Jacque Anquetil's 1962 Tour de France Winning Bike

Monday, October 31, 2011

Six Wheels

Still getting over my cold -- feeling much better, thank you -- I was determined to continue riding at recovery pace.  To help with motivation for a slow ride, I picked up the October 2011 issue of Car and Driver that was lying on the VeloSF coffee table and read it for 30 minutes while I pedaled.  I was somewhat surprised at my enthusiasm for the magazine's subject matter -- car tests -- and its effect on my riding -- I was riding, well, enthusiastically.  Too enthusiastically for the state of my health, but it felt good, so I let myself get carried away by the handling comparison of cars costing under $40k.  For the curious readers, Mitsubishi Lancer beat out Miyata, Mini, VW GTI, Mustang, and another car.


Sunday, October 30, 2011


Last post's predictions came true.  On Saturday, I spent half an hour on the trainer at a mellow pace.  Not feeling any better today, Sunday, but desiring to ride outside on the day commemorating completion of one-third of my ride-every-day-of-my-50th-year project, I finally got out at 9:42 p.m.   I had all my lights on and just rode very slowly around the neighborhood, enjoying the bay and San Francisco views, checking out the architecture, and scaring cats and squirrels with my helmet-mounted light.  With inversion layer weather, it was warmer higher up the hill and that's where I did loops most of the time.  The riding was enjoyable and the half-hour flew by quickly.  I'd like to get better soon so that I don't have to be so vigilant about ride intensity every day.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Keepin' On

Runny nose, sore throat, mellow half an hour on the trainer equals 121.


A New Challenge

On Thursday, I didn't feel quite right, so took it easy for half an hour on the trainer.  On Friday, I definitely didn't feel right -- a cold that for me inevitably seems to follow a flu shot -- so I took it even easier on the trainer.  Today is Saturday, I have a sore throat and a runny nose.  My illness is above the neck, so I'm riding the trainer at recovery pace again.  After these last couple of weeks I'll be really, really well recovered.  I'm just not sure from what.  And tomorrow is an important day -- 122 -- one-third of the way through my adventure.  I'll try to mark it by riding outside, no matter how I'm feeling.  In all likelihood, I'll still be feeling lousy, so it'll be more of the same at recovery pace.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And on 118th Day...

... I went back into last Monday's mode for another 33:33, but took it even easier, riding at a lower cadence and at lower power levels.  Talked to Kate at Velo about my theory (see 10/25 post) and she shot it down, saying that a given power level feels the same in any gear AS LONG AS THE COMPUTRAINER IS CALIBRATED FOR THAT GEAR.  Aha!...  I think I get it, but I'll test it anyway.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On The Other Hand...

During today's 33:33 ride I did something completely opposite to yesterday's.  Taking you several posts back for a moment, I'd written about riding at a lower cadence because I worried about pedaling too fast, adding strength, and so forth.  Yesterday, I rode in a lower gear than usual because yesterday was a recovery day.  Today, I decided to slow down my leg speed by riding in a bigger gear -- 53x14.  I reasoned that in a bigger gear I'd encounter more resistance from the roller at any given power level, which would force me to pedal slower.  This made sense.

As much sense as that made, it appears I don't work that way.  My normal cruising speed is about 26 mph at 95 rpm.  In a bigger gear, I started out pedaling 29.5 at 92 rpm.  At first this felt moderately difficult, then I became used to it and it felt almost normal.  Without meaning to pedal faster, I found myself pedaling faster anyway.  Pretty soon, I was cruising at 31 mph without feeling undue stress.  This seemed bizarre and it got me thinking sweatily about power rates and training zones.

My training zones are based on the amount of power I produce to pedal the bike in a certain gear.  My body's reaction to the stresses depend on the size of the gear I turn and the amount of resistance the trainer's roller places on my bike's wheel.  During a RAMP training zone test, I ride in the same gear, while the resistance is gradually increased to the point that my body reacts by raising my heart rate in an effort to pump more oxygen to the muscles, my respiratory rate increases for the same reason, my body goes from burning fat to burning sugar, to inability to clear lactate faster than I produce it leading to muscle burn, to lightheadedness, to surrender.  In a bigger gear I ride at a faster speed.  If I rode in a lower gear, I would ride slower, but any given resistance would feel easier.  The computer may say I am putting out 200 watts, but if I am riding 53x17 instead of 53x14 at the same cadence and, therefore, going slower, I am not working as hard.  It would be the same as if I were riding at 200 watts in the same gear, but slowed down from 26 to 22 mph -- obviously, the latter would feel significantly easier.  The speed drops, but the test does not measure speed, it measures body's response to stresses.  If the stress is lower because the speed is lower I can continue riding with less effort at a higher resistance.

Where I am going with this is self-esteem.  We want to put out greater and greater power during tests.  I peek at other people's training zone stickers affixed to their stems and am duly impressed with cyclists whose Zone 5 starts at 350+ watts (mine's at over 270), wishing I could be more like Mike.  But now I wonder what gears they use for their tests and how gear selection affects their training zones.  It probably doesn't on absolute level, zones are zones and our bodies respond to various levels of stresses accordingly, whatever numbers we want to ascribe to them.  On the other hand, I am curious what numbers I can produce in a lower-geared test.

Instead, though, I am going to give bigger gear training a shot for a few weeks.  My leg speed in the next cog over to the right seems fine.  Never mind that I was operating on a quarter tank after just half an hour and probably would have been done in another 15-20 minutes -- riding in a bigger gear at over 31 mph for most of that period was awesomely inspirational.  Off-season is the time for experimentation.  I'll be my own guinea pig and we'll see how it goes.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Recovery of Sorts

So today was going to be an easy day at the gym.  Instead of using 53x16 I was going to ride in 53x17, a gear significantly enough smaller to allow for recovery.  It allows recovery when one rides at lower cadence and against lower resistance.  This I could not accomplish, however.  The gear felt so easy that I rode at 100+ rpm.  And I decided to ride use my higher gear training zones.  At 200 watts 53x17 is significantly easier than 53x16, as is 220 watts, etc.  That was the theory, but I was sweating profusely anyway.  And my heart rate was climbing too.  During the warm up it hovered in 120s-130s.  I wanted to bring it up to 140s and stay there.  I got to 140s all right, and as riding intensity increased, my heart rate kept going.  I was in 150s for a while, maxing out at 161, about 12 beats higher than I'd planned.  Thirty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds of failed recovery was enough and I climbed off.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Week of Riding Done, A Week of Writing to Do

Still riding, but writing about it has been falling through cracks.  It's been long enough (six days) that it's becoming hard to remember what I did when, but I think I have it.

Last Tuesday, I did half an hour on the trainer pretty late in the evening.  It was fairly mellow and provided good recovery after Monday's hard work in class.

Wednesday, I rode to David's with tools in the backpack to help him swap the cassette from his old rear wheel to the new.  He just got a set of very cool Speed Dream wheels.  Downhill to his house took 10 minutes and uphill home took 20, which took care of my daily half an hour.

Thursday, I went to class full of motivation.  The meat of the class was three efforts -- 20, 22, and 24 minutes -- in zones 2 and 3.  I arrived a few minutes late and rushed my warm up.  The first interval went fine.  The first eight minutes of the second were OK too, but a few minutes later I felt completely empty.  I powered way down and finished the interval.  Tried to do the third interval in zones 1 and 2, but had neither strength nor motivation and shut it down.  Still ended up with 75 minutes on the bike.  I think I ate something bad; felt more than a little bit off the rest of the day and the next morning.

Friday, I commuted to the City, taking a detour on the way in to run an errand.  On the way back, I took the scenic route of West Oakland (that's a joke for those unfamiliar with my hometown), as I rode to the temple to meet Sophie and Jessica to see Sophie off on religious school weekend away.  All this added up to 35 minutes.

Over the weekend, Jessica and I took advantage of our freedom and headed to wine country.  We spent Friday night and most of Saturday in Calistoga and late Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning in Napa.  We had fabulous meals in both cities at Jole in Calistoga and Zazu in Napa.  On Saturday, Jessica and I rode for 2:30 on Silverado Trail and climbed Howell Mountain, taking a portion of the route of Knoxville Double.  Since I'd missed my big ring Friday ride, I climbed Howell in the big ring, doing a lot of pulling and pushing.  The climb was exposed and hot at noon, so after climbing four miles we turned around at the White Cottage Road intersection, about half a mile below the summit.

We came home on Sunday and I snuck out for 81 minutes, doing Pinehurst-Redwood, descending Joaquin Miller, and cutting about 3 miles from the traditional loop.  I ride harder when I ride alone, and today's was the biggest effort I've put in on an outdoor ride in a long time.  After 21 very hilly miles I ended up with average speed of 15.6 mph, which I found both encouraging and disappointing.  The encouraging part was the average speed, going hard and steady up South Pinehurst, and climbing the last mile of Redwood at 12 mph, maintaining the effort while sweat and drool poured down my face.  The disappointing part was the climb up Tunnel, on which my PR is 22:27, but today I barely broke 26 minutes in spite of working fairly hard.  I think I have good aerobic fitness from riding indoors, but my leg strength is at about B- level.  I hope additional big ring rides will help build strength and get me to tops of climbs faster.  It doesn't help that my PR is ten years old and that I did intervals up Tunnel twice a week during the spring and summer I'd set it.  It would be nice to come close to a 10-year old PR -- something to aspire to.

115 (damn, time flies!)


Monday, October 17, 2011

About Last Weekend...

Saturday afternoon, I got out for 40 minutes -- just up Tunnel and down through Montclair.  Unsure what to do, I decided to stand up and go hard whenever the road steepened.  That was surprising difficult.  Recovery between these efforts seemed just barely sufficient, probably because I tried to recover on uphills.  All in all, it was a an efficient and productive workout.

On Sunday, Brian and I rode 50 miles, very little of which was flat, as we did over 6,000 feet of climbing.  Perhaps I was still feeling Saturday's ride, but my legs weren't so good and this 50-miler wore me out.  Then we sat at a cafe in Montclair for half an hour, bs-ing.  Good times.

As long as we're on the subject, today, I did a hard 60-minute class.  The last interval I did was a mid-zone 2 cadence builder.  With 15 seconds to go we were to pedal as fast as possible.  My "base" is 26.5 mph in 52x16 gear.  This works out to about 96 rpm.  Ales, the instructor, talked us through "base + 10", which for me means 36 mph in the same gear.  Then, he said, "go to max cadence."  I maxed out at 40.something mph.  I think I lasted at 40 for just a few seconds, but I was at 38+ for good 12-15 seconds.  Now, I wonder what my cadence was at 40.  I glanced in the mirror when I was in high 30s and my legs were moving damned fast.  I hope it was at least 120.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Catching Up

Here goes:

On Tuesday, I didn't go to class, Jessica and I went to the theater and, as we were driving home at 11:00 p.m., I remembered that I hadn't ridden that day!  Jumped on the trainer at 11:15 and managed half an hour before the day ended, riding easy to protect my tendon.  Whew!

On Wednesday, I went to class, rode easy again -- more tendon protection.

On Thursday, rode easily outside in gorgeously warm darkness with Newman for an hour and a half.

Today, I rode with Newman for 90 minutes again.  It was a big ring day.  I think I rode bigger gears than last week.  It was fun.  Then we sat and shot shit at Peet's for half an hour.  That was almost more fun.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Long and Short Of It

Ride 101 was a 58-miler Fruit Stand ride that Howie affectionately -- and catchily -- calls the Fruit Loop.  It was mostly mellow and conversational and at very high cadence.  I was in 30x29 on the steep Westbound direction of Norris Canyon Road, spinning myself silly.  I went at it pretty hard on Pinehurst from the false flat at Canyon intersection all the way to Skyline, but keeping the cadence high kept me reasonably fresh while I was hammering.  A side detriment of all that high cadence is that the tendon on top of my left ankle -- where the shin transitions to the foot -- is sore.  This is the tendon that got tight from disuse during inactive recuperation from surgery.  I'm not a very disciplined PT patient and definitely could commit better to stretching.

And today, I went to the gym for an easy spin, but ended up working hard, feeling very good aerobically, as I did so.  High cadence really bugged the tendon, but I rode through it.  This made walking back to the office after class achy.  Arnica externally and Advil internally helped.  I think I'll have to back off from intensity and cadence for a few days to let the tendon recover.


Saturday, October 8, 2011


The 100th day fell on Yom Kippur.  Well some ride was going to fall on Yom Kippur and it so happened that it was the 100th.  Completely coincidental; I'm sure there are no Kabalistic implications to the number.  Since I fasted, I was going to go out for a very easy 45-minute spin, trying out my newly-functioning 30x29 micro gear.  But just as I was heading out the door, Jessica said to Sophie and me, "how about taking the tandem out?"  "Sure," we both said.

Sophie changed while I pumped the tandem's tires and we were ready to go.  The tandem fits nothing like my single bikes, but it's adequately comfortable for 40 minutes.  We went up the hill, then back down, then up and down another and so on and so on.  I will say that I rode much harder than I planned to ride and much harder than I planned to ride on an empty stomach, but I enjoyed it much, much more than if I'd ridden alone.  We rode and talked.  Sophie picked the directions we would travel at intersections, and we waived at her friends on the roof of their house watching the Blue Angels.  We spent a few minutes exploring an un-rebuilt house that perished in the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 on top of the ridge.  Then, we whooshed back down the hills and were home again.  What a great way to celebrate the centennial ride.  My only regret is we didn't ride on Centennial Drive in Berkeley.


Push It Real Good

Rode with Todd early in the morning for 1:45.  Warmed up for 15 minutes, then rode in the big ring.  Pushed up hills fairly effectively, focusing on pulling up and pushing.  It went quite well, considering this was my first big ring ride in over a year.  So, I'd say I pushed it pretty good.  Still felt that vague weakness before I left for the ride, but it didn't seem to affect the riding.

Then, I had a really big get-stuffed-before-Yom Kippur lunch and that seemed to do the trick.  Almost as soon as I stopped eating, I felt better and in the ensuing 36 hours I've felt fine.  I'm so happy I could release 99 Luftballons.  You guess what number ride it was.


Independent Study

I dropped by the gym an hour before the class and did half an hour at progressively higher resistance ending up in low zone 4.  Didn't feel great during the ride, but it seemed like I am getting over whatever it is that's ailing me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

33 on the Trainer

With rain falling in the last two days I feel somewhat more justified to ride on the trainer.  Still not feeling right I did 33 minutes on the trainer medium easy.  The knees are not bothering me, at least.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Meh Again

It's not a cold, but it's something.  I feel weirdly weak in the morning.  The weakness abates somewhat if I eat and abates more if I eat a lot.  That's not a good thing when I'm trying to lose weight, however.

Did a 90-minute class today.  It was an hour and half version of yesterday's class, when I backed off after the warm up.  Had to do it again today: did the warm up and it left me bathed in sweat.  So, during the meat of the class -- steady 50 minutes in zones 2 and 3 with cadence play -- I backed off again, doing the prescribed cadence and resistance occasionally, then going easier when I felt tired.  I felt tired more often than I would have liked, so there was a lot of backing off.  Not sure what's going on but I think I felt better than yesterday.  Hoping for more improvement tomorrow and thereafter.


Monday, October 3, 2011


It appears that Velo SF is on Jewish calendar.  Today we started the new training year with a months worth of base building consisting of riding in zones 2 and 3. 

Last night I felt a cold coming on and it didn't help that I've gone to bed late almost every day in the preceding week.  I felt OK by noon, when I arrived at the gym and was all excited about base training, looking forward to a reasonably comfortable ride.  The 12 minute warm up that consisted of cadence and power build to low zone 3 was going fine, but when we finished warming up I was completely drenched in sweat and darned near exhausted.  I backed off on the power and worked on cadence.  Will try to get to bed at a decent hour tonight.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Post With No Name

Couldn't think of anything catchy to describe today's ride, so there you have it, a post with no name.  I got on the trainer at home today for very mellow 40-something minutes.  About half an hour into the ride it occurred to me that I can do cadence work in a very low gear while doing a mellow ride, so I actually had a productive very mellow ride.

I am thinking of starting bike strength work by doing a hilly big ring ride once a week, but last couple of times I've been on the bike my left knee bugged me, so I'll have to implement that plan carefully.


Alternative Means

On Friday, I commuted into the City.  I'd had enough indoor riding for a while and it was nice to ride outside, even just to Jack London Square for a ferry ride to work.  

On Saturday, I was in Orange County for a work function.  Hotel gym did not have a bike, so I amended the definition and "rode" an elliptical trainer for half an hour.  The elliptical resembled a bike more than my other option -- the hotel's treadmill.