Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chris Ragsdale...and you think you are tough

Chris Ragsdale is a Seattle-based cyclist who competes in ultra-endurance cycling events. A few weeks back, Chris beat a strong field to win the 2009 Furnace Creek 508 in California. For those of you who missed David Longdon’s excellent post-race four part interview with Chris, here it is (scroll down to 10-18-09 through 10-21-09 for the posts):

A year ago I posted Chris’s own personal account of the 2008 race:

I like to do long rides with as few stops as possible, and the other day I went out and did 60 miles non-stop on a chilly day. That got me thinking about Chris and what it is that he does, and I am just in total awe of what he is capable of on a bicycle.

Chris didn’t get involved with cycling until 2002, when he rode a mountain bike across the United States. Yes, a mountain bike, and yes, cross-country. Chris must have had a lot of time to think on that voyage, and when he got back to Seattle, he thought about jumping into the Race Across America (RAAM). Impetuous? Looking at his list of accomplishments since then, I think not.

In high school, Chris played football, and did some shorter track events. In his early 20’s, Chris did a lot of backpacking, and climbed Rainier, Glacier, and Adams in 2003. For those of us who have had the pleasure of riding with Chris, it doesn’t take long to see just how much natural talent he possesses for cycling. Perhaps if Chris had discovered cycling at a younger age, we would be watching him on television in July.

I respect Chris and his style of riding more than just about any other type of cyclist, including the Tour de France riders. Chris is truly one of those people who let their legs do the talking. He’s not only a great guy; he seems to have that aura about him that enables him to possess extreme levels of both confidence and humility. It’s that same type of confidence that one senses in many other elite level athletes, but many of those athletes (not just cyclists) would do well to emulate Chris for the humility and class he displays.

Chris mentions that RAAM is definitely in his future. I certainly can envision multiple future participations in that race for him, as well as a possible victory. Chris is only 32, and he has lots of years to figure out how to win that event. He already has the talent.

Monday, October 26, 2009

10-25-09 Hills of the West Coast--The Urban Guerillas

Mileage: 50 Climbing: 2500' Route: Downtown Seattle--Alki--Rose St. Hill to top of West Seattle--Georgetown--1st Ave. Bridge--Beacon Hill via 15th Ave. and Cheasty Blvd.--Central District--Mt. Baker--Leschi--Arboretum--U District--Green Lake--Ballard Bridge--Magnolia loop and Mossy Hill Attrition Rate: 0%

Just when I was starting to think that I had ridden my bicycle on pretty much every road there is to ride in the metro area, with Jeff’s help I discovered some new roads never more than five or six miles from downtown as the crow flies. Reg made the comment that in thirty years of cycling in the area, we were on a few roads that he had never driven in a car, let alone ridden on his bike. Jeff led the ride and did almost all of the work on the front today, which was appropriate, since he was the only one who knew where the ride was headed a lot of the time.

Jeff took us through some "gritty" areas, the kind that one doesn't normally seek out on a bicycle. I thought it was a lot of fun, and a really great route for this time of the year. We've all put in a lot of seriously hard miles in 2009, especially Jeff and Warren, who both completed their first Ironman races. Sometimes it is nice to simply explore on the bike.

We did a lot of short and steep climbs, and the first climb of the day was on SW Rose St., just north of Fauntleroy in West Seattle. While I had seen this one before and knew what to expect, that didn't make it any easier. As a matter of fact, my legs felt bad on this climb; really, they hurt more than felt badly.

I wasn't sure if the legs hurt because of yesterday's pretty solidly paced ride, or simply because I wasn't warmed up yet on a quite chilly morning. Toward the top, it seemed like things were loosening up a little, and much to my relief (surprise?), for the rest of the day my legs felt great. Just as with a HOWC out to Squak and Cougar Mountains a while back, once I got over the initial hard effort of the day, I felt good for the rest of the ride. I thought everybody rode strong today, and it was fun to have a small group of five, all of whom knew each other well.

As with that recent HOWC to Issaquah, if I would have gone out by myself today, I would have thrown away an opportunity to get in a solid ride. If I had been solo, I am sure I would have figured I was tired, and just cruised the rest of the ride after that first climb, perhaps even cutting the ride short. Once again, I was reminded of the power of the group. When you ride with others, and you are forced (ok, compelled) to ride hard, you ride hard.

The lowlight of the day, if there was one, occurred when a helmetless goof that we caught decided to sit in with us. Despite never even saying a word, there he was in the middle of our group as we bombed down through the Arboretum at 30mph. After I noticed him riding with his hands nowhere near the brakes on the top of his handlebar, I was damn glad to see him leave. I guess he thought he wanted to show us his stuff, but the stuff I saw was a reckless fool riding without a helmet, barging into a very social group of five riders who happened to be riding hard.

The entire rest of the ride was a blast, and felt about as safe as a ride can be. I always look forward to the change of seasons via my bicycle, and today was a great "shoulder season" ride.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10-18-09 Hills of the West Coast Amigos

Mileage: 52.3 Climbing: 3111’ Route: Downtown—Mercer Island—Medina—Kirkland—Market Hill—Juanita Hill—Perkins climb to Shoreline—185th—Dayton—8th—Ballard Bridge—Magnolia bluff loop—Myrtle Edwards Park—Downtown Attrition Rate: 0%

Emil led today’s ride and with only the four of us, today’s journey didn’t really have the feel of a “group” ride, even less so because we all are friends and know each other well. I enjoyed getting to ride side by side with each one of the other three riders at different parts of the ride. All in all, it was a very social ride. We rode pretty hard at times, and mellow at other times. The way the ride just flowed along seemed very appropriate for a cloudy day in mid-October.

All four of us showed up with some iteration of “winter bike”, although Warren was the only rider to have fenders with flaps. Emil had his steel Marioni, Reg was using clip-on fenders, and I rode my Rodriguez steel bike, which I think of as my “wet road” bike. My singlespeed Bullet Bike is what I grab when I expect real nastiness. We never saw any rain, but about half of the ride took place on damp roads.

Over the past six years, I have made a lot of friends on the HOWC, and on days like this I am reminded about just how important a part of cycling making friends on the ride is for me.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Everybody around these parts is probably familiar with the term SAD—seasonal affective disorder. New research that shows a strong link with deficient Vitamin D, and it’s not easy getting adequate sunlight in Seattle in the wintertime. What about a possible link between SAD and cycling? Well, maybe it’s SAD that is causing what I’m calling SAC—seasonally affected cyclists. Or is SAC triggering SAD?

Every year at about this time in the fall, cyclists seem to go into their own little caves. People stop waving, nodding, or calling out a greeting; in fact, many seem to be hanging their heads a few inches above the handlebar. Many approaching riders don’t even lift their heads.

In the summer, it’s all giggles and friendliness, and almost every cyclist you see gives you a friendly acknowledgment. From now until spring or summer, the same cyclists appear to have tunnel vision, and the tunnel doesn’t extend to the opposite side of the road where I am. Shouldn’t our fewer numbers in the winter provoke a more kindred spirit?

I haven’t decided on my strategy for this year’s winter season. Should I wave and/or call out to every cyclist regardless of whether they might totally ignore me, or should I just focus straight ahead? I could use my peripheral vision to see if one of them might make the first move, and then I could quickly acknowledge with a wave.

I’m lucky that I have so much flexibility. I ride my bike a lot, and I get outside to ride year round and soak up whatever Vitamin D is available, so I don’t think I turn into a SAD-SAC. I better keep waving so everybody recognizes that.

At least most pedestrians still say, “Hi,” this time of the year.

I hope to see you (waving) on the road.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10-11-09 HOWC Ride Report—Synchronicity?

Mileage: 62 Climbing: 3700’ Route: Downtown--Mercer Island--Lake WA Blvd.—89th—Coal Creek—Jones Rd.—Cedar Grove—Tiger Mountain Store—May Valley—Newcastle Golf Club--Mercer Island—Downtown Attrition Rate: 40% (one for a time commitment)

Just as with Saturday’s Meet the Team Ride, today’s HOWC felt a little discombobulated. We never seemed to get into a groove, and the pace was inconsistent. After six years, we have the HOWC at a pretty refined state, and the ride usually rolls along smoothly. Most of the riders who show up either know the protocol, or they catch on quickly once the ride starts. When the ride flows on auto-pilot like it often does, the HOWC is a hard, safe, and fun group ride.

We have had several off kilter rides since we turned down the pace in September. We always have new riders show up at this time of the year, and “fresh blood” is a good thing. It seems like we have issues when we have a high percentage of riders who are first timers. If there are three or four new riders as part of a 15-20 person ride, there are plenty of HOWC experienced riders to emulate. If we have three or four newbies as part of an 8-10 person ride, that’s another story.

Not only did we have a few riders new to the HOWC today, we had a few riders who were fairly new to riding in general. No matter how strong a rider is; the HOWC is really not a great forum for learning the basics of group riding. So I must keep that in mind when I say that we had some very sketchy pacelines within our group of ten.

It started with a touch of wheels with no damage…while we were going uphill. We had another uphill close call or two, but the real potential for disaster occurred on both Jones and May Valley roads. I got so creeped out that I went to the back on May Valley and stayed there, asking rotating riders to pull in ahead of me. In six years of HOWC rides I have never done that before.

Here is part of Jeff S’s take on the situation:

“It was strange that we started out with a paceline on Jones that pulled apart at the seams, and then went to the other extreme where it seemed too ‘compressed’ and riders were running over each other. I didn't see any reason behind the first slowdown / bump on May Valley. The one that happened climbing up to Newcastle was due to someone behind yelling "Split" and the lead rider in front of me instinctively slowing down with no warning—glad you were able to avoid my wheel.

I think part of the situation is due to moving the ride back down to ‘strenuous.’ A couple of riders were in over their head –one of them has been riding less than a year. Sound similar to the start of Luke's ride last week?

In general, it seemed like there were more inexperienced cyclists than usual out on the roads today—ironic that it's near the end of the season.”

Honestly, what Jeff and I should have done was to call a “meeting” and stop and discuss the situation. Rather than single anybody out, we should have just reviewed paceline strategy, pace, and technique. Ideally, we would get input from all of the experienced riders. If a rider simply didn’t get it, we would then ask that rider to remain at the back, and let rotating riders back in line in front of them. If someone really didn’t get it, we would ask them to leave the ride. Perhaps we should automatically review basic paceline/group riding protocol before the start of every HOWC? Never assume anything, especially when safety is concerned.

Think about this; when we have a rider not up to the pace, we don’t have a problem talking to them, mentioning that we can’t slow the ride for them, and making sure they know their way home. Normally these riders have already figured things out for themselves. When you have an unsafe rider, it puts everyone at risk. Who is more dangerous: a “slow” rider a mile off the back, or an unskilled rider in the middle of a paceline?

One thing the ride leaders have never really done on the HOWC (myself included) is encourage communication amongst the riders. A ride leader can’t be everywhere. Sure, the ride leader does the pre-ride safety talk, and part of that involves reviewing a few procedures that have really helped the ride develop into what it is. I think we also need to encourage everyone to point things out to each other during the ride, and I am not just talking about road hazards. When someone fresh is on the front and is pulling well above the winter pace, someone needs to say, “Whoa, Nellie, save it for the next climb.” Conversely, when a rider hogs the front of a paceline so long that they tire and slow, whoever is near could suggest, “Great pull. How about taking a break?” The safest and smoothest pacelines always have a consistent pace. When big gaps open from a herky-jerky pace, riders scramble to close the gap, and mistakes are more easily made.

Yes, the cycling season is winding down, but it looks like we are going to have people who want to lead the HOWC through the winter months. Our rider count may be down, but it never hurts to take a look at what we are doing out on the ride. I did on Sunday and I didn’t like what I saw, and I left late in the ride and rode home alone.

On Sunday, I was part of the “attrition rate.” I’m hopeful that in the future, that won’t be the case.

10-10-09 Meet the Team HPC Ride

Considering it was a chilly and cloudy early morning in mid-October, a turnout of 16 for our last Meet the Team Ride of 2009 might have been a surprise, except for the fact that we have had more riders at every other ride this year. At times, we have had over 30 people show up to check us out, and team membership has grown commensurately.

We are not the only team doing MTTR’s this time of the year, and David wisely chose not to use our regular route around the end of the lake. We knew it would be crowded with large groups of cyclists, and we didn’t want to contribute to the congestion. David took the ride through Medina and Bellevue, on a course very similar to what we often use for our member-only monthly team rides.

While none of the climbs are particularly long or hard along this route, there are enough of them that group socializing was a little more difficult than it normally is on the flattish south lake route. While traffic was almost non-existent, it’s tough to talk when you always seem to be going up or downhill. Because of this, we took a little longer than normal rest stop to answer questions and talk about the team for 2010.

We also had trouble establishing a rhythmic pace on the ride. On pretty much every short hill, riders at the front would go hard, forcing people towards the back to close gap after gap. When those at the front noticed the gaps, they would slow down and wait for the rest of the group. Those not among the first few riders were either pedaling hard (not wanting to be dropped) or coasting once they reached the riders ahead.

Ideally, on a social Meet the Team Ride the group stays together, and to facilitate that, we try to have the MTTR’s go at a “moderate” pace. Moderate in that riders can talk with each other, and freely move within the group to talk with other people. On previous Meet the Team Rides, guests have been able to talk with various team members, easily identified by our jerseys. I didn’t see much of that happening on Saturday.

Whether it is a regular team ride or a MTTR, we always have the Mercer Island loop as an optional open class no re-group circuit towards the end of the ride. This is a great forum to push the pace as high as you like, as well as to show potential team members who try to hang on what HPC is really all about. In any case, Team HPC is only in its second year, and I am sure the ride protocols will become second nature as we all get more miles in together.

In spite of our best efforts to minimize delays caused by cyclist traffic jams, we did have one encounter. When we hit Mercer Island, the hammer was slammed down, and the group splintered into smaller pacelines. I was with the first group, and it was a lot of fun going hard through the eastside curves in tight formation. Shortly after we exited the curves, Steve H took a strong pull, and we overtook and passed the blue-and-white kitted "HB" Team. It’s certainly not the first time that we have overtaken one of the local racing clubs, but HB didn’t seem to think it was a good idea, possibly because there were a lot more of them than us! (Actually, none of the other clubs ever seem to think it’s a good idea either.) A harmless little game of cat and mouse ensued and it was all good fun.

I’m sure we will have plenty of informal team activity over the winter, but our organized group rides are over for the year. Keep your eye out for 2010 team info on the team message board, as well as in the Cascade Courier.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vote Your Pedals?

This is a cycling blog, and this post is about cycling.

At the suggestion of David Hiller (Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Director), Michael McGinn called me yesterday. Yes, that Michael McGinn, the candidate for Mayor of Seattle.

I'm not very politically inclined, and this is not intended as an endorsement of any candidate. Michael didn't call me because I am a political bigwig. He called because he wants my help in getting the word out that he supports cycling. He pointed out that he has been a cycling advocate for years, and is a regular bicycle commuter.

Michael also wanted to make sure that I understood that while he opposes “The Tunnel”, his opponent for mayor opposes completion of the Burke Gillman Trail.

Many Americans appear to “Vote their Pocketbook,” and in some cases that may be as good a strategy as any. The message Michael is trying to get across is that if you “Vote your Pedals,” he is your candidate for Mayor of Seattle.

Once again, I'm not endorsing anybody. I just think it's impressive that a candidate would take the time to talk with constituents about his position on cycling.

Reminding myself that this is a cycling blog, how about a thought or two on the tunnel? This is off the cuff, and I have not done any research pro or con regarding the tunnel proposal. I guess that is what the comments section of a blog is for.

It seems to me that the time to build a tunnel, along with a new highway, was about 40 years ago when the Federal Government was throwing money around to build out the Interstate Highway system. Back then, there was a need, real and/or perceived, to put a lot more automobiles on the road. In 2009, I hear talk of making it easier for cars to move along on the roads, but it doesn’t appear that anyone is seriously talking about the merits of putting more cars out there. Is the whole concept of a tunnel a backward focused idea, even if it would indeed ease the flow of cars on the road?

History has shown that if you make it easier for Americans to drive, driving more is what they will do. Again, no one seems to be talking about higher automobile usage as a long term solution to our transportation, economic, or environmental issues. If Mr. McGinn is elected, and the tunnel squashed, there will be some tough medicine to swallow. There will be less capacity for automobiles, and more congestion for the reduced number of cars using the roads. When gasoline prices spiked in the summer of 2008, SUV sales plummeted, bicycle commuting and bus ridership increased, and people drove less for the first time in modern times. Would increased congestion lead to people choosing not to drive?

See, I told you that this blog is about cycling…and walking…and riding the bus or taking light rail.

Seattle takes pride in being recognized as a progressive, forward looking city. A large part of the rest of the world has already adopted a mass transportation model. No city in the United States is remotely close to London or Paris, let alone an Amsterdam or Copenhagen. I have visited both of those cities, and they are wonderful places.

Even the most hardened fossil fuel burner would have to admit that Amsterdam and Copenhagen are not wonderful in spite of the lack of automobiles; rather it is because of the lack of automobiles.

I don’t know if I will be selfish and “Vote my Pedals,” but in this case a pedal vote is a lot more than a vote for better cycling access. It could be a vote for a change that only future generations could fully appreciate and enjoy. Regardless of how I vote, I think building more highways is looking backward, and at best, a band-aid for much deeper issues. I also think that tearing down the Viaduct and using surface streets will create a huge mess.

Maybe that is the medicine that the doctor needs to order?

Please feel free to pass this message on to your cycling friends.

10-3-09 Hills of the West Coast Saturday Edition

I showed up for the start of the ride today with no plan. With Luke leading the ride, I had the luxury to go/no go, or peel off if I did start. Well, start I did, and peel off I did as well. I split at Enatai, and headed out to Cougar Mountain. Early on, I realized that I felt great, and when I feel that good, I like to go climbing. The rest of the group went north to Edmonds, and here is a brief report from Luke:

"The ride had a rough start today. I respect people who take on the challenge to try a tough ride like HOWC. But sometimes they are in over their head - and the process of determining that and getting them pointed back - sucks time. We had one of those situations getting around the island and onwards. Shortly thereafter, Mike suffered a broken spoke and was done for the day. Too bad - Mike has been a welcome addition to the HOWC arsenal.

After these setbacks, the remaining six riders continued at a more even flow. We all did the up and back of ‘Goat Hill’ from Holmes Point. That is a steep pitch and sets you up nicely for the climb back to Juanita. We cut through on Locust Way up Vine to drop down into Edmonds. Still fighting off the end of a cold, I took the opportunity to peel off the ride a few miles from my home.

Warren tells me the rest continued on to climb Innis Arden. Special thanks to Ed for leading the final four back south to Seattle"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Personal Records Part II

In a recent post (Personal Records), I discussed the various ways that cyclists use to chart their fitness progress. I discussed heart rate, power, and using elapsed time from organized events. What if you don’t have a fancy gadget and would actually like to compare yourself not to yourself at an earlier time, but to the very best cyclists in the world?

All you need is an altimeter with a stopwatch and you will have an idea of where you stack up vs. the most gifted climbers in the Tour de France.

When the Spanish or Italian Doctors are evaluating the latest cycling wonder kid, they measure Vo2 max, power at threshold, and watts/kg. Having the ability to generate 6.5-7 watts per kilogram in particular has been a good predictor of TDF success, for it is watts/kg that determines how fast one can climb. For what it’s worth, that number was 5.6-5.8 w/kg in the pre-doping era (see the graph and chart):

Related to this is the concept introduced by Professor Francesco Conconi and used extensively by colleague Dr. Michele Ferrari (yes, the one that worked with Armstrong). Conconi, who is likely best known for allegedly introducing EPO to the sport of cycling, developed the concept of VAM, or vertical ascent in meters. Instead of a laboratory test, a rider is asked to climb for 30-60 minutes as hard as they can. For Pro Tour team leaders, this requires a very big climb indeed.

Converted into feet, in order to win the Tour de France, a cyclist should be able to ascend 6000’ in an hour. To put it into perspective, Mt. Ventoux gains 6000’, as does the Stelvio in the Italian Alps over 16 miles at an average grade of 7.1%. Six thousand feet per hour equates to the mind boggling number of 100’ per minute. I say mind boggling, but it will only mean something to a cyclist who has used an altimeter with a stopwatch to measure his own VAM. Head on out to Cougar or Squak Mountain, climb as hard as you can for say, 10 minutes, and then use your altimeter to see how many vertical feet you have ascended per minute. Whatever the number turns out to be, now fantasize about being able to climb at 100’/minute…and sustain the effort for an hour. What it translates to is the ability to climb Zoo on Cougar or Olympus on Squak (both gain 1000’) in 10 minutes, six times in a row. Maybe that is a better way to put 100'/minute into perspective for you. Just as Tiger Woods is on a whole different level than the average touring pro, Pro Tour team leaders climb at an incredible rate, even compared to Tour domestiques.

At what kind of level is this year’s TDF winner Alberto Contador? A record new and higher one according to his performance on the Verbier climb in the French Alps (see chart):

For us mere mortals, VAM is a very accurate way to see if you are making progress and getting stronger. Yes, there are still environmental factors that can vary, but they have less effect on a very steep climb, the type that is perfect for measuring your VAM. There are even formulas that can use your VAM to estimate average wattage and an approximated Vo2 max, if you use a longer climb. Jonathan Vaughters, currently the Garmin Director Sportiff, popularized such a formula back in the late 90’s:

Average climbing watts=vertical meters of climbing x total weight of bike and rider in kg/divide by time in sec/multiply by 10/add 60. Vo2 max= average watts divided by 72=oxygen consumption in liters/minute x 1000=ml of oxygen consumed. Divide that by body weight in kg to get Vo2 in ml/kg/min. For what it’s worth, this formula produces power numbers 5-8% higher than my power meter.

I always think that my own PR’s are likely to occur on the Sunday Hills of the West Coast ride, but they rarely do. While there are a lot of strong riders to motivate you to go hard on the climbs, the context of a 75 mile, very hard paced ride with multiple climbs is not conducive to making a huge all out effort on a single climb. Not only is it bad form for the leader of the ride to crack like an egg, but we are usually out in the middle of nowhere. More often than not, I am the only person who knows how to get us back safely, since I am the one that took us out there in the first place. Obviously, it’s different for elite cyclists, because they go hard on every climb day after day, but then there are other factors involved as well…

I normally don’t just ride somewhere and do one climb with friends or on a group ride, with the option of bailing if I cook my legs by going super hard on the climb. Always key for me is finding a way to motivate myself to go pound up a climb by myself, which is never easy.

Long before I got a power meter, I had stopped using heart rate on hard rides, as I found that all looking at the number did was slow me down. While pacing yourself with wattage is great on long moderate or hard efforts, I’m starting to realize that watching wattage (or elapsed time) has the same effect as watching heart rate when I am trying to go really hard (see my 9-27-09 HOWC Ride Report post). The mind has an amazing ability to intuitively grasp just how hard you can go for a given time period, and I think riding by feel is best for that really all out effort.

I do know one thing; instead of staring at numbers, I am going to turn that screen off and focus in on the music from my Ipod (uphill only when riding solo!). I read recently that the best climbers mentally disassociate from their mental anguish, and it’s almost as if they are observing themselves on the climb. I don’t know if I can get to that point, but I’ll try selecting my music carefully.

9-27-09 Hills of the West Coast Report Ride Harder

Miles: 53.2 Climbing: 4128’Route: Downtown—Mercer Island—Factoria—Honda Hill—Newport Way to Issaquah—Mountain Parkway climb on Squak Mountain—Zoo climb or 164th on Cougar Mountain—Newcastle Golf Club climb—Coal Creek Parkway—89th—116th—Mercer Island—Downtown Attrition Rate: 0% (Carl E. admitted after the ride that he was in a little over his head and he wisely stayed off of the front, but he never once complained and toughed it out)

Despite the near perfect fall weather, we had a very small crew of five riders on the ride today. I thought we might have a large group now that we are riding at an easier pace than we do in the summer. One never knows. At times the ride was mellow, and at times it was pretty hard, and I guess that blend is what we think of as “winter pace”.

As we started up the 2.1 mile/1000’ of climbing on Mountain Parkway at Squak Mountain, I spontaneously made the decision that if I felt good I would go for it, and try and break my own PR for the climb. I felt strong on the initial steep pitch, and so I tried to set a solid pace. About halfway up, no one was around me, and I glanced at the interval timer I had set at the start of the climb. My legs hurt from the effort (and the steep climb) and I instantly eased up when I deduced that I must be off of “record pace”. With no one to chase or stay in front of, I didn’t have that to motivate me to keep cranking hard. When I was about 75% done with the climb, I looked at my timer again and thought “Holy ____, I can still do it”, so I stepped on the gas. I wound up 17 seconds over my PR, which I set in July of 08, right after a three week trip climbing in the mountains of Italy and France. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in myself, and I guess some lessons have to be learned over and over (see my Personal Records Part II post).

As our small group cruised up Newport Way, my legs felt bad, and I wasn’t even on the front. I thought that I might have burned too many matches back on Mountain Parkway, and that I would pay the price for the rest of the ride. Instead of Montreaux, three of us went up 164th while Tom N. and Jim W. hit the Zoo climb, and I took it easy. The plan was for a group rendezvous at the top of the Newcastle Golf Club climb.

Once we got to NGC, I was again trying to take the pressure off of the legs, but Dan K. would have none of that. He went around me just as we saw Tom N. and Jim W. up ahead of us. Dan dropped the hammer pretty hard, and I jumped on his wheel. Even when the draft doesn’t help much on a 9% climb, it always seems easier to push yourself if somebody else sets the pace. Why is that? By the time we reached the top, not only had we closed the gap on our friends; I noticed that my legs were feeling better. For the rest of the day, I had good energy, and my legs actually felt pretty darn good.

Normally when my legs feel bad, they stay bad. Perhaps the pain in my legs after Mountain Parkway may have been due to the fact that it was the first really hard climb of the day. Even though we were well warmed up from riding 20 miles out to Issaquah, sometimes it helps to precede a very hard effort with a hard effort.

My Mantra has always been that whenever you have a problem on the bike, it can be solved by riding harder. Let’s start with the obvious. Late? Ride harder. Cold? Ride harder. Not motivated? Ride harder. Sad? Ride harder. Someone catching up to you that you don’t want to? Ride harder. Drenched? Ride harder. Mad? Ride harder. Something off the bike troubling you? Ride harder.

Now I can add a new one. Legs hurting? Ride harder. Go figure.

I hope to see you on the Tarmac (that will mean it’s not raining).