April building, on and off the bike

Its has been a busy month.

My wife and I have been planning and dreaming of a pergola (an open, unattached patio cover) for some time. Since I can’t use the “I don’t know how” excuse anymore with her so we decided I could build it. We started on it the second weekend of April and over the course of a couple weekends we got it put in.

It went from this...

It went from this…

to this...

to this…

to finally this.

to finally this.

My carpentry skills are still very rudimentary but they get the job done. There are a few things we want to do to improve it – I already built the noise baffle by the air conditioner unit – but we should get most of that done this Sunday. After that it is time to sit and enjoy it.

If it ever stops snowing. Good grief.

On the bike, it has been good. The construction work and a short stint of night and weekend duty have taken a toll on my training but I can still quantify improvements. Thank you Strava for making it easy to see performance ebb and flow.

I am racing this weekend in the marathon at Tranquility. They have a 50+ division so maybe, juuuust maybe, I’ll come away with some cash. We’ll see.




A good race that wasn’t

Fat guy on a little bike

Fat guy on a little bike (Tom Winfeild phto)

I made the trip with the Hoff brothers to the Psycowpath opener this last Sunday at Swanson. An iffy morning of weather turned into a beautiful day for racing bikes – not too cool or hot, and enough breeze out in the open for a bit of refreshment.

My day went well for a while. I went out for a warm up and was pleasantly surprised in how good I felt. I had been doing some home improvements on Saturday and was a bit stiff when I got up. I managed to get loose at home but was worried that a 2 hour car ride would exacerbate the situation but I was fine. I was feeling good going to the start line.

I got a decent start with no clip in issues, and moved out with the pack. I slotted in a little higher than I should have but with some faster riders driving me I ended up burning a personal best lap on this course.

I didn’t pre-load with nutrition and hydration like I should have so going into the second lap I felt a little flat. A little Heed and a get and i was good to go again. At the end of lap two I was still way under the lap times I had hoped for.

Lap three went by quickly and I was starting to settle into a good rhythm. Going into lap four I was starting to feel some fatigue and a little crampy and a couple folks I had been leading were starting to catch up. I stood to climb up from the pavement crossing and my left thigh cramped. Still not wanting to get passed, I pushed on and made up some great time the remainder of the lap and back to the finish line. I had planned on pounding down some Heed and a gel or two to stoke the fire.

Just as I crossed the line I heard a pop and my seat dropped out from under me. I stood to keep from getting a carbon fiber enema and my thigh cramped and all hell broke loose. I ended up in the rough off course but got unclipped without too much embarrassment. My race was done at the halfway mark.

The seat clamp bolt snapped which completely ended my day because you can’t use any parts you weren’t already carrying to make repairs and who carries bolts? It literally took a $.58 bolt and two minutes to repair it on Monday.

Oh well.

Even after four laps I was still well under my best-case scenario for lap times. Had I not bonked and not broken down I most likely would have had seven laps, eight if things had gone really well. With that I would have ended up mid-pack, exactly what I had hoped for.

Tracking my performance and comparing it to the last two years is very encouraging.  I am on par with 2011, my last good year of racing, and greatly improved over 2012.

I see some areas that need work but I am encouraged and looking forward to Tranquility in two weeks.

Nearing the end of January status check

Its January 27, close enough to the end of the month for an update/gut check.

My training plan started November 19 with base one ending December 30.  I am mostly through base 2, with a marked increase in intensity over the first period. I had to re-adjust what I was doing after refreshing myself one the Friel system via the Mountain Biker’s Training Bible. I pushed the intensity too high and had to dial it back. Its good because I was getting more tired than I should have this early in the year.

Off the bike I have been lifting heavy with increases coming intentionally slow. As a result, I feel as confident as I have ever felt under a barbell. The yoga and tai chi program continues as well. As proof that the active meditation works, I got rid of a nasty migraine using a combination of the two yesterday.

I am working on *running* a race this year as well, and am slowing adding distance every week. I have never been much of a runner but its something I want to be, within reason. And, with the goal of having a successful cross season this fall I need to be able to run.

Beyond exercise, work has been busy with some organized criminal activity driving area cops (including me) nuts. We have made some great strides getting the bad guys identified, and are hopefully close to throwing out a net. We’ve all  worked some long days lately with some days turning into night and morning.

The house is still full, but that looks to be changing soon. It is going to be different without them.

Without going into any details, I was reminded how much my wife loves me this week. I am a lucky man.

With only a tiddly bit of January to go, February is basically all that stands in the way of spring cycling. I am anxious to see where my fitness is then compared to my arch rival/good buddy Jerry.

Evaluating 2012

Here it is: my annual self-evaluation and plan for 2013. Its really not about popping off about how great I did in 2012 as it is putting the plans for 2013 in place. Putting it down here makes it more likely that I’ll follow through.

2012 was the year of travel for the Downey/Wagners. Late in 2011 we bought a vehicle big enough to travel in style anticipating a couple long road trips and we used it to its potential. In July we loaded up and made the 29 hour drive to extreme southwest Florida to see my brother and his family. It was a good trip, but the drive was almost too long to do straight through. I’d do it again though.

August saw us going the opposite way to see our “adopted” family in California and attend a wedding. It too was a good trip and the 22 hour drive seemed like a piece of cake. There were a couple hitches on the trip home (one involving a meltdown on my part over a missing wallet) but it was a good trip.

In 2013 we’re pledged to take my brother-in-law to California by plane. You see, he has some special needs but he is finally game to ride on a plane so its going to be interesting. It will be fun showing him places I am sure he never dreamed of seeing. We may have to knock him out to get him on the plane but once we’re aboard it will be fine, I’m sure.

Over the winter of 2012 Kandy and I decided that we wanted new floors and the cheapest way was to do it ourselves. We also decided that we wanted wood floors. The only problem was that neither of us knew how to lay floors. It took a while but with some patience and a ton of advice from a Menards person we did it and it looks beautiful.

We wanted to put up a pergola on the back of the house but just never seemed to get it done. Our pledge is to start it as soon as the frost is out of the ground in 2013. Again, I have no idea what I’m doing, but that’s never stopped me before.

After the trip to Cali our grandson moved in with us. Braxton is only 2 so he had to bring his parents with him as well. They put their house on the market and it literally sold out from under them. Now they really can’t find a house they want and are still with us. I’m in no hurry for them to find a house as its has been wonderful bonding with the kids and spending so much time with B.

We had our last high school graduation party in 2012. The guest of honor is still with us while he continues school but I anticipate that when Braxton and his parents move Jake won’t be far behind. That’ll leave just Kandy and me in the house – that will be a whole new chapter that promised to be interesting. As much as I am not trying to get anyone to leave, I am looking forward to having that time with my wife. We’ve never had time to just be a couple and I am looking forward to having it.

I kind of let my cycling slide a bit in 2012 – I still raced some and did (not as well as I’d have liked but) OK but it was not my best effort. It started in the fall of 2011 when I really started to slide in both time and quality and ended up putting on a few pounds. Consequently, when I did race or go ride with friends the legs just weren’t there.

But, in 2012 I really upped my game with my yoga practice and made it a part of my daily routine. I also studied and taught myself the Tai Chi 24 form and have worked that and some qi gong into my morning practice. I joined a gym again and went sporadically until late November when I decided to quit messing around and go.

For 2013 I am determined to get back into decent shape. Nothing crazy and no humping to every race on the calendar but I want to do better than 2012. I have laid out a detailed training plan incorporating cycling, running, weight training and yoga/tai chi and am just finishing the first  microcycle. I think I am already in better condition than I was for most of 2012, certainly my base training is better that it has been for a couple years.

Oh, and I got a new tattoo – covering up an old one that needed to be gone. Now the new one needs a friend. I am thinking I’ll go back to the same shop in Cali again for the new addition.

There are a couple other things looming for 2013 that I just can’t discuss right now. A few people know what I mean, but suffice to says its Kind of a Big Deal, at least to me. I’ll let you all in on the secret regardless of the outcome at the end of 2013. You’ll all have to suffer until then.

Last – and most important – I need to work on being a better person. Not only for myself and my future plans but for my wife and family. There is always room for personal growth and improvement but in may case there is a ton of room for improvement. I am thankful every day that my wife has the ability to look beyond my poor behavior and see how much I love her and how much I want to do better. My goal is to not make her do that so often.

Happy New Year.

A new mindset

One thing I try to keep in mind is that my goal is to be competitive, with a full understanding that I am neither the fastest or the slowest. The other goal is to have some fun. A few weeks ago I was seriously questioning my motivations and my abilities to the point of walking away from any competitive cycling – I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.

A couple weeks ago I almost didn’t go race, even though I was pre-registered. I went ahead and raced, and it wasn’t horrible. Better than anticipated even. With some renewed interest I refocused my workouts to see if I could make things work out a bit better. I am happy to say it worked.

Without going into a bunch of boring details and self-promotion, let’s just say I have learned how to better deal with moderate to high intensity workouts, which translated directly into dealing better with race intensity. That is once I pulled my head out and treated the race intensity like I treat my training  intensity: settle in and work.

With all that in mind, the only thing I am disappointed about is that I didn’t adopt that attitude until into the second lap. For whatever reason racing has always been about just trying to hold on and praying for it to be over. Something changed yesterday and it turned into real racing – working hard, measuring intensity, capitalizing on strengths and not worrying about how much I suck.

The first lap started off okay. I lost a little ground here and there, made up some ground, but somewhere on the far south end I started to fade. I am not real sure what happened – I believe it was the old feelings off self-doubt and fear. When you look up and no one is in front of you, and you’re not winning, its hard to keep motivated.

Then I started to see a few people ahead of me and pulled myself out of survival mode and back into racing. I picked  up speed, picked off a few people, and finished strong. I know I had another place higher in me if I hadn’t fallen into that “middle third blues.”

So, coming away from Tranquility 2012 I can honestly say I learned something. I anxious to continue the training plan I have been working with and applying it to the rest of the Psycowpath season.

The best part of the day was that the race was just part of it. Kandy rode to Omaha with me and I raced while she took care of some other things since there isn’t much for her to see during the race anyway. Afterward we had a date afternoon and evening and had the best time. We ate and drank and shopped and enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

Still not sure if I am going to make it to Platte River but I am planning on Maskenthine and Ponca. Then its time for family things and vacation before I try to apply this new mindset to cyclocross.

Swanson 2012

Photo by Michael McColgan

For being completely uninspired about racing yesterday it didn’t turn out too bad. We have been so busy at home with projects and life that training seems to have taken a second row, if not back, seat. Good for some things, bad for trying to be competitive.

I showed up at Swanson completely in the dark about my fitness. Crunching the numbers in my several year’s worth of cycling logs gave me a vague notion that I was somewhere near where I was last year but I hadn’t ridden with anyone to see how I really stacked up. Showing up at a race in 90 degree weather with a couple hundred other cyclists is a good way to find out, or as good as any.

Off the line I was where I wanted to be. No sense fighting for a front spot because I knew I didn’t deserve it. I was mid-pack in both my category and wave of racers. I found out soon that I hadn’t prepared my nutrition as much as a I should. My energy started fading fast and by the end of the second lap I was in the bag. I was tired and cramping badly.

I had stashed a spare bottle of Heed at the entrance to the singletrack and on the start of my third lap I stopped and sucked down what I was carrying and half of my stash. I managed to get a gel in as well. About halfway into the lap the cramps subsided and I actually started to feel pretty good. I picked up my pace and managed to pick up a place in the process.

I was hoping for fifth, and ended  up fourth.

My lap times were ok; still fast enough to warrant being a cat 2 anyway. Had it not been for an abysmal second lap they’d actually look pretty good overall.

It looks like the Heed drink works, but I need to pre-load a lot more. A LOT more. It is just too hard to make up any deficit that comes on after the always fast first lap of a Cat 2 XC race so I need to take on enough before the start to keep me going past the initial rush and into the meat of the race.

I am hoping to get to the L&C/Tranquility double header, but I will probably miss Platte River, again. Then its our race and Ponca.


Starting to get that feeling…

Even though I have been working out hard all winter, I haven’t ridden outside since the last CX race in Lincoln in November. Yes, the January weather was stellar but I had several irons in the fire and going for a ride wasn’t one of them.

But, its mid-February and I’m starting to get antsy about getting rolling again. Adding fuel to that fire is the fact that Lovely Bride and I have reached a workable compromise as far as what races and when will be doable. It also looks like a new set of 29er wheels is in my future.

I have been “working my limiters” mostly, with high intensity intervals being the torture of choice. The workout consists of an extended period of lower intensity endurance work with an ever-increasing number of of high intensity intervals toward the end. Since it doesn’t look like I will ever build the endurance of a  Joe Savoie or be Glen Houts sized, I need to be able to overcome my weight disadvantage with some power. And do it over and over. Duane the Train style.

Racing this year is working around a couple trips and a graduation, which always makes it interesting. Plus I made the mistake of revealing that I can actually do home-improvement projects after years of denying any skill to Lovely Bride so now she has a laundry list of things to do. But it makes her happy, and a happy wife means I get some more ride time, so it all works out.

But with the Psycowpath season ending earlier I anticipate a quiet summer with fall ratcheting up for cyclocross. I am giving myself another year to achieve some success in CX  before it goes the way of road racing for me.

So, yeah, I am starting to get that feeling again; my race season starts April 1.