Sunday, February 02, 2014

Training - Expo Winter Ride

I've been busy with working on Bethel stuff so I haven't been updating the blog much. When I've had time to potentially do the blog I've also skipped it, choosing to do other things instead - look after Junior (the main reason) and to train (another significant reason).

With Junior around we're trying to keep electronics to a "less than all the time" thing. For me it's meant leaving the laptops in the office area, a gated off area. With gated off areas more difficult for us to hang out in with Junior they've become "use as needed" space rather than "go in and chill for a while" type spaces. This has led to me looking at the laptop, on a somewhat typical day, just four times or so - early morning, when Junior naps, when the Missus is around, and after Junior goes to sleep.

(He's taking an unexpected afternoon nap, hence the furious typing on the computer.)

Even the phone is sort of off limits. I have a smart phone and now Junior has realized that it's full of pictures of him, pictures and video he loves to watch. Therefore even my phone sits out of sight (and out of mind).

This has led to at least one missed appointment, with no electronics to remind of stuff. Now my appointment book is more old fashioned - I am using a notebook left over from my school days (so it's literally 25 years old) for my "to do" lists and such.

At any rate with our lives a little less centered on electronics and a bit more centered on real world stuff, we really didn't know what the forecast would be for this weekend. Yesterday we headed out with Junior because it was so "warm", in the mid 40s. He played happily in the playground, we went out and did some stuff, and he was happily exhausted.

The Missus asked if I wanted to do a ride outside. I'd already ridden about an hour and a half, stopping because I heard the Missus and Junior upstairs (and figured I could help with something more so than if I stayed on the bike). I declined, although the outside did look tempting. Then, checking the forecast and such, the Missus mentioned that the weather would be better Sunday, today. I was sure there'd be a group ride and I used my precious electronic time to see what Expo email had gone out.

Sure enough there'd be a group ride, leaving from the shop. I even know where to go for that, better than a ride leaving from who knows where, so the Missus and I planned on me going to the ride.

Of course that meant gathering stuff for riding outside, radically different than riding indoors. Head gear, booties, jacket, tights… some of the stuff was still packed in our rolly-bags from our trip to Florida in mid December. I charged the camera, left the SRM where I'd remember it, and all that.

I even found my favorite winter gloves. Okay, I found one side of my favorite winter gloves - it'd been downstairs behind one of my old frames. I haven't had them since 2011 so this was a nice bonus.

I threw everything in the wash, pulled it out when it was dry, and I was ready.

Today I woke up later than I expected, at 7 AM. I've been waking up earlier, sometimes as early as 2 AM, trying to get onto a Bethel schedule (wake up is at 5 AM for Bethel). I scrambled to get out of the house by 8:00, failed, and hit the road at 8:15. I left Junior behind with a worried look on his face - normally Mommy goes out in the morning, not Daddy.

Base camp for Expo, Manchester Cycle.

With great weather forecast a large group showed up for the ride. I'm not going to review the clip to count but I think it was in the 20 rider range, good enough for me. A lot of the guys were surprised to see me since I'd only done one (one!?) Expo ride since the team formed in late 2009.

To be fair I only remember doing two group rides after 2010, and one of them was in Florida in December 2013. Basically my group rides have been races, and any outdoor rides have been solo, with the occasional random fellow rider joining me for a mile or three.

I bought a bunch of gels and Bloks because I forgot to bring bars. Let me tell you, it's handy starting rides from a shop.

We set out at a normal clip for everyone else, a kind of fast clip for me. I glanced down a couple times to make sure the SRM was working (initially it wasn't starting because the speed bit wasn't picking up so the auto-on wasn't working). I'd see 230w consistently on the flats, sitting in, about 10% over my FTP. I realized I felt like I was holding my breath a little because I really was sort of holding my breath a little - I was falling behind the oxygen curve.

At some point we hit one of the first hills on the loop. A lot of guys started moving up, surging, and I followed because I figured the stuff was about to hit the fan. I made it up that hill okay (4th on Strava, shared with the others around me today), but that was my one and only success.

I got shelled on the flats shortly after. I think it was a tailwind so the draft wasn't great, or else it was a false flat so we were constantly climbing, or I was just too weak to hang.

Jeff M waited a bit for me to make sure I wouldn't get lost, we did a little regroup before yet another hill, and Jeff rolled away effortlessly from our group of four (the Laughing Group if you will, the ones just trying to make the cut off time).

We caught up to them at the regrouping point (they actually waited) and we all set off again. I found myself on Jeff's wheel. As a fellow Cat 3, a savvy rider, and someone I've raced with for a number of years, I trust his wheel. Therefore I felt comfortable sitting in a normally unsafe spot, overlapped by a good 5 or 10 inches on the right side. At about the time of the picture below I actually peeked under his arm to check out oncoming traffic to our 11 o'clock (front left).

On Jeff's wheel.
The camera makes things look really far away, seriously, so this is close.

I was at the back, trying to be polite. It's not polite to get shelled and leave a gap, so I positioned myself so that if I got shelled it wouldn't bother many people. Of course if someone eased and got in line behind me that's a different story. The team morale booster, Heavy D, did just that, a mischievous grin on his face. He started talking about some town line sprint and how he'd get Jeff to jump for it.

Of course this piqued my interest as we were rolling at a more manageable pace. Heavy D rolled by Jeff, taunting him. You could see Jeff fighting within himself but then you could tell he was going to go.


He went.

I had rolled up on his wheel, waited in the drops and in the right gear, so I went with him.

He went a long way out, and in fact I couldn't see any kind of sign that might resemble a town line sign. Then I saw a little sign that you'd normally see labeling a creek or something. It was still way out there, but now close enough for me to go if I wanted to go.

I eased though. Jeff had waited to make sure I didn't miss a turn (and I would have had he not waited), I was already tired, and he'd done all the work.

The group rolled by and I was glad I didn't go any harder - I had enough trouble reintegrating into the group, so much so that I had to swing out of line, recover a bit as the group rode by, then tag on the back.

I made one small effort close to the bike shop, trying to get rolling. I didn't think I was going that hard but when I blew, just as I caught the leading rider, I saw that I'd been rolling in a 53x11.

Well now.

Of course we turned left immediately after that, started up a hill, and I couldn't hang on.

So much for being strong.

We rolled back to the shop. A subset of the group immediately headed out for another hour or two. I headed home for some R&R.

Overall the ride went well. I mean, okay, I totally blew up a few times, reduced to twiddling the pedals at 130-150 watts. However I didn't have any of the "been on the trainer all winter" side effects, like a stiff neck, fatigued shoulders, or even sore legs. I realized that it wasn't that I could ride for two hours, it was that the ride was, at times, way too fast for me.

I realize that I need to work on some higher end fitness, a minimum amount so that I can finish the races in the spring. Things seem to be pretty good otherwise.

Some positive signs for spring then, the ground hog notwithstanding.

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