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Showing posts from January, 2016

The Race Bike II.

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My race bike is a former Trek-Livestrong Madone 6.6 SSL that I bought off of Nate Brown, who currently rides for Cannondale-Garmin. It had seen duty in the U23 Paris-Roubaix and was Nate's training bike until the team reorganized, so it had a beefy (heavy) Bontrager touring bike fork. After George Hincapie went down in the 2006 Paris Roubaix when his fork's carbon steerer tube snapped, Trek because very conservative in that regard. The Bontrager Satellite fork can take a direct hit from a tactical nuke and has plenty of clearance for wider tires, so it's certainly cheap insurance. It's just rather heavy and not exactly the most responsive component.

When I decided to replace it, all I wanted to lose was a ton of weight. I like the added clearance for tires and I like the fact it's bulletproof, because I have all of the riding finesse of a prepubescent wildebeest. If there's a pothole, I'm hitting the center of it with all of the force my considerable girth c…

Fuck. I'm Old.

Today marks my 46th year on the planet. It could be more if you factor in the thetans the Scientologists say inhabit my body or the slug a Buddhist might claim I was in my previous life. Given how I feel these days, that latter one might have some merit. Come to think of it, after getting kicked in the kidneys all night by a toddler sorta feels like being thrown into a volcano from a DC-8, so maybe Tom Cruise is onto something. No matter how you tally it, there's one inescapable conclusion:

I'm getting old.

Don't get me wrong, I hope to have many more years to bitch and moan about how old I am. My paternal grandparents lived into their 90s, so I may have some decent genes that can overcome Monsanto's evil plan to kill everyone prematurely with pesticides and turn us all into Soylent Green. Seriously, man. I read it on the internet.

Every year it gets a little harder to do stuff like lose weight or operate on minimal sleep. After the bump I got from losing a large chunk of…

Peaks and Valleys.

Lately my brief brushes with form have resembled a roller coaster. Good legs have never lasted more than a couple days, and are immediately followed by dead legs for another couple days. The good legs rarely appear when I want them, and nothing I do can seem to shift the timing.

This mirrors my experiences in stage races, where my Achilles heel, recovery, results in some spectacular tumbles down the results sheet. It seems like I'm not built to go more than a couple days without the wheels coming off. I've had a couple stage races where success was determined by somehow slowing the rate of decline, but for the life of me I can't figure out how I made that happen. I've tried all sorts of snake oil and gizmos to help bounce back from hard efforts, but they've done little except lighten my wallet. The only thing that seems to help is time, and the vast majority of amateur stage races don't include rest days.

One thing has been consistent lately, though. I always hi…

I'm Ready Already.

This winter, like the two that preceded it, has been less than awesome.

So far it's been better than last year, which was more like an extended October, but I'm still not getting excited about what I've seen so far. Each short period of cold and snow has been followed by warm temperatures and rain, leaving thin coverage and ice. The brown piles of snow alongside the roads most common in April are out in force.

Conditions that would have been viewed by regular winter recreationalists as dismal only a few years ago are now regularly described glowingly as "really good" and "epic" on Facebook. By "really good", I think they mean "I only fell 40 times on the ice rink that we call a trail" or "my ski bases have an extremely aggressive structure thanks to all of the rocks I've run over". There has been a shift in what is perceived as "good" and "bad", probably influenced by all of the people who spent thousa…

Opting Out.

Once a month for the last nine or so months, PayPal would remove $2.99 from my bank account, take their cut, and deposit the rest into Seth Davidson's account. This was my subscription to help support his excellent cycling blog, Cycling in the South Bay. Not a big chunk of change by anyone's standards, but subscribing was my way of saying "keep doing whatever it is you do". Like anything that you can access for free, the vast majority of readers probably didn't subscribe, but I thought the token gesture was warranted by the content. I enjoy reading cycling blogs that focus on road racing, and there aren't a whole lot of them out there. Of those that exist, Seth's is a cut above in terms of writing quality.

I cancelled my subscription Friday.

A group of mountain bike riders had their bikes confiscated after they were caught riding on Camp Pendleton. Here's the post that led me to cancel my subscription. Instead of detailing the conflict and the land use …

The Hardest Workout.

I was on Zwift tonight. I saw a couple local riders were on. I could have easily taken the green jersey and won all of the sprints. The KOM jersey was within the realm of possibility.

Instead, I kept it under 115 watts.

You see, Janice yelled at me.

I always screw up Recovery rides. I go too hard chasing after squirrels, and end up fatigued instead of refreshed. When it comes time to actually do something, I'm completely wasted and the result is predictable.

Today I stuck to the plan. It was the hardest hour on the trainer I can remember.

I didn't grab that wheel. I didn't wind it up for the sprint. I didn't stand on the pedals to attack the hill. I didn't do all of the things that make Zwift so motivating for me.

I turned over an easy gear and watched the clock. I could have completed two laps in the time it took me to finish one. When the hour was up, I didn't go for any bonus time. I got off the bike.

I hope she's happy, because I was miserable.

Who Am I?

Last week, Wanky's daily dose of take-it-or-leave-it-I don't-really-give-a-fuck blather got me thinking. In this case, it was Five Types of People Who Will Quit Cycling.

There was a time that I lived for music. It consumed the majority of my waking hours. Starting around age 12, I spent countless hours perfecting my rendition of Smoke on the Water, making my parents deeply regret buying me such a large guitar amplifier. I played in just about every musical ensemble in middle and high school, and had multiple bands at any given time. I went to college sure that music was the perfect career path for me. People who know me now seem to find this extremely funny, but at the time I was absolutely dedicated. For three and a half years I plugged away in music school, before realizing one day I didn't like playing music anymore. I realized I might have had the technical skill, but I would never make the kinds of artistic strides my contemporaries were. I wasn't wired that way, a…

Insensitivity.

A session on the trainer was about the last thing I wanted to do after work.

A long day filled with administrivia wore me out. Sunday I had nothing at the tank, fading significantly after just three minutes of honest effort. Monday's "rest day" was characterized by aches and pains, followed by a persistent hacking cough and a restless night. Tuesday was not shaping up to be a dramatic improvement on any front.

When I got home, I climbed into bed and promised myself I would get ready in 15 minutes. 15 became 30. 30 became 45. 45 became... 90 minutes later I finally dragged myself from under the covers and suited up. I knew in my heart it wasn't going to be pretty. No matter how rested Training Peaks indicated I was, I wasn't going to be able to do much more than make a half-hearted attempt at turning over the pedals.

Turns out I was wrong.

As soon as the legs started moving, I found I could sustain something approaching respectable power. I took a stab at a Zwift spr…

Funneled and Flushed.

About 15 years ago, I was heli-skiing in Thompson Pass, just north of Valdez. I was in my EXTREME!™ skiing phase, before I realized that I possessed neither the skill, physique, or mindset required for such endeavors. I had gotten an incredible deal on a heli-skiing package, and a friend and I drove my should-have-been-junked-because-it-had-been-t-boned-and-passenger's-side-door-was-permanently-sealed-with-RTV 1986 Jeep Cherokee from Anchorage to Valdez in the middle of a snowstorm. We were stoked. Our ignorance was showing, because we didn't realize that when it snows, it blows, meaning no flying.

We had exactly two days slated for our little adventure. Other guys that were skiing at the time had been waiting a week for the weather to clear, but luck smiled on the simple minded this time around. Just as we arrived, the winds died and the visibility improved. The exposed ridgelines were wind-affected slabs of ice and hard-packed snow, but the gullies and chutes were stuffed wi…

The Joke I Never Got.

So, as I've mentioned before, I'm from the South. Specifically Virginia.

When I was in high school, the Commonwealth of Virginia instituted Lee-Jackson-King Day.

That's Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and...

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Somebody had a seriously twisted sense of humor at the Capital Building. Obviously people liked what could have only been intended as a ironic joke, because it stayed on the books until 2000, when I can only assume people stopped laughing at how ridiculous it was and realized how offensive it could be to a large segment of the population.

To be honest, I never pondered the irony at the time. It was a day off of school, and that was fine with me. I never spent much time thinking about the meaning of holidays back then. A day off was a day off, and I wasn't going to rock the boat.

Not being the most racially sensitive person then (or, for that matter, now), I never asked my friends who likely had very good rea…

Phrase of the Day.

Today's Phrase of the Day:

   Douche Flute
/do͞oSH flo͞ot/(noun)  A vaporizer that is smoked as a cigarette replacement. I'm using this one as much as I can, because it's the most apt description of an annoying device that I've seen in a long time. Use it in your daily life, and perhaps the idiots that use them will realize that they aren't healthy and are incredibly stupid looking. I know a thing or two about being a douche.
I smoked for ten years. I started because I was 18 and dating a girl who smoked, so I smoked. Not really sound reasoning, but I was 18. Back then it was cheap to smoke, and I thought I'd live forever. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, a bunch of my friends had parents that worked for the tobacco industry. The social stigma wasn't there. It was just something you did.
Ten years later, I was up to two packs a day. I smelled bad. I woke up every morning hacking. I felt like crap. Smoking was bleeding my bank account dry, costing me up to $2.60…

Dot.

Six months later, it's still there, although it doesn't appear as angry as it once did.

Now it looks more like I leaned my hip up against a door knob. A faint red circle about the size of a baseball.

I don't spend a lot of time looking at my own ass, mainly because it's not something I find all that attractive. Nobody would. I accidentally caught a glimpse in the mirror the other day as I got out of the shower, and noticed the scar.

It's the only indication that the race ever happened. They never published the results, as the event was part of an installation-wide fitness competition. There was no medals or swag for the winner. As I recall, timing was done with an iPhone. We had race bibs, left over from some "Ironman"-branded 5k fun run. Half the competitors put them on the front of their jerseys. It was that kind of event.

The course itself wasn't all that bad as these things go, with enough hills to shape the race without being excessively punishing. Y…

Spinning and Grinding.

Last year my cadence averaged about 85 to 95 RPM on the trainer. Like every year before, I made an active effort to maintain that range day in and day out, mainly because I read somewhere on the internet that it was the most efficient cadence. I took it on faith, because the internet is the gold standard of reliable information. Google says so.

This trainer season I haven't paid much attention to my cadence as I flail around on Zwift. I just let it naturally select itself. It's been averaging about 75-85 RPM. I'm pushing bigger gears slower, to attain the same power.There was no master plan to make this happen. No directive from Janice led to the change. Like most things in my life, it was completely random.

I'm not sure if it's good, bad, or indifferent. It's just different at the moment.It could change.

I do need to work on foot speed. I need to do some high cadence drills regularly to smooth out my pedal stroke. My jump off the line when responding to attacks o…

Another Project Bike? Are You Kidding me?

Joey Bacala and I have been talking bike parts and possible swaps for a couple months. He has this, I have that, and our respective wives would probably like it if we had less of each. Wives are like that. That's why I try to shield my wife from too much knowledge of exactly what I spend on bike parts. She, in turn, shields me from knowing how much she spends on scrapbooking and sewing crap. It's a fragile balance that we'll try to maintain until the creditors come calling, and then we'll transition seamlessly into the finger-pointing and profanity element of our relationship. Works for us.

Joey needed parts, and I had parts. Joey had a frame, and I had no need for a frame. That doesn't mean I didn't want it. The deal was done standing in my garage, surrounded by countless half-finished projects that acted as witnesses.

I've always wanted a titanium bike. It's the only common frame material I haven't owned, mainly because titanium frames come at a pri…

Skip To My Lou.

I bailed on a trainer session the other day.

There were several factors that led to my decision:
It was a Recovery Ride, meaning extremely low impact and extreme boredom.It was a Recovery Week, a week of already lower intensity.I was getting over a cold, and my give-a-shit meter wasn't really pegged.We had a large group of people over that night, which meant frantically hiding all the crap that's normally strewn around the house.I had pushed too hard on previous rides that week.All of those may seem like perfectly valid excuses, and the logical side of my brain tells me it was the right call. Recovery weeks are about resting and rebuilding, and I had done a piss-poor job up to that point. A day off was probably the correct thing to do.

The illogical side of my brain says I'm failing as a cyclist and as a human being by missing that workout. My whole season hinges on that one session on the trainer, and I just blew it.

Both sides have their points. I do need to take it easier w…

182.

In 2015 this blog had 182 posts.

That's 182 random thoughts, and for me that's a whole lot. Hurts my head just thinking about it.

Then there's the actual effort of typing them up so they don't just flutter on by like they obviously should have. So, not only do I have to think the thoughts, now I have tangible proof that I had them in the first place.

I'm not sure this blog is such a good idea after all.

Ever since May, thanks to Wanky's suggestion that I write more than 2.765 posts a year if my intention is for people to read this repository for mental sputum, I've been trying to crank out more or less 5 posts a week. Sometimes I was successful, other times I wasn't. Some times I had some real issues with coming up with topics, because thinking isn't something that comes naturally to me. Thinking is probably like intervals, in that it's not something I particularly like doing, but people keep telling me it's good for me and will make me better i…

The Race Bike.

I have a designated race bike. 

It's a Trek Madone 6.9 SSL that used to be a Bontrager Livestrong team bike. That frameset had done the U23 Paris Roubaix. It's light, stiff, and more bike than I will ever deserve. I picked it up for peanuts, had a bottle cage insert replaced, and then had it painted black because I just can't stand white bikes. They never look clean up here if you actually ride them. Plus, it was plastered with logos for companies related to Lance Armstrong, and I didn't want to add to his marketing value. When he appeared on Oprah, the logic of my decision was confirmed. Instead, I slapped a couple Fatback stickers on the down tubes, because that is a brand I am willing to prostitute myself for.

I haven't ridden it since the Spring Stage Race last year.

A barrel adjuster for the rear derailleur snapped, and in true Alaskan fashion I temporarily fixed it with some duct tape and a pen top. That got me through the race, and after that stage I started ri…

Coaching.

Last week my blogging mentor, Wanky, posted about coaching. As with a lot of his posts, it got me thinking. I may come to the realization that he's completely full of shit (which he would readily admit), but at least my position would be clearly defined (if completely lacking sound reasoning). In the age of The Donald, reason is an outdated concept. Too hard to fit in a tweet.

Here's what I know about myself:
I'm physically weak.I'm mentally weak.I'm fat. (see #2)I wasted 10 years of my life not being active (see #1 and #2).The size of my family grew at roughly the same rate that my free time shrank (see #2).Despite #1 and possibly because of #2, I'm delusionally competitive.I like riding bikes.In a futile quest to make up for those lost years, I hired Janice Tower as my cycling coach. In the years since, I've made great strides, dramatically transforming myself from a no-talent hack to solid pack fodder that displays rare flashes of dumb luck. This is a quan…

Another One.

It's a bad idea, but I do it anyway. I know what's going to happen, because it always does. There's no use in fighting the urge, because it's a losing battle. Sure, you may choose to lose a less damaging engagement instead of one that will land a crucial blow, but in the end the result is the same- you lose. You need to accept it.

I check Craigslist and eBay almost every day.

On Craigslist, I check the local bike market and note what's selling and what's not. I check prices and compare them to resale values. The research can at times be extensive. Once in a great while I find something I can't pass up, but mostly it's an academic exercise driven by habit. I can quit any time. No, really.

eBay is a different matter. It's a vast market of stuff I really, really want and can't live without. I have a bunch of search strings I follow on a regular basis, and I have to restrain myself daily from buying stuff I have no pressing need for. My watch list fol…

Oh, Now I Remember.

About a week ago Luca Paolini remembered where the cocaine he tested positive for during the Tour de France entered his body. Unlike the usual accidental ingestion claims made by modern cyclists of all levels, in this case the point of entry was his nose. He must have done an awful lot of coke to forget a detail like that when he initially contested the adverse finding.

I never thought of Paolini as a clean rider, so it really didn't shock me to the core. Very few revelations in the world of professional cycling shock me these days. What would shock me is if that was the only banned substance he was taking. Call me a pessimist.

Luca says he was addicted to sleep aids, and the coke was just there to wake him up enough so he could function. This, I can believe. Having taken over-the-counter and prescribed sleep aids of various types over the years, I can honestly say that they never left me feeling rested. They mainly left me feeling more like a zombie than a functioning human. Massiv…

Fair and Balanced.

Since yesterday's post trended a bit to the dark side, I figured I'd balance the scales a bit.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Very little of which I deserve.

I have a family that I love and that tolerates me. I have a wonderful wife that is pretty much the centering force in my life. I have four kids that are equally uniquely awesome and uniquely frustrating in their own ways. I have a dog that is far too good for me. I think there are a couple cats around the house, but I need to focus on the positive.

I have more bikes than I need, plus excessive quantities of accessories for each. The same goes for skis.

I have interests that keep me engaged and active, instead of allowing me to get fat(ter) and unhealthy(er). As I get older and look at my contemporaries and the following generations, I realize just how fortunate I am that I managed to stumble into those activities. 

I have a job that supports all of the above. That's saying something.

I'm also part of a couple communit…