Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fall and the Single Speed

Sunday in Wine Country was simply gorgeous with the colors of fall on full display.  It was a day designed to be outside and I took full advantage of it.  With my sinus infection behind me I was starting to feel stronger so it was back to my routine of running on Sunday morning and riding sometime later in the day.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Crouch
After my morning run with a couple of friends, Sherry and I ran a few errands, which included picking up lunch.  Back home, we enjoyed a leisurely hour of lunch and football.  On some Sundays, this is about time I will decide not to ride but this Sunday was too beautiful to pass up.

I decided to ride The Vegas (the single speed), which has been a favorite of mine since the first time I rode it.  It’s a great bike for recovery rides if the wind is cooperating.  I hadn’t ridden it in a while because of my new routine of running on Sunday morning.  

Running in the morning and cycling in the afternoon typically means dealing with wind.  Lots and lots of wind.  And while I love riding the single speed, it’s hard to do a “recovery” ride with strong wind and no gears.  However, this Sunday was surprising wind-free so out we went.

The first couple of miles on the single speed, or the cross-bike, is always a bit odd.  The geometry on both of these bikes is different than the road bike.   For example, I sit a little taller on the single speed.  There’s nothing wrong with it, I just have to mentally adjust to the difference.

We’re finally out of town and into Wine Country.  This is where I love the single speed the most.  I don't have to worry about what gear I’m in.  I simply turn the pedals and enjoy the scenery.  I did take one small hill just to check my form and I went up and over it just fine.

The Vegas (single speed)
After exploring Wine County, I headed home through the town of Sebastopol.  As I cruised down the street I passed two young girls selling cookies.  Noticing that there was only one cookie left, I did a quick U-turn.  If they lived up to their West County reputation, you could assume the cookies were homemade and organic.  You also might not be too surprise to find a little cannabis mixed in however given the look of the two young ladies I felt safe on that front.

I rolled up and asked how much for the last cookie.  The reply of 50 cents confirmed my assumption about the lack of cannabis.  They also confirmed that the cookies were homemade and organic.  I decided to award their entrepreneurial spirit and gave the two dollars.

After enjoying my cookie, which was pretty damn tasty, it was back on the bike to finish the ride.  I cruised through town to the bike path and headed for home.  It was now late in the afternoon and I was reminded again that it was fall as the temperature began to drop quickly.  I managed to beat the chill by rolling into the driveway just about the same time I needed to put on the arm warmers.

This ride reminded me of both why I love riding in general and how much I really enjoy rolling along on the single speed.  You can bet that next Sunday if the wind isn’t howling, the single speed and I will once again be cruising along the roads of Wine Country.  But not until I finish my morning run.


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Setback

For me, setbacks are one of the fundamental truths about training.  Whenever I’m training for a big event, I can always be sure to have at least one minor setback.  In an odd way these setbacks can be a positive thing since they only harden my resolve to complete the event.  That’s why I wasn’t overly concerned on October 4th when I had a horrible run.  

I had just finished serving as an on-bike Marshall for the medio route of Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo the day before.  It’s a tough ride but I felt very strong and kept things nice and easy.  It was also my last ride before I spent the next 3-weeks finalizing my preparation for the Ragnar Relay.

On Sunday, I set out on a 7.5 mile run.  At 2 miles I wasn’t feeling it.  I check my Garmin and discovered I was running way to fast.  I tried to slow down but at 2.75 miles I cracked and simply starting walking.  When I tried to get started again I realized it wasn't going to be my day and simply walked home.

It was on the walk home that I came up with the blog title, The Setback Hypothesis.  My plan was to discuss how I always have one setback before a big event.  However, as it would turn out, this wasn’t just the minor setback of having a bad run.

Not my preferred training regimen!
By Monday morning, I knew I was sick.  This was not good since Ragnar was less than 3-weeks away.  On Thursday, with my symptoms getting continually worse, I managed to get in to see the doctor where I discovered it was just a really bad cold.  After a regimen of 4 different OTC medicines I started to feel better but not great.  As least I thought I was recovering.

I really didn’t have the strength to train during this period but I somehow managed to have good runs at the Ragnar Relay.  I think it was the power of my Ragnar teammates that kept me motivated.  We also laughed a lot when we weren’t running and you know the old saying about laughter and medicine.

After Ragnar, I planned on taking a week off.  This stretched to 2-weeks as I still wasn’t feeling very strong.  Another 2-weeks go by and I was not getting any better.  I still had the occasional fever and body aches from time to time but mostly I was dealing with a bad cough.  

This wasn’t the nagging cough that sometimes lingers after a cold. This was a deep, in your chest, rib-cracking, mucus spewing cough.  (Sorry for the graphicness of that last sentence but I am still pretty upset I was sick for so long.  I should know better than to write mad.)  Another trip to the doctor confirmed I actually had a sinus infection.  Now, I’m on real antibiotics and feel like I’m on the road to recovery.

There is perhaps a silver lining to this whole ordeal.  I was undecided about when to end my off-season and start training for 2016, which I am hoping will be a strong year.  Well, I can tell you that the 2016 training plan starts now.  That is after I fully recover of course.   

Proper recovery time and smart training will be critical if I don’t want a relapse.  Otherwise, I may find myself writing a blog a month from now called, Setback - The Sequel, and that’s not a story I want to tell.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cheating on My Bikes

My bikes aren’t speaking to me right now.  Of course, since they’re not speaking to me I don’t know what’s wrong.  My cyclo-cross bike, the Masi, seems to be the most upset.  As I look to them for guidance, I only get the “if you loved us you’d know what’s wrong” look in return.  Since I want to keep my bikes happy, I thought long and hard about what might be bothering them as I went for my morning run.

Then it hit me!  As my running shoes were out enjoying one of the most gorgeous fall days ever, my bikes were all stuck in the cold, dark garage with nothing but their growing anger to keep them warm.  And there you have it!  My bikes are all upset because they think I’m cheating on them with my running shoes.  I’ve never even heard of running shoe infidelity but apparently my bikes think it’s a thing.

Surely this can’t be the result of a single run.  I’m guessing this has been building up for a while now.  I think back to when I started receiving the silent treatment. That was about a week ago.  At that time, I was busy signing up for my latest challenge.  I could sense the excitement of the bikes as they became giddy with anticipation waiting to see which one got to go.  Then, they discovered it wasn't a ride but a 25k run in the Marin Headlands.  I think that was the final straw.

The Vegas
As I reflect back over the last few months, I slowly begin to see their point of view.  Earlier this year, I registered and began training for the 200 mile Ragnar Relay (see My Ragnar Relay for how it went).  I think they were tolerant of this dalliance into running since I was also signed up for some major rides.  

As the year progressed, their attitudes began to change since I did not complete any of the 100 mile rides I registered for as I opted to ride shorter distances instead.  Why?  I needed to save my legs for running.  Then in October I quit riding completely to focus on my final training for Ragnar.  I’m sure at this point they were pretty upset.  At least they could console themselves with the thought that this would all be over after Ragnar.

Instead, the first event I register for is a monster run.  At least that’s the way they see it.  I don’t think this is fair since I signed up for the Bottega Gran Fondo bike ride first.  Somehow, they seem to have conveniently forgotten about that.  And now, their hanging out in the garage plotting who knows what to get even.

The Masi
While none of them are talking to me I need to figure why the Masi seems especially mad?  Well, it's cyclo-cross season and a month ago I spent a Saturday afternoon getting him ready.  He got all cleaned up, got new tires and tubes, and basically everything needed to be dialed in and ready to ride.  And what has he done since then?  Hung upside down from the garage ceiling as my running shoes enjoy one adventure after another.  To be honest, that would probably piss me off as well.

What’s the first step in fixing this?  I somehow have to convince them that my legs have enough love to be a rider and a runner.  I’ll give them all a little extra treatment to show them how special they are to me.  And, I’ll make sure to ride them, a lot.  I just hope it’s enough to put us back on speaking terms.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Chasing Balloons

With my Ragnar Relay run behind me, it was time to get back in the saddle and ride. I decided not to ride with my team since I hadn’t been on the bike in a month and I’d been sick with a cold for much of that time.  I had no idea how the body was going to feel so instead of chasing my teammates for 50 miles (assuming I couldn’t keep up), I decided to do my own thing.

Now, I just had to figure out my route.  On Thursday, I checked my saved routes in Ride with GPS and came up with a 45 mile route with plenty of bail out points.  On Friday, I changed to a different route.  Saturday morning I changed it again and by the time I finally started rolling I probably changed my mind 3-4 more times.

Balloon and moon.
Eventually, I ended up on the Santa Rosa Creek path heading out towards Willowside Road.  Of course, once I reach the road I have no idea where I’m going next.  Then I saw the hot air balloons coming my way.

There were three of them in close proximity out enjoying a simply gorgeous fall day.  They were also very low.  So, since I didn’t have a plan I could follow, I decided to ride to them and take a few pictures.  I cruised down Olivet Road heading north where I caught the balloons.  However, there were lots of wires and such in the way so I didn’t like the photo options.  

Balloons over the vineyards.
The balloons were heading south, which meant they would be crossing Guerneville Road over the vineyards.  This is the photo I wanted.  So, I made a u-turn and headed that way.  Once I reached Guerneville Road, I rode up and down the road, while constantly watching their progress, looking for just the right photo.

About this time I saw the three chase vans and realized the balloons were going to land near me in an open field.  I’ve actually never seen that although we see balloons in the air on almost every ride.  So, I decided to hang out for a bit and watch the landing.

My next target.
With the balloons on the ground, it was time to roll.  I immediately noticed two things after I started.  I had ridden a whole 10 miles at this point and I was back to not knowing where I wanted to go.  Then, I looked to the north, saw another balloon towards Healdsburg (about 15 miles away) and took off on the chase.

If you look at my Strava map, you would think I was drunk.  I would start down a road, realize it was putting me close enough so I would turn around and head back.  It was also hard to see the balloon due to trees and hills so I actually lost sight of it for while.

The final landing.
Once I found it again I realized I had gone too far north as it made its way south faster than I anticipated.  So, the chase is still on.  On one road I actually made three u-turns as I tried to determine which road got me the closest.  I finally caught them on Olivet Road and watched it land on the baseball field of Olivet Elementary School.  By the way, this was almost exactly 1-mile, as the crow flies, away from where the first balloons landed.

It was an awesome ride.  In the end, I managed 37 miles (50 would have been way too long) and I didn’t have to think about my route.  I simply made impromptu turns, and u-turns, based on what roads brought me closer to the balloon I was chasing.  It was a blast.

I hope to do more rides like this in the future.  I just hope the balloons will be around to guide me.


Monday, November 2, 2015

My Ragnar Team

There’s a lot that goes into the having a great Ragnar experience. To begin with there’s the running (see My Ragnar Run).  Lots and lots of running.  Then, there’s the general fatigue that comes with pushing yourself for hours with no sleep.  Finally, there’s your team.  I can honestly say my Ragnar teammates were frigging amazing and they made participating in Ragnar one of the greatest endurance challenges I’ve ever completed. 

Van 1 crew.
Their website states that Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport.  However, simple group dynamics tells me that confining 6 people who are tired, hungry, sleepy and emotionally drained in a van for 30-hours (or longer) is what will really test your limits. 

So, how did our team come together?  It was actually quite simple.  To begin with, we all work together.  One day at work Lorielle and I somehow started talking about Ragnar and how cool it would be.  The more we talked the more excited we became and a few minutes later I’m sending out an email to a select group of colleagues inviting them to join this crazy adventure.

Van 2 crew.
How did we select who to invite?  That was pretty easy as well.  Our company had recently completed a wellness fitness challenge which identified those of us willing to push the limits of our endurance.  There is also an annual 10-mile run for credit unions, which a few members of our team ran.  Long story short, within 3-days Lorielle and I were co-captains of a kick-ass 12-member Ragnar Relay team.

Since all of this occurred in early April, and the race wasn’t until late October, we had plenty of time to plan.  To be honest, any slight concerns I had were gone after our first team meeting.  It was obvious that everyone would train and be prepared to run.  It was even more obvious that everyone would be willing to pitch in and do whatever was needed to have a great event.

Crossing the finish as a team.
Mostly, it was blatantly obvious that we all just wanted to have fun and that became our single goal.  Every decision we made as a team was based on having fun first, running second.  I think this went a long, long way into ensuring we had a great time.

Finally, after months of planning, we loaded the supplies and ourselves into our vans to get things started.  I was in van 1 with 4 other teammates (sadly, one of our team had to withdraw).  We met at 4:30 am, rolled at 4:45 and were laughing by 5:00.  This was a trend that would continue for the next 30 hours.  

Greatest Ragnar team ever!!!
After just over 30-hours of laughing, driving, relaxing, and lots of running (but no sleep) we crossed the finish line together, as a team.  I really can’t describe the experience.  I keep using the word awesome but that’s not quite right.

It’s been a week since Ragnar and we are still on an emotional high.  As we pass each other at work, we give a secret smile that can only be earned by working as a team.  We talk about what we saw, what we experienced and how supportive everyone was to each other.

When it’s all said and done there is one really easy way to determine if you were on a great team and that’s talking about next year.  We all want to do this again, with each other.  I am already checking the Ragnar web site for next year’s dates.  I also already know who will be on my team with me.