Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back in Business

Still waiting for the new baby... should be any day now.

I seem to have nursed my knee back to health quickly, although I'll still take it kind of easy for a while. Mostly I rested, stretched and iced. I got back on the bike last night for a relatively short spin and everything felt pretty good. I didn't have any discomfort later in the night or this morning, so that's a good sign. The weather is supposed to get nice this week; I told Sarah that if it gets over 70F, I'm going to go ride outside.

There was a nice article at Cyclocross Magazine recently. Sort of nicely sums up why we race and train.

My Dad raced Barry-Roubaix this weekend. (Picture here.) Unfortunately, he had a crash just a few miles in and ended up breaking his arm. He didn't know it, so he finished the race! Riding for 20-some miles on gravel roads with a broken arm sounds pretty rough to me... Anyway, so he's in a cast up past his elbow now. So, he'll still be in a cast for the inevitable pictures when my son is born; I'm looking forward to telling that story. ("See your grandpa's cast? He broke his arm in a bike race.")

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hill Ball

Still nursing a sore knee today. I had thought about riding a bit today, but I decided against it. Lots of stretching and icing today.

I was a little bummed about not being able to ride, especially since some of my peers are racing at Waterford and Barry-Roubaix today. It's been a sunny day, so I decided to get outside and play "hill ball" (I just invented it today). Hill ball goes like this: take a medicine ball and chuck it up a hill for a couple minutes, rest, and repeat. I decided to throw it up the hill so I didn't have to chase after it (easy on the knee that way). Although, as it turned out, catching a 12lb medicine ball rolling at full speed wasn't always so easy. Anyway, it was fun, hard, nice to get outside, and I felt better afterward.

Maybe if this whole bike-racing thing doesn't work out, I can take up throwing stuff... probably not...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Knees, Karma

So, I did something last weekend to aggravate my knee. I'm hoping it was some new off-the-bike movements I was working on. I'm going to stop doing them, and we'll see what happens. I've been pretty careful about ramping things up on the bike this year, so I'll be disappointed if I hurt myself doing something off it.

I've been practicing my Gene drills pretty diligently. I'm getting excited to ride out on the trails and see how much I've improved. Tonight, I got a little bound up in my switchback drill; because I ended up leaned over so much, my foot closest to the ground came out of the pedal, and then I was able to pop my other foot out and run out of the crash. I started thinking about how great I was and everything,, and then I finished my practice.

So, I picked up my cones to go back in, hopped back on my bike (with the front tire in the soft grass), clipped one foot in, and went nowhere... then I tipped over in slow-motion. Nice. Karma strikes back... at least I fell in the grass instead of the driveway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sushi Rice Bars

I rode the trainer for two hours today, which is pretty close to my limit for trainer time. The weather was cold and crappy today, so I wasn't at all tempted to go out. I'm still healthy, so the plan to not ride outside until the baby is born is working so far...

I watched the movie Pro while I was riding. It had been a while since I'd watched it; still one of my favorites. I get something different out of it every time.
I also made a batch of sushi rice bars today. I started making these last year, just to get a little more variety into the food I eat when I'm out riding, and they've always been pretty good. I think this batch is my best one yet though. They're also considerably less expensive than commercial energy bars, although probably not as calorie-dense.

(A full pan. It tastes better than it looks...)

The recipe can be found here. I've always made them with prosciutto rather than bacon. I found that it helps to cut the prosciutto up into really small pieces; you need a sharp knife for this. Also, it seems to help to put the prosciutto in with the eggs before they're quite done cooking.

(A bar, unwrapped. They stay together pretty well.)

The only downside to these bars is that you can't expect them to keep as well as a commercial energy bar. If you take a couple out with you on a Summer day, you need to eat them all, or throw away what you don't eat, because they won't be good later. Also, they don't last more than a couple weeks in the fridge (Sarah would no doubt claim they shouldn't last that long either!). I'm freezing half of them this time, so we'll see how that works out.

(Wrapped up and ready to go!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Water Heater

So, in place of my regularly scheduled workout tonight, I got to clean up a basement full of water. As a special bonus, I get to take an icy-cold shower tomorrow morning... sweet.

(The enemy...)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Bars

So, I mentioned that I bought a few new things for my mountain bike. One of them was a set of 26" wide riser bars.

I'd cut down my old flat bars to about 21". I've ridden on a setup like that for years. (Why? I'm not completely sure... I think I read somewhere once that your handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders. Besides, lots of XC racers use bars like this.) When Gene saw my setup, he was like, "Dude, your bars are so narrow. How can you ride like that?"

Well, part of the answer was that I couldn't ride well like that, which was the reason I was at his camp. So, on his advice, I got some wider bars. Actually, he recommended at least 27" wide, but it's pretty hard to find reasonably light bars that wide. As it is, going from 21 to 26 inches feels like a huge change... makes me feel like I should go huck off something... OK, not really.

The trails are still thawing, so I haven't been out on them yet, but I already notice a huge difference when I practice my figure-8 drill. I'm just much, much more confident leaning the bike over at speed. I think it comes down to how the bike responds to your inputs (the input being movement of the hands, not force at the hands). Basically, small movements at the hands translates into relatively small angle changes with wide bars, whereas with narrow bars, the angle change is bigger. So, reduced "twitchiness". That said, the wide bars also make me afraid for the health of my knuckles once I hit the trail and start squeezing between trees, so we'll see how that goes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Riding, A Little

I've been riding the bike a little, still on the trainer. I ended up adding an extra day on the bike last week. I had a weird shoulder pain on Wednesday; my best guess is that I slept on it in a strange way and somehow tweaked it. It was very painful on Wednesday, but completely gone on Thursday. Anyway, since my scheduled strength workout had a decent amount of overhead lifting, I decided that I shouldn't do it, and I put in a pretty easy hour on the bike instead.

I rode some both days this weekend too. I'm starting to feel a little better on the bike, but respectability still seems far away. I'm pretty happy with the position tweaks I made over the Winter. I moved my saddle back a little, and I've been working on keeping my back straight. At first, I felt like I had to sit very upright to be comfortable in this position, but now, I actually find that it's more comfortable to be lower. It seems like my position is getting closer to one that I've admired in other people.

The big event this weekend was my daughter's second birthday party. It was fun, but kind of crazy to have 6 kids in the house. I made a sheep cake for her, so if this whole engineering thing doesn't work out... kidding. So far, I seem to have made it through without getting sick (nothing like a toddler's birthday party for making you sick!), so I feel like I have a good chance of avoiding getting sick before the new baby comes.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Good Bounces

I played hockey again last night and got some good bounces. I ended up with one goal and two assists. Not bad for only playing about every other week. I had gotten my skates sharpened, so that helped. I did a strength workout earlier in the day too, which also always seems to help, even though my legs felt pretty worked over by the time I was done skating.

Sarah got me a book about "The Zone" for Valentine's Day. It took me a while to get to it, but I finally finished it and tried to apply a few of the principles last night. The one that seemed most immediately applicable was trying to just focus on the next shift while sititng on the bench. I tried to just let go of whatever mistakes I might have made on the previous shift and tried to think about making the next shift my best one. I also tried to relax a bit more on the bench. It seemed to help.

One of the other suggestions that the book makes is to keep a dream journal. I find this idea more than a little strange, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. What I can say so far: it's surprising how much detail I can remember from my dreams later if I write them down as soon as I wake up (even if I didn't originally write down the detail), and the things I dream about (and write down) are not what I expected.

(That's so me, dude...)

I rode the trainer again on Saturday, even though it was beautiful outside. In my effort to stay healthy, I've decided to not ride outside until after the baby is born. It's hard to describe the way I feel on the bike right now. I actually feel reasonably strong in general, and not totally out of shape, but I still don't feel like I'm strong or fit on the bike. It's like there's a lot of raw physical ability that I just need to tap into. I'm not really concerned about it, it's only March, and I've just started riding, so things will come around.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Pain Management

In preparation for the coming baby, Sarah and I practiced some pain management techniques last night. She has been doing some practice on her own, but last night was the first time I tried it too. (We've been doing some other practice for labor positions together.) So, one of her books suggested holding an ice cube while you practice. After holding that ice cube for our first 1 minute "contraction", I decided that Sarah was way tougher than I was; I started checking my watch after 30 seconds! The subsequent ones weren't quite so bad.

We practiced three techniques: focused breathing, non-focused awareness, and "edges of pain". It was kind of interesting, they all sort of worked differently. The first two kind of make you not notice the pain as much (and after a little while, that ice cube really burned!). With the "edges of pain", you focus on the pain, how it actually feels, what the details are, etc. With that one, you certainly notice it, but you also realize that it's not actually as bad as you think it is. I can understand how having a variety of techniques might be nice.

It was also interesting that Sarah and I had different experiences with each technique. Some worked better for her than for me, and vice versa. We also tried a few variations on most of them, again, some working better than others.

Totally unrelated: I also finished building my mountain bike back up last night. I've got a bunch of new bits this year (bars, stem, brakes, chainrings, etc), it almost feels new! I rode it around a little bit in my driveway, practicing some of Gene's drills. It got me all fired up to really get out and ride! But, it will be awhile before the trails have thawed and dried out enough to ride on...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Base Building

Well, this week "officially" marks my return to the bike. I've done a few, relatively short (1 hour) easy trainer rides. It's kind of funny how crappy my legs feel after so much time off; I've only been riding about 1-2 times per week up until now.

I decided to stop going to the indoor training session at the shop after last week; they're going just a little too hard for me right now. I don't think my ego could tolerate riding easy when everyone else is going hard either. This time of year, I'm a little out-of-sync with most other racers. A lot of people will start racing later this month or in April, so they need to be thinking about going hard, but I'm not planning to race until May.

So, the first step is to just get the legs used to being on the bike again and prepare them for the harder work to come. I always think that I should try to maintain this level over the winter, but when the time actually comes, I'm happier staying off the bike (and off the trainer!). Once that's done, I want to focus on developing threshold power a bit more this year. It was something that I didn't do until late last year, and it ended up being a weakness in the races. Bike handling skills will also continue to be a big focus for the year.

This next month or so will be a good test of how deliberate I have become about my training. It was about this time last year when I effectively threw away three months of good training by riding too hard too soon, and with a too low saddle.