Improving Endurance

by Doug Carr in Cyclocross, Road Cycling, Train With Grain, Triathlons

Merriam Webster defines endurance as the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible, defines endurance as: The Ability to Resist Fatigue.

In most athletic pursuits, endurance can be the determining factor of who is crowned the winner, and who must settle for second place. Endurance can be developed for an event lasting a matter of seconds, or one that lasts for days. Think of the sprinter versus the eco-racer. One common denominator in improving endurance is the fact that it happens in relatively small chunks, over a lengthy period of time. You can typically improve your endurance in three specific areas. Those are the Cardiovascular and Muscular systems, as well as the psychological system, or what would be considered Mental endurance. The cardio system includes both aerobic and anaerobic pathways.

Cardiovascular and muscular endurance are improved with the same type of overload principles used in resistance training. We’ll overload or stress the systems (go longer than previous sessions), then recover the systems in preparation for the next overload. Each subsequent session builds on the previous, and the systems adapt to increase the amount of time necessary to overload or fatigue. In turn, mental endurance is gained as the previous barriers or limitations are exceeded. One can be said to have Mental Toughness. I don’t consider this the same as Mental Endurance. An individual can be mentally tough, but to have the mental endurance to persevere through the training at longer and longer efforts, and be able to take that endurance out on the course with you, takes an amount of endurance that is only found by pushing through the fatigue.

Improving your endurance through consistent training will be stair-stepped effect, in that each session or “step” will take you that much further toward improvement. It’s a good idea to utilize the services of a qualified coach, someone who can look at your progress objectively, and determine when, where and how much additional stress can be applied to the next workout session. They can also test your endurance and determine when it might be time to back off so as not to risk overtraining. Think of it as a natural addition or infusion to your workouts. Just like gaining overall fitness, it’s a process that takes consistency, applied moderation and perseverance.

Train With Grain!!­

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Doug Carr Google: Doug Carr
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Happy friends at dinning table

Off Season

by Meredith Miller in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Off-season. What’s an off-season? I hardly remember what a true off-season is anymore because I race nearly year round. I can tell you, though, that I am anxiously looking forward to a few weeks off in February between the end of ‘cross season and the beginning of road racing.

Although in recent years I haven’t had a true “off-seasons”, I can tell you from past experience that the off-season is a time for reflection, a time to look back on the triumphs and disappointments from the past season. What went right/wrong in training? Were you happy with your race results? Could your nutrition have been handled better? Did you make the best out of every outcome – good or bad? What changes need to be made to make the coming season even better? Now is the time to consider all that went right and wrong in every facet of your cycling “life” to help prepare for a more successful 2012.

As you mull over 2011 and plan for 2012, think about how, when, where you’re going to give yourself some down time, too. Put the bike away for a few weeks. Walk. Hike. Run. Ski. Hit the gym. Do yoga or try pilates for the first time. Do all the things that you don’t get a chance to do during the season when all focus is on the bike.

In the days when I did have an off-season, I spent quite a bit of time in the gym working on my core and overall body strength and stability with Cross Fit. Unless a person is working on muscle imbalances or has a very specific focus, I believe that no cyclist needs to use a single static machine to build strength, power or endurance. Cycling is dynamic. Sure we are stationary on the saddle, but we are always in motion. It’s the coordination of muscles between the upper body, back and legs that power our movement on the bike, so why single out just one muscle? In one shot Cross Fit-type exercises incorporate almost every major muscle group into each different exercise, which improves stability, strength, power and endurance across multiple joints, not just a single muscle.

Don’t just toss your training program out the door. Eat the cookies you usually vehemently shake your head at in fear of gaining an extra pound. Have two (or three) beers instead of just one. Enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without guilt. Cut yourself some slack…for a little while anyway. Let your body recover from the strict limitations and stress that it deals with for five, six, seven months out of the year.

After a few weeks or so of unregimented “training”, slowly work yourself back into a casual training schedule. Don’t jump into intensity right away. Ride slow, long miles. Continue to mix in other activities as well. Reconsider drinking that third beer or eating that fourth cookie.  As the weeks and months tick by, tighten the focus on your training and nutrition so when you line up for the first race of the year you are as best prepared as possible. That doesn’t mean you should be at your fittest, because few people need to be flying in March, but you should be on target to reach your 2012 goals.

If you want to bring out your wild and crazy side, try cyclocross. My only warning is that it is addictive. I know from experience. It’s why I haven’t had an off-season in several years. But, it’s also why in December when it’s cold and dreary outside I am happy to be on my bike. I can race instead of train and have a lot of fun doing it. Plus, I like getting muddy. Maybe you will, too.

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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Post Season Wrap Up: Mark Swartzendruber

by Mark Swartzendruber in Cycling, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

As I sit here typing this post season report, it is early November (sorry for blowing my deadline, oops) It’s hard to imagine that just two months ago I won my 10th IL State time trial championship with an average speed over the 33 kilometer course of 28.7 miles per hour.  And then the following week, I teamed up with 3 team mates to compete in a 4 person team time trial of 55 kilometers and we averaged over 30 mph!

I did a 100k ride on Saturday and ran into a racing friend out on the route.  We were riding along at around 18-22 mph and it was genuinely a struggle at times!  It’s amazing how quickly competitive form is lost.  I find it difficult to reflect on the season past without wondering if I’ll ever be able to make a bike go fast again next season or was this the last year that I’ll win a race?

I generally struggle through the winters.  Living in Chicago makes it tough to get much training in other than what I can do indoors.  So, moored to my trainer, I play music sets that I saved from my days as an indoor cycling instructor at fitness club trying to pass the hours pretending I’m not on a trainer in the basement.  Last winter was a record year for snowfall in Chicago.  I get my upper body off season strength training by shoveling snow.  This photo of the alley behind my home will give you an idea.  The city doesn’t plow the alleys so I and the neighbors had to shovel and snow blow the alley just to be able to get our cars out of the garages.  It took 3 days.

At some point in January, I’ve generally had all I can take of indoor training and snow shoveling so I make travel arrangements to head to warmer weather.  I’m fortunate to have a good friend and former team mate as well as my bicycle sponsor Leader Bicycles in San Diego.  Between the two I can generally get lodging and food while I ride my bike up and down the coast and in the inland mountains.  In March I go back out to California.  This season, my March trip was to Ventura where my brother lives.  I was able to log over 600 miles and 30 hours of bike time in 6 days of riding and was beginning to feel like a bike racer rather than a pasty, chubby, Midwestern shut in.

The racing in the Midwest starts in March, but I generally skip the early season races unless the weather is good.  We had an absolutely miserable spring so I wasn’t racing.  Something about racing in two layers of tights, thermal jackets and wearing a balaclava under my helmet is less than appealing.


My racing started in April with a road race in the St Louis area in Southern IL.  My early season training paid off and I was able to break away with 21 time national champion on the track Curtis Tolson and another rider.  We built a good time gap and I finished 2nd.  A week later I won another tough road race in brutal weather conditions.  It was a good start.

After those two races, my season went into shut down mode as I promote a race weekend in my home town of Champaign and a two person time trial in May.  Those events require a good deal of planning and my ability and time to race was greatly diminished.  Those races were quite successful but my racing fitness was shot.  I am a guy that in addition to training, I need to race a lot to be sharp.  Add in more off time with a Memorial Day weekend vacation with my lovely wife and dog and a graduation ceremony for a daughter who had earned a Masters degree in Education and well, you can see I wasn’t getting much racing in.  In June, I was able to ride to a 3rd place in the Illinois state road championship which was won by a team mate of mine but I never felt really on top of things.  Then, it was back to off the racing scene with another daughter marrying in June.  Mind, you these are diversions from racing of the best kind and I am so proud of my girls.

I was finally able to get back to racing regularly in July, doing 10 days of the International Cycling Classic in Illinois and Wisconsin.  My best race was a 4th place finish at the Evanston Grand Prix criterium.

Photo @ Josh Dreyfus

The last week of July, I did RAGBRAI for the first time.  It was a blast to do this and believe it or not, it was one of the best training weeks of my life!  Something about sleep deprivation combined with alcohol abuse and heavy miles for a solid week leaves the body stronger after a week of rehab 🙂

In August I won the IL State road race sanctioned by American Bicycle Racing had good finishes in a couple of Pro 1, 2 criteriums and did a 40k time trial on the road bike you see in the photo and rolled a time of 54:06.  This indicated to me that I was on what we call diamond legs.

In September I set the course record and won the state time trial championship and that put a good bookend on the season.  Since then I’ve been playing more golf that riding. So, here it is November again. I wonder when the snow will begin…

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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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Looking Back: 2011 Recap

by Meredith Miller in Cycling, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Has another racing season really come and gone already? I can’t believe that I am sitting here at my computer, looking out the window at the snow falling, while thinking back on the 2011 road racing season.

It all happened so fast – I was competing at the Cyclocross World Championships in St Wendel, Germany on Jan 30. Two and a half weeks later I was at training camp with Team TIBCO in Carpinteria, CA. Whoa. A week after camp I was in Washington DC wearing my cycling advocacy hat at the National Bike Summit. Three weeks later the racing season was underway at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

I chuckle to myself when I think of the number of times I have raced Redlands. I smile when I think of all the different families I have stayed with and continue to look forward to seeing year after year. I think of how the race has changed from ten years ago when it was a 6-day event to the 4-day event that it is now. I can remember numerous courses that have come and gone, some that I wish were still in existence, but the two that have always remained the same are the downtown criterium and the Sunset circuit race – two of the hardest races on the calendar all year.

April was a big racing month – Redlands, Sunny King, Sea Otter and SRAM Tour of the Gila. It was a good month of racing in regards to the races themselves, but it was a tough one for the team. Several of our top riders, Ali Powers, Erinne Willock and Carmen Small, were home nursing injuries. As our team leaders, they left a big gap to fill. Luckily the rest of the team was up for the task. We raced hard. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we didn’t give up either.

May – Joe Martin and Tour de Grove. The team got a win at Joe Martin and we cleaned up at Tour de Grove. We were happy for sure.

June was another huge month of racing. We were at the Liberty Classic in Philly, Clarendon in Washington DC, Nature Valley Grand Prix in MN, and US Road Nationals in GA. Junes was a mixed bag of emotions and results. We had good days, races that went well but didn’t yield the final result we wanted. And we had bad days. Races that just went wrong, days when we just didn’t click. But, that’s bike racing. Things don’t always go your way, but when they do it’s magic.

What I remember most about July is how little I was home. About 5 days total. It was a loooong month on the road. I was all over the place. We started with Tour de ‘Toona, a race that once had been a premier stage race and was now resurrecting itself from a three year hiatus. I was happy to be back in Altoona, PA. From there I went to Sun Valley, ID with my husband, Ben, to support him at US MTB Nationals. And maybe I snuck in a little time on my mtn bike, too. Next thing I knew I was in Bend, my home away from home, for Cascade, one of my favorite races all year. Bend is where I won road nationals. I’ve had some notable cross results there, too, so Bend has a special place in my heart. The team’s results at Cascade were good, not great. We could have done better and we knew it.

The last race of the month and the last race of the season for me was the Presbyterian Classic in Charlotte. It’s a prestigious criterium with a lot of money on the line. My teammates and I did everything we could to get that result that had been eluding us all season, that one BIG result. We didn’t get it.

We may not have gotten a big result, but we did take something meaningful home with us. The day before the race we visited the pediatric cancer ward at the Presbyterian Hospital where we visited with several inspirational, courageous and tenacious kids who may have been sick but didn’t want us to know it. They smiled when they met us. They wanted to watch the bike race. They enjoyed our company. For a little while, hopefully, their sickness was forgotten.

The road season was over. My race season was not. Cross season was a month and a half away. I had a couple weeks off the bike completely, a few weeks on the mtn bike and then before I could say ‘boo’ I was lining up for the first cross race of the season – CrossVegas. But that’s another story…

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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Training Playlist from Joan

by Joan Hanscom in Cyclocross, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Boo.  Trainer days are here awfully early this year. On today’s playlist my fetish for 1990’s electronica reveals itself:

  • Get the Party Started:  Shirley Bassey
  • First Impression:  Haik Naltchayan
  • Start House: Haik Naltchayan
  • Monaco: Haik Naltchayan
  • Love vs Hate: Gus Gus
  • Bird 1:  Underworld
  • Imperpetuem Mobila:  Patient Saints
  • Serpent’s Fruit: The Opus
  • Ignoring Pain: Haik Naltchayan
  • Baptism: Crystal Castles
  • Intimate: Crystal Castles
  • Not Going Home:  Faithless
  • Feel Me:  Faithless
  • Sun to Me:  Faithless
  • Dark and Long:  Underworld
  • Spoonman:  Underworld
  • Suburban Train:  Tiesto
  • Played –A-Live:  Safri Duo
  • The Rhythm of the Heat:  Peter Gabriel
  • Bilko:  Peter Gabriel
  • Lift Me Up:  Moby
  • Love Game:  Lady Gaga
  • Elements:  Danny Teneglia
  • Obsidian:  Banco de Gaia
  • Apollo:  Alan Parson’s Project
  • Dinosaur Adventure:  Underworld
  • Moaner:  Underworld
  • Time’s Running Out:  Cirrus

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Joan Hanscom Google: Joan Hanscom
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Druber’s Multi Grain Bread

by Mark Swartzendruber in Recipes, Road Cycling, Train With Grain, Triathlons

Every endurance athlete (this includes cyclists) needs healthy, whole gain carbohydrates to provide the fuel needed to practice our sport.  This easy to make bread is great toasting in the morning, eating with dinner or for bringing along with you on long rides in lieu of power bars.  The grains provide an easy to eat, easy to digest source of complex carbohydrates and protein.

As far as I know, this is an original recipe. All ingredients in bold type are Bob’s Red Mill brand

Dissolve 1Tbsp Active Dry Yeast into 1/4 cup of luke warm (100 degree) water

In a Kitchen Aid Mixer Bowl (or a large stainless bowl if you’re rockin’ old school by hand) combine

With bread hook (or with a spoon or whisk if not using mixer) stir all dry ingredients until fully blended using low speed.


  • 2Tbp Canola Oil


Start mixer on lowest speed and pour in dissolved yeast (do your best to get all residue in)
continue to mix slowly.


1 3/4 cup luke warm water slowly (about 1/4 to 1/3 c at a time) pouring in until the dough forms a proper consistency that is elastic but not sticky or dry. If it appears your dough is dry add more water one Tablespoon at a time. If your dough is very soft or sticky, add Whole Wheat Flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, allowing additional water or flour to fully incorporate before adding more.

Knead dough with bread hook at medium high (you may need to hold the mixer down to keep it on the counter) for 5 minutes, or vigorously knead by hand for 7-10 minutes.

Remove dough from dough hook and allow to rise in the bowl, covered with damp paper towel for 30 min.

When first rise is complete, if you choose, you can add herbs such as 1/4 cup freshly chopped chives or 2T chopped rosemary or thyme leaves.

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees

Punch risen dough with the dough hook and mix at low speed for two minutes. Remove from mixer and move to a floured surface. Hand knead lightly, and cut dough into two equal halves with a knife or pastry cutter. Form dough into the shape of your loaf pan – round or rectangular and place into oiled and flour dusted pan. Cover once again with damp paper towel and allow the loaves to rise for 10 minutes.

When second rise is done, bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.

Remove from pan onto cooling rack.

I’ve done this bread with both quinoa and millet and amaranth or spelt flour. It’s great either way or with any combination you choose of the 4. Also, I’ve done it with or without herbs – it’s great either way.

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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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My Favorite Piece of Gear: Julian Pscheid

by Julian Pscheid in Train With Grain, Triathlons

Triathletes are all about their gear. Naturally, I have plenty of pieces of gear that I am borderline obsessed with. There has one piece of gear that really made a difference for me this season though.

Going into my second season of racing 70.3 distance events I was looking for a more effective way to manage my nutritional supplies throughout the race. During transitions I try to minimize the steps needed from one leg to the other as much as possible, and one thing that always worries me is the need to grab and stash all my nutritional supplies before heading out on the bike from T1. The solution I found was the XLAB Rocket Pocket–a little pouch that is strapped behind the stem of the bike and conveniently fits several packs of gel and bars. The rocket pocket has helped me with the following issues:

  • No need to worry about laying out the food supplies for the bike leg prior to the race at your transition spot. I can now pack them the night before and do not need to worry about them again.
  • One less thing I need to do during the T1 (loading up the supplies into your tri suit pockets) and T2 (emptying the garbage out of your pockets).
  • No more digging blindly through my tri suit pockets on my back in order to find the snack I am looking for during the bike leg of the race. Everything is right in front of me in my rocket pocket.

Another popular comparable product is the Bento Box, but I prefer the aero design of the Rocket Pocket. The Rocket Pocket is light weight and attaches to pretty much any bike via three Velcro straps. It was a great addition to my gear this season and has helped make race days a little more hassle free!

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Julian Pscheid Google: Julian Pscheid
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My Favorite Piece of Gear: Mark Swartzendruber

by Mark Swartzendruber in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Every cyclist has a favorite piece of gear that they wear or ride or use for the red letter, circled in red sharpie, A+++, “must do well” races.  I’m no different.  When I’m looking for an extra advantage, that little bit of something-something that is going to give me if nothing else a psychological edge, I reach for my Zipp 303 wheels.

These are my fall back wheels.  I am totally confident when I’m racing with these babies.  At less than 1200 grams for the set (tubular weight) they’re as light as the lightest sets of climbing specific wheels, but they’re also virtually indestructibly durable.  Fabian Cancellara has used these wheels to win two of the toughest one day races in the world, Paris-Roubaix and The Tour of Flanders.  Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders are races in which there are extensive sections of brutal cobble stone roads. I’ve used them in races here in Illinois that go over several miles of clay and gravel farm roads as well.

If I’m racing in a criterium where cornering and acceleration are critical, I never have to worry about being stable taking sharp corners and sprinting out of those corners or attacking in a straight.  They have a low profile so I don’t get knocked around by strong cross winds but they’re still very aerodynamic and give me an edge on calm days as well.

Whatever any cyclists holds dear as they’re favorite piece of gear, it is generally a piece of equipment that provides comfort such as a saddle or a pair of shoes, or confidence such as a brilliant frame or an advantage life the most technologically advanced component set or ultra light wheels.  For me – it’s this wheel set.

Good luck!

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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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My Favorite Piece of Gear: Meredith Miller

by Meredith Miller in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

What is my favorite piece of gear? Tough question! For anyone who has been involved in cycling long term, you know all too well that there is a lot of gear that comes with the territory. In fact, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to choose the best helmet, the most comfortable shoes, the lightest bike, the coolest sunglasses or even the right bike light.

Having been in the sport for as long as I have, various pieces of gear has found its way into every nook and cranny in my house. I’m in a fortunate position that I have multiple items to pick from when I am deciding what glasses to wear that day or what wheels to use, but there is some gear that stands out in my mind as my go to gear on a daily basis and for every road trip – Thule luggage. It’s my gear of choice I use to pack the rest of my gear of choice. As Thule says, it’s

“Designed to meet the specific needs of people who take their gear from point A to points B through Z and want to make sure it gets there in one piece and ready for action.”

Thule has kept the “gear head” in mind by designing every size and shape of luggage imaginable to give every person the flexibility in packing just what he or she needs. When packing I have multiple bags to choose from – a small 56 Liter rolling duffel to carry-on, an 87 Liter rolling duffel to check-in, a 70 Liter duffel, a 30 Liter backpack. Depending on how many days or weeks I will be on the road, I might choose just the small carry-on duffel or I might have to go with all of the above for the long 3 week haul.

Regardless of the length of the trip, the one bag that stays with me at all times is my 30 Liter backpack. It fits all the small bits and pieces that I need in the front pocket, my MacBook, power cords and books in the main, spacious compartment and my glasses and other fragile items in the crush-proof compartment. The side pockets are a handy place to stash cash that I’ll find on a later trip just when I need it. Plus, it’s super comfy and fits well even when it is loaded down with all sorts of odds and ends inside.

All of the Thule bags are incredible durable, easy to maneuver, roll smoothly and are functional for any type of gear. Hands down, Thule bags are the best (and my favorite) for carrying all the rest.

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Mark

by Mark Swartzendruber in Road Cycling, Train With Grain

In honor of Oktoberfest, which is in full swing all over the world, here are some great Beerfest Do’s and Don’ts from Mark. Be sure to check out more Do’s and Don’ts from Keyon over here.

I find myself uniquely qualified to report on this subject. I have just recently returned from a reconnaissance mission for the Train with Grain editorial board in which I was sent to Munich, Germany and without argument the largest Beerfest in the world – Oktoberfest.  He is what I learned…

  • Dress Appropriately

  • Do your best to not attract undue attention to yourself with outlandish and inappropriate attire.  The party is about the party – not about you.
  • From time to time, take a breather.  You will never succeed at drinking all the beer in the world.  If it were possible, Munich would be a dry city by September 20thevery year.
  • If you’re in for the long haul, find a quiet place to take a nap.  You’ll wake up invigorated and ready for another round.
  • EAT!  Nothing puts a good Beerfest to an early end like a belly full of nothing but fermented grain beverage.  Beerfest is an endurance event and you need sustenance in order to perform at peak levels.  Some suggested sources for proper Beerfest nutrition…

Weisswurst und Sauerkraut

Curry Wurst

Schwein Shaxen (pork knuckle) – the undisputed king of all Beerfest cuisine

With the exception of the sprinkling of chives on the perfectly beautiful potato dumpling above, you’ll note the complete lack of anything green on the above plates.  This is intentional.  Proper Beerfest fare is specifically designed to absorb and achieve a perfect carbohydrate and protein balance.  Arugula simply has no place at the Beerfest table.

  • Enjoy the company of a few great friends
  • Dance!  The movement is necessary to stimulate your metabolism to break down and absorb the beer and sausage.

  • Finally and in all seriousness if you do not have a designated sober driver – Walk.  Cab.  Public Transportation.  There is no lower life form than one who mans the rudder while under the influence of intoxicants.
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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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