Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bonking, Tandems and Dancing?

Work has been keeping me busy enough that given any spare time, I have been choosing not so much to sit at the computer. That means there is an abundance of content that needs to get posted to this here blog.

Colin recently noted that people have been spouting about the weather and training. I will attempt to do neither here, since no one really wants to read about those things anyway ;). Instead, I will take last weekend's rides, and put a different "spin" on them...


Last year at the Hodges Village Dam race I experienced my first big bonk. Historically, I have been able to go out and ride/race with little in the way of hydration, and usually very little food, if any. At the Hodges Dam race, I ended up as far from the start/finish as possible on the final lap, thinking it would be a superb idea to just lay down in the field and stay there. Then came the dreaming of food and water - I had run out. Needless to say, I didn't lay down, and did finish the race, but at a pretty big expense.

One of my goals this year is to learn to balance my nutritional needs with the efforts I expend on the bike. Sounds easy, but what many people can stomach while riding, I cannot. I don't really care for sweets as a general rule, and chocolate is out all together. I can't eat GUs or gels - too much like frosting for me. Bars are ok in some flavors, but tough to chew/digest on the bike. So, I am trying new options this year, and have hit on Clif Bloks - these seem to work well for me, at least they did last weekend!

Sara, Kate and Jane were heading to Otis for an MTB ride and invited me along to chase them around for a few hours. I was eager to be out, finally, on the dirt, and took up my usual spot on the back of the group. I hadn't ridden Otis in years, and had forgotten how nice the singletrack was, and how much up and down one could achieve on the relatively flat Cape!

Kate and Sara; Jane on the new 29'er

About an hour and a half into the ride, we stopped for a snack. I didn't feel hungry, but decided to eat the Clif Bloks I had brought anyway, since I was presented with the opportunity (and knowing this crew, wouldn't be presented with another!). What I didn't realize was how tired I had become before stopping. It really wasn't until Sara pointed out to me that I rode faster after eating that I realized I really did need the fuel to keep going. Did I bonk? Not entirely (this time), but it did show me that even if I don't feel hungry, I certainly need to give my body some fuel to keep on performing.

For several years, Mike and I have ridden a tandem bike. We started out on the dirt and used to ride some pretty technical singletrack reasonably well (including winning a race!). After many broken components (hubs, cassettes, chains), and a few tense experiences, we traded in the fat tires for skinny, and took to the road. We've put thousands of miles on our tandems, and enjoy the opportunity it provides to let us ride together.

Sunday we met up with a big group for an advertised "hilly" ride of about 65 miles. I'll admit, I was worried. You see, tandems are GREAT for downs, flats and even short rolling hills. Any significant climbing or loss of momentum, however, and the anchor comes out the back of the boat. Mike had been talking about a couple of the climbs we would encounter, and I figured we would be off the back, spinning in the granny pretty quick.

The other challenge with the tandem is group dynamics. From a physics perspective, you have to think about the combined weight and forward momentum of the bike. Remember that an object in motion stays in motion - especially true when that object is a combined weight of about 400 lbs traveling at 20 - 50 mph! What that typically means for us is that we need to be at the front of a group so that we aren't constantly using the brakes. It also means a pretty decent draft for anyone with us ;)

The group starting out; Our ride host, John M.

Cresting the hills of Sterling

Scott and Steve; A great view and fast descent

We ended up doing a pretty good job with all of the climbs on Sunday, attempting to maintain as much speed and momentum as possible for the steeper pitches, and rolling and even coasting some of the rollers. Our undoing came on the final steep hill coming back into Boxborough - Old Bay. We both felt the lactic acid build in the legs, and neither of us could put in the sustained power required to get us up and over. In a small gear, anchor dragging, we spun our way up the final climb to finish off a really fun ride.


Jean, Michele A, Kathy M, Catherine, Teri, ML and me
Missing: Susan A and Michele H

No - we weren't out clubbing, or taking ballroom dancing lessons. This dancing was "Dirty", and shared with my Weds trainer group.

It all started with the "Nobody puts baby in a corner" quote and watching the movie one night while riding. Then I sent out the link to the review of the musical, and next thing we know, last night we are all in the Opera House, reliving the 1987 chick flick, and "having the time of our lives". It was a fun distraction for March, and the production really was worth seeing if you enjoyed the movie. Of course, the male:female ratio in the theatre was a bit skewed ;).


Big Bikes said...

I used to subscribe to the starvation riding diet in the early spring. Now I eat while I ride and I'm feeling so much better.

I don't know if I'm losing weight but my "training" is feeling more effective.

Gotta eat!

Michele said...

Have you tried Sharkies or Sport Beans? I find those even easier to get down than Shot Blocks because they are smaller.

gewilli said...

the luna blocks are smaller than the Shot blocks... ya might like those too...

i am a HUGE fan of the margarita flavor - the extra sodium seems to really help ward off cramps and yeah they are jummy...

i avoid the gels for cross but seem to lately have found success using them even, though I can't stand the taste or texture, on the longer rides, two clif shots and a pack of Marg blocks with a couple bottles of Trial #3 and I'm good to go for at least 6 hours (providing my legs hold up that long).

mkr said...

I prefer a big Chinese buffet before a long ride. The fat and MSG burn nice and warm for hours on end :)

Alex said...

You can also try riding with real food, if you can stomach it. Sweet potatoes, for one, sit nicely in a plastic baggy in your pocket and you don't have to eat the whole thing at once. Cooked enough, you can slurp it down like a gel, and I heard somewhere that potatoes have a quickly-releasing sugar, like whats in gels, instead of something slower.

Also, banana bread, transported in a plastic baggy, goes down easily. It just requires making the banana bread first :)

claudia said...

Great that you guys got the tandem out.

Soups said...

I have diabetes and I carry Dex 4 glucose tabs. They are the fastest way to get you out of a bonk. 2x faster than orange juice. They can even bypass your stomach and get into your blood stream thru your mouth.