Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's all about the bike, babee!

Lance Armstrong says "It's not the bike, it's the engine" and he has a point. It's not like all I have to do to ride like Lance is buy his bike. On the other hand, if it really isn't about the bike, then why does he have such an expensive one?

I'd even offer to trade to see if he'd say it's the engine then, but I like my bike. She rides like butter and I'm definitely faster on her than I am on my trainer bike. I also get a lot of complements on her when I'm out and about. She's definitely pretty and I'm liking the new blue bar tape better than the white. It definitely doesn't show the dirt as well.

My new aero bars are cute too. They remind me of the horns on a steer, mostly because they are so short (like me). I'm finding them pretty comfortable and fairly stable. I like having an extra position in my back pocket, particularly one that seems to go easy on my back. When I'm particularly tired, I can rest a bit without losing power. I like that.

The last time I tried aerobars, I did not like them. I felt like I lost power every time I went in them and I felt so unstable. This time I had them put on as part of my bike fit and that made all the difference. They are in the right place so I'm in the right place when I'm in them. I still feel wobbly at times, but last Thurs. I was hammering down Alpine in them and I realized I was going 26 mph and felt completely comfortable. Well, until I realized how fast I was going and freaked out a bit. But up until then I was comfortable.

I've been having some good times on my bike lately. I'm training for the Vineman Full AquaBike in three weeks so I've been trying to increase my distances and build up some extra bike fitness while not stressing the bad calf too badly. It's been a delicate balance.

As part of my "more miles" quest, I did "Warren's Ride" for the very first time last weekend. This is a ride that my club sponsors that is designed primarily for the intermediate and advanced triathlete who are training for long races. I am not an intermediate or advanced triathlete; I'm more of an advanced beginner. But I am training for long-distance races and I wanted to ride my bike on Saturday for longer and longer distances each week and had run out of options closer to home. So I ignored the fact that this ride intimidates me and I made myself tag along.

I tend to get dropped on SVTC group rides but I was hopeful that this one would be okay as there is a lot of Zone 2 training in it. Then I got dropped in the parking lot! Granted, I was changing an unexpected flat tire. But it was a bit lowering to be so far behind before the ride even started.

Two people who wanted to "take it easy" stayed with me and helped me get my wheel back on and one of them even rode to my pace for a while. But I could tell his "take it easy" was still "way too fast" for me so I told him not to hold back but to wait for me at the first regroup point. I was a bit nervous about what was to come after that point as it was the part of the route I'd never taken before and I was hoping to have a few people around who knew where we were going.

However, no one from SVTC was at the regroup point, as far as I could tell. I worried maybe they were just in the bathroom and would come out and wait for me some more, but I figured that was unlikely so I just kept going. It was my first time going out Cañada and I can see why people like it. It's very straight and very pretty. Not only do they close the road every Sunday just for bicycles, but at the end of the road there is a special "pedestrian" button on the left side of the road just for bicyclists turning left!

Oh and it had some cute kids selling lemonade. I promised them I'd buy some on the way back when I was more in need of it.

After Cañada, I got a bit lost. I missed a turn, checked my Map app on my iPhone, decided it was just in front of me instead of just behind me and proceeded down this absolutely awesome decent for at least a mile until I could turn around again. Then I had to go back up that awesome decent, which was a little less awesome as an unplanned hill climb.

When I got to the top, I figured I should give up on the loop that was on the official route and just go back down Cañada. I was hoping that would save me enough time that some of the stragglers might pass me on the way back, but I was too far behind even for them. By the time I got back to Cupertino Bike Shop, most everyone had gone home.

But I did 65 miles with lots of hills and I felt pretty good.

Then, on the regular Thurs. night ride, I got to treat it more as the tempo ride it's supposed to be without any injury to my calf. (Yeah!) I also kept up with the group all the way to Arastadero and kept up with the stragglers through most of Stanford. I did get to a point where I'd lose sight of them and then see them again, but I didn't lose them for good until they turned on Alpine. Usually I start to lose the group on Edith and am totally dropped by Arastadero so I was quite pleased. Plus, I fit in the entire main loop -- the one designated for groups 3-4 and didn't have to cut it short and do the shorter Groups 5-6 version.

That's the first time I managed that this season and we're only about half way through, while last season I didn't manage it until almost the very last ride before we packed it in for the Fall and Winter.

Now, I know a lot of these guys were tapering for Vineman Half and probably not going all out like they normally do, but I checked my bike computer when I got back and I was definitely riding faster than in the beginning of the season. So I was happy.

Which brings us to today's ride.

Last night as I was mapping out the ride, I seriously considered not doing it. The main set was EIGHTY miles! Plus, it has around 5000 ft of climbing. Ouch! But I have wanted to take on Old La Honda for forever and I did want to ride farther than last week. So I mapped it out on "Map My Ride" and this is what the elevation profile looked like:

The 80  miles and 5000+ elevation in the ride description had given me pause but seeing the elevation like that seriously freaked me out.

That first bump is Old La Honda. The second bump is Tunitas Creek (though I didn't know that at the time. It turns out it's worse than Old La Honda and I didn't even know I was supposed to be afraid of it!) This is when I started trying to talk myself out of the ride. Did I really want to take on that many hills when my calf wasn't fully healed? Isn't 80 miles a big jump from 65 the week before? And so on and so forth.

But in the end, I decided to HTFU and just do it.

So I get to the ride and I actually leave with everyone else. But I get dropped pretty quickly. At first I was hammering it trying to catch up, but then I realized how dumb that was. I had this really long and really hard ride ahead of me and I was trying to give it all way on the warm-up section. So I settled in and rode at my own pace.

Old La Honda came soon enough and I started up it. Hey, this isn't so bad, I'm thinking to myself. Then that turned into: my there are some hard parts in here. Which turned into: will this ride ever end? Which turned into: I don't think I'm going to make it.

But, really, what choice did I have? If I got off the bike to rest, I'd never get started again on that steep of a  hill so I'd just be pushing my bike up while I walked and I know from past experience that this is just as tiring as riding up the hill very slowly. So I persevered.

And then I got to the top and I was so happy. My legs were quivering and I had to stop and rest, but I made it! Then I went down a nice hill to the regroup point. Which was at Alice's Restaurant! Yes, the one from the Arlo Guthrie song. I keep forgetting it's around here.

No one from my group was actually there but some nice man from gave me a free Clif Shot (Chocolate!) and then I got to go down an even better hill for a long time. As I screamed down the hill, passing people (yes, I actually passed people and not just people on cruiser and mountain bikes but real road cyclists with jerseys from gnarly bike events), I started to sing:
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. ('Cepting Alice)
You can get anything you want. At Alice's Restaurant.
Walk right in. It's around the back.
Just a half a mile from the railroad track.
Oh you can get anything you want. At Alice's Restaurant.
I sang all the way down the hill to the next regroup point. Again, no one was there, but I took a potty and water break and started on my way.

It was okay at first. But then I hit Tunitas Creek Rd. This is when I remembered that second spike on the elevation map, which in my mind I had minimized to being smaller and not as sharp as the first bump (ha!). At first it wasn't too bad. It probably wouldn't have even been bad at all if I hadn't just done Old La Honda. Unfortunately, it definitely got worse. Plus, you could see the upcoming climbs and they always looked much worse than they looked when you were climbing them. Sometimes it's better not to know what's ahead.

I hit a wall about 5 miles from the end. I had stopped singing, even just to myself, ages before that but at this point I was just completely fired. I really wanted to quit. I seriously thought about turning around and going back down. I mean I was completely serious about it vs. just toying with the idea like on Old La Honda.

However, unlike with Old La Honda, where I told myself I had no choice, but I really did because I could have turned around and just done the normal shorter bike ride that goes through that area, I really had no choice here. I was on the other side of a mountain so turning around would have just postponed the inevitable. Eventually I had to get back up over the mountain to get back to my car. If I couldn't do it on the bike, I'd have to call Mr. Mac and make him pick me up. Even if he wouldn't have hated that (and he would have), I would have been so humiliated.

I decided to just take it one switchback at a time and try not to think about it too much. I also told myself that endurance sports are 90% fitness and 90% mental. (This twist on an old programming joke made me smile and that helped put me in a better frame of mind.)

About 4 miles from the end, a nice man told me I only had 1 more mile of climbs as the last 3 was relatively flat. But then a half mile later another man said there was still 4 miles to go and it didn't get better. I was crushed. So I decided not to believe him. I figured he was probably right about the 4 miles, but I would trust the first man about the last 3 being pretty easy.

I'm not sure if it really was one more mile or two of half a mile. I just know that at some point everything leveled off and I could even get out of my easiest gear. I was still up high in a beautiful forest, but I wasn't really climbing any more and I wasn't dying. Then, abruptly, it was over.

The descent down Kings Mtn. wasn't as fun as the descent after Old La Honda because I had jello for legs and the road was narrower and twistier. But I made it down and into town to the last regroup point. I knew no one would be there as I figured the last of them were just finishing up by now. I decided to get some gatorade (which I actually hate, so I'm not sure what I was thinking) because I'd run out of Infinit.

In the store, I ran into some people I knew from skating! They told me I was looking fantastic (how much weight have you lost? 110 lb. Wow. That exchange never gets old.) and I told them to tell everyone at the rink I said "Hi".

Then I limped home. I actually was okay for a while but the last 5 miles or so, I was traveling on fumes. Luckily, the last bit was downhill so I hardly even had to peddle. I got back to a completely empty parking lot except for some guy in an AT+T truck who was having some sort of intense conversation that I really didn't want to be a party too. So I threw everything in the car and took off.

I'm at home now and I actually feel pretty good. I probably look like I've been rode hard and put up wet and I'm pretty sure you can smell me into the next county, but my calf isn't paining me and my legs aren't too, too sore. I'm starting to think I may be ready for the Full AquaBike after all. I had been worried up until now.
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