Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday at the Tooth

Horsetooth Mountain Park on the west edge of Ft. Collins has been the trail that always breaks me. The first time I rode their on a group ride with the Mountain High Cyclery crew, I promptly threw up after the ride. Last year I went over the bars chasing Jamie, and that was after getting punished on the climbs. The climbs are steep and seemingly never ending, the downhills are rocky and technical and there really is no flat pedaling at all. Its either straight up or straight down, and I usually struggle on both there.

Well today, I got a bit of revenge. I settled into a nice groove on the climbs, never really getting outside my comfort level and pulling away from the rest of the group. I forgot the heart rate monitor, but I'd guesstimate my HR numbers being 165ish. Hard effort (them hills is steep!), but certainly a sustainable pace. Hills that have typically blown me up to never recover, I was making it up and then able to push the pace when the steepness subsided a bit. The Yeti performed remarkably well, despite being a 30lb bike, it climbed incredibly well.

Still somewhat tentative on the technical downhills, just too cautious as to not crash and hurt the shoulder and be miserable all summer, especially now that my fitness is coming around.

Horsetooth 3, Joel 1.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A good month on the bike

After watching the penultimate stage of the Tour de Georgia online this morning, I was inspired to ride despite the bad batch of weather that was blowing through. At 9am this morning it was over 50 degrees, but by noon it was windy, under 40 and snow flurries. So I drug out the trusty trainer and decided I'd do a a little "Sweet Spot" training today.

After several weeks of riding outside consistently, it didn't take me long to realize that trainer rides are hard. First, you've got the mental fatigue issue of spinning along but going nowhere, but more importantly on the trainer you never get a break. On the road, even when pushing it hard, there are always times where you catch a small hill and just can't push big watts regardless of how hard you try. Don't worry, I'm not going to spend all summer on the trainer, I can't take it but I'll keep reminding myself of this post next winter when I'm in the middle of trainer burn-out.

I decided today I'd try to get in an hour in the "sweet spot". This is a pseduo-rest week for me, meaning I'm at about 50% training load but I've done a couple hard days this week anyway. After about 30 minutes, I wasn't sure I'd make it but it seems I've always got more in my legs than my mind initially thinks. My pacing was spot on and actually found a little deep down to shift up a couple gear towards the end and really push the finish.

The immediate thing to notice, which beautifully illustrates the advantage of a power meter, is how the power (yellow line) stays incredibly consistent but the heart rate (red line) rises steadily as the interval went on. HR ranged from 145 beats per minute to 175 bpm, but power held very close to the range between 238 watts and 254 watts.

April has been a great month for me. The weather is improving, days are getting longer and my fitness is certainly coming around. I use WKO+ to track all my data, but I do like the included software for showing peak records. When I dumped my data from WKO+ to PowerAgent, I was surprised to see that I had entirely rewritten my peak records in the month of April from 5 seconds to 2 hours without really setting out to do so.

The thing to note is that these are average numbers, not normalized power numbers but interesting nonetheless. The riding season is off to a great start.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is there anything that won't kill you these days?

Say it aint so...Our beloved Nalgene bottles that Jill & I both drink from every day at work are now bad for us and may give us cancer. For the last 3 weeks, every time I go to the kitchen to brew some iced tea, I get the "those things are bad for you" from whomever may be in the kitchen. It seems these days pretty much everything is going to get you at some point.

So do I drink water from my Nalgene bottle and hope that it doesn't give me cancer or do I pound back Dr. Pepper and die from obesity or all the unnatural chemicals in those types of drinks? I found it quite amusing that in a thread on a road biking forum a guy was discussing the terribleness of the whole situation when another poster came up with some wisdom:

"You ride a bike 2 feet from hundreds of cars weighing 3,000 pounds each whizzing by you all day and you're worried about a bottle?"

I never buy into the doomsday theories, but as I was at REI the other day I had a moment of clarity about the whole situation. There I was staring at the bare aisle where Nalgene bottles used to reside, now relatively desolate but now featuring "BPA Free" bottles. I thought about it for a minute, then realized that with a pregnant wife it just wasn't worth any risk and that I'd feel terrible for life if I could prevent a potentially bad situation by spending $20 on two new bottles.

So now we've got two new "BPA Free" bottles. Pretty much look just like our existing collection of bottles that will likely get retired. And how do I feel about it? Well again I think everything will get you at some point these days, but why not minimize the risks that you can. So $20 lighter, but I've at least eliminated one potential risk, at least for now until they come out with another study that says BPA bottles can help you live 10 years longer...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A desk job is good...

to recover from all my weekend activities. I go to work to rehydrate and to recover, so that I'll be ready for the weekend. Spring fever has hit the Front Range, and I'm certainly not immune to the siren calls of 70 degree temps and sunshine till nearly 8pm.

Friday was too gorgeous to sit in an office building, so I skipped out circa 2pm and headed to Boulder for some time on the Yeti. I thought about hitting up the Dirty Bismark loop, but with winds starting to pick up I opted to head to the foothills for some cover. Heil Ranch ended up being my destination, as I wanted to check out the newly created Wild Turkey loop. I make good work of the climb, passing 4 or 5 others without getting caught myself, and then headed for a loop on Wild Turkey. The loop was a welcome change from the loose rocks of the existing loops, and it had me smiling. Finished out the Wild Turkey loop, then the rest of the Ponderosa loop before bombing back down to the car. Got in a bit over 10 miles, with 1300ft of climbing, in about 1:08.

Saturday started out busy and stayed that way. Jill and I started with some over due yard work, then grabbed some lunch. After a bit of procrastinating, I hopped on the road bike to head up to Carter Lake for a solid 2.5 hours of saddle time. I had a really good surge up the climb to the dam, likely setting a person best as I've never ever been able to upshift mid-climb like I did yesterday. I threw in some intermediate sprints just to work that aspect a bit, and ended up being able to produce 1200 watts for a full 5 seconds. Not great, but an improvement nonetheless.

On the way home I found some "rabbits" up in front of me, which had me keeping the pace pretty high despite the serious head wind. On a short, but steep climb headed back to Longmont I blasted past 3 people on the climb which felt good. Its the first time since I moved here that I can actually pass people on the climbs.

Got in about 45 miles in 2.5 hours of saddle time with some good climbing for the early season. Legs felt remarkably good considering the hard effort at Heil the day before. Everything was really good, with the exception that somehow while digging for stuff in my jersey pockets I pulled it up exposing my lower back to the intense Colorado sun. So now I've got a tramp stamp sun burn. It hurts, I'm not pleased about it.

Today we washed both cars, finished painting Thor's room and then I decided I'd get another ride in since it was super nice again. I did an easy 1:15 without getting too far from home.

Had a big week, logging 130ish miles with about 8 hours total time on the bike. Any week that I can average more than an hour a day on the bike is a good week for sure. The fitness is definitely better than years past, and the power meter makes me a much better climber as I can properly dose my output unlike trying to use heart rate. Still 6 pounds from my goal weight of 185, but with the weather improving I still think I'm on track to get there by mid-May.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the go weekend

Whew. I think I'm actually glad to see a Monday for a change, my body needs the opportunity to rest up and hydrate. From 6 a.m. Saturday morning till 8 p.m. tonight I've been on the go pretty much nonstop. Very busy, very productive and overall a joyous weekend.

Saturday morning I headed up to WP to enjoy the ridiculous powder that they've been getting all week long. 41 inches of powder since Monday meant epic conditions. I took the opportunity to get in two more lessons on the snowboard to give me a big boost on next season. My first lesson was just myself with the instructor, which really was a huge help. I did some runs on my own before signing back up for another lesson with the same instructor in the afternoon. My 2nd class only had 3 of us, so again another great opportunity to really refine my form and progress quickly. I've started to really get it dialed in, can carve at good speed on the blues. I do still fall more often than I'd like, but its mainly on cat-tracks and narrow, crowded stuff which I think just takes some time. Its definitely hard work for me on the board, unlike skiing which has become effortless this season, but I am having a great time and happy that its starting to click. Next season, I'll definitely be starting out on the board.

Got home in record time (1:40 from slope to my house) and immediately headed to dinner with Jill. After stuffing my belly, we came back home and I started working on getting Thor's room painted. Jill had taped off the room, so I just started slapping paint up on the wall until we ran out of paint. Worn out, I barely made it to 11 p.m. before nodding off during SNL.

This morning started quickly. It was already 50ish degress at 9 this morning, so I took the opportunity to get my bike ride in for the day early, leaving myself the afternoon to do my projects. I suited up and headed out, and then realized the timing was about right to hookup with the weekly ride for my cycling team, Blue Sky Velo, which has an A ride (i.e. race pace) and a B ride (i.e. relaxed pace). When I saw the group, I recognized a few people and asked about the ride. "We're going the B pace" I was told, not realizing the two groups were still together at that point.

I was just looking for an easy spin, so the B ride was exactly what I was looking for. I jumped on the back and before I knew it the group had splintered a bit, with me hanging on the back of a group of 7. I expected at any moment we'd be regrouping, so I just sat on and pedaled. After 45 minutes, we stopped at a park to give everyone a chance to use the restroom, and I assumed the dropped riders would get back to the pack here as well. After using the restroom, I noticed that the leader of the A ride was one of the 7 people I'd been in a pack with.

Uh oh.

"I'm on the A ride, aren't I?" I asked. I knew the answer before anyone even responded.

The big problem was that the A riders had a sadistic climbing day planned, and I was only wanting to be gone for 2 hours. I could bail and ride solo back to the house, or I could ride with the pack and then look for a bail out option. I decided to just go with the pack despite my tired legs and time constraints.

Our route took us up Lee Hill Rd out of Boulder, which features some steep switchbacks to start and a long, griding grade after the initial steepness. My plan was to just set my pace based on my achievable power threshold and just get to the top at my pace. As we hit the climb, I moved to the back and our group of 7 immediately started breaking up. Two guys off the front, 3 grouped in the middle and 2 of us on the back. As we started up the initial steep sections, I found a good rhythm and started pulling back up to the middle 3. As I climbed I passed several people up the road, but could never make it all the way back up to the group of 3 that were 100 yards up the road.

The climb lasted about 45 minutes, and covered about 4.5 miles, with an average grade of 8%. I did remarkably well on the climb, actually setting a personal best for 20 and 30 minute normalized power. I was quite pleased with how resilient my legs were, something that is absolutely due to lots of winter trainer time and base miles. After the climb, the group was circling back around to do it all over again, but I peeled off and headed home.

Ended up putting in a 2:45 ride, getting in around 45 miles. Good ride, and the good legs on the climb makes me ready to get out there and point the bike west for some more elevation gains in the near future.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Catching Up

The dark, cold winter months see my blog posts drop to a minimum. As the weather improves, the number of posts go up. Today was a great spring day on the Front Range, mid 50s, blue skies and not even a trace of wind. Tomorrow, well thats another story with a big spring storm headed our way, which by some accounts could send nearly a foot of snow to areas near the foothills. If the big storm comes to fruition, then it looks like some boarding or road biking this weekend.

Anyway, I've got several bike projects in the works so here's the quick update:

My "Arkansas" bike is waiting on the hand-me-down wheelset off my Niner, which is getting some new wheels built by the guru of wheelbuilding, Larry at Mountain High Cyclery up in Loveland. Its probably going to inherit a set of Juicy brakes from the Yeti, and the Yeti gets some new Formula brakes that I've been hearing good things about.

So here's is the currently unnamed green 29er Soul Cycles singlespeed...

Jill's "Arkansas" bike will be her tried and true, trusty Specialized Rockhopper. She's getting a "new to her" dual squish bike that should smooth out the bumps at Winter Park nicely. I had acquired a 2007 Specialized Stumpjumper frame, but then ran across a Turner 5 Spot from a riding buddy up the road that I couldn't resist. So the Specialized will likely end up hitting Craigslist, Ebay, or to get a new home. A scored a nice deal on a barely used Rock Shox Recon, and will be building it up with a mix of new and used parts.

The new 5 Spot and fork

The Specialized that will soon be finding a new home

Last but certainly not used least, Ruby got a spring drive train cleaning and parts replaced. My cycling team got a SRAM Grassroots sponsorship this year, so we got to buy parts at below wholesale prices so I got a sparkling new chain and cassette for the upcoming season.

And after blatantly ignoring my newly re-started training plan last night for our anniversary, I finally got my rear on the bike again tonight. Nothing huge or taxing, just trying to get going again after a March that was predominately spent on the slopes instead of the saddle.

So here's the power profile of my Tempo (Zone 3) ride from tonight.

And one last pic of a much happier looking Baloo (compared to the forlorn looking pic at the top)...

Monday, April 07, 2008

7 years and counting...

7 years ago today, on a day not unlike today's freaky snow then sun then rain then snow then sun, Jill & I got hitched at the Stanley Hotel up in Estes Park. Its been a great run so far, and this officially concludes the pre-kiddo wedding anniversaries.

We chose not to do a lot of fanfare around the event, but we did celebrate with a really nice dinner at what Jill and I probably agree is the best restaurant in Boulder, Frasca. Monday nights feature a simplified menu, a four course meal with two choices for your 2nd and 3rd courses, with a specialized wine tasting suited to the menu. We followed the waiter's recommendation and did "one of each" so we could try everything on the menu.

The shocking thing to me was that my favorite dish of the night was the one dish I really didn't want to order, an asparagus salad dish. It was simple enough, but quite delicious even though I'm not traditionally a huge fan of asparagus.

All three wines we sampled were very distinct, two whites and a cab/merlot mix, but all were quite delicious as well. Obviously with Jill carrying Thor, she didn't get to partake in much wine, but she did get to enjoy samples of each. You can't really tell by looking at her that she is 104 days away from giving birth, but she's starting to finally get a bit of a belly.

So we begin the 8th year of marriage, one that will surely show us more change than any of the previous years, but will likely be one of the best too. Things have changed a lot since we were a couple of stary-eyed kids on vacation in Colorado with 30 family members and friends invading the town, but it just keeps getting better and we keep enjoying the ride.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Star Pupil

Last Spring, I picked up all the latest snowboarding gear. Boots, bindings and a really sweet Burton Supermodel board. Fearing injury to my glass shoulders, I put in exactly one run on it in 2007 before deciding to "take lessons next year".

Well the ski season has damn near gone, and I had still not taken any of my 4 lessons I picked up before the season. I did put in some runs on the kiddy slope while Kade & Barry grabbed some lunch, but not sure those really count.

Not really wanting to get up at 6 a.m. and drive up to Winter Park solo today, I debated last night as to what I was going to do. Seeing as there were 8 days in the ski season left, I decided to just get up and go. So I did.

I enrolled in a 2.5 hour lesson, and then talked with the instructor about my "level" of boarding. I can get on/off the lift, and can get down the hills but there isn't going to be anyone wanting to emulate my technique. Rather than teach myself and deal with less than perfect form like I did with skiing, I wanted to get some professional help.

So as 9:15 rolled around, the class formed and off we went. Oddly enough, despite skiing WP probably at least 100 times in my life, we went to a chair area that I had never been to before. The instructor did some basic overview teaching stuff, then observed as we made our way down the mountain. After a bit of instruction, I was finally getting the toe edge down and starting to link turns.

The more runs we did, the more comfortable I got with speed and linking turns. I was starting to feel relaxed, and I was starting to have long wait times waiting on the rest of my class as I was easily the first one down. I had established myself as the star pupil, and the instructor was telling me that she would certainly recommend me trying some more challenging terrain but the rest of the class wasn't ready. We kept pounding out runs, then took a route down as the lesson closed.

Yep I totally dominated the entire class.

The fine print? The class was 2 of us, and the other was a girl who was not picking up on it real quickly. So while being the best in a 2 person class is kind of like being "the tallest midget" (quoting Leatherheads which we saw this weekend), I did learn a lot and got better quickly. I'm definitely going to get in at least one more lesson, if not two and will probably start out on the board next year. Hopefully with some more runs, I'll get up to speed on the board and be a dual threat, literally as I am a bit dangerous coming down the mountain....