Friday, January 1, 2010

The metric system.

Nice, hard ride today.  I'll give the rundown and then some stats at the end.  If my sentences seem short and less descriptive than previous posts, it's the fatigue...and that nice Terrapin Golden Ale I just enjoyed. 

Duane, Whit, Barry, Mitch, Kristin and I saddled up for today's ride.  We were to start at 9am amidst some fog and mildly wet conditions.  Here is the view from the truck on my way over to the start.

The route, a fairly rolling course through the western piedmont, is a doozy.  I imagine it wouldn't be so bad at a sane rate of speed, but that was not to be today.  Starting out from The Cricket's Nest on Country Club, the large group of 30 and 60 milers rolled smoothly to Jonestown Rd.  Shortly, we came upon the big intersection with Hanes Mall Blvd (one of the most cursed roads in existence!).  As the light went to red, many riders simply rolled on through.  We waited a bit, but the pull of the ever-escaping lead group was too strong. 

Once the crew thinned a bit, we were left with 20 or so folks humming along between 20 and 30 mph.  Notables include David Flynn, Joe (the man in pink), and a few MOB guys, one of whom is a Cat 2.  Bob Land was also with us, and at any age he is a sterling cyclist...I am sure he is approaching 70. 

Happily, the CLM was representing with 4 members in the lead group.  That is, until at about mile 20-25, when Barry took a big pull up a steady hill and hit the limit before dropping back and then off the back.  This can happen in the blink of an eye.  For the uninitiated, let me expand:

  • A cycling group may take on a few different organizational shapes, depending on the number of riders, the terrain, and of course, speed.  The slower the group, the more likely you are to see a "bunch" of riders, 3-4 or more wide and probably talking to one another.  You might even see a smile. 

  • As the speeds increase, riders will seek shelter from the increasing wind resistance and form a double paceline (2x2) or in cases of significant stress, a single-file line.  When the line goes single-file you know it is going to be painful.  No smiling.

  • If a rider is on the front of a group or line, he/she is "taking a pull" and doing about 25% more work than the rider directly behind them due to drag.  When they tire, or are too fatigued to continue at the group's accepted (or expected) rate of speed, the rider up front "pulls off" and drifts back to the back where one can rest a bit by "sitting in the draft" of the riders ahead of them.  If one has pulled a bit too hard or is fatigued, even the little kick needed to get back up to the group's speed after drifting to the back can be too much.  I've been there many times, and I would be there again today (later).

It's all quite scientific in terms of racing:  A rider has a certain amount of fuel in his tank.  If the guy is macho and wants to show off, things may not work out well in the end if he burned up too much gas sitting on the front pushing the pace.  There is a corollary however:  If said rider is strong enough to do that extra 25% at a pace fast enough and for long enough to put other riders over their limits, he may succeed.  But, I digress, let's get back to Barry.

The line was single-file, uphill, and I'm pretty sure there was a smokin' headwind.  So Barry comes rearward and slips off the back, just too cooked from his big pull to stay on the back of the paceline.  This is extra-difficult if one is trying to hold a good pace from a flat into a hill...the fatigue comes on so quickly.  I didn't realize this had happened for probably 1-2 minutes, and by the time I looked back, the man was gone.

Sadly, with one CLMer down, we had to press on.  Things were relatively stable for the next 20 miles, but for one notable exception.  Crossing a set of railroad tracks, Whit's full bottle of liquified EPO flies out of the bottle cage.  This excited the group considerably, as a white mouse might excite things in the elephant tent in a cartoon circus.  The real worry (after everyone safely avoided the gyrating bottle) was that Whit was down a bottle of liquid.  NO WAY this crew was stopping at the rest what was Whit to do?  Kindly, David Flynn gave him one of his water bottles.  Ah, the spirit of sportsmanship.

As for me, I started to skip a pull (meaning I didn't take my turn at the front) here and there coming into Farmington.  I was already feeling pretty whipped and since I knew the road ahead, I was trying to secure my own passage.  We were already averaging nearly 22mph over 45 miles, which was satisfying to me.  As we began the long climb up Farmington Rd. to the Battle Branch Cafe and Courtney-Huntsville / Shallowford Rd., my legs were really going numb.  No longer did they just hurt or ache, I was unable to fully control their usually smooth rotations without a jerk or wiggle here and there.  That is muscle fatigue.

At the corner, we took a right onto Courtney-Huntsville / Shallowford Rd. and I hopped back on the front, feeling just good enough to pull a bit.  There is a sense of duty here, after all.  But, as with that euphoria that is said to set in during severe hypothermia, it was short lived and I soon just wanted to lie down and sleep for a while.  David Flynn pulled through and punched it as I drifted back and when the last guy went by on my right...I had to let him go. 

49 or so miles with the fast guys feels pretty good, considering the other rides I've been on this week.  Soloing in wasn't so bad, and I tried to keep a good pace and effort level.  As a not insignificant side note, Whit and Duane stayed on to the finish.  That is really impressive.  Final note:  Barry rolled in just 15-20 minutes after I did, which means he rolled 40 or so solo miles and came in quick.  Nice work!

Here are the stats, noting that I forgot to start my speed-o-meter until I was already a few miles down Jonestown Rd. 

Time:  2:55.43
Dist:   59.48mi
Avg:   20.3mph

Pics from after the ride: 

Two rest days coming, with the next ride on Monday night.  Short and sweet!

Goin' for the 'Kill - Day 5.

I imagine my poor husband is out on the bike, numb from the chill and the wind, even as we speak. Well...type. 2010 is only a few hours old, but the Polar Bear Ride for Courage seemed like too much fun to pass up, especially for such a good cause. And this will give us an early glimpse of the Battenkill's distance (62.5 miles) and its effect on legs and lungs and liver function. I actually made up that last part. But as Erich's first week of training for the Tour of the Battenkill comes to an end, I feel like we only have positive things to take away.

First, and actually foremost, Erich has a lot of good friends! It's clear that he has the support of his buddies in the City Loop Mafia. Represent. He's continually encouraged by our non-mafiosa connections, too! And there's no question that his family is pulling for him as always. So that's enough to keep a guy dancing on the pedals, for sure.

Second, the elements will always be a factor. With the start of Erich's plan this past Monday, he ran straight into a cold headwind. And the wind was a presence on his ride Wednesday as well. As a result, he found himself just shy of his goal for speed on both rides. But he still came really close. And even better, it gives him the opportunity to train in realistic conditions, possibly very similar to what he will face in upstate New York in early April. So the pain will be worth it. And by the way, I believe he will start to hit those speed goals...

Lastly, this is a lot of fun! It's hard work, getting out on the bike and putting miles into your legs. Especially when balancing career and family. And it's not as if he has a professional trainer guiding him along the way. Instead, he actually just has his wife, who constantly walks the fine line between supportive training plans and wanting to eat dinner on time! But so far, the start of this journey has been kind to us. No doubt, there are (as yet) undiscovered challenges ahead. But that may be part of the fun, too.

Either way, onward!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Polar B-b-b-bear.

Another side trip from the rigors of structured training tomorrow:  The Polar Bear Metric Century.  Jill and I have made a mini-habit of doing something outside / interesting / athletic on or around the turn of a new year.  Last year, we bundled up (but froze anyway) for a midnight run at Tanglewood Park.  This was a great way to ring in the new year in 2009, and I think we'll do it again in the future...just not this year!

Jill is planning a run for tomorrow as she readies for her first half-marathon on Jan 9, 2010.  This will be good for both of us as the event is at Disney World in Orlando!  I need to find my SPF70...

As for me, I'll be pedaling in the cold tomorrow to benefit Cancer Services.  Cancer Services offers a host of beneficial progams for individuals or families coping with a cancer diagnosis or loss of a loved one to cancer.  In addition to the good cause, it's supposed to be a challenging route.  I think I've done most of this route - but only in pieces as parts of other rides.  You can be sure the pace will go from friendly (if it ever is so) to raucous when the boys and girls start smelling the barn on Shallowford Rd.

Pics and stats to follow tomorrow.  Here's the profile:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excitement and realizations.

The excitement part is fairly understandable:  a scenic, classic-style cycling race in the Battenkill river valley of New York.  A side-trip to see Jill's little sis in NYC.  A road trip with my wife!

The realizations come in small (or large) doses of experiences not usually encountered in daily life:  wind whipping past your ears for 90 minutes without a pause; a dog darting out from a hedgerow and aiming for your front wheel; a feeling from your legs signaling that they may simply rebel, detatch, and leave you stranded with the aforementioned dog.

Here are the stats from today:

Time:  1:47.28
Dist:    35.00mi
Avg:    19.3mph

I am still not at goal for mph, but I am already feeling that this will come.  Riding solo today was a very good thing for several reasons, but the main benefits center on concentration and power.  With no one to ride behind and my speedometer staring me in the face, I had nowhere to hide.  This is critical as part of a training regimen.  How could one ever expect to ride away from a small group of competitors if your only practice is 'sitting in' and talking away...

Next up....Polar Bear Metric Century on Friday?  We'll see.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One of my favorite things... a night ride with the crew.  Kristin, Barry, Chancey, Sirena and I met up dans la nuit and lit the candles.  We probably had 10,000 candlepower or so out there - no way cars could miss us.  Oddly enough, with a group of illuminati this size we cause cars to slow, peer at our blinkies, and ease past with plenty of room.

This kind of training is more for the soul, and less for the flesh; the kind of 90-minute, compartmentalized episode that lives on as a singular event in one's memory - not faded in with the rest of a day.  Yes, these evenings with the CLM are special.

The crew lighting it up down Polo Rd.  The Spaniard leads.

We paused for a quick pic:  Proof and props.

Tomorrow:  35 miles awaits...

It's not all suffering...

Jill's training plan is full of flexibility, and a little fun now and then is a good thing.  Tonight, the CLM will invite a few guest riders and hit the streets of W-S for a night ride.  These are invariably fun with a slower pace, lots of chatter about the cold, and phantom potholes.   Here's a shot from our last foray...

The fun of this ride is how I'll get amped for tomorrow's 35 mile training ride.  Again, the goal is 20mph avg and the weather will be, uh, crummy.  

Thanks to all the followers of the are a pleasant surprise.

Monday, December 28, 2009


As Jill notes below, today was to be a 30 mile ride with a goal of 20 mph avg.  It is generally accepted that in the scheme of training accuracy:  rate of speed < heart rate < power (watts).  This simply means that using mph is less reliable in terms of accurately measuring the load of a workout.  For example, if I start at Point A 4000 feet above sealevel and end at Point B 2000 feet above sealevel, chances are I will not have worked as hard as I would doing the same course in reverse. In all likelihood my average mph would be higher A-->B than B-->A but I would probably have done more work B-->A.  All of this is simply to say (as you'll see below) that I didn't reach my mph goal and am feeling kinda lame.  So, now that I have dispensed with excuses...

Whit and D-Max (Duane) joined me today for a 30 mile loop.  I actually rode from the old Paceline shop to Lewisville for a warm-up then hooked up with the guys at the Lewisville square.  Our plan was to ride the Wyo Rd. loop then tack on a few extra miles via Fish Brandon to Old Stage.  This loop includes Powerline Hill and of course, Turbo Hill, so it wasn't quite the 'flat to rolling' course Jill called for. 

The wind was really whipping from the west between 10-20mph.  We chose to start into the wind, so that we might have some respite on the return.  This actually happened,  but we all agreed we burned too many matches fighting the wind on Wyo.  By the time we got to Old Stage, the tailwind allowed us to motor above 27-28mph most of the time, with 60% of the effort it took to hold 16-17 mph on Wyo. 

Here are the stats:

Time:   1:37.44
Dist:     31.44mi
Avg:    19.2mph

That said, today's ride hurt quite a bit.  I would say the average RPE is around 16.  The last bit was surely 17.   Two bits of excitement however: 

1).  During one of Whit's monster pulls, he noticed two riders 1/10 mi ahead.  Well, this is like a limping deer to the mountain lion so Whit stomps it.  I, seeing this happen, realize that pain is now unavoidable as Whit ramps it up to 29-30mph on Courtney-Huntsville near Wyo.  Ouch.  We catch the two guys, who predictably jump on and then into our paceline.  After dangling off the back up Turbo Hill, I regrouped, got back on, and then we dropped the two insurgents.  Whew.  I thought it was going to be me for a second there. 

2).  Once back to my truck, I would guess my blood sugar was pretty low as I didn't eat particularly well today.  While mumbling to myself and shoving peanut M&Ms into my mouth, none other than Mark Hekman sneaks up behind me to say hello.  I think he was on a 230 mile training ride or something (I don't really recall the conversation), but he was kind as usual.  Ridiculously, I offered him a ride, but was pleased when he said he needed to add on a City Loop to get the right mileage out of his ride.  Props!

These little guys really saved me at the end of what was supposed to be a not-so-tough start to the training plan.  So much for that. 

Goin' for the 'Kill - Day 1.

Let the pain begin! Today begins Erich's official training plan for the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill. Although I'm not at all a real-life personal trainer, some of my past studies have required the development of training plans for patients or clients. And while my own husband is certainly not a patient (yet!), he kindly asked (several hundred times) for a training schedule for this race, so I finally agreed (in exchange for a side trip to New York City, naturally).

To be honest, we have toyed with making a training regimen in the past. In 2005, Erich asked for a plan to get him ready for the Hanes Park Classic. He spent the entire summer sweating out the long rides and evil intervals I taped to his refrigerator door. He loved it! (No, really, just ask him.) And those who watched that race might remember the crazy (suicidal) attack he launched on the bell lap, only to be overtaken not so far from the finish line. While he wasn't able to take a podium spot in that race, he hasn't really slowed down since. So as the idea of racing the Battenkill really began taking shape, we started discussing a new and improved training plan.

Over the past several weeks, I've researched articles on training for metric centuries and hilly bike races. You really learn so much that way, both about fitness and nutrition. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert...not even an expert wannabe. But it is interesting to me, and it's fun to follow progress. And see actual results. Which you're almost guaranteed to get. If you have a willing athlete. Which I do. So off we go...

Erich's training plan for the Battenkill is already complete...but totally subject to change! While the vast majority of building a training regimen revolves around science, there is, as with most things, a distinct art to it as well. So while he can see each and every planned ride over the next 15 weeks, he and I both understand that adjustments will likely be necessary. A good training plan always needs to account for changes in weather, potential injury, and even Valentine's Day...right? Right?!

So today is Day 1. At first, the idea is for E to get some miles into his legs at a reasonable speed. Baseline endurance will be so important for this race. And then with time, we'll add in some other challenges, mainly to keep things interesting...and to make the Battenkill survivable. That being said, Day 1 calls for a 30 mile training ride with an average speed of 20mph.

As I said earlier, let the pain begin.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I signed up for the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill last week.  The romance of such suffering, in the spirit of a european classics race was too much to resist. 

Over the next 15 weeks or so, I'll follow a prescribed training plan laid out by my lovely wife.  Although practicing clinical medicine now, she has a masters degree in kinesiology buried back in there somewhere.  She likes to bring it out from time to time, and my hair-brained idea to participate in this race was just enough. 

Tomorrow is a 30 mi training ride, nothing too killer.  Hope to bring back some hard data and RPE perspective (look it up) as well.