Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Bulk That Wouldn’t Budge

What do Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby and I have in common?  We’re the same height and weight.  That makes Crosby statistically average in both categories among NHL players.  That makes me a cyclist who’s built like a hockey player.

I’m not a pro cyclist, but power-to-weight is a big factor even for someone of my modest racing ambitions.  Check out the weights of these professional cyclists, all of whom are approximately my height:

143    Denis Menchov
148    Dave Zabriskie
150    Julien Absalon
150    Jeremy Powers
154    Philippe Gilbert
157    Sven Nys
161    Edvald Boasson Hagen
176    Jan Ulrich

When February began I said I would try to lose some weight, but I didn’t succeed: I’m still at 201 pounds, right where I started.  I ate a little better, and keeping track of all my meals and snacks helped to discourage the consumption of junk food and soda.  I exercised regularly too: 4 outdoor bike rides, 8 hours of indoor cycling, 8 hours of walking on the treadmill, 2 snowshoeing adventures, and 13 upper body strength training workouts.  This February was measurably more active than last February, yet my weight is the same as it was a year ago.

If I could snap my fingers and magically reduce my body fat percentage to that of someone like Jeremy Powers, I still wouldn’t be anywhere near 150 pounds.  And I wouldn't want to be.  I’ve got more upper body muscle mass and I don’t intend to give it up.  But 175 is still attractive.  To get there I will have to make a much bigger effort than I think I can make indoors.  Daylight Saving Time begins in just 10 days and I'm really hoping for a high mileage March.  In 2012 I didn’t drop the winter blubber until mid-April when I reached 1,000 miles of cycling.  If that’s the tipping point, then I’m still 835 miles away this year.  I don't think I'll be cranking out 200-mile weeks in March, but I'm counting on more frequent outdoor rides to get my weight moving in the right direction.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Winter In Microcosm

I have lived in Wisconsin for more than half of my life and last winter was by far the most pleasant I have ever experienced here.  This winter has been the most indecisive.  It has never been very cold for very long, or very snowy for very long, or very gloomy for very long, or, conversely, very nice for very long.  Just look at this weekend: snow on Friday, overcast but not terribly cold on Saturday, and gorgeous today.

And by gorgeous I mean 34 degrees with brilliant sunshine and no wind.  A couple of years ago, such weather would not have tempted me onto the bike.  I might have gone hiking, but certainly I wouldn’t have gone for a ride.  Today’s ride was a 28-mile celebration on the quiet roads between West Bend and New Fane.  Snow and ice still covered some of the shaded lanes of the northern Kettle Moraine, but I enjoyed even those challenges.  Such a nice day demanded a photo to commemorate it.  Here is the open prairie to the west of the parking lot at the New Fane trailhead:

There are trails under that snow, and it will be weeks before they can be ridden.

Yesterday’s air temperature was nearly as warm, but cloudy skies and occasionally biting wind made the day feel much colder.  I hid in the woods, snowshoeing for 75 minutes at Sandy Knoll County Park.

My afternoons were well-spent, but each morning was a disappointment.  Omloop Het Nieuwsblad kicked off the European pro cycling calendar on Saturday and I watched the live coverage on the Internet, but the video quality was uncharacteristically bad.  Today I expected back-to-back coverage of BPost Bank Trophy Cyclocross from Oostmalle and then another semi-classic road race, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.  But the road race was cancelled outright due to a snow storm, and the video feed from the ’cross race was scrapped.  I did, however, follow along with text updates … to the extent that they made any sense after being translated into English:

Oostmalle was the last stop on the professional circuit for 2012-13.  Now I have seven months of road racing to enjoy.  But I’ll be more than ready for a new round of ’cross races in September, probably starting with CrossVegas.  You can bet there won’t be any problems with snow in southern Nevada.

If only we could be so sure of our weather here in southern Wisconsin.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Contre La Montre

Yesterday the WCA road schedule came out and it contained few surprises.  The series continues to be very focused on criteriums but does offer some road races too.  I don’t understand why time trials aren’t a more popular feature of the WCA season; only two are scheduled this year … one on a Friday in La Crosse at the beginning of May and then the state championship in mid-July.  Meanwhile the ABR series will have four TTs in Wisconsin and Wisport will offer no fewer than nine races against the clock.  (The Kirke Vei TT in Cottage Grove is both an ABR and a Wisport event.)

I’m not a race promoter, so maybe I’m missing something.  But it seems to me that running a TT should be less work than running a crit or a road race.  Yes, you have to manage the start times of each competitor individually, but it’s far easier to marshal the course and to ensure accurate results at the finish.  For the last couple of years I have participated in a handful of unsanctioned TTs just outside of West Bend and, while the number of racers has been small, administration of the races has been handled with ease.

Today I was thinking about where I would hold a TT if I wanted to bring one to Washington County.  I wanted to create a course on which a 40-kilometer TT could be completed with little interference from motor vehicle traffic, with a challenging variety of terrain, and with enough parking to handle 100 participants.  I came up with an idea that I really like.  Here is the location of the course:

Three laps of the course—I envision it running clockwise to challenge riders with the long climb up Aurora Road—would be almost exactly 40 kilometers.  It’s close enough to West Bend, Slinger and Allenton to give participants a lot of options for restaurants, gas stations and other services after the race.  It’s far enough from population to avoid many of the problems associated with racing on open roads.  Here is the course in greater detail:

With the elevation change on each lap, this would not be an easy 40K!
So, what about the parking situation?  Addison Elementary School is less than 1 mile from the start/finish.  On a weekend, it would have plenty of parking.  Rent a couple of Port-A-Johns, put up a registration table, erect a podium, and call it Race Headquarters.

And the school is just north of County Highway K, so there’s easy access to US Highway 41 for anyone coming up from Milwaukee or down from Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, etc.  I think the location is a winner and hopefully it wouldn’t be too hard to secure the cooperation of the Town of Addison and the Slinger School District.  There are a couple of intersections that would require marshaling by volunteers and/or the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, but I don’t see any insurmountable obstacles ...

aside from my inability to host such an event by myself.  What I could do, this year, is invite friends and teammates to test the suitability of the course either on their own or in a small, inconspicuous multi-racer event simulation.  Good reviews from the right people might be enough to convince a local sponsor to support the event in one of the series next year.  Dream big, right?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Full Weekend For February

Yours Truly and Ian “The ’Cross Examiner” Prust at Saturday’s Police Unity Tour Spinathon.
For most people, a cold weekend in February is filled with cycling neither in thought nor in deed.  I am not most people.  My Saturday began with streaming coverage of the Superprestige Middelkerke cyclocross race from Belgium, continued with a 2-hour indoor trainer session at the Police Unity Tour Spinathon, then concluded with the annual business meeting of the Washington County Bicycle Club.  And today was no less active: up early to watch the Boels Cyclocross Classic from Holland, then a complete overhaul of the route details for the WCBC’s 2013 season.

Reworking all of the cuesheets for the bike club took hours, but the finished product keeps a consistent look from one ride to the next and corrects a few errors.  I also made sure that there will be maps for both the long and short routes on all of this year’s rides, though the maps aren’t very good.  I don’t have sophisticated mapping software and even if I did it would be difficult to show enough details for accurate navigation.  My maps at least will give the riders a feel for where they’re going and allow them to orient themselves by major highways.

My competition calendar will, for the second year in a row, prevent me from riding more than a handful of times with the WCBC.  But I am looking forward to the club century, back on the schedule for the first time since 2008.  It’s a great route that I hope will appeal to some of the stronger riders in the area.  With only periodic refuel/rehydrate opportunities as we pass through the small communities along the route, the WCBC century won’t look or feel anything like the 100-mile rides offered by the bigger bike clubs.  Yes, we have no bananas: you’re on your own for food and drink.

The complete 2013 Washington County Bicycle Club schedule is here.  Route details are here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Different Year, Still Spinning

"If either of us is 'The Roller,' Liam, it bloody well isn't you."
As promised back on 12-12-12, today I began the training plan that will restore me to race shape by the beginning of May.  My 60-minute indoor trainer workout included four 5-minute “hill climb” intervals.  In the past I commonly did three weekday trainer rides but this time around I’m committing only to Tuesdays and Thursdays  I’ll do longer rides on Saturdays and Sundays to make sure my go-all-day aerobic base is solid.

For the first few weeks of the plan I probably will log a lot of trainer minutes, but sometime in March the balance will tip in favor of outdoor rides as the weather improves and the days get longer.  And whatever my training plan may prescribe, I will take just about any opportunity to ride outside at this early stage of the season.  Tomorrow, for example, is supposed to be pretty nice for February.  I think I’ll eat lunch at my desk and save my 1-hour break for late in the afternoon when the temperature is at its peak.  I can work with 37 degrees and sunny …

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lock, Stock, And Barrel Adjusters

They can have my bike when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
There is a willful stupidity among professional cyclists when it comes to the security of their equipment.  The latest team to be robbed, Garmin-Sharp, lost 16 road bikes last night and was forced to pull out of the Tour Méditerranéen.  What don’t you people get?  It’s not like this has never happened before.
  • May 2006—Six Landbouwkrediet-Colnago team bikes are stolen during the Four Days of Dunkirk stage race.
  • October 2006—American cyclocross champion Katie Compton loses her bike and a carbon wheelset to thieves in Boulder CO.
  • Sept./Oct. 2007—Nine road bikes are stolen from the Canadian national team’s trailer on the eve of the UCI World Championships in Germany.  The teams from Italy and Brazil lose their bikes after a break-in at their hotel.
  • July 2008—The entire Subaru/Gary Fisher mountain bike team truck is stolen in Quebec.  Fortunately it is not connected to the trailer, so the bikes are not lost.
  • February 2009—Lance Armstrong’s time trial bike is stolen at the Tour of California.  In Italy, Team Barloworld loses 21 bikes from a storage room at its training camp hotel.
  • March 2011—Team Type 1 loses bikes and other equipment valued at €500,000 at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy.
  • May 2012—Team TIBCO loses 14 bikes from its trailer at the team’s hotel in Boise ID.
There are other examples, but you get the idea.  It takes just one guy with a radio, a shotgun and a Thermos full of coffee to secure a team trailer overnight.  Make it happen, JV.

By the way, there’s still a 5812 Johnson Street in West Hollywood FL.  The space is now occupied by We-Kill, a pest control company that probably has access to things like rat traps and nasty chemicals but probably offers nothing with the theft deterrent impact of a firearm.  The J. Chenette Company is gone, alas.  I think the man behind the company was Joseph C. Chenette, a transplant from Michigan.  There are several patents either issued to him or that reference his metalwork.  As an inventor for the bicycle industry, it looks like he was a one-trick pony, but that didn’t stop him from marketing the same device for both firearms and fishing poles:

Boys’ Life Magazine, August 1962

Chenette must have been a great tinkerer, someone who could have fashioned a security device simple enough even for pro cycling teams to use.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Turn 4 The Better

In recent years, the quiet streets of the Wingate Creek Business Park provided a safe place for criterium racers to practice.  Turnouts were small—if you knew the practices existed, you probably were a friend or teammate of all the participants—and the competition was spirited but not cutthroat.  I never had any criterium ambitions, but I participated in the practice sessions on a few occasions and found them to be great workouts.

This year the series will be more organized and, I’m willing to bet, more popular.  Now sanctioned by USA Cycling, the series will be an incubator for new racers who want to build confidence and experience.  And it should remain popular with veteran racers, who will come not just for training but also for the prizes that the series organizer has secured from various sponsors.  I still don’t have any criterium ambitions and my racing license covers only mountain biking and cyclocross, so I’ll probably regard the series as an interested bystander.  But I do want the series to be a success, so maybe I can help at the registration table or as a corner marshal.  See you there!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Almost Blue

One week from today I will begin my bike-specific training plan for the 2013 racing season.  The plan will cover 12 weeks, bringing me into early May with good fitness for WORS, WEMS or whatever.  At the moment it still looks like I won’t do any racing until early June, but if my plans change I want to be ready for some combination of Iola, Greenbush and Rhinelander.

Indoor trainer rides will be an important part of my plan until consistently warmer and drier weather returns.  I’m going to alter the plan somewhat; I have been using the same plan for the last 3 years but I was never very happy with its 5-days-a-week schedule.  This year I’m cutting back to just 4 days per week.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be short, hard efforts.  Saturdays and Sundays will be long base-builders.

A long trainer ride can be a drag, but not when I have company.  On Saturday, Feb. 16, I’m going to join what should be a big, fun group for the Police Unity Tour Wisconsin Riders Spinathon.  The event will take place at the Pleasant Valley Tennis & Fitness Club from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  It’s a fundraiser for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington DC.  If you’d like to make a donation, then contact me soon.  If you’d like to attend, then see the Facebook event page, or email, or call (262) 353-1904, or simply show up for same-day registration.

Since 1997, law enforcement officers from all over the United States have participated in the Police Unity Tour, a 4-day bike tour that begins in New Jersey and ends at the memorial.  This will be the sixth year for the team from Wisconsin, a team that includes riders from the State Patrol, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments of West Bend, Hartford, Jackson and Slinger, plus other agencies.

There’s no Washington County Winter Bike Day this year, and no trainer party series.  So, I’m looking forward to the spinathon as my only indoor group training event this offseason.  I’ll probably be there for the 10 a.m. start so that I can bang out a couple of hours and then relax a little before the Washington County Bicycle Club’s annual business meeting later that day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

Let’s Get Small

No more treats for you!
If you made a New Year’s resolution a month ago, how’s that going?  I didn’t make a resolution, officially, but I also didn’t realize the weight loss for which I was hoping, unofficially.  Basically, I fought January to a draw.  I began the month at 203 and ended it at 201.  I have started to undo the damage of the holiday season but I’m a long way from where I should be.

Sometime around Thanksgiving I abandoned the practice of logging my meals and snacks.  Today I resumed my food journal, hoping that it will encourage me not to eat or drink bad things.

In January I spent 13.5 hours on the treadmill at Planet Fitness, went snowshoeing once, rode my bike outside on five occasions for a total of 83 miles, completed 12 upper body strength training workouts in my home gym, and used my foam roller as part of my stretching and self-massage routine every single day.  That’s not a bad amount of activity for January, but a permissive approach to my diet prevented meaningful weight loss.

Now it’s February.  I couldn’t get to Planet Fitness yesterday, so I went today on what otherwise would not have been a treadmill day.  As I burned 500 calories during a 1-hour workout, I noticed that the gym was far less busy than it had been just a couple of weeks ago.  I think a lot of New Year’s resolutions are failing.  For me, February provides another framework in which to start over.  It’s the shortest month of the year.  Surely I can show some discipline and restraint over just 4 weeks.  With a combination of exercise and responsible eating, I know I created a calorie deficit today.  One day down, 27 to go.

And where do I want to be?  I’ve got a number in my head that sounds good.  Certainly, I won’t reach this target by March 1 but maybe I could get there by June 1.  I think 175 is the weight I need to reach to be as competitive in my racing endeavors as I can be.  My bike-specific, preseason training plan will begin on Feb.12, but no amount of training will yield as much real-world benefit as simply losing weight.  How much does your bike weigh?  Do you obsess over every gram?  If I can lose 26 pounds over the next 4 months, it will be as if my bike weighs nothing!

This is ambitious, I know.  Fanciful?  Unrealistic?  Maybe.  But I am resolved to take my best shot for these 28 days of February and then revisit the plan as March begins.  If I see good progress this month, then I will be encouraged to keep pushing.  If I don’t, then maybe I’ll just accept the “big for a bike racer” label, plod through a couple of seasons with mid-pack results, and return to the podium when time takes away your quickness but leaves my toughness largely untouched.