60 Mile Loop – Am I Ready?

Tomorrow (9/20/14), Dan and I will ride the medium distance loop of the Veterans Victory Velo (V3) fund raiser. Sixty miles is farther than I have ever ridden on my road bike so far. The hilly 52-mile route I did a month ago didn’t trash me, so I’m not too worried.

2014 has been a great year of advancements for me, especially when I look back at my prior bike-related posts.

My off-bike workouts have evolved

I’ve made some adjustments in the gym based on what I’m reading online and what I’m hearing and seeing when I ride with others. It must be working because on routes with lots of uphill climbing, I manage to keep up with fit-looking guys near the front of the pack who want to know how many gears I have on my bike and how I’m training.

  • Hip flexors: I added incline sit ups performed without curving my spine.
  • Upper glutes: I recently added straight leg dead lifts with a light bar bell because I tend to get a burning tiredness in that area.
  • Low back, side waist and abdomen: I do “torso curls” in every direction. I used to skip these but I’ve found that engaging my core on the bike really gives me a stability and efficiency boost.
  • Quads and hamstrings: I continue to rely on balance lunges (front-to-back without touching down in between.) These are great for preventing soreness and maintaining core, balance and strength year-round.

Less death grip on the handlebars

When I feel comfortable with the traffic and roadway, I am able to grab a drink of water, do turn signals, swipe at my wind-caused tears and scratch my nose! That has taken a long time. But on long, steep downhills, my hands feel so stressed by the weight of my torso and constant braking that I feel off-balance, and then I brake even more.  (Fortunately the V3 route map shows easy hills so I shouldn’t drop too far behind Dan’s pace line pack.)

Managing an erratic heart rate

This has been tricky. During early season rides, I’d check my heart rate monitor after a hard effort and see numbers as high as 225! I did not feel awful or overly breathless, but I was concerned.

Two tricks seem to be keeping my heart beat at more reasonable levels (160-185 max when working hard). I learned if I pull over and take a 2-minute rest by the roadside I can “reboot” it back into normal ranges for the rest of the ride. Which means the pack will indeed leave me behind. The last two rides, I decreased my pre-ride coffee intake to no more than 5-6 ounces and my heart rate behaved very well. I’ve always been overstimulated by caffeine.

Planning for 5-6 hours of fuel and hydration

I’ve never bonked on a long ride (up to 3  hours so far), but that doesn’t mean I am immune. With help from Dan and some biker friends, I’m daring to go off the Zone diet on bike days to avoid that. I have had leg cramps at a stop light, and jumped out of bed with horrendously painful calf cramps two times in the past week.

If I’m really serious about getting enough water tomorrow, I’ll wear my bulky Camelback to make sure I sip water every 15 minutes–saving the bottle mounted to my bike frame for chugging electrolytes at stop lights. I’ll pack spare tablets to add at the rest stop refills. High-carb snacks on the list are Cliff Blocks, Cliff Bars and Beans.

Skills that will come in handy someday if not tomorrow

After swearing I’d NEVER be comfortable drafting in a pace line, I have experienced the benefits a few times this summer. I sometimes dare to get my front wheel close enough to see what gear the person ahead is using, but I can’t sustain it for very long. What an incentive, though! That brief respite from leg effort is a dangling carrot I’m now determined to pursue whenever possible.

I continue to be slow on most down hills, though I’ve upped my maximum historic speed to 32 mph. I brake before almost all corners because I don’t trust centrifugal force enough to relax and tip the bike. I need lots more experience doing the nimble weight transitions that result in fast back-to-back S-curves. I’m not even that good making tight-radius turns on the flats.

V3 here I come. Wish me luck!

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