Mike Nosco Memorial Ride – PR’s YAY!


On November 3, 2018, George Vargas participated in the Mike Nosco Memorial ride, 10th Anniversary edition. With increased focus throughout the year on diet and weight loss he was able to attain new Personal Records (PR) on two of the three timed climbs.  The three timed climbs are: Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Hwy, and Latigo Canyon. The weather was excellent, albeit a little warm towards the end.

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Left to right: George Vargas, Jack Nosco and Lori Hoechlin

I wish to share with you my excitement of having a great day on the bike.  Since I am a nobody, really, I will share my power data with you.  Some of my posts are about the ride and the sights and sounds and the struggles of completing endurance events.  This post will be more about data.  Don’t tune out because it won’t be THAT heavy, or maybe it will, but it is important for me to show a few examples of why training and racing with a power meter is essential.

First things first, I wish to thank Jack Nosco for creating and putting on this great event every year on November 3rd. In Jack’s words,

As I work to preserve my brother’s memory through the Michael P. Nosco Foundation, Inc., my main goal is to provide financial relief to families and/or individuals in our community. The emotional support that comes with 700+ people showing up in their honor is incredible! Your support means a lot to them and goes a long way in providing inspiration and strength to our recipients and their families.”

Each year the foundation will provide financial relief to a handful of recipients.  You can read about this year’s recipients here.  If you are ever free on November 3rd please consider making a donation and riding this great ride for a great cause.  It is held every November 3 regardless of what day of the week it falls on since that is the date of Mike’s untimely death.

The Ride

The course is 80 miles with about 8,000 feet of climbing.  You will climb three defined climbs but there are plenty of rollers and steep-ass kickers throughout the course.  The featured climbs are Deer Creek Rd, Mulholland Hwy and Latigo Canyon.  Each of the climbs are distinctive and offer their own unique challenges.

 

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The Climbs

Climb #1

Deer Creek Rd — the steepest climb of the three is also the shortest of the three, at 2.25 miles.  It averages 11% but the ramps, oh my the ramps are over 15%+.  Every year I see so many riders hit the bottom of Deer Creek, which has to be over 15%, so hard that within minutes they are pedaling squares and barely moving forward and upward.  More on that later… In previous years, my enthusiasm has also gotten me into trouble even before the base of this climb.  I have tried to stay in the pack that leaves the memorial site and then hammers towards the coast and then south on the coast to the bottom of the Deer Creek.  This year I told myself I would not do that and just let the pack/s go.  The reality is I would just get in the way of faster riders if I was up near the front.  Besides, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to place in the top 3 riders of the day.  I am only racing against myself using my power meter as my training/racing partner.

A little more on the riders that blow up because they have gone too hard at the bottom of the Deer Creek.  They quite literally are going so slow and weaving so much they block the path of riders coming up behind them.  At least if they were doing the “paperboy” up the climb that would be better.  As a rider coming up behind one of them you can at least see a pattern to the weaving but most are not weaving in any discernible way. My suggestion to them is next year bring a larger range cassette.  I had an 11-28 with a 53/39 crankset.  My cadence is slower this climb than what it is normally but it’s only 2.25 miles and I don’t see a need for a larger cassette than 11-28.    I would also suggest they stay to the right of the road and within their lane since the roads are not closed to vehicular traffic.  Every year I see riders crossing over the centerline which is a definite no-no and very unsafe.  Additionally, as faster riders come from behind they need to get by the slower riders on their left and THEY also need to stay inside the centerline.  Years past I have seen rear derailleur hangers snap right in front of me.  I have seen many chains drop as well.  This is probably the most common rider mishap I see on this climb.  Last year or the year before a rider dropped the chain to the inside and it got past the chain catcher all the way to the frame.  The chain was then lodged behind the chain catcher which was attached to the front derailleur by 2 mm or 2.5 mm  fastener.  You will be hard-pressed to find a multi-tool with that small of an Allen wrench on it.  Most multi-tools a 4 mm is usually the smallest Allen head found on a multi-tool.  This poor rider was dead in the water until a SAG vehicle could come up with a full set of tools to help them get the chain catcher out of the way, get the chain out, and then re-adjust the chain catcher.  Personally, I don’t use a chain catcher for that very reason.  I don’t have one installed on any of my high-end bikes. A properly tuned bicycle shouldn’t need a chain catcher or a dork-disc on the rear wheel.  Just my two cents…

 

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I had a PR on the Deer Creek climb of 21:38 my previous best was 23:16.  I have heard somewhere before that 1,000 VAM is the minimum for elite climbers.  As you can see I didn’t achieve that in 2016  with only 833 VAM. I doubt I could hold 1,000 for an hour lol!

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As I mentioned in my introduction I have been focused on weight loss this year.  I have mentioned in previous posts that I have been using Intermittent Fasting (IF) and a diet that is low in carbohydrates and higher in fats and protein.  Basically, I now have a reason to eat all the yummy healthy fats now such as Avocado, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and much more 🙂

I digress, this year I was 63.57 kg or 140 lbs down a few pounds from last year. You will note the Strava numbers show me averaging more watts for the Deer Creek climb in 2018 than 2017, 257 w and 254 w, respectively.  The numbers are actually flip-flopped  when you look at my Training Peaks data below.

Normalized Power (NP): 258w for 2018 and 259w for 2017.  But remember the weight loss?  I was a few pounds lighter this year so even though my NP was 1 watt lower this year than in 2017 I was actually 1:52 faster for the same wattage with an increased power to weigh ratio or watts per kg or w/kg.

w/kg 4.06/kg 2018 and 3.87 w/kg 2017

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2018

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2017

Regarding 2017 – notice how there is a big spike in power (pink line) at the base of Deer Creek and a slow degradation of power throughout the entire climb.  I took a look at the 2017 climb at split it into thirds.  My power was: 1/3 291w NP, 2/3 253w NP, 3/3 229w NP — that is poor pacing on the climb.

2017 NP for the 23:37 was 259w

1/3 over by 32 watts

2/3 under by 6 watts

3/3 under by 30 watts

Now let’s look at 2018 – 1/3 268w NP, 2/3 259w NP, 3/3 248w NP

2018 NP for the 21:45 was 258w

1/3 over by 10 watts

2/3 over by 1 watts – negligible really

3/3 under by 10 watts

I paced myself much better in 2018 and felt better because of it when I hit the summit.

 

Climb #2

Mulholland Hwy – 6.9 miles stair step climb with a few dips along the way up with no memorable ramps. The dips lower the overall average grade down to 4% but the climbing portions are more near 6-8%

I increased my NP from 226w (2017) to 229w (2018). But more importantly I increased my w/kg from 3.38 w/kg (2017) to 3.60 w/kg (2018) my time improved from 36:17 in 2017 to 35:25 in 2018 — a 52 second improvement

 

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2018

 

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2017

 

Climb #3

Latigo Canyon  —  another stair step style climb with dips on the way to the top of the 9.2 miles gaining nearly 2,000 feet.  I was 1:37 slower in 2018 than in 2017 (PR). I remember last year being with a group of stronger riders like Rahsaan Bahati and Neil Shirley.  They set a good tempo for them but I had to ride outside my comfort zone just to stay in contact.  I feel I could have gone just a little harder in 2018 but I was alone with no wheels to stay on or chase up the climb.  Everyone was so spread out that I just used my power meter to get up the climb.  I did pass riders along the way but it would have been nice to work with a few riders that were stronger than me to see what else might have been possible.    Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 1.49.13 PMScreen Shot 2018-11-05 at 1.49.59 PM

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2017 remains my PR on Latigo Canyon

POWER PROFILE CHART

Let’s put this data in context.  Below you will find the Power Profile Chart.  Earlier, I said I am really just a nobody, a hack, trying to do my best at endurance events and climbing events such as the Mike Nosco Ride.  I do these events for personal challenge and foolishly seek gains even as I get older every year lol!  When looking at the Power Profile Chart you will see four columns.  The column headings are duration in time.  On the left side you will see ranges for each of the categories of cyclists.  To use the chart you select either 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minute or FTP (60 mins) of time and then find your watts per kilogram. So for example, it is said that the power you hold for 20 minutes is closely related to your 60 min power.  It is supposed to be about 5% higher than the power you can hold for 60 minutes.  In my coaching practice, I tend to use 10% instead.  Let’s use my numbers, 259 watts for 20 minutes translates to 233 watts for 60 minutes.  233 watts divided by 63.57 kg = 3.66 w/kg under the FT column you look for 3.66 w/kg and it falls in the low Cat 3 high Cat 4.

For an endurance cyclist you would think my FT (60 min) power would much higher wouldn’t you?  So would I.  Maybe I should be doing shorter events right?  Lately, my focus has been on getting my 1 and 5 minute power higher through the Wednesday night shop ride, The REV NIGHTER!

Attached are screenshots of my 1 minute power 9.24 w/kg and 5 minute power 5.0 w/kg

1 minute power 9.2 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 2 and the low end of Cat 1

5 minute power 5.0 w/kg is straddling the high end of Cat 3 and the low end of Cat 2

Now just for fun look at what a world class athlete holds for FTP — 6 w/kg for 60 minutes!! That would be me holding 380 watts for 60 minutes … um … no!  4-5 minutes tops lol!

 

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SUMMARY

When all is said and done, I had a great day on the bike.  I PR’d 2 out 3 climbs.  I was close on the third climb.  I never felt like I was going to blow up.  I feel like I chose the right intensity, power, to start and finish the climb at the same intensity.  Maybe I could have gone harder here and there but I am happy with my results.  I am hopeful to improve my times again next year.  I don’t think I can lose any more weight and still maintain the same power output.  So that means more interval training … ugh! At times, I am thinking the marginal gains I have made over the years will lessen going forward.

The weather was fantastic.  No one crashed near me which has happened twice in previous years. Only one SUV buzzed me too close for comfort.  I just don’t understand why motorists are in such a hurry when they say hundreds of cyclists on a twisty 9 mile climb they really aren’t going to get anywhere that much faster.

I hope to see you next year in attendance.  November 3 will fall on a Sunday next year see you there.

What’s next?

If the week goes well I am planning another Everest for November 10.  It is the Marine Corps.  I am a former Marine and wish to honor not only the Corps but veterans that suffer from PTSD and/or ultimately take their lives via suicide.

Lastly, if you have questions about power meters or power meter coaching feel free to drop me a line at revcycling@gmail.com or you can make comments on this post.  I am currently accepting a limited number of applicants for coaching.  Let me know how I may assist you.

Beach Cities Double Century


On September 22, 2018 George Vargas and Lori Hoechlin completed the inaugural running of the Beach Cities Double Century with 9,900 feet, in a total time of 12:56 on the tandem.  For those of you that keep track of ride time only, 11:39. We had a mechanical and flat-free day!   This was George Vargas’s 51st and Lori Hoechlin’s 36th  Double Century and our 4th of the 2018 season.  The two biggest hurdles of the day were TRAFFIC LIGHTS and a never-subsiding HEADWINDS.

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Before getting into the ride report I would like to thank Jim Cook for taking the time and immense effort to create a new double century right here in Southern California.  Next, I would like to thank all the volunteers for being out on the course all day ensuring we were well supported.  Thank you!

PRE-EVENT

I had my reservations about doing this double century.  At first I thought there are going to be a lot of traffic lights.  When we checked in at the finish Kermit even said, “How did you like Tour de Lights?” LOL! As Lori and I discussed whether we were going to do it, I told her I just needed to prepare myself mentally that we are going to be stopping a lot on this double.  You see you have to think of the tandem as that big semi you see on the road.  In the city, they are slow lumbering beasts that clutter the road and are almost always in your way.  But on the highway, they are a picture of beauty with all their lights, fairings and effortless speed based on their momentum.  Yeah we are something like that 🙂

I then thought I might as well do the double since it is a local event and I would like to give a local guy, Jim Cook, a shot at succeeding.  Furthermore, the event would benefit many worthy causes addressed by from the event website – “FINDcures a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit charity that supports research for Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, Concussion, Epilepsy, Major Depression Disorder, MS/ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Stroke, and provides transitional support services for individuals impacted by any of the above neurological diseases. NdZONE will donate at least 5% of all Beach City’s proceeds to FINDcures.”

DESCRIPTION OF THE ROUTE

From the Beach Cities DC website:

“The Beach City event starts and finishes in Irvine, California. Irvine offers a system of bicycle lanes and trails to encourage the use of bikes as a means of transportation. It has 44.5 miles of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles of on-road bicycle lanes.  The City of Irvine is one of the most bicycle friendly and safest communities in America”

Sounds great! Sign me up! The reality is that you can’t do a DC exclusively in Irvine.  Well you could I guess by doing laps … something I abhor.  It is the very reason I have never signed up for any 24 hour races.  They are usually held on looped courses.  The largest loop in the daylight hours with a shorter loop usually after sunset.  Although if you follow my blog you will know that I have no problem Everesting.  When Everesting you do repeats up and down the same hill until you reach 29,029 or 8,848 meters on one ride. So you would think I would be able to tolerate a looped 24 hour course but you would be wrong.

I digress, back to the event.  The route turned out to be a great route not what I expected so I was pleasantly surprised. It was billed as quite the scenic tour see below:

Popular cities:

Laguna Beach
Corona Del Mar
Newport Beach
Huntington Beach
Sunset Beach
Seal Beach
Long Beach
Irvine
Lake Forest
Mission Viejo
Dana Point
San Clemente
and more…

Legendary course highlights:

Surf City, U.S.A.
Queen Mary
1984 Olympic Cycling Road Race Course
Florence Joyner Olympiad Park
Ole Hanson Beach Club
San Clemente Casino
Western White House

EVENT DAY

Saturday morning we launched out at 6:07am.  Yes that’s an odd start time – we were late for the 6:00 start — oops!  MY BAD! It was still dark but luckily Lori could read the cue sheet just fine under the street lamps of the main roads.  Additionally, because she resides in Orange County we stayed on course without incident or wrong turns until sunrise.  Lori and I had discussed the advantages/disadvantages of the different start times.  The organizer gave the riders the option to start between 4:30-6:00 am   Here is my opinion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the different start times.

EARLY DEPARTURES

Advantage

Early start leads to an early finish – in the fall and winter months daylight hours are shorter.  Mentally, I like finishing a double before sunset.

Advantage

Lighter traffic – Saturday morning at 430 you should have much lighter traffic I mean who else is crazy enough to be up that early although you would be surprised.

Major thoroughfares are green-lit — major streets are green, green, green while the feeder streets which have less traffic will most likely be red.

Advantage

More hours/miles ridden and climbs completed before the heat of the day sets in!

Disadvantage

Headlight use in the morning eats into the total burn time available for your headlight.  If you have flats or mechanicals during the day and your progress is delayed then you may run out of burn time on the tail end of the ride.

Disadvantage

Night navigation – reading the cue sheet and reading street signs pre-dawn, let’s face it night time, can be especially tricky.  Missing a turn can add unnecessary miles and added stress and frustration to your already long day.

LATE DEPARTURE

Advantage

Usually a daylight start – easy navigation and great visibility for you and your visibility to motorists.

Advantage

Warmer start – it’s usually coolest/coldest just before dawn.  The later the start the warmer the start and the less clothing you will need at the start and quite possibly a short time and then have to schlep it around for the next 12 hours or longer.

Advantage

Chasing down the early starters – it is motivating for me to know there are other riders ahead on the course.  I like the feeling of chasing them down throughout the day.

Advantage

After a long work week and long travel to an event sleeping-in 1.5 hours more hours feels amazing!

Disadvantage

If you have any flats/mechanicals you could easily go into the night and have to finish in the dark.

In the end we chose a late start 6am of the 4:30-6am window- to minimize night time navigation and feeling confident we would move briskly through the course and finish before dark.  We just barely made it in before dark.

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Sunrise through Santiago Canyon – the first climb of the day.

I lived in Orange County for several years logically you would think I would remember the sequence in which the major intersections come at you and when to anticipate a left hand turn but I really don’t remember much.  Whenever I had free time I would leave town and ride either in the San Gabriel Mountains, Eastern Sierras or the mountains of San Diego.  It can’t be overstated enough how important it is to not miss a turn during a double century!  This DC had 2 pages front AND back of directions!  Thank you Lori for your excellent navigation!

The weather was a pleasant 63 degrees F on a late September morning.  We felt a slight breeze as we were climbing through the first real climb of the day, Santiago Canyon.  Little did I know that slight breeze would strengthen and become our nemesis the for the remainder of the day.

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The Shadow Selfie 🙂

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A walking/bike path summiting a steep climb just before descending to Rest Stop #2

We rolled up and down through many hills in south Orange County and eventually we made our way to aid station #2 in San Clemente.  What happened to the first aid station? We bypassed it since we didn’t need anything within the first 25 miles.  Immediately following aid station #2 was the toughest hill of the day for us – Avenida Salvador!  It had ramps over 12-15% and it is a bear on a tandem.

Up down up down more hills and familiar roads as we were doing large loops back to earlier aid stations.   I’m sure that made it easier for the event organizer to provide support for us.  All was going fine until I started having twinges in my legs that eventually became cramps.  I rarely cramp.  Lori says never say never.  I was just about to type I “never cramp”.  I was so surprised and wondered what the heck was going on! I started taking sodium supplements at each aid station and taking extra capsules with me.  Throughout the day I was fighting off cramps in my legs.  It was actually quite annoying.  My nutrition was the same as always — concentrated bottles of Spiz Nutrition . Lori and I ride 90% liquid nutrition for our doubles with Spiz being our primary fuel. It is an amazing product that provides the calories, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and amino acids for you to sustain hard efforts for hours on end.

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Lunch stop – so many people were surprised we stopped. The truth is I had enough calories for 12 hours but the first 100 took us longer than I expected and started to think we were going to go way beyond the calories I had onboard so we picked up a few more calories and a Coke!

The on and off cramping was nothing compared to the headwinds we experienced all day.  Anytime we turned West or North the winds were unrelenting.  On Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) there were times that we were barely going 15 mph on flat sections.  Let me tell you that’s disheartening as a tandem lol!  We pushed through it and finally made our turnaround in Long Beach immediately across the harbor from the Queen Mary.  I had told Lori on the way up that I had never been to the Queen Mary.  She was surprised probably just as much as I was lol!

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Just 3.5 miles from the turnaround point TJ Knight and Brook Henderson took such great care of us!

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Once we made the turn for home we were treated to a wonderful tailwind from Long Beach back to Newport Beach, approximately 20 miles.  We turned inland and headed for Irvine.  Funny how so often we are racing the sun to finish our doubles in fall and winter doubles.  Sunset for Saturday was 6:48pm.  We pulled into the Hotel Irvine just a couple of minutes after 7pm.  Sub 13 hours was the goal and we were right on target! At first it was a conservative goal with hopes of beating it but with all the winds during the day and the cramping it ended up being a struggle just to make the sub 13 hour goal.

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Finishing photo several minutes after finishing still a little daylight left 🙂 Thank you to Irwin Cycling for the 38mm Disc Brake wheels

Thank you to Lori for being so steady on the bike with power and grace.  I’m sorry for rushing you through lunch!  She gets all the photo credits too lol!

What’s next for me/us?  Lori and I will be doing the Knoxville Double Century (200 miler with 12,000 feet) on September 29th.  If all goes well it will be our 5th Double Century of the season.  On Sunday morning there will be an awards breakfast where I will be inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame for having completed 50 Double Centuries.  Stay tuned…

You can follow me on Strava here