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Showing posts from 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, e…

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…

Twins.

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In my flurry of fall bicycle-related consumerism, I bought a wheel.

It's a Chinese-made, 88mm carbon tubular rear wheel. I went in with low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the product- especially given the price. It's nothing mind-blowing, and the wheel components aren't all that impressive. I bought it to back up my disc wheel on my TT bike for hilly TTs or when side-winds made using the disc a white-knuckle fight for control. I may also use it for flat crits and road races, depending on how it rolls. It's certainly not a wheel that will see use every day. The more I look at it, the more I think we're somehow related. We're both fatter than the majority of the competition. We're heavier than the majority of the competition. Our components are of questionable quality. We require specialized care to keep all of those components from flying apart. We may look good to the uninitiated, but anyone with any sort of eye will immediately see t…

Side Effects

I feel fine. At least, I think I do.

I'm no longer doubled over with intestinal cramps periodically, praying that whatever was causing the discomfort would come out one direction or another. I'm back to pretty much eating whatever I want without any side effects (other than the usual weight gain and lethargy).

And yet, when I get on the trainer to knock out a workout, I am not all there. I'll start off great, grinding away at a decent wattage and holding it without killing myself. Then about 30 minutes into the workout the wheels will come off. My legs will feel empty and weak, my heart rate will steadily climb the levels much higher than normal, and I'll limp my way to the end of the workout.

A week ago, I was knocking out workouts much harder than this and still felt like I had more in the tank. Now I just want to curl up with a fuzzy blanket and watch Anthony Bourdain on TV.

My body isn't processing food properly just yet, even though it is interfering with my train…

This Kid is Trying to Kill Me.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After two days of staying home with a sick kid it was bound to happen. I woke up this morning with a good night's sleep (for a change). The back didn't hurt. In fact, nothing felt off at all. I got on the bike, stared cranking away, and within two minutes I could barely turn the pedals.

Nothing there. The guts started knotting up, so I backed off to a little above Recovery pace and tried to see if things would turn around. They didn't. At the 30 minute mark, covered in sweat and still not putting out any wattage, I decided to call it a day.

I don't know what bug I have, but I don't like it. It seems like every time I hit my stride and start feeling good, something comes along to knock me back down. The only thing I can do now is brush myself off and start all over again. If I don't, I know I'll feel even worse in the long run.

This kid is trying to kill me. He's cute. He's lovable. But obviously he's evil. I gu…

Healing.

While it's fun for a day or so, eventually I get sick of the hazy feeling from the pain medication and muscle relaxers. I don't enjoy walking around like a zombie, unable to come up with a suitable zinger in response to a co-worker's insult. I don't like being off my game.

I took a couple days off the bike, and then started up again. Mainly it's been moderate-intensity grinds, instead of high intensity intervals that I usually do. That's alright, since I really need to get used to grinding out higher consistent wattage on the trainer.

Today I went off the medications. I was able to get more accomplished in a shorter time at work, and I was still able to crank out puddles of sweat on the trainer. So far, so good. If my back doesn't get any worse, I'll set the drugs aside and let the chiropractor do his thing to get me in shape again.

The weight is still there. I shouldn't be surprised, since I haven't made a concerted effort to get rid of it. I gues…

Snapped Like a Rubber Band.

This time last year I took an ambulance ride I don't remember, after my car was rear ended. I woke up in an Emergency Room not knowing where I was or what had happened.

Yesterday I took another ambulance ride, but I was awake. I was in the middle of my annual fitness test, which up to that point was going quite well. My back strain from the 'cross race was starting to twinge during the push-ups, but I thought I could gut out the rest. I was wrong. I was steadily knocking out the sit-ups when something snapped in my back. I tried to rest and knock a few more, but that was a mistake. My pig-headed pride caused even more damage.

They carted this old man out of there on a stretcher. Every bump the ambulance hit sent stabs of pain up my spine. It took awhile, but the eventually got an IV in me with some drugs to dull the pain somewhat, then sent me home with a bag of narcotics.

Now oxycodone and Flexeril are my friends, and the world is a little fuzzy around the edges- until I jar my …

Back to the Cave

Sunday night found me at the top of one of the many climbs on the South Anchorage hillside, gazing out over the inlet as I hacked up a lung. Tranquil. I was doing as many of the climbs as I could, none of them with any real speed, except for the one where I picked up a shadow and decided to drop him. It’s not a race unless I decide it’s a race. To be honest, it was a pitifully slow race. I reached the top of each climb, paused for a minute, then rode to the next climb and started the process again.

As I watched the sun drop to the horizon, signaling that I really should be heading home, I instead turned my bike towards one more climb. I realized that this could possibly be the last road ride of the season.
I didn’t realize how right I was.
The next morning I awoke to an inch of wet snow on the streets around my house. I had been planning my workouts for the trainer for a couple weeks in case it happened, so for a change I actually was following the training plan when I retreated to the …

The Parts Pile and Turning it up to 11.

Hello. My name is Mike and I am a gear whore. Admitting it is the first step towards recovery.

...but I don't want to recover.

Most years in the fall I will start stocking up on consumables when the online retailers start having sales and are anxious to clear out their inventories. Tires, tubes, cleats, chains, brake pads... I stock up now so I don't have to pay retail later. At least, that's what I tell myself.

This year I went a little into overdrive. It started with 11 speed. I have no intention of moving from 10 speed to 11 speed, as I don't see any advantage at the moment. The majority of my wheelsets won't accept an 11 speed cassette. It would be a pretty massive investment to swap all of my bikes over to 11 speed for that extra gear, especially when it doesn't really add much to the equation for me.

The upside is that a lot of retailers starting to discount their 10 speed stuff. So, being the good consumer I am, I'm taking some of it off of their hands. …

Perception.

Yesterday was an awesome day. I was convinced I had seen my last day on the road for the season, with rain in town and snow creeping down the mountain. Then it all came together and I got a temporary reprieve from the trainer.

I felt fast.         I wasn't.
I felt strong.     I wasn't.
I felt light.        I wasn't.

Maybe it was a combination of wasted late-season form and the cold air combining to make me feel like I was riding well, but I absolutely had a blast.

Today I got on the bike and felt like dirt.

I felt slow.      I was.
I felt weak.     I was.
I felt fat.         Yep, I was that too.

Maybe it was my day's diet of nothing but refined sugar that did me in, but I could put nothing into the pedals. My day at work was characterized by always being 3 steps behind, so food was whatever happened to present itself. Nothing good presented itself. I paid for it.

Still, weak or not, I squeezed as much riding in as I could, mindful of what is ahead of me. I'm already planning…

A Good Start

I've been getting in what will likely be among the last of my road rides for the season, retreating to the trainer when I was short on time or otherwise too wimpy to ride outside. I have been trying to make it out as much as possible, because I don't want to regret not riding during the long months I'm tied to the trainer.

I've been trying to regain some stability in my power numbers before I enter a regimented training program again. That makes the transition that much easier.

I'm starting to think (daydream) about goals for next season, which is a good sign. I think having a target (or three) will make losing the weight slightly easier, and if I can make some small improvements in power I'll be back in the mix.

A positive outlook always helps, even as it gets darker and darker outside.

It's All Winding Down Just As I'm Finally Winding Up.

The weather has been pretty much great for the past week, although the cooler temperatures hint that the road season could come to a crashing halt at any moment. I've been enjoying the fall riding, trying to squeeze in as many hours in the saddle as I can while still keeping the wife from going to DEFCON 5. It just makes the time I do have on the bike all that much more special. I haven't viewed my riding time that way this year. I've spent a considerable amount of time being disgusted at myself, because my goals and form were not aligning as I would have liked.

Some people would say I obsess too much about numbers or performance, and by their standards I probably do. They would insist that I'm doing it "wrong", and that I'm failing to get the most out of the cycling experience by devoting time and resources to succeed in races that nobody cares about. I should spend more time cruising around on a 50lb Dutch city bike, stopping at coffee houses every 300 y…

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 fo…

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 c…

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 po…

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 …

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 th…

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.

...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 miserab…

64

Last night after singing Happy Birthday to me, my daughter told me I was 64.

You're only as old as you feel, and today I feel 64.

She might be onto something there...

Season of the grind.

January is always a grind for me. I get up at ungodly hours to get on the trainer for whatever punishment that Janice decides I deserve, and then I add on alpine ski coaching duties on top of that. Setting courses and other grunt work, plus the usual technique drills add another layer of fatigue.

This year is worse. While the rest of the country enjoys the weather we usually have, it's in the 40s and all of our snow is rapidly disappearing. Without the snow to reflect the light, it's even darker than usual- which doesn't help the mental state. Skiing is as bad as I've seen it in the last 15 years. To pull off a kids race, we have to work twice as hard to create a suitable venue.

I'm beat.

It will all turn around sooner or later, but that will likely mean that we'll have late snows and spring will take forever to get here. That's what we get for the awesome summer we had last year. We rarely find a good balance here in Southcentral Alaska, but we like it anyway…

Luke Simpson

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A couple years ago I participated in a stage race and had the honor to meet Saul Raisin, the former professional cyclist that suffered a debilitating traumatic brain injury during a race in Europe. As I listened to him speak and later read his book about his recovery, I (probably like most people) had two thoughts:

“What an inspiring story.”
…and more callously,
“Wow, sucked to be him.”

The second thought was just a result of thinking it would never happen to me. If you run the odds, it just doesn’t factor into the threat matrix as prominently as teenage girls with cell phones or that sketchy Cat 5 on the brand-new Madone.
Then I got my bell rung. I’ve seen my share of stars and cartoon tweety birds over the years, but this was the first time I was knocked unconscious and woke up in an ER. Another driver’s moment of inattention resulted in a totaled car and weeks of disorientation, speech delays, and random face plants. It didn’t occur to me just how lucky I had been until my very pregnant…

New year, same idiot...

The plan was to start the diet today- January 1, 2014. A trip to the always predictable Olive Garden for their soup-salad-breadsticks feed trough pretty much killed whatever calorie goal I had for today, so I guess I'm starting 2014 off on a "cheat day". Smooth move, ExLax.

I had been lethargic all day and kept putting off getting on the bike, and when I finally did I wasn't expecting much. I'm in the middle of a recovery week, so the workout wasn't supposed to be intense at all. Once I started turning over the pedals, I was surprised to find a little energy, so I kept pushing it. By the end of the workout, my average was about 25 watts and two power ranges over what Janice asked for. Not a wise idea, since I'm supposed to be recovering for the next 3 or so weeks of workouts. I'll pay for my stupidity.

So, the running theme seems to be I lack focus at the moment. With the baby and the rest of the chaos that is my life, I guess that's understandable.…