Tuesday, September 6, 2011

54.2 miles in 5 hrs 24 1/2 min. = 10.0216 mph

Warning: This post could prove tedious for anyone not interested in the complexities of training for a timed ride.

At first I thought I'd missed the 10 mph mark for today's ride. About a mile from the end of the final loop, a 7-miler, I had about given up.

I had started the loop a couple of minutes late. If I had started it on time -- 11:42 -- all I would have needed to do was to ride the 7 miles in 42 minutes (a 10 mph average) which would have gotten me to the end by 12:24, and that, in turn, would have given me a 10 mph average for the entire 54 miles.

But because of my late start, 42 minutes wasn't going to be good enough. I had to do it in 40 minutes or less. And a glance at my trip odometer and stopwatch (a function of my wristwatch) convinced me I wasn't gonna. As I saw the odometer come up on "6.0," my wristwatch showed 34 minutes and some seconds. That meant I was doing better than 10 mph, but not a full two minutes better. I hadn't had time to take in how many seconds more than 34 minutes had elapsed, I only knew that it was more than 34 minutes, which meant I was making up less than 2 minutes.

If I had the heart of a lion and the spirit of a champion, I would have turned on the afterburner right then and burned rubber. But I had no motivation beyond doggedly keeping my pace. The ride seemed plagued with encumbrances, anyway. The biggest slow-downer was Nature: Nature called me twice, and answering her required 8 minutes in the bathroom at the end of the first 20-mile loop, and another 3 at the end of the second. And that was what made me late starting the final loop. Then, a little over a mile into that final loop, there was the traffic light at 229th and Cornell that I love to hate, which turned red in spite of my long and hectic race to beat it. (I had seen that it was green from 100 yards away, stood on the pedals hard, determined to get there before it changed. It went to amber, and for an instant I considering charging ahead, but then decided against it, and braked to a stop, only to watch it stay amber for an insultingly, teasingly long time, sneering at me as I realized that I could easily have gotten through the intersection before it turned red. I timed it: it was red for a full one minute and 30 seconds!) Coming back across Cornell at Brookwood a while later, I miss-timed that light, and that cost me another minute. Then on a bike-and-pedestrian path near the library I came up behind three men ambling along three abreast, taking up the full width of the path. I pressed the thumb thingy on my bell, but it jammed; pressed it harder again and it rang, just as I came up on them so close I had to brake. They startled, and two of them moved to the right, and one to the left, indecisevely, while I mumbled, "'Scuse me" and wobbled at snail's pace through the narrow opening they had provided and up the path, which, of course, at this point was uphill.

And so it was that I came into the final stretch, with no oomph left and no optimism about today's time. I pulled into my driveway and grabbed my pencil to jot down the time. My stopwatch read 0:41, when I ached for it to read 0:40. Then I pressed the button that flicks it over to time of day: 12:24. I blinked. Looked again. It was actually 12:24:30. I was only 30 seconds over my deadline! How could this be?

No matter. What it is, it is, I thought, and hung up my bike, put my gear away, and took a shower. Then I came back and looked at the notes I'd made during the day, and it came clear.

First, I'd simply made a mistake about how late I was starting that final leg. I was only one minute late, not two. The note that I'd made just as I was starting it showed that it was 11:43, not 11:44. So riding it in 41 minutes was good enough to make up the time lost by the late start.

But then something even better emerged. I realized that had ridden 54.2 miles, not 54. How could this be? Well, you see, my bicycle "computer" has two odometers. One registers total miles ridden. It rounds the miles off, not showing tenths. The other is a trip odometer. It shows tenths of a mile. I always reset the first of these at the beginning of a day's ride, but I re-set the trip odometer at the beginning of each loop. And I write down what it records at the end of each loop. And today, I wrote down "20.1" at the end of each of what I've been calling the 20-mile loops. The overall odometer, however, rounded off these tenths, and showed, simply, "54".

So to get the accurate measure of my overall ride, I added the loops (20.1+7+20.1+7) and came up with 54.2. I divided that by 5 hrs. and 24.5 minutes, and voila! I did better than 10 mph for the day.



  1. Wow, you really have your calculations down to the seconds. Our group rides aren't as exact. We use cycle computers that cut off when we stop, so we use our moving average and discount the stops. You'd be doing a faster average time if you rode with us. Or, put another way, we'd be averaging much slower if we used your system. Congratulations on achieving your day's goal!

  2. Say, I really like the sound of that! You've really given me a fall-back position worth considering. When writing this post, I kept asking myself whether anyone would want to read this drivel. Especially after the software "ate" the entire first draft when I was almost ready to post it! Starting over from scratch made me even more self-conscious. Now, thanks to you, I'm glad I persevered.

  3. I second only using moving speed as the average. That's the real time the legs are pedaling and what counts in the end. Well, as long as you aren't hanging out at Starbucks for thirty minutes at each rest stop. Totally acceptable to subtract quick stops for water and such. At least that's what me and my ride friends do.

  4. How did the fueling go yesterday? Did you combine Fizz with Perpetuem in one bottle? Able to consume Gel? On my Tour De Valley century ride I ended up not consuming as many calories per hour as usual. Some of that was intentional, some mistake. I initially set out to consume a little less than 300 per hour, but around the four hour mark I realized that I had not been remembering to eat at all for about forty minutes. I might have suffered a little from the mistake. I quickly ate, but kind of had an energy low for about twenty minutes of riding. Then some life came back into the legs.

    Oh, I too agree that you shouldn't beat yourself up over the minutes in a stop. I'd only figure wheel turning time for your average. Probably hard to remember to start and stop your timers. Does your computer have an auto on/off mode? I put it into that mode and ride. If no, let me know. I have tons of Cateye cycle computers laying around the house gather dust. They would give your speed, average speed, distance and have the auto start/stop feature.

  5. Anonymous #1 -- Thanks for seconding the motion. Every vote counts, and if I eventually settle for the "moving speed average," I'll know I'm in good company.

    Anonymous # 2 (Leslie) I mixed the Fizz and Perpetuem and found it palatable. I thinned the Gel and was able to squeeze it out okay. I don't think I got enough of either one, judging from how much was left at the end. I don't have a feeling about how much I'm getting with each squeeze. I'll try to consume a little more this Saturday, guestimatng my consumption and checking what's left at each pit stop. I'm still sorting out sensations as I try to read my body -- which of them are from from lack of hydration, which from lack of fuel, which from lack of electrolytes, which from overall fatigue, which from specific muscle fatigue.

    Now that you mention it, I see my computer has an on/off mode, in that it logs only moving time (in "trip" mode, which I re-set to zero for each loop.) Yesterday's final loop, I see, took 37:47, which is reassuring, in that it means I wasn't cheating! (I had read by my stopwatch that I'd taken 41 minutes!) I will probably use function of my computer instead of my stopwatch, next time. Or in conjunction with it. Too bad I've erased the read-outs for the first three loops. Might have made me look pretty good!

    So please don't send me any of yours -- at least not before my birthday -- because I have no time to learn anything new. Thanks for everything, including the endorsement of the "turning time average."

  6. Hi Hugh,

    I'd like to offer you another nutrition option. Our company makes JustFruit bars, pure fruit snacks make entirely from Pacific Northwest grown fruit. We would be happy to send you some samples to help fuel you on your epic ride on the 28th, and to try ahead of time to ensure they'll work for you.

    I'm a mountain biker myself, but the nutritional requirements are pretty much the same & I can vouch for the efficacy of our bars. They are a great source of energy with a low glycemic index so they don't give you a big rush followed by the dreaded "bonk". They are also high in potassium which promotes proper muscle function and helps prevent cramping.

    Please let me know if you'd like to try our bars & I'll get them headed your way.

    Best wishes for a successful ride & thanks for being an inspiration to your fellow riders.

  7. Hey Hugh,

    Can you hear the muffled roar coming from your fans who are cheering you on towards your goal?
    Go,Hugh!!!Congratulations on making your goal today.I agree with anonymous,count the moving time,not the resting time. That way you will be able to take the necessary hydration & fuel breaks and not stress about losing minutes towards your goal.

  8. Dawn, I wondered what that sound was! Thank you!

  9. Gorge, I appreciate your offer, and your supportive thoughts. I've just left my address on your website. Thank you!