Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Training Camp {or} the most difficult day on my bike

The Moment Bicycles crew headed out to Fallbrook this year for our annual training camp. Three days of sufferfesting, team bonding and well, riding bikes! Vince and I drove out on Friday after work for the fun filled weekend.

This year our coach came out for morning #1 for a baseline threshold testing session on the trainers. We had two groups sweat out and suffer through a 20 min all out effort. I had done this test on Fiesta Island last summer right after I got my power meter while training for Tahoe. And unfortunately {yet not surprisingly} I haven't gotten any faster or fitter. My HR was higher and the power was lower. Weight has maintained relatively similar, so watts/kg have sadly decreased. Time to go back to work. {and yes, I realize the trainer vs road test isn't scientific and the heat of a stationary trainer vs 20mph breeze in your face may play a small factor. still:}

July 6, 2013: 20min power average: 203; heart rate: 186
Jan 18, 2014: 20 min power average: 193; heart rate: 194

Pat Jak with the first crew.
Back at camp we had a quick lunch and headed out for our afternoon ride. And with it being the first road ride of the camp, the boys decided to turn the recovery ride into manhood measuring contest. And that quick lunch? Let's just say it wasn't sitting quite right. I was almost doubling over in stomach cramps. I struggled for 35 miles until we stopped at a fruit stand and Judd made me untangle myself from the fetal position I was assuming and stretch my stomach. After some much needed cold water I was feeling better. The rest of the ride was significantly more pleasant, being careful to not make any huge efforts in case my stomach decided to turn on me again. And btw - even with the threshold testing and the second ride stomach cramps, this wasn't nearly the hardest day on my bike.

JT, CK and Kyle
Props to Gabe for grilling the meat both evenings and to the ladies for the prep work on everything else! We had a skills lecture by JT and Dean and headed to bed with the Sunday ride looming.

On paper, the Sunday ride looked manageable. On Strava, it wasn't that impressive. Uh, what we experienced for me was the hardest {yet still manageable} day I've had on my bike. Yes, harder than my suffering at St. George IM. Harder than the hamstring issues and cold weather of Lake Tahoe IM. Harder than my first century {102 miles, 10k climbing}. And this ride was only 90 miles and only 9k of climbing. If you ride with power and understand TSS, what's the highest "score" you've seen? Try 398.

The starting crew!
I really love {hate} when a ride starts with descending. I'm just dreading climbing out of this pit of despair later on. The first 20 miles was pretty moderate, rollers and some sustained climbs. Every time a somewhat steep roller came, we'd all wonder if "it" was here yet. As we turned onto Los Gatos at mile 23 our answer finally came.

Holy up. I don't think I've ever been so shocked by the upcoming terrain. Even Via Capri at mile 100 looked easier than this road ahead. We all rolled out sporadically and I was mid-pack. Just a reminder, I ride with a compact crank and an 11-28 cassette. About halfway up the first pitch I see walkers already. I keep telling myself I will not walk. I start to try "paperboy'ing" but don't see the benefit. It gets steeper. I am fully out of the saddle, leaning as far forward over my bars, right at a 20-30 cadence. I'm barely moving and my HR is off the charts. Paperboy left, right, left and I nearly fall off my bike down the hill. I freak out, take two pedal strokes and jump off my bike faster than ever. I've succumb to walking. Which wasn't any easier! Holy calf workout! There was a "break" in the climb; a maybe 20ft section that seemed flat, but was probably still 10%. Perspectives change after riding {and walking} up a 20%+ road. There were 2 guys heading down, taking a break to cool their brakes and other Moment riders "death marching" up behind me. After gathering myself and lowering my HR I decided I would try and hop back on. It only took 4 tries and a near fall to get clipped in. This time there was a fire in my eyes. I will not let this section beat me. My hands were sweating, my heart racing, and those cranks were turning at the lowest cadence I've ever experienced. I saw the top, and a light at the end of this ridiculous cliff that I can't believe a civil engineer decided to create and then pave. Jeremy captured this great shot {maybe with a bit of a camera tilt} as I was cresting the hill. WOW.

Terry took his shoes off to walk the hill.
What are you, a drunk girl dancing
at the club? Nice "heels!"
After everyone swapped stores of their epic tales up this climb we all realized we were only 24 miles into a 90 mile ride. WOW. And then, the Moment van crested the hill and we were all saved by the awesome SAG support of teammate Kim and Terry's wife, Paula. {Can't say enough awesome stuff about these two ladies who were the queen's of the day. Wow}

The amazing Paula and Kim
Onward. I think I was still in shock for the next section, as I don't remember much besides these signs:

Not recommended for cyclists
No outlet
18% Grade  {wtf? I thought we were done with that crap!}

We turned onto the Cleveland National Forest "truck trail" and descended for a while, but it wasn't the nice sweeping fast descents of East County that I've come to love. It was basically the most off-roading, cyclocross style, pothole avoidance, technical, finger cramping, sandy shit paved road I've ever been on. {now those signs make sense.} After again descending into the pit of despair, it was apparently time to climb again. And this eventually became one of those never ending consistent pitch climbs. You turn the corner to think you are about to crest, and look up to see exactly the same thing. Again and again. Check it out on Strava. A 10 mile, 3600 ft, 1 hour long climb. On that same shit paved road. I was mostly alone, although I started with Terry, then hung onto Greg's wheel for a while then we caught Jimmy only to have those two gap me a bit. About halfway through I was on my own. And you know what, I was actually smiling. It was a gorgeous day, on my bike, in a beautiful place I'd never been. I finally made it to the top and gave an audible "woot!" and headed forward to find the others.

Oh and we are only half way done. SAG van found us again and after a quick water refill and sunscreen application we were back on the road, descending, finally. After reaching Riverside we had a long, flat section interrupted by only the 3rd flat of the day {and that's saying a lot for this crew and these roads.} We made a right turn and the grade started to increase. I think this was one of my lowest moments, but one of those where I dug DEEP and told myself to just hang onto the wheel in front of me. I was fading fast and the sun was falling fast. We had a huge headwind and whoever was driving the pace up front was working MUCH harder than me. It was only a 1.5 mile climb at 5% but that may have been the breakthrough of the camp for me, that or the Coke at the top. Much needed fuel {caffeine!} for the next 25 miles. I will make this. I will not accept a ride in the van.

The rest of the ride was pretty rad. Most of us were getting a bit slap happy by this point, so why not hurl ourselves back down that 20% Los Gatos hill? It is amazing how strong gravity is. A slight let up on the brakes and you feel a sudden rush in acceleration. The hill definitely toys with your mind - when can I just let go and ride free to the bottom? Weeeeeeeeeeee!

Kristian "Sex Panther" and Gabe
We regrouped and the rest of the ride was a slugfest of rollers, even one where I felt a slight G! The diminished group I was with was working hard and having fun. Attacks, pushes, and fun winding roads led us back to the house, hungry and satisfied.

Food. Chatter. Sleep.

We cleaned and packed up in the morning and headed out to the San Luis Rey road race practice. I've never done this race and not sure I have any business slugging my butt up that climb. It was a fast day with some new blood that hadn't been destroyed by the days prior. We did 3 laps and rode much faster than I thought my body was capable of that day. And that's what camp is about. Finding new limits.

Finding shade after SLR practice
Last week was kind of a blur. Lot of work and not a lot of working out. Thursday morning I attempted to head to the velodrome, but the track was wet and the fog was insane {with no chance of the sun burning it off soon} so I headed to work early to catch up. I rode Sunday with the shop and yesterday out at GWL + Descanso with Julie and Nikki. This weekend is my first race of the year, the Red Trolly Criterium and I'm looking forward to getting Super Grover out for his first test of the season. Ready or not, it's here.

foggy and slippery at the track

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