Friday, August 27, 2010

Riding Clingmans Dome Is So Much Fun

I love riding to Clingmans Dome. From our chalet in Gatlinburg its about 26 miles each way. Other than the initial mile and a half into town and the mile descent before the final ascent a few miles from the top, its all uphill starting 1400' and ending at 6300'. My best time from the chalet is 2:09 which I just did yesterday, August 26, 2010. This was 2 minutes faster than my previous best set in March of 2009. On both rides I did some intervals on the way up with five 8 minute steady states in '09 and one 1:15 tempo yesterday. I use a triple which I find makes the ride much faster, even if that gearing brings a lot of grief from local riders. I like to be able to spin when I'll be climbing for 2+ hours. Copmact gearing would also be a good idea.

I've done this ride in the the of summer, the foggy mornings of fall, and the late snow of spring. It seems like the uphill is always hot, and the downhill cool, at least to Newfound Gap at 5000'. Even in the peak of summer, the temperatures at the top wont exceed the upper 70's and will usually be in the 60's. You'll want to check the weather anytime you're planning this ride as it can turn cold with rain quickly.

I've run into all kinds of riders on this road. I once came down from Clingmans with a guy who was fearless as he hit 50 +mph, and had to keep waiting for me. I once saw an older gentleman on the way up who was probably going no more than 3 mph. I saw him on my descent two hours later and he seemed to have not gone but 5 to 6 miles further. Several hours later while we were in Gatlinburg having dinner I saw him ride through town. He had to have spent 7 hours on the ride. I've seen loaded down touring groups with panniers and trailers. I also ran into a cat 2 female cyclist who had made her first ascent having started in Townsend. This made it a 38 mile trip each way.

Given its proximity to our area, this ride is worth making the trip down I-75. There are also many other roads in the area worth riding from the Gatlingburg to Cades Cove loop, Roaring Fork, TN 416,Gatlinburg to Cherokee, the Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. If you want more information, contact me. I've been visiting since the erly 1980's.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Cope With the Heat

During the summer of 2009, we had only four days above 90, and two of those were on consecutive days in early September. During the month of July in 2009, we never even met the average daily high for any day. The summer of 2010 has actually been closer to an average summer for our area in terms of days above 90 and with just slightly above normal temperatures overall. While the average daily high has only been about 1.5 degrees above normal, the average daily low has been about 3 degrees above normal. The humidity has been the real problem and the reason for our high afternoon heat indexes.

Training and racing in this weather can be draining. I've been working with Dawn Weatherwax at Sports Nutrition to Go since February and one of our goals was to minimize the loss of performance on the really hot days. Losing 2% of your bodyweight can cause a 10-20% reduction in performance. Dawn had me chart my weight before and after training or racing, the time spent on the bike, and the amount and type of fluids consumed. The goal was to come back from all rides within 1% of my starting weight, or with less than 1.7 lbs lost.

I do a lot of my training at lunch so I've had plenty of opportunities to ride in the heat of the day. Even while going through 3-4 20 oz bottles in 90 minutes I was still ending some rides with a 4-6lb weight loss, or about 2.3 to 3.5%. The power data from the rides backed up the power loss that would be expected as fluid was lost and not adequately replaced. If I was doing 3-5 intervals of 10-12 minutes, my best power was always the first two. Several times my last effort was my best but I think this was the typical 'its the last one, go for it' boost.

Part of the testing that Dawn did with me was measuring sodium loss. She determined that I lose about 1000 mg of sodium every hour when training. When you combine that with the fluid loss, we're really talking about having to consume a lot of fluids and a lot of sodium on long and/or intense rides. I've been riding a century plus almost every Saturday since April and I've finally gotten to the point that I can come home at my starting weight and having replaced the lost sodium. I'll go through about 200 oz of the Gatorade Pro Series 02,and add a Gatorlyte (770 mg sodium per pack) or two along the way. This is all dependent on the weather conditions but it just shows you how much you have to take in to maintain the fluids.

At the Cleves time trial this past week, the weather was challenging to say the least at 5:30 when I went off with the early riders. My truck showed the temperature at 100. I only warmed up for about 20 minutes (10 at a pretty light pace and then ten minutes with just a few one minute time trial pace efforts). I drank while warming up and while waiting to ride the event. I took in 40 oz during this time. All was going well for the first half of the course which has more shade than the second half. I was averaging 27.8 at 5.1 miles, usually the slower half of the course but this was one of my fastest rides this year, at least so far. Right where we exit the woods and come out by the power plant, everything changed, and quickly. The sun was right over us and the heat from the road was noticeable. The final miles to the finish were as difficult as I've ever experienced at Cleves. I never take a drink riding that event but I pulled the bottle out a couple of times on some of the uphill sections where losing some areodynamics wouldn't hurt my speed as much. I ended up finishing with my third fastest time of the year but it wasn't much fun. I also lost speed on the second half, which is usually where I gain speed. While helping with the timing at 7:00 and until I got home around 9:00 I drank about 120 oz of the Gatorade Pro 02, and I was still down 3 lbs.

At Masters Nationals I saw riders warming up for the time trial on their trainers under tents in the parking lot. Talk about hot, and counter productive. It is possible to be too warmed up, and I think that was a problem for some riders on that day. If the loss of fluids is going to cause a performance drop, I'd rather start off completely topped off than already at a deficit.

Be sure to track your weight before and after rides and replace those fluids with proper pre, during, and post ride hydration. Also, if you're really interested in tracking your diet and sleep patterns, go to I've been wearing the armband for several months and the data is amazing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Master Nationals Time Trial

You do have to wonder why we keep going back to this event. I think they could do a watts/kg test on everyone and just hand out the medals. They charge us $85 plus an extra $20 for day-off race number pick-up so we're over $100 to kill ourselves on a course that usually seems better suited for a road bike than a time trial bike. And yet, since 1997, I think I've ridden in nine national championship events, and plan on going to all that I can as long as I can.

Like the local time trial, I go because I want to see where I stand against the top riders and in this case its the best in the country in my age bracket. I've finished as high as 14th and as low as 36th. This year I finished 15th on a course that I finished 21st on in 2009. I think I was the happiest 15th place finsher of the day. It was hot and humid day so I rode a very limited warmup of about 20 minutes and then got in line for my start. After having my bike checked by the officials and once again meeting the morphological exception on my bar length for my long arms (I'm 5-10 but have a 6-4 wing span) I was told to remove my helmet. The official then inspected the inside and pointed out that I had worn through the sticker that designates the helmets approval rating. He said he could technically disqualify the helmet for use, and that I should get a new sticker from LG.

Lots of riders were having problems with the start ramp. The drop was maybe 3' but the ramp was only about 5' in length, same as last year when I almost fell coming out. I was relieved when I made it out without incident and got onto the course and right into the first and longest climb. I paced myself better than last year and once at the top I was able to get right into my tt pace of 26-28 mph on the flats. The rollers to the turn were still slowing me down and at the turn I was around 25.2 mph avg. I was still around that average coming to the downhill to the finish but was able to get my top speed well above 45 mph and ended up with a time 32:28. The winning time was 30:19, and the top ten required better than a 31:37.

It was pretty interesting that USADA was finally on hand to do some drug testing. It'll be interesting to see if anyone failed. I'm not sure why anyone would risk their long-term health to win a fake gold, silver or bronzee medal but they do. I really enjoy competing but it's not worth that risk in my opinion. I'm thinking that I just have to keep going and outlive a lot of the competition. The 80+ bracket only had one rider.

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