I had my last session for my bike fit last week and in that was a pedal stroke coaching session. I must say building a smooth pedal stroke is a lot harder than it sounds. It is easy to shift effort from one part of the stroke to another but to work it all the way around, well that IS difficult. Especially seeing I have not developed the muscles for that yet.
The whole principle is that a lever works best when a force is applied to it at 90 degrees. Picture a string tied to the end of a crank. you must pull the string straight out get the most bang for your buck. If you want to keep the string straight out as you pull your arm will form a perfect circle. So, how do we get our feet to form a perfect circle? He gave me a lot of things to help explain the principle and in general they helped with different parts of the stroke, they didn't get me a complete stroke as I pictured it. I had the principles, I knew I was pushing my heal too low in the bottom of the stroke. He suggested putting a few words on the stem to remind you to keep your form. 3 words he mentioned that someone else used was circle of power.
Due to taking the kids camping on Friday night I couldn't get out onto the open road until 2pm. This meant I would have to bag on doing the Tour De Phoenix route. I decided to do hill repeats on the backside of Usery pass. It is a 3-4 mile climb made up mostly of 5% grade. I decided it would be just the hill to gear down and work on my pedal stroke efficiency. I worked on remembering to keep my toes pointed at the bottom of the stroke to "dip" them into the bowl. I began to realize this action which beforehand had held very little understanding on my part became clear. When I dipped my toes, my hamstrings pulled my foot up through the back of the pedal stroke. The hamstrings of coarse were not altogether happy at this new development and I kept catching them and the calves in wicked collusion slipping my heal down to get back into old habits. The "old" ways which had been burned into my legs over the last 30000 miles of riding were set in their ways like a zealot at a book burning. Burning, yeah, those zealots were burning. My hams were burning, new parts of my quads were burning. Good heavans the whole metropolis of Paul's Leg was burning. Burning burning burning.
I was getting there. I was mighty close. Circles. Cranks, are circles. Cogs are circles, wheels are circles. Lots of circles. What if I had a marker attached to the ball of my foot, would I be drawing a circle? Hmmm. I worked on drawing that circle. Every so often that burning ham and fatted calf would lull me into dropping my heal as they sensed my distraction into other realms of thought and concentration. Again and Again I would dip them back into submission. I then arrived at my mantra. Tippy toes draw a circle. It sounds kind of sissyish. I don't think I will put it on my bike anywhere as I might need to put a thatched white basked with a flower on the front onto my bike to match.
Nevertheless, burned into my mind and legs over three and a half hours of hill climbing is "tippy toes draw a circle". I didn't set any speed records climbing the hill. I didn't try to catch up to riders who passed me. I passed a few that were preparing for the 35 mile version of the Tour de Phoenix next week. Chatted a bit with them and rode off. Always in my mind was "tippy toes draw a circle". 4 times I climbed the beast. 45 miles and 3200 vertical feet, always "tippy toes draw a circle". My back started to ache a little towards the end but not bad compared to similar efforts in the past. I was noticing that my hip motion was gone. I wasn't moving around over the bars and I seemed to sit a lot more solidly in the saddle. My legs were absorbing a lot less of the shock that came from the road and I could feel it in the backside.
When I got home my entire legs were drained. I had consumed only water over the 3.5 hours (I had a HUGE! breakfast). I had started to get a little hungry on the last bit of the last climb. Though my legs were totally drained I took that as a good sign. Part of the idea of a smooth pedal stroke is to more evenly distribute the strain across more muscle groups. This I had succeeded at in a very thorough way.
Next week is El Tour de Phoenix. I had not intended riding it but I heard PBAA needed all the support they could get since the county was giving them flack about the use of Bush Hwy. So I signed up. I feel confident in saying I won't finish Platinum. I may not even finish gold. I don't think concentrating on pedal form and participating in a paceline is necessarily the best thing. Sure it's possible to pat your head and rub your tummy, but would you like someones life to depend on you doing that perfectly? Yeah me either. I'll shoot for gold but if not, I will at least get a good training ride in. Riding in poor form is only going to undo what I have accomplished.
The whole riding a PBAA event again (and I have refrained the last few Tour de Tucsons because of price and scheduling issues) had got me thinking about the Cochise County Cycling Classic. I had not considered this ride for many years. I was looking at it before Randonneuring pulled me into it's loving arms (it's kind of a freezing wet tired tough love thing though). To ride 252 or 157 mile versions of this ride a person needs a support crew. I have had a few ideas. One person I called gave me the lame excuse that she was going to be the event director for that ride this year. Yeah yeah lady, I hear the violins playing. Sure, director of the Cochise County Cycling classic, uh huh.... oh, oops.. heh heh, looks like your story checks out Ms. um, supreme, wonderful, masterful, wise course director Mamm. Hmmm, that was a close one. I sent out another feeler and am awaiting an answer back on that one. I am sure something will work out before October. In the meantime I need a concise, efficient training plan.
One idea I have had speaking of training is possibly going for the R12 award with RUSA as a side benefit of getting some longer rides in before October. That would mean a 200k sometime in October since the 4 C's isn't an RUSA ride, so maybe that isn't such a swell idea. I do want to incorporate a few permanents in the training plan though. Anyway, first things first, lets get the pedal stroke down and the mines to pines brevet behind us and then move on into the searing training of the summer.
Tippy toes draw a circle.
This just in....... Word on the street says that Bruce of Southern Arizona Randonneurs fame, has condescended to be crew chief for our intrepid RandoCommuter on the 4 C's ride. With a crew like this, how can he fail! Six and a half months away we will be raising a fist in the eye of the storm, we will cry into the wind and call it weak, we will curse the evil asphalt of the eastbound I-10 interstate, we will stare down the maw of the land of the Apaches and be found tired yet vigilant in the paths of their ancient land. We will claw our way to the top of the mule pass and fall with fury upon the top of Tombstone, who like us, is too tough to die.
In the meantime, Tippy toes draw a circle.