Kicking It Over

Distance: 20.7 miles

Time: 1:00:44

Avg. Speed: 20.45 mph

Weather: 55-57º, 91-72% humidity, wind NE5-ENE4, misty to cloudy

Song stuck in head: Black and White Boy - Crowded House

Last night, I went to bed with the intention of doing the ride that got rained out yesterday, a 40 miler with bigger climbs at the beginning and rollicking rollers for the second 2/3 of the ride. However, I had disassembled my cranks/BB and freewheel cassette and my chain was soaking in a little tray of solvent when I woke up this morning. I figured I had a good hour's worth of assembly and adjustment to do before I could ride.

I got the bike back together without any issues and took a chance on the rear tire that flatted on Saturday and left it on.The weather was looking acceptable (a very light mist) so I decided that I would give a 20 mile "time trial" a go.

The course I do this on (map at bottom of this post) is not flat, but not very hilly either. Rolling little hills with three medium size humps to get over on this out-and-back route. The highest point is 110 feet above the start with total climbing of about 1,000 feet (according to my cyclo-computer).

The "x" factor for this ride, as for any public road TT is traffic and intersections, so I do my best to ride right up to stop signs and crossings then stop abruptly, to keep average speed up.

My performance targets for the ride were to keep my HR at around 160 bpm, my feeling, from the rides I've done so far this season, is that 165 bpm is about my anaerobic threshold. I'll go with that number until I get it properly determined. I also wanted to keep my cadence on the higher side than usual, at 100 rpm.

I added an extra 5 minutes to my usual 15 minute warmup and cranked up to 20 mph for the start. The first mile I spent getting my rhythm down, concentrating on pedaling smooth circles. I've found in the last few rides that the "scrape the poo" mantra doesn't work for me, instead I've been concentrating on pushing over the top, or "kicking it over". This seems to get me more power all the way around the pedal stroke better than anything else I've tried. I'm working hard to make the act "invisible" to my active mind as I ride.

Anyway, I was on my way to the first small hill on Pompositticut which you hit in the first mile of the ride, it's one of those hills with a gradual start and then a steeper ramp right near the top. A good way to wake up those type II muscles early. I rolled over the top at a respectable 15 mph and cruised down the other side, being sure to NOT soft pedal, as I often do. I was also careful to stay as aero as I could: elbows in, head low, etc.

At the bottom of Pompositticut, there is a buttonhook right that puts you on Rte 117 for about 25 feet with high potential for delay depending on traffic. Lucky for me, I was able to cruise right onto Red Acre Road. I shifted down a bit so my HR could stabilize again, which it did at 158 bpm or so. I was doing a bit over 20 mph as I rolled on down towards S. Acton Road where I usually take a time split. At 11' 40", I was doing ok but not fantastic. I knew I was up against a slight headwind to that point and would have it behind me for the next leg.

The two miles along S. Acton consist or 3 or 4 rollers and troughs which I was able to maintain 20+ mph without much trouble. My HR was pretty steady at just over 160 bpm and I was feeling good. I was able to scoot across W. Acton onto Boxboro Rd. with only the briefest pause to peek both ways for oncoming cars. A little past mile 7, I hit the second steep section of the route. My cadence was up nicely and I kept my speed up to 17 mph at least halfway up by sitting back and holding onto the bar tops earlier than I normally would. I felt a lot more power from my legs this way and planned to do it again on the next rise.

Over the top and down the other side past the road to Minute Man Airfield and Nancy's Airfield Café where the long incline continues along curvy wooded roads. I leapt from the saddle as I started each little rise and sat back down as I felt my legs begin to burn just a little bit. Just past mile 9, the route peaks out and I got a little relief as I spun up to 25 mph on a slight decline towards the 90 right that led me to the turn-around point. Time at turnaround was just under 31 minutes.

I knew that I could make up that minute on the way back, as now I would be largely going downhill, with a couple of exceptions. I was still feeling good and able to keep my HR in the zone I desired, but now any inclines were driving it and my breathing up pretty high. The hill at mile 13 was a good example.

I hit it doing about 23 mph and, hands on the bar tops with upper body low, I spun up as far as I could then shifted up 2 gears (I was prepared before the hill to be in the small chainring already) and stood up and blasted for as far as I could then shifted up one more gear and sat and ground my way to the top at about 14 mph. One thing I do well is recover from efforts like that quickly and down the other side I went shifting to the 53 toother and getting up to 27 mph towards the W. Acton Rd. crossing.

Again, I lucked out with traffic and zipped across onto S. Acton Road and into it's series of rollers. I was beginning to "feel the burn" steadily now but felt like I had some good juice left in the tank. I kept my speed over 20 mph the whole way to Red Acre turn, after which, on that steady incline, it became more and more difficult to keep the speed up and my HR down. My speed varied from 17-20 mph all the way to Rte 117 where I button hooked left this time onto Pompositticut and up that final hill.

This side of Pompositticut is made of two steeper sections with flatter middle section. The road surface is fairly typical New England: the part cyclists are obliged to ride on when there's traffic consists of frost-heaved asphalt and/or old heaves sealed with hot-patch and/or holes in the road where snowplows have removed heaved road surface AND, if you're lucky, there's a little lane of clean road near the shoulder. Heaven help me if Pompositticut didn't have that little 8" lane of clean road way to the right.

I bounded up, knowing this was the last big effort of the ride and I crested with a good burn in my thighs but enough left to begin to punch it down the other side, carrying 27 mph for the next mile and then tapering down to 24 mph Concord Street. One turn to go towards home and I... well, I can't call it a "sprint" but I did work my speed back up to 27 mph as I crossed the line.

I completed this route in under 59 minutes once last year, so beating that will be one goal for this year. Where could I have shaved off additional time (excepting traffic dodging, etc.)? Red Acre Rd's rollers on way back always get me, I need to be more aggressive on those, as well as the small incline just past the airport road.

I'll do the 40 tomorrow.

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