Friday, December 5, 2008


I did it. Finally. I got a powertap. An expensive little bugger, but it should lead to way to self coaching.

A coach exists to evaluate your body outside of your body. He or she works to evaluate your fitness and form from an objective point of view. To train correctly means that you have to let your brain separate from your body. It means that you cannot use your body's internal sensors and senses to mark your progress in form and fitness. Some days you feel like superman, until you turn around and face that tailwind you didn't know you had. Some days you feel deathly and manage to win the race. Your internal senses are not finely tuned instruments. They work in the moment and have the basic function to keep your body from harm, not to evaluate your body's fitness.

A hired coach can evaluate your performance with a stopwatch and with a full knowledge of your performance separate from your body. In swimming, my coach knew I could keep a 1:05 time for a 100yd interval, and turned a blind eye and ear to my obvious suffering. Get your 10 seconds of rest and do it again.

With only yourself as a coach, you must have some data. You have to give your brain something of a target. A coach will do this for you. He says, do this 100yds in 1:05. Just Do It. the Nike slogan goes. If it's just you though... to say "just do it" you must know exactly what you can do and what you should do.

On the trainer, I can do that. I know cadence, speed and gearing and can fine tune my effort. I don't need a powertap for that. What I need the powertap for is to ride outside with the same precision that I ride inside. It won't kill my outdoor rides like numbers can do with some people; I'm a numbers person, so data doesn't bug me. It, on the contrary, will make my outdoor rides come alive with purpose, so I know exactly what I am doing and can free my mind to enjoy (or suffer) the sensations of my workout, free of secondguessing.

So, I hand over my CC and bought myself this instrument. Damned expensive; almost half the cost of my bike. And the materialism bothers me. But it's a tool, just like my bike, and it will be worth it if I can rise to the opportunity.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


There is nothing cheating about drafting. Riding with someone on your wheel is a responsibility and riding someone's wheel is a gift. Friends regularly take responsibility for each other and give each other gifts - it's what makes them friends.

Ever wonder why the camaraderie amongst roadies? It's because of the drafting. The guy in front must take responsibility for the guy in back, and the guy in back must trust the guy in front. It's that give and take which forms the bonds of road cyclists and why road cyclists have a different vibe from, say, mountain bikers, and why, yes, sometimes roadies come off as a bit insular to newbies. It's all in the trust/responsibility dynamic of drafting. If one person can't be trusted in a pace line, he gets sent to the back where he can't do any damage while the rest of the guys rotate their pulls.

And even if it's just you and a friend, draft without guilt; just trade off every couple minutes to keep everything on an even keel. And if one of you is significantly stronger than the other, have the weaker one ride the stronger one's wheel a larger percentage of the time and the effort of a fast ride is apportioned evenly according to ability.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From "Fred" to "Road Nazi" in a Year



I posted this on, but then looked back and noticed that these pictures were taken almost exactly a year apart. The first "before" picture was from the last week of July 2007 on the Portland Velo Century (which, by the way, completely destroyed me). The second "after" was at the Sunset Crit in mid August of 2008.

Notice the pasty skin and fat flab in the first picture.  I bought the Trek one week after the first picture was taken, then lost 20 lbs and started training and racing with the Portland Velo team.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Plans

It's extremely satisfying when you find out that the basic training plan that you scrapped together the year previous is exactly what you should be doing.  Basically, I ride every day, indoors or out, and twice a week I hunker down for a 2x20 interval set at a sub-threshhold effort level.  Exactly what I did last year though the winter and exactly what set me up for a fantastic early season.
So, this year, the same thing.  Last year, where I went wrong in my training was forgetting, on a fundamental level, that I couldn't concentrate on all the races I raced.  I have to train through most of my races; something that I didn't do.  I got confused.  People were telling me to back off a couple days before the race and, well, if you are racing almost every weekend, that doesn't leave that much time for structured training.
Base training will be 2x20s, twice a week.  These aren't really the hard pukey intervals that everyone talks about.  These are just base training to train the "time trial" ability.  Once racing starts, I'll add some shorter, more intense interval sets and some hill sprints to train my sprinting ability.  Once racing is closer, I'll probably back off to 2x20 once a week, some 5 minute interval at higher intensity once a week, hill sprints once a week, and the rest tempo miles.
"A" races for the year: Willamette Stage Race and Cascade Classic.  I want to be in peak form for these two races.
Year end goal: to become competitive in the Cat 3 field.  I need 9 more points to graduate to the 3's.  I hope to get these at Willamette.  It's a race I can win.  At Cascade, I just hope to be competitive in the 3 field.  I don't think it's a race I can win, but I can certainly help Mitch or another, more mountain goat like teammate, win.
On a somewhat unrelated note, the best feeling of relief I've had all year is finally popping a saddle sore that's been bugging me since Willamette last year, in April.  It finally popped after I used some Preparation H to reduce the swelling.  I think, by reducing the swelling, I let the head come to the surface so it could finally be ejected from the body.  I'll be sure to have a tube of Preparation H on hand at all times to nab saddle sores as the appear in the future.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Training and Racing Plan

It turns out, there are a million ways of training to race a bike.  There are a million different tools to use.  Everyone is trying to sell you something.  It's incredibly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
My team is working with a coaching service, which is great and all, but it's just a teaser.  We get a once-a-month class, which is helpful in a wishy-washy sense, but it is neither here nor there (my favorite expression).  It's neither the type of coaching that I received on the highschool swimteam, nor is it one on one.  It's more of a seminar which does little more than introduce the student to the terminology and a peak at the training strategies involved in bike racing.
So, I'm off in the wilderness.  After the last class, I had two options: 1) I could hire a coach for $2000 for the next 10 months, or 2) I could strike out on my own and create my own training program using my brain and taking into account my schedule.  After some hemming and hawing, I chose the latter.  I figured that, being that this sport is pure hobby for me, part of the fun is the journey.  I will be participating in this sport for many years in the future, and , under no circumstance, will cycling expand into a primary activity (like a job) in my life.  So, I decided that part of the fun is creating a training plan at the beginning of each season, tracking my progress in some low tech and inexpensive way, train and race on inexpensive equipment, and see where it takes me.  Rinse and repeat next year, taking the previous year's experience into account.
I have a feeling that many good cyclists do exactly this.  The best cyclists are probably the ones that have had success on their own before looking to "purchase" success with coaches and fancy carbon wheels and such.  Part of the fun of cycling for me is discovering what works and what doesn't and setting my bike up to be the optimum I can have it without spending a ton of money on things.  The side effect is I always have a ready tongue-firmly-in-cheek excuse for why I did badly in a race.
So, anyway, my training plan for this year will encompass a tighter focus on interval training and macrocycles throughout the entire season.  Last year, I had a good off-season and got very strong.  After the Willamette Stage Race (which was the setting of my very best race of the season), my training fell apart.  I was fatigued from Willamette at King's Valley, then started racing PIR and promptly crashed hard and lost 10 days of training.  Instead of building back into my training for Elkhorn, I stomped back into it, mad at myself for missing time and being weak.  I rode too many "junk" miles and did almost no interval training or, in fact, any structured training at all.  That was okay for my first season racing.  A rookie mistake.  I closed out the season with a good race at Elkhorn (I didn't do well personally, but played a role in the last stage that helped my teammate win the GC) and a crash during my first race on the track which basically put me out of commission until 'cross season started.  I think I did just one, small crit between my track crash and Kruger's Farm Crit, which marked the start of 'cross season.
This season, I will focus on three races.  My early race will be the Willamette Stage Race.  Mid race will be the OBRA road race.  The late season road race will be the Cascade Classic.  I am not doing the Elkhorn stage race this year; it's incredibly difficult to do both of these long stage races well as they are scheduled only about 3 weeks apart.  So, odd years gets Cascade and even years gets Elkhorn.
The spring classics (Cherry Pie, the Banana Belts, and Piece of Cake) are "C" races, with the exception of the last Banana Belt, which will be a "B" race.  These races come in late Feb through March and I'll use these to test my off-season training.  The last Banana Belt I'll race to win and actually taper the week before hand.  I'll have a good peek at my competition by then and I like to think that the course favors my style of racing.
King's Valley comes right on the heels of Willamette, so it's a B race by definition.  I will get a good week of rest between these races and I'll still be in good form from the buildup toward Willamette.
Silverton is a great race, but not one I can win.  So I'll do it; great course, but it's a "C" race I'll train right on through for.  Then the OBRA RR is another peak.  After that it's about two months to Cascade, with basically no racing in-between.
PIR is a playground, and I'll race there, but never to win.  It gets a bit crazy in the pack and I'll use these races to practice attacking and bridging.  Nobody will see me in a bunch sprint at the end.  My finishes will either be in a sprint where the pack is extremely strung out (say, due to a Portland Velo leadout train... fuck yea!) or off the front or off the back.  Last years injury was bad and the race itself is such a little thing that it's not worth risking life and limb to win.
As for training, it's going to be simple.  I'm going off of time on the bike rather than mileage.  I'm going to incorporate commutes and the mad hills around my house in my training, and I'm going to train through most of my races, rather than get paralyzed by my racing schedule.  My basic interval will be a 5 minutes, with the number of sets increasing as I get stronger through a build cycle.  Intervals are two times a week, with a recovery and tempo rides in between.  I'll test my ftp monthly using average power on my trainer for a 2x20 minute test on my trainer, correlating average speed to arrive at average power.
Over the next few days I will sketch out the macrocycles to hit the peaks I want, and I'll sketch out weekly microcycles on a monthly basis, firming them up on the Monday of each week.   My overall goal is to be a competitive cat3 by the end of the season.  This means I am strong enough to be more than pack fodder at every race.  No weight goals; my weight right now is where it's going to be and I'll slim down naturally through my training over the next few years.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Riding in the rain when it isn't cold.
No rain jacket; just a vest and wool.
Wet but not miserable.
Leaves on the road; beware hidden holes and rocks and branches.
Flat tires - wait for teammates three times, miserable now in the cold.
Perfect pace on a fixie - 20mph at 100rpm steady, leading the group.
Throw the bike in the car; a beeline to the coffee shop to change.
Hot coffee and an omelette.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Vehicular Cycling

Commuting is actually something that is kind of controversial amongst those people who are ardent practicers of this aspect of cycling.   It's the kind of controversy which comes from facing a hostile environment filled with 4000lb vehicles traveling at 30-70mph.  At the center of this controversy are two topics: vehicular cycling and bike lanes.
To an outsider, and here, an outsider might even be another cyclist but one who doesn't immerse themselves in the politics of commuting, the controversy is not an obvious one.  Vehicular cycling sounds like a clever way of coping with the stress of being surrounded by large, metal vehicles, and bike lanes seem like the obvious way of cordoning off an area of the road so cyclists and motor vehicles can travel side by side without interference.
The founder of the vehicular cycling movement, at least in its modern form, is a guy named John Forester.  His book, Effective Cycling, is the seminal work in this area.  It is a topic which I have thought long about, and I've been in some pretty good internet arguments over at  I call it a movement because, in advocacy circles, the name "vehicular cycling" evokes an ideology rather than just a mere cycling technique.  John Forester is the founder of the movement, because he was the first to make the term "vehicular cycling" political.
I came at vehicular cycling merely as an inexperienced cyclist who had to face some pretty hairy roads to get anywhere in the small city where I grew up.  I learned about turning left from the center turn lane, taking the lane to prevent cars from overtaking too closely, and protecting myself in general from cars by tending toward the center of the lane.  I still practice these techniques.
But somewhere along this, the concept of "cyclist fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles" (John Forester's slogan, of sorts), has been interpreted as a philosophy that goes far beyond a mere technique for cycling in traffic.  Bike lanes violate this precept in spades.  The claim is that bike lanes, because of the special status that both separates bike traffic from motorized traffic and the violation of "normal vehicular road rules" that come about at intersections that have motor vehicles turning across the bike lane, are diametrically opposed to vehicular cycling.
I have lots of ideas about vehicular cycling; I'll be revisiting this topic repeatedly.  I consider myself a vehicular cyclist, but a pragmatic one.  And I have theories about traffic flow that I think are novel and extend the continuum assumption of traffic flow to take into account the speed variation between cyclists and cars.  Hopefully I can explore some ways of getting around some of the deadlocks that poison debate on this topic.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why I Bike (chapter 1)

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with cycling.  It's kind of weird, I know.  Anyone who knows me would think that I have an obsession, which, perhaps, is what leads to the love-hate.  I got into cycling many years ago.  I'm only 29 years old, but I've already been cycling somewhat seriously for a decade.  Wow.  That's kind of a long time now that I think of it.
I've gone through a couple different stages in my relationship with cycling.  I first started in high school.  I'm not sure what started me commuting.  I didn't ride to school, mostly because I needed to be there at 6:30am so I could attend jazz band (I played piano and completely sucked at it, but that's a story for another day).  But I started attending classes and swim practice (I was a fairly decent competitive swimmer, as opposed to jazz band player) at the community college which was about 5 miles away from my house.  It wasn't a good road for commuting or anything.  I had a "wanabe" mountainbike, and I chugged from my house to the community college and back on some of the weekends.
Because the conditions for commuting were so bad, I started researching a bit about how to ride in traffic.  I came across the work of John Forester, who is the seminal author of the "vehicular cycling" movement, which postulates that a cyclist in traffic is just like any other traffic and should ride as such - meaning that vehicular cyclists do things like merge into car traffic streams and take the lanes and turn from the center left turn lane; things like that.  Vehicular cycling influenced my cycling greatly and set me on the path to getting very seriously into commuting.
Since I started working, I've bike commuted to every job I've ever held.
In my first year of college, I got a used road bike for $300.  I probably paid too much for it; it was pretty worn out.  In fact, one of the first of the longer rides I took on it, the rear brake cable broke just as I was leaving my dorm.  My roommate was a runner and got into cycling a little too.  We took some longer rides together, and it was with him that I rode my first 40 mile ride.  THAT, was hard.
A couple years later, my parents bought me my first new road bike, a blue fading to black "Univega Modovincere" (the remade version, not the famous, vintage Univega) with fully Campy Veloce.  That spring, I rode with my first cycling club.  My first ride with them was a 60 miler; my first.  I was so blown by the end that one of the kind souls was good enough to tow me to the highway where it was a 10 mile straight shot into town before leaving me to my own devices.  My first bonk and I was left struggling for home at 12 mph, looking for things to eat by the side of the road while staving off cramps.  I decided after that ride to not do any ride over 40 miles without gatoraid (didn't know about the eating thing yet).
Fast forward about six years and 50 lbs gained through college.  Last fall, I bought a new Trek Madone 5.2 to finally replace the Univega, which was aging.  I just had joined a new club in town, the Portland Velo, and I decided that I wanted to lose weight.  Seeing the scales tip past 200lbs was a wakeup call.  The club century was a week before and I was surprised by how badly I was out of shape.  I was thoroughly trashed after that century.  I started out in the third to fastest group, bridged up to the second fastest group on the road, then immediately fell off.  By the time I reached the 3/4 mark, I was destroyed.  I waited at the rest stop for 20 minutes or so before the group I started with caught up with me again, then I sucked wheel for the last 20-25 miles.
The next weekend, after the club ride on Saturday, I rode to the bike shop where they were having an end-of-season sale.  Bad move.  I had thought sporadically about buying a new bike and I was tentatively thinking of losing the 20 lbs first, then buying a good bike.  But then I saw the Madone and it was marked down over $1000.  I test rode it for a good hour or more, then sat for another hour to decide to finally buy it.  I hate buying things with a passion, but love to own and use new bike stuff!
I started riding four days a week, commuting 26 miles round trip to work, and combining that with a long ride or two on the weekends.  over the next four or so months, I lost about 20 lbs at a rate of a steady 1 lb a week.  In December of last year, I joined the club's bike racing team.  I've now raced for a year, crashed hard twice and broke two helmets, experimented with track and cyclocross as well as road racing, and had a blast.  My one regret is I haven't been commuting as much as I would like.  I consider bike commuting to be my roots in cycling.  I feel bad for having gotten away from it over the last year.  One of my goals over the next year is to balance my bike racing and training with commuting.
I commute for reasons I don't quite understand but which go deeper than doing it just for exercise or doing it to save the environment.  Why I am so attracted to cycling as an activity and lifestyle is something I don't quite understand.  I feel like I bridge many of the sub-groups of cycling.  I am a roadie and a commuter.  A racer and a "Fred".  I keep tract of cycling advocacy and am in favor of bike lanes, but I adhere to vehicular cycling tenants (In general, these positions, to be in favor of bike lanes, and to be a "vehicular cyclist", is a contradiction in terms).  All at the same time.  It is a contradiction, given the way these sub-groups are sometimes so divided.  But that's me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Busted Helmet

Choosing a name for a blog is hard work. You got to be clever, but at the same time, it cannot be obvious. Many chose something that they focus on in life. I don't want to do that.
I want a place where I can post observations that drift through my head; observations that people will want to read. Not a diary. I'm not that type of person. Too voyeuristic. But, you know, I have stuff that I like to write about and I thought it would be interesting to have others read it. Only, of course, in the completely sanitary and anonymous world of the internet.
So, "Busted Helmet." I like to ride bicycles. I race road bikes on the road as a Cat4 (Cat3-O-Meter at 40%). I crashed last Tuesday in a race and busted a helmet. I lost a bit of my memory. Curiously, I am, for some reason, not at all concerned about my memory loss. I am not really sure why; which, I suppose, is reason for a little concern. You would think that I would be more rattled by the (non)experience. Perhaps I am in denial. I still want to ride and I almost panic at the thought that my season now has a gap in it as I recover from my other injuries. I could lie and say it was a life changing experience for the pleasure of the viewing audience... but it wasn't.
Anyway... this post will go off into the aether and will promptly be read by absolutely no one. We will see where this goes from here.