Easy spinnin’

Today was the long club ride I look forward to each week. It’s a necessary part of my training for the century in October. It seems I learn something new every time I go on one of these rides, and today was no exception.

The ride went into the rural countryside southeast of Austin. It was advertised as a 44-miler, and would be a nice bump up over last week’s distance.

Once we got out of the city’s built up area, the roads started to get hilly. Mostly rollers, not too bad, but still a challenge. We didn’t have an organized B ride, so I told the ride leader that if I and my friend David dropped off the back, to consider us the B ride and not worry about waiting for us. The peloton took off, and were soon out of sight.

Many of the roads we traveled were part of my first metric century last fall, so I was familiar with them. But after about 28 miles, I could feel myself losing energy. David pulled over to the side to wait. We saw a gas station a quarter mile down the road, and decided that would serve as an impromptu rest stop. But it turned out to be the planned rest stop — everybody from the group was there, swapping stories, eating energy bars, and drinking water or Gatorade. For me, the break came just in time.

The group lost us again within a mile of leaving the gas station. It was taking awhile for the nourishment to be felt, so I shifted to the small chain ring and spun easily through the countryside. Today was not going to be a speedy ride.

After about a half hour, I started to feel some strength in my thighs again. The rest of the ride in was uneventful, but when we got to our starting point at Starbuck’s, only two riders were still there, drinking their post-ride coffees.

So what did I learn? Spinning is underrated. The speed won’t be as high, I won’t be able to keep up with the group, but I will be able to finish strong. Breakfast is important. Mine this morning wasn’t big enough. Two waffles, a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee don’t provide the calories needed for a long ride. Don’t trust the numbers. The ride was supposed to be 44 miles. My total at the end was 52.

It’s the longest unsupported ride I’ve done to date. I’ll be better prepared for the next.

“Every ride must have a plan”

Regular readers of this blog have figured out that I’m a professor at a nearby university.  School is back in session now, and I’ve become concerned that full days at work will cut into my riding.

So today I made an effort to get home in time to sneak in a ride before supper.  I rode to the Veloway, where I connected with my friend David.  We set an easy pace down the trail.

After a lap of the track, chit chatting about stuff and such, he asked me a question: “What’s your plan for this ride?”

“What?” I asked.

“You’re training for a century.  Every ride must have a plan from here on out.  What’s your plan for this ride?”

“I don’t have a plan,” I said.

“Well, you’ve gotta start thinking about a plan for each ride.”

“You know,” I said, “I haven’t ridden since that ride Sunday with you.  I wanted to get out tonight to get some miles in.  I’m not thinking about intervals or hill work, or cadence — I just want to get in some miles.”

“OK.  That’s your plan,” he said.

Earlier, he had steered me toward some training plans for a century ride, archived online.  I bookmarked those sites, as well as some others I found in a search.  I’ll be poring over them in the next few days.  I’ve never approached a ride goal with a plan before.  But I will now.

Little change = big difference (Part 2)

When I rode a rented bike on our recent vacation in Michigan, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it fit me. I had specified a 56 cm frame — the same as my own bike — but at the shop, no one checked the fit. After a 37-mile ride, I felt no discomfort at all.

When I got home and took a 21-mile ride on my own bike, I felt soreness in the seat. The bike just didn’t feel as comfortable as the rental. I wondered how that could be, since I got a bike fitting when I bought it in February. So I figured it was time to do some tweaking. I had already learned that a little change can make a big difference, and thought it would be worth a shot here, too.

I started with the handlebars. By turning them slightly upward, I thought I could bring them a bit closer to me, and maybe ease the soreness I was getting in my hands as well as my butt. But that only made it worse, since I wound up putting too much pressure on my hands. I quickly reset the bars to their original position.

Then it was time for the seat. I had moved it back one centimeter earlier, with no appreciable results. I moved it back another centimeter.

Bingo! Magic happened. On our hill ride, I felt like I was in Michigan again. No discomfort at all — either in the hands or the butt.

Whenever my wife’s golf game goes south, we have a little saying: “It’s the grip, stupid.” A slight change in her hand position is usually enough to get the ball going straight again. I guess for me, the new saying will be: “It’s the seat, stupid.”