One week until the Tour de Foothills century

Months ago, I made a commitment to get into shape to ride the Tour de Foothills century which is next week, November 10, 2012. At the time, in June, I weighed about 198 pounds, which is almost 40 pounds more than I should weigh. I wasn’t completely out of shape, just very overweight. Back in 2005/2006, I was an mountain biker and road cyclist. But, a divorce and several moves put that on hold. Enough was enough. I had tried to maintain but it wasn’t working. I had to change.

Step one was signing up for the ride. It cost me $70. I figured that if I spent the money, I would be more likely to follow through with the training. Step two was getting back on the bike. I was teaching summer school so I started riding my bike to work. That had been effective before. Even though I was only riding a little over 7 miles each way, I always pushed myself and tried to do “intervals” on the commutes. I also started going for longer rides on the weekends. When I got to where I could ride for at least 20 miles, I joined the Cycling Connection, a Ranch Cucamonga cycling club. Every Saturday, the club rides out to Claremont, up some hills and back, a ride of about 35 miles. I added ten to that by riding from home.

Finally, I added in much longer rides of 60 to 80 miles or so when I could. I even did the Amtrak Century in September, although we only rode about 95 miles that day. And, that century is probably one of the easiest around.

But, the Tour de Foothills is not. It is 100 miles with 8,000 feet of climbing. Even with all of my training, I am full of respect for this ride. I don’t fear it like I did, but I respect it.

Am I ready? Yes, I think I am. Today, I rode 66 miles with 5,500 feet of climbing. That took about 5 hours. Most of what we rode today will be in the TdF next week, as we rode the infamous Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road to Mount Baldy village.

My knee hurt but it was manageable. My asthma wasn’t too bad. Have I mentioned I have Exercise-Induced Asthma? It wasn’t bad today.

Here’s a few things I found made the ride better. Sidi Carbon Genius shoes. So good. I have tried for years to save money on cycling shoes by buying cheaper. I used the same pair of Specialized mountain bike shoes for years. Last year I bought a new pair of Shimano mountain bike shoes. But, they often made my left foot numb and felt lose. I gave in and bought the Sidis and a new pair of pedals. What a difference! They are much tighter but more comfortable, if you can believe it. I also love my Oakley Racing Jackets (aka Jawbones). They have helped considerably with my eyes getting dry. It still happens, but it’s a lot better. I just got a very nice wind vest by Showers Pass. It’s called the ProTech. It seems counterintuitive to me, but it makes a huge difference when it is chilly out. A couple weeks ago I did a similar ride and I was miserably cold most of the time. Any time I went downhill, it hurt because the cold air blew against my torso and made me ache with cold. Today, I wore knee warmers and the vest. Much better.

I also want to recommend DZ Nuts, a chamois cream. If you don’t know, long rides often lead to saddle sores. This product has helped with that quite a bit. I haven’t really had any serious sores but there was some discomfort. I can deal with sore knees and aching muscles. I can even deal with my butt hurting. But, sores are not something I want to mess with. This has seemed to clear that up completely. My friend Mike says it burns him but I felt nothing like that.

If you are any kind of enthusiastic about your cycling, I recommend getting a GPS computer. Expensive? Yeah. But, being able to precisely record my rides, analyze my performance, see any improvements, etc., has been so much fun. I know that I had an average heart rate of 134, I can see exactly where I rode, how much elevation, average speed (12 mph), top speed (41.4 mph), and I can use a service like Strava to see how I did on the various segments on my ride. Segments are portions of the route that are demarcated and then leaderboards are kept for them. This can give you a sense of how you are doing because you can look to see if you are getting faster on sections. It can be fun, too, to see how you rank against others. Or, depressing if you are far down in the rankings, as I am in some of them.

So, am I ready? Like I said, I believe I am. I have lost about 20 pounds. I can easily ride 50-60 miles and I can definitely ride up to 100 miles. The climbing will be tough, but I think I can get that done, too. I believe I have the right equipment to help me, too. (I don’t want to give the impression that you have to spend all that money to do this, though, because I don’t think you do. But, on the other hand, I can tell you that in my experience, the money is well spent.) Basically, it’s like any other kind of tool. Sure, you could use a cheaper hammer or screwdriver, say, but better tools make the job easier.

The training has been key. I rode every week, at least four times a week. Consistency is important. I added in longer rides when possible. I did long rides on the weekends but, about a month ago, I started riding my bike up into Lytle Creek a couple times a week after work. That gave me some more climbing training. For long rides like this, you have to have the muscle to do the climbing and the endurance to make it over the long miles. For me, part of the challenge was losing the weight. Shedding pounds has definitely made me faster and stronger.

Next week, I hope to have some positive news that I did it, I rode the Tour de Foothills century successfully. I think it’s going to be hard, for sure, but, I think I will get it done.

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