"I'm not dead yet!": Taking on Joe Martin (Trevor's N1 Challenge)

There was a time when going to a week-long stage race was just another week in my spring or summer. The floor of a host family’s home in California or a stay at a beat-up second-cheapest-hotel on Expedia (the cheapest got a little scary) were more familiar to me than my own bed.

Those days are behind me and despite the 20-hour drives, lousy sleeping conditions, fatigue, and constant need for Tegaderm, I truly miss them.

So, when Chris proposed this N1 Challenge to all of us here at Fast Talk Labs, I already knew what I wanted to do. This is the year, I get the big 5-0 on my license and my birthday gift to myself - and my challenge - is to take on another stage race and see how I measure up.

Before the era of Zwift, I did my trainer work watching Rocky movies. One of my favorite quotes is when Rocky’s son asks him in Rocky Balboa if he’s scared of being embarrassed. Rocky replies “What’s so crazy about standing toe-to-toe with someone saying ‘I am’?” I hope this will be my “I am” moment.

By that, I mean I know I’m not going to win. That’s not always the point of racing. But I want to show up on my best form with no excuses and prove I can still compete. The score card can be whatever it’s going to be.

I have yet to decide if I’m going to do the Pro/1 (pro) race or the Cat 1/2 (amateur) race. Obviously I’d like to do the former, but I have to race with a team to do that event and getting a guest spot on a team often means I’m fetching water bottles. I have no issues with that role. I’ve played it many times. But if my challenge is to see how I measure up, I can’t do that carrying water bottles. No excuses…

If you’re looking for a beautiful event, follow @chris’s bikepacking challenge. If you’re looking for inspirational and the excitement of something new, follow @jana’s first race.

Mine is going to be neither of those things.

Mine is going to be sleeping on crappy floors, bandaging up missing skin while getting ready for the next day, suffering through yet another set of intervals when the legs ache, and trying not to let doubt get the better of me.

But I hope for all of you who want to take on a challenge that feels bigger than you - to stand toe-to-toe and say “I am” - that you’ll learn a little from my journey. I want to share with you:

  • how I train at 50 to get ready for an event like this
  • how I intend to address the critical sides that don’t appear on a training plan such as the skills and confidence to ride in a fast 200-person field
  • how I deal with the travel and day-to-day preparation at the event
  • how I strategize each day

In this Forum, I will post key rides when I think there’s something of value to see in them, but it won’t be every ride. If you want to follow my training, check out my Strava profile.

On this Forum, I’ll continue to post about the experience and lessons I relearn along the way. So stay tuned.

And of course, check out all of our Fast Talk Labs N1 Challenges!

- Trevor Connor, Cofounder of Fast Talk Labs


Excited to see you race @trevor! It’s going to be a fun season for all of us in the N:1challenge regardless of what happens in the world or in our individual races.

@trevor as someone closing in a 50 myself. I am looking forward to following and learning from you. I am looking at my N1 challenge this year…But I am also going to use it to springboard for bigger and better challenges in future years!

Thanks @bgkeen! You’ll have to share with us what you decide to do. Hope it proves to be a really good springboard!

I did Joe Martin several years ago (feels like a lifetime ago). The crit is probably one of the hardest that I have ever done. The finish is on a 6-8% grade, and cruelly they made us start there, on the climb, from a dead stop. The downhill is quite sketchy at times as it is steep with at least one chicane before bottoming out onto a tight slight off camber. And that road has some road furniture! :flushed: Highly recommend a google street view recon to help with visualization.


Thanks @SteveHerman! Fully agree with you. I did the race back in 2011 and that crit was brutal. Our field shattered in the last 5 laps and it completely resorted the GC.

Alright, first report on how my training has been going. Though I mostly hope that sharing some personal experience, including some lessons I’m re-learning this year, will help all of you!

I’m getting towards the end of my base season and overall, it’s been going very well. I went into the season telling myself that I had to get back to being serious about my training if I’m going to take on a race like Joe Martin. So, my training has been much more focused than the last four or five years. It really feels like I’m getting back to training how I used to train.

But what is different this year from recent seasons might actually come as a surprise. In the last few years, I was actually doing more high intensity work than now. My go-to intervals for the winter haven’t changed (still doing 5x5s and 4x8s,) but how I execute the workouts is much more directed this year. Last year, I’d often get through a few intervals and then hop in a Zwift race for 30 minutes or semi-time trial to the top of Alpe de Zwift after a mediocre execution. Last year I wasn’t that motivated to do the interval work and told myself if I added a fun race or went after a Zwift KOM, it amounted to the same thing. Here’s an example of doing semi-hearted intervals and then going after the KOM:

Another little cheat I did a lot - notice I gave myself an extra 20 minutes by letting my avatar descend (I wasn’t even on the trainer when it was going down the mountain.)

Here’s another example from March 17 last year where I forced out three intervals at 315 watts and then jumped into a race:

The ride actually generated a whole lot of TSS points, but I can’t say it was very targeted.

Here’s my interval session from a few days ago. Notice I had to keep bumping up my power. After years of never crossing 320 watts in the winter, I actually struggled to believe I could do more this year. So, I started at 320 watts and just kept pushing up the power when I realized I was well below where I should be. It was only in the final interval where I pushed it up to 343 watts and started to get my heart rate to where I wanted:

What’s different this year is I’ve been much more strict about doing the work as planned and that’s it. Almost no semi-time trials, no virtual descents to add time and almost no Zwift races. In fact, when I started jumping into a few Zwift races in February, I made a note on my training plan to stay away from Zwift group rides all together the following week.

Because of the races last year and the semi-TTs after my intervals, I was actually doing more intensity each week last year and accumulating more TSS from above threshold work. But the work was also all over the map. This year its been much more targeted. Focused on hitting just the energy system I want to work and nothing more.

And the difference is I’m 30+ watts stronger than this time last year.

Doing more structured, quality work instead of upping the quantity of my high intensity work is one part of why this year is going much better. There is another big part which is how I’m executing my endurance rides, but I’ll get to that in my next post…


That’s awesome! Great work! I can definitely empathize with the difference between random training and focused training. I have done the former so far this season and am paying the price. Today I am doing my Inscyd test and hope that the insights I get during the debrief with @ryan will help me direct what I need to work on!


At 51, I’m definitely interested in watching your progress and see you mix it up with the big boys and represent us old guys. I’m trying to make the jump to get my fitness to a level so I can get on the podium at the old guy TT nats. My coach and I are constantly juggling the recovery needed and the volume and intensity necessary to push through to the next level. Can’t wait to watch you apply your knowledge in real time.


@SteveHerman Excited to hear what you and Ryan discuss. Really hope it helps!

@ntnyln Thanks for saying that! I’ll do my best to represent us well, but please keep us updated on your progress for TT Nats!

Promised a post on what I feel has made the biggest difference in my training this base season. And that’s been getting back to quality LSD (long slow distance) rides. I’ve never stopped doing them, but when I looked back at my training 10 years ago when I was at a higher level, I saw that they were much higher quality than what I’ve been doing for the last fiver years. Back then, they were simultaneously steadier and harder. I’ll try to show you what I mean. First here’s an LSD ride from March of last year as an example of what I’ve been doing the past few years:

The red line is heart rate. Below that is the heatmap of my power. In the heatmap, green is my aerobic threshold range (what a lot of people call zone 2,) gold is sweet spot up into threshold intensity. Because power is so variable, even on a very steady LSD ride, you will see a fair amount of good spikes.

So, looking at the ride above, first, I’ll say that ride last year isn’t bad. I’m not trying to say I was training horribly last year. I’m trying more to show that I’m optimizing my training this year and little differences are adding up to big changes.

In last year’s ride, I went into the mountains and did a lot of work. It was generally steady and there was only one extended period above my target range (because of the grade.) So again, not horrible. But look at my heart rate - all over the map. My TSS for the ride was 271. Average power was 158 W.

By contrast, here’s the first ride I did in January this year after I did that analysis of my training 10 years ago and realized that I was steadier and eased off less back then. So this was my first attempt to ride like I did 10 years ago:

Notice that heart rate gets right up around 140 BPM (my aerobic threshold range) and sits there. Where I had no problem with my long (unsteady) rides last year, on this ride I cracked hard at about the 3 hour mark climbing up to Estes Park. And notice I cracked even though I was never getting into high zones. This was a true “zone 2” ride. Yet the crack was bad enough that I had to take a rest and then you can see I had to back down coming home. Heart rate plummeted by the end. This ride really showed me how much my endurance and stamina had declined in the last 10 years.

Here’s something else that’s interesting. The ride last year was a 271 TSS and was never really a struggle. This ride destroyed me and my TSS was 288. The difference shows up a little more in average power. This ride was 201 watts. I was crawling at the end of this ride.

Seeing first hand in January how much my endurance had declined, I made this work a big focus of my winter. Meaning weekly steady rides like this where I keep it pegged at the right intensity.

So, this weekend - 2.5 months later - I decided to test myself and did the Estes route again. I should note that while my rides all winter looked really steady like the one above, on this ride, I added a little intensity including a short 15 minute race at the 5.5 hour mark with the friend I was riding with to see if I could go hard that long into a ride. I’m coming into the race season and while I didn’t want to lose the purpose of the ride, I did want to start pushing myself a little more:

What was encouraging for me was the difference between my climb up to Estes in this ride compared to January. In January I cracked. On this ride, I big geared (55 RPM) the climb and actually pushed, for me, a surprisingly high wattage while mostly keeping heart rate in my aerobic threshold zone.

I was riding with a friend and he asked to back down in Estes, so there was admittedly a stretch at a low heart rate after the climb and on the descent, but we still threw down pretty hard over 5 hours into the ride and then we added one more climb at the end. Stats for the ride: 400 TSS and 231 W average to the six hour mark.

This has so far been the biggest change I’ve seen in my fitness this year and frankly in my fitness in general in years. And it’s interesting that the big change was to get away from doing epic rides in the mountains and instead to pick flatter/steadier routes and focus on consistency with few breaks or backing down. I know it sounds strange to talk about not “backing down” when I’m just doing a zone 2 ride, but if you go at even that intensity long enough with no rest, it gets to be a struggle. I really showed that in January when it cracked me at 2.5 hours into a ride.


End of Base Season Training Camp

Just finished my end-of-the-base-season training camp! Feeling great right now but I’m sure It’s going to be tough getting out of bed tomorrow.

[FIRST A BIG DISCLAIMER - this was a really big camp and I DO NOT recommend anyone reading this emulate it exactly. I went into it knowing I was going to run the razor’s edge and risk non-functional overreach. I know myself well and know that line for me, and I went very close to the edge. Just repeating what I did without customizing it to your needs, WILL take you over the edge.]

Alright, here’s the stats on the week from Training Peaks:


The focus of this camp was on building my stamina in preparation for a stage race. It’s one thing to put out good numbers, but another thing to put out good numbers fatigued. So, I wanted to tire myself and then force myself to do another hard day and yet another hard day…

My usual approach is some HIT work on the first day or two, then big volume steady days and then (in my March/April camp) a race on the final day to force myself to perform on exhausted legs. This one went mostly as planned:

Day 1: Time Trials
We did the 4DP test. I knew my legs were tired from the previous weekend and my numbers were going to be bad - so no need for an INSCYD or metabolic cart test. This was more about getting some intensity at the start of the camp. I rode with @jana and @chris who both rode like superstars! I didn’t. Here’s the heatmap:

Day 2: Climbing, team time trials, and filming
This day was unique. What was really cool about this day is that @jana and @sam came out with the car and filmed us the entire day. So, instead of my usual routine, we started with a climb to the top of Sunshine (an HC climb) to get some good footage.

After the climb, I still wanted to get intensity and I love doing team time trials in a typical camp. The idea is you work in groups of four and do 8x8 minutes at a hard breakaway pace. We cruised to south Boulder and met with a few other riders (Ben, Kristin and Kyle.) The first few TTTs were slower for filming purposes and then we hit it hard:


And of course, I had to finish the day with a Flagstaff climb:

Camp Day 3: Solo Steady Riding
My one day by myself. Wanted to push it, but kept reminding myself the weekend was going to be epic. I needed to keep it in control. I climbed up into the mountains and got in a good steady aerobic threshold ride. In fact, this one was actually a really good example of a “zone 2” ride:

Heart rate shows it better (I did all my pacing by heart rate.) The purple band is my aerobic threshold hear rate range. I really focused on staying in that range:

The other good indicator was my cardiac drift which should be minimal on a aerobic threshold ride. The green line in the graph below shows my change in heart rate-to-power. If it rises significantly over the course of a ride, then there’s a lot of drift. If it sits on the dotted green line, there’s no drift:

Very encouraging to see a 6.5 hour ride with no cardiac drift!

Camp Day 4: Epic Climbing Day
A University of Colorado cyclists named Kyle joined me for this one. We did my favorite climbing route in Boulder - Sunshine (cat 1), Flagstaff (cat 1), 4 Mile to Peak-to-Peak (HC climb) and then finished with Olde Stage (cat 3). 11,500 feet of climbing on the day.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Kyle listened well and did not go easy on me. Sunshine and Flagstaff were just pain on aching legs. Fortunately when we got to 4 Mile (my type of climb,) I put it in a big gear and got a little revenge:

Six hours, fifty minutes and 389 TSS. I was happy to sit and stare at a wall for a bit when I got home…

Camp Day 5: Race Pace Practice
This is where I didn’t get to do my normal final camp day. There was simply no race to go and join. So, Kyle and I did a ride on the flats to Fort Collins and initially planned just easier volume.

But as we got to about the 3 hour mark, I decided I wasn’t going to have any of that. Due to a tailwind heading to Fort Collins, we had an average speed around 19 mph. But I wanted to get a 20 mph average for the day, I wanted to hit it by the five hour mark, and I was well aware we were going back into the wind. I took us up to 21-22 mph which was about all I thought my tired legs would be able to handle. But the average wasn’t coming up fast enough. So, at around the 4:15 mark I decided I’d get my “race” and do some breakaway practice. I took it up to 24-25 mph and did my best to hold it for 45 minutes. Kyle commented that a few grunts were about all he heard out of me. We got our 20 mph with five minutes to spare and then held it for another hour and a half:

Final stats for the day: 6.5 hours, 130 miles, 369 TSS, 6056 feet of climbing.

So what am I leaving off… lots of stretching, foam rolling, and eating every day after I got home!


Great work over the week and thanks for posting and sharing!

1 Like

@trevor Wow! That’s a ton of hard work! Great job. How did you manage the fatigue day to day? Do you think it’s a function of the base you’ve built over the years giving you a boost or is there a little more to what you were “leaving” off?

Despite doing some decent volume and carrying a solid CTL (usually 90-110,) I find that two big days of 300ish TSS back to back leaves me pretty wanting the second day. I keep coming back to possibly poor fueling on day 1 leaving me empty since I have a pretty solid general recovery plan (big fan of Whoop as a descriptive addition to my tool chest.) Eating on the bike is a bit of a problem for me especially on big days and I’m wondering how much that plays into your ability to pull of what you did.

1 Like

@ntnyln I won’t lie to you, it’s not easy. I don’t think there’s any tricks. Frankly, my best trick was getting a 23-year-old to ride the last two days with me and rip me apart. As bad as the legs felt, when he started dropping me on the climbs, it was very motivating.

I know that sounds like a joke, but it’s actually not. I’d like to say there’s ways to feel better on the second and third day but there’s only so much you can do. I woke up on the last two days of my camp wondering if I could even get on my bike.

I do think that years of base can help, but you can also lose it. I had that base fitness to go hard day-after-day 10 years ago. Back then I could do a six or seven day camp and sometimes feel better at the end of it. But it only took a few years to lose that stamina. Around 2016 I noticed that instead of getting stronger during stage races, I got weaker every day. And the same thing happened in training. After a big day I couldn’t do anything the next day.

It’s really been the last year that I’ve started to get back my old stamina. And it wasn’t recovery techniques or a change in diet. I’ve just forced myself to push through it. I’m being very careful not to over-reach (i.e. I’ll do a couple fatiguing days but then really rest.) I’ve had to do a lot of back-to-back days where the legs don’t want to go hard on the second day and I force them to anyway. Honestly having a training partner who gives me no sympathy helps. But it takes will power and it hurts. It also takes patients. I noticed this winter it took a month or two before it started getting easier to put out the power on the second day.

So the best I can offer you is that fueling and proper recovery do help. But ultimately, the best strategy is making your body do two fatiguing days (sometimes more) and then let your body adapt to it. I’m always amazed by what our bodies can adapt to.

1 Like

Thanks for the detailed response @trevor. I’ve been pushing through those big back-to-back days and will keep at it to keep building that stamina. You make a good point about having someone to push you, especially on the later days. I do most of my training solo (some COVID related, some different goal related) but a little more of that in the right spots could help push a little further. Thanks!

@ntnyln, glad that helped! Hope you’re able to find a training partner. The right partner can make a huge difference. For example, I consider myself a pretty self-motivated guy and actually enjoy riding alone. But, when I’m hurting, having a strong rider to push me can make the difference between a great training day and limping home early after a pretty lackluster ride.

Getting Back to Racing

As I mentioned before, I don’t consider a camp done with the last day of training. The recovery week afterwards is just as much a part of the camp and I don’t consider it done until the legs are back.

A strange little indicator I get - I put on a lot of water weight during camps (as much as 10 lbs.) I know I’m close to being recovered when that weight comes back down and it finally dropped by Saturday after my camp.

With only three hours of very easy riding between the end of my camp on Sunday and the the following Sunday, I felt pretty good about my rest and I was looking forward to seeing what sort of bump I got.

That said, I finished my recovery week with not the best choice… a race. in fact, my first race since 2019. I knew it wasn’t a great choice, but a friend really wanted to go to the event and I was his only opportunity for a lift. What can I say… I’m a nice guy and if I’m going to drive several hours to a race, I’m going to race.

I’ve raced on recovery weeks before. It’s not a pleasant experience. In fact, I’ve had a couple races where I didn’t last 10 minutes. If the body went into recovery mode during the recovery week, there are no painkillers flowing. So, the legs hurt and feel really flat. Basically the anti-thesis of what you want on race day.

I went to the race in that mode. I also have done no race fitness work. I also haven’t raced in a year-and-a-half. Hopes were not high. My ambition was to try to get an hour in the pack getting comfortable with riding in a pack again.

The course was a relatively flat course with a bunch of 30 second to 1 minute climbs. It was in the desert with strong winds. Not the best course for a guy like me.

There were about 50 to 70 riders in the field and as I feared, the pack felt very unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I had my work cut out if I’m going to have my pack skills back by August for Joe Martin. I found myself slipping to the left side of the field before I forced myself to ride in the middle. Ugh… why’s everyone so close to me? Did that guy just bump me? What am I doing here?! All the thoughts I didn’t want to have…

We hit the first kicker climb. Ouch! Any effort over threshold just ached. Not a single painkiller flowing in my legs. Good to know…

I needed a confidence boost to change my mindset. There was a breakaway up the road and the field was starting to chase. Good! I moved forward and got into the rotation. No better way to build confidence than to do something.

We caught the breakaway but kept rotating. I took a long pull and then moved left. No one came through. I looked back. I had 10 seconds on the field. Well… damn. I thought about it for a minute and decided “why not?” No big power in my legs so I locked in around 300 watts and went for it. Didn’t expect to last more than five minutes.

So why is the field getting small? And why isn’t the motorbike ahead of me? I don’t know where I’m going. Oh well… I put my head down. Ten minutes… 15 minutes… come on guys, you’re supposed to chase me! Then a solo rider passed me. I knew what that meant. I looked back and the field was coming like a bullet. I slipped back into the field. Glad I did something!

Then the race got crazy… roller after roller, cross-winds and constant attacks. This is getting fun. I jumped into some moves but the aching legs were limiting me. Finally a big move went up the road. That was the move and I knew it!

A friend, Drew Christopher, jumped to bridge across and I got on his wheel. We closed about 2/3ds of the gap. That hurt! Then we both cracked. “Lousy legs today” I commented. “Tell me about it” he said. We both slunk back to the field watching the winning move go up the road. Oh well.

The next hour was a semi-organized chase but not enough to bring them back. I was happy to see a lot of riders had already been popped. At least I wasn’t the first which felt like a miracle with my recovery-week legs. But as we came around to the rollers and cross-wind again, I knew I was in trouble. The few matches I started the race with were already burned.

We hit the first hard roller and I was out the back with two other riders. But painfully still close. I put in a surge to try to close the 10 seconds, but only managed to drop my companions. Great. Eighteen miles of cross-winds to go and I’m solo. I put my head down and chased holding the field painfully close, but not close enough to bridge.

Riders started falling off the back and I either caught them or passed them. I eventually found myself with Drew’s teammate George and we worked together to get to the finish. We weren’t catching anyone but we weren’t letting anyone catch us either.

Not a result to write home about (I finished 26th,) but considering my expectations, I’ll call it a good start to the season.

Here’s my heatmap for the race:

All pretty reasonable power. The biggest sustained effort was the breakaway towards the beginning.

What I’m more encouraged by was my heart rate:

Almost entirely in the sweet spot range and only just touching threshold a few times. That tells me the race was well within my limits. My issue was the complete inability to put in short aggressive efforts. Some of that was due to my training (no race work yet,) but probably more due to my recovery week legs.

More interesting is this graph which shows my decline in FRC (similar to W’). Theoretically when it hits zero, I’ve lost all ability to go above threshold power:

My breakaway didn’t dip into that capacity, but the attempts to get into the attacks and bridge to the winning move did make a big dent. dFRC hit zero around 1:10:00 which was when Drew and I tried to bridge. Confirmation that I didn’t have the legs for that move (and need to work on that.) Races always come down to just a few critical moments and I didn’t rise to the occasion in this critical moment.

Just as interesting was the point where I got popped (right at the 2:30:00 mark.) Here’s a zoom in:

I definitely dipped into that capacity but I didn’t deplete it. Not even close. Confirmation of what I felt later - my race stamina isn’t great right now, but my getting popped was more mental than physical. Another good thing to be aware of and work on through this spring.

Thanks for reading!



Thanks for sharing! A friend of mine was in the same race, he races for COS I believe. I haven’t talked to him about how his race went.

I am impressed with the detail of your recap. Usually my post race recall goes something like “So and so attacked and I blacked out for a while then when I came to I was off the back.” I guess that speaks to the race being within your abilities!