Posts Tagged ‘Training’

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.

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One Arm

All That Sacrifice To Practice Sign Language

We ride so that a 3,000-foot climb can take on enough of a personality to deserve genuine ire.

It really does feel sometimes as though my life is sucking down the drain as I prep for this race. I think the biggest surprise for me when I first got involved with The 508 is just how much dedication goes into it.

The Furnace Creek 508 is not just a weekend in October. It’s a year-round obsession.

Part of it is riding, and riding smart. That still translates to riding 6-8 hours a day most days, with longer endurance rides thrown in.

Part of it is logistics and preparation. I don’t make much money, so I don’t have the luxury of just running out and buying the things I want or need. I have to save money throughout the year, then not be afraid to pull the trigger on the items I need. That new Jamis Xenith SL? Yeah. I work in a bike shop for a reason.

Part of it is outright neglect. We neglect friends, declining to go to parties or dinners. We neglect our families, testing their patience and support. We neglect ourselves, stealing hours of sleep to go out on the bike. We neglect work, but don’t tell our employers that our “working from home” day last week was really a day of hill repeats and a cell-phone check in at the top.

Part of it is salesmanship. How else do you explain convincing three people to take time off work to drive down to SoCal, to then drive through Death Valley and Mojave…and 15 mph, for two days and nights? I started off crewing, and I know how tough it is. In many ways, I think crewing is the tougher job. The cyclist just has to pedal. The crew? They have to be part pit crew, part mechanic, part massage therapist, part psychologist, part drill sergeant, and all saint.

Despite all the planning and all the preparation over the past 12 months, however, I still have a massive list of tasks that need my attention. I’m stressing that list. And I’m at the point of paranoia. I’m no longer shaking hands with anyone, and I’m a hair’s breadth away from wearing a flu mask for fear of getting sick before the race. I’m begging off important events (Baby shower for my best friends? On a weekend? Sorry. I can’t make it. And yes, I realize you are the same friends whose wedding I missed because it conflicted with The 508; a wedding in which I was asked to be one of only three groomsmen.)

When I was growing up, my Dad would always say he was “busier than a one-armed paper hanger.” Until The 508, I didn’t really understand what that phrase meant. And this 2011 version? I feel like one arm would be a damned luxury at this point.

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.)

Tour de Cure

I didn’t think I’d make it to this one. New jobs. Big stresses. Etc. Etc. There just wasn’t time.

Long story short, I decided I wanted to do it, so I got up insanely early and drove to Napa Sunday morning, arriving at 6:15 to prep for the 100-mile ride. Having been out on the route, I now see why people like this ride. It’s absolutely flat (to me) and fast. Of course, there are some issues, as I quickly discovered.

My timing was spot on. I had just enough time to ready my bike, fill my bottle, stuff my jersey with food and fuel, and check in at registration. After pinning on my bib number, I headed to the start line 2 minutes prior to the roll out, where I saw a friend from my team. We chatted briefly, then headed out in the middle of the pack. After a couple of laughs, I shifted into my big ring and stood up to hammer to the front of the group… only to drop my chain and have to dismount and stop.

It was a sign of things to come.

Thirty seconds later, I had the chain back on and was heading back out to the group. The first few miles are slow and easy over a very nicely paved bike path. I don’t really care for riding on bike paths for this reason: they’re crowded and challenging to navigate with more than a single rider or two. I picked my way up a few riders at a time, until we turned out onto some city back streets and I was able to leapfrog large groups. After a few minutes, I was back up toward the front and in a forming paceline with one other rider who seemed equally interested in going faster, and a big guy with lots of leg strength and plenty of wind break for me to draft behind.

By the time we got to the first major road and the right turn, a few people stopped. I kept rolling, and a couple others (we lost the big guy, but not Scott, a very strong rider) quickly caught up and we started working together. Within five miles or so, between the railroad crossing and the first rest stop (about 17 miles in), we saw three other riders up ahead, and we overtook them at speed.

“We just blew past Chris Carmichael,” I said. “That might be bad form.” (Carmichael markets himself as Lance Armstrong’s coach, and he’s authored a couple books on cycling, and is no slouch in the saddle. He was the lead out for the 100-mile ride, and I don’t think he was expecting a short paceline of three riders to hit a pace that fast, let alone reel him in while he was off the front.)

Scott looked over his shoulder and jokingly asked if we should go back, and I told him I didn’t think that would be necessary. “Besides,” I said, “I plan on blogging this!”

A few minutes later, and as we all suspected, Carmichael and his two riding companions were back up with our group, and the fun was in full gear. With a breakaway of six riders, including myself, we hammered. I have never worked that hard or fast over the first 30 miles of a ride. It was… well… FAST!

The first rest stop was on us before we  knew it. None of us had even touched our bottles, so the stop was entirely unnecessary. We blew past the turn off and headed north toward the outer loop. We all took even pulls at the front, and the highlights of my day were drafting off an Olympic cyclist, then taking my turn at the front when it was my turn. We all were solid bike handlers, so the gaps between wheels were super tight. It’s an adrenaline rush to ride a bicycle at 30 mph with just 3 inches of space between my front wheel and the rear wheel of the cyclist in front of me.

In terms of distance cycling, this course is flat. We went over a couple small rollers, and Scott joked that we had just completed the second-hardest climb of the day. We still were over 20 mph during the incline, so I started doing the math. We were going to finish the 100 miles in under 5 hours, which would be a first for me. As a distance cyclist, the pace was way too high for me, and I knew I couldn’t hang with them for the entire ride (my heart rate was steady in the 150s, which is not sustainable for the duration). But I was determined to hold on as long as I could. We were just a handful of miles from our first rest stop, which we’d also go past, opting to stop after the outer loop. The road had just tilted up a bit, on the only actual climb on the course, and were all still on our big rings, when the group split violently. We had just come on some rough pavement, and it happened too fast for the lead riders to point out the potholes. Instead, they just dodged, which left me, who was second to last in line at the time, to hit it hard.

I’ve hit potholes before. It happens. But this one was violent. Both my bottles flew out of their cages, and I had to peel off to pick them up from the middle of the road. I did it quickly, because I didn’t want to lose contact with my group. But when I went to pedal, my chain had dropped once more. This time, though, I wasn’t able to fix it quickly. A couple minutes went by, and I when I finally got the chain back on, it was clear I had a big problem with my drive train. I’d pedal, then the entire bike would “pop,” and I’d lose power. Pedal, then that hard, violent shake that rattled the frame. Pedal. Pop. Pedal. Pop.

I dismounted. I tinkered. Pedal. Pop. Pedal. Pop.

Ten minutes later, and the next paceline passed me on the climb.

I tinkered some more. Pedal. Pop. Pedal. Pop.

Fifteen minutes off the bike, and the second paceline was through. After 20 minutes, the riders started coming by in small, fragmented groups. And when, after 30 minutes, I started getting passed by a steady stream of individual riders, I knew the bulk of the 100-milers overtake me soon. I was able to limp slowly up the hill at the county line, then descend off the back, but I couldn’t pedal to keep up with them. It was incredible to see how far ahead of the main group we had gotten. And it was disappointing to know I wouldn’t be able to finish the ride.

I limped into the rest stop at the start of the outer loop an hour and 28 minutes after starting. I let them know I was a “mechanical DNF,” and I waited for the SAG to pick me up. My friend Matt made it safely to the rest stop, and we were able to joke a little bit. We talked bike stuff before he rolled out to finish his ride, and I was jealous. It had been cold at the start, but it was up to 80 degrees, and all I wanted was to push around the outer loop and finish.

I did see the group of guys I had been riding with when they rolled into the rest stop after the outer loop. I told them what had happened, and they were all wondering what had happened to me. We talked about who was fast, who was strong, who was climbing well. Then I got in the SAG wagon and headed back toward the start. A few miles from the finish, a mother and son on the 10-mile course had a mechanical breakdown, so I volunteered to get myself back under my own power. I coasted the rest of the way in, then spent a couple hours catching up with other Citadel Riders at the finish line.

After completing half the course, all I can say is I want to go back and do it again next year, hopefully without the mechanical difficulties. It’s ironic to successfully ride 500 miles through harsh terrain, but then break down for the first time on a “leisure ride” in wine country. That’s cycling. But I walked away with still a great experience on the bike, and the confidence that I can keep pace with some very strong cyclists. That part was an absolute blast, and I look forward to getting back out there again.

As soon as the drive train on my bike is fixed. 🙂

Training. Training. Training.

“How is your training?”

Yesterday at the bike shop, a friend of mine (and 508 entrant) asked that simple question. My pat answer really doesn’t change: “Not nearly enough.”

No matter how much I ride, I feel like that answer always is accurate. I’m at the point now where I’m breaking down the intervening months and calculating the time remaining between now and the race. In this case, six months just isn’t nearly as long as it sounds. Last week was a rest week, which is tough for me. It just feels like I’m stagnating. This week, given the fact that I am juggling 4 jobs to make ends meet, I’m cramming my cycling in catch as catch can.

It feels rushed. It feels, in a word, inadequate.

But I trust my coach, and I trust his plan. I had a good ride Sunday, and Monday was… well, it’s weird. I don’t really remember it at all. How is that? Tuesday was a threshold training ride, which means up on the trainer inside giving my cardio a workout, and yesterday was a recovery ride. Today, I’m back on the bike for another threshold training session, and a simple recovery ride tomorrow. Then I’m into the weekend. I’ll have an endurance ride Saturday morning, and that will be good. I need to get out and stretch the legs.

Sunday is a longer ride, and I’m hopeful a couple friends of mine will be joining. I’m also taking a friend/bike mechanic out on the road with me to see if crewing is something he wants to do. I need a bike mechanic in the van. After that, it’s just a matter of finding a third person who can be a jack-of-all-trades to help drive/navigate/motivate/etc.

Monday is another long ride, so I’ll have to be up early to get on the road.

When the semester ends, I basically have 2 months to hit the training as hard as I can. Then I’m off for 6 weeks and my summer visit with my son. That period makes training tougher. And on the other side of that, I really only have 6 weeks to make sure I’m ready to go before the race. That’s nothing. It feels too soon. It feels too fast. It feels stressful. I’m starting to obsess again. I go to sleep thinking about rolling out of the start; meeting the crew vans; descending into Panamint; climbing Townes Pass; Death Valley at night; trying to maintain a pace Sunday; crossing the finish line. Sometimes I’m that confident. Sometimes, doubt derails one of those imaginings, and I start thinking about how things go wrong. I think about breaking down in Badwater and crying during an insane windstorm. What if I can’t make it? What if I DNF? What if the training isn’t enough?

I feel too big. I feel too slow. I feel too weak. I need to ride into much better shape. I need to get faster. I need to climb stronger. I need to have a different answer to that question: “How’s the training?”

Enough.

That’s the answer I want to give. I want to say enough. I want to say that my training is enough to know I’m going to be there and give it my all. I want to say it’s enough to silence the doubts and negative thinking. I want to say I’m on it; I’m doing it.

I’m not there yet.

508 Goals

I guess I should clarify that these my goals for this year’s Furnace Creek 508. While I have set a lot of goals, I don’t think there are more than 500 of them just yet. 🙂

There is a lot of redundancy in this list, so here’s my logic. Regardless of how well I’m doing, or how poorly, I want there to be goals I can achieve. In many cases, achieving 1 goal will actually take care of multiple ones in that stage.

This endurance race, for me, is all about finishing. I have 48 hours to finish the ride, so I’m focused primarily on that one overriding aspiration. Beyond that, everything else is gravy. Here, then, are my goals before and during the race, including individual stage goals. At the end of the list, you’ll see a breakdown of all the possible time goals and the speeds I’d have to average in order to achieve them.

Furnace Creek 508 Goals

Pre-Race Goals:

  1. Raise $2500 for race
  2. Get entry fee sponsorship (accomplished)
  3. Get hotel sponsorship (accomplished)
  4. Get rental van sponsorship
  5. Keep a record of all training rides
  6. Complete all training rides according to Emde’s schedule (in process)
  7. 165 pounds maintained
  8. <160 on race day.
  9. Find a bike mechanic for the crew (in process)
  10. Get new wheels for the bike
  11. Keep up with the blog (in process)

Overall Race Goals:

  1. Finish the race, no matter what
  2. Finish in the top 25 riders
  3. Finish in the top 15 riders
  4. Finish in the top 10 riders
  5. <45 minutes off the bike
  6. Stick to the race plan as decided by racer and coach
  7. Finish in under 43:49:45 (Team 2x Thrasher 2009 time)
  8. Finish under 45:21:31 (Thrasher solo time 2007 time)
  9. Finish in under 40 hours
  10. Finish in <35 hours
  11. Finish before midnight
  12. Finish in daylight
  13. Finish ahead of more than half 2x/4x teams
  14. Over the Trona Bump and into Panamint in daylight
  15. Get to the base of Townes Pass and start the climb in daylight
  16. Make it over Townes Pass between 7-8 p.m.
  17. Descend safely off of Townes Pass
  18. Don’t stop on the way up any of the climbs
  19. Don’t stop at the top of any of the climbs
  20. Enjoy the opportunity and ability to race

Stage 1 (Santa Clarita to California City) Goals:

  1. Show up at the start line
  2. Stay in the pack, toward the back, during the neutral start
  3. Keep the adrenaline in check at the official start up San Francisquito Canyon
  4. Start in the back and pass >15 riders prior to meeting crew van
  5. Don’t stop at crew van
  6. California City before noon
  7. Average between 18-20 mph for stage 1
  8. Don’t stop at the time station
  9. Be in the top 50 riders through California City
  10. Finish Stage 1 in <5 hours

Time Cut-offs:

2:45 p.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

2:00 p.m.  for midnight finish

12:45 p.m. for daylight finish

Stage 2 (California City to Trona) Goals:

  1. Arrive in Trona <4:00 p.m.
  2. Finish in <4 hours on the stage
  3. Be in the top 40 riders through Trona

Time Cut-offs:

9:30 p.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

7:15 p.m. for midnight finish

5:15 p.m. for daylight finish

Stage 3 (Trona to Furnace Creek) Goals:

  1. Get up and over the Trona Bump in daylight
  2. Be on the Panamint floor in daylight
  3. Get to the base of Townes Pass and start the climb in daylight
  4. Get to the top of Townes Pass <8:00 p.m.
  5. Climb Townes Pass without stopping
  6. <1 min stop at the top for clothing change (if necessary)
  7. Safely descend Townes Pass
  8. Get to Furnace Creek in <18 hours
  9. Finish the stage in <7 hours
  10. Reach Furnace Creek <Midnight
  11. Don’t stop at Furnace Creek

Time Cut-offs:

6:45 a.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

3:15 a.m. for midnight finish

11:45 p.m. for daylight finish

Stage 4 (Furnace Creek to Shoshone) Goals:

  1. Get to Shoshone by 4:30 a.m.
  2. Reach Shoshone by dawn
  3. Complete both southern climbs in dark
  4. No stopping on either climb
  5. Don’t stop in Badwater
  6. Finish stage in top 25
  7. Finish stage in <5.5 hours
  8. Stay on the bike (<5 minutes in stoppage time)

Time Cut-offs:

1:45 p.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

9:15 a.m. for midnight finish

4:45 a.m. for daylight

Stage 5 (Shoshone to Baker) Goals:

  1. Reach Baker by 7:00 a.m.
  2. Reach Baker by dawn
  3. NO RIDER STOP IN BAKER AT ALL
  4. No stopping on the KelBaker grade
  5. Stay on the bike (<under 5 minutes in stoppage time)

Time Cut-offs:

7:00 p.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

2:45 for midnight finish

8:30 a.m. for daylight

Stage 6 (Baker to Kelso) Goals:

  1. Be in Kelso <1 p.m. =15-hour double century pace
  2. Be in Kelso <noon
  3. Stay on the bike (<5 minutes in stoppage time)

Time Cut-offs:

11:00 p.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

5:30 p.m. for midnight finish

11:00 a.m. for daylight finish

Stage 7 (Kelso to Amboy) Goals:

  1. Be in Amboy <5:00 p.m.
  2. Stay on the bike (<5 minutes in stoppage time)

Time Cut-offs:

2:00 a.m. absolute cut-off time to finish

8:00 p.m. for midnight finish

1:00 p.m. for daylight finish

Stage 8 (Amboy to 29 Palms) Goals:

  1. Finish
  2. Finish the stage before Midnight
  3. Finish the stage in daylight

Pace Goals:

Finish: 10.65 mph average

Finish by midnight: 12.43 mph average

Finish in daylight: 15 mph average

Finish in top 25 (estimate based on 2010): 12.75 mph average

Top 10 (estimate based on 2010): 14.2 mph average

Rolled…

Man. I’d like a do-over, please. I’m wiped out.

Today was a group ride with a bunch of endurance cyclists, all 508-veterans. And I got rolled.

There’s not a nice way to put it. And I know I have a tendency to be self-deprecating, but this is not one of those times. The first 20 miles were solid, and I felt pretty good.

Then we started climbing. As soon as the road tilted up, my heart rate sky-rocketed. Simply put, I’m just not in shape. My legs are strong enough to make a 10-mile climb, but my cardio isn’t enough to pump those legs that far or that hard. About half a mile from the top of the first climb, I got dropped. And I got dropped on a section of road that was not that steep.

Insult to injury: cycling in Los Altos, where all the rich fuck-knuckles ride. I try hard to avoid the testosterone poisoning, but I wasn’t in the mood for roadside critiques from douchebags who have no idea what I am or am not capable of.

So, less-than-stellar day on the bike that ended with 30 long and lonely miles back to my car at the start. That, my friends, is demoralizing, and not what I expected of myself today.

After riding mostly on the trainer indoors, I wasn’t really expecting much of myself from my first “real ride of the year.” I’ve done some rides on my own. And I’m fine knocking out 80-100 miles at a moderate pace. But riding in a group is a different experience. And I also forgot my Endurolytes, which are my salvation, giving how prone to cramping I can be. I’m working to shake this one off. We all have bad days on the bike, after all. And March fitness isn’t October fitness. But I sure could have used a better day in the saddle today to help boost the old confidence. I’m not riding any double centuries this year, choosing, instead, to focus solely on The 508.

Back out on the road again tomorrow…

Thoughts on Sierra Road

Let’s start off with a little bit of honesty. I’m not in the best shape of my life. Far from it. But I am in better shape than at any point last year, and that feels pretty good.

This past weekend, some friends of mine invited me on a medium-length ride of 75 miles or so, and the ride included Sierra Road. I was actually thankful that the ride didn’t fit into my training schedule, because I’m not in good enough shape to get up and over Sierra without having to stop a time or two. And when you ride with people like my friends, that’s just a layer of judgment I’d prefer to avoid at present.

Yesterday, though, I hit Sierra Road on my own, and I was quickly reminded just how far I have to go to be in shape for The 508. I have until the first weekend in October to be ready to go. And I’m going to need every day of it!

Sierra has some steep pitches. I’m not entirely sure of the grade, but I heard tell it hits 20% for some very short stretches. It averages 12%-15% over 3+ miles. And it is, in a word, my nemesis. The nice thing about Sierra is knowing that none of the climbs on The 508 are as steep. However, they’re a lot longer, and equally tough. I don’t want to jinx myself here, or make people think I’m somehow not worried about the 35,000 feet of elevation gain in October.

While I was slogging my way to the top yesterday, I had to stop twice. The first stop was about 1/3 of the way up. I pulled off into a driveway and just took a couple of minutes to catch my breath and let my heart rate settle back down into the 130s (I was pegging at 192) before clipping back in and heading back to the top.

The second stop was a tougher one. At about 2/3 of the way up, my shoulders were actually as fatigued as my legs. Not only did I have to stop, but also had to walk my bike for 20-30 meters before I could clip back in and continue to the top. While I was walking, I got passed by a flea-sized man on a mountain bike with two of the smallest front chain rings I had ever seen. I wanted to shove my pump through his spokes. But I didn’t. I was good. I just told him he was doing good, clipped back into my pedals, and passed him up to the top. I have a double chain ring. I refuse to use a triple. So, I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, my slowest was just fastest than his.

The point is that I did make it to the top of Sierra yesterday. And I had a less-than-stellar descent to get back down. I’m not really a great climber or descender, but I was so fatigued after the climb, I fought the descent the entire way down.

So, I have work to do. I’ll get stronger, better, more confident. It’s a process, and I recognize that process. By October, I’ll be doing repeats on Sierra. For now, it’s enough to get to the top, no matter what it takes. That road isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I.

~Zombee

Away We Go!

Stay tuned for updates about my goal of completing the Furnace Creek 508 in October, 2011.

I’m off for a training ride at present, so additional blogging will have to wait.

But I hope you check back often, and please comment, encourage, chide, or whatever else floats your boat! It will be a long road of hard training and preparation ahead. I really do look forward to having you along for the ride.

~Zombee