Monday, July 14, 2008

Step back to ride forward?


Rest is supposed to make you feel better. It allows for muscle to heal, wounds to repair themselves, the spirit replenish.  Last week I took as a rest week and took a step back.  I had noticed looking over my TrainingPeaks data that I was running a very high Acute Training Load, and my Training Stress Score was at its lowest point this season.  The last week of June and first week of July had seen a good 400+ miles roll by with a number of high intensity workouts mixed into the fold.  I did no hard rides during the past week with the hopes that the rest would allow me to hit that next level I'm searching for.

The off week was actually more difficult that I imagined.  My body felt restless, and my spirits raised by the coverage of the Tour.  I wanted to ride.  I was looking forward to the weekend.

Saturday the club route took us up one of the nasty small climbs in the foothills of Bald Peak, a road known as Unger or Iowa Hill depending on which side of the road you decide to go up.  I decided to take the Hammer & Nails group out on this day, which should lead to an entertaining ride.

I was happy to see that a number of new riders had joined the usual crew of PV racers and weekend hammerheads, the number possibly buoyed by a stern reminder I gave to the club about sandbagging in slower ride groups.  Unfortunately newcomers means unpredictable riding, the first ten or so miles were much harder than they needed to be.  A constant series of surges and braking to compensate for poor paceline work. 

The beauty of the H&N group is that it eventually becomes self sorting.  The weaker riders, or those with poor performing rides tends to drift off the back over the first half of the ride, a series of dropped chains, flat tires, and "bio-mechanical" failures.  It sounds harsh, but its designed to be difficult to elevate the performance of those who try and ride with the group, and it works. 

I remember the first time I finished with the H&N group last year.  I celebrated by shaving my legs for the first time.

Unger road loomed ahead of me, a two stage climb that can seriously work over those who are unfamiliar with the climb, and just puts the screws to everyone else.  The first time I went up the climb, I remember seeing a faster group ahead of me on the second stage and watching some members of the group tacking back and forth across the road to maintain their forward momentum.  On this day I was with the lead group of 10 or so riders at the base of the climb and immediately knew I was in trouble.  My legs just wouldn't turn over and my cardio system couldn't handle the stress.  With a bit of dismay I watched as the crew rolled away from me up the hill.  "This is Hammer & Nails, we don't wait."  I hear the words I spoke minutes before echoed ironically in my ears amid the pounding of my heart.  I relegated myself to grinding up the two sections of Unger, the blazing sun my only companion.

I eventually crested the beast and started the decent.  A sharp impact at the corner of my lip reminds me to be wary of the not so friendly  bees that have stung more than a few cyclists on this stretch of road.  I took a bee to the tongue two years ago and it's not a event I'd like to repeat.

On the descent Russ Patterson and Greg Magnus bridge up to me as I pull out the queue sheet, confirming that most of the group went the wrong way.  The three of us make the turn on Nursery Road and see Carlo and his father on the side of the road cameras in hand.

Greg and I decide to ham it up and engage in a mock sprint at a not so blazing speed.  The two of us are out of the saddle, our tongues hanging out like madmen.  I'm sure it will make for a pretty picture.   Greg's father Ron joins up with a short bit later and we make our way to Blooming Fern road and discover its been completely resurfaced.  I'm concerned as it will make an already fast decent down to Spring Fern Hill road even faster. 

We reach the bottom and stop to wait for the rest of the group, acting like sentries and watching for cars that could cause serious issues for anyone with bad brakes.  Fortunately the club members are familiar with the road and exercise caution coming into the intersection.  The final members of my group arrive and we depart for Forest Grove and Maggie's.

Maggie's Buns is a small off the wall bakery in the heart of downtown Forest Grove, and one of the clubs awesome sponsors.  If you've never had one of her famous cinnamon buns, you haven't done yourself justice!  "Best Buns in Town" isn't just a catchy phrase.  Maggie mans the water faucet and the two off us top of close to forty riders water bottles in no time at all.  I can't wait for our upcoming century that she is catering.

I retrieve my bike from the limited shade and see the swarm of cyclists that have gathered upon the small store.   I call out that the H&N's group is rolling out and head on our way back into Longbottoms.  A half mile down the road I glance back and the original two dozen that left at the start of the ride has swollen to close to fifty riders.  I formulate an evil plan.  The pace is causal heading out of town, allowing us time to warm our legs back up after the elongated stop.  As we approach the HWY 47 crossing, I ask Ron Babcock to park himself at the front of the line and ramp the speed to the mid twenties when we get across the road. 

The group is so large that a natural split occurs at the crossing.   "Play time's over folks!" I call out.  I hear Ben Johnson cheer with approval from behind me.  Ron obliges by dropping the hammer, with Ben coming up to lend a hand.  The group strings out into a long line as we cruise through the fields of overripe strawberries.  Another intersection splits the group further again, Sean and I find ourselves on the wrong side of a gap and work hard to close it around the traffic circles of Verbort.  A small Toyota pickup truck causes us to loose ground right as we were within striking distance.  Frustrated, we sit up and wait for more riders to join us before making another dig at the leading group.  We eventually catch them on the run up to Long Road.

Things cool down until we hit Hornecker.  I try to lead Bob out for a sprint but go too early for what limited strength my legs had left.  The remainder of the ride is thankfully low key.   

Short term pain for long term performance?  I hope that's what this rest leads to.


Kristin said...

"I remember the first time I finished with the H&N group last year. I celebrated by shaving my legs for the first time."

Ha! That's awesome.
Sounds like a fun ride, maybe next year I'll be able to hold Ron's wheel. :)

MattD said...

Yeah, that was a fun evening. I totally made a mess in the bathroom with the clippers