That was a lie. While I have been eating quite a lot of canned herring lately, I do not, in fact, have bad herring farts. That red herring title (thanks for giving me the idea of this awesome pun, Tim) was just to get your attention.
Post stage race depression has left and in its wake, newborn excitement for the next big one has come.
I was depressed after Gila, despite having a much better result than I should have reasonably thought possible. 30th is good right? Wrong. I became upset because now I know just how miserably difficult it really is to sign a pro contract. If you have no “in,” like me, you’re pretty much screwed unless you can bust out multiple stage podiums or a top 10 on GC at an NRC or UCI stage race. So with that knowledge bitterly stuffed in my back pocket, and my two brief days of sulking behind me, I’ve come up with a brand new plan: WIN Philly at the beginning of the next month.
Yeah you heard right, breh. I’m fortunate in the fact that I do have a few hook ups in this sport, which includes a guest ride at the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic. I got a call from my old director, Joe Holmes, asking if I wanted to race for the Firefighters Elite Team, which he’ll be directing at Philly. The Firefighters team is one of three amateur squads attending the UCI 1.2 race, so to get an invite to such a big event was pretty awesome. Of course I said yes.
The race will be 120 miles for a total of 10 laps, which includes storming Lemmon Hill and the infamous Manayunk Wall 10 times each. I Rode With GPS’d the route and the course has over 9,o00 ft of climbing. Hey-oh. The Manayunk is a 2-3 minute climb with terrible, cracked, nasty pavement and pitches of 20%. To make it even better, the finish line will be at the top of the climb, where literally tens of thousands of people will cheer and throw beer on us. Philly will be hot, humid, extremely attritious, and rowdy. It’s a race made for a Kennett.
To prepare, I knew I’d have to rest hard after Gila in order to start fresh and build back up with plenty of V02 and anaerobic work in the following weeks. I’ve accomplished step number one already. Step number two depends entirely on the weather. I’m counting on it being really hot. I NEED it to be hot. The hotter it is the worse everyone else will do. I, on the other hand, have a secret weapon up my sleeve: the sauna.
After hearing about some guys in the NRC peloton doing this, I decided to give it some thought. So I did some thinking, some internet searching, and finally some emailing to our hydration sponsor, Osmo Nutrition. I got an answer from Osmo founder, Dr. Stacy Sims, who has done extensive research on physiological response to heat and hydration. She also happens to be one of the main experts on heat adaptation from sauna therapy. Therapy is the wrong word. Torture is more accurate.
The procedure goes like this: end your ride at the gym, preferably entering the sauna no more than 30 minutes after you get off the bike. Don’t drink anything other than the minimal amount to get your recovery drink on. Spend 30 minutes in the sauna at 180 degrees F, and then don’t rehydrate for 3-4 hours post sauna. Sounds easy enough. And it is. You just have to be prepared to suffer. Stacy told me to start out for a short duration and that I might only last for five minutes the first time I went in. I did 35 minutes. I think I was able to last so long because when I first got in I was cold from riding over in the rain. (Side note: the rec center has a co-ed sauna, meaning it’s not kosher to be neked in it. While I wasn’t neked, my towel mostly fell off when I was laying down on the bench, legs spread open wide. I opened my eyes with 10 minutes to go to check on the time and saw a girl sitting next to me who must have gotten more than she bargained for. Or less. I kid. Later, I farted and cleared the place out. Also not accepted sauna etiquette from what I’ve subsequently read).
The next day was harder since I’d done more of a ride beforehand, still not a hard or long ride though. The last five of the 31 minutes were rough. I was growing increasingly disy and disoriented. When I got out I almost began walking into the pool ( I still had no swimsuit–just a towel since I’d ridden there). I came to before I did this and made it into the locker room for a cold shower, having to hold onto a railing to keep my balance. It felt like I was really drunk. Later I had the brilliant idea of putting a strobe light in a sauna with extremely loud dub step, maybe even the whole room is supported by large springs underneath so it sways back and forth. With that sort of disorientation peyote would seem reeeeeally weak.
Afterwards, Adelaide and I rode to the grocery store, rode home, then made a delicious salad and sweet potato fries—the whole time I salivated over the thought of drinking a cold glass of ice water.
Today I did the entire protocol correctly. I did a ride beforehand, entered the sauna already dehydrated, sat upright in the highest bench the entire time with my legs up too, I refrained from a cold shower afterwards, and I didn’t drink anything at all for a half hour. I drank a small glass of juice once I got home, but since then I still haven’t drank anything. The goal of sauna training is to increase red blood cell volume, plasma volume, and capillary density. If I can get just one of those things I’ll be stoked. If I can get one of those things AND the race is super hot, I’ll be really stoked.
The third step to winning Philly (okay even a top 10 would be acceptable with this sort of field) is to pile on the VO2 and anaerobic work. I have 23 days until Philly. With plenty of recovery days thrown in, a three-day stage race, and two local road races from now until then, I’ll be left with roughly 7 hard days of training, so they have to count. My focus for those hard days will be to sharpen my top end to perfection. I can bust out some pretty big power for 1-3 minutes, but the repeatability of that power is the important thing in a race that’s 120 miles long.
Looking at the team start list for the race gets me pretty hard. It will be the best field I’ve raced against and on one of the most demanding, famous courses in the States. As long as I don’t get sick beforehand and nothing bad happens during the race, I think this could be the one for me.