Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another long day in the sun

Beat had an "off site" with his Google team this week, and one of his co-workers, Jeff, convinced Beat and Liehann that they should ride to the retreat in Big Sur, a distance of about 120 miles. Liehann, who is still trying to regain fitness after recovering from his broken leg, decided he'd be more comfortable with half the mileage, so I was recruited to ride with the group and then drive Liehann's car back from the meeting point. I'll never turn down an opportunity for a long ride, but I was admittedly not quite feeling it. Saturday's 31-mile run took a lot out of me, more than usual because of the day-long heat exposure. Early in the season, when I'm not yet adapted, long days in the sun seem to suck the life force out of me. Although I finished the Ohlone run feeling energized, by Sunday morning I felt ragged and my lips were raw. Despite my best efforts to apply sunscreen, I had a patchy sunburn; and despite two-plus gallons of water consumed during the run, I had a throbbing headache that had yet to subside after 36 hours. Monday morning brought much of the same, and wondered if I'd even have the 50 miles to Watsonville in my achy quads.

But here's where I draw inspiration from my now-far away experience in the Tour Divide. I had so many mornings when I woke up feeling like I was about to collapse in utter exhaustion, and then I got on my bike and pedaled into a new day. There was always something there, some spark of life, and it's this something that I am forever searching for. That life spark was not readily apparent in this ride, with its 6:30 a.m. start, and the company of Jeff and Beat, who are both so much stronger than me. We began the gradual climb into the Santa Cruz mountains and rolled along the summit ridge as I struggled to keep up and often fell behind. "I'm doing the best I can," I wheezed, but Beat wouldn't accept this excuse. It's a fair assessment, I suppose, because I know it's not my "best." But then again I don't even know where to find my low-end "best." My legs were empty and my head was still throbbing, and I was openly hoping the boys would decide to drop me for good.

But then the earliness of the too-warm morning finally drained away, and we launched into the long descent into Watsonville. With speed tears streaming down my cheeks, I started to remember how fun it is to spend entire days riding bikes. With the addition of Liehann to the group, I thought we'd settle into a friendlier pace. Maybe I could hang on a bit longer. South we went, along the rolling sand dunes of Monterey, with a stiff ocean wind pushing at our sides. It was a strange sensation because the air was still warm but the wind was noticeably cold — like standing in front of an air conditioner on a hot day. We enjoyed lunch at a little sandwich shop on the shoreline and then I talked myself into a jaunt around the peninsula on 17-Mile Drive, reasoning that I've lived in California for two years and I've never even been to Pebble Beach.

Fog moved in as we fought a fierce headwind, and I lagged behind too much to draw any help from the small paceline. We reached Carmel at mile 93. The boys had less than thirty more miles to their destination, but I was becoming concerned about my own timing with sunset — while night itself doesn't bother me, I have little desire to ride on roads after dark. I reluctantly turned around and rode the quartering tailwind at a nearly effortless 25 mph.

By Monterey the tailwind turned back to crosswind again, and my legs finally started to feel strong. It only took a hundred miles.

I finished up in Watsonville with 145 miles behind me — a few more than I anticipated. I've ridden farther in one day on a mountain bike, but this qualifies as my longest road ride yet. And now, a day later, I feel so much better than I did on Sunday. The knots in my quads worked themselves out; and despite fewer hours in the saddle these days, my iron butt seems to have held up and there's no lingering aches or sores. Many applications of spray-on SPF 30 prevented my sunburn from getting worse. And thanks to flat pedals, my feet are as happy as ever. (I should probably address the platforms, because I know they look ridiculous on a carbon road bike. My issue is that I haven't found a pair of bike shoes that don't cause me excruciating toe pain after more than four hours in the saddle. I blame nerve damage from frostbite four years ago, but the truth is this happens on both feet. I like to wear comfy shoes and I like to move my feet around as I ride. The consistent switching between toe and mid-foot helps me ward off knee pain during long rides. And the difference in power transfer falls somewhere between negligible to nonexistent for me. I suspect I'm simply conditioned to riding platforms and don't "pull" on the upstroke regardless of what I'm pedaling.)

But I think the lesson here is, if you feel a bit burnt and sore from a long run, the best course of action is to go for a long ride. Sometimes that spark of life takes a while to light up, but it's wonderful when you discover that it's still there, and has been, all along. 


  1. Hi Jill:

    I enjoy your blog. You may be interested in this website. (I too use flats on my carbon road bike - for similar reasons. I like to be able to move my feet around and use different muscles, and I find normal shoes to be more comfortable than cycling shoes.)


  2. Great ride (and post and photos). You'd be in heaven here; another foot of snow over the last few days. Thankfully, all should melt today and tomorrow, allowing me to get out for a long ride in the mountains (with clip-in pedals :-)

    Have a good few weeks of training for the 100 in a month.

  3. Two things - I know what you mean about foot pain. Specialized bike shoes tend to fit American feet pretty well - narrower heel, wider forefoot, canted out a few degrees to counteract natural pronation, a substantial built-in arch support, and a metatarsal arch to help avoid nerve pain in the forefoot. Also, IMHO, looking at the pictures, I think Beat might benefit from a bike fitting on his road bike, I don't thik he is in the sweet spot, not quite as efficient as he might be. Is it my imagination or do his feet have a great degree of external rotation? Cheers

  4. My road shoes are Giro, but I've tried Specialized in the past, as well as Cannondale and Sidi MTB shoes (forgetting the exact models.) I've suspected that the toe pain is a result of the rigidity of the shoes, which is necessary in all clipless models. It's not a problem on shorter rides, it's when I go into touring mode — 4-plus hours — that I start to have issues with pinching pains in my toes and numbness in my heel. This is also an issue with my boots in longer winter rides such as the WM100, even though I use flat pedals on my fat bike. Again, I suspect it boils down to rigid outer shells, as I can do a very long ride in running shoes and never feel this pain.

    I'm not exactly sure what you mean by external rotation, but as you can see Beat is using platform pedals as well, so his feet are positioned where he feels most comfortable. He normally doesn't use flats but also wanted a pair of comfy shoes for the ride. Also, we tend to ride these bikes interchangeably in the same settings, even though he is about 5" taller than me (but similar inseam.) I'm sure we'd both probably benefit from a bike fitting.

  5. Jill - congratulations on your longest road ride! How funny, my longest road ride was almost exactly a year ago, on the Earth Day 4/22/2012 from San Luis Obispo to Monterey: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/171092018

  6. Yeah I was using platforms since my feet are still a bit funky from the Iditarod, and I just happened to have them rested funny in the picture. I probably could profit from a good bike fitting, though I'm reasonably happy with the ride since I did not suffer as much back pain as I anticipated even though I haven't ridden much in a long time. My back doesn't bend very well so I prefer a fairly upright position. On the plus side Jill and I can basically exchange bikes without adjustments :)
    Btw a colleague asked me where to get a good bike fit, and I couldn't really make a good recommendation - any experiences with this? Are the "pro fits" that you can get for lots of money worth it? Do you have to just find a good bike store? I had never felt that people did a really thorough job ...

  7. If you can find a place that uses the "Retul" system which uses motion capture, it's a really good process for getting fit - dynamically. Probably ain't cheap, but could be well worth it. They view you from all angles and adjust subtle stuff like pronation/supination, foot position over the cleat, etc.


  8. Here are the Retul bike fitters in California:


  9. Hi Jill,

    I'd like to suggest you try two strap bike sandals. Sandals allow lots of room while keeping the benefit of being clipped in.

    I'm a recumbent rider mainly but also own a Bike Friday and a "Phat Velo", and used my sandals during winter rides on the bent and the FatBike. My winter is NO where as extreme as yours but the sandals allow me to wear a layer of silk socks and one or two pairs of wool socks.

    During the summer I'm sockless with the sandals and yup can wiggle my toes to my heart's content.

    What size Europen shoe do you wear? I have 3 pairs of Lake Sandals and could loan you a pair to try. It's payback. When I first started road cycling a CAT racers offered me a pair of her shoes so I could try clipless.

    Drop me a note if interessted at joesuekeenan at gmail dot com

  10. And I'm caught up! I've now read all of Jill Outside from its beginning to now.

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  12. DOntCHA just luv @$$0 that put garbage in the messages, ref. 11:08 AM & 4:44 PM ?

    Jill, awesome report as usual. I gain knowledge from your blogsite and the comments. Thanks Durango Joe. I probably could use a bike fitting also.
    The shoes I like best are mtn bike ones with a more box like toe, like Diadora Geko. Bought a pair then went back a couple of months later and bought 2 more pair. Da dog ate the most used pair, nice to have back-ups.


Feedback is always appreciated!