Dec 23, 2010

Can I count that high?

I have reached an age in my life that people around me are having babies, again. Several years ago I was having children so was everyone around me. Now, my kids are having kids and many of our younger friends are starting families.

While nothing about this is unusual, its natural actually, most of the births or the early stages of the baby's life were. Either the mother had great difficulty giving birth, or the baby was premature, or there were other complications. Even worse, some of the complications remain unresolved and may have some long-term ramifications. 

These reoccurring situations, and this time of year, force me step back and examine my life. My life is good, not without some ups and downs, but good. My kids are healthy. My wife loves me. Even though Braxton's birth was difficult, he is a happy healthy baby and his mommy is doing fine. 


What I find is that my blessings are many; so many that I couldn't count them all if I tried. 

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope everyone who reads this can look at your life and lose count as well. 


Dec 17, 2010

Party time!

Its a busy weekend for us. After work today we had my office party, a dance performance to watch, and a birthday bash for a mutual friend.

Tomorrow is a 12 hour shift followed by another performance and roller derby.

Roller derby? Yes, a friend's wife plays (rolls?) for a local team. Should be a hoot.

Dec 10, 2010

Testing, testing

I am done with phase two of a three phase testing block and all I can say is "Damn, that hurts."

Yesterday was some short 3 mile TT efforts.After the heavy lifting earlier this week (Thanks to an informal competition with Devin) my legs were heavy and sore. Needless to say, the numbers I generated were not stellar.

Tonight there were several sprint efforts. A five minute sprint and three two-minute sprints. There turned out much better. While still not anything very special, these tests turned out pretty good. Good enough that I was cross-eyed at the end of the intervals. That'll do. 

I have to work tomorrow so the next test will be Sunday. Its the biggie, the 20minute TT test. It is guaranteed to a load of laughs. 

Speaking of lifting weights, it feels good to be back in the gym. The friendly competition with Devin has kicked things in gear, so my goals should come a bit quicker. Now the only question is whether it will pay off when the rubber hits the trail in the spring. 

Dec 5, 2010

Its a learning curve

I did some consultations with someone with some coaching experience last week and have been hopefully pointed a little more accurately toward success in 2011. Over the weekend I did a couple workouts based on those consultations and I must say I am intrigued and encouraged. Maybe sometime I can actually shell out the bucks for an actual coach. 

One of the things I really like about training, whether in the gym on the mat or on a bike, is that there is always something you can learn. Whether its some subtle change in efficiency through improved position or form or discovering how your body responds to a new stimulus, its always a learning experience.

I don't have a lot of natural physical ability so most of my gains come slowly from hard work over long periods of time - with lots of thinking and planning. With that in mind, I am really looking forward to getting a little new information and finding out what I can make happen with it. 

Nov 16, 2010

Oct 27, 2010

It may be a little early but...

Looking back over my 2010 season I realized that I met all the goals I set for myself, even surpassing a few. While it wasn't a perfect year, it was pretty darned good. My goals were modest - hang on during our weekly group rides, podium in a Psycowpath race, and have a marked increase in measurable performance on some know rides/loops. Modest or not, they were goals I set and worked hard to meet.

November 1st is looming so its time to start laying out some goals for the 2011 season. With the upgrade to Cat 2 on the mountain bike, shooting for at least one podium for the year sounds reasonable.

A Cat 4 upgrade on the road is another goal, even though I could actually do it now. I really don't want to though until I could actually race with a Cat 4 group, not just watch them disappear down the road. And, I really want to focus nearly 100% on MTB and CX events so that may be one of those "it'd be nice but..." goals.

On the upgrade front once again, a CX upgrade from 4 to 3 would also be nice. Since I am a total noob to CX this might be a lofty one but I think I'll keep that one on the list. Maybe I should narrow it a bit and shoot for top 10 in two CX races.

I'd also like to do at least one major race in 2011 whether its the Dakota 5-O, or some other large race outside of the immediate area. A top 10 finish would be nice; a "not last" finish would be cool too.

How to accomplish this? Fitness and skills practice.

Once a week skills practice - mountain specific until fall then cross practice.

Return to the gym. I actually have started this one. The plan is to work up to two rounds of a deadlift/squat workout with a specific percentage (100+%) of my bodyweight.

VO2 work. I purposely neglected this in 2010, largely because doing it wrong does more damage than good. I need to study up a bit so I can make a go of it.

Wait - one more goal. Probably the hardest one but the most important. one. I can do all this stuff but if it ruins my home life its worthless. I have a hard time with divided attention but I have to learn that when I am riding I am a cyclist, when I am home I am a family man. Sounds easy right? Easy or not, it is goal #1.

Sep 25, 2010

And now its over

Well dang. The last Psycowpath race of the season has just been canceled. For all practical purposes my 2010 season is done.

Its been an outstanding year: much better than I reasonably expected.

I think I'll go upgrade my MTB license now. Hello Cat 2.


Sep 12, 2010

The past has passed

After Saturday's Psycowpath Capital City Challenge at Branched Oak Lake I sent out this tweet:

All old MTB demons exorcised. Good day - 2nd place. Jerry Hoff 1st.
 via TweetDeck 

It pretty much tells the story of the race. It WAS a good day - great people, great weather, twisty Nebraska singletrack, and a successful race. I hope one of these days I can actually beat Jerry. I was closer here than I have been but I still have some skills to work on. He still kicks my ass in the corners. I can out-power him but he gains it back plus some more in each turn.

There was another message in that Tweet. I think Troy Krause would get it, maybe some others. Two years ago I crashed in this race. I was trying to keep from being passed into last place, washed out in what is now referred to as "Jon Downey corner" and messed up my right shoulder. "Messed up" meaning dislocation, torn labrum, fractured glenoid, and torn bicep tendon. That was a bad day.

I really didn't think about the whole thing until I started pre-riding the course Friday afternoon. And, because I was so geeked out about it, I crashed, on my right shoulder. Damn.

"Well crap, is this the way its going to be?" I asked myself. No, dammit. HTFU already.

It took a bit to loosen up again. Then Paragon-buddy William Prann showed up and we rode a while together. Before I knew it I was loose, going fast, and having fun.

Its been a long road to get here - "here" being able to have fun riding with some ability. It wouldn't have happened without some really great support from my family and friends. And my wife. She doesn't get the whole racing thing because its just not in her to be competitive but she tries and she loves me. God only knows why.

Thank you, Love Bunny, for supporting me while I beat down the ghosts of failures past.

Aug 29, 2010

2010 Maskenthine XC Classic

The highlight of my cycling summer was yesterday - the Maskenthine XC Classic. Its a big deal for me - I was one of the original designers of the trail and to have a successful event on it is quite special. Its also cool to see all these folks come together to maintain the trail and make the race special. And this year was even better as I could finally race at our club's event.

After some pretty good success this year I was really looking forward to this race. I have a first, two seconds, a third, and a DNF so far this year and I was hungry for a win. If I didn't win, I wanted my team mate Jerry Hoff to win with me second. Jerry, like I have said here before, is a good guy who works hard. He is very modest about his abilities so its easy to be happy for him when he wins - even when he beats me.

The event itself couldn't have gone smoother. We had plenty of volunteers, plenty of riders, and nearly perfect weather.

Now, onto the race. Darrel Webb lined us up and started the 35+ and 45+ together. I honestly thought it would not work as well as it did but as it worked out some of the 35+ guys turned into good rabbits during the race. Dennis O'meara again tried to get the holeshot but Jerry and I stuck on his wheel. I felt good so I went for it getting into the singletrack first.

With Jerry right on my tail we dove into the first lap. We picked off some of the marathon riders who started two minutes ahead. Then we passed some riders in Cat 3, some were 35+ guys and some of the open class Cat 3 riders who were a minute ahead.

The problem is that Jerry is just *that* much faster than I am through the corners so he doesn't have to work as hard as I do. As we got about 3/4 through the lap he was getting itchy through the corners and tried to take me. I managed to keep him behind me and kicked up my pace.

When we got into the prairie section we caught up to teammate John Spray and passed him. Jerry saw his opening and took both of us. With John behind and pushing me I kept Jerry in sight until I made a stupid mistake. Through the technical section I hit a pedal on a log in an uphill section and lost my pedal. I had to dismount and run up the hill and do my best cyclocross remount to get going. The damage was done though and Jerry was 20+ seconds ahead of me.

And that is how it finished. Jerry was first and about 25 second ahead. John thankfully pushed me hard through the last couple of climbs when we were trading places with 14-year-old Micah Holmes. Speaking of Micah - he and his brother Jesse are ones to watch in the next few years. Those boys are tough.

Looking at the results from the rest of the day helped me make a decision, and do something I have really wanted to do. If I can schedule any more races this year they'll be as a Category 3 rider, but I'll be a Cat 2 in 2011. Jerry and I would have placed 2nd and 3rd in the Cat 2 race this year so its time.

I have some work to do - I need to focus on threshold efforts for next year and really hammer the handling skills.

But its time to start looking at cyclocross. I was pretty resigned with the fact that I was not going to be able to get a bike this year so CX might be out. But, Nick Cleveland offered to let me race on a Gary Fisher Presidio this fall - SWEET! So, full steam ahead and bring on the mud.

Jun 21, 2010

Ponca Avenged

Saturday morning Jerry Hoff and I drove to Ponca for the 2010 Ponca's Revenge Psycowpath race. Jerry, for those who don't know, is a stellar motocross racer since the mid-1970's and a lifetime athlete. He is a super nice guy as well.

Early this year I had no plans on riding this race, partly because I didn't plan on racing as much as I have been and partly because Ponca kicked by ass so badly the last time I raced there in 2008 its been a giant mental block. A huge, demoralizing monolith. But after having a bit of success this year I decided to give it a go.

Jerry and I rolled in right on schedule, got registered, and rolled a good warm-up lap. A last minute flat (stupid dried up sealant) was fixed in time to roll to the line and get sent off. I have some sort of phobia about being in front so I let Jerry go ahead and followed him into the singletrack.

We quickly made a gap on most of our field and started picking off riders who were dropping back off the groups that started before us. Up the first big climb my legs were really pumping up and by the time we got to the top I was maxed out.

Some traffic at the top forced me off the bike and on foot. I managed to get some oxygen back to my brain just in time to see Jerry disappear around a corner. That was the last I saw of him.I tried to catch him but never could get a bead on him and finally just rode hard so I could hold onto second place. He built a good gap on me as I did on the riders behind us.

It was great riding well and finishing well. I managed to nip Jerry at the line the last race but he was clearly stronger this day. It was also very cool to have EVCC take the top two spots in the race, and to have Dan and Clayton also podium in their races.

What to do different? Not much in the way of fitness other than really train the climbing. The rest is coming along nicely and is head and shoulders above any past efforts. Tactically I need to get over the fear of leading and just go for it.

Most importantly, I am no longer a slave to the fear of a park. Ponca doesn't own me anymore.

Onward and upward.

May 28, 2010

What I have learned in 2010

Its almost June, so 2010 is starting to show some age. Sort of like me, I guess. I always figure time isn't wasted if you learned something - did I learn anything this year? Some...

My recovery well has a finite depth. But each time I dredge the bottom, it gets a little deeper.
My kids are going to grow up, whether I pay attention or not.
I have no business riding in the front on a group ride. Ever.
Grandchildren, even unborn ones, change your life forever.
Some people have too much power.
Most people who have ANY power have no idea how to use it. Or care.
Whenever you think things are going good and you're smart, life is going to change.

People respond to the smallest of changes. Good and bad.
My manners really suck lately.
If I am riding alongside Devin, its because he is going slow.
The word "cancer" scares the hell out of me.
I like going to bike races, mostly because of the people who also like going to bike races.
I have to remember that even though some things in my job are routine to me, they are life-changing, or ending, events for others. Generally if I'm there, someone is having a bad day.
I wish my body had the ability my mind desires.
I wish I had the intestinal fortitude to make my body do what my mind desires.
I am not always right. Even if I was right, I may be the only one who needs to know.
The dog can pee pretty much anywhere he wants, as long as he keeps acting that happy to see me every time I come home.
Dogs have  no concept of time.

If you rely on most people to do the right thing, you're going to be disappointed.
Just because I didn't answer the phone doesn't mean your call isn't important to me.
I have picked up a great set of friends. Its a short list, but an important list.

Most importantly the last one:

Just like your teeth, ignore your wife and she'll go away.


May 2, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

Let me preface this by saying that I AM talking about a Cat 3 45+ mountain bike race, so in the grand scheme of things, the subject of this post is really not that important. Ok, that was the disclaimer, now on to the post.

After years of struggling, self-doubt, crashing, half-assing, and generally wussing I out; I finally decided to HTFU and give this bike racing thing my all. Either I was going to be a racer or not, once and for all.

Since last fall I have carefully planned by workouts, diet, etc working toward yesterday. I was very concerned all winter that no matter what I did there just was no potential there and that when May 1 rolled around I'd be right back there at race's end dangling off the back.

Then the first outdoor group ride rolled around and I hung in there with the group when I would have normally gotten dropped. Maybe the training helped I thought, but its too early to tell.

Then I hit up the crit at Pioneer Park, part of the le Tour de Husker. Aside from a clipping in issue, I had a great race. I was starting to have a bit of hope.

I settled into what I have determined to be a decent routine earlier this week as far as food, rest, etc and got prepared for the Psycowpath race at Swanson that I determined was going to be my litmus test. I was able to fight off the crippling fear and doubt that usually comes with an event like this, and left the house race-morning feeling good and - dare I say? - ready.

I got a good warm-up, chatted, and eventually found myself on the start line. Ok, here I am. Now what?

After an unexpected starting procedure, I found myself picking through a glut of riders trying to get a good place going into what I knew was going to be a crowded singletrack. Teammate Jerry Hoff and I were riding together and started picking off a few slower riders and decided we were the leaders in our age group.

We worked up to a group of riders and were trying to get around them when one of them crashed in a choke point, I tried to go around but hit some loose logs and went down. I lost a couple places but managed to get rolling again and back on pace. I eventually worked my way past all the riders who went by when I crashed and caught Jerry right at the finish line and, well dammit, I won.

I was in the top 15 or so of all the cat 3 combined riders with a competitive finish time. I know I can do better and am very excited that I wasn't red-lining the entire time either mentally or physically. It truly was a good race for me. It was what it should be - fun. And, my plan had worked, which was quite satisfying.

So, am I a bike racer? Yeah, I suppose I am. Do I have designs on bumping up a category in road and MTB? Yes. Several guys have said that it looks like I have the potential but that I should wait and get some more races in me first.

Yeah, I can do that.

Apr 18, 2010

Well, Heck, At least it didn't suck

As part of my last hard training block for the Swanson Psycowpath, I decided to take on the le Tour de Husker crit. My riding has been pretty top-drawer lately, so I felt pretty good going in, even with the usual nagging self-doubts.

I had a plan and stuck to it with regard to pre-race prep and warm-up, and my bride was helpful in keeping my nerves under control. I went out for a last minute recon of the course and rolled to the line. Right before the whistle blew, I was in my zone and ready.

Whistle! Rolling... where the hell is my pedal? Damn! Finally clipped in and ended up DFL going into the first corner. Damn! Chased and rolled past a few, then fell into a group who would tow me across the backside of the course while I dropped them up the big hill before the finish. Imagine that - me dropping other riders on a hill!

The leaders were never in sight again but my group was never lapped. I don't know how close to getting lapped we were, or if we were close to being lapped.

Then I made my other giant mistake - I knew I could out-climb the other riders in my group and was feeling overconfident. Rather than waiting and biding my time up the hill and dropping them when they gassed out I went way way too early and ran out of steam, losing a place in the process. So, instead of leading my group in I was second in my group.

I ended up 13th, in a total field of 23 - 18 men and 5 women. Nothing to cheer about but considering the last crit I raced I was lapped multiple times by the entire field I am pleased. I can't help but think that if I had gotten a decent start I would have been at least in the top 10, but who knows.

Bottom line: Horrible start, rode hard, finished ok. No urge to quit, and pushed myself to my limit the entire race. Swanson should be fun.

Mar 1, 2010

One down, one to go

The first seriously hard training week of the year is done and I feel pretty darn good about it. I met all my goals, came away a little sore and tired, and am ready to hit it again tomorrow for hard week numero dos before a rest week.

I am going to find out whether I can be competitive once and for all. The Paragon   is as good as anything else out there, and I have good places to ride and riders to ride with, so the only thing left is me. I am getting anxious to hit the road or trail and get my fitness barometer calibrated.

The Psycowpath race at Swanson in May is coming up quick - only two months!

Feb 21, 2010

The Belt

Why on earth would I post a picture of my belt? Or any belt for that matter? Funny you should ask.

I have had this belt since about 1998. I wear it almost every day, and usually for work. During the day, I not only holds up my pants but my work gear - gun, handcuffs, and badge. At one time I had a pager clipped to it, which really ages not only the belt but me as well. After that I clipped my cell phone to it, until I heard that cell phones aren't a fashion accessory and I started carrying it in my pocket.

As interesting as that all is its not the point of the story.  Take a look at the holes. There are six when there should only be five. When I bought the thing I would have used the middle holes, a bigger one when I was at work because of all the junk I have to carry.

Then in 1999 I got divorced. Anyone who has been through that horrific experience knows what I mean when I say that I went on the "divorce diet." Weight loss during this time necessitated me punching the sixth hole at work one day to keep  my pants up.

Along came Kandy and I got remarried. Now, she is a good cook and I like to eat. Slowly, I crept back up to the middle holes, eventually into some of the holes on the other end, as my weight climbed to new heights. The peak was in 2005 - 233. Yuck. Couldn't tie my shoes. Looked like a tank. Gross.

So I started dieting. Or, as some insist, changing my lifestyle. The weight came off, slowly.

Yesterday, I got dressed in the morning and needed to use the hole I punched in 1999 to hold up my pants.

And I am still married, with no divorce diet in sight. Kandy is still a good cook who takes good care of me but she just has a little less to take care of now. For the first time in a very long time, I looked down and there was not belly sticking out, and I could see my belt, without sucking anything in.

Life is good.

Feb 9, 2010

Go Away

I was fine coming back to Nebraska.

After being in Florida over the weekend I had re-energized and was ready for the last few weeks of winter. I had seen green grass, palm trees, and felt chilly at 50 degrees. In shorts and a t-shirt. I was even fine looking out this morning to a bit more new snow.

Then, as I was walking down the driveway to help Kristin get her car thawed out, I biffed it. Hard.

Snow - go away. Ice - go away. I am tired of you. I don't even care (much) that I can't go outside to ride, or whatever, I just want you to go. Torment someone else now, you have had your fun with me. Its time to let me up.

Jan 20, 2010

Easing off the gas

I have been steadily ramping up my workouts since early December with longer and harder sessions. During this entire time I have kept an eye on my recovery waiting for the signs of  fatigue. I was curious how long I could continue the steady increases before I had to back it off.

I noticed earlier this week I wasn't looking forward to certain aspects of my routine so I knew it was coming. Today, after a moderately-paced spin class, I can feel the fatigue in my legs and hips. They are sore and tired and generally achy. Looking back over the last 5-7 days, I haven't been able to sleep very good and my neck and shoulders have been all bunched up.

Guess its time for an easy finish to the week.

Jan 15, 2010

Mid-January Report

Its January 15, time for an update I suppose.

My fitness seems to be coming along nicely. I am trying to contain my workout intensity which, depending on the day, has been interesting. Extended periods in zone 3 are getting easier, but my energy level is fluctuating and my recovery is starting to suffer a little. I think both of those are products of the weight loss program I'm following, so I am not too worried about it.

Besides, its January. I don't expect to be at a peak  now. I am just now starting some muscular endurance workouts - low cadence grinding - to start working on some (any) climbing ability. I threw in some power work at the end of Sunday's long workout and was surprised at the outcome. I plan to work on the power sparingly but intensely, to build it but not burn out on it.

Back when I was lifting heavy, the best lifts I had were the ones I never failed on. Some lifts I could never seem to break through on because I would go too heavy too fast and either crash in a failed lift or hurt myself. The ones that I could work hard and not fail on kept improving. The logic is that if I keep building strength on the bike in small increments there won't be a limit to it. I know, wishful thinking but cycling has a large mental aspect to it right?

My weight was 195 this morning, the lightest I have been for quite some time. I had one anomaly day in in 2009 that I was 204 but besides that 196 was my lowest since the turn of the century. I am determined to see 190 so I can start a maintenance diet.

It is interesting that I have been laboring under the assumption that I had to have a full tank (stomach) to get through a workout. With this diet I have been purposely operating on less food, and a less-full tank. Surprisingly, I haven't died, which was always my fear. It has something to do with the old farm-boy "better-eat-all-you-can-now-because-who-knows-when-you-may-eat-again" thought process. Since changing that I feel better longer and earlier in the workout.

So, what started out to be a short blurb turned into a rambling post. Sorry.