Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keepin' bizay

Last time you heard from me, I was preparing for a team mini-camp where we would be doing six big training days...I've never done huge mileage like that and was eager to see how my body reacted.  As luck would have it, I got slammed with a cold after 300 miles in 3 days.  I was already fatigued and then I got sick....

So I took 2 days of laying around, eating, and reading.  After that was done, I worked my way back into training. Meanwhile, I'd begun work on building out the inside of our team trailer to haul bikes...a lot of bikes.  It was a fun challenge with some tricky design constraints: 16 bikes, all on one wall of the trailer; leave room underneath for storage space; allow for time trial and road bikes in any position, and any size.  Lots of planning and some discussion with Devin later, I'd revised my design and got to work.
Devin and I have some experience with building out trailers with tight constraints.  Lee was a contributor as well.
50 man-hours and much sawing and welding later, it was done and in the trailer!

It's difficult to see how it really works, but I'll get a photo sometime with it fully loaded--I'm just so excited that it works!

With that done, I needed to truly rest for a bit.  I still had (and have) a lingering cough from the cold but am over it otherwise.  My body recovered well and it was time to hit the road for San Dimas Stage Race in California.

Day one of the trip ended with an overnight stay in Las Vegas.  I'd only been through Vegas before and never really saw it up close.  After 16 hours in the road we were pretty wiped out, so we had dinner at the 24 hour restaraunt next to the casino in the hotel (we stayed at the Tuscany, just off the main strip).  Half of the team went to bed right after dinner, and the other 4 of us decided to forgo the gambling and just walk about the strip and see what it was all about.

Lots and lots of colors and things going on as I expected, but it was hard to enjoy any of it because every ten feet you had to walk around a newstand filled with flyers for hookers and guys standing on every streetcorner trying to hand you flyers for hookers.  The ground is literally covered in playing cards of hookers.  Gotta catch 'em all...std's, that is.  Every other car on the strip is a driving billboard for callgirls, and every person that isn't moving is waiting to tell you they have a limo waiting to take you to a strip club.

I will say that the water show in front of the Bellagio is pretty spectacular, though. I just kept thinking of the Ocean's movies. The rooms were unbelievable at the hotel.  $43 for the night for each room, and they had two double beds in a suite that is double the size of a normal big suite.

The following morning we went back to the restaurant for their breakfast special: 2 big flapjacks, 2 eggs, hashbrowns, and a 6oz steak for $7. 6 out of the 8 of us got the special, and a few hours later John was returning his to a plastic bag in the van...the best we can figure is that his steak wasn't so great.  He was over it later that evening, though.

After getting to our host house on Tuesday, we rode around on the circuit course. It should be a pretty crazy race, but very scenic.  We got dozens of catcalls and hoots on our ride, apparently cyclists aren't very common around here...especially not 8 identically dressed cyclists riding together.

Tuesday was Adam's birthday, so he got to choose the dinner spot.  He chose a sushi place.  I've wanted to try sushi for a while, so I jumped in.  4 of us got the all you can eat buffet, and we dominated it.  Over the course of an hour, we had about 60% of the menu, and ordered the next round as each one was brought to the table to keep it coming.  By our calculations, we each ate $50 in sushi for $22.  Good stuff!

Then we went grocery shopping.  Arrgh!  Prices are insane!  Just one example that is characteristic of everything here: V8 juice in Texas and Colorado is $ it is $4.60.  Holy catfish, Batman!

Yesterday and today we rode the time trial course for some practice.  It's only 3.8 miles long, but climbs 1100 feet. I'm glad I've shed a few pounds over the past few weeks! (Yes, Mom, I'm still eating enough).  On an all-out practice run on the course with two full bottles, heavy wheels, and not knowing the course well, I put up a fast time.  So when my bike has been dropped to a barely-legal 15lbs with some race wheels and taking off every unnecessary item (goodbye, bottlecages) and with better pacing, I've got high hopes for this time trial (and the whole race in general).

Side note, it feels good to make progress! The power I'll be putting out for 13-14 minutes in the time trial tomorrow is what I was able to sustain for 4-5 minutes a year ago.

Another side note: my Uncle Bear will be coming out to see me race for the first time.  It's always fun to have family and friends watch you race, but he especially has been one of my biggest supporters for years now.

Now then, to distract myself enough from thoughts of the time trial to fall asleep easily tonight... Oh, and I race at 5pm pacific time tomorrow, 7pm for my Texas readers.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

I was going to play baseball

Not much to report just yet, so this week it's storytime.

In fifth grade,  I—like every kid, at some point in their life—was given an assignment to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I had just finished writing a mini-biography about Jim Abbott, a professional baseball pitcher with no right hand, and decided that I was going to play baseball professionally after I was done with school.

I think most young boys involved in sports make such a decision, and the vast majority of them eventually grow out of it.  I had grown up playing baseball since 5 years old (a passion that my dad had passed on to me and my younger brother), so it was only natural to aspire to make a living at the sport.  At the time, it seemed quite likely that I would (at least in my own head) because I was the best player out there (at least in my own head).  I was a good hitter to get on base or advance runners, was a good and fast base runner, and had a good arm to throw runners out from my preferred position behind the plate as catcher.

Me with Coach Pops (when he was taller than me)/my favorite shirt ever
As I got older, though, my shortfalls in the sport became more apparent.  I was too lanky to be a powerful hitter, was not great at hitting junk, wasn’t as comparatively fast as I used to be,  and my arm was not very strong.  I was a good switch-hitter, though, and still a savvy base-runner.  I had other faults, too: I was afraid of the ball and the ground.  I was no longer a good catcher, as I was too timid to be the wall behind the plate for those crazy pitches, and to the day that I quit baseball in 8th grade, never once dove for a ball because I was too scared.  And so, I played less and less.  I was no longer under the illusion that I might someday play professionally.  My motivation decreased as my bench-sitting increased.

Well, at least I still have my fall-back career as a concert pianist, I thought.

As a child, my mom had pushed me to learn piano and naturally, I pushed back.  In fifth grade, though, she found a teacher that I like and I agreed to give it a shot.  It quickly became apparent that I inherited the musical talent gene that God bestowed on my mom’s side of the family, and I made quick work of the beginner’s books and was soon playing ‘real’ music.  After only a year and a half of playing, I was tooling around on the grand piano at church one Sunday evening and the music director asked if I could play for the upcoming Keyboard Christmas.  The concert would be a packed-house of 1200. I didn’t have any Christmas music learned.  It was 6 days away. I had a whopping 18 months of piano under my belt.

With my mom’s help, we picked out a fun jazz number of Deck the Halls.  In less than a weeks’ time, I learned it, memorized it, auditioned it, and played it to near perfection at the concert.

I was certainly not one of those prodigies you see on Oprah, but I did have a knack for learning a song quickly if I knew how it was supposed to sound, while memorizing it simultaneously.  Over the several years between that point and my high-school graduation, I played dozens of times in church, dozens of recitals, and several benefit concerts.  Although I hate speaking in front of people, playing piano for them suited my showoff-ish personality quite well.

Life goal: own a full grand piano
As part of the natural progression of things, I auditioned twice for a young pianist competition. I didn't get in either time.  The problem is that I enjoy playing music for the enjoyment of it and as I like to hear it, rather than the perfect as-the-composer-intended renditions. If you want to give a rousing speech, you're more concerned with the emotional inflection of the words than properly enunciating each syllable, and that's my approach to music.  That's not good enough for competition, though, and people don't pay to hear mistakes.

So how did I become a cyclist...? 

Man, don't you just hate cliffhangers?
"Hey, you stole this photo from me..." ~Dad

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alive and Kickin'

Yes, I'm still alive.

And yes, I'm now living in Fort Collins, Colorado.  I told you things would happen fast!  Wednesday of last week I learned that a teammate had a room for rent and I made the move on Friday.  Seeing as I now have rent to pay, I'm job hunting--a task made more difficult with the fact that I'll only be available to work 2 weeks each month because of all the traveling to races.

I've always been tight-fisted with my money, but it's reached a new level's the little things.  I've changed my driving habits and have extracted an additional 4mpg average out of my truck over the last 2000 miles, by accelerating like my truck only has 4 little cylinders and not using cruise control anymore so I can coast up hills.  And, don't laugh (but I know you're gonna)--I now eat apple skins and the heels of bread loaves.  Those are calories I paid for!

I know that's all terribly exciting, so here's some pics of my new digs:

 I'm in the may notice the window.  There's a trench around the house down to the window to let in light, but to keep people from falling in the trench it's covered with wood slats that are then shaded by the awning on the patio.  I'm always confused about the time of day because it's always dark outside the window!

My old tarmac and my commuter, plus a bike that is not mine but looks just like the one I'll be getting next week.  And my closet.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about my new best bud.  He's my teammate/roommate Ian's dog, his name is Gizmo, and he's awesome.

The modest living arrangement is entirely overshadowed by the fact that I can walk out the front door and be on the collegiate nationals crit course I raced twice.  A scant 5 miles away lie the foothills of the rockies.  7 miles away begins a 10 mile category 1 climb that takes nearly an hour to climb if you're going moderately quick.

When I arrived Friday night, the ground was covered in snow. By saturday afternoon, the roads were clear and I went out for a quick spin on the nationals road race course.  Sunday morning was the rescheduled 85 mile saturday hammerfest ride.  It first goes east of town into the farmland, then heads over to the mountains for some climbing.  I was mostly concerned about keeping my wheezing self in the lead group, as I was now 5000 feet higher than just a few days prior.

But that's no fun.

So I won the city limit sprint half way through the ride.

Then we hit the first climb, a 8% or so switchback number that takes about 5 minutes to get up.  Despite telling myself to play it cool, I ended up with local Jelly Belly Pro Cycling rider Alex Hagman off the front.  Then we continued to motor away from the other riders for the next 25 miles.  We finished ahead of schedule (or so I was told), so the two of us kept going to finish off the century in a total time of 4:40.

The next day, Alex took me out on another long ride and we headed over to a climb called Rattlesnake, which is a fairly steep 20 minutes of climbing and a moderately technical 50+ mph descent.  Neither of us had eaten quite enough the day before to recover, so the final half hour of our 4.5 hour ride was spent slogging home with empty tanks, too zapped to debate the finer points of Colorado's cycling traffic laws with an officer of the sheriff's dept when he told us to single up (and we were both on the shoulder).

As this is the first significant climbing I've ever done, Alex will be taking me soon to experience some "real" climbing.

Also coming up this week, I'll be getting my new Tarmac, then I'm scheduled to meet with the famed Andy Pruitt for a bike fit and....testing.  It's been 2 years since I had lactate threshold testing done, and I've never, ah, experienced the torture of VO2 testing.

That's it for now!