Sunday, December 24, 2006

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

It wouldn't be Christmas without watching "A Christmas Story" and this clip is quickly becoming a Christmas tradition too...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A walk (er...snow shoe) in the Park.

Jill & I did the anti-mall bit today and headed up to Estes Park to hit up some fresh snow in Rocky Mountain National Park. We grabbed the snow shoes and hit up the Deer Mountain Trail. We've done part of this trail before, but not very much and we weren't too interested in getting too much of the beaten path due to the super deep snow.

A gorgeous, blue sky day with temps in the mid 30s that felt more like the mid 50s with the sun beating down on us had us shedding layers in a hurry. Snow shoeing is hard work, especially when you are climbing non-stop and you are starting at 9000 feet of elevation.

We took our time and snapped pics on the way up, then bombed down pretty quickly as the sun was fading and the temps were dropping pretty quickly. There are some really great views from the Deer Mountain Trail(s), with Longs and Meekers to the south and a trio of peaks to the northwest. We had a good time, and pretty much had the entire park to ourselves as we didn't see many others.

And as we left Lyons heading towards Longmont, we caught this site in the rearview and had to stop for a quick pick. We get some amazing sunsets here, and I never seem to have my camera but tonight I actually did. Of course this pic does no justice to the real thing what so ever, but I was too hungry (snow shoeing burns 600 calories an hour) to waste to much time getting the picture perfect... :)

And here is the elevation graph from our day.

Friday, December 22, 2006

No Chain, No Chain.

The joking term on the Postal team for feeling good on the bike is "no chain," meaning, pedaling feels effortless. Two years ago, in the midst of a rather tense Tour stage, Armstrong got on his radio and called Bruyneel.

"Uh, Johan, I need to check something on my bike," he said.

Bruyneel began barking out orders, organizing the other riders and mechanics to go to Armstrong's aid.

"No, no, I don't need all that," Armstrong said. "I just need confirmation of something."


"I need to know if there's a chain on this bike," Armstrong said. "Because I can't feel it."

There was a pause, and then Johan's voice replied, crackling in the radio.

"You [expletive] . . .," he said, as the team broke up in laughter.

-Taken from an article by Sally Jenkins

I finally had a "no chain" day. I've been in a dedicated training pattern for a couple of months, but couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with my progress. Yeah I can get on the bike and spin for the recommended time, but I often am just left feeling like my legs have lead in them. I even took a week or so off as I felt my legs just getting heavier and never feeling that snap that I expected.

So last night, against my thoughts of just curling up in bed to watch TV I decided to tough it out and put in some trainer time. My ride last night was just a base conditioning ride, but its a ride I've been expecting to happen for a month or so now.

I had Tivo'd the Oklahoma State vs Pittsburgh basketball game (an instant classic if you missed it), so I had good motivation to spin. I've found that if I ride the trainer while watching Oklahoma State games my fingernails suffer less and I remain more calm as I don't have as much energy to burn.

I start the ride nice and easy, but quickly found myself snapping up a couple gears higher and adding a little more resistance on the handlebar remote just to get my heart rate to the bottom of the range I needed to be spinning within. 15 minutes clicked by quickly. Another 15 minutes passed and before I knew it it was halftime and I had knocked out almost an hour and for once I felt good. Really good.

I kept spinning, cadence staying high at 95+ rpms and heart rate staying rock solid in the 140 beats per minute range. The game tightened up, as neither team could get more than one possession ahead, but I just kept going feeling like I could ride all night. Little did I know that I just might have to ride all night if I expected to keep churning out miles while this slug-fest of a game rolled on.

The final minutes of the game wound down, with each team having a chance to steal a win but neither being able to do so. Overtime. Legs feeling incredible, heart somehow staying in control even though my emotions are up and down constantly with every possession in this game. The first 5 minute overtime comes and goes with no change, and it heads to the 2nd OT period.

Finally in the 2nd OT period, OState breaks out a little breathing room after an intentional foul on Pittsburgh and I start to think they will pull this one out. At this point my legs feel as fresh as can be, even after almost 2 hours of pushing 95 revolutions of the cranks every minute.

Today is a good day.

Pokes win, and I've got no chain.

Blizzard Pics (Continued)

More pics...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blizzard Pics

I've told the story, now I'll just do a pic dump and let these be worth 1,000 words...

Molly does her submarine impression

Baloo bounds through some deep powder

A true powder hound

One worker, two managers

This is usually a walking path.

Now THAT was a snowstorm....

This is our 3rd year in Colorado, and although we've had a couple big snow storms, nothing that compares to what we just had. I've never seen anything like this before, when I left for work yesterday at 6:30a.m. everything was dry and clear. When I left from work at 11:30, there was already 8 inches of snow on the streets and it was falling really fast.

I hitched a ride with Sarah from downtown (good choice #1 for the day) to have her drop me off to drive Jill home (good choice #2 for the day). The great thing was that since we had two people, we hit the HOV lane (High Occupancy Vehicle) and that would be the best thing to happen to us all day. As we clipped along down the HOV lane, I-25 North had come to a complete stop. It was a parking lot, and as the miles went by we became more and more thankful that we were in the HOV lane.

As we hit Highway 36 (Boulder Turnpike), it became evident what the problem was. The on ramp to 36 was a demolition derby with cars all over the ditches and traffic completely stopped in a severe state of disarray. We just kept trucking in our divided lane, and as we merged onto 36 we saw a semi and several cars that were literally stuck in the highway blocking all lanes (except our HOV lane that is a divided lane). We blew past them to find only a handful of cars in front of us. As we drove, the east bound lanes became a mess (36 east was closed due to the accidents), but we ultimately made it to 36/287 interchange where Jill was waiting for us. When we hit the interchange, it was gridlock in all directions. It literally took us about 30 minutes to go 1/4 mile. And we would find out later that night, that we were the lucky ones...

We briefly tossed the idea around of leaving Jill's Honda Accord and going with Sarah in her 4x4 SUV, but decided we would give it a try and hope that the snow wasn't too deep for our little coupe. As we turned north, headed for home we were mired in a quagmire of cars. Everyone just sitting, not moving and having no idea why traffic had stopped. Eventually you'd break out of it and see party lights flashing with crashed up cars or cars in ditches, and then you'd get a couple miles before repeating the process.

After going through that process about 5x and sitting in the same 1 mile section for about 1.5 hours, we got adventurous. We took a right turn off the highway and started navigating our way through city streets and back roads just trying to get home before it was too late. Maybe our impatient reaction wasn't the smartest plan, but it worked. We broke free of the traffic and had a free run of 287 northbound. Free run until we hit "the hill" that is....

As we approached the one major obstacle in our path, we planned out our attack. We'd back away from the other 1-2 cars near us, and carry speed and momentum to help us get up the hill. Of course, we didn't think to account for another car veering across the road in front of us, and having 3 guys push him back into our lane right as we were making our ascent. Thanks for letting us get through guys! Ugh.

In a tense moment, we slowed to allow the other car to get corrected, almost coming to a complete stop. Finally I gassed it and caught enough traction to keep moving, although we were spinning like crazy and nowhere near the top. Luckily, the tires gripped enough to keep us going forward, but just barely. We were moving about 5-10mph, and the speedo was showing 40mph and I wasn't letting up. With some luck and by the grace of God we crested the hill and both breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The rest of the ride home went pretty smoothly, with the only other complication being getting into our neighborhood. With some speed and a whole lot of bump drifting technique, I brought the Accord to rest in front of our driveway. As we opened the doors, the doors were about 3 inches below the snow line. Uh oh...

After about 30 minutes of rigorous shoveling, I was ready to try to get the car in the garage and out of the way of any snowplows (wishful thinking) that may run through the neighborhood. I got in put the car in reverse, and it went nowhere. I got out and looked, and both the wheels were spinning freely as it had high-centered. I dug it out some, then cut the wheel so it made contact with the curb and I had movement.

I backed up just enough to give myself a little run before hitting our angled driveway, and then the real adventure was on. As I spun up our 1/2 cleared driveway I skid from side to side in a "S" pattern with the tires spinning like crazy. I knew I had one shot, and so there was no backing off. That being said I definitely preferred not to smash the car into the side of the garage. Finally I caught a bit of traction and the Honda cruised safely into the garage. The truck? Well its at the bus depot and will probably be staying there for a very long time as its a 2 wheel drive V8 with little to no weight in the back and doesn't go so good in the snow.

More posts to come with more pictures of the craziness. I'm seriously considering skiing down our driveway....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Keeping up the tradition

According to folklore in the White house, I may have been a bit selfish in my younger days. In fact I was probably pretty much unbearable for about 6 months leading up to Christmas as I would begin scanning catalogs, fliers and magazines compiling a comprehensive list of all the things I felt I needed. To help battle this growing problem, my parents decided to take our family and buy toys, not for me, but for the Toys For Tots toy drive the US Marines do every year.

So for about as long as I can remember, my family has been keeping us this tradition of getting together and buying lots of toys for kids who aren't as fortunate. Last year Jill & I did our toy shopping back in Oklahoma with my parents, but this year has us staying in Colorado for the holidays so we'd do our shopping here on the Front Range. So Sarah, Jill and I loaded up on a sunny Saturday and headed off to take part in what has become one of my favorite things to do every year.

We don't take this task lightly, we pick things up, push buttons, pull cords and find stuff that we think would be fun to play with. We get lots of toys that are throwbacks to our own childhood days, and generally just have a great time in giving a little something back.

Between us and Sarah, we pretty much filled up the entire bin of toys. We had nearly 100 toys between us, which hopefully will make Christmas a little better for some kids out there this year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Switch

This weekend marked the official switch from biking season to ski season. I'd been holding out breaking out the skis as I was still enjoying biking season and thought if I ignored it that winter would just go away. Its a mental thing, as once I embrace ski season I enjoy it immensely.

Rather than ease into things, I decided to just kick down the door and announce myself to the slopes. Sunday brought 40 degrees and sunny skies and surprisingly good snow at Winter Park. I felt like Charlie with his Angels as I had a brunette, a blond and a redhead in my entourage. We were on the lifts before 9 and were knocking out runs in a hurry. It usually takes me a while to get my "ski legs" back, but this time I felt really good right out of the gate. The training program also must be working well, as I was skiing full, long runs without needing to stop to let my quads recover.

We took a break around lunch after 10 or so runs, then headed back up to the top for some more quad burning runs. We ended the day with something like 17 runs between 9 and 2. A pretty big day (by our standards) for mid-season, let alone the first day of our season. I think we I will see a 50 mile day this year. Really couldn't have asked for a better first day with the warm temps and packed powder conditions. You don't get 40s and sun in December that often, so it felt good to have taken advantage of the good weather.

Here are the elevation and speed graphs from Day 1:

Elevation Change versus Distance:

Speed vs Distance from Day 1:

Never being satisfied without being completely and utterly destroyed, I arranged for a day off at work to hit up Copper Mountain with The Punisher and his crew on Monday. We were loaded up and on our way to Copper by 7am, and the snow was falling quickly. Copper was reporting 2" new at 5:30 a.m., but by the time we hit the slopes that number was very understated.

John's buddy Clint is a tele-marking ski patrol at Loveland, and the kid can ski. He makes the tele look easy even in the tight, powdery terrain we skied. John & Clint both have great form and look good. I go real fast, but I doubt anyone would ever mistake me for someone with good form.

The previous days sun and packed powder had given way to cold temps with more wind and several inches of powder on the groomed runs. Aside from getting cold, the conditions were pretty good and the snow was fantastic. We skied from the East side to the West side and eventually up into the upper bowl areas later in the day.

My legs were certainly feeling the previous day's effort (which was magnified in the powder), but I was still hanging pretty tough. Later in the day I opted to skip a few of the steep, mogul runs for fear of taking a hard fall due to tired legs but I probably could have done them albeit a bit more slowly.

So the season is off to a ripping start with back to back big days. The totals for the two days are as follows:

Distance covered (up & down): 74 miles
Number of runs: 30
Moving Time: 6 hours 25 minutes
Elevation Drop: 38,500 feet
Max Speed: 46mph

Elevation Graph From Copper:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Divided We Trek

After passing on another opportunity to break out the skis for the first time this year, Jill and I headed up to the Continental Divide with the pups for some snow shoeing action yesterday morning. Temps were in the single digits at best, but the blue skies were inviting and being in the sun felt great.

So we loaded up all our gear and headed up to the Camp Dick area, where we'd jump on the Sourdough Trail and see how far we could go. Our first and only attempt to snow shoe last year wasn't so successful, as we zigged and zagged continuously for about a mile around Bear Lake in RMNP before Jill decided she was done with snow shoeing for that day.

Yesterday started out a little sketchy, I turned onto the road road and it proved to be a serious adventure for my 2 wheel drive truck. We weren't sure we were going to make it out of the valley, and pretty positive if we did it would be with guard rail damage along the entire passenger side. But hey guardrail damage sure beats plunging off a cliff right?

Once that was behind us, we found our way to the trail head and started stomping snow as quickly as we could. The dogs were quite happy to be out, and they yo-yoed off the front of us as we stomped along. We were actually making pretty good time as the terrain isn't as steep initially like Lion's Gulch we hike at so often.

We met a couple other people out, most of whom had pooches with them as well. One couple had a male version of Molly, who jumped and played with our two as he passed. I think Baloo might have even been confused, as he normally pays little attention to other dogs, but took off with the male impostor before we called him back.

Up on the divide the wind was howling, but in the tree cover it was pretty reasonable. We've accumulated some really nice cold weather gear (Pearl Izumi Am-Fib tights are a godsend), so the single digits temps coupled with 30mph wind really wasn't too bad, especially in the trees. Also, it doesn't take long to realize that snow shoeing is a really good exercise. You start warming up in a hurry when your bundled up and you are climbing an incline with snow shoes on.

We did about a 3 mile out and back, which judging from how tired and sore the dogs were last night, was probably about right. Had we not had the dogs and been quite hungry ourselves, we surely would have gone a little further. Regardless this was a MUCH better experience than our first time, and I think Jill actually enjoyed it this time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

November Training Wrap Up

Well I wrapped up my first real month of training last night with a 80 minute endurance building ride. Overall I'm pretty happy with how my first month of prep work for the 07 riding season has gone. I've been warned not to push too much, too soon this off season for fear of being over trained and burned out next summer, but I get two mandatory days of rest each week and when I start skiing more the days off the bike will certainly increase.

So here are the dissected numbers from November:

22 days with a training exercise
9 rest days

1589 minutes training time, which is roughly 26.5 hours
Average training time of 72 minutes per exercise

The majority of the work was done at 70-75% of lactic threshold. Some days I did easier recovery rides in the 60% LT range and a couple of days I did hard rides on the mountain bike. A fairly good start IMO.

And for the most telling number...

Weight on November 1 - 201
Weight on November 26 (last official weigh-in) - 198

Yeah 3 pounds doesn't sound like much for a full day on the bike (mostly trainer indoors), but considering the number of huge meals I ate during the course of my 2 weeks of Thanksgiving celebrations I would consider holding a steady weight a big accomplishment. My ultimate goal is 185, so 13 pounds to go.

I could start a diet and reach that number pretty quickly I'm sure, but I'm not the diet type. I like to eat, so my only real answer is to exercise more, which is what I'm doing.

So is this just about losing weight? Not really. I've got my eye on some major rides/races next summer, including The Laramie Enduro (a 70ish mile mountain bike race with 7k elevation gain) and the Triple Bypass (profile below), which is basically riding from Denver to Vail up and over 3 mountain passes.

The other interesting ride is the Tulsa Tough back to back Century rides. As if 2 back to back 100 mile rides wasn't enough, if you can finish them both in 5 hours (20 mph average), then you get a special "Deuce" jersey and of course the well deserved bragging rights. The thing that intrigues me about this race is how much more prepared I'd be for them compared to something here in Colorado, given the lower altitude and much more forgiving climbing. Of course, you do have the inevitable Oklahoma wind and scorching heat that will surely be a factor in June.

A lot to ponder for the upcoming season, but then again that is what winter is for...

"I'm always thinking one step ahead. Like a carpenter who builds stairs" - Andy Bernard from The Office.