Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Ringing the Season Opener

Oh...sweet object of my desire.

How I dream of the day when we might travel together as one. Wait, that's today. Seven degrees and sunny and the babies are napping. I figure that the first outdoor bike ride of the season would be a good way to recover from a 40 km nordic ski race the day before. Yes sir, that sounds down right lovely.

The weather was fine and while The Beautiful Machine (here after referred to as TBM) was not really finished being sorted for the season, (cables need to be clipped with ends put on and I still don't have rear brake pads) the time was right. The ride itself was awesome. After 55 km of generally easy flat roads I can draw some conclusions as follows.

1. I feel really light and strong for the first ride of the season not even counting yesterday's activities. I only left the big ring on one short climb with a strong headwind.

2. This is likely due to deviation from my typical Jan Ullrich style off season (pastries, beer, and wild boar hunting with Vino'). I might be 20 to 25 pounds lighter than most previous early marches.

3. Nordic skiing all winter is like wearing the Golden Fleece in July - it gives you an extra gear. I seem to have cardio to burn - I just need to get some biking muscles.

TBM is working super well. In fact, I actually have an extra gear as I changed from a 12-25 to a 12-26 cassette but until I ride some hills the difference will likely be imperceptible. The new Race Face crank is working great and front shifting is exceptional but probably also due in part to all new cables. I'm definitely glad that I didn't get a compact crank for these flatlands since I am feeling so good. My fresh arctic white bar tape should strike fear in the legs of all competitors.

This picture is post ride and I am feeling really good with a dull tingling in my legs from the effort. This is the best feeling and best delivered by a minimum two hour ride on a freshly tuned road machine.

My form has me amped with a few April possibilities in my sights. As previously mentioned there is Paris Ancaster on April 18th which I definitely hope to compete in. But, the weekend before there is a race called the Tour of Bronte which sounds awesome. It is on closed roads in the provincial park so there are no traffic issues. The 8 laps are 8 km long with about half and half tarmac and gravel which is an approximation of a European Spring Classic. There are other mixed surface races in April as well.

I think this is totally brilliant as it seems like the popularity of these 'Spring Classic' races is growing the number of races available to be ridden around here. Great hard man challenges scaled down from their inspiring namesakes in Europe.

This is good news for me as my calls to Quick Step have so far gone unanswered, despite the fact that I promised to clear my schedule to help pull Boonen to number four in Roubaix. With my early season form I imagined showering my chasers with a rooster tail of torn up cobbles as I was 'beasting it' at the sharp end of the peloton in 'The Hell of the North'. I guess I will have to stick to sucking wind 'off the back' in southern Ontario for now.

The day was capped off with some flame broiled burgers made by yours truly. Pretty good to open the barbeque season the same day as the bike season in early March.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hitting the wall...Bonk!

I was going to postpone this update until tomorrow since I have barely been able to keep my eyes open all day long and as luck would have it now I can't seem to fall asleep.

Last night provided a rather dubious run up to the race as Mason was up for about 15 minutes at 1:40 and then Brenna got up for the day at about 4:55 am. She was later joined by Mason at about 5:40 am. So the sleep and recovery box on the checklist could not really be ticked. Below is a picture of me trying to get ready with Mason's help as I eat some of breakfast which included an apple, a banana, and a bowl of harvest crunch with chocolate milk. (Yum-Yum, the thick chocolate milk very slowly seeps down into the granola's interstitial spaces until it is the consistency of a delicious bog or swamp).

I got out the door into a crisp clear morning at about 7:30 to make my way to the race for about 8:00 am. Upon arrival at Hardwood the trails looked the part with a fresh corduroy finish on the fine granular snow. The view below shows the mid lap turn around point with the finish hut on the left. Beautiful skies and beautiful snow.

I picked up my race bib and got changed in the building where Jeff Buchan (Jodi's cousin's husband who was also at the fall cyclocross races) picked me out and we wished each other the best. Jeff went on to finish 3rd in his category in the 20 km so I guess my wishes to him worked better than his would ultimately prove to do for me. I do however believe he was sincere and that my performance could be chalked up to other factors.

I made my way up to the 9:00 am start and managed to snap one last cool pic that shows the beautiful day and trails pretty well I think.

On the line it looked like there were a little less than 50 starters for the 40 km distance and they all looked pretty serious. I started right at the back so as to be out of the way and I hadn't really warmed up much so I wanted an easy start. In the first 10 km I passed a number of people and felt pretty good as the wax was working well and the conditions were fast but safe and fun. I skipped the first feed station which was stupid but that is a common theme that I seem to employ anytime I race on skis. The next 20 km went by pretty well and I passed a couple more people while mostly keeping pace with a younger female skier who was obviously a much better skier than I am but I was stronger on the climbs.

As I made my way into the final 10 km loop, I made a good push to start off strong but as I hit the first steeper hills it all started to go pear shaped. The tank was empty and both my legs were knotting up as some 15 year old girl who I passed earlier went sailing by. Demoralizing to say the least. That set the tone for the remainder of the race which became a trial to finish. I would have loved like nothing else to have just sat down and dropped out but it would have been a bummer to relay that sort of and ending to the endeavour. I ended up losing one more spot over the course of the lap and finished with legs, shoulders and arms that would barely move.

My finishing time was just under 2 hours and 25 minutes for 40 km which I'm not that unhappy with overall. I definitely skied harder than in Gatineau but I wish that I could have finished in better form. My second 20 km was 6 minutes slower than the first and all of that would have been in the last 10 km. That is a fair bit to slow down over that short of a distance I think.

Now for my rant. Nordic skiers are freaks. Those bastards are not human. The fastest time was fully half an hour faster than mine. While this was only my second race and I did beat one guy in a skin suit, I can not even conceive of the level of fitness that most of these people are working at. I finished outside of the top half of starters overall and if I had been racing in the 50-59 age group I would have been second last. That is utterly mental. Further factor in that this is not a big race and wouldn't draw really top skiers and it becomes even harder to imagine how fast people can get. Generally, on a day of cross country skiing at Hardwood I feel much better than average. My technique is very rough but my fitness seems good relative to the recreational skeirs. But compared to people at a ski race they must be wondering why I would bother getting out of bed so early in the morning to show up and race. This is not a recreational, participation sort of sport. These guys are serious.

On the way home I myself was wondering why I would actively seek out the opportunity to pay $45 to do a two and a half hour workout that would start with some fun and an elevated heart rate and end in almost excruciating pain as all my leg muscles tried to simultaneously seize up. Having said that I'm already looking forward to the Paris Ancaster bike race which will almost certainly end the same way.

I may still ski a few more times but I need to start to prepare seriously for biking. It is a 60 km race that is supposed to be hard. It is only 6 weeks away and I need to get hard miles in my legs so I can try to finish in something other than a dazed stupor. I will try to give further updates as they seem necessary.

Friday, March 5, 2010

10 Hours and Counting

It is now 11 pm and Grandpa is passed out on the couch. The gun goes off in about 10 hours so I need to get to bed.

This is a picture from earlier when Mason decided he was getting ready to go out. He put on the hat and shoes himself, picked up the bag strap, said "bye, bye" and walked off down the hallway. Pretty funny. I still need to get the red-eyes sorted out.

The waxing went on as I suggested earlier with a mix of moly and blue low fluoro as a base prep and low fluoro violet as a top coat. It is all brushed and polished out but there are a few weird looking grayish areas on each ski. I hope I didn't over cook the base. Anyway all my stuff is laid out ready to go (see below), and since my alarm clock is no more I am completely counting on the babies to wake me up. Watch them sleep in until 9 am and I miss the race. I guess if they actually slept until 9 I might be happy to miss the race.

I will try to get some pictures and capture the atmosphere at Hardwood tomorrow. Off to bed.

Koo-Koo Ka-Choo

It is Friday night after dinner and Grandpa and Nanna are headed to Barrie for the night and part of Saturday so I can do the loppet. As soon as the babies are in bed I will start the pre-race preparations. Waxing (skis), laundry (race attire), and maybe even a shower.

My evoloving facial hair has made this week at school a strange dichotomy of fame and infamy depending on the audience. Most teenage boys think that it is the pinnacle of achievement (I've been called a legend), while most female students are appalled and incapable of rationalizing the decision to present oneself looking like I have. This was the look for Thursday. I am the Walrus...I am the Eggman.

I don't know if the photo is a little distorted or I just never noticed how assymetrical my head is. I thought my skull was more uniformly shaped than this picture seems to indicate.

On the training front, Tuesday night I completed the race distance on the course as a bit of a test and it went pretty well. The conditions were very difficult due to the warm days melting the snow and then the cold nights freezing it back solid. Very granular and icy conditions are super fast but a little out of control for someone with my lack of technique. I crashed three times just getting a little wrong footed in an icy rut. No injuries so alls well that ends well.

Then on Thursday night I went out for a short easy ski on similar conditions which were just as fast but not quite as rutted and chewed up. I think that with the groomed course tomorrow it will be good as over the course of the day it will be softening as the day warms up rather than freezing later in the evening. Hopefully it is fast and fun.

Now I need to figure out my waxing plan. The options are shown below. I am thinking a base coat of the molybdenum wax with a bit of blue mixed in to harden it up for icy granular snow. Then I will go with a top coat of violet low fluoro so the speed is good as the snow softens and gets wetter. In the sunny spots I will be waxed a little on the hard side but at least it hopefully won't be wearing through on the cold snow. Better a little too hard than too soft which will wear through and end up with no wax at all.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Loppet Loometh

I'm not completely sure if loometh is a word but if not it should be. In preparation for this saturday's suffering I have started to trim down. Rather than extra exercise or a healthier diet this will largely consist of gradual shaving to drop about a pound of hair. The first stage can be seen below.

Pretty cool - kind of wolverine.

The weekend was less than ideal in a number of realms but the babies and I did get out to Sojourn in Barrie to buy Dad some Wind Stopper underwear for the big race. It is hard to impress the ladies as you cross the finish line with frozen junk. Not that I imagine there will be alot ski bunnies present. In contrast to an alpine resort I think that most females at a cross country ski race would be at least twice as hard as I am. Oh well.

On Saturday night Brenna was playing her usual run around naked game before bath time and decided that upon increasing demands to get in the tub she would just hide as an avoidance strategy. Can you find her in the picture below?

If your having trouble just touch the feet and excessive squealing will give away the spot. She still thinks that if she can't see you then she must not be able to be seen. Pretty funny.

Mason was playing one of his favoutite games on Sunday where he wears around his Mom or Dad's shoes. This goes on until he finds a bigger pair to substitute or he falls over and has a fit.

Obviously Dad hasn't figured out a red-eye filter yet.

The second last interesting thing I will pass on is this photographic evidence that there is some weird s&!t going on with the strawberries from Florida. Look at the size of these suckers - the first image is a side view with a AA battery for comparison. The second is a bottom view showing some of the strange topography present in the left berry. GMO foods are obviously alive and well. I am considering taking a core sample from that bad boy and sending it out to testing. My best gues is that there is some coast grizzly bear DNA present. That berry could almost defend itself against any head on attack other than something involving fire and napalm.

The last important shot I have here is titled;