A Mid Summer Ride to Russells Point

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:)

DSC05428

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.

DSC05432

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.

DSC05461-C-s-16x9

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!

DSC05484-s
Turned the corner as I approached Kiser Lake and there stood two horses.  The owner was coming up behind me to bring them home.

 

DSC05494-s
Once they knew capture was inevitable, they headed home on their own.

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:)

 

2016-08-05 17.22.48-2I 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!

Heart Rate Drop Aug 5, 2016

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.

March Double Century

Saturday March 20, I rode my March Double Century to Russells Point, Ohio, and back. I think I mentioned this, but my one challenge to myself this year is to ride this one specific double century every month. I am finding this whole challenge thing very interesting because it’s pushing me into action where I normally would be idle. There were a million things holding me back from going: foul mood prepping for the ride Friday, waking up and snoozing for too long for a really late start, simply no desire very early in the ride where it was way too easy to turn around, and finally 75 miles in finding out a customer was having some serious issues with the software I write in my spare time. The true blessing was I ended stronger than I have on any of my three previous attempts!

I contribute both the foul mood of the start and the strong finish to the same thing: Making a commitment and sticking to it! The key word in foul mood start is ‘start’, if it wasn’t for this commitment I made, the start would have never happened, thus the finish would have never happened either.

The keyword in strong finish is strong. I wanted to improve my finishing time and knew the number one way to do that is minimize my stopping time. To do that, I need to fuel as I ride. Hammer Nutrition puts out a lot of good info on how to fuel for endurance events. A couple of pieces of info which seem to ring true to me is that the human body can only consume about 200 calories an hour and on long endurance events, you should be fueling (eating) every hour.

They have a number of products to aid in you this fueling, I have taken to their Perpetuem Solids.  A serving of three tablets is 100 calories, so one tube of 6 is an hour’s worth of fuel.

DSC03085.jpgFor all my long rides, I have carried some type of goodie with the idea of fueling every hour as to keep the engine running. On my January and February rides up to Russell’s Point, I did a good job on the riding up. Once I turns around and started to head home I won’t fuel regularly. A little bit past the half way home mark, around 160~170 miles I would mentally bonk.

In February I actually called Irma to come get me, then called her off and finished when I remembered January ride. In January I mentally bonked at the same place. About 15 miles later I ate in Xenia and was able to finish. February turned out the same way, after some food in Xenia, I was able to finish.

This time rather then stopping at Burger King in Russells Point for a meal, I simply had one of the three Cliff Protein bar I was carrying. Then I hit the road south bound and stayed on the Hammer Perpetuem Solid schedule every hour.

Going into the stretch where I bonked the last two times, I gave myself an injection of fuel via a gel, which is sort of like a shot of adrenaline. A few minutes later the gel was followed by another 200 calories of Perpetuem Solid.

I rode into Xenia, got a bite to eat, and was off again. I fueled a final time only about 12 miles from home, but I figured, fueling when the body asked for it worked so far, why stop now? The end result was a strong and happy finish, my first happy finish of the ride! Oh, my times: I left 10 minutes later this time then February but had a finishing time that was noticeably shorter. The riding time was 13 minutes shorter. The overall time was way shorter because I stopped a LOT less.

Other then the start and finish, there was a lot of interesting things to see. With the spring coming, there is tons of new life around. I think I saw at least a dozen rabbits on the trail, something I had not seen in the colder months. Tons of frogs! The first time I was cycling along and came up on one of those big country front yards, it had one of those very small, shallow spring pond. You know the ones I mean, thanks to all the rain, the ground cannot absorb any more water. The result is a pond forms in the lowest spot for a few weeks. This first one was maybe 50 feet long and 20 feet wide at the widest. As I approached it sounds like there where a million frogs in the pond! As I got next to it, it was dead quiet! Then as I left it behind me, it came alive again! I experienced this many a times on my ride, lots and lots of low lands where flooded with frogs.

On the trail at night I saw more deer than before. I also saw crops starting to grow in the fields. What was the most interesting was riding down the Little Miami Scenic Trail and seeing random Daffodil popping up right next to the trail. You are riding along and then all of a sudden there is one starting to pop up about 6 inches. A mile or two later you see another one. I wonder how they got there…

The highlight for me on the whole trip is riding through Amish country. In the parts I ride through they are mixed in with the English, as they refer to us. On my way up I identified one of their houses, and a little bit farther up there was a house and buggy filled with little girls. I think the driver might have been 12, but I am thinking 10. Her horse didn’t seem to like bikes a lot, so she pulled the buggy over while I passed.

Then I saw another house and my first thought was: man, they are poor, they really need a new coat of paint to protect their house. While I am not a big painter, I did want to paint their place. As I got closer I saw an Amish mom with some of her kids in the yard. Knowing how I know zero about the Amish, I quickly realized how judgmental I was being about both their economic situation and about my desire to paint the place. Maybe the house is fully, 100% protected from the elements in ways that are foreign to me.

What I love the most about Amish country is how radically different they are from us, English. They are truly aliens to me. Not only in their way of life, but more importantly: what are their values, what is their purpose? I firmly believe that God is moving in their community just like he is in mine to mature them in Christ. For some reason I have this desire to learn more about how God is moving in their community. I just feel God has something for me there…

Amish country is about 100 miles into the 215 mile ride. Once I got into Amish country my foul mood started to finally lift. It is a very beautiful place that provokes a lot of very loving and compassionate thoughts. It was well worth the effort to get up to Amish country!

All in all, it turned out to be a very nice way to spend a Saturday. I even got to ride in the rain, the sky opened up for me when I was about 3 mile from the finish. As I have said before, I love riding in the rain, it like singing in the rain, so it was a great way to end a good day!