Thursday, July 31, 2008

Training - Summer Night Ride

My first year of training a lot has resulted in a rediscovery of such forgotten things as burn out, fatigue, and general malaise.

Part of this is due to the fact that I've been doing way fewer races in the last 5 or 10 years compared to the glory years of the 90s and 80s. Instead of 45-55+ races, I've been doing perhaps 10 or 12. The lack of racing is a direct result of two things: fewer available crits and a shorter acceptable drive time. I used to drive an hour for 10 minutes of racing, so an hour crit in Baltimore was worth 5+ hours each way, but now my ratio is more like an hour for half an hour of racing. As a Cat 3 that rarely does races over an hour, this limits my travel radius to about 2 hours.

And, yes, road races would extend my range, but since I'd race the first 5 or 10 miles and train the rest, it's sort of like paying to have marshals at the corners of a training ride. Not something I'm willing to do anymore.

Another "malaise" factor is the solo training. I rarely race, rarely sit on a wheel, and rarely get to actually talk to someone when I train. I've taken to talking to our cats at home in somewhat normal voices and I figured that is a bad sign.

I've managed to get out a couple times with a very local ride. Unbelievably it's the first group ride I've done while I've been up here (it took 10 months to do the first one and an additional month to do the second one) if I don't count the random riders I've met while out on a solo ride.

To fix the lack of racing as well as the lack of social interaction, I've taken to doing a weekday night crit series. That's worth a post in itself so I'll talk about that some other time.

Another fix for the social interaction thing is to do a local group ride. There happens to be one right up the road, low pressure (my 205 watt ftp is at home here), and reasonably long - I think we end up spending about 2 hours out there. Combined with the 30+ minutes for the round trip there (I ride there - no driving involved) it makes for a nice ride. My ambitious self has thought about doing an hour or two beforehand, a la pro, but the most I've done is about 30 minutes.

The final thing I've done to break up the training routine is to ride a little bit after the group ride, i.e. after the ride has ended. This has a number of effects on my riding.

First, it's getting dark so it introduces that whole "riding at night" thing. It's cooler (literally), cool (figuratively), and simply a lot of fun. Night riding also allows me, for some reason, to maintain a much steadier tempo. It might be related to the fact that I don't have a good speed reference since the pavement makes it look like I'm going fast the whole time and I don't see much else. Night riding also helps me focus on pedaling, handling, and my overall attitude with my bike. I've alluded to this before but it helps to rediscover it.

Second, if I know I'll be riding at night, I have to carry all the lights and stuff so I'm prepared to do so. Since most of the group ride is in daylight, the extra gear helps to tone down my naturally jumpy riding (sprinting after trucks and such). This helps keep me from being too much of an obnoxious, elitist "racer" when riding with the group.

It also starts to make my bike look like a "winter bike" rather than a summer bike. Winter bikes have lots of gear and resemble a grand touring car whereas a summer bike resembles a bare-boned race car. A few months of either set up and I'm ready to return to the other one. Since it's virtually August that means I'm getting ready to revert to "winter bike" mode.

Finally, night riding means getting some cool gear out of their storage bags and hanging them on the bike. As a total bonus the bike looks frickin' awesome with all the light gear on it.

To wit:

What you see from the side at night.

I'll have clearer pictures below but the bike had three sets of lights. A NiteRider front light (10v halogen, no longer made, I think it's called a TrailRat), a Down Low Glow pair of blue lights (dual light set), and a SuperFlash rear blinky. The blue halo from the DLGs are the best and I have people slowing just to check them out. I call them my "Fast and Furious" lights.

A front quarter shot, the headlight is starting to die. Fast and Furious bike. I feel like the car needs them now too.

Note: the two above pictures had a shutter exposure that is about 1/2 second and I'd just finished my ride so there is a heartbeat "bump" in there blurring things up. Sorry about that.

Even with the flash the DLGs are super bright. The headlight is not as bright but it projects more, i.e. before my uncharged battery started to give up the light would let me see road hazards before I stumbled into them.

From this angle you can see just how bright the DLGs are, how much attention they attract. It's a very, very good thing when riding in the dark. At dusk they don't do too much, just put a blue glow on your legs, bottles, and frame, but when it gets darker they put a blue halo around your bike. Since they mount under tubes the rider doesn't see it and therefore doesn't see blue lines everywhere they look. Or would they be yellow? I don't know, but you know what I mean, you don't have the DLG tube burned into your retinas.

I feel like a bike racer in Pro Cycling Manager with the "selected rider" halo on the ground around me.

Note the round "halo" on the pavement around your team's riders in Pro Cycling Manger.

Anyway, the set up is really cool. It does take some time to set up - yesterday I had this idea to "pre-ride" a bit, perhaps 1-1.5 hours, then go to the shop to meet up with the ride. Instead, with my small frame and correspondingly limited places to put all my lights, I spent that whole time (and more) getting things hooked up just so. As it was I had to time trial to the shop and barely made it there before the ride left. So much for my 1.5 hour "pre-ride".

If you want to fit all this stuff on a 52 cm Cannondale, read on.

What I have on the bike and a clearer picture on how it fits.

From the front:
1. NiteRider headlight, mounted upside down on the bar mount. The SRM head got in the way so this was a puzzle for me to work out. I tried to put the light on the helmet, trying one helmet, then another (both weren't really stable), then went back to the bars and decided to mount the light upside down on the wrong side of the bars. That worked and it helps that the light has no up or down, it's just "a light". Plus it was getting late and I needed to get going. As a bonus I have nothing sticking up above the bars so the bike retains its low front end look (critical part of a Winter Bike look - low front end with tons of gear everywhere else). I like that.

2. Valve adapter #1, taped to the bottom of the stem. My Blackburn floor pump is fine with the little of the valve it can grab but my Blackburn AirStik is not. I carry a valve adapter (or extender, I guess) so I can use the AirStik.

3. SRM head, because, you know, I want to see stats on my ride. This caused problems because the headlight would sit in the same spot but it all worked out. Yay!

4. Battery pack for NiteRider mounted on downtube. It's on there pretty tight and didn't move even on some very fast and bumpy descents. It's heavy, relatively speaking. It didn't fit under the top tube and although I've mounted it under my stem on other bikes, I didn't like the way it made the bike handle. The down tube worked out well, and the battery has some anti-skid things on them to keep it from moving.

5. DLG blue lights - one under the top tube, one under the downtube. The top tube one is supposed to go on the left chainstay (it elongates the blue halo) but my cranks and spokes hit it. This is what you get with a close clearance design. On my mountain bike it's fine, on the road bike I had to fiddle and put it under the top tube.

6. Two bottles. I forgot to fill one, sort of on purpose, because my bike was getting really heavy with all the stuff on it. My tall bottle only fits on the seat tube since it doesn't clear the NR battery. The short bottle sits fine on the down tube.

7. DLG thing, it's a black box about 1/3 the size of the DLG battery. It transforms the battery stuff into the blue stuff so that the blue stuff glows from the sticks. Okay, it's probably just some electrical converter, but I think of it as a "Blue Glow Compiler". It turns electricity into Blue Glow. The BGC works well but I had to find a place for it - it sits to the left of the seat tube bottle cage, and it's the reason for the excessive electrical tape on the seat tube. There is no strap for it, normally you'd stick a piece of velcro on the frame and use another on the BGC. Since I didn't want velcro on the frame I decided to just tape the BGC in place.

8. Valve adapter #2, taped to the right seat stay up top. Just in case, you know?

9. DLG battery pack. This is lighter than the NiteRider battery but still not a freeby. It weighs about as much as my saddle bag, maybe a bit less. I put it on the seat tube between the seat stays. It looked like it wanted to slip so I put some antiskid tape (i.e. electrical tape looped so it's double sided) so it wouldn't migrate downward with each bump. The ploy worked successfully and the battery didn't move at all.

10. SuperFlash blinky. The best ever blinky. No tools to change the batteries (AAA, I use rechargables), a screwdriver to tighten onto the post (standard and oversize with one clamp).

11. Saddle bag. It has a tube of course but it has more. I have a Ritchey tire lever that also has a screw driver, 5 mm allen, and something else. There's a multi tool that has an 8mm allen, chain tool, and the rest of the allen wrenches. I have a small chain tool (just in case, I have two chain tools). And some normal tire levers and some tube box cardboard for booting severely cut tires. On very long rides (over 80-100 miles) I'll stuff a second tube in there, and in very long rides where there is no cell coverage I'll carry a third tube.

12. I'm missing my pump from this picture which I carry in my jersey pocket for now, but it would normally get tied to the bottom of the saddle bag. Alternatively I'll strap it to the side of the seat tube cage. I didn't do either because I lost the mounting strap for it.

I got back from the ride when it was pretty dark (I grabbed our camera and took pics right when I got home) and it was a great ride. I have to charge the NR battery because it's pretty much dead but the DLG battery is good for a while. Too bad I'll have to wait a bit to do my next night ride.

Till then...

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