Friday, August 28, 2009

The Cycling Psychologist

Last night I just wasn't in a very good mood. I'm not really sure why, it could have been:

Lack of sleep
The alignment of the moon in relation to the earth
Some Dr Phil reason I've never heard of

Anyway, since the weather was nice last night I talked Jenny into going on a ride with me. I'm sure you won't be surprised by this because you've felt it before but after a couple of miles I could feel the Oscar the grouch cloud breaking up over my head and the sun starting to shine again. Oh yeah, I was back to my normal self. In fact, I was feeling so good by the time we were finished I would have let Jenny drag me into a fabric store for at least (no more than) 20 minutes. Since fabric stores are the litmus test of my patience that's saying a lot.

I'm thinking 20 miles of riding on a warm summer night and getting back
right before it gets dark could solve just about any problem.

That's my personal prescription for the day.

OK, not a huge smile but feeling great
There's the huge smile

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Next Years Success Starts Today!

Next years success starts today!  Don't worry, I'm not turning into a motivational speaker or anything I've just learned my lesson over the years.  Here's the lesson, if I don't make some grand cycling plans for next year in August I end up sitting on the couch eating my weight in ice cream, cookies, and M&Ms with an occasional Diet Coke thrown in for weight control purposes of course.  So rather than going on a year long sweets bender, it's time to dream up an out of control cycling goal to train for next year and get my act in gear.


This year I would like do something beyond a century.  My first thought was to do a 1 day STP which is 204 miles but I've got a conflict on that day next year.  So I've been kicking around the thought of doing the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day).  This is a 160 mile ride with 10,000 feet of climbing.  Since this ride is a lottery there's a chance I won't get it but for now I think this is going to be the BIG ride of 2010 for me. 


The other ride I'd like to do is a two day self supported journey with Jenny.  For a while now we've talked about taking the train to Vancouver BC Canada and riding home from there.  I'm thinking 2010 would be a great year for that trek as well.


For every large goal I've also learned that you have to a plan to get there.  Here are some of the things I plan on working on this year in order to make my goal.


Work on Pedal Stroke

First of all I'd like to increase my pedal cadence.  For years I've had an average cadence of 70 but in order to ride beyond a century I'm thinking a higher cadence will help me.  My previous attempts at cadence increases have resulted in me bouncing around in my seat like I was riding a bucking bronco.  I'm thinking with some training I can smooth this out a bit. 


I also have a tendency to ride with my right knee hanging out.  Why, I really have no idea.  I don't notice it while riding but when I look at pictures of myself I look like the cycling equivalent of Daffy Duck.  I'm sure I can correct this with some concentration and harassment from Jenny when she's riding behind me.


Increase My Core Strength

I hate sit ups so I watched the ads and when they went on sale I bought one of those exercise balls to do stomach and back exercise on.  The second I got my exercise ball home all of my kids started quoting the office scene where Dwight is sitting on an exercise ball.


Here's how it goes:

Jim: What's that you're sitting on?

Dwight: It is a fitness orb and it has completely changed my life.  Forget everything you thought you knew about ab workouts.

Jim: Done, how much was that?

Dwight: $25

Jim walks over and stabs it with a pair of scissors.


I've heard this scene reenacted at least 10 times from different kids.  No one has gone through with using the scissors on it though.  If the fitness orb stays intact I'm hoping it will help to strengthen my core.  More to come on that.


Increase My Leg Strength

I've always had puny legs.  In fact, I've always thought they resembled Michael Rasmussen's legs minus the doping of course.  If I think I'm going to be able to climb 10,000 ft on the RAMROD I'm going to have to increase my leg strength.  Since I don't know anything else to do I'm going to resort to squats, leg curls and riding every hill in the area over and over again.   I might even take the stairs at work but that might be pushing it a little too far.


Fit In Home Improvement Projects

Of all of my plans for the year this will by far be the hardest.  This year I'm going to be a better husband and try to fit in some home improvement projects.  Last weekend we painted our bedroom and let me tell you it was grueling.  Taping, painting, making trips to the store, taping, painting, etc.  It was like riding a century on an old mountain bike with flat tires.    I'm hoping with time I'll learn to like it or at least get some things done that have been neglected for a long time.


Log a lot of Miles

This goes without saying but I plan on riding as much as possible.  This means during the winter I'll be stuck on the trainer but after years of winter trainer rides I'm getting to the point that I actually like them.  If ESPN gets dropped by our cable company I'll be in trouble. 


So there's the plan so far.  If you're interested in doing the RAMROD with me next year let me know.  I'd love to keep in touch and train with someone else attempting the insanity. 


Next Years Success Starts Today!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Best Recovery Drinks and Pie

When it comes to recovery drinks I have an all time favorite which is chocolate milk. There’s just not much better than finishing a tough ride and downing a tall glass of chocolate milk. It’s like being a kid again and for some reason it’s also good for you. I’m all for both of those things. The only thing that is even in the same league with chocolate milk is a blackberry smoothie. Personally, I don’t like making them but if beg and bargain hard enough either Jenny or my youngest daughter will make the best blackberry smoothie known to man. That is except for when they try to sneak spinach in on me under the illusion that it's good for you but that’s a subject for another post. Honestly, these blackberry smoothies will replace your glycogen reserves and have you running around the house like a candy crazed hyper kid in no time flat.

There are three things that grow uncontrollably in the Pacific Northwest without any help from anyone. Trees, moss, and blackberries. I like the trees, the moss I’ve learned to tolerate but I absolutely love the blackberries. Lucky for us there is a park across the street from our house that has tons of blackberry bushes just waiting for us to pick them.

Last year we made multiple trips to the park and filled up ~10 large zip lock bags with blackberries which we ended up freezing so we could have smoothies all year long. Last year was a great smoothie year. I plan on freezing more this year so we can have another smoothie filled year.

Today we started our daily ventures over to the park for blackberries but the inaugural blackberry trip was for the purpose of making a pie. Here are some shots of the process from beginning to end. By the way, the pie rocked! This week I plan on doing less riding a more picking. I’m thinking 2010 will be a great smoothie year.

No matter how hot it is you have to wear a long sleeve shirt because blackberries have outrageous thorns.

In the words of Homer Simpson "mmmmmmmmmm Pie"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Photo of the Week

On the drive to Idaho our GPS sent us on a wild goose chase down 5 miles of gravel roads to get to our final destination. I didn't think much of it until we got there and I took a look at our bikes on the back of the car. I'm thinking my chain as dirt magnet properties. I've never cleaned so much dirt off of a chain in my life. My chain and I were both very happy to get them clean again.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Alpine Loop

Last Tuesday while we were in Utah I woke up and my legs and lungs were feeling good so I decided to conquer the Alpine Loop ride. The Alpine Loop was the reason I brought my bike to Utah because The Fat Cyclist called it a little slice of heaven. With a description like that there was just no way I could pass this ride up. Besides that, when I researched the route I found that it passed a couple of blocks away from where we were staying.

If you ever get to Utah you’ve got to do this ride. It won’t disappoint.

Before I got to the actual Alpine Loop road I had to ride down Provo Canyon. From my ride the previous day I knew there would be a huge headwind I’d have to ride into but I only had to endure it for 5 miles or so. Headwinds and I really don’t get along. As I made my way down Provo Canyon I rode up to a tunnel which worried me a little until I saw a large bike lane which encouraged me to give it a shot.

About half way through the tunnel I started hearing a horrendous sound barreling down on me. As the adrenaline shot through my veins I kicked it into gear for fear I was going to get hit by whatever it was that was making all of the noise. A second or two latter a semi passed me. Although I didn’t need to change my shorts after this fright the sound of a semi in a tunnel heading right at me sure scared the heck out of me. As I exited the tunnel I noticed that there was a road that went around the side as an alternate route. Of course I didn’t notice that until the semi-truck version of Steven King’s “Christine” chased me through the tunnel. Next time I’m taking the alternative route.

I was relieved to pull off of the Provo Canyon highway and onto the Alpine Loop. Even though I knew the road was going to shoot straight up for 8 grueling miles it was a lot better than battling a headwind and semi trucks. As I started up the hill I found a comfortable pace that I could sustain for hours if needed. Since I didn’t know what to expect I chose the conservative mountain turtle speed because I really wanted to make it to the summit without blowing up. As it turned out the ascent wasn’t as steep as I thought it would be. For the most part the grade was just in between being able to sit and peddle and needing to stand which was fine with me. I sat and pedaled for a majority of the ride but did my fair share of standing to give my back muscles a break.

The scenery was incredible on the ascent starting with being surrounded by pine trees and mountains peaking out in between them. After I had ridden 5 miles of the ascent I rode into an incredible grove of aspen trees and I felt like I was the only one around for miles. This was probably because I was the only one around on a great one lane road.

Honestly, for a one lane mountain pass road it was the most well maintained road I’ve ever seen. Kind of weird but very nice. There were absolutely no signs or indications on the loop that you were nearing the summit so when I reached the top I breathed a sigh of relief.

As I started the descent I spotted some signs on the road that I had heard about. I rode this ride the day after Susan’s funeral so seeing these signs brought a lot of emotions for me. I know it’s only some paint on the road but for a cyclist this is an incredibly thoughtful gesture. The Fat Cyclist has some good friends!

The descent was just about the most incredible 10 miles of riding I’ve ever done. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun flying down the side of a mountain before. I do wish someone had been at the top of the mountain to hand me a newspaper to put in my jersey though because the air was freezing cold on my sweat covered skin. For a good 10 minutes I didn’t pedal much at all as I negotiated all of the high speed turns so when I started pedaling again my legs were amazingly knotted up. After a couple of pedal revolutions they loosened back up and I was in business again.

The ride back to the start took me through multiple cities but the roads were mostly down hill. As I walked into my in-laws house I was really glad I had got up early and done the Alpine Loop. Next time I visit Utah I’m definitely doing this ride again.

Mileage: 39 miles
Elevation Gain: 4000 Ft
Photo Ops: Countless

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Provo Canyon with a Superhero

Last Monday I went on an early morning ride while I was in Utah with my Nephew-In-Law Ryan (I'm not sure if that's a real term but it seems to fit). First of all I need to divulge some classified information about Ryan but I need you to promise you won’t tell anyone. Ryan is a super hero. I’m not sure what his super hero name is because I was too scared to ask him but I do know that by day he is just a normal guy who has a day job and on Saturdays he works at a bike shop. But…… when he gets on his bike he transforms into a superhero who can ascend tall mountains with the greatest of ease. Lucky for me he only dawned part of his supersuit when we rode because it was brisk outside so he wore a jacket but from what I saw his supersuit had something to do with red argyles.

I love riding new routes because I always learn things. Here are a few things that I learned on my early morning ride.

Elevation makes a difference
I normally ride at an elevation of 150 feet so I was a little worried about how my lungs would do at 5000 feet. My question was answered about a mile into the ride as we were riding through town on level ground and I was breathing like I was ascending the Alpe d'Huez. I was quite embarrassed to be wheezing like a 20 year chain smoker but superhero Ryan was patient with me and my wimpy sea level lungs.

It’s not light at 6 in the morning in Utah
We decided to head out at 6 in the morning because I assumed that it got light at 5:30 like it does in Washington. To my surprise it wasn’t light at 6 but by 6:15 there was enough light to head out. I guess Washington is far enough north to make a 45 minute light difference. Who knew?

It gets really windy in Provo Canyon in the morning
Our route for the morning headed up Provo Canyon which was beautiful but holy cow it was incredibly windy. At one point I looked over at a road construction sign and noticed that it was bent over to the ground from the wind. The sign was sitting on a spring to handle the wind but man it was windy. This didn’t seem to bother Ryan much because he’s a superhero but I was thankful to be able to ride in the drops.

Even though Utah is in the desert it’s cold in the morning
When I packed for our trip I didn’t think to bring a jacket to ride in because it’s usually smoking hot in Utah. I didn’t think about what the temperature would be at 6 in the morning. Even though it was brisk outside as we rode up Provo Canyon the ascent kept me warm enough and I was feeling pretty good until we got to the top of the hill and turned around to head back. We descended the hill really fast which was a blast but my uncovered arms immediately went numb from the cold. Thank heavens for post ride showers.

View from Provo Canyon

The ride back home was great because it was the perfect storm for cycling. Down hill with a tail wind. Although my lungs were incredibly irritated for the rest of the day it was a great morning ride and a great warm up to ride the Alpine Loop the next day. It was also nice to ride with a superhero. Chances like that don’t come along very often.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your Own Private Idaho

Every year our family travels to Clifton Idaho for a family reunion on Jenny’s side of the family. While we are there we spend a couple of days in a cabin up in the mountains above Clifton. What? You say you’ve never heard of Clifton before? Well, neither had I before I married Jenny.
I did a little research about Clifton and found that in 1930 the population was 217 and when the last census was taken in 2000 the population had been dramatically reduced to 213. I’m not sure where those 4 people went but I’m sure they are missed. My father in law grew up on Clifton on a farm in the 30’s and 40’s and back then Clifton had a small store and a post office. Now in 2009 you guessed it Clifton has a small convenience store and a post office. No more, no less.

This really blows my mind, my father in law grew up in a house that was ordered through the Sears catalog and was delivered in pieces to be assembled. I’m sure that you could order a pre fab house on these days but I’m thinking the housing market of Clifton is saturated now except for those 4 people who have moved away over the years. My father in law could very well be one of the missing 4 because he moved away to the big city of Orem Utah.

Since I grew up in a large city, the small town thing is very foreign to me but I have to admit I like it for a couple of days. We brought our road bikes on the trip but being in Clifton makes me wish I had brought my mountain bike. Maybe next year.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I love Technology

Remember in the movie Napoleon Dynamite after the credits when Kip sings the “I Love Technology” song to Lafawndah?

Well, I just ended my usual Monday morning Instant Message (IM) conversation with a cycling buddy at work where we talk about where we rode over the weekend. Here’s how the conversation basically went.

Buddy: Dude, have you ever ridden on Camano Island?

Mike: No, did you ride there this weekend?

Buddy: Yeah, it was awesome, Check this out.

(Mike quickly looks at route so he can comment)

Mike: that looks like a great route, top speed of 48mph bet that was scary.

Buddy: yeah I started to get speed wobbles

Mike: whoa, I might have been hitting the brakes. I did the Snohomish group ride. Check out this route. You’d like it

Buddy: Yeah, that looks like a nice route. I’ll have to check out the group ride

Mike: If I can get my bike to Utah while on vacation I’m going to check out this route.

Buddy: Man, that’s a high elevation. Wonder if you’ll feel the difference.

On most Monday mornings that’s how the IM’s go. It’s 5 minutes of cycling geekdom that I totally enjoy. By the end of the conversation for some reason I’ve got Kip’s version of “I Love Technology” running through my head. I Love Technology!