Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Successful Training Procrastination Strategies, Saturday Edition

It seems that either I've failed to learn from my mistakes or I've been able to perfect my procrastination strategy when it comes to skiing.  There are a handful of weekend activities that can get in the way of skiing.  Individually each of these obstacles is easily overcome, but when I have to clear more than one of them the odds drop for me to getting out the door with enough time for a decent ski.  This morning I awoke faced with 3 of them, 4 if you count my poorly thought out plan of tweaking my 'cross bike so I could ride outside and take advantage of the "mild" January temperatures (it was in the 30's).  Actually I could argue that it was 5 obstacles if I count my fueling plan, but I'm getting off topic. 

Short winter days are partly to blame also.  When it's pretty much pitch dark at 5:15 there's less room for error than over the summer, so starting out later than 3:00 is means spending more time in the car than on the trails.  Over the summer I can still get a 2-3 hour ride in even if I start after 5, but I digress.

The first obstacle was a going out for drinks last night.  Normally alcohol isn't a big deal for me as I know my limit and don't go crazy if I plan on getting anything done the next day.  Last night was the 4th Waterbury Pub Crawl, so with 15 of our friends we spent time at all of local watering holes.  It was a lot of fun, and this time of year it is critical for me to things like this so I don't feel deprived when the snow melts and my mileage ramps up.  While I only had a few drinks I was up late, and often that takes more a of a toll on me than the booze.  Fortunately I picked up a new toothbrush to knock the "beer fur" off my teeth this morning.  I did a pretty poor brushing job last night and my old brush had gotten pretty haggard.  

The second obstacle was not having my skis waxed the night before.  The weather looked a little variable so I could say that I was hedging on which wax to use, but really I just couldn't get my shit together beforehand.  I've gotten to the point where I can wax, scrape and brush a pair of skis in under 20 minutes, so it's less about the time and more about having one more thing to get done before I can get out.

Third, I opted to make a large breakfast for Carrie and me.  Somehow I'm able to stretch the simple task of cooking eggs into taking over an hour.  This also by itself would be fine, but after getting up late and needing to work on my skis I was setting myself pretty far behind.  At least the eggs were good.

Third plus (or fourth if you're actually counting) I've been really trying to tweak my diet so that I can get lean for the upcoming season.  So far the results have been good and I'm getting very close to last season's race weight.  My goal is to start this season below my lowest weight from last year it looks like I'll be able to do that.  There are many reasons for doing this, most notable is the obvious needsfor cyclists to have an optimal power-to-weight ratio.  If I get lighter, I get faster, end of story.  In prior years I've tried to lean up too much during the year when I was putting in big miles and it backfired.  If I undershoot my nutrition this time of year it just means that I have to push through some workouts feeling like I'm close to bonking or that I cut down my hours a bit.

Lastly I thought this would be a great day to get out on my 'cross bike, and I had just gotten some sweet BBG chain guides (technically they're sold as bash guards, but if you need a bash guard for cyclocross you're doing it wrong) and wanted to install them with some knobby tires to make the 'cross bike more of a 'cross bike and less of a tranny road bike with odd gearing.  After I stripped one of the bolts trying to swap out the carbon brake blocks and realized that the rear derailleur cable and housing were crimped I decided it was time for me to walk away and come to grips with the fact that any riding I did would be inside.

At 3:15 I finally hopped on my skis and started my workout.  I got two hours in and felt like I was fighting it the whole time.  I was tired.  I was weak.  My form sucked.  My skis felt like they were waxed with pine tar.  My stomach felt empty and like I was pushing a 200 pound carcass with 150 pounds of energy.  But I pushed on, and two hours in things clicked into place as I made my way up the last long, steep climb.  My form came around and things finally clicked into place.  

And I still haven't gotten either Redline up and running.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cross Worlds Predictions

Any good cross fan will tell you that the elite men's and women's races are tomorrow at Cyclocross World Championships in Sankt Wendel, Germany.  If you haven't been following Das Pro und The Rookie it's worth a look over at www.cyclowhat.com.  Chandler Delinks has put together some pretty funny videos that document his prep for Masters' Worlds in Mol, Belgium side-by-side with Tim Johnson's build up for the race tomorrow.  It's pretty funny and offers some great cycling content when the rest of cycling world pouts about the Contador suspension (is it really a surprise?)

For the women I think this is Katie Compton's year, in spite of her goofy 3/4 length Wonder Woman skinsuits.  I haven't heard any reports of the the leg cramping issues that have plagued her in the past, and when she's on she's a force of nature.  Hanka Kupfernagel is fighting on home soil and will certainly be motivated, but I think she'll wind up second.  She's a lot like Nys and was once dominant and is still consistently in the mix, but she's not the sure thing she once was.  In third I'll go with Marianne Vos because she never seems to give up and can be competitive in just about any  race any time of year in any discipline.  Darkhorses are Gabby Day and Daphne Van Den Brand.

Other notable Americans will be Meredith Miller with a strong ride in 9th and if Georgia Gould lines up she'll be in 13th.

For the Men, I pick Niels Albert to win.  He's been hot lately and I think he'll be the protected rider on the Belgian squad.  The Belgians have been able to band together and gang up on almost everyone else in the 'cross community over the last few years, Stybar's win last year notwithstanding.  Sven Nys will be second in another strong but not dominant performance.  I admire Nys quite a bit, but I think in spite of his massive talent he'll again be bridesmaid at worlds.  In third I pick Stybar.  He'll be solid, but his recent knee issues will keep him off of the top step.  Darkhorses are Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout. 

For the Americans I think Tim Johnson will do the best in 12th, with his teammate Jeremy Powers just behind in 18th.  I have a lot of respect for those guys and I think they'll represent us well, but the podium seems like a stretch.  Jamey Driscoll might squeak into the top 20 as well, and Jonathan Page will be somewhere between 25-30th.  

(pics from Bettini Photo)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Race Schedule for 2011... Leadville?

Apparently the Tour of California organizers and Lifetime Fitness are developing a series of Leadville 100 qualifying events. 



I may need to reassess my plans and consider making a run at it this year.  My original plan was to roll out to the following endurance races

6 Hours of Pat's Peak, June 11

Darkhorse 40, July 31

Hampshire 100, August 21

Vermont 50, September 25

Four races doesn't sound like a full season, but each event over 6 hours takes me about a week and a half of recovery time.  Considering I looked like this about an hour into my second race last year I'm thinking that four races might be plenty and that Leadville might have to be a 2012 goal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Skiing Update- Guest Coach Details

A few weeks back in this post I mentioned a guest instructor at my masters ski group.  After geeking out on fasterskier.com (it's like cyclingnews for the nordic set) I ran across some links to the collegiate nordic pages for teams in the Eastern Conference including Middlebury, Dartmouth and my alma mater, UVM.   

The links to the Middlebury page feature a post by Noah Brautigam, and he even mentions skiing at the range.  Mystery solved.

He leaves out the part about towing around a group of masters for 90 minutes.

The full post is on the Middlebury Nordic blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Bikes of the Pros

I've been thinking about "other bikes" while waiting for my new Moots RSL mountain bike to arrive. It's hard to think about mountain biking when there's over a foot of snow on the ground, so I've been thinking about training bikes.

Michael Barry's father (maker of Mariposa frames out of Toronto) has a great blog called Bicycle Specialties. He outlines the winter bikes that Michael and his wife Dede Demet Barry use, and they're pretty cool especially if you're a Europhile pro wannabe...like me.

Here is Dede's carbon Giant. It was specially built for former World TT Champ Bert Grabch for Paris Roubaix 2008 and features revised dropouts to increase mud clearance and provide more stable handling. The bike remained unused since it didn't rain and Grabsch opted for his normal road machine on the day. It's equipped with cantilevers and you can still see his name decal on the top tube if you look carefully. Michael purchased it from the Highroad Service Course at the end of the season.

This is Michael's Carbon Giant from the same Roubaix special fleet. Not surprisingly it also features cantilever brakes and more mud clearance, which makes it exceptionally well suited to running fenders (or mudguards if you prefer). As an active pro he's also running an SRM, albeit an older wired version.

I'm not normally a fan of fenders, but I know that for winter training they're standard for many pros. If they can get over the dork factor then I should too...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Workout Report- Skiing at Trapp's

For nordic skiing on the East Coast it's hard to beat Trapp Family Lodge.

Saturday morning this is what I saw out the back door- sun and a foot and a half of pristine snow. By the time I got my act together and made it up to Trapp's it had clouded over and started snowing.

I made two trips to go skiing yesterday- one with poles, and one without, which meant that I was ready to go in the parking lot then realized I was missing my stupid poles and had to run home to get them. After spending the morning removing decals from my YBB and packing up two sets of skis I was distracted when I was loading the car and left my poles on the front porch. Dammit.

When I finally did get there with poles I was glad I made the effort because it was pretty incredible conditions. All 100k (63 miles for the metrically challenged) were open and buffed out.

Heading down Telemark towards Foxtrack.

Skater's Waltz near Johannes' driveway.

This is the part of the descent on Skater's Waltz just after the driveway. It looks flat but it's a pretty quick drop then a sweeping uphill into a slow curve.

I opted for the Madshus Hypersonic C3 today. In my quick tests they were running better than my Atomic World Cups with the same wax. The C3 is their powder ski so the flex and sidecut and are palpably faster in soft snow. Generally I go for the Atomics since they are lighter and better on packed snow, but it's always worth it for me to take a couple minutes to see what my best option is before heading out.

The Hypersonics have a flex rating decal on them, and if you look closely you can almost read the part where it says "these are good skis if you're a fat fuck."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Next Project- Moots YBB Decals

My next project is to put new decals on my YBB. I have some ideas for an alt decal layout that will make it still look like a Moots but with a subtle twist.

Without paint this is the best way to make my bike unique, and if I screw it up a new decal kit is only $30.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Workbench

Somehow this photo makes my 6 foot, 300 pound workbench look about the size of an end table. This is mostly how it looks in the summer with the exception of the bench vise being missing. You can still see the four holes for it on the right side. The wooden top is made from 2 x 4's standing on end and makes up most of its heft.

Here it is full winter mode with the nordic form clamped in place. I couldn't bear to have ski wax ruin the surface so I covered it with sheet plastic to protect it. A workbench is a tool, and tools should be used, but I have a special respect for this tool that goes beyond simple utility. For over fifty years it was in service in the barn on my grandfather's cattle farm. After he moved to a retirement condo in 2000 in sat mainly unused in his garage until he died in 2007.

This summer I picked it up and brought it home. I had to remove the top from the legs and take the basement door off of its hinges to fit it down the stairs and into the basement. With the help of a friend the whole ordeal took three hours.

With the history this bench has I feel compelled to use it as much as I can, and last week I used it to build a snowboard tuning stand. Carrie needed a place to tune her board, and it only seemed fitting to make it work for her, too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Wife

So this weekend was the return to winter as we got some steady snow much to the relief of the local resorts. Saturday was a trip out to Craftsbury and today was skiing at Trapps.

This week Trapps went from having 3k to 37k open, and today the skiing was great. All of the pictures I took came out looking like you'd expect- idyllic scenes of snow falling on a groomed trail, and they were pretty unimpressive.

What is impressive are the pictures of my wife snowboarding at Tuckerman's Ravine last weekend.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review- Kenda Kaliente

This season I put in several thousand miles on the road, and most of them were on the Kenda Kaliente tires pictured above. I wore out three Sram chains but rode only one set of Kalientes, and all without a single flat tire.

The Kaliente is a pretty standard 700 x 23c clincher tire that was the top of the Kenda road line until the recent introduction of the C2C, Konstrictor and Kaliente Pro. It features a puncture resistant belt under the tread and a remarkable sub 200 gram weight. They're also remarkably inexpensive and can be found online for as little as $30 each.

The Obama stimulus package meant that there was a lot of road construction this summer and many of my long rides were on long stretches of gravel and broken pavement. Almost all of these sections were in fairly remote areas where a sliced tread or torn sidewall would have been catastrophic, and the Kalientes handled these conditions with aplomb.

There is one downside of a lightweight, high mileage, cost-effective tire and that is slight compromise in ride quality. Many of the online reviews I've read about the Kaliente echo that sentiment. It's not unduly harsh, but it is noticeably less smooth rolling on pavement than a Konstrictor or one of the Michelin Axial Series.

But to compare the Kaliente to a much more expensive performance clincher is unfair especially when the more supple Axial would have most likely punctured on the aforementioned broken pavement. In my mind the Kaliente is best described as a raceable training tire that is comfortable absorbing thousands of training miles but also ducking into an occasional group ride or practice crit. Its resistance to wear also makes it a great tire for switching back-and-forth from indoor miles on rollers or a trainer and riding outside.

When you consider its price to performance ratio it's really an incredible option as it punches far above its weight and is competitive with training tires costing much more. The pair I purchased in March are still in service as dedicated indoor tires as shown above.

For more information check out www.kendausa.com.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Weekend Workout Report

Here I am getting dressed up to go for a ride in the salty gritty January thaw. It didn't feel nearly as warm as the thermometer lead me to believe, and with how out of shape I felt I really wished I was able to skiing instead.

Carrie took this shot right before I set off on my ride. I was going for a Rapha catalog-esque shot but it didn't quite work out as planned. Still, this is what it looked like in all of its unglamorousness.

Here's a shot of my handlebars. Riveting isn't it? You can even read the low speed heart rate and cadence numbers. That's what happens when you're more worried about photographing your ride than you are about riding.

I made it for a mere 90 minutes. For January that's a win, but I have a lot of work to do before my trip to France in March.

Next time I'm going to stick to knobby tires and SPDs and make crappy weather rides more about dirt roads and snowy bike paths. If I have to clean my bike anyway I might as well thoroughly enjoy getting it dirty.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Laid Plans...

So Wednesday's workouts went well- 40 minute run at lunch time, then 90 minutes on the rollers after work. The run was tough not because of the length or intensity, but because I suck at running. The rollers were fine, and between the PowerTap and wireless headphones I was able to get in the zone.

All of this set the stage for being completely smoked for my masters' ski group on Thursday.

The drive over featured this sunset behind Camel's Hump.

This was my first week skiing with the fast group, and that meant that my instructors were two local collegiate ski racers home for Christmas break. Both guys were what you'd expect from collegiate athletes- young, talented, and massively fast, but also good at passing along some of their wisdom from years of experience.

As soon as we started to skate out on our first loop I knew that I was going to have push to stay with the group. The fatigue of Wendesday's workouts and being rusty from not being on snow for over a week combined to make it a challenge. Needless to say I was spent when I took off my skis 90 minutes later and collapsed into the drivers seat of my car.

Of course this is New Year's Week, so I was fortunate to have Friday off, yet somehow I failed to realize how completely shattered I'd be if I set up a big midweek workout, masters skiing and then three big ski/combo days on the long weekend.

Friday morning I knew I'd take the day off and was disappointed at my lack of plan. My only option was to head out to a friend's New Years Party and drown my "sorrows" in alcohol. Sometimes being unstructured can backfire.

My approach went from not having a plan, then feeling I had the wrong plan and feeling bad about it, then having a hangover Saturday morning, then realizing that the weather wasn't going to be conducive to anything except nursing a hangover and feeling like I somehow unwittingly made the right decision.

Every year there are a string of warm, snow melting days in late December or January and this year's is right now. Overcast skies and temperatures in the 40's have decimated what little snow we did have. Even the best maintained nordic areas are pretty hagard as I found out first hand after a futile 12 minute attempt at "skiing." Skiing is in quotes because it was really more about dodging rocks and bare patches than actual skiing. My only recourse? 90 minutes on the rollers with my good pals Powertap and wireless headphones.

I've resolved to make Sunday's workout a good one. I wish it could be on skis, but it'll have to be a run/bike brick.