Popliteus

Question: 

Popliteus is:

  1. The last european book craze
  2. The right-hand-man of Alexander the Great
  3. The cause of pain and anguish for RiderX

Back in June I was on a ride in Issaquah, on a road that features two things:

1) A “bypass the light” right lane (of 3) that can only go straight at a light

2) A bike lane that stops very soon before that point.

So, I was out riding, and got stuck at that light, with a very impatient car behind me (which, I presume, was occupied by an impatient car, and not possessed in a real-life version of Christine). The light change, I stood up, and go ready to do a bit of a sprint, and then realized that I was about 4 gears higher than I wanted to be. So, in a bit of adolescent bravado that I tell myself I am no longer prone to but, let’s be fair, still shows up now and then, I decide to just go for it.

Which, over the span of the next 15 seconds or so, resulted in two things. First, a fairly pathetic acceleration rate, and second, a strange feeling behind my right knee.

Which I didn’t really think much of – I finished the ride and went home.

A week or so later, the strange feeling had resolved itself, and I was out on a group ride, stood up to sprint up a short hill, and now the leg was hurting a bunch.

Which led to an up and down journey, where I would alternatively take it easy and heal, and then do something stupid, eventually culminating in RAMROD, where the knee and my lack of training perfectly meshed together for it to hurt a lot.

But, then I knew I had to be more serious about healing whatever was wrong, so I did the ice thing, I did the stretching thing, I did the ibuoprofen thing. I went out and rode some steeps before the Summits of Bothel and felt okay, and then SOB was cold and wet and we skipped it.

The only ride I cared about was the mountain populaire (held on Sept 9th), where I hoped to do better than last year. And by “do better”, I mean climb a little faster and not feel so wiped at the end.

So, last Thursday I decided to ride a little harder to make sure I was up to the Sunday ride, and while the knee felt a little weird, it didn’t hurt. And then, near the end of the ride, I decided to chase another rider as he sprinted up a short hill. Which told me what I need to know.

I skipped the populaire and went on a flat 30 miler around the lake Sunday, during which my knee was pretty achy.

Which led me into see a PT on Monday, where I had lots of tests done, the painful area poked and prodded, and learned a new word. I have a problem with my Poplieus, a short muscle on the back of the knee.

 After a couple of weeks of stretching and healing, we’ll start on PT.

 

 


Getting fast

 

 Better aerobic capacity

better efficiency

faster cadence (less tiring)

LT as a higher percentage of HR

Better buffering of LT.


The importance of staying salty…

Salt (or at least the sodium component of it) is perhaps the most underappreciated and under-discussed nutrient for endurance cyclists.

Given my recent history, I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into the topic, and frankly I’ve been surprised how little information there is. That, coupled with a lot of bad press around sodium because of its well-established link to hypertension, means that most cyclists don’t think about salt. They do perhaps think a bit about hyponatremia.

Which is really a bit strange, when you think about it, as many of us have white stains on our helmet straps and that sandy feeling on our faces after a hard ride.

So, here’s what’s going on WRT salt, and a few things that you might want to think about.

When you sweat, you lose salt, along with a number of other electolytes.

Here’s a table I pulled from Burke’s Serious Cycling

  Sodium
(mEq/L)
Chloride
(mEQ/L)
Potassium
(mEq/L)
Magnesium
(mEq/L)
Blood Plasma 140 100 4 1.5
Muscle Tissue 9 5 160 30
Sweat 40-60 30-50 4-5 1.5-5

This chart uses mEq/L, which is basically a measure of the concentration of the various elements. What we’d like instead is a chart that shows the actual amount of the substance (which we get by multiplying by the molecular weight). My wife tells me that medicine is the only place that uses mEq/L as a measure…

Here’s the converted chart:

  Sodium
(mg/L)
Chloride
(mg/L)
Potassium
(mg/L)
Magnesium
(mg/L)
Blood Plasma 3220 3550 156 18
Muscle Tissue 207 172 6240 365
Sweat 920-1380 1065-1775 156-195 18-122

This chart shows the difference between salt (sodium and chloride), and the other major constituents of sweat. For potassium and magnesium, the concentration in the blood is fairly low compared to the concentration in muscle tissue. This means that loses of those two elements through sweat are relatively unimportant to the body’s total supply.

For sodium and chloride, however, the amount stored in muscle tissue is fairly minor. The majority of the storage is in the blood. And there’s really not that much there.

So, say that you’re out riding and only taking in water. Your sodium level drops. Your body wants to get rid of the water, but it doesn’t want to lose more sodium, so it stashes the water between cells, and you’re on your way to hyponeatremia.

This happens more quickly if you’re on a low-salt diet, which is what got me into this topic in the first place.

What that means is that you need to replace the salt. Serious Cycling suggests that you need from 400-1100mg of sodium and 500-1500mg of chloride. ACSM recommends 500-700mg of salt/liter.

Many hydration drinks have some salt in them – here’s a good comparison chart. Searching through that chart, I find that the accelerade that I drink only has about 500 mg of sodium per liter. That’s at most around 50% of the amount I need to replace the salt I sweat out (I’m a fairly salty sweater). Which explains a lot.

Almost all of the the drinks have some electrolytes – as they’re needed to help you absorb the drink – but some of them are pretty low. So, take a look at what your drink has in it, and that will help you figure out if you need supplementation. If you are riding for long periods, my guess is probably *yes*.

Symptoms:

  • Fatigue (yeah, I know, it’s a bit hard to judge after 60 miles)
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Aversion to sugary foods (I get this rather than a salt craving, though salt tastes good. This may also just be food fatigue)
  • Weight gain during the ride
  • Lack of urination, especially if you are drinking a lot.

A note on hypertension…

If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), this is an area that you will want to be careful with, and you may want to consult your physician before supplementation.

What supplements to use

A classic supplement is beef jerky, which tends to be around 1000mg per service. If you want a capsule you can swallow, both Lava Salts and Succeed E!Caps have a good reputation on the ultra (bike/run) sites.

A lot of people talk about Hammer’s Endurolytes capsules. The hammer hydration products are quite low in electrolytes (see the chart I linked to earlier), and frankly, I’m mystified by what’s in the endurolytes – they only have 40mg sodium and 60mg chloride, which is a really small amount. They suggest that you can take up to 6 of them per hour, but even that may not be enough. They do have other electrolytes, but you are probably okay without supplementation of potassium and magnesium during exercise.

One final note

As with all things related to nutrition/hydration, people have different responses, so you’ll probably have to play around to find out what works for you. If you are used to sweating a lot, your body has likely adapted so that you don’t lose as much electrolyte when you exercise. Conversely, if you don’t work out in the heat and/or don’t sweat as much, you may be near the upper end of electrolyte loss.

References

Ultracycling has two great references on this:

Low Blood Sodium

Water and Salt Intake during exercise



Your weight loss goal is reasonable…

I was playing around, and came a cross a diet evalution page. I entered my weight (165 pounds), my height (6’2″), and my desired weight (120 pounds), and hit “go”

It replied with “please go back and change your target weight to at least 140.4 pounds. For the sake of your health, we refuse to accept a lower target than this.”

So, I go back, and set my desired weight to 141 pounds, and it says:

Though your current weight is already within normal limits, your weight loss goal is reasonable, because when you reach 141 pounds, your new BMI will be 18, still within the ‘normal’ range.

Umm… Yeah…

I have some muscle on my legs, not much on my upper body, I’m somewhere below 10% body fat, but yeah, I’m sure I can find 20 pounds to lose somewhere.

 


Disappointed…

It’s happening again.

I’m on acuweather, weatherunderground, and my local news sources throughout the day – trying to find a forecast I like. It’s been a bit wet, but it seems like it’s clearing up.  

I get home from work, mix up my hydration drink, get my newtons ready, put on my riding clothes, and head downstairs to play Halo until it’s time to go. I munch on a Clif bar and drink a tall glass of water. And then it’s 5 after 6, time to go.

I head upstairs, grab my cycling bag, go into the garage, open the door, pull the bike off the wall, pump up the tires, and roll it out to put it in the truck.

And then it happens.

A tickling on my bare arms. I stretch my arms out and stand still.

It’s definite. It’s drizzling.

I wheel the bike back into the garage, and hang it up. Head back inside, go downstairs, and get on the trainer, trading two hours of fun with my friends for 45 minutes of boredom on the trainer.

Disappointed



Figuring calories per mile…

It’s not uncommon for people to ask how many calories they burn per mile, and if you do a few web searches, you’ll find numbers in the 35-50 cal/mile range.

Or rather, you’ll find *estimates* in that sort of range.

The problem being that the amount of calories you burn depends drastically on how hard you are riding. And if you are riding for 30 miles, you could get anywhere from 1000 calories to 1500 calories, which is a pretty big difference, if you care about how many calories you are burning.

You can also use an online calculator to figure out your calorie burn. If plug my numbers on this, I get the following values in cal/hour:

15 mph 27 cal/hr
16 mph 30 cal/hr
17 mph 33 cal/hr
18 mph 36 cal/hr
19 mph 39 cal/hr
20 mph 42 cal/hr

Now, that’s a purely flat ride. And there are obviously some aero calculations in there that may not be particularly accurate.

Another option is to use a heart rate monitor. My polar 720i claims to be able to compute the calorie burn for a ride. It knows my weight, my age, and my base HR. It also knows my altitude and speed, which could be very useful to compute calories, but AFAICT, it doesn’t use that in the calorie calculations.

On a recent ride, it claimed that I burnt 1110 calories in a 26.2 mile ride with 1445 feet of climbing, which comes out to around 42 cal/mile. How does that compare with the calculator above? Well, 1445 over 26.2 miles averages 1% over the whole climb – plug that in, and it gives an estimate of 1104 calories.

Which is really quite a bit closer than I expected.

When I was suffering up the climb to Sunrise on Ramrod, I was wondering how many calories I was burning. Given that it’s a climb and the speeds are slow, the amount of energy expended on climbing vs the energy expended overcoming air resistance is pretty high.

Here’s what the Polar says about that climb:

Duration: 95:30
Distance: 13.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2820 ft (really 3000 feet, but the polar was low on the altitude of the top).
Calories: 1146 (85 cal/mile)
Speed: 8.4 MPH

The speed calculator suggests only 905 calories, for a paltry 68 cal/mile.

My bicycle climbs wattage calculator figures the following:

Wattage(Climb): 134 watts
Wattage(Rolling): 10 watts
Wattage(Aero Drag): 14 watts
Wattage(Total): 160 watts

Now, 160 watts is 138 Kcal/hour. But humans are only about 25% efficient at converting food calories into work, so that means the food calorie expenditure is 552 Kcal/hour, and the overall expenditure = 95.5/60 * 552 = 878 calories total (66 cal/mile).

Interestingly, that’s very close to the online calculator.

So, at least for that climb, if I’m of normal efficiency, the polar calorie estimation is perhaps 50% high. If I was dehydrated (and I was, a bit), that would tend to push the HR higher than normal.

Now, of course, the real way to figure out calories burned is with a power meter, but I haven’t taken that step. yet.

Another climb showed up with Polar=603 calories (97 cal/mile), calculator=465 cal (75 cal/mile), website = 446 cal (71 cal/mile).

What does that all mean? Well, it means that cal/mile calculations aren’t really worth much – which really isn’t a surprise to me. It also means that the online calculator does a pretty good decent job on pure climbs.

It also means that the polar seemed to drastically overestimate calories on pure climbs, but it seemed to be okay on normal rides.

 


Another scandal rocks the Tour on the last day…

July 29, 2007
Paris, France

In a hastily-called press conference today after the ending of a tour rocked by doping, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme implicated Team Discovery in yet another scandal. A noticeably shaken Prudhomme read from a prepared statement:

“It has always been the goal of the tour to provide an even playing field for all riders and to vigorously prosecute any malfeasance by the teams. It is with very great regret that I announce that, based on the results of a recent investigation, Team Discovery riders Contador and Leipheimer have been stripped of their GC titles.

After the doping issues, we would have liked nothing better than to finish the tour and head off to the Riviera, but the obviousness of the incidents that occurred during the tour, and a push for action by the peleton left us with no choice but to investigate.

Based on a tip from a Bulgarian veteranarian, agents from the DGSE searched the Team Discovery European headquarters and discovered an advanced canine research center. Documents captured during the raid described prohibited research into canine mind-control, and detailed plans for using these canines to disrupt the 2007 tour and push Team Discovery riders to the top of the GC.”

 

Newly-crowned winner Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was outspoken in his criticism:

“It used to be that this sort of stuff was conducted with some subtlety, but this time it was blatant. I’d leave the house on a training ride, and there’d be dingos. On the climbs, dingos. On the descents, dingos. And that Team Discovery “film crew” that was purportedly scouting locations for a documentary, but ended up staying the whole month that I was home, in a car with suspicious amounts of dog hair.

There is simply no place for mind-controlled canines in the world of professional bicycle racing.”

 

Team Discovery directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel dismissed the charges as overblown:

“The use of canines in professional cycling has a long history, and what we are doing is totally within the rules. During the 1982 Tour Bernard Hinault traveled with a miniature Schnauzer who he had trained to fetch bidons for him, and our canines are assisting in a similar manner. For example, if a masseuse has forget his oil during a post-stage rubdown, the dog can be used to fetch it, saving valuable seconds.

We also have a separate program to quantify exactly how hard a rider must exert himself to be “working like a dog”

It is fanciful to claim that we are using these pets to disrupt the race and put riders at risk”

In a short question and answer session, Prudhomme clarified that while Team Discovery riders would be stripped of their individual titles, the team would retain their team title because, “nobody really cares about that anyway”.

(somewhat inspired by Fatty)

 


RAMROD 2007

The good part of goal events is that they give you something to focus on during your training.

The bad part of goal events is that they arrive. It was time to do RAMROD.

As usual, I slept poorly the day before the event, so instead of sleeping in until 3:30AM, I got up at 3:10AM. After a quick Clif bar for breakfast (breakfast?), I put in my contacts, pulled on an underarmour shirt (yellow), a jersey (cannondale robot), and my favorite pair of cannondale shorts (the ones with their kickin’ new flexible chamois (amazingly less chafing)), covered, of course, with a liberal application of Chamois Butt’r

By 4AM, I was sitting in the kitchen putting sunscreen on in the dark, thinking about what was to come. 144 miles, with an elevation gain of 11,000′, it was not going to be easy. And, I was worried that my preparation was something Fatty would have done…

In the interest of proper forshadowing, my preparation was:

  • Not riding more than 60 miles at a stretch this year until 3 weeks before the event
  • Trying to show off by flying up hills on our group ride 10 days before the event
  • Catching a cold from my daughter the weekend before
  • Getting a colonoscopy 3 days before the event, resulting in a full digestive reboot

A bit unorthodox, I will admit…

I got my bag of cycle stuff and took it out to the car. Then I got my food bag and bottles out of the fridge (*both* in the fridge because I forgot my bottles last year at STP). One of the bottles had a two-hour mix of Perpetuem, another had water. In the bag was:

  • A ziploc of another two hour mix of perpetuem
  • Four ziplocs of Accelerade mix (blue raspberry)
  • One bagel
  • One package of clif bloks (cran-whatever)
  • One package of beef jerky
  • A ziploc with about 30 Succeed! S!Caps

4:30AM, I’m out in front. The truck is loaded, my bike is on the rack. The stars are out. And Franklin is late. Well, he’s not technically late, as it’s only 4:30, but – okay, now it’s 4:40, and he’s officially late. He pulls up a few minutes later, we get his bike on the rack, and we head out to Enumclaw, a small farming town at the base of Mt. Rainier.

The time is a little critical, as we have tentative plans to meet a few friends to ride with them. Joe (our resident climber and holder of the “most insane cyclist” award in our little group) will be there, Per and Shanna (two of our ride leaders) are going to be there, and Reena (a friend of Franklin’s who rode on the training ride I did a few weeks ago) has also said she’ll be there.

In our favor is the fact that at 5AM, the Seattle-area rush hour is tolerable. I drive through Renton, and then out through a series of ex-small towns that are now specializing in ugly housing developments – Maple Valley, Black Diamond, and then on to Enumclaw high school.

We park three blocks from the school, and get our gear together. I pull on my arm warmers, and Franklin complains about the cold. He calls Reena, who is parked 3 cars behind us. We stuff our pockets and ride to the start line. It’s already 6AM, and I expect that everybody else will have departed.

After a quick nature break, we get on our bikes. Franklin complains about the cold again – and it is a bit chilly – but a) I don’t want to wait any more and b) I know that we’ll be doing a lot of climbing. At this point, one of the course officials approachs Franklin and asks him how old he is. Which requires a bit of explanation (not about Franklin’s age, which is a poorly-kept secret, but about why the official cares)..

RAMROD, you see, has a problem. Because it takes place in Mount Rainier National Park, they need to have a permit from the National Park Service, and that permit limits them to 900 riders. Early in the season – when the pain of the summer is only an abstraction – there are far more people who want to ride sign up. So, when you sign up for RAMROD, you go into a lottery drawing, and if you don’t, you go on a waiting list. When riders start to regain their sanity, they cancel their registrations, and they get transferred to somebody on the waiting list. This is a *huge* pain in the ass for Redmond Cycling Club, but they do it anyway.

Franklin had gone around this, and bought a registration directly from somebody. Somebody who was much older. And RAMROD assigns numbers not on the basis of registration order but on the basis of age, with the oldest riders getting the lowest numbers. My number was in the 500s. Franklin had 75, which rightfully belonged to somebody at least a decade older than he is. Or at least, how old he *claims* to be – he’s fairly reticent about revealing his age, and for all I know he is just a nicely-preserved 62 years old.

So, there was a bit of a discussion, but we ended up rolling through the start line, where they ripped off our “on the course” tags (for tracking purposes). And we we’re off.

And my stomach starts cramping. I’m not sure of the cause – it could be the pasta I had the night before, it could be the Clif bloks I ate right before starting, it could be that I’m still stick, but whatever the cause, I’m uncomfortable.

And Franklin is still complaining in a manner which I will describe later as “like a schoolgirl”.

The description of RAMROD for this year – on a different course because of the road damage of last winter makes it impossible to ride around the mountain right now – says that there are three climbs, but that’s over-simplifying things. Yes, there *are* three climbs, but to get to the base of the first climb, you have 3000-some feet of climbing to do over the first 40 miles. After a bump at the begining of about 600′, it’s a pretty steady climb for the next 30 miles. I publicly state that I’m going to be taking on the role of Iban Mayo for the ride, wheelsucking mercilessly and then fading when things get hard. I start this by sticking behind Franklin and Reena, who take easy pulls as we ride at reasonable speeds (say 18 or so) towards Greenwater, ending up with perhaps 15 riders behind us. My stomach is getting a little better, but I can’t say that the Perpetuem is going down very well (and frankly, even in the best of times, it tastes like orange-flavored slightly rancid pancake batter, which only supports my contention that cyclists love to suffer).

We stop at Greenwater (18.1 miles) for a “nature break”, and then head back out. I take a (slow – but do I really need to mention that?) pull at the front, and we keep rolling to the next rest stop (24 miles). At that point, I down the remaining few ounces of perpetuem, which makes me feel really sick for a few minutes, and mix two bottles of accelerade. We get on our bikes, start to ride out, and get stuck behind two guys who think that it’s a good idea to weave through a tight spot at 4mph and then stop in front of the porta-potties, blocking the exit. I barely clip out in time to avoid falling over in the parking lot. They are oblivious.

And then things start getting better. The accelerade is much better on my stomach, in combination with part of my bagel and one of the salt capsules. And the cramping seems to have gone away. We ride on to the entrance of the park (37 miles), at which point we’ve averaged 15.5 MPH.

Right after you enter the park, there is a nasty 700′ climb 2.5 miles long. I hang with Franklin and Reena for the first mile, and then realize that my legs are hurting, look down, and see that I’m riding above my lactic threshold (around 145 BPM for me), which is pretty much the definition of a bad idea on a ride like this. I back off to around 140, and settle into the climb. Near the top, I pass Per and Shanna on their *tandem*. They lead the RAMROD training series, so it’s not like they don’t have the conditioning for a ride like this, but on a tandem? Shanna says something, I recognize them, drop back, and ride with them chatting for a minute or so. I then ride off, and reach the entrance white river campground turnoff, which leads to the Sunrise climb. There’s a short little 200′ hill that leads down to the ticket booth, but it’s pretty steep and I stretch out my legs a bit and wick it up to around 30MPH.

And then *WHAM* – I hit the mother of all potholes with my back wheel. And the bike keeps rolling along, without any issues. I’m amazed that the rear wheel didn’t pinch flat (nor is there any wheel damage that I could find, surprising with a low-spoke-count wheel). I ride through the entrance and stop to fill up on water (water which Joe claims is the best water in the world). As I get off the bike, I see that the bump has unlatched my topeak seat wedge. I move to reattach my seat pack, and realize that the bump has totally fractured the plastic on the quick mount for the seat pack, so I stuff the pump in my jersey pocket, flip the pack over, and hang it off the split in my seat via the pump retention elastic.

And I head off to start Sunrise (13 miles, 2956′). Franklin and Reena aren’t quite ready, but I know that they’ll climb faster than me.

Sunrise is one of my favorite places to visit. Most tourists go to Paradise, which is on the south side of the mountain, but Sunrise feels much more wild, and has some nice hikes. And you can sometimes watch climbers on the snow fields if you remember your binoculars. I do feel obligated at this point to mention that the best close vista of Rainier is from the summit of Crystal Mountain, just one valley away from the mountain.

Given the length of the climb, my goal is to try to keep my cadence around 90, and my heart rate in the 130s.

About three miles up the mountain, I come to a mechanic stop. I pull over, wait a couple minutes, and then obtain a zip-tie to hook the pack back to me seat securely. Franklin and Reena pass me while I’m there.

And the climb continues. It’s about this time that my knee starts to hurt, on the back of my right knee. I’d had a twinge there after my hard (and stupid) workout on the hills, and now it appears that I’ve got an overuse injury. And it’s a particularly annoying one at this point. I worked hard to improve my leg strength this year so that I could use strength rather than my cardio (you generally have a choice to ride at a higher cadence and use less leg strength or a lower candence and more leg strength. The fastest way is to balance the two out for whatever length of ride you’re doing). But I can’t push hard with my right leg, so I’m stuck climbing a) slower than I had hoped and b) with a higher heart rate than I wanted. Generally, I’d just ride a little slower, but I’m already in my lowest gear and my cadence is down around 75, and going more slowly makes the knee hurt more, so I try to suck it up.

About halfway up, I catch up with Per and Shanna, who had skipped the stop after the park entrance. I’m riding at around 7MPH, and they’re going at around 5MPH. I talk for a bit, and then head off up the road. And I pass the course photographer, who took a picture I might actually pay for.

Though I am hurting, I’m passing more people than are passing me. There’s a quick water stop about 2/3rds of the way up, and I get back on the bike quickly and keep heading up. I finally reach Sunrise point (6100′ elevation), and pull into the parking lot. I pull out my jerky, eat a bit (umm, salty), take another salt pill, and chat a bit with one of the amateur radio volunteers (ramrod uses HAM radio for support because there is limited cell coverage), and head out.

And wonderfully, just at that point, the slope eases out to a couple percent, and I spin up to the summit. It has taken me 1:35 to complete the climb, averaging 8.3 MPH.

And I don’t feel bad. I eat a couple of small potatoes (with lots of salt), refill my water bottles, and talk with Franklin, Reena, and Dan (who is volunteering so he gets an automatic entry next year).

Front Row, right to left: Dan, Franklin, Eric, Reena
Back Row: Mount Rainier

The descent at 25MPH average takes 32 minutes. I experiment with an aero tuck to get extra speed, but it tires my back out. The descent is technical – there are a lot of tight turns and a fair amount of crappy pavement – so I take it easy. I regroup with Franklin and Reena at the entrance, and we head up the short climb to the highway. After a quick climb, we head back down the hill that I complained about earlier, back to the park entrance, and then right onto Crystal Mountain Boulevard (6 miles, 1700′). I feel okay strength-wise (at 78 miles), but my knee is hurting a lot.

Having skied at Crystal a bunch, I know the road fairly well, but there are things you don’t notice when you drive. For example, you don’t notice how crappy the road surface is. You don’t notice the headwind on the lower parts. You don’t notice how you’re always in the sun. etc.

I settle in for the climb, but this one is definitely no fun. It’s pretty comparable in steepness to Sunrise, but I’m stuck in a very narrow cadence band (75-80 RPM), and standing no longer makes it hurt less. I take one short break on the way up, then ride on into the parking lot, for a climb time of 52 minutes. Franklin walks over as I pull up and get off my bike, and his first words are “you don’t look too good…”.

He’s a keen observer. Not only do I not look that good, I don’t feel that good – I feel very overheated from the climb and a little dehydrated, but when I get off the bike, I start to feel much better. But the only thing that sustained me on the climb up was my full, certain confidence that I was done climbing for the day. I was happy that my knee was hurting, because it gave me a great reason to avoid the last climb – not that big overall, but with a 12% section both ways. I sent Franklin and Reena ahead, and told them that I would meet at the deli stop. I sat around in the shade for about 25 minutes, read the brochures for Crystal’s fabulous lodgings, and then decided to head out.

The descent, in a word, sucked. The road that was ugly to ride up wasn’t any better at 25MPH. I spent a lot of time weaving around to try to find the better pavement (there was no good pavement), and a lot of time standing so that the bike could move around more nicely. 15 minutes later I came to the stop sign, and turned right back onto highway 410, 88 miles into the ride, and 15 miles away from the “deli” stop. I shifted down a few gears, tried to establish a rhythm, and found that my knee had stiffened up after the rest and descent- I couldn’t spin any faster than 60RPM. It took me at least 15 minutes to get it warmed up enough to be able to spin at 90RPM. Luckily, in that section you lose another 900 feet and the notorious headwind wasn’t that bad. 42 minutes later – after a fair bit of water on the way down – I rode past the volunteers who were trying to get me to turn up the last climb, and turned into the deli stop.

The deli stop is pretty neat. They have a long table, and you start at the bread guy, move to the spread guy, the meat guy, the tomato guy, and then finally, the lettuce guy. At the end you have your sandwich, and then you grab something to drink, and go sit down in the grass (well, weeds, mostly) next to the fire station helipad (Greenwater is the closest aid station to Crystal, and they sometimes need to evac people out from there).

The sandwich was good, and helped settle my stomach down a bit. My drink of choice was a Kirkland Grape soda, and the fructose did an immediate number on my stomach (I can’t deal with a lot of fructose normally). I poured it out and went back and got a diet coke. And then, I sat around, stretched, and generally just waited for Franklin and Reena to show up. It wasn’t too hot if you were sitting up due to the wind, but whenever I went to lie down, I ended up getting too hot. And without any shade to be found, I just sat around, had a cookie, a couple of more salt pills, and waited.

Approximately 12 days later, Franklin and Reena rolled into the stop and picked up their sandwiches. I sat with them for 5 minutes, and then decided to depart to get a head start back. But I wasn’t getting excited about riding by myself for the last 20 miles, and I didn’t think I was up to hanging in a paceline.

And then something weird happened. I got out on the bike, and while my knee hurt, it hurt considerably less. I could ride at 95-100 RPM, and it felt okay. And I could run my heartrate up to 135, and *that* felt okay. I enjoyed that for perhaps 7 miles, and then a beautiful thing happened…

A paceline passed me running 3MPH faster than I was riding.

I’d been passed by 4 or 5 pacelines running 7MPH faster than I was riding, but that was faster than I was capable of riding. I could probably hang o the back of one, but wouldn’t be able to pull at the front.

I grabbed the wheel of the last rider in the group, and found that I could easily hang on. The downside was that the riders were tired and several of them didn’t have much experience in pacelines, so the line wasn’t very smooth. The upside was that I was out of the wind and feeling quite good by now. I had moved forward to third wheel (following two inexperienced riders) when we turned off the highway onto Mud Mountain Road. Whenever you make a turn like that in a paceline, if you want to keep it together you need to slow down to let the riders in the back close up the gaps, but the two in front took off. I could have taken off and caught up with them, but decided that staying in the current line was a better idea, so I waited for them to regroup behind me, and then pulled for a couple of miles until we got to the final descent back into Enumclaw. I took it easy on that, and then rolled in through the finish line, where they ripped off my “back in” tag and directed me to the ice cream van parked nearby. Joe played valet and took my bike off to the side and I got a creamsicle. And another Diet Coke. And a few handfuls of pretzels. And I felt pretty good – the salt tabs definitely made a considerable difference.

And so, that was it – 124 miles, 8200′ feel of elevation gain. Not what I had hoped to do, but given the issues I had (including my lack of long rides), pretty good.

At the finish, I ran into Per and Shana, who had finished Sunrise but had come to their senses and only sampled the other two climbs before coming back.

I hanged around for a while longer, and Franklin and Reena (who had hung out at the deli stop for a long time) rolled in, and then fairly soon after that, rider #1 finished. I hope I can ride like that when I’m 70 years old…

In this picture you can see why I’m genetically disadvantaged compared to Joe when climbing…

Finally, a big thanks to the RAMROD folks, who really know how to put on a good ride. Fresh water done with food-grade equipment (no “rubber hose taste”), the great deli stop, and the food at the finish (why don’t more rides do that? That’s the time you want to eat most).

Next year? Well, it’s only three days later, and I think the answer is yes. The classic route is supposed to be a little easier than this year’s.

Ride Time: 8:21
Distance: 124 miles
Average Speed: 14.8 MPH
Calories: 5600 (though I think the polar drastically underestimates climbing calories – more on that in a later post).

I thought you might be interested in the profile for the ride. Most of it is directly from my heart rate monitor, but I had to fill in the climb I didn’t do based on what Franklin and Reena told me about it at the finish.