Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Race against the clock #3

After a good riding weekend and 2 days of rest, this Wednesday evening was just asking for 10k TT #3.

The stage:
1.  Music absent (ok)
2.  Visual stimulus included looking at MacOffice 2008 loading on my new Macbook Air! (cool)
3.  Feeling decently rested, this is a happy medium between normal mid-workweek and weekend rested state (ok)
4.  Pre-game meal was a takeout salad from the Met (ok)

The result:
10k, 16 mins, 33 seconds, average of 329W.    

The reflection:
That's 15W more and 7 seconds less than last week.  It felt good.  I rode with a slightly slower cadence.  Things are moving the right way!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Sunday - gravel road bliss

Due to a conference call on Sunday AM, I couldn't really make it to the 11am start time of a ride that Shawn and I were going to latch onto (or at least just start from the same place and see how that worked out).

Instead I left later, and Shawn joined up with the team H&R ride. I went north out by Symons Valley, on my mountain bike, on the gravel roads. And I loved it. For those who aren't sold on the concept of "road riding" on mountain or 'cross bikes, here's a few bullet points:

1. Unlike Saturday's ride, I was free of Cochrane RCMP hassle for riding 2-up in the median. They pulled us over, then stopped at each corner into Cochrane to ensure our compliance. Geez. I do understand it's against the rule. I just wish our society had different priorities in this regard. Las Vegas was very cycle friendly in comparison, it's nice not to be treated poorly on the roads.
2. No "mental hassle" of mystery riders joining onto the group, not stopping for the cops, leaving us to whatever scolding the cops were going to unleash, then trying to join back into the group by looping back up the highway. I can do without that.
3. No traffic. I kid you not, 3.5 hours of beauty gravel road riding and one farmer's truck passed me. He slowed down and waved. That's a favourable traffic experience for that amount of riding.
4. Even if there was traffic, you're fine riding in a group abreast of the road. How can I assert this? First, on gravel, most of the farmers only drive 60-70km/h. They aren't, by nature, a particularly rushed group. Not to mention you can hear their approach on the gravel so you can move over. Finally, the chance of an oncoming car at that same point in time is so slim, so the cyclists and vehicle have a pretty easy job of dividing up the road for a pass.
5. Silence without cars. Little closer to nature.
6. Resistance. After mountian biking all winter in slush/snow, with a Rohloff with a little internal resistance, it's mind boggling how little resistance a 100psi, aero wheel, on a 15lb Cervelo offers. The Saturday ride was like riding a rocket. A mountain bike on gravel (and mine with the Rohloff), adds work. Work equals training stress. Right?
7. It's still cool out in the great white north. More resistance equals slower riding. Slower riding equals less wind chill. Perfecto.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

145k "hammer" ride

After racking up 450km of riding last weekend in Vegas and a credit card deficit to show for it, I laid low this week. Commuted a few days. Drank lattes.

But that's just what I did. My cells and metabolism were doing plenty. I noticed that the riding was enough to get the metabolism working again. I wasn't snacky at work. My legs by Thursday felt like steel. I went for a short ride on Friday after work and felt pretty good, although I can't say I enjoyed mud bogging it around northwest Calgary much after smooth, dry pavement in nothing but a shorts and a jersey (let's just say I didn't need sunscreen for this ride).

Roll forward to Saturday, meeting at the cabin cafe at 10am. We, meaning Pat, Tim, Devin the drunk, Gerry, Craig, Shawn and myself depart shortly thereafter (I'm going to buy Shawn a watch that's 10 minutes fast for his next birthday...) and make our way west. Legs feel good and I'm not breathing much. We're not riding very hard it seems. I take one token pull on the gel bottle before Cochrane because it seems the right thing to do. After a "magic" coffee that Coffee Traders whips up some of the guys go back (Devin feels he's done enough purgatory at this point), it's westward to Horse Creek road, with a remaining group of just 3 - Craig, Shawn and myself.

At this point it's more clear. 4 days of riding in Vegas worked. I'm not tired, and I haven't been eating much (ie. my body is comfortable at this level of output, not seeking out every calorie it can). Legs feel a little spunky, climbs aren't that bad. And the Cervelo kept whispering to me that it needed to set the record straight, cause it heard some talk out there on the street diss'ing it ; )

Why can't I feel as on top of my fitness the rest of the year? Oh yeah, that's right. Everyone else gets in shape over the next month or two. Oh well, I'll take a good day when I can get it.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Cafe Artigiano

Cafe Artigiano, the primo grade shop based out of Vancouver, recently opened it's first Calgary location across the street from me in a new building.

Cafe Artigiano makes coffee that tastes fantastic. I've received their beans as a Christmas present for the last few years, but having them brew it too is pure magic. Now of course you pay for this pleasure, but I've never tasted coffee so good.

There's something about a steaming latte, made by some funkster-chic with calico hair and a full black wardrobe, who knows how to pour the milk to leave a heart "painted" onto the latte's foam, then indulging in the luxurious flavour, that just makes my afternoon.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Back to Business

Today was full tilt back to busines. Often I marvel at the spectrum of what I come across day to day, hour to hour. Yesterday it was biking up Spring Mountain Pass, which still had traces of snow, and nobody else was riding.

Today I saw one of the worst attempts at asking for equity capital that I'd ever heard. It's not my place to act high and mighty, but when you waltz into our office an hour late because you decided to stop for breakfast, then run through an ill concocted slideshow that demonstrates a high school level of work and attempt to ask for $650mm of equity raising assistance, you're not welcome to waste my time any further. It was about as stupid and outrageous as me showing up for a heavy weight championship title fight - it's insulting.

Then we switched gears. It's a little different when you're talking to the real deal types. Over dinner we chatted to a group who just parked their plane and dropped by for some due diligence. They run $5bn, of thich 20% is theirs. So when they contemplate handing over a cheque for $100mm, $20mm of that is sitting really near by. This, by contrast, is cutting the chase and definitely not wasting time.

Plus the latter group were just friendlier and more interesting. Go figure.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Last day in Las Vegas

I slept in a little longer today, and was woken up by the breakfast I ordered last night. Huevos rancheros, bagel and french toast. Good way to start the day, Tori and I dug in.

Tori went to the gym and did a work conference call. I rode up to Spring Mountain Pass which I think is 5,500 ft roughly and is west of the city. I went slow, took two hours. Nice steady grade, fairly mild (probably 4-5% for most of it, last 3 miles sign said 7%. Coasteback down at 65-75km/h and rolled into town. Only 80km today which is fine, I think my total is 440km for the trip. I'm happy with that, feels like it's enough to get my cycling metabolism going, and it came with a mix of intensities and cadence (today's climb was low rpm leg strength).

I did a work call for 40 mins, packed up my bike and that's it for Vegas.

We've dined on some sub-par food at the airport, and listened to Air Canada start the bidding to send two people home through Toronto at midnight because this flight is full. Air Canada is all class, all the time.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Vegas day 3

Chris Hooper, Tori and I were the cycling crew today, which makes for a faster group. Actually faster isn't exactly the word, maybe a more capable group with longer range is the better characterization. Chris wanted to be back at 3pm to get ready for his flight, and I figured we had enough time to see the Hoover dam if we left at 10am. Seemed like it was worth seeing the sights while we had the chance.

Rolling out of town on a Sunday morning was nice, traffic was light, and the exit east out of town is a gradual downhill so easy pedalling gets you 36km/h.

We didn't stop at the scenic lookouts along the way, we just kept moving towards the dam. Passed some guy with a toque, fleece gloves and full tights and jacket on. I was wearing a jersey and shorts, as was Chris. Hard to understand.

The dam was busier than Friday, it's basically an all American traffic jam. But it's cool to get out there, and I think Chris found it worth his while to see the landmark.

We rode home at a comfortable pace, and I was surprised that the roads we coasted down.

So the distance total is 140k, 103k, and 120k. I'm pretty happy ith that, I might have ridden a little more on my own, but having company around is better than an extra 50k cumulative.

I did a harder climb today off the dam, let's felt good. First 2 days my peak 10 minute efforts were 260 and 280 Watts respectively, so obviouly not very intense (goal is logging kilometers + or - the 250 Watt range). But today I did 10 minutes at 320 W which felt good, especially since that included the first few minutes of climbing off the dam with cool legs from a half hour of picture taking.

We're now checked into THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay, which has a fairly modern decor, stopping just short of being pimpish. I'm trying to figure out which place would be the "best" hotel for cycling trips down here - need reasonable budget, easy access out of town, but preferably not last hotel on the strip like Mandalay Bay so you've got more choice within walking distance (that sounds lame I know, but we're talking tired cycling legs amount of walking).

Vegas day 2

After the big ride yesterday I got roomservice food, then by the time that was polished off we were scheduled to head out for the group dinner.

We put on our finest night life duds, hopefully not to crumpled from being jammed into my suitcase with my much more important cycling gear, to our reservation at Mix at the top of THE Hotel which is like a twin of Mandalay Bay or something along those lines. Basically it just tries to be as modern and cool as possible. I guess it works, neat decor and all. It's on the top floor of the hotel so you can see the whole city.

Food and wines were great, I finished off a seafood dinner with a mixed tropical fruit desert (of course the menu made it sound 10 times more intricate than that, but that's basically what it was), and a very good reisling wine. It was so good I'm still having flashbacks.

4 of us went riding today, Tori and I plus Frank Mele and Chris Hooper. 103k all in, went out to the Red Rock loop. Beautiful ride, beautiful day. Less windy and warmer than yesterday, I just did shorts, undershirt and jersey (vs. knee warmers and thermal long sleeved jersey yesterday).

The red rock area was cool. It was a feat of American national park planning how the sites can be viewed "perfectly" from behind the wheel, or with only 10 steps from the parking lot to the lookout.

On the way back we stopped at Bonny Springs Ranch, which was interesting. Loosely speaking, it was a ranch that had somehow avoided economic ruination by becoming a petting zoo, biker hangout, horseback riding stable and oasis in the desert.

We pulled in across the mini train tracks for the kids train, and went over towards the restaurant. I was standing near a coin operated mechanical camel, and when I turned my bike around the wheel hit the camel. The machine started working, and a little girl got her mom to prop her up on it immediately. I guess this was my good deed for the day, as she really, really seemed to like it.

We passed the duck/goose/fish/turtle and anything else pond, sidestepped a rooster, and ducked into the restaurant. To quicly summarize, it was pretty much like Red Green's cabin. The lineup was long, so we went to the bar. The ceiling beams were covered with thousands of dollar bills stuck in place with people's scribbles on them. The light fixtures were broken in half beer or wine bottles with the wires just running through the top. For the guys who needed to relieve themselves, everyone had to do a double take in the bathroom since the urinal was a bathtub. The clientele was half bikers, 4 cyclists, and half toddlers with families. The menus were stuck to the side of empty tequila bottles on each table.

The ride back to town was easy, all downhill and pretty relaxing, even the sort part on a busier road. Motorists seem nice here so far.

Tonight the plan is to eat some Seafood Blue place and see Cirque du Soliel "ka". For Canadians, any Las Vegas trip should pay homage to one our world famous exports. The seafood was good, and like any Cirque I've seen in Las Vegas, it's incredible. I think it was a love story, but really it was like a war between ninjas and pirates or something like that. It's amazing how much investment they can make in a stage when it doesn't need to move every week to a new city. One part of the stage was a rectangle that was probably 10m by 5m that the could move from a flat plane to vertical and any other angle as well (moved on x, y a d z axis). It had pegs that could shoot out of it, so there could be flat battles, angled battles, vertical battles where the actors become horizontal (you're watching them from above essentially, very Matrix like in movements), and other randomly cool stuff.

Picture a crankset spinning in circles. Now picture that as a 10m crankset mounted in the center of the stage, with two hampster wheels mounted to each end. There were two guys in the hampster wheels who by pumping like on a swing could make it go around - fast. Then they'd do flips and such in the wheels as they were weightless across part of the arc. Then they'd climb outside, without safety cables, and do similar. Then one guy got a skipping rope, and would jump rope as it went around. And by jump rope, I mean after the warmup few skips, he'd be airborne for half the arc, say 10 o clock to 5 o clock, and do a 6 rotation double cross skip. Cool. Sure it's a bit of a show ith funny costumes and such. But Cirque is built on a foundation of badass athletes, and that's what I can totally dig.

Friday, 15 February 2008

What I learned in Vegas today

1. The Hoover dam is cool. The new bridge being built will be spectacular.
2. The roads here were all paved yesterday I think, smooth like silk.!
3. Lake Mead has less water than it used to.
4. Guys who ride here refer to it as "hardcore" if you ride during the winter. I think the Las Vegas winter is approximately like our September.
5. Road riding on smooth pavement with high pressure tires, and without 4 layers of clothes, feels absolutely awesome.
6. The new deadgoat kit looks so sharp people ask if we're a pro team.
7. If you're doing 140k on your first road ride of the year, maybe pick a route where the last 15k aren't up over a mountain pass into a headwind to make it home, especially when your water bottles and gel flask are empty.
8. Las Vegas has about 10 blocks of beauty. Go north on Las Vegas Boulevard and you can see the hairy underbelly of the city. Largest transient population in US. Fast money and gambling brings a lot of other vice and product. It's rough out there.
9. Surviving the homecoming ride down 10k of Las Vegas Boulevard/Main probably qualifies me for courier duty. My new brake pads work well enough to avoid getting hit by a car.
10. If you pull up to a stop light on main, and there's a brotha' who pulls up on a deafening badass black Harley, with his orange, green, and black Soul Brothers ensemble looking at you funny while revving his engine, then a dozen of his buddies pull up ith equally deafening Harley's... there's only one thing to do. SPRINT when the light goes green! I'm sure they wanted an excuse to let 'er rip anyway. I had 'em for half a block, then I thought I was going to go deaf as they all pinned it and went tearing by. Some little kid on the side of the street started crying it was so loud, and as I looked around, everyone was staring at the street, their conversations/business temporarily halted. The street had buildings on both sides and it rumbled 10x louder than thunder. I get up to the next light and they're all just smiling. Sweet!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Valentines!

How's this for a way to make the day happy... dropped off at airport by dad, and I kid you not, 12 minutes later I'm waiting at my gate with a tea from Starbucks. Check in, customs, security and Starbucks purchase in under 12 minutes is enough to make my heart flutter!

Race against the clock #2

Second 10k TT of the year this afternoon... just needed to blow off a little steam before departing for Las Vegas.

The stage:
1.  Music absent (ok)
2.  Visual stimulus included looking out the window (ok)
3.  Thursday afternoon after an i-banking workweek (sure, it's a short week, but don't forget "it's hard to get 80 hours in if you don't do 14 on Monday and Tuesday") (-)
4.  Pre-game meal was a Durango Sizzler burrito/wrap for lunch, and a co-workers' ice cream birthday cake (+/-)

The result:
10k, 16 mins, 40 seconds, average of 314W.  I weigh 171 lbs at the moment.  

The reflection:
That's 1W more and 9 seconds less than last week.  But more importantly, it didn't feel absolutely miserable.  It felt hard, mildly miserable, but do-able.  Another week or two of this and we should be onto something.

I'll be riding in warmer weather for 4 days, and I intend to ride quite a bit.  If I can rest up and do another one next week, I bet it'd show improvement just from increased blood volume.

Let's hope!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Less Cold, More Riding

Today's high was supposed to be -3C, but I don't think it ever got close.  I talked to Devin a few times this morning, and we agreed to brave the weather at 2pm.  The trend as per showed a steeply sloping uptrend to the right, and if I extrapolated the trend (like anyone should do with an uptrend to the right, especially when hoping for terrific stock performances), it looked reasonable at 2.

We did about 2 hours, with a good mix of hills thrown in.  My legs were sore from yesterday, but most weren't the cycling muscles, except for my sore glutes.  Devin and hill climbing is always a challenging combination for me.  Given the weather, we had an enjoyable and productive 2.5 hour ride.  It's hard to eat when it's cold, and I didn't eat enough.  I did love my new micro camel back under my jacket, much better than a leaky wineskin that would ice up my jacket and midsection.

We stopped by Tim's after - Devin cut his handlebars down and I picked up a long sleeved deadgoat jersey.  Unfortunately standing around for 35 minutes gave me the chills, and the Edworthy hill descent was enough to make me a popsicle.  Warmed up on the climb home and pounded some food back to set back a bonk.

Good times!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Cold weather training

I actually couldn't muster the mental fortitude to ride today.  I knew I'd only last 90 minutes, or 2 hours if I let chill set in at the balmy high of -23C for the day.  And I'm not much for trainer rides.

I elected to go to Nose Hill Park for a hike.  Managed 2 hours, with a backpack with 35lbs of weight in it.  Just marched up and down hills.

Felt good, saw lots of wildlife.  Not many people out...

Friday, 8 February 2008

Race against the clock #1

I did my first 10k TT of the year for fun tonight.  I did it at this time of year to finely tune my analytic training 2 months before race season (ok, I'm lying through my teeth.  I ride when I'm not working, that's the program).   

The stage:
1.  Music was good (+)
2.  La Ruta slideshow on iMac (+)
3.  Friday night after an i-banking workweek (-)
4.  Pre-game meal was a frozen chicken pie from the office fridge (-)

The result:
10k, 16 mins, 49 seconds, average of 313W.  I weigh 171 lbs at the moment.  

The reflection:
This was one of those rides that I did because I set out to do, rather than one where your legs are churning away and you feel like you're handing it to the world.  Half way through I didn't feel good and knew it, I wished I could have stopped.  The mind wasn't "attacking" the challenge all the way through, it was dreading it.  Anyway, it's a good baseline, and it'll be fun to compare over the next couple months.

I believe that works out to about 4W/kg...  and although that's a good number in some respects, it's useless when omitting the duration from the ratio.  I believe when pros and cycling press quote that ratio, they're talking about holding it for an HOUR not busting a gut for a little over a quarter of that.  

So I can either work on my time distortion device in the garage tonight, or I can resign myself to keeping the day job.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Hair - the thermometer of life

Rod and Kim have a similar voice.  I just don't know who's got better hair... which puts my ramblings to the subject of hair.  

My last post ended on the subject of hair, and I'm still stuck on that subject. I hate getting my hair cut.  I can't ever remember really liking the process.  I wouldn't really consider it an issue of vanity.  Somewhere along my life, the length and un-kept-ness of my hair became a measure of the quality of my life in my mind.   There's a reason my hair lives for the weekend - outdoors, sweat, helmets, wind and mud help it be what it should be.  Temperature controlled office and flourescent lights kill it.  The "mess" of my hair has a good correlation to the VIGOR OF MY LIFE.  It's like the song that reminds me of the last trip, my mop reminds me that there's much more to life than glass walled offices.

The problem is that this often gets overruled or just plain miscommunicated by some hair shop employee who doesn't understand that mountain biking makes my hair better, not worse.  They just don't get it.  When I walk in with a volumized hairdo courtesy of mother nature's blowdryer and a lack of combing, it's not by accident, it's cause I like it that way.  It doesn't mean you're supposed to "fix" it by chopping all the life out of it.    Next time someone brings thinning scissors next to my hair, there's gonna be an altercation.  Since my last hair cut, which did feature the dreaded thinning scissors, my hair has been hanging off my head looking lifeless.  Now I need to wait 3 more haircuts for it to grow out of the "thinned" zone, or just go a little shorter.

I've decided I'm going to bring pictures in to explain my situation.  

Example 1: Cycling in France.  Life is good.  Red wine, the tour, 5 hours a day of hammering, and nothing but ham and cheese sandwiches to fill you up.  Perfect.

Example 2: Bike touring in Argentina.  There's something about beautiful mountain lakes, flowers blooming in the spring, and 6 hours in the saddle while the Argentine breeze does it's work.

Example 3:  Bike riding and touristing in Portugal.  Now to be clear, Tori has been along on all these trips, but here you can see the winds along the Algarve working on her 'do too.  The relaxed country of port and Fado and cork take the office stress away from the hair (how this is possible with dead stuff is beside the point).

Example 4: Proof is in the pudding.  Suit, New York, work.  I think I'm on the verge of pulling out my hair here.  There's too much concrete jungle in Manhattan to help the cause.

Memories of music

Music punctuates my memories, as does cycling.  So many songs remind me of riding my bike in different places, either hurting or flying towards finish.  

I've got a few latin dance beats burned into my mind from La Ruta 2005 where at the 10.5 hour mark as I was making my way towards the finish line, I was riding behind a jeep full of cycling fans supporting a local racer, with tunes blaring loud enough to take my mind off my hurt for a little while.  

TransRockies unfortunately hasn't left much room for creativity or happenstance, it's all about Highway to Hell.  Do you know any Angus Young fans (or Amy Winehouse fans)?  That's from the FirstEnergy Christmas party, where there's a few rock aficionados.  One new FirstEnergy employee baby has recently been christened "Bonn Scott".

Most recently, I was being mugged, er I mean shoppinga in Harry Rosen on my bi-annual work duds stock up.  And this song happened to be playing.  Something about traveling seems to bring out the best in 80's music - from Latin America to Europe my experience is they replay it exclusively or judiciously in the rotation, as well as quality remixes.  For a few seconds, I'm not having a suit fitted while standing in front of a mirror; I'm driving a little Peugeot 307 wagon 100mph through rolling fields of cork trees in the afternoon sun along the Spanish border in Portugal.  I'm happy, thanks to Kim Carnes.  Most people are taken back to Portugal by the sound of Fado, but I'll take what I can get...

Rod and Kim have a similar voice.  I just don't know who's got better hair... which puts my ramblings to the subject of hair.  


Warm weather cycling (-10C and above)

I'm on day 7 of feeling under the weather... I haven't been gripped by sore throat or pure discomfort which is nice, but I've been blowing my nose and feeling low on energy long enough.  Waking up each morning is like waking the dead, even if I get 10 or 11 hours of sleep.

Regardless, after a cup of coffee and a guitar hero session this morning I suited up to ride, the sun always gives me energy.

For the first 10 minutes, I'm always checking my front tire, it feels like it's going flat.  Last thing I want in the snow is to mess around fixing a flat.  But finally the lightbulb goes off.  When it's only -10C, my front shock doesn't freeze solid like when it's -28C.  It's not the tire going flat, it's a suspension fork doing it's job.

Warm weather riding is so luxurious!

ps.  Gerry was out tearing up the paths on a brand new looking Surly 1x1.