Monday, February 14, 2011

Hills, hills and more hills

I think this state is trying to kill me.  NOTHING is flat here.

Weekend's workouts were:
Saturday: 3-3.5 hr ride, 1 hr run
Sunday: 5-5.5 hr ride

Its been like Hoth here for the past few weeks, which meant lots of quality time with my trainer.  Finally on Friday, the high was inthe 40's with highs of 50+ forecast for the weekend.  That meant that the snow would melt and I could play outside.  Thank goodness.  I can't even imagine a 5 hr trainer ride. 

Since moving here, I've been sticking to paved hike/bike trails.  I like riding on them - they're safe, I don't have to worry about getting lost, and I don't have to worry about cars.  My coach, however does not like the trails and is on my about riding on roads.  *big heavy sigh*  So with this big cycling weekend, I researched local cycling groups.  There's ~4 around with rides varying from 30 miles to 50+.  Friday night the trail didn't look clear of snow, so that meant unless I wanted 3 hours on the trainer, I needed to join a group for a ride outside on the street.  I decided to ride with Rocky Mountain Cycling Club, as they had a 43 mile route scheduled for Saturday in Northglen.  This was going to be an adventure, mainly because I've never been north of Water World (~5 miles south of Northglen) and I didn't know ANYONE with the group.

Ride started at 10:45, I got there around 10:20 and scouted out some roads to run my brick.  Got to the designated meeting spot and signed in.  They offered me a map, but I was smart and already printed my own out at home.  I was a bit intimidated, as I was the only girl, and the only one on a tri-bike, but I was determined to make the best of it.  After a small safety/route talk, we took off at 11 AM.  We stopped at a light and waited for stragglers, and I asked what the pace was for the group.  They all looked at me like I was talking a foreign language.  I explained that I just moved here from Texas and I had NO IDEA where we were riding.  I just didn't want to get lost.  A few guys took pity on me (I'm sure being a girl didn't hurt) and offered to wait and maybe ride with me, so I wouldn't get lost.  The first few miles I hung with the group easily, which gave me hope.  Turns out, they were just warming up.  Then we hit the hills.  Big ones.  I ended up climbing from 5274 feet to 5844 feet in 8 miles.  My HR was at 175, which is ridiculously high.  And as a bummer, on a big descent, there was a major cross-wind, so I couldn't fly down as fast as I'd like.  I hate that - I EARNED some speed.  The guys were super nice, always waiting for me at major intersections or where there was a tricky turn.  They gradually got faster and one guy was very kind and rode with me through a complicated neighborhood area, just to make sure I didn't get lost.  Then it was time to stop at a gas station after 28 miles to re-group.  They were all waiting for me!  I ended up being in the middle of speed ranges - too slow for the fast group but too fast for the slow group.  Typical.  My guide had to go home, so he left me.  Then I realized my map blew away.  Damn.  I figured most of the hills were over and I was hopeful I could hang with the guys, since I'm pretty decent on flats.  I genreally knew where I was and generally knew how to get back to my truck.  My goal was to stay within eyesight of them so I could see where they turned.  Turns out, they're more than decent on the flats and I quickly lost sight of them.  So fine, I'm just pedalling along, enjoying the scenery. Then all of a sudden I see I-25 and realize I missed a turn.  Damn.  Thankfully, my cell phone has GPS so finding my way back wasn't a problem.  (What did people do before cell phones, seriously???).  Total miles: 45, total elevation gain: 859 ft, total feet ascended: 1821 ft.

View of the pretty while on the ride:

Aftermath of riding around in snow melt...

My shoes WERE black:

My run wasn't great, but that was because my lungs weren't cooperating.  Boo

Sunday I had a ~70-80 mile ride, solo.  My plan was to do the trail "triangle", which is about 50 miles, stop at my truck, grab more drinks, then rid around for another 1.5 hrs.  I got to the trailhead and all I saw was white.  After 2 days above freezing, the trails were still covered with snow.  Boo.  I recently got some south Denver ride information, and I decided that since I didn't have time to drive around and find another place to access the trail (and then probably have to deal with more snow/ice during the ride), I would just head south on Santa Fe (US-85) and then do the Sedalia-Palmer Lake ride.  When I looked at the map that morning, I saw a 2,000 ft elevation gain and said "I'm going to die if I do that".  Well, there's only one way to find out.

Riding on US-85 wasn't nearly as freaky as I thought it would be.  Turns out, Colorado drivers are much more friendly to cyclists than Texas ones.  The whole time I was out, I never once encountered a bad driver.  I had the map in my head and looked it up on my phone before I headed out.  So I just kept riding south on US-85, looking for US-105.  Problem was, I somehow over-shot it and ended up in Castle Rock.  Oops.  I re-traced my steps, and turns out that there's an intermediate highway that I should have turned on to catch 105.  That only put be back 8 miles, so no worries.  So I was off and on my way to Palmer Lake.  While hilly, it was very pretty.  Lots of hills and trees and snowy pastures.  There was one hill that about killed me.  Really, it was very steep.  With this ride, you climb up from Sedalia to just before Palmer Lake, then you have a small descent into town.  I was very much looking forward to the tiny descent, but dammit if my legs were dead (or maybe it was windy, I don't know).  I was hanging out at 11 mph on flats.  Lame.  Stopped at the gas station for some gatorade and water (since this was unplanned, I didn't concentrate my Infinit for a 6 hr ride - I only had 4 hrs of regular strength with me).  Legs felt good and I had a Valentine's dinner to get back to, so I zoomed off.  I swear I had a tail wind going into town and a head wind leaving town, but I was cruising in what should have been a headwind.  I was having so much fun cruising that I missed the turn onto 105.  It wasn't until I saw a state park and a transformer cluster that I went "hey, this isn't familiar".  Yep, wrong road AGAIN, which put me back another 10 miles, for a total of 18 miles off-route.  Making it back to my truck would be interesting.  The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful.  I had some sweet descents - hit 36 mph on one of them.  Had more climbing, although overall, it was mostly downhill.  My feet/saddle/arms felt good, which was nice, since at this point in the ride during my century, all of that hurt.  By the time I was ~15 miles away from Sedalia, I knew I just wasn't going to make it back to my truck.  Well, I could have made it (in theory), but it would have added another hour and 18 miles to my ride, on a very busy road.  I was pretty concerned about getting into traffic and going splat.  So, once I got to Sedalia, I called my valiant sherpa, and had him pick me up.  Poor guy, maybe some day he will get used to my random phone calls.  Still, better safe than sorry.  Total miles: 77, total elevation gain: 2,000, total feet ascended: 3624.  Wowzers.  And according to the locals, this was a "tame" ride.  Oof.  In hind sight, I think my lack of power up in Palmer Lake was more due to elevation than me being out of juice.  I'm still getting acclimated to elevation, and then to add another 2,000 feet?  No wonder I wasn't going anywhere fast!

Proof that I was up this high.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Snow Days

In theory, I really like snow. Its pretty. I love how snow muffles noise so the air has this magical quietness to it. I like winter sports, like skiing and snowshoeing.

In reality, I’m not really liking snow all that much. Sure, I grew up in the stuff and know how to “live” in it. Sure you have to drive a bit more cautiously, leave for work a bit earlier, watch the weather every night to make sure you dress appropriately for the following day. But I never had to train for an IronMan in the snow. And that part sucks.

Last weekend, we got ~5 inches of snow between Friday and Saturday. My training plan originally had me doing a 3.5 ride/1 hr run on Saturday and a 4.5 hr ride on Sunday. Mercifully, my coach adjusted my plan for the snow: 2 hrs ride / 1 hr run on Saturday and a 3 hr ride on Sunday. I cannot even comprehend 4.5 hrs on the trainer right now, although, I’m certain this is in my near future.

In preparation for my trainer rides, I saved the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to my Netflix on demand account. The few times I’ve tried to watch a movie while on the trainer, I’ve found that the time it takes for a movie to build the plot and do something is a bit long and doesn’t help much in providing a distraction. My hope is that a tv series will have a quicker pace and provide more distractions. My coach has also been giving me sets of things to do while I’m on the trainer. This really helps make the time go by, since I have something to focus on every 5-10 minutes and then move onto the next portion of the workout. These trainer workouts are also kicking my ass.

Saturday’s brick involved muscle endurance (ME) sets on the bike. The idea is to do say, 4 x 20 minute repeats, where you pedal at a maximum of 55 rpm but every 5 minutes you increase the resistance so your heart rate increases 5-10 beats per minute. Heavy leg stuff, that’s good for building leg strength. Then I had an hour run. I’ve decided that my neighborhood does not have a half mile of level ground anywhere. These hills are killing me. I headed out towards the rec center, thinking that it was in a gully and that maybe the street behind it followed that gulley. No such luck. That dang street provided me with 1.4 miles and 200 feet of steady uphill climbing. It sucked. Then back down the hill only to have another similar climb up back to the house. Fooey. The other thing with this run is that I had NO idea it was going to snow on Saturday afternoon (see my above statement about needing to watch the weather forecast daily). It was snowing a tiny bit when I started but the air temp was in the mid-30’s, so there was no accumulation. By the time my run ended, the flakes were bigger, temps were colder, and snow was sticking. If I had started my workout an hour later, my run would have been hazardous.

Sunday was just a simple 3 hour trainer ride, the main set was 3 x 30 min zone 2-3 HR intervals, with 3-5 110-115 rpm 1 minute spin-ups mixed in. I gradually built in the high RPM work, 3 the first set, 4, the second, and 5 in the third. By the time I got to the third set, I was dying. I will say that the nice thing with the cold and being stuck on the trainer, is that all I have to do is shut off the heat, turn on the ceiling fan, and open all the windows. I got the house down to a balmy 58 degrees. Will and the kitties were freezing, but I was perfect.

Monday was a swim day, so no big deal, as the pool is inside. Managed to swim 4,000 yards. I was still the slowest in the pool, but I wasn’t dying either.

Tuesday had me doing a short-ish brick in the morning. And as luck would have it, we had another snow storm scheduled for Monday night through Tuesday afternoon. Options were to a) indoor trainer then try to run outside, and scrap it if it was hazardous; b) indoor trainer and then hop in the car and drive to the gym to run on the treadmill (which kind-of kills the intent of a brick); or c) go to the gym and ride/run there. My coach decided it was best to do a modified Option A, where I’d do my 1:05 on the trainer, then strap on my snow boots, bundle up, and head outside for a 30 minute vigorous “hike” outside in the snow. The air temperature was -2 degrees and we had about 4 inches of snow. It was actually fun, for the most part. It was a bit scary when the snow plow came through a few times – they’re large and move FAST. And I think I surprised a few drivers, because really, who in their right mind is out walking in this stuff at 6:30 AM? And I got to become acquiated with sensations I’d not experienced since I lived in Montana…. Frozen nose-hairs. Moisture from your breath freezing on your eyelashes, making them stick together. Generally being covered with snow.

Got home safe and sound. Then when it was time to take a shower, Will had a brilliant idea to also take a shower, which used up all the hot water, so I ended up running out of hot water at the end of my shower. Fail. And really, why was he taking a shower at 7 AM – he works from home!

Roads tonight from my run will likely be icky since we’re still below freezing, so I get to do a hill run on a treadmill for 70 minutes. But then – hopefully – things will warm up to the 50’s for several days in a row! I may even get to ride my bike in Boulder on Saturday, if the weather’s nice enough and the roads are clear.