By the Numbers – July 2009

Got my miles up over last year, a little shy of what I wanted to do. Just shy of my maximum number of rides/WLT sessions in a month (21 vs. 22). Nothing to complain about here.

I've finally managed to break the 1 hour boredom barrier on the trainer this month. Achieving that will serve me well in the winter months. 2500 minutes in the saddle is about the most I can hope to squeeze in if I am to get work done and keep my family happy. Unless I make a habit of starting more of my rides at 6 a.m instead of 8 or 9 a.m...

My weight loss is pretty much paralleling last years, albeit a month earlier. We'll see if August brings a stable weight in the mid-to-high 160's or if I can get it to stay below 165.

Climb to the Clouds, Descent into Rain

Distance: 84.5 mi.

Time: 4:48:39

Avg. speed: 17.57 mph

Weather: 61-73º, 95-97% humidity, wind SSW1-S5, cloudy then rain

July mileage total: 699 miles

Song stuck in head: Love Shack - The B52's

After getting faked out by the weather radar not only on Wednesday (no ride) and yesterday morning (did a trainer session only to emerge from the basement to sunshine), I was quite ready to get a proper ride in today.

Goal: to sneak another 100 miles in before July closes out.

John S and I left the Atkinson Pool in Sudbury to ride the Climb to the Clouds route before the rain, expected at noon, came down on us. John's criterions were to get 5 hours or ride time in and to average 18-19 mph - fine with me!

About five miles out, I started getting a small chorus of mechanical noises and thunks from my drivetrain.

Certainly, some of it was my worn out left cleat which is loose in it's pedal (new ones on order @ Landry's) and the rest was likely a combination of my old chain (new one on workbench) and bottom bracket. The latter two items will be dealt with tomorrow morning.

We set a good pace all the way up to Mile Hill Road and the climb this time (only two weeks since the last time I went up) didn't seem so bad. We watered up at the Visitor's Center and saw that the road to the top was open for cyclists so we ducked under the gate and headed up.

John is a good riding partner: his good natured banter and mountain biking stories kept my mind off the effort of pedaling up to the summit, the grade at times 12-14%. Even so, that part of the climb was not as bad as I remembered it from when I went up last October.

Here's John at the top, captured by my cheesy cell phone's camera:

We came back down and headed out onto Mountain Road. I was looking forward to kicking up the speed but we were hampered by a steady headwind, as was the case going down Sterling Road.

As we entered West Boylston, John got the feeling that a bonk was coming on and since we were conveniently near Darby's Bakery, we stopped in for a focaccia (him), a giant brownie (me) and some Gatorade. Refreshed, we got going again as a light drizzle of rain began.

The rain stayed very light as we passed through Boyston - and saw a passel of cyclists (15?) going the other way. John identified them as a Pan Mass Challenge team getting in one last workout before their big ride this weekend.

The rain started coming down a bit harder but as we rode towards Berlin, we were fairly well sheltered by a canopy of trees. When we got to Rte. 62, we made the decision to cut it short and just take 62 in through Hudson, Sudbury and home. Good thing too: it really started to pour as soon as we got into Hudson.

By the time we passed Atkinson Pool, it was a deluge. John turned off Parker Street towards his home and I splashed my way back to Maynard. The rain soaked into my jersey, down my bibs and welled up a little bit in the legs of my shorts above the elastic clinging to my thigh. Every so often, I gave it a wack to expel the accumulation.

So I ended up about 15 miles short of my goal but it was an unexpected treat to summit Wachusett today. I'm starting to think seriously about heading out to Mt. Greylock in August...


Tie Goes to the Dealer

Distance: 20.7 mi.

Time: 0:58:58

Avg. speed: 21.06 mph

Weather: 78-81º, 68-58% humidity, wind WNW 2-4, sunny

July mileage total: 614 miles.

Song stuck in head: Minor Character - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions


Replaced rear brake cable and guide this morning, easier to do than I thought it would be. Downloaded a pdf from the Shimano website which helped a lot. The old cable was pretty corroded as it passed through the guide that transits the seatpost – probably from the water the rear wheel kicks up.

Also put new rear brake pads on and completely cleaned the caliper. Adjusting the Kool Stop pad holders is a pain in the butt but worth it as you can set a perfect toe-in with them. A little cable pre-stretch after I reassembled everything and I was ready to ride.


By this time it was kind of late to do any kind of longer ride but I felt the need to push hard so I decided to do my 20 mile-ish "TT". I warmed up for the usual 15 minutes but this time made sure I did a few jumps and short sprints to get those type II muscles fully awake.

Performance goals for the ride: keep cadence at around 100 rpm, stay as aero as possible.

I crossed the start doing 23 mph in the drops and kept my speed over 20 until the Pompositicutt hill where it only dropped to 17 over the top. I made it to waypoint 1 (Red Acre and S. Acton) in 11' 15", a personal record. Continuing along S. Acton and onto Boxboro Road, I hit waypoint 2 (Boxboro and Taylor) in 19' 30", again a PR.

I was a bit worried as I climbed the first hill on Boxoboro that I had once again started off too hard and fast but the thought faded away as I felt strong over the top. Even though I was on the bar tops as I climbed, I kept my upper body as low as possible and cadence well into the 90 rpm range.The incline past the airfield road slowed me to 19 mph but I picked it back up after that.

I made the turnaround in 29' 40" and anticipated finishing the ride with a very good time – as long as the wind did not clock around 180º from it's helpful WNW direction. I did well up to mile 12.5 or so when I started to feel a bit of burn in my thighs near the top of that hill. I soft pedaled the descent which took me back across to S. Acton Road.

I did my best to keep my speed above 21 mph along S. Acton but kept in mind how Red Acre Road's little rollers always seem to suck time out of my TT on the way back. Once on Red Acre, I was often out of the saddle, doing a little jump to get my pedal cadence (and speed) back up.

I got to the quick left-left that takes me from Red Acre onto 117 for about a dozen yards and then onto Pompositicutt and there was no traffic so I was able to keep going without a foot-down stop. I've got the backside of Pompositicutt figured out pretty well by now and was over the top at 18 mph and on my way down the other side.

I plowed down Summer Street, doing at least 25 mph most of the way and finally took a peek at my time when I turned onto Concord: 57' 15". YIKES!


Turned up the heat big time but had the stop sign at Concord and Brooks to deal with, when I made that turn, I was at 58' 30" and really started to pour it on, crossing the finish in 58' 58" which turns out to be a TIE of my PR for this route set Sept. 13 of last year.


The Heat Was Hot

Distance: 30.7 mi.

Time: 1:36:26

Avg. speed: 19.1 mph

Weather: 75-82º, humidity 91-69%, wind S6-SSW11, sunny/hazy

July mileage total: 594 miles

Song stuck in head: Time - Pink Floyd

Looks like we're finally into the usual late summer weather pattern as of today - hot, hazy, humid w/chance of t-storms in the afternoon.

I've been liking the loop down past Atkinson Pool and Lake Boon in Sudbury so much that I grafted it onto one of my Harvard rides this morning, thus giving a good 12 miles or more of flat to slight incline riding before the serious climbs begin. (map at end of post)

Not a lot to report, except to say that I am still progressing in strength and endurance by measurable amounts: this morning, I did the Stow Road climb in 5' 50", a personal record. I'm cautiously waiting for that first big fitness plateau to arrive...

MAINTENANCE: I had to return home after only a hundred yards of riding to un-stick my rear brake - tomorrow a.m. it's new cables and guides!


Excerpts from the 2009 Climb to the Clouds

Finally finished editing the footage I shot during last week's ride. At 10 minutes, it's on the long side but gives you a good idea of what the middle part of the ride is like.

Who's on First?

Distance: 46 mi.

Time: 2:19:19

Avg. Speed 19.81

Weather: 62-70º, 99-79% humidity, wind WSW1-WSW4, sunny

July mileage total: 563 miles

Song stuck in head: Two Step - Dave Matthews Band

I was a bike route whore for yesterday's ride. I'd showed some interest in joining Stephan for the Westboro Landry's Saturday ride of about 40 miles but was hoping for a longer ride. I'd posted on the MRC boards the idea of riding the CRW Fall Century 60 mile route (no takers). Finally onegeardoug posted about hoping for a 3 hour-ish ride sans hills, starting in the "Solomon Pond Mall area" at 7 a.m.

Sounded good to me, I posted back, asking if the meet up spot might be Giuseppie's Grill, just south of the Mall but Doug was out for the rest of Friday evening. Tony W. perked up and proposed to meet me in Stow to ride down to Northoboro to meet Doug. Alan and Bruce were arranging to cross paths with Doug out along the route. Things were shaping up nicely.

I awoke to see a post from Tony, letting me know had a tough week and preferred to sleep in. No matter, off I went a little after 6 a.m. for Northboro. 13 miles or so, mostly downhill through the still sleepy towns of Stow, Hudson and South Berlin. I got a really nice lead-out from a lumber truck for the last few miles (30 mph!) down River Road/Solomon Pond Road.

I arrived at Giuseppe's at 6:45 and proceeded to pedal around the parking lot just to keep my legs loose. The barista did not open until 8 which was too bad as I had not yet had my morning jolt. Just a few minutes past 7, I saw a rider fly by and I thought it might be Doug, so I made chase - catching up to him on the 290 overpass. The rear view mirror dangling from his helmet let me know it was not Doug, so I wished him a good ride and pedaled back to the lot.

By now it was at least 7:10, so I set out to ride back towards Sudbury on the off chance my route might cross the one Alan and Bruce took. I rode back up Donald Lynch Blvd/Park St. into Hudson Center, along Rte 62 to Sudbury Road (past Honey Pot Farm).  I was able to really crank along the stretch past Lake Boon, keeping my speed up over 22 mph.

I arrived at Atkinson Pool at 7:45 with no sign of Alan and Bruce. Turns out they left there fifteen minutes earlier.

One lap around the parking lot and I doubled back again on to Sudbury Road and rode the rest of the way on my new "CC" route through Stow, Acton and back home. I pedaled hard and felt strong the whole way. This strong solo effort was more than enough compensation for the loss of a group ride.

No sooner was I home and showered up than I found myself putting my family's 3 bikes on the car for an additional 9 mile ride along the Nashua River Trail from Groton to Pepprell, with ice cream at the 1/2 way point.


Rest today. Did a rare thing: I slept past 8 a.m., which was quite nice.


Smoothing Out the Bumps

Distance: 25.4 miles

Time: 1:16:23

Avg. Speed: 19.95 mph

Weather: 69-74º, 65-84%, wind W5-S1, slightly overcast

July mileage total: 517 miles

Song stuck in head: Cup of Wonder - Jethro Tull

I think I've woven together a nice, mostly flat route (map below) that runs from Maynard into Sudbury then to Stow, Acton and back to Maynard again. Theres a few smallish hills and rollers along the way but a lot of the ride is along well paved, flat-ish roads.

My legs were feeling achier this morning than they did the day after I rode the Climb to the Clouds, but I wanted to apply at least a moderate effort since Saturday is only a couple of days away and it wouldn't make sense to ride hard tomorrow (Friday).

Since I started out after 9 a.m., traffic was not an issue, though it is likely it would be on Rte. 27, Fairbanks and Hudson/Sudbury Roads during rush hour. The section that runs near Lake Boon on the Sudbury/Hudson border is a recently repaved and shady flat road for the first mile with older road surface and rollery terrain for the next.

The one bigger hill in this stretch is met shortly after crossing the Assabet River and is quite manageable, though today, I was feeling the burn about halfway up. Next is a descent that takes you across Rte. 62, past Stow Acres CC then up Hudson Road to Rte. 117 where it goes left to then go right onto Lantern Lane which leads to Harvard Road. The sun was fully out at this point and, fully warmed up, I was keeping a nice pace of 21 mph at this point.

Harvard Road becomes Garner then Taylor and then the route goes right, onto Old Harvard Road which leads to Burroughs and the rest of the route is the return trip of my 20 mile "time trial". I was able to maintain my 20+ mph pace the rest of the way home except for the short climb up Pompositicutt a mile or so from home.

Not much to report, performance-wise - the lack of bigger hills made it easy to keep a moderate effort the whole way without any trouble. Tomorrow, a short, easy ride and then hopefully Saturday will allow a longer ride of more effort.


Steady As You Go

Distance: 35.9 mi.

Time: 1:41:48

Avg. speed: 21.15 mph

Weather: 77-75º, 65-84% humidity, wind W5-S1, partly cloudy

July mileage total: 492 miles

Song stuck in head: Songs From the Wood - Jethro Tull

After a decent trainer session yesterday, I felt quite ready for today's MRC Wednesday ride. There was much constructive discussion on the MRC forum about how to conduct oneself in the paceline and we set out to refine our technique on the road. Not least was the issue of safety and dealing with traffic.

A group of about 10 (Smudger, Bob Crane, Della, Michael Cole, Carl, Chris, Jonathan, Tom?, Stephan and I) left the parking lot shortly after 6pm and started up Red Acre Road. In no time at all, somebody dropped their only waterbottle and decided not to go back for it. I gave him one of mine as we rolled along.

Meanwhile, Smudger had suddenly trailed far behind us. We continued onto S. Acton Road where Smudger appeared with the guy's water bottle (there is a shortcut).

We proceeded along our regular route, going a bit faster than usual for the early part of the ride, but staying single file with each rider taking about a one minute turn at the front. As we crossed over Rtes. 495 and 2, the pull was fine tuned to 30 sec. each.

I was relieved to take the lead position as we pulled into Littleton Station, guaranteeing I wouldn't be in front as we started up Oak Hill. The paceline broke up pretty much as soon as we got going up, I was with a group of 5 riders in the front: Smudger, Stephan, Carl, me and one other rider (Tom?). Michael faded back to join the group that set out from the parking lot a few minutes after ours.

We stayed together as a group for about half the climb but the group frayed after that as Smudger, Tom and Stephan pedaled ahead. Carl and I traded places a few times on the way and eventually I caught and passed Stephan. Near the top, Carl called out some encouraging words just as I was starting to slow up a bit - that did the trick, I got out of the saddle and maintained my 3rd man up the hill position. Not a bad showing!

At Pinnacle, where we stopped to regroup, Smudger took the opportunity to organize our paceline more tightly: instead of the lead rider peeling off the front and drifting to the back on his/her own, we were now to peel off AS SOON as the previous lead rider called out "clear" and drift back just in front of them. In other words, we were going to create two pacelines: one on the right that was always pulling forward and one just to the left always drifting back.

This achieved three things: 1) we now a paceline that was about half the length of the one we had before 2) riders finished with their pull got a rest sooner as the next lead rider would be providing them with a draft almost right away 3) it was much easier to latch on to the back wheel of the right-hand paceline

Smudger also opined that for passing drivers, since our group was now about the length and width of a car, folks would be more comfortable passing us than 10 riders in a straight line.

We started out this new configuration along the top of the hill, very slowly at first, but began the descent down Old Littleton Road almost immediately, which broke up the group. We regrouped after we crossed Rte. 111 and got onto Depot Road.

As we grew more comfortable with the new arrangement, I really felt the benefits. We made our way up the Fruitlands climb nicely but near the top, I made a clumsy shift and dropped my chain but was able to catch up on the descent towards Rte. 110 were we regrouped again.

The next climb saw the group break up into smaller bunches again but gather together once we were on Bolton Road. Again, I was able to stay with the first 3 or 4 other riders along the way. On Bolton Road, we really seemed to have it down pretty well, smoothly cycling through the group, one-at-a-time and maintaing a really good pace.

The subsequent descents back into Stow saw us spread out a bit but regroup on the lower part of Stow Road and again after the short, steep section of Taylor. Once on the top of Taylor, the pace quickened noticeably, with pretty much everyone knowing that sprints might occur at any time from here on in. Sure enough, Smudger took off about 2/3 the way along Taylor with a few of us in pursuit.

Regrouping once again when we got onto S. Acton Road, I wanted to be ready for the next jump that was likely to occur but not endanger myself or other riders by being boxed in by the paceline when I made my move. Well, it seemed I was not the only one with that thought as the paceline dissolved enough to provide room to make a break for it.

Boom, off went Smudger to the left of all of us with Stephan and Carl on his wheel. I latched onto Carl's, pedaling at 130 rpm and hoping to shift down to pass him but ran out of gas after a couple of hundred yards (must do more sprint intervals!). Stephan flagged at about the same time leaving Smudger and Carl up ahead.

Usually, the ride back along Red Acre is done at an easy pace, but it seemed we enjoyed our new paceline skills so much that we fairly cranked it the whole way back, split into two smaller groups. Once back at the parking lot, there was a lot of positive feedback about what we had just done.

Hats off to Smudger for taking the leadership role tonight and helping to lift us all up a notch or two, it was a very fun ride.


Climb to (nearly) the Clouds 2009

Distance: 104 mi.

Time: 5:31:58

Avg. speed: 18.8 mph

Top speed: 45.9 mph

Total climb: 7,603 ft.

July mileage total: 456 mi.

Weather: 61-79º, 90-49% humidity, wind WSW4- W6, sunny


Let's see how well I can blog this ride in 20 minutes - I'm very tired:

Rode to CCHS to meet Joe and a few others for the Charles River Wheelmen Climb to the Clouds century ride. The CRW volunteers cheerfully registered us early and we set out just before 7 a.m. as a group of 6 or so that quickly grew to 12 riders.

The first few miles were slow going (the road leading out of Concord is in poor shape) but soon enough the push was on. From Sudbury all the way through East Princeton we kept a fairly brisk pace most of the time. There were a number of other people we had not ridden with before and so were fairly cautious about riding a super tight paceline.

Once again, many people did not go single file when the "car back" call went out. I just don't get it.

After East Princeton, things started to string out quite a bit and when I hit Mile Hill Road, I was a good 1/4 mile behind whatever was left of the "pack" with a sprinkling of other riders behind me. MHR was tough as usual - I ground my way up in my easiest gear (39/25).

At the top, I took a short water/pit stop at the Wachusett Welcome Center there. The road to the summit was still under construction so no extra dose of climbing agony today. Hooked back up with Joe and Jeff S and continued down Mountain Road. At this point, my average speed was nearly 18 mph.

Bombing down Sterling Road (?) was great, my top speed was just shy of 46 mph.

It was evident that I was able to maintain a quicker pace than either Jeff or Joe once we started hitting the rollers heading back into Sterling and they didn't seem to mind that I rode ahead. We regrouped at the 56 mile rest stop and set out again to ride around Wachusett Reservoir and I found myself riding alone again.

I was starting to feel the effect of all the miles in my legs to some degree but was able to keep up the pace very well. Before I knew it, I was rolling into the 75 mile rest stop in Berlin where I took on more water and had a pbj and some Fig Newtons. Jeff came in soon after with Joe skipping this stop. I noticed that my average speed had climbed to 18.9 mph.

Jeff and I got going again and stayed together until we headed up Harvard Road into Harvard. I didn't see him again until he got back to CCHS. The long grades in Harvard were a big effort, especially with all the miles (80 or so) behind me.

Finally, I got onto Stow Road and started to descend towards Stow. I saw a rider a little ways ahead and got enough of a second wind to push a little harder, reel him in and eventually pass him. This happened four or five more times as I wound my way through Stow and Acton.

All of a sudden, I see Joe up ahead and offer him my wheel the rest of the way back but he waved me on.

The stretch from West Concord back to the start/finish (about 8 miles) seemed strangely long to me last fall when I rode this route and it did again this time. But this time I had more energy left in me so I didn't mind it as much until my left leg did some "pre-cramping". I guzzled down about a half bottle of water and made sure that I kept that leg straight if I did any coasting.

When I got to Sudbury Road and Thoreau Street, the 100 mile arrow, instead of pointing right - leading back to the HS, pointed straight instead. I obediently went straight and continued following the 100 mile arrows right through downtown Concord and out towards the north of town. At some point, I checked my computer and saw that I had passed 100 miles a few minutes earlier - that's when I remembered that the CRW people tacked on 5 extra miles at the end to make up for the lack of access to the summit of Wachusett.

I immediately turned around and made my way directly to the start/finish at CCHS where I had lots of nice, cool lemonade, granola and yogurt with berries and spent about 10 minutes just sitting down on the grass watching others ride in and get drinks/food. I also gave the back of my left thigh as good a massage as I could.

I finally got to my feet and rode home, arriving at 2 p.m.

Last year, when I rode this route, I averaged only 16.9 mph and was completely exhausted by the end. Granted, it was an unsupported ride - no official rest stops. This year, I was very careful to take a drink frequently early on and eat a Gu or part of a Powerbar about every hour.

I also had about 2500 miles under my belt last year leading up to the ride but 4 days of rest. This year only one day of rest with 1300 miles of lead in riding.

Tomorrow, a rest day and contemplation of what my next goal might be.


Light and Easy

Distance: 24.6 mi.

Time: 1:20:40

Avg. speed: 18.27mph

July mileage total: 352 mi.

Weather: 74-82º, 73-52% humidity, wind WSW3-W4, sunny

Easy, easy ride today. I successfully resisted the urge to stomp, mash, sprint or otherwise turn up the heat. And I liked it!

First, I mounted one of my cameras, a Canon G10, to the handlebars of my Lemond Alpe d'Huez. (click photo for larger view with notes)

Using a Bogen/Manfrotto Nano clamp, a Bogen/Manfrotto 323 Quick Change plate, a 1/4-20 stud with a 1/4-20 nut as a spacer, I was able to attach the camera securely. I also added a section of inner tube to protect my handlebars from the Nano clamp. I still need to get a 62mm UV filter and a step down ring which I will attach to a Canon DC-58 adapter to protect the camera's lens. I'll also have to work on some way of protecting the camera from sweat and errant water bottle squirts.

Off I went towards downtown Maynard to shoot a test video:

You'll note that I amped up the speed of the playback considerably. I dropped the audio portion as the wind blows across the tiny holes in the camera body, creating a loud, annoying rumbling sound. I plan on experimenting with tape and foam rubber to see if I can attenuate the rumble. It would be nice to be able to hear some of the regular road noise, mid-ride dialog, traffic sounds, etc. I added a favorite electronica track from my collection that seemed to go with the antsy pace of the video.

After playing cinematographer, I pedaled out of Maynard, into Sudbury past Atkinson Pool, across Rte. 62 to Hudson Road. Then onto Lantern Road, up Harvard to Garner and Eldridge.

I turned around at Stow Road (Ha!), went left onto Old Harvard to Burroughs and down the rest of the way home via my 20 mi. TT return route.

The whole way, I kept my HR below 150 bpm. Often it was pegged at 140 bpm. I was surprised at the speed I was able to maintain while holding to the constraint of a lower HR target. Granted, the terrain was relatively flat but I am comfortable attributing it to being in much better shape.

One thing I did not escape by reducing my effort: the heat. I don't think I got out of breath at all for the whole ride but by the end, I was dripping with sweat - good practice for Sunday as I'll likely be riding from 7:30 or so right past mid-day into the early afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, it's a pit stop session. Not only will I be tweaking brakes, derailleurs, cleaning chain, etc. but I'll have to change out my rear tube. Minutes before I headed out Wednesday to join the MRC crew, I pumped up my tires and broke off the little valve screw (red arrow, left). Mercifully, it happened when I was removing the pump and it held air (right through today's ride) but I'm not taking any chances with it on Sunday.


Saving It for Sunday

Distance: 24.9 mi.

Time: 1:16:26

Avg. speed: 19.53 mph

July mileage total: 327 mi.

Weather: 77-78º, 66-65%, wind S9-SSW11, cloudy

With the CRW C2C looming, I decided to do a shorter ride with moderate effort this morning. I needed some spare tubes, so I rode up to Pedal Power in Acton (don't get me started) for the purchase then took Rte 27 up to 225 in order to continue from there on my "roller route" through Carlisle, Concord and back home. Target HR was 150 bpm.

Even though yesterday's ride was so intense and the expectation was that I would be pretty sore and tired today, I felt very good throughout the ride. I was able to maintain a fair clip on the flats and the climbs seemed shorter and less steep than usual.

Tomorrow, I plan on a very easy ride of 30 miles or less and reserve Saturday for a good bike tune/clean session.


Peak Performance?

Distance: 35.6 mi.

Time: 1:44:02

Avg. speed: 20.5

July mileage total: 302 mi.

Weather: 81-70º, 37-64% humidity, wind WNW8-SSW4, sunny-twilight

Song stuck in head: Sean Penn Blues - Lloyd Cole & the Commotions

Made it to the MRC Wednesday night ride with the conditions being about as perfect as you'd want. Also came into the ride with nearly two days of rest (last ride was Monday morning). Fourteen other cyclists showed up and shortly after 6pm, we headed out.

Pattie D, who is "tapering" for the Ford Ironman Lake Placid, was counting on the ride being at a "moderate" pace which of course for me probably meant I might be able to keep the best riders in sight for most of the ride.

We slowly picked up the pace for the first 10 miles leading into Littleton Station, average speed climbing from 19 to 23 mph along the way.

Quite a few of our midst did not go single file when the call of "car back" came out. And we were riding at peak rush hour on rolling roads that gave poor visibility up ahead for cars trying to pass us. The part that really bothered me beyond the obvious safety aspect was that at least a third of us were wearing our MRC uniforms and if somebody complained, the MRC would take the heat. I'm not sure if the issue for these riders was discomfort in the paceline or simple lack of consideration or self-preservation. There's also the possibility of eliciting road rage from a frustrated driver.

After turning left at Littleton Station, we started up Oak Hill. I was about 6 behind the lead rider, Smudger, as we got going. I was happy to be clipping along at 17 mph up the first rise, pretty tight to Gary S's wheel but didn't expect that to last very long.

But I was wrong, although I thought that at any moment, my legs would give out and I would have to shift to my easiest gearing, I kept up with this lead group. Certainly, I got "help" by being able to draft, but we were weren't going THAT fast that it would make a huge difference. Our little group started to spread out a bit towards the top but I was right there with them all the way. Unfortunately, I did not take a time reading at the bottom so I have no idea what the actual climb time was.

At the top, we briefly stopped to allow for a regroup then continued on into Harvard Center, down steep, windy Old Littleton Road. As we turned onto Depot Road to head up Prospect Hill, I started to prepare myself for the possibility that I used it all up on Oak Hill. When we made the turn to actually head up Prospect, I found myself in the lead position - gulp!

I did a good job of keeping the pace above 20 mph along the less steep initial climb but started to slow to 17 mph as it got tougher. Fully expecting to be passed, I was surprised when no one did. Up I went, not looking behind: in case someone WAS right behind me, I didn't want to foul them up by crossing wheels with them. Soon enough, Smudger and a couple of others passed me.

I was feeling pretty good so just after the short, false summit of Prospect, got out of the saddle and hammered my way past all of them to the top. This left me pretty winded but now we were on the way down, so it didn't matter. Another regroup occurred just after the turn onto Still River Road - I'm pretty sure I saw one of my consulting clients pedaling the other way after we got going again.

One more big climb to do: West Bare Hill/Scott/Bear Hill. I was now mid-pack but keeping pace with small group of 4 other riders throughout this section, again feeling much stronger than expected. I bounded ahead of our group a couple of times only to be reeled back in very soon after.

After that, a very twisty descent down to Eldridge Road where we took up Taylor Road for an extended mile and a half hammer. Smudger and at least one other got a great jump on the rest of us and at one point, I thought we only had one more small rise to crest and sprinted out ahead to try to catch up but I was wrong: there was yet another rise after that and I didn't have the gas to keep up the pace. I fell to the back of the group.

S. Acton Road brought another high paced section, I was content to sit in with the pack the whole way. We pedaled easy down Red Acre Road back to the parking lot where we started.

Looking back at my log, by the numbers, this ride was only slightly faster than one other Wednesday night ride (less than a minute) but the numbers do not reveal the fact that we regroup at least twice per ride (sometimes 3 times) AND that tonight, I rode better than I ever had with the MRC crew.


There and Back Again

Distance: 20.5 mi.

Time: 1:00:45

Avg. speed: 20.2 mph

July mileage total: 267 mi.

Weather (at the start): 61º, 72% humidity, wind W4

For some reason, I thought today would be a good day to do my "yardstick" TT. I had a decent day of rest yesterday and felt pretty good when I got on the bike. I made the first waypoint (Red Acre and S. Acton) in 11' 45" which is pretty good but after that, I could tell I wouldn't be breaking any records.

No reason to go into a lot of detail about the ride, I was pushing the whole time and didn't blow up or run out of gas. I simply get that "superman" feeling you do when you are in the groove and feel like you have a lot in the tank to tap into.

The result was not bad: the 2nd best time for this route so far this year. We'll see how it goes at the end of the month.

TECHNIQUE: I've been more and more aware of hip angle and it's effect on power output. Surely, when I am on the bar tops and sit back on the saddle during a climb I can generate a lot of power. When in the drops, with my hands nearer the brifters, my hips roll forward a fair amount and I can't put the same oompf into my pedal stroke.

Today, I did try moving my hands back so that the heel of each hand was just touching the bar end. This allowed me to arch my back a bit (as I pushed forward on the bars) and thus rotate my hips more vertically, getting them closer to a good power position. Like applying power all the way around the pedal stroke, this will take some time to make instinctive, but it looks promising.


An "Ah-ha!" Moment (maybe)

Today was a planned rest day. The first Sunday rest day in quite a while, a fact that was not lost on my wife and daughter. I'm sure the hedge that runs along our driveway was wishing I was out riding somewhere rather than hacking away at it's overgrown boughs late this morning.

As I was sculpting that unappreciative yew, I realized that my legs were not sore from yesterday's effort. Granted, we "took it easy" but the last 15 miles of the ride were quite an effort for me and I fully expected to feel it today.

Rewind back to Friday evening at the Elephant Walk restaurant in Waltham. We are ordering dessert and I ask for a decaf coffee (as does my wife) to go along with my slice of "Le Péché au Chocolat".

Later, after getting in bed early and doing a little reading, I turn off the light.

A few minutes after that, I turn to my wife and say, "You know..."

She finishes my sentence with: "...we got REAL coffee, didn't we?"

We both tossed and turned all night. I'm not sure who was luckier: me, who finally got to get up at 5 a.m. to ride and end the twitchy semi-sleep or my wife who got some decent shut-eye after I left.

I'll bet I was flailing at the end of yesterday's ride from simple fatigue and not lack of fitness. The combination of the coffee and the chocolate dessert did me in. Lesson learned.


Home Truth

Distance: 66.6 mi.

Time: 3:34:47

Avg. speed: 18.61

July mileage total: 246 mi.

Weather: 54-76º, 93-54% humidity, wind calm - S11, sunny

Song stuck in head: Angeline the Baker - Crooked Still

Joined six other MRC cyclist for an "easy" ride of the CRW "Climb to the Foothills" route. Gary D, Gary S, Chris, Tony, Alan, Mark and I set out from Stow Plaza at a very chilly 6 a.m.

The first part of the route was very familiar to me, winding its way up Red Acre, down S. Acton across to Taylor then up Stow Road. I was leading at this point and was ready to crank to the top when everyone called out to me, "LEFT! GO LEFT!".

I was so intent on maintaining the pace up Stow, I forgot to check for the route marker that took us off the ascent and sent us south.

We kept things under control pretty well for most of the ride, our average speed for the first half was just under 18 mph. Our paceline rubber-banded quite a bit though, speeding up the slowing down again, seemingly at random making it challenging for those in the back. I opted for leaving a little more distance behind the wheel in front of me to soak up the variations.

I overheard Gary D. say something along the lines of not wanting to "screw up my taper" which reassured me that a hammerfest was unlikely to break out, leaving me in the dust. The route was very well marked and for the most part, road condition along the way is above average. There were a couple of exceptions where the paceline broke up significantly to avoid pot holes for a short distance.

There are some good climbs on this route and more than one fun descent, notably one as you approach Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster that boasts a fun S-curve that takes you quickly right then left as you go - at speed (carefully).

We took a water break in West Boyston (or was it Sterling?) at about mile 30-35 and stopped a couple of other times for chain droppage and navigation but otherwise were pretty consistently working our way around the the route. Things changed when we got across 117 heading into Harvard from Bolton.

Even though our biggest climb (in East Princeton) was behind us, the hills leading into and through Havard revealed the gap between my fitness and those of my fellow cyclists. As we approached Havard Center, I was lagging behind a hundred yards or so. Gary D wheeled up to the water fountain there which gave me a chance to catch up (and fill my bottles too). The group had to wait on me after they finished going up Old Littleton Road but I caught a break when Gary dropped his sunglasses going up Taylor and was able to arrive at the top right about the same time as he and Tony did.

The rest of the ride home was an easy paced ride along the rollers through West Acton and Maynard.

My thinking is that today's ride shows is that even though I've been riding pretty hard the last 10 weeks, I've done it all without first establishing a "base" and now as I try to extend the length of my rides it begins to show. I hope my "backwards" approach to training so far has not created obstacles I cannot overcome the rest of the summer.


About Face

Distance: 35.3 mi.

Time: 1:47:10

Avg. Speed: 19.75 mph

July mileage total: 180 mi.

Weather: 67-74º, 74-45% humdity, wind C - ESE5, sunny with some clouds

Needed a change of scenery today but didn't feel like stumbling around establishing a totally new route so I rode my "U" route in opposite direction that I have every time before today. I also wanted to take it kind of easy as I hope to do 78 miles with some MRC folks tomorrow morning - it's only 7 days until the CRW C2C ride and I've only a couple longer rides under my belt so far this year.

It was below 50º overnight so I took my time getting on the road, leaving the house at 9:45 when the temperature finally hit the mid-60's. I got right to riding the route, using the early miles to West Concord as my warmup. Once I got across Rte. 2, I started pushing a bit harder but not too much.

Riding up Lowell Road/Concord Street past the Middlesex School is always an exercise in concentration for me: it's such a gradual slope up that it's easy to slow down much more than the incline warrants. I was able to keep my speed at or above 20 mph the whole way.

Rounding the corner onto 225 west presented me with those three hills that dog me when I ride this route clockwise but on the backside of each, none of them were much trouble as they slope much more gently to the east. I was in that little corner of Westford where 225 and 110 meet before I knew it.

Riding out of Littleton Center back down to Foster Street was a nice change from the way I usually ride it: the road condition is much better on the southbound side. I got my comeuppance when I actually turned onto Foster, I was presented with a minefield of freshly patched pot holes. I was able to dodge the pot holes themselves but cars had already loosened up the patches, strewing loose asphalt all over the place. Little black bits where flinging themselves up, making a sort of experimental music composition as they pinged off my downtube and chainstays.

Newton Street is a treat to ride in a southerly direction, the grade down is slight enough to give you the illusion you are cranking out at 25 mph by leg power alone. At this point, the sun was fully out and the temperature was in the mid-70's (according to my cyclocomputer, it was 80) but it felt much cooler as the humidity was low and my perspiration evaporated as soon as it made contact with my jersey.

The rest of the ride, I poked along, not pushing terribly hard - I had to remind myself that I needed to save some juice for tomorrow morning. More importantly, I seemed to have synchronized how I felt with how well I was riding - quite different from yesterday's experience.


A recurring train of thought through many of these recent rides is the idea of doing some racing next season. At the MRC Twilight Criterium a few weeks ago, a fellow club member did some gentle arm twisting to get me to race that day but I demurred, claiming that I wasn't ready and that I would race next year. Well that was half true: I wasn't ready.

At the time, I just said what I said to get him off my back but I've been wondering if I could manage my fitness level well the rest of this year, over the winter and get some training that might allow me to start next year with some of the Wells Ave. crit series.

I'm quite leery of pack racing at the entry level: you never know who you are riding with. One dumb-ass mistake by some noob (that includes me) could totally trash bike and rider. As a freelance photographer, my financial buffer against disaster is rather thin - I need to be ambulatory all the time or I'm out of business. And right now I can't afford to replace a destroyed bike.


Combo Platter

Distance: 46.2 mi.

Time: 2:26:33

Avg. speed: 18.9 mph

Weather: 58-64º, 85-65% humidity, wind N7-NE9, partly cloudy

9 days into July and I've ridden (excepting indoor trainer sessions) only 3 days. This month is starting to look a lot like June was.

Today's ride was one I'd wanted to do for some time, combining one of my hillier routes with the rollery one that runs through Littleton, Carlisle and Concord. This gives me some good climbing with quite a few good miles after to cruise at a fast clip.

I woke at 4 a.m. this morning, an hour before my alarm was set to go off and quickly checked my email from bed (iPod Touch, oh so handy for such things) to see if Pattie D had responded to my query about riding together this morning. Nothing. I made a quick pit-stop and climbed back into bed. An hour later my alarm went off and I simply turned it off, rolled over and went back to sleep. Oops.

I managed to drag myself out of bed at six, put on water for tea, chowed a bowl of Cheerios and tried to wake up a bit before gearing up to ride. I just didn't feel quite right. Not logy, which I actually define as meaning "not sick, but not right." Just off a bit. The tea didn't perk me up much either.

Wife and daughter prepped for their day, I saw them off and slouched my way back upstairs to dress for the ride, careful not to be seduced by the unmade and possibly still-warm bed luring me back. It was in the low 50's out, so I put on a medium thickness base layer AND my arm warmers but decided to skip the tights.

At eight-thirty or so, I was finally on the bike, doing my warm up laps around the neighborhood accompanied by the occasional shiver as the cool air passed over my legs. At the end of lap three, I reset my cyclocomputer and got things under way.

I hit my first waypoint (Red Acre & S. Acton Roads) in almost exactly 12 minutes, so despite how I was feeling, performance was good. I blasted up that short, steep bit of Taylor Road without complaint as well and followed that with a 6' 15" ascent of Stow Road. I was very glad to be on the bike but didn't like the "meh" feeling that was coming along for the ride.

Prospect Hill Road didn't cause me any problems and at that point, the sun was out and it was nice to sneak some peeks to my left of the terrific vista you get from up there. The climb up Rte. 111 back into Harvard Center slowed me down to a crawl as it usually does but I hit the "111" sign in 1:00:01, so I was still keeping a good pace.

Up Oak Hill Road (very steep) from Harvard Center and across Pinnacle then down Old Littleton/Oak Hill into a moderate headwind that kept me from hitting the speeds I am used to on that descent. At the bottom, I seriously considered just doing the rest of the "5 climb" route, which would have got me home an hour sooner but managed gut it out and turn left towards Littleton Station, thus committing to the plan to combine the two routes.

Into Littleton Center I went, downing a Gu Gel at the light where 2A crosses 119 then passing Kimball's Farm and turning right on Rte. 225. It seemed like the wind was determined to stay in my face (checking weather.com later confirmed it clocked around from N to NE) so I stayed as aero as I could, hoping to have it at my back in Concord. I hit 38 mph on the stretch between Rte. 27 and Carlisle Center.

I kept a respectable 22 mph most of the way down into Concord Center along Concord St./Lowell Road, passing only two other cyclist going the other way. I stopped for a quick water refill at the fountain in Concord Center where I said good morning to a trio of riders meeting there to start their ride. Turns out their route overlapped mine for a couple of miles and so I rode along with them until they swung south towards Sudbury while I continued into West Concord.

This last four mile stretch is particularly rollery, and when I am tired, it can really be a drag. But somehow, I was able to plug along and push myself beyond my loginess the rest of the way home.

I'm glad I finally combined these two routes, the mix is good and I desperately needed more middle distance routes in my quiver. I got a good sense of satisfaction from the fact that my performance exceeded how I felt about the ride along the way - mental toughness is sometimes hard to work on when you are on a solo ride.


Near the Mountain

Distance: 53.9 mi.

Time: 2:48:49

Avg. speed: 18.8 mph

Weather: 56-70º, 57% humidity, wind W-11 gusts 22

Song stuck in head: My Two Feet - Old 97's

Joined Steve K, Gary S, Mark, Ted and Bob C of the MRC this morning to do a ride on the 60 mile Charles River Wheelmen Climb to the Clouds route (map below). Coming off of yesterday's ride that left me with the feeling that I was primed for a really good day, I wasn't apprehensive about joining cyclists that have previously left me in the dust.

The rendezvous point was Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton with a 6 a.m. departure time. I would have rode over except that the early start time would have required me to wake at 4:30 which is just a bit too early for me - especially since we didn't get home from the Lincoln fireworks display until nearly 11 p.m.

<aside> My wife made the observation that we paid a $15 parking fee to see a 15 minute fireworks display while it took over half an hour to exit the parking lot. At least it wasn't a mosquito swat-a-thon.</aside>

We assembled pretty much right on time, with Steve, Gary and Ted pedaling in as Mark, Bob and I got our bikes out of our vehicles and set up. Steve set the agenda: after a warm-up, we were to maintain an "85% effort" with each rider taking 3 minute pulls. Steve did a good job of covering all the bases on how we were to maintain the pace-line as well as spelling out how we would accommodate a rider who started to flag and needed to pass on his pull.

There was a bit of snark along the lines of what an "85% effort" might mean and after some clarification, we set off. The initial 2-3 miles are a long descent, so it wasn't really much of a warmup seeing how the ambient temp. was in the middle 50's. Nevertheless, we were ready to rock.

Over rolling hills we zig-zagged our way west from Bolton to Lancaster. Shortly after I started my first pull, we hit a moderate incline and Steve called out from mid-pack to "ease up, ease up". I'm so used to attacking hills pretty aggressively whereas it seems (correct me if I'm wrong) that tri-guys (all of my fellow cyclists were) tend to keep a steady effort, even if it means a slower pace up hills. So, I eased up. Unfortunately, as the grade increased, I had to shift all the way down to my easiest chairing/freewheel combo and let my cadence drop below 80.

"Uh oh," I thought to myself, knowing that a day of low cadence climbing would not be a fun one. I've been working very hard to do whatever I can to spin up the hills and certainly to go out-of-saddle to help carry speed from the flats up hills as far as I can.

When my 3 minutes was up, I slid back to the rear of the pace-line to recoup. With 5 other people, I could look forward to the possibility of a 15 minute "rest" riding in the draft, terrain permitting. I did worry about one issue: I have a tendency to get dropped right after I take a pull, especially when the group is heading up a climb. I really have to work out the mechanics of grabbing that last wheel as I drift back from the front.

Things were going very well with little chit-chat amongst the group (I prefer that) and good efforts from all as they took their turn in the lead position.

Somewhere around mile 10 or 13, Bob passed on his turn to pull a couple of times and he lagged back a bit on the climbs. Next thing I know, Steve is informing us that Bob allowing us to drop him, he knows his way around the route and will make his own way back to the start point.

15 minutes later we were grinding our way up Mile Hill Road, the biggest climb of our ride and cresting at about 1380 ft. (The road up the mountain is closed until they finish putting the utility lines underground.) It was hard and I was last up but I stayed with the group. Steve commented on how much I'd improved since May and wanted to know the name of my pharmacist. :)

<aside>"Wachussett" means "near the mountain" or "mountain place" <aside>

As Mile Hill turned into Mountain Road and then descended, we reached speeds in the upper 30's but had to temper it a bit for the stop sign and turn at Princeton Center. Another, faster descent occurred after that on Rte 62 leading to Moore's Corners. I maxed out at a bit over 46 mph. Wheee!

The rest of the ride consisted of rolling countryside with no major climbs or descents but as we passed the 40 mile mark or so, just past the southmost rounding of Wachussett Reservoir, I was starting to really lag on the hills. My left hamstring started to give me some "early warning signs" but luckily no cramping. The group soft-pedaled for me a couple of times across the top of hills but I was able to catch up on my own otherwise. I took a few passes on pulling which helped me to regain some energy.

Through Berlin we rode and I kept thinking that Gary was starting to flag a bit because on some climbs, I'd look over my shoulder and see him 6 or 8 bike lengths back. I'd call up to the front, "We've gapped Gary," but as soon as I said that, he'd come pounding past me, looking fresh as a daisy. We continued on into South Bolton where I resumed my turns in the front.

About 5 miles or so from the end, we eased up on the pace considerably and I was grateful for the "warm down" miles. I really enjoyed this ride and hope to keep the route in the regular mix.

I put my bike in the car, scooted home and had a heap of yummy pancakes. Then I reconfigured the roof rack on my wife's car, threw 3 bikes on it and drove she and my daughter up the Ayer to ride the Nashua River Rail Trail, like I needed the extra miles.

We had a good little put-put for a while but then it became evident that my eight-year-old would go no further. We were probably 5 or 6 miles out. We turned back, but she got slower and whinier by the minute. Finally, I found them a shady spot to wait and I sprinted my '83 Bianchi back to get the car and pick them up.

With that ride, I guess I hit my 60 mile target for the day.


By Dawn's Early Light

Distance: 45.2 mi.

TIme: 2:21:37

Avg. Speed: 19.1

Weather: 63-78º, 89-56% humidity, wind WSW 7-16

Song stuck in head: Ride - Old 97's

I can't tell you how nice it was to ride today in sunny, clear weather. No rain jacket, no arm warmers, no shoe covers and no messy cleanup afterwards.

Set out early this morning from Atkinson Pool in Sudbury with Alan H and Diane T and did a clockwise loop that took us through Stow, LIttleton, Carlisle, Concord and back. The route (below) consisted of low rolling hills pretty much all the way through. We did the ride with a moderate effort, which I was grateful for since I haven't ridden much this week - but I definitely felt like I had more horsepower available than I used.

Tomorrow: I hope to ride the 60 mi. C2C route out of Bolton and try to keep up with Steve K and Pattie D.