Friday, April 29, 2016

Harvest Racing Weekend: Iowa City, Madison

This weekend, the Harvest team is split squad: half of us will be in Iowa city, while the other will be in Madison, Wisconsin. Here's are the lineup:

Chris Lillig/Old Capitol Criterium:
Lucas Marshall (P 1-2)
Brady Murphy (P1-2)
Jordan Ross (P1-2)
Greg Shimonek (P1-2)
Paul Webb (P1-2)
Tyler Reynolds (M3)
Cole Limpach (M4)

Rapha Prestige: Madison, WI
Ryan Atkinson
Mark Savery
Matt Tillinghast

Wish us luck!

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading

Check out out the latest news, race recaps, social media and other updates on Harvest Racing's website

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Just Washed My Bike

Whenever he rolls through a puddle, my buddy Shim will lament, "I just washed my bike". He says it a lot. So much so that I believe that his bike must be the most washed bike in the city of Omaha, if not the entire state of Nebraska. I'm not kidding. It's like his personal mantra.

But I hear what he's saying. Rolling through a puddle after just washing your bike with Scrubbing Bubbles, or whatever he uses to do his thing, is kinda annoying. Really. I feel bad for him. It's true -- a little piece of my heart melts whenever I hear him grumbling about just washing his bike. As Bill Clinton so famously once said, "I feel your pain".

As an aside, Shim is a big fan of the Clintons, especially Mr Clinton. In fact, the only person Shim admires more than than Bill Clinton is Nancy Polosi.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking about some of the annoyances that get in the way of the ordinarily wonderful pastime of riding one's bicycle. You know, those things that just remind you that despite feeling like you're in heaven while riding you bike, you're really a mortal, stuck on earth, and in a fallen world. Sigh.

So here's the list of grievances that accompany cycling, in no particular order:

Dropping one's sunglasses from their helmet, resulting in a chipped lens directly in front of your line of vision.

Mechanicals. Unless it's a mercy-mechanical, where on a particularly hot and spicy ride, the entire group laments about having to stop while secretly being relieved to have been granted the mercy of a few moments of precious recovery.

FTP tests on bad weather days.

FTP tests on good weather days.

FTP tests. Period.

The Garmin Edge User Interface.

People who ride fast when you want to dawdle. Hi Shim.

People who dawdle when you want to ride fast. Hi to everyone else but Shim.

Wind. It blows around here. It's also quite windy.

Half-wheelers. We already abused Shim for that offense some time ago.

Wheel-suckers, especially the silent, unknown, uninvited tail-gunner picked up on the pedestrian trail.

The guy on the group ride who talks and talks and talks and talks...

Strava KOMs. Man, those things are really annoying.

Receiving a notice that one of your Strava KOMs has been taken. Definitely annoying.

Receiving a notice that one of your Strava KOMs has been taken by Jonathan Wait. The worst.

That solitary person walking on the pedestrian trail that intersects with you and the opposite approaching cyclist at exactly the same point and time.

A visit from Crashy McRoadrash. This one truly sucks, especially if you're laid up with a long recovery that only eating a tub of peppermint ice cream while watching the Giro feed can temporarily relieve. Get well and soon, B Redemske.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and taking a step back, most of these are petty grievances if you think about it.

Yes. Cycling is pure enjoyment. Today, let's end with a blessing, which I've adapted from my Gaelic ancestors

May the road rise up to meet you.
May a stiff tailwind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
and may the rain's puddles stay off your just washed bike
until we meet again, on our bikes, on the open road,
God's blessings to you. Amen

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rest Days and Dawdling Course Records (DCRs)

I was a summer-league swimmer when I was a kid. The team I joined was called Wheeler's Peelers, named for our coach Jim Wheeler, and it was a force to reckon with. Over the span of a decade, I think we lost one meet. There were several close calls. I can vividly remember one time when it came down to the last leg of the final race, the girls 15-18 medley relay. Our team was anchored by one of our best swimmers, Donna Diemer. She was 14 years old a the time, and was swimming up with the big girls (15-18). Anyway, it was all riding on her shoulders, and she managed to out-touch the other to seal the victory for us. It was high-stakes drama for all involved, and it was a ton of fun to be on the winning side of that experience.

I was a better than average swimmer, but not by much. The thing about me, even back then, was that I didn't mind the training. I put in the time, and did everything my coach asked of me. I honed my craft by doubling-up on both morning and evening practices. All that swimming developed some muscle tone. I'm not kidding you when I say that I had a six pack when I was eight years old. I have to admit, it was pretty impressive.

Apart from the six pack abs, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Wheeler. He taught me how to swim, then how to train, and then to compete. Yeah sure, it was only summer league, but running the tables for ten years didn't just happen automatically. It took a lot of organization and commitment from both coach and athletes to succeed each year. 

Coach Wheeler expected us to work hard, but he also expected us to rest well, too. On competition days, he'd plan an easy morning workout, even for summer league standards. For the all-club meet, he'd taper us over the course of a week. During rest days, he cautioned against strenuous activities, and heavy chores were forbidden. Everyone liked this clause, because it meant getting a free pass on mowing the lawn for the day. 

Jim wanted us fresh so that we could perform our best to score points for the team: five points for first, three for second, and one point for third. Every point mattered. Sometimes, like the case above, it came down to the final race. 

I find it interesting that I learned the value of taking rest days when I joined Wheeler's Peelers way back when. Today, as a forty something year old competitive cyclist, I respect my recovery time. When my legs feel like poo, or when I find myself getting irritated by seemingly trivial things, or when my training log reflects fitness in the red, I will gladly take a rest day. If I still feel like riding, then I'll go for a super-easy 45 minute spin at about 100 watts. We call riding at this easy pace "dawdling," and I excel at it. In fact, I am proud to say that I own several Dawdling Course Records (DCR) around town.

Now, if I could only get my spouse to buy into the free pass from strenuous activities clause. Then I'd have it made in the shade. I can just picture it now. "Sorry Katherine, I can't mow the lawn today, my coach has scheduled a rest day." Yeah, that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 8, 2016

On Throwing in the Towel

I've been mulling over the motivations behind quitting a lot lately.

Take the Tour De Husker race a few weeks back. I was in the first chase group that was attempting to bridge up to the five money spots represented by the breakaway. Then I got dropped, and was absorbed a few miles later by the next chase group. We had about 20 miles to go, and apart from personal pride or general racing experience, there was nothing else to race for. I was more inclined to sit-in and save my legs for the following day's race. With about five miles to go, a teammate was showing signs of fatigue, leaving me wondering what to do if he should get dropped. Should I save my legs and ride it in with my teammate, or pursue the race for the experience? I tried to protect him from surges, but he was ultimately popped off the back when the leader of our group guttered us on the yellow line during a long stretch of nasty crosswinds. My hand was forced. I chose to race.

The second time I was questioning my resolve pertained to the weekly installment on this blog. I wrote about dissolving our pact and letting go of this commitment on last Friday's April Fools post. I meant it, too, at least in principle. Time is short these days. Going forward, this blog will be the first thing to get dropped when I'm pressed for time. Sorry folks, but that's the way it's got to be.  I'm not conflicted by this decision.

The third case of questioning my motivation came during a scheduled FTP test last weekend. To begin, it was a horrible day for an FTP test. Granted, most cyclists would say that any day involving an FTP test is a horrible day. But that day was particularly awful due to 40mph winds. Testing in such conditions is challenging, if not impossible, to get accurate results. Some would say to not try at all. Still, I was determined to stick with the plan. Anyway, half way into the 20 minute test, I glanced at my Garmin Edge 510 to check on my progress. To my dismay, the device was showing zero watts. I pressed on while toggling through the screens with the hope that the UI would somehow wake up from some stale state and show the watts again. Nope. The problem was in the powertap wheel. It was at this point that I had to decide to quit, or to continue on for the duration, knowing that the test results were bogus. I chose to throw in the towel. I have mixed feelings about this.

Of the three cases above, quitting the FTP test is the one I'm not sure I handled correctly. From a pure fitness point of view, there's probably no harm in skipping that test. Ten minutes is not going to make or break anyone's fitness. But in doing so -- by actively choosing to abort a difficult challenge in progress -- how does that affect one's mental fortitude? That's where I'm conflicted.

These thoughts have been bouncing around my skull lately. After the Tour De Husker, I asked my teammate Jordan Ross what he'd do if he were in my shoes: out of the money spots, racing the next day, and a teammate struggling to hang on. Jordan agreed that I made the correct decision to continue to race when my teammate was dropped. But then he also offered a stern word of caution about the dangers of quitting a race in progress. Very much Yoda-like, he said that once you start down that path, quitting becomes easier each time you do so.

As an aside, if Jordan had said, "...once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny..." then I would have known that he had copped that line from Yoda, and I would have written him and his advice off as fraudulent.

But I digress. Jordan was correct. Quitting a race is unwise as long as you're physically capable of completing it.

Okay fine. The timing of this evolving Yoda/Jordan/BCM Pep talk is good, as this weekend I'm joining the green and grey of Harvest Racing at one of the toughest venues around: The Twin Bing Classic. With lots of rolling hills, preposterously strong winds, and a formidable two-step hilltop finish, this race a toughie. On top of all that, this year's edition has an extra twist in that it is going to be held as a Gran Fondo format, which technically isn't a road race at all (but we're going to race it like it is one). In short, it's going to be hard on the body, and even harder on the soul. Thankfully, I've spent the past few weeks preparing for what's to come.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday

Friday, April 1, 2016

Something's Gotta Give

First, an apology: I am sorry that I didn't post an update to my blog last week.

I have been a bit overwhelmed lately by work, household and play. After taking a step back, I've come to realize that I was foolish to think that I'd continue to have time to write while in this space and time. My current lifestyle is unsustainable. Not only that, but my personal relationships are beginning to show signs of fatigue. And my health has been teetering on breaking down due to not getting adequate sleep.

Something's got to give.

So it pains me to say this, but for now on, the first thing to be dropped is going to be this weekly post. If I don't have the time, which is seemingly more the case lately, then I just won't throw something up here because of a commitment I made to do so. Anyway, my posts have been rushed and/or not developed to my liking. This has often resulted in yet another story about my dog, which according to Shim, you've all had enough of.

So starting with today, I am stepping away from my weekly commitment to a post here. I relinquish Fred and Bryan from this pact as well. However, I won't dismiss Eric O'Brien from this pact, because after suggesting that we do this weekly, he has not written a single story. Not once. You're still on the clock, EOB.

Now this being all said, I'll still write when time allows. Check back here from time to time, regardless of it being a Friday or not. Chances are, you'll may find a new story about me, my bike, or my dog. Or all three.

And just like that, my commitment to a weekly installment is over.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.