Monday, December 29, 2008

Lost - Lee's mojo (again)

Saturday was just one of those days that should have been a great day to ride. The weather wasn't horrible and there was a good group heading out for around 48 miles or so. The plan was for a no-drop ride at a decent pace. This was my idea as a way to start prepping for the more serious rides to come this spring. Yes, it should have been a great day but in the end it was just ok.

Let the story begin.

Since we were starting from Cafe Noto, Pat asked me if I wanted to meet early for a pre-ride coffee - his treat! I arrive at 7:30 just as Pat is riding up. A few minutes later we are drinking coffee and just chatting. Then others start to arrive and before we are even on the bikes the trash talking begins. You know, questions like "who's wearing the most layers when they should be wearing a skirt?" This is going to be fun.

At 8:00 the 9 of us head out and I know I am in trouble 10 minutes into the ride. I have 2 things working against me. First, my stomach is jacked up and I begin to fight the urge to hurl. Second, and perhaps more importantly, my legs feel like lead. I just don't have any pop and I am struggling to hang on from the beginning. Oh well, I tell myself to suck it up and keep riding.

This continues for the entire ride. I don't feel bad enough to turn back but I have trouble keeping up all day. Carmen is also not feeling well so we hang out together in the back. Finally, towards the end of the ride I managed to get on front and take one very decent pull. Then some of the group decide to haul ass back taking 30-second pulls. I simply sat up and watched them ride away. They are actually drinking coffee before I make it back.

In thinking about the ride I tried to analyze what went wrong. I have learned from Coach Tim that sometimes you are going to have bad days. Some days you simply cannot muster enough mojo to ride well. But this didn't feel like one of those days. And I can't blame my stomach for no power in the legs. So what the hell happened?

In thinking it over, I realized a few of my rides recently have not been stellar. As I turn all this over in my mind, why on a 23 mile in the rain on the Vegas (BTW - special shout out to Doppler radar for telling the closest rain was 200 miles away), it hits me. There are 3 significant mistakes that I making on these rides. It all deals with me thinking it is the off-season and riding like it's not.

Thanks to the holidays, and a lack of will power, I have gained between 10 - 12 pounds. That is not unusual and it will be gone soon enough. But it is enough extra weight to mess up my power-to-weight ratio. The additional weight simply means it takes more energy for every pedal stoke.

I also discovered I am not eating. I typically don't eat on my gentle off-season rides but the rides I have been on lately are challenging. So some of my late ride drops are really due to bonking. This should be an easy fix.

Finally, I am not in a good routine right now. I run a little during the week but no riding. Nothing on the road and nothing on the trainer. Then I go flog myself on the weekend and wonder why I am tiring towards the end. Of course, mentally I am still in the same shape as I was after my Colorado trip last July.

As you can see, it was not Saturday's ride that was important. It was what I learned from it. Now I know what I need to do to get the mojo back. The most important thing is to regain my perspective. I shouldn't be riding as well right now as I do during the season so I need to get over it.

Next week I will start hitting the trainer for speed drills, hill repeats, etc. Until then I will enjoy a few last off-season rides.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!!!

I hope that everyone found the cool stuff they were hoping for under the Christmas tree this morning! Santa and his elves (and UPS) have been very busy bringing presents to the good, and not so good, little cyclists and triathletes around the world.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New holiday tradition

Over the years, Sherry and I have developed a tradition of going to a local mall for lunch on Christmas Eve. The purpose? To simply watch the craziness of last minute shoppers. You see, it can be quite entertaining as long as you are not the one shopping. And yes, I am aware this is a little twisted. I mean, who goes out searching for joy in other peoples' frustration. Well, I guess I do.

The plan was always the same. We would settle in for lunch or coffee someplace where we had a good vantage point and watch the madness. We would sip coffee, chat and laugh as we watched people pass us, in many cases multiple times, as they ran from one store to the next and back again. However, over the last few years it just hasn't been the same.

So this year we decided it was time to try something new. We went to Union Square in San Francisco for a mini one night vacation on the last weekend before Christmas. It did not disappoint. Union Square bills itself as San Francisco's Most Famous Shopping District. And I would say that judging by the crowds, they are right. There were literally thousands of people in the Square.

We found a great overnight package at the St. Francis Hotel, which is on Union Square. As we arrived, pedestrian traffic was so heavy that only one car at a time could make right turns with a green light. The St. Francis was so busy that cars checking in backed up onto Geary St and then onto Powell St creating the kind of gridlock you can only see in large cities. When we finally turned onto Geary Street, the garage was less then 100 yards away. It still took us over 30-minutes to get there. The SFPD actually started ticketing cars for obstructing traffic just after we pulled into the garage. Oh well, we were looking for craziness and we apparently found it.

We get checked into a great third story room overlooking the corner of Powell and Geary streets. The crowds are immense. So we anxiously unpack and hit the streets. Once we were one with the crowd the magic started. It was a beautiful winter's night in the City and we decided to go to our favorite coffee house which is on the Square itself, Emporio Rulli. I was going to have an espresso and Sherry wanted hot chocolate.

As I stood in line, Sherry had actually found us a table, I saw a sign for Venetian hot chocolate. So when it was my turn to order I had to inquire. I only needed to hear the words "intense chocolate" and "cream" when I immediately ordered 2 small cups. Then she asked what I believe is one of the silliest questions ever. "Do you want whip cream on those?" In my mind my response was something like "f-ing eh!" But in reality, my response was more like "Oh yes please. That would be lovely." We were lucky enough to get a table next to the ice rink were we sipped our Venetian hot chocolate, with whip cream, and watched people go around in circles.

After spending quite a bit of time in a gallery talking about the works of Marc Chagall, it was time for dinner. We ate at Cafe de la Presse, a French bistro near the Square. It was a magnificent meal in all aspects. I was even able to pick up a L'Equipe, which is a sports newspaper from France. On the way back to the St Francis we did some shopping to walk off dinner and finally called it a night.

On Sunday I slept in with Sherry (since there wasn't a ride I was trying to get to) and we spent a leisurely morning drinking coffee and reading. Sherry was quietly reading her book in bed while I was trying to work my way though L'Equipe. Afterwards it was more shopping. As it was still early and starting to rain there were not nearly as many people.

Finally, we decided it was time to head home. So we packed, checked out and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. Just as we pull out of the garage it started to rain quite hard. It seems our timing was perfect.

Being on Union Square the weekend before Christmas was the perfect way to enjoy the seasonal holiday madness. And since we enjoy spending a couple of nights a year in The City we are already talking about doing this again next year.

Until then, I hope eveyone is having a great holiday season.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Found - 1 Mojo

I feel like I have been writing a lot about a lack of motivation to get out and train. Last weekend it seems that I turned a corner while riding with some big guns on Pedro's training camp ride. I mentioned in my last blog that I felt the motivation starting to return. I happy to save it has returned with vigor. So now, I feel like I finally refound my mojo.

My strong motivational feelings were actually strengthened when I wrote about the ride in Monday's blog. So what would happen next. After a Monday rest day (my norm) would I run on Tuesday or slip back into my non-motivational ways. Well, on Tuesday morning it was 30 degrees, wet, and foggy. My reaction to these conditions was a 3.5 mile run. On Wednesday and Thursday I endured freezing temperatures of 24 and 27 degrees respectively during my morning runs. And, I was enjoying every minute of it. I was beginning to feel like I was back.

The final act was Saturday's ride. A total of 11 of us braved an 8:00 a.m. start time and 27 degree weather to ride the hills of west Sonoma County. There were four of us, Pedro, Sarah, Pat and myself, that left at 7:15 and rode to our starting point which was West County Revolution. I knew it had the potential to be a dicey ride as we rode around frozen puddles of ice on the bike path. But we made it just fine, met with the rest of our group and we were off.

The first part of the ride was pretty uneventful. It was just cold. However it was sunny, the sky was a gorgeous blue and everything had a bright and crisp look and feel. And for some reason, the cold never bothered me that day. I tell you - as long as the sun is shining I seem to be fine with whatever the temperature gauge has to offer.

As we started up the day's biggest climb, Graton Road, I decided this would be my one moment of intensity on this ride. So I grabbed Pat's wheel and held on. I stayed with him about two thirds of the way up before dropping back. I was tired and out of breath at the top but hey the rest of the ride was flat so I would be fine (more on this later).

Then it was through Occidental and out to Monte Rio on Bohemian Highway. This a favorite road among our group. But Saturday was different. Not only was there ice on the road but there was also loose gravel to help cars deal with ice. There is nothing like hearing ice crunch under your 770c x 23 cycling tires to help keep you focused on the road ahead. After a quick coffee at Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery, it is back on the bikes for the ride home.

The ride back should have been uneventful except that we did have, well events. First there was a minor crash. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured and there was no major bike damage. Everyone was able to continue on with the ride and even start joking about it about 2 miles later. The second was changing the route back.

You see, we were going to take a relatively flat route back but it did have a lot of traffic. So we opted for a more scenic route with less traffic. And by more scenic I mean more hills. On the first hill I felt every pedal stroke from my push earlier on Graton. On the second and final hill on Green Valley Road I decided to really go for it and attempt to take the hill in the middle ring. I have never even contemplated middle-ringing this climb. On Saturday, not only did I think about it but I succeeded. Must be more of that new found mojo.

So there you have it. A grand total of 3 runs and one serious bike ride. Hell, I even thought seriously about doing a few core workouts and some strength training. I will still take it easy since it is the off season but I finally feel it's time to start getting ready for 2009.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Finding motivation in being dropped

**Special Thanks** All photos shown are from Veronika Lenzi and the full set can be found here. Ronnie - thanks for all of the support!

Ok, so it's been a while since I wrote something. This time it hasn't been a time issue, I just have not been inspired to write. I actually started a posting on hibernation versus motivation but every time I tried to write it I fell asleep. (I know, big collective groan for going after the obvious joke there.) There really has been a serious lack of motivation on my behalf to do much of anything.

I've decided that for me it's not a cold thing. I actually like winter, a lot, and I don't mind the cold. Something about being out in all of Mother Nature's elements makes me feel completely alive. No, for me it's always been a daylight thing. I would love winter even more if it were not for the short days. That's why I tend to hibernate during the week and go full out on weekends.

So how do I find the motivation to be better during the week? There are 2 answers really. First, I realized that after next weekend the days will start getting longer. The second is riding friends and fellow cyclists. Enter Pedro's training camp.

I learned about Pedro's training camp from my newest cycling friend Jeff who really seems to have the inside scoop on what's happening in Sonoma County. Unfortunately, that weekend was crazy busy with work. Still, my schedule did allow me to start the training camp ride on Saturday. Now if you read Pedro's description this is supposed to be a training ride. Or as he put it, "no December champions!"

I ride over to the start at around 9:50. Sarah is already there, Jeff rides up shortly after and finally Jim arrives to join us. At the designated 10:00 start time there are 60+ riders swarming around Peets just itching to hit the road. Pedro stands to make a few announcements but I only heard one of them. It was when he said "yesterday was a little too fast so all of you Cat 1's and Cat 2's need to take it easy up the climbs". This is going to be fun.

Then we're off. We start out taking things nice and easy down a bike path to avoid cars and lights. Finally we are out of town and on the open road. A peloton of 60 dressed in every color imaginable. The pace is great. No one is putting the hammer down so I am just riding along and talking with my fellow riders.

Eventually, we hit the only hill I have time to climb, Harrison Grade. You gotta love a road with Grade in it's name. It's 1.5 miles with pitches of 14% in places. Now remember, if we listened to Pedro, we are supposed to be taking it easy. And the big guns did take it easy. They just have a different definition of easy.

As we start the climb, I am near the front. My goal, stay with the lead group to the top. So up we go. The other riders immediately start to pass me as if they were riding downtown to get coffee. My heart rate is climbing even faster! About a third of the way up, I am no longer being passed but I am starting to dangle of the back of the group. I just keep telling myself to hold on to the wheel in front of me.

At the next corner we reach the steepest pitch. I tell myself to dig deep. I just start to drop when I accelerate and get back with the group. I am still with the group but while they are chatting and easily spinning their way to the top, I am practicing how to gasp for air quietly. At about two thirds of the way up, the pitch levels out just a bit before the final push. This is where I was dropped. I did manage to to keep them in sight to the top. In the end, I am guessing I climbed Harrison Grade at least 3 minutes faster then ever before. This is where the motivation started.

A group of us with some time constraints settled into a leisurely ride back with Sarah, Jim and I enjoying a post ride coffee and chat. All-in-all it was a great day. Riding with a few hammerheads on a regular basis is bound to make me a better rider. I like the ideal of riding with large groups and taking the opportunity to push myself. Thinking about this fanned the motivational flames a little more.

In Sarahs' blog, she talks about how this ride reaffirmed her love of cycling. And that's where I am today. Once again remembering why I ride. And while I plan on fewer miles next year that doesn't mean I can't make them count. So my basic goal for 2009 will simply be to become stronger and faster on the bike.

If Jeff continues to tell me about great rides like the ones Pedro just put together, I will also have a lot of fun in the process.


Monday, December 8, 2008

The fog gets even

In my last blog I talked about the fog. And while I did spend some time talking about the beauty it can create, I spent more time discussing its dark side. You know. The whole wet, cold, steals your motivation side. Well, I think that the fog somehow read all of that because this weekend it got even.

Saturday morning, at 5:30 a.m., was a beautiful, clear, starlit morning. It was also cold. A freezing 28 degrees. Still, there was no fog for the first time in days so I am heading out on the bike. I actually posted on Sarah's Facebook that I was testing my concept of preferring to ride when it is cold and clear versus fog. My hope is to leave around 8:00 and maybe, just maybe, it will have warmed up a touch.

So I get all the gear together, get dressed and go out to get the bike ready. The sun's rising and it is simply gorgeous. I can't wait to hit the road even though it is still only a brisk 30 degrees. As I start rolling out of the driveway, still under clear skies, I noticed that fog is forming to the east. Are you kidding me? I look to the north in hopes of clearer skies and I don't see them. However, as I look to west, towards the coast, there is still blue sky. So I head west.

About 3 miles into the ride I learn how a rookie quarterback feels when a veteran all-pro free safety baits him into throwing an interception. I was baited into going west. I am now engulfed in very wet, very thick and very cold fog. I decide to adjust my route and go looking for the sun. I also started riding more bike paths to stay off the road. I will probably cut the ride short from the 40 miles I was hoping for but I want to get in some mileage so I decide to simply endure the fog and keep riding.

While it was actually very pretty at times, it was mostly a cold and wet ride. In some places the roads were so wet I was getting road spray off the tires. In Windsor I was really starting to get cold so I grabbed a quick double espresso and finally headed for home. As I glance at the cyclometer it now looks like I will get my 40 miles so I am basically happy. At mile 35 the sun broke through the fog for half a mile. At mile 37 the sun and I started playing a little game of peek-a-boo. I would be fog-free for half a mile or so and then right back in it. This continued all the way to mile 39 when the fog at my house completely cleared and I rolled back into the driveway the exact way I began - under clear skies.

The fog also was a major player in Sunday's ride. It was Sarah's birthday and a bunch of her friends were coming up from the City and East Bay to ride with us. It was another cold and foggy day but we simply did not let that dampen our spirits as we headed out. It was a great ride of just under 40 miles with over 1800 feet of climbing. At one point, we almost climbed out of the fog but not quite. This was the first Sonoma County ride for some folks in our group so it was unfortunate that they did not get to enjoy some to the vistas we climbed up to. Still it was a great morning of riding with new friends. If you want to try and get a better feel for the day, check out Sarah's blog.

So there it is. I wrote about the fog and it tricked me into a ride. That would make the score 1 -1. I surely hope that by finishing the ride both days I have now paid my due respects and that the fog and I can declare a truce. I have never successfully beat Mother Nature and I don't expect to start winning now.

Is there a moral to this story. I think so. Never try to blame your lack of motivation on anyone other then yourself. And especially don't try and blame Mother Nature because if you do, you may just end up cold and wet.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Fog!!! (enough said)

What is it about fog? What mythical quality does it possess to make you feel so frigging cold? Of course I understand the physical reactions. Fog is wet and when you are wet you feel colder. I get that. However, I think in our psyche it somehow goes much deeper then that. When riding, I will wear just as many layers for a 50 degree foggy ride as I do for a 36 degree sunny adventure. Now that I think of it, maybe I should discussing the magic of the sun.

In Sonoma County we deal with three types of fog. The first isn't even fog, it's a marine layer of clouds that comes in from the ocean, hangs out at around 1000 feet, and typically burns off by 10ish. Then we have good ole ground fog, which is very thick and very wet. We also get something known as Tule fog, which are small dense patches that form in the valleys. Sometimes we get all three going at the same time.

The fog does create some magical moments. There are times when you can ride, run or hike your way up a climb and find yourself above the fog. These are breath-takingly beautiful mornings where you feel like you could simply step onto the fog and walk over to the next peak. I have gone from running in brilliant sunshine to heavy fog within a 200 yard stretch. This always makes me feel a little like a J.R.R. Tolkien character carrying a ring to a forbidden land. Walking through a forest as the sun shines through the fog always seems to heighten my senses and I feel truly alive, and blessed. This all happens mostly in the summer.

In the winter, it is a different story. The most powerful mythical quality fog seems to have in winter is the ability to steal any motivation I might have to get out and ride or run. I mean really. Who wants to head out into a cold (it is currently 34), wet foggy morning when they have a warm chair and coffee inside? I don't mind it once I get started. It's the getting started that's the hard part. (In case you haven't guessed by now, it has been very foggy every day this week.)

Have you figured out that I have zero motivation to head out? I mean if we were keeping score for the month of December it would be blogs-2, workouts-0. How pathetic is that? I say I am going out right up to the point when it's time to leave. Then I see the coffee and it's all over. It's just that easy to bail when I look out the kitchen window and can't even see the back fence. I can't even seem to muster enough motivation to get on the trainer and it's in the garage completely protected from the fog.

Is there a cure for this? How do you get past this serious lack of mojo? With a little help from your friends. I am much more likely to head out if I am meeting up with someone. They are my little anti-fog support group whether they know it or not.

For now, I'll just roll with my lack of motivation and call it recovery. Soon, I'll starting getting restless and feel the need to head out again. Until then, where's my coffee?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My grand plan for 2009

Sunday was a great day. There were 6 of us heading out for a short easy ride. Two of our group, Pat and David, had just finished Ironman Arizona the week before (congrats to both of them) and were looking for a chance just to spin their legs. Pat was also coming out of his vegetarian slumber so he wanted to finish the ride with a burger, which was just fine by me.

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. Since we were taking it easy, I took the Vegas so it was my first group ride with the single speed. We mostly rode together and chatted. We chatted a lot about the boys Ironman efforts, which led us to talking about next year and who was doing what event, which made me decide it was time to declare my own goals for 2009.

So what kind of goals should I set. Should I be like David, who after completing his first full Ironman is talking a lot about his couch, coffee and yoga for 2009 (he will do much more)? Or perhaps I should model my goals after Pat. About one month before the Ironman he posted to our group that 2009 was going to be the "year of the bike!" and he was going to complete the California Triple Crown, which is three 200 mile rides in one year. As I understand it from listening to him on Sunday, I think his new plan is to complete the triple crown, ride the 3-day Courage Classic, compete in another full Ironman and race in the Kentucky Derby. (BTW - Pat is a great athlete who could actually do all of those events. Well, maybe not the Kentucky Derby). I could also choose to follow Sarah's lead and boycott any event that is jacking up the price because they can (check out her blog).

Perhaps I should start by reflecting on 2008. It's been a long year with a single focus on cycling. As a result, I have ridden 5,377 miles so far in 2008 and I am starting to feel it. A lot of those were training miles where I had a specific agenda I had to follow. Speed intervals, hill repeats, power intervals and such were always the norm. And way too many of those miles were solo. In preparing for the Terrible Two, I completed a 140 mile solo ride. As I reflect on the past the future, at least 2009, becomes very clear. It's time to remember why I ride.

So what are my goals?
  1. Reduce cycling mileage by 30%. This may seem dramatic until you realize that this still has me riding almost 4000 miles.
  2. Increase the number of ride that finish with 3 or more people sipping coffee by 50% (as in spend less time riding alone).
  3. Increase cross training, which simply means I want to spend time doing other things like running, kayaking, and hiking.
  4. Complete 5 events I have not done before or have not done in the last 5 years (I stole this from Coach Tim). This will be a mixture of running, there are some 10k's I like to try, and cycling. At least one event will require travel so Sherry and I can use it as an excuse for weekend get-away.
  5. Increase the number of weekend mornings where I decide to sleep in with Sherry and have french toast for breakfast.

So there they are. As you can see, 2009 is all about fun and remembering why I started riding in the first place. With a plan that calls for more fun, more coffee with friends and more time with Sherry, I have a sneaky suspicion that I might just be able to stay on this plan.

For those of you creating your own goals for 2009 I have this one piece of advice. Please be sure your plan allows for plenty of recovery time with family and friends. And don't forget, we do this because it's fun.