Sunday, June 20, 2010

Team HPC Weekend Report C’mon Al, are you sure?

I try and do the right Seattleite thing and support the concept of global warming, but I am about ready to suspend belief. All this talk about the planet warming and disrupting normal weather patterns-fact or fiction? This is the first day I really even thought about the lousy weather we have been having. I’ve just been doing my thing; riding my bike, avoiding the rain, and wearing a little more clothing than normal. All of a sudden, Seattle does indeed seem to be the coldest place in the country for the last month, as many have reported. Seattle must be the coldest place in the world, at least north of the equator.

Today would have been a better day for a “how to brush the grit out of your teeth while riding" clinic, rather than the pacelines and efficient group riding team clinic we did before the ride.

Who dresses for a full saturation deluge on a 51 degree day in late June? Certainly not our group of seven, especially after viewing multiple forecasts of 65 degrees with a 10-20% chance of isolated showers, and certainly not the hordes of people riding in the Livestrong event. What a horrible day to ride 100 miles with a Montreaux climb coming at mile 80! By 51 degrees, I don’t mean at the start, I mean at the finish of our 40 mile ride. It really was a bone chilling ride, compounded by the fact that no one had more than a light jacket to hide under. Thank God for the jet tub!

The Livestrong event appeared to be extremely well organized, with hordes of volunteers directing people, and police manning many of the intersections. Most of the people we saw appeared to be relatively new cyclists, and most were not geared up at all for the weather. We didn’t hear any of them complaining, and I bet almost all of them went the distance, whatever distance they signed up for.

Normally we expect a bit of a traffic jam coming home from Seward through Bicycle Sunday, when the road is closed to cars and open to what at times seems like a million cyclists and pedestrians. The weather was so crappy that we pretty much had the road to ourselves, and four of us put in a nice 23+mph paceline up Lake Washington Blvd. At this point, it was more to get warm than anything else.

It’s still raining as I type this. We are sitting on 54 degrees, the likely high for the day. Only four people showed up for our Meet the Team Ride yesterday, and they rode in a drizzle. Only seven came out today to ride in the cold rain. My hat is off to the many riders who were out supporting the Livestrong cause.

Monday, June 14, 2010

6-13-10 HOWC Ride Report The Super Six

Miles: 61.5 Climbing: 5800’ Route: Sam Smith Park—Honda Hill—164th climb—112th climb off May Valley—Tiger Mountain North climb—Tiger Mountain South climb—Wildwood on Squak climb—Somerset climb via 150th Cima Coppi: Chris Ragsdale Soldier of the Day: Chris Ragsdale for the work on the front General of the Day: Chris Ragsdale for doing, well, almost all of the work Superman: Chris Ragsdale for spending most of each climb in a different zip code than the rest of the group (after pulling us to the base of the climb) Attrition Rate: 15%

Well, it looks like a sweep for Chris.

I was thinking that we might have a very small crew this morning, or at least a really tired group, given that Flying Wheels was yesterday. We had neither, but instead had a very, very strong group of 13 riders. Normally when Chris Ragsdale shows up for a ride at the “summer pace,” I tend to steer the ride away from the big climbs. I know we are going to have to take some punishment on the flats, and I think the addition of a bunch of hard climbs simply might amount to over the top pain and suffering.

I always tell Chris to do whatever it takes so that our little ride is a worthwhile training ride for him. This usually amounts to him pulling the group for virtually the entire 60 or 70 miles at 25+ (sometimes ++) mph, and then doing every climb at an incredible pace. You never can tell if he is even working hard, but I like to think he is, at least for a few minutes at a time.

Even before Chris showed up, I was leaning towards a mostly flat Snoqualmie Valley trip for the HOWC this morning, before I recalled venturing out there in 2009 several weeks after the Flying Wheels event. Having encountered a not so warm “reception,” I decided not to ride out there for a little while. Best to let the shock of the Flying Wheels memories diminish a little bit with the locals.

Like so many times over the last few months, we headed out to do some serious climbs, and quite a few of them. We completed another Triple Bypass/Six Pack/Super Six by climbing Cougar, Tiger, and Squak Mountains twice each.

We had one rider drop out about halfway through the ride, and we lost Andrew Roths on the last climb up Somerset. We have not seen Andrew on the HOWC for a while. He’s a very strong rider who decided to give racing a try this year. Unfortunately, he was involved in a bad crash at the Mason Lake race, and he is just now starting to regain his fitness. It was undeniable that he was in the Hurt Locker today, and it couldn’t have been easy for him. He hung in there, and he’ll be back to fight another day.

I’ve been leading these rides for a long time now, and I am usually aware of how I stack up compared with the rest of the gang. A lot of the time I am in the top quartile on the climbs, most of the time I’m in the top third, and I am almost always in the top half. Today, I was sucking wind in the bottom quartile for the first half of the ride, and it wasn’t until the last third of the ride that I worked my way up to the top half, and ultimately the top quartile or third.

Normally, I tend to do better as the ride goes on, but today most of my rallying was due to the 55mg of caffeine I ingested at the Tiger Mountain Store via a Dr. Pepper. So I have to ask myself some questions: Bad Day? Not recovered from Tuesday when I did today’s exact route solo? Not as fit as normal this time of the year (but it’s likely no one else is either, what with the recent relapse of winter weather)? Super strong group today (true)? Or is the answer the dreaded one? I AM OLDER AND SLOWER—whoa, hit the panic button! I’m not ready to throw that towel in. I won't ever admit to this without a long and protracted fight. I’ll have a better day next time, I promise (myself).

I don’t follow sports, so I’m not what you would call a fan. It’s hard to relate to the cycling pros on TV, and I’m not sure I’d want to anyway. Chris Ragsdale is a first class guy who also happens to be a world class athlete that many of us know and ride with. Now this is someone that I can root for.

I’m sure Chris would love to hear any words of encouragement you might send his way before and during his upcoming big day on July 31st. The goals: two world endurance records. Chris holds the US 24 hour cycling record at 502 miles. On the weekend of the 31st, he’s going for 541 miles to break the world record. I guess he figures once he’s in that deep, why not just keep going? The second goal is to break the world record for 1000km by riding it in under 29 hours.

Do the math. I have, and this is mind boggling cycling. I like Chris’s chances, but then, I always like his chances.

I hope to see you out there cheering Chris on.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 Chelan Century Challenge June 26th

This year’s Chelan Century Challenge is on Saturday, June 26th:

For my money, this is one of the very few events that should not be missed. The 2010 date was shifted in order not to conflict with the Tour de Blast, another one of those few events in my opinion.

It’s a bit of a drive to Chelan, but well worth it for some of the best riding in the state. Put together fantastic climbs (8600’ of them, including the very tough McNeil Canyon), light traffic, and great eastside weather and you have the formula for a lot of fun. Combine this with the fact that the Chelan Century is small (around 300 riders), very reasonably priced, and yet incredibly well supported; well there you have it.

Perhaps the best thing of all is the vibe. Instead of the usual team “race the event” mentality, Chelan seems to attract riders who don’t take themselves too seriously, and are just there to have a good time. For those who do want to be serious, the organizers time the riders up McNeil Canyon, so you can see how you stack up if you want to.

I had such a great time in 2009 that I wrote a blog about it:

I know people who drive over and back, and do the event in one day. This makes for a long day, but a very worthwhile one.

I hope to see you in Chelan on the 26th.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 Master Plan: Peaks or Plateau?

I’d rather ride than write about riding, or I wouldn’t manage to ride 10,000 miles a year. At this very moment, I was hoping to be at the start line of our first “summer” Hills of the West Coast group ride. Instead, I am looking out the window at what seems to be our third or fourth deluge in the last week. June just doesn’t feel like a time of the year to ride in the rain.

Most years I try to build fitness gradually, and then be as good as I can for an extended time period, ideally June through August or September. I think of this as “plateau training”. In both 2007 and 2008, I went to Europe in June, spent a lot of time specifically preparing for the trips, i.e., peaking, and was pretty much burned out on hard riding by the end of July. Whoops!

Through April of this year, I had already spent a lot of time on the bike, accumulating 201,087’ of climbing over 3283 miles of riding. In May I rode 736 miles, my lowest monthly total of the year, but that’s hardly a “recovery” month. I added another 46695’ of climbing, which brought me to 4019 miles and 247,782’ YTD. Not bad given the volatility of the weather, but I’m wondering how productive my winter and spring will prove as part of my whole cycling year.

I didn’t start riding with any real intensity until March, with the goal of a gradual build, and a delayed or non-existent burnout. Perhaps I should have delayed that type of riding until May, as I think it will be challenging for me to sustain motivation throughout 2010.

Having completed coaching and riding at the Cycle U Chelan Skills and Hills Camp in May, I now must look forward to the rest of my 2010 riding program. Tracy and I are going to Maui in July. Normally I take some time off of the bike in July, and Tracy and I do a little travelling or just hang out together. This year, I’ll be climbing 10,000’ to the summit of Haleakala, and doing several other hard rides while in Hawaii. In August, we have the Cycle U Rainier Big Mountain Climb Fest Coaching Camp and the riding will be just as hard (and as long as the camp title) as it sounds. I know, because I have designed the daily riding routes.
Normally in September, I volunteer at or ride the High Pass Challenge, and then take a solo fast and light tour before winding things down in October. I think of October as Fartlek month, a month where I ride however I please with no structure or plan. If I feel good and am in the mood, I ride hard. “Fartlek” is derived from the Swedish word “Fart,” meaning speed, and “Lek,” as in play…Hmmmm. In November, I usually cut back the riding and go for walks and hikes in the rain.

For 2010, the seed has been planted for a truly epic trip in October or even early November:

This event is not called the Everest Challenge for no reason. While it might be fun to participate in this two day sufferfest, my plan is to take a longer unsupported trip (expedition?) to the area. I’d like to do this trip solo, but I’m not sure the logistical requirements will make that feasible, so I’ll likely try and put together a small group of similar minded people. The east side of the High Sierra from Reno down to Death Valley is one of the few mountainous areas in the Western US and Canada that I have not explored by bike, and I am pretty keen to go. Now it’s time to do some coaching (of myself), and figure out what makes the most sense for 2010. Do I try and “peak” three or four times? No, I know better than that. Do I try for an extended plateau and keep building at a steady rate? Should I just hit the HOWC hard in June, taper for the July Maui trip, and then spend August rebuilding the aerobic engine and riding the HOWC hard on Sunday? How can I keep my head in the game long enough to mentally and physically survive a late fall trip that will involve multiple consecutive days with well over 12,000’ of climbing per day and pass summits topping out at over 10,000’? Maybe I had better do a trip to Colorado to get some riding in at altitude?

Wait just a second! The Sierra trip sounds an awful lot like my 07-08 trips to Europe. As a matter of fact, many of the alpine climbs on the east side of the Sierra are comparable in length and gradient to the big alpine climbs of Europe. It will be a lot browner, the food won’t be nearly as good, but at least I can eat breakfast when I want and have dinner before 9pm!

Looks like I just talked myself into it. All of a sudden, October is not looking like a Fartlek riding month. Doing multiple big climbs in the Sierra will definitely be the hardest riding I do all year. As opposed to Europe in June, I have to have my head in the game in October.

I guess I better slow down, and not get ahead of myself.

I hope to see you on the road.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time to turn up the volume

June 6th is will be the first Hills of the West Coast ride of 2010 that I lead at our “summer” pace. Most of the regulars know the ride mantra, but I thought it would help keep things focused for me if I wrote the key points down:

1) Do my absolute best to make sure the ride is as safe as possible
2) Work with riders who have the fitness but possibly not all of the skills our ride requires
3) Make the ride as enjoyable as possible for as many people as possible
4) Keep track of everybody and not accidentally lose someone in the MON (middle of nowhere)
5) If I have to have “The talk” with a rider who is struggling and maybe in over their head, do it privately and as courteously as possible. Suggest other rides that might be a good fit
6) Keep things interesting via new routes, etc. Always try and mix things up for the regulars (and for me)
7) Did I forget anything?

Ok, now for some full disclosure. Here are my personal priorities:
1) Make new cycling friends
2) Never, ever crack/bonk/blow up while leading the ride
3) Try and consistently be one of the stronger riders
4) Match each ride up with my macro training schedule
5) Match each ride up with my micro whims and wishes

As far as macro timing, I simply tailor the type and length of the rides to what I want to be working on within my current four week cycling training plan. Is it time to climb or time to cruise? Most of the cycling season, the HOWC is my most important ride of the week, and I need to successfully integrate it in to my overall plan.

The whims and wishes parameters are a little more nebulous. For this I factor in how much riding I have done the week before, and how fresh I feel when I wake up on Sunday and ride to the start. How do the legs feel when I hit that first little hill? What kind of riding am I into mentally? How many people are at the start, who are they, and how difficult will it be to run the ride safely?

Yes, I am being selfish, but I really don’t make up my mind as to where we are going until the last minute. Sometimes I don’t come to a conclusion until after we are rolling and I see how things are going, not only for me, but also for the other riders in the group.

The HOWC is a hard ride, and things need to be kept fluid, especially in the summer. Leading the ride does let you indulge oneself a little selfishly, but I work hard to accommodate the group’s wishes.

Here’s to a safe and successful summer season.