Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Val Verde (Solo) Century

That was quite a ride.

I started out at my usual 6:30. The high for the day was supposed to be in the mid-sixties which, it turns out, is warmer than I imagined the mid-sixties to be. That meant I was dressed slightly warmer than I should have but it sure felt great for the first few hours when the temperature was still in the 40s. I was zooming along before dawn nice and cozy (except for my freezing face, natch) and when the sun started to hit the hillsides and the steam was rising off the plants, I was still nice and cozy.

Since it promised to be a long, hilly day, I stopped for each of my fuel-ups. Every 45 minutes for a gel and every 2 hours for a Snickers. Sure, it added to the time I would be out but I knew it would be worth it. Do you know what happens to Snickers that have been in a Bento Box for two hours while you're riding around in the 40s at 15-40 mph? That's right, they practically freeze. That first Snickers was kinda tough.

Things were humming along when I got a flat about 1/3 of the way into the ride. I took the tube out and checked the tire so I could remove whatever caused the flat. Nothing there. I checked the tube but I couldn't find the leak. More on this later.

The ride westbound on Highway 126 was fabulous because it was a net descent. Even the hills were great. I knew I'd go back uphill eventually but, while I was on it, it was great.

Then came the turn south to head into Simi Valley (and you always go into a valley by going over mountains). Halfway done and I had mountains to climb. It was a bit deceptive at first, though. Instead of going straight up, the route had me make a right and go for quite a while. I was happy because I thought maybe I would be going the long way around into a pass. No such luck. Once I hit Grimes Canyon it was up, up, up, switchback, and more ups. It wasn't that it was too steep but it came at around 64 miles into the ride which made it so tough (I had to take one break two switchbacks before the top). I met a couple of cyclists at the top and we chatted for a bit before heading down into Simi Valley.

I thought that taking Snickers along would hold off lunch cravings but no such luck. Maybe on a flatter ride but this one was quite hilly and I still had a few more to go so it I found a Subway for a small sandwich, chips, and a coke. Then it was back on the bike, ride, ride, ride. Finally made it home.

The stats: 110.4 miles, 7:34 in the saddle, 10:10 elapsed, 14.6 mph avg., 6687 ft of climbing, 7 gels, 3 Snickers, 1 6" turkey sub meal at Subway, 2.5 bottles of water, 1 taco asada, and 1 flat.

Lessons learned:

The next day I cleaned up my bike and checked on that flat tube. I did find the leak--on the inside wall! Huh? I looked in the rim and the only thing I found in the area of the leak was what looked like a tear in the rim tape, like the spoke had pushed through. I did some research on the net and it turns out there there is rim tape and there is high-pressure rim tape. Let's back up a bit. There is this bicycle tire pressure chart by Michelin which recommends for riders over 180 lbs (that would be me) that tires should be inflated to their maximum pressure, which for the Vittoria Rubinos is 140 psi. It appears that regular rim tape may not be so good at that pressure so I have ordered some Vittoria High Pressure Rim Tape. We'll see how that works out.

Chamois cream rocks! I thought I didn't have a problem with chafing but on long rides I did have a problem with getting sore. Guess what? That was chafing. I had tried some Chamois Butt'r on a previous medium-distance ride with no problems so I was curious how it would work on a long ride. It worked great. None of my previous long-ride soreness at all. I'm going to be using chamois cream on any future ride longer than three hours.

I like taking Snickers along on a long ride.

I'm usually really good about dressing properly for a ride but I didn't nail it this time. I knew the afternoon would be too warm for my proZERO base layer so I wore a proCOOL base layer under a long-sleeved jersey with arm warmers and a jacket plus full tights. It turns out that the mid-sixties was warmer than I thought so if I had to dress for the ride again I would wear a short-sleeved jersey with the arm warmers under the jacket and shorts with leg warmers. The jacket kept me warm enough that I didn't need the long sleeves.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Planning for a Solo Century

A Century.1, actually. The SFVBC has several rides to choose from each week. This weekend one of the rides is called the Val Verde Century. It's five weeks out from the start of triathlon season so I'm going to do it. The problem is the ride looks pretty hilly and the last time I did a hilly century with the club they dropped me in the hills like a bag of sand. It's not their fault--I'm a big guy who doesn't climb so quickly (though I'm getting better). What I usually do on their rides is start from home at my usual 6:30am, ride to the club's starting point, do the ride, then ride back home, which adds about 14 miles to a ride so I can turn a sub-century ride into a century. Do I really want to do that, or even drive to the club's starting point, and have to ride/drive back if I'm just going to be dropped in 20 or 30 miles? Another thing that got me thinking is that this ride goes into the Santa Clarita Valley on the same route as my Santa Clarita ride. Hmm.

If I'm going to get dropped and end up doing much of the ride by myself anyway, why don't I just do the whole thing by myself?

And that's just what I'm planning to do. Here's the route:

There should be plenty of rest-stoppable places along the way to fuel up and refill my bottles. Thanks to a Christmas present from my sister I now have a Bento Box so I'm planning on doing a Chris Horner and bring along some Snickers bars (I haven't been able to find any half-height cans of Coca-Cola ;-). Since I've gotten rid of my Gatorskin tires and replaced them with Vittoria Rubino Pros (which are the ones that originally came with my bike) I haven't had a flat yet so I'm more confident in that department. Eight gels. Money for food. Oh, and this cool little BarMap holder I found at REI to hold my route slip.

It's supposed to be sunny-ish and in the mid-sixties on Saturday. I'll have a 90 minute head start on the bike club so I just need to stay ahead of them for 111 miles. Piece of cake.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Still Wiped Out From the Weekend

I am still tired from what should have been an average training weekend. I don't think I paid enough attention to nutrition on Sunday. Easy to understand when the first thing I hear when I get back from my bike ride is, "Daddy, I want breakfast." Lesson learned.

Saturday was an odd run. The plan was a long run of 75 minutes with a goal pace of 11:00/mi, which I did not expect to hit for a few weeks. I get about 2.5mi into the run and this nagging calf strain/cramp/thing that had been with me all week really flared up. I had to stop and rub it and toyed with the idea of walking back home. A few minutes of this, though, and I choose to just tough it out as best I can. I start running, gimpily, and decide it's probably doable to finish the 75 minutes. I turn around after 37.5 minutes, still a bit gimpy but I'll finish. About 2 miles to go I look at the Garmin and notice that my average pace for the whole run is still pretty good. I get to the top of the last hill and I figure out that I might be able to hit my goal pace if I hustle (you think like that when you're running downnhill). Now the race is on. I ended up with an average pace of 10:59, which was under my goal, and 6.87 miles. Odd that it happened while gimpy, though. I figure it's a combination of getting fitter and not previously pushing myself enough (mostly the former).

Another cool thing about my long runs is that each one, from here on out, is the farthest I've ever run.

Sunday was a medium bike ride on my Balboa loop but with a twist. This time I would take a detour towards the end up Lopez Canyon Road. I had read about it and even driven it once but now that the rains had paused it was time to do it. It's a two-lane road that starts off with rollers but with a net incline and then you have a hairpin turn onto the last bit of the climb, which looks pretty gnarly. I wanted to have a picture to post but it turns out that when I put my iPhone in my back jersey pocket, I missed and it sat on the couch during my ride. I'll post a pic in a few weeks. So I am doing the ride not easy but more like medium because I want to save myself for this big climb. I make the turn onto Lopez Cyn and I'm still saving myself on the rollers. By the time I get to the hairpin I am out of the saddle and decide to pull over to get ready for the final push. That's when I discover the missing iPhone. Oh well. I drink some water and dump what's left to lighten the load. I take my beanie off, roll down the arm warmers, unzip the jersey, and remove the sunglasses. Time do go.

That was easy! It turns out that getting to the hairpin was the hard part and after the hairpin was pretty easy. That sure was a lot of wasted anxiety. Next time I tackle it will be from the other way, which is supposed to be a bit steeper (14%).

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Have I really been away for three months? Looks like it. Who knew the off-season would mean off from blogging, too. Without any further delay, let's get back into it.

The biggest story has been my new bike. Back in October I was coming down the last big hill of my 42-mile ride (at 40 mph, natch) when I felt my back wheel rubbing the brakes. I stopped and found what I thought was a broken spoke. Turns out the spoke had pulled a chunk out of the rear wheel. I was pretty happy the wheel didn't do something silly like disintegrate on me during that descent! I took it easy the rest of the way home and all was well. I ended up getting a 2010 Motobecane Grand Sprint. It wasn't my first choice but the real world of my finances intruded on my dream so affordability won out. The Grand Sprint was my second choice, though, so don't get me wrong and think that I'm unhappy. Ultegra derailleurs and shifters, great brakes, carbon stays, and a heckuva lot lighter than my previous 14-speed? Yeah, I'm a happy guy. Oh, and modern gear ratios including an 11-28 cassette. I can now tackle some steep hills that I couldn't go up before and I don't even have compact cranks (yet).

On the running front, I did reach the last of my 2009 goals, which was to run a 5k under 30 minutes. I did that Thanksgiving morning. Now I'm working on getting my long runs longer and faster. I have a vague goal of doing a 10k under 60 minutes by the end of this year. I don't know how do-able that is but I'm keeping it in mind as I train.

I haven't been in a swimming pool since my last triathlon in October. I wanted to give my shoulders a rest and focus on burning some fat on the bike and the run. The problem is, now that I'm ready to go back into the water, my pool is closed and I'm not sure when it's going to re-open. My next tri, the IronBruin in March, is less than two months away so I really hope I can get in a pool soon.

There, all caught up-ish. No more excuses to not post.