Posts

Showing posts from May, 2017

The Ditch.

I'd ridden here before, so it was no surprise.

With the family vacation plans dictating when and how much I would ride, I knew my only real option for much of this trip was going to be the bike trail up and down the Santa Ana River. Actually, "river" is being very, very generous. Think of a huge concrete drainage ditch with occasional bodies of standing water, and you'll pretty much get the picture. It's mostly flat, except for underpasses. The scenery various from the large tent cities of the homeless around Angels Stadium, passing freeways, and... the ditch itself. It only gets mildly interesting on either end, at the Pacific or at in Yorba Linda, home of the Richard Millhouse Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Given my dislike for the beach and the hills at the other end, I rode towards Tricky Dick.

This involved a lot of city riding, which is interesting in this area. Bike lanes appear and disappear randomly, dropping you in high traffic areas with only lyc…

Wet Contemplation.

I was looking for any excuse not to as I watched the steady drizzle fall. My back ached just thinking about it, and my legs felt tight.

Saturday I bailed on doing a few hours of climbing after the Arctic Bike Club Road Division group ride. A four hour ride was suddenly a single hour, with not a whole lot of intensity to show for it. Drops were just starting to fall, and I wasn't in the mood. Stick a fork in me.

While the rain fell, the family and I shopped for groceries and did all of the mundane things people that aren't riding do. As the windshield wipers cleared the spray from my field of view, I congratulated myself on my good sense. I was already tired, and beating myself down wouldn't have served any real purpose.

When I got home, I started removing and cleaning the cassettes on all of my wheelsets. Despite using copious amounts of ozone-depleting aerosol degreasers, eventually the gunk builds up and they need to be removed for a thorough cleaning. One by one, the wheel…

Dude, Back Off.

I'm in California, but I pre-loaded a few posts just in case I didn't get around to writing them while I was hobnobbing with rodents.
________________________________________________________________________ After the performance bumps I got from each race, I started getting overly enthusiastic. "Now it's time to get to work!"  I kinda forgot I was old and falling apart, and that an occasional easy day coupled with rest days will probably do far more for my capacities than beating my head up against a brick wall. Each morning I woke up with new and fascinating aches and pains, and each afternoon I tried to ride them away. Sometimes it worked, but mostly it just added to the next day's tally. It was fortunate that the temperature dropped ten degrees and the rain started falling. That seems weird to type, but it's true. When it's warm and sunny and perfect I'm driven to squeeze as much as I can out of it. I know how few and far between those days can be.…

Pardon My Objectification.

I was driving home from a restaurant in what passes for Anchorage's hipster district. I just missed the stoplight, and as I glanced in the rearview mirror I saw her and my heart skipped a beat.

Perfection.

Actually, I didn't notice her at first. The first thing I noticed was the bike a couple cars back> A steel Bianchi in celeste, probably from the '70s or '80s. Down tube shifters and cleanly wrapped bars. Nothing overly special, but it was nice to see it lined up in the lane where it belonged.

Oh wait, there's a woman on the bike. An attractive woman in a pretty floral dress on the bike. This in itself is fairly rare in Anchorage, where women in Carhartts outnumber women in dresses 50,000 to 1 on a given day. She calmly adjusted her fashionable glasses, brushed back her brunette hair, and I was smitten.

Please don't tell my wife.

Nothing in the picture was so over-the-top that it would cause such a reaction by itself, but the combination was perfect. Unique, ass…

Not Exactly Where I Want to Be, But Where I'm Going.

As you read this I'm probably crammed into a slowly contracting seat on an airplane with my wife, children, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and assorted other strangers. We're headed for Disneyland, which is not my idea of a vacation. My idea of a vacation would be a trip to Mallorca like Janice and Matt Tanaka did recently. Maybe Tuscany. Someplace with great food and riding.

Instead, we're headed to Anaheim.

I'm bringing a bike. I have ridden there before, riding laps up and down the Santa Ana ditch and occasionally exploring the climbs in the area after the day's business conference was complete. I'm going to try to get in some miles after each solid day of walking around the park, but I doubt there will be much in the legs. I'm going to try to get in a group ride or two, so I can get crushed by some new faces.

First I have to face the Mouse and all that implies. My youngest is pretty into Mickey at the moment, which is fine by me. There's a lot of shows …

Violated.

The morning after the Moose Run time trial I went out to my car and found the contents of the glovebox and center console on the seats. One seat was all the way forward and the other was pushed back. Pennies were moved around and about $1.75 in quarters was missing. That was it.

I probably left it unlocked in my post-race stupor, and a roving band of "pick your trendy drug epidemic" junkies tore through it looking for stuff that is valuable and/or easy to unload. I guess the thousands of dollars worth of bike helmets, shoes, and assorted paraphernalia in the back don't fit that category, and that's just fine with me.

My fault for leaving it unsecured, and I was fortunate that I got off that easy. My garage door opener would have allowed easy access to my bikes and a whole lot other stuff. I door have the world's noisiest garage door, so it would have woken me up. My large black lab would have started his deep, intimidating bark, which likely scares off more intrude…

Crust Theory.

I have this highly scientific theory about returning from injury.

Based on absolutely no research, I now have determined that any time you spend significant time not exercising due to laziness, illness, or injury, crust starts forming on your muscles. This crust prevents them from performing like they did before the fitness break, eventually constraining them to the point they do not function properly anymore. The only way to chip this crust off and uncover the muscles is by getting out there and exercising. 

You can ride a lot of miles at a normal pace, gradually wearing away the barnacles with each pedal rotation. This is pretty effective and the risk of injury is low, but it takes a long time and doesn't address the higher-end power requirements.  

You can start a structured training plan, complete with intervals of all sorts of durations and intensities. Instead of a gradual wearing away of the crust, it's more like chipping away at it with a hammer and chisel. This sucks qui…

Spring Stage Race III

Stage IV- Kulis Crit
I needed three points to get back on a podium I had no business being on in the first place. Craig Walker should have been there. Andy Duenow. Phil Hunter. Chris Knott... A whole lot of other people besides me. But, thanks to them not doing every stage, there I was within a shout of the podium. Usually when I inherited a spot on the Spring Stage Race podium, I had decent results that made it somewhat plausible. A string of decent finishes and maybe a win. This time? I was barely hanging on.

Just before the start I noticed the nose of my saddle was pointing down 15 degrees. That was about the only part of the bike I didn't touch when I rebuilt it. I had noticed myself sliding to the front of the saddle on the circuit race, but had chalked it up to being on the rivet because of poor fitness. I hit the back end of the saddle and popped it back up, but I knew it wouldn't last. It didn't.

They chucked a prime at us on the second lap, and I was tucked in the ba…

Spring Stage Race II

Stage III- Elmendorf Time Trial
This course holds absolutely no mysteries for me, as I ride it just about every day of the week. I know every rise and crack in the road. You'd think that would be an advantage, but in my current state of fitness all I could think about was how much the next little rise or false flat was going to hurt. Compounding this was a lack of sleep the previous night, as my youngest tap-danced in his sleep up and down my back. I woke up contorted and sore, with rolling cramps in my legs to balance everything out.

I pulled my disc wheel out of its bag and examined the tire for cuts. Its getting a little long and the tooth, and I was unsure if it would even last the season. I found a long flat spot where I must had braked too hard and removed a bit of rubber from the tire. My level of trust was gone, and so was the option of using the disc. Granted, my inspection should have happened well before this point, when I could have replaced the tire with plenty of time …

Spring Stage Race I

Image
I'm not quite sure where I should begin. My mind is still trying to process it all.

Should I be happy? Sad? Disappointed? Relieved? Invigorated? Tired? Bitter? Grateful?

Maybe it's all of those. Mostly what I'm feeling is the last one. I race against (ok- ride in the general vicinity of) some really great people. Even with my current state of health and fitness, I still have the opportunity to ride as hard as I can, surrounded by people who understand and support my delusions- to a degree, they share them. It's nice to have company in the nuthouse.

My goal was to finish the thing, push myself a bit, and hopefully get a little fitness bump out of it to work with.

Stage I- Super Potter Hill Climb
Without a doubt, this is the worst-named climb in the area. Sure, it's a continuation of the traditional Potter Valley Road hill climb, which was bad enough. When the road was extended with a gravel stretch between paved parts, we started racing up that too. Then the middle secti…

Seven Pins.

The Spring Stage Race finished up on Saturday afternoon. It was a mixed bag for me. Like a meal that's good for you but doesn't go down all that easy, it's going to take a while to fully digest into poop I can smear around here. Until then, here's a prologue sort of post.
__________________________________________________________________________
I'm usually not a superstitious person.

Sure, I have certain habits that border on the obsessive at times, but they're more based on what has worked in the past in terms of function and/or comfort. For instance, my race day socks are usually the same brand, color, and style, not because I think they add to my slim chances of a result, but because they're one less thing to think about. It's not fun to have a sock bunch up in your shoe in the middle of a long race. These don't, so they get the stamp of approval. I have won without them, but I try not to think too much about these sorts of things. Best not change …

Slipped My Mind.

I had forgotten about the wind.

No, more likely I had just blocked the painful memories as a self-defense mechanism.

No matter what my recollection of wind was going in, it came back to remind me just how much it can affect you on a bike. We've had steady, low intensity winds recently, as the cold air off the mountains rolls down and the relatively warm afternoon air off the inlet rises. It makes for interesting rides, which often seem like there's a headwind in every direction. However, those breezes were relatively mild.

This one had the flags sticking straight out. That's one thing nice about riding on a military installation. Chances are, no matter where you are, there's a flag nearby to give you a visual indication of wind direction and intensity. All of the flags were telling me this one was going to suck.

When I got to the bike path alongside the Glenn Highway, I passed several other riders, hunkered down and suffering. I noticed they were wearing rain jackets and o…

Click.

Since the roads aren't completely swept and it's rained a bit here and there, I've been exclusively riding the ti road bike. Every morning I put it up on the car, ride it after work, and then put it back in the garage when I get home. If it got grungy, I give it a quick wash and lube the chain before I rack it. That's about all the maintenance I do to it, and about the extent of the attention it's received since I got back from Mississippi in November.

It's starting to let me know it's feeling a little taken advantage of.

There's this click that comes and goes when the drive-side crank arm is at the three o'clock position. It's a little annoying, but more importantly, it's a little embarrassing. Having the grungy bike in the pack is one thing, but having the noisy bike is just plain unacceptable.

It sounds like it's coming from the bottom bracket, but the way sound travels through a bike's tubes every sound seems to emanate from that re…

The One Essential.

I am firmly of the belief that you need only one thing to race bikes for a very long time.

It isn't talent. That helps, but it isn't essential.


It isn't money, but that also is pretty nice to have.


Nope, the one thing you need for a long "career" as an amateur bike racer is a short and very selective memory.

The only thing you should be able to remember is all of the moments of "glory", only witnessed by a couple of bored significant others and/or children, plus a handful of race officials who are already wondering if they can pack up quickly enough to beat that looming rainstorm. Unless you're extremely talented or the big fish in a very, very small puddle, these moments will be few and far between. Your brain should seize on them and every detail that led to them so you can bore everyone around you with exhaustive race reports, and exclude all other memories that aren't quite so pleasant. Weddings, births, deadlines... all of this is secondary to …

This Is All New To Me.

Up into now, I've charged into spring. Freed from the trainer and primed by months of compact, focused workouts, I usually get my best results from April to June. Then everyone else traditionally eclipses me as their form peaks (and mine crashes) before crushing me in the Tour of Anchorage.

That's my pattern, despite the efforts of people like Janice Tower to extend my peak, uninspiring condition through an entire season. I always chalked it up to being more of a cold weather, Classics kind of rider, but the honest truth is I never had the discipline to stick with the plan once the weather got nice. While everyone else is getting faster, I'm out back, burying my form in a deep, dark hole I dug for it.

This year I'm rolling into the season with nothing. I think people thought I was kidding when I said my fitness was trashed. Then they saw the Moose Run results and went, "oh." Yeah, I'm starting from a place I haven't been in a very long time. Even when …

Drive It or Park It, Grandpa.

Ever since the last vestiges of the death plague left my body, I've been taking it easy. Each ride has been an exercise in moderation. When I start to push it a little on a climb, I remind myself to back off and not go too hard. Because I'm generally adverse to work, this doesn't take much in the way of persuasion. Let the body heal, and eventually everything will come around.

The problem is, at a certain point you need to actually throw some intensity in there or you'll end up with a vast capacity for meh. Too many Zone 2 rides and you forget how to make yourself hurt, and the slightest bit of discomfort causes you to recoil in terror.  

The other day this video about the Navy SEAL's "40 Percent Rule". Essentially, the rule states when a person’s mind is telling them they are at the maximum they are only 40 percent done. If that's the case, right now I'm cranking out a solid two percent before I back off.

It's time to start getting back to work …

Confidence.

Confidence is something I get as the result of a lot of miles. Little by little, I push out the borders of what I consider possible and "probably not a good idea". Actions become ingrained and automatic, tolerances for certain sensations are increased, and the belief in one's own skills and fitness deludes you into taking chances and pushing the envelope out further and further.

When I get off the trainer and back on the road, I usually have fitness but less confidence. This is probably a good thing, because early-season road conditions rarely inspire it. Spending months on a fixed platform doesn't reinforce bike-handling skills. The ground doesn't whiz by. Potholes and gravel aren't a problem. The sensations are different and the consequences for errors aren't as severe.

Hours and hours on the road later, I gradually have built up a tolerance and a willingness to fully commit. Of course, it's not always a linear progression. Sometimes I get whacked.

Las…

Left, Right... I Don't See What The Big Deal Is.

As I mentioned Monday, I'm not 100% confident in my ability to make sharp turns at speed. I'm certainly not 100% confident in other people's abilities to do so. Again, part of the risk/reward calculation thing.

For me, a lot of this is between the ears. When I'm not completely confident, I don't aggressively dive into a turn. I back off a little to allow for the unexpected, because even in the best of conditions things can go sideways. The best riders in the world end up in the ditch or in a broken pile in the middle of the road all of the time. Quick- name the last World Tour race that didn't have a rider eat it on some nondescript piece of road. Tough, isn't it? Those guys' depends on them always going for it and taking those chances. Me, not so much. I usually run the numbers. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I feel confident and really go for it. Sometimes I eat it like I did at last year's Tour of Fairbanks.

Turning technique is a different matte…

That's All There Is.

When I crossed the Moose Run finish line last night, I stopped my Garmin. I knew long before I reached that point that this was going to be historically disappointing. I wasn't angry. I sure wasn't excited. I was... resigned.

I knew within a mile of the start that I couldn't maintain any sort of power. I was hoping that the excitement of the race would inspire something within me to dig deep, but looking at my heart rate, I had nothing left to give. I guess I'm happy and sad at the same time about that.

Over one minute slower on a ten-mile time trial than I was a year ago. One minute. That's an eternity. At a certain point, just gaining a handful of seconds in a TT is a cause for celebration. People spend thousands of dollars to buy those seconds. I've spent a lot of money chasing them. It took me years to get where I was last year, and twelve months later I'm one minute slower. It takes a bit of adjusting to.

The Spring Stage Race is going to be a slaughter. …

Drizzle.

Although it's not 100% normal for this time of year, lately we've had very light rain for several days in a row. It hasn't been enough for me to throw on a rain jacket when I'm out riding, but the intensity varies and sooner or later I may have to if I fall into a certain window of precipitation.

You know what? These light showers don't bother me at all. Sure, it's a little chilly at times, and getting soaked might significantly add to the discomfort, but there is an upside. The vast majority of the roads haven't been swept yet. In addition to the piles of sand is copious amounts of dust. This dust gets kicked up by passing cars, wind, the odd bear coming out of hibernation... and the granules always finds its way under my contacts and into my lungs. Either I'm clawing at my eyes or hacking up a lung. Usually both.

The rain keeps the dust down. The rain helps the street sweepers do their job quicker, as they don't always have to wait for a water truck…

Respectful Disagreement.

Last week Joey and I got into a FaceSpace Messager debate about my post from last Tuesday about attacking on the inside at the apex of the turn. We went back and forth about it for a while, generally agreeing more than disagreeing and agreeing to disagree on the rest. To sum the exchange up, he doesn't see a problem with it and I think it's a bad idea in practice.

If I was 100% confident in everyone's ability to corner at speed, I might feel a bit different, but to be honest, I'm not. Throw in the less-than-ideal pavement we race on, and a small thing like a slick spot, pebble, or dirt patch suddenly can become a large thing for multiple people. What took me down in the Tour of Fairbanks prologue was a small piece of gravel just before the apex of the turn to start things moving sideways and a very thin layer of dirt on the road to keep things sliding. I'd hit that turn at comparable speed quite a few times as I was pre-riding it, but the last time I went down. Thi…