How to acclimatize

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:08 by RjZ

First the good news. I didn’t just complete the Triple Bypass. I all but breezed through it. I spent under 8 ½ hours on the bike and completed the ride, including stops, in just over 10 ½ hours. Average speed was 14 miles per hour. Not so much impressive in and of itself, rather the surprising part is how I wasn’t really all that tired when I finally rode into Avon, Colorado. The ride is loooong and I certainly noticed that riding up what actually is the easiest climb: Vail pass, but I had been saving energy (afraid I might not be so fresh for the whole ride) up all the climbs, and even without eating enough, (the aid stations weren’t much in comparison to the MS150) I had enough strength to jump in a very fast pace line for the last 25 miles to the finish.

The Triple Bypass did prove to be quite a bit different from other rides I’ve been on. Nine out of ten of the riders were men. Men on expensive bikes with jerseys from previous Triple rides. It isn’t a race, but there’s no way to finish the sheer size of the ride without being in shape enough to go pretty fast, and it showed. Very few riders were just cruising along and while I surprisingly passed quite a few of folks both up and down the hills, I think some of the folks who passed me were going so fast that they were red shifted as they receded off in the distance in front of me. The ride also turns out to be somewhat technical. Passing slower riders on curving bike paths is no picnic and staying focused during 15 mile descents at 40+ mph isn’t much better. If finishing was easier than expected, the Triple Bypass was hardly boring.

That’s all fine and good, I trained for it, training worked…not such an interesting story, is it? We’ve established from previous posts that I am sensitive to altitude and I was determined to do something about it, but up until finishing the ride it was anything but clear if my efforts would be successful.

As planned, I set up camp at around 10,500 feet two days before the ride. I went for a couple of easy laps up to the pass and back, just to get some thin air in me. It was gorgeous. I took cellphone pictures of my smiling face with a stunning mountain backdrop. I took it easy. I drove my car up Mt. Evans rode, the highest paved road in North America, to over 14,000 feet ,and took pictures of yellow bellied marmots, big horn sheep and kids feed twizzlers to mountain goats (that’ll be another post….) I returned to camp and enjoyed a simple hot meal by the fire pit with the melody of noisy campers swirling around me.

That’s when the headache started. An hour later I lay whimpering in my sleeping bag wondering how bad it was going to get. At around 11:30 that night I  unzipped my tent door and leaned out to vomit up my dinner — right next to the tent. Not pretty. I slept poorly and I threw up yet again in the morning, (although this time, I made it to the toilet a few hundred feet away.)

I awoke feeling terrible. It took me fifteen minutes to eat a banana. If the ride had been that morning I would have been forced to bail out. I had planned on hiking, or maybe riding some more and enjoying the mountains. Instead I sat around while my headache slowly receded to a dull roar and I ate tiny amounts of food trying to refill my stomach. I was pretty down about ruining the whole thing, even before I got started.

I was mostly better by the evening, after sitting around doing absolutely nothing the whole day, and just hoping the headache would fade. I forced down a pasta dinner I had brought with me and went to bed early. The alarm was set to an evil 3:40 in the morning. As I lay there with the last light of day fading, I could finally move around without my head weighing me down like a pile of rocks, but as I fell asleep I was still unsure how the ride was going to go.

But like most of my posts, nothing exciting actually happens in the end.

So, is this what I have to do? Spend an extra day or two acclimatizing just to complete a challenging activity at higher altitudes? Is it worth it? I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem fair that all the training has so little effect on altitude and while I don’t want this to change what I can do in the beautiful mountains, everyone’s got to deal with their limitations.

If you had throw up every time you exerted yourself above 10,000 feet, would you bother? I know, in spite of the success, I’m in no rush to repeat the Triple Bypass next year. I’ll find something else stupid to do. Don’t make any suggestions though—I’d hate for another “stupidity ensues” series on this blog.

(2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Train low, sleep high

Posted in Triple Bypass at 13:56 by RjZ

I’ve been ’saving my strength.’ That’s lazy speak for: over a week with no riding. Instead I went for some easy hikes at sea level in Washington state. Great for pictures, not so much for preparation.

The Triple Bypass isn’t a race, but it is a serious ride. Only a two of the 2009 Tour de France mountain stages are longer. They have similar elevation gain, and none of them is at nearly the same altitude. Granted, unlike the tour riders, we’ll be (hopefully) done at the end of the day and not part of a 21 stage tour, and my pace is just a hair slower (like 10 mph), but it’s still no easy ride.

Last week, I felt a bit better about my chances of making it before the barbecue is done (my personal goal, and I am not even interested in the barbecue….). I rode with a friend who’s done the Triple in the past. He’s a strong rider and a marathon runner to boot. I was able to handily stay ahead of him and we completed our little 15 mile time trial at over 20 miles per hour average. (Shut up. I know the tour riders do that at about 30 miles per hour…it’s still fast.) He seemed confident I’d have no problem and I am all too happy to believe him.

But I still have a nagging concern about how altitude will effect me. So I am making my own joke about sleeping at altitude a reality. I’ve decided to camp out at 10,000 feet for two days preceding the ride. I’ll go up to Juniper Pass (part of the route) and camp near Echo Lake. I’ll go for an easy ride, maybe up the pass and back. The next day I’ll hike, maybe up Mt. Evans. I’ll eat my homemade muesli, some pasta, perhaps some brownies if I have time to make them. I won’t be able to shower, and I can’t be sure I’ll sleep well, but I’ll drive down the pass unload the bike, and ride right past where I’d slept and we’ll know then, just how bad the headache is!

I know that I do acclimatize thanks to my Peruvian mis-adventure, but is two nights enough to acclimatize? Wikipedia points to a mountaineering rule of thumb of 1000 feet for each day of sleep, which wouldn’t quite make it. A few drugs are available that may work, but neither are available over the counter in the United States. There are homeopathic remedies as well, but none of these has a mechanism that convinces me to bother outside of “the Chinese have been doing this for over 2000 years, so it’s got to be good.”

Weather is looking easy, everything I need, including waterproof jacket and pants seems to fit in my seat bag and jersey. If camping works, I’ll be just fine. If not, at least I’ll be able to get an early start. Be sure to check back next week to learn how I did.

(1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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Riding for a cause is better than training

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:03 by RjZ

Organized rides are the way to go. Especially the MS 150. I probably gained about a pound and a half at the two catered lunches, breakfast, dinner and the dozen or so aid stations stocked with cookies, fruit, sports drinks, sno-cones, all served by hundreds and hundreds of friendly volunteers. All this training paid off (at least on the flats…we’ll see what it does on the Triple in two weeks…) because it seemed to me that all those volunteers were working much harder than I was during the two days of riding. Every thing was organized perfectly, and I had a flawless time riding from Broomfield, Colorado to Fort Collins and back.

As for the ride, my idea was to go really fast on the first 75 mile day, and if I didn’t spend all my strength, do the century the next day. In the nearly 3,500 riders it was hard to keep track of riding partners, so I pedaled off early and tried to find fast riders and grab a wheel. The much faster riders sped past me without much ceremony, but there were a few whom I could stay with. I’d lose my new partner at each rest stop, and find a new one going around the same speed pretty soon afterwards. Eventually I caught up with some speedy riders from my own Left Hand Brewing team, and we zoomed into the first day’s finish at a time I could definitely be proud of:

72.15 miles at 19.9 miles per hour average.

Several beers and a catered dinner later, we went to bed in the CSU dorms before the sun was even down. It wasn’t so much the riding that made us tired; it was being up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the start in time.

I didn’t feel like doing the 100 miles on Sunday. “Fortunately,” team Stupid, our intrepid group of three who will finally end this with an attempt of the Triple Bypass in two weeks, all peer-pressured each other into doing it. The extra 25 miles over the normal ride adds quite a few hills and ride up a lovely canyon. Volunteering to do the extra miles means only Team Stupid and a bunch of hammer-head riders go for it. We watched most of them pass us as we leisurely rode up the canyon. We eventually picked up the pace, only a little bit, and each of us felt pretty darn OK considering we’d just completed (nearly) 175 miles in two days. It’s no Tour de France accomplishment, but it doesn’t feel bad either. It wasn’t actually 175 miles, according to the GPS, but well figuratively:

95.56 miles at 15.8 miles per hour average.

All this fun, and it is fun when you’re well fed and hydrated (did I mention beer?) and a good cause! The Left Hand Team alone exceeded its goal of $40,000 raised to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. If any of this makes it so my friend (who trained almost 2000 miles this year and rode the 150 with no problem) doesn’t have to stick needles in her leg anymore, then even the weight I gained will have been well worth it.

(3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
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All for nothing?

Posted in Triple Bypass at 10:51 by RjZ

Some things are beyond your control. Like your genetics. While I can acclimatize with time, I am sensitive to altitude and prone to altitude sickness. That’s unfortunate when your favorite places are mountains. It’s downright annoying when you train like crazy for half the year to ride some ridiculous bike ride, show actual improvements in fitness, only to find out it was for nothing.

Alright, it’s not for nothing, but as handy as my new found cardio-vascular fitness will be in reducing future insurance premiums it won’t help me with my primary goal: finishing the triple bypass in time for the barbecue. How do I know this? Team Stupid, the team of three guys who I’m riding the Triple Bypass with this year, went out for a trial run. We rode Squaw Pass, the first leg of the bypass, to Idaho Springs and back. It’s a pretty big ride. Only 62 miles, but over 7000 feet of vertical. That’s about half the distance and two thirds of the actual ride itself.

And we were all doing great over the pass too. We were reminded how cold it can be, even with good weather, at 11,000+ feet, but at the bottom of the first pass, I think we all were surprised by how big a deal that wasn’t. But even the helpful tail-wind pushing me back over the pass couldn’t help push out the building headache. I was drinking enough, and had eaten enough, although, perhaps a bit more in both cases wouldn’t have hurt, but the headache and general malaise was slowing me down much more than my legs which, for the most part, still felt strong.

I watched my friends pass me and slowly pull away as I slogged up the mountain, head down, breathing unusually hard. They were waiting for me a few miles from the top near a campground toilet. I visited the facilities and, feeling pretty crappy and gray, I wondered if maybe I needed to throw up. Just facing the business end of a chemical toilet was probably enough to close the deal.

Of course, after tossing my cookies, it made me feel a bit better for a while and I kept up with team stupid till the next stop. There I felt even worse and started shivering and clacking my teeth. Back on the bike for two more miles of climbing, and once again, I actually started feeling a bit better. I didn’t push it and made it over the pass without too much trouble, but certainly not very fast. As we sped down toward thicker air I felt better and better, until I was fine by the time we reached the starting point in Bergen, Colorado.

And that’s when I realized that it’s not the climbing that will kill me (I could have turned around and climbed right back up, now that I felt fine) but just the exerting myself at 11,000 feet. Maybe I’ll take the week off before the ride and rent a hotel in Leadville. It’s the only way I’ll be in good shape for the ride.

Riding summary since last time (notice the increasing average speeds…)

3 June: Time Trial, 17. 7 miles, 19.06 mph average
5 June: Almost a century, 95.5 miles, 16.4 average
6 June: Flats and rollers, 30.7 miles, 16.1 average (ok, don’t look at that one for speed)
9 June: Lunch ride, 13.7 miles, 20.6 average (see, that’s getting somewhere!)
10 June: Lunch ride, 15.7, 19.14 average
11 June: Lunch ride, 18.43, 18.08 average (which isn’t so bad, considering I got lost and it was raining at the end)
13 June: Time Trial, 17.76, 19.36 average
14 June: Ward, Colorado, (9,450 ft), 80,7, 15.5 average (not bad for all that climbing)
16 June, Time Trial, 9, 19.7 average
19 June, Squaw Pass, 62.3, 12.2 average

Whew, that’s a lot of riding.

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Road bikes are for roads

Posted in Triple Bypass at 17:12 by RjZ

Not every where is Boulder, Colorado. Before I proceed, I am not dissing the fine city from which you are reading this (even if it isn’t Boulder, Colorado) I am just pointing out a difference. Nothing normative here, just some observations. Get off my back.

Uncharacteristically, I was able to take my bicycle with me during my last business trip. Instead of the usual flying, I was able to (also read forced to) drive, so I thought I’d get some rides in on a real bike instead of some uncomfortable recumbent fitness cycle with a ripped foam seat in the stuffy motel fitness room.

Vernal, Utah is definitely a place to mountain bike, except I haven’t got one of those. On the way to my motel, I saw a bike shop and figured I’d ask them where  a good road-ride is. The looked at me puzzled and slack-jawed but without any answer. I pointed at the sampling of skinny-tired bikes hanging in the store and said “You sell them. Doesn’t anyone ride them around here?” The owner showed up from the back and rescued his employees with a suggestion.

About 10 miles out of town I rode about 20.2 miles out and back on the road into Dinosaur National Park. A great suggestion, I could have extended the ride (if it weren’t getting dark) and it’s beautiful there. The road was good and traffic was minimal. The very rough surface of national park roads leaves something to be desired for finicky road bikers, but that just makes me happier about my 19.1 MPH average.

I pulled into the hotel in Green River, Wyoming with enough time to get another bike ride, but I didn’t see a bike shop on the way in, so my genius tip wasn’t going to work. I asked the hotel reception. She suggested the bike path along the river. I explained that it’s a, um, race bike. It goes really fast. Will I be a nuisance to people walking their pets? What’s the path like? Is it a narrow sidewalk, or is it really for bikes? She assured me it would be fine.

Six miles later, I’ve dodged baby carriages, multiple pets, pleasant old couples and I’ve already ridden on sidewalk, old asphalt, and across a dirt parking lot, but I am done with the trail. It’s actually a lovely trail with views over the pleasant green river. It leads from a park, along the river and to a baseball field and another park. If I were running, it would be perfect. For bikes, not so much.

I left the path and road up the mountain that leads to Flaming Gorge. These are three lane roads which leaves plenty of room for the passing cars to get out of your way while climbing, and the road was so steep, few had to pass me on the way down. Turned out pretty fun at 17 miles and almost 1500 feet of climbing. When I got back the person at reception saw my bike and said something like “Wow, that has really tiny tires. How do you balance on those?”

My mother lives in what I hope will be the wine country of Idaho soon. They have several wineries not very far from her, and there actually quite tasty. Check out Ste. Chappelle for example. I did a ‘reconnaissance’ ride for what I hope will be a Tour du Idaho some day. Well, some day, but right now, Caldwell isn’t as bike friendly as some other places. Really, the ride was just fine, and stopping at the wineries would make for an excellent tour. The roads are mostly flat but there are a few climbs too. Problem was more the (mercifully few) idiot drivers, and the really rough surface roads with essentially no room for a bike. They’re great for tractors, but they don’t get many spandex warriors out that way. I rode 45 miles around the wineries and Lake Lowell, but it felt like much further on that road. I somehow managed an average of 18 mph.

I told my brother about the ride, explaining it was a nice ride, but I need to train on some climbs, and maybe there is a road somewhere with little traffic and, maybe I’ll get lucky here, a smoother surface. “Oh, there are tons of bikes on the bike path along the river. You should go there.” My brother is not a road biker, so how is he to know what I’m looking for. I told him about the ride in Green River, but he assured me this was different. There were lots of road bikers on this ride.

He was partly right. I saw not one single rider the day before in wine/tractor country. Here there were, indeed, a few folks dressed in silly spandex (like me) and riding on ridiculously skinny tires. I assume they were on their way to or from a ride, because this beautiful “bike” path sure isn’t meant for road bikes. The bump-bump-bump of the gaps between the concrete surface didn’t prepare my wrists for the true jamming into shoulders they would receive as the trail passed over the roots of trees.

Also, the trail just ended abruptly. It starts up again, of course. If you’re walking or running it’s no problem, but walking through a muddy underpass on bicycle cleats is sub-optimal.

I found another bike shop and they gave me a hint. It’s pretty much the same place my brother suggested, but with a slightly different route there. I ended up putting in 61.4 miles up, and then well past Lucky Peak. Only six, or so, miles were suffered on the ‘bike’ path, but the ride was excellent. If I had a bit more time, I’d have ridden all the way to what used to be the biggest city in the pacific northwest: Idaho City, and back. And, best of all, I passed some people!

Climbing 900 feet up and past Lucky Peak, a rider on a high-end Specialized blew past me. No big deal; being passed is a fact of life at home. Strange thing was how he just didn’t really seem to be pulling away. Nearing the top, I found I had plenty of juice, so I poured a bit on, and beat him to the peak. Crazy thing is it happened again on the return climb. I triathlete wearing a team ‘U’m Special’ jersey passed my on the climb. He was out of the saddle and sprinting forward, but then falling back. And once again, near the top, I shifted up a gear and rolled right passed him! OK, he passed me on the way down the hill at some dangerous speed, but I still felt pretty good!

I don’t know how much effect altitude has when the difference is from 2600 feet (Boise) to 5400 (Boulder) but I still call it a victory. This never happens in Boulder. This weekend, winding up our 95 mile ride (a respectable 16.4 MPH average), we met an older gentleman riding a vintage steel bike he’d converted to a fixed gear (meaning you pedal all the time, up hill and down, one speed, no coasting!) His lovely retro bike was complete with beechwood rims. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pass him going up any hills. Now that’s Boulder for you.

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Because I’m awesome

Posted in Triple Bypass at 15:43 by RjZ

I’m dizzy whenever I stand up. Nearly every time I get up, from a chair, a couch, or bed, I get light headed. That’s not good, right? And it’s only been happening, at least happening so frequently, for a couple of months.

The internet search listed a hypochondriac’s dream of possible causes, but the most popular one was high blood pressure. Seemed ridiculous to me; I’ve always had low blood pressure, but it’s not something you mess around with, so, against my typical plan of action, I made a doctor’s appointment.

My poor heart beats like a hummingbird’s most of the time. Last time I measured my resting pulse rate it was something like 85 beats per minute. Once I recorded it over weeks while I was exercising in preparation for the Bolder Boulder 10K run and, in spite of all the running, it never really went down like it’s supposed to. One of my athlete friend’s resting pulse is 43. His heart is so powerful it just beats every once in a while and coasts the rest of the time.

Still, wonder’s never cease and all this training may finally be starting to pay off because when they measured my pulse at the doctor’s office it was 57! My blood pressure was below average as well. The doctor explained that all this was just my body adapting to its new fitness level. The blood vessels dilate with exercise and the lower pulse rate is less responsive to changes until your body notices what’s going on all the time, blah blah blah.

Apparently, my heart muscle has grown by a third and I am a perfect, Lance Armstrong only with both testicles, physical specimen. I am not really any faster on the bike, but, clearly, I am awesome now. Dizzy, but awesome.

In case you’ve been keeping track, here are the miles over the last 30 days:
28 April— 8.9 mile, lunch loop
29 April— 16.9 mile, time trial from home
30 April— 25.9 mile, longer version of the time trial
3 May— 60.2 miles, but there was a long break in the middle to drink beer at the Left Hand MS 150 fund raiser. Have you donated yet?
—the trainer and running a bit while I was traveling for work, but no riding for a week—
9 May— 33.4 miles, over three hills, like a mini triple bypass.
11 May— 23.4 mile, another extended time trial
14 May— 14.9 mile and another 16.9 mile. Twice in one day!
15 May— 13 mile, climbing up Olde Stage (the locations might be interesting to locals…)
16 May— 44.6 mile, climbing up Ward, ouch.
17 May— 48 mile loop from Left Hand to Carter Lake
18 May—26.9 mile after work ride with fellow Triple Bypass idiot
19 May—9 mile, lunch loop.

All that riding clearly explains my awesomeness. Of course it does.

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Posted in Triple Bypass at 13:08 by RjZ

OK. I am not so sure about this training-like-an-athlete thing. Or maybe it’s cycling. I complained about weather getting in the way last time, and, well, I could do that again today, except  I don’t want to complain about the weather. I like weather. I like rain and snow along with cool summer days with lots of sun. Either would be repressive without the respite of the other.

But the pressure of riding all the time warps my affection for all kinds of weather. I am struggling to get enough riding in and fine myself dreading the rain which my new expensive garden needs so much. That’s just wrong. You know what else is wrong? Scheduling your activities around training. Hmm, should we go on that camping trip?…it might put me behind on my riding. Dumb.

All this is an excuse though. Really, I am just tired after riding 70 miles yesterday and I was thrilled when it was snowing this morning–yay! No riding for me today! So, how am I doing?

Week of the 30th March- around 71 miles in four rides. Actually rode in the snow!

Week of 6 April – 42 miles in three rides. Rode twice one of those days.

Week of 13 April – 57  miles in three rides. One was a relaxing town bike ride. Noticing a trend here…this is weeks of barely training. It was the weather I tell you.

Week of 20 April – - 151 miles in 6 rides. One was an earth day commute on a town bike, but honestly, it was pretty tiring. The other big ride was the afore mentioned 71 miles.

That was a good week. That’s what I supposed to do all the time. Except, whew, it’s tiring. 71 miles is the longest this year. I chose flats and rolling hills because of the wind, which changed direction during the day so that I was able to enjoy a headwind–in both directions! It’s not a little bit scary that 70 miles represents around half of the big stupid ride (Triple Bypass). I was completely pooped 10 miles later than my previous long ride this year (which is 10 miles before the ride was over, unfortunately). I’ll call that progress.

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Falling behind

Posted in Triple Bypass at 16:57 by RjZ

It’s not my fault. The weather won’t cooperate with cycling. I had already decided that I can’t avoid the wind since organized rides are hardly cancelled for such minor inconveniences, but blizzards are another annoyance entirely. So while I was ahead of my ‘training schedule,’ last week’s snow put me way behind. [It's no oversight that this so-called training schedule isn't published here. Then my fair readers would be able to compare and, well, point and laugh.]

But I’m not worried about being behind. Sure, last week was mostly snowbound. One 20 mile lunch ride at a nice clip considering the wind (see?!) and then a relaxing 17 mile ride trying to avoid the snow patches and gravel still on the road after the snow had finally stopped. Hey, I was riding after a blizzard…that counts for something.

The week before though, that’s the one that’s giving me hope. One goal for training was to get up to 19 mph average speeds on the flats. As of Thursday of the week before, I did my 14 mile lunch ride and broke the 19 mph average. Victory! But wait, there’s more! From my home to Carter Lake and back, for a 62 mile ride–in three and half hours! My average was 17.8 mph. I was giving it all I could to keep the pace above 18 on the return, which I couldn’t do, but I’m pretty happy with that time just the same.

There’s still more. One more ride on Sunday, completing the week with a total of 147 miles, and I actually passed someone, on a climb. Sure, the guy was just cruising along on an old steel road bike, but it still counts as a victory. Not just anybody climbs Olde Stage. I can only assume he’s professional ride. There’s some chance I won’t be dead last on the Triple Bypass. I should have asked that guy if he was doing the ByPass himself. I could have given him my ticket, which would have saved me a lot of trouble.

We’ll see if I can return to this screaming pace after the weather stabilizes. Today was windy (road anyway, damnit) and tomorrow might snow. They didn’t mention this stuff on the training programs I printed out from the interwebs.

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Good days, bad days

Posted in Triple Bypass at 13:37 by RjZ

Last Saturday I rode a 39 miles and felt great. This Sunday I added only 12 miles for a total of 52 and felt terrible. There were some some differences. Last week’s ride was mostly flat, and we practiced our pace-line riding, yielding an average speed of 16.9 mph (27 kmh) without breaking much of a sweat. Yesterday’s ride was from my house up to Jamestown in the mountains for vertical gain of about 1,750 feet (530 m). My average speed, all by myself, was all of about 15.75 mph (25.2 kmh), which doesn’t sound that different, but increasing speed takes much more out of you than mere numbers can show.

Still, in spite of going quite a bit slower and adding a relatively small amount, I was dog tired at the end of the ride. Maybe it was nutrition, (I did, uncharacteristically, have a Snickers bar on the earlier ride–maybe they do really satisfy) or maybe it was my slower schedule lately catching up with me–who wants to ride when it’s windy? More likely, it’s just that some days really are better than others and that there are too many variables for a beginning athlete to track down and understand.

What matters is that the Triple Bypass is like three of Sunday’s rides all at once, and I was spent at 40 miles on this one. Still, I am well ahead of schedule and I’ve decided I can’t let wind stop me from riding; they won’t stop the ride for wind, so I’ve got to be prepared for that too. So while the only constant for Colorado weather over the next couple of months is change, I have plenty of training time to go (and more daylight savings time to do it in….) Just don’t ask me whether they’ll stop the ride for rain or snow, because I’m not riding if it snows this week.

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I was lured in by the beer

Posted in Triple Bypass at 16:33 by RjZ

Last week’s training

Tuesday: more trainer time.

Wednesday: commute to work. My toes were numb. Later, I bought “CalienToes”. Has to be the best product name ever.

Thursday: In order to avoid the cold toes, I rode during lunch instead. A flat 15 mile loop and at a pretty good pace. I thought I was ready for the Saturday ride.

Saturday: What could possibly be the downside? “Saturday Cycling Series. Come and meet us at the Avery Tap Room for a group ride the first Saturday of each month.  These rides are slow paced and typically run in the 35 to 45 mile range.  All those who partake in the ride are welcome to a free pint or two at the Tap Room after the ride. Next Ride: Saturday, February 7th at 11 AM. Departs from the Avery Tap Room” (emphasis added)

Beer after a ride sounds like pretty good motivation to me. If only it were just that simple.

What exactly is “slow paced?” I’ve already whined that much of my training is really to improve my own pace so to keep up with, well, pretty much everyone else, but slow paced sounds promising, right? Thing is, it’s only February. It’s so early in the biking season that plenty of folks haven’t even gotten back in the saddle yet. Apparently, the only folks hardcore enough to even be riding in the winter are the same people who have all four hours of the 2008 Tour de France video playing in front of the roller trainers in their basement or never really stopped riding over the winter. Or they were dumb enough to sign up for some ride they can’t really handle. True enough,there was another one of those at this ride, but he’s one of the guys I signed up with to do the Triple Bypass. All told about 30 folks showed up for this ‘easy’ ride.

Well, “slow paced” is not 12 mph (19.2 kmh). Actually, it was a quite civilized 16 (25.6) or so. That’s just fine in a large group like this. The problem comes when these race-team riders hit a hill and nothing changes. No slowing down, just plowing up the hill at the same speed everyone has been relaxing at all along. I survived a hill or two, but I was tired already. A small group of women was left behind pretty early in the ride. For the life of me I can’t see why I didn’t just hang back with them. Beer and girls? That seems way better than my plan.

Instead, I stayed in the group, and on and on they pedaled, chatting with each other and enjoying the early season ride. I just wanted…to… let…up…just a bit…for just a moment.

So I did. And off they went. I caught up with a small group of riders who must have decided on the same plan, because the main group was no where in sight. We got back back to the tasting room about a half hour and 20 or 25 miles sooner than the rest of the group. The tasting room was buzzing with guests enjoying the free samples. That’s when it dawned on me. I didn’t need to ride 40 miles to get a free pint at the Avery Tap Room. They give ‘em to everyone who walks through the door. Go there and get one yourself. Mmmm, beer. Or, if you’re really dumb, join me for the next ride. Yeah, I’ll probably try again.

Saturday: 52 miles, including the ride back and forth to the tap room from home, but hey, beer.

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