By Coach John Hughes

Riding on the road is fun! Riding on the trainer is not fun (unless you’re a masochist!).

As a roadie, you’re always looking for ways to improve (or at least, maintain): better equipment, smarter training, losing weight, etc. Add your time on the trainer to this list of potential ways to improve. Your trainer is tool you can use to tune up your cycling. Getting the most value from your trainer time is the key to making it work for you. Here's how:

6 Things Require Attention for Improvement

To improve at any sport, you need to work on (at least) 6 things:

1. Endurance—even if you don’t do longer rides, good endurance is the foundation of all that follows.

2. Power—power gets you up the hill with your mates and also speeds your evening commute so you can beat the weather.

3. Technique—power comes from stronger muscle fibers and from muscle fibers that are trained to fire at the right times.

4. Core strength—your legs are levers and your pelvis is the fulcrum, the point on which the levers turn. Core strength stabilizes your pelvis so all the power in your legs moves your bike, not your pelvis.

5. Conserving energy—your heart is beating hard moving oxygen and nutrition to your muscles. You want most of the O2 and calories to go to your legs, not to other muscles.

6. Focus—is the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, to put all of your physical and mental capacities into moving the bike down the road rather than being distracted.

Riding on the road, you can work on all six of these. In the winter, my clients work on all of these on the trainer except #1. I’ve ridden centuries on the trainer training for the Race Across America — trust me: you don’t want to do that!

Keys to Maximizing the Value of Your Trainer Time

An effective trainer workout includes: a warm-up, a main set, and a cool-down.

Even if you’re pressed for time, include the warm-up and cool-down. They don’t have to be long—five minutes of each is sufficient for many trainer rides.

Main Sets

The main set should have a specific purpose (or purposes)—don’t just grind away.Here’s how you can work on the above 6 Keys:

1. Endurance—as I described last week Peter Sagan is building his base doing different intervals below or at his aerobic threshold, i.e., he’s never breathing hard. You can adapt his intervals to the trainer:

2. Strength and powerLon Haldeman, who won the Race Across AMerica twice, built a trainer that has no saddle. He’ll train for an hour or more standing — and his legs show it! (I'm not suggesting the seatless trainer for everyone. The point is that you can use your trainer time to help your strength and power.)

3. Technique—sprinting is the best way to improve the coordination of your muscle fibers firing. Don’t worry about gauging how hard you’re riding, just go as hard as you can for 20 to 60 seconds with plenty of recovery between sprints.

4. Core strength—practice riding your bike with firm core muscles so that your hands are resting lightly on the handlebars like you’re typing.

5. Conserving energy—practice riding with a quiet upper body. Rocking your upper body doesn’t produce more power; it just wastes energy.

6. Focus—rather than trying to think about anything other than how boring / painful your workout is, practice focusing just on your breathing or on the feeling of your leg muscles or pedaling with a round stroke.

My Favorite Main Sets for Trainer Workouts

Endurance and Power

Allow a day of recovery between these:

Long endurance intervals: After warming up, ride 5- to 10-minute intervals at the level of effort you’d ride into a headwind. You can still talk but not whistle. Between each interval, recover for about half the length of the interval (2.5 to 5 minutes) at a conversational pace — imagine you’ve turned and only have a pesky cross-wind.

Long hill intervals: Elevate your front wheel. After warming up, ride 3 to 6 climbing intervals at the level of effort you’d climb a long hill. You’re breathing deeply and your legs are definitely working, but not feeling the burn. Between each interval, recover for about the same duration as the interval by riding at an easy pace — imagine you’re spinning down a gentle decline.

Standing intervals: This takes just 30 minutes. Warm up for five minutes. Then put it in a big gear and stand as long as you can. Every five minutes, stand again for a total of 5 reps over 30 minutes. Each workout I try to increase the time standing by at least 5 seconds in each rep.

Power pyramid: Set a moderate resistance. Pedal for 1 minute in your lowest (easiest) gear, then shift up one gear harder and pedal for another minute. Keep shifting up one gear every minute until you get to your hardest gear. Pedal in the hardest gear for a minute and then work your way back down one gear every minute. Try to keep the same cadence throughout.


You can do these on successive days and can incorporate them into warm-ups for other workouts.

One-Legged Pedaling

This is also a great way to warm up. Set a moderate resistance. Unclip and rest your left foot on a box, stool, etc. and start with your right leg:

  • 0:30 - 60 seconds right leg
  • 0:30 - 60 both (don't bother to clip in your left foot; just pedal easy to recover)
  • 0:30 - 60 right leg
  • 0:30 - 60 both
  • 0:30 - 60 right leg
  • 0:30 - 60 both

Each week try to increase each one-leg effort by 5 seconds.


Use a moderate resistance and in zone 2 and 3 increase the cadence as follow. Only go as high as you can while pedaling smoothly:

  • 1 min @ 80 RPM
  • 1 min @ 90 RPM
  • 1 min @ 100 RPM
  • 1 min @ 110 RPM
  • 1 min @ 120 RPM
  • 1 min @ 130 RPM
  • 1 min @ 120 RPM
  • 1 min @ 110 RPM
  • 1 min @ 100 RPM
  • 1 min @ 90 RPM
  • 1 min @ 80 RPM

This is much like the Power Pyramid, but focusing on cadence instead of power.


Use a moderate resistance. Every 3 to 5 minutes accelerate your cadence as fast as you can for 30 seconds while pedaling smoothly.

The next ones are harder main sets and always take at least a day of recovery between them:

Short Sprints

Repeat three to five times:

  • 20 seconds flat out
  • 40 seconds very easy
  • 4 minutes steady

Every few rides make the workout harder by increasing the number of times you repeat the pattern or by reducing the steady riding from 4:00 to 3:30, etc.

Improvised Sprints

Andy Pruitt told me about a football fan he knows who pedals hard every time the ball is in play, and recovers during the huddles.  Another pedals hard during every commercial break. (That may be tougher!)

Additional Resource:

My eArticle Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 includes 15 different trainer workouts, which also work for younger rides.

Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.

Posted on February 14, 2018 .

Centre Cycling Classic (CVIM) - June 23

Mark your calendars for this year's Centre Cycling Classic (formally CVIM Cycling for Care) on Saturday, June 23rd, 2018!

This will be the 10th year with a number of improvements:

  • Starting and ending at a new venue just minutes from our historic location!
  • New and updated routes!
  • Live music and adult beverages available during post ride celebration!
  • New ride partners will be joining us this year too!

Stay tuned for the updated routes to be announced February 2018!!!!

Posted on February 6, 2018 and filed under events.

 Free Maintenance Clinics

Classes are every Tuesday and Thursday starting on January 30th.
Week 1   Tire Change
Week 2   Shifting
Week 3   Brakes
Week 4   General Questions

You can sign up for any number of classes. Call the shop at 814-238-9422 to register.  Space limited.  Preference given to first time attendees

Posted on January 23, 2018 .


By Jim Langley 

Since this is the last Tech Talk before Christmas, I want to give you a gift that’ll keep on giving. My present to you is the seemingly little-known secret that makes it much easier to put on and take off bicycle tires.

I used the words “seemingly” and “secret,” because here at RBR, emails from roadies frustrated over “tight” or “impossible to remove/install” or “stubborn” tires almost never let up.

We enjoy answering email. But wouldn’t it be better not to have to ask, and instead to have the know-how and skill to laugh at those annoying too-tight tires and simply pop them on/off with ease? Yes? I thought as much.

So, in the spirit of the holidays I’m sharing the most important tough-tire-taming tip. That way, you should be able to more easily fix and replace your tires, and also show your riding buds how to do it.

Standard and tubeless clincher tires

This tip works for all clincher road wheels and tires (mountain, too) whether they include tubes or not. Those without tubes are called tubeless or tubeless-ready or tubeless-compatible.

You might hear that having tubeless tires is the reason you can’t get your tires on/off. While it’s true that tubeless are stiffer than standard clinchers (they need to be to remain airtight), the installation and removal tip here works the same on them.

To help you visualize my explanation, I asked my cycling illustrator friend Karl Edwards for a sketch, which he kindly provided gratis (thanks, Karl!).


Outsmart that stubborn tire

Before I discuss the secret, I need to give you a little pep talk. Fixing flats and even replacing tires can be high-stress situations. Frustration, even anger, is understandable. But to master those tough tires, you’ve got to keep it together – or as my head mechanic at The Bicycle Center in Santa Cruz, California, Jeff Jolin, used to say, “You’ve got to be smarter than that tire.”

Jeff was spot-on with that advice. Tight, stubborn tires require thinking about what you’re doing and solving the issue that’s causing the tires to be stuck and refusing to go on or come off. It won’t do any good to get into a wrestling match with the tire.

The secret

If you adopt Jeff’s philosophy and always put your thinking cap on when installing and removing tires, you may never struggle again. All you need to keep in mind is two key factors to ensure that tires behave.

1. The center and deepest portion of the rim (called the rim “well”) has to have nothing in it besides the rim strip or tubeless tape/tubeless valve. Otherwise, whatever is in there will get in the way, preventing the second key factor below.

2. You must get the beads (see Karl’s illustration) down and into the rim well all the way around the rim, or as much as possible, and keep them there to ensure easy on/off.

If you can manage these two things, the beads will sit down inside the rim, in the area that is the rim’s smallest diameter. With the beads down inside the rim, you create slack between the tire and rim; it’s that slack that makes taking tires on and off easier. Actually, most tires and wheels work this way, motorized vehicles included.

If you have trouble

If you still struggle during your next tire change, remember what I said about outsmarting the tire. Carefully inspect around the whole tire and rim on both sides.

For tube-type tires, the most likely thing to get in the way is the tube. Take your time and make sure it’s fully up inside the tire and not in-between the tire bead(s) and rim.

For tubeless tires, the most likely thing is that the tire beads are not down in the rim well all the way around the tire. Inspect carefully and make sure they’re not sitting high on the rim’s bead shelves. Sometimes you have to push them off and down into the rim well a few times to get them to stay down there.

Tip: Since tubeless wheels have a tubeless valve taking up space in the rim well, mount the tire around the rest of the wheel first and pop the beads on last at the stem.

Once you find and fix whatever is preventing the beads going down and sitting in the rim well, that tire will go on and/or come off. You can do it!

Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.

Posted on January 10, 2018 .


By Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Eighty percent of North Americans have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis by age 65, and 60 percent have significant joint pain. A recent study compared the size of knee cartilage in:

  • 176 skeletons of people who lived from 6000 to 300 years ago (from U.S. museums)
  • 1,581 skeletons of people who died between 1905 and 1940, during the early industrial era
  • 819 skeletons of people who died between 1976 and 2015, during the modern post-industrial era

They found that the incidence of knee osteoarthritis (loss of cartilage) has risen at a frightening rate over the last 50 years, reflecting changes from active agrarian or industrial lifestyles to a post-industrial society in which most people do not do a lot of physical labor and gain too much weight (Proc Nat Acad Sci, August 29, 2017;114(35):9332-9336).

It now appears that osteoarthritis may be a disease of inflammation caused mostly by lack of exercise, being overweight, eating a pro-inflammatory diet and having inadequate vitamin D levels (JAMA, November 22, 2017).

For example, knee cartilage has such a poor blood supply that it has to get its nutrients from constant movement and weight bearing that effectively pumps the nutrients into the cartilage. Not moving your knees enough deprives knee cartilage of the nutrients necessary to sustain itself, so that the cartilage becomes smaller and weaker. Knee cartilage can be damaged in sports activities or accidents, but less than 10 percent of knee osteoarthritis appears to be related to trauma.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

People are usually diagnosed as having osteoarthritis if they:

  • have gradually increasing pain in their knees, hips, hands or spine
  • are age 40 or older
  • have negative results in the standard blood tests for the known causes of arthritis, such as gout or psoriasis
  • have pain that is usually worse in the morning when a person first gets up. In osteoarthritis, the pain usually lessens as the person keeps moving. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints often continue to hurt for more than an hour after a person starts moving about.

If hands are affected, the swelling of the knuckles and joints caused by osteoarthritis is on the ends of the fingers next to the fingernails (not in the middle finger joints) and at the base of the thumb. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the middle joints of the fingers and the joints where the fingers attach to the hand.

Evidence of Inflammation

Your immunity is good for you because it kills germs that try to invade your body and works to heal injured tissues. However, after the germ is gone or the wound is healed, your immunity is supposed to slow down. If your immunity remains active, it uses the same chemicals and cells that attack germs to attack you, and that includes destroying the cartilage in your joints. Recent research shows that osteoarthritis can be caused by inflammation, the same overactive immunity that causes heart attacks.

People with osteoarthritis have high blood levels of galectins that turn on a person's immunity to cause inflammation, just like in rheumatoid arthritis and reactive arthritis (The Journal of Immunology, February 15, 2016;196(4):1910-1921).

Almost 70 percent of obese people develop knee osteoarthritis (Arthritis and Rheumatism, Sept 15, 2008;59(9):1207-13), and losing as few as 11 pounds reduces risk of developing knee osteoarthritis among women by 50 percent (Arthritis and Rheumatism, August 1998;41(8):1343-55). Excess weight causes inflammation.

A study of almost 5,000 people showed that those who eat a plant-based Mediterranean-type (anti-inflammatory) diet have a much lower prevalence of osteoarthritis (Clin Nutr, Oct 8, 2016).

Exercise Helps to Prevent and Treat Knee Osteoarthritis

A review of 55 studies showed that weight-bearing exercise reduces pain and improves joint function in people who have osteoarthritis (British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 24, 2015).

An exercise program to strengthen the muscles around the knee is more effective than removing broken cartilage from knees because the exercise program helped stabilize the knee by strengthening the muscles that control knee movement (Br J Sports Med, Nov 15, 2016;50:1426-1427).

A randomized controlled study of 126 people with knee osteoarthritis showed that a combined program of aerobic and strength training for 20 weeks markedly decreased knee pain and increased mobility (Arthritis Care & Research, Aug 30, 2016). No serious side effects occurred from the knee strength and conditioning program.

Exercise strengthens cartilage in women with knee osteoarthritis (Med and Sci in Sprts and Ex. March 23, 2017). High impact exercise for one year strengthened bone and cartilage (J Bone Miner Res, Jan 2014;29(1):192-201).

A review of six studies of 656 men and women with knee osteoarthritis found that exercise improves symptoms of knee pain in osteoarthritis and that it didn't make much difference whether the knee exercise program was of low or high intensity (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Oct 29, 2015;(10):CD010203).

Knee surgery called arthroscopic partial meniscectomy to trim a torn knee meniscus is one of the most common surgical procedures done in North America, with more than 750,000 knee arthroscopies done in the United States each year, but surgery has not been shown to be more effective than exercise in treating knee osteoarthritis (N Engl J Med, 2013;368:1675-84; Br J Sports Med, 2016;50:1473-1480 ).

My Recommendations

If your joints hurt, try to find out what is causing your pain. Your doctor will do tests to see if you have gout, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis or some other known cause. If none is found, you will probably be given a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. If you have sudden locking of your joint and it gets better, and then recurs, you may have "joint mice," loose pieces of cartilage that slip between the cartilage to cause horrible pain. This can usually be cured by removing these lose pieces by arthroscopy.

Many recent studies show that inflammation may well be the cause of most cases of osteoarthritis and therefore you should:

  • lose weight if you are overweight
  • eat an anti-inflammatory diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds, and restricts red meat, all foods and drinks with added sugar and fried foods
  • keep blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 20 ng/ml

Osteoarthritis always worsens with inactivity, so you need to keep on moving. However, be guided by pain and stop when the pain worsens. You should not run, jump or do sports that involve impact because the force of your foot hitting the ground can break off knee cartilage. Low-impact sports include bicycling and swimming.

It is acceptable to try to ease your pain with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), but pain medications do nothing to cure your joint pain and they have many side effects. Take the lowest dose that you need.

If the pain becomes so unbearable that it keeps you awake at night, you may want to consider a knee replacement. However, replacing your joint requires driving a spike into the middle of the bones of your knee and that pushes aside the shock-absorbing marrow and weakens the bone to increase your chances of breaking the bones when you fall. In that case, the knee cannot be replaced until the broken bones heal and you may be unable to walk or be bedridden for a very long time. 

Gabe Mirkin, M.D., is a sports medicine doctor and fitness guru. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin has run more than 40 marathons and is now a serious tandem bike rider with his wife, Diana. His website is Click to read Gabe's full bio.

Posted on December 27, 2017 .

Anatomy of an Ultra Duel



Today, a really long triathlon often ends when one party surrenders miles from the end. This year at the 3-day Ultraman World Championship, there was no surrender as two evenly matched men alternated punches from very different triathletic strong suits. Unlike the 1989 Iron War, these guys were not battling the whole way in close quarters. Instead, they alternated leads in seesaw order. They spent just a few seconds in proximity, but every day was rife with strategy and calculation.




In 2015 Jeremy Howard finished third at Ultraman Hawaii, an hour and 44 minutes behind winner Mike Coughlin. Last year Rob Gray finished second by 44 minutes to Inaki De La Parra. With Coughlin and de la Parra not racing in 2017, Gray and Howard inherited the favorites’ roles and prepared intently. Improving their strengths and weaknesses, they shaved an hour off their Ultraman PRs. They also crafted strategies to employ against one another, producing the second closest men’s finish in Ultraman World Championship history.

Gray was born 41 years ago in South Africa on a farm just outside Johannesburg. He works for Google in Boulder, Colorado and runs an endurance sports coaching business. Gray searched a while before finding his athletic fit. “I can keep going for a long time without slowing down,” he said. “Ironman is too short and 100-mile trail runs are too long. Ultraman is my sweet spot.” 

Jeremy Howard, 37, lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia and works as an endurance sports coach. In 2015, he made the podium at Ultraman Hawaii after an injury severely limited his training. “I had knots deep in my lower abs and it felt like my muscles were ripping off my groin,” said Howard. “Physical therapists and doctors looked for hernias and torn hip flexors but they couldn’t figure it out. So I took off two and a half months. After that, I did massive swim and bike volume and occasionally did a 15 minute jog. Someone suggested rolling out my lower abs with a lacrosse ball. After a couple weeks, a 20 minute jog started feeling OK. I knew I could do two days at Ultraman - then see about the run.” Howard finished with a 6:49 double marathon, eager to realize his Ultraman potential.



Gray worked with bike coach Matthew Bottrill of Great Britain, who advises Tim Don and Rachel Joyce. “He had me do some high intensity stuff,” says Gray. “And staying aero for as long as possible. I also ran with Colleen DeReuck and Joanna Zeiger, who pushed me to focus on quality, not volume.” 

Howard hired coach Chris Thomas with an emphasis on bike training. “More on bike strength versus aerobic endurance,” he said. “I was healthy so I could do the rest of the training I wanted to do in 2015, focusing on tempo runs, not piling on miles.”



When healthy, Howard and Gray are evenly matched with very different triathletic profiles. Howard is a superb swimmer, Gray a good one. Gray is a superior cyclist, Howard is decent but insecure on descents. Howard is a superb runner while Gray has to work hard to defend what he earns on the bike.

“This race is hugely strategic,” said Howard. “When I crewed for Inaki De La Parra last year, I got an appreciation for how the race unfolds and when it is best to push or hold back.” Howard also learned a lot about Gray. “Rob is a very strong cyclist and I knew my race was going to be about minimizing that damage before I could counterattack on the run. Last year Rob made a bold move on the double marathon and it didn’t work out. I figured he improved his pacing.”



Howard led the swim in 2:27:43, 10:22 ahead of Gray. “I came out of the water a little too hot,” said Howard. “My heart rate was a little too high and the first two hours on the bike my effort was 20 watts lower than anticipated.” 

Gray was third out of the water and started the bike in second place. “With that gap, I was prepared for a rough time catching up,” said Gray. 

Gray felt an urgency on the Day 1 and Day 2 bike legs. “I thought I’d need an hour on him before the run,” said Gray. “When I passed him, I hoped to finish Day One with a 20 or 30 minute lead.” 

Gray caught Howard about Mile 30. “I thought he was a little beat after making up 11 minutes,” said Howard. “I hoped he’d pushed too hard.”

“After Rob passed me, I pushed hard to minimize the gap,” said Howard. Expecting a strong headwind on the 4,000 foot climb to Volcanoes, Howard was pleased with a temporary switch in the wind. “At one point we had a tailwind, and the first hour of that climb Rob and I rode about the same. “But the last 30 minutes, we had a pretty significant headwind and near the top, I dropped back.”


Howard lost 27 minutes to Gray on the Day One bike leg. But Gray fell short of his goal. “Jeremy had a good swim,” said Gray. “While I had a good ride, I got only 17 minutes on him.” 


It started with a 20 mile downhill. “Arnaud [Selukov], Tony O’Keefe and I were out front,” said Gray. After a few minutes, Arnaud Selukov of France took off with what Gray termed “an Eddie Merckx, go-for-broke move.” 

Soon the three leaders were riding solo. “My chain came off about 15 miles down a fast steep downhill,” said Gray. “It was a waste of time to stop so I kept freewheeling at 45 mph for the next 12 minutes. When the road leveled, I stopped and reset the chain.” Gray spent the next 20 miles making up the two minutes he lost to the Canadian while Selukov rode 4 minutes ahead. 

Gray and O’Keefe never saw Howard, who trailed by 4.5 minutes at 23 miles. 

“After the big effort on the first day, I didn’t feel great but I was able to hold steady,” said Howard, who trailed by 7 minutes at Hilo. 

After Hilo, the course heads north on the Hamakua Coast, then climbs up to 2,670 feet at Waimea. Next came a 1,300 foot climb up the Kohala Road, which tops out at 3,900 feet. “I weigh about 170 pounds so I’m not super light,” said Gray. “But the winds shoved me all around.”

The stage finished with a 20-mile descent into Hawi, beset by swirling winds. “It is very steep, very curvy, very technical,” said Gray, who lost 8 minutes on the descent. “It was raining and the wind was gusting hard. So I took it conservatively - the last thing I wanted to do was crash out.” 

Selukov rode 7:36:06, 14 minutes better than Gray (7:50:21) and 38 minutes better than Howard (8:14:22). After Day Two, Gray led the overall by 24 minutes on Selukov and 40 minutes on Howard.



Howard said he had a chance if his deficit was under an hour. 

Gray said he could win it if his lead was an hour. But at 40 minutes, he wasn't sure. 

How fast did they think they needed to run? 

“I didn’t expect Jeremy would run much faster than 6:40,” said Gray. “At my absolute best I could run 7 hours.”

“I knew I would run better than 6:40,” said Howard. “Maybe better than 6:30.”

Selukov zoomed out front to start the downhill to Kawaihae. But the two contenders waited.


“I held back because I wanted to ease in and get settled,” said Gray. “After the first few miles, I gradually picked it up.” 

“I wanted to keep my opening effort a bit lower,” Howard recalled. “But I couldn’t keep my heart rate as low as I wanted. By 5k I was in second place and Arnaud maintained a 100 meter lead until Mile 9 or 10.” 

Howard struggled. “Usually we have a tailwind coming down from Hawi but this was a crosswind,” said Howard. “Leaning into an onshore wind, my ankles flexed to the right and I got blown into the rumble strip a few times. I tried to relax, but my heart rate kept rising.” Howard decided if it was just a biomechanical problem, he should go faster - and his heart rate didn’t rise. 

Gray was playing defense. “I ran a little faster at times, slowed down some and took a few walk breaks just to mix it up and break up the repetitive strain,” he said. “Last year my quads packed in around Mile 38 and I vowed not to pound them this time.” 

At the half marathon, Howard led by 13:18. If he maintained that relative pace advantage, he would win by 12 minutes. “I was feeling pretty comfortable,” he said. 

“I wasn’t concerned,” said Gray. “It was very early and I just held steady until the first marathon.” 

Howard hit the marathon in 3:08:29 and Gray in 3:30:55. Howard’s run lead was 22:26, cutting Gray’s overall lead to 18 minutes. If they maintained paces, Howard would win by 4 minutes.

“I knew he struggled at the end of the run last year, so I was pretty confident,” said Howard. 

“I wanted to go from my epic blowup on the run last year to an even split,” said Gray. “I was confident I wouldn’t slow on the second marathon.” 

Gray’s crew wasn't nervous. “They told me, ‘Just stick to the plan. No need to panic.’” said Gray. “I was feeling really good and Jeremy would have to run faster to keep closing on my overall lead. I didn’t think he could run another 3:08, whereas I could duplicate my 3:30.”



When Howard reached the ¾ point [39 miles], his run lead was 28 minutes. “I knew that wasn't enough,” said Howard. There were reasons – he took a 3 and half minute bathroom stop and, in the four miles between Scenic Point and the Veterans Cemetery, runners faced a strong headwind where Howard only gained 30 seconds a mile. 

“When I heard that Jeremy was 28 minutes ahead at Mile 39, that was great news for me because I only lost 6 minutes in the latest 13 miles,” said Gray. “As long as I kept the pressure on I could hold him.”

Almost 5 miles apart, Gray was chasing a moving target until Howard crossed the line. Meanwhile, Howard started cramping on the uphill at Scenic Point 20 miles from the end. “I tried to relax on the climbs and push on the flats and the descents,” said Howard. With 8 miles to go, he had cut 32 minutes from Gray’s overall lead and needed to slice a minute per mile to catch Gray and win. 

Despite the good news at the 39 mile mark, Gray had his own nerve wracking developments. 

First up, Gray’s Garmin went haywire. “It was doing some weird stuff,” he said. “I thought I was going 7:30 per mile but the Garmin showed I was running between 9:30 and 10:15 so I picked up the pace. To make sure, I started hitting the lap button at the mile markers and found I was actually running at 7:15 pace.”

Passing Honokohau Harbor - four miles to go - Gray came upon a red light with cross traffic and had to stop. “I had a good rhythm going but that broke it,” he said. “When I started running again, my legs were seizing up. It took me a minute to warm up again and I knew I couldn’t afford another stop.”

Howard pushed his pace to finish the run 25 minutes faster than his run to third place in 2015. When Gray’s wife Michelle found that Howard’s final run split was 6:24:17 she texted her husband’s crew. “Then I knew I had to finish under 7:04,” said Gray.


With three miles left, Gray’s run pacer Ian Hersey was on the verge of collapse. “He totally cramped and gave me his bottle of water,” said Gray. “Turns out our crew van ran out of water and Ian refused to take any more for himself.” “I was super dehydrated and almost passed out several times,” said Hersey. 

What's more, while his watch was going wobbly, Gray’s mind started playing tricks. “I was nearing the finish,” said Gray. “I was a little disoriented and lost track of exactly where I was. The next mile marker was coming up, and I felt like it should be mile 98 but I couldn't quite make out what it was. I was running on empty and praying it was 98 and not 96, and a wave of relief flooded over me when I saw ‘98’.”

After entering the wide paved lot at the finish at the Old Airport, Gray saw his run time was 6:58 and put in a sprint. “I thought, ‘If I put the hammer down, I could go sub 7.’” Gray finished his run in 6:59:33 – 41:33 faster than his double marathon to second place last year. Howard’s run was 6:24:17 – 25 minutes faster than he ran in 2015 and 35:16 faster than Gray’s much improved 2017 run. 

Selukov ran 7:33:06, 58:03 behind the winner. 

Howard simply ran out of real estate. “Our battle really got the best out of me,” said Howard. “I can’t thank Rob enough for giving me the motivation to dig deep within myself.” 

After their fierce battle, Gray gave Howard a half-joking compliment. “He told me, ‘I love you - and I hate you,’” laughed Howard.

Gray finished in 22:19:48, 5 minutes 28 seconds ahead of Howard. His margin of victory was the second closest in Ultraman Hawaii history. In 1986 James Freim beat William Woodruff by 5 seconds – the margin of defeat attributed to the time out Woodruff took at T1 to kiss his girlfriend, famed Ironman race director Valerie Silk. 

Gray and Howard were astonished at what their duel wrought. “It pushed us to a level we didn’t think we were capable of,” said Gray. “It was so close – it could have gone either way.”

Posted on December 22, 2017 .


By Coach John Hughes

Last week’s column was about the importance of Year-Round Base Training. This column discusses how one pro does his own base training this time of year.

Peter Sagan’s Training Program

Cycling Weekly recently published Peter Sagan’s training program for a week. Sagan is a triple world champion who has won a total of 101 races, including 8 stages in the Tour de France, 15 in the Tour de Suisse and 16 in the Tour of California.

At the start of his base training he’s doing:

  • 2 endurance days totaling about 8 hours
  • One of the rides includes long intervals
  • One of the rides includes hill intervals
  • 1 long endurance ride of 4 - 5 hours.
  • 1 ride of 3 - 3:30 hours including short intervals
  • 2 easy recovery rides totaling 3:30 hours. These are what the pros call “coffee” rides, i.e., a very easy ride to meet buddies for coffee.
  • 2 gym workouts

He’s training a total of about 19 hours a week, more than any of us ride unless we’re at a training camp or on a tour.  I’m NOT recommending anything approaching his volume for us mere mortal recreational riders. But other aspects of his base training, specifically – his approach to intervals – can be instructive for us.

Aerobic Threshold

All of his intervals based on his aerobic threshold. The aerobic threshold is the classic conversational pace, the pace he can sustain for hours of racing. Remember seeing the pros chatting in the peloton? They're able to do that at a pace that would destroy most of the rest of us.

You’re probably familiar with the anaerobic threshold, which is the point at which the production of lactate exceeds the body’s capacity to clear it.

Even at rest your body is producing small amounts of lactic acid. The aerobic threshold is where the blood lactate concentration starts to rise above the level at rest. Up to this threshold your body produces power almost exclusively from your slow-twitch muscles, and energy is produced almost exclusively from fat.

 “Pro riders spend the bulk of their time training at or below this threshold.” (VeloNews April 2016)

Sagan’s Intervals:

Sagan rides three kinds of intervals:

  1. Long intervals of 4 - 6 reps of 10 minutes close to but below aerobic threshold (conversational pace).
  2. Hill intervals are climbing 2 or 3 hills a little harder but still below his aerobic threshold. Each hill is about 10 - 20 minutes long, and he rides at an “effort that’s sustainable for a long time” – the effort at which he’d climb in the Alps or the Pyrenees in the Tour.
  3. Short, harder intervals are blocks of 12 repetitions at or slightly above of his aerobic threshold, which he rides on short hills. “The goal is to introduce a small amount of intensity.”

If his intervals are at a brisk conversational pace, how hard is he riding between intervals? Not very hard at all!

Intervals in December

Fortunately, base training doesn’t have to be just grinding out long, slow miles in crappy weather. Sagan’s intervals are built into his endurance rides, totaling only about 25 - 30% of the duration of each ride. You can do this, too, to avoid the monotony by mixing up your efforts as follows:

  1. Multi-hour endurance ride — The pace at which you can easily talk in full paragraphs. These rides increase your endurance.
  2. Long efforts — The pace at which you’d ride into a headwind. You can still talk in full sentences but you can’t whistle. These efforts, along with #3, increase your cruising speed.
  3. Moderate efforts — The pace at which you’d ride a sustained climb. You can still talk in full sentences, but the sentences are shorter.
  4. Brisk efforts — The pace at which you can talk in phrases but not full sentences. These efforts start to increase your power.

As the intensity increases from 1 to 4, the quantity and length decrease.

At this time of year, stick with #1 and #2. After 6 - 8 weeks you can add #3. If you plan to do hard intervals in the spring, then after another 6 - 8 weeks you can step up to #4.

Other Lessons from Sagan's Training

Sagan’s training includes other wisdom. He has only four longer and/or harder rides a week, two recovery rides and one day with no training. Sagan is just 27 and a seasoned pro, but he and his coach recognize the importance of recovery. For regular roadies, four recovery days and only three longer and/or harder rides will produce more improvement with less risk of overtraining. For roadies who’ve only been riding a few years or are 60 years or older, just two longer and/or harder days are better. 

Sagan does his rides with intervals on his own so that he can dial in the right pace for him.One or two days a week, he rides with friends. If he wants to push a little harder on those days, that’s okay.

I’ve been riding since I was in my 20s and have many thousands of miles in my legs. I’m now 68. I can handle two longer and/or harder days a week. If I try to do more, my performance falls off. I also do a lot of my riding alone so that I can match the level of effort to the purpose of the ride rather than trying to keep up with (or drop) a buddy.

Asked about the best training advice he ever got, Sagan responded, “A great coach once told me that doing one session less than you had scheduled is preferable to doing one too many.”

My 41-page eArticle Intensity 2016 describes in much more detail how to gauge intensity by perceived exertion, heart rate and power. It then describes how to train at different intensities to achieve different physiological changes.

Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.

Posted on December 18, 2017 .