Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hard 30

A couple of rides back I had one of those days that did not go so well on the bike.  I was joining the club ride for a 50-mile jaunt out to the coast and back.  The route also included over 4,000 feet of climbing.  While this felt a little ambitious given my current bike fitness I decided to give it a go.  I can tell you I didn’t go far.

It all stared out well enough.  We met for coffee in Sebastopol and talked smack about the people who bailed because it was overcast and then we were off.  The route has going over the climb on Graton into Occidental then two more climbs to the coast and back.

As we start rolling, someone realized they forgot their water bottles.  As the team rolled along at a slower pace, I soft pedaled until he caught up then pulled him back to the group.  At this point I was feeling pretty good.

It was on the approach to the Graton climb that I began to see clear signs that it would not be my day.  Well, let’s be honest - I was dropped!!!  Yep, I was struggling to hold on to the pace before we even start the climb.  I’m not tired or fatigued. I just can’t seem to hold the pace.

As I start the climb the team is already out of sight.  Now, I have climbed Graton in the big ring.  I’ve climbed it at on average speed of right around 10 mph.  On this day, it felt like I was pedaling in slow motion. 

The Hard 30
Then it happened.  I started checking for flats.  All endurance athletes have that one thing that can destroy their mojo.  For me, on climbs, it’s checking for flats.  It’s that point on the climb when I start thinking that there’s no way I’m going this slow.  I must have a flat.  It’s the only possible explanation.

As I climb along I look down at the front tire.  No flat!  Then, I take a look at the back tire.  No flat!  I simply can’t accept this so as I continue to climb I continue to check the tires.  No flats!!!  At some point I’m finally forced to concede the fact that I am going that slow.  Damn!

Now, it’s time for excuses.  I pushed it too hard in 2014 without taking my usual break.  I also dealt with an injury and phenomenal Italian vacation earlier this year.  Of course, I’m training for the Ragnar Relay and doing a lot more running.  

In the end, I realize that these are simply excuses and nothing more.  The bottom line is that I am having a bad day on the bike.  

I actually felt a little better on the second climb and managed to stay in sight of the team.  However, when we reached the turn for the coast I bid them adieu.  There’s no bail out point out there and I felt the need to stay closer to home.  

When I got home I quickly upload the ride into Strava, which confirmed that the Graton climb was my second slowest effort ever.  I obviously didn’t make it 50-miles but I did manage to complete a kick ass 30-mile ride (you need to read that sarcastically).  As I save the ride info I named it “The Hard 30.”

I am happy to say that I felt much stronger this week so hopefully the last ride was just a fluke.  I climbed well and even managed to jump into a few pace lines so perhaps my fitness is not as bad as I thought.  In the mean time, I’ll just keep riding, continue to get stronger and avoid rides where I’m checking for flats.


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Goal Flexibility Algorithm

Yesterday was Sunday, which usually means just one thing to me - recovery rides. For the most part, I’ve spent every Sunday for the last several years going for a nice easy 25 mile recovery ride.  Yesterday, I went for a 5 mile run instead.  This change can be best explained by the Goal Flexibility Algorithm.  

The Goal Flexibility Algorithm can get very complicated but in its simplest version it goes like this - set goals at the beginning of the year and stick to those goals unless something more fun comes along.  It’s the complete opposite of the Goal Rigidity Constant, which states you will accomplish all goals you set come hell or high water. 

Here’s what 2015 was supposed to look like.  I was going to reach 5,000 miles on the bike (after reaching 4,700 last year).  I identified two century rides I’ve either never done or have not done in a very long time.  And finally, I was going to quit running so I had maximum bike time available.

What changed? A colleague at work casually stated she wanted to run the Ragnar Relay race from San Francisco to Calistoga. This casual statement is all it took to set the algorithm into high gear. You see, I’ve not only heard about this event but I have friends who have done it (or similar relays) and they always have a blast.

To add more fun into the algorithm, the Ragnar Relay is completed as part of a 12-person team.  Now, not only do I have a new cool challenge to consider but I get to do it with some really cool people.  As we continued to talk about the event, the fun quotient just kept going up until I finally stated , “Let’s do it!!!”

After our chat, I immediately went online to see what the hell I just agreed to.  The Ragnar Relay Napa Valley, as it is officially named, starts in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and finishes in Calistoga in the northern Napa Valley.  It is a total of 205 miles.  Each person on your team runs 3 segments, which can vary from 3 to 11 miles in length. Lastly, the relay is in late October so we have plenty of time to train.

The next thing you know, I am the co-captain of a relay running team in search of 10 other crazy ass runners to join us.  You may be happy to know that we already have a full compliment of runners.  We are officially registered and we’ve held our first planning session.  Everyone agrees it’s going to be a blast. 

Windsor Half Marathon 2011
How does the impact the cycling? Well, there’s no way I’ll hit 5,000 miles this year because I’m doing a lot more running, I’m already 800 miles behind where I was last year.  I had already registered for both of the centuries so I still plan on riding those.  This means I’ve got to walk a delicate line between my running and cycling training.

Now, I just have to settle into my new routine.  No more ride hard Saturday, ride easy Sunday for me.  Instead, it will be ride moderately hard Saturday and go for a good run on Sunday.  I think it’s going to be a nice change of pace.

What about the Goal Flexibility Algorithm?  For the time being it’s on lock down.  The Ragnar Relay has all the components I look for in a fun and challenging event so I’m pretty confident nothing better will come along.  I’ll unlock it in November when I start to focus on goals for 2016.

Until then, I’ll just continue to replace my cycling shoes with running shoes on Sundays and focus on having a great time with my team.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

My Bottega Gran Fondo

Last weekend was year 2 for the Bottega Gran Fondo (BGF). It was also the second year for me as well since this immediately became one of my favorite events after participating last year. The event, it’s more than a ride, is put on by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, who is an avid cyclist. It’s everything you would expect a ride sponsored by a cycling celebrity chef to be.

The BGF is unlike any other ride I’ve done.  To begin with, each “chef stop” (not rest stop) is hosted by a renowned chef. This means vegetable spring rolls at the first chef stop versus the usual PBJs. The second chef stop featured chocolates from Kollar Chocolates and the third chef stop, which was at Trefethen Winery, actually included wine tasting. 

The event is also different in two other significant ways. Saturday is full of wine tasting and cooking demonstrations, which are hosted by more famous chefs and sommeliers with the help of retired pro cyclists.  However, the coolest difference is the start.  Each person joins a team, led by a chef, sommelier, or pro cyclist.  You start the ride as a team with the goal of staying together to the first chef stop. It’s all very cool.

Last year we decided to make a weekend out of it too late and could not find a place to stay. So, this year Sherry had us booked in the Hotel Yountville as soon as the event dates were announced.  This was quickly shaping up to be a fabulous adventure.

Sherry and I with George and Andy.
We make the 1-hour drive to Yountville Saturday morning. After picking up my registration packet and shopping at the booths it was time for lunch at Bottega.  Then, it was off to our demos.

First up was a wine tasting demo of Italian wines hosted by wine merchant Brian Larky with the help of retired pros George Hincapie and the legendary Giro d'Italia winner Andy Hampsten. We tasted 6 different Italian wines all while George and Andy told stories or answered questions about what it’s like to ride the big races of Europe.

Next, we were off to a cooking demo by Chiarello. His helpers were Chris Carmichael and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. This demo was also hosted by retired cyclist, and current commentator with NBC Universal Sports, Todd Gogolski. It was another story filled hour with Chris and Cadel sharing more stories.

Sherry and I with Cadel.
At last we made it the hotel and settled in. Sunday morning was simply gorgeous and you just knew it was going to be a great day for cycling. I rode down to the start and found my team.  I was riding with Chris Kollar (of Kollar Chocolates) again this year and once again he had his chocolates with him.  I promise I will tell you all about the ride in my next post, which will be called something like All Aboard the BGF Train.  But for now, I’ll just say it was a great day on the bike.

Just after the 3rd chef stop we came to a T-intersection. The 75 mile route was left and the 55 mile route was to the right.  I opted for the 55 miles this year. Why? Well, turning left meant 2 more hours of cycling including climbing Mont Veeder while right meant 2-hours of hanging out by the beautiful pool while people brought me drinks.  That’s kind of a no brainer in my book.

My reward for only riding 55 miles.
We actually stayed Sunday night as well so we could spend all afternoon relaxing by the pool. After 4-hours of riding and climbing it was pretty damn nice to sit on my ass and get the waiter's attention anytime I needed something (like more wine or a chocolate shake).

Actually, as expected, the entire weekend was heavenly. It was so nice, that we are already watching the BGF web site and anxiously waiting for the 2016 dates to be posted. After 2 great events so far I can’t wait to see what year 3 has in store. However, I do know that whatever it is I will be there to enjoy it.