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How to fuel for morning workouts

how to fuel for morning workouts

Do you like to exercise first thing in the morning? Are you struggling with what to eat before your early workout? Do you eat too much or not enough for the workout you are planning? Your fueling methods for morning workouts may have an impact on your workout performance and recovery.

Endurance athletes looking to maximize their workout time can use I early mornings to help manage their time with other activities such as work or family needs. Many of our athletes also do morning workouts before they start their workday. An issue many athletes have with fueling for morning workouts is having enough time to digest the meal before heading out the door. The dilemma is getting up early enough to eat and digest and getting enough fuel.

I like to think of my fueling as what I need for the workout, then the rest of your fuel is during the workout and post-ride recovery. You don’t need a full meal pre-workout, just enough to give you the energy you need to meet the workout goals.

Fueling for morning workouts less than 90 min

Workouts less than 90min are usually either active recovery, easy endurance or something intense such as a high paced ride or intervals. Your fueling strategy and goals may dictate what you eat.

Workouts less than 90min are a good candidate for a fasted workout. Fasted means no calories for 12 + hours since your last meal, light dinner in this case. You can have plain water and black coffee or tea but no sugar or cream/milk. I don’t recommend fasted workouts more than 2 days a week and keep them under 2hrs, and I suggest working your way into them, starting at 30 min and progressing over a couple of months. There are a lot of advantages of doing fasted workouts, which is a topic for another post. I’d like to point out one advantage though, is that you don’t need to worry about digesting your food. You can pop out of bed, have a quick coffee or tea, and start rolling into your workout. I can generally be into my workout within 30 min of waking up.

If you choose to have some calories, you don’t need a lot for a short workout. I recommend something easy to digest and around 200-350 calories depending on the duration, such as the full 90min. My goto morning fuel is a Clifbar or Fig Bar, or any energy bar (not a protein bar) with about 200-250 calories. Another easy quick option is toast with nut butter and a banana. If I’m going to have a hard workout I’ll add a serving of Infinit Mud with almond milk. All of these allow you to costume and digest quickly.

During workouts, I recommend plain water for workouts less than 60min and adding electrolytes or light carbs for the full 90min. I like to use Infinit Hydrate when going the full 90 min for hard workouts and just plain water for endurance/steady-state workouts.

Fueling for morning workouts 90 min to 3hrs

Workouts between 90min to 3hrs need a little more fuel. If you are doing 2 hrs you can likely get away with what was outlined above as long are you fuel during your workout with an extra gel or 1/2 bar, 1/2 serving of energy drink.

Beyond 2hrs my recommendation with to fuel with a pre-training smoothie. This smoothie allows you to get the fuel you need quickly and not have to get up early to wait for it to digest. I like to give about 45-60min to digest before starting a hard session. If you make the smoothie the night before and place it in the refrigerator it will be waiting for you when you get up.

Another good option is 6oz of greek yogurt and some fruit, such as berries or banana or 1 tablespoon honey. This is about 300cal with 50g carbs.

During this length of workout I recommend 250-300 calories with 60g carbs and electrolytes with 20oz (.75L) an hour. My goto fuel is Infinit GoFar for workouts 2.5+ hours.

Fueling for morning workouts more than 3hrs

Workouts more than 3hrs are easy to fuel. You don’t need to get up hours before to create a big meal and leave time to digest. I recommend the same pre-training and race smoothie as above, but with some extra carbs and protein. I’ve been using this fueling technique for many years, and not just for workouts but for races over 3hrs as well.

These long workouts and races take more fuel than what I mentioned above, and if I am doing an extra hard workout or race that is more than 3 hours I use the advanced pre-race smoothie. The advanced pre-race smoothie provides extra calories and nutrients to endure a long workout or race.

Another good option is 6oz of greek yogurt and some fruit, such as berries or banana or 1 tablespoons honey, + hemp seeds, toast with nut butter about 450cal and 70g carbs

Workouts or races over 3hrs need more calories, especially carbs, amino acids, and electrolytes. Our go-to fuel for workouts and especially races is Infinit Custom Formula. You’ll want to consume ~300 cal with 60-70g carbs and electrolytes with ~20oz (.75L) an hour.

Over the years as an athlete and coach I have found these fueling options work well. You may need to make some adjustments to suit your preferences and needs, but this should give you a good idea about where to start. Please reach out if you have any questions, or leave a comment.

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Endurance Performance isn’t about FTP

endurance performance

endurance performanceEndurance athletes often measure their endurance performance or fitness by measuring and tracking Functional Power/Pace Threshold (FTP).  If you practice testing your FTP enough you’ll likely make improvements. But the test doesn’t tell you how you’ll perform in your next race. FTP is best used to get a baseline of your fitness and set your training zones.  As your training progresses your training zones will adjust indicating changes in fitness. The athlete needs to consider other key measurements to get a better understanding of how they may perform at their goal event. 

Below are some key measurements I use with athletes to improve endurance performance.  This is not a complete list, but these are areas that are often overlooked.

Power to Weight

One great measurement of endurance performance is the power to weight.  The lighter you are and the more power you can produce the faster you will go.  Combining weight loss with power gains can produce some huge gains on racecourses and segment times.  However, weight loss is not always good advice for athletes that are already at an ideal weight.  Though many amateur athletes are able to spare 5-10kilos (or more) which can make big gains in speed.  

TrainingPeaks has a good way to measure your power profile to give you an idea of where you are compared to your peers. You can use the power profile to view your power to weight  in various power segments


Your performance in your event is likely contributed to how efficient you are in your sport.  Your efficiency or economy is measured by your power/pace and heart rate. The more efficient you are the greater your performance.  You should measure your efficiency over a similar course and duration to your target events.  

Tracking efficiency requires you to record your power/pace and heart rate.  TrainingPeaks records efficiency as Efficiency Factor (EF) which you can review and track with each workout.  

Segment Power and Times 

Tracking your power and time on segments is a great measurement for your endurance performance.  Ideally, you want to compare your power and times on segments that matter, such courses that are similar to your goal event.  

Strava is a great tool for tracking this type of improvement.  The Strava activity includes your power/pace and times compares to previous attempts and with other people.  However, you don’t need Strava.  You can also use your fitness tracking devices with a lap button.  Pressing the lap at the beginning and end of your segments and comparing the time and power/pace will see how you are improving.


Tracking your FTP is still a key measurement for establishing training zones. However, FTP is not the only measurement you should consider for improving endurance performance. Making the above-mentioned endurance performance gains are not easy and how you make the gains depends on your sport and race course.

Check out our coaching program to work with one of our coaches to improve your endurance performance.

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TransRockies Classic MTB Stage Race Recap

mtb stage raceI’m finally raising my head up from sand after competing in the 2019 TransRockies Classic 7 day mtb stage race.  This event traversed the Canadian Rockies from Panorama B.C. Canada to Fernie B.C. Canada. Riding 350m/550km and 39000’/12000m elevation gain over 7 days in remote parts of the Canadian Rockies. This is an event I read about almost 10 years ago and I know it was something I wanted to tackle some day.  2011 was the last year they ran the event and  I was super excited they brought it back in 2019.  This event was my big goal for 2019.  I focused all my training for the demands of this event.  I was quite nervous about racing this many days, distance and elevation gain. My training started in November with an already good level of fitness.  Training over the winter wasn’t anything new for me, but it was great preparation for this event.  During the winter I ride gravel and snow packed roads and can easily get 5-6k feet elevation gain in 4 hrs over 40 miles.   In hindsight, this training was perfect for TransRockies as we spent a lot of time racing on gravel and getting 6000-7000′ elevation gain daily. Over the next 7 months training was interrupted by a work travel, bronchial infection, family travel and a recurring back injury.  The interruptions didn’t affect the fitness too much and I think they provided well timed rest.  During the three months prior to the event start I focused on threshold power, VO2Max and trail riding.  There were lots of 20-40 min threshold intervals and 4-6 min v02max intervals.  These paid dividends during the race as I was able to hold my threshold power and prevent separation during the race all the way to the last stage.  My worst day was probably stage five, where I paced incorrectly and made a tactical mistake, I lost 5 min to my nearest competition.   I followed my Stage Race Training Strategy and Daily Recovery methods used in my coaching programs.
mtb stage race
TrainingPeaks PMC – six months of training prior to race.

Stage Highlights

The stages where mostly gravel with some ATV track and some very raw single track.  The one interesting part of the stages was the timed sections;  some of the stages had neutral sections in the middle of the course.

Stage 1

The first stage was good for me.  It was just like home, a big climb followed by a big descent.  There was some fun singletrack in the middle of the stage.  I won the stage for my age group by ~4min

Stage 2

Mostly gravel road with some ATV path and an ancient indian trading route footpath.  The course was sabotaged by someone covering the start of the footpath.  Many of us in the front of the race stopped for 20 min or more allowing the back to the field to catch up.   I lost ~11 min to 3rd place GC (Henry Gertje)  causing me to get second in the stage.  Henry now in 2nd GC 13 min behind.  It was a strange stage because I finished 5 min ahead of Henry, but he was faster in the timed section caused by the sabotage he took the stage win. Stage 3 It rained a lot the night before and the track for the day was a classic XC course.  Twistly, rooty muddy single track for 25m/41k.  I won the stage by ~3:30 min and held 15 min lead in GC.  Henry still in 2nd GC.

Stage 4

The stage with the  biggest distance at 61m/102k.  It was mostly gravel, but some deep cold river crossings and raw ATV trail.  Henry (2nd place GC) caught me about 1/2 way.  We rode the last 30 miles working together in the wind, which made for nice company.  The last 20 miles it sounded like my freehub was going to fall apart and it seemed to get louder as me moved on.  The last 5 miles the pace picked up and we ended up sprinting to the line after 5:10hr of riding.  I won the stage by .7s.  Ha.  After cleaning my chain and inspecting my freehub all was good with my drive chain, thank god!
Stage 5
This was a timed stage that I didn’t play right tacitly.  In hindsight I should have just stayed with Henry, but instead I charged ahead and ended up blowing up on a big climb.  I ended up riding a big section alone.  Henry caught me about 5 files from the finish and he attached hard, putting me at my limit.  I was able to hold on and we finished together at the end of timed section.  It turns out he hung out at the start of the time section for 5 min.  Since he caught me he was 5 min faster in the stage. Henry wins the stage. I have a 11 min lead in GC.

Stage 6

This was the most exciting stage.  At the start of the race, I’m nervous, tired and we have 56 miles of racing and a very small timed section at the beginning.  My plan is to just say on Henrys wheel.   After the timed section start it’s full race pace  We have a long road section where we work together at a high pace.  We catch on to a group of guys and the pace picks up.  I get on the very back of the 15 person group and try to hold and conserve as much as I can.  We are doing 20-25 mph on a long gravel road.  After about 40 min we hit the first climb.  Henry and I are together.  We start the climb and I feel Henry is occasionally try to gap me and pushing me to my limit many times.  I get into the red zone a few times but recovery quickly. We stick together almost the entire stage.  The last few miles have many super steep climbs that we walk.  I was able to ride the last one and get into the final descent first and put a 45s gap with the stage win.  Henry is still in 2nd GC 12 min behind.  What a day!

Stage 7

mtb stage race
Stage 7 Finish
The final stage!  It’s the biggest day of climbing and the distance is about 51 miles.  I’m nervous again.  I’m thinking I can’t ride the same effort we did the day before. I stick to same plan, say with Henry!  The start isn’t easy, but not too hard either.  Neither one of us is feeling spunky, thankfully.  I get a head of Henry in a few sections, but I don’t attack.  There is still a lot of distance left and I know he strong enough to catch me.  I don’t necessarily sit up, but I’m not going easy.   We finally get to a section and ride together.  There is a big 4500’/3000m climb and we ride tempo the entire time, chatting and sharing fun stories.   We get to a sizable technical descent and I get ~ 1-2 min gap on Henry.  He catches me at the last aid/check point while i’m stuffing my face with treats. I wait for Henry before we start again.  I get to the bottom of the big descent and Henry isn’t with me.  I’m feeling good and we have about 10 miles to the finish and I put on the gas. There is some fun single track, and not so fun steep climbing.   I finish the stage with about a 6 min lead.  Henry comes in second on the stage.  This was our longest day of racing with 6 hrs on the bike.  Phew! It was quite an amazing week.  It was really fun to race with Henry.  He pushed be beyond what I thought I could do in a mtb stage race.  Below is the stats from the week.
mtb stage race
TransRockies Classic daily stats and overall stats for the week. It was a huge week!
I was very happy with the event and my performance.  The riding, people and event were spectacular and I came away with 5 stage wins and the overall GC in the Solo 50+, 4th overall in solo riders and 7th overall in solo and teams combined.
mtb stage race
MTBCoach on the top step TransRockies Classic Solo 50+ Men
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New Year, New Season, New Goals

Welcome to a new year and a new season of racing.   With the first of the races within a few months, January is the good time to start setting your goals and start training.   There are a lot of winter training options within Colorado; Fat biking, graveling riding, XC and Backcountry skiing and of course the dreaded trainer.   

Setting Goals

What are your season goals? What do you want to accomplish this year?  Maybe it has nothing to do with racing your bike, instead it’s doing an epic bike trip, or maybe take some KOM’s.  Regardless of what you want to do, you need to set some goals so you can track, measure and make progress on your goals.   We often help our athletes create and set their season goals.  When we do this our athletes have the best success of reaching or exceeding their goals.

Base Training

After a short preparation period you should start off with building your Base.   Your Base training should include some long slow distance (LSD) sessions, and some high intensity intervals, core and strength work. The duration of each really depends your goals and fitness level.  During this period it’s important to not dig too deep to avoid burnout or overtraining. Starting with a strong Base you will be prepared for a great season.  If you are coming off the couch or took an extended it’s important to spend about 12 weeks in this phase. Many people skip this phase and go out too hard in the early season and burn out early and perform poorly in their goal events.  Avoid the burnout and enjoy the base training phase for the best performances.

Winter Outdoor Riding

There are lots of options for building a good base in the winter.  One option is riding outside on gravel and snow packed roads or fat biking.

Riding outside in the winter can be challenging, but also fun and rewarding if you are prepared. Some of my most memorable and miserable rides have been during the winter.   The difference in those rides is how I was prepared for them.

Having the right clothes and being prepared for adverse conditions is important.   Cold hands and feet tend to be the biggest issues people have with winter riding.  Finding a good pair of winter shoes will make a world of difference when temps are under freezing.  Cold hands can be a showstopper for many people.  Using Bar Mitts and different weight gloves will keep your hands toasty.

Setting your season goals and starting your training by early will set you up for a great race season and increase your chances of your best performances.  If you need guidance with your training plan or setting your season goals reach out to us for a free consultation.

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Tips For Cycling in Inclement Weather

Cycling is one of the healthiest and greenest ways to travel, but unfortunately Mother Nature doesn’t always take our commute into consideration. Cycling can be a great way to travel regardless of the weather, but only if you plan ahead. Here are some top tips for cycling in bad weather.

In the Rain

Lighten up: it’s much harder for pedestrians, other cyclists, or motorists to see you when it’s raining, so you should always consider adding extra reflectors to your bicycle or helmet (which you should always wear!). You can also wear a reflective vest to ensure you’re seen.

Dress for the temperature: a common mistake to avoid is layering when it’s raining out. The thought process here is that if you have more layers, you won’t get wet. What usually happens is all your layers get wet, leaving you with three times as much soggy clothing to lug around. Wear what you’d typically have for the temperature outside and pull on a thin waterproof poncho if none of your clothing is waterproof. 

Avoid brick and metal: these surfaces become extremely slippery when it’s raining outside. If you have to travel across either one of these surfaces, be sure to do so while holding your handlebars straight. This will reduce your chances of skidding.

In the Heat

Give yourself time: It’s unreasonable to expect to maintain your pace on a 15-mile ride if temperatures have suddenly jumped to 105. When summer hits and the heat is unbearable, give yourself a few days to adjust to the temperature. Heat exhaustion can come on quickly, so it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Stay hydrated: it’s important to drink water before and during your ride. You should drink one 16-ounce bottle of water 30 minutes before leaving, and bring at least one additional bottle of water for every hour you’ll be cycling. Larger riders or anyone going on a particularly challenging route may need to bring up to four bottles of water.

Leave early: the sun is brightest at noon, but temperatures continue to ride till 2 or 3 PM. if you’re really not a fan of riding in high temperatures, try to leave in the early morning, especially before daybreak. You could ride in temperatures up to 30 degrees cooler than later in the afternoon. Just keep in mind that it’s usually more humid in the morning.

This article was provided by, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local cycling ordinances to ensure you ride safe and legally.

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Athlete Spotlight – Jason Costelleo – First Ironman 70.3

Ironman 70.3 trainng
(This post is provided by our Athlete Jason Costelleo describing his first IronMan 70.3 race.)

Where do I even begin with my first ever Ironman 70.3 race.

Ironman 70.3 trainngTo start with, I committed to this race since Dec 2017 and I have been training ever since with this as my main race goal. Based on my online data that has been saved, within the four months lead up, more than 152 hrs or over 9,000 minutes of strict training has been put into preparing for the this race and the end result is that it was worth every second and every sweat.

The Texas Ironman 70.3 event was by far my biggest event to date with close to 2,300 competitors from around the world and ranging from professional world champions to age group athletes. I knew what I was in for and my work was cut out for me.

The Ironman 70.3 triathlon is a bit different to the standard Olympic distance triathlons that I compete in, in the sense that it is much longer and is generally double the distance that I am a custom to racing. The Ironman 70.3 is made up of a 1.2 mile swim (1,900 meters), straight into a 55 mile bike ride (89 km), and then to finish off with a half marathon run of 13.2 miles (21.2km). Sounds easy enough right 🙂

Going into the event I was feeling great with no expectations as I have never done a race to this distance and was tremendously excited. The entire week leading up to the race, weather conditions were looking like it was going to be the best year yet. With cool temperatures expected at 20 ºC and low winds. One thing that I quickly realized with Galveston Texas, is that the weather conditions can change at the blink of an eye. The evening before the race, some unexpected weather moved in and dropped the temperatures down to 8 ºC and colder. The morning of the race came and conditions stayed the same. High temps of  8 ºC  with winds coming from the east of 16-25 KM/h which would be a head and tail wind for the bike making it even more challenging. To put it simply, before the race started, I was under three layers of clothes trying to warm up. We trinis were not made for the cold.

Ironman 70.3 trainingThe event kicked off at 7.00 am on Sunday April 8th with the first athlete waves starting with the professionals. This then continued for almost 90 mins with wave starts 4 mins apart to separate the different age groups. My swim wave started at 7.52 am and I got on my way. The swim was actually not that bad as I was wearing a wetsuit that was keeping me warm. My main problem that I faced with the swim, was the sheer number of people in the water and having a harder than usual time making my way around the course without bumping into other swimmers. I finished my 1.2 mile swim in a time of 33 mins and in the top quarter of my age group.

From the swim to the ride.

Once my wet suit was off, I quickly felt the cold temperatures as I got onto my bike. Within the first few miles I definitely knew that the cold was going to be a major factor. The first 27.5 miles with a tail wind blowing a bit on my back went well, except my hands becoming numb and frozen to say the least. The clouds then decided it wasnt cold enough and figured some nice rain should be included. At this point my hands were so cold I was not able to grab my water bottle and drink as my fingers were not able to move freely. Lets just say I held onto my handle bars and pushed through the remaining 27.5 miles with 20 km/h head winds with great pain. Thoughts rushed through my head constantly as to why was I even doing this and put my body through this. lol. But I got through the 55 mile ride in a time of 2 hrs 26 mins moving up over 10 positions in my age group.

Now just the final half marathon or 13.2 miles to run. Going into the event, I was most nervous for this leg, but once I got going, and my body warmed up a bit and I got to work. With thousands of supports lining the entire run course, screams and cheers could be heard every second. With a great support team present of my wife, parents, and a few other close friends, they kept me going. My pace never slowed down much for the entire run course and I was surprising myself. I stopped the clock for the run in 1hr 31 mins and feeling great.

In the end, I completed my first ever Ironman 70.3 in a time of 4hrs 34 mins 52 seconds. With this time, out of 2,217 athletes, I placed 129th and 16th in my age group out of 194 athletes. This overall finish also includes almost 60 professional athletes.

With this result I am super pleased and honestly believe that I have a lot of room for improvements and with some better conditions I can drop this time down quite a bit. I really do enjoy this Ironman 70.3 distance and believe I am better suited to this distance than the standard Olympic distance and will be aiming to compete in a few more of these events. With this in mind, my goal for next year has already been set to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2019. (Please take note Ben haha)  Will have to choose the right event to try and qualify as these events are spread around the world and sometimes can be financially hard to get to with air travel, accommodation, entry ect.

One thing that I did realize after competing in this event was the sheer amount of support that I was receiving from Trinidad and around the world. The amount of people that followed the race online, through apps and the hundreds of messages received after was just so overwhelming and motivating. Made me feel very proud and only continues to push me further.

Training starts back next week as I will be heading to Miami to compete in the Caribbean Triathlon Age Group Championships on May 20th. After this will be the T&T National Triathlon Champs in Tobago on June 9th.

Till next time.

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Apple Watch for Tracking HRV, Resting Heart Rate and Sleep

The Apple Watch is recording a lot of great information for workouts and rest data, such as sleep, HRV and Resting Heart Rate.  I’ve been using the Apple Watch to record my non-cycling workouts and tracking HRV, Resting Heart Rate and sleep.  This is a valuable information for a coach.  It shows how your body is responding to workouts and how rested you are after each night.  Using the Apple Watch makes it easy to track this information.  The Apple watch doesn’t upload to workout tracking sites. So how do you upload this data to TrainingPeaks to view patterns and share with your coach.

Enter HealthFitApp!   HealthFitApp will sync your Apple Watch workouts to TrainingPeaks, Strava and other workout tracking sites.   We’ve been working with the developers of the HealthFitApp to sync the resting data, HRV, Resting Heart Rate and Sleep to TrainingPeaks.   This week those features were released in the app.  It’s really cool to see the data, but it’s even better now to have our MTBCoach athletes upload the data for us to analyze.

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Now Offering Triathlon Coaching

triathlon coaching

triathlon coachingMTBCoach is pleased to announce the addition of Triathlon coaching to our list of coaching services. Our Triathlon Coaching service is perfect for the new or experienced triathlete.  Our program offers coaching for Sprint, Olympic, half Ironman and Full Ironman distances and XTERRA.  Whether you are looking to compete in your first event, get a new personal record or get a step on the podium our triathlete coach Ben Stein will guide you through your training and prepare you for your goal races.

Our Triathlon coach, Ben Stein has a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, has USA Cycling Level 2 certification, and USA Triathlon Level 1 certification.  Ben also teaches a Triathlon class at Boise State University.

The Triathlon Coaching service is affordable at $140 4/week for the basic package.

To get started with our Triathlon Coaching visit our sign up page.

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Mountain Bike Racing at High Altitude and the Effect on the Body

Breck Epic Training
The Breck Epic races over 12,000ft above sea level multiple times during the 6 day event

If your coach has not prepared you for high altitude bike racing, then knowing the effects of altitude can help you with race day preparation. The effects of high altitude are well known and considerable. After our bodies reach around 7,000 feet above sea level, the saturation of oxyhemoglobin begins to plummet, this is known as hypoxia. While the Breckenridge 100 and Breck Epic race begins at 9600 ft and goes over 12,000 ft at Wheeler Pass, and hits 11,000 ft a few times, you are likely to suffer more than you know. 

When we breathe in air at sea level, the atmospheric pressure of about 14.7 pounds per square inch (1.04 kg. per cm.2) causes oxygen to easily pass through the selectively permeable membranes of the lung, and enter into the blood. At high altitudes, lower atmospheric pressure makes it more difficult for oxygen exchange in the lungs, decreasing muscle oxygen saturation and creating a limitation for utilization.

Effects of Altitude

Most serious racers train at high altitudes to allow for their bodies to acclimate to the decreased atmospheric pressure and free oxygen. During acclimatization, over a few days to weeks, the body produces more red blood cells to compensate for the lower oxygen saturation in the blood at high altitudes. Full adaptation to high altitude is achieved when the production of red blood cells has increased enough to overcome the decreased amount of oxygen even at higher demand state, like during exercise and racing. When this has been achieved the increased production of red blood cells ceases and the body goes back to it normal replacement. This process can take days or even weeks!

What can happen at high elevations if you have not taken the proper precautions and time for acclimation? Altitude sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air and your tissues and organs begin to have declining function from the hypoxic state. Early symptoms include: headache, loss of appetite, dehydration, and trouble sleeping. If the body is overtaxed and these symptoms are ignored, people can develop life threatening issues. Having these symptoms can make a long distance bike race a bit more troublesome if one is not prepared. The most common causes is when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from lower altitudes to 8000 ft or higher. and don’t give their bodies times to adjust.

Tips for racing at Altitude 

  • First, try to give your body time to acclimate to the race altitude. Go to the race venue a few days or a week or two early so that your body can have the time it needs to compensate for the change in oxygen.
  • Be prepared for a high heart rate as your body will demand for more oxygen. The HR increase is a response to higher oxygen demand.
  • Make sure to ride a few days at altitude during your acclimation period to help encourage the process. This will also help with priming the muscles for exercise and allowing the brain to remind itself of what is going to happen race day. Pain! sweet pain! 
  • Drink plenty of water, staying hydrated will be important. Dehydration can derail anyones race day regardless of altitude or skill level.
  • Avoid alcohol until after the race, but once you drink your fill of water. Stay on top of hydration and nutrition so you do not fall behind.
  • If you do get altitude sickness, get some OXYGEN from the local EMT or hospital. At high altitudes emergency personnel see altitude sickness often. They always have oxygen for supplementation on board!

If you can’t make it to the race venue days in advance, head up the evening or night before. I live in Boise, ID elevation 2730 feet. When I head to Colorado to race, or ride with the boys, the elevation and hypoxia usually hit around day 3-4. On a ride in Crested Butte last summer, I experienced a few days of headache, nausea, and fatigue, and catching up, let alone enjoying the ride, was very difficult. In closing, if you are prepared and plan for your race accordingly, everything should go smooth.

This post is written by Ben Stein, MS, EP-C, at  Ben is currently taking athletes for endurance sport coaching and training.  

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How to Train and Race with a Cycle Computer

Using  a cycle computer during your rides is an fun way to see how many miles you did,  how many calories you burned, or uploading to Strava see your route and KOMs.   Understanding how to train and race with a cycle computer will help you meet your goals and improve your performance.

Many cycle computers allow you to set your heart rate and power zones. To get your power and heart rate zones  do a field test and use our zone calculator once you completed the test.

For reference I use a Garmin 820, but this post will work for many cycle computers, not just Garmins.  Here is how I have my Garmin 820 setup.

Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Power Zone Zone Settings
Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Heart Rate Zone Settings
Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Data Recording Settings


Knowing how to pace in training and racing is hard to learn, but you can use your device to help you.   I use three functions for pacing, at least one of these should work for you.   I prefer pacing using IF (Intensity Factor).

Another method is to use NP (Normalized Power) over your entire ride.  It will take some time to learn what your NP can be over different workout durations.  You can have a high NP for short sessions, and a lower NP for longer sessions.    You can target specific NP values for a ride and try to keep it in a range relative to your Power zones.

Alternative to using power, you can use Heart Rate.  Heart Rate is slow to react to efforts, which makes pacing  hard to manage.  Using the HR zone where you have sustained efforts you can gage your effort.  HR may also change if you are ill, dehydrated or fatigued which makes pacing with HR even more difficult.   If you are serious about training, a power meter is highly recommended.

Alerts for zone and fueling

I like to set my Garmin to alert every 10 min to remind me to fuel.  I use Infinit and all my fuel is in my water bottle for a race or during training.  When I see the alert I know it’s time to take a couple of swigs.  This keeps me well fueled and ready for big efforts or long rides.

If your coach has told you to ride in (or stay out of) a specific zone during a training session or race, it could be helpful to set an alert to tell you so.  For example, your coach may have told you to stay out of zone 5 for your workout.  Set the zone alert to tell you when you are out of the zone.  When you hear it go off you can back off by lowering your gears or effort.

Setup Your Cycle Computer Data Pages

Training and Racing Page

Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Main Page

This page is the default page you use when on a Training Ride or Race.   It shows all the main details of the overall ride.  Below is an example screen.

  • Time: the elapsed time of the ride.
  • Power: the 1 sec power number.  This value changes frequently.
  • NP:   Normalized Power is essentially your avg power with the zeros removed.  Zeros are accumulated when coasting or stopped with the timer still running.  In MTB there is a lot of coasting, so it’s good to see what your power is when pedaling.
  • Speed: It’s fun to see how fast you are going.
  • Distance:  Distance isn’t really that important in cycling, but how much distance you cover over time is fun or if you are trying to see how much distance you covered over time.
  • Cadence: Many structured workouts have cadence drills.  A higher cadence (90 RPM) is more economical than a lower cadence.
  • IF: Intensity Factor gives you an idea how hard you are going.  Our workouts often have IF targets to help guide you.  It’s also important to help you with pacing.  If you are doing a hard ride, IF will be closer to 1.0, and should probably be .87 +.  Easy to Moderate rides are .75 – .85.     Recovery rides are .75 or less.
  • HR Zone:  Structured workouts often target a specific zone to follow.  Displaying it here will keep you on target.
  • Power Zone: Structured workouts often target a specific zone to follow.  Displaying it here will keep you on target.

Intervals/Lap Page

This page is great when doing intervals or laps during training and racing.  Using this page gives you insight on your times and power values for each lap/interval.

Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Lap/Interval Page
  • Current Lap Time:  Your Lap or Interval time.  This is important when doing intervals.  Count those seconds down
  • Power: the 1 sec power number.
  • Lap Power:  When doing intervals this is helpful to keep you in check.  You can use it to help pace yourself and stay on target for the intervals.
  • Laps: The number of completed laps.   After a lot of intervals or time racing this will help you keep track of where you are in your workout or race.
  • Lap Distance: If you are on a course with distinct laps/loops, it might be good to know how far until you complete the loop.
  • Cadence: Many structured workouts have cadence drills.
  • IF: Intensity Factor gives you an idea how hard you are going.  Our workouts often have IF targets to help guide you.  It’s also important to help you with pacing.If you are doing a hard ride, IF will be closer to 1.0, and should probably be .87 +.  Easy to Moderate rides are .75 – .85.     Recovery rides are .75 or less.
  • HR Zone:  Structured workouts often target a specific zone to follow.  Displaying it here will keep you on target.
  • Power Zone: Structured workouts often target a specific zone to follow.  Displaying it here will keep you on target.

Summary Page

The summary page is good to show how much work you have done so far, including other attributes that you don’t need to see all the time.  I like to show the kilojoules, TSS, current elevation, total ascent and total descent and temperature.  You may find you want to show other fields.  The two fields I recommend showing are the Kilojoules and TSS.  Kilojoules will help you keep track of how much energy you have burned and keep your fueling inline.  TSS is good to show for any of our Athletes we are coaching because we give TSS estimates for daily and weekly targets.

Train and Race with a Cycle Computer
Summary Page
  • Time of Day:   Could be used for many reasons, but I like to know the time in case I have an appt or other activities to attend to.
  • Temp:  This could be useful to help you layer property in cold weather, or shed in high temps.   But I just like to know how cold it is sometime when I’m riding.  It rarely gets that hot in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Battery: If you know your battery level then you’ll know when it needs to be charge.  Don’t let your coach down by running out of battery.
  • Heading: For the directionally challenged.
  • Kilojoules: Equates to how much energy you have burned.  This is especially important for rides/races longer than 2hrs.  There are lots of articles on how Kj are translated into calories and your fueling needs. Coach Daniel Matheny wrote a very good article on it a couple of years ago.
  • TSS: Training Stress Score is often a target on our workouts.  Use this a guide to help meet your workout goals.
  • Elevation:  If you live where you can get some elevation, it’s fun to see how high you got. Those that ride in the Rocky Mountain love seeing the 12k-13k on our devices.
  • Total Ascent:  Some of our workouts have suggested elevation gain.  Use it to help track your progress in meeting the workout goals
  • Grade: How steep is this freaking hill?
  • Total Descent:  I don’t often look at total descent, but it’s fun to compare to ascent.

I hope you have found this helpful  If you have your own screen preferences, please share them on our Facebook page.