Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Sensations

Ever just wander?  I like to but its a huge luxury.  If you have the time to just wander around exploring roads on your bike its going to cost you. I do it once a week, sometimes more.  Sure, I loose some business because of it, but I don't care too much.  Its my therapy and my church so it's worth it.  And besides working extra hard for a little more money can really suck. It makes people act stupid.

I went wandering yesterday.  Wandering on a bike doesn't mean you don't go hard and gain fitness because you can/do.  I make it as hard or as easy as I want.  It's basically a fartlek ride but different in that I do it on new roads (adds muscle confusion benefit) and it includes a compulsory cafe stop in the mix.

Yesterday's cafe stop was Main Street Cafe in Groton, MA.  The town of Groton is home to Groton Academy, Lawrence Academy and Peter Wolf, lead vocals & front man for J Geils Band.  (I musta got Lost)

Wandering on a bike is a pragmatic riding choice that links practice with theory to the aesthetic which are the metaphysical essence of riding.  I enjoy this more than anything.  Its the best lens through which I consider the quality of a ride.

That having been said, wandering with a friend can be cool too. Yesterday my friend Ward Solar & I connected to ride.  Ward has a war-chest full of bike medals.  He was a Pro for a few years but always kept one foot close to a regular job & life outside of cycling.

I first heard about Ward when he soloed the last kilo to win NYC Invitational. There were like 200 guys, mostly Cat 1's. His win that year stuck out in my mind because I placed second the year before.  Or as I like to say these days, I was 1st of the clean riders.  Regardless, Ward won it a year later in insane fashion and when I had opportunity to meet him a few years ago we hit it off like brothers straight away.

Ward and his contagiously happy wife Nicole recently bought a house outside of Nashua, NH.  Yesterday Ward invited me to roll the roads up there.  Unbeknownst to me Ward, it turns out, likes to Wander too.  Not too surprising.  I understand the World's top rider Philippe Gilbert trains 100% by feel too.  He calls it The Sensations.  No power meter, speedometer or Strava.    Herein lies the take self aware.

Peace and roll strong.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Warm up like Easy Rider

Gently knocking on the front door of a house will achieve a more open response from inside than pounding on it.

Taking this a step further, smashing through the front door won't achieve an open response at all.  It'll get you butt thrown in the clink. Not a good idea.  Similarly, if we politely say "I'm having dinner, if you'd care to join me?", we will engender a far more effective response than if we bark "Get over here and eat your food"

Warming up is like this.  A polite, gentle but deliberate approach is best. The goal is to get your body to an optimized and open state with the least amount of stress.  Stocking it into a performance state is a mistake.  Better to ease into this...Don't push it man, be Easy Rider!

I was thinking about this last night while stretching.  Well not really stretching,  its more like home spun yoga for neanderthals.  But that's a different entry topic.  Back to warm-ups... You will get your body to a wide open optimized state way better by applying polite and respectful requests of it; Just like in life, same principle.

Warming up properly takes time/patience. It should start out politely with gentle knocking rather than pounding and it should build gradually from there.  It's easy to think warming up isn't worth the effort because we're always short on time. But in missing a proper warm up we can't be 100% prepared for the violent training efforts we must dispose on ourselves.

A simple rule on warm up time.  Take a minute for every year you are.  If you are 20 years old, take a 20 minute warm up.  If you're 47, take 47 minutes and so on.  Not much science here but it works great every time.

Peace & Roll strong

Monday, February 27, 2012

Climb like a Cannonball

There is something about climbing that most cyclists are genuinely drawn to.  Perhaps it's the mythical and vivid associations we get from watching the Grand Tours or the sharp cobbled pitches of the Spring Classics?  Maybe it's just as simple as the sense of accomplishment or the cool view at the top. I don't know.  What I do know is that almost every cyclist likes climbing so that makes all of them a climber.  But as climbers go there are different levels of ability.

For instance, there are Great climbers that can float up any hill straight to the clouds. Then there are Good climbers that can jam their way up anything fast but don't often beat a great climber up the Vert.  Decent climbers are next and they have to red-line it up every hill longer than 4 minutes but on a good day can hang with a good climber but never a great climber.  Average climbers come a little further down the list but they can still get up anything, eventually, but prefer to ride within the majority number of every group for company.  And lastly there are the Poor climbers.  These guys labor like death up every hill longer than150 meters and spend most of their time together at this at this thing called a velodrome.

I'm a Decent climber, I can go up stuff pretty hard & for a long time but I suffer.  I think Decent climbers suffer more than other climbers because we're just good enough to imagine that we can hang with the better guys and we almost always try.  Then we pay the price in magnified pain.  I wouldn't keep doing this to myself without a built in mind mechanism to help me detach from this pain. My mechanism has always been music. I think everyone has a different one.  Music is mine.  It comes existentially, to help me accept/surrender/embrace the suffering. I don't even have to think about it.

Today was day two of some really challenging riding; opportunity riding, if you will.  It was hard.  Yesterdays wind made it harder riding than today's climbing loop but there were a few good & great climbers today that just floated away from me as we rode up a long & steep mountain road.

As I watched them separate away from me I told myself that I was climbing like a cannonball.  This was negative and got me down for a sec until the lyrics 'Float like a cannonball' from Damien Rices song Cannonball settled in my head.  Then I started humming the tune and digging into the climbing.  Told myself I might be a cannonball but I can float.

Stones taught me to fly, Love taught me to lie, Life taught me to die, So it's not hard to fall, When you float like a cannonball.

I got to the top not too, too far behind the guys. This was because I never came off the gas.  I settled into the pain and enjoyed it.  I could easily have quit if I let that first negative thought take hold but I was able to detach.  Whatever gets you there.

Peace & Roll strong.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

All in Inspiration

This post does not have an exact correlation to cycling for most, probably, but it does for me.

Pregame in football was always special.  I used to look forward to Coach Rogerson's (UMO) pregame talk because no matter how motivated I thought I was there was always more in there that he could, in the company of teammates, somehow draw out.  Coach could get guys so fired up they'd be weeping.  I don't know how, but he could do it.

In addition to Football, back in the day, I was also involved in drama, did a few plays & such.  It was fun, taught me many things and I still enjoy going to the theater today.

This clip below from Will Shake's Henry V has (aside from the fashion) always inspired me.  If Coach Rogerson were alive in the 1500's I imagine his charisma would inspire a band of brothers much like Henry is doing here. 

I really like this excerpt from the clip (see min 3:30) noted below.  It speaks to the heart to give it your all, even commands it to. 

'Harold, save thou thy labor.  Come thou no more for ransom, gentle Harold.  They shall have none I swear, but these my joists, which,if they have, as I shall leave of them, shall yield them little.'  Henry V. WS

Peace & Roll strong.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cats aren't Vegan

When possible I like to eat as soon as possible after training.  Yesterday,  I was doing a short tempo session inside and for whatever reason was super hungry so decided get off the bike to cook some steak tips to have ready for recovery.  They take like 5 minutes so I was back in the saddle pedaling a recovery spin in no time and chomping on piping hot steak tip's. 

I have 2 cats.  I adopted them reluctantly as kits almost 5 years ago.  I was a dog person up until then but have taken a real shin to these little guys.  They were found in a barn and were Farrel.  Because they are literally half wild they don't like to be touched very much but they follow me from room to room and and just stare at me from arms length all the time.  It's what they do.  Except when I get on my trainer!

I have a Cateye CS1000 and love it.  I've worn out like 5 of them but let me just say they're loud, loud as hell, like a harrier jet taking off and the cats freak out when I get on it.  Clip in & those little bastards take flight & disappear inside the walls. So it was curiously amusing yesterday to see them peeking around the corner at me from just a foot away while I was on it.

It took me a sec to realize they were drawn to the steak tips.  Actually they were more than just curious, they were stalking , crouched low w/ their necks stretched out and sniffing sharply.  It cracked me up but got also got me thinking.

When was the last time they did anything remotely close to overcome their natural and extremely acute flight instinct?   Never.   Would they risk life and limb for a sniff of cereal, pasta or an optimized recovery drink?  Hell no they wouldn't.  Not in our lifetime.   But they did for the steak tips.

These two nearly wild creatures would, I imagine, risk everything for a strip of red steak tip.  They don't know anything about the commerce of sport diets.  They only know what nature drives them to do optimally. Their survival depends on this.     Food for thought....

Jughead51 diet;
-Eat only real food
-Start the day w/ black coffee & trail mix
-Carbo loading is a myth, for pretty much everything.
-Hand chased meat, 3 times a week, for strength
-Fish, eat it but don't buy or cook it, many bad memories
-Spinach/banana,OJ shake at least once a day, for vitality
-Graze lightly on bakery, because its fun
-Drink water, mixed with water, body likes it
-Friuts, for a change & when feeling guilty
-No vitamins, lot's of ibuprofen
-Never drink alcohol alone


Thursday, February 23, 2012

No Doubt on Recovery

'Rest day? What is this peculiar thing off which you speak?'

My friend Mike Rowell said this a couple of days ago and I laughed my butt off because like all driven athletes' I could totally relate.  Mike is a smart guy with good perspective and says insightful things.  Over the last couple of days I have thought about Mikes' comment:  What is it about the process of recovery that is difficult to fully embrace?

I have systematically practiced recovery forever but there's always been a lingering question in the back of my mind questioning whether I have done enough; have I done everything possible to get better?  For guys like me and Mike and everyone else with responsibilities outside of cycling the answer we always tell ourselves is, no!  I suspect this may even be the same for full time racers but I wouldn't know for sure about that.

Either way, there is doubt.  And, doubt begets doubt so we can spiral in this a little bit which creates a reluctance to fully embrace recovery, it does me anyway. But the truth of the matter is that there isn't a super clear path in training your fitness because it is a moving target.  It's pretty impossible to exactly know where you are in the process and this is difficult accept.  Invariably I/we default to doing more as insurance that all the bases are covered. But this is a mistake.

Sometimes the action of doing things takes less trust and discipline than surrendering to that of which we cannot control.  Recovery is like this.  We have to trust that what we have done is enough.  There is a bucket of self accountability in that but at some point we have to get to where there is No Doubt in our minds that we have done the best we could given our personal circumstances.  Once we get into this space embracing recovery is nice & easy.   -Roll strong.

All this No Doubt talk got me thinking about Gwen Stephani.  'Like'

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Training in Indian Territory

It's 60 degrees here in Massachusetts and I have some friends coming over to ride after coffee.  It'll be a chat pace w/ some efforts mixed in for like 3 hours. Not too hard because old guys like us need 2 good recovery days before our version of Alpe 'd Huez on Saturday.

Today we're going to noodle through the Wachusett basin intersecting the Nashua river located south of Mt Manadnock. It's a flat route mostly and today's pace means that my eyes will be open to take in all the scenery and such. 

If you are paying attention while riding in Massachusetts it is impossible to not recognize that nearly all the landmark rivers and mountains have Native American names.  The state itself (Massachusetts) is an Indian word.  Not sure I should say 'Indian' these days.  No offense intended.

The section of roads we're going to roll through today were; in the 1600's, the same territory where most of the Indian-Settler conflicts took place during the King Phillip war.  We're going to roll right through the town of Sterling (not an Indian name) where 51 settlers where slaughtered by the Nashua tribe.  It was the largest conflict by far. 

The Indians won the battle but lost the war.   Aside from the many Native American names on natural landmarks around here there is precious little evidence left pointing to the thriving and noble culture that once roamed these pretty sweet grounds.  Man's inhumanity to man?   Kinda weird.

If you haven't guessed, I like history a lot but I really like riding my bike through it even more.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Manage scar tissue like Termites

Four years ago I was in a near fatal car accident.  The circumstances around the accident were life diverging and I think about it everyday but right now I just want to talk about the rehab of my injuries because it might help someone else dealing with similar issues.  I know people with worst injuries but that isn't to say the mine weren't significant.

My injury list starts with heavy blunt trauma to my chest & lungs, a severe concussion & 6" cranial gash down to the scull, a broken femur at the top & bottom and finally ends with a shattered ball & socket joint in my pelvis.  The x-ray below shows the hip rebuild.  The screws you see are 3 inches long and the plate is 12.

I've been able to rehab all of my injuries 100% except the acute pain & stiffness that remains in my hip.  This is caused entirely by scar tissue that formed throughout the soft tissue after the rebuild.

The screws & plate are still in & will remain for the rest of my life so I suspect they are an irritant regenerating scar tissue when I move.  As a cyclist, my hips' ball & socket is in constant motion which makes the problem worse so it has been frustrating trying to manage this successfully.

As kids my dad had us do Karate.  Karate is lots of things.  One big thing in karate is stretching and we did it all the time and I saw the benefits in everything I did.  A couple years ago I read an article in a major publication (maybe NY Times) that said the benefits of stretching were a myth.  I thought this was total crap when I read it but must admit the copious reference sources had me thinking for a second.

It's funny how insidious things like this can be too because even though I knew the article was flat out wrong I still allowed it to affect my commitment to stretch as often as I know is best for me.  Bottom line is that I stretched less and the scar tissue & stiffness in my hip got worse.

A friend of mine has a similar injury.  His surgeon told him that having Scar Tissue is like having a Termite problem in your house.  Once you have them, you will always have them.  The only way to manage them is to consistently treat the house.  If you don't treat your house they will return, every time!

It's is the same for Scar Tissue.  Once you have it, you will always have it.  Scar Tissue will return again and again if you don't treat it.  The only way to keep Scar Tissue from interfering with training is to treat it with stretching everyday. 

I started stretching my hip again in the same way I did before reading that article and my hip feels better already.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Teamwork is Work

The action piece in 'Teamwork' is work. I don't think a lot of people like the initial sound of the word 'work'.   I don't.  But I think pretty much everyone likes the word 'team'.  These two words can bring opposing perspectives and therefore when combined are open to a lot of confusion.  

The first thought around teamwork is that we can do more together than apart. The next thought is that teamwork will make things happen a lot easier.  And while this is often true it is not that simple because there's an 'easy' detour here.  The detour is to easily interpret this to mean 'it will be easier if I am on a team'.  There is a subtle but meaningful difference between accomplishing more and making it easier.  It's a detour that I myself have mistakenly made several times in my life.

Walk off the Earth in the tune above is displaying Teamwork and a good example of what I'm talking about. There are five talented people here 'working' together to create a cool vibe but nothing about what they are doing looks like it is easier for them.

Each one is sacrificing.  They looked cramped, kind of disjointed and each one is lacking all sense of individuality.  They're 'working' together on one singular thing and are 100% all in.  They are vested.   In this case it's an acoustic guitar but this 'single thing' could be anything out there in life.  Like winning a bike race, creating a broad way show, building a company, completing a project....whatever.

If any of the musicians in Walk off the Earth were to stray in any way, from any part of their task/goal everything of value they are trying to accomplish would be bunked.

Perfect teamwork is hard, not easy.  It's also a rare thing of beauty but it is work.

-Roll Strong this weekend!

Friday, February 17, 2012

DuVine Pro Series Bike Tours.

Reaching new heights on DuVine Pro Series Bike Tours.

Talk about perfect timing and impromptu response.  The opportunity to lead a group of serious cyclists through the Alps later this summer came out of the blue last week.  Andy and I have talked about doing something like this Pro Series Bike Tour for a while now.  All the stars lined up this time around allowing me some time away from my real job so and I jumped on it.

Duvine's Pro Series is unique in that it is a serious strength and conditioning tour but with opulent accommodations commensurate with all the other high end tours they have been doing for 17 years.  And they've done a lot of them.  Last year alone they did 200 tours all over the world.  The Pro Series is the first of it's kind and it's going to be super awesome.

This video was shot a few days ago in DuVine HQ in Boston.  Andy asked me to come in kick around some ideas with Justin Wuycheck and Tommy Pace, two guys with a lot of experience behind the all the operations around doing these things right.  I had no idea he was going to pull out a camera but oh well if you're in, you're in, no?

It was fun and I do believe that one take unrehearsed knee jerk reactions are the most genuine and convey a better organic message.  This is going to be a blast.

Virgina trip

New England group rides are usually super self-contained, which isn't my all time favorite thing.  I think this gets back to the insulator culture up here.  I like riding with different guys when I can especially when they are stronger than me.  It keeps me honest and makes me better.

Pro's race so much they don't get into the rut of repeatedly rolling familiar miles with the same people.  While this is fun, too much of it will level them off. Pro's travel and race different stuff every week and they do it for many months in a row.  This makes them faster than the rest of us.  It's pretty simple.

This is one reason I'm heading south next week and looking forward to doing the rides down there.  One of these is the Goon Ride and it is pretty cool.  It goes through Washington DC's Rock Creek Park.  It's roots point back to a bunch of DC couriers that started taking bike racing seriously after doing the Courier World Championships.  Greg LeMond also won one of his junior World Championships on these same roads. 

Another ride is Haines Point @ Noon. Haines point is famed as the location for this cool statue called The Awakening.

Haines Point is basically a crit on Tues & Thur at lunchtime for the DC racers working in the city.

Haines is on the Potomac River so it's flat, wide open and a great place for speed work.  In another month the whole park will be accented with incredibly beautiful cherry blossoms that can be problematic for asthmatic riders.  The Statue is also the turnaround point for DC's Cherry Blossom 10k Run Race.

There is also great riding on the Skyline Drive on the Shenandoah's Blue Ridge Parkway. This road is ideal for steady state riding.  The road is as smooth as glass and there are many strong guys training there this time of year. The place also has great air and good views.  It's just short drive from DC so I hope to get out there as well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sprinters need a temper

Flipping through a zen book in the reception area of my sports massage therapist Susan Feist I came acorss this picture.  It looks like polo on bikes a long time ago.  I didn't know there was such a thing but this picture is pretty funny!

This guy is wearing a helmet and knee pads so he must have been some kind of goalie.  Whatever he was he's ragging quite the hate-on here.  I've never stomped my bike like this.  I doubt if many riders have.  Beating the crap out of your bike just doesn't happen all that often.  Although I do remember Bjarne Riis violently chucking his TT machine in the 97 tour.  I watched it live and thought he was going to stomp on it as well when he walked over to pick it up.  I wouldn't have blamed him if he had because everything went wrong for Bjarne in that tour.  I don't think he ever recovered from that.

The dude in this picture must have been considerably more pissed than Bjarne though.  The fact that his rear wheel is already bent like a pringle leads me to suspect he was jack-hammering the hell outta that behutch!  Something really personal must have happened to him. Maybe the socks?

That having been said he is also displaying some decent agility a pretty high vertical jump as well, for a cyclist that is.  Most cyclists don't look good doing anything other than pedaling.  I have thoughts around why that is and may share them on some other entry. Regardless of all that, this guy is showing me that if he was a racer he would likely have been a sprinter.  Sprinters need a nasty temper, agility and a jump.

Soft as Michael Buble

Yesterday I had plans for a nice endurance ride but at the last minute something jumped in front of me and I decided to pass on it.   In this thing we call life, missing one group ride isn't even a blimp on the screen but it amazes me how poorly I can still react to things like this.

Some of it is just me whining in a bowl of cry baby soup because group training is fun and I missed out.  But the bigger piece is my engrained discipline to do all the work, all of it period.  You get what you give.

I had a throwing coach in high school that used to preach that if you missed one training day you were actually two days behind to where you would have been.  For training athletes two days behind sounds like a lot and I believed him.  To this day I still default to this mindset but there's a problem.  It's wrong.  It doesn't work because in scrambling to catch up and do everything I'll inevitably do too much in too short a period of time.  Next thing you know I'm behind on recovery which is not where I want to be.

I don't try to make up workouts anymore and gone are the days of berating myself over it too.  Now I just move on,  tell myself the missed workout is recovery money and that I'll be stronger to unleash quality efforts on my next scheduled session.  This works way better for me.

Speaking of wussies skipping workouts:

Hey Winter...where the the hell are ya?  Eating bonbons on the sofa?  Two years ago you were Leningrad hard dishing out 8 foot snowbanks all season & throwing down single digit temps punishing us for weeks at a time.  Now you're as soft as Michael Buble!  Stop tapping your foot.....Panzie


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wedensday group ride

There's a group ride today going straight by my place at 10:30am.  There were a couple emails shuffled around yesterday about it and I'm thinking of tagging along.

I was out last night.  It was an impromptu thing and there were more people just hanging around than couples which was kind of an anomaly being Valentines Day and such.  So anyway, I slept in a little bit this morning and it just dawned on me that it's Wednesday right now and not the typical weekend morning that it feels like... sitting here in pj's at 8:00am contemplating a group ride.

I'm fortunate enough to have a small but sustainable business and can schedule some hours here and there to ride in the middle of a work day but I'm thinking 'what's up with the rest of these guys?  Don't they work?'  I'm pretty sure they aren't self employed and I'm smiling to myself thinking about the stories they've told in order to get off the grid for 4 hours today.  Not that I care at all but the fly on the wall in me is a little curious.

It's another warmish day (mid 40's) which is unprecedented for February so I figure everyone is taking full advantage.  There are a lot of fit racers around here right now which is the way it should be.  We were talking about this last night.  Because the weather has been so amenable, many of us are further along in our training than normal.  But to think we are going to crush the spring season because of it would be a mistake because it's all relative.  The weather is the same for everyone, meaning that if we are able to get out and train for 4 hours in February then so is everyone else which levels everything out.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this other than to say that keeping a proper perspective is important in managing expectations on and off the bike.

Roll strong.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Стояща тренировка

I'm not naming names but a friend who's name rhythms with 'Brave Sparrow' and runs a business sounding like 'Mashed bits' sent an email last night describing in detail a top secret Italian workout that was shared only to me in confidence just six months ago by a Turkish Shaman. The Shaman learned it from a Bulgarian cycling guru who visioned it after too many shots of bad Balkan vodka.  

I thought I was the only guy in this hemisphere with the sublime knowledge of this secret workout and am deeply troubled to find out otherwise.  I mean if 'Brave Sparrow' from 'Mashed bits' knows about it I'm pretty sure it's gone viral by now and tomorrow I'm going to see hundreds of Tri-Geeks on their insanely areo bikes w/ saddles entirely removed from their seat posts while they ride in the standing position for an hour and a half.

This highly advanced and clandestine training method is called the 'All standing' workout or Стояща тренировка in the Bulgarian vernacular.  The Pirate was great at the Стояща тренировка.  But I seriously doubt he ever trained it; being Italian and a natural climber n'all.

This stuff has been under wraps for decades.  It's uber top secret, honed for decades by the world's most advanced sport scientists working underground in lab coats.  It's so cutting edge in fact, that Trek is even rumored to be in development of a prototype frame specifically designed for it. They haven't determined a name yet but sources indicate 4U-Nonumbnuts is the front runner. 

Always one to donkey up and provide copious lip service, the UCI has gotten involved and contrary to everyone's surprise, they are against adopting the Стояща тренировка and the 4U-Nonumbnuts.  In fact, they are so put off by these progressions they are maneuvering their considerable resources into a para-legal team of one to halt Treks' frame production as well as stopping any further development of Стояща тренировка at the grass roots level in every cycle club on the planet.

Last week Pat McQuade spoke candidly to Jughead51 saying "We believe this training method and Trek's 4U-Nonumbnuts frame to be unethical advantages because they work really well? And because of this,  it is clear they represent a blatant breach of fair play and gross un-sportsmanship like conduct. Everyone spending thousands of dollars on lic.certified coaches & esoteric watts per k/g training plans could end up feeling a little frivolous. The sensible simplicity and effectiveness of workouts like Стояща тренировка make ultra structured coaching look a little unnecessary."   ?

Pan-Mass Challenge

On a separate note; 

Billy Starr is many things but he is most noted as the founder & director of North America's largest philanthropic charitable bike ride the Pan-Mass Challenge.  In light of recent news around the alleged  dubious management of other like kind organizations PMC can boast an impeccable record of accountability spanning 33 years. PMC donation numbers have scaled into the massive zone too. $338,000,000.00 NET to be exact. A big chunk of this has gone to the The Jimmy Fund accounting for 55% of JF's total donations.

I am remiss in telling you that I hadn't known of Billy Starr before meeting him yesterday in Boston and I feel a little guilty about that too because PMC is a big deal to the Cancer community. He started it 33 years ago from his parents basement with just 35 riders.  I think the rider total count today is a little north of 70,000.

Billy's passion is palpable.  As he tells it, there were two events in his life that were most instrumental in starting this mission.  Both occurred during his most formative teenage years. One was the passing of his mother to cancer within an 8 month period and the other was his serendipitous missing of a plane flight that ended up crashing and killing everyone on board. 

I liked Billy.  I got the sense that this is the same for most people. To know him is to like him.  He's a good humored, self-afacing and transparent person.  He's obviously a super hard worker but also a total jock and lives life with effusive passion.  

My favorite quotes from Billy yesterday were; "I suck at following but I'm okay leading",  "Aging isn't for pussies" and "lets ride together sometime."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fun Factor

I roll around the Wachusett Reservoir a couple times a week.  It's a about 10 miles from my place in Harvard and once there it's an easy 17 miles to loop around it.  The picture here is the back side of the damn built over 100 yrs ago, mostly by Irish immigrants.  There is walkway on the top where you can read all about it.  I guess there was a full-on town (Boylston) located in the low ground where they wanted the reservoir to be. In the day the purse strings had more overt; or perhaps just more open, leverage than they do today and simply told everyone living there to leave their homes, schools, churches, everything and then just flooded the whole place.  So under all that water right now, there's full-on town. It's sorta weird to think about.  Imagine trying to get away with that in 2012?

Today is a recovery day and I'll probably spin around the reservoir but it's going to get real busy later on so it'll be short, 90 min max.

I'm meeting w/ Andy at DuVine Adventures in a few hours to see if we can set up an elite excursion tour in the Alps or Dolomite's for late July/Aug.  It's for way more serious riders than typical touring cyclists but it won't be 10 days of death march rides either. It should be a hybrid of the two, hard riding on epic climbs during the day, opulent accommodations at night.  I'll keep the posts going as it ramps up.  

Later this afternoon Husam has a surprise somebody coming into the shop (Ata Cycle)  and asked me to come in.  I have no idea what the deal is but last time he said this I ended up riding one on one with the owner of Guru Bikes out of Montreal. Which was really cool.  I learned all  about Guru's background, philosophy and unique custom manufacturing process.  Robert also makes a produces for market his own red wine so we shared some Vino afterwards as well.  So you never know what could happen.  Should be interesting at the least.
The first race is just 4 weeks away and I can't wait Most of the guys in New England do cyclocross so they race all the way into January.  But for me I haven't raced since October and I'm getting rammy.  Makes me want to train hard again today but that would be a mistake.  Absorbing and recovery is way more beneficial.  A bunch of guys are doing those computrainer races now too, or they do these group indoor sessions for 3-4 hours.  I used to do a lot of short indoor stuff but not any more. I'm done with that & can't even imagine it anymore.  There's a fun factor of Zero in this kind of training for me and I'm at a point in my life where if it isn't fun I ain't doin it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Gulu-Gulu seemed like a perfect spot to be on Friday.

I'd been riding solo for about 2:45 hrs noodling the northeast back roads toward Gloucester. It was an unbelievable day but I was kind of in a dark mood so I just rolled along easy taking in the rays and thinking through stuff to clear out...then happened across Gulu in Salem Square.

Salem Square is a cool little cobbled section downtown where they don't allow cars.  It's an eclectic scene.  There is a mix of 'odd' tourists, business folk, street artists and a fixie hipsters crowd inked to the gills.  In other words it's a people watchers' 10. 

I almost rode straight past Gulu-Gulu and would have had the bright red and style of it's front door & menu display case not caught my eye.  At first glance they recalled images of the London phone booths in my youth.  After that I noticed the large terrier pooch head on the window and then the name Gulu-Gulu stylishly hanging above and thought 'the initial cool reading is okay, I'm coming in'

Upon entering I instantly sensed this wasn't a cyclist 'racer' cafe'.  Oh, no it certainly wasn't.  It was different, something I really can't exactly describe. Every head turned to look at me as stood there looking over the mobbed area scanning for a place to sit.  It was clear that guys dressed in bright blue and orange spandex don't hang there very much and an oxymoron too. I ventured in for a people watching but turns out I'm the sideshow.  It was hilarious, cracked me up and actually did more in 5 seconds to clear my mind and turn my mood than hours of riding had accomplished.  Levity and laughter; never underestimate their power I guess.

Anyway, the only open place to sit was on the heating unit next to the front window.  It looked like a shrine or something and I hesitated for a second thinking about whether I should sit there or not.  The serving guy indicated that it was cool to

hang there so I peeled off my layers and made myself comfortable.  I was there for maybe :40 min eating the peanut butter & honey sandwich I brought and sipping a really  good Gulu house blend.  After a while I realized the anxieties I brought with me at the beginning of the ride were pretty much in check, in proper perspective.  As I left throwing my leg over the top tube, I thought to myself that I had be sitting in a shrine of sorts, and that was cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

He don't need no registration fee.

Mr. Style called me last night to ride today.  I call Justin Spinelli Mr. Style for lots of reasons, not the least of which is his cooleo business Luxe Wheelworks (watch vid).  This guy is on a different planet when it comes to honing style like a stone groove, everything is dialed 100%.  Even his name 'Spin'elli reeks with cycling lore, hell it's even Italian.

Justin is hardly just pageantry though. He has legit racing background too, highlighted by his time as a continental Pro riding on Seoco with Mario Cipollini.  He also rode a couple World's, and the Giro d' italia etc...and some other fun little races like that?  He spent his last couple years riding for a couple US based Pro teams bullying the circuit here until starting his own bike business a few years ago.

I always worry a little bit when Justin calls.   You never know which Justin it is.  Is it the fit motivated guy or the Justin that just wants to chill?  He's a good dude either way but there are never any clues in his voice, none!  It's the same innocuous and friendly 'hoping to do good ride tomorrow, you up for it? Naturally I always 'am' because the tempo is kinda irrelevant to me. I like riding with this guy who's is 'Spin'elli.  It's Buono!

When J-Spin wants to hammer it can be a meaningful event to anyone riding with him.  It's never really all that bad actually.  No matter how hard it gets you'll probably live.  The worst (or best, depending on perspective) it got for me was when he dropped me on the Mt. Manadnock loop in NH a couple years ago.  We were riding along this barren strip of pave, just the two of us on a dark and damp February day. It was like 33 degrees.  We were only an hour and a half in before my legs started talking to me. That's bad because I sensed he was just getting warmed up and I was right.

The long and short of it is that he cracked and dis-guarded me like peanut shell.  He didn't just drop me.  I died so hard I had to get off my bike altogether and thought seriously about calling 911 and that's no jive.

It was the worst bonk of my life.  But if you're gonna get smacked down like that you don't want it from some hammer head Fred, sucking down GU riding a Madone.  Better to have it dispensed on you by a guy with elegance and hurts way less.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Golf or Kitty Hawk

Is cycling the new golf?  I hope not.  Golf is for losers.

In high school I used to work in the Dinning and Club Room (19th hole) at the River Bend Country Club which is located 18 miles west of Washington DC.  So I know some stuff about them, most of which is difficult to glean much positive from.

As country clubs go River Bend was second tier.  In cycling terms it would be a cat 2 and that's pretty decent.  Chevy Chase County Club aka CCCC and Congressional Country Club aka. CCC are Washington DC's premier clubs.  They would be Cat 1's in cycling.  To be a cat 1 country club it's a requirement that all the words in your name begin with the letter 'C'.  There is also a minimum. (Country club's love minimums) You must have at least three of them in succession.  Cat 1 clubs also have a copious number of other compulsory standards, all very meaningful to the greater good.

Cat 3-4 county clubs are easy to pick out.  Their names all end with 'swim & tennis', which is code for pretty much anyone with some cash can join.

See where I'm going with this?

Cycling does have one similarity to golf for me though and that similarity is a place to hang out with my like minded friends.  Guess I'm talking about a club house here.  My club house is Ata Cycle in Concord.  It's my haunt, my Cheers.  Aside from everybody knowing your name, which is rare in this world, I think having a shop that you can call your own is a big component to having the full experience of bike racing and you'd be missing something without it.

A bike shop is a different world. It's unique and special. There's a different culture.  It's intellectual and eclectic.  You don't have to scratch real far and you'll also find a cool organic sophistication with progressive perspectives.  There is a human life component to bikes, bike riding and bike racing that is hard to describe but it's there.  Its' always been there and always will be.

I suspect the jovial dialog and good times I'm privileged to be apart of with my friends at Ata is probably around the same stuff that it was for the Wright brothers in their bike shop (Wright Cycle Exchange) over 100 years ago and look what they brought us at Kitty Hawk.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Science & Art

There's a lot more cycling laundry in the winter.  I've walked past a growing pile of mine in the hallway for days.  That's weird too because I'm a neat freak.  The Unger in me can't allow the passing of anything needing to be picked up, straightened, wiped down, put away or vacuumed.

We've all heard of the mind-body connection. I totally believe and trust in the this. Especially when it comes to riding, training and recovery.  I think most athletes do the same thing but to various degrees.  The older you get the more you should pay attention.  Young guys are usually the least aware.
Motivation is a mental thing and could be the most accurate indicator in my training cycle. If it isn't first then it's definitely in my top three.

Five minutes ago while getting a second cup of coffee I walked over my laundry with the familiarity one has to a door mat.  This isn't off the charts crazy for me but it is atypical and indicates that my motivation to have a bunch of clean cycling gear isn't urgent. Taking this a step further, my motivation to do a cracking ride is low.

After 20 years racing bikes I've learned to get as far ahead of over training as possible.  Indicators of over training are subtle.  For me they start small in the mind and build from there.  The process of exceeding threshold (LT) happens in the same way, before you can even feel it it's happening and you're over the line.  I don't like over training.  Makes me bitchy and I don't enjoy life the way I should.

Today we have really cool science and tools that help in attempting to figure out just when the over training process begins.  My friend Jeff Hunt is an accomplished marathoner and tri-guy.  In addition to regularly kicking my arse to the top of Mt. Wachusett on our local strongman ride Jeff has a company called RestWise that formulates this process for you.  Jeff is wick'd smat and if you want to you can point and click your way through Jeff's a virtual model of proprietary algorithms to discover if you are over trained(ing). This is applied science and it's good.

I'm not there though.  It's too much information for me because I'm an extremely tactile, and artistic person.  I have to touch & feel it.

Over the years I have used funky esoteric stuff like weighing my motivation to do cycling laundry as a reliable index relative to my training process.  Yeah its definitely a little different but motivation starts in the mind.  If it's low there's guaranty my body is telling it something.  Recognizing this intuitively is an Art.  It's not easy, takes time.

Get yourself high & roll strong!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Downhill racing

Downhill sprint training, that was yesterdays ticket.  It's my favorite workout because it's fun as hell and I'm good at it, but I should be.  In cycling terms 182lbs on a 6' frame is considered pretty jumbo and it goes downhill really well.  My size also helps me to climb like Allagash mud but it's the same as I weighed in 11th grade so I'm not willing to go much lower.

Races never finish at the bottom of a hill though and that's a problem.  I suspect I would win a lot more if they did.  Right now I'm imagining a Tour de France with a Downhill Sprinters Jersey and winning it requiring inverse skills and attributes germane to the Best Climber.  The Jersey itself would also be inverse.  Instead of white w/ red polka dots it would be red with white dots.

That's never gonna happen though but it's not to say downhill sprints don't have big benefit, at least for me.  Primarily this is safety.  Bikes do different stuff at very high speed and it's way safer to be familiar and comfortable with the kinetics of what a bike does above 37+ mph.  Waiting to experience this in a race is a mistake, in my view.

I'm not strong enough to reach these speeds by myself on the flats and I don't have a motorbike to sit on, so I go and find a steep hill that allows me to coast up to 30+ mph and then uncork fresh efforts from that speed.  This training teaches many things.

My 13 yr old daughter Anna is a an accomplished junior alpine ski racer.  Actually she's more than that.  She's Champion in her own rite & a total ripper.  Safety in this pure speed sport is a big concern so her training includes an annual 'Speed Camp'.  Speed camp serves two purposes.  It safely extends an athletes threshold for speed and teaches them the different kinetics that happen at these speeds.  Basically they gain familiarity with  and the skills to manage speed.  This includes a respect and an awareness they can't replicate anywhere else. Anna leaves Speed Camp with confidence built on experience which makes her ski racing way better/faster and also way safer.

I think it's the same for bike racing. 

Monday, February 6, 2012


Saturday morning I watched in frustration as my water bottle skidded along the roadside at 26 mph.  The fact that I dropped it didn't bother me as much as the banchee effort it would take to rejoin the group of six that didn't look like it was going to slow down.  I was on point when the bottle dropped so everyone saw it happen but they kept the pressure high and even jacked it a little and were rapidly disappearing down the road.  This was my first time on this ride but I'm pretty decent at recognizing group dynamics so the fact they didn't wait confused me.

As it turned out we were just a couple miles from this ride's coffee stop where they roll hard.  It would have been nice if someone mentioned that but hey no big deal it worked out pretty well.  Keith waited for me.  He hadn't done the ride before either so we figured the guys were trying to drop us, which seemed like a real bitchy move so we jammed a blazing 2 man tt for about 5 minutes and rolled up on them just before they stopped.  Keith likes to suffer & can really fly.  It was my fastest 2 miles so far this year and it felt good to open up for a little. The cycling gods must have a random sense of humor too or something because The Dead's Good Lovin' was tapping in perfect mind flow matching my rpm's.  It was fun and a great overall ride!

We were out for about 5 hours and finished at 3pm.  I was even more psyched too because I was headed directly to the New Balance Track&Field Grand Prix at 5:30 and it didn't disappoint.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  It was a 3 hour meet that felt like 45 minutes.  A highlight was probably Jenn Suhr's new American indoor record for women's pole vault.  She cleared 16.0 feet.  I was standing close by watching.  16 feet looks impossible.  It's ridiculously high but she cleared it strongly and in neat fashion.

Afterwards Keith & I headed to the Lenox Hotel in Boston for an NB sponsored gathering for VIP's and athletes.  The Lenox is at the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston St.  Keith's friend Marc Davis needed a ride over so he hopped in my car.  Driving over and looking for parking I learned Marc is the communication manager for the Boston Marathon.  We had a lot more to talk about too because he is moving to Boston from the same part of Northern Virginia where I grew up.  Marc and I got to the Lenox before the others and had time to talk together over a few pints which was great. Marc is very humble.  He didn't tell me but it turns out he is also this guy.  Enough said.

New Balance Product Manager Claire also joined into the swelling fray and shared cool insights around NB's transition to the pinnacle of the elite running shoe market from their cross trainer multipurpose image of the past and also provided great detail to us about her near fatal accident with a Q-tip and the copious benefits of hot yoga. Here's to that, Cheers!

World class athletes were in and out all night. I felt privileged to be there, truly.   We closed the place at 2am.  All in all is was a killer day.  Day's like this don't come along all that often so I took it all in and walked away inspired and thankful.

Friday, February 3, 2012

USSR vs Jenner

Would it be news if I said I no longer wanted to be Bruce Jenner?  It wasn't always this way.  In Montreal '76 he was our All-American iconic male that beat the crap out of the Soviet thugs.  He was Bruce Jenner an Adonis and the Worlds Greatest Athlete and he carried it.  What happened to Bruce Jenner?  His whole demeanor and persona has changed these days and he looks like a Sally Jenner or something odd like that.  I'm confused about it & feel bad for him.

Thanks to a new friend Keith Kelly I'm going to the New Balance Indoor Track & Field Grandprix tomorrow evening at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.  Keith works for New Balance and comped tickets for me which is a real score cuz this event sells out instantly and I have wanted to go for years so thanks again Kel!

Anyway, childhood associations are strong and this meet has got me thinking about my days as a budding Decathlete idolizing Bruce Jenner. These were my Huck Finn years, a tweener with torn up jeans caked with red clay romping outdoors in the jungle-ish wooded canopy along the Potomac River that was my neighborhood in Great Falls, VA.  I hadn't a care in the world, no responsibility and no particular goal but all that started to change after I watched Bruce Jenner run his V lap in Montreal waiving the Stars & Stripes to an elated crowd and Nation and it affected me a great deal.  These were different times. The economy was in the weeds, there were long lines to get gas, we were just a few years from Vietnam and it seemed to me like the USSR was kicking our ass all over the world.  So when Bruce Jenner won the Gold it felt to me like he had won it for all of us and I cried.

After watching all of that impulse hit me faster than my intellect could follow.  I immediately got up and ran to the garage, grabbed a paint brush and a can of white paint then dashed off to our street where I commenced to pace off and mark 100, 200 & 400 yard distances so that I could start training for the next Olympic Decathlon in four years.  And I did train, everyday, hard, by myself.  I trained vigorously that whole summer and autumn without input or assistance from anyone and I loved it.  This was the first time I ever thought about training per say.  Moreover, it was the first time I thought about sacrifice & committing to a regime in order to get something otherwise impossible to obtain and not just for myself either.  In my mind, it was for all of us, truly.  It was a sweet and powerful moment. I felt good and strong and I loved the former Bruce Jenner for that.


I haven't traveled much but I will. Serendipity seems to step in front of me a bunch.  I must be open to it or something.  Whatever the case, it stepped if front of me again last night.

Andy Levine is a friend, touring cyclist and fellow Kents Hill Alum. The Hill shaped a lot of who I am today.  Its a special place to me and I try to maintain close ties. Andy graduated a 'few' years after me so we hadn't met until a school event in Boston's Back Bay a couple years ago.  We've been good buds ever since.  Andy is the is the founder of DuVine Adventure; a high-end bike touring company for the Uber crowd. .  He started Duvine with nothing but his bike, cut offs' and a dream. 17 years later he does it better than anyone and is loving life.

Yesterday he posted this on Facebook "Want to bike in Ireland in 2012!? Tonight, join Padriac, our Ireland bike tour manager @ The Independent Restaurant in Somerville, Union Sq. Come and drink a pint with good old Padriac from Ireland, 630pm to 8pm. He is a real hoot (said in an Irish brogue)!"

I couldn't have been more ready for something precisely like this yesterday so I shot him a message that I'd be there if he'd be there for sure.  I barely hit send before he pinged that he would.  A few minutes later he also forwarded this promo to lube me up. it worked!

When Andy and I connect our chat always migrates to high imagery around elegant bike tours. Scouting them, running them, the people you meet, the wine etc.  Andy overlays all of it with a peppering of snippets like. 'Pfff... dude you've got to do this....Are you kidding me right now Bro, this is your thing'....and like that.  It's not that I haven't been interested.  It's been more a question of timing, just timing and some positional stuff.  Regardless, it's been an ongoing conversation, similar to a friendly game of chess played when moves are made only when the players are actually face to face. (I once lost a 2 years chess game with a Russian guy working the Ski room at Waterville Valley, NH....another story)

The setting, time and group of people last night at The Independent was a prefect environment for me to formulate a clear feel for DuVine as a whole organization, it's culture, commitment, enthusiasm and such.  I met the whole gang, shared good spirits with them and swopped stories.  The low amber light of a warm Irish pub is a fine place to accelerate backgrounds, aspirations and intent.  It would be fair to say that last night I transitioned multiple moves closer to doing something with these guys.  To Andy and the gang, Thanks and Cheers we'll do it again in the near future! 

As I was driving back to Harvard "You are a Tourist" (Death Cab for Cutie) came on radio.  Serendipitous, no? This song talks, reminds me of lots of things.

Peace & love.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wolf pack

Forest rangers probably love their jobs.  Getting up every morning to work in nature seems uncluttered and inspiring.  There is a primal connection in this that most of us don't have. I suspect the end of a Rangers day feels a lot more content than most. 

In the wild wolves would make the best bike racers. The similarities of a ripping peloton and wolf pack on the hunt are uncanny. One could argue cats would be better racers for their ability to stalk and their killer sense to pounce at the right moment.  These are definitely super important qualities but to say cats are more suited for racing bikes than wolves would be short sighted because wolves have these same cat qualities also but bring much more.

Wolves have strength endurance and cunning like no other animal. They can track for as long as it takes and in heated stride possess the intelligence to react to critical situations and deploy deadly tactics without hesitation. Their 'pursuit' is more like the multiple sortie attacks of a bike race than a cat's one kill shot.  Wolf packs, like bike teams, are also clannish but when necessary will easily form alliances with mortal competitors and will share that day's kill.

Not for nothing either but what bike racer hasn't kicked their head back at the end of a full effort and howled at the moon?  I'm biased but this is noble stuff, no?

The Keough family is a wolf pack and Mike is the 'Alpha' Keough in it.  Including Mike there are five accomplished bikes racers in the Keough pack.  Mike and I are friends and we talk every now and again.  He called me a couple night ago to fill me in on Jake's 3rd place in stage 2 in the Argentina's Tour De San Luis  This was an awesome result.

Mike's pride in his family's racing exploits is always palpable.  But the other evening it was on a new level!   I loved hearing every colorful detail as Mike described Jake's last 150 meters.  Apparently Jake's lead-out man Robert Forrester was pinched into the fence by the QuickStep train at about 275 meters forcing Jake to stop peddling entirely.  Guess he got back on the throttle quickly though and ripped by like fifteen guys over the last 150 meters top grab a strong 3rd soundly ahead of frenchy Jimmy Casper.  If you've raced with Jake you know he's got the kick to do this.  I can see the whole thing.  Nice.

Often times there is a fine line between tears and joy and Mike was practically weeping in telling me how cool it was "that a kid from Sandwich, MA can represent like that".  I'd agree.

Chapeau meute de Keough!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cat in the Hat

This is an Olympic year.  The games start July 27th in London  My mother was British and I lived in England for most of my early childhood so naturally I have strong associations with the country.

I heard London has hosted more Games than any other country.  I didn't know that but it doesn't surprise me. The backdrop for Chariots of Fire was around the 1924 games in London and that was a long time ago.  I liked the movie, being a true story -n- all.  There was palpable power in Scotsman Eric Liddells' comment "When I run I feel his pleasure".  It was categorical and his essence.  I don't compete for God like that but hearing him say it like that, right there, was moving.  He fought with courage.

I have several friends of Scottish descent and have competed against them too and it's always a full frontal assault and pure to the finish.  Brave stock here, lets leave it at that.  If you doubt just ask the Romans.

The last Summer Olympics I watched were the 2004 games. We were staying at The Admiral Inn in Saco, ME for a race weekend.  It poured rain the whole time so we watched a lot of Olympic coverage in our room.  I remember the women's lifting.  A girl from Poland won. She was a cool, bright pink hair in pigtails wearing rainbow striped knee socks, a power suit, thighs caked in white chalk and massive lifting belt giving her a herculean posture.  I think she put like 380lbs over her head.  We sat there mouths wide open.

I don't lift anymore.  The benefits don't last or transfer to the bike for me.  Plus I always get sick sharing equipment with sick Fred's walking around w/ pneumonia.  I grew up as a track&field and footballer so I lived on lifting.  It was my oxygen.  But now it's nothing more than something I like to watch other people with pigtails and Cat in the Hat knee socks do.