31 January, 2010

That There Sun, Sho' is Deceiving

After I change the front brakepads on Melissa's 4runner at Grandpa's I get a quickie ride in up here where I live. The sun's kicking it and I'm thinking hmmmm, it's not so cold. The temps at my house read 37°F and that was enough for me to just wear a jacket, knee warmers, neoprene booties and gloves. I don't fire up the Tundra and I pretend I'm doing cyclocross as I ride out of our snow covered, dirt driveway. Reminds me of Koppenburg as the rear wheel gets loose and tracks independently of the front. As usual, the clothing's not enough and the downhills are chilly. C'mon, it's 8K in elevation, nearly February, and I should know better right? I need to climb soon, so I do the Pleasant Park, Oehlman Park, Hilldale Pine, City View back up to 285 loop.
The legs where heavy after yesterday's effort so I go chilly-chill with no out-of-the-saddle climbing on the steep stuff. I'm the only yahoo out there cycling even though it was a nice enough (but cold!) day. The climbs started off nice, nothing too steep, just annoyed by my lack of dressing myself.

Here's Pleasant Park...

Here's Oehlman Park/City View...

...The overpass that leads back to my house looking at Southbound 285...

The scary stuff was the sandy, slushy/wet, north facing parts of the route as evidenced by this...

Still real pretty out here this time of the year. Would've loved to go to Denver or Boulder but it's just too much time away from the family when I can get a quality ride nearby; plus, I be needs to go easy on gas expenditures. To spend two hours driving for a three hour ride might be justifiable but that takes too much time away from the family and doing familial chores to keep the household running. Hence my endurance issues in 80+ mile (128+ km) road races when the season begins; and when the season does begin, it's hard to justify driving two hours for a one hour timed crit (see the pattern?). Last year at this time I was getting crazy miles with Kenny in Boulder only to be negated by fierce March snowstorms.

I'll take what I can get but not at the expense of hanging family-side. I have no desire to cat up but I do have desires to continue to drink beer and eat crappy food (one of the main reasons I race). Balance Daniel-san...

30 January, 2010

The Hour of Power

It's going to be in the forties Saturday, so I'm going to head out for a group ride. If there's no group ride, I'll do my own thing but at the very least it's still riding. Called the local bike shops to see who was doing what during our frozen time of the year and I had to go with the closest one to me. Kenny was riding in Boulder but I can't justify the time and gas to go out there. The old South/West (Chatfield) group ride was about thirty minutes from me and another one-also equidistant-was in Golden (Twin Peaks?). What I like about the Chatfield ride is that it's an hour long (an hour of power, or an hour of ill) and they go like their hair's on fire. You could get dropped from the downhills if you lose contact with the group because they roll hard on the downs too. I pull out when the sprint's starting up a mile away and all the strong Freds start their giddy-up. I've seen the nastiest crashes when they touch wheels so I just sit in back of the choo-choo and watch the mayhem begin. If I'm feeling a bit randy though, I'll get to the front for a serious pull ('bout three nanoseconds) to add to the momentum of the charge of the two-wheeled brigade. This is Friday night.

Saturday. 10 a.m.
Chose the Chatfield ride and saw teammates from our elite masters team: Bill Herwig and Vic Williams. I swear, if you're late a minute to this group ride they're off and rolling and you're left marching the big gear to catch up. When a group of 40 or so riders start downhill, it's a daunting task starting late at this particular group ride; needless to say it wasn't me today...

It's pretty fast once we hit the slight uphill before the turn to Arrowhead golf course. A gentle little uphill but people like to hit it hard. Probably dropped about 10 or so. The real biscuit's the climb to Arrowhead golf course where the topography's like a canyon so it seems like there's always a side wind to keep you honest and to test your echeloning skills. We like to gutter people here in Colorado. I know better but for these early season rides you need to be up front but today I just like to chill in the back and motorpace. So when the riders in front of Alex (from Team Subaru, not my colleague) and me start to fade, we had to punch it around them which means getting a face full of head/side wind. It was like that to the top of the turnaround at Arrowhead-hopscotching to the next group until they popped too and we'd repeat our hopscotch routine. This was too much for me and I popped as well and I gimped it for the rest of the climb to the front group waiting at the top/turnaround. The riders that got popped on the climb to the top, stop and turn around to wait for us when we descend to catch back up (they don't finish the climb-slackers!). Alex came around me pretty quick the last 50 or so yards to the top.

Like I said, this group's fast. I was talking to a group of riders when I noticed a gap open up on the downhill. Nobody was going to chase and the gap was getting bigger so I dropped it in my twelve and craaaaanked as hard as I could and the rest of the lame-oes glued to my wheel and I bridged the gap for myself and them (nobody came around). It is a training ride so usually nobody tries to be a dick when we're acting like a collective. No more of this so I moved to the front where I had no fitness to be there in the first place. A small group ahead of the main pack was beginning to put some distance between us, so we five started to chase. I went in front and as I rode the right hand side of the road to break wind (I said break wind) for the last, leading guy, with my left hand pointing down around waist level I did the international sign of "the rotation's clockwise" and proceeded to "air" stir the "pot" clockwise with my index finger so's they can see (and hopefully understand) my visual. Clockwise it was, but us five were the only ones doing the rotating and remember this is my first, hard group ride of the year after I broke my ankle so I'm cooked-again! I raise my hand and begin to exit left and back from the pack. After the third choo-choo passed me, I got out of the saddle to get a head of steam and transitioned/glued myself onto the fourth choo-choo breathing like a steam engine. My heart came back down from my throat and I was in business again. We worked together and we eventually all assimilated into one rolling pack albeit a bit smaller due to attrition. I'm loving it at this point and this is why I race. When the green flag drops and everybody's in their handlebar drops trying to push their will against the group, we look around after the dust settles to we see who's around that made the cut. Today it was me and a fecal ingesting grin settles on my face. Thank goodness they were going slow today!

Inside Chatfield we're echeloning like crazy (and the back of the pack's all guttered) because what little sidewind there is today is amplified by the velocity of our peleton charging to our imaginary finish line in the reservoir. People are starting to peel off backwards and what's dangerous is that they're in the middle of the pack going backwards but thank goodness people's bike handling skills part the pack like the Red Sea to eject the racer whose spring lost all potenial energy and the kinetic's already gone. The sprint's in sight and I get to witness Vic Williams and Bill Herwig wind it up in the comfort of my motorpacing position. I could've read a newspaper I made such a great space for myself. I was in the twelve, hands oscillating between the drops and tops and for eeking out as much watts as possible that means I'm almost sitting on the horn of the saddle with my toes pointing straight down, doing an impression of a dynamo for the last three miles. I have a Selle San Marco saddle and the horn's pretty rounded and padded...

Ladies and gentlemen, this is known as the hour of power. It's only going to get faster so I need for my body to get used to the speeds and how to physiologically manipulate it as I enter the meat grinder we call racing/training. It's left me physiologically satisfied with a nice case of time-trial cough that persists the rest of the day.

Hello meat grinder, it's me Mike. Remember me? Ah likes you Mr. Meatgrinder...

I ride/cool down for hour two with Alex. Seems like there's a bunch of them on Team Subaru this season as compared to last year. Alex is going to be a beast in the crits. We chit-chat, gossip, talk mountain bike, and reveal our potential racing itinerary for this season. He's a good guy and I meet some of his Subaru homies. Nice guys and pretty fit for Feb. Two hours needs to increase to three pretty soon but it's a difficult task with a family of three kids (boo-hoo). I'm wearing my old Vitamin Cottage race kit that parallels Barney's (the singing dinosaur) color scheme.

I meet Melissa at her Mom's and I wash and change the oil (and oil filters) on both our cars (which I recycled at the auto parts store-12 quarts of oil!). I guess that's why I buy full synthetic so's I can change the oil at 7.5K miles. For din-din we eat a hearty dinner of Manicotti and Cesar Salad and I drink a couple of Cokes for my earlier efforts.

Hopefully I can get another ride in Sunday.

23 January, 2010

Saved gas, froze my arse off...

The weather wasn't supposed to be that warm up here at 8,800 feet but I didn't want to get in my truck to ride down the hill to ride where it's about 10° warmer on average. It would be 45 minutes of driving if I did that and I wanted to save my gas. I busted out the big guns of warm weather gear: fleece lined windproof tights and my mostly neoprene jacket (replete with neoprene booties and gloves and head covering). My driveway has various stages of dirt, ice, and hardpacked snow where our vehicles roll over so I cherry picked my route out of there on my road bike to get out on highway 285. The Colorado Dept of Transportation does a great job scraping the white stuff off the roads and I had no problems with icy patches or slush up here. I never think of how quickly the mercury dips when you descend with your very own self-induced wind chill and I said to myself as I was rolling down the ridge where I live self, you is stupid, son. As I rolled down Aspen Park the bank's time and temp display read 34° F (1° C). Not a good omen to begin the ride.
My route today was City View in reverse. Mostly climbing route, pretty steep so the climbs warmed me up but I was not looking to any of the descents that would take me back to 285 for my one and a half hour loop. Any more time than that and I would've probably called sweet Melissa to pick my frostbitten self up! Of course I was the only out on the road today at this elevation and my face was so cold I rode no-handed (on the descents) with both my hands covering my face so I wouldn't get facial frostbite. Bought a nice, heavy kevlar lined clincher tire, 700X25 to roll over the winter road debris so as not to get a repeat of last weekend's flat-fest. The ride was uncomfortably cold and the climb was difficult and laborious. I tried to not stand during the climbs to get the legs nice and taxed. No endurance, no snap but that's okay. Not wanting to overdo it; just base, quasi-climbing miles. That's what my body needs to get ready for race season (if I'm racing in the south pole!). The temperature was 28° F (-2° C) when I returned home. In addition to that, a cord of wood was waiting for me to pitch it out the delivery truck and to stack it. It was Grandpa's hook up that got us the wood (our neighbor Genaro) so I went to his house to return the favor of pitching it into a pile. After Melissa and the kids stacked our wood when I was at Grandpa's I did some hunting and gathering of kindling around our property and took the handsaw with me to cut the long branches in order to fit inside our firebox. Yup, riding and getting our ducks in order to make this winter comfortable. So far so good in that it's not a record-breaking winter like years past. January's almost done and we're getting ready for a cold February. March is the month I'm biting my nails over. The heavy snows always snap power lines and we're going to be electricity-less (including the pump for our well) for multiple days-that's going to suck! It was a day spent burning calories in a way that included cycling and keeping old man winter at bay. After dinner time it's tennis with my kids on the Wii!!!

Sunday and we're doing preventive winter catastrophe and de-cluttering the house. I go out and finish gathering and stockpiling more kindling and cutting it up for the next round. As a luxury I'm ripping LPs onto my iTunes. Here's what I'm ripping onto my laptop: Def Leppard's High 'n' Dry, Asia's eponymous LP, Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays' As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, and The Stray Cat's built for speed. Pretty much the stuff I listened to when I was in High School. No cycling today. Temps too cold and much too windy to do anything good other than crash or get frostbite. Maybe rollers in the morning?
this is the weather for Sunday (and the rest of the week), today...
7-Day Forecast for Conifer

18 January, 2010

Not only does my foot fit in my road shoe, but also in my ski boot...

On Friday, since my buddies and I planned on going skiing (my other buddy gave me a lame excuse to NOT make it) I needed to see if my foot fit into my ski boot. Sho' nuff with a little bit of pushing and prying of the boot (and placing it next to the fireplace for thermal expansion-kinda like my waistline!), my foot slid right in. No hot spots hitting my ankle either. I have a 4 pass, meaning me and sweet Melissa can ski at WinterPark 4x, so it's off to WinterPark we go.
I'd show y'all some great pics because the weather was outstanding (although the snow coverage was slightly poor) but my camera ran out of juice. I was, however, able to fire off one picture of my homie-G Pablo before the screen said, "Batteries exhausted." Took it easy mostly. Practiced on some mellow-ish type moguls when Pablo's binding needed to be tightened on his snowboard (damn knuckledraggers and their inferior equipment!). After that we just hit the "Blue" rated slopes for the rest of the afternoon. After skiing, we (meaning sweet Melissa and I) also planned a get together at our house with some good friends we've known since we moved to Denver back in '96. Since then we've always kept in touch (camping, destination ski areas, birthdays...etc.) even after we (all) moved out of Denver. We've known them since we were childless newlyweds and now we all have three urchins a'piece. Nutty. So it's a house full of nine children whenever we all meet up (I counted that all by myself thanks!). It's always loud; eating outstanding, healthy food; some kids not getting along temporarily; moderate drinking; and time for catching up when we congregate at one of our houses. We also own Wiis because it's such a great, family friendly gaming console. The apres-dinner entertainment was watching the kids battle it out for dancing supremacy and the adults playing tennis (I got hosed). It was too much fun and we worked ourselves into a good sweat; in addition, Pablo was mixing up some delicious Mohitos which was adding to our general, homefries bonding. Coincidentally general, homefries bonding energy's right next to polar covalent bond energy (relative strengths, even though they're not related).
The next morning--Sunday--I rode the rollers to work out the stiffness in my quadriceps and glutes. It didn't do a whole hell of a lot; I was still walking like Fred Sanford. It felt as if I was doing some serious squats at the gym.
MLK day (thank you Dr. MLK for your contributions to humanity) was spent super chilly-chill. While the kids were either napping, watching movies, or playing with the Wii, I went out for a quickie road ride. It said 52° F but it was waaaay colder with the wind. Chris Carmichael said that if you can't get hours riding, the next best thing is to ride hills (with your limited time). So that's what I did. I started from Morrison rode up to Green Mountain, rode over Dakota Ridge to Co-8, up Mother Cabrini, back down past Matthews Winter and up Red Rocks. I don't even think it was 20 miles but gravitational attraction between two masses (three if you count both my buttcheeks) and their inverse distances made pedaling quite a chore. Note to self: I need at least a 24T cog on my cassette. My ankle was getting kinda sore and the quads dull pain were getting sharp when I got out of the saddle so I know when my body's telling me to back off. Back off I did and I went home to my sweet familia to get ready for Tuesday.

10 January, 2010

I can get my busted ankle (foot) inside my cycling shoe!!

It's been a week since I broke my ankle and the soft tissue swelling has significantly subsided in such a way I can get it in my specialized road shoe. In fact, yesterday before the kids woke up, I put on my sock, shoes, gloves and shorts and rode the rollers for three-quarters of an hour and there was little to no discomfort. I kinda had to preset the foot angle to make sure it was in the position of no pedaling discomfort. It was great! Today, I ride with the team manager, director sportif, homeboy extraordinaire, satanic mechanic, brew-master junior, grizzly adams, and general good guy: Kenny L. and nice guy/new recruit Garth!

But before I begin, sweet Melissa started her Saturday by going skiing with her girlfriends (picture perfect weather Saturday by the way). That left me, gimp-master, with our kids. Dat's okay though, my kids are generally badasses.

If there's no other breakfast that's stuck with me growing up in Texas other than breakfast burritos with chorizo, chilies, and salsa, it's biscuits and gravy. But being the pescatarian that I am, I had to go on-line to find a "vegetarian, white gravy" concoction. Lo and behold I found that recipe and it's vegetarian biscuits, gravy, and sausage. Yummy. My kids usually dig the breakfasts that I dig with the exception of my middle daughter drowning her sausage in ketchup.

Earlier this week since I can't walk in deep snow, when the rest of Team M was off, they rounded up some cut tree trunks worthy of becoming firewood. So the kids set themselves up with the Sports Wii disc and off I was in our snow covered driveway cutting up firewood. I put a plastic bag over Das Boot (I know it means boat, but as written, it's wrong syntax funny) to prevent wood hubris from attaching to it but it still got peppered. 2 hours later, we be gots firewood!!!! This and what's remaining from the cord I requisitioned last month should take us to the end of January where we can buy another cord from our neighbor, across the way. Have I mentioned how much I dig my chainsaw. It's a Stihl "Wood Boss". Been three years now and I haven't even sharpened it. Should. I do take it apart and tension the chain and lube what needs to be lubed though.

Next, we head down the hill to go visit Grandma where they can watch "Home on the Range" and some random R. L. Stine "Goosebumps" DVD. I also wash and wax my truck. I like to put a layer of wax on my truck as a barrier to the magnesium chloride they spray out here on the roads as anti-freeze measures. I get a text from Kenny L about our ride Sunday. As my kids are chillin' with Grandma, I ask 'em "who wants to go visit Kenny with me?" Mason volunteers and we go over to Kenny's who's conveniently located next to Grandma's house. As the satanic mechanic that he is, Mason and I enter his garage where he's inspecting a corvette transmission he liberated from a junkyard that's potentially going into his Volvo 740 that runs 11 second quarter miles! We chat about the location of the start of the ride and other stuff bike related. When he was in graduate school attempting his Ph.D in organic chemistry he made friends with a Kinesiology doctoral candidate who's involved with an American, UCI pro-tour, licensed team. He was telling me how his friend said it was kinda sucky with his current outfit and was considering different options. Then one night, as Kenny and his bud were out at dinner, his friend's phone rings and it's Lance asking him to be part of his team. Of course he accepted and within days, Lance's private jet picks him and his gear up and they're off to do some structured, world class training. Geeky, bike gossip are just some of the types of conversation bike trash (term of endearment) talk about. If you've ever been involved with bike trash and you're at a party where they find other bike trash, and you're their greenhorn date/significant other, it'll sound like a foreign conversation and incredibly boring. We can go on for hours about bike personalities, gear ratios, quality of chamois, bike fits, plushness of forks, personalities of bike frame materials, differences between: shoes, pedals whatever, team rosters, candidates for winning the Tour de France in 2010 etc...it's kind of our holy grail.

Sunday I meet Kenny and Garth in north Golden for 3.5 hour ride that turned into a 4 hour ride if you include the flats (3 total; one from me, two from Kenny L.) and stops to increase the glycemic index. The ride on the roads and bike trails were amazingly slushy to icy and of course I didn't bring my fender. No worries though because the company we kept distracted us from the wet cold creeping into our kits and drinking the rooster tails of water from drafting one another and the headwinds both directions. It was a blast and the occasional hills we encountered was just enough to tax our prime movers. That last hill going up Washington Street in Golden was a rude but honest effort to end the ride. I was probably the weakest one in our group because I instigated the stops to spike my blood sugar. I'm digging the new batch of racers/recruits with Kenny as the DS. We probably put in a just-shy-of-60 miler today in 4 hours (including the stops and flats). If I'm worth anything I'll hop on the rollers tomorrow...

My bike's a mess and it needs some loving but not not tonight kids. I'm pooped out.

02 January, 2010

Big Bend (didn't bend enough!)

But let me begin with up until that point, things were pretty durn peachy. It was a pretty good two weeks, the first week was spent riding the rollers on a daily basis, sometimes 45 minutes, sometimes an hour. It was not great but at least I tolerated riding the rollers.
This year we-well Melissa actually-had an idea to spend Christmas break catching up with her best friend's (of two and change decades worth of knowing) family at Big Bend National Park. We took my truck and loaded her with all the gear and food a family of five can sustain for three days worth of winter camping and 11.5 hours of getting there and coming back. It was a tight fit but it all got shoe horned in. Thank goodness for a full-size Tundra.
There's an enclave of west Texas, Bohemian-wannabee, artsy expatriates with a knack of self-sustaining, locally producing behaviors colonizing in surrounding Marfa,
Alpine, and to some extent Fort Davis. When I was an undergrad at U.T. I did some racing out here and before they got all artsy, they were quaint and quintessentially west Texas (colloquialisms, no racism, great food, and that west Texas twang that pervades all art, music, and history). My friends Chip and Grant (and I), armed with Shiner Bocks, went out there one evening (when we were racing the Ft. Davis stage race) to see if we could see the mysterious Marfa lights. No such luck. Revisiting these places was sentimental and not the romantic ideal I had setup in my cerebral cortex; but it was cool nonetheless.

Speed is inversely proportionate to surrounding vegetative covering...
The first night we spent was hanging out with Melissa's uncle and his wife in Las Cruces, NM. I used to be stationed nearby at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM and Las Cruces back then was almost but not quite as podunky as Alamogordo (although Las Cruces is home to the New Mexico State University Aggies). Now it's all grown up! Here's the views we had as we woke up and ogled the sights from their backyard overlooking the golf course. The background contains the Organ Mountains.

Finally we arrive...

We also packed firewood and kindling for three nights worth of catching up and getting our innate fix for howling at the moon. The winds were blowing when we arrived just a smidge before sundown and after we got our tents up (we now have to have separate tents for the boys and girls) I was sooo looking forward for producing water and carbon dioxide from combusting cellulose, but get this: there's no wood fires allowed at Big Bend (the desert's apparently like a tinderbox out here with various types of grasses, trees, and shrubs growing out of the sandy soil). This slight oversight would result in three, very cold, sub-freezing nights. I slept with a down vest, down jacket, beanie, leg warmers, khaki shorts, and socks-and I still got cold. Mason apparently doesn't get effected with the cold as I do.
This is what we woke up to: 38% humidity mixed with 32°F made for a miserable night of minimal REM sleep. This picture is as cold as it looks. Rugged though, ain't it?

The days were fine and warm enough though. First day out we went to Boquillas Canyon where we can see the quaint Mexican town of Boquillas right past the Rio Grande. I didn't snap pictures of Boquillas but I got the Rio Grande and the steep canyon walls resulting from eons of the erosive powers of hydrogen hydroxide.

Mason's in the foreground with his souvenir, bamboo chute.

Wednesday we go hiking on a trail called "The Window". It leads to a notch in the mountain where melting runoff carved its way through the low spot on the mountain thus giving spectators a window to the valley. Pretty awesome.

Broke my ankle here portaging the Moose on my shoulders over a kinda technical trail cut over the creek. Here's the beginning of the 5 mile, roundtrip, trail.

Here's our family shot with my non-weight bearing right leg in some serious pain...

After I hobble back to the lodge, we buy some souvenirs and snacks (they had the candy bar "Zero" there, I thought they went out of business!) and head out to the Santa Elena Canyon. The ride out to the Canyon again reminded me the uniqueness of the Lone Star State. The scenery coupled with our Sirius Radio channel of Outlaw country playing some outstanding Texas singer-songwriters made for a religified audio-visual experience. At the canyon, the sun's setting and the Moon is making herself known over some uknown clump of mountains.

Melissa got her moonlight hike in as well. The sheer drop-off off the canyon walls and the chalky ground cover highlighted by the near full moon made the hike back to the trailhead parking an illuminating, humbling, cosmic one-ness experience. Here's what we walked into...

To offset that, me and the kids took decent sized rocks and flung 'em into the Rio Grande. It made these cool, bassy splooshy sounds as it smacked the water (and sunk)while the tinny sound reverberated off the canyon walls. Surreal and humbling y'all a good combination. Here's what we walked out of...

One more freezing night because of no cloud cover and in the morning we packed our stuff, said our awkward goodbyes, and promptly got the hell out of Dodge. Once we arrived back at Mike and Kathy's we had a belly filling dinner with a quick sightseeing stop in the historic old town of Mesilla. At dinner we had an enlightening history of the Barber side of the family and settled back down at their house for the evening.
The ride back was exactly the reverse of the ride coming. The 11.5 hour drive back would be broken up with a play stop in Santa Fe where the kids would run around at the Rail Yard Park. We bought Raising Sand in Las Cruces to commemorate this trip. It's a duet of Robert Plant and Allison Krauss' efforts.
Other than the break occurring during my break, the break was great!