I did the Noon Ride again on Wednesday, up Old La Honda, and I had high hopes. I'd had a recent block of training since the last time I'd done it 6 weeks prior, including the 4-day Memorial Day Tour, always good for a fitness boost. But I'd been feeling fatigued in the 1.5 weeks since the tour. Wednesday, riding out to the Noon Ride start, was the first time I felt legitimately good. Not frisky, race-ready good, but "I can climb Old La Honda" good.
At the start, Maciek from SF2G asked what my goal was. "I've got to do 18:30", I told him. I figured just lay it on the line there. 18:30 is a decent time on the Ritchey Breakaway, which I was riding. With Powertap wheel, no bottle, no GPS, no toolbag, but with pump and two cages it's 18.32 lb. That probably made it the heaviest bike on the ride by a decent margin, but still, not too bad.
Hitting the base of the climb I was near the front, but got pushed toward the back when we had to wait for oncoming traffic. A group including Keiran Sherlock, Greg McQuaid, Mark Johnson, and one other separated itself immediately. I was seeing 300 watts on my Powertap (returned to my Ritchey from the Winter Allaban, on which I'd been doing comparisons with the Garmin Vector), so there was no way I was going to try to bridge up to them. I figured Keiran and Greg were gone. The other two I wasn't sure.
So I bided my time in the second group. We motored along at a good pace, and every time I looked at my power it was over 280 watts. If I could sustain that, it would be amazing, like peak-fitness amazing.
Eventually the predicted group-fade occurred, as I never believed the group was going to stay this pace to the top. So I moved to the front and kept the same speed as before. One rider followed for a bit, but then he, too dropped back.
Maciek, however, was hovering behind. I didn't realize this until I looked at the replay on Strava Labs. Then when I faded a bit, he did not, and came past on the inside of a steep switchback while I went wide. This is a good move if you have the anaerobic oomph in your legs. I rarely do.
He got a gap quickly, but I was focusing on the long-term, and hoped to first contain the gap then to bring him back. But I was in too much discomfort. The rest of the way was an exercise in suffering through. I reasoned with my running base and the volume from the tour, I could push myself through more than usual.
And I did, but it wasn't fun. 18 minutes came and I wasn't particularly close to the finish. 18:30 passed and Maciek was finishing ahead, but I still had a painful distance remaining. I crossed the stop sign at 19:08.355 (note: I use fitdump to read this directly from the FIT file, since I marked my time with a lap, and the lap time is stored there).
On the plus side, I was clearly not 100%. I felt trashed at the summit, and had to stop for a Naked juice in the summit store. The whole ride home I was running on empty. Just the day before I was feeling sluggish, yet had tone a hard steep hill workout in San Francisco. This helped awaken my legs, but it simultaneously added a dose of muscular fatigue. Hopefully in a week I can improve substantially on this.
So this makes my last three times up Old La Honda 19:03, 19:14, and 19:08, going back to last November a remarkably tight cluster. Here's a plot of the running average of watts on the three efforts:
Despite the closeness of times, the powers substantially differ, perhaps due to body mass differences. Curiously the ranking of final average powers are perfectly predicted by the average powers 10% through: more power after 530 meters = less power after 5.3 km. I didn't plan to fade so badly, of course. I thought I was being restrained sticking with the second group. But clearly even this was more than I could sustain.
Hopefully I can do better next time. I need to do better, much better, if I'm going to do anything at the race on Diablo on 21 June. So I boldly set an 18:20 target for myself on Strava. It's possible. I had "excuses" the first two (first OLH post-injury, first OLH after switching back to cycling focus from running) but the third my only "excuse" was feeling crappy post-MDR. But maybe the fitness from all that work will break through.