Archive for March, 2008

Solvang Double Century 2008

March 30, 2008 3:12 pm

I guess I was in better shape than I thought because I ended up finishing with my best time ever for a Double Century. It was my third time to do the Solvang Spring Double. I did reasonably well last year and had been looking at my data to see how I might improve this year. I wrote about my strategy in a prior blog entry . My cycling training this year has been better than last year because I did not have a spring marathon to also train for. But I was concerned I had not done enough speed workouts, something I was doing last year while training to run the Boston Marathon, which was only 2 weeks after the Solvang Double Century.Joe Farinha, Gary Franck and I decided to start the day off with a nice breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House, which opened at 6:00. That was enough time to get a big breakfast and still have it somewhat digested before we started to hammer. Just as we did last year, we started with the 7:30 am group, the ones that wanted to be timed. Joining us was. This 7:30 start group is made up of mostly fast riders. We had a large gathering of 47 riders. Unlikely last year they did not do a roll call.

The whole group stayed together for many miles in a large peleton. The pace was brisk but I didn’t feel over taxed, around 21-24 mph. After 20 miles we turned to head up Foxen Canyon. This has two moderate climbs and after the second one there is a longer descent. It was on this second descent that I lost the group last year and never was able to catch back on.My strategy this year was to stay right near the front of the pack for the second climb so I had a better chance to stay connected. It may be the fact that this year there were no tandems to chase down the hill, or that I had been working on descending down faster, but in any event this time I was able to stay connected to the front pack, something only about half the group were able to do. We lost the other half on either the climb or the descent and I knew that they would never be able to catch back on.We stretched out to a single pace line. Except for a few wheel suckers at the back, everyone was taking a turn pulling, some longer pulls than other, which was okay. One guy, who was particularly strong, would ramp up the pace every-time he pulled. I found myself right behind him on a couple of rotations which meant I had to drive hard to hang on his wheel, then do a pull and still keep enough left to rotate to the back.

I had already planned to skip the first rest stop and sure enough this group went right by it. We made one wrong turn which costs us an extra 2 miles and some lost time trying to get back on course. There were some rollers right before the 2nd rest stop (our first one) that proved a bit difficult due to the pace. I was glad when we finally stopped with a total of 84.8 miles averaging 22.0 mph. My heart rate for that stretch averaged 149.

Some of the group had a very quick stop, just enough to fill water bottles. I needed a bit more time but was was able to get back on the bike in less than 6 minutes. There was only one other fellow from the 7:30 group who started with me by the name of John who was from Nevada. He and I biked together for awhile. We were soon joined by others from the 7:30 group that had taken a little longer at the rest stop. But there was a couple of young guys who were driving the pace too high for me, so I eventually dropped off the back. I slowed down to wait for John who had fallen off earlier. We biked together, taking turns pulling until we hit the check point at Morro Bay. We had to wait 1 minute there to get the dot to prove we had gone to the turn around point.

While riding through Morro Bay I hit a bad bump and came down on the back of my saddle, which tipped up the nose. I couldn’t get it to move back level. Although it was quite awkward to ride like that I decided I could not afford to stop so I rode that way until the lunch stop, which was another 14 miles from Morro Bay. That section was done at an average speed of 20.1 mph and an average heart rate of 145.

It took me about a minute to fix my saddle and then another 6 to 7 minutes to get some food. We saw some of the 7:30 riders leaving, so John and I jumped on our bikes and caught them.

We started to form a pace line behind a tandem and rode with that group for awhile but eventually some of us moved out ahead and we never saw the tandem again. Soon it was just John and I again as we pulled into our third rest stop with an average speed of the last section of 19.5 mph. The pace was clearly slower while we kept behind the tandem for those miles.

After a 5 minute stop John and I took off, again just the two of us. I hit another bump and my seat got tipped once again with the nose pointing up. I didn’t want to take the time to fix it again so I decided to just keep riding that way. It made it hard to use the aero bars but I felt maybe I could just wait until the next stop.

We were taking turns pulling but on one uphill grade on Highway 1, where I was pulling, I notice that John had fallen way off the back. I had been doing some calculations in my head and figured at this point I had some slight chance to finish under 10 hours so I made the decision to ride on solo, which I did for the last 50 miles. I had a thought of skipping the last rest stop completely but was down to a half of water bottle so I made a 1 minute stop for water. Fatigue was setting in so I was having a hard time keeping my heart rate up. Fortunately we had a tail wind now. There were several club members at that stop who had started earlier. One told me that Gary was about 10 minutes ahead of me, so I jumped on the bike to chase after him. I noticed at that point I had averaged 20.6 mph rolling from the start.

On the way up Drum Canyon, I heard a popping noise so I stopped to check my bike, only to find I had broken a spoke. That was so unexpected for a light guy like me. I wrapped the broken spoke around another spoke, opened up the brake, then jumped back on the bike and started to climb. I had yet to fix my saddle and wondered if I had time. I decided to stop again and to level the seat. As I started to climb again I kept worrying about breaking another spoke and was not sure how hard I should be torquing the pedals as I climbed. I decided to climb carefully, but steady. I was getting very tired and found it hard to do the math in my head to see if I could still finish under 10 hours. My rolling average speed had now dropped to 20.1. When I made it to the summit, I was wondering how fast I should go down, considering it is a rough road. I decided to ride down fast, just hoping no more spokes broke.

Periodically I would calculate again how much further I had to go and how much time I had left. It seemed to be an impossible task and I was about ready to give up trying to make it under 10 hours. I felt lucky to make all the traffic lights in Beulton, thinking one single stop was more than I could afford. That final uphill as you are entering Solvang was just about enough to kill my chance. I then started to hit the traffic in the town of Solvang so I turned right one block early to take a back street.

I finally made it to the end and clicked the split button on my Polar Heart Rate Monitor just as I came to a stop. I was almost afraid to look down but when I did it read 9 hours, 59 minutes and 51 seconds. Ann was there, a bit surprised I finished so fast. She watched my bike as I ran to check in. I had finished 20th place of the 47 riders who were riding for time. See the posted results here. I had averaged 20.3 mph moving for the entire ride and had a total stopping time of less than 23 minutes. Funny thing was that I felt better than I did last year after finishing 43 minutes slower. I believe this was due to the better training this year.

After taking a shower, we went to eat. I had not eaten much on the ride because of the short stops and was ready for a big meal. Sometimes I wonder why I do this, but the sense of accomplishment makes it all worth the effort.

Over the total of 194.3 miles, I averaged 20.3 mph with a maximum speed of 46.3 mph. My average heart rate was 145, peaking to 173. The total ascent was 7,400 feet.

I took a look at the data for both this year and last year for the first 36 miles. As I mentioned before it was around mile 30 that I lost contact with the lead pack but was able to stay connected this year. Click the graph to enlarge.

Solvang Double 2008 vs 2007

You can see from the above graph on the descent at mile 25 my heart rate was much lower than last year and I had considerable margin left. This may be due to better training, allowing me to kept a lower heart rate while climbing the second hill at mile 21.

This graph shows my heart rate and altitude plotted against distance. Click to enlarge.

Solvang Double Century 2008 HR Curve

Here are the splits. Click to enlarge.

Solvang Double Splits

The route started from the Royal Scandinavian where we were staying. We did a short warm-up in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley, then heads up world famous Foxen Canyon. We essentially bypass Santa Maria by jogging around that town on dead quiet Bull Canyon to Hwy 166. Next we more or less parallel Hyw 101 as we headed north. After some really neat back roads, the route skirted the edge of San Luis Obispo, then went all the way into scenic Morro Bay, right to the waterfront and a dramatic view of “the rock.” Next we rolled through some of the prettiest state park miles anywhere, then head south on PCH along the coast through Pismo Beach, and such. After Guadalupe, we stayed southbound on this desolate and beautiful stretch of Hwy 1, bypassing the whole Lompoc area, and then continuing onto Hwy 135 to the neat little western antique haven of Los Alamos, site of the final checkpoint. From Los Alamos, we encounter what is essentially the only real climb of the entire day, up and over Drum Canyon, a quiet, twisty, 800 foot, 3.4 mile ascent. It’s had a gnarly downhill. On the other side, we hop onto Hwy 246 back to Solvang, with a big shoulder all the way to town!

Solvang Double Strategy

March 24, 2008 12:22 pm

Several of us are planning  a 7:30 am start for the Solvang Double Century this Saturday. I took a look at my training log to see what happened last year. The following chart shows my heart rate, speed and altitude during the first 35 miles. I was doing fine riding with the group of 42 riders who started together. We lost some of them on the first real hill at mile 18. Going down the first real descent at mile 19 was difficult because I had a very hard time keeping up with the two tandems. It took considerable effort on my part to latch back on. I thought I would solve that with the second climb at mile 20 by going out ahead of the pack. I did not get enough of a lead because the tandems and fast riders passed me on the descent and even though I was driving my heart rate into the red zone I could not get connected to them after they passed by. I finally gave up trying because I was getting totally wasted. It is clear that I gave up the chase by looking at my heart rate.

By mile 35 I had averaged 21 mph. For the whole event I averaged 19.6 mph.

My plan for 2008 is to go ahead on the first hill so I don’t have to chase them on the first decline. It is not possible for me to jump on a train that passes me going downhill, so my only chance is to be near the front on the 2nd climb and hug a wheel. The problem is I just don’t have the weight to be able to keep up on the longer descent. It might be another lonely ride.

Click this graph to view enlarged.

Solvang 2007 First 30 miles

Being Tough at 60

March 23, 2008 7:25 am

Yea, so I turn 60 years old today. I could sit back in my rocking chair and watch the world go by like some others choose to do. I could make excuses that I can no longer take on the tough physical challenges, or than I need to slow down going up the hill because I am getting too old. Although age will eventually take it’s toll, I want to make sure that I am not accelerating that process mentally. A couple thoughts that were on a b-day card I received from the California Triple Crown (doing three double centuries in one year).

“It is not the critic who counts
The credit belongs to the man
Who is actually in the arena
Whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood

Who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement
And who, at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly
So that he should never be with those timid souls
Who never know either victory or defeat”
Theodore Roosevelt

“The best thing you can do is to keep going.
Rust never sleeps.”
Pete Penseyres

More Biking Less Running

March 21, 2008 10:55 pm

I love to both cycle and run and consider myself lucky to be in good enough shape to be able to do both, especially considering that I am turning 60 years old this week. I have been running for 30 years now and many of my running buddies from many years ago have given up the sport, some because their knees can’t handle it anymore. As I saw that happening to others, about 7 years ago I took up cycling for cross training so I could reduce my miles running and still get in the same total exercise. During these past 7 years cycling as over taken running, but I still enjoy both and feel they complement each other.

Running has these advantages

  • It is easier to do in the winter, even in California. I have often run outside when the temperature is freezing, something I would never do on a bike.
  • It is much easier to do in the rain. I never mind running in the rain, when the temperature is moderate but like most others, I dislike cycling in the rain and usually only do it when I get caught and need to get to the end.
  • Running provides impact and is beneficial for strengthening your bones. You do not get that benefit from cycling or swimming.
  • It is a highly time efficient. I can burn more calories per hour and I most always just run from home so I don’t spend time traveling to some ride.
  • It is something I can just as well do alone as with others.

Cycling has these advantages

  • My total workout can be much greater. Unless I am training for a marathon I rarely run more than 10 miles at a time. In terms of calorie consumption that might be around 30 miles on a bike. And yet I can ride for 100 miles, or more, most Saturdays. That is the equivalent, in terms of calories, of running a marathon, but without the pounding on the body.
  • Recovery from cycling is much faster. I can do a double century ride and ride the next day. After doing a marathon, I would have a difficult time to run the next day, or even for a few days.
  • Cycling has a very social aspect for me. I like to bike with others. It is not only safer to ride with a group, but a lot more fun.
  • Cycling lets me see the world. I run on pretty much the same courses, never venturing more than 10 miles from my house, even when I am doing a 20 mile run. On my bike I have seen places I would have never seen before.
  • Cycling has more thrill to me. I love to climb. Today I will be climbing up Henry Coe for the 5th time this week, somewhat of a record. That is 3,700 feet of climbing each time. I love to descend back down the hill and find it a greater thrill than any ride at an amusement park.

The Best of Both Worlds

By having these two sports, I feel I really do have the best of both worlds. When it is colder or raining, I can switch to running. When I have more time I can focus on cycling. I tend to do both every week so I am less likely to get burned out, either physically or mentally. If I am traveling where I do not have my bike, I can always run. I have run in many places around the world, include some very congested big cities that I would never be able to cycle through. When I travel and can take my bike, I get to see places I would not otherwise.

My Training Log

I have kept a detailed training log for many years. One use of the data is to create a lot of charts, such as the accumulated miles cycled so far in any year. The years when I was doing a Spring marathon shows a lot of miles running in the early months. Take a look at this graph that shows my accumulated running so far this year compared with prior years. In 2007 I was training for the Boston Marathon and in 2005 I was training for the Salt Lake City Marathon. Both of these were in April. But in 2006 I ran the St. George Marathon which was not until October. So how am I doing in 2008? So far this year my running is about on par with those years when I ran a fall marathon. You will need to click the graph below to view in enlarge.

Accumulated Running 032208

Now look at a similar chart that shows accumulated miles biking so far this year compared with prior years. More so than in any prior year I am focused on training for a difficult double century, the Devil Mountain Double. It was a ride I did last year but did poorly, since my training was more focused on getting ready to run the Boston Marathon. But 2008 is really the year of the bike for me. There has never been another year for me where I cycled in the first 3 months of the year. Click the graph to view enlarged.

Accumulated Biking 032208

So with running less and cycling more, what is the total picture? I have several ways to use my training log to view equivalent exercise. This chart tries to equate the two sports in turns of calories burned. I use data from my Polar Heart Rate monitor, if entered, or formulas built into my training log, if not. For 2008 the total is similar to last year but higher than years before 2007.

Accumulated Calories Burned 032208

Henry Coe Hill Climb

7:41 am

Yesterday in the morning I rode on the tandem with Ann for about 36 miles. I needed to get in more riding since I am in double century training so as soon as I returned home I jumped on my single bike and headed up to the trail head in Morgan Hill to catch the Henry Coe ride. I had stuff headwinds all the way up for the 15 miles so I spend much of the time in the aero bars.

Several people showed up for the ride, including Jim W. and Doug R. I was a bit weak since I climbed Henry Coe twice yesterday and this was my fourth climb up the hill this week. But I pushed hard, trying to keep ahead of the other guys. Doug was running circles around me, however.

This chart shows the part of the climb that is timed for the San Jose Bicycle club race. Look for the splits 1 and 2, which mark the start and end points. I included the table with the splits. The chart is plotted against time so the elevation change should look linear if I am climbing at a constant number of feet per minute. It took me 43:30, which was about 5 minutes slower than I did in the real race condition. Even so I had to keep my heart rate up to average 160. This first chart show yesterday’s climb (click charts to enlarge).

Henry Coe Hill Climb 3-21-08

This next chart is from last October when I did the race over the same course. Look for the split No. 1 which was the end of the race. My actual race time was recorded as 37:34, although my watch showed slightly less. During the race I had to average 169 on my heart rate, quite a bit higher than today’s climb.  Click chart to enlarge.

Henry Coe Hill Climb Race 11-28-07

I was very tired when I got home yesterday.

Double Century Training

7:17 am

I have finished my last week of biking training for the Solvang Double Century, which will take place next week. My main focus is on the Devil Mountain Double Century at the end of April, so my training program has been geared to prepare for that. I have doing well on the training, although this week was a bit below plan. I will climb Henry Coe 5 times this week so I am getting a lot of climbing in.

This chart show my weekly miles this year compared with last year and against my plan.

Weekly Miles Biked 3-22-08

But my climbing is doing well.

Weekly Climbing 3-22-08

See all the charts here.

One Hail of a Ride

March 15, 2008 5:40 pm

Today was one of the long distance training rides with the bike club. Since the route came down south near the end, I planned to bike to the start. But that meant biking in the dark. I got up a 5 am and looked outside to see if it was raining, as the forecast showed. Nope, it was dry as a bone and when I looked up into the night sky it looked like patchy clouds.

I jumped on the bike at 6:15 am (sunrise was 7:18 am today). I met Gary F. on route and we headed up Santa Teresa. I thought I was so smart getting in the stretch from Gilroy to San Jose while it was dry. At least until we were approaching Bailey where we had quite a downpour. I realized that I would have wet and cold feet for the whole ride.

On Coleman Ave., Gary had a flat so I rode ahead and met the riders that were just coming up Meridian to let them know. We circled back to pickup Gary and headed on the route. Opps, Gary had another flat on Shannon. He decided to head back home so I gave him one of my tubes. He was the smart one, I think.

The weather cleared and as we started to climb Highway 9. It became sunny with blue skies. I thought I had brought too many clothes with me and was way over dressed for what looked then like a fine day. David had already gone ahead so it was now just four of us, Joe F, Peter, Kley and myself. By the time we reached the summit the temperature was now down to 40 degrees, but it was still sunny.

We headed up Skyline and I watched the temperature drop to 36 degrees and it started to get cloudy again. The descent down was super cold. I realized I had under dressed. Then on Summit we had a hail storm. My own thought was just to try to make it to the Summit Store. But by the time we got there it was sunny again.

On the way down Soquel San Jose it started to rain again but by the time we reached Soquel it had stopped. We finally made it to Corralitos where we were going to eat lunch. I was starved, having biked nearly 90 miles by that point. After we ate, we all decided to take the “short” option and after doing Hazel Dell we went up Mt. Madonna. Hey, I don’t remember it being that steep. Since we had wet roads for the past few hours we figured going down Redwood Retreat would be too muddy but when we reached the summit it was dry so that is how we made our way down. It was now dry and sunny (my wife told me it never did rain in Gilroy today). I rode a bit with the other 3 and as they headed back to the start before I biked home. I ended up with 112 miles total.  That brings me to 2600 miles so far this year.  That is a lot for the middle of March. This chart shows the comparision with prior years in terms of accumulated miles cycling.

Accumulated Cycling Miles as of 3-16-08

The Mental Challenge

March 14, 2008 9:07 pm

I modified my article on the Big Climb, training for the toughest double centuries.  I added in this section:

The Mental Challenge

Any very difficult ultra distance event will challenge you not only physically but also mentally. When things do not go quite as expected, such as warmer weather than you trained for, overcoming the mental challenge will make the difference between two riders, who who decides to DNF (did not finish) and one who finishes the event. Of course there are times when the smart thing is to stop, but when things get rough it is a great temptation to say the smart thing is to quit when we have the ability to go on.

I once had trained for a marathon that was known for his long downhills. Unlike cycling where the downhill is a chance to rest and recovery, in running it gives your legs a real pounding. I thought I had trained for the event properly, including some long downhill training runs.

At about mile 6 of 26.2, I felt my legs starting to cry for mercy. I was frighten on what to do since in my training runs I never had such an issue so early in the run. How could I possibly run another 20 miles like this? The thought came to me that I had worked too long and too hard to stop now. I had to decide between letting the situation cause me such grief that I would slow down or stop, or I could decide to just ignore the legs and hold the pace. I choose the later and was able to not only run strong but have a very strong finish. The difference for me for this marathon was overcoming the mental challenge. During your training you will have some chances to practice overcoming the mental challenge. If you find yourself quiting during uncomfortable training sessions, you might question what you will do when you face a significantly greater mental challenge. If you are not prepared to overcome the mental challenge, then the Big Climb may not be the right event for you.

Intervals Cycling

March 13, 2008 3:52 pm

After doing a 4.5 mile run this morning I decided to do an interval workout on the bike. After I cycled enough to warm up I cycled as hard as I could for 7 minutes, then rode easy for about 4 minutes. I repeated 4 times. This graph shows my heart rate during the four intervals. For each of the four intervals I was able to take my heart into the anaerobic zone but could not push it higher than 161. When I climb a hill like Metcalf I can take my heart rate up to above 170 for more than the 7 minutes I was using for each interval. I am not quite sure why I can’t seem to get my heart rate up as high cycling on a flat course.  Click each image to enlarge.

HR Curve for 3-13-08

And here my splits for the 7 minute intervals. I remove the recovery splits for clarity. The terrain was mostly flat but there was enough variation with the grade and the wind to effect the speed. Except for the first interval I was able to keep the speed above 20 mph and my average heart rate above 150.

Splits 3-13-08

Metcalf Mauler on 3-11-08

March 12, 2008 8:40 pm

I was finally able to get my time to climb Metcalf down below 14:30. I had to take my heart rate up above 170. I guess it was chasing Joe Farinha that I needed to get me to push so hard. (click graph to enlarge).

HR for Metcalf Mauler on 3-11-08