Sunday, January 28, 2007


Not a date in December but the difference in temperatures at the start of the ride today vs. yesterday. I had looked at the forecast in advance so I took advantage of the warmer Saturday temperature to get in a little over 4 hours. I planned on checking out some of the trails after the snow we had gotten on Friday. I had two bikes lined up, the SS with fat tires and the geared bike with narrow tires. I planned on doing the same approximate loop on each of about two hours so I could contrast the tire combination on the trails.

I started with the SS and it seemed to float a little over the footprints but it would also break free on some areas where the snow was loose. The back roads are still covered with snow and has an ice surface beneath the snow. There was a lot of "brown sugar" snow, ugly brown crud that sat on top and would slide when you rolled over it if not careful. I tried to do a loop at Addison Oaks where there had been no traffic but gave up shortly after starting in to the trail.

I changed the SS for the geared bike and noticed that I was able to get better traction in most spots as the tires cut through the snow and reach solid ground. The front was a knobby design that allowed me to steer while the rear was a mud tire with minimal tread that is supposed to prevent mud (or snow) from packing. I made it up all the hills that I lost traction on when I was riding the SS. I even made it part way around Orion Oaks before heading back.

Today I only rode for two hours on the back roads. You had to be careful not to get caught in the icy grooves that had formed on much of the road. I don't know what type of machinery the county uses to clear the roads but it leaves multiple parallel grooves running the length of the road. It is quite exciting when coming down a hill and you feel the bike start to slide when it catches in a groove.

Last week marked the end of the power phase using the Compex. I was using it three days a week in progressively higher settings to simulate weight lifting. As a result my legs have been some what sore for the past 6 weeks. Just like the real thing. I have to measure to see if there is any increase in muscle size as well as test to see if my 1 rep max has gone up. Now I start the endurance phase but only two days a week. This phase uses very long muscle contractions to simulate multiple reps. Before too long it will be time to start higher intensity training on the bike as well.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weekend update

The limited snowfall this past week has left the trails in great shape for riding. Plus the back roads have remained covered but generally in good shape. You just have to be careful to watch for icy patches.

I got out for about three hours Thursday and was able to be the first one on the trails at Addison Oaks and Bald Mountain. The snow wasn't deep but crunchy, it takes a little more effort to pedal through it but not too bad. It was dark by the time I finished the trail and headed home and it started snowing/sleeting on the way home which caused my glasses to ice up. I had to peer over the top in order to have a clear view. It got me to wondering how well cars could see and in they could see my blinky rear light in time. With snow covered roads I don't imagine they would have quite the ability to stop in a hurry. I may leave the rides on the roads in the dark for later in the spring.

Yesterday was just a couple of hours on the trails and rail trails, I switched to a narrower tire to cut through the crust and get traction on the trail. They worked great until I got to the rail trail where there had been a lot of foot traffic. The tires were forcing their way through the hardpack instead of staying on top. Fatter tires would have been preferred.

Today I had almost 4 hours in, mainly on the various connected rail trails. During my ride there were dozens of joggers but in that whole time I only saw five other bikers. That's OK, I like to think that my competition is sitting around the house as well but I know better. I've come to the conclusion that I am about 25-30% slower in the winter, especially on snow covered ground and roads. I think it is due not only to the snow and cold but the extra layers of clothes I have on.

It looks like we have pretty much the same weather pattern all week, with some snow included so I may spend more time on the trainer than I have been. So far this January I have more time on a bike than January of last year but less time on a trainer.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Look Ma, no brakes!

Did you ever touch a frozen object with your hand and get stuck to it? Or remember the scene in Christmas Story where the kid gets his tongue stuck to the flag pole? Well ice cold wheels are like that when they go through wet mud. The frigid air causes the mud to freeze to the rims. No big deal when you use disc brakes. But my SS uses rim brakes so in no time I was left with no brakes, or very little braking power anyway, for the rest of the ride.

I started the ride heading through some trails since I figured they would be frozen. For the most part they were except for the occasional puddle. The branches were bent down in many spots due to the ice, my helmet was constantly being hit as I made my way through. It was very pretty in the woods with everything covered in ice and the sun shining. It looked even better once out on the back roads and I had a panoramic view.

I started the ride with the temperature in the high teens and I could feel it dropping as I rode, especially once the sun started to dip behind the trees. Even with toe warmers and cold weather clothing I was getting slightly chilled so I headed back to the house after an hour and a half an finished my workout on the trainer. I guess I get colder easier on the road than on the trails. I'm not sure what I'll do as the temperatures continue to drop; split my workout or just stay indoors.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Spinning by candlelight

The perfect gift for romance on the trainers. Buy it now on CD at a bike shop near you. At least that's what I was thinking as I was sitting on the trainer in the basement late this afternoon. I was literally in the dark except for the glow of a kerosene lantern, spinning away and listening to my MP3 player. No electricity in the house other than a few lights (and the coffee pot) running off the generator.

We lost power this morning at 7:15 due to the overnight ice storm. I bought a used generator a few years ago but we don't have the ability to hook up the furnace to it so I ran out to the local store this morning and bought a kerosene heater which kept the main part of the house warm. We use the generator for lights and TV or a few other appliances where necessary and we use a camp stove for cooking.

Since I had the day off from work I hung out at the mall for a while and caught the new Bond movie. Sorry, while the new Bond is good nobody can beat Sean Connery. I was really hoping the power would have been back on before I got home but no luck. So off to the basement to spin for an hour and a half.

While down there I couldn't help but think about the ESPN commercials that show Lance Armstrong on the trainer powering up the TV studio. That might not be such a bad idea for days like today. Get a workout at the same time as keeping the electricity. I found that the lack of visual stimulation while sitting on the trainer allowed me to get in the zone pedalling to the music. If you have ever seen a Johnny G spinning video you know what I mean. I was listening to the Afro Celt Sound System. As their name implies they are a cross between African and Celtic music with a little techno thrown in as well. Great music for spinning and a lot of their songs are on the longer side.

The power finally came back on about 7:20 so we were without it for just over 12 hours. Hopefully we don't get more ice or a big wind to cause it to go out again.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Going uphill while pedalling down

Today's ride was a long uphill ride, whether I was actually going uphill or not. Last night I switched over to the studded tires in anticipation of the icy forecast for today. I was hoping to get in four hours and figured I would have to be out on the roads to avoid the soft trails. I was out for a few hours yesterday and had to be careful of the ice as I was using regular tires.

The overnight snow/sleet had left about an inch of accumulation and as I left the house this morning the sleet was changing to huge snowflakes. Later in the ride it would change back to sleet and then to rain. I stayed on mainly paved roads but the icy slush combined with the heavy studded tires was slow going. If the road was clear the metal studs on the wet pavement was still not a secure feeling.

I hadn't changed the SS gearing to make it easier so the entire ride was pretty much a struggle. It was good resistance training but it also meant my legs fatigued earlier than I wanted. I didn't get in the total time I was shooting for but I think the resistance made up the difference.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I got what I asked for, that will teach me

The mercury dropped and the snow fell yesterday, something I had hoped for in my last blog posting. I went out for a two hour ride in the afternoon and the wind chill was down to the coldest it's been all winter. Have you ever had a brain freeze after eating ice cream or a Slurpee too quickly? My face and brain felt that way for the first 15-20 minutes. The pain eventually subsided, or maybe my face just went numb and the rest of the ride wasn't too bad if I wasn't riding into the wind.

The rail trail and road were harder than they had been for a while which meant a faster and smoother ride. Still some wet sections but overall a lot better. Anyone notice how much colder you are when you have to go to the bathroom? Fortunately there is a bathroom at the rail trail parking lot that I stopped at on the way back. But on the way to it I kept looking over my shoulder for other users of the trail in case I decided to stop on the side. I had to use my lights on the way home and since I hadn't brought my clear glasses it was a little darker than normal. I didn't want to take off my tinted glasses since they were keeping out the wind.

Robin and Shari have decided to make the trip to Tennessee with me for the Cohutta 100 so we will be travelling two weeks in a row. Robin will race the 100 and Shari will do the 12 hour the following week. I may try to find a team to get on for the 12 hour instead of a solo effort after doing the 100 mile race the week before. That would at least give me a better chance at the Ft. Custer race the next week.

I hope to be able to build up a new Cannondale 29'er prior to the Cohutta, I hear the race has a lot of fire roads where the bigger wheels might be the ticket. I may end up using this bike for the Mohican as well since it has a similar ratio of trails and roads.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

How long will this weather last?

I was able to take advantage of the lack of snow to get out for a few hours on Saturday and for another three hours today. Yesterday I stayed on the pavement due the rain and for a change it stopped raining half way through the ride. The sun even came out for about 10 minutes before ducking behind the clouds and the wind picked up.

Today I met Chris and we headed out on the back roads to the north and east of us. They were fairly dry, certainly a lot better than I had thought they would be. We were finished by 1:00 which is a good thing because this was on the radar, it looks like a white blob is about to attack our area. I don't recall seeing a snow circle completely surrounded by an icy mix line. I think wet and snow is in the future for a while now. In fact, looking out the window I see the first of the wet snow starting to fall. I just hope it gets cold enough to freeze.

Friday, January 05, 2007

When it rains it pours

Seems like each of the days I've been doing extended rides after work I get rained on for the last hour. Yesterday was no exception, it started raining right when I got to the trails at Addison Oaks. That will probably be the last time I can ride them until it freezes. Riding home in the dark and rain is an adventure, it builds character. I'm glad I've got my lights to see and be seen. At least I missed the really hard rain that came later in the evening.

They announced the races for this year's National Ultra-Endurance Mountain Bike 100 Series, now called NUE for short. Included in the seven race series is the opening race which will be in Tennessee on April 21. Great, but I signed up earlier this week for a 12 hour race in Tennessee on April 28! When it rains it pours. They have also changed the rules so you don't have to do a western race in order to qualify for the series awards. It looks like I may do both Tennessee races but I could use some company to share expenses and driving. I've got a brand new minivan that can hold four bikes on the roof or two inside but fewer passengers. Any takers?

The week of the 28th I am set and driving with Robin and Shari. I am looking forward to this race as we always have a good time together. They may question my taste in music but at lest we can laugh about it. Two possible weekends in a row in the (hopefully) sunny south in April. Every Michigander's dream.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

The past year had been a pretty good one from a personal and race results perspective. A raise at work would have been nice but those of us in the auto industry are happy to still have jobs. I know quite a few that had lost theirs or been part of the downsizing process through retirements. Unfortunately I don't see things as being too much better in 2007.

A mini review of 2006 in the racing scene saw me move up in age category to 50+ and also win the CPS series. For this year I will move into the newly created Expert age class but I don't plan on racing too many of the CPS events. Other races are on the schedule to take their place. I didn't race many of the Fun Promotions Endurance races but I did do enough to take third in the 40+ class and take the overall win at the Drummond Island 24 hour. I also raced in two 100 mile races, finishing second in both. I wanted to do the rest of the national series but funds and time limited my choices.

This year I hope to do more of the 100 mile races and may not do as many of the local races. Again, finances will dictate the final schedule. Plus we have to make plans for Jason's wedding at the end of July out in Spokane so that will also play a big part in what races I do. I have already signed up for two races, the Tennessee 12 hour in April and the Iceman in November. The Mohican 100 is as pretty good bet though since I have a free entry from finishing 2nd there last year.

I continued to get in the base miles over the last few days, Saturday I got out for about 3.5 hours and two hours again on Sunday. Today was an easy 1.5 hour ride but into the wind on a SS still made it a little tougher than I wanted.

Friday we dropped off Jason at the airport and then my other son and I went to see the musical Spamalot. It was a gift from the boys. If you have seen the movie of Monty Python and the Holy Grail you know the basics of the musical. It was great fun and most of the famous bits were recreated on stage.

In some ways I'm glad the holiday season is over as I can get back to a regular schedule of eating and training. Not that I particularly want to go back to work but the temptation to eat will be reduced. I did manage to not gain a lot of weight but now it should be easier to keep it off and lose more. I can't resist sweets if it is around, fortunately we didn't have as much this year or I would have been in big trouble.

On to bigger and better things in 2007.