Sunday, May 27, 2012

To The Beach

In the week following the Bloomin' Metric Century it rained every day.  Saturday, Kate and I had one of our long time friends and her son come down for a night.  We decided to go out to the Sherwood Island beach and instead of paying for the second car to get in (we've got a season pass on Kate's car), we had the two of them go in Kate's car and I rode to the beach.

I've ridden to the beach from Andrew's house, but since that route is longer (to Andrew's hosue first and then to the beach) and since I wasn't positive I knew the way, I mapped the ride with and loaded it into my Garmin Edge 305 (which only stores cue sheets and not the trace of the route).

The ride to the beach was pretty easy.  The beach is 75 feet lower than my house and the hills to the beach are   definitely noticeable, but not too bad.  Once at the beach, we spent a lovely two hours in and near the water.  After about 90 minutes, we heard a siren from one of the boats on the water, probably to warn them about the lightening that was seen not too far into the distance.  That probably should have been my clue to leave then.  But since the weather was still nice where we were (albeit a bit overcast), we I stayed for another half an hour.

The ride back started off quite well.  Within about 5 minutes, however, it started to rain.  It never rained too hard, but it still made the ride a little bit harder.  At about 12 miles into the ride (or 3.4 miles from the beach), I started coughing hard enough that I had to pull over at the side of the rode and rest for a few minutes.  I don't know if I'm still not just over my cold or I've got allergies or what, but I really could have done without that.  (I don't know that I'm allergic to anything outside, but there was so much cottenwood out that it looked like it had snowed.)

One of the reasons that Andrew and I almost always started the rides at his house and ended at my house is that there is a quite substantial hill from his house to my house.  Unfortunately, coming back from the beach meant that I'd have to climb the same hill.  I tried a slightly different route on the way back, but as it turns out (either because I didn't follow the route exactly or because I didn't re-route it as well as I'd hoped), I made it so I ended climbing up more than I would have the original route.

I made it half way up the big hill and decided to take a break.  Unfortunately,  since it had been raining the road was particularly slippery and it literally took me half a dozen attempts before I could get started.  But I did and the rest of the hill and ride went without any incident.

It was good to get back out on the bike after a week off.  It seems weird not to be training anymore ("Dude, that was just for 8 weeks!  Get over it!"), but for now, it's just riding for riding.

After I put the kids to bed tonight I went out for a quick ride of 11 miles (averaging 13.7 mph).  I didn't have any coughing problems tonight and I really pushed myself pretty hard (to the beach yesterday I averaged 12.9 mph for just under 9 miles and home was slower).

I don't have any beach related pictures, so instead, I'll leave you with this cartoon I found out there on the intertubes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bloomin' Metric Centry: We Did It!

They say that every body who clips into their pedals eventually falls because they don't unclip in time.  I knew this and even believed this before I ever clipped in. And for two months, I've managed to ride without falling.  Until the century.  But more on that later...

Up until I moved to Connecticut last June, I hadn't ridden a bicycle for more than 12 miles in well over 20 years.  When I moved here, I started riding my folding bike chasing my friend, Tom, when he went on his runs. I started riding other bikes I own as well.  In February, I decided to buy a recumbent bicycle, the Cruzbike Sofrider.

After about 300 miles on the new bike and a long bike ride of 17 miles, I decided to try and ride the Bloomin' Metric Century (100 km - 62 miles). For the past eight weeks, my friend Andrew and I have been training for the Bloomin' Metric Century with my friend Andrew.   We came up with a training schedule and followed it pretty well.  During the 8 weeks, I was supposed to ride a total of 430 miles; I did just under 480.  As far as the long rides, we always did at least as much as we were supposed to do.

The table of what the plan was and what I actually did.  I was sick for part of week 7 so I missed the mileage for that week.

That being said, last week's training ride did not go terribly well.  Both Andrew and I felt quite tired at the end, and we knew that the century would be another 15+ miles more than that ride.  Up until that training ride, each new ride had been getting easier and easier.  Last week's ride was a little longer, a bit more clmbing (2200 ft total), but none of those statistics were majorly different.  My bike computer told me I burned 5800 calories, where as the previous high was 5100.  So that was definitely more.  During this ride, there were more sustained climbs.

The week before the ride it was raining most of the week.  I did get a few miles in on Thursday and Friday, but quite a bit less than usual.  On Friday, Andrew sent me a few links on carb loading.  They all said that for my weight I was supposed to eat basically a kilogram of pasta (over 2 pounds).  I ate a pound of potato gnocchi and some pizza for dinner, so I got close.  I don't know how much it helped, but I did avoid crashing from low sugar during the ride.

A couple days before the ride, the organizers of the century, the Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club, sent out the route for the century (which I uploaded to Ride with GPS).  This ride has over 4000 feet of climbing, but when I looked, I swear that it told me there was a maximum grade of less than 2.5% (when I look now, it says 7.5%; update: I just got an email from Ride with GPS that said that they recently fixed the maximum grade: "Even the max grade is a fairly reliable number now!" so maybe I wasn't seeing things after all).  So there was a lot of climbing, but I thought, nothing too steep.  O.k.  So maybe we would be o.k. after all.

The day of the ride, the weather was perfect. When it was time to start riding, it was just warm enough to ride without a jacket.  And while it warmed up, it never got too hot. We arrived at Sherwood Island (the start) by 6:45 and man! were there a lot of road bicycles (bicycles with the drop handle bars).  Miles and miles of bicycles. I've never seen so many close up.  And we're not talking about cheap bikes either.  My guess is the average bike cost 2 grand.  The event had 2500 people registered, so that's (back of the enveloppe) 5 million dollars of bicycles (give or take).  And I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that's low.  We saw more recumbent and tandem bicycles than "regular" hybrid/comfort/moutain bicycles.   And almost everybody was wearing their Sunday spandex best.  This event was full of people who ride their bicycles a lot.

There were several interesting bicycles.  A recumbent trike and long wheel based recumbent bicycles were there (so I wasn't the only recumbent).  There were at least half a dozen tandems including a family riding a triple tandem bicycle pulling a trailer (and they completed the 75k route!)

The triple tandem bike pulling a trailer. The family riding this bike was wearing jerseys that said "Team Zombie"

The line for registration was long, but it started to move fairly quickly just after 7 and we were on the road by 7:30.
 A picture of me waiting in line in my unshaven glory.

The line.

The route was well marked and well laid out.  There was very little traffic and the route was very attractive and scenic pretty much the whole way.  The arrows they used to mark the path didn't have any words on them which usually wasn't a problem, but there was at least one case where a realtor set up an open house and had an arrow that looked just like the bike path arrow and some people did follow it.  (My recommendation for next year would be to just put SCBC (Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club) letters on the arrow.)  The food stops were well stocked and run.

Most everybody there was quite friendly and encouraging.  It really was a great atmosphere.  There were a few riders who insisted on both passing a bit too closely to the other riders or wouldn't let the cars pass when they really ought to have.

Just before the first rest stop at 20 miles, I was riding up a fairly steep hill, probably moving at around 5 mph.  I can't really tell you what happened, but one moment I was riding and the next I was lying, still clipped in to my bicycle, on this very comfortable grass.  Andrew, who was behind me, says I hit the curb.  I can't say any differently.  I've been clipping into the pedals for about 2 months now and I find that it helps a lot with the control of my bike.  I've almost fallen several times and I haven't enjoyed that part of it at all.  But it turns out that falling (at least as I did it) is actually kind of fun. (O.k.  That might be a slight exaggeration).

The first rest-stop.

Still the first rest stop.

We got plenty of food, drink, and rest at the rest stop and continued on our way.  At about 34 miles, we decided to stop and catch our breath.  We stopped at the bottom of a fairly impressive hill.  After a bit, we started up this monster.

This hill was not as steep as "the biggest hill I ever saw,"  but it was a lot longer.  After a couple hundred meters, we saw a sign that said "8% grade, summit in 1 km." About half way up the hill, my heart rate was 170 and I stopped to catch my breath.  After letting my pulse drop a bit, I was ready to go.  The only problem, on very steep slopes, my front wheel slips (issues with having  front wheel drive).  Andrew literally got off of his bike and gave me a push for a couple of feet (basically throwing me up the mountain).  Worked extremely well and we both made it to the top without further incident.

At about 37 miles, we had a long beautiful open, straight, downhill ride. Part of a decent of over 250 feet, I found myself cruising along at 35 mph.  At that point, I stopped pedaling and still managed to hit 42 mph. There were several nice downhill stretches where I really cruising.

On the downhills where there was room to move, I was never passed by anybody going faster than I was. The up hills was a completely different story.  My bike was probably one of the heaviest (non-tandem) bikes there (probably almost tipping the scale at 50 pounds including the Camelbak water bladder, lock, rack, etc).  I did manage to ride up all of the hills (which is better than many of the participants.  But I'm consistently one of the slowest climbers.  I'm (mostly) trying to live up to Eddy Merckx's "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." quote, but I'm starting to be curious as to how much a lighter bike would help.

The final rest stop was at just over 50 miles.  With the end in reach, we were feeling pretty good. We finished our ride at just about 1:30 p.m., just a bit over 6 hours after we started.  We had an average moving speed of 12.2 mph (which is better than last week) including not only almost 50% more miles, but more than 50% more climbing than our longest training run.   We did it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Hard Week

First, a disclaimer.  There are a lot of people who have real problems in their lives.  Nothing I'm going to be bitching about below falls in that category.  Sometimes, (well, often, actually) I just like to complain.

By Sunday night last week, I had come down with a cold.  It wasn't a horrible cold (indeed Kate's cold was much worse than mine).  But it meant that I didn't ride my bike to work all week.  By Friday, most of my symptoms had gone, but I was still feeling a little bit "low energy" so I drove that day, too.  Since Andrew and I have begun training for the metric century next week, this is the first time that I haven't met my weekly mileage goal.

Driving home from Mother's Day breakfast with Kate and the monkeys, my car started to overheat.  I made it home and realized that it was low on both radiator fluid and oil.  Not good.

I went to the store in my wife's car and got both.  It seemed to be running much better, so I drove it to the mechanic (who fortunately, is open on Sunday).  I then rode my folding bike the 1.7 miles home.  This was the longest I had ridden an upright bicycle since I got my Sofrider recumbent bicycle.  And I really didn't like it. The seat felt not very uncomfortable almost immediately.  And I really felt quite high up (even on my folding bike).   It also didn't help that the gears are now messed up on my folding bike, but hopefully that will be easy enough to fix.

(As far as the car, the mechanic couldn't find an active leak, but thinks it might be the water pump.  Oh joy.)

I was running late for when I told Andrew I'd meet him at his house, so I got everything ready and left. On the way over, just before his house, I saw a fully spandexed rider gaining on me.  I pushed it into high gear and pushed as hard as I could.  He overtook me on a relatively flat stretch when I was going about 22 mph.  I looked over at him and said "I tried."  He just looked back, smiled, and said "Nice job!" as he continued to fly past me.  At some point in my life, I hope I grow up enough to stop doing (somewhat) silly things like this and just let those with more energy pass me so I don't keep blowing all of my energy reserves too early (although in this case, it was a fun interaction with some random cyclist, so I shouldn't complain too much).

So I arrived at Andrew's house and we took off north.  We rode a very similar route this time to what we had done the first time we made it to New York state. The last time, we turned around where the "experienced gentleman" told us the rest of the route was quite hilly.  This time we kept going.

Not surprisingly, the gentleman's description of the route was right on.  We climbed almost 250 feet in just over 1 and a third miles. Then another 100 feet in a third of a mile, followed by 85 feet in a quarter mile.  That may not sound like a lot, but it really took it out of both Andrew and myself.  Here's a picture of myself at the top of the last big hill:

As you can tell by the picture (which was taken after a couple minutes of rest), I look beaten.  And we still had another 20 miles to go to reach our target.

So I've complained a lot so far.  There were a lot of nice things about this ride.  Most of the scenery was quite nice.  For example:

And just after this bit of going up and up and up, there was a nice stretch of coming down too.  I didn't get as close to 40 miles per hour here, but I did hit a respectable 35 mph.  When Andrew caught up after that bit, he proclaimed "You're the king of the downhill, Charles!" A silly comment, but it helped me get back some more energy.

Both Andrew and I felt quite tired after this ride, compared to the others.  Although the elevation gain for this ride isn't out of line with the others (2600 feet uncorrected compared to 2200 feet uncorrected for our City Island ride), my Garmin also thought this was more difficult as it decided that I burned over 5800 calories on this ride compared to just over 4800 for City Island.  My heart rate also seems to think that today's riding was much tougher. So I don't know that I really believe these calorie calculations, but this time, it does make me feel better.

We don't know if it was the heat (it was definitely hotter), the hills, or even the lack of pretzels (which Andrew has been bringing regularly, but not today), but this ride really does stick out in our minds as being, well, hard.

The Bloomin' Metric Century and its 62 miles are next week.  It shouldn't be nearly as hilly as today's ride and we'll start much earlier in the day, so hopefully heat won't be an issue.  So although this last ride really isn't giving us too much confidence (since next week we'll need another 17 miles on top of what we did today)., I really do believe that we'll be o.k.  And just to make sure,  Andrew will bring pretzels again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Biking for a Breakthrough Diabetes Ride

This Saturday, Andrew and I rode the YMCA's Biking for a Breakthrough Diabetes fundraising ride (pdf file). The ride was supposed to be 31 miles which was shorter than we were supposed to ride (according to our training schedule for the Bloomin' Metric Century, so we started at his house and we rode the 7 miles to and from the start of the race.

Tbe weather wasn't nearly as good as the previous weekend.  It was either overcast or light rain during the ride.  When we got there, we found that the YMCA had staffed the ride quite well.  It turns out they had more staff than riders.  This was the first time they had the ride so hopefully it will be better attended next year.  In addition to our T-shirts and water bottles, they had a nice spread of food out for us.  It did turn out that instead of 31 miles we were expecting, they were now only planning 24.  Since we were riding back home anyway, the shorter distance wasn't a problem (and it turns out their portion of it was closer to  just under 29 miles).

We got to the ride early so that we could start near the front (not realizing when planning that there would only be about 20 riders) since I had to get back for my daughter's ballet recital that afternoon.  The ride started about 20 minutes late, but then we were off!  The course was marked pretty clearly and they even had police at some of the busy intersections.

The whole group rode together for the first bit.  This is the first time that I've ridden with a large number of people on diamond frame (DF or regular) bicycles when I was on my recumbent.  I've been riding with Andrew for several weeks, but he's used to the idiosyncracies now (specifically that I am slower going up the hills than most DF riders, but a lot faster coming down the hills).  Andrew and I were leading the pack until the first big hill (Turkey Hill Road).  At the top of the hill, we stopped so I could put my jacket into the trunk bag and that's the last we saw of the group.  (I think we would have caught them except that one of the signs we saw said "Kid's ride, turn here"  and we stopped, took out the map, and made sure we were really supposed to turn there.

All-in-all, it was a nice ride.  At the end of the Diabetes fundraising ride, they had a nice lunch for us.  And we managed to eat enough and still be able to ride back home.  At the end of the day, we rode 43 miles in total and averaged 12.7 mph (which is our fastest ride yet).  And I made it back in plenty of time for my daughter's recital. And since I don't have any bike pictures for you, here's a picture of her and her classmates: