Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bicyclist's Creed

This is my bicycle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My bicycle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My bicycle, without me, is useless. Without my bicycle, I am useless. I must ride my bicycle true. I must ride harder than those who ridden before me. I must kill the hour before the hour kills me. I will...
My bicycle and I know that what counts in this race is not the type of frame, the noise of our chain, nor the saddle we ride. We know that it is the pedalling that counts. We will pedal...
My bicycle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its fit and its feel. I will keep my bicycle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before the prophet, I swear this creed. My bicycle and I are the defenders of the cog. We are the masters of our suffering. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until 49.710 kilometers is ridden, and there is a new record.

The above is my adaptation of "My Rifle (The Creed of the United States Marine)," familiar to most of us by way of Full Metal Jacket (or, perhaps, Family Guy). It is written specific to my hour attempt. There are some other versions on the internet that are also "Bicyclist's Creed" adaptations, such as this one from Peter Bay.

The modified creed is one of many tricks I am using to keep myself motivated while whiling the hours away this winter on the trainer. It is one thing to spin on the trainer; it is another to hammer oneself every day looking towards the ultimate goal.

Starting at the beginning of the year, I instituted a 2 days on, 1 day off riding rotation to keep myself fresh and focused. My concern wasn't so much about not resting, it was about too much rest and too many days in a row off of the bike. While I haven't adhered to it perfectly, it has helped keep me from finding excuses to take "another" day off during the cold season. This is especially important on those days when it's so cold outside that I have to use leg warmers to ride the trainer in the garage.

Fortunately, I have also been able to get outdoors a few times this winter including a ride this past Sunday in 40 degrees fahrenheit and rain. My fingers and toes got soaked and nearly froze but it felt good to be out and neither my legs nor lungs had many complaints.

For now, until the weather and daylight allow more outdoor riding, it will be a lot of trainer time. Right now I'm in 'segment 2' of a loose plan i created to piggyback with the 2 on/1 off rotation. January's trainer sessions were predominantly a warm up, 45 minutes of effort, and then a cool down. Now that it is February, I've upped the time to 60 minutes, and will up it again to 75 minutes the last week of the month. That will go on until I can get out on the road with any regularity. To keep me motivated, I've been watching a mix of old races, training specific videos, and ride videos streamed from online. While I want to get stronger, i know that doing a Sufferfest-like video every day on the trainer will lead to a burnout sooner both physically and mentally. And I won't have that benefit available to motivate me when riding the hour, so I've got to condition myself to suffer within my own faculties.

I guess I'll have to memorize that creed to keep my mind busy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Putting an end to 2013 and looking toward 2014

I've reached the point in the season where it is about time to shut it down and start looking ahead to next year, and hopefully the hour attempt. The dwindling evening daylight during the week, combined with a couple of other issues cropping up, have signaled that it is time to call an end to the hard riding for the year.

Right now I am completely off the bike and likely will be through next week. Because I made the decision to shut it down, I also made the decision to take a fresh look at my fit. I had recently had some discomfort on the bike, and I'm assuming it is because I've moved things out of range on the bike. Using a combination of different bike fit calculators, I ended up dropping my saddle over 2 centimeters, and I made sure that the saddle setback is about 6.7 cm. For those not familiar with 'bike speak,' this puts the tip of the saddle at a point that is 6.7 cm behind the center of the bottom bracket, or the place where the pedals/crank arm connect to the frame.The purpose of this is prevent putting too much strain on the knees, and my particular femur length dictates the 6.7 cm number. The significant changes to the saddle position mean that I will need a few weeks off to hopefully erase muscle memory. Ideally, once I get back on and riding, it won't be to much of a shock and won't cause me to start over-fidgeting with position again.

I've also switched back to a longer 110 mm length stem to extend my reach to the handlebars, although the fit charts suggest I could go as long as 130 mm. From an aerodynamics point of view this will stretch out my form over the top of the bike. However, I'm a little concerned that I don't have the upper body flexibility to support that, and being that stretched out may cause some back and shoulder discomfort. It is something I will have to experiment with over the winter. I will also need to make sure my saddle position holds up and stays comfortable.

In addition to resetting my fit, it is about time to give the bike itself a little bit of love. The brake and derailleur cables will be replaced, as well as the cassettes (the gear cluster on the rear wheel) and tires. The miles have caught up with both, and although changing either aren't normally worth blogging about, it is always nice to get something new for the bike.

Looking ahead, the next steps for training are to take it easy out on the road when I can get out, sticking with a recreational pace. I'll also start to employ some structured workouts on the trainer to boost my endurance. As the fall and winter trainer time progress, I'm hoping to focus on a lot of endurance work with occasional strength and speed workouts. I am taking the approach of base and endurance miles all the way through May, and then integrating speed work in June and July in the buildup. It was the same tactic I was aiming for this past year, but my base work didn't suffice, and I spent the year chasing fitness. Even though I've never raced or ridden cyclocross, I may try to sneak in one just to test it out and keep things fresh.

But for now, it's all about resetting and transitioning back into base miles for next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Checking In

As the road season is winding down and I am starting to plan for a winter indoors on the trainer, I realized that I had not posted any updates in a while. Whether good or bad I simply didn't have much to share. Logging miles both out on my own and in group training rides has been the essence of my summer.

I did manage to buy a new set of wheels. I hate to admit it as they are a local company, but I honestly have no love for Zipp wheels. Too much carbon. Too many aero claims. If a wheel is round, and doesn't weigh a ton, it is good enough for me. So I ended up with a set of Weinmann rims laced to Origin-8 hubs that I got from my shop of choice, DG Bicycles. They are lightweight and durable, with a shallow 20mm or so profile. Since I'm looking to do the hour using Merckx Rules, it doesn't make much sense to train on deeper aero rims.

As for my training, the increased daylight of summer allowed me to steal an extra 16 miles by riding to and from the start point of a Tuesday/Thursday night group ride that is a staple of my routine. Unfortunately, by late July and again in late August the fatigue began to build up and I need a week or two off just to recharge. Conversely, hitting that wall gives me important information about how ineffective my trainer session were last winter, as well as how hard I can push myself and when in the lead up to my attempt next year.

Additionally, I am a bit late, but it is time to start seeking sponsors again. I can't do this without their support, so I will need to buckle down and make sure I have more direct contact with potential sponsors this time around. I've been making mental notes all summer of different local businesses to reach out to and I am thinking that expanding my focus away from companies that I thought would have a direct connection to the mission of The Merckx Project may help as well.

So if you are reading this and feel that you or your business would be interested in a different form of exposure, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trending in the Right Direction

Have been away from the blog for awhile, but fortunately not away from the bike. While the month of April was very inconsistent, May seems to have paid some dividends. I've been able to ramp up the mileage quite a bit. I've also started riding to a group ride I do every Thursday adding an extra 25 km round trip. All in all, things are 'trending in the right direction.'

I am still toying with my fit somewhat, but more so so I can learn each movement's effects as opposed to dialing in the bike. In mid-April I flipped my stem upside down (which was already pre-planned) so that it is parallel to the ground instead of angled up. I didn't expect that change to make such a significant difference in how I felt on the bike. I had planned to do it for aerodynamics, but the immediate change in comfort level was welcome. I also started using the Pearl Izumi 1:1 Fit Insoles to compensate for the cant of my feet and high arches. I also believe I have the approximate measurements that I need in terms of saddle height and it's fore/aft position. I continue to tinker around with different things, but so did Eddy Merckx. So in that sense, I'm in good company. I don't know that I will ever be able to leave it alone. I'm not really built like that. But as long as I am close and not set up in a way that I risk an overuse injury, then there's nothing to worry about.

The last few weeks have seen some drastic weather changes in the Midwest that have made the riding interesting. This past week in particular was warm but very windy. So the riding was hard and dehydration was coming into play. I suffered a few cramps this week but have mostly stayed on top of it and don't think I'll have any long term problems. The week before was pretty chilly by contrast, forcing me to pull out the warmers and gillet.

The riding itself has been enjoyable of late. I think it has to do with a combination of being able to get in good miles and being comfortable on the bike. I don't feel like I'm riding because I have to to train. In a related note, I've got a loop that I've been doing for awhile that I have discovered has about a dozen different spurs that I can add to it to never ride the same loop twice. This too has helped me feel good riding the bike quite a lot.

Hopefully it won't be so long before my next post. Until then, get out and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Paris-Roubaix...

With the legendary bicycle race Paris-Roubaix (pronounced: Pair-ee Roo-bay), known for its sections of the course composed entirely of cobblestones, taking place this Sunday, I found a video that is a very interesting look at the race. It was made by a bunch of guys from Paris who bonded together over their single speed, fixed-gear bicycles, the same as what I will ride for the hour record. They decided to ride the Paris Roubaix course on their fixed gear bikes over a couple of days, and documented the experience. I found it to be a very interesting take on the experience from the point of view of amateurs and common men, especially in light of my own ambitions.

Here's the link to the video on Vimeo: Paris-Roubaix Le Film It's in French with English subtitles.

Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Early Season Feedback

Was able to get outdoors twice this past week, and I feel pretty good about what I saw from my Strava/GPS results. I had been pretty worried that I was way behind where I wanted to be at this point in the year, and while I'm certainly not in optimum racing condition I did feel like I have a better base than I thought I would. I was dropped during the group ride on Thursday although I fully expected it going in. I can also blame it on my fit not being perfect and not being comfortable more than fatigue or lack of strength.

After Saturday's ride, I'm trying another new position (didn't i just say I felt it was nearly dialed in?) that is lower and farther forward than I had been. I think I've finally determined that the numbers that I am getting from all of the calculators are stretching me out more than my physique is able to accommodate comfortably. Getting past the mental block that I think I should be sitting higher than actually should will hopefully help. I guess we'll see how long this one lasts.

Tomorrow also begins the #30DaysOfBiking challenge, a social media event to encourage people to get out and ride their bicycles every day during the month of April. This should give me a lot of saddle time to find my fit. It will also give me a lot of opportunities to get on the bike purely for the sake of pedaling around the neighborhood or for a cup of coffee. A lot easier to get motivated to do that than to climb on the turbo day after day.

Hopefully, in a months time I will see continued improvement.