Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The indoor season finally ends . . .

And so the indoor season comes to a close, not with a bang, but with a whimper. In true form, March came in like a lion and is certainly going out like a lamb. With a forecast for temps in the mid to upper 70s for the rest of the week, I will certainly not be found grinding away on my trainer. Coincidentally, today marks the official end of the UMCA Indoor Challenge and to celebrate, I logged in a final two hour session.

Well, it's only March and I've already failed to meet one of my 2010 cycling goals. Back in December,a top ten finish looked not only attainable, but also like a nice motivator to increase my base training miles. As it turns out, it was the latter but not the former. Here's what my results look like over the past two years. I actually placed lower with four times the number of hours on the trainer,  five times the number of sessions and almost three times the number of points. Oh, well.

2010: 17th place, 146 points, 87 hours, 28 sessions
2009: 16th place, 52 points, 22 hours, 5 sessions

Like with most competitions, success has a whole lot to do with who shows up. This was a competitive year as one can see by comparing a 10th place finish over the past five years:

2010 = 335 points
2009 = 189 points
2008 = 112 points
2007 = 224 points
2006 = 277 points

The funny thing is that I feel very much like a winner even though I didn't meet my goal. Could I have ridden more? Sure. Could I have added several long sessions to amass additional points. Of course; but at what cost? As it was, I logged 87 hours of training this winter safe from icy, dark roads. My legs feel great and I enter the spring with my most significant base yet. I look forward to seeing how the local hammer fest feels on Saturday morning. My first brevet is scheduled for April 10. Time for a little speed work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catskill Climbfest 200K: Vernal Equinox Edition

What better way to celebrate the vernal equinox than a ride with friends through the wild Catskill Mountians complete with raging waterfalls bursting with chilly snow melt and marshes filled with spring peepers? The Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of quad. With over 11,000 feet of climbing, it's usually something to work up to a bit later in the season, but with all this planning and indoor training, I was just itching to get out onto the open roads. Sadly, a few of the regulars were not able to join our merry band. Between work, family obligations and storm clean-up, we were down to six riders, but six is a good number and the energy at the start was great.

I arrived at the parking lot to the heartwarming sight of bikes leaning against a convenience store wall in the pre-dawn light. Brian, Andrey, Gene, Stuart and Bob were in good spirits and eager to begin. After taking care of paperwork and getting our stamps at the first control, we were off. The six of us rode together on the gentle climb from Rosendale up through the woods to the vast Ashokan; source of much of New York City's water supply. Looking out across the majestic reservoir on this clear morning, we can see many of the high Catskill peaks we will be climbing later in the day. While the route skirts the heart of Woodstock, the mellow vibe permeates the surrounding area. We soon pass Stuart's house and he laments not requesting a full English breakfast cooked up by his wife as we make our way to the third control where we order coffee and muffins. On second thought, he reasons, that would likely not have gone over all that well.

The third control sits at the base of the first substantial climb of the day. It was wonderful to see that the new owners, a lovely south Asian couple, has made the radical move to open the bathroom to customers and remove the iconic port-o-john from the parking lot out front. Of course, this means I won't be able to read the latest racist creed written on the walls with fat black marker, but I guess I'll get over it.

After taking leaving the control, we settle into a 4-mile stretch at a solid 8-10% pitch which spreads the group out a bit, but we stop to take pictures at the historic (and swollen) Katerskill Falls along the way. We regroup by the falls and watch incredulously as a pair of dads with young kids passes by the "Warning: Hazardous Gorge Area, Sheer Cliffs, Swift Water, Slippery Footing" signs without looking or even slowing down. This seemed like something "mom" might not approve of, but - hey who's to judge?

We more or less ride together until mile 60 where we pull off at a small parking area to relieve ourselves and remove a few outer layers. By this time, the warm sun is high overhead and with the steady 3-8% grade ahead for the next 15 miles we realize that the extra layers are unnecessary. About 2 miles up the road, Andrey and Brian and I take the left and begin the long climb up Slide Mountain.

After the climb's last nasty pitch, the road more or less flattens out for a lovely 10 mile stretch through Frost Valley. Andrey and I hang together for the ride through the valley and arrive at the deli with rather substantial appetites around 3:30 in the afternoon. I am pleased to discover that the chicken salad is fresh and ready for me. The rest of the gang rolls in as we finish our sandwiches. Looking at the clock, I realize that if I am going to make it home by "dinnertime" as I told my wife I would, I need to bring the hammer down. I say goodbye to my friends and roll on out hoping to make it home before dinner hits the table. Along the way, I pass rolling fields and about a dozen raging waterfalls in the Peekamouse Valley. The ride down Peekamouse Mountain to the Ashokan Reservoir is sweet as always, but the loose gravel, strewn on the roads during countless winter snowstorms, makes the descent a bit more dicey than usual.

This sign makes me realize that I really should remind permanent riders who want to buy firearms that they need to call ahead for an appointment. The final descent to Rosendale is a joy and underscores how lovely it is to get out onto the open roads after a long winter. As I return to this lower altitude, a chorus of peepers announces the arrival of spring and a full season of outdoor rides ahead. Life is good.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Form, function AND fashion: the NY Times trainer review

Well, I suppose the "Fashion & Style" section of the NY Times is about the last place I'd think to look for gear advice, but mom sent me a link to a review of indoor trainers this week so I took a peek to see what's hot these days. I was happy to discover that the 26 year-old "amateur triathlete" gave my trainer top honors.  My Cycle-Ops Fluid II trainer is a few generations behind the current model, but the design hasn't changed much in the past few years.

What the review does not discuss is the wonderful customer service I've come to expect from Saris Cycles, the company that manufactures Cycle-Ops trainers. This was reaffirmed for me again recently when I called to report that my trainer had sprung a slight leak in the "fluid" department. By the time I finished explaining the problem, a new cylinder was in a box on its way to my doorstep. Within a week, I had swapped out the old drum, sent it back and was rolling like new. All for the price of return shipping. That's some warranty! The only trouble is with all the new pressure in the drum, my revitalized trainer is about one gear harder to pedal!

I enjoyed a 30-mile loop on my single speed today and, good trainer or not, it was great to get out on the open roads. Next Sunday it's the Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent and I can't wait!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 Goals 2.0

It all seemed so simple back in December when I laid out my goals for the 2010 season. Problem is: a few things have happened along the way to change my plans. Most notably, the ACP in Paris issued their 2011 PBP brochure complete with pre-registration details. As anticipated, they announced that preregistration priority will be granted to riders based on the distance of their longest single 2010 event. Those who complete a 1000K will be able to hop onto the registration line on April 3, 2011 while those with only a 600K under their belt will not be able to register until April 17, 2011, etc. The thought of hundreds of riders getting a two week jump on me makes me nuts, so a 1000K event this summer it is!
In early July, I’ll be riding in the Lap of the Lake 1000K which starts and ends in a small town near Rochester, NY. We’ll pass the Thousand Islands, the city of Toronto and Niagra Falls on our counter-clockwise spin around Lake Ontario. This self-supported brevet with two border crossings will build my endurance and test my logistical abilities and prepare me for PBP. It should also be a whole lot of fun.

Of course, this change has the knock-on effect of bumping a few other things around. Since I’ll be pedaling around the lake on the second weekend in July, I won’t be able to race in the Saratoga 12/24 as I had planned. In addition, we’ve recently firmed up family vacation plans which will have me out of the country during the weekend of Quadzilla. Ah well, easy come easy go. My primary goal for 2010 remains the same:  prepare in all ways for PBP 2011.