Friday, February 9, 2018
Yesterday I did get in my long ride as planned, but shorter than planned. I only completed 305km despite almost 15 hours of moving time and 16 1/2 hours of total time away.
Things started earlier than planned when my phone started buzzing at 2:50am. I thought it was my alarm, alas it was just pesky notifications going off. I never did get back to sleep and started prepping for my ride around 4am. On the bike by 5am.
I took it easy to start, knowing it was going to be a tough day, and their was a strong headwind, but I was comfortable and happy to be there. By 8am I had climbed my first decent climb. While the average grade was probably somewhere around 5%, there were a couple of bits that were closer to 10%. But I had no idea what was coming.
The first descent was nice . . . fast, with a great view and it dropped me along the coast to a nice flat road which looked abandoned. Really it was surreal. I did see two cars, but I think they were survivors from the zombie apocalypse. Here is part of that roadway.
As you know, I ride a bike a lot, and generally my mind has nothing to do and I could see that I was at sea level, and there were nothing but hills everywhere I looked, so I knew I was going to be doing some climbing. I had no idea though. Let’s just say the next three hours of my day were not part of my script.
At the end of the road in that photo I began climbing. Now a bike has gears, and those gears can be installed to meet the rider’s needs. My lowest gear on my bike in Toronto is 36×25 gear ratio and meets my needs for pretty much anything in Ontario. On this bike my lowest gear is 36×28 and has been fine for most everything I have seen. For the next 2 hours and 20 minutes or so I was mostly climbing (there were two amazing descents in there), and the grade was probably closer to 7% on average, with too many sections with grades at 13% or so. When you have fresh legs, a 13% grade is difficult, but 4 hours into a ride, you are simply trying to survive a 13% grade. Here I am half way up the first ascent (elevation ~340m. The timestamp between this picture and the one above is 32 minutes, so I was moving well up until this photo. Then it got hard.) Let’s just say that 36×28 is not enough for ‘touring’ on these roads.
Another interesting aspect of riding up these steep roads, is that I am on a ‘racing’ frame. Built for speed, but I have modified things with a big bag on the back, and it has weight, right over the rear axle. Well when generating a lot of power in low gear, riders tend to pull on the handlebars to engage back muscles. When this happens it isn’t uncommon for strong riders (when seated) to lift their front wheel off of the ground. If you have weight behind you, it is ‘easier’ to do this. When you stop on a steep grade and then try to start again, that can get a bit uncomfortable as you try to generate power, while pushing your front wheel down and not tip over sideways at the same time. Fun, fun.
By 10:30 in the morning most of (the first big) climbing had been done and I began my descent toward Thiva and things seemed to be good. At Thiva, I turned East and that headwind turned to a crosswind/tailwind and began helping me. I cruised along for 3.5 hours on a mostly down slope back to sea level (from a peak at about 635m above sea level).
In waking up at 3am, sleepiness was already starting to kick in (this is partly caused by the deep breathing related to the climbing) and I was dangerously close to falling asleep on the bike, so I had to get off for a few minutes and close my eyes. I had to do that twice during the day, and both times after climbs.
As I turned South, I could see that, again I was tucked into the coastline and there was nothing but large hills in front of me. Now I can get little snippets of grades from my Strava app that I use to track my rides, so now I know what the grades were. I am not ashamed to say that after 9 hours on the bike I walked up the hills that I attacked next. If you think 12% grades are hard when you are fresh and rested, then 16% is really f’n hard when your tired and your legs are fried. I couldn’t make it up a few sections of the road in front of me here. The grades in some places were well above 10%, and the highest that I can see from Strava is 16.3%. I simply couldn’t generate enough power with my gearing.
Here are two photos of that area. Note the scorched landscape. Last year Greece had a real problem with forest fires, and given the burnt land and a few burnt homes, I suspect that this was one of the areas that was affected.
After that, I got a flat tire (Yay!) and decided to shorten my route to avoid further disappointments. While the 300km was a bare minimum, there was little training going on at this point as I was just ‘surviving’ on the bike (which on long rides is also a skill). I can work on that more over the next few months, but what I needed most was fitness. So in the end, I decided to pick a route that was more direct back to the warmth and safety of the boat.
I did feel pretty strong in the last 50km or so, but was also quite pleased with arriving at the boat warm and in one piece. Here is a picture of my intended route and then my actual route. Total distance 304.9km, 4,326m of climbing and 14:42 of moving time.
After a quick bite to eat, I laid down for just a moment . . . and passed out. Later today I will be going out for a 80-100k recovery ride if the weather holds.