Sunday, February 5, 2012

The second ride of the year

Fresh off the first ride of the year I decided to bike to and from church this am since the sun is out again.

Well, okay, so already I have violated dictum one of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook. I have allowed the foulness of dishonesty to discolor the electronic page. As it turns out, the word "fresh" had little in common with the condition of my quads, lungs, motivation, legs overall, endurance...

I had made my plan the night before in accordance to the magnificent enlightenment forthwith found within the respected page of our guiding book. I should commence my pedaling a full half hour early that I might A) ride more slowly and thus arrive at the sacred institution devoid of sweat or B) if I should prove typically unable to restrain the raging might of my legs and put forth such powerful effort that sweat fell like a mighty waterfall upon the pavement beneath as I thundered through the trail I should have sufficient time to cool down and allow said waterfall to dry up prior to entering the inner sanctum of devotional worship.

Knowing I had extra time, I took a longer, more roundabout route. Early on I was working on my form. I find that unless I consciously think about it, I allow myself to slide the middle of my foot over the pedal and push with that. But when I take time to think about it and use the ball of my foot I easily jump 20% in power.

I know this because with my heart rate staying the same, the simple switch of using proper form jumped my speed from 14.5 mph all the way to 18.5 mps with no noticeable increase in effort. And it made increasing effort almost unnoticeable and soon, on the flat, 6 minutes into my ride, I was thundering along at 24.6 mph but did not feel like I was pushing even in the slightest.

Now, a careful examination of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook has some magnificent tips on how to ride safely and marginally cleanly. One valuable suggestion is to NOT ride through mud puddles. So I had numerous extra stops that involved getting off the bike and walking over puddles.

Now my shoes are wet and have a hard time gripping the peddles. Which in turn slowed me down. As did the numerous stops to let traffic go by every time I passed an intersection. So then I was doing repeated stop/start intervals which got my legs burning. When I was able to ride steady I was constantly between 17 and 23 mph, but there were so many pauses that I ended up averaging just 13.3 mph for the 8.52 mile ride.

I also arrived about 25 minutes early. I took the time to let the sweat dry, catch up on email and texts, let the sweat dry, etc. There was a lot of sweat.

Meanwhile, my heart rate while riding was consistently between 140 and 153. And even a 30 second stop saw it drop instantly to between 120 and 136.  No clue what that means except my heart rate drops pretty fast.

It was on the ride home that my poor preparation and overwork caught up with me. All I had eaten was a single slice of pizza and a Dr. Pepper. So I was hungry, undernourished, and honestly...over trained.

See, when I designed my plan, I had set hours of training to do each week. And my weights and racquetball count against that. See, part of the philosophy of the plan is to tear the body down and rebuild it stronger with rest, and proper rest is a foundational point. I was supposed to top out at 4 hours last week. I played 6-1/2 hours of racquetball, worked weights for 1-2/2 I nearly doubled what I was supposed to do.

Now, on the one hand, no problems...I was having fun, my training plan is for two truly recreational rides, not a racing season. Also, I am training so I can do fun stuff like play racquetball, and honestly, if my training plan prevents me from doing these things I enjoy so much I will insta-scrap it.

As I explained to the trainer who was trying to convince me to sign up with him, I do the weights and workouts so I can do the biking, tennis, racquetball, etc for longer. If it detracts from that I have no interest in it.

However, it did show up in my effort. The familiar burn was back and, oddly, so was an occasional hard time breathing.

The sun had brought out lots of people, so the ride home was a struggle with even more stops. I am simply amazed how many people teach their kids that family rides are best done 4 wide on a path where it is questionable taste for two bikes to be side by side. Or who think "coming up on your left" means turn around, stare, see where I am riding, and move into my way even more.

Meanwhile, i took a more direct route home...and found a place I had to carry the bike for about 30 yards through the mud and water.

So now I could not pedal with proper form at all which slowed me down even more. Knowing I was riding slow led to discouragement. Which slowed me down even more. I never did get more than 2 or 3 minutes of pure riding and by now I had no reserves left to power through stop/start intervals.


5.56 miles at an extremely pedestrian 12.7 mph. And that is the direction that should be quicker.

I am going to get proper rest by not working out today or tomorrow so i should be at full strength Tuesday. Though the temptation to ride to work tomorrow is very strong...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The first ride of the year

The Junior Guidebook is a wonderful tome, full of wisdom beyond ken, passing on knowledge both inscrutable and scrutable.

Of course, of the two, the scrutable is the more useful because it can actually be scruted whereas the inscrutable is, by definition, unable to be scruted and thus highly unlikely to be of any use.

At the risk of losing my Junior Woodchuck Loyalty Badge, however, I must point out one tiny flaw with the magnificence of our favored text.

With knowledge comes an adjustment in thinking. But first, the ride.

My friends Riot Kitty and Fluffy the Cat, aka Attila the Honey Bear aka Mr. Wimpy Pants Who Will Only ride his Bike When It Is One Billion Degrees Celsius were meeting me at the theatre to see modern day entertainment fest The Adventures of Tin Tin (2012).

Taking advantage of an unseasonably warm 54 degrees, I decided to ride my bike instead of driving. So consulting the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, I quickly discovered it is preferable to get your brakes fixed prior to riding along the TV Highway so off to the bike shop I went.

13 minutes and a shade over 3 miles later I arrived at the bike shop. I explained to them how  last time I rode the bike they took all my 'emergency ride money" to adjust the brakes...and the brakes gave out after a half hour.

So they looked at them again and discovered a problem with the breaks, so I need a new something or other...brake caliper maybe?

They of course do not carry them in stock so while they tried to figure out how to special order one I drooled over a sexy number that someday shall be mine...maybe...


Anyway, we got the part ordered and I continued with my ride. The next section was long the TV Highway so I pushed it a little bit. Up hill and down dale, from hither to yon, zipping along at a modest pace.

After 5.66 miles at 15 mph...a pace I am particularly proud of since it was constant up and down hills of varying steepnesses...I arrived at ye olde theatre.

The marvelous thing about the hills is an oddity I noticed; when I am on the trainer I am not a big fan of intervals. But when riding on the roads I love intervals. Let me explain.

When taking off from a light, I do a close resemblance to modified spin ups...I start in a moderate gear and rapidly increase to a high cadence, then shift to higher gear after higher gear while maintaining the same cadence. While doing it, I actually have better form than at any other time, and actually get that "not quite sitting on the seat, almost dancing" movement. My legs piston forward with the power of Thundering Typhoons*, the bike feels nigh weightless, and I attain speeds I did not realize I was capable of. I am also able to maintain this pace for longer than I can typically hit that cadence in that gear.

And it gives me that release of endorphins, that happy, nearly euphoric feeling. I love those intervals.

Anyhow, on the ride back I am not going to lie...I was scuffling a bit. See, I am still in the "cross-training" I may have played almost 6-1/2 hours of racquetball last week, but I was on the bike for zero hours. My legs are stronger, but not bike stronger.

And here is where consulting the knowledge bases is detrimental.

Normally my thought processes would be something like, "My legs are tired and hurting. I am pushing too hard." And a bit later, "I am short of breath. I am pushing too hard." And "My lower back is hurting. Ow."

However, consulting the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook along with other, lesser books by mere doctors and world famous trainers, now my thought process goes like this.

"My legs are tired and hurting. I am building up lactic acid faster than my body can disperse it. I am definitely riding past my LT (Lactate Threshold for those of you who have not studied either the might Junior Woodchuck Guidebook or the aforementioned lesser books.) and it is too early in the season for that."

"I am short of breath. I have reached the anaerobic threshold. It is too early to be there, I need to work on my conditioning."

And last but not least, "My lower back is hurting. It really hurts. Ow. OW. OW. Oh, please stop hurting."

So as you can see, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

The funny thing is, though I was admittedly scuffling and riding slower, noticeably worn down after a relatively short ride...I noticed my form was slipping. So I made a conscious effort to work on my form. Toes to the front of the pedal, elevate the heel, power through...

And promptly had the strongest portion of riding for the entire day over the last 2 miles. Faster. easier. No crossing the LT or hitting the anaerobic threshold.

Score one for training and knowledge.

Still, I averaged just 12.8 mph on the last 8.57 mile ride...very slow by my standards, but acceptable for not having been on the bike for a couple weeks.

For the day I managed 15.26 miles in 1:06 for an overall 13.9 mph average...I will take those numbers. Especially on a stop and go series of rides like those three.

So while the knowledge gleaned from the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook and its subsidiaries has some drawbacks, I believe I still have overall shown progress.

I really look forward to the next ride.

* In the movie Tin Tin the Captain repeatedly blasts out this innocuous phrase, each time garnering gales of laughter from those of us in the audience.