A time trial is an extraordinarily helpful tool to measure fitness. On foot, on wheels, or even in a pool using a known course or environment and testing on a regular basis gives a real understanding of improvement (if any). Test every month and measure heart rate and time and look to see if you’re doing more with less, or faster with less effort – that’s fitness improvement. Latigo is a favorite cyclist’s climb and many friends had extolled its heinous virtues to me. Coach Brian and Ironman David identified a stretch starting on PCH and ending at the first stop sign – 3 miles of almost solid uphill climbing. Let the puke-fest begin!
Coach Brian and I met at Ocean and San Vicente and left for the 15 mile warmup ride out to Latigo. I hadn’t made any yam baggies and was experimenting with Hammer energy gels. I brought 3 with me, figuring I’d use one every 45 minutes on a 35 mile ride. I brought two bottles of water, one with noun electrolyte tabs and the other with Crystal Lite lemonade because it believes in me.
Coach Brian asked if I was ok before we left, and he noted that I was a little more agitated than usual. He’s getting to know me enough so that he can tell my normal level of agitation with elevated levels. I think the day he sees me relaxed and happy he’ll worry that something is really wrong. I was frustrated – my building is still under construction and I have to ask the workers to move their trucks every day so I can get to my bike in the garage. It doesn’t matter how often I ask, they park in front anyway. Add that to the power saws all day long with a dog in a cone that screams when she shits and yes, I’d say I’m still a little elevated in the stress department.
The ride out was smooth sailing. Few people tried to kill us on PCH and I felt myself relax and enjoy the ride. I was on the road bike on Coach Brian’s suggestion since Latigo is a rough road and the descent on a tri bike would be treacherous until I was more comfortable. I was putting out good watts and Coach Brian let me lead much of the way. Sometimes I felt bad for him, he’s a week out from his Ironman and the dude could have been plowing the road at 24mph easy. But I reminded myself that he was supposed to be in his taper anyway, so my slow ass was helping him take it easy.
We stopped at the road sign marking the time trial start, just shy of Latigo. I took a Hammer gel in prep while Brian gave me a head’s up about the elevation profile (ugly leading to uglier) and then said his elites like Ironman David ate up the course in 15 minutes. He figured I’d do it in 18. Hah! Based on my work on Stunt Road I expected longer but would work hard to push that mother out. He let me go first and I started the GPS.
I should note that Brian’s mocked me for standing up in my pedals when I climb. He’s even nicknamed me “Sir-Stands-A-Lot”, but I stand in my pedals because that’s what I read helped climbing. Coach Brian threw down the gauntlet – “let’s put you on a power meter and see who’s right”. I don’t have $1500 to spend on a power meter, so I’m going to have to trust Coach Brian on this one. I vowed to stay seated the entire climb.
The course starts on an incline on PCH and as it turns onto Latigo Canyon it increases quickly in elevation. In less than a quarter mile there’s a quick descent, then the real work begins. The first half is scrub, brush, dirt, and mountain of a long and gradual ascent into the mountains. Then at 1.5 miles the course turns residential and much more aggressive. Because the appeal of living on this side of the mountain is the ocean view the road is graded with the property lines to afford each house an expansive view over the house beneath it. This is great for property values but horrible on the legs. It means every 15 feet you’re climbing 10-15 feet straight up. For 1.5 miles. I would guess that the first half of the course is a 6% grade and then it jumps to a 9 or 10%. Brian rocketed past me in the first 1/2 mile and I barely saw him again until I arrived, pouring sweat, at the first stop sign and stopped my timer at 22:24. He grinned, we talked, and then he sent me down to do it AGAIN.
I shot the descent cautiously – the road is in terrible shape. Climbing it at 6-9mph isn’t so bad, but descending at 30mph is deadly. I reset at the bottom and caught my breath. I reset my watch and began the climb again, this time knowing what was ahead. On this climb I kept my gearing low and tried to keep my cadence quick, still staying seated. While this kept my pace even, I could also tell I was fatigued from the first climb. I finished in 25:46. I ate another Hammer gel at the top and we took our descent together.
I love speed and shooting a downhill with my hands on the hoods is one of the most blissful feelings I’ve known. The second time down was easier having figured out some of the hazards. We stopped to cross PCH and then headed for home.
We were cruising at a decent speed, but on the last climb towards Pepperdine I felt my tank go empty. I ate another Hammer gel and drained the last of my liquids. Now I was out of food, and out of water. Not great with 8 miles to go. I motioned Brian to take the lead so I wouldn’t feel like I was holding him back and he graciously moved forward but kept an eye out for me.
Thankfully I didn’t bonk. Usually on rides when my mind starts to quit and it’s hard to find power in the leg I think of naked women. Really. It gets my mind away from pain and into a nice, happy fantasy land. But this time all I could think of was a CostCo chicken. I seriously considered just riding all the way to CostCo and tearing into a rotisserie chicken in the store. We made it back to our start point and Brian took off for home. I loaded up the bike and drove directly to a 7-11 where I ate an entire package of chicken breast in the parking lot. That, a Larabar, and a liter of SmartWater later I was feeling better.
There’s room for improvement in my numbers and I’m looking forward to testing again in a month. I also picked up a 10lb box of yams and Thursday night I devised a complete step-by-step process for making the yam mix in bar form for long rides. I will photograph and document the process here on the blog.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and time trial!