Welcome to TK Cycling

If you're new here, check the archive for all of my postings, and check out my new "TK fact of the week" column. I will be posting as often as possible about races, training, life, and anything I can think of, so please come back soon, and make sure to leave a comment if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for future topics (or maybe comments?)
Thanks for visiting and enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Redlands Classic day one

Well I didn't expect much going into Redlands, one of the biggest stage races in North America, and its a good thing, because I didn't get much. I am now sitting in a lowly 143rd place out of 200 riders in the mens pro field. I actually felt pretty good in my warmup, but something strange happened when I got into the starthouse. I was starting to notice my breathing getting out of control before I even started, and by the time I was about a minute into the 10-minute or so all-out time trial, I was completely out of air, with my throat and lungs burning. Meanwhile, my legs were good to go, and in fact that was the most frustrating thing about the race - my breathing was so out of control that I could never even get a good burn in my legs, and feel like I was actually going hard. It felt like someone stuck a governor on my internal engine, and I was not happy about it.
The calm before the storm. Warming up with the team and rocking out to the Rx Bandits.
(I'm in the cap second from right)

This is what we call 'Hanging on for dear life' in the bike biz. 500m to go.

I have a couple of possible culprits in mind, but I'm thinking the cause was the pure methol I stuck in my nostrils for the majority of my 2-hour warmup. The last time I used this stuff in a race, known as 'Olbas' to the Euros, I had the same lung burn symptoms. The other thing in common with that particular race the fact that it was also a prologue - a short time trial kicking off a stage race, which involves a special type of anaerobic effort that I'm not that well-suited to. Maybe I just blew up. It sure felt different from the normal kind of blowing up, and usually when I blow up its a good thing and I wind up getting a decent result.

I could have done better with my equipment choice as well, I thought. I used a full-aero TT setup, when I was only going at TT speed for about 20% of the total time of the race. I feel like I would have been able to do a faster time on a regular road bike setup, because I would have been able to put out more power on the climbs (which made up most of the course), and I probably would have been able to breath a lot easier if I wasn't hunched over in my rather-radical aero TT position. They say this is one of those TT's that you have to do a few times at full speed just to get a feel for the course and dial in your equipment setup. Well, there's always next year.

All that being said, I am only a minute and a half behind the leaders, and I'm told that this race usually blows up to the high heavens on tomorrow's road stage and the 4th and final stage. This means that though I may have lost a minute today with a really bad ride, I could make up 10 to 15 minutes tomorrow with a great ride. On the flipside, if things don't go so well again tomorrow, I'm told I may stand a good chance of being completely dropped (They say the 2nd and 4th road stages usually have a really low finishing rate, due to repeated trips up narrow, steep climbs and down twisty, treacherous descents).

So I'm gonna go out tomorrow and spill my guts, trying to gain some respect in the ranks here. It sounds like a decent course for me if I can manage to stay out of trouble and maybe have some good luck. I've got dinner in my belly and a massage in the legs and now its time for bed...

Tune in again tomorrow evening for the scoop on the first stage on the open road.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The 9 to 5

A four-day, 20 hour training block is now in the books, and thankfully I have a day of rest to look forward to tomorrow. I'm walking a bit laboriously tonight, treading lightly on my weary bottom-half. I've got the slows so bad I'm finding myself listening to Norah Jones as I write this. Overall I'm actually feeling pretty good about training, mostly just happy to be able to put in this kind of mileage, with the new longer days and the perfect weather.
Here's an outline of what I've been up to for training in the past weeks:

The general format is three to four days on, one day off, then do it all over again. During the three to four day 'block', I'll do mostly long (5-6 hour) rides each day in the hills, with one shorter day of speed work, like sprinting or motorpacing. This usually means that most days you will find me in the foothills up near Nevada City, on one of a few of my favorite climbs, like the 2.5 mile, 8-15% grade from Bridgeport up to French Corral (If you are a cyclist living in the Yuba-Sutter area and have never been up there, you are really cutting yourself short, but that's a topic for another post I guess). Now just because I'm doing all these long rides doesn't mean I'm just toodling around at a "base pace" all day. In fact, most days I'll try to keep up a steady quick endurance pace on the flats and downhills, and on the hills I'll do long intervals at or just below threshold (the level where the body can just barely supply itself with enough oxygen, and has to begin to resort to alternate energy pathways, which means lactic acid in the legs and hurtin for you). I can personally attest to the fact that my legs exploded like tin foil in the microwave yesterday when I did 5 repeats at threshold up the Bridgeport grade, which takes about 12 minutes a pop.

This format will change as the season moves along, and I get into more racing, and get closer to the time of year in which I want to be 'peaking', or in my best form. For right now, the name of the game is building up endurance for riding at or slightly below threshold. Once I build up enough of this foundation fitness, I will start to do a lot more short, harder intervals to train the body to operate anaerobically for extended periods and to recover quickly from such efforts. During this time I will not be doing quite as many hours per week as I am now also. It really is a matter of timing in all this - one can only really be in peak shape for a few weeks, so since this isn't the time of year when I want to be zippy, I'm not doing much anearobic workouts just yet. It must be a slow development - to do these types of workouts all year round would have me riding so-so pretty much all year (at least until I got so tired of VO2 max intervals that I wanted to quit riding my bike).

Well I guess thats the idea...
I wish I had some pictures I could share of my training and all the cool places I go to ride, but unfortunately my cell phone is one of those stone-age artifacts that doesn't even have a camera on it. Makes me feel like a real old-timer.... Ha, wait a minute, I was born in the 90's!!!
Yeah that's right, Believe it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Enlighten Thyself (Or Just Have a Good Time)

For those of you out there that have never seen a real live bike race in person - felt the rush of wind as the riders fly by at 30mph, heard the cowbells ringing on the final lap - Your time is coming. Two weeks from yesterday, Saturday, March 21st, I will be competing in the Land Park Criterium, a circuit race taking place in William Land Park across the street from the Zoo in Sacramento. The Pro/Elite event, which I will be riding in, starts at 4:30 pm.

This race is great for spectators, as the loop is less than a mile long, quite wide open, and the racers complete about 30 laps, so anyone in the audience can see just about all of the action, from start to finish. It is always a fast and aggressively contested race, with a good atmosphere, and average speeds around 30 mph. And of course after the race, if you haven't had enough fun, you could always walk over to Funderland and ride the WWII fighter planes (a child favorite - you just might find me there as well).

This will, for all intents and purposes, be my first race back since last season, and is one of the few races in the Sacramento area that I will be riding in this year. If there are any of you that had wanted to come out and see one of my races this year, this is the one. I would really appreciate any home-towners I could get rooting for me, as I will be riding without the support of any teammates. I've been doing this race every year since began cycling, and I'm really looking forward to getting out there and testing myself a bit against some local talent.

This race is also one of the few around here that has a great lineup of kids and junior races. For aspiring Armstrongs from ages 5 to 18, there are free races that anybody can compete in. These races range from 1 mile for the ankle-biters to about 15 miles for the juniors aged 14-18. No need to have a fancy racing bike here, just a good attitude and two wheels. There's no better way to get a kid hooked on the healthy habit of cycling than letting them experience the thrill of a real race. It only took one race for me to decide that I wanted to be a bike racer. You never know how many other kids there are out there that just need to get their feet wet... Bring 'em out!

Check out all the info for the race right HERE.

Looking forward to seeing a big crowd out there...

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Typical Morning

I'm sitting here enjoying my typical (maybe even obsessively habitual) breakfast of a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, followed by two slices of bread with Adams Peanut Butter and Honey. I think I've had it almost every morning for about as long as I've been riding. My hair is fashioned as it always is at such an hour, with my 4-5 inch curls somehow defying the laws of physics and sticking straight towards the ceiling (I usually have a helmet on my head by 9:30 anyway, so...).

This morning there are a couple of things different, however. I am of course, in Blog-o-land (yes, watch out 'blogosphere', my phrase is going to take over). A truly typical morning, however would have me buried in the latest issue of Scientific American, which then sometimes requires trips to WikiPedia for background research. You may find me reading Popular Science as well, but that would have to be within 2-3 days of when it arrived in the mail, because every other page is an Ad, and the articles they do have are mostly illustrations anyway.

You may be surprised to know that I pretty much never read cycling magazines. VeloNews is expensive, RBA, which is still sent to me every month with a "This is your last trial issue!" label on it, even though I don't subscribe to it, is too full of those bike-review columns that basically just say that every bike is wonderful, and every time I catch myself reading Bicycling, I always wonder, do I really need to know about how to get rid of a beer belly, or how to tour the French wine country? On top of that, you can get to exactly what you want on VeloNews.com or CyclingNews.com for free and in about two seconds. Now under no circumstances would I ever be just eating breakfast. For some reason, it seems boring and unproductive to not use my time between bites (or courses in my case) to learn something about the world or at least check my email.

The other thing about this morning that is quite unusual is that I am coming fresh off a rest day, and preparing to do a tough motorpacing workout today. It also seems quite unusual that the sun is out and it looks quite nice outside, considering I've been having to ride through some pretty thick gloom (and rain) for the past week or so.

But back to the motor pacing -
I have, of course, got quite a bit of experience motorpacing behind cars, as this becomes a necessary survival skill in European races, when you're bound to flat, crash, or have to drop back for water or a teammate at some point in just about every race. This puts you in the caravan of team cars, referees and support cars, and if you don't know how to draft and use the cars one by one to make it back into the peloton, you will be DNF'ing a lot of races.

I have never, however, done motorpacing behind a motorbike just for a workout. This is a staple of speed-work training in Europe, and so I thought I'd give it a try. I even went so far as to craft my own little derny-bike for the purpose. It is essentially a small modified mountain bike frame with 24-inch road wheels, some tricky gearing, and a weed-wacker type motor on it, and somehow the thing manages to go over 30 mph on 23cc's and way less than one horsepower. It is truly a marvel, and its perfect for motorpacing because it is fast enough to put me on the rivet, but throws about as much draft as a large-breed dog, so I will be pretty much doing my own work, with the bike serving as a rabbit for me. If all goes to plan, the motorbike will not fall apart, my brave companion will come out unscathed, and I will come out of it with a great workout and a pair of tired legs.

Alright, well lets get to it. I can only imagine what people who happen to see us will think...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Team Website

So this doesn't mean that I'm going to stop updating this blog, but I am happy to announce that my team, Trek-LiveSTRONG, has started up its own website. Most of the parts of the site are still under construction, but before too long there should be lots of photos, videos, and reports on races and what's going on with the team. Check out the page HERE.

Laying Low

I still can't seem to shake this cold that caught me at the beginning of the week, and it's been a disappointing week on the training side of things for sure. I had planned to go down to Merced for the Merco Road Race today, and try to come home with my piece of the $4,000 purse, but I decided that it would be best for me to just stay home and rest, maybe train a bit. I guess my ill-fated trip down to Arizona has turned me off to racing for a little while. Interestingly enough, "resting" turned into "building a land yacht with my friends". Check out the end result:

So we didn't exactly finish it off with the steering pedals and other minor details like seats and brakes and whatnot, but it worked and our proof-of-concept got us up to about 20-25 mph with some strong winds, according to the photographer, who followed in a truck on a couple of runs. We have become quite used to making a spectacle of ourselves when testing out our contraptions (the pedal-powered surfboard and camouflage-badged tandem bike definitely turned heads), but this time we had a first - a couple of guys who happened to be passing us on the west end of Bogue road busted out their phones and slowed down to take pictures of us on our 20-foot-high rattle-trap. We just might have made someone's PIX message. What an honor.

For those of you wondering why I would do such a thing, I will have it be known that this is how most of my weekends go: working on some ridiculous quasi-engineering project in my buddy's garage, between training and other obligations. I can also assure you that doing things like this is in no way dangerous (especially if those who are reading this are involved in team management for Trek-Livestrong). Indeed, I was wearing a helmet.

So I guess thats what things come to when I'm not racing much. I can't write about my races, I don't really pay attention to other people's races, and you wouldn't really want to hear about my training rides. Please don't assume my blog is "going soft" just yet. Before too long, I'll have more racing going on than I can keep up with.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Update on Pro Cycling Manager

I've finally got the scoop on the Pro Cycling Manager Video game. As I write this my computer is busy downloading the game from the publisher's website. If you are interested in getting yourself a copy of the game (and maybe winning races in cyberspace as yours truly), here's how to do it:

First, click here to go to the PCM website. Then click the bar on the left to download the 2008 version of the game. It costs $19.99, compared to about $60 when you try to buy the disc online.
Then you just follow the directions to download and install the game.

Not so fast...
If you want to play the game with all the 2009 season teams, including team Trek-Livestrong, you have to download Pro Cycling Manager's 2009 database update. Click Here to visit the page to download the update, click the download button, install the patch, and you're off and running.
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