Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Trainer Tips

Very few cyclists have anything nice to say about the trainer.

“They suck.”
“I refuse to ride them”
“They’re so boring.”

The criticisms are not oft creative or positive.

Here’s a new one: “Trainers are the fishy grey/brown meat sandwiched between the shiny skin and the blaze orange flesh of a salmon steak.
I don’t know if that makes a hair of sense, but I really like it.

First off, I profess, I’m no lover of the trainer, but I know it has a place and plays an important role.
If anything, I would say I have a mild admiration of the device, which can quickly turn to disdain if we spend too much time together.

Let’s start with a couple reasons not to ride a trainer:
  • You have no interest in becoming a faster/stronger cyclist.
  • You feel like you need a way to compensate when the weather doesn’t allow you to do long days in the saddle.
  • You are looking for a way to catch up on emotional TV dramas while getting a work out.
Basically: if you just love riding a bike and don’t really care whether you go faster next week, next month, or next year; if you care more about riding at one pace all day than crushing a climb or dominating a sprint; or if you just find yourself turning the pedals leisurely for an allotted period of time with no variation in effort while on a trainer - you’re doing it wrong.

The trainer is a tool. Used correctly, it can be very effective. Used incorrectly, and you are trying to push flat head screws into the wall with a phillips head driver, hence, it sucks, it’s boring, etc.

Here are a few tips:
  • Keep it short, although, not too short: 45-minutes to an hour for most people is fine for a trainer session.
  • Give it everything you’ve got: You have no excuse not to. You’re locked in place, the weather is controlled, there’s no external hazards (traffic, potholes, moose), and you only have to do it for a short while.
  • Experiment with a program and go for it: Intervals, one-leg drills, all out efforts, or strength training are good bets. Find ones you like and can replicate.
  • Watch something: It is boring, so watch a TV show or a movie. A word of advice, it can’t be too engaging. If you are doing intervals or hard efforts, and you’re giving it everything you’ve got, you’re going to miss stuff, or you may become so engaged you fall off your workout. I like watching ski movies that I’ve already seen, bike races, or movies/TV shows that I’m only mildly interested in.
  • Do it with a friend: better yet, make it social. In college, living with fellow members of the cycling team, the bikes were regularly set up in the living room throughout the winter. The team would frequently take over common spaces or lecture rooms to plug into a big screen and spin as a group too. Just accept that you may not be on the same workout plan, and conversations may be broken by heavy breathing and the loud whir of the spinning wheels.

Here are a few tips that can make it even more tolerable, but are not as critical as those above:
  • Use a trainer tire: Trainers eat up rubber, and they can make a ton of noise. Some tire manufactures make trainer-specific tires for road bikes. These are nothing more than a heavier tread less tires that spin a bit more quietly and will last quite a while, compared to a tire made for outdoor use. If spinning regularly, or using a bike that will not be going outside (say, because of a long winter) mounting a trainer tire is a good investment.­ I have a spare rear wheel (also a good investment for riders who put in a lot of miles), so that wheel is the designated trainer wheel, and sports a trainer tire. If you can’t afford an extra rear wheel, and don’t have a lengthy period of guaranteed indoor riding, or for mid-season trainer rides, a regular tire will still be fine, just remember that you are wearing it down. If you’re using a hardtail mountain bike in a trainer, get it a city slick.
  • Get a bike computer: Ever notice how treadmills and stationary bikes have big display screens with gads of info? It’s fun to look at right? Get a little bit of that for your trainer ride. Aside from some additional information and distraction, monitoring cadence and speed can really boost the value of the work out. If you’re into heart rate monitors, those could help too.

Lastly, some don’ts.
  • Don’t spin easy: With one caveat - the occasional recovery crutch - spinning easy is valueless. If you don’t find yourself breathing hard, you are wasting your time. You can figure out how hard you can/want to work out based on fitness and goals, but don’t just sit there and spin at a flat rate and then say you did a did not. Even if you can only push it hard twice in a half hour, that’s a start. Build up from there.
  • Don’t make it a crutch: This is more likely to be an issue for the fitness-obsessed bunch. Basically, if it’s nice out, go outside. The consistent delivery available on a trainer, and the ability to get a good work out at any hour in any weather in a short period of time, makes trainers a bit like a drug for some people. Don’t be that person. Riding bikes outdoors should always be more fun than riding a trainer. Likewise, don’t show up to an actual ride talking up your latest torture session and expect anyone to care or really be impressed, unless of course you drop everyone on every hill…then they may be intrigued. Most cyclists tend to keep what they do in the seclusion of their own homes to themselves, unless asked.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trifecta Perfecta

Snowbiking. Snowboarding. Nordic skiing.
These are the three things I do in the wintertime, and this weekend, they were all perfect.
Ideal conditions for these three activities at the same time is not necessarily a common occurrence: what makes one activity good doesn’t necessarily bode well for another.
Conditions were not mutually exclusive for the past few days though.
Cody and I started it off with a speedy rip on the trails of Lower Hillside on the bikes on Friday night.
As the fat-tire bikers like to brag, the trails are both more numerous, and often faster in the wintertime, and that is for sure right now.
It was all I could do to keep up with Cody as we hammered through the narrow winter single track favorites, and being a Friday evening, we saw very few others.
On Saturday, Cody, Aaron, and I rendezvoused with Lizzy at her ski chalet, and headed up the road.
We were apprehensive about what we would find, and had fairly low expectations.
The skies appeared to be thick and gray, though the forecast called for possible clearing.
We were more concerned with how the snow would have set up following the early week warm up 5 days prior. When we left the slopes the previous Sunday, snow quality could have best been described as “cream cheesy” down low, and wind effected up high. Temps had continued to climb on Monday, before cooling back off as the week progressed.
Since then, there had been a few light snowfall events, but nothing to write home about. I was fully expecting to find that the cream cheese would have become “crisp” with a melt crust, and higher up there would be wind crusts; all covered by a few inches of dust.
Instead, the snow down low transformed into a perfect consolidated powder, refreshed with a couple inches over top; and with no recent winds up high in the past week, there were several inches of fluffy snow now sitting atop a carvable base.
Better yet, we stayed above the clouds all day, yielding what was easily the second best conditions I’ve skied since the Thanksgiving weekend outings.
We recycled our skinner and lapped our chosen aspect until dusk.
Aaron on the way up.

Birthday girl high in the sky.

Moonrise/sunset above a rolling bank of fog.
Sunday, light snow was falling from the Kenai to the Talkeetnas, and the vis window had closed on Hatcher.
Despite being on the recovery from a flu, Phil was game to do a relay race being held on Hillside. The Hickok Duathlon, a part of the Anchorage Cup series, is a dual-technique Nordic race, with a classic segment and a skate ski segment.
I think that technically a duathalon is defined as an event in which there are two sports and three segments, so that one sport is done twice, i.e., run-bike-run.
In this case, the course was an apx 7.5km classic ski, followed by an apx 7.5km skate ski.
Calling the event a biathlon might be confusing though, since the term “biathalon” seems to be refer exclusively to skiing and shooting.
Phil and I just called it “fun.”
Most nordic races in Anchorage are held at Kincaid, so the venue shift was welcome, and the fact that the course made use of the multi-use and classic-only trails really enhanced the character of the event.
I took the classic segment, and Phil took the skate. Conditions were optimal for both techniques, with temps in the low teens, and a steady snow that started to fall just before the first waves went out.
I had excellent kick - but not too much - with V30. My glide felt like it could have run further, and that was echoed by some other classic skiers. More than once, I found faster gliding by jumping out of the tracks and onto the corduroy.
I don’t remember too much about my time on the course. There were a couple high school-looking kids in my wave that disappeared fairly quick from the start, and one or two others closer to my age that I seemed to be in contention with for a little bit before one scooted by and the other dropped back from sight. After that, it was mostly smooth sailing, barring a few bottle necks when I hit groups of solo racers.
The course was awesome, and zipping through the narrow classic-only trails was exceptionally picturesque with the falling snow.
I fist bumped Phil in the tag zone, and he skated the next portion. We took third place in the men’s relay out of a small field of 8 mens teams. The event was actually well attended, but most competitors do the race solo and ski both techniques.
Phil, on course.

And into the finish.
After, I clicked into my skates and headed from Service up to Spencer Loop. I think this was the first skate I had on Spencer in the daylight this year, as all my other skates there have been in the dark after work.
About an inch and half of cold dry snow had accumulated, and the cold flakes continued to fall gently.
Gliding along, carving through Spencer’s many twists, watching the fresh snow spray from my edges, it was hard to not just be happy that in a winter that has so far been scare on days that feel like winter, everything that I had seen or felt in the past few days, definitively was just that: perfect winter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A New Year, but No New Snow

Hatcher Pass was milky and soft on New Years Day and the following weekend, and remains the only area in ScAK with a reasonable base and relative stability. How much longer its snow pack, which has remained nearly static in overall depth since late November, can creep along between wind and light precipitation events, ever closer to the tipping point, is becoming a scarier question.
Turnagain meanwhile, started the year with a raft of slides, one ending tragically for a pup. When, if ever, will those mountains come around? The potential for a brewing, severe climatic shift late next week in the NPAC hints that the worst may be yet to come.
As Josh O has said, " January in AK: 40 and rain, waiting for windy and cold."

The skiing in the Talkeetnas was worthy for the first days of 2014 though.

New Year Day air. Photo courtesy K.S.

LP reacquaints with the Talkeetnas after weeks of travel.

Sun sets of the first day of the year. Off to a good start.

Cody heads for the skyline in a milky light on Saturday.

Saturday night lights in Palmer.

Cliff cools off in very mild temps on Sunday.

Mike the MoFo, happy for some snow.

Not so brittle branches.

Sometimes, it feels fake.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

California Christmas

I just got back from a week in sunny SoCal visiting my mom, Steve, and siblings at my mom’s home. This was the third trip to Oxnard area for me this fall/winter. It’s a bit strange to go to this place that I’ve never lived in, only spent a cumulative few weeks in, and yet feel fairly familiar with.
I managed to get out and ride 5 of the 8 days I was there, mostly in Sycamore Canyon, but got one ride in on Los Robles Trail, AKA Space Mountain. Temps were unseasonably warm, with highs in the mid-70s to even low 80s one day. It was actually warmer on this trip than it was back in late October. I can’t say I was complaining, but at the same time, I sure hope that area gets some rain. It’s a weird thing to hear the locals say, “It hasn’t rained here in two years,” the same way someone in Southcentral might say, “It hasn’t rained here in two days.”
Otherwise, I spent the week eating a lot, sleeping a lot, and bickering with my siblings.
I would have to ride more if I lived in SoCal...a lot more.


Or do you prefer feet?

I posted some photos of my mom's house in my other blog about visiting SoCal, but not of this room. This room doesn't exist thanks to local zoning laws.

Back on the Trance in Sycamore.

Boney Mountain.

California Christmas tree.

We consumed 5 different types of fish on Christmas Eve, but the crab was by far the best.

Most of my rides ended here, and they usually looked like this. It never gets old.

Channel Islands in the distance.

These robin-sized birds were working their way up the shore, running out toward the water as the waves receded, pecking at the sand, and then retreating back up the beach hurriedly as the next wave came crashing in. It was amazing how they were able to keep one eye on the dynamic wave hydraulics, and another on the sand, and somehow nab their invisible prey without getting slammed by the Pacific surf.

My mom and sister learn why they call the prickly pear "prickly."

Said pear.

Hiking near mom's ranch. The lone tree is a pepper tree.

Los Robles Trail. Tricky bunny hop, better just to follow the sign's directions.

More sections of Los Robles.

Normalcy is perceived.

One last sundown in Malibu.