Tuesday, February 02, 2010

California - ReCycle

I wanted to make Tuesday a harder day, a little more intense. Encouraged by my legs' "sensations", I decided I'd repeat the local climbs I did earlier in the trip. Therefore I set out to do Double Peak again, and, if things went okay, I'd head down to Torrey Pines to do that again. I wanted to do these climbs at a higher level than before, to see if A - I could, and B - how I felt going a bit harder.

I also decided that I'd stop and take pictures of some of the roads I ride over, and some of the thoughts that run through my head at those picture points. My goal today was to do three hours, shorter hard efforts connected by easy bits. The hard bits would be on climbs, the easy bits would allow me to focus on form.

On the way to Double Peak. This is Melrose Drive.

Note the virtually immaculate pavement, the wide-ish bike lane, and the climb ahead of me. It's not a bad one, but the downhill approach makes it look worse. Ultimately I ended up rolling up the climb in the big ring; last year, this climb would have forced me into my bottom gear and I'd start questioning my sanity.

Of course, after one or two pictures, I decided that was enough stopping, especially in the middle of descents.

Double Peak isn't too far away, 20-odd minutes to the road that climbs steadily up around the base, then the short, steep climb up to the actual peak. The first bit takes about 15 minutes. It takes me a good 5 or 7 minutes to meander up to the parking lot at the foot of the steep stuff.

The meandering access road to the base parking lot, located just where the road disappears from view.

The view from the base parking lot.

The slope of the hill to the right? That's what the road follows - it's literally the right edge of the road.

Then it's six minutes of pain.

Based on yesterday's 19% grade thing, I figure Double Peak is about the same grade. It's steep.

I did a sort-of-analysis of the Double Peak climb, both the steady and the steep bit.

Steady bit, first ride vs second ride.

14:10 vs 13:51
189w vs 256w
137 bpm vs 158 bpm
65 rpm vs 62 rpm

I started very optimistically in the big ring, but after a minute or so I shifted to the small one. I had pushed myself in the approach climb to the approach climb, and I couldn't go very hard. If I really wanted to go up the steady bit faster, I'd need to tone down my "pushing the pace in the big ring for my team leader" approach up the steady pre-approach climb.

(Can you tell I started watching a Giro DVD?)

What the numbers don't mention is how good I felt. Once I shifted into the small ring, I was hoping the climb would last 20 minutes because I felt like I could do this for a long time, and I felt that it'd make for a good 20 minute test.

The power graph tells why I felt good - every metric's line was flat as a pancake. My heart rate, power, and cadence stayed very consistent. I might as well have been on a trainer, it was so even.

The steep part.

6:28 vs 5:31
208/226 w vs 236/288 w (measured/normalized)
147 bpm vs 155 bpm
41 rpm vs 43 rpm

So what's different there?

Well, first off, I was going so slow the first day that I had to pedal through the middle flat bit. The second time I coasted through it. My normalized ("corrected") power was higher for the second day by a huge margin. 288 normalized watts is about as high as I ever get. My 20 minute maximum sustainable power is 263, and I've never held 300 watts for more than a couple minutes.

Second, it seems that once I struggle, I struggle at the same cadence - low 40 rpms. The second time I went up I spent much of the time in the 39x23, but the first time I was in a 39x25.

Third, based on actually being there, I can say that I attacked the first bit optimistically (sound familiar?), exploding a short time after I disappeared off the "picture from the parking lot" shot. I think a different approach would work better. If I could do the climb countless times I'd figure out what would work for me, but since I can do anaeobic efforts better than aerobic ones, I'd want to leverage the former to drop climb times.

I can see two approaches working for me. The first would involve climbing over the first section at a reasonable pace, in the 39x25, spinning as possible. Then, as the road levels for just a bit, attack the second bit. The grade eases in the last hundred meters and I could see using a big gear to sprint over the second steep bit.

The other would involve gaining what time I could on the first bit, using the flat section to catch my breath, and do whatever possible on the second leg. This was my (inadvertent) approach on the second day, and it didn't feel very good.

At the top I took some pictures, again. Panoramic views don't work well, but here's one.

No, I didn't climb that little road below. Home base is back there somewhere.

Surprisingly I'd only been on the bike 46 minutes at the top of the climb. I decided I'd head out towards Torrey Pines, a good hour and change away (for me). I don't know the area that well so I had to do three sides of a square to get there too, but that's okay.

A rider caught and passed me, but a bit later he'd slowed. The rule I've learned is not to pass anyone unless you think you can stay away from them for the next 30 or 40 minutes. If you can't maintain your "passing pace" for that time, don't pass.

(I'll excuse this rider because he passed me while I was pulled over on the phone with the missus.)

Anyway, I caught this guy when he eased, and we rode cooperatively near the Palomar Airport Road slash PCH intersection. I covered our six, he acted as point, and we got through the mess okay. A quick thanks and I turned off, heading south.

I worked on my Chris Horner form, low, pedaling easy, big ring. This happens to be the section where he first "taught by example" by flying by us, low, pedaling a big gear easily, so it's always inspiring on this bit of the PCH.

After riding through a couple towns, it started getting a bit "late afternoon" out. I thought about turning around, but ultimately I made the decision to push through to the climb.

I did stop at a red light (halfway down the prior descent) and decided to take a picture of Torrey Pines. Of course, by the time I pulled out the camera, the light was green. But here's a shot.

Torrey Pines in the distance.

There are three sections of the PCH where I ride across a lower, beach type area like the one in the picture above, then climb a little bit into a bluff. This is the third one. I count them on the way back, usually along the lines of, "Okay, that's number two, just one more and it'll be 40-45 minutes to home base."

I zoomed in a bit - easier to see the two climbs.

The main road is the PCH, route 101. But, where it curves left, you can see there's a parallel road that meanders up the hill above it. The golf course is over the hill - I think this side's "wall" is a natural barrier for the north side of the course.

The main road climb is pretty daunting, a long, steady drag up a wide open road. Inevitably you run across some run off, sand and rocks, but the wide bike path shoulder helps navigate around such obstacles. Traffic moves quickly here, maybe 50 or 60 mph, so it's daunting in more ways than one.

Some riders, though, go up the smaller, quieter, little climb. The problem is that it's a multi-use path for all types of traffic, from pedestrians to cars, and it's about as narrow as a wide driveway. But the curves and switchbacks make it interesting, and cars don't pass you at 50 mph.

I don't have data for the climb the first time I did it (I noticed that I had no power readings that first ride). I have data from the second day's climb though.

159 bpm
54 rpm

(For those that do this climb, this involves the bit until the pavement ends and the concrete begins.)

Normalized power, for some reason, doesn't show up, but if I extend my data selection until it averages 284 watts (a minute or so into the concrete section), the normalized power pops up at 338 watts.

Very high.

On the way back, going the opposite way in the last two pictures, I inadvertently caught up with someone at that exact same light. So as not to be obnoxious, I didn't go blowing by him. I focused on turning over my gear, focused on the pavement in front of me. A minute or two later I looked up.

The guy was 50 meters ahead.

A light halted his progress, and I rolled up to him. Since I'd caught him going up the drag before the light, he figured I'd go flying by him afterwards. I grinned and said that I thought the climb was a pain, and that he'd held a good rhythm.

Of course, at some point, on a slight downhill, cars started passing us at about 35 mph.

"Nice chatting, have a good ride, see you later!"

I was off, chasing cars. I had a moment when a grey Prius driver decided to park their car in the spot to the right. Problem was I was next to said Prius at the time, and the driver never paused, just swerved right at about 30 mph.

Some judicious (and hard) braking, a right swerve (to stay away from the car while slowing), a left swerve (to clear the car which was now to my right), and I was okay.

I looked into the driver's window and saw a smiling driver, someone pleased to have scored a nice parking spot in the middle of town.

The cyclist the driver drove through to get there?

Not part of their world. Oblivious.

I accelerated back up to speed.

After some focused low profile big ring pedaling, I stopped at a light, doing a trackstand because it's a bumpy bit of road with lots of traffic. Two roadies rolled just past me, stopped, and totally ignored me.

They rolled off reasonably well when the light turned green (a trackstanding rider has the advantage there, especially someone whose main strength is their acceleration) and got going at a nice pace. I sat on, and figured it was okay when one guy pointed out various road obstacles. At the next light I eased and said, "Thanks!" for the pace making.

No response. It was like I was invisible.

I didn't want to pass them - that would make it seem like I was mad at them. But I felt odd sitting on the wheels of people who carefully ignored me.

I let them get a little distance, rode on the left side of the bike lane so I wasn't drafting them (wind from the left), and kept catching up to them, inadvertently, on the rollers.

This went on for something like 15 minutes. Finally, when I reached my turn off, I thanked them a little bit more vociferously. They finally turned around. One introduced himself, the other made a comment about me needing a headlight.

A total contrast from the attitude of the first rider I had met.

The sun was definitely setting, my ride time approaching 3:30 and some riding still left. I had just one more rider encounter on the books. I was pedaling slowly up a short rise, focusing on my new found "sinewy" feel. It now feels like I can feel some of my muscle groups, not just "quads" or "hamstrings". Now it's "the upper right part of the right hamstring" or "the base of my glutes".

A guy rolled by, kitted up, hunched over his bars. He had a little hobo sack tied to his bars, otherwise he'd look like a racer out for a training ride. He eased long enough to say hi, but kept going. I stopped paying attention to my sinews and more to his pedaling form. He slowed noticeably a few minutes later; it seemed he'd pushed a bit to catch me.

Although held up at a few lights, I eventually rolled up to him shortly thereafter on the climb away from Palomar Airport.

I rolled up to him.

"You riding home from work?"
"Well, at least you have an excuse for being out here. I just thought I was faster than I am."

He laughed a bit, as much as you can laugh while trying to catch your breath.

I turned off towards home base, hit that "last big ring" section, and did a nice little jump. 16 seconds, 930 watts, a 1250+ peak, and 35 mph up a decent grade.

Almost five hours later, I rolled into home base. Hungry, tired, cold, I showered, ate, and settled in for some nice family fun.

Like Total World Domination, Risk style.

Things don't look like this anymore.


Michele said...

I loved riding in San Diego! Here are some of my favorite routes.


Desert - Mountain - Dessert
Highland Valley Top to Bottom
Soledad Mountain

Aki said...

That's a great resource, lots of interesting routes listed.

I realized a while back that I'm a creature of habit, of rote. I typically do the same routes each time I come out here, altering them only for practical reasons. For example I now skip Cole Grade on the way to Palomar - the extra 3 mile climb on the way back tires me out.

Most of my new routes come from riding with locals. I learned a lot riding with them.