Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Bike Path Pokey

This blog was supposed to be about how strong I’ve been feeling since I restarted my season.  I’ve had some great rides and done good workouts that are paying off.  Yep, the plan was to write about how my strength is coming on faster then those stupid cyclist tan lines that we all know and love.  And then, I went for a ride last night that changed everything.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am feeling very strong these days.  I am back to my old climbing habits.  Even better, I seem to have my descending mojo again.  For instance, Saturday’s ride had 12 miles of climbing that totaled almost 4,000 feet in elevation gain.  I actually did the first 7 miles of climbing in the middle ring and felt great.  Then we got to come down.  I felt I was in complete control as I bombed down the descent.  In the end, I waited nearly two minutes for the rest of my group to arrive (to be fair, they tend not to bomb descents).

With that as a backdrop, I started out last night to ride speed intervals.  Leave it to a great coach, like Coach Tim, to change things up just when you’re feeling good.  After weeks of hill repeats where I was feeling nice and comfortable, he throws in speed intervals.  No worries other then I do expect feel the difference when I am done.

I get home and get ready to roll.  My first issue is that I am absolutely brain dead.  I spent the day working on a rather tedious project that just seem to suck the life out of me.  I was in definite need of Miracle Max but since he wasn’t around a ride would have to do.  The other issue was heat.  It was 91 when I headed out and I do not like the heat.  I choose to head out along the bike path since it is nice and shaded.  My plan?  The path would provide a nice 20-minute warm up and once out of town I would start my speed intervals.

It never happened.  I think somewhere in my mind I always knew it wouldn’t.  The longer I was on the path, the more I settled into a nice scenic easy ride.  As I neared the end of the first path and starting rolling to the second path I realize that I was doing the Bike Path Pokey.

The Bike Path Pokey is the kind of ride where you purposely stay on as many bike paths as possible.  Why?  Well, they’re called bike paths but the truth is there are a lot of other things on them.  Things like joggers, walkers, kids on bikes, kids on skateboards, commute riders, dogs on and off a leash (sometimes with or without people), etc.  This means you can’t ride hard and remain a courteous cyclist.  So in essence, riding the bike path forces me to stay slow while allowing me to blame my slowness on the other people using the path.

As I was meandering along, I decided if I was going to call this ride The Bike Path Pokey, I needed to create new lyrics to that childhood tune we all know and enjoy.  Here they are.

You turn your Gamin off
You throw your plan out
You clip your shoes in and you slowly move it out
You do the bike path pokey as you slowly roll along
That’s what it’s all about.

I could go on but I won’t.  I think you get the idea.  I also created a dance that focuses mostly on moving your shoulders around since your legs are busy.  Now, I never expect The Bike Path Pokey dance to get air time on MTV or reach the level of popularity as the shoulder rolls from the Palmer Girls in the Addicted to Love video but it’s still fun to do.

When it was all said and done I finish with a good 21-mile tempo ride.  It was perfect! Not only was it a good workout but it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy another beautiful evening.  And that’s worth singing about.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The ramblings of a writer’s blocked cyclist

I know, I know.  It’s been over a week since my last post.  I wish I had a good excuse.  You know something like my computer died or I was vacationing in the south of France or that I had been in a french toast coma.  But alas, it’s nothing like that at all.  I just can’t seem to get started.  I have things to write about.  I’ve been riding, spending time with Sherry, hanging with friends and work doesn’t completely suck so life is good.  I’ve got about 15 blog titles created there’s just nothing inside them.  Damn I hate writer’s block.

So I am trying something new.  It’s my I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while-so-I-guess-I-better-get-off-my-ass-and-write plan.  Too long?  Ok, how about the just write dammit plan?  Hmmm. . .I can already see this isn’t going to work.

I’ve got it!  I’ll think about all of the great riding I’ve been doing lately.  That’s it.  I’ll write about how much stronger I’m feeling these days or how  I went on Coach Tim’s second Wine Country Cols and PavĂ© ride, which was  a 60-mile heat fest.  That was adventurous, and beautiful, but I wouldn’t call it fun so nothing to really write about.  I climbed Sonoma Mountain on Saturday pushing a 42x27 (that’s a pretty tough gear for you non-cyclist out there) which is a huge accomplishment for me.  And although that really got the blood flowing as my heart rate climbed, it did not unleash my writing.

Maybe I should take a scientific approach.  You know, analyze the situation, create a hypothesis  about the cause, and then develop a plan of action.  I actually Googled writer’s block and found some interesting stuff.  There’s even a Wikipedia entry devoted to it.  Here’s their definition - Writer's block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.

Well, that’s problematic.  Writing is not my profession.  Can you get writer’s block if you are not a professional?  If the answer is no, then what do you call it when a non-professional is stuck?  Poser’s block?  Wanna-be writer’s block?  Blogger’s block?  Do professionals with writer’s block roll their eyes and sigh when they overhear a blogger talking about being stuck.

However, there may be something to this.  You see while I am not a professional writer today, I do harbor visions of making money from my writing in the future.  My goal is to have my writing supplement my income after I retire.  This blog is part of that grand plan and that creates pressure, which in turn leads to blocks.

The pressure comes from within.  For some odd reason, I feel that each blog needs to be better then the last.  Not only is that unreasonable, it’s unnecessary.  To begin with, I already know that this series of posts has not been one long crescendo which each post being better.  I also know that people have different tastes so that a post that I particularly like and feel is clearly better then the last one is not seen that way by others.  In many cases I have received more comments on what I would consider my more mundane blogs.

I am also aware that a blog needs to be consistent to attract followers.  That’s more pressure.  Everyday I go without writing makes it even harder to get started.  Somehow, I’ve got to find a way to quit putting so much pressure on myself and go back to writing for the fun of it.  Hey, maybe that’s what I should call my plan.

Whatever it is I hope it goes away soon.  I enjoy telling stories, in writing and otherwise, and I would like to get back to it.  For now, I’ll just keep plugging along and trying to come up with a real post for your reading, and my writing, pleasure.

Until then . . .


Friday, June 11, 2010

Cycling fans like Sherry

A few weeks ago, I posted this FB status - “You've got to love a wife whose idea of a romantic dinner is eating carbonara from Riviera in front of the big screen and watching the Giro as the pre-show for the ToC (Tour of California).”  I got a lot of comments about what a great wife she is and that “she’s a keeper”.  What I don’t think most people realize is that she would have done that whether I was there or not.

IMG_0271 You see, my wife is a huge cycling fan!  Strike that!  I think crazed is a bit more descriptive.  She likes everything about it.  Watching it on TV.  Going to races in all kinds of weather.  Meeting the riders, directors, commentators, etc.  Seeking out photo opportunities.  She will sag and support me and my cycling group any time I ask including helping  me twice up Mont Ventoux.  In fact, the only aspect of cycling she doesn’t participate in is actual riding and I think this makes her somewhat unique.

IMG_0276 It all started of course when I started cycling on the road to do my first triathlon.  I was immediately reminded that I really don’t like swimming but this cycling thing was something I could get into.  While on my rides with Coach Tim, he would talk about races like the Tour de France and could spout off names and stats like crazy.  So that year we planned to pay attention but didn’t really plan to watch the race per se.  We were immediately hooked, by both the race and the beauty of France, and now watching cycling is one of our favorite things to do together. Well, that and eating french toast for breakfast.

IMG_0262 How dedicated is she?  Well, this might give you a hint.  On July 22nd, I already know where she will be and what she will be doing at 3:30 a.m.  That’s right!  She’ll be watching live coverage of the Tour de France Stage 17, from Pau to Col de Tourmalet.  And yes, you read that correctly.  She will be getting up well before dawn to watch cycling.  Hell, I won’t even be up until 5:00.  But she already knows this is an important stage with huge implications in the final GC.

Cavendish We are also lucky enough to live very close to Riviera Ristorante where Giampaolo, Rita, and Luca have an outstanding Italian restaurant.  They are also very good riders and well connected in the cycling community with Team BMC, Levi Leipheimer, and others.  This means that anytime a pro team comes to town they eat at Riviera.   And so do we.  We will be deciding what to have for dinner and Sherry will suggest we drive by Riviera and look for team cars.  If they are there, then the dinner issue is resolved.  I can’t tell you how many pro-cyclist she has met there.

Last year during the Tour of California, I received an email about a fund-raising event for Bicycles for Humanity.  The famous commentator, Paul Sherwen, would be in attendance and you just knew that Phil Liggett would be there also.  To add to the ambience, it was at Sonoma Cellars, which was a new wine bar in town.  The problem?  It was on February 14th – Valentine’s Day.  So I casually mention it to Sherry and her response was simply - “Why haven’t you bought tickets yet?”

IMG_0265 However, our finest cycling moment was 4 years ago at the Tour of California when Santa Rosa was lucky enough to have both a stage finish and start.  We went down the start and were amazed at how relaxed and accommodating the riders were.  I became the official photographer and Sherry got a photo of herself with Bob Roll, Chris Horner, Bobby Julich, Ivan Basso, Thor Hushovd, Johan Bruyneel, and a few others.  She was in heaven.

So there you have it.  She may not ride but she is absolutely crazy about the sport of cycling.   And I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Monday, June 7, 2010

I’m okay with that

Last week was a great week.  After taking some time off the bike I was back at it.  You know, routinely getting in my core and strength workouts, riding speed intervals or hill repeats on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and planning big weekend rides with friends.  The question was did my recovery week help.  The answer is an emphatic yes!  And, although I don’t have the form I would normally have in June, I’m okay with that.

Yet I feel the need to explain my recovery week one last time.  It dawned on me during my rides this weekend that many of you cyclists out there may be thinking – so you took a week to recover, what’s the big deal?  Normally, you would be right.  Coach Tim always builds recovery weeks into my training every 6 - 8 weeks.  He definitely believes in the power of recovery and what happens if you push too hard for too long.

However, this was not a well place break in a progressive training plan.  It was more of a complete stop and restart.  Now, I have the mental challenge of convincing myself it’s February from a training perspective.  So, how did I do?

On Memorial Day I broke out the single speed to ease back into things.  My group was doing our Goat-to-Goat ride, which is a 35-mile round trip route from the Flying Goat in Santa Rosa to the Flying Goat in Healdsburg and back.  It is always done as a social fun ride but it does get fast at times.  I figured the easiest way to ensure I didn’t get caught in the same mistakes that caused my fatigue in the first place was to not have gears.  Sure enough, at one of the city limit signs the group put down the hammer and attacked from about a mile away.  I simply kept pedaling my one gear and watched them ride away knowing I couldn’t participate even it I wanted to.  And I was okay with that.

On Tuesday, my training focused on endurance while Thursday’s efforts were all about hill repeats.  I did the hill repeats on Pythian Road, which is my new favorite.  It’s just about a mile in length with some decent pitches thrown in for fun.  And the descent is a blast.  I managed to get up it three times, which resulted in climbing just over 1,400 feet in 25 miles.  It felt very good to be out working on a plan again.

Saturday had Coach Tim and I climbing over Sonoma Mountain to meet good friends and then climbing back over the mountain with them.  My legs were actually very tired but it was a good tired.  It was not the general fatigue I had been feeling but more of a “hey, you rode really hard on Thursday” feeling.  Because I was trying to stay within myself, remember it’s February from a training perspective, I was dropped numerous times.  And I was okay with that since it meant I was sticking to my plan.  The cool things was that my friends were okay with that also and simply waited for me.

Another friend and I did an active recovery ride on Sunday.  I was going to break out the single speed again but decided that since our route included some rollers I wanted gears.  That was a good call.  On a few of the rollers I was pushing a 42x27 versus the 42x16 on the single speed.  It was just one of the great rides where you never push the pace and spend most of the time side-by-side chatting up a storm.

How am I feeling?  Great!!!  I feel like I am on track and I know the form will develop quickly.  Coach Tim has me totally planned out through October so all I have to do is follow the plan.  I have already looked at this week’s plan and it looks a lot like last week.  And you know what, I okay with . . . well, you know.


PS.  For anyone riding the 65-mile route at Levi’s Gran Fondo, check out Coach Tim’s special Medio Fondo Training Plan.