Tuesday, February 12, 2008

California - Day Twelve - Palomar ProTour

I wanted to make the most of the last day in my 2008 training camp. For me, here, it always means one thing: Attack Palomar. The weather seemed to be cooperating with my Palomar attempt - mid 70s here, mid 60s on the mountain. Knowing the mountain regularly misbehaves, I took two long sleeve jerseys, my vest, and started off wearing my shorts and short sleeve jersey.

I tend to feel apprehension with these big rides. I don't know how my body will react, I don't know if the weather will change dramatically, or if I have a mechanical. Knowing only a few estimated time checks doesn't help, but at least I had a few of them. First, I knew it took just over an hour to get to the base of the first climb (Lake Wohlford). Then it would take a total of two hours to get to the start of the "climb", the foothills before the mountain. Finally, it'd take me 45 minutes to get to the climb proper.

From there it gets hazy. I figure it'll take me 30 minutes to get back to the base of the foothills. But to climb 7 miles, after riding for almost 3 hours?

I wasn't sure.

I made the first checkpoint, Lake Wohlberg road, in about 1:03, a few minutes earlier than I expected. I pushed a bit to make the base of the foothills. Conveniently there's a little market there, and after my earlier Palomar attempt, I knew I'd need to refill my bottles there.

I went in, got my Gatorade and water, went out, and carefully poured most of the cool drinks into my bottles. I finished what Gatorade was left, and started to polish off the water.

That's when THREE Gerolsteiner riders went by, with a fourth rider in some odd outfit (a cycling reporter?), followed by a pack of slow moving cars.

I drank the water so quickly I got one of those extremely painful "cold head" head aches, tossed the bottle, and went after them.

Yeah, like I was going to catch them.

I saw them a couple times before they truly disappeared from sight. They were spinning like crazy and had an unmarked, dark green follow car. They were riding unladen, their pockets sleek against their backs.

I felt my two LS jerseys, my windvest, wallet, phone, 3 Enervit things, and the house key in my pockets.


It'd be nice to do a supported training ride.

I backed off the pace and started slogging up the climb. Occasionally I'd look up and get extremely demoralized - the mountain seemed enormous. With fatigue setting in, I started getting a sort of tunnel vision, caused by my eyelids drooping down.

I tried to calculate my climbing rate based on my speed. My chain slammed into the 39x25 (optimistically I thought I'd be in the 23), I struggled to get any kind of speed. After 30 or 45 minutes of climbing it became apparent to me that I'd need about 90 minutes to complete the top part of the climb. This would make my total ride time about 4:15 when I hit the top, then I'd have a 0:30 descent and 2:00 or so to get back home. 6:45 if I ride home as quickly as I rode out, so maybe 7:00, factoring in some extra time for my very tired legs on the return trip.

I flubbed my calculations when two riders came flying down the mountain. I could hear them before they appeared around the turn ahead of me. I heard one's voice and thought, "Hey, that sounds like Chris Horner".

And then a shaved head Astana rider came into view, next to a guy from the snow camo team (sponsored by Masi).

Holy cow.

First the Gerolsteiners, now these guys. I raised a hand and waved. Horner looked over and grinned (or something), the other guy lifted a hand back.

They were probably doing repeats up the mountain.

I slogged away to the top. I saw two (non-ProTour) riders sitting by the general store, drinking something. I nodded hi to them, got a postcard for the missus, went to the post office (it's about the size of a plane bathroom), mailed it to the missus, and then put my vest on and started back down. The two riders started just before me. I mean they started just before me, like 5 or 10 seconds. I figured I'd see them in a few.


They must have been flying.

We got to a section where they closed one lane. So I waited in line, worried about holding up the other cars. We started going and I had a perfect setup, flying down the hill just behind some Jeep thing, arcing around corners. With a pilot truck guiding everyone through the construction area slowly, I had no need to go more than about 35 mph.

Then I saw something. A bike on the shoulder, a few feet away from a mega-drop off. No rider. I looked around and then saw the rider, changing a tire. A hundred yards later the other rider sat waiting. I nodded to him, he nodded back.

Looked under control.

Back to the descent. When the pilot truck pulled off, the two cars in front of me picked up the pace. So as not to hold up anyone, I did too. I attacked the corners more aggressively and started sprinting on the straights.

Well, on a few straights I sprinted a bit, spinning the 53x11 like mad. But on many of them I just tucked and coasted. Although I never hit 50 mph, I managed to sustain a speed in the high 40s, enough that the cars behind me didn't feel like passing.

I got back to the market after 30 minutes of descending, my hands, wrists, and neck fatigued from braking and tucking. Out of fluids, I pulled into the market again. The guy who helped me out before was sitting behind the counter, another guy now at the register. The sitting guy asked me how far I'd ridden.

"About 60 miles. Not that far, but I went to the top of the mountain so I was going pretty slow."
The guy pointed up at the ceiling, plastered with beer babe posters.
"Top of the mountain?"
He grinned. Looked at the other guy. Said some unmentionable words. They either thought I was nuts or respected the work I'd just done.

After I bought my Gatorade and water, I asked if they had a bathroom. The two guys looked at each other.

"60 miles, let the guy use it." (I skipped the swears they put in between "miles" and "let").

The counter guy pointed towards the back of the store.

"Back there."

I walked back there. Saw a sign "Bathroom out of order", "Not working", and some other ones, all hand written, all taped haphazardly to the door. I opened the door and walked into a huge, clean, well lit bathroom.


I guess they respected my efforts, even if they thought I was nuts.

I thanked them on the way out and rolled out onto the road. A cowboy guy on a department store mountain bike (well, maybe a Native American guy, but he was wearing a cowboy hat) rolled out from a driveway just up the road. He was looking down at his gears and fiddling around as I rolled by him.

Refreshed with a bit of cool water and Gatorade, I started off pretty fast, rolling the big ring, doing a steady 25-28 mph, 300 watts or so.

Suddenly I heard a chain behind me. Horner? The Gerolsteiners? Maybe another pro?

I looked.

The Native American guy went flying past me. He was sprinting for all he was worth, but he blew shortly afterwards, a big grin plastered across his face. I smiled. I guess in a different world he'd have been a racer. But for now, today, this was his race. I told him that he was flying and he gave me a big smile.

Then I started rolling for real.

I struggled into a steady, demoralizing headwind all the way back. Even with that I made it back to base in just under 7 hours. I'd hit my estimated time within five minutes. I never needed the two long sleeve jerseys. Oh well. I did use/consume 3 bottles of electrolyte drink, 3 bottles of water, and one Enervit "crack pack".

I swung a leg off the bike and saw, for the first time, the only casualty of the ride: The handle of my pump had unscrewed and fallen off somewhere.

I guess things could have been worse.

Now to pack up the bike, toss all my gear into my bag. And tomorrow, technically Day Thirteen, I'll spend the day traveling back home.

My California trip summary. I hit my 30 hours goal. I did 36 hours in nine days of riding, spending 3 days really sick and one day traveling. I feel really comfortable on the new bike, saddle, height, bars, everything. I know that for extremely fast descents I'll be using a box section front wheel - gusty winds, 50 mph, and the DV46 front wheel just don't mix well. I feel comfortable in the drops. Usually I get a crick in my neck when I go to the drops, or it feels too low, or something. After a bit of riding it feels normal again. And I can say that it feels normal now. Finally, and probably pretty significantly, I've done some very high effort jumps and sprints. Normally my first all out sprint each year is at the first Bethel. This year I did them here in California.

I think (I have to check) that I've now trained as much in the first six weeks of the year as I did in 7 months in 2007 (Apr-Nov). I just can't imagine what it'd be like to keep up a schedule like this past, say, April. Part of it is worrying about burnout (mental and physical), part of it is that, well, I need to work.

For now, though, it's two weeks until Bethel.

Let the games begin.

1 comment:

Bram said...

Seems like a real good training camp, some long rides, some intervals, already some heavy efforts...
I think you'll be in great shape by the start of the season. Keep up the good work and keep writing about it. Here in Belgium it nearly freezes, there's so much fog you just can't take the bike outside becouse it's too dangerous, so what can I do but read your posts (and enjoy them)