Why does year suck so bad???

If you’ve been reading you know this has been less than a stellar year for me. It hasn’t gotten better. As I write this I am sitting in the ER waiting to get my X-rays back.

Remember that wobble from last week? Well I took the bike in and there was nothing obvious wrong. The popular theory was there was a new dynamic, be it weather, road conditions, subtle position change that was creating the harmonic when I got to speed.

Today, I was going out for a training ride and was going to see if it happened again with a ride I’ve done before. Coming down Salem I made sure I had a clear path ahead and no one close behind and hit the decent. As I approached the bottom the wobble reappeared. I was unable to recover like I did before and hit the pavement.

Luckily the years of martial arts as a kid stuck and I did a perfect, ok almost perfect, tuck and roll. The helmet will need to be replaced and I’ve got road rash. My concern is my left wrist and ankle. I think the wrist is broken. I’ve broken it before, but that was a long time ago. I’m not as young as I used to be.

At this point I think the race season is over. If I am broken it is for sure over. But even if not I’m not sure I trust the bike. If I’m tentative with the equipment it’s not safe for either me or the other competitors.

I think the bike is going back to the shop tomorrow to assess wreck damage.

All I have left to say is…. FUCK

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My new training tool

One thing that I really prefer about riding on the trainer in my basement is the ability to listen to music or podcasts. I use the time to get in saddle time and get to the podcasts that I wouldn’t normally have time for. It started as a way to pass the really boring time in the basement and it has become a really nice way to combine things.

I looked into if it was safe to wear headphones while riding on the road. The general consensus, and my personal feeling, is that it isn’t safe because it hinders your ability to hear the dangers around you. There were some interesting ideas like the single earbud, but that didn’t seem to address the problem completely. Last year I heard about a technology trickle down from the military, bone conducting headphones. But they were really expensive. This year there was a significant price drop so I decided to try them.

A bit about the technology, instead of fitting over your ears or in your ear canal, bone conducting headphones rest on the bone near your ear. The sound is transmitted either through your jaw or cheek bones to your inner ear. The advantage is your ears are completely open to external sounds and the sound from your music, etc, is like it is coming from inside your head. It sounds weird but its pretty cool.

My training lately is really early mornings with little traffic. I decided to try it out on one of my morning rides and it changed everything about how I view solo training rides. I was really impressed with my ability to hear my surroundings and the music. Having a little up-tempo music made it a whole lot easier to work on high cadence riding and the miles just went by. When there was traffic or other audible dangers I am able to hear them no problem.

You can turn up the sound to the point where you are drowning out the external sounds, but that’s really not the purpose of them. A moderate volume is plenty to give you ambiance and allow for safety. I’ve tried them in heavier traffic and I haven’t seen any problems with hearing what’s going on around me.

The phones I tried are Aftershokz. They are reasonably priced compared to the $150+ I was seeing last year for similar technology. The sound quality is good. Not a ton of bass, but pretty decent. When you really get going the sound will get drowned out by wind noise, but I can live with that. They also are formed in such a way that they don’t get in the way of your glasses; a real plus because I am blind without mine.

If you’re looking for something to make solo rides more enjoyable, I’d give these a shot. You need to make your own choice about safety concerns.

Spring training

So, I haven’t been writing much. I’ve spent most of the spring following my three early season races working on fixing the deficiencies that became all too obvious to me and anyone that reads my race reports.
The problem that I’ve been running into is life is getting in the way of training. Having four children, a demanding job and a lot of work related travel is making it tough to have a training schedule that I can maintain. As I write this I am sitting on a plane that is taking me to the other side of the world.
The plan was for me to get up early in the morning and workout. This sounds like a great idea but execution has been hard because I’ve been getting up too late to workout, or it’s been raining so my motivation to go out is lacking (ignoring the safety concerns) and the past week has been my annual hell week for allergies, so I’ve been skipping a lot of early workouts.
I think the other factor sapping my motivation is my horrendous showing in the spring series. Last year I was generally in the middle of the pack; this year I’m fighting to not be last. The great weather over the winter raised everyone’s game. Too bad this was the year that I lost three months because I was stupid and hurt myself.
I’ve already decided that after Hyde Park and Maderia the rest of the year is going to be riding for fun and prepping for a great 2013 season. Now, if I can only make sure that I don’t embarrass myself at those races…

PT update

It’s been a little over a week since surgery. The improvement has been dramatic.

The first couple of days were mostly on the couch with a bottle of Percocet. The swelling was pretty bad and I wasn’t really stable on my feet. I could get around a bit but didn’t want to push it. PT started less than 48 hours post surgery.

At my first PT appointment they did an assessment of my range of motion. On my good leg I can go from 0 deg to 150 deg, pretty good. On my left leg, post-surgery, I started at 5 to 94 degrees; apparently not too bad but needed work. We went through the normal get things moving routine and gave me a list of things to do at home. From there I went to see my doc and he said everything went great, two tears and some cartilage damage, all fixed.

Friday night was my last Percocet and exercises over the weekend went fine. On Sunday I moved down to one crutch and was getting around pretty good. I tried driving since I drive a standard and that was cool. Then I over did it by trying to do a shopping trip for a couple of things at Kroger. Always got to push it.

Monday was rough and started with PT at 7am. I got new exercises and the good thing is my range of motion increased to 0-103deg. Getting around at work has been good, and I’ve gotten to practice doing lots of stairs.

Wednesday things were better and I got to start PT with a quick 5 minutes on a stationary bike to warm up. It was odd for several reasons:

  1. it was a recumbent
  2. there was almost no resistance
  3. I couldn’t establish any kind of decent cadence
  4. strangest of all, my right leg was stronger than my left. That’s never been the case

I could tell that my stability was getting better. One of the exercises was standing for 30 seconds on just by bad leg. On Monday I was very wobbly. By Wednesday I was much more steady. Today is even better.

Starting yesterday I got to ditch the crutches all together as long as I wasn’t feeling pain or getting tired. I used it a bit both yesterday and today but mostly off.

Tomorrow I get my stitches out. The only thing that is really bothersome is I can’t get enough sleep because my leg is cramping from being in one position too long. Hopefully that will resolve itself pretty quickly or I’m gonna start being really grumpy.

More to come later.

2011 recap and 2012 preview

I haven’t written in a while. Things have been busy. Let’s first catch you up from the Hyde Park Blast.

My next scheduled event was the MS150 in August. I ended up squeezing on of the Mainstrasse crit series in because I was having race withdrawal. I got pulled about half way through but it was fun to race on cobbles.

So, the MS150 was why I started riding again in the first place. This was my third year riding it. Last year I trimmed a full hour off of each day riding and I was looking to improve that this year. My plan was to ride hard day 1 and be social on day 2. The day started off easy and at each of my time checks I was within 15 minutes of my target. I was riding pretty much in zone 2 and low zone 3 the whole time so I felt pretty good about it. I hit mile 60 and was getting ready to ramp the pace for the last stretch. Coming around a corner, I hit a patch of gravel. I slid but managed to stay upright through the corner. Coming out I hit the cranks to regain momentum and something bad happened. I either threw the chain trying to recover, picked up a piece of gravel, or just had bad timing on a chain catch, but the entire drive train crumbled as the chain wrapped around the rear dérailleur. It ended up destroying both front and rear dérailleurs, the chain, a bunch of spokes on the rear wheel and the cables and housings. Not a cheap fix. I knew immediately that this was an end to my weekend and most likely the season since my only other scheduled event was two weeks away. Oh, well, more time for transition.

Taking advantage of the time, I decided to end my season and move into full on off-season mode. I took up running to get a little distance from the bike and refresh myself. I’ve been wanting to get into another activity that I can do when traveling or the weather isn’t conducive to road riding or just to change it up. So I started on a easy training plan to get me to running a 10k for thanksgiving. It worked out well that I had two weeks of out of town travel so I could do something that didn’t require bike transport fees 🙂

Running was great this time. I got to the point where I could run 8.5 miles pretty quickly. No real pain to speak of and I was feeling great. I was surprised as anyone that I was actually enjoying running. Getting back from travel I found out that the Cincinnati half marathon was just a couple of weeks away. Some of my buddies thought it was totally doable.

I ended up taking 8 days off because I came back from my trip with a nasty cold that knocked me out for two days. The next run I did, I managed 6 miles without a problem. The race was 3 days away and I signed up. I thought, “I can do this, make a realistic goal and stick to it”. My target was 2:15 which seemed completely reasonable.

I felt really good during the run. I maintained a pace I could sustain and ran the entire way. At mile 12 I was felling good enough that I cranked my pace up, way up. I ended up finishing in 2:09 and change. Awesome result. After I got home I noticed a pain that I wasn’t used to. I was tired all over but hills and stairs were giving me a problem. Heck, even spinning on the bike was getting painful. After two weeks I went to an orthopedist.

Turns out that I torn the meniscus in my left knee 😦 I ended up having surgery last week and am on the mend. PT is helping but sitting all day isn’t helping the swelling. I’m going to need to change up my routine.

As for 2012, I think it’s going to be a light year. Based on when I can start training again and conflicts with home life, I’m going to miss a big part of the spring race series. I’m hoping to hit the tail end. I’ll be gearing up for the mid summer crit series for sure. I may even try to run a full marathon depending on how my recovery goes.

Overall, I’m happy with my rookie race season. I catted up before my bike and health issues so when I do start racing again it will be as a cat4. I wish the season had ended on a high note but I did manage 16 races this year and a half marathon. Not bad for a guy that just started. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Tour de Cure – Indianapolis

This weekend was a fun ride.  I’ve been looking for a century to do (100 mile ride).  Last year, I did the Horsey Hundred.  It was much harder than I expected and the elevation change was significantly different from what I expected from the map.  When the opportunity to ride on the Indy 500 track came up, I thought to myself, “I have got to do this”.

I drove up to Indy on Friday evening.  The charity ride organizers arranged for a group rate at one of the downtown hotels.  I expected a clean hotel to sleep in.  I didn’t expect to get a room in a really nice hotel.  I’ve done my share of traveling for work over the years.  At one of my past employers the Ritz was a standard corporate hotel (financial services companies are like that).  This was way nicer than any room I stayed in at the Ritz. It was not what I was expecting in downtown Indianapolis; New York, LA, San Francisco, maybe but not Indy.  Too bad I was only going to be there 8 hours and 7 of those should be asleep.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.  I’m not sure what it was. It could have been the climate control in the room.  It could have been the excitement about a low pressure ride the next day. It may have been being away from the family.  I’m not sure, but I was awake every hour all night. It kind of sucked.  When 5:30am rolled around, it was pretty easy to get up and out of bed.  A nice breakfast showed up at the door just after 6 and then I was off.

The drive to the track was short.  I’ve been to Indy as a spectator, but driving up into the infield and hanging out was really different for me. It was bigger inside than I remembered.  I unpacked my bike and got dressed.  This was really no different from any race weekend at this point.  I have a good routine down to make sure that I don’t forget anything.  The biggest differences were I was carrying 4 water bottles instead of 2, the number of people was significantly greater, and the participants were a much wider variety in terms of fitness (4 year olds all the way up to 80+ year olds on the widest variety of bikes ever).  Pretty typical for a charity ride.

I met up with Bagel and Brian at registration.  For the 100 mile ride, they wanted to check the reading on your bike computer to ensure that you actually completed the 100 miles.  If you finished there was a “prize”.  We then made our way to the track.  Out through the pits, through the barrier and onto the smoothest pavement ever.  It was pretty cool.  We lined up near the middle of the 100 mile group.  You looked 50-100 feet forward and there were 100s of riders, you looked back and it looked like riders stretched back all the way to turn 4.  It was the largest mass start that I’ve been a part of.  I am truly surprised that Susan and Mike found us in the mass of people.  The target kick off was 7:30… it ended up being more like 8:05 by the time it was all said and done.

Off we started.  My plan for the day was to take it easy.  I’ve been working a training plan all year and I didn’t want to over do it; I know that sounds funny for a guy getting ready to ride 100 miles.  When I left home my goals were:

  1. ride solo… I can control my exertion that way
  2. try to maintain a zone 2 workout for the majority of the ride. This was going to be a purely aerobic exercise and since it was flat as a pancake, it shouldn’t have been a problem
  3. Go without stopping.  I brought food and water to cover the time I planned on riding.  Good test if I ever want to do RAAM 🙂
  4. target pace 18mph.  This was a reasonable pace for me and should have been around 5:35 for the finish time.

Immediately the group went off fast.  Brian and Bagel joined up with a really fast lead group and I moved fast enough to get out of the mass of people and into a good position.  The first lap was significantly faster than my target pace, but you need to have a little fun.  Get everything limbered up for a couple of laps and then drop into a rhythm.

By about lap 4 I was going pretty good.  I had a nice rhythm going, I was figuring out which riders to stay away from (e.g. small children, people on beach cruisers, pace lines that looked like they didn’t know what they are doing, you the idea).  I knew my speed.  Then I hear “hey, Dave” and there are Bagel and Brian lapping me.  They got into it and every 3-4 laps they were lapping me.  That group was going really fast and most of the time Bagel was towards the front.

One thing I did notice about the track is how narrow it is.  From the stands and on TV it looks really wide.  On the track you get a feel for how small it really is.  In the corners its really clear where they drive because of the rubber and oil stains.  The pros are going around the track at 200+mph several wide in the straight aways and single file in the corners.  There is very little margin for error.  It really gives you an appreciation for how good those guys are.

At lap 20 I decided to take a break to get a refill on water and use the facilities.  (I saw one guy pull the urinate while riding trick, but I didn’t think it appropriate.)  I had just gotten off of my bike and walked over to the water jug when I heard someone yell.  I looked over and here comes the fast group (100+ strong at this point) and I see a guy go sideways, a bunch of scrambling, bikes flying, riders going down all over the place… it was mass carnage.  It looked like the first guy down got run over by a couple of people.  It was out of hand.  Luckily Bagel was in front of it and Brian was able to avoid it.  Several people had pretty bad road rash and there were a couple of pretty serious injuries from what I could see.  It was not what we needed on a charity ride.  I was glad that there were several ambulances on hand for exactly this type of thing.  They were all over the scene pretty quickly.

The 2nd half was definitely harder than the first half.  At about hour 4 the sun finally came out and unfortunately the wind picked up.  It had been pretty calm up until then.  My pace dropped off from the 19mph I had been managing.  At about lap 28 my bottom and my saddle were no longer good friends.  Laps 30-39 were pretty slow.  Around Lap 31, I saw what remained of the large group pass me by as they were finishing; and off the front by a couple hundred yards were Bagel and one other rider.  It looked like a race finish 🙂

When I passed the line for the finish of 39 I decided I was going to make lap 40 count.  4 turns left.  I punched it up a notch and went to it.  The end of it was pretty awesome.  I ended up with a final pace of 18.6 mph and was under my final estimated time.  I managed to stay in zone 1 or 2 for most of the ride.  The only goal I missed was not stopping, but I think a 6 minute break for water, watching a wreck and peeing is pretty good for a century.

If you get the opportunity, I definitely recommend it.  It was an “easy” century and also seems somewhat family friendly.

The difference a year makes

As regular followers of my Twitter, Facebook and blog have guessed, I have spent a lot of time the last two years training for different cycling events.  It started out as recreational fundraising events and has moved into road racing. My first year really riding was 2009, I got serious about training in 2010 and stepped it up for 2011.  I’ve been looking back over my training data and have noticed a couple of interesting things.

The method I use for measuring my training load is the TSS or Training Stress Score method.  It allows different workouts to be normalized based on the effort and duration.  This means that if you work really hard for an hour, or really easy for four hours, they are roughly equivalent.  This allows you to tune your efforts and compare them.  I can then use a moving average over a long period, chronic training load (CTL), or short period, acute training load (ATL), to determine how hard I’m working, how much I’ve improved my fitness and how much residual fatigue I have.  These can all be used to make sure that I am really fit and really rested for important events, like a big race or long ride.  All of this was to give a brief explanation for the next part.

Last year, I worked on my training.  My training was divided into periods of 4 weeks, 3 weeks of progressively harder training and 1 week of rest.  Each cycle got progressively harder.  It’s called periodization.  You stress your body, allow it to recover and can work harder the next cycle.  Over the year I had a steady increase in fitness.  When I hit my big events, they were significantly more stressful than my normal training load.  This means that I saw spikes in both my ATL and CTL.  If I showed you a graph of these two values over time you would see a stairstep increase over the year with spikes at each of my two big events for the year, one in August and one in September.  These were the highest stress levels that I had for the year, and correspond, roughly, with my highest level of fitness.

This year, based on reading that I’ve done, I switched to a three week cycle instead, 2 on and 1 off, because of differences in how your body reacts as you get older.  I think I could still manage a four week cycle instead, but I thought I’d give it a try based on what I’ve been reading.  This plan has been going since October of last year.  There were months of training, 6 days a week in the basement and as much as I could outside based on the weather.  The number of miles and hours I’ve ridden are significantly higher than last year and there has been a lot more discipline in the plan to maximize the results for the time I am spending on the bike.

What I’ve noticed is that my training load now, with steady increases, has reached the level of my peaks after my biggest events of last year and is getting ready to pass it.  I can feel that I’m faster and fitter. I have a long way to go, as my race performances have demonstrated, but it is really cool to see how a plan can work.  And the best thing is, I haven’t even reached the point where I have planned to be in peak condition for my plan. It will be interesting to see how the plan plays out over the rest of the year.

I’m already starting to think about how I can adjust it for next year based on what I’ve already learned.