Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bad Roads

So are Cow Hampshire roads FUBAR this winter, or what? It was a beautiful day today, so Cathy and I headed up to the Manchester airport and back on Mammoth Rd. Granted, it has been the snowiest winter in over a century, but there's more going on here than the weather. Anybody that travels or rides Mammoth Rd (Rt 128) knows that the state does an annual "patch" job on it. This means they throw down a few shovel fulls of asphalt and scrape it out paper thin with a dump truck over rough spots. At best, it might be a quarter inch thick. No sealer to bond it to old asphalt, no structural top coat (>3" thick), or certainly no repairing the underlying substrate that is failing in the first place. Just Hill overlooking MHT with Pack's in backgroundscrape and escape. What sucks about this is it only takes a few freeze cycles before the thin layer begins delaminating. Not only does the newest layer delaminate, but year's prior layers start coming loose too. Some potholes that might be only 3" deep show a dozen layers of prior shoddy repair work coming undone.

Back in Michigan, I never saw roads repaired this way. When a road started breaking up, it got repaved with a full, several inches thick, new layer of asphalt. They put down a sticky sealer first to help the new asphalt bond to the old. The road drove good as new for several years. But in New Hampshire, you perpetually drive or ride on shoddy roads. Parts of Mammoth Rd were so bad that there were virtually no clean lines. Couple this with cars that go way to fast, it was plain dangerous. I normally avoid Mammoth Rd, riding it only on Sunday's if I must. Some side streets were still messy today. Other than road conditions, we got a nice 2.5hr ride in.

Yesterday I went up to Waterville Valley again, this time with Dave Penney. I was cooked from several days of intensity work, but what else can you do the day after a snow storm? You take full advantage of what Mother Nature throws your way! As expected, I had no top end. I struggled to stay with Dave early on, and went downhill from there. We hit Livermore/Cascade (800ft) climb first, then Swazeytown/Beanbender/Cascade (700ft) climb second. That pretty much did me in. Dave went on to do Tripoli (800ft) while I whimpered on my way back to the Nordic center. I ended up doing about 35km and 2400ft of climbing. I just signed up for the Rangeley Lakes 50km Marathon next weekend. The course will have >3000ft of climbing. Should be more ready than any prior 50k race I've done. The week after that is Ski to the Clouds race at Mt Washington. 2200ft in 6km will be the mother of all ski climbs. The race promoters tout this race as the toughest 10k in North America.

This has been my toughest training week of the season with liberal doses of intensity work. Over 6000ft of climbing in two days on skis alone is probably a new PR. Climbing on skis is easily double the effort on bike. Adding up total vertical from this week's riding and skiing comes up to over 12,000ft. Not bad for February. I'll be heading to Arizona in five weeks, and my first ride will entail over 13,000ft of climbing. Need to train for my training week.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hills Are Your Friends

Waterville Valley Skate Ski
43.9km, 1150m vert, 2:50hrs
Fastwax Blue, +16F to start

With a winter storm bearing down on New England, I scooted out ahead of the storm early on my off-Friday. I planned to ski only two hours or so and get a couple climbs in, but no intensity as I was cooked from cycling interval work two days in a row. It was beginning to snow when I left home, but negligible snow fell during the first two hours skiing. Conditions were the way I like them. Crispy to sugar granular gave good speed and control.

I had no top end and settled on a L.S.D. ski (long, slow, distance). I glided up Tripoli Rd effortlessly, laying first tracks on fresh corduroy. The north end was deserted on the weekday morning. Tripoli went so fast despite easy pace that prospects looked good for additional climbing. I did Livermore/Cascade next, my second 800ft climb laying first tracks. During this climb I got a brilliant idea of how to link in a third major climb. From summit of Cascade, I bombed all the way down Lower Snows and climbed Swazeytown/Beanbender. Normal people go down Beanbender, not up. Hill Junkie ain't normal though. I had climbed Beanbender on only one prior occasion, when I was still a relatively new skier, and I had to stop for breathers several times on the way up. Not today, even with tired legs. The upper part of Beanbender must be twice the average grade of the next steepest climb at Waterville. This is near vertical wall at 14 miles in profile above. After cresting the mini-summit of Upper Snows, a brief descent picks up Cascade to finish out the 700ft net gain climb.

At this point in the ski, I had already covered more terrain and vertical than I had planned, but the km's were ticking off faster than minutes on the clock and I still felt great. It was starting to snow pretty hard now, and any crustiness was subdued by fresh powder. Despite being cold, the new snow had decent glide. I decided to climb Lower/Upper Osceola before heading back to Nordic center. One more out-and-back climb on Pipeline finished out the ski session. Not my longest or fastest workout, but given the amount of mountainous terrain covered while averaging a comfortable 137bpm heartrate, it was one of my better ski sessions this season. It was so peaceful out there. I encountered people only 3 or 4 times. The drive home was a different matter...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Perfect Weekend

Saturday, Feb 16
Trail of Tears MTB Ride
30.4mi, 3:52 riding time

After an amazing ride on the Cape last weekend, I had to get back there again. The weather was wicked cold in NH and the roads were still a mess after a sloppy storm midweek. The Cape escaped with rain only. The soil there is a coarse sandy/gravelly mix that drains extremely well. It wasn't going to be much warmer on the Cape with a north wind, but it was expected to be sunny and dry. Temperature really is not an issue mountain biking anyway, as average speeds are half that on a road bike and any wind is knocked down by tree cover.

Blue blazed trail between powerlines and Rt 6It only took 1hr 38min to get there, including a stop for coffee. The trails are just a few minutes on the other side of the Sagamore Bridge. The parking lot was full of cars. I brought a hardtail with gears this time, as I expected to ride longer than last week with the singlespeed and I had a big ski planned the next day. Singlespeeding in steeply corrugated terrain does a special number on your legs. I expected to get an intensive endurance ride in with bouts of intensity on the short steep climbs.

There was nary a smear of mud, water, or ice to be found on the trails. Hard to believe this is only 90 minutes away from my house, which sits in winter wonderland. I hit parts of the Trail of Tears again, but also hit much new content, including trails not on the conservation land trail map. These were much less manicured, requiring agility and an occasional hike-a-bike. I think I spent 30 minutes on one trail before coming to a junction point. I managed to get the workout I was looking for and then some. I don't think a single muscle fiber escaped unscathed. I was totally cooked after nearly four hours of riding, but in a deeply satisfying kind of way.

Sunday, Feb 17
Waterville Valley Skate Ski
38.8km, 966m vert, 2:32hrs
FastWax Blue, ~12F to start

The legs were quite sore from yesterday's ride getting up at 6am. Today's ski was not going to be an intensity workout. Got that on the bike. We had a nice posse from our lunch ride group go up: Steve, a track specialist, Dave, who thrives in 50+ mile singlespeed MTB races, Arvid, who tears up alpine slalom ski courses, and myself, a hillclimb specialist. It is interesting to see how these strengths carry over to skate skiing. There is a lot of correlation.

Mt Osceola from the yurt, snow to top of picnic tablesI thought the snow was slow starting out. It was that boisterous, squeaky kind of dry snow that has about as much glide as beach sand. We'll maybe it wasn't that slow everywhere, but you had to really work the climbs to maintain glide on the steep parts. We headed out to the north end via Swan's to do Tripoli Rd (800ft climb) first. Steve bailed on that. Arvid smoked me on the descent, but not before taking a header near the top. Crisp corduroy has a way of catching an edge of your ski. After regrouping at the bottom, we decided to hit Upper Osceola next. Apparently only Dave and I decided, as Steve and Arvid went different ways. Not everybody appreciates the value in a good climb. Dave and I stuck together the rest of the ski. We hit Livermore to Cascade next, another 800ft climb. This drove the hurt in deep, hurt from yesterday's bike ride compounded by a couple thousand feet of climbing on dry snow. We crested Upper Snows with descent to golf course. A lap around Criterion (hundreds more feet of climbing) drove the last nails into our coffins. I was spent and called it a day.

So despite frigid weather that kept many riders indoors, I managed to get a deeply satisfying, high training value ride in on Saturday in conditions that seemed anything other than winter-like. The next day, the skiing was fantastic where the snow base must be about 3ft now. 90 minutes in opposite directions is all that separates these choices. New England is a great winter place to be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ice Bike

Nice lunch ride today: 31.9F, pouring rain, trees drooping heavy with ice, and most roads were flooded. My booties filled before I even got out of the parking lot in 6" of water. Perhaps highlight of the ride was coming back on DWH when some punk cut in close to me where the water was 8" deep. The impact of the water nearly knocked me off my bike. It even filled my left ear with water through a wind-proof balaclava. I did not give him the satisfaction of a reaction and kept pedaling as if nothing happened. 14.5mi in 1hr with studded tires on icy/slushy/flooded roads. So why ride in these conditons?

10. You can't stand the lunch time chit-chat in cubicle next to you.
9. How else are you going to burn off those left over conference room donuts you scored in the morning?
8. You'll get a leg up on the competition, as they'll surely not be riding in this stuff.
7. You'll get in a harder training ride just to avoid hypothermia.
6. It builds "character," whatever that means.
5. You enjoy the incredulous looks drivers give you.
4. Riding on days like this is what makes nice days really nice.
3. The salt build-up on your bike needed to be washed off anyway.
2. 40F for the Battenkill-Roubaix will feel downright balmy.
1. Your colleagues will think you're psycho and not mess with you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Trail of Tears

Cape Trail Riding
32.0mi, 3:20hrs

After having a spectacular day on snow yesterday, I was feeling hungry for some dirt. I've heard rumors that the trails out on The Cape have been dry and tasty this winter. Hard to believe, as we've had the snowiest winter on record so far in south-central NH. Singlespeed'n extraordinaire Rich Brown has been hitting The Cape a lot this winter, and I wonder if he was just telling a tall trail tale. I pinged Rich to see if he wanted to head down today, but he's busy moving into a new house. With miserable riding conditions at home, I decided on the spur of the moment to head down alone and check it out.

Trail of Tears TrailheadA few Cape webcams indeed showed there was no snow there despite getting several more inches overnight at home. The sky even looked blue there, while it was heavy overcast out my window. I printed off some trail maps from the web and split with two bikes - one geared with studs just in case, the other my singlespeed. On the way there, I got that uneasy feeling I forgot something. I did. The maps. The two areas I wanted to visit were a maze of trails, and even with a map would be difficult to navigate. It took only 1:45 to get to the Trail of Tears trailhead in West Barnstable.

Starting out in OtisKitting up, it was so warm, dry, and pleasant that I did not use my balaclava, booties, or fender. It must have been 50F. I chose the singlespeed steed for the ride. I was amazed by how good the riding was. The trails were not very technical for the most part, but chocked full of steep ups and downs. It was a serious workout on a 1x1, many of the climbs requiring total muscle fiber recruitment. This is one of the reasons I singlespeed. You won't find me doing boring 3x10min 60rpm strength intervals in my basement!

After riding for about 90 minutes, the sky suddenly grew black. Then it hailed, sleeted, and rain. The temp plummeted about 15 degrees in 5 minutes. My ears froze, as I had nothing on my head but the helmet. But as quickly as this burst moved in, it moved out and became sunny again. At this point I perceived I was not making progress on finding my A descent in Otistruck back. I popped out on a road and asked for directions. I was about 3 miles away by pavement. In a way, I was glad I forgot the maps. I would have been stopping every 10 minutes to look at them. Without the maps, I was lost the entire time and just kept hammering out mile after mile of great singletrack. I did 19 miles including pavement back to my truck in 1:50 riding time. The Trail of Tears was anything but tears.

I cut the Trail of Tears ride short so I could hit one more area nearby. A rider I encountered on the trail said the Otis trails were even better. He was on a 29'er singlespeed. I perceived better to him meant smoother, less technical, and less climbing. Fortunately, I remembered where the trailhead was without my maps. It required about a 20 minute drive.

The Otis trails (adjacent to and partially on Otis AFB land) were sweeeet! Perfect singlespeed riding. The sun was out again, the trails dry, and zero mud. There were occasional rocky sections, but for the most part it was buff singletrack marked by long climbs with ripping descents. I could have ridden all day on stuff like this. But my quads were ready to explode. The ski race on Saturday Post ride, clean bikehad a lot to do with this. I rode another 13 miles in 1:30hrs here, never encountering another rider, for 3.3hrs total riding time. I wouldn't have lasted 45 minutes on the trainer.

My bike was cleaner than my truck after the ride. So Rich has not been telling tall trail tales. Have I been missing this great winter riding for 10 years that I've lived in New England? Cape riding is a well kept secret. Now I'm torn. Each weekend I'll have to choose between epic trail riding or cross country skiing. I'll just have to do both each weekend. Old guys shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cross-Trainer's Challenge Race Report

Waterville Valley 9.5km Freestyle
3/17 Masters 45+, 27:03min

A recent change of plans had Brett and I doing the Cross-Trainer's Challenge up at Waterville Valley on Saturday instead of the Nordic 300 relay race at Great Glen on Sunday. The X-Trainers (map) race is aimed towards runners, cyclists, and other non-skier athletes that cross train in the winter months by skiing. A lot of cyclists show up for this one, and a local cycling club helps run the race.

I have been doing more skate skiing this winter than any previous season. I probably have over 50 hours on snow, plus many additional hours on rollerskis. This pales in comparison to athletes that ski only, but I carry over 500 cycling hours of fitness into this winter sport. However, XC skiing is a technique dominated sport. Skill, not fitness, matters most. I am slowly, frustratingly slowly, getting better.

After a recent knee injury that had me off the skis nearly two weeks and then lack of local snow this past week, my skiing hours plummeted over the last three weeks. I did not expect to place well in this race, but I had high expectations of getting an incredible workout.

Brett and I warmed up for about 30 minutes. We did the first climb on the course twice. The descent was sketchy. I spiked my HR pretty good the second time around and felt pretty good on the skis. I waxed with FastWax Tan, a high fluoro for cold temps. Weather and trail conditions were spectacular. Temp in 20's, no wind, glide about 7 out of 10, and control about 9 out of 10. In other words, conditions don't get much better.

The race is wave start by registration order. Only five skiers went off at a time every 30 seconds. Brett was staged 30 seconds behind me, exactly where I did not want him. He said I was a marked man. Either way, being rabbit or greyhound is a good motivator. It's better though when you can see your target in front of you. 30 seconds isn't much with long steep climbs where you might see a minute ahead. I fully expected Brett to pass me on the first climb.

I went off in third wave with two other skiers (other two must have bailed). I was surprised to out-pole them and begin skating first. I immediately red-lined on the first climb. I held off the two I started with. Near the top of the first climb, two other guys staged further back started to gain on me.

The first descent had some very steep drops with abrupt turns at the bottom, including one that plummeted to a bridge with near 90-degree left hand turn. Drop from bridge to rocks and water below was at least 6ft. Fortunately we saw this warming up, but I both scared and surprised myself by how fast I went through here in the race. Still didn't matter. I got passed by the two guys that started 30 or more seconds back. I still cannot step through turns at speed without first scrubbing off some speed. Skilled skiers step through turns without any snow-plow scrubbing. Note in image below, race is interval 1, the block of highest heart rate. The race climbs are small in comparison to Tripoli and Upper Snows skied after the race.

Whole Workout -Interval 1 is RaceWe go into second climb, and I immediately catch the two that passed me on the descent and passed them. It is very difficult to pass while climbing, as the trail is often just wide enough for one skater. They were good about it though and gave me a little room. I put distance on both of them before reaching the top. But I knew what entailed next - a long, wicked fast descent. Sure as $hit, I got passed again. All that hard work dissipated in a couple of ill-placed scrubs around corners.

The two did not get out of sight before going into final and hardest climb. This climb is up back side of Jennings Peak, a one-way trail on which the race was going up the wrong, steep, difficult way. The trail is very narrow. I thought for sure I'd be stuck behind these guys going much slower on the climbs. But I found a window and passed both of them. I was holding a heartrate I thought not possible going up this beast. I put good distance on the two cresting the top. This time I was determined to not get passed again, as it was all downhill for 2km or so to the finish. I took huge risk. I surprised myself again by how much speed I was carrying around some of the turns I've taken many times before in training. Funny how adrenaline works that way. But on one turn, a rut was forming and I caught it. I thought I was going right through a line of spectators but recovered. I came through the finish with one of the two guys about 20sec back, the other no where in sight.

It felt so good to finish. This race hurt more than Ascutney or any number of the anaerobic hill climbs I do. Being a weight bearing, full body workout drives the cardio system into immediate overload. Great training value. After the race, a few of us skied around at a more leisurely pace for a while. One by one we bailed out of what we said we were going to do though. First Keith bailed on Tripoli, then Brett bailed part way up Tripoli, and then my gas tank finally hit bone dry heading up Livermore to Cascade. I barely had enough energy to get over Upper Snows to get back down to Nordic Center. I did about 38.3km in 2:37hrs and 2720ft vertical for the day.

When I got back to see posted results, I was flabbergasted to take 3rd place for men's masters. I guess being the rabbit worked pretty well after all. I finished well ahead of Brett. To be sure, there were no elite masters there, like Rob Bradley for example. Still nice to take a podium spot for first race of the season. Hope it's a sign of things to come this summer. I'll definitely have to do this race again. It nicely quenched that competitive bug, was thoroughly satisfying, and provided great training value.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cheap Bearings and Imports

Last fall I bought a Easton Vista SL wheelset. It was a bargain at Performance, or so I thought. After a few good weekend rides on normal New England winter roads, I started to notice a bit of play in the rear wheel. I thought perhaps just the axle end caps needed to be adjusted in some. Nope. The cartridge bearings were not the adjustable type. The play was in the bearings themselves.

The play got rapidly worse, and then I noticed my effort for a given speed was going up. There was so much play in the left bearing that the bearing cap was beginning to rub metal to metal with the hub body. I took the wheel out of service and put on an old Rolf wheel. I noticed an immediate improvement in speed.

Cartridge bearing with Shimano ball bearingI should have tried to see if I could send them back to Performance. I only had them a few months, put less than 1000 miles on them in some pretty messy conditions. But I ordered replacement bearings instead. The rear hub uses four bearings, three small and one slightly larger. Two are in hub, two are in cassette body. They are all quite small in my opinion, hardly any bigger than standard skateboard or roller blade bearings.

Sure enough, when I removed the left hub bearing, the inner race had tons of radial and lateral play in it. This explained the nearly 0.25" of play in the rim at brake pads. The outer cassette body bearing had some play too, but it was packed with grit and hard to turn. Both outer bearings lacked any kind of hub seal system. They relied only on the snap-in plastic cover in the cartridge bearing itself. This cheap design invited immediate contamination.

I replaced only the outer two bearings, since the inner ones still felt smooth. I smothered the entire inside of cassette body, axles, and bearing end recesses with heavy bearing grease in the hopes of staving off contamination as long as possible. On my first ride with the repaired wheel, the bike still felt sluggish. It was very messy out. My sprinter friend was even dropping me on the hills, something that is extremely rare. I was quite confident the wheels were behind my sluggish performance, as I was recovered for the hard training ride. Perhaps the other two bearings in the rear hub or the front hub bearings are also bad.

Doing a little research on the web, I see that most wheel companies have their low end wheels built in China. I think that's the only way they can get the price down to $200 range. I notice even Mavic has their introductory Aksium wheels fab'd in China, with what appears to be the same skate board bearings. I can't determine for certain if Easton fab's their Vista's over the pond, but I'd bet a Dean Ti bike on it.

Skateboard bearings do no belong in bike wheels. Period. Way too much is going on there. You have only two wheels and huge lateral force transferred down to narrowly spaced bearings. In the photo, note how tiny the actual balls are in the worn cartridge bearing. The balls are pitted too. And this is a new wheel. Then note the size of a standard Shimano ball bearing. It is 2.5-3 times the diameter, which means it has 6-9 times the surface area. That is a huge difference. To this day, all of Shimano's hubs use loose ball bearings with adjustable cone nuts. I have never had a Shimano hub fail, and I've ridden a lot of them off road. They say this on their 2008 website:

"While the grade of materials and the surface treatment of the races may change between groups, one thing is constant.

Shimano hubs exclusively use a cup and cone bearing system in all of its hubs. Cup-and-cone bearings offer greater strength than sealed cartridge bearings due to their ability to displace lateral and vertical loads more effectively for super smooth rotation in real world riding conditions."

I agree. I just custom ordered a replacement set of wheels from Colorado Cyclist. The funny thing is, they actually cost slightly less than the "bargain" price I paid for the Easton's at Performance. The CC wheels will use Shimano Ultegra hubs laced to Mavic Open Pro hoops. Heavy, but hey, they're winter training wheels. My original wheels from my winter bike have side walls worn too thin to be safe anymore. Those Shimano 105 hubs have ridden every winter since 2000. I just remove and clean the bearings each spring, repack with grease, and they work like new.

One of these years I'll learn my lesson. There's a reason manufacture's blow out inventory through places like Performance or Nashbar (same company). Maybe it was a market flop, or maybe it had a reliability flaw. It's harder to return online product, and most folks ordering from Nash-formance are probably recreational riders that are not riding 8,000 to 10,000 miles per year in all conditions. They can get away selling product with a problem, whereas a bad part on a new bike will create nightmares for bicycle manufacturers and shops. Be wary, very wary, of buying deeply discounted components from online stores.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Future Purchases

I've been keeping my eye on developments in sports and fitness electronics lately. Garmin will be coming out with a new GPS models for athletes soon. I am interested in the Edge 705. It is not cheap, but it does much. On a suitably sensored bike, this single device can record heartrate, speed, cadence, altitude, location, and power, all wirelessly.

The enabling technology behind a multifunction "data recorder" is a new network standard called ANT+Sport. Some of you may be familiar with BlueTooth. Think of ANT+ as BlueTooth Lite for sports. Eventually, it is anticipated that chest straps, speed and cadence sensors, wrist units, foot pods, power meters, and GPS receivers will all possess ANT+ connectivity. This should allow you to mix and match your favorite electronic sports gizmos.

A new company will be releasing an ANT+ compatible power meter soon. It is the Quarq CinQo. It is very light and competitively priced against the SRM reference standard. Quarq makes claims that they are bringing ANT+ technology to the market, but I've read that SRM started this effort about two years ago. Indeed, SRM will also be releasing an ANT+ wireless power sensor soon too. Hard to say what the reliability of the new Quarq will be. I subscribed to their email updates, and it sounds like they have a solid team in place behind the new product launch. SRM has been in the power business a long time now, and their reliability record is impeccable. The current wireless PowerTap SL 2.4 hub is rumored to be ANT+ compatible, but the PowerTap website is silent on this issue.

I currently train with a PowerTap Pro model, which is not wireless. It will not work with ANT+. Further, it is a very heavy build, not suitable for hillclimb events, where I'd most like power feedback for pacing. The PT Pro has worked fairly well in training, but I only use it in good weather. There has been a bit of debate in the blogosphere lately about the value of training with power. This is perhaps a topic I'll have to take up in a future post. Suffice it to say for now, I have learned much about pacing myself using a power meter periodically, so even when I am not using the meter, I am able to exercise more restraint when needed.

For a GPS, I currently use a Garmin GPSMAP 76 model. It is big, heavy, and doesn't run very long on a set of batteries, but it has many features I like. The new Edge 705 model weighs about half as much, has color display, is much more compact, and will run longer on set of batteries. Plus, for the first time, I can use a single instrument to record all of my workouts - XC skiing and cycling. Right now I need separate GPS and HRM units for XC skiing with no way to merge the separate data files to see, for example, where on a trail my HR max'd. Garmin does have GPS models now in their Edge line that can do this, but the new 705 adds full power meter functionality. So when I dock the new Edge 705 on my bike, I will be able to correlate power and HR with location and altitude. No other power meter on the market has integrated GPS to my knowledge. Quarq is also developing the Qranium, their version of the Garmin Edge 705 display unit. But latest word is they are having problems with GPS antenna sensitivity.

Transmission over ANT+ is inherently coded, and only a single chest strap will be needed for all workouts. Right now I used coded Polar unit for XC skiing and non-coded for PowerTap.

My plans are to buy the Garmin Edge 705 as soon as it becomes available. I'll have to wait and see who comes to market first with an ANT+ power meter. My preference probably sides with SRM if they can produce by spring. I've had my share of PowerTap troubles, and the new Quarq will likely have it's own set of quarks to work out. Only unknown in this is how easy is it to use the 705 interval/lap functions, as found on a Polar HRM? I may still have to use my Polar for certain events or training.

Monday, February 4, 2008

So the Pats Lost

Boo-hoo. I never turned the TV on during the game. I watch negligible TV anyway. I had a pretty good idea the Pats lost before I saw it on the newspapers walking in to work this morning. You see, I live in Cow Hampshire. I recall the last time the Pats won I heard a lot of fireworks and firearms. I think the ratio of guns to people in our state is about 2:1. Nothing wrong with that. Ratio is actually more like 3:1 in my household. But last night was silent. Dead silent. That could have meant only one thing. They lost.

It's no secret I have never been a fan of spectator sports. Perhaps never seeing a major league/NFL/NHL/NBA game as a child has something to do with it. I really don't even follow pro cycling that closely, despite having an obsessive passion for cycling in all flavors. Sure, I have Lance (#101) with Tinker Juarez on his wheel at 1999 Mt Snow Nationalsbeen to a couple pro MTB races. Even watched Lance duke it out with Tinker a few weeks after Lance won his first tour. But I wasn't there just to watch the pros. I also raced on the same course. Cycling is a participatory sport for me.

US cycling in general is a participatory sport. Some of the bigger tours, such as Georgia and California are starting to draw crowds, but for the most part, competitive cycling is for the athlete, not spectator. How many football fans play real football regularly? I bet many would get badly hurt trying. Cycling is different. We do, not watch. Even if the grand tours ceased to be, US cycling would change little.

Some would measure the success of cycling events by the size of spectator crowds. I think if cycling became highly commercialized, it would lose much of its appeal to me. I see successful cycling events as ones that fill fields quickly, like Mt Washington (all 600 spots in 20 minutes last year) or the insanely popular Battenkill (most fields filled in a few days last month).

I bring this up because so many colleagues want to talk about "the game," and I just have to give them a blank look in return. After a while, they catch on. Now if you want to talk about how the last race we were in together played out, or about the cool ride from a recent trip, then we can exchange some lively discussion.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

One of Everything (Again)

Wateville Valley Skate Ski
42.1km, 1171m vert, 2:41hrs
Fastwax Blue, temp ~0C

A few weeks ago I skied with cycling acquaintance Brad Ek when he suggested we try "one of everything." It was a great workout - you see everything just once and you get all the climbing in you could hope for. Today I did a variant of this loop with cyclocross racer Ryan Laroque, who just happened to get there the same time I did. The cool thing about skate skiing at Waterville is that you always run into other cyclists. It seems cyclist have similar traits on skis. They don't have the upper body most dedicated skiers have and rely more heavily on leg strength, they come into winter with great fitness, and they look to skate skiing as a way to maintain fitness over winter. The cycling lot may dabble in a couple ski races, but for the most part are competent skiers that fill the gap between elites and avid recreational skiers.

Ryan is a much better skier than I, so I chased him around most of the day. It's always great to ski with better skiers and learn from their form. But ground I lost on the descents or flats was made up on the steep climbs. I place high value on maintaining aerobic fitness over winter, as I like to start the cycling season strong. Ryan's season comes much later in the year and he has all summer to build up to it.

So we hit all the usual suspects, like Jennings Peak, Upper Fletchers, Criterion, Tripoli, Upper Osceola, Cascade, and Upper Snows. I got in two focused intervals, one on Tripoli, the other heading up Osceola. The other climbs were sub-threshold.

My knee problems are history, so I can stop whining about it now. I had no issues with my first training ski in two weeks. It is clear to me now that the tidbits of running I did put me over the edge. Prospects look good for doing a race next weekend. Candidates are the Nordic 300 at Great Glen, the 10k at Prospect Mtn, or what I'm leaning towards now is the 9.5k Cross-Trainer's Challenge at Waterville Valley.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Getting Old Isn't For Sissy's

The knee is pretty much recovered now. A combination of several rest days earlier this week, staying off skis, abandoning running, and taking NSAIDS drug Voltaren has brought a fairly speedy recovery from knee bursitis.

My mother is having knee issues too, and she may be a candidate for a joint replacement before too long. She commented a while back that "Getting old isn't for sissy's." One can become overwhelmed by pain unless you learn to suck it up some.

Wednesday was my first hard ride on the bike. After three days off, I was going nuts. Knee was not doing that well yet, but I reasoned that if biking didn't cause it, perhaps biking won't exacerbate the problem. I took a risk and hammered 36 miles with several hard hill intervals on my lunch break with no pain on the bike. The knee did not flare up afterwards either. I was psyched. Got in an hour of tempo on Thursday with two "leg stretcher" hill intervals. Friday was recovery spin.

Today I had a long group ride planned, but the weather didn't cooperate. The storm last night left many areas with an inch or more of frozen crud on the roads. I was going to meet Brett in Lancaster for the training ride, but on the way there he calls and says don't bother, the roads are too risky. It got called off anyway. We ended up going to his place further south where the roads were clear. I had hoped for 3-4hrs with a few big hills, but we got 2.6hrs with many smaller hills. I attacked seven of the hills vigorously, ranging from sub-minute to seven minutes in duration. My quads were quite cooked after the ride, and my knee gave me no grief.

Tomorrow I plan to phase skiing back in. I'm quite concerned this could aggravate the bursitis. I've been essentially pain free for two days now. If it goes well, I hope to do a race the following weekend. I've not had a good ski workout in two weeks, so this will be interesting.

I've updated the Hillclimb Races page at A tentative 2008 hillclimb events table has been added, and the page should display more uniformly across browser platforms. I am in process of rewriting many of the pages in xhtml, as opposed to MS-Word and "save-as" html. Word creates terrible HTML, and Mozilla users tell me many things don't display correctly.