Monday, January 21, 2008

Puking is no fun, but winning races is!

Today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is a day where I could have used some inspiration from him. I have the day off from work, so I used the opportunity to start my revised training in preparation for my cycling racing season which will start in February. My friend and unofficial coach, Mark Edwards, helped me write up a new weekly training schedule that ramps up the intensity in advance of my priority races.
  • Mondays: "L6" 10x1-minute intervals workout ride, probably during my morning bike-commute.
  • Tuesdays: "L7" 10x10-second "jumps" workout ride.
  • Wednesdays: "L5" 6x3 workout ride, probably during lunch near my office.
  • Thursdays: "L7" 10x10-second "jumps" workout ride split into my bike-commutes.
  • Fridays: Very easy bike-commute, or preferably day off.
  • Saturdays: "L4" with 3x20-minute FTP workout ride with Team Bicycle Trip.
  • Sundays: Very easy ride, or preferably day off.
The basic theory here is that short intervals (sprints) really don't take long to train for; just a month or two. So I haven't had to do short intervals during the off season (though Mark felt I should continue to do 10-second "jumps," which are very short sprints at 100%, and which I've always found to be easy).

My new program calls for 1-minute intervals, which are a long sprint, and today was my first workout incorporating these. The 1-minute intervals are similar in length to the 1K "kilos" they race on the velodrome. I rode a respectable 1K in 1:17.48 at the Elite California State Track Championships in September, but it was never a distance I targeted. I nearly blacked out from oxygen deprivation then, so I knew this new workout would be hard. The trackies nickname kilos "killers" for a reason! By the way, the experts seem to be saying that short intervals are of incredible benefit to athletes in surprising ways.

This morning I had my usual workout breakfast: cooked buckwheat cereal with berries, juice, banana, protein powder and coffee, and gave my stomach three hours to digest it. I was able to find a break in our latest rain storm, using the Doppler radar from the NWS. But I rode my old Stumpjumper because the roads were still a bit wet and my new Giant TCR C2 is too nice to mess up needlessly! I had scoped out a suitable hill on Rio Del Mar Boulevard, near Aptos, just up the beach from the famous beached cement ship.

The first interval up the hill got me pretty far up there, and pretty exhausted. I was gasping, my legs on fire. Whew! I definitely couldn't sustain that for 10 repeats, so I held back a little on subsequent intervals. Even so, after about 6 of them, with 5-minute breaks between each, I started feeling a little whoozy. My head was swimming, and I started getting those gross half-burps that warn of impending puking. Ugh.

I managed to ride only 8 intervals before I gave up. I was not in the mood to lose my breakfast! Apparently even three hours of digestion wasn't enough. I made a mental note to do these before breakfast in the future so I won't be as likely to vomit, and just slam some energy drink during the warmup. But on the ride home I felt a little better and got in a couple more intervals, so I am happy to say I got the full workout done!

These intervals are hard, oh so hard, and the nastiest workout I've ever done. But the guys who can do them consistently are the guys who win races. While I was suffering through these intervals I asked myself if I really wanted to win badly enough to make these workouts worth it. Now, in the comfort of my home, I say "of course!" If it was easy then everybody would be winning races, huh?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Those trees tried to kill me!

I'm warm and comfortable right now, albeit sitting in my dark living-room while waiting for the latest storm-induced power outage to end, but last Saturday I was in fear for my life while trying to get a training ride in. The trees had it in for me, I kid you not!

I looked at the weather forecasts and Doppler radar images in the days and hours before that ride. It looked like we'd have a few hours of calm in the morning between storm fronts, and I intended to get my ride in during that narrow window of opportunity. Instead, my wife and I went out for breakfast, went sightseeing for storm damage (it was considerable), and got in some shopping. By the time I headed out the door on my 10-year old Stumpjumper the next front was bearing down.

I rode up Nisene Marks in Aptos, because it's a quick way to get in some of that FTP workout time I strive for, on my mountain-bike so I could spare my road-bikes the indignity of traversing all the mud, fallen branches and sand the storm had deposited all around town. It takes me about 40 minutes of hard riding from the park entrance to get up the mountain to the Sandy Point overlook. Perfect. Even has benches up there you can collapse onto, if yer' winded. I rode up there on New Year's Day too, in gorgeous, though chilly, weather.

Last Saturday was different though; as I rode toward the park I passed fallen trees everywhere, and a thick carpet of fallen branches and leaves. The park was not desserted, strangely, as there were a few crazy hikers and joggers braving the mess. But as I rode further up I saw nobody, and instead found myself dodging big branches lying in my way, and even had to carry my Stumpjumper over several fallen trees. I counted three, one a huge monster that slid down the trail's embankment before toppling over and snapping in several sections. I assumed this had all occurred during the height of the storm on Friday, so I was thoroughly entertained by the spectacle.

I was dressed warmly, and had to unzip my jacket from exertion. Near the top of the climb it became foggy, a bit windy, and rain started pelting the forest, also the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, incidentally. But I was doing well and concentrated on my legs to ensure I stayed in my L4 workout zone.

At last, the top! Though over 10 minutes later than usual. The desserted benches were looking out on a vast gray nothingness of fog instead of the panoramic view of Monterey Bay we usually see. I slammed some sport drink and quickly turned around for the long descent.

Not too far down I reached the first fallen tree; strange, I didn't remember that one. In fact I was certain it hadn't been there before. OK, that was freaky! I thought back and realized that some of the wind gusts had sounded a lot like crashing trees...gulp. After that every noise and looming tree overhanging the trail made me more nervous. On top of that I got really cold; I hadn't zipped up my jacket and belatedly closed that barn door. I just wanted to be home!

My freezing hands had trouble with the brakes, and the pads were rapidly wearing out from gritty mud on my rims. The levers were soon hitting the handlebars. Fortunately my awesome 1.8" Panaracer Trailblasters worked great in the mud. I hopped over the three other fallen trees, feet numb with cold, and headed back into town through an ever-heavier downpour. People drivng by must have questioned my sanity. I saw a cool hawk fly over; he wasn't bothered by the rain.

Soon the rain got even heavier, maybe the heaviest I've ever ridden in. And it was getting really windy too. The nearly horizontal rain stung my face and soaked me through to the skin. Riding along East Cliff Dr also subjected me to a facial sand-blasting and riding through dunes of wind-blown beach sand on the roads.

Was I happy to get home, hose my filthy bike down and take a long, hot shower. A big lunch and a nap were the cherry on my sundae! I won't go on a ride like that again.

Happy New Year!