Friday, November 24, 2006

60 mile bike ride

yesterday was the annual Thanksgiving Day Bike Ride with friends and alumni.

well, actually, it's not quite annual. truth be told, this was the inaugural year. but that's just a minor detail. i figure it'll become annual as long as i'm in Southern California. i figure it's a good way to burn some calories, work up an appetite, and have an excuse to go pig out at the Big Meal later in the day. that, and it was a beautiful day for cycling (72 degree temps, hazy sky, little glare from the sun, and dry).

the plan was to ride 60 miles through some nice cities (at least, nicer than around campus), going from Long Beach down to Huntington Beach and then up to Yorba Linda. you can check out the route at MapMyRun:

there were supposed to be 5 of us. but 1 overslept, and the other couldn't make it because of car trouble. so the remaining 3 of us took off on our own. i almost missed it myself--i got sick a few days ago, and i was NOT feeling this ride, but i figured i'd planned it, organized it, and people were expecting me, so i'd suck it up and go anyway. that, and i'm starting up Ironman training and i can't really afford to postpone bike riding any more.

originally, i had planned on going at a leisurely pace of 16-17 mph. basically, a steady aerobic session. but one my buddies evidently had some place to be and plans with his wife and family, so he ended up pushing the pace and we found ourselves cranking along at 21 mph...that was until we hit the headwinds and found ourselves struggling to maintain 18 mph.

which is fine, except for the winds. the beach communities of Surfside, Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach always seem to have a pretty healthy supply of coastal winds. it's a constant breeze blowing either offshore on onshore. given the orientation of the beach, it makes for a constant headwind or tailwind, depending on which way you go. while the terrain is relatively flat, the breeze (sometimes it feels like a gale) makes up for it with a steady dose of slow agony. if you're unfortunate enough to be facing the headwind, you'll find yourself pedaling harder while going slower.

the winds provided a steady tailwind as we turned up the Santa River Trail at the border of Huntington and Newport Beach and started up towards Yorba Linda. of course, this meant that the return ride flew right into the teeth of the onshore breeze, making for some miserable riding until we managed to hit it crosswise making the turn back onto Pacific Coast Highway.

for all that, i kind of enjoy this trail. the Santa Ana River Trail gets you off the road and away from vehicle traffic. It goes through some pretty ritzy beach communities, and even the trip inland goes through decent middle class neighborhoods. this means you get decent sights and a decent ride and a measure of a feeling of safety. this is in stark contrast to some other rides i've taken--like the San Gabriel River Trail and Los Angeles River Trail, which take you through some of the poorest, dirtiest, grimiest, crime-infested neighborhoods you've ever seen, and which leave you with a distinct flavor of depression, grit, and residue of nasty smells.

we rode until we hit the 30 mile mark somewhere past Anaheim Stadium and the Arrowhead Pond, and then turned around. it appears the trail keeps going on out to Corona, and so it probably has some potential as a century ride path for the future. i'll have to keep this in mind for the future (probably very near future). the guy who'd been pushing the pace peeled off to wherever he had to go for Thanksgiving, leaving 2 of us to go back.

i was in zone 2 and zone 3 most of the ride--zone 2 for the stretch where we had tailwind, zone 3 for the stretch where we hit the headwind. i'd originally meant for this to be an aerobic ride, but it ended up becoming a muscular endurance workout. by the time we hit the end of the headwinds on the return ride, my legs were starting to feel weak. i was, as much as i hate to admit it, more than happy to get the tailwind back up to through Bolsa Chica State Beach, and secretly elated to finish the ride.

i haven't done a bike ride this long in a while--apart from the 40 miler a few weeks ago. but it's time to commence training for Ironman, and i needed a quality ride at distance. my condition on this ride kind of highlights where i'm at right now.

we got back with our odometers showing a total distance of 62 miles and total time of 3:20. which means we were averaging around 18 mph. faster than i'd wanted, but good enough for a aerobic/anaerobic threshold workout focusing on muscle endurance, and so still useful in terms of an early-stage Ironman training schedule. as much as i'd been relieved to finish the ride, my body (apart from my butt) wasn't too sore, suggesting i'm not in as bad as shape as i thought i was.

i'm going to see about trying to get in a 70 or 80 miler in a few weeks before the winter break. but for now, i'll work on the weaknesses i felt on this ride, and try to consolidate the training schedule. more importantly, i'm going to make it a point to stick to it this time. at this stage in the training cycle, there's no way i can hold a 20 mph pace over 80 miles, let alone 112.

but i will by the time Ironman Arizona comes around.

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