Payback

tuna steak baby kale aioli

The last week of training has been pretty intense with my family away on vacation and only work and eating to get in the way:

Last Sunday, 4 1/2 hours, 130 km on the bike.

Monday, rollerskiing technique and core strength.

Tuesday, 38 km on the bike with 30 minutes of speed.

Wednesday, rollerskiing specific strength (4 each double pole, no pole, single stick and V2).

Thursday, rollerskiing drills (ride the glide, skate hops, starts).

Friday, core strength circuit.

Saturday AM, 2 hrs 15 rollerski with no-pole skating, speeds and power 10’s.

Saturday PM, 40km on the bike, caught in torrential rain and thunderstorms.

Tonight I paid it all back with a seared tuna steak on baby kale with aioli.  I normally like to make aioli from scratch, but didn’t have the energy, so I pumped up some regular mayonaise with mustard, garlic cloves and lemon juice.

 

Olympics: Men’s Road Race

vinokourov olympic road race london 2012

Photo: © Rob Jones

I can’t decide how I feel about Vinokourov winning the Olympic Road Race.  Obviously, there’s the whole blood doping thing and the two year suspension he served.  He wasn’t the only guy out there with a dirty record.  I hope he at least did it clean.

Then there’s the way Vino won it.  He was the ony rider from a 20-something breakaway group to cover the move by Rigoberto Uran.  He seized his moment when Uran took a loooong look back at the chase group.  (I’m sure Uran will replay that moment for years to come.)  Vino was two bike lengths ahead before Uran knew what hit him.

There’s the comeback. After crashing out of the Tour de France last year with a broken femur, he retired from the sport, then came back for one more season.  There’s the age.  At nearly 39, he was one of the oldest riders in the race, riding perhaps his final professional race.  What a way to end a career.

Then there’s how Vino brought an end to my cycling career.  Oddly enough, he was on the same French cycling team, E. C. St. Etienne-Loire,  I was supposed to have a contract with for the 1997 season.  At the last moment, Vino insisted on bringing along another rider who took the final spot for foreign riders.  (In France there was a limit on the number of non-French riders allowed on a national-level team.)  That would have been my spot.  The rider quit and went home half-way through the season.  I guess I could have tried to comeback for that spot.  But I didn’t; I had already retired.

And then, of course, there’s still the doping.

 

Refueling

grilled ribeye steak kale with beer and mustard

I burned a lot of calories today and was craving a steak.  I don’t eat a lot of red meat so it’s a rare indulgence to go for it and today, after 130km on the bike, it felt well deserved.

Dinner:

Ribeye steak, prepared following Anthony Bourdain’s guidance:

“It’s basic cooking. Open flame, piece of meat, etc. I’m not a big fan of dressing up my steaks when grilling — a little salt and pepper after it’s been cooked and sliced will do — and nothing hurts me more than seeing a good steak turned into leather. Rare or medium rare, let it rest for ten minutes to redistribute the juices and finish cooking.”

Roasted banana peppers from the garden.

Dinosaur kale (to make up for the beef) braised with beer, mustard and garlic, garnished with roasted pine nuts.

My Tour Finale

wiggo wins 2012 tour de france

Instead of sitting on the couch and watching the Tour finale on live TV, I went out for a long ride instead.  I had been jonesing for some distance on the bike for some time.  For a long, slow ride in good weather, where I could take my time and go for as long as I wanted.  Finally, it all came together this morning.

My longest ride of the year so far has been a little over 90km, albeit with a race involved.  Last year was about the same.  I can tell you that racing competively with low miles doesn’t work for me.  So I wasn’t sure how today would go, especially with a target of 4 hrs and 130km. I was tired from a two and half hour rollerski the day before.  So my plan was to go slow and keep my heart rate low.  I rolled out slowly beneath cloudless blue skies.  Low humidity, temps in the 80’s.  I was hoping I’d feel better at the end of the ride than the beginning.

After the first hour, I started to find some energy.  I was eating and drinking frequently, nursing a Cliff bar and a couple bottles of Cytomax.  I was riding roads that were unfamiliar to me, lots of them with “Hill” in their name.  They were the classic New England country roads that I love.  Rising and falling, gently curving through orchards, conservation lands, neighborhoods, and antique town centers.  All with very little traffic on a  summer Sunday morning.

Continue reading

Tour de France: week 3

tour de france 2012 nbc screeshot

Well, I’ve made it this far and I’m exhausted. Feels like at least a year since Liege.  The frenetic crashfest of the opening week. The abandons.  The revelation of Sagan. The certitude of Wiggo. Cadel cracking. Van Garderen coming of age.  Nibbles waiting for just the right moment.

I made it over the Alps and to the second rest day, but it wasn’t easy.   There were a few days I didn’t think I would survive.  There were times when I followed the parcours in a stupor, drifting in and out of consciousness, waking up on my couch with the stage over and Tivo asking me if I wanted to keep it or delete it.  Four or five hours of live coverage a day.  Constant updates on iPhone apps.  And many miles still to go.

The third week is the hardest.  “Lots of tired boys at the Tour this week,” Lars Michaelson told me at Superweek one July.  We were on a rest day, alternating between 100km criteriums and 200km road races.  We were tired too, but nothing like the Tour.  You can see it in the peleton’s posture.  Not everybody is so tired or relaxed.  Some men get stronger as the race progresses.  They are the opportunists, the men looking to secure a contract for next year or to redeem the Tour for their team.  That’s how you get a 30 person escape that gain 10 or 15 minutes advantage.  Not even the sprinters’ trains have the gumption to pull it all back together and the g.c. boys are content to let it go, rest while they can.

The race seems over at this point.  The time gaps are substantial.  They’re racing for scraps.  But there’s still the balance of the week to go.  I may still make it all the way to Paris.

Optimism

BAA Half Marathon 2012 entry

Success!

Despite what friends, family and co-workers might say, I am an optimist because I dropped $65 to enter the BAA Half-Marathon today.  The race isn’t until October.  I’m confident that my plantar fasciitis will be resolved by then.  Sooner, so that I can actually train for it.  And that I won’t create any other problems.

The race filled up within a matter of hours this year.  I am lucky to have gotten in.

Superhot Intervals

wild horses

I squeezed in an interval workout on my ride home from work.  It was super hot leaving the office, like somebody left the oven door open.  At least on the bike you create a bit of a breeze…unless you’re stopped at a traffic light.  With temps in the 90’s and high humidity, it was going to be an interesting workout.

The workout was 3 x 10 minutes at threshold.  If I were following the ski program religiously (I’m not since I’m trying to heal this foot spur) I would have done this as a running workout, followed by a nice swim in Walden Pond.  Instead, I was doing it on the bike and I haven’t done many on-the-bike workouts at this intensity level.  While my engine (cardio) has improved over the past few months, the transmission (cycling-specific leg strength) still need some tuning.   I expected to be riding in the low 170’s but could only sustain mid-high 160’s.  I’m always amazed by how dynamic cycling is relative to running or even nordic, where the output can be more measured and the swings are less dramatic.  It much easier to fall behind or get in too deep on the bike, even with all the years of experience I have.

For example, I hit a hill a few minutes into my second interval.  My legs balooned full of lactic acid.  I could barely turn over the gear.  My heart rate jumped up to 175 and my whole system was shutting down.  Yeah, I’m a bit out of practice with this end of the business.  But I’ve made some good progress in accessing the upper end of my heart rate range while running so I believe I can do the same on the bike. Given some more time.

Continue reading

Pissing At The Back

natural break pissing off the bike

The natural break. Le besoin natural. Face it. Pro bike races are long. At one point or another you’re going to have to stop and pee. One of the most important skills for a cyclist is the ability to do so without having to stop. If you look closely at the Tour de France coverage, you might see something like what’s pictured above. In this example, Amaël Moinard of the BMC team is taking a short respite at the back of the field. If the pace is slow enough, a mass of riders will all stop on the side of the road, then ride back en masse.

I’ve perfected this technique over the years, though I don’t have much use for it these days since I no longer to such long races. When I practice on training rides, it must be unsettling for a driver coming around a corner to see a guy on a bike skewed to one side. What? Is his water bottle leaking or something? I’m long gone before they’ve figured out what was happening. I have to be extra careful now. Apparently getting pinched for public urination (indecent exposure) will put you in the CORI database.

There have been a few times over the years where I’ve had problems with this method.

Continue reading

Corporate Challenge 2012

JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge 2012

In 2008, succumbing to peer pressure, I joined colleagues in running the Corporate Challenge.  I had no idea what to expect.  It had been at least 20 years since I had done a running race.  There were 12,000 entrants.  I couldn’t even see the starting line from several hundred places back, crammed among the sweaty, smelly human mass.  But I ran like hell, dodging and weaving among slower runners, hopping curves, bumping elbows.  Since then, this race has been a thrill for me.

I run this race every year and I’ve run a personal record every time.  Except for this year, where I ran nearly a minute slower than 2011.  It wasn’t the conditions.  Temps were in the low 80’s with little humidity and a nice breeze.  But I had been really tired in the lead up to the race and my left foot heel spur/plantar fasciitis still hadn’t settled down.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to do the race until I got to the Boston Common and started warming up.  I brought my heart rate up slowly.  I did some efforts to start the lactic acid buffering.  But this race is complicated due to the size of the field.  I had to wait 10 minutes in line for the bathroom.  Had to work my way up through thousands of people to the second or third row.  Had to stand around for another 10 or 15 minutes to through all the intros, proceedings and ceremonies.  I had pretty much cooled down by the time the horn went off.

Continue reading

Something Different

rock climbing top rope new hampshire

For a change of pace from my normal training routine, I took the weekend in Vermont with some friends and our kids.  We ran.  We hiked.  We swam in icy pools formed by waterfalls. We climbed, too.  It had been about 10 years since the last time I went rock climbing — and that was at an indoor gym.  I vaguely remembered all the terms and techniques.  Belay. Figure-8 knots. Three-point contact.  Once on the rock, it came back quickly.

In general, I’m a bit afraid of heights.  The anxiety comes not so much from the height, but from the runaway, on-the-fly, causality-and-consequence analyses conducted by my brain. I feel it on bridges.  I feel it on extensions ladders.  I feel it on the tops of mountain passes when I look down, way down to the valleys below.

So I try to confront it.

At the top the of climb, some 60 feet in the air, I forced myself to look down, felt my stomach drop and went cold and clammy with fear.  I had trust in my belayer.  I had trust in the top rope and double-anchor system…  Come to think of it, the rope did look a little frayed.  How old was it, anyway?  I couldn’t help wondering how long it would take to hit the ground if the rope were to give.  Or how the embrace of the earth would feel at the terminus.

The thrill of the repel down erased it all and the adrenalin lasted the long car ride home.