Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wishing Isn't Doing.

I often hear other cyclists talk about their diets and routines and wish I was that person.
I wish I had the discipline they do.
I wish my palate was such that I could choke down the foul-yet-healthy things they consume enthusiastically. I wish I could push away from the table before the loosening of several wardrobe items and the phrase "elastic waistband " come into play. I wish my resolve wasn't so weak when passing a McDonalds, or at least that I could make better choices once I hit the drive-thru. I didn't see a quart of ice cream as something to be conquered. I wish I didn't interpret the local feed-trough all-you-can-eat buffet as a dare.
I'm weak that way.
Fact is, I sabotage myself at every turn.
I burn matches I don't have. I rarely get enough sleep. I'm lazy when I should be active and active when I should be lazy. I procrastinate until everything piles up in such a manner that doing any one thing well is nearly impossible.
A lot of this started when I was young and could get away with it. I'm no longer young, the bill is due, and my line of credit is used up. Every action has consequences, and I've been slow to realize it.
My Facebook account is constantly filled with shared miracle detox plans to fix all of life's problems. Unfortunately, I'm to lazy to start them. Real and meaningful change is not in my immediate future.
I wish I would do something about this, but wishing isn't doing. Temporary fixes and bandages are more my style. Sometimes I layer on the Winnie the Pooh bandaids thick enough they prop me up for a while, but eventually not even a heffalump could keep me from sabotaging myself.
I still have a little time to turn things around before road season, but I doubt I will.
Doing isn't listed among my strengths.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Not Interested.

In 2010 Fabian Cancellara was accused of mechanical doping. Ever since then, the UCI has been checking bikes using various methods (including airport body scanners) for motors on bikes. A lot of people called their quest quixotic at best, and an insult to the professional integrity of cyclists (that one makes me laugh) at worst. After five years of searching, they finally found one.
I lump eBikes and other motorized bicycles in the same category as mopeds- not a bicycle. If it has a motor that isn't the rider, I'm not interested in it. I can understand the want or need to ride a motor-assisted conveyance for general transportation. After all, I drive a car. I'd rather that eBike be registered as a motor vehicle and not be allowed in bike lanes, multi-use-trails/paths, or other established non-motorized routes on or off pavement. In other words, I'd rather them be out playing in rush-hour traffic with no other alternative. That way the average potential user would be too terrified to ever ride or buy one, sales would plummet, and they would disappear from the face of the earth. You could say I'm not a fan.
In competition, I can see the urge to get a leg up on everyone else. That's why we all use EPO/HGH/testosterone and transfuse massive quantities of blood- to hang with the pack in the local office park crit. That's just leveling the playing field, because our parents weren't considerate enough to be Davis and Connie Phinney. Completely understandable.
However, sticking a motor in your bike opens you up to the sort of unrestrained hate that Miss Van den Driessche (try spelling that three times fast) is the target of right about now. If you had just followed her brother's lead and gotten popped for EPO, she would have been eligible to race again in a couple years and would have received a residual boost from her doping. Unless the electromagnetic fields created some strange muscular adaptations, chances are her mechanical doping isn't going to result in any positive outcome. I'm willing to bet the UCI, free from any outside legal restraint and eager to justify all of that testing, is going to come down on her like a ton of bricks. She'll be lucky if they allow her to ride a Dutch city bike to the market.
I ride a bike to exercise. I guess it would be different if I had any talent. Since I haven't been burdened with athletic ability, I don't feel compelled to "motor-up". My lack of performance can be directly attributed to my physical inadequacies coupled with my lack of willpower and drive, not a lack of amperage. I have no need for the added excuses. I do fine on my own.
Poor little Femke, saddled with far more potential than she could handle, was funneled by the corrupt system into the shady underworld of mechanical doping. If she was only as unspectacular as I am, she would have avoided this fate completely and would have been content with the more mundane pharmacological enhancements.

This just reinforces my perception that everyone that's faster than I am is cheating. They have to be. I follow the program Michele Ferrari designed for me to the letter, yet people are still faster than I am. Now I know why- motors.
In the spirit of fair play, I'm going to institute a mechanical doping detection program of my own. Since I don't have the resources of the UCI, I will have to cut the seat tubes and carbon wheels of all of my competitors' bikes with a hacksaw at the start line of every race this season to ensure no one is cheating. This program will have to remain in place for at least the next five years, even if no motors are detected, because Femke may sneak into the Southcentral Alaska peloton if we are not vigilant. I was going to build a wall, but Mexico said they wouldn't fund it, so this is the only other way to ensure a level playing field.
To save time at the start line, I won't cut my own seat tube or wheels and instead will rely on my own first-hand knowledge of the components used on the build. Signed testimonials can be produced (generated) on request. Just provide the pen and paper.
Sounds fair to me.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Wheels On The Bus...

...fall off.

After a week of steadily improving performance, Saturday it all blew up.

After I warmed up a bit, I did a 15 second sprint effort. Nothing earth-shattering, but solid and well within my normal range for that sort of thing. Immediately after, my legs felt rubbery. I recovered for a few minutes and went for a 20 second sprint. Again, a decent interval, then nothing.

Subsequent efforts produced similar results. I had a moderate amount of pop, but no endurance to back it up. No matter what I did, I was struggling to maintain power levels that were a breeze all this week. As soon as I started putting even a moderate amount of power out, my heart rate would shoot up and I'd start sweating heavily and struggling. When I'd back off, everything would be fine.

It wasn't in the tank Saturday, and I can't say it's completely unexpected.

First, my whole house had been in various phases all week. Runny noses, hacking coughs... At any given moment someone was hating life. It very well could be that it's my turn.

Second, was is the end of a workout cycle for me. For the last month the intensity has been slowly ramping up. While the goal is to reach the very end and blow up spectacularly during the last minute, the timing isn't always quite that precise. Sometimes I roll into a recovery week with an excess of energy, which leads to me going too hard and completely ruining the intent of the easiest week in the cycle. Some end up like Saturday, where I fizzle out before the finish. To be honest, I prefer the latter, because at least I know I left it all on the table.

Sunday at the Dome confirmed my fall from form was complete. Short bursts of energy were followed by feeble tires at maintaining anything resembling a respectable pace. I tried to hang in the draft, but eventually I had to drift off and pedal my squares alone.
I'll do my best to follow the recovery week schedule. The ache in my legs indicates it won't be that hard to do.
No way to get around it. Getting older sucks.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Little Perspective.

After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?
-Anton Ego from
I'm not much of a foodie. I don't take pictures of creative arrangements of asparagus before I dig in and then post it on the interwebs. As a rule, asparagus is foisted off on the wife. I don't try every fad that's touted by celebrity chefs. I have no real desire to eat glands, even if everyone says they're awesome. Hell, I quote lines from animated films about a chef that happens to be a rat.
I just likes me some food.
My family eats out far more than we should. We eat at local restaurants. We eat at chain restaurants. We eat a high-brow places. We eat at dives. We have a whole list of favorites that we return to regularly for different occasions and moods. We have an even bigger list of places that have been tried, found wanting, and will never be visited again.
For the chains, it's all about consistency. You know going in that you're going to get a certain level of food at a certain price-point. You're not expecting to be astounded, because the recipes have been developed for the mass market and filtered through supply chain and staffing limitations. You don't have to be a culinary arts school graduate to bang out a reasonably close facsimile of what people are expecting. Rip open a ziplock bag, dump it in the fryer or microwave, arrange it on the plate like in the picture, and feed the ignorant masses.

Don't get me wrong, there can be a certain amount of artistry among the meth addicts that drift through the chain restaurant world. I've had some incredible experiences in Waffle Houses in the southeast. It's like finding a diamond in a bag of glass shards, but every once in a while you get lucky. Mostly though, you hope to get fed and not get food poisoning. You keep your expectations low. There's times when that's all I'm looking for.

When it comes to local joints, I tend to have a higher standard. They have to impress me. I want them to provide something unique. I want them to give a shit about what they're doing and not just repackage a tried-and-true format. I really could care less about food that I can get at the Friday's franchise down the street. I want their own take on food. I want their perspective. My limited, uneducated, sodium-saturated palate may not agree with their vision, but I can certainly respect the fact the have one.
Some restaurants find their groove and desperately cling to it, not changing their menus for fear of upsetting the fragile balance they've created. Given the current restaurant failure statistics, I can understand that position. However, banging out the same old stuff for decades shows the whole organization is on autopilot. Once that happens, standards slip. A lot of the restaurants on various "Must Visit" lists in Alaska fall into that category. They stopped trying years ago and are banking on history. Again, I can understand that, but it doesn't mean I'll patronize their restaurants. There are other places that are making an actual effort.
They don't have to be fancy. They can be at just about any price-point across a wide spectrum of cuisines. They just have to give a crap about what they're doing.
That, and not giving me the runs would be a good place to start.
Then again, that may be a solid way to cut weight before road season...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Not Quite Like Real Life.

Since all of my riding for the last few months has been on the trainer, I've spent quite a bit of time on Zwift. It's provided the extra motivation to push harder (in some cases too hard) when the couch and mass quantities of Goldfish crackers beckoned. My well-worn stack of northern Classics DVDs, the go-to motivational tool of the last few years, has pretty much remained untouched.
Zwift is a quantum leap forward for me, but it doesn't hold a candle to reality.
This clearly demonstrated the other day when I logged on, noticed Chris Knott was riding, and tried to link up with him. Despite the program placing me at his current location, he blew by me like I was standing still (because I was, literally and figuratively). I charged after him, hoping he wasn't doing anything structured and would be willing to play.
In real life I could through out a sarcastic comment between gasps or choke down the vomit long enough to get my point across. Not so in the virtual world of Zwift. Communication in this environment is through short text messages displayed globally or through applications that allow you to use microphones. My typing is horrible in the best of circumstances, and it doesn't get any better when I'm flailing away at 350W. The best I can manage is one of the pre-programmed comments that never seem to convey what I mean.
When I finally caught him, he rode in my draft for 30 seconds, dropped off to drift back down the nearby riders board, and then disappeared completely. I figured he was doing intervals, so I went ahead and did my own thing. I didn't want to interfere, because I know how hard it is to resist the urge to chase and burn energy when you're supposed to be doing something else.
After my trainer dungeon session was done, I contacted him through Facebook and learned he had recently broken a couple ribs. What would have been plainly obvious in the real world was concealed by how fit his avatar appeared. What could have been expressed in a handful of words went unsaid. I would have likely ridden along and swapped pulls with him if I realized the situation. Instead I rode off solo.
Zwift may be a lot of things, but it isn't a substitute for the real world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Print Media.

I have subscriptions to multiple cycling magazines.
I used to get all giggly when they showed up on my doorstep, and immediately find a quiet place to pour over every page. As long as it was related in some small way to road cycling, I would read it.
Then, as with everything I'm exposed to for extended periods of time, I started to notice the faults. They weighed on me, and my enthusiasm waned considerably. Certain subscriptions  I dropped because the lack of editing made them almost unreadable. I must now contrast that with this blog, because small errors only add weight behind whatever flimsy argument I'm presenting. With print media, misspellings and other errors just make them look incompetent. There's actually somebody that's supposed to check for that crap, and that person is usually highly eduficated in writin'. If an ignorant bumpkin like me can catch and fixate on them, what the hell is wrong with the editorial staff?
Other subscriptions I dropped because the content was laughable. A certain magazine started out with decent potential, but soon figured out that extensive reader-generated content and rehashed manufacturer press releases were cheap ways to fill pages. Another made such an effort to appeal to a certain gender to right long-standing industry biases that I was no longer interested in the articles. Still another chose to spend more time on lifestyle articles, lovingly describing artisanal coffee grinders or the perfect paella and devoting limited space to actually riding. Real writing that conveyed the simple joys of the ride have been replaced by a new "Ultimate Core-Building Workout for Your Best Century Ever!™" every month. I lost interest. I dropped subscriptions. Here and there I would pick up an issue in a bookstore or airport to kill some time, but that was about it.
The magazine I thought best represented all that I consider awesome about road cycling (and some extra stuff too) was Paved, produced by the author of Dog in a Hat, Joe Parkin. That magazine really understood how to convey the road cycling world and all of its variants while still keeping it first and foremost about the riding. Initially conceived as a one-issue product, it lasted a few years and consistently put out a product far superior that of its peers. Of course, I put in my subscription renewal in just in time for the title to fold, so instead I got a magazine I had little interest in. It's a shame, but I still thumb through the archive from time to time and marvel how something so competent ever got published in the first place.
So, what I'm left with are unsatisfying magazines that usually stay unread until my toddler destroys them. The subscriptions usually amount to about $10 annually for each title, so I don't feel disgusted enough to cancel, but at the same time I know they could and should do better. I know the publishing world has evolved considerably since Al Gore invented the interweb, but seriously...
I was talking the other day with a fellow Mighty Mite coach about it. Her brother and sister-in-law are two well-regarded cycling photojournalists who travel the world following professional cycling. A publication was pressuring them to provide content free of charge, because "it was valuable exposure". I'm sure you can pay for life on the road and lots of camera gear with all of that "valuable exposure". I think The Oatmeal summed it up best. The last time I checked, the only stories of actual riding or compelling pictures in that printed-on-archival-quality-paper publication were written or at least photographed by that very talented couple. That magazine will not be renewed. I can get my wine suggestions elsewhere.
To be honest, I don't know why I keep subscribing to any of them. I learn about technological advances on the internet far before I see it in print. Magazine reviews rarely influence my bike tastes, because I've found through long and expensive experiments that their preferences and my own rarely mesh. I've been subscribing long enough to see the periodic regurgitating of the exact same articles again and again, for a fresh crop of readers who don't know the difference. I can almost sing along with my eyes closed.
Maybe it's the same reason I buy paper books instead of downloading them. Hardback books that have a heft to them and take up twice as much space on the bookshelf as they should. Books that may never be read again, but cost four times as much as the digital version. I just like that tactile experience of turning the pages. It makes the experience more meaningful to me than clicking on a mouse and staring at a screen. I can immerse myself in the subject without interruption. For me, that distinction is enough.
However, the publishers are trying my patience.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Turns Out, They May Have Something There.

I've been playing around lately, mainly to fight the tedium that comes with riding in place for any amount of time. This usually occurs during easy trainer workouts, where my butt gets tired well before my legs start to fatigue.
I am well aware that hammering away every workout is a sure prescription for burnout and sub-par performance, even though I have a tendency to do it anyway. Zwift, my trainer distraction du jour, generally encourages me to hammer when I should be riding easy, so much so that Janice forbids me to log on certain days of the week. Even "group ride" events that are advertised as limited to 2 to 2.5 w/kg and should fit into a moderate workout tend to explode before the neutral rollout has ended. Swept up in the spirit and just trying to hold onto the wheel in front of me, I'm redlined before I know it. So much for moderate.
The races I usually participate in are exercises in attrition. A relatively high pace is set initially, and small, incremental increases here or there grind the weak out of the back of the pack. By the time the finish is reached, the sprints are less explosive than they are moderate bursts of whatever people have left in the tank. With our small packs, sitting in is usually not an option. If you have the strength to hang on, you better be ready to do your share of the work. Wheel-suckers are usually identified and publically shamed, which makes it doubly tough for douchebags like me. Grinding away like that for extended periods kills the top end.
That's the reality of the local scene at my level, and I generally trained that way.
However, during my boredom-induced goofing-around, I noticed I could generate much more explosive power if I didn't mute it with a steady diet of tempo riding. Well, duh. As long as my legs and lungs are properly primed for the effort, I can generate a lot more of that douche-baggy sprinting goodness. If I ride too easy, my body can't respond to the change in demand quickly enough, so I'm still working on finding my sweet spot. Once that level is known, then I just have to convince the rest of that pack to ride at that pace.
"Hey guys, let's slow it down a bit so I can conserve enough energy to enable me to come around you and get the win at the end of this race".
I'll let you know how that works out.