Thinking About Kicking Some Alpine Co. Roads’ or Trails’ Asses? Here’s a Quick Update

WELL it’s that time of year when many of us are waiting for things to clear snow-wise so we can get to training, whether on the bike or on foot.

SO, here’s a quick update!

Road Cycling

Carson Pass

I’VE warned you before but I’ll say it again: this pass is for the seasoned rider. The vehicle traffic is heavy, moves fast, and includes lots of hay trucks. Add to that the hairy, approximately five-mile section from Woodfords to Hope Valley and this ride will get your blood pumping (and not just from the climbing).

Still, it’s an iconic climb so I have to mention it.

Ebbett’s Pass

I talked to a rider in Markleeville last Sunday who had just come down from the pass. The gate was still closed at Raymond Meadow Creek (7000′) but he had, as well as many other riders, jumped the gate and went on up. The road was clear of snow and Caltrans was clearing debris and filling some holes. He mentioned that he talked to riders who had come up from the Bear Valley side and they said the same thing: the western side is almost ready, too.

I have it from a very reliable source that it should be open by the end of the week.

Luther Pass

LUTHER has not closed all winter (as is the usual unless it’s really nasty) and I’ve taken several trips over by car in the last few days.

THE road looks good and there is no snow.

Monitor Pass

BOTH the eastern side and the western side are open so no issues there. Go get you some!

Blue Lakes Road

AS of yesterday, Blue Lakes was open to the third gate so you can’t quite get to the actual lakes unless you jump the last two (2) gates. Not sure of the conditions past gate #3 so enter at your own risk (which is good advice ANYTIME you jump a gate). And you’re right, astute reader, Blue Lakes is not technically a pass but it’s a good climb (and a rip-roaring descent) for certain.

BE sure to have a back-up plan if you get a mechanical and extraction by vehicle is not an option!

Mountain Biking, Gravel Riding and Hiking

THERE are many, many trails here in Alpine County so I’m just going to mention three (3) of my favorites and let you do your homework if you wish to partake of any others. Check out AllTrails for some ideas.

Charity Valley Trail

IT’S a fantastic trail, best done IMHO from Blue Lakes Road DOWN to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Certainly for you hard core “gravelers” the up-direction is an option, but it’s some tough sledding so be sure to set your expectations properly and bring plenty of water and other necessary gear.

Thornburg Canyon Trail

ANOTHER trail that connects to Blue Lakes Road and as you might imagine, coming down is the easier option. It’s an approximately 14 mile out and back with 3600′ of climbing. I’ve not hiked nor biked the entire length of the trail but as you can see, it’s pretty. The above image was taken just a little ways from the Markleeville entrance. You can drive, walk or ride up Saw Mill Road to the trailhead.

THE Alpine Trails Association just met and we discussed the conditions of the trails. Suffice it to say there are still lots of downed branches and trees and other detritus on the trails, and likely still some winter ruts so be wary. The crews have begun work on getting the trails summer-ready but as far as I know we have not gotten to either Charity Valley nor Thornburg.

Wolf Creek Road

THE above photo of Wolf Creek Valley was taken in August of 2018, when it was a bit smoky here due to the wildfires that year, but I’ve heard the road is in pretty good shape and it is a great option for a gravel ride.

It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden the entire road but I do know that the first mile or so (from Hwy. 4) is paved, and then, as I recall, it’s about 5-6 miles of fire road from there over to the valley. There are some sections of rutted, boulder-strewn dirt so keep that in mind.

REMEMBER, activities such as these can be inherently dangerous (my lawyerly sub-conscience reminded me to tell you this) so take part in these adventures at your own risk.

Resources and Grinds

HERE’s a link to the Alpine Co. Road Dept. where you can get more info. on county road conditions here.

AS far as local highways…Caltrans District 10’s Twitter feed is a great resource for up-to-date info. and I’ve found that its QuickMap page (and associated app.) is pretty reliable too.

BEER? The Cutthroat Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week and you can partake of delictable eats like the Deathride Pizza.

THE J. Markee Toll Station is another wonderful option with a nice lawn where you can spread out and do some people watching. Don’t let the “hole-in-the-wall” appearance fool you; Sandy (chef and owner) and her son Tanner are excellent hosts. We were just there last weekend and and the food and service was awesome!

LAST, but certainly not least, is the Out West Cafe. This place is only open for breakfast and lunch but Joey (chef/owner) always has some unique dishes and his wife bakes the most amazing cheesecakes.

WE’RE still masking up here when appropriate but with so many outdoor options it shouldn’t be too challenging to follow those best practices.

LET me know if you’re coming to town. Perhaps we can get a ride or hike in!

OH and by the way…if you’d like to check out some of these climbs (and other local rides, including some Tahoe rides) from the pleasure of your pain-cave then check us out on FulGaz. Just login and search “Schwartz.”

Rest – What a Concept!

ADMITTEDLY it’s been recently forced upon me – rest that is, but nonetheless it appears to be what I needed.

FOR various reasons, since last Saturday’s hike with fellow members of the Alpine Trail’s Association (ATA), I haven’t done any riding, or any strenuous activities for that matter.

SPEAKING of the ATA…Saturday, June 12th is the ATA’s Curtz Lake Trail Day event.

We’d love to see you there!

That Was My Quick Plug. Now Let’s Get Back To Rest

AS I was saying…er, writing, I’ve gotten three (3) full-on rest days since that walkabout (we were doing some fascinating recon – finding missing sections of an old YCC trail) near the Markleeville Airport, and that itself was somewhat restful. We did three (3) miles in the same amount of hours. A nice pace indeed and a nice break from “the usze.” Youze? Yooz?

WELL since then, and as I alluded to earlier, due to work, life, and such, I haven’t been able to put in any serious athletically-oriented time. The benefit? Real rest. And, real recovery.

NOW I realize that this isn’t the best way to gain fitness. On the contrary, my fitness, and the corresponding “scores” are declining. Not for long. But that’s not my point. My point is that I’m REALLY seeing the impact long-term rest is having on my performance. In my mind it’s validating that focus on rest and sleep is as important as focus on HIIT, TTs, endurance and tempo. See this earlier post for more on that if you’re so inclined.

HRV up.

RHR down.

THAT’S the long and short of this little missive.

I don’t share this data out of hubris, no; it’s just that since I’ve been in denial for most of the weekend-warrior part of my life I figured that you too might not be as steeped in those sleep and rest habits as you could be either.

KNOWING these little details has helped me better understand how my body reacts to stress, both chronic and acute, and so I can more easily know when things are off and more importantly, when things are on.

MY genuine desire is that what I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, will help you in some way.

I’d love to know either way so do comment on this post, will ya?

IN the meantime let’s all relax, have a cerveza, and get ready for the Deathride!

FINGERS-CROSSED, my new, more restful outlook will help come July.

REST ON!

It’s a Deathride Resurgence – Really!

LIKE just about every other bike event, race, fondo, you name it, the DR didn’t happen last year.

THIS year, though? That’s a different story.

The Ride is a Go!

AND we’re so excited! Not only is it going to happen, it’s going to happen on a NEW COURSE!

This new course will take you to new heights, including Pacific Grade (x2)!

FOR those of us who may be “metrically-challenged” that’s 103.17 miles, so yeah it’s a bit shorter than previous years, but it will be no less challenging. Oh, and the climbing…over 14,000 feet!

Some More West Slope

Okay, technically, you’re right, we’ve gone there before as Hermit Valley is on the western side of the Sierra Crest. This time, though, we’re going a bit farther – almost to Lake Alpine, and the course will be closed to vehicles all the way down (and up). And no, that’s not just for the “Ebbett’s climbs” in case you’re wondering. Highway 89 will be closed to vehicles on both sides of Monitor pass, too (as usual).

No more Carson but no less challenging…

Some Changes to the Timing

RIDERS will not be able to start before 5:30 a.m., and there will be cut-off times.

Starting and finishing at Turtle Rock Park in Markleeville, Calif., the 103 mile course begins at 5:30 am…”

FOR several reasons, most related to safety, some due to logistics, riders who in the past (including yours truly) started a bit earlier (3:30 a.m. had been my start time) won’t be able to do so this year.

“Road closures will be in effect from 5am – 4pm. The 13-hour time limit ends at 6:30 pm, and all riders must be off the course by 7:00 pm. All cut-off times are strictly enforced. Segment cut-off times indicate the latest time that a rider will be allowed to begin each segment. Riders attempting to begin a segment after the cut-off time will not be allowed to proceed.”

WE’VE got a renewed emphasis on safety, one reason Carson Pass is no longer part of the course, and so as you’ve just read there will be segment cut-off times. Course marshals will be uber-sensitive to prudent pedaling and will let you know if you’re pushing the perimeter of that proverbial pouch. What can I say? I love alliteration. 😉

The participant’s jersey…
You can get the coveted finisher’s jersey (red on the collar and sleeves and “finisher” instead of “resurgence”) if you complete the entire ride!

Some Additional Data

  • OUR permit does allow for up to 3500 riders but right now we’ve got registrations capped at 2500 so we can keep things more manageable.
  • WE’VE got almost 1600 riders registered so far. If you haven’t registered yet, better do it now!
  • WE’RE working with several groups and are planning on putting on a MTB related event for folks (e.g. spouses, partners, kids) who are not riding on Saturday.
  • THE finish-line festival will include that sought-after ice cream, a vendors and sponsors expo., a Deathride store, some music (DJ provided), a finish-line arch/photo opp., and the finisher poster that finishers can sign.
  • AS for food, that’s still in the planning stages but we do have some local restaurants in mind for catering.
  • BEER? It’s all about the beer, right? That’s why I ride, anyway. Sierra Nevada and the Alpine Co. Fire Safe Council will be on hand to serve those suds!
  • NOT yet solidified but in the works nonetheless: a massage therapist and a face-painter for the kids (both large and small).

HERE’S a link to the Deathride page where you can get more information, and register, if you haven’t already.

BE sure to make hotel or camping reservations FAST as things are already filling up.

HEADS up! It’s likely that Indian Creek Campground WILL NOT be available this year as the BLM is doing a lot of work out there that will likely go through the entire summer.

WE’RE so looking forward to welcoming you to Alpine County!

TRAIN well and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! this summer.

SEE you in July!

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

Riding Less but Getting Stronger – How’s That?

THE short answer is that I’m getting more rest and better sleep. I’m listening – to my body and to my gadgets.

GADGET may not be the best descriptor I initially thought but upon looking up the definition (a small mechanical or electronic device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one) I realize it is apropos.

THOSE gadgets to which I refer, and about which I recently blogged, include my Garmin Fenix 6x and my Whoop strap.

LISTENING

THIS morning I had planned on getting in a fairly hard training session before work. However, my tech was suggesting otherwise. And after a month of wearing said strap and “comparing notes” with the Fenix, as hard as it was, I decided to listen.

I need more rest and frankly I find that part of training to be the most difficult. It’s easier to just ride.

OUR cat Ditty (nothing knows how to rest and relax better than a feline, right?) consistently shows us how to get it done so I figured I’d follow her example, and actually pay attention to what my devices, and more importantly my body, were telling me.

THE Fenix’s display indicated that I need 31 additional hours of recovery and that my recovery was delayed by poor sleep. Indeed, I was up late, celebrating my wife’s birthday and so was not able to get my usual Zs.

WHOOP’s recovery screen advised that I was only 18% recovered – my resting heart rate (RHR) was up and my heart rate variability (HRV) was “33.1% below its typical range, indicating that your body is not fully recovered.”

IT seems counterintuitive, at least to me, but since I’ve been focusing more on rest and sleep and mixing up my harder workouts with walks, runs, Kenpo workouts, easy e-MTB rides, and long endurance rides, I’ve been getting stronger.

GO figure! Putting in fewer hours (and miles) on the bike yet getting stronger…And, having more fun in the process.

ON April 1st I was following my new guidelines and I jumped on Zwift for an easy 45 minute spin. It took me a minute to realize what was going on (that’s my avatar with the yellow wheels) but rather than stress about not having my “real bike” (one rider chatted “this isn’t funny anymore Zwift, give me my bike back”) I just enjoyed the ride and the memories that came flooding back. I had one of those Big Wheels when I was a kid, you know?

I was smiling and giggling almost the entire session; in the past I would have whined about it.

PERFORMING

THE reason I’m still in need of more recovery is three-fold.

  • An intense HIIT workout last Friday
  • An endurance ride on Saturday
  • A virtual climb (focused on a new personal best – which I attained) on the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent on FulGaz on Monday.

FOR the HIIT workout I went with rocket drills. My workout consisted of six (6) sprints, two (2) minutes each at full throttle, from a standing start, up a small hill on Hot Springs Road. The rest interval was five (5) minutes, by the way, and I did that by doing a bit of easy spinning farther up the hill as well as back down to the starting point.

ON sprint #5 I hit almost 900 watts – the highest I’ve ever done on the road and it was the penultimate interval!

SPRINT #6, however, was almost a hurl-fest. Thankfully, though, no technicolor yawn.

SUNDAY, after Saturday’s approximately 90-minute endurance ride, I joined the wife for a short and easy ride on our e-MTBs.

THAT set me up for Monday, where I was able to set a personal best on the entire climb, as well as one of the segments, and hold a heart rate of 159 bpm for 60 minutes (per Trainingpeaks), a 2021 best.

RESTING and SLEEPING

AND so it was that I scheduled yesterday as a rest day and joined the wife again on our e-MTBs, this time for an easy ride up to Grover Hot Springs State Park, where my wife got her first taste of gravel on her new Rail.

AS for sleep, that’s where WHOOP is really helping. Now that I’ve been religiously wearing the strap for over a month I’m finding that what I like most is the focus it provides regarding sleep. From the after-action report in the morning, to the alerts the night before, it is teaching me (and it’s validated in my performance results) that sleep is just as important to training as the actual workouts.

WHEN I pay attention to the feedback it provides, as well as the input from the Fenix and Trainingpeaks, I perform better.

WHEN I don’t, I don’t.

AND so while I find myself champing at the bit to ride, or do something else hardcore today, I’m not going to do that.

I’M going to heed the warnings and try to be more like my cat. And in the process I know I’m going to get even sturdier on my steed.

THE Deathride is just over three (3) months away after all and it’s going to be a doozy.

HAPPY hump day! I hope you too are conquering some of those training humps and as always your comments are most welcome.

It’s Another Springtime Thang Here in Markleeville

WE’VE been in denial here at California Alps Cycling HQ, aka Chalet Schwartz. Well, at least we were. Not anymore, though. Reality has set in and so has spring!

WHILE we had hoped for a miracle March, unfortunately we had no such luck, and so we’ll just have to accept the fact that spring has come to the California Alps (and elsewhere). It’s a tough thing, enduring spring here in the heart of the Sierra but we’ll just have to persevere.

The Birds are Back in Town!

IT all starting hitting home, so to speak, last Thursday evening as our local coyote – we named it Wiley of course – made its way along Hot Springs Creek and our meadow, without having to trudge through the ice and snow that recently finished its ritual thaw.

FRIDAY brought in our resident pair of California quail and on the same day we saw the chickens. No, not wild chickens. They belong to our neighbors (Linda & Gordy) just west of us and they let the girls out to scratch around the meadow. It seems though that they’re doing it just a bit more gleefully than usual.

THAT same day, the hummers showed up. Anna’s first, as is the norm, but soon the Rufous’ and Calliopes will be here.

THE Mallards too, have arrived. Mrs. Mallard is just out of the frame as Drake Mallard stands guard.

ROBINS, crows and Steller’s jays are all gathering nesting material and the chipmunks and ground squirrels have recently come out of hibernation, too. No bears yet but I’m sure that will change soon enough. And, we’ve got flickers, turkeys, herons, vultures and dippers as well!

YUP, in case you didn’t know before, you do now. This is a great place to do a bit of birding.

Ahh, Riding With Less Layering

MY gravel bike ride up Hwy. 4 (towards Monitor Pass) to, and a bit up Leviathan Mine Road on Sunday was glorious! There were a few other riders taking advantage of the closed road, too. I did have a chance to connect with one rider who had just come down from the pass. Clear all the way to the top, he said.

Whispy clouds over the Carson-Iceberg, and Hwy. 89, as seen from just above Heenan Lake.

THE gate will soon be open (saw those gigantic snow blowers on the side of the road Sunday) and then it’s just a matter of time before Ebbetts (and other Sierra passes) opens too.

YESTERDAY I partook of my second gravel ride of the spring season – a short but sweet trip up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park.

AS you can see, the sky was as blue as my jersey and both Roscoe and I were very happy to be gravelin’.

Can You Say Fishing?

FISHMAS starts April 24th but that hasn’t prevented people from fishing now. The river is a bit chocolately (another sign of spring) but it should soon be its clear, cool, self. Click here for a few more particulars courtesy of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

ALPINE county will soon be opening up to the public I’ve heard and we’re all excited to welcome you!

SOCIAL distancing and masking is still required inside our businesses but it’s pretty easy to deal with when outside, and there’s lots of outside here in Alpine Co.

OOPS, I almost forgot to mention the spring wildflowers that will soon be popping. Don’t miss that either!

BE safe, stay healthy, travel respectfully, and we hope to see you soon.

Searching for Other Passions – Thanks to My Prostate

I’M one of the lucky (NOT!) men over 50 with BPH. While I won’t go into too many gorey details here, suffice it to say that it has had, and continues to have, a major impact on my life, especially my cycling life.

BPH and Me

ONE of the worst side effects of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia for me has been somewhat regular bouts of urinary tract infections and prostatitis. Yes, men can get UTIs! BPH makes it difficult for sufferers to completely void their bladders thereby allowing that pool of bacteria to brew nicely (at least as far as the bacteria are concerned), which can lead to UTIs.

FOR those that have had a UTI you know it is not pleasant and can be a bit scary.

AND so it was that I found myself, ironically, suffering yet again (4 in 6 years) with a UTI the day after I had a cystocopy to see what was really going in with the bladder, prostate and urethra. The fun started on March 9th and went on for over a week. On top of the fever, headache and general feeling of shitiness (pardon the lingo but it works here) let’s just say that things aren’t happy in the region of the taint, and so sitting on a bicycle seat, or any seat for that matter, isn’t very comfortable.

NOW it wasn’t my intent to provide so many particulars here; this is after all a blog about cycling, not men’s anatomy.

BUT I wanted to put things into context and hopefully I’ve set that stage without being “too medical.”

Some History

I’VE ridden bikes my entire life, and it has been one of my most fervent passions, and so I found myself having the “could cycling cause or exacerbate the problem” conversation with myself, my family and my friends. Again. Oh yes, I’ve had that convo. with my doctor and done some research too and what I’ve found is that there is a correlation but not necessarily a cause and effect.

NONETHELESS, this most recent challenge forced me to ask myself What if? What if I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, ride any more? I’ve been in denial in that regard for quite some time yet this time things were different. My cycling friends were, and always have been so supportive, whether that meant hanging out while I took one of my many breaks while riding, or providing shoulders to whine on. This time was no different.

Interestingly though, I ended up having a heart-to-heart with my new boss (whom I’ve known for years and coincidentally was my boss at a previous gig) who is also a martial artist (Tai Chi). We have a unique connection in that regard as I am also a martial artist (Kenpo Karate) and have been for over 40 years. He too has been extremely supportive, especially in light of the fact that this latest bout occured during the second week of my new job.

Enjoying Independence Day in Bridgeport during its 2019 4th of July parade. That’s my wife, Pat, my FAVORITE passion.

‘TWAS he that pointed out that I do have other passions. Kenpo being one. Hiking another and fishing yet another. Like you I suspect. Riding bikes has almost always been my go-to. It’s my happy place I told myself. The place where that monkey brain stops yakking at me for awhile. But you know what? It’s not my only happy place and in some strange way I’m now content with that. Okay, maybe content is the wrong word. Accepting, perhaps? Resigned, maybe?

GIVING up cycling? Not yet and hopefully never. Open to that possibility, though? Yes. Finding and reveling in my other passions? Definitely!

Lessons Learned

AND that’s the moral to my story. Since I’ve recovered from this latest adventure I’ve found myself riding less. Not a whole lot less admittedly, but less.

Yours truly at the mouth of Thornburg Canyon. The canyon/meadow and mountains in the background.

MORE significant though is the fact that I’ve realized that cycling has not made me what I am. I’ve discovered that I can do other things that excite me. In the past two (2) weeks or so I’ve done some hiking. Last week I took advantage of the amazing weather we had here in the California Alps (wish we had more snow but…) and practiced my katas (aka forms) in the meadow behind my house. And yesterday, gasp, I went for a run! Well, walk and jog more like it but I did get in one entire mile for one of the intervals and I did it in under ten (10) minutes! Pretty good for a large and in charge non-regular runner if I do say so myself.

MY legs are sore, but in a different way. Cool!

I’VE forgotten some of what I learned at the dojo (I attained the rank of Saisho Kuroi, Juichi-Kyu, Black Belt, in 1999, but haven’t been in a dojo since the early 2000’s) and so ordered a few books on Kenpo in order to re-learn some of the things I have forgotten.

Reading some of Master Ed Parker’s Encyclopedia of Kenpo last night got me passionate about practicing more and during that quick walk/jog yesterday I had an epiphany!

YES there can be other passions in life besides cycling, or mountain biking, or gravel riding. I just have to get out of my own way (thank you, Sensei), re-discover some, and be more cogizant of others. Some of those others include doing good deeds in and for my community, this blog, and my new job, which is awesome! And yes, Mr. Prostate deserves some of the credit for me looking at things in a new light. I thank you for that Mr. P!

AND I thank you for reading, and for letting me cry on your shoulder a bit. I hope I wasn’t too much of a downer.

MOST importantly, I hope my story was helpful to you, or someone you know, in some way.

RIDE on! Or run, or walk, or hike, or do whatever floats your boat; and if you have any suggestions for me, or other readers, we’re all ears.

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your body’s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Your Gut and How It Relates to Your Performance – Part One

LET’S face it. We’ve all had gut issues at some point or another while on the bike. I know I certainly have. I’ve also dealt with cramping too, although thankfully not as much as other riders I know.

NOW I’m no expert on the gut, not by any means, but thankfully they’re out there and my recent foray into the world of digestion and nutrition has been via the book “The Athlete’s Gut – The inside science of digestion, nutrition and stomach distress” by Patrick Wilson, PHD, RD.

ADMITTEDLY I just started reading it. I’m about fifty pages in, on chapter two (2), but I’ve already picked up a few nuggets and wanted to share them with you right away because in my mind they are surprising.

What is the Gut?

THE gut (aka the alimentary canal), an approximately 30-foot long system, starts at the nasal cavity, includes the mouth and the salivary glands; and as it heads “south” includes the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and finally, the anus.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each piece of anatomy but Dr. Wilson does so if you want those details order the book or do a bit of googling.

On a side note and and speaking of the gut…The photo of me at the top of this post is from 2013. I weighed more than 300 pounds then and as you can see definitely had a nice (er…large) belly.

The Small Intestine

THE small intestine is really where the magic happens! It is the longest portion of the gut and as you likely know, in order to fit all of it into your stomach cavity, it does a bit of coiling. Typically that sucker is about four (4) to eight (8) yards long and “that’s about the same length as a female green anaconda snake!” Not sure why Dr. Wilson goes with that particular reptile but it’s his book so I guess he’s entitled.

A bit more anatomy here…The small intestine is made up of three (3) segments and they are the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Okay, I’ve heard some of those terms over the years on various medical TV shows but didn’t really have a clue they were part of the small bowel.

“In addition to serving as a location for digestion, your small intestine is the alimentary canal’s most important site of absorption.”

What? It’s not the stomach? I always thought it was the place where that takes place.

Nope, it’s that little bowel!

Osmosis

REMEMBER that word, and those experiments from science class? Here’s a quick refresher:

“OSMOSIS is movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane.” – Merriam-Webster

PER Dr. Wilson: “The bulk of water absorption–perhaps up to 80%–takes place in our small intestine and occurs via osmosis. Ah, there it is!

WHY should we care? What’s the practical application for cyclists (really all athletes for that matter)?

WHEN you down a beverage full of carbs or electrolytes osmosis will move water from your blood into your small intestine lumen, which is exactly WHAT WE DON’T WANT when we’re working out!

SO, on days when you want to optimize the SPEED at which fluids are absorbed, don’t go hypertonic (where osmolality is higher than your blood plasma – apple juice and pickle juice are two examples) as these beverage types delay water absorption.

That’s All…For Now

THIS is only part one after all.

I’M definitely no scientist but for those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time now you know that I am into science. Especially this kind of science!

A better understanding of how things work internally leads to a better athlete and a more healthy individual over all.

STAY tuned for more on this fascinating and oh so important aspect of just how that gut affects our performance. Like I wrote earlier, I’m just getting started so I know there’s much more to learn, and therefore share with you.

RIDE on, stay safe and healthy and instead of kicking our own asses (due to a lack of alimentary knowledge) “let’s kick some passes’ asses!”

Take Aways from the Training Plan

LAST Sunday I finished up the Trainingpeaks 4-week FTP-Focus 2021 plan. On one hand I’m happy it’s over but on the other I’m going to miss the structure of just doing what the coach (Paul Ozier – Peaks Coaching Group) tells me to do.

AND so the challenge: how to keep the vibe going! I’ve been pondering that for awhile now; this after I just rode (on Zwift) Tuesday. Per the coach’s recommendation this is to be a week of just riding the bike. It was nice and I felt strong.

LUCKY me…I am finally employed (I started March 1st)!

However, that puts a serious damper on this former professional cyclist (dripping sarcasm here), so named by my brother from another mother, Scott Keno. I’m likely not going to be able to keep up the pace but maybe, just maybe, I can come close. The plan was designed for weekend warriors. I’ll just have to re-think how, when and where I’m going to execute it, right?

AND perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to lose the gains that the workouts brought my way.

What Improved

I hit one power PR on the last day, the FTP test, and some twos and threes, too.

  • I can produce more power at a higher cadence. The plan focused a bit on this since in a sprint it’s necessary to keep up the power while that cadence goes up – especially if you’re smoking and on your lowest gear.
  • I can breathe more efficiently (fewer breaths) at threshold (and everywhere else, really).
  • I can keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm) for longer and much more easily. A lot less rocking.
  • MY overall fitness improved. I was productive more consistently.

What Didn’t

  • MY FTP (290 or 287 – 2.87 or 2.90 w/kg depending whether I listen to Zwift or Garmin) went nowhere. I was surpised by this but am going to hold out on final judgment until I get the WKO files to the coach. My last test was in November (should have done a more current one, doh!) and I followed that test to the letter. I should mention that I am rather large for a cyclist (220 lbs – 100 kg exactly) so certainly dropping some lbs would help and I’ve been working on that: at the start of 2014 I weighed 307 pounds!
  • FOR this test, the coach had me go ALL OUT on the five (5) minute Vo2 max interval that was just before that ten (10) minute rest which was just before the twenty minute test. 🙂 That had to have made a difference (fingers crossed), right?

What Was The Most Challenging?

  • That’s an easy one to answer: the endurance rides. They were hard to endure!
  • As I read in the spring issue of VeloNews this a.m.: “Many riders underestimate the value of long endurance days, which in my opinion are the MVP of training.” – Coach Julie Young, former U.S. national team member and founder of JulieYoungTraining.com.
  • Those long days in the saddle at fairly low watts (205-ish for me) are interesting, especially the four (4) hour versions. It takes some focus to not let loose the hounds.

What Was My Biggest Takeway?

I can see why having a coach makes athletes better. Paul was responsive and helpful when I had questions, and as I wrote earlier, it’s pretty groovy when all you need do is what the coach, and the plan, “tell you” to do.

THANKS coach!

I can’t wait to see what he has to say about my FTP test. In the meantime, now that I have a job, I’m thinking some more coaching is in my future.

Most importantly, I hope some of my take aways resonate with you, fellow rider.

Let me know, will ya?