Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's been happening....

--The days & weeks have somehow clocked by since doing my last race of the 2010 season, the UPCross cyclo-cross Series Championship in mid November. A reasonably good finish to a season where I had no reason to be bummed about much. A better focus and an improved tolerance (or determination) for handling winter training early in the year laid a better foundation along with the cumulative effect of training over last ½ dozen years had to play a role as well. Six overall wins, a nice amount of top 10 finishes and breaking the Chequamegon 40 Top 50 made for this 23 race season to be quite rewarding. Even with untimely sickness & setbacks from time to time (Ore to Shore, Calumet Great Deer Chase & UPCross Championship) I can’t complain.

--I tried to train through December, physically I seemed to be fine but but mentally a break sure was necessary. Once the holidays hit I took a break and actually felt rejuvenated some from what was easily my longest racing season ever. It’s also given me a good amount of time to reflect on things as well. One of my wiser decisions, despite some fanatical enthusiasm from one Charles Farrow, was passing on the Tuscobia 75/150 race in December. Look what it did to that guy…. …sorry Charlie, maybe someday. Perhaps when it’s frozen hard crusty snow, 30 degrees and no wind.

Winter biking isn’t really all that bad once you figure out the right combination to make it possible and bite the bullet of what conditions are rideable and what aren’t. I’ll ride as low as 10 degrees provided there is little or now wind, otherwise it’s gotta be nearly 20 degrees depending on wind that day. Heated booties, good ‘ole chopper mitts, a couple pair of bibs and with enough jerseys & jackets it beats rollers or a trainer any day of the week. I recently added ski goggles to the mix and outside of seeing an orange tinted world it’s really good gear to use. I wish I'd used it in years past.

People will ask why I don’t ski. I do, it’s just a matter of available time and what’s easier to get out & do. Sometimes waxing & prepping for a ride to a local ski trail takes longer than bundling up & jumping out the door for a spin on the bike. A workout is a workout this time of year.

Couple of winter tales & makeshift mechanical work to share later....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter line up....

Ya know it's really not that bad cycling in the winter -- maybe my skin has grown tougher over the past couple seasons of doing it (or perhaps it's nerve damage & I just don't know the difference). Here's a normal selection of attire for a sub 20 degree Fahrenheit ride with a modest amount of wind/windchill.

--Riding boots & heated insoles: It all starts here, if the feet get cold, you're screwed on a ride. I got the Lake brand boots and pair them up with Thermic brand insoles. On the highest settings there's never been a day I haven't been able to make at least a 90minute ride and most of the time 2 hours is a piece o' cake.
--Socks: I stepped it up this year, now it's essentially 3 pair of smart wool socks.

--Good ole leather Chopper mitts with one wool mitten and another polyester thin glove inside that. Beats the best lobster claws & any other way more expensive hand protection I've used so far. Not to mention it's a heck of alot cheaper. I think I got that idea of Schouten (thanks Tristan)

--One set of bib shorts & knee warmers, under a set of full length bibs with some wind protection material.

--one wife beater wicking material tank top, one long sleeve Castelli Jersey, one wool Swobo long sleeve jersey (thank you UPCross!!), one Giordana CTS long sleeve jersey with wind protection, another Giordana CTS long sleeve winter jacket/jersey -- sometimes an inexpensive polyester wind breaker on top of that. Yeah, that's right -- 5, and sometimes 6 layers. I never get cold and the wicking properties manage the perspiration impressively well

--Sorry no helmet -- my odds of crashing & hitting my head are infinitesimally smaller than the 100% chance of freezing my ears & brain for that matter. A polartech Balaclava, a head band, downhill ski googles & sometime a ski cap on top of that. The googles are really good idea before I used to get really aggravated eyes from the cold.

That formula has kept me off the indoor rollers for all but a couple hours this winter and allowed me to knock out 2 & 3 hour rides regularly.

After struggling through December physically & motivationally -- a full week break between Christmas & New Years gave me the rest I needed after a long 2010 season. I've been able to kick things back in gear, incorporating the riding with a weight-training program and I'm surprised how well my body's been responding. I'm feeling consistently strong for even the longest of my training rides. A big struggle I had in years past.

A broken ski pole & some delays in replacements have kept me off the XC trails but there's still plenty of time & snow on the ground to do that when the inspiration calls for it.

As always lot's to talk about and too little time to write. Still good stuff to share about last year and the unknown possibilites of the year to come. In the meantime I'm on baby watch with Kate's due date down to under 3 weeks... a bundle of joy and sleepless nights, a combination package that's well worth it.