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Showing posts from June, 2016

Favorite Button.

There aren't many buttons on my cell phone, but one I like using much more than the others. It's located on the top right of the phone, and operating it always brings a smile to my face.

It turns the phone off.

I understand it also turns the phone back on, but that wouldn't make me happy. Since I work in a place that doesn't allow cell phones, I get to use this button on a regular basis.

I don't like cell phones. I only got one because they took away all of the pay phones. My first cell phone was a prepaid flip phone with no special features. I rarely had to charge it, and only bought minutes when the ones I had were about to expire. It was there for emergencies only while I was out on the bike. Very, very few people had the number for the phone, and it rarely rang. Life was good. I had a tool that did its intended function and nothing more. I wanted a phone, not a social networking/game console. I didn't want my approach to interfacing with the rest of the world …

Not that I'm Complaining.

As soon as I got the Storck all set up and ready for the grind of wet rides, the sun came out. The worst I got was a couple pleasantly warm drizzles and some wet roads. Then it was a couple warm, sunny days, the kind that delude you into thinking you have some aptitude for the sport.

I pulled off the fenders. I put away the shoe covers and stowed the rain jacket. I put on a nicer set of aluminum wheels.

The rain came back.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad year in any way, shape, or form. I've spent more than a few grinding out wet ride after wet ride, day after day during late June, July, and August. Rides where temperatures hover in the 40s to 50s and getting soaked to the bone is a question of when, not if. The kinds of rides that help you truly refine your wet-weather kit. If you don't ride, your fitness fades. The other guy is out there, and his fitness is improving, so you need to be out there too.

There are a lot of wet rides I actually enjoy. Finding that zen state…

Just Get Me There Already.

As you read this, I am actively winging my way across the country to Virginia. By actively, I mean I am sitting on an uncomfortable seat, packed in a flying tube with far too many other people, breathing all sorts of recycled pathogens as we are carted from one end of the continent to another.

I'm in the Air Force, and I hate flying.

It's not the actual flying that bothers me, it's the doing nothing for extended periods. I can rarely get comfortable enough to sleep for any length of time, and any sleep I do get annoys my wife who expects me to stay awake the entire flight to entertain the children, then get behind the wheel and drive for several hours after we've landed until we reach our final destination. I arrive irritable and sore, which is always how you want to start or end a vacation.

So, as you read this, I'm probably wishing it was already over.

After a long day of flying and driving, we'll spend the entire day tomorrow at an amusement park in balmy southe…

Playing Bikes.

Thursday was a long day at work, involving evacuations and bomb dogs in addition to the more mundane drudgery, so I was a little stressed and worn out when I finally left. Scattered drops of rain were already starting to hit my windshield as I drove home. All of this added up to the honed-to-a-fine-edge condition I refer to as "peak performance". I was chomping at the bit to climb into bed and forget all about the Kulis crit I had signed up for. Still, I had entered my name and paid my money, so I pinned on my number and headed out to the race.

Since I had put the race bike to bed in anticipation of rain and my upcoming vacation, I pulled the fenders, saddle bag, and frame pump off of the Storck. I'd done a couple longer, more intense (relatively speaking) rides in the last few days, so the legs were in the same shape as they are a couple days into a stage race- sore and lacking snap. Again, "peak performance". My goals for the night were to ride around in circ…

Father's Day.

The plan was to ride for three hours, doing some climbing and just getting in some miles. Continue rebuilding from the Tour of Fairbanks wreck, which still affects my sustained power significantly.

That was the plan. Plans change.

The wife had a culture camp to prepare for, and needed me to watch the kids for a few hours. Looking outside at the steady rain falling and trees swaying in the wind, I had no problem with this. Maybe it would clear up in the meantime. A few hours of lazing around and playing with my son on a rainy day sounded relaxing.

I had gotten beaten up on the bike the previous day. I planned on doing repeats up Potter Valley, but the gusts I experienced climbing had me stopping at Lower Potter. The descent was pucker-inducing, and I was pushed from lane to lane without warning. I sought less wind-buffeted climbs with limited success, before throwing in the towel and deciding to go for lowland miles. When I finally got to the sheltered areas, I had little left in the tank…

You Big Bully.

Last year I won the Arctic Warrior Olympics road race after being taken out by an inexperienced rider. A week later I carried that road rash to Fairbanks.

This year I hit the deck in Fairbanks (my fault alone), lost more skin, and banged myself up a bit. A week later I carried that road rash into the AWO road race and won again.

I don't necessarily feel good about winning.

The competition wasn't there this year. Every time I went to the front, I'd end up opening a gap without trying. Not interested in doing a individual time trial, I sat in and watched the pack slowly dissolve around me.

The two riders I had pegged as the strongest of the bunch were on the front when the final selection was made on a longer uphill drag. A triathlete was on the front, drilling it for all he was worth, and a short, muscular guy was on his wheel. I sat just behind, and never noticed when the remaining riders fell away. Suddenly the short guy pulled off and disappeared, so I moved up and grabbed t…

Superstition.

I'm generally not a superstitious person.

However, I have been known to shy away from things associated with failure. They just fall out of favor quickly, and are reduced to backup status or sold off to unsuspecting dupes. Often the failure was not the item's fault, but a result of my own ineptitude. Still, the stink of failure is coating it, and it can be hard to wash off.

Then there's the new Trek Madone 6.9 race bike.

Before the Tour of Fairbanks prologue, I had ridden it around the block once or twice and then done some warmup laps on the course. After I fell, I reverted to my old/trusty/crusty Trek Madone 5.2 Pro, mainly because I was concerned about damage the Madone 6.9 might have suffered in the crash. I was too banged up to want to spend much time wrenching and I had the 5.2 Pro with me to ride around, so reverted to what I knew. It seemed the safest course, although the squeaks and groans coming from the poorly-maintained bike were embarrassing at times.

None of that…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Aftermath.

I can't recommend removing wide swaths of flesh with pavement as an effective weight loss strategy.

I can recommend the Tour of Fairbanks as a great way to spend four days.

It's just a different experience than you get in Anchorage. The roads are different. The terrain is different. The faces are different. All in a good way.

The organizers did a lot of things right with this edition that made the whole experience much better than last year. Certain things were out of their control, but they adapted well to the challenges they faced and put on a great stage race.

A list of highlights:
Balanced Fields. Compared to last year, the fields were much more balanced in terms of ability, which made for a tighter fight for GC. A lot of this was due to the people that signed up to race, but grouping them like they did made it a fight right down to the last day.Non-Chip Timing. While I usually cite their use of chip timing as a positive, it was far too large of an expense for the field size we…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Time Trial.

All night long it rained. I could hear it falling when the charley horse ripped through my thigh muscles. I could hear it every time I jolted myself awake by rolling onto my road rash. It was a steady rain with decent-sized drops. The early start for the time trial meant that even if the rain stopped, the roads would still be wet for the time trial.

Yay.

One more stage.

That morning I put on a new skin suit, fresh out of the bag, as the last one was shredded in the prologue. Underneath was two base layers, to protect my lower back from the cold wetness it would experience. I moved out of the ghetto, retaining access to the showers so I could clean myself up before the drive home. I drove to the start, thankful that the rain had stopped or at least slackened to a drizzle. I took my time trial bike off the car and got it ready. I didn't set up the trainer. I wasn't looking for peak performance. I was looking to get this last 20K over with. My warm up consisted of a short out and ba…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Wickersham Dome Road Race

I burned a week's worth of matches in the UAF crit.

If my time out of GC contention wasn't measured in weeks, I might have raced it differently. Then again, with the time bonuses up for grabs I probably would have done the math and still gone for it. There were better time-trialists and climbers in the race. When all you have is the douchebag card in your hand, you have to play it.

I knew I wasn't going to last on Saturday's stage. The short road race on Friday morning told me that much. The amount of climbing on the way out to Wickersham Dome would mean eventually I would be left behind to face the wind and hills alone. My whole goal was to make it to the turnaround before that happened. I wasn't worried about the clock. I was worried about finishing. After winning the crit, my whole goal was to complete every stage. I'd spent hundreds of dollars and driven over six hours to be there, and I wanted to finish what I started.

Sometimes being pig-headed isn't th…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- UAF Criterium.

At this point there were only two things I could possibly hope for:

1.) Finishing the stage race without a complete system shutdown, which was an iffy proposition.
2.) Doing well in Friday night's crit. While I couldn't push the pace or close down attacks with no sustained power in my legs, I did still have my top end.

The Masters 40+ pack was made up of diesels and skinny climber-types. I was the only douchebag in the group. With good positioning there was a chance I could do something there. All I had to do was hang on until the primes and finale came. It was a short crit, which worked in my favor, because my legs had about 45 minutes of effort in them before failure. Also working for me was that all of the stronger riders were riding for GC, metering out their efforts and playing the long game.

I, on the other hand, had nothing left to lose.

I spent the first part of the race sizing up the competition, seeing how the various characters reacted and looking for good wheels to…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Sky Ridge Road Race.

Every time something brushed up against my left side, I'd wake up by the sharp stab of pain. Since I usually sleep on that side, this happened more than I would have liked. My shoulder was fairly torn up from the pavement and the abrupt stop at the curb, but the knee was what worried me the most. It swelled up and turned interesting colors, and I don't bruise easily. I slept with multiple ice packs around the knee, not knowing if I would be racing or driving home the next day.

Early in the morning, when I could no longer fake sleep, I decided to pin on and line up for the second stage. It was a short road race culminating in an uphill finish. I figured I'd see how long I could hang on, testing my body's new limits in the process. Several climbs along the course gave me ample opportunity to see what was there. I hadn't pre-rode or at least driven the course after the prologue as planned, because I was occupied with other things. I was seeing all of it for the first t…

Tour of Fairbanks 2016- Prologue.

Three points before I get started:
1.) What happened was my fault. As much as I wish it wasn't, it's part of racing. I caused it, and I paid for it.
2.) The organizers had to make a quick decision with the racers' safety in mind. I can't blame them.
3.) On the whole, I had a great experience this year. Bottom line, that's what counts.
___________________________________________________________________
Stage 1- Prologue:
I drove up the night before the race and checked into my spartan room in the University of Alaska Fairbanks dorms. While the rest of the Anchorage crew stayed in much nicer places with kitchens and living rooms, I flapped my way down the hall in flip-flops from my ghetto-tastic hole to the bathroom. I went cheap, and you get what you pay for. At least I brought a travel Tempur-Pedic mattress pad to take the bite out of the bed. I do need some comforts.

The day of the stage they announced a course change. Instead of the steady, uphill time trial originally …

Sorry For The Delay.

Today's post will be a bit late. Let's just say it involves Tegaderm and the entire first aid aisle at Walgreens and leave it at that.

Packed to the Gunwales.

When I pack my car for a race, even a local race two miles away from my house, I'm usually pretty organized. I make lists that are constantly revised. I have a milk crate full of stuff that I can use if various contingencies arise. I have a separate tool kit specially packed for races. Usually the car looks fairly organized initially before it devolves into a state of chaos by the end of a stage race.

Not this time. This time I bypassed the initial orderly stage and just piled stuff into the back of the car, hoping that by the nature of the pile's sheer mass I would have everything I need. That's one way to do it.

Today after work I drive up to Fairbanks for Donald Trump's favorite stage race. Eight hours of work followed by seven hours of driving (it's road construction season in Alaska) means I'm going to arrive in Fairbanks fresh and ready to tear the legs off the competition. Riiiiiight.

The race bikes are on top the car. The mass of bike-related junk in the p…

You're Not Going Anywhere.

Monday I did the unthinkable.

Anchorage rain is usually of the annoying, persistent, and light variety. It slowly soaks through whatever you're wearing until each joint sequentially squirts out a stream of muddy water at different points of the pedal stroke. Usually I just deal with it, adjusting my attire so that if I'm going to be soggy, at least I will be comfortably soggy. Fenders and shoe covers help. I embrace being soaked, because the alternative is not riding. Sometimes I actually enjoy it, as the rain drips off the brim of my cap. You're in your own little world.

Monday was different.

With the Tour of Fairbanks so close, I didn't want to risk locking up my back by soaking it in cold water. Cleaning the bike and kit afterwards didn't thrill me, as my wife would take offense to yet more time spent away from the family on the eve of a selfish trip away from them. In the spirit of domestic tranquility, or at least the delay of outright hostilities, I took one for…

Not Racing.

Thursday night I didn't race at Kulis. I didn't do the Hatcher Pass hill climb on Saturday. I won't be doing the Upper Huffman hill climb on Tuesday, nor the next Kulis crit on Thursday.

That doesn't mean I wasn't riding or putting out more effort than a sane person should. On the contrary, I was probably working harder than I do during your average crit. I just didn't pin on a number.

After shocking my system for a week with a dramatic increase in volume, I've been hammering away at the intervals like never before during shorter workouts. Multiple sets of short, high intensity intervals with little recovery time between them. Cadence drills. Time trial efforts... and rest. What my body needs most is a balance between intense, focused napping and repeated, eye-bleeding sprints. Even taking a couple days off the bike, my fatigue levels are still way too high. I feel heavy and lethargic off the bike, but relatively decent once I'm spinning. Sometimes it tak…

Morning in Alaska.

In 1984 Ronald Reagan's campaign slogan was "Morning in America". As a suburban teenager at the time, I think I was more interested in MTV and girls than the presidential election. Reagan was fine by me, because the alternative was Walter Mondale and a presumptive return to the years of Jimmy Carter "crisis of confidence". As far as I could see from the mall's food court, we were riding high as a nation. When you believe in something, generally things trend that way. Belief is a powerful thing.

The last couple years I've been in a bit of a "malaise". Some of it comes with getting older. My body doesn't respond like it did years ago to the same things. Losing weight is harder than it was a couple years back. Recovery times are longer. A+B=C has become A+B almost, kinda-sorta, maybe if you squint just right, graded on a curve equals a reasonable facsimile of a C-. It just doesn't add up anymore. Next year it will be a solid D.

However, a l…

A Versus B

It hit me from the first pedal stroke. It was further confirmed in the first corner. The first surge sealed the deal. One trip around the block and I was sold.

The new-to-me 2009 Trek Madone 6.9 Pro is a better race-day ride than my 2008 Trek Madone 5.2 Pro.

It isn't the carbon lay-up. The two frames ride almost identically (by design), with the 6.9 being a whopping 210g lighter. My farts weigh more than that. Alberto Contador won his first Tour and Giro on the 5.2 Pro, so there's nothing wrong with that frame/fork combo.

It isn't the geometry. Both are Pro/H1 models, set up as close as I could get them. Same cockpit and saddle.

It isn't the groupset. The 5.2 is built up with SRAM Force and the 6.9 is built up with SRAM Red, and I'm not a good enough rider to notice a performance difference. The 6.9 has a Quarq RIKEN and the 5.2 has a Quarq S975, and again, I can't tell a difference.

It isn't the wheelset, as I swapped the wheels from the 5.2 over to get a prope…

Ache.

My legs are stiff, the muscles throbbing after the week of volume. The rapid transition from short rides to longer rides taxed muscle groups that had long ago developed an entitlement mentality. They weren't happy about this, and immediately activated their Google boxes to find the closest Bernie Sanders rally (#werenotgoingtostandforthisabuse).

My spine is creaky after hours of folding it over my gut in a rough approximation of an aerodynamic position.

The gut, kicked into submission by my knees, vents it's displeasure late at night, keeping my wife awake with sounds every elementary school boy (and Donald Trump) would find hilarious (#fatcelllivesmatter).

It's a rest day, whether I want to or not. My body really, really wants to. My head? It's still looking out the window and trying to rally the troops for another run up Potter Valley. It's a losing battle, but one I'm glad it's still willing to fight.

I think my training today will be stretching out on the …

Tripped Up By The Smallest Thing.

It was so weird.

I found myself with free time to wrench on bikes. Not wanting to jinx it, I hustled down to the garage and started working on the new race bike.

If it turns out like I hope it will, it will be my new favorite bike. It's a 2009 Trek Madone 6.9. This was made before Trek got all stupid and started routing everything internally. I don't mind the rear brake being routed internally, but more than that causes all sorts of maintenance problems when combined with the other Great Satan- press-fit bottom brackets. I like designs that don't require a major tear-down just to do some basic maintenance. At any rate, this one is a lot like my current favorite bike, the 2008 Madone 5.2 Pro. Same geometry, just stiffer and lighter. And black, which hides the dirt and grease better.

I started bolting all of the Gucci-est components in the parts pile. I carefully measured the fork's steerer tube and then proceeded to cut it 1mm too short. Not really a problem. SRAM Red lo…