Category Archives: training

Night Riders

Who says you have to stop riding just because the sun has gone down?

Well, that’s what I used to think. Once we reached the point where we didn’t have enough evening daylight for our mid-week afternoon/evening rides they came to an end. Unfortunately so did the fitness until you started hitting the trainer.

This year a club member who grew up in Philly and used to do “night riding” with her club there has organized a night ride with our group.

Last week was the first one but I didn’t go. It was dark and windy. I had gotten home early enough to settle in for the evening and I would be damned if I was going back out on the bike.

This week was different. I had bike commuted to work so my return trip got me home a little later than driving. I was dressed and ready for biking so I didn’t change. The ride departure was also a little earlier, which meant there was less time to settle in. It was also warmer – in the mid 50’s.

I was excited and a little apprehensive, not ridden in the dark much. However, two days earlier I was out on a club ride and heading back when it was getting pretty dark. Surprisingly I felt pretty comfortable with it so I was ready for a full-on night ride.

A small group met at 6:10 to head north to rendezvous with another group 15-20 minutes away and then we headed off as a larger group. There were 11 of us total with a nice mix of men and women. Everyone had at least one head and tail light on. Some of us had two, like me who had a bike mounted front/rear light in addition to a head lamp and rear light on my helmet. Many of us also had reflective clothing on, or additional items for reflection. In short, we were highly visible and I was really surprised at how much we lit up the road.

I found the drivers seemed more courteous as well. I’m sure many of them were more than a little surprised to see a group of hearty, and perhaps a little crazy, cyclists out on an evening ride well after sunset.

We ended up with a 30-mile route and the pace was such that we all stayed together. That’s key so no one gets dropped or left behind in the dark.

Two hours later I arrived back home and thrilled about my first successful night ride and looking forward to next week’s ride with my fellow night riders.

I’m Not Really A Sprinter

In cycling you have certain body types that are good for certain disciplines. I don’t have the body type for climbing – I’m way too bulky and short. I never considered myself a sprinter, either. I guess I thought that I’d make for a much better lead-out guy. I’d be the type that could to hard and steady for a period of time and then blow up, pulling off to allow a teammate to get a win.

On our fastest ride of the week, the Saturday morning ride, we three sprint lines. The middle one is at the top of a hill – I say hill because it’s not a huge climb but enough to tax you before the sprint. The last is along a short flat stretch, after a series of rolling hills, again enough to tax the legs before the sprint. The first one is at the end of a along a flat stretch of road.

The first flat sprint is the one I sometimes try for. I know there are certain people I need to mark for the sprint – not everyone goes for it but there are a few that do. I often get caught being boxed in with the sprinters making their way up the outside and others in front or to my side sitting in that prevent me from making a move.

Last week I thought I was in a good position with a couple coming around to the left. I jumped to go but one of them pulled in front of me and sat up – she must have realized what was going on then realized she shouldn’t be there in the sprint. I tried going around to the right but was faces with a couple garbage cans in the way on the shoulder of the road. (Who has trash pickup on Saturdays other than Scarborough?)

There have also been times when the legs just haven’t been there. But today I was actually feeling pretty good, even after biking all week.

So I did my usual marking of certain women who would be looking for the sprint. I was behind one girl who always sprints. I lost her wheel to another woman as we got closer to the line but that wasn’t going to deter me.

Linda, the woman I always mark, was feeling a little boxed in herself as the group took up the entire lane (it was much larger this year with 25 women) and crossed the line to go around the front riders and head for the line.

I just accelerated with her and the other woman and then finally jumped when they did. The other woman, Cody, ended up going around Linda for the win and I wasn’t far behind for 3rd. That was the best sprint for me ever!

I chose not to contest for other sprints for the remainder of the ride but did manage to stay up in the front working hard and taking pulls.

With the upcoming long weekend my plan is to get in a couple long rides (50-60 miles) Sunday and Monday then my rest week begins. Taking that last rest period a couple weeks made a HUGE difference so I made sure to plan another one 3-4 weeks later. My rest week will also include a massage and a trip to Canada for the Pro-Tour races in Quebec City and Montreal.

Time For Rest

I think I mentioned previously that earlier in the spring, when it was cold, rainy and I had other meeting and social commitments, I had spent more time off the bike than on it. Surprisingly, I think that was better for my fitness. I was well rested and my hard efforts were good. I also didn’t feel burnt out by the time July rolled around like years past.

Since then the weather became great for cycling, I was commuting to/from work by bike when the weather and my schedule allowed, which was a lot. Not to mention being on the bike for my weekly group rides.

However, last week I was on the bike riding home from work before the Wednesday night ride and just knew I didn’t have it in me to keep up with the group. I knew it physically and mentally. Luckily I promised some less experienced girls that I would be on the ride to hang back with them so they would have someone to ride with.

It didn’t take long for me, with the two girls behind me, to get dropped. The pace was high and with a gap I couldn’t close I fell behind quickly.

When I returned home every part of my legs ached. I realized then that it was time for a rest week. It’s been a while since I’ve had any significant time off the bike and I am way overdue!

The only ride I have done during this week was the recovery ride on Monday yesterday. Since today was pretty much the pick of the week I thought a little easy spin to commute to work couldn’t hurt either – keeping my recovery slightly active.

The part I dread is getting back on the bike with flat legs and the time it will take to work through that. Still, it should be worth it, both physically and mentally.

Taking Care of Me Today

I took care of me today with a morning yoga class and an afternoon massage.

I’m surprised at how quickly I get out of shape when it comes to yoga. My legs quivered in most of the poses and are really squawking at me 12+ hour later. I haven’t attended a class since Christmas Eve due to my crazy schedule and needing to sleep in on the weekends. Today I was up early enough to catch an early class with my favorite instructor, Lisa, at Yogave. The nice thing about yoga is that it doesn’t take much time to get stronger and more flexible when you do take some time off.

I also haven’t had a massage since June or July. I scheduled one with Kevin, owner of The Athlete’s Touch. He was really good and I feel like he really worked those tight areas we cyclists tend to have. (He’s also an athlete so he knows first hand the issues we have.)

I need to make massage a regular routine, much like yoga.

A Rare Winter Ride

We have been in a very wintry snow pattern this winter, like much of the northeast. My hopes for a winter like last year faded very quickly after the first couple snow storms dumping inches and inches.

You see, last year the northeast got pounded like they are this year but we were in a strange pattern where the storms stayed south of us. We ended up with very little snow as a result. That meant a fair bit of outdoor riding for me.

This year is vastly different. I’ve been on the trainer as much as possible, logging 45-60 minutes in the mornings before work and 90-120 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays.

This weekend the temperatures warmed up to the freezing range and the roads have cleared enough to manage a safe ride with no fear of falling on any black ice. It was a treat and a nice break from the boredom of the trainer. My goal was to ride easy, focus on my cadence, and just enjoy being on the road.

It did cloud up and even spit snow for a while. I realized it was the first time I had actually ridden my bike while it was snowing.

But the most interesting thing that happened was when two snowmobiles came out of the woods on a trail to ride up the side of the road in the snow-covered shoulder. The first one got out on the road and in front of me. The second came out at the time I was next to him. Luckily he stopped and waited for me to go by before turning out onto the road. I bet he was shocked to see someone out on a bicycle while he was also enjoying his winter sport.

My euphoria is short lived. We are due to receive two more storms this week, one on Tuesday with snowfall predictions in the 3-6 inch range, followed by a more significant snow storm on Wednesday with anticipated accumulations of 8-12 inches.

Winter in Maine 2011

It’s officially winter in Maine. We are one snowstorm into the season that arrived last weekend. Since then the temperatures have been moderate, resulting in a lot of melting and clearing of the snow from that storm.

The new year ushered in temperatures in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. I only managed a few miles on the mountain bike to run an errand on New Year’s day when temperatures were the warmest. Today I managed a better, longer ride for about 25 miles with a friend. There is still a ton of wet sand on the sides of the roads from overnight showers and I found myself riding in that area of the road a lot, so my bike ended up looking like this when I arrived home:

Of course since it’s basically just sand it doesn’t take much to hose off.

So far it’s turning out to be a decent winter. I still have my fingers crossed for a year like last year with very little snow so the roads stay clear enough for biking outside during the off season.

Fall Fitness Fade

A friend of mine from high school, who now lives in Colorado and also huge into cycling, dubbed this time of year as Fall Fitness Fade. Boy is it ever!

I’m always amazed at how busy the summers are. Though when I look at it, in reality it’s busy because of so much biking. Then the heat sets in and I find it’s too hot to bike and we (hubby and me) tend to find shelter in the coolness of the house, in front of the fan.

As crazy busy as the summers are, the fall season is much worse. I know I’m not alone when I say this. We always think that when fall rolls around we’ll be back into an easier routine, with many having kids back in school, and everyone gets back on a schedule. But ask anyone that has kids and running to school open houses, shuffling them off to soccer, football or various other activities, and you’ll learn that fall is even crazier than summer! Many of my friends find it hard to fit in any decent ride time after Labor Day.

Fall also marks cyclocross season! I think I actually spend more time at cyclocross races than on my bike this time of year. It’s wicked fun and it allows me and my husband to do something together. It also provides a great opportunity for my husband to hone his photography skills.

Between days spent at various ‘cross races and fading daylight in the evening to prohibit long mid-week rides, it’s no wonder my fitness fades. I just wish it wouldn’t fade quite as quickly as it does.

It took advantage of some beautiful, warm days this week by taking my bike to the office to catch some lunchtime rides to help keep my legs going a bit. Though it didn’t seem to make much of a difference during the ride with the ladies this morning. I really struggled to keep up in a few places and when I did get dropped I couldn’t push to catch back on. My top power is just gone. I do realize that it’s a normal progression and it’s time to back off in order to rebuild but it’s extremely frustrating to me, given the competitive type of person I am.

I take comfort in knowing that this was the best season I’ve ever had on the bike. My fitness greatly improved and I rode faster and stronger than I have in the past. I anticipate a proper base building period this off season in hopes of being stronger yet again next season. I just need to embrace the Fall Fitness Fade, enjoy being on the bike when I can and enjoy the cool, crisp air and the bright foliage, knowing that it’s all part of the process.

(View during a recent lunch time ride.)

Summer Doldrums

Last year I remember hitting the summer doldrums pretty hard. We had a lot of rain during the summer months so I spent a fair bit of time off my bike after the Trek Across Maine.

This year I found myself in the same position. Though this year I couldn’t attribute my doldrums to the rain.

In talking with some of my other riding friends, they also feel the summer doldrums. I’m not saying that people are bored with summer, but some are bored with riding. Unless you have clear goals or events to keep you focused on training and riding, it’s pretty easy to slip into a general sense of malaise when it comes to riding.

The weather has also been pretty hot lately. We have bouts of pretty high heat and humidity – that’s usually a good reason for me to be off the bike a fair bit as I don’t do so well in heat and humidity.

Still, with the heat I managed to make it on the bike a couple times a week during our normal women’s rides to keep me generally riding. That also gave me some pretty decent recovery time in between rides.

I was afraid that too much time off the bike would cause me to feel a bit flat legged and not be able to keep up with our groups as others’ fitness continued to improve. However, it seems to have worked out okay since over the past week or so I’ve actually been feeling a little stronger on the bike and pushed my heart rate a bit higher than I’ve seen all season, a definite sign of improved fitness this season.

Another thing that might be attributing to me feeling slightly stronger is getting back into yoga classes. I went about a month without participating and now that I’m back to it I feel better on the bike. I even finally participated in a restorative yoga session designed for athletes to help them recover. It was more passive than I thought it was going to be but I found I had great legs the following day for my ride.

Now that summer is winding down I feel like I’m ready to spend a bit more time on the bike – not a ton, but perhaps an extra ride or two mid-week. We’ll still continue to have some hot days but the weather should be decent and not so oppressive. Let’s hope it turns out to be a good fall with continued improved fitness until the end of the season.

More to Racing Than Just Winning

The Scarborough Industrial Park Spring Crit Series began today.

This year they added a women’s race and combined them with beginners to get them to try criterium racing.

The women’s race started at 7:30, which was a new addition this year. That meant that my warm-up ride to the event needed to start pretty early, between 6 and 6:15 am. I was thankful that the temperature was in the low 50’s when I started off and was predicted to reach 70 degrees today. Odd for so early in April but happily so. Last year it was very cold and I remember going to watch the previous year and it was just as cold.

Unfortunately there were only a few of us on the line for the first race. However, it’s Easter Sunday so many people had family obligations I’m sure.

The start of the Women’s/Beginner race.

I was happy that another PVC member joined me for the race.

Me and a teammate, Elizabeth Ehrenfeld.

I stayed out of the wind and on a wheel the entire race but couldn’t match the acceleration in the end and finished, unbelievably, DFL. Sheesh!

Then I hit the start line for the B-race.


I managed to hang on for 6 of the 12 laps. I almost got dropped on the 4th or 5th lap and managed to get back onto the back of the group. Then the bell rang for a preme lap and I got dropped. I wasn’t surprised and I just sat up and pulled out.

All things considered I feel pretty good about how I performed. Sure I finished last in af the women’s race. Sure I pulled out of the B-race 1/2 way through after being dropped. Still, I was there and rode some of my best riding. I cornered better than I have ever cornered. When I was getting gapped in the women’s race on the corners I assessed why that was and made adjustments. I was focused and relaxed.

There is more to racing than just winning.

My New Toy

This post has been a while in the making. Unfortunately I’ve just been too busy to get to it.

Several weeks ago, for Valentine’s Day, my Valentine gave me a power tap for my bike, which I have been wanting for a long time.

So I’ve had the device installed on my bike for a couple weeks now. I’ve used it outside and inside. It’s actually kinda cool. And as we all know, it’s the best way to measure performance and thus progress in training and fitness.

Since it’s only been a couple weeks I can’t actually say much about it. It’s going to take some time to learn more about it and how to get the most out of it. It will probably require me to purchase a book on how to train with a power meter. At the cost of <$20.00 that’s a pretty inexpensive must have.

For the time I have spent using the power meter and getting used to the software it’s been great. The software is super easy to use, read and gather data.

Luckily the weather here on the coast of Maine continues to be really nice with now snow in weeks and what precipitation we did have fell in the form of rain. And with temperatures predicted to be in the upper 40’s and low 50’s it’s going to be a great weekend to get out and use the power meter on the road.