Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pro Cycling Manager 2007, Doping, & Me

I recently had a post on this now-somewhat-outdated game Pro Cycling Manager 2007, but I realized that I had no pictures to illustrate the obsessive compulsiveness required (by me anyway) to play this game.

So to remedy that situation I decided to take a picture of my little setup.

The kitchen table where my laptop normally lives.

You'll notice of a few critical things. Clockwise from the top:

First, the Gatorade (and Powerade too, since they now come with Coke Rewards codes, which I've been collecting for a couple years). This is important for the electrolyte draining stress that the player undergoes while trying to schedule 20-odd racers' training camps and races.

Second, the Novell/Compaq pad (came with one of the many servers sold by Compaq, in a little notepad thing filled with various CD-ROMs and such), remnants from my IT days prior to Y2K. This is good quality scrap paper, narrow lined, thin, and I can scribble all over it without feeling guilty about wasting paper. I knew I saved it for a reason.

Third, the black appointment book under the pad of paper. This is where I write down my real life appointments, training hours (I write notes on my ride in there, but I also have WKO+ for an electronic record of stuff), etc.

Fourth, Road Bike Action. This particular issue has yet another "fill out a survey and get a chance to win a bike" survey, so I gave it "near the laptop" priviledges. Most of the recent bike magazines get placed in the rest room where I read while I rest.

Fifth, black roller ball micro-tip pen. I like really fine tip roller ball pens because they offer just enough resistance to enable me to write neatly. Normal ball point pens slide too quickly and I end up with a messy scrawl. Roller ball pens (the super fine points) are just right for me.

Sixth, Pro Cycling Manager 2007 notes. There are three pages. The top left has my team roster with some notes beside each name. The top right one has notes on my February campaign - who is on which team and where they'll travel at what time for which races. There are some sponsor-pinpointed races and those are duly noted. The bottom page have the team racers (left column), the dates (across the top), and the schedule (in the middle). The left column has an extra column for notes on the racers (fitness level, morale, etc). I copied a "master" sheet eleven times to make them.

Seventh, various colored super fine tip roller ball pens. This is for doing the various scheduling. I've assigned three different colors (pink, green, light blue) to the three different teams (of 8, 7, and 6 racers), dark blue is for training camps, and red stars for the sponsor-important races.

Eighth, and probably most important for playing a computer game - a computer! This is the laptop where I do most/all of my writing. My desktop has been reduced to a picture gatherer and sometimes MS Office work (I have OpenOffice installed on the laptop). The game screen is displaying my team roster and their fitness levels (boxes which are dark, orange, or silver - indicating everyone is pretty weak right now), mood (green boxes with arrow pointing up or to the right), experience (bars on the right), and their average "rating" (column to the right of their names) which indicate their base/genetic abilities across different disciplines like climbing, sprinting, time trialing, etc.

Ninth, my real SRM. My laptop is also my WKO+ machine. I like checking out my training stats after I ride, more a curiosity than anything else. It's not very inspiring to see that I rarely hit 200 watts per hour, but at the same time it's interesting to see how fast I really went on that 50 mph downhill (45 mph).

Tenth, my cell phone. In case someone calls to offer me a cycling team manager position :)

A close up of the sheet with my team's February schedule. I started with black ink in the schedule before I realized I had to color coordinate things for my own sanity.

Within the game I was telling these guys to go 2 or 3 hours easy, or 4 or 5 hours medium, or even 6 or 7 hours easy. I figured they'd like a 2-3 hour day between each long day, and it seems the game agrees with that.

I decided to schedule my guys to do alternating hard and easy days. Since I ran two different training camps (in two different areas, to prepare for races in two different hemispheres), I had to write down the schedule so I wouldn't accidentally tell one camp's riders to do the other camp's schedule. Once I figured out which camp was which, I quickly and easily jotted down the racers' training hours. 2-3. 6-7. 2-3. 4-5. And so on.

(Note: A non-feature of the game is that if you hold two camps, your daily messages don't distinguish between the two of them - I had to guess which one was which, get a report on what rider was doing well - or not - and then deduce the camp's location).

After putting my racers through a couple training camps, I realized something sort of external to the game.

I
wasn't riding that much.

So, just like I'd scheduled my racers, I pulled out my appointment book, conveniently situated within hand's reach. And wrote down some decent sounding numbers for the weekdays ahead. With the 3 hours I did on race day (Sunday) I wanted to continue a longer hour, less intensity trend. With no races coming up I wanted to do what I always seem to need to do. Lose weight. Get some fitness back. Return to a late February form, almost 20 pounds lighter than I am right now.

Anyway, for myself, it was easier. I just wrote down some numbers, mentally picturing a route or two for each day. It was easy and painless.

Monday: 1 hour (easy one hour loop)
Tuesday: 3 hours (do a 2.5 hour loop, go easy so take more time)
Wednesday: 2 hours easy (two of the easy one hour loops)
Thursday: 5 hours (hilly cross-MA route, took 4 hours last time but I exploded so I'd go easier)
Friday: 1 hour (easy one hour loop)

Not bad, right?

Unfortunately reality intruded with my plans. Funny how things like that happen in real life. My body didn't like the numbers as much as I thought they would and my actual hours didn't match very well with my planned ones.

My one hour on Monday was enough to bury me after my long and difficult Sunday. My 3 hour day turned into a zero hour day as I was simply exhausted, so much so that I fell asleep in the afternoon in a state of uncontrollable fatigue. I did my 2 hour day as planned. Okay, it was 1.5 hours due to heat issues - I could barely average 140 watts, and I was severely motivated to go faster as I was late picking up the missus.

I drank tons of Powerade and water to prepare for the long Thursday. My 5 hour day ended up a 4 hour day because I went easier but I didn't explode. I felt pretty good at the end of 4 hours, enough so that instead of turning into the driveway I sprinted after a truck, caught it, and drafted it for a while.

Then I took the last day of my short five day plan off - I had some weird poison ivy type spots and I spent way too much time itching to get a ride in.

Based on my own plan, I shorted every "longer" ride and I missed one of them.

It made me think of cycling as a career. Not for me, but more as an abstract concept.

It's not as easy as it looks, this pro cycling stuff. I watched a short bit of the Tour on TV today (our bed and breakfast had Versus). I watched these guys suffer. Felt that pressure to perform. And to do it day in, day out, every day, all the time.

There's no sleeping on the bed in the middle of the afternoon instead of throwing a leg over a bike and going out for a couple hundred hard kilometers of racing. There's no time-outs, no "I'm taking a day off because I'm not feeling too well", no excuses.

It looked tiring. It looked hard.

And it looked spectacularly unappealing as a profession.

I'm glad that the closest I'll get to racing as a pro is to click on a guy on a video screen and tell him to attack, because frankly, even with talent, I don't think I'd have made it as a pro racer.

In some twisted and convoluted way my real week showed me how easy it would be for a racer to start doping. You're exhausted, tired, you've done 30 hours in the last week, and now someone wants you to do another 5 hours today.

Then someone, maybe someone who pounded you into a pulp yesterday, says "No, yesterday was fine. I felt pretty good. I started taking some stuff and it really helped me recover."

What do you say? You're barely able to get out of bed, you almost fall down the stairs because you miss a step because your mind is so fuzzy, and now someone says they can make it go away?

Wouldn't it be easy to give in to such temptation? If your career depended on it?

Have you ever taken DayQuil and gone to work because you felt it necessary to work? Because you wanted to finish that project or make it to the launch of the new platform or cover for your "on vacation" coworker?

As a very amateur racer I can just skip a day if I feel like it. And I do that regularly, without any feelings of remorse or "I should have". Pros don't have this luxury.

I can see how difficult it'll be to fight this doping thing. But I think it's necessary. I think that the day will come where everyone has an off day in a Grand Tour, where everyone cracks and loses 5 or 8 minutes. If they do it right they'll do it when a no-hope break goes up the road and they'll hide in the peloton's group anonymity. I think the days of "no bad days" is severely limited.

And, for racing, I think that's a good thing.

1 comment:

suitcaseofcourage said...

Your OCD is as insane as it is familiar.

And you made some important point wrt doping. Still not excusable - but maybe a little more understandable.