Spreadsheet Ruminations: Are You There, Legs? It’s Me…

Co-Motion on Rollins Pass

Three months ago I ditched the spreadsheet I used to document my bicycle lifestyle, opting instead for a non-quantitative approach. There’s more to life than counting up the miles, I told myself. I want to explore it.

Over the last three months, I have documented many rides with journal entries and taken photos along the way. Other rides live in my memory and still others are at least temporarily forgotten.

This last week I started longing for that spreadsheet again.

Felkerino and I went for a ride on Saturday and my legs felt totally dead. Small rises took more effort than they should have, required more recovery than normal. Are you there, legs?

Dead legs?! That wasn’t supposed to happen. I planned to return from our riding in Colorado with the indefatigable strength of a giant. Ready for anything. Rawr!

With the exception of my daily commutes and the occasional run, I had taken most of the last two weeks off the bike and easy on my legs. Clarification: When I say “off,” I mean no century or thereabouts rides and no runs longer than four miles for the last two weeks. And still I was feeling exhausted.

Instead of pushing through the longer ride we planned, we divided our ride in half, opting for 87 miles rather than the 160 or so we set out to do. In cases like this, I think it’s best to listen to the body.

Felkerino and I will ride the Appalachian Adventure 1000K checkout ride for our club, the D.C. Randonneurs, at the end of this month. I’m excited about taking on this challenge, and want to make sure I’m ready.

Just as amping up the miles is important, so is rest and recovery after our two-week, just under 1,000-mile tour. I want to make sure I can take full advantage of the mountains and miles in our legs. Riding our brains out after a certain point can become counter-productive.

As someone (Jeff N.) wrote after my original post about ditching the spreadsheet, a mileage log can help validate whether you’ve done the homework you need for your ride.

A mileage log can reassure. That is why I actually think it would be helpful to me right now. Instead I find myself looking back at individual posts. I wonder if I’ve done enough riding overall, but the way my riding is laid out now (i.e., through stories on this blog) I don’t see my training/riding in the aggregate.

What I’ve always disliked about a training log is that it sometimes compels me to chase miles just for the sake of raising my miles. BUT what I’ve liked about maintaining a training log is that it gives me a visual of my training over weeks and months, and helps me understand why I might be having energy dips.

I was thinking today that the story I tell myself is that I am not an athlete. I’m a person out exploring the world by bicycle. That is true. However, I also do a fair amount long-distance riding and running. That doesn’t make me an athlete, but it does mean I have bicycling and fitness goals that a training log can help to inform.

I’m not going to fret too much about recreating my miles or writing all my miles down from today forward. Spilled milk and all that. I have to accept the riding I’ve done and go with that into this 1000K checkout ride. I’m confident what we’ve done is enough, provided we complete one more big training ride (stay tuned!). I’ll get back to the mileage log at some point, most likely in 2015.

And you? What are your thoughts on the whole mileage log thing?


  1. I can identify with so much in this post. For me, I have a love/hate relationship with tracking mileage on the bike. In part, I track mileage because I like to know where maintenance is for each bike and having the miles traveled helps with that aspect. However, beyond that I do like to know where I’ve gone and the number of miles logged, particularly if I’m training for something “bigger” or longer. I can start to get obsessive about mileage though, and that’s the part I don’t really enjoy with tracking bike miles.

    Good luck with your upcoming ride! I’m sure you’ll do incredibly well. :O)


  2. It’s the two weeks off. You dropped all that conditioning in the legs. 3 days rest is the sweet point, then back on the bike. I feel steady daily rides now will help claw back – with some sprints and conditioning segments. But don’t overdo it. At this point gradual works – especially as you need to taper for two days rest before that next big ride. Plan accordingly. I use Strava and connect.garmin.com (new this week: these sites are now paired) and a cadence and heart rate monitor linked to my Garmin. Essential to know how you are doing. Set your Garmin to do 1 mile splits too – again really helps with the analysis.


  3. This is a total recipe for burnout or injury. Racers know when they have tired legs to go take it easy. It typically takes three weeks to a month to recover from a huge outing; remeber we did 1000 miles at high elevation in 11 days of riding. Mary has been running and riding, it’s not like we’ve been sitting around since we got back just two weeks ago.


  4. I don’t keep a mileage log and never have – I don’t ride long enough distances to make it worthwhile, and I don’t have fitness goals – so I’m perhaps not qualified to comment on the benefits of logging mileage versus not logging. That said, my first thought was that taking two weeks off the bike probably contributed to the dead legs. Even if you’re still using your legs for other things, like running, you’re not using the muscles in quite the same way as you do on your bike.

    Back to your question – obviously I can’t answer it. But I will say that there are some things that may affect your riding that you might not log in a spreadsheet – things like whether you’ve been sleeping well, if there’s something on your mind that’s bothering you, if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the weather itself. Listen to what your body tells you – you can try pushing it a bit, but if you try pushing it too much it’ll rebel against you.


  5. Not sure about the spreadsheet. But a 3-week taper before the 1000K will leave you feeling fresh. Before the start of PBP, I was worried because I had hardly been able to ride at all during the previous week and a half. But it turned out that the break left me feeling great for PBP itself. And if, after all that, your legs complain about feeling dead, you should quote Jens Voigt back to them: “Shut up legs!”


    • I totally believe in the taper! And the yelling at the legs part, too, if necessary. Good thing we’re doing a big ride this weekend (final tuneup) so that I can put all the energy from my pre-event jitters directly into the pedals.


  6. Not an athlete? Girl, that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard. YOU ARE AN ATHLETE!
    You might want to do a couple of short, more intense bike/run workouts in the next 10 days. Either way, you’ve already put the hay in the barn. You’re going to rock the Appalachian Adventure 1000K.


  7. I like having a log. I have a Garmin 500 that I use almost every ride. All my bikes have the Garmin mount, so I just pop in the device to my bike of choice. When I get around to it I upload the accumulated rides to Garmin Connect on the internet. It does the rest. I edit notes about each ride.
    Right now I’m recovering from a knee replacement. I had the other knee replaced two years ago. Using the Garmin Connect records I can easily recall the pace of my recovery the first time, and confirm that this second recovery is similar. Really helps when I get discouraged with progress. Thats just one example of its utility.
    When I forget the Garmin I can fall back on my smart phone. Since the phone tracks every move I make, I can export the biking part into Garmin Connect to log the missing rides. See the “Moves” app for iPhone. Its kind of creepy to see your every move recorded, but unless you take steps to stop it, you phone is doing this silently anyway – so you might as well be aware.
    Garmin Connect is just an example of the type of software available. Any good one will provide easy record keeping, including detailed and summary reports, a map of each ride, speed and elevation, etc. – easier and more informative than keeping my own spreadsheet.


  8. Ultrarunnergirl took the words out of my mouth. I run over 1000 miles a year and bike over a 1000 miles a year. I consider myself an athlete. That makes you an awesome athlete by comparison. I can’t believe some of the stuff you do, it’s amazing and inspiring. Gotta have an Excel spreadsheet and Garmin watch. Just Gotta.


  9. I keep a mileage log just to prove to myself that I’m riding. I used to chase miles too, but nowadays I don’t force the issue. If I feel like riding, I ride. If I don’t, I don’t, and I don’t worry about how many miles I’ve logged.

    I have to echo Dean and Ultrarunnergirl– you’re fit, you train regularly and participate in randonneuring and marathons. That counts as an athlete in my book. What would it take for you to consider yourself an athlete?


    • I think the break from the log was good. It helped me see what I was missing by not maintaining it.

      Re your question… first, thanks to you, Dean, and Ultrarunnergirl for saying so. I don’t see myself as an athlete because I relate that term to competing. I consider myself more of a participant, not a competitor. Competing is what athletes do, or something.

      Also, I was telling Ed that our bike tour was a vacation, but even so, it took a lot of effort and was not easy peasy most days. I think I downplayed the effort it took, even though I did not see it as an athletic pursuit. Some muddled thoughts on that topic…


  10. I’m on the side of “log everything in Strava”. Its become a habit, and easy that way. The Garmin 800 just goes from one bike to another. Or fire up the app on the phone. Started doing that a bit over two years ago, and have kept at it.

    What I did tire of was the ‘training’ that I was doing earlier this year. I had great plans to do a brevet series, and step up in the ultraycling races. By early March I was beating myself up for not having ridden enough to have any base at all. I was going to be so far behind by the time the ‘season’ came around.

    So I stopped.

    Didn’t stop recording, I just stopped riding for awhile. It was a good month off or more, and after awhile found myself having fun again. That makes a helluva change in how much one rides.


  11. I’m a bit late to comment but, after 20 years of running and cycling with longer and shorter periods of keeping and not keeping logs, the best thing that helps me “kick in the legs” is to put away the spreadsheets and focus on something different for a period of time (time varies but usually from a day or two to maybe a couple of weeks at most…three days or so is the norm). Hit the gym hard. Go swimming or hiking (even indoors…I believe you have the Smithsonian nearby?). Or eve find some kids playing ball and join in. Just something to mix it up. It’s amazing how little it usually takes to re-energize your body.


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