January 31, 2006

Get it on.

Training starts TODAY!

I wanted to give myself January as kind of a screw-off month, and that's pretty much what I did - but at least I got something of an OFF-SEASON. Still, training REALLY started yesterday, as I write this. I just couldn't wait - which, again to the anti-burnout thing - is a good sign. Last night I was itching to start training, instead of dreading it. It was VERY hard to stay off the bike, especially considering this January has officially broken records as the warmest on-record for Kansas City. I abstained, however, and I can already feel a difference.

Unlike previous years, THIS season's training will actually be mapped out, planned, and executed with more fore-thought, and less guessing. After all, the philosophy of "ride ride ride" only goes so far. This year, training smarter should yield better personal results. I may end up with fewer miles, but they will ALL be quality miles, instead of just a big number like the last two years.

Looking back, "ride ride ride" has been my training mantra for the last 5 years, and this year it's time for something different. A more structured approach to mileage, something decidedly "goal oriented" - taking my goals (ie, the 400K, Tinbutt, etc.) and working that mileage and speed goal backwards to today. Asking myself questions like, "How is what I do THIS week going to affect how I perform in 25 weeks?"

While "ride ride ride" has previously been enough to get-by on, this year more of a total athletic approach is at hand. Last night was 20 minutes on the treadmill, 3 sets of abdominal work, 10 minutes of stretching - today, commute to work for training. Light intensity this AM, and aerobic zone this afternoon. Tomorrow, rest. More important than the riding itself, this new routine of off-bike work should provide a well-rounded approach, will help better attack these "last five pounds", and will develop a stronger core - which all translates to better riding. This, along with a more balanced diet, and I think I'm on a good track here.

I might even have enough in my tank by August between Tinbutt and Tejas to try my hand at some short-track stuff, like Tour of Shawnee for sure, and POSSIBLY Tour of KC --- Spinman will be thrilled to read this!
I can't commit to buying a year-long license, tho --- I'll opt for the day-pass, if I go there.
But part of the package should be more speed.... so, we'll see. It's a long time between July and October, so I don't think some shorter races would hurt -- just to keep things spicy, ya know... We'll see if I can hang onto the Bicycle Shack pack first, tho!

As opposed to previous years where I had trepidation about things to come, dreading the 600K and wondering how I'd survive, I am now very optimistic about 2006!

Here's the biggie: personal accountability --- I probably just put half my audience to sleep here, but it's all good. I HAVE to have something to look back on to keep my head in check.

Alright, ya'll --- January is over -- let's get it on!

January 26, 2006

It's back.

It's been a while since I posted, so might as WELL, right?
Geez, guys - get off my back already!

Anyways.... things have been going well, as I dive into the zen existance of a clean-slate, which comes with the new year. Had dinner with Ort and his crew a few nights ago -- awesome bean soup, man. Also, this segues into the fact that I'm also continuing my January-of-not-caring:
Eat whatever. Train whenever. Whatever.

Although, thankfully, my weight seems to have stabilized. Not that I'd do anything about it if it WASN'T, because it's the January-of-not-caring -- but still I keep tabs on it, and we're solid in the 150-club. Even after what I will heretofor refer to as the "Night of the Enchilada".
Holy crap, dude - have some more CHEESE.

Whenceforth. (whatever -- I'm getting all King James for some reason. Hither. Forthwith.)

Make haste, soccer-mom!

On the bike-front, the Fix (if you hadn't heard me screaming it) is BACK.
I got this delusion that part of the reason I've become a lump and a pack-sucker was the fixed gear was holding me back. Hogwash. I simply have been base-building. For like, a year.
Ok ok ok -- so I took the darn thing apart, and I felt this LONGING for it.
Once you go fixed, you never... you can't..... you're..... crap, nothing rhymes with that.

So, it's back. Hey. It's back. Pass it on.

(did you hear? It's back.)

FIXXIE! I misssed you!!! I love you, fixxie! (bwaaaaaa!!!)

That's not creepy or anything.

So, after installing a slightly smaller gear to migrate from "mash-mode" to "spin-mode", I've fully integrated the fix back into stable. Of course, I'm still not riding all that much - all part of the plan. I've been chastised recently for missing the great weather - which is true: it's been WEIRD warm here for January, but the fact remains - even if it's punctuated by the occasional Canadian shortwave (no, not radio, fool.), spring will come, and the days that we feel so fortunate to have right now will seem awfully cold compared to the 70º pre-dawn warmth that awaits only 45-60 days away. Ok, maybe not THAT warm pre-dawn -- whatever. Stop correcting yourself, dude!

So, bite me. I'll ride when I'm good and ready. And that, apparently, is this afternoon. See you out there! 60º in January is another story entirely, but I'm being careful to keep my reserves in the black -- I'll need them in March.

TWO 200K's this year! Two weeks apart -- and one, entirely new.
And, in typical -- "hello, I'm Bob, and I will punish you" RBA fashion, the first one starts very close to Wyandotte County Lake Park -- "read: HILLY as death."

Great. Thanks, Bob -- I can see him now, back in December, plotting out the new route by dim candlelight in a dingy basement with a quill and inkwell, occasionally letting an evil bellow punctuate the otherwise quiet evilness of his route-planning lair.

"let's see... route 77 north.... no, no... too flat.... how about this abandoned service road? yeeessss.... MUAAHAAHAAAAHAAAA!!!!!"

Thanks for helping my mental game, man.
Whoof. I still sent him the ten bucks, so I guess it's MY fault, in the end.

Start the season!!!

(the fix is back, by the way.)

January 18, 2006

One is all you need.

It's a phrase I'm holding on to, but for different reasons that you've read here before.
I eluded to it in yesterdays post, and last night after the kids went to sleep, I was thinking about it again. Badgerland said it on Sunday's ride, too, talking about his conversation with a bicycle manufacturer, and how his goal was to have ONE bike that could do it all.

Funny -- there was a time when I followed the same philosophy. When did I let things get so complicated??? Reading back over my own thoughts from the past couple weeks, my new goals, my new training philosophy, etc., I'm realizing that there is more happening here than a change in approach, but a change in equipment, too. Fixed gear and single-speed have provided a monster base, and a lot more leg strength than I probably would have gained otherwise, but I have not been balanced in that regard: over 85% of my mileage from the end of 2005 was on a single-gear -- and, thinking back, all the brevets were on single-speed, too. Dang.
Yes -- the time differences between riding the brevets on single, and with gears for me was not a HUGE difference -- I was just as fast without derailluers, so why go back?
Mainly, I've noticed, without gears I've allowed myself to become complacent -- since the excuse for not going faster is built-into the bike, I don't have to worry about making those excuses for myself. "I can't chase, because I can't pedal that fast." Justifications for a fitness base that, regardless of bike, I have let slip. If I have the gears, and I can't chase, it's because I'm out of shape - a fact that I was not willing to admit.

Time to face facts, and retire the single-cogs for a while.

Also, I've realized that a lot of the parts on the good bike - critical parts - were ending their service life. The BB was getting notchy, the crankarms looked really nasty, chipped - opportunities for fractures everywhere, pedals, cables, etc., many items on their 5th year of hard use. Can I really expect a 6th year of use out of this stuff? Time to gather the best bits in a pile, and see what I have to work with here.

Yeah, I'll probably still have a fixxie built up for seriously nasty weather -- but I won't be running premium parts on it, that's for sure. Too tempting to grab it instead of another bike, I suppose. Fixed and single is still an absolute BLAST -- but I'm seeing something of a mental transformation in myself these last two weeks that calls for something more.

Last season, one gear was all I needed.

This year, looks like one BIKE.

After amassing all the parts worth reusing, I'm fairly happy with the results. Unfortunately, I'm turning into a junk dealer in the process. I have this frankensteined-together bike, but at least I know the parts are newer, and probably not prone to fatigue failures for a couple years. It's something to train on, for sure. When bonus-time comes in a few months, however, I'm thinking either some upgrades are in the cards, or something completely new to take on the title of "good bike" in my stable. We'll see -- but for now I have the tools I need to start getting back to business.

Now, Saturday's weather looks good -- intervals on 175th street, anyone?

January 17, 2006

The wake up calls are loud!

Work continues on refining my training program to closely mimic my 2003 season, while I pour over old journal entries, accounts from that year's races, and even the commutes - the mileage, the intensity. After taking an unprecedented FULL WEEK OFF THE BIKE (gasp!), I was pretty much going crazy for a ride. Warm, unseasonably warm, days came and went without me on a bike -- torture. It's one thing if I'm iced in or something, but last week a couple of afternoons got near 60ºF, and I was itching for a ride. I'm still sticking to my plan, however, and I figure a week off the bike - whether I need it or not - is probably a good thing. Better to nip overtraining in the bud, BEFORE it happens (see last July's pathetic Lone Star Century ride!).

A few of the things I'm beginning to realize that nailed my coffin shut, and I'm boring you to death by putting these in print, I know -- but I HAVE to for my own reference.
Single-speed. Yes -- one speed is all you need, but not if you are trying to get faster! I got really good at riding one gear, so good that I had completely forgotten how to shift -- rather, I know *HOW* to shift, just not WHEN. Riding a bike with gears these past few trips out, I noticed that I wasn't shifting at ALL, until often it was too late -- which goes all the way back to '98, when I was first starting to figure out how to maximize my hill-climbing by keeping the RPMs constant, even if speed dropped a little. You know - spinning.
Thankfully, the fixed gear has done wonders for my spinning - but part of translating that skill onto a geared bike is timing the shifiting with the spinning. It took until the last part of last week's ride with Ort to realize that "yes", I CAN continue in one gear longer than I used to be able to, but if I truly want to flatten these hills, I need to shift a couple times - instead of grinding up the first half in a huge gear - because that's what a fixxie HAS to do. By the time I remembered "hey, I can shift!", it was too late, and my momentum was already gone.

I'm just glad that I'm figuring all this out NOW, instead of later... and it also gives me an opportunity to figure out my commuting routine. Part of successful training is consistancy, not only in diet, exercise, crosstraining and mileage increases, but in equipment. If I'm always switching bikes, positions, and methods, I'm not going to excel at any one of them. Looking back on my 2003 season, I realized that I was doing the majority of my commutes AND weekend training rides on the same bike - the orange Schwinn. The only time I'd abandon to another bike was in the nasty weather, and then I'd grab the single speed with fenders. This differs greatly from the last couple years, where I had been commuting on a single-speed, recently a fixed, and some weekends I was not touching the geared bike at all --- it was no wonder that I would finally see an opportunity to grab that geared bike, and see less-than-spectacular performances. I would forget to shift, and the non-fixed factor made it hard to keep a smooth spin and efficient power transfer on the freewheeling gearie. No WONDER my average speeds dropped.

True true -- if I STAY on the fixed, I could still train hard and have a good 2006 season, but the writing is on the wall, and I think more geared commutes are in store for 2006 - I need to get that feel back for timely shifts, and consistancy in cadence, instead of just muscling up the climbs like I've gotten used to doing.

While I've had a terrific time these last couple years, I'm been on a slow, downward slope. Beginning with the departure of the Warbird from my training scene, I lost my chase plane (so to speak), and started doing more solo rides. Even though I sitll had numbers to train with, I let them slip -- with no-one to chase and a hard work schedule, I started to play around with equipment to kep my restlessness occupied. I went through more bikes in two years than I had in the previous five, mainly from boredom. Things like weight, gears, speed and goals became less important -- but, I was still having fun! It's not like it was a total loss -- I just lost some of my competitive edge, I suppose. Am I weeping for it? No. Just wanting to get it back, and keep the fun that came with it, and the fun I've discovered the last 2 years, too.

While I've had a good run on fixed and single-speed, I recently find myself wanting more what I had previously - with the added benefit of all the other things I've discovered recently. Still, I hearken back to last year's MS-150, and a miracle of a run with Ort on the early part of day 2, where we averaged nearly 22 MPH for 30 miles, with me on the fixxie. Dang, what a RUSH --- but honestly, I don't tihnk I could have repeated that on the geared bike -- it's all trainign and exposure. Later that morning, Ort kicked things up again and started disappearing up the road, and because of the gear I was in, I was unable to chase. Hmmm... so, you see, it leans both ways. I'll figure it out. While I doubt I'll get rid of the fixxie for good, I certainly think it will see less road time this season - but the verdict is still out on that one, maybe dirt road rides or something. So far, it's a lot harder to be fast on a geared bike than it is on the fixed gear for me.
Things like drivetrain momentum, consistancy and fast spinning are just harder to master when the rear wheel isn't doing some of the work.

All I know is this Sunday on a team ride, I had a blast on the geared bike -- I was coasting down hills at high-speed, leaning into corners, bunny-hopping pavement joints and railroad tracks. It was great fun -- and I was still with a fantastic group of my favorite local riders. I can indeed have both -- but little things here and there reminded me of the work ahead -- getting outsprinted at the end of the ride by Brinehawk, having trouble bridging up to Badgerland on a climb on Pflumm, things like that. While I never stopped smiling, it certainly fired up those competitive juices again. Looking forward to this weekend already, and looking forward to the shipment of a headlight bracket so I can commute on both bikes.

This is very much a blah blah blah kind of posting --- but it's helping me voice some of this junk.
This, however, is shaping up to be very much a single-bike season.

January 13, 2006

Stoke the fire...

Start the season! There is something to be said for publishing, and personal accountability. Let's get it on.

January 12, 2006

Why do I mess with success?

Sometimes, I swear - I'm my own worst enemy.

With this recent bike frame swap, I'm learning that many times it's best NOT to try and incorporate ancient junk onto a brand new frameset. In this case, cantilevers.
In an effort to get rolling, save a little dough, I swapped over these old Dia Compe XCM canti's from a late-80's/early-90's mtn. bike. They are pretty nice, basic black - and in the vein of cantilever brakes in general, there is very little there that can go wrong, or wear out.

In this case, however, they look a little nasty, and kind bring down the feel of the entire bike. They've got these massive aluminum yokes, with big pinch-bolt arrangements, and just look sloppy. As simple as this brake type is, it's amazing how many advances they've made in cleaning up the installation, design, and performance of cantilevers.

I've got the rest of the bike pretty much "done" - even though, lately, as I've tried and tried and TRIED to get these brakes slop-free, toed-in, and self-centering I feel like tearing the entire bike down again, and going back to the Bianchi, *JUST* so I can use my now home-less Dura-Ace calipers. One bolt, one cable - DONE. Of center? Use the centering adjustment.
They are light, small, sexy, and stop the bike on a dime. And the new frame won't take 'em.

Sure, this new frame solves a lot of problems the Bianchi suffered from - really tight clearances, tight geometry, no room for anything bigger than 23c tires, etc..... BUT, it was tight, sexy - a real head-turner at the club rides. But, buidling it back up will only reveal the same problems I was trying to avoid by getting a new frame in the FIRST place.

DANG IT -- I should have just sold it, because now, every time I look at it hanging over the work-bench in the garage, I start to think that fussing with goofy things like threadless headsets and cantilever brakes JUST ISN'T WORTH THE HASSLE. Especially since I've swapped back to 23c tires and have a new goal for more speed and more success in 2006, did I jump too soon with getting this Crosscheck frameset? It's starting to look like an awfully attractive replacement for the Steamroller -- after all, where else are big tires and fender clearances more appropriate than on a commuter bike?

Or maybe I should just drop $80 on a pair of Avid Shorty6 cantis and call it good.


Being "me" is such a freakin' chore sometimes.

UPDATE: Avid Shorty6 picked up this afternoon. Too much invested to scrap this project, and once this is done I have no other complaints about the bike -- START THE SEASON!

January 9, 2006

Less can be more

I'm a mileage hog. I admit it.
Although I don't log 10,000-mile-years, it has been a past goal of mine.
The numbers -- the bigger, the better.

Hey - look what *I* did.

Let's forget for a second that the last two months of the year end up being a CHORE.
Cycling is no longer fun, and long after January 1st comes and goes, the numbers of the previous year are quickly forgotten - often stewed about, especially if I came up short.

In the dark, sometimes things can be SO clear and bright.
Sunday morning, before the sun came up, Ort and I were spinning southbound on a familiar country backroad, talking in the darkness. Talking about the usual early-season stuff. What went wrong last year - what's in store for the coming season.
Fresh from another year of coming up slightly short of an unrealistic mileage goal, I was doing more listening than talking for once, as Ort recounted a conversation with our RBA a couple weeks back, wherein said RBA was talking about HIS mileage for 2005 -- and the number shocked me. It was low. VERY low. Lower than I expected.
This RBA is an iron-giant of a rider, someone that I'd simply assumed was getting 10,000+ mileage years. Things like PBP, and multiple 1000K rides usually dominate his calendar, so it was a given that he'd have big numbers. Not really.

Instead of training A LOT, he was training smart.

While mileage totals over 1000 are nearly a guarantee for ANY aspiring ultra-rider, mileages over 5000 are sometimes rare -- and totally un-neccessary.

As I floated along through the darkness with Ort, many bells were going off in my head -- the burnout of last summer, the duldrums of late winter cycling, just shooting for a number; mistakes here and there that now had a spotlight on them. For once, I was plotting solutions -- and later that morning I spent a good amount of time writing them down, and looking back over my banner-year of 2003 again.

The mileage that I ended up with was simply gravy atop a pile of really good, QUALITY miles - I had goals each week, specific targets, destinations in mind -- some days I'd go light, others hard with lots of climbing, and always pushing myself when needed, and resting when needed.
Thank goodness for documentation.

I also looked back at 2003 with a little trepidation: was that ME??!! I was looking over a season of personal-bests that I had sorta forgotten about. I had remembered MV24, which - considering - I still hold up as a personal triumph; but leading up to that were impressive rides - rides that THIS last summer, I would not have been able to duplicate. There was a 20-or-better MPH average century, SOLO. There was a personal-best 200K with an average speed of 18.5 MPH, including stops. There was a 2nd place finish at the Tour De Shawnee, there was a near-record Octoginta in Lawrence, and there were smatterings of 23 MPH average speed-work runs at distances up to 30 miles. There were tales of body weight about 10 lbs. lower than where I am now. There are pictures of me wearing jerseys that, today, no longer fit loosely.

The big question is - can I get BACK?

Some would call it "hanging onto the glory days".... but I refuse to subscribe to that.

I'm not 70 years old, recounting a storied criterium career, something truly out-of-reach and foolhardy to re-attempt at that age. (until someone writes and tells me about what their grandpa did last summer, that is --- NOTHING is impossible, just improbable.)

This was only 3 seasons ago, and I know precisely who is responsible for letting that form slip. Me. Time to get to work.

This morning, as I logged into BikeJournal.com, I recorded the weekend's mileage, and modified the "2006 mileage goal" section of my profile. I put in a lower number, and saved changes.

Not only can I DEFINTELY make THAT mileage goal, I'll have a blast doing it.

January 4, 2006

2006 Goals: Who you callin' a slacker?

YEah, yeah --- it's been a while since I last posted, but that should tell you what kind of holiday season it's been, and how things have been at work as a result. DANG.

Now that the dust is settling, and things are coming back to "normal", I can get back into a routine of sorts. I hope. There are BIG changes coming in 2006, the biggest of which for you loyal readers is the fact that I'm *FINALLY* getting an internet connection back at the house again, for the first time in nearly a YEAR. Yes, it's been a tough year -- but things are looking better, so it's time to allow a little fun into the budget.

So, instead of hurried, frantic, looking-over-my-shoulder updates from the workplace, I'll be better equipped to sit down and type sometihng of substance, like the old days! yea!

So, quit calling me a slacker -- I'm about to heat things up!

Let's see if I can actually squeeze in a ride report here, eh?
This last Sunday was New Year's Day, and time once again for the annual -- and aptly titled -- New Year's Day Ride. The crown-jewel of the whole day was record-high temperatures for the season -- I left the driveway at 11:15AM, and immediately had to take off a layer and toss it back in the garage! Crazy, like 55ºF when I left! I knew shortly after that I was gonna be WAY overdressed for this affair, which was WEIRD for January!
I hearken back to 2001's NYDR, where it was a blistering ELEVEN degrees.
This CAN'T be January..!
Also notable, this was the first ride on the new bike frame - the Surly CrossCheck - which I'd built up only a few days earlier. With big tires, full fenders and the Carradice saddle bag, it was time for a spring brevet shakedown run, and this was a perfect day to do it!
With 75+ miles on tap, riding to the ride from home, if anything was going to need adjusting it would probably happen today, so I came prepared with a full complement of tools.

The ride began perfectly -- I had expected to meet up with Ort somewhere along the route out to Longview, and as I approached 143rd St., I saw a cyclist pass by -- it MUST be him! I sprinted a bit, made the turn, only to be joined a few pedal strokes later by ANOTHER cyclist -- and then another! It was the PVYC group, out for what was probably the last part of their 9AM Hen House ride - sweet timing, I got a mini-paceline and escort for the first few miles of my trek eastbound towards Grandview, talked it up with a familiar face on a gorgeous Colnago, hung off the back of the tandem, and just enjoyed the brisk pace and conversation. It ended too quickly, as they turned north on Switzer and I continued straight on.

The next 20 miles or so would be solo, which is okay -- time to tune in to the bike, listen for ticks of maladjustment, if any existed. So far, so good -- and I'm pretty impressed with the bike overall, but the reach is too long -- a shorter stem is likely on the wish list now, and possibly a slight saddle adjustment forward -- but that's for later. Even though I'd brought tools, I needed to stay focused on the task at hand -- time was ticking, and it was looking like I'd be timing my approach to Longview almost to the minute -- uh oh! Didn't want to miss anyone of the three or four people I'd expected to see out there -- at this point, it was apparent that Ort was driving out instead of riding, so I'd just meet up with him there.

Twenty fast, freewheeling (a weird sensation after SO many fixed-gear miles) and smooth miles later, I was at the rec. center parking lot, looking at a field fit for JULY! There were easily 100 riders in the parking lot, all milling about, getting ready, filling bottles, tightening shoes, shooting the breeze, in the clean, warm January air. The sky was breath-takingly clear, and the sun felt GREAT. Arm-warmers came off, and headbands were tossed back into cars as people realized what kind of day this was turning out to be! Simply TERRIFIC!

Okay -- here's where things started to sink in, and I've never been much of a "joiner", but I felt downright OUT of place on this new bike -- I like retro, I like uniqueness, but I was feeling a little strange in present company... after un-successfully finding Ort, K-man, or ANYONE else familiar looking in the ten-minutes I had before ride-start in the parking lot -- oh, I did meet up with Mike, the tri-superstar (finished his first Ironman in NV last year!) -- I rode out with the first group, which consisted of the Bicycle Shack racing team guys. OK: let's be clear -- I could be back on the Bianchi, and I'd STILL be a little out of place in that group. There is some SERIOUS racer hardware in that pack, and I was feeling a little sad that I didn't have my Dura-Ace caliper brakes mounted, or my STI levers, for that matter. Here I was sporting the Carradice, ancient Dia-Compe cantilever brakes and (gasp) bar-end shifters. And sandals. Riding a steel frame. Egads --- I *AM* FROM MARS!

Ok -- pack-envy aside, I was having a GREAT time, as I always do with this group. As much as I've kinda sluffed off the entire last 6-months of 2005, it was great to once again be allowed to be in this group ---- I say "allowed" because they were warming up. These are guys that, if you've read ANY of my stuff before, can dish out 25+ MPH average speeds over just about any distance up to 100 miles. And probably still hold a comfortable conversation in the process. Nothing says "you suck" louder than trying to hang in with these guys --- let's see what happens today, eh?

After about 10-12 miles of riding along, near, and sometimes off the front (again, only by concession) with the group, we arrived at 150 highway -- a brief pause, and we were across, and I was getting a little tired -- I refuse to blame the bike, but the 32c tires weren't helping me "feel" very fast and nimble, that's for sure. It's January, and I've spent the last 6-months riding sub-15 MPH average coffee rides -- it's NOT the bike's fault, but since it was the new kid in the stable, and markedly out of place, I found myself looking to it for blame. I started to tire, and fall out of contention - watching the large pack breeze past me in a frenzy of skinny tires and Look cleats. Wow -- I hadn't realized it, but the train was nearly 50 strong! Dang. I guess I can be semi-proud that I was up near the front of all that for a short time. That Carradice makes for a solid draft, ya know. he,he.

Dude -- stop blaming the bike.

After a little humbling, and thanks VERY much to a car at the next intersection, I bridged back up to the pack, and managed to sit in for the run down to Mo-58 on Horridge. More drafting than anything else, I sat in and recovered what I could -- at this point, I was running low on fluids, and my ability to hammer. I was looking forward to the Casey's stop, whether the pack was planning on it or not. Sure enough, as the paceline chatter began and we turned right onto 58, the elite members of the pack began to filter forward as "warm-up" was officially deemed OVER. The pace heated - and (like an idiot) I just HAD to get up in there again. I shifted purposefully, and found myself mid-way between those that were comfortable with 20 MPH, and those that thought 20 MPH was boring. Still, I was pretty happy with myself: using the last of my reserves I put my head down and managed to barely latch onto the back of the leading pack, with only 1/8th mile left before the Casey's stop arrived -- and as I suspected, the pack went dead-ahead, as I peeled off for a break. Yeesh --- 40+ miles deep, I was starting to feel pretty wasted, and that last dash killed me. Time to refuel. I watched as the rest of the pack dashed along the road towards Madison for the tailwind-fueled run northbound. A pack that I could've hung with longer back in July. MAN -- I wouldn't call myself competitive, but I was sure feeling angry at myself for letting the fitness slip. I remembered the Summer Breeze ride back in July, being part of an elite 5-man group that carved out a 26 MPH average for ten-something miles. I was lighter now, thanks to a careful diet, but the fitness level was gone.
For a few seconds, I reminded myself that I was on a different bike -- probably to make myself feel better -- but then I snapped back to reality: yeah, the bigger tires and in-ability to shift really fast MIGHT be a factor, but not THAT much of a factor.

Remember: put Lance on a English 3-speed, and he'd still kick your butt.

It's not the bike's fault, Dude -- it's YOU.

I was starting to see some 2006 goals materializing.

The rest of the ride back was GREAT fun -- after the rest at Casey's, I enjoyed a near-40 MPH downhill run on Madison, pushed along by a wicked tailwind, and played cat-and-mouse with a guy on a Raliegh for the last 10-or-so-miles through rural Grandview, and around the top of the lake, bridging a few times, then resting, then finally bridging and passing him on View High, back into the wind. It was fun, and reminded me what a good training tool the "chase" is. Haven't experienced that in a long while, hearkening back to the old Warbird School of Road Tactics or yore. DANGIT I miss that sometimes, and it's readily apparent that I *NEED* that kind of speed training again. These last two years have seen a lot of discovery for me, as a rider; I know that I'm very well suited to, and enjoy, ultra-distance -- BUT, there is a BIG part of me that enjoys speed, too, and looking back at 6-years worth of journal entries, speed has always been important --- I'm not 100% sure when speed STOPPED being important. I remember my MS-150 reasons for speed no longer being important, but somewhere along the way it trickled down to other aspects of my riding, and my overall average speeds have suffered for it.
NOW, GRANTED: I have had a GREAT time, and have ridden with some GREAT people - things I will not discount or trade off; but the New Year's Day ride this year, and the days that followed it, have had me thinking about 2006, and beyond, and what I want to accomplish for myself. What is it that I *TRULY* enjoy?

Looking back, my quests for speed have placed me in a position where it was hard to get to know other riders -- there can be a balance, and I intend to find it. But, a few other emails and conversations from last year with Ort have me thinking that I can do more, and should.
Instead of feeling like something of an old-timer, no longer concerned with numbers and stats, training, and installing gigantic tires and saddlebags, I have to find a balance. The retro-freak, coffee-ride fanatic needs to find peace with the go-fast, kill-kill-kill guy, AND the ultra-distance guy - all of whom wrestle in my soul constantly.

The CrossCheck, which ended up proving itself as VERY capable today, is truly a do-it-all bike, with modern standards, old-school-steel, and a good blend of comfort and aggresiveness -- more versitile and forgiving than the Bianchi, but not as laid-back as the old Trek 720 was. It took a long time, but this is the bike that truly fits the kind of rider I truly am -- with a few adjustments, it will be perfect for just about anything I throw it into.
After all -- the Schwinn, going WAY back to 2002, wasn't really a master of ANY trade -- I time-trialed, brevet'ed, raced on a really cheap sports-class frame that was aluminum!
The Surly should do ANY of that, and probably better. If it's gonna rain all-day on a 400km, it will take fenders - but I don't have to have them mounted ALL the time, just to show that I'm a randonneur. I can race on it -- but it can have bar-end shifters, because - after all - unless I'm a super-elite athlete at the absolutle PINNACLE of fitness, the difference of a few half-seconds while shifting, or being able to shift while out of the saddle, is not going to make or break a podium spot -- especially since most of the 'racing' I'll be doing will be in the Bicycle Shack training pack anyways. Again --- don't blame the bike.

More than anything, I need to train more with these guys -- I NEED that target up the road to chase down again. That is the only thing that worked for me in the past to get faster -- forcing myself to do intervals won't do it. I already know what works, and I need to get on it. Only then can I realize my goals for 2006:

And now... drum roll... in PRINT, for all to see and so I can be held accountable by myself and others:

1) FINISH a 600km; Not saying where, or when, or how fast -- but this is the year. Many attempts in the past - never a finish. This is the year.

2) Legitimate result at Tinbutt 2006; let's face it: last year was a pathetic example of poor personal preparation, too laxidazical an approach to training and nutrition, and poor execution. This year, I know what I need to do to break 200 miles -- I just need to make it happen, and make it a ride worthy of a road trip. EARN the medal this time.

3) Tejas 500; this is a BIG GOAL, but ever since MV24 in '03 I have been wondering about 24-race redemption. What if I hadn't fallen asleep? I look back on that race, and realize that I was on a terrific path -- I mean, I got a FOURTH DAY LAP before the cutoff, which was a HUGE deal. If I hadn't fallen asleep and taken too long of a break, I would have placed. Enough "what-if's"! It's time to put the wondering to bed, train right, and use Tinbutt as a springboard to prove that MV24 in '03 wasn't just a fluke, or a once-upon-a-time ride. I have it within me to repeat that kind of performance, and then some. Team, or solo - doesn't matter. Just get there, and bring it.

There ya go ---- let's get it on!!!!!!!

2006 -- The Year of No Excuses.