Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Window of Opportunity has Closed

I headed out for my ride this morning with the mantra “Kill the Hill” firmly in my mind. Something changed on my way out to Squak Mountain. It was a gradual process, a slight feeling of uneasiness, or perhaps of doubt that pervasively was creeping into my psyche.

It appears that the “window” for my PR attempts on local climbs has closed. Not physically, as I certainly am no less fit than three days ago, when on Wednesday I set a new PR on Horizon View-Summit, the most important climb of the five PR’s that I wanted to break. It is the mental window that has closed. Perhaps I was not rested enough from Wednesday, or it was simply the mid-October chill in the air. Whatever the reason, I aborted my plan to ride out to Squak Mountain to try and break my PR on Mountain Park Boulevard that I set in July of 2008.

When I reached Newport Way, I sat in the sun at Eastgate Elementary to ponder the decision, but in the back of my mind I knew that the decision had already been made. I decided to shift my focus to 164th, the other climb remaining on my 2010 “hit list.” For some reason, a shorter amount of pain seemed immensely more palatable than the full 1000’ climb of Squak.

Over eight days ending on Wednesday, I had already managed PR’s on three very hard climbs: Somerset Boulevard the hard way (from the north), Village Park Drive (Montreaux), and Horizon View-Summit. I think that is it for 2010, at least on the really steep climbs. Besides, I have to save something for next year! I’ll shift Mountain Park Boulevard to 2011, and I won’t have a go at Horizon View until 2012. That will give me two years on that one. If I am slower because I am older, at least I can rationalize that it was over two years and not one!

I rolled down Newport Way to give 164th a go, and give it a go I did. I was five seconds slower than my best time, but three seconds faster than my best time on a solo ride, and my wattage was a hair higher than either one.

My best time on 164th occurred during the HOWC that Emil led on 11/1/09. We had a fairly small group, and I entered the names of the riders into my riding journal. So I know who was there, but I don’t know for sure how 164th went down. I am highly confident that I drafted someone at least on the bottom of the climb, and pretty confident that I might have clung to the rear wheel of Jeff S. the whole way up the climb. Jeff was coming off of his 2009 Ironman, and I remember that he rode very strongly that whole ride.

The result of all of this rationalization is that I am taking credit for a PR today! Regardless of whether I benefited from a draft or not in 2009, upon examining the files, I discovered that today I rode .02 mile farther and climbed a few more vertical feet. I always time myself to a curb drain right as the main climbs ends, and I must have inadvertently picked a closer drain in 2009. There, that settles it. I am done with this PR thing for 2010. Four for five is not bad, considering I got the two that were the most important to me.

It seems logical to me that everyone would intuitively know what type of cycling they were best at, as well as what they enjoy the most. Most likely (and ideally) these focuses would overlap, but for me they do not. What I enjoy the absolute most are multi-day rides, preferably in the mountains. It’s not what I think I am best at, mostly because of what I think I am the worst at. My downfall is day to day recovery off of the bike, and if one is lousy at that, then hard tours force you into survival mode right off the bat. I recently reconfirmed this theory during a trip to the Sierras.

What I think I am the best at is also one of the other types of riding that I enjoy the most. For me, doing a group of 5-10 minute climbs as part of a hard ride is definitely a strength, I think mostly because I have had a lot of experience at it. Leading the HOWC since 2003 has been a continual learning experience, and it’s no coincidence that for a large part of the year we do 5-7 hard climbs as part of a 50-75 mile ride.

The key to enjoying a ride like the HOWC is to pace yourself, so that you are feeling as good, or almost as good (or maybe even better) on the last climb as you were on the first. I can’t quantify the effort level with a %; the climbing efforts are hard, but certainly not all out. I can quantify the effort required on my recent PR’s and it was 95%+, today included. On the HOWC, sometimes survival for me means “taking it easy” on a climb I don’t particularly enjoy, saving energy for later in the ride. On other rides, it might mean using a solid and consistent tempo, saving energy for the last few climbs when others have tired.

Conserving energy must take experience and not be totally intuitive, based on the number of riders who crack late on a HOWC. It’s human nature to have a go at it when the hammer drops and the adrenaline flows; experience is the only thing that can temper that rush.

Going really hard on a single climb is not something I enjoy. Does anyone really groove on this type of thing? Even the guys on TV look to not enjoy a mountain TT. Normally I have a window a little longer than 7-10 days to squeeze in a few of these, but in some years the window never even cracks open.

October is always a month where I just go out and ride for pure fun. I don’t think about numbers of any kind, or how hard I ride, or on some days even where I go. Rather than five PR’s on climbs as a 2011 goal, my goal next year is to have that PR window open during the main cycling season, and not in October! If I can do that, the PR’s will come, because surely the window will open wider in July or August.

We had a very cool start to a beautiful day, but I don’t think I have ever seen so many cyclists out, even during a mid-summer weekend. Many of these cyclists, myself included, were riding at a pretty spirited pace, almost like it was May and not mid-October.

When I went by the Capitol Hill Ferrari dealership on the way home, there still was not a soul in sight.

Man, I love to ride my bike.

I hope to see you on the road.

No comments: