Monday, April 20, 2015

If I Were a Pro Cyclist

One of the more common themes I think about on my solo rides is what type of cyclist would I be if I were a pro.  It’s not that I plan on turning pro at 53 it’s just fun to think about.

Leading my own little peloton.
I start the process with the same key assumption - I might be stronger than I am today but I would not have different skills than I have today.  What I mean by that is I’ve never had a strong sprint so I don’t assume I would have a sprint if I were a pro.  So, what are the skills I have today?

My specialty seems to be endurance.  If I am training well, I can push myself for long periods at a lifted pace (but not a winning pace).  It was the same thing when I was more of a runner.  So, how would this translate to the pros?

Time Trial Specialist - Oh, hell no!!!  These boys and girls can push themselves to a whole different level of pain and it takes a mental discipline I do not possess.  My career wins as a time trialist would be 0.

Riding in the group.
Sprinter - I would not make a good sprinter since, as i mentioned before, I don’t have that explosive power needed to sprint for the line.  As to career wins in a sprinter, that would be another 0.

Climber - When I’m training hard, I can diesel my way up big climbs.  It’s just that I make it up them slowly.  To be honest, I don’t think I could stick to the dietary restrictions necessary for this one.  I mean if I was racing in Italy and my choice was between winning a mountain stage or a double scoop of salted caramel gelato, well the gelato wins that race every time. Of course, this would mean another 0 in terms of career wins.

Domestique - This would be me.  The guy who rides along and keeps the team leader out of the wind.  The guy who drifts back to the team car and stuffs water bottles into every conceivable spot before riding back up to the front.  The guy who makes a decent living but would never be in the spotlight.

I even think I know what my specialty would be as a domestique - breakaway chaser.  I’d be the guy that the team manager would sent to the front of the peloton towards the end of a race to lift the pace and reel in the breakaway.  This is the only real role that takes advantage of my ability to ride hard for long periods.  However, once the break was caught and the other specialist took over I would sit up and finish the race in the back of the bunch.

The end!!!
This is also the only area where I could dream of winning.  It would have to be one of those special circumstances where I managed to get in the breakaway and we stayed clear to the end where I somehow out smarted my fellow riders.  In order to keep things real, I’m going to give myself a grand total of 1 career win.

Of course, this is all pure speculation.  If I had discovered cycling before the age of 42 there’s no guarantees that things would be any different than they are today.  As I said before, it’s just a fun thing to about as I roll along.

The only remaining question is type of cyclist would you be if you were a pro?


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Loopdy Loops in Spring Lake

Earlier this week I had one of the interesting rides where it didn’t go as planned but still turned out great.  You know, those rides where a “what the hell” moment as you come to some realization that could dramatically impact the ride turns it into an “oh well” moment as you decide to keeping rolling along.

It all started when I managed to get to of work a little early one day.  I dropped off Thomas (my road bike) at NorCal Bike Sport for some TLC then headed home to ride.  My plan was simple.  Get home, grab the single speed, ride!  The only thing I needed to remember was to grab my seat bag, which has everything I need to deal with flats.

Here’s where it gets complicated.  The seat bag for the single speed is only big enough for one tube and a few tools.  The seat bag for Thomas contains two tubes.  Since I took the seat bag off Thomas before dropping him off I decide to take that seat bag.  I mean, two tubes are always better than one right?  But, the single speed does not have quick release levers for the tires so I better make sure I grab the small wrench I carry as well.

As I get home I realized I really should have been paying attention to traffic and not my seat bag strategy but I made it and I’m good to go.  I get all kitted up, fill my pockets with phone, food, arm warmers (in case it gets cold), etc.  I even remembered the wrench.  Then its out to the garage to grab the bike.

As I pull it down I immediately notice that it doesn’t have pedals.  This was the first “what the hell” moment.  Long story short - I moved the pedals to the new cross bike during the winter since I’m still deciding what pedals I want to use.  Ok, no worries here.  I quickly swap the pedals, pump up the tires and I’m finally ready to ride albeit about 15 minutes later than I was hoping for.

The plan called for cruising through Spring Lake and then into Oakmont where I as hoping for about 30 miles of gentle rollers.  Now, Spring Lake is surround by a dike and has a few hills, which were fun to take on with the single speed.  Just as I was thinking about that, I had my second “what the hell” moment.  You guessed it - I forgot the damn seat bag.

The route and profile!
Now, I have zero tubes so I start thinking of my options.  Sherry is in a class so she can’t pick me up.  Jeff lives in Oakmont so I could stop at his house and borrow what I need although it would be my luck that he would not be home.  Of course, I could just take a chance and keep riding but feels a lot like tempting fate.  I ultimately decide to keep riding but to shorten the ride and stay close to home.

Now, Oakmont is not longer an option since I don’t want to go that far.  I’m already in Spring Lake and having fun climbing over the little hills so I decided to keep at it.  To add to the fun, I decided to ride every paved road and path in Spring Lake at least once.  Soon, I forgot all about the seat bag and was just have a great time on the bike.

The end result was a decent ride of 19 miles with 800 feet of climbing with one speed and zero flats.  It was a great ride on a beautiful spring evening.  It was also a great reminder that sometimes the best decision is to look your “what the hell” moments right in the eyes and keep rolling.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Little Perseverance

It’s amazing how a little perseverance can go a long way.  Or in my case on Saturday, it allow me to go a long way.  Saturday’s ride was a pretty decent effort at 50 miles and just over 4,100 feet of climbing.  However, this post will only be about the first 10 miles.

When I rolled down the driveway just before 8:00 am, I quickly realized something wasn’t right as I turned down Montgomery Drive.  Normally, I cruise along around 17 mph when I’m heading out.  Saturday, I felt like I was moving in slow motion.  I look down at the cyclometer to see I am riding along at a whopping 14.5 mph.  And, I feel like I’m working hard to maintain that pace.

This is already shaping up to be a piss-poor ride so I start thinking about my favorite coffee shops.  But, I do have a big ride at the end of the month so I need to push through this.  As I roll along I start to think about how I’m feeling and why my legs feel so heavy.  In the process, I came up with a ton of excuses all designed to make me head back home.

To begin with, I actually had no idea where I was riding until just before I got on the bike.  If it had been a team ride day I wouldn’t need to worry but since I was on my own, I needed to come up with a route.  In these cases I usually create a route earlier in the week and then spend the rest of the time getting excited about it.  I wasn’t really excited about today’s ride so that was problem number one.  Excited or not, I needed miles so I kept riding.

I also started running again this week.  Nothing crazy! Just little runs of 2.1 and 2.6 miles.  Still, it’s been a while so maybe that’s why my legs feel like lead.  If that’s the problem I should definitely head for coffee since that’s not going to get any better.  Instead, I kept riding.

I am now heading out of town and tackling the first major climb of the ride.  Maybe that’s the issue.  My goal was to reach 4,000 feet of climbing so maybe I was just psyching myself out.  Do I really want to do all of this climbing.  That’s when the internal negotiations began. You know what I mean.  That inner dialogue where you convince yourself it would still be a great ride without all those pesky hills so why don’t you go find some flatter terrain.  While this discussion was happening in my mind I simply kept climbing.

My reward for climbing!
I finally decided it was time to put up or shut up.  I was on a good climb on the way to one of my favorite descents.  To get rid of the dialogue in my mind I started looking around and enjoying the scenery on a gorgeous spring day.  To my legs, enough’s enough and I lifted the pace.  I decided at the top of the climb I was going to feel better or completely flogged.  

It worked!  As I was going over the top I started to feel better about my efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed my descent and instead of looking for flat land I headed to the next hill.  In the end, it was a great ride and I actually set personal records on both the Lichau and Sonoma Mountain climbs.

I know I will continue to have days, both on and off the bike, where I’m simply not feeling it.  When that happens I will able to reflect back on this ride and repeat the phrase - a little perseverance goes a long way.