Friday, October 31, 2008

Adventures for 2009

With autumn waning and winter looming our thoughts have turned to planning adventures for the new year. But we are conflicted. There are more adventures to entice us than time available to play.

Most years by late January/early February we are ready for a break from winter.

Should we sign up for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike race?

Should we take a 4-day weekend to Cabo San Lucas /Cancun /Cozumel /Playa del Carmen and bask on the beach? Maybe play some early season golf? Typically we spend a 4-day weekend with Phil’s boss golfing at PGA West in Palm Springs, CA during late March – early April. A little Mexican warm-up might get us ready to win a few more bets when we attempt to hustle the boss . . .

Or maybe we ship our road bikes down to Solvang, California and do a week long “training camp” on the roads used by the US Postal/Discovery Channel team and also by the Tour of California? San Diego is also an option for some early road miles.

In 2006 and 2008 we rode the Kokopelli Trail with a supported tour (“Bikerpelli”) in early May. Should we do that again or try something completely different? Like a luxurious trip in the Moab area?

Another fabulous option is a trip to Boulder, Utah where we could mountain bike on boulder Mountain and the Burr Trail, ride our road bikes over the hogback to Escalante, do some crazy canyoneering, and top off our active days with amazing meals at Hell's Backbone Grill?

What do you think? Post a comment and vote (or send me an e-mail if the whole comment thing is too confusing.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mt Falcon

Recently Phil and I went riding with our neighbor, Jim, and his buddy Matt at Jefferson County's Mt Falcon Open Space Park. [Jim and Phil, below.]

Mt Falcon is one of Jefferson County’s (“JeffCo”) Open Space Parks. JeffCo has at least 9 top-ranked mountain bike trails – several of which are simply too technical for me and Phil to ride. But Mt. Falcon is one we can ride.

Oh sure, there are a couple stretches where prudence dictates dismounting and a short hike, but one thing we’re pretty good at is climbing, and Mt Falcon has that in spades. If you ride up the Castle trail you climb about 1800 feet in 3.5 miles.

Here is a fun video of the trail:

Jim & Matt are former snowboard racers, so going fast downhill doesn’t bother them a bit. Watching them effortlessly ride over the waterbars and easily clear each switchback at Mt Falcon was inspiring. Perhaps a bit too inspiring, as Phil biffed at least twice trying to clear obstacles Jim and Matt levitated over.

We went back after work a few days later and it was my turn to take a digger.

Crashing going uphill takes a certain amount of skill and panache. Nothing like an excruciatingly slow speed crash to give you time to contemplate how much it is going to hurt when you finally hit those rocks. Then, you need either the Jaws of Life or your patient biking buddy to extricate you from the tangled up mess of still clipped-in shoes, upside-down bike and rocks/cactus/other sharp pointy things.

It makes me happy to know that I’m not the only one to have the experience, though.

Here is a brief excerpt from Fat Cyclist:
Hairpins on the Mountain

While a hairpin on a road descent can be terrifying and a hairpin during a road climb can somehow be a respite, a tight hairpin on a mountain bike — a turn with a radius less than the length of your wheelbase — is…complex.

First, you’ve got to shed all your speed. And then you start the turn.

Slowly. Smooth if you can, but more likely herky-jerky. If you’re me.

And then there’s the point you hit the apex of the turn. It’s a magic moment. You’re briefly stalled out, and either about to squeak out of the corner and roll out triumphant, or find that your front wheel is at too sharp an angle to the rest of your bike, and fall over on your side (unless you’re lucky enough to clip out in time, in which case I would argue that you weren’t fully committed to the attempt).

When you make it, though — when you slide around a hairpin that you’ve never cleaned, or even one you only clean half the time — you get that wild moment of elation, a moment that can only be described as “magic.”

And that goes double if the guy behind you falls over.

Sunday we went back for another try. It was a crisp, clear, autumn day. We ran into our friends Paul (above) and Linda who were trail running at Mt Falcon. Paul is training for a marathon so he's trying to get in some quality miles while the weather holds.

Just beyond where we met Paul and Linda on the trail we came across a baby rattlesnake sunning itself on a switchback. The day before we had seen a 3-footer up on South Table Mtn, so this guy looked puny. I guess the snakes are no different from the humans - just trying to get out in the sun any chance we get before winter moves in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tech Tips

Some of you grew up using a PC. Most of the rest of the folks checking out this site did not. We’re all self-taught, and there are gaps in our knowledge. So, here are a few handy tips I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks.

Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type for example, without the quotes, "teaspoons in 1.3 gallons", "euros in 17 dollars" or "1.3 gallons in teaspoons", "17 dollars in euros". Click Search to see the answer.

When typing a web address into Internet Explorer’s address bar, you can type, for example, "yahoo" (no quotes) and then press Ctrl+Enter on the keyboard and the address will complete itself into This only works for .com domains. [Shift+enter does .net, and ctrl+shift+enter does .org]

You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it’s the Command key and plus or minus.

You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.

You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Use Shift + Space key to scroll back up.

That's all for this lesson . . .

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Diary of a Cat

Many of you have probably seen this before - it makes the e-mail circuit fairly regularly.

For some reason it really resonated when it came across my desk today, so here you go (as dictated to the human by Rex -

and Fritz.)
Excerpts from Rex and Fritz's Diary. . .

Day 733 of our captivity...

Our captors continue to taunt us with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while we and the other inmates are fed some sort of dry nuggets.

Although we make our contempt for the rations perfectly clear, we nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up our strength. The only thing that keeps us going is our dream of escape.

In an attempt to disgust them, we once again vomit on the carpet.

Today Rex decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. We had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what we are capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' Rex is.


There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. We were placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, we could hear the noises and smell the food. We overheard that our confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' We must learn what this means and how to use it to our advantage.

Today Fritz was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of the tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. We must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

Rex is convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The old cat, Junior, receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. We observe him communicating with the guards regularly. We are certain that he reports our every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................

Stop Calling Me!!!

Not you.


You know who I mean - every political campaign organization, special interest group and nut that can buy a broadcast message has been auto-dialing our phone for the last month, and the intensity is ramping up. Monday night we got 8 calls between 6 and 8 pm - and judging from all the hang-ups that show up on my Caller ID unit, the phone is ringing off the hook during the day, too.

But after 2 hours of perusing election guides -

and 2 beers - I managed to fill out Colorado's epic 2 page (front and back) ballot.

I'm done, dammit.

Now stop calling me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

He's a Stud

Accepting his second place overall (first place in his age group) trophy during the awards ceremony at the Leadville 100 this year, Lance Armstrong said Dave Weins "is a stud."

It's nice to see that his wife agrees!

Dave Weins seems like the polar opposite of the dopers who give cycling a black eye. From my own experience, he really does cheer for other riders during the race.

And that's just cool.

No matter who shows up at the starting line in Leadville in 2009 (Lance, Floyd Landis, Chris Eatough, Nat Ross . . . Superman), the overwhelming crowd favorite is going to be Dave.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blood Doping

Well, it has happened again. Riders who had break-out performances in the Tour de France have now been busted for cheating.

Stefan Schumacher, who won both time trials in the TdF this year, and Bernhard Kohl, who won the King of the Mountains jersey and third place overall, have both had "non-negative" results for CERA, a new type of EPO.

Blood doping refers to a handful of techniques used to increase an individual's oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and in turn, improve athletic performance. The most commonly used types of blood doping include injections of erythropoietin (EPO), injections with synthetic chemicals that can carry oxygen, and blood transfusions, all of which are prohibited under the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) List of Prohibited Substances and Methods.

EPO is produced naturally by the body. The hormone gets released by the kidneys and causes the body's bone marrow to pump out red blood cells. Red blood cells shuttle oxygen through a person's blood, so any boost in their numbers can improve the amount of oxygen the blood can carry to the body's muscles. The end result is more endurance.

Blood doping reduces fatigue by increasing the supply of oxygen to the exercising muscles. This does not increase the maximum force the muscle can generate but will permit the muscle to do more work for longer.

When used for legitimate medical reasons, EPO helps with the treatment of anemia related to cancer or kidney disease.

Blood transfusions involve drawing out your own blood and storing it for a few months while your body replenishes its red blood-cell supplies. Then, before the competition, the athlete re-injects the blood back into his or her body. The outcome is similar to that of EPO — a bump in red blood cells. For athletes, the extra bump can mean the difference between a winning a race or finishing off the podium.

Tricky testing. EPO urine tests, which began in 2000, have been fraught with challenges. EPO is short-lived, remaining in the body for as short a time as two days.

Somebody could cheat on Monday and if the drug-testers came on Wednesday, 48 hours might be enough for the stuff to be gone. But the performance effects can remain for 90 days or so.

Cheating athletes and those who administer their drugs constantly work to sneak under the testing radar, finding the lowest doses possible that still have performance effects or figuring out when to inject the drugs to beat testing.

Drug dangers. Blood doping has the potential of causing serious health effects. If the blood count gets too high, the blood gets too thick, and it becomes hard for the heart to push the blood around the body; the high blood count contributes to athletes having strokes or blood clots.

CERA. Like EPO, CERA was developed as a treatment for the anemia that results from chronic kidney disease. Unlike single injections of rEPO, CERA interacts with erythropoietin receptors and has a longer-lasting effect. Patients who were normally required to inject rEPO three times a week were able to achieve the same results with only one or two injections per month.

The drug was thought to be undetectable, but at least 4 riders have now been caught using the drug during the 2008 TdF; announcements of more "non-negative" results may follow.

Dopers suck.

They steal from clean riders, they steal from the fans, and they have driven sponsors from the sport, stealing opportunities from young riders.

So for those of us who ride for the love of it, doping is disappointing and I'm tired of defending cycling to people whose only cycling knowledge involves Floyd Landis.

But you know what? Dopers don't steal my enthusiasm for cycling. I love to ride my bike. It's that simple. And maybe if it was that simple for the racers we wouldn't ever have to hear about doping again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Another Serving of Vegetables

You can't get fit without training, and you can't train if you don't have fuel in your tank. While I'd die happy (and fat) on a steady diet of Peanut Butter M&Ms, they don't pack much of a nutritional punch.

SWEET POTATOES, on the other hand, are a great source of high-energy complex carbohydrates for steady riding fuel. Sweet potatoes are also packed with beta carotene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant that may protect your muscles against riding-related damage and boost blood flow for better on-the-bike performance. Louisiana State University researchers found that 15 mg of beta carotene (the amount in a medium sweet potato) each day for 30 days helped runners run about 3% faster and shave 30 seconds off their 5K times.

Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
3 - 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1- to 3/4-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place diced sweet potatoes in a small bowl; drizzle with honey and oil. Season potatoes with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with cinnamon and toss to coat with honey, oil and spices.

Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until potatoes brown lightly, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl.

The touch of fat from the olive oil will help your body better absorb the beta carotene.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Periodization Training Model

Now that I have the results from my Lactate Threshold (LT) test, in conjunction with a coaching plan from TrainingPeaks, I have developed my base-level endurance building plan for the next 12 weeks.

Part of the service Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM) provides when you have a LT test is a consultation with Neal Henderson. Neal is sports science manager at BCSM and a well-regarded elite-level coach. Henderson’s clients include Garmin-Chipotle’s Taylor Phinney, Jelly Belly’s Scott Tietzel and Trish Downing, a nationally ranked paraplegic athlete. Henderson is also the winter triathlon coach for the U.S. national triathlon team, and this year was named USA Cycling National Development Coach of the Year. [Another reason the BCSM evaluation is such a bargain.]

Neal reviewed my admittedly insipid results with a straight face and helped me plan my training program.

Endurance athletes typically use a “periodization” training model. That means training volume and intensity change through a season. One of the key principles used is overload – you must increase training stress to improve fitness. But if you continually increase the amount of training you do, you will quickly reach a point of exhaustion. To avoid that problem, periodization includes blocks of increasing stress followed by recovery periods.

Typically, the plans you’ll see on the various on-line coaching sites call for 3 weeks of increasing training load (either volume or intensity or both), followed by 1 recovery week. Neal stated that when he coaches Masters level athletes (meaning old coots like me and Phil), he prefers a 2 weeks on/1 week off model.

At this point in our season – 10 months in advance of our planned event peak – our focus is on building our base-level endurance. This involves training at a low, steady heart rate. It allows your body to improve its aerobic efficiency, build endurance and burn fat as the fuel for the effort.

It is tedious, sweaty work and deceptive. It just doesn't feel like you are working hard enough to improve your fitness. After a workout at this intensity I’m typically not fatigued – it seems like a big waste of time. Many athletes make the mistake of going harder than they ought to during this phase. That results in fitness without a strong enough foundation to support sustained efforts. Their sought-after fitness goals may never be reached due to lack of proper foundation.

Fully 75% of my training time over the next 12 weeks will be spent in this “overdistance” training zone (for me, that means 70 -100 Watts and keeping my heart rate (HR) below 122).

About 15% of my remaining training time during this base building period will be spent in the “Endurance” training zone (100 -125 Watts; HR between 122 -135). The Endurance zone feels like work after you maintain the effort for 30 or more minutes. By 90 minutes to 2 hours my legs are definitely fatigued.

The final 10% of my training time will be split between Tempo and Lactate Threshold training. The perceived level of exertion for those training sessions is between “hard” and “I’d really like to throw up now.” I hope to use cyclocross races for this training level. It is easier to give that level of effort in a race setting rather than on our CompuTrainers in the basement. We are beginning to incorporate some light core training 2 days a week, and the plan is to also add in 2 sessions of yoga each week.

None of this sounds like much fun, but when my fitness allows me to get out and ride in beautiful places with my favorite people all the time and effort seems worthwhile.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumn on Kenosha Pass

Phil, Jeffrey and I rode up on the Colorado Trail as it crosses Kenosha Pass on Saturday. It was a blustery autumn day, but the fall colors were wonderful. It may have been the best "leaf peeping" I've done since I moved to Colorado in 1990. I was a bit disappointed to miss peak colors in Maryland last week; this made up for it.

We got Jeffrey to pose for a "Christmas card" photo (he graciously puts up with our quirks).
How can you beat this?
Phil took some little movie "action shots" but I don't know how to load those to this blog yet. If anyone knows the secret, please let me know.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lactate Threshold Test

I went up to the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM) today and did a lactate threshold (LT) test. Forgive any typing anomalies since my left ring finger was stuck and bled 12 times. The sacrifices I make for science . . .

I started the test by warming up for about 20 minutes at very low power – 60 watts. Paul Kammermeier, the BCSM expert, then pricked my finger and checked for baseline lactate. It was actually a little bit high, so he backed me down to 45 watts for about 5 minutes, tested again, and all was well, so the test began in earnest.

I was on the bike for about 70 minutes, so it isn’t a terribly long event. About every 4 minutes Paul pricked my finger and bumped up the watts. My heart rate and perceived level of exertion rose fairly evenly along with the higher watts.

The bottom line is that I’m not as fit as I was in September 2005. That isn’t a surprise; we rode Leadville in 2005 and I was still in fairly good condition when I did my lactate threshold test.

This season I focused more on drinking beer than I did on physiological adaptation and mitochondrial development. Do you blame me?

So here are the numbers – over the next several posts I’ll explain what the numbers mean and how I need to modify my training plan in order to use the information gained through the testing process.

My goal [in addition, of course, to keeping family bragging rights to the best Leadville finish time], is to increase my power to weight ratio. That means I need to reduce my mass (goodbye chips, salsa and beer) and increase my power.

Lactate Threshold Values
Power Output 135
Heart Rate at LT 140
Mass (available strictly on a need to know basis!)
Power to Weight Ratio 2.5

Prescribed Training Zones
Zone by Power (Watts)
Recovery less than 70
Overdistance 70 – 100
Endurance 100 – 125
Tempo 130 - 135
LT/Supra Threshold 135 – 150
VO2 Max 155 – 190

Zone by Heart Rate
Recovery less than 112
Overdistance 112 – 122
Endurance 122 – 135
Tempo 136 – 140
LT/Supra Threshold 140 – 149
VO2 Max greater than 149

Weddings and Monuments

We have been out of town for the past week attending my nephew Erik's wedding in Baltimore, MD and doing a bit of sightseeing in Washington, DC.

Enjoy this one - it may be one of the only times you'll see a picture of me and Phil cleaned up for company! No bike helmets, caving gear or backpacks. I even wore pantyhose. Really.

Here is a shot of the Morrow siblings (in age order - Peggy, Mary, Barbara, Pat, Eileen and me). All of my nieces and nephews made it out to the wedding, too. I think we overwhelmed Hilary (the bride), but we all had a wonderful time. The wedding was held at the Belmont in Elkridge, MD.
On Tuesday Phil and I went to Washington, DC with my sister Eileen, her kids Clare and Adam, and my sister Peggy's family (Ron, Tom & Lisa and Madison & Nora).
The kids could not have been better - I was tired of museums and monuments long before they were. Of course, I didn't have a patriotic popsicle, either. . .

Maryland and Washington, DC are lush and there are more trees than a high plains girl like me can ever imagine. It's fun to visit, but I'm glad to be home again.