Last year I ran over a rock (ha), flattened my back rim, and punctured just outside of Entait on highway 97. Then, after the Swakane Canyon climb on the way down, I lost air in my front wheel and fell - I'm hoping for better luck this time around!!
I built a new front wheel for the Supercourse - the rim was getting a bit too thin; moreover, the bearings on the 25-year old hub were wearing out. I can no longer find a good balance between tight enough and not too tight - the front hub was just getting a bit too loose.
I also built a new back wheel because in the winter, during cold-weather riding, the pawls in the back hub stopped releasing from time to time, which is no fun at all. I think the problem was related to the cold. I haven't had problems with it recently; still, I thought it best to build a new one. And, well, building wheels is fun.
These are #9 and #10, since I started this project three years ago, and they came together beautifully. I can't say enough about Roger Musson excellent book on wheel building - some people are just extraordinary teachers and craftsmen.
I've installed Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tires on DT Swiss R460 rims. I'm running these tires in tubeless mode. Yes! That combination of tire and rim works beautifully in tubeless mode.
This set-up, with about 40 psi in the back and 37 psi in the front, worked pretty well at Gran Fondo Winthrop in 2017. I might use a bit more air pressure for GFL - 40 psi feels a bit soft and squirely on the road. I've not been stopping during these rides to change air pressure but perhaps I should.
I've also given the Supercourse a drive train update: new chain-rings (34T and 48T), 7-speed cassette (12-32T), chain, and back derailleur. Hopefully things will be fairly smooth and reliable.
I've noticed that the new back derailleur, a Shimano RD-M310 Altus GS 7/8-speed Rear Der Black,Long Cage ($15.00), has a new personality, which requires slightly different shifting technique. And, alas, on big bumps it seems to shift up by itself - I'll need to explore that further. But, the shifter works for 34 x 14T, which gives me a new gear. That's nice - another area for exploring.
Except for getting the flu (week 12), which kept me off the bike for 10 days, and took another 2 weeks of recovery time (a nasty cough wouldn't go away), my training has been quite good. Good consistency, with more or less 2 hard weeks followed by a recovery week. I've ridden about 210 hours this year.
I've been eating nutrient rich food (ha) and trying to say away from sugar, not always successfully. Eating "properly" certainly helps with recovery and slowly but surely my weight has dropped over the last 20 weeks, much like in previous years.
I've been working on very hard threshold workouts. Since January, I've been doing a weekly workout on my rollers, working up to being able to do 4 x (20 min HARD + 4 min EASY). My threshold is about 161 - so, I get into the range of 158 - 162 and hold that heart rate for 20 min. Then, I get a 4 min. recovery. Then, repeat.
Doing two such intervals was fairly doable last year. Working up to being able to do four has been quite the challenge, but is now quite doable. That's not to say they are easy. Nope. Far from it. The first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes are always hard, often very hard, no matter if its the first, second, third, or forth effort - relax a bit and stop focussing and my heart rate drops fast.
Interval #4 puts me in a kind of dark place - perhaps, its a bit too much. I basically fear it and when I start out I'm uncertain if I will finish. I try to focus on smooth peddling and play psychological games - hold the effort for 5 minutes, okay that's done, only ten minutes to go, so stay smooth, okay just eight minutes to go - got this, etc. A lot of it just seems to be psychological - embrace the discomfort and stay with the smooth peddling and look at the clock every 20 seconds (ha). The next developmental step will be to work toward 3 x (30 min HARD + 4 min. EASY). That will have to wait until after GFL.
Over the weeks, the efforts have become more controlled, with smoother and faster peddling and/or with bigger gears. I've read somewhere that the key to such workouts might be consistency - developing the physiology to handle these workouts takes takes time and consistent work. That said, my goal was to incorporate a mix of these kinds of workouts with V02 Max workouts but I haven't found a good pattern for doing that and, so I haven't done any training in Zone #5 this year (unlike last year where I did a regular V02 Max workout each week but not a threshold workout.)
Hopefully, these highly controlled theshold workouts, even without V02 Max efforts, paired with long easy rides in Zone 1 and Zone 2, and a lot of consistency over the last five months, will give me a good aerobic engine.
Over the last two weeks, with the goal of consolidating my form, I've done three very difficult sessions, where I've spent substantial time "sweet-spotting" (high zone 3 / low zone 4). Staying at a heart rate of 147-153 for almost two straight hours, for example, was very, very difficult. Until this past couple of weeks, I am almost never in this heart rate range.
Hopefully, all of this work will give me the physiological capacity to do well on the climbs, recover well on the downhills, and manage the distance at GFL. We'll see soon enough.
For the next two weeks, I'll taper, do a couple of short, hard sessions and some easy riding, aiming for about 8-10 hours next week and 4-5 hours during the week of GFL.
Looking forward to riding with focus and care!
- Ride the first 10 miles such that I don't take any wind. Hopefully, it will be a fairly relaxed start like the last two years.
- Ride the gravel climb steady, not too fast, at my own pace.
- Once under the hydro lines, ride hard to the top and keep riding hard over the flat part. Then, eat and drink.
- Ride conservatively downhill - watch out for cars, etc. At the bottom, eat and drink.
- Hopefully, join up with a group in the valley and work together, saving as much as possible.
- Once in Swakane Canyon, focus on efficient peddling, no matter the surface, the bumps, the little hills and flats, the loose rocks, the rocks that don't move, the ruts, the mud. Maintaining momentum on this climb is really hard. Shift the gears and peddle well to keep the momentum going. Ride hard up and over the flat part.
- Take the downhill conservatively; manage the risks and the rough terrain.
- Ride hard to the finish, being very careful at the two left turns, which hold a good deal of risk when riding cross-eyed.