Friday, April 17, 2009

Ride to Rescue - Redemption

Folsom To Rescue: Basic Route

Profile sans 29 "flatish" miles to and from Folsom from Carmichael Park

After limping home from this ride with great difficulty last month, I set out to have a strong ride to Rescue yesterday. I didn't have any Acai Berry to spike my Gatorade with, because all I could find at 3 different grocery stores was Acai mixed in a concoction with other fruit juices, all of which had too much sugar to keep osmotic pressures in check unless heavily diluted.

I decided to let this to be kind of a "control group" ride for my Acai spike experiment, so I carefully mixed up Gatorade, but added some Power Electrolyte foil sticks to the mix. The front bottle a full 24oz Polar bottle, I mixed as recommended, except for the added electrolyte spike. The back bottle, a short 20oz bottle, I mixed a 3X liquid mixture in and used a marked cap to clearly indicate the concentrated mix.

This is a nice hydration strategy, especially when doing an O&B where the return is into the wind. When at a watering stop squirt some concentrate into the main bottle and fill up with water. Err on the weak side, even if you have to drink some off the top and then drink from the drinking fountain to get both the bottle and what's in your stomach diluted to the correct amount.

The general idea is to avoid sugar concentrations higher than 8% as the osmotic pressure then causes your stomach to draw liquid out of surrounding tissues, making proper hydration impossible. On most bikes the downtube bottle actually creates more wind drag, so at the turn-around point you can empty all of the excess concentrate into the tall bottle, put it on the seat-tube, and then add water to the small bottle to create a 1X mix. Just remember to swap the bottle caps in case you bonk and lose your mind. It will remind you which is concentrate (about 2X by then), and which is 1X.

Clear cap for water or 1X hydration mix. Black ring with 3 stripes for 3X concentrate

The only hitch in this strategy arose because a key drinking fountain at Rodeo Pk in Folsom wasn't working and I had squirted a bunch of 3X concentrate in my 1X bottle to make more, and THEN discovered it didn't work. At that point I had no useful hydration at all. I first tried the sink in the men's room - ICK - and I couldn't fit my bottle under the faucet anyway. I turned around and slowly cruised around the ball diamond/soccer field to see if there was another. There was, but this was about 4 wasted minutes that all went on my Sigma computer. Aaarrrggghhhh!

The first part of the trip was pretty uneventful, with a moderate tailwind, although the 5:00 o'clock traffic was pretty heavy. Since the climbing is almost all in the first half of this route, I was annoyed that the tailwind was actually making the air more-or-less dead calm as I was climbing between 5 & 15mph. It made my long-sleeve jersey a little warmer than was comfortable, but once I remembered it zipped all the way open I was able to dump most of the heat I needed to.

Once I got through heavy traffic across Green Valley Rd, and onto Deer Valley Rd I stopped, hydrated and ate most of a Smoothie Powerbar. I folded the last 1/4 or so under the foil wrapper and tucked it under my right short leg. I have learned from experience that I can eat on the go with just my right hand and mouth if I tuck bars carefully under my R short leg. I put the wrapper back in the same spot when done. No littering, no sticky hands, no "look mom, no hands" riding. It's good "cockpit management". I started off after a few minutes and took it pretty easy for the first 5 minutes.

After a short uphill and a medium downhill I coasted down, I was into a solid hunk of steep. There are a few hundred yards that are around 18% grade, but mostly it's 8% or so. My legs were good, my cardio was good, and no complaints from my stomach. With my cardio now stronger than my legs, my nutrition/digestion is benefiting from the extra bloodflow. All good. Everything was working well. Nice and solid. I rode up to the Rescue Fire Station in great shape. No bonks, no strain. This was more like it!

I took a long draw from the drinking fountain while talking to the fire crew, and then cracked open another Powerbar. I used the spotless bathroom, took off my gloves and washed the salt off my face. It seemed like the extra electrolytes were just getting sweat right out again. Humm. OK. No harm, no foul, but worth monitoring. I came out of the men's room and the place was empty. The crews were all scrambled and out the door. A half-eaten meal was still sitting on the table with a fork stuck in it. I mixed up a little more Gatorade, and let myself out the front door.

There are some long climbs, some of them in the 8% range on the climb back to the top of Deer Valley, but once warmed up I had no trouble with them. I didn't feel quite as strong though as last time when I was chasing down Bruce. Was it the missing Acai berry? A few miles later after flying downhill towards Green Valley again, I felt very strong climbing that steep little departure kiss Deer Valley throws at you just when you think you're done climbing.

I went wide and turned hard onto Green Valley at close to 20 mph. The wind hit me like a wall, but I got down in the aerobars and started working the gears while headed downhill. The shoulder is pretty rough in spots along this section, so I took the road I needed to be safe and was adding power at 102 - 116 rpms - topping out at ~ 37mph. I'm not sure I would recommend wasting energy on this kind of speed, but with heavy traffic it was a safety issue. At that speed they would just stay behind me until I could find a nice patch of shoulder and they they'd pass en'masse. Besides, you pay for that speed climbing up those hills on this O&B, so it's really a blast to go blowing downhill that fast. OK, it's an indulgence, but I kept the exertion level in check.

I hit most of the lights favorably, and then had to "sneak" through the Salmon Falls light on a stale red, but mostly I was lucky and could carry my speed right through a half-dozen intersections. The downhill from Salmon Falls Rd to the bottom that forms Bass Lake was steep and protected from the wind. I pushed back until my thighs were hugging the very back of the seat, hands in the drops, feet level with each other, knees hugging the bar. I stole a glance at my computer at the bottom of the hill - 41mph! Not bad for zero pedal power! :D

I crossed the foot bridge at Folsom and headed down the west side of Lake Natoma. Just before the long lake-side stretch I started drafting a rider in his 40's who was obviously in shape and was riding a PowerTap rear hub. I tried to talk to him, but he had his earbuds in, so I just stayed on his wheel. He made a few weak attempts to break away but I stayed glued to him, trailing by 7-10 feet - as close as is safe with no brakes on the aerobars. He started fading and I backed off a bit, and then passed him in a straight, shallow climbing section of trail. I could feel the tug of his draft as the wind shifted back and forth, so knew he was still back there and close.

As expected he was playing for time, intending to make his move on a short 500 yard climb of about 5%. He went past me and stood. I stood when he came abreast and started to hammer. I immediately had to back off as my quads started twitching again, but at a slightly reduced power, they held up just fine and we came to the top together. He turned and offered some encouragement near the top - "that's the spirit!" he said, a bit too loud, so I assume over the music. We rode all the way to the Hazel Ave corkscrew where I decided I'd pushed my luck with my quads enough, and shifted into my granny. He stood and hammered up onto the bridge and went flying down the chainlink tunnel, veering right onto the bike trail.

I hate that route, because you have to kill all of your speed to make the turn at the bottom, because you have traffic coming from 3 directions, and because there is a much cleaner and faster way if you go one more block down Gold Country and then drop down onto the bike trail a half mile later. There's also a drinking fountain right at that 3-way intersection, so it's a horrible and dangerous choke point. I was riding above and parallel to him and could see he was tired and resting, so of course I went for the kill. We got to the merge point with me a little ahead so he was more than happy to let me lead.

He stayed on my wheel as I picked up speed - I didn't want to drop him so I pushed the power up slowly. I almost never get to ride in company anymore. Mostly I'm too fast, and the few who are faster are racers and bitch if I stay on their wheel. We got within a mile of Sunrise and he asked if he could offer me some criticism of my bio-mechanics. I thought I knew what he'd say, but wanted his opinion. He was dead on. I rock my hips too much and my knees come out too wide. The first a very old habit developed trying to ride a frame waaaay to large in my teens, and the 2nd I think is due to a 172.5 crank and a 29" inseam. I thought he'd stop at the Sunrise park, but we ended up peeling off in different directions so fast I didn't even get his name. It seemed like we were well matched, so I hope we can ride together again soon. It's lonely at the top! :D

I got home and subtracted 3 minutes for the Rodeo Pk water foraging and a minute or so in the parking lot at the Aquatic Center talking to a guy who I thought might want to ride along (the computer doesn't shut off for 30 seconds once it gets a speed reading, so circling in parking lots and foraging for water at 3mph are counted in the ride time and pace) and got 3:35 for a ride time. That's about what I expected after Party Pardee, because to me they are similar in difficulty. Next time I will bypass Old Folsom and it's many traffic and ped obstacles, and just take the new Johnny Cash bridge over to the Beal's Pt approach and then return straight down the bike trail. I like 3:35 a lot better than 4:12, and that confirms my suspicions about how much time my "broken" legs cost me limping home last time. All in all, a very solid performance. Now to break 3:30...

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