Sunday, November 9, 2014

My First Criterium: Not Ready for My Second Yet

Rode my first criterium today. Got my butt kicked, of course, but we learn from these things.

I had been getting much stronger in the past couple of months so I figured, what the heck. I signed up for a race down in Dominguez Hills, a popular SoCal course. Got there in plenty of time, felt fine, warmed up great. We went off and I held on for a couple of laps but then the pack got away from me. I time trialled as long as I could but got pulled off before the field could catch me with two laps to go. Oh, well. Getting lapped in one's first crit is not an unusual occurrence (and I wasn't the only one in this race).

So, what to do now? First, I put the race into Strava. I knew from looking at my computer that I averaged over 22 mph for the race, which is a huge improvement for me. However, this was a race and not a time trial so all that matters is how I did against the other racers. Fortunately, on Strava you can compare your performance with others that uploaded the same race. That's nice because I can see how much improving I need to do. Looks like I need to up my average to 25 mph before I tackle this race again. That is actually very good to know.

What now? Well, this race is part of a series and the next one is in December. I know I'm not ready for that so I think I'm going to take November off the bike and give my body a break. Next, I know if I want to do more of these crits then I need to get serious about losing weight. Like, 20 lbs. serious. That means I'm going to have to make a real effort to eat clean once I get back on the bike. I think I can do that. When I do get on the bike, I need intervals, intervals, intervals. I still don't have a power meter but these intervals will be sprints so I just go like crazy for ten seconds. I can keep track of my progress on Strava by occasionally hitting certain segments hard and looking at the results. When I've brought up my performance by 3 mph, I'll know I can try another race and see if I can hang on this time.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sometimes It's Just About Being There

I like Strava. I don't get to go on many group rides so seeing how I do against others and myself is sometimes as close as I can get. It also helps me to improve as well as humbles the heck out of me. Nothing like riding a slightly downhill segment as fast as I possibly can, then finding out that the pros rode that same segment 10 mph faster during last year's Amgen Tour of California while they were just cruising. Yikes.

On Sunday I did one of my go-to figure eight routes. Not too long but lots of climbing. I've been riding stronger lately so I was curious how I did on one of the hills on the route. My second best time, so that was okay. However, I noticed that my personal best put me in the bottom 15% of the riders for that climb. That's not surprising, though, because I am not a climber at all. I can get over hills, I just do it very slowly because I'm so big. Sucks but that's just the way it is. I looked at the leaderboard again and noticed something else: there are just not a lot of people doing that climb. Almost 3x the number of people do the descent but because that climb is so hard (not so long but steep, isolated, and it can get hot out there), most cyclists aren't even trying it.

Sometimes it's not about how fast you go up the hill. Sometimes it's just that you go up the hill at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An 80-Mile Round-Trip Commute to Work by Bike? WTH?

How in the world did I find myself making an 80-mile round-trip commute to work by bike? Like most things exercise-related, I built up to it.

A few years ago I worked at a company that was close enough to me (11 ½ miles) that I could ride my bike to work every other day or so. 23 miles round-trip isn't so bad if you've been riding at least a year. The ride to work was a net downhill and it was close enough that I could get away with "showering" with Action Wipes. I would already have a change of clothes at work waiting for me. Things were working just fine.

Then I moved and changed jobs. If I wanted to ride to work this time, it was going to be 25 miles each way and significantly more climbing. I did it a few times, still using Action Wipes, but then I had my accident and that stopped my riding for almost a year.

When I was ready to ride again, my new employer had an actual shower I could use. It was in a basement but it was still better than Action Wipes for the new ride. This time it was 28 miles each way, 1,000 feet of climbing to work and more home but I could do it in about 95 minutes to work and 1:50 to home. A workout but totally doable. What I would do was drive to work in the morning with my bike gear, a change of work clothes in bags, and my bike in the trunk. When it was time to go home I'd change into my cycling clothes and ride home. The next morning I would ride back to work, put my bike in my car's trunk, grab my work clothes, take a shower, get dressed and go to work. It worked out rather well until the end of daylight savings time because there were certain parts of the route that I didn't want to ride for extended periods in the dark.

Then last July I changed jobs again (it can be like that when you're a computer programmer) but this time my commute was much farther. To ride my bike would not just be a lot farther (40 miles each way) but, obviously, take a lot more time. I started out slowly, only doing the round-trip once a week. I would also take a bus for part of the way home, turning that commute into 26 ½ miles. Then I started doing it twice a week, still taking the bus part-way home. The first time I did the full ride home turned out to be a day when I got food poisoning at lunch. I finished the ride home but the last few miles were pretty tough. It wasn't until that night that I figured out why.

When daylight savings ended I took a month off, then I started riding during lunch. I would try to keep the ride down to under an hour and that worked out fine. I work at a place with some nice rollers nearby so I could hit certain hills hard when I was feeling up to it.

With daylight savings back, I was back to my bike commute. This time, though, after a few weeks I would ditch the bus and do the whole ride home. Because of my schedule, I can do the round trip once every other week, and on the opposite weeks I can do it twice. On the weeks I can only do the round trip once, I try to get in a good ride on the weekend.

We are nearing the end of daylight savings time so I'll be back to doing my noon rides and longer rides on the weekend. It changes things up and I can tackle some of the harder rides where I live that I can't do when I'm putting in all those miles to/from work.

Advantages of putting in all those miles to/from work:

  • Saves gas. Really, it does. My drive is so long that replacing any of those trips noticeably helps my pocketbook.
  • Burns lots calories.
  • I can tune my race nutrition should I get back to doing longer triathlons. Been loving making different rice cakes.
  • Improves your urban riding skills. Comes in very handy when riding in traffic during a race.
  • Put in a lot of miles without having to wake up a lot of mornings at 4am.
  • Toughens you up. Riding home at 5pm means it can still be very hot out. Riding to work at 6am means it can be a bit chilly and dark out. You learn what you need to do to get through it.
  • Four words: guilt-free donut Fridays.

Disadvantages of putting in all those miles to/from work:

  • It does take time. For me, around three hours. That means when I ride home I get there about 8pm and when I ride to work I get up at 5:30am so I can leave around 6am.
  • You will feel tired at work. When you first start doing these, you'll get very tired. However, you'll adapt and won't be so tired. If you have a cushy desk job, like me, that's not so bad, though.
  • Lonely ride. Let's face it, nobody else I know is going to do this crazy bike commute so I have to do it alone. I'm okay with that, though.

I am really, really enjoying these commuting rides. When/if I move closer to work, I'm going to miss them.