Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Trip, Day Seven: 100 K A Day

"100k a day, that's what you gotta do," says my friend and sometimes mentor, Scott Wade. Scott is one of those guys who's deeply misunderstood by those who don't ride bikes. They find him abrasive, short, and dismissive. He can be all of these things. But his attitude isn't born of anger, or aggression, or dislike of his fellow human beings, I think. Scott made a living for years riding bikes, both off- and 0n-road. He's a formal cyclocross national champion. He wrenches bikes in the summer and grinds skis in the winter. Whenever I asked him for advice about racing, he'd give me the short, dismissive version ("You just never got it done this season, did you, Bagg? Huh, did you?"), but if I waited, soon he'd be the one doing all the talking ("You gotta keep attacking—one of you goes, and then the other, and see who'll come with you, but you gotta mix things up, can't just sit at the back and just suck."). When I told him I wanted to be a Cat 2, he shrugged and said "100k a day. You want it, go do it."

In no way do I average 100k a day, and in that simple rubric I see my promise as a road racer: talented, but not enough time in the saddle (since I'm primarily a triathlete, it's hard to find time to ride 62 miles a day) to regularly take away the Cat 3 races. But today was a 100k day, down in the James River Valley of Northern Virginia. Doesn't anyone else know about the riding here? Why was I the only cyclist I saw out there today? Perfect pavement, good temperatures, a good mixture of flats and climbs, beauty, beauty, beauty...

I set out from Scottesville at 10:30, and didn't check my odometer for forty minutes, at which point I'd covered almost 15 miles, all at an easy cadence and heart rate. One of those stretches in which you feel what it's like to truly co-exist with your bicycle, in which there's no wasted energy (I had a tailwind). I've been trying to ride with a higher cadence, and the PowerTap helps with that. Turns out that my "comfortable" cadence is around 78-80, i.e. I'm a masher, not a spinner. So I've been trying to hold that 85-95 rpm that'll keep everything efficient.

As always, there was a bit of a dip in spirits halfway through, when I was starting to get dehydrated and sugar-low, but both of those issues were easily fixed, as I had about fifteen caramel PowergGels with me (has anyone else had these? They're amazing; I like to eat them for dessert). Having weathered that challenge, I realized my rear wheel felt squirrely, the way a wheel feels when it's getting a bit low on PSI. I pulled over and pressed, and could almost bottom out the tire on the rim. Not good. I must have picked up a slow leak. I loaded a CO2 cartridge into my pump, thinking I would just pump up the leaky tube and change it at the car, and realized I had bought threaded, not unthreaded cartridges; they wouldn't work. My only choice was to pedal the last 9 miles incredibly gingerly, trying to keep my weight off the back wheel and avoiding all bumps in the road. Looking over my powerfile for this workout, you can tell I was nervous: I rode about five miles per hour faster during that period than my average for the whole ride. But I made it back to the car as the rear wheel was taking on that tire pressure you associate with tubular 'cross tires: nice and mushy.

I got home, ate a bunch of rice and beans, and fell into one of those post ride naps that, at first, you think you won't need, and then totally pass out into oblivion. I met Jesse and Sierra for a swim, and then Jesse and I cooked dinner before packing the car for Chincoteague. Come next post, I should have spent some time in the Atlantic Ocean on a long plank of foam and resin. I'll let you know how it goes.

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