Sunday, June 26, 2011


I got an email from a member (Sterneco) of one of my cycling groups on (shameless plug for a website I actually use and enjoy alert) MyCyclingLog. He reminded me about about some training rides for the upcoming Tour of Tanglewood. It's kind of a cool thing where a group of local bike shops take turns sponsoring a training ride for the big charity event in mid September based out of their shop and,  if Saturday was anything to go buy, is both a great opportunity for shops to give back and get customers into their store. This week's ride started as Ken's Bike Shop and took me on a 45K lollipop route (stats here). By my estimation there were over 100 riders of varying abilities at this event. Everyone from hard core to casual day trippers. Totally cool experience.

As the ride started I was a little unsure how hard core everything would be so I decided to hang back. I pulled out as part of the final 1/3 of a very very large pack. As I'm getting going along Polo road, less than 1K into the ride,  I'm realizing gaps are already starting to form and I'm not in the best group for me. So, I start moving up and crossing gaps. Moving into a faster group. Then the next fastest group and so on. I think I went through 5 or 6 differentials. Some folks crossed the gaps with me and found the group that best suited them,  others just watched me go.

Eventually, I worked my way up to the tip of the spear, taking advantage of every hill and every descent (the one benefit of having extra mass). I settled in about 6th wheel. Fifth wheel was a guy riding a full on timetrial bike that apparently had not been tuned since he got the thing. The gears were clicking and clacking, grinding and rubbing the majority of the ride. Riders on the front (at least three of which I later learned from Sterenco/Steven, raced on a semi-regular basis) pulled off and slotted in 4th wheel. Right in front of this guy.

At the time I was feelng a little conflicted. One the one hand, I wasn't getting the chance to move up and put in a pull. One the other, I was pretty close to my limit and having to pull might very well have resulted in my being spit out the back. Eventually things mixed and I became 3rd wheel. As the woman pulled off, Mr. TT did not simply keep pace, he flew off the front. And since I was second wheel I started to follow but quickly made a few tactical desicions.

This guy was traveling way faster than we were moments ago. We were traveling up hill. If I hit the gas I was going to blow up.  If I just kept to the same speed or a bit faster Mr. TT would slowly pull away or he would look back and realize he wasn't actually pulling, sit up and come back to us. Also, to be honest, I was a little peeved at the guy. Why was he sitting in earlier and then screaming off the front like that? I was not willing to follow this guy, plus I don't think I could have kept up with him even if I wanted to (Ettiquette and ability colliding apparently).

As it worked out, he did not sit up. He kept pulling away. Then the big boys/girls decided to chase. They, being much better than myself, came around me and quickly shut down the gap. I was dropped like I didn't exist. That acceleration resulted not only in him being caught and dropped very shortly after being caught and one other faded off the back as a result of that little acceleration.

After a brief recovery, I got into TT mode and slowly worked my way back. AS I was riding I watched as first one rider got back on, then Mr TT. i was getting closer. I got within ~100m but finally had to sit up. As luck would have it, right around the corner was the rest stop. Sweet.

It was here that I meet Steven. Very cool guy. Laid back, and had a bit of a laconic, insightful style about him. He reminded me of Dave Zabriske actually. He was very funny and easy to chat with . Had a really good time going back and forth on how the ride was going (see above for me :) ) I even got a chance to chat to Mr. TT.

Of course by this time my slight pettiness has faded and I was merely happy to have made it to the rest point, so I was retelling him what was happening behind him while I was sucking his dust, from the perspective of someone who was unable to keep up (completely true and without malice).

After the rest stop, most of the group I was riding with went for another loop or two around he lollipop. But, knowing I was cooked after Friday, I got into a group heading back to Ken's and did quite well. No real pressure on any of the small hills and actually came to the front on one. Just doing my own thing and trying to get to the top with a good speed and good aerobic reserve. 

Ended with another 30+ kph ride. 30+ is becoming a bit more regular I'm pleased to say.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back to Back Cat 3's

Finally, real climbing training. After a week off the bike, seemingly to recover from jet lag or over excitement from an awesome vacation, I finally climbed hanging rock on Friday, something I've been trying to get to since February.

Knowing how I think, I started at the top so the only way to get home was to climb up. The first time down was a little nerve wracking and I did so with a little trepidation.  When I drove the car to the top, the road seemed a lot steeper and longer than Cat 3's I rode last year (3.5K @ an average of 4.4% and 5.3K @ 3.8%). As I descended my adrenaline was surging a little and my legs felt a little wobbly and weak as I thought about the climb back up.

When I arrived at the bottom I had to call Janine to put her mind at ease and let her know I safely descended. Unfortunately, cell coverage around hanging rock is horrendous and I could not get a signal. To try and find one, I went up a little hill, called and headed back to the start of the climb. On my way down this little hill, I realized just how steep the road was and was amazed at how unconcerned I was coming up. I guess I was worrying about the real climb so much I wasn't paying attention.

First climb: The first time up, I did one thing right. I made sure I did not start out too hot. However, I think I paid too much attention to my Garmin. I kept looking at my HR, % grade and cadence. It almost got myself into some mental trouble. There are were sections of 15-16% half way up where I considered quitting. I pushed through these bits and when the climb levelled out to a mere 7% it was almost like I was descenting. Pure luxury when it came. The last section to the top got steep again but the peak was in sight and nothing was going to stop my first successful ascent. It was a tough climb and I felt so spent and was breathing so hard I almost stopped after a single climb. The whole thing took 18.5 minutes to travel 3K

After a few minutes recovery at the top I couldn't let myself to only one climb. I had driven an hour to get to this thing and one ascent would have felt a tad pathetic. Besides, my recovery was quite quick and I figured I had at least one more in me. Even if it was slower. I knew the climb a little better and I should really take advantage of that while it was still fresh in my mind.

The descent was faster this time (about 6 minutes) and I was more confident (though the road still appeared awfully steep).

Climb two: On the second repeat the early slope seemed a little easier. Maybe it was familiar. Maybe it was an illusion. But it was enough to make me feel good about my decision to do it a second time. That feeling did not last long. When I got to the first steep section, it was tough but not unbearable. I was still flying high off my mental euphoria. I started to think could make it up faster. I thought I made it through the toughst section relatively unscathed. I was wrong. The hardest was still ahead of me.

As the climb leveled off to a leisurely 7% I picked up the pace and settled into a steady breathing and pedaling rhythm. Almost enjoying the climb. As the hill hit me, I again thought about quitting. Seriously. Very nearly got off the bike. I was down to 1 pedal stoke, one wobble to the left, one pedal stroke, one wobble to the right. One wobble to the left, one to the right. But I kept going. My breathing was fast, steady and hard, bordering on laboured. The problem though seemed to be in the legs. I was expecting to have lactic acid burn but that was not what I experienced. I just did not seem to have the strength to push the legs over the top of each stoke. The legs felt wobbly and weak, not burning. Once I traverse that little piece of personal hell, the rest of the climb was none eventful. Even the final section at the top was not as bad as that moment 500m earlier.

In the end I made it up twice. The second in 20.5 minutes. I figure I'll use that as a gauge. In the future I will repeat the climb until I take more than 20 minutes to get up. There was no way I would have been able to make another ascent. When I got to the summit the second time I was completely spent. My legs were weak. My breathing was ragged. My arms were cooked. I even felt a little light headed for a few minutes after I got to the top.

A good day. Compared to my previous cat 3's I went about 1/3 faster. Today somewhere between 9 and 10 kph while last year I was between 5 and 7 kph. It's true what Lemond said. It doesn't get easier. It just gets faster.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cracked 30K @30kph solo barrier

Hit the LaSalle course hard Wednesday. The traffic, construction, pedestrians, and lift bridge lifting made for an extremely challenging ride above and beyond the actual cycling effort I put in. I actually had to skid to a halt when some woman casually walked out in front of me while a roller blader came from the opposite direction all while I'm yelling "On your Left! On your left!", like some kind of fog horn.

Despite these difficulties I put in a personal best on this course. 30+K @ 30.5 kph! Fastest ever on a 30K route. The first 10K  was just under 30kph as I warmed up but the last 20 averaged above 30kph. Had a few brief rough moments in the last 10K as the legs started complaining about the lactic acid buildup but I managed the discomfort by thinking about how they felt yesterday and this was nothing in comparison. It got me an extra 3-4K before I had to slow and drop my HR to 88% for a minute or two. (I like the overlay of HR/cadence/speed feature on ridewith gps so to see it all together head here.)

BooYah! Rest day tomorrow is well earned.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

4 cat 4's

OK. Time for some real climbing training. Let's start out on a Cat 4 and work up.

Fortunately, Burlington is at the bottom of the Niagara escarpment and a local road to the top is a cat 4. A nice 3k gradual climb. Since this was the first time up the climb I got into the small ring early and spun up in the mid 80 rpm. Not knowing what to expect, I wanted to be conservative and make sure I had some reserve. That was prescient. The first 10% grade hit about halfway up but the final 400m maxed out @ 21+% according to ridewithgps.  I really had push to avoid coming to a complete stand still. Gasping for air, legs screaming, arms barely able to move the bike back and forth, I crest the hill. And this is a Cat 4??!!

The reward was worth it though. You hit the top and it immediately goes flat and then a descent down the escarpment back to the start of the climb. I was able to hit almost 63 kph on the way down on a very cracked, patched, potholed road.

I ended up completing 4 loops. The first two loops took about 22.5 minutes, the 3rd almost 24 minutes. The third time up I thought about calling it a day but I recovered well on the downhill and did one more in a little over 23. A comeback on the last lap. I was expecting each lap to be slower but I really hit the steep part of the hill hard and screamed down the descent to makeup almost a minute over lap 3.

At the end of the day my entire body knew I had ridden a hill or two. While the average speed was not that impressive (~25 kph), my goal was to consistently ride the hill, which I think I was relatively successful at. The fact that I did the hill 4x was also satisfying. Probably took the climbs a little too easy but that just means room for improvment.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shakedown cruise

Yesterday was the first day back after the Euro trip so I just wanted to get out and shake out the legs and see how much fitness I was able to maintain.

To keep it simple, I did the LaSalle park route (using instead of garmin becuase garmin site is down - I'll upload the data to garmin later for a lap breakdown and more accurate cadence/speed profiles).

Update: Garmin version of ride

It was all about being steady. The first 10K were done in ~21.5 minutes and included my having to navigate construction, stop signs, rolling little bumps and traffic before I got to the bike path proper. The next 10K were completely on the bike path. Flat, not busy, and a tailwind. Did that in ~18.5 minutes. Last 10K was the first 10K in reverse and did that in 21.5 minutes as well. Had a headwind so I kept the cadence and allowed my HR to creep up from 80% MHR to 86-88%.

Actually, the last 10k wasn't quite the exact reverse. The course is 32+K so the last 2+K  are on a different lap and finished on the biggest bump. Had about 400m of 4% grade so I hit it hard, kept the cadence at 90 and ramped my MHR up to 185 bpm.

Looks like I'm ready for some real work.... Today I climb the Niagara escarpment in 3k, 4%, cat 4, repeat increments. ROWR!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What a difference 21 months makes

Got to ride the Confederation park- La Salle park ride again for the first time in 18 months or so. Brought the bike to Canada so I could ride while we are here.

After 2 heavy power days at home, followed by two days travelling,  my legs were feeling a little stiff so I went on one last ride before I head to Europe for a river cruise vacation and shake out the legs. Did an ~90 rpm cadence endurance pace ride. The best time I had on this ride was Aug 15, 2009 when I really pushed hard to get to 29.24 kmh. Today was not a hard day. Just about 84% MHR and I came in @ 29.54 kmh. A better time and less effort. 

It started a little rocky but once I warmed up I had a nice ride. The weather was in the mid 50's and a titch breezy but nothing that would knock you sideways like the wind was yesterday.

Now I have to try and find a way to build on this, or at least prevent a backslide while I'm away. Hopefully there is a good stationary bike I can use on the ship.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Locked up

Did 20k to finish off May's distance goal of 700k on Monday and did another heavy power day. The best way I can describe the suffering and pain I voluntarily inflicted on myself is to say I went into the hurt locker, slammed the door shut and bolted the door behind me. At one point, I literally had to consciously tell my legs to move.

They were so locked up with lactic acid and sending signals of agony to my brain that I had to consciously concentrate and focus on first my left leg then my right to get each to move. If I wasn't thinking about the leg it was dead weight and did no work. A painful, flaccid piece of useless meat and bone. My brain simply refused to send a signal to that body part.  There was no reflex or momentum or automaticity. Man my legs hurt.

Great ride!