Sunday, February 28, 2010

i should be faster

Every once in a while, when I'm riding or, in this case, skiing, a clear thought will pop into my head from out of the haze of effort.

I realized yesterday, when I'm skiing around at Chapin, or at Girdled Road, I'm continually trying to go faster. For example, I'll vary my stride so I have a longer glide, or I'll shift my torso around so the poles are hitting the ground at a different angle. I do the same thing when I'm riding a time trial. I'll try alternating the effort from left to right leg, keeping my back flat, etc... During a crit, I'll try to find a slightly better line through a turn.

The persistent idea is I should be faster. It's probably an idea that every cyclist, runner, or skier has. That idea probably applies to several different endeavors. Someone might seek wisdom, for example, someone else might try to improve their craft. It's probably been there since the first person was unhappy with the performance of their wooden spear and made a stone point for it.

I guess that an idea can also become a delusion--the delusion is that someday by the force of will, or that the sum total of all my work will suddenly pay off and I'll be way faster than I am today--that there's an endpoint. I'd call this the apotheosis delusion--that there are no limits. In reality, the limits are pretty stark. I can just get a little faster every season for a while.

Friday, February 26, 2010

getting organized

next stop eBay

I've been doing home improvement projects for the past few months. I'm wrapping up the most recent phase and have been trying to get the house organized again after shuffling everything around from room to room.

I did the big purge of junk I've accumulated over the years during the summer and fall. Now I'm down to things that are borderline useful and valuable. I've got a good name for this stuff: pre-junk. I think that's the stuff that plagues most people's households. It's stuff you think could be valuable, but really, for all practical purposes, isn't. (unless you sell lots of stuff on eBay)

Everyone draws this line in a different place. Sporting goods, bike stuff especially, and electronics tend to pile up in this category. Since I've worked in high tech companies for several years, I've trained myself not to have illusions about electronic junk. Once I stop using it: goodbye. It's time to recycle it, or trash it. I've worked at companies that filled store rooms and offices with old PCs and monitors like some crazy person on Hoarders. Unless you're a professional recycler, for most people an old PC or cell phone is worth less than $0.

I haven't gotten that ruthless about bike stuff. I tend to think I'll sell it on eBay, or give it to someone, or build up a bike for a friend or relative. But I don't. So I have a bunch of old crap wheels and components and even frames. Frames and wheels occupy lots of space!

The problem with pre-junk is that it camouflages things that are actually useful and valuable--so it actually costs something to store it. I re-learned that lesson again last night when I was organizing my bike stuff storage closet.

I sorted everything and boxed it up in clear containers. In the process, I discovered things I didn't know I had. I thought I had maybe 4 spare innertubes. Turns out I have about 20 of all different kinds. I thought I had a handful of old tires (for emergency replacements) when I actually have a whole pile of them. I thought my only 120 mm stem was on my cyclocross bike. Actually, I have one on the cross bike and two spares. Did I order those in my sleep?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ice dancing

Ice Dancing Improved

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I've gone a couple years without getting the flu, but not this year. It caught up with me on Thursday night. I felt crummy on Friday, and spent the day stuck to the couch watching the Olympics. I even watched women's curling. I've got a pretty good crush on the Russian women's curling team's Liudmila Privivkova.

By Saturday, I wasn't sure if I was sore from the virus or from sitting on the couch, so I got out for a 30 minute ride. I actually felt pretty good riding out Bass Lake Road until I stopped at 322. Then I felt horrible, so I turned around and crawled back home. I tried again today and felt pretty good the whole time. I probably could have done an actual training ride, but played it safe and just did an easy hour.

Riding after the flu reminded me of how out of shape I was just a few years ago. I started riding and working out again in about 2003 after a few years break from doing any sports. I remember one of those first rides out Bass Lake Road. The little hill by Sherman Road felt like a mountain. Today, even with the flu, I motored up there with no problem.

Hopefully I'll stay healthy for the rest of the winter. It's time to start riding a lot more. The skis are going into storage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've been skiing a lot lately. I'm also eating a lot to keep up with the energy demands, but since I'm trying to drop some weight, I'm not stuffing my face at every available opportunity. Apparently that's what I need to do!

I went skiing today at Girdled Road Reservation. I felt pretty good for the first few minutes, but then the engine sputtered and ran out of gas in the creek valley.

Bonking on the bike is pretty bad, but when it happens, you can muddle along at 12-13 mph until you get to a source of calories. On skate skis, it sucks. Walking pace on the skate skis is like a 20 mph effort on the bike. Uphill walking pace on the skis is more like a 80% time trial effort.

The 15 minute uphill trip back to the car felt like 2 hours and I stopped at least five times. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of m&m's and gatorade in the car. I went directly to the grocery store from the park. Every item with sugar or starch in it was screaming out to me from the shelves, and I could barely wait to make some pancakes for dinner.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

rest is good!

At the end of January, I ended up taking almost two weeks off any strenuous exercise. That was a little too long, but just a little. All my skiing aches and pains went away, and I actually felt refreshed when I started up again in February. In the summer, I hardly take any time off. I tend to cut my rest weeks short or spoil them with rides that start off leisurely but turn into a workout.

After two weeks off, I felt rusty for a couple of days, but after just a few tough days in a row, I felt much stronger than before. I guess that's how it's actually supposed to work.

Hopefully I'll actually remember this lesson during the summer and take time off every month.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

wax on/wax off

Maple Highlands Trail Taylor Wells Bridge

I've had a few ski sessions this week. On Sunday, I followed Larry and Daryl around at Girdled Road Reservation. Then yesterday and today, I got out on Maple Highlands trail, which has a perfect surface right now.

Sunday was pretty tough on me. I haven't been out on skis since the big melt on January 14 and I haven't waxed my skis since the beginning of January, so the base was bone dry. I'm purposely lax about ski techie stuff; I need a break from that mentality during the winter. I had to work pretty hard to stay in sight of those guys. That put a big load on my shoulders. After 90 minutes, I could barely lift my arms.

Today, I put a new coat of wax on the skis. It's an easy, although a little messy, job. In cycling maintenance terms, waxing the skis is somewhere between pumping up a tire and changing a flat tube.

It's ridiculous how much of a difference it makes. I was going about twice as fast for the same effort, so for the rest of the season, I'll try to keep a fresh coat of wax on the skis.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A real 100% effort

The only good thing about Tackle the Tower is it's over. Here are the results. I managed to knock about 5 seconds off my time last year to 6:46. That equates to 385 Watts, about 3.8 W/kg. That number represents the absolute minimum power required to move my mass 500 feet straight up. The calculation is pretty simple:

Weight (in pounds) * 0.4536 kg/pounds * 152.4 meters * 9.81 m/s2 = Energy in Joules
Energy / Time (in seconds) = Power.

A couple caveats: I'm not sure that the climb is 500 feet. That's a number I measured with the altimeter in my old Polar HRM a couple of years ago, and those things can be pretty inaccurate. Also, it's not clear how that power output relates to power on the bike.

I followed my plan almost to the letter. I sprinted the first flight and a half, then settled right into my aerobic climb. I tried to switch on the afterburners with ten floors left to go, I did lift the pace, but just barely. I did "sprint" the last two floors. I got caught behind slower traffic a couple of times, so maybe I could have gone 5-10 seconds faster. But since the time is so similar to last season's I think it represents a physiological limit, a true 100% effort.

I'm pleased I beat last year's time even though it was just by a whisker. It's also pretty useful to get a benchmark like this early in the season. It tells me my main limiting factor is extra weight. I doubt I can really improve the power side of the power/weight ratio. I definitely need to work on the anaerobic power, though, especially making the jump from a high aerobic effort state, but I have to do that every season.

Friday, February 5, 2010

cycling is a niche sport

There are 1003 runners pre-registered for tackle the tower.

Chris and I will put the early start/low dust theory to the test this year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

tackle the tower plan

Tackle the Tower is coming up on Saturday. That usually marks the kick-off for my cycling season.

TTT is the most acutely painful event I've ever participated in. It's not like the grinding fatigue of a long, hilly road race, or the intense sustained effort of a time trial or a 5k foot race. TTT is an all out effort from about 10 seconds in and it doesn't relent until you get to the top. The worst part, though is the 5+ minutes of hyperventilating gives me a horrible hacking cough right after it's over at the same time I feel like I'm going to hurl from the effort. I think I'll try some sore throat spray before the start this year.

This year, I'd like to drop about 30-60 seconds off last year's time, which was 6:51 and equated to 384 Watts. 30 seconds is about a 10% improvement to 422 Watts. 60 seconds is 441 Watts.

I'm dividing the climb up in three segments: a sprint start for 5 seconds, max aerobic climb for 3 minutes, then anaerobic to the top. This is similar to my approach from last year, except I gradually ramped up the pace from the start. I think the sprint will rail my heart rate, but won't push me into the red. Once I hit the anaerobic part of the climb, I'll try to up the pace on every floor and actually sprint the last two.