Avg. Speed: 18.06 mph
Weather: 44-55º, clear and calm
Song stuck in head: Going Mobile - The Who
Moderate to easy effort with Gary (MRC) on his lollipop-shaped loop to Concord and back. Glad for it: hard ride yesterday and only got 4 hours sleep last night as I had an evening assignment in Boston. Developed some drivetrain noise (BB/FD/chain) along the way that will get some attention this afternoon.
Tomorrow is one of those rest days that will be comprised of other physical efforts (big shoot on Thompson Island all day), so it might be better to merely call it an "off-the-bike" day. I think Tuesday morning, I'll find out how fast I can do 30 miles on my rollery loop that goes into Littleton/Carlisle/Concord.
Avg. Speed: 17.7 mph
Weather: 55-60º, partly cloudy, wet roads
Song stuck in head: Too Much - Dave Matthews Band
Terrific ride this morning with Tony W of the MRC and a mixed bag of six other people variously training for the PMC Challenge or the B2B ride - some, I think, were going to do both. We set out from Boxboro a few minutes after 6 a.m. and headed into Harvard by way of Stow Road. I was feeling quite stiff and tired (there was a squall that blew though at 4 a.m. and woke me a hour before my alarm did). Another problem: my brain's radio had a song from Cinderella playing (I watched it with my daughter the other day) - damn you Rogers and Hammerstein!
I did my usual time up Stow: about 6' 30".
By the time we got to the top of Stow, the pace we set was already too much for two of our group, who elected to let us ride on without them. We went left down Slough and wandered through the rollery hills of southern Harvard and eastern Bolton. We crossed 117 and made our way towards the center of Berlin. Along the way, we inadvertently dropped another rider, who we turned back for, waited five minutes for but didn't find. After being assured he knew his way around, we pressed on through Berlin center.
At this point, my brain's radio mercifully moved on to a Dave Matthews song. I'm not a big fan but welcomed getting "The Prince is Giving a Ball" out of my head.
I was finally warming up and began to notice I was climbing better than I have so far this season. Nothing spectacular, but I felt like I had more in me than ever before. It didn't hurt that I seemed to be dead in the middle of the group in climbing ability. After summiting each climb, I would easily catch up to Tony and Bob c. (a triathlete) on the descent. We started winding our way clockwise around Wachusett Reservor when lo and behold, up ahead appeared our dropped rider, Kevin.
We turned north and worked along the west side of the "WaWa" Reservoir on a long straight away that Tony, Bob and I really cranked out on. Entering Cinton, we bunched up again and got onto Rte. 110 to continue on up into Bolton. We stopped at the store at the intersection of 110 and 117 for some water and nature breaks when another group pedaled by. Our route leader, Scott recognized one of them and called out - they turned around and came into the parking lot. Turns out, the two guys who went on their own way back at the beginning, hooked up and rode with this group.
Once the pleasantries were over, it was time to get moving or else we'd cool down too much (~40 miles under our belts at this point). Up 110 into Bolton and then Harvard, left on Prospect up past Fruitlands - I stayed pretty close to Tony on each of these inclines - and then, after a zig and a zag, we headed up what eventually becomes Pinnacle.
I know this climb well and dreaded it at this late part of our ride but I found I had a lot energy still. I got up out of the saddle and cranked my way up, taking breaks by sitting here and there, then back up on the pedals again. It's so nice to be fit enough not have the "hill dread" a forgone conclusion anymore.
Over Pinnacle and right past Carlson Orchard then onto Slough after some windy turns, back down Stow Road. It was nearing 9:30 and I promised I'd be back home by 10 so I parted ways with the group at Eldridge and made my way back via my usual route - feeling very good about the day's ride.
OBSERVATION: when riding in a group, doing the "snot rocket" is a bad idea so you pretty much have to use your glove as a handkerchief... but you'd better remember which one it was when you go to wipe the sweat off your forehead.
Avg. HR: 147 bpm
Rain sent me to the basement "drive-in" where I spun and watched the second half of "V for Vendetta", I give it two thumbs up as as a trainer video.
I would do well to break through being able to tolerate only one hour on the trainer...
I happened to be sitting on the curb just a few feet away when this happened and was in the perfect position to take a few photos. At first, she flashed a big smile at me but then, as the dignitaries began to speak, she became very reverential. All through the speeches, the honor guard's rifle volleys, Taps and a shaky but sweet rendition of "Amazing Grace" by a Maynard High School student, my daughter took her job very seriously.
Hopefully, I can get some overdue spring maintenance done to the bike tonight...
Avg. Speed: 18.5
Weather: 50º, 93% humidity, wind ENE6, damp
Song stuck in head: Love For Tender - Elvis Costello
Dodged the weather on the winning side this afternoon and got in a very good ride with five of the MRC crew: Smudger, Gary, Bill, Mark and Pattie. We set out a little past 5:30 from the Stow Plaza parking lot to do the usual Wednesday route (I don't have a map for this one yet) that heads up Oak Hill then Prospect Hill and out to graze a bit of Bolton (I think) and back down Stow Road back towards where we started.
We set out at a decent 19-20 mph pace and wound our way towards Oak Hill. At one point, heading up Liberty Square Road, I let a big gap get between me and the others and Smudger was kind enough to drop back and offer me his wheel to pull me back in.
Mark was still nursing his ailing knee and let us know he'd trail away when we got to Oak Hill. I played my cards right by doing an easy ride yesterday because I felt strong starting up the climb, staying close the the others for at least 1/3 of the way. Again, I was alternating between being up on the pedals and cranking while seated most of the time. About 1/2 way up, I started to fade a bit, and the others pulled out of sight. Each time the grade eased up a bit, I dropped down one or two cogs, got up and cranked out a little more speed.
Up to the top I went, going faster than I have before on that climb and as I crested on Old Littleton Road, I could see the other four waiting at the intersection with Pinnacle. Here's the penalty for trying to tag along on these rides: they were there waiting for me (for which I am very grateful), getting a nice little rest and as I come upon them, they saddle up to continue the ride. No rest for me. The upside is that I'll improve faster by not stopping.
A nice descent (max speed 42 mph) and back up a short hill towards Harvard Center we went, turning right on 111/110 then left to head towards Prospect Hill (where Fruitlands is). Again, I was right with them, definitely benefiting from the draft in our paceline. I kept trying to get towards the front do do my share of pulling, but then another climb would appear and I would fall back, back back...
Over the top of Prospect and down towards 110, where my fellow riders again were patiently waiting for me. Down 110 we went and then left into the corner of Havard/Bolton that I don't know so well. Medium sized hills all along the way and so I "rubber banded" with them that whole stretch - losing sight on the hills, making it back on the downsides except for one hill where I was so far behind, one of them had time to take a nature break and get back on his bike as I rolled up.
Eventually we made our way back to Stow Road then Eldridge, Taylor, S. Acton and back to the lot on Red Acre, cruising along at 22-ish mph at first and then dropping down to 19 or so the rest of the way.
I'm extremely pleased with how I performed on this ride and also how I'm doing so far this season. I've already exceeded last June's saddle time and am approaching the total mileage from last June.
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and
yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)
-- Lovely, but can I get a coupla hours this afternoon to get a dry-ish ride in?
Distance: 28.85 mi.Time: 1:49:25
Avg. Speed: 15.82 mph
Weather: 52-58º, 47-36% humidity, wind NW12-E9
Song stuck in head: Clementine - Megan Washington
Bleah, had a much more detailed post composed but the client app, Ecto, that I use to create them lost the whole body of my post at the moment I published it and now I have to get some 'real' work done. I'll try to recreate it later.
Summary: today's ride was a very easy spin along the route I rode with Gary of the MRC a little while back. Many thanks to my friend, John K. who was content to poke along with me this morning.
UPDATE - I found a little time to recreate some of the post Ecto lost on me this morning:
There are days you get the ride you deserve. Sometimes, you get the ride you want. And sometimes you get the ride you need. I think today's ride fits all three of these possibilities.
After this weekend's hard riding, I was due for an easy effort and my friend John K. was willing to tag along as I spun along. John can surprise you with his stamina even though he doesn't regularly ride, but I think he was grateful that we weren't going to push very hard this morning.
We rode into Concord (link to route above) along familiar roads and since we weren't cranking, a good conversation developed as we went. John has lived in Maynard a bit longer than I and knows much of the local history, lore and lay of the land. Among other things, we talked about observing Memorial Day, the King Philip's War, how delightful that our children play so well together and cycling hand signals.
This last topic became relevant when John was ahead and suddenly swerved to the left, revealing a parked, maroon Toyota Camry about 10 feet in front of me. I managed to dodge it and reminded John that when you are tucked in behind somebody, you are counting on them to be your eyes - even on easy rides. It's easier to remember that responsibility when you are riding at speed - your senses are heightened, you are more alert - but if you are poking along and chatting, you can get distracted and make a mistake that could harm someone riding with you.
Anyway, the ride was just what I wanted, needed and dare I say it, deserved, to bridge between last weekend's hard rides and the prospect of riding out with the MRC crew tomorrow afternoon.
Distance: 37.3 mi.
Avg. Speed: 18.31 mph
Weather: 55-63º, 83-63% humidity, wind NW7
Song stuck in head: Kid With the Butterfly Net - Graham Parker
Today's ride was along one of my "combo" routes that mixes a bit of Harvard climbing with a fair amount of rollery goodness. (map below) I'll describe these regular routes in detail only the first time I ride them as I will today. Stick with it, there's some good psycho-babble in the middle there somewhere.
I set out from the Stow Plaza parking lot this morning at 6:05 a.m and headed towards Harvard via my usual route, along Red Acre, South Acton and Taylor Roads. Once I crested that short and steep section at the beginning of Taylor, another rider overtook me.
His name was Jose, he rode a Lightspeed and also lives in Maynard. He remarked at how strong I looked as he observed me riding across West Acton Road. Hehe, he hadn't seen me do any sustained climbing yet.
We pedaled along together until we reached the foot of the Stow Road climb and I let him know that this will likely be where we part ways. Sure enough, Jose bounded on up Stow as I chugged along at a much slower pace.
At the base of Stow, there is a green mailbox on the left which serves as a "starting line" for the climb, the finish is the stop sign at the top. Last year, I managed to complete the climb in about 6 minutes. I was hoping to do it today in 6' 30".
I took note of the time and started up, trying to attack each steep section first out of the saddle, then seated but keeping my cadence closer to my normal cruising rate (90-95 rpm). Things went pretty well until that last 100 yards or so, when I was finally in my largest cog and dogging along at a paltry 10 mph. Of course by this time I had forgotten what my chrono said at the bottom and now I had no idea how long it took me. Hehe, it seemed fast...
Across Rte. 111 onto Slough Road I went with more reserve energy than expected and continued onto Oak Hill Road and the left after Carlson Orchards to Pinnacle. I definitely felt like I had more juice in me than usual.
One more turn and I was soon on the descent of Oak Hill, along Old Littleton/Oak Hill Road. Passed many cyclists working their way up in the customary direction. Descending that side of Oak Hill is a lot of fun, with a couple of straight stretches where you can really open it up as well as curves and little rises to keep things interesting. But it's not the part of this route where I usually hit my top speed, that comes later.
Through Littleton Station and onto Rte 2A into Littleton proper, I'm hoping the road improvements they made to the 495 overpass will soon extend in both directions along 2A: Littleton has some of the worst roads around with the prize-winner being Goldsmith Road near Long Lake - the asphalt is so broken up that it's more like a bunch of cobblestones tossed carelessly onto the road. Anyway, once I got through downtown, I got to enjoy another descent past Kimball's and then up a short hill to the turn for Rte. 225.
The stretch of 225 on this route is a great combination of short, steep climb-lets (new word?) and stretches where you can really put on the gas. Again, I attacked the hills more aggressively than I usually do, out of saddle at first, then seated. There's one section of Westford Street near mile 25 where I routinely maintain a speed in the high 30's. You wouldn't think so as it's not all that steep, but just a long grade down without interruption.
At the center of Carlisle, the route goes to the right down Concord St./Lowell Rd. This is also the first leg of the Wednesday night Charlie Baker TT (which runs the other way). This part is not unlike the section of 225 on this route but with out the 3 short & steep climb-lets. When I get to this part of the route, I usually know for sure whether I started out too hard or not and today I felt pretty darn good and was able to maintain 20+ mph nearly the whole way.
At this point in the ride, I made an important change in how I think about things as I slog along. Along with the many technique-related "mantras" I chant to myself (ie., "pedal in circles", "hold your line", "keep your elbows in"), some performance related phrases repeat themselves in my mind. This spring, one that kept haunting me was "that's all I've got" - definitely not a winner's chant. Certainly, it's really a kind of passive-aggressive quitter's excuse. Once I start hearing that in my mind, I would tend to ease up a bit. Bleh.
Well, today it morphed into, "Is that all I've got?" I like this much better. First off, it's a question to be answered not an answer in itself like "that's all I've got". And most of the time, when asked, the answer will be, "No, I've got more in me." Better still, the question invites me to use it over and over, ratcheting my performance up and beyond what I thought possible. This whole realization took only seconds to grasp, process and implement - the way things that just "click" will do. Good stuff.
Returning to the ride itself, the route navigates through downtown Concord, always a crapshoot. But at 7:30 or so in the morning, there's almost no traffic and better yet, no jaywalkers. From there a long, slight uphill grade takes you to the Rte. 2 intersection, where you almost never get a green light as you approach. And I didn't this morning but it changed pretty quickly and I was off again into West Concord and out then up the last big hump on Lawsbrook Road. Then a left on Parker which sends me over some more rollers and back home along Concord St.
As I pedaled along Concord St., I became curious as to whether I was even close to my best times from last year on this route, as I still felt pretty strong. At first, I thought, "just push on and find out when you are done" but my curiosity got the best of my and I cycled my computer through to the clock which revealed that I was about 2-3 minutes behind last year's times. Not bad, but still I got up and started really pushing to minimize the difference.
I'm still making good progress, I can't put a date out there where I'll be back to where I was last year, but I feel it's coming. I'll have a lot of tough sessions focussing on climbing and sprinting ahead of me and certainly more humbling rides like this past Saturday's, but I'm feeling good about things. I'm also glad my brain's radio squeezed Crowded House out for some Graham Parker - gotta learn to play that song on the guitar.
Indoor trainer time: 60 min.
Movie: "V for Vendetta"
I was hoping to join a 6 a.m. ride leaving Stow Plaza this morning but woke at 5 a.m. to the sound of thunder. I dozed until 5:30 and looked at the radar map, didn't look promising so I headed to the basement and put in some time on the trainer.
When I finished, checking the MRC forum revealed that a small group of riders took the chance and got in a good ride.
Avg. Speed: 17.02 mph
Weather: 57-61º, 74-58% humidity, Wind NE 10, partly cloudy
Song stuck in head: Don't Stop Now - Crowded House
Today's ride really let me know how much I lost during the winter. And I couldn't have had a more appropriate song stuck in my head for the ride.
Among the MRC crew who set out this morning at 6 a.m. from Stow Plaza was Della, who I rode with quite a bit last fall and seemed to be on a par with, fitness-wise and Tony W. was there too - he, like me, didn't do any indoor training during the winter. My impression was there was to be an "A" group riding at a 20+ mph pace and a "B" group averaging 18 mph. My hope was keep up with the faster group as long as I could and fade back to blend in with the B's when I began to flag, hopefully completing the two laps.
The course took us through West Acton and across Rte. 111 to Liberty Square Road where a planned 20 minute interval began. Man, these guys are fast! But I was able to hang onto the wheel of the rider in front of me until just before the point where Liberty Square Road crests. I knew I'd be lagging on the hills but thought I could catch up on the descents. Hah!
That one rise in the road separated me enough from the front pack that they were nearly out of sight by the time I was crossing 495 and Rte. 2. As I bombed down Taylor St., somehow there was one rider still behind me, who as he passed me, encouragingly called out, "Let's go get 'em!". I slipped in behind him and hung on for a minute or two, but soon enough, he pulled away as well. I was prepared for this to happen and so settled into just keeping my legs moving the best I could for the rest of the ride.
As I made the turn at Sanderson Road, I could still see a few riders ahead of me. But I also knew Oak Hill Road loomed not far ahead and this might be the last I saw of them. Up I went, alternating between out-of-saddle and seated pedaling, able to just make out the last two riders when the road straightened out here and there. I kept wondering how much better my climbing ability could get given the lack of winter effort... and my age. I wasn't feeling down on myself, really just trying to be realistic. It's obvious that I will improve if I spend more time concentrating on climbing.
As I crested Oak Hill and crossed over Pinnacle, I was glad to see that no one had turned back to look for me. I knew the area and had my mobile with me but for the future, I need to be sure that the protocol is that for certain rides on familiar roads, we are treated like grownups who can take care of themselves.
Down into Harvard Center and up Rte. 111 I went (missed the turn for Bolton Road), then down Stow Road where I crossed paths again with the "Let's go get 'em!" guy. Once again, I got in behind him but only kept up for a couple hundred yards, but not before I let him know I was counting on the "B" group coming up behind. The rest of the route is just rollers and part of many of my regular rides - I was able to keep a pretty good pace all the way back to Stow Plaza - 20 mph+ most of the way.
When I got back to the parking lot to wait for the "B" riders, I pedaled around the parking lot partly to stay warmed up and partly to keep ahead of the gnats/midges/no-see-ums that were swarming about there. 10 minutes of this took my average ride speed way down (it was at 18.5 mph over 27 or so miles when I got there).
Soon enough, Rebecca rolled into the lot and confessed that she was the entire "B" group and was only doing one loop. I put a note on Tony's car, letting him know one lap was enough for me today and headed home to get some breakfast.
Post ride assessment: Really, no surprises. I'm a 48 year old pretty much starting all over again with cycling, I wasted whatever I achieved last summer by being lazy during the winter. I can't afford to let that happen again. I'm happy that I kept up as long as I did and didn't explode, bonk or give up. I hope that there are other MRC members that could populate a robust "B" group but short of that, I'm content to be the "A" group's "sweeper" as long as they don't feel compelled to go looking for me: I'll be back there somewhere!