Friday, February 18, 2011

Repeat: Two Rock Valley Ford 200KM Brevet

125 miles, 4160 feet elevation, 10:55 total time (9:15 on the bicycle)

My first major ride in the last three months was the same as the last one I did — the Two Rock Valley Ford 200KM Brevet. This is a good route to be the first big ride of the season because it is long and only moderately hilly. This allows me to objectively assess how much conditioning I lost over the winter.

Since Thanksgiving, I have been cycling infrequently. There was the traveling to see relatives over holidays, busy weekends in between the traveling when home and family priorities took precedence, the flu, and seasonal rain. The time I was able to make for training were rides in the range of 20 to 50 miles. I generally avoided some of the steeper roads which I usually train on because steep descents are COLD in winter. Plus I wanted to avoid slippery or deteriorated roads. I stuck to riding the more moderate hills.

My friend Gabrielle reminded me that this ride was happening last weekend and that she was riding it. It happened that I had no other plans for the day so I registered for it at the deadline — the preceding Wednesday.

The route started in San Francisco (lower right point), and we traversed the loop counter-clockwise.

I left home at 5:30am and reached the start point by 6:30am. I checked in and found Gabrielle. We chatted and caught up with each other's activities since we last met. Unlike the same event in the fall, the sun was up before we started at 7:00am.

7:00am, 0 miles

Gabrielle and I were in one of the lead groups that departed. The immediate uphill climb to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge worked well to warm our bodies and fight off the morning chill. I kept the fast pace for about 15 miles, but then decided I needed to go slower to preserve some energy. Gabrielle sped off with the rest of the group and I never saw her again. I decided to let my legs dictate the pace I would keep for the rest of the ride.

10:00am, 43 miles, 2080 feet

The first stop was at a convenience store in Petaluma where I ate a donut (a good source of pure energy). Since I knew from last time that the store does not have a restroom, I used the facilities at the public park across the street. I was actually five minutes ahead of the pace of last time, due to the initial fast start I had. Although the day was warming up, I decided to keep my jacket and leg warmers on, at least until the next stop.

11:40am, 61 miles, 2480 feet

The next stop was in the tiny town of Valley Ford. Just like last time, I loaded up on simple carbohydrates by eating a small box of crackers and a bottle of soda. It was finally warm enough to take off the leg warmers and jacket. At this point my pace was still five minutes ahead of last time.

2:00pm, 84 miles, 3220 feet

The final intermediate stop was in Point Reyes Station. Here my pace was noticeably slower than before. I was now ten minutes behind last time. Like I usually do here, I ate a big cheese sandwich and another bottle of soda. By now my conditioning loss became apparent. I actually maintained a good energy level so I was not particularly tired, but my leg muscles had nothing left. They felt totally shredded.

All the remaining hills, including the smaller ones, were a struggle. I kept it in my lowest gear and cranked the pedals with whatever my legs could manage. On one uphill section at the 98 mile mark, I felt a slight but odd bouncing sensation. I examined my rear tire and saw that it was not flat, but that it had lost most of its air. Clearly it must have had a very small puncture causing it to lose air slowly. Considering that it still managed to keep some air, I decided to NOT replace the tube but rather to pump more air and see how long it would carry me. I guessed that if I only had to pump it back up two more times before I finish, then this would save time over the work involved in replacing the tube.

As I expected, around the 111 mile mark, I could feel that the rear tire was low on air again. And again, I simply pulled over and pumped it up. I did this again (for the last time) at the 120 mile mark. The day had definitely cooled down by this point and was getting dark. I could have put on my outer layers when I stopped to pump, but I was racing the sun and did not want to lose any minutes that would make me finish in the dark. Instead, I simply pumped frantically and jumped back on.

5:55pm, 125 miles, 4160 feet

The sun had set by the time I reach the finish, but there was enough twilight that I did not need my lights. However, by the time I officially checked in and returned to my car parked one mile away, it had gotten dark.

So the objective measurement of my conditioning loss is that my time on the bicycle was 25 minutes more this time than it was three months ago. The 45 minute increase in overall time also included the three sessions of tire pumping and some increase rest time at the stops. This is not too bad for the first big ride of the year. It should take only a couple more big rides (and several intermediate length ones in between) to get my conditioning back to where it should be.