Thursday, September 15, 2016

Training Ride 9/15/16

Miracles and Attitudes

Yesterday was a bit of a miracle.  After being rained out of my normal Monday 30 mile ride, it looked like Tuesday would be the same.  It rained all day until about 3 in the afternoon.  At 5 o’clock when I left work I looked at the radar and figured it would be rain free for around an hour.  At this point it would have been so easy to say that isn’t enough to get my 30 miles in and write the whole day off as a wash out.  But that isn’t the type of person I want to be, and hopefully not the person I am.  I think of two quotes that resonated with me and shaped my personality…

“You’re supposed to be here to better yourself and get educated, so cheating in college is just stealing from yourself.”


“Training in bad weather pays double: you make gains and your rivals don’t.”

The first came from one of my friends when I remarked about someone in a class of mine cheating and how there was nothing really to stop what they were doing to cheat.  The second is from professional cyclist Alberto Contador.

The first quote I apply daily in my life.  It’s very foundational to me.  Not to say I cheat or am prone to cheating, but I have a strong opinion about useful work and busy work.  That is to say, I have infinite patience for useful tasks but zero patience for useless tasks.  Will I skip a step and cut a corner on meaningless make-work.  100%.  Will I skip a step and cut a corner on important work, or projects I am passionate about?  Never.  Because, as my friend said, I’d only be stealing from myself.  

The second quote is something that can be taken to crazy extremes.  If you’re a professional athlete from whom the difference between millions of dollars and poverty is 2% performance, it makes sense to apply a crazy extreme standard of dedication to yourself.  For even elite amateur athletes, however, you should probably stay indoors when the sky is dropping baseball sized hail.  For us normal joes, it’s OK to sleep in Saturday morning if it’s raining hard.  As much as I love cycling, and I love it dearly, I don’t derive any pleasure riding in the rain.  It’s uncomfortable in a way totally separate from the normal discomfort of cycling, like getting a dental exam but in an office without AC and it’s 90 degrees inside.  

All of that is to say that there is a push and pull between cheating yourself by not riding when you should, and sucking all the fun out of it by riding when you shouldn’t.  On days like Tuesday, it wasn’t entirely clear which sort of day it was.  

So I set out on the road south, the sky was black to the south and the wind was from the south.  My plan was to go as far south as I could until it looked like I was heading into the oncoming rain, and then turn around and use the tailwind to beat the rain home.  As it turned out, to keep a long story short, I was able to get 30 miles in.  It was a small victory to get a normal Tuesday ride in despite thunderstorms literally on all sides of my area without getting a drop of rain on me.  Had I not ridden, I would have felt extremely guilty for cheating myself.  

The guilt attached to failing to do something we have ritualized, or a hobby that we have transformed into an obligation is a double edged sword.  Beneficially, it can be a powerful motivator that gives you iron discipline.  Negatively, it can turn a love into a hate; a hobby into a labor.  

For many people they ask me, “how are you so motivated to ride 5 days a week?  I wish I could find the ability to work out so much.”  Frankly, my struggle isn’t to find the motivation to work out: working out is the best part of my day, when I am the happiest.  For me the struggle is to accept without guilt that some days it just isn’t going to happen, and being OK with missing a day.

Since solving other peoples’ problems is far easier than solving our own, I’ll do that first: if you dread exercise and you have to summon all your internal fortitude to get out the door and get on the bike or go to the gym or get in the pool or whatever, you’re doing the wrong thing.  If you are constantly looking up ways to get the same fitness results from a shorter workout, you’re doing the wrong thing; no one ever (hopefully) asked how to speed up sex and have it end faster.  If you hate cycling, stop doing it.  Swim laps, go to Crossfit etc.  Try everything until you find the thing that clicks with you and excites you.  Find the sport that you daydream about doing while sitting at your desk at work, and do that.  Something that fires your passions exists and you have to keep going until you find it.  Trial and error.

For myself, I’ve dealt with burnout before, and I’ve blogged about how I dealt with it.  Over-doing my hobbies until they become a chore I hate has been a recurring problem in my life.  There doesn’t seem to be a simple solution other than to listen to my instincts.  If it’s a sunny saturday morning and I could ride, but my body is crying for a break, I have to do a better job of listening.  I think I’ve done a bit of a better job of that in the last two years.  But being present in our own lives is a never ending challenge.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Colorado Trip Part Two!

Cycling Day 2

Saturday I went up the Cherry Creek Trail northwards.  I went about 16 miles past the Cherry Creek Lake Reservoir and turned around.  Unlike the C470, it was very picturesque.  Rural with excellent views.  There were loads of runners and cyclists out and if there was any drawback I would say if you are a fast cyclist looking to do dedicated training it probably isn’t your best bet since going faster than 20 mph is going to put other people in danger.  I did 30 miles round trip and it was quite nice.  I highly recommend, especially the roads around lake, which were quite bucolic and conducive to road cycling.

Rice and Eating Healthy on Vacation

Much to my eternal joy, my sister (whose family I was visiting) had a rice cooker.  Since we had no dinner plans everyone was left to fend for themselves.  I had a single serve portion of rice (about 2000 calories) with no beans or sauce.  You gotta make due sometimes.  

Rice and potatoes are the best and it’s almost impossible for me to overstress the importance of rice to my diet and basic existence.  Rice is also hard to get when traveling because most hotels or Air BNBs don’t come with rice cookers.  I suppose you could go to a chinese restaurant and order 3 portions of steamed rice and veggies, and when all else fails that's not a bad idea.

It was very awesome to get to eat a huge plate of rice at least once on the trip and was quite happy to have gotten it in.  So what else did I eat?  Not counting the family dinners and the burrito trips my shopping list for the 5 days was…

*2 boxes Kashi Flakes with Blueberry Cluters
*1 pack blueberries
*1 gallon Almond milk unsweetened
*1 bag of Thomas’ Everything bagels
*7 bananas
*1 tub low fat cream cheese for the bagels
*8 white chocolate macadamia nut cliff bars

As you can see, mostly breakfast stuff.  I ate out for lunches out each day and did dinner with the family.  A couple lunches were served by this stash and the cliff bars and bananas also came with me for on the bike food.

Cycling Day 3: The Big Boy

This was the ride.  Mount Evans.  27 mile climb, 5% average grade, Beyond Categorization.  I was as physically ready as could be.  

The trip from Parker to the base of the climb in Idaho Springs was sketchy as hell.  Interstate 70 into the mountains is scary.  7% grades down hill with turns and semi trucks was gnarly.  I felt the way out of towners feel driving in thunderstorms in Florida.

Upon reaching Idaho Springs I realized I left my water bottles at home.  Shit.  Luckily there was a gas station nearby and I purchased two bottles of Smart Water which fit neatly into my cages.  It wasn’t until about an hour into the climb I realized I left my cliff bars at home too.  Big problem.  Upon leaving the parking lot the climb starts with a BASE elevation of 7,500 feet and I begin my journey up the mountain.  I took it fairly easy and kept myself out of the red zone, because blowing up would have been especially bad.  I just found a nice easy pace and held onto it the whole way.  I wish I had a power meter, but based on my perceived effort I reckon I went at around 200 watts on average.

It was an overcast and cold morning but the scenery couldn’t have been nicer.  Rural (but expensive looking) cabin type houses and stunning mountain scenery.  The road pitched up a bit when I hit the Arapahoe National Forest.  The grade went from 3-5% to more like 5-7% for a few miles.  The roads started winding more and the exposed cliff faces were a tad scary.  It was around this time it started raining on me, but just a sprinkle and not terrible at all.  This was about when I realized I had no food.  My game plan radically changed from hit the summit to “go as far as I can until I get close to bonking and then go back down.”  

After over an hour spinning my way up through the Araphoe Forest I turn a hair pin and, almost magically, the road flattens out and the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen opens up in front of me.  This was Echo Lake.  To say it was picturesque is an understatement.  Rather than try to do it justice, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After taking pics and gawking at the view, I continued up the road to the base of Mount Evan’s proper.  It’s rather amazing that the official climb hadn’t even started yet and I’d already climbed for 12 miles and 3000 feet.  The climb before the climb was itself a Beyond Categorization climb.  That’s like running 26 miles to get to the marathon course to run the marathon.  Intense!

At the “base” of Mt. Evans there is a lodge.  Inside said lodge there is a gift shop.  Said gift shop sells cans of coke and snacks.  I happily purchased a can of pepsi and a bag of pretzels.  Fuel!  I would have preferred my Cliff bars, but this was a life saver.  Now adequately fueled I continued up the mountain, about 12 miles and 3k feet of climbing left.

After the third switch back, I encountered a rather big problem.  I was now above the treeline and the wind was gusting pretty heavily.  Going around a bend I see an exposed cliff face, no guard rail and a sheer drop.  To make matters worse, the road had a really bad reverse camber.  I hate to make excuses for failure, but this was frightening.  I am not good at all with heights, and this was terrifying.  I could have soldiered on and continued up but the thought occured to me: how am I going to get back down?  Going up was scary, but not really dangerous, and I could just block out the cliff and focus on the road no problem.  The problem would be trying to go down.  Bad tires, bad brakes, reverse camber, no guard rail, narrow road with some cars.  I just didn’t have the confidence that I was 100% safe.  If I had my own bike with it’s Conti GP 4000s tires and top of the line disc brakes I feel like I would have been able to negotiate it.  But with the shitty rental bike?  I’m just not willing to die.

So I turned around after only about 1000 feet done.  I feel super shitty about it and I’m quite torn.  On one hand, I made the prudent choice given the circumstances.  And I still did an HC categorized climb, the first in my life and it was still beyond an epic adventure.  On the other hand, I didn’t accomplish my goal and I know that people weaker and less experienced than me have completed this climb.  Instead of viewing it as giving up, I’ll label Mount Evans as ‘unfinished business’ and plan on conquering it on my return trip to Colorado, hopefully with a better bike.

So now I began the descent.  Nearly 4,000 feet and 15 miles of non-stop downhill.  Oddly enough, despite the sketchy bike I rather enjoyed this one.  I took the turns rather easy; if I used the full road I could have gone a bit faster but there were a few cars and motorcycles on the road and I didn’t want to do anything dangerous.  The straight sections were great and I was able to throw it in the 53-12 and power down.  The descent took long enough that I started to get tired holding my aggressive attack position.  It’s very surreal coming from Florida to descend for 40 minutes.  The longest descent in florida that I’ve done might be like a minute.  

When I rolled into the parking lot in Idaho Springs, I felt happy due to the adrenaline of the descent, as well as having finished the biggest climb if my life but I cannot honestly say I was 100% satisfied with the day.  I suppose thats the definition of bittersweet?

Nap and Chipotle and the Job Market

I hadn’t taken a nap yet on this vacation.  Thus far, I’d slept in and ate breakfast before starting my bike rides to avoid the morning chill.  Since I woke up super early for Mount Evans I was home by 11:30.  A nap was in order, and I took a blissful 2 hour siesta.  It really hit the spot, and my legs thanked me.  When I woke up it was lunch time and I bee-lined to the nearby Chipotle.  Maybe this is a strange observation but the Chipotle in Parker off Cottonwood is staffed by well above average looking women.  It was a fairly strange experience to see ladies I would consider to be almost model caliber good looking working in fast food.  This is something you don’t see at all in Florida.  Is there less of a stigma against working fast food in other places, or is this a sign of the weak job market where service jobs are the only jobs?

Cycling Day 4 Last Day =(

Monday I had to return my bike before noon so the plan was to do another moderate 30 mile ride local to Parker.  I hopped onto the Cherry Creek Trail and ventured south this time.  The ride south of 470 on the trail is a bit more scenic than the northward trail, excepting the area near the lake.  If you’re in the area, I highly recommend doing both halves of the trail but the southern side is probably a tad nicer.

One criticism of the trail is necessary to point out.  Since access to the trail is highly desireable, each neighborhood has a connecting trail to it.  There are very rarely signs to tell you which fork to take to stay on the trail or to exit to some random neighborhood.  My guess is that the trail was built and sign posts erected at the same time, and later the connectors were built but no new signs implemented.  Instead of a 50 mile straight line it became a spider web and over the two days I spent on the trail I took many a wrong turn.  I have a good sense of direction and pretty good instincts and it will still confusing as to when I should have zigged versus zagged.  I brought this fact up to my sister, who lives next to the trail and jogs on it frequently, and she said that it's confusing even for locals.  The management of the trail and parks do a great job, but this one area is a bit inadequate and I hope they do put some budget in place in the future to put up proper signage.  For me, I didn’t mind doing a few extra miles due to wrong turns: it’s not an adventure unless you get lost at least once.  But that doesn’t make it a worse user experience.

Bike City and Affirming Suspicions

After finishing the ride, I went back to bike city to return the bike.  When I took it into the service department the wrench working there asked me how it was, I complained about the brakes and tires but ofcourse that’s not his call.  I did point out the issue with the shifting and expressed that it makes the bike unsafe to ride.  He put the bike on the stand and spun the cranks a few times while shifting and said he didn’t see any issues.  I pointed out there is a difference turning the pedals with your hand and no resistance versus going uphill and pushing 350 watts.  He shrugged his shoulders and walked it to the back.  I suppose that lawsuit waiting to happen isn’t his problem.  I suppose that’s the type of customer service and employee dedication you get in a ‘corporate’ atmosphere.  Either way, it affirms my initial observation about the place and I am 100% sure if I return to the area I definite will not be renting from them again.

The Trip Home

Besides the 3am wake up, the trip home was amazing.  Mom and I sat in the same row on Frontier this time, and the person in the aisle seat didn’t show up!  The dream is real!  I got to sit on the aisle without paying extra with and empty seat in the middle for the bonus leg room for us giants.  Also, with the west to east jet stream our flight landed in Orlando almost an hour early, and I took about an hour nap at the start of the flight so the flight was probably the shortest “4 hour flight” of my life, with only 2 hours of conscious flight time.  

Having been up since 3am and no food since 3:15am, and now being 2pm, I was super hungry.  We stopped at Moe’s where I bought the only viable choice on the menu: the Billy Barou with tofu and corn salsa as the only toppings besides queso.  Moe’s is quite medium compared to Chipotle in terms of burrito quality, but their queso and chips are tight, so the Billy Barou covers both so it’s the obviously superior menu choice.  They also had the bad ass coca cola super fountain deal and it was excellent to get some Cherry Vanilla Coke Zero.  

A good ending to a great trip!

Training Ride 9/3/16

Friday, September 2, 2016

Colorado Trip Part One!

I got back from my vacation to Colorado on Tuesday and wanted to do a blog on it.  Overall it was awesome, and the cycling was an adventure that I will be fantasizing about re-living for a very, very long time.  Rather than do a minute by minute recap of the trip, I’ll do a semi-chronological retelling of interesting (to me) anecdotes.

Trip Out

While driving on Florida toll highway 528 to the Orlando airport there are, unfortunately, toll booths.  This particular toll both is noteworthy due to the hastily printed sign.  Apparently, there is a problem with people throwing dollar bills, presumably crumpled into a ball, into a coin chute and that this problem is real enough and common enough to warrant fashioning a sign.  I like to think that the whole hur-dur Floridians are dumb thing is a myth but this sign is pretty damning.  However, considering the amount of tourists who use highway 528 to go from Orlando to the beach I can at least hope this sign is directed at midwestern mouth breathers instead.

King Soopers

If you haven’t been to Colorado, King Soopers is the Publix of Colorado.  Clean stores, good selection, friendly customer service, and high prices.  Yes, they are very similar.  I will give Publix the edge on prepared foods (pub subs #1) and produce.  The bananas I bought at King Soopers were pretty bad tasting.  Also King Soopers has self-check out lanes which I am quite against since I do not like replacing human jobs with machines as a baseline philosophy.  Anyone who is a cashier at a grocery store needs that job, and I don’t want to do something that is going to contribute towards taking it away from them.  All that aside, when you make the trip yourself, shop at King Soopers rather than Target or Walmart unless you are on a tight budget.


Our Air BNB was incredible.  For $450 we had a two bed room set up with a half kitchen, full size pool table and fast WIFI in a wealthy upscale neighborhood for 5 days.  A hotel of the same quality would be significantly more expensive.  I know you can miss with Air BNB as easily as you can hit, but I just don’t see me ever using a hotel again unless there are literally no decent Air BNB in the area which seems increasingly unlikely.  Or, you know, unless I plan on throwing a rager and trashing the place.

Bike Shops!

I visited two bike shops while in Colorado.  To avoid saying mean things about either of them I’ll call them by fake names.  I rented my bike from Bike City, and I’ll have more to say about the bike later.  This store was amazing upon first entry.  The store was at least 4 times bigger than any bike shop I’d been in, and they had a huge selection of bikes.  Ofcourse, they were all Scott, Trek, and Cannondale.  I’m not knocking American bikes whatsoever since I ride one myself, but these three brands just scream “generic American bike” the way a Chevrolet does for cars.  They are the brands that Americans looking to get their first bike instinctively go for because, at least in the case of Trek, that’s what Lance rode.  

Aside from the bikes, this place was the definition of “corporate bike shop.”  The employees all seemed like cyclists who were passionate about cycling, but none of them seemed too passionate about working there.  Compared to BikeSport in Vero, the staff was a bit demotivated.  I find when I talk with the guys at BikeSport I get more stoked about the sport and more excited to go for my next ride.  At BikeCity I got no such bump, though I hardly needed it.  The service department was especially bad, the mechanics were seemingly confident but when you dont know your customers on a first name basis and you never see a customer again the quality has to drop.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable dropping my bike off there for service and I am sure the service there is top dollar.

The second shop I went to was Elite Bikes.  This place was the exact opposite.  The size of a small closet.  They only sold high end Italian road bikes.  Pinarellos, Bianchis, Colnagos.  The creme de la creme.  It was staffed by two older guys who, barely knowing me for 2 minutes, invited me to go with them on the shop’s group ride Sunday morning.  If I didn’t have other plans, I would have.  It wasn’t all peaches and cream, however.  Everything in the store was insanely overpriced, and hilariously they had a sign on the door saying, “no childrens’ or mountain bikes sold or serviced here.”  I completely understand the policy but to see it spelled out like that made me laugh.  If they wanted to cultivate the elitist road bike snob persona, mission accomplished.

The Bike

I had the (dis)pleasure of renting a Trek Domane 4 Series for the trip.  I assume it was a 2014 or 2015 base model.  I booked this on their website and asked for Madone but they didn’t have a Madone available in my size when I arrived.  I was OK with the Domane since it was more similar to my Roubaix in geometry anyway.  

Things I wasn’t excited about on this bike after riding it for about 10 hours:

.1.  The saddle.  This is my second experience renting a Trek and just like last time the stock saddle on Treks murder me.  I’m 100% certain I could have rode faster and longer had I had a good saddle with me.  After about 2 hours I was “done” with the saddle and was looking for the exit.  This is my fault, I should have brought my own saddle and I’m foolish for not.  Lesson learned.

2.  The Tiagra groupset.  There is a reason that roadies consider 105 the base model for Shimano groupsets and consider Tiagra to be… well they don’t consider Tiagra at all because it’s terrible.  Maybe it isn’t the derailleur’s fault and perhaps the bike just needed to be serviced better by the shop but I had a few scary moments.  While going up High Grade Road the incline pitched up to 9% around a hair pin with an exposed sheer cliff drop.  I am a bit of a pansy when it comes to heights so I was not focusing on the view down.  However, when the road hit 9% I shifted to the 28 tooth cog and the chain started jumping from the 26 to the 28 and back with every pedal stroke.  It would not stay in the right gear.  The first time it happened it nearly caused me to fall over forward which would have been incredibly dangerous given the terrain.  Luckily, the shifting problem didn’t happen in the 32 tooth so I was able to safely use that.  But really, have no access to the 28 and 26 teeth cogs sucks when so much of the riding is uphill.  And frankly, it was dangerous and could have killed me.  

3.  The tires and brakes sucked.  They were the cheapest shittiest tires money can buy, and I’d say the same for the brakes.  Normally, these things aren’t bad.  In Florida I would barely notice cheap brakes and only slightly more notice cheap tires.  Descending down a winding mountain pass in Colorado that is very different.  The traction on your tires and the confidence in your brakes is life and death in those conditions.  To say that I didn’t have 100% confidence in my bike is a huge understatement.  Luckily the roads weren’t particularly wet or slippery and I never had to brake super hard.  It isn’t so much that they put me in danger, but more so the fact that if I did get into danger they would be absolutely no help to me.  I’m not sure what I could do differently besides bringing my own bike out with me, but that option is really only open to wealthy people.

Cycling Day 1


This was a nice long ride with a good bit of climbing.  I was based out of Parker which is a good 25 miles from the mountains.  My plan was to ride the 25 miles along the C-470 bike trail and then ride up Deer Creek Canyon until turn around time.  Being unfamiliar with the area, this planned seemed totally reasonable.

Chattfield Park - C-470 Trail

The trail was serviceable but not fun.  As far as scenery, on one side I had interstate and on the other suburban strip malls.  It wasn’t scenic and having to stop at every intersection was really annoying.  In retrospect, it would have been better to skip the trail entirely and drive to Deer Creek Canyon and ride in the mountains for 4 hours.  Live and learn.  The trail home was brutal because the mountains were so fun and beautiful that getting subjected to suburban hell for the last 1.5 hours of my ride felt like punishment.  

Deer Creek Canyon Road
High Grade Road

The turnaround point.

On the plus side, once the trail hit Chatfield Park and Platte Reservoir just before the mountains it was insanely beautiful.   Deer Creek Canyon was really fun.  I took Deer Creek to High Grade road and turned around where High Grade becomes Pleasantville.  I wasn’t aware that had I continued up the mountain a mile or two more the climb would have become rated HC, and in restrospect I would have definitely done it.  As it was it was a Category 1 climb and really fun.  Based on how many cyclists I saw there on a Friday morning I can imagine how busy it is on Sundays, and I can safely say it is no secret how amazing this area is for cycling.  If you’re in the area and want to ride some epic climbs near south Denver this is the place.

Illegal Pete’s

According to FiveThirtyEight Illegal Pete’s is the best burrito place in Colorado and one of the best in the country.  Ofcourse, I had to partake.  Unfortunately, I am not a meat eater anymore and it’s impossible to judge how tasty the meat is, which is really what burritos are judged on by them.  I got a veg burrito with the fajita veggies, rice, black beans, cheese, quacamole, pico, hot sauce, and corn.  It tasted wonderful and I enjoyed it very much.  But since meat is usually the star of the show and I didn’t have any I cannot honestly say it was better than a generic Chipotle Burrito.  I would still recommend it if in the area to serve your burrito needs.