Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rapha 500 Day 5 - Redemption and Recovery

When I woke up this morning my quads hurt and my ass didn't allow me comfort when standing. These feelings were not expected but not surprising considering I've done 5 good days of riding and even some jogging mixed with a lot of IPA and not a lot of real recovery. This morning I decided to go for a light 3 mile jog. Its such a tease, a 3 mile jog, around the block. Nothing really. Barely breaking a sweat. Maybe 7:30 pace, maybe quicker. Spending my entire life running has warped my perception to the point of no return. I accept 3-5 miles is all I can run now but its not training. It will never be part of the conversation. Just something that gets done in between bike rides. But it won't be insignificant either. I read somewhere that running will kill bike riding ability. It will slow you down is what I read. Where it came from I can't remember but I'm sure I can find it. Most likely its true, no arguments here, my lack of understanding with regard to cycling and the training that fuels it doesn't allow me an educated opinion. However, I did OK on the bike in my first year racing and I ran every opportunity I could. A sneaky 5 miler here or there. The only time it hurt me was when I raced that 5 miler in South Boston on a ridiculously hot and humid night with loads of wind. I raced Tour Of The Hilltowns the next day and was wrecked. Lesson learned on that one, no racing before bike races, or ever for that matter. Running however is something I'll never stop.  My love of the sport and the endeavor transcends my love of bike racing and fuels my desire to be great at bike racing. They are not exclusive, rather very much intertwined.

With the sore legs and the light jog in the AM I resigned myself to a day off. It lasted until after lunch when an easy recovery ride in the rain became very appealing. Rapha 500 is for sure getting me out. I don't want to miss a day! So into the elements I went for an easy 60km loop. No water, no food, no breaks. Just a quick 2 hour jaunt around familiar roads and some miles in the bank. Motivation was high because I was meeting Kevin Adams for a beer at the Publick House. That turned into several beers and great conversation. Torpedo Extra IPA was my tipple of choice. Never had it before, will have it again. The music, as per usual was excellent. Lots of The Smiths, New Order, and one song by The Church I haven't heard in ages. Made me feel great. Thats the song of this very good day.

Peace and Love,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rapha 500 Day 4 The Day After Christmas

Wiiiindy day today. Give me the bitter cold of the last 3 mornings over what felt like a heatwave - 37F and a 25 mph wind. Riding solo everyday is tough. Running solo, easy, but riding for 3 hours and listening to the iPod is getting old. On New Years Eve my buddy Ciaran Mangan is organizing a ride over about 80 miles of rolling hills and there should be 10+ riders going. Needless to say I'm thoroughly looking forward to this one, and in the meantime its base miles by myself.

My legs felt trashed today. Even though I haven't done much training relative to those I'll race, for me 4 days in a row over 50 miles is uncommon. I wanted to get another 50 miles in today which will keep me on track for my Rapha500 challenge (even if I cheated to make it harder by introducing miles instead of km's). I doubt I'll do 500 miles but I know I'll eclipse 500km. Anyway, my glutes were hurting as I rode up Beacon street, past BC. But then, strangely, the soreness subsided and my Garmin told me that my pace was pretty snappy. And I was going into the wind, kind of. Super compensation? Maybe, I don't really know anything about cycling training but I knew my recovery day was probably gonna be more of a workout.. The wind really pissed me off though. I am not exactly aero on the bike so every gust was sending me sideways with spit coming out each side of my mouth. Then, a sharp turn in Weston and bliss. Tailwind for the next 30km. It was great. Barely putting out watts and flying along. I forgot to drink water and after 1:45 a savage thirst enveloped me. One area of improvement for 2012 is on bike nutrition. I honestly think that the frozen bottles of the last 3 days made me forget. Either way, the water was in liquid state but didn't prepare me for the next turn back into the wind. The last 20 or so km's I was riding at 15mph. On certain stretches (mapped out on Strava) I was minutes slower than usual. With all that said, I felt great. When I did finally arrive home after 82km I really wanted to do more but its either into the city which is not happening or back out into the headwind. A cup of coffee and left overs from Christmas day seemed a better option.

The Rapha500 continues to get me out the door. Its such a great concept that everyone can do. Most decent level riders cover the distance every week of the year but for an amateur like myself its enough to give me motivation through Christmas week when food, beer, and movies seem more appropriate. It is also getting me in the habit of consistently riding 2.5 hrs or more every day. In order to race Cat.1 in 2012 I'll need this volume and the will power to say NO to the trainer when its freezing outside. Additional motivation in the form of a good beer reward is always positive.

I met Tom McArdle and Tom Coogan, aka Thatcher Street Velo (even if I'm the only one riding much these days). We discussed my favorite topic, athletics. I could have stayed at the Beacon Street Tavern all night but the working stiffs I hang out with needing to prioritize we pulled the plug after a few pints of 60 minute IPA and headed home. Bedways is bestways. The bartender had a nice mix on the sound system. I've never been a huge fan of The Shout Out Louds but tonight I heard a song that was very Cure-esque. A lovely tune started playing and using Shazam to quench my musical thirst it told me the song was 'Normandie' by these guys. It could have been Robert Smith and it would have been perfectly natural. So thats my tune of the day.

Peace and Love

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rapha 500 Day 3 Christmas Day

Another cold one this morning. It was about 26F with some light flurries when I got out at 10am. Despite the cold it was one of the most enjoyable rides I've done in a long time. The roads were very quiet which I expected on Christmas day but there were a lot of people out exercising and everyone acknowledged each others efforts. A nod of the head, a smile, and even a "merry christmas" which I couldn't hear because I had tunes in my ear. I headed out to Carlisle/Chelmsford area. My ride is on Strava. With such quiet roads even the drivers that usually act like your not there passed with plenty of space and often slowed down. Christmas spirit? It should be like this everyday. My water bottles froze again which is a pain in the arse. Fortunately there was a service station open right after the half way point in the ride and I was able to grab a drink and a clif bar. Half a bottle for a 117km ride is not enough so I reckon there will be some insulated bottles purchased from Providence Bike in the next few days.
I have a Zipp 404 wheel on the back because I punctured as soon as I took my bike out. With some snow looking like it was about to fall (you can't see but it but there were flurries) I opted to just stick on my racing wheel and deal with the tube change later. The ride was steady and it felt great. Just shy of 4 hours and another chunk of the Rapha500 done. Upon arrival back to my flat I rewarded myself with the finest of IPA, my favorite Dogfish Head 90 Minute. The first bottle went straight to my head given the lack of water throughout the ride.

So tomorrow is a recovery day. From now on Mondays will be a short ride or even off. Once my fitness comes round and my legs get a little stronger I will be looking to clear 210-220km every weekend. Not much for a serious rider but a lot for me. I can't foresee (with the exception of maybe a training camp) weekends of 250 - 300km which many of the Cat.1 racers I'll be competing against routinely do. Social life is important to me and I will always reward myself with a night out on the weekend.

Took out an older playlist for the ride. One I made for indoor sessions last February after my knee surgery. It really confirmed how much better 2010 was for music in my opinion. Tracks by Mew, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Twin Shadow, Wolf Parade, Interpol, Four Tet. I played the list through twice and loved hearing the songs again.  Tonight I am putting together or at least attempting to, my favorite music from 2011. One thing I am certain of, "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People (a song I thought was catchy and enjoyable when it first came out) was completely ruined by the radio and its become perhaps the most annoying song of 2011.

One tune I did love and dropped onto my compilation this morning was Jai Paul - 'BTSTU'. Thom Yorke played this slab of plastic magic on his Radio 1 mix when he took over the turntables of Giles Peterson. Wonderful tune.

Peace and Love

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rapha 500 Day 2 Christmas Eve

Got in 85k today and it was rough. The plan from the outset was 100k minimum but it was Freezing. I started out at 20F and ended at 25F. Once I warmed up I was fine and the cold really didn't bother me, except for my toes. But it froze my water bottles. The first one I was drinking from was slush after 45 minutes and I couldn't really get much out. After 90 minutes my second bottle was an ice cube. So 2.5 hrs in I knew I had to make my way home because I was very thirsty and starting to feel a bit of a bonk coming on. I got maybe half a bottle in and for a 53 mile ride thats not enough at all.

Right now I should be sleeping in my bed in Drogheda. I am not a big Christmas guy and the older I get the more I drift away but I do love going home and seeing the mates during the holiday. Ireland really embraces Christmas week and it turns into almost a one week national holiday. Everyone is in great form and the banter is first class. I really miss my friends during these times. Frankie is up in Canada and I can't go up there either. My visa status is changing which eliminates my ability to travel. I spent the night with at my friends place in Newton and it was great. I had a real moment of nostalgia watching all the kids buzzing about going to sleep tonight and anticipating the arrival of Santa and the riches he brings! But I also think about the NPR piece I listened to last year about the thousands of kids who don't get a visit from Santa and they don't know why. Really sad. At Dave and Sarahs I drank Creemore Canadian Larger. Good tack.

Tomorrow is supposed to achieve temps in the high 30's which will feel like a heatwave compared to this morning. I want to get in 120km if all goes well. I switched up the iPod with some new tunes. Cruising through the year end lists is just confirming my feelings that 2011 was a below average year for music. Some of the blogs I really respect have maybe one album in the top 10 that I loved - PJ Harveys - Let England Shake. Otherwise its either stuff I thought was boring or hip hop that I don't know about. On my ride this morning I was thinking about this and it would be easier for me to compile 10 albums I listened too and wished I hadn't. For example, Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding. What a complete waste of time, and I'm afraid I had so many of those moments. A list of some kind will be produced but already 2012 is looking much better. I never thought I'd say that given Radiohead put out a record this year but its how I feel. Also, with feeling a little home sick I chose a tune that is in my top 10 all time and one that is speaking my language while I sip my 90 minute IPA.

Peace and Love

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rapha 500

I am back on the blog starting now. I had a few attempts but no real heart or reason to blog. Had nothing to say that was of any interest to me or anyone else. But now that I am committed to bike riding and racing again for 2012 I think it will be good to blog about training and racing and the music that fuels it.

I started winter base training about 2 weeks ago and its been moving along slowly. I am terribly unfit and looking for motivation I stumbled on the Rapha 500 challenge. Its not too difficult really, 500km in 8 days, but considering its on during the holidays, typically a time of bad weather and snow, the challenge can be great. Luckily the weather has been very mild and it doesn't look like its really going to get bad over the next week so riding the bike outside isn't difficult at all. On the flip side, I do hope for one or two gnarly days of snow just to make it feel like more of an accomplishment. 500km in 8 days while pretty straightforward is still more than I have ever done in that time period and it is something I hope to maintain over the next 3 months.

Today I rode a steady 84km loop. There were a few nice climbs and it is one of my favorite loops in Rhode Island. I really should've done more because the weather was great and it would have been nice to get some miles in the bank but I was hungry and my one water bottle was empty. I visited White Electric for fuel afterwards. Yes, I was actually wearing a Rapha cap. I wear it all the time! I also got a Christmas gift from my mate Joe Savic at Providence Bike, a book called The Jersey Project. Its epic.

So tomorrow I will hit up 100 or so km's. I really want to ride every day between now and New Years so I can bring some fitness into 2012 and the start of the real winter base training, with workouts and everything. I have a new bike team I'm racing for in 2012 and the lads on their are tough and already logging the hard miles. Out team is called Upton Bass Racing and I will post more about it soon.

The music in 2011 has been average in my opinion. Let down by so many albums its been the worst year for music since I started the blog. There were some highlights for sure, really great tracks and records but compared to last year where my top 10 albums could change on any day/mood it is tough to even compile 10 albums that I really loved. All that is ahead too. For now its IPA in the form of DogFish Head 90 minutes and some music. Frankie sent me a record by a Canadian new wave group - Austra. They are a three piece electopop group out of Toronto with Katie Stelmanis  on vocals. The album has a bit of a Metric feel and even hints of Fever Ray, not just because of the female vocal either. You could put Natasha Kahn or Zola Jesus in the same genre - you get the picture. I've been listening to the album on rotation over the last few days and its really satisfying.

Peace and Love,