I was bummed not being able to run Mt Washington on Saturday. Conditions were ideal. DaveP ran 1:27 on less running than I've done. Impressive effort. After the Cannon Mt hillclimb a week ago, I thought the massive blister on the back of my right heel would have foiled my Mt Washington event, not a calf injury. Fortunately, my calf injury does not seem to be bothered by riding at all. Strange. Saturday I still had to be careful going down stairs, but riding up mountains? No problem.
Being such a fine day, I wanted to take advantage of the situation and hit some big, steep climbs I haven't done in a while. I drove over to Mt Ascutney in Vermont. My legs were pretty tired, as I was still able to do some pretty high intensity work on the bike on Thursday despite a messed up calf. I took my heavy training bike with the Power Tap, weighing in at 19.0 lbs.
After a brief warmup, I hit Mt Ascutney first. I forgot I didn't have a compact crank on that bike. Ugh. I did have a MTB cassette on back though, so my cadence wasn't going to drop too ridiculously low. I could use the high-force/low-cadence work anyway. I figured I'd just go easy, maybe average 350W.
Yeah, right. I held 369W first mile. Average dropped to 350W at mile two, then plummetted after that as the grade slackened. I reached the top with a 335W average and was surprised I went over 30 minutes. I knew my legs were tired, but I didn't think they were that tired.
A little math when I got back home suggests my lighter hillclimb bike will take 30-40 seconds off. Then I need to come up with 7% more power to break 28 minutes, my goal next month. That seems like a stretch right now.
I grabbed some food and water bottles and headed over to Okemo via Tyson Rd. Seems no road in Vermont escaped the wrath of Irene. Parts of Tyson Rd were washed out and temporarily repaired with gravel fill. The descent towards Ludlow was still in pretty good shape though, and is one of the best around. Reminds me of some of the Alps descents.
The Ascutney effort had fully caught up to me by the time I reached the base of Okemo, another 4mi, 12% climb. It was getting warm too. I was going to die on this one with my gearing and trashed legs. There is a long 15-17% grade section in the middle of the climb that is trouble even with fresh legs during the race. Post ride analysis shows my cadence dropped to low 50's for extended periods of time on this climb. There's no way to keep power numbers up with that low of a cadence. It took me about 34 minutes to reach the end of the pavement, a fairly typical time when climbing Okemo after a hard effort on Ascutney.
After bombing down the totally crap pavement of Okemo, the highlight of the ride was next, stopping at Java Baba's. Vitamin Water and a monster homemade "energy" bar consisting of coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, graham cracker crust, oats, probably marshmallow holding all together, and more. No way could I eat all of it in one sitting.
I had to hit one more climb before heading back to Ascutney. I've never climbed Terrible Mtn/Rt 100 from town, only descended it. It is all in the sun, and Rt 100 is kind of busy, but the climb threw a couple more 12% punches to make sure my legs were cooked before I got back. Didn't win any Strava awards on this one, that's for sure. Bombing back down to town the same way was fun.
Scenic Rt 131 is taken back to Ascutney. By now I had a headwind. I was counting on tailwind to push me along at 30mph on this slight downhill grade, but instead, I had to burn more kilojoules at 20mph to get back. Legs were starting to cramp on the final 500ft climb flanking Mt Ascutney. I finished with about 77 miles, 8300ft of climbing, in 4.8 hours. I was in such an endorphin haze driving home I'm surprised I even remembered where I lived.
Thanks for the many great comments on my calf injury. They give me much to research and think about. I've been aggressively stretching my calves since the injury. Interestingly, I'm noticing now that I no longer have a limited dorsifexion in my left calf. Both of my calves are balanced. I wonder, is it possible I had some tight muscle strands left from my fracture in 2010 that let loose? I know as recently as a couple months ago, I had a few degrees less range of motion in my left calf. It is possible the amount of hillclimb running I did loosened it up too.
It is also interesting to note that I did not experience the disabling injuries while running uphill. Both the March and June episodes were on dead flat ground. No doubt running and hiking up 10-30% grades puts huge stress on calves, but I think it is the eccentric muscle contraction running on flat ground that does the final damage. So the question is, if I run only flat terrain, would my calf issues go away?
As of Sunday night, the pain is pretty much gone doing normal activities, including going down stairs. I may go out for an exploratory run on the office campus early in the week to see how it feels.