Monday, April 26, 2010

The shakedown cruise

(Sorry if this post lacks the usual cohesion, I went to bed at 10 and woke at 4. My writing brain might not be turned on all the way.)
A full weekend home couldn't have come at a better time. We'd been on the run for so long, even having a lot of fun, that being home without anything going on and just having time to relax was so needed. Of course, by relax I mean train.

With the first race of the season only 2 weeks away, the thing we've been most lacking is miles in the saddle of an actual bike. My inability to run aside, this was going to be the most important part of the first race. You can put in all the miles on a bike trainer in the gym that you want, but turning the pedals to actually move your mass around at the right speed is the part you can't duplicate sitting still.

Saturday, Rach had to cover a field hockey game so I had a few hours to myself. I had some work for a release around 2 PM, so I decided to give a go at 10 miles on the bike at close to race pace. It's hard here in Boston to get a ride in close to the house that is fast and uninterrupted. Even with the trails along the river, there are stops for bridges, slowing for unsafe turns, and avoiding traffic. Basically, other than traffic crossings, it's ideal for race training.

I did an out and back 10 miles along the river, which involves a mostly flat course with a few bridge crossings that amount to small "hills". The only problem is the starting and stopping if you don't catch the lights at the right time. There are several sections where you can really open up and get going, but the momentum you lose when coming to a crossing is hard to make up. In the end, my time was 44 minutes for just short of 10 miles. Slower than race pace, but I was also not quite pushing towards race pace, which is hopefully going to be about a 16 mph average for the .

Only later did I realize what a good thing it was that I didn't go all out.

Rach told me when she got home that the Timberman training schedule said we had a long bike ride due Sunday. We could do a long ride going back and forth along the river, but I wanted something more. There are also the mean streets of Boston, the bike lanes through the suburbs, and all sorts of other paths through parks. But if we were really going for a shakedown cruise, the first real distance test of the season; I wanted to do it someplace cool.

Enter The Minuteman Bikeway. It's 10 miles of gorgeous paved biking heaven and it starts a mere 5 miles from our house. I'd seen signs for it while driving through Arlington but hadn't previously thought of riding there, not really realizing how close it was to our house. Figuring this was the ideal place to log some miles and put ourselves and our bikes to the test, we headed out for a nice long ride.

We didn't push the pace much early in the ride; Rach had only been out twice previously for a total of about 10 miles. Plus, as much as she is more athletic athletic (true), and her bike is better than mine (sad but true), she is at least a year behind me in terms of riding experience. She's got the right raw materials for the job, but she isn't a carpenter yet (Sorry, there's a kung fu movie on as I type this, so I'm thinking in poorly translated Chinese proverbs).

Once we actually reached the trail I realized how right I had been to take this ride. Not only was it every bit as pretty as I'd hoped, but the weather stayed beautiful on a day that was predicted to be rainy and gloomy. Because we were getting in some good distance, we didn't push the pace too much, averaging about 13 mph on the way out. When we reached Bedford Rail park, the far end of the trail; we took a break to rest and eat. They have a small depot and an old passenger car there, and some good inexpensive hot dogs. (Nothing makes a journey worth the effort like a good hot dog waiting at the other end).

Turning around to head home, I decided to see what kind of legs I had left after 16 miles. Whenever the path was free of walkers and gave enough room between crossings to open it up; I did. We averaged 15 mph for the better part of the trip home, even seeing 17 and 18 mph for a few good stretches. Rach even asked me to back off a few times, which is a good sign that I was feeling it. (And that I'm still ahead of Rach at least on the bike.)

At the end we'd done 32 miles, and both our bikes and ourselves got through it just fine (although my bike has a squeek I cant figure out). So, we followed that up with a nice walk over to the mall to get our free Godiva truffle for the month. Nothing like chocolate you don't have to feel guilty about.

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