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Showing posts from July, 2016

Competition.

This morning I was listening to NPR on my way to work, and a guy was comparing musical competitions to athletic competitions. He quoted someone as saying that, win or lose, the real benefit of competition is all of the hours of practice done in preparation for the event makes you a better performer.

In a sporting context, I don't necessarily agree with that.

For me, all of the preparation puts me in the position to be in the game. It's a baseline. If I want to compete and not just participate, I need to be ready. Competition allows me to perform at a higher level than I achieve in training. This is confirmed through power files. When I'm actually competing, fully committed to winning, it leads to peak performance moments that can actually lead to a long-term re-setting of the bar. I wish I could simulate it in training. I wish a virtual simulation like Zwift could lead to the same adaptations, but for me, competition is where the jumps happen.

Not to say training isn't im…

Wish I Was There.

Tonight the Tour of Anchorage starts without me.

I haven't missed an edition in quite a while. It kinda sucks. No, it really sucks.

Tonight is the prologue, a short individual time trial out by the airport. I usually do fairly well in these. Unlike a longer time trial where I generally can't find a rhythm and fade steadily, these allow me to target power towards certain sections to hide my complete lack of a diesel. I rarely win, but they usually place me high enough up in the GC standings that I almost fool myself into believing that this is my year for a decent result. It never is. At least, it hasn't been for the last few years.

To be 100% honest, I haven't been targeting the Tour of Anchorage for many years. The competition is just too variable and often too strong for me to base the success of an entire season on one race that falls at the end.

Most of my success usually falls in the first half of the season, when the hardcore competition is usually at its weakest. I…

Every Day is an Evaluation.

Every movement has to be evaluated. How will that affect the shoulder? How much will it hurt? Can I do it another way? Can I have one of the kids do it?

I'm not renowned for super-human levels of empathy, but I have new respect for those that deal with far worse conditions every day. Don't worry, that new understanding will fade as I heal. Douchebag tendencies don't change that quickly.

Every morning involves a period of time relaxing whatever tension developed during the night as my body tried to protect my shoulder as I slept. I don't think I'm going through any strange contortions in my sleep. I just think that sort of thing just develops over time. I'm usually fine once I find a neutral position and the Motrin and Lidocaine patch kick in.

Then I kit up and get on the computer to see what happened in the world of cycling and MyFace while I was in a Percocet-induced coma. When the stream of internet entertainment is exhausted, I climb on the bike.

Every day the t…

The Grind.

Every morning I wake up to bone grinding against bone. It sounds worse than it actually is in reality, although it won't make my Top 10 Most Favoritist Things list this year. I look at it as a reminder to not do anything to aggravate the injury, like rolling over to hit the snooze button.  
I roll off the bed in a complex maneuver, and if I stick the landing I am rewarded with minimal stabbing pain. Shuffling to the bathroom keeps me from tripping over random things on the bedroom floor, which would mean potentially arresting the fall with the wrong arm. In essence, my routine these days mainly revolves around trying not to make a bad situation worse.

Every day the sickly yellow bruise that covers my shoulder looks a little more repugnant in the mirror. The fact that the bruise exists at all, on a body that rarely bruises, is an indication of how badly I screwed up.

I grab a quick bite to eat, then down far too many milligrams of Motrin. That's all the pain relief I can give myse…

Piling On.

I mentioned to the orthopedic surgeon that my right shoulder close to my neck was aching a bit, although range of motion wasn't limited. He enthusiastically began prodding me to elicit new sounds of pain, then sent me down for more x-rays to further refine his search for all of the places he could make me hurt. I wish he would get it over with and just kick me in the lady parts.

Well, the x-rays indicated I had cracked a rib on my right side, which lies directly under the sling they gave me. While trying to stabilize the left shoulder, I was compressing the cracked rib. I can't win here.

Nothing they can do about it, so there's another bit of my skeletal system that just needs to heal on its own.

This morning I climbed back on the trainer, making sure to tweak my shoulder as I did so. Gotta remind myself that the blame falls solely on me. Once the searing pain stopped, I started pedaling, glancing up occasionally to watch the Zwift-generated scenery. I successfully resisted s…

Sweat Box.

Last night I rearranged the piles in the trainer dungeon. I booted up Zwift and did the three hours worth of required upgrades that have been released since I stopped using it back in the spring. I dragged my heavy LeMond Revolution trainer back in from the car, where it had been pre-positioned in anticipation for the Tour of Anchorage. Actually, I never took it out after the Tour of Fairbanks. This proved to be a bad idea, so as soon as I was finished preparing the dungeon I had to crawl into bed with my best buddies, Percocet and Motrin.


This morning I got up early and got kitted up. It quickly became clear that maybe I didn't really need both straps of my bib shorts, because the left one was causing me to whimper a bit. It usually takes me a few days to get my routine for the trainer, so that everything flows efficiently. The placement of various things and the order in which I do tasks is just different when I'm stuck in the dungeon, so it took me a while to get ready. Ther…

The New Normal.

The scale indicated I lost five pounds in the last 3 weeks.

I hadn't weighed myself during vacation, so this was validation that my scientific diet of Coke, brownies, and pork BBQ worked as intended. Maybe the increase in riding volume played a role in there too.

Too bad I'm likely going to regain it in the next few weeks as I sit around feeling sorry for myself. Nothing says "pity me" like a big bag o' Doritos.

Today's appointment with the orthopedic surgeon was less gentle than the ER visit. I got my ass kicked as he tried to see just how far he could tweak me until I pooped. When he finished, he gave me the OK to ride a stationary bike, which kinda evened the score. Well, that and the Percocet. Beautiful, beautiful Percocet. Oh, how i love thee.

Why do I suddenly crave heroin?

The little things take some getting used to. Climbing out of bed in the morning is a multi-stage process to designed to minimize family-waking screams of agony. Dressing myself is an exer…

Tha-Th-Th-That's All Folks!

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Tuesday I confirmed what I already knew.

My race season is over.

We flew home Monday. Every person who walked by on the aisle jostled me just enough to show how much they care. I could have cried. I probably did. My young son kicked me a couple times to make sure I was still OK, because I obviously didn't look gray enough. Even the pilot joined in, slamming the plane's landing gear into Seattle's tarmac with such force that I almost wet my pants. Truly a wonderful flight.

The doc at the ER didn't cause me excessive pain while confirming my self-diagnosis. A couple of x-rays was pretty much all they needed. I did threaten the x-ray tech with bodily harm if she moved my arm, but even she was gentle. After the outpouring of sympathy I received on the plane, it was a bit of a let-down.


Fractured clavicle. AC joint looks in good shape. No surgery. Six weeks to heal. I considered asking her to surgically narrow my shoulders for better aerodynamics, inserting carbon fiber fairing…

Hopefully Not Broken, Just Bent.

In all of my years of falling down, I've only really broken one bone. When I was seven, I broke my thumb when my front wheel came off my bike while I was jumping curbs. When the fork dug into the ground, I went flying, and my front teeth and the thumb took the hit.

Sure, I cracked ribs falling down in cyclocross, but that was child's play.

I don't know if I did something serious this time around. I'll go to the ER on Tuesday when we're back home, and hopefully everything will show I just did my usual soft tissue mutilation. That's a lot easier to bounce back from, and I have a real problem with staying off the bike. Not racing I can probably live with, but riding? I need to ride. Even a lot of long, slow distance. Turn the pedals over. Fight back the fat and get my endorphin rush. Center myself and process the day's chaos.

I really, really hope I didn't screw up big time. I'm almost afraid to find out for sure.

One way or another, I'll heal. I'd…

Oops!...I Did It Again.

Last ride on the last day of vacation. I was standing and grinding on a punchy little climb. I had been having a nice ride, mentally revising kit design and generally enjoying the cooler temperatures.

The chain came off the chainring.

Where there was once significant resistance, immediately there was none. 

I went over the bars, hitting my left shoulder hard and tearing a furrow through the fresh skin on my forearm. Sharp pain rolled across my upper body, and I dragged myself across the pavement to the grassy side of the road. Realizing my bike was the lane, I grabbed the rear wheel and pulled it to safety. Priorities.

I don't know how long I laid there in the grass. No cars passed. Eventually I did an inventory of body parts and tried to determine what still worked. I was about 12 hilly miles from the car.

I got back on the bike. Without cell service or passing traffic, I had little choice. Blood ran down my left arm as I cradled it. I usually marvel at how smooth the Blue Ridge Park…

Human Zoo.

Yesterday my wife and I spent our 10 year anniversary in Lancaster, PA, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. I spent the day following my wife around shopping centers and quilt shops, and basically I was left with a general sense of disgust. People trying to live a traditional, simple life have been reduced to tourist attractions, their culture reduced to a caricature for bus loads of gawking morons on their way to the next bland buffet. While their art, crafts, and other representations of their way of life are certainly present, they're outnumbered by watered-down versions created for mass consumption that nobody feels any pride about.

You could say the Disney version of the Pennsylvania Dutch helps support that way of life, and without the tourist dollars they would have long ago disappeared. Fair enough, but I can't see how Dutch Wonderland represents the Amish, Mennonite, or Pennsylvania Dutch any more than a touristy trading post in the western US full of made-in-Chin…

Atonement.

Today I decided to take a slightly more challenging route. 55 miles, 5700 ft of climbing. In the abstract, it didn't sound too horrible. In reality...

After beating up on a defenseless cousin yesterday, I figured I needed a little harder ride to make up for all of the slow riding I did. Maybe I figured I needed to atone for my transgressions. I think I did that today.

I knew I was in trouble when I reached the bottom of the mountain drenched in sweat. Usually I don't sweat that much on the trip down, which is far more descending than climbing. The closer I got to the valley floor, the higher the temperature and humidity climbed. I was questioning my day's choices, but my car was at the top of the mountain. I had no choice but to turn around and embrace the suck. I soaked my jersey and every bit of fabric I could with water to try to cool myself down, then started the long grind up.

This was the first time I hadn't seen another cyclist on the Parkway. They knew more than I…

The Same Thing, Only Slower.

Saturday I drove for 17 hours, which included more Northern Virginia traffic than I ever want to see again. We were dropping our niece with her parents in Maryland and our middle son off at a STEM camp, located on the campus of a small college in Pennsylvania. In retrospect, the trip was a bit ambitious, because I was completely wiped out the next day.

Two days of not riding, which my knee seemed to appreciate.

Monday my cousin drove up and brought his bike, a nice Ridley Damocles. I took him out on one of the same out-and backs I have been doing for the past week. A decent amount of climbing over 50 miles, but nothing excessive. This is a tall, skinny kid in good shape, still blessed with the recovery powers of youth. Twenty years younger than me.

Perhaps I should have dialed it back a bit.

I should have known it was going to take a while when we hit my first landmark two minutes later than my easy pace. That was a little over four miles in, but I figured he was metering out his efforts …

Timing is Everything.

Today was all about timing.

This was the first ride on this trip I experienced nothing but blue skies. The temperature wasn't too brutal (I still melted), and the wind made descents interesting. Kept me awake. The knee was still bitching up a storm, but a couple soakings in cold water kept it in line. I stopped for a couple seconds to help a turtle across the road, barely missed killing Bambi on a twisty descent, and generally rode as well as I could- all things considered. I had fun.

When I got home, I showered and packed the family for a day at the lake. Swimming in lakes without blue lips is still a novelty for my kids, and they were all about it. My crisp arm and sock tan lines impressed everyone present, distracting them from the indistinct thigh tan lines caused by varying bib short lengths. The strong contrast of sickly white and bronze marks me as someone who does the same thing far too much.

Eventually I realized that the kids were starting to slowly cook like the pork BBQ I…

Digging a Hole.

After Wednesday's knee issues, I should have taken it easy. Ridden with less intensity. Fewer miles. Fewer hours. That would have been the smart thing to do.

Nobody ever accused me of doing the smart thing. Instead, I doubled down with the kids' college fund on a bluff.

Early on the knee complained a bit. Nothing too strident, but it was there. We found a compromise and I kept going.

My average ride so far has been roughly the same as the Wickersham Dome stage of the Tour of Fairbanks. 50 to 55 miles, 4500 ft (give or take) of climbing. One five minute (or less) stop at the turnaround, then back on the bike. Day after day.

After a few days of this, you start to wear down a bit- especially if your body isn't used to it. Mine isn't this year. My steady diet of 60-90 minute rides were more about intensity. Build up the top end and forget about the diesel. I'm paying for that now. 

My body is slowly adapting to the new reality as I slowly grind it into dust. I come back to …

Dude.

It's been almost a month since I went down in the Tour of Fairbanks prologue. The road rash has all healed, and the healthy pink skin that replaced it is already fading to a semi-normal tone. The deeper impacts, gouges, and scrapes are in various stages of healing, but are all well on their way to healing. The left knee is no longer bruised and cratered, and the red has faded to a nickel-sized spot around the deepest part of the hole the curb created. I think I'm ready to start putting a little pressure on it.

After my lightning-induced rest day, I woke up bright and early to partially cloudy skies. I'll take it. I hit the climbs harder than I have so far, and everything was clicking along really well until the faucet that resides in my helmet's sweat band opened up and I realized I hadn't taken a sip in the last 90 minutes. Not one. As the deluge hit my top tube, I frantically reached for a bottle and started guzzling. Probably not the most effective hydration stra…

When You Can't Ride, Buy.

I didn't ride Tuesday, so the family drove down the mountain to go shopping. The lower we went, the more the temperature climbed. Even though the lightning had faded by 2:00 PM, the heat and humidity were significant enough that the locals were commenting about how bad it was. Since my diet in Virginia has mainly consisted of pork BBQ, peanut butter crackers, and lemon Sonic Slushes, nobody would want to come across the oil slicks that would be left behind me as I melt on the climbs. Mornings are my time to ride.

I plotted a family-friendly course that allowed me to visit my favorite Roanoke bike store and talk to the owner about custom kit while the rest went to quaint used book and toy stores. Win-win.

I ended up buying stuff from events I wasn't present for, either as a participant or a spectator. The first was a jersey from the 2015 Richmond World Championships. I lived there longer than I'd like to remember, in an apartment along the course. I watched Peter Sagan earn a…

Yes. Yes. No.

The weather has been getting increasingly interesting on my little section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Sunday the fog set in, reducing visibility to 100ft. I put on my obnoxiously yellow rain jacket, turned on my woefully inadequate red blinky light, and flapped down the road a little slower than the previous days. I kept my ears open for cars, because you would hear them long before you'd see them. Fortunately traffic was extremely light at 7:00 AM on Sunday, so I didn't see many. The fog slowly soaked into my clothes, gradually making me less and less comfortable, but I did what I set out to do.

Monday the fog returned and brought a steady light rain with it. Fine. I added shoe covers and wished for some fenders, but I set off and doubled the previous day's mileage. Flap, flap, flap... I saw very little wildlife, mainly because of the noise I was generating. I was flapping down a descent at around 35MPH when suddenly I started hitting loose gravel speed bumps running dia…

Mileage.

The last couple summers I've spent riding the Blue Ridge Parkway I've been limited to an hour or two a day of riding, which never seemed to do the venue justice. Just when you were starting to get into a groove, the ride was over.

This year I decided to shoot for as much volume as I could stand. I'm not shooting for intensity, just volume. Miles and miles of pavement. While none of the climbs have been particularly steep, they do add up. Each ride has been over 4000 ft of rolling hills, done at a moderate pace to ensure I'm not wiped for the next day.

The hope is that I'll burn a few calories and rebuild my diesel, I'll probably lose a bit off the top end, but I'll worry about that later.

Miles and miles.

It may not help with this season, but hopefully I can bank something for next year. Build a solid base to round out my fitness. Kick-start the weight loss.All the stuff I should have done last winter.

Better late than never, I guess.

Riding Down to the Star.

One of my favorite rides is on the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Roanoke Star on Mill Mountain. The ride back? Not so much.

The first 20 minutes I averaged almost 30 MPH, including some short big-chainring-US-Postal-gee-isn't-EPO-great power climbs. The rest of the ride my average fell and kept falling.

When I started it was pleasant, with the early morning mist rolling over the road and temperatures in the mid-60s. Three hours later, the temperature had risen almost 20 degrees, the humidity about the same amount, and the energy flowed out of me in liquid form in steady streams. I was melting.

Still, it was a fun ride.

I got passed by one of the locals who was ticking over a respectable speed at an EPO-era cadence. I, on the other hand, was doing my best impression of a fat tourist who mistakenly thought a ride up the parkway would be a nice, relaxing way to spend the morning.

Further up the mountain I regained my climbing cred by totally dropping three heavily-loaded touring cyclists…

Wiped Out.

This is part of the story:
Monday I flew across the country with the family.

Tuesday I spent 11 hours walking around an amusement park.

Wednesday I drove across Virginia, showing the sleeping-but-otherwise-completely-enthralled family where I grew up.

Thursday I got on the bike again.

This fills in some of the details:
Before we got on the plane at 1:45 AM, I had gotten almost five hours of sleep in the previous 24. Meaningful sleep on the plane (more than 15 minutes) was impossible. I'm not built for it.

When we arrived on the east coast, I still had to drive four hours to get to our destination.  

We arrived there around 10:00 PM, and once the family was settled in, I crashed in a most profound way.

I woke up first, showered, and then roused the family for a day at the amusement park. We were fifth in line on the way in and among the last out. It rained on and off all day, adding to the considerable humidity but keeping the crowds away. While the rest of the family rode rides and playe…