1/31/14

Goofy bike stuff...

Some fun goofy stuff to add to the fun video "How to be a mountain biker" that are not to be missed.  It's important to laugh at yourself, and these videos provide enough fodder for everyone.

"What's Enduro?" is goofy and fun...



And this classic - "How to be a Road Biker"



Pretty funny stuff that includes something to poke fun of all of us that engage in cycling as an activity.

Speaking of engaged...

Last night's post-work training session was a real grind for me.  On deck was a good warm up that was then to be followed with some Level 4 work via 4 x 6 intervals (only 2 minutes Zone 1 recovery between them).  I made it through the first 3 reps, but during the 4th - my mind, body, and heart took over and was screaming at me to BAIL!!!

GrindingThursday


Somehow, I did get the work in and completed my 24 minutes of Level 4 effort, but that 4th interval was not ideal at all.  I was clawing, scraping, hanging on, begging for mercy, cross-eyed in pain, wishing for all to be over, and generally doing anything I could to get out of it.  My power number dropped below my goal several times and I had to dig super deep to pull it back up.  It was telling enough that I questioned my Zones and wonder if my FTP tested out too high for this time of year, or if I was just exhausted from the day, a couple of poor night's sleep that were not the best, or if that last interval is supposed to feel that way.  I guess if they were too easy and I ended the session with plenty of energy to do more, then I would have the bar set too low.  Perhaps just hanging on by the skin of my teeth to fight through the last one means that it is stretching me a bit and it should be a fight to the finish to achieve the growth. 

Regardless, I'm happy to have today off of the slayer...

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1/29/14

Knocking out the L2 rides...fueled by white chili!

Coming off the recovery week - which seemingly worked - my legs were itching to go on the bike come Tuesday.  Monday was a lower body weight training session.  Monday was also a cooking day and found me taking one of these...

WindyBirds

...and using it as the secret ingredient in a huge batch of white chili to provide our nourishement for Monday and Tuesday.  I narrowed down my choice of recipe to the Pioneer Woman's excellent gathering of goods and experience for making this dish found and detailed here

She allowed me to serve up a batch of goodness...

TPW_2445

Photo courtesy of Pioneer Woman

Yummy stuff with the beans I soaked overnight, cumin, a fresh jalapeno, my smoked chicken, fresh cilantro, and everything listed in the recipe.  This provided excellent fuel for Monday and Tuesday and paired well with the winter weather to boot.

Back to my itching legs...

A full day of work had me pull into the garage about 6:30 PM.  As I entered the house, I found Zack and Jenna chowing down on my chili and received words of praise for it from both.  I had miles to go before my eating of a bowl of white goodness, so I jumped into my exercise kit and headed downstairs to the LeMond bike. 

On tap was a Zone 2 ride of 90 minutes.  Seems like this ride is turning out to happen on Tuesday's during NCIS which keeps me entertained as the pedals tick over and the fans blow on me to keep cool.  I have to admit, I felt a lot better this week than last week when I could barely knock this ride out coming off of a heavy training week.  I guess that was good as it signified the recovery week had worked its magic and my body had caught up with the training.  Good thing, too, since the duration had increased to 90 minutes for this week.  Don't be fooled, a lot of Zone 2 training stress can add up and be trying at times while doing it. 

I did feel a nice sense of accomplishment as I finished the 90 minutes and thoughts of chili took over as I uploaded my workout to Training Peaks...

TuesdayWorkout

Once completed, I headed back upstairs for a big bowl of the white chili, a glass of wine, and to watch the President's State of the Union speech.  A little kitchen clean up after that and a hunt for an envelope that contained the bill for registration renewal on the cars that Tara and Alexa drive ended the evening before an 8 hour nap.

1/28/14

Polar Vortex Survival...

Plenty of talk about the polar vortex this year.  Cold is no stranger to me having grown up in the Dakotas - and especially living on the border of Canada/Montana/North Dakota in Williston where we had temperatures down to -50F.  Toss in some windchill, and well...you get the picture.  We had names for them back then:  Alberta Clipper, Manitoba Mauler, Saskatchewan Screamer. 

Yet.  In spite of all this cold.  There is gear available out there to handle it.  Much comes to us thanks to higher tech materials from NASA and to the mountain climbing, and ski industry in terms of light weight and shielding for extreme cold.  Although mountain top temperatures only get down to -33 to -38F on average at Everest's summit during the coldest months, wind speeds can top 170 mph.  A lot of the technology and lighter weight gear has transformed the ski industry, snow mobile industry and those who must work outside in the extreme cold conditions.  And we can buy that gear to survive the elements.

Me?  I have a simple ski parka from Columbia Sportswear, and a matching pair of ski pants.  The coat has a nice hood to add an additional layer, but I usually leave the hood off and go with hats.  I also have top notch ski gloves and a hat from Boulder, Colorado's very own Spyder Apparel.  Throw in a pair of Gore Tex mittens, a wool base layer, and a goose down vest or other core fleece mid-layer to wear between my wicking base layer and outer layer - and I can really be comfortable in anything that has been thrown our way this year in Iowa.  I was out on the coldest day this year for about an hour working on snow, ice and clearing walkways.  I was comfortable for that hour, but was sweating so much that I started to get uncomfortable due to being so wet at about the 1:05 marker.

For me, no matter what the weather, I've got 2 labrador retrievers to walk in the morning and at night.  And I need to get around for groceries, work, shopping, etc...in spite of what winter throws at us.  Most of the gear I purchased for skiing and or bicycling in the winter, but it all works great to keep me warm when the tundra descends a little too far south of the border (Canadian or Minnesotan - take your pick.)

Base layer of wool long johns...

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Thermal wool socks for the feet (I've got plenty for skiing and cycling)...

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Base layer wool balaclava for the head/face/neck (mine is available at any sports store for less than $15, but you can get some really fancy and high tech ones for extreme cold if you are willing to part with $60.  I haven't found the need to get one of those yet as I use mine as a base layer only)...

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Over the balaclava goes a ski hat and over the base wicking layer goes my goose down vest or a fleece layer...

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Although the ski hat keeps me warm down to -20, I switch to the really cold fur lined hat that has the ear flaps that fasten under my face to go down to -50.  I don't wear this very often as I really start to sweat with it on unless it is really cold and the wind is howling.  I usually prefer the wool balaclava and wool ski hat to keep me warm and wick the moisture away.  But this fake fur lined hat really keeps one toasty with the balaclava underneath it.  Notice the missing fake fur on the forehead flap as my dogs thought it was an animal at ate part of it...

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It's important to use the velcro on the sleeves to tighten up the wrist area so no air can get up your sleeve...

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The snow pants go on (a nice high-tech snowmobile suit is the cat's meow as well)...

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The internal lining cuff of the pants keeps snow and cold air from going up the leg...

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All bundled up and sweating before getting the gloves and boots on to go outside.  As you can see, the only exposed skin to the elements is that small slot between my eyebrows and the middle of the nose.  In extreme negative temperatures, moisture on the eyelashes can freeze when you blink.  That's usually when it is -25 and below.  Many will wear goggles to prevent that and keep all air out or from contacting any skin.  I do have ski goggles, but have not used them this year in the cold weather here at home...

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On really cold days of -10 and below, I'll throw on a pair of Pearl Izumi winter cycling gloves or in this example, my super-duper Sypder ski gloves that tighten up around the coat and lock out all air from getting to my hands.  These gloves keep me warm enough skiing in temps above 0 and all the windchill one faces on the skiing mountain...

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Then, for the chilly polar vortex and cold winter winds that close down schools and businesses, I will throw the Gore Tex Mittens over the Spyder ski gloves and be good to go down to -50 without any problems.  Warning - this is a very warm combination that tends to cause a lot of hand sweating...

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If that is not warm enough, one can use hand warmers or the packets to put in the end of your mittens to keep things really toasty (my wife likes to do that).

I have hiking boots that I wear, snow boots if there is snow on the ground, or my winter Shimano cycling shoes which I use for the dog walks as I ride and they walk when it's not so cold that my rear hub freezes.  Plenty of warm footwear and everyone has their own preference, but my feet are never an issue in the extreme cold with the hiking or snow boots.  The Shimano shoes do have a limit, but my 20 minute dog walks are not long enough to even test them.  They need the footwarmers installed if going out for a 2 hour ride in cold weather, but it's rare I ride when it is below 10-20 for such a long duration.

That's it for my survival skills in the winter or currently known phenom/buzz words as polar vortex.   Some of this is normal and widely available gear for not too much investment, but to really keep the hands and head warm - you're going to have to pay to play.  A stocking cap from Wally World ain't gonna cut it.  The main thing is to use a wicking layer to wick the sweat away from your skin and to an outer layer, a mid-layer or two that also breathe, and the outer layer should inlude a shell to keep the wind out, yet let the moisture from underneath release out into the cold.  Most of the time, I find myself overdressed and too warm - even if it is -30 or so with this gear, but it depends on how fast I am walking or riding my bike - or if I am out cleaning the walks from a recent snow.  I usually dress lighter for that as I work up quite a sweat moving snow.

Get the gear and survive the cold.  There will be more extreme colds in the future and the investment in the gear will last you for years.  




Summerset Trail...

I managed to get off the hamster wheel in the basement to take advantage of a nice outdoor ride on the road bike Sunday afternoon before temperatures dropped from the 40's to below zero.  On tap was a two hour Zone 2 ride, so I figured now that I have a smart phone I would check out the app Map My Ride.

It was an amazing tailwind as I headed north to Carlisle.  The trail has been kept clear all winter long from Indianola to Summerset Road, but not beyond that.  Luckily, it has been warm and sunny enough I ventured beyond Summerset Road and was able to ride through about a mile of ice, slush, and muck to get past the Banner shooting range thanks to my knobby cyclocross tires on the road bike.  Hey, nothing wrong with a little tech skill work on ice, right?  It was clear no other bikes had been out and through this slush and ice section in spite of the warm temperatures.  After I crossed the wooden bridge just beyond the shooting range, I once again hit clear black top from there to Carlisle.  The tailwind was so strong, I knew I would pay for it coming home as I was flying along at 19-20 mph in an easy Zone 2.

Sure enough, once I turned around at Carlisle to head back, I was facing a 25-40 mph headwind.  Ouch!  I tried tucking down in the drops and keeping it in the 14-16 mph range, but it was taking me over the edge and into Zone 3.  So I shifted gears and backed off to a crawling pace to keep my ride, heart, and legs all in check.  It didn't matter, it felt good to get outside on black top and besides - I was trying to get two hours out of this ride.  I did a loop of the State Park to add some time before heading up the climb to Indianola against the wind.  It started to rain just as I was on the final 1/2 mile to our house.  The wind was howling and I rolled into the garage happy with the two hours I had just spent on black top.

This combined with my 2 dog walks (where I ride a bike) on Sunday allowed me to make my weekend numbers.

MMR

I haven't used Map My Ride before, so I don't really have a review on what it can or cannot do at this point.  It uses GPS via my phone to figure out the distance and route which is uploaded to the MMR website.

SummersetTrail

In spite of the howling winds, I lit the fire in our Big Green Egg so I could smoke 3 chickens.  Maybe lighting a fire in such a high wind wasn't a wise thing, but I did avoid burning down our deck as well as setting anything in our neighbor's yard on fire as the sparks blew everywhere.  I got the lid closed to let the fire stoke up while I showered, then came back and loaded the indirect heat plate, water and the birds in the Egg to let the smoke and heat work its magic.

Here they are at the one hour point before I flipped them over...

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And about 70 minutes later, the finished product...

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Zack, Tara, and I tore into one of them to eat along with a salad and bread as we watched the Grammy's.  The other two, once they cooled, got taken off the bones and stored in Tupperware for a couple of upcoming meals on my weekly planning sheet - White Smoked Chicken Chili, and Smoked Chicken Pizza.  More on those when they happen.

Winds picked up to the 50-60 mph range making for a noisy backdrop as we fell fast asleep once the Grammy's were finished.  And Monday morning temperatures were 55 degrees cooler than they were during my bike ride the day before.  So cold that schools were delayed two hours yet again for fear of children getting frostbite at the bus stops.  I'm glad I have all the gear I do for cold weather as I am able to function and go about my daily routine regardless.   I was very comfortable walking the dogs Monday morning with my balaclava, hat, lined mittens, snow pants, and ski parka.  The dogs didn't seem to mind either. 

It's -3 this morning with a -9 windchill, so school should be back to its normal start today.


1/26/14

Training & RAGBRAI 2014 announced: Oh Sweetie Pie.....sweet spot training!!

Tis the season for eating sweet potatoes (I need the carbs for the long weekend duration rides!!!) and working in the glorious minutes of sweet spot training. 

I've already had some sessions each week in this 2014 base phase.  This week I was scheduled to avoid it due to the week being a recovery week which I sorely - and I do mean sorely needed.  However, the sweet spot session appears again this coming week as time spent in the sweet spot continues to be introduced weekly via intervals with the eventual goal of building time spent in the sweet spot as I move closer to the racing season.  In fact, that build goes up to 30 minutes spent in the SS week after next.  Such an effort usually exudes this sort of a face during training...

CrossEeyed

What is sweet spot training?  Some good thoughts on what Sweet Spot Training is can be found here

Running the calculations of 83-97% of my FTP - and based on my last FTP test - works out to targeting the watts produced range of being between 233 - 273 for the SST (Sweet Spot Training).

Oy!  All this terminology!!!

Saturday morning I interviewed scholarship candidates at Simpson all morning as we had about 50 top candidates on campus that had to write an essay and then be interviewed.  These were top ACT/SAT scoring students, top class rank, top GPA's, etc... .  My group interviewed 5 of the 50 and I really enjoyed meeting these students.   After the luncheon, I came home and put in 90 minutes on the trainer in Zone 2.

Tara is recovering well and after spending Thursday evening and all day Friday in bed, wondered if I could take her to the mall for some walking on Saturday late afternoon, a dinner, and a movie.  So we walked around for about 45 minutes in the mall, had our skinnylicious meals at the Cheesecake Factory, then saw The Wolf of Wall Street.  All in all a nice day.

We got home and saw the RAGBRAI announcement for this year's route.  It is the 3rd shortest on record and the 2nd flattest on record.  That will certainly make for an easy week (just as last year was).  We are excited because it rides across the northern section of Iowa which is an area we have not really explored that much.  And with Zack riding with us this year, what a treat to ride through Mason City - home of The Music Man!!!

We'll be riding with TEAM Simpson again this year.  50 have signed up to ride the full week on the team and there will be some that join us for a partial week as well.  We had such a great time last year with the group which made it so relaxing, we look forward to this year as well.

Here's the route...

2014RAGBRAI

Looks like a really fun week is in store for everyone!!!

Today will be a little more mundane around the house, but I am going to smoke something for dinner to take advantage of temps in the 40's.  I will also do a 2 hour Zone 2 ride to end my recovery week.

1/24/14

TGIF - Freitag ist hier...

Jawohl!!  Heute ist Freitag....

It seemed like a long and busy week this week with Doctor appointments, work, and doing things around the house.  I am actually sort of surprised it is Friday, yet happy it is here as the work week winds down this evening and morphs into the weekend.

I am happy to report that Tara had a successful surgery yesterday in West Des Moines.  The surgeon was able to put her bone back together using only one pin and was pleased with the outcome of how it all lined up.  I took Tara to the surgery so she could check in at 12:15 PM.  How many documents must one sign these days for a medical procedure?!!?  Oy!  I lost count after the first 4 or 5 things.  And she had to sign all of them with her left hand which made for a slow and tedious process - not to mention an illegible signature.   Too funny.

She got out of surgery about 3 PM and they called me back from the waiting room to her recovery station.  Needless to say, she was pretty loopy from the IV happy juice and kept calling me Dad and asking the same questions with one eye open and one still drooped shut.  She claimed she had walked there to the recovery room by herself and was doing fine.  LOL!!!

That all subsided as she came to and the drugs started to wear off enough she could open her eyes, smile, recognize me, and figure out where she was...



After about an hour in recovery, she was able to get dressed and we were on our way home.  We got home around 5 PM and now the healing process begins.

She will be in the soft pink cast until next Friday when they take it off and put on a hard cast that she will wear for 5 or 6 weeks more.  The pin gets pulled out after a month.  The pink cast is too large to fit through any of her sleeves, so we are going to make some impromptu stuff out of either mine or Zack's clothing (flannel shirt, sweater, coat, etc...) so she can stay warm.


Work, Bikes, and Health Stuff

I did manage to spend a little time doing some work in the waiting room, and of course - surf the internet.  I reviewed 9 proposals for 2015 International May Term classes, organized make-up lessons for what I had to miss by taking Tara to her surgery, wrote 2 recommendation letters, and did some email replies that had been collecting dust in my inbox.

I had posted back on December 17th my Giddy for Gadgets (and participated on some message boards) about my excitement for a possible Working Man's Solution for a 1 x 10 drivetrain that included a 42T cog in the rear.  I ran across an article yesterday at Bike Magazine called The SRAM XX1 Hack here that pretty much shares the same excitement.   Hmmmm.....computer terminology has now invaded a workaround solution.  ;-)   They're going to have a full review of this "hack" in the upcoming issue of Bike Magazine which should be interesting to read.

Although the costs would be variable based on what shifter/cassette/rear derailleur one gets, my low end budget of buying it all new online seems like a reasonable entry point if the reviews of this system are good.

Here's what it would cost me for this Gadget conversion...

$100 for the OneUp (free shipping)
$32 for the X7 10 speed trigger (free shipping)
$69 for the X7 10 speed type 2 (free shipping)
$28 for a 10 speed SRAM chain (free shipping)
$47 for a SRAM compatible 10 speed 11-36 cassette (free shipping)
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$276 grand total

Now that's not bad - especially considering the kit to convert to SRAM's XX1 or X01 for a 1 x 11 set one back for $1300 and $1000 respectively!!!


Now that I've been through the Movember exercise and followed up with Men's Health by having a complete check of all systems, I am pretty happy with the results.  Clean bill of health on my first ever colonoscopy, my heart check up was good, my good cholesterol numbers rose 4 points from a year ago, my weight is down 4 or 5 pounds from my usual weight at this time of year, and all in all I am still functioning fine with a little diagnosis of some arthritis thrown in to keep it all real.

I guess this would be a good summary I need to grasp...



 

Bon Weekend to all.

1/23/14

Recovering...

Slowly, but surely, my week of recovery is working its magic!!!

The leg weights on Monday were trying.  Tuesday's 60 minute recovery spin was tolerated, though trying.  Wednesday, after a great night's sleep, I felt very energetic and the upper body weights were completed with no issues.  I did, however, avoid walking the dogs after work as it was only about 4 degrees with a 23 mph wind making it a bit too frosty and frigid for me.  Another great night's sleep was had last night which brings me to today's scheduled 60 minute ride.  It's a simple low zone ride with some force spin ups mixed in which I feel like I will be easily able to do.  I've been eating smart to aid in my recovery and should end the recovery week in good shape for the next training block.

In a very timely fashion, this was posted on Facebook today about the importance of recovery by LW Coaching.

Tara has surgery today on her right hand to put a pin in the bone.  I will be taking her for the surgery and bringing her home where she can finally begin her post-op recovery period. 

Speaking of recovery, Tara will finally be able to go into her 6 week recovery after the surgery.  Wearing the cast up to this point waiting for the surgery has done nothing towards that goal and doesn't count for the upcoming 6 weeks she will need to be in it.   

1/22/14

Legging it through lethargy...

This is the third week of my base training plan.  Thankfully, it is a recovery week which my legs are all joyous about having.  In fact - they are ecstatic about it!!! 

The 2 x 20 major lifts - even though I feel like I am using pretty light weights by my standards - are leaving them pretty gassed.  On top of that, the interval sessions and maintaining my power zones were quite trying last week.  I made my numbers, but it was a fight coming off of a cold and combining being at work again.  Nothing like 11.5 hours one week, followed by 12 the next to leave the leg tank feeling rather drained.  That's a lot of training stress for me and I may have been off a bit on the recovery rides by not adhering to riding as easy as I should have been riding.  That I will watch in the coming weeks to back way off on the days that call for it.  It should be no surprise to me that I broke out with some cold sores as a result of all the training stress.  That's a bit of a classic telltale sign I had pushed my body to its limits!!!!

Yesterday called for a simple 1 hour recovery ride in heart rate zone 1.  I left work about 6:15, stopped at the store to get the evening's dinner to cook and headed home.  I was almost considering bagging the evening's 1 hour ride as I drove home and contemplated how I felt.  I did not sleep well, and I had an 8:15 annual heart exam which I was nearly an hour late to due to the traffic going less than 5 mph with the ice covered roads.  I called to inform them as I was stuck in traffic and they told me not to worry, even the doctors and staff were all an hour late because of the weather.  It all added to a busy day.  I even lollygagged around the house once I got home taking on other tasks before committing to suiting up for the basement ride.  I decided to leg it out in spite of my lethargic feelings, lack of sleep and coming off a long, busy day.

I can relate to this woman!!!  It's about what I looked and felt like on the bike yesterday at times...

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Thank goodness for a good episode of NCIS to keep me entertained.  It took about 45 minutes for my legs to finally be filled with enough exercise endorphins to come out on the opposite end of lethargy and feel good about the hour.  After a lousy night's sleep on Monday night (woke up at 3 AM to let the barking dogs out for a nature call and couldn't get back to sleep), I got in a full 9 hours of sleep last night and feel a bit better today because of it - at least at this point.  We'll see how I feel by 7 PM tonight!  The rest of the week is all lower intensity, low zone range stuff - so I should exit the week feeling pretty good if history is my guide.

It's not like I don't have plenty of energy spend to do outside of the base training plan to occupy myself with including my heart check yesterday (treadmill test), Tara's surgery tomorrow, a committee meeting after work tomorrow, a voice class today, preparing some things for the semester abroad program, work to do in the office, a weekend full of events, and me trying to do as much of the cooking and cleaning as possible here at home while Tara is incapacitated.  By the end of the week, I should know if the balance is right or if I need to make some adjustments.

Here's to my legging it through the lethargy this week in hopes the recovery week works its usual magic by next Monday.


1/20/14

Whirlwind Weekend in the books...

When we got the news on Wednesday morning that Gayla's mother, Marcella had passed away, we quickly adjusted our weekend plans to attend her funeral in Clarinda.  We got up about 6 AM on Saturday and were on the road a bit after 7 hoping that would allow enough time in case there was ice on the roads for the drive down.  We caught up to Mark and Lynn Corey's car before we got to I-35 and texted them as we tucked in behind them for the 2+ hour drive down to Clarinda.  Hugh and Nancy Lickiss made the drive down from Indianola as well, so our core group of friends was well represented to support Gayla and Chuck.  We all stayed for lunch after the service and visited with the family before driving back to Indianola.  Again, we offer our condolences to the Lines for their loss of Marcella.

We got back to Indianola about 3 PM and I took a 40 minute nap from the nearly 5 hours of driving in high winds on roads with a bit of ice causing me to have plenty of neck tension.  Our weekend plans had been to celebrate Tara's 56th birthday on Saturday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa by staying overnight to have family dinner with Zack who was an apprentice with the Cedar Rapids Opera for their production of Carmen, then seeing the Sunday matinee performance of Carmen before we dropped Alexa off in Iowa City Sunday night for her 2nd semester at the University of Iowa.  We were on the road with Alexa and all of her "stuff" by 4 PM.  We arrived in Cedar Rapids and checked into the hotel a little after 6 PM.  We met Zack downtown at a restaurant called White Star and enjoyed catching up with Zack who left home on December 27th for Cedar Rapids - so it had been a little over 3 weeks since we had seen him.  We all had a great time visiting, eating and it was exactly what Tara wanted for her birthday.

Sunday morning, we showered, had a great brunch on the 16th floor of the hotel overlooking the Quaker Oats factory, and then checked out of our room to head down to Iowa City to unload all of Alexa's "stuff".  She changed into her opera outfit and we headed back up to Cedar Rapids for the 2 PM matinee.  I really wanted to watch the Broncos/Patriots game, so my iPhone was set on silent with the score being updated throughout the opera.  I checked it at every intermission and was very pleased Denver led the entire way and came out victorious.  And the opera...

Wow!!!  It was really well done.  Great casting (espececially all of the men!!), excellent stage direction, great costumes (kudos Janie Westendorf), and the Paramount Theater is drop dead gorgeous!!!  All in all - it could not have been a better afternoon at the opera.  It's great to see such high quality opera here in Iowa and that the state is large enough to support and offer several venues for operatic performance (Omaha/Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids). 

In my opinion, the tenor stole the show with his wonderful singing and acting as he was a cut above the rest of the cast (which was also quite good).  The baritone was also spectacular with his ringing voice and technique.  It was fun to see Simpson alum (and Cedar Rapids area native) Janara Kellerman reprise the role of Carmen that I saw her do at DMMO.  She totally committed to the drama!  Micaela was also in the top ranks in my book.  I spoke with Simpson alum Jessica Mallow who worked on the marketing and she told me they had sold 2600 tickets for the 2 performances which set a new record for Cedar Rapids Opera.  That is excellent and I think the theater (previously they performed in a much smaller theater with only 400 seats) and choice of a classic grand opera via Carmen with a good production was the ticket for this success.  Zack, Rebecca Claborn, and Jenna Smith were all apprentices and really enjoyed their 3 weeks in Cedar Rapids being a part of this production and learning in a positive, professional environment.  Bottom line:  kudos to Cedar Rapids Opera for a wonderful performance!!!

We headed back down to Iowa City, bought supplies for Alexa at Wal-Mart, then had dinner before we dropped Alexa off at school.  Here are the two ladies while we wait to have dinner as we watched the 49ers and Seahawks...

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Once we got Alexa back to campus, we were back on the road again.  I had two huge Diet Cokes in me to help negotiate the final leg of the trip driving at night.  We got home at 10 PM, unpacked and went to bed.  All in all it was a very emotional, and tiring weekend due to the lows and highs of events - not to mention the 10 hours of driving for me in very high winds.

Now back to work, back to planning meals and cooking them, and back into the exercise routine.  Tara will have surgery on Thursday to fix her hand, but we will not find out what time until they call us on Wednesday. 

1/15/14

Broken 5th metacarpal! Ouch for Tara!!!!

"One day at a time, sweet Jesus." - Patsy Cline

The day started off fine.  Eggs and coffee for breakfast.  Walked the dogs.  Shaved and showered.  Went to work for the morning lessons.  Had lunch.  Faculty meeting.  Went back to work for the afternoon lessons.  3 PM my cell phone rang in the office...

It was Tara so I answered as I was between lessons.  She was in the urgent care center here in town.  She had fallen on the ice in the parking lot at work and smacked her hand.  Could I come and get her?  I said I would be there after the lesson was over in about 35 minutes.  I got a call as I was driving with the news of the diagnosis:  broken hand.

During the fall, she had hit her hand on the car door so hard as she fell to the ground, it broke a bone.  This is not her x-ray (4th metacarpal is broken it his example photo), but hers looks very similar with the 5th metacarpal break on her right hand...

3rdMetacarpal

Her break is a bit more angular and is going to require surgery and pins to get it back together.  Ouch!!!

At Walgreen's waiting for the Vicodin prescription to be filled...

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Later on in the evening after some Vicodin and a little bit to eat she was feeling better...

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After surgery next week (we see the hand specialist Friday morning), what can she do with her right hand in a cast for 6 weeks?

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C'est la vie!!  I told her she's lucky it wasn't worse and I'll take care of her.  We'll see how she likes the way I do her hair every morning!!!  Look out Elvis, I'll be using some hair product and sweeping that do straight back in a quick blow and dry routine.  ;-)

Somber day indeed continued...

Condolences go out to our dear friend Gayla Tighe who lost her mother this morning.  Services will be in Clarinda, but we haven't heard when yet.

1/14/14

Force Intervals for stress relief...

Day one of teaching went fine for 2014, but who wouldn't enjoy a nice post-work stress relief session that was afforded by my prescribed 60 minute session that included 10 x 10 second force intervals?

I got home from work at 6:45 and saddled up on the LeMond for today's prescribed session.

Step one...

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And tick, tick, tick went the legs with the high RPM spin of 95-100 for the hour for step 2....

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After the 60 minutes of burning 650 calories, I showered and sat down for a nice fresh spinach salad and quality family time with Tara and Alexa to discuss Alexa's upcoming interview this Thursday for her first business internship!!!  She applied this week and they liked her cover letter and resume enough to grant her an immediate interview.  Sweet!

I also had a nice lunch date today with Alexa at Palmer's Deli in Des Moines to visit and talk about her studies at Iowa.  All in all, a very nice day of teaching and family.  

1/13/14

Endurance!!!

Saturday and Sunday called for a total of 4 1/2 - 5 hours of weekend training on the bike, but I didn't quite make those numbers as I didn't have the LeMond set up in time to get more than an hour in on Saturday.  Saturday was supposed to be an hour of technical riding and then some general Zone 2 riding, so I guess riding my bike for the two dog walks through the snow and ice will have to count for low impact, easy does it technical skill development. 

I got 2 1/2 hours in on Sunday doing the prescribed workout that inluded 2 x 10 minute hill climbs at a low 50-60 rpm Zone 3 level force, after a 30 minute warm up and then ended the session with an hour spinning in Zone 2 of which the final 15 minutes started to feel like "junk miles" which I should have bagged, but I finished it out.  All while watching football of course!!!  My backside is chapped from that session as I haven't been on a bike that long for a while due to the off season.   Combine that with all the sweating one does riding indoors (even with the fans blowing on me at full tilt).  I did find that the heart rate monitor was not reading right on the other machine during my FTP test, so here are the adjusted heart rate zones based on what the new heart rate monitor is reading (and certainly matches numbers from prior years more accurately).  I updated my previous post on this blog as well with the new chart.

Zone Calculator Update #1

I'll know for sure when I conduct the next FTP test in mid-February, but should get a pretty good indication at my heart check up on the treadmill test next week where I always beg the nurses to take me up to competitive levels for racing to get a good readout for the doctor to evaluate.  They always want to stop me before I get into the 170's and I always tell them don't stop me until I get into the 170's.  

Speaking of football.....

Yes, all is well in the football world - for me at least - as the top 4 teams going into the season all advanced to the final 4 on this side of the season.  That's very nice indeed!  San Francisco and Denver being the two this household are rooting for, but who knows at this point?  It's going to be a treat of a weekend coming up for the two games.

Today is off the bike (outside of the dog walks which act as recovery) and is an hour weight lifting session after work of 2 x 20's to build up an appetite for dinner. 

1/12/14

New Torture Machine in the basement...

I am happy to report that I survived the two days of a clear liquid diet leading up to the scheduled routine colon check.  The procedure went fine and nothing abnormal was found.  Based on family history on my biological side, the doctor suggested I have to have this test performed once every 5 years as opposed to once every 10 years.  So I should become pretty familiar with it over time.  I have one more annual test to go (heart) which is scheduled for January 21st to finish my Movember committment to a total men's health check.  I've already submitted the blood work and received a report back from my heart specialist, so now just need to hit the treadmill and meet with the doctor to review everything after the annual EKG and treadmill test.

LeMond Torture Machine 

I had taken my 10 year old LifeCycle Fitness C7i bike in for a trade in December.  Here's the C7i sitting in the middle of our basement gym...

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I thought I was going to get a higher end bells and whistles machine, but came to my senses with regard to price and budget.  So, yesterday, I went in to talk to the store manager and ended up getting a heavily discounted floor model demo along with their sale price, and trade in value of my C7i.  It's a step or two up from the C7i in terms of having a power meter that I can download my workouts (or upload a workout) with a USB stick to the computer and into Training Peaks or WKO+.  It is much more adjustable in terms of seat position, bar height, fore/aft of bars and seat than the C7i which had a fixed handlebar position.  And it has an aero bar position which I really like.

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I traded for the LeMond upright bike because it has a bit newer console than our recumbent version of the LeMond.  It has a very smooth pedal stroke compared to the old C7i and with the adjustability improvement, should be good to go for the next few years.  Maybe not as high end as what is out there, but good enough to get the job done for me.

I took a 60 minute spin on it yesterday to see how it all worked while watching the Seahawks beat up on the Saints.  I kept trying to dial in my position, and I think by the end had settled into a fit that was feeling pretty good.  More experimentation to go and some measurements from my road bike to dial it in even closer.  Overall, it's a nice step up from the C7i that I am pleased with - especially for the price.

Bike Iowa Team Party

I jumped off the LeMond, showered and headed to Mullets with Tara for the annual BikeIowa.comTeam Party.  We all had a good time visiting, eating, drinking and the usual Tom Foolery.

The business section of the meeting found four of us grey haired men talking about mountain bike events for 2014 that Bike Iowa will sponsor.   Kyle Sedore, Paul Varnum, Rob Versteegh, and moi talking shop...

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Professsional photographer and team member, Chris Maharry managed to instruct the waitress on how to use his high powered camera to take a shot of the Bike Iowa Team with all of our significant others...

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After about 4 hours of hanging out, Tara drove us safely home.  Not much on tap for today except football, and the Golden Globes tonight.  Even though it is 48 degrees outside today (how's that for a turnaround from earlier in the week!!!!!?????), I'll be riding in the basement while watching football.

2nd Semester starts on Tuesday, so winter vacation is just about over for me. 

1/10/14

L4 Intervals trying at best...

Wow, what a way to jump into the 2014 training!!!

I came home from skiing with legs that were worked pretty well on the slopes.  Then started out the 2014 base training with adaptation weights (2 x 20's) on Monday.  Tuesday had me conduct a 90 minute session that included my 20 minute FTP test.  Wednesday was a follow up with another weight adaptation series of 2 x 20's with squats, dead lifts, bench press, hamstring curls, etc... to work the muscles I didn't work in Monday's session.  Thursday had me interject a required day of clear liquid diet only which left me a bit calorie deficient and on a major sugar high from jello, hard candies, fruit juice, Gatorade, and chicken broth.  None of that is very high caloric stuff, so even though I tried, I barely was at 995 calories consumed for the day going into the afternoon's workout.  For a guy my size, that is not many calories to fuel a high intensity workout that late in the day.

On tap for Thursday was an hour session that included 3 x 6 minute Level 4 intervals!!!!  Piece of cake right.  Not so easy with cooked legs from the weights, FTP test, and on a sugar high, minimal calorie liquid diet in preparation for today's colonoscopy!!!!

I waited until 4 PM to attempt it and thought better of even doing it considering my condition and head cold, but I didn't want to miss the workout to stay on task.  I was drinking a lot of water and liquids to help get me through it.  After warming up for 15 minutes where the legs felt like it would be a bit of a struggle compared to normal, the first interval I powered along to a cadence of 77 rpm's to push a nice mountain bike power climb pace and it went well, but was trying work in my condition.  I recovered for a few extra minutes than needed to make sure I was ready for the 2nd interval.  This one was a higher cadence 90 - 95 rpms and thanks to the sugar high and effort, I was a bit light headed.  Thought about bagging the 3rd interval, or breaking it up into 2 x 3 or something during my recovery phase.  But I hit it again and used mind over matter to complete the 6 minute interval just fine.  Whew!!!  Not so easy without any protein consumed in 12 hours and the struggle, but no matter - it's all in the bag now.

Following the workout, I drank my box of chicken stock, Gatorade, ate a banana flavored popsicle, sucked on some hard candy, and then waited a bit before I drank the required Suprep cleanse bottle number one...

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I was to drink two 16 ounces of water within an hour of drinking the 16 ounces of Suprep cleanse solution (tasted a bit like cough syrup to me as I was gulping it down).  By the end of the hour, my stomach was quite distended from all of the liquids and....well.....a few minutes later the cleanse process began in earnest.  By 8 PM I was exhausted and fell asleep for an hour in bed.  Then I awoke for 2 more rounds of what the solution is designed to do before falling asleep again at 10:15 PM.  I was up at 5 AM for another round with the stomach and innards churning and waking me up to get to the bathroom.

Obviously, it's working for sure!!!   4 pounds lighter this AM than yesterday!!!   I am drinking liquids this morning that includes Gatorade, water, coffee, white grape juice, and am about to have some more soup stock to fight dehydration as best I can before I build up my nerves to drink bottle number two of the Suprep cleanse solution to begin my final preparations for this afternoon's procedure.  I am supposed to be done drinking anything 2 hours before check in at 1:40 PM.  Alexa will drive me there and back.  

Am I looking forward to eating some protein and solid food tonight after it's all over?  And watching the Richard Tucker Gala on television?

You bet!!!!

1/9/14

Julia Child helps me prepare "The Last Supper"...

Today, is prep day #1 for my scheduled colonoscopy tomorrow.  Yuck!!!  I have slowly cut out things during the course of the week:  supplements, vitamins, fruit, vegetables, bran - you know, all the good stuff that keeps me ticking.  Well today is clear liquids only which ought to be a really grand old time. 

In preparation for two days of not eating any solids, I decided I needed a comfort meal for my last supper.  It had been a year since I had made Julia Child's recipe for the French Coq qu Vin (rooster cooked in wine).  Or in the case of America and what one can buy at the grocery store (chicken cooked in wine).  I've made various versions of Coq qu Vin over the years, some better than others.  I went with this one (same I used last year) from the website at Leite's Culinara.  It's real comfort food stuff.

I went into the history of the dish a bit before on this blog, but will spare you the details today.  I will mention that what was a peasant meal in origin, cost me $104 yesterday due to my finicky selection of ingredients (Amish chicken thighs, fresh French Baguettes, organic carrot and pearl onions, a tube of Italian Tomato Paste, my favorite beef stock, two carefully selected bottles of French wine $$, a bottle of Couvoisseur $$, the perfect thick and fatty bacon purchase from the butcher, beautiful dark mushrooms, al dente egg noodles for my daughter and her friend who prefer it that way, and a nice Brie for an appetizer that had just a hint of a mushroom after taste - YUM!).  Yes, I could have done it for half that price, but c'est la vie

All the bounty lined up on the counter before I go into full cook mode with much love and care while talking to my ingredients of course....

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The girls peeled the pearl onions, and I did everything else without any panic as there was plenty of time to get the meal prepared.  We nibbled on the cheese and bread which was tricky for me while dealing with raw chicken.  I think I managed to wash my hands between touching everything, but hey - you never know.  Nobody got sick, so I assume I did manage to wash when needed.

The recipe at the link above does not call for a carrot, but I put the carrot and a couple of stalks of celery in just to stew it up a bit.  Not to worry, I'm pretty sure I will digest the carrots and celery in time for my procedure on Friday.  The egg noodles are also not part of it, but my daughter claims she gets to eat this dish at college every now and then and they serve it with egg noodles.  Several comments made by people under the Julia Child recipe at Leite's Culinara also mention egg noodles to serve the Coq au Vin over. What the heck, I gave in to try it.  I only cooked about 1/2 of the bag of noodles.   After eating a few of the noodles with my helping last night I can vouch for my tastes - they are absolutely not needed.  Lopping up the gravy with fresh baguette is much better IMO.

I started with 12 thighs (even though I prefer leg quarters, the store didn't have any in stock) and the 4 of us dining managed to eat 7 of them.  Here are the leftovers which will be kept and warmed up Friday night to watch the Richard Tucker Gala on TV... (provided I'm feeling up to eating after the procedure)....

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Needless to say, it was a delicious and very tasty meal from start to end.  My daughter said my version blows the version she eats at college out of the water.  Well, that's probably not saying much, but I'm glad she liked it.  It was just the sort of comfort food I needed before heading into today's clear liquid diet and tonight's cleanse

Too bad my scheduled time on Friday for the colonoscopy is not until 1:40 PM because that means more than half the day on Friday I still won't be able to eat.   The risk of dehydration increases, so I will be taking care to avoid that and stay close to the porcelain.  I spent the better part of last night reading up on the procedure, the risks, the methods, case studies and what not.  Dang!!!  I think I would have been better off not reading everything about it.  Still, if all goes well then I should be able to go another 10 years before the next procedure.  Movember on and all that good stuff, right?

I will fuel with broth, sports drink, juice, etc.. and try to get enough calories today to do my scheduled workout (Zone 4 goodness intervals today).  That increases the dehydration risk, but I hope to have the workout and recovery beverages all complete before I drink the first dreaded milkshake of cleanse this evening.... 

If you've never made Coq au Vin, give Julia's recipe a try at this link.  It's a really simple recipe to follow and the dish couldn't be easier to cook.  The smells are wonderful and the taste is oh so comforting and delicious!!!

1/8/14

Functional Threshold Power Test Tuesday...

First Tuesday of 2014 was also day 2 of my 12 week base plan.  On tap for the day was the required power test on the bike to measure where I am at this point to set up my training and heart rate zones.  The test process is a genuine reality check.  Being that I have a cold, am fighting a back that is out of whack thanks to everytime I cough it goes into a spasm, and just got back from skiing which taxed the legs in a different way....I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I've even had to bail out on an FTP test in the middle of it before when things were not exactly perfect with regard to body, mind, and pacing.  So I was guarded and prepared for anything.

I did my warm-up of 40 minutes properly and things felt pretty good.  After the warm up, I got the motivational music going on the iPod (Beethoven and Saint-Saens), took a GU and sipped my water bottle with a scoop of Strawberry HEED in it.  Then I set the computer to measure all the vital statistics that are needed (cadence, heart rate, watts, distance, speed, calories).

Last year's opening FTP test for 2013 was horrible (like an FTP of only 239!!!!), but I was mentally determined to fight this one.  I did not want a false reading and be stuck training the first block for January at too low in the training zones.  I got going and felt pretty good in the opening 5 minutes.  I let my body dictate the cadence and power level that felt the most natural.  Heart rate, power, cadence all felt good as the industrial strength floor fan was set on gale force to keep me cool.  It really is similar to a race effort where the mind has to play a big part.  I tapped into the effort and jockeyed on with a good attitude, but was careful not to blow up by pushing the pace harder.  I decided at the 10 minute point to alter the cadence to a higher spin.  Probably more for variety's sake, but who knows why I made that decision being cross-eyed and all at the time.  After 5 minutes of that higher cadence, I said enough and at minute 15 went back to the lower cadence sweet spot that I gravitated to in the first ten minutes and felt very similar to my mountain bike race cadence.  Once I got back to that cadence at minute 15, I knew I was going to make it to the end without any problems.  The final two minutes of the test had me battle a smile as I was happy to have completed it.  Whew!  FTP TEST #1 for 2014 In the bag!!!

One gets better with these tests over time due to the pacing and experience of having done them before.  In other words, you know what the pain is like and have learned to cope with it.   However, it has been quite a few months since I have done one so I really wasn't sure how I would respond or where my numbers would be after tapering off from October to December with my hours and training.  As I entered my 30 minute cool down phase post test, the computer spit out the numbers of how the 20 minute FTP went.  It wasn't too bad for January - especially when compared to this time last year where I scored a lousy 239.

Although genetically held in check with what I can do, the FTP can be trained to a point and when combined with weight control - I can get myself into a more competitive form this year.  I am already 4-5 pounds less at this point of the year than I was last year.  So that is good.  And my power numbers going into base are much higher than last year at this time thanks to maintaining and carrying over some of the gains I had made in 2013.

Here are my training zones to start 2014 based on yesterday's FTP test.

Zone Calculator Update #1


That's a nice gain from last year at this time and hopefully will allow me to piggy back on all the gains I made during 2013.  I think if I had one goal this year, it would be rather than just survive the structured training plans from last year - this year I really want to utilize them to the best of my ability and do more than "survive" them.  Just like learning to pace and perform the 20 minute FTP, I want to go a step or two beyond the base and build plans to pace and perform better.  Sort of a "train smarter" goal if that makes sense. 

I celebrated by cooking 8 ounce ribeyes for dinner, my famous baked steak fries with spicey kick to them, and a spinach salad.

The rest of the week will have me following the base training plan, fighting my head cold and preparing for my first ever colonoscopy this Friday.  Yesterday, I picked up the beverage portion of whatever the concoction is I have to drink on Thursday night and Friday morning before the procedure.  Harking back to Movember and Men's Health, I did not have this procedure done as part of my annual phsyical when I hit age 50, so the Doctor told me at this year's annual it was time to do one.  Starting on Monday, I was to cut out all supplements/vitamins that I take and as each day progresses I am supposed to drop something or other until I am down to a liquid diet on Thursday.  Fun stuff, but I hope to bounce back nutritionally for the weekend.  Everything else checked out great - PSA, prostate, blood pressure, cholesterol numbers - all great!!!

The only thing wrong is the back and the doctor did have X-Rays taken.  Her diagnosis, based on the X-Rays and my back issues is arthritis down there on the lumbar 4 and 5 area.  Facet Joint Arthritis due to the articular cartilage degeneration.  Sucks getting old!!!   First the knees suffer cartilage issues and now my spine.  I am going to have to have some follow up on that - maybe an MRI and or CT scan.  It was actually feeling good this week until I started coughing with this cold.  That started the back spasms again.  This is not a sudden development as it has been building for years.  It could be that my crash in April of 2012 contributed to the acceleration of this.  Altering sleep position, some physical therapy to show me what exercises for relief, etc... is about the only course of action along with injections into the lower back area and or taking inflammation reducing oral medication.  Luckily, riding a stationary bicycle with the curved forward posture is actually good for it.  At least now I know why I prefer and switched to a full suspension bike 10 years ago.  The back knows...


1/6/14

2014 Training Year Starts Today!!!

Due to our excellent ski vacation to Vail, the 2014 training year officially was delayed until today.

Weigh in for the start of the 2014 training year this morning:  183.4 pounds 

Hmmmm......I must have burned a lot of calories skiing because I know I sure did eat a lot.  I also caught a cold - or at least I came down with one while on the trip.  It hit me the hardest on our travel day back to Iowa.  Nothing like flying in a plane with a stuffed up nose and plugged ears!!!

I felt better yesterday and am pleased I have not yet had to take anything outside of using a nasal saline spray and my Neti Pot.  I did a 70 minute recovery Zone 1 ride on the LeMond recumbent trainer yesterday while watching NFL playoffs in the basement.  I wanted to shake out the ski legs and sweat out some of this cold.  Tara made a nice pasta with salmon for dinner and I took a pretty small portion since I snacked all day long.  Regardless, that weigh in is the lightest I have begun the new year since living in Iowa.  That is in part due to eating wisely during the holidays and continuing to get my hours in during December.

I will once again be following the structured training plans I used last year.  The first is a 12 week base period that begins today with some weight lifting, and a FTP test tomorrow.  After the 12 week base period, I will roll into a 12 week build, peak, and race structured plan.  Both plans are geared for the Masters Athlete (old guy like me!!!). 

The polar vortex that happens about once a decade in terms of coming this far south and this broad, has temperatures around -11 or -12 this morning with winds of 18 to 19 mph.  That has created a windchill that begs for one to dress wisely when going out in the elements.  I spent about 45 minutes this morning walking the dogs, taking out the garbage, getting the mail and shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.  I wore my base layer...

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...my snow pants and parka, a balaclava, hat, my hiking boots, and of course - my favorite GoreTex mittens made by Gordini...

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I was very comfortable and perspiring with all of the gear which made the cold temperature and windchill very bearable thanks to my only exposed skin being between my nose and eyebrows.  In spite of the gear I have and ability to face the elements, most schools are shut down today as all students don't own such gear and or wear it even if they did own it.  But for those that do have gear and dress wisely, the day can continue as normal.  

We are heading to the Mall today for some shopping since Tara's work was canceled.  I wonder with all of the closures for schools if the Mall will be crowded or quiet.  I guess we will find out...


1/5/14

Cold my Arsch!!!

Today and tomorrow are pretty much resulting in one of those media weather panic attacks where Minnesota, Iowa and who knows what other states are effectively shutting down due to the mercury dipping below zero combined with the wind.  It seems the windchill factor is scaring everyone.  Minnesota, land of cold, blustery winters for decades and centuries has already announced no school tomorrow due to it being forecasted for -25?  Iowa, -12 forecast with some wind for tomorrow and the cancelations and announcements for churches, schools, meetings, etc... are already in full force.  Des Moines Public Schools canceled all schools for Monday.  Much of the rest of the state seems to be following suit.

WTF America?  I guess a good HTFU is needed as we get soft with regard to extreme temperatures on the low and high end.  I have way too many memories of really cold weather in Williston, North Dakota (and in South Dakota) to raise an eyebrow.  Not to mention, all the playing I do outside on bikes and skis with proper gear don't have me concerned.  Memories of cold?  Oh yes, -20 all the way down to -50 was experienced without life or business stopping in North Dakota.  But suffice it to say - it appears to me we are getting a little soft when it comes to weather and the lemming approach to warn, panic and cancel everything.  Granted, with windchills in the -30 to -40 area, you are good for about 30 minutes outside before unprotected skin can start to get frostbite.  So the easy result is to protect your skin and don't stay out there for more than 30 minutes if you are unprotected.

My prediction for tomorrow:  it will be a record day at the Mall tomorrow as everyone flocks to do something rather than sit around and not go to school or work.  After all, it's not like Nike, North Face, Under Armour, etc... don't have racks and racks of base layer, 2nd layer, outer layer, etc.... that are well known and sold throughout the Midwest.  Nor is there a lack of Gore-Tex (we'll keep you warm on the dark side of the Moon) gear, balaclavas, face masks, hats, socks, hand and foot warmers, etc... easily available to bundle up in and survive the worst of elements.

Time for my frozen smoothie snack...and playoff football.  Notice the NFL has not canceled any games because they know how to HTFU!!!  5 degrees at Lambeau with a windchill of -10 and many players were not even wearing sleeves or gloves. 

Rant about all the softies is now over.  Dress warm and be smart - simple as that.

Vail, Colorado

We got back late last night from our skiing trip to Vail.  A huge shout out of appreciation and thanks to our gracious hosts Virginia and Nix Laurdisen!!!  We had a really fun vacation and now know what the experience at Vail is all about.  It's a huge ski area (3rd largest in North America) with a little bit of everything for every type of skier.  You want green runs?  They've got it.  You want blue runs?  They've got it.  You want black diamond runs?  They've got it.  You want double black diamond runs with moguls the size of Volkswagen Beetles?  They've got it.  You want powder?  They've got it.  You can start on one lift and after a couple of runs and lifts later, be 8 miles away from where you started - it's that big!!!

I skied with Alexa for 3 straight days and that experience made it all worth it for me.  It's nice to see both of my kids ski so well and enjoy the sport after they grew up in Austria learning how to ski.  It's a sport they can use their entire lives and I am happy to have introduced them to it.  Tara had to sit out one day of skiing as her shins were hurting too much from her old boots.  She met a pioneer in women's ski equipment at a shop in Vail that fixed her up (thanks Jeannie!!!).

So Alexa and I had a day to ourselves while Tara sat out.  Quality Dad and Daughter time for sure!!!  I wouldn't trade that day for anything.  Alexa is now able to ski the black diamond advance runs and improved a lot while we were in Vail.  We had a blast making our way around the mountain, stopping for lunch and an afternoon Jause.

Here's Alexa way up near 11,570 feet...

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Here she is taking on a black diamond run over in the Blue Sky Section of Vail as proud papa snapped a couple of pictures before I had to take off and catch up with her...

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The views are so spectacular at Vail, that I often found myself staring at the view instead of the snow in front of me as I skied down the mountain.

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The old Head Worldcup iSL race skis from 2003 are still holding up great for me in spite of all the technological advances ski gear has made since then.

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The faster and harder I go with these skis, the better they perform.  So they are not really ideal for family skiing and carving at leisurely speeds.  At some point, I may want to consider an upgrade to a more all mountain ski that is more age appropriate from my past days of super fast aggressive skiing.  After all, they are really designed for racing.  But for now, they still work great and I will keep my options open in the future.  I probably should just demo some skis to see what all the new gear is like.  That's what I did back in 2003 in Austria before I settled on the Head skis.

Our flight home from Denver was delayed about 2 1/2 hours yesterday due to snow.  We spent the better part of an hour having a combination lunch/dinner waiting for our plane...

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After the delay and the de-icing of the plane, we were on our way for an uneventful flight.  We rolled into our house around 11 PM Saturday night (got to watch the football playoff games at the airport and in the plane).

After a wonderful night's sleep, we picked up the dogs this morning from the kennel and I took them for a big walk outside.  Yes, it was chilly and the wind was blowing, but with my warm gear - I didn't notice and the dogs didn't mind at all as they frolicked, jumped, and rolled in the snow.

Don't be soft...   


 






1/1/14

Happy New Year 2014!!!!

It's here!  It has arrived!  Happy New Year to one and all.

Tara, Alexa, and I flew out to Denver on New Year's Eve.

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As soon as we landed in Denver, we caught the Colorado Mountain Express to Vail.  We had a fun time in the shuttle as there were 9 of us heading to Vail and the driver stopped about 1/2 through the 2+ hour drive at a Starbucks for all of us to get some java (which came in handy for staying up late on New Year's Eve).

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We went with Virginia and Nix to a party at a hotel with dancing, food, drinks and stayed there until about 1 AM and finally hit the sack around 2 AM.

Everyone was a bit groggy this morning, but we headed to the slopes for day one of our skiing.  Virginia fell and popped something in her knee on the first or second run of the day.  She decided to call it quits and go back to the house.  Tara, Alexa and I skied together all day.  It was snowing pretty hard which meant most of the mountain was fresh snow and powder which helped us work up an appetite.

At lunch I inhaled a salad, waffle fries and smoked brisket sandwhich at the 2 Mile High Smoke House on top of the mountain....

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It was cold way up top with lots of wind and snow, but the gondola kept us warm on the rides up.   Tara all bundled up...

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Alexa staying in touch with social media on the lift...

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We actually skied all the way until the last lift of the day to take Chair #3 up to the top which allowed us to get back over to the other side of the mountain where we are staying.  We were pretty tuckered out from day one by 4:30 PM when we stopped for the day...

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The forecast is calling for sunshine the next two days for Vail skiing, so it will be nearly 10 degrees warmer and should be a lot of fun out in the sunshine.

Now, it's time for a nap...