Monday, January 26, 2009

There's power in them there hills!

Well, it's official. Yesterday was my first training ride of 2009. Although I have 5 short rides in so far this year, they were all either simple base-building, cold recovery, or social adventures. But yesterday's ride had a purpose. And that purpose was to climb.

Originally I was suppose to head out with Coach Tim for some "low pace hill climbing." However, I got the text Sunday morning that Tim's wife wasn't feeling well so he stayed home to keep an eye on their 2 boys. Smart man! As Tim is found of saying - "I like all my stuff not half of it." (That only makes sense if you know that California is a community property state.)

So I am on my own for the first time in 2009. Around 7:30 I head out surrounded by brilliant sunshine. My original plan was to head north and put in around 50 miles or so. Then I remembered something I wrote in my own blog. I am supposed to be backing off the miles and focusing on getting stronger and faster on the bike. So, since the original plan was to climb, I head for the hills. My goal is simple. I am going to do multiple, slow, power-building climbs.

This is very easy for me. I hit the first climb of the day just 1 mile into the ride in a place called Montecito Heights. So up I go on a single lane road that offered some great views of Santa Rosa and the coastal hills. This first hill is perfect for the hill repeats I will start a little later this year. After a quick descent, I rode to the hills of Fountain Grove, which has some impressive climbs that are perfect for training.

I will only tell you about one of them - Skyfarm Drive. I decided to throw this into mix at the last minute because I was feeling strong. It made me pay for my over confidence. As soon as I turned onto Skyfarm I dropped down to the triple. Nothing to be gained by staying in the middle ring on this climb. The average grade for first half mile is around 17% with max of 20%. You then get to recover on a flattish section, because it is only 4%, before the next pitch which offers another half mile of 17%. After another little reprieve, you get to finish the climb with a 200 meter dash of 14%. And that's the weak side!

All-in-all, I climbed just over 1600 feet in the first 12 miles, and 1 hour, of cycling. Since I was starting to feel a little fatigued I decided it was time to find some flat road and spin out the legs. So I pick a route out of the hills with a mellow descent that allowed me to increase the cadence without really having to work. I then spent the next hour riding at a relaxed pace before it was back over the hills to get home.

In the end, it was a 35 mile ride with 2300 feet of climbing. In other words, it was perfect. And it felt like a training riding in all aspects. High average heart rate, big wattage, and a constant reminder to look up now and then to enjoy the views versus only staring at the cyclometer.

So the 2009 training is finally underway. Coach Tim is creating a 3-month plan for me to follow which I am sure will introduce me to my new Cycleops Fluid 2 trainer. It will also include workouts for the single speed. And I am sure it will include a lot more rides like the one I did yesterday.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My own mini-comeback

I am finally feeling normal again! My strength is building, the coughing attacks are slowing down and my sinuses are clear for the most part. Combine that with our inexplicably gorgeous weather and that meant it was time to ride. That's right! This weekend I was able to get back on track.

On Saturday, I participated in the "Ride the Route". This was an organized ride with Team Swift. The plan was to ride, by bike or van, to Calistoga and then cycle back to Santa Rosa following the same route as the Tour of California. In addition to Team Swift, numerous women pro-cyclists were expected to ride. Although I did not get all of their names, we did have pro women from the Webcor Builders, SugarCRM, and Team ValueAct Capital cycling teams. The ride was also fully supported by Team Swift, West County Revolution, and Fitness Journal.

I thought the route out and back was around 50 miles with 2 major climbs (it was actually closer to 43 miles). Since I was just coming off my cold and wasn't sure where my strength was yet, I decided to help Chris, Mr. Fitness Journal, get bikes to Calistoga and then cycle back. So we reach Calistoga, unload the bikes and wait for the riders to show up so we can start the ride back.

Finally, around 1:00 we head back to Santa Rosa. On this route you don't even go a mile before you hit the big climb of the day. Calistoga Grade gains nearly 1000 feet in less then 2 miles. So I hit the climb and something amazing happens. I don't feel ill or weak. Instead I feel strong and rested. I almost immediately find a great rhythm and up the hill I go. I can honestly say I never wavered from that initial rhythm and finished the climb still rocking in the middle ring. The rest of the ride was up and down back into town. So it was a strong but a short ride. In the end, I logged a grand total of 17 miles.

On Sunday, Coach Tim and I headed out in the early morning cold. We kept things nice and easy. It was one of those rides where chatting was more important then heart rate. We finished with a solid 32 miles and some great coffee. Monday was more of the same. David and I left at 12:30 to avoid the cold temps and put in a very nice 35 mile ride, with me on the single speed, that also ended with great coffee and great conversation.

I also spent some time this weekend tweaking the blog a little. You may notice I now have a philosophy statement. I have quoted Coach Tim's philosophy of "if you can't be fast, look fast" many times. My new variation, "if you can't be fast, have fun being slow" came from chatting with Chris. Chris also sent me the links to 3 blog collection web sites that focus on cycling. I have submitted my blog to all 3 sites and a requirement for each site was to have a link from here. So I restructured the blog listings a touch.

So there you have it. I can feel my strength returning, I'm paying more attention to my writing, and I am ready to finally tackle 2009. And, there's still plenty of time left to make this a great year.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The wrong way to start a new year

In the beginning, 2009 held such great promise. Like many of you, I was going to use the magical New Year's Day to jump start my season. It was time to hit the trainer for intervals, increase the running mileage, add in strength training and maybe, just maybe, add yoga to my overall plan. I was also going to write more and even planned on entering a small local contest to write about an epic cycling adventure.

So how am I doing? Horribly! I have done 3 small easy rides for a grand total of 117 miles. No running, strength training, yoga, blogging, writing, etc. Instead, I have spent most of 2009 simply sitting around watching TV and hoping I feel better. You see, I can some up my demise this year with 2 simple words - sinus infection.

After a great ride on New Year's Day, I woke up on Friday feeling a cold coming my way. I spent Saturday and Sunday relaxing, popping echinacea and watching football. This was the fine since I finished 2008 very strong and I had planned on taking a few days off to recharge. But everything changed on Monday when I woke up with sinus pressure and that's when I knew I was in trouble. I have a history of simple colds becoming serious sinus infections overnight and this proving to live up to the reputation. So I went to the doctor and 500 mg of Azithromycin later I was starting to feel better.

As the week progressed my symptoms started to go away but my strength was not where it needs to be. This is what pisses me off the most about being sick. I can live with the symptoms. A little headache, running nose, and a few body aches are all manageable. It is the lack of strength to do the things I normally do that gets to me.

For example, Sarah and Carmen put together a phenomenal ride last weekend. A total of 50 miles with over 4000 feet of climbing out to the beautiful Sonoma County coast. Plus, there are not enough words to describe how great the weather was that day. So what was my ride? I started with them but turned around long before the coast and managed a whole 28 miles with a heart rate that was 12-15 beats higher then normal. To see what I missed, check out Sarah's blog. I must warn you that if you are looking outside at snow right now these photos may not make you happy.

Oh well, enough whining! I need to think positive thoughts and move on. Thoughts like at least I did not get sick until after the holidays. Or, at least my total lack of interest in food has helped me loose those extra holiday pounds. And finally, I need to remember that I have not been sick since September, 2007.

I am still not feeling great but it will soon pass and I can begin my year the way I planned. I guess it's like they say - better late then never.


P.S. If you pay attention to the map at the bottom of my blog you may have noticed that the miles across the U.S. went from almost 5800 miles to 118. That's because I reset the map each year on January 1st. Let's see how far I make it this year.