Today I was supposed to meet up with some folks and do a big ride, something like 100 miles. Luckily for them (and for me too) I managed to get lost on the way and missed them. I did manage to get to the meet point and recognized the road, so with a call to home base, I got a basic set of directions to get to the base of Palomar Mountain.
I didn't feel too good for the next hour (a lot of it was uphill) and thanked my lucky stars that I didn't meet the group. I think I'd have had a significant detrimental effect on their pace (and mood and patience etc etc). But slowly my legs started coming around.
The idea was just to ride to the base of Palomar, make a U-turn (they're legal virtually everywhere in California), and RTB ("return to base", from watching Blackhawk Down recently).
Only I got there and I didn't want to turn around too soon. My legs started coming around, I could do some nice surges, and I didn't want to waste the opportunity to climb at least a little of the mountain. So, checking my watch and doing some mental calculations, I gave myself 90 minutes to climb, 30 to descend, and a couple more hours to get back home. 90 minutes brought me within 2 miles of the summit (I started at about 16 miles to go). On the way I picked up a rock laying in the middle of the road and tossed it to the side. It disintegrated into nothingness when it hit the ground.
I keep forgetting that Southern California is not like New England. It's dry, hot (or at least warmer), and the land crumbles at the slightest provocation.
Anyway, after my climbing time budget ran out I stopped, put on my vest and LS jersey, turned around, and started back down. I scared myself around a few turns, almost bounced off my bike rolling across three cattle guards, but was okay otherwise. 21 minutes later I was at the market located just after the base of the descent. So little time to undo so much climbing.
My hardest efforts took place during the sixth and last hour of my ride. I had to jump hard to clear an intersection with no bike lane (and lots of traffic) and another time I spontaneously rode at 550 watts. I pretended I was told to close some imaginary gap and motored along, doing my best imitation of a domestique told to go "fetch".
30 or 40 seconds later my dream went poof. I sat up.
The latter effort really toasted my legs and it really wasn't a big effort. It made me think about the pros and sprinting at the end of 4 or 5 or 6 hours of racing. I guess a lot of us could probably sprint with most of the pros. I think it's like comparing 0-30 numbers for different cars - they're all so close it's sort of pointless. This means when you're in your Nissan Pathfinder, you'll be able to accelerate to 30 mph in about the same time as the Nissan Altima Coupe in the next lane.
Think of this as doing a sprint at the beginning of a ride.
Now make the task more difficult. For cars, it's accelerating past 50 or 60 mph, the aerodynamic barrier. Let's choose 75 mph since Edmunds tests to that speed. This is where the Altima, which is a lower, more aero, and more sporty car, shows itself - it'll beat the Pathfinder to 75 mph by about 2.4 seconds. The difference will only get bigger as the speeds increases.
That's like sprinting against a pro, but after 5 hours of racing (or more).
It's being able to do those massive efforts after 5 or 6 hours of racing which makes the difference.
I tried drinking more Gatorade. Maybe the lack of glucose was causing me to fatigue quickly. I always find myself running out of water when I ride out here. It's probably because one of the things about Southern California is that it's... desert. It means things are a bit different than back home.
For example, last night I did some laundry, specifically some bike gear I knew I'd use today. I was going to put them in the dryer but, as Rich pointed out, we're in the desert.
Seven hours later everything was dry.
Back at home it'd be getting mildewy.
When I'm riding it's sort of the same thing. I find myself needing more fluid than normal, salt crystals forming on my face sooner. This helped abort my attempt today because I ran out of fluids 4 hours into the ride. At home I've done 4 hour rides where, 5 minutes from home, I take a few gulps from one of my bottles so that when the missus asks if I drank, I can say yes.
Having only two regular bottles didn't help, but hey, they're lighter when they're full. After that fast descent off the mountain I stopped to replenish my supplies. Afterwards I sat outside the market. I leaned against the wall, stretched my legs out, drinking and eating and letting the sun warm and relax me.
A slightly perturbing thing was watching a particularly nonchalant truck driver - he carefully turned into the market's parking lot and then drove straight over a few curbs to park his truck directly in front of me. A guy hopped out and pointed at me.
"Hey, you know that wall has wet paint on right, don't you? The guy was painting it this morning."
I checked my back. My very precious wind vest looked untouched. My sleeves were fine too.
The guy check my back too.
"You're lucky, it's already dry."
We're in the desert.