Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Wah.

Last night my wife brought home a four-month old baby.

I'm not going to get into the back-story, because of privacy concerns and the fact it might drive me to homicide. I was already contemplating the very many places Alaska provides to dig a shallow grave, and how the native wildlife can be a real help in disposing of evidence.

It was a one-night affair, while other arrangements were made. I was good with the finite nature of the visit. It was kinda like being a grandparent, or in this case, a great grandparent, because I am old and the mother is very, very, very young.

I gotta admit the kid was pretty cute, and relatively well behaved. Couldn't carry on an intelligent conversation to save his life, but at least he could hold his head up unassisted. He was at that magical age where you could set him down and go out for a beer or two, and a couple hours later he'd still be in exactly the same spot. Not that I would, but it's always nice to have that capability in your bac…

Shivers.

There's an old, long-sleeved, fleece jersey hanging from a hook next to the trainer. One shoulder has a few small holes in it from that time years ago when I was riding the TT bike and went down in some early-season gravel. Sometimes the hook pokes through those holes, making it harder to remove from the bike.

Sometimes, on particularly cold mornings, I'll put it on while I'm warming up on the trainer while the computer boots up and Zwift loads or updates or whatever else needs to be done at the worst possible moment. Five minutes later I'll shed it as I settle in. Five minutes later I'll turn on the fan just before I start to sweat. There have been times where both of these waypoints have been reached before I ever make it onto Zwift.

The jersey doesn't look all that great. It doesn't smell all that great. either. I occasionally use it as a towel to wipe the sweat off my face, then forget to wash it for a couple months. To wash it would likely doom the advan…

Then There's The Downside.

As I mentioned yesterday, my performance numbers keep creeping up.

Unfortunately, they're not alone.

My weight this morning was 15 pounds heavier than it was the day I smacked into the pavement. 15 pounds in less than four months.

Initially I didn't gain any weight. I wasn't burning many calories and I didn't change my eating habits (if it came near my face I was having a few bites), but nothing changed.

One day it started inching up. I wasn't concerned, because it was to be expected. A couple pounds is nothing. It will all go away when I get back on the bike.

When I got back on the bike, the weight kept climbing, which concerned me a bit. I started watching what I ate, which means I opened my eyes and examined the mass quantities before I shoved them in my mouth. It didn't help.

The more intensity I add, the more hours I ride, the more weight I gain. I'm not quite delusional enough to think it's muscle mass. I'm plenty delusional, but not that delusional…

That Was Then, This Is Now.

One year ago today my Chronic Training Load (CTL) was at 100. I was within a week of the end of two and a half months of riding in Mississippi, and was pretty much fried mentally and physically. Towards the end there I was finding it hard to ride the same old roads again and again. Even the new ones pretty much looked like the old ones. Thanks to the fitness base I received from riding 15 to 20 hours a week and the odd spirited group ride, I was in pretty good shape for an old man.

Today my CTL is 50. That sounds horrible, but when I started riding again it was 25. Ever since then I've slowly been rebuilding fitness, and the CTL squiggly line has been pretty much creeping upwards. Progress.

Historically my CTL has been in the 50s and 60s during the trainer season, so in reality I'm approaching where I usually am this time of year, except instead of my numbers dropping off as I shed fitness from the road season I'm getting better.

Last year my numbers dropped steadily for mont…

Tearing It Up.

I overslept.

No, that's bullshit. I woke up when my alarm clock went off, then played with my phone to avoid actually getting out of bed. Then I dragged myself from under the covers, kitted up, grabbed a water bottle and the Garmin, and eventually found my way to the trainer.

When I got there, Zwift announced it had do a little update, which failed. Three times. Then I restarted the computer and application, and it finally went through. Ten minutes after I started pedaling, I finally logged onto Zwift and was riding the fake roads. As I was already warmed up, I pushed a little harder than I had planned. To be honest, I had been pushing harder than planned while waiting for the update to complete. It was 45 minutes before I eased back a bit and tried to do something resembling my planned workout.

When I jumped for a sprint, everything went a little shaky. It felt like the trainer had experienced a major structural failure. Further examination indicated that it had. What follows may be…

Continuous Sleep.

Two nights ago it was a nagging cough that woke me up at 1:00 AM. Fortunately, it didn't repeat itself last night. I have my fingers crossed.

Last night it was the dog. At 2:00 AM I awoke to sounds of whimpering. I walked downstairs to investigate, and there was my Labrador Retriever sitting next to the boys' room, begging to be let in their closed door. I let him outside, and when he came back in he returned to his post outside their door. I went back to bed. An hour later, the whining started again.

This is a fairly large black lab which possesses an impressive bark useful for keeping undesirables away. The quivering mass of whimpers I encountered last night would intimidate absolutely no one. Eventually I gave up and opened the door, because I like sleep.

I like not diving face-first into my desk around noon, when the caffeine and sugar stop holding up their end of the bargain. I guess if I subsisted on nothing but organically-raised whole foods, prepared specifically for ext…

Isn't It A Little Early For That?

Last night I woke up at 1:00 AM, coughing my lungs out.

There were no warning signs. No runny nose or other indicator that anything was amiss. Just a sudden and violent bout of hacking that ruined an otherwise good night of sleep. I did what I could to calm it down, climbed back into bed, and fell back asleep face-down.

5:00 AM came waaaaayyyy too early.

I got on the trainer and managed a respectable workout. I had a few coughs here or there. Mostly sparse singles and doubles. Nothing like the night before.

I still don't know if I'm actually sick. I'm no more tired than I am any other day, which is to say my status quo of walking dead is unchanged. My nose really isn't running. My appetite is fine. Everything is... normal.

Except for the fact that last night really sucked.

It's too early in the year for all of my progress to be erased by the plague. I haven't had a chance to develop any delusions yet. At least give me a chance to dream of regaining some of what was l…

Virtual Half-Wheeling.

In the real world, on club rides, half-wheeling is taboo.

Half wheeling is more or less defined as edging your wheel a bit ahead of the rider beside you, encouraging them to speed up to match or exceed your effort. It's a great way to deconstruct a functioning paceline into its separate parts, then scatter them about the countryside. While this can be fun on competition-oriented rides (especially if you're the last man standing), it's also the fastest way to be dis-invited to rides where consistency is the goal.

In the virtual world of Zwift, it happens all of the time, whether intentional or not.

I'll be pedaling along, staring at my Garmin doing my best impression of Chris Froome, zoned out staring at the pixelated (or is that pixilated- both are applicable) scenery, or futilely trying to stop the rivulets of sweat from searing my eyes, and I'll ride up on someone or they'll ride up on me. Maybe the difference between our respective efforts could be .1 w/kg, bu…

Cruising In Place.

It takes me a while to get used to the trainer. Every year "a while" gets a little longer. Adapting from the constantly changing variables of the road to the more static efforts on the trainer is a mental and physical switch that I have to push through.

Once I get into it, I can get down to work. Before that? I'm just playing. Hours of undisciplined cranking away in the sweat box, re-developing the skill set that's going to get me through the next six months.

Today was one of the first days that I could convince myself to hold any sort of power for any meaningful amount of time. Sprints I can do, because the pain is over quickly. The long, aching grinds are what have been eluding me. I just didn't have the mental or physical toughness for them. If I want to build up my sustained power so I can hang with the group and position myself well for the finish, this is the suck I'm going to have to live in this winter.

I'm not looking forward to it.

What I am looking…

Buckles.

My preferred shoes have two velcro straps and a ratchet at the top. They aren't made anymore. I may have purchased all of the new-old-stock out there in my size and a good portion of the used.

I've tried the boa lacing systems out there, and generally don't like them. Instead of the uniform tensioning the manufacturers promise, they usually result in hot spots for me- probably due to the positioning of the laces.  I have one pair of boas that I like somewhat, but I usually revert back to my favorites.

The only problem with my ratcheting shoes is the buckle breaks on the newer models. Eventually I'll click the lever just a few too many times, and it will snap. The old buckles didn't do it, because they were made of stouter stuff, but eventually the springs would rust out and the lever would flap about as you pedaled. Nothing lasts forever. I'd buy replacements and press on, but eventually that supply will dry up as well.

I guess that's the price of progress.

I g…

Multiples.

In my continuing quest to avoid developing Type VIII diabeetus, I upped my nutritional supplement game. I'd slacked off for a while, after reading a well-balanced diet will provide everything you need. Turns out there's some holes in the Tastee Freeze menu that need to be addressed. Who knew?

I went to the local Target to cruise the vitamin aisle. I grabbed my usual biotics that had lost their amateur status and the mega-dose vitamin D pills, because I haven't seen the sun in months. Then I moved over to the multi-vitamin section to see what they had for me.

I stopped taking multi-vitamins years ago because they never seemed to do much besides tint my pee. However, I decided to give them another chance so I could feel like I was doing something positive for my health in between double cheeseburgers. I'm all about the feels. I bypassed the Centrums and other horse pills, because choking those down every day is a workout in itself and they usually come out the other side u…

The Subtle Shift.

With the seemingly endless pattern of wet-ride/dry-ride/wet-ride, it's been almost impossible to figure out if I'm making any progress. A great, dry day with low winds results in encouraging numbers, only to be followed by a 'meh' day of rain and trudging. I'm not talking about performance exactly, but rather a general positive direction that tells me all is not lost. One day of energy isn't enough for me, because recently it's often followed by a couple days of fatigue. I need a sign.

I might have just gotten one.

It wasn't on the road. It wasn't on the trainer. It wasn't even within 100' of a bike.

It was on the internet.

Today I clicked on a Nashbar ad and browsed for a while, lingering over frames and pouring over descriptions. I haven't done that for months. I don't need anything in particular, and didn't buy anything, but that primal instinct to hunt and gather was rearing its head once again. The urge to add to the parts pile …

Well, That Didn't Work.

I woke my wife up the other morning, which happened to be her birthday.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" she asked groggily.

"Oh. Sorry. Happy Halloween or something."

Unlike my wife, I don't like to be reminded of my birthday, which commemorates my mother's transition from relatively brief, intense pain to the low-burn, chronic pain that has accompanied my time on earth for those in my general vicinity. Every time I looped around the sun, people would wish me happiness on that particular day, with the implication the other 364 would be a return to drudgery. After 21 of these days, the practice became less and less meaningful to me. Each time a person would offer me their congratulations for continuing to breathe, I was reminded that it was only going to get worse.

Wow, that got dark fast.

What I've been noticing is that what worked for me a couple years ago isn't doing the trick anymore. In particular, losing or even maintaining a semi-decent cycl…

Dodging Responsibility.

After the Arctic Bike Club Road Division's end-of-season banquet and swag giveaway, we have a new board of excited volunteers.

I'm not on the board, and I say that with a heartfelt sense of relief.

Instead, we have a nice, balanced group of well-adjusted people running the show for next season, each with somewhat well-defined roles within the organization. I'm completely thrilled that more than one of them is female, a tragically under-represented demographic in previous editions. When they raised their hands to volunteer, I jammed mine as deep in my pockets as I could. I walked in with a sense of resignation, and left with a sense of elation. There's hope for us skinny-tired wankers after all.

The new president, the always-inclusive Justin Neff, offered me a spot afterwards. I politely declined. No, that's not completely accurate. Profanity made up a large portion of my response, because that's my normal mode of communication. I want this board to have every chan…

Reset.

I need to do a field test.

My Training Ranges are horribly out of whack. I'm killing myself to maintain what once was a recovery pace. The steady slide of performance since my last field test was punctuated by my two month break from physical activity. For a while I could fake it, pushing a little harder and deluding myself into believing I was performing within a very structured range. In reality, the ranges were just random numbers that had little or no bearing on my body's ability to perform a specific task.

In other words, I don't ride a bike so good right now.

There's a couple things that are keeping me from doing a field test.

The first is the simple and undeniable fact that field tests suck. A lot. They hurt. They require positive mental focus. I'm mainly zoned in to my impressive collection of "I don't wannas." Very hard to fight through the aches and pains that come with a sustained effort when you have the steely determination of a Vichy politic…

When I Grow Up.

After 25+ years in the Air Force, it's probably time that I start thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. They call this transition "retirement", but that just makes me laugh a faint, hollow laugh. I have a three-year old, a couple kids not too far off of college, and a wife currently in college.

I'm going to work until I die. Given the usual lifespans in my family, that's a good ways down the road. Faced with this bright and cheery future, I need to figure out what I'm going to do to make money.

My piece of paper degree in business management is probably going to get me less than I need to support in the fashion they've become accustomed to. An MBA? Maybe, in the right position, but I don't have an MBA just yet, although that could be acquired through the GI Bill. My dream of getting a civil engineering degree has pretty much been snuffed out by my rapidly weakening mind and my lack of faith in the University of Alaska's ability to effect…

Unsexy Is My New Sexy.

I was looking at numbers the other day in a casual way, not looking for trends or performance indicators- there aren't any. Rather, I was idly mining for random trivia when I came across an interesting data point:

I rode the titanium bike more than any of the other six road bikes I had in rotation. It wasn't a small difference in usage, either. The ti bike just got ridden a crap-ton more (that's a unit of measurement used by scientific-types). A lot of this can be attributed to the number of miles I rode in Mississippi, when the ti bike was the only ride at my disposal and I had no shortage of free time to explore armadillo road kill-strewn roads. However, once I got back on the Anchorage roads in the spring, the trend continued.

A lot of it has to do with the ti bike's perceived durability. I could abuse it, wait until a thick layer of road grime crusted the down tube, then run a hose over it, give it a light scrub, and it would look good as new. As long as the drivetra…

Sacking Up.

After wussing out on perfectly ride-worthy conditions (other than the gale-force winds and cold drizzle) and being shamed by a long-time friendly adversary, I knew I had to ride.

I sat staring out the window for a couple hours the next day until the roads dried somewhat and the temperatures inched up to their projected highs. Every degree counts. I over-dressed, but I wasn't planning on working all that hard. Here and there in shaded spots, ice lurked, waiting to bring me down. Screw that. I've been there, and have no desire to return.

I took a route counterclockwise from my usual course through the hillside. Although I gained some elevation, it was spread out over a longer distance. I wasn't going anywhere fast, nor did I want to. It was all about miles on the pavement while there still was pavement. Despite my best efforts to avoid any real work, I worked up a sweat. Overdressing probably had more to do with it than turning over the pedals. I wasn't particularly uncomf…

Powderpuff.

I'm surrounded by bad-asses.

You have your elite-level bad-asses, and their bad-assitude is just generally an accepted fact. You understand that you're in the presence of demigods, and feel grateful for the association. They go out and do the bad-ass things required to reach their bad-ass goals, aided by their bad-ass genetics and a lifetime of bad-ass experiences. That's just what they do.

I could never be on that level. Even at my physical peak, my muscles could never twitch that way. Genetically I'm just not made up of the same stuff. I've come to accept that the only way I'm superior to anyone, and I do mean anyone, else is in my level of delusion. It can be a powerful driver for performance, as long as it doesn't run smack up against actual potential, at which time reality starts to create cracks in the delusion.

Still, a hard-headed willful ignorance of inadequacies is my main asset, so I leverage the piss out of it. I'd like to believe that I can sl…

Yeah, About That.

People in Anchorage probably noticed my posts were about a week late, since they indicated I was riding on dry pavement last week. We had our first snow of the year in town on the 21st, and it ended up being slick enough that most drivers shouldn't have been on the pavement, let alone skinny tire-riding, lycra-wearing fat guys. People forget how to deal with it. The first snow of the year is always like that.

Don't get me wrong, I've ridden on streets like this before, gingerly cruising around, not making any sudden movements. I can't risk it this year. The wrong fall could knock me off the bike for another stretch. I don't want that.

Instead, it's back to Zwift. Right now I'm trying to troubleshoot the ANT+ dropouts I'm getting from my power meter. Unfortunately, ANT+ runs in the exact same frequency range as every other wireless consumer electronic device ever made, so anything from a cordless phone to the neighbor's garage door opener could be the …

At a Certain Point.

Sooner or later you have to throw in the towel. You've had enough abuse. The aches and pains pile on top of each other. It isn't fun anymore. The risk/reward calculation just doesn't add up. Taking a fall could have consequences extending far into the future. You have to quit and move onto something else.

Sooner or later, I have to give up and go back to the trainer.

Looks like sooner it is. The temperatures dropped too quickly, over twenty degrees in the space of a couple days. The windshield is crusted over every morning. Puddles are staying frozen well into the day. The ground is getting colder too, so that the chances of any on-road moisture being ice is greatly increased.

I could finish my disc gravel road bike. The wider tires would likely help. I could dig out the 700x42c studded tires I bought years ago for my "monstercross" bike and rode a grand total of four times. I could add layer upon layer, digging deep into my vast collection of cycling kit for insula…

Ummmm... No.

Knee warmers weren't going to cut it. The leg warmers were called into play. A merino wool base layer went under the jersey, and the soft shell jacket topped it off. Thick wool socks on the feet.

It wasn't enough.

The ambient temperature was in the high 30s. Since it was relatively clear, I thought I could hack it. I forgot about windchill. I forgot that I had been softened not only by two months of not riding, but also a whole summer of relatively warm temperatures. I just plain forgot.

It didn't take me long to remember.

I figured I would warm up as I rode. At first, it seemed like I was right. Parts of me settled into a tolerable state, while others never really got with the program. Chief among these was my right hip. Clad only in a thin lycra shell, it protested loudly, especially when I turned into the wind. This wasn't going to work.

After only a half hour of riding, I was in my car and driving home, my hip cursing me as the car's heater slowly thawed it.

When I g…

Psyche!

I packed my bag of kit and threw my bike on the car, just like I'd done pretty much every other day since I started riding. I made sure to ask the wife if I had any scheduling conflicts that might conflict with riding after work, and upon receiving the verbal go-ahead set about planning my day.

I pushed through my list of projects, and was on the last one when she called. She didn't feel well and I needed to pick up the kids. Suddenly my day just got longer. I let it slide, because I had ridden for two straight days and really needed a rest day. Extreme performance like I've been exhibiting requires periodic taper periods to keep the finely-tuned engine firing at peak efficiency. Fine, no bike for me. This was especially painful as I walked out into a beautiful (if chilly) fall day. I picked up the kids, drove home, and buried my face in a five pound bag of pretzels.

The next day I asked again, and was told I would be picking up the kids (again). I decided I was sufficiently…

Dry Is Better.

Wet, greasy leaves suck.

This time of year they're pretty much a fact of life on the bike trails. With this in mind, I've been doing just about everything I can to avoid riding on bike paths with any sort of tree coverage as much as I can. I'm pretty sure what a fall would do to me right now if I hit wrong, given my semi-fragile state. What I don't know is what it would so to my mental game, which at this stage is more important. I don't want to take the risk. I avoid the leaves.

However, often I just can't help but ride through the wet, rotting remains that have been squished into the pavement. I try to stay loose and keep my movements measured and gradual until I'm past the danger. I slow down. A lot.

After two days of clear weather, something magical happened. The evil, slippery mass of decaying organic matter was replaced with the dry, crackling leaves of my youth. I didn't have to worry about slamming my hip, collarbone, and head into the tarmac. I co…

One Day Became Two.

There's this tree in my neighbor's yard.

I'm not a fan.

The roots run under my lawn, just below the surface, killing any chance of decent-looking grass. That's not the reason I don't like it. I really am not all that into lawn care. As long as I'm not kicking up rabbits, I figure it's manicured enough.

No, the real reason I don't like this tree is that it dumps leaves that I and the next couple houses have to rake up. If you don't, they kill the lawn you don't really care about. It's not even the leaves themselves, but rather what they represent- the end of the riding season. When this tree drops, chances are your already dwindling number of riding days can be measured on your fingers, your toes in a particularly dry fall.

This weekend the tree dropped. It had been slowly shedding leaves for a week or two, but this was a mass exodus. The entrails were spread down the street. The message was blunt and to the point. Message received.

Unfortunately,…

Gotta Admit, It Seems To Be Working.

After my abortive attempt to get on the bike a month after I plowed into the pavement, I wasn't so sure getting back on the bike was such a good idea. A lot of that was mental, but I have to pay at least a little attention to my self-preservation instincts. That first attempt probably knocked my physical recovery back a couple weeks and did even more damage to my mental recovery. I was just getting to the point where I could fake a passable "normal" walk for a good portion of the day. I developed this talent so people wouldn't stop me in the hall and ask when my surgery date was or just wince when they caught sight of my shambling gait.

Even after I got back on the bike, my brain kept telling me it was too early. I ignored it, because my brain was also telling my mouth to spout off at inappropriate times and dwelling over negative thoughts for far too long. I realized that brains are stupid. I needed my outlet back, so I kept pressing on through the negativity until i…

Closing In On Me.

I knew it was going to happen eventually. I just didn't want it to happen so soon.

We're getting down to the last few, precious days of fall. The way weather's been going the last few years, we could have a couple weeks more of road riding- but I'm not counting on it. The snow has been creeping down the hills. The rain has gotten colder. The furnace cycles more often these days, despite my current battles with my wife over what constitutes "comfortable". It's coming.

Trainer season.

This year I didn't get a chance to burn myself out before the snow came. My longest rides have been around two hours. Any more than that and I feel it for days.

To be honest, trainer season will probably be good for me. It's a time of schedules and discipline. Getting up early and sweating. Starting the day with an endorphin rush. Once I'm in the rhythm, it kinda sustains itself. Then again, the trick is finding that groove.

I'd rather be on the road right now. Desp…

Longer Than Expected.

Today I rode the trainer for the first time in quite a while.

Yesterday I was fighting the wind on the Seward (and losing), but it was a rather nice day and I wasn't complaining.

Today it was raining and my whole body ached (because I'm old). I decided to get on the trainer and do an hour of Zwift.

To prep for this, I had built up the Storck and fired up the trainer dungeon computer, updating Windows about five or six times in the last week. I had logged on to Zwift, downloading the latest updates to make sure I wasn't delayed when I finally got around to sweating in place.

Today I fired up the computer and there was yet another update for Windows. No big deal, right? After all, I had updated several times before. Nope, this one took two hours. Two hours of me periodically checking to see if it was done yet. Two hours of the percentage clicking up to complete, a restart, and then another completion percentage.

It was 8:30 PM before I finally got on the trainer. On the bright si…

Give Me A Break, Already.

Yesterday was a good day.

The sky was clear, the winds weren't bad, the roads were dry, and the air was crisp. It was a perfect fall day for riding. Really, it was the kind of day that makes you glad to be riding a bike.

I felt like a cyclist. I did things automatically for the first time in months. Actions just clicked. I didn't miss a clip-in or have to remind myself to loosen up. Simple stuff that I was fumbling with excessively after the layoff. It all came naturally. Amazing what a good day will do for you.

As soon as I got in my car, I noticed a smattering of raindrops on the windshield. Hmmm. It continued all the way home- just enough to be annoying but not so much that the wipers could do anything more than smear them across the glass.

I started making burgers to throw on the grill, because the wife told me I had to. When I tried to preheat it, the temperature stayed below 100. It started to rain harder. The kids were hungry and whining. The wife was hangry. The tank was n…

Hello Old Friend.

I was at the weigh station when he snuck up on me.

I was lost in the trance-like state of a steady effort, and suddenly there he was. He just eased up effortlessly and slapped me on the head to announce his presence. I hadn't seen him much recently. He's usually out all of the time during the spring, then progressively he seems to lose enthusiasm as the weather warms. Once in a while he'll come out just to remind you who's boss and re-establish the pecking order, only to disappear again. With my recent layoff, I briefly thought our friendship had soured, yet there he was, full of bluster and confidence. He knew he could beat me.

"Hello, headwind."

I once read that a cyclist should always feel a headwind when riding. If you don't, you aren't pushing hard enough. Tailwinds are just a mechanism for going faster, not easier. There should always be something pushing you back and trying to slow you down, because resistance is the key to improvement.

Headwinds a…