Wednesday, January 31, 2007

observations of the heart

Yesterday's workout called for five six-minute tempo intervals with two-minute recoveries (I cheated and allowed myself three-minute recoveries). As will likely be plain from the following figure, I did this workout on the trainer.

(red = heart rate; pink = power; green = cadence)

The interesting thing here, to me, is the interplay between time and heart rate over the course of the workout. Notice in the first interval I kept my power output around 270 to 280 watts, and my heart rate at the beginning of the interval abruptly rises to about 155 bpm, then slowly, and linearly, rises to about 170 bpm by the end of the effort.

In the next interval my power output is roughly the same, but my heart rate during this period moves from about 165 bpm to about 172 or 173 bpm.

Over the course of all five intervals this trend continues. In fact, my effort seems to flag in terms of power output, but my average heart rate over each six-minute period rises with each subsequent effort, topping out eventually at 183 bpm.

It doesn't take a power meter to notice this--I observed the same phenomenon last spring when doing intervals aided only by a heart rate monitor--but the graph does illustrate the point rather starkly.

You may also notice from the figure that (1) during the three-minute periods between intervals my recovery heart rate rises steadily--between the first and second effort it dropped to 125 bpm, but between the fourth and fifth it dropped to only about 138 bpm--and (2) in the recovery period after all intervals my average power output is lower than it was during warm-up, but my heart rate is higher.

An additional point worth making is that the third & fourth intervals felt much easier than the first two (though looking at the graph now I see that I apparently didn't work as hard on the fourth interval, so there's that). seems that that the body (or at least the heart) has to work harder to do the same amount of work later in a workout than it does earlier in a workout. That part seems intuitive.

However, if my perceived exertion is lower after a couple of warm-up intervals, that suggests that while my body has to work harder to do the same amount of work, under certain circumstances, my body feels better when it's working harder than it does at the beginning of a workout when the actual stress on my body (in terms of heart rate) is lower.

From that observation I suppose we can conclude that warm-up--an intense, race-pace kind of warm-up--is a good thing. But there's a balance. Do too much of a warm-up, of course, and you'll have no more juice for the real deal.

Anyway, there's nothing earth shattering here. The real lesson, or question, perhaps, is why does it take spending over a grand on a bunch of fancy shmiz to convince yourself of what you already knew?

Monday, January 29, 2007

the deed is done

It's something of a personal ritual; a kind of commitment ceremony.

Every year I hesitate, and wait, and balk, and delay. I generally run through a laundry list of 'what ifs' and put it off until the last possible moment. Not this year.

This year I did it in January. A new personal record.


At least for riding it's depressing. I may have to shift my training focus from the bike to skis.

In fact, that reminds me of one of my great fantasies. I've done a bit of skiing--telemark, backcountry skiing--and I've done plenty of long approaches, but always by foot, ski, or some combination thereof...never by bike. So how cool would it be to begin your approach from your house, on your bike, ride however far over and up to where you dismount, slap on your climbing skins, then continue your approach on skis?

How cool? Very cool.

There's not enough snow around here to do any real backcountry work, but there are resort hills to be poached. There's one about 20 miles from my house. If it's not too windy (riding a bike with a big ole pack and skis strapped on in the wind might very well spell death), I may give it a try this week. Care to join me?


Cyclocross Worlds.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

regina spektor

Last Saturday Val and I went to see:

We're not really the cool kids, but we really liked. Well, maybe me more than Val, but I've a super soft spot for the powerful female voice...and I really love that spunky girl-power lyric.

For me, it was a Sara McLachlan voice with an Ani Difranco wit.

Listen here. As with all the best artists, way better live...

(I should mention that before Saturday I hadn't heard more than a few seconds of her stuff. A friend--Greg--invited us to come, and even paid for it[!], how could we refuse? But it was a way good show. Totally exceeded my expectations.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Art Buchwald Dies at 81

Read the obituary.

To be serious--too serious--is a kind of illness. One with which I'm too often afflicted.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


How much faster does a clean bike ride than a dirty bike? A new chain versus a stretched one? One that's silent over one that squeaks?

I wish I knew. I wish I could put a number on it. Then I might be more motivated to take better care of my bike.

When I read this stuff, it gets me to thinking how much more fastidious some are with their bikes (like Mark) than I am with mine. His bikes are always clean. My bikes? Well...

My bikes are spattered with dirt and Gatorade stains. My drive-side chainstay, with its omnipresent grease spots, is a dalmatian. My chain is black (I buy them silver). When it squeaks I lube it...but I'm usually listening to something while training, so often I don't notice the squeaking, until a group ride.

Last July I was climbing the 3,800 vertical feet up to Brighton (Utah) in the Porcupine Hill Climb. My chain was a little squeaky that day. My seatpost was squeaking a little too (no more trouble with that, at least). But the worst of it was that my derailleur hanger was bent inward a bit. This didn't effect shifting, but when I was all the way inside, on the biggest cog, the derailleur cage would rub up against my spokes a little. I remember riding beside this guy about half way up. He turned to me and quipped, "You ride pretty fast for how noisy that bike is."

I sort of wanted to punch him. But I sort wanted to cry too. Yet, strangely, I still haven't had that derailleur hanger fixed.

It's not like I don't clean my bike, or take care of it. I do. I enjoy it, even. I take it apart, piece by piece, and enjoy soaking my chainrings in Joy and rubbing off every spec of grease. But I certainly don't do it every day (or ever month). I rotate my tires and change my handlebar tape. Sometimes I replace the cables. But still, on a group ride, in a race, my bike always seems to be the dirtiest, the ugliest, and the nosiest. In fact, ever since I can remember it's been this way. I guess it's just one of those things. much faster would I be if it weren't?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

a brief history of my weight

A friend started a blog to chronicle and motivate his weight loss goals. Considering his condition has led me to contemplate my own.

When I was born I probably weighed less than 10 lbs. I don't actually know how much I weighed when I was born, but since most babies weigh less than 10 lbs I figure that's a safe assumption.

In grade school I have no idea how much I weighed. But I was skinny. Super skinny. Also not short, exactly, but certainly not tall.

When I started calling girls in like sixth and seventh grade and started having long, complicated, and absolutely absurd romantic phone affairs with girls in far off places like a neighboring suburb, I used to tell them it looked like I had a potbelly, but only because my stomach muscles were so strong. My stomach muscles were not strong.

I got my driver's license when I was three months short of 15 years old, the summer between my eighth and ninth grade years. (Yes, Idaho at the time allowed fourteen year-olds to legally operate motor vehicles. During daylight hours. I drove a Suburban.) I distinctly remember that my first driver's license recorded my weight at 97 lbs. Height: 4'11".

During my sophomore year my cross country coach, using calipers, calculated my body fat percentage at just over two percent. (There was probably some error in that calculation, because, come on, two percent! But you get the idea.)

As a Junior and Senior in high school I think my weight steadily increased from about 140 to around 160. I was six feet tall when I graduated.

At twenty I remember finally tipping the scales at 170. I was very proud. By that time I'd grown another inch and a half. (I like to say I'm 6'2", but more accurately I'm like 6'1.5". I think it's better to round up.)

Three or four years ago I got up to 195 lbs. I was beginning to get a little chunky around the waist, but I also only got up to 195 after about a year of weight lifting.

Two years ago my body fat percentage was around 18 percent.

Over the past couple of years as my cycling miles have increased (and my weight lifting has decreased) my weight has steadily decreased. Right now I hover between 175 and 180. I really think my ideal fighting weight (on the bike) is about ten pounds less than that. But I can't get there. It's likely been ten years since I've weighed under 175.

My body fat percentage is still around 12-14 percent. Twelve percent of 180 lbs is just over 21 lbs. So...if I could reduce my body fat percentage to around six percent (can a 33 year-old male do that?) I'd weigh in comfortably under 170 lbs. Closer to 165. Perfect.

Forces, their combined powers mythic and ferocious, which will likely keep me from achieving my goal:

(1) Ice cream.
(2) Soda.
(3) Cookies.
(4) Fritos.

Monday, January 8, 2007

saturday sunshine

On Saturday, I rode with a group leaving from Chambersburg. Cue sheet to get there:

The two key words for the day: warm and windy. It took me 51 minutes to ride the 13.5 miles to Chambersburg...averaging 16 mph and 216 watts! (That means that it was crazy windy.) Here's the proof:

After that the ride was nice.

Opting to climb rather than battle the wind, we rode with the breeze some 25 miles north-northeast, then cut over the mountains and came the same distance back but sheltered by the the mountain ridge and the tall pines. Still windy, but nothing like it was in the valley. And did I mention the temperature? Low 60s with off-again-on-again sunshine. A delightful springtime the dead of winter.

Say hi to the group:

Anyway, 78 miles in 4:25. A successful Saturday is a 4+ hr ride.


A really great article in The New York Times Magazine on Dick Pound.

I'm ever suspicious of people who demand, violently, that they are right about everything. Dick Pound seems to be such a person.


The year 2006 in review:

214_____Total days in the saddle.
400:30__Total hours in the saddle.

22:43___Total MTN BIKE hours in the saddle (bought it in July).

6845____Total ROAD miles.

32.0____Average road ride length in miles.

30______Median road ride length in miles.

4.12____Average number of days per week ridden.

7:42____Average time in the saddle per week.
132_____Average weekly road mileage.

56______Average weekly long road ride in miles.

18______Average weekly short ride in miles.

101_____Longest road ride in miles.

246_____Most road miles in a calendar week.

13:08___Amount of time in the saddle that week.

775_____Most road miles in a calendar month.

42:46___Amount of time in the saddle that month.

7_______Most days in a calendar week ridden (once).

1_______Least days in a calendar week ridden (twice).

28______Number of days raced (actual number of races ~35).

4_______Number of races won.

19______Number of days riding on a trainer.

16______Number of days mountain biking.

1_______Road wreck (no idea how many times I wrecked mtn biking).

45______Number of Saturdays (of 52) that I rode.
2:56____On Saturdays ridden, average saddle time.

A summary of road miles, total saddle time, saddle days, and average weekly mileage by month in 2006:

Total 2004 (first column), 2005 (second column), and 2006 (third column) road miles, saddle days, and other road ride statistics:

Quick Step promo shots

I stole these pics from the Road Magazine Blog. As with the boys at Road, I have no idea what any of these mean, but looking at them makes me laugh heartily, so why not?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

winter blues

The stinky thing about riding long miles in the winter is that it's winter.

Riding bikes is almost always fun, but when I'm winter riding, +/- two hrs in the saddle everyday, battling frigid winds, dodging frozen puddles, looking over yet another depressing sheered cornfield...well, it gets old.

And, truth be known, it's not even that cold here. With temps in the high 40s in January, who can complain?

I can.

Winter hasn't hardly begun and I'm longing for the warm spring sun.


So I played football on New Year's Day for a couple of hours. Just a bunch of guys and a kid from the neighborhood. Two-hand touch. Afterwards I knew I'd be sore and stiff. All the fast starts and stops and moving my body in ways it's not normally moved. But I didn't expect to be as sore as I am. I'm so sore, everywhere, that it even hurts to cough. That's right, I strained the muscles around my rib cage. Ridiculous.

To make matters worse, I came home Monday and did my weight lifting routine--a bunch of squats and lunge squats mostly--and added an extra ten pounds from what I've been doing.

Now here it is Wednesday and I can hardly walk. My legs are so stiff and sore that I find myself walking like Frankenstein. Unbelievable.

I can't help but keep thinking that when I was eighteen my body didn't act like this, and I find the thought moderately offensive. But it makes me want to work harder...after my hamstrings loosen enough to walk down the stairs without a waddle.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


The best football game I've seen in years, if not ever.

Riveting. Thrilling. A couldn't-have-been-better victory courtesy of the little school from my hometown.

I'm loving it.