Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road Salt White

Hayden and I have come to realize that we may have taken the wrong turn when we left DC. Instead of turning south and heading to the warm sandhills of North Carolina we headed north towards the frozen tundra of Chicago. I should have known I was in trouble when the VDub hit PA and saw fields of white and I'm not referring to cotton.

Winter riding is about finding balance. The balance between too much and too little clothes; between riding too hard or too slow; and knowing when the trainer is the better option. I dislike the trainer and do everything in my power to avoid riding on it except for warming up for crits. I miss the hot days of summer right now.

I enjoy riding in snow, not on icy roads but the first couple of moments when the snow starts to fall. I got that opportunity today and am a happy camper to be back inside now. It was a cold day outside and makes me wish for those days of 90 degrees. There is something disturbing about that stinging when slushy snow hits you in the face. I know that these are the miles that I need to ride to get better. These are the days that I need to keep going so that when it comes down to it in April and May that I'll have that endurance in my legs to put in that final push.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coffee Makes Me Happy

My coffee intake has not slowed down; however, the hours I spend on a bike has decreased. As a result my sleep pattern has been thrown way off. I'm living it up at home in Naperville for the next couple days prior to heading back out into the cruel world of lawyering. This occasion has allowed me to get back to my roots and reconnect with a few neglected friends.

It's a well-known fact that I am addicted to Facebook. Of course the joy of Facebook is finding people you once knew and seeing what they are doing. It's all the fun of reunions with none of the awkward silences or the necessity of saying "remember when" all the time. The best part of this cyber-phenomenon is to see what bizarre paths people have taken and how one person's life actually does effect so many others.

I count myself lucky to know so many incredible people. When I was younger I would marvel at all the "stuff" or the "famous" people that adults knew. Slowly, as I am forced to consider myself an adult, I find that this trend isn't the result of being well-connected or even famous yourself, but the natural outcome of growing up. I'm sorry for all the people who I've lost touch with over time. I rarely have a good excuse and shouldn't even try to explain myself because it all ends up sound like pathetic lies.

I wish I could say that I vow in the future not to let this happen but that would be the worst kind of lie. At least with Facebook and an over-abundance of espresso drinks coupled with way too much sleep I have the ability to catch up a lot easier. Now, if only I could answer the age-old question "what the heck was I thinking dating her?" Maybe they should make a website for that one too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Winter Training 2008: Chapter 1

Periodization is one of the greatest developments in training since the discovery that dopers really do suck, see e.g., Ricardo Ricco. While the details behind the science of exercise physiology escapes me the one thing I enjoy about periodization is that every so often a rest phase gets tossed in and training becomes easy. I came to cycling after swimming where periodization was not utilized. The swimming theory of training was simple-- if you swam 15000 meters today you should swim 15500 meters tomorrow and 16000 the next day. Looking at it from hindsight this is the equivalent of fighting dehydration by drinking a cup of Drano.

I have no idea if that is still how swimmers are trained but the poster boy of periodization, Lance Armstrong, was winning Tours when I was swimming so it wouldn't surprise me that very little has changed. In my 20 years of swimming the most technical piece of equipment I used was an electronic clock. When I go riding nowadays, I monitor my heart rate, speed, time, cadence and wattage. Everything is scrutinized afterwards and trends are studied.

While my training lately hasn't been as intense as it was towards the end season I've definitely put the miles into my legs. My trip to the West Coast cracked my tired legs. It's been a long time coming for me but I have arrived at a rest period. A blessed rest period to repair the damage that has been done to my tired muscles. The rest period marks the end of one training cycle and the beginning of another one. It's like a muscular new years; a time to recharge and ask what's next?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Emerald City

I have reached the far corner of the continental US and the last stop on my trip. Seattle is one of my favorite cities and a place I enjoy coming to. This time, I'm lucky enough to have a couple extra days to help enjoy the local scenery. Plus, it's NOT RAINING.

When I come to Seattle I make sure to take in the coffee and the sushi; both are the best around. However, tonight I ate at the Metropolitan Grill and had a steak the size of my head. It was simply one of the best steaks I have ever had. It rivals anything I've eaten in Chicago or Kansas City. I am in a state of absolute bliss. The scenery around here is pretty too.

Riding in Seattle is no joke. There are bike lanes everywhere and they are free from the garbage that normally finds its way onto the DC paths. There is even a bike lane along the side of I-90 and runs across the surface of Lake Washington which is almost as eerie as the sidewalk along the Golden Gate. However, don't let anyone fool you, I saw no cougars while climbing Cougar Mtn. However, the view from the top was worth the trip.

On my first ride in town on Saturday I crossed no fewer than 10 group rides. I had heard rumors of the "Seattle rules" to group rides but I imagined that they were exaggerations. However, at least one rumor is true -- they use fenders on their rear wheels. It makes sense in a place where the roads often have a layer of water on them and knowing that there are few things less pleasant than riding through someone else's rooster tail. Using a fender eliminates a lot of the road spray but it's just odd to see.

Since I've been here I've been in the best mood. It's possible that super strong caffeine highs are putting a smile on my face but I really think it's just getting in some great rides and have getting to unwind which is doing it for me. The return of the Peppermint Mocha at Starbucks doesn't hurt, it's my favorite dessert drink. Kelly, my gracious Seattle hostess and tour guide, opined that it's the northwest lifestyle kicking in making me happy. I try not to think too much about the cause but just enjoy the end result.

Seattle would be a great place to live, but I'm not sure I would be accepted into polite society. I'd have to totally rework my wardrobe. I don't own a hoodie and the only stocking caps that I have are for bike riding. Until that time I think I'll stay comfortably back on the East Coast.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The NorCal Hustler

I left behind the safety of San Francisco for California's Wild Rivers Coast. About 4 hours of driving through some of the tallest trees I've ever seen landed me in Eureka, CA and the foggy shores of Humboldt Bay. Eureka is a small town by most standards, but for this area of California it is one of the largest and it attracts people from all walks of life.

After a days work I set out on what I wanted to be a three hour ride. There are scant details on the interwebs about good rides in the area so I headed out in one direction to do an out and back. After the day before, I wanted to ride somewhere with fewer hills but that was not to be the case. I ended up heading inland after a few miles on the 101 and found myself deep into a California redwood forest. The road appeared to end but soon I learned it switched back on itself and headed straight into heaven. I had no idea how long this climb was going to last but I knew that it wasn't going to end soon. An hour later I had gone up about 2200 feet and had been riding for over 6 miles up to the little town of Kneeland, CA.

The scenery got to Hayden and brought out her environmentalist side. When we paused at the crest of the climb before turning back she decided to hug one of the local inhabitants.
She got upset when she realized that the tree was to wide to hug and threatened to cut it down to use as our new Christmas tree. She realized that it was a wee bit too tall to fit in to our house. Surprisingly, Hayden had gotten a little moody but I realized she just had a nasty case of the munchies. I thought the fog I had been riding through was caused by the weather, but really it was just smoke from all the pot that was being smoke in the valleys below.

The descent back down into the flat lands was incredible. The street was wet from the heavy fog and it made the switch backs quite treacherous. By the end of the decent my hands were cramping from grabbing the brakes. This was two days in a row that I had been more challenged by going down than going up a hill. The folk in the area were pleasant but after all, when the fog lifted the views were so impressive that who wouldn't be happy.
Hayden wanted to see the Pacific so we headed out on the sand dunes. Hayden's sister Yoko has spent some time in the sand pits racing cross but this was Hayden's first trip to the beach.
I walked for about half a mile but the fog was so thick that I could never find the ocean. I knew it was out there and I could hear it rolling in but I could never get to it. Next stop, the Emerald City.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mt. Tam and the Pacific Coast Highway

I love my job. Something has to be said for Emerson and taking the path less traveled. When I came upon a fork in the "legal" road I took the path less traveled and it has made all the difference in the world for me. I woke up in San Francisco and was determined to find a ride that befit such an opportunity. The day prior I had run into a fellow customer at the Bike Shop who alerted me to the climb up Mt. Tam and how it would change my perspective on bike riding. He didn't lie. By the end of the day, I had climbed more than 4000 feet and lost my cycling innocence forever.

While Hayden is only a year old and has trouble with her reading, she knows that a sign such as this means trouble ahead. At least this time she knew exactly how long we would be in pain. Before beginning the ascent, a brief pause to look at the scenery:

Then I was off. Mt. Tam is a nasty set of switch backs that lasts about 5 miles past this lake and took me up to 2000 feet. It is wooded most of the way up. The trees are right on top of you and with no traffic it's an awe inspiring close in experience. You feel alone and in a tiny bubble of a world. The whole trip from the city of Fairfax to Stinson Beach I passed one vehicle.

At what I thought was the top I paused to shot this picture:

I would say that this is the face of determination, but in reality it's not. I later learned that this wasn't the top but the beginning of the steep section. I had rode above the clouds and the protection of the trees and the wind began to pick up as I summitted. The drops of sweat and the fog that I descended through turned my arm warmers white with frost. I was smart enough to put my arm warmers back on but the gloves didn't make it on till I reached the Pacific Coast Highway. That made for icy fingers.

I've ridden mountains on the East Coast, Colorado and So. Cal, but never before have I encountered as technical a section of road as the descent to Stinson Beach. I'm sure that the locals dive bomb that section without thinking, but for me it was a serious challenge. I think I almost fell off the edge no fewer than nine times. My power meter recorded 40 mph speeds right next to 5 mph. Perhaps I have a weakness in descending?

I reached Stinson Beach and thought that the hard part was over. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that the route back on the Pacific Coast Highway was going to be cake. I imagined with the word "coast" in the name that the highway would be somewhat flat. I was dead wrong and about 5 miles later I was unhappy.

The entire ride was incredible, but the best part of the whole thing was taking Hayden across the Golden Gate bridge:
It was so cool to ride across the fogged in bridge. This has to be one of the most famous bridges in America and the idea of being that high up over the water was amazing. I was however, very excited to get back onto dry land on the other side.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Road Trip

Tomorrow starts a great odyssey that seeks to put to shame my previous bike riding voyages. Tomorrow I am getting on a plane in DC and getting off a plane in San Francisco. I am staying in the Bay Area for a day or two then driving up the California coast to Eureka for a couple days. This stay in NorCal is followed by the long drive up to Seattle for the weekend and part of next week. The bike box is in my living room, laundry is being done and the weather has been checked. All seems to be a go.

For good measure, I'm stopping in Eugene, OR to ride my bike too. I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of adding another state to the list of places where my bike tires have touched pavement. I'm bringing the camera and have my route up Mt. Tam planned. Everything else, I leave in the hands of Providence.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I am the listless wanderer of the earth,
the singer of songs and the teller of tales;
I am a profit and the historian,
the oracle and the reporter;
I am cursed to a love of the open road,
the never-ending journey without a home;
I am a citizen of the world,
the child of everywhere and nowhere;
I am the Bard.