Sunday, August 7, 2011

Well that was a bit of a disaster

Ever have one of those days where you want to just rewind the clock and start over? Today was such a day.

It was supposed to be a day that a bunch of us did the IMC Sim Bike Route. This is route that some members of my club have worked out that has hills in all the places that IMC does that are similar elevation. However, there is about twice the elevation gain as the actual course so the route is much harder. The advantage of doing this exact route, even though it is harder, is that many people have done it before and then done IMC. So we have an idea of how to translate performance on the sim route to performance at IMC.

Which is why I wanted to do this route. I wanted to be able to give my mom an idea of when to expect me on the bike course. I also wanted to do it just to do it. I figured, if I could do it, IMC would be a piece of cake. Also, I was hoping to get some ideas for pacing strategies as the ride does somewhat simulate the pace of IMC even being harder.

Here is what happened:

Set my alarm for 5:25 am hoping to get out of the house by 6:00 am for our 7:00 am start. Went to bed but couldn't sleep. Tossed and turned all night, had weird dreams involving carnivorous and poisonous lizards who bit me and then suddenly woke up, looked over at the clock and it said 6:25! I was supposed to have left 25 minutes ago!

Jumped out of bed, peed and brushed teeth, threw on bike clothes, added water to my water bottles, grabbed all my bike food and threw it in the car and threw the bike on the bike rack and took off. From start to finish it was about 7 minutes. I don't think I've ever gotten out of the house that fast before.

As I turned onto 880, I realized I forgot my iPhone. Too late to go back for it.

Got to the meeting place with 3 minutes to spare - yeah! - but not the extra 15 I wanted to have time for a short warm-up. (I figured, without a warm-up, there's no way I could hang with big boys for any length of time.)

Someone I didn't know was there. She said she'd bike with me for at least a while, because I said on the list that I wanted a slow person to bike with. Aw, she came just for me!  My friend, Fluid Boy, who is super fast was also there. But no one else who said they were coming. Poo.

I got my bike ready and when I dug my Garmin out of my gym bag I realized that I had left it on all night. I'm really not sure how that happened, but it said it has 50% charge left so I figured I'd be okay as I wanted to finish the ride in 10 hours elapsed time tops. But I was concerned about it. If the Garmin turned off too early into the ride, the whole purpose the ride would be shot.

I figured Fluid Boy would drop us pretty quickly but he exceeded even my pessimistic expectations by losing us at the light right out of the parking lot! We did see him again as he came back down Stevens Canyon Road as we were going up. So I figured he was already 15-20 min. ahead of us. (Except I didn't realize how long that road was so maybe he was even farther ahead.)

Somewhere on Stevens Canyon Road, I realized I hadn't put any sunscreen on!

And that my front wheel was rubbing against the brakes. I fixed that, but then I dropped a chain. So two mechanicals and we were only 12 miles into the 105 mile route!

On the way back from Mt. Eden, we turned into Luckys so I could put sunscreen on and ran into Miss Alice who was meeting friends for a fun bike ride. While talking to her, my bike fell over. No biggie, right? Um, no. Because:

We went on our way and I realized my handle bars were shifted and not straight over the wheel. It was driving me crazy. So I stopped and tried to fix it but I couldn't loosen the bolt that held them in place. Neither could New Girl. So we flagged a guy down. He was able to do it because he turned the bolt in the correct direction. Grrr.

Then I dropped another chain.

Then I realized my cadence sensor wasn't sensing any more. Luckily I fixed that at a red light so no extra stop needed.

At this point, our average speed was abysmal even though I had the sense that we were going fast and that maybe I was pushing it too much. It was all the stops, I think.

Luckily absolutely nothing else happened as we continued up Foothill, over Page Mill, then Arastradero, Alpine, Portola and finally Old La Honda.

Up until now, New Girl had said I ride fast but she kept up with me fine and even passed me a few times. But I smoked her on Old La Honda! Whee! I was so happy. (Sorry, New Girl. I just had to brag about being faster than someone; it doesn't happen that often.)

I have been eating hills for breakfast, lunch and dinner all season and, while I didn't PR OLH or anything, I felt like my hard work was showing some dividends. I was happy on the one hand but also a bit concerned because my legs were much too wobbly when I got to the top considering how much more riding I had to do.

We took off down to Roberts and again I just flew. I was even being conservative. But I think my left-side descending skills are getting better as I didn't feel as uncomfortable going in that direction as I have in the past and I didn't have any issues holding my line.

At Roberts, New Girl decided to go home. As we were 40 miles in and 20 miles from home to give her her 50-60 for the day. So now I was on my own. Though we did see Miss Alice again. We'd now seen her twice and Fluid Boy only once! Anyway, having someone to ride with makes training a totally different experience. I need more slow people to ride with! Or maybe I should just get faster. Heh.

We ran into a bunch of other SVTCers at Roberts as well. They had done the IMC sim route the weekend before when I was at Vineman and so were doing a "short" ride today. I'm not sure what they consider short but I was a bit envious that they were almost done and I had 60+ more miles to go.

I headed out Canada and at Edgewood I saw Fluid Boy. We waved as we passed each other and I kept going. This part of the ride had always bothered me. It's supposed to simulate the rollers between Ritcher Pass and Yellow Lake but the Canada part is kind of flat and the Skyline part is really more of a climb than rollers. I had the sense that it was way harder than it needed to be and I had this idea that a better simulation would be to go up and down Canada enough times to get the mileage in. But I didn't want to change the route and lose the calibration aspect.

Because of bridge construction, I had to detour and I decided to use Bunker Hill Road instead of the Ralston's Bike Trail that I normally use. This was a big mistake. I hate the bike trail but it's much easier than Bunker Hill which involves going up an enormous hill with multiple stop signs to kill your momentum and then back down again. I was pretty sure this hill was going to give me trouble on the way back.

I got to the turnaround point and I was flagging but all the up I'd just biked was now down and I flew down it until Bunker Hill. That was up (with more stop signs) and it brought out how tired I was. I actually had to walk part of it. I decided to try a new strategy. I would take my time and try to let my legs recover. At the bottom of Bunker Hill, I actually stopped to rest. I pretty much never do that because not making forward progress stresses me out.

There was a guy there who had crashed and was waiting for a pickup so we talked a bit. He asked me how far I'd ridden and I looked at my bike computer and said.... ARGH! It had turned off! Somewhere on Bunker Hill. Damn. The worst of the worst had happened. There would be no calibration.

Anyway, his ride showed up to take him home and I turned back on Skyline and headed back to Canada and Roberts. I had to stop and rest one more time on a small hill, but when I hit Canada I started flying. Finally, I had a tailwind! I was back to Roberts in no time and now I had a decision. Should I or should I not go up Kings Mountain? If my bike computer was still on, it made sense. But, with it off, the ride was no longer about calibration and just about training. I had to do what made sense in the big picture.

On the negative side: My legs were dead. Also, my right calf -- the uninjured one -- was giving me a pain. That scared me a bit. The last thing I wanted was another muscle tear to deal with.

On the positive side: if I could get up it, I would feel 120% ready for IMC.

I decided that I might as well try. I could always turn around if I needed to or my calf started to get pulled by the climb. So I headed out and I did okay for a while. But as soon as the road started to get steep, I realized I was done. I stopped and rested but it didn't really help. It was the back side of Mount Hamilton all over again. Only this time, I didn't need to keep going because my car was downhill, not on the other side of Kings. So turn around I did.

At this point, my IMC sim route was toast so I decided to back home the way that had the most mileage but the least hills. I was pretty exhausted at first but I was able to rest my legs a bit doing down Alpine and on most of Foothill and, when I got back to my car I had two nice surprises:

Only 9.5 hours had elapsed, not the 10-10.5 I was expecting and I actually felt like I could have gone for a run. But it was almost 5 pm and I was starving and I am supposed to run tomorrow so I passed on the run and took off for home.

So here I am and I'm trying to process the whole thing. I'm looking at my stats from the part of the ride that Garmin recorded and from mapping out the rest of the ride with RideWithGPS and I did get in 100 miles. So that's good. I also managed 6963 ft of climbing which is more than IMC has. My moving average for the first part of the ride was decent even if my overall average was the pits. But how does it translate into a time for IMC? No idea. None at all.

It's not all bad news though. I did learn a lot from this ride. I learned what my legs feel like when I'm pushing harder than I should to finish a ride of that magnitude. I knew from the beginning that I was not pacing myself well. So now all I have to do is trust that feeling and actually listen to it.

Oh and the right calf is fine. So that's a relief.

My legs are kind of fried but in a good way -- the kind of way that I know I'll get some fitness gains out of this workout. I'd love one more chance to test myself and I'm pissed I didn't make it all the way up Kings (I think I got 1/3 of the way-hard to tell since I turned around in a driveway and not a specific cross street). But it's too late. I need to do my longest run next weekend and I'm not also doing a long bike ride that week and then I need to taper. So I'm not going to be able to get another long ride in and I just have to accept it.

As far as IMC bike times are concerned, I will stick with my original goals of finishing faster than IMAZ and aiming for 7.5 hours with a stretch goal of maybe doing it in 7 hours, if at all possible.

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