Friday, November 14, 2014

Side Effects

I feel fine. At least, I think I do.
I'm no longer doubled over with intestinal cramps periodically, praying that whatever was causing the discomfort would come out one direction or another. I'm back to pretty much eating whatever I want without any side effects (other than the usual weight gain and lethargy).
And yet, when I get on the trainer to knock out a workout, I am not all there. I'll start off great, grinding away at a decent wattage and holding it without killing myself. Then about 30 minutes into the workout the wheels will come off. My legs will feel empty and weak, my heart rate will steadily climb the levels much higher than normal, and I'll limp my way to the end of the workout.
A week ago, I was knocking out workouts much harder than this and still felt like I had more in the tank. Now I just want to curl up with a fuzzy blanket and watch Anthony Bourdain on TV.
My body isn't processing food properly just yet, even though it is interfering with my training schedule. It seems odd to get upset about setbacks so early in the trainer season, but after the race season I just had, I am anxious to move forward. I just need to get my body to agree with the plan.
I feel fine.
I feel fine.
I feel fine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Kid is Trying to Kill Me.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After two days of staying home with a sick kid it was bound to happen. I woke up this morning with a good night's sleep (for a change). The back didn't hurt. In fact, nothing felt off at all. I got on the bike, stared cranking away, and within two minutes I could barely turn the pedals.
Nothing there. The guts started knotting up, so I backed off to a little above Recovery pace and tried to see if things would turn around. They didn't. At the 30 minute mark, covered in sweat and still not putting out any wattage, I decided to call it a day.
I don't know what bug I have, but I don't like it. It seems like every time I hit my stride and start feeling good, something comes along to knock me back down. The only thing I can do now is brush myself off and start all over again. If I don't, I know I'll feel even worse in the long run.
This kid is trying to kill me. He's cute. He's lovable. But obviously he's evil. I guess that proves he's mine.

Friday, November 7, 2014


While it's fun for a day or so, eventually I get sick of the hazy feeling from the pain medication and muscle relaxers. I don't enjoy walking around like a zombie, unable to come up with a suitable zinger in response to a co-worker's insult. I don't like being off my game.
I took a couple days off the bike, and then started up again. Mainly it's been moderate-intensity grinds, instead of high intensity intervals that I usually do. That's alright, since I really need to get used to grinding out higher consistent wattage on the trainer.
Today I went off the medications. I was able to get more accomplished in a shorter time at work, and I was still able to crank out puddles of sweat on the trainer. So far, so good. If my back doesn't get any worse, I'll set the drugs aside and let the chiropractor do his thing to get me in shape again.
The weight is still there. I shouldn't be surprised, since I haven't made a concerted effort to get rid of it. I guess I'm kinda happy I didn't gain any as I transitioned from the road to the trainer. If I can lose a couple before New Years Day, I'll be ahead of the game.
Ski season is right around the corner, and I'm interested in seeing what coaching for the Alyeska Mighty Mites will be like. I bought a pair of non-race skis at the ski swap, which should make off-piste skiing a little more fun for me. I'm trying not to get too worked up about skiing just yet, because we still have a little time to go before ski season will be in full swing. No need to rush.
Until then, I'll just work on getting the back strong again so I can keep up with all of the ankle-biters. It would be embarrassing if my group had to carry me down the mountain.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Snapped Like a Rubber Band.

This time last year I took an ambulance ride I don't remember, after my car was rear ended. I woke up in an Emergency Room not knowing where I was or what had happened.
Yesterday I took another ambulance ride, but I was awake. I was in the middle of my annual fitness test, which up to that point was going quite well. My back strain from the 'cross race was starting to twinge during the push-ups, but I thought I could gut out the rest. I was wrong. I was steadily knocking out the sit-ups when something snapped in my back. I tried to rest and knock a few more, but that was a mistake. My pig-headed pride caused even more damage.
They carted this old man out of there on a stretcher. Every bump the ambulance hit sent stabs of pain up my spine. It took awhile, but the eventually got an IV in me with some drugs to dull the pain somewhat, then sent me home with a bag of narcotics.
Now oxycodone and Flexeril are my friends, and the world is a little fuzzy around the edges- until I jar my back, at which point life comes into sharp focus.
I may get on my bike tonight and spin, because ever since I initially hurt my back, riding has been the one thing that made it feel better.
I am really starting to hate late October.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Back to the Cave

Sunday night found me at the top of one of the many climbs on the South Anchorage hillside, gazing out over the inlet as I hacked up a lung. Tranquil. I was doing as many of the climbs as I could, none of them with any real speed, except for the one where I picked up a shadow and decided to drop him. It’s not a race unless I decide it’s a race. To be honest, it was a pitifully slow race. I reached the top of each climb, paused for a minute, then rode to the next climb and started the process again.

As I watched the sun drop to the horizon, signaling that I really should be heading home, I instead turned my bike towards one more climb. I realized that this could possibly be the last road ride of the season.

I didn’t realize how right I was.

The next morning I awoke to an inch of wet snow on the streets around my house. I had been planning my workouts for the trainer for a couple weeks in case it happened, so for a change I actually was following the training plan when I retreated to the garage.

I walled off a section of the garage for my trainer last year, to keep oily old car parts from dripping onto my bike or to keep sweat from dripping onto oily old car parts. As a bonus, it stays slightly warmer in the winter. I sound-proofed it somewhat to keep my 4AM workouts from waking the kids, threw some old Pergo over the concrete to mitigate some of the sweat stains, and installed a small flat screen TV and speakers to distract me and to drown out the jet turbine roar of my LeMond trainer. A stout fan keeps me cool and mismatched shelving holds my entire collection of well-worn race DVDs. The torn leather club chair completes the ambiance. Quite the man cave, although the home improvement shows my wife watches indicate I lack recessed lighting and tasteful art pieces. I swept the sawdust into a corner of the room- does that count?

Before I turn over control of my aches and pains to my coach, Janice Tower, I generally like to do a couple weeks of trainer workouts to get my head into the game. Riding the trainer for me is almost as much of a mental workout as it is a physical workout. Just maintaining the concentration while sweating and going nowhere takes a lot out of me. It’s almost a completely different sport than what I do on the road. On the road the scenery changes, the terrain changes, the effort level fluctuates, and all of the other sensory inputs keep you engaged. On the trainer, the scenery is limited to what is displayed on my television, the elevation and efforts are stable, and sensory inputs are limited to me focusing on how much my butt hurts. It’s downright mentally invigorating.

I’m starting to wrap my head around my new reality. I’m starting to take notice of the skis I’ve been tripping over all summer. I’m looking for new places to hang up bikes to clear up floor space for ski waxing and other wintertime projects. Maybe I’ll tackle the man cave recessed lighting project or sort some of the greasy car parts.

Then again, maybe I’ll just follow tradition and pile whatever I don’t need at the moment in a corner, where I’ll discover it in the summer- 2 weeks after I buy a replacement. Home organization has never been a strength of mine, and that’s another thing maybe I need to wrap my head around this winter.

Anything to distract me from a long winter of working hard to go nowhere…


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Parts Pile and Turning it up to 11.

Hello. My name is Mike and I am a gear whore. Admitting it is the first step towards recovery.
...but I don't want to recover.
Most years in the fall I will start stocking up on consumables when the online retailers start having sales and are anxious to clear out their inventories. Tires, tubes, cleats, chains, brake pads... I stock up now so I don't have to pay retail later. At least, that's what I tell myself.
This year I went a little into overdrive. It started with 11 speed. I have no intention of moving from 10 speed to 11 speed, as I don't see any advantage at the moment. The majority of my wheelsets won't accept an 11 speed cassette. It would be a pretty massive investment to swap all of my bikes over to 11 speed for that extra gear, especially when it doesn't really add much to the equation for me.
The upside is that a lot of retailers starting to discount their 10 speed stuff. So, being the good consumer I am, I'm taking some of it off of their hands. I started with the cassettes. I now have 10 pretty, new cassettes of varying gear ratios. Since the shipping is often free if you add a part or two to your order to meet a certain amount, I picked up a few tires and a few chains. I now have 10 new clincher tires and 4 new tubular tires, plus 7 new chains... and cleats... and tubes. None of this is all that horrible, since I can go years without buying these consumables again.
Then I started thinking (which is always a dangerous thing). Why not pick up some drivetrain parts for future builds? They're cheap(er) too, and it beats running around trying to find them when something breaks or I pick up a new frame. Long story short, I could build up 3 new bikes with what is in the pile. Actually, I've had to stop myself a couple times from picking up another frame to justify the parts. I just don't have room for the additional bikes, and there's only so many I can ride.
  • I have my blue Madone 5.2 Pro, which is my climbing and training bike. Gotta have one of those.
  • I have my black Madone 6.69, which is my race bike. Perfectly understandable.
  • I have my blue Fuji Aloha, which is my TT bike. Gotta gain those seconds in time trials.
  • I have my black Ridley Orion, which is my stationary trainer and travel bike, since none of the Madones fit in my bike case (seatmasts). Logical.
  • I have my bastardized Kona Jake, which is my foul weather and 'cross bike. Wider tires and disc brakes can be nice.
All of these I ride, sometimes in the same day. A lot of guys I race against who are far faster than me have one or two road bikes, so the reasoning for 5 or more (I do have a frame hanging in the garage) can be pretty thin.
I just like them. I like riding them. I like working on them. I like morphing them from one configuration into another. The parts pile feeds that. I haven't paid full retail on a road bike since I bought the Fuji almost 8 years ago, building or rebuilding each new project from the bare frame up. Ride-able Legos.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to check eBay for valve extenders. If I don't post again soon, I'll likely be found in the garage under an avalanche of SRAM boxes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Yesterday was an awesome day. I was convinced I had seen my last day on the road for the season, with rain in town and snow creeping down the mountain. Then it all came together and I got a temporary reprieve from the trainer.
I felt fast.         I wasn't.
I felt strong.     I wasn't.
I felt light.        I wasn't.

Maybe it was a combination of wasted late-season form and the cold air combining to make me feel like I was riding well, but I absolutely had a blast.
Today I got on the bike and felt like dirt.
I felt slow.      I was.
I felt weak.     I was.
I felt fat.         Yep, I was that too.
Maybe it was my day's diet of nothing but refined sugar that did me in, but I could put nothing into the pedals. My day at work was characterized by always being 3 steps behind, so food was whatever happened to present itself. Nothing good presented itself. I paid for it.
Still, weak or not, I squeezed as much riding in as I could, mindful of what is ahead of me. I'm already planning my weeks around time spent on the trainer, so any ride that involves actually moving from point A to point B is to be savored.
After the season I just had, it's strange to be excited about cycling, but I am. I'm stocking up on drivetrain and consumable items, stretching out new tubular tires for next season, plotting new bike builds, and dreaming of future racing glories.
I feel like a cyclist again.

Better late than never.