Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hills of the West Coast Report The Summer That Never Was

Route: Sam Smith—89th—May Valley—Issaquah-Hobart Rd—Detour onto Rt. 18—208th—276th—Ravensdale—Black Diamond—Auburn-Black Diamond Rd—Moneysmith Rd—148th—SE Wax—196th—Jones Rd—Rainier—Seward Park—Sam Smith Miles: 81 Climbing: 3700’ Riders: Jeff S/Dan F/Steve H/Emil K/Lane K/Scott N/Brian U/ Michele A/Craig L/Dan L/me Soldier of the Day: N/A Attrition Rate: 17% (3) Walking Wounded: 1

The “never summer” of 2010 has made it difficult to get the Hills of the West Coast group ride done. Over the course of June, July, and August, I led only five rides at the super hard summer pace. Our first ride in June was rained out; not a good start. Yes, I was out of town on a couple of Sundays, and we do the monthly team ride on Sunday, but we had three wash outs, and several rides where the weather was iffy enough to cause me to alter my route plan. All told, I did two HOWC rides in June, two in July, and one in August (with two rainouts, and we have never had an August rainout in seven years).

Today was the last HOWC of the year at the higher summer mileage. Maybe because of that I decided to push the mileage envelope a bit, stretching the ride out to 81 miles. This allowed us to do a great rural ride out to Black Diamond. As per the norm, we had a fantastic group: a few new people, and a bunch of real regulars, including three people who help out in leading the HOWC. I never saw a wheel out of line, and leading the ride consisted of calling out, “Right turn, left turn.”

At times the pace was hard, at other times we chilled. Without a cadre of hard climbs, was today’s ride hard enough? Yeah, at 81 miles, I think so. I didn’t have any complaints that people were not reaching their training effect goals for the day. We didn’t really have a “Soldier of the Day,” and the work at the front was shared. We did have a few people bail, so really, how hard should “really hard” be? I guess it depends on who you are as well as what you want to accomplish.

In the big picture only doing five HOWC rides over the summer isn’t a huge deal for me, other than the fact that I really love the ride in the summer. I have a lot of flexibility to ride, and I still managed to do a lot of quality miles, but not doing the HOWC every Sunday put a hole into my annual riding plan. Fewer HOWC rides than normal has definitely impacted my fitness, as I can tell that my form is not quite as sharp as it normally would be at this time of the year. Am I just getting slower? I don’t think so, at least not yet. Five hard Sunday rides over three months are just not enough to make my annual “training” plan work. For other regular HOWC riders without a lot of flexibility, not having the normal pattern of HOWC rides likely has had an even bigger effect on their fitness level.

I count on the HOWC to build to my “plateau” of summer fitness. I’m not trying to peak like a racer would for his key race of the year. I just try to be as good as I can each year for an extended period of time. Riding on my own, I simply cannot replicate the intensity that the HOWC demands. I’m not that motivated!

I have not done structured intervals for a few years now. Yes, I will build them into a plan for someone that I am coaching who is trying to reach a defined peak for a specific event. For my own situation, I build a good aerobic base over the winter and early spring, and there is no need to rush this. When the better weather arrives, I take the HOWC out for some serious climbing days, and this builds pretty strong fitness on top of the base. Come summer, I top things off with the super hard long rides that we do on the HOWC in June, July, and August. The bottom line is that the HOWC is my key ride of the week for six months of the year.

It’s not that I don’t feel very fit. I felt great for the whole ride and strong enough to cover all of the moves that went at the front of the ride. Well, almost all of them. I chose not to “go” in the middle of Bicycle Sunday on Lake Washington Boulevard…

So I need a hard Sunday ride, but every summer, I have several people tell me that the HOWC is simply too hard for them. Some of these people are friends that I really enjoy riding with. How hard is hard enough? Every spring, I survey some of the ride leaders and regulars as to whether we should make changes to the ride protocol or pace for the summer. This year, the people who were the most adamant about having the ride go on as it has in past summers were people who didn’t make the ride much, if at all. I think I’ll ask the group of people who have been coming on the ride.

The HOWC is a great yardstick for me. I wonder how many more years I can sustain the summer pace well enough to lead the ride. That alone is reason enough for me to keep it the way it is. I may (or may not) make some changes for 2011. It’s not exactly like I have to rush the decision. I have plenty of time to think about it and get feedback from others. Nine months of time, all the way until next June.

I hope to see you on the road in the meantime.

1 comment:

Walter said...

Hi Tom

I'm new to your blog - thanks to the Seattle Times Northwest Weekend article.

I know what you mean about the weather this summer. In February I had scheduled three weekends for camping. Each of them were cancelled due to the rain. :(

I have recently begun to get back into road biking after over 20 years of not doing it. I still have a ways to go before I can tackle anything serious - like rides into the mountains as the article mentions, but someday I would like to accomplish one.

Keep riding. :)