Finally Blazin!

No, it’s not what you think.  I’m not smoking pot – get your mind out of the gutter!

This weekend I finally got in a training ride with a local group that I’ve chatted a lot with on Facebook – the South Bay Blaze.  It just seemed like things always conspired to keep me from riding with them.  Chris’ Distance Training rides are always a priority on the Saturdays that they occur, so anything that took me out of town had to happen on the off Saturdays.  One thing or another meant that it wasn’t until the end of the season that I got in a good ride with this very social and fun training group.
A lot of this ride covered the area from my Sunday ride last weekend.  We headed south along Blossom Hill until it turned into Santa Theresa – going in the opposite direction of the Slog.  Yay!  And we stayed on Santa Theresa until it turned into Hale and kept going until it dead ended on Main Street in Morgan Hill.  Morgan Hill, it so happens, is where the headquarters of Specialized is.  So my bike was “going home” so to speak.
We climbed up to Anderson Dam – a short but steep climb.  It was at this time I started to hear a “ticking” noise.  I figured out my wheel was flexing enough under the power I was putting out to cause the magnet from the speed sensor to hit the sensor arm.  That got fixed.  (And I have new stiff wheels on order anyway.) Lunch came after the dam – and after a couple of wrong turns.  The route sheet was a bit…imprecise.  
After a seafood wrap at Quiznos it was back to the same Coyote Creek Trail from last week.  Something about that trail doesn’t agree with me.  We kept going to the Hellyer Velodrome where I diagnosed a bit of a toe problem as being a sock issue.  However, I’ve also been getting numbness in my big toe on my right foot that I need to figure out.  After the velodrome and some great cookies we came home through Campbell and had a nice stop at a Starbucks exactly 10 miles from home.  Something about the dryness and the wind was really making me tired.  The last 10 miles were fine and I was glad to see the familiar corner of Fremont and Mary.  I really enjoyed the ride and the group – there was a lot less pressure than the groups I’ve usually ridden with.  It is something for me to keep in mind when I plan training for next year.
When I got home I figured out that perhaps using DuoDerm for saddle sores while riding isn’t a great idea.  It had disintegrated into a sticky mess that I’m hoping comes out of my chamois in the wash. 🙁
As far as Sunday I had two options – an epic ride along the coast with the Awesome Ahead group – 85 miles and 5500+ feet of climbing.  While I’m all for back-to-back riding (and including a quick ride on Friday this would be my third day in a row) I wasn’t up for that.  So I showed up for what I thought was a renegade ride, but actually was an official training ride at only about 36 miles.  A quick Portola Loop with some of my new friends from the Blaze.  It was great and I really pushed on the way back to get my speed average up.  14.1mph over 36 miles is not bad at all.  At our rest stop (Robert’s Market, natch) I happened run in to Chris, the leader of the Distance Training series.  Hearing that this really hardcore guy also didn’t need to punish himself with the mega-climbing ride that I ducked out of made me feel like I had made the right decision.
This week I am meeting with Vanessa again to try and sort out some butt and foot issues.  Hopefully those will get solved before Saturday, when I’m supposed to ride the 113 miles to Gilroy and back.

Well that was unpleasant….

This is the time of year when the back-to-back rides become necessary, or so I’m told.  You need to get your body used to the idea of riding in that not-so-fresh state.  (Get your mind out of the gutter.)  And as much as I love Princess Bob and the whole Awesome Ahead crew I knew that I wasn’t up for 80 miles on Sunday, so I saw a 40-mile “late starters” ride and decided to give it a go.

Unlike most of my rides the start point was rather far to the south, and given that I got up a bit late I was in a rush out the door.  I made it to the start point 10 minutes after the meeting time but it turned out ok.  The bad news what that I had left something at home – the headband that keeps the sweat out of my eyes.  Todays ride convinced me that it is not really an optional bit of kit these days.  The route was advertised as only having one climb of the day and mostly flat for the rest.  Unfortunately there was no “Ride with GPS” link posted, so I couldn’t download the route onto my Garmin.  This would be my first training ride without GPS assistance and just reading a route sheet.   
We started off on a bit of bike trail.  That time of day it was pretty empty.  The climb up Bailey was ok – it’s a nice climb I guess.  Coming down it was way more fun as I had done on an earlier ride.  Up and over and done with climbing – or so I thought.  I was a bit concerned at the bottom of the hill as the turn direction didn’t match up with the route sheet but one of the TRLs told me we were going in the right direction so that was good to hear.  But then there were two more decent hills – so much for one climb only. Eventually there was a water stop near the reservoir.  I got my bottle topped off by fabulous sag driver Jim.  Sadly I was rocking plain water with Endurolyte caps today as I had run out of Skratch.  
The next bit to lunch was fine.  There were some flats where I got to sprint.  I love getting up out of the saddle and winding up the bike to 20 mph.  Eventually we were back in civilization and we stopped at a little shopping center.  I got a Jamba Juice all fruit smoothie which was a great idea.  Best rest stop food ever.  Even though it had only been 20 miles I also re-applied the Chamois Butt’r.  That’s important.
On the ride back my butt did really start to bother me.  I think part of it was that while I had shrunk down into XL size shorts from Pearl Izumi I don’t think they fit me well.  Not as well as the Specialized RBX bibs I wore yesterday. I was chaffing a bit at the edges.  Also my butt in general was sore and cranky – the change in seating position seems to have aggravated things.  I will be asking Vanessa if it’s something I will adjust to or if it means something else.
As we were heading east I was starting to get nervous.  The route sheet said we had 3 more miles to go east and I was wondering if there were going to be some more unadvertised hills.  But it turns out that the route sheet was just inaccurate and our north turn came a few miles early.  Eventually we came back to the bike trail which wasn’t too busy and I was able to do some fast cruising.  It looked like the mileage for the ride was going to come up about 4 miles short but the stretch on the bike path was longer than advertised.  My truck came in to sight and I was done for the day.
When I’m far from home after a ride I do enjoy my truck as something to come back to.  It has plenty of space for me to get organized.  I cranked the tunes while trying a new flavor of Recoverite and oddly enough the citrus flavor was not as foul as the chocolate of yesterday.  Thank jeebus for small favors.  I stopped by the bike shop to pick up some more Skratch and to get another pair of RBX bibs ordered. 
My legs didn’t feel too bad.  I felt I could have ridden longer.  It’s my backside that may be the limiting factor which concerns me.  I’m not sure what I can do about it at this point, however.

A Century

Back in October of last year I rode in Foxy’s Fall Century.  I had built it up into a major stress-filled event in my head.  Could I do it?  How could anyone ride 100 miles?  Was I gonna crash and burn?  Well, as you may remember, that did not happen.  I had a decent time with my posse and made it out safe and secure.  This year a century wasn’t a training goal.  It was just another training ride.  I tried not to even think about it.  “Oh, yeah, just another century.”  No big whoop.  And…that’s pretty much how it happened.  No big whoop.

The day started out in the dark and we (Tom and I) arrived at the start point on time – even a bit early.  Tom was driving SAG today, but he was 1 of 2 SAG drivers.  The other driver – a very experienced ALCer – gave him some tips.  The usual pre-ride festivities and we were off!
The route started by going out and through Arastradero Preserve.  I’ve had enough of that place, really.  Yes, it’s pretty.  And yes, it’s a good ride.  But between the pre-Xmas rides and the early part of the year I’ve had enough.  Really.  The good news was that instead of turning left at Alpine and continuing the climb to Robert’s Market we got to go down Alpine, which was much more fun.  A quick jog over to 84 and down towards the bridge and our first rest stop of the day. I realized there that I had lost my route sheet, but Andrew gave me one (which I hope was an extra). It turns out that I needed it later.
Thankfully the bridge was much less messed up than last time.  They had fixed the bike path, so getting on and off the bridge was painless.  The road after the bridge was as it always is – just the roughest, buzziest road you can think of.  Given what the pro riders were going to be doing the next day (Paris-Roubaix) it seemed appropriate.  And again I had that odd experience where my feed and hands were buzzing but my butt was not due to my magic seatpost.  After that it was Mission Blvd. I remembered it from last time – mostly because a lot of it was a “false flat”.  By the time I got to the second rest stop I was ready for a break.
The third leg was where things went a bit sideways.   There were a couple of turns that were just not on the electronic cue sheet, and I missed them twice.  I ended up doing about an extra mile.  And given that once I realized it I had to go back uphill to get back on course I was not happy.  I texted Tom to let him know, and he let the sweep TRL know that I was back on course.  Also, once I got up with him Tom had let me know there was a bathroom about “a mile up the road”.  Which was good, because I had to pee in the worst way.  Unfortunately the mileage estimate was a bit off, and it was about 4 miles up.  I was cranky about getting lost, getting me more behind, Garmin being lame, and a full bladder.  This was not Happy John.  Eventually the bathroom was found and there was much rejoicing.  There was only about a mile and a half from there to lunch and it was with a nice downhill.  I was in such a bad mood when I got to lunch that I gave in and had Panda Express.  
The fourth leg had the only real climb of the day (although there had been plenty of climbing for me before this point).  The hill was your basic sonofabitch, pretty much.  I had to stop a few times on the way up when my HRM said I was north of 170 and I started to get shaky.  I heard that last year the temperatures were north of 100.  I have no idea how I could have even done it then.  I was in pretty rough shape at this point.  But we got up and over it and then the next challenge was the Santa Theresa Slog.  5 miles long, straight, headwinds, and just lameness.  Again, it was survived.
At the last rest stop I was both feeling pretty good and a bit apprehensive.  I knew we were gonna have the climb up that bit of Highway 9 and I never like that.  It’s not a “real” climb, but it’s enough to be annoying.  Andrew, the sweep for the last leg, gave me a nice head start.  Once I was past that climb I knew we only had a mostly downhill 15 miles left.  There was a quick climb up McClellan and then back down Foothill.  The last part was really fun because the gentle downhill slope let me go 15mph + and feel strong.  That is until the guy in the recumbent dusted us like we were standing still.  Going up Shoreline we hit EVERY SINGLE LIGHT WRONG.  So much for finishing in stellar fashion.  I pulled into the lot with almost 102 miles on the odometer.  Quite the day.  I was glad enough to have finished that I wasn’t too annoyed with being last.
Today was a day for beverages. In my search for the best electrolyte solution for me I tried quite a few things.  A few days before this ride I tried the Blackberry flavor from Osmo Nutrition but I didn’t like it.  On this ride I tried their Orange flavor and that wasn’t great either.  I also tried the Endurolytes Fizz from Hammer.  They have many flavors, but the one I tried made me gag.  I had to force myself to drink it.  The one that was the hands-down winner was the Skratch Labs “Lemons and Limes” flavor.  Super easy to drink.  Not too heavy.  I may very well go through the effort to bring enough of this on the ride for me to use all the time.  They have a new fan!  I have to admit, I had been hoping I’d like Osmo better – their beverage is closer in composition to what the Endurolytes capsules contain.  But I figure that if the Skratch lets me stay mostly ahead of the electrolyte game then I can supplement with the caps when needed.    
There were some other nutrition experiments today. Instead of bringing individual gel packs I used a flask from Hammer and filled it with my favorite flavor of Hammer Gel.  I feel this works very well – the ease of use of the flask is worth being stuck with only one flavor of gel.  I don’t know if this will work well for me on the ride or not – individual packs might work better then having to bring a big bottle.  I’ll debate that internally.  I also had their Recoverite beverage before getting in the car to go home – the chocolate was FOUL.  That’s not gonna work well.  I also ate one of their whey recovery bars.  The bar was not quite as foul, but it’s not really good either.  They have a lot of science to back up their claims, but I wouldn’t mind a better tasting replacement for either of them.

Electrolytes, math, and me

As the rides have been getting tougher the stress on my body has been getting greater.  I have in the past had post-ride cramps that I’ve been trying to avoid.  One thing I’ve figured out is that I haven’t been getting enough electrolytes.  The ALC guidelines say that I should have 1 bottle with water and 1 bottle with electrolyte.  What wasn’t clear is that is the MINIMUM.  No reason not to have BOTH bottles with electrolyte solution.  Yay.
I started off using Nuun.  Easy to carry, it tasted ok.  I had it one bottle.  But I was trying to “balance” the plain water bottle vs the Nuun and that’s where I think my mistake was.  If I keep using Nuun I plan to use it in both bottles and just drink a bottle until it’s done.  That makes it easier for me to understand.
The next step was to use Hammer Endurolyte capsules.  They said “1 cap per 50lb body weight per hour” as a base.  That was easy enough.  For me, rounding up, that was 5 caps per hour.  I did that my last ride and felt ok.  They also have a “Fizz” version which seems similar to Nuun that I have *not* tried. 
My next step will be to try Skratch Labs.  Vanessa, Cycling Goddess, loves it.  It has a great rep.  We’ll see.
But what do the numbers say?  Well, let’s take the recommended numbers.  The standard rule of thumb is 1 bottle of fluid per hour.  What’s interesting is that it’s not body weight dependent.  Maybe I need more?  Here are the numbers comparing 1 bottle per hour at the recommended concentration vs. 5 Endurolyte caps.

Serving size: 16oz prepared, 1 24oz bottle/hr
Nutrient Per serving Per hour
Sodium 360 540
Chloride 540 810
Potassium 100 150
Magnesium 25 37.5
Calcium 12.5 18.75


Serving size: 8 oz prepared.  1 24 oz bottle/hr

Nutrient Per serving Per hour
Sodium 120mg 360
Chloride 180 540
20 60
Calcium 20 60
Magnesium 16.8 50

Endurolytes Caps

Serving size:  1 Cap, 5 caps/hr

Nutrient Per serving Per hour
Sodium 40 200
60 300
Calcium 50 250
Magnesium 25 125
Potassium 25 125
B6 6.6 33
Manganese 1.6 8

Endurolytes Fizz
Serving size: 16 oz prepared, 1 24oz bottle/hr 
Nutrient Per serving Per hour
Sodium 200 300
Chloride 60 90
Calcium 100 150
Magnesium 50 75
Potassium 100 150
B6 13 19.5
Maganese 3 4.5

The numbers are interesting.  The Endurolyte option is giving me less sodium but way more of everything else.  They have a detailed article telling me why they have their mix the way they do, but it’s interesting that their fizzy version mixes things up differently.  The one other variable is that the Skratch drink mix has 40 calories per serving, so that 1 bottle per hour would have 120 calories in it.  
Then there is the issue of practicality.  This is something I have to carry with me – none of these options will be found at ALC rest stops.  Let’s say that I consume 1 bottle/hr minimum.  On my first century it took 7.5 hrs – I’m gonna round that up to 8 hours moving time for a long day.  The first two bottles of the day I could make at home (or in camp).  So that’s 6 bottles over the course of the rest of the day.  At 1.5 little envelopes per bottle that’s 9 envelopes of Skratch that I would have to carry with me.  If I “went safe” and doubled up on Nuun and/or Endurolytes Fizz it would be 12 tablets (or 1 tube).  It’s 40 caps of the regular Endurolytes which is fairly easy to carry in a small baggy.  The Skratch Labs option is the least practical for sure.
I also haven’t hydrated with anything that involves real calories.  I think I’m getting enough calories over the course of a ride but it’s uneven – I eat when stopped.  Perhaps there is value in getting some calories in on a regular basis.  
I haven’t tried drinking nothing but Nuun for a day.  I know there are times where I’ve preferred the taste of water.  I also haven’t tried the Endurolytes Fizz at all.  I will be trying Skratch Labs on a short ride in the next day or two.  I have done a ride where I drank plain water and took 5 caps every hour (when the “moving time” clock on my Garmin said so).  That seemed to work ok, but like the un-even energy intake I wonder if it’s less than ideal.
I will say this – this all gets to be rather overwhelming, and it’s also rather individual.  I’ve got about 2 months to try the combinations and find what works best for me.  Hopefully I will be able to leverage the experience of others in addition to my own experiments.   

New shoes (again) and a valuable lesson

One of the weird things about losing weight has been my feet.  When I started this I asked my podiatrist if my feet would shrink, and he said no.  I’d always be a “wide”.  Well, while I was getting a bike fit done a while back my fitter, the Cycling Goddess Vanessa, said “Hey, I don’t think your feet are wide.”  And she got me to try on the new Specialized S-Works shoe. Back then I didn’t think I was going to need new shoes, but boy were they comfy.  And they look cool, don’t they?

As training wore on I thought about getting new shoes.  Last week I was somewhat down to the wire – you can’t really make too many changes this close to the ride.  I had to get all my “interface” things locked in before the ride.  Training rides are gonna be at the 100 mile mark soon. That normally would be a crazy time to make changes, but I have two months to go.
The bad news was that the color I wanted (the all black pictured above) was out of stock.  The shop did have the black and white in my size.  I thought they would have to do and I made an appointment for Friday afternoon to get get them, put cleats on, make sure cleats were right, and to also check saddle height.
Let me digress to tell you a story about how awesome Vanessa is.  She’s the manager at Cognition Cyclery, where I have bought the overwhelming majority of my bike stuff.  She did my fit (she’s a certified Master BG Fitter, natch).  She’s just way on top of things and talks about anatomy like a med student.  It’s crazy.  And she’s figured me out pretty well.  I got there Friday and we discussed “Do I really need new shoes?”  She thought it could go either way, but in the end I decided to go for it since I was concerned about a hotspot I had been getting on my big toe.  After having decided that yeah, I was gonna do the shoes, she went to get them.  And then she says that she didn’t want to say anything until I was sure I wanted new shoes, but something had arrived that very morning from Specialized…a pair of all-black S-Works 2013 shoes in my size.  Yep, she didn’t tell me she had them until I was sure I wanted *any* shoe, since she wanted my decision to be not driven by my lust for matte black sexiness.  Does she know me or what?
The only bad news here is the lesson I learned: After making any changes I should take a quick test run on my “usual” route before doing a big training ride.  I was riding with a new (to me) ALC training group Saturday morning and I ran in to two problems.  One was that I hadn’t made sure the float was set up right on the cleats on the new shoes.  (New shoes – new cleats.)  The other was that once again my seatpost had slipped.  So 3 miles in to my training ride I had to limp (figuratively) back to the car and go back to the shop.  
Fortunately the seatpost problem was finally fixed.  It turns out that there wasn’t nearly enough carbon prep put on when it was installed.  They actually use a cream that increases friction so that (in theory) you don’t have to clamp as hard.  But every time I had used the seatpost it had slipped and this time it was enough to make me not want to ride.  The shop took it out, checked it, and told me there was not nearly enough on there.  I’m glad that they diagnosed the problem.  Vanessa had put tape on the post the night before, so we knew it wasn’t my imagination.  I went home and after playing with the float adjustment on the cleats I went for a short 15 mile ride and everything seemed fine.  I am going to try and sneak in a longer ride this week with some climbing before the weekend, which should be the first century of the season.
The lesson: Don’t screw with the bike before a big training ride unless you have time for a short no-pressure run to make sure it’s working as you expect.