The British explorer Bill Tillman defined adventure as “outcome uncertain.” The outcome of completing a three-hundred-and-thirty-mile bicycle circumnavigation of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in forty hours was certainly uncertain. Add to the formula that we’d be riding through a rain forest during the winter – twenty one of the forty eight allotted hours would be in darkness.
When it came to soliciting partners for this escapade Dan Liberator was my natural choice. Dan was wary, which I took as a good sign – he wasn’t underestimating the project – but after a few days of roughing out a plan and talking it over with his wife, Amy, we were a team.
The space between mile one fifty and three hundred is extremely remote and devoid of services. Dan and I considered our logistics carefully and decided to stop and sleep a few hours in the now somewhat famous, perpetually gray town of Forks. We booked an AirBnB in Forks where we could eat, sleep and dry off. We planned to depart Forks at three thirty AM and ride the seventy remote miles to Quinault Lake in the dark, arriving at the Lodge in time for breakfast.
The portion of the route between Forks and Quinault Lake passes through the Hoh Rain Forrest on the uninhabited and seldom used in the winter Hoh Mainline Road; we would ride this at night, with a near certainty of precipitation. The idea of the trip was to be self-supported meaning that we’d load our bikes with all necessary food, water, clothing, repair and emergency supplies. We needed to prepare for everything from mild temperatures and sunshine to freezing temperatures and driving rain.
The Hoh Mainline is thirty miles of no grocery store, no post office, no gas station, no house, no barn, no hayloft, no outhouse, no doghouse. The only manmade structures are the pavement and the Olympic Corrections Center – a place where neither Dan nor I were keen on stopping. A quick look at cell coverage showed that we wouldn’t be able to count on service while on the Mainline. In the weeks leading up to the ride evening temperatures in Forks were in the low thirties making it seem reckless to venture onto this deserted stretch of road in the middle of the night without some sort of support. Fortunately, my son, Sam, agreed to meet us in Forks and sweep the route. Even with Sam, the prospect of riding through the Hoh Rainforest in the middle of the night was a bit daunting.
My long-distance riding credentials are limited, and thus preparation for this trip was a trial and error process. My primary concern was where to put my gear. I didn’t want to carry much, if anything, in jersey pockets so I had to figure out a bag system. I noticed that a lot of randonneurs use porteur bags mounted between the handlebars, I tried a few different designs, without success as they all interfered with my lighting system and made the bike temperamental and unstable. Fortunately, the recent popularity of bikepacking has rendered an array of super slick bike cargo solutions; I settled on a large bikepacking seat bag and a top tube-mounted frame bag.
Twenty one of the forty allotted hours would be in the dark thus lighting was a major issue. An obvious solution would have been a dyno hub, but a disk brake front wheel with a dyno hub isn’t exactly an off-the-shelf item, and I had neither the time nor the resources to lace a new wheel. I settled on my two existing rechargeable lights: a Niterider 550 and a Serfas 1100. I have two external battery packs for the Serfas. I planned to start the night riding with the Niterider and when it faded I would plug it into a portable power supply and then run the first Serfas battery then go back to the newly charged Niterider then to the other Serfas battery and then back to the Niterider. Conservatively assuming two hours burn on each I could theoretically get twelve and a half hours of lighting – more than enough time between plugins. As an emergency backup I brought a AAA powered headlamp secured to my helmet. My taillight was AAA powered as well. It seems to me that lighting companies should come up with a AA or a AAA option for their units. Alkaline batteries are easy and lightweight to carry and available at any gas station.
The next issue to figure out was navigation. My old timey Garmin has, at best, five hours of battery life and, much to my surprise, it doesn’t operate while plugged into a portable power supply. It seems like this should be a solvable problem, but I don’t understand that much about electronics. One solution – the solution that Dan thankfully took – would have been to buy a new modern bicycle computer. I already have a bike computer – something I rarely use for day-to-day riding – so I opted to get a small handheld GPS, something that I can use both for this trip and also use for bikepacking, climbing, skiing, hiking, overlanding and other forays into remote places. I went with the Garmin Etrex 22X. The Etrex 22X is AAA battery powered, so by bringing spare alkalines and purchasing batteries along the route (if needed) my power supply should, in theory, be unlimited.
My experience transferring an online map to a bicycle computer is limited – actually I’ve only done it once – and while after much trail and error I did manage to download the route to my new machine I wasn’t able to access turn-by-turn instructions. Ideally I would have taken the unit out on a few trial routes and figured it all out, but in the end I simply ran out of time. Thankfully Dan had navigation all figured out, which allowed me to focus on the food.
I need to consume north of three hundred calories per hour in order to sustain a full day effort. On training rides I can survive on blocks, bars and gels, but when it’s an all day ride I need real food. Three items that work well for me are rice cakes, chocolate waffles and ham and cheese sandwiches (made on cheap white bread). These three items are calorically dense, offer all three macronutrients, travel well (don’t crush or melt) and offer a variety of textures and tastes (sweet, to salty to savory). I planned to purchase supplemental food at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores; I find that on a long cold ride some potato wedges or a gas station burrito can be a game-changer.
The final issue to solve was clothing. I’m on a bike racing team, and my team gear is perfectly adequate for the vast majority of my rides, but with the possibility of below freezing temperatures I needed a combination of packability and warmth. My cold weather racing gear, while warm, isn’t exactly packable. My years in the mountains has taught me that the ultimate in packability and warmth is down, which is less than worthless when wet, and we were going to get wet. The middle ground is synthetic insulation.
My friend, Todd, has this great insulated jacket from Rapha and so I asked if I could use it on a wet and cold training ride. It was perfect. Thankfully Todd let me borrow it. I did, however, go to the Rapha store and purchase the vest version of this jacket. On any big trip, whether it be hiking, climbing, ski mountaineering or biking, I like to have one secret weapon, one thing in the bottom of the pack that I can pull out when things are really starting to go south. The insulated Rapha jacket will be that peace of mind.
I am a big fan of wool as it’s perfectly suited to the cold damp conditions of the Pacific Northwest. I opted to start the ride with a wool undershirt, a team jersey and a wool long sleeve jersey. On the bottom I wore bibs under padded wool tights. The bibs under tights provided two layers of chamois, which both Dan and I agreed was essential. On my feet I wore wool socks tucked into Fizik Artica R5 winter road shoes. On my hands I wore Head gloves purchased for eleven dollars at Costco. The insulated jacket, the vest, a rain shell, SealSkinz split finger gloves and a spare skull cap were packed into the seat bag.
Dan and I were part of a ride leaving from the Rapha store at five forty-five in the AM on the Saturday after Christmas. We both arrived at five in order to drink some coffee, eat some oatmeal and to listen to a last minute briefing. The sidewalk outside of the store was lined with a vast array of variously loaded bicycles; everyone seemed to a have a personalized way of carrying their load and lighting their path. As I entered the store I felt strangely intimidated.
When it comes to bike racing I know my way around, I know the people, I have my routines, in short I’m comfortable. Here, other than Mick Walsh, every face was new, and everyone seemed to be fitter, better prepared and better informed than myself. There was a confidence to the room. A confidence I didn’t share. Dan and I struck up a conversation with one rider who said that his plan was to just ride the course. He didn’t have any plans to stop or spend the night. This seemed like a bold proposal due to the one hundred and fifty miles of desolate night riding between Forks and Shelton.
On the ferry ride to Bainbridge Island Mick realized that he’d ridden the six miles from his house with both his bibs and his tights inside out – the consequence of getting dressed in the dark. The highly enthusiastic Rapha support crew walked the ferry photographing the nervous tension.
We rolled off the ferry and into the darkness at seven AM. The group stayed together riding a comfortable pace towards the bridge over Agate Pass. The ride was self-supported and thus everyone was loaded with food, water and foul(er) weather gear. Everyone geared down as we climbed a series of rolling hills; gravity was working against our loaded bicycles. Thankfully, I’d been carrying my gear on training rides, and thus wasn’t shocked by the added weight.
After Agate Pass the group started to break up. Some of the faster riders began pulling away and Dan and I had to overcome our racer tendency to chase. We quickly fell into a groove and soon we were rolling along at a comfortable sustainable pace.
We were conscientious about our eating and we didn’t hesitate to stop every hour to eat and fill our rear pockets with road snacks. This was a welcome change from the grab what you can when you can aspect of eating during races and team training rides. Our first stop was the elaborate gas station at Blyne where we ate hot sandwiches and talked to pro rider Kiel Reijnen of Trek Sigafredo who was out on a training ride.
We rode toward Port Angeles on a waterfront trail – on the left a wooded cliff, on the right saltwater. Winter hadn’t been easy on the trail and we encountered several washouts strewn with softball-sized rocks. We’d nearly made it to town when we encountered a major landslide that had deposited several large deciduous trees across the trail. The cliff prohibited going around to the left and the ocean prevented traversing right; our only option was to go over. These were some thick trees and after we’d carried and drug our loaded bikes to a tenuous midpoint, we found our route degraded from nearly impassable to downright dangerous. Backtracking over the deadfall and then riding backwards on the route until we found an alternate route into Port Angeles seemed unpleasant at best, so we pushed forward crawling through branches, handing bikes off and walking through ankle-deep mud until we made it out the other side.
Dan was using mountain bike shoes and pedals while I’d opted for a road set-up. My cleats were packed with mud and despite several stick cleanings and a wash in a puddle I couldn’t manage to get my right cleat clipped in. Thankfully Sam would be in Port Angeles and with him would be a spare set of shoes.
Dan and I grabbed coffee at the Port Angeles ferry terminal – where, in 1999, Ahmed Ressam was intercepted on his way to Los Angeles with a trunkful of explosives – and met up with Sam. I changed shoes and told our faithful support driver to continue on to Forks. At the hip grocery, the young lady behind me in line said to be careful on Highway 101 as there is minimal shoulder and lots of logging trucks. She seemed relieved when I told her that we wouldn’t be on 101 but instead would be riding west on Highway 112 to Joyce where we’d turn south and ride the trail along the north shore of Lake Crescent.
The rain began as we climbed west out of Port Angeles. I changed out of the wool jersey and into the insulated jacket under a raincoat. At a training pace I would have been sweating, but at our steady all day pace I was warm and comfortable. The fourteen miles from Port Angeles to Joyce along Highway 112 were our first “nervous” miles.
This section of highway has little to no shoulder and heavy truck traffic. Two miles short of Joyce Dan pulled over to check out a thumping sensation coming from his front wheel. The culprit was easy to locate: a large thumbtack embedded into his tire. Dan was running tubeless and the tire didn’t seem to be losing air so we pushed on to Joyce where we could get under cover and repair the tire. Joyce was more town than expected and we passed a group of our comrades eating under cover at a small drive-in restaurant. Dan and I rolled up to a little log cabin museum and surveyed the damage.
Despite the presence of the big silver thumbtack the tire was holding air. Were we only six or seven miles from home, we probably would have just left it, but with two hundred plus miles to go we figured that we’d better “fix” it. I was fully ready to add a tube, but Dan simply pulled out the tack, spun the wheel and let the sealant do its job. Much to my surprise the sealant filled the hole, and after a bit of work with the hand pump we were back on the road.
The road between Joyce and Lake Crescent is the only sustained climbing of the route. Dan and I rode a moderate consistent pace and soon we were at the parking lot at the end of the road. The Rapha support crew was there cheering as we turned onto the trail that follows the north shore of the lake.
The sun had long since set and we were now in total darkness. Both Dan and I are gravel/cyclocross racers and the temptation to “open it up” on the trail was strong, but the desire to not flat or break a rim was stronger. For me a wilderness lake is synonymous with peace, and despite limited visibility I felt a sense of tranquility as we cruised along the shoreline.
Once off the trail we took a mixture of backroads and the wide-shouldered Highway 101 to Forks. We rolled into town a little after 8:00 PM. We located the AirBnB where Sam was waiting, stripped out of our wet clothing, threw it all in the dryer and headed out for a pizza place suggested by the owner of the AirBnB. We drove straight there and ate as much pizza and drank as much soda as we could fit into our stomachs. The grocery store closed ten minutes before we got there, so we had to purchase a dusty box of instant oatmeal and some industrial coffee at the gas station on the edge of town.
Back at the AirBnB Dan and I set multiple alarms for two thirty and went to bed. I fell asleep immediately, but by one thirty I was wide awake and ready to go. I later found out that Dan was in the same situation, had I known we could have gotten on the road an hour earlier. After two cups of black coffee and a bowl of oatmeal we were on the road. It’s always surprising how quickly time passes in the early morning hours: we didn’t manage to get on the road until three thirty.
The rain started as was turned out of the driveway. I have to say that the rain simply was not a major factor – our bikes had good fenders and we were dressed adequately. Riding in the dark amid driving rain sounds miserable, but I wasn’t miserable. Perhaps the negative aspect of the weather was balanced by the well-maintained deserted road and good company. Dan and I rode side-by-side talking and telling stories. I was having a good time.
About fifteen miles south of Forks we came upon the intersection of Highway 101 and the Hoh Mainline Road. The next forty miles were intimidating. Other than a minimum-security prison and the roadway itself we’d see no manmade structure along the Mainline. I’d brought along a small thermos of coffee – stuffed into a water bottle cage – Dan and I each took a long drink of hot Folgers and turned left into the darkness.
I find it difficult to accurately assess speed and grade while riding in the dark. My perceived speed is faster the perceived grade slacker, so for the first five miles of the Mainline I thought we were riding quickly up a gradual slope when we were riding slowly up a steep incline. Either way we were making good progress up the dark, deserted yet surprisingly smooth road.
We’d been on the Mainline for about an hour when Sam came cruising by in the truck, we verified that all was good and told him to drive fifteen miles up the road and expect us in an hour. Riding past the Olympic Corrections Center – where, evidently, they do a “Full Productive Day” – at night was a surreal experience. The facility was glowing ultraviolet, while outside of the wire the forest was shrouded in blackhole darkness.
The Hoh Rainforest lived up to its name, occasionally I’d shine my helmet light on Dan to see a steady stream of water dripping from the tip of his nose. When running an Ironman marathon you don’t run twenty six miles, instead you run one mile, get there and then decide that you can do another mile and then carry on. I took the same attitude with this ride: break the route into manageable sections, point A to point B, then once at B push on to C. As we rode the Mainline I focused on returning to Highway 101 and didn’t concern myself with the rest.
We hit 101 at sunrise and the first road sign we saw read Quinault 23 miles. When engaged in a fast-paced training ride twenty-three miles isn’t very far. It’s a distance easily knocked off in an hour, and it’s common to “power through” the final hour of a ride and arrive at the end “on fumes.” Dan and I decided to power it through to the Quinault Lodge, arrive there on fumes and then power up with a big breakfast. Until this point Dan and I had ridden what I would consider to be a very intelligent, thought-out and well-executed ride. This was our one stupid mistake. The Lake Quinault Lodger was actually thirty miles away and we got to “fumes” state about five miles short. We arrived at the Lodge at ten AM.
Days after the ride Sam said that moral at the breakfast table was “pretty low.” Dan and I were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time to ride the final one hundred and twenty miles – we needed to be at the Bremerton ferry dock in time to make the nine o-clock sailing. We decided to continue onward, roll steady and if we make it we make it, if we don’t we don’t. Back on Highway 101 the rain continued its steady drumbeat, but we had daylight and a descent shoulder with minimal traffic so on we went. The Lodge breakfast didn’t satiate my appetite, but we were both feeling okay, neither great nor horrible, but okay.
As I shifted down for a hill a few miles south of the little town of Neilton the rear derailleur cage extended into the spokes ripping off the hanger and destroying the rear mech. It was time to call Sam, who was, thankfully, only ten miles up the road parked on the edge of cell service.
For us the ride was over, but I don’t consider the experience a failure. Both Dan and I came away from the ride with a deeper knowledge of how to prepare for and execute long self-supported bike rides. Despite the miserable weather I don’t think either of us were miserable. In fact, I can say that I enjoyed the ride and the companionship. This ride took me back to my mountaineering roots, where the ethos is preparation, camaraderie and a thirst to extend what one considers possible.
Technologist, family man, and mud-lover Chris Rodde is our top-ranking racer for 2019. We’re inspired by his year-and-a-half long preparations for cyclocross nationals. Here is his heart-pounding account of how it felt to race with the best in the US.
Cyclocross Nationals was held in Steilacoom, WA this year, just 1 hour south of Seattle. The first time since 1996 that Natz was held in Washington offered Seattle area bike racers a chance to race at one of the best venues against the fastest racers in the country, to volunteer at a national level event, and to cheer on fellow Seattle area racers as they dug deep to strut their stuff on their home course.
Seattle showed up well in every way possible at this event, from the local MFG crew who put on an incredible event, to the fans who showed up in the thousands, to Seattle local racers, who dominated their categories. Seattle came away with 7 national champions and 37 podiums across the 37 championship races held. Seattle women especially kicked ass winning 5 championships. It was a huge thrill to cheer on friends Julie Robertson Zivin, Tricia Fleischer and Jack Spranger who all will wear the stars and stripes this year.
I raced in the Masters Men 50-54 category. For me, getting to Steilacoom was an 18 month journey starting last season hiring a coach for the first time to acquire some training tips and racing at the 2018 Nationals in Louisville, KY to gain some Natz experience.
My goal for Nationals was to try to crack the top 20. The race predictor at Cross Results had me at 17th so I knew 20th was within reach. Who knows… maybe I could land in the top 10!
In terms of the prep & training for Natz, there isn’t much difference as compared to the prep & training that you’d do for local races. The biggest difference is about USA Cycling points. USAC points determine the start order of the race and with 100+ racers in a category, a good start position can mean a ton if you are hoping for a good result.
I could write a short book about USAC points and how to gain decent points if you are coming from the west coast. In short, the only way to get decent USAC points is to travel to parts of the country where points are good. This season I went to Boulder, CO to race 4 races over a weekend, to give myself a boost at the Natz starting line. The Boulder trip paid off despite coming down with the flu the day before. I actually raced with a fever, feeling like absolute shit the whole weekend. In my sickly shape, my goal in Boulder was to just finish, and my results and the points I got actually worked out pretty well landing me in the 4th row at Steilacoom (28th seed) out of the 13 total rows in the 50-54 Men category.
In the 2 weeks before Natz, I went through a range of emotions and doubts about my plan to taper to peak for Natz. Some days I woke up feeling great, confident that my tapering plan was going to make me faster when that whistle blew. Other days, I woke up questioning whether I’d lose all of the speed that I’d worked so hard all season to build up. Should I do more intervals this week? The few intervals I’m doing… am I pushing them hard enough? Or too hard? As an amateur racer (with no coach this year) I had a few scarce things guiding me. One was my years of swimming in high school and college, where we tapered every season, so I knew tapering worked. Another was a post by Adam Myerson with some tips on what to do in the last couple of weeks before cyclocross Natz. Adam’s best piece of advice for peaking for nationals is that the work is done and you can’t really change anything so don’t sweat it. I kept reminding myself of this as the days to Natz counted down.
An hour before the race, the rain started to pour, making for perfect conditions for this mud obsessed racer, boosting my confidence. Dragging down my confidence was heart arrhythmia. I saw some odd readings on my heart rate monitor during the warm-up that morning, which had me worried as I tried to show calm and confidence to my family who had come to watch the race.
The arrhythmia first showed up in the sand at Lake Sammamish in 2015, in my first race as a Cat 1/2. About 4 minutes into the race, my heartrate jumped to 220 and stayed there for 5-6 minutes. I spent the month following the Sammamish race working with a cardiologist and wearing a halter monitor. The conclusion in 2015 from the doc was that this was not life-threatening and I could continue to race. The arrhythmia showed up a couple of other times in races over the next 5 seasons, including, ironically, my 2018 Nationals, and once earlier this season but always would drop after a few minutes back into range. As I stood at the start line I told myself that if my heart rate was normal by the end of the first lap I’d keep going. If not, I’d drop out.
The whistle blew and we were off, all 99 of us. As we all galloped down the start straight, I just tried to hold my position, hoping that easing into the pace would stave off arrhythmia. At the first run-up, I knew that the arrhythmia was happening as I saw a reading way too high for this 50-year-old. The good news was that there was so much traffic, the pace wasn’t exceeding what I could handle with a heart rate out of whack. At the bottom of the first descent, my legs felt good as I tried to spin up the pace and I looked down to see a heart rate of 145, well within my normal range. Yahoo! The race was on…
At the end of the first lap, I think I was in about 25th or 30th place. Lap 2 I put my head down and focused on riding hard on the parts of the course I knew were my strengths and riding smoothly everywhere else. The orchard after the second run-up and the bumpy straights (like the one after the sand) were where I knew I could gain time, based on my experience at the race at Steilacoom earlier in the season. I passed a few guys on each of the run-ups which I had trained specifically for.
The mud was amazing. I am definitely a “mudder” loving the courses that spit in your eye, when tires are slinging mud and two wheels are sliding. The descents were dicey and I just tried to be smooth and fast.
At the end of the second lap, someone yelled that I was in 15th place. Wow! I was totally energized.
One thing worth mentioning about racing at Nationals is the crowd, especially on home turf. Everyone in Seattle was cheering me on whether they knew me or not (as well as cheering for every other Seattle racer in my field). The crowd is there to cheer on Seattle at large and their energy was contagious.
My kids and wife were going nuts. Their cheers and energy were my biggest motivators.
The next two laps were a bit of a blur. I held to the same game plan…. push hard where I knew I’d be strong and ride smooth elsewhere.
In the sandpit, with about 250 yards to go, I saw that the guy behind me making a push. I had about a 3-second gap that I tried to hold, though with every corner I could see him inching closer. When I made the last left hand turn onto the finish straight, I didn’t know if he had closed the gap or not. I put my head down and gave it everything I had. The finish was probably about 70 yards away and thankfully I had enough gas to push the entire way. As I crossed the finish I saw him out of the corner of my eye. We crossed with the exact time! Fortunately, they gave it to me. 12th!
My family ran up beaming, greeting me with huge smiles. I was grinning ear to ear myself, super happy to have them experience Nationals with me. Definitely the highlight of my racing career.
Cross season is here. We’ve compiled this statewide race list for your hand reference. There is some serious racing on tap.
Cyclocross is a super inclusive sport, all you really need are a bike with knobby tires and a helmet. If you’re new to the sport – or if you want a good workout – hit up the Wednesday night sessions at Marymoor Park starting on Sept 25.
|Sept||8||MFG #1||Lake Sammamish||Issaquah||N|
|Oct||5||Cascade Cross||Black Mountain||Maple Falls||N|
||6||Inland Cross||Potlach||Potlatch, ID||N|
||13||Inland Cross||Coeur d’ Alene||Coeur d’Alene, ID||N|
||19||Cascade Cross||Woolley Cross||Sedro Woolley||N|
||27||Inland Cross||Big Barn Brewing||Mead, WA||N|
|Nov||2||Cascade Cross||Speedway Cross||Bellingham||N|
||3||MFG#5||North 40||Lemay Grounds, Tacoma||N|
||10||Inland Cross||Walter’s Fruit Ranch||Mead, WA||N|
||16||Cascade Cross||Delta Tech||Ferndale||N|
||17||Inland Cross||Riverside State Park||Spokane WA||N|
|Dec||7||NWCXCUP#4||Ft. Nugent||Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island||Y|
||8||NWCXCUP#5||Ft. Nugent||Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island||Y|
With the death of Paul Sherwin, Bob Roll has stepped up as commentator for NBC’s Tour de France coverage. Watching this interview is an hour well spent. Learn about him growing up, discovering that he could ride bikes faster than just about anyone around him, his move to Europe where he raced with 7/11, and a bunch of other stuff. A very enjoyable listen. We recommend it, no matter what your impression of him.
After 70 miles of racing, 5 seconds.
I raced the 40+ 4/5 category. Liquid Velo had a very strong team with at least 3 contenders and a team of 6 or so. That made it difficult to keep tabs on them. Ultimately, they got someone away on the last lap of the road race (at one point his gap was 1:30). Jeremy, the race leader and I talked about him as we watched him establish a gap in the next-to-last-lap. We were riding slow. “A snowball’s chance in hell,” Jeremy said. We couldn’t see him on the final climb, and didn’t know how much time he had on us. He ended up beating me by 5 seconds for the GC (General Classification).
I was racing with just a heart rate sensor (not power). I used my Wahoo heart rate strap paired to my Garmin watch and it worked well. I set a target of 40KM/h. Previously, I’d done the 10k TT in around 16:10, so my goal was to get into the 15 minute range. I took it slightly easy out of the gate (the opening stretch is conveniently downhill). I was able to hold the aero position (elbows on the top bar) for nearly the whole time. I concentrated on pushing a slightly-bigger gear at a slightly slower cadence (70-80 RPM). A tailwind on the long straight turned into a headwind on the homestretch. It was a painful last few minutes, but I eeked out 15:21 for 4th overall.
Breakfast at Charlies with teammates was a highlight of the weekend. Their waffles taste like doughnuts!
Before the race, we each took turns giving Morgan (Cat-5) conflicting advice on what to do in the crit while taking practice laps. Finally Justin L zeroed in on a key issue: tire pressure. Morgan reduced his tire pressure, and tried racing from the front (rather than the back), and did well.
I wanted to be opportunistic, but not over-expend myself trying to win time primes. I was in 4th but 25s out of first, and there was a max of 22s on offer for time primes. I got the 1st time bonus by following a wheel and sprinting around. I passed on a couple of cash primes and then got 3rd for the last prime. The last lap, a Liquid Velo Rider took off on the back straight. I thought for sure he had left too early. Two years ago, we picked up a rider like that in the sprint. But this time he stayed away. I worked through traffic to find Chris Joosse’s trusty wheel, then sprinted around for 2nd.
Four full times up Mud Mountain road. The first one with no time bonuses, the rest with KOM time bonuses up for grabs. Race leader (Tacoma Cyclist Jeremy Cucco) and two strong, but lesser-known riders (one that beat me at IVRR, and one that led me out in Poulsbo) made a break the first time up the hill. We had to work to catch them, but we caught them just before the second time up.
After being dropped on the third time up last year, I was thrilled to be capable of capturing time bonuses and 2nd for the race on the final lap. The mistake I made was not checking the results after the crit. Unbeknownst to me (the results must’ve come in later in the evening) I had actually earned my way to 3rd place after the crit, and the results had shuffled. In the road race, I was watching the wrong two Liquid Velo riders (the ones that beat me in the TT). Their team was strong and I needed more teammates.
This was a huge improvement for me over previous years — the field was a touch slower this year, but I was also quantifiably faster. I’m writing another post on some training tweaks I’ve done in the last couple months in the lead up to the penultimate Volunteer Park Criterium.
Five Tacos (David, Garth, Brian, Bryce, and Adam) and 3 friends (Karen, Jack, and Darrel) made a trip to Borrego Springs, CA last week for a spring training camp. I was the youngest and racked up the fewest total miles – 175 (and 12K feet of climbing) in 4 days. Others had way over 300 miles (and some stayed longer). There wasn’t a single flat tire in the 12 hours of group riding that I joined.
Anza Borrego state park is the largest state park in California. It is a desert canyon about 1.5 hours south of Palm Springs (and 2 hrs from San Diego).
Other than bike touring, this was the first time I’ve taken a trip just to ride. It was nice to be with a group that just wanted to log as many miles as possible, then eat, sleep and do it again.
Around the block. This was a 3,500ft climb to a yeti statue, and a tiny store that is only open sporadically. Luckily it was open that day, because it was freezing at the top.
Other rides incorporated Yaqui Pass and the “Texas Triangle.” a vicious headwind (gusting to 50mph earlier in the trip) meant for fun tailwind sections which felt more like motorcycle touring than bike riding.
Other highlights included trying just about every local restaurant to find the best burgers and blueberry pancakes in town.
You can find more photos from the desert over on my blog.
David Friedt – flight instructor, Masters National Championships podium finisher, and Volunteer Park Criterium organizer – is still racing hard in his 70s. Here is what he’s up to this winter in preparation for next season.
This is described as a Sub-Threshold workout. In training with a power meter, it is possible to target specific power ranges. Sweet Spot is taken from the Functional Threshold of Power number and occurs at 88% to 94% of FTP (functional threshold power). In building or raising the FTP it is important to start from below that number. For my Sweet Spot I use an FTP of 230 watts to calculate a Sweet Spot from 202-216 watts. On a recent ride I did two Sweet Spot workouts. One 12 minutes and the second one at 24 minutes at an average of 205 watts. It is hard to find a place to grind for 20 minutes without interruption.
Two of the best places to do these workouts are on Mercer Island, Jones Road and the Cedar River Trail just past Ron Regis Park. There is one light on the Cedar River Trail at Cedar Grove road, but it is a brief stop.
The advantages of this workout are two. Working just below the FTP and putting the heart rate in zone 3/4. When I did these two intervals my heart rate average was 122 bpm and 128 bpm respectively. Since my maximum heart rate is 168 bpm that puts my effort in zone 3. I am building power just below my Lactate Threshold of 141 bpm. Building power at Lactate Threshold is the goal of training for bike racing.
Here are two workouts I use:
Mercer Island: I ride to the Shore Club on East Mercer Way just south to I-90. I get three one-minute intervals in zone 4 power with high cadence. Then I ride south on East Mercer Way for 15 minutes in Sweet Spot power with a cadence of 90rpm. Back track for recovery for 4 minutes, start another 15 minutes Sweet Spot continuing around the south end of Mercer Island and onto West Mercer Way. For the third interval ride south on West Mercer Way for 15 minutes at Sweet Spot power. Add in 60 minutes of power in zone 2/3 making a complete loop of the island and ending at the Shore Club on East Mercer way.
Since I live on Mercer Island, I ride from my home to the Shore Club to begin this workout to get my warmup and be ready to start the workout.
Jones Road/Cedar River Trail: Do one Sweet Spot interval on Jones Road at 10-12 minutes. It takes 8-10 minutes to ride back to the start for the recovery. Then ride to the trail and do one 20-24 minutes interval between the traffic light on Highway 169 at 154th Place SE and the parking area on the trail in Maple Valley. With a 1-2% grade this is a perfect spot to do a longer Sweet Spot interval. After this longer interval, I will ride Maxwell Road to Cedar Grove Road to Issaquah/Hobart road and return via May Valley to Mercer Island. I try to ride May Valley as an opportunity to work on speed training. With the intervals this ride is about 45 miles and 3:30:00 to complete.
Sweet Spot was introduced to me my Earl Zimmerman, a Cycling Peaks Coach in Redmond. The Allen/Coggan “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” is the best reference for this workout.
Have fun, David
Aside from racing cyclocross and logging long miles amongst the fall colors, here are a few things we’ve been taco-ing about this fall.
Jim Wright: I’m looking forward to another season of Zwift and the WSBA Sweatfest virtual race series. Not only is it a high-intensity workout but it blends together some of my favorite things: video games, bicycles, and racing to name a few. Not to mention the post-race comments on Facebook—hilarious!
Join the 500+ member WSBA Sweat Fest Facebook group to learn more.
Mykenna Ikehara: My new favorite account to follow on Instagram: @feedzonenews. Very “The Onion”-esque.
Sage Vann: The Whoop band is amazing. It uses HRV to rate your recovery. When I was using it diligently my workout duration quantity and exertion increased noticeably. It’s the best band out there right now, bicycling magazine has an article saying the same.
Adam Loving: I’ve added the “Bone-up” calcium supplement to my morning vitamins. I’m lactose intolerant so I need calcium, and this claims to help with bone density (a big problem for cyclists) and cardio-vascular health. I’ve also noticed it helps with recovery – makes my legs feel better.
Also, check out Jimmy Chin’s climbing documentaries. “Free Solo” (in theaters) and “Meru” (available on Netflix) are gripping stories about relentless pursuit of difficult goals. I loved both of them.
Mark Clausen: The Faster Podcast by Flow Cycling (iTunes) Dr. Seiler is a leading authority on how world-class endurance athletes train. Have a listen to learn how these athletes go slow to get fast. Bottom line: go slow 90% and really hard 10%.
Mike McGuffin: Drinking water. Something that I’ve finally come to accept lately is the reality of dehydration. Lately I’ve observed the negative side effects of chronic dehydration. What I think has been happening to me is I sweat a lot when I’m doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and during indoor training. I also drink a lot of coffee so over time I tend to get really sore – like whole body soreness – which I think is due to significant dehydration. To get over this I need to drink mega amounts of water over several days. In order to avoid this in the future I’ve been concentrating on drinking a lot of water during the day, it’s not to avoid short-term water loss (i.e. big indoor sweat session) but to avoid that long term chronic dehydration.