Thursday, February 04, 2010

California - Palomar, This Time With Feeling

People sometimes ask me how I pass the time on my long rides. Although for a short time I listened to music through my phone using a hands free headset. But when my phone died on a long ride, I realized that maybe that wasn't the best thing. What would happen if, say, I needed to make a call?

So now I do what I did from way back when - I count pedal strokes.

I read somewhere that a ride can go 40 revs no matter what. So, on hard hills, I counted pedal revs, and if I wasn't at 40 yet, I couldn't blow up.

Easy cheesy.

Better yet, if I got to 40 and I wasn't blown up, I should be able to go another 40, because I should be able to go 40 revs. So I'd just count more.

Eventually I just counted, thinking that once I get in trouble I'll have 40 more revs before I explode. Eventually this morphed into simply counting pedal revs whenever I couldn't think of anything else.

Or, as the case may be, I'm too tired to think about anything else. Counting pedal revs makes it possible to realize that, over three hours out, I still have two plus hours of riding, including some tough climbs. And I need to get on with it.

So I count.

Of course this makes a huge assumption - that I can count.

I realized I was pretty tired today when I set out because, when I started counting, four or five times in a row, I realized I couldn't count.

...27, 28, 29, 80. 81, 82... wait a minute. 80?

I'd start again.

...27, 28, 29, 80. 81, 82... hm. I'm on 80 again.

Finally, by focusing a lot on counting, I managed to get the number thirty in my head. Once I fired that synapse, things went better.

I resumed counting.

I was in the 500's when I got to Escondido, my first "mark" on the way to Palomar. I don't count all the time, and when I stop counting (lights, descents or anything really easy, or if I have to avoid something), I start at zero, hence only 500 when I was 45 minutes into the ride.

I'd started out a bit more laden than normal. The cooler temperatures, plus the expected cloudy and cool summit at Palomar, meant I started with two LS jerseys (base plus regular), a SS jersey, and a vest. I tucked the latter in a pocket, along with my cold weather gloves.

I skipped bringing short finger gloves, wore knickers instead of bringing knee warmers, and wore my skull cap instead of stuffing it in a pocket.

I even took my ID, EKG printout, and some money to leave my wallet behind.

The ultimate Palomar attack?

No. See, I ran a bit tight on pocket space because two of the pockets were stuffed with a camcorder and a battery pack.

That's right, I had the helmet cam on.

Since I'm still running the camcorder with DV tape, I'm limited to 90 minutes of recording. I couldn't do the whole ride. I couldn't even do a full Palomar climb, because it takes me more than 90 minutes to do that.

Plus it'd be as boring as heck, creeping up a road, staring at the hub, the SRM blinking now and then.

And occasionally hearing, "..., 547, 548, 549, 550. 551. 552..."

I decided I'd reserve the precious battery and tape for the descents. Fast, furious, and fun.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I got over the Lake Wohlsford climb okay, averaging about 151 bpm (I'm not sure exactly where it starts and stops on the SRM graph), and just under 230 watts. I felt pretty good, pedals ticking over decently.

I had a twinge reminiscent of the slo-mo cramp from last Friday so I took it easy and tried to alter my position a bit.

I stopped at the base of the Palomar climb, per usual, at the general store (The Rincon store, where they have cold beer - it seems to be what everyone buys there). The guy behind the counter looked at my helmet cam (which wasn't on, but who can tell) and gave me a huge break on the Pop Tarts I bought, my new favorite mid-ride food.

After finishing one off I headed up the climb.

1:51 later, averaging 181 watts while holding 147 bpm, I rolled through the Yield sign at the top.


I ran out of gas about 2/3 of the way up, my legs starting to get really fatigued, my effort dropping below 200 watts consistently. I should have eaten more Pop Tarts I think. With two hours of relentless riding once I descended back down to the base, I had to ease a bit, hold something in reserve for the ride home.

After the standard postcard stop (which read something like the title of this post), I hooked up the helmet cam, looked around for something to draft, and, with no cars around, headed back to home base.

A few turns into the descent and lo and behold, a car ahead.

Not just any car either. The driver must have been a cyclist because the car essentially paced me all the way down the hill. I'd close the gap on the curves, but the car's natural speed would gap me on the straights. The driver would brake, keeping me within reach, and I'd catch the car on the next bend.

I carved turns aggressively, remembered some of the bends from last Friday, and took a few of them a bit more aggressively than before.

At the bottom I checked the camcorder. It was still recording. Oh yeah!

Totally psyched. Totally. I've never followed a car down Palomar before, and the first time I did, I was recording it.

I undid some of the camcorder stuff (save batteries and such), headed off towards Lake Wohlsford, the second cool descent. I figured that I got what I wanted on Palomar so any additional footage on this second descent would be gravy.

Incidentally, the Tour of California used the Lake Wohlsford descent before the stage finish in Escondido, and the Lampre rider in the break was practically in the camera bike's tail pipes. It was great, and I wished I'd have a closed road to attack.

Again, I looked for any enticing traffic, saw none, and started down the hill. Then, like I'd won the descending lottery, a utility truck with the dually rear wheels (4 tires on one axle) went flying by me. Fine, he'd be gone for a bit, but with that wide axle there was no way he could stay away from a cyclist.

He didn't. I followed him for a bit, losing some ground each time the road straightened out.

If I only had an 11T.

Excitement over, I rolled back to home base. Total ride time, about 15 minutes faster than Friday. Palomar, 1:51, about 8 minutes faster. The bottom section was most of it, 5 minutes faster. I totally ran out of gas in the last 20 or 30 minutes of the climb, and instead of pushing through (like going for a stage win), I tried to play it smart (like the climb is the midway point of a long stage, which it was, come to think of it).

My heart rate seemed happy in the 150s until my legs failed, and my power steadily declined from the low 200s into the 190s and then into the 180s. Starting fresh would be huge, since I wouldn't have two hours of riding on my legs (and a big climb in there). Plus, if I had a ride waiting at the bottom, I could bury myself to get to the top.

Still, though, it was good. Heart rate more elastic, power a bit better.

Bike was quiet. I think that the nut that holds the seat down (i.e. me) is at fault for the initial creaking. I want to go through the frame a bit more carefully when I get back home, that's on the list for sure.

Handling wise the bike felt great. I felt much more stable on the descents, comfortable with the new, longer frame. I tucked a few times, felt comfortable hanging out in front of the bike.

The next few days - a bit of rest, easy rides if I can. Work on the "descent cam" clip.

And, perhaps, Sunday, I'll go race.




Steve said...

Great stories - glad your getting so much riding .. With the roads all Crap back east I have been mtn bike riding and ICE climbing ( that's my GYM alternative) . I so hope I can get on the road this weekend ??? I leave to sunny Calif in two weeks ( 2/20) to spend 16 days with my oldest Son GARY in Santa Barbra. The 2nd week is training camp with 6 total riders ( Dave H & Cliff our teammates & two other east coasters).

With me being a cat 4 planning a two week intense training camp and being 15-20 years older than these guys all Cat 3-2's & 1's I will have my work cut out for me. I'm just not sure how my body will react this year.. This will be my 3rd year as a roadie & 3rd year spending time riding with GAry , so the two full years in my legs keeps getting me stronger I HOPE .

Keep up the reports and I guess I will not see you till my first race in the east March 14 @ Bethal.

Steve D

Sean said...

hey Aki,
nice post. makes me want to ride again. been a while, i look forward to at least seeing you at Bethel. enjoy your trip!

Aki said...

Steve - apparently I'll be at a race that some of Gary's teammates may race. Last year one of them did it, he gave me some info on the race. You can get the inside scoop.

Sean - you should drop by even if you just say hi. Hint - we'll have some coffee and such, fresh stuff, for sale. Okay, not "we", but "someone".