Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cramming for White Mountains

After we returned to California on Friday, I decided it was time to launch some focused training for the White Mountains 100. Problem is, the race is in two weeks, and I am back in a land without snow. My snow bike weekend with the girls and two three-hour rides in Anchorage were a good jump-start to my all-too-short fat bike season. These rides were also a reminder from my body that running muscles and snow-biking muscles are not exactly the same muscles, and the latter felt pretty flimsy and out of shape. There isn't much I can do about that in two weeks, but I figured it couldn't hurt to load up my Fatback with winter gear and ride up some hills. Long, slow climbs are probably the closest simulation to the resistance of snow that I can find near my home. Climbing on dirt or pavement more closely resembles riding flat snow trails, whereas the White Mountains are full of trails that go up, well, mountains. But every little bit helps ...

I am trying mightily to resist the urge to overpack my bike this year. The White Mountains 100 organizers allow racers to choose their own gear — which for a packrat like me can be even worse than being forced to carry required gear. I care less about how fast I ride, and more about being ready if I step into overflow. I think I've figured out a good compromise: Big down coat, bivy sack and small pad to sit on if I am injured and unable to walk; waders and microspikes for overflow; goggles; spare balaclavas and gloves; trash bags; extra mid layer; insulated pants (maybe); extra socks. Also bike pump and repair stuff, headlamps and batteries, medicine/foot kit, and food. I'm basically thinking about the stuff I actually used in the Susitna 100 and stuffing it into a couple of small bags on my bike. It is still far from "fast and light." This thing is a beast. On Saturday I took it trail riding. It was a blast to ride dirt again after several weeks on ice and snow. I felt fast and awkward at the same time. Twenty-seven miles and 4,500 feet of climbing in 3:27.

I wanted to put in a day-long ride on Sunday to "work out some kinks." But between the late-rising effects of Daylight Savings Time and a planned celebratory dinner for Beat with friends, I only had time for a moderate ride. Fatty and I climbed over the Monte Bello ridge and dropped into a state park currently on the chopping block in California's budget cuts, Portola Redwoods. I can't really blame the state for carving this one out of their budget, as there was almost nobody down there on a pleasant spring afternoon. I wouldn't mind if they put up a gate and took down all of those "no bikes" signs on all of the trails. Right now bikes are limited to the narrow gravel and paved roads, but it's still a peaceful way to while away a few hours on a Sunday. I love wending around the big trees and listening to birds chirp from far-above heights in this seemingly forgotten forest. Forty-six miles and 6,500 feet of climbing in 5:02. Three fewer hours than I hoped, but it was still my longest ride since the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow last November.

Monday and Tuesday brought "short" rides up Monte Bello Road. It rained on Tuesday and I used that as an excuse to test my pogies and waterproof handlebar bag. If you're wondering whether pogies actually help when it's 50 degrees, windy and raining — they do, especially on long descents. My fingers are nearly always frozen at the bottom of Monte Bello Road no matter what gloves I'm wearing, but with the pogies they were toasty. And it's easy enough to bunch them away from my hands on the climbs. I would probably use them more often in California if they didn't earn me so many strange looks and probing questions from strangers. I already have to budget about ten extra minutes into each ride for people who stop me to say, "Man, those are some big tires. What are those for?" On Monday I talked to a woman who flat-out refused to believe I had pedaled my bike all the way up Black Mountain. She seemed to interpret the Fatback as a downhill bike and thought I had taken a truck shuttle up to the gate (sure, lady, I always shuttle gravel and paved road descents.) "You can't really climb with that bike, can you?" she asked at least twice. Well, actually, yes. That's exactly what I'd been doing all weekend.

Monday: Twenty miles and 3,100 feet of climbing in 2:10.
Tuesday: Seventeen miles and 2,600 feet of climbing in 1:45.

For a four-day total of 111 miles and 16,700 feet of climbing in 12.5 hours of loaded fat-biking.

On Monday and Tuesday I strapped on the heart rate monitor to see if I was working as hard as I felt like I was working on these climbs. Today's graph was especially erratic and confirmed that I'm entering that overtraining zone. Time for a rest day and maybe a trail run, as I actually haven't been out for a proper run since before the Susitna 100. I'll probably fit in a few more loaded rides this weekend before packing up Fatty for the trip to Fairbanks.

But it was fun while it lasted. I heart bike binges. 

1 comment:

  1. But you can't help but realize that any 'riders' that see you chugging along (in California) on the Fatbike, (fully loaded) would be A) flabbergasted, B) mystified, and C) in disbelief that ANYBODY would be purposely riding it on trails.

    Having been a follower for years now I would do my best to only offer support and kudos to anybody I see out there doing such a thing...as you have opened my eyes as to "why" one would do such a thing. But most would have no idea that ANYBODY would purposely do that (tho their facial expressions and thoughts would rank up there with the "priceless" category).

    And after having left said person on the fat-behemoth, I'd most likely feel quite inadequate for a substantial about of time as I cruise along on my 2003 29lb (HEAVY) Blur.

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