Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Wicked Wind Whispers And Moans

There’s no getting away from high winds right now. Seriously: every single day. But the leaves are pretty even if there’s no sunshine backing them up. I’m doing most of my rides in town these days, cutting through the parks to hide among the trees. Today’s ride took me through Forest View, Quaas Creek, Riverside, and finally Regner, where I snapped the picture above. If you’re into the fall foliage thing, then get out there tomorrow and/or Friday. Washington County is about to become much colder and much wetter.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Simple, Measurable, Repeatable

As I predicted yesterday, I did not get on the bike today. But after doing all of my household chores and waiting out the rain, this afternoon I took a second crack at the 5-kilometer rucking course I plotted in my neighborhood back on October 4. This is going to be my bread-and-butter workout when the cycling season is done, and it will be fun to see the statistics accumulate. Looks like 50 minutes is going to be a good benchmark time. Don’t worry too much about calories, though. Garmin is calculating those numbers against my current bodyweight. It doesn’t realize I’m carrying a 25-pound rucksack. Because I’m moving more weight, I’m burning more calories. The difference is probably 10-15 percent—a big margin of error—but I don’t care. My goal for this workout is to do it frequently at an athletic pace. Good things will follow naturally from that simple approach.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Bouncing Back From Last Week’s Performance

Today's ride with "El Contador" was executed counter-clockwise.

This week was a return to form: 214 miles and 13 hours in the saddle. Throw in a 2-hour Ice Age Trail hike on Monday, the “rest” day, and I was very active! I rode on each of the last 6 days but my streak may come to an end tomorrow due to rain. That’s fine; I have several household chores to complete before my new work week begins on Monday night. I need 227 more miles to reach my goal of 5,000 this season, but I don’t expect much from the week to come. The weather forecast isn’t lining up for me. I’ll probably spend more time on lawn & garden tasks and on cross-training than I spend on the bike.

I watched a lot of racing this weekend, starting with the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships on Saturday. That was cross-country; downhill was today but I didn’t watch too much of it. Downhill doesn’t appeal to me very much, and the slow, muddy conditions today made the race even less exciting. This morning began with the Paris-Tours road race and ended with Superprestige cyclocross. If you were lucky you also could find coverage of Gent-Wevelgem and the 9th stage of the Giro d’Italia, but I couldn’t watch everything, so I took a pass on those. I think I can look forward to Scheldeprijs and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the week to come, but unfortunately COVID-19 cases are rising again in Europe. Paris-Roubaix already has been cancelled for October 25.

By the way, there were no North Americans today in either the men’s or women’s elite Superprestige races at Gieten, Netherlands. I don’t know whether we should expect that to change as the season progresses. Americans and Canadians have always been on the back foot in European cyclocross. This year could leave us ever farther behind.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Rucking While The Weather’s Sucking

I followed up a record week on the bike with my poorest numbers since April, covering only 40 miles in 2.5 hours over the last 7 days. We were 10-15 degrees below normal all week, and wet most of that time. Friday night bottomed out at 33° and I felt pretty smart for already having turned off my outdoor spigots until next spring. The week to come should be better … not great, but at least average for this time of year. Looks like Tuesday will be our first 60° day since September 27.

Yeah, this week was a really unwelcome break in my cycling season, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did ruck marches Thursday, Saturday, and today with my new GPS-enabled watch. Thursday’s and Saturday’s routes weren’t quite right, but today I nailed a 5-kilometer route that I can do repeatedly with a target pace to ensure I’m working hard enough. There will be hikes and ruck marches farther afield, and I will look forward to those adventures for their novelty. But for me there has to be a standard route that begins just outside my door and simply gets the job done. I want to keep the execution of the everyday workout easy and thereby eliminate any excuses not to do it. That strategy already works for me as a cyclist. I don’t have to take the bike somewhere to do a ride; I just roll out of my driveway.

This week’s ruck marches—my first since early May—were not especially demanding. Nevertheless, I felt them. They hit my legs and feet in a way that was very different from cycling, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I had a similar revelation a decade ago when I got into stair climbing. The mild soreness that followed my initial efforts was proof that cycling leaves some leg muscles unchallenged. To be a more complete athlete, I need to find these weak spots and make them strong. And I’m starting to think I should be cross-training throughout the year, not just during the cold weather months. In summer I’m so desirous of big mileage totals on the bike that I neglect other training opportunities. Sure, I still do upper body strength training all year long, but I typically don’t do any walking/hiking/rucking. During the cycling season, dedicating just one day a week to activities like those might make me both fresher and stronger. Being on the bike so much can feel like a job. I don’t take as much rest as I should, and cross-training could give me a weekly break without guilt.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 2020: A Mileage PR

I finished September with 806 miles, a personal record. The old mark was 800 miles, set in 2009. So, I didn’t beat it by much, but I beat it. And for the first time ever I have completed four consecutive 800-mile months. In 2009, September was my only 800-mile month. With three months left in 2020—only one of which I intend to use—this is now a Top 10 season for both miles and ride frequency. Not bad for being “stuck at home” due to the pandemic.

In Case You Missed It …

On Monday, USA Cycling cancelled the 2020 cyclocross national championships. Not a surprise. As I said before, it would have been an event of questionable legitimacy anyway, because many top riders would opt out rather than risk infection.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Not A Weak Week, Part II

Was today the last 70° day of 2020? It was 70° this morning, but you had to be awake very early to feel it. The temperature will continue to fall throughout the rest of the day. And things will get considerably worse later this week. So, was today the last 70° day and the last 60° day of 2020? Questions like these weigh on me every year at this time. I’ve given up on another 80° day; we haven’t seen one of those since August 27. By Friday we could be looking at daytime highs below 50°! I still have work to do before I wrap up my cycling season, but my enthusiasm will drop with the temperature. With 481 miles to ride before I reach my target of 5,000, I may be picking them off only 20-25 at a time. My per-ride average right now is 30.33, but it’s going to start coming down.

Instead of dwelling further on the disappearance of fair weather, let me tell you about the week I just finished. It was a good one. I rode all 7 days and put up 283.05 miles in 16:44:17. Those are record numbers, beating the 263.57 and 15:47:52 I posted earlier this year, June 15-21. Same basic approach: no rest days and a metric century to finish the week. And you know what? I don’t feel fatigued. Today I could have gone for 100 miles if I had not been so certain of the approach of rain. Oh, well. Good week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A New Tool To Motivate Me

This week I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 35 fitness tracking watch. I plan to use it mostly during the cycling offseason to put metrics around my cross-training activities—hiking, ruck marches, snowshoeing, etc.—with the expectation that the resulting statistics will motivate me to be more active during the winter. The watch will allow me to upload my activities to Garmin Connect, which I already use for every bike ride. And assuming Garmin can keep its website up from now on, it will be nice to have all of my stats in one place.

“Segal’s Law” says a man with one watch always knows the time, while a man with two watches is never sure. Cute, but inaccurate. A man’s only watch may be wrong, and then what good is his confidence in it? The more points of data one has, the closer one gets to the truth ... even if no single point of data is definitive. My new watch has a bike mode, and at least until the novelty wears off I will activate it whenever I ride. On its maiden voyage today, the handlebar-mounted Forerunner compared very favorably to my Garmin Edge cycling computer:

It’s good to know the Forerunner can function as a backup bike computer if the Edge fails.

There’s also heart rate tracking, which used to be part of my training until I abandoned it several years ago. I didn’t like wearing a chest strap. The sensor in the watch seems accurate enough, I guess, so maybe I’ll start to pay attention to those numbers again as my workouts evolve. Heart rate is not as good a metric as power (Watts) for cycling, but there’s still a place for heart rate training zones, on and off the bike. Anything that makes me work a little harder is going to be welcome as winter approaches and I try, again, to keep from gaining too much offseason weight.