Back in the day of primitive video games, when 16 color screens were the schnizzle and 256 color was just unheard of, I tried playing a very sophisticated flying game, F-16 Falcon. I had a computer that didn't have a math coprocessor so I had about a frame a second display rate.
I rarely got off the runway.
Later, when I had a blazin' Pentium 5 90 Mhz (compared to the Mac I'm using now, which is a 2000 Mhz, and there are four of them so to speak), the game was comically fast. There was no "CPU throttle" so the game just played as fast as it could. It was worse than hitting the fast forward on a videotape.
In that mode I rarely stayed in the air.
The reason for all this video game nostalgia is that the game featured the fondly named "Bitchin' Betty" voice. This is the voice that warns you to "Pull up, pull up" when you're heading into the virtual ground. Ignore her at your peril because in the game, especially on the blazin' P5, you didn't have much time to react (and the plane kind of "skids" in the air so pulling up hard didn't mean the plane actually started heading up right away).
Today I remembered a different kind of pulling up, that which occurs on the bike.
The Missus headed out earlier in the day to run some errands that involved driving around. I stayed at home with Junior (this seems to be my thing now) and did errands that involved walking around the house. I managed to get some Me time in and picked up Dog in the Hat. I absolutely love the first part of the book - it captures the insanity of pro racing at that time.
Anyway in it Joe Parkin describes the JRA type riding they did, basically rolling "along the canal". I seem to do the same kind of riding, with my canal being the Farmington River, and the road not necessarily being a canal path but an actual road.
With our half finished office (think of the half finished Death Star - not done but mainly functional), I've been very good about charging and using the Sportiiiis, the SRM PCV head, Strava, and the helmet cam.
The Missus returned home and promptly recommended that I go for a good training ride. The weather was great out and the forecast for this coming week had a lot of rain.
I got my gear together and headed out.
Now, I have to admit something here. Although I've posted on being fastidious with the bike, with bar tape, and with maintenance in general, I've been a bit lax with bike maintenance. Last night I fixed a bike for someone in our garage. While I was there I decided to check my own bike too - I trued the rear wheel slightly, installed a 53T Praxis chainring (from the 55T which I realized had 4 bent teeth), and tweaked the derailleur adjustments.
I used to have problems getting into the 11T easily - ends up that needed adjusting. I used to find the chain dropping off the big ring all the time - ends up a bunch of teeth were bent. I used to have less than predictable braking - ends up the rim was untrue enough that it affected braking (it also let the tire hit the frame).
With all that fixed (I left the ratty tape for now), I set out on my ride.
Yesterday, after I fixed up my bike, I did a trainer ride to make sure everything worked. It did, and I did a short MAP test. This involved riding at a certain wattage, going up 20-25w per minute, and seeing when you explode. You get the last minute before you exploded, figure out the average wattage, and take about 75% of that to get your FTP.
This test seemed much more reasonable than riding really hard for 20 minutes and taking 95% of that number.
My test last night resulted in a 219 watt calculated FTP. If you do the math it means I exploded with a last minute average of 293 watts.
When I set out I had a few things in mind. First, my FTP was 10 watts higher than I thought. This meant that I was strong. Second, I set the Sportiiiis so that my minimum target cadence would be 95 rpm, not 92 rpm - I wanted to pedal fast. Third, I had a smaller big ring, so it would help me pedal faster. Fourth I adjusted my rear derailleur a touch better than it had been so I could shift into any gear at will.
The first thing I learned was that I always forget about climbing when I adjust my rear derailleur. I had carefully shifted from the 12T to the 11T, over and over, back and forth, low rpm and high rpm, making sure that I could find the 11T when I needed it.
What I didn't do was really check my low gear, a 44x25 (I kept the 44T small ring on, in case my front derailleur cable broke). When I went to climb out of our complex everything was bad. I had to pedal a big gear slowly to get to the road.
Nonetheless I kept going, leaving it in the big ring for the rest of the ride. (See how easy the fix is? Just ignore the small ring!).
I rolled along in the big ring, on the flats, mainly in a 19 or 17, not too fast. The town had recently chipsealed one of my normal roads. This is where they spread some soft asphalt type stuff on the road and lay gravel type stuff on top, kind of like putting chocolate sprinkles on ice cream. The cars drive over the sprinkles, shove it into the ice cream, and the road becomes pretty solid. It works well although you don't want to drive very fast when they first put down the gravel stuff - it goes flying everywhere.
In fact the gravel stuff flies around enough that the road put a 15 mph speed limit on the route. 15 mph! Even I could break that.
The thing is that after a few days much of the sprinkles are shoved into the ice cream. You're left with some random sprinkles and an otherwise slightly more coarse road surface that before.
If you have a really good imagination, you could consider this to be a semi-dirt road. Fine grit cobbles. Or a Willy Wonka road with chocolate sprinkles in ice cream.
Whatever, the extra road buzz motivated me, like all dirt roads and cobbles and such motivate me. I positively flew along the road on the second lap (the first lap I was tip toeing a bit because of all the cars and not knowing they were going slow due to the 15 mph speed limit). I kept going faster and faster, ultimately cruising along at almost 30 mph just before the chipseal ended.
Of course a car flew by me at about 45 mph at that point. I guess the driver couldn't wait another 10 or 15 seconds to pass me (the car turned right as soon as it passed me, and I signaled left before it passed).
In that brief minute of rolling hard through the chocolate sprinkles, I was in my rough road mode. Hands on the tops, sitting a bit more upright, big gear, a bit back on the saddle, and rolling hard. This meant pulling up pretty hard as well as the normal pushing down.
In shock I realized that I hadn't really pedaled like this in forever, maybe since last year.
I know I haven't in a race this year because pulling up, when I'm not used to it, blows me up.
I exploded spectacularly after a short bit of "using the whole pedal stroke". I glanced at the power meter - I was doing almost 400w seated. I guess this is what a pro does for an hour. For me a minute at that rate was a bit much.
Junior, when he realized he could turn his head, turned it back and forth just because. Likewise when I realized I could pedal the full pedal stroke, I tried to do it here and there, on the tops, on the drops, rolling big gears "along the canal".
I had to ease, of course, because it's a bit too hard for me to do this for more than 30 or 45 seconds at a time. To rediscover this, though, that was great.
I rolled up to one of my two favorite turns on the loop and the light obligingly turned green. I did a decent jump, my wheel didn't hit the frame or the brakes, and I topped out at just under 40 mph. 1357w peak, 1274w for 5 seconds, 1147w for 10 seconds. It wasn't the best sprint per se but I've been hitting over 1300w peak consistently at the end of a 2 hour ride.
I rolled up the quarter mile climb home. In 2010, when I didn't realize just how much form I had, the Missus drove past me while I was "struggling" up the climb at about 25 mph. At home she commented that I was flying up the climb. To this day I still remember climbing that hill, seated, doing the full pedal stroke, pulling up hard, hands on the tops, absolutely soaked in sweat from a long ride, my hands slipping inside my gloves, rolling some enormous gear like a 53x14 up the grade. I exploded about 10 meters before the stop sign, a huge disappointment, another failed effort.
I replied honestly that I wasn't flying, I was struggling. All I could think of at that moment was my failure 10 meters early.
Oh to be able to struggle at that speed now.
I tried to roll up part of the climb, failing miserably. Form only comes after hard work, and I haven't put in much effort on the bike this year. The 53x21 felt hard but I ticked the gear over to the top of the hill.
I long for that 25 mph struggle. I long to be able to roll through a full pedal revolution more than a few dozen times before exploding.
I long to be part of the race, not just a spectator at the back (or off the back, or on the sidelines).
It takes time, I know. It takes some training, some food discipline.
And it takes some pulling up. I'll work on all of those, and I'll try to remember to pull up when I'm making a short but steady seated effort.