“That’s a dirt road.”

by Arlyn on January 21, 2009

Tierra del Sol Road“You gotta be kidding me! That’s a dirt road.” I said, following Mark off the pavement, less than a half mile from the US-Mexico border.

We were supposed to be on our second lap of the Boulevard Race course. I had the hammer down, trying to see how fast I could go and was off course. I had zigged when I should have zagged. Once I realized my error, I turned around to backtrack, but Mark went past me saying the road went through. Ok, why not? A little farther on the nicely paved road became a sandy, dirt road.

We spent five miles on that dirt road, laughing and joking like a couple of kids as our bikes fished around in the sand. You could gain speed on a ridge of hardpan, but would then wash out whenever the sand got deeper. Neither one of us actually crashed, but there were several miraculous saves. I figured I could use the bike handling practice.

Been there, done that: In France last July, we were trying to ride Stage 18 of the Tour de France ahead of the pros. The goal was to make it to the feed zone but we were running late. A Gendarme finally kicked us onto back streets – they close the race course about 2 hours before the riders come through. Someone had a GPS so we all followed. The back road got narrower then switched to cobbles then hardpan dirt and finally a rocky dirt road with a strip of grass growing down the middle. It stayed that way for about 5 kilometers.

At some point, it occurred to me that in this part of the country dogs are not fenced and we could not move fast enough in the sand to outrun one if it started a chase. We heard lots of barking but luckily made it through safely.

We finally got back to the road so I put the hammer down again. I was having trouble getting power out of my legs and couldn’t seem to get my heart rate over 90%. I had taken it easy the last several days and expected to be going much faster. My back started to hurt. I think I had injured it on a previous mountain bike ride and the harder I tried to go fast, the more it hurt.
Now I was really getting scared. I cannot afford an injury just three weeks from race day. What was wrong? My back was killing me. Finally, I sat up and waited for Mark, telling him that I would pootle back and skip the third lap. I didn’t want to risk making my back worse. I felt terrible. The race being taken from me before I even lined up.

Afterwards, we talked and the consensus was that I needed to rest and balance my core muscles. I started doing crunches that afternoon and exercises to realign my back. Monday I spun on the trainer but still had zero power. My back hurt every time I pushed so I stopped. All I could do was stretch, rest, eat well and sleep often. Tuesday was better and I took the day off training. More stretching, exercises, etc. Last night, I lay awake wondering how the heck I was going to be competitive. I finally forced the thoughts from my mind and got some sleep.

This morning I woke up feeling much better. My back was still a little tight, but not painful. My resting heart rate was down to 48, a sign that my cardio system was recovered. I’ve been monitoring it for the last two weeks and it had been running around 53.

Resting Heart Rate

I’ve been monitoring my resting heart rate to tell me when I’m recovered.

I suited up at lunchtime and headed for Old Julian Hwy, which is very similar to the Boulevard Race course and rideable from my house. I took it slow up the first hill with no problems. On the hill to Hwy 67 (2mi of 6%) I switched my iPod to Rage Against the Machine and let it rip.

  • I set a new personal record up Scripps Poway Pkwy to Hwy 67.
  • On Dye Rd, I tucked into the drops and held 92% HR for 6 minutes, no problem.
  • I put the hammer down on Old Julian Hwy, beating another personal record
  • On the way home, at mile 54, I got within 4 seconds of my personal record climbing Pomerado Road.

All without my back hurting one bit. I guess all I needed was a rest. I’m headed back to Boulevard this Saturday with the Descenders.

Game on!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lav January 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Best Regards! :)

Scott January 23, 2009 at 9:51 am

When I was in high school I cut my teeth on a network of dirt fire roads on some hills by my house. I miss those fire roads: they taught me a lot about bike handling. Of course, knobby tires helps a bit. That must have been fun (and a little nerve-wracking) on a road bike.

Maybe your next challenge will be cyclocross?

I’m sure you’ve seen this clip: Lance Armstrong goes off course in TdF after Beloki crashes out in front of him.

Arlyn January 23, 2009 at 9:58 am

Hmm… Cyclocross :)

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