Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bread & Butter Beal's

I have described this route a few times here, but finally rode it as a recovery ride on Thursday with the Garmin on board (sans the HR monitor), and was surprised it came in at a bit more than 2,400 ft of climbing in 33 miles. My time was almost exactly my average time, at 1:54, although in-town traffic can make for some unavoidable variances there.

Passing the Cash Bridge at 10:00 I was struck by how ugly the view is from below the bridge. The construction scars on the land are still fresh, and double rows of razor-wire-topped chain link fence 8ft high, and grass that hasn't seemed to have taken root, make for a pretty thorough eye sore - in contrast to the beautiful view above the bridge. However, the view of a now brimming Folsom Lake more than made up for it. The birds were out in force, the air was cool from the 55 degree water, and it was blue to within a stone's throw of the picnic area. Nice!

I rode in the morning to avoid the heat expected later in the day, and felt really sluggish the first 5 miles or so. As luck would have it some fool blew by me who looked to me to be a wanna-B, so I found some motivation to quicken the pace at about the 5 mile mark. I jumped on his back wheel and drafted until my lungs opened up and my heart stopped pounding, and then went past him on a 2-5% climb of about 500 yards. Good-bye, see-ya. Gone in 60 seconds, but at least it got me moving.

I pushed the climbing pretty hard, and noticed that my out speed only averaged 2 mph less than my back speed. I pushed the top 300 yards very hard, staying in the saddle, cranking out 480 watts at 105 rpms doing just a bit over 13mph. The ride home was uneventful, but it was striking how carefree I could be in assaulting short climbs because the short route meant my legs, lungs, heart and glycogen were all available with plenty in reserve.

This demonstrates an important point about training rides. You stress one or two things at a time, and keep the other supporting factors in reserve so they can be used to push the target factor to the max. In particular, my long, and very hard ride on Sunday didn't improve my sprint or overall time at all on this rather easy ride, but I'm sure next time I ride it I will feel a sharp improvement in endurance. F.I.T. peaking works.

As a final aside, you can trade Frequency, Intensity and Time-duration off to create higher and higher levels of fitness when building fitness. Each peak builds on the prior peak. After attaining a high fitness level, and transitioning into maintenance mode, you can back off the Frequency and Time by at least 1/3rd without losing fitness, but if you back off on Intensity, you lose about 15% of your fitness in 15 weeks. Reducing the Time-duration of rides by 1/3rd can actually increase your fitness by 5%, provided you keep the intensity up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The B-I-G Ride

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This is the one I have been putting off for 6 weeks now for a variety of reasons. Now that I've done it some of them seem silly, and some, like no cell phone coverage, and having to ride alone for lack of riders who will attempt it, are very real concerns. Added to that is glass all over bridges, very rough surface and almost zero shoulder on Marshal Grade with drop offs into a rocky ditch 10-12" from the white line.

Because of the problem with the Garmin I got a very late start - about 1:15. Riding in the heat, sitting around burning through glycogen stores for hours, and having to take a double dose of BP meds to counteract a dose of Claritin taken the day before, all made for a very tough ride. Vasodilators and hot weather riding don't mix well at all. It's hard enough for the heart to keep up with all of the demands for blood to deliver glucose, oxygen, core cooling, and lots of fat from a broad cross-section of adipose tissue, but when the entire vascular system is artificially dilated, it becomes almost impossible. Lesson learned!

The ride to the Rescue fire station went well, and fast, at 2:04. I put the Profile Designs AquaRack on the seatpost and rode with 2 extra small bottles on that, a small Polar bottle with a 4X Gatorade and Power Electrolytes mix, and one full 24 oz Polar bottle on the downtube. In addition I had a Power Gel, a Cliff Java Gel, and 5 PowerBars. I had everything I needed in the way of nutrition and hydration, but did manage to consume everything but the 4X concentrate bottle and 1 PowerBar by the time I got home.

From Rescue on my legs just didn't have much snap, and by the time I got to the base of Marshal Grade I knew it was going to be a very tough day of riding. I stopped and ate half a PowerBar, drank and drank an entire bottle of Gatorade. I was surprised how much hydration support was available on this leg, but once at Marshal Grade I drank my water and Gatorade down to half bottles.

I started up Marshal Grade at 4:15 and it was very hot. I was sweating profusely, so much so I had to do the entire climb in the saddle because with only 4" shoulders in places, very rough surface, and a rock strewn ditch a foot off the road, my hands were so slippery I couldn't hang onto the brake blocks well enough to maintain control. I tried to stand and shake out my legs on the one and only turnout, slipped, and almost fell. My gel chamois was so soaked it made squishing noises against the soaked seat. (Later, in the cool air along Lake Natomas, the water would evaporate and leave only a searing hot salt mix grinding into my bottom side) Suffering though I was, I just flat out refused to give in, kept my legs going, tried to zone out, think about something engaging, and NOT look up ahead at the road.

Unlike the Mt Hamilton climb, Marshal Grade is rather straight, so you can see the climb for miles ahead. It is unnerving if you keep looking up to see how much farther it is. Mostly I was thinking about Kobe's gritty performance in Saturday's game, of my friends Savorn and Jeff completing the Davis Double two weekends ago, and about the math problems attendant with nutrition and hydration needed for the rest of the ride. I thought of our guys fighting in the "sandbox" in terrible heat and danger and hoped my legs wouldn't cramp up on me. Like the Mt Hamilton ride, this climb comes at the half-way mark of the ride, although I didn't do this one as an O&B. (It would have saved me 1,200 feet if I had, but that wasn't the point of the exercise)

I consumed the PowerGel and half a PowerBar along with 20 oz or so of water and ~ 8 oz of Gatorade, and was pretty much dry on water with only the 1X and 4X Gatorade left heading back down from the summit. I had rested 15 minutes, cooled off, and washed the sticky mess of the Gel off my fingers. Never again. Just go with the slightly drier bars and avoid all the mess. It's the same stuff. My gloves were still wet and slimy though, so I was cautious going down Marshal Grade. I broke out the up and down legs as Laps 3 & 4, and as you can see, my speed wasn't that high.

Frankly, for all of its fierce reputation, it was a disappointment. First, it isn't as long as the Mt Hamilton climb. Second, being a major road, it's a very consistent 10% grade, but not as steep as parts of Hamilton, which is over 20% in a few spots. I think to get a perfect training ride for Mt Hamilton, this climb should be done twice, back to back. I sure didn't have that in me on Sunday, at least not doing it at 4:30 in the afternoon.

I got back to hwy 49 and decided to keep going as the little honky tonk bar didn't look very inviting as a place to bum water. I had remembered this stretch of 49 to Pedro Hill fire station as fairly flat, but it was far from that. In fact, it was as steep a climb as that stretch of Green Valley I love to fly down and use as a cadence drill. It was also heavily traveled and littered with piles of broken glass all over the road. The scariest point on the ride was heading across a narrow bridge, showered in broken glass, partially hidden by the low sun, with the sound of heavy traffic bearing down on me. There are times I'd be happy to shoot me a truck load of drunken red-necks or two.

I was down to my last Gatorade and zero water as I crossed 49 and started up Pedro Hill Rd. It is mostly 6-8%, but has a nasty stretch of 13%. At least traffic was non-existent and it was mostly shaded by trees and a now very low sun. With Folsom Lake full of cold water it was the first time I felt the evening chill in the air.

I stopped, as planned, at the Pedro Hill fire station, drank till I felt bloated, and then began to mix more Gatorade. The place was abandoned until I picked a spot of shaded concrete to lay down on, and about then a couple of firemen showed up in a truck at the fuel tank. They immediately asked if I was OK. I assured them I was, but also allowed that I was pretty wrecked right about now. They asked if I needed anything, and I replied wryly, "a taxi?". Honestly, I wasn't sure at that point if I was going to make it home or not, but I hadn't come this far to just give up, so I was sure as hell going to find out.

They asked me 3 times if I had really ridden all the way from Carmichael, so assuming they were testing my lucidity, I gave them my route in detail. They were pretty amazed. I thought it weird that they would find that amazing as those guys are in amazing shape. They have to be. In the coastal fire we had the first 2 weeks in May, they fought fires till they dropped, slept a few hours and went right back at it. Driving to Flagstaff I passed huge caravans of firemen and trucks heading down I-5.

After laying down, resting and stretching my back - OMG did that feel good - they let me into the crew quarters to use the men's room. Another hydration warning there, so I went back and drank another 16 oz of Gatorade and finished the 3rd PowerBar off with half a bottle of water. I stuck my head under the spigot and let the water run down my neck, washed my glasses off, and rinsed out my helmet - which had been dripping sweat into my right eye all afternoon. Finally I put everything I had left back in my jersey pockets, mounted up, hit the Lap button on the Garmin, and headed downhill for Salmon Falls Rd.

My legs were just dead, but at least they weren't cramping. I knew the first leg up Salmon Falls would be a tough climb, and it didn't disappoint. The initial grade was kinder than I remembered, but there was a 2nd section that was much worse, and then the false flats and climbs around the corner started. I knew there was a long downhill section to the American River, but was growing weary of waiting for it. Naturally, that's when the long downhills started, with only a few brief interruptions.

Unfortunately, the ride from the river bed back to Green Valley just seemed to go on forever. I also was breathing shallowly, and my chest felt a little tight. I wanted to push out my chest, spread my arms back, and take a deep breath, but felt instead like I would start coughing if I tried to breath any deeper. I also noticed my HR had been steadily dropping despite the subjective sense that it was pounding away at 142 like I was down and hammering. I believe both of these are due to the vasodilator and its effect combined with early glycogen exhaustion, and heat.

The first opens up everything more than everything else. The 2nd requires that a lot of blood be flowed to a broad cross-section of adipose tissue to get to a lot of fat reserves fast. The third requires that a lot of blood flow close to the surface of the skin through wide-open capillaries. The last 30 hours tracking my BP once home has confirmed this in my mind. The 2hr+ BP was 121/51 with a pulse of 83. This tells me my heart was able to produce adequate pressure when it contracted, but it was pumping against a wide-open vascular system so the BP quickly collapsed to 51 psi between strokes. 30 hours later the top number is up to 138, but the bottom number is only back to 62. Pulse is a nice 62bpm. I assume all that adipose tissue is still being serviced - this time to reload it. Once this restoration process is complete my BP will return to normal.

Once I made it back to Green Valley I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Though pretty sure I was going to complete the ride, I was still 20+ miles from home, but I knew the rest of the ride would be almost entirely downhill or flat. I had over 6,000 ft of climb on the Garmin unit, and knew that would increase once I uploaded to MotionBased and got the use of their detailed maps, so knew I had done the hard part of what would be an epic ride. Emotionally, I rallied a bit going down the last of Green Valley's 5-6% grades. Mostly it was just going to be putting one pedal in front of the other, and getting home before dark.

I crossed the Johnny Cash Bridge, headed down the bike trail, stopped at all the usual places (very comforting to know the route when wrecked from a ride) and made my last stop on top of the little rise just as you leave the park complex at Sunrise for Bannister Pk. It was getting dark and that was the last spot not covered in trees before total darkness. I quickly mixed up the last of my Gatorade, and turned on all of my lights. I actually felt pretty strong the last 10 miles or so, but was happy to be home 20 minutes later.

I called a friend to let him know I was safe and sound, chugged some OJ, swallowed 4 Advil, ate half a Power Protein Plus bar, jumped in the shower and warmed up. The last 10 miles had been pretty cold, and my hamstrings were cold and hurting bad. Finally out of the shower I sprawled across the bed to cool down and relax before putting on the BP cuff. An hour and a half later I opened one eye to the world, saw the time, took my BP and HR, wrote them down with the time, and chugged 40oz of fat-free milk. I woke up every 2-3 hours all night and ate carbs, carbs, carbs. It really pays to do a good job of grocery shopping before a long ride. The Barsotti apple juice was perfect for recovery carbs. Liquid, quality carbs, and tasted great. I drank the whole gallon jug!

Looking at the Mt Hamilton ride and this one, and having ridden them both (well, pretty much), I think they are very close. I hope to ride this ride one more time before the event, starting much earlier in the day, and will try doing the Marshall Grade climb twice. I might also try Prospector's Grade, which is the old road that runs parallel to Marshall Grade. My hunch is it is the same average climb, but with much steeper pitches in places. 30 hrs later I feel nearly fully recovered after consuming a huge pile of salty mashed potatoes for lunch today. This was the 3rd toughest ride I have ever done, after my first ever Century ride, and the Mt Hamilton ride I failed to complete. I'm very close to where I will need to be to rectify that failure. A big ride, at least for me, at 83 miles and 8,366 ft of climb.

PS: Before turning in last night I checked my BP. It was 148/80 and HR 62. Fully recovered in 31 hours.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Resetting a Garmin Edge 305

I too just went out the door, found my favorite spot with no trees or powerlines overhead, and turned on my Garmin 305 Edge. Nothing! No beeps, no displays, nothing. I pressed a medley of buttons to no avail and headed back upstairs to my apt to plug it in, thinking it was somehow dead after an overnight charge. It didn't report charging when I plugged it in. Still dead as a doornail.

I looked on the web and found a lot of posts, but they were conflicting, so here's one that works. Let's make this FIVE steps, OK?
  1. Plug a powered USB mini plug, either from the wall charger, or your computer, into the back of the unit
  2. Let the unit charge up for 10-20 minutes
  3. Press the Reset/Lap (bottom left button) AND the Mode button (lower left side button) at the same time
  4. Wait a few seconds and hit the Power button (upper left side button)
  5. Let the unit charge up fully before riding
How this thing managed to go into vapor lock sitting in it's mount on the bike overnight is beyond me, but it seems to have drained a full 12 hr battery charge with its "migraine headache".

Practical Tip: Put the unit on the bike and turn it on BEFORE anything else on ride day so you have time to futz with this stuff while you are showering, mixing Gatorade, airing up the tires, dressing, and putting the bike in/on the car. Otherwise you will be late for your event OR will have to ride "dumb" for the day, with all of the emotional stress that brings.

Of course, if you have a blog you can blog about the whole thing while the Garmin recharges itself. :D

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Improving the Garmin Signal Quality

Using a scrap piece carbon fiber steering tube, some 1/8th inch vinyl tubing, and 4 zip ties I remounted my Garmin 6" further forward onto my aerobars hoping to boost the signal quality from "good" to "excellent". Not only can I see it much better, but without my body leaning over the Garmin unit, I am indeed now getting an excellent signal.

I first zip-tied the Garmin mount to the CF tube, and then zip-tied the tube to the aerobars. The vinyl is sticky and keeps the zip-ties from sliding around. They will give a little, which allows you to tilt the Garmin as needed, but it stays stuck nicely where you put it. I used a pliers to pull the zip-ties really tight. Oh, and you might have to put a piece of wood or book on top of the vinyl tubing to flatten it a bit in order to get the zip-ties through. Boiling it in water for a minute helps a lot too. If you don't have a piece of steering tube, I'm sure a 3" piece of PVC pipe will work just as well.

A nice aero mount. With the Garmin unit mounted, it looks a bit like the Star Trek Enterprise sans the engine nacelles. (or you could view the aerobars as two gigantic engines! :D)


Friday, May 22, 2009

Ramblin Man

I wanted to go for a ride Wednesday, but was bored of Rescue and while I wanted to get in some serious climbing, like Marshall Grade, it is beyond Rescue, and a couple of miles past Rescue there is a long downhill. Lots of fun, and one can easily get going up to the mid 40's in a tuck, but once down that hill you're committed to a lot of riding and climbing to get back home.

In a lot of ways, Wednesday's ride was a throw-back to the way I was riding last summer before all the high-tech, when I mostly did one long ride on the weekend and filled in during the week. I limited myself to a few sips of Vienna Roast coffee, as caffeine really chews through a lot of glycogen for me, and instead had a bowl of raisin bran. Whatever it was, I could tell in the first 10 blocks I was much stronger than on my last ride to Rescue. The Garmin picked it up immediately too - my average speed was about 2mph faster and the little rollers between my house and the bike trail seemed pretty flat. (a little lesson in HR creep in there too as it turned out)

Not wanting to bite off more than I could chew, I hit on an alternative plan for the day's ride, just set the Garmin for Total Elevation Gain, and go hunting for hills! The first leg of the trip was up the bike trail to Folsom, but in part from being undecided, and in part from missing a turn, I ended up 2/3rds of the way to Rescue before I realized I would have to do some backtracking to get in the climbs I wanted to.

As luck would have it I got sorta lost and backtracked a lot, which worked out nicely. I took Blue Ravine to Prairie City to Iron Pt Rd which is gentle rollers flowing past the high-tech transplants from Sili Valley - like Intel - until it crosses E Bidwell/Scott Rd and launches into a 6-14% grade. Blue Ravine is gorgeous this time of year. It is cool and partially overgrown with old, mature trees. Not much climbing, but a very pretty ride.

It was pretty hot, high 80's to low 90's and while the wind was blowing the shrubs around 10 feet to my right side, I was getting none of it. I kept my HR in check here and did the climb fairly easily. I got a great "shepard" through 2 stop signs after turning onto Empire Ranch from a very helpful woman in an Escalade. Is there a new "be kind to others" program going on for Escalade owners? Mostly I hate those gas-guzzling road hogs, but if they keep this up I will come to love them. At any rate, the first 2 stop signs she ran interference for me, waiting at the intersection a few extra seconds until I got there so I could go through along side her without stopping. Very cool!

Empire Ranch morphs into Sophia Parkway where the egos get really big, and not long after that comes the little approach road for Beatty Drive. I guess there is a civil engineer somewhere in this city that just wanted a heat check, and so put a road up the steepest piece of ridgeline you can imagine. It starts off at about 6% and in 200 yards it's at 12 and then 14%. I did a double take as was was crawling up the road when the Garmin flashed 20% - yeah, really!

There were two Lo-boys unloading a giant tracked Komatsu backhoe, and they were parked across the road sideways as I crept closer and closer, keeping the HR in check and focusing on good form. As I got close they moved the trucks to the side of the road and watched in awe as I smiled, sweat dripping off my face, spattering on my bike. The hoe operator was grinning in disbelief, just watching as I pushed slowly up the side of the ridge. I turned and shouted "Hey, I WAS looking for a tow dude!". He tipped his hard hat, shook his head, and shouted across the road for the Igloo full of ice water. I guess he was getting hot just watching me!

Finally at the top of the climb, I pulled off to the side and drank the last half of my front waterbottle, and a bit of my 2nd, and remembered that Igloo. I might need to bum some water off that guy. It was hella hot, about 5:30, and a western exposure. I started up the last 300 yards of Beatty Dr and took a left turn onto Katie Dr which is every bit as steep if only a few hundred yards long, ending at Powers Dr. Powers Dr takes you back to Wilson and eventually Eldorado Hills Blvd.

I took a short 10-minute break to hydrate and cool off and then turned around at the bottom and climbed back over the ridge until I was heading back down Beatty Dr. Komatsu man was coming up fast, in fact walking across the road, and I really should have stopped for water, but the wind was so cool and the speed so earned, I just made a line to miss him easily and stayed off the brakes. In another 5 seconds I was deep in the drops in a full tuck, and stealing a glance at my Garmin, was doing 49 mph.

If you ski and have ever been in cold powder in a narrow chute you know the feeling. I was committed to one line, and one line only, through a sweeping turn as the 20% downgrade section dropped the bike out from under me so fast I started to feel floaty in the saddle. I pushed back until my thighs were squeezed hard against the wide back of the seat, pulled my knees to the bar, and lowered my head even more.

My wrap-around glasses were working very well and the tearing was very limited. I felt strangely in control and the minor corrections didn't feel twitchy at all. I did notice that without the speed sensor's magnet opposite the valve core stem the front wheel was unbalanced just a bit and was not happy about that at all. I sat up, spread my knees wide apart and felt a wall of wind slam into me. It kept right on blowing, and felt great as it opened my jersey and blew the sweat dry instantly. MotionBased reported my speed as 52.10! :::D

Careful to rest the seat against one thigh or the other, I stood out of the saddle and got as much wind as I could to cool me off. It was awesome. I had a great case of perma-grin all the way to the light at Green Valley Rd - the road I love to fly down as a cadence drill when coming back from Rescue. I rejoined that course and headed back to Folsom.

Once again I headed across the new Cash Bridge and took in the view as long-suffering water-skiers reveled in a now fully charged Folsom Lake. The breeze was from the wrong direction to be cooled by the water, but I'll bet those skiers were turning blue from water that was melted snow a week ago. I noticed they came around and got the skier up pretty darned quick! LOL

The far side of the bridge took me right onto the bike trail, and headed downhill at that. The downhill seemed slow to me after flying down both sides of the Eldorado Hills ridgeline. I saw my friend Lourdes and Fred chugging uphill and shouted as I flew past them. I checked my Garmin and was doing 30 mph. It didn't seem fast on that straight stretch approaching the Folsom foot bridge. I am careful to keep my speed well under control when going through the twisty top section. The asphalt is really broken up there and the slow climbers coming up can veer unexpectedly into your lane, but once past the last turn it's a long straight stretch down past the Folsom foot, Greeback Lane, and Auburn-Folsom Rd bridges.

A hundred yards past that bottom is what is now a critical hydration stop. I had exhausted both bottles an hour earlier as there have been no new drinking fountains installed attendant with the new bridge. There is water up at Beal's Pt, assuming you wanted to climb up there a mile or so, and then turn around and come back down - just for some water, or you can just suck it up and go downhill for 15 minutes.

I pulled off and filled both bottles, and drank at least a bottle's worth from the faucet as the drinking fountains were pumping out hot water. My face and helmet were caked in salt, burning the corners of my eyes and face. Finally, after washing my face and gloves 3-4 times, I just stuck my head and neck under the faucet and got some relief. I was there about 5 minutes, and a half-dozen others showed up and used the same hydration stop. I hope they put one in up by the new bridge, but until then, this is a must-stop location.

The ride home from that point was fast. I was hammering comfortably, dialed at about 142-146 bpm working the gears hard. When you are fresh and strong your legs are pretty tolerant of poor cadence - you can just muscle through a short stretch in too high a gear, but as you get tired and the snap gets sucked out of your legs, you need to nail your cadence to keep your speed up. I am somewhat obsessive about gearing for this reason. I'm sure I am shifting once a minute on average, and every 15 seconds in places. I also changed my stock gearing completely to get much better granularity.

As I went across the Sunrise foot bridge, the Garmin's Auto-Lap triggered a lap. I had manually pressed the lap button when crossing the bridge because it is narrow, so the GPS position would have be off by a lot to not get triggered on the return leg. When I got home I noticed something on the MotionBased laps graphic. While almost an identical amount of climbing in either direction, that lap I had done with a BP of 127 on the way there, and 142 on the way home. This is known as "heart rate creep" and is due to normal fatigue during endurance exercise.

When producing the same amount of power, your heart rate increases due to fatigue. You can test this quite easily by setting up a 10 mile course (or any short course) and riding it lap after lap. It is a great way to measure fitness. The fitter you are, the less HR creep you will have. Comparing the initial 4 miles isn't a great comparison, but it did make for a rather stunning contrast.

I got home and was roasting hot. Fortunately, I had cranked the AC down and walked into a meat locker. I stripped off all of my clothes and jumped into the shower. Weighing myself after, I had lost about 6 lbs - a bit more than I'd like to, but given the ad-hoc nature of the ride, and the fact that I had knowingly exhausted my Gatorade to keep going, not too bad. My water loss at the hydration stop is another matter. I may have been a whole gallon low at that point. It was the first really hot day of riding for me this summer. Good practice for the heat of the Canyon Classic ride.

The upside was my BP was a very low 105/58. No need for diuretics, and I even regretted taking my BP meds the night before, as they are vaso dilators and made me cough. Mostly though, I got in a lot of super-steeps, didn't have to get too far from home, and still got in 55 high quality miles. I also had a lot of fun, which I needed, because as useful as they are, standard rides can get to be a grind.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zone 5 Hazards

I really wanted to go riding again today, but woke up just dead on my feet, so went back to bed and slept in. The weekend was hot and I had a long drive and too much coffee on Sunday, but generally feeling like I have not gotten a good night's sleep since back from Az.

Thinking about that, it seemed improbable. Then I remembered something I'd read in Chris Carmichael's book. He was Lance Armstrong's trainer before, during and now after Lance's terrible cancer. He said when Lance first got back on the bike and tried to train he would have terrible fatigue. By trial and error they found that if he kept his heart rate just at the edge of the anaerobic threshold, but not into it, Lance could ride long rides and recover fairly well.

Thinking back on my own rides over the last couple of months, since I got the heart rate monitor, it occurred to me that even slow, relatively short rides, had sometimes fatigued me if I sprinted up a hill and got my heart rate up over 155 bpm. Before I got my monitor I used to just ride so as not to get blowing too hard, but since, I have made it a point to test my max watts on almost every ride. In particular, I remembered that the ride where my friend Sharel broke her ankle was an especially easy ride, except for the short 3-4 miles riding back up the trail to find her where I got very close to 100% of max HR, and it left me fatigued. This fatigue is also a new problem, so the timing fits with the arrival of HR monitoring.

I think this is a problem for me as I have a right bundle branch block - a timing problem where the 4 parts of the heart don't beat in proper synchronization, and so the blood flow becomes increasingly turbulent as I approach max. Prevalence is 0.7% at 30, 0.8 percent at age 50, and 11.3 percent by age 80. It usually results in about a 10% reduction in pumping efficiency. When I had my "coronary event" in '04, the EMS tech saw the RBBB on the heart trace in about 30 seconds. Anyone trained to read a heart trace will see it instantly.

In addition to a thorough workup when chest pains first appeared in 2000, as a result of my 2004 episode I was given an angiogram where my doctor reported I had no sign of coronary heart disease whatsoever. In fact he smiled and told me I had the heart of a 20 yr old, and he hoped his heart, lungs and aorta looked as good. As welcome as that news was, I still have the impairment, and occasional chest pain.

The rub is that while my calculated max HR is 220-age, or 167, my adjusted max HR is really about 150. When I take my HR up to 163, like on that ride, it's like pushing a normal heart to about 180 bpm. I have reset my HR alert on the Garmin to 155, and will try to keep my exertions below that level to cut my recovery time down to 1 day. I am running out of time to train, and long recoveries are really starting to get in the way. With so many other things coming together nicely, this is now the bottleneck in my training. I hope this does the trick, because June 13th is coming up fast.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Beauty of Standards

I did my standard training ride to Rescue yesterday, and as promised, with my Garmin Edge 305 set to 1-second record mode. It is such a core training ride for me that I wanted to get the best possible trace so I know how it compares to other organized rides or challenges I might want to train for. The great thing about standards, at least for training, is that you can compare your performance over time and tell where you are doing well and where you need work.

I had a little trouble with the Garmin in that it didn't quite work as expected. First and foremost, toggling the timer on and off manually, and even power-cycling the device, I was not able to force my trace into history and thereby get around the 3:30 minute recording time limit when recording in 1-second mode. This is just pissing me off. What an idiotic design limitation in an era when gigs of solid-state memory sell for a few bucks. I then had to listen to MotionBased bitch about having too much detail. Well, deal with it, because I want all the resolution I can get for my hard-earned money. Buy more disk space and a few more servers, and deal with it already!

I will likely delete the trace from yesterday, because the complimentary MotionBased subscription only allows you to save the last 10 rides. My trace this time ended up flawed as I forgot to restart the timer after power-cycling the device at the Rescue Fire station. I rode for about a mile and a third before I noticed I wasn't getting any grade info - one of the side-effects of having no GPS trace. When I look at the trace I get a straight line across the base of a pretty good sized hill, and am not sure what MotionBased did with this.

Did it understand that this was an O&B route and re-route around the error? I don't know. I do know that my device's 3,800 ft of climb became 6,200 ft on MotionBased. If MB is correct, I am a lot closer to my goal ride than I thought, and it explains why my Party Pardee ride was so fast - even on a day when Big-D was taking some snap out of my legs.

I also learned that you can sub-divide your rides into laps, which should really be thought of as segments, not laps, because they are really just sub-divisions of the ride, with one important exception. The exception is that when you hit the lap button on an O&B it will start a new lap for you at that exact point on the return leg. Since I didn't know this, I manually lapped only to have it auto-lap too, creating silly, annoying little laps of less than a minute in duration.

The Garmin also recorded some motionless time, as my auto-timer shutoff is still set for 2.2 mph, and when the GPS signal got weak it would "move" the bike around enough to fool itself into thinking I was actually riding. I have reset the wheel size from Auto - which I believe causes it to ignore the wheel sensor in favor of the GPS track - to manual, and entered the correct wheel size. I hope this fixes the ghost motion problem.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I love the Garmin, and think it is very well done, easier to use than my "dumb" Sigma bike computer was, but being a software engineer, I can think of ways to improve it, and may well do so (at least the software) as a programming exercise.

My ride did unearthed a chink in my nutrition. One I have talked about here often enough, so really just a matter of preparation. Because of the heat I had to hydrate a lot more. Drinking that much was only possible by diluting my (Acai spiked) Gatorade to the point where I was not getting enough electrolytes. Unfortunately I didn't have either Hammer Endurolytes nor Power Electrolytes foil sticks along. What saved me was I had a 4X concentrate of spiked Gatorade in my back bottle and could simply make lots of weak Gatorade at watering holes.

It worked - barely - but it worked. I had put 2 foils of Electrolytes, which is 4 servings, in my concentrate, but at least one more would have been much better. I also have the Hammer Endurolytes, but just forgot to bring them along. The value of standards, in this case of having a standard nutrition protocol, is every ride is another opportunity to stress-test your protocol and find weaknesses and work-arounds that become critical on event rides.

So, my Rescue O&B, done in a slow 4 hours, with the modified return route using the new Johnny Cash bridge, appears to be about 62 miles and 6,200 ft of climb. A pretty sucky time, but my goal was to ride in the heat in preparation for the Mt Hamilton ride, which was blistering hot last year. Nutrition was 2 Power Smoothie Bars, ~64 oz of spiked Gatorade, and ~40 oz of water. I got home with lots of 4X concentrate left, but was planning on a longer ride, so as expected.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back in the Saddle again

After a week of rain, and a trip to Arizona to watch my nephew graduate from UNA in Flagstaff, it was good to get back in the saddle this evening. I rode with three beautiful women who got their estrogen on and talked girl talk till we were doing 13mph! Just what I needed. A nice gentle comeback ride to ease me into the saddle again. I did push a bit to get to the rendezvous point on time, and then on the way home, stomping the little hill at 649 watts again. Mmmmm, legs felt very solid.

Tomorrow I am off to do my standard 60 mile Rescue ride, and this time I will have my Garmin 305 working, and in 1-second record mode. Since it's such a great training ride, it's worth getting the ride profile nailed down. I will recover on Friday, and then do an 85 miler on Saturday with around 9,000 ft of MotionBased climbing. I need to get up into the 10,000 ft and 90 mile zone to be adequately trained for the Canyon Classic Mt Hamilton ride, my goal ride for this year, on June 13th. (MotionBased has special algorithms and more detailed maps it uses to make adjustments to your track, which they claim produces a more accurate elevation gain number)

I will be doing the fearsome Marshall Grade climb on Saturday, and it will be hot, so I will be starting early. I hope my new front derailleur will have arrived from Blue Sky cyclery by then, back from it's UPS sponsored detour to Chandler, Az and what must have been a LOT of clerical error. WTF??? Also in that order is the CamelBak I will be taking with me on the Mt Hamilton ride. That AND two waterbottles is the bare minimum for the ride as even after re-hydrating on the 2 hour drive home I was still 8 lbs below my starting weight last year. My guess is that at the point I bonked on the climb I was about 6 quarts low - 12 lbs. Even for a 185 lb rider that is far too much water loss and no doubt was the cause of a close brush with heat stroke.

For anyone interested in doing this route, the first 30 miles or so of the Canyon Classic Century and Mt Hamilton routes are shared. The Century is a beautiful course, with spectacular views and most of the climbing is out of the way by the time the routes diverge at the little hamlet of San Antonio. The climb to San Antonio is about 4,000 ft (based on Bikely mapping), and is mostly 6% grade with some 8% and a bit of 12-14%.

The reason the Mt Hamilton ascent is so difficult is you don't start the main climb until 40 miles into the ride, after having done the climb to San Antonio. Of course, it's also about 2,200 ft in 5 miles, and 2,000 ft in 4 miles after a small initial approach climb. There is absolutely NO level terrain in that 4 miles. It is an unbroken climb of grades between 6% and 20% plus. It will be a great accomplishment to complete the ride.

I have one month left to train for it, and I am starting that training well rested, so I am right where I want to be. I have this sick desire to return from the Mt Hamilton ride to San Antonio, and then do the Century ride from there. That would be about 140 miles and an advertised 24,068 ft of climb - although I find the MotionBased numbers are more believable at around 15,000 ft.

PS: The actual amount of climb on the Mt Hamilton route is in dispute. The professional survey done by DeLorme for the ride organizers puts the elevation gain at 13,271 ft. I am using MotionBased for a training reference because I have that data from my Garmin for comparison purposes. The Century ride is claimed to be 10,797 of climbing, but MotionBased reports put it between 5,500 and 6,000. Either way, by riding both rides together as desired, it would be a hell of a ride.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rainy Day Grey

"It never rains in California, but man it pours" - and it's going to rain for a week here, so what to do? My body wants to sleep, probably because my German ancestors worked their butts off all summer long, and then chilled and drank lots of nutritious beer when the foul winter weather set in. (I read a history of beer once that claimed that Europeans didn't give up their nomadic lifestyle until the invention of beer because grain losses to rodents was so severe the only way to keep those losses in check was to pull up stakes and move every year or two) At any rate, I'd rather dance with Mother Nature than fight with her, so I'm happy to go with the flow and chill on a rainy day.

Fortunately, we have pretty good wx forecasting these days, so I knew this break was coming and hit it pretty hard last week. (A little too hard trying to get to a friend that crashed I think)

I'm doing some cooking, eating well, enjoying a bit of brew, registering for the Canyon Classic Mt Hamilton ride, ordering some new bling for Fancy, cleaning the machine, reading up on the Garmin, and doing some core workouts.

In the spirit of "less is more", this will be my shortest ever post. Rest is just as big a part of performance improvement as Frequency, Intensity, and Time of effort. I hope all of my blogspot friends had a great performance this weekend. I sure did.