Rituals: Coffee

coffee guatemala antigua royal gorge french press

Every morning is pretty much the same for me: Get up. Make coffee. Live.

Sometimes when I go to bed a night, I fondly ponder that first cup the following morning. I tell myself I can stop any time. But I don’t. I’ve cut down or increased volume, intensity and frequency at various times. I’ve tried doing workouts before coffee but I never feel quite right the rest of the day. Yet, I’ve been unable to workout right after coffee since I spend more time stopping to piss than exercising.

Back when I was a full-time bike racer there was always the mad rush to find that last minute jolt of coffee before heading to the start line. One teammate used to travel with a bullet thermos full of espresso for just such circumstances. As a result, I became expert in two things: preparing espresso on the road, usually with a bialetti, and taking a last minute leak on the start line. Not literally. Sometimes I was a few rows back.

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The Fleet: Cyfac Starship

cyfac starship campagnolo record

I think it’s funny when you reach the point where you have to refer to your equipment as a “fleet” because you have so much of it. My collection of bicycles is much smaller and less specialized than it used to be, but it is still a sizable group. The top performer is my current racing bike: a Cyfac Starship.

Nine years ago when I put this bike together it was state-of-the-art.  Now, it’s practically an antique:

  • Proprietary Columbus thin wall aluminum main tubes
  • Full carbon fiber fork and steerer
  • Carbon fiber rear triangle
  • Campagnolo Record 10 speed
  • Campagnolo Neutron wheels

These days pro bikes are full-carbon and will cost upwards of $7,000 to get the relative equivalent of what I’m riding now.  Continue reading

Problem Solved

trail running race lincoln mass st. anne-in-the-fields

There are races I like to do every year and sometimes they conflict with each other. Most recently, I was faced with a dilemma between the Newton 10k and the Lincoln Steeplechase, both on June 10.

The Newton 10k is my local race. It’s less than a mile from my house and the course is one of my training routes.

The Lincoln Steeplechase is an old-school 6.7 mile run through the woods and fields around a church that I race with members of my nordic ski team.

The solution was simple: do both. Newton is first thing in the morning. Lincoln is at 2 in the afternoon. There’s almost enough time to recover between them. But it’s unlikely I’ll be able to race both of them.

Rituals: Balming The Bag

bag balm chamois cream saddle sores

For me, a ritual is any habit or activity that has been repeated long enough or often enough that it takes on a mystical quality and may defy reasonable explanation.

Cycling, like many high-risk professions (ironwork, saturation diving, child rearing) is not without its occupational hazards.

There are the obvious ones: crashing, getting hit by a car, overuse injury. But then there’s what goes on down there.

Given that your primary point of contact — and the one that bears the most weight — is the saddle of the bike, it is inevitable that a cyclist will eventually encounter some or all of the following:

Ercolina Workout

Ercolina nordic ski upper body power

I learned that I should have been doing upper body workouts during the “down” time between the end of the ski season and the start of dryland training (which begins next week!).  It’s not that I’ve been neglecting upper body work.  I’ve continued to do core strength workouts and my pull-ups routine, but they’re not specific enough for the rollerskiing that fills all of the summer and fall.  So I had to get back into.

The above photo is what the business-end of an Ercolina looks like.  The view is as uninspiring as it seems.  The cyclists out there will be more familiar with a home-trainer.  The principles are the same but the seasons are reversed.  This system uses dual magnetic resistance units.  I can crank them up enough to lift myself off the floor, but I don’t use them that way. Continue reading

On The Bike

cycling Massachusetts winding road

I’ve switched up the running to riding ratio so I am spending more time on the bike.  With the warm days and winding roads — like above — it’s been easy to roll along for an hour and a half at a time.  No surprise, the form comes back quickly after riding a few days in a row.  I am having the bonnes sensations, as the French say.  Today I rode 1:30, covering approximately 40km, I guess.  I don’t use an odometer anymore.  I pedaled smoothly, kept my heart rate under control and tried to go easy on the hills.  Once in a while, I turned a big gear on the descents.  Just to get a feel for it again. But mostly, I’m using the bike for recovery from the higher impact, higher peak power, repetitive stresses of nordic and running.  Eventually, I’ll have to get back to bike racing fitness, too. Continue reading

Rituals: Leg Shaving

leg shaving bicycle racer razor badger

On Saturday morning at 10:07, I shaved from my legs the winter’s growth of hair, kitted up, and became a bike racer again.

There are all sorts of explanations for why bike racers shave their legs:

  • Crash wound care:  Abrasions are more easily cleaned without hair holding in the dirt. Hair can also tear the skin out in chunks when dragged across unfriendly tarmac. Frankly, if you’re crashing this much, you’re in the wrong sport. Continue reading

Wellesley 1 Miler

Hannah Randolph memorial

On May 13, 2012, the Wellesley 1 Mile Road Race will honor Hannah Randolph.  The proceeds from the race will benefit the Children’s Hospital Boston and the Hannah Randolph Memorial Fund.

From the site:

Hannah Randolph was a Wellesley High student/athlete and avid track and cross country runner who died earlier this year. The Hannah Randolph Memorial Fund was established as a permanent legacy to Hannah and supports students and causes that share Hannah’s love of athletics, music, and the pursuit of knowledge and friendship.

I’ll be there.  Here’s why.


I’ve Been There

travel quetaltenango guatemala coffee

 Anytime some random city or town (often on NPR) is mentioned, I usually say, “I’ve been there.”  And I’ve usually been there for a bike race. It’s become a running joke with my wife and her friends.  In 25 years of bike racing and other sports, I’ve travelled a lot of places but I am by no means well travelled. It’s just strange how often they overlap.  I have seen some of the world from a bike and, for me, it’s been a far better way to get to know a place than as a tourist or a businessman.

Here are just a few of the places I’ve been for races, in no particular order:

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2012 B.A.A. 5k

BAA B.A.A. 5k 2012

Sunday Morning. April 15th. B.A.A. 5k.  I look down Boylston, all the way to Boston Common, and it is eerily deserted. I’ve made all my preparations.  Up at 5:30 AM, coffee, something to eat, some stretching.  Drive into Boston.  Find a parking spot on Clarendon.  Walk around a bit because I am so early.

Forty-five minutes to go.  Stretches, easy run to warm-up, then some accelerations.  At the start line, I’m surrounded by thousands of other runners. I work my way to the front, past the chubby couple at the 6:00 pace marker, past the runners dressed up as Power Rangers wearing sushi on their heads.

Three rows from the front, I survey the others.  Everybody seems better prepared than me…and probably are. There is singing.  God Bless America.  The Star Spangled Banner.  The quiet calm before the horn.  Then, we’re off.

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