Monday, March 30, 2009

tippy toes draw a circle.

I had my last session for my bike fit last week and in that was a pedal stroke coaching session. I must say building a smooth pedal stroke is a lot harder than it sounds. It is easy to shift effort from one part of the stroke to another but to work it all the way around, well that IS difficult. Especially seeing I have not developed the muscles for that yet.

The whole principle is that a lever works best when a force is applied to it at 90 degrees. Picture a string tied to the end of a crank. you must pull the string straight out get the most bang for your buck. If you want to keep the string straight out as you pull your arm will form a perfect circle. So, how do we get our feet to form a perfect circle? He gave me a lot of things to help explain the principle and in general they helped with different parts of the stroke, they didn't get me a complete stroke as I pictured it. I had the principles, I knew I was pushing my heal too low in the bottom of the stroke. He suggested putting a few words on the stem to remind you to keep your form. 3 words he mentioned that someone else used was circle of power.

Due to taking the kids camping on Friday night I couldn't get out onto the open road until 2pm. This meant I would have to bag on doing the Tour De Phoenix route. I decided to do hill repeats on the backside of Usery pass. It is a 3-4 mile climb made up mostly of 5% grade. I decided it would be just the hill to gear down and work on my pedal stroke efficiency. I worked on remembering to keep my toes pointed at the bottom of the stroke to "dip" them into the bowl. I began to realize this action which beforehand had held very little understanding on my part became clear. When I dipped my toes, my hamstrings pulled my foot up through the back of the pedal stroke. The hamstrings of coarse were not altogether happy at this new development and I kept catching them and the calves in wicked collusion slipping my heal down to get back into old habits. The "old" ways which had been burned into my legs over the last 30000 miles of riding were set in their ways like a zealot at a book burning. Burning, yeah, those zealots were burning. My hams were burning, new parts of my quads were burning. Good heavans the whole metropolis of Paul's Leg was burning. Burning burning burning.

I was getting there. I was mighty close. Circles. Cranks, are circles. Cogs are circles, wheels are circles. Lots of circles. What if I had a marker attached to the ball of my foot, would I be drawing a circle? Hmmm. I worked on drawing that circle. Every so often that burning ham and fatted calf would lull me into dropping my heal as they sensed my distraction into other realms of thought and concentration. Again and Again I would dip them back into submission. I then arrived at my mantra. Tippy toes draw a circle. It sounds kind of sissyish. I don't think I will put it on my bike anywhere as I might need to put a thatched white basked with a flower on the front onto my bike to match.

Nevertheless, burned into my mind and legs over three and a half hours of hill climbing is "tippy toes draw a circle". I didn't set any speed records climbing the hill. I didn't try to catch up to riders who passed me. I passed a few that were preparing for the 35 mile version of the Tour de Phoenix next week. Chatted a bit with them and rode off. Always in my mind was "tippy toes draw a circle". 4 times I climbed the beast. 45 miles and 3200 vertical feet, always "tippy toes draw a circle". My back started to ache a little towards the end but not bad compared to similar efforts in the past. I was noticing that my hip motion was gone. I wasn't moving around over the bars and I seemed to sit a lot more solidly in the saddle. My legs were absorbing a lot less of the shock that came from the road and I could feel it in the backside.

When I got home my entire legs were drained. I had consumed only water over the 3.5 hours (I had a HUGE! breakfast). I had started to get a little hungry on the last bit of the last climb. Though my legs were totally drained I took that as a good sign. Part of the idea of a smooth pedal stroke is to more evenly distribute the strain across more muscle groups. This I had succeeded at in a very thorough way.

Next week is El Tour de Phoenix. I had not intended riding it but I heard PBAA needed all the support they could get since the county was giving them flack about the use of Bush Hwy. So I signed up. I feel confident in saying I won't finish Platinum. I may not even finish gold. I don't think concentrating on pedal form and participating in a paceline is necessarily the best thing. Sure it's possible to pat your head and rub your tummy, but would you like someones life to depend on you doing that perfectly? Yeah me either. I'll shoot for gold but if not, I will at least get a good training ride in. Riding in poor form is only going to undo what I have accomplished.

The whole riding a PBAA event again (and I have refrained the last few Tour de Tucsons because of price and scheduling issues) had got me thinking about the Cochise County Cycling Classic. I had not considered this ride for many years. I was looking at it before Randonneuring pulled me into it's loving arms (it's kind of a freezing wet tired tough love thing though). To ride 252 or 157 mile versions of this ride a person needs a support crew. I have had a few ideas. One person I called gave me the lame excuse that she was going to be the event director for that ride this year. Yeah yeah lady, I hear the violins playing. Sure, director of the Cochise County Cycling classic, uh huh.... oh, oops.. heh heh, looks like your story checks out Ms. um, supreme, wonderful, masterful, wise course director Mamm. Hmmm, that was a close one. I sent out another feeler and am awaiting an answer back on that one. I am sure something will work out before October. In the meantime I need a concise, efficient training plan.

One idea I have had speaking of training is possibly going for the R12 award with RUSA as a side benefit of getting some longer rides in before October. That would mean a 200k sometime in October since the 4 C's isn't an RUSA ride, so maybe that isn't such a swell idea. I do want to incorporate a few permanents in the training plan though. Anyway, first things first, lets get the pedal stroke down and the mines to pines brevet behind us and then move on into the searing training of the summer.

Tippy toes draw a circle.

This just in....... Word on the street says that Bruce of Southern Arizona Randonneurs fame, has condescended to be crew chief for our intrepid RandoCommuter on the 4 C's ride. With a crew like this, how can he fail! Six and a half months away we will be raising a fist in the eye of the storm, we will cry into the wind and call it weak, we will curse the evil asphalt of the eastbound I-10 interstate, we will stare down the maw of the land of the Apaches and be found tired yet vigilant in the paths of their ancient land. We will claw our way to the top of the mule pass and fall with fury upon the top of Tombstone, who like us, is too tough to die.
In the meantime, Tippy toes draw a circle.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I wear a helmet, therefore I am.

When is a commute not like a commute? When you get hit by a school bus. School buses are large objects, large wide objects, large wide objects with mirrored protruding arms of steel ready to give you that great big hug from behind. Feel the love baby! Yes, large objects indeed. They also have large flat fronts and heaven help you if you get hit dead center on the front like a human fly on a grill. Fortunately I was not that fly today. I was but a bovine swept away by the cow catcher.

Actually swept is not the best word to describe it. Clubbed, smacked, rolled, bowled over, those are better words. I don't know if it was just the mirror or the corner of the bus but all I knew is I got hit HARD on the elbow and felt a serious smack on my head which I didn't really remember until I'd gotten to work. I knew my neck was sore but I didn't remember my head getting hit right away since kind of everything got hit at once. I got smacked and I saw the ground rushing up at me and then I was rolled out on the ground and the bus came to a stop up the road about 100 feet. I figured he was going pretty fast. At first the adrenalin was rushing and I thought about brushing myself off and just heading on my way but then the sensible side kicked in and I decided I was just going to sit there and wait for everything to happen around me. Within 2 or 3 minutes several people had dialed 911 and a passing roadie came over to make sure I was done right by (right on brother!). 4 or 5 minutes after that the fire department and paramedics showed up.

Me elbow hurt a lot. Like the funny bone whack that just kept whacking. It is now evening and my little finger is still tingly. My neck was stiff, I had a little road rash in various places on my body, mostly places that protrude, and my knee hurt a bit. They checked me out and offered me an ambulance but I figured I would just head up to work and take it from there. The police made out their report and gave me my slip to obtain the report once it was complete. My bike was at least rideable. Kudos go to Dahon, any bike you can have hit by a bus, flung up over your head, and slammed down into the pavement with just damage to the rear rack and reflector is a good bike, much less a folding bike.

As I bid adeu to the school district transportation director and the driver and rode off up the street I realized that my knees hurt. They hadn't hurt too much until I started bending them. Fortunately I was able to make it up to work. I originally thought I would tough it out at work but as I sat at my desk and things started to stiffen up and hurt I thought perhaps that prudence was the better part of valor and asked my wife to pick me up and take me to the emergency room to get checked out.

Being kind of hurt in an emergency room is not fun. You get to sit around while everyone else gets seen before you. We got sent back to a room fairly quickly but we sat in that room for hours. It was about 2 hours before the doctor saw me. During which time we were forced to watch nick jr since the tv remote didn't work. It had been a long time since I had watched those kids shows. I was a little annoyed as I couldn't get comfortable due to my head hurting a bit on the back of it. Then there was also the fact I had two really sore knees, an elbow that was useless, and when I took my shirt off my wife noticed that I had marks on my shoulder which, interestingly enough started to get stiff, being late to the party.

The doctor who checked me out had to be a cyclist as he kept commenting on how cool a sound it was to have cycling shoes tap tapping in the emergency room when I stood up. He checked my collar bone and my arms and legs to see if anything was broken and ended up only getting my elbow x-rayed. It took another hour or two to get the results of the x-ray back. he said the bones looked good, I just had a pretty good contusion on my elbow and the nerve that ran through there got a sever whacking.

It was 4PM by the time I got home having been hit just before 8 AM. Amazing how something like that can ruin your day. Anyway, the good news is I am just sore and hopefully I won't lose too much training time off of this. I figure I got off lucky, or blessed, or both. Anyway, my first two purchases are going to be another helmet and another take a look mirror. That cheap mirror I bought at performance the other day just doesn't do it. I probably would have seen the bus coming if I had had my old trusty "take a look" mirror. Oh well, what ya gonna do? Woulda coulda shoulda didn't. No use whining now. Now is the time to steel the nerves and prepare to get on the bike again remembering that I have ridden over 30000 miles and 10 years without an accident. Remembering that struck from behind collisions are statistically rare. Remembering that it is usually the guys riding against traffic that get hit. Remembering that life is to be lived and not feared.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Evening Commute, Extended Mix

It is Friday night and I have decided that since I will be watching the kids all day Saturday (with a short excursion to Casa Grande to help at the first control on the 400k brevet) that I should do my long ride tonight. I must stop at Performance bike to get some shoes and a seatpost on my way home. I had originally planned a 54 mile trip home but adding my stop off I end up at a nice metric century (62 miles). So, although I would not be doing 400k, I would at least get 100k in. I also would get several hours of blissful night riding in.

I have not ridden in Scottsdale a whole lot so most of today's trip was new territory for me. I went through the Phoenix mountain park and was blown east by a hefty tailwind along Thunderbird road to the bike shop. A quick stop at the bike shop loaded me up with around 35 lbs on the seat rack which I think was pushing the weight limit but it held.

I rode down Cactus to Frank Loyd right and enjoyed my trip of Via Linda as the sunset towards the horizon. As I climbed Shea I could see the rose and amber hues of the sunset start up behind me and the evening descend in front of me.

I should have probably stopped to put my lights and reflective gear on but I figured I was close to the top of the hill and I could put it on when I got to where I was going to eat dinner over by the beeline highway. I almost pulled a muscle in my shoulder as I leaned down to turn on my hub light but I got it on. I descended at close to the speed the cars were going, I just wish I would have put my taillight on but I was to the Arbys before it got dangerous.

After a drink, and an Arbys sandwich I was full so feeling a little like Napolean Dynamite I shoved the carton of Curly fries into my Jersey pocket, leaned back and loosened the old Sam Brown Belt and got on my bike to head off into the night. From here I had 7-8 miles of uphill to the Saguaro Lake turnoff.

It was a beautiful night and my headlight was bright and the moon was near full. I had a strong tailwind and all was good with the world. Cycling along in the stillness of the night can be quite therapeutic. It is just you and your thoughts out there. Well, actually you, your thoughts, and a box of curly fries but it is all good. I snacked periodically through this section.

Occasionally I would see the lights of a house off in the darkness and was surprised as I never noticed anything out there during the day. This was a much different ride at night. Periodically semi's would pass me and I was pleased to note my headlight would light up the backs of them for up to a quarter mile and above. I can honestly say my headlight gives me all the light I need. I found myself comfortably descending at 35 mph with it.

The best part about my light is it runs on curly fries, and the tank was full. Turning off of the Beeline I stop for a minute to put on my jacket and turn my flashing helmet light on again. The bush highway is quiet. Occasionally a car goes by. I am amused by the cars approaching me who slow down trying to figure out what I am. This is good. For one my light is bright enough that they turn their brights off when approaching me. Second, they try to figure out what I am which means they see me. Being seen is good at night on a narrow road.

Moving down the road I pass the lights of the Saguaro lake marina and then I am into the darkness again. It is a beautiful night in the desert. The night birds are chirping, and the moon is shining brightly. If I didn't need to be seen I could probably turn my headlight off and still follow the road. Soon I am at the turn to go over Usery pass. It is a long slog up usery pass and I am grateful for my granny gear as I lug all this extra weight up the hill. I think back to when I weighed more and likely had about the same amount of fat as I had on my rack out back. This hill was a lot harder then. Soon I will be home and can shed this weight in a few seconds whereas a few years ago I would have been stuck with it.
Topping the pass I look across the million lights of the valley spread out in front of me with dark outlines of hills in front of them. It is a beautiful descent back down into civilisation. I have been heading home from work for over 4 hours now and my legs are starting to get tired (I have been working on my pedal stroke and have been using some new muscles). I am mentally aware of myself. I breathe in the night and the sight of the city far below me. All is well. Sometimes it pays to take the long way home.
Some clown I ran into at the 400k start line while buying batteries.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Professional Bike Fitting

Well, as you know, if you have been reading, my Orthapedic doctor recommended a rather pricey bike fitting to resolve my knee issue. I went to said bike fitting Wednesday night. The gentleman doing the fitting has helped several of the faster guys in the Arizona Randonneuring mob in the past and so I had high hopes. I arrived pretty late but in all fairness the traffic was terrible and I had to stop by the bank. I got my bike and stuff out and changed into my duds and we chatted while he hooked my bike into all of his equipment. His equipment was pretty cool to say the least. It was a trainer, but not just any trainer he was hooking my bike into, no this one measured cadence, speed, watts, you name it. After hooking it up he went over my bike and took measurements and then he had me hop on the bike and warm up.

While warming up I noticed there was a video of a rather dashing and muscular cyclist on the TV, who's legs happened to be going at the same time mine were! Ok, maybe he wasn't quite so dashing but it was cool to see my leg muscles bulging and working as I rode. He had my working to keep up with the computer pacer and I rode for a good 10-15 minutes while he captured video and statistics and observed my riding style.

The bottom like from all this, and I hadn't noticed all the figures mounting up as I rode, was I was wasting 25% of my energy. That's huge. I was buring 170 watts when my more efficient computer counterpart was only burning 140 theoretical watts for the same amount of effort. Needless to say I have a lot of room for improvement. But that is a good thing. I can gain several mph just by becoming more efficient on the bike.

After the assesment he made a list of items I would need to purchase to make my bike fit better. First I need new pedals, then shoes, a seatpost that adjusts more, a stem and handlebars. All in all I got off fairly easy. At least I don't need a new frame. My next step after getting the shoes and seatpost is to go in for my second appointment which is the pedal technique session. I am eager to get going.

I already have started doing the stretches he told me about (my legs are really stiff on the backs and I need to stretch them out to allow a better hip position). I also am trying to smooth out my pedal stroke although I am sure he is going to give me a lot of good stuff to help with that. I got my pedals ordered, I am going to check out some shoes on my way home tonight and then I will just need to find a seatpost. The handlebars and the stem are going to wait a bit I think. Anyway, I am stoked. 25% increase is huge. People pay thousands of dollars to get single digit percentage increases. The key is to remember it won't happen overnight. There are a lot of neglected muscles to start working to get that smooth pedal stroke!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Training Commute

Come along with me fair readers on my journey back to my car at the park and ride. I finally have a commute I might ride by choice if left up to my own free time. The scenery, the hills, the low trafficked roads!
It all starts at work.

I start the climb up Lincoln, this is the busiest road of my route but only lasts a few miles. The Phoenix Mtns are on my left.

Theres Camelback mountain in the distance.

The Phoenix Mountain Preserve, and a few houses up on the edge of it. Look at me they say, my owner is rich enough to spoil everyones view of the mountain and there is nothing you can do about it. Where's a good mudslide when you need it?

Camelback mountain draws closer.

Rocky crag on the western flank of Camelback Mountain.

Is it a hotel? Is it a museum? A Boy Scout Camp? No! It's multi-milliion dollar mansion!

Old McDonald had a road, E I E I O. On this road he had a Lexus E I E I O with a snob snob here, and a snob snob there, Here a snob, there a snob, everywhere a snob snob......

More of McDonald road.

Not too many people know that Flash had a brother. This street is named after him. It's Invergordon.

That's me there.

The Arizona Canal

We are getting close to Tempe now and have left Paradise Valley

Yes, that thar is one of them high fallutin Mazerati dealerships. Not to mention Fairyari's and Astoun Martin. (gee, I wonder if they leave those cars out on the lot at night?)

Corner of College and Curry.

Getting ready to head under the Red Mountain Freeway, You can feel the pent up anger of rush hour spilling over the side from above.

Camelback Mountain in the distance. Looking over what used to be a sailboat store.

Tempe Town lake.

Light rail corridor/main street bridge over the 101.

Back at the Park N Ride.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tortilla Flat. or is it?

Well, the the Brumby's Orthapedic doctor looked at my knee and x-rayed it and said it looked good. But! he also X-rayed my hips since he wasn't finding as much motion in them that he liked and said I have the beginnings of arthritis in them unfortunately. He was concerned as he said it was more than he liked to see in a 38 year old. He recommended I go in for a rather pricey bike fit from a certail Jeff Lockwood. I have long meant to get a good bike fitting, it's just something that never took priority. I am a motivated customer at this point it seems. Between searching the internet for him and talking with him I find that he has coached some of the faster riders that ride the Arizona Brevet's among others so I think I am in good hands. I go in Wednesday for my first appointment. I need to clean my bike before then but when will I find time? Our master brake cylinder went out on the van this weekend and I need to fix that tonight.

Saturday morning, having been cleared to maintain my current mileage by the doctor (and to increase after my fitting) I decided a trip back to Tortilla Flat was in order since that would bump up my climbing from 2000 to 2700' feet from my last long ride. I would have preferred to ride with the Brumby's but they weren't leaving until 6:30 and I needed to be back before 9:30 so off into the darkness I plunged! It was a beautiful morning. I wore tights to keep my knees warm but they were a little overkill. I found the jacket was nice though.

I find in the climbs if I strive to keep my pedal stroke smooth my knees feel good. They are a bit achey towards the end but it is in a good way and not the same as they were before. I find the trip out and back is a little more taxing than I last remember but then I need to recall that I am still working my way back up to where I was. I have a few pounds to lose and an extra 20 or 30 miles to add to my weekend rides to get me to that point (not to mention 2000 feet or so to the climbing).

Nice Butte
I am determined to turn around at 8:00 so I can get back before 9:30. Fortunately I am to Tortilla Flat before then and I determine that I will turn around here and call that good for the day. After all, 2700 feet of climbing in 52 miles isn't too bad especially after all the time of the bike I have had. I pass the Brumbys going the other way as I ride past canyon lake.

Topping the pass climbing out of Canyon Lake I catch the tailwind that had been tormenting me as a fierce headwind all morning making my aero bars whistle. By the time I get home my average speed has climbed to 13.2 mph. Not my best by a long shot but still better than what I did before I joined the Brumbys.