Thursday, March 26, 2015

This seems like a repeat

Baseball practice started last week. This seems early. Like, by a couple of weeks. I guess this is how it goes when you get out of little-kid baseball and get closer to big-kid baseball.

Accordingly, things are a little more serious this time around. Like practicing. We've already had one and there's another tomorrow. And probably at least one or two more before games. And maybe even some between games.

Though we certainly knew this was coming, I can't say I'm ready for it. Not only because it's a little more intense than I last year, but because ... well, to be perfectly honest, it's messing up my schedule.

Yeah, that's right. My schedule. I planned on riding earlyish tomorrow morning. A good, solid 3-4 hours and home by lunchtime. We have practice at 10:30 now, which makes that not possible. So now I'll go later — maybe, if I have time. I remember this from last year, but I feel like it's magnified now.

One of the first things I learned when Jack was born was about selfishness. Basically, you can't be selfish anymore. Add another kid and it's magnified. (Actually, I guess you can be selfish, but I've seen first-hand how that goes. Spoiler: Not well.) It's not easy, though, because you want to keep doing the things that you do. Like maybe ... oh, let's say go for bike rides when you want to. Or go out when you want to. Or listen to LOUD MUSIC and whatnot.

But you buck up and be unselfish because that's what good parents do. And I work pretty hard at that.

So the bike will finish second. Or maybe third or fourth. It'll be OK. But it won't make me faster, that's for sure. I suppose I'll manage.

There's no room for selfishness, remember?

Monday, March 23, 2015

A beginning song

For the last couple of years, it's been hard to get a read on things for the first race of the season.

Two years ago I was newly (re)employed and not focused on much except putting food on the table. Last year I felt OK, but didn't ride like it. This year I just did steady, solid stuff all winter and for some reason did a gravel race.

Turns out the gravel was good prep. Though noticeably lacking in anything resembling top-end speed (which is always lacking for me, anyway), I did OK this weekend. I hung in the bunch and ... well, mainly I hung in the bunch. But you can't play if you're not present. So presence will do the trick. And last year I wasn't even present at the end of the first lap. So that'll do.

Of course, the reason a race goes the way it does has a lot to do with who's there and what team dynamics are in place. We have three strong, deep teams in Nebraska this year, and I think it's going to be fun to watch how the season unfolds. We (as in Flatwater) were able to take the win on Saturday, but Harvest took it on Sunday. And Kaos was second both days. It's gonna be like this for a while.

For both races, moves including a rider from each team went up the road and pretty much stayed away. There were little splinter groups that leapt free after that, but the fact that the main move had the right numbers made the pace in the back a lot easier. I know full well that had there been other teams present — or had someone missed a break — that it would have been very, very hard. I'll take this for now.

It's funny how a reasonably positive experience — despite the reasons for it — can make psyched for more. I had a good time this weekend. I love racing with my teammates, and I like the strategic elements of a race.

So that's how it started. And now we go about the business of getting fast.

Friday, March 20, 2015

OK, let's do this

Time to race. Tomorrow's the day. Yeah, I raced already once, but that was kind of a practice sort of deal.

This is for real. How do I know? We got new gear.

Wool jerseys/sweaters from Alchemist, our kit supplier. This isn't a racing jersey, but it's going to awesome for pre- and post-race use. We got some wool socks, too. Pretty nice stuff. We're very fortunate for the support.

And new helmets, too. It's the POC Octal, better known as the helmet worn by Cannondale-Garmin, just not in a gut-wrenching color scheme. Though it looks a little goofy, it's built way different than other helmets. There's much more coverage on the back and sides, which leads to a bit more protection. And it fits pretty much perfectly. I usually have to ... umm ... modify helmets. As in take out some of the material in the back to make it work.

But this one is actually spot on. It's fantastic. And I can't wait to ride in it.

So that's that. New gear. My legs are good enough. I feel solid on the bike, but not awesome. That's probably OK, considering what the calendar says. So basically I'll do my best to be present and active in the race. Our peloton is not large, but the talent is ridiculous. It's gonna be rough.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The body says "eh, maybe?"

I haven't done many group rides this winter. This is mostly because I'm anti-social.

Actually, it's mostly because I didn't want to go through the gymnastics of trying to coordinate schedule other than my own. And also I learn about most group rides when I see them on Strava a few hours later. Ah well.

Anyway, we had a team ride on Saturday over in Iowa. What you can count on over there are hills (long and short) and probably some wind. Oh, and roads where you see absolutely nobody for 15 miles as a time. I've felt pretty solid for the last few weeks, owing mostly to a long base period filled with tempo work. And now it's time to add the stabby stuff.

Wednesday night was painful — my legs were still sore on Friday. But on Saturday, we rolled out and my legs felt great. Though I didn't have the jump of the 1/2 guys, I felt pretty good. That is, until I set in motion a good, solid bonk. You'd think I would have learned my lesson from Cirrem. I did not.

We stopped in Logan, which is a good 45 minutes by car from Omaha proper. It's probably 90 minutes by bike to Jonathan's house. For some reason, I had in my head that we were an hour at most from the finish. So I ate for that amount of time, ignoring completely that we'd already been out for a tough two hours.

I'm pretty dumb sometimes.

We ripped in to Missouri Valley (now about 45 minutes from the end) and all was well. I climbed really well and had plenty of gas in the tank. But I was thinking we were about 20 minutes from the end. Nope.

So with 6 or 7 miles left, I began the falling apart process. It was great. There's a long, steady hill that finished me off, and the rest was misery. The struggle is compounded by the terrain there — there's a big bluff to the left of you at all times, and the road curves constantly. I had no idea where we were, exactly. So it was a death march where the ending wasn't known, other than "it's up there somewhere."

It's a great way to start the season, and despite having done this stuff for quite some time now, I still do it. I'll have to remember to pack extra food this weekend. And then I'll have to set a phone reminder to actually eat the food. I'll learn someday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The body says no

Holy cow, it's warm outside. Though I know better than to declare winter officially gone (it'll snow at least one more time), we're not far from springtime winds, tornado watches every day and a good dose of humidity. Can't wait.

The warmth came just in time for the first Wednesday night ride of the year. I'm going to try to get to the Trek Store ride more often this year, but for right now (until it's light enough to not get back in utter darkness) I'll take the ride that departs just a few blocks from my house. The Bike Masters ride is probably a better fit now, anyway, because I am not fast.

Well, I'm kinda fast. Just not race fast. How do I know? Well, you know that feeling in your legs (and lungs and brain) where you're pretty comfortable and you think you're going fast?  That's how I've been riding all winter — just uncomfortable enough to get solid base work in and have it count, but not super-hard.

These rides are not like that. And so instead you're left with really uncomfortable accelerations, a lot of internal screaming (no no no no no no no!) legs that do not wish to cooperate. It's a ton of fun!

I did OK, meaning that when I wanted to punch it on a hill I could, and I felt good on the bike overall. There's still lots of work to do, though.

But next week, we race. Oof.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Unplugged

Annnnnnd we're back. Whew.

There comes a time in every year (or season, or month, even) when you just need to get the hell out of town. Even though spring break is coming up for Chris in a week or so, we decided to go last weekend. Why? Because I don't have spring break, Jack is actually on spring break right now and ... that's it, really.

Oh, and Jeff Tweedy and son were playing in Minneapolis. Close enough. We're there. So we dropped off the kids in Algona (thanks, grandparents!) and headed north.

There's a certain risk to visiting Minneapolis in any month that could be considered winter. For one, it's cold. Also it snows a lot. And usually those two things happen together. However, thanks to the early thaw, it was actually quite nice. Highs in the low 50s, light wind (at least in the city), etc. It was not bad at all.

We did wonderful city things, like visit record stores, sit in strange little coffee shops and then wander around. And we spent a lot on dinner that I thought was amazing and Chris less so (an OK sandwich for her versus an AMAZING meatball sandwich for me). And then we went to the concert.

We'd been to First Avenue before, to see Ben Folds back in 2001 or 2002. For that show we sat off to the side, but this time we got right down on the floor. We were maybe 20 feet from the stage and had a great view.

Things were awesome from the start, with The Minus 5 opening the show. This band is mostly a side project for a lot of people, including Jeff Tweedy. On this tour, Peter Buck (of REM fame) was with the band. And that was pretty cool, even if he was so super-chill he looked like he wasn't paying attention.

The Tweedy show itself was great, as expected. We got two hours of everything from the newest record to Wilco favorites to old Uncle Tupelo stuff to Neil Young and Mavis Staples covers. All of it was great, and it was well worth the trip.

Though we had a long day in the car on Monday (3 hours to Algona, 4 from there to Omaha), it was worth it. It's good to get away now and again, and sometimes it's even good to do it without kids in tow.

I came home reasonably refreshed, with good memories and a pile of records. I got a couple in Minneapolis, but I ripped through my parents' collection with a more mature eye and left with a few, including a first-pressing copy of Creedence's Bayou Country, along with Stardust, from Willie Nelson and a few others. Oh, and this one, too.

NICE!

Friday, March 6, 2015

All rights reserved

It's been a hell of a week.

Nothing bad has happened — everybody is healthy and everything. It's just been busy. And stressful at work. And, as typically happens when those forces align, I don't ride. And I usually eat like crap, too.

So yeah. Hell of a week. Ugh.

But it's Friday now, and that's good. The weekend promises fun plans, the weather is nice, race season is right around the corner. It's the perfect time for a restart. Clear the decks and get ready to go again.

Seriously, 60s next week. Time switch on Sunday, Wednesday night ride will start up again a few days later. It's going to be great.

But until then, in order preserve my mental health (while knowingly sacrificing a small bit of fitness), I'm just not going to ride. And I'm going to relax and not worry.

I say that believing it might be possible. But I'm gonna get the power meter dialed in and go shave my legs anyway.