In the past getting time to ride has been the hard part. This time around I had plenty of time. The real challenge this year was the weather. Keep in mind, I am used to mild California climate and my tolerance for cold is fairly low. As I write this it is 68F in my house and my feet are freezing, I think they are purple. I know, rule #5, sure thing, I’ll get right on that. Besides, I finished the Rapha Festive 500 in four rides didn’t I, so I HTFU well enough I think.
Mini cold weather cycling apparel review: Of all of the gear I wore, my Rapha Soft Shell Jacket and Thermal Bib Shorts, along with the Paerl Izumi gloves and shoe covers and a craft windstopper beanie were the best bits of kit. I only have one of the Rapha kits so the other rides were cold one way or another. I did decide that, at least down into the 30s, my legs don’t need covering as long as the rest of me is covered, so that should save me on leg warmers.
Looking at the year overall, I did a lot of riding but not as much as 2014. I spent a lot of time on the trainer and did a lot of great events and the most memorable were the ones I did with friends. Here is a snapshot of the trophy case.
Here is a year end review video Strava made: 2015 Strava video
This is my second year riding the Rapha Festive 500 (last year’s blog entry). Everything I said last year still stands: the riding is the easy part, it is everything else that makes it hard. This time around, I was able to ride the Festive in a number of different places, but regardless of location, wind and cold were in abundance. This year also started after approximately two months off the bike, in which time I was busy teaching myself Node.js, so I left my heart rate monitor at home so I could ignore the elevated numbers starting out, knowing they would settle down by the challenge end.
I started in Huntington Beach riding down the coast to Laguna (when the bike lane ran out) and then back up. Most of this route I discovered on a shop ride with Surf City Cyclery a while back and just added to it.
Next up was Calabasas. It would seem at first blush that maybe the Pedalers Fork, a nice restaurant and bike shop, might have something going on, but their website only talked about a Tuesday ride and none of the days I had left in Calabasas were a Tuesday. Other shops either had nebulous ride info or MTB rides (I am certainly considering bringing my MTB next time for a spin with JRA Bikes & Brew). No matter, a quick search of activities in Calabasas on Strava showed me a number of routes. Scott Goldman seemed to have some good things going so I borrowed part of his route. It was late on Christmas eve, so I only got in a twenty mile out and back to Westlake and back following the 101.
The next day I was up for some real riding and ready to explore. The Rock Store climb seemed to be a thing “everyone had to do,” so again on Strava I mapped out a forty-five miler that took me out Mulholland, up that climb and then around Westlake and back. It was a great route–wide roads and little traffic–although my climbing speed seemed a bit off. I probably want to come back in the summer and tackle that when I am in better form and see what I can do with it.
My last day in Calabasas I needed to clock in some miles without taking all day. So, I went east into the San Fernando Valley all the way to Van Nuys following the Orange Bus line trail for a portion. It is a nice trail, but the traffic lights seemed to take forever to change even when there was no cross traffic.
Back in my own neck of the woods and back to work, I spent Sunday and Monday nights doing a local flat four mile loop in wind and cold for another seventy five miles. Those laps made me miss my turbo trainer.
With just a hint over eighty miles go to, I wanted to end the Festive 500 with a bang and collect one more Strava Gran Fondo, so I took the 30th off from the bike and took the 31st off from work and went for a ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains with my friend Dave. It was cold and we got a late start at 11:00am after some mechanical difficulties. Lucky for us, those were the only mechanical issues we had all day and the bikes performed flawlessly. Dave is really a climber at heart, so we had to have enough of that in the mix to make it worth his while. So we did 8200 ft of climbing to go with our 82 miles in six hours. We did country roads, pine forests, dark canyons and sunny peaks with views to the ocean. As usual, we hardly stopped and got in just as the sun set.
In all of that riding, there were only two events of note. At about 75 miles into the last ride, a deer ran across the road right in front of me. Dave was behind me and from his perspective it looked like a close call. From my perspective, it seemed fine, provided the deer kept traveling across the road and didn’t decide to stop and go back the way it came (Dave assured me this was just as likely a possibility when it came to deer). Then about a mile later, as we traveled single file through a long flat right hand bend on Hicks just before Camden, an SUV driving in the opposite direction traveling between fifty and sixty miles an hour, tires squealing and already more than half way over the double yellow, headed straight for us. I just remember headlights and holding my line and he went by me with less than a foot to spare. I looked back to see Dave still upright and cussed quite liberally in front of a church. I have no doubt that had I had any contact with that SUV at that speed, well…I would rather not think about it.
So ends another year of cycling.
While I have spent quite a bit of time working on cars, I have worked on all kinds of projects. When I wanted an amp that would get that vintage tone, I considered buying one. There are a number on the market that are nice, hand made examples. For the money though, building one seemed like the better value as well as a lot more fun. So I did a little research and found the Tweed Royal kit at BYOC. It basically comes with bags of parts that you assemble like a giant kit. For someone with some time, patience and some skill with a soldering iron, it is complete with great instructions. So good in fact, mine worked on the first try.
First let me say, I dedicate this to my wife who was supportive and understanding of my effort to do something with little tangible reward.
Trying to complete the Rapha Festive 500 in 5 days is a challenge, but not in the way I thought it would be. I thought the challenge would be getting on the bike every day. I thought it would be resisting the urge to call in the sag wagon for an air lift. Oddly, so far as I have seen for myself anyway, if I drink and eat, I can pedal on and on. I don’t get saddle sore, back or knee pain, and I can ride chewing on the stem for hours on end to try and stay out of the wind.
I discovered the real challenge is finding the time during the holidays between cold, utter darkness and family gatherings to get out and put in the hours it takes to complete 500 km. Add to the mix an unfamiliar city with hundreds of miles of disconnected bike lanes, maps that don’t differentiate tarmac from dirt, and navigation software that said “off route” more than it said “turn right” and the whole thing becomes work.
Besides the logistics, this challenge also taught me the effects of overtraining my body. I normally ride hard every other day and twice on weekends if I can. It has more to do with when I have the time to ride than any specific training plan. My average HR is around 165 with a max of about 190 if I am really crushing it up some grade. This week though, I rode hard five days straight and by the end my heart was done being flexible. Take a look at the stats:
Prologue: 19.1 Miles, Average power 165W, 734kJ Produced
HR: Average 162, Max 179
Stage 1: 64.7 Miles, Average power 173W, 2,148kJ Produced
HR: Average 156, Max 177
Stage 2: 51.2 Miles, Average power 154W, 1752kJ Produced
HR: Average 154, Max 174
Stage 3: 115.1 Miles, Average power 154W, 3747kJ Produced
HR: Average 148, Max 164
Stage 4: 20 Miles, Average power 172W, 827kJ Produced
HR: Average 149, Max 159
Penultimate Stage: 45 Miles, Average power 143W, 1330kJ Produced
HR: Average 143, Max 160 (this includes an all out effort to catch a faster moving train going up hill, using all my Sufferlandrian training)
Final Stage: 20.0 Miles, Average power 133W, 557kJ Produced
HR: Average 137, Max 153 (nothing left)
As you can see, by the end, my variance was very small and my power output diminished.
By the way, if you ever end up in Scottsdale on the weekend, check out the Faster group ride and facility (I can’t even classify this as a bike shop; it is way beyond that). I did the Faster B ride for my Penultimate Stage and had a load of fun. Next time I plan to go fresh and do the A ride.