Showing posts from March, 2017

Hurry Up, Dad.

On the last day of the 2017 Alyeska Mighty Mites season, Abby and I went skiing together. This doesn't happen as much as it used to, since she has other coaches now.

We got our father-daughter time after the race and barbeque. I had an interesting morning pulling one of my group out of a tree, where he was perched upside down and twisted in interesting ways but otherwise unhurt. It's never boring, even on the last day.

We decided to play on the steep slopes of Alyeska's North Face, traversing across to patches of less-tracked snow in the shadows of the Christmas and New Years chutes. She led the way, and it won't be long until she'll leave her old man behind.
Hopefully I have a few more days like this before it happens.

Classics Season.

I don't religiously watch professional races like I used to. I still follow them though, reading online race reports and occasionally watching streaming videos of portions of select races. There aren't many races I actively go out of my way to watch, and all of them are Northern Classics.

Something about the all-or-nothing nature of the one-day cobbled Classics in Northern France and Belgium really speaks to me on a primal level. Usually contenders make one huge move and then bury themselves in the effort. The smallest mistake or bit of bad luck and your race is over. Conditions are often brutal, leaving riders physically and mentally wrecked when they climb off their bikes. There is no tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Flandrian hard man. A single secteur of pave would likely wreck me for a month. I do ride in a bit of wind, rain, and on less-than-perfect roads, but 250km of the sort of pounding they endure at Roubaix? Not me. Maybe to a Southern Californian crit spe…

Revved Up To Hit a Brick Wall.

My Lynskey Urbano frameset arrived a couple weeks ago, but I didn't open the box. The other boxes of components were all stacked neatly, the various pieces out of the parts piles set aside for the that most rare of commodities- actual time to wrench.

When the glorious weekend morning arrived, I removed the frameset from the box, happy to discover it was well-packed and intact. I installed the headset, inserted the fork, and locked it temporarily in place with the stem. The seatpost was inserted. I took out the wheelset and installed the thru-axle end caps, cassette, tubes, and tires. Tacking the bike together was going well. I was making progress.

Then I wasn't.

Lynskey forgot to include the thru axle for the front wheel. I checked the invoice, and it indicated it was part of the transaction. I checked the box, carefully searching each piece of foam and wrapping material for the missing part. Nope. Not there.

The momentum faded right at the moment my wife lost her considerable pat…

Defining Figure.

When I was a high school freshman, my English teacher had us give speeches about our hero. Since all I ever did was play my guitar, I picked Eric Clapton, who I had recently seen in concert. As I recall, my presentation reflected the level of effort I put into all of my schoolwork, so it pretty much sucked. There was one girl in the class who had very nice things to say about it during the feedback session after I was done rambling.

When it was her turn, she gave an eloquent speech about her hero, who just happened to be her father. He somehow managed to smuggle the family out just before the fall of Saigon, leaving everything they had behind to seek a better life for them in America. Despite being a professional in Vietnam, he worked several low-level jobs in the US to provide for his family in their new country.

Somehow my idol looked a bit less heroic after that bit of perspective.

The ensuing decades have certainly allowed me to put things into a certain jaded perspective. I'm le…

Catching Up With Modern Society II.

After upgrading and simplifying my internet service (and saving a ton of money in the process), I looked for other ways to improve stuff (and save a ton of money).

My wife had always paid the cell phone bill, so I never paid attention to it. I never wanted a cell phone in the first place, because I don't like being interrupted when I'm riding. If you want to convey something, leave a message or send me an email and I'll get back to you. Few things justify your need for instant gratification and require my immediate attention (on the other hand, my needs...). However, you can't find pay phones anymore, and sometimes things go sideways on a ride. Eventually I caved in and got a burner phone. Then the wife forced me to get added to the family plan (to save money, she said). I eventually inherited her old smart phone, replacing the battery because I'd rather fix things than dispose of them needlessly while they still have utility. Life cruised on this way for a while.


Saving Them All.

Every time I see a road bike on Craigslist, I have an almost irresistible urge to buy it, build it up with components that are far above the level of the frame, and then sell it for a loss. It's my own version of the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas. "I never thought it was such a bad little bike. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love."

Problem is, I don't have the resources or even the storage space to follow this impulse. Actually, maybe that's a good thing. I like riding all sorts of different bikes and figuring out what works and doesn't work for me. I like building up bikes for friends who wouldn't otherwise have the resources to take up road cycling. I like acquiring bikes that add new capabilities to my own collection, even if the differences are minimal.

For the most part, the bikes I'm most compelled to jump on and smother with love are the inexpensive, entry-level bikes, which means any scant return on investment …

It's The Real Thing?

Internet forums have been dying a slow death, painful in the age of Facebook and other social media platforms (much like blogs), but there are still a few of us that frequent them. As with all things internet, any attempt to apply reasoned logic is immediately attacked.

Case in point was a thread on an internet bike forum about how racing on Zwift is becoming a big deal. It certainly seems to be a big deal, given the number of races happening on any given day, as well as the 3rd party ranking and validation systems that have popped up to attempt to curb virtual cheating. While I don't participate in races on Zwift and therefore don't use these services, I think they're pretty good things for those that swing that way. Anything to gets people inspired to move. Maybe they'll ride more when the weather is good. Maybe they'll pin on a number and jump into a real race.

That last bit is a sticking point. Some claim that Zwift races are "real" racing. Some tend to…

Quantify "Ouch".

When I first started doing sprint intervals, I used to go back and look at them via WKO. I'd see how the power spiked, what the max power was, and what the average power was for the interval. Then I'd dutifully record each one in the notes, commenting on why this one was likely higher or that one was lower. I'd obsess over a shift outside the "normal" that couldn't be explained. Why wasn't I hitting the numbers?

Now I don't worry about it too much. If I am gasping and barely able to pedal after an interval, I call that "good enough". I play around with the timing, the ramp-up to the sprint, cadence... I'll jump far before the line and see how long I can go before I blow up. Comparing one sprint interval to the next when I'm constantly shifting the parameters is pointless, except in a general sense. In a dynamic sport like bike racing, all that matters is that you're the first one across the finish line.

I try to figure out where I…

Happy Camper.

Back when I was simply a horrible alpine ski racer, I used to spend a lot of money going to ski camps at various resorts. Package deals that included lodging, coaching, dedicated hill-space for courses...  it's kinda the only real option for intense, focused training. At a certain point, the best training for running gates is... running gates. That's how you develop and refine the specific timing and techniques. It's not like you can set a practice giant slalom race around an office park every Tuesday night, so you are left with ski clubs and other programs to gather enough of you nut-jobs together to make the price only slightly astronomical. It's not a sport for the 99%. When you want to get even more deranged, you travel to ski camps where a whole 'nother set of elite-level coaches resist the urge to tell you how much you suck.

With the expenses that accompany a family of six, I don't have that sort of free cash floating around these days. My jet-set, ski rac…

Yeah, That's a Bit Much.

Even I wouldn't go this far:
The "Db" is the logo of the bike bag manufacturer- douchebags. I don't think much of the Sky pro cycling team as an organization, although I like some of the riders. 

I kinda like the idea of Sir Dave Brailsford jet setting around the world pimping the brand. Seems like a natural fit, since he's been doing it for years.

So What You're Saying Is...

Like most bike-racer wannabes with more enthusiasm and money invested than actual potential, I am interested in diet and its impact on athletic performance. The problem is, they can't seem to make up their mind about what is and isn't the best way to fuel the flailing.

Every day you see a new diet or Superfood® or general trend that will increase your FTP by 500 watts or cause your virility to revert to how it was in your mid-20s. As someone who stuffs all sorts of faddish snake oil down his gullet, I can report that I'm a non-responder to these sorts of methods. At best, I can look forward to uncontrollable projectile vomiting being the only side effect (beetroot juice). The following week, all of the research confirms the last diet fad was completely wrong. The result is at any given moment I don't know what I should be eating. Not that it would matter what I should eat, because whatever it is probably tastes like cardboard and old gym socks. Some people probably dig …


Last Friday my FaceSpace feed reminded me of a post I made on that same day four years before.
When you get this email from your coach:
"Hard to believe, but racing starts in a little over a month. Time to start getting your game face on!" know it's going to hurt. I thought I had my game face on, but looking at the schedule she has planned, I think she means a contorted mask of pain.
The thing is, it was probably my most successful season. Probably the highlight of that year was the GC win at the Tour of Fairbanks, but I remember riding pretty well that entire season. I didn't win an excessive amount or even podium, but I was more or less in the mix. This was before I learned how to be a douchebag, so I spent my fair share of time out in the wind, pulling everyone around.

It's kinda hard to pin a good year down solely to fitness, because so many factors play into it. Janice Tower set me up well fitness-wise. I was light (for me) and motivated. I had goals.


Sprint Intervals.

I've been doing more sprint intervals lately, trying to build up my peak power and recovery capabilities. It's a lot of fun.

When I'm not pouring everything I have into the pedals, digging myself deeper into the black hole, I'm draped over the handlebars, gasping for air, barely spinning the cranks on the easiest cog. When I stop retching and can finally control my breathing, I start spinning easy. Eventually my heart rate comes down. Then I start all over again.

Here's the thing- I can grind out a steady state workout at a respectable wattage for an hour or I can do sprint intervals combined with stupid-easy spinning for the same amount of time. The sprint intervals will give me a higher Intensity Factor and Training Stress Score nearly every time. Sprint intervals are always more interesting to me than grinding out long TT efforts, because I can get them over with quicker and then crawl off to the corner to cry. With TT efforts, I'm constantly looking at the cl…

Catching Up With Modern Society.

My cable company sent me a nagging letter saying they were upping the price of my legacy "unlimited" cable/internet/phone plan by $20 a month. They said it was no longer adequate for needs of today's users (I hadn't noticed), and I should move up a notch or two and join the cyber revolution for only $50 a month more. My first inclination was to tell them to get bent.

Then I thought about it.

Our home phone? We usually ignore it and let it go to voicemail, screening calls. The only people that call it anymore are autodialers and telemarketers. My father worked for Ma Bell for years, then Baby Bells after that, so nostalgia was the main reason we kept a landline. Reluctantly, I dialed up the switchboard and had Mabel patch me through. Once connected, I had to set down the handset because I left the account number in the other room and the cord wouldn't reach. Once that was all sorted, I had them discontinue the phone portion. Once the line went dead, I shed a tear be…

The Rules.

The other day this article popped up on FaceSpace, essentially saying that Velominati's Rules were stupid and should be ignored whenever possible.

To a degree, I agree with this position- especially when confronted with a person who insists on quoting them as scripture. In fact, I would make a point of pissing that person off with as many offenses as I could, because while I'm a giant douchebag, my douchebagginess pales in comparison to theirs.

Some traditions in cycling have origins in practicality or safety. Those I can completely get on board with. Some are grounded purely in the realm of style, which is subjective and changes as trends come and go. A lot of those I can take or leave, because if something works for me in my environment, I tend to stay with it. Some people don't know the difference, and assume that these were Commandments that date back to Moses. If Moses was surfing cycling forums around 2009, I guess he might have been involved, but these weren't div…

Body Image.

As I've mentioned before, I have a problem with body image. When I was obese, I thought of myself as "carrying a few extra pounds, but not fat". When I was a skeletal teenager, with very little fat (4%) or muscle, I thought of myself as normal. It seems like if I don't pay attention to actual standards, where I'm sitting at any given moment is "normal". Give or take a hundred pounds. Mentally, this isn't what I'd call a disorder, because I just don't care enough about it to get all worked up. If the body does what I want it to do, I figure that's good enough. Form follows function.

Maybe body image isn't the right phrase. Maybe it's body delusion. I see a lot of that. Guys who will argue the BMI scale is completely inaccurate while Lays potato chip crumbs cascade down their distended guts. They're not fat, and it's the system that's rigged against them. I can see being a notch off what the index says is "normal&qu…

Low Opinion of Higher Education.

Ever since I dropped out of music school back in the early '90s, I haven't had a high regard for academia. To me, it's always been more of an obstacle one had to overcome to attain a specific career path rather than an education that provides the tools to prepare one for the real world. Far too much fluff. Standards that are woefully inadequate to reach basic competency in core classes. Instructors so far out of touch with the field that even with continued exposure through conferences they still fall back on long-held beliefs and prejudices. Nothing I've seen in the last 25 years has convinced me otherwise.

Of course, this has a direct impact on the level of effort I'm willing to put forth to get my "piece of paper". To get a good paying job for sitting around on your ass all day, you need a piece of paper. I could get into one of the skilled trades, make pretty darn good money, and have a high level of job satisfaction, but at this late date I'm a bi…

Some Days It Just Isn't There.

I woke up this morning and felt pretty good. Not fantastic, but not off either. It pretty much felt like your average day.

I kitted up, checked the various cycling websites (per my structured performance procrastination training plan), then got on the trainer and fired up Zwift. 

Within a few minutes I knew I wasn't going to be fun.

I really didn't have it in the legs. My heart rate was a couple ranges higher than the level of work being performed should push it. I jumped on the pedals and the pedals giggled at me. "Stop it. That tickles." I tried a steady, moderate effort and eventually ran out of steam. I tried ramping up to find a comfortable range and failed again.

The only thing I generated was a lot of sweat and animalistic grunting noises.

Coming to the end of a training block, this sort of thing isn't all that rare for me. I can't pinpoint the day when my body is going to shut down and pout in the corner. I can ballpark it, but a whole lot of factors play …

Impulse Buy Influence.

I sometimes question my decision to stay with 10 speed groupsets.

Granted, most of my wheelsets are 10 speed, but that's really not the deciding factor.

In many cases, I can get an equivalent 11 speed component for the same price as a New-Old-Stock 10 speed component. I think SRAM played with the pricing a bit when they made the switch to encourage people to convert.

On the SRAM side, I can't really tell a difference between the 10 and 11 speed stuff. The feel is pretty much the same. The later-model 10 speed hood shape is pretty much the same as the new stuff. Sure, eTap would be nice and all, and it's only available in 11 speed, but electronic shifting hasn't really tempted me all that much yet. Shimano made some nice refinements in the interim, but I'm not a Shimano guy for the most part.

One extra gear in the cassette hasn't swayed me. The jumps aren't so huge that I really care, but then again I suck. Maybe they matter for people with actual talent.

You wa…

Even "Gold Standards" Tarnish.

Last week CompuTrainer announced they were ceasing production. DCRainmaker's post pretty much sums up the situation better than I can. It's a sad story of a initially innovative company making a solid, durable product, then getting swept aside as they failed to keep up with advances in technology and the marketplace. When you sell yourself as the "gold standard" (they put it on their banners at trade shows), you have to understand that even standards have to adapt over time to meet current realities.

The idea that they didn't incorporate the ANT+  protocol blows my mind. It's been over 10 years since Garmin bought the company that developed it, and since then it's been the de-facto cycling sensor standard. Heartrate monitors, speed sensors, power meters... pretty much everything that can tell you how much you suck at this sport is connected by ANT+, and has been for a decade. To not incorporate all of that data into a system that is supposed to be the &quo…

Clear Path To Meh.

This year I've been following a highly-scientific training plan. It mostly consists of riding way too hard when I'm supposed to ride easy, then not going hard enough for the hard bits. As a training plan, it has the consistency of oatmeal. As a consequence, I'm not hitting power numbers I hit only a year ago, much less the numbers I was putting up during peak years.

I'm honing my peak MehPower™ to a razor's edge.

At this point in the year, I'm not to worried about it. I have a tendency to peak early in the season (like before the first race in April) most years, so maybe keeping the overall intensity up without focusing too much on any one area is a good thing. Hopefully I can tune it up in the next couple months, then still be on the rise as I hit whatever races I decide at the last second to target. It's all part of the science of MehPower™. If it doesn't work, I can point to my poor pre-season preparation as the scapegoat rather than my complete lack o…

Uniform Suckiness.

A few months ago, the fine people at Training Peaks, the world's finest endurance sports training software purveyor to wannabes, poseurs, and people with actual physical capabilities, sent me an email outlining the incredible advances that were possible with their new WKO4 software. I already have WKO3 and sync it with the online training application (because, more), so I deleted the email.

As time progressed, more emails proclaiming incredible features followed. They also went into the virtual dustbin.

Eventually I actually read one, and discovered that they would no longer support WKO3. This was no big deal, except it would no longer sync with the online application. Suddenly, instead of more, I was faced with the possibility of less. Sure, I could just download my workout files to both, but I'm a lazy fuck. Plus, if I forgot, the data documenting my steady decline would be skewed because the mechanism to translate it would be gone. This will not do.

However, the fine people at…

Moving On.

Joey Bacala has left the building... and the state.

Sorry to see him go, because he was consistently improving and really pushing the upper limits of the local peloton during the years he was up here. He was the nutcase that would ride a 'cross bike up and down the Seward Highway in the winter, a road a lot of people won't ride on even when it's clear and dry. Going to miss having that special kind of crazy around.

Still, it's nothing new here. Alaska has a transient population for the most part. Most people only live here for a few years before moving on to other climates. Some people check it off the bucket list, some find they can't handle the weather, some get transferred, some don't like the isolation from friends and family... any number of reasons can cause someone to move on.

After almost 18 years in the state, some people probably consider me a newcomer. They're probably right. If I decide to move on one day (not going to happen anytime soon), they wo…

Well, That's a First For Me.

The other day I was skiing and noticed a sliver of my forehead was extremely cold. I reached up, and sure enough, there was a sizeable "gaper gap" between my goggles and my helmet. I looked like a complete dork, which isn't exactly a new experience for a guy who likes to prance around in brightly colored, form-fitting lycra. A larger issue than the dorkishness of my appearance was the helmet, which normally is supposed to protect my noggin, was so loose it was more of a safety liability. I would have been better off with a hipster's ironic wool beanie.

I tried to tighten it down, figuring the ratcheting system had loosened, but it appeared to be jammed somehow and wouldn't budge. Crap, this was an expensive helmet I bought not too long ago, and already it was broken. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying very hard not to fall down while guiding my small group of kid racers down some of the harder outer areas open that day on Alyeska. Simultaneously skiing down …