Monday 23 March 2009

Armstrong falls...

Ouch! Well, after having his time trial bike stolen, riding a lot in the rain, colliding with a press motorbike and getting his hairdo ruined for drug tests, what else could go wrong for Lance Armstrong in this, his big comeback year? For someone who led a charmed pro cyclist's life in that he very seldom crashed, it is surprising that this good luck seems to have come to a stop as he crashed today on the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. He was seen clutching his right shoulder by the side of the road after a pile-up and was taken to hospital. If it is a broken collarbone he might be out for a while, and this certainly would interfere with his Giro training plans. Let's hope for the best and see him back on the road soon.

Roller Racing in Ottawa!

West Quebec Wheelers Retro Flyer

Another weekend has passed quickly and still no sign of warmer weather, although Spring is officially here. Suffering from a lousy cold on Friday, I felt much better on Saturday. Not only did I do an hour of spinning at the athletic club and an additional hour of weight training, but I got back on the Ancient but Honourable Bianchi and went out on the Eastern Parkway for some more on-the-road training. Compared to my last ride there this was actually pretty unpleasant as the claimed 6C (42F) was nowhere near that and the wind was gusting at around 30 km/h (18.6 mph). I did manage two circuits but that was quite enough for me and I was happy to at least have an extra hour of training to my credit. In spite of shoe covers (admittedly the lightweight aero versions and not the neoprene Frankenboots), my feet were pretty cold as I pulled into the driveway at the end.

The final missing element in my Official Training Room was obtained when I went to buy some bolts ($3) at a local store to replace the one that broke on Friday as I was riding home, leaving BlackAdder momentarily seatless, and discovered weight training benches on sale for half price. Now I can do the full range of strength training exercises at home, between my chin-up bar, dumbbells, skipping rope, tension bands and Swiss ball. I will no longer be weak and puny, my friends.

On Saturday night I went with my friends Pat and Barry to, of all places, the Candian Legion Hall on Kent Street for Round 3 of the West Quebec Wheelers Roller Races. This is an indoor racing event that pits four sprinters against each other on bikes fixed to rollers. A big clock-like sign shows the standing of each contestant as they spin like mad to get to 500 m. This takes around 23 seconds, so the races are pretty fast.

I think Roller Races began in the UK in the late 1940s to make up for the shortish outdoor season and I first heard about them on "the Bike Show" podcast as the Rapha clothing people are sponsoring these now. It is great fun to watch and nobody was holding back in their pursuit of medals and a very fancy trophy. There was an excellent turnout of noisy fans and we were impressed with the number of participants and the presence of some very high-quality bicycles. 28 cyclists signed up for the 500 m heats, with wide age (and fitness) range. From having only one female contest in Round 1, this Roller Race saw enough women to run two heats of four.

The 500 m races used the fixed version, but for the 1000 m event the racers used their own bikes on rollers without being attached. This looked pretty scary as some of the riders were not used to roller riding but there was a spotter standing next to them to prevent anyone from flying off too far.

In addition to these races, there was a match-up between Warren MacDonald and Michael Nash, who have ridden the 15 km (9.32 miles) OBC time trial in times of 18:32 and 18:39 respectively. My best time was 22:43, so I am happy neither is in my age group or I would be depressed. I only have to beat the guy who is doing it in 19:25. Only.

We drank Legion beer and cheered lustily but left before the final event, which was a 5 km free-for-all challenge. And who says nothing ever happens in Ottawa?

Sunday was cold again but I did 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer before a 90 minute spinning class. There was a stand-in instructor who could yell above the sound of the machines and the music, amazingly. Her program was pretty brutal and by the end of the class the original 16 or so participants had melted down into 5 remaining hardy souls. I was certainly in no condition to go for a training ride afterwards, but with freezing temperatures this was not a very appealing idea anyway.

In the afternoon a very tall person came and bought my old time trial frame and headset. I was delighted to sell it as it was too big for me, and he was having trouble finding a frame big enough for triathlons so we were both happy. He was Austrian in origin so I had the chance to practice my German and even used all those cool technical terms, like "Sattelstutz."

The final great accomplishment for the weekend was to read and review a beautiful new book from Australia on custom bicycles. The review should go on shortly. So riding in to work I felt on top of things today and for a brief time I was able to ignore the fact that the windchill made it feel like -19C (-2F).

Friday 20 March 2009

First Spring Training Ride

Last night the weather was so good in Ottawa that when I came home after work, I hauled the Ancient but Honourable Bianchi out of the basement and strapping on the heart rate monitor I rolled out at just after 6 pm. It was around 7C, which counts as "balmy" here, and it was sunny enough. The first stretch of road leading to the Aviation Parkway has gotten even worse over the winter, if that is possible: it has the worst collection of potholes and bad pavement anywhere in Ottawa, and possibly North America.

After heading north on the Aviation Parkway, I swung up the ramp onto the Eastern Parkway, passing the Aviation Museum where our time trials start. The asphalt is not too bad but after 2-3 kms becomes very good as it was only repaved a year ago. There were a few other cyclists out training but it was pretty quiet.

Here is what my Coach of Cruelty recommended as a 1 hour 15 minute training sequence:

Power Workout--Jumps.

Warmup for ~30 minutes by performing 3 spinups. Warmup is crucial for power workouts to prevent injury.

First spinup: 70 rpm to 110 rpm increasing cadence by 5 rpm each minute.

Second spinup: 70 rpm to 120 rpm increasing cadence by 5 rpm every 30 seconds.

Third spinup: 70 rpm to 130 rpm increasing cadence by 5 rpm every 30 seconds.

Finish rest of 30 minutes of warmup by spinning in easiest gear at 110 rpm.

Jumps: perform 3 sets of 8 jumps recovering 1 minute between jumps and 5 minutes between sets. Each jump is in an easy to moderate gear and consists of 12-15 complete pedal strokes. Half jumps out of the saddle, half in the saddle. Try for smooth, powerful, high cadence efforts. Try to make each jump more intense than the last, by increasing cadence or initial acceleration. If knee pain occurs, less the effort or stop.

Cooldown: spin at 100 rpm, easiest gear for 10 minutes.

The timing was ideal as I finished the cooldown and pulled back into my driveway at exactly 7:15 pm, just as the sun was setting with a spectacular red and purple glow. It was now much cooler, needless to say, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment with my training. When you have days like these, you have to grab them.

The Compleat Tour de Basement (Part 4): Back to Hawaii

Maui Highway
Photo by the tahoe guy, Creative Commons

Last week on Thursday morning it was sooooo bitterly cold on my ride in to work I was a bit depressed. Although the ride is only 5 kms long, I had to stop halfway through and try to warm up my hands. With double gloves I still had no feeling whatsoever anymore in my fingers since I was riding into a brutal north wind. So when I came home (thankfully it was a bit warmer on the way back), I headed downstairs to the Tour de Basement and returned to Hawaii to really warm up.

I recently reviewed the “Strendurance” DVD here. Global Ride offers two more in their Hawaii series. The next of these, “Oceanside Ride,” begins with a series of still photos to allow you to warm up a bit, then followed by a nice steady state ride that takes you cruising along the ocean for about five minutes. The idea behind this is to get properly set up and riding at a regular heart rate.

Maui Sunset/Moonrise
photo by Kaptain Krispy Kreme, Creative Commons

The next segment, called “Local Treasures,” takes you along a broad, nicely-paved road, with a bike lane or at least a wide shoulder, past lots of palm trees and some pretty nice houses on Maui. We are joined by a solitary cyclist who is clearly exerting himself on the hills. There is a live commentary with a spinning instructor that is fun to listen to if you don’t select music and before you know it at 35:28 the last segment, “Sunset Finish” begins. This is really an exceptional sequence, with soft golden light and some marvellous oceanside scenery. A few little hills and the ride ends with a view of the ocean as the sun goes down. Without the entertaining spinning class, you can listen to some nice music: “the Quest for Heavenly Sound Waves” is a nice trance piece that really gets you into the mood, although the refrain of “Our quest is long and tiresome” is not the case here. Wonderful. I liked this last section so much that I actually repeated it three times during my training ride. Well, I had to since the ride ends at just under 42 minutes.

Here is a little commercial that Global Ride has prepared so you can see the program:

After the ride, you can take a break and the switch into the additional 30 minute training sequence. “Oceanside Ride’s” special feature is a half hour of Pilates training. I had never tried Pilates before but I do a lot of core workout stuff in my training program as I am convinced that strengthening the mid-section pays off in climbing on the bike. The instructor offers a pretty straightforward program that looks effective but simple to do. I tried a number of the exercises and will include this workout as part of my regular training as well.

To give you an idea of what Pilates looks like, check this out:

Sure beats freezing on the ride to work!

Global Ride Productions
"Oceanside Ride"
available directly from and other outlets
Price: $29.95 (or a boxed set of three DVDs for $74.99)

Monday 16 March 2009

Winter: The End is Nigh?

Snow Robin
photo by Paul Keleher, Creative Commons

After having ridden every day to work since February 9 and suffered often enough for my folly–I think Thursday morning’s ride was the most painful ever as I lost the feeling in my hands (in spite of doubled gloves) within eight minutes of leaving home. The temperature was a claimed -20C with windchill but since the week before I had ridden in -28C weather and not had too much trouble some weatherperson somewhere was clearly not telling the truth.

Hope springs eternal and on Saturday I disassembled BlackAdder and cleaned everything I could. The big challenge was getting off the studded tire, which seemed to have somehow become welded to the rim with what must be the least flexible bead ever designed. As I was “working” on it, I remembered suddenly how hard it had been to put on in the first place. It required not only my usually infallible Crank Brothers SpeedLever, but three regular plastic tire levers as well to ease the thing off–just as I was considering walking over to the nearby Full Cycle bike shop and begging the mechanics to help me. Face saved, and then I forgot all my trials and tribulations as I realized that the cassette could be actually taken apart into individual cogs for cleaning. Of course, reassembling them in the proper order was another test of my “mechanical” abilities but in the end BlackAdder was back together and looking good, ready for riding with slush and mud and ice for the first time in months.

It was still -3C yesterday and today when I left early to go to the gym for my usual weekend spinning classes but this afternoon the sun shone brightly and I had no choice (in spite of having already put in a 2 hour workout) but to take out the Ancient Yet Honourable Bianchi and enjoy the 9C weather out on the Eastern Parkway. It was a chance to look at the condition of the road for the upcoming time trial seasons. It looks like it has survived winter pretty well and I soon found myself riding with a cyclist named Jean, who was also doing some circuits on his Eclipse bike. We worked well together but heading back towards the Air Museum was hard due to the headwind, which the lying on-line weather report claimed was 5 km/h.

We did two circuits together totalling 36 kms and I enjoyed the fresh air and company very much (Jean rode in the Pyrenees last year, including the Tourmalet and Aubisque climbs). Riding in heavy clothing and on my old steel bike I still managed a top speed of 44 km/h, and an average of 28 km/h, which I am happy to take for March. If this keeps up and the streets are cleared of horrible grit, Dreadnought 2 will make its first outdoor appearance next weekend on a training ride.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Lance Armstrong = Jan Ullrich?

Lance Armstrong
photo by KMC, Creative Commons

I do not appear to be the only cyclist working on losing the pounds prior to the season beginning. Here is my motivational quote of the week:

Lance Armstrong was delighted with Leipheimer’s and the Team’s victory {at the Tour of California}. He was also pleased with his performance, though recognizes that improvements can be made. “I cannot complain about the results and how I feel on the bike, but I still have to work on my bike position. To improve in the mountains, I surely have to lose weight. I am already strong enough, but I need to get lighter.”

Fat Lance Armstrong wants to get to 74 kg--my goal was 75 kg by June, so should I race him to get there before the Giro starts in May?

Sunday 1 March 2009

New Year's Resolutions Progress Report for February

Somehow the first two months of the year have zipped by and it is now March 1. As my monthly ritual of public humiliation, I once more am forced to provide details of how my New Year's Resolutions are being met (or not):

Goal No. 5: Weigh 75 kg by June 1

After the very rapid weight loss I have seen since mid-December, things have slowed down as expected. My current weight is 76.6 kg (168.8 lbs), but the lowest I hit in February was an even 76.0 kg (167.5 lbs). It is very encouraging that I only have just over 1 kg (2.2 lbs) to shed in the next three months so barring any serious backsliding this is looking good.

Goal No. 6: Learn to ski fearlessly around corners and downhills

My cross-country ski classes went well, and the "Help on Hills" course was a big sucess. The next day I went out to Mer Bleue where I discovered that the tracks were very icy and my excellent one-day experience of snowplow turning did not help a whole lot. Since then the weather has not worked out so well, being either brutally cold or rainy, without much nice snow at all.

Goal No. 7: Be able to do 101 pushups in a row, beating Groover

I am up to 35 now, and my chin-up count has reached 12. On track, I think, but how on earth did she do 100?

In terms of rides planning, the North Carolina training camp is organized for April 1-5. Hooray!

The new time trial frame has been built-up and is undergoing final adjustments. This will be a very sweet ride and I feel faster just sitting on it. Look for a detailed report on Dreadnought 2 soon. And the Louis Garneau skinsuit is here so I will look very UCI ProTourish. The first time trial is April 10 but I think it will be too cold for a short-sleeved skinsuit then.

Between having the old time trial bike taken apart and off the trainer, and a minor bout of flu, I have not been able to train much this past week. I had planned to train for 23 hours this month and actually got in 31:30 so nothing to complain about there. In addition, I have been riding BlackAdder to work every day since February 9. There have been some days when it was very hard, like this past Monday and Tuesday when it was around -22C when I left home, but this is definitely earlier than I have managed before.