Thursday, April 24, 2014

First Noon Ride of the year: Old La Honda

On Wednesday I did my first Old La Honda since last November.

This was a bit of an immersion lesson in cycling again. I'd been so focused on running in preparation for my trail race 10 days before, I'd only started doing any "training rides" the previous Friday. On that ride, doing my favorite combination of Montebello-Peacock Court, my legs felt like sludge and I pushed my old Trek 1500 to the top of the climb in over 7 minutes, an unimpressive time. I felt fat and slow.

But things got a bit better from there. On Saturday I went to the Headlands for four Hawk Hill repeats. Sunday, mountain biking plans fell through and instead I did a solid 20 km training run. Monday was just basic commuting, but then Tuesday was my first SF2G in months, and my first Skyline route since last year. That went well, but instead of energizing me for the day, I felt depleted. But I felt well enough by Wednesday to indulge my urge to do the Noon Ride for the first time since 13 Nov last year, both the Wednesday version climbing Old La Honda. So at 11:30 I set off from work on my steep Ritchey Breakaway with its Powertap rear wheel.

I was ready to face the sobering reality that my power was poor, my mass was high, and I was going to be lucky to break 20 minutes, maybe 21. But I felt okay riding to the start, certainly not frisky, but fine.

It was a low-key turnout: mostly long-timers. There was one guy from Metromint who looked fast.

Around the loop I was always near the front, and took several long pulls, including one on the run-in to the base of the climb. This normally isn't advised for an optimal climb, but the pace was modest, and I didn't feel as if I was digging myself into too deep a hole.

On the climb, the Metromint rider quickly set a tempo I knew I couldn't hold, and I downshifted from the 36/19 I'd been riding into my 36/21, where I'd stay for essentially the rest of the climb. A rider was on my wheel: I could hear him breathing, but I never looked back. The others were all further back. My legs were not responding well to the effort, and I felt myself struggling to hold the power on the high side of the 200's.

Despite this struggle, eventually the sound of the rider behind me disappeared, and a glance behind showed that he'd dropped. So it was just me, chasing the Metromint guy, and he was gone for good.

Only when I approached the stop sign marking the finish did I indulge in a glance at my time. 19:10 I saw as I approached the intersection. Wow. I didn't expect that.... not bad at all! So this is promising for my further preparation for some upcoming hill climbs, both on the slopes of Mount Diablo.

It's interesting to compare this effort with the one from 13 Nov 2013. That one marked my fitness test before participating in last year's Low-Key Hillclimbs: an injury in June took me out of commission for a long time, and fitness came slowly when I started riding again. But that ride showed me I was where I needed to be to at least have fun in the series events.

First, a running average of power. This can be plotted versus time or distance. With Old La Honda, which has variations in grade, distance is useful because it allows comparison for the same point in the course.

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It's immediately obvious I went out much harder on that November climb. My power was approaching 300 watts, but was straight downhill from there. I managed a little kick at the end which restored some credibility, bringing my average to 263.24 watts for the 19:03 climb.

This time I was still optimistic, but my power peaked later and lower, at only 280 watts. From there it faded, until a final push at the end brought it up to 268.0 watts. At peak fitness I'd like to be 280, 4.5% higher, but obviously my "preparation" for this climb was far from optimal: fatigue + lack of specific training.

Of note is I was slower than in November despite the higher power. There's two explanations for this. One is a second water bottle + a tool bag. On the November climb I left my tool bag home, bringing only a spare tube and patch kit. But also I was around 1 kg leaner then.

Next, I look at cadence. I noticed at the Headlands I was riding very low cadences: in the 60's. My legs feel like wood from all the running, no zippiness, so the low cadence isn't a surprise. I did a bit better on the OLH climb, but my cadence is still well below what it was

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From cadence and speed, I can get the gear ratio. This plot compares cadence and speed, along with lines calculated for various gear ratios available on the Ritchey. This ride I spent most of my time in the 36/21, while on the November ride I spent a lot of time in the 36/23. I need to work to get my spin back, but that will to some degree happen automatically as my legs feel better.

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So overall, a good effort. Maybe I'll try again next week, schedule permitting.

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