Thursday, February 07, 2008

California - Day Seven - Base Miles

I alluded towards a possible Palomar attempt for Friday, tomorrow, depending how I felt today, the day after my last Palomar attempt. Key phrase: "Depending how I felt today."

Let's just say I'm going to wait until Monday to do my next attempt.

It's not that I felt horrible or extremely sore or whatnot, it's just that, well, I was tired. I ate a couple times in the morning. With the mega hours of training I've been doing it seems I need to double up my meals. It seems to be a source of funnies since after we eat dinner, I inevitably state "I'm hungry" right after the dishes are put away. Anyway, after my breakfasts I cleaned up a bit, and then went out for a nice, sunny, warm ride.

(I'm just rubbing it in for those back at home).

Shorts, short sleeve, vest, and long sleeve as backup. About 5 minutes into the ride I stopped and put the long sleeve on.

So much for backup.

Seems that I get pretty cold pretty quickly. I guess running a caloric deficit does this to you. I actually felt hungry when I left, and although I gobbled down some Enervit Gel and some electrolyte drink, the somewhat weak feeling never totally went away.

Since I did feel a bit fatigued after spending almost 6.5 hours yesterday on the bike (about 20 minutes of it at a food stop), I figured I'd go easy today. And when I say "easy", I mean easy. I mean everyone and their little sister was passing me. But did I start pedaling faster?


Because easy means easy. That's what Bjarne Riis said in this interesting (and R rated for language and content) article at Competitive Cyclist. Not medium, not hard, easy.

Until, 20 minutes into the ride, that big, slow 18 wheeler went by.

Yeah, easy my ass. Actually, except for three spontaneous and somewhat powerful jumps, I really did take it easy. Twiddled little gears, rarely broke 250 watts, mainly stayed in the mid 100s, and felt my legs slowly regain their full range of motion. Although they still feel swollen with fatigue, my legs seem to be coming around. Meaning from a general point of view, not just recovering from yesterday.

In fact, after my first jump (to go with the aforementioned truck), it took a long time to do my second jump (an effort to cross essentially a highway, yes highway, lane). My last jump felt pretty good, especially considering it happened almost 3.5 hours after I started my ride. A moderate uphill drag, it really replicates Bethel nicely. It was my hardest jump, the longest one, and I managed to drag out a little over 1300 watts and hold about 1000 for 20 seconds or so. My legs were pretty fatigued so I blew pretty quickly but the numbers seem promising.

I think tomorrow, instead of going and hammering my head against Palomar, I'm going to wander around and look for places where I can do massive sprints over and over again. My relatively easy ride today sort of sets me up for such efforts, and my legs are aching to do some speed work. All this 18 mph stuff isn't that exciting, even if it's gotten me in decent form (for me).

When I first started racing everyone talked about getting in "base miles". Since I didn't really have a clue, I figured my 200 miles or so was fine. And, to be honest, it probably was. I just filled in the rest of my base miles during my summer riding.

When I went to school I'd been racing two whole years. At the time most racers acknowledged that it takes three years to hit about 80% of your potential. The first year is spent learning about stupid, new racer mistakes, like forgetting your shoes at home, maybe a wheel, or your shorts or something. Or figuring out that you really shouldn't eat McDonalds food you got at the drive thru two blocks from the race.

The second year is a bit more advanced. Now that you can get to the races on time, you aren't forgetting critical gear, you can actually race. And, man oh man, is racing different from anything else out there. Where else will every single person you're competing with yell at you when you make a mistake? You've learned that the "Breaking Away" pump in the spokes business doesn't happen in real life. The reason is that there are a lot of other ways racers can intimidate you, and the more subtle ones are best utilized when, for example, it would be bad form to take out half the field to teach a newbie a lesson.

The third year, well, now you're talking. You can get to the races, you have your bike and stuff, and when you line up, you actually know (sort of) what you're doing. Well, at least from a bike handling point of view. Racing wise, tactically speaking, you are clueless. But it takes this long to figure out how much more you really don't know. Before you were blissfully learning what you thought you needed to learn. Now you realize that there's a whole new world out there that you didn't even know existed.

What's my point. I don't know. Actually, I do know. Base miles. The third year was the first year I did any semblance of base miles, maybe 500, maybe 750. But it was all because I rode with a guy who awed and inspired me. The CC article linked above talks about how close the pros ride from one another. It's true. It really, really is. And you don't have to ride with a pro who races for CSC. Just ride with an ex-pro. Maybe one that raced with Coppi.

Not on a Coppi.

With Coppi.

And not against Coppi.

He worked for Coppi.

Now based on my previous mutations of actual memories and facts, I'm probably melding a number of racers together into one. I think this guy is for real though. He was helping coach some guys at UCONN when I got there, and although those guys graduated and went on to bigger and better things (one was the top placed amateur behind Davis Phinney at the Boston Mayor's Cup race), I did manage to get a ride or two in with this old guy.

Of course, as a two year veteran of the sport, I was a bit skeptical of the whole thing. Base miles. Ex-pro. Ex-pro is like saying "I used to be a Cat 2". I mean, c'mon. What's the point of training with him? Just an old fuddy-duddy who has some good stories and talks with a cool accent (one of the British Isles ones but I couldn't tell you if it was Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or whatever else there is).

Oh, wait. He was (is) Australian.

The other British Isle.

Anyway, one brisk winter day we all went out for a ride. Base miles. Easy. Not medium. Not hard. Easy. And since the coach wanted to talk to everyone, I found myself riding next to him.

Actually, he wasn't really riding next to me. He was sort of riding in my personal space. His left elbow was pretty much directly in front of my heart, his bars almost bumping my right thigh, and he was leaned over so he could talk at a normal level instead of yelling across a 3 foot gap into some wool covered ears.

So he's telling me about something, I forget what, virtually whispering in my ear at 20 mph, when suddenly he burps.

Like loud.

"Whisper whisper whisper BOOOP!"

He laughed. "Sorry about that. I think you got that full on, you can probably tell I had bacon and eggs and coffee for breakfast!"

Yeah, with two sugars and one cream in the coffee.

I was at once appalled and impressed and awed and everything. This guy was for real. He was riding so close he was virtually riding my bike, and we kept bumping things, bars, thighs, straps, but nothing phased him. Nothing. He'd bounce off an inch or two and keep talking.

I started thinking of Coppi (who I've never really seen on tape, just pictures). How at some point he'd say to the guy, "George (or whatever that translates to in Italian - Giorgio?), get me some wine." And George would scamper into a roadside store, take a bottle or two of wine, say it's for Coppi, smile at the awed store owners, get back on the bike, pedal furiously to get back into the group, and then proudly display his selections.

"White or Red, Fausto?"

My imagination aside, George always emphasized base miles. His proteges are still all over the place - many of them raced for Richard Sachs, back in the day. There's something to be said for the base miles thing. What, I don't know. I just think base miles can't hurt. They get the racer fit enough so that they can do more strenuous work.

I've been looking for signs that my body is ready for more strenuous work. In the past years I've come here to train, I left without ever feeling that I was ready to do speed work. I always felt like I needed to train more before I'd be ready.

This time is different.

Today, finally, my jumps demonstrated to me that I'm ready to start doing some more aggressive work on the bike.


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