Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ready for the Weekend (I Hope)

I decided to get both my wheels re-spoked (I hope that's a word). Not cheap but cheaper than a new bike. I donated blood today so I can't ride tomorrow but I'm all set for Friday. The plan is a long ride Friday, hill workout in daylight on Saturday (before doing them in the dark on Wednesdays), and 34-ish miles on Sunday. If my wheels stay intact, I will be a happy guy.

Oh, I also picked up some tools so now I can actually use my new truing stand.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

iPhones Don't Work If Nobody Answers

It was about 40 degrees when I took off at 6:30 this morning for a planned 29-mile ride. I had my new lights and was all bundled up so I was looking forward to this. All was going well until about mile 7 when I went/jumped over a pothole/rut. I heard a "bonk" and my rear wheel, which was already out of true, started really wobbling. I pulled over and not only did I break a spoke, I broke two (though I wonder if the second was already broken). I was hoping I could ride home SLOWLY. Nope.

No problem. I carry my iPhone with me on rides (with a protective case, of course) so I'll just call home and get picked up. Well, it turns out that yesterday's wealth of Wii games overloaded the senses of my son and, though he was awake, he ignored my phone calls. All but the last one. He ignored the 13 messages on the answering machine. He ignored the calls I would make just to ring the phone. Grrr.

Okay, my wife or daughter would have to wake up at some point, right? I'll just play video games between phone calls until one of those two wakes up. So I did. Funny thing about my winter riding gear: it keeps me pretty warm when I'm moving by trapping my heat. Not so much when I'm standing still. Soon the warm glow of my ride started to fade and there I was, in 40-50 degree weather with the wind picking up, and I'm standing there wearing shorts and a windbreaker. For two hours.

By the time I get ahold of my wife the shivers are getting harder and harder to control. She shows up with the van, I toss the bike in the back, and we head home. We were planning on a trip downtown so I had to take a quick shower which, as hot as it was, was surprisingly not very warming. However, a trip into the kitchen for some emergency ramen did help a lot. Note to self: pick up more ramen for post-ride warming.

That's three spokes in three weeks. What am I going to do? I can't really buy sturdy new wheels for my bike because it is so old and I don't want to spend more on wheels than I did for the whole bike. New bike? The bike shops I have gone to have been heavy into Specialized bikes but I wanted another opinion so headed over to Velo Pasadena because they showed a wider selection on their site. I got there and oh my goodness. Big shop and you can actually walk around in it. I got some help and was shown a Felt F55, which is on sale because it is an '08. What to do, what to do...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Let There Be Light

Santa was very good to me in the cycling department. First up is a truing stand, which I very much need as the combination of my weight and the old wheels on my second hand bike are adding up to wheels that go out of true in just a few weeks. Next we have Blackburn Flea lights (front and rear), which is going to allow me to wake up early Wednesday mornings and do a hill workout before getting ready for work. Last, we have another light set but I'm going to return that and get some tools so I can not only perform bike maintenance but actually use the aforementioned truing stand.

Did you know that Lance Armstrong has a twitter page? It's true. Poor guy went out for a three-hour ride today. That's one of the things that separates champions from the rest of the pack. As for me, Christmas at home with the kiddies and rain made the decision to stay home an easy one.

Speaking of Lance Armstrong, the Amegen Tour of California will have a stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena and, if you take a look at "Races and Events" on the right, you will see that I have volunteered to work it. Don't know what I'll be doing until a week or two beforehand but it should be quite the experience.

The family will be having a dim sum adventure tomorrow, which means taking trains to Chinatown for some yummy dim sum. Because of that I'll only get to ride 29 miles tomorrow. I'm thinking 29 tomorrow, practice on my hill Saturday because I want to do it in the light before having to do it in the dark on Wednesday, then a longer ride on Sunday (I'm not sure how long but I know what the route will be). Oh, and get some tubes and exchange the lights tomorrow. Then, when I have gotten the tools, I can true my back wheel because it is messed up.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snug As A Bug

I pretty much have all my winter gear now (though I might try wool socks) so my rides this weekend were warmer than before. I wouldn't call them "warm" or even "not painfully cold" but they were definitely warmer. Got the toe covers, the arm warmers, and even wore the rain jacket, which makes a nice windbreaker.

First up was a 34-mile ride on Saturday. This was awesome. I felt good and even did a few intervals going up the big hill ("Okay, at least 60 rpm to the next light."). With just a few miles left I saw a couple of riders going the other way but then they made a U-turn and were behind me. For the rest of the ride I made a game of making sure I kept ahead of them. They even caught up with me at a stoplight but I pulled away on the green. Probably a stupid ego thing but games like that can make a ride more interesting. Finishing the ride I felt great and not even all that tired.

Contrast that with this morning's ride. Before starting a ride I do a quick check of the bike and this time I found a flat front tire. Sigh. It took me quite a while to pop the tire over the rim (I'm not a weak guy but I just have a problem with that) and then I had to use water to find the very slow leak. Patched that put the tire back together (I have a tool to help me get the tire back over the rim) and I was on the road 40-minutes late (which tells me I need to practice tire fixing if I ever hope to do this correctly during a race). Things were going well until the wind kicked up out of the north. That didn't mean it was colder. It meant that my 3-mile uphill was going to be done with a headwind. Sigh. It was blowing so hard that when I finally went over the peak and was heading downhill, I needed to pedal because the wind was slowing me down so much. That hill really wiped me out today. After it, small hills that I zoomed up yesterday were granny-geared slowly today. At least the last part of the ride had the wind to my back. A fun thing happened when I tried to outrun a stoplight. As I was crossing the intersection I noticed that I was at 26+ mph. Cool! Tried another sprint interval and went over 26 again. Not bad, even with a tailwind (which wasn't blowing nearly as hard as the one blowing during my uphill). I came home wiped out. I think I might not have been eating properly yesterday, either. I was more concerned with not eating too much and, in the process, I might have eaten too little.

Funny story (to me): I picked up my front wheel from the bike shop on Wednesday (it was getting trued and having a spoke replaced). I asked about sturdier wheels and the guy said he's show me some. First up was a nice little number by Bontrager. It was $800. I think if I had brought in the 15-year-old bike that goes with my wheel he wouldn't have shown me that one, given that that wheel is three times what I paid for my bike (used). And the Montrose Bike Shop isn't even what I'd call a snooty shop. The Bontrager site shows that they do have less expensive wheels but did I really need to be shown the $800 variety? I think he showed me another one that was only $400...

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Chrissie Wellington and I Have in Common

I ended up riding 54 miles this weekend instead of 50. See, my 25-mile ride on Saturday took even less time than the weekend before. Since I want to emphasize fat burning, coming in under two hours is not what I want to do. So on Sunday I took a 29-mile route. I learned a few things. First, those nice ventilated socks and shoes I wear become refrigerators in the winter (I am looking into shoe/toe covers). I learned what breaking a spoke sounds like (guy in bike shop: "You broke a spoke." Me: "So that's what that sound was.'). I learned that I should do my longer ride on Saturday instead of Sunday (I was planning on buying a new saddle in January but I don't know if my butt can wait that long), so I'm thinking I'll do a 35-mile ride on Saturday and a 25-miler on Sunday. I used a heart rate monitor for the first time and was impressed that I kept myself in zone 3 (the one that's supposed to be best for fat burning) most of the time without even looking at my heart rate until after the ride.

I watched NBC's coverage of Kona over the weekend. My favorite part was after Chrissie Wellington fixed her flat and got back on her bike, she fumbled a few times trying to clip in. The next time I do that in an intersection after a green light, I'll think of her and not feel so bad.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I swam at the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks pool and what a difference! I could stop swimming because I was tired rather than because I was nauseous from overheating. I am so not going back to the Y. The worst part is that the pool is only a few minutes farther drive than the Y. I feel like an idiot for not at least trying the drive to be sure rather than just eyeballing it on a map. The bad news is that they are closing for winter maintenance and won't be open again until January. The good news is that my left shoulder is still sore from the last workout so I would be taking at least next week off anyway. Good stuff.

The Pasadena Marathon has been re-scheduled for March 22, which is a canny choice because that's around when the Los Angeles Marathon used to be. Since that has been changed to May, people unhappy with running a marathon in May now have the Pasadena Marathon as an alternative. As for me, I'm just in it for the bike tour.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Going Crazy From the Heat

I think I am officially sick of swimming in a pool that is too warm. On Thursday I am driving to Van Nuys to swim at the pool there. Have I mentioned that the swimming book I am reading says pools 84 degrees and up are unhealthy? The Y's pool is 86 degrees.

Needless to say, today's workout sucked. After warmup I could only go 100 yards before having to stop because I felt so awful from the heat. And to add injury to insult my left shoulder was getting sore from the new stroke. It could be that I'm doing it wrong so I'm going to play it safe and go back to my usual stroke until I can get some instruction. The new pool has that capability, if it works out for me. If it doesn't, I don't know what I'm going to do because I can't go on swimming in a pool that's too hot.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My First 50-Mile Weekend

As I wound up my 25-mile ride yesterday, it occurred to me that that was quite a ride but it was still shorter than a marathon. I really can't imagine running that far. I would like to run a marathon someday but it is a long, long way.

So the plan was to do another 25-mile ride on the same route today. After yesterday's ride, which was a bit chilly, I headed over to REI to pick up a goodie and while I was there I got a pair of gloves and some socks. I was hoping that the gloves, besides providing some palm relief and crash protection, would warm up my hands and that that would spread up to my arms (like magic). Looks like I was right. I think seeing arm warmers for $30 helped me think warm, too. Anyway, I set out this morning at 6:40, warmer than yesterday. I was feeling pretty good and I started off a bit faster than yesterday, but not too fast (I peaked on one of the downhills at 27mph--coasting, of course). The thing with having the goodie, though, is that I did some calculation and realized that I could come in under two hours for the whole ride if I just hustled a bit where I could. I did and, sure enough, came in under two hours on the same route that took me 2:20 (including picture taking) yesterday. I'm not sure that was the smartest thing to do for fat burning but it was kind of fun.

Still getting better on clipping in and I am now getting better at timing stoplights. I do wish I was much better at clipping in when doing left turns. I'm still pretty much a goof doing those. Today's lesson: I can clip out of just one pedal if that foot is going to be stepping on a curb. However, if that foot is going to be standing on flat ground, both feet have to clip out.

The plan for next weekend is to do the same thing, then do a 30/25 the following weekend.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Northeast San Fernando Valley 25-Mile Tour

I took my iPhone on my ride this morning so I could share the trip. I will be heading out on the same route tomorrow morning. Click on the little cameras to see the pictures:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Elbows High

I have been doing some reading about swimming and this whole "keeping your elbows high" thing is finally making sense. I had been hearing and reading about elbows high but had no idea what it was referring to (I did my competitive swimming back in the seventies, you see). More reading, watching some videos, and chatting with my friend John and I was ready to give it a try during today's workout. It turns out that my stroke wasn't all that far off (you don't really know your stroke unless you're in the water). It seems to make things easier and it sure doesn't slow things down. Next workout I'll compare stroke counts between this new way with my previous way. Anyway, I had to take last week off because of my cold, and when you add that to a too-warm pool, no long swim today. I could only manage about 1200 yards but that's okay because today was technique day.

Came across the IronBruin Triathlon for next March. 400 pool yards, 13.5mi bike, and 5k run. The pool swim is especially attractive because I don't want to buy a least not this season. Could be a good "C" workout and my first tri. It would be just one week after the 100k Gran Fondo San Diego but I guess that will make things even more interesting.

I was listening to an Endurance Planet podcast and got an idea for training. I could go out Wednesday mornings and do a quick hill workout. I'm not so keen on riding in the darkness around here because of the rough roads but this route is do-able. It's about 1.5 miles to the start of the hill and it's not huge but powering up it would be quite the workout. I could even go up and down more than once. The cool part is that I would make it back in time to do my usual morning routine (shower, wake the kids, make them breakfast, etc.). Now I just need some lights for my bike...and maybe a pair of arm warmers because I'll be out there at 5:30. Sounds like a job for Santa Claus.