Monday, January 27, 2014

Off to a Great Start

For reasons she hasn’t explained yet, Mother Nature has decided we don’t need winter here in Northern California.  Sure, we’ve had some really cold temperatures but we’ve also had many days with record breaking highs.  But most notably it hasn’t rained.

Photo by Robin WalkerThe lack of rain is not good.  The local newscast is now using the phrase extreme drought.  Our reservoirs are drying up so there’s already talk of water rationing this summer.  Many of the ski resorts in the Sierras are closed due to lack of snow.  And, this could be one of the worse years ever in terms of fire danger.  This is a picture of Saturday’s sunrise but it could have easily been a photo of almost every morning in January so far.

Now, just for the record, I want it to rain.  I love the rain.  I love riding in the rain.  To be honest, I think this day after day of beautiful spring-like weather is getting kind of monotonous. However, that doesn’t mean that while I’m praying for rain I can’t take advantage of the great weather to ride and ride and ride.

That’s what I’ve done.  On Sunday’s recovery ride I went over 400 miles for the month of January.  That’s huge for me.  Typically in January I spend more hours on the trainer than on the road.  Not this year which is just fine by me.

It’s not just that I am riding more, I’m riding further.  In 2013, I had a grand total of 6 rides that were 62.5 miles or longer (this is the length of a metric century).  This year has already seen me logged a 63 and a 73 mile ride.  In fact, 73 miles matches the longest ride I’ve done since May 2013.  Before that, you have to go back to September of 2010 to find a ride of over 70 miles.

I can already feel a difference from cranking out this many miles.  For instance, I was never overly tired on Saturday’s 73 mile ride although I’m not sure I had another mile in me.  Once I finished I started to notice the fatigue in the legs and my lower back.  I ate right away and was able to relax for most the rest of the day.  I’ve always said that I made not be able to ride like a pro but I sure can relax like one.

On Sunday, I slept in and spend some time on the book before heading out for my recovery ride.  I will admit that I was more than a little concerned about how I would feel after such a big effort.  The answer – I felt great!!!  The fatigue in the legs and lower back were gone and I enjoyed a lovely 33 mile easy tempo ride in weather that required sunscreen and not arm warmers.

As long as Mother Nature keeps us in our current weather pattern I’m going to keep taking advantage of it.  Who knows how many miles I’ll be able to get in next month.  Still, I would gladly give up some road miles for trainer time if it meant it was raining.

For now, I think I’ll pour another cup of coffee, enjoy the sunrise and look up rain dances on Google.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 5-Friends, 1-Gear Ride

I admit it, I have a triple chain ring on my bike.  Now, I know that more than one bike purist out there is scoffing at this because a real cyclist rides a double.  Oh well, you’ll just have to get over it.  I like my triple and I don’t plan on changing any time soon. However, I can say that I am not in the small ring very often but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.

My rear cassette is a 9-speed, which means I have 27 gears to choose from on any given ride.  For yesterday’s ride I only chose one of them.

Social Ride My team decided it was time for a off-season, social pace, coffee ride.  This means the real purpose of the ride is to chit-chat and enjoy the day and not hammer yourself, or others, on the bike.  How do we keep the ride social? By penalizing anyone who rides in the big ring!!!

With that in mind, here’s the official ride description for Saturday’s ride:
If you are interested in a fun, unique Winter ride, come join us this Saturday. We will meet in the town of Windsor, and go over Chalk Hill, visit Alexander Valley, with a coffee stop at Geyserville Mud, before returning via West Dry Creek. All of this will be done IN THE SMALL CHAINRING ONLY! The first person to decide they can't handle the snails' pace, buys coffee for the bunch! Of course town limit sprints may happen, which can be quite entertaining to watch. 

As I was thinking about the ride I started to wonder if I should ride my single speed.  I mean it was a social ride after all so it might work.  My concern was that it was a 40-mile ride with a number of small climbs so it could be very challenging.  That’s when I emailed Coach Tim and here’s the  ensuing electronic conversation.

Me – I ‘m thinking about doing something stupid and riding the single speed.
Tim – Go for it!  It’s a social ride so you should be fine.
Me – My concern is the Chalk Hill Road and Canyon climbs.
Tim – Those might be tough.  What’s the gear on the single speed.
Me – 42 x 16
Tim – That’s a little too big.  Ride your road bike and stay in your 42 x 19 the entire ride instead.

Chalk Hill Social RideThat’s what I did and it was a blast.  I had to power over the climbs out of the saddle.  On the flats, I felt like a hamster I was pedaling so fast.  In fact my cadence ranged from a low of 50 rpms on one climb to 115 rpms on Alexander Valley Road.  I almost shifted once but fortunately I caught myself just in the nick of time. It was a truly unique cycling experience.  It was also a great training technique and one that I will use again as we continue through the season.

I was talking about my plan during our pre-ride coffee chat and two other riders decided to do the same thing.  They both gave up the ghost towards the end and shifted but I am happy to say I made it all the way.

I love having fun like this on the bike.  Besides having a blast by not shifting, it was also great just to kick back, slow the pace down and ride with friends.  It was just another example of why I love this sport so much.

So there you have it.  A beautiful ride that covered 37 miles (we cut out the Canyon climb due to a broken chain) and nearly 1,400 feet of climbing with 5 friends, a mid-ride coffee stop, lots and lots of laughs but just 1-gear.



Here's a story about the fun of turning your road bike into a single speed for the day. Enjoy!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Riding with a Plan

The first ride of 2014 is already in the books.  As is my tradition, it happened on New Year’s Day. Of course, living in the temperate Wine Country of Northern California makes this a little easier.  Especially when you compare it to my friends who live in New Hampshire and have to dress up like they just stepped out of the L. L. Bean winter catalog just to take out the garbage.

217310_10151617993302284_500107913_nMy first goal was to figure out where to ride.  As I mentioned in my last post (The final ride of 2013), I want 2014 to be more focused so I might as well start the process with the first ride of the year.  My strength is still not where it should be because of my cold so I settle on a 35-mile route that is basically flat with an few rollers just to keep me honest.

My plan?  I am going to alternate between endurance drills (riding in a medium gear at a lower cadence) and recovery (low gears, high cadence).  Well, that’s what my legs will be doing.  I also plan to keep the entire ride at a consistent level 3 heart rate.  I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty focused to me.

As I roll along, I start to develop my training plan for the first part of the year.  I’m starting to set some big goals so an actual plan will be crucial.  This made me start thinking about the training plan Coach Tim created when I attempted to ride the Terrible Two and just how beneficial that plan was to my attempt.

Coach Tim’s plan played such an important role that I consider it one of the main characters in the book I’m writing.  While triple digit heat spoiled my ability to finish, there’s no doubt in my mind that from a strength perspective I was 100% ready to go.   There will be a lot in the book about the plan, my ability to follow it, and the ultimate benefits it provided.

Of course, all of these thoughts lead me to think about all the weekend warriors out there, like myself, who try bigger and bigger rides without a training plan.  Many of these cyclists feel that you need to be a pro to benefit from a coach or a formal training plan.  Personally, I think the exact opposite is true.  I believe that recreational cyclist can benefit from guidance even more than the pros.

Why? Well for one thing your fellow cyclists are always going to give you a ton of advice whether you ask for it or not.  Most of this advice will be things that worked for them and a lot of it will be conflicting. Next, if you’re like most recreational cyclists you have limited training time because of things like jobs, family or other life obligations get in the way of your riding.  A plan can help you make the most of what little time you have to devote to cycling.

Another reason recreational cyclists don’t use coaches is that they think they are expensive and that can definitely be true.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  For the last couple of years Coach Tim has offered a very specific training plan for people attempting the local Gran Fondo (103 miles with nearly 10,000 feet of climbing) for $100.  There are many coaches out there who will design a plan specifically for you for very reasonable rates.  For me, spending $100 to ensure I have a successful day at my event seems like an investment in fun.

So, here’s my advice (I don’t you you would get advice without asking) to anyone who is attempting bigger events in 2014.  Find a plan that fits your needs and schedule!  If you find a plan that works for you and stick with it not only our your chances for success be higher but you’ll have a lot more fun in the process.