Time to STP: 131 Days
In every place I read, it seems that there is a high recommendation to take at least a day off every week for recovery. And while my chocolate syrup works wonderfully for recovery purposes, it doesn't fully rebuild me for the next day; invariably I need to contend with some soreness. However, I haven't seemed to take a lot of the advice on this. This is the first week in which I biked every day. Out to my girlfriend's house, out to dinner. Name it, I would bike there. The only real exception was a 24 hour period when I didn't ride but ended up riding that night. At this point, I am becoming somewhat comfortable with a constant state of soreness on my legs. It is something of a comfort though. I like knowing it is there, if that makes any sense whatsoever. It makes me know that I am really working and that STP is within reach.
The week's morning rides were as expected and we are still having an unseasonably dry winter (knock on wood for me, will you?), but I spent the week getting in around 10 miles every morning, sometimes a little more which is a fabulous way to start the day. Where my week was really quite something was yesterday, however.
I have a friend that works for Castelli and he is an avid cyclocross racer. Cross, as you will read from the Wiki, was actually started in Europe as a way for the professional racers to stay in shape during the winter months. I have heard him talking about it as long as I have known him and he has become something of a benchmark for me when it comes to cycling. This guy is a encyclopedia (too dated? Let's say he is a Wiki) of information on the cycling world, and pretty much my go-to when I want to know anything that I don't quite know where to look online. Well, anyway, we had been tossing around doing a ride together for a couple of weeks and it finally came together. Saturday morning I headed over to his place and within minutes I learned about ways to replace presta valve stems on an inner tube (I feel I would need to draw a diagram), and then we headed out. What he had planned for the ride was a tour throughout Southeast Portland taking us through Powell-Butte, the Springwater Corridor and everywhere in between. At some point, we were going to drop by Apex, a local cash only fermented beverage establishment, and then head onto a very large hill so we could work on hills (and my standing fear of The Big Hill). It was a true change-up from what I have been used to when going out and riding. We went through city streets, over packed dirt trails, I learned some had signals that he says I would be seeing often in STP, and I learned about drafting (a practice I had read about, but since I don't ride in groups-had never employed [basically, you ride 3-6"'s from another rider and let them split up the air for you]). We really went through such a great variety of places (followed along Johnson Creek which is so great, you need to see it for yourself) that it has inspired me to try to explore what else Vancouver has to offer.
After we had ridden about 22 miles, we stopped at Apex with a line going around the block. No beer was worth the line to me, and it was only 11:45 and I wanted to get some more miles in, so we made a couple of quick turns and headed toward Mount Tabor. Now, as we approached the "foothills" of Tabor, I looked on and said "where exactly are we going", he looks back and says "towards that clump of trees there". I gulped. I didn't know exactly how high it was, and I had hiked something similar on many occasions, but this looked positively daunting at least a couple miles out. I know I sounded like I was complaining, and he heard it. At one point he says "you said you wanted to ride your bike, right?". I did. I wanted to get to wherever we were and I wanted to challenge myself. I think I tend to psych myself out some when I look at hills; not thinking of what I know I can now do, but instead thinking of what it felt like the first time I did them (I still hold dread for the Mill Plain/Grand hill). But we headed on.
Over a quick dirt path and then onto the paved road of Tabor we went. It was steep. Like, really steep. Like 636' elevation gained in a couple of miles steep, which isn't much when you are hiking it, but add the fact that you are also pushing an additional 20 pounds of aluminum, steel, rubber and cabling and it all becomes quite a bit to handle. He knew it was hurting and he knew that I, as a former smoker, was going to have some breathing problems. And, it seems that a safe word had already been developed "arugula". I say that, and we cut out and return home. I breathed hard. I geared down as low as I could (although my #1 cog wouldn't engage so I did this on the 2nd cog on the crank). I pushed. Sometimes painfully slow, but I pushed. I looked at it and wanted to cry out the safe word. I wanted to stop, but I knew...at what point do you give up? When do you say it is too much when just a little more effort will take you that much further. I couldn't say the word (I think it would have been a breathing issue, in part), but I didn't want to give up. And I didn't. I made it all 636 feet to the top where a remarkable statue resides. I saw it briefly, and then back down the hill through a packed footpath we went. If the ascent was the hard part , then the decent was the sweet victory. We wound down the hill, cutting up the dirt, avoiding railroad spikes and getting a wonderful view of East Portland/West Gresham. If I could, I would make the trip up tabor every weekend.
We made our way down the hill and to a local Stumptown (best coffee in Portland) at 29.52 miles ridden, As we sat drinking our coffee and enjoying our pastries, my friend looks at my saddle, angled distinctly downword and says "we need to fix this". You see, I had been complaining my hands were hurting on the decent. This was in part because I was squeezing the crud out of my brakes (and the resulting mental strain that puts on you) but also, as it seems, because when your seat is angled down, it pushes you forward. Go figure. Your saddle should be level, ultimately, and mine was not. A few quick turns of an allen wrench later, I was level (the clumps on your seat post not only adjust back and forth, they adjust angle). My first big ride with someone else ended up being a total blast.
Today's ride was just a nice change-up. Instead of the 30 mile loop that I had planned, I instead tried to revisit a portion of my old commuter route. So I headed from home, over the interstate bridge and then detoured along Marine Drive to the I-205 bridge and bike path. This ended up being a completely beautiful ride on a a sleepy Sunday morning with the hill on Ellsworth in Vancouver really making me work. All told, I only put in about 23 miles today, but I have to figure the hill work counts for something.
I have done some reading on nutrition ideas as well, and it has just backed up what we hear all our lives about breakfast: Eat a big one to carry you through the day. Along with regular snacks, the idea is to stay full all day long and not eat too big of a dinner, because this will end up carrying you through the entire following day with hunger and screw up the way your body is processing food if you go the junk food route. Thus far, my oatmeal with soy milk morning has worked really well (and, as I just picked up a case of soy milk from Costco, I am good for a while).
'On a final note, I have now officially registered for what will be my first organized group ride: The Monster Cookie Metric Century. 100km (62 miles) sponsored by the Salem Bicycle club. It falls right in line with when I need to do my first 60 mile ride and will be a great education for riding in a group. It is just a couple months away and I am looking forward to it.