Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Guardian Angel on the Bike

I've been meaning to write about this for some time, but it's been one of those topics that has escaped when I've sat down to type. Not this time...

My upbringing was Christian, and I consider myself to be a Christian (ok, I'm not going to be an advocate and try to force anything religious down your throat, so bear with me and keep reading). As I've aged, my view of organized religion has changed. I view it more as a "system" of beliefs, and depending on where you were born or who your parents were, your system might be different. And to me, different is good and what makes us unique.

The concept of a guardian angel is unique to Christianity (I think...haven't really researched if this concept applies to Islam or Hindu's). You grow up being taught that there's an angel looking after you, making sure not too much harm comes your way. Some harm will come, but enough to help shape your live. I mean, come on, as a kid, your guardian angel isn't going to stop you from touching the hot stove, let's be real about it.

How does this apply to biking? It's a stretch, but this has happened to me on several occasions. Typically it occurs at least once every two to three months. It always happens under nearly the same circumstances, albeit on different roads. I'll be riding solo out in the country with no one around. No cars, no distractions. Just me and my bike and my thoughts. Sounds like a lot of us who routinely put in the long training miles.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I get a very brief glimpse of a cyclist going the other way in my peripheral vision. I look back over my shoulder and realize that there wasn't any cyclist there at all. But I swear my mind saw a cyclist going the other way. As this has happened more and more, the idea has formed in my mind that perhaps this is my guardian angel.

Apparently my guardian angel like to cycle too! He usually is wearing a darker color kit, probably to soak in the rays of light to keep him warm during the ride because he's so fast. And he's always in the drops. And he's hammering hard. Funny to think that I know so much by just catching glimpses of him (or it could be a her...don't know yet) out of the corner of my eye. The bike has low profile wheels and the frame as a classic flat top tube. No sloping stuff for this angel.

I don't know when I'll see my guardian angel next, but I'll try to see if he trains with a power meter. I'm sure he's got some insane capabilities!

Photo credit goes to Ken Conley at His pics are top quality and amazing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Panoche RR Race Report - M35+ 1/2/3

Race Report: A year ago I rode this course on the Monday after Cat\'s Hill and re-aggravated my old L4/L5 disc injury. That put me out for a month and left a sour taste in my mouth. Today I was excited to get back on the course and actually race. At the start it was already scorching hot and about to get hotter. After a few quick instructions from Chris and Nick we headed to the start.

The pace was pretty relaxed as everybody was getting used to the heat and trying to get a sweat going. Actually, it was too hot to sweat; any fluid on your body would evaporate immediately. On the rollers it was myself, Greg and Nick setting pace near the front. At one point I think Ramon rolled up to Greg and instructed him to get his butt back in the pack and stay protected for the upcoming climbs.

As we descended one of the rollers I found myself about 50 meters off the front of the pack. I wasn't planning to do this, but gravity has a positive effect when I descend. Looking back I saw a Specialized rider coming up; it was Kevin Metcalfe. He pulled through and then asked, "Is this a stupid thing for us to do?!?". I said that it probably wasn't the smartest, but that we should just keep our tempo and see what would happen. Looking down at my powermeter I saw that I was going about 85% of max; a pace I felt I could keep for quite some time.

At this point the heat started to kick in and really affect my heart rate. My HR kicked up to over 175bpm and I wasn't even pushing the pedals that hard. It seemed like Kevin and I were off the front for about twenty minutes, and my HR kept creeping higher. We hit the first hill and were caught about halfway up. A few minutes later Chris rode up to me to see how I was feeling. I wasn't able to get my HR back down and I knew it was going to be a long day. For the record, it took me over thirty minutes of just sitting in before my HR got down below 150bpm. Absolutely nuts!

The wind wasn't really a factor at this point and we soon descended and made our way to the notorious left hand turn onto Little Panoche Road. Usually the crosswind hits you on this section, but today it wasn't a factor. Halfway across Metcalfe attacks and Nick follows. Then a few other random riders bridge. Just as the gap is getting bigger, Chris zooms up the left and Billy Innes latches on. The acceleration from Chris was fast and quick enough to catch most off guard, so our chase group didn't put in much effort. I was happy to see two teammates get up the road, which was far more than I could have done at that moment.

Our group started our next significant climb and halfway up Tracy Colwell drops his hammer and the group splinters. At this point I had been racing for over an hour and a half, and my HR was averaging 167bpm. To put this into perspective from my VO2max test, my body\'s functional HR threshold is 163. Anything over this and I'm dumping more lactic acid into the muscles quicker than I can clear it out.

This acceleration, combined with the heat and my racing HR, broke me. I crested the climb and descended to the turnaround point. I stopped to top off all three of my bottles and poured a few more over my body. Jonathan Sinclair was out there manning the water station and I\'m sure he saw a lot of ugliness from riders being impacted by the heat. Another rider teamed up with me and we started our long haul back to the start.

As I was climbing I saw Ramon coming down the hill. I didn't know when he was dropped, but he was very optimistic when he yelled, "I'll catch up to you...". Well, Ramon caught us back on the flat crosswind section of road. He and a few other guys he was dragging caught up to myself and we worked together for a few miles. I didn't feel strong enough to stick with Ramon and he slowly rode off.

The bottom of the final climb wasn't bad, but the wind was starting to pick up. No, please don't bring the headwind! Into the last water station I roll, get off the bike, fill up the bottles and drench myself all over again. I was looking forward to the mostly downhill ride into the finish, but the winds were picking up.

With about fifteen miles to go I get caught by a Webcor, Specialized and CVC rider. We worked together until one of the rollers broke us apart with seven miles to go. I didn't realize it until I crested, but I rode the other guys off my wheel. I put my head down and counted the miles until I crossed the finish.

Hands down this was the toughest race I've done. My body did things from the exposure to heat that I've never experienced. Elevated HR, really low power output, and a pair of hot feet that were pretty much in pain over the last ten miles. Hopefully this is just a heat acclimation thing that will subside as we enter our hotter summer racing. Thankfully I didn't get sunburned or experience any nasty post-race headaches from being dehydrated.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dealing with the heat

Tomorrow's Panoche RR will be interesting. The first true race of the season where the temperatures will be high and the riding fierce. For me, at least, I've lucked out with most of my races being earlier enough in the day that it's not too hot and heat isn't a significant factor.

However, tomorrow's going to be different. I was thinking that hauling one of
these along might serve some good for teammates. No worries about going without a bottle. But I will give the Panoche organizers their due. There's going to be several water stations for racers and since it's an out'n'back route, we'll get several opportunities to hit these up.

I doubt this will help me (...but then again I wouldn't mind myself being proved wrong by some ill-thought actions leading up to the race). I decided after hitting the steam room at The Brown Palace while in Denver that there might be some application of sorts to endurance sports. I dug around with a few Google searches to see if saunas or steam rooms provided any perks. It wasn't easy to find any serious evidence.

Anyway, over the past 3 weeks I've been hitting up both the sauna and steam room after my weight workouts at the company gym. Not both after each workout, but just one or the other depending on the mood (yes, my mood dictates which door I open). If there's a benefit, that's great. If not, at least I know going into the race tomorrow that my pores are working really well.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Saddle Update

Just received the replacement for the Team Toupe saddle. The problem with the tighter rail/saddle tolerances of 4mm have been fixed with the regular Toupe saddle. I'm a little bummed that the white/blue combo of the Team saddle won't be on the bike because it looked pretty darn good, but the undercarriage will be much happier knowing that it won't be bottoming out and hitting the seatpost hardware. The new saddle is white with some faux carbon bits on the front and back. Still pretty good looking.

I tore apart the old Gel Toupe that had the busted rails. The kids and I ripped off the cover as we wanted to find out where and what the gel looked like. Once the black cover was gone we exposed the guts. The gel isn't so much a "gel", but more like a softer black padding that has gel-like properties. There's gel under each sitbone area; what I wasn't expecting was the patch of gel right near the tip of the nose. It makes sense that they put a bit there, but I had no idea it would be there.

In the end, I'm glad to say that the regular Toupe is doing its job. Plenty of clearance between the saddle and seatpost. Now it just needs some ride time to break in and get comfy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mile High Work & Play

Hitting the road for work happens every so often in the world of acquisition integration. I've been in Denver the last couple of days doing a major network cutover for a recent acquisition. However, my bike has been at home and I've been pretty darn focused on the work tasks as hand. There have been some pretty cool things in Denver that I've done and experienced...

Let's get the work stuff out of the way. When an acquired is operating on a couple of T1 circuits, things can be pretty slow. When you bring in a DS3 circuit it's like drinking water from the fire hose. More than enough bandwidth to do everything you need.

Getting these up and running requires a bit of change to hardware and cabling. Network cables
have to be organized and laid out for patching. All sorts of hardware gets racked and stacked into the data center. Routers, gateways, switches and probably a few other things I'm forgetting. And don't forget about the power that's needed too...these things suck up power and produce a ton of heat. Air conditioning gets added to the mix to keep things in check.

Where the rubber hits the road for this network stuff is behind walls where nobody sees the 'magic' happen. Ok, maybe not behind the walls, but in the hole in the walls where the network connections make it to the desktop. I have a new appreciation for guys who have the finger dexterity to do this kind of work for a living. Basically, you've got to break down the cat5 network cable into the eight strands and rewire them to the appropriate junctions in the jack (there's probably a technical name for this, but I don't know it). I think the only redeeming quality I brought into this task was that I'm pretty good with my hands on fine stuff like this; but then it backfires when I think I can meat out and over-power the mere plastic bits and pieces. My thumb took a beating and got all cut up. To get to the point, we got the network up and it was time for some play.

A full agenda was in the plans for the next day. Staying a
t the Hampton Inn isn't so bad. Free breakfast, nice large rooms, two 32" flat screens in my for me. Plus, it brings back the fond memories of hanging at the Hampton in Madera (except for the crank). But I needed to upgrade my coffee fix. I found a nice place in uptown and along the way I ran into Logan Street. My daughter would be proud that there's a street in this town named after her (I emailed her the picture after taking it...7 year-olds are so Internet savvy already).

I walk into the coffee joint and immediately the barista asks, "Hey, how come you aren't out cycling today?". Man, this guy must have a psychic connection with me! Nah, he's probably just observant as I was wearing my Capo cycling cap. I was thinking the same thing, but taking my road bike to Denver was not in the cards on this visit. I was just lucky enough to have a free day due to getting the technical work done ahead of schedule. I guess effective planning does have some merits.

Soon my friend showed up and whisked us over to the Pepsi Center.
It's been several years since I've seen a NBA game, and almost twenty years since I saw a playoff game in person (I think the '90 playoffs in Portland was the last time). I can't recall how old this arena is, but it's got everything...and plenty of people who gawk. I probably had at least five people inquire about my height. Luckily for them I was in a good mood and didn't give them a jerk response (yeah, catch me on a bad day and I'm bound to be a smartass at times when asked questions about my height).

We ended up having seats about fifteen rows up from the Dallas bench.
Everybody in our section was giving Mark Cuban a pretty hard time. Afterward a friend told me that Cuban tweeted about how brutal the fans were to probably will only get worse. By the end of the series, if this goes the distance and Dallas has to come back to town, Cuban might just want to stay in his hotel room. Denver won the game and I became a fan, at least for the rest of the playoffs. Chris Andersen (aka Birdman) is a pretty high-energy athletic big guy who comes off their bench and gets the crowd into the game. My sister would be his #1 fan due to all of his colorful tattoos.

After the game I decided a little pampering was required. I visited the spa at The Brown Palace. The name itself just makes me chuckle; it sounds like something out of South Park. But this place is no laughing matter. The architecture inside the building is top-notch and the spa is pretty good too. I opted for the cheap twentyfive minute focus massage. My left shoulder has been pretty tight since the Wente RR when driving to the race I turned my head to change lanes and felt my muscles seize up a tad. The 'suse beat me up and I'm still sore (three days later).

Lastly, the
food in Denver was really, really good. Between the tap room with its 100+ options (I got a Belgium brew, St. Bernardus or something like that), the Spanish tapas, Indian, Italian and a nice steak, the meals were superb. It helps that most of the reviews on Yelp! are pretty accurate. Here's the dessert from Sullivan's Steakhouse. It's a creme brulee, but sized for two people. I's the right size for me. Rumors abound that sharing something like this can lead to marital difficulties. Thankfully it was all mine.