"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


V02 Smacks My Bitch Up

I was absolutely brutalized today.

For the last 3 weeks the cycling team I have recently joined, Triple X, has been putting on a sprint clinic for team members down at Northerly Island. Each Tuesday we meet at 5:45p out on the driveway of the abandoned terminal at the old airport. The weather has never been above 40 degrees out there next to the lake, and if it wasn't raining, it was gale winds. Frozen fingers, mouthfuls of wind, numb toes.

I am pretty new to all this. Not to biking, of course, but I have never been around this many cyclists who are so strong. You may think you're fast, out there on the lakefront in your Lance Armstrong replica jersey, dropped in your aerobars, "training." (I hate those guys - they're always rolling through the busiest part, not going fast at all, and in no position to suddenly hit the brakes if they needed to.) Biking to work every day, holding yourself in high-regard as the "cagers" and CTAers at work "ooooh" and "aaaaah" over your resolve to ride in with a little bad weather. (This would be me.) Uh huh. Get yourself out there with some guys who have been racing for years and constantly competing and trying to one up each other daily. Then you'll see what you're really made of.

And that is Jack Shit.

Sprinting usually happens at the end of a race. At a full sprint, a rider is totally anarobic: his/her heart rate approaching it's maximum limit. This won't kill you, but at a certain point, every person has a limit to the amount of oxygen that their heart can uptake. This is limit is called the VO2 Max. When this happens you have about 7 to 10 seconds left of energy as your muscles use up their available stores, since no more oxygen is coming in through the pulmonary system and aerobic pathways. At eleven seconds you feel like you're gonna throw up and shit your shorts at the same time, and your legs are shaking like a Kronos Gyro log caught in a paint shaker.

Previously we'd been only in very small gear-ratios. In other words, very easy to pedal. Never out of the small chain-ring and using the bigger cogs. The goal was to spin out, hitting a high cadence and forcing yourself to hold your form. If you have bad spin, foot and leg work, you'll get all herky-jerky, like the TinMan, and not get very much speed.

Today was our first day in the big chain ring. After warm ups we got ourselves organized into teams of three, going into the wind doing 2 on 1 leadout drills. This was to replicate a race situation in which you and your teammate find yourself in a breakaway near the end of a race with another rider. A and C riders were teammates, B was the other rider. Once the 3 got lined up and up to speed, the C rider would jump, sprinting to the finish line. The theory is that the B man will chase and, out of the draft of the rider in front of him, will lose his advantage and begin to tire. Meanwhile, the A rider is now sucking on his wheel, and soon pounces, fresh for the last few seconds to the finish line.

All this was going into a 25 mph headwind. I thought I was in shape. Not. Even. Close. Actually my endurance isn't too bad. I hung fine on the ride up to Highland Park and back on Saturday. 40 miles. But the sprinting is terrible. I was so winded I couldn't stay on the wheel to jump off the other guy, or when I was the "other guy" I couldn't pass the guy I was drafting on when I made my move. It was pretty humbling. I have got some work cut out for me. Time is needed in the nether regions of my heart rate.

Finally on the second to last sprint we got the wind behind us...we were all hitting 35mph, very fun. And then the worst part of the day. We went back to 39 x 23 (the lowest gear ratio, easiest to pedal) but back into the wind. I immediately spun out, and by that time I was so wrecked from the previous drills I nearly puked.

And then the topper was a 9 mile ride home into a 25 mph wind. And you know what?

It was an incredible way to spend the evening.

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