I've been unintentionally doing altitude training for the first time in my life. After climbing Mt. Baldy and spending a few days hiking on Mt. Laguna, I came back down to sea level to return to training. Apparently, this is exactly how you're supposed to altitude train (or so I've heard). That you go up high and take it easy (e.g. sleep in an altitude tent like M.J.) and then come back down to sea level to train, the idea being that it takes too much aerobic effort to train at altitude so you lose muscular endurance. I'll have to do a little research and post a more science-y blurb about this phenomenon later. I used to be a little bah-humbug about the whole altitude thing. But after only a smattering of accidental experimentation, I've been converted. It's the only way I can explain being able to ride 70 miles of hills yesterday, completely untrained, without it being a big deal. Effortless and dramatic improvements in aerobic capacity? I'll take it!
70 mile bike (with hills) yesterday--I rode 70 miles with a buddy about 10 days ago on the coast (mostly flat), and it almost killed me. Of course, I'm totally out of shape and really had no business riding 70 miles considering I haven't been riding at all. Anyway, at the end, we went up the inside of Torrey Pines, which is hard but I've never felt searing fire in my quads quite like that before. Almost total muscular exhaustion. To the point where I couldn't stand up out of the saddle. Quaking. It humbled me. Put the fear of the Triathlon Gods in me.
Not sure quite what came over me yesterday. I had just come back down from the mountains and felt sluggish and lethargic. After taking Travis for his mile jog and then to dog beach for some water sprint repeats for an hour of fetch, he was thoroughly pooped. (He's been intently focused on staring out the window to the backyard lately after spotting a coyote slinking along the top of the fence). I was just getting started. It was high noon when I hopped onto Torch and took off, not really knowing where I was going to go. I knew I wanted to go long and include hills. I normally never ride solo. I just don't get motivated. This day was different. I was free to ride at my own pace, go where I wanted to go, and take as much or as little time as I needed. Freedom, complete and total freedom. It was completely relaxing. Very therapeutic.
--going up Del Dios Hwy
I took off up Camino Del Sur, linked back into Rancho Santa Fe via San Dieguito Rd (for all you San Diegan natives), and then connected onto Del Dios Hwy (via El Apajo). I drooled over the well-groomed horses in Rancho Santa Fe, and was actually moved to tears as I watched a girl jumping her horse in a nearby outdoor, grassy arena as I pedaled by, wishing that Torch's wheel were hooves instead. I miss horses. The only problem with the horses in Rancho Santa Fe is the absence of smell. They pick up the manure as it falls from the horse. Also explains the lack of flies. But it's a bit unrealistic. Like something's missing. Personally, horse shit is one of my all-time favorite smells. Not to be disappointed, I was bestowed with amorous amounts of my favorite aroma as I rode by Clews Horse Ranch at the end of my ride along the 56 bike path. Other smells I encountered on my 70-mile ride were: eucalyptus and sage (mmmmm), skunk, rotting roadkill, cow shit, chicken shit, truck exhaust, fish tacos (Leucadia), and pot (Encinitas). With the exception of the first, I could have done without my experience being enriched by addition of those other powerful odors.
As I reached Escondido, pick-up trucks honked and swerved towards me, despite the fact I was riding well in the center of the bike lane. Ah, good 'ole Escondido. The water level at Lake Hodges was alarmingly low. A lot more traffic than I was accustomed to as well. Oh, right. I'm out on the roads in the afternoon (normally I ride early morning). And it's a holiday weekend. Shoot. The skies were a brilliant blue and the temps were in the low 70s. I was drinking a ton of fluid. I downed 3.5 large water bottles. I ate a lot too (total calories 750). I casually rode up Del Dios, drinking in the obscenely ostentatious views of the rocky mountains in the backdrop. The crest came so suddenly. Hadn't Del Dios been challenging in a past life? Yes, I had been cruising but, still, even cruise used to be hard up that hill.
I turned into Harmony Grove/Elfin Forest. Snaking my way back west towards the coast, I enjoyed soaring up and down the countless hills like a roller coaster. Elfin Forest is insanely green. The narrow streets are lined with dense eucalyptus trees, and the rolling hills are shrouded in a fluorescent green carpet of velvet grass. Small farms are nestled in the hills (hence the chicken shit and cow shit aromas). A wooden sign read "Goats for Sale" in black paint. I paused to momentarily consider the addition of a pet goat to my animal family. A creek bubbles serenely at the bottom of various giant green hills. It's a different universe, tucked into San Diego's north county.
As I reached eastern Carlsbad, the roads widened, traffic thickened, and strip malls became the new backdrop. An area best biked through as quickly as possible to avoid an accidental collision by an unobservant motorist. I reached the coast and pedaled north. Could I make it home before sunset and still get in 70 miles? I was certainly going to try. Ah, racing the sunset; my favorite workout. From Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, to Escondido, and now the ocean. I love how far you can go on a bike in just a few hours. Now, I was drinking in ocean views that people fly from all over the world to see. I am definitely spoiled. I passed by another cyclist as I headed north and we chatted for a bit. I love how easy it is to spontaneously meet other people on a bike. The miles always fly by in good company. All too soon it was time for me to turn around and try to make it home before dark. Could I do it? Was I up to the challenge?
--from Escondido to the ocean in one loop
I felt amazing. I had done 50 miles and included hills at a higher-than-average speed and I felt amazing. But I am untrained. Only 10 days ago a flat 70-miler killed me. How was this possible? Who cares! I'll take feeling like Super Woman without question any day. I hunkered down in my aero bars and pedaled on. As I passed through Encinitas, I became extra wary of the slinking cars, lurking for a place to park. Backing up, turning, pulling in, every parked vehicle, a potential fatal crash by sudden car door ready to strike at a moment's notice. I was blind to the gleeful surfers toting their boards (another possible hazard; swung too suddenly, and it becomes a cyclist's worst nightmare) and bobbing in the glassy ocean water. Blind to the pink horizon as the setting sun bejeweled the ocean's surface with glittering amber. Every muscle in my face was taut, my eyes scanned the road, as if heading into battle; everyone was an enemy, potentially waiting to spring out and try to dismount me from my bike. Is this how prey animals (rabbits) live? Awful. I felt like I was invisible; no one could see me. Ah, the glories of holiday traffic on the coast.
I made it to the final turn east back towards home. Torrey Pines beckoned me. "C'mon. Just one time. You can make it up and down and still be home before dark." I couldn't resist. I soared into the park to tackle the inside. Would my legs feel better this time? I needed redemption after last ride's pathetic climb. Aha! Better, indeed! I attacked the inside of TPs like it was no one's business. Out of the saddle, I climbed and climbed and climbed. I felt fresh and eager. Nothing could stop me! I reached the top and smiled victoriously. It was going to be the perfect ride.
I soared down the hill and back home along the bike path as the sun made it's final descent into the Pacific, melting into the cool water. The sky was lined with puffy, neon pink, cotton candy clouds, like something out of the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. But I wasn't on anything except exercise-induced endorphins. Some days, that's more than enough.