Saturday, September 20, 2008


Still injured. That's unchanged from the last post - I don't have any update except that the splint is still on the wrist, and I've not been on the bike for 2 weeks.

That being said, I've had to consider alternatives. I've mainly tried to just take some time off, which is always hard to do. But I'm hoping to use the opportunity to build a good off-season program so that when I am able to be on the bike again, I can have a plan. This will involve both time on the bike (long, base miles) and weights. I have not done weights for many years, since my college crew days in fact. But given my goals of improving my sprinting next year, this is critical.

There are a variety of ways to approach this, but many people I know of are using the Russian Kettlebells approach (kettlebell pictured above). More on this later, but I have to actually pick up the kettelbells for the program, and until the wrist heals I can't do that. But until then, I am hoping to start w/ a standard weight program next week.

The real upside w/ all of this is that I have real time to spend with the family. The commitments of racing and training can be demanding, and I do feel like this time off brings the equation back into balance a little bit. I have time to go on hikes, and I'm actually thinking of getting a bike trailer to take Jack around in - I think he's old enough now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Injury Time Out

With the continuing wrist injury keeping me off the bike, I've been thinking about the disabled list. All sports have a disabled list - football, basketball, baseball - they all have athletes who miss a game, a week, a month, etc. Tom Brady is out for the Pat's whole season, Albert Pujols is being encouraged to just end his season for some surgery for his injuries, and the list goes on. Soccer players everywhere seem to be injured every minute or two, but they get up when it's clear no penalty will be called.

Cycling seems to have its share of injuries like any sport, but they tend toward being much more dramatic. Everyone knows Lance's story - it's about as dramatic as they come. Now that I'm stuck on the trainer in the garage (2 or 3 months earlier than planned), I'm watching old Greg LeMond races on DVD. LeMond almost died in a hunting accident in 1986 after his 1st Tour win, and it took him 3 years to come back fully.

Floyd Landis had the decay-by-the-day hip a couple of years ago. Tom Danielson, once thought to be the next coming of Lance and former Lance teammate/protege, saw a whole season derailed by intestinal parasites he picked up from rain-soaked roads in an early season Indonesian race.

Stuart O'Grady, the 2006 winner of Paris-Roubaix, survived one of the most spectacular crashes in Tour history with broken ribs, vertebrae and a punctured lung. His season was over - he didn't race again until the next year.

George Hincapie, another of Lance Armstrong's long-time teammates, missed yet another chance at winning Paris-Roubaix in 2006 when his steering tube snapped mid-race (bike seen above), leaving him holding handlebars that were attached to nothing. Separated shoulder, a couple of months out.

Tyler Hamilton, even if he was a doper extraordinaire at the time, did manage one of the most stunning feats of playing injured in history - he broke a collarbone in the 1st week of the Tour (2003 I think) and completed the race, winning a mountain stage. Enduring the pain led him to grind his teeth so much he needed caps on all of them by the end. Doping can make you faster, but it doesn't take away pain. What he did is just unbelievable...even LA called him a "tough dude".

The list goes on - every year in many races I see bike racers flying into curbs, crashing in a turn, running into the back of a car (Jan Ullrich did that a few years ago). And every year I think to myself - in the [insert professional sports league name here], I doubt they'd play injured like these guys do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lance v 2.0

Unless you've been in a hole w/ bin Laden for the past day or so, the fact that Lance is planning a return to professional cycling should not be news.

This brings about a series of thoughts for me:

1) I'm kind of over the Lance thing
2) I was convinced he had doped, probably a lot, back in the day. But I'm OK w/ that, as it was the price of entry at the time and it sure was fun to watch
3) Now #2 is called into question, as Lance has committed to be completely and thoroughly tested, and will publicly post all blood values throughout his season

Regarding #1, Lance undoubtedly spawned many would-be cyclists' interest in the sport. But I have found a greater appreciation for the sport since he left. With his complete focus on the Tour de France, most of the US came to see professional cycling as a one-race sport. But there's so much more to it than that, and so many more personalities are competing now. They're all very intriguing to me. And the Tour has been interesting w/out Lance and his dominating teams. People actually look tired now (no doping, it seems), and no day's results are guaranteed. Learning more about the Spring Classics, smaller stage races, etc. has been fun. Lance used to compete in (and win) these races before his re-orientation to focus on the Tour. But his super-stardom came much later, and most people don't know about that part of his career. Amstel Gold? UCI World Champion at the age of 21? Not many know about those wins.

I suppose it's a little like a recent Internal Pigdog post on serious vs. casual runners - if all you know is Lance, then you're probably not a real fan. Cycling is a sport with a long tradition, many races and a lot of interesting quirks. But who can turn away someone who can bring the spotlight back to it? The sport needs Lance and the sponsors he can bring, especially in a year when multiple, long-standing teams have folded b/c of sponsorship pull-outs. It will be good theatre.

A Cycling Identity

It's been a while since I posted, but I've been thinking about a range of things now that the season is -officially- over. The criterium practices are now off my schedule (although they do continue for those who seek torture) and I'm just riding for fun at the moment. Aside from the fact that I managed to totally screw up my wrist in a mountain bike crash last weekend, my cycling scene is kind of low-key right now.

The thing to consider now is, believe it or not, my objectives for next season. I made some good progress this year and probably am stronger now than at any point in my years of riding. But to move to the next level, I have to think about more focused training. This brings up the question - what am I training for? What kind of races would I do well in?

The answer to this question is not always self-evident. Because cycling is very much about efficiency and endurance, body type and natural abilities/genetics play into success. Because I'm a relatively tall and thin person, I can climb pretty well. I don't have a huge aerobic engine, but I can time trial OK. I used to have very strong sprinting legs, years ago when I was rowing, but I'm not sure they are great for that purpose these days. All of this should make me a "rouleur" - someone who has a chance in many kinds of races in different conditions. Over the past couple of years I have kept my eye on professional "rouleurs" like George Hincapie and Jens Voigt. They're tough, they excel in different conditions.

The truth is that I'm not small enough to be a good climber - I learned that lesson when I was dropped by miniature people on the 2 mile climb at Devil's Punchbowl. I'm not a top-flite time trialist - I always end up in the top half or top third at the Piru TT, but that's about it. And while I can stay up front, I'm not strong enough to get away from a group on a rolling road course. So that leaves one place for success - criteriums. And that means sprinting. So I'm planning on gearing my training for success in that area next year. Sprints scare the $%@^^ out of me sometimes, but they can be fun. I suppose I need to start paying more attention to Mark Cavendish.

More on the training program as it evolves...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A season in review

Well, it's only the end of July, but in my mind the racing season in nearly over. My goal back in January was to complete 10 Cat 5 races this year, and earn an upgrade to Cat 4. With Jack being born on January 7th, I can't believe I was able to get a race in the first week of February. But these Cat 5 races are very early in the morning, something that I won't miss - the 5am wakeup calls are never that fun.

Moving to Cat 4 opens a multitude of possibilities for racing this year and next - I will now be able to do a number of races that require a Cat 4 license. Masters 35+, Cat 4, Cat 4 40+ (my racing age will be 40 next year - yikes!), Cat 4 Elite, etc. I will likely avoid the 35+ races, as they typically include categories 1-4, so you see ex-pros, ex-Olympians, current national champions, the list goes on. The big challenge about racing in Southern California is the wide range of talent. I'm just getting started w/ this racing gig, but keeping up w/ those guys is a challenge I'm going to have to work up to. I train w/ many of those guys, and it's a different level of fitness and strength.

As for the season, it was one of mixed success. I heard often that the main idea in the Cat 5 season is just to learn the basics - ride in a big, competitive group; learn to judge sprints; meter your efforts efficiently; work with teammates where possible (hard to do in 5's!). My "resume" is posted below, but I think I suffered in several races from being impatient. I learned that I'm a pretty strong rider compared to the guys I was racing, but given the advantage of the draft one has to be 40% stronger than them to ride away solo. I tried this several times, only to be swallowed up by the peloton at the line! But at least it's a lesson learned, albeit the hard way, and I can't ever complain about being aggressive.

The last 3 races this season offer up the lesson of patience. The Paramount Criterium, run the July 4th weekend, was a race run on a very long 1 mile+ square course w/ 4 turns. Nobody wanted to work, to ride with any pace. So I did it myself, w/ the help of some other impatient guys. I figured that if I was 1st into turn 3 on the last lap, I'd be able to hold off everyone. I was 1st into turn 3, but I was passed by other guys going into and past turn 4, leaving me w/ a 14th place finish. I was easily strong enough for a top 3 or 5, but this bad strategy killed those chances.

The next weekend, I tried the patient approach at Long Beach. I literally sat in the group the whole time, about 5-10 riders back. On the last lap, I made sure I was in the outside position coming into the last 2 turns, and just followed the lead guy into the final straight for a 3rd place finish (a very fast sprinter overtook me!). It was the easiest race of the year. Lesson learned, right?

Well, the last Cat 5 race for me this year was a road race. A very beautiful location north of the Santa Ynez Valley (maybe you saw it in the movie Sideways) and a rolling course had me convinced that I could really do well in this race. The final straight was a long 1km+ slight uphill run, and I made a move w/ about 500m to go to catch the 2nd place guy dangling 20m in front of the group (1st place was too far up - bad decision by all of us to let him go). I had a clear look at the finish line and was convinced I would finish 2nd or 3rd - I even had enough time to really think through this result! But I got swarmed in the last 10m and finished 11th or 12th! Again, the impatience strikes.

So a season of many lessons, the biggest of which is that bike racing is a complicated sport w/ many dimensions. I'm looking forward to getting more of it right in the future. I wish I had known of this sport when I was younger - I would have spent those years learning all these things! I still am not sure what kind of rider/racer I am or can be, but more on that in a future post...

Here are the final Cat 5 results for 2008:

Race - date (placing)

1. Mothballs Criterium - 2/3/08 (crash in front of me on last lap = broken chainring and seatpost)

2. Long Beach Criterium - 2/17/08 (14)

3. Garrett Lemire Mem. - 4/13/08 (46 - 9th Cat 5, as this was a Cat 4-5 combined race)

4. Torrance Criterium - 4/20/08 (8)

5. Devil's Punchbowl RR - 4/26/08 (27)

6. Barry Wolfe Mem. - 5/26/08 (DNF - broken pedal)

7. San Fernando Grand Prix - 6/14/08 (12)

8. Paramount Criterium - 7/5/08 (14)

9. Long Beach Criterium - 7/13/08 (3)

10. Sisquoc RR - 7/19/08 (12)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two-Race Weekend

Two races in one weekend - I haven't attempted that before, but I thought I'd give it a go. Originally I signed up for these races separately, not realizing they were on the same weekend. But I was off to San Fernando for their GP and then to Glendale for a criterium. Both are pretty close by usual standards (less than 40 miles).

Saturday, Race #1 - I got there early, expecting the usual 4-square course, etc. But this course ran through downtown San Fernando, starting in front of an old bank, and making its way around downtown in a P-shaped circuit. Something new for me. Anyway, I've noticed that the Cat 5 field of late is slightly less "amped" than earlier in the year - I think a lot of guys have moved up already, and the remaining competitors are not quite as intense.

The race was not too tough really - I worked to stay at the front for the whole race, and stayed generally up in the top 5 for 90% of the time. But I didn't feel that great Saturday. I had a really slow week on the bike, opting to ride to work a couple of times, and didn't have any real interval workouts. I have really been trying to get home earlier this week, as Jack is now eating actual food (a big step!). I would rather be at home than out on the bike when we feed him. All this translated into some stale legs for much of the race. Still, I was able to stick up front for the whole race.

The last lap, I was about 4th or 5th wheel and saw that one of my teammates was sitting second wheel on the final stretch before the finish straight. I knew he was having a good day, so I put myself in domestique mode and went to the front and nailed it down the whole straight. I think I got the field pretty lined out, and I came into the final hairpin in 1st place. My teammate was second, and did a lot less work than I did getting there. I burned a lot of matches getting to that hairpin, and I didn't have much left for the sprint. I managed 12th, while my teammate landed 3rd. I'm sure he would have done well w/out my help, but I believe he was set up nicely by the work I did. I would have definitely been in the top 10 (maybe top 5 or 7) w/out that little stunt, but it felt good to try something different. I'm still annoyed that I don't have good top-end speed, but given that I've cut short (or outright missed) just about every workout since February I can't be too upset about that. Next year I am going to have a much more specific plan.

Sunday, Race #2 - 9:30am, convenient start time and a straight 40 minute shot to Glendale were looking good. I left the house at 7:45 as planned, drove about 2 blocks thinking about the fact that it's my first Father's Day and Jack was at home w/ his little smile...without me. So I turned around and went home. I just couldn't manage to get comfortable w/ making racing a priority on this day. There's only one first Father's Day, and I'm glad I made the decisions I did today.

I could have done well today, as my legs felt great, and the course was the usual easy square. But there will be more opportunities.

3 more races to go until Cat 4 upgrade.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sunday is No-Race Day

Sunday is usually race day, but not this week. I was scheduled to race in Dana Point, at what would have been a great course for me. At least I think it would have been good - I am not completely sure what a good course is for me or what my "identity" is as a racer. That's a subject for a future post.

Because Dana Point is 100 miles away, Jack is not sleeping well and we had a bunch of workers at the house on Saturday, it was a scratch for the racing this weekend. I figured this was a low probability race, so it's not too disappointing. I had a chance to head to Piru for the Sunday time trials, but I opted to sleep in and hang out w/ the family for the morning. That seemed like a better alternative.

I have a big weekend coming up in 2 weeks - back to back races on Saturday and Sunday. I've never done that, so it will be interesting to see how things go. I'm anxious to get back to it and have a decent placing after the pedal fiasco last week.

Because of the workers' early arrival, I did a 40 mile/4500ft loop solo. I always imagine these solo rides are better training than a group - no drafting, no waiting for slower people, just 2 1/2 hours of riding w/ no stops. It felt good, although I rode the last big climb w/out the new insoles in my shoes. They are built to counteract my pronation, which is great and will be more efficient eventually, but I only have a couple of days riding in them. I could feel that my knee was a bit tweaky after the first climb, so I took the insoles out to avoid inflaming anything important. I suppose this week I'll do hard rides w/out them, and recovery or short rides w/ them. Given that I have probably 10,000 miles in my current setup, I should introduce change slowly. Incidentally, they were fit by a great "physio" (as they're called in in the pro ranks) who works with many ProTour riders and Rock Racing. So I imagine they should be of good quality.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


So today was my return to racing after a few weeks off - travel to see relatives, crazy work schedule, etc. have abated. After some stress that I had lost fitness over this period, my workouts this week convinced me otherwise. In fact, I think I may have benefited from the time off - my Tuesday and Thursday workouts felt surprisingly strong, and I had some "snap" back in the legs. Maybe time off (or slowing down) is helpful from time to time.

So on to today - the Barry Wolfe Memorial Grand Prix - I was excited to get back to racing to test the reality of where I am right now. And given how I felt staying up front in Torrance last month, I even started thinking I might round up a decent result. Well, bike racing is a complicated sport, and there is always an element of randomness that can lay waste to good plans (or hopes).

After arriving very early (racecourse is close for a change), getting good warmup, feeling great on the 1st 2 laps, and only hearing the first big crash of the day (it was behind me), I had a complete mechanical failure that ended my day. So 5 laps into this race, my left pedal essentially disintegrated, which forced my foot to unclip just when I applied the first real power. The force of the pedal failure nearly caused me to crash, and the racers behind me nearly ran me down.

This pedal problem is problematic - I use both legs, obviously, to get the most out of the pedal stroke. Also, I need to be able to pull AND push on the pedals to be efficient. Lastly, it was the left pedal that failed, which is the weight bearing pedal when I'm turning right (this course is a rectangle - all right hand turns). So I just pulled into the pits and dropped out.

This kind of thing happens from time to time, but it's still not fun. I gave up a decent amount of training this week to avoid being worn down, I got up early Sunday morning and left Jack behind to arrive for an 8:15am race, and I paid for a race that I hardly competed in. David Millar, of Slipstream-Chipotle fame, had a very untimely mechanical failure in the Tour of Italy last week that prevented him from winning a stage, so I guess I'm in good company.

Watching a race from the sidelines is kind of interesting. I didn't realize the carnage that occurs behind me - the very overweight guy who rode the first lap like a rabbit pulled out about 2 laps after me, several other guys just couldn't hang in. In that regard I feel OK about my ability to compete.

While the sideline view was kind of intriguing, I'm hoping next time I'll be racing instead.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Doldrums

Kind of like when a sailing ship loses any wind to propel it, this part of the season feels like the doldrums to me - my schedule is off, my training is lacking intensity, and I am not feeling entirely motivated. It's called being "in irons" in the sailing world, as I recall. No wind, no motion, just waiting around.

Ever since the Devil's Punchbowl Road Race I've had this problem. Now that I realize my training has not been good prep for road races, which I think I enjoy more than criteriums, I have imagined the rest of this season will be criterium-centric. That does not excite me too much, but maybe it will change when I get back into things this weekend at the Barry Wolfe Memorial in Woodland Hills. It's a close race, so no travel time at least. Speaking of travel, 2 successive weeks of family visits in the Midwest and East Coast really made a dent in my training too.

Training is getting to where it comes with more sacrifice. When Jack was 1 or 2 months old, he was staying up later into the night. I could ride after work and still have several hours of awake time. Now that he's almost 5 months old, he is going to bed at 7:30, and I'm finding I really would rather spend time w/ him than ride a pointless 45 minutes. It's hard to get anything accomplished in that time on the bike, and seeing Jack smile at me is taking more and more precedent. This was the case tonight. Beautiful weather, 72 degrees, no I chose to stay w/ Jack and see him off to bed. It just felt wrong to leave my smiling son behind to go train for these crazy races!

I'll try to get some intervals in Tuesday night, and also work to fit in the Camarillo Crit Practice on Thursday. Hopefully I'll have some legs left for Sunday's race, along with some renewed enthusiasm. A decent result would get things going...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Devil's (Punchbowl) is Gonna Getcha...

I was excited for today's race - Devil's Punchbowl Road Race - as it was my first RR. I have been thinking that I should be good at these races, as they're more a test of overall fitness and climbing ability than raw power than criteriums test. Today's route for the Cat 5 race was 2 laps of 16 miles, w/ 1.5k ft of climbing/lap. I've done rides like this many times, right?

First, I have to say that I didn't feel so good heading to this race. It was a whole day away from Jean and Jack (race course is 80 miles away, my race was at 12:30). I didn't really account for the logistics when I signed up...

As for the race - it should be noted that the Devil's Punchbowl is a high desert recreation area w/ beautiful scenery and roads (see above pic). Joshua trees are everywhere. I saw a coyote in mid-day (rare!). But the race - oh was a total disaster. I lost contact w/ the group at the end of the first 4 mile climb, and once you're off the back it's impossible to get back on. So I toiled either alone or w/ a few others to work back in, which made for a ton of work. In the end, this resulted in major cramps and even more major disappointment. I just have not had the time for the right miles for a race like this. The criterium training I've been doing is not good prep - a 30 minute high intensity race is not the same as a 1:45 road race. The 95 degree temps and 10% humidity made it worse, coupled w/ the 4,000 ft altitude.

I imagine I finished ahead of a few guys, but I'd be surprised if it was more than 5 or 6. I could be surprised, but I doubt it. It kind of feels like a bit of a waste to leave the family for such a ridiculous effort.

I don't think I did a lot wrong in the race, either prep-wise or racing. I just wasn't fast enough to keep up when it counted. I ate right and hydrated the 2 days before the race, I ate right and hydrated this morning. But it doesn't matter if you just get dropped on the key climb...

I'll get back on the horse again, but this year my best bet is to stick w/ criteriums. I doubt there are really any more road races this year, but it's just as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Training Through It...

It's been busy w/ work, Jack and also training. Since the Garrett Lemire Ojai race, in which I've since found out I was 9th place among the Cat 5's, I've tried to get some additional mileage in. I had a criterium last Sunday (more on that below), and I have 2 road races on the schedule. The Devil's Punchbowl road race and the CA State Champs road race in Bakersfield are just around the corner. I've never done a full road race, so I'm curious about how this will go.

I have been trying to alter my training to get some additional miles in my legs, rather than just sprint-based workouts. It has been a challenge to do this, but last Saturday I put in 50 miles/5k feet of climbing. I tried to keep the HR < 145 and avoid sprinting or redlining anywhere, but it was a bit of an experiment to do this the day before a race. My legs were definitely a bit fatigued, but I decided to focus on hydration and carb intake for Saturday and Sunday to see if I could muster some good legs on Sunday. To do this I targeted 600g of carbs in the 24h after my Saturday ride (not easy to do - a bagel = 50g for example). I got pretty close by my measurements.

In the end I guess it worked, as the legs were feeling great at the Torrance Crit. I got warmed up quickly, stayed at the front w/out wasting much effort, had a really good shot at a top-5 finish before yet another dude crashed right in front of me on the last lap. I'm still happy w/ 8th - my first top 10!

But really the best part of the race was that the family came along. Because this race was at 5pm instead of the usual 7am, Jean and Jack came along to see the race. I can't describe how great this was. First, it was just great to have them there. But secondly, it was so nice to include them in this nutty obsession rather than feeling like I'm abandoning them to race. I think we all had fun!

With family priorities taking, well, priority, it turns out I'm not able to race the state champs on May 10th. We have a number of family events in Philly, and it's really important for me to be there when Jean's family meets Jack for the 1st time. I am disappointed w/ not being able to do this race, but it's so much more important to be with Jack and our family. It's hard to fit it all in sometimes, but I am lucky to have a family that understands my lycra and carbon fiber obsession and goes along w/ my plans for the most part. Being with family the weekend of May 10th is something that I'm really looking forward to.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to Racing

OK - it's been a while since I raced (not counting the Camarillo practices), so today was time to get back to business.

The Garrett Lemire Grand Prix in Ojai is a race I have been thinking about for a couple of months. There a couple of reasons for the anticipation - a) it is a Cat 4-5 combined race, b) there is a significant hill in the middle of the course that always separates the group and c) getting dropped will result in getting pulled from the race. This race is probably the best thing we'll do all year - it has a circuit around downtown Ojai, complete w/ moto escort.

For my part, I got up at 5:30am to drive up there for the 7:45am start. I did not feel great in the warmup, and 20 mins into the race I knew I was in trouble. My heart rate wasn't going up, my legs were tired. I didn't have any snap. This meant that the peloton slowly crept away from me, especially on the sections of the course that were usually a chance to recover. But when you're off the back, there is no recovery.

One goal for this race was to avoid being pulled, so I just kept hammering as much as I could alone. I managed to finish w/a group of 4 or 5 riders, and we were probably about 1:30 back from the final 25 guys. I guess that's not too bad - it turns out that 50% of the field was pulled, so just staying in was a victory in itself for me. Save one guy, the rest of my team was pulled.

We big-ringed the hill 15 times in this race according to my Garmin. I think I had about 10-12 in me. This tells me that I need to work on power efforts - hill intervals, short bursts - so I can use that speed in other races. I don't think my garage efforts are hard enough, so I need to either ride w/ the Tues group or go alone over on Erbes. So many nights I want to get home to see Jack, so this is a tough proposition sometimes that carries a big tradeoff.

I don't know where I finished among the Cat 5 guys, but I can't imagine all that many were still on the course at the end. Hopefully standings will be available by category.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pedal to the Metal

Tonight was the usual Thursday night Camarillo Crit Practice, the first time in 2 weeks I've run all-out. This was good b/c I haven't raced in a while, and it offered a chance to do some real work on the bike. It was also a little easier tonight b/c most of the usual pros, etc. who put in a torturous pace were not there. The bad part was that it really short-changed my time w/ Jack. By the time I got home at 7:30, he was really tired and getting ready for bed. That didn't feel so good.

As for the training, I'm not sure if I've lost fitness or if I was fatigued from the sprint workout on Tuesday night. Tuesday wasn't that much of a workout, so I fear that I've lost some fitness. I managed to stick w/ the group, both at the front and back, for 48 of the 50 laps, but had to take a lap off for lap 49 b/c of a severe calf cramp. I get these sometimes during extended hard efforts, especially when I don't drink. I wonder if I have a bike fit problem, or if it's a pedal stroke problem. Someday I should investigate that. Overall, though, I felt OK in the 2nd half of the hour after I warmed up. It just takes so long to get the legs fully going, especially when I don't have a real warmup.

Ojai is next weekend, and I've planned to do the Piru TT on Sunday morning. That should be at least one final hard effort before the race. Maybe I can have something extra by then.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Absolute Power Corrupts...(not really)

I am struggling with power. Not of the Machiavellian sort, but of the athletic variety. I know I can put out pretty high power for a long time - 285 watts for an hour I'd bet - but I don't seem to have the ability to turn it up for short periods of time. I have a flat power curve it seems. I'm sure this is the result of the past 3 years of training I've done, which has been focused on long, constant efforts preparing for events like the Tour of the California Alps, aka the Death Ride. 129 miles, 15,000 feet of climbing at altitude was tough, and required many training miles at a constant pace. I'm having a hard time breaking out of that mold.

Presumably the only way to change this is by doing very anaerobic, sprint-based workouts or lifting weights. I'm doing the sprint workouts for now. Tonight's workout was very short - only 35 minutes - but it was very intense. 8 40s full sprints w/ 20s rest intervals. It was hard, and humbling. I can only average 400w for the last intervals. I feel like this should be higher, but I don't know how high, and I don't really know how to find out how high it should be. So for the time, I'm just working on doing as much as I can and hoping that I become stronger. I have noticed additional strength on longer rides (such as the Saturday rides I've described).

I've been a little sick lately, as our whole family (including Jack) have a slight cold. Until tonight I just didn't feel like training. I guess rest is good sometimes, and you have to listen to what the body is saying.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MO Running, Less Cycling

We took the little guy to my family's home in Missouri this past weekend. This meant two things (as far as this blog is concerned); 1) a lot of time w/ family and Jack and 2) no time for training.

#1 was great, and always is. I mostly forgot about training, racing or even riding the bike. Sometimes it can be a little too consuming, and it's good to get away and focus exclusively on my family.

#2 was an interesting exercise in how much my conditioning has changed in the past 3 years of cycling as my primary form of exercise. Because I needed to do some type of exercise during the 4-day trip, I chose to run one of my old routes. It's about 3 miles, with some nice hills thrown in for good measure. Distressingly, I found my hip flexors quite sore after the 1st run. Knee pain also reared its ugly head again, as I suppose my old IT band problems have not been stretched out properly. The second run I did kind of worked through the soreness, but it was humbling indeed. I think I can manage a good pace, but running-specific muscles have atrophied.

The worst part, though, was getting back on the bike tonight. After flying for 5 hours last night (Jack was a trooper, sleeping most of the time), I was surely dehydrated and tired today. But I was determined to get some hard efforts in, so I worked in 3 x 6 mins at 30 min TT pace, with 30s sprints thrown in every 2 mins. This sounded easy, but keeping the TT pace at 275W and the sprints at 350W was a challenge today. But now that it's done hopefully the rest of the week will feel OK.

I also have signed up for 3 races in April. Because I missed 2 races in March that I wanted to do b/c they were full, I have decided to just sing up early regardless of my availability. I figure it's a $20 insurance policy so I can race if I choose. Anyway, I need to get back to racing, as it will have been 2 mos since the Long Beach criterium. That's too much time between races.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time Off

I always have a hard time knowing if the workout I'm choosing is the right one. After the long ride last Saturday, my anxiety about keeping my base fitness is somewhat low. So I decided to work in an exclusively interval-based workout last night. I only had 40 mins b/c I had to work late and time was limited, but 3 sets of 5 x 15s maxed out sprints had me really working hard. As for the power, I am not sure I was at the right level (400-450W for most of them). I felt winded, and my HR was mostly at the top, but my legs weren't that tired at the end. Maybe I should step it up? The funny thing is that I am not sure I could generate any more power if I wanted to...this seems to be a limitation of indoor training. You can only focus on how much something hurts, not how good the bike feels or how fast you're going.

I have some time off for the next 5 days, as we're taking Jack to see the family for Easter. I won't be able to ride again in any form until next Tuesday. I always have read that it takes 7-10 days to lose fitness, so hopefully I won't move too far back from this time off. Maybe it will even do some good...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Essence

I tried to sign up for the LA Circuit Race, and was told Saturday afternoon that I had was 3rd on the waiting list. This is somewhat frustrating for two reasons; 1) I had tried to sign up pretty early and 2) if I'd known I had a good shot at getting in I wouldn't have ridden 60 miles/5k feet of climbing on Saturday. Anyway, the Saturday ride was good and included some very hard work. Climbing Latigo for the first time in a while (50 mins at 85% effort), I felt good. Hard efforts after that had me cramping in the quads, but it was manageable.

Today, Sunday, I decided to only do something short on the bike (i.e. no racing!) so I could spend some time w/ Jean and Jack. I have to admit, when the weather turned out to be good today (contrary to fcst) I did have a moment earlier this morning when I thought about running down to LAX to race. I would not have been sharp after yesterday's effort, but it would have brought me one race closer to an upgrade to exit Cat 5. But that would have meant burning the whole afternoon, so instead Jack slept on me for an hour and Jean was able to go on her first real post-birth hike.

This to me is the essence of the balance I'm trying to achieve this year. I've gotten a lot of riding in lately, and I thought it was important to spend time w/ Jack and hopefully give Jean some free time. She has been so supportive of my crazy racing efforts, even encouraging me to go today, but it's better the way things worked out today. There are plenty of other racing opportunities in the coming months...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect...?

After spending 3 days in Japan, in addition to the 20+ hours on the plane, last night I was very much in need of some type of hard work on the bike. While in Tokyo, I managed to spend a few mins on a stationary bike (overlooking Tokyo from the 26th floor of my hotel - not too bad!), but overall there was little time for work on the bike.

After returning Wednesday, I went back to work on Thursday and managed to get out early to go home and see Jack. He reached out and grabbed something for the first time yesterday, so I wanted to come home and see him for a little while before I set out for Camarillo practice.

As for Camarillo, this is a criterium practice session that runs every Thursday evening. The course is flat and very fast, and last night was no exception. Usually there are quite a few Cat 1's and 2's there, along w/ the occasional pro. This means that after the 10-lap warm-up (of 50-60 laps), things really take off. And last night was no exception. I stayed w/ the lead group for the first few laps, and then I was just gassed. After getting used to the bike handling at speed, and also recovering for a lap, I managed to hook back on and spent the rest of the time working hard, but staying in contact. That was my goal, so I feel good about this. The first break was hard as I was not warmed up at all, so it was just plain painful. But after that effort and a recovery, things came a little easier. I can say with confidence that I'm faster now than last summer when I last did the Camarillo Crit Practice.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Saturday Conundrum

Well, it was time again this morning for another Saturday group ride. As I mentioned before, this is always a tough training tool to manage appropriately. And on top of it all, I felt pretty guilty even doing it. Because the flight for Japan is at noon tomorrow, we won't have much morning family time this weekend. And I used up a good portion of it this morning. This is a conundrum - if I don't ride, I end up spending 20 hours on a plane over 4 days with no exercise to speak of. If I do ride, I feel like an underperforming dad. In the end, I opted for the slightly selfish route, hoping that it would work out this afternoon.

As for the ride, it was a usual circuit to the coast, down PCH and back home via the Mulholland climb (below mtns pictured above). This is a 45 mile/4500 ft of climbing route, with the last climb being ~35 mins to complete. I took the opportunity to really put some interval work in both on the climb and on PCH, so I feel like I got some race conditioning in today. The legs are dead, so that means there was some work involved at least. The power workouts seem to still be adding value.

As for the rest of the day, we had a lot of family time, with the Kid sleeping on me for nearly 1 hour this afternoon. At least we got to spend some time together today.

Off to Japan...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Signs of Dehydration

Pretty standard night, but didn't feel so great.

After getting home and having some time w/ the Little Man, I managed to get in 35 mins in the garage. The order of the day was 4 x 3 mins, working to maximum effort by #'s 3 and 4. The proposed workout includes another set of these intervals, but I just felt beat today. Additionally, it was dinner time and Jean has been home w/ the Kid all day, so I felt there were a couple of reasons to cut things short. I always wonder if these short workouts are helpful, but I guess it's better than doing nothing.

Since I flew to SF and back yesterday, I wonder about dehydration. I didn't drink much today, and also didn't have a great dinner last night. After my workout tonight, I weighed 164 lbs, which is a pound or two light for me after so short a workout. I will occasionally weigh that little after 3-4 hrs in the heat, but not 1/2 hr in the garage. I downed some low tech recovery drink (chocolate milk), and have tried to catch back up on the hydration tonight. Maybe tomorrow will feel better!

I'm working toward the LA Circuit Race in a week and a half, but I have a Japan trip in between. It remains to be seen if that will be a good taper or a detriment to good prep. Anyway, it's a "B" race so I just need the mass start credit (and a safe finish!).

Monday, March 3, 2008

Back In the Garage

Tonight seems to be pretty typical for this time of year - I worked until 5:30, got home at 5:45, hung out with Jack for a while (tummy time), and managed to get in 45 mins on the trainer. Sometimes this is a challenge, as I don't want to abandon the family, especially when Jack is having a bad time of it. But tonight he was happy, and it was time for him to eat, so voila: a 45 minute set of intervals was possible.

I'm never sure whether I'm choosing the right workout - I really should set up a whole plan w/ periodization, etc. But for now, I will just pick something interesting and high-intensity from the Joe Friel indoor trainer workout book (a great thing!) and hop to it. Tonight was 12 mins of warmup, a total of 5 x :20 max sprints w/ 3 min rest intervals, and 3 x 3 intervals at 30 min TT pace. I think I have dialed in these power numbers, so the sprints I range from 650 - 700 watts, and the 30 min TT pace is at 275-285 watts. I should re-test this at some point, but it feels about right currently. And I think it's getting results - on Saturday I felt more power was on hand.

One final thought - I need to schedule the next race and determine if I will train through it or try to work in a taper schedule. I think LA Circuit is March 16 or so, so I need to figure this out this week. Since I travel tomorrow and won't have time to work out, maybe that can be tomorrow's task.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Group Ride

Given the multiple options this weekend, I chose to get some long-ish, occasionally hard miles in on Saturday. It was not the best weather - a lot of fog at the top of our climbs, which made for mist-like precipitation and some wet roads. But today's time trial (Sunday), which I am not riding, will be hampered by Santa Ana winds. And I got to have some time w/ Jack this morning that I normally don't get. I consider that a victory! This is the kind of balance that I'm seeking - some training goals achieved, and some time w/ our baby.

The Saturday ride, like most group rides, is always a tough training tool. There is a social aspect. There is a competitive streak. And there is a wide variance of fitness and speed. But I say it's always a good thing to just ride, and get some hard efforts in. For me, that meant a hard 20 minute climb up Fernwood, and some really hard efforts coming back down the rolling hills of Mulholland and Cornell. 50 miles and 50k feet of climbing over 3 hours was the result.

The good news is that my intervals and quasi-power-based workouts seem to be adding some new speed. I even managed to hold off a couple of stronger riders in these efforts, which tells me that I'm making some progress. That's motivating. And I got some good Sunday morning time with Jack too. That's even more motivating!

No races on the calendar for a couple of weeks - it will be a relief of sorts to just ride and not think about incorporating that into the training scheme.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Catching Up

To date, I have made some progress toward the goal of 10 Cat 5 races, having completed 2 so far. The Mothballs Criterium, in Goleta, proved to be quite an experience replete with crashes. I was implicated in one (almost two!), but managed to finish the race nonetheless. The Anger Management Criterium, in Long Beach, was a better experience, which involved no crashes and a top 15 finish by yours truly.

The priority now is training - keeping some base miles in on non-race weekends, and keeping the power up for workouts during the week. The two prove to be incompatible in some ways.

Getting Started

This blog, assuming I can maintain any kind of consistency, is about managing priorities. I have several to juggle; a new baby boy who is 2 months old, my wife Jean, a job and a desire to race my bicycle this season. The first priority, Jack, is a real joy. It becomes more and more fun to get up in the morning and see him smiling back at me. It creates substantial conflict to try to be good at all of these things.

This season, roughly February - September 2008, I will try to manage all of these priorities. The new one is bike racing, and in this blog I'll try to chronicle my attempt to train amidst the moving target of business travel, diaper changing, family time and everything else.

My goal is to race 10 Category 5 races by July, so that I can exit that crazy group (full of crashes!) and move to Category 4. Finding time to race will be tough, finding time to train will be tough.

Currently, I have a system in place that allows for 2 nights/week on the trainer in the garage. I can focus on interval workouts there, which should be what is needed after a few months (couple of years really) of base miles. The CycleOps trainer I use has the benefit of a power meter, which is great if you know how to use it. I don't really, but am learning.

I will do my best to post some kind of chronicle of training, competing and life. Hopefully it goes as planned...