12/31/15

Happy New Year!

As we ring in the new year 2016, be safe, happy, and enjoy your time with friends and family.

HappyNY

12/30/15

The Yo-Yo of Weight and Training...

Bike NERD Alert!!!

The following post is filled with bike NERD material, so enter at your own risk.

It took me a long time to figure out that the training done in the off season (December - March) is really what sets me up to ride and race well form April to September. Along the way I've learned and seen certain patterns with regard to the yo-yo of weight and how it correlates to the amount of training volume. I managed to pack on 6.8% of my body weight in this yo-yo cycle. Yup - 6.8%!! 

How?

This is week one of my 12 week base training plan. When these 12 weeks are completed, I move into a 12 week build, peak, and race plan. So I know what the next 24 weeks have in store for me. Every time I start the structured training I review the previous year, do my Power & HR FTP tests, and look at a few charts and numbers.

The first chart explains my obvious weight gain in the September to December time frame as my weekly hours literally dropped off the chart so to speak when I jumped below my 9 hour weekly average...

2015 Weekly Average

The arrows in the chart represent the drop off in training and riding volume, and the subsequent turning of the tide to slowly build up to the end of the year to prep for the base training period.

This is not a bad thing as when Fall rolls around the structured training is done, the racing is done, the school year is in full swing, fun rides become the focus, and combined with being in hibernation mode, the food was enjoyed a little more this year than last year at the same time. The Calories In vs. Calories Out equation favors the former part of that equation and the subsequent weight gain took place. However, to take advantage of the surplus in calories, I did a lot of weight lifting in the Fall months to focus on year end body reconstitution of building back some of the muscle that was lost through the cycling season.

It always takes a while for the ship to turn, but the up arrow of increasing volume eventually catches up with the amount of food I am eating and surpasses the intake of calories to create a deficit. This has led to the loss of 5 of the pounds that were gained so far. Plenty more to go, but the clothes do fit again - thank goodness! The hours continue to pick up a lot this week and next to take me back above the weekly average of 9 hours and should result in continued weight loss from now through the end of March provided I manage the calories in correctly when it comes to which portion of the CICO (Calories In vs. Calories Out) equation.

And so it is with the yo-yo at the end of the racing season. What goes up, must come down, and what goes down, must come up.

The next chart shows the annual hours via month with December on top going backwards down to the bottom which is January of 2015. I'll bag another 2 1/2 hours between today and tomorrow to round out at 473 hours. Last year (2014) I had 475 hours, so about the same. Just didn't train to go fast this year.

2015 Hours

This chart is from Training Peaks and tracks HR, distance, duration, and TSS for 2015. There are a few bad heart rate strap/monitor readings in there as I had some trouble with one of my straps going wild on me a few times registering things like a heart rate way up at 247 which is not possible for me. Nothing over the 180's for me in years, and I hope the wild HR strap/monitor has been fixed.

Annual Hours 2015

2015 was not my best training year as something had to give when it came to teaching overseas in Germany for the 4 months at the beginning of this year. June was a vacation month with Tara of fun road and mountain bike rides out west. I lost my father in July, oodles of trail work at Center, Banner, and Ahquabi and well...the whole training thing just sort of got bagged for 2015 and I focused more on IMBCS and the weather impact on our events. I did manage to get a base put in during 2015 as well as just about match my 2014 hours, but never really did the 12 week build, peak, race portion of it. A lot of aimless riding, using races as training and not very focused training to make myself faster. Knowing that, I slogged through the race season with plans to turn that around and do it properly for 2016.

Moving on to 2016...

Since I have three bikes that I train on with a Power Meter (two in the basement and one outside on the road), I have to do three separate Power & HR FTP tests as they are all different. The rule is "do the FTP test on the bike(s) you will be using to train". Since I use three, I have to do three separate tests. The LeMond trainers in the basement cannot be calibrated, so their wattage measurements are what they are. And they are vastly different with each other giving me results at both ends of the spectrum. It's really odd that two LeMond trainers with more or less the same computer control modules (one has a slightly newer unit on it) show wattage numbers with a difference of 71 for the same heart rate 20 minute test. Climbing on one makes you feel like King of the Mountain with the numbers it shows, the other is more of a Debbie Depressing type of display in terms of the numbers it shows.

These two tests show how widely different the readings from the two power meters are...

Machine #1

LeMond Upright

Machine #2

LeMond Recumbent

The second machine gives me the highest readings, yet the heart rate was the same average throughout and it felt the same as Machine #1 in terms of perceived effort. Trust me, a 40 minute deep warm-up, followed by pretty much an all out and what you can hold for 20 minutes test is a grueling mental and physical hour spent on the bike in the basement with fans blowing on you to try and keep cool.

Slogging it out on Machine #1...

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Unfortunately, the computer module controls cannot be calibrated and I simply have to live with the differences and use a separate chart for each when training on them to hit the proper zones. The power meter for the outdoor riding is somewhere between these two, but I will wait to test that if and when the snow melts and I can ride a 20 minute stretch of paved path.

Base Training Week 1

With the tests done for the indoor units, base training can commence. Monday was a weight lifting day and I got to throw in an hour of snow shoveling which tweaked the back after 40 squats and 40 deadlifts, Tuesday was one of the FTP tests above, more snow shoveling and a 60 minute massage to work out all of the kinks. The massage was a gift from Tara and I must say, it's been about 10 years since my last massage. Wow! It felt so good and worked out so many kinks that I may just have to treat myself to a few more. It was suggested to have one every two weeks during the next couple of months, and then move to a once a month maintenance. It's certainly a luxury, but at my age and with some arthritis in the lower back it may be well worth it to give it a try.

26th Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 26th Wedding Anniversary and we have a date night planned.

12/26/15

Holly Jolly Time of Year...

Our Christmas Eve was spent with friends and family. It included much food, wine, and even our attempt after dinner at caroling in our friends' neighborhood. Tara snuck off to sing a service at church, but was back in time to join us for caroling. Only 2 of the 5 houses that we selected for caroling answered their doors to hear all of us sing Joy to the World, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. That's not a very high percentage of doors being answered, but at least none of the rest called the police.

We decided to retreat and continue our celebrations inside with a plan for next year to let people know we were coming so they would answer their doors. We were all happy for our own little history we made that included members of the group being Christian, Muslim, and Jewish raising our voices in unity on the front steps of 5 homes. In terms of the 3 doors that were not opened, I guess it goes to show how times have changed over the decades when people are afraid to open their door when they hear carolers outside belting away. Oh well, it was the thought that counted and we had a good time sharing the songs that we did.

For the Christmas Eve meal and celebration I smoked two chickens and a duck that paired well with roasted eggplant, pâté, pasta with coconut milk, roasted squash, and a pear tart...

ChristmasBirds

Somehow, we all managed to get in bed before the stroke of Midnight to enjoy a nice winter's slumber.

I was up and at it early on Christmas morning to finish wrapping one more item. Gone are the days of the kids getting up super early, but I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the early morning as I fed the dogs, made the coffee, and snapped a picture of the tree...

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Eventually everyone else was roused out of bed to start the festivities. Christmas music was playing, the fireplace was warm, and the usual exchanges of gifts was underway.

Tara was surprised and happy with her new Lobster Gloves for cycling...

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Trying them on to make sure the size XS fit...

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Alexa was happy with her UGGs and Vest...

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Zack got a new leather jacket...

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Enough of all of that as everyone made out just fine this year. The importance being put on being together as a family for the holiday. We moved to the kitchen where Tara made delicious buttermilk pancakes that got covered in pure maple syrup. YUM!

Tradition for us has been to hit a movie on our around Christmas, but we all felt like just staying at home and enjoying food, company, music and a day of hanging out.

Since I am in weight loss mode to trim down to race weight before structured training gets going in earnest on Monday, I went out on the Singlespeed to spin around a very quiet and peaceful town for 75 minutes...

KarateMonkeyXMas

We rounded out the day with a wonderful risotto and smoked chicken. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2015 were holly and jolly for sure...

12/24/15

Merry Christmas!

From all of us to all of you...

Have a very Merry Christmas!

BrownStarrFamily

May lights shine throughout your holiday season this year...

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Bruce, Tara, Zack, and Alexa

12/20/15

Frozen and FAT: the last days of FALL!

The last day of FALL 2015 is about to hit us! This sets us up for the shortest day of the year on Tuesday in terms of daylight for the Winter Solstice. Not to mention, tomorrow would have been Dad's 89th birthday...

We had a great time last night at the Annual Christmas Party hosted by our friends Deb and Joel Hade. My day was full with a bike ride, a 2 1/2 hour lunch meeting with the new IMBCS Sponsorship Director, a voice lesson with Zack, a quick shower and off to the party.

Now to the Frozen and FAT.

Yesterday gave us the opportunity for our first Banner Bacon Ride of this Fall/Winter season at Summerset State Park as the morning temperatures guaranteed us frozen tread. It was Frozen. And in terms of FAT - well, read on....

I had ridden on Thursday and Friday at Banner doing some trimming and trail work to take advantage of the frozen morning tread. This allowed me to take on all the branches/limbs that needed to be sawed and removed. It's actually a great time of year to be able to see the honeysuckle structure and branches so I can trim away without any leaves in the way to get things ready for the Spring when the growth will explode. Any low hanging branches or smaller trees that had fallen into the path were quickly cut as they are dry and frozen making for very easy sawing. The Salsa Frame bag almost holds my handsaw. A few inches of the saw stick out at the top by the head tube, but with the plastic sheath saw tooth guard on, it doesn't scratch or cut anything while riding and allows me to cruise around the trail system taking on what needs to be cut.

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Ma Nature did not fail to deliver on Saturday as our 8 am ride time was spot on at 16 degrees with a windchill of 9 degrees. Perfect for frozen dirt. Last weekend's 4" rain flooded the Riverside section of the trail, so we had no plans to ride that. It is, however, drying out due to it evaporating at a much higher rate with the cold temperatures, sunshine, and wind. I am not worried about it bouncing back.

We all met up in the parking lot and took off with the initial group of 7 or 8, but some others arrived later so the total out riding in the Frozen was a baker's dozen. Pace was group ride oriented and we stopped and gathered every so often throughout the first lap. The tread was in perfect shape. The only frosty corner was the sharp switchback bender at the bottom of Corner Pocket's exit. Several went down on that corner. My rear tire slid out on that frost on the 2nd lap, but I managed to drift through it and stay upright. The most difficult part of the ride was the angle of the bright sun creating so many shadows that seeing trees alongside the trail was difficult at times.

The cold got to some who left after the first lap, but most of us turned a second lap and then headed back to the parking lot to cook the bacon and pancakes.

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Good fortune for me - in terms of some test riding - was that in the group that remained for breakfast, there was a size XL Surly Krampus and a size XL Trek Farley - both outfitted with pedals that took the SPD cleats (what I use). I had the chance to try out Paul Varnum's Krampus at Seven Oaks a couple of years ago, but that was more in the parking lot and gravel. While Matt was cooking up the bacon and mixing the pancake batter, I was able to head out and do the Extra Credit loop on the Krampus. I had to separate the feeling of the super wide handlebars and the rest of the bike. The bars were way too wide for me and slowed down my turning. The bike felt really good with excellent traction. My legs were pretty fried from three consecutive days of riding at Banner, but I could tell the Krampus required more wattage to keep it up to speed compared to my 29"ers, but it wasn't too bad. I was able to break the rear Surly Knard traction on steep climbs, but I think the rear tire had too much air in it for what I would run. A pretty good cushioned bike that reminded me a lot of my Karate Monkey when running the KM fork. I would opt for a suspension fork on a 29+ bike for sure.

KRampus

There are a couple of great quotes that pertain to the test riding I was doing. The first comes from NurseBen at MTBR.com when he says this about the + FAT tired bikes...

Know what you want and know what you're getting before going fatter. Fatter is less precise, fatter is heavier, fatter is slower BUT fatter is more accommodating where lines are less precise, provide more traction on loose and irregular surfaces, and they provide more suspension.

The second comes from Mike Curiak in response to NurseBen's statement...

I think a lot of confusion stems from the fact that + and fat stuff is being marketed as a magic bullet, and that is being propagated by new(er) riders that don't have a wide base of experience to know what they're getting/how it compares. Which is my way of saying that your advice above is sound and I wish more people would heed it before dropping $$$$ that they might not have to spend, or that could be put to better use.

Super Sage Words of Wisdom in those quotes!!!

Quite a difference from my regular 29"er with 2.3 or 2.35 tires that I like to run and the 29"er + tires that are shown in this picture pretty well...

29+:29

So I was well aware the Krampus was going to be heavier, go slower, but be pretty fun bouncing through the frozen Extra Credit section at Banner. It wasn't that different from my 29"er experience, but the super wide handlebar was a big negative for me.

Once back in the parking lot, I swapped out for the Trek Farley. Now we were talking FAT!!! Again, much slower and heavier, but I have to say I had quite a grin buzzing through Extra Credit. I didn't even try to stay on the trail as the tires didn't care. It was outfitted with a 28T chain ring which I'm sure is needed in the snow, but surprised me when I dropped into the granny for one of the short steep climbs and had to spin at what felt like 110 rpm up the hill. Traction as expected was unbelievable. I tried with all my might to get the rear tire to spin out on the steep climbs with my full out of saddle mash - and I couldn't break the tire loose. Even leaning far forward to try to break traction, I couldn't. Pretty amazing. Super grin inducing bike and fun to take it for a spin. Bash the front tire into a log and enjoy the front end bounce up wheelie. Dive into a corner with no cares for a line and just plow through with a big grin. Again, super wide handlebars which I don't get the point of as they were more a negative for me in terms of bike handling.

Farley

The takeaway for me is I had fun and can see the allure of both tire sizes. The first few years that FAT Bikes were around, I got to test ride some and just didn't "get it" at the time. But those were early model geometry bikes. The segment has come a long way in the past few years with frames, tire and wheel choices, lighter weight items available and what not. Still, the sage wisdom quotes above apply.

Do I need a bike with either tire size? Does the N + 1 equation or N + 2 come into play here? My wife will be reading this, so I will say no. Well, actually my more reasonable side will say no. If anything, my wife would probably benefit from a 29+ bike in terms of forgiveness in lines and improving her dirt riding experience. As fun as these bikes are, the FAT bike would be more of a novelty for me simply for the grin. The 29+ I can relate to a bit better for how and what I would use it for with my riding. The Trek Stache 9 - which is a 29+ bike with front suspension and a tightly tucked rear tire with short chainstays - probably would satisfy enough of "a bit of everything" for me as a hardtail and some fatter meat than my current bikes for kick around fun riding here in the area using the wise quotes above if I was looking to purchase.

In the meantime, I think today is a road biking day to flush out the legs and wrap up a pretty good week of riding. Not to mention, it is 50 degrees outside which means all of that frozen tread is surely a muddy mess today. Hopefully the wind and sun will continue to burn off and evaporate as much moisture as it can today and the next few days.

12/8/15

Windy Weekend...

Tara and I had a fun weekend that seemed to blow by in more ways than one. We attended the musical Bridges of Madison County on Friday night at the Civic Center in Des Moines. I have to say, we both loved it! Especially the acting of the two leads. We came home for a glass of wine and talked about the show before dropping off to sleep at the end of a long work week.

I had contemplated all week long driving over to Iowa City to race the Saturday Jingle Cross CAT 4 race. I woke up Saturday and realized I was sort of spent from the week which led to my decision to stay home and take a bike ride on pavement Saturday afternoon instead. I got my calorie burn in and my heart rate up thanks to the wind and the speed I was going. For whatever reason, I was really hammering away as the legs felt good on the way north with the wind, and when I turned around to ride back south and up the hill against the wind - the HR jumped up a Zone higher than it usually is on that climb. This all added to the calorie burn and made for a good training ride.

Tara was attending a workshop all day, so I got home from my ride and fired up the Big Green Egg which took off rather quickly thanks to the strong wind that was blowing. I smoked a chicken that Tara used to make a wonderful pizza for dinner that we ate while we watched the Iowa vs. Michigan Big 10 Championship game.

More calories to burn on the bike after that pizza, so we rode together at Lake Ahquabi on Sunday to take advantage of the weather and the pretty decent trail conditions. The wind was working its magic helping dry out the trails, blow the leaves, and was strong enough that it required us to bundle up a bit more than what the thermometer indicated we needed to wear. We encountered a few trees along the route that have fallen down this Fall...

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I swapped out my usual Specialized race wheels and put on the wide rims with the 2.35 Racing Ralphs on the JET for the ride. Mike Curiak built these for me this summer at his LaceMine29.com shop in Grand Junction, Colorado. I really like these wheels and the profile they give the big tires.

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We had a good time. It was a mutual decision after two laps that it was time to go home for some lunch, and for me - a nap.

I attended the Simpson College/Community Orchestra concert in the evening where I felt the group gave their strongest performance to date with works by Saint-Saëns, Ott, Sibelius, and Grieg. I rushed home for the first night of Hanukkah and Tara's candle lighting. We watched the Sinatra 100th Birthday Celebration to round out the musical portion of the weekend. I fell fast asleep before the end of the show and missed Lady Gaga! Oh well....

The weekend blew right on by, but we enjoyed it.

This is our final week of classes for the Fall Semester at Simpson with final tests next week. Our own kids come home from their respective colleges next week as well for the holidays.

12/5/15

Hunting for a 7 footer...

We own an artificial Christmas Tree that we have used for the past 20 years. That began as we lived in an apartment in Vienna because it was seemingly easier to deal with at the time. It's been through an international move, a couple of floods, a tornado, a pair of dogs anointing it, various levels of ornaments and lights that have been hung and strung on it over the past two decades. After several years of pleading from the family, I finally gave in this year and agreed to get a real tree for Christmas 2015.

We headed out as a family last Saturday during Thanksgiving weekend to the tree farm north of Indianola along with what appeared to be hundreds of others. They provide a cart for you to carry your tree, a handsaw, and send you off to go into the middle of the tree farm to "hunt" for your ideal specimen. They had several types of trees and the only rule was that you couldn't cut down anything that was 3 feet tall or less.

I have to say, the "hunt" and sharing of opinions between the 4 of us on the ideal tree was quite fun. The process enables the family to discuss and settle on one that all of us could agree upon to make a nice tree for our home.

Zack did the honors of sawing once we had all settled on "THE TREE".

LumberjackZack

We loaded up the bagged tree on the cart.

LoadingUpThe7Footer

I pulled the cart.

HaulingTheTree

Waiting in line at the tree farm office to pay for the 7 footer.

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$109 later, the 7 foot tree we chose was wrapped in netting for the drive home, a fresh wreath for the front door had been picked, and we had a new tree stand to hold the Weihnachtsbaum.

NettedUp

Alexa and I hung the lights on the tree on Sunday, but we will do our ornaments when the kids get back from college for the holidays. So many have broken over the years, we may be hitting the stores to get some new ones. Meanwhile, I add water to the tree stand just about every other day to keep it from drying out too fast. I'll post up a picture once it is fully decked out!

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We had a scheduled family photography session on the day after Thanksgiving, but the bad weather kept us from a photo session outside and the photographer did not have lighting for an indoor shot. We thought it would be nice to get an updated shot to use for Holiday cards this year. Since we couldn't meet the photographer on another day while Zack and Alexa were home for Thanksgiving, we called our neighbor who came over and took photos of us as a family with our iPhone.

Here's one that turned out okay including the dogs...

BrownStarrFamily

All in all, it was a nice family start to the holiday season that brought in what I hope is a new tradition for us regarding using a real tree. We wish the best to everyone for enjoying the season, time with your family, the music, the traditions, and hope.