Rollin', rollin', rollin'...

I haven't been updating about my biking, either.  Since I figured out how to schedule it for minimal interference, I've mostly gone back to doing fifteen miles a day.  The difference is that I haven't been doing longer rides (aside from the occasional 18-miler).

And yesterday was worse.  I was concentrating on using my turn signal to signal a car ahead of me, and chose too tight a line around a corner, and wiped out when I tried to slow down and my rear wheel locked.  Ouch.

It wasn't as bad as the last time this happened.  It wasn't wet, so I probably slowed down more.  It was fresh pavement, so it was a bit smoother.  And maybe I wasn't going quite as fast to begin with.  Still, I scraped my right arm and hip pretty good (the latter having just about fully recovered from the last incident, finally), and had to bandage myself a bit last night.

Not fun.

Because of that, I only did around seven miles last night, so I was a bit off my pace (and sleeping was awful, last night).

That's the only big negative of late.  There are a couple of smaller ones.  I had no feedback the last two days, when the battery on my RFLKT+ died.  I replaced it, but put the cover on backwards (they should do something so this isn't possible), and it wasn't able to sync up with my phone.  The thing that pisses me off most about this is that it never stopped trying to find it.  I figured it would time out and stop searching after a few minutes, but I didn't notice until the next night that it never had stopped.  So this battery won't be lasting very long.  At least I know not to do that again, I guess.

The other little negative was that I did a hard ride a couple nights ago (the first one without the display), and I wasn't able to maintain that heart rate over 180bpm.  I could get it up there, but I couldn't maintain it for several minutes, as I've done a couple of times recently.  Because of that, my times weren't that great.  I just looked, and did manage a couple PRs that were top-10 finishes, so maybe it wasn't as terrible as it felt at the time, but it was frustrating not to be able to keep hammering all the way up the Walter Reed Dr hill by Shirlington.

Actually, now that I'm looking, there's some irony there.  I had my third-best (actually, tied for second) time on the steep part of that hill (better than I'd've guessed), but my best time on the long version of the segment (the long version includes some rollers at the top of the hill).  And I finished tied with a friend of mine for 11th overall.  Color me shocked: I guess having to reel it back in early had some benefit.  Anyway, it was a four-second gain on somewhat less than two minutes riding.  Not bad, actually.

That's got me looking at the 'Compare Efforts' page for the segment.  It seems that I outclimbed the KOM and several friends for at least the first two-thirds of the steep part.  Funny, since my time on the steep part was fourteen seconds off my record (hence my frustration; that's a hell of a lot).  But I guess I'm seventh overall on just the steep part, so maybe that makes some sense.

Anyway, outside of those annoyances, the riding has been going pretty well.  Two or three nights ago, the ride was just after some rain, and outside of the spots where there was enough water for the tires to kick it up onto me, it was just a glorious ride.  The temperature was absolutely perfect, and I was just in harmony with the night.  It was amazing; rides like that are why I get on the bike every day.  I believe that was also the day where I kept my heart rate at an average of 126bpm, and a max of 131bpm.  Perfect.

Otherwise, riding has been going well, but quite uneventfully.  Let's hope that continues.

Puzzle update

Yesterday was quite the mixed bag.  I found that Hawkeye (modern) and Magneto make for one hell of a team, using Maggie's purple power to make critical tiles out of blue ones.  They pretty much decimated the opposition, which was awesome.

In fact, I even managed to finish the final mission, facing the Hulk.  I was about to say at level 322, because that's where he was when I first looked.  But when I finally tried it (right before bed), he had increased to 330.  He had somewhere between 18-20k hit points, and it was a ridiculously close battle.  What saved me was that Magneto was doing most of the damage, but had the lowest tile-damage, so he hid in the back until the other two were both downed.

I got, I think, four 5-matches before Hawkeye went down, and those provided the bulk of the damage.  I also got off one of Magneto's red explosions before they went down.  Hulk was still ahead on hp when they were the only two left, but Magneto had a lot of blue AP and a little red.  He triggered his blue power a couple times (three, actually, although the third one was destroyed by the second before it went off), and finally finished it off with one more red blast.  I wasn't watching AP, but I think Hulk was only a couple turns from toasting Magneto when that happened.  Ugh.

It was ridiculous, though.  I pounded all the missions until the points were ridiculously small, even putting some time in to space things out a little, and I still was only able to squeeze into the top-50 (barely; I think 48th or 49th) for the day.  That doesn't bode well, although it's true that the last several events I've had my worst day on the first (so maybe there's some hope).

I'm kind of pissed that they limited available covers on Jean Grey, though.  The last several, top-150 was good enough for a single cover, now it's back down to top-100.  More annoyingly, I think every event I've been in has had top-50 be good enough for two covers, while this one requires top-20.  I suspect, as with Ant-Man, I'll have to be happy if I can get one (although that was actually two, since they had the separate Ant-Man event, from which I got a second.  Both of those were a lot of work, though).

Anyway, getting to Deadpool, a couple things.  One is that I was wrong that the prize cover is also the character leading the second wave in the two-wave mission.  That can be the case, but isn't necessarily true.

Two, yesterday was a bitch.  I was able to get through the first four missions with a minimum of hassle, but the fifth had an absolutely ridiculous first wave.  They had three Teisatsu, one kind of hand ninja that is normally only annoying, who were just pumped up to a ridiculous degree.  Starting on turn three, they were just pumping out an attack every round that did an insane amount of damage.  And when you finally killed them, they dropped two attack tiles that did over 100 damage per turn.

The first time I tried it, I eked out a win in the first round, but Storm and Black Widow were both below 300 hit points (remember, multiple 100+ pt attack tiles in play), Thor was down to half of his, and I had very few AP.  I managed to take out one second-rounder, but even that was a close call.

The second time, I prepared a little differently, waiting until attacks appeared to match red tiles.  Actually, I waited until they were about to explode.  In that way, I was able to defuse the first five or six attacks, but the next one got through and left Widow with less than 200 hit points.  Somehow, despite Storm and Widow both going down, I managed to squeak into the second round (yes, despite the apparently-better start, I still did worse overall) with Thor.  But it was with virtually no AP, and so, it was not at all surprising that he went down without even seriously challenging the second round heroes.

Basically, it was ridiculous.  I think, to win that one, you'd need a super-high level group (think three four-star heroes at level 200+), and you might still have trouble.  I wish today's, with Deadpool as the prize, was like that (since, not having Deadpool, I wouldn't see it).  Very annoying, since it was a cover I wanted and because I could seriously use the 2k Iso-8 prize for doing all five missions.

Today's Hulk missions are quite a mixed bag.  Most of them have been pretty easy, although the last one was absurd.  It had Yelena Belova with two snipers, which doesn't sound bad.  But the snipers do 4550 damage per shot.  That's enough to take down Magneto or Hawkeye with one shot.

And they did take Hawkeye down with one (the first one, actually).  I was unable to destroy it, and on the turn before it went off, I only had one move, which was moving yellow tiles, the only ones for which Hawkeye would have to move them.  I was able to win, eventually, but it was a close fight.  Two more of those shots, and I'd've been gone.

I haven't finished the day's missions, but I'm off to a good start.  I hope I can finish them, and finish the day at least as high as yesterday (although having depleted my health packs getting there, this morning, does not help.  Nor did that near-loss)


Deadpool update

One thing I forgot to mention about the Deadpool Daily challenges, yesterday.  Several of the missions have restrictions on characters.

Specifically, the first one only allows one-star characters.  The two-wave and 'third times the charm' missions only allow one- and two-stars.  You can't use characters who are being used against you in the one-wave misions (including alternate versions.  So if Black Widow (classic) is there, you can't play Black Widow (modern) or Black Widow (grey suit))

In the remaining two missions, though, you can use any characters you want (except, of course, that in the 'dat required character' mission, you do need to play that character).

Also, I didn't mention it, because it hadn't happened yet when I wrote that, I finished all five missions for the second time in two days (and second time ever) yesterday.  That felt good.

Today, I've already beaten the three-mission sequence, but I'm not sure about the other two.  She-Hulk is the required character (and prize), which is great, because I want to play her.  But the defenders in the required character mission include Black Widow (classic) and Thor (Marvel NOW!), my two standbys for playing that mission (Widow actually being the more important of the two).  Bullseye being the third is not a happy-making thing, either.  I'll probably try it, but I'm not optimistic.

Oh, and the latest even finished up this morning (for me, at least).  I finished 49th; was irritated that my last match did not finish before the deadline (especially since it was a tough one, and I killed it).  So I got two (more; I thought I'd sold her, and now am glad I didn't) Psylocke covers to make today's missions way easier.  Got diddly/squat for other covers, though.  I was really hoping for a third Scarlet Witch cover (but at least the purple cover for her, that came as a points-mandated prize, made her much more playable).

The PvE event starting today is somewhat interesting, though.  It's a seven-day one (only the second of those with which I've been involved), with a prize of a new four-star, Jean Grey.  I'm of mixed feelings about this.  Jean Grey was a favorite of mine, growing up, but the events with new characters are the toughest ones (presumably because people who don't play every day come out to play those events).  I got shut out in the event for The Thing, and just squeaked in to getting one cover for Ant-Man.  I'm going to be seriously bummed if I can't get at least one.

I hope they do a side event, similar to the Ant-Man one, so that I can be sure of getting at least one cover for her.  I suspect, though, that they won't, and that they only did the Ant-Man one as a tie-in to the movie that is coming (came?) out.


New threshold

No, not a biking post.

I was playing Puzzle Quest yesterday, and there's this thing called the Daily Deadpool.  It's a set of five missions that run every day.  They aren't identical every day, but they follow a pattern.

The first is taking on a two-star hero with two NPCs (for lack of a better term.  These might be robots, or soldiers, or ninjas, but things which don't get to move the tiles).  The hero is level fifteen, and the two sidekicks are level ten.  Win that one, and get 500 Iso-8.  Pretty easy (though I do remember when it was a challenge).

The second, which requires taking on the first, is two waves of foes.  The first wave is four NPCs of around fortieth level (there's some variation here).  When you defeat that wave, a second appears that is one three-star hero with three more NPC sidekicks.  Again, all around fortieth level.  Win that one, and you get a recruiting token for a two-star or better prize (though their definition of two-star leaves much to be desired.  It includes healing packs, for goodness' sake) plus 200 Iso-8.

This one has been routine for me for a while.

If you beat that one, you can continue on to the 'Third time's the charm' mission.  That one features three seventy-ish level heros (and you can't use those heroes to fight them, which can suck badly).  That one I've shied away from, but I took it on yesterday and beat it (with both of my games, even).  Win, and you get 1000 Iso-8.

Irrespective of the results of those three, there are two more missions.  The first requires you to have a particular three-star hero (it occurs to me now that this is also the hero that leads the second wave of the two-wave fight; never noticed that before), who you then use, along with two others, to fight three sixtieth-level heroes.  Since this is generally one for whom I have one cover (and is therefore only level forty), this one is quite a challenge for me still.  I've been winning it, but it's been nip-and-tuck every time.  If you win, you get another two-star token (again, for some weird definition of two-star).

If you win that mission, you get a final challenge, four waves of a mix of NPCs and heroes, each around level one hundred to one-thirty.  I've tried this a couple times before, and gotten my butt kicked each time.  But if you win, you get another cover for the three-star hero from the 'Dat Required Character' mission.  Only predictable way to get a three-star cover, although it's limited in a couple ways (first, it's a cover that you already have, and second, it can't be a four-star).  Still, it's pretty sweet.

So, yesterday was Spider-Man, and I was feeling optimistic, so I tried it again.  And this time, after a long and painful battle, I won.  It was kind of draining, as I was feeling like I was about to lose both times when the wave of heroes appeared.

And to add to that, I realized yesterday that, if you finish all five missions, you get a 2000 Iso-8 prize (that was part of why I wanted to try the four-wave mission yesterday).  It turns out that I was more excited about the Iso-8 than I was about the Spider-Man cover, yesterday, though I can think of a number of characters for whom that would not be the case.

Still, it felt really good, and makes me look forward to the day when even the four-wave battle is an easy one (that won't happen anytime soon).


Quick update on that last

Trying the current day's set of missions, and I'm just getting my butt kicked.  I was definitely wrong about what drives difficulty, because I'm running into easy missions that are against guys at level 117.  I guess that'd be fine if the heroes I have that are boosted were similarly high level, but the ones I have that are boosted that high have no useful powers (Ant-Man and Scarlet Witch.  Both can be very powerful, but I have a total of three covers between them, and it isn't nearly enough.  If my Scarlet Witch one were purple, that'd help a lot.  As it is, she's basically cannon fodder).

It doesn't help that this event has most characters locked.  Nor does it help that I jettisoned my two-star human torch the other day (I have the three-star with a number of covers, so I couldn't think of a reason to keep the two-star as well (they have identical powers)); that was definitely a mistake.

Meanwhile (and this is what makes it really stand out), my second game just tore through all of the missions without trouble.

I wonder... yesterday's missions went similarly at the end.  That is, I was able to win the third-to-last one a couple times with my secondary game, but got my butt handed to me twice when I tried it with my main game.  The levels faced were certainly different, which helped, but I mostly attributed it to a much stronger Ms Marvel (5 red covers vs three) who could dish out serious pain very quickly.  Now, however, I'm wondering.

Today's, though, I was seeing differences of 10-30 levels in the opposition (the 30s, not surprisingly, were the ones I noticed first).  Anyway, I'm not sure what to make of it, but it's interesting.


Puzzle Quest recap

As I've mentioned, I've been playing a ridiculous amount of Marvel Puzzle Quest.  Basically, I've been trying to collect high-rarity heroes for playing.

And I've mostly been doing that in the PvE (Player vs Environment) competitive matches.  In those, you can get a couple of two-star hero covers and one three-star for reaching point thresholds over the span of the whole competition.  You can also get up to three covers of a three-star hero for your placement in your group of 1000.

I haven't been tracking it closely, but I play two games, and have generally been getting top-100 finishes with both games.  In one of the games, I've gotten a number of top-50 as well, one or two top-20s, and a top-10.

I'm starting to find it harder, rather than easier, to get those finishes, however, despite leveling my heroes up when I can.  I'm not sure what's driving that; it might be the way the system does divisions into echelons of one thousand.

One thing that has worked well is that the levels haven't (mostly) gotten a lot more difficult.  So I think the difficulty scaling is done by what your highest-level character is.  Mine is, and has been, almost since the start, seventy-four, and I'm deliberately not increasing that.  The last several weeks has seen me pushing up the levels of my characters to get to about 70.  My plan is to get my most-played ten or fifteen all to that level, then save up 150k Iso-8 (or thereabouts) and bump at least four of them up to the two-star max of 94.

I imagine I'll probably stay at that level for a while as well, getting the rest of the good characters up to that range.  After that, who knows?  I'm already projecting further ahead than I should.

I'll get a good comparison of whether that strategy is a good one tomorrow, though.  A friend of mine, who's around the same level as me, got frustrated and bumped his two-star Thor up to 90th level (way ahead of the rest of his heroes).  The difficulty scaling didn't kick in immediately, but he still hasn't finished the most recent competition (he finishes tonight; I finished this morning with placings of 90 and 101).  If it kicks in tonight, with the next competition, I'll know that's how they're doing it.  If not, I'll have to re-evaluate my own strategy.

Quick recap

fI've been falling further behind, it seems, on talking about my biking progress.  The last week has been a very mixed bag, in terms of success and pleasure.

The first several days, I was riding at night and doing eleven miles or so, as I described previously.  That was almost all taking it easy, with a couple exceptions, and I'm just going to talk about the exceptions today.

Two of those days, I did that loop, but decided to attack a hill on Williamsburg Rd near my house (the last hill before I get home; the segment is called Wmsburg Riser).  The first of those times, I planned ahead, but forgot where the segment started, and started pushing a (short) block early.  I still got a PR of 36s, but definitely gave up something.  Two days later, I didn't plan ahead, but as I reached the correct starting point, decided to charge up it and set a new PR of 34s.  Both times I failed to keep pushing after cresting the hill; if I want to challenge for KOM, I need to do that.

Another exception was that I took Friday off, and did a ride of a little over an hour.  I decided to challenge the Arlington trail loop (Custis/W&OD/Mt Vernon trails) that I hadn't done since October 28th.  Call it a benchmark of progress since then (and while I knew it had been a while, I didn't realize it had been quite that long since I did that ride).  How did it go?  Swimmingly.

I did fall off considerably from the penultimate hill to the end, but still did get KOM.  In doing so, I beat my old record by just over two minutes; not bad for a sixteen-mile loop (fifty minutes down to forty-eight, roughly).

Oh, and at the end of my fifteen mile loop on Saturday, I finished with a slight variation on my normal route, coming back via Little Falls Rd/Yorktown Blvd instead of Williamsburg.  There's a stretch along there that I used to try to tackle vigorously, but which I hadn't done hard in quite a while (since March, I think, looking back at my times).

Well, I decided to go all-out along that stretch, and actually caught and passed a couple of cars that were probably doing the speed limit.  Man, did that feel good.  Actually, it felt remarkably good just pounding along there; I'm not sure what it was, but I found the perfect cadence or something, and it just felt like flying instead of riding.  I was working hard (420W avg), but somehow, it didn't feel like it.

The cars started with a lead of 1-200 yards, and I didn't think I'd ever catch them (especially since I stayed seated the whole time), but I did it with room to spare.  I kept hammering the pedals up the hill just after the end of the segment.  I was seriously beat by the time I got to the top, but it was a good feeling.

When I first started out, I was doing that segment in just about a minute, but this time was 36s.  Back then, I knew I'd be able to improve, but would not have guessed that I'd be able to do so by so much.  Now I wonder if there's any more room for improvement, although I doubt I'll try anytime soon.

Actually, I created the segment, and I think I did it after my first round of improvement, where I got 10-15s better, and wanted to see myself beating other people.  It was pretty eye-opening to see how much faster the other people were at the time.  Definitely motivation for me to improve.

Once thing that has come out of the last few days is that I've found that I really enjoy riding at night.  It was more of a scheduling thing that got me to be doing that (my wife needing to go to work early, mostly), but it works pretty well.  I play Puzzle Quest in the morning, finishing competitions (right at the end is a bad time to not be playing).  And in the evening, I play some more of that, but when I get to a point where I need an hour or so of healing, I take a break to ride the bike.  Works out pretty well.

And I'm surprised that I find the roads and trails less crowded at night.  I don't see the joggers running in the road, which is nice (that still bothers me quite a lot, especially the ones playing chicken), and there are actually fewer cars as well.  The latter shocked me, but I certainly enjoy it (other than the jerk who passed me at 75 in a 30mph zone, last night.  And who couldn't even be bothered to get all the way in the other lane.  Was seriously wishing a cop had been there).

So I might just keep riding at night, instead of switching back to the morning.  The one fly in the ointment is that I haven't been sleeping enough, and playing that game is the primarily culprit for that.  I might talk about that part some more, but suffice it to say that it's probably unsustainable for me to keep sleeping so little.  We'll see.


Night recovery

Tuesday, I got on the road a little late, and was going to have trouble even getting my fifteen mile loop in.  I did it anyway, and got back a little late, but it worked out ok.

How did the ride go?  It was ok.  I finished in sixty-three minutes, which works out to 14.3mph average.  Not too bad.  Power was 114W, which was ok, with heart rate of 126bpm.  I think, though, that I wasn't doing too well with regulating that.  I hit a max of 142bpm, but I'm pretty sure that had to do with a car.  Still, I went over too many times.

I was amused that I, for the second time, passed someone heading up the W&OD around Glencarlyn, got behind them when I took Wilson and Roosevelt back to the W&OD while they stayed on the trail, then caught them again going up the W&OD through Falls Church.  And this time it wasn't an elderly woman.  Not a big deal, but I was amused.

My wife had to go in early Wednesday, so I couldn't ride early.  And work completely hosed me during the day, so I couldn't squeeze one in, then.  So I had to do a night ride.

Mostly, that's fine; it was much like my rides over the winter, despite the change in time of day.  But it meant that I couldn't watch the meter for my heart rate, which had me a little worried.

I wanted to get done a little faster than usual, so I cut out the stretch along George Mason from Wilson to Shirlington, and just took Wilson all the way to Roosevelt.  That cut the ride down to eleven miles, which I finished in fifty-two minutes.  So, the good and the bad, there.  The good is that my max heart rate over the whole ride was 130bpm.  The bad was that I was only doing 12.6mph, although some of that could be route selection; I kept most of the hilly parts, and jettisoned relatively flat parts.

Regardless, it was a pleasant drive; far fewer cars around than I expected.  And I only saw two other bikers (one of whom was riding on the road with no light; not bright, literally or figuratively), and very few walkers/joggers, so that was nice.

Yesterday, same issue with early to work.  And work seriously hosed me during the day (mostly not their fault, this time, though; the army was having computer problems).  So again, I was out at night, and did the same route.

And the ride went fairly similarly, except that I finished much faster.  Not sure why.  Finished the 10.9 miles in 48 minutes, an average of 13.8mph, average heart rate of 115bpm (max 131 (!), sweet), power of 106W.  Much better, although I do have to wonder about why.  Still, I'm very happy now that I'm looking at that.

I do need to spend more time on the bike, though; I'm going to lose the conditioning if I keep cutting back to 45-50 minutes instead of 75-90 minutes.

In any event, I wasn't able to ride this morning either, so I'll have to talk about my ride later, after I do it.


Some improvement

One good thing did come out of Saturday (and it wasn't the July Fourth fireworks, which were almost entirely obscured by the smoke that was blown our way from the explosions); we had friends over, and I arranged a bike ride for Sunday with a couple of them.  One of whom was hopefully going to be able to keep up with me.

We did a big loop, taking the Capital Crescent trail up into Bethesday and coming back on Beach Dr.  And I added a bit over ten miles getting to/from the meet-up spot in Georgetown.

It was actually an easy ride, for the most part.  Two friends were with me, the slower of whom started a couple of sprints which did not go well for him.  And the other, and I, did push a bit for a mile or two around the beginning of Beach Dr.

Regardless of how hard we were (or weren't) pushing, it was a very nice, peaceful ride that went through a number of areas that you'd never guess would exist within DC.  Still no heart rate info, but I was amused to have the power data, as I was able to send it along to the friend who felt like starting the sprints.

The one bad thing is that my light fell off going down Beach Dr, and I didn't realize what had fallen until over an hour later.  So I need to replace my front light; extremely annoying.

Still, we had a good time; glad we got the chance to do it.

Monday, I wasn't able to get out in the morning, though some good did come out of that, as my heart rate meter was found (just after I'd ordered a replacement via Amazon, and was finally going to get to experience same-day delivery.  Was almost disappointed to cancel that order).

I finally got out in the early afternoon, and was working on doing my normal eighteen-mile loop when it started drizzling.  The skies looked threatening, and I hadn't taken ANY precautions (usually I at least put my phone in something waterproof, but I hadn't even done that), so I picked up the pace (a lot) and headed home.

Since it was convenient, I decided to try to break my record from the East Falls Church Metro station up to Williamsburg & Yorktown Blvd.  Despite losing 5-10 seconds to a traffic light, that worked out pretty well, as I was able to improve on my previous best by nearly a minute.  That moved my placement up from 32nd to 3rd, which was quite cool.  I'm mostly amused by the difference in time, because I used to push hard there regularly, but this is the first time I have in over six months.

In any event, from there, I kept hurrying home, just to get home, as the rain was picking up as I was going.  I made it home before it got too bad, and it was a good thing I cut the ride short, because it became a serious downpour within a minute of my arrival at home.  Very glad I wasn't caught out in that.  And things worked out ok, as my phone was fully function when I arrived, and my shoes were only a little wet.

Unfortunately, going hard for the last five minutes or so hoses my numbers for the ride, so analysis is kind of tough.  If I had thought about it, I could have set a lap when I started pushing, but it didn't occur to me until well after.  Next time, I suppose.


Not going well

Thursday I had to take my daughter to golf camp, and I had the day off.  So I went for a ride while she was learning to golf.  And that went... poorly.

It actually started even before we got to golf camp, when I couldn't find my heart rate meter.  I found both straps, but no meter.  So the ride had no heart rate data.

I was starting from Hilltop Golf course, which is on Telegraph Rd in Alexandria, and didn't start out with a destination.  I started going up Telegraph, towards Alexandria proper (Hilltop is almost to Beulah), and decided I'd head towards the bridge and turn around.

About three miles in, I noticed that I had no air in my back tire, and stopped to put some in.  I couldn't, so I decided to try to limp back to Hilltop.  After a quarter- to half-mile, I realized that was stupid, and stopped to change tubes.

Well, after putting the valve extender on, I couldn't even get the tube to hold air.  Not even a little bit.  So I tried to put the old one back on, and was only able to get that one to hold a small amount.  A woman walked up, and asked me if I wanted to try with a real pump, so I did.

With that pump, I was able to inflate the tube I'd started with up to full pressure, and I started on my way.  Within a quarter mile, I was flat again.  Fantastic.  Well, before she'd shown up, I'd spent forty-five minutes or more trying to get air in either tube.  I wasn't going to go through that again, so I just started walking the bike back.  It took a while (I showed up having entirely missed the pizza party, and was even a few minutes late for pick-up time), but I made it back with sore feet.

In all, I managed about four miles of easy riding and another three of walking/jogging.  Man, was I pissed about the whole situation.

Things did not improve, as far as fixing those tubes, when I got home.  I had trouble even getting the pump on the nozzle, and I decided that I must have over-torqued the valve extender or the valve core.  Either way, I wasn't getting anywhere.

I ordered a new extender, a couple extra tubes, and another core remover tool (keep the one I had in my bike bag, and get another to keep at home).

So Friday, I went back to my old wheels, which have never had these sorts of problems.

And I still hadn't found the heart rate meter.  And the power meter, for some reason, never started up.  I managed to get out with a little more time, so I did the eighteen mile loop.  Two and a half to three miles in, I noticed that my distance was showing four miles.  I still don't know why, but it never did correct.  And the GPS map from afterward shows me doing some weird stuff between George Mason/Rt 29 and George Mason/Wilson.

It corrected itself from there, but that still left my speed being off for the whole ride (my max shows as 52.3mph, which is absurd.

Which basically means there was no meaningful data for the entire ride.  No heart rate, no power, and the speed data was suspect.

Still, it was a nice day, so I'm glad I got out.

Saturday, despite still not having my heart rate meter, I knew I needed to do a hard ride, and went to my normal hill route.  I was disappointed not to set any records in the hills (I was particularly hoping for a record on the 4.2-mile loop segment that I created, but missed that by fourteen seconds.  Still forty seconds ahead of number two on that segment, though), but did set one a bit later.

I took the big hill on Williamsburg on, towards the end of the ride (I think I wasn't going to, but cut the ride short due to the threat of rain, for which I was unprepared).  And I just killed it.  I wish I had the heart rate data, but I pushed 791W for the twenty-eight seconds to get up that hill.  I'm surprised to see that that's still a fair bit off from my record for that time; still, it felt really good.

Even better when I got home, and saw that that time was good for a tie for KOM.  I did not expect, half a year ago, to ever even challenge for KOM there.  As I said, very gratifying (though a tiny bit less so, in that it's a four-way tie for the position).

Other power numbers?  Well, I did do about thirteen and a quarter minutes at/over threshold, which is pretty good.  And almost four and a half of that was in zone seven, which is awesome.

Other than that, a not terribly remarkable ride.  Fifteen point seven miles, 1440' elevation, done at 16.0mph.  Nice, but not remarkable.  And my power curve was well under my records.  I'm still really happy about that Williamsburg hill, though.

Exciting riding

Lots going on, no time to write, it seems.  But let's try to catch up.

Monday was hosed up from start to finish.  I played the game too long to get a ride in, in the morning, so I wasn't able to do anything until afternoon.  I took my daughter to her piano lesson via bike, with mixed results.  That is, we were able to get there, but we had a couple of really steep hills that forced my daughter to walk her bike.

While she was taking her lesson, I got out for a hard ride, which went decently.  Except for the fact that my tire flatted while I was out.  Check out this graph for the ride, though; I find it hilarious:
Not exactly challenging to figure out when I was by myself, and when I was with my daughter.

It was a bit interesting of a ride, though, as I was going on different roads than the ones I'm used to (since I was starting from a couple miles from home, and because I didn't have a lot of time).  I managed a top-ten finish right by her piano lesson, and wandered around some bucolic streets.  It was a fairly pleasant ride, despite the heat of the day.

I spent that part of the ride at a 173 average heart rate, with a max of 190bpm.  That was pretty good.  Overall, it was twenty-two minutes in zones four and five, which was great (almost five of it was in zone five, which was even better).  Power-wise, it was almost eleven minutes at/above threshold, which isn't too bad, either.

The next day, though, did not start out well.  I'd left the tube with the patch glue drying overnight (overkill, but I like to do it when I can).  I woke up, played puzzles for a bit, then went to get the bike.  After two tries, I couldn't get the tube to hold air (patch, remove, re-patch, remove), so I finally looked for, and found, a new tube I had sitting around.

I put it on, and got out on the road.  And man, was I mad, so I decided to make it a hard ride, even though I'd done somewhat of a hard ride the day before (that is to say, I went plenty hard, but not for quite as long as I would have liked).  I didn't have a lot of time, either, so I did my normal fifteen mile loop (how much time?  I would never have finished it at my normal speed).

And I did more than ok.  Only one top-ten finish (eighth overall on Grove Ave in Falls Church), but a bunch of PRs.  And I had a stretch of over a mile and a half (on the W&OD, heading north from Shirlington) where I averaged 187bpm heart rate.  I used to not be capable of getting close to that; hitting 187bpm used to get my body to tell me, almost instantly, "stop now".  So my threshold must have increased, which is awesome.

For the overall ride, I managed 19.2mph (seriously, I was killing it), with thirty-nine minutes in zones four and five.  Pretty obviously, my zone definitions are off.  Power-wise, we're looking at sixteen minutes at/over threshold.

I think the numbers I'd used to set the threshold (260W, which I got from 95% of my best twenty-minute stretch) were wrong to begin with.  The best-twenty numbers I was using are, I think, weighted average rather than strict average, which means they were (way too?) high.  Well, they might be getting closer, now.

Wednesday morning, I decided to use that improvement, and set my target heart rate for my easy rides up to 130bpm.  That helped a bit, with staying under target, but not as well as I'd hoped.

I mostly kept it under the target, though I did hit 137bpm at one point and 133bpm a couple of other times (briefly, though).  And raising the target didn't result in much improvement in power numbers.  I averaged 122W, which isn't bad, but it didn't result in any apparent improvement in speed; I still only managed 14.0mph over the eighteen miles.

The next day is when things really went to hell.


Marvel bejeweled?

As I alluded to previously, much of the cause behind my riding problems (and especially my sleeping problems) has to do with a new game to which a friend introduced me, called Marvel Puzzle Quest.  At first blush, it seems like a Bejeweled clone (and I've long played a fair bit of Bejeweled, mostly of the Blitz variant) with a Marvel Super Heroes theme.

The basic mechanics are identical to bejeweled (and Candy Crush, and umpteen others, I'm sure), but the addition of the characters adds a number of strategic elements.

Basically, it is set up as a series of matches, three heroes vs one to three villains.  And each one in the match has a certain number of hit points, and certain powers to directly do damage or affect the board layout.  Plus, each one does a set amount of damage for each color.

This means there's a couple levels of strategy involved.  First, there's the selection of characters to use, in that you want ones that complement each other in both powers and in doing max damage in each color.  Or you might want one to protect another by making sure the protector does more damage in one or more colors than the protectee (the one who does the damage in the first tile match is the one exposed to enemy counterattack on the other team's turn).

There's also the strategy during the bout for selecting the tile match to make; do you want to maximize damage?  Or maximize AP (energy for special powers)?  Or make multiple matches?  Or prevent the other team from making a certain match?  Lots of options.

One of the things that makes the game pretty evil is that you have limited options for which characters to use.  You start out with three, I think, and occasionally you get "cover"s.  These are pictures of comic book covers with a given character on the front.  If you don't have the character pictured, and you have room on your roster, you can recruit that character.  If you already have the character, you can use the cover to make your version of that character more powerful, by either adding a new power (they start with only one, and can have two or three, depending on the character.  For instance, modern Black Widow can only have two powers, while Iron Man can have three) or improving an existing one.

And powers can be raised until you reach the lesser of level five for that power or thirteen total levels in powers for that character.

Each character is also rated for a certain rarity, denoted by the number of stars, and a level (think D&D).  The base level of the character is based on those stars: 1 for 1 star, 15 for 2-star, 40 for 3-star, up to 70 for 4-star.  Character level affects hit points, how much damage is done with a match of each color, and has effects on certain powers (particularly damage-dealing ones).

When you initially find a character, the levels listed above are maxima, as well as minima.  If you want to raise their level, you need two things: Iso-8 and additional covers.  Each cover allows you to raise a character's level by a certain amount (how much depends on which total cover number it is and how many stars the character has).  Basically, each cover raises the maximum level you can achieve by a certain amount, and then you can pay the Iso-8 to actually raise the level towards that maximum.  And because there's a limit on covers, there's also a limit on overall character level (50 for one-star, 94 for two-star, 166 for three star, and 270 for four star).

So Iso-8 is a kind of in-game currency (one of two) which allows raising character level.  It's also a plot device, built around that idea (I'll come back to this).  It can be found by completing bouts or as bonuses for certain things (ditto).  It can also be found by selling covers (you will get extras, especially of the one stars, fairly quickly).

The other form of currency is hero points, which can be used to expand your roster or to acquire additional covers.  Strategically, you should only use them to expand your roster, because they're hard to find and are generally found in increments of twenty-five or fifty (and roster slots quickly reach several hundred points each).

But you can use them to purchase "cover packs" as well, where you get one, ten, or forty-two covers, perhaps within a subset of available heroes.  The advantage of the larger packs is not that they get cheaper on a per-cover basis, but that you get better odds of three- and four-star covers.  It's an interesting, and evil, system definitely informed by experience with collectible card-playing games.  And this is part of what makes the game evil for me; I was very seriously into Magic: The Gathering back in college, and for some years after.  It was quite the money-sink for me; if you want to buy a set of beta moxes/power blue (unlimited, signed lotus), I still have those (I sold the rest of my cards).

One thing to note, if you're thinking of buying a cover pack, check the odds and pricing, because it's all over the map from series to series, which is the best buy.  With the base set, the single is the best buy, because it's around one-third the price with two-thirds the odds of the best covers.  With some of the scenario-based ones, especially if you're just looking for the featured covers, you'll do better with the 10- or 42-packs.

Rounding out hero points, what I said about saving hero points for roster slots holds generally, but there is one exception.  If you're going to put some money into the game, and decided ahead of time to set some of the hero points you buy (with real money) into (a) cover pack(s), then go for it.  It isn't the most strategic use of your resources, but could work out well.  I've certainly been tempted, and might do it in the future.

I alluded to plot device, so let's get back to that.  There are three basic ways to play the game.  Two of them are plot-driven, where you have specific missions, and have to defeat specific threats.  One of them is completely single-player, with exactly-defined threats.  The other is competitive, in that everyone is going after the same type of threat (same opponents), but with varying levels of difficulty (higher level opposition for stronger players (still trying to determine how they figure out the exact meaning of stronger)).

In the former, the prizes are exhaustively determined at the beginning, and will run out.  In the latter, each run (and it goes in 3-4 day sequences, where each day is also a separate competition) has separate prizes, and they regenerate when the run starts over (I don't know how long the timeframe is on that; I haven't been playing long enough).

In those competitive runs, for the whole sequence, there are prizes defined by how many points you get.  That is, and point total X, you'll get prize Y.  Those points accumulate, too, and the winners come from the point totals.

It is run in groups of one thousand, and within that group, the top two get a really hard to find cover (and three of a slightly-easier-to-find one.  Generally one four-star and all three covers of a three star).  The next eight finishers get those same three covers of the three star.  The next ten get two covers of that same three star.  The next thirty get one cover.  Below that, there will be some lesser covers (probably one or more prominent characters from that run).

Everyone also gets increasing amounts of Iso-8, and the top fifty get increasing amounts of hero points.

Within each day, there's a similar breakdown, in terms of placing determining prize.  In that one, the top 100 or 200 get a (token for a) cover from the set for that run.  There are also increasing amounts of Iso-8 and Hero Points.  Some lower finishers get a token for a default set two-star (or better) cover or for a one-star (one-star tokens are all the same; there are no set-specific ones.  Something like 90% of them are one-star covers, and you'll quickly get all of those that you want.  The rest, you can sell for more Iso-8).  The point is, you do well and you'll be rewarded pretty handsomely.

The last way you can play is player-vs-player.  This is a kind-of weird dynamic, though, as it isn't a real-time game.  Essentially, you get pitted against someone, and you attack them.  Their team is played by the game's AI (which is not terribly good), while you play your team.  The attacker has a number of advantages.

Anyway, the point of this is not to get into the weeds of the mechanics.  Player vs player (PvP) is also done in events, and the winner of a match gets points (if the attacker wins, they also get a prize.  Usually Iso-8, but sometimes a one-star token).  At the end of the event, players are ranked by their points, and get prizes similarly with how it works in competitive single-player play.

This is a weird set-up, in that it isn't designed to reward newbies, it's designed to reward the players with ridiculously-powered characters (those people have an edge in the competitive stuff as well, but thanks to the dynamic scaling of opposition level, not as big an edge as here).

Anyway, I think all of that gives a feel for the game, with solid indications of why I like it.  It's one of the few games I've actually put more than a couple of dollars into in a long time.


Falling further behind

I wanted to continue with Saturday because the new wheels that I mentioned recently (Swiss Side Hadrons) were finally installed on Friday. They did actually arrive on the day I mentioned them, from the postal service (along with all of our next door neighbor's mail, oddly), but it took me a while to put them on.

Well, Saturday was probably a good day for breaking them in, as it was windy and wet.  Well, the wet part didn't matter, but the windy part certainly did.  The first thing that hit me are how much noise they make.  I didn't realize this until they arrived, but it turns out that they are not carbon fiber wheels, as I thought.  They're lightweight, aluminum wheels with a carbon fiber faring.

There's plusses and minuses to that, and I probably would have bought them anyway, knowing that, but I was irritated that I did not see that mentioned on their website.  That construction was what led to the noise to which I'm referring; it's a regular vibration of the faring that you hear whenever the wheel is moving.  It isn't obnoxiously loud, but it's certainly noticeable.

The second thing was a little bit of a sail effect (a slight, and I do mean slight, lateral force on the wheel; it was barely enough to be noticeable) from winds at low yaw angles and when turning.

The one problem with that wind, though, was it made it difficult to judge performance (and the water didn't help either).  I was a bit slower than usual, but the wind and wet probably caused that; certainly, they were contributing.

In any event, despite the weather, I did the twenty-three mile version of my Arlington trail loop (that actually goes through a bit of Alexandria as well).  I did it in 104 minutes, which left my speed all the way down at 13.0mph.  Considerably less than normal, to be sure.  That was with 888' of elevation, averaging 112W power.  So-so numbers across the board, really.

And with a heart rate of 123bpm, which is fairly high (max 131bpm, which is so-so).  Unsurprisingly, given that, I had 23:36 over 125bpm, which is not good at all.  The only good sign is that the average over that time was 127bpm, which means I was mostly just creeping over the line.  Still, I need to do better.

Sunday should have been a hard ride, but I didn't leave myself enough time for a long, hard ride, which was what I wanted.  How'd that work?  Well, I overslept this morning, so it means that I got hosed up even more, now.  I'll probably need to do another short, hard ride like I did the other day.  That isn't terrible, but it isn't terribly good, either.

As for what the ride was, rather than what it wasn't, I did my fifteen mile loop in sixty-five minutes, for a 13.9 mph average.  That isn't terrible, but again isn't all that good.  Elevation was around 850', and power 113W.  The power number's pretty decent, but that's at average heart rate of 124bpm, which is obviously higher than I'd want.  And my max was 133bpm, though the average while over was only 127bpm.

Riding just has not been going well over the last couple weeks.  I'll discuss a bit more of the why in my next post.

Falling behind

In writing, that is.  More than I thought, in fact.  Lately, I've been chewed up by a game a friend introduced me to, Marvel Puzzle Quest.  Silly idea, the game, take Bejeweled and give it a Marvel Super Heroes twist.  However, it works well; I'll talk about it later.

For now, though, I need to go back over the last several (ok, more than several) days of riding.

Last Thursday was an easy recovery ride, doing my eighteen mile course.  Looking at the data, it seems to've gone reasonably well, with 13.8mph average speed and 109W avg power.  It wasn't great, though, as my heart rate max was 141bpm, which is definitely too high.  Wish I could remember whether it was due to exertion or a car dive-bombing me.  It was close to twelve minutes over 125bpm, though, and that's certainly too much.

Friday did not get off to a great start; I overslept, then did a short ride of just under eleven miles (my wife needed to leave early, so I needed to be back early to get the kids ready).  I think I must not have been feeling well, because the power is only ok, and my heart rate is all over the place.  I think I had battery issues, too, because the plot shows a couple of jumps.  Ahh... I think I remember... I let the battery get down to roughly nothing while playing the game in the morning, then put it in the charger.  Since it was charging, I expected it to record everything ok, even though the battery was very low, but it had some issues with that.  It mostly worked out, but that's annoying.

Power was ok, at 119W avg, but speed was terrible, at 12.8mph.  My only explanation is that I did the toughest part of my normal ride, with almost none of the easy parts (about 700' of elevation in those eleven miles).

Saturday should have been a hard day, but I overslept even more than the day before (by about an hour, really).  Because of that, I just did my usual eighteen mile loop.  Performance was ok; speed of 14.3mph, 121bpm heart rate, 110W power.  But the heart rate was going out of control quite a lot in there.  Max was 137, with eight minutes over 125bpm.  Far less than ideal.

And to top it all off, the ground was a little wet and I slipped and slid pretty hard going around a sharp turn near my house (I am not appreciative of the car that was really, really close behind me coming down the hill before that turn).  Lost a fair bit of skin on my right hip, a bit more on my butt, and a little more on my right arm and hand (what kills me about the latter is that I have gloves that would have prevented that scratching, at least, but wasn't wearing them).  Not fun, especially when it came time to change bandages.

Sunday was a hard day.  Very hard, in fact.  I only did 16.6 miles, but that was in sixty-two minutes, with close to 1400' of elevation.  In fact, I scared myself a bit at one point.  I wanted to beat my record on the big hill on Williamsburg at the end of the ride, so I seriously pushed my way up.  Well, it worked, I topped my previous best by a second, but I looked down just after to see a heart rate of 199bpm.

I never felt any pain, or anything like that, but that's probably higher than I really want it going.  Of those sixty-two minutes, I spent thirty-six minutes in zone four, with almost ten more in zone five.  New record.  But yeah, that was the pain cave.  Still, I was pretty proud of it.

I'm very bummed, though, to not have any power data.  After turning on the cycling computer, I needed to go back to the bedroom to get my heart rate meter, and somehow that meant that the power meter was never found (I originally thought this was a Stages bug, but now I'm leaning towards it having more to do with Cyclemeter.  Still need to get in touch with the latter's company).

After that brutal ride, Monday and Tuesday were both easy rides, as planned.  Monday was my eighteen mile route, and Tuesday was the longest version of my figure-eight course, at almost twenty-nine miles (the one good thing about the injury is that none of the places that hurt touched the bike.  So sitting and laying down were problems, but biking wasn't.  Funny how that sort of thing can work).

Tuesday was mixed, in some ways.  I got a nice photo of the sunrise, which was particularly nice (the sunrise, that is), but I had to do it with my phone.  Good for sharing, less so for photo quality.  The Capital Dome, which is currently covered in scaffolding, looked particularly near, did not come out well at all, which was hugely disappointing.

Both days I had trouble with my heart rate, especially in the latter half, but not really badly.

That brings me to Wednesday, which should have been a hard ride, but it completely slipped my mind (maybe I was worrying about the weather?).  I didn't leave myself much time, though - I had to rush out the door after playing that stupid game some more - and I barely had time for my fifteen mile ride.  And the data certainly bear out that I was rushing.  My average heart rate was 124bpm, which makes it obvious that I was going much too hard.  I spent seventeen of the sixty-four minutes over 125, and that's not good.  And I averaged 133bpm over those seventeen minutes; also not good.  It wasn't just edging over from time to time.

It was another day where I found myself wishing I had a video camera on my helmet; I nearly ran into a bird that flew across my path.  And when I say nearly, I mean a matter of inches.  Neat to watch; would have been neater to have captured.  I'm getting a camera soon; I'll probably not even look at 90% of the recordings I make, but stuff like that will make it worthwhile.

So Thursday, I had to make up for Wednesday's miss.  And I overslept badly enough to not have time to ride in the morning.  I squeezed in a short ride at lunchtime, instead, and what it lacked in length, it made up for in intensity.

I did close to ten miles, with over 1000' of elevation, going at 15.5mph.  I did a calm warm-up for five or ten minutes, and it was all 'GO!' from there.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't set any records in the hills, but at least I was close.

The heart rate distribution was pretty similar to Sunday's, with seventeen minutes in zone four, and over ten in zone five.  Max heart rate was a little lower, peaking at 195bpm, but it got up into the 190s several times.  Power was... rather good.  I didn't set my instantaneous power record, but did set it up through five seconds, which was a nice surprise.  Over a longer timeframe, it was merely pretty good, but I was still pretty pleased.

I'm definitely improving in short-/medium-term power, which is good for my sprinting.  Not sure how much it does for me over longer distances, but it can't hurt.

After that abuse, Friday was obviously a recovery day, and another one where I had to rush out the door to get the ride in.  I did my fifteen mile loop in sixty-six minutes, averaging 13.6mph.  Meh.

Heart rate was 124bpm avg (pushing it, I think), with 113W power.  I should be getting more power at that heart rate.

I'll talk about the last couple days (this update has been sitting in the browser for several days now) separately.


Somewhat better

I woke up a little bit early this morning; needed to go to the bathroom.  Like the last couple days, it was a less-than-pleasant experience, but at least this time I had some imodium to take afterward.  I also downed some water right away, though probably not as much as I should have.

Regardless, I got on the bike, and did roughly what I described yesterday.  That is, I did my 25-mile figure-eight ride, going hard up the hills (and moderate to hard, otherwise).

How'd that work?  Mixed.  The first hill, which climbs S 31st St above Shirlington (going right by the apartment building where I lived for a couple years) went quite well.  I knocked 16s off my previous best (which was 92s, so better than 17% improvement), although I think the segment went ten or twenty yards further than I thought, as I tailed off a bit.  Or maybe I was just tired; I know my heart rate cleared 190bpm there.  Still, that was 7th overall, and I was quite happy with that.

There's another, very short, hill going from Fairfax Dr to the Custis Trail (just before George Mason Dr) that also went well.  I hadn't attacked that one in a long time (and have only done so a few times, actually), but took four seconds (of eighteen) off my previous best.  That put me at 10th overall (and I'm pretty sure several of the ones above me were in a car), which was also cool.

On the long climb from the Cemetary, along Rt 110, up Ft Myer Dr, then the Rt 50 access road, across Rhodes, and up Courthouse, it didn't go nearly as well.  I took four seconds (of thirty-four, and I'd hit that time four times previously) off my record for the first hill, which was great.  But by the time I cleared the Iwo Jima Memorial, I was already a second off my best, and it did not improve from there.  In the end, despite heaving at a heart rate of 195bpm, I lost nine more seconds off my best, the rest of the way.  Ah well.

I also pushed pretty hard from Gravelly Point to the Fourteenth St Bridge (forgetting that the segment extends a fair bit further than that), but ended up way off my best time (almost a minute off; would be interesting to know how the part up to the bridge compared).  And perhaps pushing there was a significant contribution to my lackluster showing a mile later, when I got to the Cemetary.

At the end, I tried to push on a segment shortly after turning from George Mason Dr onto Washington Blvd.  Unfortunately, I started well before the beginning (forgot where it started until I got there) and then blew up.  Twenty-six seconds (of fifty-six) off my record.  Ouch.

But the last hill before home, on Williamsburg, between Harrison and George Mason, I managed to hammer up and over.  I beat my previous best by three seconds (of forty-five), which is decent.  Still need to knock ten seconds off that, if I want to get into the top ten, but I think I might be able to do that if I'm not tired when I get there (not only is there the fatigue, but I didn't start pushing until the hill, and the segment starts a couple hundred yards before that.  Maybe, maybe not).  We'll see.

In any event, as you can see, pretty mixed results.  Overall, 25 miles, 1100', 17.0mph (worse than I thought), just shy of twenty-five minutes Z4-Z5 (heart-based), thirteen minutes Z4-Z7 (power-based).  Power curve?  Meh.  Decent out to 10s (935W there, done on that 14s segment mentioned above), close to my record from 1:08 to 2:27, new record 5:15-5:35 (interesting, that), and pretty mediocre otherwise.

Not bad, I guess, for being in less-than-perfect health, although I must admit to still being disappointed in a few details.  Looking forward, tomorrow and Friday will both be recovery days (although I might do extra, easy, miles on Friday because I might have some time during the day), and hopefully Saturday will be the hard group ride.

Oh, and I forgot to mention; the new wheels arrived very late today without ever indicating "Out for Delivery", for which they did have an indicator.  Don't use PostNL if you can help it.


Still not right

I've been feeling mostly better today.  Only one extended bout, although my stomach has been feeling... not right... for most of the day.

I still got out and rode, but it was a shorter ride; around ten miles.  I thought that would help a bit, although I'm not sure it did.  One amusement kind of came out of it.  I didn't feel up to much of a meal for breakfast, so I just threw some eggs in the pan, scrambling them.  But then I left them in a bit too long; not nearly enough to burn them, but enough to end up with an egg pancake, essentially.

It tasted just fine, but definitely looked odd.

I let myself be persuaded to take my daughter to school on her bike again, which worked out ok.

Overall, that's about 16.3 miles, with close to 1000' of elevation (though I screwed up twice, resulting in the elevation not being recorded on Strava for either trip to school).  On the eleven miles by myself, that was at 13.3mph, and power was only so-so at 102W.  Heart-rate was pretty good, averaging 120bpm, although I did have a spike up to 132bpm when a pick-up decided that, with two lanes available, he needed to pass within a couple feet of me (no, I was not in the middle) at very high speed.  Overall, I had four minutes above 125bpm.  No complaints there.

I could see that I wasn't all the way well, though; I was only able to push 110-120W and stay in the low 120's pulse.  That isn't bad, but is definitely worse than I was doing a few days ago.  Hopefully, I can get that back to better numbers tomorrow or the next day.

Even though tomorrow should be a "go like hell" day, I'm probably going to take it easy.  Also, I think the group ride isn't happening, since I haven't seen any emails.  And given the way I've been feeling, I'm ok with that.  I'll try to do my 25-mile loop, and if I'm feeling better, I'll attack the hills on the way, maybe.

Update: I forgot to mention, the Swiss Side Hadron wheels that I bought a while ago might arrive tomorrow.  They were shipped early last week, and made it into the country by Thursday, but have made no visible progress since.  But optimistically, they could still arrive tomorrow. I will say that I'm extremely unimpressed with the shipper, PostNL.  Their tracking (or their progress; I'm not sure which, though my inclination is to give them the benefit of the doubt, and blame the tracking) sucks rocks.  I would strongly recommend never using them, if it's an option, and you have another choice.  Six days to get from NYC (presumably where it came into the country) to here is really awful, no matter how you slice it.


Not quite tied?

I wasn't able to watch Saturday's Stanley Cup game, due to not feeling well, but just wanted to mention how impressively close the series is.  Blackhawks have a one-game lead, obviously.  They also have only a one goal lead, on the series.  Shots are tied.  No team has had even a two-goal lead at any point.

It's a shame that someone needs to lose.

Feeling better, but...

I woke up when my alarm went off, this morning, and got going pretty quickly (I probably set it five or ten minutes too late, really).  My plan was to do my 18-mile loop and get on with my day, but that fell apart pretty quickly.

Despite gulping down some water just before leaving, I still found my heart-rate going bonkers on me.  I really had a lot of trouble keeping it under 125; I kept finding it going over when I was only pushing 120-130W.

That was still an improvement over yesterday, when 100W was pushing me over, but it certainly wasn't good.

How did I do, overall?  Well, 14.8 miles, 67 minutes, 860' of elevation.  That's a 13.3mph average, with an average heart rate of 121bpm, max at 134.  And of those 67 minutes, 11 were spent over 125bpm.  I've done a lot worse, though always when pushing a lot more power.  How much did I push?  96W, off about twenty from where I should be with those heart rate numbers.

So I'm definitely not all better, even if I feel pretty good.  And actually, I felt better as the ride went along, which is promising for tomorrow.  I think if I get back into my stretching habits at night (I haven't been doing that for the last week or so), and drink plenty of water, I should be fine tomorrow.  And will hopefully be able to do the group ride on Wednesday without trouble.


Handling pain

You would think, if you just looked at the efforts yesterday and today, that the pain I'm referring to would be the 25 miles, 2000' elevation, 16.9mph ride yesterday.  But it's actually the 6.2 mile, 400', 10.7 mph ride this morning.  How is that?  Let's take a look.

Yesterday, I actually overslept, and wasn't even able to take a look at the group ride.  And I think things worked out just fine, with that (also, I checked, and the Air Force Classic is happening right now; it wasn't yesterday).

In any event, I got out a little late, and did a few miles of warm-up.  Once I felt warmed up, I went to my hill route, and attacked that (although not quite as hard as last time; I was trying to make a longer effort).  And my effort paid off, I think.  I didn't hammer any of the hills as hard as two weeks ago, but I wasn't far off, and I did way better over the distance.

Strava's climbing challenge, this month, references the Nepal earthquake, and suggests a one-day "everest"ing for a climb.  I've been thinking about trying that, and to that end I've created a couple of segments lately trying to work out the feasibility.

The first of those was a very short loop (essentially, around a big block) with a huge hill in it, that I tried on Wednesday.  It worked out to 86' of elevation in 0.6 miles.  I forget the exact number, but that works out to way over 200 miles to "Everest" by looping over it.  I also created a loop segment on my hills route that came out to 4.2 miles with 586' of elevation.  That's a tiny bit better, but still over 200 miles.

Still, the main point of mentioning that latter segment is that I beat my previous best on that one by half a minute.  And my time from two weeks ago (when I just destroyed the first hill) by almost a minute.  Interestingly, while I did way better on the initial climb on that first hill the other week, the segment extends a ways, and I ended up tying that overall time.  And on the second climb, on Lorcom Ln, I knocked two seconds (coincidentally, improving my placing by two) off my best.

From there, I took a new route that went behind my daughter's school, and into some hills in McLean, then down to Falls Church and onto the W&OD trail.  I took that back out to Idylwood, then back on Powhatan.  I meandered around a little more, thinking of it as a cool-off, but then found myself on Florida heading towards George Mason.  I decided to try for a personal record coming back down George Mason from Rt 29 to Yorktown (I used to always finish off my rides with that sprint, but haven't done so in a while).

How'd that work?  Well, I knocked six seconds off my best, bringing me into a three-way tie for KOM.  So, even better than expected.

Overall, my power curve spiked a little higher instantaneously than two weeks ago, was significantly worse from there, out to a minute and a half or so, and was comparable or better afterwards.  So, about like I wanted it.  I also hit 700-ish Watts several different times for 10-20 seconds, which is pretty good.  Heart rate had a Zone 4 mode, which was cool, with almost 44 minutes in 4 & 5.

Power zones had about 19 1/2 minutes at/over threshold, which is quite good.  And six and a half of that was 390+W, which is awesome.

And while all of that was a little draining, I felt pretty good at the end of it.

Breakfast was a bit different than my usual, of late, and I think that messed me up later in the day.  I was fine until shortly before my daughter finished ballet class, when my stomach whomped me seriously and mostly knocked me out for the rest of the day.

Which is what made this morning's ride so difficult.  Part of the problem (probably a large part) was that I didn't eat after breakfast yesterday.  I didn't want anything until very late at night, and even then, feeling empty, nothing appealed.  So I didn't eat.  Worse, I didn't drink, so I was probably pretty severely dehydrated by the time I went riding.

How bad was it?  I could only push about 80W while keeping my heart rate in my target range.  It was bad!  If I hadn't had such a long string of daily rides, I would have skipped it entirely.

I thought about making the ride a little bit longer than I did, but I'm glad I didn't.  My heart rate being so out of control is a pretty fair indicator that I probably shouldn't have done as much as I did.  It also makes me wonder if the reason I've had trouble keeping my heart rate down, in the past, after reaching an hour, is due to dehydration.  Not as bad as this morning, of course, but I wonder if a small amount might be having an effect.  Something to ponder.

Getting back to today, after finishing the ride and eating a simple breakfast, I ended up going back to bed for quite a few hours.  Not a good situation.

Update: I forgot to mention why I associated diarrhea and dehydration.  Diarrhea, if you don't replenish fluids, will cause dehydration.  In fact, diarrhea kills far more children in Africa than does malaria, and it's all due to that dehydration.  Still think clean drinking water is a solved problem?


Rushing along

Wednesday morning didn't get off to a great start, when I needed to get moving quickly, and then overslept by ten or twenty minutes.  I managed to get out of the house only about five minutes late, and rushed to the meet-up for the group ride.

I rode a little faster than I wanted, pushing my heart rate to 130-ish several times, but I did make it in time (sort of; I was a couple minutes late, but people hadn't left).

Really, though, I don't have a whole lot to say about the ride.  It was a little more strenuous than I'd really wanted, but not horribly so.  And really, after the fact, I don't think it was a bad thing, even.  I'm just glad that I took it pretty easy for quite a while, and was very warmed up by the time we started pushing a bit.

I say that not because I know that avoided problems, but just in appreciation that there weren't any problems.  It is relative, of course.  When I'm pushing really hard, I'll get my heart rate (at least briefly) up to 180-190, and I never got close to that on Wednesday.  That day, I maxed at 154bpm, and was probably only within ten of that for a few minutes.

Still, it was a good, sociable ride, especially on the return.  Power was pretty low, only 128W.  Heart rate was almost identical, at 127bpm.  I did 38 miles, with 1600' elevation, in 145 minutes, an average of 15.8mph.  Not bad.

Nothing special, but it was good to get the miles in.

Yesterday and today were pretty similar to each other.  Yesterday, I got up at 0500, and got on the bike pretty quickly.  I did almost 23 miles, and almost 900', finishing in 91 minutes (so I was a few minutes early, for once, getting home).  That was 15.0mph, averaging 122bpm and 118W.

Those are all good numbers, and while my max heart rate hit 137bpm, I think it only cleared 128 twice for a total of 15-30 seconds.  And only one of those was due to exertion; the one that was came from hurrying to make a light, since I was worried about being late.  And the second time was passing some joggers who wanted to take the whole path (group of 15-20 guys); had to keep saying, "On your left" and wait for a couple bikers from the other direction.  Very annoying all the way around.

Today might have been even better.  I woke up fifteen minutes earlier, although I think I only got out the door about five minutes earlier.  Still, it was enough to do a slightly longer course; 25 miles and a hair over 1100' elevation.  I got 120W with the same average and max heart rates, although this time the raising of heart rate came from a van that didn't want to slow down.  And it was only the one time; looks like it got up there for about twenty seconds, judging by Strava's analysis tools.

I felt pretty good about it, especially the 120W avg power.  It looks like I can push 130-140W at 125bpm, which is a pretty significant improvement over the last few months.  Makes me happy.

I am curious about the speed, though; Strava says 14.7mph, but Cyclemeter had me close to 17mph over the first hour.  That's one hell of a drop-off, if it is merely a drop-off.  One thing for sure, I had a lot more trouble with heart rate after that point than I did before.

In any event, the ride went well, and I think I'm finally ready for a hard ride tomorrow.  I don't think the group I usually ride with will be around, though; I think most of them are doing the Air Force Classic later in the day or Sunday.  I wanted to do that, but never got around to signing up.  Have to remember it for next year, though; I love the idea of being able to go like hell on blocked-off streets.

But since I'm staying home, we'll have to see how that affects things.


Threat of rain...

I got up on time this morning, but was very slow getting moving.  When I finally got out the door, we immediately started getting a touch of rain.  I kept going for a few minutes, but the light drizzle didn't go away, so I went home to at least get something waterproof to hold my phone.

I did that, changing my shoes at the same time, and then got back on the road again.  By that point, I only had time to do the 15-mile loop (although I'd already done a mile and a half or so before getting back to the house), so that's what I proceeded to do.

I discovered, to my irritation, that my power meter had cut out while I was in the house, and I couldn't get it to come back on.  So I soldiered on, with just heart rate data, and tried to do the best I could.  That wasn't too bad; I averaged 121bpm, and while I did go as high as 132bpm, I blame that on a car that got too close, rather than exertion.  Not much I can do about that.  Mostly, I kept it to 127; I had about five minutes over 125bpm, almost all at 126 or 127.  No biggies, there.

Speed-wise, I did 13.7 on the sixteen miles, which also isn't bad.

Of course, the kicker is that I saw nary a drop of rain after getting out of the house the second time.  Should have braved it.  Wish I'd at least put the phone in the baggie, beforehand.

As far as the riding itself, I was still feeling a little bit of residual effects from the century-plus on Sunday, but it wasn't bad.  Mostly, I felt it the few times when I started to push a bit (which basically only happened when I noticed my heart rate slipping down into the low teens).

So, a nice ride.  I also rode a couple extra miles later, when I escorted my daughter in to school on her bike; hoping to get her into it.  Actually, she mostly is; really need to work on my son, get him to take off the training wheels and really ride.  Soon, hopefully.


Working hard?

Last Friday, I followed through on the plan I had in my head, perfectly.

On Friday, I did my 18-mile loop, and did a pretty good job with it.  The 13.3mph speed wasn't too great, but I did keep my heart rate down below 128, with less than a minute total above 125bpm.  Rockin'.  Power was 111W avg, which is a bit below where I would like to be, but not bad.

Saturday, to take it a little bit easier, I did my 15-mile loop, although I did a little bit worse.  I finished in 66 minutes, which is 13.8mph.  That's not too bad.  And power was 115W avg, which is also pretty good.  But I did much worse with heart rate; my max was 133bpm and I spent close to eight minutes over 125bpm.  That's not good.

On Sunday, though, I was feeling pretty good.  I left the house at 0445, went a mile or so, then turned back to get a couple more items.  I got out of the house again at 0453, which was still earlier than my original plan.  Unfortunately, I decided to avoid the Toll Road for getting to Reston, and went a couple miles out of my way when I missed a turn.  Fortunately, I caught it pretty quickly, and got back on track.

When I got there, I found out that, as largely expected, the breakfast consisted of absolutely nothing I could eat.  Bagels, fruit, and energy bars.  Carbs, carbs, carbs.  I guess they didn't want to deal with plates and utensils, but I would have killed for some eggs and bacon.

I had some time to wait, and found a few of my teammates.  We hung out until 0630 (I had planned on leaving at 0600), then got on the road.  We asked for directions to start, and were pointed in the wrong direction (boy, this is already sounding familiar).  We corrected fairly quickly, although we did an extra half mile to a mile.

One thing that surprised me, was that I expected a mass start, and something like a peloton on the road.  But it was ridiculously sparse.  We ended up in a group of ten or so for the first fifteen miles.

And I should point out that we were "supposed" to do 18mph (which had me a bit concerned, beforehand), but we did manage to do that.  In Purcellville, around mile thirty, was when we really started dropping people.  In fact, our group of ten fell down to three, there.  It was me, one teammate, and another guy we didn't know who was hanging back a bit (though he decided to pass us a few miles up from there).

That just left my teammate and I, and we worked out a system.  He had aerobars (for triathlon-guy), so he led on the downhills (mostly), and I would generally pass him and lead on the uphills.  That worked well to the halfway point, when I started flagging (my first time dealing with cramps in my thighs, along with general fatigue).

But we kept going for quite a while.  Much longer than we should have, it turns out, as we took a wrong turn in Middleburg that took us seven miles out of our way through serious hills (well, as serious as it gets in that area; nothing compared to real mountains, of course).  And, of course, I ran out of water in that detour.  Not fun.

We did, eventually, figure out our mistake, though, and got back on course.  Although we hit that point on our detour, we actually did keep our 18mph speed through milemarker 72 (not really sure, after that).

Anyway, we finally hit the next rest stop at about milemarker 82, and I had to stop there, for a while, to get my muscles to uncramp (drank a lot of water, some energy drink, and had a couple electrolyte pills).  Plus, the rest helped a lot.

My teammate needed to continue on, so I didn't see him again.  Several people got to, and/or left, the rest stop while I was resting.  I mention that because, once I got moving, I managed to pass everyone else over the next 5-8 miles after leaving (and that made me happy).

From there, I did pretty well, keeping going.  I still had some cramping, but they never got nearly as bad as at that rest stop.  It helped, though, that I had a couple bananas (terrible, vis a vis my diet, but I needed the potassium) at subsequent rest stops.

The rest of the way was a bit of a struggle, and I stopped at every rest stop along the way.  Also, when I was leaving Purcellville, my phone got to the point where it stops recording (right at 99.9 miles, which is funny, considering I had set my phone up to email a few people every five miles).

Not much else to say, really; I did it, and it was a struggle.  The last couple miles, I took a pull from a woman on a time trial bike; I have no pride about that sort of thing.

Since my phone died, I don't really know what my final time was.  I managed to get it to show me finishing, but I know the timing was way off.  The time is long, by at least half an hour (maybe as much as an hour, thanks to those rest stops).  But what it has is 121.7 miles in 7:54:25.  It also has 141W power and 5450' of elevation.  Both of those numbers are badly wrong, though, thanks to the phone dying.  I wish I knew how much (I was able to get Strava to fake the distance about right, but I lost an hour or more of both power and elevation, and there's no way to get that data to come out right).  Similarly, I wonder what my "suffer score" would have been with an additional 30-40 minutes of 150-160bpm.

Still, I'm pretty happy with the results.  I'd've been a lot happier if I'd taken the phone charger on the ride (I left it in the car, and that's why I was able to fake it so that Strava saw me finishing).  I didn't realize how much the every-five-mile updates I had emailed to my wife and a couple of others would take out of the battery.  The phone was at 100% charge at the start, and it will normally 8-9 hours on a full charge (each hour sucks about 8-10%, normally).  The one other likely factor is that we might have gone out of cellular connectivity at some point, and that chews battery as well.  Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if that's the case.

Anyway, as the data is recorded, I did a 15.4mph average.  If we assume fifty-four minutes of time added (just to make the numbers even), then that would bump it up to 17.4mph.  If we add a couple more miles as well (it's probably short by about two miles), then we get 17.7mph.  Better numbers than I'd've guessed I'd be able to do, given that I couldn't draft anything like I was planning on.  And four hours of 18mph... I'm quite proud of that; if you'd asked me, beforehand, if I was capable of that, I'd've said no, even with another person helping.

In fact, using Strava's analysis page, I see 18.0mph average speed, with 170W average (158bpm heart rate; a few lower than I'd've guessed) over those four hours.  Still lots of room for improvement, but I was very pleased.

So, lots to like about the ride.  A couple of lessons: bring more electrolyte tablets (1/hour not enough).  Two, bring the phone charger case.  Three, some nuts for snacks would be good.  Four, Quest bars work well.  Five, don't expect food to be provided.  Six, be more careful with directions.

Still, a very good experience, and one to build on.

This morning, as you'd expect, was totally about recovery.  I didn't get things ready last night; I was too tired.  I thought that might cause problems, but it did not.  I got out on time, or maybe even a little early.

I wasn't sure about how far to go, but ended up doing my 15-mile loop in 66 minutes (13.6mph).  I averaged 121bpm, and maxed at only 127bpm.  I think that's about as good as I can reasonably hope for.

Power was 109W; a little lower than I'd've liked.  I'd like it to be more like 120-130W.  Well, I'll just have to keep working on it.  Tomorrow will be another recovery day, though I'll at least add the three miles to get me to my 18-mile loop.  After that, I'm not sure; I'd like to do the group ride on Wednesday, but I'm not sure if that's feasible.  I'll have to see how my legs feel, I guess.


Killin' some Hillin

Yesterday, I didn't ride in the morning.  My shoulder was in serious pain when I went to bed the night before, and I didn't sleep well.  And I was still in pain when I woke up.  Everything seemed to move ok, but doing so was just miserably bad pain.

In the afternoon, I finally finished a work task, so I took a couple motrin, and forced myself out onto the bike.  I wasn't planning on going very far; nine miles or so, but ended up a bit shorter.  Basically, I got about a mile away, and started feeling misting rain.  Concerned that it might get worse, I turned back, and just meandered around my neighborhood, taking it easy.

When I found myself at the foot of the huge hill on Williamsburg, though, I decided I needed to attack that.  And I did.  I went up the 8% grade (avg) in 50/25 or 50/23, which was quite a bit better than that of which I thought I was capable.  That put me at 5th overall on Strava, pushing 622W for the whole 31s climb.

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful ride, though.  Only 7.3miles and 500' of elevation.  But the good part was that my shoulder was bothering me a lot less at the end of the ride than at the beginning.

Today, I also slept in (relatively; I still got up before 0700, which is way earlier than I ever got up before having kids), and saw the doctor early.  My shoulder was feeling a lot better, and he mostly gave me a clean bill of health.  Gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, along with some exercises to do (and told me to avoid the push-ups and back-bridges that I regularly do), but said everything looked fine structurally.  More importantly, he said biking was fine, which made my day.

I celebrated by going on a ride after taking the anti-inflammatory.  I decided to do my normal 18-mile course, except adding one big hill.  And seriously attacking all the big hills, but otherwise taking it easy.

The results?  Four top-ten finishes on big hills, with PRs on four others.  And I just destroyed my power curve for the year, up to 2:20 (and it stayed close afterwards, all the way out to an hour, at least).

Total ride? 19.4 miles (1250') in 75 minutes, which works out to 15.6mph (remember, very much taking it easy between climbs).  Three minutes in zone five, per heart rate (although that's actually low.  I finished the extra climb with the meter showing only 131bpm, and I know it was at least 181.  I certainly can't push 396W for 46s at 131bpm.  If I could do that, I'd take a few weeks off from writing software to crush the Tour de France).  And four minutes in zone 7, per power, which is pretty awesome.

Because I was relaxing so much, between hills, I didn't get a whole lot of sustained time in zones four or five, but I was really happy with what I did do on those hills.  I pushed my 20s peak power over 1kW, which is better than I thought I'd be able to do.  I raised the one minute peak from 551W to 634W.  According to Cyclemeter, I had a one-hour peak of 306W, although I now suspect that's peak adjusted power, not peak average power (and frankly, I'm not sure what the value of peak adjusted power is).  Still, that's just killing it.

So I'm pretty psyched.  I'm going to be taking it easy for the next two days, though, as I'm preparing for the Tour de Cure on Sunday (that'll be 108 miles).  I won't be pushing any watts, and I won't be doing a lot of miles (maybe as much as 15 per day, but probably less).


Legging out soreness

Yesterday morning, I overslept by a good bit, and got out late enough that I only had an hour and change for riding.  Plus, my legs were quite sore to start with, so I wasn't anxious to get out and push the pedals.

I did get out in time to get my 15-mile loop in, and finished it in a few minutes over an hour.  It was a hair over 15 miles, with almost 1000' of elevation, all at 14.2mph.  Not bad.  Mixed results on the heart rate limit, though: I spent only two minutes over 125bpm, which is excellent, but with a maximum of 140bpm (I was trying to beat a traffic light a mile from home).  Still, that's better than I'd remembered it being, and I have no complaints.

This morning, I was feeling a lot better (leg-wise), and set out about on time.  I did my shortest figure eight (25.4 miles, 1100' elevation), and in just about exactly the desired amount of time (1:45:35, in the event).  That worked out to 14.5mph, which was good.

But after the one-hour mark, I had one hell of a time keeping my heart rate down.  I think I was just about perfect up to that point, but from there on, I was regularly finding myself over 125bpm.  It ended up as twenty-one minutes over, which is terrible, and a maximum of 138, also terrible (especially the why it hit so high; I was trying to overtake a jogger before they hit a jogger going the other way.  Should have waited, as I was about 126-7 before the several seconds of effort to pass.  Still, I exceeded 130bpm several times).

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.  It just seems to spike up much more easily, once I've been riding for a while.  My average heart rate was just about exactly what I would like, but the spread is just way too high.  Need to figure something out.


Piling up the miles

Wednesday morning, it was a bit of a struggle, but I managed to get up early enough to meet the group in Vienna.  I was about five minutes late getting out of the house, but I was prepared for hard riding, so it wasn't a disaster.

I rolled out at 0430, and immediately started pushing a little bit.  As I went, and got warmed up, I started pushing a bit more, and really got going once I got to the Beltway (lots of hills before that).  I made it to the meet-up on time; in fact, I had a couple of minutes to wait for some of the others to get ready.

After a couple of minutes, we got moving, and we moved pretty well.  Nothing record-shattering, or anything like that, but it was good.

We got out to Herndon without incident.  Part of the reason why I wanted to do a hard day, that day, was that I wanted to try to really hammer a segment out there, where the route circled an office park.  I did that, but I started too early, and started tiring well before the end.  I was able to keep pushing, and keep my heart rate up, through the end, but my power dropped drastically before the end (though with my power meter dying at the meet-up, I couldn't see the details).

We did a couple laps there; because of my dying so early, I didn't do as well as I'd hoped, though still well enough for sixth.

We rushed a little bit to get back, which was mostly ok, although one SUV that went flying through a stop sign, and almost through a second, caused a couple of companions to stop/fall (I was a second or two ahead, and was ok).

We made pretty good time on the way, and I separated from the others in Vienna again.  I noticed a guy in full racing kit at the light at 123, although I started out ahead of him there.  Half a mile or so ahead, though, he passed me and started cruising.  He was only going a little faster than me, though, so I decided to speed up a little to stay with him.

I did so for a couple of miles, although I think he might have been getting a little annoyed towards the end, as he started speeding up more, including when going up a hill.  We separated at the top of that hill (and he really hammered it up that hill; to give an idea how much, my heart rate hit 191bpm a few seconds later.  Wish I'd had power data, I suspect it was over 400W); I went left as he went right.  I called out "Thanks for the pull, and have a nice day" as we pulled apart.  Hope he wasn't too annoyed.

Turning that way put me onto Idylwood, and I took that up past Rt 7 in Falls Church.  There's a long segment that starts at Rt 7 that I'd really crushed the first half of, recently.  That day, I took a more moderate push, and kept it up all the way to the end of the segment (at Great Falls St).  That was enough for me to improve my time by thirteen seconds (12-13%), which felt pretty good.

From there, I kept pushing all the way home, eventually arriving about ten minutes earlier than I needed to be.  So I was quite happy; I'm sure drafting with that one dude saved me a couple minutes; he was really pushing for quite a bit of that distance.  Too bad he isn't on Strava; might have been able to chat a bit about it later, over email.

In any event, mostly I was glad that the rain for which the forecast had been calling didn't show up (in fact, despite constant calls for it, I think we didn't get anything until Friday night).

Overall, the ride was thirty-nine miles, with 1500' of elevation.  Finishing it in 2:11:55 made for an average of 17.8mph.  Per heart-rate data, I managed just shy of forty minutes in zones four and five, which was fabulous.  I had about for minutes at/over threshold, per power data, but that was all in the first twenty-seven minutes.  I certainly had more, later, and I wish I knew how much so.

Regardless, as you'd expect, that left Thursday and Friday both being recovery days.  Still, I tried to do as many miles as I could in there, and got up in time to get about ninety minutes in on Thursday.  I decided to try my old Farlex Loop, hoping I could get it done in that time frame (I knew it would be pushing it).

I finished it in 92 minutes, which made for a 15.1mph ride; fantastic for a recovery ride.  The downside was that I spent more time than I wanted at over 125.  I mostly kept it under 130, but did get as high as 137bpm once or twice, and I was pretty annoyed at that.  And that was just over twenty minutes total time over.

Still, I had a fun time, and even passed a few people.  And I felt really good about that average speed; I think I did 16.9 miles in the first hour, per Cyclemeter.  I was shocked when I saw that.  I realized, too, that it was a good thing I did, because I'd never make it back in time, otherwise.  In fact, when I left, I was going to do my shortest figure eight, but decided that even though I was making such good time, that that was too ambitious.  Good choice.

I finished with 23.2 miles and 800' of elevation, so it was a bit flatter than I've been doing recently, but pretty good mileage.

Friday, I got up at the same time, but got out of the house sixteen minutes earlier, so I did have time for the figure eight, if a shorter variant.  I wasn't able to do nearly as fast, but it was fast enough.  I got through 25.2 miles and 1100' (on the nose, amusingly) in 107 minutes, which put me home dead on time.

And I was able to get power data, which really does help for pacing myself.  I can't say as I did hugely better on pacing; my high on heart rate improved to 132, but I only cut down on overall time above 125bpm by half a minute or so.  So-so results, at best.

Saturday did not start out well.  I had planned to get up early, get half an hour or so of warm-up in before joining the group, and riding hard with them.  But I failed right from the get-go; going back to sleep for an hour, and not even getting out of the house before the meet-up time.  I finally forced my way out the door, though, and rode at a very easy pace for twenty minutes to get my legs feeling decent (my calves, for some reason, were really sore when I got up).

Once I finished warming up, I went into the hills and started riding hard.  I didn't set too many records, but my power numbers were very good (across the board, according to Cyclemeter; per Strava, good in very, very short bursts and decent to good for longer durations).

After half an hour of hill repeats, I started riding to do some cool-down.  After ten minutes or so of that, however, I decided to push hard the rest of the way.  So that's what I did.

I ended up with 23.8 miles, and just shy of 2000' of elevation.  That was with an average of 16.2mph, which wasn't too bad.  I had about 36 minutes of time at/above threshold, counting by heart rate.  By power zones, it was about seventeen minutes; still not bad numbers.  For sure, I was seriously tired at the end, and maybe only missed a little bit by not going on the group ride.

Today, of course, was all about recovery.  I had a bit of time, and made it a long, but gentle, ride.  I did thirty-seven miles in two and a half hours (just about on the nose), covering 1600' of elevation.  That was an average of 14.8, which was great.

Even better, I did a pretty good job with my heart rate, limiting it to 131bpm and less than 13 minutes over 125 bpm.  Still some work to be done, there, but that was pretty decent.

And I still haven't seen that rain that's been forecast each of the last six days (well, not while riding; I think we got a little rain Friday night).  In fact, the weather has been beautiful.  We'll see if that continues.

Tomorrow will definitely be a recovery day; Tuesday might be, as well.  Wednesday will be a hard day if Tuesday isn't.  Then Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (especially the latter two) will all be easy rides, in preparation for Sunday's Tour de Cure.  If you'd like to help sponsor me, every little bit helps, and I'd much appreciate it.