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.