I took Friday, August 5, off to ride the August monthly double century up to Russells Point and back. Irma was out of town and I figured I should get the ride out of the way when she was out of town so I can maximize the amount of time I get with my most amazing wife, she returns the following Sunday and I wanted a day to rest in between.
I was really looking forward toward the ride. In my last blog I mentioned that I was hiring a cycling coach, we have been working together since the beginning of July. With 5 weeks of coaching under my belt, I was looking forward to seeing how things change.
It all really started at the beginning of July. Coach looked at my cadence and saw how amazingly low it was and made that the first project. My average on July 1 was only 51 rpm. After about two weeks of working on it I realized that I no longer had to really focus on keeping up the cadence, it was just naturally staying in the high 70’s, low 80’s. There have been two things I have done: focus on spinning faster and stop coasting down hills. Within three weeks my average was up to 70-75 rpm. A week after that it became really easy to end a 1-2 hour workout with an average of 80+ rpm.
It is climbing hills where the increased cadence really shows itself. In the past I would simply grid up hills at 60~65 rpm. Now on the same hill, in the same gear, I find myself spinning at 85~100! I would have though it would be harder, but it feels SO much easier!
So for Friday’s ride I set some goals for myself: average heart rate of 130+ with a cadence of 80+ for the whole ride. I started off at my normal 5:30 am and hit the road. Within 15 minutes the averages where hit, so now I just need to maintain…
I must say, the ride up to Russells Point was great. One of the things I am doing differently now is that I don’t look at my speed, only heart rate (HR), cadence, interval HR average, interval cadence average, and distance or interval time. I was feeling so good early on I kept my eyes open for some pretty pictures.
As I have said in the past, there is a chunk of the ride that is on a beautiful bike path. I have a love/hate relationship with the path. When it is just me, I LOVE it. When it is filled with parents, kids, dogs, and cats all going 3 mph every 8 feet taking up the whole trail, my peace is interrupted. Mind you, they have very right to be there and I am very glad they are, it is my issue not theirs that my peace gets disturbed:)
Most of the trail I am on is remote enough and/or it is early or late enough that it is pretty quiet, but on this beautiful morning some folks in the Corwin area decided to hit the trail too.
Since it is rails to trails route along a river, a lot of it has trees on either side. This makes for the most picturesque scenes when the sun is low in the early morning or late in the day. There are times I do NOT want to stop and take a picture because the moments are so brief, so magical, I want to just go as fast as possible to soak up as much of the scenery as possible! I have also learned as a photographer, capturing the moment simply doesn’t do it justice, either.
Well, I rolled into the first control 30 minutes faster than ever. Then I rolled in an hour sooner at the 92 mile control. What really blow my mind was my hourly report on distance and time. I use Cyclemeter iPhone app to record my rides. One feature of it is that it will announce stats. I have it configured to tell me average speed and total distance after every hour of rolling (not total time). After 6 hours I had ridden 99.9 miles! Later I would learn it was a 7-hour century, including stops. One of my goals is a 12-hour double century, so the fact that I am already only an hour away from a 6-hour century is killer cool!
I rolled into Russells Point around 60 minutes ahead of my best time! Lunch time! In the past I have noticed how sluggish I have been on the way back until it got past 5pm. This could be due to a whole host of reasons: the heat of the day, what I am eating for lunch, my body just hits a low point. This time around I thought I would mix things up a bit. Coach asked me to go to Subway or similar place, but I went looking for Subway last month and could not find it. So I stuck with Burger King. This time, though I opted to forgo the fries and only get a grilled chicken sandwich.
After a short break I headed out. A couple things hit me right off: It wass hot out, within seconds I was acclimated because the first step outside is always a shock to the system. The next thing was the wind… As I have said before, I can be really clueless at times… I had a tail wind all the way up and didn’t realize it. It was not very strong, but just enough that when heading into it, I felt the decrease in speed.
I know a lot of non-believers that take the stance: I only believe what I can see for myself. What I have learned is that while we all see many things very clearly, we are ALL blind to some things. Thus we all must depend on others to help us see those things. One of the things I am realizing that I am really blind to temperature. I walked into the wall of heat and though, “Oh, it is warm out here, cool, let’s go!” I knew the high was only 91 degrees, I have ridden when it was 100 and that was hot, so I simply thought that 91 would not be too bad. Needless to say, I was wrong!
One of my big take aways from the ride is to stop relying on what I feel and respect the truths of others: Riding when it is 91 degrees with 100% humidity, clouds or no clouds, it is VERY HOT and I will need to drink a HUGE amount of water.
I never ran out of water and I did make stops between controls to get more water when I needed. But I conserve water far more then I should have and I think I paid a heavy price for it! The first extra water stop was at this bar right on the route. When I walked in at 3pm there was nobody really there, no AC. I asked for water and got tap water. 2 minutes after I stopped I was off again. Once on my bike I tasted the water and it wasn’t much to my liking. Since I had another full bottle from Burger King, I favored that and didn’t touch the new bottle (which I should have!).
Mind you, this whole time I was still not a believer; I didn’t believe it was all that hot. The only reason I stopped for water is because of my personal policy: Under no circumstance do I ride more than one hour with only one full water bottle. The next stop was somewhere between sixty and ninety minutes away. I was down to one bottle, so I stopped, what I failed to do was actually drink the water!
I continued to stay ahead of my best times as I pulled into St Paris control (135 mile) and continued to be oblivious to how hot it really was… I downed a Powerade, topped off my water, and headed out. Ten or twelve miles later as I started to get close to Springfield, about half way to the Xenia control, again I was running very low on water. The route goes through Springfield but doesn’t go through the best areas. The idea of leaving my bike outside unlocked wasn’t very appealing considering my goal was to ride ALL the way home, not walk the last 60 miles:)
I was still about 3 miles outside of Springfield when I come up on a light. Something (God?) actually motivates me to actually SEE this business I had passed a dozen times. It is one of those soft serve ice cream places and they are open! Considering they are still really country it is an ideally safe place to stop!
I walked in with one thing on my mind: Get water and keep going. But the AC and the site of ice cream was so very seductive! Needless to say, after ordering my ice cream I headed back out to my bike to get money. In the summer, when they are open, this might become a regular stop from now on out!
After a dinner stop at Subway I was back on the bike trail. The route would be either downhill or flat until getting off the trail to climbing a hill to get home. Then it happened, I was most definitely a bit fatigued, but the old heart which had been beating at 128 bpm with a cadence of around 80 rpm my heart rate starts to drop. First it drops to 110 bpm, then to 100, and finally down to 90! What???? With the same effort (cadence) my heart rate bottomed out at 88 bpm!
My heart rate monitor is Bluetooth so I checked the battery level, 68%. I felt fine, my chest was fine, it made no sense. While riding on the trail, I use Siri to txt both Irma and the Coach. Irma contacts my son-in-law who is a nurse. I quickly had a list of questions about possible symptoms. I didn’t have any of them. By the time everyone started to come up with ideas my heart rate was back to 128. Coach recommends next time it happens I take my pulse independent of the monitor. Once he learns that I have about 35 miles to go, he recommends I take a 10-minute break and monitor my heart rate during the rest to see if it is matching with the monitor. I stop and download an iPhone app that uses the camera to measure pulse. It is spot on the monitor I am wearing. After 5~10 minutes I head out, but…
The official route is the shorted distance but involves climbing two hills, 350 foot and 100 foot. I had been looking forward to the climbs, but not anymore. There is an alternative route which involves a staying on the bike path and riding a few extra miles.
Both Irma and Coach agreed with my idea of adding some extra distance to avoid the climbs. Finally, I got off the bike trail and I had one hill to face, not much of a hill, about 75 feet with a grade of 8%-9%. I started up very slow and steady. About half way up I started to feel the faintest pain right where the heart is located. I am sure I have had that a million times before, but I was so focused on any issues that this amazingly faint pain jumped out at me. I am sure I could have continued to climb, but I only had another 25 feet to climb over about 200 feet. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry, so I walked it. The rest of the ride home was slow and easy!
I reached the end of the official route at 11pm. While it was thirty minutes slower than the month before, all things considered, it was wonderful to get there! It happens that the official end is at United Dairy Farmer’s. It is a gas station/convenient store local to the Cincinnati area. One of the things that makes them really unique is their own ice cream. I had a large mint chocolate shake, which just HIT the spot! One and four tenths miles later and I was home!
Once home, knowing I was a bit thirsty, I had a glass of water. Than a second! Before I knew it I had about four in my system! It was about that time I realized exactly how hot it had been that day. I am never this thirsty at 11pm after this ride. Maybe one or two glasses, but not four! To top it off, overnight I woke up with cramps twice which was relieved each time with another big glasses of water and some electrolytes.
When morning came, I did some searching and found the following article “My Heart Rate Drops During Workouts”. There is a lot of interesting info in it, but my main take away was that my heart rate very well could be caused by lack of hydration. Monday morning I scheduled an annual physical with my GP which came back all clear. He told me that what I experienced is one of the mildest conditions of heat exhaustion and dehydration. He is scheduling a basic stress test to make sure it isn’t anything else.
All in all, it was a GREAT ride. The record-breaking ride up was amazing! I used to think riding really fast was overrated. Now that I am starting to actually get faster, I am realizing it is so NOT overrated at all. After finishing this ride as late as 1:10am, the prospect of finishing it by 10pm or earlier is really cool! But the best part of the whole ride was the next day. In the past, when I was only riding every few weeks, I was simply beat into the ground the next day. The following day, Saturday, I felt good. I attribute that 100% to the training Coach has me doing.
My goal for next month: a 6-hour century! Given my normal start time of 5:30, I want to hit the 100 mile mark by 11:30am.