On Sunday I went for a ride up mt. Diablo with my teammate Andy and as we neared the top we saw that some of the snow had remained from a week earlier. It was a rare sight in these areas and made for a good photo opportunity. We kept a good pace up the first half of the climb but I slowed us down on the second half and we reached the top in just over an hour. It was a respectable time to the top especially since we hadn't pushed it too hard and I haven't focused on climbing too much this year.
Monday was an easy group recovery ride of about 2 hours. Wednesday was a set of 5x5 intervals up a slight grade in a neighborhood nearby. We would start at the bottom of the hill and go all out for 5 minutes, turn around and head back down the hill and repeat the process until we finished 5 total intervals. This efforts are quite brutal and it certainly helps to have a few other people to suffer with (even though I admittedly mailed in the last interval, I just couldn't push it a fifth time). Thursday was another tough day in the saddle although I was by myself for this excursion. I tried to keep the pace high for the whole ride and up it just a little bit on the hills.
Friday was a very short spin on the trainer, basically a day off but I wanted to spin the legs just a little so that they would be ready for my hard ride on Saturday. Saturday mornings are the infamous HOP ride, short for House of Pain. Due to the popularity of the ride and to accommodate the different levels of riders, it has expanded to HOP lite, HOP medium, and the HOP. The easier rides start earlier in the morning and eventually the fastest ride begins. The loop is the same each week and consists of 50 miles over rolling hills without any real climbing (about as fast a loop as you can get around here). The best part about the ride is that it gives new racers a chance to ride with those faster than them and in a setting that isn't as aggressive as an actual race. I started the season riding in HOP medium and decided that I needed to start riding with the fast guys if I wanted to get faster.
The HOP ride started out pretty mellow while everyone was warming up but it quickly sped up. I had planned to ride at the back as I didn't want to spend any time in the wind, I needed to conserve all the energy I could. After 5 miles we turned left onto a back road and the pace was full on. We went over a few rollers at full speed and headed towards a predetermined sprint point. We were sprinting out of corners to keep up with the pack and when I looked at our speed after the ride, we had averaged 29.7 mph for over a ten minute period. I stayed with the field until the long drag up collier canyon road at which point I wasn't able to stay with the pace on the fast climb. I backed off and recovered before heading over to mt. Diablo and finishing my training ride with a solid effort halfway up the mountain.
I spent an hour riding the trainer today as seen above. I finished my third book on tape this year and just downloaded a fourth. After reviewing some of my data files from this week and comparing them to last year, I am delighted to report that I am at almost the exact same fitness level as I was last May (when I was at my best last year). I can tell that I am getting stronger and don't think that I will plateau soon. I am looking forward to another hard week of training and the impending daylight savings when I won't have to carry lights on my night rides.
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