Monday, March 31, 2008


On the road this week. Today and tomorrow is Houma, LA. It's notso bad being back in Souf LA. And nice to be out of the metromonstrositysprawlville that is Houston. I even got some zydeco music on the radio driving over! AAIIIEEEEE! Here for a morning meeting, followed by a visit to an old friend in the afternoon. Following day may bring Fourchon (bllech!), San Antonio, Pass Aransas, or possible back home. Nothing like a floating schedule!

I'm not complaining. Rarely do I have to travel, and rarely is it extended. It sill disrupts the training routine. That said, I don't leave home without the bike...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days. Not to be confused with one of THOSE days! Today was the kind of day when everthing came together. I found a suitable training hill here in town. Determined as ever to get better at climbing, I rode up the hill and down the hill. Then repeated until it felt like my chest would explode. Then I rested and did it again - five times.

I'm finally "getting it". I can't really explain this, but something happened. Perhaps it's gear selection, or positioning, or cadence or all of the above? Each set got easier. Each set was less wasted effort, less straining, and smoother. It was an etherial experience. No seriously, it was. I just hope it sticks. (Non-flatlanders - stop laughing!)

I finally cooked something decent. It's been a while since I had a hit. I adopted this from some recepie I had hanging around. This is a puree of cilantro, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, chili powder, and sea salt.

Yes, I own the worlds smallest food processor. My tip: cilantro and lemon juice balance each other well. Too much cilantro - add lemon juice. Too much lemon juice - add cilantro.

Then I pan-grilled some chicken breasts with some poultry spice.

Served up with mexican rice, black beans, and the puree on the side for dipping a corner of you chicken bites in. A little goes a long way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Today was a R&R day. Good time to do some maintenance on the Stumpy. The miles have racked up, so it was time for some larger items. I removed the cassette for a good cleaning and to get the dork disk off. It was cracked, rattleing around, and generally getting on my nerves. I pitched it. It makes a decent frisbee!

Then I proceeded to service the rear hub. My best advice here, be careful with the ball bearings on the inside. If you drop one they are almost impossible to find. A strong magnet helps to locate them. I'm just sayin'. As you can see the drive side was pretty grungy. Not bad, but good to have it serviced.

I'll spare the details of hub overhaul. There's not really much to it anyway. The frame got a good washing too.

I also tightened the shift cables. Man, what a difference! I hadn't noticed the loss of crispness. I suppose cable stretch is a gradual thing that creeps in. Since I had the cassette off, I readjusted the rear derailleur. For some reason the B-screw was way off. Not sure why, but it's all good now. I think Shimano makes their adjustment screws out of butter. It doesn't seem to matter what screwdriver I use, but the heads always get chewed up.

Finishing touches included adjusting the brake lever reach and aligning the calipers.

Job done.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Allo Printemps!

Spring time is arriving! The temps are perfect, the sun is shining. The 'wild' flowers are blooming all over the banks of White Oak Bayou.

Today wrapped up probably the best week of training I've ever put together. I'm not sure if improvements come in steps, or it's just that we notice them only after some gains are accumulated.

Today was just stunning... I played hooky from work, which added to the joy...

The post-ride refueling was tasty too...

Today was also the first yard work of the season. Could yardwork be considered a core exercise? I've got lots of plants to plant this week. Shrubs to trim as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Schedule Shuffle

I've settled into a rthym of Monday's being my day off the bike. But with 90% chance of rain on Tuesday, and a holiday weekend looming, plus a late crosstown meeting scheduled, I decided that Tuesday would be the day this week. Just one more day of riding, right? I was pretty drained from a long endurance ride yesterday. The legs were mushy. I stuck with it, and got some good efforts into a very strong wind (22G37!) . Good stuff, but I'll be looking forward to a day off tomorrow.

I rode the Stumpy because of the threat of sprinkles. After almost two solid weeks on the chi-chi bike the mountain bike felt awefully big, clunky, plush, and slow. But good too.

I fiddled with the seat height and angle a bit. I recently lowered my handle bars as low as I can get them by rearranging the spacers and flipping my stem. I still want a smidge lower, and will probably order a straight bar this week. I like the new positioning, as my weight is better centered. It's opened up my hips as well. I can now more effectively use my glutes and hamstrings for a smoother spin. (One of the issues I'm having climbing on gravel) Overall my posture is just better. But, I'm about at the limits of what the Stumpy can do, with a more-trailbike-than-XC bike geometry.

AYEEE! Crawfish Boil!

Saturday was my first crawfish boil of the year. It was a small test boil. I've found a new supplier here in town, that lookst to be pretty good. These were pretty big!

I really like boiling crawfish. Maybe even more than eating them, as it seems there's never time to actually eat when you are doing the cooking. Like most cajun cooking, it's really simple... Take a big pot, with a propane burner, fill it with water, add salt...

Add powdered crab boil...

A bit of the liquid crab boil...

Bring to a boil while the crawfish purge...

Boil em'...

Serve 'em for the chowhounds! Funny, everyone in that picture are native Texans! Next time I need more LA folks!

It was a good thing I got in my riding before the boil. We cooked, nibbled, peeled, and cleaned up until after midnight!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Took off for a long ride this evening. I wanted to take the Stumpy out, but I've got the bars off. I'm changing out the stem. I considered putting the bars back on, but took the Tarmac instead. Mistake.

It was breezy as the flag shows. See those clouds? After I crossed under 610 I notice it had recently rained. As I continued north it began to rain. Unfortunately the chi-chi bike has chi-chi slick tires. No sipes. YIKES! I also discovered the chi-chi bike doesn't like to be drifted! That snappy Tarmac handling is great when there's traction, but electrifying without it. I didn't fall, but if not for experience drifting across slipery surfaces on the mountain bike, I'd have bit it.

I turned south, away from the rain, and rode back to do several loops on Heights Blvd, and Washington Ave. Repetitive, but dry.

I've been eating like a horse since I turned up the fire on the training. I'm doing OK, because I'm down 4-lbs. over the last week. Tonights' meal started with saute'ed shrooms...

Pulled them off and pan seered some pounded chicken breasts...

Then I mixed up some balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and some spices.

I deglazed the pan with this and about 1/2 a can of beef broth (for body). Then I mixed that back with the mushrooms and topped the chicken. Viola!

Served up with some rice and yams. It's almost impossible to photograph yams in an appetizing way. Good thing they tasted good. Simple to make - canned yams and added nutmeg, a pinch of cinnimon, and about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. The sweet potatoes were a nice contrast to the balsamic vinegar.

The Nation of Bonkistan

Yesterday was a strange day. I felt sloth-like on the bike at the beginning of my ride. I've sworn off looking at any GPS data until the end of this week, so I can't say if I was slow or not. I felt slow. I also know that perception is a poor indicator...

In contrast to that perception, I ended up being just on the borderline of bonking. Got all the symptoms of impending trip to Bonkistan. I backed off in time to avoid the worst of the symptoms, but there were a few touchy moments when I thought about to make yard biscuits. I recovery spun for about 10-minutes then hit it hard again. After that I felt great. Better than before. I even did some heavy-effort-low-cadence work for kicks.

This ride-bonk-recover-ride cycle got me thinking... Since I rode about as fast as I could at a steady pace for 1-hour before bonking, that should be close to my lactate threshold (LT), perhaps a bit above it. But I haven't seen this type of ride-bonk-recover-ride cycle in my interval training so far. I've been doing intervals where my heart rates look like this:

I've followed Friels' advice of the recovery intervals 2x as long as the work interval. For a 3-minute interval, do 6-minute rest interval. There are lots of places on a typical XC course you will see a 3-minute all out effort. But, where will you ever see 6-minutes of recovery in an XC race? Am I training in a weakness?

I'm thinking I should be doing intervals that look like this:

Smaller micro-intervals imposed on an longer interval of at or near LT. Train it like you'll ride it. Don't condition the system to expect a long recovery period that isn't coming! Instead, learn to limit and recover without getting too far away from the LT. Good idea or bad idea? Hmm....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sad News: CCWS is BK

It's final. Champ Car is dead. Bankrupt. Motorsports has to be the most effecient way I can think of losing money. In dying, Champ Car took with it the Houston Grand Prix. Link to Chronicle Article. Crewing for an American LeMans Series (ALMS) car was to be my only forray into motorsports this year. It's a shame the ALMS couldn't be the headliner for the weekend.

While at Reliant Park for the rodeo BBQ I noticed the fencing and barriers for the race had already been pre-staged. Seems a lot of people were caught out by this one. The upshot: The event conflicted with Jazzfest. This will save me a fare to/from NOLA. I now have time to drive down...

Sunday, March 9, 2008


This week was all about rebooting and resetting the training effort. I rode every day except Thursday. The goal: reset my expectations. I rode without benefit (?) of the heart rate monitor. It was turned on, but I took all the data off the screen. I didn't enter any data in the ride log either. For now, they are in the GPS. I'll look the tracks over tomorrow...

Am I riding harder? My appetite would say "yes". Mercy, I've eaten a lot this week. I haven't kept up with my calorie count, or weight logs this week either. My belt tells me I've lost some weight.

All-in-all it was a very satisfying week. Almost like when I first started out and could barely cover 3-miles. I've been missing that feeling of progress; even though I didn't know I was missing it.

Sunday was very breezy! I rode the White Oak Bayou trail northbound at an amazing clip! Southbound was like dragging a boat anchor. At first, I was thinking some not-so-nice thoughts. Then it struck me that headwinds are about the closest thing to hills we ever get in Houston. So, I hit the gas and rode out of the saddle as much as I could at a climbing cadence. Sometimes you have to use what ya' got.

Later in the ride the wind backed around to the East. I hit the Heights bike lane. Because of the crosswind, it was like riding upwind both-ways! Yeeha!

I noticed something funny on the bike today. I had one hand on the top of the handlebar, and the other other on the hood. This had my upper body twisted a bit. I put both hands into the hoods, but noticed about 10 minutes later I'd drifted to same position. Hmm... When I squared up there was the unmistakable "pulling" sensation on the lower ribs when I breathed deeply... Hmm... I know where this is coming from. I'm favoring my right side. When I got home I had pictures from Bar-H in my inbox. Sure enough, there I am with an askew posture. Perhaps some target stretching tonight?

Hooray for daylight saving time change. It's another hour to ride! I actually had time to have a 2-a-day on Sunday. Spring is springing!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mind Games

On the road to Aransas Pass on Monday... this was good. It gave me lots of time to ponder and reflect. I learned ALOT from Sunday's race. Things that you can only learn by actually doing the race. No regrets about doing the race, but bothered by the fact that I didn't finish.

Certainly, there are some changes to my training regimen required. That's the easy part. The hardest part lies in my own head.

My #1 racing goal is self-discovery and improvement. I discovered something Sunday - my negative inner voice.

On the downhill portion of the start loop, I came on this steep, but short climb. It was steep enough that I couldn't see the other side. But I carried enough speed to get over it - barely. As I came over the top I could see it was a steep drop off after the peak. I don't know if it was the look on my face or I said something, but one of the spectators said "Go for it, you can do it!" I looked ahead and a 12-year old girl (who passed me!) had just cleaned it. I went for it. After realizing I was going to make it, the same spectator let out a big "whoo-hoo" perfectly in time with what I was saying on the inside! (I was panting too hard to let out any whoo-hoos!). It was fun as hell!

When I thought about this later, it struck me that if I had come upon that hill and saw "oooh fun" instead of "can't make that" I'd have a much better time!

Like I've always said, racing exposes your weaknesses and barriers to success. My negative outlook is easily hidden away in most of daily life - from others and myself. But it's still present. That negative outlook is debilitating on single-track, and in life too. And Sunday, it was on broad display to even spectators! This is the most important single thing I can address; because it's fundamental to everything I do from training to race day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


What a diaster... The race started well for me. The start was down a hill, and was fast-fast. The cow sh*t was flying and so was I! I expected to get spit out the back, but to my surprise, I was mid pack going into the single track section. That was the end of the good! There was a a bit of climbing form here. I had zero, nada, zip power in the legs. I blew up. I couldn't get my breathing under control, and I faded off the back. It sucked because there was some FUN single track after the climbs. I just couldn't enjoy it as gassed as I was. I was too busy trying to recover.

The start loop came up a climb back upto the start/finish line. I considered taking a bottle hand-up but passed by. After this is the big climb. I was gassed. I hit the granny gear, but the legs couldn't spin the cadence. Uh-oh. So I dabbed to push and almost fell over. I knew I was in big trouble. As soon as I did the unmistakable symptoms of impending expulsion hit. I felt flush, a splitting headache, and the mouth was salivating. After a brief shouting of my bib number to a marshal, I went to find a quiet place to puke!

I DNF'ed. What a crappy feeling. It was a long drive home. Just me and my thoughts.

Don't misunderstand, I had an incredible fun out there (except for the pain of withdrawing). I'm wanting more. But I'm not going back until I can finish the job.

I was ill-prepared for the pace. I rode harder than ever before. It's good that I dug for it. But it's bad that I've not seen that level of intensity in any of my training - never. I'm doing enough volume of training but the intensity isn't there. That's the most important lesson of today. I need to recalibrate what a hard-effort really is.

Tomorrow will be a time to reflect on the lessons of today, and plan a path forward. I've got some serious gains to make if I'm going to salvage anything out of the spring season. EK we have work to do!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Made It To Bar-H-Bash

Before leaving Houston on Thursday, I dropped by the annual rodeo kick-off bar-b-que. Everyone says I don't have any pictures of myself on the blog...luckily, I'm borrowing these wimmins to pretty up my picture! These are some former co-workers and friend! Look at all those beers they drank!

This pretty much summarizes the drive out to Saint Jo, TX. It's pretty country up here. Funny to see dead grass. Where I'm from the field grass stays green the whole year!

Bar-H is a working cattle ranch. It is a crappy venue... literally!

That ain't mud! They park you in the middle of a working pasture. I looked for a cow pattie-free spot, but there was none around. Oh well...

When I stepped out of my truck I heard a dog barking. Not just any dog barking but the distinctive barking of a Boston Terrier who was pizzled off. How did I know it was a Boston? I used to have one. They bark this certain way when having anxiety that's immediately recognizable. It is just short of a screaming child. He was already getting hoarse. Sure enough, I found him across the pasture, dilligently gaurding his territory as if he was 150-lbs. Nervous Boston's have no fear!

After unsuccessfully trying to pet the Boston, and signing in, I pre-rode the course. It's kind of like a recce lap during a rally! I should probably call it a pre-walk, because I did a LOT of walking. Partially to save the legs, partially because I set out without water, and hungry. But mostly because the course is difficult for a flat-lander like me.

Here is a descriptive picture...

Steep, gravely, slippery. I'm not used to hills. I'm not used to gravel. Roots and sand, I'm OK with! Man, rocks are slippery and I don't have a great method of keeping my wits on them.

There are some nice overlooks. Bar-H is on the bluff to the Red River valley. The change in topography from one side of the ranch to the other is really spectacular. The grassy picture (4 pics up) is about half-a-mile from the ranch. It's rolling grassland. This is the other side of the ranch...

No time to look at this stuff tomorrow, so pics from today...

More hills and gravel...can you find Waldo in this picture?

A fast, sharp switchback...

This course is an eye-opener. The climbs aren't super steep, or long. But the downhills are short, too. There's no place to "recover" on the course. Pace will be important. You are constantly on a descent that lasts 10 seconds or a climb that lasts 30 seconds. The place requires a lot of burst power and focus on gravely-traction. I'm probably going to wish my shoes were more comfortable to run in!