Archive for the 'Ultra Cycling Events' category

Training for Knoxville Double Century

September 23, 2012 9:23 pm

Why Knoxville Double

The last time I rode a double century was in 2009 when I did the Death Valley Double and Solvang Double. The saying “the old only talk about the past because they have no future” always haunts me.  I don’t want to just relive the old days while I can still find new adventures.  With all the training I put in to get ready for the Hoodoo 500 race, it seemed like I should participate in another ultra cycling event around a month after I finished the Hoodoo.  I decided to ride the Knoxville Double Century, an event I have never ridden before.  It is not an easy double century, but not the hardest either.  With total climbing of 12,600 feet it is more like the Death Valley Double than Solvang or Davis.  I dusted off my old 13 week training plan for getting ready for a double century and started to plott my progressr, with the Knoxville Double to occur on week 13.  Now with only 5 days before the event, I feel reasonably confident I can finish.

Long Training Ride

Although I was getting in a lot of miles and climbing, I didn’t have any rides much further than 100 miles.  So last Tuesday I did a long training ride, starting from my home, meeting other riders in Morgan Hill, climbing Metcalf, Quimby and Mt. Hamilton and out to the junction.  With 142 miles and over 13,000 feet of climbing it was the longest training ride I have ever completed.

This long ride also gave me a chance to test out a new light, the Lezyne Super Drive.  A friend had picked up a couple of last year models at a good price and sold one of them to me.  Although not as bright as my MagicShine light, it proved to be fully adequate for this type of riding in the dark.  It runs off of Lithium-Ion 18650 batteries and my friend lent me a couple of spares so I should have plenty of battery life for Knoxville.   At only 140 grams, this lightweight integrated design is much easier to use than my MagicShine with it’s external battery and connecting cord.  It is light enough that I will just leave it on my bike during the entire ride, as I did on the long training ride, since I have never been one who likes to use a light drop.

On Saturday I repeated the same ride except I did not bike from home, so although the total miles was 30 miles less, I did the about the same amount of climbing.  On this ride I was using my Garmin Edge 800 for navigation and found the battery was running down so I only used navigation half the time.  At the end of the ride when I plugged in my Garmin it had only 25% battery left, so I realized that it would not last for the entire Knoxville Double.  I could use my Garmin 500, which lasts for 18 hours, but I want to use the 800 for navigation, especially in the dark where I can just touch the screen to have it light up to see the map.  I decided to order a GoMadic external battery pack for the Garmin Edge 800.  It will be more weight to care, but it will save me from taking two Garmin units and turning off the 800 when I don’t need it, just to extend the battery life.

Training Plan

In terms of miles and feet of climbing, I am ahead of my plan.  In particular my climbing is ahead of what I did in 2008 getting ready for the Devil Mountain Double.

Solvang Double 2009

March 28, 2009 8:00 pm
Solvang Double 2009

Some say that the easiest double century in our area is the spring Solvang Double.  Yes, the climbing is less than most but with over 7,000 feet it is not quite like some real flat doubles in others parts of the country.  Yes the total miles is a bit less than 200 miles.  So for many people it is the best way to do your first double.  But for me it is not so easy because, unlike with other doubles, people always want to know how fast you did it.  So it is more like a race than an endurance event.  I make matters worse for myself by starting with the 7:30 am group, which gets timed with the times posted on the Plant Ultra website.

Actually I was feeling rather prepared for this double, even though it occurs so early in the season.  For the first time ever, it was not my first double century of the year because I rode the Death Valley Double one month early.  Maybe I was feeling a bit too confident because in the same week Anne and I did a little too much speed work, setting 3 new PRs on tandem hill climbs on Henry Coe, Thomas Grade and Metcalf. I don’t mean PR for this year, I mean our best time ever.  In retrospect, maybe that was not such a keen  idea to do only days before doing a double.

Last year I completed Solvang under 10 hours. By under 10 hours I mean by about 20 seconds.  I remember last year  I felt I had a shot of breaking 10 hours about 40 miles from the end, which added a lot of pressure and drove me to push much harder than I might otherwise. I had no intention to do that again.  I told everyone I was going to stop and smell the roses.

I showed up at 7:15 and they started a roll call of those who wanted to be timed.  Joining me was Paul D, Gary F, and Barley and Susan.

Gary, Paul, Franz at start of Double

Gary, Paul, Franz at start of Double

I knew I was in trouble when I saw four tandems there.  One was Barley and Susan, who I had ridden with a week ago and knew they were fast.

Barley and Susan at start of Double

Barley and Susan at start of Double

Right at 7:30 a group of 62 riders were off.  The tandem in the photo is what I call the 4th tandem later in my story.

The reason why I knew I was in trouble with all those tandems is because two years ago I was not able to stay connected on the descent down Foxon Canyon, and lost the fast group at that point.  Last year, with no tandems making the descent,  I was able to keep with the lead group all the way to the second rest stop at 84 miles (we skipped the first rest stop).

This year keeping with the pack was a bit of a strain but not overly taxing.  We when up a couple of short hills and I would move right up behind the tandems and stay on their wheel as they went down.  The first descent down Foxon Canyon went alright but on the second one, the same spot I lost the wheel two years ago, proved too hard.  No matter how hard I tried, I just could not stay on the wheel and the group started to drive away from me, even though later I could see I had hit 50 mph.  Being a poor sprinter meant I was working way too hard trying to catch them. I was actually making some progress and starting to close the gap.  It was a race between either burning myself out or  latching back on.  I should have known better and backed off sooner and saved the legs for the many miles ahead.  You can see from this graph, my heart rate was running in the red zone going DOWN the hill trying to get connected to the lead riders (click to enlarge).

solvangdescent

Soon after I realized I would not be able to close the gap,  I was passed by a younger faster rider wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey.  We worked together, although he was taking longer pulls.  For awhile we were starting to gain on the lead group, but you can only drive that hard for so long.  Soon the group ahead was vanishing from sight.  I had lost my route sheet on the fast descent so I was not sure where the next turn was.  The fellow 508 rider pulled his from his back pocket and started to read it. I road in the center of the road to give him space but even with that he cross wheels with me as he was looking at the sheet.  Suddenly he was down, and extremely upset about it.  But this was one tough dude.  Even with some road rash and torn cycling shorts, he got back on his bike and we started off again.  Just then we were pasted by the fourth tandem, along with a couple of other riders drafting behind them..  We jumped in the group and stayed with them for a few miles, but they stopped and the first rest stop so we went on without them.  Only one other rider skipped the stop and rode with us, another one wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey.  Kind of like 3 FC 508 guys, but the others were much younger and stronger than I was.  Several miles down the road, as we were making a right turn, a group was coming back toward us, having missed the turn themselves.

Yes, I thought.  I was now back with a larger group.  I moved up toward the front of the group not wanting to get dropped on some of the rollers ahead.  I thought I would be able to stay with them until the 2nd rest stop, but my legs were burning from trying to catch the lead riders earlier.  It just didn’t seem worth the effort, so after about 5 miles I let them go and started riding solo, something I would do for much of the rest of the event.

I was a bit worried without a route sheet but eventually did catch a couple of other riders.  Having no route sheet, I wanted to stay with them so I did not get lost.  Although  I wanted to go a bit faster, I was afraid I would miss a turn, so I ended up mostly pulling.. The problem is that this small group did miss the turn and we went about 3 miles before we realized it. So by the time we got back on course we had biked an extra 6 miles.

Just as we got back on the course I saw Paul D.  He rode with us for a mile or so but then started to cramp and dropped off.  Soon after that we passed Louise.  Once I knew I had made the final turn before the second rest stop, I moved ahead and rode solo.  At the second rest stop I saw that I had averaged only about 19 mph, compared with close to 22 mph last year when I had stayed with the lead group, but this year I had now biked 92 miles before stopping for food and water.  I guess that was some sort of record for me.

It might have been my imagination but there seemed to be more headwind.  I was riding that stretch along Highway 1 toward Moro Bay by myself into the wind.  About 6 miles from Moro Bay a group of about 8 riders came up from behind, so I joined them.  I saw a couple of riders ahead, both wearing the same jersey.  As we passed them, I could see it was Art and Patrice.  I stayed with the small group until the lunch stop.  I was thinking to keep with them, but they were taking longer eating their sandwich than I wanted to wait so I headed out alone.  I never saw them again until I was waiting at the finish after taking a  shower, so it is a good thing I didn’t stick with them.

Several miles before the 4th rest stop, while waiting at a traffic light, the 4th tandem came up, the one that had stopped at the first rest stop.  They had only one other rider with them, so I joined the small group.  The two of us on single bikes would take turns doing some pulling.  As we kept passing riders, they were jumping on the train, but they were all wheel suckers.  I took another pull and tried to move back into the group but these wheel suckers would not let me in, wanting to keep their spot.  Forget them I thought, and I just went ahead and dropped the entire group, again riding solo.  At the 4th rest stop I saw Gary S. and Gary B, who were about ready to leave.

After mostly solo riding, I finally made it to the the last rest stop where I saw Chuck, who had started at 6 am.  By now I had passed all the other club riders, except of course Gary F. and Barley and Susan on the tandem. I knew Gary was probably about two hours ahead of me, which meant he was already enjoying the finish line.  Ann was there and took his picture.

Gary at Finish

Gary at Finish

I didn’t spend much time at the last rest stop, knowing the end was not far.  It was up Drum Canyon Hill, a part I really like.  I enjoy climbing this hill and passing all the other riders who hate to climb, especially after 180 miles.  But unlike last year when I was climbing at full speed to make some time, I kept it much easier.  I made the turn on the final highway, with the slight uphill and then the down hill.  While going down, I was passed by the 4th tandem and a bunch of riders.  I had to accelerate quickly but was able to finally close the gap. I rode with them to the end.  I knew the tandem started at 7:30 but I think most of the rest of the group had started earlier.

Franz at finish

Franz at finish

I finally made it to the finish, taking a total of 11:16, which was more than a hour slower than last year.  Part of that was due to riding an extra 6 miles and part was from doing a lot more solo riding.  I still felt I was working hard and when I looked at my data later, my average heart rate was even higher than last year.  Of course that might be because I am just getting older.  These two tables show a comparison with my prior Solvang Doubles.  My stopping time at the rest stops was a bit more than last year but the crash did cost me some time while I helped the rider back up on his bike.  Overall I am happy with how I did.  A little older, a little slower, but still riding alongside the young bucks.  My only regret was even though I was slower, I never did see any roses to smell.

My thanks to Anne for taking all the photos in this blog.  See all her photos of Slovang here.

Solvang Double Century

Year
Age
Bike Time
Total Time
Avg. Speed
Avg HR
Note
2003
55
9:55
11:18
19.2
First Double
2007
59
9:50
10:42
19.6
137
2008
60
9:36
9:59
20.3
145
2009
61
10:36
11:16
18.6
149
Extra 6 miles

Solvang Double Century Stopping Time

Year
CP#1 CP#2
CP#3
CP#4
CP#5 All Other Total
2007 2:00 14:15 10:15 7:30 6:30 11:30 52:00
2008
Skip
5:45
7:45
5:15
1:00 3:15 23:00
2009
Skip
9:45
11:45
7:15
3:30 7:45 40:00

Death Valley Double Century – Spring 2009

March 5, 2009 8:29 am
Death Valley Double Century - Spring 2009

Death Valley received its name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields. I realized how much has  changed since then until today when numerous cyclists cross death valley each year.

Late last year I received an email that they had just opened registration for the Death Valley “Spring” Double and right after that I got a call from Gary F. telling me he was signing up. In an impulsive moment I went on their website and signed up, just before they reached their 300 rider limit in the first hour. Then I was starting to wonder how I was going to get ready. I was going to be traveling a lot in November and December and that left only two months to get in shape. It was kind of like cramming for a final, except the body can only develop so fast. So during the first two months of 2009 I biked more miles than I ever had so early in the year. Although I did not feel like I was fully prepared, I was close to the training program I had laid out for myself for the first two doubles this year.

dvd-training-2-26-09

On Friday Gary, Louise and myself carpooled down to Furnace Creek. After a 500 mile, 9 hour drive, we finally arrived at the Furnace Creek Ranch Lodge where Gary and I were sharing a room.  As often happens on these type of events, I did not sleep that well.  I woke up at 1:30 am and not quite sure if I ever went back to sleep.  Gary and I decided to try to get in with the first wave of riders so we were up early and to the start line by 5:45. But they had 50 people already there and they held us back to start 10 minutes later with the second group.  I was not too worried about that but I knew that it meant Gary would need to bridge the 10 minute gap somehow to catch the fastest riders ahead.

It was just getting light as we started off at 6:10.  Riding in the desert at sunrise is something so beautiful that it is impossible to explain and needs to be experienced.  In the foreground was the vast expanse of Death Valley and looming far in the distant was the Sierra Mountains, with snow caps on Mt. Whitney.

In our group of 50 I saw a couple on a tandem, but not just any tandem.  It was a very high priced racing tandem and they were both wearing Everest Challenge Jerseys.  That is the State Climbing Championship I participated in last year so I figured I could draft behind them.  But they turned out to be not fast enough and I eventually went past them.  Not too long after that we formed a pace line of about 9 riders and worked together for about 40 miles when we stopped for water and food.

Franz is one in Orange 508 jersey

Franz is one in Orange 508 jersey

dvd-paceline2

I made a quick stop and decided to go ahead without the group since we would be climbing up Jubilee  within 7 miles.  From that point on it was mostly solo riding for me.

This double is two parts, the first part is out to Shoshone and back to Furnace Creek.  This is stage 4 on the Furnace Creek 508, but both times I was the “A” rider so I had not cycled on these roads.  So instead of being sleepy eyed in the support van watching Paul V. bike in the middle of the night, I had the chance to ride in the daylight.  It was wonderful weather, not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny and not too cloudy.  I could not have asked for better cycling weather.

When I got to the base of Jubilee, I noticed that I had already “climbed” over 1,500 feet, which showed how many rollers we went over.  Jubilee Summit was at 1,290 feet and then after a short descent it was a very long climb up Salsberry.  I passed several riders during the climb up to  3,300 feet at the summit.  I guess these were all riders in the group that had started 10 minutes before us.  I could see a tandem ahead and was thinking if I could catch it before the summit I could follow it down the other side.  I was able to make a connection just before we hit the crest and attempted to keep in their slipstream as we zoomed down the hill.  I finally found myself pedaling as fast as I could and watched them slowly slip away from me even though they were “coasting”.  “Wait a minute” I thought, I still had a long way to go so I gave up the chase.

After we leveled out I found myself in a stiff headwind, bringing my speed down to 11 mph.  I was starting to worry because the winds last year during this event had caused a high DNF rate.  But the wind lasted for only about 10 miles and although it seemed to always be a head wind for the rest of the ride, they were not that strong.  I made a quick stop at Shoshone and headed back.  On the climb back up Salsberry, I saw the same tandem again but found it easy this time to catch them.  Again I tried to keep in their slipstream down the very long descent but once again I finally gave up.

It is breathtaking to descend from over 3,315 feet down to below sea level.  Once I was back down to the valley floor, it was a short ride back to the rest stop to get more water.  From there I had about 30 miles to reach Badwater, where there was a lunch stop.  That seemed like the longest 30 miles.  I was on the verge of bonking and was out of water as I pulled into Badwater.  Badwater is a basin in Death Valley and is the lowest point in the US with an elevation of 282 feet below sea level.  It was also for me the lowest point in the ride.

I realized I needed a break so sat there for nearly 19 minutes enjoying a sandwich, a coke, and a V-8.  I was now feeling much better and headed off.  I grouped with two other riders, one was wearing a Furnace Creek 508 jersey from last year.  I had been with him early in the day with the small pace line we had formed.  I was chatting with him and he indicated that he had only been on the bike 4 times since last October’s Furnace Creek 508.  “Wow”, I thought, how could he do that.  He said he had been swimming and running.  I asked him if by chance he had run the Badwater Ultra marathon, put on by the same group putting on this event and the 508.  “Yes”, he said, “4 times”.  This is the hardest running race I know of, covering 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney.  He said he had finished 4 times and had completed both the Badwater Ultra Marathon and FC 508 solo in the same year (his totem is Desert Duck).  He is only the second person I met who had completed both events and the first to do it multiple times.

I reached Furnace Creek for another stop, I saw Gary’s coach there who had already finished.  That meant he had finished the last 50 miles out to Stovepipe Wells and back before I even started out.  Yikes, I guess I had better get going.  So after a 10 minutes stop I headed on, riding solo once again.

I was now riding on the same road I had ridden twice during the FC 508, except in reverse.  What surprised me was that this road had a lot of rollers.  When doing the 508 I always thought this section was flat.  Doing it in the dark made it hard to see the ups and downs and I had thought the difference in effort required was due to the shifting winds.  But now I was measuring as much as a 300 ft. change in elevation through the rollers.  About 5 miles from the turn around one fellow did pass me so I jumped on his wheel for awhile.  Then I felt like I could pull and went around him.  A mile or so later I glanced back and he had fallen way off the back so I just went ahead by myself.  I finally reached Stovepipe Wells, which is right at sea level.

img_0106

At the turn around point they offered me a cup of noodles.  Hum, that sounded good so I sat down and enjoyed it since  I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish.  After a 13 minute rest, I decided to bike to the finish.  It was getting late in the day so I decided to turn on my lights before I headed back to Furnace Creek for the last 25 miles of the ride.  One fellow joined me but he had a simple CAT-eye light so he enjoyed following me with my bright light.  I was thinking he liked following me a bit too much because he never took a pull.  Oh well, at least in the dark it was safer to have two riders together.

I finally pulled into Furnace Creek at 7:30 pm, for a total time of 13:20.  Gary, who had finished two hours earlier, was there to meet me.  I was happy I was done.  Not long after I finished the fellow with the totem Desert Duck pulled in.  I asked him if he was going to do the Badwater Ultramarathon and FC 508 again this year.  He said he was taking it off because he was going to do a triple Iron Man instead. “Yikes”, I said, “what is a triple Iron Man?”  He said it was “7.5 mile swim, then 336 mile bike and 78 mile run.” But he added, “I have 60 hours to finish”.  I started to feel like a wimp for having a hard time finishing only 200 miles on the bike.

P2281631

Desert Duck

After eating some more food, I headed to the room to take a shower and then went back out to the front to wait for Louise.  I slept well that night. Checking my data later I found I had averaged 16 mph over the course of 197 miles and 9,300 feet of climbing.   My total stopping time was about 1 hour.  Although I had not pushed myself as hard as I had on some other doubles, overall I was happy with how I did.  Maybe I should be thinking about doing a triple Iron-man, NOT!

Route

Elevation Profile

A Cycling Milestone

February 26, 2009 9:09 pm

I am off to Death Valley tomorrow do to the Death Valley Double on Saturday.  If I finish the event, it will be the first time that I biked 2,000 miles and climbed 100,000 feet by the end of February.  Although it is not quite up to my aggressive training plan, it is still more than I have done in the past.   It is not often that at an age of 60 that you reach a new milestone in sports.

dvd-training-2-26-09

dvd-training-climbing-2-23-09

Death Valley Double!

December 3, 2008 10:12 pm
Death Valley Double!

Yikes, what have I done?  I was kind of feeling a bit let down since 2008 was winding to an end.  I did more ultra distance riding this year than any year in the past.  But I was not sure what I wanted to do in 2009.  I was not sure I even wanted to do another double century.  But I couldn’t resist.  Gary F. called me and said he was doing the Death Valley Double and had just signed up.  This event is put on by the same people who put on the Furnace Creek 508 ride and it covers some of the same roads.  I know this event sells out in hours so I had to decide quickly if I was going to do it.  As I said, I could not resist.  I am not quite sure how I am going to get ready during the winter for such a tough ride at the end of February.  Oh my, what have I done?

You can see from these charts that although I have biked a LOT of miles and climbed a lot of feet this year, it has really tapered off with the vacation and such.  I am not sure I can ramp it up until January, which is too close to the event.

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Devil Mountain Double Results

April 30, 2008 11:30 am

They posted the results for last Saturdays Devil Mountain Double. I ended up coming in 31st place out of the 112 that were able to finish. Over 150 riders entered but many can not finish this most grueling event with 206 miles and 18,600 feet of climbing. I was very happy with my time considering only extremely fit riders enter this event. I may have been the only one my age to finish.

I posted a detailed analysis in a prior blog entry.

The times for the people I know and ride with:

  • Gary F. 14:03
  • Me 15:32
  • Brian C. 16:21
  • Lyresa P. 16:36
  • Russ and Sheila S. 17:01 (on a tandem!)
  • Kley C. 17:20
  • Paul D. 18:30
  • Uji Y. 18:30
  • Art C. 19:33

Devil Mtn Double – No Trouble with a Double

April 28, 2008 3:55 pm

I finished the very difficult Devil Mountain Double on Saturday. It is 206 miles with 18,600 feet of climbing. It is probably the most difficult double century in California. My final time was 15 hours, 32 minutes, a big improvement over last year

I was happy with my time since it was hot again. I got worried coming up Mines Road because of the heat and started to get a bad case of hot foot. There was a breeze this year that helped. I really focused on drinking all day, and took a lot of Endurolyte tablets. I was so worried about cramping again on the backside of Mt. Hamilton that I went up slower than I probably needed to, but I never did cramp anywhere on the ride.

I was also happy to make it to Norris Canyon, the last section, before dark. I don’t like biking on Crow Creek Canyon road in the dark due to all the traffic. I had carried my one pound light the entire day and could have got by with a small Cateye light.

I left the aero bars on the bike which was a good thing. It gave me an alternate position not only for my hands but when I am in the aero bars I get a different position on the saddle, which greatly helped to take some pressure off a tired butt. It was either that part of the body or my right foot that hurt the most.

This year I used my newer bike with only a double crank, but I had no big issue with the higher gearing. I would have preferred to climb up Sierra Road with a triple but the better handling of the newer bike was a benefit on the rest of the ride.

Summary

Here is a detailed comparison with doing the same event last year.

2007 2008
Body Weight 135 139
Bike Gearing Triple (30/25) Double (39/27)
Total Time (hr: min) 18:12 15:32
Riding Time (hr:min) 14:51 14:31
Avg. Speed (mph moving) 14.1 14.3
Stopping Time (hr:min) 3:21 1:01
Average Heart Rate (bpm) 136 136
Maximum Heart Rate (bpm) 167 169
Average HR Climbing Sierra (bpm) 142 146
Issues to Deal With Significant Cramping Significant Hot Foot
Weather Hot No Wind Hot With Breeze

Time Comparison

This chart shows my arrival times into the various rest stops. You can see that for the first 115 miles, up to the junction cafe, I did almost the same between both years. Last year my times slowed down considerably due to cramping on the backside of Mt. Hamilton. Click the chart below to view enlarge.

Stopping Time Comparison

This shows a comparision between my stopping time between years. Times shown are in minutes. Most of the improvement in the total time was due to a signficant reduction in the amount of stopping time at the rest stops.

Stop 2007 2008
Diablo Summit
6
1
Morgan Territory RS
5
4
Mines Rd RS
7
4
Junction Cafe
40
18
Cramping on Mt. Hamilton
25
0
Crother’s RS
47
9
Pet the Goat RS
35
2
Sunol RS
16
4
Other, stop lights, mini rest stops
20
19
Total Stopping
201
61

Last Time

I don’t plan on doing this event again. It is very difficult and takes out of you far too much. Since I had a difficult time last year, I wanted to do it again to see if I could do it right with better training and more of a focus on hydration during the event. Having accomplished that, I don’t feel a need to repeat it.

Devil Mountain Double Trouble with a Double

April 25, 2008 12:45 pm

Okay, I have finished my training program and I can’t avoid it any longer.. The extremely difficult Devil Mountain Double will start soon. At 5 am tomorrow we will start to ride in the dark towards Mt. Diablo for our first of many major climbs. I hope to finish the 206 miles in 15 hours, of which 7 hours will be climbing the 19,000 feet. It is not a question of what will hurt, but what will hurt the most.

The forecast for the inland area is a high of 89 degrees. Last year we had a similar heat wave and it caused most everyone to have serious cramping issues. We should also have some stiff winds, especially going over Patterson Pass. They put windmills there for a reason.

Yesterday I was trying to decide which bike to take. I have now decided to take the newer bike with only a double crankshaft. Unlike the recent Solvang Double, this is going to be a slog it out type of ride where just getting through will be the main focus. Although there may be times that I wish I had my triple, the new bike handles better and fits me better, and is lighter even with my aero bars attached. If I can finish in 15 hours, that will be more than 3 hours faster than how I did last year.

Trying the DMD with just a double crank may be a big mistake. Ask me tomorrow what What Hurts the Most!

Solvang Revisited

April 4, 2008 7:35 am

One of the advantages of keeping lots of data in a training log is that I can look back at similar events and see how much I have improved. Improvement is not something that is normally associated with someone my age but in the cycling world I have been able to get some slight improvements over the past 7 years I have cycling.

I belive this has come about because I lost weight, did a better job of training, and improved my cycling skills. These factors have combined to more than offset the effects of aging.

I took a look at the Solvang Double century, something I have competed in three times. It is the same courses, but there are some variables, such as wind, that I can not fully account for. But comparing the three times, I get this comparision

Year

Age

Bike Time

Total Time

Avg. Speed

Avg. HR

2003
55
9:55
11:18
19.2
2007
59
9:50
10:42
19.6
137
2008
60
9:36
9:59
20.3
145

From 2003 to 2007 I made only a 5 minute improvement in riding time, but took off an additional 20 minutes of stopping time. For the recent event, I took another 14 minutes off my riding time and even more off my stopping time. So from age 55 to age 60, I took off 1 hour and 19 minutes, of which 19 minutes was riding time and 1 hour stopping time.

The non-athelete might think that such an improvement is not signficant. To average that additional 1.1 mph means putting out an additional 14% power when you look at the effects of drag and resistance. Anyone who does any type of sport knows that even a few percent improvement is hard to achieve.

I am therefore pretty happy with the improvement I was able to achieve, while aging 5 years.

For the recent Solvang Double Century we had 47 riders who rode it for time and all started together. This group was made up of mostly the fastest cyclists. Another 400 or so riders did not want to be timed. I ended up coming in 20th place amongst those 47 riders. I believe I was the only one over 60 in the entire group of 47 riders. They do not have age groups so I am not sure. The riders in that group just looked a lot younger than myself.

Another event I looked at was the Davis Double. I have completed it twice with these results. It is a somewhat more difficult ride than Solvang.

Year

Age

Bike Time

Total Time

Avg. Speed

Avg. HR

2004 56 11:19 12:45 17.7
2007 59 10:56 12:15 18.2 144

I plan to ride Davis again this May and hopefully I can show some further improvement from last year. Before that I will be doing the Devil Mountain Double and hope to show a big improvement over last year when I didn’t do well.

I realize that old father time keeps marching and there will soon come the time when I am just happy that I have not decreased my performance as fast as others. We all need to appreciate what we have and know that all we can do is our best. There will always be others around us that are much better and some that are much slower. But if we are doing what we can, within our abilities, we can take pride in that. Today I received an email from a cycling friend who turned 50 in the past year. He said “If I’m able to do the things you do in ten years, I’ll be the happiest man on earth… You keep us young guys on our toes.”

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!