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Showing posts from 2012

Holiday gift-giving

My family gave me REI gift certificates this year, which was cool. I was happy to trade them in for cycling socks, a bottom bracket, a chain, chain oil, and some other cycling-related odds and ends. I think having such focused interests gives them a general idea of what I want, but leaves them completely clueless about what specifically I want. This year I forgot to send out a list of items and specific stores of sites where they could be purchased for the lowest price (thoughtful me), so they were left floundering a bit. Sorry about that.

My purchases were a bit mundane, but I was happy to get some things I will need when the snow and ice recede from the roads. A very merry Christmas for me.

My coach, Janice, gave me something I needed but wasn't so excited about receiving- 5x1 minute VO2max intervals. While the kids were waiting to open their presents, I was hacking up a lung in the garage.

After all of the food and cookies that I have shoved down my throat this holiday season, I&#…

Recovery Week

It's my recovery week, and I couldn't be happier.

Ever since Janice bumped up my training levels based on my last field test, I've been feeling the effects of each week of training like never before as she slowly ramps up the intensity. That'll teach me to put in an honest effort.

However, every 4th week she takes it down a notch and gradually I don't hurt so much anymore. My calves don't feel like someone's been punching them for a month straight. I start to look forward to pushing it again. That's when she starts beating me up again.

"Man, you really look pretty worn down. Here, let me help you up..."
Whack!

I'm like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. I can see it coming every time, and know without a shadow of a doubt that she'll pull the ball away at the last minute, but for some reason I still get a running start hoping this time will be different. It never is.

That said, efforts that I found somewhat difficult a month ago are now…

The Off Season

It's currently 3 degrees Fahrenheit at my house. In my garage, it's hovering right around 50F.

That might explain why I'm sitting at my computer instead of getting on the bike trainer. When it gets cold, it takes a little more effort to get spun up. I'll get there, but I'm not in any hurry.

A whole lot of my peers love riding fat tire bikes all winter long, and a lot of them took a perverse pleasure in pushing them through new snow during a race the other night. I see pictures of icicle-encrusted cyclists and can't help but admire their enthusiasm for riding.

I was out in the exact same weather, spending hours coaching a kids alpine ski racing team, so it's not that I'm afraid of the cold. It's just when the snow falls, my interests wander towards more traditional winter pastimes, and I trade one euro-centric activity for another. I still wear spandex either way.

I know once I get on that trainer, I will get into a rhythm and it won't be a big deal.…

Hats.

I just bought a hat.

Let me clarify that a bit more- I just spent far too much money on a cycling cap. You know, one of those things that went out of fashion shortly after Wesley Snipes educated the world about fair-skinned males not being able to leap vertically. I started riding road bikes long after helmets were deemed the only suitable headgear (by the people that are duly authorized to deem things in the cycling world), so I didn’t get to experience the heyday of the cycling cap. All I had a was a few grainy pictures of skinny dudes wearing what appeared to me to be the most pointless piece of cycling apparel ever invented. With its flimsy, cotton construction and tiny brim, it seemed only to serve as an aesthetic bit of fluff, only worthwhile as yet another place for a sponsor’s logo. Then I started noticing them under the helmets of pro cyclists in races like Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Under a helmet, the advertising impact is limited to that ridiculously small brim,…

Doping

As far as pro cycling goes, any expectations I had for clean competition were dropped long ago. While I admire several riders in the pro peloton, I would not be surprised in the least if they were suddenly exposed as dopers. For the last couple decades, it’s been a major component of the sport, while the sanctioning bodies looked the other way. The use of prohibited substances to gain a performance advantage on the bike goes back to the birth of competitive cycling, and it took a huge bump in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the introduction and refinement of blood transfusions and EPO. Anyone who didn’t see what was happening wasn’t looking very hard, or rather was trying very hard to look the other way. Tyler Hamilton’s new Book, The Secret Race, pretty much lays out the mindset of professional racers regarding doping, and makes their actions almost understandable. It was seen as part of the job. While I can’t say I agree with it, I’ve accepted it.

Less understandable is the more recent trend …

Marginal gains

In every sport I've ever participated in, there is the same pattern. When you start, you usually make rapid progress, especially when you make a conscious effort. Then you plateau, as the low-hanging fruit gets picked, leaving you with ever-diminishing rewards for ever-increasing effort. At a certain point, you're making your eyes bleed for months to be one second faster on the course. That one second can be the difference between winning and losing, and even though I don't get paid to play my silly games it doesn't mean I'm not serious about them.

Recently I did a field test on my trainer, which is basically riding as hard as you can for a specific amount of time until you fall over and die. The average power of that interval is then calculated, which Janice Tower uses to determine training ranges for her sadistic torture sessions. I knew my results were an improvement compared to the last time that I'd done the test, but Janice pointed out that they were 10% h…

The Fourth Season- BOOM!!! ...and then meh.

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I rolled into my fourth racing season stronger than ever. A long winter in the garage and a couple weeks riding hills in the Blue Ridge Mountains set me up for early season success. I joined the Speedway/Humpys cycling team, and was determined not to embarrass them too much.

I won my class in the first race of the season, a 10 mile time trial, posting a time only 3 seconds off my personal best. I got on or near the podium in a couple other single day races. I rode into 2nd place in the Sport Men class in both the Spring Stage Race and the Tour of Fairbanks. Fairbanks was my highlight, because it had some of the hardest days on the bike I've ever experienced, with never-ending climbs that almost made me black out a couple times. I was riding stronger than ever before.

Then the wheels came off.

After Fairbanks, I started doing a lot of miles at moderate intensity. Janice made the schedule, and I ignored her. Instead of capitalizing on the fitness bump from Fairbanks by balancing intens…

Power.

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For my second winter under the sadistic control of coach Janice Tower, I made a huge investment in my cycling and bought a power meter. All too often, I (like pretty much every other cyclist) try to "buy speed", paying way too much for way too little. The latest aerodynamic/lightweight/whatever gadget that is supposed to revolutionize cycling rarely does. In this case, it was a tool to help me train more efficiently. It was between a new frameset or the powermeter, and when I thought about it, the powermeter was the option that had the greatest potential to make me a better cyclist.

Up to that point, I was training with a heart rate meter, which essentially measures your body's response to an effort. A big problem with this method is that it also measures your body's response to hydration, nutrition, sleep, illness, and a host of other things- all which can skew your results and cause you to work too little or too much for an intended workout. Another problem is that …

The Rider

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"Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

That line opens Tim Krabbe's book, The Rider, which is pretty much universally accepted as the greatest cycling novel of all time. If you ride and haven't read it yet, you need to. I have piles of cycling books littering my house, but that is the one that I always come back to. Tim Krabbe managed to capture the essence of a road race in writing, the way the mind wanders and finds abstract connections, the constant battle between mental will and the limtations of the body, and the ebb and flow of a bunch of people trying to grind the opposition into the ground while riding a child's toy. I don't think most people who haven't raced in some fashion will understand the deeper meaning behind the words, but I would hope most cyclists would.

Batüwü …

Riding Away

This was another article I wrote for Topia Road, right after my third racing season. It pretty much captures the combination of high hopes and compromise that I go through every year.
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You look up through sweat-seared eyes and your soul gets crushed. The race is riding away from you. No matter how much your brain screams, your body still snaps like a dry-rotted rubber band. There’s nothing left. All of your hopes and aspirations are replaced with a tidy little package of all-consuming despair. If you race and haven’t experienced it yet, you will eventually. Sooner or later the race will ride away from you, too. In fact, that’s the one time when I have anything at all in common with a Tour de France rider. I’m the non-threatening rider who is allowed to carry the yellow jersey while the favorites sort themselves out, waiting for their moment to pounce. In that instant, I’m the guy that eventually wa…

The Third Season

If I had any delusions regarding my racing abilities after a long winter in the garage on the trainer, they were soon torn to shreds as the race season started. The bright spot was that I was always right in there at the end. I could match the accelerations of the Sport Men field on anything except hill climbs, which still gave me a lot of trouble.

Unlike the previous year, where I more or less cherry-picked my races, I started entering more and more types. Some were more successful than others, but I figured the intensity of racing was better than just putting along at the same pace all of the time.

I witnessed my first serious crash close-up, and it was not fun. During a criterium at a local school, the Expert and Sport Men fields were combined. Since I had no ambitions and was feeling like trying some stupid, I rode off the front of the field with another racer a couple times, just to see what would happen. We were dragged back within a couple laps both times, so I settled into a mid…

A Day in the Life of an Idiot

The following is an article I wrote for the Topia Road website. It was written between my 2nd and 3rd race seasons, but it still describes me to this day. And yes, I crawled out of bed to climb on the trainer this morning.
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The alarm goes off at an ungodly hour in the morning. I groggily take a swipe at the snooze button before it wakes my wife and daughter, who have managed to occupy most of the bed during the night. A quick check of the weather shows single-digit temperatures, so I throw on my cycling clothes and stumble downstairs. My cleats make a hollow sound on the concrete garage floor as I shuffle to the DVD player. Thumbing through the pile, I settle on the cycling classic, A Sunday in Hell, and then climb on the bike, which is mounted to a stationary trainer. The steady breeze from the fan causes me to shiver as I start turning the pedals over, but soon I warm up and start to sweat. Today’s plan is to do an…

The Second Season and the Perspective Change

I entered my second year of racing much as I had the first, out of shape. I was maybe a little fitter and a little lighter, but I had made no special effort to get ready to race. My body was broken down from a long alpine racing season and too little physical upkeep.

I raced occasionally and didn't distingish myself at all, rode my bike to work and on weekend rides, lost the weight I had packed on during the cold months, and didn't expect a repeat of the previous year's success.

Then July rolled around, and I caught fire. After nothing but mediocre race results, I absolutely destroyed my personal best in a time trial. Month of riding to work finally paid off, and I was crushing the Beginner Men field. I still couldn't sprint or climb, but I had a 4 cylinder diesel engine that could chug along. I was suddenly viewed as a serious contender in the class again.

As it turned out, that diesel engine was all I needed that Tour of Anchorage. I won the prologue and time trial by o…

The First Race Season

I rolled into my first season on fire. No, that's a complete lie. I oozed in, after a winter of not riding and eating too much. I was 5-10 pounds heavier than in the fall, and when I lined up for the first time trial of the year, I had maybe 30 miles under my tires. The snow had barely cleared off of the pavement, and the temperatures were hovering in the high 30s. This being Alaska, we have a compressed schedule dictated by the seasons. When there's clear pavement, we race.

The first race of the season is never the fastest race. After a long winter, nobody is on top form. The smart ones mitigate it by riding the trainer or on fatbikes, or taking part in aerobic activities to maintain some sort of fitness. I, on the other hand, spent the winter alpine skiing and eating McDonalds, expecting that I could pick up exactly where I left off. I was in for a rude awakening.

I was over 3 minutes slower over the same course that I had done for my first race. On the bright side, I was stil…

First Race and a Relevation

After a year of riding, I bought a decent road bike. I gravitated to the road much like I gravitated to ski racing. Maybe it's because they're probably the most tradition-bound in their respective worlds, tied to an Euro-centric history. As with skiing, I figured racing was the logical route to go, so when my son's speech therapist suggested I enter a race, it didn't take much convincing.

My first race was actually part of multi-stage race. This was a time trial, a solo effort against the clock. The strongest cyclist that rides the smartest pace wins. The rest of the competitors had done a few stages before this, and the race season itself was several months old. This stage race was what many of the competitors structured their whole season around, and were in peak form. I, on the other hand, was not.

When I pulled up to the parking lot, I immediately noticed that I was one of the fattest guys there. All around me were hatchet-lean, rippling muscles on shaved legs. I lo…

Introduction

Why would anyone want to write or read a blog anymore, especially about a fat, marginally talented cyclist that competes in a small, backwater league in what's already a fringe sport?
I will only venture to answer the first question, since I am not privy to the inner workings of anyone else's mind, and have enough trouble with my own. Having written a few articles for online magazines on various subjects that I have limited expertise in, I find that I gravitate towards this medium more readily than the disposable stuff posted on Facebook, Twitter, and various interweb forums. I guess I'm old-fashioned that way.

I grew up a skinny kid. When I say skinny, I mean people were worried about me skinny. I had the metabolism of a hummingbird, and maintained a fairly active lifestyle. Back in the days before the internet, PlayStations, and high-fructose corn syrup, that was easy. I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, in vast quantities. I rode a bike everywhere until I reached the ag…