With January drawing to an end, I know it must be getting to be time to start racing. Every January begins with same sensations on the bike as the January before, (a loss in fitness and a little suffering as I'm trying to find it again), and ends with (or so I hope) fitness arriving once again. This year has been no different for me than any other as far the legs go, with two weeks of easy riding followed by two week of longer and harder training rides. I have had some lingering back issues to deal with this time around, but it hasn't affected my training much, if at all.
Yesterday (January 30th) was the first real test of the year to see exactly how the legs have been progressing. The plan for the day was to ride 115 miles through San Diego County, adding Palomar Mountain in as a fitness testing point. It is a 12 mile climb, with a gain five thousand feet, on which I have a personal best of 54 minutes and 23 seconds. But I haven’t ever done it at peak fitness, since I’m normally only going up during my winter building period. I started the ride with my girlfriend, who rode along for the first hour of the loop, and three riding buddies who stuck with me for the whole six and half hour ride. Two of the guys, Eric and Jeff, were down from Bend, Oregon, for three weeks of sunny So Cal. Training, and Mark, a local San Diegan I just started coaching.
We started the day riding along the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway, and caught up with the Swami's group ride (100 riders that day) that travels inland through Elfin Forest. It is a historic San Diego ride, that takes off from the coast every Saturday morning. Normally, it is known as a fast group of riders, but every one seemed to be saving their legs this weekend for the SoCal season opener that will be here next weekend. Since the pace was slow and steady, every one had fresh legs for the final sprint – never a good sign... I looked for my three riding buddies as we neared the sprint. Jeff and Eric were near me, riding at the back of group, and I told them to stay where they were, out of trouble, and away from the crash that was almost sure to come. Next I started looking for Mark who I finally spotted right up near the front of the group. Normally, that would be a safe place, but with everyone fighting for the sprint, he was right in the danger area if a crash was to occur. I wanted to ride up to him and warn him, but the group was so wide that I would have had to cross over the yellow line in order to do so, which only would have caused more chaos. At that point, all I could do for him was to send good thoughts his way and hope for the best! Twenty seconds later, the crash happened and five or six riders went down hard. I thought for sure Mark had gone down, but it turned out to be his teammate who had been right beside him instead. Mark managed just to squeak by on the right as everyone hitting the deck fell to the left – close call!
As the group ride separated to head back to the coast, we picked up a few more guys for company on our trip out to Palomar. Most split off as we got headed to the base of the mountain, taking us back to our original group. We did get one addition for the trek up Palomar – John – a pro rider who works at Black Mountain Cyclery in San Diego. When the big climb started, I stayed on the gas but just under my limit to give the legs a test run. My SRM was showing solid watts and the legs were feeling good.
Fifteen minutes into the climb, I could tell I was going good and started thinking about trying for a new personal best, which made me reassess the situation a little. I had two full water bottles still on the bike and a pocket full of food and personal stuff (phone and wallet). I decide to empty one of my bottles but there wasn’t much I could but carry the other things. As the first time check came up just before the turn off, I was on target, but I reminded myself that a twenty-minute effort is not the same as a fifty five minute effort. But the legs were still going. I started having some shifting troubles when I hit the hard switch back section. It’s always ironic how the bike runs perfectly until you are really putting it down and going for it. It was an easy fix but would require me to stop and get off the bike, which is never a good thing when you’re pushing the legs that hard. After spending sometime considering whether or not to stop, I finally decided that I could go faster with a perfect running bike and stopped.
I jump off the bike and quickly adjusted the rear derailleur, then jumped right back on it and got back to business. To my surprise, the legs were still feeling good. At the four thousand foot marker I was at 38 minutes but starting to suffer. I told myself I only had 16 minutes more of suffering if I got the PR, but 54 more minutes of suffering ahead of me if I didn’t and had to come back and try another day. At this point the SRM was starting to show signs of weaving up and down – that damn thing never lies, even when I really want it to! From there on out it was going to be all or nothing. I put all of my focus into watching the watts and keeping the cadence in rhythm. I hit the five thousand foot marker at 50 minutes flat, thinking, here comes the pain! The watts jumped from 350 to 450-550 as I got out the saddle for the last big dig, crossing the top at 53:20 – a personal best! We made it home after 6:30 in the saddle, cleared out the fridge, and took over the couch until dinner. Now it’s almost time to head to the RadioShack training camp in Calpe, Spain, and I think I’m ready to go!
Thanks for reading! Until next time...