Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 Vegas - Pushing Through

Each year the Missus goes out to Vegas in late April, a "thank you" from her work (everyone else from work goes too). A week in 80 degree weather, sunny, dry, no bugs... it's very different from Connecticut.

She's dragged me along, kicking and screaming, each year.

Yes, I doth protest a lot.

Okay, I admit it. I look forward to this trip each year, a break after the Series. In the past it's been a non-bike thing, just sightseeing. I remember trying to get in some workouts, going to the hotel gym, bringing running shoes. Inevitably, though, the trips were more about hanging out and not about training.

Last year that changed. I brought my bike, went for a ride or three, and had a second mini-training camp, the first being the SoCal trip.

This year I brought a bike again. We'd be here for five days; of those five I'd have three days of riding. We all meet each other for some "work" time, mainly dining together, but the rest of the time was free time, leaving me three solid chunks of riding time.

The first of these fell on Saturday; the next will be Sunday. The last will be on Tuesday.

As usual the bike made it through the flight (on Southwest) just fine, in its soft case. The zippers on the cover were in a different spot indicated that someone had opened it. The TSA tag inside showed me who it was.

In Vegas I try and drink bottled water, after a tip from a native a few years ago. I also needed to get some supplies for the ride, like bars. After picking up the critical stuff (water, an energy bar, a protein bar) from the nearby Walgreens, I went about spending a lazy amount of time assembling the bike.

The cooler than normal 60-odd degree weather meant some extra gear. I had a base layer, unusual for me, as well as one each of a short sleeve jersey, long sleeve jersey (standard lightweight material), and a wind vest.

At home I'd preciously saved my Hincapie kit as it fit better, it felt better, and it had the proper graphics, as opposed to our older kit. However I didn't have Hincapie vests nor long sleeve jerseys, so those were the 2010 version. I carried all this here to Vegas.

The travel the day before had zapped me. I hadn't even assembled my bike. But with only a few days to ride, I felt the need to get out. The fatigue wanted me to rest, resisting my desire to ride. Opposite energies, working against each other.

I kitted up and got on the bike.

Of course the desert sun hit me hard as soon as I started riding. The chilly air felt incongruous with the strong sun; cold and warmth.

Warmth won. I stopped to shed the long sleeve jersey, keeping just the vest on, keep the wind off my torso. Warm core, right? One of our sayings was something a young pro demonstrated to us.

"It's pro to be warm."

A couple weeks ago SOC pulled off an amazing ride in a race. It's inspired me to work harder in wind, to try and keep going when I feel like easing. I tested this inspiration all the way west to Red Rock. I think without a few traffic lights that gave me automatic rests, I'd have been hard pressed to keep going so hard.

I struggled all the way up to Red Rock, all uphill, all into a ferocious headwind, winds powerful enough that even the natives commented on the howling wind. The sensation of pushing into the wind too me back to that Ninigret day, the insane slowness, the threshold power.

It took me an hour or so to get there, hitting an average wattage that exceeded all but a few races I've done with a powermeter.

Once at Red Rock the wind changed favorably for the next leg of the ride. With mainly descending roads, albeit slightly, it should have been the fastest part of the ride. Unfortunately I had to stop a few times to adjust the speed pick up, a rubber band mounted piece which had an uncanny affinity for the spokes in the rear wheel.

Once, at close to the fastest point of the ride, I reluctantly slowed while trying to keep a 53x11 spinning. Only later I realized just how fast I was going when I realized that the white markers on the side of the road were about 50 yards apart, not 10.

Pick up adjusted, I got going again, the edge of my speed gone now. I kept rolling, trying to keep the speed, the rhythm.

A turn took the tailwind away, and now the wind buffeted my head.I couldn't hear much, just the wind, and, in light of my inspiration, I tried to keep the speed up.

Within a minute I started bogging down, the gear seemingly growing every 15 seconds. I prepared to shift down, disappointed in myself. I couldn't even turn over, what, a 53x19?, for a while, after pulling away from the last intersection.

I looked down to make sure I wasn't off by a cog or two, to make sure I wasn't about to try and jam the rear derailleur into the spokes.

At first glance I thought maybe I'd left it in the small ring - the chain sat at one of the smaller cogs, an unusual position on my bike. I quickly looked at the cranks... no, the chain sat on the big ring. I looked back again. I glanced at the cogs.

I hadn't been struggling trying to turn a 53x19.

I'd been struggling trying to turn a 53x12.

Well now.

Going to the 13T didn't seem like such a loss then. My sore back urging me to stay in the drops, the most comfortable position for me on the bike. I chided myself for not doing my abdominal work, but I couldn't change that now. Plus the low position helped deal with the ferocious crosswind.

I kept rolling.

Thoughts of Knickman's incredible ride in the Tour de L'Avenir seeped into my mind. I couldn't help but think of that ride, with the crosswinds, the long straight road, endless effort.

I didn't have a field back there, chasing me, but I still pressed, not crazy hard, but hard enough. I held the front wheel steady, rumble strip to the left, sand to the right. The wind threatened to push me off the road, but with my hands on the drops, I kept the bike relentlessly on course.

Yet I didn't want to cramp or totally explode so I couldn't delve too deep. I had other things to think about, after the ride, dinner date and such - but I pushed as hard as I dared.

Then I pushed just a touch more.

I've written about asking my legs for more, and getting more when I no longer expected anything. It wasn't quite like that today, but I asked my legs for a lot and they kept delivering.

At one turn, making me tack into the wind like a sailboat, I got a chance to take a self portrait.

Above the 5.7L, inside knee up

As I got closer to home base my legs started to fade. I lost my peak power, something I never noticed so distinctly until today. Suddenly the efforts accelerating from stop lights killed my legs, but once under way, I could ease up the gears until I was back in the 53x14.

My helmet cam double-beeped; knowing how much time I had ridden, I knew the battery had given its last. I knew I had another 30 or 40 minutes of memory left on the 8 GB card.

Of course, shortly after, a slew of customized 370Zs rolled by, nasally burbling exhausts, body kits, wheels, all complete. They must have just come from a meet, or were on their way to a meet, a group ride if you will, but for cars.

I stopped at a light somewhere, doing yet another trackstand for the day. Someone on the sidewalk next to the road hollered out.

"Dang, you got some good balance!"

I thought about the physics of a track stand, how balance has so little to do with it. It has to do with moving the bike forward and backwards. It's about physics. I thought about how unlikely I am as an athlete, not really coordinated, unable even to play fast passages on a violin, forget about doing coordinated things like dribbling a basketball or hitting a golf ball.

I also realized that didn't matter, not to the guy on the sidewalk. Going into the "it's not about balance" spiel wouldn't get me anywhere.

Instead, thinking about all that I am not, I grinned a small, rueful grin.

"Yeah, you know it, you know it", he cried out in delight.

The light turned green. I eased away, the edge of my acceleration gone, legs protesting. As I started to wiggle the bike's tail to get up to speeds, I heard the guy ask someone nearby.

"Yo, you see that guy?"

I got up to speed, got into the sweet spot, the 53x14.

I rolled.

The wind seemed to have eased.

The sun seemed a bit warmer.

My legs felt a touch better.


Anonymous said...

Your post about the "jacked up" lever position made almost no sense to me until I realized that you are a longtime Campy user. While conceding that there are nice things about Campy stuff, one advantage to Shimano and Sram is that their shift levers are easily accessed from the drops pretty much no matter where the levers are mounted. This allows one to pretty much only need to worry about ergonomics, hence the trend towards higher lever placement.

Aki said...

Good point. You know, I was actually thinking about the ergonomic differences between Campy and Shimano/SRAM while I was riding the fast bits near Blue Diamond (because I was thinking of the Knickman move which made me think of the jacked lever thing).

One thing I didn't mention about this ride is that I tilted my bars up a bit too high when I assembled the bike, and I stopped twice to lower them. I like the higher hood position, esp for climbing out of the saddle, but it kills the reach from the drops. Since it's more important to be in control in the drops, I gravitate towards optimizing the drops position.

Since I don't do well with STI, I'd consider SRAM, or, if the ergonomics works, the new Campy levers. But for now the Campy 10s stuff is what I'm using.