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Training Wheels Very Very Late Spring Canadian Century

Because of a conflict, I was unable to ride Flying Wheels this year, but since I have some bigger rides later in the summer – including DORMAR (RAMROD backwards) – I wanted to get in a nice long ride.

So, I decided to go out and ride a century. But just riding the Flying Wheels route would have been too easy, for a couple of reasons:

First, I live a little over 5 miles from the starting point, and if I ride there and back that would be an extra 11 miles or so.

The second reason requires a bit of an explanation… I’ve been leading rides around the Eastside for a number of years now and did my own routes before that. So… I have a particular attitude about routes. Perhaps a Venn diagram would help:

image

Rare is the route that I won’t find something to complain about. Some of my complaints are based in fact, but many are based on reasons.

So, anyway, a little route-tweaking was in order. The big changes I made were:

  1. Starting the route at my house
  2. Ending the route around the south end of Lake Sam to make it a little simpler; otherwise I would ride all the way to the North end just to ride South again.
  3. Getting rid of about 7 miles of farting around in North Bend. I know that they need to find some extra distance someplace and this was an easy way to do it, but I really find that section to be tedious.

That gave me 99.8 miles, or something like that.

The ride

I woke up, skipped breakfast – as I generally do before long rides these days – and got dressed. The weather was in the mid 50s, trending into the low 60s later on. I positively hate that temperature range; it’s just a bit too cold for bare legs for me, but it’s going to be too hot for leg warmers later on. Arm warmers are easy to fit into a jersey pocket; leg warmers are a lot harder. Unsure, I went and stood outside for a few minutes, and decided that if the sun held up, bare legs would be okay.

Did I mention that the forecast was for partly cloudy? Yeah…

Before I got dressed I drank down 3 scoops of SuperStarch with a half scoop of Endurox to make it slightly less repulsive. The SuperStarch is based on cornstarch, and a big glass of water with a lot of suspended cornstarch tastes exactly as good as you think it does.

In my pockets was a ziploc bag of Cheez-its that had seen better days and a single Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle. I’m experimenting with a bit of carb supplementation recently. I had my arm warmers on and was wearing a stuffable vest.

I rolled out of the driveway at 8:15 and immediately ran into a problem. Well, two problems. The first was there was a bit of a headwind coming from the North, which would slow me down and make things a bit cooler. The second was that my legs hurt and felt flat.

After an 8 mile warmup, I came to the base of Inglewood hill, the first on the docket for the day. If you climb Inglewood during Flying Wheels (I have been known to ride up the harder Sahalie drive climb instead), you will know that it is somewhere between a hot mess and complete carnage. I avoid it on my rides because I just don’t like it very much, so this was a rare solo ascent for me.

On climbs, it’s great if you can find a rabbit. A rabbit is a rider in front of you that you can try to catch. Ideally, the rabbit is just a bit slower than you so that you can make up some time on them during the climb. Early on a weekday morning, there were no rabbits to be found, but halfway up I looked to the side and found that I had a deer who was pacing me just off the side of the road. She’d stop for a moment, I’d get closer, she’d run forward a bit and stop, and the cycle would repeat itself a few times. We eventually came to a road, where she hesitated and I tried to figure out how I could bail because 25’ is way to close, and then she took off into some woods. The rest of the hill was soon dispatched. Not one of my better climbs, but I was at the top.

The next hill is 236th, climbing from 202 up into the Redmond Ridge/Trilogy developments at the top of Novelty hill. It will surprise you not at all to find out that I think this routing is a mistake. I don’t think it’s necessarily too hard for the century riders, but I do think that it’s too hard for the 47 and 67 mile riders. In the old days, we went east and climbed up Ames Lake; though that does require a left turn that isn’t the safest, I still think it’s a better choice. The century riders could climb up Union Hill Road to get to the same spot as they do currently, or you could just split early and send them up 236th.

I’m doing okay on the hill, climbing at 230-250 watts, which is my sweet spot these days. I finish the climb, pass the always confusing Union Hill Road intersections, climb some more, and then finally climb a bit more until I reach Novelty Hill road, where the century route turns left.

Sigh. I will at times take a group down Novelty, but there’s a lot of traffic, there isn’t a great shoulder in places, and there’s a roundabout. All of that to get down to the valley so that you can ride Avondale North for a few miles.

Ick. I turn right, head east a bit, and turn left on Trilogy Pkwy. This descends, turns west and changes to NE 133rd, and then descends all the way down into the valley. Good pavement, light traffic, and it rejoins the route on Bear Creek Road. I turn right and head north, when the road turns left I follow the ride route and head north, and then when the road ends at Woodinville Duvall road, I do a quick left/right so that I can get on Paradise Lake Rd and head north.

You may have noticed a theme for this section, that of “heading north”.

I generally prefer to ride PLR the opposite directly where you lose elevation and feel like you are stronger than you really are, but this direction is mostly okay except for the one 14% hill. Near the end I skip the little loop that would take me to a food stop on the real route, cross 522, and turn right to head North. The parts on the Sammamish Plateau and the Trilogy section were mostly sunny and I was mostly warm, though the descents got a bit chilly. Once I started heading north, it got cloudy and I picked up a headwind, which puts me just on the cold side of chilly. Nothing to do about that but keep riding. A nice section of Fales road takes me more north, and then finally hit the northernmost part of the route, and thankfully turn right to head to the south.

I have a bit of mental myopia about this section of the route; I think that it’s quick to get from up here down to Fall City, but if you look at the route is around 32 miles. I also think that this section is flat, but only the section south of Carnation is flat; the rest is a seemingly endless succession of rolling hills. That can be fun if you are in a nice group and your legs feel good; not quite so fun when you are by yourself and your legs hurt. Two notable events occur on this portion.

The first is that I come up and pass a group of 4 riders, ask them how far they are riding, and they say they are doing 90 miles. The second is that as I start to get close to Carnation, I’m on a small downhill and my bike is making a strange sound; the front derailleur is making a rubbing sound.

That sound is familiar to most of us, buy my current bike never makes that sound, but it has Di2 electronic shifting and the front derailleur auto-trims so that it doesn’t rub. I look down and realize that I am cross-chained; I’m on the small chainwheel up front and the second-to-smallest sprocket on the cassette. This is generally not a good idea as it is less efficient and if you put a lot of force in you can break the chain. Further, it should not happen as I run my system in synchro mode where it will auto-shift the front when necessary.

I figure it’s a glitch and I manually shift the front. Nothing happens…

Those of you with Di2 probably know exactly what is going on, but for the rest of you, Di2 is a great system but it does run on batteries. The battery lasts quite a long time, but if you run it down too much, it stops shifting the front derailleur so that a) you will notice that the battery needs to be charged and b) you will be in a mode that preserves the low ratios for riding home.

This is both annoying and glorious. Annoying because it means I can’t really spin more than 21 or 22 MPH on the gear that it gives me, and I really like to spin on descents to keep my legs warm, especially on a day like today. And glorious because it gives me a wonderful excuse to skip the Snoqualmie Falls climb so that I can get home and recharge it before it stops shifting at all.

Soon after this happens, I roll into Carnation, hit 53 miles, and stop at a food mart for a bit of a break. I grab a Coke Zero – for the caffeine and the hydration – a snack pack of pepperoni and cheese, and small package of beef jerky. I sit in the sun on the curb and rest my legs.

Even just sitting here, they hurt. After 10 minutes or so, I’m done with my food and I head south out of town, stopping by the ball field for a quick nature break.

Then it’s across the valley to the west side and onto the West River Road, so named because it runs on the west side of the Snoqualmie river. This potentially could be a nice section with a nice river view, but in actuality you can’t really see the river at all, but there is lots of farmland and such to look at if you are into that sort of thing. I’d been hoping to make some time on this section, but a combination of a lack of gearing and a headwind slows me down a bit. It’s a relatively short section, and before I know it I’m at an intersection of with highway 202 and the base of the Fall City –> Issaquah climb.

When I first started riding this was a very hard climb for me; it features something like 450’ total and some short sections in the 14% range. These days, even with 60+ miles in my legs and not feeling great, it’s just not that hard. The country repaved this with some gloriously smooth pavement last year and I had a really nice ascent after that – my last smooth ascent, it turns out, since they decided to put chipseal on top of that gloriously smooth pavement. I’m assuming this costs less in the long run but makes the climb much less nice.

My ascent is pedestrian in terms of performance though not in terms of method of locomotion, I descend and then start up the “bonus” part of this climb. I’m thinking a bit through this section as I need to make a decision. I have three routes in my head to get home. I can stick on the century route which will take me a bit northwest and then down 236th – a street that was fine 15 years ago but is way too busy for a ride like this anymore (yes, I can’t stop complaining about the route). I can turn left on Fall city Issaquah road and either descend all the way down or take Black Nugget road down for the last part. Or, I can turn left off of fall city issaquah, ride up to the Highlands, and then descend into downtown Issaquah. I opt for the last one, and it’s mostly okay. My legs have been hurting a bit less since I had the snack & cold beverage.

Now, all that is left is to climb all the way up Newport and then head for home. I’m trying to figure out whether I will hit 80 miles for the ride. I think it will be close.

This next section is really too boring to talk about, but eventually I make it home pretty near to 82 miles and head inside to have some lunch.

Overall, a pretty decent ride, delta the leg pain.

Stats:

Distance: 81.13 miles
Time: 5:31:27
Speed: 14.7 mi/h
Up: 4437’
Work: 2997 kJ (read this as “2997 calories”, it’s close enough).

Food for the day:

  • 3 scoops of SuperStarch + 1/4 scoop of Endurox, 325 calories
  • 42 Cheez-its (+- 7 its), 275 calories
  • 1 Coke Zero flavored brown water with caffeine, 0 calories
  • 1/2 Honey Stinger chocolate waffle, 80 calories
  • Cheeze & pepperoni snack, 150 calories.

I think that’s 830 calories total for the day.

Strava link.

And yes, I’ve made you read the whole thing for an explanation, but the US/Canadian exchange rate is about 0.8, so riding 100 Canadian miles is equal to 80 American miles. Hence “Canadian Century”.


7 (11) Hills of Kirkland 2018

Before or after you read this, I recommend watching the Relive video of the ride. Hell, you should probably do that instead of reading this…

I have done 7 hills more than any other organized ride. Way more than any other ride; I think I have ridden nearly every year since 2005.

As I got ready for yet another trip around Kirkland and points nearby, I was thinking about why I like this ride so much. And I think it’s a number of things:

  • It’s short. In the early days, there was only the 38 mile route now known as the “classic”. These days I always ride the metric; for a couple of years I signed up for the full century and then found *really* good reasons to only ride the metric, so I’ve just decided to stick with the metric.

  • It’s hilly. In the days before I got stupid and thought up Sufferin Summits, it was a really hilly ride, but these days it’s just moderately hilly. But in manages to throw in some nice challenge hills; Seminary and Winery. I do better on routes with a lot of up and down as they bother my neck muscles less, and the route that it uses is exactly the kind of route that I use for the rides that I lead.

  • I could ride it in my sleep; the route is engrained in my brain and I know the area extensively, which means I have zero concern about getting lost or taking a wrong turn.

  • It’s a fundraiser for a charity that I like.

  • It’s the first organized ride I do every season.
  • Those were good enough reasons in the early days, but early in this decade I added a new reason; my mother passed away early in the morning before a 7 hills ride after a long illness. I’ve found that when I’m in my “long ride” mental state, I can spend a little time remembering her and somehow it just works well.

    In 2017 I skipped 7 hills; I’m going to claim that it was weather-related, but I was in the middle of transitioning from a carb-fueled athlete to a fat-fueled athlete and not in great shape. I now have near a year of a different diet under my more-loosely-fitting belt, and I’ve been able to be more consistent in my training this spring. I’ve also been trying to make my easy rides easier and my harder rides harder.

    How will 2018 fare? My tentative plan for the upcoming months is to do a century (was going to be Flying Wheels but I have a conflict so it will probably be a solo one), Tour de Blast (which did not go well last year), DORMAR (a self-supported backwards RAMROD), Sufferin’ Summits, and then probably Passport 2 Pain in September. That’s a lot of rides, and I’m hoping my fitness coming into the season is good.

    Planning

    I signed up for the metric. And… well, the night before I pulled a neglected bag of cheez-its and a honey stinger waffle out of my old carb-fueled bike food store and set them on the counter. I don’t eat this stuff at all in my normal diet any more, but as I mentioned, I have some long rides planned, and while I can do 45 miles without food, I don’t think I can do 150. Which means I need to experiment a bit with light carb replacement during rides.

    The morning of

    I wake up at 5:30 to the sound of the birds outside, and quietly get dressed. Then it’s out to the kitchen to… well, not to do much of anything. I’d normally eat bacon and eggs but they take a long time to digest, which requires a lot of blood supply, which means less blood for your muscles. So, I sit around, do a bit of stretching, and try to figure out what to wear. I will be wearing my limited edition Sufferin’ Summits Jersey, that is for sure.

    The forecast is annoying. There is little chance for rain – which is great – but the starting forecast is for 55 at the start and maybe 63 at the finish. Which puts me in a quandry; above 60 I don’t need any covering for my arms or legs – maybe just a vest to wear at the start – while at 50 degrees I need arm and leg warmers. The expected temps are precisely at the transition between the two, which makes it maddening. I throw on arm warmers and leg warmers, get all the rest of my stuff together, and head out and load the car.

    Well, that’s not quite true; I’m not going to do this ride totally fasted. I mix up 2 scoops of Superstarch – a cool time-release glucose source – with a half a scoop of Endurox to make it slightly more palatable in a glass of water and drink it down. That will support my glycogen reserves during the ride but won’t provide a quick enough does of glucose to bump my insulin up and interfere with fat metabolism.

    The ride

    The start is pretty much like any start. I ditched my leg warmers due to the peer pressure of all the cyclists riding past me without them and had to make a trip back to the car to retrieve a forgotten water bottle.

    I generally only ride with people on this ride who I happen to meet during the ride, but my friend Mike is there and we start together, taking a quick detour to make sure that we ride through the inflatable “Start” arch, because if you don’t the ride doesn’t count. We ride along and talk as we make our way up Market (hill #1) and Juanita (hill #2), and then turn to descend down Holmes point road. This is a really fun descent normally, made a lot less fun this time by a lot of riders and car traffic, so we settle for a safe yet far less exuberant trip down. Which brings us to the base of hill #3, Seminary road.

    This is a decently hard climb at 414’ and a max gradient of 13% or so. I send Mike off ahead and tell him not to wait because he’s a much faster climber than me, and settle in. This is the hill where first-time participants realize that maybe this ride is a bit harder than they expected, so there are a lot of people riding pretty slowly. My legs feel good and I’m climbing at around 250 watts, a decent pace for me. I pass a lot of people and get passed by a few, and I hit the top faster than I expect. Seemed easy. A short break to take off my jacket and a quick descent and portage to the next hill.

    Norway hill is a nice little climb; a bit of undulation to keep it interesting and about as long but not quite as steep as seminary. I ride kindof conservative but there’s a group of 4 behind me that I don’t want to catch me, so I put out a bit more power in the top half, including a short section at over 300 watts. My legs feel pretty good, and I ate a few cheez-its on the way up that are sitting pretty well.

    We now get into what I think is the worst part of the ride. Part of that is just the geography; we need to get from Norway (hill #4) to Winery (hill #6), and there aren’t a lot of great route options. They also need to fit in a food stop in a parking lot near the hospital. I stop long enough for a nature break and to grab a small Clif bar (barette?), blueberry something something flavor.

    I haven’t talked about hill #5 because it doesn’t really exist; there’s a little climbing before the rest stop, and little climbing there, and that’s what we call hill #5. They used to use a slightly different route that had a slightly more defined hill, but even then it wasn’t much of a hill.

    We’re heading north now, we have a nice descent down brickyard road that is slightly marred by too many cyclists, and then curl back south on a mostly flat portion of the ride through the Woodinville winery district. People try to fly on this section for some unknown reason and I get passed by a few, but its far better to rest the legs a bit because of what is coming up.  I finally arrive at the base of hill #6, which if you were paying attention you already know is Winery Hill. At only 307’ of total elevation gain, it’s not a particularly long hill, but it is a nasty hill, with a 17-18% pitch at the beginning, and some slightly-less-nasty pitches later on. Kindof a set of stairsteps.

    I arrive near the back of a group of 25 riders or so, and start climbing. My legs feel good, so I ratchet up the effort and am climbing at about 500 watts through the steep section. As I’m picking my way through a clot of riders, some smartass in the group says, “remember, you paid to do this”.

    Okay, so, you might be able to guess who the smartass is…

    The hills flattens for a bit and I catch by breath, go hard up the second steep section, and then hard up the third steep section, and then try to maintain a decent pace up the long steady section, and I’m at the top, riding hard and turning left past the bagpiper towards the next part of the ride.

    Wait, the bagpiper?

    Yes, 7 hills has a bagpiper who stands at the top of Winery hill and plays. It’s another reason I really like this ride.

    A later check of my data shows that I cut 17 seconds off of my PR for Winery Hill, which makes me feel pretty good. I am even happier to note that I share 527th place on the climb with my friend Kent, who is a way better climber than I am.

    I make a quick stop at the next rest stop to top off my water and eat approximately 1/8th of the clif bar.

    Decision point…

    After you descend back down into the Sammamish River valley – the one you just climbed out of – you reach a decision point. You can go straight, do one final hill, and be done. Or you can turn left onto the metric century route.

    I turn left, and we head across to to the east side of the river valley and start up what I call “the 116th surprise”. It’s only about 50’ of elevation gain, but it makes up for it by being in the 15-16% range. Surprise. That makes me happy because a number of my routes features surprises, and the cyclists who ride with me always expression their appreciation. My unexpectedly strong legs carry me past another clot of riders and I turn off to finish the rest of the climb up education hill. Or partway up it.

    I feel a special bit of ownership around this part of the route. The route we used to do involved a descent down a 15% + hill that ended at a stoplight on a fast arterial. A few years ago it was a bit wet when we did that descent and the combination of wet brakes and a little sand at the bottom made it more terrifying than usual. I suggested an alternate route to the organizers, and we’ve used that route since.

    Next up is Novelty Hill which at 515’ is the biggest elevation hill we will climb today, which I guess is a bit novel. Beyond that, it’s not particularly steep (10-11% tops) and has no unique scenery. It does feature lots of vehicular traffic flying by at 45-50 MPH, though to be fair the shoulder is pretty good. I talk with one of the official support riders – the sweep for the century riders – on the way up for a minute or two before deciding to leave him up behind. We’re doing a loop in this section with a stealth hill or two, but it’s mostly boring. I play leapfrog with a couple of guys that I will refer to as “Chris” and “Scott”, because for some reason I am convinced that I actually remembered their names, and we are soon descending back down Novelty Hill.

    On the way down we will see a long line of riders ascending the hill, which makes me happy I am not them, but I wish them luck. My attitude towards the ascending riders is considerably more charitable than my attitude was towards the descending riders I saw on my ascent.

    We turn off on a chunk of Old Redmond Road that time forgot for hill #9. At 174’ and no more than 8%, it’s a short and easy one. As we’re rolling along “Chris” says, “it looks like we’re riding about the same speed, we might as well ride together” and introduces himself and Scott. We ride together and talk for about 90 seconds before “Chris” says that he needs to slow down for Scott – who is not having a good leg day – and I ride off ahead alone, completing the shortest spontaneous “let’s ride together” segment that I have participated in.

    After a quick descent, I am faced with a second trip up Education hill. It’s what I like to refer to as “re-Education Hill” as it’s the second time we climbed the hill. I like to refer to it that way, but it’s pointless to do so because I am all by my lonesome at this point. I can’t see any rabbits on the hill – a “rabbit” being a rider in front to try to catch up with, not the plentiful real rabbits that you hope will stay away from your wheels – so I check my internal store of motivation and find that while the gauge is hovering near “E” and the light is on, there is still a wee bit left, and I call on that to head up the hill to the tune of 220 watts or so. I am getting a bit tired.

    At the top, I hit the last rest stop. They specialize in utterly pedestrian turkey and cheese wraps, and I eat about half of one, another 1/8th of the Clif bar, and maybe a few more cheez-its. A volunteer gets me a water refill, I take a quick nature break, and then sit down in a chair. After 30 seconds, I realize that if I sit longer than that, I won’t want to move – as evidenced by the 3 guys in the chairs who haven’t moved since I got there – so it’s back on the bike. I descend back down to where the metric route branched off and get on the main route to the finish.

    This part is going to be fun. Partly because it’s hill #14 – and therefore the last one – and partly because I will have plenty of rabbits to chase on the climb, as the classic route riders are on the route for me.

    We are climbing the more popular part of Old Redmond Road, and it will take us 391’ up, but even the steep sections aren’t very steep. I go hard up the first pitch and barely make it over the crest without blowing up. The rest is mostly easier, until I finally turn left onto 132nd, and my climbing is done for the day.

    In this section the traffic lights break the riders into clumps, and I’m at the front of my clump and therefore have no visible rabbits. Except maybe one I can vaguely see way ahead of me. I ride down a short hill, turn left onto 116th which is mostly downhill with a few false flats, head down Northup which is fully downhill with no false flats, passing a few people, and then we turn onto Lake Washington Blvd for the final run to the finish. There’s a triathlete in front of me that I half-heartedly – for I only have half a heart left – try to catch going up a small little hill, but it doesn’t work, so when we get to Carillon point (yes, there is an actual carillon involved) I throttle back and spin along the waterfront to cool my legs down. Overall I feel pretty good; my legs are tired because I pushed them hard but I feel fairly strong and could keep riding.

    Then it’s onto the finish line festival and a somewhat perplexing set of booths, I get my strawberry shortcake (another reason to do the ride), eat the strawberries and whipped cream and a tiny part of the shortbread, and then hop back on the bike to ride back to the car and go find some lunch. Which turns out to be a Qdoba taco salad.

    Strava route

    Stats:






















    Miles 61.91
    Time 4:22:55
    Up 4,462’
    Work 2449 kj
    Speed 14.1 mph

    That’s a pretty good effort for me, though its a bit slower than I have done in the past.

    For the day, I had my two scoops of superstarch (about 200 calories), approximately 27 cheez-its (150 calories) and about 1/4 of a clif bar (50? calories), for a total of 400 calories. Oh, and the wrap, for maybe another 100. That was enough to keep me going strong for the whole 4.5 hours, which means that the majority of the 2450 calories I burned came from fat. My stomach felt great.

    No breakfast means I had a calorie deficit for the day of something over 3000 calories, and I’ve been doing my best to eat that back since.








    Bespoke bicycle Holder

    My nice bicycle currently hangs on two old shelf standards that are screwed into the wall, with some foam on them to protect the frame.

    IMG_9219

    It works, but the foam has seen better days and if we got a quake, it could easily shake off the ends.

    It’s time to build something a bit nicer, so I dug out some leftover hardwood plywood I have (maple, I think) and spent a little time with Fusion 360, and came up with the following design:

    image

    This is a render in oak. The holes are 16” apart so they can screw directly to the studs, and the hangers are a bit closer together so it’s easier to hang the bike with batteries on it. The arms that hold the bike have two hefty tenons that stick all the way through the back piece.

    Off to the garage to use the Shaper Origin…

    Cutting

    The cutting mostly went pretty well, but it took longer than I expected and I worked past a point of being too tired and therefore had a couple of issues. I’m using a piece of maple plywood that I had lying around that is unfortunately not very wide, so I had to put some auxiliary pieces off to the side with shaper tape on them so that it could figure out where it was. This mostly worked, until I got to the last cut on the last piece, and partway through I bumped my setup and that piece – which was partly clamped but not correctly clamped – moved.

    That is *bad*; the shaper throws up a big banner that says “the markers have moved and you are SOL”, or words to that effect. I tried a cut after that, and they were right, so I finished cutting through with an abrasive disk on my dremel and cleaned up with a little sanding drum.

    A little sanding, and it was time for gluing and clamping. The nice part of the holes and tabs approach is that there is a ton of surface area, so lots of material for the glue to grab onto. It’s probably strong enough with the glue because of the way the geometry works; the arms that hold the bike can only pull straight out, and even that is difficult. So, no fasteners required, but a lot of clamps.

    IMG_9217

    Give it 4 hours for the glue to set, and we are left with this. The dark coloration looks like a burn but is really just the plywood.

    IMG_9218

    Overall, it came out mostly okay; in some places the fit isn’t as tight as I’d like – which I attribute to some wiggling because of how I did the cutting – but it’s more than functional.

    Four 3” screws to mount it – yes, that’s overkill, but it’s so easy with an impact driver…

    IMG_9221

    and we’re done. I’m hoping the sunscreen shelf will help remind me to use it before I leave. I used some short pieces of the foam from the old holder to pad the new one.

    IMG_9222


    Down 20?

    (Authors Note: This is the fourth time I’ve tried to write something like this, but it kept getting *way* too long and detailed. I’ve kept it simple this time, but that means I’ve left out a lot of details, some of which are surely important. So ask if you have questions…)

    It started with the candy dish…

    Early last spring, due to show reshuffling, my team ended up in the same room as our admin – which was fine – and in the same room as the group candy supply – which was not.

    It was a bit better than my previous team – which maintained what was officially known as “the candy wall” – but the problem was that the candy dish was at the entrance of my room, so was really easy to come back from lunch, grab a few “fun size” pieces, and eat them at my desk. There’s some interesting research in psychology that says that one of the best ways to get adherence is through random rewards, and our candy dish implementation had that; you might not really be hungry for a Reeses ™ peanut butter cup, but if you see one, you better grab it before somebody else does.

    The whole “work food” culture is pretty horrible when you think about it.

    I am lucky enough to have good genetics when it comes to keeping a decent weight, but the extra candy bumped me up from my long-term “fighting” weight of 173 to 178, and I was feeling really tired and crappy in the afternoons. The first did not bode well for the upcoming cycling season, and the second did not bode well in general.

    At the time, I was on a low-fat diet, which is the kind of diet they tell you to be on. And I’d been doing a bunch of reading about glycemic index and glycemic load, and wondered if that was having an effect. Clearly, the candy was high glycemic index, but was there something in my lunches that was contributing to me craving candy?

    So, I started an experiment. Instead of the sandwiches that I ate at lunch 3 days a week (because they were cheap) and the burritos that I ate the other two (because burritos), I switched to salads with meat three days, and burrito bowls without the rice and tortillas the other days (because burritos).

    It was a pretty simple change, but it had a pretty immediate impact; I still habitually wanted candy (because candy), but I didn’t crave it as much, and I could cut down how much I ate. And I felt much better in the afternoons, which was good, but did not convert them to an endless series of rainbows and unicorns (a guy can dream, right?).

    Anyway, that led to a whole lot of research into nutrition, which led to research into biochemistry, watching a few lectures, and reading a lot of clinical research.

    But I started by trying to answer a question that had always confused me:

    Why is it so damn hard for many endurance athletes to lose weight?

    Some of the cyclists I know are very thin and light, but I know others – many that ride a *lot* more miles than I did – who carried maybe 40 pounds more than they would like to. I knew what worked for me – making sure I controlled my blood sugar well after long rides – but that still required a fair bit of discipline to get me to light, and I never got to “cycling light” – that weight where your cycling friends are annoyed at how little you weigh. That was true of most cyclists I knew. My trust power meter said that I was easily burning 4000 calories per week.

    Why wasn’t all of that exercise translating to weight loss?

    Looking at the clinical studies about exercise and weight loss, we see mixed results. Aerobic exercise works in controlled situations – where the amount of food is controlled – but doesn’t work well where people choose what they eat. There are two hypotheses for what is going on; the simple one is that people are hungry and just eat the calories back; the more troubling (and luckily, probably rarer) one is that exercise under caloric restriction can reduce the base metabolic rate for some people.

    To lose weight, eat fewer calories or burn more

    This has been the mantra for weight control for over 40 years, and it’s what I used to believe. It’s simple to understand, but  doesn’t work very well in practice.

    The problem is that it considers all calories to be the same. But when we are talking about body weight, we don’t want to lose weight, what we really want to do is to lose *fat*. So, let’s recast the statement:

    To lose weight, live in a way that minimizes the amount of energy that is put into your fat stores, and maximizes the amount of energy that is pulled out of your fat stores.

    So, I started looking more closely at how fat accumulation works in humans – what drives calories into fat stores, and what pulls calories out of fat stores.

    I originally had a long and technical discussion on what controls energy partitioning – where the energy to run your body comes from – but I am unable to make such a discussion brief, so here’s the simplified version:

    1. The amount of fat you burn during day to day living is tied directly to the percentage of carbs that you eat. Eat a lot of carbs, burn a little fat; eat a few carbs, burn a lot of fat.

    2. The amount of fat you burn during exercise is tied both to the kind of diet you eat and your energy state when you exercise.

    The key point is that both of these are adaptable behavior; our bodies can adapt (mostly) to different mixes.

    The result of this is that two riders of equal fitness can go on the same ride, both burn 1000 calories, and burn *vastly* different amounts of fat. If you want to look at some pretty graphs that illustrate this, go read this article and this article from CyclingTips.com.

    Back to the experiment…

    Back in real life, I expanded my experiment a bit. My breakfast went from a big-ole bowl of cereal with a lot of milk to a small bowl with minimal milk and a hard-boiled egg. My dinners lost a few of their carbs.

    And I was down about 5 pounds, back to the weight that I wanted, with just some small changes.

    At this point, I really didn’t have many carbs in my base diet – and they were increasingly low-GI carbs – but I was still using Skratch on my rides, and I was still using Endurox after my rides; following my traditional fueling strategy.

    So…

    I forgot to mention another motivation that got me playing around with diet. My on-bike fueling strategy did not work very well. Thankfully, I rarely got the “GI distress” that some people do, but on longer rides I know that I’m going to get some stomach pain from the skratch, and I’m going to have energy issues. That makes rides like RAMROD a bit of a crap shoot; at best I felt sort of blah, but generally I felt a few rungs below blah.  

    The next experiment was obvious: I put the Skratch in the back of the cupboard, and started filling my bottles with water. I put some cheez-its (carbs + fat + protein) in ziploc in my pocket, added a packet of sport beans just in case, and I started riding.

    And that mostly worked. I felt a little under on power, but it was early season and I’m under on power then anyway. I sometimes supplemented a bit with the aforementioned cheez-its in the middle of the ride.

    About this point, I weighed myself, and the scale said 169. I checked another scale to be sure. I hadn’t been this light in 20 years, not even in 2005 when I rode *way* more miles I ride these days. And I was eating what I thought was a lot of food.

    Hmm…

    Somewhere in here, I came across a post by noted cycling coach Joe Friel in which he talked about how he got back down to his “racing weight”, which aligned well with the research I had been doing, the biochemistry I learned, and my experimental results.

    And I thought, “What the hell, let’s see where this thing ends up…”

    Heresy

    I own a copy of “food for fitness”, and a copy of “the feedzone cookbook”. I’ve read all the recommended diets for athletes, and they all recommend a diet high in complex carbs – something like 60 or 65% of calories.

    I decided to go full keto, and see what happened. That means <50grams of carbs per day (though I never actually counted), quite a bit of protein, and more fat. Since I had eased myself into a lower carb diet, the transition was pretty easy (this is not the case for a lot of people), and about a week later, I headed out on Saturday morning for a nice 45 mile ride.

    The first 45 minutes was great; I felt strong, had good power. And then it happened; over the space of about 15 minutes, I ran out of carbs.

    If you’ve bonked, you know what this is like, but this time it was different. I actually felt okay, my brain was fairly clear. I just lost all ability to put power down. You know the Tour de France rides where the guy’s bike breaks and he picks it up and throws it into the bushes? I was close to that. I cut the ride short, could barely push 150 watts the rest of the way home, and regrouped.

    After talking with a few people and doing some more research, I realized that while I was pretty fat adapted for regular life, I was not fully adapted for cycling. So, I kept at it. I did Tour de Blast (6000+ feet of up over 80 miles), felt good at some points and awful at others, bad enough I had my wife pick me up at 70 miles. But the overall trend was positive; I could do my Tue/Thu night rides (35 miles, 2000’ of up) *easily* on just water and feel good at the end. And my high-end power was just fine; one night I out-sprinted one of our race-team guys and did over 1000 watts for about 9 seconds, which is pretty decent for me. The only point of concern I have is the high aerobic range; I don’t think I quite have the pep I used to have there, but give that I made this change right at the beginning of the season (stupid) and didn’t do the kind of high-intensity training I would usually do (lazy), I don’t know how much is a dietary effect and how much is just a lack of training.

    And then finally, near the end of the summer, I did my own supremely stupid ride, Sufferin’ Summits. 9500’ of climbing over 55 miles.

    I did it fasted, and over the 5 hours it took (did I say it was hilly?), I had two servings of a really cool time-release glucose called SuperStarch – about 280 calories total, a bottle of diet coke, and about 14 cheez-its. After dragging myself up the worst hills I know of in the area, I finished the ride.

    And I could have kept going. Honestly, I felt pretty good.

    During the weeks before the ride, my weight continued to drop, and finally the numbers clicked over to 158, which is pretty much where I am right now. I lost two inches off my waist (34 –> 32, my college size), and I lost a ton of subcutaneous fat.  I have a tiny bit of fat remaining around my waist, and I think this spring I might see if I can drop down to 153-155 or so. From what I can tell I *mostly* preserved muscle mass, but since cyclists tend to have the upper bodies of 80-year-old French grandmothers, I have been spending a bit of time in the weight room.

    So that’s the story. Down an honest 20 pounds over 4 months.

    Guidance

    I went as far as I could – heresy, right? – to see what would happen, but there are a lot of variants of low carb. Some athletes do less strict diet variants like Paleo, Primal, or slow carb. Many aim for a higher level of carbs; something like 100 grams per day. A few are very strict on carbs during training but carefully use gels and other simple sugars during events. Some do a complex cyclic protocol. Some do it as a weight reduction approach during the off season and switch back to a moderate carb diet during the bulk of the season.

    There are a lot of options, which is good, because there isn’t a lot of research in this area yet (and I’m not sure who would pay for research; certainly not the exercise drink folks).

    As I said at the beginning, if you have questions, please ask me.


    Riding the Going to the Sun Road

    We decided to spend a few days in Bigfork, Montana (a few miles south of Whitefish for my skiing friends) with my sister and brother in law. They graciously offered a room in their two-bedroom condo, and then my spouse graciously suggested that I bring my bike along.

    I decided one day of riding was enough for our short visit, and I had two good choices

    There was an 80 mile 7000′ ride around nearby lake Kookanusa, or there was a 60 mile 3500′ alp-ish climb in Glacier National Park, called “Going to the Sun Road”.

    Both looked interesting, but I decided on the latter because a fondness for alpiness. This ride presented a bit of a problem; some of the sections that I needed to ride were closed to bikes from 11AM – 4PM. Which meant starting early – around 6AM – to finish in time, or starting late and likely finishing in the dark. I decided to do the early version.

    Montana was in the middle of a hot spell, with daytime highs in the high 90s and the lows only dipping into the 60s. So, I packed a light set of bibs, my lightest base layer, and a jersey.

    Precommute

    To get from the condo in Bigfork – yes, that *is* the “big fork” in town, though it is not, in fact, the particular fork upon which the town is named, the actual one being of fluviatile origin – to West Glacier is a drive of about 45 minutes, which meant leaving sometime around 5AM, which in turn meant getting up at 4:30AM.

    The getting up before dawn part of riding is not one of my particular favorites, but get up I did, along with the wife who was going to drive me there and then come and get me. And then there was the problematic task of getting dressed – problematic not because of the mechanics involved, since I am often able to dress myself on my own (though determining how well I accomplish that is a task I leave to others) and there were no buttons or zipper involved, but because of my basic riding gear and a bit of a surprise in the weather department, with west glacier forecast to be in the mid-40s overnight.

    There was nothing to be done however, so I pulled on my “very hot weather” base layer, my pair of summer Castelli bibs, and my Sufferin’ Summits jersey.

    I generally wear the Sufferin’ Summits jersey when I want publicity for the ride, which in this case is probably a bit pointless, but it is also white (part of the “let’s stay cool” theme) and has very deep pockets. And I threw on my PI sun shades arm warmers, because they work okay as arm warmers.

    We load the bike in the car and start the drive to West Glacier. On the way, I eat 1.5 hard boiled eggs and a half cup of strawberries. I also dig through my bike bag and pull out my full-finger gloves, my toe warmers, my fleece hat, my light windbreaker, and my leg warmers. I do this because the temp at the condo is 49 degrees and it is steadily dropping during the ride, hitting a brisk 44 degrees by the time we get to West Glacier. I figure I’m just stuck with being very cold, but I step out of the car, put on the windbreaker, and discover that it’s a dry cold and it’s not that bad.

    Thank god for low humidity; 44 degrees in the winter in Seattle means my winter jacket plus overpants plus neopreme shoe covers plus still getting cold.

    I pull out my brown bag with supplies for the trip; it contains a half-bag of sport beans, a honey stinger waffle that I’ve been carrying around on rides for at least a month and which now consists only of crumbs, a small pump since the new bike doesn’t have one yet, a ziploc of nuts, a ziploc of cheez its, and my tic-tac container of electrolyte pills. I take a Rocketlyte before I start, hoping it will help with the on-bike nausea I’ve been getting (and by help, I mean “prevent”…)

    Commute

    This ride features an 12 mile flat commute next to a lake before the climbing begins. After a short 1/4 mile spin, I come to the park entrance and the ticket booths, none of which are currently peopled. A lighted sign points me off to the right, and I find a kiosk with envelopes I am supposed to put my entrance fee and write my name and address. Which presents a bit of a quandry, as I have no pen with which to inscribe said name.

    I settle for composing a brief poem celebrating the life of John Muir and hum the first few lines of “The forest ranger song”, and hope that will suffice:

    When we rangers ride the trail / In sunshine, wind or snow or hail
    We’re always ready / We’re true and steady.
    There’s a friendly laugh, a joke, / We’re cheery until we see a smoke,
    And then we’ll fight, sir, / To get it right, sir.
    We never leave a fire till no spark is to be seen;
    Our job’s to guard the timber, keep the forest green

    That sorted, I head straight and then turn right onto the Road to the Sun road, riding next to a Ackbar campground, named after the ever-popular “Admiral Ackbar” of the Star Wars franchise. I’m sure you can see the resemblance:

    image

    It’s brisk but really not too bad, and the combination of me warming up and getting next to the lake (which holds some heat) warms me up, except for my feet which are stubbornly frozen.

    The lake on my left is Lake McDonald. According to the official Forest Service history, the name of the lake is in commemoration of an eponymous act of vandalism by trader Duncan McDonald who carved his name into a tree in 1878. Disappointingly, the official history is silent on further details, telling us neither whether Duncan ever owned a farm nor what kind of animals might have been kept on said farm.

    Traffic is light, which is expected since it is currently 6:20AM on a Monday, but there are a few cars around. With one exception, they all pass courteously.

    Preamble

    The flat commute took me to the north end of the lake, which is fed by a stream that Wikipedia names “various stream”. The road parallels this stream and begins to climb up slightly, with extended sections of climbing with a 1% gradient. I grab 23 cheez-its from my stash, drop one, and stuff the remainder in my mouth, hoping to pre-fuel for the long climb ahead.

    I get colder; the sun is technically up and you can see it on the highest peaks, but the western valleys are still in heavy shaded and I’m above the moderating influence of the lake. This persists until about the 21 mile mark.

    Amble

    The base of the climb is commemorated by a no passing sign. A search in Google Streetside did not find it, so I have recreated it here:

    image

    I did, however, find the following sign:

    image

    Luckily, rocks do not fall next to bicycles, so it seems that I am safe.

    The climb will take me – with any luck – from 3500′ all the way up to 6647′, for a total climb of a whole lotta feet (927 meters, or just a little bit over 1 Tourmalet). I climb for about 5 minutes at about 180 watts, stop to remove my windbreaker and stuff it into its storage pocket and my jersey (if you do not own a stuffable windbreaker and a stuffable vest I do not know what is wrong with you), and continue climbing. After a bit I pick up the pace a bit, climbing at a little over 200 watts.

    My feet are still cold.

    My plan for the climb is to ride conservatively for the first half and then see if I have a few more watts in me, so of course I climb too hard at the bottom and have to back off a bit. The climb is very consistent at the 5-6% gradient that highway engineers love, and I’m climbing it at a little over 6MPH.

    After a bit I hit “The Loop” switchback, which redirects the northwest road back to the southeast. I wave to a couple of touring riders taking a break in the parking lot, and continue to climb.

    The combination of a low speed limit, small tour vans and coaches, and the “no passing” rule means that the traffic patterns are interesting. I might climb for 5 or even 10 minutes with no cars either direction, and then a stack of 10-25 cars will catch up with me and pass “en masse” (could I perhaps say, “en passant”?), only to leave my by myself for another long period. The road is has gotten the “A-list national park” treatment, which means great asphalt or concrete the whole way, with none of the chipseal I was worried about. Many of the drains are piped underneath the road, though there are a number of surface drains with grates over them. The Roubaix is fine with them going up and I make a mental note to be careful with them when I descend back down. The drivers are uniformly well-behaved with no bad passes, and the only hand signal I see is a thumbs up from one car.

    The climbing continues. Since we are above treeline and the road runs somewhat in the same direction, I can see the road ahead for a mile or two. Once you reach the end of that part of the road, you are treated to a new vista and a new high point to which one will be climbing. This happens twice. At some point, I pass through 5000′, a point at which I’m about 12% down on oxygen compared to sea level, and shift down to my lowest gear. And keep climbing.

    For those of you tracking things at home, my feet remain cold.

    There are many water features on the way, notably haystack falls, bird woman falls, and the weeping wall. It’s getting past the peak snowmelt season, so the weeping has slowed down to something more akin to “tearing up”. I don’t stop at any of the features because a) climbing and b) 6 mph gives me plenty of time to look at them. I do not recommend spending much time looking over the edge of the road; that 12″ high stone barrier is often the only thing between you and a significant drop.

    I would definitely describe the climb as “Alpy”. Great views and a road that is both very curvy and hung on the side of the road in places.

    I still climbing along at about 6MPH, and I finally drop down to my 34/32 for the last little bit. I know it’s the last little bit because a) I’m watching the mileage and b) the road gets sunny up ahead.

    I finally crest the end of the climb and reach the top of Logan Pass, 6646′ up and on the continental divide.  The pass is named for William Edmond Logan, a Canadian-born geologist who later went on to star in an sci-fi thriller set in an idyllic society in the year 2274.

    Image result for logans run

    A brief rest to eat a few sport beans, gather a bit of electronic proof, chat with a few cyclists who climbed up from the other side, and put my windbreaker back on, and it’s time to head back down. I experience a short period of foot warmness.

    IMAG0161

    Descent

    I like big alpine climbs, but I absolutely love alpine descents. In this one, the long and fast sections are punctuated by wet sections and sharp corners where too much speed will either send you into a rock wall our out into space, neither of which is particularly desirable. I have a bit of a quandry on this descent; I can descend slow but I’m back in the cold air and still a little sweaty, so I will be cold for a long time. Or, I can put a bit of power into the descent, warming me up and spending less time in the cold shade. I settle for the “bit of power” approach for the straight sections and the “slow” approach for the tight turns and the wet spots. My Roubaix’s disc brakes make this trivially easy, and I average about 20 MPH for the descent, completing it in a hair over 30 minutes.

    Strava shows me that the fastest descender completed that descent in under 17 minutes for an average speed of nearly 37MPH, which is pretty much unfathomable to me.

    Commute

    At the bottom of the descent, it’s back onto the preamble and then the commute back. It’s at this point that I realize that if I had been smart, I would had a snack and a fair bit of water at the top so I could recover a bit on the descent (trying to eat and drink on alpine descents is not a good move), but I was not, and I’m kindof drained at this point. I stop at Lake McDonald lodge road to eat and drink, but the nuts and cheez-its that I eat and the water I drink are not a happy combination, so I add “upset stomach” to my “lack of power”, and just decide to slow down and spin my way back. I get back West Glacier at about 10:45, and the wife pulls in a few minutes late. Bike in the back, bike gear stowed, and a Coke Zero in my hand, and it’s back to the condo for a shower and some lunch.

    Summary

    A pretty nice ride. I’m happy that I was about to climb at an honest 2000′ per hour for the whole climb while feeling pretty decent; being lighter definitely helped. I’m less happy that I’m still working on fueling and hydration, but such is life.

    Stats

    • 64.4 miles
    • 4080 ft of up
    • 14.0 MPH average speed
    • 2484 kJ/calories
    • 1 HC hill climbed
    • 0 STPs
    • Strava extreme suffer score (173).

    Strava link


    Postscript: It has been brought to my attention that the name of the campground at the south end of the lake is “Apgar”, not “Ackbar”, and rather than being named for a character in Star Wars, it is in fact named after the name given to a method to summarize the health of a newborn. We regret the error.


    Tour de Blast 2017

    After deciding not to do the full Flying Wheels route this year, I wanted a substitute, and I decided to journey south to Castle Rock to ride Tour de Blast. My wife came along to ride the 30, and planned to do the full 82.

    We left Friday afternoon at 2:30, and spent a full 4 hours getting down to Castle Rock. It’s quite a ways even if there is no traffic, which of course never happens around here any more. As much as I hate getting up early to ride, I would almost prefer to do that and miss the traffic. We stayed in the TimberLake Inn in Castle Rock and had a decent mexican dinner that night.

    We woke up the next morning at 6AM, and I had a wonderful meal of a chocolate brownie clif bar, some blueberries, and a glass of water. I’ve been eating low (er) carb, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to eat before a ride and didn’t plan well ahead of time, so it was whatever I could find it the store.

    We left the hotel at around 7 and got to the start at maybe 7:25, parking in the baseball outfield. Then it was a walk to pick up our packets, a walk back, and I headed out.

    Well, not quite; I spent a lot of time trying to decide what to wear and what to carry; the ride has a reputation of cold (and wet) at the top, and even though the forecast was decent it tends to be windy up there. I settled on arm warmers, no leg warmers, summer gloves, and I couldn’t decide on whether to carry my stuffable vest or my stuffable jacket, so I ended up carrying both. Plus phone, cheez-it’s and electrolyte tablets.

    The ride profile looks like this:

    I like to break rides into sections so I can keep them straight in my mind. For this ride there is:

    1. Warmup – the first 18 miles or so, which has a little over 1000′ of up.
    2. Elk Rock climb – 2200′ of up over 7.7 miles
    3. Descent + Johnson Ridge climb – 1650′ over 5.7 miles
    4. Descent + Elk Rock backside – 1400′ (ish) over about 8 miles
    5. Return to start: 3250′ down over 27 miles.

    Here’s a 3d view of the route:

    image

    Warmup

    I am just warm enough as I spin out of town with my stuffable vest on. We have a little flat, and then slowly start to climb up; there’s a lot of road in the 1-2% range, with a few kickers in the 6% range. I pass quite a few people, but since this is a three-route ride (there is a 30 and a 52 variant), that doesn’t really mean much. My legs feel decidedly meh and my stomach is a bit weird, but I’m okay overall. I’m trying to climb at about 175 watts, which is a pretty good “all day” pace for me generally. I push it up to 225 on one of the kickers, and feel a little bit better, which is a good sign.

    At 15 miles we hit the first rest stop; I have drank maybe a third of my two bottles so I just keep going. Right near the 20 mile mark, we hit the start of the Elk Ridge climb.

    You can always tell when the highway engineers got involved when you are riding in the mountains, because the gradient is typically arrow-straight. You wind around, you go over bridges, but the gradient is very constant, at about 5%, with a little over and a little under in places. I start at about 200 watts but decide that’s a little too high, so I drop down to about 180, and average 181 watts for the whole climb. My vertical meters per hour is a disappointing 550, but I do have a couple of significant climbs in front of me.

    The climb itself is okay; the road itself is chipseal but they nicely decided to leave a little margin on the shoulders uncoated, so there is generally smooth surface to ride on. The bridge are big and long and provide either beautiful views or slightly scary heights depending on your perspective.

    I pass people, people pass me, and I spent a bit of time chatting with those who are close to my speed. 70 minutes or so later, I hit the Elk Rock rest area. My stomach is still feeling a bit weird on my electrolyte drink, so I fill up my empty bottle with water, have a couple of potatoes with salt, skip the grilled hot dogs, and head back out.

    Johnson Ridge

    A short bit of up and I find myself on the Elk Rock descent. It’s a nice descent, broken in two by a short and easy (2%) uphill section, with a couple of sweeping turns. Most of the time I spend in the low 30s, spun out in my largest gear, and 8 miles doesn’t take that long at that sort of speed. I’m now back down to 2500′ and will need to climb up over 4000′.

    Johnson ridge is named after David Johnson, a geologist who was on the site when the mountain erupted on May 18th, 1980. It provides – weather permitting – a spectacular view into the crater.

    But first we have to get up there…

    I felt pretty good on the descent, but as I ramp up for the climb, that feeling dissipates, and I am left with some nice low-grade nausea. Nothing really seems to help; water makes it worse, electrolyte drink makes it worse, cheez-its (which I generally tolerate very well) make it worse. The only thing to do is to stop drinking and keep climbing.

    This climb is harder than the Elk ridge one, as the grade is often in the 7-8% range and touches 9-10% in places. I whine to myself, suffer, get passed, suffer, get passed some more, and keep going. My butt is a bit sore, my back/shoulders hurt, my stomach is upset, my pulse is pounding in my head, my head aches a bit, and my tinnitus is acting up.

    The only thing really keeping me going is the knowledge that I have an out – my wife is planning on driving up to the observatory after she finishes (which she already did), so I have the option of hanging around and waiting for her. An estimated 35 hours later, I finally top out (actually, looking at the data, I climbed the 1650′ in 54:33 @ 553 meters / hour and 171 watts, so pretty much the same pace as the first climb. Did not feel that fast.

    I walk up to look at the mountain (covered in clouds), and head to the food tables. I carefully get off my bike, take a drink (nope, still feel sick), text the wife (a really poorly worded “At top. Probably done”), and chance half a banana. Nope, still feel sick. Start composing my ride report, and decide to call it “Tour de Fizzle”.

    Sit around in the sun a bit, talk to one of my friends about my new bike, sit on a bench, and finally am able to get some fluid down without feeling horrible. Wait for the wife, and wait some more.

    Elk Rock Backside

    Finally get cold and am feeling better, and decide I need to get down off the hill, and hope my wife stops when she passes me on this section. This descent is fast, my arms are shaking because I’m cold so I can’t steer very well, and my wife passes me headed up maybe 2 minutes into the descent. Sigh.

    A couple minutes later I drop farther into the valley, it warms up maybe 15 degrees, and I stop shivering. Down, down, and down, and I’m back in the valley between the ridges, and it’s time to climb up. Coat off and put away, arm warmers off and put away.

    This first part is the steeper part of the climbs; I saw 8% on the downhill and expect it to be pretty bad coming back up, but I set a power target of 150 watts and climb @ 5-6 MPH and it’s really not that bad. I pass a few, get passed by a few others, and finally reach an intersection that marks the end of the steeper part. A short descent, and then it’s onto the longer but flatter upper section.

    This is supposed to be easier, but I feel worse than the first section, and I’m climbing at a seriously slow 130 watts. I stop a couple times to rest, and then see my wife pass me going the other way, and when I don’t see the car at one of the pull-outs, I know that my lack of good instructions means she went back to the starting point to wait for me. I stop a couple more times, and the last time my background nausea asserts itself, and I sit there trying to control my stomach for a couple of minutes. Successful, I get on the bike and continue the upward grind. I am climbing at a breathtaking 340 meters/hour.

    Finally we top out again, and I pull into the Elk Rock food stop for a second time. Nothing looks good and I don’t really need water and there’s no cell service, so I can’t text my wife, so it’s back on the bike and heading down. At least it’s a descent, and I descend all the way down to the site of the first food stop, pull over, and text my wife that I am starting down and to come and find me. And she does, meeting me at the 72 mile point, which ends my ride for the day. A bit of jerky (which I stupidly chose not to stuff in my pockets) and a full coke zero, and I feel somewhat human. Just in time for the 4:30 drive back, which thankfully I did not have to do.

    Stats etc.

    71.6 miles and 7001′ of up with a moving time of 5:45 and an elapsed time of 7:00. So, slow and with more than double the time off the bike I would expect. It ended up as an “Extreme” suffer score of 230, but I think the only time I’m suffered more on the bike was the time I climbed up Cayuse in 100+ temperature.

    Overall, the ride is okay. I liked it much better than High Pass Challenge because it doesn’t have all the flat section. Will I do it again? Well, it’s a long trip to get down there and a long trip back, and that does deaden the experience a bit, but maybe.










    From carb-optimized to fat-optimized: a brief summary

    (I’ve written this from a cycling perspective, but I think the basic idea – going from a carb-optimized metabolism to a fat-optimized one – has a broader application).

    For those who don’t know me, I’m a fairly typical recreational cyclist; in season I’m riding 3 times a week, generally anywhere from 75 miles to 120 miles, with a few goal events (I tend toward hilly events, such as RAMROD, Passport 2 Pain, and my very own Sufferin’ Summits).

    Over the years, I’ve mostly used a low-fat diet; one focusing on low-GI carbs (brown rice, whole-wheat bread, etc.) for my normal diet, and one with high-GI carbs before, during, and after my rides.

    That has worked okay, more or less, with a few issues:

  • My stomach is often not very happy with a slug of sugar-based nutrition drink during a ride (I have fructose intolerance, which may be part of it).
  • I generally feel tired when I get to about 4 hours on the bike. Not leg tired, but just a general overall feeling of fatigue.
  • I have a really hard time not snacking between meals. This was not helped by having candy readily available at work, but even without that, I still had a hard time not snacking.
  • I also had a related problem. I ski and teach skiing during the winter, which means that I have no weekend time for rides from December through mid-March, and a lot of chance to snack after skiing. Those combined with my work snacking, and in early 2016 I was at 178 lbs, about 6 lbs above my traditional adult weight of 172 lbs.

    Some of you may be saying, “that’s not that heavy for an athlete”, and that’s true, but I did not like the trend.

    I read a book on nutrition that had been sitting on my Amazon wish list for a year (reference below), I asked a few cyclists at my company about their experience with a lower carb approach. And I did a lot of research about nutrition and metabolism in general; if you want to talk about insulin, glucagon, ketosis, I can go on for quite a while, and I can also talk a bit about the current state of clinical measurements (HDL, LDL, LDL-P) and their relation to cardiovascular disease.  Oh, and the experience of indigenous people such as the Inuit and what happened when they started to eat a western diet.

    My conclusion was that I was eating quite a few carbs in my diet and not much fat, which meant that my body was going to be optimized towards using carbs as a fuel source. My other conclusion was that eating the carbs was contributing to my snacking, because a) the insulin response to the carbs would tend to drop my blood sugar back down and b) the lack of fat wasn’t making me feel satisfied after a meal.

    So, it was time to experiment. I’m not somebody who likes to make giant changes in my diet all at once, so I focused on lunch, especially at work. Here’s what I was eating before:

    Monday: Burrito day. A whole wheat burrito, black beans, rice, chicken breast, cheese, guac
    Tuesday: A half sandwich; chicken/turkey breast, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard
    Wednesday: See Tuesday
    Thursday: Taco salad day. In a tortilla bowl, black beans, rice, chicken breast, lettuce, guac, olives, cheddar cheese
    Friday: See Tuesday

    Just writing that, wow, that’s a lot of carbs. And wow, my cafeteria is boring.

    Here’s what I switched to:

    Monday: Mexican day. Black beans, half chicken & half pork, onions, lettuce, cheese, guac
    Tuesday: “Barbecue day”. Either brisket or a half chicken with cole slaw, and a tiny square of cornbread
    Wednesday: Salad. Greens + tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, kidney beans, red bell pepper, sugar peas, olives, mozarella balls, eggs, and chicken thight. All topped with an oil/balsamic vinegar dressing.
    Thursday: Mexican day repeat
    Friday: Salad repeat

    Gone are tortillas, bread, rice. Added in are more vegetables, and considerably more fat (pork, brisket/whole chicken, chicken thighs, salad dressing)

    The change was surprisingly easy, with the hardest part being changing my perception of fat. And I noticed an immediate effect on how I felt at work; I was less tired in the afternoon and I stopped snacking totally (it did help that the snacks moved out of my room).

    I switched out my sugar-based hydration drink with an electrolyte one (Nuun has bothered my stomach and I don’t like plain water on rides, so I’m using Hammer’s right now), and went on a few rides.

    And hated it. I means, seriously hated it. I was not running out of energy per se, nor did I have much hunger, I just could not put out any power to save my life. I played around with food with different levels of carbs before and during (I still think a carb recovery drink makes a lot of sense after a long ride), and it has gotten better but I don’t think I have that part figured out yet. More about that later.

    That was working well, so attacked my breakfast next, which was a bowl of granola with fruit. I added an egg (sometimes two) in the morning and reduced the granola, and that’s where I am right now. I honestly probably need a bit more fat in the morning but it is so hard to change ingrained habits. I also changed my dinner patterns a little, trying to focus more on the protein/fats and the vegetables and less on the carbs. Also still a work in progress.

    Oh, and for snacks at home, I’m eating cheese, home-made jerky (time to make a new batch…), and a fair bit of nuts. I’ll have some popcorn now and then, and maybe some chips.

    One thing to stress is that, with the exception of paying attention to my snacking habits at work – where I have a “drink a glass of something first before you eat” rule – I’ve put pretty much zero effort into limiting my portion sizes. I just eat what seems decent, and stop when I am done.

    Results:

    My expectations weren’t very high; I would be happy if I got down to my usual weight and felt a little better on the bike.

    What happened is that in about 3.5 months, I lost a full 10 pounds of weight, clocking in at 168 lbs this week. My summer shorts fit nice and loose, and today I pulled on a pair of 501s that I hadn’t worn for about 9 months, and they fit fine.

    On the bike, I’m feeling strong but I feel like I might be missing a bit of my top end. On the other hand, last week I took 33 seconds off of my PR on a 7 minute climb and some of my riding friends say I’m faster, so maybe it’s not as big as I think, or maybe it’s just different. I have definitely felt less tired after a few hours on the bike, and my stomach is much happier on the bike.

    References:

    For a lot of reasons, low-carb is still fairly controversial and a number of sources say that its not healthy and you’ll grow a third arm or something. Much of that is due to the evolution of thought around the role of cholesterol levels in the blood, from “cholesterol = horrible” to “HDL / LDL” to “hey maybe LDL as a measure doesn’t work, how about LDL-P”. Remember that dietary guidelines have a *huge* lag time behind current research, and there is lots of out of date advice out there.

    If you read anything, read a copy of “Why we get fat” by Gary Taubes. He may not have the whole story from a biochemical standpoint, but his overall presentation is very good. If you like lots of details, read his “Good Calories, Bad Calories“, but be prepared to bone up on your biochemistry.

    Joe Friel – author of many training books for endurance athletes – has written some very interesting blog posts about low carb. In “Aging – My Race Weight“, he details an experience very similar to mine. Read “Becoming a better fat burner“. And read the comments on these posts as well.

    If you are looking for research into low carb and performance, there is a decent summary here. Note that most of the investigation has been purely around performance, and the results seem pretty clear that low carb does not increase performance and may take a bit off the top end (perhaps in some people, perhaps in all). What the studies miss are the things that I really care about; if I don’t have to eat as much on the ride, I avoid the stomach issues that I’ve had over the years, I (hope) that I will have less trouble with low energy during the ride, and the obvious performance advantages of less weight.

    If you want more details and/or references, please let me know in the comments.


    Quick Review: Specialized Roubaix Expert Di2

    A long time ago – in 2004 or so – I bought my first high-end road bike, a 2005 Trek Madone 5.2, and over the years, I probably put around 30,000 miles on the bike. It has been a great bike.

    But my early-50s body is not as flexible as my 40-year-old body was, and I’ve been having some persistent shoulder and neck issues despite having a good fit and spending some quality time with a PT, so it was clear that it was time to do some bike shopping.

    And yes, it’s very clear that I am different than many of my riding companions, who seem to rotate their bikes every 3 or 4 years, or the rest of my riding companions who subscribe to the “N+1″ theory of bike ownership (see footnote).

    On my shopping list:

    • A smaller frame (my Trek is a 60cm, and a 58 seemed like a better choice)
    • Disc brakes, because I’m doing a lot of steeps and I’m tired of wondering if I will stop at the bottom.
    • Low gearing. With the hills I climb, I need something close to 1:1.
    • Full Ultegra (or very close) for the groupset.
    • A bike tuned towards the kind of riding I do (ie endurance) rather than racing. A little more compliant, a little more comfortable, and a little more upright.
    • A decent color combination. My Madone is a Project One featuring the “Pave Flambe” paint scheme (bright red with flames), and I’m not a big fan of colors like white, black, or charcoal.

    Armed with that list, I headed out to the bike manufacturer websites and started coming up with options.

    Well, that’s actually not quite true; what I *really* did was procrastinate for about 9 months, scrawl a list of bikes on a piece of paper that I promptly lost, procrastinate another 3 months until my back got worse again, and then finally come up with a spreadsheet of choices. The wait turned out to be a good thing, mostly because bikes with 34 tooth chainrings and 32 tooth cassettes got a lot more common, so I had more choices.

    I won’t bore you with the full list, but Trek was out because of their price point, and the short list was the Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc, and the Specialized Roubaix Expert Disc. The Synapse comes in at $3000 ($4500 for Di2) and the Roubaix comes in at $4000 ($4600 for Di2). The premium for Di2 on the Roubaix looks about right, but the Synapse is a bit weird; there are a couple of upgrades in there (better brakes, for example), but not enough to warrant a 50% price increase IMO.

    Test rides:

    I rode the Synapse first, in the mechanical Ultegra (mostly) variant, from Gregg’s in downtown Bellevue. I rode around the steeps and some crappy pavement for about 45 minutes, and the bike climbed and rode fine, but the position felt a little different. Not bad different, but it took a bit of time to get used to. Seemed to plenty stiff but still more compliant than the Madone. The color was a bit meh but not terrible, back with green lettering and some red strips. I should note that the Di2 variant was on sale for $4000 during this time, so the pricing was roughly in line with what I would expect. I liked the bike, and felt that I was on the right track.  

    Later that morning, I headed off to Edge and Spoke in Redmond to test ride the Roubaix. Their test fleet is all Di2 and festooned in the Neon Yellow/Monster Green paint job (the bike is also available in black with grey accents). I took it out and headed to some annoying pavement, the bike lane heading south on West Lake Sam from 520. It felt nice on that but wasn’t really as compliant as I expected. I then sampled a bunch of different ups and downs, some crappy pavement, and even some gravel. The bike felt more similar to my Madone than I expected in handling, and – like the Synapse – handled climbs, sprints, and descents well.

    I liked both bikes but it was pretty clear that I liked the Roubaix a whole lot more, and I also decided to spend a bit extra on the Di2. My options were to wait for a black version until late April, wait for a yellow/green version until sometime in the summer (August was the best estimate), or take the demo bike, so I took the demo bike.

    Fit:

    I knew I wanted a full fit, and scheduled one for 4PM a couple of days later. IIRC, this is my 4th full fit. Edge and Spoke have a Retul fit bike that allows for adjustments of most of the components while you are riding on the bike, which makes the whole fit process a lot simpler; the only time I hopped off the bike was when we did cleat adjustments and saddle switching. The fit is improved by the Retul Vantage 3D Motion Capture system, which tracks emitters that are put on your feet, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and hand position 18 times a second.

    The system only works on one side at a time, so the fit is done on one side, then you get swung around to the other direction (the fit bike is on a turntable) and do the other side.

    The fit itself had about 20 minutes of flexibility and strength evaluations (very important, especially if this is your first fit), a bunch of time on the bike, some high-power tests, playing around with saddle options, and some cleat adjustment.

    I think this is the best fit that I’ve had; the fit bike really makes a difference both in time efficiency but in coming up with a good absolute position and then fitting the bike to that rather than starting with a current bike and going the other way. If you have biomechanical issues, a PT fit like the Corpore Sano ones are probably a better choice because I think adjusting people is better done by a PT, but I have less of an issue with that.

    I was especially happy to find a saddle that I am really liking; I’ve had issues with saddles for a while, but the weird looking Power Expert feels better than any saddle I’ve tried, at least during the fit.

    It took about 2 hours from the start of the fit to when I rolled out the door, though that did include paying for the bike.

    Riding the new toy

    I needed an appropriate test for the new toy, and this is the route I came up with. Zoo Hill (classic route), the backside of Summit, and then the painfully steep West Sommerset climb. The bike was very composed during the climbing and was fine when I stood, and even when I rode slowly (when I deliberately got down to 2.9 MPH on West Sommerset, it was pretty floppy, but that’s an absurdly slow climb, and it was fine at 4MPH or above). I did a bunch of standing, and the FutureShock didn’t get in the way at all.

    There are only two caveats, both during the descents.

    The first is that the brakes are both very powerful and a tiny bit grabby; the first part is great, and I expect that as they bed in better and I get more used to them, this will get smoother. I also noticed that when you brake hard, your upper body tends to be propelled forwards, which doesn’t happen for me on rim brakes.

    The second caveat is that these are decently light wheels and the rims do not have any weight devoted to a braking surface, so there is less weight at the rims/tires than the light wheels I have on my Madone, so the bike is very nimble and responsive at speed. This is actually my preference, but it is a bit of a surprise when you hit that first 35 MPH descent and need to maneuver.

    The FutureShock in the front steering tube is quite impressive. It doesn’t seem to affect the handling at all, and while you can make it compress when standing to climb or sprint, it doesn’t do that normally. It just takes a bit of the edge off of the bumps that you are hitting. It comes with two lighter springs than the one is installed; when I get a chance I’m going to try one of them.

    The expert also features the CG-R  – where “CG” stands for “COBL GOBL” (Cobble Gobbler) – seatpost, which has a fair bit of vertical compliance, and also softens the ride. And I think they’ve done something clever with the rest of the frame as well.

    It also has a very different set of bars – the Hover Expert Alloy Handlebars (HEAH?) – look like normal handlebars, but just outside of the center bars, they rise up 15mm (8.2 millifathoms), giving the rider slightly less of a reach.

    As far as the overall package goes, it has pretty much everything I wanted, and I didn’t give anything up, so yea!

    DI2

    DI2 Ultegra is just like a great version of mechanical Ultegra. It shifts great, and does neat things like trimming the front derailleur automatically so the chain doesn’t rub. And it can shift all the way up or down with a single lever press (well, button press and hold, actually). My bike has the version where the battery lives in the seatpost, so unless you look very closely, you can’t really see the system.

    I had assumed that DI2 was a fairly simple system, but that is not true. Each of the separate components has a microcontroller, and the components communicate each other using the CAN bus protocol.

    Yes, my new bike has a network. The same kind of network your car has.

    The cool part about this approach is that all of the components just plug together, and it’s possible to add auxiliary shifters to your top tube or to aero bars if you want them there. You can also send the data to some Garmin Edge computers, which you can use to record gear usage. If that seems useful to you.

    All of this is controlled by the very confusingly named “E Tube Project” application. With this, you can update the firmware on your components, and change things like the shift speed, which buttons do what, or even turn on synchro shift, which AFAICT lets you shift as if you had a single shifter rather than two shifters, with the system shifting both front and back automatically if necessary.

    Charging is done over USB using the programming cable; it plugs into a little junction box under the bars, which also has a battery indicator.

    Weight

    The weight is supposedly something like 18.5 pounds, though it was a bit heavier when we put it on the scales at Edge and Spoke. Part of that weight was the SWAT system:

    SWAT (Storage Water Air Tools) is a label specialized is using for some of their accessories, and one of them is the SWAT Box. It attaches in the bottom of the triangle of the frame (using two extra water-bottle mount screws), and is a system that is supposed to be able to hold:

    • A spare tube
    • A multi-tool
    • An inflator
    • A valve extender
    • A money clip (?)

    It also has room for a spare tube and a CO2 inflator.  That is what you get if you buy the $90 version from Specialized.

    To keep costs down, the one that ships with the Roubaix comes with a spare tube. And – as I discovered when I took it out, the spare tube is not a tube that would work on the Roubaix, as it’s far too big and it weighed in at a honking 120grams.

    If you have a black bike and the thing holds what you need – here’s a video of how it works – then I guess it’s okay. But on a non-black bike it looks ugly, and it doesn’t hold my wallet and keys, and at 165 grams empty it’s heavier than the 140 gram Topeak tail wedge that I use.

    Wheels

    The bike ships with DT Swiss R470 db wheels, which you will never forget because of the huge labels on the sides of the wheels. A few minutes with a heat gun and a can of “goo gone” fixed that issue. While I had the wheels and tires off, I did some weighing, and here’s what I got (disc and cassette weights are from the net):

    Front: 802 grams + 95 grams for the disc = 897 grams

    Rear:  936 grams + 95 grams for the disc + 292 for the cassette (11/32) = 1323 grams

    The wheels are decently light, and as I noted, there isn’t a lot of weight down at the rim. The only big downside I see is the profile; it’s not very aero for a bike in this price range.

     

     

    Footnote: The answer to the question, “How many bikes should one own?” is “<N+1>:, where N is the current number of bikes that one currently owns.


    DORMAR–the route + rider notes

    Redmond Cycling Club has put on their popular RAMROD ride – Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day – for many years. It’s a great ride, but over the past decade has become increasingly difficult to get into, as the number of riders who want to do it is vastly greater than the number allowed by the National Park Service.

    DORMAR – RAMROD backwards – is an alternative for those who didn’t get into RAMROD. It is a non-organized ride; there will be a route and (probably) a specific date and time, but there is no support.

    Very tentative ride description:

    Here’s the current tentative route.



    Segment 1: Enumclaw to park entrance, 32 miles, 2450′


    The route starts climbing immediately, though it’s not that steep in most places. At about 18 miles we ride through Greenwater, but the stores will not be open early in the morning. Note that you will need to travel 51 miles and climb 4475′ before you get to water, so you will want at least two full bottles for this section. Luckily, the early hour will keep the temps low. Make sure your blinking rear light is on for this section.



    Segment 2: Cayuse Pass, 19 miles, 2025′


    After a couple of miles of gentle climbing, the road kicks up and it’s 6 miles of climbing to the top of Cayuse pass. At the top, highway 410 continues to the left and starts Chinook pass; we want to turn to the right and head towards Packwood.


    After this turn, we descend down the south side of Cayuse pass. The first 8 miles are fairly steep and then it flattens out a bit. On the descent at 51 miles, we turn right towards Paradise and Longmire. This is the Stevens Canyon entrance to the park, and we need to stop and pay the ($10?) fee to enter and show our rear blinky lights. After the entrance, we pull over in the “Grove of the Patriarchs” parking lot to fill our water bottles and take a nature break. I recommend trying to drink half a bottle while you are here because the next water is way, way up from here.

    Segment 3: Backbone Ridge + Paradise, 21 miles, 4085′


    This one is going to hurt.

    We first head up Backbone ridge, a 6 mile climb that takes us up 1250′. A quick descent, and we are quickly on the main pitch up to Paradise. The first 10 miles takes us up 2250′, past Reflection Lake (stop and take a picture, as this is probably the best view of the ride) and on to Inspiration Point – the high point of RAMROD. At that point we turn right towards Paradise and continue to climb the last 615′ up to the visitor center.

    Here we will stop for snacks, water, and a bit of rest. We have climbed 9000′ in the last 75 miles, and we have 1600′ of climbing in the next 75 miles.

    Segment 4: Paradise to Eatonville, 44 miles, 567′

    There is a small bit of climbing on this section, but it is countered by the 5180′ of elevation loss, so it’s downhill, downhill, and then more downhill. We head straight out of the Paradise parking lot and take the valley road. This winds around and joins the main road back at Inspiration point. Turn right towards Longmire, and start our descent. At 74.6 miles, there’s the Longmire store if you need supplies.

    At 104 miles we hit Elbe, and keep on the main road. At 108 miles, we turn to the right towards Eatonville.

    When we hit Eatonville, we turn right on Washington, and a watch for Cottage Bakery on the left, pretty close to 116 miles. This is the “Deli Stop” on this ride.

    Segment 5: Eatonville to Enumclaw, 35 miles, 1179′

    The last segment starts by continuing on Washington Avenue out of town, and then turning right on Orville Road East. This is a small sign and easy to miss.

    The route takes us by Ohop lake and Lake Kapowsin, and at about 126 miles we hit a stop sign. There is a Texaco station and a grocery if you are in need of supplies. Turn right to stay on Orville Road East.

    Eventually, we hit another stop sign at 135 miles, and turn right on Pioneer Way East. We can take this all the way into South Prairie, OR, at around mile 136, start looking for a trail that parallels the highway on the left, and get on it going in the same direction. This will take us 5 miles into South Prairie. Arnold’s Grocery is a nice place to food up.

    A few more turns and a few more miles, and we are back to the start.



    Sufferin’ Summits 2016

    One of the downsides with being a ride leader is that whatever course your come up with, it’s your own fault. As I pull myself up some of the hills we ride in the evenings, I think to myself, “Who chose this route? Oh, yeah, it’s my fault”

    This is the second year of Sufferin’ Summits, and I am fully responsible for the existence of this deliberately stupid ride. The premise of the ride is simple; stuff as much climbing into the smallest number of miles.

    Last year I had to drop out after climb #5 because of some back issues, and I decided to resolve that by going to the PT in preparation for this year’s ride. And that is exactly what I was thinking the morning of the ride; going to the PT is an *excellent* idea. I should get on that. I did spend a fair bit of time rolling my back, doing exercises, doing stretching, and riding a lot of ugly hills, so I felt – well, “prepared” is probably the wrong term, so let’s say, “less unprepared”.

    And I felt reasonably confident. Until I saw this:

    image

    The forecast was for the low 90s, which is pretty hot around these parts. I shifted the unofficial ride start time from 9AM to 8AM, and decided to just deal with the heat. I am no stranger to suffering on the bike in the heat – RAMROD 2009 comes to mind – but because reasons, never seem to do much training in the heat which is about the only thing you can do to suffer less.

    Anyway, I got up at 6AM, had breakfast, got dressed, slathered sunscreen on, and headed out. Got there about 7:30, pulled out the bike, and got ready.

    “Do a lot more promotion for the ride” was right after “make sure to go to the PT” on my list of things to do, so I’m really not expecting that many people, and I expect that a few will be scared off by the heat.

    We end up with about 8 people when we pull out at 8:03, heading over to climb up Grand Ridge, the first of the 8 climbs we will be doing. Two of them had already done climbs 2 and 3 because they couldn’t find the first climb.

    On reading that last sentence, I feel that I should make it clear that “two of them” refers to cyclists, not to hills.

    So, anyway, we roll through the cool and quiet Issaquah streets, making our way to the start of the first climb and talking about the chances that we will feel cold the rest of the ride (the consensus prediction is 0% chance). My legs are a little tired on the first bit but not too bad and my back is a little sore, but also not too bad. Grand Ridge is a climb I really like; it’s not too steep (say, 15% at the worst, and that’s not too long of a section), and at the top it has some really nice views, though the houses they are building are cutting many of the views off. It’s also a cool 1017′ of elevation gain. I feel pretty good on the way up but am trying to moderate my effort as I know what is coming up later in the ride. We descend back down into the highlands, and then back down into Issaquah, making our way to our second climb.

    The Squak Mountain climb is next on the agenda, and here we establish the usual pattern; I start the climb on the front and the rest of the riders slowly pull away from me as we climb. The climb doesn’t feel too long, which is a good indication that my fitness is decent. A look at my stats for the ride shows that I PR’d the climb, doing it about a minute faster (5%) faster than my previous best. Either an indication of fitness or an indication of me pushing a bit too hard this early in the ride. I actually get a bit cold on the descent as my sweat dries.  The climb is actually about 976′, but I’m going to round up and call it the second 1000′ climb of the day.

    At the bottom, we stop at the ball field for water and a nature break. I’ve done through one bottle of water; I mix another and try to pre-hydrate a bit. After telling myself not to forget, I forget to wet down my sunsleeves (like arm warmers, but white) to keep cool.

    Next up is a little development called Talus. Our route features a nice little climb that few people know about; in looking the Strava stats, I note that 48 people are in the list, but looking at the dates, well over half of those are from the two years of Sufferin’ Summits. The climb starts out brutally hard; 18-19% or so, curves around, moderates a little, and then turns into a little one-lane road through the woods. Near the top they are putting in some new houses, so we have to dismount and walk our bikes through the gravel, and then take a nice 20% connector between houses to continue to the top. Might be a bit steeper than that at the top; I get that “I’m not sure I can keep climbing without falling over” feeling. After the top of the first climb, we head over to do a small climb to the south, where we are tantalizingly blocked from the new upper section of the development by a chain link fence. Talus clocks in at around 550′; with any luck the upper section will be done by next year and we’ll be able to add a chunk to this section.

    A descent and a short spin takes us to the base of Cougar Mountain, which has been a benchmark to separate the truly stupid for decades. While “have you done STP?” is by far the most common question non-cyclists will ask; if you are a serious cyclist, one of your riding buddies will eventually ask if you have done “the Zoo”. Which is why it shows nearly 2000 unique people on Strava. Once we get under the canopy, it’s fairly cool, and I spend some time talking with Jeanne as we climb up. Zoo is quite pleasant if you have the legs for it and are willing to take it easy. Instead of heading straight on the traditional climb, we head down to the next development to a particularly nasty connector section of 18-19%. As the group slowly rides away from me, I start tacking back and forth across the hill; I have the leg strength to ride straight up but I’m pretty sure I’ll need it later, and going back and forth chops the grade down to maybe 14% or so. This section is notable not only for how steep it is, but for how long it goes on; the first pitch is a full 250′, which is a long time at these gradients. At the bottom of the second section, I briefly chat with a group of women out for a walk, and they congratulate me. I’m not really quite sure why; perhaps they believe that anybody who is stupid enough to ride up that particular hill clearly has more than his share of problems in life and would therefore benefit from some extra encouragement. Seems like a decent theory to me.

    At the top we connect with the traditional Zoo climb, and then hit the top in three separate climbs – Zoo top, Pinnacles, and Belvedere – each of which nets us another 250′ of hard-won altitude, and bringing up the total of this segment to 2030′. I am climbing okay, but the heat is getting pretty bad by now, and my heart rate is higher than I would expect for a given power output, which is a decent sign I am getting dehydrated. Up Belvedere, I average 200 watts riding 5 MPH with my heart rate averaging about 150, where 150 would normally net me something closer to 225 or even 250 watts. I drink as much as I can stomach and keep riding.

    We descend a bit, do a short and easy climb up to the park for a rest break. I have cleverly arranged for my wife to run a food stop for us, and we snack on brownie bites, cinnamon rolls, and cheez-its, get cooled off a bit, do our best to rehydrate, and then head back out.

    This next section is something special. And not in a good way; this first climb features the steepest section of the ride (measured at 23%), it faces directly south, and it’s 11:20 so it’s been baking in the sun so it is pretty hot. There is a steep section, a slightly easier section, and then it just gets nasty. I spend 11.5 minutes suffering up this 494′ climb, and I’m really unhappy, but this is not unexpected as this is the worst climb of the ride.

    At the top – as usual – the group is waiting for me, and at this point I realize that although they are climbing faster than me – and working harder – they are also spending a few minutes in the shade resting, while I just keep riding. I carefully spray a bit of precious water onto my arms, my back, and my head, and find that it’s quite hot; somewhere between “hot tub” and “lobster boil”.

    We do a smaller and not-quite-as-steep section to the east, and then finally climb up the Summit development which is just a twice-baked sufferfest at this point. I am dripping and crusty and dehydrated, but we hit the summit, hop the wall at the emergency gate, and descend to the north to a gas station, where I purchase the Coke Zero and half-gallon of water that has been calling my name for the 10 miles.

    I buy a coke zero and a big chunk of water, and we all get out of the sun for a while. Everybody is looking a bit tired and hot, and is happy for the rest. We spend a full 20 minutes there and then head out for the next chunk, first descending all the way down next to Lake Sammamish.

    This climb is another one I like when I take my usual route, but the route I’ve chosen for the ride features another really nasty steep part, nicely named “ay mamacita” by an unknown cyclist. I climb it slowly but the combination of a large infusion of liquid and wetting myself down at the stop makes it fairly tolerable, but as we go to the next section of the climb, my clothes dry out and the air is totally still; it feels much worse than the the Summit section we just climbed on the south side. I’m still trying to drink at a reasonable rate because I know I need to stay hydrated but my stomach is starting to rebel a bit, in the “I think I might need to pull off the side of the road and make a deposit” sense. Eventually, we arrive back near the gate that takes us into the development; I call a 5 minute break so that I can get my friend Mike out of the sun for a bit because he is not looking very good. It was a purely selfless gesture and had nothing to do with my desire to hop the fence of the summit clubhouse nearby and “accidentally” fall into the pool.

    We descend down on Forest Drive and turn right to start climbing the Highlands. Luckily, this is three small climbs with a chance to recover in between; unluckily, it’s a single lane so you mostly have to go straight up. I turn off into the flat side streets for a small bit of rest before heading back up. I reach the crest and Jeanne is on the side of the road, confused because her GPS is trying to tell her to skip part of the course. We regroup, do one short climb to the top of Somerset (but not the real top), at which point I tell her of my plan.

    My plan is to pull off in the shade on one side of the road and see if I can get myself cooled off a bit before I decide what to do next. And so I sit down for 5 minutes, stand up, grab a drink of water, and start riding down to do the last hill. On the way down, I cool down a bit and start to feel a bit more nauseous, and I continue to feel that way as I roll along the flat for the last climb. It would seem that I have made a tactical mistake, and a few alternate routes back flash through my head, but I decide to press on. I hit the first pitch and am surprised to discover that if I tack back and forth and ride really easy on the tacking parts and faster on the turns – averaging about 150 watts – I actually feel better than I did on the descent.  Weird. I keep this up on the other pitches, and after about 15 minutes, I get to the easier part, work my way to the north, and then head up a short bit back up to near the top.

    And it’s time keep riding. There’s a voice in my head that says, “that wasn’t that bad; you can do the top bit here and then the two last hills”, a second voice that says, “did you *see* how slow you were riding on that last section? I was surprised that you didn’t fall over”, and a third voice that says, “Recalculating… You can return to your start point with 6 miles of descending and approximately 0 miles of climbing”.

    I listen to the third voice, and it’s actually a good thing I do because I feel sick on the descent again, but manage to keep focused and riding. At a construction zone right before the end, the rest of the group catches up with me, and we ride to the finish together. The car claims it’s 102 when I get in; after a bit of driving it sheepishly corrects that to only 95 degrees, but whatever the actual temp, it was really, really hot.

    So, that’s the ride. I’m going to declare victory and say that I finished the ride and that those last little bits didn’t really matter. I had the legs to keep climb up them, at least.

    And onto the stats.

    55.9 miles of riding in 5:34:54, for a blazing 10 MPH average, just 0.1 MPH less than last year when it was cloudy and about 25 degrees cooler. 8213′ of climbing. And, for all of that – a measly 2891 calories burnt. My climbing was at just a hair over 700 meters per hour (155 acres per jereboam in “freedom units”), which is decent.

    Strava activity is here.








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