Friday, November 20, 2015

Five Is the Number

I need five races before Jingle Cross, which is only two weeks away.

The reason I need five races is because that's the minimum required to maintain a rating handicap. Having a rating before Jingle Cross is very important because it allows one to be seeded nearer to the front of huge fields. As of this writing, M45+ has 68 entries already. At eight across each row, not having a handicap could potentially land me in the 9th row.


The good news is that I have a plan. Even better, it's already underway:
1) Complete ONE Iowa State Cyclocross weekend (DONE: 12th/49)
2) Complete TWO Nebraska State Cyclocross races this weekend
3) Complete TWO Frosty Cross races over Thanksgiving weekend

If all goes to plan, I'll have my FIVE qualifying races over the three weeks leading up to Jingle Cross.

Suddenly, my abbreviated cx season got way more interesting.

Here's another thing that will be fun to watch: because my 2014 races have not yet expired, I am currently pre-seeded as high as 7th place at Jingle. This ranking is based on five decent results at races at the end of last year. The outcome of the five races that I do in 2015 is anyone's guess. For one, I have to complete all five to even receive a ranking. That means no DNFs. For seconds, just one bad result among the next four can send me back several rows at Jingle Cross.

Ha! This is going to be fun.

There was a time earlier this fall when I almost stepped away from racing this season. I was in a different place physically, and mentally then. This is the first time that I've had to deal with that feeling. It would have been very easy to step away. Honestly, more than once, I was tempted to say to hell with it -- there would always be next season. I'm glad I didn't. If for nothing else, this experience has afforded me some understanding and empathy when others take time off for various reasons.

Well, I am back now, and I'm gunning for five strong showings. My bike is ready, my body is ready, and my mind is ready.

Now, excuse me while I apply a liberal amount of extra strength Whoop Ass.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Trade Secrets

I often listen to documentaries and such while doing household things. This past weekend, it was glass making from Steven Johnson's "How We Got to Now" (PBS). The gist of it was that a bunch of glass-making Turks came to Venice to escape persecution during the 13th century. Then they got stuck there because the Venetians liked their glass so much that they threatened death upon the Turks if they left. Wisely, the Turks decided to stay and settled on the island of Murano just off of Venice.

As a result, Murano became THE place for artisan glass makers. Over the next several hundred years, their close proximity on the island created a crucible in which their art was intensely refined and perfected.

Even today, Murano is still known for its glass making. A local artisan was interviewed. Interestingly, in spite of spending some 30 years at the furnace, he claimed that he learned more simply by listening to the older generation sharing trade secrets over drinks after work.

Last weekend, Harvest Racing had a team get together. It was mostly a social event with a little business mixed in. While I sat and listened to Mark, Kent and Shim talk about the local cycling scene, I couldn't help but think about that glass maker perfecting his craft just by listening to those with more experience.

Until this year, I have never been coached. What I know about cycling has come mostly through my own racing experience, and most of that has been attrition style of racing -- cyclocross and triathlon events. Team racing requires experience to do it well. Obviously, racing on the open road is a great place to learn that. But you can also learn an awful lot off the bike just by listening. I did this past weekend.


After missing most of this cyclocross season, I've decided to make my return to racing this weekend. It's gonna be a doozy, too -- the Iowa State CX championship, and the field is going to be stacked. Wish me luck. I'll need it!

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mime Your Camera

Fred's wife is our real estate agent. Now that she's taken our house to the market, there have been a few questions along the way. For instance, after there were a couple of mid-day showings of our house today, Jill had texted me to ask how long the visits were. Since I was at work during the time, I replied that I had no idea. And since Katherine wasn't around either, that only left our dog Emmy to answer Jill's inquiry, and I told her so.

 Jill replied that it was a good idea (to ask Emmy) since she is warming up to her.

 Emmy's response was an instant classic:

The back story of 'Mime Your Camera' can be found here.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Shim's Rest Day (Vo2 Max Sessions)

This past week I did a brand new workout on my bicycle. I wish I could say it was from my coach, the Masters World Champion Mark Savery himself. But alas, it was not. This one came from my good old buddy, Shim, and it's a classic.

It goes like this.

Warm Up:
As you're spinning easy next to your cycling buddy, casually ask them what their workout plans are. Hopefully, they (Shim) will say it's their rest day. Now, Shim's rest days are anything but restful. Usually, sometime near the end of a five minute rollout, he becomes weary of the chit-chat and soft pedaling. That's when he goes rogue and makes up his own rest day workout. If he's had a good leg report, prepare to suffer.

Take the other day.

Brady: Hey Shim, what does Mark have you doing today?

Shim: It's Monday. I've got a rest day. I dunno, I'll probably just ride my bike.

Just ride my bike to Shim could mean anything -- an impromptu taco run, hitting the dirt trails on road bikes, or doing one of the hardest workouts you've ever done. Ever.

Main Set: Half Wheeling V02 Max Intervals
Allow Shim to settle into a pace just shy of a lactic acid threshold. Then, attempt to match his speed so you're riding directly next to him, side-by-side. As soon as your front wheels are parallel to each other, Shim will open up a small lead. This is called half-wheeling, where one's front wheel leads the other by a slim margin. What happens next is the key to this workout, so pay attention. Close that gap, so you're riding side-by-side once more. Now wait for it and watch as he slowly accelerates and opens another half wheel gap on you. Again, close it down to even it up. You won't have to wait long before he puts another half wheel on you. Close it down once more. Repeat, yada, yada, yada. This will continue until you've either run out of road or one of you has cracked.

Cool Down
After running out of road (one of you has cracked), you'll eventually catch your breath while spinning at a true rest day pace. Mind you, Shim will still be half wheeling you, but you're past caring anymore. Anyway, use this time to casually ask your cycling buddy what the hell that was all about.

Brady: "What the hell was that all about?"

Shim: "What was what about?"

Brady: "That half-wheeling?"

Shim: Half wheeling? Who was half wheeling?

Brady: Remain silent while rolling your eyes behind your sunglasses.

Shim: I wasn't half wheeling. And what got into you? Why were you being so competitive? I thought we were on a rest day. I was just riding my bike...

Yeah pretty good.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Too Old to Feel This Damn Young

A younger colleague was lamenting to me about how old he felt recently. Despite being in his mid 20s, he had a lot of responsibilities that he felt we weighing him down: a new born, a career, autos and mortgage payments. I reflected that a lot has changed since he graduated from high school. He chuckled, then quoted Garth Brooks, saying he was "much too young to feel that damn old."

After a little of my own soul-searching, I'm happy to report that the sentiment is not mutual. In fact, I feel the opposite: I am too old to feel this damn young.

Maybe it's because I don't have children. Probably that's the great equalizer, but I wouldn't know.

But I have my own stressors, and my time is still over-booked. After work and house projects, what remains of personal time is spent with Katherine, or the bike. So I'm plenty busy.

The recent return of my health may also have something to do with feeling younger. After going through a rough patch over the past couple months, being mostly pain free is liberating. It means I can ride more. Riding more contributes to both physical and mental well-being. Take a recent lunch ride -- although it was a blustery cool Autumn day in the upper 40s, the set of vO2 max intervals had a very positive effect of supercharging my mind and body. I felt completely rejuvenated at the end of an otherwise grueling workout.

I suppose I feel young because I have the luxury of being able to enjoy riding a bike often.

“We age not by holding on to youth, but by letting ourselves grow and embracing whatever youthful parts remain.”
--Keith Richards, age 70
As a kid, I would have never guessed that embracing bicycles as an adult would bring so many benefits. As an aside, I would have also never guessed that I'd turn to Keith Richards for inspiration on aging gracefully.

Anyway, I'm grateful for bicycles and the luxury of time to ride them.

Speaking of aging gracefully, a well earned Happy Birthday shoutout goes to Fred. Keep staying young, you damn vampire!

Thanks for Reading. Happy Friday.