Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I am Spartacus?

There's a classic scene from the 1960 film Spartacus where the remnants of the captured slave army are offered their lives if they will identify Spartacus, the leader of their uprising. One by one they each exclaim "I am Spartacus!", condemning themselves to death to honor and protect the life of the leader whose spirit and strength they admire so greatly.

Since that time, occasionally people will refer to a leader or someone whose strength and tenacity they admire as "Spartacus". One such person who has been given that nickname is Swiss road cycling champion Fabian Cancellera. A powerful cyclist, he's been given the nickname due to the power he demonstrates when riding in the race he specializes in, the time trial.

There are all kinds of cycling races, and many of the different types including the large "grand tours" (giro d'Italia, tour of California, Tour de France) include a time trial. A time trial is basically what it sounds like, a race against the clock. The single fastest rider on the course that day wins the stage. While time trials can have technical elements (twists and turns that require good bike handling skills), they are above all a show of raw cycling power. Each cyclist is racing only against the clock, and because there are no team tactics involved, it's called "the race of truth".

I bring all this up because I'd been looking for a place to do some uninterrupted "balls to the wall" cycling. The river path is too congested and has too many road crossings to be good for that kind of riding. I'm still not 100% confident of my handling ability in traffic to use the local roads for this purpose. And of course, I want to be smart because while hammering out at a high speed for a good distance is what I'm looking for, I don't want a ton of extra injury risk in the mix.

Because of the rainy weather last week, we hadn't spent much time on the bike, and I'd been eying to get back out there. I was also a bit anxious because I was still a bit tired from the weekend, and didn't want to have a bad workout on my mind the rest of the night if I didn't "feel it" when I got on the bike. Deciding it was worth the risk, I suited up and headed out.

My original intent was to head towards the Minuteman Bikeway. The problem with that idea is that I continue to get lost on my way there. It's only 5 miles from my house, but I still haven't managed to figure out the correct route to get there without stopping along the way to check the GPS. And last night the last thing I wanted to do was stop a lot to play with the map. I just wanted to ride.

I headed in the right direction, up through Harvard Square and then west towards where in my mind the entry to the bikeway is located. As I rode through Cambridge, I wound up on the bike path that runs along the road near Fresh Pond. I'd seen the entrance to the park that surrounds the pond on prior cycling trips but had never ventured in. Giving up on the idea that I'd find the bikeway without using the GPS I figured I'd do some exploring and nosed into the park.

Fresh Pond is a 155 acre kettle-hole lake surrounded by a 2 1/4 mile path. The path is mostly paved with about a 1/4 mile gravel section consisting of the main paths only climb. When I turned onto the path and started picking up speed, I started seeing what I had stumbled upon; a place to really lay down some uninterrupted miles.

Like the river path, there are pedestrians to be sure, and due to the recent rain, some muddy spots to avoid on the trail, but for the most part it was a pretty good place to open up and go. The only problem I ran into is that the park allows dogs to be unleashed as long as they are well behaved. "On your left" only works with humans, so I found myself having to slow now and again so I didn't injure any pooches.

Even with the minor inconvenience of avoiding man's best friend, it was still a really fun ride, and for the first time since the Maumee Bay triathlon last summer, I felt not just fast, but light on the bike as well. Even with lots of stops and starts that lowered my average speed for a few of the road miles, I still averaged 13 MPH for over an hour. I even had a couple of 3 minute miles and 4 miles over 5 minutes.

My first loop around the lake, my time trial for the night came in at less than 10 minutes, so I was pretty excited about that.

I might not be Spartacus, but for a time last night, I felt like it.


- There's a side trail at Fresh Pond that has a nice little hill on it with no real pedestrian traffic at all that I'm going to use for hill repeats later this week. I don't know the grade, but I'm guessing with the GPS I can approximate it. Will be nice to be able to get in some climbing without worrying about cars. It's not a big hill, but it's a start, and I'm certain I'm going to get tired riding it as a repeat.

- I forgot to check tire pressure before I left the house and I wound up doing the first couple miles on some fairly low tires before I stopped to check them. I wound up using my CO2 system for the first time last night, so expect a review of that this week. It was very cool to inflate on the road without exhausting myself using the frame pump (which I haven't installed on the new bike anyways)

- My parents gave me an Amazon gift card as a birthday present, and Rach and I used to it order some much needed training swim wear. Tri shorts aren't designed for regular immersion in chlorine and both of my older pairs have begun to break down a bit. I don't want to expose my team uniform shorts to this environment, and my regular swim trunks have side pockets that fill with water as I swim creating a ton of drag. So I took the plunge and bought a pair of Reebok swim jammers. Jammers are essentially fitted racing trunks, but look more like boxer briefs than the traditional speedo. Rach also got a new suit, as her current suit was on it's very last legs and hung in a non-flattering way.

- To see if anybody actually reads the whole thing, I saved this for last: I weighed 312.8 this morning after drinking plenty of fluids last night. i might wind up having to shoot for an even lower number by the end of the week.


  1. I had the same problemm with tri shorts. Congrats on the ride and the weigh in.

  2. Anonymous - It has something to do with the mix of fabrics within the short. My jammers are clearly thinner than even my tri shorts, and yet seem specifically suited to being in the pool.