22 Years and Counting...

Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife whom I married 22 years ago today in Lafayette, California!!! We are celebrating by doing a joint "2 chefs in the kitchen" big meal tonight with a wonderful piece of prime we ordered from the butcher last week. The plan is to do a horseradish crust on it. Yummy!

Here we are on the 9th day of Winter 2011-2012, and Ma Nature has yet to show us the season has actually arrived. It was 61 yesterday and should hit 47-49 today before marching back up into the upper 50's again tomorrow for New Year's Eve.

What to do in this confusing weather in terms of riding the bike? Ride, I guess.

Well, even though this is still my low point month training and fitness wise, I simply can't resist getting outside - especially since it is the holiday break at work. Neither can my wife - who is also on holiday break. I rode 2 1/2 hours on the bike Wednesday and another 3 hours yesterday in the balmy temps. I didn't even need a jacket, just a long sleeve jersey and long bibs. I was able to do 2 full laps at Banner Pits yesterday and it was dry, except for a few tacky spots. It rained overnight, so the trails will be too wet to ride today. However, 25 mph winds and sunshine will dry it up this afternoon so that late today - or for sure - tomorrow should be great dirt riding again. Looks like I'm going to end up with about 9 hours riding outdoors on the bike week this week. Incredible for the last week of December!!!

Speaking of riding, it's time to take the dogs out for their morning walk/ride around the neighborhood.


Where the hell is winter?

This warm weather at the beginning of winter is tempting me to do too many hours on the bike. Highs in the 40's every day and dry. Not frozen enough to keep the dirt worth riding, so skinny tire road riding to build base is about all that is available - or some fun Iowa gravel riding. Certainly iPod riding at its best.

We had a great trip out to the Black Hills for Christmas. My Dad's 85th birthday, my nephew's wedding and Christmas all were back to back celebrations while there.

Zack and I sang a duet in church on Christmas Eve as a "surprise" gift to my Dad and Tara. We had Christmas Eve dinner at my Dad's apartment, Christmas dinner at my Dad's retirement home dining hall and pizza that night in his apartment (managed to squeeze in the matinee showing of Mission Impossible as well). We skied at Terry Peak on the 23rd and 24th, and I got to hit M Hill on my Dos Niner to tackle the climbs with snow and mud. Nothing like a 30-45 minute climb right out of the parking lot with no warm-up to remind yourself what riding at a higher altitude is like. Temperatures were in the 50's in Rapid City, but windchill was about 8-10 degrees on the ski slopes which made for chilly conditions.

The long trip out and back was mitigated by traveling at European Autobahn speeds and listening to XM Satellite Radio's Metropolitan Opera channel. Based on the trip out and back, we now are calling the trip a "3 opera travel time" trip. Yup. It takes 3 operas to drive from Des Moines to Rapid City and vice versa. La Gioconda, Eugene Onegin, and Hänsel und Gretel were yesterday's delights (with the Hänsel und Gretel being a live broadcast from the Monday night Met's performance). I won't mention my speed, but I trimmed about an hour off the usual speed on the way home.

Tonight we celebrate the final night of Hanukkah with friends coming over for a party and Latkes. Tara made the chicken liver last night and we are heading to the store to get everything else in a few minutes.

According to the forecast, I may have to wait until 2012 to see winter. But that's okay, I can pedal off some of the holiday cheer I have put around my mid section as of late...


Last Fall Ride - - then it's ski time!!!

First things first: Happy Birthday Dad!

By my count, you are 85 years old today. How does that break down into other measurements of time?

1020 months old
4435 weeks old
31046 days old
745104 hours old
44706253 minutes old
2682375194 seconds old

Regardless of how you want to count it - Happy 85th!!!

Winter officially starts at Midnight tonight, so today is my last chance for a final fall bike ride outside. Jumping on the road bike for a 2+ hour ride should help pedal off the wonderful pumpkin cheesecake my wife made last night for the first night of Hanukkah. The forecast is for 40 degrees, so plenty warm for an outdoor ride.

Zack and I will load up the car today and leave early tomorrow for the Black Hills. Tara and Alexa come the following day after final exams are completed. I'm bringing the skis so we can hit Terry Peak for the first skiing of this season (come on legs, don't fail me....).

I had the Mercury Villager van's power steering pump and hose replaced yesterday. I may have to take it back this morning for them to check it as it still made some noise on a very sharp turn in a parking lot. Maybe that's normal, but at least the constant squealing and noise is gone. Please tell me the $617 for the repair was not an "all for naught" routine!!! Alexa would like nothing more than this van to simply go away, but it still runs and is in good shape - so she's stuck with it. It has been a heck of a money pit since summer when I had some motor work done, new tires, new plugs and now the power steering repair. Heck if she isn't going to drive it for another year after I sank all of that cash into it to keep it safe and running!!!

Enjoy the last day of fall today and the shortest day of the year tomorrow!


How to tick off a bunch of Iowans....

University of Iowa Professor Stephen Bloom's piece that appeared in the Atlantic has managed to ignite quite a stir within in academia and beyond over the past 10 days.

Kaustuv Basu blogged a response today highlighting the fire that Bloom has ignited in Iowa.

Even a "Combat" blog post by Dan Brooks popped up entitled 12 idiotic statements about Iowa by Stephen G. Bloom.

I pretty much fend off my wife's rants and raves about Iowa on a weekly basis (she, like Bloom, is from San Francisco and has lived in L.A., New York City, Houston and Vienna before moving to Iowa). So I am well versed in some of the city slicker thoughts which meant my first reading of the Bloom piece hit home from what I hear and defend on a regular basis. Yet Bloom went a bit deeper on the slander and surprised me for someone that has lived here for 20 years, yet seemed to be unable to use his educated deducing skills to move beyond what seemed like an obvious "lashing out" or general "can I get this off my chest" rant.

Regardless, Facebook is all abuzz with Bloom's comments and boy, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in his classroom and office when he returns to Iowa City?


I didn't get shot and it felt great...!

Who would have thought that December 18th in Iowa would be 47 degree, sunny and a perfect day for a 30 mile bike ride? Today was the last day of shotgun deer hunting season, and I needed to pedal out some of the caloric sins from the previous night. We were at Joel and Deb Hade's annual Christmas party on Saturday night from 7 to midnight. Much food, drink, music and fun was had by all. There must have been 60+ people there, plus the high school choir sang. We did carols and I sang Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire for everyone. I think we've attended this party 8 years in a row and always look forward to it.

So. The need to work off the meatballs, cheese, sweets, wine, and whatever else I consumed - a bike ride was in order. I donned an orange safety vest over my team's bike kit to hit the pavement on the road bike. I figured that would keep the shotguns pointed away from me and I wouldn't be mistaken for a deer.

The pants I wear are all starting to feel a bit tight, so I took advantage of the weather to get out for some miles and burn some calories. 11:35 start time and the legs felt good. Speed was way up thanks to riding the skinny tires on the pavement. When I turned north on the Summerset Trail, the wind was at my back and I was flying. I only saw about 3 hunters near the bike trail and figured I was safe with the orange vest. Wind was howling and I was flying - I mean flying!!! - with very little pedal effort (zone 2). I rolled into Carlisle between 40-45 minutes later, stopped to drink some water and snarf a GU. The roadbike on pavement certain was less humbling than the previous day's ride on singletrack with the freeze/thaw conditions and my weak legs. Today, I felt super fast.

Sunshine, exercise endorphins, 47 degrees in December - what was not to love?!! I turned around and headed back south dead into the teeth of the wind. I dropped the chainring down to the middle ring (whatever that is on a road bike) and kept telling myself not to be a hero. Just pedal at a pace and effort that would allow me to survive the wind and keep it as a base ride. The winds on the prairie can be unforgiving, but I got down in the drops and moved forward at survival pace. Once I got near Summerset, I was in the cover of trees and hills again, so the wind was not so fierce to buck.

I rolled in to the driveway after the 30 mile trip ready for lunch. A can of one of those lean soups and a bagel with a few cookies for recovery while I watched KC beat up on the Packers. Then I showered, put the suit on and went to the Indianola Concert Association's Christmas Concert (featuring a student of mine from Cape Town, South Africa). The concert was 2 hours, 23 minutes long with all of the acts they had lined up to perform holiday music. Big surprise at intermission is I ran into Barb and Ray Tininenko in the lobby. I didn't realize they had retired to Iowa and they said they had been coming to the concerts in Indianola for years. Barb used to play piano/organ at my Dad's church in Williston, ND and I went to school with their kids Brent (in my class) and Roxanne. Barb accompanied me oodles of times at that church way back in the 70's, so I was shocked to see them. Then I remember she was originally from Iowa and had attended Drake. It was nice to catch up with them and say hello during intermission.

After the concert, we picked up some food from the grocery store to make dinner (salmon and orzo).

All in all, a great Sunday in December. Perfect weather. Perfect bike ride. Perfect concert. Perfect dinner. Now the finals for the Iron Chef cook off are on the Food Network. That's a nice way to start the Christmas Holiday break from Simpson.


December is the low point of the year, training wise...

Traditionally, based on the XC racing I do from May to September (with an odd race here or there in April and October), things time out that my low point bike fitness wise is December. I think I timed everything just right this year in terms of the fall fun riding I did, tapering off the time on the bike from many hours to as little as 2 hours a week, taking some much needed time off the bike, and lifting weights for a month to arrive at my desired "low point" in mid-December (bike fitness wise).

If I needed any convincing I had reached that point, it was affirmed this morning when I drove out to Banner Pits to get a lap or more in before the ground totally thawed out. Maybe it was the not so solidly frozen ground. Maybe it was the reality of pushing the big meats (Ardent 2.4's front and rear). Maybe it was the volume of low base I put in this week to start things off (5 hours of base). Maybe it was a combination of all of that, but I felt like a weak little turtle out there. A gear I hardly use when XC racing (27 x 34) on anything but the longest, steepest climbs - I was using on every climb and wondering where my power was. I could hardly turn over the cranks and had to get out of the saddle to survive the short steep climbs. Of course, I've packed on some fall/winter pounds - so that never helps. In any event, one full lap was enough to cook my goose and have me pack it in while laughing at the measly 45 minutes it took me to do the full loop in the frozen, crispy trails with a few sluggish mud spots. Remind me to ride pavement this time of year, it's not as humbling. ;-]

It's still a little too early to ramp up the base training so everything times out for peak number one in 2012. I only ramped up a bit of base this week so I could pedal the bike next week out in the Black Hills without passing out. I got about 6 hours on the bike this week which is about 3 hours too much for this point, but I want to be able to climb some of those Black Hills. If I continue with those hours and add to it from here - I'll peak way too early and have a mid-season burnout. After the week in the Black Hills, I'll back things off again for a few weeks, lift some more weights before slowly ramping up the base training period to have everything time out correctly for the 2012 season.

December low point reached. This may sound incongruent, but that means success!


Weekend of Productivity...

'Tis the Holiday Season which had a potential 7 nights in a row for me to be somewhere participating in some event. I have had to pick and chose, so I began the run on Thursday night with a holiday concert, Friday night was Tara's office Christmas party, Saturday night was a holiday dinner party at Deb and Joel's, Sunday at 5 was the Lessons and Carols at Simpson followed by three hours of student recital auditions. 4 nights down, 3 more consecutive evenings out to go. Then I have a day of rest before round 2 of holiday events starts. Actually, I just realized I don't have a night off. Alexa's holiday choir concert is Thursday night. Okay - forget the night of rest and up the consecutive night's out to 11!!!

In spite of that, I managed to get some good base mileage in on my mountain bike this weekend. I got about 2 hours on Saturday and 2 1/2 on Sunday. Saturday I decided to brave the weather by riding my bike outside, but decided it was time to ditch the booties I have been wearing over my cycling shoes for the past 10 years and head up to Des Moines to buy some official winter foot gear. I ended up with some new winter cycling shoes from Rasmussen's Bike Shop. They had size 48 Shimano shoes in stock. They weren't the Lake brand I was kind of interested in trying on, but good enough to get me through for my needs. So I sprang for them. Sterling claims they are good to down around 20 degrees for a 2 hour ride. If it gets colder than that, then maybe a layer of plastic bag between socks or some foot warmers (like I use in my ski boots on cold days). Either way - better than my summer cycling shoes for sure.

Here are the shoes I got (video courtesy of Winter Cycling Shoes website)...

I got home and before the ride, Tara and I took the dogs to the Vet to have their stitches removed from the surgery they had 10 days prior. It's always an event to take the dogs to the Vet as they get excited. Mix that with the fear they have and the anticipation of sitting in the room waiting for the Doc to appear and I think we all needed a nap by the time we got home.

Instead, I suited up to go for a ride.

I was planning on sticking to the Summerset Trail from Indianola to Carlisle and back. The snow was only about 1/2" to 1" deep and figured the Maxxis IKONs would be fine for that. As clueless as I am, I had no idea Saturday was a big shotgun deer hunting day. I came flying over a hill a few miles north of Indianola and about 10 guys in orange jackets heard me and all turned in my direction with some guns aimed my way. I quickly yelled out and we all realized who was what and no harm was done. Dang! Good thing I wasn't dressed in anything resembling an animal and Dick Cheney wasn't in the hunting party. I decided going all the way to Carlisle would not be wise with all of the hunters out in the fields that line the bike trail all the way there and back.

Plan B was to pull off into Banner Pits to see how the trails were doing following the recent snow. As soon as I turned into the Banner State Park Loop, I saw 2 guys getting ready to mount their mountain bikes and rode over to see who it was. It was TJ on his fat tire bike and Matt McCutchan. They were just heading out for a lap, so I joined them. They had decided Saturday was the day to ride with the snow fresh and before things turned into a melted mess. It was certainly fun, but challenging on the race weenie weight IKONs (a tire much better suited to dry, hard packed dirt). I kept it upright with a couple of dismounts here and there when I spun out in the slick stuff.

Matt (filming the loop) chose some appropriate music...

TJ was flawless on that fat tire bike of his. And my new shoes were nice and warm.

After the ride, I called Zack to come pick me up as I really didn't want to ride 6 miles along the fields filled with hunters to get back home. He picked me up and we listened to the live broadcast of Faust from the MET. It was a great tenor - Jonas Kaufmann - and a great baritone - Russell Braun singing and we finished up listening to it in the basement while lifting weights and visiting (along with Tara).

We had an enjoyable dinner party with 6 couples on Saturday night at the Hades. Joel prepared a perfect Chateaubriand - nice and rare to boot!! Each couple was instructed to bring a dish which makes things easier for the host. We were supposed to bring a vegetable. So Tara made an excellent broccoli thanks to a recipe from Ina Garten and we brought along some wine. It was a very tasty meal after the outdoor ride on the bike in the cold. Chuck and his son had shot two deer that day, so we shared our "hunting" stories of the day.

Sunday was a shopping day for Tara and Alexa, so I decided to ride outdoors again and chose the RIP since it was already covered in mud and gunk from Saturday's ride. I stayed closer to Indianola using gravel roads, and the bike paths to avoid any hunters and being mistaken for a deer. I ran out of water and physical energy at the 2 hour point, but had about a solid 30 minutes of riding to get back to the house. I put it in survival mode and pedaled back to the house to shower and head to the annual Christmas program at Simpson "Lessons and Carols". The choirs did an excellent job and we enjoyed the service. Three hours of student voice auditions for their degree recitals followed that before I could rush home to catch the end of the Cowboys getting thrashed (yes!!!).

It is finals week at Simpson this week, but today is an official "reading day" for the students. No classes, no rehearsals (wink, wink) and no tests. Of course, faculty have tons of things to do today so I'm off to a morning full of meetings...


Rick Perry Spoof...

Very funny Perry spoof. The old fart joke or blowing hot air joke always seems to work and bring a smile.

The Partisans - Rick Perry - Spoof...

No shortage of Rick Perry spoofs are being tossed up on youtube.com and linked on Facebook by millions. This one seemed very apropos.


Holiday Shopping...

Talk about your well-choreographed "flash mob" scenario. Simpson students had a showing yesterday at Jordan Creek Mall. Being a music faculty member as well as the parent of one of the singers - I was informed on when and where to be to catch the "flash". So Tara and I went up with Alexa to hear them sing, do a little holiday shopping, and get some dinner after the stores closed.

Fun was had by all the shoppers who happened to stop and listen. The students took their coats off once the music started to show off their Simpson College t-shirts, sing, and then quickly put their coats back on and take off like nothing had ever happened. And of course, they had to wait until Santa took his 2:30 break for this spontaneous flash mob appearance.;-]

Alexa, Tara and I managed to split a piece of pumpkin cheesecake at the mall to boost our shopping energy. Several presents were secretly and not so secretly purchased. Colors and items were shown to the parents so we know what to get on subsequent trips. After the stores closed, we actually decided unanimously on where to eat and chowed down before heading back home.

Flash Mob, Shopping, Eating - that's one way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening.


3 Weeks Deep into my "Off Season Getting Back Into Shape Routine...."

First off, welcome back to your apartment and computer Dad following your 8 weeks of rehab! I bet it feels good to be back.

14 degrees this morning as I type this.

Getting back into shape for me...

Since mountain bike cycling alone is not really the best way to get into shape or work the entire body as it is a very specific muscle group and limited work of all that hamster cage rotational leg movement, I always look forward to the November - March time segment to "reconstruct" my body with core exercises and weights. I just didn't do my weekly maintenance weights this year like I should have and even simple tasks like mowing the lawn were more strenuous than in the past with weaker muscle groups than in prior years. So, it's time to rebuild.

One of the mountain bike training guru's I follow says it best:

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when getting into mountain biking is to think that it is a great way to get into shape. This mindset is actually a big problem with the fitness world in general – playing a sport is not how to get into shape. Things work out much better when you have a base level of fitness going into trail riding and it becomes a way to apply and hone your fitness.

There are a couple of problems with trying to use mountain biking as a way to get into shape. First, riding a bike is great fun but it is not the healthiest thing to do from a structural point of view. Sitting in a hunched over position while taking your legs through a shortened, repetitive range of motion a few hundred or thousand times a ride causes all sorts of imbalances. Sitting down also takes your core and hips out of the equation and will cause movement dysfunctions that can lead to problems down the road.

Sure, you may lose some weight and gain some cardio fitness but you don’t create the type of broad based fitness you really need to be healthy from a larger point of view. Remember that you are a human being first and a mountain biker second – don’ ignore the need for basic human function before you try to develop specialized fitness.

Another pitfall to the mindset of using sports to get healthy is a lack of perspective on the training plans of the pros. As I mentioned before, sport is not really about health, especially at the highest levels. To get your body into shape to be excellent at a few things means that other types of fitness and movement patterns will suffer.

There is an old Greek saying – where good sport begins, good health ends. Pros know that there is a physical cost for what they do to hone their bodies into peak shape for the demands of their sport. However, your average rider who looks at riding as “healthy” doesn’t have the same perspective.

They think that the pros represent the pinnacle of “fitness” and try to emulate the lopsided, unbalanced programs they use. They don’t realize that the pros usually spent years developing their fitness base and go back to work on it often – all they see is the amount of time spent working on specialized fitness qualities and think that copying their approach is the key to achieving their fitness goals.

The truth is that most riders have no business following a program inspired by a pro rider – they need to focus on building their fitness and movement base through a strength and conditioning program and then just getting out on their bikes and riding hard. In fact, focusing too much on the narrow fitness qualities needed to excel at the pro level of mountain biking may lead to short term gains but will lead to long term stagnation and injuries.

My point is that if you love riding then ride for fun, not for “fitness”. Use a smart, balanced strength and conditioning program to address your basic fitness and then ride hard to hone that fitness into “mountain biking shape”. Riding is a great way to take your fitness to another level, just don’t come into it thinking that it is a great way to get into shape in the first place. Keep some perspective on what the pros do to excel at the highest levels and you’ll progress further, enjoy riding more and avoid overuse injuries by taking this approach.

-James Wilson-

Last night was a "core" workout session and a circuit session of weights with 30 minutes of spin on the C7i bike. I almost hate doing the core exercises the most, but it sure improves everything from posture, to stability, to energy throughout the day. Thank goodness our basement home gym is comfy and the big screen TV provides plenty of entertainment to keep my wife and I working out in the winter months. It probably is not the best thing to be working out while watching the Food Network, but that's what we do.


I'm 3 weeks into deadlifts, squats, lunges, upper body work and base building on the bike. And I'm about 3 weeks into holiday eating and snacking as well. ;-] I'm trying to be careful, but the caloric increase is noted and the body is responding! I always forget how weight lifting increases my metabolism which in turn fires up my appetite. I'm trying to eat 5 times a day (small snacks like raisins or nuts between meals) to feed that appetite and fire up the metabolism even more with the digestion requirements of 5 eating sessions per day compared to 3.

Tonight is a recovery spin and stretching workout before Tara and I take a night out (we've earned it this week).