Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pushing the Envelope

I was overdue for a long ride on Sunday when I found a post on a local club's site asking for a ride partner on a steep 80-miler. We sounded pretty well matched, and I was interested to talk to him about how he lost 60 lbs in the last year. I also liked that the route took in my standard training route's return leg from the Rescue Fire Station.

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The first 20 miles or so we did with another rider who looked to be in his late 20's or early 30's, and at 6ft plus he had the long, lean body to be a great climber. This turned out to be true, as we did Beatty Dr in ElDorado Hills, and it is right at 20% grade. In spite of making good power, my current body weight doesn't make me a great climber. I struggled to keep the 4.0 mph AutoPause on the Garmin from getting triggered, and found it was turning on and off every few seconds, beeping like crazy, and generally annoying the hell out of me! (I reset it at lunch - whew!)

From the top of Beatty Dr through EDH, Cameron Pk and out into the country we were on a wholly new course for me. A familiar pattern set up where he would wait for me at the top of hills and I would wait for him at the bottom of hills. After 15 miles of this I realized I was trying to ride his ride too closely, and decided to free-lance a bit and just ride my own pace. It worked out much better and my heart-rate smoothed out a lot as I was managing my resources, not his ride.

After what seemed like an endless chain of hills through horse, cattle and Llama pastures, we reacquired civilization at Shingle Springs and stopped at SubWay for lunch. I was tired but stuck to my nutrition plan. I had my 3X Gatorade concentrate in the back bottle and when a trip to the men's room showed a need for more hydration I mixed up a full bottle and drank heavily as I chewed thoroughly through a delicious 6" chicken breast sandwich with no mayo or onion. No point asking for trouble!

My partner had something a lot less nutritious, no Gatorade nor electrolytes the entire ride, and an "orangish" drink with lots of high fructose corn poison in it. Actually, as much as I loath HFCS and think it is the root cause of obesity in America, it is not the worst choice for an emergency ride fuel, but consumed in addition to 2 Cliff bars earlier in the ride filled with very slow carbs, it would foreshadow a difficult 35 mi ride home for him.

After fixing a flat on his front tire, we headed out and he was complaining about how hard it was to get moving again after a "long" break. I was having no such difficulties and felt really strong. The German farm boy in me that used to work sunup to sundown, with few breaks in-between, still remembers how to recover fast - it's a genetic thing I think.

After a mile or two I took over the lead as we headed down a very rough connector road that took us back to Green Valley and Rescue. I waited up for him several times until he waved me on. He was 3-4 minutes behind when I had to wait at an intersection for directions, but we'd been riding for 30 minutes by now so I was beginning to wonder about his slow restart.

A few minutes later we turned left onto Green Valley and the Rescue Fire Station appeared out of nowhere across the road. I was thrilled. For the first time in 2 hours I knew where I was, and what lie ahead. I could manage my resources appropriately and get home having left it all out on the road. We again played cat and mouse on the climb to the top of Deer Valley road, but the match was a lot closer, and I caught him on the downhill section before T-ing into Green Valley.

Once on Green Valley we faced a steady wind at about 8-10 mph, so even though we were headed downhill on 4-6% grades, I was adding a lot of power, and keeping my heart nailed in the top of Zone 4. As usual I did this stretch as a cadence drill, and hit 135rpms and 41mph for about 1,000 yards. That HURT! At 102 - 118 rpms I had no problem pushing through the wind at 35mph.

Turning onto E Natoma there is a long, shallow climb of about a mile, before turning for Old Folsom or with the new bridge, across the front of Folsom Dam and down onto the bike trail. The new bridge is a very elegant way to get around Old Folsom, and all of the dangerous and slow traffic, but I decided to wait up to make sure my partner was OK and not just tired. He had talked about wanting to tack on another 20 miles and make it a Century early in the ride, so I was surprised it took almost 5 minutes for him to catch up.

We crossed the bridge and headed down the bike trail, and once again I dropped him, waiting up for him just past the foot-bridge at a water fountain. I waved at him and he just kept going. I smiled and told him I'd catch up. I did, and then pulled him along for a few miles before we came to a short 500 yard, 6% climb. My quads were feeling a little twitchy, but even in the saddle I managed to stay with him in the climb. I later calculated my power at about 400 watts on that climb - not my best effort, but not bad after 6,500 ft and 75 miles. (I think my 60-second max is right at 600 watts)

We said our good-byes and I headed home with my neighbor who showed up while I was again waiting - at the point where I went right and he left to get home. Talking it over it was obvious to both my neighbor and I that my partner for the day's nutrition had failed him badly and he had only been able to ride about half of the ride as a useful training ride.

I am increasingly aware of the crucial role nutrition plays as an enabler of what happens on the bike, of how fast and how well I recover, of whether I get sick after a ride, or am ready to go again the next day, and of how my hydration, heart rate and blood pressure react on and after long rides. I was also struck that in spite of the very steep climbs in the front half of the ride, my heart rate averaged about 10% higher on the 2nd half of the ride. The peaks on the climbs were in Zone 5, but for me, the real power was put down the last 50 miles. Weirdly, my heart rate and power went UP after the 2-hr glycogen exhaustion point. The ride total was 79 miles and 6,750 of climbing from MotionBased. (my AutoPause gaps were filled in by MotionBased AFAICT)

Crucially, I am on the verge of vanquishing the "Big-D" of diverticulitis by adding a fiber drink to my nutrition. This not only keeps me from getting sick after rides, but allows me to avoid the poisoning effect of a stuffed GI tract during rides. Water taken in hydrates this mass, but when it is taken back it is loaded with toxins. Chills, nausea and dead legs. The gel fiber also allows me to eat foods that I need to recover faster, even though they would normally be off-limits. (Man, I am so sick of talking about Big-D! Be gone!)

Post Morten:
I rode a flat 33 miler on Tuesday after a single rest day and except where I rode slow to enjoy the company of friends I met up with, I did the entire ride in high Zone 4 with only cold hamstrings complaining. The little 8% hill on the way home I just stood and stomped at 15mph and 638 watts! Instant Zone 5, but it sure put a smile on my face! My legs felt much stronger from the climbing ride on Sunday. Once home with a couple of Advil in me I felt great and had no leg or fatigue issues. No Big-D issues, and feeling fine today. I am just thrilled I am finally starting to bring everything together. Now I have to figure out how much I NEED to rest, and when I am just being lazy.


Rachel said...

I don't know how you ride around there. I can't believe there's a spot in the US that's hillier than SD but you're in it! You guys are animals.

Grey Beard said...

LOL, my official motto is "I do it with gears!"

We should do Mt Hamilton next time you are in N Cal for a few days. I'll start in Patterson, and you in San Jose, and we can meet at the summit!

Gotta Run said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and wishing me luck on my event ride this weekend. I am a bit freaked but I AM doing it :))

You are dead on about the fuel. Rode an 80 mile event ride the other weekend with a friend. My fuel was dead on and she missed the mark a bit causing her to suffer on the ride. It is KEY!!

Love your post and all of the awesome detailed information you shared.

I will be back for more.

Grey Beard said...

Thanks for the Kudos Robin. I admire your strength and courage and will be with you in spirit. I think your ride is doable because that ride I posted the map of about 12 days ago here has a little loop on the far right called Marshall Grade that does 2,000 ft of climb in 2.25 miles, and Mt Hamilton 2,000 ft in ~ 5 miles, both of which I have done, so they can be done if you are patient and manage expectations.

You seem mentally tough, and plan your ride and then ride your plan, so I think you will be fine. Besting such a challenge will be a huge boost to your confidence and become a cherished accomplishment.

Hugz.... :D