Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The cross training has begun

Well, after a few weeks of thinking about it, talking about it, and even writing about it, my cross training finally got off the ground last week.  It must of been all of the FB entries about running, swimming, yoga, and such that got me going.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I am already feeling a difference on the weekend rides when I don’t workout during the week.

My cross training is pretty simple.  I do a little running, strength training and core work.  I frequently suggest to myself I should add in yoga and stretching but somehow that hasn’t happened just yet.  Still, anything is better then nothing so it’s time to get going.

Last Tuesday I went on my first run since May.  It was a simple little 3 mile route and I planned on staying nice and easy.  I expected it to be a little challenging and did not want to over do it.  My warm up consisted of tearing my closet apart to find my running shoes.  Then a mind stretch exercise as I try to remember where I put my heart rate monitor I use when I run.  Finally, I am ready to go.

I settle into a nice, slow cadence as I head out the door and down the street.  I actually enjoy running as long as I am not trying to kill myself.  As usual, I am feel great until about the 2 mile mark.  Then things always go south quickly.  My route takes me past a hospital at 2.5 miles and I found it difficult not to turn into the emergency room.  Instead, I keep running after deciding the shortness of breath and pounding in my chest is not a heart attack.

As I arrive home I have to fight the urge to collapse on the front lawn.  Then I look at my time.  It was 21:11.  Sweet!!!  No wonder I am tired.  I just kicked out 7 minute miles.  So I skip lying on the lawn and start my cool down walk wearing a big smile.  Then I look at the time again.  It was really 27:11, which is a 9 minute mile pace.  Damn, I’ve already passed my lawn and since I don’t want to collapse on my neighbor’s lawn I keep walking and cooling down.  In the end, it wasn’t a bad start.

On Friday, I head out for my 2nd run.  This time I felt much better even though I finished 8 seconds slower.  No worries.  At least I didn’t think about stopping at the hospital or collapsing on the lawn so that’s progress right?

Thursday night found me in the garage getting ready for a core and strength training session.  What was the first routine?  You won’t find in any weight training books but it is a routine we all do.  It’s called – clear all the junk away so you can actually see the weight bench!  Now that the bench is cleared, the ball is inflated, and weights are all ready, I can start. . . well, that’s as far as I got that night.  So no strength or core training just yet.

Last night I went to Coach Tim’s for an garage spin class on our trainers.  We did a combined work out that spent a little time on power, endurance and TT drills.  We also did some light weight training, core work, and stretching afterwards.  I felt really good last night but we’ll see how I feel later today.

After I finish writing this, it will be out on the road for run #3.  I am actually looking forward to it.  I really have a nice route with plenty of alternatives to keep things interesting.

There you have it.  I’ve finally started my off-season cross training routine.  And you know, as much as I miss cycling during the week, it is a nice change of pace.  The only thing I need to do now is remain vigilant especially with the core work and stretching.  After all, the next cycling season will be here before you know it.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Off season shenanigans

Last year, during our cycling road trip to Colorado, I made a comment about our waitress being a “buxom blonde” and the mocking was commenced immediately.  I was dutifully reminded by my younger cycling friends that no one says buxom anymore except for us old guys.  I can only imagine how they will respond to my using the word shenanigans in the title.  As you read on you will hopefully agree that no other word would do.

A group of us met on Sunday for an easy 50-mile ride that included a stop at the Wild Flour Bread Bakery in Freestone.  Now, we are all in the off season so rides are supposed to be easy.  However, a few of us like to kick up the intensity from time to time.  These are usually short spurts of energy lasting less then 5-minutes. 

IMG_0060 As we gathered to get things started there were some immediate clues that this was going to be a fun ride.  To begin, everyone seemed much excited about the bakery stop then the ride itself.  Then we notice David is wearing one black and one brown sock.  This immediately prompted a FB entry to his wife asking her to be more careful when laying his clothes out the night before.

Finally, we are off.  The ride does start easy with everyone riding together and chatting away.  We go over a small climb together as a group.   The final part of the descent is a mild 2% grade and as I descend Pat comes flying around me with Ross in tow.  So I join the train for my first 5-minute burst.  Then I attack and as I pass Pat I give him a big ole smile.  As anticipated, Pat counter attacks and as he comes around me I simply sit up, down shift and watch him hammer himself to the stop sign.  As he looked back and realized what I had done I received my first 1-finger salute of the day.

We regroup and keep rolling along.  I convince some of our group to do at least one city limit sign sprint at the town of Valley Ford.  Sarah doesn’t think there is a city limit sign but I convince everyone there is.  As we approach a small rise about a mile out, I attack again.  I am holding a solid pace with Pat and Ross.  David, Sarah and others are chasing hard from behind.  With the town in view, Pat and Ross attack and once again I sit up.  I see them riding hard and looking for the city limit sign that never appeared.  I’ll let you decide if I knew it was there or not.

entranceb After our bakery stop (a requirement for all off season rides through Freestone), it was up a small hill into Occidental.  Once again I attack, once again Pat counter attacks, and once again I sit up after he passes me.  About half way up the climb he sees me falling back because it’s hard to pedal and laugh hysterically at the same time.  He then drops back and shares a few thoughts with me which should probably not be repeated.

With the ride winding down we head out of Monte Rio for home.  David, and his different colored socks, takes the front.  He starts out a little too fast and pulls away.  He sees there is a gap and drops back and settles into the perfect pace.  However, once he quit looking back I motion to everyone behind me to slow down.  A minute later, David looks back and we are gapped again.  He looks at us, looks at his cyclometer and looks back at us slightly confused.  He drops back to pick us up again and the whole process gets repeated.  This time he realizes he is being messed with and rides away leaving all of us to chase him down.

There you have it.  It was a great ride that felt a lot more like playing then exercise.  It reminds of playing games with my 6 year old niece who has a knack for making up the rules as she goes.  The result was a lot of laughter, some great camaraderie, and, in the end, one hell of a work out.

No wonder I like the off season.


Monday, October 19, 2009

The “newbie” ride

One of the many things I like about the off season are newbie rides.  This is when my cycling friends and I hit the open road with folks who are just starting their journey into the world of cycling.  Newbies are always welcome to join us but they usually don’t because of concerns about the pace, distance, the amount of climbing, etc.  However, in the off season we are happy to cruise at their speed and help them become better cyclists.  That’s exactly what I did this Saturday. 

Pat, Mike and I, all experienced cyclists, are heading out with Rich, Dan and Dan’s son Brett. Rich and Dan have been riding for a while but it is only Brett’s 4th ride ever so I am anticipating a fairly mellow pace and route. Since it was Dan’s birthday ride he choose the route.

pine_flat_rd Of course, to become a better rider you need to push yourself.  The route Dan choose – Pine Flat.  Holy sh!t!  Are you kidding me?  Pine Flat scares most experienced riders and is legendary here in Sonoma County.  It is a 12-mile climb with a 20% wall at mile 11.  And Brett doesn’t even have a bike.  He’s borrowing Pat’s older road bike and is wearing running shoes to turn over the flat pedals. 

We meet at Pat’s and after a lot of fun banter we are off.  In Healdsburg, Dan gets a flat.  This is were the other joy of a newbie ride comes into play.  Watching them change a flat.  Dan starts by turning the bike upside down and of course his water bottles fall out and roll away.  Then, he starts to remove the tire while the wheel is still on the bike.  So Pat steps in and helps.  Dan pulls out the new tube, still in the box, from a huge saddle bag. After some fun with CO2 we are on the way.  A mile later, Dan flats again.  This time the change goes much more smoothly.  See, he’s learning already.

(Editor’s note:  I only poke fun at Dan’s tire changing experience because I did the exact same thing on my first rides and I am sure someone was around to poke a little fun at me.)

We are now seriously rolling in a nice little group.  The pace was nice and allowed for plenty of chit chat.  It also gave us time to educate them along the way.  How to ride a pace line.  Techniques for better shifting. And so on.

IMG_0051Finally, we reach the start of the climb.  Rich and Dan are both planning to go further then their previous attempt but do not anticipate making the top.  Brett, being the 15-year confident stud he is, has no doubt he’s making it all the way. Pat and I just smile knowing he has no idea what a 20% grade looks like.

Up and up we go.  At one point, Pat accelerates and Brett tries to go with him.  Pat sits up and lets Brett catch up and I lift my pace slowly so now it is the 3 of us.  Brett is riding very strong and is listening intently as Pat coaches him up the climb. We reach the meadow where it flattens out for a mile or so.  Now it’s time for the final push to the summit.

I had stopped to take some photos but I can see them up ahead.  Brett is still riding strong and Pat teaches him to weave in the 20% grade sections.  When I reach the top just behind them, Brett is ecstatic.  Not only did he make it, he passed 2 other cyclist on the way.  Remember, this is his 4th ride.

We teach him how to feather his brakes for the descent and keep things nice and slow.  On the way down we pick up Dan and we catch back up with Rich at the bottom.  They both met their goal of making it further up Pine Flat then before.  They are are both stunned that Brett made the summit.  We then ride back to Windsor at a relaxed pace and hit the local coffee shop.

IMG_0058 The joy in Brett’s experience is the real reason I like newbie rides.  It is the perfect reminder of why I enjoy cycling so much.  Sometimes it takes seeing a ride through the eyes of a newbie to open my own eyes to the joy cycling beings to my life.

One final note.  It was also very cool to hear a rider calling out “Dad” from time to time.  This was my first father-son ride and I found that very cool.  I also know that on Sunday, Brett and Dan went shopping for a new bike.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

A time to relax

It’s finally here!  The off season.  That time of the year when I ride my bike because it’s something I love to do.  This is always an interesting transition for me.  One week you are rushing home after work to get in one more hill repeat workout before dark and the next you’re reaching for that book you haven’t quite had time to finish.

It’s not just me who is entering the off season.  My Facebook updates are chock full of a new type of post.  In September, it was all “I finished 3rd in this race” or “I set a personal best in the local TT”.  Now it’s posts like “my average heart rate was 102” or “my coach said no hard rides for 3 weeks”.  Of course, there are those rare athletes who do not seem to need time off.  One friend got off her bike after the Gran Fondo and started training for her marathon in December. 

For me, it’s as much a mental break as a physical one.  Yes, it’s been a long year and I am certainly feeling the effects physically.  But I am also tired of following a regimented workout schedule.  Of riding the next hill harder then the last.  Of always lifting the pace.  I need, and want, time to sit up and enjoy the world around me from the unique perspective of a bike seat.

This e-mail to my Wine Country Velo group for our first ride after the Gran Fondo kind of sums it all up.

“For most of us it is officially the off season for cycling.  So I would like to propose we spend the rest of the year riding for the joy of riding.  Where "no-drop" means we ride as a group and not race to the next regroup.  Where the average mph comes back down and we are more concerned with talking trash then heart rates.  Where riding side-by-side and enjoying the company of friends replaces pace lines with 30-second pulls. We can restart all that serious stuff in January.”

One of my favorite off season rides is what I call the unknown routeCoach Tim and I do this from time to time.  We pick a meeting spot and start riding with no specific route in mind.  As we roll along, we may approach a road we’ve passed several times before on training rides but never taken and we immediately turn onto it.  While this has led to a lot of out-and-backs, it has also led to many pleasant surprises as well.

While I want to use the off season to reinvigorate my joy of cycling, I also do not want to become a sloth.  So let the cross training begin.  It’s time to bring weights back into my routine (I know, I really should do weights and core work year round).  Next week I will start jogging again.  And maybe, just maybe, I will try yoga since a good friend just open her own studio called Three Dog Yoga.

Mostly, I want to relax and enjoy Fall in Wine Country.  After all, I can restart all that serious stuff in January.


Monday, October 5, 2009

My Gran Fondo

If you are a regular visitor to my humble little blog, then you've been "hearing" about Levi's Gran Fondo for months. Well, on Saturday it was finally here. Now was the time to quit talking about it, quit training for it and just enjoy the pleasure of riding it with 3,500 other crazy cyclist from across the United States and around the world.

Training for the Gran Fondo was interesting to say the least because I provided Coach Tim with a bit of a challenge. You see, I was in France from September 10th through the 28th. This should have been a time when I was doing my final hard rides and then starting my taper. Instead, I was gorging myself with French wine, cheese and croissants. It would be interesting to see how well this particular training plan worked in the end.

Friday night was registration so I head down to the festivities. I cannot say enough about how smoothly the organizers and volunteers ran this event. Registration was quick and easy. Everything that I pre-ordered was in my packet along with all kinds of cool swag. As I wondered around the tents checking out all of the bike stuff, I ran into many friends. Eventually, a group of us decided to cough up $10 for the pasta feed and ate while the Triplets of Belleville was showing on the big screen.

Saturday, the big day, dawns bright and clear. It is going to be a very windy but a near perfect day for this ride. A couple of friends meet at my house and we ride over to the start while picking up a few more friends along the way. As soon as we arrive you can feel the excitement. Once again, we hang around, this time hoping to spot the pro riders joining us, and then it is off to the starting line.

We decide to start a little closer to the front hoping to hit open road a little faster. As we are waiting and chatting more riders start to arrive. And then more. And then even more. I am not sure how to describe 3,500 people all waiting to start the ride. As they were making the final announcements, which no-one could hear because of the helicopter overhead, everyone was relaxed and focused.

Then we're off. The Fitness Journal team set up a double line and rode at a decent clip along the closed roads of Santa Rosa. After a few miles, cyclists were stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. We rode strong as a group through Occidental, then Monte Rio and finally to the rest stop in Cazadero. This is just before the turn onto King Ridge Road where the climbing really started. We all climbed within ourselves and reached the first summit with little difficulties.

The rest of King Ridge was simply gorgeous. I've talked about it before but it still amazes me on every ride. On Saturday, it was miles and miles of vistas being enjoyed by miles and miles of cyclists. The descent down Myers Grade and the ride along the coast was breath-taking. From the coast it was up and over Coleman Valley, a road featured in the 2006 Tour of California, and then we retraced wheels back home.

It was an awesome ride. Even the strong cross winds did not detract from the day. I did have to deal with some serious, and I mean serious, cramping issues between miles 60 - 85, which included the Coleman Valley climb. However, I proudly persevered, eventually caught up with my fellow FJ-ers (a special thanks to Pat for flatting), and we all came across the finish line together. The post ride meal and festivities were scrumptious. I am already looking forward to next year.

So there you have it. A phenomenal event that lived up to the hype. And what about my "wine and cheese" training plan? Well, while the cramps did detract from the ride for a short time I'll gladly trade 2 weeks in France for a couple hours of painful riding any day. In the end, I think I still came out ahead.