Mike Nosco Memorial Ride – PR’s YAY!

On November 3, 2018, George Vargas participated in the Mike Nosco Memorial ride, 10th Anniversary edition. With increased focus throughout the year on diet and weight loss he was able to attain new Personal Records (PR) on two of the three timed climbs.  The three timed climbs were: Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Highway, and Latigo Canyon. The weather was excellent, albeit a little warm towards the end.

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Left to right: George Vargas, Jack Nosco and Lori Hoechlin

I wish to share with you my excitement of having a great day on the bike.  Since I am a nobody, really, I will share my power data with you.  Some of my posts are about the ride and the sights and sounds and the struggles of completing endurance events.  This post will be more about data.  Don’t tune out because it won’t be THAT heavy, or maybe it will, but it is important for me to show a few examples of why training and racing with a power meter is essential.

First things first, I wish to thank Jack Nosco for creating and putting on this great event every year on November 3rd. In Jack’s words,

As I work to preserve my brother’s memory through the Michael P. Nosco Foundation, Inc., my main goal is to provide financial relief to families and/or individuals in our community. The emotional support that comes with 700+ people showing up in their honor is incredible! Your support means a lot to them and goes a long way in providing inspiration and strength to our recipients and their families.”

Each year the foundation will provide financial relief to a handful of recipients.  You can read about this year’s recipients here.  If you are ever free on November 3rd please consider making a donation and riding this great ride for a great cause.  It is held every November 3 regardless of what day of the week it falls on since that is the date of Mike’s untimely death.

The Ride

The course is 80 miles with about 8,000 feet of climbing.  You will climb three defined climbs but there are plenty of rollers and steep-ass kickers throughout the course.  The featured climbs are Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Hwy and Latigo Canyon.  Each of the climbs are distinctive and offer their own unique challenges.


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The Climbs

Climb #1

Deer Creek Rd — the steepest climb of the three is also the shortest of the three, at 2.25 miles.  It averages 11% but the ramps, oh my the ramps are over 15%+.  Every year I see so many riders hit the bottom of Deer Creek, which has to be over 17%, so hard that within minutes they are pedaling squares and barely moving forward and upward.  More on that later… In previous years, my enthusiasm has also gotten me into trouble before the base of this climb.  I have tried to stay in the pack that leaves the memorial site and then hammers towards the coast and then south on the coast to the bottom of the Deer Creek.  This year I told myself I would not do that and just let the pack/s go.  The reality is I would just get in the way of faster riders if I was up near the front when hitting the base of the climb.  Besides, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to place in the top 3 riders of the day.  I am only racing against myself using my power meter as my training/racing partner.

A little more on the riders that blow up because they have gone too hard at the bottom of the Deer Creek.  They quite literally are going so slow and weaving so much they block the path of riders coming up behind them.  At least if they were doing the “paperboy” up the climb that would be better.  As a rider coming up behind one of them you can at least see a pattern to the weaving but most are not weaving in any discernible way. My suggestion to them is next year bring a larger range cassette.  I had an 11-28 with a 53/39 crankset.  My cadence is slower this climb than what it is normally but it’s only 2.25 miles and I don’t see a need for a larger cassette than 11-28.    I would also suggest they stay to the right of the road and within their lane since the roads are not closed to vehicular traffic.  Every year I see riders crossing over the centerline which is a definite no-no and very unsafe.  Additionally, as faster riders come from behind they need to get by the slower riders on their left and THEY also need to stay inside the centerline.  Years past I have seen rear derailleur hangers snap right in front of me.  I have seen many chains drop as well.  This is probably the most common rider mishap I see on this climb.  Last year or the year before a rider dropped the chain to the inside and it got past the chain catcher all the way to the frame.  The chain was then lodged behind the chain catcher which was attached to the front derailleur by 2 mm or 2.5 mm  fastener.  You will be hard-pressed to find a multi-tool with that small of an Allen wrench on it.  Most multi-tools a 4 mm is usually the smallest Allen head found on a multi-tool.  This poor rider was dead in the water until a SAG vehicle could come up with a full set of tools to help them get the chain catcher out of the way, get the chain out, and then re-adjust the chain catcher.  Personally, I don’t use a chain catcher for that very reason.  I don’t have one installed on any of my high-end bikes. A properly tuned bicycle shouldn’t need a chain catcher or a dork-disc on the rear wheel.  Just my two cents…


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I had a PR on the Deer Creek climb of 21:38 my previous best was 23:16.  I have heard somewhere before that 1,000 VAM is the minimum for elite climbers.  As you can see I didn’t achieve that in 2016  with only 833 VAM. I doubt I could hold 1,000 for an hour lol!

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As I mentioned in my introduction I have been focused on weight loss this year.  I have mentioned in previous posts that I have been using Intermittent Fasting (IF) and a diet that is low in carbohydrates and higher in fats and protein.  Basically, I have a reason to eat all the yummy healthy fats now such as Avocado, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and much more 🙂

I digress, this year I was 63.57 kg or 140 lbs that’s down a few pounds from last year. You will note the Strava numbers show me averaging more watts for the Deer Creek climb in 2018 than 2017, 257 w and 254 w, respectively.  The numbers are actually flip-flopped  when you look at my Training Peaks data below.

Normalized Power (NP): 258w for 2018 and 259w for 2017.  But remember the weight loss?  I was a few pounds lighter this year so even though my NP was 1 watt lower this year than in 2017 I was actually 1:52 faster for the same wattage with an increased power to weigh ratio or watts per kg or w/kg.

w/kg 4.06/kg 2018 vs 3.87 w/kg in 2017

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Regarding 2017 – notice how there is a big spike in power (pink line) at the base of Deer Creek and a slow degradation of power throughout the entire climb.  I took a look at the 2017 climb at split it into thirds.  My power was: 1/3 291w NP, 2/3 253w NP, 3/3 229w NP — that is poor pacing on the climb.

2017 NP for the 23:37 was 259w

1/3 over by 32 watts

2/3 under by 6 watts

3/3 under by 30 watts

Now let’s look at 2018 – 1/3 268w NP, 2/3 259w NP, 3/3 248w NP

2018 NP for the 21:45 was 258w

1/3 over by 10 watts

2/3 over by 1 watts – negligible really

3/3 under by 10 watts

I paced myself much better in 2018 and felt better because of it when I hit the summit.


Climb #2

Mulholland Hwy – 6.9 miles stair step climb with a few dips along the way up with no memorable ramps – memorable as in steep. The dips lower the overall average grade down to 4% but the climbing portions are all within the  6-8% grade.

I increased my NP from 226w (2017) to 229w (2018). But more importantly I increased my w/kg from 3.38 w/kg (2017) to 3.60 w/kg (2018) my time improved from 36:17 in 2017 to 35:25 in 2018 — a 52 second improvement


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Climb #3

Latigo Canyon  —  another stair step style climb with dips on the way to the top of the 9.2 miles gaining nearly 2,000 feet.  I was 1:37 slower in 2018 than in 2017 (PR). I remember last year being with a group of stronger riders like Rahsaan Bahati and Neil Shirley.  They set a good tempo for them reflecting by their ability to still chit chat.  I, on the other hand,  had to ride outside my comfort zone just to stay in contact.  I feel I could have gone just a little harder in 2018 but I was alone with no wheels to stay on or chase up the climb.  Everyone was so spread out that I just used my power meter to get up the climb.  I did pass riders along the way but it would have been nice to work with a few riders that were stronger than me to see what else might have been possible.

1 minute 37 seconds…. 97 seconds… 9.2 miles … just 10 seconds faster per mile would have done the trick right?  I was also riding “blind”.  In other words, I didn’t have a clue what my PR was and how to pace to it.  Who knows I might have had some fatigue from having PR’d the two previous climbs.  Either way I still feel good about my effort.

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2017 remains my PR on Latigo Canyon


Let’s put this data in context.  Below you will find the Power Profile Chart.  Earlier, I said I am really just a nobody, a hack, just a guy trying to do my best at endurance events and climbing events such as the Mike Nosco Ride.  I do these events for the personal challenge.  I foolishly seek gains even as I get older every year lol!  When looking at the Power Profile Chart you will see four columns.  The column headings are duration in time.  On the left side you will see ranges for each of the categories of cyclists.  To use the chart you select either 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minute or FTP (60 mins) of time and then find your watts per kilogram. So for example, it is said that the power you hold for 20 minutes is closely related to your 60 min power.  It is supposed to be about 5% higher than the power you can hold for 60 minutes.  In my coaching practice, I tend to use 10% instead.


Let’s use my numbers,

259 watts for 20 minutes translates to 233 watts for 60 minutes.

233 watts divided by 63.57 kg = 3.66 w/kg under the FT column you look for 3.66 w/kg and it falls in the low Cat 3 high Cat 4.

For an endurance cyclist you would think my FT (60 min) power would much higher wouldn’t you?  So would I.  Maybe I should be doing shorter events right?  Lately, my focus has been on getting my 1 and 5 minute power higher through my Wednesday night shop ride, The REV NIGHTER!

Attached are screenshots of my 1 minute power 9.24 w/kg and 5 minute power 5.0 w/kg

1 minute power 9.2 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 2 and the low end of Cat 1

5 minute power 5.0 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 3 and the low end of Cat 2

Now just for fun look at what a world class athlete holds for FTP — 6 w/kg for 60 minutes!! That would be me holding 380 watts for 60 minutes … um … no!  4-5 minutes tops lol!


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When all is said and done, I had a great day on the bike.  I PR’d 2 out 3 climbs.  I was close on the third climb.  I never felt like I was going to blow up.  I feel like I chose the right intensity and power, to start and finish the climb at the same intensity.  Maybe I could have gone harder here and there but I am happy with my results. During the climbs I felt I was right on the edge of just about to go too hard.  On the last climbs of the day – off the clock now – I still felt strong.  Who knows maybe I still had too much in me and I didn’t leave enough out on the timed climbs.  Being an endurance cyclist, an Ultra Cyclist, I am always saving some for the rest of the ride.  This ride was only 80  miles – not 100 or 200 or even 500 like my typical races.  Maybe I need to work more on that self-preservation instinct and leave it all out there.

I am hopeful to improve my times again next year.  I don’t think I can lose any more weight and still maintain the same power output.  So that means more interval training … ugh! At times, I am thinking the marginal gains I have made over the years will lessen going forward.

The weather was fantastic.  No one crashed near me which has happened in the two  previous years. Only one SUV buzzed me too close for comfort.  I just don’t understand why motorists are in such a hurry when they see hundreds of cyclists on a twisty 9 mile climb they really aren’t going to get anywhere that much faster.

I hope to see you next year in attendance.  November 3 will fall on a Sunday next year see you there.

What’s next?

If the week goes well I am planning another Everest for November 10.  It is the Marine Corps Birthday.  I am a former US Marine and wish to honor not only the Corps but veterans that suffer from PTSD.  I also wish to meditate about my fallen comrades who die at their own hands by committing  suicide.

Lastly, if you have questions about power meters or power meter coaching feel free to drop me a line at revcycling@gmail.com or you can make comments on this post.  I am currently accepting a limited number of applicants for coaching.  Let me know how I may assist you.

Dawson Saddle in the Freezing Rain

My ride today was cut short because of really bad weather.  But I accomplished my first goal which was to climb to Dawson Saddle from Duarte.  The climb is an 8,000 foot gain in 35 miles.  The good news is all my times were better and my power numbers had improved from two weeks ago.  The bad news is I had intended on more climbing today.

When I arrived at Encanto Park in Duarte it was overcast but the temperature was in the high 60’s.  I looked off to the mountains and saw clouds but didn’t think too much of them. However, the higher I climbed in elevation the weather got worse and worse.  At lower elevations it was a light drizzle and chilly.  By the time I crested Dawson Saddle, 7901 elevation, it was pouring freezing  rain and the temperature was in the 30’s.  My hands were so cold it took me nine minutes just to put on knee warmers and a vest!

I was miserable I was shivering and I struggled to keep the bike steady while descending at below 20 mph on Angeles Crest Hwy. I was going much slower on Hwy 39 (10 mph).  Visibility was less than 20 feet — no exaggeration.  The Caltrans trucks would dart to the other side of the road when they realized a cyclist – me – was coming towards them.  I’m sure they thought I was crazy being up there.  The crews I passed had full-on winter gear and they were huddled around the big Cat units enjoying the heat being displaced by  their massive engines.

“Get down from elevation it WILL get warmer ”  I kept repeating those words over and over and over as a means of motivation to keep me moving.  I hadn’t been this cold since the San Diego 300km Brevet where half the field DNF’d because of rain and freezing temperatures.  I was wearing a base layer, two jerseys, a vest with wind stopper, arm warmers, knee warmers, booties over my shoes, gloves and I was still freezing.  I was soaked to the bone and had lost dexterity of my fingers.  I couldn’t open wrappers of my bars or gels and resigned myself to eat hardy once I got down off the mountain.  I tried to pull my bottle out of the cage and couldn’t squeeze my fingers together.  The only thing I was capable of doing was maintaining steady pressure on the brakes.

Alright enough about my tales of woe.  Let’s look at the positive outcome of this ride. Below is the power chart from two weeks ago 5/13/10.  You should be able to notice that my  power (yellow squiggly line) trails off significantly later in the climb.  When just looking at time it took me 3:38 to climb from Duarte to Dawson saddle.  Today that same climb in terrible weather took me 3:20 which includes 11 minutes off the bike for a flat.   As I mentioned before I didn’t have dexterity so changing a flat was a long painstaking process.  Most of that 11 minutes was spent trying to warm up my hands.  I stuffed them down my shorts — yeah I know TMI but you gotta do what you gotta do right?

Another absolute measurement like time is average speed.   Two weeks ago my averages speed was 9.7 mph today it was 10.7 mph. I think I will set a goal of 3 hours flat from Duarte to Dawson Saddle.  Doing some rough calculations I would have to increase my average speed for the climb to 11.7 mph to complete the climb in three hours.

Power Chart from May 13, 2010

Data from May 13, 2010

Now let’s look at today’s data.  My power doesn’t trail off as bad on the latter stages of the climb.  Don’t forget this is A THREE HOUR CLIMB.  Let’s put it in perspective — what most people call a training ride of 30-35 miles I’m doing that whole distance going up a mountain.  Also look at my Normalized Power it increased from 191 watts  to 220 watts (3.27 w/kg). It is the end of May and my goal event is in October.  I still have about three solid months to get my mileage and climbing up to race quality.

I was teased by one of my blog readers because I have been climbing with a 53/39 standard crankset and an 11-23 cassette.  Well the truth is, it is difficult for me to climb in those gears too 😉  But here’s the thing, when I started riding with the road-racer type guys most of them have close ratio cassettes.  It was very hard to keep up with them on climbs because they would be hammering in an 11-23 cassette.  Or when on the flats and slight downhills they had that 11T cog and I was in a 12T cog just barely hanging on at 36 mph.  So I switched to an 11-23 and I have been racing on one all year.

Today’s improvement in data was due in part to riding a different gear set up.  Two weeks ago I rode my Cervelo R3 SL – Rebecca, which is my dedicated climbing bike.  She is equipped with a Compact 50/34 crankset.  Today I rode Felicia which has a standard 53/39 crankset.  I felt myself working harder and at times noticed my cadence dropping significantly.  I remained focused on increasing my cadence which in-turn  produced higher power and consequently faster times up the mountain.  You can see in the difference of the lap times that today was faster in just about every lap.

Tomorrow I will be climbing Palomar Mountain.  I haven’t been out there in a long time.  I don’t have data to go from since my hard drive crashed with about three years of power data on it.  Oh well I guess I will just have to set the bar tomorrow.

Dana Point out and back with new 1 minute Peak Power

Two hour training ride today from the shop to Dana Point.  38 miles round trip with about 1,200 feet of gain.  I tried to maintain a good tempo with hard efforts mixed in.  My Normalized Power for the 2 hour ride was 248 watts (3.69 w/kg).  While in Dana Point I attempted and accomplished besting my 1 minute peak power number.  It was 534 now it is 609 watts (9.07 w/kg).

Here is the Garmin download.

I am really happy with my 1 minute peak power number of 609 watts it’s almost half-way into the Cat 2 range.  The hill I performed this 1 minute number was really steep (about 10%) which helped me keep high power.  Now I would like to try a one minute test on a shallow hill of maybe 6% grade.

Sunday Century with friends

I had intentions of riding Palomar Mountain on my only day off.  I had worked six days this week and wanted something other than riding the local roads.  But after I sent out an email about my intentions some riders reported that there was ice on the upper slopes of Mount Palomar.  So instead I met with Dave Elsberry and we did a century at a good fast pace in Orange County. 
Our century had lots of rolling terrain and some good climbs I hadn’t ridden before.  We had a good ratio for the first 40 miles– 40 miles 4,000 feet of gain. At some point the climbing was less per mile but the intensity made up for it.  I think we are pretty evenly paced and make good riding partners.  I faded on the last 10 miles but I think I just didn’t fuel properly.  I guess I thought “what’s the big deal? It’s just a century.”  I also flatted twice one rear caused by debris in the bike lane and the other a front flat while descending Sliverado Canyon.

Power Numbers

Entire workout (156 watts):
Duration: 6:12:36
Work: 3491 kJ
TSS: 418.4 (intensity factor 0.823)
Norm Power: 206  (3 w/kg for 6 hours)
VI: 1.32
Pw:HR: 10.26%
Pa:HR: -7.75%
Distance: 101.18 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 980 156 watts
Heart Rate: 7 191 157 bpm
Cadence: 30 212 84 rpm
Speed: 2.2 40.7 16.7 mph
Pace 1:28 26:49 3:36 min/mi
Crank Torque: 0 1007 162 lb-in

Training Peaks 3.0 screen shot from my Power Tap Download
I avgd 3.6 w/kg in my first hour because I was riding with a former pro Sean Nealy

Power Charts from Training Peaks

First up is the Performance Management Chart.  Notice how my Blue line is declining, my Pink line is declining and my Yellow line is rising.  In laymen terms this is what this chart should look like before a major or goal event.  Blue line is my Chronic Load or my level of fatigue for the last 6 weeks.  The Pink line is the amount of stress that I am putting on my body on a weekly basis.  And the Yellow line is the amount of rest or the balance between the stress and the rest — or adaption to that stress.  It gets more technical than that but you would like to see the Yellow line rising with the Blue line declining so that you are fit and rested for your goal event. 
Next up is the first 29 hours and 50 minutes of my Power Tap download into TraningPeaks software.  The CPU memory is only 30 hours so I have to use two CPU’s.  I guess they don’t expect Ultracyclists to be using power meters for more than 30 hours;)  Well maybe someday I’ll get faster at the 508 and won’t need to CPU’s.  You’ll see modest numbers because I had to conserve a lot of energy going through Death Valley not knowing what was looming for the next 200 miles of the course. 
And now Part 2.  The remaining 7 hours and 42 mins.  More modest numbers because heck I’m getting tired now;) 
But what about this number 15,758 kjs– yeah that’s huge!
kjs are like calories and significantly more accurate measurement of energy expenditure when taken from your power meter than when taken from your heartrate monitor calorie calculator.  My guess is those looking at their heartrate data might have as much as 20,000 calories on their watch.

New 5 Min Numbers

I was feeling pretty good last night during my commute–amazing what two days off the bike will do for your recovery. During my 69 mile commute I sometimes take a detour and climb a 1.5 mile 6% hill named Newport Coast Dr. Last night I wanted to see if my 5 min number had improved since my last “field test” over a month ago.


I weighed 150lbs or 68 kg


340/68 = 5 w/kg

Not bad for an amateur. According to the Coggan power profile chart it is in the grey area between Cat 3 and Cat 2.


20 min peak power on my commute this morning…

^^SCREEN SHOT JUNE 11, 2009^^

20 minute Peak Power from my morning commute. Weight 152 lbs or 69 kg

Average Power 244 watts / 69 kg 3.53 w/kg

Normalized Power 254 watts / 69 kg 3.68 w/kg

Look at my wattage from last night’s commute. What I would like for you to notice is that my Average Power was up a whopping 24 watts but my Normalized Power was only up 5 watts from 249 to 254 watts. Why is that?

Let’s look at Normalized Power :

TrainingPeaks uses a special algorithm to calculate an adjusted or normalized power for each ride or segment of a ride (longer than 30 seconds) that you analyze. This algorithm is somewhat complicated, but importantly it incorporates two key pieces of information: 1) the physiological responses to rapid changes in exercise intensity are not instantaneous, but follow a predictable time course, and 2) many critical physiological responses (e.g., glycogen utilization, lactate production, stress hormone levels) are curvilinearly, rather than linearly, related to exercise intensity, By taking these factors into account, normalized power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of a given training session – in essence, it is an estimate of the power that you could have maintained for the same physiological “cost” if your power output had been perfectly constant (e.g., as on a stationary cycle ergometer), rather than variable. Keeping track of normalized power is therefore a more accurate way of quantifying the actual intensity of training sessions, or even races.


In other words, when you apply power to the pedals it takes time for your body to react and when it does it reacts on a curve not in a straight line. Normalized Power takes this into account.

Or like my friend Sushi Joe says it “NP = the power you could have put out if you kept the effort as steady as possible. “

So back to my ride from last night. Notice how the POWER line is more erratic with rollers and traffic signals.

^^SCREEN SHOT JUNE 10, 2009^^

Compare it to this morning’s ride was not as variable the power was more consistent so the Normalized Power only increased by 5 watts from 249 watts to 254 watts.