Saturday, December 31, 2011

Skinny Tire/Small Ring

I figured there's no reason to push extremely hard right now. There aren't going to be any races around here until late April and I had already achieved a fitness goal this week, so I took the skinny tire out on an exploratory mission and kept it in the small ring.

My last ride of 2011 involved riding trails in town, and then unfamiliar territory via West Van Dorn, south on SW84th/91st to West Denton, and then east, up and over "the wall", a climb of nearly 150 feet that feels like you're going straight up.

At the top of the wall is Our Lady of Guadelupe Seminary. I had no idea this was out there. I should have taken a picture, it looks like a resort perched on a cliff, overlooking the corn.

The wind was out of the southwest for much of the ride, and then almost straight out of the west during the last few miles. I didn't have to do much pedaling on West Denton after the wall. The wind and gravity pulled me to 27mph at some point.

I have trouble grasping that it's officially January, and there's no snow on the ground.

My last ride of 2011 was 33.37 miles, at a leisurely 13.5mph pace.

Friday, December 30, 2011

May the Force Be With You

I once commented that I'm the cycling equivalent of a Mustang II. Well, after spending the last few months in the gym, I can now say with great confidence that I am the cycling equivalent of a Mustang II King Cobra.

What I'm saying is that force is no longer my limiter. I achieved my goal of doing "step ups" with 90% of my body weight on my shoulders. Six sets of six reps per leg.

It's safe to say I can make some torque (twisting force) at this point. It remains to be seen if I can convert the gains from the gym to gains on the bike. I know I need to do some leg speed work to make that happen. It's been a long time since I've gone out and just spun the hell out of the pedals. (While my cruising cadence is in the upper 80s, I have terrible form above 120rpm, a far cry from the days when I could spin out my 42x23 at 22mph.)

Why should I worry about leg speed? (About to get all mathematical up in here.)

Power = torque at speed. Most folks are familiar with the term "horsepower" when talking about cars. It's a number used to describe an engine's ability to make torque at high RPMs.

A couple of somewhat correct assumptions, correct enough for an example: A 70s Mustang II King Cobra and an 80s Honda CRX make about the same horsepower. The Mustang II's post-EPA/pre-EFI V8 makes about 200lb-ft of torque at roughly 2,000 rpm. A Honda CRX's modern multivalve four cylinder is making 120lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Yes, the Mustang makes more torque, but at a lower RPM. The game changes when gearing is introduced.

Assuming a tire circumference of 80 inches for both cars, we arrive at 792 rpm at the tire at 60 miles per hour.

If both cars are geared to deliver peak torque at 60 miles per hour (they aren't in real life, but we can pretend they are for the sake of this example), the Mustang's final drive ratio is 2.53 and the Honda's is 6.31. This means the Mustang's engine and transmission combination is putting down 506 lb-ft to the wheels at 60mph while the Honda is putting down 757.

Having 50% more twisting force at your disposal is a clear advantage when accelerating, regardless of weight differences. Not just for sprinting, but also for climbing and battling the wind.

This is why I need to do speed work.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Saturday marked the unofficial start to winter in Lincoln Nebraska. It started with freezing rain followed by four inches of snow. I went for a short ride on Sunday to see what it was like. There were quite a few sections of the MoPac west that were downright dangerous.

It seems like the city was caught off guard. The residential streets in my neighborhood are pretty much one big ice skating rink, 48 hours later. The bike trails are usually clean and dry within 24 hours with a few questionable spots, but this year it's the opposite: questionable with a few clean and dry spots.

It took 42 minutes to ride to work, about 15 minutes longer than usual. I only had to get off and walk once. (Rock Island, under the zoo entrance.)

The ride home took an hour and ten minutes. The ice melted and then refroze. Stretches that were okay on the ride to work had me slithering this way and that. Coming out from underpasses was particularly dicey, as those seemed to be the slickest. I didn't take any chances on the home stretch, I walked the bike over the 27th street overpass.

While I have Nokians, I haven't taken the time to install them yet. I'll probably bring them in from the garage to warm up and swap them out tomorrow.

Things I've learned about ice biking:

  • Breathe. I've been told by a few people that your body will not tense up if you keep breathing. You are more likely to stop the bike from falling if you're relaxed. 
  • Lighten up on the saddle and handlebars. Let the bike move a little bit under you. Even side to side.
  • Don't make sudden movements. Physics is not on your side.
  • Pedal slowly in a taller gear. This helps with staying light on the saddle and handlebars. It also reduces the mechanical advantage to the rear wheel, reducing the power lost to spinning your rear wheel on the ice. 
  • Low tire PSI. You want the largest possible contact patch, but not so low that the rim is riding on the pavement. You also want the tire to deform around imperfect ice, which helps keep the bike upright.
  • Learn to lean your body and not your bike when steering. I learned this the hard way. The nearly zero coefficient of friction combined with gravity tends to pull the bike out from under you, even if you have studded tires.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Girly Hustle

It's nights like this that make me realize Lincoln has an awesome cycling community. The girls who organized the girly hustle have a sense of humor, to be sure. In fact, two girls running the show at the start were laughing hysterically at their phones before the race even began. Something was up. Now that I've had time to put thoughts together, I'm sure they were laughing at the third checkpoint.

Most of the participants were men. The organizers had to know this going in. I wish I was more prepared.

Perhaps I should fire up the scannner and post my quiz results from the first checkpoint.

Perhaps I won't: Probably for the best.

Second checkpoint was cool as shit. I had to decorate a cookie with a positive adverb describing women. I chose "Beautiful". Dammit if that wasn't hard to spell with a frosting bag on a four inch cookie. The cookies were available to eat at the finish. I think I found the one I decorated....

Third checkpoint? I thought it was evil until I reached the finish, at the Hour Lounge. The third checkpoint will result in discomfort for weeks to come. ;)

I had an awesome time, even if I did go to the grocery store afterwards in a t-shirt proclaiming that I made it backstage. (That's a story I shall save for later hustle finishes.)

I did two things I kinda regret: 1) calling another participant a fun-hater (for not taking care of business at the 3rd checkpoint) and 2) telling a bartender I'm 13 years older than he is and to find me a beer I haven't tried, dammit.

You know how I'm getting old? They're running out of beer I haven't tried yet, dammit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Links

Two links:
  1. Cycling to work can add 5 years to your life, but only if you pedal hard and avoid crashing ( (It's reporting on an observational study, so take the "results" with a grain of salt...)
  2. Kick-ass DIY R2-D2 bike helmet. (phillyrawrblog)

Monday, August 29, 2011

South Dakota and Alley Cats

I should post more.

South Dakota.

My wife and I took a "just the two of us" trip to Spearfish Canyon, SD recently. The cycling portion of the trip involved rental Schwinns that had seen better days.

It was totally worth it, you miss out on a lot of stuff when you're caged up in a car. We coasted from the Spearfish Canyon Lodge down 14A to Bridal Veil Falls, and then made our slow steady climb back up the hill. My wife remarked that the hill seemed a lot steeper when we were going down, and that this climb isn't that bad.

We made a couple of stops on the way back up: We went climbing in a gulch that was obscured from the road by trees, then hiked along an abandoned rail corridor along Iron Creek.

We stopped for lunch, then climbed up a gravel road. Compared to the heavily traveled 50mph farm roads around here, that gravel was smooth and easy climbing. A steady 3-4% grade for 5 miles. (One spot was pretty steep, my wife got off and walked, I hit the bailout ring. Pretty easy after that.) It was smooth enough that I would be comfortable taking my road bike up it if it were dry. I was looking for an MTB friendly trail which exists near the top of the road that takes you to Baldy Mountain overlooking the Canyon, but we never found it. It was about this time my wife remarked "I'm so done riding right now". I don't blame her, she's not much of a cyclist and we had put in about 20 miles at this point, 13 of which were going uphill.

Alley Cat.

I did my third hustle race on Thursday. (I had done a Haunted Hustle and Snow Globe Hustle previously.) For those not in the know, a hustle race is an unsanctioned, checkpoint-based race on city streets. They're also called "Alley Cat" races.

This one was entitled C-Rad Hustle, as it was put on by a local guy whose nickname is C-Rad.

I was the first to arrive at Woods Park. Per instructions, I had a flashlight and can opener. About a dozen or so other cyclists arrived to participate in the festivity.

Once the sun was low enough on the horizon, we were released to our first checkpoint, a screenprinting factory on Cornhusker, about two and a half miles away. We had to drink a beer, then ride through the factory following some arrows laid out with blue painter's tape. We were given our next point upon completing the course.

The next checkpoint was Amen's Liquor store at 12th and Belmont. I got around the group I was riding with and threw the chain into the big ring and powered up the hill to 14th and Adams. Boo-ya.

That was a big mistake. I know the Belmont neighborhood about as well as I know the freeways around [major metropolitain area], meaning I have no flippin clue. I remember reading the instructions on the sticker saying "two blocks north of Cornhusker". Trouble is, I got off Cornhusker at Adams, then hit 12th street and went... North. (Adams is about 5-6 blocks north of Cornhusker at 12th street.) I made it all the way to Superior Street (a mile out of my way) before realizing my mistake.

Here's where things start to get surreal. I'm a sweaty mess. I lean my bike against the liquor store's entrance, I walk in, the guy stops ringing up a customer, points at me and says "one moment please, this gentleman is on a mission". He pulls a can of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy out of a cooler and asks for a dollar thirty four. I pay him, he holds up two coozies and asks "green or purple?"

I ask "will it matter later?"

"I guess you'll find out," he replies.

I am a bit confused and disheartened by my earlier mistake and just say "Oh well, green I guess."

He puts the sticker on my spoke card and explains "your next stop is the bar behind knickerbocker's". I know where Knickerbocker's is. They have quarter tacos on Thursday and tons of local and regional bands I never get out to see. Trouble is, the most direct route is a stupid-busy two lane blacktop over Salt Creek, through the North Bottoms and then by UNL. I grinned and beared it. Two other participants were unlocking bikes as I was walking in.

I had to buy/chug a beer at that bar before getting my next sticker. I bought a guinness. Dude poured nothing but foam, it went down easy.

My next stop was a "small park at 50th and O, look for the stone bench". That's close to my 'hood. It's also 3 miles from downtown, the most direct route is also the "main drag". I hit the side streets and the sidewalk along said drag.

By the time I got to the park, there were three people. One was handing out stickers, the other two were relaxing with a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy in branded coozies from Amen's Liquor store and remarked about my hill attacking ability. "How did we get ahead of you? We thought we'd never see you again!"

Before I was to drink my beer, I had to run up the hill, then bike down it, as if I were in a cyclocross race. This idiot brought his road bike...

By now the beer was shaken up, and upon opening it, I found myself wearing part of it. Oh well. I got my sticker for the next checkpoint.

It read: "Visit any grocery store and buy a can of tuna. Then report to the alley behind TJ Maxx and Best Buy."

There's a Hy-Vee right across the street from the park, and it's down the road/round the corner from Best Buy. I ran into the store with my bike and got strange looks. I told one employee that it was okay, I was on a mission. After fumbling with my wallet and chasing down two other participants, I met up with C-Rad in the alley behind Best Buy and presented my can of tuna.

Now I used my flashlight and my can opener to open the tuna. My next task was to empty the contents into one of the bowls "over there".

So here we are at about 10:15, walking along a narrow foot path in the grass that used to be a creekbed, holding freshly cracked open cans of tuna and a spoon, dumping it into bowls placed near old doghouses.

I think you can tell what's going on here: the task at this checkpoint was feeding alley cats. Seems appropriate, yes?

The final checkpoint was a downtown bar. I don't know my downtown bars. I have a fuzzy recollection of where they are, but I couldn't tell you what block has what bar. I overshot my destination by a block. I wasn't done hustling until I chugged another beer, this one being Old Style.

I took the DFL prize for getting lost twice.

I hung around for a while to drink beer and converse about bikes, beer, star wars and zombies, then seriously did not remember the ride home. When I got home, I remember I had packed a tall boy of Schlitz just in case I needed a beer for the Hustle, so I pulled that from my bag and hit facebook. Mmm. What's wrong with the beer I got now? Warm Schlitz drank pretty good, don't it?

I don't remember crawling into bed.

The next day my head reminded me that I'm 30-freaking-5 and had to work, idiot. I should have headed home at 11:30. I then checked to make sure 1) my bike was in the garage and 2) the garage was closed. Check and check.

I feel like a kid again when I do these events. I mean, except for the beer chugging. 

We had Mountain Dew instead.

I did think up a cool hustle "theme" while typing this. Whether or not I make it reality is another story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A couple quick links

A couple quick links, full of good news. Fuel up with bacon and/or coconut for your ride through Brooklyn...
  1. Big 'Fat' Blog Post 3, concerns the role of dietary fat in an endurance athlete's diet (
  2. Judge Rejects Groups' Effort to Remove Bike Lane (

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dude, where's your bike?

The weather is perfect for cycling and I'm commuting in my rolling steel and glass cage this week. I have a number of rule 11 violations keeping me off the bike. I even missed Crit Practice tonight.

Not all is lost: The end of the week involves a trip to Spearfish Canyon Lodge with my wife, where there will be half a day of mountain biking on unfamiliar singletrack with a rental. Success means coming home with:

  1. ...awesome pictures of waterfalls, granite spires and blue spruce forest
  2. ...all teeth and bones intact

Don't worry, I will be commuting again next week.

I took a slight detour to scope out the construction progress of the new at-grade intersection of Randolph near Capital Parkway. It connects the "trail to nowhere" from the J-street underpass with the Capitol Parkway trail south of Randolph about four car-lengths back from the intersection. This eliminates stopping for cars at J street and reduces the chances of an inconsiderate motorist blocking the bikeway across Randolph. Winning all the way around!

When they finish re-grading the underpass at 27th and Capitol Parkway, my 7 mile one-way commute should once again be a leisurely 28 minutes, as opposed to a 28 minute hammerfest. The underpass is slated to be completed in November, just in time for Nokians.

In the absence of riding my bike, I searched the google news machine for some good bike-friendly news to keep my spirits up:

  1. End of the road for motormania (New Scientist)
  2. Bicycles can mean a cheap commute (Kansas City Star)
  3. Commuter Bike Traffic Sets Record in NYC (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News) 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Street Pizza

I first heard the term "Street Pizza" when I was 11 or 12 while watching TV. I want to say it was in a movie on HBO, but there's a voice in the back of my head shouting "it's from an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Ah, to be a pre-teen in the mid to late eighties...

Either way, the term refers to what happens when flesh makes contact with terra-firma at speed.

This post from Bike Hugger illustrates why cyclists should obey traffic laws while wearing a helmet. The post contains a pic of the grease left behind after the street pizza has been boxed up and delivered.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trust Your Tires.

I haven't posted much lately because of the intense pain in my legs. Unlike other Lincoln area blogger-cyclists who claim they aren't blogging because they aren't biking, I have the opposite problem: I haven't blogged because I've increased my mileage and intensity and my brain is fried from the endorphin rush.

My legs feel like concrete right now, two days after another session of Tuesday Night Critz at The Bridges. It didn't help that I lifted weights tonight. I normally put in 3 sets on the hip sled. I didn't get my 12th rep in on my second set. My legs said "don't even think about that third set" when I got up to get some water.

Participating in the mother of all interval workouts came about a few weeks ago, when I decided to enter the Flatwater Cycling Twilight Crit Series Race #2. I had a horrible race. I got dropped in the second corner on the first lap because I didn't want to cause a wreck by following a bad line in the turn. I hit the brakes to get a clear shot at the turn and lost tons of momentum. The wind after that turn was relentless. Watching the pack leave me in the dust while half of them were coasting in each other's slipstream was painful, both physically and mentally. I burned all of my matches trying to catch back up. 

I bought a one-day license and paid my entry fee, so I had to make the most of it. I pushed into the wind and rested a bit on the backstretch, where I had a tailwind. I tried hard to latch on to the pack or groups of other dropped riders, but my legs wouldn't have it. My average speed was just south of 18mph.

I got some advice on cornering from more experienced cyclists in the area. The advice given boils down to breathing and paying attention to your line through the turns. Weight the outside pedal and inside handlebar. Trust your tires.

I was also told that Lincoln Southwest High School's faculty parking lot is a good place to get some cornering experience: one won't go fast enough to skid since it's so short.

I spent the sunday after that race in the parking lot. I was taking three of the four turns at LSW at up to 20mph, braking only for the sharp 4th turn. There simply isn't a good line for that turn because the median wants you to turn to leave the parking lot. I wouldn't take it faster than 13mph. I think I did 35 counter-clockwise laps without stopping. I turned around and did about 20 clockwise before getting bored with the exercise.

I went back to Tuesday Night Critz for more practice, and got dropped like a bad habit after two turns and then lapped within 5 laps. This time it wasn't because I was slamming on my brakes and losing momentum, it's because I wasn't strong enough to keep up. And frankly, that shouldn't suprise anyone. I gave chase during each of the subsequent work intervals, it felt great to put in that kind of work.

I suffered greatly for it. My legs cramped several times during the night, I didn't sleep much, and most frighteningly: I wasn't hungry the next morning. Breakfast felt truly optional. All that meant I was dehydrated.

Truly stupid: I rode to work and then to my daughter's final softball game and then home the next day. 11mph was a grueling effort, those 19 miles took more than two hours. I drove to work Thursday then skipped my usual Thursday night gym session to finish recovering.

I've gone back to Crit Practice every week since. I've been able to keep up for at least one full lap before the Cat 1/2 racers decide to beat up on each other and drop everyone else. I still burn all of my matches during that first lap.

I also entered the third installment of the Flatwater Twilight Series. I kept up with the pack for a lap and a half and was one of four dropped by that point. I got passed by one of the other dropped riders who remarked "now that was fast!"

I latched on to other dropped riders' wheels at different points during the race, and when the pack passed me by I would hook on to them for a quarter to half a lap to get more experience at speed. They were only going 22mph during the last lap. I thought they were all dead or dying. No: they were getting ready to sprint. I got dropped right after the turn and watched a few people make moves to win the race.

I broke 32mph at some point, presumably during the first lap and a half. Pretty sure that happened right after the first turn on the first lap, I moved up the outside of the pack to chase down the leaders, then decided to back off about halfway up the pack, because I knew full well that I couldn't keep up that kind of pace for more than 15 seconds, especially when there's ~39 more minutes of racing.

This experience has me looking forward to the UNL cycling weekend in September. While I most likely won't win, I will be able to keep up for a lap.

Maybe two.

A couple quick links

A couple quick links:

  1. Riding your bike on the sidewalk in downtown Lincoln is not only dangerous, it is illegal. (Lincoln Journal-Star)
  2. Don't be tricked by processed food labels claiming heath benefits. (
  3. Boston's efforts to dissuade cyclists from running stop signs and red lights has no legal teeth. (Boston Globe)

Monday, August 1, 2011

What am I supposed to eat?

I'll be flat out honest with you: I've been struggling with my weight since I was 12 years old. I was a skinny kid up until 6th grade. My dad was worried I wasn't going to grow muscle. And then I just exploded. I easily put on 20lbs of blubber for no discernible reason within a few short months. None of my old clothes fit around me.

I'm 35 today. My weight has been a roller coaster. I constantly think about the weight coming back. I get on the scale every morning.

During my teens and 20s, I found cycling to be a fun way to keep the weight off and "not worry" about what I ate. But I've always had a layer of fat on me. Still do, in fact.

All that changed when Sony dropped the Playstation. That thing was addictive. Night and day, the playstation was on. I was either fighting or racing. And my clothes got tighter.

Unlike my super-awkward 6th grade self, my somewhat awkward grown-up self can identify what went wrong this time: my steady diet of Mt. Dew, onion rings and Runzas. (There was a Runza across the street from my old apartment.) Every so often I would pay my body a little respect with a salad. Or potato chips. Heck, I might go to Subway for lunch. Seemed to work for that Jared guy.

Oh yeah, and LaBamba Burritos. "Burritos as Big as Your Head!". Oh SNAP those were good.

Needless to say, I abused my body's ability to properly burn fuel. I topped out at 262.8lbs. That's what I weighed at my first Weight Watcher's meeting back in 2002. 4 years later I was down to just a hair under 182lbs. It's been five and a half years since my last WW meeting, and I've been fluctuating between 181 and 205lbs since. (I have had a couple mornings below 180, but those were due to dehydration.)

I stopped going to the meetings because I wasn't making weight progress and I was chronically hungry. I was tired. I was crabby. I started smoking cigarettes again. I would wake up in the middle of the night and think about eating food. I craved apple fritters.

The only way to shut off the late night cravings was to eat something, and the only thing in the cupboards that seemed like it might be tasty was peanut butter. I would eat it straight out of the jar. I would fall asleep fast after that. And then the next day I would have to make an adjustment because, "OMG I ATE 8 POINTS WORTH OF PEANUT BUTTER LAST NIGHT!!!"

Some days I just didn't care. I'd go to Runza and kick it old school with a gigantic Mt. Dew, Large Onion Rings and double cheeseburger, because fuck it: I'm not getting anywhere anyways.

Needless to say, the cycle got vicious.

Note: I'm not disparaging Weight Watchers. Frankly, the plan saved my life. It got me away from the ledge. But something wasn't clicking for me as I was reducing the number of "points" I consumed.

Points are a proprietary system developed by Weight Watchers. It's ever-changing, but the gist of it is that all foods have a point value, the low-fat and/or high-fiber foods have a lower point value, so you're encouraged to eat more of them in a given day. It's a simplified method of "conventional dieting". It works for a lot of people.

One can also earn points through exercise based on time, body weight and exercise intensity. A half hour to an hour on the bike would yield me 2-6 points, depending on the intensity and duration. Heck, Mowing the lawn was 3 points. A bottle of beer was 3 points. Coincidence? I say not!

So, to maximize my food volume while keeping a small points footprint, a typical meal could include burritos made with fat free refried beans on a fat free whole wheat tortilla made with 93% lean ground turkey and reduced fat cheddar cheese. Another evening would include boneless/skinless chicken with a side of brown rice, steamed veggies and some reduced fat cheddar cheese melted over the top of the rice for some flavor.

(Sure, I would spend fewer "Points" by eating fat free cheddar, but that lasted a day: fat free cheddar doesn't melt. It scorches. On the other hand, I willingly indulged in fat-free mozzarella, because it melted. Looking back, I must have rocks for brains: fat free mozzarella should not melt, but it contains a collection of chemicals to ensure it does. And I ate it.)

There were some nights when I muttered "J.F.C., not this shit again" to myself when I sat down to eat.

Activity became a means to an end. A ride from the South Walmart (still under construction during those days) to Palmyra and back was about an hour and 15 minutes and meant ice cream or pizza while staying "on plan".

Not that it mattered. I wasn't getting anywhere during those last two months. I still had a layer of fat on me. I was 14lbs away from goal. And I was hungry all the time.


Last year I picked up Joe Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible. Chapter 16 is entitled "Fuel". There's a subheader called "Carbohydrates". Page 251 includes these two paragraphs:

When you eat a high-carbohydrate meal or snack, the pancreas releases insulin to regulate the level of blood sugar. That insulin stays in the blood for up to two hours, during which time it has other effects, such as preventing the body from utilizing stored fat, converting carbohydrates and protein to body fat, and moving fat in the blood to storage sites. This may explain why, despite serious training and eating a "healthy" diet, some athletes are unable to lose body fat.


Notice in Table 16.2 that many of the foods that have a moderate to high glycemic index are the ones we have typically thought of as "healthy" and therefore eaten liberally. These include starchy foods such as cereal, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, crackers, bagels, pancakes, and bananas. No wonder so many endurance athletes are always hungry and have a hard time losing excess body fat.

If there's too many words quoted, then perhaps this humorous video clip from Tom Naughton's 2009 Documentary "Fat Head" can hold your attention, it says roughly the same thing:

This resonates with my "dieting" experience like a gong: my weight problem isn't how much, it's what and why.

While I still have trouble avoiding carbohydrate temptation (downfalls include pancakes or Mt. Dew Throwback, this list is woefully incomplete I might add), I try to avoid consuming them on "light activity" days.  And some days it is really trying...

And just between you, me, and the rest of the blogosphere: when I eat a low carb meal before a ride (bacon cheese burger or a three-egg omelette with a side of bacon, or just bacon), I feel like I've been using some performance enhancing drug. It takes longer to "bonk", despite riding at higher intensities than I could after fueling with pancakes or pop-tarts.

Perhaps it's just a placebo effect, but I can't help but think the reduction in insulin lets the fat out of the bags and the glycogen out of the liver, availing it for Super High Intensity Training.

If you've never had a weight issue, chances are you probably think I'm off my rocker. That's okay.  I think what I'm experiencing is what reasonably fit folks refer to as "normal".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Street - Bike Trail Intersection Etiquette... again

Lincoln has more than 100 miles of bike/multi-use paths criss-crossing the city. They also intersect with major and not so major streets. There are above and below grade crossings for high traffic streets. But there are also at-grade crossings, mostly in residential areas, but a few are at busy intersections. Most have a crosswalk marked in the street and all but a few have a stop light.

I've observed that, as a cyclist, I can affect how a driver reacts at the at-grade crossings. If my front wheel is within 6 inches of the street surface at an at-grade residential crossing, drivers freak out and slam on their brakes. It doesn't matter that both my feet are unclipped and my hands are in the air (off the handlebars) waving them through. Then they wave me through with a look of disgust on their faces.

And then they get angry at me for not going.

I'm serious when I say motorists aren't looking or even aware of a cyclist's presence until it's too late. At least initially. Their behavior will change after a close call or two.

The best place in Lincoln to observe a change in driving habits due to horrible cyclist behavior is 26th street at the Mopac. Cars travel through there at 5-10mph because cyclists come off the 27th street bike bridge as if their brakes are unhooked.


Stop sign is there for a reason, cyclists: the car is 15-20 times your weight and (would ordinarily be) travelling at 25mph. If that's not scary enough: 18 wheelers use that street to deliver products to retail businesses. Those drivers may not drive through there often enough to know that you have total disregard for your own life.

I've learned to stop a few feet from the street, using the sidewalk (if present) as my guide. Often times I will hold the stop-sign post. The cars don't see me and go about their business. I get to cross safely. Everybody is happy.

But today I was 33rd street, a busy two lane road with a center turn lane and 35mph speed limit used by motorists to get home quickly. Cars usually don't care that I'm there, and I'm okay with that. Today someone cared a little too much.

To the lady in the southbound blue Toyota Camry at the intersection of 33rd and Mopac, near Peter Pan Park, at approximately 5:40 this evening: Just go.

I stood there unclipped from a pedal with my hand locking my front brake and you sat there. I waved you through and you sat there. The four cars stacked up behind you honked at you to go, and you sat there.

Quite frankly, I question your motives: the northbound traffic coming from Vine street sure wasn't going to stop to let me through.

Seriously: after the four cars behind you pass the trail intersection, a gap in traffic opens up that I can pedal through safely. Nobody is stuck behind you. Cyclists aren't throwing dirty looks your way. Everybody is happy.

But happiness is too much to ask for these days, I guess.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lincoln, this is why we can't have nice things.

This is what the intersection of Essex Road and the Rock Island Trail looked like the morning of July 5th.

I came across 4 such messes on my commute.

Nebraska Outdoor Addict said it best on facebook this morning:

You could do a census this morning based on the 4th of July trash on the trails as you ride through diffrent neighborhoods. The change in demographics is painfully obvious today.

This would be a great use for a bicycle: prospective homebuyers could pedal through an American neighborhood the morning of July 5th to see how the current neighbors treat the public facilities with respect to fireworks.

Well, I guess you could pedal anywhere on July 5th to see how the neighbors treat the facilities, but it's not like other countries blow things up on July 4th like we do...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Antelope Creek Trail Reconstruction

I got up close and personal with the trail reconstruction at 27th and Capitol Parkway. Shh! Don't tell anyone!

I'm digging on the gentle grades and "on/off" ramp. No more "climbing the wall", so to speak. I hope it resembles the Antelope Valley trail near NU when it's all said and done.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

38 Minutes out, 39 Minutes back

I did the Nebraska Individual Time Trial Championship on a one day license today. I completed the race in about 1h17m and some change. Last year I did the race in 1h13 minutes, but this is not what it seems.

I started off fine, ramping up my speed to 19mph for the first couple of hills to find my breathing rhythm. I've ridden this course enough times to know where I can grab a drink of water without upsetting my rhythm too much and I did.

Something happened that hasn't happened before: I caught and passed someone. I had my 30 second person in my sights for much of the first quarter of the race, and he took off like a rocket down "the hill". I lost visual shortly after I made the turn towards the hill.

My 30 second guy passed my one minute guy about 2 miles back from that. I caught and passed the one minute guy on the flat section just after the final right turn. He looked like he was in agonizing pain, hands on the bar tops, sweat flowing down his face, bike wobbly under his slow cadence. I know what I must look like to seasoned racers now.

Speaking of seasoned racers, I had been passed by all manner of cat 4 and 3 racer up to this point, but only one or two had disc wheels.

Thing about disc wheels on asphalt: they sound like Imperial TIE Fighters. And when 6-8 of them pass you within a couple of minutes, you feel like you're in the Equatorial Canyon of the Death Star.

That also means the Pro/Cat1/2 racers had caught me. I don't have an X-Wing Fighter. Heck, I don't have a Millennium Falcon.

Out of all honesty: me and my bicycle make up the cyclist equivalent of a Mustang II King Cobra: a bunch of decals and tape stripes pasted to the sides of the most anemic V8 Ford ever produced. I was no match for Imperial engineering. I was blown to smithereens before I could launch my torpedos.

After the turn-around I got back up to speed and cycled through my computer. 38 minutes and some change. I wanted 35. Oh well. I could still post a respectable time if I get this whole negative split thing down. I had a slight ESE breeze pushing me along a touch faster than before the turn-around. So I upshift. I'm feeling okay. I pedal through a few more strokes and upshift again. Whoa, a bit of a jump in effort...

Instead of backing off the gear, I backed up on the saddle to get some leverage.

Yeah, dumbass move on my part. It only took a quarter of a mile of flying (and it was glorious...) for my left hamstring to smack me upside the head and tell me to stop pedaling.

The only relief I could give my left hamstring was climbing out of the saddle with my hands on the hoods. The flat portions of the race were agonizing. My left leg still hurts a bit as I type this.

I let my speed drop like a rock on the out of saddle climbs. My cadence and rhythm were toast at this point.

I told my hamstring to shut up as I made a right turn into the wind at about mile 20. I sat as far forward on the saddle as I could handle. And this is where I learn something: I should have been training for this race in that position: it was fast, smooth and relatively pain free.

When I crested the final climb, I was greeted back to the start/finish with cowbells and cheers. The race could have used more cowbell in the middle, though...

I pedaled right on through the finish line and coasted to highway 92. I took a victory lap of sorts around Yutan to cool down and pedaled back up to turn in my timing chip.

I changed out of my cycling clothes, finished my water, grabbed a bagel and awaited the results. Called my wife to tell her I was still alive, etc.

I was initially disappointed with my 1h17m and some change since I posted 1h13m in last year's Cornhusker State Games, on seemingly the same course.

Not all is lost. Last year they turned us around one "section" before NE-63/66, resulting in a 22 mile course. This year they turned us around just before the rumble strips at 63/66, giving us almost 24 miles.

That means I rode last year's course at 17.4MPH, and this year's at 18.5, with a bum leg and poor riding position. There's definitely an improvement, but not what I was hoping for.

Oh, and to the owner of the unattended white Volvo with all four doors wide open playing Girl Talk: where's the subwoofer?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fitness success and mechanical failure

Well, maybe not failure, but it sure was discomforting. I haven't put the aero bar on the bike in some time, went out yesterday for a quick two hour workout in prep for next weekend.

Since the wind was out of the north I headed out on Highway 77.

I got into my tuck and noticed the muscle on the inside of my left leg was feeling strained. Spinning up made it worse, so I decided to grind it out slowly.

I noticed the same pain last weekend, but it wasn't as pronounced. I scooted back on my saddle to exaggerate the pain and found that my left foot is about 1/4" forward of my right. A slow cadence relieved the strain on that left leg muscle but brought back knee pain. I cut the ride short at Raymond Rd and worked on maintaining balance in the aero bar at speed.

On the bright side, I fueled up properly prior to leaving (Bacon!) and I was well hydrated. No cramping, no bonking. I put 38 minutes in at just over 19mph and felt like I could do another 76, save for the leg strain.

I should also mention that folks riding on road shoulders should ride with the flow of traffic, even if you are making a movie while dressed in camo face masks.

So did I ice up the inside of my leg to relieve the pain completely? Heck no. That would be intelligent. We went to the Funny Farm and harvested Mulberries to make about a gallon of wine. (Silly me, bringing the 7gallon jug...)

Climbing and shaking trees barefoot makes you feel like a Sasquatch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taking it easy

Today I took it easy on the ride to work on the trails. I had some miles ahead of me on the ride home: I made a stop at Wright Park (South Folsom and West Pioneers) to watch my daughter's softball game. On the way home from there I took a "new to me" trail from West Pioneers back to Charleston street. I would guess it was about 8 miles of pea gravel... without a pinch flat on stupid-skinny road tires.

I discovered that 15mph is the "sweet spot" for 23mm tires and pea gravel. The bike feels like it's bouncing all over the place when I go faster, while the bike feels like it's mushing down into the gravel when I go slower. Going slower is not unlike riding on Nokians in the winter.

Overall I spent about 95 minutes on the bike today. I haven't checked to see how far I went because I don't really care: today was a "light effort" day.

Tomorrow I hit the weights one last time before the Yutan TT. Early Saturday morning is my last tune-up before Yutan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trail Re-alignment?

If you cycle through Lincoln at all, you know they're upgrading the trail network. Part of these growing pains involve fixing existing trails and re-routing us on super narrow sidewalks. Yesterday I noticed a collection of stakes in the ground across the creek channel from the trail and decided to ask google what was going on. This is what I got in return
There will also be temporary detours between 27th Street and Randolph Street as a new bridge and connection to the Antelope Valley Trails is being completed. The Trail is going to be relocated to the east side of the channel. Temporary detour is the sidewalk on the west side of Capitol Parkway.
There's already a trail on the east side of the channel that goes under J street and terminates near the Lincoln Arts Program door. Perhaps I wasn't far off in my last post about a Randolph/G street underpass in the coming years. That would be sweet!

I'm still curious as to how it's going to work under 27th and capitol parkway, going from the west side of the channel to the east side without flooding over every time it rains.

Time will tell!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who ordered the wind?

The weather has been awesome recently, save for the wind. Had I ridden to work today, I would have gotten to experience the dreaded "dual headwind", where one ride to their destination into the wind, and then the wind shifts... and one gets to ride into the wind back home.

Not to be confused with the mythical "dual tailwind", which is where one pedals to their destination with the wind at their back, and the wind shifts... and one gets to ride with the wind back home. (Anyone who says this happened to them is, perhaps, embellishing the truth...)

I didn't ride to work today because I dropped my bike off at the shop Monday because of a creaking bottom bracket. I caught a ride with my wife this morning, picked the bike up at the shop and rode it home today. Smooth, like butter on the muffin.

Most Lincoln cyclists know the city is "remodeling" the Antelope Creek and the adjacent bike trail in an effort to reduce the floodplain in the central part of the city. I rode the train at the zoo with my kids Saturday and got to see work on the bike trail and creekbed to the east. The grading work that's been completed appears to yield a much wider and smoother trail than the narrow, twisted and crumbly asphalt trail they removed.

It's scheduled to be completed by November 2011. I'd like to see a G/Randolph street underpass completed by November 2012. Then one could conceivably cross the city under human power faster than internal combustion.

Well, as long as the 25mph (gusts to 55) wind was at your back.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just what is this Paleo Diet?

So I read Friel's training bible. Chapter 16 is all about fueling up for big rides and adjusting one's diet for endurance vs intensity as a racing season progresses. He's also co-authored a book entitled "The Paleo Diet for Athletes" with Loren Cordain, author of "The Paleo Diet".

I got curious. What is a Paleo Diet? What does it entail?

The simple answer: eat like our caveman ancestors did.

What does that mean?

You'll find there are as many answers to that question as there are paleo diet proponents, but they all have some common guidelines:

1. Avoid processed frankenfoods
2. Eat your vegetables
3. We can run great distances because we isolated and chased our prey like wolves do, so eat your meat.
4. Avoid grain based foods.
5. Most vegetable oils fall under #1, though a few exceptions apply, so cook with animal fat when you can

Where the proponents begin to differ is in what else is "okay". Many are okay with dairy, as long as it's not fat free.  Most are okay with carbohydrates from root vegetables and fruit. Many of these foods have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load and therefore won't send your pancreas into a tailspin dumping insulin everywhere.

I've been taking baby steps. My wife and kids aren't cave dwellers, so I indulge in spaghetti or a sandwich every so often.

But I notice I eat fewer calories overall on the days I lean towards paleo (eggs, bacon, a salad, grilled meat and grilled vegetables), while I tend to eat too much on the days I eat more grains. 

I won't completely avoid grain based foods: I enjoy beer. Heck, I brew the stuff.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NSFW, but safe for work.

2011 Not Sorry for Forgetting Work Ride.

Details here.

I did last years inaugural event. Total blast. You should do it, too.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More Protein? Greek Yogurt and Whey Powder

The "Fuel" chapter of Friel's Training Bible suggests one should observe their calorie needs and eat 25% of those calories from protein sources. Fair enough.

I started using My Fitness Pal to help in that regard. To my surprise, I only eat about 60-80g of protein a day. Even on workout days where I get to eat another 500-1500 calories over my baseline, I have trouble breaking 125g. This amounts to being about 9-15% of my daily calorie intake.

While I've made some changes in my diet to consume more protein (packing some tuna, cottage cheese, string cheese, etc. with my lunch), I still fall 20-40g short almost every day.

I have noticed that with more protein comes less overall hunger. I have a sneaking suspicion "low carb" diets work by shocking your body into telling your brain that you're full on 800-1000 calories a day. But that's neither here nor there...

I did some research and asked some questions, the responses from everyone included "greek yogurt" and "whey powder".

I have been hesitant to try whey powder. I tried it in the past and could not stick with it because it tasted so horribly awful.

On top of that, I'm not really a big fan of nutritional supplements in general, but in the quest for more protein without inconveniencing my carbohydrate-loving family, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. I picked up some "NNW" peanut butter and chocolate flavored whey powder from the grocery store. It was the least expensive variety and it is also marketed by a company in Gretna, Nebraska. Inexpensive + Local = Win.

The flavor of NNW is pretty light compared with the chocolate twinlab stuff I bought years ago, but not so light it's rendered tasteless. I tried some with a cup of skim milk and was pleasantly surprised.

I also bought four varieties of Greek Yogurt to test out/review this week.
  • Yoplait Greek
  • Dannon Greek
  • Anderson Erickson Greek 
  • Athenos Strained Greek
All of these are plain and fat-free. The Yoplait and Anderson-Erickson come in 6oz containers. The Dannon is a smaller 5.3oz container. The Athenos is a 2-serving 16oz tub. The protein content of each varies between 17 and 23g.

Why "plain" Greek yogurt? Simple: the flavored varieties of Greek yogurt are loaded with sugar. If I'm eating a dairy product with that much added sugar, it better be served over a split banana, drenched in chocolate syrup and topped with a maraschino cherry. Just sayin'.

Here is what I would choose in order of taste:
  • Anderson-Erickson
  • Dannon
  • Athenos
  • Yoplait
Yoplait is mouth-puckeringly sour. I would imagine that mixing it with ripe fruit would be pretty tasty.

I'm going to wait a couple of weeks before deciding whether or not the added protein is beneficial.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Risk versus Reward

I went out tonight to scoop the snow off my driveway and discovered what a 20 below wind chill feels like. I am not super human. I have my limits. I probably won't bike in that. Well, not this season at least.

When I biked home Monday the wind chill was about 5 below. That was bearable, you are your own heater.

The temperature is going to be about 7 below first thing in the morning, the wind chill will make it feel like 35 below. Let me tell you how I'm not getting to work. While I value both the mental toughness it takes to persevere through adverse conditions and the physical fitness gains from climbing Nebraska Mountains, I'm going to sit high and mighty in the heated leather seat of a Ford on the trips to and from work. I just can't fathom the small rewards from such a high risk activity.

While yes, you are your own heater, the intensity level needed to keep warm at those temps coincides with your body's natural tendency to sweat automatically. Once that sweat freezes to your skin, game over.

To paraphrase an old Denis Leary punchline: "Death, the ultimate physical fitness!"

Tonight was a good night for a moderately intense indoor trainer ride, pushing my heart rate into L3 and holding it for 30 minutes.

I'm going to do it again for the next two weeks regardless of the weather, but for 45 and 60 minutes.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nothing to see here. Move along.

I've posted about motorists being too nice before. Today was no exception. I have to blame part of today's overly nice motorist on the weather. Freezing drizzle started falling at about 4am today. The city road crews didn't get started on it until 6am. Everyone in this city was caught off-guard. I really do think they think they were doing me a favor.

I'm standing with my arms crossed at the intersection of the MoPac trail and N33rd street, both feet flat on the ground, patiently waiting for a gap in the cars to open up naturally before crossing the street. The cars are moving at MAYBE 20mph.

And then one stops, backing up the never-ending line of traffic all the way to Vine, two and a half blocks south. I facepalm and wave the driver through. Driver honks at me to "go".

I crossed the street, and every single one of those cars had to spin rubber against
ice to get moving. The line of cars hardly moved as I pedaled away. I can't help but think about what the motorists in back, those who didn't see the first motorist stop and honk me through, must think of me and cyclists in general.

I really wish the motorists would completely ignore me during the winter like they do in spring and summer: they're more predictable when they don't know I'm there. Maybe I should dress in white so I blend into my surroundings.
Maybe like an Imperial Storm Trooper. That might be less weird to see when the weather gets frightful, as opposed to a guy dressed in black with silver ski goggles and a white bike helmet.

At the other end of my commute, I got to the bridges at 27th and Highway 2 and saw an epic line of cars coming from 27th and Old Cheney, a mile or so south. I snapped a pic of them, they were going nowhere as I was able to pedal effortlessly across the bridge.

My true feelings on this matter require photoshop.

Thanks Melissa

33 minutes of seat time on my bike with studded tires. Everyone at work took "an hour" or more to get to work. It was worse for people who don't park in garages, they spent 20 minutes scraping ice off the windows after work, I can assume they took as long in the morning.

Ha Ha!

Friday, January 7, 2011

51 miles for the first week of January

It's January in Nebraska and it's been unseasonably warm.

Up until today the average high temps have been above freezing and I figure that's as good a time as any to keep riding. I put in 20 miles on Sunday and commuted to/from work and to/from the gym a couple of times.

The freeze/thaw cycles melting the little bit of snow we've received make me thankful for my studded Nokian tires. There's a good 1/4 mile section of Lincoln's Rock Island trail that managed to stay icy despite highs in the mid-40s the past couple of days. Today's ride home on this section was a bit dicey with the westerly cross-wind blowing me off balance. Despite the studs on the tires, the need to steer into the wind had my bike moving all over the trail trying to find a place to grab a hold.

The temperatures are finally dipping into "Nebraska Winter" territory with single digit projected highs for the coming week. But before it gets seasonably cold, we're finally getting our seasonable precipitation. The low prediction says 3 inches, some say as much as 8 inches before it's all said and done Monday night.

The last piece of my ice biking ensemble came in the mail today. I now have a set of Smith Cascade ski goggles. No more ice on my eyelashes or frozen tears running out of my eye sockets.

I'll be out on the bike on Sunday. How about you?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I once vowed never to join a Gym.

About this time last year I vowed not to join a gym. Bill Nye said it best when he said "The bicycle is a big part of our future. It has to be: there's something wrong with a society that drives a car to a gym for exercise."

I've decided I won't go faster on my bike without putting more force through the pedals. My local Gold's Gym is ten bucks a month. The fine print says I pay $30 a year in October. Whoopty freaking doo. Gym membership is $150 a year. A bargain compared to the cost of weights needed to achieve suggested "load goals" for specific exercises as spelled out in The Cyclist's Training Bible.

I have been doing some body weight exercises to facilitate my desire to get stronger, but I found those got real easy within 3 weeks. Add more resistance in the form of 20lb dumbbells? Easy again within a week. A $10/mo gym membership is the most economical answer to the question of "How do I make my bicycle's rear tire smoke like those connected to a 1,000hp twin turbo V8 nestled between the fenders of a 1987 Buick?"

My power goals look something like this, only noisier

I haven't set foot in a gym in well over a dozen years. Sure, the cardio machines have televisions and the snack bar offers more than just fruit juices with protein powder, but one thing has not changed: the people.

There's a group who go to the gym with no real plan. They sit at one machine, do 5 or so reps with way too much resistance, huff, puff and sweat all over said machine for 2-3 minutes, do three more reps, huff, puff and sweat some more, and then leave the machine drenched in sweat for the next user. They'll cruise the floor for an hour visiting random machines repeating this behavior. These people are often "in the/my/your way". I call them "randomizers".

There's also a group of "dude-bros", the folks who practically live at the gym with the sole goal of becoming "fit". Not that there's anything wrong with spending all of your spare time exercising with like-minded folks....

I don't understand the cardio-crazed, the people who can't get enough of the treadmill. I don't get how anyone can run in place for an hour or more while staring at a tv screen. I know what you're thinking, and yes, my road bike is currently clamped into my indoor trainer. I use it for spin-up drills and isolated leg work. I wouldn't consider cruising with a steady 135bpm heart rate for two hours while watching TV. That would absolutely kill the joy of cycling for me.

Then there's the geeks. They have a very clear goal in mind when they set foot in the gym. Exercise A leads to result B, which leads to Goal C. They are probably using the gym to supplement progress in another activity like basket weaving or chess. Maybe a sport like cycling. Some might even carry around a pencil and paper to track progress.

While I still consider working out in a gym to be a form of madness, I have a method to it.