Radium Springs 200k!

Ok, so it started out a little chilly…24deg F, but by the time we reached Hatch, NM, 24 miles into the Radium Springs 200k, my fingers had thawed. The 136 mile route is beautiful and at least 90 miles of it has very little traffic. It first travels west and north, with a very gradual climb. After an easy warm-up of about 50 miles, we headed into some hills; steep-ish, short-to-medium climbs….nothing too extreme. After Nutt was a fast 20 miles, east, back into Hatch. The last 20 miles, riding south into the wind were a bit of a grind, but more mentally, than physically difficult.

The New Mexico Brevet Series organizers and volunteers are awesome! The level of support was as good or better than any organized century I’ve ridden. At $25 per rider entry fee, I don’t see how they even cover their costs. Not only was there drop bag and sag wagon support, they provided sandwiches, fruit, brownies and soft drinks and home-cooked dinner afterwards.

Even though I’d ridden Tejas 500 eight weeks ago, I felt only minimally prepared for this ride. Seeing Radium Springs on my calendar three weeks out, I’d added a weekly long ride on the rollers of 3, 4 and finally 6 hours to get ready.

If you ride Radium Springs it’s probably a good idea to have a light that’s bright enough to comfortably ride with and a bright taillight, and a good amount of reflective material on your bike and clothing. Daylight is pretty short on December 6th, and the traffic between Hatch and Radium Springs really picked up late afternoon and evening. All the drivers gave me lots of room, but I’m sure they aren’t used to watching for cyclists that time of day/year.

Coming from the north, we stayed at Truth or Consequences, about an hour from the start rather than driving farther south to Las Cruces. That saved a little driving on Friday and Sunday. I hope to do more NM Brevets in the coming year!

Power meters a necessary tool?

the HRM trained group showed significantly greater increases in peak output (5.0% vs 3.5%)

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a power meter. I just can’t justify spending $1500 or more on one. I’ve read that some very experienced riders would take an old bike with a power meter over a new bike without one, but I’m not convinced. I found this article from March, 2009 that supports that view, “Put Down That Power Meter, Eugene“.

If this is repeatable, I think there may be two reasons why the HRM group did better than the power meter group, one related to recovery, the other related to adaptation. My guess is that when a rider is not well recovered, a heart rate based target will account somewhat for that. In other words, a power-based target remains the same no matter how tired an athlete is, while one’s heart rate is likely to be affected by fatigue and naturally ratchet the effort level to lower power. I know that training at consistent power is something proponents of power meters site as an advantage, but it could be an obstacle to good recovery.

The second reason, and probably the more important of the two: Hopefully as one adapts to training, the power that can be maintained at a given heart rate increases. By training with a heart rate target, the power level will naturally adjust upward. If training with power, as one improves, the power target would remain the same, while the heart rate decreases. My intuition is that by training with an HRM one’s power level is always incrementally adjusting, whereas a power target would often not be adjusted for as long as 2-4 weeks, until the next test.

For those reasons, even before I saw this study, I questioned the supremacy of power meters for endurance training. Though I’d guess that power meters are far better for anaerobic training; when the rider is doing short, hard sprints where heart rate response lags behind effort. It’s unlikely that sprint training was even included in this study, since HRM’s give such poor feedback in that situation.

Ideally one would use both power and heart rate data, but this study indicates that at least for some aspects of cycling training, a heart rate monitor can be as good or better than a power meter.

Massage gizmos

Of all the massage gizmos in my possession, more than I wish to enumerate here, there are two (maybe three) I would buy again.

First is the Theracane. I got one just before Tejas 500 and I think it contributed to my finishing in good shape. I usually get neck and shoulder pain after a few hours of riding. At other races Jen has leaned an elbow into my trapezius (trapezii ?) periodically. At Tejas I left the Theracane hanging near my food table. Between laps I’d grab it, inflict a few seconds of torture to my neck, traps, and rhomboids, and return to riding with significant relief.

(Another note on this subject: I noticed after about 30 hours of riding that I got a lot of neck/shoulder relief by moving my arms way back on my aero bars, so my wrists were practically resting on the pads. In other words, I was too stretched out on my bike. Not saying this is always the case, but you might try moving closer or farther away if you’re having neck/shoulder pain.)

So why did I wait so long to get a Theracane? I’ve known about them for years. Well, I have a stick; like go in the forest and pick up a stick, that approximates the same functionality so I didn’t think I needed one. I can say now, that besides being more portable, the Theracane is capable of more precision and generally works better than a stick.

Speaking of sticks, the other thigamajig I’d buy again is the Original Body Stick. Unfortunately you can’t find these laying around in the forest. The Body Stick offers a kinder, gentler neck massage than the Theracane. Not to say it can’t hurt like H-E-2*L if you’re sore. The Body Stick is simple, and portable, and you can use it standing up, or sitting down to massage neck, back, arms and legs.

Which brings me to all those other whatchamadoozies. It’s not that I don’t use them. Well, the ones that require another person really don’t get used, but I do use the other self-massage doohitchies. The problem is, 85% of the time it’s either not convenient, or I just don’t feel like rolling around on the floor. While body weight inflicted torture is unique and works well for some areas; i.e. piriformis, the strength and contortion required usually make the floor models less relaxing.

So what’s number (maybe) three you ask? Don’t get too excited. It’s the Travel Stick. Nice if you need a shorter version to fit in a smaller suitcase, but generally the length is not as good as the Original, and mine has had a funny plastic smell for years that makes it less pleasant to use.

Riding indoors

Snow today! 
I’ve been looking forward to the changing seasons; the time of year when I spend more time riding indoors. I know many people hate riding in one place, but for me its a nice change of pace. After a few weeks of “taking it easy” with no pre-defined workouts, riding my rollers is a nice transition back into real training. They give me a break from cars and wind, a chance to watch some movies and catch up on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the opportunity for longer, steady paced rides that are hard to do on mountain roads. Not to say I prefer my rollers to riding outdoors, but in Southern Colorado never too much time passes without some sunny, dry days.
Of course there will be snowshoeing and backcountry xc-skiing. Probably not much skate skiing, but there are groomed trails in New Mexico a couple hours drive from here. I may finally check those out. Or I could make a trip to Craftsbury for a skate ski intensive.
Mostly, I’m looking forward to a few months of little travel, lots of work, and hibernating at home on my rollers and local forest trails; putting as few miles on the Jetta as possible.