A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cycle Oregon Training Week: Riding with Rocker

If you are fortunate enough to take a week off to train for a week-long ride, I highly recommend it! I had that opportunity this past week while vacationing in Northern California, visiting my family. And I was able to do it with my Cycle Oregon riding partner and brother, Jonny Rocker. Tackling our own version of "Cycle Northern California" we rode 300 miles in seven straight days of riding, a new record for Rocker and the most miles I've logged in a week other than on Ride the Rockies.

Rocker and I found some good hills to work on
our climbing skills. This one hit 13% grade/
Base camp for our rides was my brother's house in El Dorado Hills, CA. From there we rode as far East as Pollack Pines (on a tough 66 mile day with 4,626 feet of elevation gain) and West on the American River Trail into Downtown Sacramento (on the easiest and flattest day riding 52 miles with only 500 feet of gain). In seven days we climbed more than 17,000 feet, a little over half the amount we will climb in one week on Cycle Oregon (if the estimates on the site are accurate -- more on that later).

Here's a rundown of our training rides this week:

Day One (40.88 miles, 2,667 feet of elevation gain) -- Our first ride was a nice loop on back roads paralleling Highway 50 East towards Lake Tahoe, punctuated by a steep climb then descent into Placerville.

Day Two (36.16 miles, 1,949 feet) -- Our second ride took us down the hill to Folsom then around Lake Natoma. The ride around the lake was beautiful but the climb back up the hill is tough, especially the final stretch up Serrano Parkway.

Day Three (27.28 miles, 2,356 feet)  -- For our third ride we decided to tackle eight nasty hills around Rocker's house, including a long, very steep (15%) climb up Beatty Hill, followed by lower and upper Serrano Parkway. Check out the profile. Yikes!

Day Four (26.25 miles, 1,575 feet) -- Our fourth consecutive day was a short and fairly easy loop through Rescue and Shingle Springs, letting our legs recover and rest up for a long climb on day five.

Day Five (64.7 miles, 4,626 feet) -- Our longest ride of the week came on day five. It was also the toughest, climbing 4,626 feet to Pollack Pines. The climb from Placerville to Pollack Pines was 13 miles long ascending approximately 2,000 feet but took us through beautiful country and several Apple Hill vineyards

Day Six (51.99 miles, 518 feet) -- We opted for a flat ride along the American River Bike Trail to historic Old Sacramento on the sixth day, logging enough miles to put us within reach of our goal (300) while saving our legs for the final day.

Day Seven (51.85 miles, 2,589 feet) -- Our final day of riding was a bit of a slog on tired legs (and sore rears). We did get some great views of Folsom Lake and Granite Bay. The final climb back up Serrano Parkway took every last bit of energy and mental will power we had left. 

Goal accomplished! 300 miles and 16,280 feet of climbing. Now all we have to do is get ready to ride 420 miles in seven days in September!

Rocker flashes the "shaka" sign, a common greeting in the Hawaiian culture meaning "hang loose." 
The question is, are we really going to climb almost 30,000 feet on Cycle Oregon (the website estimates between 25,853 and 33,689 ft., depending on option days/miles)? I have my doubts. 

Based on my review of the elevation profiles on the website, I believe Cycle Oregon is guilty of the same hyperbole. For example, here is the elevation profile for day three from Bandon to Gold Beach. I have a hard time believing the estimate of 3,400 to 3,958 feet given that the route is relatively flat and never goes more than 500 feet above sea level. My guess is the total gain for this day is no more than 2,000.

There's also no way the final day, almost entirely downhill, gains 1,650 feet. No way. I'd bet my bike on it!

I'm not sure why but it seems like the elevation gain on these rides is often overestimated. As I documented on Ride the Rockies in 2015, ride organizers missed the mark by about 10,000 feet, over-shooting by more than 25 percent (I'm sorry, but I still think that's inexcusable given today's GPS technology).

I guess time (and my Garmin Edge) will tell. In the meantime, Rocker is a little worried that we only climbed about half the total estimated gain for Cycle Oregon this past week. Hang loose, Jonny, my guess is we climb no more than 25,000 feet. While still formidable, it's doable. 

Ride on!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Cycle Oregon Training Update: I Got Legs (and I know how to use them!)

When I last checked in on my training for Cycle Oregon we did a "gut check" on my goal to lose 15 pounds (originally by May 15). Although that deadline has long since passed I am pleased to report that I have reached the goal! 

It feels great to lose the weight but more importantly I feel like I finally "got my legs" (and I know how to use them!).

There comes a time every training season when suddenly I feel like I can ride for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.
It's a great feeling when I get to this point. It always happens when I ramp up my mileage and repetition. I definitely did that in the first two weeks of July. But then work happened. 

I started off the week strong with a 49-mile commute ride to/from work.
The Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting took place this past week in downtown Denver, making it tough to get in the miles, and I have a business trip this week. 

As my brother Jonny Rocker said when he texted me an update on his progress, "Work is good reason." Did I mention he is retired?

So, hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go. Riding in this morning. Logging 24.5 miles on the way to work is a great way to start the week!

Ride on!


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Time for a Gut Check!

I got a text from my brother Jonny Rocker this week checking in on training for Cycle Oregon...

And then another...

And I thought, "Wow, he's kicking my butt." 

Time for a "gut check" on my training progress, literally and figuratively.

In my last post -- on March 5 (I know, I'm a terrible blogger) -- I talked about the need to lose my winter weight and set a goal to lose 15 pounds by May 15th. So how did I do? Terrible. I didn't lose a single pound! In fact, I think I gained a couple. I felt like a failure (which is probably why I didn't post an update then).

It's not that I didn't try. I did. I rode 255 miles in March, 188 in April and 260 in May. I used MyFitnessPal to track calories and based on the numbers I should have been losing weight. But I wasn't, until this past month. 

Patty's brother Tim Blach sports a
Patty's Pack 10th Anniversary jersey.
I logged 312 miles in June, including 150 miles on the Colorado Bike MS ride with Patty's Pack this past weekend, and finally feel and see my body returning to summer shape. As of this morning I've lost half of those 15 pounds I wanted to be gone by May 15.

As for mileage, I'm doing better than I thought. I've actually logged 1332 miles to date in 2016, not that far behind Rocker. I don't think I'll hit 3,000 by the end of August (the ride starts September 11) but 2,500 seems doable, given my travel schedule.

I hoped to get in a good long ride today but the weather is not cooperating. Rain and thunderstorms forecast all day. Bummer. But I'll never complain about rain, especially July 4th weekend. Helps keep the fire danger low. :)

Speaking of which, Happy Independence Day!

Ride on...