Monday, March 31, 2008

Warmer but wet

The temperatures tried hard to finally beat the freezing mark and generally broke in to the mid 40's over the weekend. Hardly shorts weather and I was still using toe warmers. But at least I wasn't fighting snow and ice like last weekend.

Friday I was training by doing micro intervals, pushing had up the hills. I was supposed to do it on a trail if possible but we won't be riding on any trails for some time. So I used a portion of my back road route that had a lot of hills on it. I managed to see some of my highest wattage and HR numbers on this ride and was worn out when done. The intensity of the short efforts was not something I had been doing yet but is the phase I'm moving into now.

Saturday was a long ride and was intended to get used to riding at the endurance level I thought I would sustain for the 100 mile races. Trying to keep a steady pace while monitoring wattage as well as nutrition and hyrdration. Starting off in the morning my legs were definitely feeling the effects of the previous day.

I noticed that while I intentionally kept the effort in check I was only a couple of minutes off my pace of some of my faster times at the early checkpoints I use on my route for reference. I was slower by the time I hit my turn around spot but part of that was due to the roads becoming worse the farther I went into the ride.

The roads were starting to dry in spots but others were full of holes and water and mud were in quite a few spots. by the time I got home I knew my bike was going to need some parts replaced due to the constant wear of the mud and grit over the last few months. Even cleaning the bike after each ride does not prevent the wear that build up with repeated use.

The first local mountain bike race is supposed to be in two weeks but the condition of the trails is questionable. Every year the promoter has an early race and every year there is a debate on whether the race should be held, damage potential to the trails, etc. Last year the weather cooperated just in time to make the trails OK. This year we may not be as fortunate. And people may not wait for the trails to really be OK for riding so that they can practice for the race which will tear up the trails even more.

I wonder if the Cohutta race in TN will be the first time I actually get to ride off road this year? Although the dirt roads lately have made it seem like I'm on a trail :-)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Michigan Spring

Not having to work yesterday I got out for a 4+ hour ride on the roads to try and beat the snow due in later in the evening. The roads were finally clear of snow but in some of the shady areas the runoff from the previous day was frozen in the early morning temperatures. There was also a dampness in the air which seemed to work its way inside me by the time I was done.

Later in the afternoon I was reading reports of heavy snowfall to the southwest of us and hazardous road conditions. The snow started falling by us later in the evening.

This morning were were fortunate to only have about 3-4 inches. Sandy was disappointed that there wasn't more so she could go xc skiing but for me it was about the limit to navigate the back roads by bike. I was a out for a couple of hours but had to be careful in spots due to the snow on the roads, including the packed surfaces that would break apart as you rolled over them. I ran into Mike Simonson who is also getting ready for the Cohutta 100 next month. In fact, I've seen him every day the past two weekends I've been out. We train in the same area for the same reasons, relatively light traffic and some of the bigger hills around.

Later in the day I went over to Fraser bikes to check out the big sale they were having since the Cannondale rep would be there. The Cannondale demo truck was also scheduled but due to the snow they decided not to risk the drive. The store is impressive as it is pretty new and has an extensive training facility as part of their operations.

The rest of the weekend is reserved for Easter with the family although I will do an easy ride tomorrow to rest the legs. The next two weekends I will be putting in some long days to get ready for the first 100 mile race in a few weeks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Christmas in March

I have been hearing about Christmas in March ever since I signed up with the Sobe/Cannondale team. It's the day when out new uniforms and many of our sponor's products show up. Last week we got word the boxes were shipping and today it arrived.

Inside was all sorts of goodies including team uniforms, socks, gloves, Uvex helmet, Diadora shoes, Smith Trace glasses, Marmot jacket, hoodie sweatshirt, hats, Hydrapak, wireless comoputer, Bear Naked products and more. At least I'll look good.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekend wonderfulness

The weather has finally cooperated in getting the roads cleared of the snow and ice buildup. But the melting snowbanks mean that rivers of muddy water are running down some of them and the roads are soft and muddy in other spots. But then there are those beautiful sections of dry, smooth dirt. But don't let let them fool you because just around the corner is a landmine of potholes, waiting to cause a flat or damage your rim.

Saturday morning my coach came out to ride and I took him on the first half of my hill route. We managed to ride down the snowmobile packed snow and parts of a rail trail that were covered with snow but also packed down from foot traffic. The road conditions ranged from great to poor, dry to very muddy. My partial fenders helped keep a lot of the mud off me but I was still covered pretty good in the front.

I hit one of the many pot holes a little too hard and flatted the front tire. It didn't take too long and we were on our way. By the time we were finished with the ride I was feeling a little tired but happy to ride outside. I was looking forward to doing it again on Sunday. But I took some full fenders off another bike in preparation for the mud.

On Sunday two of my Cannondale Midwast team members came over for a repeat of Saturday's route. They were both on single speeds while I took the easy way with gears. Hugh rode his fixed gear cyclocross bike with huge 44x16 gearing. My knees would probably be blown out if I tried that.

The roads were in better shape in spots but I managed to get a flat on the front tire again, from a hole on a different down hill than the previous day. After getting home and downloading the data from the ride I was pleased to find that the wattage output in various metrics were almost identical to Saturday's ride. It just hurt more to achieve it. But overall that is good that I could do the same work two days in a row.

I was going to relax once I got done riding but my son told me about a new TV that Circuit City had just gotten in, a 2008 model of a 2007 TV that he had been looking to buy. And he had gotten an email from CC with a discount. After I took a quick shower we went over to look at the TV. Bottom line, we now have moved into the high definition age with a 50" HD plasma TV in our living room. The picture is amazing and the HD channels are super clear, just like in the showroom. But of course it couldn't just sit on top of our old floor console TV, right?

Meijer was having a sale on TV stands and since my son works there that is another 10% off. After dinner we went over and picked one up. Or more precisely, picked up the kit. We spent the next hour and a half assembling the stand but once finished and in place it does look good. Plus the stand has shelves and drawers that will hopefully hold the video game stuff that seems to always be strewn about.

Now we just need to get another big screen for in the basement for when i'm on the trainer. I'm not holding my breath on that.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Slipping but not sliding

This time I was able to ride for a few hours outside without falling down. While the roads were generally free of snow, many of the back roads had patches of ice on them. Some roads were completely coated with ice and I don't know how cars were able to negotiate some of the hills and curves. I left the studded tires on and didn't have any problems although I was still careful to not get too aggressive in the corners.

The trails were perfect for riding early in the morning, the snowmobiles had packed them down while the snow was soft and now that everything had frozen it was almost like riding on dirt. Too soon thought we will lose the little snow that is left and then we will have to wait for the trails to dry out. Unfortunately these trails take a long time to dry but there are others close by that do drain quickly.

The first big race is now less than six weeks away and the training is ramping up with longer time on the bike and higher intensity. Hopefully I can actually ride some trails prior to travelling to Tennessee.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Exercise can help seniors avoid dreaded falls

The title of this post is also the title of an article I saw in today's paper. What timing, based on my post from yesterday. Maybe at last I could find the secret to staying upright. But then I read it and thought, exercise is WHY I fall down!

The article makes some good points about the need to continue to exercise as you age and also points out places to get more information. But I didn't see anything about how to keep from falling when riding your bike :-(

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Outside and upside down

After spending the week on the trainer I was determined to get outside and ride, despite the snow that seemed to have fallen all week, including on Friday night. On Saturday I took out the bike with the PowerTap so that I would have a good feel for the effort required to ride with a group of my friends.

It was kind of discouraging when you can barely make it out of the subdivision due to the snow. Since I got a late start I headed up to Chris's house in the most direct route, along a busy 4 lane highway through town. The sidewalks weren't clear I rode in the street and through the melting slush for several miles.

By the time I got to Chris's house he had already left so I kept rolling, knowing which way he was heading. I made a turn off a subdivision street and on to a cut through path only to have the bike stop dead and throwing me off. Naturally there was a lady walking her dogs right when I did it. I assured her I was OK and that it was just a part of winter riding. A little while later I could see Chris, Mark and Bryan up ahead. It wasn't too long before I caught up.

On the generally snow covered roads their fat tires stayed on top of the surface while my skinny tires would cut down and squirm all over, requiring a lot of effort to maintain balance and forward motion. I had no problems keeping the wattage up in these sections. When we would finally come to a hard, smooth stretch I would put the hammer down to keep up the required intensity. Overall the ride accomplished what I needed from a training standpoint plus I got to ride outside and with some of my friends.

Today I had a similar ride on the schedule but on the SS. With the fatter tires I was able to stay on top of the snow but there were more icy spots and snow covered ice than yesterday, due to the partial melt and overnight refreeze. It was another day to practice bike control and pedal technique; part way up some of the hills the rear wheel would suddenly spin from hitting ice and I would have to adjust my pedalling.

Coming down one of the bigger hills in the area I was riding in a lot of churned up snow due to cars spinning their wheels on the way up or locking their wheels on the way down. I was trying to be careful but as a car passed me going the opposite way I moved over and promptly slid out while they watched. Again, I assured someone that it's part of winter riding.

I was having problems with my rear brake starting to fade but still had some use of it. As I was coming to a stop on a slight downgrade the front wheel suddenly turned 90 degrees and threw me off the bike. Of course this time there was a car behind me. I almost couldn't stand up due to the ice I was on. The driver of the car said it was a pretty cool looking crash. Hmm, three crashes and every time someone right there to watch. I'm not too sure I would be a good poster child to promote the fun of winter biking.

After arriving home with no more mishaps I went right back out to get in some xc skiing with Sandy. She's sorry that the snow will soon be gone. I don't think that I can say the same.

The race at Lake Orion High School was written up and published in our local paper last week. There were more photos in the print edition.