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Showing posts from January, 2017

You Can't Ride Home Again.

I grew up on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. I went to elementary school at John B. Cary elementary school for a few years before moving out to the suburbs. I wasted a few years and a lot of money in music school at Virginia Commonwealth University, which back then was smack dab in the middle of urban blight.

Ask just about anyone which course on Zwift they dislike most, and chances are they will say Richmond. I completely agree with them. When it pops up on the Zwift schedule, I usually discover it's a rest day.

I have no idea why I don't like this course. Peter Sagan won his first rainbow jersey on this course. It's got sprints and short, punchy climbs and runs through a virtual representation of places I'm very familiar with. It's got a Northern Classics profile. I should like it. I just don't. Nobody else seems to like it much either, and it's only on the schedule a couple times a month now.

It was the first Zwift expansion course after Watopia, and t…

Piling On.

I recently added another year to my collection. From what I hear, most people do that on an annual basis. I find the practice counter-productive, and I wish someone would abolish it altogether.

Until that point, I keep racking them up. The pile is starting to weigh me down a bit.

In my 20s I didn't notice it. I was still the same oblivious kid I was in my teens, and didn't even notice when I started filling out at the latter part of the decade. I could do anything I wanted physically. Unfortunately, I chose not to do anything except eat.

In my mid-30s I finally realized I was fat, so the ticking of the clock was offset by shedding of a lot of the excess pounds. I was already feeling old, so as time passed and weight dropped I felt younger.

In my early 40s I think I peaked. I had lost about as much weight as my weak will power would sustain, and I had ridden enough to find a comfortable performance plateau. I thought I had the formula figured out. Do X amount of work every year an…

The Bottom.

The free-fall has finally ended. I beginning to wonder if it ever would.

After Mississippi, I knew my numbers would crash. There's no possible way I could keep my chronic training load up as high on a steady diet of trainer miles. Well, yes there is a way, but it's not a way I'm willing to go. That many hours spinning and going nowhere would tax my sanity, my family's patience, and my taint flesh. Nope. Nope. Nope.

The numbers have been leveling off into a sustainable groove. The intensities I can handle for various durations are climbing. I'm finally embracing the suck, and while my acute training loads and training status balances are dancing around one another, the chronic training load is a slightly-wavering line.

That's just a long winded way of saying I'm exactly where I want to be for this time of year.

I wish I could say this was the result of a finely honed training plan strategy, that I've mastered the art of performance management after many year…

Playing Around in the Garage.

I was putting together my new tool chest the other day, stowing a few bike tools that I tripped over carrying the damn thing into the garage. It may not be made all that well, but it sure is heavy. I'm going to mount an ibuprofen dispenser on the side, just in case I need to move it.

Just getting the bike tools in a semi-centralized location will make projects a lot easier. I seem to spend half of my precious bike-wrenching time searching for the wrench. With the pegboard holding some of the tools, I may not even need the top cabinet. In its place, I might just install an expensive worksurface to hold disorganized piles of "really good stuff" that I'll never get around to using. Horizontal surfaces have a way of doing that around here.

The temperatures in the garage are always influenced heavily by the outside ambient temperatures. Lately that's meant it's been pretty cold on the trainer for the first 15 minutes or so. Sometimes I don't turn on the fan, les…

Tools.

The other day I heard that Sears sold the Craftsman brand to Stanley, as I was on my way to RadioShack to buy a potentiometer, some solder, and maybe a few resistors. The retail world has certainly transformed over the last few years. Stores that used to anchor malls in suburbs around the nation are dropping like flies.

I immediately got on the Sears website to see what sales were going on, hoping to get a few choice deals before the vultures circled. Sure enough, they were cutting prices on Craftsman-branded goods, although nothing too severe to make me think they would be shuttering the Anchorage Sears doors this week.

I swung by the store anyway, mainly because I've always liked cruising the aisles and looking at the tools. I've never been a Mac or Snap-On kind of guy, mainly because I never had that kind of money for tools I would just end up abusing and leaving to rust. Craftsman always fit in that sweet spot for me where I could rely on them yet not feel a strong sense of …

White Stuff II

Yesterday's post was written Saturday, because art (e.g. this blog) takes time to craft and mold and caress into something of beauty that will stand the test of time.

Saturday night my wife told me the Dome collapsed because of the snow load. Sunday morning I was supposed to ride around in circles on the Dome track. Instead I rode the trainer. This winter I got to ride exactly two sessions at the Dome. That number will stand, as it will not reopen this winter.

From the pictures, it didn't so much collapse as implode. That's going to take some time to fix (as well as a bunch of insurance money). I hope they pull it together, because the Dome is a huge asset for a large part of the active Anchorage community that don't like braving the elements or shifting their activities throughout the year.

I was a fringe Dome user of a fringe Dome user group, but I really will miss the option. It provided a great social option that Zwift just can't replicate. 

Note: First person that…

White Stuff.

It snowed this weekend. A pretty fair amount.

"Well duh, you're in Alaska."

To be honest, the last three years I've kinda wondered about that. This winter has been a nice change, with reliably cold temperatures (last week's dip into the double-digit negatives wasn't all that great) and actual snow. 

Not rain. Snow. Dry, fluffy stuff. Great skiing snow, the kind Utah and Colorado brag about.

I don't even mind shoveling it, because it's not heavy at all. I'm just running out of room to put it. I had to reconfigure my stacking strategy just to make room for the latest. I'm just hoping it settles a bit before the next storm.

I hope there's a next storm.

I initially stayed in Alaska because of the snow. It's nice to see it return.

What we have now might not be the greatest for fat-biking until the trails set up, but I think those of us who enjoy winter can universally say that this is a very good year so far.

Let it snow.

Reining It In.

"Hi. My name is Mike, and I have an eBay problem."

I need to stop buying stuff for a while. Between eBay and MyFace swap groups, I'm in over my head, and I'm not too proud to admit it.

Once I get the garage sorted out, I'm going to spend some quality time with the bikes. They deserve it, and I realize now that I've been trying to buy their affections with fancy carbon trinkets instead of investing the time in listening to and resolving their groans and squeaks. We need to work on rebuilding our relationship, because for too long it's been characterized by me heaping abuse upon them (through my fat rolls and my penchant for falling down) and then not cleaning up after myself. They're showing the strain.

It's not going to be easy, though. When SRAM first started transitioning to 11 speed, retailers started dumping their stock of 10 speed stuff. Now users are starting to offload their stuff, and not a day goes by that I don't get all twitchy as more…

Return to the Dome.

After a couple weeks of trying, I finally made it through the doors of the Dome.

When I showed up, no other cyclists were there. I did 15 minutes of laps beforeYrjö Roovers joined me for circles on his Ritte fixie. Neither one of us was interested in pushing it, so we kept a conversational pace. A few other riders showed up, but only the perennially fashionably late Richard Tilton was really putting out anything resembling a watt. It was more of an excuse to get away from the trainer for a little while.

Compared to the pile of bikes waiting to get in the previous week, the turnout was somewhat flaccid. I hope this turns around, and people haven't been discouraged by the variable opening hours. Getting up that early on a Sunday is a tall order for a lot of people, and it wouldn't take much to kill the momentum. A couple months from now we'll be back on the road, and nobody will want to ride circles in an inflatable tent anymore. We have maybe six months out of the year to mak…

Hanging It Up.

I have a lot of really nice blue Park Tool bike tools. I spent a lot of money on them. I have a really nice blue Park Tool case for them. I spent a lot of money on it too. Seems like it would be easier to organize all of my pretty blue tools in my pretty blue case, but it just ended up being a big pile of crap that resulted in lost tools at exactly the time that I needed them most. I needed another way to store them.

As a temporary solution, I bolted a couple small pegboards to the trainer dungeon walls to get some of the less-used-but-still-important-and-expensive tools off the floor and in a readily-available location. The tools I use all of the time were just going to migrate to the bike stand tool tray anyway, so I didn't bother hanging them up.

We'll see how this works.

I've never been the most organized wrench, so I'm hoping this is the start of a new era. I have far too many multiples of tools I lost, replaced, and then found again. I like having spares, but they u…

Daddy, What Do You Do?

My children don't really have any idea what I do for a living. Sure, they see me leave the house in a uniform every day, but I doubt they could tell you what branch of the service I'm in, much less what my role in that service is. I like it this way. I like to keep my worlds separated. Compartmentalized. Once in a while they bleed over, but for the most part I try not to let one affect the other.

If they ever asked, I'd probably say my job is to make sure that people act like adults. I have a long list of regulations and instructions that define what an adult is supposed to do and not do in my world, some of which I had a hand in writing. My job is to make sure that everybody colors within the lines so we can accomplish whatever it is the organization is supposed to do, and then advise the boss about the most effective way to stomp on the ones that feel that rules are for everyone else. There's a lot of paperwork involved.

My predecessor told me that it would be two year…

Making Time for the Little Things.

It's been hard lately to find time to work on my bikes. I always seem to have something else to do. That something else usually involves me napping or frittering away my time on the internet, buying bikes parts I don't have the time to install.

I need to re-assess my priorities and start finding the time, because the parts pile is starting to overflow and before I know it the season will be upon me. I don't want to roll into it with a bunch of bikes in various states of assembly. I don't want to wait until the night before a race to get a bike in working order. Better for it to be all bright, shiny, and in some semblance of working order well in advance.

It just starts the season off on the right foot. The early season is all about possibilities. You haven't been ground down by a long string of failures yet. You can still scheme and dream.

Plus, working on the bikes during the off-season is relaxing most of the time. If something goes wrong, you have time to correct …

Pride.

On Russian Christmas, at the very end of our annual exercise in greed, I had my three-year-old son open his drop-bar kick bike. There was a moment of dread just before he opened it. I was afraid he might grunt, then turn his back on it to play with the cheap plastic dinosaurs that were the remainder of his haul. That boy loves him some cheap plastic dinosaurs. I had built this moment up in my mind, and anything less than Pentacostal-levels of bike-joy would have been a crushing disappointment.

He grinned, pointed at the shiny gateway to lifetime freedom and financial ruin, and said, "that's my bike."

I couldn't have been more proud.

His feet still barely touch the ground when he straddles the saddle, but he pushes himself around the house. By spring, when the snow and ice leaves the road, he'll be tall enough to propel himself into all sorts of mischief on neighborhood streets. He'll race his brothers and sister. He'll probably fall down and hurt himself a l…

Just Because.

I don't need a reason to buy bike parts. I don't need a project or place to hang them. Judging by the parts pile in my garage, I don't even require the physical space to store them.

All I need is a vague idea that I might someday possibly want to build something in the distant future. That's all that's required to make the magic happen. From there, I'm off to craigslist or eBay or some random MyFace for-sale page, and my children's higher-educational future becomes even dimmer.

Sometimes I open a box and marvel at the contents, because I don't quite remember buying them. It's always "good stuff", so it's always a pleasant discovery. That's how I keep my relationship with myself fresh- spontaneity.

The last box was a prime example of no real need but a whole lot of want.

When it came in the mail, I got all giggly. I carefully slit the tape to avoid damaging the contents, then peeled back the lid with anticipation. The first thing that c…

Another Dome Fail.

Another week, another missed opportunity to ride around in circles under a big inflatable tent.

Last week I showed up on New Year's Day with the expectation that they would not be open. However, since my coaching day with Mighty Mites was pushed back a couple hours, this was my only potential chance to ride the full cycling session this year. I was right, they were closed, and I spent a glorious 90 minutes on the trainer when I got home.

This week I showed up and saw a whole lot of bikes leaned up against the entrance, which I took as a good sign. It was a few minutes after 7:00 AM, but the guys on Sunday mornings have a casual regard for punctuality. I sat in my car and waited. Nobody showed to unlock the building. I checked the website for notices, but the schedule posted rarely reflects anything more than a conflicting jumble of start times for various activities. Joey walked over, looking well-insulated, and we chatted while we waited. I sat in my car with the window cracked, be…

Buckling Down.

I have a specific brand and model of shoe that fits me really well. Certain variants of this particular model within a certain range of model years fit me best. I periodically scan eBay and the interwebs for this shoe, and buy any new old stock or lightly used that I can find. When something works, I generally stick with it.

Eventually shoes wear out. Too many rides in the rain. Too many crashes. Too much walking across parking lots or down roads when mechanical issues leave it as the only viable option. Repeated stresses to all of the bits and parts that make them shoes in the first place.

I have a few grades of shoes. The really shiny ones are designated as my race-day shoes. Their cleats are new and they're stored in luxurious bags until I need them to ride in circles really slowly until the randomly-selected finish line, at which point I stand around in them and make excuses for not riding around in circles faster. 


After a few scuffs, a few too many rainy races, or the taint of …

Creepy Crawlies.

After my last bout with intestinal unpleasantness, my guts never quite returned to normal. They'd seem to swing widely from "well, that's unpleasant" to "that's unpleasant as well, just in a completely different way" and made all sorts of interesting noises that serenaded my wife to sleep every night.

My wife may have appreciated it, but it was getting a little old for me.

I'd never tried them before, but as I am a snake oil connoisseur if there is a remote chance that a given substance will make me pedal more betterer, I figured I would give probiotics a shot. They're in fancy bottles on the vitamin aisle, so they have to be good for you, right?

I did my customary dietary research on the subject, which is to say I glanced over a fluff piece Rodale rag reprint on the Bicycling site (probably titled "Flush Your Guts Like the Pros Do!") and then picked the bottle with the flashiest label with the biggest bug number on the shelf. From what I…

Out of the Box.

I just unpacked my bike case.

A month and a half after I got back to Anchorage, and I'm finally getting around to it. I really didn't have an immediate use for anything in the case, and it was in a nice, compact package that didn't take up much space. Considering the shape I found the garage in when I got back, that last one was a big deal.

Little by little I've been organizing the piles so I can move around again. I finally made just enough space so I could wrench a little, and finally found just enough time so I could put the titanium bike back together.

It went back together fairly quickly, and then I started tearing it apart. I swapped out the SRM with one freshly calibrated from the service center. I re-adjusted the derailleurs, correcting my ham-fisted efforts at alignment in Biloxi. I tinkered and played around and generally made it into a functional bike again, which is a rewarding endeavor when I can find the time.

I'll probably use it at the Dome this week, s…

Mortality.

I saw on Facebook the other day a high school classmate died. Can't say that I knew him. More like I knew of him. Friend of a friend kind of thing.

Still, he was a contemporary of mine.

Car accident. Drunk driver (multiple offender) crossed the line and killed him as he drove home to his family from his second job. Some random twist of fate that could have just as easily happened at 16 as it did at 46. Not sure that's any comfort to his wife and children.

Every now and then I see someone my age shuffled off this mortal coil after a long and protracted battle with something or another. The older I get, the more I see that sort of thing. Part of being a geezer, I guess.

Life is all about managing risk and reward. If I was smart, I would eat quinoa and beet diet and only do the right activities that would maintain the ideal level of stress on my body.

I've never been accused of being smart.

I enjoy food that isn't optimal in quantities that make doctors shudder. I like activiti…

Some Days.

Some days it's in the legs, some days it isn't.

I wish I could forecast what kind of day it's going to be ahead of time. Maybe then I would know if I can do a workout or not.

I have all of these fancy graphs and stuff that tell how I should be feeling, but the fact is that I'm not really 100% on interpreting them and I'm 100% sure I don't want to geek out on the numbers enough to be able to interpret them 100%. I just use them as a general guide, because I know the data is incomplete. The numbers don't know what I ate last night. They don't know how I slept. They don't know how my day went, or how many diapers I changed. They don't know much more than how the last few workouts went, because that's all I tell them. It's more about trend analysis than hard science for me.

I can use the numbers well enough to ramp up or down the stress for an event, but sometimes I miss the mark by a day or so. If I was getting paid to ride my bike, I'd ca…

Nobody Does It Better... Except that Guy.

When I got my clocked cleaned by that Ford Escape a few years back, I was fortunate to recover relatively quickly. I still had lingering symptoms six months later, but the meat of the injury cleared itself up in a few weeks. I was back to work and more or less a functioning member of society again. I did a total of one blog entry during that time period because I wasn't blogging much to start with and my doctor told me to avoid a lot of computer time.

It's a shame, because all I have is faulty memories stored in a mind that was trying to heal to remember that part of my life. Sooner or later they will be gone too.

What I do have are Steve Tilford's blog entries to remind me what it was like. Perhaps because his recovery has been more drawn out and so well documented, I'm able to recall the fogginess, headaches, fatigue, and all of the other symptoms I went through- just not at the same degree. I remember the impatience, borne from the instant transformation from a health…

Best of Intentions.

The day after Christmas, I took the three-year-old skiing.

Well, that didn't go well.

He was in one of his stubborn moods. He started sitting down. He didn't want to budge, no matter what manner of coaxing I used. He just wasn't into it. After two runs down the ski bump, the second of which I carried him, I threw in the towel. While he ate pretzels with his sister, I made a couple runs to see if I could still turn like I could only a few years ago. I'm rusty, but I can make a pretty arc or two. Too much coaching and not enough training.

The young one's fit was my fault. He hadn't taken a nap and was getting extremely bipolar. I should have seen it coming, but I was too focused on getting everything ready for the big adventure that I forgot about the most important thing- the kid. I do that sometimes.

We'll try again, when he's well-rested. Hopefully we have years and years to ski together.

By the Numbers.

2016:
Between actual road miles and trainer miles, I rode 8,868 miles. I used to break them out, but now I'm just too lazy. If I had to guess, I'd say about 6,000 of them were on the road.I sat in the saddle for just under 500 hours.If I do the maffs, that would make my average speed just under 18 MPH.I burned roughly five or six calories, and consumed... a googolplex? That sounds about right. I've never been all that disciplined in keeping track for an extended period.I lost around 15 pounds from the beginning of the year, then found a few of them again. More will probably turn up, like a sock that went missing long enough for you to finally throw away its twin.I have all sorts of numbers. Training stress scores and intensity factors. Peak power levels at various durations. Scores of the 2016 Clemson-OSU bowl game. The number to the nearest Papa Johns.

Numbers nobody really cares about, except maybe that last one. That one might come in handy when the wife has had a long…