I rolled out with the Family Bikes Saturday Shop Ride this morning. We've been getting in a nice crew for it lately, and today was no exception. The usual gang (minus John & Timmah) showed up, some racers including one young lady who simply PWNnd! us in the hills, and some new more recreationally-oriented riders. Jon Seibold and/or Sean - somebody in the shop - printed up some cue sheets for a ride which was a really good idea. I guess we've been dropping people out in the boondocks recently and that's not too cool for the recreational riders. The racer ethos is that if you get dropped out in East Buddhastan, you aren't lost - you're just getting in some extra (maybe a lot extra) zone two work. Qwitcherbitchin, have a mug of STFU, and start pedaling, that's why you carry $20 and a patch kit on every ride, right?
Among non-fanatics, this is perceived as being a dickhead, among racers and hardcore rec riders, it's just what happens sometimes. There is a certain bitter pleasantness to getting dropped and lost far from home on a tough ride - it is like fresh lemonade - it gives you a license to amble and explore a bit, to take your time getting back and to enjoy the ride. Among those who are not gluttons for punishment, or who don't have a supreme (and maybe foolhardy) confidence in their legs and navigation abilities, it's not as nice an experience. So it's very cool that Jon is making provision for non-racers and the not-yet-leg-ripping rec riders.
As for how the ride went... Jay rolled up as we were leaving, and somebody said, "uh-oh, get out of here before that guy catches us." I mentioned to Trev it was bad that Jay was driving the van, because he can probably bring a lot more pain with him in that thing than in a small car. Anyhow we had too many people to wait and we were on the road, so Jon called him and he bridged up to us near the end of our warmup. Once again he was on the fixie, and doing some very normal roadie things - attacking at hills, pushing the pace here and there, surging. Yeah, we're on geared bikes and he's still laying the wood to us. He's so strong that it made it a really great, great training ride, pushing the ride pretty deep into the red zone for most of us. He's a superb rider and shared some tips with me that I was extremely grateful for - I hope he keeps doing it 'cuz he's like Yoda if Yoda had an insane VO2Max, mad bike skillz and wore AABC kit instead of those raggedy @55ed Jedi robes. I'm going to call him Bicycle Yoda from now on, and I mean that as a compliment.
We had a great learning moment for some of the guys when group got cut apart crossing Route 2 after coming up Swamp Mill Road. Swamp Mill is nasty - a mile or mile-point-five false flat, that goes into a quarter mile hill of maybe 10% grade, which turns into a 50 yard kicker of 15 or 18% grade, leveling into a short false flat. When traffic split us, a smaller group up front moved away quickly, towed by Yoda. I bridged up with a lot of work - it was maybe a 300 yard gap but it was flat and like Magnus Backstedt says, my fans know this, I am Maggie - then decided that I would rather rest than work hard for a few minutes. So I soft pedaled and bridged backwards to the chase group. Bridging backwards is a new technique I've been working on lately. I discovered it on the Coppi Hill ride and have been working on it ever since. Anyhow, I chilled until the chase group caught me, it was a nice rest. I joined on, Jon organized us in a rotation taking short pulls, and we started to work together decently. It was a learning moment for a few people, I think, who were amazed that you can go 26-27, bridge a gap, and do it almost effortlessly by *not taking pulls*. You just take a few pedal strokes when you get to the front, slingshot ahead and pull off, just keep it rotating briskly (wish we did this more on the Club ride... we need to work on this, it is an essential skill for us journeymen who would prefer to work together to take out the strong men in our races). I was eyeballing the PowerTap and noted that it was like 225 watts, a nice aerobic pace in the draft, 380 watts, VO2max for ten seconds in the wind, then another 90 seconds recovery. Easy peazy, lemon squeezy. Effortless speed is a wonderful thing. We were bridging up nicely and within 75 yards when the lead group slowed for a turn and we caught on. Just around the turn, everybody settled in for a rest, James started to take a nice long drink... and Bicycle Yoda attacked. Use the force you must, young James. Ha ha ha. Like Steve Martin says, the secret to good comedy is ti-MING. A little later I was pissed that Jonathan headed us up this road that had a steep kicker on it (Queens Bridge? Harwood?), but then we hit some rollers and closed up the gap that had opened on the hill, nearly instantly. I love "even" rollers that go up and down and equal amount on both sides, I just fly down, and fly up. We got back to the shop without crashing, though with a training tire on the rear, going fast down the hills on muddy, wet Patuxent River road was really sketchy - earlier I had feathered the rear brake on St. George Barber and nearly skidded out, this time merely going around a turn had me flat tracking. All's well that ends well, I guess. Mental Note: Michellin Speedium - great, durable $7 *dry weather* training tire, if the 350 grams or so don't bother you. Keep the Vredestein Fortezzas on the front though, you don't want them sliding out in the wet.
Data geekery & a lesson: Over two hours we averaged a little over 19, I pulled 221 watts (320 normalized), not spectacular but still solid, akin to the Coppi club ride except 45 minutes shorter. We had a nice warmup and cooldown that brought those numbers down considerably. Stripping the start and finish out, the guts of the ride was an hour and ten minutes of good intensity work where we averaged about 22 MPH in rolling to hilly terrain, my average power was 260 watts (squarely mid-tempo-level effort) but with a Norm Power of 352, meaning that to my legs, it was the same level of work as an hour long VO2max interval. The intensity level for that part of the ride was 1.1 which is very high (giving 110% effort, literally), with a 136 Training Stress Score. Yeah, the training effect was that of a very hard high intensity interval workout, similar to a race level effort though a little easier.
I like the Cycling Peaks software because it puts rides into perspective when you are trying to think about the training goals of a given ride, and what a particular ride accomplished. Two hours of riding with an average heartrate of 147 sounds like it could be a mild tempo ride, and at Hains Point, it would be. Yet when we finished the shop ride, most of us were stumbling around on fairly wobbly legs. The power output, properly analyzed, reflects the difficulty of the ride. The variable nature of a training ride, especially a good hard group ride with lots of surges, makes it hard to judge what exactly was accomplished, even with a heartrate monitor (which was unknown to me as a training tool even two years ago). Power meters along with Cycling Peaks' Normative Power and Training Stress algorithms take the mystery out of it. It doesn't take the fun out of riding for me because it's low drag to use, gives really simple analysis, and knowing what I did today helps me tune tomorrow's ride so that I hit my training goals for the week. It's clear why so many people who train with power metering gets stronger. Training without it is like a doctor who diagnoses patients without bloodtests. Really good doctors maybe just *know* what is wrong, for the rest of them figuring it out without analytical assistance would be really tough.
For instance, Bicycle Yoda talked to me a bit about my climbing mid-ride and suggested I try rolling with a tall gear on hills, and don't be afraid to lead up a hill (I normally hide on a wheel, spin and blow up). I tried to do what he said that during the ride and seemed to be climbing better, except when the pitch went over about 12-15% - where I'm hopeless anyhow. I went and compared my heart rate and power figures from this ride to other rides, and have figured out that I can put out high VO2max power for quite a long time, if I slide back in the saddle and spin at around 78-82 RPM. (Call me Der Kaiser, baby). On the older ride charts I looked at I was spinning 100-105, and putting out low VO2max power. What was different, is that with the spinning, my Hr was up around 175 or 185, getting very close to Max Hr, way over the *ventilatory* threshold - gasping and stomach heaving. I would blow up pretty quickly there. But spinning slow, I was climbing some of the same hills 2-3 MPH faster, with my Hr down in the 166 range - just at or very slightly above *ventilatory* threshold, yet way above my *power* threshold of 310-320 watts or so. Yoda's advice yields a difference of 60 watts or so, 18% more power (which translates directly into climbing speed and efficiency), and I learned something about my physiology. It was a good lesson but I might have trouble remembering it if Cycling Peaks didn't give me stone cold facts reinforcing what Bicycle Yoda told me to do.
All in all, it was a great ride - worked the legs, enlarged the mind, and it was fun like usual. Many thanks to everybody for making it that way.
Also, good luck tomorrow in the mountain bike race!