Saturday morning would, this time of year, normally be a group road ride for me, out at NCC. This morning, when I awoke for the ride, it was dumping and the radar was an angry dark green. Accordingly, I had breakfast with the RATG family, and was fortunate enough to get clear weather thereafter.
I’ve been so overjoyed by the carbony wonder of the ENVEs on the Ridley, and it’s been such a dry few weeks, that I haven’t put many good miles on the Vaytanium lately. So this morning, with a 42 degree mist falling and some 20-25mph winds out of the east, I mounted up on my titanium steed and headed out to my secret training ground.
I’ve found that my riding is much stronger this year–riding all winter has undoubtedly upped my game. It has also upped the game of those I ride with. My two weakest areas are: 1) sustained 90%+ efforts (e.g. fast group ride with lots of wind and lots of pulls); and, 2) longer climbs. So in other words, I’m a great rider unless I have to ride hard or uphill. Obviously, there’s work to be done.
I’ve found a local loop that is 7/10 of a mile. There is a 900′ stretch of the loop (a little under 2/10 of a mile) in which you climb 120′. In other words, it’s an average 13% grade, albeit for a relatively short duration. This is still Illinois, after all. Since there are a few spots where it levels out a bit during the climb, I’d venture that most of the actual gradient changes in the 900′ climb are probably closer to 16%, and towards the top, there’s a 20%+ stretch (but only for a very short duration). The good news is the layout. It’s not on a road, but it’s a looped, paved surface…so you ride a hard 900′, and then loop back 1/2 mile to the start–and hardly ever see any other bikes, walkers or traffic of any kind. I’ve been using it for intervals, where I do one climb in the big ring, out of the saddle, at max effort, loop back, then do one climb in the little ring, sitting, spinning as hard as I can, loop back and repeat. It is steep enough that when the pavement’s wet (like today), you really have to manage your weight balance between the front and rear…to much to the rear and the front will lift…too much to the front, and the rear will spinout.
It may only be 120′ of climbing, but when you put together 10 or more loops, it will kick…well, it kicks my butt. It’s rare to find somewhere in my neck of the woods with elevation changes that are this significant and repeatable, on a paved surface.
On my other rides, I’m working on those 90%+ efforts, and trying to step up my game. The funny thing about those rides is that I either run out of cardio (breath) or legs…but never both at the same time. I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is that I’m doing differently…I don’t know if I’m pulling a bigger gear to slow my cadence and burning up legs vs. spinning faster to burn up cardio, but I’m trying to figure it out. I’m also continuing non-traditional workouts at least 2 days a week…so I’m getting good exercise 5 or more days a week. Even at that intensity level, I’m still holding steady at 150#. Good news/bad news: I’m not losing weight / I’m not putting on muscle.
But I’m riding, feeling pretty well, and making some important changes in my life to improve my general outlook.
Riding the secret training grounds, and heck, riding at all this morning, reinforced that I want to be on the bike. Even in crappy conditions, I still enjoy it. And I love the Vaya.