Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ah-loo-min-ee-um and Mostly Clear Pavement

Today a box appeared on my front porch. I ripped into it like a kid on Christmas, and was soon tacking a few parts together until this spring's project started to take shape.
It looks like it's going to be a blast to ride. There's something about a nice aluminum frame that I like, and Markus Storck makes nice bikes.

I didn't have much time to play with my new toy, because I promised myself that I'd go for a ride. After a winter on the trainer, i was ready to ride outside on pavement. Sure, there was the occasional ice and runoff, and the sand was thick in spots, but just pedaling a bike and have it move was a pretty awesome thing. As usual, my horrible bike handling skills were as rusty as they always are this time of year, but it really didn't matter. I had fun.
 
Maybe I'll find the time to build up the Storck and the rest of the projects I have hanging in the garage. That would be a nice change.
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bonk.

The last week or so I've been riding a wave of feeling good about my fitness. The legs turned the pedals over so well that I often overshot my goals and ended up working too hard. I couldn't help it. These short bouts of fitness usually are separated by whatever illness the baby passes on to me as I wipe up whatever bodily fluid is leaking out of him at a given moment. That's part of being a dad, so I can't complain.
 
Last night I got on the bike much later than I should have, given that I had to wake up early for a workout that was planned to be a bit intense. I hadn't eaten much all day, and the stuff I didn't eat wasn't exactly nutrient-packed. Still, I hammered away and then shut it down early to try to conserve something for this morning.
 
I failed.
 
As soon as I started pedaling with any sort of intensity, the heart rate shot up and the lights went out. There was nothing in the legs. I could barely turn over the pedals and had to admit defeat before I ever got started. Coincidentally, I was watching Stage 16 of the 2006 Tour de France, where Floyd Landis blew up and lost 10 minutes and the yellow jersey.
 
An hour later, I was fine. Not that I got on the bike again to make sure, but the worst of it passed.
 
I'll try to re-fill the tanks today and get back on this afternoon to see what is there. Maybe I'll have a ride like Floyd did on Stage 17, only without the blood bags and failed drug tests. I seem to have no problem bouncing between highs and lows without them.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Marginal Gains

When professional cyclists refer to "marginal gains", it's usually seen by most jaded observers as another code word for doping.
 
When amateur cyclists refer to "marginal gains", it usually comes with a huge price tag whose overall contribution to performance doesn't begin to justify the added expense. However, it's shiny and/or carbon and it makes us feel faster, and that's all that really matters.
 
My own experience with marginal gains relates to my futile attempt to keep my weight under control from season to season. I shoot for only gaining a couple pounds, and I end up packing on far too much. Then I start trying to hack away at the congealed lard pile that is my mid-section, little by little, until the self-loathing is replaced mere self-dislike.
 
This year my usual strategy for weight loss isn't working as well as it has in the past, and I'm beginning to get desperate. It's getting so bad that I've caught myself lingering over Lipozene infomercials. Like every other red-blooded American, I want a pill that will allow me to shove whatever I want into my face and still lose weight. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
 
I think I may need a professional opinion here. They're going to tell me not to eat everything I love, as least not in vast quantities. I'll ultimately ignore them. I like fat. I like sugar. I like processed. I like scientifically-enhanced mega-flavor. I like it in vast quantities. If you don't, then you hate 'murica, and the terrorists win.
...but I need to do something to kick-start this diet. I need to find a plan that I can maintain, that will get me in the ballpark once race season rolls around. I want to move past the point where people say I look good/lean/healthy. I want people to ask me if I'm sick or otherwise dying.
 
Why? Because I want to be competitive in my own little bike racing pond. Isn't that more than a little sad? Probably, but it makes me happy, and the older I get the more I see that the stupid things are usually the most meaningful in life. I'm good with that, because most things I do are pointless or inane when viewed through the proper lens. As long as those pointless or inane activities have some marginally beneficial side-effects, I consider it a win.
 
These days, I'll take what I can get, even if they're marginal.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Disgust with a silver lining.

This Sunday they cancelled Mighty Mites. The mountain got hammered by rain, and there just wasn't enough good terrain to train on safely. Other training groups did the same thing. It's just been a tough year in South Central Alaska for those that like snow. My enthusiasm, which usually starts waning in March, is ebbing as I write this.
 
On the bright side, as I drove down the Seward highway to Girdwood yesterday (not for skiing, but for a wedding), I couldn't help but notice that I could have easily ridden a 'cross bike since there was nothing but sand on the side of the roads. Maybe I'll be riding on the pavement in mid-March (or earlier), grinding out those endurance workouts on the road instead of adding a fresh coat of sweat to the garage floor. That's something to look forward to...
 
I ski when it there's snow, and I ride when the roads are clear. I would just rather the weather make up its mind so I can get in some sort of rhythm.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chipmunks.

This year marks my daughter's first year as an Alyeska Mighty Mite. After a few years kicking around a very small ski bump and a year with their ski team, she moved to the big leagues and to the big mountain. She's coming from a hill where the snow is always groomed, the visibility is never bad, and the hill itself is nothing challenging once you get comfortable sliding. It develops certain habits in skiers who stay there too long, and she just wasn't progressing as much as I would have liked.
 
I am still a fan of that hill. I ran an adult racing league there for over 10 years, but like my daughter, it was time for me to move on to new opportunities. I decided that if she was going to move to Alyeska, so was I. I used to coach with the Alyeska Masters, and the old Masters head coach is now the Mighty Mite head coach, so I worked my connections and got us in the program. It's nice to know that I'm likely one of the slowest and least-credentialed coaches out there. It's actually reinvigorated my love of skiing.
 
To be honest, I was nervous about the Mighty Mite tryouts, and wondered if she was good enough to make the cut. I'd long ago decided I wasn't going to coach her, and instead be her ski buddy. I'd let other instructors and coaches teach her (with varying success), and limited my inputs to the rare reminder of what they had told her. If she wanted to do a power wedge at Mach 5, and was happy doing it, I wasn't going to correct her. However, the main flaw in my approach was that she had become a ski bump skier instead of a skier who could handle a variety of terrain. She had the basics, but she had never been never really challenged by coaches or terrain.
 
This winter has not been kind to Alaskan skiers. The Lower 48 got all of the cold weather and snow, and we got warm temperatures and rain. It was 24F in Phoenix when it was 44F in Anchorage. Alyeska has limited terrain open, all of it was at the top of the mountain, and all of it was on the advanced side. Now imagine doing Mighty Mite tryouts at that venue, as the mountain is packed with post-Christmas skiers and boarders with new equipment and questionable control. My nerves were shot.
 
Turns out, I worry a little too much, and she made it in. She's a Chipmunk, and as it turns out, I'm a Chipmunk coach. My little girl is going to improve in ways I could have never imagine as she chases her group all over the mountain. She's going to learn skills that will stick with her for the rest of her life, and she'll make friends that she'll likely ski with for decades. I really don't care if she races after she leaves the program, or if she ends up skiing far faster than her old man.
 
I just hope she wants to ski with me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pushing Through It.

The kids gave me yet another cold, and my power has a serious hit. I'm trying to complete every workout, but sometimes I just crumple and have to limp my way through the rest. Other times I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so it isn't all gloom and doom. No matter how bad I fail, I still feel better after I get off the bike than before I got on, which keeps me coming back for more. I could let my failure to complete all of my scheduled intervals at the prescribed intensity get me down, but I have a lot of trainer hours ahead of me before it will really matter. I do what I can, and walk away satisfied with the effort.
 
Every night I sleep with my cheeks full of cough drops like a chipmunk with the sniffles, doped up on cough medicine. Every morning I wake up with a sore throat and clogged up sinuses. One of these days I won't, and the numbers will start creeping back up. I'll start building again, instead of just trying to maintain.
 
I look forward to that day, even though I know the kids will get me sick again the next day. That one day will be magical.

The Snack Bar

My workplace has a very well-stocked snack bar. By well-stocked, I don't mean it has a wide variety of items to allow one to make prudent diet choices while still satisfying their taste buds. No, it is pretty much comprised of the absolute worst "food-esque" items you can find, and vast quantities of them. The few "healthy" items present were purchased in a weak attempt to be a good alternative, taste like cardboard, and usually expire before they are consumed. The snack bar is a monument to everything that is wrong with the food in America.
 
I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
 
The joys I temporarily find in the sugary embrace of a cinnamon roll inevitably lead to deep pangs of regret, but I return time and again. I read the label and note the calorie content, but by that time it's too late. I'm already a lost soul. My will power crumbles in the face of processed sugars. I'm a weak man.
 
My lofty goals of losing weight before the new year have been replaced with the target of simply not gaining too much. So far I'm holding steady, thanks to a steady diet of trainer workouts and occasional bouts of nutritional sanity. I'm hoping that I can turn the tide before the end of the year, to turn that corner that allows me to control what I stuff in my mouth. I'm hoping to find the discipline to go back to regularly and reliably counting calories, because last time it was extremely effective when I wanted to lose weight. I'm hoping to get down to where I was a couple years ago, or maybe even a little lighter. I'm hoping, but that isn't the same as doing. Doing requires effort, and lately I've been less inclined to make it.
 
I hope that changes.