Archive for category Rides

A right good ass kicking

Through forces beyond my control, I was unable to get out for a ride for a solid 9 (!) days.  Suffice it to say that going out for a 40 mile ride on a Saturday morning with little wind and temps in the 70s was enticing.  I was psyched – I needed this ride.

I went out on a route that I am very familiar with and I knew would take a little over 2 hours.  The first climb up Schauber Road was what I expected:  a steep grade that takes a couple minutes to get up.  I went into the red zone for the last 100 yards or so.  That’s the standard plan for that climb; short anaerobic bursts are needed for fitness gains.  I got to the top a little slower than usual, but I wasn’t expecting to hold on to all of my form after 9 days.

The second climb is a very steep but also very short “berg” about 4 miles later that takes around 30 seconds to ascend.  I got up it, but holy cow it was tough.  I was still feeling the first climb all the way out to this one.

This was the theme for the ride.  I had one more serious climb and a bunch of rollers thereafter.  I felt winded and worn out for the duration.  This is what it’s like to lose form this quickly – the first big effort is doable, but the subsequent ones are where the lack of fitness shows itself.

I purposely added a mostly flat 3 miles to the end of the ride in the hope that I would get a small endurance benefit from it.  There’s no two ways around it, I felt it.  I really hope that this ride gets me some fitness in return, but it was a toughie.

Some of you have noticed the dearth of posts lately.  I’ll try to put up more frequent posts, but the Mrs. and I are in the process of moving to a new house so all the craziness that goes with selling, buying, agents, lawyers, mortgage, etc. exacts its toll.  I’ll need more frequent rides to balance out my sanity.


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Topics to Ponder

Last year at this time I was musing the year that was.  However, this time around I just didn’t have the motivation to look back.  Overall it was a sub-par year for me.  There was a metric assload of rain in July and August and my total miles were down around 25%.  Now it’s January and I am wrestling with the traditional winter issues of weight gain and trainer rides.  I need to look forward, not back.  It’s time to do a status check.

Here’s what’s going on right now:  Starting 4-ride weeks on the trainer.  I have just enough cycling clothes to do this.  They will take the form of two interval workouts and two tempo rides.  I need to increase the volume and I don’t want to burn myself out on constant lung-burners.  No January Champions here.

I’m going to do one tempo ride on the weekend and fit the other three in mid-week.  This should be a fun exercise in reovery.

I want to train for a century this year, but not like I have done in the past.  No, this will be what I’m calling a “Circuit Century”.  This past summer I added a loop route to my stable of rides.  It measures about 10 miles per lap.  Yep, I want to take a shot at 10 laps.

If it’s anything like riding a more conventional century, there will be at least two brief stops.  I’m going to need them to to refuel and keep my sanity.  I’m liking the idea.  I just hope it’s not stupid.  (FYI, 4 laps was my max last year on that route)

Speaking of riding longer distances, I need to give my most precious contact point greater support.  More specifically, the Canari Velo II shorts I have had since 2006 are nearing the end of their run.  I bought a pair of Performance Elite bibs with a gel chamois, and mostly like them.  The gel chamois is a little rough at times, but nothing a little chamois cream shouldn’t help.  I’d like to get a couple more of these, but experience tells me to go for the foam padding.  Ride and learn.

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Consistency at Last

A quick check over at Winning Stats shows I had 11 rides for November.  Not bad, considering that my goal every month is for 12 rides.  I consider three rides a week to be a good pace.

It’s also a good number of rides considering the paltry amount I did over the summer.  We set a record for rain here in July, and August was only slightly better.  I think I had 12 rides over the course of two months.  Blech.

Factor in that I packed it in during the second week of October, and the road season this year sucked.

I’m glad that the Sufferfest is putting out new material, as I’m finally fully adjusted to trainer mode.  I think that I’m learning what training works best for me during these cold, dark months.  The outright thrashing of some of the Spinervals videos isn’t what I’m looking for.  I guess that the Sufferfest is dishing out similar punishment, but I have a good time doing them.  The Trainright workouts seem to work well also, but they leave me in better condition afterward.  I feel that I definitely put out a hard effort, but I recover from them better and feel that I get a stronger fitness gain.

I have also been reading about the classic off-season “LSD” (Long, slow distance) theory of building the base.  Since I’m not a racer, I can feel free to take my own approach.  What seems to be working so far is mixing in at least one mid-tempo hour-long ride per week.  I throw in a time trial-esque 10 minute high aerobic interval to make it a little harder, but it’s just a good calorie-burner.

The mix of tempo and interval workouts is feeling like a good mix.  I just have to be able to keep at it and hope for better weather come April.

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Which Way Do I Turn?

Barney and BarneyWhen I’m out on the road, I have a good sense of where I want to ride.  There are times when I get to an intersection and, depending on how I’m feeling and the weather conditions, I’ll take a different direction than what I had planned.

It’s that time of year now when that change of direction becomes a metaphor for whether or not I go anywhere when I turn the pedals.  It’s a colder than usual October here, and I’m desperately checking the long range forecasts for anything above 52°F and a wind less than 15mph.  I’m not having much luck.

I was all psyched to gain a calendar advantage with a riding vest.  I was able to use it only once so far.  It has not only been cold, but very windy and rainy.  The one ride was successful, but it was almost two weeks ago.

I have stated before that I ride for fitness and for fun.  To me, riding in a cold rain while pushing the red line so I can go 12mph into a stiff headwind is not fun.  The other side of the coin here is that I can turn this all around by calling it a season and moving indoors to ride on the trainer.

Is this that much of a decision?  I can eliminate weather as a factor and get in three solid workouts every week.  No more numb fingers and toes, no more chasing ever-waning daylight, no more feeling guilty that – while my appetite has not lessened – my caloric expenditure has.

I think I know what I should be doing, but I’m fighting it – for now.  I should just pay attention to the signs; there’s only one way to go.

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Feeling Loopy

loopMost of us cyclists have a handful of reliable routes that we ride.  I am no different.  Whether I’m heading south into Vischer Ferry or north and west toward Charlton, my routes are a point to point affair – beginning and ending in my driveway.

Surprisingly, one thing that had never occurred to me was to define a loop course and do laps around it.  About a month ago, I decided to do just that.  It took some getting used to, but I now consider it a welcome addition to my cadre of routes. 

My observations:

  1. Directions: It’s weird riding 11 miles and only making one left turn.  Like most of the terrain out here, it’s rarely flat for more than a half mile.  You’re either going up or down.
  2. Poor man’s hill repeats:  There is a nice Berg about 5 miles into the loop.  Every lap takes me up it one more time.
  3. Passing the finish line (temptation):  I always set out with a predetermined number of laps to complete.  However, if it’s one of those days that I have dead legs, it’s very tempting to just bag it early when I see the start/finish line.  I haven’t done it yet, but it has crossed my mind.  Also, there are two points along the way where I can take a shortcut home.  I always ignore them and consider them for emergencies only – a storm fast approaching, a mechanical problem, bonked, injury, etc.
  4. A nice way to measure out a ride:  It’s almost exactly an 11 mile circuit.  I ride about 2 miles total getting to and from it.  That way, it’s easy for me to know how many calories to bring along and about how long the ride will take (One loop takes about 40-45 minutes).  It’s funny, but when I do the longer point-to-point rides, I feel weird not doing the whole route.  When I ride the loop, it’s ok to only do one circuit because I’m crunched for time.

All in all, I’m glad I did it.  Once again I prove to myself that there can be something more to discover on roads you’ve ridden countless times.

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Why The Hell Am I Doing Hill Repeats?

So I did a hill repeat ride this week.  It consisted of 5 trips up a grade on Schauber Road.  Each climb only took a few minutes, but the recovery between each was about the same time.  After the third repeat, I had that “why am I doing this?” feeling.  The fourth one really hurt. 


By the time I started the last one I knew that was it, so I eased up mentally – once I separated my mind from the sting in my legs I was really gliding up the hill.  That probably impressed me more than anything else.  I finished up with about 10 miles of flat to rolling terrain.  I sure felt it the next day, but it wasn’t that bad – a good hurt.

It was about 150 feet gained each time and I definitely went into the red zone in the final 200 feet or so.  According to Map My Ride there was a section at 13%!  But it begs the question – why do it at all?

There’s something to be said about the purity of the effort but I think it goes a little past that.  I’m not training for a race or anything that has a lot of climbing – I just want to impress myself.  Prior to my time as a “serious” cyclist (about 5 years now) I was never an athletic person.  In high school, I got a JV letter for bowling – an activity that can be aided by beer.

In some small way, suffering up a climb gives me a sense of worth.  I know that I could never have dreamed of being able to do what I did on this ride back in my 20s.  I guess the old saying “because it is there” applies here.

I hope I can wax so philosophical when I assault Lake Desolation Road later this year.

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Man vs Machine

man vs machineRound 1:  So Friday was forecast for 72° and sunny; great day for a ride on my recently-serviced bike.  I get out of work early and hit the road. 

I was in great form for April.  The uphills were nothing remarkable and I had good legs for the entire ride.  I covered 39 miles in a little over 2 hours.  I felt great – I really needed a ride of some decent length for a change.

The only buzz kill was that my rear derailleur was out of adjustment.  The shifts were vague and sometimes skipped.  I’m no wrench so I took it to the LBS and they fixed it gratis, because they’re good like that.  Turns out the shifter cable was stretched.  No biggie.

Man 1, Machine 0


Round 2:  Today was forecast to be sunny and unseasonably warm – we actually set a record at 89°.  Considering that the average high for this time of year is in the low 60s, it took some getting used to.  I was psyched to get out and get a nice long ride in.  The bike was running smoothly during my warm-up and I had my sights set on a route to Vischer Ferry.

Depending on what options I take on the route, the Vischer Ferry ride can take over 3 hours and top out around 60-65 miles.  I didn’t plan on doing the entire route, but I wanted to do at least 2½ hours worth.  I felt pretty well recovered from the previous day’s ride and had earlier done a nice hour long walk with Mrs. Stallion.

I felt so-so during my warm up – small ring, 1.6 miles, 7 minutes.  The heat was immediately apparent, but I had ridden in worse conditions in mid-summer.  At least it wasn’t humid at all.

I didn’t feel right from the get go.  I had noticeably low power, and every effort I put out left me gasping and leaning heavy on the handlebars.  In my head I thought, “You’re not recovered from Friday, take it easy”.  By the time I was half an hour out, I’d had enough.  Go home.  That was a long ride back.  The hot weather was the kryptonite to my power plant.

Man 1, Machine 1

I guess I have to acclimate to the hot weather naturally.  A sudden spike in Spring temps isn’t necessarily a blessing.  Lesson learned.

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