Sunday, January 31, 2010

ice road cyclist

Saturday, I got out on the Maple Highlands Trail on the skate skis. The surface is in good condition. The fine powder snow we got compacted well under the groomer. I noticed lots of mountain bike treads, so today I got out for a 90 minute ride. The section of trail between 44 and Claridon-Troy is packed hard and easy to ride on. East of Claridon-Troy it's pretty soft. I was spinning the granny gear.

On the good sections, it's almost like a road. It held up well under the mountain bike tires. I think it would be possible to ride on a 'cross bike as long as it stays in the 20s or colder.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"rest" week

Over the last few seasons,  it seems like I need to work on leg strength to be able to push myself hard enough to really stress my cardiovascular system.

It's interesting how my body adapts to lifting. I have to spend a couple of weeks muddling around with relatively low resistance on the leg press machine, then suddenly, I'll start ramping the resistance up in 12 pound increments so I have to abandon the leg press machine for the inclined leg press machine. I had a good weight lifting session on Monday--it seems like I'm done with the muddling phase and am starting to ramp up the resistance. This year, I'll keep it up through February.

As the weather warms up, I'll cut back on the weights and focus on cardio fitness. The first test of that fitness is next weekend at Tackle the Tower. I weigh about 1 pound less than last year, so any improvement in my time will be due to increased fitness.

In preparation for that test, after lifting on Monday, I took a break from workouts to do some DIY projects around the house. I'm finally upgrading my home office and am installing a click-lock hardwood floor. Easy right? Well, I live in a 100+ year old house, and even the simplest home repairs can turn into a massive project. This one was no exception. Hopefully I'll finish it up this weekend so I can get back into a normal schedule instead of tapping boards with a rubber mallet at 12:40am. All the crouching and standing at weird angles has kept me sore all week!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

false spring

picture by Chris Nicula

I'm settling into the rhythm of training for the cycling season. Believe it or not, so is everyone else! The roads in southern Geauga county were relatively packed with cyclists. C'mon people, how am I supposed to get any advantage by suffering in the cold when everyone else is suffering in the cold.

The "warm" (36 degree) weather has made it a little easier to get some miles and hours in. We did a club ride out of Chagrin Falls today through southern Geauga County. It's funny how difficult a group ride seems after many weeks of solo training trips and cross country skiing. When you're in the red on a solo ride, you can slow down, but on a group ride, you need to keep pumping the pedals and breathe through your eyelids.

We rode out Music Street past the "Cathedral House" (east of auburn road, really cool), then looped down to Bell and took Auburn south to Winchell. LaDue reservoir was looking desolate with the ice and snow and gray skies. The traffic was sane throughout the ride.

The pace was pretty mellow throughout the ride, but going over the rolling hills out of my comfort zone took its toll on my legs. By the last couple of miles, as the pace went into pseudo-race mode, my quads were cooked.

Post ride, Chris and Al and I spent some drool time in Mountain Road Cycles newly renovated shop in Chagrin. A pair of new Zipp 404's were on display. Luckily, my ears were ringing from the cold wind, so I was able to resist their siren song.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

calorie counter

My Saddle Broke Today: Is It Trying to Tell me Something?

Looking back in my training logs, I've been steadily losing weight since I hit maximum porkitude in 2005. One of my goals for this season is to drop about 20 pounds. I hope to hack off a good chunk of that during the winter months so I'll be more competitive in spring races than I've been since "grunge" was a big deal, and I'll be able to get my male modeling career back on track.

I've been pretty lax about it so far this winter. I figured skiing would do the trick, so I didn't fuss with my diet, and just piled on the hours. Since I ate when I was hungry, it's not a surprise that my weight remained constant.

So here I go again with the calorie counting. I keep track of the food that goes down my pie hole during the day to stay under a target, probably around 2000-2400 calories, that will peel off the fat while I continue to prepare for the season, but won't give me bad side effects.

It's pretty simple. I make a rough estimate of the calorie content of a meal and keep track of the total during the day. I don't make any other modifications to my diet. What actually happens is that the counting just forces me to make decisions about eating snacks based on my weight loss goal instead of hunger.

I know from past experience that the chronic negative calories eventually will catch up with me just as if I were crash dieting. Also, it's mentally taxing and annoying. So this time around, I think I'll try to drop the pounds in steps with a break between them, instead of trying to lose a little every week over a long period.

Monday, January 18, 2010

out on the road

After a couple months of riding in cyclocross mud or mountain bike snow, I got out on the speedy Cervelo today. It's nice to feel power go directly into forward motion instead of squishing mud or snow.

I dropped the Element off at Rising Sun Auto (the best garage to take your japanese or german car) for work on the brakes, then went riding from there around Munson. The road is still coated in cinder dust and the shoulder is narrow in spots where snow is still piled up, so I stuck to the secondary roads and did some all out climbs of the short steep hills there.

Of course, the iBike battery flaked out in the 31 degree weather, so I had no power meter guidance. Instead, I just went as hard as I could so I either just made it to the top, or blew up hugely. I hit Butternut, then swung over to Sherman and drilled it over the rollers there.

It felt pretty good to be out on the road in spite of the gray sky, fog, and omnipresent crud on the road.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the evil within

I didn't realize I had allergies until one year at Race at the Lake on the starting line I felt horrible and I saw a yellow coating of pollen on my tires. After years of suffering in the spring with the "flu", I finally put 2 and 2 together and took some allergy meds, and was cured. After that, I realized I get hit when the snow melts, too.

I figure all the crap that is trapped in the ice crystals of the snow gets released as it melts. Once it dries out and blows around, ugh. Lately, I've been ripping up the nasty old carpet in my house, so I've caught a couple whiffs of 15 year old dusty nastiness. As always, I'm late to start taking Alavert, so I feel like my brain is floating about 4 feet above my head. As it kicks in this afternoon, I'll probably get out for a little ride.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

skiing in shorts

That about sums up what skiing at Chapin was like today. I was in shorts and a sweater and I was sweating buckets.

The base is pretty thick, so it might survive a couple of days of mid to upper 30s, but probably not much more than that. It's been 18 days since the first ski trip I did this year. If there isn't a total melt off, we'll probably get another chance at skiing later in the winter. But if the base totally melts, this might be the last chance for skiing this year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

back in the weight room

I went to the weight room at the Geauga Y today for the first time in a couple of weeks. When I'm riding a lot, my legs are usually too tired to lift. For some reason, the same volume of skiing doesn't have that effect. If anything, it builds up my leg and core strength at the same time it pushes my cardio system to the max. Weird. Maybe I can apply aspects of the more explosive skating motion to my pedaling stroke.

I did a few sets of leg press, extensions, and curls, then did some core stuff. I started ramping up the weight I am using, especially on the leg press machine. I should easily surpass the weight I used last year. Hopefully the strength training will translate directly to power.

I'm working toward a couple tests I'll do early in February. Tackle the Tower is February 6th. That will give me a general feel for my power to weight ratio in a competitive situation. I'll use that as a springboard for threshold testing I'll do on the trainer. It's always interesting to see hours of preparation get boiled down to a single number. 

I feel pretty good about my preparation so far. But it looks like a big melt is on the way, so we might already be into the patchy part of the three week old ski season. If the ski season is already over, I'll probably be spending time on the trainer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Went to Chapin today at about 1. I got the only available parking spot in the 306 lot. There were lots of people out enjoying the day. The snow was pretty fast, but I took my time warming up and skied over to the lodge at a nice easy pace.

The Hobart Road side of the hill was really crowded. I had to stop several times to wait for people to get up off the snow, or to maneuver around people who decided to have a conversation in the middle of the trail. It's pretty interesting to see the different types of people out there. I heard quite a few languages today. It's also pretty entertaining to see normal (non cycling obsessed) people in different states of exhaustion.

I stopped for some water in the lodge, which was packed floor to rafters with bodies. Sniffling, coughing bodies. I had a little burst of germ-phobia and got back out on the skis.

I worked my way around the side trails, which were also mobbed with people and motored back to the 306 side of the hill, which was less crowded. I did a couple laps around the road section before my knee started to gimp up. I decided to keep my powder dry for later in the week. Seems like a longer warm-up was good for my knee. Tomorrow when I go, I'll stay loaded up on advil and see if that keeps the pain in check.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

snowy chardon sidewalks

I gave my poor right knee a rest from skiing today and did a ride around Chardon on the mountain bike on the sidewalks. The condition of the riding surface varies a lot. With the crazy amount of snow we've had recently, there's a different challenge every few feet.

The main problem today was the salt that gets sprayed onto the sidewalk from the city plows or from snowblowers. That stuff provides less traction than ice. I've tried it on the 'cross bike and the mountain bike without any luck. Maybe studded tires would work. But it's possible to avoid the slush by staying on routes where the sidewalk is pretty far from the street.

It was a fun ride and a pretty good workout. Even my arms and shoulders were sore afterward from throwing the front end of the bike around on corners.

Friday, January 8, 2010

lack of inspiration

I went over to Chapin late in the afternoon today and planned to hit the climb from the Hobart road side of the park a few times. I pushed hard up to the top of the hill, but was feeling a little tired, and my right knee felt sore immediately instead of after a couple hours. The desire to crank out some high intensity minutes drained out of me. I just finished a full lap of the park and went back to the car and felt like I needed to take a nap.

It was a pretty big contrast to skiing earlier in the week. On Wednesday, I drilled it on the fast snow and felt great. I guess all the skiing caught up with me.

Since December 28th, I've done 13 hours on the skis. I need to let my knee recover a little, so tomorrow I'll get out on the slippery sidewalks of Chardon on the 'cross bike, then do some weight lifting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

snowy chapin

I drove out to Chapin this afternoon at the tail end of the latest lake effect snow episode. There was some automotive carnage on the roads. The Geauga side of Kirtland Chardon Road was epic bad. There were some bumper prints in the ditch on both sides of the road and a cop was helping a woman who spun out and went into the ditch at the bottom of the hill.

I cut over to the 306 parking lot on Billings Road, which was covered in fine snow. The sight jogged some dormant memory cells. I used to live near the Sperry/Kirtland Chardon Road intersection back in the 90s, and we had a couple crazy snowy and brutally cold winters including a -15F day, which ruptured the huge natural gas main on Route 6 near the Farm Park, about a mile from the house. It sounded like a jet engine.

The trails at Chapin hadn't been groomed, but there were only a couple of inches of fresh powder on top of the packed base. It was a struggle heading up the road toward the hill (aka Gildersleeve Mountain). I originally planned to work on my technique, but had to concentrate pretty hard just to keep my balance. By the time I got to the top of the hill, the groomer went by, so I got to skate on the brand new surface. Sweet!

I did two back and forth laps from the 306 parking lot to the lodge, and took side trips on every trail that had been groomed, but even with all that, it was only 9 miles and about two hours including time spent adjusting gloves and getting a powerbar at the lodge. I didn't have enough gas in my tank for a third lap.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

looking back

I flipped through some of my workout logs from previous seasons. There are some numbers that summarize my progression.

Tackle the Tower has been a good indicator of my fitness at the start of the season, and a good predictor of my season:
  • 2006 Tackle the Tower -- 9:25
  • 2007 Tackle the Tower -- 7:20
  • 2009 Tackle the Tower -- 6:51
This year I'm shooting for a sub 6 minute time. In 2006, I wouldn't have thought that possible.

My Kirtland Chardon TT follows the same trajectory.
  • 2006 Season Best -- 9:19
  • 2007 Season Best -- 8:20
  • 2008 Season Best -- 9:20 (my knee recovery season)
  • 2009 Season Best -- 7:40
My sprinting has steadily declined, which is kind of surprising since sprinting and the flying kilometer are my two favorite cycling activities. My best effort in 2007 was 38.6 mph on my sprint test track on Bass Lake Road. I don't think I've been over 35 mph in a sprint in the past two seasons, even with a lead out, so that's a focus for 2010.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

trail conditions

I just got back from skiing at Girdled Road Reservation. It is in great shape. There's a hard base with some
powder on top and just a few drifts in the open fields.

Chapin was great yesterday. There were still a couple of spots with gravel poking through (on the climb on the 306 side of the hill) but those are probably covered today.

The Maple Highlands trail was groomed today, but I didn't ski it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

the best laid plans

January 2, 2008--that's one anniversary date I don't forget! I was driving home from Chapin after my first ski session of the year when, out of the blue, another driver crossed the center line and crushed my Civic. In spite of airbags and my seatbelt, the crash broke my ribs, punctured my lung, broke bones in my lower back, and snapped my right kneecap into three pieces. It really jacked up my 2008 racing season and drained away the fitness I'd built up in the prior two seasons.

I know many people in the local cycling community that worked hard to recover from various injuries--broken collarbone, a broken hip, a shattered pelvis, broken arm, broken tibia, head injuries, etc...

It seems like adversity is built into the sport of cycling. It requires so much preparation: physical, mental, mechanical, logistical, that things are bound to go wrong every once in a while. Broken bones are just one example.

Fate will kick you in the butt and the cycling gods will shred your puny training plans and racing strategies. The only recourse is to persevere and try to stay mentally nimble to overcome the problems that are thrown in your path.