Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Training begins!

Unlike my more hard-core athlete friends, I can't simply do hard, indoor workouts for the sake of doing hard, indoor workouts. They aren't the least bit fun. And I find that there's absolutely no point in killing yourself in the middle of winter when your first event isn't until the middle of spring. Seems like a waste of time and energy, really.

I don't mind training hard, but I need a reason, a goal to work toward.

(Frankly, I've come to think of the winter months as the Universe giving me permission to do something besides ride/train/race. Call me undedicated, but there's more to my life than just working out. And cold, dark days are perfect for kicking back, imbibing in a drink, catching up on my growing reading list, and pursuing other interests that don't make me sweat so much.)

But all that is over now. I have a reason.

On February 26, 2011, I will be riding the Furnace Creek Century*, which is a timed event (but not a race) that starts around 200 feet below sea level, and peaks at about 1300 feet before turning around and coming back through some of the most devastatingly beautiful scenery in the United States.
*I'll be riding with Jill Marks. We've set a goal to finish in under 7 hours total.

Last year, I got ready for a week of AdventureCorps cycling by following Chris Carmichael's "Time Crunched Cyclist" plan. By following the plan, I started my ride season in excellent form (considering that I was pulled out of the cold, snow, and darkness of a Cleveland-style February and plunked down in the middle of some challenging California desert riding).

I'll be following the 'Experienced Century' plan, which means 6+ hours per week on the windtrainer. For those of you who think 6 hours isn't painful enough, think again. The workouts are intense: lung-busting, leg-crushing, highly-focused sessions meant to optimize training time.

All the sessions are based on your own personal power or intensity (heart rate) data. A field test (described in detail in the book) tells you how to figure out your max heart rate and all the zones that you'll be training in throughout the plan. WAY better, in my opinion, than going to a spinning class where some goon of a coach tells you to push harder when you know you're already at your maximum intensity. I'll have my massive coronary on my own time, thank you very much.

9 weeks to Death Valley. 9 weeks of training. Tonight, I get to ride for 90 minutes, mostly at 'endurance' intensity but with some longer steady state intervals thrown in just to keep things interesting. When things get tough, I'll just visualize myself flying up Jubilee Pass...

What does your winter training consist of?
Do you follow any particular plan?
Do you set goals?
Tell me all about it in the comments section...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December Diversion II

My friend Matt came in from Arizona to spend a long weekend. A native Ohioan, I think he missed the cold and snow, but didn't want to admit it. He used the annual Auburn Metal show as his ruse for wanting to return 'home' in the middle of December.

I thought that it might be fun to do a Buckeye Trail run. Matt is an accomplished triathlete, but I was hoping that the slippery, snow-covered trails and 20 degree temperatures would handicap him just a bit. Or maybe the icy creek crossing (of which the only way across was by wading) would slow him down a little.

Not a chance. By the time I caught up with him at the finish, he had already showered, changed, gone to Starbucks, and read through the first 100 pages of War and Peace.

(Turn computer sideways to appreciate this video):

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December Diversion

Earlier this month, Dave and I traveled to Austin, TX. Austin is this great little liberal pocket of sanity in an otherwise fascist (did I really just say that?) state. College town, bikes all over the place, great margaritas, music blasting from every doorway. City motto is Keep Austin Weird.

Spend lots of time (and $$) at Mellow Johnny's. We were told that we missed Lance by a couple of hours. Came back the next day to see if we could catch him. No Lance sightings, but I'm beginning to burn a hole in my credit card.

JUST in case you forgot you were in Texas...
(read this guy's shirt)

Aside from the great bike scene, Austin is known for it's live music, especially if you're a blues fan.

(Me and Stevie Ray)

Saw a couple of really good bands, especially this one:

Back home in snowy Cleveland. Windtrainer beckons...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How HOT is TOO HOT??

We were back in Vegas at the end of September. I hate Vegas, but Dave said we could go to Death Valley, so that was good.

I rented a mountain bike at the new Furnace Creek bike shop. Everyone else played golf.

Self portrait with sunburn.

My rental bike. I took it out for only 2 hours, which was more than enough.

This is the one-way loop road leading into 20-Mule Canyon.

Check out the temperature data. Granted, my GPS wasn't mounted on my handlebar, but stuffed into a handlebar bag. So the readouts are a bit skewed. But, really? 147 degrees??

Here's the data from my GPS. Click here if you want to view the Garmin link.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Party on Wheels

I usually don't like Halloween parties, because they require you to wear a costume, and I'm usually short on costume ideas. But the Solon CX race on Oct. 30th looked to be a lot of fun even though it was a COSTUME REQUIRED event.

Angie told me that she found a matador costume in her basement. Great - I'd be a bull! Now all I needed was a bike...

My old Rockhopper wasn't going to cut it for this race. I needed something light, and fast, and NOW.

Mike at Broadway Cyclery set me up with a new Jamis Nova Pro, a gorgeous machine that I picked up two days before the race. I spend that evening riding around the backyard, trying to figure out how to use the shifters, clipping in and out of my new Crank Brothers pedals, doing my best to avoid my two canine boys, who thought it was great fun to chase, and then hide from me and pop out in front when I rode around a blind corner. (Want to practice your handling skills? Ride around a small area with two dogs who have no fear of being run down. Good way to practice sudden braking and loud swearing, too).

Race day was cool but dry, except for the muddy areas and some of the singletrack. The keg was tapped by 10 AM, the riders were out in full regalia. It was a blast!

My goal for this first race was to finish last, which I did in fine form. Congrats to Angie, who came in 2nd. Thanks for the encouragement, Angie!

Long story about the bike. I LOVED it, but there was a flaw in the fork when it arrived at the shop. Mike fixed it up for me, but I had to give it back so he could return it for a properly-machined version (something about affixing the front brake correctly - sounds like a safety issue...) So for now, no bike. Hopefully there will be some riding left when I get it back.

If you want to see more photos from race day, click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport

I met Tim Marks last February, at the AdventureCorps event in Death Valley. Tim's wife, Jill, and I rode together a lot (including the Century ride) while Tim went off with the other hammerheads, racking up the miles and riding their bikes as if they were stolen, and on fire.

Tim just recently completed the infamous Furnace Creek 508, a hellacious ultramarathon bike race. This post is his story, in his own words, along with some photos taken by his crew.

Congratulations, Pileated Woodpecker!
508 Recap

Fri, 8 Oct 2010

I've been home for 4 days since the end of the race. My hands are numb, my feet hurt, & my ass has gone from Home Depot "orange" to dead skin. Was it worth it? Hell yes.....I can't wait until next year. Any takers for a relay team?
It all started last Friday with racer check in & inspection of bike & support vehicle. All went "A - ok". Had a pre race meeting highlighted by Bill Walton sitting in a chair next to me. The next morning - was up at 3:30 for a 7:00 AM start - surrounded by world class athletes - very intimidating! And - off we went.....

First stage was very difficult but I held my own. Feeling good - it was overcast, calm winds, but humid. Second stop - was Trona, CA - the armpit of the world. The American Dream has definitely passed it by.... I asked Jill what place I was in, thinking I was in the top 10, and found out I was in 43rd. Demoralizing. Arrived at "Trona bump" which was mtn climb #4 (which kicked my ass) and we put on the lights.

Made my way to Townes Pass - the toughest climb on the route. Climb started at the 205 mile mark. Had been off the bike less than 5 minutes in that time. The 9% incline started. I passed one of the superstars on a fixed gear bike - he was walking. It got in the back of my head - if the superstar is walking, I SHOULD BE WALKING. Sure enough - as I was walking up the incline in my carbon fiber shoes, up comes Bill Walton telling me to put on my Air Jordans and take a break! So I was WALKING and it was STILL kicking my ASS. The hour climb took me 2 hours.

Took the 17 mile descent into Death Valley where the temperature was between 86 & 92 degrees between 11 PM & 6AM. After the Furnace Creek time check (#3) I was doing everything possible to get off the bike instead of staying on. I took a 15 min nap at 4 in the morning and took the 10 mile climb at 5% up out of Death Valley. After a minor diarrhea episode I was greeted with blazing sunshine & 30 MPH headwinds. Temp on my odometer rose to 106 - maybe 99 or 100 on the car. Oh - and did I mention there was fresh new black asphalt on the road too?

Made it to #5 time check in Baker (3, 4 & 5 just blended together) with 130 miles left. I had been listening to my wife tell me for the past few hours that I can't quit - get my ass back on the bike....she was actually yelling at me after 29 years of marriage! So off I started on a 21 mile climb, at a 2% consistent grade on a smooth road with light 10 MPH crosswind.

At the top, the road turned into something I have never seen, and I'm from Minnesota. It was like hardened dirt with 1 inch diameter rocks thrown in for good measure. It was about 13 miles downhill at up to 4% grade. I got 1/2 way down and had dry heaves & diarrhea (I never want to drink Hammer Perpetuem & Heed again). My crew came up with a hot cup of noodles & chicken broth and my race became almost fun.
We come to the bottom of the incredibly poor road at time station #6 in Kelso - with a train blocking the road. The train passed quickly & after the check in - started climbing Mt. section # 9. It was a 12 mile climb which didn't matter because I could not see - it was dark again. Lights went on the bike again - demoralizing 2 nights in a row.
But - my fortunes turned & I was unstoppable. I passed more people than I could keep track of - I was on fire. I could smell the barn, with 80 miles left. Made it to the top of that climb, with a long descent - into Amboy time station #7. I was in an incredibly good mood.
Last stage, another long mountain climb and I was still flying, passing more people, enjoying the view, dreaming of getting my jersey. Then the hill got steeper & steeper & steeper & it would never end - but, it did. Another long descent and my ass started to burn like never before in my life.

Only 25 miles to go, but of course, it was up hill. You can see the lights of Twenty-nine Palms forever - you think you are done - but it goes on & on & on uphill. I get into town and encounter the steepest grade of the whole course. I swore, laughed, and remembered Scott Busse telling me I would be "God-like" in his eyes if I finished the 508. I was going to finish!

I crossed the finish line, got pictures taken, received my jersey, and my wife told me to carry my luggage AND my bicycle up 3 flights of stairs to our room. Is that any way to treat a GOD?

So now - its time to wrap this up. Let me end by saying I could not have completed it with out Jill & her cousin Torie. They kept me hydrated & chewed me out at the right times. The support of friends & family was a huge motivator and was much appreciated. More details available upon request - I have a lifetime of stories after 44 hours on that bike!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I instantly fell in love with cyclocross

photo courtesy of Andrea Chisnell

My all-gal racing/training club, Grunt Girl Racing, held a Cyclocross Clinic on Tuesday as a way to introduce cyclocross in a non-competitive venue.

I rode my 40-lb, 20-year old Specialized Rockhopper, complete with fenders, rear rack, and Monkey Lectric - it may not have been the prettiest bike, but I didn't care. It was fine for the event, but for sure I'll be adding a Cyclocross bike to my garage soon!

Here are my favorite moments from Tuesday's event:

1. We divided into groups according to ability, experience, and, yes, crappy bikes. (I was in the latter). We were practicing sprint starts* when one of the girls in my group looked over and saw a bunch of cheaters jumping the line in the Experienced group. She mentioned this to our coach, who replied, "Yeah, they do that all the time."
*as opposed to road racing, where the sprint is at the finish.

2. I was told that, during some races, spectators line the course so they could hand beer to the passing riders.

3. I have the ability to warp time: I am once again 12-years old, weaving my rusty, clunky bike in and out between the swings on the playground, racing across lawns with my friends, riding as fast as possible through the vacant lot at the end of the neighborhood. Just that this time, we're not getting yelled at by anybody.

What's NOT to love about a sport that encourages cheating, drinking, and acting like a 12-year old?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Laurent Fignon

I remember the last stage of the 1989 Tour de France as if it were yesterday.

Greg LeMond trailed by 50 seconds, behind Laurent Fignon. Fignon was a 2-time Tour winner, and the darling of the French press. With his geeky glasses and wispy blond ponytail (hey, this was the late 80's, after all), he was the European crowd favorite. His victory was all over except for Le Marseilles playing in the background as he accepted his trophy on the podium.

The last stage's ride into Paris was an individual time trial, and it's my opinion that the outcome of the 1989 race is why you'll never again see another individual time trial on the last day of the Tour de France.

Greg LeMond, with his controversial TT helmet and aerobars and averaging over 34 mph, made up 58 seconds over Fignon, and won the tour by 8 seconds. 8 SECONDS. Was this the most exciting stage of any Tour de France, ever? Yeah, it was...

I remember the footage of LeMond's wife freaking out on the Champs Elysees, and Greg's wide-eyed farmboy look of shock and amazement when it hit him what had just happened. I remember screaming so loud that the downstairs neighbors started banging on their ceiling with a broom to get me to shut up. Oh yeah, and I remember watching the pain and anguish that had consumed Fignon as he crossed the finish line, dropped his bike, and curled up into a fetal position right there on the road.

It must have been devastating for him. But for me, it sealed my passion for cycling.

In a tour that included a lot of big names like Erik Breukink, Pedro Delgado, and the amazing Miguel Indurain, this was history.

Laurent Fignon died of cancer yesterday, at the age of 50. In a sport that is made up of superhumans, it's almost shocking when the end is so very human. I will always remember him as the guy who made Greg LeMond work impossibly hard to win the most impossible Tour de France victory ever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's not the destination, it's the journey

The Great Hudson Valley Pedal 2010 is over, and we've all returned to the real world. But I have to say that there's nothing like an agenda that consists entirely of:
Wake up

Aside from the beauty and history of the Hudson River Valley, what I'll remember most about this trip were my fellow travelers.

Here are just a few images from the trip. You can find all of my photos online here.

There's a lot of history in the little villages along the Hudson River, like these old stone houses (c. mid-1600's) in New Paltz.

Tent cities are built at each of the tour overnights, like this one in Nyack Beach State Park.

Jackie and I did the optional out & back up Bear Mountain, over 2 miles of climbing. From the top, you could see the Manhattan skyline. I think this climb was the highlight of my trip.

Honestly, does Dave have a tapeworm or something???

Keith needed some excitement in his day, so he busted a spoke in the middle of nowhere. It sounded like a gunshot. He had the wheel fixed and was back riding the next day.

This is Jamie's bike. Jamie had a brain aneurysm when he was a kid. His dad drove up with him from Florida, and meets him at the overnight stops. Jamie's bike is a recumbent trike. It doubles as a clothesline anchor.

This is the view from the bridge in Poughkeepsie. The bridge is actually a parkway path, for pedestrians and cyclists.

We were told that there was some big shindig here in Rhinebeck a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, I wouldn't trade my Bianchi for anything, but this set of wheels caught my attention. (My first car was a '77 Malibu, in the same color).

Highlights along the way: the Vanderbilt mansion, FDR's home in Hyde Park, Tarrytown, Boscobel, Val-Kill, and too many more to list.

Camping sure does bring out my inner hillbilly!

Susan will be celebrating her 80th birthday in October.

We followed Route 9 almost the entire way from Albany to NYC. There was no shortage of hills. Plenty of traffic most of the time, too.

Hubert's everyday riding kit included taping up his pantlegs so his cuffs wouldn't get caught in his chain.He carried all his stuff in cardboard panniers. Solar panels are mounted to his handlebars, so he can charge his electronic gadgets. When my camera battery died and I was asking around for a charger, he pulled out an old voltmeter - I'm not making this up - to measure the voltage across the dead battery. I found someone else who had the charger I needed.

The average age of our group was 55. This gang of retirees from Bonita Bay, FL, almost certainly were the reason for the skewed average. They were amazing riders, too. I hope I can fly up those hills when I'm their age...

The view from the Rip Van Winkle bridge. We had a total of 5 Hudson River crossings along this route.

No doubt it will, but I kinda prefer non-fiction...

NYC is just a little ways away...

The Runcible Spoon, in Nyack, is a cycling hangout. Any given morning, you'll find the racks packed with all kinds of 2-wheeled transportation.

Those Bonita Bay people are some kind of party animals!

A couple of the younger riders hanging out by their tent after the ride up to Nyack Beach park.

Downtown Nyack has an amazing chocolate shop. We bought some stuff to go, but it didn't last very long.

Peyton was the youngest rider on this tour. He was 4 years old, and the stoker of a tandem (his dad was the captain). He completed the entire 220+ mile trip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Riding the Hudson River Valley

Today is the 3rd day on our Hudson Valley tour, a rest day.

It's been a while since I did any sort of "bike touring", which just means that you go from one place to another over the course of a week or so with a group of cyclists of varying abilities. You camp out every night, but you don't have to carry your own stuff. There's SAG service all the way, and most of the ovenight locations (college campuses or elementary school grounds, in our case) offer dinner or breakfast in the morning. Kind of like GOBA, but with fewer riders.

The ride goes from Albany to NYC over 6 days, an average of 40-some miles per day. The object, I'm finding, is to take your time with it, ride at a sightseeing pace, linger in the small towns along the way. I admit that it has taken me a few days to embrace that rhythm and learn to ride slow.Dave opted to load panniers onto his Surly for reasons entirely lost to me. As long as someone is hauling my camping gear and driving a SAG, I prefer to ride as unencumbered as possible. In any case, Dave is riding even slower than usual because of this, and I'm trying (I really am) to moderate my pace.

Once I get to upload some photos, I'll be able to better describe our experiences. For now, I'll just mention that we saw some amazing scenery, met a lot of interesting people, and rode some of the coolest roads. More later...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Am I back in the saddle again?

My self-imposed cycling hiatus is officially over.

It wasn't really a 'hiatus' anyway, but just a week of bad luck, crummy weather, and competing commitments.

(Ask Jackie if she thinks 3 flats on 2 bikes in 15 minutes is the least bit funny, or how she thinks she's gonna be able to ride a bike without a saddle... )

So, with one week before we take off for the Great Hudson Valley Pedal, I'm gonna go out and ride some more...
In the meantime, Dave will get all of our camping stuff together, with help from the boys, of course!