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Showing posts from 2017

Fluffing It Up.

About 11 months ago, The Dome collapsed under the weight of snow. Where the blame for the failure lies is still up for debate, but when it went away so did the primary training venue for a large number of sports. Some found makeshift accommodations at smaller, more traditional indoor facilities and some just stopped until the snow melted off the fields and trails. I don't think anyone quite realized what a resource it was until it was gone.

The Dome is now under new ownership and management, and should be opening in January. I've heard of a lot of sports organizations lining up to reserve slots, and there's probably ten times that many I haven't heard of.

Which makes me wonder- when the new, improved (now with inflation!) Dome opens up, will there be a slot for bikes? I haven't seen a new schedule or talked to anyone about it (because I'm too lazy), but I'm wondering if the new regime will want the bikes back. We never had a huge presence, but we did have som…

Not Quite.

I've been playing around with the Specialized Power saddle ever since I installed it on the Storck.

I'd adjust the nose up a bit and ride it for a couple days. Then I'd adjust the fore-aft-positioning and ride it for a couple more days. Then I'd adjust it again...

Nothing so far has felt "right". To be fair, I've ridden a different brand and shape of saddle for well over a decade, so some adjustment is to be expected.

My ti bike has a Specialized saddle. one I had sitting around on the parts pile for years. I threw it on the bike, adjusted it like the Bontrager saddles I normally use, and it worked well. I haven't touched it since.

This saddle, due to its shortened nose, has a shape that I'm finding problematic to adjust to. A lot of this is due to my propensity to sit on the nose of the saddle. When you suck as badly as I do, you're on the rivet even during moderate efforts. This is something I was hoping to fix with the change in saddle. Hard to…

Well, I Found The Edge.

Ever since I got back on my bike after falling off, I've pretty much followed a rhythm. Six days of riding and then a day off. Some days, usually because of available time, are longer than others. Some days have more short-duration intensity. Some have a higher overall average. Some are just kinda meh.

For the last three and a half months, I've been pretty much chugging along. Here and there I had dead legs for one reason or another, but they'd usually come around and the upward trend would continue. I knew it couldn't last without a correction.

It didn't.

The last three days, despite laying around and doing pretty much nothing in all of its holiday glory, my legs were aching and lacking any sort of energy. Stairs have been a complete joy, if by "joy" you mean dull pains radiating from my calf muscles. When I got on the trainer, finishing an hour was a real grind. I'd ramp up for sprints just to distract myself, but my heart just wasn't in it. I had …

Nothing.

I didn't get anything on Christmas. The wife either. My kids got a big goose egg. Not even the dog.

This year the older boys are away, so we're celebrating on a date to be determined later.

On years like this, we save a ton of money by hitting the after-Christmas sales, as the retailers figure out that they were far too optimistic in their pre-season ordering. That's not to say we don't have a bunch of crap stockpiled already. We just didn't have the same urgency acquiring it.

The wife hasn't dragged me to the mall, led me by hand up to the display, and specifically pointed out what she wanted yet. I'll dutifully purchase it, wrap it as carefully as my clumsy hands will allow, she'll open it on the appointed day, and will somehow try to appear pleased.

I ordered my own gift this year, one guaranteed to arrive before Christmas. It's scheduled to be delivered on December 29th.  Oh, the joys of living in Alaska.

Instead, the family and I slept in. The kids …

Christmas Wishes.

Why the hell are you reading a stupid cycling blog? It's Christmas.

Get off the computer and go spend time with your family, fucktard.

Recovery Weeks.

One time when I trained with Janice, we sat down in a local coffee shop and talked about training cycles and building towards events. Micro cycles and macro cycles and all sorts of things. I mainly nodded and tried to appear as if I understood. It wasn't important that I understood. I was paying her to understand, then tell me what to do and when to do it.

Whatever she did back then, my squiggly lines always were tightly grouped, weaving intricate patterns on their climb to specific targets, backing off, and then working towards some other point.

Since I've been doing my own training thing, my squiggly lines are generally a clusterfuck. This one is too high and that one is too low. I gave up on trying to control them like Janice did, and focused on the one that split the difference. As long as it's going in the general direction I want it to go during a particular time of the season, I'm not going to think about it too much. Sure, I still possess the mental acumen to lea…

Editing.

Yesterday I wrote a long draft of a post about the liberation one feels when, after years of beating your head up against a wall, you finally accept you no longer have faith in an organization's leadership or your ability to advocate for what you consider the right course of action and effect positive change.

...and no, this isn't a cycling or skiing organization, so chances are if you're reading this we're probably good. Completely different compartment of my fragmented existence.

This morning I re-read it, then deleted it. Its purpose had been served. I was able to articulate my thoughts in a structured way, which was liberating in itself. To publish out there in the world would not have had any positive impact- certainly not for me. As I said, it served its purpose.

I took a seminar on, among other things, using social media to improve your job prospects. The big takeaway was that human resource-types research you on the interwebs and see what kind of social media pres…

Squirming In My Saddle.

The new Specialized Power Expert is mounted on the Storck. Nothing will tell you if a saddle is poorly positioned or completely wrong for you faster than a stationary trainer. The time grinding away in more or less one position, your lady parts marinating in gallons of sweat, is perfect for getting an indication of just how intolerable a particular saddle will be over the long term.

My Shimano Pro Stealth saddle is coming on the slow boat from England, where I got it for significantly less than I could have from any other vendor. I have more time than money these days, and I have very little time.

The Specialized Power Expert saddle was a little closer to home. Prices on these are generally more regulated, so I could be smug about buying local from the neighborhood bike shop. Think global, buy local... unless you can get it cheaper on eBay, then screw that noise. In both cases, I didn't go for the top-tier saddle. Metal rails are just fine for me, especially since I don't know i…

Water Bottle.

Taken at face value, it's just a water bottle.

A 32oz Nalgene water bottle with the Skratch Labs logo on it. I got it on clearance a couple years ago, because I like Skratch's orange hydration mix, needed a few more dollars to get free shipping on my order, and hey, cheap water bottle.

That cheap water bottle has led me to meet and have some conversations with some cool people.

For instance, when I was in school in Mississippi, I brought it every day to replace what the oppressive, liquid air was drawing out of me. A guy in my class asked me if I rode, which made me wonder how he guessed, since my shaven legs were hidden under my uniform. He pointed at the bottle. As it turns out, Bobby and I rode together more than a few times, and that connection led to me meeting other riders in the area. This series of connections led to my time in my least-favorite part of the country being much more enjoyable.

A couple months after that I was sitting in the Mighty Mite shack after a long day…

Saddle Up.

I've used the same basic saddle almost exclusively for the last ten years. The only difference might have been the level within that particular line, shaving a few grams here and there with carbon this or that, but the basic shape and width were always the same. My main selection criteria has always been mainly centered around how many saddle sores it caused. Once I found a saddle that met it, I stopped looking and stocked up. Even after it was discontinued, I kept buying them off eBay. I have quite a collection.

Recently, CyclingTips did an article about how bicycle seats can damage your lady parts. I didn't read it, so you'll have to find it for yourself. However, fourth-hand summaries of the article were enough to spur me into action.

I'd found a good reason to go spend money on bike parts.

Exhaustive research of peer-reviewed internet cycling forums and unbiased retailers narrowed my choices of saddles down to two different saddles, the Specialized Power and the Shima…

Trust.

For better or worse, society is based on trust. We are constantly trusting that the other guy is going to follow an endless list of written and unwritten rules. We have no way of knowing what the other person's exposure to those rules are and how much importance they place on each one, but we have to trust our fellow man. Otherwise, we couldn't leave the safety of our own beds. Come to think of it, that implied "safety" relies on trust of thousands of nameless and faceless people. As the Shakespeare of our time, George Michael, once said," I gotta have faith, faith, faith. Baby." Such artful wordsmithing gives me the vapors.

When that trust is somehow betrayed, either intentionally or unintentionally, we feel hurt. In certain situations, sometimes we get hurt. I certainly trusted the driver of the municipal vehicle not to plow into the back of my car years ago. I trusted that the pack would lay off the brakes in that crit in July. In both cases, my trust was…

Book Report

I still like paper books. I like the way they feel, especially hardcover books. I still haven't given eBooks a chance, but I figure it's only a matter of time before the expense and storage liabilities of physical books drive me to convert.

Saturday I took my family to the local Barnes & Noble and let them run wild in the aisles. I narrowed my focus to the new John Grisham (which I bought in hardcover) and the cycling shelf of the sports aisle. From that section I came away with two books. My youngest opted for a stuffed t-rex that I didn't realize made noise until after the sale. Bad miscalculation on my part. My daughter picked up a couple of bookmarks, and the rest of the family opted out of engaging their minds with the written word. They were more interested in getting back to their iPads, videogames, and binge-watching Netflix. I'm not sure I can relate.

Once home, I immediately dove into the first book, Thomas Dekker's autobiography, Descent: My Epic Fall …

Doubling Down.

As Monday wore on, my legs got stiffer and stiffer.

By the end of the day, I could barely walk, which made traversing icy sidewalks and parking lots a joy. I knew if I went down, getting back up was going to be an issue. When I got home, my wife lit into me about the sink full of dishes, but stopped short when she saw me hobbling around. The dishes could wait a little while.

I went to bed early, reading Phil Gaimon's new book and generally not moving if I could avoid it. My large and faithful Lab, Jackson, crawled up beside me and leaned his considerable bulk against my leg, eliciting a whimper from me. I couldn't get angry with him, because he's just a loveable goofball. The boy cat, which I don't particularly like and have sized for a nice, brick laden burlap sack, found his spot and settled in. The youngest eventually climbed in too, forcing my wife to find other sleeping arrangements for the night. 

When I woke up in the morning to the alarm, my first thought was tha…

I'd Better Not.

Sunday night I pre-positioned my kit like I always do to make the transition from bed to trainer as seamless and quiet as possible, on the off-chance I miraculously recovered from Saturday and Sunday's excesses. 

On a good day, I can be on the trainer fairly quickly. The vast majority of days are not what you would call good days. Usually I procrastinate and generally find excuses not to get on the trainer, until I'm on the ragged edge of not having sufficient time to do the workout, cool off enough so I'm not sweating the entire time I'm in the shower, and get ready for work.

Monday morning I woke up with the alarm. So far, so good. Then I tried to roll to my left, and a wave of dull aches and pains washed over me. I stretched as much as I could without waking up the wife, but the muscles still felt completely deflated. Even a nutritious bacon cheeseburger meal from the Tastee Freezand a more or less sufficient night of sleep wasn't enough to pump some air back into…

A Bridge Too Far.

Saturday my legs fell off 45 minutes into the workout. Nothing I could do would make them push any harder than a leisurely pace, and even that required some goosing. I was cooked, and figured I just had gone a little too hard in the first half. No problem. A high saturated fat meal with a sensible desert sundae to top it off and a good night's sleep and I would be back at it.

Sunday it took me all of about 10 pedal strokes to figure out that was perhaps a bit optimistic. I ground out most of what I was planning on doing, but even by indoor training standards it wasn't a lot of fun. I cut it a little short, because I wasn't doing myself any favors and I had to get to an Alyeska Mighty Mites coaching clinic. In the rain.

I frantically looked for all of my skiing gear at the last minute, cursing myself for procrastinating. Eventually, I just grabbed a bunch of spares (I collect ski gear like I collect bike parts) and rolled out the door 10 minutes late. The weather got worse an…

Internal Debate.

As I mentioned the other day, topics for compelling blog posts can be hard to come by at times.

Sometimes, I have so many posts pre-loaded into the system that I have to re-order them to insert one that has an expiration date for relevancy. There have been periods where I had two or three weeks worth of posts completed and waiting to drop at their scheduled time.

Other times I have to stretch to come up with a topic for the next day's post. Sometimes I don't even make that deadline. I just don't have anything to say or don't have the time to type something up. Injury and illness have been the only things that keep me from maintaining the schedule for any length of time, but sometimes just figuring out what to write is a real struggle.

Right now is firmly the latter group, which brings up an interesting question- what if I just... don't? What if I just stop writing when I can't think of anything to write about?

I think this blog would probably cease to exist in shor…

Giving.

I've never been much for charities.

I believe charity starts at home, sitting in front of a computer, shopping online for bike parts. Usually that's where it ends for me, too.

I know firsthand the transformative nature of the bicycle, how it can be an incredible force for good on a personal and community level. How it can bring people together in a pretty darn positive way. How it can open up new possibilities with every turn of the pedals.

Bikes are awesome.

That's why, despite my complete lack of regard for any other living thing, I support World Bicycle Relief. They supply rugged and utilitarian bicycles to people in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia so they can go to school or work or otherwise expand their world in a way only possible from a bicycle saddle. This is the purest example of the transformative nature of the bicycle, and you'd be hard pressed to find any carbon on these workhorses. They're built to take abuse and provide reliable service for a lo…

No Lie.

I was hoping the readings were off because I haven't changed the battery in all of the years I've owned it.

I was hoping it's consumer grade electronics and sensors were just plain inaccurate.

I was hoping that maybe that some surface variability was impacting the final calculation.

Nope.

I'm fat.

I jumped on the scale at work to compare apples to apples. That scale is calibrated periodically by professional calibration-type people to medical-grade standards. The reading was exactly the same.

Fatty.

I'm 15 pounds heavier than I was last year at this time. I'm ten pounds heavier than I am on average most years. I'm five pounds heavier than I have been in the last 10 years.

When I look at myself, I don't see 15 extra pounds. I see a few, but the places I usually carry additional weight aren't showing it like they normally do. The fat has found new places to hide. This scares me, because that sort of fat can get away from you really, really quickly. It sneaks …

Sleep Aid.

I know reading about my latest trainer ride on Zwift puts most people to sleep. Writing them sure causes me to nod off. Problem is, this time of year it's pretty much all that's happening.

Ever since I took Wanky's advice to post more than two or three times a month, there have been times of feast and famine when it comes to blog post material. Usually I come up with a ton of ideas when I'm out on the road, and some of them I actually remember long enough to expand into a post. On the trainer, all I'm usually thinking about is a quick and merciful death, so not a whole lot of good ideas spring from that well of misery.

This year I've made a conscious effort to not buy a lot of bike parts, and instead check deeper than the first strata of the parts pile to see if I already don't have five or six of the same thing. In related news, online auction website eBay has filed for bankruptcy protection based on disastrous third quarter earnings. Actually, I'm not s…

Level.

It was bound to happen.

Eventually the Training Peaks Squiggly lines would slow their steady rise and find some sort of equilibrium, as my body recovered and adapted to the training stresses I was subjecting it to. Eventually things would kind of even out and become the "new normal". That's good and bad.

It's good because it indicates I'm pretty much back to "normal". Sure my focus is different this year (sustained efforts over repeated sprint-recovery), but the training load is back to where it normally is. Recovery from injury always includes an element of uncertainty, as you wonder if you'll ever get back to where you were before everything went sideways. For me, more often than not the answer is no. I may get back to pretty much where I was, but "peak performance" is more of a relative thing now. Compared to where I was four months ago, after I slammed into the pavement, I'm spinning them up pretty durn good. Compared to where I was …

Hanging Up.

Wanky opted out.

No Facebook. No Strava. No Twitter. None of the common social media platforms.

Besides his blog, all he uses now is email. He disabled comments on his blog, so that avenue of public discourse is now closed as well. If you want to reach him, you have to use a direct route. Either you contact him on a one-on-one basis through email or phone, or you (gasp!) meet him in real life.

God, I admire him for that.

I wish I had that sort of resolve. Before Facebook, I was a complete internet  bike forum junky. I still am to a degree. Even in my most social media-contracted state, I waste far too much time reading about the trivial while missing the important. However, my brain is wired to place an inflated importance on the trivial, which makes me the target demographic for Facebook. Even with my constant vigilance in filtering out crap that is solely designed to rouse up intense negative feelings in a specific echo chamber, Facebook finds new ways to trigger me every day. Maybe tha…

Oh, That.

Moments before I walked out to the garage to get on the trainer, the youngest ran out of his room and began puking on the kitchen floor. I appreciated his aim, as the carpet has seen its share of abuse over the years from other kids and pets. So, wearing my cycling kit and shoes, I knelt on the floor and cleaned up the mess. He felt better, and climbed into my spot in bed next to my wife.

My start delayed, I jumped right into ignoring my training plan. At about the halfway point, just after a sprint to take a virtual green jersey that means nothing, I started to notice I was sweating a lot more than usual. I pushed on, proud of my newfound ability to make my fat cry. Two-thirds of the way through, it was literally pouring off me in steady streams, and I began to worry. I had already downed a 28oz water bottle, and that almost never happens in under 45 minutes.

Then I noticed my useless SAD light was off, which indicated my fan was off as well because they are on the same power strip. In…

Who Are you People?

The downside of hacking the Zwift world calendar is that when everyone else shows up to your little private world, there's an inflated sense of outrage. You wish you could sit in a virtual rocker and yell at all of the kids on your lawn. How dare they clutter up your own private sanctuary?

I feel the same about cars when I'm out riding in the real world. Illogical, I know, but people can be entitled little creatures. If they like something, even if benefits nobody else, then it should obviously be the norm.

Sufficiently outraged, I wove my way through the virtual global village. I punched it at the same places I do when I'm all alone, and strangely enough, I was slower. Even though I had the benefit of "drafting" and the other riders around me, I just couldn't bring myself to push it any more. Maybe I was cooked, but I think it was mostly mental. I couldn't focus as much as I can when it isn't crowded. I'm always distracted by riders, leaderboards, …

Hacking The World.

I resisted it for a long time. I suffered through it for the most part, occasionally altering my schedule so I could avoid the unpleasantness.

Sunday I finally did something about it.

I hacked the world.

Zwift publishes the course schedule every month. I look with dread at days slated for the London or Richmond courses, which I find mind-numbing. They drain whatever enthusiasm I bring into the trainer dungeon. Still, more often than not, I'd slog through my least-favorite courses, telling myself it would make the Watopia course more special. It would keep it from getting stale.

I was lying to myself.

No matter how many additions to Zwift they make, my enthusiasm's shelf life will always outpace their coding abilities. Let's be honest- it's still the trainer. They could have naked women burst out of the screen every lap and I would still get bored eventually. Man, I am getting old. At this point, a bowl of warm soup and a nap under a blanket in my rocker is more my speed.

I k…

Losing Air.

Friday I felt great, pushing harder for the first time in I don't know how long. It felt incredible, burying myself in an effort like that. After months of steady upward progress, this was the payoff. This was what I wanted.

The next day I was deflated. Burnt out in a most profound way. I slept late into the day, hoping to recover enough to manage some kind of workout. It never happened. I stumbled around aimlessly, not managing much enthusiasm for anything.  Eventually I threw in the towel and went back to bed.

Sunday dawned and I sprung out of bed. No, that's a lie. I'm old, and springing no longer resides in my tool kit. I creaked, popped, and groaned out of bed, but with more vigor than I could muster the previous day. When I got on the trainer, I knocked out some pretty credible numbers. Crisis averted. Ship righted. Full speed ahead. Everything is going to be just fine.

Today I crashed again.

After all this steady progress, I need to back off a little and do an easy week…

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…