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.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I got a Tallboy LTC and my road bike is growing mold in the corner of my garage. My roadie friends are about to schedule an intervention. I 've never had more fun riding.

Do you use use your hardtail much anymore? Thinking of complementing my TB with a super light hardtail, but thinking that might not get used either. Don't race much anymore and my 26" hardtail is effectively my errand bike now.

Hill Junkie said...

My lightweight 29er Superfly hardtail got used about 64hrs (690mi) in 2014. It went to Michigan with me over the holiday break. Historically I used it to race the VT50, but this year I used my LTc and posted my fastest time ever. Go figure.

So where I still use a hardtail is for rides where a cross bike is not quite enough. There are some rides I do in the White Mtns that are doable on CX bike, but just more fun on 29er where you don't have to worry about flatting. It makes for a good "gravel grinder" bike that gives you the freedom to venture off-road to explore. Some of the guys I do the D2R2 ride with (116mi mostly on dirt roads) use fully rigid MTBs. Can bomb the descents that way and have good control with minimal risk of flatting vs. a cross bike. But for typical New England trail riding, I go for my Tallboy. Even on relatively tame trails.

Anonymous said...

When riding Algoquin road on my cross bike this summer I was thinking, I wish I had brought a hardtail.

In addition to a gravel road bike, I also thought it might be handy on mixed mtb rides with a lot of pavement connecting segments where full suspension is just a drag.

Are you running Ralphs on both rigs? If so, why?

Loved your post a few years back comparing rolling resistance of different tread patterns. Ported an Ignitor front and Nano back to my LTC from my old, more xc oriented 29er. Love the grip, resistance trade off on this set but finding them lacking in volume a bit for the types of things the LTC allows me to roll over.


Hill Junkie said...

I've flatted on Algonquin before with CX bike. That was before I went tubeless. Still way more fun on hardtail I think.

Still running Ralph's on both rigs. Went big as I could get, 2.35" on LTC. I often wonder if I shouldn't run something more aggressive on there, but I don't really hit too much terrain that demands it. With the larger volume, I can run them really low PSI, <20psi most of the time. I like how supple the RR casings are. Expensive, but I've been averaging around 1500mi per set. On my third set on the LTC and over 4000 miles on the bike.

Paul said...

In 2014 I ditched Massachusetts and moved to Utah full time - and couldn't be happier. Zero commute, zero traffic, and world class riding right out the door. Wish I'd done it years ago. The only down side is, no more Mount Washington.

I see no point to paying for two houses, though (unless you plan to rent while not staying there). Durango is a nice town; Tucson is, well, just another big city.

Hill Junkie said...

Paul - where in Utah? I'd like to keep reliable XC skiing nearby. I've ridden the Wasatch and much of Moab but have not been to the St George area.

My wife and I have always lived well below our means. We're talking modest homes. Colorado would be home base. The thought behind two houses, or maybe a house and a condo or townhouse, is that as long as property taxes are very low, cost of ownership is pretty low and convenience is high. Can just jump in the car and head to a different climate in less than a day.

Tucson is a pretty gross, sprawling city, but the riding around there, even right from town, is world class and ideal in winter months. I've been to Tucson numerous times and may head there again this March. Not a place I'd want to live, but a nice place to bike and hike in winter.

Anonymous said...

I heard that one key to climb fast is to go dowhill fast and be able to relax and recover. The FS made it easier for sure and doesn't add a lot of weight compare to body weight. Also, it is much easier to climb in the saddle with a FS vs standing. My back feels better to while climbing unlock vs lock suspension even if it is smooth road. I think you may like a FS cross country type bike with less travel but with the multiple lockout option, it won't make much difference.

Hill Junkie said...

I think being able to relax while going fast downhill helped me achieve my fastest VT50 time last fall. I always leave the suspension active while climbing off-road helps with traction if there's any looseness or roughness to it. I do lock it out pretty quickly though for any road climb lasting more than half a minute. I need to retire a couple of my bikes, so that will open room in the quiver for something in 2015. A racy 29er daulie might be in the works.