Friday, April 18, 2014

Hey Rocky, Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out of My

When I was a kid, I loved watching the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I still do. For you youngsters, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show was an animated classic. They don't make cartoons like they used to.

Bullwinkle the moose always tried to perform a second rate magic trick for his friend, Rocky the flying squirrel. The gag would inevitably backfire on Bullwinkle, but that never deterred him from trying again. It'd go something like this:

"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."

"Again?!" Rocky would say in a real smart-assey voice.

"See? Nothing up my sleeve," he'd continue, tearing off a sleeve.

"Presto!" A roaring bear would pop out of Bullwinkle's hat.


"Must be the wrong hat!" Bullwinkle would say.

I thought of Bullwinkle during this past Wednesday night's group ride, as we rolled through Boyer's Chute in 40°F temperatures and 30 MPH wind gusts. Moments before, Fred had asked me if I was going to perform a magic trick with the "Magic Gloves" that I had just purchased a couple miles back at the Ft. Calhoun gas station.


Magic Gloves, or so they're called, are those inexpensive stretchy-knit mitts you can get at Walmart for $0.99 a pair. Or, if you happen to be in a group ride that stays clear the hell away from a Walmart, you can get yourself a pair at the Ft Calhoun gas station at 200% markup. 

As an aside, retail is a beautiful thing. When the temperature plummets one degree every 8 minutes, like it did on our 2.5 hour ride this past Wednesday (a 20°F net drop), those magic gloves suddenly appreciated in value. In short, I would have gladly paid $5, perhaps even $10, for the comfort they brought over the next 90 minutes. At $2.99, they were a bargain.

At any rate, that was the best three bucks I had spent in a long time. The ROI was immediate: by the time Fred had inquired if I was going to perform a magic trick, my hands had already returned to life. So much so that I regretted not buying a second pair of magic gloves for the blocks of ice called my feet.

But as giddy as I was about my warm hands, I wasn't about to pull a Bullwinkle type magic trick on Freddy and the peloton. But if I did, I imagine it'd go something like this:

"Hey Freddy, watch me pull a rabbit out of my helmet."

"Again?!" Fred parrots along, somewhat irritated at how contrived the whole thing is.

"See? Nuthing up my sleeve" I continue, tearing off an arm warmer while pedaling no-handed on deep dish racing wheels in a 30 MPH crosswind. And let's not forget about those enormous expansion joints along Hwy 34, either. Oh no, I say my line and rip off my arm warmer while bunny hopping those cracks no-handed with such ease and grace that it would even make Mark Savery blush.

Ahem, as I was saying...

"... Nuthing up my sleeve"

"Presto!" and suddenly a bear Paul Webb pops out of my helmet.


"Hey you -- that's my helmet!" Lucas exclaims.

And scene!

Happy Friday everyone. Thanks for reading.

Bullwinkle pulls four animals from his hat here. Spoiler: none is Paul Webb.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Parts Unknown

I’ve never had any issues with alcohol. Professional Wrestling? That’s another thing entirely.

I owe my former troubles to my junior-year college roommate, Robert "Rockin' Robby-P" Pisco. He got me hooked on the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWF) long before they got in trouble with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and then they, the wrestlers, had to change their name to the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). But that’s neither here nor there, for I was beyond step 12 of WWF-Anon by then.

Robert was from the south where professional wrestling is only eclipsed by NASCAR. But from his demeanor and appearance, you'd never guess that he was a rabid professional wrestling fan. 

For one, Robert was very particular about his name. Strict, uptight even. He was not Bob, nor Rob. And don't even think of calling him Bobby. It was simply, “Robert”. That’s it, unless his creole/cajun personality took over. When that happened, he preferred to be called Rockin’ Robby P

What else? Robert presented himself well. He came from good money. He was well educated, and he still had a full mouth of teeth. That last part, about having all his teeth, is all that’s really necessary to distinguish him from a typical WWF fan. 

I should also mention that Robert was studying pre-med. He would later go on to become a successful heart surgeon.

Anyway, this was the guy that got me hooked on the WWF in the fall semester of my junior year. One night, I came home from studying at the library around 10 PM to find Robert yelling at the TV. I could hear his voice as soon as I exited the elevator down the hall. When I got the apartment, I found him standing about three feet from the boob-tube, wearing a baseball cap (backwards), surfer-shorts and flip flops. His shirt was wadded up in a corner somewhere. He had a bucket of KFC in one hand and a beer in the other. 

“What’s going on?” I yelled at him over the noise.

“You just missed it. Warrior’s was getting his ass kicked by Jake da Snake - - Snake had him in a choke hold - - but Warrior escaped, rallied, and then gorilla-pressed the him over the top rope. They just called it a draw. It was incredible!”

What was incredible was that a pre-med student just assembled those words into sentences and fired them in my direction. I even told him so.

"Naw, iz good, you jis doan unnerstand, dats all," he said. 

In my previous two years of knowing him, I’d never heard him talk like that before. He had become red-necked incarnate in front of me.

“Set yerself down an lemme tell ya whas' goin' on rat here.” He continued, fully-rednecked.

“J’eat?” he interjected before I even could sit.

What?

"J’eat?" he repeated, this time thrusting a drumstick in my face.

I looked into his eyes. Robert wasn't in there. In his place was Rockin’ Robby Pisco.

I took the drumstick and sat down. Rocking Robby P began from the top, with Wrestlemania I. He began telling me the entire backstory of professional wrestling. The whole, unabridged version. Three minutes later, I knew everything there was to know about the WWF. And it wouldn’t have taken that long if he hadn't gotten up to take a piss half way through telling it. But when he had finished, I knew every major character in the WWF franchise: Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Ted Diabase, Million Dollar Man, Nature Boy Rick Flair, Junk Yard Dog and some of the newer ones of the Golden Age: Macho Man Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Jake The Snake Roberts, Honky Tonk Man and The Big Boss Man to name a few. As it turned out, Rockin' Robby P's all time favorite wrestler was The Ultimate Warrior. 


As an aside, the Warrior was my favorite too, but out of respect for Robert, I’d defer the Warrior to him and root on one of the lesser cards featuring somebody like Super Fly Jimmy Snuka.

Somehow, my addiction started that evening, when Robert was yelling like a rajun cajun at the TV. Later that week, I watched my first wrestling match on TV. I didn’t miss many broadcasts thereafter.

I applied what I learned from TV to a heavily pixiliated WWF Superstars arcade game. It turned out that I was a natural at the game, mastering all the button combinations of the Warrior and Hulk Hogan. I was so good, I could get to the title bout vs Andre the Giant and The Million Dollar man on one quarter. Now that was something. 


It was only a matter of time before our other two roommates, Scott and Tom, became hooked on it as well. We split the pay-per-view four ways for Wrestlemania that year. We dressed in WWF costumes for halloween parties or when the WWF came to the Civic. The real Bush-wackers once stopped their bout to acknowledge us (dressed as them) with their synchronized double-forearm salute. When that show at the Civic ended later that evening, Rocking Robby P momentarily disappeared. When I finally located him, he was running around (inside) the unattended wrestling ring, bouncing back and forth off the ropes before getting chased away by security.

Ah, those were good times. Granted, an utter waste of time, but still so good.

Fortunately, I was able to get out of WWF as easily as it was to get into it. The addiction simply went away as soon as I graduated and we went our separate ways.

This flood of memories came back with a rush and a twinge of sadness when I learned of the passing of the Ultimate Warrior this past Tuesday. I remember when Rockin' Robby P told me about the Warrior. He told me that nobody knew where the Warrior came from; that he came from parts unknown. Well, it appears that with his passing, the Warrior has returned to parts unknown. RIP, Ulimate Warrior. Sigh.

The lesson here is that life is short, people. Get out there and get living. Even if it means getting out there as your favorite WWF/WWE Wrestler, your fav Star Wars/Trek character, or even elite World Champion athlete. What are you waiting for? Go Go Go!


Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cupcakes

For those following along, you may recall that I mentioned that I purchased Joe Friel's Power-Based: Olympic Build-Peak-Race plan a month ago. The plan is carefully calculated, following periodic training pioneered successfully by the Soviet decades ago. How this translates to me is that I have a daily workout delivered by email or smartphone that progressively takes me from base training (volume) to race form (intensity) over four months.

There have been a few surprises along the way. BikeSnob once said a power meter is like paying an accountant to tell you how poor you are.


But as brother Murphini suggested, I've found that the felicitous use of the device is like paying an accountant to make the best of your available funds.

The other thing I've discovered is that that hardest week of training has not been the one with 15 hours of grueling workouts. Sure, that's exhausting work. But it's nothing compared to what I'm going through this week.

This week is called the rest week. And it's awful.

In periodization, rest weeks are built in to allow the body to recover. Rest weeks have light workouts with very low volume. So for five days, you're supposed to do almost nothing. For me, this includes 20 minute swims (hardly worth getting in), 20 minute "embarrassingly slow" runs, and a couple 45 minute sessions on the bike spinning easy in zone 1 HR.


That's pretty basic. Thankfully, today is the final day of rest week. I'm ready for it to be done. Of course Today's workout is another cupcake:


Resting drives me nuts. I'm surprised at how difficult it's been for me to sit on my hands and do practically nothing.

I've discovered that I need to be active. I need to blow off lots of steam. I don't need to do this so I can flex and point at the mirror and stuff. I mean, I do that too, but that's besides the point. I think I need/like working out because of the way my body feels when it's over. It must be the beta endorphins released in the process. Of course, I recognize that this means some amount of rest is necessary to repair the body. But one day, two tops, is all the recovery I care for.

But if I subscribe to this plan, I need to comply to what coach Joe says, even if that means five days off. So if you'll please excuse me now so I can attend to the cupcake with my name on it.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Which World Class Cyclist Are You?

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a professional, world class cyclist like Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, or Cadel Evans? 

We all have, but which elite cyclist would truly best fit your personality?



1) Choose your favorite season:

2) Choose any two-letter combo that speaks to you:

3) Pick your favorite Sponsor:

4) Choose the word/phrase that pops out at you:

5) Choose your favorite dog breed:








Friday, March 28, 2014

Retiring

There comes a time when one must look at the diminishing returns and make a decision and then move on. It's okay. It's all good. I'm happy with my decision.

Looking back at all those miles covered, the distances traveled near and far; the toiling, the gruesome workouts, all made in an effort to produce what? A few precious victories and some hard-earned character?

I have no regrets. 

But alas, I see the signs of wear and tear. There have been countless nicks and cuts accumulated along the way. Even the skin has become spidery and craggy from the harsh elements, its suppleness long forgotten.

Aging sucks. At some point, it's time to hang it up. The timing is different for everyone. But eventually, each of us figures out when it's time to cut losses and move on.

Thankfully, when arriving at this point, one needs only to go down to your local bike shop and get a new set of training tires.

Whew! Retiring was never so easy. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

This time I chose a set of 25c Continental Gatorskins for my training tires. It was either that, or convert a set of Bontrager Race TLR wheels to a tubeless clincher setup. But because my LBS only had 23mm Bontrager R3 tubeless tires in stock, I decided to stick with the traditional tire/inner-tube setup. Maybe I will make the switch to tubeless the next time I face 'retiring.'

Then again, maybe I should just really call it quits. For real. I mean it. Fold up my tents and get into video games or woodworking like Munson's Tyler Durden (Jon Randell) did.

Athletes like to go out while they're on top of their game. Otherwise, they may face regrets or consequences like Like Brett Favre, or Lance Armstrong.

For a more local example, take this text I received from Rafal a while back:


In other words, Rafal was pondering what's left to accomplish after beating Brad and Lee in last fall's StarCity cyclo-cross race. Rafal's got a valid point. The two he beat are among the best road (Lee) and mountain (Brad) bikers around here. To beat one of those guys, let alone both of them in the same race, is not just a feather in Rafal's cap, it's the entire peacock. Perhaps Rafal should have quit.

I also wonder if I'm at one of those crossroads. My form is coming back as strong as ever, as evidenced by this past Wednesday Night Worlds group ride:


That effort was good for not just any old KOM, but one of Jonathan Wait's prize possessions. That kind of big deal. Such an occasion requires no less than paraphrasing Rafal:

"beat wait in ft calhoun kom what's there left"

Bah, can I be honest with you? What's the use? We all know that KOMs are worth nothing and everything. Especially tail-wind and/or group ride assisted KOMs.

Yeah, pretty good. At any rate, I've got a lot of miles to put on these new training tires. See you out on the open road.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Re: Nowhere Else To Go

My friend Fredcube is doing his first road race in several years tomorrow. I don't think he needs any motivation to wheel up to the starting line, but just in case, here goes.

There are two types of road racers. Those who love to race, and those who do it because they've got nowhere else to go on a particular Saturday morning.

Most of my friends fall into the latter category, having nowhere else to go on Saturdays. This is most evident in the winter, where one must choose between doing nothing at all, and riding in the harsh elements outdoors, or slogging away on a trainer in a damp basement while staring at a cinder block wall.  By the time racing weekends returns in the Spring, these die-hards have had enough of the basement and/or spinning in the small ring. They're ready for something new, and at least they now have somewhere to go (the race).

And then there's the young "Boy-Peter". Peter loves to race. He can't get enough of it. It's what he talks about when he's not on the bike. Incessantly.

Peter has family in California. Unlike the rest of us, he has places to go, good places, especially in the winter. We all know that there are lots of distractions in California. As a result, Peter's off-season training takes a more abbreviated form than the nut-jobs in basements and the great plains winter warriors.

Peter don't (sic) care much about off season training. He just wants to race. Pure and simple: just get him to the starting line, blow the whistle and he'll race himself back into form.


Essentially, Peter's winter base period is the 45 quality minutes warming up in the parking lot before that first spring classic race. And that 45 minutes includes registering, pinning his number to his bib, rubbing down his Colnago, and hitting on the female racers.

All of them.

Predictably, the early races do not go so well. Ask him in the parking lot afterward if he's disappointed about not getting any results and he'll tell you straight up how it went. Something like this:


Then, after taking a couple steps away, he'll suddenly spin on his carbon sole, peel back an arm warmer to reveal the Jelly-Belly team member's phone number scrawled on his forearm, and say, "And who said anything about not getting any results?"

There you go, Fredcube. Peter even has more places to go now. But you don't, and you don't need nor want anymore places to go. Except for this race this weekend. You can do that. In any case, the race is tomorrow and you need to go about getting bright, pally.

Go Go Go!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Governor

I was 12 years old the first time I heard of a governor device being installed on a motorized vehicle. It wasn't on one of my folks cars. I'm not even sure the Buick Century even had one.

I first heard about governor devices ("governors") being attached to EZ-GO gas powered golf carts.

For those unfamiliar, a governor is a mechanism used to intentionally limit the top end speed of an engine. It is usually done to protect the engine from tearing itself apart by its own centrifugal forces. But they're also applied to intentionally limit the top end speed as a measure to protect the public.

Anyway, I heard about governor devices through my older brother Matt, who was 14 at the time. That summer, Matt had two jobs: 1) lawn boy, and 2) golf course caddy shack grunt. He made good money on his lawn service. He didn't earn a cent at the caddy shack, but he wasn't there for the money. The reason Matt hung out at the caddy shack was to drive the golf carts.

Somehow that summer, Matt managed to earn the job of closing down the caddy shack each night. Among other things, this included maintaining the golf carts: cleaning, servicing (gas/battery) and parking them neatly in the garage at the end of the day. With over 50 carts, he had a lot of responsibility. Yet they trusted him. He even had his own set of keys. Quite remarkable for 14 year old.

More than half of the golf carts were battery powered. They were dogs according to Matt: sluggish and a pain in the butt to tow-in when they died somewhere out on the course.

Surprisingly, the gasoline-powered carts were even slower than the electric ones. That was, with two exceptions: Matt noticed that #66 and 67 out-performed every other cart in the shack.

One day, Matt mentioned his observations to the mechanic.

"Hey Randy, why are carts 66 and 67 faster than the others?"

"They ain't got no govner's" Randy said while hunched over an electric three-wheeler.

"Governor? What's that?" Matt asked.

"That thing that makes them as slow as snails shitting peanut butter. Carts 66 and 67 don't got no govner's 'cause I yanked them. They go purty good now. Prolly 40 miles an hour."

Matt never missed a night of closing down the caddy shack down that summer. As the evening twilight's last rays were setting, he'd often swing by the house in one of those two carts and pick me up for a joy ride around the golf course. I'm not sure if they went 40 mph or not, but they sure did fly.

--//--

I installed a governor of sorts on my cycling recently. A couple weeks back, I purchased Joe Friel's "Power-Based: Olympic Build-Peak-Race" training plan from TrainingPeaks. My hope is to use this as the most direct path to getting into form for hard group rides and triathlon races later this spring/summer.

I will use the plan with the Cyclops Powertap hub laced to an Aeolus 5.0 wheel that I picked up a few years ago from one of my ride sponsors, Shim. The wheelset is carbon and ridiculously fast. Until now, I used them primarily for racing; the Powertap has been merely a toy that came along on the ride.

So how does a Powertap laced to racing wheels fulfill the role of a governor? They don't. The governor is Joe Friel's plan, and more importantly, my compliance to it. Joe's plan will tell me how much wattage I should be putting out per workout, while the Powertap will give me real-time feedback. It's far more accurate than a HR monitor, or judging your RPE. Those are good, but not quite as good as watts per kilogram.

I started the plan this past Monday with a 20 minute power test to get baseline metrics.  I followed it up with another power-based workout on Wednesday: 4 x 9 minutes at theoretical 90 minute critical power threshold (cp90). I'd have to say that the set of four cp90s weren't easy, but they weren't very difficult either. I saw the watts on my Garmin and knew what I was still capable of. I was willing to push harder, and my flesh was able. But just because I could, should I? Not yesterday. At least according to the governor.

Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading.

EZ-GO #66 had a hammer. It'd be perfect to motor-pace behind.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Hyperdrive Offline

Last month marked the Chinese new year of the horse. As a cyclist, I likened the idea of the year of the horse as a good omen.

Instead, it feels like the horse has promptly kicked me in the teeth.

Neigh, you say. ← That pun was for Fred. He can't get enough of them.

Anyway, this year has started off bumpy. I had issues with my bike and body.

First the bike: my main training bike is my Yellow Madone. In this off-season, it's had a wobbly crank and press-in bearings overhauled, a broken spoke on both front and rear wheels, and not one, but two rear wheel hub overhauls. I was about to put the poor bike out of its misery, but after it's second hub overhaul, I've had a few hundred miles of smooth riding. Let's hope that the maintenance issues are behind us.

As for my my body: I was off the bike from December into mid-January while visiting Singapore. This was planned, coming right off of cyclocross season. Shortly after I returned, however, a tooth infection flared up, resulting in an extraction and an alleged canine-vampire attack. These events were unplanned and have put havoc on my training plans for the past several weeks.

So this off season hasn't been so great for me.

You know that scene in Empire Strikes Back when the Empire is raining hellfire down on Hoth as the rebels are abandoning the planet? Meanwhile, Chewie is still repairing the Millenium Falcon as chunks of the ice cave are falling around him? That's kinda how I feel. All my roadie friends have been gearing up for the onslaught of the road season, while I've been tinkering around with cone wrenches and teeth falling out of my head.

Now everybody but Leah* knows that the Falcon escapes Hoth. But when they tried to kick in the Falcon's hyperdrive to put some space between them? Clunk, clunk, clunk.

Let's go a little further with this analogy and see what kind of racing strategy that leaves me with.

Hint: look to me to feign an improbable attack on somebody like Lee Bumgarner and then draft closely behind him. So close it's as if I'm stuck to him. If I must deploy a docking claw to hang on until being dumped (dropped) with the other trash, so be it.

Ok, so if you can't tell, I've really got nothing much to say here. Somebody give me a Wookie yell and let's roll the credits and call it good.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

The hyperdrive can wait, Chewie. How was your last dental checkup?
*Leah has never seen any of the Star Wars films.