Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Well, this ought to help...

In the last week or two, I've started training in earnest for the Vancouver to Seattle Ride to Conquer Cancer I'm doing in June. I've taken some nice hilly detours on my way to work some mornings, and on Saturday I did a good solid 55 km (I chose the route I did for the MS Society 60 km ride in 2008, although I didn't use the official start/finish line). It went well in that I finished feeling sore and tired but not overly so, and my 13 km ride the next day (to get my body used to riding while in pain) was much better than I thought it was going to be. In fact I felt stronger the more I rode on that second day, and if I'd had more time to spare I might have gone further.

The biggest problem so far has been the frustration of stop-start city riding. During the first quarter of my ride on Saturday I had to stop every couple of blocks or so for lights, stop signs, pedestrians, roundabouts, idiot drivers, reversing trucks, you name it. I got in a good, long uninterrupted stretch around UBC (including one long, long, evil hill) and then along SW Marine Drive as far as Granville Street, but then I hit the cross traffic again. And the third quarter of the route I'd chosen zig-zagged all over the place in order to cross the main streets at intersections with stop lights; I found it hard to memorise more than four or five turns at a time, so I had to keep stopping to check the map on my iPhone. At least I'll be able to remember the route next time!

The friend who's doing the ride with me had offered to show me a route around Richmond and Steveston that has much less cross traffic, but a lot of it is on highways. My friend assured me that the highway's shoulders are nice and wide, and I agreed to try his route, but then he bailed on me because he thought it was going to rain (what a wuss! It didn't rain in the end, but I had my waterproof jacket in my bag and would have kept going if it had).

I was quite encouraged by my first week of full training, and felt even better after chatting to one of the PIs at work who did the ride last year and who is also just starting his training for this year's event. He was really happy to have hit the 28 km mark at the weekend, which obviously made me feel pretty good! He told me that his most extreme training sessions last year were one double and one triple circuit of the same hilly 28 km route, which made me feel even better...

I also learned that there's only one significant hill on the first day of the ride (although apparently it's really annoying because it's in the middle of the town of Bellingham, and you keep losing all your momentum due to stopping at lights and stop signs), and four or five "rolling hills" on the second day.

Now, you might think that this would be good news; training on hills for a flat course should give you an advantage, right?

Well, yes and no: I'm sure the hills I do encounter on the ride will feel relatively easy as a result of my training, but I've been caught in this trap before. When all your riding is on rolling hills like Vancouver's (or Glasgow's), you get used to resting your legs and lungs as you coast down hills, and when confronted with the need to keep constantly pedalling on a flat route, you can really struggle.

So, last week, I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter to see if any of my Vancouver buddies had an exercise bike they could lend me. In an example of perfect timing the likes of which I've rarely experienced, one friend was in the process of emptying her house before starting renos, and donated her old bike to the cause!

The cats are intrigued when it's stationary, but terrified when it's moving

Mr E Man borrowed a friend's truck and picked the bike up for me yesterday, and I've already got a couple of short rides in. It's noisier than I'd expected, meaning that my idea of riding it while watching hockey games and other TV shows of interest to Mr E Man has been vetoed. But it's a great addition to my training; the constant pedalling gives me a really good workout (one thing that surprised me is that you get much sweatier when you don't have the airflow you get when you're riding a real bike outside! Phew!), and I can alternate between the flat and intervals modes.

The static bike won't replace my training on my real bike, but it's definitely adding a whole new dimension to the enterprise, and will also increase my overall hours and kilometres; it's easier to get motivated to train when I can read a book, watch TV, or enjoy my podcasts while pedalling!

Things I still need:
  • Attractive padded shorts of the kind that triple the size of your arse
  • Gel saddle? (I think the current one might be OK. I'll decide after some more long rides)
  • CamelBak or similar hydration pack. Stopping to drink water a) slows me down and b) subjects me to the pick-up lines of creepy old dudes. On Saturday, one such fella stopped while I was drinking water to say "Nice day for a ride". I agreed, with a smile, but unfortunately that must have encouraged him because he followed up with "Are you good and sweaty? You look nice and sweaty". Yeah. I could do without that experience!


  1. I don't know if the advice for cycling is different, but for running, the strategy for hill training is to run up them and walk down. The purpose is mainly to strengthen your legs, but a similar run and rest strategy is meant to be better for increasing aerobic fitness. If you're running out of breath on the flat then you're cycling too fast (well duh!). I found it took quite a bit of self-control to run slowly, but it's easier to do now.

    Last Sunday I went for my first run this year, and I'm still aching. I don't think I'll be running a marathon this year.


    I started re-cabling my bike this weekend. Finish the gears and then put on new tires this coming weekend. Then a weekend to tune p. I should be ready to ride just as it gets too hot to ride down here!

  3. Bob, I have no idea - I've never trained for a specific event before! I bet Mermaid knows, though.

    Good luck with the running! Mine is now officially on hold until after this ride, and possibly for longer.

    Tideliar, yeah, I'm spoiled by Vancouver's (almost) year-round cycling climate! I hope the work you're doing pays off with some nice rides before it heats up.

  4. Sounds like you are proceeding perfectly. It would be great to get out into Richmond and do some long slow flat rides - as you mentioned, the constant use of muscles can be very different than going up and down hills.

    Some rides to consider (quick overview, I can show you more on a map sometime):
    1) South on Heather bike route, over the skytrain bridge, turn left at the bottom of the bridge and ride east to New West - very nice long flat River Road section that is full of bikes. And there is a Tim Hortons to stop at half way through for a pit stop.
    2) Ride to Cypress bike route, north to Cornwall, follow beach road all the way to UBC (it is narrow for part of it, but that is over fast). Once up at UBC, follow Marine Drive all the way to 70th ave, then turn around to come back. For a shorter ride, turnaround at 40th. Coming back from 40th-16th around UBC is ever so slightly up-hill, just enough to drive you a bit nuts (your muscles hurt, but your brain doesn't register the hill).
    3) Loops of Stanley Park, on the road. Some hill, some flat. Best done either early on the weekend so the tour buses aren't there yet, or just after work when traffic is light.

    I have many more of these! Horseshoe Bay is lovely (challenging), Deep Cove has a great place for a pit stop (coffee shop), SFU has great views....Steveston has the water. The Richmond route is perfectly fine too - as you say, there are highways but also nice wide shoulders.

  5. Sounds like you're doing great! You're almost motivating me to get off my butt and take up (real) cycling!

    Sorry about the creep - yuck!

  6. Thanks Mermaid! #2 formed part of Saturday's ride - the least frustrating part, even though that hill and then the head wind on Marine were pretty tough!

    I may well try one of the other routes this weekend. (Thanks especially for the mention of places to stop to refuel!) I was also thinking of the Central Valley Greenway (Science World out to New West, 25km each way). Saturday's ride finished on this route, and it was pretty nice (and flat). I've done an overlapping, but longer, part of it before, but I've never done the entire thing.

    Alyssa, thanks! You should definitely give it a try, it's a really nice way to get fresh air and exercise combined! The exercise bike is a less interesting workout, but does have the advantage of no rain or wind (or creeps!), and the availability of distractions like TV!

  7. It sounds like your preparation is off to a strong start.

    ...I had to stop every couple of blocks or so for lights, stop signs, pedestrians, roundabouts, idiot drivers, reversing trucks, you name it ...

    That sounds a lot like what cyclists around here have to deal with, except that here you can add "roads barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, let alone have room for bikes" and "gaping potholes that make the road surface resemble the surface of the moon". Also, "idiot drivers" is pretty redundant in Massachusetts. The pedestrians are just as bad - the people on bikes seem to be the smartest and most aware, probably because they have to be.

  8. Sounds good Cath!!
    I would definitely recommend a gel saddle plus a lot of padding in the attractive shorts (yes, they are horrible). My first long 2 day cycle tour ended after the first day due to soreness like I'd never experienced before... And not in the muscles!

  9. ahh... a stationary bike. I rode the reclining stationary bike at the gym a while back thinking "it can't b that hard" and after 10 mins I got reminded that you need to move your feet ALL THE TIME..... :) no resting feet when going down hill...

    I think it might be a great additional thing for yuo. Good luck! (got reminded that I can soon add some more money to your charity again, payday coming up!)

  10. I like gel saddles too, but not too wide as they end up hurting more than you might expect. Padded shorts are great - can I suggest 2 pairs as the ride is over 2 days? Unless you plan to wash the first pair out and hope it drys overnight (you really don't want to get into used shorts again - I can write a TMI comment if you like :). Ummmm, perhaps also some chamois butter or similar (there are cheaper options - please don't use vaseline!) as chafing in the saddle area is REALLY worth avoiding.

    For drinking, do you have a bottle cage? If not, get one soon and practice drinking while riding. Might be more comfortable than a Camel Bak for the long hours you will be riding.

    Perhaps we need to meet up at MEC one evening to evaluate some options. Yay - field trip!

  11. Are you nice and sweaty? You look nice and sweaty!


  12. RPS, well, I see plenty of idiot cyclists, too! I often say to surprised pedestrians who I've stopped for when I'm supposed to, "see, not all cyclists are idiots!".

    Nina, good to know! What a shame that your ride got cut short.

    Mermaid, I am too scared to google chamois butter while at work...

    MEC do a couple of different kinds of padded shorts, so assuming they both fit I was planning to buy one of each, and if I have a strong preference after some more training, buy a second pair of that kind.

    Previous attempts to use a bottle cage and drink while riding have convinced me that I don't have the necessary co-ordination. I've almost fallen off my bike several times as I reach down to grab the bottle! I was planning to take the cage (and the rack) off the bike before the ride to save on weight!

    I want a CamelBak anyway, for kayaking and other outdoor adventures, so I'll probably get one this weekend and try it on my next long ride and see how it feels. If it is uncomfortable, I guess I'll try again with the cage...

    I'm always up for a trip to MEC!

    Thomas, just wait til you see me in padded shorts... hubba hubba!

  13. Cath, here is the CamelBak you need:

    I have the M.U.L.E. and it comes in handy in field work.

  14. I too am not coordinated enough to reach for the water bottle and drink out of it while riding, and my camel back has been wonderful for that (I have the MULE), as well as for all kinds of other activities!

    And 55 km - wow! Keep on it!

  15. Thanks Thomas! I ended up finding a bike-specific one (it wasn't a Camelbak but I can't remember the brand) that has a mesh panel that sits against your back, while the rest of the backpack is on a frame that curves / arches away from the panel (and your body) so your back doesn't get all sweaty. The straps are mesh, too. I used it on my 63km ride on Sunday and my back was completely dry when I got off my bike, it was awesome!

    SG, I'm soooo glad it's not just me! And thanks for the encouragement!


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