1/22/16

Dropping back "in the zone"....

The furnace is lit (calorie burning) with the training and proper calorie counting - or at least more honest counting that is.

I'm just about back to the 175 mark before my off-season FALL/WINTER bulge happened.

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The spike up happened a bit more gradually than the above chart shows due to me now plugging in my weight on a daily/weekly basis. In addition, it actually spiked up all the way to 189 which I refused to plug into the calculator as it shocked me enough to turn the tide. Nevertheless, the above chart shows the progress coming back down the mountain.

Iowa Bike Expo tomorrow. I've got a couple of presentations and meetings to attend, as well as enjoy the showroom floor. If you are at all into cycling in any capacity, come see what has become the Midwest's largest Bike Expo - right here in Des Moines.

Now, outside for some shoveling and off to two meetings to begin my Friday...

1/17/16

Empty Nesters again...

It was great having our son and daughter home for the holiday break, but as of today they are both back at their respective schools to start the 2nd Semester. We drove down on Friday with Zack to the University of Oklahoma and came back Saturday which made for 2 eight hour days on I-35 to pull off the there and back journey. Alexa packed up and headed back to the University of Iowa this afternoon. This means the adjustment period begins for us to a more quiet household as we slip back into our routine this evening as empty nesters.

Tomorrow is Tara's birthday. Our plans have been made to celebrate in the manner she has requested with a quiet dinner at home. This means a post work exercise date in the basement, followed by my skills as Chef to cook up a special birthday meal.

Today ended the 3rd Week of my base training plan. It has been going rather well this year - including working around a trip to NYC, and the 2 day trip down to Norman and back. I can really feel everything firming up and the zip in my legs returning after I felt that zip being gone for so many months due to not being able to train like I needed to in 2015. With the training and watching calories, I have managed to whittle this much off from the peak of my off season yo-yo weight gain so far...

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I've got another one of those to lose from here to make weight, so I'll keep chipping away at it one day, and one week at at time.

I have a busy week ahead for me that includes a long "to do" list. I started in on that list this afternoon, but have miles to go on it along with several meetings spread throughout the week. At least the Broncos have started the week off right for me!!!

1/13/16

Those little town blues...and back to Iowa!

Our visit to NYC included trying to make use of each and every day as best we could.

Live Performances

La Boheme with the 35 year old production by Franco Zeffirelli.
Die Fledermaus in the 2nd year production by Robert Jones.
Les Pêcheurs de Perles in a new production by Dick Bird and 59 Productions, directed by Penny Woolcock - it is a MUST see!
Les Miserables in the latest revival (3rd revival I believe) at the Imperial Theatre.

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Movies

Son of Saul by László Nemes - Film won the Cannes International Film Festival and the Golden Globe Awards
Concussion by Peter Landesmann

Museums & Attractions

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Metropolitan Museum of Art
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Museum of Modern of Art
Statue of Liberty National Monument
Brooklyn Bridge
Strawberry Fields in Central Park
Belvedere Castle in Central Park
Wall Street and Broad Street
Federal Hall of New York City (where George Washington was inaugurated)
Rockefeller Center
Carnegie Hall
Times Square
St. John the Divine
St. Patrick's Cathedral

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Dining

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Pappardella
Katz's Deli
Porter House
Sushi Damo
The Flame Diner
Dallas BBQ
LeMonde
Starbucks
Balducci's

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As expected, the pastrami at Katz's won my vote in a side by side comparison test with their brisket. Damn good sandwich for sure! The plate of pickles, New York Seltzer water, and some deli fries rounded out the Katz's experience. We were so stuffed from that lunch that we decided to skip dinner that evening and shared a snack during intermission at the opera instead.

I would run, not walk, to see the HD Broadcast of Les Pêcheurs de Perles this Saturday or next Wednesday for the replay if you cannot make it to NYC to see this absolutely wonderful production at the MET. It's been called the sleeper hit of the season at the MET and for good reasons. Go see it if you can. Live is best. But the HD Broadcast at Jordan Creek for Des Moines area folks - check your local theaters for the HD Metropolitan broadcast for this Saturday in other areas - will do.

Son of Saul was a movie I really wanted to see. It's about a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau. I figured this movie might not make it to the Fleur Cinema in Des Moines, so I talked my son into going with me while we were in New York warning him that it would be a rather depressing film. I'm really glad I got to see it. Now that it has won the Cannes International Film Festival, NY Film Critics Circle Award, the Golden Globe Award and has been nominated for The American Society of Cinematographers Spotlight Award - maybe the Fleur will consider bringing it here to Des Moines.

I had not been to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum before, and it certainly took me back to that day and the following days of the unfolding stories involving those tragic terrorist attacks and massive loss of life. The museum was built with utter care and is very well done.

The Museum of Modern Art had a special Picasso Sculpture Exhibit on display which was fun for me to see since he is best known for his paintings (and for obvious reasons). And of course, seeing all of the famous paintings that I always love to see in person at that museum remains a treat. Namely, Van Gogh's The Starry Night always tops my list when I go there for a visit even though you have to fight the crowds to get a good view. Dal, Rousseau, Czanne (love The Bather), Lichtenstein, Matisse, Warhol, Picasso, and on and on for a really joyous walk to view and study the paintings makes for a fun afternoon when in NYC.

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It was interesting to be back in New York this time around as I haven't been there in a few years. Last time I was there, the flip-phone was the more the norm. Now the entire city walks around with a Smart Phone glued to their hands while staring at the screen as they walk down the street, cross in intersections, ride on the bus, ride the train, sit in restaurants - it's actually really rather a sad commentary what everyone has become with the stinking tethered device we call a phone.

At least New York did not disappoint me with this graffiti commentary on the current state:

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That might just be a really good motto worthy of graffiti in most of our lives these days...

1/7/16

New York City Fun & Games...

Spending the week in Manhattan with Zack to check out my old stomping grounds, show him the city, catch some shows, eat some food, buy a winter coat, walk the city and whatever else comes up along the way.

Nice direct flight from Des Moines to LaGuardia takes a little over 2 hours. LaGuardia smile...

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...because our bag made it!

A quick shuttle ride into the city to our hotel (comfy, cozy European style accommodations) to dump the suitcases and then take off on a walking tour of Lincoln Center, and the upper west side where we found a nice neighborhood Italian restaurant with a wonderful carrot & celery soup.

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Then back to the hotel for a nice night's sleep.

In the morning, we had a wonderful morning walk over to Rockefeller Center where the Christmas Tree and decorations were still up...

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Zack was a tad chilly in the 28 degree temperatures...

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Near the skating, we saw a place Alexa would love...

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We moved on for out next stop and spent several hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the afternoon. We didn't have enough time to to see everything, so we both focused on things that interested us. I love the swords, and armor, and even spent time studying marriage chests and snuff boxes for a good two hours...

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We walked back through Central Park, stopped at the Belvedere Palace, the Shakespeare Festival Theater...

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Strawberry Fields to honor John Lennon...

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Then went back to the hotel to change into our suits. Our evening plans took us to the MET to catch La Boheme with a pretty decent cast, and of course the tried and true 35 year old production by Franco Zeffirelli. I've almost lost count how many times I have personally seen a performance of that production myself, but it was Zack's first live performance at the MET and we had a good time. It never gets old to see and the audience still applauds the opening of the curtain for Act II. I'm sure at some point a new production will be ushered in with the mileage this one has endured. We had a great dinner before the show.

That was that for our first two days.

1/4/16

Week # 1 of Structured Training complete...

Sticking to plan, I knocked out Week #1 of my structured training this week. Yesterday, as the below post states, was a scheduled 2:15 ride which I chose to do outside in the cold to wrap up the week. We don't have a hill with a 5-8% grade that I can sustain a duration of 10 minutes on so I usually create that on the LeMond exercise bike in the basement. The Summerset Trail is a rails to trails route that does feature a rail grade from Summerset Road up into Indianola, so I use that for any 10 - 15 minute climbing intervals I have scheduled knowing the grade is less than desired, so I choose a taller gear to adjust and get the power/HR in the proper zone.

I followed the cold weather dressing guide yesterday, and was comfortable enough to survive the howling wind. There was a lot of snow and ice to deal with on the pavement which made for some bike handling skill filled moments which was not as easy due to the big mittens I was wearing. I did stay upright and got the workout in that I needed to complete the week. I need to install my Bar Mitts again to keep the hands warmer which allows me to wear a lighter pair of gloves for one finger touch braking.

I'm glad I ramped things up in December to prep for this 12 week base plan. I think I would have fallen short had I not done that. The week was a good reminder for me that riding/training to get into shape is much different than riding/training to go fast. Fortunately, both are fun for me and I welcome the challenge of focusing on getting fast again after 2015's less than satisfactory year in terms of speed.

Week #1
Ending weight 179.6 lbs. It was good to see the needle go sub-180 after the Fall weight gain.

Week#1 - 2016

Weight loss is pretty much on plan. Based on last time around I did this in 2014, I targeted the goal of dropping one pound per week to reach my riding/racing weight. Knowing that performance does not improve while losing weight, I may bump up the weight loss goal on the front end of this 12 week plan to 1.5 or 2 pounds per week just to get it out of the way so I can see better gains in the performance sooner, rather than just at the tail end of the base plan. Even though I have been losing about one pound per week the past 5 weeks, I've certainly been chowing down like there's no tomorrow. Time to reign that in to run a larger deficit and get the digital reading on the scale to complete getting the entirety of this monkey off of my back again like I did in 2014...

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Once all of that is off, walking up hills is easier, riding up hills is easier, and climbing stairs becomes easier. I did not let the yo-yo to this extent happen a year ago, but this year I did and now have to deal with it again. So to motivate myself, I journal it all here and use it to whip myself back into fighting weight shape.

Today begins Week #2...

1/3/16

Riding out in the Cold of Winter...

Today's scheduled final workout of Week #1 of my structured training calls for a 2:15 ride. I don't mind doing 2 hours or less on the LeMond bike in the house in the comfort of my basement, but once we start jumping above 90 minutes or 2 hours I'll head outside for the easier rides that don't require me to stare at the power meter and HR all the time. The temperature of 25 degrees and cloud cover outside has me dipping down to the bottom end of Iowan David Ertl's suggested clothing list guide for riding outside. 

I have all of the gear for riding in the 20-25 degree range, I just have to layer up and head out into the COLD!!! I've got a nice venison stew I made cooking in the crockpot, so by the time I get back things should smell pretty good in the house and I can look forward to a hot shower and a bowl of goodness to warm me back up.

The Summerset Trail has been plowed, so I can get my low cadence, big gear hill climb intervals worked into an outdoor ride today. I'll take the Dos Niner mountain bike as there are patches of snow and ice between the house and the trail. I'm sure there is some ice on the trail in various spots from the melt we had yesterday and the day before.

Today's bike for the big ring hill climbs (2 x 10) at low cadence will keep me comfy and provide traction on any of the snow and ice spots.

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Ertl's guide from this link...


The Coach's Guide — David Ertl

Here is my approach to dressing for the temperature.  My weak link is my toes.  They are often the limiting factor. If head, hands, feet are not mentioned below, then I do nothing special for them.
70 Degrees (21C):  Shorts and short-sleeve jersey. 
60 Degrees (15.5C):  Shorts and long-sleeve jersey or long-sleeve thin undershirt.
50 Degrees (10C):  Tights or leg warmers; heavy long-sleeve jersey with sleeveless or short-sleeve wicking undershirt; or lightweight long-sleeve jersey with long-sleeve undershirt.
45 Degrees (7C):  Tights or leg warmers; long-sleeve wicking undershirt and lined cycling jacket;  thin full-fingered gloves; headband covering ears; wool socks and shoe covers.
40 Degrees (4.4C):  Tights or leg warmers; long-sleeve heavy mock turtleneck (I like Under Armour) and lined cycling jacket; medium-weight gloves; headband covering ears;  winter cycling shoes, shoe covers, wool socks.
35 Degrees (1.7C):  Heavyweight tights; long-sleeve heavy wicking turtleneck undershirt and heavy cycling jacket; heavy-weight gloves; headband covering ears;  winter cycling shoes, shoe covers, wool socks with charcoal toe warmers.
30 Degrees (-1C):  Heavyweight tights; long-sleeve heavy wicking turtleneck undershirt and heavy cycling jacket; heavy-weight gloves; lined skullcap; winter cycling shoes, shoe covers, wool socks with charcoal toe warmers.
25 Degrees (-3.9C):  Winter bib tights; long-sleeve heavy wicking full turtleneck undershirt, long-sleeve jersey and lined cycling jacket; mittens or lobster claw gloves; balaclava; winter cycling shoes, wool socks, plastic bag, charcoal toe warmers.
20 Degrees (-6.7) and below:  Winter bib tights; long-sleeve heavy wicking full turtleneck undershirt, long-sleeve jersey and lined cycling jacket; mittens or lobster claw gloves; balaclava; winter cycling shoes, wool socks, plastic bag, charcoal toe warmers.
Regarding the charcoal toe warmers.  I find these help add another half hour to the time I can ride when it's 35 and below. I buy these in bulk at Costco, where they are about 50 cents per pair. Sweat will deactivate these. Feet sweat when covered with shoe covers - even on the coldest days. Therefore, to help them last longer, I stick the toe warmers to the outside of the toes of the shoes and then put the shoe cover over these, instead of putting the charcoal packets inside the shoe.
I also put my toes in a sandwich plastic bag to help keep the moisture in the toebox of the shoe. When it gets really cold (under 25 degrees), I put my whole foot into a plastic bag (Subway or newspaper bags work well).

1/2/16

2016 and my first bike upgrade of the year is complete...

I always have a few thoughts and ideas about some possible upgrades to my current cycling equipment.

What cyclist doesn't have those thoughts and ideas? 

That bolded question was meant for my wife in an effort to let her know that I am normal. I usually wait until something breaks or gives out before doing an upgrade. The bikes I have been riding for the past few years are still all in fine shape and simply need the usual maintenance to keep them going. Some might be due for new chainrings, chains, a fork overhaul, tires. etc.. this year, but that's the way bike maintenance and ownership works. So many different standards have come and gone since the last time I purchased a mountain bike, I can't even keep up with it all. I just keep using what I have and replacing parts when they break or wear out.

One such upgrade due to something breaking came about recently. I snapped the chain on my Karate Monkey and rather than fix the aging chain, it gave me pause to think through my set up a bit.

I sort of went SS the quick and easy way on the KM a few years back. I had purchased a set of wheels way back when (years ago) and for some reason, the wheels arrived at my front door and in the shipping box along with the wheels were about a dozen+ Gusset SS Conversion Kits. That seemed strange since I hadn't ordered any and was not in the least bit interested in singlespeed cycling. I was not invoiced for them and wondered why they were in my shipping box. So I emailed the shipper wondering about what I should do and was told to just keep all of them and not worry about it. Super strange to me at the time, but okay. I was the owner of more than a dozen conversion kits with no idea what to do with them. So they sat in my parts bin for years before I ever decided to pull one out and slap it on my Karate Monkey (which I ran geared for 9 years) in the Fall of 2012.

The Gusset SS Conversion Kits look like this...

GussetSSKit

It's a pretty slick and easy kit. It just slides right onto the free hub body with the spacers provided giving you a great chainline provided your ring up front is placed correctly. The kit comes with two cogs, one is a 16T and the other is an 18T. I'm not really a wanker when it comes to the subject of singlespeed bikes by any means, so I just went with what I had in the parts bin to make things work a little over three years ago. I liked it so much, I sold my 2003 camp stove green KM...

KMDisc

...and got one of the new stretch pants black frames with the upgraded geometry and rear disc brake mount. I read up on straight ratios; gear inches; gain ratios and scratched my head enough to make the conversion.

I had a 29T Titanium ring in my parts bin that would fit on an old Race Face crankset I had in the parts bin. I happened to have a nice brand new bottom bracket to go with it that fit the Karate Monkey frame. According to my calculations at the time the 16T and 18T would work with that ring and provide an easy choice, and a harder choice when it came to both climbing hills and spinning on the flats. Forging ahead at the time, I set up my KM which ended up with the need to purchase a Surly Tugnut and an older pair of Shimano XT QR skewers to hold the rear wheel in place.

Fast forward to three years of riding the KM with the Gusset SS Conversion kit. Last June for our trip out to Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and South Dakota, I knew I would need to use the 18T to do all the climbing at altitude. It turned out to be a great gear for everything I rode and the pace was perfect for riding with Tara whether we were on slick rock in Moab, or climbing straight up a rim in Aspen-Snowmass. However, here in Iowa the 18T (46.72 gear inches) typically has me spinning like a mad man to ride the flats and connector sections even though it is perfect for all of the climbs (never have to walk). So I would swap to the 16T (52.56 gear inches) which was better on the flats, but made a lot of climbs some serious grunt efforts for me, my age, and my weight that made me always think ahead to other gearing possibilities to try. Made sense to me.

Using the 16T out at  Banner Pits on an early morning frozen earth ride December 27th, I stood up to muscle my way up one of the short steep hills and heard a "ping". I wondered what it was at the time, but kept on riding with no issues. On the next steep climb about 30 seconds later, I once again stood to muscle my way up the climb and the chain broke in half and I nearly impaled myself on the stem of my KM before coming to a stop. I guess my luck finally gave out on my cobbled together conversion, but I thought that getting 3+ years out of an old used chain to begin with wasn't bad. It had lasted three full years of singlespeed riding around the neighborhood on dog walks, recovery rides in town and on local trails, Fall/Winter riding at Ahquabi and Banner, a wonderful vacation last June riding in the mountains, until finally on 12/27/2015 one of the pins gave up the ghost.

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Rather than repair an old beat up chain, I decided to use the opportunity to do an upgrade. I had a new SRAM chain in the parts bin and I ran some calculations thinking that maybe a 17T would be a nice gap rear cog to have that would be the best of both worlds that the 16T and 18T cogs provided. So I ordered a Niner 17T cog and some spacers to go with my new chain. It all arrived the other day and I did the upgrade yesterday...

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Ride number one was a simple 40 minute recovery ride out and about town on snow covered sidewalks and streets...

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It feels pretty good and seems to have met my expectations based on what I thought it would feel like when I ordered it. I think I will be able to adapt to this cog rather easily. It's not quite as hard to climb the hills as the 16T, and can go a bit faster on the flats before spinning out than the 18T.

Is it the Goldilocks cog for me? 

I'll need some off road testing at my usual stomping grounds (Banner and Ahquabi) to weigh in on my final thoughts, but that may not happen for a quite some time with our current snow and winter conditions. Regardless, the upgrade to a new chain and a new rear cog with the spacers is complete with yesterday's installation. Thanks to the Tugnut, I set the chain's length with enough slack to run the 18T if I don't like the 17T for riding heavy climbing trails, and there is plenty of room to pull the wheel back in the dropouts if I wanted to run the 16T for flatter conditions.

Upgrade #1 for 2016 is now complete.