Sunday, November 29, 2020

Night Watchman

Last night, for the first time ever, I wore my Garmin Forerunner as I slept. So, when I awoke today I was treated to a mountain of data. Whether any of it proves useful remains to be seen.

The big number, as far as I’m concerned, is the total amount of sleep. If you had told me last night that I could expect almost 7 hours of sleep, then I would have thanked you heartily because that is not typical. But it was Saturday night and I had had a fairly active and yet not stressful day. I do sleep better on weekends, but 7 hours is still really good for me. The deep/light breakdown, though, leaves something to be desired.

I can’t account for that moment of wakefulness shortly before 6 a.m.  Being awake briefly at 6:30 was the result of my alarm clock. I had set it for that time in hopes of finding a live stream of today’s UCI Cyclocross World Cup race, but I quickly abandoned that effort and went back to sleep.

My overnight resting heart rate was 40 beats per minute:

From about 12:30 until about 1 a.m., the watch measured my heart rate at 33 bpm. I think that’s a data collection error; maybe I shifted my arm and the watch wasn’t making good contact with my skin … I don’t know. It’s certainly an anomaly. The long periods at 40 bpm argue strongly for the accuracy of that measurement. And 40 bpm is a number I have seen before in my own manual sampling, while 33 bpm is not. The highest number on the chart is 67 bpm, the result of jumping out of bed to silence the alarm clock. I know heart rate is a very individual thing and that it can be affected by a big variety of factors, but in general a low resting heart rate is a good indicator of fitness. So, I’m happy with 40 bpm … happy, but not surprised.

Now the question is what to do with this data. Are these just numbers, interesting but trivial, or by collecting this kind of data over time can I identify opportunities to improve my sleep and thereby improve not just my athletic performance, but also my life in general?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Deep Cleaning Day

Further to Tuesday’s post about getting cozy in advance of what promises to be another long winter, today was Deep Cleaning Day in the home gym. Basically, move everything out and then sweep/vacuum/mop until the last speck of dust is gone and the whole house smells like Pine-Sol. This area hasn’t been cleaned so thoroughly since the day I moved in, and it wasn’t too much of a hassle. I should repeat this process at least once a year. It’s immediately rewarding.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Getting Cozy

Things have been weird in the week since you last heard from me. Weird, but wonderful.

Late in the afternoon last Wednesday, my current employer announced an immediate return to working from home. I wasted no time driving to Brookfield to retrieve my company-issued laptop, as it is necessary for many of the tasks I perform. I’m now in my last two weeks of employment with that company and I’m delighted that all of it will be spent at home. At the end of the month I will return the laptop and my card key and that will be that. Working from home for these final days will have saved me a total of 11 roundtrip drives: 726 miles, about $50 in gasoline, and roughly 12 hours in the car. That's not to be despised.

And my new job will start at home. How long that will last is anyone’s guess … probably through winter, at least. Sooner or later we’ll get a handle on the pandemic and then I’ll most likely be asked to report to the office. But in the meantime I want to be comfortable. The nesting instinct has been strong lately and this is not the first time I’ve felt it. During my first round of working from home, 2011-2015, I recognized that some things about the house that had been OK when I saw them only occasionally were intolerable when I was exposed to them constantly. I was motivated to make a number of changes that resulted in a cleaner, safer, more comfortable home. The newest manifestation of that impulse already has led to changes in the family room and the home gym, areas immediately adjacent to the home office in which I spend so much time. New furnishings will make the family room a place where I can really relax. That’s something I do poorly and it hurts my sleep, which in turn hurts my athletic performance. So, I’m going to allow myself some down time … every once in a while. The changes in the home gym are less substantial: a little cleaning and decluttering to make workout time a real no-nonsense event. I don’t want to linger in the home gym; I want to get the job done.

Three weeks into my winter strength training program, I’m already seeing progress. Week One hurt, but by the end of April I should be a monster. This winter will be mostly about fixing areas that I have injured or neglected over the years, shoulders and back especially. Right now I don’t have a plan for winter turbo trainer rides. I’m not sure how much I’m going to commit to bike-specific fitness. There’s still no reason to think bike racing will return to normal in 2021, and without that incentive I will struggle to convince myself to train like a racer. It’s OK though. Even if I avoid the trainer altogether this winter, I’ll come back strong next spring if I stick to my strength training program, sort out my sleep issues, and make a couple of fairly painless adjustments to my diet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Unbridled Optimism

Yesterday I notified my employer that I will be taking a new job on November 30. Not just any job, but a great job … maybe even a dream job. It’s here in West Bend, not 33 miles away in Brookfield, and the schedule is perfect for me. The pay is considerably higher, the benefits are better, the career path is clearer. There are so many things to feel good about, and I’m anxious to get into the work.

How the new job will affect me as a cyclist is secondary to how it will affect me financially, but the changes are noteworthy.

Since September 2015, I have worked overnight in Brookfield every Monday through Friday. Because my work week doesn’t end until 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, getting to a Saturday race could be tough. On many occasions I traveled to a race venue immediately after work, and on many others I simply scratched the race off my schedule because it was too far away or had too early a start time. My new work schedule will fix these problems. I will be able to sleep overnight on Friday, setting me up for a successful weekend.

I’ve had a clear preference for Sunday races, but Saturday races are more common. If the 2020 WCA cyclocross season had gone ahead as planned, then 10 of its 14 races would have run on Saturdays. The Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series has always followed a Saturday schedule, and on the 2021 schedule of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series 4 of the 8 races will be on Saturdays. Having a work week that ends on Friday morning also will allow me to travel to more distant races in downstate Illinois and elsewhere. Maybe there’s an Ill Kanza gravel grinder in my future, or more Heart of Illinois Cyclocross races, or a Ride Across Indiana gran fondo. Maybe 2021 will be the year I get back into mountain bike racing at Chequamegon or Ore to Shore or Wausau24, intriguing events my old schedule wouldn’t accommodate. With all of that in mind I’m looking into mountain bikes again, as I don’t own one right now.

My 2020 season will end without a single bike race. Blame COVID-19 for that. But it hasn’t been a bad year for me otherwise, and I expect to enter 2021 in a position of strength. If we get on top of the virus and bike races return, then I will be ready.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Record-Breaking November Weather

That was fun! Today was the 6th consecutive day above 70° in West Bend. The weather wasn’t just good, it was historically good. Average for this time of year is only 49° and we didn’t simply exceed the average, we set all-time highs.

Why was it so warm? Because we had a steady supply of brisk winds from the south. And those winds were limiting: I rode frequently but I didn’t ride long. I was on a diet of 90- to 120-minute rides during the last week. On a couple of occasions I might have ridden longer if we were still on Daylight Saving Time, but it was hard enough to work overnight, then sleep a few hours, then complete a worthwhile ride before the sun went down.

Over the last 7 days I racked up an even 200 miles in 12 hours. That brought my mileage total to 5,170 this season, the 5th highest total in my 17 years as a cyclist. As I was approaching 5,000 miles I considered stopping there and making 2020 a reference season, but the arrival of this unusually warm weather compelled me to keep going.

My cycling season might be over now. Tomorrow’s temperature will be well above average again, but rain probably will keep me off the bike. And after tomorrow the temperature will drop back into the 40s. I’m cherry picking from now on. If we get another unexpected round of freakishly good weather, then I’m game. Otherwise, I’m done.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Primož Roglič

The UCI road racing season ended today in Madrid and, well, you could say Primož Roglič had a good 2020 campaign. But whether he had success or failure, he always conducted himself with class. I mean …

Here he is moments after losing the Tour de France on the next-to-last day, embracing the winner, Tadej Pogačar:

And here he is after securing overall victory in the Vuelta a España on the next-to-last day, complimenting the efforts of his closest rival, Richard Carapaz:

Similar circumstances. Vastly different outcomes. Same guy. There’s a lesson in sportsmanship, grace, and dignity. I’m impressed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Finally: 5,000 Miles In 2020

Today was the first 60° day in West Bend since October 17, so after my overnight shift at work I elected to stay up and make use of the warm sunshine. The result? I finally got the last 30 miles I needed to reach 5,000 this season. Now, this slow effort on zero rest didn’t meet any definition of training, but that’s OK. I’m just happy to reach the 5,000-mile plateau for the 7th time in my 17 seasons as a cyclist.

It looks like we’re in for a streak of 60° days between now and next Monday. Care to guess when we last strung together 7 consecutive days of 60° or warmer? It was September 21-27. So, yeah, October wasn’t great and we’re probably seeing all we’re going to see of decent weather in November. With 5,000 miles in my pocket and a handful of pleasant afternoons still to exploit, I’m now shooting for 5,114, which would push this season into my all-time Top 5.