An Open Letter to Elden Nelson Part 2

Dear Fatty,

Hey Buddy, how’s it going?

Recently I wrote you an open letter discussing your team plans for the 8 hours of Boggs race. I have yet to receive a reply from you per this letter. I realize you may of been recovering from you True Grit Race experience and have not yet had time to reply to the challenge that has been thrown down. Nice job on your solid “middle of the pack” finish at True Grit BTW. How did your wife finish again? Or maybe you are shaking in your bike shoes. Who knows.

I thought I would update you a little bit on the progress of our team.

You may be asking yourself who this mystery “Rider-X” is on our team. Well let me help you with that. He is in this picture.

riderx

Hope that helps.

I also wanted to let you in on some of our special training. Dave has been riding hard. He has a unique training program where he rides a special tandem bike with an awesome stoker.

dave_training

Dave and his family are World Bicycle Relief Ambassadors and their story is AMAZING. (If you don’t know the story you can find it here.) Dave and Rob have been training hard, and when they are finished training Dave has been going out for more riding to build up his speed. Yeah, two-a-days for Dave.

Since Dave has been doing two-a-days, I have been counting his training rides as mine. I don’t want us to have an unfair advantage when we meet at Boggs. Yes. I have been embarking on a true “Team Fatty” training regime of bratts, pizza, ice cream (I have been doing two-a-days on this one) and pie this winter, with a couple of latte’s thrown in each day for extra energy. So far its working great. I am up 10 lbs above my optimum racing weight, which helped me in my serious physical training regime this winter: luging. You would NOT believe how much effort it takes to lay relaxed on a sled and let gravity pull you down a hill for 46 seconds and then get on a truck to go back to the top of the mountain.  I figure that I am going to be a monster on the downhills where gravity matters.

I also have been taking advantage of our fabulous winter here to avoid riding my bike.

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The snow here is melting (well except for the fact that it snowed all weekend again) and we are at about 2ft in my yard right now. I should be able to start a more “formal” training regime in June or July when all the snow has finally melted off the mountain bike trails.

I did figure that I should check to see if my bike was working so we took a trip to the deep southern state of Connecticut for some riding.

doug1_ct_easter2015-1

 

It was a great ride and my bike (rusted chain and shot bottom bracket) is totally ready.

I decided that I am also ready to race

doug2_ct_easter2015-1

 

and have begun to enter taper mode for Boggs.

 

See you in a couple of weeks,

Doug (Designated GC Rider Team Fatty)

 

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A Sense of Panic: Part 1

Maybe you are like me. I tend to be more serious about my biking and training when I have a Sense of Panic.

pink-1

(Here I was clearly panicked a couple of months before Leadville. Actually I was because my knee was behaving poorly.)

Leadville is a good example. I watched “Race Across the Sky”. What I saw was skinny fit grown men crying and puking. When I got into the race those were very real images for me. I was a heavier than I wanted to be, and while I was “fit” I wasn’t Fit. Those images gave me a sense of Panic. Those images gave me Focus.

doug_leadville_ready

(Game face ON.)

Luging gives me that sense of focus. There is nothing quite like sitting at the start handles on a track of ice (with walls), on a small sled with steel runners to really get me to think only of the moment. Only what is right in front of you is important. Two corners down the track is a lifetime away. But sliding doesn’t require serious training. (Well for me anyway, for the pro’s yeah they train a lot.) It’s hard to carry that into my regular daily training.

When I don’t have that Sense of Panic, well my Focus wanders. I would rather grab my iPad and read while I bike on my stationary bike than put on a Sufferfest and grind it out. The reading gives a more immediate reward than some unnamed “thing” I am freaked out about. Right now I don’t have a Sense of Panic and so I am not pushing myself on my training. I can tell.

So it’s time to change. No, I don’t have something stupid and dangerous to put on my biking calendar right now to give me that Sense of Panic. I think its time to concentrate on developing some Focus without Panic.

Picture of the Day

friday practice start

“One thing at a time”

Yeah, I know…….

As the summer started to wind down I started to think about training this winter, and that is when the trouble started.

For some unknown reason I started to think that it would be a good idea to do some cross-training. Of course the obvious thing is running. Well I am not really a runner. Running to me is just something to be endured. When I am running my mind keeps thinking about what I could be doing on a bike.

Then I started to think about maybe trying trail running. I mean that’s kind of like mountain biking right? It didn’t help that one of you my dear readers has gotten into trail running and for some reason has dedicated a vast portion of time on his own blog (which I kindly remind YOU CHRIS is named after a bike part not anything running!) to running these days.

Then I was at a running store with my wife (who was looking for new running shoes) and asked do you have trail running shoes. I tried a couple but somehow I could not pull the trigger on the $170 pair that I liked the best. So no worries. That idea sat idle for a couple of months.

Then the other day I made the mistake of looking up those shoes on line to see how much they cost. And much to my chagrin, I found a pair on clearance (2014’s are so “last year”) for just about 50% off. Before I knew it my card was out and they shoes were on their way to my door. Then through the magic of free 2 day shipping they were at my door. A brand new pair of Hoka Stinson Trail shoes.

hoka_stinson

They are a little strange to look at. Total opposite of the minimalist shoes that became so popular because people thought that they could run like indigenous peoples if they ran barefoot. These shoes were designed for ultra runners (OK people don’t even go there. My DNA would totally have to be rewired in order to consider THAT!).

I knew what was going to happen. I needed to get that first run (its been about 8 months since I did any running) out of the way. Well not so much the run as the sore muscles (which remarkably seem to have NOTHING in common with the biking muscles I have worked on so hard). Saturday I “ran” 5k. The conversation with Noah before I headed out went like this:

Noah: You going biking?

Me: No, running.

Noah: Ohhh………….

Me: Yeah I know……..

(Even Noah was doubting the wisdom of this choice.)

Sunday well it hurt. You know the kind of muscle hurt that when you go down a stair makes you doubt that your legs are going to be able to stop your body when you step down to the next step. I got in a shortish (1:15) ride to stretch my legs (which were remarkably shot from running, again proving that bike muscles have nothing to do with running muscles). Now Monday, still sore. Yeah it seemed like a good idea at the time. Yeah it will be better next time I run. Yeah I knew it would happen like this.

Rounding out the week…

Finally. Finally I had a week where I felt good about my riding. My first since I got to Michigan.

It started out with a “nice” day of descending intervals. These intervals were a little different than typical descending intervals where you do time on=time off as you down through times. These ones were 60 s on, 20 sec off, 50 s on, 20 sec off, 40 sec on, 20 sec off. Well you get the idea. Not much rest in there. My legs finally felt like they were alive and ready to go.

Friday I went to Burchfield Park. The site of my derailleur catastrophe and later my mud eating exercise. I had two hours to ride. Just enough time for 2 laps. The instructions were ride how you feel. So I rode hard. I tried to be smart in the twisty tight sections and I hammered everywhere else. When I loaded that ride up to STRAVA I was happy to see I threw down my two best laps on that course since I have been here. My second lap was the faster than the first. And I now have the 8th fastest time out of the recorded 45 rides on that segment. I will take that. (It turns out I had to do 2+ laps to fill out the 2 hours.)

Saturday I was supposed to do a mellower endurance ride. I kept that ride under control not pushing and had my best three laps there are well. (Again each faster than the last. A really nice little trend there.)

Sunday I had a 2 hour high intensity endurance ride. It was time to put a stamp on the week. Last week I discovered a segment on the road route I had been using that looked ripe for the taking. I called out the Michigan bikes for their shame of letting little old me on a mtb getting close to a KOM on a road segment. (I do believe that is why Michigan took its revenge on me in the form of a yellow jacket flying into my mouth and causing havoc with my lip.) I decided I was going to get the KOM on that segment. (There are other segments on that ride, some clearly written by someone with a TT bike. I am pretty sure I would top out on my MTB well before 30+ mph on a flat road segment. Well with the way it is geared anyway!)

I had a nice 15 minute warm up to get to the start of the segment. Then I dropped the hammer. It’s a 3.6 mile flat segment, I averaged 21.2 mph and topped my previous best time by over 2 minutes. And I topped the previous KOM by 30 seconds. A nice little chunk of time in a 10 minute time trial. The best part is that I forgot where the segment started and didn’t hammer the first half mile or so. There is more time there.

So Michigan… well I and my now not fat lip threw it down. Let’s see what you got.

Yeah, it was a good week. I definitely need that going into my second race on Sunday, where I do believe the pie flavor might again be “humble”.

Status: Normal

Sunday is race day. Let’s take stock for a minute.

1. I have never raced this course. In fact, I have never even ridden on this course. Unless I can get out early on Sunday my first trip around the course will be at race pace.

2. My training this week was poor at best. Bike issues plagued me all week disrupting my normal race week preparation.

That means the situation is totally out of hand. Just like Team Fatty Hoops likes it. I mean its just a 1.5 hour race, with people I have never ridden with. What could possibly go wrong??? 🙂

But things are rounding into shape. I finally received the parts I needed to fix my bike yesterday. The mountain bike is back up. It was more of a process than I thought it would be, but I got it done. See:

fixed

I am going to be able to get a good warm up ride in this evening. And tomorrow I am going to ride some trails to get my single track swerve on.

Time to BRING IT.

(Not sure what it is I am bringing. Hopefully its not a pile of poo. Guess we will see 🙂 )

 

It didn’t take long

The people who live near me back home are now pretty used to seeing me doing things normal people wouldn’t do on a bike. You know things like go hard up a hill  and then ride softly for 5 minutes. Repeat 12 times over the course of an hour. Heck I don’t even think the dogs back home are barking at me anymore.

Well it was time to introduce a whole new section of the world to my personal craziness. Yesterday was short but hard interval day. I was supposed to do this on the “steepest hill” I could find. Alright, except that there are no hills by me in Michigan. Flat as a pancake. Now behind my apartment is a little dirt loop. And by little I mean its about 1/4 mile long. Technically its an access road that forms an oval loop to the transformers that are near by. Its like a short running track, but made of dirt with a small woods in the middle. There is a small grassed over path that goes up a small hill (about 15ft of elevation gain) that leads to the loop. OK not the same as home, but good enough for some sprint workouts. I warmed up and hit the loop.

spartan_two_track-1

(That’s pretty much it. Exciting eh?)

Now the other thing about this little loop is that it borders the community gardens that are in my complex. Two women (not from the US) were out tending their gardens, and for an hour I would fly pass them hard for 30 seconds. Sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. But all out either way. Then I would soft pedal around the loop for 5 minutes (2 loops). And repeat.

It got me wondering what they thought of this crazy American guy. Here I am all kitted up (wearing my Leadville jersey, not that that meant anything to them) in with tight spandex shorts. Spending a good amount of time just going around in a circle. Maybe they didn’t spare a thought as they worked in their gardens. Maybe I was dinner conversation.

The other observers I had to my romp was a flock of turkeys. They ran to get out of my way by running in the the middle part of the loop. By the time I got to the other side they were trying to cross there. They ran back into the middle and I met them on the other side. The process repeated. Wild turkeys are not the smartest beings that have roamed this Earth. My real concern was that I would hit one, but that at least never materialized.

It was an oddly satisfying ride.

(And as a bonus, I know where my 100 Mile of Nowhere will be ridden.)

Review: Rusch to Glory

I have a friend who has a pretty good bike focused blog. Usually I rely on him for biking related book reviews. He does a good job, knows a little bit about biking and writing, and isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it. But he has a problem. See there is a new bike-bio out. It’s called Rusch to Glory and it was written by Rebecca Rusch. Now that in and of itself isn’t a big problem. Like I say he knows a thing or two about bikes and biking (well except for repairing bikes, but well you can’t be good at everything right 😉 ). Nope the problem is that he has become hopelessly smitten with Reba and has declared that he cannot do a review on the book. Heck, he was the emcee at the book release in Leadville this year. I figured I would pick up the slack for him and try my best to do a review of the book so he wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving this huge gap in the literary bike world. (You can thank me later Fatty.)

I should be up front here. I have ridden with Reba four times. Three times in Willmington and once in Leadville, though I must say I didn’t even get to say “hi” to her there. I have had two sweaty hugs from her. Even have pictures to prove it.

doug_rebecca

(2012 Willmington/Whiteface 100k: My first ever race. Reba asked if I was THE Fat Cyclist. I replied, No, just A fat cyclist. It didn’t seam to matter.)

wilmington_2014_doug_and_rebecca

(2014 Willmington/Whiteface 100k: That’s Reba laughing when I told her that I was being sponsored by Fatty this year in my racing. I told her he paid me $5 to be on his team. She thought this was hilarious.)

Reba and I are friends (well Facebook friends anyway). All of this is my long winded way of saying, I am not entirely unbiased either.

So with that disclaimer firmly in place, onto the book.

I want to start out by saying I don’t think you have to be an adventure racer or crazy biker to enjoy this book. Rebecca is easily approachable through the book much like she is in real life. The stories are fun, gross, sad, spirited and motivational. They are about being alive and experiencing life. The core messages contain something that everyone should be able to relate to.

What I expect when I read a bio is to understand when I am finished what makes that person tick. I want to know how they came to the place they are at and what got them there. And I want to feel like they are telling ME their story. In those regards the book does a pretty good job. Rebecca starts the book starts out by talking about growing up. I learned that she was a lot like most of us “regular people” as a kid. Kind of athletic, poor self body image, not at all what you would expect from someone who would become a world class endurance athlete. That somehow made the adventures that would follow more relatable to me. (On a personal level, being the same age, both having fathers who served in Vietnam, and having listened to the same music in high school didn’t hurt, though I do no think that is either required or important to enjoy the book.)

The Good

I learned a couple of things about Rebecca by reading the book. Coming from the cycling world, and only knowing of her from that realm, I was unaware of her experience as an Adventure Racer. I didn’t even know you could be a professional Adventure Racer. The stories of her races in this arena are vivid and descriptive (I do not think I will ever be able to get some of the mental pictures I have from the leech section out of my mind). As expected she details the highs and lows of the actual races. If you enjoy reading about crazy physical exploits or “why the heck would you do that on purpose” stories than these sections are a lot of fun.  It filled in the gaps in Rebecca’s career that I didn’t know about.

One of the things the book does really well is to show that even “The Queen of Pain” has limits and edges to her comfort zone. She talks about getting sweaty palms when she climbs and needing a lot of chalk to keep her hands dry. She pushes her limits and boundaries by training, by preparation and by surrounding herself with people who know more than she does so she can learn from them. You get a good sense about the mental strength required for endurance sports, but you also learn that these athletes are not reckless, just dedicated. While doing this, Rebecca highlights the importance of the interpersonal aspects of team building and racing under extreme conditions. Even in “solo” competitions, Rebecca stresses the need for a highly functioning team to be successful.

I was surprised to learn that Rebecca did not in fact like mountain biking. It was a part of adventure racing, but not one that she embraced, just survived. In fact, mountain biking was something that Rebecca really and truly got into after adventure racing because people pushed her into it. I could totally relate to the stories of her early races where she felt like a technically inferior rider. She described the fear she had of technical courses, as well as the fear she had of being out of her league in races. It made her feel more real to me. Heck, if Rebecca Rusch has felt out of her league in a mountain bike race, well then I am in good company and its OK to have those feelings! I think anyone who has been at the top of a steep technical section and wondered if they should do this (and then rolled the bike over the lip anyway) can relate. Really anyone who starts a new sport or venture and wonders what they have gotten themselves into should be able to relate.

The Bad

I felt the book was mis-titled. I read the book and did not get a sense that Rebecca was looking for, or “Rusching” towards “glory”. The message I got from the book was that her drive is much more internal. It was clear that Rebecca is driven by competition. Winning while important, seamed to be important only so that she could continue being sponsored and doing the kinds of things she loves to do. What was clear was that in the end she is trying to become the best she can be. Reading the sections on body boarding the Colorado river or riding the Kokopelli Trail demonstrated this internal motivation. Like I say, I didn’t see the rushing to “glory” aspect.

The Ugly

Just read the section on the leeches and you will understand the ugly.

In the End

I really enjoyed reading Rusch To Glory. The book is well written and easy to read. I learned a lot about Rebecca from reading it. I also learned something about myself. I learned that I have another gear that I have yet to discover (and that its not too late to discover it).

(On a personal note. If you ever have the chance to ride with Rebecca you should do it. The first year I raced Willmington I did not do the pre-ride with Reba and Dave Weins. I was intimidated by the prospect of riding with them. That was a mistake. There was no reason to be intimidated. They are the most down to earth, approachable “pros” I know. Riding with them is like riding with old friends. Racing with them, while fun, is an exercise in humility, but that is a different story.)