Race more than clocks

It is less than 5 weeks to the 2015 Pan Mass Challenge, leaving you closer to 4 weeks to train, since you should taper in the last week to have fresh legs. You want to train like you ride, so every week you should be adding another 10 miles to your longest ride. The problem is that this can leave you able to go the distance, at a slow pace.

Many of us train in he “death  zone”, that is between 70-85% of our max heart rate, never really pushing to the top of our abilities. Next time you are on a group ride, sprinkle in a few challenges. An obvious one is the King of the Mountain, where you push yourself to climb hills, trying to pass your fellow riders. Last weekend on a Team Lick ride we went up West Bare Hill Road which hits 15% at its worse. I was about even with 2-3 other riders when the climb had a “dip”, dropping for a few feet to just 12%. It was enough for me to up my cadence and accelerate ahead. My heart rate spiked at its highest level this year and I felt like I was about to turn inside out. It was marvelous!

Another Team ride featured several town line sprints. What are these? Here in Mass, there are often large white signs to let you know when you cross from Our Fair City to Their Fair City. Any decent ride crosses between several towns. When you spot a sign, go for it! After you become familiar with a route, you will learn tricks, like not pulling a paceline in the last half mile, and taking off early for a downhill sprint. My favorite sprint is on Rt. 62 between Boylston and Berlin. The sign was at the top of a hill so there is a climb both ways. The sign is missing so you have to look for the change in the pavement – sort of a virtual finish line.

In the end, you won’t win any prizes, so keep it safe. The real reward is being able to push yourself a little harder and increasing your depth. So even at mile 99, you know you can give that 105% for a few seconds, and hold your head high.

Quick tip of the week: You’ve been eating bananas wrong. Monkeys start from the end away from the stem. When you are trying to peel with your teeth and navigate the pot holes, this can save more than just time.

 

Hang Two

At my core, I’m rather lazy. This came to me about a third of the way through the B2VT, a 135 mile ride from Bedford MA to Mt. Okemo in Vermont. Lazy because I want to coast as long as possible going down- and partly back up-hill. Very few riders descend as fast as I do, and it is not just the physique honed by years of hot fudge sundaes. It’s all about the aero.

As Jim and I dropped down another hill, we both moved our hands into the drops on the handlebars and leaned way over, but I still pulled ahead. The difference is that I also slide my butt off the back of the saddle. Not only does this stretch me out more, reducing drag, but it also puts the saddle under my thighs as my two sit bones hang off the back, getting a welcome respite. As soon as Jim tried this trick, he stuck right behind me, and even glided part way up the other side. Thus is born another lazy cyclist.

The B2VT winds through countless small towns and across two state lines. I won the first few town line sprints, and was first into NH. Jim fought back and beat me across the Connecticut River into Vermont and several towns. He doesn’t like to sprint, however he begrudgingly admits it has made him a little stronger.
So what is a town line sprint? Here in Mass, there are often large white signs to let you know when you cross from Our Fair City to Their Fair City. Any decent ride crosses between several towns. When you spot a sign, go for it! After you become familiar with a route, you will learn tricks, like not pulling a paceline in the last half mile, and taking off early for a downhill sprint. My favorite sprint is on Rt. 62 between Boylston and Berlin. The sign was at the top of a hill so there is a climb both ways. The sign is missing so you have to look for the change in the pavement – sort of a virtual finish line.

 

Cadence exception

The general rule on cadence is that when your pedaling rate slows down (below 90rpm), shift down, instead of grinding. (Of course you shift up when your feet feel like spinning off the pedals, but everyone knows that!) The exception to this rule is on a climb. You’ve shifted down a few gears, been climbing for at least a minute, and have reached a steady state. Now you are approaching the top and can see the crown of the hill. You might be a little toasted from the extra effort, and slowing down, cadence falling to the 80s like a bad new wave band. So, time to shift to an easier gear, right?

No! It is time to shift to a harder gear. Huh? If you go easy, your speed will drop just as the road is getting less steep. You will be passed and probably wobble a bit. Instead, shift up to anticipate the flattening road, push a little harder, and get your cadence up to the 90s. Your perceived effort will remain the same and you will accelerate, zipping past that newbie rider. Now you are ready for the descent as your speed is rising. You can always recover on the downhill.

So, when you almost at the top of your next climb, shift up, give a little kick, and show that hill who is the boss! Your friends will be amazed as you pop forward. Great job!

Best Dam Ride

On Sunday Jim and I rode the King’s Tour of the Quabbin, a great ride in central Massachusetts. For those of you not familiar with the Quabbin Reservoir, this is a man-made lake, built in the 1930’s that supplies water to eastern Mass. This is a hilly area, making for a very challenging ride. Jim and I did the double metric, around 126 mile and somewhere north of 8000 feet of climbing. The scenic high point is the Goodnough Dam and observation tower with a splendid view of hundreds of square miles, and a screaming downhill including a 180 degree turn in a rotary at 25-30mph!2013-06-09 09.34.03

Next year I plan to take it easy and just do the metric century. The course was updated for 2015 and now the 63 mile loop also goes along the dam.

The low point? Petersham! In 2014 a member of the Friends of the Petersham Library approached riders at the town common rest stop, asking for donations. “Nothing personal lady, but I’ve ridden 95 miles, still have at least an hour and a half, and the roads out of town are terrible. I hate Petersham!” I didn’t see her this year. If I only ride the metric in 2016, no Petersham, hooray!

Wrap yourself around handlebars

One thing I noticed on last Sunday’s ride is that many new riders seemed glued to their handlebars. Uphill or down, their hands remained locked on the black rubber brake hoods. This is a versatile position that allows braking, shifting, and is aerodynamic. But if you are going to survive, and even thrive during all those hours on the bike, you gotta move! Ever wonder why the handlebars are so twisted? They allow you to shape your body for three different modes.

The first mode is climbing. When going up a hill you need to breath a lot, so your body should not be bunched up. Put your arms on the top of your handlebars almost close enough to touch your thumbs. This opens up your chest so you can bring in lots of air. Avoid the death grip by occasionally wriggling your fingers like you are playing a piano. This relaxes your hands, arms, and shoulders.

The next activity is riding on the flats. You are going faster so you want to be more aerodynamic. If you are going more than 15mph, put your hands on the brake hoods. This also allows you to shift and brake. If you are riding in a group with others around you speeding up and slowing down, this is where you want to be.

The final activity is descending. If you are going more than 20mph, it might be time to put your hands on the drops. Down here, your thumb is hooked around the bar and your next two fingers can reach the brake lever. This position has the most control for steering and stopping, plus the least wind resistance. You can fly down hills and quickly brake if needed. It is also the least comfortable, straining your back and neck.

Here is a quick video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ADO9pC1BY It is oriented at professional riders, so ignore the fashion advice.

Lastly, your bike may have come with the handlebars pointed higher than in the video. Your shop did this knowing that leaning over, with your hands on the drops, can stress your lower back. The next time you visit your shop, ask them to check your position. Ask for help on this one to avoid big changes, and to make sure your handlebars are secure. If the bolts are too loose, the bars will move when you hit a pothole, and if the bolts are overtightened, you can break them.