Yesterday was rematch day. Same route, same opponent. Before going further I will warn you that this post has an Irish angle.
I have never ridden a bicycle race and I don't think I ever will. I'm a bit past the time of life to take up competitive sports, if you know what I mean.
The CompuTrainer gives us a way to stay in shape once the deep freeze has set in – basically from December to April here in Ottawa. We were first introduced to it two years ago by Jim Glover of Peak Performance. We had driven down to Virginia for a one week training camp, and quickly realized that our companions were well out of our league. Jim set us up on a CompuTrainer on a rain day and we were hooked.
The setup is a bit fiddly – there are lots of wires, and you have to calibrate the resistance on the wheel. You can train on the CompuTrainer without a computer. I have never done it. The computer is where the fun begins.
First, the trainer comes with software that lets you model your own course. It has lots of prepackaged courses, but I like to make my own, just because. For this route, Mary and I took measurements one day while driving back from the cottage. I have an Excel template that transforms the raw data into the required input to build the course.
Once a course is built you can simply load it and start riding. The machine measures your distance, wattage, cadence and heart rate. As the profile of the route changes the resistance against the rear wheel increases or decreases (maximum gradient of 15%).
You can also chose to ride the route against a pacer, which is what I do. I specify that my Opponent, whom I will call Titanium Man (as in Paul McCartney's "Magneto and Titanium Man") will ride at a constant effort of 150 watts. This becomes my performance benchmark.
There is a small detail to note here. Titanium Man has a perfect pedal stroke. I do not. So, in order to keep up with him I actually have to pedal harder, probably somewhere between 170 and 180 watts.
Except I cheat. I use the "drafting" option, which lets me ride in my Opponent's slipstream at lower resistance. Yes, yes, I know – it's not quite kosher, but I'm still getting a workout.
To get the benefit of drafting I have to keep within 3 to 4 meters of Titanium Man. The tricky part is cresting hills. If I'm not careful he will pull away to about 7 meters going over the top and then I'm in trouble.
The downhills are a real killer, because Titanium Man keeps rolling along at 150 watts – he doesn't take a break. To keep up I have to go into really big gears, keep up the pressure on the pedals, and increase cadence. If he has put 7 meters between us I have to go even harder to catch up. This is when the heart rate really climbs. Groan.
After the ride there are a bunch of performance stats that can be saved (speed, watts, heart rate, etc. etc). I don't pay a lot of attention to them but if I was serious they would be useful. The ride itself can also be saved, which I usually do. I can then reload it and ride against myself, i.e. become my own opponent. When I do this I am both a winner and a loser (a psychiatrist would have fun with this).
Now comes the Irish connection.
When Mary and I were cycling in Ireland last May we got a text message from Anita, our daughter who is living in Dublin. "Andy and I think we're in love." Well.
Fast forward. At the end of October Mary arrived in Dublin to help get things ready for the wedding. Andrew (bless his cotton socks) had a present waiting for her: a "beamer", i.e. a projector that can hook up to a computer. Nice chap.
So, we now have a full screen, real time training setup, and I can watch myself be mercilessly beaten by an opponent who doesn't even spit!
Except, ladies and gentleman, yesterday I pulled away with 200 meters remaining and beat him by nine-tenths of a second! The crowd went wild.