Fighting Words

Its “Advising Week” at work. That’s the week were I am supposed to sit down with all of the students I advise and talk about what classes they should take next term. Today a very very strange thing happened.

One of my students came into my office (he was nice enough to not only show up for his appointment but to do so on time!) and sat down. The first words out of his mouth were: “I am going to destroy your STRAVA records this spring.”

Them’s bold words son.

1.You are in my office.

2. You are in civilian clothes, not getting ready for a bike ride.

3. You don’t what I am doing or really what I am capable of (bike wise, this is friendly after all)

4. You better remember that you still have to take my class (OK maybe not so friendly ;))

 

Game on. (Now if I could just find my road bike. I seam to have misplaced it with all of the MTB’ing going on.)

Grind

Two weeks ago I rode my first longer ride of the season. It was a great ride. I felt good and strong. Yesterday’s training plan called for another 3 hour ride. Since I really like the route I took two weeks ago I decided to repeat it. And, well, it was a grind.

Have you ever had one of those rides or runs where things just don’t seam to go right? Where it is a struggle from the start? Well that was my ride yesterday. It was a little windy. The wind was a headwind at the start. (Actually it felt like a head wind the entire ride, you know how those rides feel.) It was colder, and my feet got cold really quickly in the ride. It was a slog a the start. It was a slog through the middle. And it was a slog to the end.

10 minutes off my pace from the previous week. Sigh.

I didn’t feel like my legs were dead. I could have biked a very very long way yesterday. I was just slow.

Today is a new day. Weights and a short run. Then off tomorrow. Then back at it. We are in Connecticut next weekend for Easter. It will be a little warmer, and the roads will be different. I’m looking forward to it.

ready…….set…snow

Nothing too too deep today. My oldest son Bailey got a new bike last weekend. Well its a used bike we bought off of Pink Bike. They have a nice, big, searchable, classifieds section. We had been looking for a bike for him for about 6 months and finally pulled the trigger on one last week. It is a Gary Fisher Piranah. Nice little bike. A step above entry level. Some upgraded components. It should serve him well. He wants to get ride some trails this summer. He has made some noise about wanting to do downhill racing. I want him to learn how to RIDE a mountain bike first. Patience Grasshopper!

We spent a couple of evenings getting the bike cleaned up and tuned for the season. Truing wheels, lubing the chain, adjusting gears etc. Well one thing lead to another and pretty soon my youngest son, Noah (Noah of Columbine fame, Noah of Race With the Wind Fame, Noah who got a new bike right before the weather closed out, Noah who stood over me and asked if I was hurt when I crashed in the driveway), decided that his bike needed to get some attention too. It is a funny thing. Noah has not been in a rush to get on his bike (still lots of snow on the ground). But as soon as Bailey got his bike, and started talking about riding, Noah got going. I think Noah feels a little like the real biker of the brothers. And so he was going to stake out his claim. (Noah and I have been talking about his race season again. He wants to go back and do the Race With the Wind again. We have a plan to get him strong.)

Anyway pretty soon, it got a little out of hand and I had a bike shop set-up in the basement.

basement_bikes

How many bikes do you count? Noah’s Trek is on the stand. Bailey’s Gary Fisher is the blue bike on the left. Worm, my Ti ride is on the right. And hiding in the family room under a towel is Truck on my trainer (you can just make out his wheels).

That’s an awesome sight! Of course since then its been snowing again. I’m not too worried. Its going to warm up. Right? Please?

Not Crazy…Dedicated

Last weekend I was in Lake Placid for my final luge runs of the season. It was also the last two seeding races of this winter for the National Team. These races are used to determine who will represent the US in the Olympics next year. I was an official for those races. Saturday morning after the races finished I had breakfast with a couple of people from the luge club who also officiated the races and with a team alum, Cynthea Wight Hausman. We got to talking about changing the way people look at luge, changing the words that people use to describe it.

Here try this. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of luge?

julia_vancoover

If you are like many people you might think, and say, that luge is just plain crazy. You might even say the people who do it are insane.

But that’s not really true. The picture above is Julia Clukey from the 2010 Olympics. Let me tell you something about Julia. After the Olympics she had an operation to fix a problem with her neck. It was something that was keeping her from being as strong and good as she could be. She did not race for a year, dedicated herself to rehabilitation, getting stronger and being a better slider. This year she came back and had her best year of her career capping it off with a silver medal at the World Cup race in Lake Placid. Julia is not crazy. She is a hard working, dedicated athlete. I got to know here just a little bit last winter when she was rehabbing, and she has my admiration for her dedication.

To most people watching someone slide past at 80-90 mph on a sled looks insane. But what they are seeing is the end result of years of work to perfect a sport. When you get into something like luge a little more you see the kids who start out and progress from little 8 or 9 year olds learning how to do something to teens to Olympic class athletes. Yes it would be simply crazy for you to do this. Heck, it would be crazy for me, even though I know how to slide a little bit, to try sliding at the speeds these athletes do. I’m not that skilled, and the odds me me doing it safely at those speeds are low. I would get hurt, that would be crazy. But for them their dedication has given them the skill and ability to drive a sled half an inch away from a wall at 90 mph. You might not think luge is something you would dedicate your life to. That’s fine, but be careful not to minimize the effort that people put into their craft.

Riding in the Leadville Trail 100 is kind of the same thing. Crazy would be showing up at the starting line without having properly prepared for the race. Crazy would be not taking the time to learn how to ride a mountain bike. We are somewhat responsible, we play the crazy angle up. If you watch the trailer for the Leadville movie you will see quotes from people who rode in the race. Look at the words they used: Stupid, Ridiculous, Hell. It makes for good drama. It appeals to the voyeur in all of us. Lets watch these crazy people.

I am not crazy for riding in Leadville. I spend a lot of time each week riding and getting stronger. After we had breakfast on Saturday I went on a training ride. It was 24 degrees outside, it snowed the night before. The easy thing I wanted to do was go someplace warm for the day and chill. But I spent that time so that I can get on my bike and ride for 103 miles at 10,000-12,000 ft elevation. You might not think that sounds like fun (sometimes its not), but its not really crazy. I do this because I want to see how good I can be, how strong I can be, how far I can go.

I do this because I want to learn about myself. And that’s decidedly not crazy.

Monday Morning Slider: Last Run of the Season

It was my third run of the annual ADK Luge Club’s Spring Race. And it was my last run of the season. I pulled off from the start and went straight and true down the start ramp. Then onto the track. Once I was on the track I checked my position: shoulders back, hands relaxed. Then the self talk started: “Down Down Down”….into the upper portion of the track. Clean through the labyrinth, into Curve 14 and clean into the chicane. (BTW. If you need a quick reminder of the track layout. Here is a brief description.) I was having an awesome run. I was having the best run of my life…

adk_race_2013_doug_chicane

The Annual ADK Luge Club Spring Race was a two day affair this year. Friday evening we had a practice session. Saturday evening was the race. I got to the track on Friday at 4:30 to get ready. The weather was great, the people (as always) fantastic, and I was feeling good. We had a bunch of kids who used to slide with the club, but were now on the national team training to race at an Olympic level, sliding with us in the race. It was awesome to see them and slide with them. Someday I will be able to watch the Olympics and say I slide with that kid when he/she was 8.

Friday night was a huge struggle. I sent Coreen a text after the session that said “Total Suckfest”. My first two runs were terrible. Two of the worst of my season. Then I got to my “F’ it” space. That’s my space where I get tired of doing things wrong and pound down the track. Then I finally commit to trying to do things right. For some reason the act of getting into that space calms and focuses me. As usual when I finally get to this space things were much better and my third run wasn’t terrible.

Saturday night came. My fan club arrived at the track ready to distract my competition.

adk_race_2013_noah

The view was spectacular.

adk race 2013 whiteface

The format was a little unusual for a luge race: 3 runs, lowest total time for the best (i.e. fastest) 2 out of 3 runs. Usually a luge race is only two run and lowest total time wins. Now we had one run to throw away. One mulligan.

I slide in the Adult B group. Adult B is for us grown-up folks who are slow. We divide up this way so that slower people can compete against each other and have a chance to win something. I was the second off in my group.

First up was Don. Don is a long time slider with the club. Don has runs like all of us in the B group: “exciting”. Don uncorked a fast group B run. 47.475. I was second, and so I was ready to pull off. Onto the handles, pull off onto the start ramp. Straight and true. Lay on the sled, onto the track. Between the start ramp and the first curve check position. Check. Then a self talk mantra started “Down Down Down”. I don’t know where it came from it just popped into my head. I was reminding myself to keep my shoulders down and commit to having decent form. And I was distracting myself from over thinking.  It seamed to work.

Into and through the labyrinth clean. Into curve 14 and onto the chicane. Pretty clean. Couple of steers to keep in the middle. Into the lower portion of the track. “Down Down Down” through the finish line and up the outramp. Eyes on the clock: 47.828 (best run ever). Fist pump.

I ended up 3rd out of 6. Don had the fastest run. My friend Jenni also had a fast run of 47.587. The other 3 sliders all had “issues”.

Back up to the start for run 2. I was having fun and I was focused.

Onto the start handles. Pull off and onto the ramp. Straight and true. “Down Down Down”. Through the labyrinth clean. Into the chicane. Clean. Little steer. Into and through the bottom portion of the track clean. Up the outramp. Now you can tell how good of a run you had by how far up the outramp you get.

adk_race_2013_finish1

That’s about where I had been stopping. But I kept going up the ramp and finishing at the gate to get off.

adk_race_2013_finish2

47.449 Another personal best. Jenni and Don both followed up their good first runs with better second runs. They both also posted personal best times on their second runs. One of the sliders (Bill) from the first run who had problems uncorked a beauty of a run and had a 46.799 run time.  That was a personal best for him by a significant amount of time (like more than a second). So now things were interesting. We all had one run to toss. A good third run for Bill would mean his first run was tossed. He was definitely in the mix.

So up we go to the start for our third run. Don went first and had a couple of issues. Slowest run of the night for him (one to toss). And it was my turn. I was focused. I was determined. I was ready. Well you know how this run was going. I had a FANTASTIC run going. I knew it was a good one but I was focused. I felt great…..

….I got to the end of the chicane and my sled began to drift towards the right wall. I corrected a just a little too much and drove my sled into the left wall. Game over. There was nothing left but to get safely to the finish line.

Jenni also had a tough third run and tossed that run.

Bill, well he had a good but not great run. Where would we end up?

After all of the math was finished Don finished first. He had two very strong runs for his time. Jenni finished second. Bill finished 3rd edging me out. And I finished 4th. All four of us had personal best times in this race. It was a very strong night for the Group B adults.

Yes, I was dissapointed. I had two really good runs, they were both Personal Bests. They were my first two runs and so if we had used a normal format I would have finished third. But really I was dissapointed because I let the third run get away. Looking at the split times I would have had my third personal best of the night. And in all likelihood I had a run going that was fast enough to put me in second place. But I didn’t finish it and so that’s how it fell.

In the end, I cannot be too dissapointed. I slide two fantastic runs. My third run, with the wall contact was still my third fastest run of the weekend. I found an inner voice that helped me relax and focus while I am was on my sled. It was a great year and I made a lot of progress. Next year the goal is to be sliding 46 second runs and then to get to 45 by the end of the season.

Now, I am putting my sled away for 6 months. Got a little something call Leadville to look forward to before I get back onto my sled. But I am ready to get back on it and pick up where I left off.

The Perfect Climb

A lot of people who participate in some activity search for the perfect something. The perfect wave in surfing or the perfect run in luge. (Note: If I ever get that run, I may just quit right then and there. No worries it won’t happen.)

For me in biking that perfect moment comes on climbs. I’m not a super great climber. I’m getting better. But I’m never going to turn around and give “The Look” (Well unless I am looking back at my 10 year old to see where he is.) On Saturday I had that near perfect moment on a climb.

There are a couple of things that need to come together to get the perfect moment on a climb. The grade needs to be just right. For me that’s right about 4-5%. It needs to come in the right part of the ride. Too early and you are not warmed up properly. Too late and you have used up too much of your legs. And you need to be feeling good.

On Saturday about an hour into my three hour ride I had that moment. The road is called Pumpkin Hill Road (BTW, around here you should pay attention to anything called Something Hill Road.) Its a long (a couple of miles), not real steep but steep enough.

I hit that section of my ride and I was feeling good. I was warmed up and had strong legs. The grade went up and I started to spin my peddles.

And in the perfect climbing moment I all of a sudden realized that I could go much faster than I was currently going. That I accelerated and the bike jumped.

In that moment I feel like a bike rider.

One Week

My new training schedule is a Wednesday to Tuesday cycle. I consider Tuesday the end of the week because because that is my day off, my day of rest. The day when I am forbidden to do any exercise.

Last week was a busy one. Up goes the volume. The preview was two weeks ago. That week was special because I set a record on my trainer. 2:30 in one sitting.

This week the weather was looking, well, awesome. I knew it was going to be warm over the weekend and so I fully expected to get my training in outside. And well….It was great to be outside. Lets just see how this one played out OK?

Wednesday:

4 minute all out intervals. These are not fun. One of the really difficult things on these is that it is hard to find 4 minutes worth of road that you can really crank on. I did OK.

Wednesday

Thursday: Weights and Running

35 minutes of running. Somehow I escaped the pit of doom in the middle of the run.

Monday

Friday (the real fun begins):

1:20 of riding. With 5 30 second sprints. I did the sprints early in the ride to get them out of the way 🙂

Friday

Saturday:

3:00 Endurance ride. The goal here was to ride a constant tempo in Zones 2-3 (sort of a medium paced effort). This was my first “long” ride of the year. I felt really good. I probably felt a little too “good” at the beginning. I definitely slowed the last 20 minutes or so. But I also had some tremendous moments on that ride.

Saturday

Sunday:

Long Force Intervals

1:40 This one was 4 intervals of 5 minutes of low RPM cranking.  I was curious to see what was going to happen. I was pretty sure my legs were going to be a little depleted from Saturday. And well I was right. It wasn’t my strongest interval ride. Some of that was needing to find the right stretches of road for the intervals. This is a little trickier than you might think. A chunk of road where you can put a good hard 5 minute grind in is not really all that easy to find. I think I have some ideas where I can do them now. (Some of it was just being tired. I did my best.)

Sunday

Monday:

Weights and 30 minutes of cross training

After yesterday I figured I was in for a sufferfest running. My legs were unhappy when I started out. But as I got into the run they seamed to work themselves out a little bit and I ended up feeling better at the end of the run than I did at the beginning. My pace was actually faster than it was way back last Thursday, at the start of the week. Go figure.

Monday

And so this week is in the books. My first week biking outside, putting in over 100 miles total this year. It was a pleasure to be outside all week.

Could I do Leadville tomorrow? Nope probably not. Could I do the Wilmington Whiteface 100 tomorrow? I think I could get to the end. Not quickly, but I could get there. Could I do Battenkill tomorrow? You bet. And I could probably go strong the whole way.

So I am right where I should be.