Week 5 of 42, On the Road to RAAM 2015

Monday – Today was a good day of long and intense training – a great way to start off the new week.

I began the day with a best-effort ride on my 54-mile Uvas Reservoir route.

My goal has been to complete this ride in 2 hours 45 minutes (I thought that would equate to a 20 mph average speed, but in fact, it would be just shy of 20 mph).

So setting off on this ride today, I was determined to make it happen – to set a new personal record (PR). However, I knew that the only way I could stand a chance was if the conditions worked in my favor.

This route has two make-it-or-break-it segments, which could either involve strong headwinds, or strong tailwinds. But usually if one is a tailwind, the other would be a headwind, and vice versa.

The first segment is flat and about 10 miles long from Bernal Road (San Jose) to Llagas Road (Morgan Hill) via Santa Teresa. Today, there wasn’t much wind on this segment so I was able to hold around 21 mph.

The second segment is on Uvas Road, also about 10 miles long with some moderate rolling hills. Again, no major winds to speak of so that was helpful.

Another segment I was concentrating on today was Old Oak Glen, between Llagas Road and Uvas Road. This is a fairly fast portion with not much winds since it is tucked between hills and trees. However, I usually cruise on this segment. So today I knew I would have to do some work here because it was one of the segments which I could actually improve my time with. And work I did; not race pace or anything, but definitely a concerted effort.

My first checkpoint was at Mile 35 of 54 at the McKean Road sign before the last major climb. I know that a record setting time would have to be under two hours at this checkpoint, and closer to 1 hour 55 minutes – just from experience. Arriving at the sign, I made it in just about 1 hour 54 minutes.

Encouraged, I pressed on.

I had to maintain a focused effort after descending Bailey Avenue and on the Santa Teresa stretch back to Bernal Road.

But nearing the end of Bernal Road, near my local church, Family Community Church, I was at about 2 hours 20 minutes. After doing the calculations, I ruled out the possibility of getting close to my PR goal of 2 hours 45 minutes. I only had 25 minutes remaining, and in my mind, I usually consider needing exactly that much time just to get from FCC, over the big Silver Creek climb, and to my home.

But not wanting to give up, I pushed it up the Silver Creek climb and by the time I crested the top, I realized I still stood a chance to at least get close to my goal. So I kept pushing.

It was going to be really close I realized as I came down the home stretch of my ride. And by the time it was all said and done, I looked down and saw my time: 2h 46m 30s. Not precisely my target time, but pretty darn close. I was still proud of the effort I put in and happy with the result.

I may not have hit my target, but that just means there’s still room to grow. And that’s exciting! One step closer…

Afterward, I closed out the day of training with an additional 5.5 hours on the trainer.

A great way to start the week: 144 miles under the belt.

Tuesday – Poor positioning sabotaged me today.

I was busy talking with Sam when the pack began to roll out from the Discovery Center parking lot. So from the very beginning, I was at the back of the pack.

Once we were out of the neutral zone in Livermore, I was quickly dropped as weaker riders opened up gaps.

I tried sprinting, but couldn’t generate enough power to close the gap. And when Sam came flying past me, telling me to hop on to his wheel, I just couldn’t summon the strength to catch his wheel.

As I watched the gap open up even more between me and the pack, I became dismayed. I thought to myself, I don’t mind getting dropped, but not at the very beginning of the ride! Now I’m going to have to ride solo the whole way.

Just then, a guy riding a fixed gear pulled up behind me. And in front of me, I saw the pace of the pack begin to calm down, and the gap between us stopped widening.

Determined to give my best, I began to pull the fixed gear guy and myself forward. A couple times, the fixed gear guy took a pull, which I very much appreciated. And slowly, but surely, the gap between the peloton and the two of us began to close. As we drew closer and closer, we became more and more determined and encouraged.

Finally, we caught the pack as the road began to kick up.

Just then, the fixed guy gear yelled out to me, “Incredible!” I thought the same thing about him. Phew! Go team!

I hopped on to the back of the pack, and finally, after several miles of pursuing the peloton, I was able to catch my breath. What an effort!

I remained conservative for a few miles afterward, wanting to recoup my energy. But once we hit the Carneal climbs, I made a concerted effort to get to the front of the pack.

I was able to hang on to the front through the Carneal loop, but I got dropped again after my poor cornering skills caused me to open up gaps of my own (boo-hoo).

I still gave my best to finish with a best effort solo time-trial (TT).

Overall, it was a good training day with some fun pursuits. But it was also a challenge; I think I was still tired from the 144 miles I rode yesterday.

Wednesday – Today, I bicycled indoors on my stationary trainer for 8 hours. I could have gone outside, but I felt like having a nice ultra-endurance challenge to exercise some disciplined focus.

I was faring well, mentally and physically, but six hours into my training today, I was feeling the need for some extra inspiration and motivation.

Surfing around the web, I managed to end up at Christoph Strasser’s YouTube channel. And by watching Christoph Strasser’s video highlights from his record-breaking Race Across America this year (2014), I was able to re-energize my focus for the remaining two hours of bicycling.


Thursday – I enjoyed an easy two hour workout on the trainer today.

Friday – Another fun Friday racing day with the Cycletrons.

I started off the morning with an easy 45-minutes on the trainer (I’ll take whatever I can get).

I rode more conservatively today with the Cycletrons, and as a result, I was able to stick with the pack the entire way.

I was even able to sprint with the pack at the end, holding a decent position toward the front. But it would be nice to sprint standing; something to work on.

Saturday – Today, I had the opportunity to ride on the San Jose Bicycle Club’s (SJBC) “Blue Train”. It’s a fun and fast ride that the SJBC members do every Saturday at 9am.

I was originally planning to bike to the starting point in Almaden, near the IBM campus, but because I woke up late, I had to drive over there. In fact, I was running late driving! And to make matters worse, I took a U-turn, rather than turning left, for the plaza where the ride begins. I was panicking and quite frantic, but God helped me to get there just in the nick of time.

The pace was brisk from the get go.

There might have been 15–20 bicyclists initially, but many others joined in along the route. At the prime, there must have been at least 30–40 riders.

We had a really nice rotation going in the paceline, but at times it was pretty strenuous. There was an attack on each of the major climbs, which I was able to fare well in.

Closer to Morgan Hill, I realized Max Hudson was in the group (he’s a really strong and fast rider). We chatted here and there, and he even led me out for a sprint up the steepest climb of the day, before Uvas Road.

Dat, from the Lab, was also amongst the group of bicyclist. In fact, he was the one who invited me to attend the ride. Now Dat is really fit. He bikes from Fremont (and back again afterward) to ride with the Bluetrain. That’s a century ride (100 miles). Phew!

In total, we averaged 22 mph during the 48 miles of today’s ride. That’s pretty darn fast!

There was a midway water/bathroom break before mile 30, and some small sections were relaxed, but overall, it was a challenging ride.

By the end of it, I was pretty beat, having also pulled quite a bit. And so, I was actually happy that for my first time out on the Bluetrain, I did not have to bike back home. Phew!

I’ll definitely have to start incorporating the Bluetrain into my regular training schedule. It’s a nice combination of speed and distance. But in the future, I will probably bike to the starting line to get at least 15–20 extra miles in for a better ultra-endurance speed workout.

Lastly, I met a cool guy, Eric Chao, who rode the Mt. Tam Double Century. It was his first ever double century).

After 10 straight days of training, this concluded Week 6 of 42 on my Road to the Race Across America.