Kennett SMASH silly flat roads! 24 hours of riding in four days just happened. For you math wizards, that equates to approximately one third of my time on the bike. Since it was a four day weekend with new years eve and all, I decided it was imperative to use the time off wisely–having a job makes finding time to ride slightly more difficult than having either no job or a semi-job, though it’s still fairly easy so long as you cut out everything else in your life.
Unfortunately, as the weekend approached, so too did the cold winter weather. Long gone are the 60 degree days of early December. All a sudden it dun got real cold! I went to Oregon the prior weekend for Christmas with my family, where I got a couple good rides in down at sea level, which reminded me how soft one could get living down low with the lazy flat landers. The thick atmosphere and the ease at which I pedaled took away much of the joy I get from hacking and coughing and wheezing during my rides at altitude. Plus, all that oxygen just can’t be healthy for you. Bad for the brain and the liver is what I’ve heard. I won’t go into all the details of my too short Christmas at home weekend, but I did firmly smash a five hour ride at 305 watts, I smashed my brother at Chess (barely), and I moderately smashed the fridge. In hindsight I wish I’d eaten more. (PS: Everything should always be described in terms of how heavily it was smashed). And in case any of you are wondering, I will be talking in watts today and if you don’t want to hear about it you can go to someone else’s blog who refuses to discuss power, which really means they’re weak and slow and aren’t able to do anything worth bragging about.
A Christmas Day snow storm bombarded Boulder during my flight home, and the lack of friction made dragging my Pika Pack the one mile from the bus stop to home easy, like a sled. The snowpack did not make for good riding conditions though, especially with the real cold weather still on the way.
Thursday evening and I was still scrambling to find a cheap flight to Tucson for the weekend after I finished work on Friday. My plan was to fly Friday night, ride four days, and fly back late on Tuesday so I could miss out on the 20-degree cold front moving in on Colorado. For some reason I couldn’t find a cheap flight the day before the new year weekend. Thoughts of a Greyhound expedition crossed my mind, and very quickly continued on down the line to the massive landfill that is Kennett’s Shit Ideas, the toxic chemicals of which are currently seeping into the groundwater, pumped back up as city drinking water, and corrode the minds of the townspeople that inhabit Kennett’s Shit Idea City, which was once known simply as Kennett’s Idea City. The vicious cycle of toxic water and the dumbing down of the citizens has seen the slums and brothels grow as the museums, city parks, and playgrounds diminish. It’s sad, but the townspeople have become so dimwitted that they don’t know the difference. Not having ever experienced the sense of sight, how could a blind man possibly miss the warm glow of a sunset over the Pacific? Well, he probably does somehow, but we’re not talking about blind people. We’re talking about the delinquents and idiots and trashy human beings of Kennett’s Shit Idea City. They’d rather get a dozen day-old Manager’s Special donuts for $1.89 than take in a heart-warming, sigh-inducing sunset–the closing paragraph of one of Earth’s rotating chapters–a moment for self reflection, the bitter sweat taste of nostalgia, and tomorrow’s bright promise of everything today failed to bring. Slightly stale donuts are pretty good too though. I’d have to side with the townspeople on this one.
My legs had been feeling pretty dang good on Thursday and Friday, easily pumping out tempo at endurance effort. This got me excited for the weekend. I said to myself, “You know, the cold won’t be too bad. I’ll just stick to the flat roads and stay out of the mountains. Work on my flat riding muscle groups a bit. A little chilly weather will harden me up too. Put some hair on my chest. Put some grit in my teeth. You know, sink my eyes back into my skull a little more. Deaden the tips of my fingers and toes with a lovely dark purple hue and help shave off some unnecessary weight. Give me hallucinations about bonfires and sunny beaches mid-ride as my vision fades, frozen cross-eyed Come back to reality briefly and contemplate riding out onto that frozen lake and see if the ice will break just so I can get my hypothermic death on quicker. Yes sir, this cold weather will make for a good, moral-boosting weekend.”
Saturday was one of the cold days. The average temperature during my ride was 21 degrees. But I have to admit, the cold didn’t get to me too much, for I was riding hard. I was on a mission that day: to break the five hour, 300 watt barrier at altitude. I’d done it at sea level and I knew my legs were good, and with an entirely flat ride on the menu, today was the day. Except, because I’d felt soooo good the previous two days, I had changed my goal of 300 watts at five hours to 320 watts at six hours. Always want more and never let yourself accomplish a goal. Always increase the bar, that’s my motto.
I re-assessed my goal after two and a half hours, now just hoping to do the six hours at 300. Since a large portion of my calories (and all of my liquid) was stored in my bottles, I had to stop a little earlier than planned because the bottles had frozen solid 30 minutes into the ride. I stopped off at a gas station for edibles and a LARGE cup of hot chocolate, the CAP LOCKS meaning I filled up one bottle with hot chocolate and drank another full large cup and a half while standing in the store. The hot chocolate didn’t taste sweet enough, so I added extra sugar to it. As I added sugar at the hot chocolate/coffee fixing station, I noticed there was a pump bottle of “Energy Elixir.” I gave it two or three pumps and my hot chocolate was good to go. Also, by hot chocolate I mean cappuccino. I used cappuccino and hot water to thaw my bottles and, still cold but quickly becoming jacked on sugar and caffeine, I consumed a big chocolate donut, bought two large king-size peanut butter Snickers and an apple pie, and stepped back out into the 18 degree weather and back into my pedals.
The next hour went well. I got warm again fairly fast and was able to pump out good power. Then, all of a sudden at hour 3.5 I noticed that I was cracking already. The cold weather and the hard effort were getting to me. My average power was down to 306 and falling fast. I slammed the apple pie. It gave me energy for 20 minutes. Then the real suffering began. I let out some yells and grunts as I plodded along through the rolling farmlands and past the oil and gas pumps of eastern Colorado. No cars, no people, just the occasional friendly oil tanker truck that always gave me plenty of room. The mountains were far off to the west, hazy from the cold foggy afternoon air. Snow covered the barren, silent land. In my ears Raged Against the Machine, out my mouth Raged Against My Legs in curses and increasingly animalistic grunts. I couldn’t maintain seated power for very long at this point, so I took prolonged stints out of the saddle. I growled some more. I forced most of one of the Snickers down, which tasted awful at the time. My stomach was upset for the next hour and I contemplated throwing up, but decided against it.
Coming into the fifth hour, I decided to salvage my original goal and hit 300 for five hours, and after that just ride the last sixty or eighty minutes home at a civilized pace. I barely managed this, throwing down pretty much everything I had in the last six minutes, bringing my average back up to 300 from 299. I was crushed physically, but content. I rode easy for five minutes and started back up at a decent pace until I got home, 75 minutes later at dark. I rewarded myself for the good effort by laying down in the shower for a long time.
Day two: Sunday. Sunday was easy. It was sunny and it wasn’t nearly as cold as Saturday. I think the average was a whopping 30 degrees. I burned through this ride with no problems at all, except that my ipod got caught in my rear wheel and broke. That made two broken ipods in the period of one week. I was not pleased. I got home at dark again, but this time didn’t need to lay in the shower. Day three would be a different story and I knew it.
Day three: Monday. Monday was a terrible, terrible day. Day three is always the worst. It was snowing when I left for the ride at 11:00 and was still snowing two hours later. The average temperature for Monday was 19.6 degrees. The ride consisted of a constant battle with myself to not turn around and go home. I kept making bargains: “Just ride another hour and that way when you turn around you’ll at least have done a three hour ride. Okay scratch that, just ride another thirty minutes. Never mind, but you can at least do another 15 minutes.” During all the arguing with myself, I was distracted enough that before I knew it I was at the three hour mark and feeling fine. I looped through Fort Collins and headed south to Boulder. During the ride back I felt as though I’d been lazy so I decided to hammer the last two hours home. I arrived after dark again. I was fairly shattered from the cold and the last couple hours of the ride so earned the reward of sitting down in the shower. Today was the only day I came back with ice on me.
Day four: Tuesday. I know by now, after my many years of cycling, that the fourth day on in a row is sometimes one of the best days for some strange reason unknown to both science and God. Of course I wouldn’t feel nearly as good as day one, but day four is typically pretty decent. Although I’d only gotten one hour of sleep the night before, there was a slight chance this ride could end up being troubled. I compensated with extra coffee: a total of nine cups (not mugs, but the measurement type of cup, which is equivalent to 2.2 liters for all my European readers–for some bizarre reason I had 180 views from Portugal the other day. Either the internet is broken again or my audience has widened vastly.
It was another warm day. The average temperature was 28 degrees. I rode south through Golden to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, where I ate a sandwich and gazed down upon the Amphitheater amongst all the tourists. A lady with a thick southern accent, out of breath because of the walk from the parking lot 100 feet away, spoke from behind me, “Oh, it’s just like a football stadium, ain’t it?” I closed my eyes and shook my head slightly in disgust. This is why people hate Americans. This is actually why Americans hate Americans. I finished my sandwich and continued riding south until my time was up and I had to head back to Boulder. I got home in the dark for the fourth day in a row. This time I took a full on bath in celebration of 22,500 kilojoules burned, 480 miles ridden and, despite it all being pretty flat, 20,000 feet climbed all in the past four days. The elevation gain isn’t anything to write home about, but in total time and miles on the bike, this is the most riding I’ve done in a four day period. Possibly even in a five day period. Though I’m pretty tired, I feel like another two liters of coffee would have seen me through a fifth day just fine.
Wednesday back at work hit me hard, not just in the sense of being tired. It was back to real life. I thought this was a funny notion when it first dawned on me. “Back to real life.” As if the last two months of having a job has taught me anything about that. Like I’m some expert on juggling a real job and paying bills and doing real life grown up things. When I formulated that sentence in my head on Tuesday night, “back to real life,” had I really forgotten that for the past four years of being a complete bike racing bum, every single day had revolved around pretty much nothing else but training? I think so, because this four day weekend was extra awesome. Like twice as good as most weekends for some reason. Actually, exactly twice as good.
With some rest and a bit of luck I won’t get sick this week and all my hard work will finally pay off in April. Until then, I’ll continue to do my best not to overtrain.
The football stadium. I did not take this picture.
I decided the only reason Lang Reynolds looks at all skinny is because of his big, gigantic, fat head. Look how skinny my snowboarding helmet and goggles make me look! And yes, I wore these every day this weekend.
With the novelty of wearing ski goggles and helmet long gone, the ‘after’ photo of my first ride shows how much of a slobber fest it really was. Get it?