Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I'm melting!

March 25th.  Looking East, Northeast.  My favorite sign!
The mud season is upon us and while many dread this time of year, the hope it brings as it ushers in spring, energizes my soul.  I went for a ride and it looked like this.
Further south, looking north.
A couple miles up Texas Creek.  For today, this was far enough.  Looking south
The back road was clear as well.  
I took note of how I have learned to spot animal bones among branches and roots.  The flair at the ends is usually more pronounced that roots or branches.  This time of year as the snow melts out the ditches reveal more than a few winter casualties.
Winter hasn't totally given up.  This is how we spent the morning.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The ghost on the machine

They say the only thing worse than riding in the rain is riding on a trainer.  In this case, “they” are correct. Never the less sometimes riding indoors is the best option. Weather, daylight, schedule or other circumstances dictate that you must log time in the cave.

I set up the rollers and get my bike from the garage.  Then I put on a costume and add a layer because it is cold downstairs.  I gather my shoes, music media and a water bottle and saunter down the stairs in near silence.  The room is quiet and the sound of my cleats clipping echoes in the stillness.

Once I start spinning I put some music in my ears and start watching my bike computer to monitor how hard I’m working.  The plan today is to warm up then hold my effort at the “sweet spot” for an hour and a half with four two minute hard efforts spread out at fifteen minute intervals.  After each interval, instead of pure recovery, I just drop back to sweet spot (max fat burning) and hold that.
Some other Fred
The music in my ears drowns out the turbine noise of the trainer.  Before long my effort has warmed me and I take off my sweatshirt.  I have a towel under my bike and a hand towel on my handlebars to catch the sweat that is now rolling down my arms.

As I ramp up my effort at first it feels strange after holding a set level for so long.  Then I feel strong and as the second minute expires I am starting to falter.  As I back off at first it feels easy then I have to really watch my speed to keep my effort at the level I am supposed to maintain.

There is no pretty scenery or companions to chat with.  This isn’t a ride it is a workout.  I watch the clock.  I enjoy every run.  I enjoy every ride outdoors.  I’m not a fan of my time on a trainer. 

Many years ago I did a triathlon with some co-workers. As part of our training we met to swim laps at a high school pool two mornings a week.  I hated every lap.  If there was a, “zone” or “flow state” I never found it.   I counted the laps and was bored by the second lap.  

I am keenly aware of Einstein’s theory of relativity and for this activity time is relatively slow.  I keep measuring things in terms of, “last one before the last one” and similar mental gymnastics to put lipstick on this pig of a workout.
This lacks punctuation.  I'm thinking a period plus either a question or exclamation mark.

Finally I am cooling down and I hit my targeted time.  As if to prove to myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought I add an extra kilometer before stepping off.

The room is once again quiet expect for my breathing.  There is condensation on the window and I have warmed the room several degrees.  I pull off my shoes and collect my water bottle and earphones and Garmin device.  I feel tired but satisfied.  It is said success comes from deliberate practice and it doesn’t get more deliberate than riding on a trainer.  It is just one check in one box but when strung together it creates success. 

I walk down the hall and the tile feels cold on my stocking feet.  Before heading upstairs I look back down the hallway toward the den.  There are footprints on the tile from my wet socks and it looks like a ghost has walked down the hallway.

I am that ghost.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A word to the wise: Don't do an image search for "turd"
At times my job description sounds really cool.  We tell people that we take on projects when managers are constrained by bandwidth or skillset.  In practice what we find is that when parsing up a person’s bandwidth the part that gets sliced off and put on our plate is often the ugliest of their projects.

The first clue is how happy the client is to have us on board.  The second is the number of marks on the project from people touching it only with their ten foot poles.  When we start to take ownership of the messy project the leaders in the company rejoice.

It seems that a subset of a person’s bandwidth is their ability to handle projects that are messy, controversial, or just a lot of hard work.  I dubbed this a person’s “Terdwidth.”  They may have the capacity in simple hours, but their tolerance for dealing with challenging people, issues and systems is limited.
This looks like it could be pretty hard......  
Maybe you should take this one.
One could lament this position but in fact I have come to embrace it.  First off, because they were scared the managers usually avoid getting a good understanding of the problem for fear they would then be destined to own it forever. The by-product of this is that when we come to understand the scope we are met with awe and admiration from those who feared it in the first place.

The second is that like most things we are scared of, once you jump in you find it isn’t as bad as you thought.  We don’t share this with the client because doing so would lessen the "mystique." 

By maintaining a positive attitude throughout this process you further promote your legendary status by appearing unfazed by the scary task. 

At the project progresses all you have to do is continue to execute to the cheers and adulation of all.

Terdwidth may not become a widely used management term but perhaps it should.  Then again, I don’t think I want to become known as “The Turdmaster.”  I will also advise against searching for an image to go with "Turdmaster."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I'd turn back if I were you

The cowardly lion had it right
When McWoodie sent out the email it sounded like a good idea.  Some base miles on Saturday morning.  As the day approached the days remained grey and it seemed like years since we had seen the sun. The forecast for our ride also lacked any reason for optimism, yet we hoped.

The night before the weather prediction was for a dry start followed by some light rain about halfway in. Five hearty souls departed under grey skies.  We all seemed hungry for some brotherly bonding and we were willing to risk the rain.

At the south end of the lake the raindrops started tapping on our forearms.  Rain jackets came out of pockets and we rolled on.
Buckle up El Chefe' style
The rain let up but the temperature seemed to have dropped and I left my jacket on as we turned north.  All seemed okay as we turned east and began the climb up McDonald's hill.  

Now that we were committed to the longer route the rain picked up. The uphill warmed us but it was now a poker game and the weather raised the stakes again and now the rain was pounding. 

The fun was over.

As if we needed something to make the ride even worse I was feeling particularly shitty and my poor comrades refused to let me drop so they were made even colder by slowing their pace to accommodate me. 

Even Big John was grumbling.
Hard to imagine gruff words coming from that smiling face
As we climbed the rain was pouring down the road making it look like we were riding upstream. After topping out on the backside of Cougar we descended the soggy road with the cold spray cutting into our shins.  Fenders helped but the skies had us in the crosshairs. Three riders were climbing as we descended, they looked at us and turned around.  "Smart," I thought to myself......

Soon we were on the Isle of Mercer and then after wringing thew water out of our gloves we set off across I-90 with the spray from the cars adding to the rain from above.  All we wanted was to be done and we took the most direct route we could.  

My torso was dry and warm enough but my hands had been cold and wet for an hour and now my feet were finally saturated. We began comparing this ride to other foolish epics, The Medina Marge ride, The Dunn Lumber Ride, Mt. St. Helens.  

You are correct, we are older but no wiser. 
Finally we stopped at FUEL for some warmth in the form of coffee.  I tugged my gloves off and then my soggy liners.  We each had a pile of wet laundry perched on our respective helmets. As I stood in line my extremities began the painful journey back to life.  At one point my fingernails all felt like they were being squashed by ten miniature C-clamps. 

We drank our refreshment and realized that time was the only thing between this moment in time and a hot shower.  We cut short any further socializing and departed with atypical speed. 

There were no short showers after this ride. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

March Build Up – Max Fat

I’ve heard this time of year described as the time “Everybody goes to Mexico.” In the mountains April wins the prize for the biggest contrast between the beginning and the end of the month.  April starts with snow on the ground and ends with wildflowers. March is the blue collar month that is just as busy but much more unassuming. 

If you’re looking at March visually, the beginning of the month and the end look similar with only the temperatures really changing. March is when we quietly ramp up our training.  In January and February you get a gold star just for riding, but in March it counts.  It is time to start laying the foundation for the summer.  You don’t make or break your season in March, but if you haven’t started rolling until April, there will be extra work to catch up.

One of the hard truths I have reluctantly accepted is that I am getting too old to catch up I need to make and execute a periodized training plan.  The other day Hottie asked me what I was training for and I simply said, “Summer.” 
We get worldwide respect
As my focus has shifted from 45 minute cyclocross races to four to nine hour Fondos I’ve been moving away from an emphasis on FTP intervals.  Instead I’ve been fascinated by the concept of MaxFat. 

MaxFat is the maximum effort you can sustain while still burning fat.  FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. FTP is a measurement of your maximum effort over twenty minutes.  If you step back and ask what your twenty minute performance has to do with a nine hour event be prepared for an awkward pause. 

Depending on your individual physiology you may be more or less suited to those long events and one of the keys is finding the maximum level of effort you can sustain while still fueling your effort by burning fat.  Once your body switches to burning all glycogen (stored in your muscles) you are a ticking time bomb.  This is why you can train hard and feel like a beast for the first four hours of a long Fondo only to explode later.
Getting ready for some serious hurt
MaxFat tries to find the sweet spot just below where you stop burning fat and to gradually increase that threshold so you can go faster and save your stored glycogen for when you really need it (that final thousand meter climb).

Just to be clear this isn’t riding slow and easy.  The LSD of the seventies has died a deserved death. MaxFat is tempo riding at 70% of FTP effort.  This level of effort is on the bubble because the level of effort is in a no man’s land between hard and easy.  If you go too easy they become junk miles and too hard and you burn your glycogen stores without going really hard so they just become faster junk miles. 

By pure luck much (but not all) of my 2016 training lined up with this philosophy.  After blowing up in Leavenworth and seeing God in Winthrop in 2015 I resolved to try and hold to Zone 3 for anything that wasn’t intervals in 2016. I recall my wonder near the end of Ephrata when, having kept my HR Z3 I felt like I could leap tall buildings at a single bound. Putting a ceiling on my HR produced the added benefit of burning more fat thus lowering my weight and increasing my watts per kilogram. 

I doubt this is a miracle, but it should be another weapon in the training toolbox. 

Dang, discipline is required. Such is the humble journeyman work of March.