I have a great opportunity for you to see the four amazing Alpine stages of this year’s Tour de France, including Alpe d’Huez, Galibier and the Time Trial in Grenoble at a VERY reasonable cost. Normally, the best hotel rooms within an hour or two drive to the most exciting parts of the stages have been reserved for 6-8 months, most of them by tour companies like me!

As a small tour operator, I usually send quite a few self-guided tours to the Tour de France. I give my clients everything they need to know to do it on their own in total confidence. Everything! It’s my specialty and I believe my clients are better prepared than most who show up to see the Tour. That is why I was so excited when the TDF route was announced last October I was able to reserve hotel rooms in Les Deux Alpes, a fabulous Alpine village with easy cycling access (well, maybe “easy” isn’t the right word! More like convenient!) to stages 18 (Galibier) and 19 (Alpe d’Huez) and also within a short drive of stages 17 (to access Izoard and/or Montgenevre & Sestriere) and stage 20 (TT in Grenoble). For this year’s Tour, no location is better! We Tour Operators battle it out amongst hundreds around the world for a relatively small number of really good rooms, so I was very fortunate.

Had I been able to properly market the self-guided tours, they would have sold out for sure. In fact, I was planning to go myself…… but 2011 had different plans for me and my family. It was a very challenging start to the year, and my attention has been taken completely in another direction since February. As a result, I was unable to put the time into promoting the tours except for a couple of clients.

And now I’m stuck with ten fantastic hotel rooms in the best location for one of the most exciting series of stages in the Alpes at the Tour de France! I am prepared to give them away at my cost – or if you want, I’ll provide you the Tour de France Vélo Concierge package at a great discount. (More on that in a moment).

I’m not kidding when I say Les Deux Alpes is the best village in the area. The village of Alpe d’Huez is actually kind of ugly (with mostly 70’s style concrete hotels) but L2A is really charming, with an alpine feel, a vibrant village center, great restaurants and easy access to everything in the area. It has lots of activities for non-Tour fans as well, so if you want to bring your family, they won’t lack for other outdoor fun things to do while you go suffer on the climbs on your bike!

Here’s the scoop on these rooms:

The Hotel Souleil Or, Les Deux Alpes
July 19-23 (4 nights)
An excellent 3-star hotel with a beautiful pool at the foot of the ski mountain
145€/night including breakfast in a double room
Your total would be 580€

I’ve already paid the deposit and a few fees. You would simply pay me what I’ve got into the rooms, and then pay the hotel the balance on checkout. (I’ll send you a confirmation that the rooms have been transferred to your name)

Usually my self-guided bicycle tour packages are $800/pp for up to 8 days of info and routes plus hotels. So these rooms plus the self-guided service would normally be anywhere from $2,600 – $3,800 (USD) for two people. You can see what a great opportunity this is!

Contact me at jennifer@vivatravels.com for more information.

This is the view descending the Galibier!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 21, 2009

The Giretto – Stage 3 Grado to Valdobiadenne

The beginning of today’s ride was, well, boring, flat and even ugly. Well maybe not ugly (this IS Italy afterall), but certainly not scenic. We had very trafficky roads, through numerous cities. Ugh.

Grada to Valdobbiadene

Grada to Valdobbiadene

We just put our heads down and rode in consistent pacelines, with 6-10 minute pulls in front. From a cycling perspective, it was very fun, and I was very happy at the compatibility of our team. I found something interesting out; my HR did not reach as high when in front as in previous days, rarely reaching 10 beats of my threshold. This is due to the fact that fatigue affects the muscles before it does the heart. My legs were tired, my RPE was just as high. I just couldn’t get my HR up there. Nevertheless, the output remained strong.

I know now that I didn’t have quite the volume of training under my belt that I should have had. So with that in mind, I did quite well!

The scenery became more beautiful as we approached the foothills, and the roads a little less crowded. But we knew were getting “reeled in” by the peleton and that the publicity caravan was close behind us. We stopped to watch it go by in a pretty area with vineyards all around us. A local man came over to chat, and indicated with his hand a steep hill coming up – I thought he was referring to a climb closer to Valdobbiadene. I had no idea what we were in for, none of us did. After the caravan went by and we got back on our bikes, we saw what he was referring to…

A few hundred meters later, we made a sharp left turn, and there in front of us was a wall. I mean, a veritable wall! Our first major hill, and it was a monster. Not in length mind you – it was just under a mile, but holy steepness batman! In retrospect I really wish I took some photos, but to get off the bike to take pictures would have meant falling over, or not starting again, it was that steep! At least 17%, but Gene thinks it was even more. See the first bump in the profile map above – it’s practically vertical.

Nina took off like a rocket – what a powerhouse! I brought up the rear – every pedal stroke only taking me that far, wishing I had one more gear in my compact gearing. The road was lined with hundreds of fans, literally 3-4 people thick on either side of the road, pressing in on us. They know where the exciting action will be – right here on the murderous climbs! “Forza, forza bionda! Vai Vai Vai!” they called out to me (many calling me “blondie”). I felt like one of the pros, and was grateful for the exhilarating encouragement, because without that, as well as my iPod pumping out totally energetic rhythms to help me turn the pedals, I might not have made it. I just hope I wasn’t drooling…

No problem getting to threshold there (but still not as high as I would have expected it).

Wow! That was really something. The van came up a little later and he said he had a hard time getting up pulling his trailer. Thank God for his sponsor logos plastered all over the van and trailer – everyone thought he was part of the publicity caravan.

That would have been a fun place to watch the racers, but we needed to keep moving. Instead we found a beautiful spot further up on the crest of a hill with excellent views. Without a doubt, the approaching sound of the helicopter raises your heart rate and gets the adrenaline going! As usual, the peleton didn’t disappoint; at this point, it was in about 3 medium groups, still fairly close together.

Peleton on stage 3

Peleton on stage 3

Back on our bikes, at the bottom of the descent we made a decision to make a little detour to cut off about 20km (and a good size climb) to try to get to Valdobbiadene sooner. It was a fortuitous decision, because it actually allowed us to see the peleton again as they rejoined the road we detoured on! Some action had occurred on that hill we missed – they were more spread out and Astana was leading.

Astana was leading as they came around the corner

Astana was leading as they came around the corner.

As it turned out, we were just 50 meters away from where a decisive crash occurred. Just up a short hill, a traffic jam occurred with the team cars – mechanics were running up the hill with wheels and extra bikes. 

Stage 3 traffic jam due to crash at top of the rise

Stage 3 traffic jam due to crash at top of the rise

After I took this photo, I was going to run up to see the action – but it quickly filled with a mass of people and I didn’t want to leave my bike behind. Had I gone up there, I would have seen one of my favorite riders Christian Vende Velde on the ground with broken ribs – his Giro over. 

Back on the road, we were getting close to the finish. This was Pro Secco country. I saw one sign that said, “No Pro Secco, No Party!”  – wish I got a photo of that one. But I did stop to take a photo of this moving sign. The Italians still love Marco Pantani, and will never forget him:

Pantani will always be in our hearts

Pantani will always be in our hearts

And of course, we had to stop for a cheesy photo at this pink tractor:

The pink tractor near Valdobbiadene

The pink tractor near Valdobbiadene

Arriving in the very small exceedingly crowded village of Valdobbiadene was challenging with all the traffic already trying to leave, but they were still partying heavily in the village.

Crowds at the finish in Valdobbiadene

Crowds at the finish in Valdobbiadene

And of course, we had to have our daily Gelato, a proven recovery food…

Gelato is the best recovery food...

Gelato is the best recovery food...

An unlikely Giro fan in the village square…

Cute Giro fan in Valdobbiadene

Cute Giro fan in Valdobbiadene

Getting out of there was a nightmare – it took forever to find our van and driver, with huge traffic jams getting out of there, followed by a very long drive to Padova to our next B&B. We stopped to eat on the way, but truly, we weren’t getting enough of the right nutrition at the right time. It’s best to replace glycogen stores within 45-60 minutes of a hard effort; we weren’t doing that. I think this added to the challenges I faced on the next day’s stage, as well as the fact that we didn’t get to sleep until after midnight.

Todays’ stage was meant to be 120 miles. We did 108. I felt great, I felt strong, and I was very happy with that accomplishment! Already with two successive 100-mile days I’d done more than I’ve ever done before!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 20, 2009

The Giretto Stage 1 The Lido; Team Time Trial

Stage 1 was on The Lido, an island just east of Venice. The time trial route is amazingly short – only 21.5km (13miles). Our plan was to ride from our B&B to the ferry station, take the boat to the Lido, and ride the perfectly flat course. But, when we got to the ferry, they adamantly denied access to all bicycles (this was only for the day of the Giro – normally you can get over there on bikes). Another group of cyclists from Australia were there with us to be disappointed. Ah shucks…

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This photo is the bello ragazzo that turned us away – he was only doing his job! But we had to record it on camera – the idea was to look disappointed in the photo, and Nina and Jim on the right just couldn’t do that…

We rode back to the inn (a grand total of 18 miles RT, so we DID get in our required stage distance, just in case you’re wondering), jumped in the van and drove to the ferry. Upon arrival in Lido, we were attracted to loud music, very loud. It was an outdoor “indoor cycling” class of about 150+ bikes. (I can’t call it Spinning, because they were Schwinn bikes and instructors). It was awesome. There were 4 instructors on stage, we got there in time to watch the last one, a very motivating inspiring instructor. There were drums and other instruments on stage; it would have been awesome to see that part of it!

Indoor cycling class on the Lido

Indoor cycling class on the Lido

They were obviously simulating a time trial. The instruction was excellent (though not everyone in the audience had good form, in fact some were abysmal, BUT, at least it was all proper riding and no contraindications). They stayed in the saddle for most of it, with a few short 5-10 seconds out of the saddle, probably to simulate a “pull” at the front of the paceline or coming out of a corner to regain speed. I don’t speak Italian so I didn’t know what he was saying, but it was obvious it was mostly inspirational. (I have video and photos of it….but I’m having technical problems trying to upload the video to my computer from the camcorder so you’ll have to wait. Trying to contact Canon for help…)

After having lunch and strolling around the island a bit, we found a great spot to watch the riders as they came around a turn. I actually was balancing three cameras: a video which also takes stills, my digital camera, and my iPhone, so I could immediately send them via Twitter! I looked a little silly. Most of these photos are Gene’s however, as I shot mostly video.

IMG_4730

IMG_4726

Team time trials are a lot more interesting to watch than individual time trials. The team strategy is quite fascinating and they look so ominous in that tight paceline! Two American teams were 1 and 2 and the 3rd place team was a “pseudo-American” team. First was Colombia Highroad (Cavendish in the pink jersey), second was Garmin-Chipotle (with Christian Vande Velde), and third was Astana (a Kazakh sponsor but with Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner).

After the race we had to get to the ferry on the north side of the island, as our driver Daniele was going to pick us up there to go to our next hotel in Jesolo. Here is Team Giretto the day before the first BIG DAY of riding! (The race finish and ferry dock is behind Gene’s head in the photo).

Team Giretto on the Lido

Funny, amazing story

We were on the ferry and barely noticed that everyone else on it was credentialed; apparently we had snuck onto a VIP ferry with team vehicles underneath the main deck, and photographers, media, mechanics, etc on top. Gene had us duck under a rope because he didn’t want to walk to the other ferry dock they directed us to. Had we looked around we probably would have seen lots of other VIPs, although we did see Paolo Bettini, retired Italian cyclist. We determined that the ferry that left just before us had the actual teams on it (can you imagine if we had snuck onto that one?!)

I was reading tweets on my iPhone and read the feed from Lance’s photographer, Liz Kreutz, who was there at the Giro riding a moto during the stages and snapping photos. I follow her Twitter feed regularly. As we walked off the ferry, I said to Gene and Nina, “You know who we need to meet? We need to meet Liz Kreutz.” I was pondering who might help us make a connection with Lance and/or Livestrong.

The lady next to me stopped in her tracks, looked at me, and said, “That’s me!” She had a large camera around her neck.

Holy Cow! What are the chances of that? This is about as coincidental and unlikely as one can get. I mean, imagine walking anywhere, and hearing the total stranger next to you say they want to meet you!

I was dumbfounded, but managed to say that I really enjoyed her Tweets and tried to explain what we were doing with the Giretto, and that even though we were raising money for Livestrong (with their blessing) they hadn’t even acknowledged us, hadn’t sent out a single tweet despite Gene’s regular requests. I thought maybe Liz could just mention to Lance who we were and what we were doing. Maybe he would care more than Livestrong.

Liz got a phone call right then and had to run; I said I would send her a tweet and she said she’d be on the lookout for it.

But she still isn’t following me, even after my requests, and never answered back. I know she’s busy in the press rooms, but I thought the truly unique and coincidental means of our meeting would inspire her to respond.

So Lance didn’t know we were there or what we were doing (despite the entire concept of our Giretto ride being completely epic and unusual). And Livestrong still hasn’t responded to or acknowledged us, which is quite disappointing, when we’ve used total grassroots methods to raise over $10K (only 3 people!!) and plan to turn this into a much bigger event next year.

Sigh…

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 15, 2009

I’m back from Italy!

I’m back from Italy…and I have numerous posts waiting to be cut and pasted. I learned that on a trip like this, it’s impossible to think you can eat a good pre-ride breakfast (which suck in Italy), organize your stuff for the day, ride 100 miles (and eat enough in the process), see a little of the stage, get to the van then drive to your next hotel (anywhere from 30-60km away), eat dinner, shower, get a massage, and try to get to sleep. OH, AND write a blog post and download photos??? There was no way that was going to happen! Only our basic needs became priority – eat, sleep, ride and hotel (and maybe a massage) were the only things that mattered. Even our conversations at dinner never varied beyond those few things, except maybe a discussion of how the day went or the Giro.

We did not have one night where we got more than 6 hours sleep, which is not a good thing when you’re trying to ride this much. The body NEEDS rest, and we did not get it.

In brief here’s what exciting info I have coming for you in the next few days:

  • descriptions of stages 3, 4 and 5. VERY exciting!
  • how to eat when riding this much (and why it’s so difficult)
  • photos, videos
  • how things went from bad to worse after stage 4 – I ended up in the hospital! An analysis of what went wrong and how I (or anyone reading this) could avoid repeating it.
  • thoughts on how to run the Giretto better next year. 

Come back soon for more. I just have to play catch up at home (300+ emails) and get all my photos in one place. Man, these things always take longer than expected!
 
Ciao!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 11, 2009

Stage 2 of the Giretto – riding the Giro d’Italia

The pro riders weren’t starting until 1:30, so we didn’t have to start as early as initially expected. We actually got a pretty fast start, setting a paceline from the beginning. Not far into our ride, a young bello ciclista in full cycling regalia got on our wheel and asked where we were going. When we told him Trieste, he decided to join us for part of the way and ended up pulling for about 15-20 miles at a pretty fast clip. It was nice to get the pull!

After he dropped off, it was the three of us in a paceline. When I was in front, I was at threshold when holding 20.5 mph; when drafting my heart rate dropped 15-20 beats. Me, I like to draft! :-) Nina, she loves to be in front.

It was a flat, flat course, not very scenic until we got into Trieste, and then it was spectacular along the Adriatic coast.

The Adriatic Sea

The Adriatic Sea

We encountered a problem however, when Nina’s knee started acting up. I know from experience that sometimes knee pain comes on hard, and there’s no reprieve. We messed with cleats and seat position, to no avail. But she’s very determined, and rode all the way into Trieste.

The cleat doctor at work

The cleat doctor at work

Gino and Nina entering Trieste on the race course

Gino and Nina entering Trieste on the race course

The coast line rose above the sea along a cliff – our first “climb”, with views of a sparkling city in the distance hugging the edge of the ocean. Beyond Trieste to the south just a few miles is Croatia, what turns into the Dalmation Coast, Croatia is somewhere I am dying to visit (and research for future bike tours). Not far to the east is Slovenia, so we were really on the edge of several countries.

We got caught by the publicity caravan which if truth be told, is laughable. Compared to the Tour de France caravans I’ve experienced, it’s quite boring! But this meant we didn’t have much time until the peleton arrived, so we pushed it into the city. The last 25 km were virtually empty of cars, save a few official vehicles here and there, so it was delightful! As we entered and rode through the city, the roads were lined with thousands of people cheering.

The finish line in Trieste

The finish line in Trieste

The above photo does little to convey this excitement!

Once in Trieste there was an initial smaller loop through the streets of the city (the peleton would do several laps, we opted just for one). Then another 10km loop that returned back to the same spot right on the water – this gave the fans virtually 5 views of the racers. I don’t remember a Tour de France route that has ended quite like this with so many circuits – I wonder if it’s peculiar to the Giro?

We did that 10km loop with not much time to spare. I have to say that it was one of the most thrilling moments I’ve ever had on a road bike. It was winding, up and down on the outskirts of the city and then right back into the city center, with some real fun parts that would translate into very dangerous sections when cyclists are truly racing them.

We were the only ones on the road, and the thick layers of fans on each side cheered for us as if we were the pros. Maybe it was our snazzy kits that threw them off!

No time to snap photos, we were cutting it close at this point.With 4 km to go, a policeman stepped into the center of the street and said, “Chiusi per biciclettas”. Closed? Gene took off around him at full tilt and I just looked at him like a dumb American and said, “Non capisco!” Now we were really racing. Man, what a blast! There was no finish line to cross because they had to wait for the peleton to do it’s 4 laps, then they would open up that section of the railing.

So we joined the throngs of people and scrambled for a view. We were 200m from the finish, and it was sure to be a sprint finish, but unless you were literally on the fence (like those who had been guarding their spot for hours, perhaps even all day), it was hard to see over the layers of heads in front of you. We did find a truck bed to stand on with several dozen others and managed a few photos.

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From there, this was our view (the first lap through):

Stage 2 Lap 1

Stage 2 Lap 1

Gino managed to get a good location for the actual sprint finish and took this next photo of the tail end of the peleton. Notice something funny? Two Liquigas riders riding the opposite direction (in lime green)? They’re like “La-dee-da, we’re done and you’re not!” The Giro is weird sometimes…

Stage 2 finish

Stage 2 finish

Petacchi won this stage, just ahead of Cavendish, who got to keep the pink jersey.

Afterwards, we walked around the piazza of Trieste and enjoyed the people watching. A few shots of this amazing piazza:

Trieste Piazza after Giro stage 2

Trieste Piazza after Giro stage 2

Building detail glimmering in the Trieste sun

Building detail glimmering in the Trieste sun

Giro fans?

Giro fans?

We then had to jump into Daniele’s van for the 45 min drive to our hotel in Grado, the start of the next day’s stage. The others wanted a shower before eating, but I HAD to eat before showering, so Jimmy, our massage therapist and vidographer (Gene’s brother) and I went for dinner first. That means I got to have the first massage!

Jimmy and I out to dinner in Jesolo

Jimmy and I out to dinner in Jesolo

And boy did I need it. I felt great today after the ride, surprisingly good for 100 miles, but not until someone starts pressing and poking you do you realize how much you hurt.

Not much sleep that night…the next day would be our longest stage and the alarm would go off at 6:15, only 5 1/2 hours later.

 

Note: I posted this the next night after Stage 3, around midnight (and added photos a week later) – one thing we’ve learned is that things ALWAYS take much, much longer than you expect, and you rarely can find internet when you’re on the road! So that’s why my stage posts are our of order…

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 10, 2009

We’re at the Giro in Italy! The Giretto has begun!

It’s been quite difficult to find internet service so I’m rather behind in my posts (not to mention the fact that I started behind with not posting my last 2 weeks of training)!

I am borrowing a computer for this so I can’t post my photos either – but hope to do that tomorrow. But, if you are following me on Twitter, I’ve been posting some fun photos taken with my iPhone.

Arrival day in Venice – all went very smoothly on my three flights and my bag and bike arrived no problem. In fact, two of the flights were 30-45 minutes early – unheard of! I had a frequent flyer ticker and flew first class. Uh oh…I could get very used to that! the best part was being able to take a shower in the 1st class lounge at Heathrow during my 4 hour layover.

That first day, we hung out in Venice until jet lag got the best of us and forced us back to the B&B and dinner. Here’s some photos of our day in Vencie, such a romantic and beautiful city:

 

Beauty of Venice

Beauty of Venice

Venice old buildings

 

Venice gondolas

Venice gondolas

 

1,000 city behind me

1,000 year old city behind me

Team Giretto - the day before the BIG event!

Team Giretto - the day before the BIG event!

 

We stopped in this pub for a beer before heading to our B&B

We stopped in this pub for a beer before heading to our B&B

 

Please support us! We still are trying to make our bark even bigger with the Livestrong organization. If all my Twitter followers, Spinning blog followers, students and supporters only gave $5 or $10 (truly, it’s not much at all) then we’d surpass all our goals! This is for Livestrong, and everyone on this earth has been (or will be) affected by cancer in some way – either personally or someone you care about.

Livestrong is a fantastic organization. Thank you for your support.

And just a suggestion: sign up for Twitter and follow us. Even if you don’t do much else with it, you’ll get lots of fun Tweets and pics LIVE from us here at the Giro. And while you’re at it, follow Lance, because he is almost as much fun as we are! I even got my husband Jeff to sign up for Twitter, because it may be one of the only ways he hears from me! Now, that was a big move for him.

Our Twitter handles:
Me: @vivavelo
Gene: @liveon2wheels
Nina: @cyclingchic

Lance: @lancearmstrong 

 

RIDE ON!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 30, 2009

I set my record for an indoor ride!

I taught my regular 6 am class this morning, and then had to sub an 8:45 class. Why not just stay and ride in between? Sounded like a good idea at the time. And I have to say, it went by fairly quickly, with great tunes and a driving beat. All told, 3 hours 45 minutes. (I’ve only ridden longer on a Spin bike in Spinathons with many people around. So I count this as a record).

I taught the same profile for both classes, and it’s not an ‘easy’ ride either. It was 4 sets of extensive intervals of 10-12 minutes, each with a different focus. First flats, then climbs, then on the flats again then climbs again. I had some great music for this ride (I’ll post this profile sometime in the future on my Spinning blog) so that makes a huge difference in staying motivated and interested. The ride itself is fairly challenging, but I tried to hold myself back somewhat in the 6 am class; I think I got my HR just touching LT a few times.

Then for the 1:45 in between, I sat and rode mostly in zones 1 and 2, occasionally 3 for short periods. Quite easy.

For the final class, I let myself push it a bit – thinking I would “simulate” one of the Giro stages that ends with a challenge after a long time in the saddle. 

Afterwards, I led a 30-minute core class, mostly on the fitball.

It was a 4-jersey day! Yes, I went through four jerseys in those four hours (five if you count the shirt I changed into to teach the core class), as I hate to continue riding in a sweaty, wet jersey clinging to me. (Fortunately that never happens outside).

I can honestly say I feel great! Not drained, not lagging. Yes, a bit tired, but mostly from lack of enough sleep. I am really feeling fit, and that’s a tremendously good feeling.

Fit enough for four centuries in a row?? Well, we’ll see. My longest time in the saddle is 4.5 hrs and 62 miles. I certainly wish I had more outdoor riding time. But marathoners don’t usually run a full marathon before a race, do they?

It is what it is and I am feeling good. I leave in 8 days from today! Fitness-wise, and body weight-wise, I see a difference in my calf muscles, in my arms (that’s the first place I lose weight), and my face. My quads feel stronger, harder. But so far no change to the Buddha Belly – wouldn’t you know, the place I’d like to lose the most, is the last place to lose it! Typical.

This is the earliest I’ve ever experienced this, so I am excited for what I can accomplish the rest of the summer. :-)

I’m pretty happy with my donations so far, although I’m still short of my goal of $2,500. If you, my reader, can see to supporting me with a small donation, I would be eternally grateful! I am not looking for big donations from a few people, rather I’m asking for small donations from more people. That way you feel good, and I feel good, and the Livestrong foundation feels good, and life is good! ;-)  Can you handle donating just a fancy drink at Starbucks worth (preferably a Venti)!

Please support me in this crazy epic event. www.cyclingfusion.com/jennifer.html

Thanks, and MUCH appreciated!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 23, 2009

Training for the Giretto – fatigue yes, but no soreness

Not since I have started training in earnest for The Giretto have I been sore.

I find this a very good thing! Perhaps I haven’t pushed myself far enough, and perhaps I’ll feel it when I do a “real” climb longer than 3 miles (soon).

But on the other hand, I am so impressed with the concept of training responsibly with gradual progression, I have to say IT REALLY WORKS! I mean, there’s no reason to have to be sore!

OK, that might sound stupid coming from a personal trainer and longtime cyclist. As a trainer, I’ve always preached this to my clients. But I have to admit I fall into that category of humans who sometimes thinks things don’t “apply to me”. I mean, I’m fit, I’ve been fit most of my life, and I have always had an attitude of “I can do this, I can do whatever I decide I want to do”! So I sometimes take on an event without really committing to a solid progressive training program.

It’s worked in the past. “Soreness” told me I was getting ready for the event. In fact, I used my level of soreness as a litmus test for how well I was doing in my training. If I wasn’t sore, I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough. But you know what? There’s a better way than that!

I can tend to wing things. It’s often a result of a very scattered schedule – traveling for Mad Dogg Athletics (Spinning), haphazard  personal training client schedules, last minute bicycle tour clients that keep me glued to my computer for 12-hour days to prepare their tour packages, last year writing a business plan – all have gotten in the way of any kind of schedule I’ve set for myself in the past. I’ve come to realize that it’s almost better to have a regular 9-5 job around which to strictly plan a training schedule than one that is so irregular and subject to the whims or requirements of other’s schedules.

Any events in which I’ve participated in my past, I was able to complete them just fine, so in a way, it established a less-than-healthy precedent. I mean, I used to mountain bike race (13-15 years ago), and I was pretty haphazard with my training and did ok. I have done many century rides over the years; we climb Independence Pass every year early in the cycling season; I’ve climbed Alpe d’Huez (and other major cols in Europe) on several bike tours and never had a problem; every year we do a 3-6-hour cross-country ski trips to a mountain hut; I’ve even done the Triple Bypass (twice), all without a whole lot of “committed” training (except for my regular Spinning classes and general commitment to being “fit” and cycling whenever I can).

And I’ve completed them all. Sometimes sore for days, but always happy.

But can you imagine if I had stuck to a training program? Like I’m doing now?! 

As I said, I preach this to my clients, but haven’t always stuck to it myself, until now. In fact, training for the Giretto has been an amazing experience for me. It’s taught me so much about myself, and about what I can (and should) push myself to do, and by extension, what I can push my clients to do. To be clear, I don’t train elite athletes; I train wanna-be and recreational athletes to set goals and achieve them, and ordinary folks to improve their cardiovascular health and fitness.

Now, even more than before, I know what they can really achieve! 

I have not been sore yet while amping up my volume on the bike (indoors as well as outdoors), and I know that’s because of the progressive nature of my training to date. Sure, I should have been riding outside more by now (only two weeks until departure for Italy), but I am quite impressed with what I’ve been able to do indoors.

So no soreness, but fatigue hit me pretty hard this morning, and in my 6 am Spin class I had to slow things down while pushing the class harder. I stayed an extra 45 minutes and rode in Z1, at a HR of 105-120, as a recovery ride. I thin I need more sleep more than anything (and that’s perhaps the hardest thing to balance when on a training program like this).

I hope to get an 80-miler in on Friday. We’ll see, as I’ve been asked to fly to Kansas City at the last moment to teach a Spinning Orientation and Continuing Ed workshop this weekend. That puts a hamper on my training schedule (refer to my first few paragraphs), but oh well. I know I’ll accomplish this event! :-)

And I am getting very excited. Are you? 

I’ll be posting on this blog regularly during our ride, direct from Italy. We’ll be posting videos of the ride on YouTube, and we’ll all be tweeting regularly on Twitter. So stay tuned!

And if you can see your way to sponsoring me in this amazing Livestrong event, a ride that is proving to be the biggest challenge of my life, please go to www.cyclingfusion.com – at the very least, to read about my impetus for committing to this ride! For me, it’s all about accomplishing and being a part of something BIG. And this is big…

Mille Gratzie!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 21, 2009

Training for the Giretto – my longest outdoor ride to date

Skies finally cleared and temperatures rose a bit yesterday, after many weeks of thwarted outdoor rides due to snow, rain, ice and/or cold. Not like it was balmy or anything – the thermometer said 55 degrees and I doubt it got any warmer. I was still bundled up, but not as much as the past two rides I’ve posted.

Unfortunately, I let my day get away from me (phone calls, email, something called ‘work’) and didn’t get on the bike until 3:30. But I managed to fit in 62 miles in 4 hours 10 minutes. Seems like a pretty slow time, but the way out to Eagle was headwinds (I could only maintain 13-14mph) and the way back was a slight uphill. I took a picture of a flag flying straight out – which to a cyclist means one thing: headwinds! (And potentially tailwinds, too). But the photo didn’t turn out well.

I rode to Eagle to our new house where my husband was installing the door trim. Ah man, do I feel guilty that he is working so hard and I’m out riding! But fortunately, he is very supportive of me (albeit a little envious, understandably).

There’s a road called Brush Creek that heads southeast from our new neighborhood-to-be. I’ve never been on it so I added that to my bike route. It’s 9 miles one way from our house and is spectacularly beautiful, little used road, passing by horse farms, a luxury private golf course and gated community nestled in a valley, through aspen groves and a narrow canyon, with a stream following the road the whole way, and ending at the White River National Park boundary. There, the paved road turns to dirt and apparently you can drive up and over a pass all the way to Aspen (I’ll have to explore that once we move there). I am so thrilled to know that this is my backyard-to-be. What a great quick ride that will be! 

My ride total was just a little over 4 hours. I could have gone longer, but it was 7:45 and almost dark. The legs felt pretty good, but the only bummer is that I’m tired of riding by myself all the time. I even got a little sad, and a low morale can have an effect on how you feel when riding. Gotta get out of this funk!

62 miles is a long way off from 120 (our longest day at the Giretto), or even 100 miles. I hope to fit in a century next weekend, but my time is running out to get distance. I’ve got to start focusing on some serious hill climbing. Spin classes are great, and I climb a lot indoors, but it is not enough. Bachelor Gulch, a local 5 mile steep climb, is my litmus test for my climbing fitness or when I’m preparing for the Alpes. That’s on the agenda this week…

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 20, 2009

The wimp factor continues to fall…

I leave for Italy for the Giretto in 2-1/2 weeks, and I still have not ridden my first century! In fact, Mother Nature hasn’t been very cooperative when it comes to riding outside – mid-week has been sunny and warm (when I have to work!) and weekends when I have time, the clouds and cold has moved in.

Saturday forecast: snow, rain, 30’s and 40’s. But this is supposed to be my big ride day! Driving east to Denver/Boulder wasn’t an option – they got more snow than the high mountains did (up to 30″). I pondered going west where it is usually much warmer, but Grand Junction is still a 2-1/2 hr drive one way. It’s not as if I didn’t have other important things to do.

So I once again committed (begrudgingly) to an indoor ride on my Spin bike in my basement, and waited until late afternoon to begin. As I drove to the movie store to get something to help the time pass, the air felt somewhat “warm” (a relative term) and blue skies had peeked out. “Hmmmm, I wonder. Could I ride outside?”

I turned around (er, after my Starbucks stop) and zipped home and pulled out my bike. If I was gonna go for it – it had to be now. It was 4:30 and about 47 degrees. I have to say, for this ride I am even more proud of myself as I think it dropped me down the wimp scale a few more notches.

After warming up for 5 miles, I climbed about 4 miles to the top of Beaver Creek, feeling pretty good. But oh was that descent chilly! At the bottom I continued east, into Minturn. An icy blast hit me in the face up the shaded canyon to the small mining town, but once on the far side, the sun was shining full force. Battle Mountain pass is a 4-mile climb on the south side, and feeling strong, I decided to at least start up the climb. After a mile, I changed my mind and turned around – bracing for the cold descent.

By the time I got to the north side of Minturn on the way back, black clouds had rolled back in. Weather changes very quickly up here in the high Rockies! I now had headwinds on the way back, but decided to amp up the pace in order to beat those clouds, raising my intensity to threshold. I was breathing hard, but the legs were working great. I have to say, I felt awesome, and it felt awesome to feel awesome on the bike! (Hey, this training indoors IS working)! It probably helped that I had an energetic song* on my iPod (one ear only while on roads, I promise!), which helped me inject more power to the pedals.

Then the rain started. The temperature was probably 41-ish at this point (not counting my own wind-chill), but except for my icy bootie-clad feet and my face, I remained pretty warm. The rain stayed fairly subdued thank goodness – it splattered off my windbreaker, but never soaked me. Twenty-five minutes later I pulled into my garage (thermometer in the shade said 38). If my frozen cheeks had allowed my mouth to smile, I would have been beaming ear to ear!

2 hrs 8 minutes. I had gotten my computer to work, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate because at times it seemed to stand still. It indicated about 32 miles. (Or maybe it’s right and I just wish it were more!)

Even after a long hot shower, my toes took about 30-minutes to thaw, but I have to say, if it weren’t for my wonderful Cannondale gloves with the windstop mitten covers I spoke about in my last post, this ride would have been virtually impossible for me. I thought about putting them on a little shrine and lighting some incense….

…but that would have been weird.

 

Totals for the week: 10.5 hours riding time (mostly indoors, mostly Z2-3). 2 days @ sustained LT 20-30 minutes (Z4, 5a). 1 day intervals to Z5b. 1 hr weights/core.

 

* Stella (Nalin & Kane Mix), by Jam and Spoon (DJ Dave Ralph). A 13 1/2 minute song that keeps your body moving!

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