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Showing posts from December, 2016

Year in Review.

This hasn't been the easiest year for me.

I rolled into the riding season carrying more weight than I have in years. I wrecked more than I have in a long, long time, and the consequences have been more severe. I went down four minutes into the Tour of Fairbanks, killing any GC aspirations I may have held at the time. I didn't race as much as I wanted to, and usually when I did race I lacked the fitness or motivation to do anything with the opportunity- I was mentally burned out. I started building towards the Tour of Anchorage, only to break my collarbone in a fall two weeks before the first stage. The last couple months of the Anchorage road riding season I spent on a trainer in the garage, downing pain pills and wincing as the bones ground together. I capped off the season in a part of the country I really dislike.

Then again, I can flip a lot of that. Despite the extra weight, I beat my personal best on Moose Run at the first time trial of the season. I probably would've …

Counting The Rings.

From about the time I was five years old, me and my cousins would periodically get knives to play with. Pocket knives, sheath knives, boot knives... pretty much if it cut stuff and/or looked vaguely militaristic, it passed through our hands at one point or another.

The first thing we'd do with the knife was sharpen it really good. A sharp knife is a safe knife. Once properly honed, we'd find a piece of wood to whittle into a boat or that idol from The Brady Bunch Hawaiian episode. Next we'd make an impressive pile of wood shavings as we crafted our latest masterpiece. The final step, and this was critical to the knife-getting process, was to hack ourselves with the knife, thus christening it (and anything else within dripping range).

These weren't serious injuries. You might swish it around in a stagnant pond or rub some dirt on it until the bleeding stopped, then get back to the serious work at hand- namely, making wood shavings. Eventually the wound would heal. Sometim…

RPM.

The more I rode, the more natural it felt. After miles and miles on the flat Mississippi roads, my cadence naturally settled into an average pedaling cadence of 80 revolutions per minute. The gear selection didn't seem to matter. Eventually I'd just settle back into the groove at 80 and the miles would fall away. I noted it at the time, decided I really didn't care, and got on with riding.

I used to focus on keeping cadence between 90 and 100 RPM on flat roads or on the trainer. It was just something I consciously worked on, because people said I should consciously work on it. I just didn't think to consciously try understand why. I tried to spin as much as I could whenever I could. Little by little that fell away as I focused on other things.

Part of this was that every time I heard the word cadence I immediately heard Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's voices commenting on Lance Armstrong's high cadence. Lance = bad, so therefore through the transitive property ca…

Relegation.

I've been knocked down a few notches. My very core has been shaken by these revelations. At first, I looked for excuses for this unexpected turn of events, some reason to explain why I could no longer claim to be a special snowflake. Then I just had to accept the new reality.

It's much harder to take jerseys on Zwift these days.

Part of it is there are exponentially more people on the system at any given time. When I first started on Zwift, anything above 50 riders was a cause for celebration. We had a lot of "ghosts" on course, translucent blue "bot" riders to not make the course seem so empty and to provide motivation. Last spring, a good-sized group of virtual floggers was in the low hundreds and the ghosts didn't make any appearances. This winter, it's rare for me to see below a couple thousand Zwift users. More riders means a greater chance for faster riders- at least far faster than I am. More riders means there are more than a few virtual doper…

I Didn't Get Anything For Christmas.

Santa skipped my house this year.

Everyone in my house slept in. No packages were opened. The trashcan remained relatively empty. We just had a relaxing day doing pretty much nothing.

Every other year my family celebrates Russian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 7th this time around. My middle son was with his biological dad for Christmas, so the rest of the family waits until Russian Christmas to open gifts. I don't have to fight lines or deal with all of the shopping stress, because I have a couple extra weeks to procrastinate this year.

It's not a random date either, because his biological family is actually Russian Orthodox. His grandfather was a priest. My biggest impression of the faith is that it stinks like incense, they say everything three times so services last longer, and there's a lot of standing involved. Let's just say I'm not contemplating converting at the moment.

So, January 7th, a date celebrated by a faith I don't practice, I'll op…

Not Even an Option.

I've been sick for the last five days. Five days of intestinal cramps and shivers. Five days or incomplete or skipped workouts. Five days of thinking I turned the corner only to get hit again. It's not much fun.

I did manage to get out during one of the "getting better" spells and coach at Alyeska. Glad I did, because it turned out to be a really fun day. The winter is threatening to be a good one (for a change). Unfortunately, I paid for all of that fun that night, as the intestinal troubles dropped the nuclear option on me.

I'm the kind of sick person that likes to curl up into a ball until it's over. Don't touch me or bother me until the process is complete. If I need something, I'll ask. It's taken my wife ten years to figure this out. Unless I'm dying, I'm better off doing my thing.

Unfortunately, doing my thing doesn't include the bike at the moment. Anything more than a sedate pace and my guts start knotting up, and sometimes even …

More Carbon and the Spirit of the Season.

The other day, during a brief lull in my research on extremely frivolous and expensive carbon handlebars and how they can make me not a bit faster or better suited to this sport, I was reminded of how fortunate my family and I are.

I was reminded how close to the edge some kids are forced to live, because of circumstances completely out of their control. Kids who rely on subsidized school breakfasts and lunches for most of their daily nutritional needs, because the cupboards at home are bare. Kids that are wondering what they're going to eat during Christmas break when school isn't there to feed them.

I can get pretty hard-hearted with adults, who have the legal power to determine their destinies to a degree. They can get a job or register for aid or do any number of things to put food on the table. It's far from perfect, but there are options out there.  On the other hand, kids are completely dependent on others to provide.

I learned through hard experience you can't sav…

I Peeked.

Image
Don't anyone tell me, but here's what I'm getting for Christmas from my kids:

Easton EC70 Aero Carbon goodness I had to return some cycling shoes when they shipped me the wrong size, which bummed me out because my specific size rarely shows up on eBay in the upper-line models of this particular brand. I could have paid bills or done something equally responsible with it, but instead I decided to Make America Great Again and buy some Taiwanese carbon fiber.  

I already purchased Easton EC90 Aero handlebars for the main race bike, complete with a matching carbon stem to complete the look and give the competition something to admire as I thrash my way off the back of the pack. The bike's level just seemed to call for a cockpit of a similar grade.

With all of this investment in one place, the crit bike was feeling underappreciated. I know these things. I'm a bike whisperer. However, I couldn't justify that level of investment for a bike that is intended for road cycli…

Periodic Failure.

I've been trying to hold off the weight gain.

Usually the sensible strategy would be to limit the amount of mass one shoves down their pie hole. Problem is, I likes me some pie and my pie hole is wider and deeper than most. You can't miss it, and I rarely do.

On a normal day, where the ebb and flow of life doesn't breach the high and low thresholds, I can usually fight off the urges presented by highly-processed, plastic-wrapped goodness. By goodness, I mean it looks tempting in the wrapper, but consumption is immediately followed by intense feelings of regret and shame. I'm fully aware of the emotional rollercoaster I'm about to ride when I reach for the package, and most of the time I just don't buy the ticket.

Then there are those days that fall outside normal operating parameters. On those days, I buy a whole fist-full of tickets and take as many rides as I can before I'm nauseous.

I'm weak that way. To be honest, I'm weak in a whole bunch of ways,…

Shivers.

Last night I didn't sleep much.

Just as I was drifting off, my wife told me the washing machine was broken. I stumbled downstairs and discovered it wasn't draining, so I did it manually. I made a huge mess. draining water all over the floor which I sopped up with every available towel in the house.

The drain pump died, with the shaft wearing itself into a modern art masterpiece that rendered it useless. The washer would have to wait until tomorrow. A quick check of Amazon showed the pump would only cost around $30, so it wouldn't be too painful. A quick swap and it would be back in action, eating the toddler's socks like it always has.

I went to bed, and immediately noticed my feet were frozen. Nothing I could do would warm them up. Then it was my legs and arms, and eventually my whole body. Even the small furnace child that crawled up into bed with us was no match for the ice age taking over my body. I spent the night shivering, with cramps periodically rolling through m…

Ready... BREAK!!!

I was on a long string of uninterrupted training days. Nearly three weeks of at least an hour a day on the trainer. A lot of intervals and higher-intensity work in compacted periods of time to transition from the steady diet of long, slow distance I did in the Lower 48.

I was watching my Training Status Balance (TSB) to ensure I didn't suddenly cook myself during this changeover. After an initial dramatic climb, it leveled out, mirroring the abrupt plummet and eventual stabilization of my Acute Training Load (ATL). The Chronic Training Load (CTL) continues its gradual decline to something approaching normal for the trainer season. All of that is better explained here. What it means to me is when this squiggly line does this or that squiggly line does that, I am reasonably sure things are (or aren't) going to go to plan.

Sounds reasonable enough, although I've found that Training Peaks doesn't always account for dramatic and quick changes to lifestyle or training methods,…

Unfamiliar Territory.

Recently I've come to the same conclusion every time, and it's not one normally associated with me and my decision-making process.

I don't need that.
I'll get on eBay and look at frames, narrowing the choices down to some swooping carbon or classic metal design. I'll compare the design specs on various websites, further separating the wheat from the chaff. I'll pick the best color to match my team's kit or my dreamy eyes or whatever. I'll refine it down to one choice that meets all of my criteria.

Then I'll delete it.

A new bike won't make me faster. Most of my bikes that are far faster than I am. Cutting a few ounces of weight off the frame isn't going to offset the tens of pounds around my waist. There aren't any paved road-specific roles that can't be filled with whatever I have in the garage now. Sure, I'd love a titanium bike that could handle larger (700x32c+) tires and full fenders for exploring, but it isn't a must-have. …

Time Flies.

I rolled over and looked at my alarm clock. 3:15AM. Great, a couple more hours of sleep.

A second later I rolled over and the clock read 6:05 AM. Guess I'm not getting on the bike this morning.

It's an easy day, so I can easily squeeze this one in after work. Fatigue isn't really going to be a factor in my ability to pull off a hour-long Zone 2 cruise.

It's not the sort of thing I want to get in the habit of doing, though. Getting into a rhythm is a big part of me being able to stick to a training plan and grinding through the winter.

It's not a total loss. Not having me leave the bed and groggily shuffle through the house, occasionally tripping over things and making noise made my wife happy. The bed stayed warmer.

I have noticed my resolve to stay away from excess eating to be wavering. A lot of it is related to the fact that when I was in Mississippi I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and still lose weight. I burned a lot of calories on the bike and walking. N…

Crapload.

Last week I passed a milestone of sorts and it didn't even register at the time.

500 blog posts.

That's a whole lot of bullshit.

The majority of them were written after Wanky told me that more people would read if I updated this blog more than once a month. Boy, was he right. In no time at all I had maybe five (six on a good day) additional readers logging in on a regular basis. Big, big gains for only 30 times the effort.

500 blog posts.

Like riding a trainer, it's just about getting into a groove and sticking with it. Obviously, you don't have to be any good at either one of them, or I wouldn't still be doing them. You just push down on a pedal or a key and sooner or later you're done. Simple as that. Hit save, upload them, and move onto the next one. The only person that decides if there actually will be a next one is you. It's a false freedom, though, because you're just too stupid to stop.

500 blog posts.


I don't want to think about how many hours tha…

Reconfiguring.

When I was in Mississippi, I did a lot of Zone 2 riding. By a lot, I mean a whole crapload.

Chug-chug-chug for hours and hours.

My body adapted to the decreased intensity and increased volume. Sure, I did a little Zone 3 and higher riding during the Tuesday night Destroyer ride or other group rides, but the majority of my hours were long, slow distance.

Now that I'm back home, confined to the trainer, and constrained by family and work commitments, my volume is almost a third of what it was down there, and the intensity has increased significantly.

My body is confused with this sudden reversal, and is trying to adapt. Power levels I used to easily sustain on the trainer in the spring for 60-90 minutes are a struggle now. Some of it may be mental, as it always is when I start on the trainer. That said, I usually get into the groove before this point. My body seems to be programmed to believe that every ride is going to be three or more hours long, and governs its power expenditures wi…

Back in the Bubble.

I ran into Richard Tilton at the store the other night while I was out shopping for cake mix with my wife. Yes, I am that kind of wild man. At first he didn't recognize me because my face looked thinner, but my fat rolls gave me away.

Turns out that the Dome is happening again on Sundays.

I'd been looking at their schedule, which previously had made no mention of either cycling or a 7:00AM opening on Sundays. For me to get anything out of it before I go to Alyeska to coach, both conditions would have to be met. I had resigned myself to a purely trainer diet. In fact, after 17 straight days of trainer workouts, Sunday was supposed to be a rest day.

Sunday wasn't a rest day.

I got up early, picked the bike that was in the most ride-able condition, slapped it on the roof rack, and drove out to the Dome. Joey was texting me good-natured threats to ensure my attendance. As I entered, I saw several faces I didn't recognize already doing laps, which is a good thing. The more dem…

Active Recovery.

Newton's First Law of Motion:
"An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."__________________________________________________________________________ When it comes to recovery rides and whether or not they actually do anything of real good, I refer to this law. The reasons are simple:
An object at rest = fat. Fat is hard to move, so it plants itself in front of the TV with a big tub o' simple carbs and doesn't move.An object in motion = muscle. While I don't have much experience in this regard, it's my understanding that muscles are the things that propel you to do stuff... like move.The same speed/direction = Newton never saw me ride.An unbalanced force = my life.So, I kit up, get on the trainer, and bore myself to tears for a while. I don't even turn on the fan, because I don't break a sweat if I'm doing it right.

Pro Tip: If you…

All Apologies.

I take great pride in being a colossal douchebag.

Wait, perhaps that's overstating it a bit. Rather, I have come to recognize my innate douchebagousity, openly acknowledged it (embraced it even), and have tried to use this new self-awareness to achieve the highest of purposes: winning bike races nobody cares about.

Such power does not come without a price, though.

I can be a complete dick, even when I'm not trying to be one. Don't get me wrong, 99% of the time I completely relish the opportunity to be an insensitive, hyper-direct, sarcastic asshole. That's just me being me.

However, there are times where I'm completely focused on something (like the aforementioned races nobody cares about), and I unintentionally blow off somebody who has the audacity to say something like, I don't know, "hello". Dirty bastards are trying to throw me off my game.

These are usually people that I genuinely like, and I apologize for being a dick in these situations. I don'…

Fading.

They weren't ever than crisp, defined, or otherwise impressive, but they're leaving me. The inexorable flood of pastiness cannot be denied. My tan lines are doomed.

For a guy who can trace his lineage to some of the palest regions on earth, it passed for a tan. Maybe it was just freckles and early-onset skin cancer blotches holding hands, but at least it wasn't translucent. The lumps of cellulite I try to pass off as muscle looked more defined when sufficiently baked. Not a majestic bronze like George Hamilton or an otherworldly orange like The Donald, it was the best I could pull off after a couple hundred hours under the Mississippi sun.

Doesn't matter, because it's all fading away. Tans aren't something that you see a lot of this time of year around here, unless it's on someone returning from Maui. They're the exception rather than the rule. On a pasty-ass guy like me, they're freakishly rare.

Like the loss of temporary pigmentation, my form is also…

Coaches Cluster.

Every year, just before the season starts, the Mighty Mite coaches gather at head coach Lumpy's house for a long night of pizza and beer. It's advertised as a meeting, and as such has an agenda and paperwork and all the trappings of a purposeful gathering. However, thanks to the characters involved, the years we've known each other, and the beer, things tend to veer off course in the early stages and only deviate more as we go. Hey, if a dynamic works...

Creating a sense of unity and direction before the season starts is more important than any agenda item, especially for the new coaches. It can be intimidating joining that group, given the skiing pedigrees gathered around the stacks of pizza boxes and beer pitchers. It's important to let everyone know that, at it's core, the organization is less about creating the next World Cup phenom than about creating strong, life-long skiers, positive memories, and friendships. We can teach you to ski fast, and a lot of the ki…

Updating...

I wasn't surprised at all. After months of sitting powered off, my trainer dungeon computer needed to do a little updating. I figured I'd grind out a 15 minute tempo interval while I waited, then jump on Zwift and get on with the workout.

An hour later, it was 35% done.

I did all of my workout to a blue screen and an update circle. 1% done. Sweat seat sweat. 2% done. Sweat sweat sweat... I can think of more visually inspiring things to watch while going nowhere. Unfortunately, I had disconnected my DVD player in my troubleshooting efforts and never reconnected it. The blue screen and circle were my only available entertainment.

Although I had planned to do 90 minutes, an hour was where I cut it short. I left the computer to do its thing, went out to lunch with my wife, and returned when it was all complete to do another hour. This time I actually got on Zwift, which was nice.

My numbers aren't anywhere near where they usually are on the trainer. It's going to take some tim…

The Best Advice I Never Followed.

In response to Friday's post, Stuart Lynne posted this comment:
Follow the one true Zwift Racing Training Plan. It is as easy is checking the Event Module for when the next race starts, join the event, warm up, then race. Cool down optional but recommended. Repeat 4-5 days a week. You will get stronger.
   _______________________________________________________________________ I'm at least 40% certain that Stuart is not a French porn-bot or living in a Micronesian hut, so as such this puts him in the same category as unicorns and non-controversial Trump cabinet picks. That is to say, he's a rarity- an actual, no-kidding, bike-racing blog reader. I mean, bike racers are scarce. Ones that can read, almost unheard of. Ones that read blogs, a communication form as dead as Samaritan Aramaic? I can think of no better practical example of the infinite possibilities within the universe.

Taking this into consideration, his comments must be treated with a certain dignity which is a c…

Training Plans.

Ever since I got on Zwift, I've had trouble sticking to a training plan. Actually, I shouldn't blame Zwift, because it probably goes back to the car wreck. I just don't seem to have the drive to follow a structured training plan like I used to.

I stopped training with Janice because I was getting burned out and felt horrible for ignoring her training guidance. I'd ride way too hard, blow up or get sick, recover partially, then start all over again. By the time the road season rolled around, I didn't have the interest in training, so I gave up trying. 

I rode hard when I felt like it, and pretty much goofed off the rest of the time. I managed to work myself into somewhat decent shape by late June, before breaking my collarbone and ending my race season. I tried working with another coach, but it was plainly obvious to me that what I really needed was to ride a bunch and forget about structure for a while. Biloxi certainly accomplished that.

Now that I'm back on the…

Anchored.

One result of my flooring project in the trainer dungeon is that I move around a lot. By a lot, I mean literally moving feet during a sprint. I tried rubber mats of various types and other methods to keep the trainer from moving, but the new floor is too slick.

The old Pergo was pretty slick too, but I drilled a hole one of the feet could fit into and that took care of the issue. The Pergo was a lot thicker than the new vinyl, so that solution was no longer valid.

While the wife and I were waiting for stuff in the laundrymat (we had a lot of blankets to clean), we stopped by the local hardware store. While she looked at the Christmas stuff, I wandered the aisles looking at all of the cool stuff. That's when I came across the solution- a 2" galvanized pipe flange. It was the perfect diameter for the trainer's feet. The only problem was that I would have to drill a couple holes in the concrete floor to bolt it down. Oh well...

A couple hours and a lot of mess later, the traine…