Sunday, January 30, 2011

I had a sweet dream today

I couldn't resist. The temperature was about 28 and sunny, with light winds out of the northwest. The streets were clearing up, with only small patches of snow runoff. It just looked like the perfect day to bring out the road bike, and it was. I had a little time in the middle of the day, so I slipped on my winter riding gear and hit the road. Only an easy 20 miles, but that was 20 miles of pure freedom.

And now the weatherman is predicting up to a foot of snow over the next 2 days. Back on the rollers, I guess. And turn the spring dream machine up another notch...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Joining IC3 and another day on the rollers

I recently joined the International Christian Cycling Club, or IC3. For any Christian that loves to bicycle - whether you're a tourist, commuter, or racer  - it's a great way to share your faith in Christ. Learn more about the club by clicking on the link above.

Today I had two workouts on the rollers. I'm trying to integrate two into each day as often as I can. First, it should keep my metabolism up higher for a longer period throughout the day, and that will hopefully train my body to burn fat more effitiently, a good thing for an ultramarathon cyclist. And secondly, it will allow my body a bit of recovery between workouts, so that I can up the intenstity without getting into overuse injuries.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I entered the world of ultra-marathon cycling 30 years ago, around the same time I got a job wrenching at a local bike shop. This year will also mark my return to ultra-marathon cycling. Yesterday I "auditioned" for a job at another local bike shop.
The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Strength and Inspiration: Where does it come from?

Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire): "And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me."

I have to admit to owning the DVD of the movie, "Chariots of Fire". Every time I view it, I can't get through it without having a fresh new charge of strength and inspiration. And this quote in particular usually brings on a few tears. What can I say? The truth is, I'm fueled by emotion and emotional moments such as this one where Eric shares the source of his strength.

I have a passage from Scripture that's included in my email signature that provides similar strength and inspiration each time I see it:

Psalm 121:1,2
A song of ascents.
I lift my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rolling right along...

My roller training season has offically started. Most non-cyclists have no idea what bicycle rollers are, and even many cyclists don't. But before all the fluid trainers, before all the mag trainers, and even before all the wind trainers, were the rollers. For decades this is what every competitive cyclist from the Great White North used to train with during the long, cold winter months. The older designs were commonly made of drums about 4.5 inches in diameter. These don't provide much resistance, and are mostly used to develop good form rather than strength on the bike.

But these days, you have the option of two additional sizes, 3 inch and 2.25 inch. The 2.25 are for mostly cyclists of the Nelson Vales or Eric Heiden  persuation, those fearless cyclists with quads measuring the same circumfrence as my waist. My old rollers in the '80s were 4.5 inch drums, and I could easily do a double century on them, even during the off season. But when I picked up a new set last year, I opted for the 3 inch drums. They seem to be the best compromise, allowing you get a somewhat decent workout and still remain on them long enough to concentrate on one's form. If you want to see what these are all about, here's a good example of how not to do it. And here's an example of how the great Eddy did it.

Anyway, when it's cold outside and don't feel like getting dressed up like the Michelin Man, I hop aboard the rollers, and dream of warmer days to come.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of dreams lost and found

It's been nearly two weeks since my last blog entry. Guess I better finish my story...

Well, I finished the RAAM qualifier back in 1985, but I didn't qualify. I could blame it on the strep throat. I could blame it on the allergic reaction to the anti-biotic. I could blame it on the fact that I didn't get enough sleep before the start. I could blame it on the fact that I was under trained and had developed two sore achilles tendons nearly three quarters of the way into the event. But the fact of the matter is, I simply didn't qualify. At the 500-mile mark, I was in a qualifying position, but at that point my crew decided that I need to stop for some real rest. Sure, I had been hallucinating for several hours now. But I hadn't really said anything about that until the race was all over. I think what gave me away was that I was having a hard time staying awake when they saw me at the checkpoints. So we stopped, and I slept for over two hours. By the time I got back on the bike, I had been passed by 10 other cyclists. That was the beggining of the end for me, and for any chance of me doing the 1986 Race Across AMerica.

I felt good that I had at least completed the 700-mile RAAM qualifier, but I was to come home with something else that I would rather not have. Those achilles tendons took a long time to heal, and for the next couple years, I felt the pain every morning I got up out of bed and placed my weight on them. Finally, one morning about two years later, I realized the pain was finally gone. By 1987 I had begun to participate in ultras again, but very cautiously and with no intention of competing, only for the enjoyment of the sport. In 1988, I decided to do something I had dreamed of for many years, ride my bike across the United States. But rather than a race, I loaded up my touring bike with panniers, a handlebar bag, cooking gear, a sleeping bag, and a ground pad. On June 19, 1988, I flew out to San Franciso with my boxed up home on wheels. The following day, I would begin a 2,000-mile, 30-day journey that would change my life forever - for the better.

But that's a story for another day...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grandiose dreams and itchy cleats

Roughly thirty years ago, when I heard of the first Race Across America/RAAM (The Great American Bike Race), I became intrigued by this new and unusual event. During the '80s, I worked at one of Milwaukee's best bike shops, Rainbow Jersey Bicycles,. And even though the owner, Jerry Pearce, was a dyed-in-the-wool (Merino wool, of course) supporter of traditional bicycle racing, he catered to my interest (maybe it was my whining) in ultra-marathon cycling, so that we became one of the world's first official information stations for RAAM updates. This was the era before the internet became a household "neccessity", so anything we learned about RAAM and ultra-cycling came via the special hot line (telephone) we had access to. And you can bet that I was checking those updates on a daily basis, since I was shop's only resident RAAM groupie.

In 1984, at the suggestion of a friend and fellow training partner, I signed up for the following year's regional 700-mile RAAM qualifier, called the Midwest John Marino Open (JMO) back then. Well, two weeks before the race, I contracted strep throat, and made a trip to my doctor. I began a regimen of antibiotics, and ignored the doc's suggestion that I shouldn't follow through with the event, considering that my health was now compromised. Of course I didn't follow his suggestion, as I had dreamed of the RAAM for several years now, and I was not about to give up the chance to find my own place on the starting line. And by now, my ultra-cleats were getting quite itchy.

...to be continued.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

15 miles less to go...

About 12 years ago I did the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Michigan. At that time, I lived about 3 miles from Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, where the event occurs. So I filled up my backpack with an extra change of clothes and  towel, and roller-bladed to the site. Back in the '90s, I was a competitive speedskater. Sure I had a car, but skating just seemed like the logical way to commute to this annual rite of passage. Hmmm, there's a question open for debate: "Do Polar Bears use logic?". Well, I skated it to the lake, took the plunge, skated back home, and never got sick. But I'm pretty sure that will be the only time I'll feel a need to play that game.

Originally I had planned to bicycle to the plunge today, just to watch, and possibly to photograph. But with a high of 21 degrees and winds up to 40 mph, I decided to sleep in and make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast for my wife and me. She was pleased with my decision. But later this afternoon, when Linda announced that she was going to her health club to get in a swim, I realized that there was still an opportunity to get that first ride of the year in. So I set out on my road bike for the first time in months. Anyway, I had just purchased a new set of race wheels from a guy on craigslist (for about half the price of brand new ones), and if nothing else it was an excuse to find out how they rode. Seeing that the temperature and wind hadn't changed much from the original forecast, I limited my ride to 20 miles. And that was just enough to keep my extremities from going into a deep-freeze of their own.

The new wheels rode nice, but mostly, it just felt so good to be on the road bike again! That bike fits me so much better than my W.A.S. (Winter Assalt Vehicle), so I felt like I was back home again. While on the ride, I pondered about the mileage goal to set for this new year. In 2010 that goal was 6,000 miles, and I ended up doing just over 6,500 when I include last month's "snow-commutes" to work. For 2011, I think I'll go for 7,500 miles. Lord willing, I can make that goal. After all, last year I didn't really start training until March. And after today's ride, I've already got 20 miles under the belt. Now to finish off those leftover buttermilk pancakes...

Here we come, 2011!

Yesterday was my first day on the bike since getting that throat infection over two weeks ago. I took my WAV (Winter Assalt Vehicle) out for an easy 20 mile ride on the Interurban Trail. It's been balmy here the past couple days, hitting a high of near 50 yesterday. Today I hope to ride down to Bradford Beach to watch the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Unfortunately, the high temperature today is supposed to be only 25 degrees.