Tuesday dawned and I had no idea what we had scheduled. The Missus wanted to head out for town with her mom and Junior so that left me... free to ride.
With my legs seemingly recovered from the two day beating I looked forward to doing a ride. I got ready to head out after noon passed. We'd hung out together in the morning and then the women left in the late morning. I put together my training survival pack - this time I brought the of those Blox (for food) as well as a bar, plus my trusty but crumbly standby, a package of Pop Tarts (blueberry).
I wanted to drip some more lube into the BB area, to make sure the bearing/frame interface stayed quiet, but I couldn't find the lube (I put it on the stove, of all places) so I headed out worried that my bike would creak like mad.
Luckily it didn't.
I left at just after 1 PM. The Missus's stepdad asked where I planned on riding, and I told him I'd do the "Lee-Winn Loop" again, the 50-ish mile loop which is really almost 52 miles.
"Oh, so I'll tell them you'll be back at 4 then."
3 hours? Well, maybe. I'd just have to not bonk and I'd have a chance at doing it in maybe 3:10, but to do it in 3:00 flat, that would require a very good day for me.
With that thought lingering at the back of my head then a brief trip back into the house for something I forgot, I did my normal Paris Roubaix start along the side of the driveway, leaving a cloud of disappointed mosquitoes in my wake. A careful check (the driveway is on a blind curve on a 50 mph road) and I started down the road. My legs felt a bit stiff from the day off but I had none of that "sore leg" feeling. Instead my legs felt like they wanted to go.
In the few times I've done the loop I've started to learn the more difficult spots, the slight grades and such that really sap the strength out of me. I told the Missus that on the first ride I had a tailwind on Route 6 and that I did almost all the hills in the big ring. The second time I rode the loop I thought that there was no way I could have done those hills in the big ring, just no way.
Likewise on 170, the first road of the loop, I'd have to deal with some deceivingly hard "rises", slight bumps that really zap my legs. Today I rolled up them, with some effort, in the big ring. I felt good.
I turned onto Route 6. I was hoping for a tailwind but instead I got some mixture of a crosswind. Not a headwind per se but definitely not a total tailwind either.
I started up some of the rises, and when the grades started to tell I'd leave it in the big ring instead of dropping it down right away. I surprised myself when I rolled up the first rise without having to take it out of the big ring. Then I surprised myself again.
Even the longer grades, the ones where I wonder when it's going to end, they went by with just a moderate effort, just pushing into slightly uncomfortable, just keep going, and suddenly I'd be cresting the hill.
Ultimately I'd do the whole stretch of Route 6 in the big ring, with my lowest used gear a 53x21 and briefly at that.
My bottom bracket stayed quiet so I rolled into Lee without cringing on every pedal stroke. I rolled up the slight grade to the intersection with Winn Road, my third turn of the ride (if you count the one out of the driveway).
School was just getting out, and I found out that the school sits just after the turn onto Winn Road. A lot of kids, one school bus, and then it was all gone. The roadside returned to normal, all trees and such (and no poison ivy, btw, and no vines either).
I was turning off the helmet cam to save the battery - it wouldn't last the whole ride. I missed a very cute adolescent cat, realistically born in the spring (5 months old?). Around here there are some feral cats apparently. I briefly considered turning around to capture it on the cam but decided against it.
On Winn Road there are a few grades that stand out to me and one in particular is a real morale crusher. It's a stepper type of thing, you go up for 100 meters, it levels, then it goes up again, over and over, it's got to be 6 or 7 steps with a hill leading into it and the wind really getting you near the top. I rolled it in the big ring, ready to shift into the small ring, but somehow, on each rise, I realized that I just didn't need the small ring.
I couldn't believe it. I mean, okay, I understand if I had a tailwind down 6, which I didn't but at least I didn't have a block headwind. That would mean that the close to 90 degree direction change should have resulted in some kind of unfavorable wind, except if the wind was coming from directly south. Maybe it was, I don't know, but Winn Road generated a lot less anguish than it did before.
Quicker than I expected I got to the intersection with Route 2, the fourth turn of the route (again, including the turn out of the driveway). I rolled away from the intersection while battling with a Blox package. I found it in my gear bag just before I left, food I buy and stash "just in case". The Pop Tarts are in there too but after the crumbly experience before I decided I'd try and bring a proper type of fuel, one meant for a cyclist.
The Blox went down easily but I was almost out of water. With a good 20 miles left I chided myself for not getting the second bottle cage on the frame. Something for the "To Do" list over the winter.
I have to admit that the Blox interrupted my legs a lot less than the Pop Tarts. When I ate half the Pop Tarts my legs went pretty dead, reviving about 10-15 minutes later. I figured it had to do with the blood rushing to my stomach to deal with all that sugar and fat. With the Blox my legs didn't have that dead period. I felt better almost immediately and set about tapping out a good rhythm on the pedals.
I'd expected a headwind on Route 2 but it never really happened. It wasn't friendly, really, but it wasn't an evil wind either. I could deal with fighting the wind. When I'm fit I don't mind wind, but I'm not fit so this was a nice revelation.
The sun would peer out of the clouds pretty regularly. My first Kingman Loop took place on a very overcast day, no clouds, very cool, mid 60s or so. I could work hard without feeling hot. The second Loop happened on a day literally almost 20 degrees warmer, with the sun beating down on me. I got hot, I felt uncomfortable, and it had to have affected my riding.
Today the weather compromised between the two, pleasantly anchored around 72 degrees. Warmer than the first Loop but not as sunny as the second Loop, the weather ended up perfect. I didn't have sweat running down my face but I wasn't worried about getting chilled either.
Route 2 is pretty unprotected from the sun, like Route 6. By the time I get to Route 2 I'm a bit tired so I notice the sun and such more than I do on Route 6. Today the sun felt slightly uncomfortable, and I went to the small ring on the wall outside of Winn.
Once over the wall I could roll the big ring, just barely. I stuck it in the 53x19 a lot, two cogs from the end (running an 11-23 cassette, so the last three cogs are 19-21-23). The 53x21 gets noisy so I avoid it, and the 53x23 is even noisier so I'll drop it into the small ring if I'm training. (In races I'll use it briefly if I have to.)
I made it through the toughest part of the ride, mentally speaking, the bit north of Winn on Route 2. It's just a whole lot of nothingness and I had a hard time looking out at a mile or two of road and seeing nothing except that mile or two of road.
Pretend Super Domestique
A little rise than a short drop and I got over the cusp of that mental dead zone. The short drop meant I was rapidly approaching the turn onto 170, the final road of the loop. I hurried along pretending that I had to pull a bit to keep the pace higher in the group.
Yesterday one of the Bike Forum guys (I call him Dnuzz in the Keith Berger clip) ended up winning the Cat 3 GMSR race overall. He had no teammates but with hilly road races and a critical time trial that's not major. However he had a hard time in the crit after the "neutral start" ended up meaning "attack from the gun". Apparently a good portion of the field got left behind and he was fortunate, to hear the others' reports, to have even finished the race. He basically had to chase the whole race, he had no help, and he managed to hold onto the leader's jersey.
When I read his report I thought that it's in these situations that friendships and camaraderie means more than anything else. When I've been in a vulnerable position I've had friends and former teammates come up to me to see if they could help out. It's a special feeling when someone does that for you, to give up their chances to help you. At some level you might expect it from a teammate, but from a casual friend it's something else.
Well, if I were at GMSR I would have buried myself to try and help Dnuzz try to put things back on a fair level.
Now I know that my 20 or 22 mph pace here on Route 2 wouldn't have helped much, but I think I could have managed a better pace in a crit. On Route 2 I had 2 hours on my legs already; in a crit I usually start with a brief few minute warm up.
Of course my dreams of being a not-so-super domestique sort of faded as my legs started going in and out of consciousness.
Trainer Leg Syndrome
One of the things that I realized happens to me is that I ride on the trainer a lot, like really a lot. The trainer emphasizes seated pedaling, primarily because when you stand on a trainer you end up rocking the bike "backwards", reverse of how you rock the bike when you're outside. This means that standing becomes either an awkward option or a non-option, leaving you one of two options: "Sit and Push" or "Sit and Spin".
This "Trainer Leg Syndrome" means that when I go out on long rides on the road I tend not to stand very often. It's not good - this spring I found the whole sprinting motion sort of foreign to me. I used to do a SoCal training camp before Bethel, putting in a lot of hours on some hilly terrain, plenty of out of saddle stuff to get my legs used to that stuff. Without such training, with just the seated trainer stuff, I felt uncomfortable sprinting. In fact it's only been recently that I started to get some sprinting feel back into my legs, a slight semblance of a jump. Until now I've felt that my sprints were too much like trainer sprints where I don't use the rocking bike to my advantage.
I find turning the big gears while standing to be a bit foreign, a bit uncomfortable. I'm just not used to it, and I've been trying to stand more when I ride outside just to get used to the idea of not sitting in the saddle. I've resorted to standing to accelerate out of corners in races just to get used to the whole "standing while under duress" thing down. For those that wonder why I'm jumping a bit hard out of Turn Three at the Rent, that's the reason why - I'm trying to get my sprint mojo back.
Well, all that's to say that on these Kingman Loops I struggle to stand for any length of time, and when I do I don't know if I'm going to cramp or get a bit wiggly or if I'm just going to ride with smooth application of the power available to me.
So far, on this ride, my legs and upper body worked reasonably well together. I wobbled a bit on Winn Road (and honestly I'm being very critical of myself). I sat and push-spun on Route 6 so no real wobbles. 170 had a few standing moments as well and those were not great.
The other thing that I've noticed (I have a LOT of time to think on these 4 corner, 3+ hour training rides) is that I get a bit dizzy when I look back. I got infinitely graded bifocal lens earlier this year. It's like bifocals without a sharp edge. I got them because I couldn't see Junior's fingers well enough and I actually snipped part of his finger when I meant to clip his nail. After seeing that (tiny bit of) blood I decided to get whatever glasses I needed to be able to trim his fingernails.
The problem is that these lenses can make you a bit dizzy when you change your focal point, like if you are looking close then you try and look far and then you look close again. I noticed this in races but chalked it up to being too tired or something.
I found that pushing my glasses up helped me focus better. It seems that the lenses are designed to work at a certain distance from my eye, at a certain level. So for example if I'm looking at Junior's fingernails I need to turn my eyeballs down so I look through the "reading" part of the lenses. If I just tilt my head down then I'm using the "distance" part of the lenses and I won't be able to see if I'm trimming nail or skin.
When I ride my head tilts down a bit and I look up through the top part of my lens. This isn't really ideal it seems, and when I look down I tilt my head through habit. When I look back I usually look through the lower part of the lens. (I'm telling you, I had a lot of thinking time on these rides.) This means that I'm looking through the reading part to look at far away thing and I'm using the distance part when I look at my tire (which I do at a disturbingly regular frequency), check my pump status (ditto), or dream about how much bar to cut off (ditto).
On 170 (on the way to the Outpost so the second time I was on 170) I started getting wobbly consistently. I have to think about this more because it's disconcerting, but I couldn't hold a good straight line. I actually started testing myself, practicing, but after a little wobble that almost took me off the road I decided to play it more conservatively. I moved a bit away from the shoulder and gave myself a larger margin for error. Looking forward I was fine, it was when I looked back that things went weird.
Looking down to look back.
I'm obviously looking through the lower part of the lens to look back here.
You can see my "end of Maine" cockpit. There's no SRM because I forgot the download cable and the SRM only has about 7 hours of memory on it (if I record at 1 second intervals which I do). I tucked the SRM "dongle" (the wire thing that plugs into the SRM) around some brake cable housing, visible a bit to the right of the stem, in front of the bar.
You can see how I mount the pump. It's a "dial-a-length" frame pump, dialed to one of the shortest positions. It fits between my front skewer (angled just a bit to create a "level" surface for the pump) and my bars. I use the pump head end under the bar, using a velcro strap to hold it in place. At the bottom I have the skinnier end of the pump with another velcro strap. I can tug on it pretty hard and it won't come off. I've hit about 50 mph with this set up.
I'm on the drops as well, but I have to point out that I wasn't on the drops as much on these rides. When I stand on climbs I'm virtually always on the hoods, except in sprints. Therefore every time I stood to get over yet another annoying rise I was on the hoods. When I sit and climb I'm almost always on the tops, so every time I sort of push-spun to the top of a hill I was on the tops. That just leaves descents and corners for the drops, and that's pretty much it.
Finally I've given myself about twice as much pavement as normal. Usually I'm just to the left of the white line, but when I turned around and wobbled a few inches that meant I was almost in the dirt and rocks next to the pavement. Therefore I moved a bit more to the left to give me more room. If I was on a hill I'd move over twice as much as I am in that picture, to give my tires room to make their snake-type path up the hill.
So... where was I?
Oh, right, back on 170, almost back to the Outpost, dreaming of being a less-than-super domestique, dealing with standing on the bike, dealing with vision problems.
The last bit of 170 before the Outpost involves a short, straight, steady rise, some railroad tracks, a short drop, then a steep-for-me hill.
All those things came together on those bits.
I stood on that straight, giving myself plenty of pavement in case my coordination failed. I felt good so I pushed a bit, not too hard, just enough so that the fatigue came to me rather than me rushing into the lactic acid.
I made sure my glasses were pushed up, kept my head more level than normal, and turned around to make sure I wasn't going to be passed by a truck going 50 mph. I didn't wobble badly. I didn't scare myself.
I rolled to the top of the rise, my legs okay. I bumped over the railroad tracks, then down the short descent to the bridge, then hit the final hill.
Instead of struggling in the 39x23 I was okay in the 39x19. Again I waited for my legs to protest, for them to tell me that I need to shift down. Instead I went up the hill faster than I expected, my legs choosing to get it done quickly rather than reduce the momentary effort.
I rolled into the driveway, did my customary 'cross dismount to the door, and ran inside, still breathing a bit from the hill.
The Missus was in the kitchen, Junior asleep in his Pack N Play upstairs.
The Missus looked at me.
"Did you cut the ride short?"
"Well you're here a lot quicker than we expected."
("Well I totally killed it out there today")
"Well I felt pretty good today."
I looked at the clock. It was a couple minutes after 4. Strava told me later that I was out there for 3:01, just over 3 hours, a fantastic pace for me.
Later I joked a bit.
"I think maybe we had a swirling wind today, it blew clockwise and pushed me the whole way around, at least that's what it felt like, I could just go, never got into trouble. I used the small ring just four times, I did all those other hills in the big ring."