Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Weston Worlds, 2015 Opener

The Tuesday night crit-on-snow race series has begun at Weston on the Leo J. Martin golf course. A large group showed up Tuesday, despite frigid temp, with over 80 racers between the A and B fields. With conditions marginally sketchy after a full day of activities on the course, I pondered for a moment if I shouldn't race in the slower B group. Hard packed conditions brings out the worst in my weak technique.

I queued up a little further back than I was at the end of last season. Looking around, I realized I was still too far up with faster skiers behind me. Before I could even give this a second thought, we were off.

I made it through the freshly made mashed potatoes snow ok, but then the speed picks way up on the hard pack. Should be easy drafting, right? At least conditions were fast even though it was cold. I hemorrhaged several places. Coach Maddy came around and I thought I at least need to stay in her draft. My useless flailing just wasn't delivering enough kilojoules to the snow. Maddy slowly faded away into a tiny silouette down the fairway. Bye-bye.

After a large gap opened, a few more skiers came around. Marv, Robert, Tom and Viktoria. Ok, I can usually hang with these folks. I was still going backwards though, and I was afraid to look back and see there was nobody left behind me!  But hang I did. Marv was drilling it with many in tow for all of lap two. Laps were running about 1.8km.

Some fractures were opening in our group on the climbs in the third and final lap. I took advantage of this weakness and moved up a few spots to behind Marv. That move burned matches. Moments later on the long gradual climb by "Mt Weston," I came to the front. Stupid I thought, as there is much flat terrain and a downhill before the finish. Everybody was still there, and surely they would all pass me just before the finish. One did, Robert. Robert does much better than me on fast, hard packed terrain.

You know how in the Olympic races they all fall over after crossing the line? Well, that was almost me. That was the hardest I breathed since doing this last year at Weston. I did reasonably well, finishing 14-15% back from the winner, right where I was last season. Great workout and good mid-week adrenaline rush. Can't wait to do it again!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Trail News

Merrimack, NH - Authorities are seeking help in identifying a trail terrorist spotted on Tuesday afternoon in Horse Hill Nature Preserve. This individual was observed riding a bicycle with skinny tires on unpacked snow, leaving marks up to 1" deep in the snow.

The terrorist attempted to blend in by wearing local cycling club clothing

Authorities are warning the public to not approach or attempt to apprehend this individual. He or she appears to be from a dangerous terrorist cell that was believed wiped out many years ago, a cell referred to as "The 26ers." The 26ers have a ruthless reputation for mass destruction of untouched snow by riding bicycles with small diameter wheels and skinny tires on the snow.

The damage was extensive.

Considerable lengths of trail were destroyed by this terrorist, ruining  experiences for all trail users for at least 3 or 4 days. Authorities are collecting evidence at the crime scene and have begun a systematic search of social media sites the terrorist may use to post his exploits to taunt authorities. Please contact your local trail enforcement authorities with any information you may have about this individual.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Why do you ride?

I've had a busy, but refreshing holiday break. I cut the work tether. Working sometimes 60+ hours per week was replaced with visiting family and aerobic activities. A week in snowless Michigan was thoroughly enjoyed by riding hero dirt conditions at all my favorite places. A little Nordic skiing would have been nice, but the riding was as good as it gets.

My interest in competitive sport continues to wane. Can't say there is any single reason for this, as I loves me a good race. I haven't renewed my USAC license in over two years now. One of the main drivers pushing me away from riskier forms of racing, such as road and cyclocross, is risk of injury. My bone density continues to decline, especially in my spine. A "comprehensive" risk vs. reward analysis I performed showed these two forms of competition did not make the grade. Perhaps this is only perceived. Nonetheless, in humans, perception is reality. Why participate in an activity that induces anxiety?

A more subtle reason I may have shied away from racing is total stress load. When I race, I race to win. This requires big commitment to training specific to the events you race. Road racing requires lots of interval work. Interval work can be stressful and be a chore sometimes. You must also taper for important races, which means you cannot go out and hammer the day before a race when you've had a bad day at the office.  When you have other stressors in your life you can't just make go away, optional stressors like training have to take second priority.

Riding can be hugely effective in mitigating stress in one's life. Riding as training for events can have deleterious effects. Racing can be a lot like deadlines at work sometimes.  Even though I value the training process more than race results, racing does increase stress.  Riding purely for release of tension can have medicinal effects. My riding this past year has been almost exclusively therapeutic.

My wife and I dealt with a challenging situation involving our son for the last half of 2014. Testing is still ongoing, but he may have a rare form of Lupus that can exhibit psychotic effects. Aaron experienced a major manic episode this summer, taking him cross-country on a bizarre mission. It may be a good thing the law caught up with him before anything more serious happened. That is mostly behind us now. Now we have to figure out exactly what is going on and how to treat it. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder with arthritic symptoms, and Aaron has also been dealing with severe joint pain. Lyme disease has been ruled out multiple times.  We hope 2015 sees Aaron on a path to wellness.

I no longer measure a year in race successes and stats. In fact, I participated in only three cycling and two Nordic events in 2014. But it was a good year. I posted my fastest Rangeley Lakes Loppet and Vermont 50 times ever. Skate skiing is so much about technique. I continue to make incremental improvements. Fitness can wane and one can still get faster on skis as skill improves. In the case of the VT50, I think so many "junk" miles of stress management riding is actually pretty good training for an endurance event. Maybe some of my supposed Type-IIA muscle fiber converted over to its slow twitch form. I just didn't do my normal regimen of 5 minute VOmax intervals this year. Fast twitch muscle can be a handicap in endurance racing. Nobody older than me beat me at the VT50. I was pretty happy with that performance.

A look at 2014 activity hours gives a hint of non-focused training. Even though total aerobic activity hours is slightly above my 10-year average, road hours were diminished, being replaced by trail riding hours. Most of those trail riding hours were on my Tallboy long travel 29er, the most enjoyable bike I've ever owned. Running hours dropped some, while skiing hours stayed about constant.

These 655 hours represent about 7,572 miles of cycling, skiing, running and hiking. Some like to focus on miles, and I suppose if you compare only road bike miles to road bike miles, that is ok. But when most of your miles are on snow and dirt, it makes more sense to talk about hours. After all, all the activities I engage in use the same motor and require similar output.

Strava says I climbed about 590,000ft in 2014. Slacking off, I guess;)  Vertical comes much easier on pavement. There's no easy way to caveat vertical with "snow vert" or "dirt vert." Again, total hours captures this, as climbing is slow, hard work.

So what's on tap for 2015? Hopefully more cycling travel. I really enjoyed my solo 10 days in Colorado last fall. Ideas being kicked around are Arizona trail in March, North Carolina road in April, and somewhere out west at the end of summer. I would really like to get back to Europe too, maybe another Thomson Tour. They have put some new ones together, like Slovenia, that look really attractive.

Cathy and I have also been thinking a lot more about the next phase of our lives. Moving to Colorado seems a certainty. There are many variants around this theme. One, like my dad adopted, is to own two modest places and split your time between them. For him, he spends summers in Michigan and winters on the gulf coast of Texas. For Cathy and I, it gets fuzzier, as we like winter activities (at least I do). Splitting time between Tucson and Durango would sure seem nice. Not too far apart, and you can enjoy best of both worlds in the winter months. Been spending time in Zillow looking at options.