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Showing posts from October, 2015

I Don't Know How to Ride a Bike.

They are all right.

I'm doing it all wrong.

I'm not enjoying myself.

I identify myself as a cyclist. More specifically, as a roadie. Exclusively as a roadie. I've owned mountain bikes, but the discipline never really rang my bell. I sold them and bought road bikes. I've owned 'cross bikes, but rarely used them outside of 'cross races and nasty conditions. I also hurt myself a lot while riding them. I sold them and bought road bikes. I've rented fat bikes, but I already have an expensive winter sport my wife does not 100% understand or support, and again it wasn't my cup of tea. I tried to sell them, but the rental outlet and the police objected, even though I was going to use the proceeds to buy more road bikes.

It's not like I haven't made the effort.

When my world revolved around skiing, I tried as many variants of the sport as possible. I tried cross-county, and they are dry-rotting in a corner of my garage. I tried heli-skiing, but I quickly real…

Laundry Day.

I finally got tired of stepping over the moldering pile of kit at the corner of the bed. Actually, I got tired of stepping on a soggy chamois in the middle of the night on the way to see what the youngest is fussing about before he launches into a 2:00AM fit of rage.

I narrowly avoided throwing my back out carrying the pile downstairs to the washing machine and threw it in on the delicate cycle. I will ruin my wife's work clothes worth thousands of dollars (rough estimate) washing them on the "sandblast/extreme heat" setting, but I'm careful with the cycling kit. I have my priorities straight.

When done, they hang up in the shower that hasn't been used as a shower in the last ten years. It's a drying rack with a drain. Again, priorities.

This time of year I start switching from my riding kit to my trainer kit. My riding kit is the nice team stuff with sponsor logos that implies a team took pity on me when they chose to clothe me. The trainer stuff is old team ki…

Not In the Legs.

Yesterday I stayed home with the sick toddler, so I could be sure to fully expose myself to whatever bug he was carrying. He was running a fever and had a nasty cough, so Daddy stayed home and ate Goldfish with him. We watched lots of Pooh. We didn't do much of anything else, because every time I would get up to do a small chore or even go to the bathroom, he would start to whine. Someday I'm going to look back on these days with fondness. Not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

I didn't get on the bike, and instead took the wife out to a fancy dinner at a place we had been meaning to try out. Dining out with a sick toddler is always an adventure, but he did pretty well with it. I ate too much, and after a day of eating Goldfish and cashews, I was feeling pretty awful.

Today I went to work and the toddler went to daycare. I was swamped with all of the stuff I should have done yesterday and the stuff I didn't see coming today, so I was looking forward to getting in a ride a…

F-56 Project.

Lance Armstrong had the F-One group, which was a collaboration of all of his sponsors to find a plausible explanation for his performances that didn't mention systematic doping. The

I have the F-53 Project, which is named for my current body fat percentage and is primarily concerned with maximizing the performance gains from a diet composed exclusively of simple carbs and trans fats. And self loathing. Lots and lots of self-loathing.

This Sunday a grainy video emerged from my secret testing grounds, where I was fine-tuning my time trial position to take advantage of the unnatural aerodynamic fairing that droops over the top tube. It's all about minimal gains.

Actually, Dark Lord of the Sith Bill Fleming and I were doing intervals around the track at the Dome, an inflatable arena in Anchorage that houses a full-size soccer/football/whatever pitch and a couple smaller practice fields, all ringed by a flat, five-lane running track. Bill brought up the possibility to me when I dropp…

The Race of Truth.

Over the last couple years I've come to realize that I suck at time trials. I have invested a large portion of my children's college fund into carbon this and aero that, but the fact remains that the engine is leaky and a couple pistons are rattling, and there's not enough money left in the textbook fund to cover that swap. Every year I place mid-pack in TT stages, watching any advantage I may have had up to that point ride off into the distance. I'm just not built to excel at the discipline, and I don't spend nearly as much time as I do money on it. I try to buy speed, and my ROI has been depressing.

Still, it's that season again. The season when retailers start running bike part sales and I start hoarding. When eBay and Craigslist sellers start off-loading their old junk and I gladly pay to take it off their hands.

This year, I started looking at TT frames. I have no idea why. My TT bike, while not the most technologically advanced wind-splitting instrument kno…

See? I Told You So.

In my continuing trend of stealing content from Wanky's vastly superior cycling blog, the analysis of his recent completely scientific, pulled-out-of-his-ass cycling poll came in, and they have validated everything I have ever said. More or less.

Of note:
"Respondents reported relatively little concern about receiving unique prizes (jerseys, pint glasses, etc.) or prize money, nor were they concerned about the posting of results to social media (e.g., Facebook)."

I only point this out because it confirms my own opinions about cash awards and other expensive prizes. The rest of the survey is just mindless drivel.

Just like Fox News, I report, you decide (that I'm right). I believe that's called confirmation bias, and in this case it's awesome.


Seriously, there's lots of good information in there, and I'm probably going to pour through it over the next few days to see what other opinions of mine it confirms. I'd like to see the ABC Road Division do somet…

Opinions Differ.

"The justice of sport, yes. The sacrifice without end."                            -Gene Hackman in Downhill Racer
I wore out my VHS copy of that movie years ago, back when my whole life revolved around being the absolute best low-average Masters alpine ski racer I could be. The scene this line is from is in a hospital room, where an athlete who has dedicated his whole life to being the best at a sport lies with a possible career-ending injury. Also in the room is another racer, played by Robert Redford, who lacks the injured athlete's dedication and discipline but has surpassed him because of natural ability and other traits. Robert Redford's character goes on to win the Olympic gold medal, while the dedicated-but-injured athlete isn't mentioned again.
The justice of sport.
What brought this to mind was a recent Wanky post. He was ranting, as he is prone to do, about how a large infusion of cash would solve all of domestic cycling's issues- especially at the ju…

Whine and You Shall Receive.

Yesterday I whined about lugging my bike back and forth to work, only to be rained out. Day after day.

Today, the wife was sick, so I had to take the kids to school/daycare and pick them up. I didn't put the bike on the car, because I knew I would have no time to ride after work anyway. I was in a foul mood, and had splitting headache by the end of the day.

When I walked out of my tomb-like office, I was greeted by blue skies and mild temperatures. My mood darkened, because I would likely not be able to ride. I picked up a carload of screaming kids (half of them weren't mine) and contemplated driving into every light pole and off every bridge on the way home. Every high-pitched squeal drove a spike of pain through my skull, and my knuckles got whiter on the wheel. Every parent knows what I'm talking about, and if they say they don't, they're lying.

When I got home, my wife said I could ride. It took a while for that to sink in, but soon I was getting ready and riding …

Stubborn.

Every weekday morning, no matter what the weather looks like, I open the garage door and roll the bike out to the car. I hoist the bike up on the roof rack and ratchet it down. I throw my bag of cycling kit in the passenger seat and place the bottle in the cup holder.

Every morning.

My office has no windows, so I ask the smokers in the office who trudge outside every hour like clockwork what the weather is like. Usually they give me vague descriptions like "it's alright" or "not as bad as you'd expect", which lead me to go and see for myself. More often than not, it's as bad as I expect and nowhere near alright.

Cold and rainy.

It's not that I don't ride in the rain or the cold. I just know that riding in conditions like this usually end up with me catching whatever bug is rolling through my son's daycare at the moment, putting me out of commission for several days. I've been there a whole lot, and it's not fun.

The bike stays on top of t…

The Numbers Don't Add Up.

A couple years ago I asked Janice if I had any potential as a sprinter.

This was after I scored a second place in an intermediate sprint during a stage race. That was the first time I was in contention for an actual sprint finish, having gotten the vast majority of my results in time trials and "reduced-pack" finishes. I say "reduced pack" instead of "breakaway" because they were the result of persistent grinding that caused people to drop off the back, rather than an attack that opened a decisive gap. The biggest diesels wore everyone else out.

Janice looked at the power data we had amassed and tried to be as gentle as possible when she explained that I had no physical promise, in any way, whatsoever. Period. Wasting my time. What I did have was a middling-level diesel that would allow me to get marginal results in time trials and maybe sneak into a break if I was lucky. Pack fodder.

Janice is a nurturer, which is why I pay her to run my life.

She was right…

Virtual Dopers

The other day I was chugging away on my trainer, riding in the virtual world of Zwift. A rider popped up on the active riders list, and he was putting out some impressive numbers. One might say very impressive.

In Zwift, our "virtual speeds" are calculated using the amount of watts we can produce for our indicated weight- watts per kilogram (w/kg). When you set up your profile, you enter how much you weigh. For those of us using power meters, power is transmitted via ANT+ to the application. For those without power measuring devices, the resistance of their particular model of trainer is used to calculate "virtual power". Combine those numbers with your weight and you get the w/kg a given rider is putting out.

This particular rider was averaging over 7.5 w/kg for the hour I was riding, never dipping below 7 w/kg. To put this in perspective, Lance Armstrong's doping doctor, Michele Ferrari, calculated that a Tour de France contender would be required to crank out …

Ideas.

Ideas for blog fodder flit through my leaky brain at the worst possible times. Usually they come to me on the bike right before a set of intervals, at which time I only have room for thoughts about how much this sucks. The rest gets filtered out with the spit and phlegm and other bodily fluids. Sometimes I get lucky and write them down when I get the chance. My desk is littered with little scraps of paper that have cryptic messages on them.

"Winnie the Pooh"
"Pie and Ice Cream"
"I'm Fat and Lazy"

Sometimes I can use them, but mostly these journalistic gems are wasted because I can't decipher them. One of the joys of aging, I guess.

I probably should take a page from the Red Kite Prayer book and ask inane, open-ended questions and then expect everyone else to answer them. Brilliant strategy. The problem is that unlike RKP, nobody reads this blog, so nobody's there to do the work for me. In addition, this blog is about the center of the universe (me)…

Disloyal.

I spent years cultivating the relationship. The energy I put into it can't possibly be expressed here. I gave and gave and gave, and after all of my selfless attention, what happens?

Pete tells me he's moving to Arizona. He taking a job with the Grand Canyon National Park, which I understand is just a big ditch with burros. I don't see the attraction.

What about my feelings?

It's not like a sub-marginal roadie such as myself can find another rider bad enough to serve as my domestique on just any street corner. Even when you do find them, it takes a special breed with a weak mind to sacrifice their own ambitions for my personal glory.

Then again, Pete was never a very good domestique. He'd attack at weird moments, burning himself out before we were out of sight from the starting line. He even had the nerve to finish ahead of me in the one race this year where he took my advice, sat in, and didn't attack. As my leadout man, he would fizzle early in the sprint, requir…

Eventually You Burn Out.

It was bound to happen. I knew it. I tried to ignore it and press on. It didn't work.

Last Tuesday I got sick.

Fever, chills, muscle aches... yeah, it was that kind of day. I woke up and knew I was in for a world of hurt. I got dressed and made it to work, and sat down at my desk. A half hour later I was done. My commute was longer than the time I spent at work.

Once home, I found a soft fleece blanket and a sympathetic Labrador Retriever and slept it off.

Despite the beautiful fall weather, I didn't ride.

I ate a lot of Goldfish crackers and cashews, because they were there and didn't require effort. Effort wasn't something I had a lot of energy for. I started a movie and dozed off, waking just in time for the end of the credits. I channel-surfed. I explored the wide range of on-demand viewing options that I had no interest in watching. I wasted hours on the kids' iPads building empires and attacking people I've never met. I drifted off to sleep again.

I woke up to…

We're Going to Miss Them.

Image
 Until relatively recently, I ran an alpine ski racing league at a small ski bump. By ran it, I mean I did pretty much everything. I set courses, organized sign-ins/bib pick-ups, timed races, tabulated results, did publicity, coordinated with the hill, maintained the race equipment, herded cats...

It was a lot of work. On a given race night, I was on the hill for 8 to 10 hours. I would ski (on average) about 20 of those minutes. The rest was running around, carrying heavy things, and freezing my fingers trying to get timing to work. I just liked getting people out on the hill and racing through a bunch of plastic poles.

For about ten years all of that work was completely worth it. Then, for various reasons, it wasn't.

The reason I bring this up is that the long-time Arctic Bike Club Road Division race directors, Missy and Kristin, have stepped down. They have been with the program longer than I have, so I literally can't remember a race without at least one of them yelling at me…

Bleh.

Several days of steady rain had wiped away the snow in the Anchorage bowl. The snow line retreated up the mountains to about the 1,000' level. The roads were damp, but not wet. The temperatures were chilly, but not overly so.

I reached the first landmark about 15 seconds later than I usually do. I was 45 seconds late to the second one. The trend continued. The farther I rode, the slower I went. There was nothing in my legs.

I didn't care.

Over a week straight of relatively short duration and high intensity workouts drained all of the energy right out of me.

I shouldn't have been on my bike. I should have been propped up on the couch or taking a nap somewhere with one of the kids under a Dora the Explorer fleece blanket. I should have been anywhere else but on the bike.

However, it was the first day in quite a while when it wasn't pouring cold rain. My opportunities to ride outside are dwindling fast, and when faced with that situation, you ride. You may not all giggly with…

Non-Dairy 'Cross Substitute

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This year I decided to stop racing cyclocross, and my body hasn't stopped thanking me. I used to use 'cross for late-season intensity during a time when the weather and a season of training and racing makes me want to ride slow and easy. Without that kick in the lady parts, I was worried that I wouldn't be maintaining any fitness.

The last seven days I've ridden the trainer. Each time the Intensity Factor and Training Stress Score (two important metrics for hyper-analytical cyclists) was higher than in 'cross races I've done. In other words, the effort I put in on the bikes was harder grinding away on the trainer than wrapping myself around trees. Go figure.

It was like racing 'cross for seven straight days, one race a day, except without the bodily injury. It isn't sustainable, and I'm already seeing the numbers drop, but it is interesting.

This is mostly due to chasing sprints and personal bests on Zwift. I'm not sure how this will translate to a…

Hoarding Season

Saturday morning I started sorting and doing a rough inventory in the garage.

I've been needed to do this for a while, or I would end up extra items that I didn't need. Actually, I really don't need any of it, but I want it. I want more.

I started with the front derailleurs, because that's what I picked up first. Braze-on and clamp mounts of various sizes. Apex, Rival, Force, and Red. I boxed them up as neatly as possible, knowing that organization would only last until the next bike build.

Then it was rear derailleurs. Short cage and medium cage, again spanning the full SRAM range. Box them up and set them aside.

Shifters. Brake calipers. Cranksets. Cassettes. Chains. Brake pads for aluminum rims. Brake pads for carbon rims. Tubular tires. Tubular glue. Tubular tape. Tubes. Tires. Valve extenders. Bottom brackets. Bar tape. Brake cables. Derailleur Cables. Brake housing. Derailleur housing. Housing ferrules. Cable crimps. The list is endless, and each item was noted and t…

Surround-Sound Douchebaggery

Today I bought a surround-sound system for my trainer dungeon. It has a 5 DVD changer, 6 satellite speakers, a sub-woofer, and all sorts of features I'll never use.

To put this in perspective, the upstairs TV that the whole family uses is hooked up to the stereo that I bought in 1992.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

In my defense, I bought it at a thrift store for $50. The real selling point for me was the optical input, which I can hook up to my Alienware computer. That will allow me to listen to all of the sound effects the guys at Zwift added into the game, which will make it easier to immerse myself in the experience and forget I'm on the trainer. I'm also hoping better positioning of the speakers will allow me to reduce the overall system volume. To hear above the jet-turbine roar of my LeMond trainer, I had to turn the volume on my studio monitors to ear-bleeding levels. At 3:30 AM, the rest of the family took issue with the noise.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

I'm going to sneak…

Style

Years ago, I wrote a few articles on basic alpine ski racing technique. This was just a way of getting cheap race skis, and in no way was a reflection of my ability or certification level. The information contained in the articles was mostly derivative, so I'm relatively sure no lawsuits are forthcoming from people that followed my advice. In one, I focused basic stance. Nothing earth-shattering there, but I basically hit on the one concept I use for all sports- functional tension.

I wish I had a fluid riding style, but I usually engage too many muscles and waste too much energy needlessly with bad form. The more I focus on it, the worse I ride- or so it seems. I'm amazed by the style and skills of riders like new World Champion Peter Sagan. It all looks so effortless for them. They are connected to the bike in a way that makes it another appendage. My bike looks like it's desperately trying to escape the flailing tub of lard on top of it.

There's a disconnect there tha…

On the Road Again

The sky was blue, with temperatures in the mid-40s. The roads were almost completely dry, with the occasional puddle to avoid. The snow was receding from the roads, and small white piles were all that indicated someone once shoveled the sidewalks. It was like spring had returned, except in spring the piles are black with dirt.

Initially I thought I overdressed, but a few miles down the road I felt the wind and was glad I had that extra layer. As I rode across base and towards the mountains, the snow got progressively deeper and closer to the road. The bike path I took for a short distance had half-frozen ice patches in the shade, so I decided to alter my route somewhat. Instead of the circuit I've done dozens of times this year, I rode the gold-standard of Anchorage time trial courses. It was there and clear, so I took advantage.

I wasn't riding fast, but I was riding.

I rode this same course seven years during the my first bike race. I was fat and out of shape, despite having ri…

More of the Same

Snow again.

This morning it was sticking. I had to clear off the cars and shovel the driveway. Not much, maybe an inch of heavy, wet snow, but it was accumulating.

By noon, it was melting. By the time I got off work, most of the roads around base were dry enough to ride on. That is, if you dodged the numerous puddles that either hide a deep pothole or just a lot of wet. This time of year, it's better to dodge than take the chance.

The bike was at home. The bag o' kit was at home. The night was tied up with parent-teacher conferences so I could hear about how much they like having my child in their class and what positive energy they bring to the learning experience. I think I'm supposed to nod and smile at that point, but I usually stifle a yawn and manage to look supremely uninterested.

Once again, the night's workout belonged to the virtual world of Zwift. Unlike the previous excursions, I wasn't interested in sprinting or extended efforts. This was a measured, easy …