Friday, December 22, 2006

80-mile bike ride

yesterday was the 80-mile bike ride.

i used a portion of a route i normally follow for a 100-mile bike ride. you can see it at:

if i wanted to go a 100 miles, the route goes from Irwindale (with the start point at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area) down to Newport Beach (with the midway point at the Jetty View Park), and then back again. for the 80-mile ride, i ended up just using a turn-around point at Bolsa Chica State Beach. i had an alum who is also training for Ironman as a ride buddy.

originally, i'd intended this ride to be a solid training session focusing on muscular endurance, with a goal of holding an average speed of 18-19 mph over 4-5 hours. essentially, the goal in these kinds of workouts is to develop your muscles' abilities to maintain a certain level of power output (measurable in watts) for a sustained period of time. the specified target numbers reflect steps towards desired performance level over the 112-mile bike leg of an Ironman race. long bike rides later in the training schedule will be longer and faster, but at this stage things are still early enough (14 weeks out) that the training plan is still building distance and speed.

leading into it i'd gotten a little apprehensive, as i was still feeling a certain amount of residual soreness from workouts in previous weeks. it's something that happens to me periodically, and tells me that i've either been over-reaching in training (i.e., doing workouts beyond what my body is capable of at a particular moment in the training cycle) or allowing insufficient recovery time (i.e., not giving my body adequate time or nutrition to rest, rebuild, and grow). my fear was that as a result of the state of my legs i would 1) not get in the desired level of effort i wanted to maximize the training benefits, and 2) push myself into an overtraining state (i.e., working my body or depriving it of rest to an extent that i enter a state of chronic degeneration--literally have the cells in my body start to fall apart).

for all that, i really wanted to stick to my training schedule and i was loathe to cancel a ride that other people were counting on (and had planned around). that, and this is what's considered a "key" or "break-through" workout in the sense that is a crucial turning point (or key point, technically called an "inflection point") in the conditioning curve where an athlete is supposed to enter (or break through) a higher plateau of capability, and so is a workout that CANNOT be missed.

the ride down to the beach wasn't bad. it was hard, but not excruciating, and i was holding to the aerobic/anaerobic barrier involved in muscle endurance workouts. we held to about 20-21 mph. although, it should be made clear, this was on a very long gradual downhill from the foothills in Irwindale to the shoreline at Seal Beach.

the trail itself is good. from Irwindale to Long Beach (Belmont Shores) it follows the San Gabriel River Trail, and so stays off roads and traffic. from there, it follows Pacific Coast Highway, which has a wide shoulder that easily accommodates cyclists. the only issues are: strong winds at the shoreline (always, there is never a flat wind day, meaning strong headwinds and tailwinds), monotonous riding (the San Gabriel River Trail has some of the most boring scenery you'll ever see), and questionable neighborhoods (the San Gabriel River Trail goes through some seedy areas of town). you don't want to do this ride alone, because it's entirely possible for things to happen to you on this route and that nobody will ever know. i've done it solo, multiple times...but i don't recommend it.

the ride back, however, was tough. very tough. we encountered light gusty headwinds, which are no big deal, but are demoralizing when combined with the long gradual uphill back to the start point. we held to about 17-18 mph. although, by the last 10-15 miles i was doing everything i could just to stay about 16 mph.

i attribute my performance to my residual sore state going into the ride, as well as the fact that this is the first really long ride i've had in the training schedule. i expect things to get better...they have to, or i'm going to be in BIG trouble.

it's some consolation that my riding buddy was equally fatigued as i was, and made a pointed comment to me at the end of the ride that he thought "it's a little too early to be riding this long in the training schedule...but that's just my opinion." for all that, he pretty much killed me at the end, pulling away over the last hour to finish 5-10 minutes ahead of me.

i had a total time of 4:45 to cover the 80 miles, although my riding buddy said he had it as 4:28, since we'd stopped several times to hit the toilets. we took his time, since it 1) meant that i pretty much hit my target numbers, and 2) made us feel better about ourselves.

i'm going to monitor my recovery from this ride. i felt pretty weak last night, but that's to be expected. today i felt remarkably better, and a lot of the residual soreness i had going into the ride now seems to be gone. although, having said that, my legs are still weak. given my experiences training for last year's Ironman, i'm going to take a lot more care to avoid the overtraining zone and make sure i allow the recovery time to lock in the training gains from these kinds of key workouts.

from here on out, it's only faster and farther.

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