Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"strength of a 7 year old girl"

Strength of a seven year old girl!! Flattery of that kind will rarely get you anywhere, but just once in a while, 'bout as often as a Hincapie classic win, it's gets you further ahead.

That's how today's workout session went - tell ya anything?

Now to be fair, Coach Phil did preface it with,
"Ger, you're a bit of a strange case, you have great strength in some places, but in others..." and then game the lil'girl shot across my handlebars. But today it was deserved. After a great Monday workout, back on the big blue balance bubble, feeling on top of it all, not a pain on the horizon (or my back), I felt like I had built a new engine room and was call'n Paul Sherwin to check it out. That was on the heals of Saturday's 105 miler-O-fun ride with the 'kids'. So, ya, feeling good. Then boom today.

But this is what it's all about, good days and not as good days. Bottom line is the overall curve is upwards, I have legs, and after tomorrow's X-ray and check up I hope to report lungs in ready to roll condition. So an occasional workout where the back decides not to play along is acceptable at this stage of the ride. Believe me it's frustrating, but I'm really rethinking the season and success points along that journey. Racing is clearly backseat - and I'm starting to face the serious reality of it just not being part of the game plan this year - between writing and interview obligations for the new cycling book in Europe, try to stay consistent in rehabing the body, and then getting in quality training on the bike, too many non-tangential paths ahead.

The above paragraph is a huge part of the answer to "Why a coach?" Perspective. It's very difficult, with or without experience, to see where you are. Today I would have pushed harder, tried to push through the discomfort, and the result? - an ice bag, some ibuprofen, no cycling tomorrow, and a big mistake. A coach plugged into you sees the long-term, the long-range goal - not only this week, this racing season, but life. Phil and I are constantly talking about what I do now changes my life fitness and health.

I think that's where you have to be careful, while Phil Claud is called and is known by many as a cycling coach, I'm not working with him for the bike, but in many ways, because of the bike. He is helping me re-train my body to move, that proprioception thing. Cycling is a highly repetitive activity - what other sport essentially plops you into a single position and then says go at it like that for the next 3, 4, 5, or 6 hours, and in a race you do it without a break. I never learned early in life how to move correctly (ps - I can't dance) and then you combine that with an injury or two, lugging around 50-70 camera packs for 20 years and what happens is the body learns how to do things its own way, unfortunately the wrong way - at least for life long health. So that's how I got here,
"...great strength in some places, but in others you have the strength of a 7 year old girl."

Another thought regarding "Why a Coach?" There is an article that popped up as I was writing this - 10 Signs You Need A New Trainer
- by John Berardi, reading through the 10 points he has some valid and not so valid point - at least relating to me. My guy, Phil, doesn't look like Mr Atlas, since his pro cycling days a couple decades and pounds have been added - BUT - ask the dude to do some agility drill and that turkey can move with the grace, agility and swiftness of top athletes. I wish he would drop a few pounds, jack up his cardio, but that's because over the past few months he has now become a friend and I care. But what I pay him for is noticing the little things, talking to me, and making adjustments, his mental agility on the fly when I need it - that will change my life in time, and over time, and for all time.

So back to the back and the workouts. They are clearly at a new level despite the occasional slide like today. When the little girl shows up she screams and pouts a lot, but doesn't hang around too long. Phil ebbs and flows my workout subtlety tracking my body and making inner-workout adjustments as well as stopping for honest conversations about how my back or hips or lungs are doing. Today we both had to admit we needed to be nice to the little girl.

One note on our friend George:
Ronde is this Sunday (live on the ), and after a fine s.t. 4th in last Sunday's cobbled Ghent, let's all pray Big George stays upright and gets a clean set of wheels for the finish - with a new tougher route, as blessed by the King Pave Boonen himself in this VN article, maybe the cobbles will shine for George.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

105 miles and 7K vert

Sometime you just go ride your bike, and when it's done you roll up next to the car with this ridiculous grin on your face, exhausted, crusted in sweat salt, ready to eat anything not clearly classified as roadkill, dieing for pint, and happy you have the great gonzo friends you have. Saturday was such a day. We went out with only the semi-clearest idea of where we were going and certain to have fun regardless - it was!

Hammering along for 105 miles and just over 7,000 vertical feet it was one of the best Saturdays ever. Legs and arms burning, feeling every mile on the road (see I'm a TOTAL whiner!!!!) and the lungs doing their job without any pain (see Going slow to go fast... ). It was a near perfect day - from Lyle up the Klickitat River with TT, Alex and Lash, solid climbs and an awesome decent into the K-River gorge en route to Glennwood where none of us had ever pedaled and then turn and climb back out; over the top this whacked out idea gets in your head and you TT for the stop-sign-warning-sign like you were Fabian C in the '09 Worlds - insane, totally frigg'n insane your body tells ya. Finally, at 90 miles into it ya tilt the front wheel skyward at 11% for 4 miles and climb Appletone Grade, questioning your sanity with every pedal stroke, before topping out and then a rocket decent, chasing wheels at warp speed for 5 miles back down to the Columbia River Gorge.

That... That is why we ride.

You can live a life time for one day like that.

When ever it hurt - I just remembered I had legs, and I pushed on the pedals that much harder. Whenever the lungs burned on a climb, I remember each breath meant I could and drove harder.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gran Fondo training

As the summer approaches - all over the country and Europe - you may be training, getting back to training (me), or trying to make that decision about your first big ride - the Century or a Gran Fondo. So this post is really like my PSA before the weekend as the weather gets better and the miles need to start getting longer.

First, set a goal:
Sign up for something, it makes you commit, and "until one is committed there is hesitancy, a chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness" - if the Euro is putting the slam on your dream of an Italian Gran Fondo, then check out the two Echelon Gran Fondos - Napa in May and/or Portland-Columbia Gorge in September. Or get in one last op in October at the King Ridge Gran Fondo (Santa Rosa). For a host of Centuries on a monthly basis take a look at the Events section on my Bicycling Northwest website.

Second, train smart:
I put in a lot of miles, but no way claim to know my Vastus lateralis from my Latissimus dorsi, so here is some help from pros.
Two articles that appeared in VelowNews online that will give you some real direction to getting prepped for the saddle time and endurance needed to complete that long ride in style, with power and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"All I need is a mechanic and a car!”

It comes as no secret to anyone that I am a huge Jens Voigt fan. And why shouldn't we all, the guy's got a huge motor, a huge passion for riding hard, a huge joy for being on the bike and hugely friendly. So it's with a bit of sadness that he won't be riding "his" race this week in the Critérium International. But he still made his mark -

Just 2 days and three stages long the Critérium International is fondly referred to as the “mini Tour de France” - although "micro TdF" might be more accurate. Jens has won the two-day race five times putting him in classy company, tying record held by Emile Idée and Raymond Poulidor, but as VeloNews reported it, "the 38-year-old won’t be going back this year — with Ghent-Wevelgem and Volta a Catalunya coinciding with the two-day race window of Critérium International on March 26-27, Voigt’s Saxo Bank squad is stretched too thin to send a minimum of six riders to the French race."

In classic Jens style we get the Quote of the Week:

“Can’t I just start alone? I don’t need a team. All I need is a mechanic and a car!” he told VeloNews. “I can take the jersey on the first day, then I can just hide in the bunch, then you do a time trial. You don’t need anybody else.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm a TOTAL whiner!!!!

okay - sometimes life just slaps you upside the head and says - Shut The F%@K Up - you are being a total whiner! Stop it!

Did you seen any of the paralympics? Or should I say the REAL Olympics?

Unfortunately the para-version was treated like some kinda stepchild, maybe because we have a culture, a media culture, that just doesn't like to deal with folks that are not American Idol-types, but the paralympics totally blow the other Olympics out of the water.

I'll be honest I heard these games were going on, but they weren't even a blip on my sporting radar. But then I flipped on Universal Sports to see if they were rerunning Milan SanRemo (of course they weren't) and I see these guys scooting around an ice rink on the arses and stare in stupefied amazement... "what?" Then realize HOLY S&@T! they have no legs, or only one leg, and then OMG this guy gets pasted from the side by another player in a sledge (see photo above) and dumped on his... well... umm? ... if he had one it would be his arse, but at that point I'm lost, I have no clue what I'm looking at - the guy has NO ANYTHING from the waist area down - my mouth is agape and once again I turn to Jenn and exclaim, "this is amazingly insane! These people have no bodies! What the hell are we watching?"

Jenn and I were watching the USA ice sledge hockey team competing in Vancouver BC - the same place all those other primadonnas performed and the media covered it like a group of star struck teenagers at their first rock concert. First of all, it's so amazing what these guys are doing that you sit there staring at the screen like a idiot, with you mouth open like Koi fish in disbelief - and then, EVERY single one of them is like THEEE story of the other 'lympics - ya know, those up close and personal bullshit stories that NBC tried to feed everyone - sorry, but these guys are the real deal. These athletes didn't just get injured and make a comeback, they ARE still injured - beyond what most of us ever face and then deal with it to go forward. What they have been through is so over the top astonishing it somehow doesn't seem possible - here's a couple - 'oh, he was hit by a train when 16 and lost his legs', or 'his mother lived in Chernobyl during 1986 and he was born without legs'. Then on top of that they learned to play this hockey and do it at this incredible level. Man, I have been such a total looser to whine about a little lung infection I've had over the last couple week!! All I want to do is get out on my bike and ride - ride until it hurts - and be thankful I have legs!

I'm still mystified about the paralympics - why are they so hidden? Why aren't we watching and celebrating with ten fold the excitement and fervor of those other 'lympics? Frankly, why do we even bother with those other 'lympics????

Oh, BTW, the USA ice hockey sledge team won the gold. Team USA did not surrender a goal in all five of its games at the tournament, outscoring its opponents, 19-0.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Death by Success

Well... it appears the local pirate race... woops.... I mean Ride, the Rhonde van oeste Portlandia, has fallen victim to it's own success. Three years in the little gathering of friends ballooned from a competitive couple hundred with its own charming little youtube video, to a 500-600 velo-monster, including crashes and calls for the EMT vehicle.

If you still want to ride the course the legendary Lions of Flanders still mark the route and their roar summons a friendly challenge.... psst - rumor has it a few new freshly painted lions have appeared, hmmmm?

Here's what the "unofficial official" website has to say -
"We're sorry. No official RondePDX will take place this year. An invitational ride for friends will take place at 10:00am the day before the 2010 Amstel Gold (heh, turns out some of us have to be in Brugge over Easter weekend for the Ronde de Vlaanderen). You are invited to punish yourself or a dear friend on the legendary route anytime, of course. "

Monday, March 15, 2010

Echelon - part of a team

The Banana series concluded yesterday under another Sunday of sunny skies, it's amazing what a year makes. Last season everything fell out of the sky except some space junk, you name it - ice, rain, snow, a hint of sun, wind, we had it all, enough in fact to postpone one weekend. This year three straight sunny Sundays; the only part that sucked was not riding any of it; the best part, being part of the team that dominated much of the racing. Dominating was especially true this past Sunday as the Echelon boys scooped up 5 of the top 6 places.

Masters 40+ 123
 Pl    Num   Last Name     First Name     Team                                            
1 145 Slater Matthew Echelon Gran Fondo/ZteaM
3 715 Browning Scott Echelon Gran Fondo/ZteaM
4 129 Dunn Michael Echelon Gran Fondo/ZteaM
5 162 Hagen Karsten Echelon Granfondo/ZteaM
6 175 Zimbelman David Echelon/Salmon Cyclery

To quote Dave Zimbelman assessment of the team's effort, "it was really cool to see the team talk about a race plan and then execute it perfectly; congrats to matt, mike, and scott for making the early break stick so well and karsten for saving his adrenaline-fueled legs for the last lap effort; i haven't seen a team work that perfectly since being on the short-end of the 7-11 juggernaut in innumerable races in the 1980's. guys rock."

Something interesting about being part of a team - we feel a part of it even if it's only on paper, or online - the excitement and success come through on Monday morning even if the legs and lungs weren't there Sunday. This new Echelon team is a great group of guys - exactly the focus, commitment and camaraderie I had been seeking when asked to join. Even off the bikes as emails fly there is a true sense of belonging - and I thank all of you, listed above, and others, who have sent me emails about getting healthy and back out on the road. It's great to have that support off the road as well.

Did finally get back on the road this weekend - rolled out 2.5 hours worth in the West Hills, even an easy climb up McNamee - can't even explain the joy of turning the bike onto the base of that climb and spending the next four miles pedaling up, up, up - sheer joy! Thanks TT for your patience - and indulging the ridiculous smile that was smeared across my face.

Hopefully no more setbacks of a serious nature - from here it's get in some saddle time and rebuild a base - and then get out and help the team.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby, I'm back!

Hopefully I will be uttering that same sentiment come May. For the moment that belongs to Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank. My friend TT sent Andy's latest blog posting over and it read oh so true - but love his positive spirit after a frustrating start to the 2010 campaign. His blog over on CyclingNews is a wonderful personal insight into pro peloton life from someone pretty humble and honest.

BTW - Andy did cross the line in 122nd, 0:53 back - but he IS back :")

Of Baseball Bats and Bikes

At first glance those two articles of sporting life wouldn't appear to have much in common, but then the colorful Chris Horner steps up to the mic, "and the next morning I felt like I was beaten up by a baseball bat.” Referring to his crash in Mondays Paris Nice race. Gosh, wasn't just a few days ago I was scribbling a few thoughts about Horner and crashing? Hmmm?

And baseball bats - yes, I feel your pain, or did a couple weeks ago anyway. That's a perfect description for how my ribs and lung felt on the left side.

This morning was the follow up with the pulmonary specialist - and for the most part there are no baseball bats in my future (I hope). X-ray of the lungs was pretty clean except... don't you always hate that! "Yes, except what", I asked. Well there is this little 21mm blob that hasn't cleared quite yet, and "we just want to keep an eye on that and make certain it's nothing, like an infection or cancer." Oh, okay.


Ya, why is it that when ever anyone mentions that word - cancer - like a 8.2 quake in Chile our personal planet shifts on its axis a wee bit? I guess that's a legit reaction. Especially when your brother just died of lung cancer and complications - although we live universally different lives - period. But, the doc just wants to know it's gone so I'll pedal my arse back in there in three more weeks for a bit more x-ray exposure and see if the little blob was a blip or something to deal with. His, the doc's, feeling - it's a blip and will be gone. And I firmly believe that - I'm not going anywhere folks.

In the meantime, I'm back to workout sessions and return to the bike - as much as the lungs can support. No racing quite yet - so missing the entire Banana series sadly. Next target Kings Valley Road Race on April 10th - a full month to get in enough shape to do a bit more research on the Laterne Rouge - hopefully, hang in the bunch for the 56 miles.

And Congrats Jens!
Speaking of crashes - our favorite oldster just took the yellow jersey this afternoon in the Paris Nice race. Stage 2 finished in a small break getting over the punchy 1km climb and there was our boy Jens Voigt - back from last years horrific crash (that was a hellava lot of baseball bats all at once!) in the Tour de France and looking as fit and exuberant and the best 38 year old ever to ride a bike (. Watching him (it's live via the net every morning via steephill tv) take the podium and smile as happy as a kid on his birthday with a new bike was awesome. He had this post-race quip: A happy Voigt pointed out after taking the yellow jersey from Lars Boom (Rabobank). “If there’s a white jersey for younger riders, I think there should be a jersey for riders over 35. Call it the maillot gris.” (from VeloNews)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Because sometimes we take ourselves WAAAAY too seriously!

This is wonderful - time to laugh at ourselves!

"The grimpeur in decline?"

That's the title of cycling writer Guy Wilson-Roberts latest posting to his own blog - le grimpeur. By his own admission Guy is, "For me, cycling is all about climbing. It’s the majesty, the suffering, and the sense of achievement of conquering the mountains. Hence le grimpeur, a collection of writing about climbs, climbing, and climbers." For anyone interested in hashing out over a pint or two with you fellow roadies, or stubborn fellow grimpeurs, the lofty virtues of true vs pure vs great climbers Guy's "The grimpeur in decline?" is a blog worth reading and crafted with some intelligent fodder.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horner around every corner

A week since seeing the pulmonary specialist - one more week off the bike to go - finally got a full nights sleep, in any position, without any pain last night. Progress. Baby steps. Staying motivated while your team and others around you fill up the podium and continue to ride into shape is as painful as the injury. I've been thinking a lot this past couple weeks about recovering - and going on.

Getting older = slower recover

Patience little donkey. While that's a fact, it's not an easy pill to swallow - in fact, most of the past week I have been choking down ibuprofen and pain killers with the same lack of zeal.

The Giro di Sardegna wrapped up last week and there he was, last year's Crashing Out poster boy - Chris Horner - finishing a tough second only 4 seconds back of Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger. Not bad at all. And not a scratch on him!

Horner (Chris, not Lena) has been sounding off in my head a lot this past week - especially every time I see an email from guys on the Echelon team, or read local race results, even hearing about the crashes and mishaps in the season's first Banana Belt race. So how did Horner (photo above by Graham Watson) do it? He broke several bones this past year. In fact, it got to be crazy stupid what this guy was going through. Clearly in some of the best form of his life - and a couple days older than teammate Lance Armstrong - he just couldn't stay on the road, at least upright, to show any of it. Yet, he did stay focused and positive (okay, there was that one negative stretch when he was left off the Tour selection... peloton politics). All right Ger, suck it up, this too shall pass.

Learning with each breath
Ya know, breathing is NOT over rated, in fact it's completely under-acknowledged as a ongoing activity of our bodies. This past couple weeks breathing has been a real issue - I think about it almost all the time, 5-7 out of the 20 odd times I inhale per minute. Fewer than 2-3 minutes breeze by without my struggling for a deep breath, inhaling and grabbing my ribs, or flirting with a cough or sneeze that sends me writhing in pain. Breathing. That simple. In the midst of a future race or training or climbing Logie Rd. I'll think, "wow, deep breath, wow!" and marvel at the simple act. I'm taping a reminder note to handlebars.

With doc approval I jumped (actually crawled up slowly) on the bike, locked on the trainer, for the first time since the visit to ER 10 days ago - a simple, very simple, half hour at 34x23 was sweat-breaking and was all my left lung wanted. I got off and wrote the note on the tape - it's going onto the bars now.


BTW - Chris Horner will be serving as the official Pro Ambassador for:

Bend, OR resident, and Team RadioShack® Rider will return to his home state to promote and participate in the state’s inaugural Echelon event