How to Set Strava PRs, with The Pro’s Closet

We catch up with our friends at The Pro’s Closet, Spencer Powlison and Bruce Lin, to discuss their recent four-week Strava PR Challenge. In the lead up to their attempts, we helped them with training advice and “race-day” strategy tips.

Spencer Powlison The Pros Closet Fast Talk Podcast

We catch up with our friends at The Pro’s Closet, Spencer Powlison and Bruce Lin, to discuss their recent four-week Strava PR Challenge. In the lead up to their attempts, we helped them with training advice and “race-day” strategy tips.

No doubt, this has been an unusual year for cycling. Many of our favorite races were postponed or canceled. And while bikes aren’t the most important thing in the world, and public health and safety should always be our priority, as cyclists we thrive on the motivation that comes from training for a big race or event, or setting our sights on a particular challenge.

Thus, The Pro’s Closet Strava PR Challenge was born.

To reinvigorate their competitive juices and get a dose of competition, Bruce and Spencer turned their attention to local Strava segments in Boulder, Colorado. Trevor gave them some training tips on how to prepare most effectively given their timeline (a mere six weeks), and we also coached them on “race-day” strategy.

Today we recap all the tips, tricks, and training advice, and talk about how their attempts went. Let’s make you fast!

Check out the series of videos produced by The Pro’s Closet.

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 00:12
Welcome to Fast Talk, we have a special episode today. We’re sitting down with the guys from the pros closet Spencer Powlison, Bruce Lin, we work with them on a little project, a Strava PR challenge and we wanted to get them on the show to talk about how it went, how they trained, how we helped them, how we may have hurt them, and talk about the greater context of finding new ways to stay motivated in this strange world we live in. So welcome to the program, Spencer and Bruce.

Spencer Powlison 00:45
Hey, there.

Bruce Lin 00:46

Trevor Connor 00:47
Hey guys, good to talk with you again.

Chris Case 00:49
Oh, yeah. Trevor’s here too. Haha.

Trevor Connor 00:52
I’m not quite in the tundra of Canada, but I’m up in Canada.

The origin story

Chris Case 00:56
Yeah, we’re we’re recording from four different locations right now. Hopefully it all goes smoothly. So, tell us guys a little bit about the origin story here: desperate times call for desperate measures, or maybe more appropriately, these strange times call for new challenges. We can’t race our bikes, need to stay motivated…. How did you come up with this PR challenge?

Bruce Lin 01:21
So, Spencer and I originally this year we were planning to do two pretty big races together. I’ll call it DK, we were going to DK and we were going to do Downieville, those both got cancelled so from March on, lost all motivation to train and ride and just was really looking for a reason to get back on my bike. And what happened was I just started looking through Strava and was looking at, you know, a lot of my old PRs. And I was seeing that I said a lot of them in 2014 and 2015 when I was probably about 20 pounds lighter and I started wondering like, “Will I ever be able to be any of these PRs?” And so that sort of started this thing with Spencer where we’re like, hey, let’s go, you know, we’re not racing, let’s go and just use Strava and set a goal and train for it and see what happens.

Chris Case 02:24
Nice, tidy little plan helps to get motivated. It’s a safe way to get out there really, you know, even group rides have been shut down. How’d you pick the actual segments that you ended up picking?

Bruce Lin 02:39
I actually chose mine Chapman, here in Boulder, because several years ago when I got my first gravel bike, and the guys at the Pros Closet took me on my first gravel ride that was the first like gravel ride I ever did was up Chapman.

Chris Case 02:56
Sentimental value.

Bruce Lin 02:58
Yeah, exactly. And then also, the guise of the Pros Closet, a lot of them are really fast, they would, you know, take me up Chapman and explode me. So, I definitely thought, hey, if I’m by myself, I’d never riden it by myself, if I’m by myself, maybe I’ve got a shot of like, dictating my own pace, and maybe beating these PRs that I set in these group rides.

Chris Case 03:26
And Spencer, how did you pick the segment that you picked? What was it and how did you get there?

Spencer Powlison 03:31
I decided to do my PR challenge on Sunshine Canyon. Practically speaking, I didn’t want to do a gravel segment because Bruce was already going to do one, it seemed like we should have a mix, we should have one road and one gravel. I looked at the different climbs around Boulder and the trouble is I’ve been riding around here for a long time, even before Strava started. So I’ve had many, many times going up these climbs and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be as fast on that sort of effort as I once was like, maybe five years ago or so. So I sort of had to pick one that maybe I’d never really tried to ride as fast as possible. So, for instance, something like Flagstaff was kind of out of a question because I knee my time on that was really, really fast and I’d done it with a group which helped in some of the faster like sections where drafting mattered, and so like I kind of, you know, looked around and considered some of those variables. But really like kind of, I think one of the more meaningful things about choosing Sunshine is just that I’m currently, and almost finished, building a house at the top of paved section of Sunshine with my wife. I mean, we’re not physically building it, but we’re having people built it. There’s like that kind of feeling of like, “Okay, this is the climb to my house” and it’s kind of special like that. Also, the thing about the Sunshine climate, we’ll maybe get into that in a sec, is that it’s not necessarily a pure climbers climb, which probably is good for me. I kind of get accused of being a pure climber and I don’t think it’s very accurate usually, because for whatever reason, they’re known that’s not quite how I characterize myself as a rider if it’s at all possible to do that.

Bruce Lin 05:22
It’s more you than me, Spencer

Chris Case 05:25
It’s all it’s all relative, right, Bruce?

Bruce Lin 05:28

Spencer Powlison 05:29
Yeah, well, and also should be said, Bruce, that you’ve been riding bike seriously, for what, five years?

Bruce Lin 05:35
Maybe a little longer.

Spencer Powlison 05:37
Okay. So I mean, don’t be too hard on yourself, because I started riding and racing bikes back when I was like 12, or 13. So…

Trevor Connor 05:48
Been going for a while

Spencer Powlison 05:49
23 or 24 years so it all adds up. Anyway, Sunshine turned out to be the one that I wanting to do; hard climb, fairly long, about 2000 feet of elevation gain, I forget what the specs were on the specifics I think was like six miles, maybe.

Chris Case 06:04
I think for both of you there are some commonalities here. You picked something that you had a bit of history with, there was some attachment to it and I think that that is actually a good thing in itself because it added to the motivation. You might have, others listening out there might have, a climb in their area or segment in their area or you could apply this of course to races to: “I’ve got the history with that race, I’ve always gone there, I’ve never done so good. I want to go back, I want to prove that I can tackle that particular type of course,” or something like that – so I would say that’s a good thing when it comes to the psychology of taking on a challenge like this is having some attachment or history with the segment.

Spencer Powlison 06:49
Exactly. I mean, personally, I would never go and spend money and time and effort to go to a race that I didn’t care about or one that was like not interesting, or it didn’t have that sort of appeal. I mean, maybe there was a time in my career when – or not a career – but maybe there’s a time when I would do. I certainly did some pretty crappy cross races when I was in Colorado for Ranger.

Chris Case 07:16
Hey, I was probably at them too!

Spencer Powlison 07:18
Yeah, and you’ve probably beat me at them too. But nowadays, I’m not I’m not wasting my time and effort on a race that doesn’t really inspire and get me stoked. And now you know, going back to what Bruce was saying, DK, Downieville, two just total bucketlist events and it was a bummer they got canceled so, yeah, we definitely were happy to have something to focus on.

Trevor Connor 07:42
I got to give you guys credit for finding that motivator. I mean, this has been a tough year on everybody. A lot of people just kind of went well there’s nothing going on and just, the motivation went through the floor. You guys were discouraged that the two races you were targeting didn’t happen, but you quickly said, “What’s something else that can motivate us?” And that’s critical. And as Chris said, even picking climbs that you really want to get a result on help with the motivation. I’m learning right now with myself how important that motivator is, because I didn’t even realize this. But what was keeping me going with my training all year was the fact that I thought Tobago was going to happen in October. And a week and a half ago, they announced that Tobago is off the calendar. And the next day, I was supposed to go out and do a really hard workout and sat there and looked at the workout plan and said, well I could do that workout. Or alternatively, I could sit on the couch and order a pizza. And the second one won and I have not turned a pedal over in anger since.

Bruce Lin 08:47
Oh, what kind of pizza did you order?

Trevor Connor 08:50
I think it was pepperoni and mushroom

Chris Case 08:52
Pepperoni and mushroom. I knew you are going to say that.

Bruce Lin 08:56
I’ll pass on the mushrooms. But for you, treat yourself.

Chris Case 08:59
Two things I’d want to throw in here we actually had a really great discussion more in the early stages of COVID and lock downs with a great psychologist named Julie Ammerman. If you people want to go back to Episode 102, we talked about reframing and seeing things as opportunities rather than as barriers. Coming up with these challenges for motivation. It’s a great episode if you want to dig into a little bit more of the sports psychology there. Second question, I want to play fiction here a little bit, Trevor, we were not, no offense to the guys at the Pros Closet, but we were not invited to have our own PR challenges. This was for them, we coach them. But I want to know if you were to come up with your own PR challenge, Trevor what segment or climb would you choose and why?

Trevor Connor 09:57
My eternal climb that I still want to take a run at is Flagstaff. Just because my best times up Flagstaff were all before Strava existed and before GPS, and it really bugs me.

Chris Case 10:12
That’s because you’ve been riding bikes probably longer than a couple of us combined. Yeah?

Trevor Connor 10:19
Well, thanks. What are you saying there? Chris?

Chris Case 10:21
You’re very experienced. You’re a veteran.

Trevor Connor 10:24
Yes, my, so you know, my best times up Flagstaff back in the 20s and 30s, you know, roaring 20s, it was great fun. I had a dream one time of taking the Strava KLM, I actually did because I got into Strava really early, I had the KLM for a while – I’ve had this dream, which has been totally crushed ever since Tom Downy set that ridiculous time.

Spencer Powlison 10:48
Yeah, Chris, what’s your segment?

Chris Case 10:50
Oh, what’s my segment? Okay, good question. Well, you know, to be sort of honest about all of this, Trevor and I did talk about both trying to do super Flag PRs. The only time I’ve ever really gone after it was, well I’ve gone after it several times, but really gone after it, quote, unquote, “trained for it,” put on the tubulars, all that sort of stuff… yeah, I haven’t ever really done that, so that was actually on my list of things to try to do this summer. It didn’t happen. I have a pretty fast time up it. A lot of my times from back in the day too, like you Spencer, are fast and I don’t think I’ll ever be that fast again. I won’t be that fast again. So I would have had to, if I really wanted to actually improve a PR, I would have had to choose a little bit more obscure, obscure climb. I have a fondness in my heart for Logan Mill, which would be hard to get a PR for, but that’s a great climb. For those not familiar with it: dirt, narrow, gets way up into the hills, kind of feels remote up there, steep, chunky gravel at times when it’s a certain time of year. So yeah, I like mixed terrain type climbs, that would be my go-to I think.

The demands of Chapman and how to train

Let’s go back to this premise. Here, you picked a segment, then we wanted to understand its demands, and we’ll talk about those, that’s when you engaged with us to work with you and train for those demands and then obviously, you set a date and said, “Let’s go out and try to crush it.” To go back to you, Bruce, what were some of the demands of your particular segment.

Bruce Lin 12:40
It was actually really good that I talked to you guys, because my plan was a lot simpler. I was just going to go and try to ride really hard. But you guys sort of encouraged me to look at the terrain a little more. Chapman has, what did you call them?

Chris Case 12:55
Yeah, waterbar.

Bruce Lin 12:58
Waterbars. So it has these like undulating sections, I guess to divert water and prevent erosion. But they’re like these big mounds that you ride over. Now, I have never really thought about them until I talked to you guys and you guys told me to attack those little water bars, right? And I will say like, the first time I tried to ride Chapman, after you know, being, you know, coming right off the couch pretty much trying to attack those was, it wasn’t gonna happen. The main thing that I needed to work on was really just being able to put in hard efforts, recover, and then repeat. And really, I just needed to do that up until say maybe two-thirds of the way up, the grade really levels out. So I just need to survive through that, get to where it levels out, and just sort of sprint to the finish. I’m not the type of rider who’s really good at going, say above threshold, and recovering. I’m really a lot better at just riding at threshold for X amount of time, like a really long time. So I we had to sort of work on that aspect of my fitness. And then also one thing because I think, Trevor, you just told me to just ride it every weekend, something like that.

Trevor Connor 14:23
Yeah, so we said we gave you a workout. So basically your two intensities were one a workout to work in that going above threshold and really hurting yourself. And the other one was go pace yourself on the actual climb go and time trial it essentially.

Bruce Lin 14:38
What I did is I basically just wrote it once every weekend, up until I actually made my attempt. And I actually realized that I had never really paid attention but there is like a smooth line in the gravel. And you know me being like “whatever” – I don’t think very hard when I’m riding, I just stayed on the right side of the road. But there’s a smooth line that sort of sneaks up and I’m like, “Oh, I should be staying out of like this section that’s all deep and with the big chunky rocks, I should be on the smooth part.” That’s something I just, you know, I really just didn’t think about that until I had ridden it a couple of times and be like, “what am I doing?” The other thing was really just figuring out the pacing. Like I said, I’d ridden it with a lot faster riders and I just blew up in the first half. every time. When I was riding by myself, what you know, became really obvious that I needed to go a lot easier in the first half, and save a lot more energy for the second half where the grade sort of eases off, and really try to make up more time in that last half of the climb.

Chris Case 15:44
Familiarity with a climb is really – can make a huge difference in how you pace yourself going out and sort of doing a recon on a climb like that, where you, it dawned on you “eh, I should actually ride around some of these chunkier areas, my rolling resistance will be less if I choose this better line.” And maybe if you hadn’t ever ridden the climb before you just barge your way through all that garbage and it would slow you down. So familiarity can be quite an advantage.

Bruce Lin 16:21
And when I was riding with other people, hurting myself trying to keep up with them, I wouldn’t have like the mental capacity to really pay attention, I would just be trying to, you know, I’d had my head down just trying to ride and scouting it out on my own that’s like the first time I really just looked around at what I was riding on.

Trevor Connor 16:40
So you’re actually pointing out something that’s one of those little subtle tricks you can use in racing, especially if you’re going up something like Chapman that a lot of people don’t think about, you always think I don’t want to be the guy at the front on a climb because then I’m doing more work. I’d rather be sitting on wheels. But in something like Chapman, if I was racing people, I would often rather be on the front where I can see those lines, make sure I’m going through the the best terrain. And hopefully force some people I’m racing to to ride in the looser part, the not so good part.

Chris Case 17:12
Yep, absolutely. That pertains to, you know, other disciplines to some psych sections of a cyclocross race or mountain bike race where you want to get on the front, it might be counterintuitive, I guess, in a way to be on the front. But driving the pace, being able to choose the line cleaner line can certainly be an advantage at times. Do we want to talk about Trevor, Bruce’s training now? Or do we want to talk about the demands of Spencer’s climb?

Trevor Connor 17:45
Well actually want to ask one question. So let me-

Chris Case 17:48
Yeah, good.

Trevor Connor 17:49
You brought this up. So Bruce, you you were just talking about the pacing. And actually, you in real time learn the importance of that pace. And because as I remember, you did set your PR, but it was not in the actual attempt.

Bruce Lin 18:05
Yeah, that’s right. So, in the actual attempt, I got pretty excited and I did go out a little harder than I planned to go and then just in a different time, I was riding with my, I was just riding with – we call him Cousin Steve. He’s not my actual cousin, but we’re both and it’s just-

Chris Case 18:28
A thing

Bruce Lin 18:28
Someone asked one day, is he your cousin? And I said, Yeah, sure.

Chris Case 18:31
Oh, boy. Interesting.

Bruce Lin 18:35
I ride with him a lot. And we’re pretty, fitness wise, we’re pretty close. And it was just like, sort of like a fun day ride. So I didn’t go out like super hard in the start of time and just stuck with him. And my whole plan was, “I’m gonna drop you when we get to that part where the grade is off,” so I’m just gonna chill, I’m just going to smash it, and I’m going to drop you. And basically, it ended up being like, the ideal pacing plan means I did set a faster time than I ended up setting during my actual attempt. And so I think there is for me probably more time to be gained just being more disciplined with my pacing.

Trevor Connor 19:17
So this is an old expression but they say the three rules of time trialing are start out slow, start out slow, start out slow.

Bruce Lin 19:24
Definitely, mentally it was hard because before, you know, we had our camera guy there filming me, so before actually did the attempt I actually, you know, felt nervous, like, you know, it’s not a real, it’s not a race, it’s Strava but somehow, like I’d like put effort into it, I’d like told people I was doing it, so I had like something at stake and I felt nervous and I think that nervousness made me go out harder than I wanted and I shouldn’t have. Just what happened.

Chris Case 19:59
That is not uncommon.

Trevor Connor 20:01
No, not at all. I still remember many years ago doing the Colorado State Time Trial Championships, which is a 40K time trial. And I started out, you know, I’d learned that lesson, don’t kill yourself at the start, but I still was going at a pretty good clip off the start line, and I was maybe a mile and a half, two miles into the race when the guy was started behind me pasted me. And I just watched him blow by me and said, “He’s either gonna win this race or he is killing like he’s in trouble.” And he got out of sight. Sure enough, 20 minutes later, I got him back in view past him and I ended up beating him by like, five or six minutes. He absolutely blew up. And he won it the following year, once he learned how to pace, but he knew he was strong enough to win, I was just so nervous, so excited, he just went out and basically did a 10 minute time trial at the start of a 40K.

Chris Case 21:03
And I have a similar experience. Not sure what the lesson is, it’s basically the same: don’t go out too hard. I did the Hour Record. This is the perhaps ultimate time trial and pacing is very critical, not only because it’s an hour long, pretty demanding effort, you’re dealing with the forces of the track, fixed gear, etc. And I had a pacing schedule, and I got super excited and I went out and I was not off of that pacing schedule or under that pacing schedule, by much. We’re talking tenths of a second per lap, maybe sometimes a full second or a little bit more than that, but it not astronomically large amounts of time. But BUT that’s going out too fast in an hour record, especially in someone who, you know, has very little experience in the hour record. I had never done it before. It caught up to me in a violent, awful way. And the second half of that hour was utterly brutal. So, again, not highly applicable, maybe because not everybody’s going to go out and do an hour record. But the same principles apply, go out slow, go slow, go slow. And if you can, the second half, and half an hour is a long time. So maybe not the second half. But the final quarter perhaps is when that’s when you say okay, I made it through the really hard part. Now, there’s not that much longer, I can lift it a little bit here. And then that’s a safer, safer way to do it, and ultimately, a sounder way to pace yourself. Trevor, I want to know, a little bit more about the you know, given the demands of Bruce’s effort, how did you suggest he trained? What were those two workouts that you suggested he do?

Trevor Connor 23:17
Well, so first of all, this is an important context for the rest of the conversation, which is we spoke with both of you about six weeks before you made your attempt. So we knew there was not going to be any sort of dramatic fundamental shift in your form, that at this point it was it was mostly fine tuning and just seeing if we can eke a little more out of you. It’s also I recommended to both of you go and Time Trial your courses and learn it because some of the biggest gains you can get in time are just getting familiar with the course that you’re going to race. So when we talked with you, we recognize Bruce that you’re like me you’re Time Trial style rider and those water bars are something that really mess you up – they certainly mess me up when I go up that climb because you just want to go steady, you want to get into your mode and just hold a consistent wattage. And when you hit those water bars, you have to put out the power to go over them. So you have to go over threshold and then you have a little downhill on the other side and just messes up your rhythm. And I’ve seen this, Chris and I have raised up it a few times and we usually hold pretty even until we get to those water bars but I’m the time trial type, Chris is the climber type who likes those variations and pace, and when we hit those water bars, he just rides away from me. So new for you to improve your time. You need to get comfortable with that high intensity, above threshold effort to be able to get over those and then keep time traveling so the workout that I gave you because it produces results pretty quickly. It was a sprint workout.

Bruce Lin 25:01
Yeah, it was a eight by eight by 20. Right?

Trevor Connor 25:06

Bruce Lin 25:07

Trevor Connor 25:08
And how many times did you curse my name when you did this workout?

Bruce Lin 25:11
During it? None because I just was in pain. But what’s funny is I kind of, you know, had been off the bike for so long. You told me 20 seconds to go all out. And I’d kind of forgotten what going all out felt like. Like, I remember the first time I did the workout I was like, was that actually all out? I like wasn’t sure. And then like three reps later, like, Oh, I can go harder and harder and harder. Until I was just okay, this is all out. I am like wasting myself. So that was an interesting experience.

Trevor Connor 25:50
So I mean, there are physiological adaptations that happen with that workout. But a big part of it for me was actually just teaching you to deal with that sort of pain. Because time trialers like you and I, we don’t like that sort of intense, above threshold pain, and then somewhat avoid it. And to get over those water bars, you need to get thrown a little bit.

Chris Case 26:14
Yeah, it’s like the being familiar with the climb is an advantage. And being familiar with that type of effort is also an advantage, it helps you wrap your head around the fact that you can do it, and you can repeat it. And that variability isn’t something maybe as as difficult to deal with as you once thought.

Trevor Connor 26:37
But I will admit, I felt so bad giving you that sprint workout that a week later, I went and did it a couple times myself.

Chris Case 26:44
So kind of you, Trevor,

Trevor Connor 26:47
Just just for sympathy.

Bruce Lin 26:49
I did, I did really appreciate that workout. Because you know, I’m with my schedule, it’s it’s really hard to get out and ride for like, longer than an hour. And it actually was really easy for me to do that workout in, say, like a one hour lunch ride. You know, because the workout itself would take, say, 20 minutes, I’d have enough time to get to a climb to do it on, do it and then get home. So it actually really worked with my life currently, which was really good.

Trevor Connor 27:28
If our listeners are wondering, it’s a, so one set is eight sprints 20 seconds, I recommend doing it on a climb. That’s as much for safety as anything else. Because you don’t want to when you’re dealing with cars be all out sprinting on flats, where you actually get up to a really good speed. So you do the 20 second, Sprint, and then you basically don’t pedal for two minutes, then you do your next sprint. And every time you’re just trying to hit the biggest waters you’ve ever hit and go as hard as you can go. And they do hurt. If you’re doing them right, you get to the end of that sprint and you’re gasping for air.

Bruce Lin 28:08
Yeah, 20 seconds ends up feeling like a really long time.

The demands of Sunshine Climb and how to train

Chris Case 28:12
Why don’t we take a step back and turn it over to Spencer to describe the demands of the Sunshine climb as he understood them. And perhaps we helped you understand some of those demands.

Spencer Powlison 28:27
Definitely, the Sunshine Climb is is an interesting climb, because there’s kind of a first half and a second half, which are fairly different from each other. And it’s about half an hour, I was aiming to get under 27 minutes. And it is pretty evenly split where the first part is really proper climbing, where you have a pretty steady gradient up the drainage and then you start to switch back a little if a slight rest, but then you are really at the limit going up the wall so to speak, is what it’s called, and it’s very steep and extended and exposed. And then after that it’s not quite like the type of thing a pure climber would prefer because you have some undulations and some short descents. And the climbing that remains, there are some steep pitches, they’re pretty short. They’re not you know, I can’t imagine any of them take more than a few minutes. And then it’s a bit of a grind to the end. So it’s sort of a pacing trick where you have to, you have to find a way to keep something left in the tank for the last half because those undulations and a slight downhill definitely can be good places to gain time and pick up speed versus going like slightly harder and slightly faster on the very steepest part. So it was, it is a complicated climb, which makes it interesting and pretty, pretty cool. And I feel like you guys definitely reinforced that when we discussed it. And it definitely kind of confirmed what I was sort of expecting would be the crux of it is that that sense of like, you know, you know, splitting it up, and then knowing where you’re going to need to put in the biggest efforts.

Chris Case 30:28
One of the things that really stuck with me when Trevor and I did our study of climbing our experiment where he and I, and we invited Sepp Kuss at the time he was riding for Rally, before he became a world tour star. But he was still very talented and very fast. We recruited him did a whole different series of tests of these climbs. And one of the things that we noticed, and one of the things that we concluded from all of that was, you could put in 50 watts extra on a really steep pitch of a climb, which would make you go half a mile per hour faster, or you could settle into a solid, but not overly aggressive pace on those steep parts, wait until the climb began to crest, then put in 50 watts extra or more. And because the gradient was less, see your speed rise by 2,5,6, 8 miles per hour, whatever the case may be. So pacing on an undulating climb like that takes some discipline, you need to, you need to actually hold back a bit on the hardest parts, so that when it eases up, you can really take advantage of some of the strength and power that you have saved up to maximize speed, because it’s really all about getting up the thing fastest. It’s not about wasting a whole bunch of effort on really steep parts and then noodling along and recovering on the flat parts or the descents. And, and Sunshine at the top is quite exposed because of old fires. So the wind can be a factor. And if you’re fighting the wind up there with nothing left in the tank, it’s really frustrating. And you’re going to be crawling so.

Spencer Powlison 32:26
Totally. And I remember when you did that project, Recep. We were discussing it. And in my mind that was, it really struck me as like an old cross country ski racers pacing strategy, and I did race cross country skiing in college and accepted as a younger athlete, where there’s so much friction in that sport, with a skis on the snow, that if you’re overcoming that friction to really accelerate through the crest of a hill onto a descent, it’s far more impactful than the effort you put in on the steepest part of the climb. And there’s still friction in riding bikes. And there’s still wind resistance that, that play into that. So yeah, I remember us discussing that. It’s, it’s a sort of one of those tricks that it maybe doesn’t make as much sense if you’re riding in a master race with a group. Because you try and like put people in the box on the hardest sections, usually. But if your time trialing well, then it’s kind of totally anything’s fair game in terms of getting Point A to Point B as fast as possible.

Trevor Connor 33:32
Even in a race, when I was living full time in Toronto, there was a weekend race that we would go do or kind of group ride that would turn into a race that we would go do north of Toronto that was on these, all these short kind of one, two minute, steep climbs that tended to have a downhill on the other side. And I was trying to explain this concept to people that you actually don’t gain that much. By hitting those short steep climbs really hard. You get the gains coming over the top. And so I would get into the habit of letting them take that second or two out of me on the steep climb, not giving it my all. But as we crested that’s where I would put in my attack and go really hard and I keep breaking away and putting a ton of time into them because they were so gas from hitting that that hill hard they would drop down to 150 watts coming over the top and I just ride away. And I still remember trying to explain this to a guy and he was very irate with me and said no, you just racing it wrong, Trevor. You’re not racing the way you’re supposed to, like getting away from you. Well, yeah, but that’s because you’re doing a wrong boy.

Spencer Powlison 34:47
Yeah, you’re so right. And I mean, even in the biggest races in the world, like that’s exactly how Soren Craig Anderson got away in the final kilometers a stage 14 of the tour last weekend. Just accelerating over the top of a hill and it’s just such a such a canny, smart move to do that a lot of people just stay. That’s that sort of it’s a disconnect. You just assume the climb is where you have to attack.

Trevor Connor 35:13

Chris Case 35:15
For those of you listening that want to go back and hear more about all the the science of climbing, as we called it, that episode is number 36 in the Wayback Machine, you have to go to get to that one. So what were the the given those demands of the Sunshine Climb, what were, this is for you and Trevor, what was the what was the training that we prescribed here?

Spencer Powlison 35:41
Sure. The main thing that Trevor started me out on were over unders. And I’ll let him describe it, you’ll probably have a clear picture of what that means. But he also suggested perhaps mixing in some Tabata efforts as well, which I did that in like one of the final training weeks I had. So I don’t know, Trevor, why don’t you take it away, because you, it’s a very complex workout.

Trevor Connor 36:07
And we’ve actually had it on the show before, so I got to giv full credit, it was Evan Hoffman, who gave us this exact protocol. I really like over-unders, I have a bunch, but I went out and tried his and I think they’re just fantastic. And they’re really designed for climbing. So he has these, the full workout that he does, which I rarely give to anybody, is basically four sets of about 15 minutes. And the first one is just a 15 minutes sweetspot effort, which I don’t think I gave to you-`

Spencer Powlison 36:43
You did, but I just skipped it because I don’t have the time for it.

Chris Case 36:46
Skip that sweet spot,

Trevor Connor 36:48
Which is usually what I don’t give to people, the second one is alternating between two minutes, a little above threshold, three minutes below threshold. So you do that for 15 minutes, so it’s three repeats. The next set is one minute above threshold, three minutes below threshold, but that one minute is really hard. And all these below thresholds are just below like 95% even 97% like getting pretty close. So that one you repeat four times, so it’s actually a 16 minute set. And then the final set is just mean; it’s 10 seconds sprint’s with one minute recoveries. And I usually prescribe 12 of them but I rarely personally even make it to full 12.

Chris Case 37:42
This is one of those workouts that if you can put it on to your head unit. That’s great. If you don’t have such capabilities, you probably want to write it out and tight tape it to your stammered toptube because it is a little bit complicated and you get cross-eyed and you get forgetful. And if you want, you know, obviously you can sort of, you don’t have to be so exact with the times of things but yeah, it does get a little complicated. It’s interesting because we often talk on the show about how sometimes the complicated stuff is complicated for no good reason. But you do like this workout, Trevor. Explain why.

Trevor Connor 38:25
Well Evans designed for it was This simulates a bike race. So if you have a hilly race or hilly course with multiple climbs, you take the first one steady. The second one, you’ll start having some attacks so you’ll have to go a little harder, but nobody’s really killing it. It’s those final two climbs, so the second one where you’re gonna have guys – or the third one where guests can try to break away. And the last one if it’s a hilltop finishes, where it just gets silly and people start sprinting. So that’s the concept, it’s simulating what you would experience in a race. In Spencer’s case, I really liked it for him because not so much the hard efforts, but actually the unders because of what we’re talking about. He is necessarily on those steep parts on on Sunshine, they are so steep, you’re going to go over threshold. But where you’re going to gain or lose time is when you get to the top of that steep part and it’s either flat or sometimes downhill is trying to keep the pressure on. So immediately going back to threshold or just below threshold and holding that tempo until you hit the next steep part. So that’s what I was really working on is the many of us can do a two minute heart effort but then immediately we drop down to 100 watts and have to recover. What I wanted to have him work on is the being above threshold and then immediately dropping down to 96-97% threshold.

Chris Case 40:06
And you also had them do some tabatas do you want to describe the workout and maybe the explanation of why they’re an important component here.

Trevor Connor 40:16
So 30/30s, I can hear Sebastian Weber shaking his head at me right now, when people talk about your VO2 max power, one of the really good workouts to improve VO2 max power is 30/30s. And I felt that’s an important energy system for the nature of the Sunshine Climb. So I felt just given that system, a bit of a head would help. And plus same thing, we’re getting pretty close, we weren’t going to produce huge physiological changes, with you it was more just a getting you familiar with the climb and the demands of the climb, and also getting you familiar with the sort of pain you’re going to go through. And since I felt towards the end, there’s going to be some of those above threshold really painful efforts, giving you the 30/30s and getting you familiar with that sort of pain would help.

Spencer Powlison 41:10
Yeah, definitely. And I’m, I’m experienced with those too, I used to do tabatas quite a bit when I was more into racing cyclocross. And I’d also done the, I’d also done the over-unders before in different contexts and those are, yeah, those are really challenging, but I do, I kind of like them, because there’s so much going on and there’s so many different efforts that you don’t kind of get this- I don’t know sometimes for me, it’s, it’s kind of mind numbing, or like, it’s too intimidating to look ahead and see a schedule of 4×15 minute threshold efforts where you’re just kind of like, gonna just be slogging along, whereas this sort of every time you have a little bit of a variation on it, even though they’re hard, they kind of do go by a little quicker, because there’s just a lot of things happening.

Trevor Connor 42:04
I won’t lie, so Chris was asking me why I liked this particular workout: I think it has a lot of benefits, but part of it is I agree with you, I think it’s fun. You you do close to an hour of hard work, but by the end of it, you’re like, “Hey, I kind of enjoyed that.”

Spencer Powlison 42:19
It’s really challenging to like staying in the correct power zone. Certainly, it’s a cumulative effect thing where the first time I did them, I got into the sprints at the end, and I wasn’t able to achieve the power that I was supposed to for those efforts. And it was pretty obvious that that went back to some of the first or second sets where on the you know, on, I forget whether it was over or the under part but one of the two maybe both, I was over higher than I should have been my power. And that that gets back to that comes back to bite you in the end.

Trevor Connor 42:55
Yep, exactly. And this is a good workout for teaching you to tolerate that. To be able to put yourself again through that sort of pain.

Chris Case 43:04
So we heard about Bruce’s effort and he set a PR the day of his attempt he then set an even better time when he rode with his quote unquote “cousin”. Spencer, what did you do? You went on crushed it, huh?

Spencer Powlison 43:20
Yeah, so I was pretty surprised by how much I beat my, my previous PR on Strava by it was it was a fair bit I was you know, over a minute faster than I expected to be and, and the pacing was good. There’s a little hot if the heat might have slowed me down slightly, but uh, yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. And certainly the lead up to the PR attempt wasn’t super smooth. So considering all that, yeah, definitely did about as well as I could hope to so I was happy about that.

What should you focus on on “race day”

Chris Case 43:56
Alright, for those listening out there from you guys that have taken on this PR challenge all of us, why don’t we talk a little bit about what, how do you treat quote unquote “race day”? This day when you make your attempt what should you focus on? Bruce, you mentioned a couple things already but walk us through the things that you really did well on race day and maybe some mistakes that you made.

Bruce Lin 44:23
Well, so one thing I did, and this isn’t really a training related thing, but I changed the tires I had. I, you know I’ve been spending some time on that bicycle rolling resistance website. So I got some of those pan racer gravel King slick tires and put them on and they are awful for going down Chapman. Just with construction right now you I kind of had to go up Flagstaff and down Chapman to be able to ride up it, but for riding up it made my bike definitely feel significantly faster. And definitely I was really happy that I changed out my tires. I had some I forget what they were there, there were some big honkin, like 45 millimeter. Yeah. So that was definitely a good choice, I think. Definitely. I tried to get my sleep, you know, I’ve either 20 month old kids sleeps, like kind of not a thing for me right now. But in like the days leading up to when I was supposed to be filmed during the attempt, I tried to get like, a few days of good sleep. You know, I made sort of a deal with my wife, like, you know, in exchange for doing other things later in the week, you know, she would take him when he woke up at like, four in the morning, or

Chris Case 45:53
This is not uncommon either to hear from people in the cycling world, let’s make a deal. I’ll do this, if you let me do this. If you let me get away this weekend and go to this silly race, I will take out the trash for the rest of the year, type thing.

Bruce Lin 46:09
Yeah, pretty much. So yeah, that definitely helped. Because when I don’t get sleep, I am a shell of a human. So

Chris Case 46:20

Bruce Lin 46:21
Yeah. Um, but as far as mistakes, I you know, I talked to a Spencer about this after the fact that, you know, I did change some things that I probably shouldn’t have changed. And one of them was I ditched my water.

Chris Case 46:35
Hmm, yes. To any water bottle or not to water bottle that is the question on race day.

Bruce Lin 46:42
Yeah. And it was like I had been talking with our CEO, Nick, Nick Martin. And he’s like an old school racer. And he was talking about, “Yeah, I just did sugar water lose, like, the weight the actual weight on your bike.” Yeah, sure. I’ll do that. And this is the other mistake I made the day I did it. It was like 97 degrees. And it just resulted in a lot of suffering, undue suffering, I think. So either, I would have, I should have kept my water or I should have picked a cooler time to do it. Definitely, those are the biggest things I think of when I think back.

Chris Case 47:22
Yeah, what, Spencer? What about you? Race day. What went well? What didn’t go well? What would you do differently?

Spencer Powlison 47:27
Yeah, definitely. Similar to what Bruce was saying and I think I just mentioned it just, it was a little hot on the day that I went for the PR. And, yes, I mean, we are planning to have it filmed by people and like this whole thing, then obviously, you’re not going to just change your time or date last minute, but if someone is out there trying to do this just on their own, yeah, you want to try and look for the cool weather day. And even if it is in the morning, man sometimes climb like this one gets a lot of morning sun, so it’s hot. That time of the day.

Chris Case 48:04
Did you put on tubulars?

Spencer Powlison 48:05
I don’t have any tubulars. I don’t really like going sort of to the, I don’t like going to extremes for the day of the race or performance or whatever I it makes me like to, feel too like pressured and stressed and it also makes me feel like it’s almost okay. Maybe it should be my preparation and training that’s going to make the difference. Not the fact that I didn’t put a water bottle on my bike, you know, that sort of thing where that confidence of just knowing you’re good enough as is you don’t have to totally, you know, go to all those great links. I yeah, I mean, maybe I probably should have taken my saddlebag off that wouldn’t have been a better race.

Chris Case 48:55
Couple seconds people.

Spencer Powlison 48:56
Yeah, enough people out there that I would have been fine if I’d gotten a flat. So that’s, you know, something, but just that’s just a personal preference. I don’t like that feeling. I like it just feel like it does all the time. Just in normal. In just not not feel like oh, this skin suit fits really weird. I’m not used to wearing this or the, yeah, tubulars like they handle different and like the break feel is different or the set has like something about the… there’s all sorts of a lot of things that happen. And I guess if you’re really, really serious, and you have these tools that you’re at your disposal, and you take them and you train with them, practice them so you get accustomed to them. So it’s not like such a big deal when you switch over like that. So for me, yeah, not a ton of crazy preparation. I think Yeah, hydration is important. Certainly I did not leave my bottle at the bottom of the climb. Prehydration I think is really important, where you’re drinking some, some scratch or other electrolyte mix day before, the morning of – this isn’t like a super long effort, but it can’t hurt. Definitely longer races that I’ve done DK or the gravel races I am very, very diligent about hydration in the days beforehand. And that’s like something you can do without spending thousands of dollars on tubular tires, you know. And yeah, just kind of being relaxed about it, not trying to turn it into something more than it is is probably the biggest thing.

Chris Case 50:38
I think one of the things you guys had to your, I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but the the segments were very clear. There was a you know, you knew where they started, you knew where they’re at, they ended. I think, you know, for those who are going to take it somewhat seriously and give it a go on a particular Strava sub segment, knowing exactly where that segment starts and ends if you’re not totally familiar with it can be significant because you don’t want to stop and linger right at where the GPS mark ends, because then it might think you haven’t actually completed the segment or there might be some glitches in the system. I think, Trevor, you’ve dealt with that on your current Flagstaff listing on Strava. Wasn’t it something where you went to the top and hung out and it was close enough to the mark that it just kept recording your time as if you hadn’t finished the segment, stuff like that?

Trevor Connor 51:38
Yeah, I had that there cuz I didn’t know you go all the way to the mailboxes, and I stopped before the mailboxes. So it added a minute.

Spencer Powlison 51:46
C’mon Trevor the segments called “To the Mailboxes.” It’s pretty obvious you go to the mailbox.

Trevor Connor 51:55
Fair. Personallly, I experienced that last year on Sunshine. So what’s my fastest recorded time on Sunshine is actually my slowest time on Strava. Because we were doing, so they actually had a Sunshine Hill Climb race that Chris and I went to, and the registration area was like three feet into the segment. So Chris, and I went and registered then we sat around on the grass waiting for the race to start then we went and lined up and lining up was also still within the the segment. And then we raced and so I was thinking, Okay, I have this great time of Sunshine, and my time was like an hour ten.

Chris Case 52:43

Spencer Powlison 52:44
Yeah, the GPS is always wonky so when in doubt, you just start start early and finish late to make sure and, and also, like, if you have Strava premium, you, it’s pretty, it’s pretty helpful that you can you can put the segment subtlely star the segments, I guess, and then right, they will show up on your head unit, probably you’ve got the head unit that’s capable of it. And it’ll give you your splits pretty much where it’ll show you how fast you’re going. And I mean, again, it’s subject to some of the vagaries of GPS technology. But I certainly use that when I was training to kind of pace the lower section, for instance, where I was like, I wanted to know what it would feel like to do it. Not too fast, but not too slow. And then, but I didn’t do it for the actual challenge attempt because because I don’t know if you’re that. Keep it, you know, keep it more exciting that way.

Bruce Lin 53:41
Yeah. And actually on that subject. I did something, Trevor, I think you mentioned this, when I actually did my attempt, I didn’t have power, or anything. I just had cadence.

Trevor Connor 53:54
So you did it by feel.

Bruce Lin 53:56
Yeah, for me, you know, I’m the type of person I get into my own head a lot. And I just didn’t want to have those numbers, sort of just kind of affecting me emotionally or whatever. Just, I just wanted to make sure I was completely focused on just suffering so

Spencer Powlison 54:18
Yeah, and on the other hand, I did have my power on my head unit, not the segment splits, but just the power. And for me, I did that because I knew it would be pretty easy to go harder than I should through the first half like we had been talking about earlier. And sure enough, I kept an eye on it and realized I was like ahhh, this is gonna be too much right here. So I definitely paced a little bit based on what I was seeing on my readout. I did however, not calibrate my power meter in the morning. So there you go. Who knows? You know, I was in the ballpark.

Trevor Connor 55:02
That is one of the many issues of trying to pace yourself by power without listening to how your body feels when you’re doing a time trial.

Spencer Powlison 55:10
For sure, and I definitely have a pretty keen sense of my where I’m at with my effort. So that was the first sort of gauge. And then the backup gauge was the power meter.

Chris Case 55:22
Excellent. Well, congratulations, guys again. Yeah, it’s been a while since you set these I know, but you didit. You did a great job. And we didn’t even talk about the fact that your boss CEO, Nick Martin went out off the couch, literally off the couch, without really any training, as far as I know, and also set a PR on a pretty challenging segment called was that Rowena? So that for those who don’t know, is really a chunky gravel section in the old mining trail above Boulder. Yeah, yeah. Great. Yeah.

Spencer Powlison 56:02
Yeah, we were psyched to have him come along. We did a three part video series. So I don’t know if any of your listeners Follow us on YouTube, or if they check out our blog, on the, but they can watch our progression and train. And finally the day of the PR challenge itself. So that’s all out there on the internet.

Chris Case 56:23
Excellent. Hope to work with you guys again in the future come up with more interesting challenges. Help Bruce when he’s suffering like a dog when Spencer drags him out on these crazy rides, so we will let everybody know to follow along with some of our upcoming adventures.

Spencer Powlison 56:44
Yeah, thanks again for your help with this, guys.

Bruce Lin 56:46
Thank you

Trevor Connor 56:46
Thank you. This was fun. I hope we can do something like this again.

Chris Case 56:51
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback, email Or record a voice memo on your phone and send those questions our way. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast and be sure to leave us a rating and review. Find us on social. We’re @realfastlabs, and we’re online at The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individua. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening