Thursday, September 25, 2008


I do a cyclocross race.

If you click on the photo it will get larger - and you can see I'm off the back before it even started!

Lance does a 'cross race. Coincidence? Or is he just a copycat? Hmmm.

I think more people are interested in his results.

Go figure.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mysterious Tape

Monday night while watching the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars [there you have it - my dirty little secret; I'm addicted to DWTS, much to Phil's amusement] the camera zoomed in on Kerri Walsh, Misty May Treanor's fellow gold medalist in beach volleyball.

I remembered seeing one of the Olympic matches where Kerri had a crazy bunch of athletic tape all over her shoulder and I wondered what the heck that was all about.

Mystery solved. For those of us battling chronic injuries it may be worth checking out. If it makes my knees feel better I don't care how goofy it looks.

Oh, and if you are wondering, I think Warren Sapp has a good chance of pulling off a DWTS upset this season.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Did It!

Despite having serious misgivings (my bike is too big for me, I can't deftly execute a cyclocross flying mount, I will certainly be DFL and I may throw up), I decided to compete in my first cyclocross race yesterday.

The Mammoth 'Cross race was being held less than a mile from our house. It was a sunny autumn day, with no wind and the course promised to be dry. In other words, it was a perfect opportunity to give cyclocross a try. None of those factors eased my nerves.

The Senior Women's categories were racing at 215 pm. I left the house about 1215 and rode over to the race venue. Thank goodness I got there early and registered before most of the other women racers showed up. I might have been too intimidated to register if I'd seen the other riders in the field. There were at least 50 women (from Category 1 – Category 4 and 35+) at the start. Less than 10 of us were not wearing full team kits (meaning we were "unaffiliated" – a nice way to say too slow to be on a team).

I decided I was okay with being DFL (since this is a family blog, let's say that stands for Dead Flat Last). I wanted to have the experience of racing to see if it is something I'd like to do more of – or whether my 'cross bike is going to be used strictly for commuting from here on out.

I positioned myself at the back of the start pack and let everyone get out ahead of me – that gave me the chance to watch the other racers and see how they maneuvered through the course and around the barriers. It also meant I was less likely to inadvertently ruin someone else's race by doing something stupid, accidentally cutting them off.

It was a hoot!! Hard, certainly.

I felt like I might throw up during the first lap. But as I got warmed up and more comfortable, I really enjoyed the course and riding my bike. Definitely like cruising around out in the hills and fields behind our house when I was a kid.

I did get lapped by the eventual winners, but I expected that and they were encouraging as they rode by.

I ended up being third from last. My lack of skill was a problem, but my fitness allowed me to hang on. The race was 45 minutes long; if it had been 60 minutes I think I could have picked off 3 or 4 more racers who were starting to fade. Figuring out the pacing for a 45 minute event is odd since we typically do long endurance events. I need to work on that if I hope to improve my placing in future races.

Phil couldn't race because he is recovering from a nasty sprained ankle, so he took photos and yelled encouragement. It was great to have a friendly face in the crowd.

I think I'll try it again; if I spend time working on the mount and dismount skills I might move up to fifth from last!

Friday, September 19, 2008

File under "Cool Gadgets"

There are some really clever people out there.

Evidently none of them work for Lehman Brothers or AIG . . . but they are out there. Just doing cooler stuff than bond trading and insurance underwriting.

Holiday note - once the Speed Vests are commercially available they will make great gifts for the road cyclists and bike commuters on your list.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eat Your Vegetables!

One of the challenges Phil and I face when we're training is that WE'RE ALWAYS HUNGRY!! We are usually trying to either lose a few pounds (the power to weight ratio makes a huge difference when climbing) or just trying not to gain any extra. Nothing tastes better than a slice of Woody's pizza and a frosty beer after a good ride, but we try not to indulge too often.

So I found the article in today's New York Times to be both interesting and timely.

Here is my contribution to the veggie loading - Phil loves this and will fill up on it instead of eating bread or other empty calories.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and season with salt, pepper and spices. Bake on a jelly roll pan (a Pampered Chef stoneware pan lined with parchment paper works great) at 450° for 20 minutes, or until tender and browned, stirring every 5 minutes. Add the pine nuts, then toss and roast for another 10 minutes or until the pine nuts are lightly toasted.

The cauliflower is great with just pepper and a dash of sea salt if you aren't into cumin and coriander.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lactate Thresholds

In my first blog entry I said I'd talk about training for the Leadville 100 MTB race. So far I haven't done much of that, in part because we haven't really started our focused training for the 2009 race yet.

So this is the first "real" training entry, but it won't be the last.

After our unsuccessful attempt to ride Leadville in 2004 Phil and I took a few days to lick our wounds, then we sat down and came up with a plan which we hoped would allow us to succeed in our next attempt.

The first step of that plan was to have lactate threshold testing performed at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. We hoped the information we learned could then be used by a coach to help develop a training plan tailored to our fitness levels.

Lactate threshold is one of the most common performance markers used by many athletes and coaches. The point is to learn the highest intensity at which you race and train before hitting the wall from high levels of lactate and metabolic waste in your bloodstream.

What is Lactate Threshold?
The energy required to move is supplied from the breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The body can store about 85 grams of ATP and would use it up very quickly if we did not have a few ways of resynthesizing it.

There are three energy systems that produce energy: ATP-PC (short, explosive movements), glycolytic (intermittent hard intervals) and aerobic (endurance exercise).

Athletes most commonly attribute the intense burning and pain felt during exhaustive bouts of exercise to lactate, which is produced by all energy systems, but becomes an issue when it accumulates and can't be processed fast enough. When you demand energy faster than your aerobic energy system can produce it, your glycolytic energy system picks up the slack. Even though glycolytic (anaerobic) literally means without oxygen, it’s not that there’s no oxygen available, but rather that your aerobic system is going as fast as it can and you still need more energy. The glycolytic system is fast because it doesn’t use oxygen to burn carbohydrate, but it’s less efficient and produces less energy, per unit of fuel burned, than the aerobic system. Your body has to clear lactate from working muscles and process it back to useable fuels, and lactate threshold is the point at which production outstrips the clearing process and lactate starts to accumulate in the muscles.

Why Lactate Threshold Matters
Your lactate threshold essentially defines the upper limit of your sustainable efforts in training and competition. Once you cross over and rely more heavily on your glycolytic system for energy, you’re exercising on borrowed time. The accumulation of lactate will hinder your muscles’ ability to contract, and you will be forced to slow down or stop.

The more work you can do before reaching lactate threshold, the better. If the pace you can hold at your lactate threshold is higher than the pace your competitor can hold at his or her lactate threshold, you go faster, reach the finish first, and win. Being able to do more work at lactate threshold also means maintaining a lighter pace is even easier. While your main rivals are burning energy fast, riding at their limits, you can stay right with them and rely primarily on your aerobic system. This saves valuable energy for hard efforts later.

An athlete’s initial lactate test provides an indicator of fitness level and a starting point for training. Depending on the protocol used, the following data can be acquired through a lactate test: maximum sustainable power (cycling), recovery heart rate (how quickly the athlete’s heart is able to return to recovered levels), speed and power at lactate threshold, and a relative index of fitness (i.e., speed or power divided by the athlete’s body weight).

The real power of lactate threshold testing comes from comparing test results over time. Provided you’re training and striving to improve, regular lactate testing provides you with concrete evidence of improvement, or lack thereof, throughout the season. A history of lactate tests should show changes in fitness, characterized by: increased power and/or speed at threshold, improved recovery heart rate, a higher lactate threshold heart rate, and a higher speed- or power-to-weight ratio.

Consistency is the key to improving performance at lactate threshold. You have to accumulate a lot of work at a steady workload to place the appropriate amount of stress or load on the system. Since you can’t spend a lot of time working above threshold, these training intervals have to be at an intensity just below your threshold.

In subsequent posts I'll talk more about how to use your lactate threshold (LT) when developing your training plan.

I am being re-tested at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine on October 2, so I'll also provide details of my test and how I will use that information to structure my training plan for the 2009 season.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Track Cycling

One of the great things about living in the Denver area is the abundance of recreational opportunities - both as spectators and as participants. While I'd usually opt to go for a ride on a gorgeous autumn Saturday, I talked Phil and Jeffrey into going down to Colorado Springs to watch some of the 2008 USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships.

Even though I've been an avid recreational cyclist since the mid-80s, I've never paid attention to track cycling, and don't know much about it. We watched the men's team pursuit and the women's match sprints.
The match sprints seemed to have a lot of tactics involved, while the team pursuit involved 4 guys on each team just going all out until someone blew up and fell off the back - then the remaining three tried to stay together until the end.

We rounded out the day by stopping to watch some of the Pikes Peak SuperCross event at Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs. It was fun to watch the mounts, dismounts and near-misses. Maybe we can do that after all . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jean – Leadville Crew Chief (2004, 2005, 2007 . . . & 2009?)

In the summary of our 2004 race I mentioned our valuable crew chief, Jean. Jean's birthday is tomorrow (September 12) so it seems like a perfect opportunity for a shout out.

We met Jean at our gym (Athletic Club at Denver Place, now "Forza") several years ago. Jean was a regular at the two-hour Saturday morning Spin class/sweat extravaganza which we used to attend during the dreary winter months. When she first heard of our plans to ride the Leadville 100 she volunteered to crew for us.

Neither Phil nor I really understood: 1) why anyone would be silly enough to volunteer to wait around all day long just to support us; or 2) why we needed support (remember – we still hadn't figured out it was a race).

As the time for the race drew closer, we still didn't realize how important it was to have a personal support crew. But Jean was insistent that she'd be there for us, so we shrugged our shoulders and thought – "That's really nice. Odd, maybe, but really nice."

Friday before the race, as we spent hours fussing with our gear – "Do I really need shoe covers? A raincoat? Will a vest be enough? Rain pants? How much food should I carry? How much should I leave in the drop bag for Jean to carry to the feed zone? Sunscreen? Advil? Pepto Bismal? Electrolyte tablets? Chamois butter? Aaargh!!!" – we began to understand how crucial it was going to be to have a sane person out on the course who could talk us off the ledge as needed.

We made a lot of extra work for Jean that year just because we didn't know what we were doing, so it was difficult to give her any meaningful guidance. But Jean took everything in stride – including the fact that we put her up in the skankiest hotel you could imagine. [Any Trail Lodge in Leadville – to be avoided at all costs. Sleep in your car if you must, but don't sleep there.]
Saturday morning at 5 am Jean was up and ready to help any way she could. She held bikes and jackets, gave reassuring hugs, back pats and pep talks until – BOOM. We were off. And Jean's really long day truly got underway.

She had to fight the traffic out to Twin Lakes. Find a parking spot. Find a "camping spot" to wait for us. Haul the Rubbermaid tubs we had loaded up with the gear we might – or might not – need at least 1/2 a mile or more to the pit area. Our friend Chris's wife, Patty, was also setting up a pit area, so she and Jean were able to find a space and get hunkered down for the wait.

By the time I rode into Twin Lakes (outbound) I can't even tell you how great it was to see a familiar, friendly, supportive face. And when I came slinking back into Twin Lakes (inbound) with a pounding migraine after the Columbine Mine climb, it was so hard to tell Jean I was quitting. I didn't want to let her down. She had sacrificed her weekend and was so supportive, saying "You can make it, c'mon, keep on going . . . ." But I couldn't make it, and I couldn't keep going. So Jean loaded me up in the car and we headed over to the Pipeline aid station to cheer for Phil.

We watched some racers go through the aid station looking strong, while others pulled over to vomit or cry or stretch out cramping legs. And we waited. And waited. And paced. When Phil rolled up it was obvious he was DONE. But Jean gave him a drink and a pep talk and a pat on the back . . . and he just shook his head and said, "No I can't do it. I'm done."

So Jean loaded up his gear, too, and drove us back to town. It was a very quiet, dispirited drive. But by the time we got back to Leadville Jean was trying to cheer us up. We both felt too awful for it to have much impact, but that's just Jean – she is naturally encouraging and supportive of her friend's attempts to challenge themselves.

Several months later, when we told Jean that we were going to hire a coach and try Leadville again in 2005 the first thing she said was "I'll crew for you." Silly girl. But this time we knew both how much work it would be and what a gift Jean was offering. We jumped on the offer – and made sure to secure much nicer lodgings for her!
Happy Birthday!

He's Back

Since the news first broke on Monday I have been inundated with questions from my friends about Lance's return to professional cycling.

First, let me be clear - while I think Lance Armstrong is an amazingly gifted and driven athlete, I've always been of the opinion (based on nothing more than what I read - we are not personal friends . . .) that he's an egotistical ass.

So, my response to the news has been lukewarm at best. Coming out of retirement wasn't such a great idea for Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana . . . and time will tell if Brett Favre made a bonehead move, too.

Athletes at that level seem unable to replace the hole in their lives once they leave competition.

So, I don't get it. From my perspective Lance has everything to lose and nothing to gain. There have been several articles since Monday in VeloNews, and where many others share that opinion.

Only time will tell. But I have to say I'm baffled about how competing in professional cycling events is going to "raise awareness of the global cancer burden."

Maybe it will all make sense after his press conference on the 24th. Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Single Speed World Championships

Single Speed World Championships were recently held in Napa, California. Except for the whole suffering through a technical race on a single speed, it looks like fun!

Check out the slide show - I don't think I'll be able to convince Phil to race in a Speedo . . .

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cyclocross - or, "What was I thinking?"

A couple of years ago I got a Specialized Tri-Cross Sport bike that I used for commuting back and forth to work. Cyclocross bikes look a lot like road bikes.

When I got that bike I had visions of using it in some cyclocross events, but had nothing definite in mind. Then last October I went up to Boulder to watch the Redline Cup, a professional cyclocross race. And I got a little bug to try it.

First, a little background. The exact origins of cyclocross aren't known. But the conventional wisdom is that during the off-season European road racers in the early 1900s would race each other to the next town and that they were allowed to cut through farmer's fields, over fences or take any other shortcuts in order to make it to the next town first. This was a way for them to stay in shape during the winter months and put a twist on road racing. In addition, riding off road in difficult conditions increased the intensity at which the cyclists were riding and improved their on-the-road bike handling abilities.

Cyclocross races take place typically in the autumn and winter (the international or "World Cup" season is September-January), and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike whilst navigating the obstruction and remount in one motion.

The mounting and remounting are the distinguishing skills for cyclocross. Being able to dismount, pick up the bike, put it back down and remount smoothly and quickly without losing any speed requires a huge amount of practice and skill.

Yesterday Phil and I attended a cyclocross clinic to learn those skills. Let's just say that while experienced crossers "ever so deftly hop back on the bike" after a barrier, beginners flail around and try not to do permanent damage to their tender parts while remounting.

So, we are going to practice [a lot] and we may even enter a race (or two) this season. It will be a good way to improve our bike handling skills, and the races are short and intense, so it will help with our winter fitness, too.

Besides, we've already decided we aren't going to have children, so there is an acceptable level of risk in the potential damage we may suffer before we are able to "deftly hop back on the bike."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hit & Run - Update to Winter Park Post

In the post about our Winter Park weekend I left out perhaps the very best part. Well, a weird part, anyway.

As Phil and I rode up to catch the Tipperary Creek trailhead, several squirrels were playing the universal squirrel game of "chicken." You know what I mean - they hover at the side of the road and then dart across in front of traffic, usually a motor vehicle. However, on that particular morning, with nothing more ominous then two sort of sweaty mountain bikers on the horizon, two little guys made their move.

And I ran over one of them. Just like that. Thump; ka-chunk.

I didn't have time to avoid Mr Squirrel, and swerving would have caused me to take down Phil in the middle of the road, so I just kept my eyes ahead and turned the pedals. Ick. Squirrels are definitely lumpier than rattlesnakes (I ran over one of them up on South Table Mountain in the last year).

I don't know if I killed the squirrel, but it didn't look good for him as I rode away. It's bad enough that you have to avoid roots and rocks and tree stumps and branches while mountain biking. But squirrels? I hadn't counted on that.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dawn Patrol

Today is Phil's birthday. Instead of celebrating by sleeping in and relaxing, he wanted to get up early and ride a loop at our favorite mountain bike trail on South Table Mountain. We bought lights for our bikes earlier this year in conjunction with a 24 hour event we did. So throughout the summer we have been getting up early to sneak in some rides before work. The lights are fantastic. If you are considering lights for night riding be sure to check out the light shootout. I got the Exposure Lights Joystick Maxx and Enduro Maxx. Phil also got a Joystick Maxx for his helmet light and a Jet Light for his bike.

We saw several deer, scared up a few rabbits and just enjoyed the morning. It was only 46 degrees when we started riding at 545 am. Fall is definitely in the air here in Colorado.

The boys (Jr, Fritz & Rex) don't mind when we get up early. They just snuggle into the warm sheets and snooze until we get home.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Winter Park - Labor Day Weekend 2008

We made a last minute decision to spend Labor Day weekend in Winter Park (WP), Colorado. WP has the reputation of having miles of sweet singletrack mountain bike trails, but somehow neither Phil nor I had ridden there before.

My friend Mary from work, however, has ridden all the trails and was gracious about sharing her knowledge. So, with skillfully drawn map in hand, we headed out for an adventure.

Of course, before we got too far, we had to deal with the stow-away (Rex) in my luggage. He's pretty sure he'd like to go on a road trip, but I don't really trust him . . .
Saturday morning - getting our gear ready for the ride. We don't exactly travel light, but we've both had enough outdoor experience to know that Colorado mountain weather is unpredictable and can change in the blink of an eye.

Saturday we rode Mary's route - Serenity to Ice Hill to Blue Sky to a sweet little section of "town secret" singletrack. Phil and I both rode the teeter totter, but we were having such fun we didn't stop for photos. The ladder was a bit intimidating. Maybe next time. Then we finished up with a swoopy ride down Long Trail in the WP resort area.

We also spent about half an hour watching the MTB race. Pretty humbling to watch the racers blow through the twists and turns.

We rounded out Saturday with 9 holes of golf at the Pole Creek golf course outside of Tabernash. Once again, Phil crushed me. This is becoming a disturbing trend . . .

On Sunday we decided to go for a longer ride. We rode from our hotel in downtown WP over to Fraser and picked up the Givelo and Northwest Passage trails on our way to Tipperary Creek.

This is Phil at the top of Tipperary Creek - a 3 mile climb with a steady grade and nothing too sketchy or technical, so a perfect trail for us.
After Tipperary Creek, we dropped down to Chainsaw Trail - that was FUN! We didn't see any moose, but this looks like perfect moose territory.

Then we took a quick ride on Elk Meadow Trail before joining up with D2 road - ugh. It is a loose rocky steep climb. Similar to St Kevin's on the Leadville course, but not quite as steep (and about 1,000 feet lower in elevation). We rounded out the ride with a long fast descent down Vasquez into town.

We managed to beat the thunderstorm back to our hotel. Phil got the bikes on the car just as the rain began. We celebrated our great ride with dinner at the Tabernash Tavern - fantastic food and a lovely bottle of Trapiche Malbec.

We'll definitely go back for more riding at WP. We give it four muddy tires out of five.