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Showing posts from 2013

La Vida Loca

Things in my life have not gotten any less hectic recently. The wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and sleep for me and my wife (mostly her) has been pretty sporadic. Skiing season is here, which means my daughter and I are back with the Hillberg Youth Ski Team. Add in my usual bike trainer workouts, and I am barely keeping my head above water.

I'm getting too old for this.

The lack of sleep, increased workload, and a casual disregard for diet has also meant my weight has been creeping up steadily. This is not what I want to see, but I'll try to reverse that trend in the new year.

I did it last year. I can do it again.

I think.

Life interfered.

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It's been a while since I added another post, but something always got in the way.

I had recovered from my bout with bronchitis and was getting into the swing of the trainer, when a SUV plowed into the back of my car. I don't remember it happening. The first thing I remember is waking up in an ER with techs putting IVs in my arms and telling me I had whiplash and a pretty severe concussion.

Weeks of losing my balance and falling face first into stuff, intermittent fogginess, minor speech issues, and fun junk like that followed. As soon as the traumatic brain injury specialist said it was OK, I was back on the trainer. My recovery went into overdrive, and the symptoms are mostly gone- or at least I can see them coming and take precautions. They said 6 months is about the shortest I can expect my recovery to take, and we'll see what the long-term prognosis is then.

In the meantime, I replaced my totalled dark blue, 2006 Toyota Matrix with a dark blue, 2006 Toyota Matrix. The n…

A clean slate

After abandoning my cyclocross season, I retreated to the trainer and the occasional longer road ride when I could find the time. A did some long rides in the cold rain that left me questioning my sanity, but when I warmed up and dried off I usually was left with the glow of a good ride. The leaves and rain that fell on the bike trails made for some slick surfaces, but this year I managed to stay upright and enjoy my down season.

When I couldn't get out, the return to the trainer wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I've spent my time getting ready to resume structured training with Janice and all of the pain that implies. I upped my volume a bit, and tried to acclimate myself to working very hard and getting nowhere. After this 'cross season, that was easier than usual.

I have a clean slate for next year, and hours ahead of me to build and dream and scheme. The weight I've gained since Fairbanks needs to come off, plus a few more for good measure. That will come …

I quit.

The ArcticCross season is just 7 races long. 7 races spread out over 6 weeks. I pre-paid for the season.

I got bronchitis, so I skipped the first one.
I lined up for the second one, and only finished 3 laps.
I lined up for the third one, and couldn't even finish a single lap.
I lined up for the fourth one, and made it through 2 before bailing.
I skipped the fifth one, because I started to see a pattern. I'm quick like that.
I skipped the sixth one tonight, and won't be lining up for the series finale tomorrow.

You know what? I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The entry fees went to support a great organization that has been growing exponentially over the last few years thanks to a dedicated group of individuals. While I miss the competition, my form is not exactly what anyone would consider competitive. For the few laps I did, I was a participant, not a competitor.

So, I've been riding my bike. I do intervals on the trainer some mornings, and rides outside when the r…

Ignorance

I just didn't know what bronchitis would do to me.

I do now... or at least I think I do.

ArcticCross race #3 was worse than #2. It was a course that actually favored the roadies, and although I didn't get a call-up, I was in good position after the start. Then I noticed I couldn't push myself. My heart rate was stuck just below lactic threshold, where it usually hovers just below my max. My legs felt like they could go harder, but nothing else did. Right before the start/finish, another rider stuck his pedal in my spokes, and I climbed off. No damage was done and I stayed upright, but my heart wasn't in it. Five minutes, thirty-odd seconds of racing and I was done.

Shortly thereafter the hacking cough started. I guess a 38F ambient temperature wasn't what the doctor ordered.

The week's workouts had pointed towards recovery, with steadily improving power, but that wasn't on display Saturday. When I got home, I got on the trainer for an hour in a warm garage and …

Halfway.

I knew I wasn't back yet. My body still ached from coughing, and my lungs had the capacity of a thimble. The record number of rainy days had left the course soaked, which only deepened the soreness I felt as soon as I pulled up. I should have packed it in right there.

But darn it, this is ArcticCross!!!

After missing the first race, I wanted to give it a shot and see what I had in the tank. I had already written off the season to one of participation rather than of competition, but that didn't mean I wasn't aching to line up and race.

This was a new course, and while it was run mostly on soggy grass, there was a road section, short run-ups, technical turns, barriers... and oh yeah... the bog. Shin-deep organic mud that coated everything as you ran through it. I gained more than one position by passing people that had fallen into the goop.

The start was a junk show for me, as without a call-up I was relegated to the middle of the pack. Once we started, a short technical turn b…

The Hits Just Keep on Coming...

I knew something was wrong Wednesday night as soon as I got on the bike for the 'cross clinic. I kinda figured it was due to my ongoing sinus infection and the wet conditions, but I was kinda surprised just how far I was off form. While others made multiple attempts at various course features, I was only good for one or two before my body started to warn me that I was pushing my luck. Since this was only a clinic, I decided to dial it back and save myself for the ArcticCross race on Saturday.

That night I was doubled over with coughing fits, to the point that I had lost the ability to speak by the next day. I took the day off to try to recover, but by Friday it was obvious this wasn't just a sinus infection. Since the wife had been diagnosed the day before with bronchitis, the doctor only confirmed what I already knew...

I wasn't racing Saturday.

I spent Friday night downing whatever the doctor prescribed, and slept with two cough drops in my cheeks like a chipmunk. It worked…

Bug

A couple months ago my family welcomed two foster children into our lives. Aged 1 (girl) and 3 (boy), they created havoc (as toddlers generally do), which proved to be too much for us, as it caused undue stress on my pregnant wife. Rather than endanger her health and that of our son, we made the hard choice to pass them on to another, very caring family.

I especially had a rough time saying goodbye to the little girl, that I nicknamed Bug. That could be short for Love Bug or Stink Bug, and that varied from minute to minute. At first she didn't want anything to do with me, but eventually she warmed up to me and became a Daddy's girl. Or Daddy's Bug. Or whatever. Picking her up from daycare and seeing her crooked, drooling smile when she saw me was the highlight of my day. I was lucky to be a part of her life for a short time.

Now that they've gone, I keep finding reminders of them around the house. A pink sock here, a drool-stained bib there, a toy you step on in the midd…

Rain

The joke is getting tired, but it really is true. Now that the rain is here and the temperatures have dropped into the 50s, it finally feels like summer in Anchorage. After a very dry, very warm summer, my body has gotten used to the good life. Now that we've returned to normality, I'm paying for it. 3 straight days of rides in the rain have shown me just how soft I've become.

It's not that I mind riding in the rain. It's not that I particularly enjoy riding in the rain either. Sometimes it's just what is required if you want to ride at all.

Properly outfitted, with my bespoke Rapha cap under my helmet, rain jacket, wool socks, overshoes, and fenders, I'm pretty much in my own little world out on the road. Even when the rain finally soaks through, I'm comfortable enough to keep the pedals turning. I'm not hammering away, doing intervals until I puke, but I can ride at a decent intensity and maintain some of the fitness I've earned. Compared to whe…

2013 Tour of Anchorage

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As it turned out, I wasn’t the only defector from the Sport Men field for the Tour of Anchorage. A total of five of us made the switch. With the exception of me and my teammate, Pete, none of us talked about it. It just seemed like the right time to make the move.

The first stage was a relatively short (less than 2 miles) hill climb up Potter Valley. The Masters field kept a solid pace all of the way up, steadily shedding riders as we crept up the 5 switchbacks. I managed to hang near the front without blowing up, which was a great source of encouragement for me. A skinny rider made a break towards the top, but we chose not to chase him down since he would give back any time he gained in the time trial. I was in 2nd place at the last switchback, before another rider’s family‘s cheers spurred him to sprint by me. Still, third place on the stage and a personal record for the course (by a large margin) was a nice way to start the race. The top 4 rankings were now held by Sport Men ex-pats…

Not Getting Any Younger

July 27, 2013.

This was the first time I had ever abandoned a race. I woke up that morning with a persistent ache in my right knee, but I was determined to race the Kincaid Road Race that night. After a couple warm-up laps before the race, it didn’t feel any better. After the first two race laps, it felt progressively worse. The pace was fast, but the engine was up to the task. The chassis just couldn’t handle it. On the third time up Chinaman Hill, I sat up, wished the pack well, and then soft pedaled the rest of the lap to cool down. Quitting is not easy for me, but I realized that this race really didn’t count for anything (not that any of mine do), and with the Tour of Anchorage less than a week away, destroying my knee was not among the smarter choices I could make. I ended up flagging an intersection for the rest of the race, wistfully watching others ride around in circles and inflict pain on their fellow cyclists. I’ve never liked the course, mainly because I have a long histor…

There Was a Time

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I was doing VO2max intervals on Potter Valley early this morning, and between sessions of trying to make myself puke my mind became fixated on a scene from the movie Lucky Number Slevin:

Mr. Goodkat: There was a time. Nick: [wakes up, sees a man in a wheelchair is addressing him, and checks his watch] 4:35. Mr. Goodkat: You misunderstood. I wasn't asking for the time, I was just saying "there was a time." Nick: There was a time? Mr. Goodkat: Mm-hmm. Take Brown Sugar back there, for example. [indicates elderly woman] She's pretty fucking foxy, right? Nick: [pause] She's seventy. Mr. Goodkat: If she's a day. But there was a time.

My endorphin-warped brain twisted this around, and I began to ask myself- is this that time?I guess that’s my version of the middle-age refrain (usually delivered with a healthy dose of self-pity), is this as good as it gets? My version is a little different, in that I’m happy with how things turned out so far. Sure, there are things I wished …

Form

Form is a fleeting thing. One day you can be on top of the world, spinning effortlessly, and the next you can be crashing to earth, barely able to get out of bed.

Last year I crashed to earth. I mismanaged the performance bump I got from the Tour of Fairbanks, and failed to notice how much fitness I was losing. I was piling on the miles, but wasn't recovering or doing any sort of real intensity. I rode myself into the ground, and when the Tour of Anchorage rolled around, I dug the hole a little bit deeper. Cyclocross provided a little mental boost, but to be honest I was only milking the last bits of fitness I had. Mentally and physically, I was done.

This year I'm approaching things a little bit differently.

After my unexpected result in Fairbanks, I did screw up a little. Call it a post-event come-down. I gained a few pounds back. I lost a little focus. I rode a little too hard at the wrong times. I didn't recover as well as I should have. That said, compared to last year i…

Independence Stage Race

This weekend was about as good as it gets for Anchorage area road racing. A three-stage race on what are (in my humble opinion) the best courses we have in the local area. Admittedly, "local" is a relative term, since 2 of them were 90 minutes away.

The first stage was our 2nd visit to the Kulis criterium course. This time it was raining lightly, so speed averages dropped almost 1 MPH for the Sport/Masters Men pack, even though the pack itself was larger. Our collective lack of bike handling skills were on display, but everyone stayed upright and unhurt, which made me like the course even more. After a few attacks on the early laps, we settled in. This gave me a chance to move around the pack to see who was riding well, without a lot of risk of getting caught on the wrong end of a split. Without the two animators of the last race present, I was more concerned about individuals than team tactics.

I expected the move to go after the 30 minute point of the 40 minute race, so I wo…

Summer is Here...

After over a month of temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit (which is rare in Anchorage), summer is finally here. That means rain and temperatures in the 50s and 60s. As strange as it might sound, I'm actually OK with that. After years of cooler temperatures, I have trouble sleeping when it gets around 70F. Most of my cycling gear (and the majority of my wardrobe) leans towards cooler temperatures and wetter weather, so riding when sane people would pack it in is par for the course. The majority of cyclists up here are that way, or we'd never get to ride.

Once the rain stopped and the roads dried out, I went on a ride with my kids. They suggested it, which made me pretty happy. Then later on they went for a ride without me, which made me even happier. As long as they're out there being active, I'm good. It's all too easy to avoid getting out there to do something, and far easier to sit around doing nothing.

Even if it's a bit soggy and cold.

The Difference Between Knowing Something and Doing Something About It

Last night was the first time the Arctic Bike Club ran a criterium at the former Kulis Air National Guard Base. As an Alaska Guardsman, it was weird seeing how it’s changed since the 176th Wing moved to Elmendorf AFB. I live a couple miles away, but I hadn’t been there since they closed down. At any rate, old Air Force Bases make for fun crit courses. We were running a loop of a little over a half a mile long, on closed roads, with a short hill and some winding turns to make it interesting. After last year, I had asked for new venues and more mass-start events so that racers could get used to pack riding, and the Road Division really stepped up. This course needs to be a regular feature on our calendar.

After the Tour of Fairbanks, I’ve been in kind of a recovery/rebuilding phase, so I wasn’t planning on doing anything spectacular. Get in some good intensity, play around here or there, and have some fun. That’s it. Members of the newly-formed Team Trek Alaska had other ideas. The two r…

Beat Down

So, here it is mid-June, only a couple months into the season, and I find myself a little beat up and without a clear goal for the rest of the summer. I’m mentally drained, which is natural after a big event (let alone a successful one). After last year’s post-Fairbanks fitness crash, I’m trying to stick to the plan so I can maximize the gains I got from this race. That means healthy doses of recovery and a structured building phase for the next big event. Maybe that will be the Tour of Anchorage. Maybe it will be cross season. Maybe it will be next year. At this point, I’m not focusing on anything except resting, which is harder than it sounds when the area is experiencing some of the best summer weather in years.
For me, achieving my goals is usually less important than working towards them. The process means I have direction, while reaching the end leaves me rudderless until I settle on a new goal. Sometimes that takes a while, and sometimes it’s better to just drift around- as long…

The Impossible Dream

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I had a goal for this season. I kept it quiet, even from my coach, so it couldn’t become a crushing expectation. That didn’t diminish it in any way. I really wanted this one, because with my ever-growing family- 3 kids (15, 10, 6), 2 pending foster kids (3, 1), and one in the oven- this old man might never get another chance. I took off some weight, actually listened to Janice (for a change), and focused my energy towards reaching this one goal.

I wanted to be on the Masters Men podium at the 2013 Tour of Fairbanks.
After finishing 2nd last year in the Sport Class at the ToF, I figured it was in the realm of possibility. My times were comparable, and since we raced alongside them for a couple stages, I thought I knew what to expect. Then I saw the roster for this year’s race, and all of my expectations went out of the window. The field sized had doubled from the previous year, and there were some really strong riders poised to line up, and you never know how well they’re riding. I consi…

It Just Doesn't Matter.

Today was the Bodenburg Road Race, one of my favorite races on the Arctic Bike Club Road Racing Division schedule. I have a weird record on this course (considering how much I like it), finishing dead last on my first time there and fourth on the last two tries. The first time I cramped up and got dropped in the final sprint. The second time I was sitting fourth wheel, in perfect position in the draft to fight for the win at the bottom of the finishing climb, when someone grabbed brakes and I skidded to a near-stop. I limped to the finish.

This time around (my third) I wasn't really interested in doing anything except getting a good workout. I chased down attacks I wouldn't normally go after, took some pulls that may have been longer or harder than I should have, and generally played around. To be honest, after a couple weeks of riding a lot of miles at a lower intensity, I was doing a lot of bargaining with myself towards the middle of the race. Then my legs finally started t…

Cool Down

I'm sitting in the Gulfport, MS airport, waiting for the plane that will start my journey back to Alaska. I'm not usually a huge fan of flying, but in this case I'm eager to get on the plane and back to some cooler temperatures. A 40 degree shift will be most welcome.

Yesterday I did my last ride in Biloxi. I took the long way out to the local hammerfest, and immediately knew it was going to be a tough ride. The temperature and humidity that had abated the day before after a short but intense rainstorm had come back with a vengeance. I was draining two water bottles an hour, and was still reaching for more. The sweat was dripping off my face with frightening regularity.

Halfway through the group ride, the faucet really opened up, and I had solid streams running. It's been a while since I've sweated like that, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it got in my eyes and I would be blind. Not a great attribute when you're running at 25MPH in a paceline, wit…

Whining

After the Kincaid Road Race was cancelled, I got on the trainer and did and hour. Shortly after that, I was... um... losing weight in a rapid and unpleasant manner. My daughter had gone all Exorcist on us Wednesday night, and I cleaned up the mess and stayed home with her. Turns out she got me with a bad strain of the Norovirus, for the second time this spring. Even after the worst was over, my guts were tied in knots and I didn't want to eat anything. That will take the edge off your performance every time.

They rescheduled the snowed-out Kincaid Road Race for Thursday, and since my guts had settled down that morning, I figured I'd see how it went. I wasn't feeling all that great, but these early season races really don't count for anything except training intensity. Plus, I had paid my entry fee already.

I wasn't planning on it, but I took a dig on the first hill to see who would follow, and ended up splitting the pack. Whoops. Didn't mean to do that so early i…

Happy to not race

I spent a great deal of this winter, like the last couple winters, grinding away on the trainer and dreaming of racing. A little more effort here or there might pay off the next time I came to a particular section of a race, and sometimes visualizing that moment could help me push through what could be somewhat unpleasant. That was the carrot on the stick.

The forecasts all week called for rain and chilly temperatures, and race organizers were sending out emails encouraging us to sign up for what promised to be an epic event. The course is nothing new to most of us, as I cracked severely on it only last fall during the final stage of the Tour of Anchorage. The hilly circuit race isn't really my cup of tea, and it punishes us fatter guys with repetitive, punchy climbs. It hurts, even in the best of conditions. Add in the fact that wrecks happen with some regularity at various points along the course, and you start to get the picture. A little rain and cold just makes it that much mo…

Things Are Looking Up.

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Saturday's Moose Run time trial wasn't as bad as I expected. I got exactly the same time as I got last year during the May Moose Run TT. It was frustrating to know I had more in the lungs, but having nothing left in the legs. This was the only TT I can recall finishing without rasping for air for 15 minutes afterwards. I did finish 3rd in my class (17th overall in a field of nearly 150), which isn't to bad for a guy who had a serious misfire in the engine. It's certainly something to build on.

My wife and I also recently learned that we're going to have a baby in December. At 43, this is a little daunting to me, but I grown rather fond of my other children over the years so I figure one more won't be too horrible. Maybe this child will inspire another great leap in performance and achievement. Maybe I'll be too tired to turn the pedals. In any case, it will be fun to find out, and once again I'll rely on cycling to keep me balanced and sane.

Failure and Paying for Fun

Last week I did a Field Test, which is essentially a test to see where your training levels should be. You ride as hard as you can for a predetermined period of time, and then calculate your various wattage levels off of that. It's an exercise in will vs pain. The irony is, the harder you work, the harder you will have to work in the future.

I failed the test.

I started off with a solid night's sleep, good hydration, good fueling, and some pretty solid fitness. I was ready to go. I warmed up well, and then picked a power level that I was pretty sure I could maintain given previous experience. About 7 minutes in, my legs fell off. I couldn't maintain it anymore, so I shut it down, recovered, and rode out the session at a lower pace. The one bright spot in all of this was that even though I blew up, I was able to maintain a pretty decent average power once I reattached my legs.

The wife and daughter had been sick a few days before, and it's all too likely that I caught a wh…

Season of Expectation

Southcentral Alaska has 4 seasons. Summer, Dark, Winter, and Breakup. Summers are usually colder than they should be, and then it starts to rain. At least the days are long. Just when it starts to dry up, it gets colder and the light goes away. With no snow on the ground and all of the green stuff turning brown, it can get pretty bleak. Then winter hits, and the weather is usually completely wrong for whatever you want to do at that moment. Finally, Breakup hits and you burn through gallons of windshield wiper fluid, trying to see through the steady stream of dirty road spray. There's a slightly fecal hint to the air, as a winter's worth of dog poop thaws.

It really does no good to complain about the weather. You either embrace it, or you remain miserable. The weather could really care less.

For some, Breakup is just a dirty, nasty, stinky time of year. For me, it's a season of expectation. The days get longer. The long-absent sun warms you, even on days when it would otherw…

Burning the candle at both ends.

I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of sleep this weekend.

I woke up around 9:00 AM Friday morning, got on the bike for my workout, and then took care of a few odds and ends before getting ready for work. I left early, because I needed to set the courses for the Alaska State 9 and Under Alpine Skiing Championships at Hillberg. So, I ran up and down the hill for a couple hours, then reported for a 12 hour night shift.

After work, I had just enough time to get home, eat something, and change into my ski clothes before I had to head out again to the hill to finish preparations. All day long I skied with my daughter and set courses. We finished awards late, giving me just enough time to shower and change for my next 12 hour shift. I was starting to wobble a bit.

By the time I dragged myself home on Sunday morning, I had been up for almost 48 hours. Needless to say, I decided to skip my day's workout and get the extra hour or so of sleep. Two days later, and I'm still not…

Aches and Pains

The last couple weeks I've been feeling little aches and pains. Nothing I'm worried about, though. Maybe it's from the workouts I've been doing. Maybe it's a signal that ski racing season is nearly over and the weather is changing. Maybe it's because my body has been feeding on itself for the last couple months (strange to think of weight loss that way). Maybe I'm getting old. Then again, maybe my enormous black Lab has been sleeping on me again. Could be any of those things, or a combination of them.

The weather is changing. It's getting warmer, the skies are blue more often and the sun is out longer. I'm debating adding another fan in the garage for my bike trainer. I'm holding out hope that we've seen the last serious snow of the year (not that we've had an excessive amount) and the roads will be clear enough by the end of March. I'd like to take the cross bike out and not have to dodge excessive amounts of ice or puddles.

Aches and…

24.82

Friday I got on the scale when I woke up, as I normally do. I was half-asleep, but my eyes popped open when it read 178.0 lbs. I re-zeroed the scale and tried again, and got the same reading. I went out to the local gym and tried their scale. Same reading. I re-zeroed their scale…

178.0 lbs. It seems like an odd number to get so fixated on, but it’s pretty significant to me. What that number means is that my BMI is 24.82, which is in the “normal” range. I haven’t been classified as anything but overweight or obese since around 1998. That’s about 15 years for those of you keeping score at home. 15 years of lugging around a lot of excess weight that was slowly killing me.

After peaking at around 240lbs and a BMI of 33.5, I started riding a bike and dropped to 200lbs (BMI 27.9). I went from obese to overweight just by riding around. Then I started racing, and over the next few years my weight hovered around 185-190lbs, depending on the season. Still overweight, but I was feeling pretty go…

The truth hurts.

This Saturday my 6 year old daughter raced in her 2nd-ever ski race. As we drove to the hill, she talked about how she was going to win one of those medals. I told her that as long as she did her best, I would be proud of her. I decided before she ever started racing that I wasn't going to push her to be competitive, but rather encourage her to be a good participant. I'm hoping she doesn't burn out on the sport by the time she's 15, and I'm left with a daughter with bum knees that doesn't want to ski anymore. I've seen it before.

The night before I had set the slalom course at the hill, so the snow would have plenty of time to set up before the race. The firmer the snow, the less chance of ruts forming after over 100 kids plow their way through it. I set a fairly mild course, since there were going to be a variety of ages represented.

As she made her way down the the course for the first run, I skied down behind her and slipped the course, knocking down ber…