Training Camp in Santa Barbara, Week 3

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: 5 hours, v-endurance
Wednesday: 3 hours, v-intensity
Thursday: 5 hours, high tempo 4x15x5, starting at hour 3. First two on flat, second two on hills
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 5 hours, v-endurance
Sunday: 6 hours, first two hours, v-intensity, last four v-endurance

As I write this, I am almost finished with my third full week of training. Starting on Monday, I will have three glorious days of rest; an attempt to recover from a progressively increasing training load punctuated by only a day of recovery here and there. I have fallen into quite a rhythm here in Santa Barbara, and while my body itself is getting fatigued, I’ve been surprised to find that my legs are actually the most fatigue-resistant of my physical and mental capacities. For example, after three weeks of high-volume training, I find it quite easy to hop on the bike each day and pedal for another five or six hours. In contrast, writing a journal entry, or composing a professionally worded e-mail is getting more and more difficult. It’s as if my body is adapting to do one thing exceptionally well, and as a result, cutting off support to its various other responsibilities. Then again, perhaps you shouldn’t trust these musings; after all, my critical thinking skills have taken a serious hit!

One area that may have suffered a profound blow is my capacity to make responsible decisions. For example, on Saturday, February 19th, I headed out for a nice five hour ride. The forecast was for a rainy day, but the rain seemed to have abated, and the roads were even a little dry. I stuffed a raincoat in my pocket (the one good decision that I made all day) and headed out with my friend Neil. Our plan was to ride west to Goleta, and then swing back towards Santa Barbara along the foothills to head up Gibraltar Road, the long climb up to the top of the ridge that towers over the town. We would then ride across the ridge and down San Marcos Pass, the old route used for stagecoaches at the turn of the 20th century. Well, almost as soon as we started the long climb, it began to rain. It was chilly, but the effort of the climb helped to keep me comfortably warm. Neil sped up the road to do a higher intensity interval, while I slogged my way up alone. About halfway up the mountain, the rain turned to a light snow. It was a pleasant site, and I was comforted to see that it wasn’t sticking to the road in front of me. By the time we’d reached the top, the snow was coming down hard and fast. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had traveled across the country to escape the New England winter, and the snow had followed me all the way to California! Neil advised that we turn around and descend out of the snow rather than cross the ridge. I reluctantly conceded (again, my desire to continue the ride evidence of my diminished capacity for making responsible decisions).

As soon as we began our descent, I was cold. The wind and snow whipped against my exposed face and hands, and I could barely see the road coming up in front of me. I rode the brakes hard for the entire winding descent, taking a few millimeters off the pads and doing God-knows-what kind of damage to my rims. After a few minutes, my hands were freezing, my feet were entirely soaked, and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. Every time I’d see a tree overhanging the road, I’d grind to a halt, and get off to run in place, do some squats, and swing my hands back and forth in an effort to regain some measure of circulation. By the time we escaped the snow, the rain had picked up and was soaking us the rest of the way through. Once we reached the bottom, my arms were shaking violently and my legs felt like two frozen blocks of ice. While I have ridden in far colder temperatures, I have never been so woefully underdressed on such a long descent. Being completely chilled to the core was a novel sensation. We ducked into a coffee-shop a few miles from home and stammered out our orders to the puzzled looking barista. After a hot chocolate, two cups of scalding hot water and a hot croissant, we were still both shaking and shivering. We decided to call it a day and head home. Only after about fifteen minutes in a hot shower did I finally regain some measure of warmth.

So, pride bruised and lesson learned. Even in sunny California, the weather can take a turn for the worst. It never hurts to bring along an extra pair of gloves. Most importantly, when it’s 48 degrees and rainy at sea level, you can expect a lot worse at 4,000 feet!




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