Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

Taper! Anticipate! Stress!

I’ve been negligent on my blog, but there’s a pretty good reason for it. 😉

Let’s start catching up by mentioning the “taper.” This past week/weekend started my tapering for the big race. The last weekend in September was my last for some long rides. I had a great ride with some 508-veteran friends of mine, followed by a long solo ride the next day. Then it was just slowing down and taking it easy. I did 5 hours yesterday, which was great, followed by a (very) deep-tissue massage. And today, an even shorter ride to help settle everything down.

So, it’s all down to the final logistics at this point. I got both my bikes (the Cervelo R3 and the Jamis Xenith SL) into the bike shop for a final clean and tune by my awesome mechanic/bike shop owner/friend/crew member Rob Mardell of La Dolce Velo bikes in San Jose. I’ll get new tubes and tires on both, as well as a new battery for the Polar Heartrate Monitor/Computer. And I’ll pick them up Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning when it’s time to start planning for the big getaway.

I wish I was calmer. I’m stressing over the finances and logistics. There are so many small details; so many little expenses that siphon off a few dollars here, a few more dollars there.

Next up are the final preps and plans. Tuesday/Wednesday night will be the grocery shopping. I have to buy a cooler for the crew van still, which I’ll be renting Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon/evening, I’ll be prepping the van with my signage, as well as packing up. Then Thursday it (finally) will be time to pack up the van and head South. Having been through this process a few times, I am well aware of the sense of “inertia” that takes place this week. I know each day is packed with a lot of planning and details. Saturday morning will get here way too fast.

I’m trying to keep the stress to a minimum. I’m trying to just stay cool and zen about the whole process. I escaped last night for a very long drive up the coast. There’s been an unmistakable pull to just go be isolated and shut off the thoughts, so it was good for me.

Santa Clarita is right there. The start line is waiting. I’m nervous. I’m as prepared as I can be. I won’t say I’m “ready.” But I will say I’m ready to start.

This Shit Just Got Real

hehe

OK, you can decide if the headline of this post is a) an homage to the Bad Boys II movie, or b) an homage to Hot Fuzz.

Tonight was our “crew meeting.” After a day of teaching and working at the bike shop, I dragged my entire crew (and very important wife of one of those crewmen) across the street for mediocre pasta (I didn’t eat pasta. I ate a charred piece of salmon over a salad) and a conversation about The 508.

Man. Talk about making things seem much more real. I don’t know how this race manages to “sneak up” on anyone. But it sure feels that way. Afterward, I made the statement: “On the one hand, I feel like ‘Are you kidding me? It’s only 2-and-a-half weeks until the race?’ Then I stop and think and say ‘Are you kidding me? It’s still 2-and-a-half weeks until the race?'”

But two hours later, we’ve gone over the “ZomBee Bible,” complete with route printout, rules, checklists for food and everything else, nutritional sheets for the racer, goals, stage break-downs, hopes, fears, and everything in between.

By the end, I was just sort of babbling and repeating myself and saying things like “I’m just so humbled that you all are willing to go through all this to support me. I don’t want to let you all down.”

Sigh… this race really is a big deal. I think my crew better understands that this isn’t just a couple of crazy guys in the desert. (Well, it IS that. But you know what I mean.) It’s a production. It’s a big event. And it matters to everyone, not just me.

Here’s the itinerary:

Wednesday, 5 October, I rent the van and get it all prepped with signage, bike racks, etc.
Thursday, 6 October, depart from the bike shop around 4:30 in the afternoon. We’ll stop for dinner along the I-5, then make it into Santa Clarita around 10:30 or so.
Friday, 7 October, deal with all the last-minute stuff, inspections, and everything else.
Saturday-Sunday… yeah. Just a little spin with a couple of crazy guys in the desert!

I still have a few odds and ends to pick up, and I need to take care of getting the bikes tuned and ready. But it’s close now. After tonight, it most definitely did “just get real.”

Three P’s

I’ve written about mistakes I want to avoid, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to avoid them.

I’ve given advice, but it’s advice given from the comfort of my living room, not the harshness of the road.

I’ve finished The 508 once, but that was part of a two-man team.

For all the positive thinking, I can come up with a “but” statement that makes me nervous. And seriously, if you aren’t nervous prior to undertaking The 508, something is seriously wrong. There are times when I can see myself achieving even my loftiest goals, but more often than not, I can conjure up imaginings of the wheels coming off.

All my cycling friends are tapering now. My own taper starts on the other side of this weekend. The one comment I get from them and others, though, is “are you ready?” As I said yesterday, “No, I’m not ready. Who’s ever ready to turn themselves inside out the way this course asks you to?”

And that’s really it, isn’t it? There isn’t a rider who will start in Santa Clarita who can’t finish 508 miles in 48 hours. Every single person there has that ability. But what happens out on the course convinces us otherwise. Weather goes squirrelly. We blow up on a climb. We fall “behind,” and get demoralized. We DNF (myself, included. I’ve DNF’d a lot!) not because we physically are incapable of finishing. We DNF because we beat ourselves.

During my ride yesterday, I had plenty of time to think about what it is I am trying to do. I was feeling amazing. I was riding well. I was riding fast. My heart rate was right where I wanted it. Then I hit a hill and things fell apart, quite literally, within a 2-mile stretch. That’s what cycling does. It humbles you. An observer can almost see the exact moment when things stop functioning smoothly. That observer can almost see the moment it becomes a struggle. It was hot yesterday, and this one little climb 50 miles from my house just about did me in. And what do I think? I think “What if that happens on Stage 1? What if this was San Francisquito, and I still have 458 miles to go?”

I rode through it, but it gave me time to consider what it is I need to get me through to the finish.

Patience
I’m not a patient rider. I want to be faster than I really am, and I end up being far too competitive during rides. It really is a struggle for me to ride for the long-haul, not the immediate circumstance. It’s hard to ride for Baker when I’m not even to California City. It’s hard to dial it down a notch when I think about not making Towne Pass before the middle of the night. It’s hard to maintain perspective, which I guess could be another “P.”

Persistence
If I just keep pedaling the end WILL come. (Which, by the way, it always does.) As long as I keep moving forward, I always reach my destination. I have never quit a ride because I thought I couldn’t go one more pedal stroke. I quit rides because I think I can’t go 100 more pedal strokes. Just keep going… the end eventually gets here; the climb eventually summits; the legs eventually feel better. I have keep riding, because I’m too afraid not too.

Perseverance
I had met a group of people from the Bay Area during last year’s race, and we kept in touch. About a week after the race, I got an invite to join them for a ride. It was really tough on me, and I’ve thought about it every day since. I couldn’t ride the race last year because of some health issues. This year, I want to go on that post-508 ride wearing my own jersey. To do so requires perseverance. It requires tenacity and stick-to-itiveness I often wonder if I possess.

This race isn’t just a bike race. This race, for those of us at the back of the pack, is about personal discovery. It’s about growth. It’s about learning what’s inside us. I’m afraid, sometimes, of what I might find. In just a couple weeks, I’m going to line up with a couple hundred other cyclists in Santa Clarita, and I’m going to attempt to ride farther than I’ve ever ridden. I’m going to try to do something I’m not entirely sure I can do.

I’m going to ride in The Furnace Creek 508.

My Ride

My Body (Tells Me No) (Young The Giant singing my theme song for the 2011 Furnace Creek 508)

Over the past year, I have changed as a man. Forget about riding a bike for a minute. I spent more time working on myself, my identity and what matters most to me, than at any other point in my life. And the end result? I like me. I’m so far from perfect, but I know some things about me I didn’t know at this time last year.

My body tells me no.
So, I’m going to go ride this 508+ miles in the desert in just a couple weeks. People ask me “why?” And I don’t have a logical answer.

But I won’t quit…
And maybe that’s the answer. I grew up quitting. I quit football. I quit track. I quit things that were hard, or tough, or challenging. Then I joined the military, and for once I stuck it out. I discovered that I can accomplish some amazing things when I put my mind to it. I like not quitting, even though there still are times when I can’t make my goals.

‘Cuz I want more.
And don’t we all really want more? That’s why there’s a hall of fame for The Furnace Creek 508. That’s why we keep showing up at start lines; why we batter our bodies and spirits in the desert; why we roll in to the finish hours later than we ever thought, and for a shirt.

It’s my road.
Because it’s my road. There are 230 other cyclists out there? Good for them. I’m going to beat some of them. Some of them are going to beat me, and handily. But it doesn’t matter. Fast. Slow. Somewhere in between. Win? Dead fucking last? Both get a medal. Both get a jersey. Both get bragging rights.

So here’s the deal, folks. It’s your road. It’s your ride. There’s no right way to ride 508 miles. There’s no wrong way. You want to stop and sleep 4 hours in Furnace Creek and eat a massive sandwich and bag of potato chips? You go right on ahead. Want to go on a full Hammer Nutrition regimen? Great! You want to ride a triple chain ring? If that’s what it takes, do it. You want to hire a coach? Then god bless.

I can give you advice, and so can others. I’ve only ridden the course once, and that was as part of a two-person team. I don’t have any great insight you don’t already have yourself. I just know what works for me. I have a coach. I ride a double chain ring (however, I did just put on an 11/28 cassette). I use Hammer Nutrition. Why? It works for me.

In 2009, my teammate spent the better part of the drive from 29 Palms back to Santa Clarita telling me that I wasn’t ever going to be the kind of cyclist who needs a coach. That I should get off the Hammer Nutrition. “Get yourself a triple and ride the way you’re supposed to.” Thanks, but no thanks. That’s HIS ride, not mine.

We all begin at the start line smiling and laughing and expecting to do great things. Many cross the finish line looking beleaguered and destroyed. Many others will have to stop along the way and take a DNF. The only time we’re all on the same program is there at the start. Once the wheels start turning, each rider is on his or her own. What works for me won’t work for you. Just as what works (relatively speaking) for my former teammate works for him, but doesn’t come close to working for me.

It’s your road. It’s your race. Go ride it.

We each have our own ride. All the advice in the world doesn't change it. I hope everyone, myself included, has an amazing ride.

Common Mistakes I Hope To Avoid: Stage 4

On paper, this is my favorite stage. I simply love Death Valley. I’ve had my best and worst rides on this single stretch of road, and it’s the only stretch on which I truly never know what to expect. I love the changing colors and conditions on the valley floor. But during The 508, cruising along in the middle of the night, this is the stage where the reality of the race really starts to set in. In Spring of 2009, I rode in 5 hours to Shoshone from Furnace Creek during the Spring Death Valley Double Century. In the fall, it took me 11.5 hours to cover the same road. Nobody could have expected winds like that. In 2007, I watched the sun rise in the valley floor. In 2010, I saw just how many racers stop to rest and sleep, and how others shine when the sun goes down.

In '09, the climbs out of Death Valley were brutal after the headwinds on the valley floor. I was demoralized, but my crew was awesome. So was the crew of another racer in front of us. The Spirit Of The 508 is humbling, and attitude is everything.

Mistake 1: Dark Thoughts

It’s obvious on this course just how long and hard it is. After Furnace Creek, the physical challenges take a turn. When the sun sets and the dark of night settles in, racers have pushed beyond “double-century” distance and physical issues and into “ultra-marathon” distance and physical issues. In 2009, I was demoralized by the winds. I really did just sit down in Badwater and cry before my crew (who said later they wouldn’t have blamed me for quitting) got me back on the bike (actually, I walked into the wind, because I wasn’t able to clip in) and at least moving.

In 2010, the difference between those who were doing well and those who were struggling (this is a sweeping generalization, mind you), was positive attitude. One of my friends, Western Wood PeeWee, was climbing out and smiling on Jubilee. Butterfly was enjoying the course much more than in ’09. Jaguar was riding briefly with another cyclist and sharing some experience. Attitude is everything.

Mistake 2: Forgetting The Plan
At this point in The 508, it really stops being about the other racers (with notable exceptions for those in the front of the pack) and starts being an “individual effort.” Even though those blinking amber lights look close, they’re often well up the road. There’s no right or wrong way to handle the night. Some of my friends plan on sleeping a couple of hours. Others plan on pushing through to hit Shoshone by dawn. And others are going to wait and see how it goes. I would prefer to not get off the bike to sleep, but I have no way of knowing how I’ll feel once I’m out there. The only thing I know is that I’ll do what’s best for me. If I need to sleep, then I’ll sleep. And if I can get up and over the exit passes in the dark, then that’s fine, too. The fact of the matter is that I still have a double century to ride even though I’ve put 300 miles on my legs.

Mistake 3: The Silent Treatment

The crew is in full-on follow mode, but they still need to be coming up and checking in. It’s easy to get inside your head and question everything: training, planning, distance, speed. Doubts skitter across the mind like the scorpions on the road (Yes, there are scorpions. Lots of them.). In 2009, I was thankful every single moment my crew pulled up to just check on me and give me 15 seconds of conversation. I couldn’t have done it without their encouragement.

Mistake 4: The Silent Treatment, Part Deux

And while I’m talking about crew, here’s where your coherent decisions to choose the right people to sit in that van really pays off. I’m hard headed. I think I know it all out there. “Gels? Nah. I’m good.” It’s easy to be on good terms with the crew in the opening stages. Much different is that conversation in the middle of the night when I’m miserable. I don’t want to eat? Too bad. I think I’m going smooth and don’t need to take 5? Too bad. I think I’m taking in enough fluids and electrolytes and can skip this bottle? Guess again. I have to communicate to my crew. And when I’m not communicating with them, they need to be able to do what they know is right, even though I might be babbling an argument to the contrary.

Mistake 5: That Sinking Feeling

Go back through and read the blogs of 508 Finishers. Read the blogs of those who DNF’d. And read the blogs of those who, like me, barely made it through alive. One common element is stomach issues. It’s amazing how the body just shuts down and says “Yeah, I think we need to be done now.” That relatively civil statement, in my case, was expressed through vomiting and dizziness. Not so much fun. Pay attention to the body. I had been complaining of stomach discomfort for quite some time up Jubilee Pass, but when I descended that short mile off the back, my body just quit. I didn’t want to eat anything at all (sound familiar?). My crew, though, finally convinced me to try a single bite of a Hammer Bar.

Turns out a lot of my “distress” was just being hungry. I’d get sick again (and not just a rumbly tummy from hunger) before the end. But it’s safe to say that expecting the unexpected from your body is a safe bet. As my coach is fond of saying: it’s better to sleep it off and finish in 46 hours than it is to give up and take a DNF.

Mistake 6: Satisfaction

Hey, the “tough part” is over, right? But there are still 200 miles to go. Around Shoshone, I thought it was good to start realizing what I’d already accomplished. I drew determination from what I’d already conquered. After the winds of 2009 in Death Valley, nothing was going to keep me from finishing. Still, we hadn’t finished anything. Ibex Pass isn’t a leg breaker, and if you can make it through Furnace Creek without stopping, you can do the same in Shoshone. Seriously. Just get to Baker. From there, you really can start thinking ahead… a little bit. 🙂

(To Be Continued…)

Common Mistakes I Hope To Avoid: Stage 2

Finally on the road during the 2009 FC 508. Just three pedal strokes from the Time Station in California City, I was enjoying the tailwind.

Stage 2 is an odd little stage. There aren’t any terrible climbs. The adrenaline of Stage 1 has warn off, and the reality of Stage 3 is looming just over the horizon. But Stage 2 has its own challenges.

Mistake 1: Railroad Tracks

There are some tracks crossing the road just before the climb up to Randsburg. Prior to the 2009 ride, my coach and others had warned me to be prepared for them. In hindsight, I don’t really recall the crossing with any specificity. I remember vaguely thinking “that wasn’t so bad,” then crossing another set and thinking “Oh. That’s what they meant.” The crossing requires you to dismount. It’s just a few seconds. Better safe than sorry.

Mistake 2: Nutrition and Hydration

By the time a rider leaves California City, the weather for the afternoon will be in place. In 2009, the tailwind was incredible. Since I was on a 2x relay, my adrenaline kicked in and I averaged just under 20 mph for the entire stage. It was a great ride. In 2010, as an official, I saw how the lack of tailwinds and increased heat really took their toll. There’s no cover on this stage, but it’s still a pretty quick road. It’s easy to lose track of time and the need to hydrate and take in calories. It’s pretty easy on the climbs, but the crew will need to spot the right location for safe handoffs during leapfrog support.

Mistake 3: Stop Sign

Just down the road from California City, there’s a right hand turn toward the rollers and the climb to Randsburg. In 2010, I parked my vehicle, which clearly said “Race Official,” right in front of the stop sign at that right turn. Seriously. The intersection is a T, and it was impossible to make that turn without looking directly at the Official Vehicle parked across the street. But the first two riders blew the stop. Time Penalty. It’s one of only a handful of stops on the course, so pay attention. There’s some desert voodoo going on at that intersection that somehow renders that stop sign invisible to some racers. Circle the intersection on your route sheet, and make sure your crew is in place, outside the van, ready to remind you of the requirement to come to a full stop.

Mistake 4: Testosterone Poisoning (Redux)

In 2009, I was going like a bat out of hell (sorry for the cliche). The Randsburg climb is a good one. As you can read in a lot of route descriptions, it’s not that bad, but it gets steeper toward the top. I do remember enjoying the climb. I passed a couple riders just before it, and I passed a handful more on the grade, itself. It felt good. And I was in my big ring. Later, when I was going over the race with my coach, I bragged about that last fact. His quote: “Why did you do that? Just because you can ride the big ring, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” I thought about that for a long time. I’m not saying that the big ring was absolutely wrong. But it’s true that I could have climbed to Randsburg in nearly the same time but with much less strain and effort on my cardiovascular system and my legs.

Chris Kostman and the AdventureCorps staff van caught up with me on the road just as I was on the first roller. I didn't make the final cut of the '09 recap video, but this pic proves I was there!

Mistake 5: Ignoring the Rollers

Here’s where it gets a little tricky out on the course. We all think about the big climbs and the big descents. In looking at the searches that lead people to my blog, I see one of the most common being a search for “grades” of the climbs, and “elevation gain.” I’m not saying to ignore the climbs. They really are big. But after working hard on the climb to Randsburg, I was on the road to Trona in just a few very fast, short miles. The rollers surprised me with their stiffness. These aren’t 50-foot bumps. These are rollers that last a half mile to a mile. There are three of them. And by the time I was up and over that last one, I was really ready to be done with them.

Mistake 6: What Crosswinds?

The descent off the rollers is long and fast. At just 15 miles or so from the Trona Time Station, I was in a hurry to get there. Now, I’m not the world’s most confident descender, but there really wasn’t a way for me to prepare for the speed of the 508 course. A few yards into that descent off those rollers, I was at 45 mph and climbing. I was kind of having fun until that first gust of crosswind hit. I was riding a shallow-rimmed Mavic Ksyrium wheel with bladed spokes, and that gust nearly lifted me off the road and across it into oncoming traffic. We had not idea that the winds were a taste of things to come. But rest assured, I’ll be ready for the crosswinds right there.

Mistake 7: Are We There Yet?

The last 15 miles of Stage 2 are some of the longest. The road is flat, and you can see a very long way. It’s tough looking for a “destination;” in this case, the time station in Trona. It didn’t help that in 2009, when riding this stage, that we hit our first headwinds just outside of town. When I got to Trona, I was genuinely thankful to be done with the stage and take a break. In 2010, as a race official, I saw a lot of racers, both solo and teams, on this particular stage. There was a concentration of cyclists coming into Trona between 4:00-6:00 p.m. In going back to make sure lights were on for night support, I saw a lot of riders on the side of the road, disappointed at how far “behind” they were. With all that effort awaiting on Stage 2, it can be tough to get into Trona late.

Mistake 8: Machismo

Stage 1 is all adrenaline and glee. Stage 2 starts off fun, but the reality of the length is setting in by Trona. Here, too, was the first place the crew became vital for a lot of racers. I saw a lot of crews bickering, arguing, and already discontent with the race. I saw others already kicking into “support” and “cheerleader” mode. At 150 miles, there’s some fatigue setting in. The Queen Stage is up next. There’s a mixture of fear, anxiety, happiness, anticipation, confidence, trepidation, and god-knows-what-else going on in the rider.

I was very happy with my Stage 2 time and effort. Here I am naively smiling like The 508 is something fun to do. I had no idea what was up next. I did, however, enjoy a burrito!

Mistake 9: Dinner

Trona is where the crew eats. Period. The burritos wouldn’t be much special in any other setting. In Trona? During The 508? It’s mana. Seriously. The best burrito I’ve ever had was that burrito in Trona. Considering what’s ahead for the crew, make sure they stop. Join the herd. Eat a burrito (or taco). Tank up on gas for the van and fuel for the folks. It’s great to support the local community there (If you’ve never been to Trona, trust me, I’m sure they appreciate every cent of business we can give them.), and it’s a big morale boost to have hot food.

Up next… well… you already know what’s up next.

(To be continued…)

The van signage for the 2011 FC 508

I am so excited. I got my van signage in the mail over the weekend, when I was out of town. I just picked it up in the rental office, and I couldn’t be happier. For those who don’t know, The Furnace Creek 508 uses totems rather than bib numbers for racers. I really had a tough time figuring out what kind of totem I wanted to claim as my own.

In 2009, I competed as part of Team 2xThrasher. That was the totem of my teammate, and definitely did not embody my personality. In 2010, I had registered for The 508 and been accepted under the totem of “Plow Horse.” That name came from the 2009 race, when I was the lucky soul who had to ride the Furnace Creek-Shoshone stage. For more details on that stage, you can go back through my blog and read about what it’s like to ride into 50+mph headwinds. At the low point (literally) in Badwater, one of the crew told me I was like a plow horse out there. It seemed fitting.

However, I had some health issues last year, and I had to bow out of the race. I was a race official, instead. And it was around that time that I got myself tickled. I was mulling over various totem names, and I was thinking about my own (I wanted something alliterative), when I realized I wanted something a bit more on the lighter side. I had just seen Rob Zombie in concert, and it hit me that I could easily alter the spelling of the name, and have a totem that really did speak to my personality.

The ZomBee was born!

Fast forward to 2011, and you have my approach to The 508. See, here’s my philosophy. This race is something special. And when you get to the start line, you’ll see more than one approach to it. The rules are pretty specific about what has to appear in the way of signage. However, there are few specifications as to HOW that signage should appear. I’ve seen vans with totem names spelled out in duct tape. And I’ve seen vans with low-resolution paper printouts plastered to the sides with painter’s tape. Others have shelled out the bucks for car magnets and big time graphics. I’m somewhere in the middle.

I don’t want something cheap. It just seems… disrespectful. Of the race. Of the effort. I also couldn’t afford several hundred dollars worth of car magnets. So, I opted for vinyl lettering and a couple of vinyl graphic signs, like the one pictured in the blog. I ordered a few bumper stickers, too, to give to sponsors, family, and friends. Do I need to have spiffy van graphics and signage? No. But having a little more investment in everything, not just riding a bike, serves as healthy motivation. This morning, looking at the signage, I’m thrilled. I’m one step closer to October 8th. I might die out there on the course. I might DNF. I also might surprise myself. Whatever the result, at least I’ll look good doing it! 🙂

Now I’m In Trouble

Over the weekend, my blog got outed by AdventureCorps! lol I went from just a few friends and family members reading it, to now having 200+ on any given day.

So, thanks to Chris for the endorsement. It really was a nice surprise to see the mention on the508.com’s page. I confess to feeling a little bit the weight of expectation now, (“Who is this knucklehead, and what is he doing giving advice?”) and I’ll do my best to not psych myself out here.

Let me just say this for those other racers stumbling across my blog and wondering that very question. The “advice” I’m giving is really advice I’m giving myself. I hope it helps everyone who reads it. I truly do. But really? I’m just thinking out loud here and doing my best to bolster my own confidence.

There are a lot of ways to build the right attitude. Sometimes it’s through the training rides. Sometimes it’s by blogging here and building myself up. Sometimes it’s riding along with other 508ers or through sharing tall tales. And sometimes, it’s a matter of some in-person visualization.

This weekend, I did a stealth getaway to Southern California. During the trip, I dropped into the start line at the Hilton Garden Inn in Santa Clarita. It’s a funny sort of observation, I confess. I know what goes on there in October. But the rest of the year? It’s just a hotel. We 508ers just bring to it a certain kind of …something. Reverence? Awe? Ego? Whatever it is, it means something to stand there at the start and visualize myself in my kit, on the bike, waiting to start pedaling October 8th.

I really enjoyed getting out of town. I needed it. But now the real countdown is on. I’ve worked on finalizing my list of “must haves” for the van, the bike, the racer, the crew, and everything I can think of. I’ve started tonight knocking out those last loose ends. And in doing so, I’ve realized that there are a lot more eyes now watching what I’m doing than there were last week.

Stop by and say hello. Drop a note or a comment. Ask a question. Whatever floats your boat. Or, just wait 4 more weeks, and I’ll see you at the start line when it counts. 🙂

 

Climbing and Hammer Products

The stress dreams continue, with The 508 as their centerpiece. Typically, they all involve iterations of those all-too-familiar high-school nightmares: the showing up naked for class or forgetting about the exam that will determine the course of everything to follow. My 508 dreams center around oversleeping for the start. My parents are always my crew in these dreams, which is ironic, given their propensity for punctuality; specifically showing up 15 minutes early for every date. They are always nonchalant about missing the start, and they tell me things like “Oh, well. It’s probably for the best anyway. That’s such a silly race.”

Clearly, the best way to combat this kind of subconscious stress is to get out and ride. Hard. To help fuel that training, I placed an order for Hammer Nutrition products, and I was excited to try out a couple new additions to my cycling fuel. In particular, I order Anti-Fatigue Caps and Endurance Aminos. I know what some of you are thinking. “Seriously? It’s a cult to Hammer Nutrition.” And I won’t deny it. But, I figured since I had such a good discount on their products as a 508 participant, that it would be worth some experimentation.

Yesterday, I did a 50-mile hill-repeat ride consisting of 2 loops over both sides of Shannon/Kennedy roads, culminating in a climb up Hicks Road, which is my nemesis. There’s nothing as steep as Hicks on The 508, so it’s a good measuring stick for me to climb it (and improve climbing it) as I get closer to the race.

There was some confusion about my training schedule, and I thought I was supposed to be out for 6 hours, but my coach sent me a 2-hour ride, so I ended up splitting the difference to ride 4. Of course, that’s what I ended up doing, not what I planned on, which would come back to bite me in the ass by the end of the day.

To start, I prepared a couple 1-hour bottles (2 scoops of HEED in each) as my primary fuel source. I grabbed three Hammer Gel packs and a tin full of Endurolytes. Prior to heading out, I took 2 each of the Endurance Aminos and the Anti-Fatigue Caps, then hit the road. It was lousy weather, with the temps never getting out of the 50’s. It was raining for a good portion of the ride, and there was enough wind to make it unpleasant. But, I figured I could handle it for 2 hours.

I got to the base of Shannon Road, and, as is always the case, I had to decide between going straight (Shannon road, which is shorter but steeper) or hanging a left (onto Kennedy, which has a couple short steep pitches, but is a longer climb) for the short climbs there. I opted to go straight, since I hadn’t done Shannon in awhile. It felt good to zip up to the top (“zip” being a relative term), and descend off the back side. Since I was only out for a couple hours, I originally intended to head on home, but I decided I could stand to climb a little more, so I turned around and went back up Shannon, which is a longer climb but not as steep. Up and over the top, and down the other side, when I decided to turn onto Kennedy and climb it, too. I felt good after descending the other side of Kennedy, so I turned around there, too, which is a couple miles to the top with a few steeper pitches, but a nice leveling out towards the top.

I don’t remember the last time I did a whole Shannon/Shannon/Kennedy/Kennedy circuit, but it felt good. And rather than heading home, I decided that it was a good idea to push it. It was cold. It was raining. And I, of all people, was pushing myself to climb. I shifted into progressively bigger gears, and completed the whole circuit a second time. I didn’t know what had gotten into me, but it felt great to be riding aggressively on climbs.

The last time up Kennedy, I had a rabbit in front of me. He had made a snide remark at the bottom while I was off to the side of the road swapping out my water bottles. He said something about his not needing to stop when I asked him how he was doing. I just laughed it off and let him go up the road. I try to not get caught up in testosterone poisoning, but after giving him a really healthy head start (100 meters?), I quickly realized I was going to close on him. He kept looking over his shoulder and then digging in to go faster, but I was on his wheel in just a couple minutes. He said something about racing me to the top, so I simply stood up and cranked past him. The last thing I heard him say was “Jesus! I can’t do THAT!” It’s rare that I drop anyone, so I gave myself a few minutes to be proud of it before heading home.

Funny thing was, though, that rather than turning for home, I decided I’d give Hicks a shot. I hate this road. I’ve never been able to climb it. But, I was having a good day, so why not? Onto Hicks I went, and when the road tilted up, I immediately questioned my sanity. My legs were getting tired, and I was out of gels. Despite keeping up with my Endurolytes, I was nearly out of HEED, and I had been nursing it the entire time. Still, I decided I would get further up Hicks than is usual for me before allowing myself to even consider stopping. I had to serpentine my way up (sorry to the descending cyclist in the Rabobank kit who I genuinely scared to death), but I gained a lot more elevation before having to unclip. I’m not climber. I don’t pretend to be. Still, for me, it was a good day, and the hill repeats will help me in the long run.

On the way back down, I cramped pretty severely in both legs. I got a cramp right behind my right knee, which was a knew spot for me. On the left leg, I cramped on my inner thigh, which is a more common place for me to cramp. It was my own fault for not preparing and staying hydrated enough. Still, after a few minutes off the bike working out the cramps, I was able to get back in the saddle and pedal home. I was slower than I would have liked, but I was definitely thankful for that headwind!

All in all, a solid day on the bike. It wasn’t until afterward when I figured out that maybe the new Hammer products had a hand in my climbing better. I’ll have to keep experimenting there to see, but it was definitely an up-tick in my performance level yesterday. And I enjoyed being one of the few cyclists out on a cold, windy, rainy day in the hills. A hundred more rides like that one and I’ll start to feel confident about The 508. 🙂

Up next, the Davis Double Century this weekend.

Champing at the Bit

(First, a disclaimer: it really is “champing,” not “chomping.”) heh

I have my bike back, but it’s the last week of the semester, and I’m scratching and clawing for time to ride. This past week was, fortunately, a rest week for me, but I am getting super nervous about the lack of riding over the past couple of weeks. The Davis Double Century is coming up in 2 weeks, and I’m going to try to get out there and hammer through that one. I need to be on a bike for long, consecutive hours.

For now, though, I’m stuck in a grading spiral. I’m hoping that the next two days will be enough to get me over the hump. But I. Want. To. Ride.

OK. Enough procrastinating on my blog. Grading now so I can roll tomorrow (well… not literally tomorrow, but you know what I mean.)

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