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Longest ride yet, many new personal records set.

Monday, November 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


On Saturday morning there was a local group ride with a bunch of guys I know, but I was unable to attend because Lisa’s parents were coming to stay the weekend with us. Just before noon on Saturday morning we were wrapping up the house cleaning when Lisa’s dad called and cancelled (Lisa’s mom was not feeling well). At that point I’d already grabbed a morning 50 minute ride on the fluid trainer and the group ride was over anyway.

The cancellation opened up Sunday for a ride, and I really wanted to get a long ride in on my road bike. Even though I’ve done fairly long mountain biking rides, I’m a pretty much a roadie n00b. Unfortunately everyone I know was either not riding or going mountain biking, so I had to make it a solo ride. My friend Mike suggested a route starting from Apopka over to the Sugarloaf Mountain/Buckhill loop and then back. This was a perfect suggestion, as the very tough Sugarloaf and Buckhill section is part of the Horrible Hundred race I want to do later this month.

I created an account on Map My Ride and quickly finalized a route. The ride was 54.3 miles (87.39 kilometers), and included just shy of 1,500 feet (457 meters) of climbing. Here’s the actual route (as ridden), along with the elevation graph:

My November 4, 2012 road ride.

My November 4, 2012 road ride.


I decided when I set off to resist the urge to ride all-out, or take any serious stabs at Strava segments. I wanted to settle into a pace that I felt was sustainable, and complete the 54 mile ride feeling like I could continue on for another 50 miles.

I was feeling great when I set off, but once again found myself very uncomfortable riding on a few of the roads on my route. In particular, Kelly Park Road and Saddler Avenue made me nervous. The speed limit is, for the most part, 55 MPH and there are no paved shoulders. Cars are forced into the oncoming lane to get around cyclists, and many of the motorists went around me with very little clearance. On the trip out the traffic wasn’t too bad, but on the return trip traffic was much heavier.

Once I got into Lake County I felt much more comfortable. Most of the roads have paved shoulders that are wide enough for cyclists (to the right of the white line), traffic was fairly light and the motorists–almost without fail–gave me extraordinarily generous amounts of space as they passed. County Road 561, in particular, felt very safe to me.

Once I got to the Sugarloaf Mountain/Buckhill loop (which I’ve ridden before–details on this place are in this blog), I decided to take my first break.

I pulled off the road, ate a Cliff Bar and munched on some Sport Beans. While I was taking my break, quite a few groups of cyclists past by me. Every single group that went past me (and I do mean all of them), asked if I was OK or needed anything as they rode by. Very, very cool.

Wait, it gets better. A young couple in an SUV actually pulled off the road to make sure I was OK!

It’s amazing how cyclist-friendly the area around Sugarloaf is. My experience on that rest stop brought a smile to my face.

Getting back to the ride…

I was looking forward to hitting Sugarloaf Mountain again. The first time I rode Sugarloaf (October 18, 2012) I hammered it with everything I had, and when I crested the top I was destroyed. This time around I wanted to ride it at a sustainable pace, and continue without stopping even after reaching the “summit”.

As I rode up Sugarloaf I past at least a dozen riders–some riding, some walking their bikes and some flat-out stopped on the side of the road looking like they were about to die. I felt like my pace was strong, but I didn’t find the climb nearly as hard as I did when I rode it all out.

Ready for the shocker? When I rode all-out on fairly fresh legs just a few weeks ago my time on the Sugarloaf Mountain The Real Climb, No Flat Sections segment was 2m11s, which (at the time) put me 22nd overall out of 373 riders and 1,555 total rides. Yesterday my time was just one second slower than that (2m12s), and I was well into a 54 mile ride and pacing myself. My conditioning has clearly improved quite a lot over the past few weeks. I suspect if I ride Sugarloaf on fresh legs going all out now there’s a good chance my time would be close to 2 minutes, which would put me right in there with the top 10.

I continued on without stopping after completing the Sugarloaf climb, and caught up to a large group. I went around the back the group, and as I whizzed by the leader he did a double take. I looked behind me to make sure it was safe to get right again, and I saw the leader come out of his saddle. Game on? I didn’t change my pace, and the next time I glanced back the group was barely visible. I’m a very competitive person, and I’m not going to lie: I enjoyed the hell out of that.

That particular segment on Strava is called Sugarloaf Mountain Road, and yesterday I set a new PR and placed 16th overall out of 394 riders and 1395 total rides. Again, I was not going all out or gunning for time here, so the high Strava placement is encouraging to me.

I caught and passed two more large groups as I rode Buckhill and the surrounding areas, and each time I did I did not alter my game plan or pace. I just rode hard, but sustainable. I still had a lot of miles to go, and I didn’t want burn myself out.

Final ride stats: 54.3 total miles (new distance PR), 1,453 feet of climbing (new elevation PR), average speed 18.6 MPH, average heart rate 167 BPM, maximum speed 39.4 MPH and 4 new Strava PRs. I also broke my single week mileage PR by riding 161.6 miles last week (mix of mountain biking and road cycling) and my total single week riding time PR with 9h52m spent in the saddle.

Here’s the complete ride on Strava.

A few observations/problems/questions…

First of all, I felt very good on the ride. No cramping or bonking. Unfortunately I did run out of water. I had a total 52 ounces of water, and with 10 miles to go I was really rationing. With 5 miles to go, I had no water left. Obviously with a supported race like the Horrible Hundred a couple of bottles is going to be fine, but there were very few places on the route I took yesterday where I could obtain more water. I saw some guys with bottles in their jersey pockets, but that seems like it would be uncomfortable to me. I also noticed some guys yesterday with double bottle holders mounted to the back of their saddles. Thoughts? Suggestions? Running out of water sucks.

Another problem is that Sport Beans, while awesome, are difficult to open and consume while riding. I think I’m going to have to dedicate one of my water bottles to a liquid electrolyte source. What’s good? I don’t care about taste, I just want a product that gives the most electrolyte bang per ounce of water.

The only issue I had with pain on the ride was some pinching between my shoulder blades deep into the ride. I think on a century that pain would go from annoying to serious. My body was not tense on the ride, and remaining relaxed is something I specifically focused on. Is the pain between my shoulder blades something that will go away as I grow accustomed to longer rides? Do I have to alter my hand position/riding position more often as I ride (I spent 90% of my time on the hoods yesterday)? Could this be a riding position or bike fit issue?

Overall yesterday’s ride was amazing. I’m very pleased and encouraged by what I accomplished yesterday, but I also know I’ve got a heck of a lot more potential left in me. I’m going to continue busting my ass and training as hard as I possibly can. I want to look back at this ride in a few months and think, “How cute.”

John Stone Fitness Comments

20 Responses to “Longest ride yet, many new personal records set.”
  1. The pain between your shoulder blades is well known to motorcyclists who ride long distances. I’ve done quite a number of 12 hour rides, with the longest being 14 hours. The pain between your shoulder blades will not go away, it will worsen over time, and you will never get used to it. I’ve found that you can lessen the discomfort by doing neck stretches during the ride by bending your neck down and to the left and right. Another trick is to keep only one hand on the handlebar, which allows you to sit as upright as possible by twisting your torso. That takes the stress off your arms and neck muscles, but of course it’s only advisable to assume this posture on long straight sections of road which don’t require braking or steering inputs! Given how light and twitchy the Madone’s steering feels, you may decide that it’s not safe to ride it this way at high speeds. As a general rule, you should alter your body position often and from the very start. You’ll find this technique to be less effective at warding off discomfort if you wait until you begin to experience pain.

    For what it’s worth, I met someone at Santos yesterday who has done numerous ‘Horrible Hundreds’ and will be participating in this one. He predicted that your major source of discomfort will be your hands and feet. He also mentioned that if you’ve never done the HH before, it would be advisable to do the 75 mile race first to see how you do.

    By the way, have you done any experimenting to determine the pedaling cadence that works most efficiently for you? It won’t matter as much on shorter rides, but experienced racers tell me that on their 80-120 mile rides, finding that sweet spot is critical.

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    • A big part of the training program I’m doing right now involves cadence experimentation/selection and pedaling mechanics. When I’m on the trainer I find that I’m most comfortable letting my big legs take the brunt of the work when I’m riding in the Sweet Spot, with a cadence in the mid to high 80s. That said, my cardio is good so I can spin at a pretty high cadence and that works well for me, too.

      As part of this training process, careful attention to form is addressed, and over the past few weeks I’ve learned to spin at a wide range of cadences without knee wobble or bouncing.

      It was interesting to note that my average cadence on yesterday’s ~3 hour ride was 97 RPM. If you’d asked me prior to the ride, I would have expected it to be lower. My plan was to simply ride at a cadence that was comfortable to me, and 97 RPM turned out to be that number. I suspect because of the distance involved that my lungs and heart wanted to bear most of the load. I think that makes sense: legs can cramp, but hearts do not.

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  2. Wear your camelbak! I know that Roadies “Do Not Do This” but you have defined your life by doing things that work for you, your way, and in a decidedly abnormal fashion.

    I’ll bet if you started with the camelbak the rest of the roadies would be copying you within a year 😛

    Now I sound like a JStone fanboy…Oh, I am.

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    • I totally get why roadies don’t wear CamelBaks. There are really practical reasons why they don’t, and so it’s not just one of those seemingly arbitrary “snob” roadie rules. CamelBaks are not at all aero, and they are really hot out there under the sun. I love how unencumbered I feel not having that thing strapped to my back!

      Solutions exist that will allow me to carry enough water without going the CamelBak route. I just need to figure out which one is best for me. 🙂

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      • My friend Irwin and his wife participate in these HH races, and from what I’ve seen, both just carry a couple of water bottles mounted inside the ‘V’ of the frame. It’s probably the most aerodynamic placement, and getting to them just involves reaching down with one hand. In rarer cases I’ve seen the dual water bottle setup behind the seat, but the amount of fluid they hold is the same, and it looks like this setup creates more drag.

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        • I’ve already got two water bottles on the frame, my point is that wasn’t enough for yesterday’s ride. Like I said in my blog, in a SAG supported race like the HH two bottles will be enough, but on long rides without the ability to replenish two is not enough.

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  3. I have two mounts on my road bike and carry a water bottle on my xc race bike for longer races with an electrolyte drink. My favorites are Hammer Nutrition Heed:
    or just plain old Vitalyte:
    I actually put a scoop of Vitalyte in my Pellegrino water every night at dinner.

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  4. I don’t agree that the pain between your shoulder blades is inevitable and will only get worse. In terms of hand positions, motorcycling is more restrictive: You need to be on the throttle and able to get to the clutch, brake, and controls. For bicycling, there are more options, and I have rarely seen cycling discomforts that can’t be addressed through a combination of training and positioning.

    I miss posts, so forgive me if I’m covering ground that you’ve already written about. Here are a few thoughts:

    * The pain makes me think that you’re carrying too much weight forward, on your hands, which will take a toll. I recall your saying that your triceps were sore initially, so this may be the case.

    * Chances are good you don’t want to alter your seat position — moving it forward — but it might be worth trying. Less than a centimeter can make a big difference. How far back is your saddle now?

    * Rotate through handlebar positions: hoods, behind the hoods, on the flats, etc. Locking into one position definitely takes a toll.

    * Temporarily rotating your handlebars slightly upward can give you a feel for what a slightly higher position on the hoods would feel like. If this feels better, a stem with a marginally steeper angle may do the the trick, or one that’s shorter.

    * Hold a carpenter’s level with one end on the middle of your saddle, over the seat post, and extend it forward over the handlebars. With the level level , measure from the bottom of the level to the flats of the handlebars. I can’t recall where mine are but will check, but this can give you a firm figure to work with. This figure (saddle-handlebar drop) can vary significantly from rider to rider.

    * Looked back at your pictures. Doesn’t look like you have any spacers above the stem that would allow you to raise it. Doh!

    Good luck. I wish I had advice for the roads-with-no-shoulders issue. It’s hard and agreeably dangerous to deal with. I finally bought a cyclocross bike that allows me to go everywhere, including off the pavement if the occasion calls for it.

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    • Thanks very much, those are some excellent suggestions!

      I think you might be right on target about me carrying too much weight forward. I will focus on that. Even on the trainer this is something I can practice.

      My saddle is more than halfway back, and so perhaps moving it forward a little might be worth trying.

      I definitely need to do a better job of rotating my hand position around as I ride. As a mountain biker, riding on the hoods feel the most natural and the “safest”. I need to work on getting more comfortable riding on the tops and in the drops.

      Thanks again! 🙂

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      • One more point I forgot to mention in my wall of text: What’s the width of your bars? I’m pretty broad in the shoulders — and elsewhere unfortunately — and I’ve found that narrower road bars can put more strain on my elbows and upper back.

        Good luck!

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    • I don’t think the pain John describes is the result of hand position so much as the body posture imposed by the typical road bike’s geometry, which places a great deal of stress on the muscles at the base of the neck. That’s why sportbike riders constantly complain about it, while those who ride cruisers and touring bikes rarely experience it at all.

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  5. Try the water bottle in your Jersey pocket, it’s not as bad as you think. Also plan rides with places for water stops. I open and dump my sport beans in my left jersey pocket and just reach around and grab a couple.

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    • OK, I’ll give the bottle in the jersey thing a go. I don’t think one of my tall 26-ounce Big Chills would work too well in the pocket, any bottle suggestions?

      The Sport Beans loose in the pocket is a great idea, why didn’t I think of that?! :doh:

      I’m still going to try the Heed, I’ve got some on the way. I like the idea of being able to sip on that the whole time I’m riding.

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  6. This doesn’t help the # of bottles, issue, but I just bought a couple of these:


    Unfortunately I had to travel for work before I could give them a test, so please don’t consider this a positive review, but maybe someone else here has some experience. In theory beats trying to open something while riding, that’s my plan at least!

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    • That’s a pretty cool looking product! I’m not a fan of gels, though (I have trouble getting them down when I’m hot and thirsty). Arlen had the great idea to just put the Sport Beans loose in one of my jersey pockets, so I think I’m going to try that along with the Hammer product Craig suggested.

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