I was young once...... Don't let this happen to you !
My Gravel Odyssey is just over two months away and my training has been lacking. In 2012 when our gang headed to France my training started in December and carried me to the top of The Galibier and Alp d’Huez. Last year my training for our Volcanoes adventure had a similar focus and result. In 2014 Injury and illness killed my road racing season and left me about a thousand kilometers behind my training of the previous years.
Now is NOT the time to ramp it up; it is way past that time. It is time to open up a big ol’ can of mileage and dive in with both feet. Sadly it doesn’t come in a can. I simply gotta go and ride and ride and ride.
I told a friend of mine at work that my goal for the weekend was to ride a hundred miles. Dry weather and an understanding and supportive Hottie meant it was all up to me. Late Saturday morning I rolled out on dusty roads with jersey pockets full of food. After a dozen miles of off road I was on pavement and heading toward Washington Pass. There was a threat of thunderstorms which I chose to deny.
I had ridden this pass last year in June when I was fit and ready to fly. This time I was neither and a merciless headwind only added to my suffering. I was healthy now, so the only pain I felt was the combination of how hard I wanted to push and my lack of fitness.
When I rode this last year I did the whole climb without having to go into my lowest gear. This time I found myself going there often. The headwind seemed to add a thousand feet to the more than three thousand foot climb. I kept looking up the road; my eyes straining to see the next mile marker telling me that for all of my grinding I was at least getting closer.
This was only the second weekend the pass had been open to car traffic and the last thousand feet I was riding between two walls of snow. The cloudy skies gave the chill a little extra “bite.” My legs and low back were aching from the effort and getting out of the saddle provided only a moment of relief before my quads let me know they were at their limit.
I was trying to stay out of zone five but when the grade spiked now and then I found myself logging time in the deepest caverns of the pain cave. The last miles before “the hairpin” were relentless and when I finally made the right hand turn for the final portion I was glad the top was near. The snow bank to my right blocked my view down canyon. Soon the sign marking the pass was in sight and it was time to eat and put on my vest and sleeves for the descent. An icy wind was whipping and there was no need to stay a minute longer than necessary.
Makes you want to bust out the Hawaiian shirt and flip flops eh ?
I ate, bundled up, snapped a photo and then turned my bike west and smiled at the prospect of a fifteen mile downhill. I was grateful for the vest and sleeves and I convinced myself I wasn’t cold as I rocketed down the road with snowbanks on both sides of the road. My heavy tires were solid on the one technical corner and then I was spinning as fast as I dared.
The mile markers flew past as my speed hovered between fifty and sixty-five kilometers per hour. Soon the chill was gone and then I was downright hot. I sat up and pulled off and stashed my vest and then did the same with my arm warmers.
After dropping three thousand feet I was on the warm valley floor and now the wind was at my back. I stayed in the drops and cranked. The tendon over my right kneecap felt tender as it always does when I start doing my longer training rides. It was a familiar ache and it meant I was on the path. I took it as a good sign.
I rode through two spots where the pavement was soaked from thunderstorms. I was still dry. Four and a half hours after leaving I was back at the cabin and heading for the shower.
Sunday I was sore but wanted to log some miles so I promised myself they would be easy miles. Like the fool that I am I believed myself. I chose a route that was mostly off paved roads. After a few easy miles my legs felt better and then I started climbing on a loose gravel road. Every now and then I found my pedal stroke smoothing out and the climbing just got easier than when I was mashing the pedals.
Near the top of the climb I seemed to pass though an imaginary wall and found my long distance mojo. My pedal stroke rounded out and I could get out of the saddle and despite feeling soreness in my legs I had some power. It may just have been endorphins but I felt stronger.
The descent on the backside was looser than I wanted and I dropped a thousand feet feathering the brakes the whole way. Finally the forest opened up and I was greeted by this view.
From here the road dropped 500 feet in less than a mile and I was grateful I didn’t do this route in reverse as this grade would be fatal approached from the south.
After a few paved miles I was back on familiar dirt and then back at the cabin.
Including my run with Tux I was just short of a hundred miles for the two days with 7,500+ feet of climbing much of it on gravel roads. I noticed I had some tan lines forming on my legs and arms. Nice.
This was a similar experience to the previous two springs. Those tan lines are visible evidence of the miles I have been logging. The smoother pedal stroke is the result of riding farther and farther. It was clear to me that for all of the talk about intensity versus volume, the volume still counts.
I can focus on pedal stroke and I can eat salads for lunch every day but the coin of the realm is mileage and there is no substitute for that.