Back at It

It’s been some time since I’ve posted. I’ve been riding, on and off, as the motivation hits me. Mostly, I’ve wrestled with the notion that riding should be FUN, first and foremost. It hasn’t worked very well. Even the prospect of socializing, fresh air, and fun hasn’t done much to keep the riding regular and productive; there’s just so much to distract me…both unavoidable and self-inflicted.

The last few weeks have been a little better…regular training sessions on the Kickr (the quality/time ratio is MUCH more appealing on the trainer), an effective healthy diet, and weight training. But, I’ve been through all this before; how do I keep it up? Even goals don’t seem to help; all the big rides slipped by this year without my entry.

I’m going a different route. I’m riding because I like to ride. I like the way riding makes me feel. Little goals to improve my fitness. No big long-term desires to associated with the sport. It’s fine all on its own. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone; I’m just doing it because it’s fun and good for me.

Of course, Monday I have my first colonoscopy. So THAT should be fun.

Psychology

Cycling is work. I enjoy the work, so I work too much, and then cycling stops being fun and I suddenly stop working. You could call it burn-out, but it’s a cycle I’ve lived with since buying my first racing bike in 1988.

I don’t know what it is, but something COMPELS me to train when I’m on the bike. So many people rave about the fun, relaxing rides they have completed, but my stories seem to consist of training missions and bike photos. What to do? What to do?

After a few months of good training last year, something inside me snapped. I didn’t ride; I didn’t WANT to ride. I thought about the agony of doing another set of intervals, and just went and found something else I could do until I could argue it was too dark to ride. Isn’t it fun, having these rationalization arguments with yourself?

So, I gained from 228# back to 240#.

And here I am, two weeks out from beginning another season of training. I’m doing things a bit differently, this time, with the idea that shaking up my training and resetting goals will help the lifestyle change stick:

1. Riding more than about 65 miles (let’s say a metric century) is unappealing to me. I should train to ride FAST for an hour or two, and that’s all I really want to do. 40k Time trials seem awfully appealing to someone with my size and power profile, unless they intend to build a velodrome in Tallahassee so I can start match-sprinting again.
2. Ride more. I’m sticking with easy recovery rides on days off. But I just said I don’t ride without training, so how do I do that? Easy:
3. Ride bikes I don’t train on. I have a 36er and a pathway racer. Neither are training bikes, and neither would really provide a “normal” workout. So, they’re easy to relax and ride, as they don’t compel me to train.

So, this is my plan. Make cycling fun again, instead of work.

A 36er on Single-track

Weekend rides were GREAT! Took the Black Sheep Darkness 36er out on Redbug Trail over the weekend. Not sure this was such a great idea, as the bike–while it smooths out EVERY bump–is squirrely as heck on the slick, off-camber roots on the local single track. I spent the first part of the ride wrestling with a back end that did NOT want to stay under me. Finally, in a low-speed sandy turn, it slipped and unceremoniously dropped me in the bushes. No harm, no foul…just enough to convince me to get OFF the single track and onto the MUP, where the big wheels eat up ground and excite everyone into spontaneous conversation.

I got a Coke at Higher Ground and of course, let EVERYONE ride the 36er. I love talking about bikes, and it’s the perfect bike to put a smile on your face and get the conversation started. Even at 6’3″, it makes me feel like I am on my Dad’s bike, again, just swallowed up in the space between the wheels.

Riding back, I stuck to the MUP.

FOR SALE: 1983 Pogliaghi 58.5 x 57.5 – $1200 shipped

One of my favorite bikes, this Pogliaghi was built around the time of Sante Pogliaghi’s departure from the marque. The bike was originally finished in black and chrome and the 80’s Pogliaghi livery, but was refinished in the classic scheme by Noah Rosen at Velocolour. There’s nothing in particular wrong with this bike; I have simply replaced it with one that is a bit larger and custom-painted by Cyclart to duplicate an interesting 1986 scheme from Bicycle Guide. (See my blog.)

The serial number is on the lower headtube and placed it somewhere around 81-83 in the sequential production list. Unfortunately, it was over-coated when the refinishing was done. (Yeah, I know.)

This bike was also photographed and described in this thread:
http://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=164225

The bottom bracket is ITALIAN threaded.
The bike requires a QUILL stem.
The bike requires a BRAZE-ON front derailleur.
The bike has DOWNTUBE SHIFTER BRAZE-ONS, but adapters fit fine.
Rear spacing is 126mm, but 130mm hubs fit easily.

Bike is clean and rust-free. There are two spots of paint rub, one on the left chainstay, and the other between the shift braze-ons on the downtube. I have tried to photograph them accurately.

Sale includes:
Pogliaghi frame and fork
Chris King headset
Bottle cage

Measurements:
Seat-tube: 58.5cm C-to-C
Top-tube: 57.5cm C-to-C
Headtube: 17.5cm

I’m a bike guy. I know how to ship bikes and I want you to be happy!

66 Pounds

Weight: 227.8 pounds (103.33kg)
Body Fat: 29.1%
VO2MAX (calculated): 40.96 ml/kg/min

Imagine a 50-pound bag of salt, dog food, sand, whatever. Now add 20% or so MORE to that bag. Now imagine that bike strapped to your bike as you go off on a ride. Lots of fun, yes?

I had a BOD Pod body composition test, today, thanks to the Florida State University Fitness and Movement Clinic. The BOD Pod is an Air Displacement Plethysmography device, which measures mass and volume of the test subject to determine the subject’s density. From this, determinations about body composition can be made (more about this in Cosmed’s Paper, Air Displacement Plethysmography). It’s an interesting system that promises greater accuracy with fewer chances for error compared to skin-fold caliper, Dual-Energy X-Ray, and the old “dunk tank.”

Thus, today, I was very accurately told that I am FAT. To be precise, I have 66 pounds of FAT hanging off my 6’3″ frame.

To be fair, one needs a bit of fat, to cushion one’s organs, to regulate body temperature, as energy stores…no fat is a ludicrous proposition. However, pro cyclists see body fat ranges of 5.5-7%, a far cry from the 29.1% that I am lugging about. Humans need at least 2-5% body fat, and 10% is a good, fit amount for a non-professional to carry, so realistically, I’m carrying around at least 43 pounds of crap that I don’t need.

This is the point where the fat-acceptance SJWs step in and start squealing, and if I were one, I’d be raving about my progress while shoring up my ego about being happy with myself. I am happy with what has happened, so far, I admit, but I have a long way to go. My next goal is sub-100kg (<220 lbs), at 215 pounds. That's an arbitrary October 2016 goal, and I'm projecting I'll make it at day 110 (this is day 41 on my chart); that's around August 10th. This assumes a linear fit to the curve, and that I won't come across some motivational or biological plateau. (Most things in nature seem to fit natural logarithms, and things that aren't...bother me.) And 215 pounds is still 22 pounds away from the 193 pounds I’d need to way at 15% body fat.

But the point of the exercise is not weight-loss. I need to be faster. I need to be faster, fitter, and more capable on the bike. And, in a sport where power-to-weight ratio is everything, I can only increase power or decrease weight. I’m trying to do both.

Rest week

Weight: 233.4 pounds (105.9 Kg)
Resting HR: 54 bpm
Resting BP: 106/66
FTP: 190 Watts (estimated from current numbers in WKO+)
VO2MAX: 40.1 mL/Kg/min (based solely on weight loss)

It’s a rest week…or a rest-couple-of-days…and it’s driving me crazy. I’ve come home and fallen asleep on the couch every night this week, so far. Luckily, I have to get back to training today. I’ll be moving into a couple of days of 4×8 Threshold intervals, which I’m looking forward to, but with a little nervousness. I’ve done FTP work, of course, but this promises to be an intense couple of workouts.

I’m happy to see my VO2MAX move into the 40s. This number is based solely on the weight-loss and the prior test, so there’s nothing else being taken into account, and I didn’t TEST to get this number. I feel stronger and people are telling me that I look thinner; that’s a good side effect of the training. I’m still a sack of stuffing, next to a CYCLIST, but perhaps it’s “diet stuffing” rather than the full-fat-and-carbs everyone would rather eat.

I was fortunate to install SRAM Red ETAP on a training bike, and will be riding it with a review forthcoming. First impression, though….WOW…this stuff is the future. Still:

1. The comparative slowness of shifting that has been reported by others DOES exist, but it’s not sluggish. It’s just not as fast as a Shimano Dura Ace Di2 group that’s been setup correctly. I will be trying the ETAP group with a Shimano cassette and chain, which I have heard improves the shifting. That said, it’s not BAD. It’s FAST. But then, I grew up with six-speed friction shifters.
2. The installation is EASY. You setup the derailleurs in a pairing-mode, then click the shifters. Done.
3. I don’t know how long the batteries last, nor how long they take to charge, though I have heard the charge is considerably shorter than that of Di2. Will report on this.
4. GRIPE: There are TWO batteries, and ONE charger included. Being a little weird about batteries (ever had a camera battery go out of production?), I bought two extra batteries and another charger. The power supply has two USB ports just for this purpose, so SRAM was clearly thinking about this issue, but requiring you to purchase another charger was just too appealing.
5. If you have Etap, people will ask, “Are the brakes wireless, too?” Heh.

I’m going to put my feet up. See you on the road!

One week down.


Weight: 238.4 pounds (108.14 Kg)
Resting HR: 54 bpm
Resting BP: 112/68
FTP: 175 Watts
VO2MAX: 38.4 mL/Kg/min

I was congratulated, yesterday, for completing my first week of coached training. It’s much like being congratulated for getting off the flight in Nepal, when the entirety of Everest still darkly looms in the distance.

I do appreciate the support, naturally, but it gives me pause to think that I need to be congratulated for completing a WEEK of physical activity. Granted, I’ve been training longer than a week, but I don’t think my supporter knows that. Have I become so obviously sedentary that I have to be congratulated for getting off my ass? Congratulate me in six months, please!

So there it is…one week down. Coach has diverted me from my scattergun approach to focus on long intervals below threshold and endurance rides. My VO2MAX test showed that my legs were NOT my limiting factor…they felt great at VO2MAX, even though I was drowning in my own carbon dioxide. I need LOTS of work on the engine itself, the heart and lungs driving this hot mess that I call a body. Basically, I need an aerobic base.

One week of coaching, but I’m eight weeks into the routine, and have seen few pleasant changes. My resting heart rate has plummeted, as has my early-morning blood pressure. My weight has been WEIRD. I’ve bounced between 237 and 241 for over a week, and have yet to see a trend. It could be muscle-gain and body composition changes, but I want to see the scale go DOWN. Yes, yes…I feel better and I know I shouldn’t care, but I want to be stronger, fitter, and LIGHTER, too. It’s about power-to-weight, right!? This morning, I was 238.4 pounds, but my weight will probably spike at the end of the week, then dip down again around Tuesday of next week. It seems to be a pattern that I suspect has something to do with exercise and water retention and the “Super Burrito” I had at El Jalisco and the Monday morning coffee-poops. (Too much information?)

On Saturday, the rain that set in at the end of the week didn’t leave North Florida. The clouds kept it a little warmer than expected, so I pulled on a long-sleeve jersey and slipped out early into a light mist that changed, within miles, to a steady drizzle, then into a serious pisser of a rainstorm. I was a little irritable about the mud sloshing into my bib shorts, but eventually committed to being wet and then…had an epiphany..

…I remembered the race at Chickamauga Battlefield where the rain pelted us on the mountains and the water washed gravel across the fire roads, popping and spitting from beneath out tires…

…I remembered the training ride, years ago, when my college girlfriend and I laughed and sprayed each other with the water from our tires, constantly sprinting and swerving to get each other wet…looking for bigger, deeper puddles and washes to ride through…

…I remembered the summer thunderstorm that sizzled the air around me as I pounded the pedals, fully expecting every strike to be the ONE….

…I remembered how much I LOVE riding in the rain. I remembered how much I love RIDING. My training plan was a nice Zone 3 ride. Yeah…I went a little hard for that and ended up with a 381.8 TSS for the morning’s ride. Funny how things like fatigue and time slip away when you’re having fun.

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Fat guys breathe…

…sorta.

Went to Brady Irwin over at Science of Speed, who was kind enough to poke, prod, and torture me test my blood lactate and VO2 MAX.

The test was conclusive; I’m old, fat, and slow. Apparently, this corresponds to a VO2 MAX of around 38.4 and a lactate threshold at a heart rate of 155bpm.

I’m a fan of American Flyers, so I expected a cheering crowd, a surprisingly amazing performance, and an invitation to a pro team. (Thanks for going behind the screen to chuckle, Brady.) Instead, I spent twenty-three minutes lurching at the pedals of a Racermate Velotron while Brady flashed back to the Twilight novels with regular bloodsucking from the fingers on my left hand. Pedal three minutes, the power goes up, and here comes the poky-blood-thing. In between bloodlettings, I attempted to eat the plastic apparatus that so lovingly collected my breath and rather-copious drool. Twenty-three of the longest minutes ever.

Afterward, I was allowed a break, which meant I should hurry up and pee, then get back on the bike and spin some more. I did well at part of this, but it didn’t affect my score.

Then, it was more drool-collection. Unfortunately, without the incentive of the pointy stick, I did not pedal as well. Brady showed me a timer that taunted me with eight minutes. Eight. I can ride for eight minutes…of course I can. David beat 23:14 and he was on a TREADMILL. Eight minutes.

Eight minutes is a LONG time.

Every minute, the power went up. Surprisingly, my legs felt fine. Brady said I could stand if I needed to, but I remained seated. The clock ticked by.

At around 6:30 (325 watts), I noticed something was broken. My legs were going, no problem. Breathing IN was easy. Breathing OUT was tough…damned tough. I was drowning in my own waste CO2. Nothing I did would get it OUT of me. I kept gasping more IN, but the breath just stuck inside me. I pushed and shoved it out…6:45….6:50…

I gave up at a couple of seconds after seven minutes, when panic set in. I’ve never felt that sort of panic before. I was fine, moving strong, legs feeling good, but everything inside of me suddenly stopped, turned to look me in the eye, and said, “You’re going to DIE.” I stopped, a minute short of the goal I KNEW I would hit.

I ripped off the mask. My legs felt FINE, but the rush of cool air…IN….OUT…IN…OUT…just heavenly.

Brady was awesome. While I stumbled around in an endorphin-haze, he printed out my results, made some calculations, and spent a good hour with me, analyzing the data. It was enlightening, encouraging, and educational, to say the very least. The personal attention provided by Brady and Science of Speed was exceptional. Everything about the procedure was professional and impressive. I walked away with LOTS to think about, including new goals and aspirations, plus metrics to help me get there. It has helped me develop appropriate, attainable goals for my cycling and overall fitness, something that I have rarely ever been able to quantify.

Unfortunately, I was no David Sommers; I did not amaze anyone with my untapped athletic potential, and I only have a Hell of the West Leader’s Jersey because I bought one. That said, Brady DOES sort of resemble a young Kevin Costner.

IMG_1146
My steed.

IMG_1147

IMG_1148
I will be playing this instrument with the Tallahassee Swing Band, next Tuesday, in place of my trombone.

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Even my back is fat.

One Month In…

Setting goals is important.

Being someone who is somewhat distractible, my mind and interests tend to wander. It has resulted in the collection of a wide range of both theoretical and applicable knowledge. Basically, I learn well from books. But, without definite goals…quantifiably, measurable goals set in time…this wandering becomes a hindrance. I’ve spent large portions of my life pursuing intermittent interests but then moving on to the next when the wind changes.

Reflecting on my racing days, I see this inconsistency handicapped me. I trained by riding with friends; if the ride was fast and hard, then that was a good day’s work. If there were city-limit sprints, then I may have gotten a good sprint workout. But alone…lots of long, slow distance and not much else. If I couldn’t get out for a couple of hours, then I probably didn’t go out at all. As my late father told me, “You ride way too much for an amateur, but not nearly enough for a pro.” At the time, I was resentful…what did HE know about cycling? Age and hindsight has a way of re-framing the past, and it’s clear to me now how RIGHT he was.

Kelly challenged me, a month ago, to get in shape…cycling shape. So, with her encouragement, I’ve spent the past month in the weight room and on the bike. I’ve been following the guidelines of Joe Friel, in particular his book Fast after 50. If you want a realistic view of what endurance training can do for you in your middle and senior years, this is the book.

To summarize: GO HARD.

If you have limited time…commitments, work, family, and all the sundry bits of life that get in the way of training…going HARD is far more important than any other type of training you can do. It will result in performance gains, and will stave off the onset of muscular and cardiac decline that men succumb to over the years.

For the first time in my life, I’m doing structured threshold work and intervals. I’m lifting weights because it MEANS something. I’m training in a way that I never seemed to understand when I was young, enthusiastic, and uninjured. (Youth is wasted on the young, right?)

And I’ve set some goals, some close-by, some longer-range in scope:

  • Blood lactate and VO2 MAX test
  • 20mph average on my local training loop (currently at 18.8mph)
  • 1:05:00 40K time-trial speed by April 2017
  • Complete Six-Gap in 2017
  • 3 Watts/kilogram within 3 years

I’ll be honest as I write about these goals and my progress. I want to inspire others who WANT to move forward and find some satisfaction in their lives, but I also want to be accountable to you, the reader. For the first time in my cycling life, I have something real to do and a plan to do it…and it sure feels weird to be 46 and saying that.

Guest Post: Hank Barlow on Training, Getting Old, and Mythological Memories

Hank Barlow posted this on Paceline, recently, and it resonated within me. I mythologize the time I spent racing. The memory of being thin, fit, and fast lingers. Indeed, over the past few seasons I have found myself training for….what? I’m a 46-year-old man whose top cycling form is decades past. But I still find myself on the trainer, engrossed in power output data, checking my weight, reading more and more about training and coaching and performance. Am I crazy? Or is this simply a sign of life?

Hank, as usual, nails it.

Read an article some time ago about Cipollini and something happening, maybe a crash, during a training ride. I thought what the heck are they writing about, I mean training ride, training for what already, the guy’s retired, he’s not training, he’s just out riding his bike. Okay, so it’s Cipollini which means if he’s out on his bike the pedal is guaranteed to the metal. Like Moser, on a bike means full throttle, just the way they’re wired.

Got to thinking about that another day during a ride. Lots of thoughts ramble through the head during rides. Realized that every damn ride I do is a training ride. And I never race. I just ride. But I’m definitely training. Training to achieve some fitness level that floats out there like lines in a drawing stretching to the horizon, always converging but never meeting.

I’m forever chasing this memory of fitness I had years ago, and never achieving. Maybe my memory is wrong, that the level of form I think I once had is in fact highly exaggerated, the brain polishing up the past with visions of strength that never was, a self-perpetuating psychic myth. Makes things frustrating.

I mean I’m riding more, and more regularly, than I ever have in my life. I ought to be in great form. Instead half the time I feel like I’m crawling up out of a damn hole, the legs heavy, the arms aching. The rest of the time I’m out of the hole, but not by so much, always glancing down to see what cog I’m on only to discover I’m on a bigger one than I thought/hoped. Couple years ago I changed to a 27 for the big cog. Just for emergencies of course. I suspect this year I’ll switch to a 29. It won’t be an emergency cog either. It’ll end up the default cog for climbing, just like the 27 became. And I know damn well that I used to ride the exact same road with 39/52 chainrings and a 12-26 cassette! I rode Alpe d’Huez with that gearing, did it in around 46-47 minutes, something like that, maybe 48. I wasn’t a kid then either, over 50, not sure how much over 50. As usual I’ve forgotten.

Okay, granted, last year I did some fine rides including more big rides than I’ve ever done in one year. Some of the hardest too. No, not some of the hardest, the hardest. Like Finistre, Galibier, Iseran, Ventoux (3 times in one year in fact!), Sabot, Solude, the magnificent Areches/Roselend/Pre loop, the Arpettaz/Aravis Grand Traverse (did that 3 times too), etc, etc. In other words for me it was a great year, a wonderful way to celebrate having turned 70.

But every single one of those rides hurt like hell. None of them were easy, easy in the sense of being in perfect form and totally exploiting that strength in the climb, surging up the leg-draining ramps and laughing at how good it felt, daring the road to throw it all at me, no problem, the climb was mine. I remember feeling that long ago. Or I hope I’m remembering that and not glossing over holes in the memory banks. No, definitely I can remember that, the glory of riding well.

But no more. At least not for an entire climb. Just moments. Into a tight, steep switchback and taking the inside line just for the hell of it, to know I still can, now and then. Or heading into some long, sustained, steep, dirt and stone ramp and settling in and powering up with laser concentration of line picking and weight balance right to the end, and then heaving to a stop and sagging over the bike unable to move. Believe me, I was thrilled at what I’d pulled off, but there wasn’t any fist pumping in the air and moving down the cogs while I accelerated towards the next challenge. No way, I just stood there straddling the top tube afraid I’d fall over if I tried swinging a leg over the saddle. I’d made it, but barely.

The worst is I can’t stop. The thing for me about getting old is that finding form is a constant effort but losing form is just a blink of the eyes. Four, five days without riding and I’m going to suffer. Like I’m starting all over again, climbing out of this huge deficit hole. I mean this getting old on a bike business is one hell of a lot of work.

Thankfully there are the downhills. Gravity never lies and doesn’t know age from chocolate. Letting go of the brakes is letting go of the years. At least for me. You know how they like to talk about the retirement years being the golden years and there’s some picture in the background of an older couple with brilliant white smiles on a golf course in Arizona or somewhere (might be dating myself with that image), well, those aren’t my golden years. Mine are dropping off the top, letting go of the brakes, feeling the bike rocketing down the hill that I just busted my butt getting up. Arcing through turns, tucking in tight and feeling the bike accelerate down some short ramp, sitting up for a bit of air brakage while checking out the next bend, floating the brake pads on the rims then diving in, leaned over, the tires carving through. Yes! Just magnificent those burns off the high cols.

But that said, damn how I’d love to just once more feel that joy exploding out from the legs as they flat crush the climb. Just once. Which I guess is what ultimately I’m training for, one more glorious climb of pure power, just one more time feeling the dragons in the legs stretch and spread their wings and drive me up the mountain with a fierce intensity that makes me laugh while I move down one more cog. Won’t happen of course, not at my age, but I’m still crazy enough to keep reaching anyway. I mean sure as hell there’s nothing to lose. Actually that’s not true, there’s everything to lose because the day I stop reaching is the day they shut down the lights, with no curtain call for a last hooray.

-Hank Barlow

Be sure to check out Hank’s EXCELLENT photo journal, Switchbacks Vol.1, available from his site. Hank writes the way I wish I could write, and his book is sure to inspire you to find a few lesser-known climbs under your wheels.