Sunday, September 30, 2007
Had a pretty good race too, for what it's worth. No, not great results-wise. But good as in 'learned a few things, rode within myself and left a lot (if not everything) out on the course. It all got wrecked at the end though.
The course runs up and down some hills with terraced lilly ponds in them. The venue is called "Lillypons," natch; it's a commercial water garden / lilly farming outfit, and quite scenic.
My starting position was bad (maybe 55th?) since I got to the start line late. Off we went up the tarmac driveway and turning right onto the grass prologue. I wound up with decent position by taking the long (high, dry, and smooth) line up to the first dirt turn, passing a ton of folks, who were on the traffic-jammed lower line. There were pileups galore on the first lap which I took advantage of by passing everybody who stalled or fell. I came out of the first half mile or so in pretty good shape - not sure where I was, but the leaders were only a couple turns ahead as we pedaled between the rectangular lilly ponds. Passed a couple guys at the barriers just before we zipped into the lilly pond path. I was riding "easy" which turned out to give me an Hr of 170. Still it felt easy compared to Charm City. Excellent.
Hitting the gravel road / left turn, a guy in front of me tipped, taking out my front wheel. Crash #1. I was quickly back on the bike, mild elbow bleeding but otherwise unhurt. Off we went up the endless gravel road. A couple guys, real burners blew by, but I settled into a little group that passed a bunch of people.
The back stretch, from the gravel road, to the runup and S-turns, offered little respite. So I decided to spin a hard tempo pace up the gravel, wheelsuck if I could find a fast wheel, and try to flow through the technical section, focusing on running hard on the dismounts and getting back on the bike quickly, and snapping the pedals on the downhills - you take acceleration where you can get it easy. Pacing, flow and handling, and finishing strong were the goals.
My heartrate settled in at around 170-174 (8-12 beats > threshold) and I raced in a clump of 5-6 guys, a couple of whom I recognized from Charm City or elsewhere. We would pass people here or there, lose somebody once in a while, one would get ahead or drop, but you know how it goes in Cross, you find your own level. My Hr would bump up to 180 or so on the runup and S turns, but recover from "Marianas Trench" underwater to "Georges Bank" underwater pretty quickly.
On the second to last lap, we managed to drop a couple guys between the start/finish line and the gravel road. One guy mishandled and went into the tall grass, and stalled. Another just didn't seem to have the legs at the lilly ponds, and blew up. A couple guys had broken bikes. The pace was picking up, I was wheelsucking up the gravel road getting ready to try to cruise out of the runup/S turn and blast off up the little hill past there. Dave B. was just a little way in front of us, maybe 10 yards. My goal was to take that hill hard and catch Dave's little group. [Update: Dave had a nice finish - 26th. I was probably sitting about 28th here because there was just one guy between us.] At the two dips following the S-turns, however, I got a little out of shape and was on the right hand side of the course. There were rocks hidden in the grass and the front wheel bashed off one. It was a short, sharp whack, and I felt the rim hit rock, as you do. I got through the dips but when I stood to jam up the hill, I had a death wobble. The front was flat. So I coasted most of the way up the little hill, got off, started to walk off the course for ten seconds, and then it hit me.
Screw it. This is cyclocross. You ride, you run, you ride again. HTFU, Stu-ey.
Okay, fine, it wasn't exactly like that. The internal dialogue, the inner voice that reveals the most sensitive thoughts in your mind's eye, at the exact moment, involved my heart screaming at my brain and legs, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING? QUIT BEING A PUSSY! RUN! RUN!"
Really, that was my inner dialogue. I know, I'm deep, maaan. Reeaaallyyy deep.
So run I did. It was probably 600-800 yards down to the pits. I may have tried to ride a couple yards when I got past the off camber downhill, not sure, I seem to recall running the whole way but I was so gassed that it isn't clear exactly what I did other than running and counting the people passing me. Starting a long jog when your heartrate is >95% of max isn't conducive to mental clarity. I do remember that surprisingly few people passed me - I can recall six or eight, but that was it. I dug pretty deep, to the point where I wasn't feeling any pain at all, I was just in the moment, half-unconscious.
Peter Nicoll and Fat Marc were at the pit, changed my wheel while I swigged a bit of water and stood there coughing, and hollered at me to get going. I ran out, got mounted, did a little standing sprint to get up to speed, and right as I passed the start/finish, the official yelled, "your race is over. Get off the course."
Just like that it was done.
So I went and stood on the side with a handful of other pulled riders, and watched, a little incredulously, as a couple waves of riders rode by, past the start finish. About 5 minutes after I was pulled, the two guys going for the win came through. (Yeah, start doing the math about where I was in relation to them when I was pulled... not good). They had an epic finish, one guy flatted and sprinted in the last couple hundred yards *for the win.* Amazing, great finish. Very impressive. Lots of guys came in after that, including a couple guys who passed by me at the start/finish after I had been pulled.
I walked off to change clothes as more riders were coming in, and then it hit me.
I was on the lead lap when I was pulled, in somewhat competitive, mid-pack territory, in spite of having lost 6 or 10 spots while running. I will have a better idea about where I was when I was pulled after I speak with Dave, but I know with certainty that I wasn't lapped. Bunches of riders who were behind me on the same lap came through the start/finish after I was pulled, before the leaders showed up. [Update: Suspicions confirmed. Based on Dave's results, I was sitting at 34th or 36th out of 100 when I got pulled.]
Draw your own conclusions about the new policy to start pulling back markers in cross races.
(One of them might be that I did something else on the course and got pulled for that, but I'd expect some notice that I violated the rules. Haven't gotten that yet.)
And as an aside, the general level of disorganization of the past couple weeks has been really disheartening. Not sure how much stomach I have for this kind of aggro.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Tearing up Paris-Brest-Paris
I have to give a major shout-out to Max Prola, who completed Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200 Km randonee. It is *the* premier long distance Etape, or sport touring ride in the world. The riders qualify by riding randonees of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km. I've done some of the short randonees - they are no joke, with 8,000 feet of climbing for every 160 km covered. There is no support on the course, except for what you carry with you, or can convince a kind soul to give you at some roadside checkpoint in the middle of the night. Eat at restaurants, refill the water bottles from somebody's garden hose, fix your bike on the roadside, carry spares in a big Carradice 'trunk' bag. It's hardcore.
While Squadra Coppi is primarily a roadracing club, we support bicycle racing in all forms, and if you don't think that sport touring - randonneuring and audax riding is a form of bike racing - then you are a moron. It's common for roadracers and touring riders to mock each other, but real bicyclists, cognoscenti, know that those who seek the most undiluted cycling experience possible are kindred spirits. Max Prola, a longtime racer and experienced randonneur, is one of those guys, and I'm impressed that he moves effortlessly between the two disciplines. My hat is off to him.
Friday, September 28, 2007
- Sometimes, "I'm out for an easy recovery spin after work at Hains tonight" does not mean "let's go 35 miles per hour then sprint between the signs, and do it for 10 laps." It is not my fault if your puny human language is inadequate for the task of comprehending the Gospel According to Coggan.
- The term "Tora Tora Tora!" does not refer to a musical about the frustrated and neglected wife of an absent-minded Talmudic scholar.
- Blew my diet tonight by eating 4 slices of thin crust pizza and three Birra Moretti? Well, maybe I didn't blow it. It was a bit worse than that. If anything, it was more like that scene in Deliverance, and my diet was Ned Beatty. Feh, one bad meal out of the last 15 or so. No biggy. Just skip the pre-ride PB&J tomorrow AM and I'll be back on track. I have a theory that since, yet I'm the kind of moron for whom calorie counting doesn't work, an occasional blowout is necessary. The key is getting right back on the wagon. If I don't have a weekly chowdown, when I finally do snap it's more like three days of falling off the wagon - now that does some damage.
- Hey, if it makes you feel better, I want to throw up right now. I've really lost my binge eating touch, is all I can tell you. Cripes, that was probably barely 1200 calories. In reality, I didn't eat much today, am still probably under 2200 on the day. But I have lost my touch. I feel ill even though it wasn't exactly an epic binge. I know it wasn't epic because I don't have the carb sweats, and for God's sake, I'm sober. You forget how to pig out after a while.
- On his home planet, Mayhew isn't a brilliant coach or great hill climber, because everyone there shares simultaneous consciousness with Tudor Bompa, and has the same genetic makeup as Michael Rasmussen. It's just that when his parents put him in a rocketship for earth - they were facing destruction at the hands of ProTournia and UCInium - they figured his natural gifts would make him far superior to puny Earthlings. That may have been true once. We'll see this weekend at the Ed Sander Cross how he has done with training now that there's a 10 pound lump of bicycle racing kryptonite - aka a newborn baby - in the house. His mind is okay if FatMarc's results are anything to go by... not so sure about the legs. Whattaya got, Mayhew? Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
- Speaking of the Ed Sander Cross, I have a bigtime goal for the race. My goal, is to not get my ass completely crushed. I'll be happy with a top half finish. Happy, and possibly a little surprised. I still have a long way to go. I am going to be working on pacing a little bit. If I'd gone just a wee bit easier at the start last weekend (or managed to ride over the guy who crashed in front of me and stayed in front), I'd have finished a lot stronger. The difference between going smooth and at threshold, and going really hard and ten BPM over threshold - I fear there isn't a lot of difference on the course, until you blow up. At which point there is a *huge* difference. I'm going to look to keep the HR pegged at about 164, and leave it there. I'll let you know how it goes.
- Had a nice Muffin Ride with the usual crew plus some ladies from the LunaChix and a few other great girls who have kind of hung out around the team - occasional riders, via friends, S.O.'s. It was a pleasant change, we really kept the pace down which made it a viable recovery ride, and the gals seemed pretty strong. They've got a good cause (supporting breast cancer research, among other things) and if you feel so inclined I encourage you to go to their site and support them. I hope we can convince some of them to come over to the dark side. No, not Art. I'm talking about roadracing. It's more compelling than that triathlon stuff. It's the brown liquor of endurance sports though, a little to strong flavored for a lot of people, so you don't know if they'll take to it; but for those with a taste for it, it's the only thing. Still, I'll ride with any of those girls any time. They're alright.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Thish weekend ish featuring zhee Ed Sander Cyclocrossh. Go regishter for it. Right noooow. It hash zhee great lilly pondsh, zhee hills, and zhee gravelly roadzh. Yesh.
It will be toyt. Toyt loik a toyger.
What do you wanting for? A cookie? A shmoke und a pancake? You know, a flapjack und a shigarette? No? Shigar und a waffle? No? Pipe und a crepe? No? Bong und a blintz? No? Well, zhen there ish no pleashing you.*
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
- Most of the dopers were busted earlier in the year, and he figured that the replacement riders probably hadn't made enough money to afford the good stuff yet?
- The Spanish police were too busy working on Operacion Puerto to bother making any arrests at this year's Vuelta?
- This was Bizzaro Vuelta, and although everybody was doped but Magnus Backstedt, none of them will face WADA prosecution... except for anti-doping advocate Magnus, who was dead clean? (It is Bizzaro Vuelta, after all).
- That by "clean," Cordero was referring to the bikes, which were spotless because he hired professional UCI cyclocross pit crews to pressure wash them every time the riders slowed down for 10 seconds?
- That it was only clean as a whistle because Team Astana was mostly in jail or hiding in third world nations known for harboring terrorists, hijackers and other international villains such as Tyler Hamilton?
The World Championships are upon us. The course will feature 19,000 feet of climbing, with two big hills each loop, and a total distance of 267km, which is roughly what I could ride in a week, if I had a full support team, a tailwind, and it was mostly downhill. Feel free to pick your favorite in comments. I'm taking Danilo DiLuca right now. He looked *so* good at the Giro, and he has been aiming to peak for this race. Bettini looks good, and obviously Valverde if UCI / WADA clears him in time. I wouldn't bet the farm on that. If were were laying odds, I'd also put a buck on Danny Pate. Don't know why, but suspect the clean guys will be doing better in Germany, which has a real emphasis on busting dopers right now.
I don't know why they bother having Interbike in Vegas. Talk about a waste of a good town - you put a new SRAM Red gruppo on display in front of bike geeks, and the hookers and strippers, not to mention craps tables and shows will damn near go out of business for lack of attention. Not Circue du Soleil, however. They have a highwire act featuring a mime on a bicycle. We're there, bro!
We're a pathetic lot, cyclists.
Anybody got any idea how to approximate the power demands of cyclocross? Since I'm too poor and chickenshit to risk blowing up my PowerTap wheel racing cross on it, I'd prefer to just fabricate up something in Cycling Peaks which approximates the load. Haven't a clue how to do so.
Speaking of cross practice - we're going to try a novel approach and sleep 8 hours beforehand. Who knows, it could work. Seeya peeps.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Rather than taking the day off, I did a bike commute with a little easy spinning around Hains Point. My legs feel a lot better for that. Going to do the same thing tomorrow.
Might I suggest that if you have had a really acute load on your legs, and you are all locked up and at a loss because stretching doesn't seem to help, that you try going for a very easy spin rather than taking the whole day off? A half hour might do it for you. It has to be real easy - a light, light spin, with tiny bits of slightly greater effort (we're talking aerobic level pushing) mixed in. It may not work for you, everybody is different, but it works for me. Last year I used to take rest days after every race weekend. This year? We'll see what happens. For right now, I'm going to follow my gut. If the legs are locking and tight and crampy, I'm going to ride; if they are heavy, I may skip. I'll let you know how it works out. Today I managed 30 miles total, 161 watt avg (that's like 20 under the bottom of zone 2 for me) with a normalized power of 191, 53 TSS points. Easy peazy, lemon squeezy. Riding your legs fresh, what an amazing concept. You *must* take it extremely easy, however. No bike trail racing or getting sucked into the noon ride group at Hains. And don't give me that crap about how you'll 'just sit in.' Nobody just sits in on that ride.
There are profound differences on outlook about this - some people don't like it and it doesn't help. In contrast, I find that days off the bike frequently set me back, so if I can get in very light spinning on rest days, my legs bounce back quite fresh the next day, better than a straight rest day. Might work for you, might not, but what have you got to lose? Combined with a gentle stretch, I've found it's just what the doctor ordered, at least for my tweaked self.
Now it's time for that other most blessed kind of rest, sleep. See ya later.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The C race went okay for me. I went back and re-read last year’s CRP. At the time I thought the course was really hilly, but figured my suffering had more to do with my single speed than the terrain. This year, as I stood on the hill watching the elites, it occurred to me why it is called “Druid HILL Park.” There isn’t a flat spot on the course. It’s all either uphill or downhill, most of the downhills are sadly brief, most of the uphills are of the long, lingering variety. Not a great course for a fat flatlander.
From the start I was pretty happy, hanging in about 10th. A bunch of people crashed in front of me in this little hairpin – stupid, because if they’d pre-ridden properly, it was clear that there is a proper line through the thing, and even an inside line, and no reason to crash. That cost about six spots. But I hung in, a couple guys passed, I passed them back.
I noticed some differences from last year. For one thing, there are a couple fer real hills on the course and I was trucking up them. Where I would have lost time last year, I was passing people, and at worst holding my own. The course also seemed less technical – a year’s worth of riding skinny tired bikes in a lot of bad conditions really improves the handling. I was also hitting the barriers much slower in terms of running. I think riding a lot harder has made me less of a runner. They also took out this one scary long, steep downhill, which I was hitting last year fully spun out on the single speed. Oddly enough, that was my recovery area and a place where I was passing people – it was steep enough to put the Big Man’s Advantage (i.e. descending) to work. Lost that recovery space this year and that hurt.
Things were good until about the middle of the third lap when I started to melt down. I’m not sure what did it, probably being a fat bastid on a hilly course. I started getting passed by groups of three and four riders. By the middle of the fourth lap, by my count, I was probably sitting ~ 40th. I also had searing cramps in my upper and lower back and my field of vision had gone grey. This meant I had to throttle down for a lap, try to find some flow, and just roll. Another group of three or four passed me and I settled in on their wheels. Roll roll roll.
Now here's some details because it's the only interesting racing I did. After about a lap of sitting in, I felt strong. However, it was a good 100 yards from our group to the next group up, and I was cooked enough that there was no way I was going across to the next group. So I bided my time, and one NCVC guy cooked off. I was hurting pretty bad but decided I needed to pass him decisively to discourage him, so I sprinted up this little hill and saw him deflate a bit as I went by. I passed another guy in a no-name jersey after the big 90 degree railroad tie barriers atop the hill. He had trouble remounting so I gassed it. This left two guys in front of me.
I passed the Racing Union guy coming down through the trees. When we turned onto the road uphill to the finishing straight, he was on my wheel and the other guy was 30 or 40 feet in front of me. I may have been tired and heavy legged and all, but the one thing I know how to do is to uncork a little road sprint. Keeping an eye out behind me for Racing Union (can't remember who it was, I was cross eyed at this point), I did a hard standing effort up the hill and turned right while standing and sprinting, caught and passed the guy who had been in front, and finished pretty hard.
I’m not sure where I finished. The results had me at about 60 or 62, but the results were terminally messed up. There were guys I know were lapped in front, one guy I know was listed as 14th but he finished barely in front of another teammate who was listed 59th. Trevor, who beat me, wasn’t even listed. Apparently it was like that all day; there were other races where the winner was contested and the top finishers went and harangued the officials and organizer about it. So I’m saying I finished somewhere between 40th and 60th, and not worrying about it, I'll say 60th if pressed. Last year, I finished 44 out of 60 in the same race.
Takeways? I'm thinner than I've been in years, fit into a suit I haven't worn in 13 years, but I still need to lose a lot of weight. I was looking at pictures of myself riding, and I think it was Mencken's comment struck me: what's amazing about a dog walking on its hind legs is not that it walks poorly, but that it can do so at all. I was looking at pictures of my fat ass on the bike today and thinking, it's not amazing that I'm a mediocre C rider, but that I can race cross at all. Well, the diet is working but I'm going to redouble efforts this week. If I'm doing as well as I am like this, another 30-40 lbs will have me lean, and maybe beating up on a few more people. Then there's the matter of back cramps. It's clear I need to start on a good core strength routine every day, and maybe a bit of light lifting for my back. That *may* help clear things up.
I'm not unhappy with my result - quite to the contrary I'm satisfied. I know I can do a lot better and as the cross season progresses, will be looking to step up my efforts.
My compliments to Chris Auer and Charm City Cycling for putting on a great race. My compliments too to all my teammates, but especially to Fat Marc for riding one hell of a race and to Christ Nystrom for riding really well in the same race.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Y'know that interesting song on the Apple I-Pod Nano commercial, the one that has a catchy bit of a Japanese / Bossa Nova / Bollywood vibe to it? It's Canadian punk/jazz star Leslie Feist singing her song 1-2-3-4. The video is mildly amazing, old school interesting. Here ya go.
And, if getting calm ain't on your menu, pre-Charm City, have a shot of Mohammed Rafi's Jaan Pehechan Ho! from Gumnaam.
Yeah beotches! If that doesn't get you in the proper mindset for cyclocross, well, then you... will probably get your ass kicked. Which is what will happen anyhow even if you are in the proper mindset, but at least if you like those vids, you'll be liking cooler music while your ass is getting kicked. There's something to be said for that. What it is, I don't know.
More interesting Leslie Feist here.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I've told you I love my Cross Check and my Jethro Tule and Basic Hubs and just about anything I can get my hands on from Surly. But this Surly Ad from the back page of the 3d issue of Urban Velo pretty much takes the cake. They have a long way to go to beat On One with their Il Pompino and their Inbred 29'er, but not everybody can challenge Calderdale's Second Biggest Bike Company. Check out UrbanVelo.org while you're checking out that Surly ad.
When the hell did they start using Stevie Ray Vaughn for a friggin' Nissan commercial? C'mon. Let the guy rest in piece. Besides, Cold Shot is a song about getting ditched by his girlfriend. Is that really the theme you want associated with your car?
Finally... Holy Shit! Who knew that a Dutch TV crew would be on site at Murad last week to cover the Cat IV race? I sure didn't. Good highlights. Accurate too. H/t How to Avoid the Bummer Life. I give you: Murad.
* Cross season is here. Charm City - a great race in an awesome venue, Druid Hill Park - is Sunday. There's still some spots for day-of registration but you'll want to contract the promoter to make sure. I'm jacked up for this. Ed Sander Cross at Buckeystown, near Frederick, is next weekend.
* The legs, they are tired today. After doing threshold intervals on short rest yesterday (4x5 minutes on 2 minute's rest) my legs are blown. Yet in spite of doing a high volume of very hard work this week, I got all the work done and finished strong yesterday. Today I rest and maybe do an easy spin, tomorrow is a long spin with two or three short hard efforts to open up the systems, then we race. I guess the routine is getting dialed for cross season though - short efforts on Tuesday, cross practice laps on Weds, harder, longer intervals Thurs. Gotta figure out where we can cram in a long aerobic ride each week - maybe use it as a recovery ride? I can go about 2.5 hours steady upper zone 2, and I lose about 7 freshness points, yet I pick up 140 Training Stress Points. That might be the ticket...
*It's true what Andy Coggin says all the time - there is a qualitative difference between some kinds of training stress points - some work is harder than others, even though the same amount of work was done. Yesterday's short workout (20 minutes warmup, 26 minutes actual workout, 20 minutes cooldown) racked up few enough training stress points (TSS 71, If: .92) that Cycling Peaks regarded it as a rest day (other than the sick Intensity Factor) and my freshness actually increased. My legs don't view it that way at all - they are sore.
* It's also true that you can train VO2Max pretty quickly. I only started doing real intensity work about a month ago. Power figures and heartrate for the four intervals yesterday- 370, 382, 357, 392 with mid/high-zone 4 heartrate - makes me think my FTP has moved up a little, maybe 5 percent - in the last month or so. It's possible I wasn't well rested for my last 20 minute test because two of those were above the top end of my FTP, one was right on it, and the other was above the median point. But I think it's more likely that the recent increase in VO2Max work has built up VO2Max, a kind of work that can bring FTP improvement along for the ride, if Dr. Tabata is to be believed. Damned if I'm going to do another 20 minute power test right now though. This power stuff is interesting and a great training tool, but the tests hurt like hell and at some point, it's more about what you can do on the course. Unless you're roadracing and can meter your effort, the PowerTap just doesn't matter. Still, it's remarkable that you can know so much about training, and so little at the same time.
* Good luck for everybody who is racing this weekend. But not so much good luck that you get in front of me.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
* I figured out what led to my training disaster last week and maybe found a way to compile work so that my legs don't blow up, but instead let me actually get in a lot of quality work during the week. In brief, I blew up last week after threshold intervals on very short rest (two minutes) on Tuesday, had legs so dead on Wednesday that I was panicking, and slightly bad legs Thursday. My email to Coach Bill Gros on Wednesday morning was along the lines of, "Sweet Jeeeebus, Bill! Save me! I'm dying here! Do I need to go to the emergency room? Hep me!!" Like I said before, four 5 minute threshold intervals on two minutes rest is interpreted by my legs as a 20 minute threshold effort, aka a 20 minute max power test. The legs, they do not like being treated this way. Yet even with cross approaching, I need to ratchet up my chronic training load - basically that's decent quality aerobic and neuromuscular base, or 'fitness' - until mid-October, after which I'll be sliding toward unfitness. The problem with cross is it's intense enough that you can't do real long zone 2 rides the day before, and you will need a couple days to recover afterwards. This cuts into training volume, and soon enough, you have great VO2Max figures, and zero aerobic base. The upshot for me is I need to have three days of hard work during the week to keep my fitness up, but still have enough recovery time to be able to do quality hard work on those three days. Bill worked with my training schedule a bit and we figured out a routine that will work - short hard efforts on Tuesday (sprints this week), cross practice combined with spinning there and back on Weds (which is 2-3 VO2Max intervals on long rest) and then subthreshold cruise intervals tomorrow. My legs have held up alright this week and I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's intervals. After that, I'll need two days of easy riding to recover, so I'll be reasonably fresh come Sunday. This routine may actually work during the season, and with some judicious stretching of the Muffin Ride on Fridays, I may be able to keep my CTL in the mid-90s - in other words hang on to good fitness well into cross season. For any Saturday races, I think I'll try to pack in big Training Stress points with a post-race (Sunday) long zone 2 ride. We'll see how it goes; it's my first year of trying to make the cross season a real campaign so I suspect there will be a learning curve. You can offer tips in comments, but I'm starting to think it's about figuring out what your own body will do - I'll try anything once but I'm skeptical of solutions that work great for others.
* I got to use the impressive Command Voice today in traffic on L street. I was cruising into work with Ken after practice and some soft looking fatboy in a BMW with a cellphone was about to pull in front of us. One well timed and stacatto "Hey!" was enough to pierce his closed-window, Blaupunkt-blaring cellphone donut bubble. Ken was pretty impressed, I think, but it's something any decent Army or Marine NCO learns to do. Y'know Gunny R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket? Yeah, it's that voice. The Command Voice. I've only used it on my kid a couple times to get him to stop doing something dangerous instantly, and both times he crapped his pants. It's about the same reaction my troops used to have when they heard it; it's the same reaction I would get when I heard some hardass Command Sergeant Major's voice tapping me on the back from behind. You never knew what message The Voice would spew out next, but "Hey, Soldier!" always brought with it some bad news, whether it was cigarette butt policing, rock painting, a general ass chewing for having a slightly worn seat on your BDU's... didn't matter, it was always bad - except when you were marching or doing drill or battle drills, in which case it was the most effective and efficient method of communication. A good Command Voice, you can hear over the roar of a helicopter or tank engine. It ain't exactly Pavarotti, but it's useful. After I'd been in several years, I learned to not jump or stiffen when I heard that, but to feign deafness and walk away as quickly as possible.
* Finally - you know why I'm a jerk about a lot of things, like people riding dumb, bad drivers, and so forth? It's because I'm a perfectionist. I actually give a crap about doing things the right way. I fail a hell of a lot, but at least I try. I expect everybody else to be perfect, or to at least try to do things the right way. When they don't, I get pissed, and that's when the big jerk comes out. Want to know a secret? I'm harder on myself than on others, and when I'm in troubleshooting mode I'm damn hard on other people, more than they deserve. It doesn't always work out they way you want to though. When I screw something up, like my diet, I'll get pissed and punish myself by screwing it up worse. When I screw up by not following my training plan properly, I'll whack myself by doing a bunch of extra intervals - y'know, to make up for not quite sticking to the chart perfectly. Go figure - punishing my own screwups by screwing up worse. I know it makes sense in some warped kind of way, but that's another thing I'm trying to get over. I'm making progress there, but it's friggin' hard. I'm starting by trying to take it a bit easier on others. Charity may begin at home, but the beggars on the road don't give a damn if you threw a couple coins in your own changecup. Peter Nicoll said something about riding seriously that rings true in a lot of ways - training equates in a lot of senses to good character. I think what he meant is if you're patient, you show prudence and diligence in sticking to a plan, be humble and let the Pathletes pass you and celebrate, suffer stoically and go back for more - learn to embody the character it takes to do that stuff and you'll train well. I think he's right. If you train well it doesn't mean you have good character per se, but you need to have some traits a lot of people would recognize as virtues. I finally figured out why the Pathletes bug me so much - it's because racing people up and down the trail and investing your ego in it is real half-assed-ness. It's just not doing it right. And the crux of why they bug me is that I was that Pathlete not so long ago, and I'm a bit ashamed of it. There's no need to be stupid. Yet I was, and a lot of Pathletes are. I'm trying to take it a bit easier on them, however, because I think they just don't get this; or maybe the Type A / Sharp Knife mentality isn't part of their makeup, and even if they knew they could live blissfully without caring about this pursuit of perfection - and more power to them for that.
Now here's the rub with trying to do everything right. Everybody thinks hypocrisy is the greatest sin in the world. I think that it isn't. I think the greatest sin is shooting low, and not trying. I think you have to have standards and shoot high to improve, and while failure should be a motivator and spur you to redouble your efforts, the only time you should be ashamed of failure is when you could have done better with what you have, you could have shot higher. There's degrees of disappointment, of course. You can't overcome 20 years of not training in a week; but on the day you race, you should leave it all out on the road, mistakes and all. I guess the nirvana you hit at some point stems from all this character-building work. You work consistently for a long time, you know you hit your training and diet as well as you possibly could within the constraints of your life, you race like this was the last race of the last day of your life... then you finish 22d. You know what? You should be frickin' proud of what you did. Starting with flawed elements, you got the best out of the deal that you could. Sure, you can nitpick an interval you did here, a snack you shouldn't have eaten there, but if you were 98% on, that's a damn fine bit of work. You should revel in it, have a *tiny* tinge of regret over the blown 2% of your efforts, and resolve to work on that 2%. I don't think you'll ever get it perfect, and some could call you a hypocrite for falling short of your own standards, but that would be really lame, a guy who can't fingerpaint calling Michaelangelo a hack because even big Mic reused canvases on which he'd painted substandard pictures.
It turns out that the real game is beating yourself, beating the guy or gal you were a week ago, or even 24 hours ago. You need to kick the crap out of that guy 'cuz he isn't as good as you are right now - you'll train better than he did, eat better, get enough rest, race smarter and harder - and if the SOB beats you one time, you need to resolve to kill that bastard next time out. Don't let him get ahead of you. He made mistakes that you don't have to make, alright? Don't screw up the same things he screwed up. Yeah, sure, aim at the top rider in your Cat - but every time you turn the pedals try and beat the rider you were yesterday.
Winning is the goal, but it turns out that it really is all about how you play the game. If you play the game the right way, you will win, you'll beat yourself, and no offense to you other people, I'm a much harder opponent to beat than any of you. I may crush some of you someday, but I'll never shake the guy I was yesterday.
Winning in the absolute sense, beating all the other racers, may be beyond your control sometimes. It's hard to approach this question - 'could I have done better' - with a balanced view. If you do everything right in the time allotted to train, race smart, give it every bit of energy and commitment you have, and still get your butt kicked, then you were beaten by a better racer. You didn't win but you didn't lose either - you were beaten. Big difference. Don't dull the other racer's accomplishment by assuming you crapped out along the way - give the other guy his due. Give yourself your due as well if you were maxed out. You need to try really, really hard to max out too. Don't assume that because you hit your old peak power on the Powertap, that you didn't have more to give.
Here's an example of a guy we love because he always defies his limits. He's always beating the guy he was yesterday, and in beating himself, he often wins the race against the other riders at the same time. At this year's Tour of Germany, Jens Voigt, who is no climbing specialist, outshone Levi Leipheimer on a critical climbing stage. Leipheimer was down 30 seconds, and needed to make it back on the final climb of the day in the Queen Stage of the race. Leipheimer failed. After the stage, Levi noted that Voigt isn't much of a climber, that Voigt was suffering terribly on the ultimate climb and that Leipheimer was sure Voigt would crack. Leipheimer didn't have a lot more to give and was sure he couldn't get the 30 seconds he needed to take the GC on this mountain, so he hung back - suffering pretty badly himself if he didn't think he could gain 30 seconds - waiting for Voigt to give out. Voigt never cracked, however, and beat one of the best climbers in the game up the hill, clinching the race. Voigt beat his old self on that hill and actually made time on Leipheimer on the hill - good thing that Voigt doesn't accept his limits.
Interesting, isn't it - there's so much heaven and hell just within yourself and your riding. I guess that's what Tim Krabbe meant in The Rider when he said the emptiness of the lives of non-racers shocked him. A non-racer would look at our obsession with diet, training, bikes, and more of the same, as empty lives. But it's the opposite in our rolling hermit's cell. Beating yourself, suffering, disciplining yourself, gaining self-knowledge - that's an epic battle, it fills up most of the empty areas of your life, and once you undertake it in earnest, you understand a little bit about the spiritual struggles of the saints. You can always beat some other guy in a race, that's a battle; but mastering yourself, that's war.
I need to remember to thank the Pathletes for encouraging me to explore this. They wouldn't understand it because they are defining themselves by their race against me, a fact that's made even shabbier because I'm usually riding recovery or a slow warmup when they pass. Me, I'm racing against that same guy, or to be more specific, against this other guy who was on the bike path just yesterday, who looked a lot like me. You can smirk if you pass him because he's not me, he's just some guy that I beat in a race.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I'm pleased because I've also been doing a lot of work for Manuel Beltran during the stages; today I did around 150 k-worth of work on his behalf.
I rode 55 x 11 and 12 mostly, with some spells on the 13, but that's my usual way in a time trial, I had been thinking about using a bigger chain ring...
When things like this happen I get so frustrated because I spend every waking minute thinking of how I can train more efficiently, if there is anything that I can do with my diet, is there some way I can improve my position or if there is any part of my other material I can improve to get myself to perform better. Then you get this and realise that some riders are still not playing the game by the rules. When I found out that Vino had tested positive for blood transfusion I can say that if I had been anywhere near him I would have planted one straight in his face and he would probably have needed more stitches there than he got in his knees.
* For the same reason, fundamental honesty, I'm blogrolling Bert Friggin' Hoovis, who runs Doucheblog. Funny, funny blog. Funny because it's mostly true, from what I can gather. He's such a stinkin' good rider, what he does and I do probably both can't be considered racing at the same time. But I'd drink a beer with him anyhow, even if he's in another galaxy racing-wise.
*Did a one minute, forty second workout today. After warmup (that doesn't count as a workout, right?) I did 5 seated accellerations and 5 standing accellerations from 7-8 MPH, spinning up in 53-13 going fairly hard (concentrating on form, not effort) for about 12-15 seconds. Then I'd recover for precisely two minutes (that's not working either, right?), then do it again. The entire meat of the workout lasted only 1:40, spread out over 22 minutes. See? I'm a complete frickin' pussy, I barely work out at all. How the hell will I ever get fit working like that? For 22 minutes, only 1:40 of which was actual work: Avg Power: 201; Norm Power: 337; TSS: 35; If: .96; Peak 5: 1589; Peak 10 1474.
* In celebration of the Rugby World Cup, here, have a little Haka with your breakfast.
That's a modern Haka. The translation of the most common traditional Haka are:
I may die or
I may live
’Tis death, ‘tis death
'Tis life, ‘tis life
This the hairy man that stands here...
…who brought the sun and caused it to shine
A step upward, another step upward
A step upward, another step upward
The sun shines!
Yeah. If that doesn't get you fired up, you have bigger problems than I can fix.
Monday, September 17, 2007
- I'm a 1/3d Football Fan. Every third year, I just can't get enough football. The I'm okay for two years, until the bug bites again. This happens to be a football year. I'm grooving on the 'Skins/Iggles right now. Don't like either team that much, it's football though and that's good enough. Besides, bike wrench par excellence Sheldon Brown apparently plays cornerback for the Eagles. Whoda thunkit? Hey, if bicycle riding can help a 60 year-old dude hang on in the NFL, I'm all for it. He sure looks whiter in his pictures on SheldonBrown.com though, and his beard seems shorter there too.
- I'm pathetic riding into a strong quartering or headwind. No, it's not 'cuz I'm weak or soft, though that probably doesn't help. It's because I have a bit of asthma, and also if you press on the right spot on my throat, I have this huge coughing fit. That spot just happens to be front, center, and just above what the jersey collar covers. So I start riding into a big wind, the dust triggers the asthma, the wind pressure hitting *just there* on my throat triggers a cough... I wish I was joking about this. I can get around it by warming up for an hour - after a while I just get coughed out and the triggers of the asthma, the cough, just don't register. Still, it sucks. I can also get around it by riding down in the drops so the wind doesn't really hit my throat... I'd almost rather just cough.
- I've been enjoying the Rugby World Cup on Versus. I kind of miss the game. When you're stressed out, when the fight-or-flight mechanism is working overtime, there is nothing more gratifying than running around hitting people. Bicycling also works to abate stress of all sorts, but it just isn't the same as smacking somebody. If you played or still play rugby, you know things about man's bestial nature - brutally tough players are often very nice guys off the pitch, and even polite when the ref blows a stoppage on the pitch. But when the game is on and one of these nice guys is after you, it feels like you've fallen into the tiger cage at the zoo. You realize after a while that most people are capable of that sort of war-like behavior, and you start thinking that's a pretty normal part of human existence. I'm comfortable with it, but it makes me wary of people - maybe it isn't a Heart of Darkness or anything, but just some morally neutral part of how we are, and how it's futile to think we can carry on as if being very warlike isn't a natural part of being human. I'm not making a case for determinism here, just noting that while free will operates, perhaps our range of options, the set of choices we are offered, are limited a bit by our own makeup.
- Man, do I like me some Mexican food, especially Carnitas. Barbacoa is okay, but Carnitas... I might not kill for Carnitas, but I'd definitely make somebody hurt pretty bad for it. My favorite food lately is Cholula hot sauce, the new chili-garlic flavor. Goes good with anything. But especially a Carnitas burrito with black beans and long grain rice... mmmmmmm....
Saturday, September 15, 2007
It's good to see the authorities are finally starting to see things my way. According to the Boston Globe,
state officials may use cowbells to help solve a curiously persistent transportation problem: trucks that crash into the low Storrow Drive and Memorial Drive bridges despite the abundant signs warning them away.Basically, they are going to hang cowbells off the signs advising trucks of bridge clearance. If you go under the sign and hit the cowbell, your truck is too tall and you'll get a reminder to stop.
Frustrated that truckers are blowing right by the signs, the Department of Conservation and Recreation says it may revive a homegrown network of cowbells to give the drivers a musical wake-up call.
The Globe story continues,
Whatever it takes... and as I've always maintained, what it takes most of the time, is MORE COWBELL! You see, More Cowbell... it's not just for cyclocross any more.
At a time when global positioning system-equipped cars zip through tollbooths with FastLane transponders, the use of cowbells evokes a simpler era of horse-drawn carriages and dirt roads. But some truckers and transportation specialists embraced the humble farm tool as an easy way to prevent truck drivers from crashing into bridges.
"Cowbells? I suppose that'll do it," said John DeFazio, owner of First Call Trucking in Boston. "Whatever it takes to warn those guys not to take those boulevards."
Hopefully there's no overlap between the long haul trucker community and cyclocross. I don't know about you, but when I hear a cowbell I put the freakin' hammer down, and if I was driving a long haul truck, this could be disastrous - well, assuming the truck could keep up the increased tempo for more than 20 seconds after hearing the cowbell, because I sure can't. But just maybe even more cowbell is the solution - and the people at the More Cowbell Research Institute of Rhode Island should study the problem, for sure. But I'm getting off track here.
It's impossible to convey to you my feelings of excitement and joy that the rest of the world is coming to understand that More Cowbell! is the solution to many of our problems. And of course one of the best parts about More Cowbell is that More Cowbell has always been kind of tacky, so we early adopters of More Cowbell wont have to give it up when tacky bandwagon-jumpers, like the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles, suddenly see the light. And in contrast to other things that started out cool, like REM for instance, cowbells won't let the sudden popularity go to their heads and start putting out crap sound.
More Cowbell - is there any thing it can't do?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
(Ride for a muffin... to hell with your car.)
Just in case you were wondering, if you race or are maybe interested in racing, this is a good place to meet my teammates and enjoy a leisurely (avg pace 16-18 MPH) cruise around Arlington. Yep, you can do it with an eye on checking us out or maybe joining the team down the road, or you can do it just to be social. A few of the non-Coppi regulars on the ride include a top rider from ABRT, a local full-regional pro, and one of the rock stars from the CityBikes team, which is mainly an MTB racing outfit, and Derek, who has raced with pretty much every club in D.C. The focus is social, the pace is geared to loosen legs after a tough training week and to get people ready for the races over the weekend (Murad RR, and Bobby Phillips' excellent, ridiculously-well-stocked-with-cash-prizes Turkey Day Crit.)
We leave the Java Shack (2507 N. Franklin Rd., Arlington, Virginia) at 6:30, and return by 7:45, Lord willin' and the crick near Blumont don't rise. After that, we hang out, chat, eat a muffin and some coffee, then leave for work, play, or more riding, as the mood strikes us. Everybody who does it considers it the best ride of the week. You may wind up reading this Friday at work, too late for tomorrow's ride, but if you want to join in, just show up, or drop me a line about it if you're curious. GMail.com address TCRJames - sorry about making you figure that out, it's the one spam-free email account I have. You might consider lights, given the ever-later sunrise these days.
It’s about time, if you’re going to get serious about this road cycling thing, that you realize that other people can’t do it for you. Group rides are fun and all, but you’d better get used to the idea that your buddies and teammates and other folks on the ride aren’t going to help you out sometimes. Even Team Discovery blew up under Lance from time to time, and was no use at all. For us amateurs… there’s going to be a lot of days your teammate isn’t up to hauling your ass around, and you’d better develop some reservoir of inner strength, otherwise you’re going to be riding mighty slow. This is true riding into the wind, up hills, or in races, anywhere the going is hard. You gotta get tough and get used to doing it on your own, pal.
Now that he’s been off the bike a couple weeks and just tooling around, Kyle had a Eureka moment about this.
I use to be so great at training rides that my race performance would be
mediocre. During the winter thats what I did on the weekends. I did not ride
during the week just go out and hammer 2 times a week. This year I have done so
much better result wise. I used to be the guy who would always place outside of
the top 10. I was a 15th-30th place rider all the time. So there is something to
be said of riding controlled rides all by yourself.
Yeah. No shit. If you want to ride well, or at least ride up to your fully stinky potential, you’d better figure that out. And you’d better realize that you need to figure out how to train. You can get a coach but until you figure out how training works, you still won't get full value from it.
I had a Eureka moment today myself. The moment really starts Tuesday. I did 4 five minute subthreshold intervals, on two minutes rest. Okay, the last interval was 10- 15 watts into VO2Max range. So sue me, I felt good. The two minute rest periods made me feel pretty good and although my legs were burning during the intervals, it didn’t feel like I was working hard. My spin home was wonderful, legs felt great, I kept it in zone ½, and Cycling Peaks told me I actually had gotten fresher over the course of the day, since the net work amounted to a hundred or so ‘training stress points.’ Why, it was practically a rest day! This felt like a real training breakthrough to me, I've achieved a level of fitness where I can get fresher and raise my overall fitness level at the same time. Hallelujah,hallelujah, hallelujah, Halleeeee-lujah!
That was short-lived. Yesterday, Wednesday, was agonizing. I could barely turn the pedals over. The 15 mile spin to cross practice was painful, I could barely force myself up the hills on the Custis trail. Practice itself was brutal, not that we were going hard, just my legs were dead. They were softer and stinkier than a chunk of overcooked broccoli.
Naturally, I asked everybody who knows a little about training why this was. Nobody really knew, some suggested one thing or another. Still, it was a very bad day on the bike and I felt like hell. I went home, stared at my power charts for Tuesday, and pondered. It just didn't make sense.
This morning, taking an easy spin into work, riding alone and just enjoying the scenery and wondering why my legs suddenly felt better, it hit me. 4x5 minutes subthreshold on two minutes rest isn’t 4 hard short intervals. The short rest period gives a little relief, but it feels to the body like a 28 minute time trial effort. The mini-recoveries were merely deceptive, relieving the burning in my legs for a couple minutes but really not evacuating the full measure of lactic acid and other crep out of my leg muscles. So I felt better for two minutes, but had not actually recovered. Going back each time and ratcheting up the power (328, 328, 332, 382) just dug the hole deeper and deeper. What felt like an easy workout was actually pretty brutal, I just wasn’t smart enough to realize it.
The moral of the story is you have to be sort of independent minded to figure out what the hell you are doing on the bike, you probably have to train alone most of the time if you want to get the most out of your training, and you (I, in this case) probably don’t know half as much as you think you know, and in a lot of cases your friends, coach, riding buddies, whoever, aren’t going to be much help in figuring things out. You have got to do it for yourself. When you are strong on your own, you’ll be strong in the group, and most of all strong when it counts, at the end of races. Until then…
Wait, where was I?
Oh yeah, piss off. I’m writing this down for myself, not for you.
There’s no blog entry today so I’d appreciate it if you just move along. Git. Skedaddle. Go. Go read FatMarc or something. He's certainly amusing and in the mood to share today.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The knicker's roots are in Victorian England.
Back in the good old days, when bi-cyclists pedaled their velocipedes about the town, and took bracing cold baths to stave off both gout and rampant sexual desire, it became obvious that Jodhpurs and hoop skirts were inadequate at protecting the nether regions of the rider's fundament from the four principle elements. Yet at the same time, a full swathing of the legs in Hudson Bay Blankets, goat chaps, or similar protective capes and tarps was found wanting, as they constantly became caught in the velocipede's drive train, to wit between the ground and the rider's feet as he paddled along. (This was even worse for the distaff sex, who had to paddle their feet side-saddle style).
(No Eggbeater pedals here...)
A new form of race-ing necessitated the invention of the knicker -- Velocipede-o-Cross. My dear faithful readers, please rest easy, I assure you it is not an Irish sport, despite the name.
(as he would have been depicted in the London Times, Circa 1870)
This new form of velocipede pilotry was exceedingly demanding on clothing items, consisting of races wherein the rider attempted to paddle his steed along cobblestone streets, rutted wagon paths and cow-pat infiltrated meadows, stopping only to hoist up his 80 pound wood and steel mount upon his shoulders, to hurdle the fence onto the town commons, thereinafter to run up and down hills with it until regurgitating his hearty lunch of cold roast beef, ale, blood pudding, spotted dick and Claret.
(Tasty, but looks pretty much the same going in as it does coming out, either end)
Kilts were suggested at the outset, but allegations were leveled that kilts were either too manly, or too girly for velocipedists to wear. A council convened in time for the 1884 World Exposition by H.R.H. Victoria II, Defender of the Faith, God rest her soul, were unable to conclude whether kilts were girly in a manly sort of way, or manly in a girly sort of way, so the search for proper riding gear continued.
("We are not amused by your Spotted Dick, Mr. Rouleur.")
The council determined that although short woolen shorts were quite comfortable, they were inadequate for the task. Shards of metal often flew off the riders' wheels (the ultra-lightweight wood and steel rings (just 19,400 grams!) having been fashioned from the finest materials by the local coopers and blacksmithies. More disturbingly, these provocative shorts frequently inflamed sex-ual desire and causing fainting among the young ladies of tender age, who were so often keen witnesses to the ex-ploits of derring-do by the velocipaedists.
(Don't worry - there's a support group for your parents to join.
It'll help them accept you for who you are.)
The scandalous conditions ensuing after the infamous North of England Velocipede-o-cross Championships of 1889, in which all the riders wore half shorts, necessitated cold baths for everybody, to the extent that the Liverpool Reservoir and Lake Windermere were drained, and the entire North Country was put on water rationing for a forthnight. Women reading about the event who merely glimpsed a pencil drawing of the shorts in Le Monde and Die Frankfurter Zietung were said to have fainted dead away. Clearly something had to be done.
(Gee... Can't imagine why.)
Similar shorts were tried in 1890 at the RavensCraig Cross & Kilt'en Caboodle, this time using tubes sewn of the finest silk to warm the knees, but the riders complained of cold legs when the tubes fell down as the velocipaedists ran over hill, dale, scree, burn, kirk and firth with their mounts. Noteworthy Scot Angus MacFergus, the famed Downhill Velocipeding Alderman of Kirkaldy, observed the slipping garments and noted tartly, "Och, ay, thaese are nae warmers,” and the name stuck.
Still, the riders rejected the shorts/nae warmers combination because they kept slipping and provocatively exposing the kneecap, the most sensual of the leg joints other than the hip and the ankle, so the Council also rejected the nae warmers as well, lest the nation be engulfed in a storm of lust and cold kneecaps.
The Council also considered the "tight", so-called because it was tight. It was deemed un-suit-able, as it was similar to the article of clothing worn by act-ors and was therefore disreputable by association.
(Who was also reputed to be quite the swordsman...)
Moreover, the “tight” was unduly warm, thus leading to further sweating by the racers, causing undue heaving of both male and female bosom, leading thereby to eye contact between racer and spectator, and thus to the carnal inflammation inevitably attendant thereto. Furthermore, ahem, when worn in the traditional manner, the tight also necessitated the wearing of an enormous padded leather codpiece, to cover the rider's cod. This accoutrement troubled the velocipede pilots mightily when they engaged in frequent mounting and dismounting exploits so common in this new form of racing, velocipede-o-cross. Tights were thus roundly rejected.
It was then noticed that the finest men and women of Hoboken, in the former colony of America, commonly wore a mid-length pant, and experienced neither sweating, nor heaving bosoms, nor carnal inflammation. Moreover, these “old Knickerbockers,” as the descendants of the original Dutch/Flemish settlers of New Amsterdam were known, were most excellent riders of velocipedes, for some unknown reason, though they only liked riding on cobblestone roads in the rain. But I digress.
Velocipaedists hoping for a competitive advantage quickly tried on these short pantaloons and found them "to their liking." Enjoying the relative coolness, the easy mounts and dismounts, coupled with a lack of carnal inflammation for all involved, it was determined by velocipaedists and their fans that these new short pantaloons made excellent vestments for the sport of Velocipede-o-Cross. The name of the Former Colonial Flemish Short Pantaloons was shortened to "Old Knickerbockers" in honor of the Flemish-American riders who invented this most useful of garments. Eventually, uncouth elements in the Fleet Street press, most of them drunkards, treasonous swine or mere utter fools, shortened the name to "knickers." These pantaloons still make a most superb cool weather and Velocipede-o-Cross trouser, though modern designs with clingy fabrics (rather than the original sailing ship canvas) mean that manufacturers no longer guarantee their products to avoid inspiring carnal inflammation.
Monday, September 10, 2007
- Thanks to Peter, and the others who have given me compliments on the blog recently. Glad you like-y.
- Today was a rest day. It was hard walking around the office, my legs were stiff whenever I stood up, and I'm really tired right now and looking forward to hitting the hay. Unless you are coming off a rest week, if your legs aren't tired as hell going into your weekly rest day, you probably aren't training hard enough.
- Last year I needed a lot of extra rest days - two a week. This year, I take an extra rest day maybe once every three working weeks. It's a combination of getting more acclimatized to hard riding (a multi-year task) and learning to ride much, much easier when I'm not rolling hard. Except for long zone 2 rides, I'm generally either riding in zone 4 or higher, or just spinning easy in zone 1. This lets me get in tons of high intensity work, while preserving enough freshness to do it day after day. That's how I wind up on my rest day with aching legs (a high Acute Training Load from bursts of short, sharp training) but am generally pretty fresh the next day (a low Training Stress Balance), because I avoid racking up extra training stress with unnecessary stupid rides (e.g. hammering up the Cap Crescent in a race against a pathlete. [Update: I've managed to pile up a high Chronic Training Load this way. Good news: my Training Stress Balance is -14 this morning. Off to do some intervals.]
- Training is thus both much, much harder and much much easier than non-racers appreciate.
- Speaking of training, I need to do some core strength work. Anybody got any suggestions? I'm all about videos, especially if they give a 20 minute floor workout I could do during cross season and over the winter. If you have ideas, let's hear 'em, my back is acting a little goofy lately.
- Ever ride in the heavy fog? I left the house early on Sunday morning and rode down south toward Chesapeake Beech. The fog was so heavy that I had to take off my sunglasses (water was running off of them) and the water was beading up in my forearm hairs and running off my arms. Odd, considering the temp (75 degrees). I could barely see 25 yards ahead, which was eerie because it was sunny outside. It was cool in a way because it was dead silent and it looked like some carefully filmed training video for a Nike ad, but I was deadly worried about getting hit by some car cruising through the fog. When the sun came out and finally burned off the fog with the yellowest, warmest sunlight I've ever felt, it was a welcome sight. It still took an hour for my soggy clothes to dry out.
- Well, off to bed. I don't think I have ever appreciated sleep, as much as I do during a good build phase.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Ever been stuck in a bunch sprint and people won't get out of your way? Ever elbowed, kneed, or head butted people to try to open a line to the front? Tired of not getting your due, and not having a clear six inches through which to shove your bike?
Well, have I got the helmet for you.
I've already got an order from Belgium, from this guy, who wants a dozen of them.
Another Australian chap has made inquiries as well, though he said he'd be using his for purposes other than riding. Something about "kissing Glaswegians,"* whatever that means.
Mark my words, this is the next big thing in cycling.
[Update: Inspired by Big Mike, I've decided that I need to update my invention by upgrading the price, and including Bold New Graphics, which is what all the bike companies do to improve their bikes every year. Additionally, I'm going to add a carbon fiber model, and an all-new organic model for the sustainable riders and randonneurs among us. Here's the organic model of the BunchSprint Line Protector Helmet:
Note: Unlike the other helmets in the BunchSprint line, this one does not need fancy chin straps for fastening to your head. Simply spread some peanut butter in your hair, salt it liberally, embed some raisins and walnuts in your hair and perhaps a little bit of Purina Porcupine Chow, and you'll be good to go, the helmet will affix itself to your head. At least until the peanut butter runs out. In the alternative, we will offer a BunchSprint "Bunchee Cord" for $39.99 with which you can fasten the Organic BunchSprint helmet - we don't recommend this, however, because when this particular helmet wants to get off your head, it's best to let it go.
***Disclaimer: BunchSprint LineProtector Helmets not liable for any injuries, monetary or punitive damages resulting from the use of its helmets, including blindness, head scratches, rodent bites, rabies, scabies, lice, or impregnation by porcupines, hedgehogs or raccoons. BunchSprint Helmets not liable in case of pursuit by hounddogs, shotgun-wielding rednecks, or Pepe le Pew. Any likeness to Jello Biafra or an actual helmet company is strictly unintentional. All helmets warrantied not to comply with NHTSA and Snell standards.*** ]
*I've always thought "Kisses from Glasgow" would make a pretty good blog name for a dyspeptic commentator from Glasgow. Unfortunately, my family were Highland Scots, only passing through Glasgow on their way to bankruptcy then America, so I can't really claim it. Hey, maybe il Nessie's interested...
Friday, September 07, 2007
Start with rich coffee beans - you don't need espresso roast, but a good French Roast or Italian Roast (Trader Joes, f'rinstance) works well.
Finely grind the beans and then lightly tamp them into the metal filter. Don't pack them in, you can jam up the pores of the filter that way.
Put about one to two inches in the base unit, the "pot".
Assemble the Macchinetta tightly, so the top and bottom elements are sealed.
Bring to a boil over moderate heat.
This should yield 3 - 4 small (e.g. proper) shots of espresso. It doesn't quite come out creamy, but when you get it right it's incredibly rich and strong, not bitter, and very drinkable. Not the best cup I've ever had, but darn close. It took quite a while to get the knack, but it's like a lot of simple, craftsman-like activities - woodworking comes to mind - when you figure out how to do it the old school way, you can usually get a better result than more industrial processes yield, with the added bonus of personal satisfaction of picking up a new (old) skill.
Serve in a small espresso cup. Garnish with a wedge of lemon skin. Mmmmm...
This post is in honor of faithful reader, mech, coach, new daddy and accomplished wrench Chris Mayhew, whose mobile cafe was a lifesaver at Camp.
Ya see, just like the rest of you, I put on my pants one leg at a time. Except that when I put my pants on, they're 2XL, with some embarrassing stains from an excess of Chamois Butter. No platinum records though.
And just in case you were unsure, you can go to the Red Hill Country Store to get MORE COWBELL... Much, Much, Much MORE COWBELL, as it happens. They also do custom imprinted bells if you need one for your event.
My favorite? This one. It's kind of large, but then as everybody knows, I've always had huge bells.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
It's interesting, but not in a classical bicycle sort of way, interesting like a gas powered blender is interesting. I guess it has its uses, but I wouldn't really want to own one. It just doesn't look right.
But what do I know?
What do you think about this folding Canondale?
Face it. Accept it. Live with it.
I've often asked myself why that is, and I've caught crap from non-roadracing friends about this, particularly mountain bikers. Hell, I'm a jerk too a lot of the time. I'm coming to accept that. I guess being a jerk is part of being human. But still, cult members, worshippers at the Sign of the Double Triangle, are know for stellar jerkitude. Whassup with that?
Part of the reason is that the roadbike is a cult object, and if your devotion to the cult is in any way questionable, you will catch crap. It's not just turning the pedals, there are a lot of other things you have to do to show appropriate devotion to this terrible little wheeled god we all worship. Show up for a group ride in white tube socks, you will know what it felt like to be the guy at Jonestown who was asking for "a glass of milk instead... I just don't like the Kool Aid that much, alright?" Lookit, most of us ride 10-15 hours a week, make ourselves hurt absolutely miserably, suffer all manner of aches and pains, and at times risk our lives, to seek little bits of enjoyment from our rolling god. Yeah, we're a jealous religion. Maybe it doesn't reflect well on us that there's no roadie version of "turn the other cheek." "Turn the pedals" is as close as we get, and when you start doing that with any degree of vigor, it ain't exactly charitable.
Seriously. There is an aesthetic to the roadbike, and a ritual that attaches to an object you worship just a little less than your god and your beloved, or on some cases you may worship it a bit more if you really have it bad. Get the aesthetic, or get abused. You wouldn't pour fine wine into a plastic cup, right? Well don't abuse your beautiful bike by failing to respect it.
If you don't feel love for road bikes the way a hunter loves a fine Italian or English 12 gauge double barreled shotgun, or the way a fine woodworker loves a traditionally-made japanese straight saw, you just don't get it. Quit asking, I can't explain it to you. Spend some more time with it and you may come to understand. Otherwise... well, I hear jogging and rollerblading are always looking for a few good people.
You see this "getting it v. not getting it at all" divide with opera too. Either La Donna e mobile hooked you like a trout on a dry june fly lure the first time you heard it, or it didn't. Either Nessum Dorma (Luciano Pavarotti, R.I.P.) made you sit there and weep, and you didn't have a clue why that was, you miss the point completely and wonder where you can download the latest Kelly Clarkson video.
This getting it / not getting it divide explains part of bike love, and part of bike lover jerkitude. People who don't get it are frustrating as all hell. I can talk for hours about why bikes are beautiful with somebody else who gets it, but I can't communicate it to somebody who doesn't get it. To us, people who don't pay attention to the little details, who don't respect the bike, are like the guy at the art gallery who looks at the Mona Lisa and goes, "I'd do her." Dude, you miss the point *entirely.*
You may wonder why you catch abuse from racers and hardcore roadies, or if you're all hardcore and race-y, you may wonder why you find yourself hollering at people. Well, here's some explanations, I think.
If you look at a Softride and think, "That's wicked cool, I'd love one," you don't get it. If you look at a recumbent and wonder, "why don't they ride them in the Tour de France... the recumbent is demonstrably superior in terms of kinesiology and aerodynamics," then you don't get it. If you don't shave your legs because "my wife isn't so hot on the idea... plus it doesn't really help that much with aerodynamics," then you just don't get it. It's possible with time that you may get it... but don't get your hopes up. If you are all hardcore and you see another rider screwing up, and instead of trying to correct him you yell "f*** you!" and shoot him the digital corporate symbol, you may not be getting all of it either.
Is there insecurity in this? Yes. Tons. But I think it's a good kind of insecure. It's a reverence for the sport, and a reverence for that ridiculously practical and impractical love object, the bicycle. It's jealousy. Now you can love somebody with all your heart, but be truthful - no matter how well you hide it, no matter if you're cooler than the dew on a November morning, you are still jealous when somebody else is showing interest in the one you love. And if the approach is less than respectful to begin with - it's a cup of instant pissed, with a side of jealous. Ever had some drunk idiot hit on your girl / guy in an in appropriate manner in a bar? Yeah, that's how I feel when somebody abuses one of my babies.
Is this completely irrational? Yes, perhaps. But love typically is completely irrational, no less so than when it's love for some pagan god of motion.
There is a rational side to roadie peevishness, of course. Road riding, racing and serious training especially, require a cooperative spirit of a sort not usually seen outside of contact sports. To ride fast and safe, you need to ride your bike in a certain way. You don't stop pedaling in a paceline if you can help it. You give hand, head and eye signals to tell people what you're up to and how to react, and you communicate the presence of certain hazards with words that are terms of art, a lingua franca that everybody else understands. "Car back," "Jogger up," "Clear left," "Slowing." We use the same gestures and words each time so that there is no doubt in the group's mind what is going on, and so that the group can react quickly and safely. "There's a car back here and I think he wants to pass" is inefficient, and it doesn't succinctly convey the threat to the group or how the group should react. A rider who doesn't observe these habits may be allowed to do group rides, but will find himself riding in a little NooB Bubble - given a wide berth by all on the ride. When you're in the group, of course, you need to move smoothly - staying on line is the start, but you also need to keep a steady, smooth cadence, and if you bump somebody, lean *into* him first then slowly lean away. Don't try to shake hands on the bike, just do a weak High Five. Learn to put your transitional clothing on and take it off safely while riding. Learn to stick your head under your armpit and to spit straight down; to pick up and replace your water bottle while pedaling and holding your line; and to take a drink while keeping your eyes on the road, free hand on the center of your bar flat. By their acts you shall know them.
Other signals are more subtle, but they are just as mandatory. Leg shaving, for instance, is the mark of the roadie. You can be fast or slow, thin or fat, any color or race or nationality or sexual preference. If you shave your legs, you signal you are in the dogpack with the other dogs, that you want to do your bit within the group, you can be relied on to do the things that are supposed to be done. Yep, it makes massage a lot nicer, scrubbing out road grit from a crash *much* easier (take my word on that, mkay?) and it gives some slight aerodynamic advantage. It also shows off your nicely toned legs. But what it really signals is you're willing to mark yourself as a serious roadie. It's may not always work out, but a guy who shaves his legs generally can be counted on to do the other roadie things right, to pay attention and work on their craft. It signals commitment, as do things like the classic biker tan (betraying long hours in the saddle) and a clean bike. Yep, I know some beasts on wheels who don't shave or take good care of their roadbikes. A few of them can be counted on to ride well in groups, the others are notably crappy group riders. Good guys, strong riders, but not the fellows I'd want in a fast moving 30 rider pack. The hairy legs and dirty bikes don't prove they will be crappy, but there is a correlation. Most of the leg shaving clean bike guys I know, on the other hand, fit into the group well functionally speaking. Show up to a hard group ride that has a lot of very good riders and you have hairy legs and a dirty bike, you'll get some looks. Show up with a clean bike and shaved legs, you'll be welcomed, or at least not shunned.
There are some other habits that are necessary for fitting in. Keeping your line, holding your head up and not staring a hole in the 700x23 in front of you, keeping a finger covering your rear brake lever - those are pretty obvious. Other habits you need to have include anticipating a slowdown and easing off on the pedals well ahead of time, understanding when to sag a little in the paceline, spotting an unusual road hazard others might have missed and calling it. The classic Hains Point improvised hazard call - "SLOWING... Ducks left." Nice.
Yep, we're often jerks, bitchy, insecure and dumb in our own way. But it's important to remember that a lot of the things we're snotty about, a lot of the things we get really shitty about, are driven by our love and respect for the bike, and for the way it is meant to be ridden.
A final word. I need to confess to being an impatient jerk. I tend to forget that I'm still ignorant about a lot of things, and I tend to bark when correcting other people. Sometimes, it makes sense - on a group ride, there often isn't time to subtly explain bike handling nuances to somebody who is screwing up. Similarly, when you know you're right, you're right and that's that. But a bit of humility is in order, lord knows I have enough to be humble about. So I'm going to try to work on being a bit kinder in my corrections of others, and to pay closer attention and try to learn or figure out something new about my bike, how it handles, and how to ride better in a group on every ride. Any chance any of you are willing to take the same pledge? I know it's kind of silly, but if you really do love your bike and riding, and you take it seriously, I think you should consider it.
I'm not saying that it will help rehabilitate us roadies in the eyes of others. But at least some kinder, gentler guidance, sharing the knowledge, might reduce the need for us to tee off on them so much, right? That's the other point I'm trying to make. If you really do love that bike and what it does, it seems to me you should try to work to share that with people and encourage them. Spread the faith, brothers and sisters, spread the faith!