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.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Dave Vs. Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert has been one of my favorite road racers for a long time … maybe my favorite road racer ever. He has been the world champion, the Belgian champion, a stage winner in each of the three Grand Tours, and a prolific winner of one-day races. Without question, he is one of the greatest cyclists of all time. So, what does it take to get there? Natural ability, obviously, but also a commitment to training. And what does the latter look like? This:

That’s what Gilbert posted on Instagram yesterday. My training week ended on Sunday too. I don’t have a power meter, so I can’t calculate my Training Stress Score (TSS), but here’s how I measured up otherwise:

Yeah, not even close. In my defense, riding a bike is not my job. I’m actually pretty happy with a 12-hour, 200-mile week this late in the year. The professionals are tuning up for a rapid succession of one-day classics that usually run in spring but this year were moved to autumn by the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe it’s the Tour de France afterglow talking, but I don’t think the classics are going to lose anything for having been rescheduled. Just look at what’s coming in the next 5 weeks:

La Flèche Wallonne, Sep. 30
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Oct. 4
De Brabantse Pijl, Oct. 7
Amstel Gold Race, Oct. 10
Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Tours, Oct. 11
Scheldeprijs, Oct. 14
Ronde van Vlaanderen, Oct. 18
Paris-Roubaix, Oct. 25

Oh, and this week we have the World Championships and in October we have the “other” two Grand Tours: the Giro and the Vuelta. It’s a good time to be a cycling fan.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The 2020 Tour de France

A great race concluded today in Paris. The 2020 Tour de France was an absolute triumph, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tadej Pogačar got the better of fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič in yesterday’s individual time trial, elevating the 21-year-old to first place overall. (Pogačar will turn 22 tomorrow. How good will that birthday celebration feel?) And today on the Champs-Élysées the green jersey wearer, Sam Bennett, proved again that he was this year’s best sprinter. The Tour’s 21 stages gave us a little bit of everything, including victories by riders from whom we didn’t expect results. This was a real race with real drama, not some watered-down version conducted in isolation to the accompaniment of pre-recorded crowd noise. This was the Tour we all needed: a continuation of a great tradition at a time when almost nothing else seems normal. Chapeau!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New Look From Garmin Connect

Well, that’s neat. When I uploaded today’s ride data to Garmin Connect, I got a colorful map to show where I was faster or slower. That’s a new feature from Garmin Connect, but it’s not a new idea. Back in 2016 during a Garmin Connect outage, I discovered FitTrackView, and in this post you can see that same color-coded speed indicator. I don’t know whether Garmin bought the idea, stole the idea, or serendipitously hit on the idea, and I don’t care. It’s neat. I’ll take it.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Surpassing 4,000 Miles In 2020

Today's ride on my cyclocross bike: mostly Eisenbahn State Trail with a couple of on-road loops.

Bad weather kept me off the bike for most of the last week, but today I did a 63-mile ride to surpass 4,000 miles, year-to-date. I rode only 3 times in the last 7 days for a total of 126 miles, my lowest total since May 11-17. What can I tell you? All-day rains, high winds, and temperatures that were as much as 20° below normal had a depressing effect on my statistics and on me. The forecast for the week to come shows—at least for now—temperatures that are closer to historical averages and almost no chance of rain. I need to take advantage of that. I’m certainly not overtrained now! I will try to ride every day to make a big dent in the 967 miles I still need to reach 5,000. Today’s ride was my 4th metric century of 2020 and 91st all-time. Looks like I’m not going to reach 100 this year as I had hoped, but maybe I can get a little closer next week.

Today also was notable for a brutal Tour de France stage that removed defending champion Egan Bernal and perennial “next year” man Nairo Quintana from any further consideration as challengers for this year’s title. This has been a good Tour so far, a legitimate competition altered only cosmetically and not substantially by COVID-19, but now it’s down to a two-man race. Pick your Slovenian: current leader Primož Roglič or mountain climber supreme Tadej Pogačar. Roglič has a 40-second lead and the stronger team. It’s his race to lose.

Finally, today was the start of the elite cyclocross season. I watched the EKZ CrossTour series race from Baden, Switzerland, and it made me a little sad that there won’t be any cyclocross in Wisconsin this year. Europe will hold more than 100 elite events this season, many of which will be televised/streamed (what’s the difference?). I’ll watch as many as I can and try to stay close to the sport … in spirit, anyway. Both the men’s and women’s races were mostly Swiss affairs today, with a number of pro mountain bikers using the event as training for the upcoming and condensed UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season. I’m looking forward to that too, but I’m really looking forward to the first cyclocross event with all of the top contenders: the Telenet Superprestige series race from Gieten, Netherlands, on October 11.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Summer’s Almost Gone

Looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday especially!

Summer is supposed to last until September 22, but the weather forecast for the upcoming week is anything but summer-like. We’re going to struggle just to get to 60° and we’ll have plenty of rain and wind from the northeast to add to the misery. I’m already wondering whether I will look back on it as the week my quest for 5,000 miles suffered a blow from which it could not recover. I need 1,093 more miles to reach 5,000 this season. It’s not guaranteed.

Today was nice: a little bit above the 75° historical average for this date. But I feel the changing of the seasons acutely. The easy life of warm days and late sunsets is fast becoming a struggle to get motivated and to find a good window of time in which to ride. I want to be done. I want to have ridden 5,000 miles this year. There are other things I want to do this fall, especially at home. I live a very Spartan lifestyle, but I do have some nesting instincts. I have a To Do list of home and garden projects that will be a great source of satisfaction once I get off the bike.

I admitted to myself today that I am not going to take my bikes anywhere by car for the rest of the year, so I removed my trailer hitch rack and placed it in storage for the winter. The rack worked beautifully when my son and I took our bikes to Pennsylvania at the end of June, but I haven’t used it since. I left it in place for as long as I could hope there would be a cyclocross season or some gravel event. Those hopes are all gone now. Hell, I even laundered my balaclavas and long-finger gloves this weekend; I kid you not.