Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sometimes Daddy Makes Mistakes

Shortly after my first daughter was born, GM encouraged me to get my masters. The thesis was the final part of the program. We were encouraged to include a dedication on the front page. This was what I wrote:

I dedicate this thesis to my daughter Emilie. This paper represents the accumulation of 2 years of effort; effort that should have been dedicated to you, and for that I apologize. Sometimes daddy makes mistakes.

One of the constraints in my quest to place this year is I will not take time away from my kids for training. I clearly need to ride more so part of my plan will be to come up with clever ways to fit more riding into my schedule. This won't be easy since I have already tried to fit cycling in every empty nook and cranny of my life. When the kids were young I would pull them in a Burly trailer to a well pump at the Brighton Req Area trail head. I called it "princess water" which they believed completely. We would ride 30 minutes to get there, fill some bottles full of princess water, and ride 30 minutes back home. Having their own princess water was enough to keep them happy on this journey. When they got older we would ride a tandem together. They enjoyed this, so much so that I had dreams of them taking bicycle racing farther than I could. As they got older their affection for bicycling cooled to that of other kids. I take my bicycle with us every year on our family vacation at Disney World. When they are content doing something else, I sneak off to the parking lot to do intervals: sprint from the Pluto section to the Goofy section, recover to Donald Duck, sprint to Daisey Duck, etc. All this isn't enough.

What I came up with is to join a fitness club in Northville. I already have a membership at the fitness club walking distance from my home in Brighton; however, I joined this very expensive, very big, and very vain club in Northville so I can ride after I drop the kids off at dance a few days a week. When they both have dance practice on the same night this works great: drop them off, ride, back before they notice I'm gone. I knew Wednesdays would be tough because Em dances but Allie doesn't. Allie and I always find something to do on Wednesdays: go to church, visit my parents, or, her favorite thing in the world, go to Borders Books. She loves that place but not so much for reading. She is a very funny 8 year old with a dark, sarcastic sense of humor. She likes to make fun of things: book titles, pictures of the authors, other people in the store...Borders gives her lots of material.

I knew talking Allie into going to the fitness club on Wednesdays would be tough because she is cool to new things. Last Saturday I took Em and Allie there because Em would make her comfortable with the childcare at Lifetime Fitness. Em is a very good big sister. I only left them in the childcare for 20 minutes, long enough to get use to it but not so long that they get board. I then took them swimming at the nice pool they have there and we had a great time. On the way home I ask Allie if she had fun. She says: "oh yes, I want to go back there again!" That was my in. I said: "tell you what...on Wednesday when we drop Em off at dance, how about we come back here? You go in the childcare while I ride then we will both go swimming, sound like a good plan?" Allie: "yeah." Me: "are you suuuure?" Allie: "yes!" Alright, that is the commitment I needed. But commitment from an 8 year old is a fickle thing. Wednesday I pick up the kids from school, swing by the house to get Allie's bathing suite, drop off Em at dance, and go to the club. In the parking lot of the club Allie says she doesn't think she want to go to Lifetime Fitness. "OK hun, what would you like to do?"

So there we were in the children's section of Borders. Allie picks up a scratch & sniff book. One thing she scratches and sniffs is a skunk. She slams down the book in disgust and, throwing her arms around in exaggerated animation, she yells at the book, loud enough for everyone in the section to hear her: "What kind of parent would buy their child a scratch and sniff book with a skunk in it!" She is still facing the book but her eyes look over to me to make sure I am laughing. I am cracking up. God I love her.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Losing Weight

I am approaching racing like I manage projects at work. I have a list of tasks with a specific time frame that have to happen to complete the project. One task is to lose weight. The thing is, I realized this 13 years ago and I have addressed this issue. I am 5'9" and 153 lbs; if I drop much more I will look like an Ethiopian marathoner. My task is to lose 10 lbs that will put be below 7% body fat. That is as far as I want to go.

My original plan was just to watch what I eat a little more closely. I dropped one pound after three weeks on this plan. That ain't going to work, I need to be done dieting before I transition from my base stage of training to my build stage in the middle of February. I decided I needed a structured plan so I chose the South Beach Diet because it uses a glycemic index of foods like Joe Friel does in his book Mountain Biker's Bible (which was all the credence I needed) and I figured I could talk my wife into doing this with me (which would make cooking and grocery shopping easier). I have been on this caffeine-free, dairy-free, alcohol-fee, low carb diet all week and I feel like crap. I feel anemic and just plain out of it. Riding is miserable with low blood sugar.

The first two weeks of the diet are very stick so I have to carefully prepare all my meals. Dinner is a little tricky since I normally eat on the road. Earlier in the week I did a good job of packing a dinner so I could eat while I take the kids to dance or on the way to the gym. Yesterday the plan was to drop off my rear wheel and fork at Two Wheel Tango in Ann Arbor on my way home from work (preventative maintenance is another task in my project) then eat once I got home. My riding partner Bill asks me to pick him on the way there so he can check out the bike shop. Two Wheel Tango is a ways from our neighborhood but it is the only local shop I know that both rebuilds forks on site and has the tool you need for disassembling needle bearings in a Chris King hub. I got out of work late and the traffic on the way to the shop was bad. The Mechanic, Al, was very cool so we talked for a while. The traffic going home sucked. I thought I was going to pass out if I didn't eat soon. I go to McDonalds for Bill but I can't eat there. Before I take Bill home we stop by my house to show him the Inglis single speed I just built. Eat at 8:00 PM. I have lettuce/Humus/turkey wraps for dinner that were even less appealing than it sounds. I am just miserable when Cin comes home. I ask her how the diet is going. Cin: "uh...ya...about that diet. I didn't really like it...I had pizza for dinner." Ok, I am on this alone. I did drop 4 lbs this week so I am sure I will have no problem reaching my weight.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Waiting 13 Years For My Breakthrough Season

I went to high school with Frankie Andreau but I didn't really know him. I remember seeing him interviewed on TV, right before he started his last Tour De France, and he was asked: "How do you think you will do this year?" Frankie smiled and said something like: "About the same as last year, not much changes at this point in my career." It was nice to see a professional athlete grounded in reality. I am neither.

The Iceman is a popular 27 mile point to point race every November. It officially ends my season. I had a great time at the race ; the weather was good, course was perfect, some friends and I rented cabins on beautiful Lake Skeegmog right between Kalkaska and Traverse City...perfect weekend. I had a less than mediocre result that ended my less than mediocre season. I told Cin at the end of the race that I think I am done racing. I didn't say this out of exasperation, I said it realizing I cannot generate the watts necessary to be a competitive racer.

I have a Polar 720i heart rate monitor that records my time and heart rate when I ride. Every month I down load the data onto my computer. The computer charts how much I ride and at what intensity level. I hadn't paid attention to these charts all season. In December when I finally looked at it, the data made very clear what I already knew: I did not ride as much or as hard as I have in the past. I knew other commitments kept me from riding as much as I wanted to last season but why I rode at a lower intensity wasn't so clear. All season I had trouble pushing myself to ride close to my anaerobic threshold, even on group rides that would turn competitive. I couldn't tell if it was physical or mental, not that it mattered because I wasn't a racer anymore.

Once the snow made the trails unridable I set up the stationary trainer, not to train this time, just to exercise. I was riding the trainer in late December when I noticed my heart rate was 164 BPM and I was feeling fine. I normally have to push myself a little to ride at my aerobic threshold. OK then, lets crank it up to my anaerobic threshold, 172 BPM. I held it there for 30 minutes. It wasn't easy but I managed just fine. Maybe my problem last season was just motivation. What if I am a little more careful this year to push myself when I need to and find clever new ways to fit cycling into my schedule? Is it possible to have your breakthrough season at 43? My first race is the Yankee Spring Time Trial on 4/19/09. I will push myself until then. If I finish in the top 50% of the Expert racers, or under 53 minutes, I will really make an effort to place this year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

First Entry

I don’t quite understand blogging, either reading blogs or writing them. I am going to use this more as a way to document my quest to place in a 40-49 Expert Mountain bike race. I have been racing for 13 years so I fully realize how unrealistic this is. I am an average person with unexceptional athletic abilities. I was in a nasty car accident on the way to the Boyne State Championships in 1998 that left me with less than full use of my right leg. But I am motivated. I averaged 177 BPM at the Iceman. What I lack in natural ability I make up for in sheer will. That has gotten me to the Expert class. Now to get a top 5 finish.

I am a father, husband, GM Engineer, and bicycle racer, in that order. The first three parts of my identity do not always lend themselves to the last.