Intervals… defined (or, how to be a Klingon)

The intervals I am about to define are for bicycling as a part of triathlon training.  They can be done in any sport but for the purposes of this post, I will focus on bicycling.  I will attempt to define the major parts of an interval ride with my triathlon club, the Columbia Multisport Club.  This particular workout is also frequented by a few nefarious lurkers from the local bike club, the CBC.  Their sole purpose at this ride is to suck us triathletes into thinking we are fast so that they can pound us into the ground like a tent peg about 10 miles into the ride.  I won’t name names, but they know who they are.

Since one of my main goals in triathlons this year is to get faster on the bike, I have determined that the only way to do this is… well… ride.  More.  Faster…

I… am a genius…

So let’s break down how this ride is supposed to go, using all the fancy terminology we tri-geeks use, and then I will pluck out the terms and define them.

This is an interval ride to 90% (for me).  It is a group ride, usually in pace lines, that means drafting on relatively flat terrain.  It is an out and back route on rural roads and is divided up by distance and/or speed.  There are 3 groups labeled “A”, “B”, and “C” (original, eh?).  They are split up by their estimated speed for the ride (honors system).  “B” and “C” riders roll out first (I have no idea why) and the “A” group usually goes off about 5 minutes after that.  This is a drop ride.

Let us begin

  1. Interval Ride- A workout where the rider alternates between a comfortable pace and a near all out effort.  Efforts can last from 2-5 minutes between rest periods.  However the whole “rest period” thingy seems to have been lost with this group.  We triathletes (and those evil CBC guys) simply warm up for about 5 minutes and then hit the gas.  I guess the rest period comes while you are waiting for the ambulance after you pass out trying to be a Klingon and fall off in a ditch.  I have yet to go on this ride (3 years now) where I rode with a group that actually “recovered”.
  2. 90%- This is a nebulous estimation of a near all out sprint where you maintain your heart rate at 90% of max.  See, most triathletes have 10 pound bikes and 30 pounds of geeky monitoring gear and computers stuck all over them to tell them exactly how they are doing.  The problem is, most of them are going so hard they can’t even SEE the displays on their various monitoring gear so they guess.  And not wanting to be low, thereby ruining the effort, their 90% usually ends up with a 1 in front of it, once again, initiating a call to an ambulance for Klingons.
  3. Group Ride- The very loose term used to describe 20 old, fat, slow Klingons desperately trying to keep up with 2-3 world class athletes.  Especially on “drop rides” (see definition below).
  4. Pace line- Any number of bicycles lined up precariously close to each other, wheel to wheel, at warp 2 or greater.  The combined effect of this is greater speed than you could achieve on your own (except those evil CBC guys…).  Each rider takes a turn at the front.  This is called taking a “pull”.  This can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the strength of the rider.  A rider who is done with their pull then moves out of the draft to let the pace line go by and then rejoins the end of the line.
    1. Pull- This is the thing Klingons fear the most.  It usually signals the end of their time in the pace line.  It is usually also where they experience the “drop”.  As they pull out of line after their pull, the rest of the pace line screams by leaving them no hope of jumping back in.  This is the saddest part of a Klingon’s life.
  5. Drafting-  Sitting so close to the back wheel of the bike in front of you that you can smell the deodorant of the rider in front of you (unless they are CBC guys.  They don’t wear deodorant.  They feel it gives them an advantage in a pack ride.).  Drafting is, of course, done at breakneck speed.  The most confusing part about this to the standard triathlete is that drafting is ILLEGAL in our version of the sport (very few of us do ITU races)… so… why the hell are we practicing this again?
  6. Rural Roads- Terrifyingly strips of uneven blacktop.  These usually come with ample road pizza, gravel in every turn, ZERO shoulder and lots of grumpy, redneck drivers who are NOT fans of bicycling.  But the scenery is pretty…
  7. Groups- Pods of lying, rat bastard, cyclists (usually lead by some CBC guy) that typically underestimate their “pace” by at least 3 miles an hour so they can help you experience the “drop” in a “drop ride”.
  8. Estimated speed- The speed on a bicycle through which those lying, rat bastard “groups” fly on their way up to the actually pace they are going to ride.  As a Klingon, you see this “estimated speed” twice during the ride.  Once as you go through it on the way up, and once as you feel the “deceleration of shame” when you realize you just experienced the “drop” in a “drop ride”.
  9. Drop Ride- Hammer fest.  Weak riders and Klingons stay to the right.
  10. Klingon- A rider who desperately tries to hold on to the end of a much faster pace line they know they have NO business being in.  If you look that definition up on Cyclopedia, there will be a picture of me.
  11. (Bonus) Getting “Gapped”-  a break in the pace line by one or more riders that lets the front group get ahead.  There is usually no recovery for the “gapped” riders, who then start the deceleration of shame.  To describe this from a Klingon’s perspective, imagine holding something very heavy over the edge of a cliff.  You KNOW you can’t hold it, and you can feel it start to slip, but there is nothing you can do but wait for it to finally go.  Your only solace is to hope to hang on a little longer than you did last time…

There you have it.  Please feel free to add your own to the list.

Yesterday I was NOT able to hang on.  I believe I can comfortably ride in a pace line at about 22-23mph now.  Yesterday’s group was at least 24 and I just couldn’t hold on.  Then I jumped in behind a rider who was in the process of getting gapped and I didn’t notice (tunnel vision… trying not to pass out) until I realized he was already in the deceleration of shame and the gap was about 50 yards.  Impossible for me to bridge alone.  Thus I got to experience another one of this “group” ride’s little joys.  The solo return.  Where you ride back home past the other groups and they look at you and they know… “he got dropped… again.”

Am I complaining about this ride?  No.  It’s fun.  And someday I may be able to hang on all the way out and back with the fast boys and girls.  For now, I ride alone a lot because I’m too fast for one group and not fast enough for the other.  Which is fine because it lets me do the ride like I was told it’s supposed to be done.  In INTERVALS.

…just sayin.


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