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Showing posts from July, 2015

Self-Loathing

Today I hate myself.

Occasionally I'll give myself permission to ingest whatever highly-processed, chemical-laden, nutritionally-questionable, and calorically-dense substance is within 100 yards of my mouth.

Today is that day, and I'm trying to kill myself in the most efficient manner possible with my undeniably bad choices.

This afternoon when I get on the bike, my hate for every last ounce of my being will reach its apex, because I won't have the energy to turn over the pedals. Other people might get extreme intestinal distress from trying to exercise on such a poor diet, but years of conditioning have sculpted me into an efficient garbage disposal. I'll burn anything. It might not be the most effective fuel, but it will burn. It will probably leave a foul odor and my sweat will be tinged with the essence of processed meat-esque substances, but it will burn.

Tomorrow I'll try not to hate myself so much. I'll remember today's transgressions and make better cho…

What a Difference a Day Makes

I knew I was beat down when I raced Saturday. I knew there was next to nothing left in the tank, and the fact that I was able to hang with the pack in the road race that followed the time trial was a small victory. When Sunday's rains gave me a semi-plausible excuse for not riding, I grabbed it with both hands. I usually like riding in the rain. Maybe "like" is the wrong word. I often ride in the rain. This time, I knew it wouldn't do me any good and would probably do a lot of harm. I needed a break, so I took one.

Monday after work I went out for an hour ride. I planned to ride easy and just keep the legs spinning, but when I got to the time trial course I opened it up a little. Actually, I hit numbers I couldn't pull off on Saturday on my TT bike with all of my considerable aerodynamic snake oil. I had more in reserve, and I had to force myself to back off.

Guess I needed to rest. Duh.

The next week and a half is all about rebuilding whatever stores of energy my f…

Storck Hacking

My Storck Visioner has been hanging from the garage ceiling since April, when the flaws in its design/construction eventually overcame my enthusiasm for the project. The half-finished project was a testament to my short attention span.. It wasn't a pretty sight, and one I avoided unless I happened to bang my head against the fork as I walked under it. Right before I left for the East Coast, I decided to do something about the eyesore.

The issue that caused me to fling 4mm allen wrenches about the garage was the internal cable grommets. The rubber ones had to be installed before you ran the rubber cable, and I destroyed one before I realized that greasing the cable housing before feeding it through prevented the grommet from ripping. Even lubing the cable wasn't enough to keep them alive while I was sorting out the cable issues around the bottom bracket.

The plastic ones are slightly more durable, but one fell on the floor and promptly cracked when I stepped on it. Even in the be…

Knowing Where the Bottom Is.

Despite what my wife says, I haven't raced very much this year. In fact, I'd be willing to bet I haven't raced this little since about 2008. Business trips, family vacations, other obligations, cancelled races... one thing after another seemed to get in the way.

That's sad, because I really like to race. That's how I define myself as a cyclist. I really like the interaction with other racers, especially in mass-start events, and how it can affect your performance. While I generally don't like hill climbs because I'm a fatty, and my love of time trials has cooled over time, I'll generally enter those too because they're "good for me" or some such nonsense.

My "training" is targeted to performing well in races, and if I don't race it makes it very hard to maintain focus. Racing gives me a subjective and objective reference for how my fitness is progressing. Right now I don't have a very good idea of where I stand.

At the last …

Happily Ground Down to a Nub

My Chronic Training Load (CTL) is currently over 95%. That doesn't refer to how much wacky tobacky I've been smoking, but rather how much stress I've been placing on my body over the long term. For much of the year, I hover in the 55-70% range, but since May my numbers have been climbing as I put in more and more hours on the bike.

What does this really mean?

I'm tired.

Managed properly, this surge in training load will result in me making great strides in performance. Janice sets up my training calendar to achieve this goal. I ignore her directives and have sub-par performances. This allows me to have a ready excuse to deflect attention from my athletic inadequacies. I wasn't able to follow the training plan because of [insert excuse here], so I wasn't properly primed for [insert event here]. I'm sure I'm not the only one that abuses Janice's services thusly.

Although I'm too lazy to actually delve deeply into the numbers, I watch the pretty patter…

Watching the Leaves

I'm not one for being in touch with nature. Basically I try to stay out of its way, and hopefully it will return the favor. I appreciate the beauty and all that, but essentially I see it as a venue for whatever pastime I am currently interested in. It's all about me.

Today I should have paid attention.

After a post-travel illness, I got on the bike and decided to go down to Girdwood. Usually that ends up being a headwind both directions kind of day for me, because I rarely pay attention to when the wind is supposed to shift. I always get it wrong.

Today it was calm when I started. The inlet was actually flat and placid. On that road, averaging 20+ MPH isn't all that hard, and I was ticking off the miles and actually felt good. Despite a bit of rain when I left, the sun came out and everything was going just great.

About halfway through my 80 mile ride, I noticed I was seeing the back of the leaves on all of the trees as I passed. I should have put two and two together, because…

Supporting the Little Guy

Starlight Bicycles is a small shop in Roanoke, VA, named for the Mill Mountain star. While there are other shops in town that are great in their own ways, this is the shop with the vibe that I am drawn to. The shop itself can only be described as tiny, but in every corner are reminders that these guys are enthusiasts.

They make their own line of steel road bikes. You gotta like a company that builds up a race-worthy, Molteni orange Columbus Zona steel frame with Campagnolo. I'm not a Campy guy myself, but you have to respect a company that wants to do it right.

This trip I stopped in and casually asked about the sister company, Starlight Apparel. They make custom cycling kit, and I have been pretty impressed with what I had seen before on their clothing racks. They use Italian fabrics because, like with their bikes, they want to do it right.

My team has used Sugoi for the last couple years, and before that was Pactimo. We weren't looking for a new supplier, but since Starlight di…

Burning It All to the Ground

As my trip to Virginia winds down, I've been trying to use up whatever energy I have left. There isn't much in the tank. Even though my riding has been limited to 2 or 3 hours a day, the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge have taken their toll. The numbers in my gee-whiz training programs mirror how I feel- beat down. This was exactly what I was looking for.

A couple days ago I tried to meet up with a local group of riders so they could kick me in the lady parts on their home roads. Despite assurances that the ride was going to happen, for the second week straight nobody showed. Waking up that early and driving all that way for nothing sure cut into the riding time, but I managed to get in a solid ride anyway.

I am a little worried I'll be too accustomed to warm weather when I get back. I might not know what to do when my face doesn't melt and drip down onto my top tube. There may be some adjusting to do.

The Anchorage racing season has rolled along without me, although most…

LSD Thoughts

Today I was supposed to do some intensity, but the weather tended to disagree with my training plan. Silly weather.

Dawn broke with a flash and a boom again, followed by a steady patter of rain. Once again, I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, and drove out to the Parkway to see if I could sneak in between the lightning strikes. As it turned out, the storm was moving away, leaving a moderate rain behind- which was fine by me.

However, doing intervals in the rain isn't always a lot of fun or a particularly good idea. Instead, I decided to knock out some long, slow distance and build up the diesel. It gave me ample time to ponder whatever floated through my mind. While some of those thoughts I choose to keep out of the Blogosphere, one of these thoughts was how much I hate technology sometimes.

I'm a mechanic by inclination, even though I work in the IT world. I like fixing things. I like soldering and troubleshooting with schematics, which are arcane skills these days. I don…

It's Not the Boom That Kills You

I woke up to the sound of the rain on the roof.

Then there was a roll of thunder off in the distance.

Then there was the nervous padding of my parents' large yellow lab, who happens to be afraid of thunder.

I kitted up anyway, and ate my pre-ride sandwich while contemplating the folly of my intended actions. The rain slacked, and I loaded up the bike and started to drive out to the Parkway.

That's when I noticed the lightning. The clouds and fog made it more of a glow than a flash, but counting the time between the lightning and thunder made it clear the storm was pretty much over my head. I waited for 30 minutes, then turned around for home when it didn't look like it would end. 

Halfway home, it stopped.

I drove to the Parkway again.

Lightning lit up the sky around me.

I threw in the towel.

As much as I enjoy riding, dodging lightning on the crest of the Blue Ridge is not my idea of fun. So, a day that I intended to get in some miles became a rest day. Not the end of the world. 

Iconic

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Around Roanoke Virginia, there are a few climbs that at icons, but probably the one that most people do is the one up to the Mill Mountain Star. A couple group rides a week tackle the climb, then descend on the Blue Ride Parkway to return.
I decided to do it a little differently.

My plan was the descend from Bent Mountain on the Parkway to the star, then turn around and climb back to the top. I hadn't done this part of the Parkway on a bike, but I had driven it a bunch of times. It was the only part of the Parkway I hadn't ridden from Roanoke to the North Carolina border, and likely the most challenging. It's not a steep climb by any means, but it goes on for a while and rewards steady pacing. I suck at steady pacing.

Because of the wet roads from the previous night's rain, I descended a little more conservatively than I usually do. I also didn't want to cover so much distance on the descent that I couldn't climb out in the allotted time. Mustn't anger the wif…

Momentum Killer

My cell phone alarm went off at 5:00AM, and for some reason poking, beating, slapping, and otherwise abusing the glass did not activate the snooze button.

"Push the button", my irritated and drowsy wife said. That worked, and with that auspicious start to my day I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom to start getting ready. Normally 5:00AM doesn't sound that early, because I've gotten up much earlier to ride the trainer in the winter. However, this was 5:00AM EST and four hours ahead of Alaska time. My body, always slow to react to time zone changes, still thought it was 1:00AM.

Today was going to be a group ride that promised to be on the "sporty" side. By that, I mean I was going to get stomped. I had everything laid out for a quick exit. As I dressed, I admired the two weeks of beard growth I had cultivated while on vacation. In the war between salt and pepper, the tide had long ago tilted in sodium's favor. I looked like an old Luca Paolin…

A Whole Bushel of Nope

Last night my wife asked me if I wanted to a group ride at night instead of riding early in the morning. A quick check of the weather put an end to that idea. 90F and humidity just aren't my favorite riding conditions.

As it turned out, I wasn't going to be doing any riding today.

At 3:00AM, my wife woke me.

"Feel the baby's forehead. I think he's running a fever".

Despite wanting nothing more than to roll back over and go to sleep, the parent in me dutifully felt the child's head. I didn't need to actually touch it, because I could have sensed that heat from across the room. He's normally a sweaty mess when he sleeps, but this was a whole 'nother, surface of the sun heat. The kid was sick.

We doped him up with acetaminophen and tried to get him to sleep with limited success. Nobody got any sleep. In the morning his temperature was around 104F, and we switched out to ibuprofen. By noon his fever hadn't broken, and we took him to the emergency r…

Drip, Drip, Drip

The rain didn't let up. In fact, it intensified.

Thus motivated, I put on my offensively bright rain jacket and started pedaling. Unless it's cold (it wasn't), rain doesn't usually deter me from riding. In fact, some of my best rides are in the rain. If I hit the clothing right and find a happy medium in all of the sogginess, I actually enjoy myself.

My sunglasses were fogged up and useless, but the narrow brim of my cycling cap provided enough protection from the rain on the descents. On especially fast descents, I would squint and try to draw my cheeks up higher, in a semi-effective attempt to protect them from the stinging drops.

The rooster tail that my rear wheel created behind me was quite impressive, and I debated the merits of fenders on a day like this. I decided when you're wet, you're wet, and 64F and raining isn't exactly brutal conditions. The shoe covers I had on didn't keep my feet dry for long, but they moderated the temperature to the poin…

Backing Off

After yesterday, I decided a nice easy ride was in order. Unfortunately, the only time I had free for such a ride was at 6:00 AM. That's 2:00AM in Alaska time, something I still haven't been able to shift from.

The alarm went off, I suited up, and greeted the sun on the Blue Ridge Parkway as I made the first few pedal strokes with the full power of 'meh'.

It soon became obvious that my left knee was feeling the full effects of yesterday's beat-down. I backed off a little bit more, just to be safe. I still have a couple weeks of this to go.

Then I noticed my left arm felt like my wife had spent the previous night flattening it with a baseball bat. It does sound plausible, because I certainly give her enough reasons to do so. With my left side basically along for the ride, I backed off another couple notches and discovered the joys of the small chain ring and big cogs. 

This gave me plenty of time to have thoughtful conversations about various topics with the many deer t…

Skinny Guys Beat Me Up and Took My Lunch Money

I rolled up to the group ride meeting place and started sizing up the other riders. I imagine the others were doing the same thing. Once upon a time I used to look at bikes, but that was always a mistake. Too many times the guy on the most expensive bike was the first dropped, while the guy on the entry level aluminum bike proceeded to kick everyone in the naughty bits.

Instead, I looked at riders. Of the few riders in the group, made smaller when the group leader bailed because it looked like it might rain (seriously?), two stood out. Defined calves, smile creases, and race-cut jerseys that were loose around their midsections indicated that these would be the guys making me hurt today. 

That was fine with me, because having random strangers flay me alive is why I show up for group rides when I travel. Getting stomped on by the same old cast and crew is fine, but you know how and when it's going to happen. Strangers always add a new element.

After a short discussion of the merits and…

...and Nothing You Can See Here

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The fog limited visibility to about 100 feet. Despite having been down this road a bunch of times before, nothing looked the same. The lengths of climbs, descents, and flats were left to the imagination or vague memories. This made pacing somewhat interesting. Signs for scenic overlooks seemed like cruel jokes.

The front and rear blinky lights were just as ineffective as the headlights and taillights of the cars that would appear occasionally, heralded by the sound of their engines and the whine of their tires. The day-glow rain jacket that seems so offensively bright on normal days seemed to be in its element, alerting drivers that a lycra-covered flesh bag was on the road.

Mile after mile this went on. Hill after hill. Valley after valley.

Then the fog lifted so the rain could start. At first, a pleasant little drizzle that cooled you as you grunted up the hill, which eventually evolved into baseball-size drops that slapped you in the face as you sped down the last descent. The sunglas…

Nothing to See Here...

I have nothing to write about, because I haven't ridden in four days. Four very long days.

I haven't taken a break this long in quite a while, and to be honest I'm starting to climb the walls. Traveling always is stressful for me, and this makes it even more so. It's packed up in the case in the back of the minivan. A little wrenching is all it would take to get it into action, but I need to be patient.

Maybe tomorrow.

Weakness

I'm a weak man.

I've never been what anyone would call "strong". When I was a teenager, I probably had a great strength-to-weight ratio, but that's because I weighed as much as a medium-sized lake trout. My arms were the diameter of a strand of single-mode fiber optic cable. I could eat anything in any quantity and lose weight. In retrospect, it was awesome... except when a stiff wind would knock me into the ditch when I walked to class.

Ten years and 100+ pounds later, my strength-to-weight ratio was not quite as impressive. To be honest, I'm amazed I could carry around that much extra weight all day, every day. I could throw the weight around for short durations, which some people mistook for strength, but I would immediately need to take a nap. What I had was bulk. In spades.

Ten years after that, I had lost some of that weight and the ratio was better. Not great, but better. Without that hyper-charged metabolism of my youth and limited willpower in the face …