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Showing posts from May, 2015

Breathing Practice

The last couple days I've been practicing breathing. While most people seem to get by just fine without thinking about it, I do better when I take some time to focus on it.

To clarify, I'm talking about breathing while I'm climbing. Generally speaking, my rasping gasps elicit more concern about a pending aneurism than about my ability to inflict pain on others. Keeping it measured and deep allows me to go much further up a hill before the lights go out. The deep breathing might sound odd to those around me, but I'm wearing lycra and have rivers of snot running down my face, so what do I care?

Instead of focusing on a point up the hill and ripping my lungs out to get there, I'm just concentrating on keeping everything under control. It still hurts, a lot, and may be slower in the short term, but I'm not faced with collapsing into a heap when I reach that otherwise meaningless point and can pedal strongly past the next one too. All because I'm breathing. Who kn…

It's Alive.

I've been riding my new-to-me Cannondale almost exclusively this spring, allowing my other bikes to languish in the garage in various state of disrepair and neglect. Part of this was my usual pattern of riding less-expensive and fragile bikes while the weather and road conditions are less-than-optimal, part of it was the new-to-me experience the 2008 System Six provided, and the rest was the fact that I haven't done a road race this season.

The solid, dependable performance of the Cannondale was enough to keep me satisfied with what I was riding. Paired with mediocre performance of my pseudo-carbon wheels, it was everything my overweight, underpowered engine deserved. I further encumbered it with stuff like a mini frame pump, heavy bottle cages, and a saddle bag loaded with 18lbs of tube patches to make it a proper training bike.

To test out the backup race bike I had cleaned up for a stage race, I took it out for a lunchtime spin. It embodied every overused Bicycling magazine r…

Little Things Mean a Lot

It's a small part. A tiny, unassuming part that most people don't think much about. Until they do.

They can snap far from home and normal supply chains. They are made from cheap metal, and are designed to break- purportedly to prevent more expensive damage. A fusible link. Since there are so many variants out there, finding a replacement locally is usually impossible- especially if it's older than a couple years.

The slightest bend in this part can have serious negative effects on the performance of the entire system. A larger bend can lead to expensive component damage. TSA loves bending them. I think they have a jig designed expressly for this purpose.

It's obvious to those that have experienced my pain that I'm talking about the derailleur hanger. They're evil.

I pulled down my race bike last night to get it ready for a small stage race. Nothing major- a quick wash and lube it should have been good to go. Since It had been hanging on the ceiling, nothing should…

Gear.

I have piles of bike stuff I never use. Gadgets and doohickeys that caught my eye at a bike shop or online that I used a few times before seeing the folly of my thought process or never got around to using for whatever purpose I envisioned. I do this with every sport and pastime I take up. It's part of the process of actually figuring out what has utility for me and what serves only to prop up the bicycle accessory industry.

I also have a lot of stuff that has utility, but that I can't use all at once. The most obvious examples are the 4 bikes in the garage, all ready to ride at a minute's notice, and me with only two legs. I don't feel the need to defend my ownership of them, as I like riding each one on different days for different purposes. Since my total investment on all of them doesn't add up to the retail price of what the bike magazines considers a mid-range bicycle these days, I don't feel too guilty having a quiver. I'm a semi-intelligent online sh…

The Posts You Never See

I write posts that never get published. Some get edited or transformed into something completely different, some never really convey what I want them to, and some are just plain wrong.

Most of the subjects come to me while I'm riding. I may come up with a particularly sarcastic remark to punctuate a given topic, and then I'll start up a draft when I get home. I may finish it up and immediately publish it, or sit on it for a while and review it later. It varies.

Recently I came up with a long rant about the difference between participation sports and competitive sports, and how you should never confuse the two. It was full of jabs at bucket-lister triathletes, the "everyone gets a medal" mentality, color runs, "competing" in charity rides, Strava, and everything else that is screwed up in society today.

It was completely wrong.

At the end of the day, I don't care why people get off the couch, as long as they actually make the effort. Far too many people neve…

Tubulars

I started gluing up my tubular tires a few days ago. For those not familiar with tubular tires, instead of having a separate tire and tube that is easily repaired in the field (a clincher), the tube is sewn up inside the tire and then glued on the rim, making the simple flat repair process of a clincher a few magnitudes more difficult. Why would someone opt for a more difficult method? Partly because they ride smoother than a clincher tire. However, I prefer them for racing because the bicycle industry hasn't quite figured out how to make an affordable full-carbon clincher that won't delaminate and explode when you try to stop. Tubular wheels are a little more durable, and will allow you to travel 100' further down the hill before they explode.

The advantages don't stop there. As everyone knows, deep-section carbon rims are more aerodynamic than aluminum rims, and therefore more intimidating to the competition. So, to gain the psychological advantage and avoid having m…

I Suck At This Sport

Today I got a personal record on the Moose Run time trial course- by a whole second.

Wheee...

In preparation, I had ridden hard for most of the week until I didn't want to even look at a bike Friday. I was cooked. Then I shaved my legs and let my facial hair grow, to do my middle-aged, overweight, balding approximation of Fabian Cancellara. I brought out a new rear wheel and replaced the helmet that gives Sigourney Weaver nightmares with an aero road helmet.

I was ready for a sub-par effort, and had all of the excuses to back it up.

Then I showed up and they had replaced my beloved cracked and potholed road with fresh pavement and the weather was nice. Crap. I was going to have to try to do something.

I did everything wrong in terms of pacing. I caught other racers at the worst possible moments, and allowed them to determine how hard or easy I would go. I couldn't find a rhythm to save my life, and alternated blowing up and riding too easy for the majority of the course. It was a…

The Evil Empire

Head down, drooling, and grinding into the wind along the highway, I was finishing up an interval as I came to the weigh station. For those of you who don't know what an interval is, it's basically pointlessly flailing around as hard as you for a specified amount of time. This is followed by Recovery, which involves trying to stuff lungs and other internal organs back down your throat. Then you repeat the process, with the intended goal being to improve your gut swallowing capacity. At least, that's how it works for me.

I veered unsteadily as I completed the interval, quite certain nobody would be affected by my sketchy, oxygen-depleted riding. After all, I had just unleashed a sustained burst of nearly a hundred watts into the face of a howling wind, so there isn't anyone short of the Pro Tour that could come around that display of power.

That's when I heard a "hey!" and a rider swerved around me. I didn't recognize the rider's face through my swea…

Nobody Asked Me To, But I'm Gonna Do It Anyway.

I've been reflecting a lot on Wanky's suggestions as my mind wanders during rides, partly because he hammered home a few points that should have been obvious to me, but mainly because they have been a cheap way to manufacture content. I'm using him like reality shows use the denizens of trailer parks.

I probably should have done this a while ago, but since this started as a digital replacement for my old My Little Pony diary (the deluxe sparkle edition), I never really had any idea of what I wanted it to be or what form it would take. I figure as long as my family's financial stability now relies solely on this blog, I might as well lay down some founding principals:
This is all about me and my skewed take the world around me. If you're mentioned in a post or three, reflect long and hard on that first item. If you agree with me, that's nice. If you disagree with me, that's fine. It's a big interweb out there, and I'm sure you can find a viewpoint that…

How to completely disregard Wanky's Rules For Wealth Through Blogging, Part 2

This is part two of my rude dismissal of Wanky's suggestions. While the poor simpleton meant well, he didn't understand that all I was looking for was confirmation of my blogging superiority, utter capitulation, and an orderly surrendering of all subscribers, bots, and URL misdirects. As he couldn't comprehend the subtle nature of my hostile takeover, I am forced to use the blogging world's equivalent of the nuclear option. I'm going to be a meanie.

"Write about your friends. You build readership by making people want to read, first about themselves and then about other things. You will eventually lose all of your friends by writing about them of course, but by then you will have 20 or 30 loyal readers in Ireland and Mauritius, and even a subscriber or two. Yes, mom counts."
This may prove problematic, since as I generally abhor the concept of "people", making friends is somewhat difficult. One of the things I like about Alaska is that there are m…

My Buddy

There's a guy I ride with now and again, and over the years he's been someone to look up to, a performance touchstone, and a cautionary tale for me. Let's just call him Pete, because that's his name.

I first met Pete when I started racing. At the time, he was at the top of the heap of the lowest level class of our podunk road racing league. Since I was right at the bottom of that class, being on his level was all I aspired to. The higher classes were just on another planet for a obese, middle-aged bike flogger like me. Pete was also welcoming to the new guy, mostly because I was no threat to his domination of kiddie pool.

The more I shed weight and raced that year, the more I found I was able to hang with the big kids. Like most new racers, my biggest asset was my ability to diesel. I could grind at a meager pace for a long time. I couldn't climb. I couldn't sprint. I had no tactical sense whatsoever. I'd just ride as hard as I could and eventually some of th…

Glorious

Today the sun is shining, the winds are calm (for a change), the temperature is going to be a balmy 60F (hey, it's Anchorage in May). It's just about as nice as you could expect for this time of year.

I'm not riding.

Today I'm not going to get on my bike. I may wash it, because it's pretty filthy and the chances for contracting a rare African sleeping disease from the congealed gunk on the frame are 50/50. It's time to thank it for putting up with the abuse I've hurled its direction over the last couple weeks. It can't be easy supporting the flailing, wheezing, and ultimately unsatisfying efforts of a fat old guy way past his prime. It's like being a groupie at a Meatloaf concert.

Instead, I have a full day of the meaningless nothing most people call life planned. No grunting my way up a hill or dodging traffic as I try to finish off one more interval. Not even a leisurely ride to loosen up the legs.

It's going to be glorious.

How to completely disregard Wanky's Rules For Wealth Through Blogging, Part 1.

Now that I am more or less settled back into a routine at home, I've had time to digest the sage words of a guy named Wanky, or the Wankmeister if you want to use his more formal title. He's the author of the often funny, frequently profane, rarely profound, and always entertaining Cycling in the South Bay blog. I subscribed to his blog (I get more out of it than any of the current magazine subscriptions I have), and am in the process of reading his book. If you haven't visited his blog already, go ahead and spend a few hours perusing the posts. His entry on Jeff Dusenbury was much better than mine.

After I subscribed to his blog, I felt entitled to demand he reveal his secrets of wealth through blogging, which completely subsidizes his hobby law firm. I also require him to divulge the method by which I could bleed off his fanatical fan base, thus raising my own readership by tens.

Like a simple fool, he responded with a thoughtful message, then compounded his error by inclu…

Fairness

I've been struggling with this post for several days. Several versions have been written and then trashed. I just can't find the words to describe what I'm feeling.


The basic facts of the case seem to be undisputed.

A drunk teenager ran over a local cyclist with her truck while backing down a short, one-way, residential street at a high rate of speed. After hitting the cyclist, she plowed through a thick wooden post and into a park. Despite knowing that she had hit another human being, she drove away without providing assistance or even checking to see the status of the person she injured. She is now facing a whole year in jail for her crime as part of a plea deal.

A husband, father, and all-around nice guy is no longer with his family and friends because he made the error of riding a bike down a dead-end street in a residential neighborhood. His family is now facing the remainder of their lives without his presence.

Somehow it doesn't seem fair to me.

The cyclist in me wan…

Doing what I can.

The fat droplet of sweat rolled off my nose and splattered on my top tube. I pondered it a moment before making a half-hearted attempt at wiping it away with my already soaked glove. It was promptly replaced by two more drops. Giving up, I glanced at my power output and tried to nudge it higher. After a feeble rise, it sank to where it had been before. I focused on the road ahead, counting out the seconds I estimated it would take to get to an arbitrary point up the road. Anything to keep my mind occupied and quiet the voices that kept telling me to go easier. 

A weeks worth of volume bump continues to drive me further into fatigue, conspiring with the heat and humidity to rob me of motivation at crucial times. I fight it, but it's not always a battle I can win.

I wish we had a road like the Foothills Parkway in Anchorage, without the heat and humidity. The long, steady uphill sections make it easier to pick a pace and maintain it. Our climbs are usually steeper and shorter, with st…

Humidity and Yogi

The following is partially a reflection of how much I loathe the Gulf Coast, but mostly it's just plain true. Deal with it.

Mississippi humidity is nasty, and not in a good way. It slathers you like airborne lotion as soon as you walk out the door. You're left coated in a residue that could only be duplicated if you rolled around the floors of a porn theater for a few hours. In the shower, you scrub and scrub to the point that the blood begins to flow, but you never get clean. You are tainted by it.

Tennessee humidity is more subtle. It slowly wraps you in its loving embrace until it eventually squeezes the life out of you. You're cruising along one minute, with everything ticking along, and then little by little your strength ebbs and you collapse in a panting heap. You tell yourself that this has never happened to you before, and you usually last much longer. The only thing left is to pedal squares home surrounded by a cloud of shame and regret. If I had to choose between …

Leaking the Pounds Away.

What goes down must go up. 

When I ride in Eastern Tennessee or Virginia, I have to remind myself that every fun little descent is always immediately followed by a soul-destroying ascent. Sometimes you can wind it up and catch the roll, but a lot of the time you just have to suck it up and grind.

A couple days of intestinal distress led me to modify that.

What goes down immediately goes through.

While it may be a great way to lose weight, I can't really recommend it for boosting energy levels. Mine are pretty much tanked, but I still wanted to get out and ride. A couple hours visiting old loops at a mellow pace was all that I was good for yesterday. Today I decided to head back to the Foothills Parkway and do a longer ride.

In retrospect, considering all of the elements involved, it was probably not the best idea. As I understand it, you need to be able to absorb food to use it as energy. Also, it gets dark down here earlier than it does in summertime Alaska. Finally, doubling your tra…

My name is Inigo Montoya

Yesterday I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Only slightly less well known is this: Never get into a pace line with a rider wearing a sleeveless jersey.

If you got the mangled reference, congratulations- you're old.

I decided to ride the Foothills parkway outside of Knoxville after reading a couple short entries about it. The last time I was in the area, my riding range was limited because I didn't have a car, although I was familiar with the area. Only so many hours in the day. The accounts made it seem interesting enough, and so I piled the bike in the car and drove to see what it was all about. When I got to the start, a large group of triathletes was unloading to ride up the hill. I was invited to tag along, and I figured I would at least have someone there to pick up the pieces if the 12 hours of flying I had completed the day before completely trashed my legs.

As we started off, I fell in mid-pack, n…

The Wanky Bump

My blog numbers went through the roof while I was on a plane to Tennessee for a conference. Seriously, traffic was in the tens. I was a little too preoccupied to notice, since I was carrying a screaming baby to stay with his grandmother for a week.

The bump I can attribute solely to the generosity of  the Wankmeister, author of the excellent and always entertaining Cycling in the South Bay blog. I had written him a short note asking how I could turn my blog into a financial dynamo, utilizing the sound strategy of stealing all of his subscribers. I don't have subscribers, or readers, so stealing his seems like the only way to dominate the already saturated market for blogs about fat people in lycra sweating.

Wanky was kind enough to respond with a finely crafted set of suggestions that were not merited by my feeble hostile takeover. He followed it up with a blog post (that mentioned me by name, no less) that resulted in the traffic bump. Heck of a guy, that Wanky.

I plan on ignoring a…