February 20, 2006

The return of the specialist.

A little internal debate, a little light ribbing, and a little longing. That’s about all it took to get the zip-tie cutters out of the tool box, and drop the Bianchi frameset down from its place of honor over the garage workbench. After a couple hours of wrenching in the garage, the beast breathes again. And, it’s gorgeous – perhaps moreso than it was when I first tore it down.

Yes – unrest is rampant in the ‘Dude’s stable: if you don’t like what I’m riding, wait a few weeks. For now, however, part of my successful 2006 season is taken care of, with zero-excuses: a faster, lighter, stronger race-oriented bike, to tackle my race needs.

But, what about the CrossCheck, the ‘one’ that was supposed to tackle it all?? What’s yer problem, man?

The CrossCheck -- it still lives, and it now replaces the Steamroller. Let’s face facts: I love the Steamroller, but it’s going to turn into a feature-bike for weekend fixxie stuff, not so much the daily grind. It’s a stripped down warrior, and it’ll likely see a few alley-cats this year, but no more daily-duty. The PERFECT commuter that I always refer back to is my old Trek 720. It was indeed perfect – I ran it geared, I ran it single, fixed, too. It was rock-solid, and took full fenders. The CrossCheck is VERY close to that platform, with slightly shorter chainstays – and with its full fenders and fixed gear platform, it’s ready to fill the commuter gap, and get me to work clean in the sloppy rain, it’ll take massive tires for gravel road tours – there is very little this bike WON’T do – but like an old friend recently said, it doesn’t do any ONE of those things very well. Jack of all trades – master of none. But, that's perfect for commuter-duty.

The Bianchi -- well, it's master of only one thing: fast. No-excuses, tear-up-that-next-corner, fast. But, at the same time, it was cozy enough to provide the platform for the most comfortable 400K I've ridden to date, last May. Ask a bike with the same geometry in a different material to do THAT! (Ok, maybe Ti or carbon would be as comfy - but I'm biased.) But, the Bianchi can transition from ultra-distance to short-course racing with ease. So it doesn't take fenders? So WHAT?! It's meant to be ridden -- and ridden it shall be. She's ready to brevet – if it rains on brevet, well, so be it – and worst case, I can repeat my single-speed brevets on the CrossCheck – but I doubt it. I’ve gotten past the “oh-no, it’ll-get-dirty” phase with the Bianchi: but reality is that it WILL get dirty, and it will clean up just as easily. Since I LIKE to clean stuff, what does it matter? It didn’t matter at Tinbutt in 2004, when it rained for the first 3 hours!
Build it clean – get it dirty… repeat. It’s an absolute joy to ride, and I’m glad she’s back!

The Steamroller -- it's the perfect fixxie – but not the perfect commuter. The CrossCheck isn’t a perfect fixxie, but it’s a better commuter than the Steamroller – and so-on. Basically, after nearly 9 months of tearing this down, and building this up again, ad nauseum – I’ve nearly come full circle. If the CrossCheck was a darker shade of green, you might not be able to tell any difference between my current stable, and the same stable last July. Full circle, in this case, is a good thing – I experimented, and eventually put to rest my own demons on the issue. I indeed had things right the first time, and if I wasted a few hours and a little grease to find out, so be it. Things are good again.

Now, if it would PLEASE warm up outside – maybe I could get some training on the actual ROAD done!

Ugh… two hours on the indoor trainer is PLENTY!

But it’s all part of the goal-realization plan… and I’m right on track, and ready to ramp up for week seven.

This week, temps will rise a little out of the basement, and I can get to some real-world training, finally!

More as it happens!

February 13, 2006

The lay-off.

For the first time in over one-and-a-half years, I took a FULL WEEK OFF the bike.
A full seven days with ZERO cycling activity.

It was weird, really. Very, very weird... but the results are pleasant.

Even though I have been active, it's been on a non-cycling level, and I'm once again itching to get out and train. Unfortunately, my resolve for cold weather hasn't been restored, but my soul, legs, and resting heart-rate HAVE been.

The quest for the "total package" continues, however, with a lot of abdominal work, treadmill, and weights for resistance training on the upper body. For the first time since July, I feel the twang of multi-sport possibly coming back into the fray... assuming my upper body comes along at the same rate as everything else. To be more realistic, also, *IF* I do head back to Shawnee Mission Park this July for a little Tri-action, I'll opt for the short course. Regardless of my ability to gather back minutes during a longer bike-section, the prospect of another 1000-meter swim doesn't sit too well. It's on the "we'll see" list, for sure... the primary goals will take precedence, and if a tri- doesn't fit the mold this summer, I'll skip it. Have to look at the big picture, and not diversify too much.

Has it been strange NOT commuting to work? Absolutely.
There is almost a feeling of guilt, even despite a recent change in vehiclar mobility. A new car, something more appropriate for the CommuterDude automotive stable, now graces the driveway, taking the place of the 6MPG monster. Now, if I DO decide to drive, I'm using FAR less gas - so it won't sting as badly.
But still, seratonin levels are down, and the workday passes more slowly without a rousing workout before punching in. Further, the commute home is unsatisfying; sitting in traffic instead of humming along and breathing hard. The depression that comes packaged with late winter is intensified without that post-work outlet, but with most of this month behind me I know things will improve in a short time.

Spring, after-all, is only a month away... and the weather patterns are already reflecting it, the clouds taking on familiar shapes, and birds are becoming more active, as the shadows of the morning begin to march the other direction with the northward advance of sunrise on the horizon each day. This is the part I love - the transition of seasons.

Soon, the trees and fields will be awash with the fresh green of new birth, and the skies will rumble with the first spring rains. The salty roads will be washed clean, and will shine towards the horizon, beckoning. Arms and legs, long hidden by tights and warmers, will emerge again to bask in the sunlight. Warmth! Bliss!

I cannot wait... even as I huddle in my own coat with 20º winds blowing past my face, I smile - because I know the tides are about to turn...

Even after a full week off, I feel like I'm ready to pounce.

February 6, 2006

Over-rated, my foot.

Yeah, yeah --

"Suck it up, man -- it's only (insert ridiculously cold temp here) outside, common! "

Forget THAT. This winter, despite warmer than normal temperatures, I'm defintely turning into one of those people that has "only so-many gut wrenchingly epic days" in him.

Going off of my "kinder-gentler" 2006 training plan spreadsheet, (ok, I said I was gonna RIDE less. I'll work on the over-analysis problem later) it looked like I was going to need 48 miles this last weekend. No problem! It's been REALLY nice these last few weekends, right? What could go wrong?

Well, winter could show up fashionably late, that's what.

And so it goes that I woke up Sunday morning to a blistering 18ºF on the thermometer, and promptly put my pre-ride carbo-bomb drink back in the fridge. Hmmmm... Might be time to dig that dusty thing I call a trackstand out of the rubble in the garage, and see if it will still support me with all this winter weight.

Ok, who am I kidding? -- there's no rubble in the garage.

So, I retrieved the trainer from its hook on the wall, and removed the protective bubble wrap and silca gel packet, and set it up. It was a hard sell, but with winds howling outside, the prospect of riding a few hours INside wasn't seeming all that horrid. A couple hours later, I was right. Not only did I get a quality cardio workout, I could still feel my fingers and toes, and my nose wasn't equipped with a fashionable and aerodynamically-stable snot-sickle.

So, I may have bashed training indoors before, and yeah -- it IS hard to keep one's mind occupied -- but thank the maker: I still got a workout, and the slow building of base mileage continues without regard to weather.

Special thanks to Landshark, without whom this would not have been possible.

Until next time -- keep your bike in one place and keep pedaling for the opposite wall.
You'll get there. Honest.