1/31/13

Doping Cyclists - and others.....

Michael Rasmussen is "coming out of the doping closet" so to speak today.  Linkie-poo here and here is the admission.

Even his mountain bike career was tainted?  You mean to tell me the muscles pictured below were not fueling his prowess on the bike? I mean, just look at how ripped he is....  ;-)

mikerass

So what else is new?  Another day, another doper caught or comes "clean" with a confession or admission. 

Football players dope?  Really? Wink, wink.  Media decided to drag out the old Ray Lewis story this week.  Does anybody really think the field is going to be filled with NFL players this Sunday that along the way to their multi-million $ salaries have not done something along the way to boost their performance that would fall under the category of using a PED?  Maybe we are all skeptical at this point - and rightly so.

Baseball players dope?  Really?  Wink, wink.  New scandal promising to be the next "Balco like" case involving a doctor in Florida and such notables as Alex Rodriguez emerged this week in the news.  Gee, maybe those 3 HR's as the DH against the Kansas City Royals that my son and I saw a couple of years ago wasn't as "real" as Babe Ruth's was.

Long-drive golf competitors juicing to boost their drives in competition?  Say it isn't so.  Wink, wink.

Track stars, hockey players, long distsance runners, swimmers, wrestlers, weight lifters, tennis players, cyclists, skiers, and on and on doping.  Wink, wink.

Obviously the problem is far reaching for those athletes using PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs).

I don't have anything profound to add to the discussion - just noting the week's news thus far.

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I know my non-PED enhanced amateur riding is pretty pathetic and unexciting in comparison.  I did 70 minutes on Tuesday and 65 minutes on Wednesday on the trainer indoors.  Even at the prescribed R&R week intensity level (endurance at a lower level around 135-145 watts), my old body feels like even that bit of effort has me on the edge of being pooped.  It's between 4 and 8 degrees today for a high and I am pooped from the workout of shoveling snow yesterday and today as well.  I think I will take today off the bike outside of the dog walks and a bit of a warm-up this evening before doing my weekly weight lifting session.

Now on to my own personal PED's - baby aspirin, coffee, vitamin C, fish oil and cookies.  Yum.

1/29/13

R&R Week...

Ah yes...the well deserved Rest & Recovery Week is here.

On tap for this week is only 5.5 hours of endurance training with a few speed skills mixed in to recover from the training stress of Base 2 that I just finished.  The BRR ride on Saturday will be part of those 5.5 hours, so I can dial things down with some extra rest days between as my body catches up to the stress it has been forced to endure this past month.

And let me tell you, I felt like this yesterday on my day off...

Exhausted

Throughout January, I slowly built up the weekend duration rides in increments starting with 90 minutes, then 130 minutes, then 140 minutes, and finishing on Sunday with a 150 minute ride (the latter 3 all being outside).  With Thursday being my heavy weight lifting day during the off season, and Friday's ride at Ahquabi with Al - I was physically stressed even though Saturday only called for a 30 minute recovery ride.   I didn't feel like I was totally gassed on Sunday riding out in the rain and slop, but I did keep the cadence and work effort down so that when I arrived home I wouldn't collapse and felt like I had over-extended myself.

I did, however, wake up on Monday feeling the full week of training hours had hit me and the rest day as well as R&R Week was welcomed.  The week of volume and mixed intensities had worked its magic to push me and tax me.  Actually, the entire month which was a bit altered due to fitting in my trip to Germany at the end of February sort of was a taxing training month for an extended Base 2 month.  Following my plan of shooting for 400 Annual Hours and for an older guy (Masters sounds like a more politically correct term than "older rider"), I met my hours for January and am on track. 

Bushed?  Yup.  Whew!  In fact, I skipped my usual after lunch cup of coffee yesterday and nearly fell asleep at rehearsal about 8 pm (after an hour of sitting there and singing).   

I feel a bit better today so will enjoy this week of backing off and riding in the lower zones so my body can catch up with the training and set me up for Base 3 (of 4) starting next week.  Tara caught a cold and I hope to be able to avoid that scenario.  Plenty of students at school are sick and come in and out of my office every day, but so far so good.  I've managed to not have a cold since school started at the end of August.  I know I'm due, but I'll take what I can get on the good health side for as long as I can.  (KNOCK on WOOD!!!)

Avoiding injury by over-training is key.  I know the weights - even with the proper adaptation and build up - has been strenuous on me in spite of the gains I am seeing and feeling.  An interesting thing happened yesterday in my tired physical state while at work.  I was sitting at the piano and working with one of my tenor students.  I normally model high G's, G#'s, A's for them and my voice was feeling low and my body weak to begin with, but I roared off a high A for one of my tenors and felt a muscle in my abdomen pull/tear.  Dang!!!  It's on my lower right side and I seem to recall doing this several years ago, but it shocked me for a few minutes.  It sucks getting older!!!  Most likely it was in a weakened state from the heavy squat and dead lift session this past Thursday or my core workout, but that muscle will have to repair itself this week.  Thanks to 4 Ibuprofen, I was able to make it through the Bloch Sacred Service rehearsal and after I got warmed up and going, felt I was actually singing better than I had all day.  No high A's in that for me, so my breathing was pretty much okay except I noticed the muscle pain the most on the soft phrases.

1/27/13

Bar Mitts makes good - kudos to company!!!

I removed the Bar Mitts from the original packaging on Friday after having them sit in my parts bin for about a year.  The occasion was to do a ride with Al Boone at Lake Ahquabi on Friday afternoon in the cold temperatures.   I had purchased these Mitts from Rasmussen's Bike Shop last year as part of my winter weather gear accumulation so I would be able to do more riding year round than I have in the past.

The right Bar Mitt installed very easily on my RIP 9 following the easy directions, but the other Bar Mitt's Velcro strap on the interior was far too short to make it around my normal sized rubber grip.   What the heck?   It was about 1/2" - 3/4" shorter than the other Mitt's Velcro strap and of course, I was frustrated and didn't have time to buy some Velcro and sew on an extension before my afternoon ride.  Yup, I was in a bit of a huff over it.

I emailed Bar Mitts and told them of my woes and asked what I could do since I was beyond the 30 day exchange policy.   They said to ship them in and they would send me a new and improved pair.  A few minutes later, I got another email telling me that the company was going to have a representative (Ward) at the Iowa Bike Expo on Saturday and if I would bring my Bar Mitts along, they would exchange them for a new pair.  The new Bar Mitts have been changed to include a longer Velcro strap on the interior to even accommodate Ergon sized grips.

That gave me an excuse to head up to Des Moines with Tara to check out the Bike Expo and exchange my Mitts.

Here are the new ones:

BarMitts

Pretty great customer service if you ask me and I tip my hat to Bar Mitts for this!!!  Thank you so much to Patti and Ward from Bar Mitts.   I will be mounting these up for this week's riding as temperatures are going to yo-yo around and get back down to 2 degrees on Thursday morning.  I think I will probably be entertaining getting a pair for the road bike as well at some point.

I did ride with the other pair on Friday in spite of the left Mitt not staying up and in place enough to allow me to ride with thinner gloves than I did.  In spite of that, my hands were HOT and SWEATY - that's how good this Bar Mitts are.  My riding partner, Al Boone, got so hot with his that after the 1st lap, he stopped at his truck and took his off.  I kept mine on and really enjoyed the protection from the wind and the cold.  Temperatures had dipped to the mid 20's by the end of the ride which had the dirt freezing up again and made for a quicker 2nd lap.  It was a nice Friday afternoon ride in sunshine and on dirt no less!!!  My legs were toast from Thursday's double workout of tempo at lunch and hypertrophy weights in the evening.  But I managed to follow Al on his FAT BIKE for 2 laps and enjoy a nice beer with him afterwards before heading home for a much needed warm shower to unfreeze myself.

Al next to our trucks and bikes after the ride.

AhquabiwithAl

All in all, Saturday was a busy and fun day.  We had a Masterclass from 10 - 12:30 for the singers at Simpson with our guest artist pianist from DePaul University.  Zack was one of the singers that got to work with Kit and sang "O du mein holder Abendstern" from Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser....

ZackBrownMClass

Then Tara and I headed up to the Bike Expo in Des Moines.  In addition to exchanging the Bar Mitts, the original inventor of Tara's cycling tattoo was there.  Tara told him how she took his temporary tatoo that she had enjoyed on RAGBRAI to a tattoo artist in downtown Des Moines and had this permanently put on her leg...

Tara'sTattoo

She showed him the work and he was touched - nay, moved - so the two of them shared a heart to heart.  And Tara bought some jewelery with the same image.

Then we headed over to the booth for All Ability Cycles to check out a hand and foot powered tricycle that would be ideal for our friend Gayla Tighe.  Tara rode it around the expo hall and felt it was a good solution.

I checked in with Dan McKay from Knoxville who had a booth set up.  I get my insurance through him for the Lake Ahquabi bike race.  He even said that IMBCS should talk to him as he could give us a discount if we insure 4 or more races through him.  Evidently, he used to handle the USA Cycling insurance but claims got so high for those events that he stopped doing that.

I stopped by the Surly booth and got a nice gander at the two Krampus full builds they had.  I picked up the larger one and held it.  Super wide bars - some ridiculous width which made me feel like I was standing on the front of the Titanic with my arms spread wide.   I was ticking through the visuals of all the local trails and the tight tree segments (such as Banner) running down an inventory of where I could and could not ride with such wide bars.

krampus_lg

The Surly rep told me the Krampus was about 30 pounds and I do have to say - it looks like a very fun bike in terms of a rigid and having those big Knards on there.  I like the idea and looks of the Krampus a lot more than the FAT Bikes.  He said the full bikes (come as a 1 x 10 drive train) would be shipping in March.  It's a pretty economical, basic build and should satisfy a lot of people who want to try one of these critters.

Then we stopped by the Bike Iowa booth, said hello to Scott Sumpter, checked out the shirts and jerseys before heading up the escalator and into the sky walk.

We walked down to Court Avenue for some lunch and hit up the Court Avenue Brewery for a wrap and spinach pizza before heading home.  I took a nap, then did a 30 minute recovery spin on the trainer before showering and heading to my colleague's faculty recital.

After the recital, Virginia and Nix invited Tara and I along with about a dozen others or so to their house in Des Moines (one of the former Hubbell estates not far from the airport).  We had a grand tour of the place and wine was served for all.  The place reminded me of a perfect setting for The Marriage of Figaro!!!  We all retired to the great room with the new Steinway grand piano, fire place roaring and complete with their 3 dogs.  I had a nice visit with one of Virginia's brothers who had flown out from Cincinnati with his father.  Virginia treated us to more songs and encores.  I joined her for the duet from Phantom of the Opera "All I ask of you...".  It was a fun evening and a nice cap off to a very busy Saturday.

Today is much more low key as an ice storm hit this morning making it impossible to go outside.  The dogs slipped and fell as they went out the front door for their morning ritual.  All church services and events this morning have been cancelled as the roads are about the same as an ice rink.  I made venison goulash which is stewing right now in the crock pot and making the house smell good.  My plan is to hop on the trainer in the basement this afternoon for my final training session of this week.  It also happens to be the final workout for the 4 week Base Building Period Two that I am just completing.  I move into an R&R week ending with the BRR ride on Saturday.




1/26/13

Maxxis Ikon 2.35 XC Tire!!!

Finally it is official and up on the Maxxis website so I can talk about it.

This is a nice front XC tire that I have been riding all fall and winter on my Niner Jet 9.  It's a prototype Maxxis 29 x 2.35 XC tire.  My prototype is the 120 tpi version eXC/3C, non EXO version.   It is also availabe with the EXO more durable sidewalls for about 75 - 80g more in weight.

Check out the girth! 

 

I've taken it on gravel, pavement, dirt, snow, ice, sand, leaves, mud, frozen ground, singletrack, doubletrack, and even out on a frozen lake.  It's a keeper for sure.

IkonFrontTest

What does this fat XC boy measure out to be on the Roval trail rim (tubeless)?


Casing width is 57.28mm (that's 2.2551181" for the non-metric Americanos)
Tread width is a nice 58.32mm (that's 2.296063" for the same crowd)

I get very similar measurements with other 2.25 tires I have (Racing Ralph 2.25 and Nobby Nic 2.25).  The Nobby Nic 2.35 jumps about 2mm's wider - at least in casing width.  

FrontTestToo

The tread width with the side knobs being wider than the casing width makes for a perfect front tire to roll the tire through the corners and get immediate dig from the slightly taller knobs.  Well done!

I guess the "industry standard" measurement when popping a size label on a mountain bike tire is based on the standard of 60 psi and the use of a tube.  I am running my tires tubeless and at a much lower psi (mid 20's) than the industry standard for my measurements.  I personally would call this critter a 2.3 using the tread knob width.  I have not tried it on a Flow rim - only on the Roval carbon trail rim which has a slightly narrower inner rim diameter than a Flow.  Obviously, on even wider rims this tire can be called whatever one wants - a 2.3, a 2.35, etc... .   Who knows what to call it basing the width on "industry standard" of 60 psi and with a tube?  C'est la vie.  I can't imagine that anyone in the year 2013 throughout the globe is running a larger volume mountain bike tire at 60 psi with a tube for off road riding.

How does it ride?


Fast.  Fat.  Confident.  In fact, it really brings the front end of my JET alive.  The knobs are a perfect height for a big front XC tire and it digs in better than my Ralph.  The location of the side lugs give me cornering bite a tad sooner than my Nics do.  This - I like.  

1/25/13

JET 9 Carbon coming in Tamale Red!!!

I do like red!!!.

I am up early this morning cruising the web and noticed that the JET 9 carbon frame - which has been available in moondust grey up to this point - is now up on the Niner website as also coming in tamale red.   Yum.

Looks nice and vibrant...

JET9CarbonTamale

I am hoping that an update of the JET 9 alloy appears on their site soon as well, but who knows?   The gear I have works, so I'm not really in need of a replacement at this point.  It's always fun to be looking to see what is available. 

Yesterday was a two a day scheduled workout which included 75 minutes of tempo during the lunch hour with about 9 minutes of sweet spot intervals thrown into the mix and the evening was a hypertrophy session of squats.  I wasn't sure the legs would perform the evening session, but was pleasantly surprised they were fine and dandy.  Then we were off to the annual Cabaret dinner theater put on by the IHS Show Choir which was enjoyable.

Our new scale informs me that I am down to 188.6 this morning!!!!  I probably ought to start cutting my intake a bit more from the winter hibernation indulgence, but if I can manage a pound a week after this initial drop until I hit my goal, I'll be pleased.

I'll meet up with Al Boone today at Lake Ahquabi after work for some laps on the dirt as Ma Nature has set up 2, if not 3 consecutive days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) where conditions seem ideal to ride outside since it will be mid 20's to low 30's.  Training wise, I was shooting for 60-90 minutes of tempo today, so the riding outside will be a nice change of pace and include plenty of climbing to test my legs following all the squats.

1/24/13

Digging out the Bar Mitts!!!

Another day, another 4 degrees outside.  Well, I did buy the Bar Mitts last year so it is time to dig them out and mount them up.  I do believe they will allow me to remain comfortable on some weekend longer durations out on the bike in the cold.

My Bar Mitts are still in the package from last year....

Warmth!!!

Many even claim you can go bare handed or wear some light gloves underneath and be nice and toasty!!

Bar-Mitts

The above image is borrowed from here and his review is very encouraging that I am going to like these critters on my bike to protect my hands.

I'm going with the wool socks and throwing some warmers in the shoes (got tons of them from skiing).  Everything else seems to stay warm enough with all the gear I have, but taking care of the hands and the feet should help.


I had a very nice visit with my college roommate Jay Sweet and his wife Renae yesterday.  They stopped by Simpson College in the afternoon to watch their son Brandon play in a JV Basketball game (he plays for Central College).  I joined them over at the game after work and then we went to La Casa for dinner after the game to catch up before they drove home to Clarinda.  I hadn't seen them since June of 2010 and we had plenty of catching up to do.  My bad, I had not yet read their Christmas Letter!!!!   So I was behind the times on all the news they had to share.  I did - believe it or not - go home after our visit and read all the Christmas letters from various people that I had not yet read.  There was about a stack of two dozen to catch up on and I actually read them all.  Tara has been on my case for weeks to do that, but - well, I don't have a good excuse.   I am now caught up though....

Tonight we will attend the annual Indianola High School Show Choir Cabaret dinner and performance.  Brisket, cheesy potatoes, green beans, salad, dessert - the usual fare will be served.  I'll try and get the workout for the day squeezed in during my lunch hour today as I'll need it after the mexican fare I ate last night - that's for sure!!!!

1/23/13

Brr......Winter!

Here we are in the middle of the 4th week of January and Mother Nature is reminding us that it is, after all, winter.

cold

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were cold.  I managed to at least figure out a way to survive the morning and evening dog walk/rides with the howling frigid wind.  The weak point was my hands.   Even in the huge and expensive mittens that I got last year, my hands were getting cold after 5 minutes.  We have not seen temperatures this low since 2011, so these gloves were not tested yet in such cold.  I decided to wear a pair of thinner gloves inside of the mittens and that has allowed me to survive the 20 minute dog jaunts in the sub zero wind chill temperatures.  How that would do if I went for a longer ride on pavement in these temperatures, I don't know.  I would have to figure out what to do with my feet (warmers or something).  Forget that.  I'm sticking to the trainer in the basement until this weekend when the temperatures may climb back up in the 20's and 30's which would allow me to hit up some frozen dirt.

Monday was a day off of the bike and weights for me and I had exactly 45 hours of recovery between Sunday's ride at Ahquabi and Tuesday morning's 75 minute tempo session before work.  The legs felt really good and I hit the trainer session feeling good and ended it feeling good.  Interesting that by noon I was feeling lethargic, but I had a short night's sleep and combined with the effort on the trainer - I was zapped.  I had a cup of coffee around 1:45 to perk up and made it through the afternoon.  We went over to Chuck and Gayla Tighe's for dinner (lamb, polenta, salad, oatmeal cookies, ice cream = yum).  I may be fighting off a cold or a bug on top of it all which might explain the lethargic feeling.

Today, I'll do a lower Zone 2 heart rate and wattage ride this morning before heading to work.  Busy day at work today with our first voice class of the semester, lessons, meetings and in addition my old college roommate and his wife will be on campus to watch their son - who is a freshmen at Central College - play in a JV gave against Simpson.  I'll head over to the gym after work and watch the game with them while we visit and catch up.

It's supposed to climb up to 29 today from -1 early morning temperature.  I'm heading out with the dogs now in 11 degree weather with my double glove/mitten combination.

1/20/13

Doped up Chicks!!!

I did an afternoon slow smoke on the Big Green Egg yesterday to take advantage of temperatures in the 50's.  We called our friend Lisa and told her I would be doing a smoke as she was interested in us letting her know so she could bring something over as well.  So she brought a bird over to throw on the smoker and I told her to come back at 5'ish to pick it up.

I purchased one chicken on sale at $1.29 a pound which was a typical hen that Hy-Vee or any other grocery chain sells.  The other, was a "Smart Chicken" which is an organic hen.  Much more expensive per pound and I wish it were the other way around, but c'est la vie.

The meat was falling off the bone at 4 hours...

Smokin'Chix

All in good fun with regard to doped up cyclists and athletes throughout the globe, here's what I posted last night on social media...

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What's for dinner? 


Two smoking chicks!!! 

Smokin'Chicks

On the left, we have Athlete A. She was fed hormones, injected with steroids, was one of the first to the feeding trough every day on the farm as she bullied and pushed her way to eat herself to nearly 5 pounds. Not many farmyard chicks liked her as she was aggressive, defiant and controlled the farm yard. She sells for about $1.29 per pound. 

On the right, we have Athlete B. She was raised organically and is a "clean" athlete. Although she was friendly and popular in the farmyard, she was no match for the likes of the Athlete A types and always ended up being one of the last to the feed trough - no matter how hungry she was or how hard she tried to get in for a peck. Interestingly, she is expensive and sells for $2.49 a pound even though there was no cost for high priced hormones and steroids to raise her to her skinny little 3.2 pounds. She occupies minimal shelf space at the store, so it's clear that few want her on their team. Although she is a "safe" choice, she only makes up about 5% of all the athlete chicks.


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Goofy, but I was just having fun.

We used fresh spinach (the large leaf variety you can buy in bundles at Fareway), did up some bacon and made Alton Brown's bacon dressing, boiled some eggs and had beautiful smoked chicken and bacon spinach salad for dinner.  I guess it is a poultry weekend for sure with all the chicken I have been preparing (but it was all on sale).

 January training continues to unfold well!!!

In the first 3 weeks of January, I've managed to shed 6 pounds and weighed in at sub 190 for the first time this year (189.x).  About 9 more pounds to go to hit my target racing weight.  I'll take 185, but if I can dial it down to 180 all the better.  The weight lifting will help as even though I might put on a bit of muscle weight, it will improve my caloric burn. 

Tara and I also used the warm temperatures to get a well deserved outside ride in yesterday to Carlisle and back.  It was warm, but the wind was strong and a challenge at times.  My legs were feeling great and Tara showed some weakness early on, so I knew we were going to have to separate if I was going to get the training effect I needed.   We rode together to Carlisle in the low end of Zone 2 for me.  At one point, 2 does and a buck were running alongside of us on the west side of the trail.   Majestically, they leaped over the fence and crossed in front of us and leaped over the fence on the other side of the trail as we stopped to take in their majestic grace.  You have to enjoy those moments like that when you can because they don't happen that often.

At the Carlisle turn around and heading back south directly into the wind, I told her I had 55 minutes to get home to get the chicken off the smoker.  She told me to go ahead and I cranked out tempo all the way home up the hill against the wind in a pretty powerful gear to bring my ride in right at 2 hours for the day.  Those 55 minutes "felt" like I was pushing close to 185 watts the entire time which was enough to keep me from blowing up, but also enough to provide extra training stress for me as I come to the end of my training week.  I rolled in feeling pretty good with the exercise endorphin induced high kicking in full tilt.  I took the birds off the grill, called Lisa to tell her hers was ready and packed it up in a Tupperware container.  Tara got home about 15 minutes later and was bushed from fighting the wind.   All in all, it was worth the ride outside today as we knew temperatures would be dropping into the teens on Sunday.

In spite of the cold, I bundled up in the ski suit and headed out to Lake Ahquabi for a full lap at a low Zone 2 pace on the RIP 9 at lunch time on Sunday.  It was snowing while I was there and it became hard to distinguish the slick spots from the old blizzard snow left over from the new fluff covering the ground.  I motored on at a slower pace to be safe.  I was baked - I mean really baked by the end of it as my legs are pretty stressed from yesterday and the build up during the week.  I ended the week with my target of 6 hours on the bike (plus two weight lifting sessions) and have 4.8% more on the bike time at this point over last year.  I had a goal of 2 hours outside on Friday afternoon, but my body and mind said take the day off when I got home from work and I did want to focus on preparing Tara's birthday dinner which trumped any training time.  

My goal is for 10% more annual hours this year over last year.  In addition, they have to be quality and focused hours based on a schedule I've developed.  So I have to keep on track weekly and monthly to do that.  I will be able to make up the remaining 5.2% missing gap this week easily as I only did 1:50 on the bike in week 4 last year due to being so busy with the opera.  If I get 4 hours and 20 minutes in this week (should not be a problem on the trainer in the basement), I'll be right at 10% growth of annual hours in 2013 over 2012 and be back on target year over year.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had some big hours in January last year because of all the outside warm weather riding I was able to do.  I have not been able to match that this year in spite of 4 outdoor rides (3 of them being to Carlisle and back, the other at Ahquabi).

The rest of the afternoon and evening will be devoted to the NFL with 2 exciting playoff games.

  

1/19/13

Julia Child's Coq au vin recipe wins all thumbs up!!!

I used to make the classic French recipe, Coq au vin, when we lived in Vienna all the time - especially in winter.  I even have ordered it several times at restaurants in France (various regions) to get the local take on how to make it, season it, etc... .

I know Tara loves the dark meat of chicken and turkey.  So when coming up with a meal for her 55th birthday (she didn't want beef), Alexa suggested the Coq au vin which is traditionally made with leg quarters of a chicken.  I've got my favorite recipes on an older laptop for this dish (that's how long it has been since I made it).  So I tracked down the pretty much classic and world famous Julia Child recipe for this dish.

julia-child-01

Julia lived in France in post war (WWII that is) times and attended the famous French culinary school - Le Cordon Bleu.  She then began teaching the art of French cooking to Americans that were living and working in France and well - you know the rest of the story.  The woman could cook and her cook books and television cooking shows changed America's cuisine.  Tara and I love her recipes.

Making Coq au vin involves frying the sides of the chicken in the pot to get it browned before adding all the wine, stock, mushrooms, garlic, pearl onions, pork/bacon, and tomato paste.  Even using a frying screen - the splatter is always a mess and I did my best to keep things clean during and after that step of the process.

The centerpiece of Tara's birthday meal...

coq-au-vin

Photo (c) 2012 Kate Morgan Jackson

Of course, in the French tradition, this dish is served with crusty French baguette to help mop up the gravy and get every last bit off of your plate.  Man was it good!!!  I steamed potatoes and carrots as our side and buried them in gravy as well.  Yummmmmmmy!!!!

Alexa made a cupcake run up to the new cupcake place in West Des Moines - Scratch.  She brought back an assortment of 7 cupcakes which we plated and used as Tara's unique birthday cake.  Then we all sampled pretty much all of the cupcakes.  Since Tara loves to tastes bits of things rather than eating one huge piece, it was really a perfect and unique way to take care of her version of a birthday cake.

It was a nice evening.  Thank you Julia for the most classic recipe of this French dish.

Julia Child  cooking

Following the meal, we watched Part Deux of the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah.  Part two was only 60 minutes in length, but showed some emotion from Lance - especially when it came to what he had to say recently to his children about his doping.

Today - long bike ride outside to take advantage of temperatures in the 50's with sunshine before the cold weather hits tonight.

1/18/13

Tara turns 55, the weather turns 57, and Lance turns the interview...

Today is Tara's 55th!  Ma Nature has cooperated yet again for the 2nd consecutive Friday to give us upper 50's riding temperatures.  So we have a birthday 2 hour ride planned this afternoon which will be followed by a birthday dinner a la chef BruceI have plenty of preparation work to do for tonight's feast between 2:30 - 3:45 before we head out on the wheels.

Training called for another 2 a day work out yesterday.  70 minutes in Zone 2 (target of 157-160 watts) which I knocked out on my Thursday lunch break while watching the news in the basement.  I showered and went back to work until 6 pm.  The evening called for a hypertrophy leg work session of squats and dead lifts only.  I managed to oompf out all of the repetitions in spite of one scary squat lift where I lost my balance briefly and had to fight from falling into the wall due to stepping on a hand held weight that was positioned too close to me on the floor.   Luckily, it was the lightest weight for the evening (145 lbs.) and I was able to muscle myself back into balance.  I simply leaned too far backwards on the uplift of that squat and stumbled a step or two where my foot stepped on the hand held weight on the floor.  It didn't seem to cost me as I recovered and my squat form stayed intact for the remaining 42 squats.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have adjusted the frequency of my training to account for my age and the reality that it takes nearly a week to recover from working the legs like that.  I feel better this morning after the workout compared to last week's morning after, but I'm still worked - that's for sure!  The few years I followed the Dave Morris plan without the proper recovery - I was drained.  And the results were less than desirable due to the lack of recovery.   We shall see if the modification in frequency is a net-net positive or not going forward. 

Doing it old school....

OldSchoolWeights

As promised, I fired up the grill and we had steaks (Tara snagged some nice T-bones on sale), arugula salad, multi-grain baked bread and some pinot noir.  What better way than ingesting a nice steak after tearing down the legs in the basement?

Then we went back down into the basement to catch part one of the Oprah Winfrey interview of Lance Armstrong on OWN.

The emperor has no clothes?


LanceArmstrong1hr-thumb-600x409

Plenty has been opined about Lance during and after part one of the interview - not to mention the past 20 years - but as a student of history nothing surprises me.  I figured he wasn't going to break down and cry, would remain firmly cemented in his personality, and provide some intriguing moments - all of which were accomplished.  He's not the first to make a move to come clean (riders, team managers, trainers, doctors, etc...) in the sport, but he certainly is the current fascination of those who enjoy and revel in seeing the mighty fall.  There will be more.  If you study the history of the grueling tours such as the Tour de France and the types of enhancements, narcotics, cheating that has plagued that event since its inception - there are a lot more that need to come clean from the past, and current crop involved in the profession.  But, that's only one sport.

As we continue to support the juicing of our livestock on a daily basis with the very things that we are having the athletes confess to having used (in multiple sports) - the level of hypocrisy is about as deep as the manure in the feedlots where the livestock are raised.  We love to see huge birds, big beautiful chunks of meat, etc...in the store.  And we are nailed in the pocketbook for buying organic because it is so expensive (and pathetically small in comparison).  We love our athletes big, strong, powerful, dominating, entertaining, etc......all in the vain of modern day Gladiators.  Yet our culture then enjoys even more seeing these Gladiators beaten down to nothing, torn apart limb by limb, fed to the lions for the way they managed to get so big, strong, powerful, dominating and entertaining.  All the while claiming things like "you see, I told you so", "I knew it all along", "go away and never speak again", "I'm tired of hearing about it" and ad naseum.  Quite a modern day Rome we live in.

What sport have we not seen it in?  Boxing, baseball, swimming, running, cycling, football, basketball, weight lifting, skiing, wrestling, tennis, soccer, and on and on.

Who will be the next Gladiator to garner our Roman citizen delight by watching the rise and subsequent fall?  There will be more.  No doubt about it.  This one is big.   And is being followed by more than the usual attention because of his bigness.

Work.  Play.  Feast.  Birthday.  And then part 2 of the interview for today....



1/15/13

Arrivaderci Macaroni Grill...?

Monday was a well deserved rest day off of the bike and away from the weights.  I kept on task in terms of my diet with my breakfast and lunch.  However, due to having to pick up my Honda Element from Smart Honda before 6 p.m. and our rehearsal at 7 p.m. - Tara and I were sort of stuck in Des Moines for dinner.  Just down the street from Smart Honda was the Macaroni Grill.

How was it?


Hmmmm.......okay.  Here goes.

I hate to give nasty - nay rant - review, but it ranked as a pretty bad experience service and food wise.  We ordered a glass of wine.  15+ minutes later it finally arrived.  I really don't know where the server was in those 15 minutes or why somebody else didn't brink the drinks out to us?  Bar tender, other server, manager - somebody?  Needless to say, warm chardonnay is not too tasty.  The warm bread they bring out at Macaroni Grill used to be a real treat.  Dipped in olive oil with fresh cracked black pepper is a nice appetizer.  Last night, it had morphed from what they used to serve into a fluffy square brick that is so coarse on top from all of the salt that they literally shake on it I didn't know what to think.  What's up with all of that salt?

My dinner salad was filled with salt as well.  And the dressing overwhelmed the salad because way too much was tossed into the salad.  In terms of the salt, that's fine if I choose to add salt at the table based on how it tastes, but forcing me to eat so much is not the way to go.  From there, the dining experience went from bad to worse.

I guess I should know better when ordering sea food in a land locked state in the Midwest, but I ordered the sole because I love fish.  Big mistake.  What does herb crusted sole mean at Macaroni Grill in Des Moines, IA?  It means they take a frozen chunk of fish out of the deep freeze and try to pass it off as fresh fish that has been breaded, pan seared and served to your delight.  The simple idea of serving fresh fish would have been nice, but no - it was not.  Other restaurants in Des Moines are able to do this quite well, but not Macaroni Grill.  The result was a portion of sole that was overly salty, tough, and disappointing.  That's not what brings customers back when the competitors are out there doing it fresh.  When I walked in I saw the wood burning pizza oven in full roar.  I should have just gone with a pizza as I know they can do that right.

Back to my plate and the presentation....

The rice actually looked quite good on the plate.  Colorful.  Distinct.  The presentation was good, but unfortunately it was not cooked completely.  There's nothing like eating raw rice.  This entrée arrived 35 minutes after I had ordered it.  35 minutes?!!!  You've got to be kidding me.  Must have taken that long to defrost the frozen fish....

We weren't in a huge hurry, but we did have a window of time to get from picking up the car to our rehearsal.  It's not that the restaurant was busy on a Monday night.  Maybe a dozen people in the restaurant while we were there and ordered.  I didn't mention the service outside of our wine not being delivered and order taking so long, but suffice it to say the evening meal experience was rather disappointing.  This was the 3rd disappointment in a row from our visit to the Des Moines Macaroni Grill.  Those last 3 visits were spaced out with many months between, but enough to draw the obvious conclusion that we will probably not be back.  And that is after many years of having very nice dining experiences there - especially with the kids.

macaronigrill

Arrivaderci Macaroni Grill?  Could be.  Fool me once.  Fool me twice.  Well - you get the picture.  Too bad.  MG used to be a half way decent place to go for us to dine between 2003 - 2009, but things have gone south the last few years.  The background music used to be really good - Italian, classical, opera, fun stuff.  No longer.  Some rock was playing last night.  Not that I don't like rock, but the unique music that MG was always known for was missing on Monday night.  The wait staff used to be experienced, fun, pleasant and they really knew the menu.  No longer (at least on Monday night with our server).  The food used to be pretty good for what it was - a mid-budget Italian eatery.  No longer (based on our last 3 dining experiences there).  The decor/ambiance (except Monday's music) is still clean and nice, but all hat and no cattle doesn't cut it when it comes to serving a good meal.

I think it would be easy to boost the service and experience back to what it used to be at the Macaroni Grill in Des Moines, but there is some good competition that continually knocks the ball out of the park.   I guess I will have to wait to hear from other's dining experiences at Macaroni Grill to see if my last 3 visits were an anomaly, or more the norm.  Sound off in the comments if you've got an opinion...

We did make it to rehearsal on time.

All that was simply to say the evening meal with the loads of salt on it sort of blew my daily nutrition.  I bounced back to a Tuesday with well chosen food.  I drank plenty of water throughout the day to clean out all of the salt ingested the night before at dinner.  After work, I was able to get 60 minutes of Zone 2 on the bike, 2 x 10 reps of upper body weights and following a shower, we had wonderful fennel bulbs mixed with our roasted vegetables and organic chicken for dinner.

After eating wisely all day, I do feel better this evening as I type this.   Sorry for the Macaroni Grill rant, but it was a pity to see the place go downhill food wise.  If it was a one off, I'd let it pass.  As I said, this was my 3rd in a row poor dining experience there spaced out over the last 24 months.  I sense it was not a coincidence.  That combined with too much viewing of Food Network, our own cooking skills in the kitchen, and my years waiting tables way back when all provide me with plenty of fodder to opine on a poor dining experience.



1/14/13

The Scale of Time...

And the scale of kilograms, pounds, body fat, BMI, etc... .

Tara has not allowed me to get a new scale after our other one gave up the ghost back in 2011.  So last year was all a guessing game for me when it came to my weight (outside of a visit to the doctor where they always weigh you).  As a result, I don't think I ever made it down to my preferred racing weight.  If I had to guess, I raced in the 185 - 189 pound weight last year (based on my doctor visit weigh ins) and general mid-section girth.

Much to my surprise, Tara ran out at the beginning of this year and bought a new humdinger of a scale to put in the bathroom.  Thank goodness for New Years resolutions!!!  Otherwise, we wouldn't have a scale and I would be blind about my weight again this year.  She got one that keeps up to 4 profiles (plug in your age, gender, etc), measures BMI, body fat %, water %, muscle % and is a fun little toy to play with if one takes the time to read the manual.  You can even plug in a goal weight and it will tell you how many calories I need to eat to meet my goal in 12 weeks.  Coolio!  For instance, I set my goal weight at my XC racing weight I prefer (180 lbs) and the scale chirped back at me that I need to eat 2,338 calories a day to achieve a weight of 180 pounds in 12 weeks.  There is a way to program in if you are an athlete and working out quite a few hours a week, but I have yet to program that into my profile.  I should probably do that just for fun to see what daily caloric recommendation it provides me as guidance.

It looks like this...

BFMScale

It's got a cute little brand name:  Health o Meter®

I like having a scale in the house as it is an easy way for me to monitor my weight every day by hopping on the scale in the morning to see what it says.  Then I can make adjustments in my daily intake to maintain my weight or reach a certain level.  According to the Health o Meter®, I lost 2.5 pounds in week one of January, and another 2.4 pounds this past week thanks to my base training/weight training hours I have been doing.  I wouldn't have known that without the scale, so it's nice that we have a tool that can measure things - including time needed to reach the goal!!!

Yesterday was far too cold for me to bundle up and head outside for an endurance ride.  It was 11 degrees and the wind was howling!!  I could barely handle the 20 minute dog walks (one at 8:30 and the other at 4:50 pm).  I could have done a long ride outside, but it would have required some pretty bulky clothing to fight the windchill and it just didn't seem worth it to me.  Riding in the "heat" of the basement is more relative to what I face in XC racing, so the heat won for Sunday's minutes.

Not only the warmth, but having the computer and the data to keep me on task is helpful.  It's very easy to give too little effort out on the bike since I have no power meter or computer to guide me.  The C7i tells me everything and won't let me slack off...

P1010002

I did 90 minutes on the C7i in the basement while watching the fun game of the Seahawks and the Falcons.  It was an endurance ride with some tempo and sweet spot intervals thrown in for the first 65 minutes, then I dialed it back to a wattage and heart rate in low Zone 2 and the high end of Zone 1 for the remaining 25 minutes to cool down a bit.  Week 2 ended with 8:10 on the bike (week 1 was 7:25).  So far, so good.  I am allowing much more recovery time between weight sessions this year after reading up on how much time it takes to recover for my age and the science behind "less is not less".

Today is my day off the bike and we have rehearsal in Des Moines tonight for the Bloch Sacred Service.  I will keep Monday as a day off - at least through the performance on April 6 - for my weekly training schedule.

Speaking of time......I, along with others, are still in limbo in detailing our season training plans in terms of when and what events one will choose to participate in during 2013.  WORS is the only one of the 4 Midwest XC series that have announced their dates.  Pyscowpath has announced some dates tentatively, but I think they forgot Easter Sunday was March 31 and they have a duo March 30/31 opening race weekend (Jewell and Swanson) which they may have to contend with for participants.  Other dates are pending from them (one of them I cannot do - April 6th - as I have the Bloch Sacred Service performance).  IMBCS says they will have dates at the end of January.  Minnesota just announced they are working on it and should have dates around February 1st.  So, it continues to be a year to wait before plugging in all of the dates and figuring out where the build, taper and peak(s) will be and which events to target.  Not really a problem in terms of current training, but it makes it difficult to plan the rest of spring, summer and fall activities, vacations, etc... with family and friends until all the information is known.  I'm already fast forwarded to 2015 working on dates and scheduling for work.  Ah....time.....

The dog walk will be chilly today as it is only 9 degrees out there with a windchill of 0!!!!!  Time for the full body ski suit, Russian hat, and super warm mittens.




1/13/13

21 degrees and wind chill didn't stop me...

I woke up to sunny skies and very cool temperatures (as was forecast).  Friday's warmth and humidity made for everything being wet outside.  As expected, the cool temperatures dried the pavement and sure made a ride outside seem alluring to me.

After all, I stocked up last year on warm weather gear...

Warmth!!!

I debated on what to do as I enjoyed my Saturday morning eggs, bacon, yogurt and coffee.   I took the dogs for the morning walk and noted the ground was frozen solid and it wasn't too terribly cold outside.   I got the itch around 10:30 and got suited up to ride the JET 9 down to Banner Pits to see if the ground was frozen enough for a spin.  I know I was due for a recovery ride on the trainer in the basement according to plan, but yesterday's outside ride tempted me to do it again.  If anything, just to get some longer time in the saddle for the sake of endurance.

Warm socks, warm shoes, warm gloves, warm head covering, and face protection are the key elements to survive a cold ride.  Although the thermometer claimed it was 21 degrees out there, the windchill made it really nippy.  My water bottle started freezing 30 minutes into the ride, so I knew it was chilly.  Once I arrived at Banner, I immediately saw that there was too much snow on the trail and the snow there was looked as if it was glazed ice.  So I decided to pedal on to Carlisle with my iPod in full roar providing a cadence for my grind.  I wasn't recovered from Friday's ride, so I kept pace in check.  It was one of those rides that felt like the wind was against me no matter what direction I was riding.  And it was!!!  I got a few stares as I was the lone rider through Indianola, on the trail and in Carlisle on such a cold day.

I can attest to the volume alone of this week's training was providing plenty of stress to my body.  With the two loops at Banner on the pavement, the trip to Carlisle and the dog walk/ride, I put in 2 1/2 hours out in that cold stuff.  I arrived back home and was too frozen to even undress.  I flopped on the bed and my yellow lab Max immediately started licking me and "taking care of me".  Eventually, I got undressed and hit the hot shower to revive my blood flow in the extremities.  After that, hot beef/vegetable soup, pretzels and a beer to set me up for a mini-nap.

Then it was a lazy afternoon and evening of watching football.  Might be the same routine today after I spend some time learning more of Bloch's Sacred Service music...

It's only 9 degrees this morning - so we'll see.  

1/12/13

Taking advantage of the mid 50's warmth...

I wouldn't say the most ideal way to follow up a weight lifting leg hypertrophy session is to get out the next day on the bike for a 2 hour ride with lots of tempo, but I couldn't pass on the mid 50's warmth on Friday afternoon knowing that Saturday would be back in the 20's.  A wind from the south was blowing nice warm air into our area which accounted for the warmth and pretty much finished off the melt of what was left around for snow from the blizzard.

Actually, my plan was to just ride outside for recovery/aerobic riding - maybe hit the high end of Zone 2 for most of the way.  At least that was my plan...

I finished work about 3:30, raced home and got suited up for my first outdoor training ride of 2013 (the rest have been in the basement).  The roads were wet due to it being foggy and humid all day long after the previous evening's rain.

I hopped on the road bike at 3:51 and departed with the iPod blasting in my ears at full tilt.

P1010001

In my hurry to get out the door and get the ride in before the sun went down, I left my filled water bottle on the floor next to where I put my shoes on for the ride.  Silly me.  I got on the Summerset Trail and launched myself north with a stiff tail wind.  Even in the big ring and pushing a tiny cog in the rear, I was pretty much in the lower end of Zone 2 with such a stiff wind pushing me.  I knew there would be heck to pay once I turned around and rode back into the wind, but that's what drops are for on the road bike.  Right?

I made the turn and headed south against the wind.  The wind didn't bother me too much, but the fact that the sun was going down so quickly and clouds were moving in to take away my daylight pushed me into tempo pace to make it home before it got dark.  I did my best to keep pace and not push myself over the edge and up into too high of an effort, but I did ride in the sweet spot all the way home which means my legs did not get the recovery they needed from the lifting with the effort I was grinding out against the wind and up the hill.

I rolled in about 10 minutes after it got dark, but was pretty tickled to get in 2 hours outside to break up the monotony of riding on the trainer in the basement.  I was covered in road splatter from the wet roads, crossing the peanut butter gravel roads and all of the sand still out on the streets from the winter street plow/sand/salt crew.  I stripped all the dirty stuff off and threw it in the wash so I wouldn't track anything in the house.  Tara was in the basement on her trainer getting an hour in, so I went down to catch up on our days with her.

Tara cooked up some unbelievable quinoa and made chops with italian red sauce.  At first it sounded like an odd combination, but it went well together.  We watched a couple of movies and hit the hay early.  At least I managed to sneak in another 8 1/2 hours of sleep to help with recovery.

Today, since it is 21 degrees outside, I will do an official recovery ride on the trainer in the basement where I can carefully monitor my watts and heart rate, upper body weights and of course - watch the football playoffs!!!


1/11/13

Hypertrophy Day 1 in the bag...

Ouch!!!  It is that time of year for me.  What time is that you ask?

It's time to load up the plates on the Olympic bar.

squat

So the plates were added on and the legs were accordingly turned to rubber with last night's first session of hypertrophy for the lower body.  The sweet spot for repetitions in each set is 8-12 for hypertrophy.

I focus on the big lifts with the grandfathers of leg lifts:  squats and dead lifts.  I'm taking it easy on the amount of weight - especially with dead lifts this year as form is so critical that building fatigue early really leads to poor form for me.

Sticking to form.

Proper-Squat

After a 15 minute warm up on the bike to get the blood flowing from a rather stationary day at work for me, I did the following routine:

Squats


Two x 8 reps at 145 lbs
Two x 8 reps at 155 lbs
Two x 8 reps at 170 lbs

Dead Lift


Two x 10 reps at 70 lbs
Two x 10 reps at 90 lbs
Two x 10 reps at 100 lbs

Leg Extensions/Leg Curls/Lunges/Calf Raises


Two x 12 reps at various weights
Two x 12 reps at medium weights
Two x 8 reps at higher weights

I did not do this session at an ideal time of day (it was 9 pm at night).  By the time I finished and crawled into bed, I was out like a light for 8 1/2 hours.  The first session of hypertrophy is always the most difficult.  Even though I only did lower body - it was difficult to finish as the squats and dead lifts really tore me down.  I could feel the muscle damage in the two final sets of my squats.

Now to recover in the next week before session #2 with the legs.  Great articles on the amount of time needed for recovery and on the frequency of lifting being a lot less than has been advocated.  I can vouch for the tearing down I experienced in this session of the larger muscle groups are going to need about 5-7 days of recovery if I want to hit it as hard in the next session.  Otherwise, I will just be working a muscle that is in a weakened state and the growth benefits will be thwarted.  Old, wise and smart training required at this point in my life.

It is supposed to be sunny and about 52-55 degrees this afternoon.  I get off of work today at 2:30!!!  Woohoo!  Word is, the Summerset Bike Trail has been plowed and cleared (Simpson Track Team told me that) - so I will try to get a couple of hours on the road bike this afternoon before the sun sets and the temperatures go back into the 20's and 30's for the weekend.

Of interest to Dad:  We dropped my Honda Element off at Smart Honda in Des Moines last night for service (needs a valve job and the air bag light is on).  Tara, Alexa and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant after dropping the car off and sat next to the girls basketball team from Indiana State University (Terre Haute) who were in town to play Drake tonight.  I remember flying to Terre Haute all those years ago....

1/10/13

First 2 a day...

Yesterday was my first scheduled "2 a day" for training.  2 a day means, of course, two workouts done on the same day.  The idea is to have a recovery period between the two - in my case one was doing in the morning, and the other at night - where you target two different things.  It's not an ideal way to workout - especially for an over 40 athlete.   However, when integrated properly in a program it can certainly help out the time crunched person.  I only have one of these scheduled every week for the next 3 weeks, so the body should be able to adapt and absorb it.

I had a morning Tempo ride.  Then I was off to a full day at work.  After work, I stopped by the store and picked up some fresh cod, lettuce, bread and a few items on sale while I was at it.  Then I went home and met Tara for the evening workout in the basement.  My evening workout called for upper body weights followed by 45 minutes of Zone 2 "wind down" after the morning's harder effort and the weights.  I booked it all just fine and then headed up for our festival of cod. 

Yum.  An egg wash, some breading, some asiago cheese and in the oven it went.  Sauteed some zucchini, garlic and red pepper for the side.  Baked some multi-grain bread as another side to go with the salad.  It was very tasty (well as much as cod can be tasty that is).

Back to weights.  The main reason an over 40 cyclist would lift weights really doesn't have anything to do with cycling outside of sprints and short steep climbs.  It's more for the testosterone production and bone density benefits (both of which suffer as we age).  Couple that with using the off season to work on our overall fitness and strive for getting a physical balance that we may have lost during the warmer "lets ride outside" months.  I am in the midst of that now along with base building and calculating the workout schedule to achieve both as well as provide enough recovery has been a bit of a double chess match for me, but so far so good.

Plenty of arguments grow out of a group of cyclists' discussion on weight lifting and cycling, but when you introduce the reality of aging and the over 40 athlete - I obviously tip my argument on the side of lifting for the benefits.  I know it makes me feel good and I start a cycling season feeling balanced and strong.

Former professional mountain bike racer turned Tour de France road racer Michael Rasmussen used to be a poster child for the argument of not lifting weights and that the less body weight to carry up the hills, the better.  Here is that famous shot of his physique...

mikerass

Of course now we know with the alleged doping and being booted off of his team and out of the Tour de France that maybe his slender and light weight physique for climbing alone was not the trump card in his cycling success that everyone actually thought it was at the time.

We could say the same about Lance (who always did sport a more muscular physique), but if I had to choose between the Rasmussen physique and one with a bit more vanity for cycling - I'll go with the vanity inspired look.

12 weeks for a body overhaul....?  I don't think I will achieve the same results as the picture below, but I could be happy getting to the Week 4 look before the additional 1.5 kilograms were added in lean muscle mass.  I would have to seriously alter my diet and change my discipline - but at least for now I am lifting and working on the conversion of weight distribution from excess body fat to more lean muscle mass during this off season period.

Joe stages-1

1/8/13

2012 is officially the warmest year on record...

...or so it is with regard to as long as U.S. temperature data has been collected since 1895.

photo-thermometer

WASHINGTON —Government meteorologists say 2012 was by far the hottest year on record in the United States.

The average temperature was off the charts at over 55 degrees. That's a full degree warmer than the previous record of 1998. Normally, temperature records are broken by about a tenth of a degree.

Scientists blame the heat on global warming and weather variations. That includes the drought that gripped almost two-thirds of the nation.

Last July was also the hottest month on record. The entire year was 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century.

The tally was released Tuesday by the National Climatic Data Center.

U.S. temperature records go back to 1895. They're based on reports from more than 1,200 stations across the Lower 48 states.


It sure kept the mountain bike trails in the Midwest dry, dusty and loose for the season.  It's hard to tell what 2013 has in store for us, but I've got the tires to deal with it - that's for sure.  The warmth and dry conditions was - outside of agriculture - a bit of relief after years of flooding and too much rain for our area.  Maybe a happy medium this year would be nice....

Second Semester


Back in the groove at Simpson teaching.  The kids are back to school.  Tara is back working.  Routine is once again flowing at the house.  

This semester, Monday nights also include a rehearsal for Bloch's Sacred Service which I am preparing the baritone solos for at the moment (performance in April).  Last night's rehearsal went well, but it's complicated tonality.  The music has a few tritones, the Jewish 2nd and difficult harmonies, albeit rich and lush, from Bloch.  All of this takes a bit more time to get logged into my ear/brain connection so I can repeat it perfectly, but I'm pretty close with Part I.  I move on to Part II work (as well as polishing Part I) this week learning the Hebrew and the music in hopes that I will be ready with that by next Monday's rehearsal.

Base Building


Yesterday found me off the bike as it was a rest day I scheduled following the weights on Sunday.  Tonight's bike time includes a bit of Tempo riding in the session.  It is supposed to get to 47 tomorrow and 49 on Friday which might be just enough to melt what needs to be melted for the bike paths to open up.  We'll see about that as there is a lot of snow and I don't think any clearing was done after the December blizzard like they did last year on the trail.  The entire week will be in the 40's until the weekend when it drops back down under freezing during the day again.  I don't think it is going to be enough to melt all of the snow.  The basement trainer rides will continue to be where my base building is being done until the white stuff is off the trail.  Working in some Tempo helps get a little more training effect in during a 65-90 minute session (about the amount of time I can stand being on the bike inside).


1/6/13

Annual Training Hours Set for 2013...

It's nice to formulate an annual plan, follow it, digest it, review it to then see how the plan went when it comes to cycling.  I am paying more attention these days after I started really keeping track on my computer last year and using this blog as a journal for my cycling endeavors.  My racing season, for the most part, was a success in 2012.  My goal is to bump it up a slight bit this year.  All within reason and with realistic expectations.

How to do that?  Well, by reviewing the data.

Data is in and I have totaled up the hours for the 2012 training year.  My total hours on the bike for 2012 were 355:55.  That was an increase from the 2011 hours by a bit over 10%.  Most things I have read with regard to increasing annual training hours say to only increase by 10% year over year, so that is what I am sticking to for my 2013 planned training hours.  A 10% increase.

The 10% increase will raise me from 355:55 hours in 2012 to 392 hours in 2013.  If I round that up to 400 hours (which I am doing), I am then on par with the chart on page 91 of Joe Friel's The Mountain Biker's Training Bible that says for somebody of my age with 6+ years of racing experience should be training 400 hours and above.  It's taken me this long to climb to this level, but I feel I am ready for the additional hours to take me to 400. 

400-hours-logo

And that represents only 4.5% of all the hours available in my life during 2013.  So I feel it is reasonable and realistic without causing instability in my life and work.  I wrote a blog entry on the Simpson College Music Department's new blog in December about how musicians can make a choice to include a portion of their day to stay healthy.  If interested, the blog post can be found here.  Like that blog post suggests, I am making the choice to keep my mind and body healthy again in 2013 and that will involve 4.5% of the hours in the year to accomplish.  Not a bad time commitment in my estimation.

Compared to other things I do in my life....

I'll sleep 33% of the year.
I'll be at work at Simpson 13% of the year during the 2 semesters (non May Term years).
I'll be doing food prep, cooking, clean up 4.2% of the year.
I'll watch David Letterman 3% of the year.
I'll be walking the dogs 2% of the year.

So it doesn't seem too out of line that 4.5% will be devoted to sitting on a bike and pedaling.

Where am I for the 2013 year right now?

I know that I am currently in what one calls the base period of my annual plan.  I can't develop the entire annual plan yet.  Why?  Because I don't have dates yet for all of the cross country races that I will be doing to be able to set goals based on Priority A, B, C races.  Once I get all of that information from the Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin series I can plug it all into the annual plan.  Outside of the usual XC series races, I've got interest in racing the Bone Bender in Lawerence, Kansas this year as well as having another go at the Dakota Five-0 in South Dakota.

Week one of 2013 is now in the bag with 7:25 hours of base on the bike, plus 2 days of weight lifting.  It is supposed to be in the 40's all week long, so perhaps that will melt what needs to be melted so I can hit the paved bike trail for some long miles before or after work.  If not, I'm doing fine on the C7i in the basement.

School starts tomorrow, so the routine will quickly adjust back to work mode.

1/5/13

Off Season Goals..

November and December had me out on the bike more this year than last year - which is good.  And more of that was higher intensity riding thanks to the singlespeed.  Janaury training (at least the first week) has been going well.  Last year was the first year I really spent time building a pretty decent base for my needs.  It helped that I was able to get outside to take advantage of the warm weather, but being inside this year I am able to use my equipment to really focus on wattage, cadence, heart rate (I don't have or use any equipment like that outside).  So it keeps me honest and so far I feel that this is leading to an advantage for me this off season.  In spite of not getting the big hours the past 2 weeks that I did last year due to really warm weather, week by week my numbers are looking better this year than last year for the base building.  That's good.

I guess....

I say I guess because there are plenty of arguments these days on the internet about base training.  What is base training?  Is it needed?  Who has time to do it correctly?  Is it more important to be doing intensity on the bike these days because base training is dead?  Should one lift weights or should one get more time on the bike?  Should one cross train?  On and on the arguments go, the opinions are stated, and solutions are offered for those of us who choose to race and do some off season work while the white stuff is on the ground to prepare for the upcoming season.  I've been learning a lot, but am about getting to the point of information overload at this point.  In the meantime, I've got an FTP Field Test on tap in the next few days.  Here's a shot of the Excel calculator that I will plug my FTP test results in to base my Zone training on for this part of the season...

FTP

I don't have the right equipment on my C7i for conducting the test, but the recumbent bike in the background does have the correct computer to tell my the average wattage output for my 20 minute field test.

P1010001

Slightly different set of muscles in the recumbent, but it will do for now and I have put some time in on it the past few weeks to get in shape for the recumbent test.  I certainly have thought about a power meter device on the mountain bike and have been waiting for the crank arm or pedal ones that were due to be released any day now as they are much cheaper and might be worth it for me.  In the meantime, I do get my wattage, heart rate, distance, time, speed, etc... from the computers on our exercise bikes.  I just can't download the data into a program on my computer.  I have learned to memorize the various wattage, cadences and feel for a pretty good PE (perceived effort) that I take outside to the bike.  The time on the bikes in the basement with computers is re-establishing my PE memory as I pretty much skipped all of that last year with the nice weather.

What about weights?

Famous cycling coaches/trainers such as Dave Morris, Joe Friel, Lynda Wallenfells, FastCat Coaching staff of Jason Hillimire, Jon Tarkington, Jeff Winkler, Frank Overton and on and on down the list of Who's Who in coaching cyclists all suggest guys of my age to hit the weights for a number of weeks in the off season.  The juxtaposition viewpoint of this comes from guys on cross country race message boards who shoot down the idea of weights.  Hmmmm.....   I'm sticking with the professional trainers advice figuring there must be a method to their madness.  I'm sure they have some clients my age that they recommend not to do weights due to their individual situations, strengths, body type, weaknesses and what not.  All I know is my body is responding well and enjoying the benefits of weights.  And Zack yells at me if my form is even the slightest off.  He was the squat champion at his school on the football team and has amazing form which I try to emulate.

I even added singlespeed riding to my off season this year as it almost substitutes as a full body workout depending on where I ride and how hard I ride.  Based on PE (perceived effort), just singlespeeding along in the snow in the field with the dogs feels way over and above what a 350 watt anaeboric capacity interval feels like on the exercise bike as I plow through some of the snow in the field.  It hurts so good.  I've been hitting that snow covered field twice a day since the blizzard and come out of there dripping wet with sweat when on the singlespeed.  But the weights in the basement and the lifting is a great way of increasing my power, keeping the joints in shape, creating testosterone and preparing for the upcoming season.

My goals this off season are trying to come up with a training plan that takes me to a level of improvement over last year.  I've got a couple I am using as examples along with my Friel and Morris books.  As soon as I get all the dates plugged into my annual plan, then more specific goals can be doctored to match the planned season.  I do know, I'm not doing 24 events in 2013 like I did in 2012.  I'll scale back to a much more reasonable number.


1/4/13

It's not last year.....!!!

Weather wise, that is.  Last year, the final week in December and the first week in January were nice and warm which gave me the opportunity to do about 9 hours per week outside on the bike for base building each of those weeks.  Not so this year with the snow and ice not having been cleared off the trails and temperatures being so cool things have not melted.  In fact, a year ago today was 65 degrees and I did a 2+ hour ride in my bike shorts and short sleeve jersey on a very busy trail.

That was an unusual winter with this year being more the norm in terms of temperatures once the blizzard hit two weeks ago and spoiled all of my singletrack fall/early winter riding.  Although I enjoyed last year's opportunity to put in a huge base thanks to the multi-hour outdoor bike rides, I am doing my off season plan this year more like previous years - indoors.  On the trainer downstairs, with the periodized weight training on the days off the bike.  I'm at 5:05 on the bike this week with 2 more training days to go, so I should end up around 7 hours for the 1st week of January compared to 9 last year of outside base building.  But I am also compensating by doing some intensity and of course - the weights.

I am trying to avoid this...

Exhausted

This off season, which began December 1st for me, I am following a 16 week well thought plan that includes intensity,  days of recovery rides, days of weight lifting, more recovery, more intensity, etc... - all designed for a 50+ age mountain bike rider who races XC races.  It's a bit different plan than I have used in past years, so I am anxious to see how it all turns out and am enjoying the change of pace.  Actually, it is more organized and targets weaknesses I needed to address.

I finish this section of the periodized weight training tomorrow:

Adaptation Grab

I was unable to lift weights after my crash in April, 2012.  And my body really needed help as posture on the bike and posture off the bike suffered due to the neck muscles being so weak I couldn't hold things up in place like they needed to be.  Now that my neck and shoulder have healed - I can do all of my usual weights and the past month of lifting has really boosted everything that needed to be boosted after 8 months off of the weights.  I am feeling better than I have in well over a year as a result.

Alexa is at the state debate tournament today and tomorrow.  Zack is there judging.  Tara is at an all-day conference in Johnston.  So I am puttering around the house until I drive up to meet everyone for dinner around 6 tonight.



1/2/13

Smoked Duck for New Year's Day!!!

What better way to start out 2013 than to fire up the smoker for some nice comfort food?  That's what I decided to do.  We had a duck and it was too tiny with so little fat to do a meal out of (2.73 pounds) for 5 people, so we decided to smoke it and make smoked duck, mango, basil, cream sauce pizza (for 1 pizza), and a smoked salmon with spinach and cream sauce for another pizza.

I figured since I was going to fire up the Big Green Egg for a smoke....

Smokin' hot at 620 degrees...

....why not do some other meats while I was at it?  So Tara and I drove over to Hy-Vee and got an organic 4 pound chicken, a big hunk of salmon, and a 6 pound brisket.  Talk about an eclectic smoke!!!!

I got the fire going, soaked the apple, cherry and maple chips and set about making 3 different rubs for the various meats.  I made out a chart for each of the meats so I knew how long to cook each one and when to apply the mop on the brisket.

Once the fire was roaring away and the temperature was up around 650 degrees, I put the smoking chips on the fire, placed the indirect heat plate in the Egg, placed two pans of water on the plate, put the grate over it and loaded up the meat on the Egg.  Wow, it all looked and smelled good!!!

Then I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen, changed my clothes and headed downstairs for 70 minutes on the C7i.  I threw in eleven 1 minute on, 4 minutes off intervals while watching the movie version of the musical Annie with Tara and Alexa.  After I finished doing that, I mopped the meat, checked everything, got bundled up and took the dogs for a nice long walk in the snow.  Talk about tough going out in the field on a bike!!!  I had to use my 23T granny ring and the the 34T rear cog to power through the snow on my RIP 9 and I felt like I was doing about 270 - 300 watts the entire time.  I was dripping wet with sweat all over again.  The dogs fared much better than I did - that's for sure.  Next time, I think I'll stick to the shoveled areas and not venture out into a snow covered field that is crunchy with a really odd ice mix from the Blizzard we had a couple of weeks ago.

I got back home just in time to take out Daffy from the Egg.

The duck was done smoking in a mere 2 1/2 hours at 225.  As I said, this was a very small duck with hardly any fat on it...

Duck

Tara wanted me to get a profile shot because she thought Daffy Duck looked like a little person...

DuckProfile

As you can see, I smoked the neck as well so the dogs could have a treat.  I let the bird cool for about 30 minutes before taking the meat off and cutting it up into pizza size pieces.  Tara goofing off while it cooled...

DuckFromTARA

The chicken was done smoking at the 4 hour point.  I let it cool for over an hour and gave Alexa and Lisa both a leg from the chicken as an appetizer to our New Year's Day meal.  It was pull off the bone incredible.  The taste and smoke ring were perfect on it.   I put it in the fridge for Wednesday's meals.

Our friend Lisa came over and the Prosecco, Limoncello and Raspberries were brought out along with baked Brie and some bread.

Tara made the pizza using mango, basil, cream sauce, goat cheese (she forgot the red pepper we bought) and with the duck, here's what a piece looked like...

SmokedDuckMangoBasilPizza

Zack, Tara, Alexa, Lisa and myself all agreed it was just about the best tasting pizza we had ever had!!!

Here are the ladies before we dimmed the lights and dug into the pizza....

LisaTaraAlexa

It was so rich, we decided to skip making the salmon pizza as Tara was also going to make fresh blackberry cobbler for dessert.  I kept mopping the brisket and pulled it off the grill around 10:30 at night, I let it cool until midnight and then put it in the fridge.  I'll do another hour or two in the oven later this afternoon at about 190 - 200 degrees so it will be really broken down and good for dinner tonight.  Oh yes, I'll be making baked fries and some other goodies tonight for our smoked chicken, brisket dinner.  Who knows when we'll eat the salmon?

What a fabulous way to start 2013!!!