Monday, May 5, 2014

Into the Red

Sunday my amazing wife ran the Flying Pig half marathon in Cincinnati.  Considering that she didn't get to train as much as she wanted she did fantastic.  She's inspired me once again.  Her effort and enjoyment of the event have inspired me to do either the half or full marathon next year.  Maybe the Pig will be my first full marathon.

A. Chainring

I regret that we didn't plan on going with her to cheer her on and support her.  It was kind of a mutual decision, but in the end it would have been so much better to have been there.

She's signed up for the Iron Horse again, and I'm pretty sure she'll end up doing the Rugged Red with me.  On to today’s post:
I never thought I would be a person that worried about weight.  When I was younger I never thought I'd care about my own weight.  Until I was in my late 20s I was scrawny and a tad underweight.  As I developed as a climber and later a cyclist I scoffed at the weight weinies who moaned about how heavy and cumbersome their gear was.

These days I'm overly cognizant of both my own girth and the density of my recreational accoutrements.  Being a staunch realist I persist in believing that having the lightest bike or 'biners won't guarantee success, nor will being the size of jockey. 

However, it's not contrary to the truth of physics to acknowledge that moving less weight takes less energy.  A skinny person can move faster and further than a fat person at the same wattage.

Not so long ago I schemed a new scheme.  I wanted to do the Red River Gorge loop, but I wanted to make it interesting somehow.  Not that the Gorge isn't interesting, but I've driven that loop so many times that the scenery alone (from the road) isn't going to easily keep my attention.

I like climbing hills, and have an affinity for climbing them fast.  But the simple physics of my life dictate a slower crawl than most other "serious" cyclists.  Clydes are rarely fast climbers, and I ride the edge of Clydesdelic performance.

That means that riding out to best my time up Sky Bridge Hill doesn't make a lot of sense for me.  For climbing time trials I have the much closer Furnace Mountain and Hart's Orchard.  Sky Bridge Hill is far enough out that the intensity of the effort required to get to it can drastically affect the outcome of any attempt.

But the overall effort...the time required to complete the 52 and change miles from the Red River Regional Bikeport around the loop and back...can be quantified.  A while back I wondered if I could do the loop in less than three hours. 

I took two water bottles and exactly the amount of calories I calculated I would need to carry me out and back, and I launched the Dogrunner on a trajectory to settle the nagging question in my mind.

I pushed hard, and a few miles out on the return found myself fallen short.  3:12 was my finish time for the ride.  It was a no-foot-down ride, but I missed the mark and felt I'd given it everything.  The wind hadn't been a factor.  I'd eaten well.  I rode tactically.  Those twelve minutes would be hard to overcome.

Saturday, after a few weeks of increasingly intense Mohican-ism, I set out for a second run on breaking three hours.  Taunting my better angels, I set out with even fewer calories than the first time, a slimmed down bike, and a mental bend to succeed.

The first half of the ride was intentionally less intense. I wanted to save as much as I could for an all-out effort after tackling Sky Bridge Hill.  I'm using these types of rides as more scientific training benchmarks.  The whole ride was a departure from my normal SOP.  I ate on the half hour and nibbled on the quarter versus my normal 45 minutes to an hour fueling intervals. 

I reached the 77 - 715 split at 1:06.  It's about 18 miles in.  Last time I hit it right at the top of the hour.  I gritted my teeth and hoped I could shave off those six minutes without going into the red.  I set a steady pace past Wolfpen and Chimney Top.  I gunned on for Gladie without maxing my RPMs.  I felt slow around Hen's Nest as I ate the last of my food (I kept a bonk-breaking cookie in reserve) and finished off my first water bottle.  I'd gained three minutes when I reached the bottom of Sky Bridge Hill.

I was determined not to sacrifice myself to slay Sky Bridge.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady. Slow and steady.  Once I was over the hump I knuckled up into a moderate gear and settled in for a marathon spin homeward.  Sky Bridge is around halfway. 

I'd go on to knock out a PR along Sky Bridge Ridge.  Of course I wouldn't know that until got home and uploaded my Strava track, but I'd be pleasant surprised with that and six other PRs.  At Pine Ridge the real slog begins.  From there I had just over 20 miles to go and I was two hours out.  To break three hours would be…possible.

A good tail wind would have been decidedly providential. But providence told me that it wasn't my day to break three hours.  I was pretty sure three hours was off the table, but I thought maybe I could at least best my previous effort.  And so I bore down on the pedals without holding anything back.

The headwind from Stanton wasn't strong, but it was enough to bleed off any surplus energy I had.  As long as I kept my pace up I could cruise along at 20 mph.  The second I let off, or didn't get aggro on some short uphill I fell off to 10 or less.  With each moment of faltering energy I lost more time.

On the west side of Rosslyn I clocked three hours.  I was still almost five miles out.  I cranked through town flatlined.  I labored over Steamshovel Hill expending the the dregs of my energy stores, but I was only two miles from home.

In the end I finished two minutes slower, but I had so many good segments along the way.  After my first attempt at three hours I said it would be hard to beat even 3:12.  I'd gone as hard as I could.  Getting faster is really going to be a result of getting stronger or losing weight.

After the first time I felt pretty wrecked.  My lungs hurt.  Saturday after my ride I went downhill fast.  My descent included an intensifying headache followed by a post-ride bonk of epic proportions. By mid-afternoon I was unable to function.  A two hour nap reset me somewhat.  More food topped off my tank.  By evening I was almost back to normal except for a distinct hollowness in my legs.

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