Friday, June 27, 2008

Dirty hAIRy

This poor air quality sucks. Let's let this whole state just burn down so we can get this out of the way and plant some new seeds and find some fresh air. Yeah, a little ranting never hurt, but this is just impacting on several fronts.

The kids are couped up in the house for the majority of the day because the air is nasty enough that playing outside just results in wheezing and general mucus madness. We're keeping Kleenex in business around my house for sure.

I'm bumming because I can't even see blue sky. Not too much to ask for, but when I don't see it due to general haziness it bums me out. I grew up in the Northwest so I'm used to not seeing blue sky for months, but at least I could rationalize and know that the clouds were bringing rain, which was good for everything (as a kid you do this, knowing that rain at your house in the cold winter means fresh powder for you and your snowboard on Mt. Hood). This crap in the air is just a really bad form of mass population genocide gassing on a subverted level.

Lastly, this poor air impacted me on my training ride today. When I last rode on Tuesday the air didn't bother me. In fact, I think the air quality was a bit better Tuesday night. But back to this afternoon...
I rolled south out of Almaden Valley looking to do some sweet spot interval work (i.e. around 90-95% of my FTP). The first 12 minute interval wasn't too bad; the second was a little tougher. Both were within 2 watts of each other for average wattage and in the right range I was looking for.

My apologies to Hutchinson as I was acting anti-social during my second interval as we crossed paths on Santa Teresa. I was heading south, he rolling north sticking that sleek nose/bike/body of his into the headwind.

Another 8 minute interval up and over Willow Springs and then one last 8 minute blast of pain on the way home on McKean.
Those last two intervals really hurt. My power on the mark again, but I think with all the dirty air my ability to process oxygen and get it to my muscles was impacted. I got done with those intervals feeling like I had just put myself into a timeout in the pain locker.

If this air quality doesn't get better I might just be sitting on the sidelines for another day or two.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carbon Clincher or Tubulars?

Talk about not having the best of luck. I decided to give the deep dish tubulars a spin yesterday and see how they would hold up with the evening south bay winds. About 20 minutes from my house I realized the rear had a slow leak. I was able to get back home and safely put on my low profile tubulars. Back on the road I'm happily making my way to the SJBC Tuesday night crit and discover, yet again, that this wheelset has a slow leak too.

I get to the race and pump these back up and it was noticeable. The air leak could be heard and felt very clearly. The tire seemed to quit leaking at around 80psi, much less than the 140psi I wanted to run. Nevertheless I decided to ride anyways. It was super comfy, but not the most efficient ride.

So now I've got myself thinking about how much of a pain it is to deal with tubulars. I've been doing a bit of research on what's out there for carbon clincher rims and there are quite a few, ranging from Zipps (my least fav) to Lew's (mucho bling expensive). Throw in there the Reynolds and Edge Composite offerings and you've got an interesting blend of different price points, rim depths and build options.

On the plus side my abilities to glue a tubular real well were confirmed when I took off both leaky tires and about broke my thumbs off. In fact, while typing this up my hands are still fatigued. I doubt I'll be rolling my tubulars in the near future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

These announcers are brutal!

Just chillin' with the family this afternoon and I turn on the TV. Come to find out Tivo is recording the Philly race. After 30 seconds of listening to the announcers I want them out of my TV. Come on announcers, take a Valium and calm down. You're way too hyped up with 40 miles to go.

[fast forward to the bunch sprint...]

Announcers, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between the High Road and CSC kits. So, why oh why, can't you get it right. You keep screaming, "It's a High Road rider..." when it's clear as can be that CSC won the race. Then you don't even admit to your mistake when you make the right call.

I've heard better commentary on the mic from locals here in the Norcal region.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not another forest fire in the Santa Cruz Hills

On the way home from dropping my mom off at the airport this afternoon I noticed some ominous clouds above the Santa Cruz mountains. I thought I saw a lightening strike but just wrote it up to something looking different with my new Oakley Ice Iridium lenses. However, I saw another strike only a few minutes later.

I really, really hope that these don't flare up into new forest fires. Those folks fighting the fires have been taxed and are probably at the end of their ability to function. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Now on to more happy things, I missed the first evening of AVC fireworks last night. But a change with the daughter's dance recital details might allow myself and Tate to get down to Hell-yeah. He doesn't know it yet, but there's a Kiddie Kilo race. He was stoked the last time he did this race a few Friday's ago, but he wouldn't clear the track. I literally had to pry his hands off his bars to get him off his bike. Adorable, but I can't have the little dude overtraining himself.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dead after 4,500 miles

I've had pretty good luck with the batteries in my various PT wheels. Only once back in early November did I have my hub batteries die; it was a training ride where I really wanted the data as I was killing it on a common road I always train on.

Today the battery indicator started to blink, and again, I was doing some intervals. I had my fingers crossed that the batteries wouldn't completely die. They didn't! I looked back at my training log and saw that I last replaced these batteries roughly 4,500 miles ago. Not too bad for a $5 part.

Now if I could get the PT computer unit to give me this kind of performance I'd be happier. It seems to eat batteries every 2,500 miles.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New man-crush

There aren't many tall pro cyclists out there, and this morning while watching the final stage of the Dauphine, the commentators discussion came up around the taller riders in the peloton. I think I'll be following this guy more: Marcel Sieberg. At 6'5" he's about the closest guy in height to me.

I also forgot to mention that Tom Zirbel is another tall guy too. Same height at Marcel, but doing more of the domestic racing stuff for Bissell.

Pescadero RR

In the master plan starting out earlier this year when I laid out what races I wanted to do, Pesky was going to be my last race after a busy May/June schedule of RR's and crits. But a change in plans was set in motion with the back injury so my initial goals for this race were modified. I love this course as it has a bit of everything. Hills, flats, fast descents and a high level of pain.

I approached this race differently since my fitness was off about 30% from last year and I was no where near where I wanted to be at least to be competitive. Last year I hung with the lead pack all the way to the base of Haskins on the final climb, delivering a teammate some well timed rest on my wheel the entire way up Hwy 84 before he launched his attack and claimed the victory on the hill (still one of my top 5 racing highlights). This year my goal was to hang with the lead group for as long as possible and then ride tempo the rest of the way in. Listening to my body/back was top priority as it was a year ago on this same course where the initial L4/L5 injury took place.

The start was rather mellow and the two climbs on Stage Road saw me toward the back. I purposely rode there as I wanted just to chill out as much as possible and suck wheels to conserve energy. Not my usual style of riding (I like to be at the front), but I really wanted to see how long I could hang. We hit Haskins for the first time and the lead group slowly pulls away (see photo above). Steve Woo was next to me for the rest of the climb and we and several others crested together. On the way down a few fast guys decided to try and catch the lead group, so I hopped on. Sorry Woo-ster, I was looking forward to riding the rest of the way with you, but I couldn't pass up hooking onto the Dolce Vita train (another Steve who's got a nice big draft like me).

Our group of five soon grew to about 10 as we caught more riders. Eventually about seven miles from the top of the hill as we were getting back to the Butano cut-off we caught the lead pack. They weren't going too hard, so it was nice to hang out at the back and take inventory. The legs were definitely tired, due to only the last two weeks of training. The lungs felt fine and the back, which I was most concerned about going into the race, was fatigued. Fatigued in a good way, not in a bad way which would have led to a re-aggravation of the original injury.

Coming up to the sprint point area after riding through the town of Pescadero the pace started to pick up. As it did, my body started to speak volumes to me about what I couldn't do. Very quickly my legs started to feel heavy and unresponsive, my HR didn't get up quickly as it usually does when I pick up the pace. It was if my body was saying, "Todd, great job on hanging with the lead pack for 31 miles. It's time for you to shut it down and get across the finish line in one piece."

Luckily for me I've decided to listen better to my body. As I watched the lead pack pull up the first Stage Road climb I cycled through my data on my PT computer unit. It had been a solid 31 miles of effort and the best test of my capabilities since getting back on the bike. I was happy to accomplish this goal.

Next goal was to finish, which soon was realized. I rolled down to the start area with several teammates and found out that one of our guys won the race (M35+ 4/5). Pretty cool to see a SJBC guy win this same category/race for the second year in a row. Same thing happened earlier in the year with my Cantua win as well. At the car I took my time and made sure I gave myself plenty of time to stretch and cool down. This helped greatly as my back was feeling really good. Sure it was tired, but in a good and painless way. Another goal achieved.

My result of coming in 42nd doesn't look like much on paper, but when I look back and realize what it's taken to get here, it's all good.

On a side note, I found it highly amusing that several friends of mine in the M35+ group came up to me and said they were entertained by keeping track of my progress through this blog. Nice to see that folks are reading away. The best comment was from a guy who hadn't seen me at a race in a long time. He asked if I was going to go all "Cantua on us..." out there. Nope, there was no plan to go off the front for 23 miles at Pesky for the win. I'm saving that kind of effort for something later in the year!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Yeah, it might be tough for her to make the Kiddie Kilo at the AVC, but my daughter is participating in her dance recital on both nights. However, I'm hoping to sneak out the back door after her performance and hustle over to Hell-yeah! to catch some tasty AVC action.

Maybe I can bring Tate and have the AVC be his debut. He's been training hard and has put quite a few miles on his red Magna single speed. However, his form may be a bit off as he experienced his first training incident yesterday. On the way home from picking up his sister at school (we usually ride our bikes to school), we decided to do some VO2max intervals. He gassed it too hard and was in the pain closet. In his moment of training clarity he forgot that objects like parked cars don't move. BAM!!! Tate ran into the back of a truck. Luckily the helmet did its job and he shook off the crash like a pro.

Somebody mentioned to me these guys doing the flying laps can hold over 1,000 watts the entire way around the track. Too cool!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Adding a little spice

I do a lot of riding up Hicks road south of Los Gatos. Depending on what I want to accomplish it can serve many purposes: pre-race opener to the base of the hard climb, taskmaster when I decide to climb up the 10%+ gradient all the way to the top, easy recovery ride to just chill.

Today was a bit different. I decided to tackle two of the side roads that I routinely pass:

  • Pheasant Rd
    • Mostly shaded and about 0.6 miles long. The average gradient is probably around 6-7% and it kicks up to around 8% for the final 200 meters. I didn't go too hard and it took about 4:40 to get up to the top. This would be a nice little hill if you want to do some 4 minute intervals on a hill. Absolutely no traffic either way.
  • Reynolds Rd
    • Immediately noticeable is the steeper gradient when compared to Pheasant. It's probably 8-9% the whole way up (it could be steeper...but I don't have that data in front of me). Total distance is 1.2 miles and it took a lazy 13 minutes for me to climb. Pretty constant gradient with some shade, but more exposure.
Now that I've explored these dead end climbs, I'll probably use them as needed for intervals. It's "nice" to have some additional options for more pain-induced intervals.

Friday, June 6, 2008

You spin me right round..., right round...

Oh, the tunes of Dead or Alive. It's a stretch, but the new compact crank was definitely spinning better up Hwy 9 than my old standard gearing. I took it easy and climbed about 40 watts less than I usually like to do up the 6+ mile climb, but that's part of the new plan on keeping the back healthy. No need to push it hard right now...

Back to the data. The last time I climbed 9 my average cadence was 75. Today it was 82. So you may ask, "Todd, can you actually feel that difference?" Yeah, I felt it.

Not so much on the climb though it was somewhat noticeable, but more so afterwards. I get a pretty good gauge of how hard my climbing usually is on training rides by how the legs feel when I walk down my stairs. On those hard days my legs almost don't support me as I come down my 13 steps. By the time I get to the bottom the legs feel pretty weak. Today there wasn't the fatigue I was expecting.

Ok, so I didn't push it hard on the climb, but given the lack of training/fitness, I was expecting the perceived exertion to be pretty high. But the stair test was found lacking; the legs felt pretty good. So maybe there is something more to spinning up these hills.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back on the Bike

May was not a fun month for me on several levels. Nasty acquisition stuff at work wasn't too fun to deal with and gave me a few more grey hairs. But probably the most annoying was the re-aggravation to my old L4/L5 injury. I spent 3+ weeks off the bike and missed a couple of races I was really looking forward to...Panoche, Memorial Day crits. Now I'm behind the fitness 8-ball for Pesky, but I'll do it just for the training aspect of the ride.

The difference between now and pre re-injury started earlier this week. In review of my past training habits it was definitely clear that I wasn't resting enough. From what I gather I'm not the only masters racer to fall prey to this poor habit. So this week after my first long, and somewhat hard, ride on Tuesday, I took yesterday off. Usually, I would have gone out and put another hard ride in the books with the hope of trying to get my fitness back ASAP. But now, rest takes a greater precedence and keeping the back happy is more important. I'm also back to doing my core exercises with greater frequency (3-4x a week). I got away from doing these and that wasn't good for the back either. I've got a few other wrinkles I'm going to throw into the training mix too. Nothing to drastic, but stuff more focused on general muscular-skeletal strength and health.

My last little change is going back to a compact crank. The Parlee is going to be picked up with the new SRAM Rival 180mm crank and should be out later today on some hills to get reacquainted with the gearing. It's been 2+ years since I've run a compact so it will be a welcomed change on the hills. I'm hoping it will help me relieve some of the mashing stress from climbing in a harder gear...I'd much rather spin up the mountains.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gas Habits

For almost the past 3 years I've been making a concerted effort to commute to work on my bike. It's a fairly straightforward 13 miles of flat roads through San Jose. Plenty of stop lights and traffic to keep you on your toes, but a great alternative to driving.

Looking back, I ironically chuckle to myself on remembering how I would (and still do) routinely look at motorists stuck in traffic just burning up gas in their tanks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not approaching this from an "I'm better because I cycle" attitude, but in some regards I am. On some level my commuting via the bike is making a difference. Less money out of pocket for gas, less emissions from my vehicle.

But today was different. I remember reading an editorial commentary in the SJ Merc last week that addressed the high rising cost of gas. If I remember correctly the argument was for government to step back and let market forces do what they need to do. At some point I think the author said that with the inconvenience of high gas prices it will really cause people to evaluate their needs and own patterns of vehicle use, primarily because it costs just so damn much (my foreign friends will laugh at this because it's still way more expensive to buy a liter of petrol in Europe).

But let's think about this further. As much as folks may not want to admit it, money is important. Take away money, and there are a lot of things in life that you can't enjoy. Strip down your expenses and you'll realize that maybe putting the kids in camp this summer will be tighter due to high gas prices, the track bike you'd like to buy needs to be postponed, the weekend trip to Tahoe will now cost an arm and leg for fuel. Things are getting impacted folks, and I don't think most folks realize the extent to which this will happen.

The cost of fuel is now becoming an impact to decisions that it never was in the past. Just last night I saw a few people interviewed by the local news channel on this point. Folks are actually trading in SUV's for a loss just so they can save money on fuel. Now that doesn't make economic sense in the pure theory form, but in reality, if you can save money now by dumping that gas guzzler which still has twelve months on the lease, then folks will do it.

This morning I actually saw my own habits change. I needed to run down to the local Postal Annex to ship out some eBay items. Instead of jumping in the car and driving two miles, I got on my bike, loaded up my messenger bag and hit the road. Its small things like this that I see myself doing more and more. Need groceries, hop on the bike.

I've got my fingers crossed that the positive by-product of this current state of affairs will be two things. First, a movement toward greener transportation alternatives that will benefit consumers and the environment. The drawback here is that the Detroit automotive industry is behind the 8-ball and is not a leader in any sense around this movement. It's their loss, and I don't feel sorry for them at all. We live in a global economy and if Toyota is kicking their ass with the Prius, then more power to Toyota. Second, times of crisis can be a catalyst for innovation. Innovation to change, innovation to create something new, innovation to think outside of the box. The drawback is this innovation may take years or decades before it turns into reality, but the need for innovative change is necessary.

Only time will tell how things play out. Hold on to your pocketbooks and spare change...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Track Bug

Somebody in my family has been getting some time at Hellyer, and it just happens not to be me. Logan had a great time at the Kiddie Kilo last Friday night. Here are a couple of good pictures:

At the start

Coming toward the finish

Now it's my turn next. I'm borrowing an undersized track frame from a teammate who is out of town, but it's a start. Time to hang a few more j-hooks in the garage.