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Showing posts from May, 2016

Burn It. Burn It All.

Last week was a volume week.

Usually when I come off the trainer I start ramping up the weekly hours on the pavement as the roads improve. Seven hours becomes eight. Eight becomes nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Eventually I level off and maintain it until I'm chased back into the dungeon by ice and snow.

Not this year.

The steady increase never happened. A steady diet of 60 and 90 minute rides was all I could manage. All I was motivated for. All I could fit into the schedule. Eight hours became eight. Eight. Seven. Eight. Attempts at increasing it were short-lived. I got no momentum. My endurance tanked. My top end is there, but I arrive at the end of races too cooked to use it. Finishing is a welcome surprise.

Screw that noise.

Last week, following the Spring Stage Race, I didn't ramp up the hours. I intentionally spiked the clock. I hadn't done a 15 hour week in years, and even then it followed several building weeks. This time I stomped on the gas and tried to blow up the engine…

No, You Can't. Yes, You Can. You Really Shouldn't Have.

I'm going to do something has never been done in the history of the written word.

I'm going to say I don't understand women.

Wednesday night my wife said I couldn't do the crit on Thursday. After the Spring Stage Race, things had started to pile up around the house, and I needed to knock out some chores. Fair enough, I understand.

After work, I jumped on the bike and did hill repeats up Super Potter for a little over an hour. Suitably tired and sweaty, I picked up the toddler from daycare and headed home. When I walked in the door, the wife told me I could race the crit if I wanted to. I stood there confused for an eternity, then did the dishes and a load of laundry while I pondered my options. Never hurts to earn some good will for the future.

My legs were pretty much cooked, as I haven't been taking it easy this week. I took a day off after the Spring Stage Race, then started doing progressively longer rides to build up the diesel. All of the numbers on Training Peak…

Tinkering.

My parents came up for my oldest son's high school graduation (insert fuck I'm getting old here). It was nice to have them visiting, but I could tell my dad was getting bored towards the end of the trip. He mowed my lawn and started organizing my socket sets.

Not that I'm complaining, although I am embarrassed. Expensive tools were strewn around the garage and house, debris from half-finished and time-crunched projects. It's not how I like to work.

Usually, once I start a job, I like to I hammer away non-stop until it's done. That sense of completion is very important to me, and there's not a lot of that vibe in my garage. The last few years I've had to content myself with finishing small chunks, at which point I would be called away. The state of my garage reflects this.

One night last week I started working on one of my race bikes, the Trek-Livestrong Madone 6.9 SSL. The plan was to set it up as a crit bike and give it a test run on Thursday. I installed the…

Spring Stage Race III- Wind, Blue Skies, Bears, and Ugly Podium Boys.

As usual after a two-stage day, I didn't sleep all that well Saturday night. I was definitely tired enough, but I couldn't stay asleep for very long. A toddler with a chronic case of the sillies might have had something to do with it.

The sky was overcast when I woke up. Half the forecasts had predicted rain, half of them sun, so the morning split the difference. The car was in its usual state for this late in a stage race- a chaotic pile of everything I needed and didn't need but was too lazy to remove. I was pretty much set to deal with most contingencies. I would just have to dig a little.

The last stage was a circuit race on Fort Richardson, the flattest we have around here. The wind and a single turn were really the only characteristics that could influence the race, so you had to make your own luck. Given the vast majority of races I'd done on the course, it was a pack sprint for everyone not ground off the back during the 42 previous miles.

I was feeling a bit off,…

Spring Stage Race II- Wind, Rain, and Air Force One.

The next morning was the time trial. Since the course was on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, on roads I ride multiple times a week, there were no mysteries. I rode it fairly well, knocking 30 seconds off my personal best despite the wind. Still fourth in GC. Same three ahead of me. Strong riders I expected to charge past me didn't. One super-diesel was knocked out by a mechanical. I figured fourth was more than I deserved, because I knew there were local riders not present that would have pushed me down the pile. No, fourth is good. That afternoon we had the criterium. Somebody didn't tell the President, because he felt it was necessary to land Air Force One right next to part of our course. After many assurances that there would be no road closures, minutes before the first race people with automatic weapons closed the road. We quickly adjusted and shortened the loop, which changed the dynamics of the course considerably. Two of the turns were significantly sharper, which h…

Spring Stage Race I- Wind and Suck.

In retrospect, I don't know how to feel.

The Spring Stage Race was this past weekend. Three days and four stages of racing, omnium scoring, and a indication of early-season form ahead of the Tour of Fairbanks.

It kicked off Friday with a shortened hill climb. Instead of the planned Super Potter climb, we stopped at the traditional Potter Valley finish. High winds would have made the most exposed and steep sections near the top somewhat dangerous. As it was, the gusts made things interesting on the lower slopes, sometimes swirling in a manner that battered you from all directions at once. I was happy about the lower finish, because the pain would stop that much sooner, and the GC situation wouldn't change because everything was based on finishing order rather than time. If 2nd place finished a half hour after 1st, the scoring would be the same as if it had been a photo finish. Once the pack strings out, as long as you hold your position there's no reason to kill yourself. Doe…

Again?

The plan for Thursday's crit was to ride in the pack and not go too deep. Get the legs warmed up before the Spring Stage Race and call it good. If you're there at the finish, maybe take a shot, but don't be a hero.

Didn't work out that way.

Seven minutes in, my rear tire went flat and squished violently from one side to the other in apex of the sharpest turn on the course, making awful sounds as it did so. I stayed up, rolled down the hill, verified that it was indeed flat, and started walking.

That tubular was brand new. It replaced the tubular that went flat on the Kincaid Circuit Race, a course less than two miles away. That's another tubular to add to the pile that will be sent for repair.

I walked back to my car, grabbed another wheel, and rode back to the course. Fifteen minutes after the flat I was back in the race with a real shot at victory. In my absence, Jens Beck had gone off the front, lapped the field, and had gone off the front again. The rest of the pac…

Reassessment.

Desperation is a poor tactical decision-making strategy to change the way things are currently, especially when the time to act passed months ago. And yet, here I am.

Flailing.

The scale groans slightly less these days when I climb on, but that's all relative. I'm still fat, and that isn't going to change anytime soon. I'm trying to chip away at the fat rolls little by little. I fall off the wagon periodically, then get back on and keep trudging towards... what?

That's just it. I don't have a goal, a target to work towards. I've had some decent success at the lower and middle levels of the small Alaska road racing pond. I know where I fit in the local food chain. A concerted effort (the kind that ends marriages) could bump me up to another level of pack fodder, but I don't have the raw material to be at the top. I could certainly be better, but I've hit the age where you don't make significant gains without extremely significant actions. Some of th…

Misaligned.

The popping from the cassette as the derailleur struggled to settle on a gear was annoying. With one wheelset it was perfect, with the next it required major adjustments to avoid having my 10-speed cassette be reduced to a 7-speed. The more I adjusted, the more I got frustrated. The derailleur alignment gauge came out, just in case it was bent. I checked to make sure the appropriate spacers were present. I couldn't figure it out. I was just annoyed.

I was firing a bunch of messages back and forth with Dave Henke (because we're both teenage girls at heart) when I asked about my inability to switch wheels without cranking the piss out of my high and low limit screws. What the hell was I doing wrong?

Mixing SRAM and Shimano.

I had always used SRAM cassettes, mainly because they were cheaper than the Shimano ones of the same level. However, I picked up a few Shimano cassettes for cheap, figuring they were interchangeable. They are, to a degree. However, it requires a bunch of adjustm…

Spring Stage Race.

Last year I had good luck in the Arctic Bike Club's Spring Stage Race.

"Luck" is the only way to describe it.

True, this time of year I'm coming off a winter of focused workouts on the trainer while everyone else is just getting started, although that advantage has been mitigated over the years by the popularity of fat biking. A lot of them don't have a significant snap yet, but their diesels are refined to the point that they grind me under their wheels.

The weak winter and early spring means that most of the riders I line up against have just as many or more miles than I have on the road. A spring business trip with a bike to the Lower 48 usually gets me some long rides when everyone else is dodging ice, but my week in San Antonio didn't result in the volume bump I usually get. Knocking out a couple four hour training rides a week to go with the usual one or two hour weekday rides hasn't happened either, so I'm on the back foot there as well. Enduranc…

Water Weight.

I pressed my helmet to my forehead, watching the rivulets of perspiration fall from the sweatband to the pavement. Seeing the shocking amount of moisture the thin strip of foam contained, I was reminded that I probably should be drinking something to replace what was flowing down the hill I was climbing.

The weather has taken a dramatic turn, with cloudy days with highs in the upper 40s transformed overnight into blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. Knee warmers, wool socks, cycling caps, and base layers have been shed. I've started evaluating my collection of kit, ranking them by ventilation features.

Low 70s may not sound hot, but that shift of almost 30 degrees in a short time hasn't allowed me to acclimate properly- especially when climbing. When I'm cruising along on the flats, the wind keeps everything more or less pleasant. When the road turns up and the breeze stops, my fat acts like a crock pot. Unless you're a member of the Donner Party who isn't countin…

Another Project.

The wife called me from the school she works at, upset because one of the kids just got hit by a car while riding his bike. Actually, he hit the car, because the bike he bought two days before had no functioning brakes. He learned this as he was going down a hill. Boom.

Kid is more or less OK. Little banged up, but otherwise all the parts are where they're supposed to be.


Could I fix his brakes?


Crap. Knowing the income level of most of the school's families, I was picturing a Walmart bike that had been left out in the rain for a few decades, meaning I would be wrenching on this thing for months to get it to resemble an actual bike.


I was half right. It was actually a bike store bike. Admittedly it was a low-grade bike store BMX bike, but the bones were there. It was build like a tank, but in a good way- especially for a kid with few resources.


The problem was that it had not been taken care of. The wreck had broken one of the brake levers, but it wouldn't have made a differen…

Going Up.

I suck at climbing.

Most fat people do, as our fat rolls are an obvious aerodynamic disadvantage on steep hills. Perhaps if we invested in carbon rims so wide they only require two inch spokes we could overcome this single flaw in our cyclist physiques... maybe then we would be able to hang with the people that seriously need to eat a sandwich or ten.

The way to get better at climbing is to climb, so I've spent the last few days climbing. Pick a pace you can maintain, don't tense up your whole body trying to rip the bars off the bike, breathe deeply and slowly, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal...

Little by little I noticed a change as I settled into the suck. Joggers pushing strollers were still passing me going up Potter Valley, but it took them longer to drop me completely, and I noticed their cell phone conversations weren't nearly as expressive. I was putting the hurt on them.

Yesterday was a warm, sunny day, and even though I was climbing, I couldn't help but think positive…

Rolling The Dice.

The main reason I have used tubulars in the past is simple.

It has very little to do with ride quality, although that is a benefit. It has nothing to do with being able to run sealant, although that is pretty cool as well. In fact., most of the common reasons for staying in the arcane world of tubular tires didn't fully apply.

The main reason was braking.

I wanted to run carbon wheels.

I didn't want to run carbon wheels with aluminum brake tracks or aluminum rims with a carbon fairing as my race wheels. This is mainly because they are heavy as hell and I do well enough on my own in that regard.

I wanted to run full-carbon wheels.

I wanted to run them because first and foremost, they're sexy and I'm shallow. Even people who don't ride bikes comment on how they make the bike look faster. When my bike looks faster, I feel faster, and hopefully that translates into actual reality.

While there are carbon clinchers out there that remove all of the negative characteristics of …

Killing the Fun.

Yesterday I was in a local bike shop (let's just say it's part of the shattered remnants of the Death Star), trying to shame the denizens of that dank place to sign up for the Tour of Fairbanks. They used to throw riders at the race back in the day, and it would be nice if they did it again. My mountain bike-centric team can't prop up Anchorage's reputation in Fairbanks alone, although new Speedway powerhouse David Arteaga might be our best hope. I called into question this team's manhood, called them scared, questioned if they actually rode bikes anymore... all in the interests of getting a handful of their riders in vile green kit to make the journey and help fill out a respectable Open Men field.

Later I'll make the rounds of the other shops. Can't say I didn't try to piss off everyone.

Towards the end of my stop, as I paid for a couple of tubes I bought so they wouldn't throw me out for shit-stirring, the incident that happened at a fat bike race

I Wanted To, But I Didn't.

This weekend I had a couple long rides planned out.

They didn't happen.

Saturday dawned and I was up bright and early, sitting at the computer, hammering out a 1200+ word magnum opus on what I wanted to be when I grow up. Literally. The final project for my upper-level organizational behavior class is a grotesquely large version of something I scrawled out on lined paper with a fat #2 pencil in elementary school. I was tempted to write that I wanted to be a fire truck, but found meeting the requirements for justifying my career choice, indicating which characteristics make me suitable for the field, and defining my action plan to achieve this goal to be a bit problematic. I just want to be a fire truck. Woo-woo. Stop trying to crush my dreams.

Instead, I wrote a semi-serious paper on my goals which did not use the specified materials/websites/online quizzes to justify my master plan. Instead, I took every opportunity to show their inadequacies as a basis for any career planning. In a…

The Cause is the Cure.

The day after the Kulis Crit my back was still tied up in knots. Maybe it was from when my sleeping wife drove her knee into my spine in the middle of the night causing me to tear up and whimper for a few hours. Maybe it was when the toddler crawled into bed with us and claimed a large majority of the middle, leaving me with a precarious edge somewhat stabilized by a firm grip on the covers. Maybe I'm just getting old.

At any rate, Vitamin M(otrin) wasn't doing it for me, so I had to go for the stronger stuff. I got on my bike.

Two hours of moderate spinning took the edge off sufficiently. I managed to dodge a few showers that would have probably made everything worse, but the Elmendorf-Richardson 360 degree headwind was in full effect. I just didn't have it in me to push, so I just tried to maintain a moderate pace and stay loose.

I still need more miles, especially longer rides that build the diesel. Finding the time for such things is the challenge these days, but I'll…

Playing Bikes.

Tonight was the first race of the Kulis Crit Series, and it was a lot of fun.

No, I didn't win. In fact, I think I rolled in pretty much last in the pack. Bad positioning (tactical) and a back that gave out five minutes from the finish (physical) ruled me out of contention. At least I didn't add mechanical this time.

It was lightly raining and a little on the chilly side for the first two races of the night. I was racing the B race, which was fairly balanced once the initial selection happened. I played around early on to see how other riders would respond, then moved around the pack, closing gaps here or there. I was feeling pretty good by this year's standards, mixing it up and hanging with some strong riders. Moves went, dangled out there, and then were brought back. Every serious jump was matched, and eventually everyone realized nobody was getting away.

Towards the end I took a little dig to see where I was and my lower back, which had been marinating in the cold rain fo…

Good News - Bad News

I have been taking stock lately, and it's been a mixed bag. As all of the failed Republican campaigns discovered, enthusiasm is a powerful force, and you can't always control where and when it's generated. Enthusiasm makes the training seem meaningful instead of a chore to be pessimistically placed in quotation marks as "training". When you can clearly see that A+B=C and that all of the hours spent angering your spouse by taking progressively longer rides that leave you worthless for the rest of the day and running up credit card debt actually translate into some sort of result... well, that kind of momentum just can't be bought. I wish it could, because I would clear out a corner of the garage next to my derailleur pile and stock up.

So, I've been contemplating where I am and where I want to be. They don't exactly line up, and I'm trying to find the momentum to change this.

My weight is well over where I was last year at this time. Recent dietary c…