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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Longest Day Ride

This blog may start to be known as the blog which features bike ride events that "I never manage to ride"! Earlier in the year I posted about the Harpoon B2B ride that was held last Saturday. That has to be one of the coolest and toughest organized rides offered in the New England area. A couple of testimonials posted on the Sharon Road Club message board (see posts dated 6/21 and 6/22) seem to indicate that it was a great day of riding last Saturday and an all around very successful event. Oh well, there's always next year.

Here's another ride I had my sights set on but won't be able to participate in due to family commitments (the kid's have their karate class graduation this day). It's the Longest Day Ride being held this Thursday night (6/25) and sponsored by Ten Speed Spokes in Newport, RI. The ride covers 46 miles on Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth) and starts promptly at 6:00 pm. A moderately long organized ride at night...and during the weekday too! I've never ridden it nor do I know anyone who has, but it just seems like it would be a unique and fun ride to participate celebrate the time of year that offers us the most sunlight!

So not this year... perhaps next. But I would like to hear from anyone who's participated in the ride. Is it a cycling event worthy of clearing the calendar? And just so my few readers don't think I just talk about organized cycling events, I am registered for and will participate in the NBW's TFCE this September. This will be about my 10th time riding in this fun event.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My First Time Trial

And a disaster it was!

I think time trials (TT) are great. In addition to being my favorite type of cycling competition, I think they are great to participate in as a way to measure your fitness and help attain riding goals like speed. Turns out, there are several TT races held in the local area by clubs and bike shops...and they're open to anyone. I'd been thinking of trying one but my schedule makes it difficult. But there is one that fits my schedule perfectly and also happens to be reasonably close by as well, so earlier in the week I committed to participate in the once per month Saturday morning 12-mile TT held by the Sharon Road Club.

Okay, so now about the disaster. I'll start by giving some advice. Know the TT course before you ride it for the first time. I know the roads in the area reasonably well and had both a map I had downloaded and studied plus written directions handed to me at the race. Despite all that, I missed a turn that resulted in an estimated extra 1.6 miles being added to the 12 mile TT loop. But that's just the BIG mistake I made. Here is a complete list of all the things, that IMO, went wrong...rookie mistakes if you will :

  • Not knowing the course well enough and missing a turn
  • Riding 28 miles the night before
  • Starting out way too fast for the 12 mile distance and at too high a cadence
  • Forgetting to reset my cyclometer
  • Not being able to ride on the drops for long enough distances
  • Forgetting to wear my skin suit and teardrop shape aero helmet (ok...just kidding on those two!)
My official time was 44:19, which for a 13.6 mile distance equates to an average speed of 18.5 mph. My goal for this TT was an average speed with a 19 to me I didn't come close. My goal for this season is to break into the 20s. Despite the disaster, I still had fun and plan on doing this TT routinely as a measure of progress.

The Sharon Road Club TT is held once a month during the riding season at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. More information can be found at the link.

There are a few other regularly held TT events in the area of varying distances. Here are the ones a know about with links for more information.

I'd like to try the Bikeworks TT next if I can manage to free-up a Thursday night.

Anyone know of any other TTs in the area?

Edited to add another local TT:

  • Pat Bell TT - Southboro, MA - Tues nights at 6:30 - 11.7 miles

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Beat The Rain!

Now that I've got momentum going, I hate to miss a riding opportunity on a potential ride day. At this point in the season, all days are potential ride days except Tuesdays and Thursdays when my children and wife have back to back to back karate and/or kickboxing lessons (once school is over next week I hope to sneak in a Tues/Thur ride here and there). Yesterday was no exception, especially when Wendy reported patches of blue sky and "no threat of rain whatsoever". But she was driving down the highway and I was staring at a radar screen at work. No rain now I told her, but there's a solid line of yellows and reds headed our which point she reminded me how often our hopes are dashed for a good old-fashioned thunderstorm as they fall apart and die crossing Rhode Island. Good point I told her...I'll be on the 5 and plan to squeeze in a short ride.

Of course, by the time I get home the threat of rain is imminent. Not liking to have my hopes dashed yet again, I decide to stay local so I can cut the ride short if need be. There's a 5 mile loop from my house...I call it the basic loop...which I can ride one or more times with add-on loops to get anywhere from 10 to 20 total miles. Figured I'd do 14 miles. That was one cold ride for June...even with a LS jersey and vest on. At mile 12 I decided to stay out longer and predictably at mile 13 rode into a few sprinkles. But basically the rain held off until 10 minutes after I got home at which time a good steady rain developed. Wendy told me that the whole time I was riding the main area of rain was getting closer but that the light green leading edge on the radar didn't move beyond the MA/RI line just to our west. Now that's called just beating the rain!

Ended up cranking out a total of 18.3 cold miles at an average pace of 17.5 mph. Funny how the threat of cold rain makes you go faster.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summary for W/E 14Jun09 - Near Perfect Riding Week

Two weeks ago was yet another low point in my 2009 training schedule (yes, there have been others). It was the 1st week of June and I was only capable of logging a measly 46 miles as result of 2 rides over the weekend. And my average speed for those two rides was a pathetic 15.9 mph. This is NOT what I planned when I decided to blog last year and wrote about my cycling plans for 2009.

What a Difference a Week Makes!!

This past week ended up being a nearly perfect riding week, despite a weather forecast that suggested few opportunities for riding. It would have been a perfect week had it not been for the untimely rain on Sunday morning. I had planned to do my long ride for the week 1st thing Sunday morning, 30-35 miles or more depending on how I was feeling after 2 days of riding. As a result of the rain, I had to settle for a much shorter ride later in the day. I was able to get in after work rides on Monday, Wednesday and early morning ride on Saturday (on the road shortly after 7:30 AM, which is as good as it gets for me!)...and an off-plan late afternoon ride on Sunday. A total of 101 miles for the week at an average speed of 16.8 mph. If I can string a few weeks like this one together I'll be mighty pleased.

The jump in my average speed is noteworthy. I'm pretty sure it's real but I must admit I'm still fleshing this out a bit to make sure. Let me explain further.

Different Bike/Different Cyclometer

All my rides this week were on the Trek 2100. These were my first "real" rides on this bike other than tooling around the neighborhood shortly after I bought it. I bought the bike off of eBay last October from a seller in Hopkinton as I felt the need to have a "back-up" bike once I decided to raise my training up a few notches for 2009. To me the bike was a steal for what I needed. But when I started the longer rides earlier in the Spring I naturally took out the Specialized Roubaix, the only road bike I rode for the last two years. However, two Sundays ago I sent myself into a mild panic when I was preparing to ride and noticed that the outer layer of rubber was peeling off the rear wheel tire on the Roubaix. I had known it was getting near that point but I'm not too good with standard pre-ride checkouts of my bike...usually just hop on and go. I certainly got good use from that was the original that came with the bike and had just under 3,000 miles on it! Anyway,it was time to get the 2100 out of the basement and get it set-up for riding, which is what I did. It came with a Cateye cyclometer and after verifying the correct settings and riding on loops of known mileage, it seems to match very closely the data from the Trek Incite 8i on the Roubaix. I have no reason to believe it's not properly calibrated, but I probably ought to get new batteries for its two main units in case its flaking out on batteries about to go kaput.

2100 vs. Roubaix

I like the Roubaix and test rode several other comparable bikes before I decided to buy it in early 2007. After years of riding an old Trek 1200, the Roubaix had the plushest ride I had ever experienced. The 2100 has a noticeably harsher ride but much better responsiveness to my pedaling. Yes, in just a few rides this past week I've noticed vastly improved accelerations and more power going up hills. At first I thought it was just in my head but I really do believe it's the bike. I know I certainly feel faster on the 2100!

The Dreaded Big Chainring

There's no reason the big chainring should be dreaded except in situations like mine. I've had a chronic problem with my right knee that in the past has kept me off the bike and getting PT. What I've learned over the years is that I need a good base of miles riding exclusively on the small chainring and building up the muscles around the knees each year before I can start to even entertain the thought of using the big gears. If I don't train this way, I end up on the sidelines with a painful knee. So my training has always been based on a high cadence riding style with a focus of building leg speed early in the season. I use 500 miles as a basic rule of thumb for building the base but it also depends on how my knee feels. Having passed the 500 mile mark a week ago and with my knee feeling pretty good, I started using the large chainring sparingly on 2 rides this week...and both those rides resulted in average speeds easily exceeding 17 mph.

So to me, this all adds up to my first "breakthrough" event for 2009. I wish it was all in my legs but I'll take improvement anyway it comes...both stronger legs and a faster bike work fine for me. But I also know my history and I typically don't have such large increases in weekly average speeds so I'll need to keep an eye on the Cateye cyclometer. I'm pretty sure this all adds up to real improvement, but...