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01/26/09
Numbers and Lights
Filed under: photos, bike tech, brevets, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:04 am

Spent part of Saturday afternoon hanging out just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoying the cool but not-raining weather, waiting for riders to finish the San Francisco Randonneurs 200K.  The first batch showed up around 14:35.

They had started off at 7 am, so if my quick calculations are correct, that means that they rolled over the 200K (~125mi) course, which has just a tad over 7,000 feet of climbing with a rolling average* of 16.48 mph.  That’s truckin’ right along. 

My official volunteering gig ended at 16:00 (randonneuring time), but I hung out to see ride buddies Carlos, JimG and Gino finish up.  I didn’t have to wait long as both Carlos and JimG finished under 10 hours.  Unfortunately Gino suffered a biomechanical and dnf’d.  He did, however, snag one of the all-time great photos from the ride - 

I’ve kind of been ignoring the fact that I was going to not ride this event, but being there and seeing folks finishing up just made me miss it that much more.  My long-distance riding has been pretty minimal, and after the last cross race this year, I  had some work issues coming to a head that pretty much assured that January, February and probably March were nixed as far as having extra time (let alone energy) for considering brevets.  As December wound down, things changed, and although it doesn’t now leave me extra time, it could mean with a little judicious planning, I might be able to engage in a brevet or two.

Hanging out, watching riders finish, knowing something of the feeling of accomplishment they had, seeing them enjoy the post-ride buzz… all definitely stoked that feeling a bit more strongly.

It also helped to crystalize some errant thoughts which had been bandying about my brain in the past few months, about riding, about training to ride and lighting systems. I  think these will more or less end up in the right order, but if not, please bear with me.

- The Anti-Costanza Training Method has worked well in terms of keeping healthy.  This weekend is actually the first time I’ve felt like I was fighting something, and when I first noticed it, I backed off even more. For the first time in a long time, it actually feels like I have some resistance.

- The 2008 200K was hard.  I finished about an hour after I had the previous year.  The returning headwind didn’t help, and we took a break at Nicasio where I hadn’t the year before, but I suffered more.  I know my mileage had been down - or had it….?

- And that leads us to the whole “Numbers” issue.  At some point over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve ended up with mostly computer-less bikes.  The only one I have right now is on my Specialized Stumpjumper.  What?  You didn’t know I had one? Probably because the last time I actually rode that was mumble-mumble-mumble… “Um, your honor, I cannot recall at this time.”   

Let me explain that a little bit. I do own a heartrate monitor, and there was a time when I dutifully set target zones and tried to stay within them.  That info was recorded along with reasonably precise distance measurements. I even used to check my waking (pre-coffee) pulse rate fairly regularly.  When setting up my first singlespeed - the Bridgestone MB - I didn’t have a bike computer for that, so since I more or less knew the distance of most rides, it didn’t matter.  Then I started leaving the HRM at home, since I was pretty much maxed when riding the singlespeed. When the battery on the thing died, I just never sent it in to get it replaced.

It was kind of freeing, actually.

I set up the cross bike without a computer, since CX is basically if-you-can-focus-on-a-computer-you’re-not-going-hard-enough.  Besides, such things get reasonably inaccurate when you are running around with the bike on your shoulder and the front wheel isn’t spinning.

The  Quickbeam and the Hilsen just never got rigged with one. I mostly looked at the ride time by the wall clock, estimated out the long breaks and figured out the mileage.  Since the 200K was on local roads, I certainly didn’t need one to key out the route sheet.

Along the same time, my record-keeping edged into slacker mode. Using the VeloNews “Training Diary” was getting a little embarrassing for some reason, and the pre-printed information areas for “meals” and “sleep” and other specifics became a bit onerous.  I’d jot down commute miles, and longer rides, but then a smidgen less frequently as I’d often already recorded it in Flickr on here on the blog.  Then, taking more classes meant a bit less time time for reflection, and bob’s your uncle, alluvasudden,  I’m working without a net.

Which is kind of my personal shorthand for not taking the time to write things down, keep things ordered.  (As pedantic and obsessive as I may come across here, I’m really not.  Ok, I may be. But, it may also be that I’m fundamentally right-brained and need to keep some definite structure to maintain a node in the common time-space continuim.  All I know is that there’s often a lot of arguing back and forth…) It meant I was trying to recall if I’d looped out the long way from work the previous Monday commute home, or if that was the night I stopped by the burrito place because I’d had to stay a little late. It got a bit frustrating, often more time-consuming, trying to reconstruct things.

Then (Not So) Large Fella On A Bike tacked up a post with a link to a John Francis clip. Noted the bit about how we end up walling ourselves into certain stances and behaviors. Though that clip (and post) resonated much more deeply that this example, it solidly clicked a tiny switch, made me realize that my own idiosyncrasies were once again sticking out a limb to trip me up.  Somehow I wanted to be the guy who didn’t have a bike computer, no matter if it helped or didn’t.

And it wasn’t really helping either.  So, I think it’s time to stick ‘em back on.  A bike computer can be used for reference without obsessing about it. Oh, I still might do another long loop around the block if it’ll kick a distance up from Something-9 to a larger, rounder number. But at least I’ll be laughing at myself when doing so.   Making it easier for myself to track some mileage just may make it simpler to focus attention where it is really needed.

- Numbers don’t lie. There’s a certain distance that needs to feel comfortable before it makes sense to toe the line for a 200K, and especially next month’s 300K. Which I really, honestly think is mostly out of the question.  Really. SFR manages to kick off their season much, much earlier than most, and so folks like Davis Bike Club don’t even start their series until March (Santa Rosa in late Feb). And I keep thinking about doing the Wildflower, though that weekend is already a bit crowded. But, the fact is I played a bit fast and loose with prep for last year’s 200k, and it was less than pleasant at certain points.

- As an odd parallel thought, there’s the whole fixed versus many-geared issue for the longer rides. This is a much longer topic than I can even consider tonight.

- Speed. Momentum. Two essential components, obviously. There’s a good rule-of-thumb which is that you tend to ride at the speed you train. Two years ago, I had a longer CX season which then eased into longer rides.  Last year, I couldn’t stay healthy or uninjured during CX, which meant that I didn’t do much hard work. After cross, I rode long, but usually ambled along at the same speed. This year, I definitely did more short, sharp work, and feel better on the (fewer) longer rides so far.

- Seeking Illumination. Which more or less will tie off this evening’s nattering. Long rides (300/400k) or a Fleche or a Night-200 (and hits on a bad weekend…grrrr…) require reliable lighting. My NiteRider has again gone flaky, clicking out of gear entirely on a commute last week. And even if  it were healthy and I were careful with power usage, that would be a bit sketchy for the run time needed.  With the newer LED technology trickling into generator-driven systems, it’s time to sell off some gear and get a SON wheel built up. Plus, there’s the new - and light - 20R hub which will drive the LED’s just fine (even though it’s supposedly a hub for a 20″ setup). I’ve read and re-read the Bicycle Quarterly article on both the hub and the Edelux light.  I’d purposely held off the last couple years as things just have been changing so fast with LED technology, but it seems like the stuff that’s coming out is pretty slick.  Of course, I could always sign up for Cyclotron Scorcher Build-Your-Ultimate-Lighting-System Seminars which JimG ought to put on…

Anyway.  Thanks for reading.  Here’s hoping everyone gets more or better miles this year.

*The clock does  not stop on brevets, so times are not actual on-the-bike-pedaling times. For more about randonneuring and brevets, visit the RUSA.org site or SFRandonneurs.org.

One Response to “Numbers and Lights”

  1. Jim G Says:
    I just discovered that the ‘puter on my bike is at least +3 miles off…by Saturday’s end, it read 140 miles, while on the previous years, two different ‘puters on 2 other bikes clocked about 137 miles. Oh well.