Friday December 24th, Maija and I drove out to Golden where we rode up Lookout Mountain together. Maija wanted to use the 4+ mile climb as a field test to gauge her power and bicycle fitness. I rode along for the pure fun and to get in a somewhat dignified workout myself. After the bike build and being fit by George Mullen, I was still a little finicky with my overall body placement on the bike and from the start of the ride in downtown golden I was using a #4 hex key to play with my saddle and seat post position. Once we crossed the main road where the actual climb begins, I told Maija to go ahead as I would catch up after spending more useless time with the bicycle position. Bicycle position itself is equivocal, with the understanding each person can simply ride various positions on a bicycle. While power meters and spin-scan-cycles have given us support in finding ones riding position weaknesses it cannot substitute overall ride comfort. Over the past 2 and 1/2 years of racing I have put myself into many different positions on the bicycle with a few main conclusions.
#1 – Bicycle position can look good but if it doesn’t feel good it’s useless.
#2 – I like a high seat post position.
#3 – As with medical doctors, it’s can always be useful to obtain a secondary fit opinion.
A couple more minutes and I am cranking my way up Lookout mountain, chasing Maija down. The climb starts off with a 3-4% gradient so there is no time for a warm-up. With only a solid week of training behind me my breathing is lethargic and labored. Still, since it’s only 10 minutes into the ride my legs respond with great power. Just a week before I was barely hanging on to a team ride in Boulder as Philip Mooney sat on the front and drove the pace the majority of the time for 3-4 hours. I was totally spent at the end of that ride. At the same time, with only one week of solid training on my legs I couldn’t expect to feel like my CAT2 self.
Up and up I went. After about 1.5 miles I could make out Maija in the distance. She looked back a few times to see if I was catching. Once caught, she looked strong on the bike so I told her I was going ahead for a while. I caught one rider and then another. Funny thing was even though I was catching others, Maija was catching up to me! She was having a great day on the bike and for a girl who was riding her TT bike I was thoroughly impressed! Now if only I can get her into competitive bicycle racing 😉 I decided to ride with her the rest of the way up. Aside from a small patch of slick ice, the road to the top was sunny and dry. We rode past the actual finish of the climb to the Boettcher Mansion where we stopped to put on our wind jackets for the descent. I am gaining more confidence in my descending skills with each mountain ride. I’m learning how to drive the bicycle into switchbacks with more speed and precision. Ironically, the faster I take a turn with the bicycle the more smooth each switchback feels. Still, I am a novice when it comes to descending. A couple caught me and followed my every move the rest of the way down. I couldn’t shake them! Once back to the car we threw on some regular clothes, grabbed some Starbucks, and made our way to Wheatridge where we picked up some Italian Rainbow cookies from an actual Italian bakery. It’s definitely one part of the NY Metro area I miss. Real authentic Italian bakeries.
Boettcher Mansion on top of Lookout Mountain
Christmas was fun. Especially for a Jew from New York. Since it was our first Christmas together Maija and I decided on creating our own traditions for the holiday festivities. Christmas eve we opened presents with the pups. It was fun and gave way to the overnight anxiety placed on ones self. Having to wait until Christmas morning to open presents can be tough on one’s mind!
Frito Christmas morning getting his daily suntan.
For the holiday’s Maija bought me the weekend subscription to the NY Times. This was definitely the best gift! I can’t tell you how nice it is to have breakfast morning conversations over interesting articles, sided with the nice cup of coffee. Print newspaper will always remain a significant part of my intellectual being. To this day holding, reading, and discussing newsworthy articles from print will continue to be a realistic media outlet while computer screen information prevails as the culprit!
Fast forwarding to Christmas morning Maija was busy at the stove making Riisipuuro which is a Finish dish her mother makes back in Michigan. Since our visit to Michigan, and before making the move out west I was introduced to an amazing Finish bread called Pulla. It’s texture is soft but does not have the boggy feel some other European breads give off. Topped with a sizable amount of almonds and powdered sugar and it’s one tasty treat! We ended up not making Pulla this holiday season because of some ingredient issues and attempts to make gluten free Pulla is not an easy feat!
Maija made a great Christmas morning breakfast!
The bowls are waiting to be filled with Riisipuuro!
Flowers from me to my love 🙂
Gifts waiting to be opened Christmas Eve.
The Road Ahead 2011
Deer Creek Canyon Road is an amazing climb I can ride from my house. If ridden from my house to the start of the parking area it’s a good 25 minute warmup through Chatfield State Park. The overall distance of the climb varies depending on where you start. It’s definitely one of the more popular climbs in the area as it summits somewhere over 8,000ft. I’ve done this ride about a dozen times now and have almost memorized every twist, turn, and switchback on the way to the summit. Traffic can be light to moderate depending on the time of day. Most of the way up there is a sizable shoulder and drivers do give you enough room when passing (mostly). The popular place to start is a small parking area right off the main road (Wadsworth Blvd..) If starting from the parking area it’s about 13-14 miles to the top. Once at the top you can explore more towns such as Conifer and Evergreen. I haven’t done much riding past the summit but I definitely plan to this coming spring.
The first five kilometers of the climb are somewhat easy. You are gaining altitude but the road gradient is rather undemanding. If rode easy you wouldn’t even realize you were climbing if acclimated to the altitude. Another kilometer or two and you will see a turnoff to the left with a road that leads to Deer Creek Canyon Park. This is where Maija and I have taken the dogs on some nice hikes during my month off the bike. As you keep on the same road it then begins to climb with around 3-5 switchbacks all with moderate gradients. Once past the switchbacks you can either continue on the same road which will climb for another 15-20 minutes or you can turn left and proceed to High Grade Road which will bring you to the summit. If you make a left turn you will pass the house Maija and I were thinking of renting. The house remains vacant and I become nostalgic whenever I ride past it. Now, once you have made the left it’s 2.1 miles of straightforward climbing with no gradient peaks over 5%. The next part is where it gets hard. The road then kicks up into a whirlwind of switchbacks with hits over 12%. It’s hard, and with a headwind almost seems impossible. After this climbing section it’s another 2-3 miles to reach the top. A few more switchbacks and climbing straights and you are there. Overall riding elevation gain is about 3,000ft.
Now to the Deer Creek Story….
The other day I decided to climb High Grade as I’ve done plenty of times before. There were a few dozen cyclists out on the road with temps in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. Once I reached the first few switchbacks I realized there were not many riders willing to travel through the icy patches on the road. Honestly, only a stretch of 1-2 miles is a bit dangerous and then the sun is in full effect the rest of the way up. A couple of times I had to get off my bike and pull to the side of the road to let cars pass. The entire shoulder was covered with snow and ice. I was not about to play games with passing cars. Most drivers gave me a “Thank You Wave” when passing and I did not mind letting them go ahead. I turned left to continue to High Grade road and the temperature started to drop considerably. I could see my breath and had to put my full fingered gloves back on. Usually when climbing I won’t wear gloves. Even in 40-50 degree weather. My hands sweat too much and the descent makes them unbearably cold. Although it was only my second accent up Deer Creek since my training resumed I felt a great sense of power and independence. When you can do a whole ride of just climbing you soon become aware of your senses. Energy spent on anything but climbing is energy wasted.
I plodded on, past the laborious switchback section with only the sounds of my breathing and the occasional wind gust, car passing, or the sound of an animal in the brush. At this point on the road there are no houses except the ones in the distance atop mountains. This is also the point in the ride where you make the decision to keep going or to turn around. A few times I haven’t felt all the best and turned the bike around faster than a rock falling from the mountainside. This time I kept going. I saw no other riders until I hit the cross section in the road where you can continue to High Grade or climb up the other road for 15-20 minutes. This is where the sun hides on the other side of the mountain and the icy road conditions reappear. I took my time going down this section like a CAT5 in his or her first road race. Certain points of the descent I unclipped one of my cycle shoes just incase I lost control. Nearing the end of the icy section a couple in matching cycle kits passed me like two Pro-Tour riders in the Tour de France. I let them go but kept them in my sights. Once the road flattened out I put in a long hard effort and caught them about 2-3 miles out from the parking area. Once caught, I passed them only to find them both latched onto my rear wheel like leaches I could not get rid of. I surged and rode with a fierce undertaking to drop them. Now with a kilometer to the parking area I sat up and started to ride easy and free spin. This is when I noticed the husband trying to pass me on the left. I suppose in some respects this was his way of showing me up. I was watching him the whole time out of the corner of my eye and could sense he was coming around with a little too much effort and not enough control. In a split second he took one hand off the top of his handlebars to point out something on the road to his wife and lost complete control of his cycle. He skidded right coming close to knocking me off, then skidded left and fell right onto the pavement. I braked hard to circled round to see if he was alright. He was in pretty bad shape. The man hit the ground with a lot of force at 30+ mph. He couldn’t move the whole right side of his body and an ambulance needed to be called. By the time the police and ambulance arrived there we a few cars parked on the side of the road and around about 15-20 cyclists. Many were under the assumption he was hit by a car. This thought probably brought about the not so distance memory of a cyclist who was nailed by a hit-and-run driver in Vail, CO. While this man was not hit by a car and his crash resulted from his own error, it still gives you a cold chill down your spin on how dangerous riding a bicycle can actually be. After the man was taken into the ambulance I rode back to my car and tried to relax from a tough day on the bike.
High Grade Road
A view from the difficult switchback section 7,500 ft in the sky.
Other subjects for the New Year include getting my USA Cycling Coaching Certification so I can start to coach other riders. After past affairs with coaches and friends in terms of training regimens, ideals, and programs, I have realized how important communication between athlete and coach is. I believe my background in endurance sports (running 10 years, cycling 2 1/2) have given me the ability to understand ones body and what it takes to achieve goals. Whether your goals are recreational, competitive, intrinsic, or extrinsic, there are always ways to improve ones self. In the past year I have research and implemented different training routines into my riding to understand some of the basic fundamentals of competitive racing. This has been done by taking a uniformed approach to ones psychological mind, physiological body, personal goals, and my personal beliefs. Unfortunately I have seen a lot of popular coaches and coaching programs place too much emphasis on power and numbers and rather on race tactics and enjoyment. Racing on a bicycle is a continuous calculation of thoughts. Almost the same way a chess or poker game is played. Ones ability to interpret and feel out your competitors is just as important as the equipment you use on your cycle. I see a lot of lower category riders who worry too much about their FTP, Power, Lactic Threshold, Watts per Kg, and so forth. Sure, these scientific approaches are important but if you do not know when to hold em, fold em, walk away, or attack then all the analytical power data analyzation you do is useless. Coaches I have had in the past in both running and cycling have gotten me into the best shape of my life. No question about that. But the one missing ingredient I believe riders are missing from their coaches are the the basic race tactic fundamentals. Sure, practicality of racing ones bicycle in large quantities, will help you gain exposure and experience into the sport but at best it only helps one remain individually complacent. The best coaches are the ones who can get you in specific shape for races but with the notion of being able to study the specific race at hand and give vital race day guidance to success. I believe I can and will do this for the athletes I coach in the coming years. I have also realized that getting to the next level in endurance sports is not solely based on your race results. Many coaches tend to think that with results the contracts will come. This is simply not true. In today’s society as a competitive endurance athlete you have to market yourself in a specific manner so your sponsors will support your future undertakings. Also, if you do not mesh well with your fellow teammates then you will have trouble gaining exposure for yourself, team, and most importantly – sponsors. I believe I can point athletes in the best direction based on their personalities and specific race ambitions.
Happy New Year to my blog followers. I hope 2011 will bring success in various aspects of your life. Whether in sport, work, family, or relationships.
OLD DOGS CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS!