Saturday, November 24, 2007

But Where's Joe???

Jim Langley and I rode together in my truck to the Mt Hamilton hill climb event Thanksgiving morning. Jim had gotten a last minute reprieve from his wife, allowing him to go, which meant we wouldn't all fit into Mark's truck, and so my truck was pressed into service. We met Mark and the others at Scott's place bright and early on a crisp morning. Jim and I piled out to greet everyone, but Mark was all business.
"We'd better keep moving...we still have to pick up Joe."
Someone asked if I knew where Surf City was, I didn't, so they said, "just follow us." So we piled into the 2 trucks, Jim and I following Mark until he pulled into the lot of a Starbucks in Scotts Valley, whereupon Melanie jumped out of the truck and dashed into the store. "Kind of soon for a bathroom break," mused Jim. Several minutes later Melanie dashed back out and hopped into the truck, and we zoomed off and were soon on our way over Hwy 17.
Every once in awhile a confused Jim and I would ask each other, "But what about Joe? I thought we were picking him up? And where the hell is Surf City?"
Jim thought of calling someone in Mark's truck on his cell phone, then realized he didn't have anyone's number. We thought of pulling alongside Mark's truck and yelling our questions out the window, then thought better of it. We became even more confused when Mark passed the exit that would have taken us to the base of Mt Hamilton. But we forged in the captain and all that, and Mark did get us to the staging area for the climb, the last in the Low-Key Hill Climb series.
Once there we forgot all our questions and confusions and got on with the business of preparing for the race. (Maybe someone else can report on the race itself.)
After it was all over and we were preparing to leave, I asked Mark, "So whatever happened to Joe? I thought we were going to pick up Joe?"
To which Mark replied, "We stopped for coffee...Melanie wanted a cup of jo."
posted by Matt (not always dazed and confused...)

Swanton Suffervals

Mark and the boys introduced the new guy (me) to L5 intervals up the backside of Swanton this morning (not as kinky as it sounds). Not quite a hazing, as everybody had to do it, but an initiation of sorts. I am slowly adjusting to the painful reality that all these guys are stronger than me (for now), and I had better get used to letting them go by me without trying to grab a wheel during these interval sessions, because otherwise I do the first sets way too hard and end up having to claw and weave my way up the hill for the last puke-inducing sets.
After the last interval, I feigned a mechanical issue at the top of the hill, causing Jim "Strong Like Bull" Langley to jump into mechanic mode while I had a chance to rest and catch my breath. The ride down Swanton back to Hwy 1 was spirited...Mark pulling us along like he was in Swanton TT mode, followed by attack/counter attack and counter to the counter in the final hilly miles. Mark made the last jump, and it looked like Scott almost had his wheel, but of course it was Mark first out to Hwy 1.
From there, a reinvigorated Jim, perhaps chuffed that his personally engraved mini-tool had saved the day when he tightened up my headset earlier in the ride, or perhaps tempted by the aroma of his wife's famous apple cobbler wafting in the chilly air, chose to set a blistering pace down Hwy 1, such that I was drooling all over my newly-tightened stem the entire way back just trying to hold his wheel.
A run at setting up Dennis for the town line sprint put the finishing touches on an excellent training ride. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...but I am wondering if it is a good sign that I can barely walk in a straight line this afternoon? Just show me to the couch.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Low-Key Hillclimbs, week 7

Going to this race came at a big personal cost to me, so my meager points haul for Team Bicycle Trip in the team competition may not have been worth it. But it was still an adventure of sorts and a great workout, so it wasn't all for naught!

This uphill-only race series is usually held on paved roads. But this time the course was to be held on a dirt fire road in the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in the hills above Portola Valley. Their website originally said the course was just 1.6 miles long, and ended at the summit on Skyline Blvd. That's so short it is almost a sprint; yay!

Teammates Jim Langley and Melanie Dominguez expressed interest in going, but Melanie didn't show, and Jim couldn't get to the race because his van broke down while he was returning from a table tennis tournament in Sacramento. (My car only holds one bike at the moment.)

There was some online debate about whether to use a mountain bike, a road bike or a cyclocross bike. The best balance between low weight, low gearing, and the bike's handling on rough terrain would determine which was best. I was unwilling to use either of my road bikes because of the steep 8.3% grade and loose dirt trails, which would make traction difficult and the gearing too high. So I spent some time getting my mountain bike ready, including removing unnecessary weight like the water bottle cages because I would not need water for such a short race. I even cleaned off months of accumulated gunk. This brought it down to 23.1 pounds, which isn't too bad. Unfortunately I gained 2 pounds of body weight through water retention the 2 days before the race by eating out too much. Duh!

I enjoy doing things with my wife, and she wanted to visit her dad in Cupertino anyway. So I suggested she go with me and then we'd visit him on the way home. We could even have breakfast on the way.

The organizers had changed the course just before race day, so I was a bit unsure where I would emerge at the summit. And the length was now posted as 3.6 miles on a 7.3% grade. (After the race I noticed they'd changed it again, to 2.5 miles at 7.2%.) Yeah, there was some uncertainty, but I figured it would all work out OK. I'm so stoopid.

On race day we went to El Palomar Cafe for breakfast. I had the healthy ostrich sausage scramble with fruit and coffee. After a nice drive up, we got to Portola Valley and I got signed up and suited up. I didn't even wear socks, gloves or eyewear, or bring tools, food, tubes or my cellphone in order to save weight. While Margaret could have just waited at the bottom for me to return, I worried that she'd get bored and that it would take too long. I thought she could instead meet me at the top of the climb on Skyline, with my water and recovery food in my car, thus getting a head start on our return trip instead of her waiting for me to ride all the way back down. I had printed out maps and such to make it easy, so I gave Margaret the maps and showed her roughly where I thought I'd emerge onto Skyline, and we agreed she would drive up La Honda to Skyline and cruise back and forth on Skyline until we spotted each other. Brilliant! Yeah, right. If I could turn back time...

Anyway, the organizers gathered us all together at 10:10am for a neutral ride up to the start line, which turned out to be 4 miles up Alpine Road, on a fire road named, I think, Ruolf Trail that follows what may have been the original stagecoach route that Apline Road started out as. This was a mass start, not an individually-timed time trial, and they asked us to place ourselves in the pack relative to where we thought we'd finish. We waited around for stragglers, Steven Woo, Frances Cebedo and I cracking jokes, until they finally decided that we were ready to go. I suspect we started around 10:40 or so.

Very soon after the start we hit a bunch of very loose gravel patches where trail crews had prepared the trail for the upcoming winter rains. This put a lot of the road-bike riders in bad shape, their narrow, slick tires slewing them around. I was OK even with my relatively narrow 1.8" mountain-bike tires, and happy I hadn't ridden my road bike as I passed many of them. Soon the pack spread out with the fast guys climbing ahead out of sight, and riders of like ability clumping together. I left Steven and Frances behind, but had another guy drafting me for a long time.

After the gravel patches ended, the smoother trail allowed a couple of guys, one on a road bike and the other on a cyclocross bike, to pass us. I was almost blown out, so I was unwilling and unable to follow them without risking a complete meltdown. Instead I concentrated on setting a consistent, but very hard, pace I knew I could sustain to the top. About 3/4 of the way up my caboose parted company with me and he pedalled ahead. Again, I was not about to push myself harder, and let him go too.

After 18 minutes and 3 seconds I passed the finish line at the top of the fire road, in 11th place overall out of 28 men, and emerged onto... Page Mill Road, much to my surprise! I didn't even stop but kept time-trialing up to Skyline, knowing that Margaret was up there looking for me.
Once I got to Skyline I turned north, towards La Honda, since Margaret was more likely to be looking for me around the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve parking lot on Skyline. Well, after several miles of hard riding I came to the parking lots, with no Margaret in sight. I thought I might have spotted her by then, but figured she was further north per our plan so I continued north.

As the miles faded behind me, I started to worry that perhaps she was lost somewhere, and when I got to Old La Honda I stopped to ask a group of roadies if they had seen my disctinctive car. Yes, they had, and they thought it looked like the driver was searching for somebody and was last seen driving north. "That was my wife," I told them with relief, and sped off in hot pursuit. I was getting a good workout, and thought she was probably in the La Honda area and I would soon be reunited with her.

OK, by the time I got to La Honda and still hadn't seen her, I started to worry all over again. I didn't think she would have gone further north, or west down La Honda towards the ocean, and I wouldn't follow her even if she did, so I decided my only option was to ride down La Honda to my starting point in the hope that she'd gone back there to wait for me. At least it was all downhill from there, in more ways than one it turned out.

After speeding down La Honda, with sprinkles warning me of the impending rainstorm moving in, I spotted Margaret just before I reached Portola Road. Whew, was I happy and relieved! But my joy sooned turned to pain when I saw the look on her face; she was not happy at all, and had been driving around for what seemed to her an eternity, looking for me. She thought I would have finished long before then, and couldn't understand why I hadn't appeared. After talking to a few people on Skyline, getting bad advice, she'd returned to Portola Road to see if I'd returned, before trying to go up La Honda again.

Well, during the long drive back, I could only express my regrets and hope she'd forgive me for the whole ordeal; I think she has, and hope that I will learn from this; I think I have.

Monday, November 5, 2007

VO2 Max vs Anaerobic Threshold

Dear Team,
   Someone on the ride yesterday asked me about the difference between VO2 max and anaerobic threshold. 
   VO2 max is the maximal volume of oxygen (expressed in mililiters of oxygen) the body can consume (expressed per kilogram of body weight) in one minute.  I was tested at De Anza College in Cupertino at 69 mililiters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute.  A good number yes, a great number no.  The average person will test around 45 mlO2/Kg/min.  World class athletes test above 80 (Lance is well over 80) and the highest numbers are in the low 90's. 
   Anaerobic threshold (AT) is the percentage of your VO2 max that can be sustained for longer than 10 seconds.  You have several types of AT.  There is the AT you can sustain for short efforts (longer than one minute but no less than three minutes), short medium efforts (three to six minutes), medium efforts (six to 15 minutes), and long efforts (15 minutes plus).  A normal AT might be 60%, that is when a person is at 60% of their max effort they are comfortable (not like lying on the couch watching TV) and can maintan that effort for some time without building up more lactic acid than their body can eliminate.  But if that person increases their effort by just a few percentage points, they become anaerobic (building up more lactic acid than the body can eliminate) and eventually slow down. 
   Using the redline of your car's tachometer as your VO2 max, the anaerobic threshold is the yellow line of your car's tachometer.  The redline is the max (yes I know a car can rev higher than that but not without damage) and the yellow line is the point where it is time to shift gears. 
   Your VO2 max is determined mostly by genetics and training does increase it some but the real change in your body that comes with hard interval training is an increase in your AT level.  You still suffer and hurt but you can keep up the pace for some time.  My brother Daryl was tested at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when he was on the junior development team.  Daryl's VO2 was good (and I don't remember the exact number) but his anaerobic threshold was excellent.  He could maintain an effort that was 90% of his VO2 max and he could produce a blood lactic acid level of 18 milimoles per liter, the highest ever recorded at that time (1986 or so).  Most people can produce 5 or 6 milimoles of lactic acid per minute. 
   Anaerobic threshold is best trained by some form of interval training.  Structured interval training is picking a distance and a rest time and repeating it.  Hills make for good intervals because it is easy to get the heart rate up without going very fast and the downhills make for a perfect recovery.  Unstructured interval training is what happens on a group ride like the Saturday or Sunday ride.  There are sections of the ride you know in advance will be hard and other times where anything can happen.  I think a mixture of both is good.  Structured intervals like hill repeats and group rides that prepare you for riding with 60+ other riders at race speed.  It is important to be comfortable in a group without wasting alot of effort and to know when it is important to be in the first 10-15 and when it is not. 
Ed Price