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...