Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Invite him in for a visit. He'll be a nasty little bugger and will probably hurt you a few times, but he won't kill you. So don't fear him ...make him your friend. In time, you'll even learn to enjoy his company ...that is, if you're a bit twisted.

Lactic acid.

I tried to renew our relationship on the lunch ride today but it was not a pleasant interaction. Downright unpleasant in fact. Seemed like a good idea to get reacquainted before Mothballs on Saturday where I'm sure to see him. So today I purposely invited him in by taking some pulls longer than my current fitness supports, and he plopped down on the quadriceps couch and proceeded to grow and grow and grow.

Then I got dropped. Which made me think of Dave Tu.

Old-timers in SB and all around California might remember Dave. I'll bet Hecky does, but that's another story...

Dave Tu was a very good bike racer in the late 1980's. That was an era with very few trade teams; 7-Eleven existed, Levi's/Raleigh, and maybe Crest and Suburu-Montgomery had started already too. But other than a couple dozen "professionals", most bike racers aspired to be on the US National Team. Dave made it to the National B team, which meant that the USCF recognized him as a talent. In 1988 (I think) he won something like six consecutive p/1/2 races in NorCal. Once or twice I can see, but six? He also did an international stage race or two. What I'm saying is that he was good. But soon the USCF dissed him and he was out of cycling by 1990.

Today at lunch, with uncomfortably elevated lactate flowing in my legs, I was reminded of a story Dave told me. Seems that back then the US National Team coaches did a lot of physiological testing on the riders at the OTC in CO Springs, and the biggie was VO2Max. It was THE dominant criteria for evaluating potential.

Unfortunately Dave's VO2Max tested quite low. How was that possible? You can't just win a bunch of road races on will power, can you? Of course not. It turns out that another test showed the reason for Dave's success. He was able to ride with an outrageously high level of lactate in his blood. Or stated another way, he could ride nearer to his own VO2Max without the acute muscle fatigue that most people experience at that intensity. Dave had become good buddies with the C3H6O3.

Now I don't know the precise physiology involved, but via a few sequential processes, lactic acid gets remade back into usable fuel for your muscle cells. How cool is that? But most importantly, the efficacy of that process is very trainable. I also know from experience that when this system is not well trained, an intense effort can be excruciatingly painful. Or even sickening ...I've barfed a few times after hard sprints preceded by significant anaerobic effort. Lactic acid poisoning? On the other hand, when you've successfully trained that system, the feeling of elevated lactate can be almost pleasurable. In a twisted sort of way.

Gibraltar Rd. ...Not Just for Bike Ridin'

Found this lil goodie on Nooz Hawk.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Sundries

Dying to call teammates who are on the road coming home from the stage race in Las Vegas. Hmmm, don't want to encourage cell-phone-talking whilst driving. How did stage 3 unfold? Everyone survive? Anybody win or have epic performances? How was the storm? By tomorrow, look for stories galore over at Gary D'Velo, sweixel, Chester, and C-Rancher blogs.

[10 minutes later] ...ok, I couldn't stand the suspense so I called anyway. All SB'ers survived the stage 3 RR, albeit with some bonks, flats, and strange confrontations with angry vampires. I'll spill the results, but you need to visit the blogs for the stories behind the results (and the corrections to my mistakes). C-Walk wins the P/1/2 and Gary and Cookie hold onto to top-10 finishes. (Bizarre interactions between said racers ...C-Walk not making friends.) Aker and Githens (or Githens and Aker) get 2nd and 3rd. In the 3's, Jason the Hammer went on a long solo break but bonked on the final climb and was passed by 7 or 8 guys. Prof Smitty earned a solid 4th in the RR. Oh yeah, Corey won the RR and got 2nd on GC. Congrats Corey! Matt was doing well but flatted today. Not sure about the other Ranchers. Steve Wex flatted (sounds like a lot of flats today) and lost his gc hopes, and Chester finished strong in the 5s. Good on all these guys for getting the first race of the year over with, and especially congrats to Gary and Cookie for going 1-2 in the crit! What a great start to the year.


Just an FYI in case you go through something similar... On a ride about a week ago, my Mavic Ksyrium freehub had gotten so gunked up inside that when I stopped pedaling, the cassette continued to turn, thus feeding my chain forward and into the gap between my tire and the right-side chainstay. That's not good. My wheel continued to roll with the chain stuck in there and it made a deafening loud screeching sound. OK, what to do? First, pretend it's a fixed gear for the remainder of the ride, and then deal with it at home. Not being particularly up-to-date on the latest mechanical constructs of modern racing bikes, I had absolutely no idea how to get at the problem. I have circa 1980 cone wrenches, but where are the cones on this Ksyrium hub? Sure I could have taken it to a bike shop--we have great ones here in SB--but then I'd have to pay for service and I'd feel like an incompetent idiot. Not sure which is worse.

So I did what any introverted, computer-geek, bike rider would do... I googled it.

I discovered that Mavic maintains a site that has all the online tech manuals for products dating back to 1997, but it's a password-protected site.

So, as a public service, if you need Mavic tech info, go to www.tech-mavic.com and enter username "mavic-com" and password "dealer" to get access to beautiful manuals and tech diagrams. Or you could just go to your local bike shop.


More tech... do you use a torque wrench when assembling your bike? I never have, but now that my new bike has warning stickers all over it to tighten to specific torques, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to use one. Or I could just go to my local bike shop.


Local group rides are getting hard! We now have another gaggle of pros hanging around SB. Jesse Anthony, Pete Lopinto, and some others are sharing a house in Carp and I think the rides will be going 1-2 mph faster from now on. Well, I s'pose we all benefit from that. Also, not sure if she's staying for the long run, but Rebecca Much of the Webcor Pro womens team is (was) here. Must be our great weather that attracted them!

Training Week -- 1/21 - 1/27

Rain, rain, rain...

Number of rides: 3 (twice outside; once on rollers)
Riding time: 5 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 2 hrs
Best ride of the week: Sat, to 2nd Casitas hill and back.
Other: Ran twice, today for 70 minutes.
- I got pummeled on the Casitas climbs Saturday... not too surprising since, other than a few days, I haven't done much intensity. These first few races are going to hurt really bad. Actually, they always hurt bad, but I'll be slow AND they'll hurt.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Evening with the Best

Friday, February 8th at 6:00 PM... Two of the classiest bike racers ever, Jens Voight and Stuart O'Grady, will be at Amgen in Thousand Oaks for a fun evening of stories and laughs. That shy guy Bob Roll will be there too. Great prizes will be raffled off, and all proceeds go to the Breakaway from Cancer Initiative. Get your tickets soon before they sell out.

More information here.

Speaking of Jens, now's a good time to revisit MarkZen's interview with him from last year...

I love this guy! Let's go see him in person.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rainy-Day Racing Rambles

Wow, it seems like the 2007 racing season just ended a few weeks ago, but here we go again! Sitting here with a huge mug of home-made Mocha on a very rainy day, I feel like rambling a bit about the upcoming season...

What will be different this year? Who's going to be strong? Which teams will come out attacking and which ones will cave?

I still think of the Boulevard RR and the Mothballs crit as the unofficial kick-off races of the new season, but for those itching to go already, head out to Vegas next weekend for the Southern Nevada Stage Race. Then, between NorCal and SoCal, it's Game On every weekend through September. We lost some good races, but if you're willing to travel you can still get all you would ever want. We are so lucky to be here in California.

Here on the South Coast of SB county, I think you'll see some great battles early on in the cat 3 races with motivated guys from both Chicken Ranch and Platinum. With Matt, Blinger, and Corey working together, they'll be one of the strongest 3's teams in SoCal. Especially if they also bring out secret weapons Druber and Dave Lettieri. All bases are covered with those guys. But they won't get a free pass because my Platinum mates Prof Smitty and Jason-the-hammer are fit and motivated and looking for upgrade points. If they race enough, every one of those names above will be 2's or 1's by summer. The potential exists in SB to field the largest and most talented group of cat 1's and 2's since the late 80's and early 90's. It's hard to imagine, but back then we put teams in the Redlands Stage Race consisting entirely of SB riders!

Keep your eyes on SB's promising newer rides like Brandon Droese, Steve Weixel, and Chester Gilmore. These guys are all on a steep upward trajectory and no limits are in sight.

A few Santa Barbara X-factors might surprise you this year. Keith Horowitz turns 35 in 2008 and if he decides to enter a few Masters crits, he'll make guys like Evan Teske and Mark Scott look pedestrian. Relatively unknown Larry Niday is training and quite fit. He'll be in the mix for sure in the 35+ road races. And I think you'll be seeing a strong showing from Gene Raphaelian because climbing Fig and doing Ladera repeats pays off ...COUNT ON IT!

I'm more excited about the SB P/1/2 crowd than I have been in years. Cookie is quietly intense and motivated. Yeah I know, "Cookie" and "quiet" aren't often used in the same sentence, but with a kid on the way, he's looking at the end of his freedom this summer. He'll be stepping it up a level until then. Ben Haldeman could be the best roadie in SoCal if he had time to train, but even at a few days a week, he'll be a factor. And Gary D'Velo can be as good as he wants to be, as long as his big-shot job doesn't interfere too much. Our local arch rivals Adrian Gerritts and Crispy Walker will have very good years. Adrian will win some big SoCal field sprints, hopefully for victories if his gigantic team (see below) can control the field. And Walker is looking again to Elite Nationals which are being held in the OC in August. That would be awesome to have a 47-year-old dude win!

...and former pros Matt Dubberley and Zac Walker will win a lot of group rides...

Peering out beyond SB to the rest of SoCal... The P/1/2 races will be interesting because LaGrange has a HUGE team this year, having recruited some fast Germans they met at Superweek, plus rising stars Anthony Aker and Thomas Githens, along with former Kodak/SierraNevada pro Jamiel Danesh. On paper LaGrange is very strong, but will they be too big for their own good? We'll see. Not sure which other SoCal P/1/2 teams will be strong but I was very impressed with 5 Star Fish in 2007 so if they can return with their core group, they'll animate a lot of races. And of course you'll see plenty of other assorted gun slingers and assassins out there. Rigo Meza may dominate April and May like he's done the last couple years. Gnarly vets CW and Thurlow will always be feared, and of course all bets are off when pros like Daniel Ramsey, Neil Shirley, and Rahsaan Bahati make an appearance. Gawd I can't wait to see the action (hopefully from somewhere other than the very back!)

The Masters scene in SoCal will be very interesting in 2008. KK and Jerry Jayne have built the Amgen/Giant Masters Team into a true power-house. They've recruited Thurlow, Steve Strickler, and Malcolm Hill from defunct Sonance/Specialized. Plus, Wayne Stetina and Thom Doughty from AMD Masters have joined up. There must be near a hundred stars-'n-bars jerseys between those guys. My prediction is that those superstars will cause strongmen like Jerry, Pete Sullivan, Mike Onkels, and Gus Corona to step up to an even higher level. As long as they don't get in each others way, Amgen/Giant will dominate SoCal masters racing. But, count on Cynergy to capitalize on any mistakes, because they're very strong too. The Cynergy core returns for 2008, including Hawk Worthington, Greg Leibert, and Mark Scott. But they've also added some real fire power including perennial top finishers like Kirk Bausch, Mark Fluss, Gary Wall, Larry Shannon, Joe Wenninger, and (sadly) Matt Hahn. I say sadly re Matt because there was talk of my bud Chris Hahn coming out of retirement to race with his older bro, but it doesn't look likely now. Anyway, Cynergy looks very strong and will do epic battle with Amgen/Giant. Any other strong Masters teams out there in SoCal for 2008?

[add/edit] And now I've been told that a couple additional superstars have signed up with Amgen/Giant... Kent Bostick and Rich Meeker! So let me up my estimate of the Stars-'n-Bars hanging in their closests to, oh, how about 200!? Can you say "juggernaut"?

And in more Masters news... in case you missed it, good ol' Roger G. Worthington, esq. is cackling on about making a comeback. Read it
here on Truesport.

Looking to NorCal, most likely Cal Giant Strawberries will be the dominant P/1/2 team. They've added a few studs to their already-strong roster, including SB's Ken Hanson who is as fast as any sprinter in California and I predict he'll win 5-10 races in 2008. Not sure who the other mega-teams are (?) but I read on CN a few weeks back that the ZTeam would be fielding a young elite squad, including SB native Uthman Ray. NorCal racing is notorious for guerilla warfare, so also look for some rebels to upset the big teams. I'll be watching my fav youngster Grant Van Horn who'll be splitting his time between US U-23 duties and the WasteManagement Elite Development team. That kid is hard to contain. I'd also expect to see some animation from Jon Eropkin and Vince Owens 'cause those two aren't happy unless they're attacking or already off-the-front. And then there's Hernando... 'nuff said.

It appears that NorCal Masters racing will be dominated by the merger of Spine and Morgan Stanley/Specialized. Nobody will climb away from Chris Phipps or Mike Hutchinson and the MS leadout train is pretty hard to beat. That said, you can never count out guys like Larry Nolan, Dean LaBerge, and Kevin Metcalfe on the latest incarnation of the AMD Masters team (now called Specialized Racing). They have the innate killer instinct and a nose for the finish line. And all bets are off if former euro-pro teammates like Dylan Casey and Scott McKinnley get fit.

What I really want to see is a showdown of the best NorCal and SoCal masters. A knockdown, drag-out, fight-to-the-death race to claim supremacy of ALL OF CALIFORNIA. Who would it be? Thurlow and Amgen/Giant? A knife fighter like Mark Scott? Hutch and the MS/Spinies? Nolan's F-Truckin' A-Team? Hernando or Crispy Walk? Dang, my heart rate elevates just thinking about it.

What about the North American pro scene? I know nothin' about that stuff, but I'll be pullin' for BJM and our new home-boy Aaron Olson with Bissell. Plus, I hope those canucks from Symmetrics kick some US butt in retaliation for the ATOC snub. Gimme a break, Symmetrics is better than Kelly Benefits or Jelly Belly for a race like the Tour of California.

Hmmm, what else... I wish I knew more about the women's racing scene, 'cause I think it's on the rise. I'll be paying closer attention in 2008. In SoCal the talk is all about the new Rock Racing women's team. They'll be in the spotlight and under pressure to perform. Nationally, Webcor and High Road should be the dominant teams and us SB'ers will be cheering for our latest pro resident Kim Anderson (and of course, Laura Van Gilder who's a regular spring-time visitor).

Well, this is getting long and the booming thunder and lightening are threatening my power and internet connection, so I need to wrap it up.

Don't hesitate to comment if you've got ideas, opinions, and/or prognostications for the 2008 racing season. It's gonna be a fun one...

Training Week -- 1/14 - 1/20

Some good variety: three endurance rides, two VO2Max rides, one sprint day, and a recovery ride.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 19 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: Sat, around Casitas to Ventura and back around Casitas, 100 miles in 5.5 hrs riding time.
Other: none
- OSM in ~16:2
- Twice cut my tire so bad it needed a boot. A good reminder to carry a little piece (1"-2" long) of an old tire with the bead cut off. Glad I had that. In a pinch, a gel wrapper a dollar bill works too. Or just a tube patch if the cut isn't too big. But you already knew all that.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hottest Ticket of the Year

No, not opening night at the SB International Film Festival, and not Avril Lavigne at the County Bowl.

Not even Hillary's visit tonight can compare.

That's right, the hot ticket of the season is tonight's showing of American Flyers at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.

Kevin Costner's best movie ever, despite what he says!

I hear you might even learn some race tactics if you pay close attention.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Tryst

A confession, especially since I was spotted. Damn this small town...

Maybe you've been in this place too ...according to widely published statistics, a lot of people do it. Relationships can get monotonous. Just goin' through the motions, same ol' same old. Perhaps the years haven't been kind... uhh, put on some weight there, honey? Predictable foreplay, the usual moves, and then it's over. Oh, and the nagging! Last week--yes, it's become weekly--the nagging was just too much.

And it just so happened that yesterday I ran into someone from the distant past. And we chatted and it was nice. Soon followed suggestive talk of a lunchtime rendezvous for today. Something different and just a bit dangerous ...with this hot little thing, all thin and tan and tight. Hmmmmm.

So I did it. Snuck out of the house a bit early, incognito in different clothes and dark glasses. I had second thoughts on the way to the rendezvous spot. But I knew I needed what was ahead. When I arrived, that little tart had already started in some solo action. Whoa! I quickly joined in, but alas, shot my wad in a quick 5:33 and was no good from then on. Couldn't get it back up. Just wasn't accustomed to this kind of intensity. Oh the shame and embarrassment!


So that's it, I confess.

I skipped the usual Tuesday lunch-time ride where I was nagged last week (for stopping at a stop sign) and went here instead...
...for a secret rendezvous with this little tart...
...and some VO2Max intervals. And it was good!

Disclaimer: This post is in no way symbolic, emblematic, allegorical, or metaphorical for anything other than bicycle riding. What were you thinking anyway!?!?!

Training Week -- 1/7 - 1/13

Back in the saddle and it feels good.

Number of rides: 5
Riding time: 14 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: Saturday in the valley
Other: none
- Cranked out three good rides on the 101 north of town. This ride scared me in the old days, but traffic seems to be lighter in the mid mornings. Plus, it's really motivating to get some wind-push from the big trucks. Gaviota and back averaging 22-24 mph is cool!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Oh What a Day... and Back in the Day...

Huge thanks to Matt and the Chicken Ranch gang for organizing a perfect ride today in the Santa Ynez Valley. Gawd those roads are beautiful for bike riding! And for once, at least in my experience, the day didn't turn into a race. Perhaps that's because even us local-yokel knuckleheads aren't goofy enough to half-wheel the ride's guest big-timers Aaron Olson, Kim Anderson, and Laura Van Gilder. Well, except for Jason ...but bless his heart if he can't help himself!

So we did the usual "Canyons Loop", i.e., Foxen Canyon-Cat Canyon-Drum Canyon, and then tacked on a lap of the Amgen Tour of California time trial loop. In total, a steady 75 miles that went by effortlessly because of the beautiful scenery and great company. Greg and Matt have a report and some pictures posted over at the B Team blog.

On the way back into Solvang, I mentioned to Gabe that years ago (decades really) there was an annual crit in Solvang. That got me reminiscing, so when back home I dug through my old boxes of Velo News looking for an issue that might have coverage of that race. And guess what... I found an issue from 1978 with coverage of the Solvang crit and the Santa Ynez RR (which used the roads between Los Olivos and Solvang). And guess what else?!? Rory won the crit, and Greg LeMond won the RR. Click on the scanned-in image of the article below if you want to read some history. A few other familiar names in the results too!

Monday, January 07, 2008


I made Mozzarella cheese and it tastes good!!

Start with a gallon of whole milk from Trader Joe's. The milk must be either raw or old-fashion pasteurized; it can't be "Ultra Pasteurized".

After careful temperature monitoring and some chemistry and bio work (adding Citric acid and Rennet at the right temps and times), the milk separates into thick curds as shown here...

...and whey (shown here).

Then you spoon out the curds and gently press out excess whey to form a blob. That is the technical term. Then you microwave the blob to raise its temperature, and then you knead it like bread dough. The more you knead it, the more stringy and stratified it becomes. You can also add salt to taste. When happy with the consistency, form it into smaller balls and put in cold water. It's done.

Very fresh Mozzarella and Bruschetta on bread. Yum, yum!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Continuing Discussion...

Alright, so the following comments from TnA and Aram on my post of January 4th make me think I wasn't as clear as I need to be about my thoughts on developing as a bike racer...

TnA said:

BTW, I'm thinking you may be somewhat downplaying the relative "help" that increasing your "aerobic power" (as you call it) adds to basically every one of the other categories. To borrow an economics quote, "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Pretty much any effort longer than 20s or so has a pretty significant aerobic content. That basically means that most of the axes of the spider plot are somewhat tied to that one leg. To quote Dr. C, "It's an aerobic sport, dammit!" :-)

...and Aram said:

Hm. I've always said "i'd sacrifice some of my sprint for some extra juice on the climbs.." and that's right in line with your proposed suggestion of focusing on weaknesses. But I don't subscribe to what you're saying.

Take C-Walk:
Go back two decades, and try to turn him into a sprint machine. Sure, he'd be better than he is now, but there is a terminal limitation just based on a rider's physical (fiber orientation, tissue size, etc) build.

For me, all bike racing comes down to threshold power in relation to your weight. Improve that, be a better bike racer.

OK boys, nowhere did I suggest (or mean to suggest) that building your threshold power was not important. Quite the contrary, my entire cycling life I've always felt that it was priority #1. (Well, at least after a person has lost as much fat as possible ...it's remarkable to me how many people focus on the details when they're still carrying around 5-10 pounds of excess fat, but people don't want to hear about that!) So yeah, aerobic power is key.

However, I firmly believe you are not going to reach your potential as a bike racer if you focus exclusively on threshold power. You are cheating yourself if you don't also work on a sprint and occasionally do short-duration intervals. Further, for anyone doing long road races, you need to develop endurance beyond what you get simply from a good aerobic system. Nobody will perform well in a 100-mile road race by doing nothing but 2-x-20's. I'm shocked anybody wouldn't agree with these things (except perhaps for a person with very limited training time or someone who only races time trials).

Aram: most definitely you could never turn C-Walk into a big brute like Marty Nothstein, or for that matter even a little speedster like Hilton Clarke. But, you could certainly improve his sprint enough so that people didn't think of him as "the-world's-best-break-mate-because-he'll-never-beat-you-in-the-sprint" which is how a lot of people correctly think of him now. I'm reluctant to critique Chris because, as everyone knows, I've always been one of his biggest fans ...BUT, I think he'd be better if he took just two hours out of his 25-hour training week to work on a sprint.

TnA: I know you are quite fond of Coggan's "it's an aerobic sport, dammit!" quote as well as the rising-tide comment. I also know that all three energy systems play in a bike race (ATP-CP, glycolysis or anaerobic, and aerobic). Sure the majority of time is spent using your aerobic system, but very often the placings in a race are determined by a sprint or by making your way into a break that demanded a substantial amount of anaerobically-generated power. So yeah, it helps if your aerobic system is well developed but it's still foolish not to also develop the other two. Remember your second favorite Coggan'ism: "specificity, specificity, specificity", which it seems to me applies to all the energy systems you use in a bike race.

Back to the fighter-aircraft analogy: the USAF had a finite budget, and they wanted to know the optimal mix of attributes their money could buy. Stealth was the biggie of course, kind of like a very good aerobic system is the key for a bike racer. But stealth is not enough, just as focusing exclusively on your aerobic system is not enough. So the issue is how to allocate the resources ...money for the USAF ...and training time and effort for the bike racer.

Here's how I'd prioritize, and generally in alignment with increasing amount of training time:

1. Lose weight to a reasonable level, let's say for argument sake, to 5%-7% body fat (for men).

2. Focus on aerobically-generated power with lots of training sessions of VO2Max durations (say, five minutes) up to climbs of an hour or more. Why climbing? Because where we live it's nearly impossible to get those longer durations without a lot of interruptions on the flats.

3. Develop your endgame by doing a wide variety of sprint-specific workouts like stomps, high-speed sprints, low-gear sprints, uphill, downhill, short, long, etc. In my opinion, you have to be able to sprint in a variety of circumstances... fortunately sprint workouts don't take too much time.

4. When getting closer to key events, add the short-but-intense intervals (30 sec to 2 min.) once a week. I don't know about you, but these wreck me more than anything else and I have to be careful not to over do it. I was lazy on this front last year and paid the price for it.

5. Long rides, as in 5 hours, if you'll be doing long road races.

Of course the art in all of this is figuring out how much of each is appropriate, and that of course depends on the kind of racing a person wants to do, how fit he/she is already, how much time is available, and when the goal races are.

Feel free to comment and criticize, but only if you offer up your own ideas with some details!

Training Week -- 12/31 - 1/6

Sick all week.

Number of rides: 1
Riding time: 3 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 0 hrs
Best ride of the week: Sunday worlds, small steady group, rain on the way home
Other: none
- Missed 12 days of riding in a row, so I'm set back quite a bit.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Designing a Bike Racer

Many years ago, as a young Operations Research Analyst, I worked on a study with the charter of determining the best characteristics of a next-generation fighter aircraft. The F-15 was getting old and Pentagon big-wigs were getting worried about new threats. Our job was to sort through the myriad design choices and make recommendations for an F-15 replacement.

This kind of DoD study group typically has a variety of players, including: the "Gray Beards" who are basically old guys who've been around a long time and like to pontificate; procurement bureaucrats whose job it is to wisely spend tax-payers money; US Air Force folks who ultimately fly the aircraft; and analysts who do all the work. You know those kids in class who would draw elaborate air battles on their paper with fighters and missiles and guns and explosions and stuff? Well, those kids grow up to be analysts and then get paid to do that same thing, only with computer simulations and math equations. That was my job back then.

Only it was really complicated, and you can't have it all. "Faster, better, cheaper... pick two" is a classic saying attributed to some Dilbert NASA engineer who was probably telling his pointy-haired boss that you have to make choices and must make sacrifices in some dimension or another.

With respect to a fighter aircraft, you have a number of critical dimensions to think about. They include the stealthiness of the aircraft, its cruise speed, its unrefueled endurance, the weapon load it carries, its maneuverability, and the performance of its sensors. These dimensions are illustrated on the "spider plot" below...

    Analysts sometimes use these kinds of conceptual plots when considering a lot of dimensions (i.e., more than can fit on a standard 2-D or 3-D graph). Each axis represents some characteristic of a fighter aircraft, and further out the axis represents better capability. The plot above has an inner dashed-line contour drawn notionally to represent an F-15. The outer-most dashed-line contour represents the absolute maximum that could be achieved in each dimension. That maximum could be a limit of physics, cost, or some other practical constraint.

    In reality, you cannot achieve the maximum in every dimension. You have to make choices. Two such choices are drawn on the plot above. The Blue contour represents a stealthy, fast-cruising, long-endurance aircraft. The Purple represents a very maneuverable, highly-armed aircraft. Which is better?

    Well, without getting into a ton of nitty gritty detail, let's just say... it depends. What is the mission? Where is the threat? Which tactics will you use? on and on...

    The analyst might say, "Build a really stealthy fighter so you can win before the enemy even sees you!"

    ...to which an USAF pilot might respond, "What if I get into a dogfight ...I need maneuverability and weapons!"

    "But I calculate that you'll get three shoot-look-shoot opportunities before he even detects you!!", cries the analyst.

    "Dammit, air-combat is not a math problem you snot-nosed punk!!!" yells the pilot.

    OK, calm down. The exchange above is purely fictional and has nothing at all to do with bike racing ...or does it?

    Let's start with something relatively simple and non-controversial. The plot to the right is a notional representation of Andy Coggan's Power Profiling. I've altered the presentation slightly to make some points. First, the plot illustrates maximum power output (in W/kg) for a spectrum of durations (5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 1 hour). The black line is meant to represent an "average" rider. Now, you're free to define that any way you wish, but to me it's most meaningful if it represents a typical rider in the same circumstances as yourself (or myself). In other words, for me, I'd assume an average Masters-age rider who can put in 15 hours a week of training and who has many years of racing experience.

    Two notional riders are sketched onto the power-profile graph, a typical crit sprinter (Blue) and a typical roadie/rolleur (Red). This simple example should agree with everyone's own experience. Surely you know riders who are better sprinters than you, but who don't climb or tt at your level. Alternatively, maybe you know a better tt'er or climber who you could beat in a straight-up sprint.

    Which is better? The sprinter or the rolleur? The rolleur tries to drop the sprinter so he doesn't need to fight in the endgame. The sprinter tries to survive to the endgame to use his weapon. See the analogy?

    Of course it's really much more complicated and multi-dimensional. As K-Dub famously once said, "Bike racing ain't a math problem."

    Here's my thought on a 6-D spider plot for a bike racer:

    Let me define what I mean by each axis:

    • Aerobic Power: Just what you think it is, namely, maximum power output over durations of five minutes or longer. For example, the Glendora Mtn TT in the San Dimas Stage Race.
    • Anaerobic Power: Maximum output for shorter durations, say, 30 seconds to a couple minutes. This is the brutally hard surge or attack that almost causes you to black out. Personally, I think of Daniel Ramsey's last lap attack up the hill in the Conquer the Canyons RR. It was wickedly hard, let me tell you.
    • Sprint: Everyone knows what a sprint is, but I mean to include more than 5-10 sec. power here. I also mean those intangibles like positioning, bravery, intelligence, and cunning.
    • "Short-term" Recovery: a measure of how able you are to do repeated short-but-very-hard efforts. This is like covering a whole flurry of attacks or going up the hill at Nevada City. Way over threshold, back under, way over, back under, repeat...
    • "Long-term" Recovery: By this I mean day-to-day and week-to-week. At one level, it affects how you will do in a hard stage race. At another level, it determines how hard you can train.
    • Endurance: As in "suffering", like when it's 90 degrees out and you're trying to hold onto a wheel in the 3rd hour of a race and you're cramping.

    Just like the spider plot for the fighter aircraft, this one has a few conceptual contours. The outer dashed-line ring denotes the maximum capability you could possibly achieve in each dimension. Let me be clear, by that I mean the level you could achieve by focusing all your training exclusively on maximizing that one dimension. Therefore, almost by definition, it would be impossible for a rider to reach the outer contour in every dimension. The inner contour alternatively, represents an arbitrary level of "weak" in each dimension, whereas the middle dashed line is your "average" rider.

    The red contour on the plot is my judgement of my own capabilities in recent years. Better than average W/kg and (sufferer) endurance, average in anaerobic power, less than average elsewhere. I know this to be correct without any quantitative information. Racing against the same people every weekend for years tells you all you need to know about where you're strong and where you're weak. Do you make the front split? Do you win the sprints? Do you fade and cramp at the 2-hour point? How many matches can you burn covering attacks? Do you get relatively stronger or weaker on the 5th day of a stage race?

    My main purpose in talking about this subject is that a bike racer has some choice in his/her development (or design, if you will). Many of us default to doing the same kinds of rides year-in and year-out, and we lose sight of the control we have. So few racers do dedicated sprint training, for example, yet most races come down to a sprint of some sort. Similarly, not many people do the gut-busting 1-2 minute intervals that train your body to endure the repeated anaerobic efforts you face in some races.

    To be sure, the dimensions I drew in the spider plot above are not totally uncorrelated. Improving one can help in the others. For example, if you max out your aerobic power, it will help in most of the other dimensions. But there is a cost. You cannot reach your maximum potential in every dimension. For example, if you want to be the very best sprinter you possibly can, then you will sacrifice some of your endurance and aerobic power.

    Let's talk about two local examples. First, Adam Duvendeck has become one of the best short-distance track riders in the US, but it didn't come easy. Rather, it's taken him 10 years of hard training to reach that level. Very dedicated and focused training, emphasizing technique, strength, and explosive power. He could blow away most anybody in a kilo or straight-up sprint, yet he'd probably get dropped in a Cat 3 road race. He made his choice about where to focus.

    Chris Walker, on the other hand, has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to maximizing his aerobic power, endurance, and long-term recovery. Really, I doubt there's any room for improvement in those dimensions. His fat-burning metabolism is truly maximized. He won the Elite National RR championships when over 40 years old. Yet, half the field of a SoCal Cat 3 crit could probably beat him in a straight-up sprint. He made his choice too.

    Now, you might be thinking that Chris is a natural roadie, and Adam is a natural trackie. You'd be wrong. I've watched the evolution of each of those guys. Both are where they are today due almost solely to really hard and focused work. Chris has designed himself to be a stealthy, long-endurance, cruising fighter. Adam has turned himself into a top-gun dogfighter.

    So, my challenge to you is: make your own bike-racer spider plot, and put yourself onto it. If you don't like the dimensions I chose, pick your own. After you've done that, think hard about whether or not your strengths and weaknesses really match what you think is the most desirable design for the kind of bike racer you want to be. If your strengths perfectly match your design, then great... keep doing whatever it is you're doing. Otherwise, think hard about your training choices and consider making some changes. (Note: I am talking to myself here!)

    Aspiring Gray Beard

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008


    "I'll try to be a better person this year"

    "I'll exercise more and eat better"

    Pardon me if I discretely roll my eyes when I hear New Years resolutions like these. Not that they aren't worthwhile in principle. Of course they are, but you can't really measure your success. I mean, how about holding open a door for an elderly lady and calling it good on resolution #1?

    No, instead I think you need to make specific and measurable goals for the year. Goals such that on 31 December 2008 you can look back and say "yea" or "nay" as to whether you accomplished each one.

    This year more than most I feel the need for improvement. Looking back on 2007 forces me to acknowledge that my life was a bit too dominated by bike racing. And by extension, so was my family's. I don't want to be so one-dimensional and I certainly don't want bike racing to be a burden on my family.

    So, without much forethought and in no particular order, below is a list of things I plan to accomplish in 2008. The common theme is being more productive and multi-dimensional.

    Read 10 books. For those of you who actually do read, this goal is laughably trivial. Gina for example, reads 10 books in a summer easily, whereas I buy lots of books, but actually make it through about 1-out-of-10. Reading is so enjoyable and should replace a good chunk of mindless TV watching and internet surfing.

    Race at least one MTB, CX, and track event in 2008. I got a NORBA license this year and it says BEGINNER and my track category is 4. Gotta do something about that! But more importantly, I want broader experiences with cycling, like back when I started this sport thirty-something years ago.

    And on the subject of broadening experiences, in 2008 I will participate in other forms of active recreation and not worry about how it impacts my cycling. I will run the SB Half Marathon, I will ski again, and I will ocean kayak. The latter two with family.

    I will make cheese in 2008.

    Start our long-discussed house remodel. This is a classic case of analysis paralysis because the choices and expenses are so overwhelming. But it needs to be done.

    Fix the red truck. A 1986 Toyota pick-up... a great little utility vehicle. I think it has some kind of blockage in the fuel line or fuel pump. I don't know squat about working on cars so this will be a challenge. It'll be a good father-son activity for Brian and me.

    Make it through a day with no gas. Yes, I mean what you think I mean. I'll chew my food more thoroughly and will avoid gluten and lactose. And cytomax. Maybe I can shoot for a whole week in 2009!

    Plant berries and keep them alive. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. They're finicky--especially blueberries--and need a lot of care to grow and thrive, but the reward of sweet summer berries is worth it.

    Give away bags full of produce all summer.

    Donate or throw away 50% of my clothing. If you saw my closet and drawers, you'd suggest 90%. I rarely go clothes shopping--maybe once or twice a year--but I purge even less often. It needs to be done.

    Go to the doctor and get snipped. It also needs to be done, even though it will mean a few days off the bike. We're too old for any surprises!

    OK, that's it... all out there in public.

    Happy New Year!

    Training Week -- 12/24 - 12/30

    Cross training I suppose

    Number of rides: 1
    Riding time: 2 hrs
    Time in mid/high aerobice zone: 1 hr
    Best ride of the week: Mt. Hamilton
    Other: One run and 4 days skiiing (2x XC & 2x DH)

    Training Week -- 12/17 - 12/23

    Status quo...

    Number of rides: 5
    Riding time: 10 hrs
    Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 4 hrs
    Best ride of the week: Alto Velo A ride
    Other: none

    102.9 Degrees F

    That was my temperature yesterday. Better today, but still kinda woozy. Like a New Years Eve hangover ...except I didn't drink anything!