Thursday, May 31, 2007

Training - Or How Not To Train

So the house is listed.

It took some pretty hard work to get the upstairs presentable and the future missus and I spent all of Saturday and Monday working on it. Sunday, of course, was the Hartford race, followed by a visit to the future mother-in-law's house.

I downloaded the helmet cam tape of Hartford as well as the Cat 4 "regular" clips of Hartford but have yet to assimilate them. Actually, I'm still working on the Plainville helmet cam clip.

Shows you where my priorities lay right now.

The house work explains the lateness of the Hartford post. Although I wrote a little bit of it on Monday (I wrote the title that night), I wrote the majority of it in a hotel room on Tuesday night, bleary eyed, and doing all sorts of random commands using the abhorred touchpad (I much prefer the Bobbitt stick or, as what I just learned it's really called, the "track point"). Actually I think a trackball would be cool (think Missle Command).


I'd gone on a very tough trip for work - waking up at 4 AM Tuesday, flying out, working till about 9 PM (in the Windy City), then working for another eight or so hours the next day. No surfing the web or anything. I spent all that time standing, kneeling, or sitting on a floor in a data center and doing data center things.

I had a few drinks after the first night of work. It seems this is the year for drinking - a few in Florida, a few in Las Vegas, and now a few in Chicago. At the race in Hartford a guy who did well said he figures his good form is due to cutting out drinking. Since I can't cut it out (I don't really drink - I have perhaps a dozen drinks a year) I figured I should start. This way when I quit I'll get really good.

Actually, that's not the case. I'm just joking.

I had a few drinks because I just wanted to have a few drinks. Nevertheless I figure I'll be working on doubling my annual drinking levels with the wedding and whatnot coming up (12 more drinks this year isn't too much of a stretch).

On the way back from Chitown we had an aborted take off. We had an interesting (read "terrible") taxiing experience. First we pulled out of the gate on time. As soon as we backed up about 50 feet the pilot came on to state that due to congestion in LaGuardia, we'd have to wait for 30 minutes.

We'd actually chosen the airline because of its online performance. Now I know - you pull out of the gate, that's when you've departed. Doesn't matter when you take off.

So we sit in the stifling plane for a half hour then start taxiing. We're trucking along for a plane, bouncing down the taxiways, and the pilot guns it to cross a runway. I mean he really gunned it - I thought we were going to take off. I figure there was a plane about to go across that intersection and the pilot didn't want to be there when it happened.

We took a turn, still going pretty fast for being on the ground, and then slowed. Then we started trucking along again and the pilot guns it for about 10 seconds. Then gets off the gas. The second bit sounded like a tire deflating.

Like "wwwwwhhhhrrrrrrrrrr-ssssssssssssssss".

We coasted down. I thought the pilot was scurrying across another live runway, but when we started taxiing back to the gate, everyone realized something was wrong. Apparently some alarm went off when they gunned it to take off. It was a false positive alarm, they replaced a microswitch, and we were on the way. Late.

I got home at 1 AM.

All this bent leg with no movement (at the data center and then on the plane and then driving home) meant my legs were unusually confined. I didn't get that "sitting in a plane and get a blood clot and die" thing but my muscles were twitchy and not feeling great when I "de-planed". After a couple hours of fitful sleep my calf cramped so badly that I thought I was going to pass out. I'm still hobbling along so this was an unusually hard cramp.

Today I worked from home, kept things neat (important for a listed house), and kept an eye on the plumber (he fixed something he should have done a while ago). Working from home is good in that there isn't an unlimited supply of chocolate, nuts, chips, soda, and coffee like there is at work. At home I have garden burgers, English muffins, and 100 calorie snack packs. So I haven't eaten too much junk today.

My next race is the Nutmeg State Games - June 9th. Hopefully I'll be able to get some proper training before then. I might be able to start today, after work and some decluttering in the house. I'd take a tandem ride. Or a short spin. I'll even take a basement spin.

And some crunches to kill the Rising Belly.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Racing - Hartford Criterium

So according to the record books, I got 28th at Hartford in 2007. As far as how I've done here, not that great. Based on my training and fitness though it's better than it might seem. Personally I rate it as an "appropriate" finish.

I bemoaned my lack of fitness prior to the race. My stated goal was to stay below 170 bpm, try to coral some reserves, and make a desperate effort at the end of the race. The race went something like that.

First of all there was a 30% chance of rain. Remembering the last Hartford I did in the rain (and the guys sliding across the road in front of me in the sprint), I made sure my legs were shaved (they slide better that way), my rain jacket was packed, and my cool weather gear in my bag. As it turned out the weather was perfect with mostly sunny skies all day. Score one for the race.

I arrived plenty early, in time to watch my friend Gene finish up his third race of the day (although he finished it up before everyone else in the race did). We chatted a bit, watched the juniors, and suddenly I was hungry.

We left the course to eat - and for the first time in a long, long time I was actually nervous for a race. Sort of a tight chest, tapping feet, have to pee a lot.


This was a change. Nervous gets me either off the back or way into the race. The good part about nervousness is that I have better perception - sort of like when you're crashing and you see that the rider in front of you was in a 53x13 when he fell. I see more clearly, everything moves in slow motion, and I see gaps that normally stay hidden.

I got back to the course and I was still nervous (I thought it might go away). I changed - not much involved in warm weather, just shorts, jersey, shoes, gloves - and then we watched the Pro/1/2/3's. Very fast race, some very strong local riders, and an illustration on tactics. Or rather, how not to race.

A Canadian team tried to control things for seven laps with seven guys but to no avail. Personally I think a 40 mph last lap that used up four or five guys would have been better. Instead they just dragged everyone around for five laps and with about a lap to go Nerac, the home squad, went to the front with their sprinter Adam Myerson. He slayed all in his sprint, the Canadian sprinter a desperate third.

On the very fast cruise up to the race (the cops were taking Sunday off to prepare for Monday's hellacious traffic), we had discussed my strategy for the day. The first thing - no stupid show off moves. Second, sit in, conserve. Third, finish it off if possible.

I set up my helmet cam set up, my single waterbottle, gloves, new shoes, etc. I got my really heavy bike ready to go (PowerTap rear DT clincher, TriSpoke front clincher) - the wheels probably add two or three pounds to my ultra fast, ultra light Reynolds. But for the interest of science, I was doing the PT setup. And an aero front wheel for a long sprint. I decided if I was there at the end I'd go early. The clinchers were also a bit more stable in wet and I'd been thinking about a wet Hartford.

I went to warm up and my fiancee went with a Coke and some water for me just before the start. It really helps when you have a supporter out there, whether a significant other or a teammate. Makes things just a bit less stressful, especially when the racer is a bit nervous. I rolled up with what I thought was the minimum required to get to the finish (in this case a bottle, no PowerGel or anything with sugar). She helped me with my helmet cam, and when they said it'd be ten minutes, I did a lap or two and rolled up to the line when everyone was already there. Got my Coke, guzzled some water, a good luck kiss, all was good.

The race started and things seemed fine. The first lap up the hill I glanced down at my heart rate - 170.


I tried to coast a bit more - I found that I could coast quite a bit at times, so I did. I mentioned later that I could buy 10 beats a minute during the lap but the reality was that it was more like four. I kept checking my heart rate and the Power Tap told me 170 virtually every time.

I was absolutely at my limit, just about to go anaerobic. I tried every trick I had but the field wasn't cooperating - the problem was that the race was going just a bit quicker than I wanted.

And I suffered.

And suffered.

The helmet cam has one disadvantage (other than the few pounds it adds to my already heavy bulk) - due to its CamelBak housing, it makes me easy to pick on. So when someone to my iniside swerved a bit (perhaps because he hit someone, I haven't checked the helmet cam tape on that yet) and I moved out and in turn hit someone, I'm the one that got yelled at. As in "Hey Camel Bak, watch your line."

Makes you rethink that whole discussion about profiling.

Anyway, before the race I was thinking I'd sit in for half the race - 15 laps - and then actually race. Then I decided that I should sit in for 2/3 the race - 20 laps - and then think about moving up. In reality I started thinking of taking any free spots available at 5 to go - and to be near the front at the bell.

To some extent I succeeded. I was at the chaotic front at the bell, watching the lead guys go one way, then the other. Sometimes there were perhaps 10 guys in front of me, some other times less.

The problem was that at the bell I was looking at 179 bpm.

Waaay above any normal heart rate for yours truly.

I decided to stick it out as long as I could. I couldn't take any move up opportunities and in fact gave up spots here and there. But I rounded the last bend about 10 guys back, close enough that I might be able to do something. After all, I'd placed 3rd or 4th from worse.

But it was not to be.

I stood up to sprint, got perhaps two down strokes in, and my legs simply stopped working. I sat down and tried to maintain speed so that no one would rear end me.

And that was that.

My fiancee and I decided to stick around. We'd planned on watching the 4's as one of our virtual friends would be in that race, Mr Suitcase of Courage. Actually, we met Mrs. Suitcase first, then a couple minutes later the Mister himself popped over.

I camcorded the 4's as I had about 20 minutes of tape (and 75% of battery) left. I caught a nasty crash on tape as well as some good racing. I ended up using most of the 20 minutes and still had a lot of battery left (after 90 or so minutes of taping).

Afterwards we did the typical "post-race rehash". But it wasn't just about cycling. As we were both going through listing a house (and then looking for another one), we had a lot of immediate war stories to share. And both the Missus (Suitcase) and the future missus (mine) are supportive bike spouses, they too had a lot to share. It was great fun chatting and we had to break up the party only because we both had prior commitments.

We did some family things after (her family), did touristy things (Mystic, ice cream), and got home pretty late. The two kitties were waiting up for us and greeted us like they always do - full of unconditional love. And we settled in after a nice, relaxing day.

The next day would be another grueling day of house preparation. But for now we could relax.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Racing - Pre-Hartford

So tomorrow is the Hartford Criterium. I was checking out the pre-reg numbers - there are a lot of people racing tomorrow. Normally this would be a two race weekend - Hartford and then Somerville. I tried three races a while back and I was too tired by Monday so that was that. I've since only signed up for Hartford but I'd gotten sick or fell over or something the last few years. I was hoping for some potential this year but work and prepping the house has taken precedence over training. This year will be a one race weekend.

I rode once this week (after thinking I was going to be riding a lot a couple weeks ago) and it was a late-night desperate ride Thursday night on the trainer. I even cramped. I have no idea what happened - I never cramp nowadays. Today I did a short ride, made a couple efforts, blew up.

Tomorrow I'll pray.

I've gained weight and lost significant fitness since the start of Bethel. I've also gotten the PowerTap with its extra heavy wheel. Fine for training, not fine for racing. I really want to use it to get power readings but I'd rather race my nice light Reynolds wheelset. With rain forecast (but 30% chance, not like 90%) and my fitness not really great, I'll probably forgo the super-light wheels. After all, if I use them now, what will I "move up to" when I feel good?

On the other hand, life isn't bad. We did get a lot done today, just not related to bike stuff. The house is a lot better and almost ready to list. Our agent came over and said he'll be back Monday with the papers.

The agent is a story in itself. He's a nice guy, friendly, been in the business at least 15 years, an interesting character. He's a former chemical engineer. The same profession as my now-retired dad.

Actually, to tell the whole truth, he worked for my dad.

Then one day he screwed up. My dad yelled at him so badly that the agent quit. Normally that's a bad thing. But the agent had been dying to get out of engineering but felt obligated as his parents thought he'd be the perfect engineer. Whatever the mistake, he went home and thought about it. And never came back to work.

He muddled around for a while, finally becoming a real estate agent.

And when I was looking for a house 15 years ago, I was introduced by another agent to this guy Barry. And after looking at a few houses, Barry asked "Are you so-and-so's son?" My mom and I were a bit surprised and when I said yes, he said "I used to work for your dad!" and told us the story.

He was smiling as he told it so it was a good thing.

I was looking for a somewhat specific house. Three bedrooms, dry basement, walk in basement (so I could walk in after a ride), garage, "move-in" condition, and affordable. Barry showed us a few houses and finally said, "Look, there's one more house I'd like to show you but I have to tell you I'm the listing agent for the house. This means I get compensated differently than these other houses."

We looked at the house, talked it over at dinner, and put a binder on it the next day. A couple months later, in December 1992, we closed on it.

About 14 years later, in December 2006, we decided to sell the house. My fiancee accepted a job up north and we decided we'd move up there if the job went well. The job went well so we started prepping the house. Since we were thinking of selling it to some friends, we actually got the house inspected first. Then made virtually all the fixes named in the report.

We're now de-cluttering and doing some final cleanup. And we hope, hope, hope to sign the papers Monday afternoon so it can be listed Tuesday.

All this house-prep has severely affected other aspects of our lives (as this is our first sale, it's new to us - for all you second-housers, you're probably like "no kidding"). For example, my finacee's commute means driving something like 180 miles a day. She's a bit tired when she gets back. Yet she's been putting in tons of effort into fixing up the house. I do some guy things (seed, water, seed, water, mow, mow, mow, mow), some more guy things (move heavy things), and more guy things (wash out paint brushes). She's done everything else.

One significant thing that's been left behind is riding. I feel the need to ride but I often feel other things are more important or, in some cases, I'm simply too exhausted to fulfill that need. Either way I end up not riding.

And that brings us around to Hartford. Yes I have a PowerTap. Yes I have a reasonable bike. I even have a very supportive fiancee. Blah blah blah. But as I found today I easily hit 170 bpm when I make efforts. And when I do I blow up. And that gets me dropped.

I have one thing in my virtual pocket - my Clif Notes on the race. I sent someone my bag of secrets about Hartford. It's based on many years of racing there, in the wet, the dry, the hot, the cold. I re-read it before I sent it to make sure that I wasn't being stupid when I wrote it. What's funny is that I actually remembered stuff I'd forgotten.

And now I can picture most of the course and what I need to do to stay in the race. My fiancee reminded me not to show off for her or anyone else. No heroics. Suck wheel and get to the finish. And then see what happens.

Hard to argue with that.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Doping - So Who Really Won the 1996 Tour?

1. Bjarne Riis (Den) Telekom 95.57.16
2. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom 1.41
3. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina 4:37
4. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Festina 5:53
5. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera 7:07
6. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Polti 10:03
7. Piotr Ugrumov (Rus) Roslotto 10:04
8. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme 10:26
9. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei 11:00
10. Tony Rominger (Swi) Mapei 11:53
11. Miguel Indurain (Spa) Banesto 14:14
12. Patrick Jonker (Aus) ONCE 18:58
13. Bo Hamburger (Den) TVM 22:19
14. Udo Bolts (Ger) Telekom 25:56
15. Alberto Elli (Ita) MG-Technogym 26:18
16. Manuel Fernandez Gines (Spa) Mapei 26:28
17. Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Refin 27:36
18. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Festina 32:11
19. Michele Bartoli (Ita) MG-Technogym 37:18
20. Yevgeny Berzin (Rus) Gewiss 38:00

If Riis doped and so did Ullrich, is Virenque the winner? No, Virenque doped and so did Dufaux. So now Luttenberger. He had to have doped to be up there with the dopers (and he didn't do better any other years). LeBlanc? Doper. Ugrumov? He raced for Carrera - doper. Escartin? Kelme, need I say more. Olano? Mr 55%. Rominger? One of the first guys to hold "training camps" and come out of them faster than if he had raced - doper.

Indurain? Hate to say it but '96 was the year they announced potential tests for EPO and I predicted Indurain would falter. This means he STOPPED taking EPO.

I think Indurain should be the winner.

Jonker? ONCE = Sainz = Doped. Hamburger? Doped. Bolts? Doped. blah blah. Even Bartoli. Berzin.

Man talk about weeding things out.

More later when I've thought about things a bit more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Story - Bloomin Metric and Me

So why the Bloomin' Metric?

In a way, doing the Bloomin' Metric is a bit like coming back home.

It was back over 25 years ago that I had started riding seriously. I was a kid back then, just about to leave middle school, and I'd been graduating from bike to bike. I had gone from a 5 speed Schwinn Cotton Picker, a 56 pound behemoth of a banana seat bike, to a shiny red Schwinn Traveler III (10 speed, $214.95 with tax). And I was lusting over bikes with gum lever covers, no "safety brake levers", downtube levers, and lots of aluminum. Aluminum was the old carbon and it was the exotic, light, expensive stuff. I could barely afford $2.95 steel toe-clips - $14.95 aluminum ones were out of the question.

Along these lines, I'd been pestering a friend of mine Ken about bike racing. Road racing, to be exact. I thought I was a road racer back then. I was light (four years later, I'd "grown" to 103 pounds), there was no track around, I'd never heard of a criterium, and "time trialing" was something that required lots of super light stuff made out of aluminum. And I loved to climb.

Obviously I had to be a road racer.

I said that to shops when I went dreaming about bikes - that I was interested in road racing. On hearing that one shop owner promptly threw me out.

"Get out of here, stop wasting my time."

To a kid, that can be pretty demoralizing. And it was. But a couple shops let me stare at bikes for hours at a time. One larger shop had a friendly guy who let me stare at their Dawes bicycles. And after many, many hours of staring at the bike, staring at the specs, drawing comparison charts, listing possible changes, and perusing Bicycling Magazine for parts which I could put on (and budgeting them), I decided to buy the Dawes. A Dawes Lightning.

After riding it a bit I started changing things. I was obsessed with gearing so changed the cranks to a Sugino with replaceable chainrings - and I got custom chainrings, 48 and 34. (Talk about ahead of the times - this was in 1982, long before the "compact" revolution). I got two freewheels - a "fast" 14-21 and a "long distance" 14-23. I also got some light wheels (20 mm rims) and matching tires. And finally I got a nice racing saddle.

It was after the bike upgrades that I learned about this bike racer named Ken in our school. He happened to be in a bunch of my classes so I sat next to him and peppered him with questions. Eventually I asked him what gear he used going up Wolfpit Road. Wolfpit, I should point out, has a hill on it that has to be in the 15-18% range. It's short but very steep.


That seemed pretty high for me, especially since my top gear was a 48x14. And doing the math (on paper), that was virtually the same gear as a 53x15.

So I asked him for a few months in the winter, four out of seven classes a day, to confirm this. Because I simply could not believe his original answer, I'd ask the question in different ways.

"So if you were riding on Wolfpit from Route 7 to Belden Hill, what gear would you use?"
"Like in a race?"
"No, no, no... Okay... if you were heading from the Center to 106 through Wolfpit, what gear would you use?"
"No... I don't think you understand. Say you were riding to Driscoll from the Center. What gear would you use?"
"Are you sure you know your chainring sizes?"

You know that skit "Who's on first?" You get the idea.

Ken said that I have to realize that riding up and hill and racing up a hill are two different things. That low gears are for blown up racers. That you can turn big gears on something other than a screaming downhill.

These concepts were all foreign to me. So after months of questioning, when a moderately warm day finally dawned, I decided to ride to Wolfpit on my Dawes, and ride the hill. I had the 14-21 installed (the "race" freewheel) and my custom 48/34 chainrings. And I was ready to make some efforts.

I started in a 48x19 (didn't want to use the big-big, even back then) and sprinted up the hill. Surprisingly I made it. But "just to make sure", I did it again.


So I did it in the 48x17. And the 16. It got harder and harder. And I did two of each, figuring the first was probably "lucky". Finally I did the 15 and it was hard. I hadn't planned things out right - I should have started at the biggest gear but I was afraid. Afraid of rolling to a stop while tightly strapped to the pedals. Afraid of rolling to a stop when cars approached from behind and in front (there is no effective shoulder on this steep hill, and the sides are banked upwards quite steeply from the road).

So with toasted legs, I tried to go up in the 48x14. And failed. I turned around and coasted down the hill. My knees ached so bad I didn't walk comfortably for a couple weeks after that but my world had opened up.

I reported with glee my success on Wolfpit. Now I drilled Ken on all the hills, not just the one hill that everyone in town knew. Incredibly (although as an adult it's quite predictable) he claimed he'd use the same gear everywhere in a race.

I started riding around and trying big gears all over the place. It was hard work. I sprinted up everything. It broke my legs.

And it was a blast.

Ken mentioned he and his dad were going to do a local ride (it had just started) called the Bloomin' Metric. And unexpectedly, he asked if I'd like to join them.

This was different. It was one thing to talk about gearing and stuff. It was a totally different thing to ride with them. But Ken, a very mellow kid with a reassuring aura about him, convinced me it would be fine. His dad paid the fee and I got myself a nice little patch.

I showed up at the ride on my Dawes with my swim trunks - I'd read about bike shorts and how you're not supposed to wear anything underneath - and this was as close as I could get. Ken (or rather, Ken's dad) realized he might have underestimated me but we started off nonetheless.

Their pace was insane and I quickly realized I was in way over my head. We were probably going 16-18 mph but I was struggling everywhere, especially the flats. That stunned me as I had been more worried about the hills. I learned that day that speed took precedence over strength.

About 10 miles into the 62 mile ride I was fading hard. I had no idea where we were riding, we were flying along on the flats, we were going up some crazy hills, and we still had 50 miles to go! I didn't know what to do. I was actually getting a bit scared. I was a guest, I couldn't just say "I have to turn around", and even if I did, I didn't know where I was.

That's when a bee stung Ken's dad.

He was either allergic or sort of allergic. Whatever, the bee saved me (and ruined their day). Ken and I turned around to find a sag wagon, reported Ken's dad's location, and went home (per his dad's instructions). His dad made it back somehow, I don't remember the details. I just remember being appalled at my lack of cycling strength.

My discussions with Ken turned a bit more serious. I knew I didn't know a lot before but I thought I knew what I didn't know. Now I realized that I didn't even have a clue of what I needed to learn. Ken advised me on what I needed to do. First, get some riding clothing. Second, get a race bike that fit better. And third, start racing.

I slowly worked on the three things. I got a jersey by collecting granola bar UPC codes and sent them in for a $20 jersey. I bought some Detto Pietro Art 74 shoes - the standard starter shoe. I fiddled with the cleat till my knee didn't hurt too much.

I begged my parents for a race bike - a combination birthday and Christmas present. I eventually got a Basso with Campy, Excel Rino, GP4's (tubulars!), and real aluminum caged pedals (Campy knock-offs but they looked cool anyway). I had a 53x42 matched up with a 15-21 (it even had a 16T and an 18T!) and felt like a racing god. And when I got the bike, the shop made me buy some new fangled lycra shorts - I believe I was the first one to try them. One of those "Have the kid try it out, if he likes it then I'll get one" kind of deals.

I watched my first race about 6 months later (the '83 National Crit Championships), Ken there with me, both of us perusing the first ever issue of Winning Magazine (and its multitude of Eddy Merckx stories). And on my own I entered my first race about a month after that.

Fast forward about 10 years. Our team leader/captain/mentor decided we should do a double metric as preparation for the State Road Race. The Bloomin Metric was perfect - food stops, a route everyone could follow, and what we'd now call a "target rich environment". We'd do the two laps fast and steady, eating at every stop (three or four per loop), and work together to maintain a high average speed. As a bonus, we'd wear our team gear (which had our shop on it) and advertise the best way possible - ride around a couple thousand riders for 6 hours and show that we actually ride what we sell.

One of the guys on our team? The guy that sold me the Dawes. It's a small, small world.

I had no aspirations for the road race so this became my "race". I risked all and took my lightest wheels, 280 gram tubular rimmed wheels, super light 200 gram tires, etc etc. We trained for the event. The actual day had perfect weather. We rode hard and I found myself, incredibly, pulling for most of the second 100 km (it would be safe to say I pulled maybe 1/10 the time the first lap and about 2/3 the time the second). I flew up the hills, kept pulling on the flats, and rode my heart out.

I had one bad spot at about 150 km but recovered. I pushed through because I read about how Greg Lemond felt bad at the beginning of the 82 Worlds but pushed through because his parents flew over to watch him. He ended up taking second to Moreno Argentin, beating Sean Kelly into third. So when I started to fade into oblivion on a particularly hard false flat, I drank more Gatorade, dug deep, killed myself, hung on, and kept going.

Miraculously my legs came back around.

They felt fatigued, no doubt about that. For much of that second lap I kept thinking, "Oh, this will be it, this is where I'll just blow." I'd ride at the front to buy myself "drift-back" room. And I'd make it. Incidentally, this is why I pulled so much - I thought I was going to blow up so I kept going to the front. Every time I asked my legs to push through to the top of a hill or do an extra 5 or 10 pedals strokes at the front they came through. I've rarely felt that good in my life and I've never felt that good on a 124 mile ride.

Like the racers that we were, we started attacking each other towards the end of the second loop. It was much more like the end of a classic compared to a typical group ride. Typical group rides end as a bunch as the group responds to all attacks, solo or otherwise. At the end of six hours though the small group (perhaps 10 or 15 of us) was fatigued. An attack would go and only one or two would have the courage to chase. The rest would look around, hope the attackers were going to blow, and pray things came back together. The "break" would collectively blow up and things would come back together.

Our team leader took off though and it looked good. So we all peeled off, chasing him in ones and twos. I had just done a huge jump when POP, a spoke went. Rear wheel, my first broken spoke, and it was twanging around in an alarming way. I sat up and watched everyone ride off - I waved off the ones that looked back. It was only a mile or two to the parking lot and I rolled in, wheel thumping the frame and brake and bits of tire flying off.

I was physically shattered. I had shredded a virtually new race tire. I'd rubbed aluminum and paint off my frame - almost put a hole in the chainstay. And my rim was dead, a dent in it that ruined its braking performance.

But it was worth it. A great ride. And we did what we set out to do. For months and even years, customers would come in and mention something about "I remember when you guys passed me and you were on your second hundred and I still couldn't keep up with you for more than a mile."

That was my Bloomin' peak. I can't imagine doing a double any time soon. The feeling when you reach the parking lot the first time and simply turn around... there's an element of "no turning back" when you commit. And it's scary. Makes my stomach feel like it did when I was 14 and getting lost in the depths of Fairfield. It doesn't mean I may not give it a shot one of these years. It just means that it's not in my repertoire right now.

I would like to do the Metric fast one day on the tandem. That would be fun. I have a mental list of tandem updates I want to make. Closer ratio gears - I got the cassette but it's not on yet. Faster tires - I've read about 25c tires on tandems (we're running 28c's). A much more aero captain's position - currently the bars feel like I'm on a mountain bike - one that's too big at that. Maybe some Spinacci's - the semi-aero bar from the mid-90's now banned from UCI and USA Cycling events. I think a lower stem will work, maybe some narrower bars.

Of course there's the fitness. We'd need to do some more regular riding - we'll be able to do that once we've settled into wherever we're going to live. And then we can go and regularly do some good tandem rides. Get used to the nice feeling of rolling down the road at 25 mph while putting out the effort that would net 20 mph on a single.

Heck, I can live up to the threat I made Gary in January this year. We could go down to Florida some January for some early season training and try and rip apart some Cat 1 legs.

But that would be a whole different ballgame.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Training - Tandem at the Bloomin Metric

Sunday the future missus and I did a local organized ride. A co-worker (and friend) Kelly and his girlfriend Jenn also joined us. We rode on the tandem, they on their (matching) singles, and it seemed to work out pretty well.

After a very busy Saturday we were pretty wiped, making me a bit concerned over the Sunday ride. The forecast was pessimistic - showers on and off the whole day. Ends up a sunny day once we got out of registration so we all enjoyed a beautiful Sunday out on the bikes.

The biggest difference between riding the tandem this year versus last was the Thudbuster I put on the tandem. The first hint was riding out of the rough grass parking lot - I felt some steady bumps but heard nothing from behind me. Normally I'd get an earful if we hit a bump without some warning. I did my usual "Oh! Was that okay?" on each bump bigger than a few millimeters - each time, she replied something along the lines of "What?" In other words, "What bump?" Virtually the whole ride I kept wincing as we'd run over a bump but she never complained.

For those of you who have never ridden the back seat on a tandem, the worst part about that spot becomes painfully apparent as soon as you hit a bump. The stoker must stand up for virtually every bump, even minor ones like pavement cracks. The rear wheel crashes into every inconsistency and the shock travels up to the stoker. The captain is blissfully unaware of the shocks (and the resulting pain) since the captain is located many feet away from the rear wheel - the shock is reduced to a slight vibration by the time the captain feels it. This inequality is probably one of the main things that causes tandem problems.

Well, not problems. It's just the stoker really doesn't feel like riding as much as the captain.

Although the ride was not a race (and we weren't even going out with the intention of "going fast"), we still did some efforts. Knowing that I need to work on the new me, I made a bunch of efforts. One particular one, the last one, was a "race-ending effort" - had I been in a race, I'd have been dropped after the work I did. It felt comfortably familiar. It should have since it was essentially a replication of my race ending effort at Prospect. I gave it a good shot to see if I could somehow recover after such an effort if I really tried.

Alas, like the race, that was not the case. I blew just as spectacularly and we eased up considerably afterwards.

Nevertheless we did 25 miles in a comfortable two hours. I worked about as hard as I would have on my own so felt pretty good about the effort. The other half did too - it was her first ride of the year and she did great considering that her only training was walking around in Las Vegas and at work.

Tandems, I must say, are amazing things. A normally non-compatible cycling couple can ride together with no problems. Each works at their own level (although they both pedal the same pedal strokes) and each contributes to the team's forward movement. Tandems provoke a feeling of synergy that is impossible to replicate on singles. So far every ride on the tandem has been fun.

Okay, not every ride. The first one was a bit shaky, but after that they've been great.

Our friends did well considering they were on single. Kelly worked particularly hard and got a glazed look about him towards the end. Jenn was a bit more mellow and seemed as chipper at the finish as when we started.

The free caffeinated ice tea soda after the ride tasted great and helped pep us up. The other three were smart and ate something. I didn't. I just drank a lot of the ice tea sodas. Three in fact - 240 mg of caffeine.

Before the ride (i.e. the morning of) we mounted a rack on the future missus's car so that we could carry the tandem and two singles. Appropriately, after the ride, we put Kelly's rack on his car. As it used to be mine and I have a different car, we had to buy some clips to get it rack done. Although I didn't think I was tired, on the way home from the shop (10 minutes away), I fell asleep.

A lot of good that caffeine did.

I didn't mention this before but we actually made them help clean up the house on Saturday - so they did some lifting, assembling, and cleaning up as a warm up for the ride. I checked over their bikes in return, they got to sleep out in the suburbs (well, technically we live in a city but it's not like Manhattan).

I got a pleasant surprise today when Kelly said that they rated the weekend a 10 out of 10, irregardless of the hours of labor they put in Saturday. I guess helping out friends isn't as hard as doing stuff you have to do. And the country stuff and the bike ride stuff made Sunday a nice reward for the work on Saturday.

We're still working on getting the house ready but we can see the finish line now. Thanks to Kelly and Jenn, we have a living room. Just one more room in the living area, a bit of basement de-cluttering, and we can put the house on the market.

So that's what will be happening this week. I hope to be able to ride a bit, write a bit, but it's a bit tentative.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Training - Wattage and Me

I promised after my last wattage post that I'd try and ride myself out of the "Untrained" category. I realized afterwards I was looking at the Women's power chart when I saw "Fair". So I wasn't even in "Fair", I was deep in "Untrained". Not a good place to be.

And after taking a day off (albeit an allergy filled one), I started today afresh. No allergy pills (I grovelled for a bit last night too and sprayed my throat with that numbing stuff), no coffee, nothing. Okay, some tea (Liptons), sugar, and a couple slices of bread with cold cuts that are going to expire soon.

I climbed on the trainer (figure it's more consistent - I coast too much outside) and started spinning a bit. Felt somewhat unmotivated.

Part of the reason was I finally read about what happened yesterday at the Landis hearings. The future missus read me part of an article about LeMond, this Will G guy, and allegations and threats about childhood abuse. Normally I'd jump on the computer to read up on it but I was so tired that after she read off some of the stuff, I nodded and said that I was ready for bed.

This morning I was a bit more alert and curious - and there are no shortages of articles on the topic. I read what I figured I needed to read and decided I really need to do something more productive with cycling.

Ride my bike.

I had to visit the rest room (to "rest" so to speak - possibly due to those cold cuts) and noted that I hadn't edited the reading rack there. At the back of the pile - Winning magazine with Lemond on the cover after his '89 Tour win. Since then his life and career seems to have gone sort of odd.

Okay, let's be honest - even before it was a bit weird. His first Tour - sick as a dog. Gets third and the best young rider jersey by a long shot. His second Tour - works for his teammate, cries when he realizes he sat up (team tactics) when he could have taken the Tour. His Tour winning teammate Hinault thanks him for it and says the next Tour is Greg's. In the next Tour Hinault attacks him in the mountains. Twice. Lemond wins regardless. Then Lemond gets shot. Misses a Tour. He gets mixed up with PDM, has surgery on his tendon, misses another Tour. He signs with ADR, an unwanted racer, two years of failure behind him. Wins the closest Tour ever, signs with Z, barely wins the Tour, then, in his last Tour, gets smashed by a super Indurain and finishes 7th. So he got 3rd, 2nd, three 1sts, and a 7th. Not a bad resume for the Tour. Heck, I'd like that resume for the Bethel Spring Series.

And after that his story gets worse. Lemond had a huge falling out with his dad, his long time advisor, the guy who basically ran Lemond's bike company, and Lemond ended up firing him (or something like that - whatever, his dad suddenly didn't work for him). He got in some dispute over some property development. He speaks his mind when asked about touchy topics like Armstrong. And he speaks what he thought or saw or heard when asked.

He doesn't duck punches even when he probably should.

Not being a public figure, I can't relate. For example, if someone asked me about Landis, I'd probably end up getting sued for something. But I'm me. Lemond, he says what he thinks too. But he's a public figure - cover of Sports Illustrated, stuff like that. And it seems that it gets him in trouble.

So with that in mind, I started up the DVD in the player - ironically Stage 16 of the 2007 Tour. Apparently I like to torture myself watching Rasmussen's pathetic descending. For music I started up WinAmp on my computer. I cranked WinAmp and played some of my own clips and when I felt sufficiently motivated, I switched to Linkin Park and prepared to do a big effort. The longest "good" song I could find was 4:33 so I selected that and started hammering.

Hammer, I should point out, is a relative term. For me anything over 300 watts is hammering. I started at what I thought was a moderate pace, turning over the pedals (I wanted to see if higher rpms would help) and not putting a lot of muscular effort into the bike. It felt pretty good.

After a minute I started feeling pretty ragged. That easy effort was killing me. A short time after I started slowing. My 300 watts turned to 250. And eventually to 200. I tried to stay out of the 100's but that didn't work.

But then the sprinter in me rose to the surface. Two minutes to go. 120 seconds. An eternity. Or, from a sprinter's point of view, especially me, two minutes means something else - one lap at New Britain. I was back at 250 watts. One minute to go. Half a lap. Bigger gears, more wattage. 45 seconds to go. 400 watts, my legs screaming. Normally I don't do this - I normally go from pack-fodder to all-out-sprint. The ramp up in effort was foreign to my body.

And not in a good way.

At about 30 seconds to go I was bobbing and weaving like a champion boxer. And at 10 seconds to go my legs just stopped. I was actually surprised since I didn't think I made a conscious decision to stop pedaling. But they stopped. And I coasted past the 5 minute mark.

I thought about blaming the song - it abandoned me at about 30 seconds to go, there was an eternity to the next song, and the next song just wasn't the same. But whatever. I turned the stuff down anyway.

I cooled down a bit, spinning the pedals. I noticed the cadence jumped around a lot - 90-130 rpms when I wasn't varying by more than a total of 10 rpms. So something to check. I got off the bike with about 30 minutes left of my pre-leave-for-work morning left. Normally the PT head sits on the bike and when I get around to it I download it. Not today. I sat down and downloaded the data right away, sweaty shorts and all.

My new 5 minute peak power is 271 watts.

I thought that was fantastic. Until I saw that my previous high was 251 watts. All that work for 20 watts??? I guess I worked pretty hard at Prospect whether or not I admitted it to myself. I did blow up after all.

271 watts means 3.34 w/Kg. And that bumps me into the top of "Fair" on the chart. So with a true effort I'm just below a Cat 4.

To get to the Cat 3 level (4.45 w/Kg) I'd have to put out 360 watts (very unlikely) or get down to (at 271 watts) 134 pounds. Equally unlikely. If I get to 300 watts and 160, I'd still be at 4.13 w/Kg.

But knowing how I ride now, if I was 160 I'd be smokin'.

So that's sort of my goal. Wishy-washy goal. Getting the house on the market, moving, getting married, those are concrete things I have to get done. 160? That's a nice thing if it happens.

I'm not really sure what to do now. I guess I can play with the wattage - do either a surge-recover-surge (that's how I got my highest 8 minute wattage average with the burnt out Cyclops E-Trainer) or do a steady 300 watts. The latter kills me mentally so I might have to do the surge technique. Go 450 for a while, do 180, then do 400 till I collapse.

And find some Linkin Park like music that lasts for 5 minutes, not 4:33.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Training - Allergies

I've been having a hard time the last few days. It's hard for me to take a deep breath, to look at something without itching my eyes, to go for more than an hour without a hacking cough interrupting things.

Yes it's allergy season.

Apparently I've been snoring and sneezing and coughing and sighing dramatically in my sleep. The future missus claims to have woken me up to tell me I will breathe easier (and not snore or cough or hack) if I sit up. So I did. And then toppled over onto her. Not the result she originally planned out.

I started taking over the counter stuff for my allergies about 10 or 15 years ago. It was a big deal since my family made a huge deal out of taking an aspirin. Medicine was only for sledding to Nome to cure diphtheria, really bad fevers, and that's really it. I took that step to take medicine simply to relieve symptoms way back then. And now I usually take stuff for May with Memorial Day weekend being the absolute worst weekend for allergies. The pollen levels taper off pretty quickly after that. And throughout these years I noticed a couple things and then noticed a couple more things.

First off, certain allergy pills just knock you out. They work but you're so zonked that you end up in a happy, non-sneezing stupor. I occasionally slip up and buy or use the zonk stuff and end up zombie-ing a day of work. So I try and buy the non-drowsy stuff.

I noticed that one of the ingredients in non-drowsy allergy medicine is pseudoephedrine. Adrenalin (or something like adrenalin). Illegal for cyclists for a while, taken off the list a few years ago as it's so universally available. I suppose it's one step higher than caffeine in the drug world (unless you're making crystal meth with it, but that's a whole different tamale).

Adrenalin acts as a decongestant, the primary reason for including it in allergy medicine. It clears the lungs, makes breathing easier, and even masks some pain and elevates your heart rate. Sort of makes sense, right? If primitive man was attacked by vicious lions, he would get that metallic taste in his mouth as a monster dose of adrenaline hit him and then he'd take off running as fast as he could run. If adrenaline didn't help him breathe a bit better or get his blood pumping a bit faster, well, I guess, he became lion bait.

The "supressing pain" part is handy too - if he stepped on a splinter and it really hurt, adrenaline would help him run instead of the run-hop that would probably result. Remember that primitive man had to run faster than whoever was with him - a run-hop would be a fatal thing for one guy, a godsend to the rest.

So primitive man made it long enough to reproduce, his buddy that didn't have adrenaline helped feed the lions, and now whenever we get scared or surprised our bodies naturally pump adrenaline into the system. When it happens we feel less pain and we breathe easier.

What's primitive man got to do with cycling? Well, funny you should ask. Notice how in allergy season you feel fine while you're riding? You cruise along, your legs are fine, you can breathe reasonably well? Then when you climb off the bike suddenly the hacking and sneezing starts and your legs are kind of wobbly?

It's because cycling naturally boosts your adrenalin levels. Any exercise will do that. And while you're exercising, you tend not to sneeze. Or cough. Or hack. Not usually anyway. Your body doesn't know it's being pushed so that you can stay with the group on the hill. It simply thinks "Boy that vicious lion is still after us, keep the adrenalin going."

Then you get off the bike and your body says "Phew, we got away. Shut down the adrenalin."

And suddenly your legs feel a bit more sore, your eyes itch, and you start sneezing.

Since it's not practical to exercise all the time to stave off allergy symptoms (like, say, during work), various companies now sell products to simulate that same effect. Allergy pills help get rid of that discomfort by putting exogenous adrenalin into your system. Okay I don't think that's accurate even though it sounds good. I think it simply stimulates your adrenal glands or something. I'm no doctor or biologist so I don't know exactly.

Whatever. The important part is that when you take an allergy pill you eventually get a rush of adrenaline. Only with the pill it's a slow release, toned-down version of that metallic taste generating, heart palpitating rush you get when you almost rear end the car in front of you.

Adrenalin affects other things too. For example, you lose your appetite. It wouldn't do for that scared primitive man to be running along, splinter in his toe, the lion loping along behind him, and suddenly he thinks "Boy, I'm sort of hungry. Maybe I should stop and pick some berries."

Try that in the game Age of Empires. Your little dude will get chomped by the lion in no time.

The ones that stopped for the berries ended up weeding out the species. And the ones that made it? They eat after they're done running away. Why do you think that on the bike you don't feel hungry until it's too late? Correcto! Your body thinks it's running away from a lion and therefore it would be somewhat counterproductive to stop and eat.

So I have really bad allergies. Ask the cats. I got up at 2 AM the other night and they thought it was because I wanted to feed them. Ha. My throat hurt so much I thought I had an instant case of strep (the psychosomatic in me never sleeps). I took an allergy pill (Claritin - the non-adrenalin kind). I got the throat numbing spray the future missus thoughtfully got me and sprayed it down my throat every couple minutes.

And groveled on the floor in pain.

The cats thought this was great and rolled around with me. So I scritched them. And then had another shot of that spray stuff. Actually I had a lot of those spray shots. After a couple hours of groveling on the hallway carpet (the only carpeted place in the house) my throat finally eased up a bit and I went back to bed.

Usually when I get up I'm a bit hungry and munch on leftovers or make myself a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. Not that night. When your throat hurts that much, it's hard to think about eating. And when I suppress that pain with pain killers (Alleve in this case) and some allergy medicine, I'm too tired to think about food. During the day I take the adrenaline allergy stuff - so my appetite is suppressed. Either way I end up losing my appetite.

And suddenly I'm not eating as much.

I'm hoping that this allergy pain and suffering actually benefits me in one way - that I manage to lose weight. When I was younger and I first started taking the sinus and allergy medicine, I'd drop 10 pounds in a blink of the eye. Nowadays it's different - I probably lose a pound or two, mainly because the allergy stuff also dehydrates you, and then promptly gain it back.

But for now, I'm riding the allergy wave. And although I'm not chowing down the pills like M&M's, I'm taking the regularly enough to control my symptoms. I'm hoping that this will indirectly benefit my cycling.

And in the meantime both the future missus and I can actually have a restful night's sleep.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Training - Wattage and the Pros Revisited

I saw this the today, a post leadout from GMF. To recap, the article mentions that pros have a certain watt/kilogram of body weight output. And although the output is phenomenal for the period of time it takes to, say, climb L'Alpe D'Huez, the output is reasonable when you look at shorter time frames. The writer uses a local landmark, Bear Mountain, which has a decent climb somewhere on the course.

The article states it's probable that most racers could put down some Floyd wattage for a minute. I've said that before but the article does it better. He relates it to Category/Time - like "I am a one minute Pro, five minute Cat 2, and a 30 minute Cat 3". It certainly beats my "Wow, Floyd did 400 watts for an hour and I can do it for a minute."

After my miserable Prospect race (it was semi successful in that I got dropped due to stupidity, not fitness), I reviewed some of the things that could affect my next race. One thing I haven't done recently is weigh myself (I was using the scale to weigh car things - exhaust components, wheels, tires - among other things) so I reclaimed the scale and stood on it.

178 pounds.

For the record I'm 5'7" so 178 is, to be polite, heavy. As a side note Tiger, the adolescent cat who was padding along next to me, weighs about 10 pounds. Tiger, contrary to his food gathering human, is a lean, mean fighting machine.

In metric I weigh about 81 Kg, slightly higher than I was in California in February. To get the 6 watts/Kg mentioned in that article (I'm discounting 7 w/Kg as too "dope-y"), I'd have to maintain 484 watts for the 50 minutes or whatever for Col de Really Hard Climb.

At Prospect my one minute peak average was 431 watts (Floyd, baby!), my five minute peak average 251 (err...). I have a hard time maintaining about 220 for 10 minutes (that's the highest 10 minute peak I've recorded since April 20), and my friend Gene says he TT's at 250-270. So I think I'm a 220 watt kind of guy.

That translates to about 2.7 watts/Kg.

Yikes, right? A long way off from a Pro Tour rider. It doesn't even garner a mention in the article. I guess I should race Cat 5's on the road. Actually I know I should since I've been caught and passed by the 5's in races.

I checked out this chart. And according to that, my current watts/kilo is classified "Untrained to Fair".

Untrained?! Fair?!

Obviously Cat 5 level. Even when I use my 5 minute peak, 251 watts, I barely break 3 w/Kg at 3.09 w/Kg. I guess when people ask if I train I should answer in the negative now.

"No, I'm not in shape. I hover between Untrained and Fair in level of fitness."

My best years ever were in the early to mid 90's. I had a rocking sprint, rode all the time, and weighed, for a bit, a flyweight 135. I was even strong - sprinting the best I ever sprinted. If my steady state wattage was similar (reasonable assumption), my power to weight ratio would be 3.55 watts/Kg, 4.1 w/Kg if I used my 5 minute peak wattage. That's still below Cat 4 level at Bear Mountain. Having never finished Bear Mountain (in fact getting dropped on the first climb on the first lap) that's not surprising. That power chart mentioned before? It ranks me as a bottom to mid-level Cat 4.

And that's if I lose over 40 pounds! More than two bikes worth of weight!

To be fair, I might be 30 or 40 watts better than I state. But that's not the magnitude of power I need to bridge the ability gap - I'd need something like 250 more watts to do a steady 480+ watts to climb with the boys in the Tour right now. That's twice my output. Fit a second, weight-free me on the bike and that's what it takes to ride with the pros. A tandem bike with no weight, aero, or drag penalty. And I'd be equal to one good pro.

That's incredible.

One thing I haven't seen in these equations is the weight of the bike and gear. Figure the clothing and helmets are pretty close in weight, they probably weigh about one kilo (500g for shoes, 250g helmet, figure 250g for shorts and a jersey). Bikes have to weigh 6.8 kilos. So we should add 7.8 kilos to all the racers weights to calculate climbing efficiency.

What's the significance?

Well proportionally speaking, a light rider will carry "more bike" than a heavier rider. A feather weight 57 kilo rider will add over 13% of his bodyweight by getting dressed and clipping into his pedals. That burly 81 kilo sprinter? Less than 10%. Factor in water and stuff and you'll see that a climber who climbs solely on weight will lose some of his perceived advantage simply because they weigh so little. A more powerful but heavier rider will not be as penalized, and significantly for the stage races, will be able to time trial the flats better.

This is why someone like Rasmussen failed to podium (and has apparently given up trying). He trades weight for strength. A less flyweight rider like Landis has the power to time trial and can haul his slightly heavier body up as quickly as he needs. The Saunier-Duval doctor notes that most Tour racers are over 69 kilos (152 pounds). It takes a bit of power and the resulting mass to make it through the fast opening stages.

Oh, the one good thing about that power chart? Even at my bloated weight and counting my non-optimal sprint (1385 watts), my effort (17.1 w/Kg) ranks at the top of the 3's. I imagine I was putting out a lot more power to top out 46 mph at 135 pounds, but given the same power as my dismal parking lot sprint at the office, my "nice" weight would have put me at the top of the Div 1-2 Pro level.

Now that's more like it. Or as Austin Powers would say, "Yeah, baby!"

So anyway, in reality, based on the charts and the Bear Mountain blurb, I should be groveling in pain during any race that doesn't have hills. If they have hills the Bear Mountain guy says I'll be groveling right off the back. On the chance I make it to the finish, and if I race smart, the chart says I should try and cash in my sprint card to get a place. Based on my peak power, I should place well.

I hate it when it takes me 20+ years to figure stuff out and someone who doesn't even know me says "This is how it'll be." And they're right.

Now I have a new goal. I want to see if I can do a 5 minute effort that gets me a little more distant from the "Untrained" category.

I mean, really, that's simply unacceptable.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Story - The Tatoo'ed Arm

Back in the late 80's I had the opportunity to hang out a lot in a town close to my college. I occasionally rode my bike around town and except for a race that took place in the town last year, I didn't ride there for almost 20 years. Here is the story why.

I was on a somewhat standard training ride. With virtually no hills around but lots of multilane and median type roads, I was out doing - what else - sprints with cars. After exhausting myself I started heading back to my home base.

My route took me near an airport (private industry so really a huge field with runways on it) and a road that had an abnormally high number of stop signs on it. I figure they'd eventually put in some lights but at that point it was still a stop sign, a hundred yards, another stop, a hundred yards, and so on for about five or six stop signs. A welcome break was the traffic light at the intersection to a road that paralleled the aforementioned airport.

I was being a good boy and stopped at the first stop sign. I started accelerating, focusing on doing what is really a slow-motion, lower effort sprint, rocking the bike side to side. Always working on form. It felt good to make those moves without the sprint-effort - it's like stretching a bit.

A car went by - an early 70's Dodge Charger if you must know - and I felt something fly between my rocking arms. I looked down in time to see it hit the ground - tobacco juice.

Now I don't know about you but I think the stuff is absolutely disgusting. This was when chewing tobacco became a "cool" thing so it was somewhat common. But this was the first time someone spit it at me.

I heard some laughter as the car roared away. And I got pissed. I guess it didn't help that my heart rate was already pretty elevated and that my adrenal glands had been working overtime for the last hour. So I did what I always do when a car does something impolite like that.

I chased it.

The car stopped at the next stop sign, waited for me to get close, then floored it. When I blew through the stop at 31 mph (my Avocet accusingly displaying the numbers in big grey numerals), they realized I was pissed. They skipped the waiting part and tried to get away. I thought they were gone but when I rounded the bend, there it was. The intersection with the light. The light was red.

And to their credit, the car was stopped, its exhaust burbling.

For the second time in my life, I realized I was going to catch the car I was chasing. Now I was a bit concerned. I'm no fighter and it's usually a losing proposition to take on a car without massive reinforcements.

So I did what a cat does when it needs to think. Okay, I didn't lick myself. But I pulled out my water bottle and took a swig and tried to think of something to do that was appropriate and satisfying. I looked at the bottle cap. Looked at the car. Opened the cap. Rode up next to the car.

And dumped the water in the lap of the passenger in the car.

I had a faint sense of alarm when I did it, but it only registered after the water was gone. What set off my alarm was the passenger's arm (attached to the passenger). It was propped up on the window sill, the hand holding the roof. That's fine, lots of people sit like they're holding on the roof of their car. The alarm part came from the size of the arm.

The arm was enormous.

I mean it was as big as my thigh. It had lots of muscles. And it had a lot of tatoos on it.

Although not an expert in these matters, I understand that such an arm would be capable of dishing out severe pain. And in this case, I'd be the dishee. Not good.

I turned right (part of my new plan when I uncapped the bottle) and started riding away. I started wondering how pissed off the owner of such an arm could get when doused with some lukewarm water. Or maybe it was Gatorade. Whatever.

I looked back. The guy was looking down at his wet pants, his arms up in shock, and he yelled something at his buddy. The burbling engine shrieked and the rear tires starting spinning, smoke pouring out of the wheelwells. The car slowly turned to the right, the front tires barely moving, the rear tires spinning enough to make a drifter proud. And when it pointed at me, it leaped forward.

I started sprinting.

You better believe I sprinted. But I realized something that I hadn't realized when I thought of "turn right after dumping bottle." The problem was there was absolutely nothing on this road. A few houses and then a mile of chain link fence next to the airfield. In an absurd use of memory I remembered the mile as I'd recently read an article where they said this private airport was big enough to land a 747. I was trapped on a deserted road with one really pissed off Dodge roaring down my neck.

I couldn't remember any specs on the car but I knew two things. It accelerated like a scalded cat and stopped just a bit worse than a loaded Mac truck on an ice rink.

And in the middle of all this chaos, I saw the most amazing thing.

(cue soothing summery music)

About 20 or 30 yards away, some woman was laying on a lawn chair, catching some rays. She'd set up her chair in the driveway and I realized I would be able to ride onto the sidewalk behind her.

I figured that at the very least I should get off the road - a multi thousand pound car will punt a cyclist pretty far and I didn't want to find out exactly how far that would be. A curb would help deflect said car. So the sidewalk won.

I sprinted till I thought the car was about to hit me, I slammed on the brakes, and did a little powerslide up to the now-surprised woman. Oh you can stop that summery music and put the thrash metal back on. I almost became intimate with her but instead managed to put my foot down and stopped.

The Dodge shrieked by me. And I heard a "tink, tink, tink.." as they went blasting by me. They'd tossed their tobacco can at me but missed.

Ha, ha, I thought.

Then the driver locked up his brakes and practically dug the front bumper into the pavement, smoke pouring from all four tires.

Uh oh, this wasn't over.

I looked left (where I came from - nothing), right (a long stream of traffic coming towards me), the Dodge (to the right also, pointed the wrong way, blocked by a curb and chainlink fence on the right, lots of traffic on the left) and made a life saving choice.

I turned the bike around and sprinted in front of the traffic going back towards the light. They let me in. The Dodge was helpless - unable to turn around with all the traffic, hemmed in by the chain link fence, the guys just sat there fuming.

And I proceeded to clear the datum.

Datum is a singular data point. Submariners refer to a datum as a point at which someone spotted the submarine. Since submarines rely on stealth, they really don't like being spotted. So if you think you're spotted (which means that someone has a datum point on you), you clear the datum. You make that one point meaningless.

In other words, you scram.

You zig, you zag, you speed up, you slow down, you do whatever you can to lose the bad guys.

And I did just that on the bike. I knew where I had to go and knew some of the roads around that area. So I took turns as soon as I could and kept going left, right, right, left, paralleling the main road but using the tight, visually obscured side streets. When I got to the house I put the bike in the garage (normally it stayed in my car), locked the door, ran up stairs, and sat to one side of the window. I cracked it open so I could hear cars approaching.

After the first five or ten minutes passed, I figured the chances of them finding me were pretty slim. I showered quickly, changed, and returned to sit by the window (behind the curtain). My girlfriend got back from where ever and asked me about my curious fascination with the deserted street. I told her what happened, prayed that no one could recognize me without bike gear on, and swore I wouldn't ride the streets of that town for a long, long time.

And that's why I didn't ride in that town for such a long time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Training - The New Me

Alright, there is no new me. But I actually rode this Monday morning (on the trainer, if you must know). I was a bit tired and rode a bit shorter than I preferred but the reason was worth it. Sunday the future missus and I worked our collective tails off, clearing out the basement and the junk I've accumulated through 15 years of living in the house.

We put everything on the driveway and sorted out what to keep and what to toss. There was a lot of stuff on the driveway and more than a few cars slowed to check out a potential yard sale. But when they saw the piles of garbage bags they probably wised up and none of them actually said a word to us.

We did this for the whole day - with a 20 minute break to eat some food - and celebrated a virtually empty basement by going out for Indian food. We still have the bike room and the garage to do but trust me, this was a huge accomplishment.

The immense fatigue of the cleanup combined with a blanket of food-induced eye-drooping sleepiness meant a very restful night's sleep. But an open window caused the temperature to plummet in the bedroom and I woke up chilly and still a bit fatigued.

Nevertheless I decided to ride. My brother called asking for a ride to work the previous evening so I decided to ride the trainer so as not to screw up the commute schedule.

I was watching a 2007 Tour DVD as well as the full 100 MB versions of the stuff I put on YouTube. My stuff I know about - effort level, feeling, etc. But the Tour is harder to comprehend.

One stage a break went for a nice ride over the mountains (yes, I was trying to inspire myself - I actually watched mountain stages). Phil and Paul were talking about the wattage the break was putting out - 400 watts or so.

That's almost incomprehensible to me.

If I go all out for a minute, I barely hit 400 watts. Yet these guys were doing it all day!


The future missus came downstairs to see how I was going. I pointed out the insane wattage the pros were putting out to her. She peered over my PowerTap to check out what I was doing. I might have subconsciously upped it for a millisecond but the reading didn't vary much.

200 watts.

She looked up at me.
"Didn't you say these guys have some genetic talent that makes them so strong?"
"Well, yeah."
"And they're pros in the Tour."
"So what are you worried about."

You know, she has a way with words.

So far I learned two things with the Power Tap.
1. I put out very low steady state power.
2. Spinning seems to increase power without a matching sense of effort.

So for my first ride on the bike after my disastrous Prospect race, I decided to spin and see what sort of wattage I generated with a moderate level of effort. Although I haven't reviewed the stats (the PT never lies) I noticed a "moderate" level of effort is about 130-140 bpm and just about 200 watts (180-205 ish watts).

Since I was on the trainer it's hard for me to motivate a lot. And although I go harder outside, even then it's hard to motivate. In fact, when I really think about it, it's even hard to motivate in a race. I simply get to a certain level of effort (170 bpm), I blow up, and I ease up.

No turning myself inside out. I got out of that phase a long time ago - maybe 10 years ago. Only very, very occasionally do I make such superlative efforts. In the past five or six years they've only been in very significant races - one being the Nutmeg State Games when I bridged to a break.

My goal is to be able to revive the ability to extend myself like that. I think it works better when I'm on the road, hence plans to get out there Tuesday, Wednesday, and maybe even Thursday. I guess it depends on rain too - if it's raining I just wimp out nowadays. Not because I can't ride in the rain but because it's such a pain to clean up afterwards.

Curiously enough, I go through this "search for form" virtually every year. The exceptions were the mid-90's when I used EPO... Okay, I'm just kidding. The exceptions were in the mid 90's when I trained all the time, raced all the time, and the form simply showed up and didn't leave for a number of years.

On with the search.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How To - Group Riding Mentality

I wish I could race all the time, getting dropped notwithstanding.

But if I can't, at least I can work on racing while I'm training.

Sometimes that means I end up sprinting with the boys - Gert, Daniele, Eric, Grahame, and Robbie, with the big lead out from GMF. And it's a lot of fun, I have to say.

Other times my riding is truly on my own. Not even the imaginary racers to shelter me from the wind.

But, even on those rides, I keep my group riding mentality handy. This means riding as if there were people around me, even if there are none. It means cornering while holding my virtual lane, even if there are no other riders in the other virtual lanes.

It means pushing a bit when I want to ease because I know that, on certain sections of road, this is where the group would naturally accelerate. Coincidentally it's probably where I want to slow, so I push to stay with the imaginary field slowly streaming past me.

And it means holding my line on the straights. It means moving off my line ever so slightly to avoid a wheel chomping pothole. Or not to move at all - in a group, it's absolute recklessness to swerve around potholes. If I have to go over the pothole, I have to bunny hop it. If it's not bad, I just unweight the wheels.

I don't do this to torture my wheels, although sometimes I've been accused of just that.

I do it because I want to better myself as a racer.

When I'm actually racing, it feels the same as when I train. I don't have to adjust how I ride because I always ride like I do in the group. I disagree with the philosophy that when you're riding on your own you follow different rules than when you're riding in a group. At some point somewhere, something unexpected will happen in a group ride (or race) and you'll react instinctively. Since much of your riding is done solo (or in small groups), you'll probably react as if you're riding solo. And you'll end up taking out people. If you always ride as if there are people around you, your reactions will be a bit different.

And it might help keep you upright.

In one race I did a guy crashed pretty hard and wrecked a nice Zipp wheel as well as a host of other parts on his bike. Normally you'd feel a bit bad for someone who just racked up $1500 or $2000 in broken bike parts.

Not this time.

I felt no sympathy for him because he was totally immersed in a single rider mentality while in the field. He swerved around everything that might damage his precious wheels, causing others to swerve or brake needlessly and dangerously. He recklessly swerved to get onto wheels, disregarding the riders he almost took out each time he did it. Others yelled at him - and he ignored them. Repeatedly.

It's one thing to move over six inches to skim past a pothole or a manhole. It's another to move over three feet to go around someone without even a glance to check if it's clear. I personally watched this guy move from the right curb over about six feet - three "lanes" of riders" - without a glance. This in the middle of a reasonably packed field in a criterium.

I was simply astounded by the lack of concern displayed by this racer for others.

That racer's fairy godmother was a busy fairy during that race.

Her wand and the other racers' skill (probably not in that order) kept everyone upright. It helped that the field was a bit spread out as it seemed to be a less critical phase of the race. But it didn't keep mouths shut - I heard from more than a few guys to "watch out for that guy".

On the bell lap of the race, the field did get scrunched up as everyone sliced and diced to get good position. And finally, on that last lap, the racer's fairy godmother gave up on him and turned her head away. He crashed, crunching some nice carbon tidbits in the process.

Alone, I might add.

Which, after everything everyone went through, seems appropriate.

When you ride in a group (i.e. a race or a very fast group ride), it's your responsibility to be a part of that group. You can't expect everyone to accommodate your every whim. The group exists because of its individual components. And in a related idea, the group will do everything it can to eject a non-cooperative element.

There are certain rules you need to follow. I list three for your consumption.

1. You must yield to anyone violating your comfort space.

The corollary is that you should not violate, beyond a reasonable amount, another racer's comfort space.

The space may vary from 3 or 4 feet to actual contact, but whatever that space is, you will need to keep that space clear.

For most racers, any unusual pressure on the bars or front wheel will cause them to crash.

Therefore the space encompasses your handlebars and front wheel. Less experienced racers will include their elbows, arms, shoulders in this list. Some racers will feel it's acceptable to touch bars. Others the front wheel. But you should never assume this is the case.

For Cat 3's, I figure a foot is pretty roomy. For me the space is probably measured in 1-2 inches (bars), zero inches (wheel - I've hit things like cassettes and pedals and skewers without a problem), and contact for shoulders and arms.

So keep clear of the other racers' bar and front wheel. If you learn to reduce your comfort space to a foot or less, you'll increase exponentially the number of places you feel comfortable in the field.

2. Do not swerve off your line.

I say this authoritatively but you can move a little off your line without too much trouble - a foot is probably max in most field conditions. Under the right circumstances perhaps more, but that is only if you've checked and cleared your path first. You can do this by looking down momentarily - you'll see who's around your rear wheel. The rear wheel is usually what will take out other racers, so if it's clear, you can move.

I did a group ride where one of the leaders insisted on swerving out three or four feet each time he wanted to make a move. He never "checked his six" and everyone grumbled every time he did it. But he was a leader and therefore somewhat immune to criticism. I never did the ride again.

Swerving off your line, whether to avoid a pothole or to jump on a nice wheel, endangers the riders behind you. It's the signature of a self-centered racer, one you don't want to race with or ride behind. Don't do it.

3. Hold your line in curves.

There are all sorts of "How-To's" on cornering with nice diagrams of the best line, the fastest line, the shortest line, the whatever line, through a turn. Read them. Study them. Memorize them.

And throw them out.

Unless you're the first or second racer through a turn, you do not have the right to choose your line. The field determines the line. By slotting in behind others, you have yielded the line choice to them. If the guy in front of you is trying to commit suicide with his line choice, okay, correct it, but otherwise you really have to follow what they're doing. This especially applies to maneuvers that end other racer's lines - like cutting in so hard you cut off the guys inside. Or swinging so wide the racers to your outside end up tumbling over the curb.

I'm sure there are other rules but these will hit the main points. They'll help make you a better racer, a racer with whom others enjoy riding, and basically make life on the bike a lot more pleasant.

Wait, you ask. What about all the fun slicing and dicing?

It doesn't go away. You can still slice and dice. Just do it with a more comprehensive mindset, one that takes into account more than just, "Can I get that spot?" There's nothing about moving into a spot that doesn't violate anyone's comfort space, nothing about being one of the first to go through a turn, or anything about not jumping clear of a dormant field.

What about if you need to adjust your line in the middle of a turn?

If you're flying through a nice corner and you realize that the guys in front took the wrong line, adjust your line gradually. Usually it means turning in later since most racers turn in too early. This means you'll be giving more room to your inside and the guys on the outside will be fine if you did your line calculations right - in fact, they'll be sling-shotted ahead at the exit. Do not swerve out three feet to set up for what you think is the "better line".

The racers that do that? They probably don't even know the "better line".

Okay, what about when someone is squeezing up the outside and it's sort of critical you hold your position?

If you want to shut the door on someone, it doesn't mean you move in on them three feet (if you have that much room, you really don't have a choice in shutting the door - pick your position better next time). It means you move in just enough so there's about 20 cm of pavement left to use - just a little less than what a racer needs to sneak through a handlebar, but enough (this is critical) for the racer to stay upright long enough to back out of his now-useless position. If you move over the extra 20 cm to the curb, you've now cut off his wheel, tire, and potentially just ruined the guy's next eight weeks of racing, not just his attempt to move up a bike length. Giving him the 20 cm gives him time to reflect on his boxed-in status, ease up, and back off.

I think you get the idea. You can still race elbow to elbow, shut the door on someone, slice and dice, but you're doing it safely.

And you know what the best part is?

You can practice all of this while you ride on your own.

In fact, I recommend you do it every time you ride, the whole time you ride.

You should ride as if you're 50 riders back in a 200 rider field. Every time you move up 10 spots, 10 riders moved up elsewhere. So the whole time, every turn, every straightaway, there are riders all around you.

Think about what you do differently. Think about how far ahead you look for road hazards. For traffic lights. For corners. Think about where on the road you ride. You want to keep the right side shut down? Well, you better not stray more than a foot or so away from that curb. You want to practice making a move up the side? Learn to ride so close to the curb that you sometimes have to time your pedal strokes so the downstrokes coincide with a driveway cutout.

It's a whole different ballgame. And if you get into, and stay in, this group riding mindset, you can only be a better rider.

There is nothing about a group riding approach which will slow down a solo rider. In fact, the added buffers, the increased attention, they'll all make you a better rider.

And a better racer.

We all race for fun. Well I do anyway. And although I'll fight really, really hard to keep my position, I'll never endanger someone doing so.

That's not what racing is about.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Racing - Return of the Belly

So today was the regrouping day. Figure out where I stood fitness-wise, what I need to do.

To be totally honest, deep down inside I knew what I needed to do - ride more. But today was a wake up call.

We (yes, she got up too) were on our way just after 5 AM for the 6:40 AM start. A brief bit of traffic interrupted an otherwise fast and smooth commute. Literally. The blue car is so much faster, so much smoother. 1.5 times the mass. 3 times the horsepower. You do the math. And it even gets almost 30 mpg!

We got to Prospect Park a bit late. I gave my work cell to the Significant Other, kept my personal one on me, and told her I'd call her if I needed anything. I also kept my EKG (it's abnormal so I have to carry it around), some ID, and my racing license. Unfortunately I had no time so essentially rode to the bathrooms and rode to the line.

Zero warm-up.

It didn't help overhearing some of the P/1/2/3's (I registered for the 35+).

"Well, having done both the races, the 35's usually go faster on the first lap or two."

Not what I wanted to hear on a microscopic warmup.

My PowerTap was good, heart rate, cadence, and power all registering. Because of the prevalence of glass in the area, I decided to use the (clincher) PowerTap and a clincher front wheel. I wanted to emphasize max speed over climbing so chose my trusty Specialized TriSpoke for the front. With the extra weight, my bike was probably pushing 20 pounds, but I figured it'd be okay.

After the P/1/2/3's left, we went to the line. I was hoping to be up front so I could drift back on the climb. Since it's only a half mile or so from the start, that would be the extent of my warmup. I did manage to line up at the front, and with a 34 mile race ahead of us (and plenty of time to move up) no one called me any names or anything. So far so good.

When we got up that first hill, someone attacked. The two guys in front of me (and who were leading the field) upped the pace a bit to keep tabs on the guy. I happened to be slotted in third.

Immediately I was a bit over the edge, my heart rate at 166 but my lungs getting a bit raw and my legs a bit wobbly. The two guys each pulled off once but I couldn't pull through and in fact had to let a gap open near the top.

I realized afterwards that if everyone thought I was going that slow, they'd have come around me. I'll have to file that thought for next time.

The next time around, I felt a lot better - I figured my heart rate must be lower. I checked. 170.


I guess I was warmed up. But I did trade a lot of position to keep my effort lower. A couple more laps like that and I'd be at or off the back. So I moved up towards the front for the next lap.

I was towards the outside when someone decided to make a little move. It was so little I didn't realize it was a move and simply stayed on the wheel. And suddenly we were off the front. Another racer or two joined us and rotated. But each looked back and sat up.

I debated sitting up or going - I was alone at that point, everyone else having sat up. If I kept going, I'd be pushing my aerobic limits and setting myself up for a very, very hard time up the hill. But I could show off in front of the Significant Other.

So I hunkered down and started time trialing.




Oh no.

Not a flat. Not a broken spoke. Not a pebble stuck in the tire.

It was the Return Of The Belly.

I'd worked so hard in Florida and California to get rid of this thing. And now it was back, my thighs thumping it each time they reached the upper part of the pedal stroke.

Okay, okay, I'll 'fess up.

It never really went away but it did get smaller. Small enough that it stopped Thumping. So this was a morale-shattering revelation.

I seriously debated sitting up. But I'd used so much energy I figured showing off in front of the SO would be worth it.

Then some dude flew by me.

He really didn't. It was more that I was going slow and he went a normal 28 mph past me. I got on his wheel, going into the red to do so. And I knew I was in trouble. The show off for the SO would be my race. I prayed I'd get to the hill in reasonable shape and get over it with the group. Then I could grovel in pain for a mile or two and recover.

We flashed by the S/F area, the SO yelling out "Hang on to the wheel!" or something supportive like that. Not "Kill him on the hill." She's smarter than that.

He pulled off and we slowed to about 23 mph. He rode around me in disgust. I couldn't get on his wheel. I tried to keep going but I was totally blown.

The field picked me up at the bottom of the hill, my heart rate already at 170, my breathing ragged, and my legs fading fast. I steeled myself for an effort to turn my body inside out to stay with them on the hill. Some not so many seconds later my legs shut down and I heard swearing behind me as guys had to close the gap that opened suddenly in front of me.

So much for turning my body inside out.

I rode a bit till the 4's caught me, they dropped me on the hill, and then I decided to give the SO an out.

I whipped out the cell and called her.

The marshals watching me cruise by on the cell looked a little puzzled.

"I got dropped after that break"
"I saw you in the 4's"
"Yeah, well they just dropped me too"
"So... I figured it'd be more fun if we went home and rode the tandem than if I just rode around, getting caught and dropped by each group that passes me. Want to meet at the car?"

The 5's caught me at about the time I put the phone away so I let them stream past me and descended behind them. With about a half mile to go to the cars I decided to make one more effort. I rode around the field, slowly pulled past them, and slowly got myself a little gap. I was simply working as hard as I could to get to the parking lot. When I saw it I pulled over.

And heard some swearing as the field realized they were chasing a racer who wasn't part of their race. The different colored number and different number series should have given them a hint but I figure they'll be more attentive next time.

We met at the car, packed up, and left.

And although we never got on the tandem, we decided we'd do so tomorrow. And so I put a little grass seed down, watered the same, watered the plants in the house, hung out with the cats (well mainly with Tiger), and postponed my normal post-Prospect nap. We're going to a BBQ later so that'll be a nice, relaxing little shindig. And that'll be our day.

I decided I need to ride in the mornings. I should be able to get up with the SO, get on the bike to go outside, and do an hour to two hours each day. If I go outside it's much harder to climb off the bike and just watch the bike race DVD instead of riding the bike (on the trainer) and watching it. This may salvage some potential in the race rich May-June junction - and improve my morale as well.

That's my regrouping analysis.

Hopefully it also gets rid of the Belly.

We'll see.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Training - Regrouping

This post isn't about group riding and how to regroup after a tough climb blows apart the tightly knit pack of riders. It's about regrouping on a different scale. It's about regrouping to figure out how to approach the rest of a season in a year filled with significant projects and deadlines.

Earlier this year I did a trainer ride in the early morning, came out of my dungeon (most refer to it as a basement), and realized how warm it was outside. So I tossed my bike and gear into the car and drove to work. After work I went for a nice ride, two laps of my standard loop. It's a loop I normally do in about 30 minutes - a really slow one is 35 minutes and my record is in the 26 minute range.

Two climbs on that loop I did out of the saddle, relishing the feeling of power as I rocked the bike up the hills. Pulling up on the bars - it's more like shoving the bars to one side, pulling up with one foot, pushing down with the other, all while tilting the bike. It's like sprinting in slow motion. And I love sprinting.

I forget that this tilting and the corresponding pulling up and over the pedal stroke is something you can't do on a trainer. Later, at home, I commented on how different it is to ride outside compared to the trainer - and that I should ride outside more. My fiancee looked at my knowingly and said, "You say this every year."


Well I still consider it a revelation every time I discover it.

I ended up sore with muscles I forgot existed. I remember all the various things I hadn't thought of in a while - cornering, descending, even climbing. I remembered how much fun I have riding the bike. Cycling isn't a means to an end, at least not for me. It's an end in itself. This seems a bit contrary to my statement that "I train to race, not race to train" but I'll expand on it in a different post.

So what's this got to do with regrouping, you ask. Well, nothing. Actually, I wanted to illustrate where I was with the whole "I love bicycle racing" bit to illustrate what it means to prepare to sacrifice a year of racing. This year the sacrifice consists of lowering my 2007 season expectations.

There are a few factors skewing these expectations. The more immediate is the goal of selling the house and moving to a spot closer to the future missus's office. Bonus is that I get to work from home after we move. The second item on the agenda is getting married (hence "future missus" and not "girlfriend"), but since that's not until October, the move takes scheduling priority. And there are little things which have to get done - honeymoon planning and helping promote the CT Coast Crit. And there are things I want to get done - fixing up the red car, sprucing up the blue one, doing some maintenance on the van, creating a street sweeping gizmo, things like that.

I can't ride a bike while I'm working on those tasks so I have to choose.

Bike or Task.

You can guess what that means.

I've committed myself to working on the house. And this means writing off expectations of training. Last year, the future missus would say something like "You haven't ridden your bike, you should probably ride." Now it's "If you clip the grass along the wall, I'll paint the wall as you won't be home till later."

And although Monday's sprint workout was a relative failure, feeling the bike rock side to side under me put me in a "summer" mood.

That means I really, really want to ride.

But I decided getting the house on the market is more important than bike racing. At least for a few weeks anyway. House time becomes more important. And my training time takes the corresponding dive.

This doesn't mean a total abandonment of the bike. Au contraire.

My next race is Saturday morning - a great series in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This week, it should be noted, I didn't get to ride after my Monday night sprints. This means I'll be really, really fresh for Saturday morning's race. I plan on using the race to see how I've held up between my form-building February through the form-destroying March and April.

After Saturday's race I think I'll be able to better formulate some goals for the upcoming "important" races - Hartford, CT Coast, and Nutmeg, a flurry of races in a three week period. Well four weeks if you count the Prospect a week later. I always do well in the first two Prospects and terrible at the rest.

I already know my first step in the regrouping process. (This makes the whole thing a lot easier.) It will be to do the 75k - 100k might be pushing it - of the May 20th Bloomin Metric on the tandem. I started my first Bloomin' in 1982 with my friend Ken (who really got me into cycling) and his dad. Unfortunately his dad got stung by a bee and we had to rush somewhere for first aid. I didn't complete the ride, and honestly, I don't know if I could have, little scrawny kid that I was. This year it'll be a nice, mellow ride to get some time on the bike, hang out with the future missus, and my friend and colleague Kelly and his girlfriend Jenn (they're riding too).

Hopefully, and I really hope this, in the middle of my regrouping I'll have to worry about moving sometime this summer. It would mean the house sold in a really depressed real estate market and we're getting on with things. Now I don't just "hope" without taking any action. We actually hired an inspector so we could work on things before any other inspector pointed things out. And we put in a lot of time and effort into making the house good for another 15 years without much maintenance. Thankfully the house really didn't need anything as I'd just had virtually everything done in the last few years. So the house is structurally ready. We still have to clean up though and it's been tough weeding out the stuff that's accumulated over 15 years and countless housemates (I know, it's called "going to the dump" and we have - literally thousands and thousands of pounds of stuff - and the house is still kind of full).

Of course then we'll have to find a house. But we'll do that once we are reasonably sure we've sold this one. Much less stress working that way than if we find a house we want but we haven't sold this one yet. In case we find ourselves homeless, we have an offer to stay at the future missus's best friend's house - and the fact the friend's husband is a good enough friend that I gave him my non-running green car and all its related parts is a bonus.

After the move I'd be working from home every day of the week. This would be in the nice cycling area northwest of Hartford. I won't have to drive to work anymore. We're talking of freeing up something like 15 hours a week.

Imagine how much training I'll be able to do with 15 hours a week! Talk about a regrouping period. Just wait till 2008!

Of course I'll probably spend it working on the yard.

Or the cars.

But, hey, that's a different thing altogether.