Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iron, Man!

Every year at about this time I fall in love with the home gym again.  I lift weights throughout the year but it’s different once winter arrives.  It’s better.  During the warm weather months—and especially during the softball season—I lift weights to maintain upper body strength and to prevent injury.  Necessary, but dull.  During the winter I mix new exercises into my strength training sessions and I periodically adjust resistance and repetitions.  It’s great to see the results as I add more weight to the bars.

This week I put pushups back into the routine for Mondays and Thursdays, plus I added deadlifts to my Tuesday and Friday program.  Deadlifts are new to me and I think they will be a great addition.  They work so many different muscles that they may be the single-best exercise for overall strength.  I needed something to work the legs, glutes, core and back, and deadlifts do all of that and more.

So, on Mondays and Thursdays I target the chest, biceps, triceps and lats, and on Tuesdays and Fridays I work the legs, glutes, core, back and shoulders.  I move quickly from one exercise to the next, so there’s an aerobic benefit too.  Each session takes about 30 minutes.  On most days, I lift before I eat during a 1-hour lunch break.  That leaves my evenings free for indoor bike trainer workouts … but I’m not ready to throw myself into those just yet.

Last November and December I was doing stair climbing workouts at my office.  I liked the idea of a workout with some impact to stimulate bone cell growth.  Hiking, snowshoeing and the occasional treadmill walk will have to fill that role this winter.

The overall plan is no different: add strength but don’t add bulk.  Here at the end of November I am 5 pounds lighter than I was last year.  That’s a good start.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reader

Jason depicted with non-ANSI/Snell approved helmet
You know me as a cyclist whose love for the sport sometimes borders on monomania.  You may not know that I am also a reader.  I began a reading program, of sorts, at the beginning of 1997, so I’m nearing the end of my 15th year.  Initially I challenged myself to read at least one book per month.  To go from zero to 12 books a year sounded like a big commitment, but I enjoyed reading so much that I quickly got ahead of schedule.  Currently I’m reading the ancient Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts.  It will be the 323rd book I have read, and that works out to more than 21 books per year.

Now, I should note that in 1997 I was not yet a father and I didn’t own a home or a bicycle.  I was married, had a full-time job and played a little softball, but I had tons of time to fill and books were a great choice.  My reading pace has slowed in recent years as other responsibilities and interests have demanded more time.  In those early years I read a lot of science fiction and a lot of “English class” books that I had failed to appreciate or had entirely missed during my formal education.

The inevitable happened in April 2005: I read my first cycling book.  It was called Fitness Through Cycling and I honestly can’t remember anything from it.  I followed that with LeMond: The Incredible Comeback of an American Hero.  In 2006 I read my first piece of cycling-themed fiction: The Memory of Running, by Ron McLarty.  Then came French Revolutions and Lance Armstrong and the 1999 Tour de France, each of which—I feel sure—also contains a fair amount of fiction of a different sort.  For Christmas I received The Rider, by Tim Krabbe.  It’s an excellent look at the mindset of a road racer.  I also received Bob Roll’s Bobke II, which is a lot of fun.  Then I read Michael Barry’s Inside the Postal Bus, which came off as an attempt to capitalize on Armstrong’s fame.  In 2009 I read Blazing Saddles: The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France, by Rick Yancey—entertaining stuff, and still my most-recent cycling book.

Since 2009 I have gone back to my old habit of filling in the holes of English classes past: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and so on.  But as Christmas approaches I’m counting on Santa to deliver Team 7-Eleven, by Geoff Drake.  Released earlier this year, it’s an in-depth look at the first American team to challenge the European cycling establishment.  That’s a piece of cycling history I don’t know very well.  Must get through Jason and the Argonauts soon to ensure I can unwrap my new book on Christmas and begin reading it immediately.

Jason, by the way, is on a quest for the Golden Fleece.  I suspect he’s going to find it hanging with the skinsuits in Mario Cipollini’s closet.

Friday, November 18, 2011


On Wednesday I could feel a cold coming on so I skipped my trainer workout.  Yesterday and earlier today I suffered from nasal congestion, a scratchy throat, dull body aches and a general malaise.  This evening I’m starting to feel better, but the timing of this setback was terrible.  I’m definitely not going to race in the state cyclocross championships on Sunday.  Since my last race on Nov. 5, I’ve ridden only 32 miles outdoors and only twice on the indoor trainer.  By Sunday I may have few remaining cold symptoms, but I wouldn’t be fit enough to race well and I believe I would risk a relapse into sickness, perhaps of longer duration and greater severity.

Racing in the state championships would have been a fitting end to my cycling season, regardless of the outcome, if I had been healthy.  As things stand, I feel like there’s unfinished business.  Is that silly?  I went into the cyclocross season with no expectation of doing so many races or of competing this late in the year.  Now I’m looking at Wizard Cross in Madison on Dec. 4 and I’m thinking, Maybe if the weather isn’t too bad …

I’m also thinking about the 2012 edition of Cheesehead Roubaix.  Today I mapped out the first of many possibilities for the route, using Lakeland School in the Town of Saukville as the start/finish.  We nearly ran out of parking this year at Goeden County Park, so for 2012 the start/finish likely will change even if most of the route stays the same.  The unpaved roads are the attraction, and there are only so many ways to connect them in a sensible route that doesn’t double back onto itself.  Don’t expect a final route announcement for a couple of months at least.  I have more possibilities to explore.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Lady’s Malady And Me

My wife Maria caught a nasty little cold last weekend and stayed home from work on Monday and Tuesday.  Today she went back to work and she seems to be getting better.  But now I’m worried about myself.  For me, a “sick” day is when I feel too crappy to work out.  I haven’t had one since October 2009.  A cold would take me out of the state cyclocross championships on Sunday.  I’m definitely fighting something at the moment.  I’m not yet in its grip and I may stay ahead of it.  Yesterday it was great to ride in the sunshine for an hour on my lunch break.  Today I planned to spend an hour on the indoor trainer, but now I’m going to rest instead.  One thing is certain: I won’t preregister for the race.  The deadline is tomorrow and even if I’m feeling OK there’s no guarantee that I won’t be a mess by Sunday.  Wait and see.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Memory Lane

I’m working my way through a big stack of cycling magazines that I acquired second-hand last Friday.  (Thanks, Jim!)  The oldest is from 2003 and it’s interesting to see where the sport was then.  In 2003 I bought a mountain bike just to ride around town a couple of times a week to keep my legs in shape for the softball season.  I wouldn’t think of myself as a cyclist until 2004, but by the summer of 2003 I was starting to peek at cycling magazines, websites and TV coverage.  I didn’t yet understand the sport’s terminology and tactics, its history and traditions, or the extent to which doping brought into question the results of almost every major race.

I have made it through all of the issues up to and including December 2006.  In my own development as a cyclist, 2006 was the year of my first road race.  But in the pro peloton, OperaciĆ³n Puerto and the Floyd Landis debacle at the Tour de France made 2006 a disastrous year.  Flipping through these old magazines is a little depressing.  On the other hand, it’s great to see the Fassa Bortolo kit again, and Paolo Bettini, and Mario Cipollini …

There are better days ahead.  Tomorrow I dive into the stack from 2007, knowing that a brilliant Tour de France awaits.  I also climb back on the bike after resting today.  I have workouts scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (a light one) in preparation for Sunday’s state cyclocross championships.  I confess that I’m not 100 percent committed to the race, but as the weather forecast improves so too does my outlook.  I suppose I can live with 30 minutes of cold, but I can’t live with cold and wet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ah, Dreams ...

This morning I had one eye on work and one eye on the pro cyclocross race from Niel, Belgium.  Cyclingfans.com is a great resource for links to streaming cyclocross races, much in the same way Steephill.tv keeps me linked to road events.  Today’s winner, Sven Nys, has been one of the sport’s dominant riders.  Nys won the world championship in 2005 and has reached the podium of the world championships on six other occasions.  I grabbed a screen shot as Nys neared the end of the last lap:

Niel is a small town with one big industrial site for concrete and landscaping products.  Each lap took the riders through the site, where the course was lined with stacked bags of the company’s wares.  The course also included grassy fields, cobblestone streets and other features you would expect, but what a cool way to bring attention to a local business!

Someday we’re going to develop Park Site O—which today is an unknown and unused city property tucked between US 45, the Kettle Moraine Ice Center and Northfield (Bend Industries)—into a permanent cycling park like this one.  At about 80 acres it’s big enough for an outdoor velodrome, mountain bike trails, a pump track and a cyclocross course.  And when we host our annual cyclocross race we'll team up with Northfield and run part of the course through its yard.  The race will finish with a mad dash around the apron of the velodrome.  Someday.

Can you imagine?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Preparing For Season's End

Did you miss me?
I have decided to skip both of this weekend’s cyclocross races.  The combination of travel plus expense plus uncertain weather makes me inclined to stay close to home.  But I still want to race at the state championships on November 20 and I will continue to train with that goal in mind.  Yesterday was a scheduled rest day.  Today was chilly and wet, so I did an indoor trainer ride for the first time since April 15.  And while I would prefer to ride outside, using the trainer actually makes me more likely to follow the plan that I hope will sharpen my fitness over the next week and a half.  Riding outside makes it hard to think about 3 minutes of this interval followed by 4 minutes of that interval.  Inside, intervals break up the monotony and make the sessions go faster.

I will hope for opportunities to ride outside this weekend, of course, but I may have to be patient and wait out more chilly, wet weather.  That’s not exactly the way to harden myself against what could be a very cold morning at the state championships, but it won’t do me any good to get sick in the meantime.

I avoided the indoor trainer completely in November 2010.  But having competition goals this late in the year has changed the equation.  With sundown at around 4:30 p.m. and deteriorating weather conditions, riding inside is a necessary evil.  When the state championships are behind me I will be happy to ignore the trainer again, perhaps until January.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Disappointed At Estabrook

A bad start proved too much to overcome today at Estabrook Park.  I felt well-prepared for my seventh cyclocross race of the year—not over-confident, but I’ve done it enough now to know what to expect.  I had a decent spot on the starting line but, for whatever reason, as we sprinted away I took forever to clip into my left pedal.  It just wouldn’t engage, and in about 30 seconds of chaos my chances for a high finish were already gone.

Estabrook was not a very technical course, so every mistake was magnified by the speed with which the other racers continued.  Having lost time at the start there were few opportunities for me to regain positions.  I was fairly smooth through the trees at the north end of the park, through the barriers and the corkscrew.  I was fast on the singletrack that led to the run-up and fast enough on the run-up itself.  But just about everyone was fast: unlike last Sunday’s race in Sheboygan, today’s race brought out all of the top riders in Masters 45+ Cat 4.  In this field I would have been happy to crack the Top 10.  But what I have to live with is 15th out of 26.

It’s now looking pretty unlikely that I will finish the season in the Top 10 on series points, and that’s OK.  I expect to skip next Saturday’s race at Cam-Rock, but I may give the Silver Lake Border Battle a try next Sunday.  I would like to compete in the state championship race at Hales Corners on Nov. 20 and Silver Lake would be a final tuneup.  But the series continues after the state championship and into December with three days of racing in Dane County.  I can’t commit to that.  The weather, the travel, the expense … I just don’t see it.

My hiking boots are already paid for, and they’re calling to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

5,000 Miles

I have reached 5,000 miles of cycling, year-to-date.  It’s a big deal for me and I’m glad it’s done.  I needed 164 rides to reach the milestone, an average of 30.49 miles per ride.  That per-ride average is actually my lowest since 2005, but 164 rides is the most I’ve ever done in one year.  Working from home has helped.  This year I have been able to ride on days that would have been closed to me if I were still commuting to and from the office in Brookfield.  In early spring I sometimes rode on my lunch break, taking advantage of the warm afternoon sun.  Here in autumn, I still can ride after work instead of wasting the remaining daylight on the drive home.

Getting to 5,000 has satisfied my desire for a big milestone and I will go into 2012 with no desire to keep pushing out the personal best.  I think next year will include more competitive events and my focus will shift to shorter, more intense workouts.  That’s not to say there won’t be some long days in the saddle.  I keep thinking about the Ride Across Indiana, Race the Lake, and my three-day rail-trail excursion from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.

I’ve also got Georgia on my mind.  On Sunday I mentioned an impending business trip.  I thought it would take place this month but it was postponed until January.  At that time I will be looking at up to three full weeks in Atlanta, and I just might have to take the bike.  By then I will be itching to ride outside again.  Atlanta’s weather in January is a lot like ours in April, so there should be opportunities.

Tomorrow I’ll be at Estabrook Park for the next installment of the WCA Crank Daddy’s Cyclocross Series.  If I’ve done the math correctly, then I’m currently 8th in Masters 45+ Cat 4.  In the most optimistic scenario I could finish as high as 4th but realistically I’m very unlikely to compete in all of the remaining events.  Riders I usually beat in competition will pass me in the standings by picking up points in races I skip.

And I am ready to do something else for a little while.  Cyclocross has been a blast, but the weather may soon get too cold for me and my asthma.  I haven’t gone hiking since April and I would like to do some of that before the snow comes.  Let me relax and recharge a little before winter training begins for the 2012 cycling season.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Presenting: Winter Bike Day

Keep this event in mind; by the time Feb. 11 rolls around, you'll be anxious for the new cycling season to begin.  There won't be a trainer party series at Mutual Mall this winter, so take advantage of this 1-day offering.  The activities at Mutual Mall are open to everyone.  The meeting at Riverside Brewery & Restaurant is for members and prospective members of the Washington County Bicycle Club.  If you'd like to add a cycling-related activity to the schedule of events, please let me know.  There's still time to change the itinerary and we have plenty of floor space at Mutual Mall.