Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I love indoor riding . . .

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy indoor riding. When the thermometer dips below freezing, the skies darken at 4:30, the shoulders become clogged with ice and that nasty white film of salt covers the land, I move indoors to turn those cranks. Sure I prefer riding outdoors. Like others, I plan to log thousands of miles through wet, windy, dark and unfamiliar roads this year. It's not that I can't stand pain and suffering. So what is it about winter that sends me indoors?

The top 15 reasons I like to train indoors:
  1. No bulky clothes.
  2. No traffic.
  3. It's safe to ride at all hours.
  4. No need for lights.
  5. No spare tubes.
  6. No frozen fingers.
  7. No frozen toes.
  8. No frozen water bottles.
  9. No flats!
  10. Ride for 6 hours without having to stop to warm up.
  11. Train without muscles freezing up.
  12. Improve form and cadence.
  13. Listen to loud music.
  14. It's warm!
  15. When I'm done with a workout, I feel great.

The good news is that with the right preparation, even long indoor rides need not be boring. Distraction is key to working through tough peiods on the bike: both indoors and out. It's one reason why riding with friends can make a dreadful stretch of road or weather more bearable. This year, I've been using two new DVDs from the Spinervals "On the Road" series: the Lake Placid Training Ride and the Madison, Wisconsin Training Ride to structure my work outs. These DVDs last three hours each and don't require any special equipment other than a laptop or TV/DVD. Coach Troy Jacobson provides gear advice, a countdown clock and motivating commentary throughout as we watch him pedal his way through these two Ironman bike courses. It's even possible to turn off the music track to listen to tunes of your own choosing. The Spinervals "Hardcore 100" is my DVD of choice for 6 hour "century" rides. Streaming films through Netflix works pretty well, too, but you need to be mindful of mixing the gears up a bit and not just spinning aimlessly.

In the northeast, it's virtually impossible for a person with a full-time job to get in enough base miles without some serious indoor work. This season, I've been trying to fit in both a long mid-week ride of 3+ hours and a long weekend ride of 4-6+ hours in addition to a few shorter 1-2 hour interval sessions each week. If weather permits, as it did today, I may be able to replace a shorter session with a commute to work. sent out a special indoor cycling issue this week. One author compared indoor riding (or the "Tour de Rec Room" as he put it) to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief. You know, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately acceptance. You can view that here if you do not already receive these free weekly updates. This is the second year I'm participating in this five month UMCA Indoor Challenge.  The mileage competition is free and open to all UMCA members. I'm shooting for a top 10 finish this year.

In ultra cycling it's important to push through pain, discomfort and boredom. Why should winter training be any different? I'm surprised by how many randonneurs scoff at indoor riding. If you have a hard time imagining being on the trainer for more that an hour, find a good video, crank some great tunes and give it another try.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stupid Household Accidents: Bus 1, George 0

Yesterday, my training was sidelined by a bus. Luckily, I wasn't cycling at the time. In fact, I wasn't even hit by the bus in question. OK, here's the story: yesterday as I was getting off a school bus at the end of a trip with a group of students to a local ice skating rink, I slipped down three wet, slick steps and found myself lying face up on the sidewalk. In a hurry to get a pair of forgotten winter gloves to a student, I didn't grab hold of the hand railing and went flying.

So rather than pound out an indoor century this morning, I spent time in bed icing my back and hoping for a speedy recovery. After last year's odd herniated disc trouble which took quite a few months of chiropractic and stretching to heal, I'm not taking any chances. I landed on muscle rather than bone, so it should be back to normal pretty soon. The ability to push through injury and pain is often an asset to an endurance cyclist. Determining when to stop, when to pull back, and when to keep going is not so easy. How much pain is too much? When does inconvenience turn to danger? As a result of this uncertainty, cyclists can find themselves in trouble as accute injuries left untreated become chronic ones. Luckily, I don't suffer from chronic physical problems. I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible.

All of this reminds me how lucky I am to be healthy and free from injury. Cycling is inherently dangerous and for the endurance crowd I belong to, it's easy to throw care to the wind and assume everything will work out just fine in the end. I plan to spend most of my base training hours indoors this winter. With temperatures below freezing most of the time and with dark and icy roads a common phenomenon, I'll save my risk-taking for the spring and summer months. For now, I'll wait until things heal a bit before hitting the trainer some time next week.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking forward: Goals 2010

Today is that magical day when time seems to stand still. Day One, 2010; a time to look forward and not back. I have found (both in my own life and in my work with teachers and students) that we are most likely to reach goals that are specific and concrete. I’m done with goals of the “this-year-I’m-going-to-be-a-better-person” variety.

In 2010, my top four goals are to:

  1. Ride a full SR series (Princeton 200, Saratoga 300, Boston 400, Westfield 600). The dates are already on the calendar, having been carefully chosen to avoid work and family conflicts. These rides will help me train for PBP in 2011 as well as provide me with results to qualify for early PBP registration.
  2. Achieve a top-10 finish in Quadzilla: a 400-mile odyssey through the Finger Lakes region of New York State. While not technically a race, this ultra event with an advertised 28,000 feet of climbing promises to draw a large field of strong ultra riders.
  3. Achieve the Cyclos Montagnards' “R60” designation. The R60 is awarded to cyclists who complete a full ACP SR series within 60% of the maximum time allowance. Business guru Jim Coillins urges organizations and leaders to develop “big hairy audacious goals” (BHAGs). These are outrageous, seemingly impossible goals that will set a standard for excellence. The R60 is my BHAG. The CM also acknowledge R70 and R80 performance. Details can be found on the CM website.
  4. Achieve a podium finish in the Saratoga: 12-hour race to avenge my fourth place finish in 2009.
In addition, I plan to:
  • Be one of the top 10 riders in the 2010 UMCA Indoor challenge.
  • Log at least 4000 miles in the UMCA Year-Rounder competition.
  • Take yoga on a weekly basis to build core strength and encourage healthy alignment.
  • Utilize my new GPS effectively for mapping, downloading routes and riding in events.
  • Map and submit two additional Hudson Valley permanent routes to RUSA.
  • Save $ for PBP 2011.
While simply enjoying a safe and healthy season of riding is reward in itself, these goals will give shape and form to my year.