Saturday, January 21, 2017

5th time....Here we go

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog, and I will be doing better from here on end. This is now my 5th StP that I will  be training for and, God willing, I will also be racing this season, quitting smoking g and racing cyclocross.  Training begins in Ernest next week. Follow me and let's see where the road goes from here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Musings of a morning rider

Time to STP: 109 Days
For my Sunday post, I typically will spend some time talking about things I learned on the saddle, interesting routes taken or basically anything as a chronicle of what it was I observed and generally just trying to be helpful to anyone who reads this on things they want to think about while on the road.
However, this week I had my kids, so per normal my entire morning and weekend rides had to be squeezed into the period before my children woke up.  So, instead I just wanted to spend a moment talking about the things that I see on my urban rides.  It is so interesting the things that you see.  For me, some things become like landmarks.  I know once I have passed the Chevron that I am about 2 miles away from my turn around point for my workday morning rides.  But, during the weekends...the Chevron is just another gas station that I will pass.
Along Fourth Plain there is this video store at the end of this single level stretch of buildings across from what used to be a grocery store (and was recently demolished).  When I lived closer, I used to pass by this strip of shops all the time, and they were all the same (although a Dog Groomer recently moved in and has a really neat Snoopy above their shop now), and the white painted building looked like one those that was probably put in when this region of Fourth Plain was developing from a smaller community minded area into something that saw a good deal more traffic.  I imagine a haberdasher was probably in one of those white brick shops.
But one of the places that I have seen in the whole of the time that I have lived in the area is this video store.  It is at the end of the white brick shops and is the one place with something resembling a professional looking sign attached to it.  In all the time I have passed it, I couldn't tell you the name of it.  And now that I ride past it at least 5 days a week on Betsy, I spend some of my mental energy imagining it.  It is the kind of video shop that I remember going to as a kid.  Where the VHS tapes were crammed everywhere in something vaguely resembling order.  The order was usually by genre and then alphabetical, but the last bit was always a little questionable. 
Stuffed in between the copy of Ghost and Ghostbusters 2 was Ghostslayer: The Reckoning (not an actual movie title) or some other thing that the video store owner had to purchase in order to get the latest copy of a Bruce Willis flick from the studio and even though it was a B film, the contract for the video store owner stipulated that Ghostslayer was part of the Bruce Willis deal.  As I pass by this shop that has only one window facing the street, I don't see posters from movies just released, but movies released 6-8 months ago.  They cover the makeshift plywood counter that the old monochromatic CRT monitor sits on and where the plastic box that holds index cards with every one's account information also sits snugged up to the multi-like rotary telephone.
This place is just a glimpse of my youth.  It even says, subtly but directly, that they carry Adult Videos.  I imagine that they are in the part of the white brick building that hasn't seen natural light since 1962 and they are hidden behind a beaded curtain that was made in the same year.  If the posters in the front are eight months old, then undoubtedly so are the films of ill repute that lay behind that beige macrame wall.  Countless a kid has stood on the other side of that curtain, wondering what is there, wondering what treasures it may hold only to be pulled by the balding video store owner, back to the reality of the kids section which contains Toy Story and the complete boxed Gundam series.
I don't know if I am going to ever make it into this store, though during the morning when the frosty breath proceeds my wheels, I tell myself I will.  Looking at this video store is another milestone for me (1 mile to the morning turn around point) and a reminder of the youth I had when riding a bike all day meant I was going to my friends house with 50 cents and my squirt gun.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Importance of Recovery Days

Time to STP: 114 Days
I think I am not alone as a burgeoning cyclist (or anyone that is working getting in shape) in thinking that the more your exercise, the better you will end up looking.  It seems reasonable.  You go from drinking beer on your couch and watching Dr. Who reruns to hopping in the saddle or in the gym and after some amount of time, you start looking ripped, breathing better and can go longer and longer.  Well, from everything that I have seen, this is only mostly true.  And it is something that I am trying like a madman to realize.
According to this article and many other online resources, a recovery day is just as important as those days that you are exercising.  The whole purpose of those days in which you rest is to give your body a breather, to allow it to mend itself with rest and with the nutrients that you are filling yourself with. 
From the above linked article
            " One of the most common mistake made by the amateur cyclist is over training. In recent     years more and more importance is being paid to recovery by top riders. All too often riders will go out and ride hard at every opportunity which would appear the best way to improve. However it is actually after rides when your fitness will improve when your muscles recover from their workload. Exercise damages muscle tissues creating small tears and it is during the post ride recovery period that they heal and grow back larger and stronger."
In the end, it is in your interest to rest up and not continue to push yourself.  The fear that I have, and I am sure you might as well, is thinking you will "fall off the wagon" and treat every day until the weekend as a recovery day, then try and make it all up on the weekend.  While there is something to be said about high intensity workouts, you do your body more good by being consistent and varying the intensity of your workouts above your comfortable baseline.  Make sure to eat well, and healthy on your recovery day as well.  Treat your body right and you are going to have the energy to push on further the next day.  Here are a couple examples of a good recovery day meals.  Work within it or out of it.  I have discovered that just because you are exercising doesn't mean you now have to eliminate every flavorful thing from your diet.
1 eggs, poached (poaching does not have to be hard )
Whole grain muffin
1 slice low fat cheese (go provolone, great flavor)
Olive oil (drizzle a bit on the muffin)
Diced fruit (don't forget the starchy stuff like watermelon)
1 cup of milk/almond milk

Turkey Sandwich
4 oz turkey breast sliced
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tsp mayonnaise (or have some fun with this, maybe add a teaspoon of adobo to the mayo, mix it up and give it a spicy flair, alternatively, some pureed cranberries added to this could also give it a more fruity character)
1/2 sliced tomato
shredded lettuce
1 cup milk 1
8 oz glass water

1 fish fillet (marinated in a tablespoon of olive oil, lemon, dash of salt and a few sprigs of fresh basil)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup broccoli (steamed)
1 8 oz glass water
Preheat oven to 400, cook fish on a wire rack just until done.
With the rice, you can use minute rice, which is inherently a little more processed.  I recommend just making your typical 1 cup of brown rice and saving that for reheat later (after taking out your 1/2 c portion)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Small goals make a big difference

As of 3/17/2013
Having a regular training schedule has given me real goals to achieve as I go.  I suppose that is the entire purpose of having a schedule like this one, setting those goals that make you feel like you have accomplished something throughout the week.  The fact that I have gotten to this point without outright dying is something of a pride point for me, now.  I was worried I wasn't going to be able to make it to each of the milestones that I have set for myself as I have gone.  And I have hit them and in some cases surpassed them.

This weekend was the 40 mile mark that I had been a little afraid of.  I was worried that 30 had been so difficult, that 40 would be murderous.  I had never ridden that distance continuously ever.  But, I had tackled all the other milestones with some degree of conviction and efficiency, so why not this.

While I had originally planned on heading out to Gresham on a well traveled bike path.  The mileage was there, but to be perfectly honest, I knew the route well enough that it seemed like it would be a titch boring.  Ira Glass playing in my ears aside, it just seemed like a route to make the miles and not to really enjoy the ride, which is-ultimately-what this should be about.  After discussing it with my girlfriend, she suggested that I instead head north into Ridgefield/La Center area.  There are backroads a plenty there and early in the morning I should have been relatively safe.

Safe though I was, I wasn't quite prepared for the large degree of rolling hills that I was going to have to deal with.  The back roads of the Northwestern part of Clark County are riddled with poorly maintained roads that will move from asphalt to concrete and back again with noticeable bumps in the transition.  Cracks are ubiquitous and as the roads are not as frequently traveled, the cracks are not sealed particularly well-if at all.  To add to this, this is all former/current farmland which is not always on the level, meaning I could (and did), work my way up a 9%-13% grade over .2 of a mile only to go down another one after a short level space.  I must say, though, that despite how potentially punishing it was, there were some truly beautiful sites that I got to travel along in La Center and in the crisp morning air, it was truly a treat. 

I should note that it is fairly important that you study your proposed route prior to embarking on it.  On a few occasions, I came to an intersection where I wasn't absolutely certain where I should go and had to look at my phone and try and bring up an active map of the area.  Well, should you be in a no cell phone zone, this is not going to be terribly useful.  In short, have a paper map with you.

Sunday, I headed out with a friend of mine on what would be a remarkable tour around the Portland area.  We left SE Portland and headed to Marine Drive, a road that closely follows the Columbia River and then rode our way to Kelly Point, which is effectively where the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia River are and enjoyed a brief respite before heading out to the St. John's Bridge, probably one of my top 3 favorite bridges in Portland.  The air coming off the Willamette was blowing us a bit, and as I had not retensioned my derailleur cables since putting the old brake levers back on Betsy, I was loosing a few gears on the rear cassette going up and around.  Thankfully, though, my brakes were in good working order so the decent was quick and safe.

This ride, really, ended up being such a night and day experience from my back road Clark County ride.  We traversed almost 43 miles and always had a shoulder, bike path or otherwise reserved lane that we could safely ride in.  Several parts of Portland, I am told, also have a magnetic switch at some intersections that if you ride your bike above it, will activate the traffic signal so you are not waiting for another car to come on and allow you to make your left.  While Vancouver might be a "bike friendly" community, Portland actually accepts cyclists as an integral part of it.

I am becoming progressively cautiously optimistic (yes, I am loading on the adverbs) on my prospects for STP.  The miles are coming easier and the real attitude shift that I feel daily makes me look forward to the next morning's ride.  This training, these goals have ultimately helped me start becoming a better, trimmer and more positive person, I believe.  And for that, I am truly grateful the goals I have set.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brakes: They Save Your LIfe

When I first changed out Betsy's drop downs, I also took the time to replace her brake levers.  I had effectively gone from a long pull brake lever to a standard pull brake lever.  The type of mechanical advantage that is used in long pull brakes is perfect for the center pull cantilever brakes that I have on but the Standard Pull (or Short Pull) do not have the same advantage, therefore, the margin of error on adjusting these brakes is a good deal more slim, in almost every way.  Standard pull brake levers are perfect for the side pull cantilever brakes that are standard on most road cycles.  However, in potential increased load on a touring bike requires a braking system that will have a bit more stopping power, and a brake lever that pull the extra length you need for these center pull and side pull cantilever brakes.   This has been something of a pain for me as I have had to ensure the tension was perfect, particularly after installing new brake lines which will tend to stretch a little.

As I have documented in prior posts, using the barrel screw to adjust brake tension after you have run your new lines is definitely an option.  This, however, becomes increasingly impractical if your brakes are not wearing perfectly even (a result of not setting them properly) or your wheel is even slightly out of true.  Even if these conditions are met, you still have the problem of not having enough lever to really get a good stop on your bike.  It should be said that there are items (called a "Travel Agent") that you can place in line with the cable to take up the additional slack by using a standard pull linear brake lever  I have tried, like a mad man to avoid these issues, and there are many people who are able to make it work, I have not.  So, this weekend, I removed the Shimano 105 levers and replaced them with the levers that came with Betsy.  There is a noticeable difference in braking almost immediately as I am now using the appropriate type of lever for the type of brakes mounted on my bike.

Be cautious of these issues when you are changing out levers to reduce weight or even to something that is more aesthetically pleasing.  At the end of the day, the only thing between you and a car door is those two levers by your hands.

Just for some further reading, take a look at Sheldon Brown's website regarding cantilever brake geometry, very informative.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Another week down

Time to STP: 123 Days

As I am getting closer and closer to the 3 month mark before STP I am approaching things with both a degree of fear and optimism.  Since setting my sights on the Monster Cookie Metric Century in April, I find myself with something of an achievable goal to go for.  I know that this 62 mile ride will be achievable if I continue at the pace I have been going and it makes something of a milestone for me as I head towards those century rides (I am still hoping to do an organized century before STP).

Since I had my kids this week, though, I was unable to get in the amount of miles I would really like to.  I have to wake up early and get in my morning interval training just so I can remain limber before getting back home and rousing the troops for another day at school or something. Then, on the weekends, I have to pray they sleep in a little longer so I can get out and get something in the 30 mile range in before they wake up and we start things for the day.  Truly one of the most difficult parts of trying to get all the training in for this ride, as a single parent, is getting all the training in.  It becomes somewhat impractical at some point to track with the training schedule when you have to make sure to get breakfast made for four hungry mouths.  Squeezing in those 10-15 mile rides during the week and trying to do some hill work on the weekends is ultimately all I can muster, and regardless if it IS enough, it has to be enough.

I would be interested to see how other single parents manage training for this or other similar events (or marathons for runners or even triathlons).  Trying to fit everything you can into a limited window of time really can be a lot to deal with.  But, the end goal ideally will be worth it.

I have been reading more and more into healthy dieting and fueling up before a ride, after a ride, and just good snacks to have.  There are literally hundreds of books out there that cover these issues that I have scratched the surface on, but I have recently discovered one that seems to be pretty promising that I picked up at Powell's this last weekend.  The Feed Zone seems to be a great book with a lot of really interesting and easy recipes in it.  I will be posting some of my favorites as I go along.  For the last week, though, I have really been trying to use other recipes that I have found online along with some general information that I have located to make meals that are more healthy and diverse for my kids.  Things that they might not typically have and makes them feel better at the end of the day. 

One, that I made Saturday night is a Mediterranean Bulgur.  A fabulous "salad" in a more abstract sense that was a real hit with everyone (recipe follows).  It is full of flavor and highly filling.  I suppose this could be made as a side dish, but it is so hearty, that it easily operates as a main course.

The other thing, and this is something of a happiness point for me, is crock pot oatmeal.  As you know, I am a real oatmeal consumer, every morning, and the idea of throwing it in the crock pot before I go to bed to have it hot and ready in the morning seemed like a wonderful idea (recipe follows).  Since I make breakfast for my kids every Sunday morning, this was a great way for me to be able to sit down and eat with them and provide a low sugar, nutritious meal full of vitamins.

Mediterranean Bulgur
1 1/2 cups of either cooked lentils or chickpeas
1 cup cooked bulgur
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 tomato, diced
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp sea salt
Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
Let the bulgur and lentils or chickpeas come to room temperature. Toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Makes two servings, I would double it if you are feeding a family.

Overnight Oatmeal

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.
Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.   This should be sweet enough for you, as well, but if it isn't, drizzle a tbs or so of pure maple syrup in there.  If your crock pot doesn't have a delay timer, try using one of those Christmas light timers and plug your crock pot into that.  That way if you go to bed early, like I do, the oats do not overcook.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Oven baked lemon chicken-No more boring food

Tired of the same grilled and baked chicken recipes as you are trying to fuel your body?  You don't need to punish your taste buds as much as you have been.  There is a happy medium between being a food lover and exercise lover and you can dress up and spice up those go-to meals with minimal extra effort.

Oven Baked Lemon Chicken
1 Large boneless/skinless Chicken Breast
1/2 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup of breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 large lemon (cut into several thin slices)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place 1/2c of Greek yogurt in a bowl and 1c of breadcrumbs in another (add salt and pepper to your breadcrumbs to give it the extra kick that you may want).  Wash your chicken breast off and pat it dry.  Dip your chicken breast in the Greek yogurt and then lightly coat in breadcrumbs.  Place chicken breast on cookie sheet, cover with thinly sliced lemon and cook for about 10-15 minutes, just until the crumbs start to brown.  Turn over with a pair of tongs, add a couple more slices lemon and cook until done and second side of breading is browned as well.  Remove from oven and let sit for a few moments, then enjoy.
For a little advanced planning, and a bit more flavor, I suggest taking the 1/2c of Greek yogurt and adding a few spices to it, then marinating the chicken in it for a day.  This helps make the chicken more tender and will give that added flavor kick that you may want.  The same approach can be taken with the break crumbs.  Why not add a dash of Cayenne or onion flakes?  Change it up and see what best suits your pallet.

To make this a whole meal, steam some fresh veggies or even some frozen ones that can be purchased cheaply.  For last night's dinner, we steamed a mix of peas and corn and then toss it with some cracked black pepper.  Then look at a grain like brown rice or quinoa.  We will cook some quinoa (in the same way you cook rice.  2.5c water: 1c quinoa, cooked for about 20 minutes) with a herb blend mixed in as it cooks and then toss in a rich olive oil at the end to give some flavor complexity.

Remember, your protient intake on a day to day basis (for meat) should only be around the size of a deck of cards.  You want the bulk of your plate to be as full of multi-colored foods and diversity as you can.  With this meal, you are hitting most of the major food groups and giving yourself fuel for the following day.

Truly, you can make every meal interesting and healthy as you go, and it starts with just changing the way you approach your food and the flavors you are willing to give a go.
Blurry and ill lit, but delicious