Friday, August 19, 2011

Introducing Thomas

I think the time has come for everyone to meet my new cycling partner.  So, I am pleased to introduce all of you to Thomas.  I picked him up at NorCal Bike Sport last Friday and I have to admit it was love at first site.  When they wheeled him out from the back room I think my jaw actually dropped.  Even Sherry called him sexy. 

IMG_3368In case you missed the last post, I got a new bike because Paolo, my 2005 Specialized Roubaix Comp, had to go to bike heaven (also known as the Specialized returns department).  The short story is that I heard a noise coming out of the bottom bracket and upon inspection, NorCal found a defect that made the bike un-ridable.  With one quick phone call, NorCal had a brand new, 2011 Specialized SL2 Roubaix Comp frame on the way.  And, it was fully covered under warranty.

I need to add a quick side note.  As usual, NorCal was simply superb to work with.  I remember the call from Matt explaining the problem and thinking I had to buy a new bike.  Then he said it was all covered by Specialized.  Awesome!  Then there was Frank who patiently answered a thousand questions as I thought about upgrading everything.  Glenn, who just happened to be Levi Leipheimer’s mechanic in the 2010 Tour de France, did a masterful job on the rebuild.  And finally, Jeff, master bike fitter extraordinaire, made sure Thomas and I were a great fit.  These guys are all awesome and I see some beer in their future.

Thomas VNow, back to the bike.  You may be wondering, “Why Thomas?”  Well, I always name my bikes after pro riders I really like.  I also like to have a touch of European flare so I usually select names like Paolo or Phillipe.  Not this time.  I choose to name the bike after Thomas Voeckler because I believe he is the poster boy for all things good about cycling.  Like a lot of the cycling world, I’ve been a Thomas fan since the first time he wore, and defended, the yellow jersey in Tour de France.  He is also one of Sherry’s favorite riders as well.

During the bike fitting, Jeff was going over all the improvements on the bike since my 2005 edition.  The bottom bracket area is larger and stiffer which allows for greater power transfer with each pedal stroke.  The front tube is also stiffer and this will allow for greater steering control.  The bottom line?  I should be able to go up and down hills faster.  I liked the sound of that.

Thomas and I have already been out for three rides.  They were all awesome.  The first was a short and sweet ride the day I got him.  I wanted test all these new features so I headed for the hills where I snuck in 15 miles with 1,200 feet of climbing.  It was all that Jeff said it would be and perhaps more.

The second ride was a nice little recovery ride where I made the route up as I went along.  I was really just introducing Thomas to the scenery he would be riding in the most.  The third was with Coach Tim but I’ll save that report for a future blog.

If the first few rides are any indication, I can’t wait to see what the future holds in store.  While I miss Paolo, I will always be able to fondly reminisce about our 21,000 miles together as Thomas and I start creating stories and adventures of our own. 


Friday, August 5, 2011

No chance to say good-bye!

You know those moments in life when routine events become extraordinary (or at least blog worthy)? I had just such an event yesterday.  On Sunday, I dropped Paolo, my road bike, at NorCal Bike Sport for a simple tune up.  I also mentioned there was a little noise coming from the bottom bracket.  Yesterday, I got the call that I would never ride my dear Paolo again.

Here’s the story!  As they pulled the bottom bracket to find the noise, they discovered the aluminum threads on one side had basically disintegrated.  Apparently, these are fused into the carbon frame so they cannot be replaced.  The bottom line is that there is no way to attach the crank, and therefore pedals, to the bike.  You don’t' have to be a pro cyclists to know that the pedals are kind of important.

Of course, as they are explaining this all to me I’m thinking, “Shit! Now I have to buy a new bike!!!”  But wait!  They had already called Specialized and everyone agreed this was a manufacturer’s defect, which is covered for the life of the frame.  So, there is a brand new 2011 frame and fork on its way.  Sadly, my old fork and frame are already in a box and on their way to Specialized.  I never even got to say good-bye.

espresso stop 4I’m not usually overly sentimental but I had some great times on that bike.  Since I bought it at NorCal back in July 2005, I’ve logged just over 21,000 miles of saddle time with Paolo.  It’s the bike I rode in both of the Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo events.  It took me to the top of Mt Palomar in SoCal.  He was an awesome partner as I trained for the Terrible Two (a two hundred mile ride with 16,000 feet of climbing). 

ColoradoWe took many, many road trips together.  Perhaps the greatest road trip in the history of road trips was when we went to Colorado to ride the 3-day Courage Classic and through in the climb up Mt Evans for fun.  However, there were also shorter trips to San Diego, Solvang, Lake Tahoe, the central Sierra Mountains and Yosemite.  Yes, Paolo was well traveled.  He also helped me prepare for my greatest cycling adventure – riding Mt Ventoux in France.

I still remember buying Paolo.  I spent months doing research.  You see, while Paolo wasn’t the most expensive bike on the market, it was more then I had ever paid.  It was during this time that Coach Tim gave me my I “heart” bike porn cycling socks due to the late nights hunched over the laptop and fantasizing about bikes.  Finally, I narrowed my search down between the Specialized Roubaix Elite and a Trek.  I went down to NorCal, for the hundredth time, to make my final decision.  I test rode the Specialized first.  I never got on the Trek.

pace lineI loved that bike from the minute I first climbed in the saddle.  It was just as awesome then as it was last Sunday when I rode it, unknowingly for the last time, with some friends. It was a great companion to this weekend warrior.

Still, although it’s fun to reminisce, you can’t dwell on the past.  I mean, in essence I have a brand new bike on the way.  I can’t wait to see what adventures we have in the years to come.  If it’s anything like the last six years, it’s going to be awesome.

Now, I just need to come up with a new name . . .


Monday, August 1, 2011

Time for a cliché

There’s nothing quite like a perfect cliché to make a point.  I know, they are dramatically over used but sometimes they convey just the right meaning.  In fact, sometimes they are so perfect that they start to become more of a daily mantra.  So, what’s the cliché that’s about to become my mantra?  No pain, no gain!  Yep, it’s time to crank it up a notch or two.

It’s time to quit messing around and ride.  I need to break out of this negative cycle and spend more time on the bike.  Due to all the reasons I mention in my last post, the riding just hasn’t happened this year.  Of course, fewer miles means less strength which means you go fewer miles and so on an so on.  Basically, if you let it go on too long, an easy 45 mile ride quickly becomes a challenging 35 mile ride.  Plus, the longer you let it go the harder it is to get it turned around.

This is the result of a lack of motivation.  I am not pushing myself at all this year.  (On a side note, three my cycling friends have told me they are feeling the same way.)  Instead, I have stayed in my comfort zone on most rides.  I let myself get dropped when the pace picks up.  I look for bail out points if the ride is too long.  I skip my weekday interval sessions.  And, I’ve avoided rides with monster climbs, which I really do enjoy.  Why?  I’m simply not at the correct riding strength at the moment.

Just how far off pace has this year been?  Here’s a break down, based on the number of rides and total mileage, through August 1st.  (As a side, see if you can guess the year I was training for a 200 mile ride.)

  • 2008 – 3,648 miles in 81 rides
  • 2009 – 2,846 miles in 73 rides
  • 2010 – 2,547 miles in 69 rides
  • 2011 – 1,327 miles in 39 rides

How do I turn this around?  Well, you can’t do it without a little pain and discomfort hence the cliché/mantra.  Now, I’m not talking that ultra serious, can’t walk, want to puke at the end pain.  But, I do need to climb out of my comfort zone.  Unfortunately, the phrase “go outside your comfort zone to get stronger” just doesn’t have the same ring as no pain, no gain.  So, for now, I’ll stick with that.

This weekend got things off to a good start.  My Saturday ride included a decent climb and I absolutely attacked the first half of it.  Then, when I found myself wanting to shorten the ride and head for coffee I didn’t.  Instead, I added more little hills and kept riding.  This was in part thanks to my riding partner who is also trying to re-energize her training.  Sunday was more of the same and I finished the ride very fatigued.  But, I finished and that’s what counts.  All-in-all, I cranked out nearly 80 miles this weekend for the first time in 2-3 months. 

The next few weeks are going to be tough but I think I’m ready for them.  I’ll work closely with my coach, ride hard but smart, and continue to use the strength of others to push myself just that little bit extra.  If I do it right, I’ll be up to my old tricks in no time. 

After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained!