Long Cold Road Ride on My Mountain Bike

Riding down the bike path near Genoa Township

A view from the cockpit. Heading down the bike path towards Genoa Township, Ohio.

Last week’s major rain storms left the trails soaking wet.  So, despite the fact that I really wanted to go mountain biking I was forced to head out on the roads and bike paths of Columbus, Ohio.

I’m planning on biking the Mohican 100k on May 31st so I am trying to build up my mileage to prepare for that.  I had some very specific training targets that I wanted to hit.  I wanted to ride for about 4 hours with an average power output of 175 watts.  My goal was to log just over 2500 kilojoules of total work on my power meter.  I exceeded these goals with 4 hours and 20 minutes of riding at 175 watts and a tally of 2786 kilojoules.

To put that into English, I rode 57 miles at 13 miles per hour.  That doesn’t sound very fast, but it’s not too shabby when you consider that it was done on a mountain bike with fat, knobby Kenda Nevegal tires.  All I know is that my legs were wrecked by the end and it felt amazingly difficult to maintain that pace in the final miles .  Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure that I should have gone over my training targets, because now I’m worried that I won’t recover fully by my next workout.

The Temperature Dilemna

James Knott rides on the bike path in Genoa Township.

Look Ma! No hands! I’m fairly certain that taking selfies while riding no-handed is not a recommended practice according to the League of American Bicyclists.

I badly wanted to ride outside, but the forecast was for 33 degrees with 15 mph winds at sunrise when I was planning to start my ride.  This sounded a little too cold for my tastes, but the weather was supposed to warm to 40 degrees by the end of the 4-hour ride.  40 sounded a little more manageable.  I thought I could tough it out at the beginning and warm up over the course of my ride.

I’ve spent so much time riding in the basement and I couldn’t bear the thought of a 4-hour ride on the spin bike.  This might have skewed my judgement a teensy bit.

Unfortunately, it was 33 degrees for the ENTIRE four hours.  Doh!  Man I wish I had bought those winter boots.  I put toe warmers in my shoes, but they still went numb in the cold, morning air.  It was like I was pedaling with a shoe full of frozen hotdogs.

My hands were a little better off, but they teetered close to the edge of frostbite through most of the ride.  I wouldn’t exactly say they were toasty, despite the fact that I was wearing double-layered winter gloves.

The rest of my body was fine though and it was nice to finally get outside and explore a little bit.

The Entertainment – Podcast

Athlete on Fire LogoWhen you are riding for 4 hours sometimes you need a little distraction to make the time pass more quickly.  I almost never listen to music with headphones because I can’t hear traffic or other riders who might want to pass.  I’ve found that with podcasts, where people are just talking and there is no music, I can still hear the important ambient noises like cars whooshing by and mountain lions trying to attack.

I recently discovered a new podcast called Athlete on Fire with host Scott Jones.  In each episode, Scott interviews one athlete about background, motivations, training and competition.  These are usually endurance athletes like runners and cyclists, but he also talks to martial artists, paddle boarders, rowers, pentathletes and more uniques athletes as well.

It’s very inspirational to listen to the stories of these people and how they stumbled into their respective sports.  Some of them are elite athletes like Olympians and World Champions, but others are everyday people who are overcoming the odds to find the best within themselves.

Readers of Quickdirt should probably start with the episode of Travis Brown, Olympic Mountain Biker.

Early episodes have poor audio quality, so you might want to start with the newer ones and work your way backwards if you find the show interesting.

The Route

James Knott at Alum Creek State Park's P1 mountain bike trail.

I stopped by Alum Creek’s P1 mountain bike trail to check out trail conditions and drain my bladder. Luckily no one was around.

My goal was to leave as early as possible without having to deal with bike lights, so I decided that I would leave at sunrise which was 7:11 a.m.  Whenever I am doing a really long ride I like to leave early so that I can get back and spend time with my family.  I hate it when I’ve wasted the day away because I’ve dawdled too long in the morning.

I left my house and headed east around the front of the Alum Creek Dam along Lewis Center Road.  I took a left on Africa Road and stopped by the parking lot for Alum Creek’s P1 mountain bike trail.  I wanted to see the conditions of the trails after the big rain, but more importantly I thought it would provide me with some good tree cover for peeing.

The parking lot was empty which was great for two reasons.

  1. No one was riding on the wet trails.
  2. I didn’t have anyone around to see me pee.

I then headed north on Africa road to 36/37 and back south down 3Bs&K, which I think is the best road name ever.  I traveled east to the bike path which heads south through Genoa Township and Westerville.  In my mind, I thought that I might try to reach Easton Town Center, but I wasn’t sure how far my 4 hours/2500 kilojoules would take me.  I ended up riding just past I-270, which is good, because it means that I can ride all the way to Easton next time and get a longer ride in.

I treated the ride as an out-and-back and returned home on the same path.  I’ve traveled this route a million times.  I like it because there is not a lot of traffic and I can check off some major mileage, all while being in the “middle of civilization”.


Muddy mountain bike trails at Alum Creek State Park

Try to stay off the mountain bike trails when they are muddy. Riding them when they are like this causes a lot of damage and it’s disrespectful for the volunteers who take the time to fix them. You will have all summer to ride. Use this time of year to find different adventures and challenges.

The End Game

Using a Garmin 800 to watch my power meter stats

Here are some of the stats that I am watching on my Garmin 800 while I ride.

I had chosen 2555 kilojoules as my training goal because it was 10 percent more work than I had done in previous endurance rides.  10 percent is often stated in fitness literature as the maximum increase you should aim for per week to avoid overtraining.  Some coaches recommend ramping up your fitness at a slower rate than that, maybe 3-8 percent, to avoid injury and burnout.

My goal of outputting an average of 175 watts was chosen because I wanted to try and amp up the intensity of my previous endurance best of 170 watts.

You could think of it in terms of doing a few more miles at a slightly faster speed.

A little faster + A little farther = The long slow build of fitness over the season.

Of course, when I got to the half way point, I wasn’t content with just turning around at the 2 hour mark.  I kept going just in case I came up short on kilojoules when I got close to the end of my ride.  I put in an extra 10 minutes before turning around, which didn’t seem like that much at the time.  However, when I started the return journey I was smacked in the face with a headwind.  Oh boy.

That meant that those same miles that I traveled on were now going to require more work to cover.  This was the moment where my training math went overboard.

One of the cool things about training with a power meter is that when you are hit with a strong wind.  You don’t end up pushing too hard.  You just slow down a little to keep your wattage the same.  For me, this is a huge mental advantage when training outdoors.  When you train with speed as your guide, then you have to work a lot harder to maintain that speed with a headwind and you have no idea how much harder you are working.  You just know it sucks.  Fighting wind can be a huge mental block for some riders, but I don’t sweat it anymore.

The Final 20 Minutes

On the bike path near Genoa Township, Ohio.

This 4-ride around the roads and bike paths around Columbus, Ohio turned out to be pretty challenging.

I kept my wattage the same.  I was cruising along at 175 watts and was doing great for the first four hours.  That’s when I was ready to stop.  At the four hour mark my legs got really heavy and I had to work much harder.  Those extra few minutes at the turnaround were really starting to add up now.

Despite feeling fatigued, I was determined to fight through it.  I maintained my wattage, but I could see that my heart rate was starting to climb.  This meant that my body was wearing down.  I considered slowing down, but I thought that fighting through this tough mental moment would be good practice for race day.  I had felt much worse than this, with much further to go, when I competed in the Mohican 100k last year.  I picked a stop light near my house, where I knew I would have to stop pedaling.  This point was where I would switch from workout/race mode to cool down.  This was going to be my finish line for the day.

With two miles to go, I hit a steep incline (at least steep according to Columbus, Ohio standards – 57 miles with only 900 ft of climbing!).  I stood up in the saddle to reach deep for the finish line.  The glycogen levels in my leg muscles were low and I couldn’t fathom where the energy was coming from but I kept pedaling along.

I reached the traffic light, but I was dead.  The 5 minute cool down felt like a death march to my home.  When I woke up the next day my legs were sore, which is pretty unusual for me after a bike ride.  I started worrying that I wouldn’t be able to recover in time for my next hard workout in two days.  I had exceeded my training target and now I was paying the price for it.

So what did I do?  I ran 9 miles.  Good thing today is a day off. 🙂

Just to be clear… despite my suffering, it was still an awesome ride!

Support Quickdirt.com

James Knott eats at Wendy's after a mountain bike race.

By supporting this blog you can help me pay for my post-race recovery meal ritual at Wendy’s – a Biggie-Sized #1. Don’t let poor Jimmy starve. 🙁

Quickdirt.com takes you in the mind of a mountain biker as he trains for his races.  It hopes to provide both insight and inspiration.  There are several ways that you can support this blog:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Check out my workout log on Twitter
  • Share this article with your mountain biking friends on social media
  • If you have something you need to purchase on Amazon, then click here to buy it and help support this blog.

Let me know about your weekend workouts in the comment section.  I love to hear what you’re up to.  What kind of mileage are you putting in?  Have you been brave enough to head out in the cool spring temperatures?  What are you waiting for?

Happy trails,