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.

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