Sunday, September 14, 2014

Making Lemonade Back Into Lemons

Last week's 'cross race beat me up more than I thought, although I'm slowly improving. So much so that when this week's 'cross race rolled around, I kitted up, threw the bike on top of the car, and drove to the venue. I really wanted to race.

The week had been a series of drizzly days, and Saturday was no different. As I drove to the race, I could feel the cold and wet soak into my back, and as soon as I climbed out of my car, I knew I couldn't race. It would have been another non-finish, and the toll on my body would have been felt for months. I just couldn't do that.

Fortunately, I had the sense to load up my road bike too, so I took a long, wet road ride instead. It was actually a pleasant ride, without the jarring impacts I would have suffered otherwise. Instead of regretting my decision when I got back to the venue and saw all of my former competitors, I realized I had made the right one.

It doesn't happen often.

So, 'cross season is likely over for me. I'm going to stick to the road and the trainer, and dream of next year's glory. I'm going to try to build up my core in the off-season to protect my back, and maybe work on my long-neglected flexibility as well. I'm playing the long game, so next year won't be as disappointing as this year was.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

You get what you pay for.

The Tour of Anchorage pretty much went like I expected it to. While I was hanging on with the pack and slowly moving up the GC, I was also cramping up in every race. This wasn't a lack of electrolytes or any other magic bullet fix- I simply had not done enough of that sort of duration or intensity. When I tore a sidewall 12 miles from the end of the road race, it was a mercy killing more than anything else. The final day was characterized by the struggle to get out of bed, as a steady drizzle pretty much matched my mood. I just didn't want to race. Still, I lined up and rode with the pack, until I cramped up yet again and decided that it wasn't worth it. I was still hurting a week later, so that was probably the right choice. It didn't make it any easier.
 
Not feeling like much of a cyclist, I went through the motions of "training", but without much enthusiasm. I had decent days and days I'd rather forget, but I knew 'cross season was right around the corner.
 
... then it started raining. Then it got a little colder. Then the kids decided to give me a cold a couple days before the 1st race of Arctic Cross. Again, I was less than enthused as I woke up this morning. The weather turned around just in time, and although the course was properly soggy, the sun came out and it was a pretty nice day. Master Men were racing the same race as the Open/Experts, which meant a longer race and the chance of being run over as they lapped you again and again. I decided to take a conservative pace and let the chips fall wherever they chose to. While I had a bad history on this course, I was chugging along in the middle of my field when my back started to give out. Every dismount, every run-up, every barrier sent shock waves up my spine, and it was getting progressively worse. I twisted it up with a bad dismount at the bottom of the longest run-up, and somehow managed to drag the bike to the top. When I tried to remount and pedal, I couldn't put any pressure on the cranks. Everything just locked up, and I knew I was done.
 
Yep, I quit again. Halfway through the race, and I just couldn't go on. The engine was red-lined, but still holding up just fine. The chassis just couldn't handle it. It's not surprising, with the added weight and months of neglected core workouts. 'Cross is brutally efficient in pointing out weaknesses. Usually my complete lack of bike handling skills is what is most evident, but this time I was going too slow to wreck as much as I usually do. While quitting may not be easy, I've been demonstrating considerable aptitude for it lately. Maybe that's my true calling.
 
After hobbling around all day, I got on the trainer tonight to try to loosen up my back. Without the impacts, I could actually hold a decent amount of power. That was a nice surprise, so maybe I didn't do anything too serious. At this point, I'll take any positive sign I can get. Maybe I'll line up again next week. It's my favorite course, so hopefully that will provide me the extra motivation to finish.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Throwing in the Towel.

This season just hasn't gone all that well.

I thought I could lose the weight... but I didn't.
I thought I could get in the miles... but I didn't.
I thought I would race often... but I didn't.
I thought I could fix the short circuit between my ears... but I didn't.
 
There's a million reasons (excuses) for all of this, but the end result is that I'm just not riding as well as I could be. Every time I thought I might be able to turn it around, I slipped further behind. I'm fat, out of shape, and unmotivated.
 
It was in this state that I started the 2014 Tour of Anchorage tonight. Since karma is a bitch, the first stage was a hill climb. I knew I wasn't going to do well, and I didn't disappoint myself. Out of 11 racers in my class, I finished 8th. I was almost a minute slower than the last time I raced that course, even though I set a new personal best for 20 minute power (don't know how that happened). The hard, cruel truth of the matter is that my power-to-weight ratio is horrible. I can crank out the watts all I want, but the additional weight is dragging me back down the hill.
 
One stage in, and I don't have a prayer of seeing the podium (barring a terrorist act or massive pileup). I'll ride my best, maybe throw caution to the wind here or there, and probably get dropped. I might even pull a muscle (again). I'll probably finish dead-last on GC by the time Sunday is over.
 
Doesn't matter. I'm already looking towards next season. I'm looking forward to getting my brains pounded out in cyclocross. I'm looking forward to ski season with the Alyeska Mighty Mites and my daughter. I'm looking forward to losing the weight and being so skinny that strangers offer me sandwiches. I'm looking forward.
 
I'm done looking back. There's no point in it. I can't be the rider I was last year, but maybe I can be better.
 
Maybe I can be that man. Better than I was before. Better, stronger, faster...
 
Hopefully it won't cost me Six Million Dollars.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Parole.

Friday I rode my bike. On the pavement. It was glorious.
 
I've been on the trainer exclusively since October, so I was ready to get out and do anything except watch the same videos over and over. It was just what the doctor ordered.
 
Thanks to the extremely mild winter, the snow and ice cleared from the roads, and mid-afternoon temperatures allow me to get away without studded tires. I rode the 'cross bike just to give a wider contact patch, but it really wasn't necessary. My wardrobe wasn't dialed in, varying between too much and too little, but I really didn't mind.
 
I'm feeling a little re-energized lately, and this was a nice change of pace. Next week I'm going to be down around Tacoma, WA, and I'm bringing the bike to get in as many miles on new roads as I can squeeze in after work. Hopefully I'll get in a big volume block to round out my fitness rolling into the race season.
 
The weight is still higher than I want, and given that I've been booted back to the Intermediate class for a year, my motivation to drop the pounds hasn't kicked in. Without any big goals for the season, I'm a little aimless. I certainly won't climb very well with all of this added weight, but maybe I'll be able to hang with the young kids on the flatter courses. I may lose the weight by the end of the season, and I may not.
 
Whatever happens, I'll try to have fun and take the opportunity to learn. I've never been the smartest racer, and maybe this is the time to wisen up.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Failure.

Failure has pretty much characterized my recent efforts.

I've failed at my last few attempts at Field Tests, those wonderful, puke-inducing efforts that Janice uses to gauge my fitness and set training levels. Either from being under-recovered, sick, or a number of other causes, I haven't been able to match on the levels I've reached before, so I am not sure exactly where my fitness lies at the moment- except in a very general way.

I've failed to keep off and/or lose all of the weight I planned to. A new baby and a traumatic brain injury might have contributed, but somehow I think my infant son can't be blamed. He's far too interested in his own food to be concerned with stuffing food down my throat. Nope, I did that, and I earned every pound that now graces my lumpy frame. My half-hearted attempts at weight loss thus far this year are a mere shadow of those I mustered only a year ago. That weight gain ain't all muscle, although I do harbor some faint hope that maybe a little of it is.

I've failed to finish any of the projects that I've started. I have two frames and a pile of parts that need to be joined into new rides for this year, another frame that needs to be built up so I can sell it, a matrix of parts-swapping between other bikes, and a plethora of smaller projects that I've been putting off. Navigating my garage requires climbing over the carcass of an old couch and piles of "really good stuff" that I haven't used in years but can't bear to part with. All of that was stacked up there while I was building my bike trainer dungeon, which is or isn't finished depending on your definition. The piles extend throughout the house, reminding me of the millions of little failures that were started with such great expectations.

Failure is something I'm learning to deal with. I'm not liking it, but hopefully I can start having little successes here or there to balance the score a bit. The days are getting longer, Anchorage's extremely mild winter might result in an early spring, those new bikes just might make me into a ProTour-level cyclist...

I can always hope.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beat up and happy about it

This last couple weeks with my cousin skiing at Alyeska has been a lot of fun. We've gotten in 10 solid ski days, which is more time than I've spent there in years.

I did the Alyeska Masters slalom (SL) on Saturday, and wasn't completely horrible. I was certainly out of practice, but for some reason I can fake SL. The next day I wasn't planning on racing, but my cousin wanted to try, so we entered the Masters giant slalom. That wasn't as pleasant for me, but I finished and my cousin had a good time in his first time in gates.

Yesterday we hit the groomers pretty hard, taking advantage of low crowds and great visibility. Today's intervals on the bike suffered because of it, but it was totally worth it. The plan is to burn ourselves completely out today. I hope we succeed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

...and now for something completely different.

I started riding to stay in shape for alpine ski racing. Then I found I was skiing to stay in shape for road racing. Then I found I wasn't skiing as much as I would like, and when I was on snow I wasn't doing as much free skiing as I wanted. When I don't free-ski, I ski slower in races. When I ski slower in races, my motivation to ski drops. It's a vicious, downward spiral.
 
A cousin has come up to Alaska with the sole goal of skiing as much as possible, and I've tried to make it happen. I've actually had fun again, letting my skis run and not worrying about technique. Sometimes you need to step away from something to get better at it, and I think this is the case here. I might even enter a race next week to see if I still can turn them, even though I haven't run slalom gates in a couple years. No pressure- if I finish without hurting myself I'll be happy.
 
The grind on the trainer continues, and I haven't lost any excess weight so far. I failed miserably on a field test, and so I don't know where my fitness actually sits. I'm not at all worried about it, and maybe I'll be faster on the bike without the added stress.
 
I'm not sure it works that way, but it might be interesting to see.