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!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's the Final Countdown! (to Cycle Oregon)

As I was riding my bike on my indoor trainer this morning thinking about the remaining training days leading up to the start of Cycle Oregon, I got a song stuck in my head. Ten days from today I will fly to Sacramento to meet up with Johnny Rocker and drive north on I-5 to Myrtle Creek, Oregon. Ten days from tomorrow we will check in and pick up our rider packet, then check out the opening night party with Bad Assets, a "whiskey soaked country rock band" from up the road in Portland. 

But it's not a Bad Assets song I have stuck in my head. It's, you guessed it, the Final Countdown! 

Because when you are counting down the days to Cycle Oregon, it's what you do! And now you have it stuck it your head :)

With 10 days to go the question becomes, do I kick it into high gear and try to log a bunch of miles or kick back and start tapering towards the starting line? As I wrote in a post the week before Ride the Rockies 2014, "Most experts recommend decreasing mileage but maintaining intensity in the final week before a big event. Studies have shown this helps increase performance by reducing body fatigue while maintaining fitness levels."

But my reality is that with work travel, I pretty much just try to ride whenever I am home! In the final 10 days leading up to Cycle Oregon, I will be home three, so I plan to ride those three days: 50 miles the first, 40 the second, and 30 the third. So, in a way, I guess that's tapering :)

Riding 120 more miles in the next 10 days will put me just over 2,500 for the year. That's 500 more than I ever hit prior to any of my nine Ride the Rockies (which takes place in June). So I feel good about where I am with miles in the saddle. 

Perhaps more important, I hit my goal "fighting weight" dropping 20 pounds since June 1! That's a lot less to haul up the "Heroic Hills" on day two and the day we "Go Rogue" on a big climb up the Rogue River Valley in the Siskiyou National Forest.

I'm so excited! I just can't hide it!! 

Oh no, now I have a new song stuck in my head. And you do to :)

Ride on!


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!