Friday, May 27, 2011

Saddle Time

After a rainy period that conjured up images of an Ark, the past few days have been rather pleasant here.

Tuesday was overcast and rain was predicted in the late afternoon. Temperatures into the 80's were also predicted so, with my A-list Hotter 'n Hell 100 event in mind,  I had to jump at the opportunity to train in the hotter, muggy weather in the Noon sun. I got out of work and went over to the bike path. I had hoped for a semi-epic-for-a-middle-aged-broad 50-mile base training ride but the clouds started to darken after my first 17-mile go-round. I also realized I had no extra nutrition and only one more bottle of water left, so I decided to hit the loop one more time and pack it in at mile 34.

I try to set some sort of goal for every ride I do. First off, I never worry about time (unless I'm off-course and people are waiting for me). Time and endurance come naturally with the right practice and better efficiency so there's no point in thinking about long-course racing when I don't cover the mileage on a training route yet. The idea is to get to the point where certain aspects of riding are second-nature to me. Some days, I work on the basics like drinking every 10 minutes while riding. Other days, it might be to assess a new piece of gear like bike shoes and cleat adjustments. For this 50 mile ride, it was to see if I could handle carrying two 24-ounce water bottles with ice, a multi-tool, a chain tool, two tubes and a new Topeak Road Morph G frame pump without crashing or bonking. I wanted to make sure I could hold my own on some upcoming long group rides and carrying an arsenal of bike paraphernalia is paramount to my success.

As I realized I was only good for a second 17-mile ride, I changed up and carried the load utilizing a high-cadence drill. I figured that this would be the best workout under the circumstances and it really did not disappoint. First off, when I drop to a lower gear and buzz up the legs to close to 100 RPMs, my average MPH dropped from 16-17 down to 13-14 but my heart rate started churning. Secondly, the path only has three small hills - none of which are worthy of categorization and I only see a handful of people standing on their pedals to climb them - but when my spinning legs hit the base of those little hills, it was definitely met with some leg and lung discomfort. Moving into a place of discomfort is, of course, is the point of a training ride and so I just decided to be satisfied with the results in spite of the darkening clouds and shorter mileage.

On Wednesday, I decided to try again. I loaded up a small cooler with ice, water, and a yogurt for lunch. On my way out, I stopped at the local bike shop for some energy bars and GU gels (nasty but effective, I guess). Unfortunately, on the second go-round on this second day, only about a third of a mile from my car, I noticed my front tire was soft. Now, I know I have the new frame pump but I also know I have, from the previous owner of the bike, Slime tubes. I don't know if I was being irrational, but I had to wonder if by not taking off the tire to seal the tube and really getting a chance to examine the tire, I was setting myself up for disaster with a potential tire wall separation. I couldn't really see a problem with the tire but decided to just ride back to the car and call it a day after 17 miles.

At home, I still saw no problem with the tire but decided to use the frame pump instead of my floor pump to add air and re-seal the tube. The idea was that if I can't make it work at home, there's no way it's going to happen on the road. 24 hours later, the tire was still holding its own. So, again, while I'm not happy with the mileage, the chance to test my gear without running into a catastrophe made for a successful, albeit short, ride and I now have more confidence in my frame pump (but still with only a small amount of confidence in the tubes).

I had a session with my swim coach Thursday afternoon and opted for a spin class that evening. After the harder, high-cadence drilling I did two days earlier, the spin class was harder than usual and I started hitting a higher heart rate. I was happy about that and decided to take a day off the bike before (hopefully) jumping into some longer miles this weekend.