Forcing through frost

For this morning's ride, I went back to my road bike.  And that felt like a good decision for a while, despite the temperature being in the teens (it was supposed to be 3-4 degrees warmer).  And then I got past the Metro at East Falls Church, and saw a bit of ice.  The first bit wasn't bad, and I went another half mile or so until I saw a second.

And that one wasn't good, but at least it was short.  Then there was a longer stretch, but the ice was mostly covered in snow (never would have guessed that I would preferentially choose snow for riding, but it was worlds better than the bits of exposed ice).  Then there was more.  By the time I got to the third street after Rt 29, I gave up and went to a nearly parallel road.  I went on the road for several blocks, then looked at taking the bridge across Rt 7.

The path to the bridge was clear, but the bridge was completely covered in snow (and maybe ice under that), so I turned around, and went back to the road.  Then down Rt 7 to Idylwood, where I turned right (my original path would have taken the bike trail to Virginia Ave, then a block on a road whose name I forget, and then turning right onto Idylwood.  Essentially, I cut out a couple of miles by turning there.

And that was probably a good decision, even if my snow/ice concerns were unfounded (which would surprise me), because going down Idylwood was when the cold started bothering me.  And man, did it ever.

I was balling my hands up, and still feeling it.  In fact, my face was even feeling cold, and I think that's the first time that was bothering me (I've only occasionally covered as much as my chin; usually, I have nothing covered there.  The one time I covered more than that, at the end of a ride, the minute or two that I did it was enough to convince me that doing so is a terrible idea).

But I soldiered on, and made it home.  I do think that the mittens I was extolling so much yesterday (forgot to mention: Burton AK 3L Hover Mitts) are just better for the hybrid (because of the flat bar and shifter mechanism).  I have to hold my hands a little differently, which exposes them (especially the thumbs) slightly more (or a lot more, depending on my grip).  Also, while I can do all my shifting that way, going down the cassette or down the chainring is tough.

Plus, I just got the bike back from the shop, where the brifter got replaced.  The brifter itself is fine, but I also asked them to look at the front derailleur, because I was having occasional problems with that.  Well, I'm still having the same problems.  Maybe it worked a little better the first time or two, but then it was right back where it'd been a week ago.  Not sure what to do about that.

Regardless, another recovery tomorrow, then riding hard on Saturday.

Catching up

[this was written yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to post it]

Somewhat interesting few days, for me, on the bike.

Sunday, I had a bit more time (I didn't need to be back until 0800, plus I got woken up a little early), so I decided to take a much longer ride. In fact, I was thinking, after Saturday's torture, that I should probably try to do the really hard rides during the week, and save the weekend for longer rides.

Anyway, I did twenty-four miles (which is quite a lot, riding the hybrid, I think), and had no trouble keeping my heartrate in my target range (which was a bit surprising after what happened Friday). It turned out I had time to do a bit more, but wasn't sure and didn't want to risk going overboard. But I still had a good time, and felt quite good afterwards.

Monday, I didn't have a lot of time, and wanted to take a different route, so I rode down to Shirlington, and circled around there (going up the long hill on S 31st St where I lived, many moons ago), then came back home. It was a bit annoying, actually, as way too many cars wanted to drive much too close to me for comfort. But that was the only downside to the ride; heart rate stayed in my target range pretty well. It was cold and wet, but that didn't bother me at all, that day.

Tuesday, the weather took a distinct turn for the worse, as we got an inch or so of snow. However, I had the presence of mind to check on my daughter's school, so I knew, starting out, that I had a bit more time than usual. Again, some jackasses wanted to drive way too close (and way too fast), but at least they were gone quickly, so I didn't end up dwelling on them. And again, it was cold, but not bothering me. I did wish I was riding my road bike (not the least of which reasons was that I can put the rain fender on, which would have kept the back of my coat from getting covered in salt), but I still had a good time.

The cold not bothering me either of those days says really good things about the snowboarding mittens I finally broke down and bought a couple weeks ago. They just rock. My hands don't get cold much, and, when they do, it's very easy to bunch my fists within and warm up. I feel the cold occasionally, but it rarely bothers me.

Today, even though I got my road bike back late yesterday, I decided I wanted to try to duplicate my torture ride from Saturday. So I kept the pedals on the hybrid, and got out there. Eventually. I woke up almost forty minutes late (first time in quite a while I've been more than fifteen minutes late getting up), and then realized I'd forgotten to charge my lights. Fortunately, I was able to make do in the lighting department. As expected, my front light had plenty of charge, and I was able to use my back-up rear light. Both did make it through the ride without issues (in fact, in an attempt to run down the back light, I ended up leaving it on the entire day.

But putting it on added to the time needed.

Fortunately, I wasn't planning a terribly long ride. So I got moving, and found almost no ice on the road (my secondary reason for riding the hybrid; it can deal with ice. I'd like to not break another brifter anytime soon). And I started pushing right away. I'm not sure if I pushed as hard as Saturday (I was trying, but I have no way of judging if I succeeded), but I was definitely pushing hard. Speeds over the first parts of the ride were very similar, though not identical. Anyway, I never got close to 200 heart rate; I topped out at 182. Health-wise, that's probably a good thing, but it was disappointing to me nonetheless.

The good part was that I did get a good ride in. Only about forty-five minutes, but it was a pretty tough forty-five. I did over 800' of elevation in there, and still averaged fourteen miles per hour (which is good, on that bike). It wasn't quite as much elevation per minute as Saturday's torture-fest, but it was pretty close.

One thing I do wonder is if Saturday's ride did any serious improvement for me, physiologically. I felt much better today, than after that ride (to say nothing of how much better I felt during it). I'll have to do my MacArthur loop this coming Saturday as a benchmark.

Another thing that I've realized, over the last several days, is that getting out of the saddle regularly is really important. It isn't a matter of pushing harder (though it does help with that), but more a matter of getting blood flowing better through the butt, and into the legs. It also helps with keeping hands warm, although that's less of a big deal.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll be back on the road bike, so we'll see how that goes. It'll definitely be nice to have better data from the rides.


Get your sh!t together

This morning did not start out well.  I got up on time, but immediately remembered that I hadn't charged my phone last night.  I found it, put it on the charger, then got dressed to ride.

I got out the door, and immediately realized I'd also forgotten to put the lights on the bike last night, and therefore left them inside.  Walked around the house, inside, walked through to get them, then got started again.  Three-tenths of a mile later, I realized I'd also forgotten my helmet due to changing my mind at the last minute about which jacket I was going to use (the FuguJack I put on has an integrated hood/balaclava).

Went back to the house, walked through again, got the helmet and got out the door.  When I got home, I was informed that that trip through the house had woken the little one.  Ugh.

Finally got on the road, and realized that I wasn't going to have time to do my planned ride, despite it not being a recovery day.  But once I was on the road, things went just fine.  I ended up getting back a little earlier than I'd planned, but that might have been a good thing, given that I'd woken the little one up.

I did manage to get a little ride in, in the afternoon, as well.  That wasn't bad, even with the snow that was coming down at the time.  I experimented with a new route, mostly just for the hybrid, and that worked out pretty well.


At a loss

I'm not sure what all I want to say about them, but I thought I should say something about the performance of the Caps.

The Caps have played five games since I last talked about them, the results being three wins followed by three losses (all games decided in regulation).

The Caps did not do especially well against the Red Wings, but got lucky with an early goal by Brouwer on the power play.  The Capitals got some backhanded help, too, when Howard injured himself on that play.  They scored twice more in the second on Mrazek, getting a little more luck.

Ericsson got one back just before the end of the second, but the Caps were able to hold it together without further scoring through the third.

In all, outplayed but they did have some strong plays that carried them through.

The Avalanche were next, and the Caps did well against them.  Beagle got the only goal of the first (I think it was a rebound of a Chimera shot), despite the Caps generally not doing great through that period.

In the second and third, though, the Caps turned it on and played very strongly.  Their only goal was an OV power play marker, but they only allowed one goal, by Tanguay on the power play, to go with it.  So Holtby outplayed Varly, though Varly did have a bit more work.  Both, however, were called on to make some pretty tough saves.

The Flyers game, as I think I alluded to in another post, I missed entirely.  Verdammt changes in channels.  But the Caps did reasonably well, getting an early goal an holding on to make that good enough.

Next were the Preds, with Trotz making his first return to Nashville since coming to Washington.  And it was quite a mixed bag.  They didn't do well through the first, with Seth Jones scoring the only goal on a wrister off a face-off.

Neal got a lucky bounce off a skate to give the Preds a two-goal advantage, early in the second.  Then OV struck twice, both one-timers from his normal spot.  The first looked like his normal power play goal, except that Alzner fed the pass instead of Green, Carlson, or Niskanen.  The second was a one-timer from his normal spot on the power play, except that the feed came out of the corner, via Brouwer (and it looked like a broken play, except that I've never seen Brouwer make a no-look pass like that one, so I'm not sure).

When MarJo scored, early in the third on the power play (nice determination on a stuff play; took him three tries), it looked like the Caps were going to cruise home.  Then Ekholm scored on the power play with 4 1/2 left, then Neal made a lucky pretty steal of a cross-ice, D-to-D, saucer pass and beat Holtby with a minute and a half left.

The Caps tried to tie it up again late, but weren't really able to control the puck in the offensive zone.

Finally, the Caps faced the Stars in a wild one that I turned off after the first period (they were looking pretty terrible up to that point).  They went down three-love, then tied it up early in the third, then surrendered two more, sixteen seconds apart, then got a late one to make it close again.

But that was the end of the scoring, and the Caps came home empty-handed.

I'm looking at the Corsi numbers now, and my feelings seem largely borne out.  The Caps did not do well, 5-on-5 close in Detroit (horrible, actually), nor great in Dallas (though closer than I'd've guessed), but were dominant in Nashville (which is a surprise; I didn't think they did poorly, but not nearly that well), Philadelphia, and Colorado.  The lowest of those latter three was 55.4%, which is very good.

As far as players, the offensive lines haven't changed much (other than the occasional musical chair at top-line left wing.  Bura's mostly been there, but several others are getting a shift or two a game).  OV and Backstrom are largely keeping the team afloat, killing it despite tough opposition.  Kuzya, MarJo, and Brouwer are doing pretty well, with MarJo getting most of the line's goals (who'd'a thunk it?).  And Fehr, Laich, and Ward continue to be a pretty decent shut-down line.

Wilson's been in that spot on the top line occasionally, but has mostly been on the fourth line.  Color me surprised, but he's still drawing penalties while there, so that's fantastic.  And while the line hasn't generated a lot of offense, they've done a good job keeping play in the offensive end of the ice.  If that's all that line does, I'd still call it a successful line (since it's the fourth).  And they have scored a few.

Beagle's been playing.  While I'm not thrilled with that, the results have not been bad.  As I said, that line has looked pretty decent.

Defensively, I believe Schmidt came back for one game (and I was hoping that was a sign that Trotz had realized Schmidt is the better player), but then got sent down, and then injured (and is out for several more weeks).  So Hillen has been getting a lot of playing time.  He's actually looked pretty good when I've noticed him, but his numbers are still pretty bad, despite heavy sheltering.

Alzner's looking better, offensively, but I'm a little concerned that his Corsi numbers aren't great.  I wonder if he's giving up something on the back end when he's getting more involved in the offense.  Nothing I can put my finger on, but I do wonder.

Niskanen's Corsi numbers have improved since I last looked, though he does seem to have gotten quite a few penalties.  I hope that's just an aberation, because this team definitely needs to stay out of the box.

On the goalie front, Peters finally played in the Dallas game, and was even down in the AHL for a bit.  So I'm not encouraged about Trotz keeping Holtby in good shape, despite the results over the span.  My one hope is that Korn is keeping a close eye on Holtby, and has been sure Holtby was in good shape.  Still, I'm worried about him being burnt out; he's too good to be wasted for a nothing stretch in the middle of the season.

Overall, despite how the Nashville game ended, it's hard to be upset, or even disappointed, with the overall results.

Let's hope the good feelings continue tonight, against Edmonton (who have, I believe, despite being around the bottom of the league overall, beaten the Caps the last several times they've played).  Go Caps!

Ride West, young man!

Yesterday, things did not go well for me, on the bike.  I was going to take a pretty long ride, but pretty slow, until I got to where the Custis trail meets the W&OD.  Instead of heeding the titular advice, I turned east, hit a patch of black ice on the turn, and wiped out.

Mercifully, the extent of the bodily injury was a not-too-bad scrape on my hip; hurt like hell when it happened, but otherwise pretty ignorable.  Somehow, though, falling down onto my left side, I snapped my right brifter, almost in half.  It was good enough to ride home, barely, after I played with it a bit, but I was stuck on, essentially, a two-speed bike.

I was a bit nervous about riding (I wasn't sure yet what state the brifter was in, and my hip was bothering me a little; I wasn't sure yet if there was something more serious), so I turned towards home pretty quickly.

So it ended up being merely a seven-mile ride, and I certainly need to replace the brifter (bike is currently in the shop for that.  Hoping they can get it back to me today, but dunno if that's a realistic hope).

And the hip, as I said, isn't doing badly at all.  Physically, I had no problems with this morning's ride, although it was on the hybrid, alas.  And the hybrid still has the spiked tires, also alas.  That made for a very slow ride, and one with very little data (no power or cadence data, as both meters are on the road bike (one inevitably, and the other accidentally)).

So slow, in fact, that I ended up shortening the route (and not getting lost, somehow) and getting back just about exactly when I was hoping to do so.  Taking hills while staying zone two on that hybrid is very slow work.  Slow enough that I got passed a couple of times today (first day I've ever been passed by more than one person, and it's rare that I get passed even once).  Plus, I ended up on the 18% grade of the Williamsburg hill near my house; I was trying to avoid that.

On the plus side, I actually did an excellent job of staying in zone two; I was worried a couple of times that I'd pushed too hard (including the aforementioned hill), but it looks like I kept it all good.

Snow tomorrow (though maybe just after I finish riding), so I'll probably ride the hybrid again tomorrow, regardless of availability.  But at the least, I'll remember to go get my cadence meter, if so.


It was the best of times, it was...

Yeah, not the best, Wednesday morning.  First, I woke up, and it sounded like the cars on the road were driving on very wet pavement.

I'd checked the weather the afternoon or evening (I forget exactly when) before, and it was promising very cold (20F) but dry.  Well, it turned out to be snowing.

Then I got to my bikes.  The pedals were on the road bike (I probably need to buy a second pair), plus I had forgotten to charge the phone.  On my first glance, I thought it said 10%, which was probably enough for the ride.  When I went to turn the computer on, I saw that the phone was actually saying 1%; not even enough to stay alive for the ride without recording for Strava.  Double ugh.

I still wasn't sure about the snow, so I went out with the road bike once I'd gotten dressed.  I decided, because of the salt on the roads, to take a bit of a chance with it.

But because the road conditions had me worried, I stayed on a big street, and basically went five miles down that street, then turned around and came straight back.

Aside from the worry, and the snow blowing into my eyes (especially at the beginning), it wasn't a bad ride, but I'm still glad I didn't push it any further.

Insult was added to injury, on the snow front, when I went to take my daughter to the bus, and I found the ski goggles I'd ordered eight days earlier had finally arrived (I'd ordered them via Prime, so I'm not sure what happened.  Very irritating, regardless of why).

The rest of the day went pretty well, except that I forgot to set the DVR to record the Caps game (had forgotten they were playing, and I only record automatically on CSN/+).  But my wife took me out for a very tasty (if extremely sinful, especially after I downed the extra-large slice of cheesecake).

That cheesecake came back to bite me a bit the next morning, when I woke up with a slightly upset stomach.  But I plowed into my normal ride (on clear roads and paths, this time), and felt pretty decent by the end of it.

This morning, my legs felt a little tired (which seems to be happening a lot recently, and I still don't know why; aside from doing four minutes of intervals each of Tuesday and Wednesday, I haven't pushed it in about a week), but otherwise things went well.  Although it was a bit colder than forecast (said 28F, but was mostly 25-27F, and got as low as 23F for a bit).

The one thing that I wonder about is that I saw quite a few more bikers this morning than I had in a week or more.  No idea why.

One thing I have decided.  I need to find a way to increase my output by a bit when I'm not paying full attention.  I tend to slide back to 70-80W, and I need to keep it up at 120-ish.  That'll get me done quite a bit faster without pushing me into Zone 3.  I also think I need to start doing some form of exercise that will work on pulling my legs upwards.  I think that'll help quite a bit when I'm looking to push hard (and maybe a little even when I'm not).


A bit of charity

I found out my work is sponsoring the 2015 American Diabetes Assn Tour de Cure, and decided to combine my love of riding with a bit of charity, and signed up for the June 7th ride in this area (Northern Virginia).  I need to find the course, but it'll be a 108-mile ride along (major?) roads.

I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, the great news is that my company will be matching donations if I meet the $500 minimum (if I meet it, all donations will be matched, not just those over $500), so if you'd like to help the American Diabetes Association's mission of community-based education and research funding, please go to my page and donate generously.

As someone who feels that large corporations are generally not doing their part to support other people, I would love to make them pay.  And, of course, all donations are tax deductible.

Also, I should point out that, as Americans' waist lines are expanding (note that no state in that picture is under 20% of self-reported obesity.  Not just being overweight, but actually obese), diabetes is likely to become a major, major problem in the not-too-distant future.  So anything we can do about it now will be a great help.

Thank you for your support.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Caps progress

I'm really not feeling too much like trying to play catch-up on all the games that I haven't written about (though I watched all of them except the Penguins game.  And yes, I'm still not sure how I missed that one.  And with the shutout win, I was very disappointed), so I'll go with some more general thoughts about current situation and recent past.

The biggest of those is the recent (not entirely unexpected) resurgence of Braden Holtby.  He's been amazing lately, outright stealing a couple of games, and coming close to a couple of others.  The downside, though, is that Trotz has lost confidence in Peters and won't play him.  Holtby is already up to twenty games now, and that's already too many.

Yes, I know he's still over fifty games from the (league) record, but pushing that didn't work all that well for the '96 Blues.  There's also the issue that it tends to burn out goalies, and this is the bigger problem.  On a game by game basis, putting Holtby in is, unquestionably, the right decision.  But cumulatively, it becomes disastrous.

Usually, it's something that happens with desperate coaches, but there's no reason to think that Trotz should be desperate.  So Barry, give Holtby a rest regularly.  It'll be good for both of you, even if it does lose a few games in the short term.  Really, it wouldn't be more than a few.  Holtby's long-term health is worth a hell of a lot more than that.  And Peters might surprise you, too (he's due for at least a little bit of positive regression to the mean).

Fehr and Alzner are both showing a bit of scoring touch (relative to their position, of course); let's hope that continues with both.

MarJo is having a very good year.  I was thinking about it when he scored his second last night, but couldn't remember him scoring multiples before.  Can't believe I forgot the game where he and OV each scored a pair.

Bura needs more ice time.  He's just killing it when he's out there, with his goal the other night just being the exclamation point on that.  I don't know what he did to get into Barry's dog house, but he needs to be on the ice.  I don't think the top line is the best place for him (his original 2C was better, I think), but it isn't a terrible place, either.

Kuzya seems to be coming into form as a good center.  His faceoffs are pretty terrible, but I'm not that sold on that being a huge liability.  I think I'd prefer to see Bura dropped down to 2C, Kuzya as 3C (whether with Laich and Ward or Chimmer and Ward), and move Fehr back up to the top line, where he was knocking it out of the park earlier in the season.

Fehr's a decent center, and surely better in the faceoff dot than either Bura or Kuzya, but his defensive prowess (mostly, getting his stick into passing lanes, which he's become excellent at) would really bolster the top line.

Laich has been pretty effective, but I still wouldn't mind seeing him dropped to fourth line in favor of Chimmer.  That's not a slight on Laich, just a recognition of Chimmer and Ward's chemistry.  Or maybe put Laich between Chimmer and Ward as a shutdown line again, dropping Kuzya down.

Then scratch Beagle, put Latta back in, and make the fourth line a soft-minutes scoring line, rather than a shutdown one.

And, for God's sake, stop putting Beagle on the top line.  It has never worked, and there's no reason to think it will.  At least now, it's gotten to be a rarity, but it still happens from time to time.

Wilson, I'm not sure how to handle.  He's lost his main value since being moved down, which was his ability to draw penalties.  But I'm not saying that it was a mistake to move him down; I don't think it was.  But I'm not sure where his best value is.  Maybe he'd do well in that fourth-line scoring line I postulated.

On the defensive side, I've been pretty pleased with how things have gone.  Carlson and Orpik are doing a good job eating up the tough assignments without getting crushed possessionally.  Alzner and Niskanen are doing a decent job with the not-quite-so-tough assignments, and Green and Schmidt are cleaning up in the easy time.

Except that Schmidt has been scratched a lot lately, and Hillen has been getting killed, possessionally.  With more offensize zone starts.  And easier competition.  The only thing I've heard that makes any sense at all is that it might be related to Schmidt's waiver status (as in, he's waiver-exempt unless he plays a few more games).

If it's related to Hillen's extra assist in half the number of games, then i'm going to say that Trotz has a blind spot regarding one or both of those two.  Because that's not the way to bet, if you're trying to figure out which is the better player.

And man, I thought it might have something to do with goal scoring (as Hillen has a higher PDO than Schmidt), but the goal-scoring is even more skewed towards Schmidt than are Fenwick or Corsi.  So color me befuddled.

In any event, what can be said is that the team is going along pretty well.  Their standings point pace is higher than it's been since Boudreau was at the helm, and they haven't had a really bad game since they played the Rangers a couple weeks ago.  And the only seriously worrisome sign is Holtby's workload.  And that'll be far more worrisome if Holtby plays the back end of the back-to-back tonight.  We'll see.

Go Caps!

And a cold day for all

I knew today was going to be cold; it was projected at 9F, as of last night.  So I got out lots of clothes.  Two pairs of socks for my feet.  Shorts and tights for my legs (although not the thermal shorts, as they were already dirty).  Base layer and jersey for my torso.  Ski gloves and liners for my hands.  FuguJack for the outer shell.

The only thing I didn't do, that I would have, is to wear a helmet cover for my head, but I don't have one of those.  Well, and the gloves that I was expecting to arrive yesterday did not; I was pretty pissed about that.  Somehow (assuming they arrive today), they will have taken two days to go fifteen miles or so.  A handoff to the post office (from UPS) had something to do with it; the irony there being that UPS still had to deliver some other packages today.  Regardless of the reason, it pissed me off to be missing cold-weather gloves on the coldest day of the year.

In any event, I got out on the road at the normal time, riding the hybrid.  I skipped any trails, so I might have been ok on the road bike, but didn't want to chance it (plus, the avoiding of the trails was not really a planned decision; more of one made while riding).

I got down to Shirlington, still feeling pretty well.  I only had the tiniest bit of chilliness in my fingers, and felt fine everywhere else.  But when I circled around Shirlington, I noticed that my phone or RFLKT+ had died, and after a couple minutes I figured out how to tell that it was the phone that had gotten too cold.  Ugh.

Since I was feeling a little bit in my fingers, I was already starting to think about turning around.  Seeing the phone dead confirmed that decision, and I felt really good about the decision once I realized that the phone being dead meant that I could end up in real danger if I had some sort of mechanical problem with the (sixteen or seventeen year old) bike.

So I ended up going straight home; I thought about the same side trip to East Falls Church I'd taken the last couple of days, but decided that my fingers weren't going to handle it.  Plus, I was even more likely to have trouble with mechanical issues.

My timing ended up being pretty good, as I got home right as my wife was outside to get the newspaper.  That meant I could take the bike straight inside, rather than leaving it in the garage for a while as I normally do.  Plus, I didn't need to take my hands out of my gloves to get the garage open.  Win, win.

One thing that occurred to me, that I didn't test, is that I might be able to wear my new middle-layer jacket under my FuguJack.  When I got home, I tested that, and it fits ok (not perfect, of course, but workable, I think).  So instead of a heavy base layer and jersey, I think I'll wear that jacket under the fugujack, next time I find temperatures in the single digits.  Or maybe a heavy base layer and the smartwool midlayer that I just remembered that I have (and that I got for just such days).  I guess we'll see.  The limiting factor will still be the gloves, though, I'm pretty sure.

Well, tomorrow will feel balmy, with temperatures in the mid to low 20s projected.  Recovery day.  And I think I'll ride the road bike.


Add ice to the mix

I almost tried to ride my road bike this morning, on the theory that I'd stay on the roads and that the roads would have been plowed and salted.  It took about ten feet from my driveway before I was glad that I didn't, as there was ice and salt sitting on the road there.

The first part of the ride, from my house, down George Mason, and starting on the Custis trail, was pretty smooth.  When I got to the end of the Custis, I looked down the W&OD, and saw clear blacktop to my right, and snow and ice to my left (I guess Falls Church salts the trail, and Arlington doesn't).  I went left, and that's where the ride got interesting.

I was able to make it down the several miles of ice and snow, but it was quite rough.  If I hadn't had the spiked tires, I'd've been hosed.  As it was, I still wanted to leave the trail when I got to Columbia Pike, so I took the road down Four Mile Run and into Shirlington.  I decided, around that point, that I wasn't going to do the whole 20-mile loop I'd been thinking of, so I decided to duplicate the route that I took the other day, when my phone froze (and my fingers nearly did, too; and as a side note, I barely caught myself from putting the phone into the same pocket I'd used that day.  Very glad I did).

This time, it was even colder than that day (16F today vs, I think, 21F), and my fingers were still doing fine when I got to Shirlington.  I was using my PI Pro Softshell Lite gloves and my Bontrager lobsters, rather than the ski gloves.  It was my first time using the combination, to mixed results.

My hands did stay warm for much longer than in my ski gloves, which is good.  But when they did get cold, I had no options for warming them back up (except something involving stopping and taking all the gloves off, which would require desperation).  So I have mixed feelings on them.

The bigger problem involved my jacket.  I (barely) remembered to stick my phone in an inner pocket, so it stayed warm.  But there was a problem with the top.  When I zipped it all the way, I noticed it kept everything below my mouth plenty warm.  That part was good.  But I soon realized that was because I was hunching my shoulders a bit to keep my chin right at the top of the collar.  Relaxing was letting cold air in.  But that hunching became quite painful after a while, and left me with some very tense muscles between my clavicles and my spine, despite consciously unclenching once I realized what was happening.

I'm not sure what's going on tomorrow.  It's going to be extra cold (9F is the current forecast), and I'm not sure about which bike to take.  For sure, I'm not taking the road bike on the W&OD trail between it meeting the Custis and Columbia Pike.  Other than that, I'm not sure.  It will be a fairly hard-riding day, though; I can't imagine trying a recovery day in that temperature.


Dump all the snow

Today was my first day riding on snow.  And it certainly started out great, with just about no cars on the road.  The only issue I had through the first half hour or so was that it was tough to look straight ahead; too much snow was getting in my eyes.

But the carbide-studded tires gave no traction issues; they worked great.  In fact, later in the ride, it was interesting to feel them working.  The middle of the tire was sometimes sliding, but then the bike would lean a little, the spikes would grip, and it would feel like normal traction again.  And though that might sound like it, the experience wasn't scary at all.  The slickness was enough to notice, but not enough to worry.

The peacefulness didn't last through the whole ride; maybe half of it.  After that, too many cars were out and about to call it really peaceful.  But it still didn't get nearly bad enough to be bothersome.  And joggers?  Only saw half a dozen or so, I think.  Other bikers?  Two (both at the same time, oddly.  And going opposite directions, so not together), with the tracks of a third seen.

I was wishing the bike was a CX one, rather than a hybrid, however.  The road configuration with wide tires would've been perfect.  As it was, I raised the seat, which helped a bit, but the handlebars were still quite a bit closer than I'd've preferred.  And I would've liked to've had my power meter, but that wouldn't've worked, given the crank.

I was glad it was not a recovery day; it was pretty tough going all the way.  I don't think I could've kept my heart rate down.  As it was, it was pretty elevated, throughout, staying mostly in the 160s and 170s, with occasional forays both above and below that range.

I should also note that I wore the FuguJack jacket again, and was pleased with it.  I'd suggested that it would work, on a hard-riding day, down below the 21F for which it was billed.  That seems accurate.  It was 19F this morning, and I tended more towards too hot than too cold, but I wasn't bathed in sweat either.  In fact, I felt dry a minute or two after taking off the jacket at home, so that's just about perfect.  And that's with only a Pearl Izumi thermal base layer underneath.  And the Pearl Izumi Elite AmFib tights did a great job in their first test of "very cold with snow".

My ski gloves did a great job for most of the ride, although my fingers did get (pretty suddenly) chilly over the last 5-10 minutes.  It was enough to make a little trouble getting my helmet off, but didn't get to the point of being painful.  I need to try them with my base-layer gloves underneath.

Still, a very nice ride, and one I'd recommend to anyone.


Taking it easy again

Today was a pretty simple morning, for riding.  I got up at the normal time, got dressed, and got on the road with the road bike.  It was 40-ish and rainy (not hard, but it was steady throughout the ride), which didn't turn out to be great.

I wore my rain gloves, and didn't put my liners in (I thought it was going to be at least a couple of degrees warmer), which I ended up regretting.  So my hands were chilly pretty much from beginning to end.  So that was a bit of a downer.  Note to future self: put them on, and if it seems too much, take them off midway.

One thing I did have to do midway was reconfigure the power meter.  I gotta say that Stages is borderline on lying when they say it works on bluetooth.  It might be technically true, but they get a ridiculous amount of dropouts connecting that way.  After it dropped out for the better part of several minutes in a row, I stopped under the arch of a building to pull the phone out, turn on ANT+ on the RFLKT+, and attach to the power meter via ANT+ instead of BTLE.  Very annoying.

But that was the only thing that really went wrong this morning.  I'm getting better at keeping my heart-rate within Z2 range, even on the hills.  In fact, I might be getting too good; I think I'd like to get it to settle around 120, but it was mostly in the 105-111 range.  So I probably need to push a little bit more power.

Anyway, I did 28 miles, doing a couple of extensions of my normal route, and felt pretty good afterwards.  We went to church, came home for a while, then went for an excellent brunch at the Del Rey Cafe.  It was our second time there, and it was just as good as the first.

We stopped at a bike store on the way home so my wife could get a helmet (she also got gloves).  I had gotten her a bike for Christmas, so we started on how to ride when we got home.  We didn't get there, but we made a bit of progress.  I think if we can get another similarly-long block of time, we'll probably get her riding.

Unfortunately, a polar vortex is about to hit, for the second year in a row, so we're about to get some serious cold.  Tomorrow's ride shouldn't be bad, right around freezing, but then it's going to drop into the 20s and teens, perhaps for as long as a week.  Not looking forward to that, especially as there's supposed to be two days of snow in there as well.  Definitely not looking forward to snow.  I'll be out there, but definitely not comfortable.

One other note; at the bike shop, I got a pair of lobster gloves, so I might try those tomorrow.  I'm thinking of going with three layers, each by a different company (Assos liners, Pearl Izumi middles, and Bontrager lobsters).  I'm very amused by that idea, but I might just got with my normal ski gloves and the liner.  We'll see.

Regardless, it'll be an easy ride, and shorter (gotta keep it down to an hour and a half).


Not recovering

The predicted precipitation held off long enough for the temperature to get above freezing, this morning, which worked well for me in a number of ways.  I didn't need to use the hybrid, and so I didn't have any need to turn the ride into a recovery one.

So I went to really push, today.  I probably wasn't quite focused enough on where to push, and where not to (I didn't really pace myself anywhere, except for a tiny bit before a couple of segments I wanted to try to crush).

How'd that work out?  Well, not too badly.  I set fewer PRs than I'd hoped, though I did set a few.  And I was very close to setting a few more.

The one thing that torques me is that Potomac Ave segment that I mentioned yesterday.  I crushed my previous best for power along that segment, with 265W, but it still ended up as only my third-best run, forty seconds behind my best.  I'd like to know what was going on there (the wind was not blowing especially hard, and not in to my face, as best I could tell); I would've expected to do better.

Arlington Cemetary up to Courthouse was another segment I was looking to crush, and it's another where I didn't set a record.  But it was a virtual tie for most power along that segment (a couple Watts ahead of my previous high), and was twelve seconds behind my record.

There's also a sprint from King St (in Alexandria) up almost to Pendleton.  I hadn't planned to try to kill that one, but turned it on as I was getting there.  No record, but it was only a couple seconds off my KOM score.  In fact, this still would be the third best overall.

There's a short climb that goes up Pendleton St as well.  That one I did plan to kill, and I did.  Adding 37W to my previous high got me four fewer seconds and moved me from seventh to second, overall.  I still think I can do better, but not so soon after the other sprint.

Pendleton did get me in trouble, almost, though, when I got to Rt 1.  I wasn't paying attention to which street I was about to cross, and approached to see at a higher speed than one would recommend.  I fishtailed a bit in trying to stop, went over, and then pulled the bike back over top of me to get it off the other road.

A bit scary, but thankfully I wasn't all that close to being run over.  Un-thankfully, I noticed after getting up that I'd popped the chain as well, in the excitement.  But really, the only thing that matters is that I wasn't hurt.  As I said, it was a bit scary.

Thankfully, that was the only bit of scariness on the ride.  Overall, I was pretty happy with my performance.  Weighted average power was a bit low (237 rather than the 245-250 I'm trying to push), but my peak power numbers were very good (552/485/334/298/279/244 for 20s/60s/5m/10m/20m/hr; the first four are records, and the latter two are each off by a single Watt).  I guess that's a sign that I didn't push any extreme (1kW+) power numbers.  Also, I should point out that I was able to identify better numbers for the first two using Strava's analysis tools (573W and 499W, respectively); I think Cyclemeter might have a bug, or something weird's going on with one or both tools.

Hmm... Actually, just looked at Strava's power curve tool, and get even better numbers for both intervals: 623W and 513W.  For the longer durations, however, I get smaller numbers than via Cyclemeter.  Way smaller.  Color me confused.

Also, had a big gap between writing the first sections and the last couple paragraphs.  A couple things occurred to me about why that Potomac Ave time might be worse, despite significantly better power.  I've changed RFLKT mounts (just did that last night), put my tools in a seat bag, had racing blade rear fender on, changed wheels/tires, and was wearing very bulky gloves.  Two of those, though, I would've thought would help.  Dunno.

Oh, and two general notes that I've been thinking about for a while (but haven't written).  I think Strava is a great motivation tool, even without any of the analysis stuff.  Just being able to input goals is quite a help.  And further about that polarized training video I mentioned a week or two ago.  I think the reason it works is the same as the old adage about lifting weights.  "Low reps with large weights builds muscle; high reps with low weights builds strength".

Doing recovery rides are equivalent to lots of reps with low weight, so they help, even beyond the muscle recovery benefits.  So maybe that's why it's a good training philosophy.

Anyway, that's it for today; I should probably try to catch up on the Caps later.


Still recovering

Recovery rides the last two days that have both ended up being more exciting than I would have wished.

Two days ago, it was 23F when I left the house.  I was bundled pretty warmly (almost as warmly as I can, actually), but still found my fingers to be cold pretty soon.  I debated turning around right away (well, four or so miles out), but decided to stretch things a little longer, since it was just my fingers.

So I took a different route into Shirlington (though I did get there; my turnaround from last time would have kept me just short of it) than my usual.  As I was going in, I noticed that there was nothing on my RFLKT+ computer; I figured that the battery on that had died.  Annoying, but not entirely unexpected (though more impactful than usual, since my power meter is hooked up via ANT+, not BTLE), since the battery indicator on it has looked dead since the ride out to Purcellville.

Anyway, while meandering through there, I decided that I really should turn around, so I did.  Shortly after I'd turned back, desperation gave rise to invention, and I curled my fingers up inside my glove, one hand at a time.  It didn't restore them to warmth, but did get them back to "not painful".

So on the way back, I decided to extend the ride a bit more, eventually turning off of George Mason Drive back onto the Custis Trail, and heading back towards the East Falls Church Metro, whence it is easy to return home.  Despite my best efforts, though, my fingers were still getting very cold, so I didn't extend things beyond that point.

When I reached home, I found that my fingers, while painful, weren't nearly as uncomfortable as they'd been a couple of times in the past.  So that was good news.  But when I pulled my phone out to hit 'Stop', I found that the reason the RFLKT+ had turned off was that the iPhone had shut itself off due to the cold (once again, helpfully explaining that it needed to cool down).

So my recorded ride was less than five miles, even though the total trip was more like seventeen.  A bit irritating, to be sure.

What was amusing was that I was credited with 2015 KOM (King Of the Mountain) for two segments that were on the recorded part of the ride.  Doubtless due to being the first Strava user going over them, though, as I wasn't going quickly (something like twice my PR on each of them).

Today's ride, it was a little warmer (freezing to a few degrees colder), so I went with my new Assos FuguJack (bought only when I found a new one at half price), to see how it would do.  The good part was that my iPhone, in the pocket, stayed on throughout.  The bad part was that I was chilly through much of the ride (and definitely taking advantage of moving my fingers into the palms of the gloves regularly), occasionally getting to the point of shivering.  And that was with my warmest base layer (though only those two layers, overall).

So that jacket is definitely not enough when the temperatures get below freezing, for recovery rides.  I suspect, though, that it'll be fine even down colder than the 21F that it is advertised as being for, when riding hard.

But now I realize that I still don't have an answer for gloves in the cold.  Not for right around freezing, and wet, or for below that and dry (for recovery rides, at least; my Black Diamond gloves are fine for hard rides).  I think the only things better, for straight gloves, are Arcteryx, but they're crazy-expensive.  And while lobsters sound intriguing, I'm reluctant to get more Pearl Izumi gloves (their cuffs don't handle water satisfactorily).

Oh, and I got a ton more trophies this morning on Strava, for 2015 KOMs or top-10s.  One of them was second along Potomac Avenue, which amused me, as the person who had first passed me.  I do wonder if they'd've been able to pass me if I was riding hard (they were going along pretty good).  Again, though, the times were way off my best.  The Potomac Ave one in question, in particular, I did in 7:18, and my best is 4:46.

Anyway, looks like tomorrow will be the acid test of a lot of things; it's going to be right around freezing, and raining or snowing.  So I'll have to get the hybrid (with the snow tires) out for the first time in a while.  Which means it'll really need to be another recovery ride, as I don't want to push things with that bike.  We'll see how it goes (it'll also be my first time on those tires).