Slowing Down

08.7.2007 | 10:39 am

I’ve been riding for about thirteen years now. Not nonstop, mind you, but I’ve got my share of miles in. Right now, though, I’m doing something I have never ever done before, bikewise.

I’m tapering.

Yes, I am following — mostly — Coach Lofgran’s schedule of riding less while drinking more (water), and resting.

I don’t like it.

For the past ten days, I haven’t had a ride that’s left me cooked at the end. I am constantly having to hold myself in check. About the time I get up to a cadence and speed that feels good, I notice that I’ve just bumped out of my target heart rate, and I have to dial back.

I’m riding short, I’m riding easy. It feels wrong. I’m itching — aching, really — to attack a hard climb. I yearn to find a flat road and open up, exploring the limits of my legs and lungs. I want to get on the bike for five hours and disappear into the rhythm and ache of the ride.

Sheesh, I sound like a lovesick teenager, don’t I? Or maybe a junkie in need of a fix.

Yesterday, I rode for just over half an hour, staying in zone 1 and 2. It feels weird to get to a minor bump of a hill and shift down and try to climb without letting your heart rate go up, instead of shifting up two gears and attacking. It feels crazy to do a ride, start to finish, without exerting myself; it’s like going for a drive without ever touching the gas pedal. It feels so strange, to quit just about the time your legs have awakened.

But I’m doing it. Coach Lofgran got me to this point — I’m faster than I’ve ever been, as near as I can tell — so I’m sticking to the plan.

Well, mostly I am, anyway. Bob’s in town now and he wanted to ride Tibble — which is in the most perfect condition it’s ever been in — right now. Who am I to say “no” to a friend who’s flown all the way from Seattle to go riding? 

Today I was supposed to stay in zones 2 and 3a. I’m pretty sure that’s not even possible on some of the pitches going up Tibble. So I might have seen zone 4b for a couple of minutes.

Or possibly zone 9, but just for a second.

Mostly, though, I took it as slow as I could without falling over. And you know what? Tibble’s a lot easier if you don’t pedal as hard.

I am so insightful.

Psychological Component
I’ve got this theory about tapering. The physical component — keeping your legs fresh and rested and storing up some fuel in your body — is just half of what the taper is for.

The more important part is what it does to your head. I figure that by the time I get to the starting line at Leadville, I won’t just be excited for the race, I’ll be excited to ride — to stand up and climb. To ratchet up to a tall gear. To go fast.

Of course, this means that I’ll be a slobbering, drooling, hyperactive freak by Saturday morning.

Once the race starts, though, I should be just fine.


  1. Comment by dug | 08.7.2007 | 10:42 am

    i would SO love to see you jump off the front at leadville up the first climb. please?

  2. Comment by Karst | 08.7.2007 | 10:47 am

    Tranquilo, tranquilo, tranquilo, not-so-fatty.

    If you’re not careful, you’ll go out way too fast Saturday. We’d hate to see that.

    And just how are you going to keep from losing your ride to Dug? Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. Comment by Big Boned | 08.7.2007 | 10:49 am

    Yeah, tapering is TOUGH. I literally have to close my eyes sometimes so as not to “chase” someone who passes me. It does work though, so keep out of zone 5 until Saturday!!!

  4. Comment by buckythedonkey | 08.7.2007 | 10:55 am

    I tried the go slow stuff while rowing. I lasted for about 5 seconds before hitting the gas. I am still a fat bastard. I wouldn’t exactly call that insightful though.

  5. Comment by Clydesdale | 08.7.2007 | 10:58 am

    Oooooh, tapering sucks. Especially after a few days when you are just sitting in a huge ball of nervous energy dying to explode and your concentration level is well below zero. Like you said the psychological part is the worst. Since you are not suffering and riding less you have a whole lot of time just to think about the race and riding in general. Kids waiting for Christmas is nothing compared to that feeling. Mrs. Clydesdale hates the couple of days before a big race when I sit and bounce my knee or pace around with nothing to do but clean my bike… again, or re-sort my stuff for the race. Good luck this weekend!!

    Oh yeah, get a power meter, Heart rate training is way to old science and not nearly accurate. Of course for those out there without the means to have a power meter heart rate is the next best thing.

  6. Comment by WindBroken | 08.7.2007 | 11:22 am

    I couldn’t figure out where to put this guy but check out your competition,2777,DRMN_23950_5661641,00.html

  7. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 08.7.2007 | 11:32 am

    I’ve been tapering for a month now. Seems to really be working for me. I’ve gained 5 pounds.

  8. Comment by sans auto | 08.7.2007 | 11:37 am

    So if you go out hard and reach your lactate threshold by the 2 mile mark, but stick with it because you are “excited to ride — to stand up and climb. To ratchet up to a tall gear. To go fast,” that will leave you with a blood lactate level of about 24.3 by mile 5 (most people start to experience the burning at a lactate level of about 10… 21 is the highest I’ve ever seen). So how much training have you been doing with a blood pH of 4?

    Good luck in Leadville. When you get back, come in for a Wingate sometime… I’m curious.

  9. Comment by tigermouth | 08.7.2007 | 11:38 am

    Thank you WindBroken for sharing the interesting article about Leadville competitor Ibrahim Wafula, “the 27-year-old perpetually optimistic Kenyan with a brand new prosthetic leg.”

    Other interesting info in the article:

    Awards: Riders finishing in fewer than nine hours receive a large gold and silver belt buckle, while those finishing before the 12-hour cutoff receive a smaller silver finisher’s buckle.

    2006 champions: Gunnison’s Dave Wiens won in 7 hours, 13 minutes. Lakewood’s Joan Miller (9:09) was the top female.

    Contenders: Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said through a spokesperson Friday afternoon he won’t compete in this year’s race after all, citing a scheduling conflict. Embattled 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis, a 1993 junior national mountain bike champion, will compete as planned, with competition likely coming from Wiens, the race’s four-time defending champion, and 24-hour solo national champion Nat Ross of Vail, among others.

  10. Comment by bradk | 08.7.2007 | 11:48 am

    coach has me tapering for leadville as well. it really sucks. i’m down to just 1 beer a day since sunday and then tapering to NO beers from thursday til after the race on saturday. physically and mentally challenging stuff.

  11. Comment by seven22 | 08.7.2007 | 11:50 am

    “2006 champions: Gunnison’s Dave Wiens won in 7 hours, 13 minutes. Lakewood’s Joan Miller (9:09) was the top female.”


    If I’m not mistaken Lisel Robert won Leadville in 2006 with a time of 8:47. She is from Fatty’s own Utah Valley.

    p.s. I’ve been tapering for about five years now. One more year of this and I’ll be ready for a sub eight Leadville in 2008.

  12. Comment by bikemike | 08.7.2007 | 11:51 am

    yes, tapering is where it’s at.
    i usually start off sunday afternoons with a lite 1/2 hour
    nap on the couch, followed by a hard 2-3 hour interval
    nap in bed. yes indeed taper, taper , taper.
    maybe that’s more of a transition but taper is a shorter word.

  13. Comment by Fish | 08.7.2007 | 11:57 am

    With the taper, I’m predicting not just a sub-9, but something faster than 8:45.

  14. Comment by Stephanie | 08.7.2007 | 11:59 am

    Tapering = greatest thing that’s ever existed. I’ve definitly noticed that on the races where i don’t taper, it’s typically a normal every day race… and my time is never greater then my training… However, when i taper (properly), i typically get a PR, or even place somewhere legitimate in the race.

    Tapering is never easy the first time, but trust me… once you see the benefits, you’ll do it for every single race.

    As much as you love triathlons & triathlete’s, there’s a great article in this months triathlete magazine on the benefits of tapering.

  15. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 08.7.2007 | 12:32 pm

    I like a tapered hair cut.

  16. Comment by MAJ Mike | 08.7.2007 | 1:00 pm

    “I’ll be a slobbering, drooling, hyperactive freak by Saturday morning.”

    Isn’t that a requirement for such a race?

  17. Comment by Al Maviva | 08.7.2007 | 1:19 pm

    Rest (whether tapering or at regular intervals) is the key part of your workout if you’re trying to get faster and stronger. I’m still fat (though less fat). Yet I am turning into a fast fat guy by riding a lot less than before, but storming like a crazed Viking when I do ride hard. I do three very hard 90 minute rides per week – one with 2-6 minutes total of bleeding gums all-out sprint efforts (84+ minutes of rest), one ride with maybe 40 or 60 minutes of tempo or subthreshold intervals (50 / 30 minutes rest), and either a race or a club ride that is basically a race, at threshold, for 60 minutes. We’re talking less than two hours hard work per week, an hour or two of moderate work, then basically resting on or off the bike the remainder of the time. It’s working nice, thanks, if the B7 TT was anything to go by. Proper rest is what lets you go much harder when you are doing intensity work; this in turn builds your strength and lets you go faster all the time – there is a trickle down effect on your zone 2 cruising when you use the sprints and short intervals to build leg strength. So you get faster, by going a lot slower, most of the time.

    So, for a change, I can’t mock Fatty here. If he’s able to crush his inner hammerhead and rest for a week to taper properly, he has my respect. It’s hard to internalize how important rest is.

    I have to go now – my slow rest day ride is calling me.

  18. Comment by Born4Lycra | 08.7.2007 | 3:06 pm

    TapEr not TapIr. Now it’s making more sense.
    It would be very hard to Taper based on my training program. I’ve been preparing for leadville for the last 12 months and when FC and Sue get back I will know just how well we went.

  19. Pingback by » Links Of The Day: 7 August 2007 | 08.7.2007 | 3:21 pm

    [...] Slowing Down [...]

  20. Comment by miles archer | 08.7.2007 | 3:34 pm

    Just don’t go out to fast.

  21. Comment by Bob | 08.7.2007 | 9:30 pm

    Back when I was a competitive swimmer, we tapered by swimming harder but resting for longer periods between intervals. I’d think the same thing would work in cycling. I’m doing nothing but short bursts this week.

  22. Comment by buckythedonkey | 08.8.2007 | 12:26 am

    Time to bar

  23. Comment by buckythedonkey | 08.8.2007 | 12:29 am

    bradk – you have surely missed the point. Fatty defined tapering as “riding less while drinking more” so go pour yourself another pint my friend!

  24. Comment by fatty | 08.8.2007 | 5:18 am

    buckythedonkey – no, it’s for sure not time to ban he seems to be a good guy and he’s got a good blog. that’s just a trackback showing he’s linking to me, which is very cool of him to do. also, he’s not even the one doing that — that’s my blogging software automatically putting that in there, showing that rocbike is giving me some love. i actually read rocbike just about every day. it was through him in fact that i found a really awesome cycling cap (, which might be the next company i approach for my ads for schwag program.

  25. Comment by Lowrydr | 08.8.2007 | 5:21 am

    Climb like a Mountain Goat,
    Fly like an Eagle!!
    You’ll break that 9 for sure.
    Still sending Karma for Susan too!


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