puke on my first pedal stroke. The rain has stopped.

I can’t believe how well my home stages have mimicked the Giro. Mill Creek is ridiculously similar to today’s time trial. The upper part of the road is even closed, so it hasn’t been cleaned, which makes it more like the gravel section.

I’m dying but at least the weather is nice. Gorgeous, in fact. Still super wet but I can’t complain. Except for that burning in my thighs. Wish I had some dope. Or at least a compact crank. I can’t wait to get home to my wife.

I think about Contador but I can’t spin. I think about Levi. The Giro’s been too much. That’s more like it. Just surviving. Now I’m Bosisio; in the pink jersey on day one of the Dolomites and now missing the time cut and getting kicked out of the race. Sad. That’s me. It sure is beautiful out.

Somehow I’m feeling okay. Must be the nature. I’m 2 minutes faster than I was last week. Astonishing. I run out of ride-able road. Plant my bike in the snow and take a picture. Three “rest days” ahead. Bliss.


  • Bruce A says Compact cranks are the best thing since dope…errr i mean lemond pound cake. by the way, Alisa is in constant state of soreness, and I think she has a bit of a crush on Tony. check out this blog, it’ great:

  • steve you are no longer allowed to complain about being “out of shape”! i read this entry and a) those are all incredibly stout rides and b) i could have written identical descriptions of yesterdays 6 mile work commute! for an off-the-couch guy, you’re still in wicked shape and i don’t think i’ll be riding with you anytime soon. that said, how far up mill creek is the snow and do you know what the conditions up lcc are? suzanne and i tooled up emmigration sunday and it hurt; we need to start riding a bit more than our commute. keep up the good work!marc

  • Out of shape is relative. It’s changing, for sure, though if I’d gone out with Dustin I would have felt ridiculous. I think by the end of this I’ll be able to attend group rides. I’m thinking about the Tour of Park City race in early August, so I have some sort of target. Oh, the E100 is cancelled. I’m thinking of doing the old course, self supported, on my SS sometime later this summer. You should train for that.Snow is probably a mile about Elbow Fork. I don’t remember how much further it is to the top. Perhaps 3 miles and, of course, the cool super steep ramps at the end.

  • Bruce,We’re thinking about coming to France next July. How does that work for you?

  • Bruce says Sounds great. It’s a little hot and crowded, but that’s balanced by the fact that the Big Show is happening. This year has a stage that goes right through where we’ll be (the stage that ends in Figeac). Bring the bikes, it’ll be awesome.

  • stevewhen were you thinking about doing the e100 course? are all the original stages still accessible? if so, and it’s at least a few months away, that would be great and give me something to train for! right now school is all consuming and i feel that athletically i’ve gone from hack to uber hack. anyway, i’ve always wanted to do that course, so let me know. marc

  • I’m thinking late summer. Most of it is still accessible and all with a few detours. I’m kind of thinking of axing some of the repeated sections so you ride Flying Dog too. Then you’ll hit every section of riding–and 5 or 6 different mountains–in a day. An epic but highly aesthetic day.

  • Overtrained?Not so sure. The waking racing heart rate could also be explained by several other factors: 1) you’re waking up every morning next to the same woman, and your heart races with happiness and excitement. or 2) you wake up and your subconscious self (which has just been dreaming – shedding off waste, etc) has come to the realization that you are friggin’ married . . . and your heart races with fright! There something you need to understand about the Dude . . . Cheers,Josh

  • Well, I’d bet a week’s worth of beers that he’s over reached, not over trained. The difference? once you can recover from pretty quickly and the other takes months.Anyway, I was feeling that way too, but not nearly as bad. This week is a recovery week in P90X and I’ve taken it way too far by not doing any workouts. Sure I rode my bike yesterday and the day before, but I didn’t do any of that indoor exercise stuff.It feels nice to have all that extra time. Tomorrow I head to SLC, which probably won’t be very recuperative, but should be super fun.~!R!~

  • What are you, Chris Carmicheal now? Over reaching is one of those made up terms by “certified” cycling people who act as though no other physical activity in the world exists. Over reaching is something you would do in, say, climbing where you pull your actin and myosin strand too far apart resulting in minor soft tissue injury. You own me some beers but you’ve already paid. Furthermore, I think we’ve already finished drinking all of them.Over reaching in the biking sense is a good term because it defines the difference between acute and chronic overtraining. In this you are absolutely correct. I was acutely overtrained. Chronic overtraining sucks, especially at the central nervous system level. Being a lab rat of sorts I have plenty of first hand experience at this.

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