Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Did I Wait So Long?

The HighBall got it's dirt christening recently. I think the corners of my mouth touched my ears as I rode! I was speechless. Without speech. The bike is amazing on trail.

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It all makes me ponder why I waited so long? It's hard to imagine being happier with a bike. I'm far from doing this bike justice with my fitness. But the confidence inspriing handling... makes all of my fitness useable. I'm all out of excuses now! Which is what I wanted!

Man Seeks Shade

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River Oaks makes a great training ground this time of year. Lots of tree to provide shade. Double bonus are the numerous estates with sprinklers running in the evening. No one has chased me off their lawn. Yet.

A decent week of training. End of a 12-week build bloc, that has seen mixed results. I've made some good fitness gains, just not as much as I'd anticipated. But I can still go into the fall racing season with excellent fitness if I'm consistant over the next 8-week bloc. Eight weeks? Yeah, it's that close... hard to believe with this heat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Betrayed with a Click

I've been working on bike, cars, ???, since my childhood. After a while, you develop a preeettty good feel for how tight nuts, bolts, and screws should be. However, with the advent of carbon fiber, and titanium bolts... I relied on a torque wrench for many fasteners on by bike.

About a week ago, while tightening the faceplate on the HighBall's stem, I noticed the torque seemed really, really high and no *click*. I backed off the setting, re torqued and everything seem to work fine. I reset to the proper torque and it just a touch *click*. Hmm... ok.. I'm crazy.

This weekend while relocating the shift levers on the HighBall, I again sense the torque is high, but no *click*. I proceed. *Crunch* What was that? Wassat? Nah. Couldn't be. I move to the other side and again *Crunch, pop*. I feel around the clamp, and yep. I've crunched the bar. Crap. Recheck the setting... it's correct.

When I remove the bar... the faceplate has dug in pretty good too. Failure waiting to happen.

I've used multiple click-type torques wrenches through the years with much success. Many claim they can fall out of calibration. But honestly, I've always dismissed this - if anyone designes a fastened connection that can't tolerate a 5, 10 or even 20% torque... shame on them.

But this wasn't a calibration error. It was outright tool failure -something I never contemplated. I can no longer recommend Syntace's wrench.

The old-fashioned beam type wrench can never suffer this type of failure. But, I find them really akward to use. And the Park Tool beam wrenches split the most common torque ranges -forcing one to buy and carry two wrenches, and use them at the extremes of their ranges. The higher-torque wrench not having the scale resolution for descent work, on the low end.

I compromised and bought a dial indicating wrench. Best of both worlds I hope. It's simply a deflecting beam tied to a calibrated dial indicator graduated in N-m in my case. Thus it can't really suffer the calibration or failure issues (like a beam wrench) and it's easy to read, (unlike a beam wrench).

It's worth developing a good "feel" for fastener tightness if you don't already have it. Most importantly: Trust thyself when it comes to torque wrenches.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Flirting with the D Monster

My parnter Jane and I set out with a plan duplicate to last week's long ride. A different route, much more rural... but same plan that was perfectly balanced last week. It's a morning start. Not too hot.

The first hour called for 20"sec jump sprints every third minute. These didn't feel great. But I got through them. And I acutally felt stronger as the first hour goes on. About the one hour mark... I noticed my water supply was getting low. We were pretty near our goal, so I suggest a turn back, and we do.

It's getting warmer. No, hot. Fast. After turning around the strength of headwind is surprising. After a climb, I half-empty my third and last water bottle. Quick check of the GPS I realize we're well over an hour to the next gas station for water. Jane offers me a bottle... I don't take it, but soon ask for it. This isn't good.

The combo of drying wind and heat are really draining me. My mind drifts. I ride off the shoulder of the road into the grass. The fact that I ride into the grass isn't worrisome. I've done that before... What concerns me is: I was a good ten yards off into the grass before I cognitively grasp what is happening. Bad sign. And I'm not sweating very much. Because of the headwind, or my body shutting down? Donno.

At this point, I'm in conservation mode. I'm pretty sure I'll be OK, but simply can't expend any extra energy. I'm going to be moving slow from here on. Jane goes up the road at her usual rapid pace with keys to the truck, and plan to loop back for me. I have trouble getting the key out of my pocket to hand over. I'm wobbly at this point. And I have to stop on any sort of 'hill' to recover. I consider stopping to wait for her. But there is no shade. If I'm going to roast in the sun, I'm going to make progress to the gas station.

Then... like an oasis... or perhaps a mirage I see...

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A church along the route has set up a pop-up tent and a cooler of *water*. I pull in. And proceed to slam *five* bottles of water back-to-back-to-back. I'm pretty sure the folks think I'm crazy. But I don't care. A few moments thanking them profusely, filling all of my bottles, I carry on. Only a few miles ahead is another water stop. Having more supply, I drained two more bottles, and refilled.

A mile or so up the road, I'm sweating again. A lot. And I'm feeling better. Far from 'right' but I'm clearly going to be OK for the first time in what seems like an eternity. I finally start to make double digit speeds while keeping a close eye for Jane on the road...

I almost make it back to where we parked. I still haven't seen Jane driving the other direction. Have I missed her? I finally see her. But she doesn't see me. Why would she be even looking for me this close to the destination? When we parted I was barely moving! And we cross paths... I spend the next hour worried. Not about me, but that knowing that she can't find me and is worried about me has me worried about her. It takes a while, but eventually we connect. I'm thankful she was here today! As scary as this day was, it was a real comfort knowing I wasn't alone.

And I drink a lot more water. Several hours pass before I pee. As I type this there is water bottle by my side! Still feel a little 'funny' but I think everything seems ok.

Don't flirt with the dehydration monster. It sucks. I've bonked. I've crashed. But dehydration is worse. Way worse. In years of riding this was my first and hopefully last firltation with dehydration. It can happen to anyone. A reminder to pre-hydrate, plan water stops, and overestimate needs. Especially until you acclimate to the summer's heat.

Glug, glug, glug, glug...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mem Park Crits

New camera. Proper DSLR. Took some shots at the Weekly World Championship. A few highlights...

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Still learning the camera. Made a few mistakes with the hardware, that were result of operator error. That said the Nikon 80-200 2.8/D lens ideal for shooting cycling. My panning skills are rusty. Looking forward to more shooting.

The rest of the 'keepers' are [HERE]. Man I tossed a bunch...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Importance of the Long Ride

Like most… my training time is scarce. On the face of things, long low-intensity rides seem to be poor use of valuable training time. One has to put in hard efforts to become a stronger rider, right?

Not exactly.


My season’s training plan started quite simple: two bouts of threshold-intensity intervals during the week, starting with 40’minutes of total time in Level 4 effort building to 90’minutes. On Tuesdays I split the total time goal into four to six intervals (4x 10’min progressing to 6x 15’min). On Thursdays, I split the total time goal into two or three intervals (2x 20’min progressing to 3x 30’min). Days between I do some easy spinning, short VO2 focused intervals, or nothing if I’m feeling tired. On the weekend comes a long ride starting at 2-hours increasing to 5-hours. At the end of that cycle, I ratchet the power up just a bit and start over at the 40’minutes level. It’s a striking simple and boring plan.

For the first part of the season the results were spectacular. I was cycling through the progression and threshold power was increasing well. Then I tried to turn the wick up, and add intensity to the weekend rides, and reducing the duration.

And the results… progress ground to a halt.

Despite continually building time on the Tuesday/Thursday intervals, when it came time to bump up the power…it wasn’t there. I could step up power over short duration, but for anything that would be useful in an actual race… I couldn’t maintain it. I stopped gaining functional (ie. useable) power -despite adding more intensity to my training.

The mechanism is clear. Long sub-threshold rides build and maintain aerobic fitness. Short-duration intensity may make your leg muscles stronger… but if you don’t have the lungs and heart capacity to support them, any added strength is inaccessible.

This shouldn’t have been an eye opener. Extensive research exposes the benefits of sub-threshold riding for building *functional* threshold power. Andy Coggin continually emphases “It’s an aerobic sport, dammit!” Yet somehow the message didn’t sink in. Ride easier to get stronger seems quite counter to the entre “no pain = no gain” concept.

…but it’s hard to argue with the results.

I flop every time I transition from base/build into peak. I gained some insight into why with this ‘mistake’. Much to learn about physiology, my body and what works for me. That’s the benefit, and consequence, of being self-coached.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Goldilocks Ride

Not too hard. Not too soft. Saturday's ride paces out just right.

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A deep warmup, then 40'min of 10"sec out of the saddle sprints every third minute, followed by 40'min at easy pace, then for the last 40'min every 4th minute, dump the gears, and do a low cadence P-U-S-H burst while seated. With warmup and cool down... it's about a three hour ride.

Good week of training. Let's see if I can string together a few of these going into the hot season!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bike Lanes!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leaving Some in the Tank

Last night's light ride was followed with a set of Crosstraining. I really don't like crosstraining. It's hard. Which is an indication that I need to do it.

The plan included lunges. I try to keep these sessions easy on the legs, but I did a couple of sets anyway. Resulting in legs that are a touch sore as I start my threshold bout for today. Having a valid reason not to ride is a dangerous thing. I go anyway. I'm shooting for consistancy after the sketchy schedule of May.

The ride goes fine, but the fatigue is set in. I can probably finish this one out if I really plow through it. But... I cut it short. This isn't my key workout this week. The long ride with sprints this weekend is the most important. I want to leave enough in the legs to get through that.

Glad I set out on this though... the effort felt juuussst right. Had I not done this ride, I'd have felt sloggy. Had I pushed through to finish it... I'd have felt drained. As is... I'm excited about this weekend's training.

Comments Are Working Again

Inadvertenlty disabled. Fixed. I think. Can someone try it out for me?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Heat's Here

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A cold winter. An early spring, that stayed mild longer than usual. Now the heat has arrived with vigor. Five record highs over the last week. Working around it. But wondering what August is going to be like...

Tried a new on-bike snack. Fruit pack, that I think is marketed as baby food? I donno. Saw what looked like a giant Gu packet while grocery shopping. It's just pureed fruit...

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Look! No hands! Easy to open one-handed too.

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Better than a Gu. The closer to real food the better. I like.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Cooking

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A mix of spices and olive oil. Garlic, pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, whatever you like.

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Carefully lift up the skin on a chicken breast and place the spices. Put the skin back. Ok, even if you don't eat the skin, atleast cook with it!

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Plated with some cilantro+lime rice and steamed asparagus dashed with thyme.

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Some tasty bread, too. Good eve in the kitchen, in prep for a good week on the bike. Zoom, zoom tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saved by a Rollerblader

Tonight's plan: three (3x) 20'minute intervals right at threshold. The difficulty: I shelled my legs last night! I was certainly feeling the fatigue on the first work interval. But I made it. Completing it... I had my reward pickle...

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Most refreshing on-the-bike snack ever!

I started the last interval with trepedation. I didn't plan to even finish it, but go into it as long as I could. About 3'minutes into it I *barely* passed a rollerblader. He jumped on my wheel and started drafting me. I was doing over 20mph. This guy jumped on, and stuck. He shouted "hey, am I ok here?" "Yeah, sure!" "Don't do anything too crazy, I don't have any brakes!" Had no idea they could go that fast! Determined not to be dusted by a rollerblader, I kept it pinned steadily. Took the best lines I could avoiding the cracks in the pavement. And he kept perfect pace! How cool? I've never pulled a rollerblader before!

Likely I'd have given up on this interval. The fatigue was setting in hard. But the novelty of pulling a rollerblader at 20+mph around the froot loop was way too much fun to stop!

And thus, with the kindness of a complete stranger I finished my goal. Such is the beauty of training. You never know who/what you will run into that you can share a unique experience with. Mr.Rollerblader departed with a "Thanks for the ride" to which I said "Thanks for the experience!"

A good day on the bike!

Almost There

The Highball build is done. I got the *correct* front derailler mounted...

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Started out with a top swing, which didn't work. Mounted the saddle...

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Then I bled the brakes.

I was a little worried about how this would go. Shimano sent a tiny bottle of mineral oil. Surely this wouldn't be enough? Bleeding isn't hard. But it was messy because of a poorly timed opening of the brake bleeder port. Shimano's instructions are overly complicated. I followed them at first. And got nothing but a sqiushy lever. Then I bled them as I've bled hydraulic brakes hundreds of times before... hose on the bleeder, other end in a jar, squeeze lever until no more bubbles, make sure reservoir doesn't run low. Simple. The Shimano procedure seems to be crafted to use a minimum of mineral oil. From their literature they seem to believe mineral oil is some sort of mega-hazardous and toxic liquid. It isn't. The tiny bottle... was plenty. About half of it left over despite my 'wasteful' procedure.

Slapped some pedals on, tuned the shifters, retorqued all the bolts, and provisionally adjusted the shifters, brake levers, and saddle. First ride tonight!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guess What? Pork Butt!

Tonight's meal is one of the best things I've ever cooked. Starts out with cubed pork butt...



Browned in bit of oil...


Brown a chopped onion and an appropriate amount of garlic... I cannot reveal how much garlic. National security. Then cube up some apples...



Drop in the apples, some stock, some herbs. I used parsley, sage, rosemary and a pinch of fennel seed...



Simmer for an hour. Then add some chopped prunes. Yes, chopped prunes. No photo. Prunes are like yams. No way to make them look appetizing! Simmer for another hour. Then devour...