Sunday, May 12, 2013

Training - Picking Up The Van

I did manage to do one long ride before the poison ivy misery. Typically, in years past, I've left the van at Bethel after the last race, returning later to pick it up. Because it's far enough away from our house the Missus and I usually drive down together and I drive the van back.

With Junior things got a bit more complicated. Although he's good in the car we prefer not to put him in  a car seat for what would be about 3 hours total. This meant either figuring out a schedule to do other stuff (like visit my dad's) and then picking up the van after or doing something completely different.

A couple years ago I did the latter - I rode to the course and drove the van back on a blazing hot summer day. I did the Wednesday night race there while I was recovering from the epic-to-me ride, managing only to barely finish the B race. Normally I'd have done the A race but a 5+ hour ride, massive cramps, bonking... I didn't want to do any race. I got talked into doing the B race though, struggling up the hill each time, using every trick I knew to keep from cramping. I pushed a bit on the last lap and then sat up before the sprint.

I decided that this year I'd ride down to get the van. It would keep us from having to drive 2 ways in one of the cars (there, back) and it would let me train a bit. The only logical days to do it would be on the days that Junior goes to a half day of daycare.

I decided to go the Thursday after the last Bethel race. This was in complete contrast to 2012 when we got the van so late in the season that our primary motivation was to beat the snow and ice.

Of course my training had been minimal so I hesitated a bit. On the flip side I wanted to get the van back home so I could unpack it and get all that stuff put away. I figured that I could make it in 5 hours or so at worst. The weather was still in the 60s so I wouldn't suffer like I did the other time I rode down.

Well my 33 minutes of training the prior 10 days (24 minutes with my nephews, 9 minutes of racing) wasn't that much and it showed pretty quickly. I started cramping less than an hour into the ride, literally just one town over from where I live.

I normally don't check my PCV (the computer head for the SRM) but I started glancing at it regularly, checking the mileage. I thought about the point of no return, when it would be easier to keep going than turning around. When I was cramping I was well within the "turn around" distance.

I fought, though, and started getting into that nebulous "not sure which is better" zone where turning around didn't seem like it would gain me much.

I pressed on.

I didn't know the topography of the ride, unfortunately, because I climb over two larger ridges/hills in the first half of the route and it's mainly flat for the second half, losing altitude slowly but steadily.

Started cramping in the second green shade, before 15 miles.

It would have been much easier motivating myself to get over that second climb with the relief of steadily descending roads afterward. Instead I pressed on in the face of what might be relentless hills. If I had to guess at the topography of the route until the 30 mile point I'd have guessed it was mainly flat with a couple rises, more like the latter portion of the ride. I didn't realize the climbs were big enough to count, so to speak.

Relatively early on in the ride my helmet camera battery gave up. I hadn't charged the thing since the race the prior Sunday, and even for that I think I didn't charge it that long.

This meant I missed a few things on the cam that I could have otherwise taken a still from and posted here. I don't want to bore everyone with some two lane road lined with trees - they look like any other nice two lane road in Connecticut.

I saw a former teammate and recent returnee to the bike racing scene - he was driving his car. I saw a friendly rival out on the bike.

In the latter portion of the ride I was doing a lot of mental mathematics, trying to calculate my average speed. I knew the ride would be about 65 miles long and I hoped that I'd average 15 mph. This would give me 4 hours (15x4) plus 1/3 hour (the final 5 miles). I knew it'd get a bit dusky at about 7:30, dark around 8:15, and I'd left at just before 2:30 PM.

This gave me a good 5 hours of daylight. My goal was 4:20, at a conservative 15 mph pace, but I was struggling after the first hour to hold 12-13 mph (not knowing I was doing so much climbing).

Therefore I had to push when I could. My time calculations were taking me to the 8:00 PM range and this worried me. I even started thinking about things like taxis, public transportation, stuff like that.

So with these concerns swirling around in my head the next bit got tough.

I was trying to eat and drink a bit but I knew that for me cramps are cramps, they do what they want. Normally I'd just turn around and go home but with a one way route I didn't have that choice. I started experiencing some weird sensations, cramps rippling up and down my leg, a rush sensation as goosebumps traveled up and down my legs, stuff like that. It wasn't just cramps, it was weird stuff.

I had to stop a number of times to put a foot down just to keep from falling over. I could barely make headway at times, even on flat roads.

I realized that even when I "soft pedal" I lift my leg up on the upstroke. I had to consciously stop that to prevent my hamstrings from locking up completely.

At some such point a rider turned onto the road in front of me, running a stop sign (a peeve of mine). His running start meant he was going about my speed, just 50 meters in front of me. He scampered up the short hill there and I figured he'd disappear from view.

Then he slowed down.

I was feeling pretty antisocial simply because I was cramping, I was doing a lot of math in my head, and I was worried I'd get caught out in the dark. This meant I didn't want to roll up next to him and have a conversation.

At the same time I didn't want to pass him politely but firmly and then promptly have a wave of rippling cramps stop me in my tracks.

So I slowed also.

He would speed up every now and then (he knew I was lurking back there) but then slow substantially on some of the rises. My legs started to come around so I wasn't falling back anymore and in fact I rolled up to him.

Against my better instincts I rolled up next to him, said hi, and rolled by.

The next bits of road were unusually flat for Connecticut with long sight lines. Of course. I tried to keep my pace going without "attacking", rolling harder when my legs let me, easily up dramatically when they wouldn't. I pointed out the grates and such and finally, at a light, motioned for a stop. I turned around. He wasn't there.

I finally started seeing civilization again, near Danbury. A white Mercedes rolled by, the driver looking at me and saying something. I was a bit blurry visioned and I didn't know who it was, but I figured, whatever, just some guy in a Mercedes.

Then I saw the Mercedes waiting on the shoulder.

I did a "did I do something wrong" assessment of my riding, and other than existing, I couldn't think of anything that could have upset the driver.

Well it ends up I was right - the driver was the guy that first introduced me to the Missus!

We chatted for a bit, me taking advantage of the break to stand over my bike, straightening my legs, easing some of the now ever-present cramps.

He offered me a ride but I knew I was close so I declined. Plus the stop rested my legs and I felt like I could keep going.

I finally made it to the entrance of the Francis J Clarke park, where the races happen. My legs were cramping something fierce and I had to stop again to put my feet flat on the ground. I knew I needed to stop for a minute or two so I took the opportunity to call the Missus.

When I checked the phone it was at "under 5% battery". I stopped Strava and called the Missus.

"Are you at the van?"
"No, I'm at the bottom of the hill from Turn One, but I may have to walk and my battery is dying so I'm calling to let you know I'm here."
"Okay, drive safe."
"Okay, see you at home."

Of course my legs miraculously relaxed, I clipped in, rode up the hill no problem, and got to the van. I called the Missus back.

"I'm at the van, my legs got better all of a sudden. But I don't have a charger here and my phone really is dying."

The sun was just setting.

I jammed my bike into the van, both wheels off. I had to hold the wheels and slam the door shut, there was so little room in the van. In fact a brake lever ended up rubbing against a propane tank for the 90 minute drive home, putting a good gouge in the finish.

I drove gently home, spending a lot of time following 18 wheelers (instead of passing them). I was conscious of making sure I could see their mirrors (because if you can't see their mirrors they can't see you). Of course I had headlights on because it was dark by then, so it was obvious to them that someone was behind them.

I got home so exhausted I didn't want to eat. I hadn't eaten on the drive home either so I knew I had to refuel. After an hour or two I finally gathered up the energy to eat.

Overall the ride went well. It'd taken me about 4:40 to do the ride, much better than the 5+ hours it took me on that 90 degree day a few years ago. If I hadn't been fighting cramps for almost 4 of those hours I would have ridden a bit better. How much, I don't know, but at least a bit.

My new SLR saddle worked fine. I was a bit tender, of course, even more so since I couldn't stand as much as I wanted, but I was surprisingly comfortable. The saddle's slipperiness had encouraged me to move it forward just a touch and that really helped.

The bike was good too. It felt really responsive when climbing out of the saddle, thanks to its short chainstays and nicely honed and faced head tube (making for light and quick steering).

The power is off on the SRM, by about 20%, so I really need to calibrate it. For now I like looking at the high numbers.

I am still a bit disappointed in the bar position. I thought that having a higher saddle (by about 1 cm total) and a slightly dropped stem (a few mm) would make up for the 2 cm higher drops. That's not the case.

I really need to have the drops a certain height relative to the BB. It doesn't matter if the drops are in the right place relative to the saddle, it's relative to the BB. Right now the bike is not good for out of saddle sprinting, at least for me.

With those lessons I concluded the ride. I need to hone my bar position. I need to calibrate the red Tsunami's cranks. I want to give the black Tsunami the same treatment as the red one in terms of BB and headtube facing/reaming/honing.

Then it's just a matter of riding a bit more.

No comments: