Doing it all the hard way...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dopers among us

Dope anyone ?
It has been over two years since the age of enlightenment that started with the publication of Tyler Hamilton’s book “The Secret Race” and reached a crescendo with the “Reasoned Decision.”  In the time since we have all accepted a truth we hoped against all logic wasn’t true.  The facts, circumstances, emotions and explanations remain complex and contradictory. 

It is clear that Lance Armstrong was guilty. It is also clear he was unfairly singled out. We must acknowledge that if they had a jersey for being the biggest narcissist he might have seven of those as well.  Why they stripped him of his titles while Riis and Ulrich kept theirs can’t be logically explained.  
In the so-called Golden Era of cycling the riders took amphetamines like they were breath mints.  They rode fast because they were on "speed" for crying out loud.
Kind of gives new meaning to the term "Hand Ups"
We now have a glimpse of what it was like back then and that pretty much everyone was indeed doing it, but I am so sick of hearing that explanation both from my lips and from everyone else’s that I could scream.  That argument doesn’t justify anyone individually, but it needs to be the context in which the individuals and their actions are viewed.  All of the riders who doped have their own stories, but in the end they did it and they also knew the rules.  It took a long time, but they were caught. 
I recently read an interview with one of the confessed dopers and he related that it seemed like the line between right and wrong kept moving (in one direction).  We all see the sign that says the speed limit is sixty miles an hour but when we find that everyone else is going seventy we join them without a second thought.  We see the doping as black and white but if we get a ticket for going sixty two miles an hour in a sixty mile per hour zone we would be outraged.  If sixty is the speed limit then sixty-two is breaking the law right?  Don’t give me that shades of grey bullshit.
Three. Three vials I would like. Yes?
 As recently as a couple dozen years ago every father spanked his son and that was as common as eating cornflakes for breakfast. Now the star running back for the Minnesota Vikings isn’t allowed to play because he spanked his son. What was perfectly acceptable for hundreds of years is suddenly horrible now. Looking at any behavior from a different time through the glasses of today typically yields very different perceptions than when viewed in real time. We always think we are smarter and more enlightened than we used to be.  We aren’t.

On the other hand I recently finished a workout and took off my Hincapie socks and realized I had only negative feelings toward Hincapie. I tossed the socks in the trash can and I have a hard time explaining why. I feel like George was the ultimate chameleon as he was all in with Lance then turned around and held himself out to be as pure as the virgin snow even wearing a white kit and riding for a team called “High Road.” Then when it suited his needs George dropped his friends and confessed all.  If George has principles he appears happy to change them anytime it suits the situation.  I just don’t want his name on my body. I once looked up to George. Not now.
Levi did it, Danielson, Zabriskie and VDV all confessed to one degree or another.  They all seem to be decent guys who did something really wrong when viewed in the harsh light of 2014.   Aggressive reporters, repentant doctors and guilty consciences have added dozens of European pros to the ranks of known dopers.  Let me know if you can find someone who stood on a grand tour podium between Lemond and Sastra that was clean.

Levi has a Fondo that predates his confession that does a lot of good in the community. DZ has both a commercial company and charity that he is connected with.  Hincapie is also appearing to give to the community while trying to make money from it. Lance is just trying to find a game of pickup basketball that will let him in and USADA won’t be happy until he is under house arrest and washing Tygert’s car on weekends.
Even the "good guys" look like murders with ice water in their veins.
How do you look at these guys and ignore the elephant in the room.  We can be accepting and have great conversations about everything but doping.  We can be swayed by these guys and their charm; but they still did it.
More than anything else I want to pretend it didn’t happen and just move the heck along.  Let’s just forget about it okay ?

No. Not okay.

Just moving on clearly hasn’t worked in cycling.  After the Festina affair all that happened was that doping changed from a HMO to a PPO format.
Just wait, I'll get a bunch more KOM Jerseys.  
Hey look ! Is that Morgan Fairchild over there?
I resent Travis Tygart and his relentless attacking.  I resent that Levi doped.  I resent that Lance broke my mother’s heart.  I resent it all and it made my beautiful sport very ugly. I would be so easy if we just forgave and forgot.  I’m okay to pretend it never happened. The problem is that we have done that and it didn’t work at all. It is what has happened time and again and the dopers kept at it.

This uneasy, unpleasant awkwardness is exactly where we need to be right now.  We need to look at the riders who did it and acknowledge them as human beings who made mistakes in a much different time.  We can’t forget that they broke the rules but we must also realize they have been punished for that.

I guess the lesson is we can’t just forgive and forget or it will never stop.  It does take time but we can forgive. We just can never afford to forget. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The top tube truly tells the tale

Allow me to translate facial and body language.  
"This is everything.  There is no more."
When you line up for a race there are certain things an experienced racer can spot that reveal a lot about the other riders; none more than the top tube.

In the final minutes before the race starts you can’t stop yourself from visually sizing up your completion.  The untrained eye might consider things such as body type, leg tan, team kit, shaved or unshaved legs, facial hair or tattoos.  The bike factors into the equation as well and we often rush to judgment and dismiss the rider on the ten year old aluminum bike.

When I see a bike with a nasty top tube, I know the rider has come intending to do battle.  A top tube with dried drops or puddles from sweat or sticky drool that glistens tells me this guy has paid some dues in the pain cave and is ready to throw down the hurt when the gun goes off.  When those drips and streaks get a light coating of dust so they stand out they testify to the hurt that went into training.  Nobody does intervals for fun.  Intervals are so you can go fast when it counts.
This guy looks so ready his seatpost is getting excited.
When you see a bike with a nasty top tube, don’t question the rider’s bike maintenance habits but instead give a knowing nod to the rider.  While it is good to avoid being too judgmental, don’t even think about touching that nastiness.  Aside from providing a training and hygiene barometer, it’s just gross.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

MFG #4 2014 Magnuson Park Results, Photos and report

Photos can be found here
Prelim Results can be found here
Final results will be found here
Series standings will be found here

First Lap.  Not suffering yet.
After a one weekend hiatus we were back at it today.  A Sunny mid-October day means short sleeves once again.  When will we have cyclocross weather?

I had put on my mud tires ten days ago on the assumption it couldn't keep being dry any longer.  My Raven's would have been perfect today. Faster legs would have been perfect as well.  

Following a tag-team of excuses covering the past few weeks I pinned on my crinkled number 247 (which I can remember by thinking about Cyclocross 24/7).   El Chefe and I had a good warmup and after basking in the glory of my soon to be lost number four call up position we were off!

I slotted in at the back of the lead pack and was sitting fine as we hit the cement for a short stretch of pave'.  The gap opened and I tried to close it but it slowly grew. 
I'm hiding in shame...
The greasy downhill wasn't a problem but once on gravel I felt myself losing touch.  To look at a map of the course you would think it was all speed. Maps can fool you.  Aside from two short sections of pavement you had some gravel that zapped your strength and grassy sections that made it hard to keep momentum rolling.  The long (by cyclocross race standards) gradual climb was among the highlights for me as I was able to power up and over. 

I wasn't happy with my placing or my time.  What is ironic is that when I had my podium early in the season I put out 100% and finished third.  Today I again put out 100% but my 100% wasn't as good as it was earlier.  I was glad to have raced and left it all out there but I would trade it for a better result. I am hoping that the next three weeks will have good health and good training and the race results will be good as well. 
Steve and El Pirate. Bob (in fourth here) would win the race. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 MFG #2 Race Report, Results and Photos

 Results can be found here
     Photos can be found here
         Series standings can be found here
El Pirate leading out.  Check out my low pressure...
For the second race in the 2014 MFG series we returned to where, for me, Cyclocross started.  Steilacoom is where I saw my first race and was instantly hooked ten mud-filled seasons ago.  A couple weeks later I was flogging myself riding a Craigslist purchased cross bike at Kelly Creek.   Riding was even more fun than I expected.  There was no turning back.

This time I lined up on my way-too-cool-for-me bike and even had a front row call up.  Hot damn! Ten years ago I didn’t even know what a call up was. My training has taken a bit of a dive which in hindsight I attribute to a combination of too much, too hard with not enough recovery combined with neglected nutrition and a heaping helping of ignorance and/or denial.  The result was a tired and likely borderline anemic Evo who didn’t bring a lot of power to race on a power course.

Taking the advice of El Chefe’ I had visualized myself having a good start and first two minutes as opposed to my typically having a half dozen riders shoot past me like I had opened a parachute following the opening straight. It kinda helped.

We had a long starting straight and when everyone reached terminal velocity I felt like I could go faster. I jumped into the big ring and moved into the lead.  That was easy. When a Fisher guy pulled up just ahead of me I was happy to follow him into the first turn.   I was down in the drops and wheel sucking. 

I took the turns fast and wide and was delighted nobody tried to chop me by going inside.  Later looking at the first lap photos I now know the reason was my teammate El Pirate was on my wheel and trying to pass two riders in brown has zero chance of success and a hundred percent chance of future regret.   
Evo, El Pirate..
I maintained second wheel with El Pirate in tow until we reached the climb.  This course featured a single sustained climb with the first half paved and the top half loose dirt.  As soon as the climb began six riders shot past me and pulled away.  WTF?

I couldn’t get going and looked at my HR and cadence to confirm I was redlined.  Nope. Not even close.  My HR was 20 bpm lower than I expected which surprised me.  I picked it up and held the gap and on the dirt portion I started to claw back some of the gap.  The loose gravel downhill was a white knuckle affair that featured a ninety degree left which was followed by a single track descent.  At the bottom there was a loose 180 degree corner that was where the difference between having disc brakes and canti’s was manifest.

Not only did I not close the gap on the leaders but I lost another place here when a rider had power and I did not.  I tried to accelerate and it didn’t happen.  When we returned to the grassy slalom my bike, tires, tire pressure and level of effort kept my placing intact each lap.  Then a real gravel section followed by a dirt road again once afforded my bike a chance to shine and I typically gained ground.  I managed to avoid the quicksand gravel that awaited you if you went wide when you hit the finishing straight.

This was a course that should have suited me exceptionally well.  The zigs and zags were more “Euro” (read faster) which suits my strengths and bike set up.  The long climb was a chance to power past weaker riders.  My discs allowed me to fly down the descents and still maintain control.  I should have killed it.  
I am not one given to constantly watching my HR during a race but I do look now and again.  Nearly every race I hit my threshold three or four minutes in and it stays redlined until the finish. The last two races I have been about 10-20  bpm lower which is very unusual for me. While I was still catching guys from the 45 plus cat I was passed by riders in my cat on each of the first four laps.

On my last lap I was passed early and took it back on the last quarter of the big climb.  There were riders on that climb on the latter laps who were blown up by the last quarter of the climb.  Riders who were struggling to hold a line and keep moving.  Although I didn’t have it in me this day I was able to smoothly go past those guys.

I could feel a rider on my tail on the downhill and I didn’t let up. Then I drilled it on the grass to open a gap.  When we hit the gravel road section there was a Fisher Plumbing guy a good ways ahead who was in my cat.  I looked down and to my surprise I was in the big ring up front.  I took the first of three corners pretty hot and came out of the saddle and powered into the next corner. 

The second corner had an island of asphalt with gravel before and after and I cruised over it all without incident. I was gaining on the Fisher guy who was still thirty meters ahead of me.  He made it onto the finishing straight and I could see him turning to look back just as I went behind the bushes that marked the corner and guessed correctly that he didn’t see me.  I went left to avoid the potholes then right to avoid the quicksand gravel and I hit the paved finishing straight in the big ring.  I cranked hard and pulled up on the bars such that my front wheel came off the ground for a second. Off day or not I was going for it.

By now the gap was twenty meters with just over a hundred to go.  My approach was drawing attention and spectators started yelling which alerted the rider ahead that I was coming.  I was flat out and gaining but not fast enough to know for sure I could take him.  He got out of the saddle and the race was on. I was now about ten meters and closing ever so slowly.  My quads were screaming and if he beat me, he beat me, I couldn’t go any faster.  He was digging but I was still closing.  With a grunt that transitioned into profanity he conceded as I pulled ahead and held it to the line to claim tenth place.

I carried my speed across the line and by sheer luck didn’t crash post race.  The Fisher rider congratulated me and I breathlessly retuned the sentiment.

El Pirate won and by so doing took over first place in the series standings.  Despite a subpar performance I am clinging precariously to fourth place in the series thus ensuring at least one more week of call up glory.
My Sensei has picked up on my exhaustion and has reduced my suffering in the near term to allow my hematocrit level to return to double digits. I haven’t yet taken to eating blood sausage for breakfast, however, my intake of eggs, beef, spinach, turkey, pumpkin seeds and vitamin C has risen sharply.

Next week we return to the gritty purgatory that is Silver Lake.  My hope is that the MFG version of Silver Lake will feel less like Lombard Street and more like LeMans.  Sadistically I also hope the sand will require running.  I am hoping a fresher Evo can lay down the hurt on his competitors.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spatchcocked….. Again

Love of mud is a many speckled thing..
Know this: I will never miss a chance to use the word, “spatchcocked.”   If it is not already part of your personal lexicon, look it up as we approach the season of its vernacular use.

I have almost always been able to adapt to the challenges that came my way. Back in 1989 I managed to get by for months on a fraction of my normal sleep quota. As my professional workload has increased from time to time I buckled down and did what was needed.  This history has given me the perhaps unjustified self perception that I can handle what comes my way. This outlook is both good and bad.

As my coach has piled on the hard work I have thus far managed to keep up.  In the evenings I’m pretty much useless and I’ve been going to bed super early in an attempt to adapt to the increased volume and increased intensity. As I’ve said, I’m glad this is a short season.  Ugh. The hard during the week is much harder than I am used to doing.  The recovery rides though not individually hard, are longer than I might have expected and when combined with weights and core work, add up to quite a bit.  Two-a-days happen once or twice each week.
One of the things I have been happy about is that my coach cycles in an easier week every now and then.  The amusing thing is that even without the intensity I still finish those weeks with a bunch of saddle time, albeit easy saddle time. From a raw numbers standpoint it does not look like an easy week. Just knowing there is an easier one down the road does help me to keep up during the hard weeks.

Last week and this week have been hard weeks. Both weeks have had weights, core, stairs, intervals, more intervals and some easy miles all in varying quantities.  If I had a stalker watching me they would think I was crazy.  Why is Evo running stairs before the sun comes up?  Why is he riding after dark in the rain with lights on his bike?  I see he is getting up early so he can spend an hour and a half on a trainer before showering and going to work as if nothing happened.  What is the deal?
“The deal” is difficult to explain to someone with a straight face. I’m doing all of this in the hope that it makes me faster in Cyclocross.   Is that important? Not really.  Why push yourself so hard? Why not?  So you’re thrashing yourself on a whim?  Maybe not a whim it’s more of a curiosity. 

I’ve been at this racing thing for so long with marginal success that I’d be happy just to know what it takes for me to be markedly better.  If I do this and get the results I am hoping for then I at least know there is a winning formula.  It can then be my decision if I want to pay the price to use the formula in the future.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Coffee and Lies #91 I can hear the ocean

 Almost; but not quite...
This past weekend was a conglomeration of atypical happenings.   The following is a summary of those events.

In no particular order the first oddity was that I slept almost eleven hours Friday night.  I’ve been training hard and it would be a lie to say it finally caught up with me. It caught up with me a week ago; this was just the first opportunity to sleep in and I took it.

Because of Hottie’s bike crash we opted to stay in town this weekend.  It provided some opportunities to do things that were not in the plan had we gone away.  One of those things was that I did a cross race that I had intended to skip.  I emailed my Sensei and told him I would race and anticipated he would change my Saturday workout from a thrashing to a warm up.  Without a hint of a pause he responded that I should keep the same thrashing on Saturday as this was scheduled to be a “heavy” weekend. Thank you very much.

Dutifully I punished myself with over/unders Saturday morning.  When I finished I threw my bike clothes into the washing machine and heard them splash in the empty drum because they were soaking wet. I could feel those efforts in my legs the rest of the day.  This was on top of a week where I had done stairs and over/unders already. Ouch!    I am learning how to fall asleep with sore legs.   It is a skill worth cultivating.

Tux, as a former professional racer, how did you sleep with sore legs?
As it happens; El Chefe’ was supporting a fund raiser by skipping sleep for four days making and selling his award winning BBQ ribs.  Since we were now in town, Hottie and I picked up some of his BBQ perfection and had a picnic at Alki.   We had enough left over that we called it dinner on Sunday evening.   

Hottie was moving slowly and painfully from her injury and because she is a rabid Seattle sports fan she opted to watch the Seahawks once again dispatch the Denver Broncos. This made more sense than shooting pictures of middle aged men in Lycra riding bikes in the sand.  Thus I went to the race solo.  I can’t recall the last time I raced without having my personal photographer at the race. Yeah; poor me.

I met up with Guy, El Pirate and Mr. T who would all get a head start on me at the appointed hour. Big Ben was there as well who would had so much fun passing me he did it twice.

My race was tough on every level.  It was freakishly hot by Cyclocross standards and there were two long sections of soft beach sand that could be ridden only with herculean effort and no traffic issues.  The balance of the course was a serpentine nightmare with an uphill literally around every one of the eight hundred corners found on each lap. I know others seem to have found a rhythm but I never did.  I didn’t have good lines and fought the course the whole day. The endless series of short accelerations didn’t suit my sore legs on this day.  I was reminded of some of the single track at South SeaTac back in the day. On that purgatory of a course, there were sections that I just could not get going fast no matter how much horsepower I had in my legs. This felt the same way. 

After a decent start I relaxed for a nanosecond and a couple guys popped in front just before the first turn and I counted myself ninth on the first hill. Soon a gap formed and I couldn’t close it on the technical course.  I could see a bunch of guys chasing me.  I think they started us only thirty seconds behind the group in front and we were catching guys from that group on the first lap. I moved past guys the rest of the afternoon and I didn’t really take much notice if they were in my group or were from the group in front.

Oddly the part of the course where I gained the most ground began with the second long sand section which was followed by a brief bit of solid ground before a final corner of deep, soft, slow, strength draining sand. Then with virtually no momentum you had a steep climb that led to the lone barrier followed by a loose run up on a steep hill.  The zone five remount that followed was challenging for many as it is hard to swing your leg over your seat when it feels like a soggy noodle.

The sand tackled me on my second lap and for reasons I cannot explain I am good at crashing and rolled over and resumed racing with only a momentary delay.  As I pedaled I could feel sand spilling out of my left ear.  I took my hand off my bars and brushed the sand out of my ear or so I thought.  Three minutes later I tiled my head and felt more sand exit.  That isn’t a nice sensation. This wasn’t my day.
Anything in a 46.5?
I was feeling the previous day’s effort and just didn’t have the top end that I had two weeks ago.  This was the other end of the spectrum as my earlier race and the same words applied.  It wasn’t any easier or harder, I just went slower. I found myself battling a friend/nemesis and put the hammer down.  He wanted to beat me and would not give up. Tired legs or no, his days of beating are were over and I made it so. On the next to last lap I got a shout out from the announcer who commented that I looked like I was suffering.  I was.   When I crossed the line to claim seventh place he noted my placing over the loudspeaker and added that he had no idea I was that old.   I took that as a compliment.

I compared my times to those in my old age group. My time would have placed me right where I was last year.  Considering my poor match up with this course and my Saturday trashing, I was okay with that.  I did take note that the 45 plus Cat 3 field is stacked deep with freakishly fast mofos. If anyone is looking for a category to race in that would inflict self doubt that is the place.  I don’t miss it for a second. 
After crossing the line I did my proper warm down and tried to catch my breath.  I pulled off my sweat splattered glasses and realized I had sand on the side of my face.  I looked at my left arm and realized it was covered with sand.  My right arm had black lines where the dust and sweat had congealed in the wrinkles on the inside of my elbow. My left leg was also battered with sand.  My tan and hair made my sand coating less visible to others.  I was a mess.

Back at the car I poured the sand out of my shoes and socks and discovered I had sand between my toes as well as in my hair.  There wasn’t much of me that wasn’t sandy.  I drank a bottle of recovery drink and then another bottle of water and then a third bottle.  I cleaned up as best I could with water and wipes.   I checked my results and I had indeed finished seventh. 

Two races so far in 2014.  One podium and one top ten.   I’m okay with that.
Next week we return to where it all began.