Sunday, April 24, 2011

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

A Trek Fuel 70 set up much like the one I rode today.
Today I finished Week 11 of my 12-week training plan with 3 hours of saddle time.  That’s double the time my program told me to train, but early in the week bad weather kept me off the bike and I felt like I should make up for time lost.  I spent the first hour on a borrowed mountain bike at Glacial Blue Hills.  It was my first real-world experience on a full-suspension bike—a Trek Fuel 70, nice but a little too small for me—and  I would have liked to try a 29er today to get a head-to-head comparison.

I still haven’t decided which bike is right for me and I need to choose soon.  I had thought about making my mountain biking debut at Iola on May 1 but now I’m sure I won’t.  WEMS looks like a better fit for me than WORS, so really I’m trying to be ready for Stump Farm on May 14.  That’s doable, but I’ll need good weather and a fair amount of practice in the meantime.  Trails at New Fane and Greenbush remain closed by the DNR.  Glacial Blue Hills is open but it’s a damned hard venue for a newbie to build confidence.

My head just wasn’t in the right place all weekend.  I didn’t feel particularly strong on Saturday’s season-opening Washington County Bicycle Club ride and today I had to force myself to go back out for the last 2 hours following my mountain biking experiment.  Mostly I blame the weather.  It’s hard to get fired up when every day is chilly and overcast.  And the coming week looks wet.  That’s bad news for the mountain bike trails and for my motivation.  I don’t want to go back to the indoor bike trainer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Recapping The Roubaix

Riders complete their pre-ride preparations for Cheesehead Roubaix.
Today was a really hard, really satisfying day on the bike.  Eleven riders turned out for Cheesehead Roubaix—a metric century that included nearly all of the unpaved roads in Washington and Ozaukee counties.  As the event planner I was grateful for the turnout and for the nice comments the riders had at the end of the ride.  This would have been a hard ride even with ideal weather, and just attempting it today was a tribute to the strength and dedication of the participants.

For the duration of the ride we were buffeted by high winds that rarely assisted us and often were square in our faces.  Those winds not only slowed our progress but also made us feel much colder.  Fortunately we had bright sun to cheer us.  Five miles west of Belgium, we had a passing driver to cheer us: Team Pedal Moraine’s John Hughes caught up to us at Willow Valley Road and urged us on with a cowbell and shouts of “Cheesehead Roubaix!”

Our 11 riders came from Washington County, Waukesha County, Milwaukee County … even Illinois.  I’ve said it before: this is a unique event for this part of the state.  Southeastern Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of unpaved roads and the people who like them really like them!  On today’s ride the unpaved roads were the attraction, but they didn’t have as big an impact on rider performance as the wind.

And the riders did split up according to their abilities.  I spent most of the day within sight of the leaders but unable to lift my effort and catch them.  About 40 miles into the ride, I started feeling little twinges in my thighs that promised full-on cramps if I tried to go much harder.  But I rode over every hill and completed the entire route, though for a few minutes I considered taking a shortcut back to the parking lot.  I finished the 64.16 miles in 4:30, a 14.26 mph rolling average.  There were a couple of stops along the way as the riders attempted to regroup, plus a slightly longer stop at a minimart in Boltonville at mile 51, when many of us needed to take on more fluids.  Given the quality of the field, today’s ride probably would have taken 3:30 or less if not for the wind.  It made that much of a difference.

I’m neither impressed nor disappointed with my fitness.  It’s the end of Week 10 and I’m still on the upswing.  In the next two weeks I should be approaching something like race-ready form—or at least my modest interpretation of it.  Today’s ride will pay dividends and make me stronger when it counts.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ready For Cheesehead Roubaix

With just 12 hours remaining until Cheesehead Roubaix, it’s clear that the weather will be cold and windy during the ride.  And while that’s appropriate for an event that wants to give its riders a taste of a Belgian spring classic, I would have been happier with the 81 degrees we had last Sunday.  Here’s what says we can expect:

Not much to like there.  But there will be a ride, and the people who do it will have a story to tell when it’s done.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Evening Standard

In other news: Cheesehead Roubaix cuesheets (with detour) are now ready.
On a nice summer weekend when daylight is virtually limitless, it’s a pleasure to explore unfamiliar roads and ride without a plan.  But on a weeknight after work, sometimes it’s best to stick with the tried and true.  Like many cyclists, I have a couple of standard routes.  On Tuesday I did my Eisenbahn State Trail standard: West Bend to Campbellsport and back, 32 flat miles.  Tonight I did my road bike standard: West Bend to Newburg and back, 26 rolling miles on popular cycling roads like Rusco, Paradise, Wausaukee, Congress, Hickory, Newark and Wallace Lake.

I always try to achieve a negative split on the Eisenbahn, returning to West Bend in less time than I needed to reach Campbellsport.  On Tuesday I achieved that thanks to an unknown rider who was behind me—perhaps pursuing me—from County Highway H to Decorah Road.  It might have been this guy.  Whoever it was, I was determined not to get caught and pushed myself a little harder than usual.

On my standard road ride I don’t have a specific target other than to climb the hills well and to keep my heart rate in whatever range my training plan requires for that day.  I had good legs yesterday but I worked for my 16 mph average on the Eisenbahn.  Today I averaged 17.5 mph on much more demanding terrain, albeit on a much more efficient bike.  My average heart was just 122 bpm, 66 percent of maximum.  That’s barely working, and I’m taking it as a sign that my fitness is improving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Marking The Route

This evening I drove the Cheesehead Roubaix route to ensure the accuracy of the cuesheet and to paint a CR logo and a directional arrow at key intersections.  I found one error on the original cuesheet, so if you're coming to the ride please download the corrected version here.

Cheesehead Roubaix is supposed to be a challenging ride, but nobody is supposed to get hurt doing it.  With that in mind, on Sunday I will present an addendum to the cuesheet to provide a detour around the last unpaved sector.  Lovers Lane from Highland Drive to County Highway H (mile 52.9 to 53.9) is unsafe.  I drove down that road this evening and barely made it through.  Had I been in a passenger car instead of an SUV, I would have gotten stranded.  All other unpaved sectors are eminently rideable, but I suggest you pass on this one.  However, the decision is yours.  Lovers Lane is an open public road and, most importantly, you are responsible for yourself.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Perfect 10?

I had a good ride today: two hours with my Raleigh on country roads southeast of West Bend.  I felt good even when going uphill or into a strong headwind.  I got home with new tan lines and watched the 3-hour broadcast of Paris-Roubaix on Versus.  Week 9 was a solid week of training with an 81-degree Sunday afternoon as its exclamation point.  But it wasn’t perfect.

I’m happy with what I got done but I worry about the things that I didn’t get done.  Cheesehead Roubaix is next Sunday and I still haven’t painted the roads or copied the cuesheets.  And even though I test-rode a 29er today, the ride was too brief and too restrictive to be conclusive.  With less than a month to go before the WORS and WEMS seasons, I still have no race-worthy mountain bike.  I really need to borrow a 29er to test under real-world conditions at Glacial Blue Hills.

The trails at Glacial Blue Hills are actually rideable; state park trails at New Fane and Greenbush are still closed.  (It’s a good thing I didn’t make it to New Fane last Wednesday.)  I need to get out there soon to build not only fitness, but also trail riding skills.

Will the coming week be a perfect 10?  Tomorrow is a scheduled rest day.  Tuesday and Wednesday will be hard-working days followed by another rest day on Thursday.  Friday will be a fairly light effort in advance of a longer endurance-pace ride on Saturday.  Right now the weather forecast for Saturday is absolutely awful: windy with rain and snow showers and a high of 40.  If that proves true I’ll put in a little trainer time to stay limber for Cheesehead Roubaix, a ride that is going to tell me what kind of fitness I really have.  It will be my longest ride so far in 2011, and I’m hoping that my fellow riders will encourage a hard effort.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Work And Play

We’re reaching the time of year when every weekend is a cycling weekend.  There’s always something on Saturday or Sunday … usually Saturday and Sunday.  This cycling weekend began early this morning with a drive to Greenbush for four hours of work on the mountain bike trails, part of my volunteer commitment to Team Pedal Moraine.  TPM serves as the host for the annual WEMS race at Greenbush, to be held this year on May 28.

When I got back to West Bend I treated myself to lunch and a nap.  Late in the afternoon I headed out for a two-hour solo training ride.  I rode through Quaas Creek Park to check on the progress of the new bridge and the trail extension:

With the Milwaukee River swollen by snow melt and spring rains, it will be a little longer until the trail is complete.  But it’s great to see progress.

To cap off my cycling Saturday I watched a live Internet stream of the Sunny King Criterium from Anniston AL.  I was entertained—the event looked a lot like the Downer Avenue stage of the Tour of America’s Dairyland—but it was just an hors d'oeuvre.  The main course comes tomorrow: Paris-Roubaix, my favorite one-day race.  Versus will have same-day coverage, 6-9 p.m. CDT.  Whether I watch the race from my favorite chair or from the saddle of my trainer bike will come down to whether I get a chance to ride outside tomorrow.  We may see temperatures in the 80s, but only because high winds and strong thunderstorms are bringing them up from the southwest.  I haven’t been on the trainer since last Sunday, and obviously I’ll try to ride outside tomorrow if there’s a window of opportunity.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April Fool's Has Come And Passed ...

Put on your "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt and follow me!
And I'm the biggest fool at last.

After a really good training ride yesterday, I felt confident as I headed out today.  I took my Giant FCR3 up the Eisenbahn State Trail into Fond du Lac County, then headed east with the vague notion that I would check out the mountain bike trails at New Fane.  I wasn’t on a mountain bike, but I had my state trail pass with me ...

But a funny thing happened on the way to New Fane: I couldn’t climb worth a damn.  (That’s funny strange, not funny ha-ha.)  Going slower than expected meant I was running out of daylight and the trails would have to wait for another time.  I took Mill Road south, even though that would mean another slow grinder of a hill once I got to East Moraine Drive.  But shortly after I turned onto Mill Road I saw County Line Drive.  It was unpaved, and I love unpaved roads.  I probably hadn’t noticed it before because I had always passed it on my road bike and it wouldn’t have been so appealing.  Today it looked inviting—something new to me and, perhaps, a chance to head east to Kettle Moraine Drive without slogging up another hill.

Well, that was the theory, anyway.  The reality is that just 1,000 feet east of Mill Road, County Line ends at a cable stretched across the road.  But on the other side of the cable is a snowmobile/equestrian trail.  I have good cyclocross tires on the FCR3 and I figured I could make it through.  And I did, but I can’t say I’d recommend it.  A mile on grass, mud and snow was frustratingly slow, and when I was done I still had to climb East Moraine Drive.  What was supposed to be a shortcut actually cost me time and precious daylight.  I had just enough to get back to Lighthouse Lane and the safety of the Eisenbahn before my lack of a headlight became a real liability.  Still, dumb.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Naughty Number Nine

You might give it everything you've got and still be stopped.
With same-day TV coverage of the Ronde van Vlaanderen to entertain me, today I rode for two hours on the trainer to bring Week 8 of my 12-week training plan to an end.  By design this was a recovery week but I certainly didn’t need to recover as much as the weather and my travel schedule demanded.

It’s time to look forward, though, not back to what might have been.  Week 9 is the beginning of the “home stretch.”  Longer hours in the saddle and more challenging intervals await.  And there will be more to Week 9 than just training.  I have volunteer work to do for Team Pedal Moraine and I have to finalize preparations for Cheesehead Roubaix, including road painting.  And there’s still the not-inconsiderable task of finding the right mountain bike for the upcoming season.  I must make some progress on that front this week.  Add it all up and Week 9 will be busy ... uncomfortably busy if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Help Me, Ronde

I’m back from my trip to eastern Pennsylvania, seven days during which the weather was a disappointment but the opportunity to see family and friends outweighed all other concerns.  Three of the seven days were consumed almost entirely by driving a grand total of 2,150 miles.  I got to ride my bike on two of the remaining four days.  On Tuesday I did 30 miles of road riding and on Wednesday I rode 20 miles on the Perkiomen Trail.  That ride was supposed to be a lot longer, but I found the trail closed just south of Schwenksville PA.  There was a big fence across the trail and signs announcing its temporary closure—a seasonal thing, I guess, to allow the trail to dry out after the snow melts.  I had ridden the trail before but only in summer, so I wasn’t aware of this provision.  It was disappointing to turn around but there was no choice.  The trail did provide the challenge of an unpaved, 1/3-mile, 12 percent hill climb, which is quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen on another recreation trail.  My heart rate jumped up to 92 percent, but I rode up.  I bet most people walk it.

That little victory sustained me through the rainy washout that was Thursday, and then yesterday I drove back to the Midwest.  Today I promised myself I would make an effort and get back into a training mindset.  I did 25 miles—half of them into a stiff NW wind—with an average heart rate at 76 percent.  My route took me through Glacial Blue Hills for the first time this year.  In anticipation of an all-day rain, the plan for tomorrow is a two-hour trainer ride during the Versus broadcast of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.  Watching Cancellara, Boonen, Gilbert, et al., as they suffer on the climbs and cobbles will be my inspiration.  I don’t yet feel confident that I will ride well in my own metric century, Cheesehead Roubaix, in just two more weeks.  I need to build mileage and hit some hills in the meantime.