2021 High cascades 100

I used to race bikes and do other endurance sports over a decade ago and it was super fun. then moved to New York City for an all-consuming job and went deeper and deeper into a life I never asked myself if I wanted in the first place.

Well, made some big changes and looking to get back into it as it brought a lot of joy. So, I’ve reactivated my usac license and signed up for the high cascades 100 in Oregon.

It’s maybe uhh a bit much to bite off but I’ve been training and I think I can do it.

Today I did part of a 60 miler tuneup. I had to drop out at 40 mile mark otherwise I’d have missed my second vaccine appointment and I was not going to do that to my (really super super supportive) wife who really just wants us to get out of the house again.

Before I had to bounce, I got a pretty good picture of where I’m at. Started out with good power but then it and heart rate steadily dropped. I think this is partially pacing as I started out way too hot, but also I think comes down to preparation: I’d been doing below lt1 distance and above zone 5 intensity, because I thought Vo2max was a weakness, and I think maybe I took it too far and got a bit too fast in the sharp end. So I’m thinking about going back to tempo, strength training and threshold blocks and really focusing on TTE.

oh song skills were RUSTY

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@BikerBocker, thanks for sharing that report! Impressive output too - over 3000 kJ’s - very nice!

That profile looks a lot like what mine would resemble before getting back into threshold blocks and stepping back from a lot of top end work. The body feels good initially, but you realize quickly that the TTE is limited. That’s a valuable assessment to make, and I think other members in the forum will appreciate seeing this because it’s not an uncommon thing to see our graphs highlight starting off too hot.

Looking forward to your progress and hearing more as you get closer to the Cascades 100!

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Thanks Ryan!

I definitely got some good learnings from the race. For one thing, the way i’ve always prepared to get “race ready” doesn’t really work here, as you note. I always thought that you got shorter / sharper as you get closer to race day, but here, it’s not actually optimal.

Second, my hands were WAY too high and it felt like manuevering a standing desk through the forest. I’ve taken a bunch of the spacers off / moved the handlebars down since the race and the bike already feels better.

Finally, as you noted, pacing learnings: for the big, long race i plan to start off more conservatively but for “training” races like this one, i sometimes WANT to pace it the way i did here. Consistent pacing probably would have gotten me a better and more comfortable placing here, but it assumes all limiters are from the neck down. Starting out with the leaders and trying to stay with them as long as you can, i think, helps me identify limiters that are above the shoulders (so to speak) and hopefully break through them. I’ll hurt bad, i’ll suffer, i’ll get dropped, but if each time i hang on a little bit longer than the time before, then i’ve succeeded.

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I like that way of looking at it, learning to pace and relating limiters to the neck down vs. from the neck up!

Love that reference! :joy:
It’s amazing what a few spacers can do for our maneuverability. And it feels so good when the bike now responds how we want it to!

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So despite being a bit disappointed with how my race went, I’m still super motivated and so decided to leverage the race to go right into a big volume overload block—no Vo2max or anaerobic/CP intervals (I’ll be too tired plus I don’t think I need it), just tempo, threshold, over/unders and endurance. Yesterday did 45 minutes of over understanding then 2 hours of high LT1 all the way home bc I was late for work.

Today I an MTB ride hard, kind of like fake race. Hard to the trails, sprint for green lights etc, hard in the trails, hard home.

Felt terrible, then, gradually, kinda excellent. HR took a long time to get up there—to the point where Garmin thought it was a base ride and that my Vo2max is 70 lolololol—so I know I’m tired, but I’m also not too worried because HR fell quickly too when I stop pedaling. But anyway here’s the difference between power and HR zones. Either I really am this tired or the zones need tweaking, or both:

Hello @BikerBocker everyone has made some great points so far, I will take a slightly different angle.

One of the things I really try and work on with mountain bikers is getting the most out of their fitness every time they race.

One of the ways I do this is analyze races by looking at the climbs (and usually descents as well so I can see how the descending is coming along). In looking at the climbs I make a spreadsheet like I have below from the data.

Normalized Power for each similar climb, and the average of all of those.

Average Heart Rate for each similar climb, and the average of all of those.

Max Heart Rate for each similar climb, and the average of those maxes if that makes sense :slight_smile:

So I would take a look at them in my software to get quick averages for each.

Then from that data I would make a spreadsheet.

climbs compare spreadsheet

If I could get this data, and the athlete was racing again very soon, even a similar format, I would get them to NOT go above the average of the maxes. I would have them start at the average of the Norm Power, and also try and average the average heart rate.

So for you in this event or something similar soon, I would recommend don’t go over 177, try and average 170-172 and climbing NP 260 or so.

I don’t like to see more than 3% degradation in pacing and actually like a negative split.

The only time this will be different if an athlete is racing for 1st place and battling with someone else, and even then if you really know what you are capable of you might be better racing yourself in an mtb event.

So this is more of a tool, a different way to analyze races. The heart rate data from this race will probably carry on through the season, I don’t find this changes much especially in masters athletes. The power should get better and better.

You could take a look at past races, ones you did really well at, and compare your pacing degradation to somewhere you weren’t so on for. Might be interesting to see what you find.

Hope this makes some sense.

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This makes a lot of sense. Thanks so much, this is an excellent tool.

Full disclosure, my first reaction was, that’s way too slow, the race will be gone if i truck up those hills keeping NP that far below 300.

But then i remembered, i was dropping dudes in the first lap and guess what, from then onward i went backwards! So maybe i’d have been faster overall if i followed the guidance from your spreadsheet. I have another race i may try to do in early June, so i think i will try to start out at the pace indicated by your method, and then try to increase the power over time.

Second, i don’t know if you could see this from the power file, but there was a single-track section–very tight, very twisty, lots of trail furniture, lots of object fixation–and i bled a lot of power there. My technique and also, frankly, my bike position, was not dialed and i lost time through every one of the many, many turns and then sprinted to catch back on. Ithink if i can get my riding to flow better, it’ll have bought me more watts to spend on those hills, which is the place i can really jam (it’s like my grandmother in 1996 handing me a ten dollar bill and saying, “buy yourself something nice.” What i will be buying is watts to spend :)).

@BikerBocker forgot one thing.

I also look at the NP power and how it gets created.

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interesting. by “created” does that mean like, how much heart rate (as an input) gives you a given amount / velocity of normalized power (as an output)?

No sorry I am referring to the Normalized Power and how it is generated over the ride relative to the final Normalized Power.

You can see early in the ride the Norm Power creation line is quite above the actual finishing Norm Power. So if you were to go out easier at 250 w norm power for the first say 60m of the race, then race 255w norm power for a few hours, the push the pace and race 260w for the last hour the creation line would start slightly below the entire race norm power, but finish slighly above.

Think of this as a way to see if there is a positive, equal pacing or negative split.


Ah I see. Thank you!

Btw, I went back and rode the same trail network yesterday and got something four or five PRs. Not gonna say I wasn’t working hard, but I was not working nearly as hard as on race day.

I think suffice to say my “flow” was just not clicking that day for whatever reason

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Just finished rest week after the two big overload weeks. Felt flat and tired after yesterday openers (I think I gotta keep em shorter) but still hit ten min all time pr of 358. So clearly form is coming on!

Gonna do a few more weeks of extensive FTP focus, then some 15/15s to tune it up

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So just finished two and a half weeks of basically, tempo and extensive FTP focus. Twice a week i’d go out and do long intervals around FTP, sometimes with over-under and sometimes with a hard start, but generally long, then ride a few hours of zone 2 on the way home.

I’m about to jump into two more weeks of heavy training to push the volume but also do a few workouts that tune up the high end. I’m thinking one or two anaerobic capacity, one or two 20/10s or 40/20s, then the rest just mountain biking and working on skills. Then i do a rest week and a tune-up week and i’m on the starting line baby.

I did a 4DP test before going into this “mini training camp” and the results–other than the sprint–generally were good. At least for me! The 1 min and 5 min were both all-time bests.

I have a question for @trevor and @steveneal: specifically, how does the 5 second vs. 1 min value make any sense? How is it that i have a sprint that’s so bad (anaerobic power) but 1 min that’s like, relatively high in comparison? Isn’t that also substantially from anaerobic power? Just trying to square these. Do i have a neuromuscular coordination problem?

@BikerBocker nice job on your training camp!

I am not sure if you looked at the % improvement which is also important.

6%, 7%, 4%, -4% if I have my math correct, so better improvements the longer you go in the testing.

Did you do any training to improve the 5 sec power? If not that could be the case.

There is a level of coordination and technique to efforts 20 sec and under, and you could argue event the jump or first 5 seconds of a 20-30 sec effort. Gearing choice and technique will both play a roll in that power.

Doest the 5 second power need to improve for you to reach your goals?

Will the other improvements you see have a great effect on your race performance?

In training other athletes in sports that really require good 5 to 10 second power, like hockey and lacrosse athletes, the all important first step is a big part of training. For this training many train efforts that are equal to or slightly longer than their goals, this I never understood. I work on the athletes first two or three steps, which in the beginning is very, very hard for the athlete to wrap their brain around. It eventually comes.

You could implement some 3 to 5 second efforts, likely by actually just counting pedal strokes rather than time so you don’t look at a clock. You could do some of these as practicing mtb starts (if you don’t practice those you should!) and also coming out of turns during your mtb rides. If you are practicing skills and practice accelerating out of corners a few days a week, I don’t feel this will add to your fatigue for your other training but may help see if you can get some of the NM points back in your test.

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Thanks @steveneal ! Yeah I did some big training blocks plus a few where i really focused on sustainability and not wearing myself down, so it’s nice to get the positive reinforcement of results.

I had not really been working the 5 second power. Most of my strength work had been more like strength endurance / balance and coordination, and vast majority of my “hard” days had been extensive FTP or intensive FTP (plus one Wednesday Night Worlds training race). So it could be that the 5 second power dropped a bit (I never had great “pop” to begin with), or it could also be that the four rest / easy days i had done leading into the test had left me with some cobwebs. I never feel great after a few easy days, but often can still perform at the longer durations.

I fully agree with the assessment that 5 second wouldn’t be a huge limiter for what i’m trying to do here with marathon MTB this summer. I’ll do the things you suggest to focus on the specific application of the energy (e.g., coming out of turns etc.), but i think the 5 min, 20min and 1 min are much more applicable to riding fast (not directly, but rather just because they signal improvements in the engine).

That said, because it’s good to have more tools in the toolbox vs. fewer, i am going to do some work to get some pop in this next upcoming block. Some A/C, some 40/20s and one or two sprint workouts to top up the upper end, while also continuing to push back to back big-volume days.

After the last two marathon races, i’ll probably try to jump into some local XCO distance which are more like 1, 1.5 hours, and for those, the fast starts and ability to pop at least a little bit will be more important.

The thing that was more weird to me is that my 1-min power–which comes at the end of the test, whereas 5 sec is at teh beginning–went up so much. I would have thought due to energy system overlap that the 5s and the 1m would move together. Or alternatively, what this says about things like Vlamax. Is it super low (weak 5s), or is it higher based off the stronger 1 min? Or is it rather that the 1 min test at the end more measures your ability to recover which is driven by aerobic fitness and, like you maybe were insinuating, the 1-min went up for the same reason that the 5m and the 20m went up.

Anyway, thanks again. Always great to get sanity checks from knowledgeable people here.

@BikerBocker Hi just wondering where you see yourself in the races you mention as in Marathon.

Will you be racing for a top position in a category? Or will you be racing for a fast personal finish?

The reason I ask is I may have a few different comments relative to the high-end training depending on your answer.

Hey steve, fair question. And it’s a little bit of both. My category in most of these races is Men’s Open as masters categories don’t start until age 40. So depending on who shows up, i can be in top 5 to 10 and be really in the mix, or could be completely blown out by the 18 year old, future national teamer phenom who beats the whole field by 45 minutes. High Cascades i think is on NUE calendar so there will be a lot of people who are just on a whole other level vs. me. On the other hand, when i start lapping the beginner, sport and [whatever cat 2 is called] categories, i’m moving through em like they’re standing still.

I try to go for, you know, “best of the rest,” if you know what i mean.

@BikerBocker If that is the case then the really high-intensity testing matters even less.

I think I would focus on continuing to improve those longer duration efforts and try and input some of these into the end of your long days. I like to have athletes do 3 or 5 or 20m max efforts after 3h (1h endurance, 1h steady endurance, 1h tempo) then Time Trial. Compare this to your 4DP scores, try and get within 3-5% then you will have some solid long race fitness!

Keep up the great work you are totally heading in the right direction.

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THank you! That’s very good advice and honestly makes sense. I will do as suggested, only do the super hard efforts in connection with the specific skills that are required (e.g. popping up and over rises, accelerating out of corners), otherwise will focus on the long deep fitness.

After this race, i’ll take a break, then tune up the high end for the last few short races and see what happens.

The reason i was focusing on the higher intensity is by reasoning from analogy of where like, i see that the guys who are the fastest at these marathon races are also very, very fast at the 1.5 hours durations as well. It looks like, you build an engine and then you can tune it to do all sorts of things.

I think i am getting there but i am not there yet. In comparison to the average joes, i’m not bad; two weeks ago on my way home from the trails after a 5 hour hard training ride on my mountain bike, i rode a group of fit looking road-bike riders off of my wheel. So i’ve got a decent level. But then you jump into these races, you find yourself up against current pros, former masters world and national champions and everything in between, and you see that there are sooooo many more levels above me than i ever realized. It’s humbling but also fun and motivating. I’ll never actually get to the top top, but if i can hang in and participate in high level masters races, and occasionally put the hurt on younger dudes, that’ll be enough for me.


Great comments.

I agree that you can tune that engine to be solid from 90m to 5 or so hours for sure.

But the secret is building the engine so you have close to the front because of having a high threshold and tempo ability, then work on fine tuning the top end once you have developed something that can stick around once it is built.

Too many people rush the development of this aerobic fitness at threshold and below, and constantly are trying to add icing on a cake they haven’t quite developed the perfect recipe for.

You are heading the right direction…be patient. You also want to be around and be one of those faster 50 year old people :slight_smile: