Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pirkey Ears

I didn't ride last night, which is fine because my legs are toast; I took the kids to the Family Fun Night at their school. As soon as we got there Em took off and I didn't see her again until I ran into her and took this picture: Queen Bee Emilie and her posse. Em was embarrassed just knowing I was someplace in her school. Taking a picture with her friends around just horrified her. When we got home we were best friends again, she snuggled in my lap and we watched King Kong together and fell asleep on the couch. I don't take times like that for granite.

This morning I did another road ride to Hell. There was a sign there that said "Hell Welcomes The Travel Channel". I'm not sure what to make of that. It was only 21 degrees out but it was sunny, dry, and no wind. It really was a great ride. I kept my heart rate below 150 BPM and just enjoyed myself.

Before my ride I got my hair cut. I am embarrassed to tell anyone how much I use to pay for hair cuts when I was young and vane. Now I am old and balding so I don't care where I get my hair cut. I go to one of those chains where you don't make an appointment, you just wait in a cue until it is your turn. The only problem is there is one girl I don't want to cut my hair. I like hearing her talk but she is a bigger girl with huge hands, they look like latex gloves blown up with air. I normally tell the girl cutting my hair to leave it finger width long but this girl's mitts are so big that a tuff of hair won't stick up between her fingers even before she started cutting. What I decided to do last year was if I saw her working, I would pretend I received an emergency text and I would leave and come back another day. This was too complicated so I just memorized the name of one of the other girls', Heather Lulu Hicks. I just ask to wait for Heather and I have nothing to worry about. Today I noticed Heather wasn't working but man-hands wasn't either so I didn't care. They call me and, as I'm walking back, I looked up and there was man-hands. Oh crap. Another girl intercepted me and set me in her chair. As she was cutting my hair she tugged on my ear and asked if I rode motorcycles. I am a motorcyclist. I am a responsible dad too so the only motorcycle I have left in my stable is a beautiful 1982 Yamaha RD350LC liquid cooled 2-stroke road bike that I smuggled across the border from Canada when I was in high school to race in the Production D class in the WERA motorcycle racing series. This bike wasn't street legal in the States, but since it was a production motorcycle I could race in the production class. I wasn't sure why she asked. She looks like she spent many, many years on a Harley Davidson so I thought she might be hitting on me. I was both flattered and horrified. I told her: "no, I am not a motorcyclist." She says: " have very firm ears, usually people get strong ears from waring helmets, you know, football or motorcycle helmets." There is no mistaking me as a football player. I told her I ride a bike a lot, it must be from wearing a bicycle helmet, and she agrees. I am 42 years old, falling apart at the seams, and neck deep into my midlife crisis. But I have pirkey ears. Sweet.

Friday, February 27, 2009

To Hell and Back

We were supposed to do hill training but Bill Bailed. I just wanted to document that fact right off the bat. It’s like when a Drill Sergeant hits the snooze.

Yesterday was my first road ride of any significance this year. I rode to Hell, a small town about 20 miles from Brighton. The name is literally Hell; don’t ask me, I guess it was the best the city planners could come up with. I suppose all the good names were already taken and we don’t need another city called Springfield or Oakridge or whatever. There are only four businesses in Hell Michigan: the National Weather Bureau, a wedding chapel, a party store, and a biker bar called the Dam-Site Inn (located, cleverly enough, at a dam). The bar is a popular destination for biker gangs but there were no Harleys there yesterday; Hell was frozen over so they all drove their rusty Dodge pickups. On group rides we try to talk each other into prancing into the bar, in Lycia, and ordering an Evian bottled water. I was riding solo so I didn’t look twice; no sense in giving them a reason to kick my lily white ass.

Typical of my planning, I checked the wind direction, temperature, and when the sun would set. I left work right on time which is a dangerous thing to do when GM is about to lay off 27,000 employees, and I picked a route that, in theory, could get me home before dark. I didn’t bother to check for rain. A sprinkle turned into a gentle rain that turned into a down pour, complete with lighting, which turned into a hail storm. A good ride overall. I am optimistic about this season.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Here is my wife looking at my truck while she waited for me to come out of surgery. Kodak moment for sure.

I was very optimistic driving to Boyne for the State Championship in October of 1998. All I needed was a top 10 finish and I would have enough points in the Cup Point Series to be forced to move up to Expert. I had improved a lot during the three years I raced and was confident I was going to win what was supposed to be my last Sport race. I knew I wouldn’t continue to improve this much every year, still I was encouraged. Nothing but blue skies ahead. But I was running behind. I was looking back and forth between the clock and my map and I knew timing was very tight. I figured I should get as ready as I could while driving. I unbuckled my seat belt and reached back for my water bottles and drink mix and accidentally clipped a guard rail on the side of the road. When I came to, the first thing I thought was “oh crap, my truck is probably going to be towed, but I might have enough time to ride my bike to Boyne and make the race…Kevin can drive me back to Brighton”. I looked down and saw my femur staring back at me. This isn’t good.

The orthopedic surgeon who met me at the hospital was a mountain bike racer; in fact, he raced in my class and was planning on doing the race in Boyne. He said they could transport me back down state if I wanted my surgery to happen there. I was surprised he gave me an option. I was surprised he was that young; it was the first time I met a surgeon that was my age. And we were in Grayling, a hick town; I figured he probably just finished helping a cow deliver a calf before I showed up but he was a mountain biker so that was all I needed to convince me he was the right person to put a titanium rod where my femur use to be.

Of course I did a lot of damage to myself other than my femur but that was the biggie. After surgery the surgeon and I talked about mountain biking. I asked him how this accident would affect my riding. He explained that the femur would be okay; somehow the bone fragments in my leg would conglomerate around the rod and would calcify over. The problem was the femur tore through my mussels in so many places that he didn’t have to make a cut to insert the rod, and mussels apparently don’t grow back once they are severed. He said, very mater of factly, that racing would be out of the question. I don’t think I said anything but he could tell by my expression that I wasn’t very satisfied with that response. He said “well, you know you are lucky to be alive”. I heard that line so many times that it lost its impact, and I was bummed.

That was October of ’98. I couldn’t walk without crutches that winter but spinning on the stationary bike felt fine. In April of ’99 I signed myself up for the Yankee Springs Time Trial. I still had problems walking but riding seemed okay. I finished right in the middle of the Sport racers. Not bad at all.

In the accident I also smashed my little pinkie. I still don’t have feeling in it but that isn’t much of an issue really. I constantly tap it with my thumb, as if the feeling will come back any time now. It serves as a constant reminder to be grateful and puts racing in perspective.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Half-Baked Training Plan

Every December I put together an annual training plan. I never actually followed it, especially the rest days because the way I look at it, other commitments dictate when my rest week will happen, not my training plan.

As part of this year’s commitment to follow through on the things I know I should be doing, I put a copy of my plan on my office wall. It helped me focus on getting down to my racing weight and transition from my base phase (my base phase sometimes lasts all year). Last night my legs felt really sluggish. I glanced at my plan and see next week is a rest week. I happen to need a rest week. Go figure.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sine Waves and Disney Princesses

I didn’t pack my bike and clothes last night like I planned. I was already late when I started packing this morning and it was 11 freaking degrees out. I decided to leave my bike at home and ride on the trainer after work.

I mentioned before I don't hate riding the trainer. I like it more than I would admit; it is my own time where I can stop thinking, actually I can think about nonsense, a long line of loosely related thoughts. I am smitten by mechanical things. I listen to the mechanical sounds and examine the moving parts. I notice the chain doesn't move perfectly linear; it vibrates. It actually makes a sine wave y(T)=A*sin(wT+O).

It is hard to notice if you have a perfect pedal stroke but when your pedaling gets choppy you can see the wavelength, frequency, and speed of propagation change; the waves appear to move back and forth along the chain stay. I concentrate on this sine wave to try and improve my pedal stroke.

The nonsense thinking continues: they make electronic eyes that could detect a change to the chain’s sine wave…I could mount an electronic eye above the chain so I can tell when I am pedaling poorly...but the data could change with every stroke...maybe 180 times a minute...and I couldn't process that much information on a display...but I could establish a range of acceptable variation and have it send a signal when I went out of that range...and send the signal to an electric dog collar that I would mount in my electrode under each cheek...I would use control-stimulus/control-response to train myself. How long would it take for me to perfect my stroke? Jim trained his English Setter to not break point when pheasant hunting using an electronic collar in only four hours and his dog, Dorsey, is the dumbest English Setter I ever met...I am not belittling a friend’s hunting dog…Jim is the one who named his dog Dorsey after the fish in Finding Nemo that had short term memory loss…Finding Nemo is a great movie, it isn't really a fictional story about fish, it is about a father who loves his child unconditionally but struggles to be both a mom and dad...Marlin represents single dads well, I should know since almost all the TV I watch are Disney cartoons I am an expert on how single fathers are portrayed…Ella's father accidently left his daughter with a wicked stepmother who could never love Cinderella as her own; he should have had a better interviewing process to filter women like her out. Belle's father, Maurice, crazy o'l Maurice, loved his daughter and she seemed to turn out a well adjusted girl and the hottest of all Disney princesses but Maurice was destined to die alone, he was smitten by mechanical things and he was bright but he was just a little different, too odd to find a woman, other than Belle, who understood him and in the end, even the hideous beast found his soul mate, taking Belle away, leaving Maurice even more alone than he was before and that is just a tragedy…

And so the thinking goes for 90 minutes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Irresponsible Father

I tend to follow rules. I have been trying to be less uptight without being irresponsible.
Last night Allie was spending the night at a friends, leaving Em and I home alone. Emilie and I decided to go out for Thai food and a movie. Emilie wanted to see either Mall Cop or Confessions of a Shopaholic; she decides on Mall Cop. We had some time to kill before the movie started so we went to Starbucks. Emilie and I discussed the best way to sneak chai tea into the the movie theater.
After Mall Cop we were leaving the theater and I noticed Confessions of a Shopaholic was about to start in the theater next to us so I asked if Em wanted to sneak in and see it. She was one excited eleven year old. We didn't get home until close to midnight. Very irresponsible on many different levels.
This morning I told Em to get ready for church while I went to pick up Allie from the sleep-over. When I got home Em was [pretending to be] asleep with a post-it note stuck to her saying her stomach hurts. We both knew that just meant she was tired and didn't want to go to church. Allie had gone to a Catholic church with her friend the day before and didn't think she needed to go again this week. Every Sunday morning I have to push them to go to church. They wanted to eat Lucky Charms but I made them eat Kashi Whole Grain Cereal. Em, Allie, and I drive to church in complete silence because they are mad at their uptight dad. I didn't like going to church as a kid. I still don't like going. I wanted to start watching the 20 hrs of the Tour of California that I recorded this week. Anyway, I am critical of Christians. I find it harder to question the existence of God riding at Poto than I do in church.
I take Allie to class and she doesn't kiss me good bye. Em doesn't want to go to her class so I let her sit with me. I go to one of those huge super churches where you don't need to know anyone. I wait in line to get a cup of coffee. I can't tell if the androgynous person in front of me is male or female. It is impossible to tell. Lets call it Pat, like from SNL. Pat has wavy hair, short for a women but long for a guy. Pat is heavy so I can't tell if Pat has a chest or man-breasts. I am obsessing over it as I tend to do over questions I can't answer. This question will have to go unanswered.
I sit down in church and I'm not really paying attention; I'm planning my ride when I get home. Then the pastor reads Nehemiah 8:1 "...He read aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women, and others who could understand." OK, we have men and women...but who are "the others" that don't fall into the previous two categories? IT WAS PAT! God has a sense of humor. Kind of made the day worth it. And I can still fit in a ride.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday Night

The main part of my scheme to place this year is to ride every chance I get. I keep all my stuff ready for any opportunity to sneak in a ride. Fridays are hit or miss. Last night as the girls and I were discussing what DVD we wanted to watch, we got a call from one of their friends that invited them out to a late dinner. The girls and I already ate but they wanted to go just the same. I can't believe they would rather go out to eat than make popcorn with me but there was my chance to sneak in 90 minutes on the trainer.

I discovered earlier in the day that someone local had something published in the magazine "Dirt Rag". I was really impressed by this and decided to spend the 90 minutes I had to myself looking for this magazine. It was a great article; kind of put things in perspective. I rode the stationary for two hours this morning to make up for the hour I squandered last night. All is good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hill Training Part II

The plan was to meet Bill to do hill intervals after work. I kept an eye on the temperature all day. 23 degrees seems much warmer from inside my office than while walking across the parking lot. It was a damp, windy, grey 23 degrees. I figured Bill was about to call me to call the ride off so I decided to call first and save him the effort.

Bill answers the phone: “No you don’t!”
Me: “Hey Bill…It’s pretty cold out there.”
Bill: “The heat is in the bike.”
Me: “Right…where are you at?”
Bill: “Just leaving the house.”
Me: “I mean, it is really cold out there, sure you want to ride?”
Bill: “Days like today separate the boys from the men.”
Me: “So…you’re serious about riding?”
Bill: “I will be there in 30 minutes.”
Me: “All right then, I’ll see you at 4:15.”

We fit in two more climbs than we did on Monday. My feet and hands were still numb when I got home. I read blogs while I had dinner. The first blog I read ( was about a man giving away all his bicycling jerseys because his Corticobasal Ganglionic Degeneration has progressed to a point where he can no longer ride and it becomes self-evident I am a pussy. I am like a little girl whining because she wants a Malibu Barbie Beach House. I am done complaining. I have a good feeling about this season.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Last Fall GM took all the clocks off our walls. The thinking was we already have a clock on our computers so the clocks on our walls just wasted electricity. I suppose, but my schedule is so crazy that I still find myself constantly glancing up at the empty space on my wall where a clock once was. I am so busy that I often consider cauterizing myself so I don’t have to waste time pissing.

My schedule is hectic when I leave work too. Three days a week I stop by the bus stop on the way home and get the kids and we are off on an adventure…usually dance practice. Last night was my third and final attempt to take Allie to Lifetime Fitness so I could go to a spinning class after we dropped Em off at dance. Allie just doesn’t want to go which is fine; I do enjoy hanging out with her.

Cin has the kids on Monday and Thursday evenings which gives me two nights a week to ride. I woke up a half hour early today so I would have time to pack my bike and riding clothes and make lunch and dinner. I spent 28 minutes looking for either of my two hats since I knew it was going to be a cold ride after work. I finally determined someone must have broken into our house and stole my hats because they are gone. I spent 2 minutes throwing my stuff in the back of my truck. There was no time left to make lunch and dinner. I have a bag of edamame beans and a can of tuna fish in the fridge at work which will have to do for my lunch and dinner.

Today’s lesson to myself: I really need to pack my stuff the night before.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where Are Our Leaders?

I guess I just assumed there were delicate checks and balances in place to prevent a collapse of our economy. I feel like Dorothy when she discovered the great and all powerful Oz was just an old, feeble man behind a curtain. In December, GM told Congress that they planned to cut 31,000 jobs and close 9 plants by 2012. Last night GM presented a more aggressive plan; I think I heard 47,000 employees would lose their jobs and 14 plants were closing. Wow, I didn’t see that coming. I was busy working, riding, and being a dad when everything fell apart.

This is a bicycling blog and I have very little interest in politics but this affects bicycling. I was about to bid on a beautiful Chris King single speed wheelset on ebay but decided wheels might be the least of my concerns this month. They went for $180; a good deal for someone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hill Training

Bill and I did hill intervals for one hour yesterday. It was 27 degrees and windy, there is not much of a shoulder to ride on, the Michigan winter was brutal on the road surface, and towards the top of the hill is a gravel pit so I had to contend with truck drivers spilling gravel and flipping me the finger. Overall a great ride. I have a good feeling about this season.

At 6-something 240 lbs, Bill looks more like an ultimate fighter than a bicycle racer. Since he is spotting me around 90 lbs, I figured I would drop him on the climbs but I couldn't pull away. This challenge is exactly what I need.

Tonight I will drop the kids off at dance practice and go to a spinning class. Riding indoors is hard once you start riding outside but scheduling is the key right now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Training Starts Today

Yesterday I woke up a few hours before the rest of the family. I made coffee and read blogs as has been my morning ritual lately, then went for an early morning ride before church on the dirt roads around my house. There a couple blogs I consistently find interesting; however, I concentrated on the blogs of elite and expert MTB racers. Two things became clear. First, I have overestimated the natural ability of the elite racers. To race at their level, elite racers were born with certain physical abilities I don’t have but more importantly, they are highly motivated people. I look at their puke-in-the-mouth training efforts and I am at the same time frustrated and relieved I do not have their drive. Second, the expert racers that I compete against have very similar training plans as me. We all obsess over our weight like high school cheerleaders and follow a four week period where we gradually increase effort for three weeks then rest on the fourth week, then reduce effort from where we were at on the third week and increase and rest again. Like me, most expert racers put Joe Friel’s Annual Training Plan (from the Mountain Biker’s Training Bible) in an Excel spread sheet and follow a base-build-peak-race-transition cycle.

Today’s introspective lesson to myself is I must stop obsessing over where I fall in the overall pecking order of racers. To finish Yankee Springs in 1:46 is a well thought out and reasonable goal. Where that falls in the normal distribution of racers is sort of irrelevant. With any luck at all, the fast racers will all suffer debilitating ITB friction syndrome but I can’t control that. Kidding…I’m not really, I mean...I'm really not bitter.

Today I start to transition from my base to build stage of training. Bill is going to meet me at my work so we can start training on hills. I don’t like to increase both the duration and effort of my rides at the same time so the plan was to be riding 10 hrs a week before now. Excellent plan but in real life that just didn’t work. I have been riding pretty consistently so I am not going to get all worked up over not meeting that specific goal. It is only February and I am much further ahead than I was this time last year. And the important thing is just to be faster than Bill. Oops, there’s that pecking order thing again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Maiden Voyage

Between unseasonably warm weather, a thunder storm, sunshine, and gusts of wind, the roads were dry and clean on Friday. I was looking forward to my first road ride of the year this weekend. Clearly a gift from God. I woke up this morning to 5" of fresh snow. Clearly I am being punished for unrepentant sins.

I have been reading the the blogs of elite racers and had already determined I need to start riding outside so I decided to take my Inglis single speed out for the first time. I built the bike up in January so I haven't had a chance to ride it yet (except around the kitchen). I set it up just using a tape measure. The geometry was spot on. I should have spent a few minutes to put on appropriate tires and a bigger rear cog but it worked fine. I didn't want to take a chance riding on the main roads so I took the back road to Brighton Req Area. The plows have been out leaving 1" of snow over 1" of ice. I felt like a drunk on roller skates. And it was cold, very cold; the water in my Camelpack froze up right away. I fell into a rhythm and felt really good about riding outside. The trails had more snow than I was expecting; I was fine as long as I kept moving; as soon as I would slow down the bike would break through the frozen crust of snow and sink halfway to my hubs. I would get a running start and gently get on the bike and ride for about 100 yards until I would break through again. It was great to be on single track again...a month earlier than I had planned. I rode for almost 2 hours and didn't want to come home but I am taking the kids to see Camp Rock, again. It was a great ride, borderline epic. Maybe it was a gift, kind of hard to tell sometimes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Everyone Has a Plan

Generally I don’t look to Mike Tyson for dazzling insight. Tyson is an incredibly gifted fighter but he keeps messing up his life. He did offer a pearl of wisdom once: “every fighter that steps into the ring has a plan…until they get hit.” I think about that during the first five minutes of every race. My race strategy starts to fade as my legs fill up with lactate acid, my lungs burn, and my heart feels like it is going to burst from my chest. I start to consider other hobbies; perhaps stamp collecting, or maybe building one of those ships in a bottle. There are probably some good shows on TV I have been missing out on.

My attitude needs to change this year. I need to look forward to suffering, in races and during hard training efforts. I am working hard for the opportunity to suffer and I can’t look at it as a bad thing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bicycle Parts and Fuel Pumps

Today I will pick up my fork and rear hub from the shop. I try to do all my own work but there are a few things I can’t do, like tap the left hand crank arm, chase and face a new bottom bracket shell, install fork bushings, and remove needle bearings from a Chris King rear hub.

I try to be self-sufficient in everything. Changing a fuel pump in the driveway is no fun in January but it is a matter of principle. I get this from my dad but he is so much more competent than me that I am embarrassed to compare myself to him. Last summer my dad gave a friend of mine a beat up 1967 MG. I wasn't there but Kevin met my dad at his barn to pick up the car and got to see him in action.

On our next ride, Kevin relays the story: The MG had three flat tires. Kevin only brought a tow bar to transport the car home so the flat tires were a bit of an issue but my dad had some spare tires laying around. Kevin starts to take the tires and wheels to a gas station to get mounted but dad explains that there is no need for that. He gets a long crow bar from the barn and pries the tires off the rims, pries on the new tires, and pumps them up with a canister of compressed air, as if everyone changes their car tires by hand. Kevin tells me my dad is a man’s man, an 82 year old bad ass.

Later my dad and I were in my backyard and I explained to him that I was going to build a deck. His eyes got wide and, beaming with pride, says: “you can have my [manual] miter saw!” Me: “oh no dad, I mean I am going to have someone build my deck.” I can still see the disappointment in his eyes. I was a 40 year old man but felt like a kid who just hit a baseball through the front window. He naturally assumed I was going to spend my summer building this three story, wrap around deck myself…and cut all the wood with a hand saw. There is no question he would have done it when he was my age. My dad is the last of a dying generation. A man who graduated high school a year early so he could fight in WWII and has nothing but good things to say about being in the U.S. Navy (my dad, in all the bewilderment of a child: “it was amazing, all the food you wanted, you just had to walk up and get it. Amazing…”).

I am concerned I do not have my dad’s work ethic. I am concerned that Americans don't have his generation’s work ethic. We have gotten lazy and complacent. I am so glad I will be dead before China kicks our ass because it will hurt. And we deserve it.

Looking For Potato Fields

I need to start riding outside now, not towards the end of March when I typically poke my head out of the cave. I also need to start working on my power: my (in)ability to use force and speed, basically my gear size divided by cadence. Hill intervals would be an excellent way to help me improve this area. The problem is, until we move the clocks forward in Spring, I can’t get home and ready to ride before dark.

I was thinking about this on the way to work this morning and it dawned on me that my office is perched on top of one of the highest points in Southern Michigan. Granted, Southern Michigan is pretty flat, but leading up to my office is a climb just under 2 miles long. It starts off gradual but turns up at an 8 degree grade for the last 100 yards. I spend five nights a week with my daughters but I have Monday and Thursday evenings to myself. I can change in my office, do hill intervals for an hour, and shower at my work before going home. How did I not think of this before? It is like a lost hiker that dies of starvation and his body is discovered in the middle of a potato field. There are solutions to all my problems, I just need to open my eyes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yankee Springs Time Trial

I have been thinking a lot about the Yankee Springs race in April. I have never paid this much attention to a race that is still two months away. I embarrassed myself at this race last year. At the time I assumed I just wasn’t in race form yet and I would snap back into shape before the season hit full swing; however, the results were pretty indicative of the rest of my year. These charts show my heart rate for the race in 2007 and 2008. In 2008 my time was 56:39, I finished 25th out of 29 in the 40 – 49 year old expert class. In 2007 my time was 53:38 and I finished 14th out of 22 which was a few minutes slower than in 2006. An alarming trend for sure.

I feel good about the upcoming season. I will be going into it about 10 lbs lighter and with a plan. I feel motivated to ride and I am looking forward to next week when I transition from my base stage of training to the build stage. Next week I will ratchet up the intensity and start focusing on my weaknesses.

The expert class will be doing two loops at Yankee Springs this year instead of one. I am shooting for a time of 1:46. Placing at Yankee Springs is out of the question but finishing in the top 50% is still on this side of theoretically possible, and that aint bad.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Above is a picture of a pleasant 100 mile ride through unmarked trails that Bill talked me into doing last summer.

Bill called me Thursday and asked if I wanted to ride on Sunday. He said he was calling me three days early so I would have time to come up with an excuse not to ride. Last year Bill gave me the nick name "Leaky-Boat" because he says I am always “bailing” on him. My nick name is spreading with alarming speed. What people don’t realize is that Bill is nuts. No riding conditions bother him. Rain, snow, ice, nothing. Bill talked me into doing these rides before work last summer, not nice recovery rides, full-out 4 am crits through down town Brighton.

Saturday, in between picking up kids from sleepovers and getting flowers for the Daddy Daughter dance and a hundred other errands, I went to the Brighton trail head to check on the condition of the trail. I couldn’t tell from the side of the road so I hiked through a foot of snow in my Doc Martins to look at the trail. I was hoping snowmobiles packed down the snow but the only sign of life was one set of cross country ski tracks. Not perfect but I wasn’t going to bail this time.

Sunday, after 24 hours of unseasonably warm weather, the trails were a muddy, slushy mess. Even the roads were wet which would make a road ride less than enjoyable since my chamois would get soaked, making it feel like a wet, salty diaper. I was still determined to ride outside. I was busy doing family things when I realized I ran out of time to ride. I had to make the call of shame: I told Bill I wasn’t going to ride.

This weekend I realized I am not the only bicycle racer to document their training plan in a blog; in fact, I think they all do. Go figure. Looking at the blogs from the racers that win Expert races, I see they are all as nuts as Bill.

Niel Scharphorn:

Matt Juth:

They ride in unrideable conditions and they don’t whine. I will need to toughen up this year and ride outside more than I normally do. That is the point of having a training partner like Bill.
Incidentally, I don’t think anyone actually reads my blog but if you do, please consider going to and vote for Matt Juth from Evergreen CO for the Blog of the Year. Matt is a hard core racer, with a coach from Michigan, and has a chance of winning the contest. This will get him a free entry into the Breck-Epic in July. Racing at his level without a full sponsorship is an expensive endeavor and I think he deserves for someone else to pay his fees for this race.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Bicycle Racer Considers 40

Last night was the annual Daddy Daughter dance in Brighton. My daughters and I have gone the last seven years. It always feels like time-laps photography: like I can see the last seven years unfolding right in front of me. When they were very young, we would dance all night, well, little girls don't dance so much as they jump around and twirl in a slow descending funk. It is special. Last night as I am taring up the rug with Allie (8), Em (11) says: "DAD!", which means I am embarrassing her in front of her friends and to stop it this second. I do enjoy embarrassing her but I let them go off with their friends and watch from the sidelines.

I quietly watched everyone at the dance; then it dawns on me that all the other dads are old. Sure my driver's license says I'm 42 but in my delusional perception of reality, I am still young. That would go a long way to explain why they all showed up to the dance in BMWs and Cadillacs and I drive a crappy truck. They are old and I'm not. But maybe I am.

What if I am getting old. It is possible. How many more years can I ride a mountain bike? There is a wide range of people I do group rides with. Group rides kind of break up into smaller groups of people with similar abilities. Sometimes I end up riding with two 50-something riders, Burnie or Dan. They are both faster than me; not only are they strong but they are very fast on technical single track. Once I was following Burnie and he clocked a tree so hard it actually knocked the inner tube out of his tire. It didn't flat, it just popped out leaving the tire on the rim. As he was still sliding to a stop, I was scoping out the best place for a helicopter to land from the U of M hospital to cart off Burnie. He gets up, knocks the dust off his butt, and, examining the tube now wrapped around his front hub, says: "you don't see that everyday." I wait for him to put the tube back where it goes. Some of the guys from our group pass us. Burnie finishes putting the front wheel on and we take off after those younger riders, like brooms chasing cockroaches. Catch them on a long up hill, pass them on a very tight, steep section, crush their self confidence, and go on ahead.

I don't talk to Dan or Burnie all that much, just pleasant chit chat after the ride, but they inspire me. If they can hammer that hard at 50, maybe I don't have to be delusional about getting old.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Losing Weight Part II

I lost 7 lbs in two weeks. I am ahead of schedule to be down to my racing weight before I start my serious training in a few weeks.

I have not really dieted since trying to make my weight class in wrestling 25 years ago. Last weekend I was miserable; I was hungry, board, and sick of eggs, fish, chicken, and raw veggies. Cin made chocolate chip cookies. The whole house smelt like fresh cookies and I knew there were two gallons of milk in the fridge that were going to go to waste since I stopped consuming dairy products as part of this diet. I couldn't stop thinking about these stupid cookies. I wondered if this was what heroine withdraws felt like. I was immediately embarrassed by this ridiculous thought. There are people really suffering and I am quietly whining to myself about giving up milk and cookies? And really, my weight is the only part of this hare-brained scheme that I have control over; everything else is just given to me to deal with the best I can. The tinsel strength of my bicycle chain, my schedule, my DNA...everything was put in motion by someone else.

I don’t mean to get all Ayn Rand or anything but the more I thought about it, my weight is really the only thing I control in my life. With this new perspective I stopped whining. Next week I will start reintroducing normal foods back into my diet: wholegrain pasta, dairy, and, most importantly, coffee. I can have milk and cookies next month.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lifetime Fitness

Yesterday was my second attempt to take Allie to Lifetime Fitness after we dropped Emilie off at dance practice. Like last week, the plan was to leave Allie in childcare while I rode for an hour then take her swimming. When we got there I realized they do not have family swimming on Wednesdays, which is silly because the pool was empty and the rest of the club was filled beyond capacity. I asked Allison if she was OK with going to childcare even though we couldn’t swim afterwards. She said “sure.”

I dropped her off at childcare and felt like I was leaving a puppy at a dog kennel. I almost went back and got her and called this whole thing off. I didn’t go to the spinning class because I didn’t want to leave Allie in there for a whole hour. I rode a stationary bike in the cardio area. Lifetime Fitness is huge and it was packed. I was in the middle of a sea of sweating bodies. Disgusting. I checked on Allie after 30 minutes. If she was having fun I was going to ride for another 30 minutes but she was ready to leave. After I signed her out I asked Allie how it was. She said “OK” but her expressionless look said she realized I dumped her off in childcare as if she was just an inconvenience. This is not worth an extra hour of riding every week.

I need to figure how to squeeze 10 hrs of riding in a week. Taking Allie to Lifetime clearly is not a well thought out plan. I need to be a little cleverer than this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inglis Single Speed

I like bicycles, I always have. I was the only kid on the block with Phil Wood hubs on his BMX bike. I get so excited when I get a Colorado Cyclist bicycle parts catalog in the mail that I have to tell my wife I get it for the articles. I carefully look at each page: Campagnolo Heritage Thermo jacket, Titus ML-1 frame, Shimano 9-speed cassette. I would never actually spend $280 on a rear cassette, that would be irresponsible.

A couple years ago I was in San Diego for business and, as is my normal process, I went to a bike shop as soon as I landed to find a bike to rent for the week. That week I rented a bike shop mechanic’s single speed. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. As soon as I got back to Michigan I built a single speed with left over parts in my garage and a $19 conversion kit. I started using the single speed as much as my cross country bike. This winter I decided to get a new single speed frame instead of using my cheap cobbled up geared frame. This was while Congress was raking the domestic auto industry over the coals about building irrelevant cars. I realized that all the frames I was looking at were made in China; don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration for China manufacturing but if I am that concerned about the domestic industry and didn’t even consider an American built frame, I am just hypocritical.

I have always been a fan of Curt Inglis. He is a frame builder in Northern California. His frames are pieces of art with tig welds so beautiful they will bring a tear to your eye. The problem is, the frames start out at about $1200. To put that in perspective, that is about six times what my complete single speed was worth.

My decision to buy an Inglis was an emotional decision, not an analytical one. I am so damn happy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Should Be Fast

I have done so many races that I can predict with alarming accuracy what my time will be and what place I will finish. With the outcome already predecided I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t make more since to stay home and cut the grass instead of going across the State to do a race. And with no chance of winning an Expert race, the option of cutting the grass seems that much more reasonable. I guess I have perseverance. Sure, anyone can line up at a race when they have a chance of placing; it takes a certain type of person to line up when that isn’t an option, week after week. Last year I started dropping down to Sport Single Speed for unimportant races just so I could try for the win. Sport Single Speed…that is my back up option if I don’t do well at Yankee Springs in April…I will just quietly delete this blog before any of my friends read it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stationary Bike

I rode the stationary this morning. Getting up 30 minutes early to ride wasn’t a big deal but I don’t get a lot of sleep as it is so I need to be careful that I don’t cause one problem by trying to solve another.

I don’t hate riding the stationary bike. This shouldn’t be confused with actually enjoying it. I enjoy riding outside in good weather; I will be in a meeting at work discussing some work related thing but I keep thinking about single-track. I don’t feel too guilty about letting my mind wonder at work because I think about work a lot when I ride. Riding offers clarity. Maybe it is because there are less distractions riding than during the rest of my day. Maybe it is the flood of endorphins. Maybe if everyone at GM rode we wouldn’t be in the mess we are now.

I am passionate about GM; it is more than a job to me. I don’t think I could be passionate about designing appliances. I turned down a position at Nuke Proof to work at GM. Cars are more than transportation despite what congress thinks. I was watching TV with Cin the other day. There was a commercial for the new VW van. In the commercial, Brook Shields is a reporter that is overly concerned that women are having children just so they can experience German engineering. Cin says “that’s a nice minivan.” I am a quiet person that doesn’t get worked up about much but I yelled out “it’s just a damn Chrysler!” Chrysler makes the VW minivan on the same assembly line that it makes its own minivans. Don’t get me wrong, Chrysler does a great job (kudos to the engineers in Auburn Hills) but still the VW is just a Chrysler with a VW emblem. The thought of women falling over on their backs with their feet in the air just so they can drive a van with a VW emblem bothers me to no end. This convoluted perception of cars is what is going to sink the domestic auto industry.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

So Far So Good

My training isn't going horrible but I do need to kick it up a gear. I am riding hard one day a week as planned (indicated in red on the chart) but I only rode 5 days a week; I really need to ride 6 days a week. Something always comes up during the week that prevents me from riding. These distractions are so consistent that I need to plan for them. Starting Monday I will ride 30 minutes every morning. 30 minutes isn't much but riding before I eat will help me train my body to burn stored energy and it will give me an extra 2 1/2 hrs a week. I use to ride 1 hr. everyday before work but it isn't all that fun. If I am miserable training then I kind of lost sight of why I do this; still, I need to get in more hours.

The other problem is I usually only ride 1 hr after work. Riding on the stationary for more than a hour is tough. I need to dig a little deeper and ride for 90 minutes. I will post my training chart in February and I expect to see a lot more hours.