Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finally a Runner

I ran the Santa Barbara International Marathon on Saturday but before I tell you about that, I want to briefly share my history with running races.

My first race was during college. Gina and I had just begun dating and I was still in that show-off, try-to-make-a-good-impression phase of the relationship. She asked me if I'd like to do a running race with her. "Sure," I said, thinking to myself, "A 10K ...how hard could that be?!?"

The course did a lap of the UCSB lagoon before heading down Del Playa to Ellwood and the turn-around. Eyeballing the runners before the start and I was quite confident that I'd make a good showing. I had been a fairly decent bike racer after all! Gina would be so impressed with my awesomeness.

The pace was quick from the gun and I held onto the leaders ...for about 400 meters. Surely these were Division 1 cross country superstars. What other explanation could there be for getting dropped so quickly?!? I settled down to a more comfortable speed but as soon as we began the trip down DP, I got passed by a girl. "Whoa, this won't do," I thought, so I sped up to match her pace. The lactic acid had already filled up in my legs, but now it began overflowing into my abdomen. By the 6600 block I felt my breakfast preparing for an unstoppable mutiny. I diverted immediately into a yard, fell to my hands and knees, and proceeded to fertilize a bush with my half-digested corn flakes and orange juice.

[Confession: I lived in four different places on Del Playa... this was not the first bush I fertilized.]

Needless to say, my race was over, and, fortunately, Gina did not see me as she passed. I slinked back to the start and waited for her to finish. Amazingly, she stuck with me even after hearing the story of my.....awesomeness.

Well twenty years passed by before I let her talk me into doing another running race. She was very active in the local running community and I wanted to play too. I had pretty good fitness from bike racing so I wasn't too worried about repeating the earlier incident. The only problem now was that I didn't have the first clue how to train properly. Turns out it's not as simple as just going out and running hard, as much as I wish it was. Thus began my regular cycle:

  • Run once or twice a week, full gas
  • Race a 5K or similar
  • Get injured
  • Take six months off completely
  • Repeat

Then two years ago I discovered trail running. And it was good. If you need convincing, read about it a couple posts down on this blog. Or better yet, just get out and run on the trails. That turned out to be the secret for breaking the injury cycle. I don't know why, but if it ain't broke... don't barf under a bush.

I set my sights on two goal races for 2012: Pier-to-Peak and the Santa Barbara International Marathon. I won't bore you with a P2P race report other than to say it was a blast, made particularly enjoyable because of training with friends and sharing the experience together.

I also joined up with the local Santa Barbara Running & Racing training group specifically for marathon preparation. In retrospect, that was the best decision I made. The coaches are really smart. Plus, training with a group keeps you motivated and accountable... and is really helpful if you are naturally lazy like me.

...this post is getting long already so I'll spare you the training details and get right to the race...

Being my first marathon, and dealing with two very annoying Achilles tendons, I was unsure what kind of goal time to target. My friends Brian and Chester planned to start with the 3:10 pace group and that seemed reasonable based on my training, even though I doubted I could sustain it to the end. I decided I would be happy with any time under 3:30 but my main goal was to enjoy the experience and learn.

Right from the gun we settled into a comfortable 7:05-7:10 pace under the tutelage of Gene the Machine. That's him below in green carrying the sign.
(Brian and I are about to nail an unsuspecting Gina with our sweaty clothing discards. Sorry.)

Our group was down to fewer than ten runners by Mile 3, which really surprised me. Many were in front and many more were behind, but I had expected most runners would make use of the pacers. They proved to be absolutely key for my race.

Our pace felt comfortable the entire 9-mile loop around Goleta, and I greatly enjoyed seeing friends, neighbors, and race volunteers out cheering us on. A really nice vibe. The only downer was the loss of Chester who dropped back to nurse a tender, possibly-fractured hip.

Gene brought us to the 13.1 mark about a minute under pace, by design, because the second half was hillier and expected to be somewhat slower. Hitting the halfway point was a big relief, although my legs were getting fatigued and a little wanky. Ethan took over for Gene and he quickly settled into a steady pace.

Sad to say that Brian dropped back around Mile 18 to deal with some bad quad cramping. I know from experience, that once a major muscle group rebels into a massive cramp, there is no way to completely recover. It may subside, but you will not be at full strength again that day. Kudos to Brian for pressing on under the circumstances.

So now Ethan became my personal pacer, and I decided I would stick with him or detonate spectacularly trying. I was also struck with the uplifting realization that I had now run a longer distance without stopping than ever before. Gina and her friend Sabrina were at Mile 20 and I stole a quick kiss. From Gina. I started getting a little delirious around this point: I thought I saw my friend Katie and went to give her a hug, but just before making contact, I realized it wasn't her. Ooops.

It became more difficult to keep up with Ethan as we turned from Modoc onto Las Postias. He yo-yo'ed about 10 to 30 meters in front of me, and I feared losing him. My legs were really hurting now but I conjured up a memory to put the pain in perspective. Twenty years ago I did the District Championships Road Race out by Bakersfield in 100-degree heat. The race was a hilly 90 miles and I finished in a three-way tie for the bronze. I lost 10 lbs of body weight and peed blood for two days. That was real pain. I also thought about this video my friend Kary forwarded me the day before the marathon:

The mind is a powerful force, and mine slapped me in the face and told me to HTFU! I caught up to Ethan by Mile 23 and turned up the Cliff Drive hill with renewed determination. The change of stride felt good. By the top I was delirious again and probably babbled like an idiot as Mark W. rode his bike beside me shouting encouragement. He's a dude who has run Western States 100 and countless other Ultras. I was also greeted here by my brother Steve, a sub-2:50 Boston Marathon finisher. Their presence motivated me and I picked up my pace to 6:45s along Shorline Drive. Kind-hearted 3:05 pacer Travis dropped back from his group to encourage me along. His calm words snapped me out of my delirium and focused me on the finishing stretch. All pain subsided upon entering the SBCC stadium for the final quarter mile. It was an amazing feeling and the energy was intense.

My finishing time was 3:08:34 which turned out to be 2nd in my age group. Even though I'm a relatively inexperienced runner, I realize this was about as perfect of a first-marathon experience anybody could ever hope for. (Well, except for Todd Booth, who had never run more than 16 miles before ripping a 2:55! But this is my blog, so we're talking about me here.)

One last thing I'd like to share with you about my marathon experience is my race-day fueling, because I suspect that's where many runners sabotage themselves by not consuming enough. According to my Strava data, it took around 3,200 calories for me to run the marathon. Now a typical carbo-loaded person can start with about 2,000 calories worth of glycogen packed away in his/her muscle cells, plus a little bit of liver glycogen too. During the event, if your engine is running up in the high aerobic zone as mine was, then almost all your energy is coming from the glycogen with just a little bit from fat stores. So obviously a marathon requires significant fueling. I had somewhere around a 1,000-calorie deficit I needed to account for. Here's what I consumed:

  • 12-oz. V-8 and one Cliff Shot 5 minutes before start
  • Five Cliff Shots during the run
  • Two 16-oz. bottles of salt-spiked sugary drink (one was iced tea and one was a Coke)
  • Six Endurolyte pills
  • ~20 little dixie cups of water or Fluid mix
So adding it up, that's over 1,000 calories of fuel and a lot of electrolyte replacement. Consequently, I never hit "The Wall" that marathoners talk about. So if I could be so bold as to make a suggestion to other marathoners, please eat and drink a lot during your race!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Back in the Day

This is what bike racing was like back in the day... 1977... way, way back! First five minutes is the RR national championship. The rest is the track championships.

1977 USCF Natz Seattle Washington from CinelliDog on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let Me Count the Ways...

I think I'm in love with Trail Running. Or maybe it's just a jumbo-size crush ...time will tell I guess. A younger man would just let loose and follow his heart, be a romantic. I'm more rational than that; I like to analyze and make lists. Pros and cons, that sort of thing.

Here are the pros:

1. Unlike my last affair, trail running doesn't hurt! Not sure why, but maybe it's all the different positions and geometries. Up, down, bumpy, smooth,... Lots of variety so that nothing ever gets worn out or broken. Which also means you get more of a full-body workout! The sense of blissful fatigue after 90 minutes on trails is much more satisfying than 90 minutes on the road (well, I think it is... can't say I've ever successfully run 90 minutes on pavement without blowing up prematurely).

2. And what a heart-pumping experience it is to run all out up a 30% slope. Few things scream, "I'M ALIVE!!!" like that organ pounding against your rib cage at 170 beats a minute. Such a fine line between pleasure and pain. But for whatever reason, I cannot go that hard on the road--other systems fail way before my heart maxes out.

3. I'm also smitten with the mental side of trail running. Your brain goes on hyperdrive as you hurtle downhill on a twisty single-track covered in rocks and roots. Every footstep is subconsciously calculated to keep you upright and moving forward quickly. So many factors... will your shoe grip that boulder, or will it slide off? can your knee handle the drop? is your ankle strong enough? what's under those leaves? etcetera, etcetera. Of course you're not really aware of all that thinking--it just happens instinctively--and it's a rush, a powerful mix of stress and exhilaration. Much different than plodding through the motions when running on pavement or even pedaling a bike.

4. Trail running is oh so Au Natural. Our ancient relatives did it, though not so much for fun as for survival. Eat or be eaten! What else can you do in the modern world that has such a basic primal connection? Does the forest look or feel any different for us today than it did for a young Chumash boy or girl 5,000 years ago?

5. Once a week I do it with a group. They're smart, fit, genuine people. Men and women, mostly all younger than me. No one person dominates, and we all take turns being in front or behind. It's been five weeks in a row now, and we always rendezvous in a new place or run a different trail. Loving the variety!

So, are there any cons of trail running? What about breaking an ankle, getting bitten by a snake, or eaten by a mountain lion? Those are the obvious things, but the risks actually add to the thrill. The bigger issue, however, is what this fling will do to my 30-year relationship with bike racing! Is there room for another activity? Is there enough passion to share, or will performance suffer? Could the two relationships possibly be complementary?

I'd like to find out. I'm going to do some of these in 2011.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

Two weeks ago, I was invited onto a "Red Team" to review and critique an important proposal my company is writing. While flattered, I was also a bit hesitant because I wasn't looking for additional work. Ten years ago I successfully extracted myself from all company business other than fun technical subjects. Yet, from some sense of duty, I agreed to participate on the Red Team.

That afternoon they plopped the document on me --all 70 pages of it-- and I settled in to read. I struggled right out of the gate, and eventually DNF'ed despite giving it a good three-hour effort. I know the authors knew their stuff, in fact, they are brilliant people, but it just wasn't coming out crisply in the text. Worse still, in the parts I could understand, they were substantially underselling their capabilities.

Turns out all the other Red Team members felt the same way, so we met with the proposal writers and told them bluntly what we thought. A bit of an awkward situation but handled deftly by the Red Team leader, my company's prez. By the end of the meeting I was feeling good about the prospects; the writers got the messages and seemed to genuinely appreciate our input. OK, back to my hole and my interesting technical work... or so I thought.

My curiosity piqued when I saw the prez go over and whisper into the VP's ear as we were wrapping up. "Mark, can you stick around a little longer?" Not so much a question as an order really. Turns out he unceremoniously threw me over the fence onto the proposal-writing team. Ookaaay... what horrible tasks are the proposal writers going to dump on me now, getting revenge for the comments I had made from the safety of the Red Team just a few moments earlier?

Well, of course they're bigger people than that, and they took me in warmly and gave me some plumb writing assignments. So I tap-tapped away on the keyboard over the next couple of days, writing and rewriting, and rewriting again. Eventually I had some pages I was proud of. Now it was their turn to critique! So yeah, they tweaked a few things and deleted some of my ramblings ...I do tend to ramble... but most of my contributions will be in the final version. That made me happy.

But the thing that really surprised me was this: I truly enjoyed the writing assignment. I mean really writing, with all the complexity and nuance of language. Trying to balance the often conflicting goals of being entertaining --or at least not boring-- while at the same time being informative. I am a cat-5 writer to be sure, but even a cat 5 can appreciate the process.

What occurred to me next was that before this little assignment, I hadn't strung together more than three or four paragraphs in a long time. Probably since abandoning this blog! The only writing I've been doing is the usual smattering of emails, phone texts, and Facebook comments. Hardly a way to stay in writing shape!

And so my final realization was, hey, I don't want my writing brain to get flabby, so maybe I'll start blogging again! Lots of fodder out there to consider. No promises that it will be any good, and no doubt you won't share the same excitement level that I do about some subjects. For example, do you get giddy like me when thinking about rain harvesting, and the two 650-gallon tanks I just bought? I thought not. So it's up to you... if you want to stick around, you can be on the Red Team.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Training Week -- 4/5 - 4/11

I skipped last week's version of this post because I didn't do much training (one run and one easy-paced ride). So, essentially, my 12-hour 209-mile ride two weeks ago was followed by a week of great rest. Consequently, this week felt really good, particularly in the high-aerobic-zone, steady-state efforts (like OSM & Casitas).

Mon: 0
Tue: 1 hr; Lunchtime hammerfun
Wed: 2 hr; warm-up ride & practice crit
Thu: 1.5 hr; OSM (15:12) & Painted Cave
Fri: 0
Sat: 3.5 hr; to/from 2nd Casitas hill w/ 8:00 ride
Sun: 0

Total: 8 hours

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wait, Slow Down!

We spent most of last week up in Northern California visiting some of the colleges my daughter is considering. On the list are UC Santa Cruz, University of San Francisco, and UC Davis. They're all really nice, but the whole thing feels surreal and leaves me a bit dazed. I mean, why are we looking at colleges already? Wasn't it just last week that I snapped this picture of her enjoying her favorite food group? Isn't she still the sweet and innocent little girl who holds our hands tightly when we walk in a crowd, and buries her face into our legs when introduced to a stranger? Please tell me that she's still afraid of clowns and balloons, and that she needs me to guide her safely through such dangers.



I suppose the reality is that my daughter is a self-confident, smart, funny, good-hearted young woman who is ready for launch into a complicated yet exciting world. She has excelled in high school and is eager for more challenges ahead. She wants to change the world, and it pleases Gina and me greatly that she's pursuing Environmental Science. Proud doesn't even begin to describe our feelings about her.

But, if she's nearly an adult about to go off to college, that means that...... I'm getting old???

Admittedly there have been a few signs and symptoms. Somewhere along the way the hair from the top of my head migrated to all sorts of regions previously devoid. Nostrils, ears, shoulders. Other places I'll spare you. Nor has the sun been particularly kind. I notice that the skin on my quads resembles that of a mostly-deflated balloon resting on the floor the morning after a party. Symbolic of life? Long gone are the days of stealing a quick glance when walking by a mirror wearing shorts. (If you're a bike racer reading this blog, don't even try to tell me you haven't checked out your legs in a reflection!)

Is this the normally scheduled time for a mid-life crisis, when you start realizing you're getting old? Lots of guys do it, right? They buy a Corvette or a Harley, and maybe a young blond hottie to take along for the ride. Desperately trying to recapture lost youth or relive glory years, real or imagined? The thing is, I've never been that into motors, and my sweetie is everything I need or want.

But some would say I've been mired in a mid-life crisis for quite some time. Nine years ago I recklessly stepped off the conventional career path, burned out by way too much traveling, stress, and missing my family. Now when I work, it's from home and more-or-less on my schedule. For a few years I was Mr. Mom, spending time in my kids' classrooms, going on field trips, helping with after-school sports, and generally just being there. I loved every minute of it. Of course those things diminished as the kids became teenagers, and my role became more of a bus-driver and chauffeur. And all too soon they drive themselves...

So now I spend a lot of time riding a fancy bicycle while wearing shiny colorful Lycra ...like a clown. Hardly normal by standards of society-at-large. Doing it as obsessively as I sometimes do, I can see that it might look like a mid-life crisis.

But in reality, cycling provides my higher consciousness with plausible deniability about aging. I feel better physically and mentally than I did twenty years ago. I'm more at peace and way less stressed. No doubt all due to cycling (and eating right). On the other hand, the normal people I know --i.e., the non-bike-racers-- they're clearly all getting older. Many seem under great stress. They ingest all sorts of potent chemicals, medicines for blood pressure and cholesterol, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, on and on. Standing in the shower, many of them couldn't see their... feet. I wish they'd exercise more.

To an extent the company you keep influences your age. I have friends through cycling who are twenty years younger than me. It's a strong common bond we share. And bless their hearts... they teach me things. For example, when I was young, we'd say "Sure, I'm up for doing that ride!" whereas nowadays you're supposed to say, "Sure, I'm down for doing that ride!" Very confusing. Another example: I showed up for a mountain bike ride with a fanny pack, which I was politely told was a huge fashion faux pas. Who knew?

I'm starting to ramble and have forgotten where I was going with this post --another symptom of aging apparently, along with drooling-- so let me just leave you with a picture of a car we passed on the way home last weekend. Just some random UCLA kid driving back to school in his bimmer with a license plate that reads "NVR B OLD"...

Hey kid, I'm trying.

You don't stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Training Week -- 3/22 - 3/28

A bit unconventional...

Mon: 0
Tue: 4 hrs; Hills! Gib-ECC-Stagecoach-WCC-OSM, tempo
Wed: 0
Thu: 1 hr; OSM, 16:11, windy
Fri: 0
Sat: 12 hrs; Ben's BDay ride, 209 miles, 12+ kft climbing
Sun: 3 hrs; hike w/ a bit of running

Total: 20 hours


- I'm going to account for all exercise hours from now on, not just riding time. When you're young and improving in cycling, you can justify focusing all your physical activity toward the bike. That's not me. I want more variety now, including on the bike. Last weekend was awesome, with an extreme ride and a strenuous hike. Were those optimal training sessions for a bike race? Certainly not. Was it the most fun physically-active weekend I've had in a long time? Definitely. Will bike racing suffer? Perhaps, but there are inspirational examples out there: Chris DeMarchi competing in ironman triathlons and being a successful bike racer still, and Todd Booth being a fast runner and competitive MTB'er.

- Wexie took some pictures of Ben's Bday ride and also wrote a ride report.

- I'd hoped to race Clobberopolis next Saturday when in NorCal for our whirlwind college tours, but it conflicts with a scholarship interview in the Bay Area. Too bad... if there was ever a race that last weekend's training was appropriate for, it's Copperopolis!

Friday, March 26, 2010

From Carissa re Rick

Info about memorial and remembrances:
On Sunday there will be a paddle out type of ceremony at santa clause beach @10 am for Rick Gill. As we all know, if he was out riding on a Sunday, he would have ridden with the Sunday group. Therefore, please join us at the Bath House at the normal Sunday World's time (9:05) and ride out with us to Santa Clause Lane ...for Rick's memorial service. I was thinking it would be cool to show up as a group in our bright colored cycling clothing to honor him, and in support of his family. He was involved in so many different sports and groups, but he always made our rides fun when he came out. So lets show him how grateful we were for all his love and laughter.

Noon is a bbq/potluck at Lions Park Carpinteria. Please bring a side dish. outside alcohol is not permitted in the Lions park, instead they sell drinks! There will be a time after lunch when we all can share fond, funny and touching stories of Rick!

**For those who want to stay for the barbeque afterwards, or if your family is driving out, just give them your clothes and have them meet you out there. It would really great to have as many people as possible show up and join us for for the ride.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rick Gill 1954 - 2010

I cannot think of anybody I've ever ridden with who had a more upbeat demeanor than Rick Gill. For sure he looked an intimidating presence with that big body and tough-guy mustache, but he instantly put people at ease with his smile and constant jokes.

Of the many Rick Gill legends, one will stick with me forever because it pretty much characterizes him perfectly. I wasn't on this particular ride, so forgive me if the details are slightly off. Seems Rick was riding along Cabrillo Blvd when he waved enthusiastically at another cyclist riding the other direction. The other rider ignored him. Rick quickly made a u-turn and chased the rider down to inform him that here in Santa Barbara, "we wave at each other, brutha ...next time you wave back, ok!?" Probably gave him a big bear hug too.

Wave to each other. It's what Rick would have wanted.

Training Week -- 3/15 - 3/21


Mon: 0
Tue: 1 hr; lunchtime hammer
Wed: 1 hr; part of Hope Ranch suffervals
Thu: 1 hr; OSM, tempo
Fri: 2 hr; SDSR tt & post ride
Sat: 2 hr; SDSR road race
Sun: 1 hr; SDSR crit

Total: 8 hours

- Pretty depressed about my performance at SDSR this year. TT was my slowest ever on that course, and it was hard to hold wheels at times in the rr and crit. After taking most of last year off and being a little burnt, I thought it might be more enjoyable this year to simplify, i.e., no indoor riding, no structured intervals, and not even a bike computer. Maybe that wasn't such a good plan.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ronde de Solvang Century Race/Ride Report

I am quickly becoming a true Fred, and honestly, I'm OK with that. I fully expect that someday in the not-so-distant future I'll be sporting a neon-green wind breaker and a helmet mirror while riding along the bike path at 13 mph. Actually, I'm pretty accomplished at that last part already.

That brief preamble is just setting the stage for tonight's confession:
(1) I rode the Solvang Century on Saturday.
(2) I rested all week for it.
(3) I used my race wheels.
(4) The rest of this blog post is a ride report.

Saturday dawned clear and crisp, but a fast-moving storm the night before left behind some extremely strong and gusty winds. All thoughts of breaking the four-hour mark blew out the window. Too bad, because our group certainly had the horsepower to pull it off in better conditions. I wish I'd been able to take some pictures, but this ride is way too hectic and fast to be fumbling around with a camera. Instead, I'll adopt the _gavia_ methodology of photojournalism....

As per tradition, a very large group (60-70?) of SB and SYV riders rolled out from the Bulldog Cafe at precisely 8:00, and we immediately rev'ed up to 25 mph and began the chaos of riding through hordes of century riders on all manner of bike and bent. Some of them try to jump in with us, which is usually pretty awkward. Most recreational riders don't understand the subtleties of riding fast in a group. I cringed when I saw one of them nearly take down Kim Anderson. Fortunately, 25 mph ensures nobody ever stays too long. We made it to Lompoc intact and we'd only used up an hour of clock. The early effort and the wind took its toll though, and our group was cut roughly in half.

Between Lompoc and Vandenburg AFB, the wind got really nasty, blowing in off the ocean to our left. Surely this was a good proxy for the wind-swept spring races in Belgium and Holland. Normally in the Ronde de Solvang, a good strategy is to hide 20 riders back in the group and save energy for the 3rd and 4th hours. However, facing a wicked side-wind like Saturday, that strategy is a sure way to get dropped. With the lead rider out along the centerline, there's enough room for only six or seven riders in an echelon across the road. Everyone else behind is in the gutter and facing a good bit more wind. That phenomena cracked quite a few riders on the way to Santa Maria.

We rode into the third hour with a group of 15 or so, mostly Platinum, along with Randy T. and Karl W., and of course our major engines Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson. The civilian century riders were now few and far between, and our group rotated crisply and efficiently on the open farm roads. Sadly we found ourselves caught in a strange SB-county vortex, meaning that somehow we were STILL facing headwinds despite having ridden more than half-way around the 100 mile loop. Clearly we were not going to recoup the earlier time losses.

The wind was finally at our backs when we made the turn toward Solvang along Foxen Canyon. That was both a blessing and a curse. It sure felt good to go fast again, but a tailwind also means you get less benefit from drafting and it really hurts when the front rider pushes hard. After the first few rises, we were down to The Solvang Seven: Aaron and Kim, Ben the Hammer, Gary "Guns" D'Velo, M-Dubb, Me, and the defending Solvang chump Chesterini.

Very little talking in our intimate little group, and at first everyone was loathe to skip a pull. We were a band of brothers ...and a sister... and Foxen Canyon was our battlefield. Chester was the first casualty, which meant that 2010 would crown a new chump champ. After a few more miles Matt began sitting on. Naturally that energized Ben, whose pulls became a bit more spirited. Then at about mile 80, Kim finally skipped a pull and began sitting on. As an aside... for any readers out there who doubt the toughness of top-shelf women bike racers like Kim Anderson, I suggest you ride 100 miles in 20 mph wind with one of them. Kim outlasted some very good Cat 1 and 2 male bike racers!

The tension was high as we approached the big hill on Foxen. We all knew that's where the first salvos would be fired. Sure enough Ben attacked immediately at the base, finally breaking the uneasy truce we'd maintained for the previous 3.5 hours. He got a good gap as we all reeled from the shock wave. Gary, Matt, and I deferred to Aaron (wouldn't you?) and half way up he loaded up his big ring and powered up to Ben with the three of us groveling on his wheel. Kim was the only casualty of this first skirmish. We flew down the descent and I spun out my 12. A fast left turn for the second big hill, and right on cue Ben attacked again. Once more, Aaron took off after him in the big meat, but this time we didn't hold on. Aaron dispatched Ben and went over the top solo, with only 10 miles between himself and a glorious victory in Solvang. Meanwhile, us four Platinum grunts regrouped and began a frantic and furious pursuit to close down the 30 second gap. We got waved across hwy 154 by the nice CHP officers, and of course Ben attacked again on the final hill out of Los Olivos. Dissension in the ranks!?! Or maybe his goal was simply to dispense with Matt, and that's precisely what he did.

So for the final 8-mile stretch along Ballard Canyon, three of us chased Aaron who we could see up in the distance. I swear we averaged 35 mph the entire way but we barely made a dent in his gap. Surely he was having flashbacks of flying along that stretch of road in the Tour of California Solvang TT. Gary and I punched it on the final hill outside of town, in a desperate final bid for victory but it was too little, too late.

After pulling by far more than anybody else, and riding the final ten miles solo at 30+ mph, Aaron left no doubt who the 2010 Ronde de Solvang champion should be! I'm quite sure that his prestigious victory Saturday ranks right up there with his successful completion of the Giro d' Italia when riding for T-Mobile.

Final times:
AO -- 4:18
Gary & Me -- 4:18:30
The Hammer -- 4:20'ish
Matt -- 4:23'ish
Kim -- 4:25'ish

[add/edit next day]...and just to be clear, I don't mean to disparage people named Fred, helmet mirrors, and/or civilian century riders. I often think recreation cycling is healthier both physically and mentally than what most of us wannabe-pretender-pro-bikers do. As an old boss of mine was fond of saying to his sons and his younger cohorts, "What you see is what you'll be." If that means I'll be an older person who still gets out and rides a bike on centuries or whatever, well, I think that will be just great.

Training Week -- 3/8 - 3/14

Pretty tired going into the week so decided M-F would be relatively easy. The weekend more than made up for it though. Legs are thrashed. Recover by next Friday for Glendora Mtn TT? Extremely good Masters fields in both 35+ and 45+. First real test of 2010.

Mon: 0
Tue: 1 hr; lunchtime hammerhell ...how do people do it w/o warm-up?!
Wed: 1 hr; OSM & 1/2 154, rain started so went home
Thu: 1 hr; OSM, 15:25
Fri: 0
Sat: 4.5 hrs; Ronde de Solvang, 100 miles in 4:18 (non-stop)
Sun: 3.5 hrs; Worlds, rode hard through goob & bates

Total: 11 hours

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Island View Crit P/1/2/3

I'm pretty sure you cannot view the islands from Research Park, and I doubt you can even see the ocean... But you could definitely see a sea of Platinum jerseys in the P/1/2/3 race on Saturday afternoon. Now usually we're spread over many different age groups and categories, but this was a rare opportunity for a bunch of us to race together since there weren't any Masters or separate cat-3 races.

This wasn't exactly anybody's "A" race and nobody felt any real pressure, so we didn't make any complicated plans in our pre-race meeting. Instead we decided to just keep throwing people off the front with the rest keeping control of the main group behind. All the big hitters were up at MERCO so that plan should be pretty straight forward. Our field was only 50 riders, mostly all solo guys other than multiple LaGrangians and StumpGrinders.

...and basically things went according to plan. There was almost always a move off the front and it always had at least one Platinum rider represented.

Adrian was very active as usual.

Zach and I tried our hand. (I don't think he gets much draft from me!)

Cookie worked with CWalk in a number of moves.

Meanwhile, multiple Platinum riders always had control of the group.

Eventually Gary got clear with another rider, and soon Adrian bridged up with four more. Their lead built up to 20-25 seconds thanks to big pulls from Adrian and CWalk. In the end, the LaGrange rider uncorked a speedy sprint for the win and Gary took 2nd. Adrian dropped off and rolled in 7th after a hard day's work, and Cookie and I rounded out the top-10.

Results. Click to see larger version.

Chilly temps and spitting rain didn't stop a few hardcore Platinum fans from showing up to heckle... err, cheer us on. Thanks guys!

And finally, thanks again to the UCSB team for promoting a nice race. Those are some damn fine Gauchos... makes me proud to be an alum.

Training Week -- 3/1 - 3/7

Working up to multiple hard days in a row... now I'm up to two. Thinking ahead to April: Sea Otter (Th, F, Sa) followed by hard bako RR on Sunday. Maybe a stage race in late spring/early summer??

Mon: 2 hrs; recovery around Goleta & UCSB
Tue: 4 hrs; 8:00 group ride + hammerfun, a few hard efforts
Wed: 3.5 hrs; Solvang loop, cracked at ~3 hrs
Thu: 1 hrs; OSM, easy
Fri: 1.5 hrs; easy with a few low-gear surges
Sat: 2 hrs; warm-up in AM & Island View crit, 9th in p123
Sun: 4 hrs; Worlds + Gibraltar

Total: 18 hours

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Citrus Celebration

It's that time of year when most of the citrus needs to be picked and enjoyed. From my yard... Grapefruit, Tangerines, Valencia Oranges, Washington Navel Oranges, Limes, and Lemons. So many permutations for making juice ...and margaritas!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Don't Try This at Home

Could it really be possible to descend the Stelvio with no hands and no brakes?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Training Week -- 2/22 - 2/28

Still doing lots of high-aerobic-zone climbing. Not seeing much improvement lately. The kids (Ben, Matt, Adrian) all dropped me like a rock this week.

Mon: 0.5 hr; run
Tue: 1 hr; lunchtime hammerfest ...ouch
Wed: 0; rain
Thu: 3.5 hr; OSM 16:16 + Gibraltar loop (2nd ride)
Fri: 0
Sat: 0.5 hr; 40-minute barefoot run on the beach
Sun: 5 hr; Canyons loop in SYV w/ Gina & co. + stagecoach-home, climbed hard

Total: 10.5 hrs, including two runs


- Barefoot running ...just a dumb fad, or the wave of the future? It makes some sense to me. The logic goes like this: we evolved running barefoot and all the complex musculature and skeletal structure of our feet is good at absorbing the forces of striking the ground over and over. But this requires using a forefoot-strike style of running, and not the more common heel-strike style that most running shoes promote. I'm experimenting with it, and I will say that the barefoot run on the beach felt fantastic. No pain at all. Not sure how to transition this approach to the roads, but I know there are appropriate shoes, and some are pretty funny. Some interesting videos about running are here.

- Schedule: lots of training and not much racing so far, but that will start changing now that the fun races are coming around. Focus on bike racing through June'ish, then focus on running. As of now, planning on:
-- IV crit (at research park)
-- Ronde de Solvang
-- San Dimas, 45+
-- Copperopolis or UCLA weekend?
-- Sea Otter crit, rr, & circuit
-- Devil's Punchbowl & Chuck Pontius
-- Barrio Logan & San Luis Rey (maybe)
-- SoCal crit & tt championships (maybe)
-- Mt Hamilton RR
-- SoCal RR championship, masters and elite
-- Sisquoc RR
...and then it becomes murky, particularly since I'll need to be running a lot more getting ready for the marathon that Gina says I'm only 40% likely to do... (Of course, history is her guide, which means it's more like 20%-30% likely...)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Uh Oh... OSM Closed Soon

Forwarded from MM:
RE Construction Project
Attached please see the notice to send to bicycle clubs in Santa Barbara and Goleta areas. We advise bicycles not to use the road during the project. Please post the details of this 2 month project on the website and distribute to known riders. There will not be any work during the weekends and both lanes will be open. One land will be closed during weekdays.

...and here's the attachment:

...and if you're not sure where that is, it's here:

Thursdays at lunch-time won't be the same for awhile.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Training Week -- 2/15 - 2/21

Continuing steady high-aerobic-zone work.

Mon: 1.5 hr; Elings Park & back; 0.5 hr run also
Tue: 2 hr; around Goleta & lunchtime hammerfest
Wed: 3 hr; OSM-PC-ECC-Stagecoach-PC, tempo
Thu: 1 hr; OSM, tempo
Fri: 0
Sat: 1.5 hr; Figueroa Hill Climb
Sun: 3.5 hr; Worlds + a bit extra

Total: 12.5 hours


- In last year's Gibraltar Hillclimb, I was beaten by a kid named Menso De Jong who I'd never heard of. I remember thinking it would have been nice to start together to see if I could have hung on to him. Well, this year at Figueroa I had that chance... theoretically anyway. He started a few seconds ahead of me and within the first mile he'd already opened up a minute lead. I was hoping to do a time in the low 50-minute range and Menso was way ahead of that pace. I figured it was unsustainable since top pros go up the mountain in the mid-40s. Sure enough, he slowed down in the middle and I got pretty close about a mile from the finish. Unfortunately he rallied and pulled out a minute in that final stretch. With better pacing, he would have been well under 50 minutes. That kid is a talent. Oh, and he weighs 190 lbs! And speaking of talent, keep your eyes open for Derek Iverson. He's brand new to riding and has a huge aerobic engine.

- I'd planned to ride the Cal Poly crit on Sunday but the forecast called for rain and the field sizes looked tiny so I bailed. Turns out it didn't rain and the course was really fun (but the fields were small, like 10 riders in 35+ and p123). Hopefully it will be on the calendar next year for another chance.

- Lots of deserved grumbling about the group's behavior on Sunday Worlds lately. The usual stuff... running stop signs, blocking cars, riding in the oncoming-traffic lane, etc. Tim Johnson made a nice speech to the group this week about being more responsible and considerate. I hope people take it to heart because I'm worried somebody will get seriously hurt if things don't change. Yes, I'm a worry wort.

- And on a lighter note... Could it be that David "Pops" Larsen has come over to the dark side??? I hear he enjoys riding with us on the Ventura bike path...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Mumbles

I really did start this post on Monday, but I soon lost my focus ...sorta like my training lately.

So, waddup??

Super Teams

Entertaining discussions going on about a few of the Elite and Masters teams around California. Some folks have strong opinions... read here for example, where the subject is the Amgen/UBS masters team. It's true that their roster is a who's who of top SoCal geriatric talent, including many ex-pros, etc., but it's not like they're the New York Yankees playing against Little Leaguers. A quick check of results posted on scnca as of this writing reveals they've won half of the 35+ and 45+ races thus far in 2010 (including a podium sweep in the Red Trolley 35+). Not bad, but not totally dominant either. Other people will win plenty; races will still be fast and enjoyable; the sky is not falling...

...except in NorCal p/1/2 racing. Four "real" races so far this year, four victories by the new Yahoo! Cycling Team. Complete podium sweeps each day in the Cantua/Pine Flat/Dinuba weekend! Of course that kind of dominance is less likely when the bigger races roll around, but certainly Yahoo! along with Cal Giant will be major forces in NorCal racing. Maybe some opportunist up there will remember Clint Eastwood in "Fist Full of Dollars" sitting pretty between the Rojos and the Baxters "...the heart Ramon, shoot for the heart!"


Running ...huh?!?

I am 100% committed to running the Santa Barbara International Marathon on November 7th. That's 100% farther than I've ever run in my life, and about 99999% farther than I've ever run comfortably since childhood! I ran a tad over 2 miles on Monday, and I still feel it 5 days later. Gina says she thinks it's only 40% likely that I'll follow through, which oddly enough makes it more likely. I don't really know what I'm doing, but continuing with the numbers theme and a bit of math...

I hear the rule-of-thumb is to increase your running mileage no more than 10% per week. OK, if I can run 2 miles now, and need to run 26 miles eventually, then we have:

2 * (1.1)^N = 26 ; . . . where N = # weeks of mileage increases

(1.1)^N = 26/2 ; . . . simplifying

N * ln(1.1) = ln(26/2) ; . . . take log of both sides

N = ln(26/2) / ln(1.1) ; . . . simplifying

and so we have: N = 27 weeks!

Add onto that 2-3 weeks for a taper, plus a few weeks of rest and/or flakiness, and it means training starts ..... NOW!


Born to Run

No, not Bruce Springsteen, I'm talking about the Tarahumara in Mexico from the book Born to Run -- A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. Half way done and loving it.

I strongly resonate with the book's key theme, that the human animal needs to run. (And by run, I extend the meaning to include any sort of substantial aerobic exercise.) Not only do we need it, but we should love it. We're wired to love it. A bunch of millennia ago, running was essential to our success as a species --eat or be eaten-- and nature has a way of making the important species-survival activities pleasurable. We're still good on one of them, procreating, but somehow the other one got lost along the way.

Or should I say, our society squashed it. Every kid loves to run. If you're a parent, you know this. First mobility is a few months of crawling, then eventually standing, followed by about a millisecond of walking, followed immediately by full-speed-ahead running. That lasts until about the middle of elementary school for almost all kids. But then something happens; running is no longer fun. Why? I don't know, but I speculate it has to do with how our society turns it into a competition. That innocent fund-raiser jog-a-thon at school? Clearly your child sees it as a competition -- how does it feel to not win? Or get last? Why would a kid like to run if it instills a sense of mediocrity or worse? Then there's Junior High PE class ...how many kids emerge from that experience with joyous feelings about exercise? (Not to dis any PE teachers out there, but that's how it is for most kids.)

To be sure, plenty of adults get back in touch with their inner animal and take up running (or cycling, swimming, etc). Many will compete again, and almost all of them will not be winners, but age brings the wisdom and awareness to not equate self-worth with a placing in the local 10K fun run. I think the majority of adults who take up aerobic exercise generally stick with it for the long haul. They reestablish that connection between exercise and mental/physical well being. Unfortunately, they (we) represent a very small minority of the entire population.

I'm wandering here so let me wrap-up with one thought: If all people exercised and ate right, our world would be so incredibly better than it is today on all fronts. It's so obvious.


More Randoms...

Ever wonder what it costs to put on a bike race? Check this out.


I crack myself up... When I saw the picture below (Sunday Worlds ride getting lectured at by Officer Rodriguez) all I could think about is how funny it would be if all the cyclists had on kits that resembled the CHP uniform, complete with shiny badge, helmet, and glasses.


Next up: Figueroa Hillcimb TT (last of the SB Triple Crown) and Cal Poly SLO crit on a supposedly technical and topographically-challenging course. Both in the rain apparently.