Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Womb With A View and The Incredible Tale of MT

It's Hot.

Hot Hot Hot


Hot Hot Heat.

Reverend Horton Heat.

Mr. Heat Miser

I like the heat. I like riding in it, I like basking in it, I like it so hot that I break a sweat brushing my teeth. Monday and Tuesday were unseasonably warm for New England in Spring. You gotta have that. It makes you appreciate a fucking blizzard, and vice versa.

When it's hot you get to see things like this:

But you don't often get to see this:

I work in a century-old converted mill building that made textile machinery for the mills in lowell and lawrence in the bad old days of corporate robber barons during the industrial revolution.

In the adjacent mill pond there are, of course families of water birds and amphibious creatures. I've been here almost 5 years, and this is the first time I've seen turtles laying eggs, let alone an 18 inch snapping turtle. I'm sure her hatchlings (if they make it that far) will appreciate their mothers choice of real estate with a view.

Since it was tuesday, I decided to make the trip up to Plaistow for the tuesday night fights (BOB smack-down). From work, it's 15 miles to the ride, about 35 miles of 'the ride', and 5 home. 55 miles in 90 degree heat, 35 of it race training.


I was disappointed at the light turnout. Of the riders there, it appeared only two besides me really felt like working.

One of them was MT. I've known MT since about 1990. He was a cat 2 during the '80s. During the 90's, he took time off to establish a career and family, and now he's back. Last year he won at least two masters races in solo break aways. Last night he showed up on a new Felt.

And yeah, he can ride it. The guy was cruising 27 mph on the flats and didn't seem to be working hard. It ended up just him and me at the end, I set the pace on the hills but he did the work the rest of the time. Finally I had to cry uncle, I had a hard time even coming around to take a pull. I haven't had anyone work me over that badly on the BOB ride in a decade. The bike was part of it - I was riding my 23 pound commuter, but he would have hurt me on my race bike.

When I got home I felt worse than I did after the vermont trip. I drank alot, ate alot, and now I'm going to try my first TT of the season tonight.



Friday, May 21, 2010

on floyd

I can't say it any better than this from my friend/teammate Mike:

"When this all occurred, I thought that what he was accused of was not of benefit to him that day and gave him a pass. Plus the lab work was really shoddy. Upon further review, I found I may be incorrect, but still, the lab work was really bad. I felt, even if guilty, he should walk. LABs need to be held accountable. If he walked, they would tighten controls and be even better. This would benefit the sport more in the long run.
Flandis denied. He wrote a book. He solicited money from fans for the defense. ...Lies. ...Lies.
Is he gonna refund the cash he STOLE from fans. Hell, he lied to them. Sold them innocence when guilt was truly the case.
What a clown. Now he is naming names. I don't care. You are doing it for personal reasons and your word is trash anyhow. You should have been like others (Millar) and come clean. Served your sentence, come out against other doping (w/o naming names), and all would have been forgiven.
Instead you followed Tyler's lead. Maybe you are his vanishing twin. Now go vanish. "

Thursday, May 20, 2010

H.N.T. - The Zen Of Cycling Part 2

The bloom is off the rose
The honeymoon is over

Yes, I'm mired back in the stark reality of corporate shitheads. The catharsis of the past weekend had been has been thoroughly and decisively beat from my psyche.

Fuck em'.

Fuck all you fucking fucks.

The Zen Of Cycling - part 2:

The start up rte 100 north was difficult, as even though was was flat/downhill there was a wicked north wind pushing through the valley. Even on downhill sections I had to push 200 watts to keep moving. The turn onto rte 125 to start our first gap (not ten miles into the ride) was better, at least we were shielded from the wind. Heading up the first gap, I did my best to ride a comfortable pace, but Solo and Badballs were pushing each other. The thing about these gaps is if someone gets away from you it's so steep for so long that it's nearly impossible to close the 'gap'. Badballs and Solo were pulling away, but I had a long day in front of me and decided to pace it back a bit. This turned out to be the easiest climb of the day, so they weren't that far ahead at the crest. Solo maybe 30 seconds and Badballs maybe 20 seconds. [Presidente] was further back.

Middlebury Gap stats:
time - 34:20
average heart rate - 147 bpm
average speed - 11.8 mph
average cadence - 75 rpm
average power - 209 watts

I can see from the heart rate that I wasn't really pushing it.

(a note on the power reading: it's wrong. Polar uses a strange method of power calculation involving; chain deflection/speed/weight/length, chainstay length, rider weight. I suppose it's as repeatable as any other method (good as a reference), but the absolute accuracy is dubious. I used two different on-line power calculators to check my readings, and the polar was about 9% lower across the board. That aligns with what I've seen on a computrainer as well)

I rolled down the other side to a flat area so that when [presidente] caught up I wouldn't be cold and wet, then have to ride a 40+ mph downhill. Solo was long gone. When you're riding big hills in weather like this, it's best not to wait at the top of the hills. You get hot and wet, then cold and wet, then wind-chilled. I wasn't too worried about Solo riding off ahead. He knew the route, [presidente] knew the route and he was behind, so I decided to pretty much take it easy going downhill until Bad Balls and [presidente] caught up. Once the three of us were together, we picked up the pace going down into middlebury. This road turns into dirt for a bit, and I like dirt roads. I big-ringed it all the way to the bottom where solo was waiting, and [presidente] and baddballs soon followed.

Next up was Appalachian Gap, with a precursor to the climb called 'baby gap'. Once we hit this, we had a tailwind. Solo and Badballs started duking it out again. I started to go with them, but then I thought "geeze, this is nice, it's like 60 degrees, I have an awesome tailwind, it's beautiful country, I'm just gonna plant it in my 26 and spin up". I finally caught up to them where baby gap drops off again about minute down, and we waited for [presidente].

Baby Gap stats:
time - 29:25
average heart rate - 149 bpm
average speed - 13.6 mph
average cadence - 81 rpm
average power - 197 watts

again, not pushing very hard

We hit the App Gap proper climb, and I was feeling pretty good, so I lifted the pace. Solo went with me, Badballs tried but started cramping. I felt really good until we hit the 2 KM to the top mark (they actually have marking on the road). Here it gets steep, and it's when I faded. Solo pulled away. Once it 'leveled' out again I was able to pace him, and he kept about 30 seconds on me after that. I tried digging deep with 500 meters to go, but only got about 20 pedal strokes while standing and in the drops. Too steep, too much effort already. I stood holding the hoods for the rest of the climb with a miserably low cadence (~40). We waited at the top for [Presidente], just for the photo ops. You'll see them on Solos blog.

Appalachian Gap stats:
time - 28:30
average heart rate - 173 bpm
average speed - 8.5 mph
average cadence - 66 rpm
average power - 256 watts

Now you can see I was working harder. My HR should actually have been higher, but the low cadence kept it down.

On the way down I saw Solo on the side of the road. He had stopped at a roadside table where some girls were selling cupcakes. No, this is not a euphemism for anything, they had home-made cup cakes with decorative frosting designs. Got to hand it to Solo for making that call. They were fresh and delicious. [Presidente] and badballs saw us and stopped. Solo told the girls "charge the fat guy extra, he needs to lose weight". She replied "none of you guys are fat". [Presidente], the target of solos jibe, exclaimed "good sales tactic girls, you'll go far". We weren't' quite at the bottom of the hill, and stopped at the small village where we got water and snacks at a Qwicke-Mart. I had a cup of coffee, which went great with the taste of the fresh cupcakes.

Roxbury gap was next. I paced off Solo. BadBalls stayed with [presidente] for a bit, then rode up to us and caught us just before the summit. He was riding a 34x26 and was spinning a nice cadence compared to what solo and I were lugging. Badballs rode by and I took his pace. Solo dropped back. Badballs and I sparred with elbows and shoulders up the grade, with Solo laughing at us from behind, with the three of us reaching the top together.

Roxbury Gap stats:
time - 33:35
average heart rate - 161 bpm
average speed - 8.3 mph
average cadence - 62 rpm
average power - 191 watts

I was working here but had some margin still. The downhill was fun and I would have liked to have lit up up for the miles of dirt at high speed, but I didn't know the road.

After regrouping we headed south on rte 12 for about 20 miles, but it was downhill with a tailwind the whole way. It was somewhere along this section that my 'puter filled up. I knew it was going to happen, it only holds 5 hours of data the way I have it set up. Because of that I have no data for Rochester gap. Of course, this is where I pushed the pace, and of course my hardest sustained effort for the day wasn't recorded. Solo rolled away from Badballs and I, and at somepoint I decided I felt good enough to give chase. I didn't go hard, I just kept up the pressure, watching my power and keeping it below 280 watts. I managed to catch him, then we rode together for a bit, and I gapped him. I kept checking back to see where he was, and he appeared to be holding about a 30 second gap. I got to the point where I couldn't stand on the pedals anymore and had to sit grinding out a cadence in the 40's. Solo held the gap. I could sense the top of the hill, and as I approached the top I got out of the saddle in the drops, dropped a cog, and charged over the summit. I rolled up the speed quickly, sat up to pull up my arm warmers and zip up my jersey, then came around the downhill corner seeing the next climb. I said out loud "oh fuck me!!".

Fuck it, I charged into it. Up over the top in my big chainring, I kept it up all the way back to Rochester common. Solo dropped in about 1:30 later.

The car was only a few hundred yards from there. We got back, and the first order was to get into the SUV and get warm dry clothes. I peed next to the car and then took a swig from my still half full bottle. I realized I still had a full bottle, and hadn't taken any water at the qwickie-mart. I handed the half-full bottle to Solo, and said I still had a full one I didn't touch. The look on his face was something to me saying I liked chelada (you gotta follow this link and read the reviews). I wasn't dehydrated, If I was I wouldn't have had to pee right away when we got back. It wasn't warm out, it was overcast, cool and humid (~50%). Not exactly the kind of day I need to worry about running out of water. Still, 1/2 a large bottle of water + 1 cup of coffee wasn't a lot of fluids. I _did_ drink an 11 oz bottle of mix1 protein shake, but that's hardly thirst quenching. For food on the ride I had eaten a power bar, a cliff bar, the cupcake, and the protein drink. I was way more hungry than thirsty.

I'll publish part three, the conclusion, later. Here is a Half-Naked-Thursday reward for making it through this.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Zen Of Cycling, Part 1.

What it's all about.

I got invited on a cycling trip this past weekend.

> From: solobreak
> Hey we are planning a four gap ride in VT on Saturday. Start in Rochester
> VT around 1000-1100. Route will be Middlebury, App, Roxbury, Rochester,
> around 90 miles and 7500-8000 feet climbing.
> You and any non-douchebag friends are welcome. [presidente] has set us up with a
> place where non-douchebags are welcome to stay on Friday and Saturday
> night. We will ride on Sunday as well, around the stage 3 course for the
> KSR. Please check with [presidente] for a judgment on the douchebag status of
> anyone you're thinking about bringing.....

[presidente] is the host for the weekend. I'm calling him [presidente] since I'm quite sure he doesn't want his name mentioned in connection with this blog.

Of course, after seeing the distribution list, my reply:

From: Zen
>Are you kidding? If anything this seems
> like "ride of the super douchebags",

Since I was familiar with the abilities of the protagonists and didn't have any pressing issues at home this weekend, I bit. Three days of riding in the green mountains of Vermont. It was planned right, A couple hours friday afternoon, epic day saturday, and a few hours sunday.

It was pretty much Solos plan with heavy collusion from the 'host' for the weekend. I'm in a state of ultimate contentment, with nothing weighing heavily upon my mind at this moment - or since saturday, for that fact. The Ethereal Mental Plane I experience when allowed to ride hours of stress-free miles is in a waning manifest, yet still quite palpable.

Readers Digest version:
Friday afternoon - ~45 miles with no real climbs.
Saturday - ~100 miles, ~9000' total climbing, including Middlebury Gap, Appalachian Gap, Roxbury Gap, and Rochester Gap. We took a very easy pace when we weren't climbing (hey, working a 39x26 up an 8% grade for three miles at 6 mph is hard work, I don't care who you are), so the riding time was ~6:20. My Polar HRM only holds 5 hours worth of data with the power module hooked up, so I didn't get any of the last climb in.
Sunday - ~40 miles, including the finish of the last stage of this years Killington Stage race, good for about another 2000'.

No tales of debauchery or idiocy. We generally behaved and took the trip seriously as a training event - that it, no one was criticized for riding hard, riding slow, drinking to much or too little. Extra kudos to [presidente] for not only allowing us into his home, but also driving all four of us to the ride locations on saturday and sunday in his BP sponsored extra large SUV.

If it interests you, this is a longer version, part 1:

I was torn about what bike to bring. Should I bring the Scott CR1 or my Merlin Road 'commuter'? The CR1 would certainly be the choice if I was racing. It's much lighter and much quicker. The Merlin has low-end parts, is 3.5 pounds heavier, but has the bars set a bit higher (good for climbing), has the power meter, and is way comfy. Not that the Scott isn't comfortable, it's quite comfortable, but the Merlin is more so. I don't have the extralight from the link, I have your basic Merlin Road that they stopped making 15 years ago. It's a Tom Kellogg designed frame, doesn't have the s-bend stays. There's no question I would climb faster on the Scott, but I opted for the merlin. I have no power data for long climbs, and having a heavy bike that lacks the snap of a high-end racer could be a convenient excuse.

Friday afternoon, I met up with solobreak, [presidente], and BadBalls (I've written about him before). Since we had too much shit to stuff into [presidente]'s transport, we took two cars. Solo with me, Badballs with [presidente]. Now, [presidente] has a habit of...hmmmm....'spirited' driving. Indeed, when we hit the highway, I've never seen a vehicle that size disappear through new hampshire-93-northbound-on-friday-afternoon traffic that quickly. According to Solo, we weren't in any rush, so I just camped out with the flow of traffic.

Once at [presidente]'s northern palace, we unloaded a bit then hit the road for a casual ride. Hit the road at six, took easy valley roads, home just before dark. ~45 miles with no real climbs. Cleaned up then out to dinner at 9 pm.

We ended up at a local 'irish' pub called DJ's (as irish as you can get in Ludlow VT I guess). It wasn't packed, mostly obviously-locals. We had two rounds of Guinness and dinner. It wasn't wonderful, but it came with an all-you-can-eat salad bar that was reasonably stocked with a reasonably fresh variety. As it was mid-may in a southern VT ski area, there were few hot chick sightings....well, none at all, really. I thought the barmaid was cute, attractive looks with one of those farm-raised builds. Not beefy, stocky, or fat, but well filled out, the kind you really want to wrestle with.....naked.....with baby oil. She had a not-quite-full back tattoo as well, and as any of you regulars may know I dig tattooed chicks. She showed no interest at all in our presence. After dinner we went back to the house where I pretty much crashed right away.

We hadn't planned an early start for saturday, and after all these years I've finally seen the wisdom in not riding until noon. If you start at noon and plan all day in the saddle, by the time you get home it's pretty much time to eat, clean up, relax a bit, then crash. No hanging out drinking beer, thinking of things to do that wreck your recovery. A nice casual start after the morning chill had burned off.

That's the way to do it.

We hit a local breakfast spot called The Hatchery where I really didn't have enough to eat. I felt nice and full when we left, but since we didn't actually start riding for another three hours I should have thought to eat some more 'endurance' food. Good stuff like a cheese omlette and sausage. It wasn't that the portions were small, I just didn't order enough. Solo raved about the pancakes. I'm not a fan of pancakes.

After breakfast we went back and got our shit together, still at a casual pace. Once again, [presidente] offered to drive to the start point in Rochester. Other than me driving up from massachusetts, I didn't get in my car until we went home on sunday. [Presidente] drove everywhere, in part because I can only take two people in my little SUV

Oh, wait, that isn't the right one...

Anyways, but also because I think he likes to drive. We finally saddled up around 12:30, planning for about 6 hours in the saddle. We were supposed to be another of the usual suspects in rochester. His van was there, he wasn't. Phone calls went unanswered, cell service is spotty at best up there.

I was dubious about my clothing selection - a long-sleeved base layer, bibshorts kit, arm warmers, wind breaker and gloves. Temps were in the mid 50s, and I wasn't sure about staying warm at the higher elevations. A 50 mph downhill gets pretty cold when you're wet. I was sure I'd be warm if I wore the jacket and gloves, but kept them tucked away until I could gauge things on the road. It turned out I was never really cold more than a momentary chill on some of the downhills, but thin tights would have been better. I never needed the gloves, and only put the jacket on for the descent off App Gap. The rest of the ride I was ok just pulling the arm warmers up and down. I think I would have been a bit more comfortable with something more on my legs though.

I was really anticipating that Solo would treat us to a novella, but he blew my mind with a bullet list. I'll continue this later when I have a chance to crunch some power/graphic data.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

And Perfection Ensued

Late race reports - yeah yeah....I know, bad blogger.

I did a local circuit race last weekend put on by the BOB cycling team in the town of merrimac, MA. Much like the turtle pond race, this course isn't hard, it's the race that makes it hard. For some reason the Brain Trust at BOB decided to have only one masters category - a 50+. This left me with no choice but to race in the senior 2/3. That's right, there were several riders in my field that were 25 years younger than me. No biggie, I've held on in P123 fields recently, so I wasn't to worried about this.

My team actually had a good turnout for this with seven or eight riders. Six of us were assigned actual functions by our captain, while the others were there for the training. New for the team this year is a cat 1 mtb/cat 2 road racer around 40 years old. In fact, no one on our team was _under_ 40. My job was to ride for the new guy. We also have new to the team a rather prolific break-away specialist, there was another good strong all around rider assigned to keep him in the mix. The other two were to help block in the case of a break or go for the field sprint.

Goal 1: get the new cat 2 or the new break-away rider into a break or keep the field together.
Goal 2: Set up team captain for the field sprint.

The race was fast - faster than most master crits I've done in the past few years - 27.5 MPH if you believe bike reg. I believe bike reg. It was fast.

6 laps, 7 miles each, rolling course, winding old-country roads, about 200' climbing per lap, nothing flat. The field stayed together with someone from my team either at the front or bringing it together. We rode very well as a team, I was impressed and proud to ride with them. There were enough other teams there that without the proper mix in the break, it wasn't going to stay away. Indeed, everytime something materialized without one of us in it, we brought it back. A break finally got established at the beginning of the last lap with our break-away rider in it. It didn't work out well, he ended up 8th in an 8 man break. I asked him who was in the break with him, and he said "I don't know, but I can tell you I was the only one with gray hair".

Since the merrimac race was so close to my house, I rode the 8 miles t0 and from the race, plus another 5 or so. Saturday afternoon I did 4 hours of yardwork, then went to a neighbors house for a cookout, where I drank too much and ate shitty food. The food was good mind you, but lets say that grilled sausage, potato salad, and lot's of dark beer aren't exactly good recovery food when you have a race the next day.

So, of course, Sunday I did the blue hills ckt race. I felt whipped from the gun. I never felt like I was going to get dropped, but I really had nothing I could respond with for the accelerations up the hill. Just like, Purtle Tond and merrimac, this course isn't hard, it's the race that makes it hard. Another 7 laps on a 6 mile circuit, but this one was quite a bit slower than the day before. Of course, it was a 45+ as opposed to a 2/3 race, but this race contained many local legends and luminaries, former pro/cat 1 riders, so it was still hard for an aging cat 3. I had no teammates for this race, so I just stayed with the leaders, followed moves I thought looked good. On the last lap I decided to give it a little dig. Randy Rusk (cat 1, arc en ciel) and Joe Rano (past winner of master 35+ fitchburg stage race, Gearworks) bridged up and we got a slight gap, but the field evidently didn't like that mix, and it was brought back by CCB. No big deal, trying to stay on those two wheels was the most pain I've felt so far this season. I don't even think they were working that hard. At the end, I gave everything I had to stay on the leaders for the finish but could only manage 17th. blech.

So this week was recovery. No plans for long rides or hard rides, just commuting. I managed to tuck in a 90 minute ride home plus a one-hour run on wednesday. I made a conscious effort to _not_ exert myself in the mornings, and kept myself below zone 4 as much as possible on the rides home, though I kept a zone four tempo on the run. Friday morning it occurred to me I had a Perfect Week, the first of the year. I didn't start my car the whole week, and I feel much better about that than anything else.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

H.N.T. - The Exciting Accident (by special request)

Yup, it's thursday again, and I still haven't gotten around to a race report of Wayne Elliot or Blue Hills. In due time.

As I was tweaked for being suspiciously silent for the opast week, here is this weeks HNT - the Exciting Accident