Monday, February 29, 2016

Masters racing is harder than P1

My headline is misleading, but hang in here with me for a minute. Of course the Pro field is more challenging on just about every level - longer distances, more attacking, faster speeds, larger fields and athletes who can lay down more power. But if you are just able to be pack fodder or if you are spit out the back and ride most of the race at tempo all alone, you really are not getting the same benefit as you would if you were actually in the game, in the hunt, in the thick of things - being the hammer.

After racing and training without power for the past 6-7 years I recently bought a new bike and ordered it with an SRM power meter. What's very interesting to me is that when I compare my current numbers to my old files, I have lost very little power (even though I'm 10 pounds lighter). And what's really interesting is that my power is still there but my threshold heart rate is down 8-10 beats.

When I go out on hard training rides like The Shootout I am often contesting for the hill sprint, usually in the top 2-3. And at Wednesday Worlds I always make the selection or Old Spanish Trail. Both of these training rides are relatively short distances: 50-70 miles. Similar to the distance of a typical masters race.

I think the main difference in our fitness as we age is that we can't handle the longer distances and the repeated attacks.

Last year was maybe my worst season ever fitness wise. I caught something over Christmas 2014 and was flat on my back for two weeks - off the bike, lost 10 pounds. It took me most of 2015 to start feeling like myself again. So most of my 2015 results were sub-par - including the Colossal Cave Road Race where I was off the back for the last 5 laps.

I celebrated my 56th birthday on Thursday. This year I feel like a kid again, but I still think that my days being able to do anything more than "hang" in a challenging P1 race are behind me. On one hand, it's a tough pill to swallow. But on the other hand, it's really fun to be back in the game and back in the hunt.

I can say for sure that I worked way harder in the Masters 55+ race this year at Colossal Cave where I bridged for 10 minutes and then rode in a 3-man break for 4 laps, than I did in the Pro 1 race last year riding tempo alone for 5 laps.

At Colossal Cave the Master's 55+, 60+, 65+ & 70+ all started together but were scored separately. In the 3-man break were me, my teammate Jay Guyot and 65 year old Phil Hollman. If you rode up on Phil from behind you would think he was 25. He's shredded! It's only when you come up next to him and see his gray beard that you realize he's not a spring chicken.

One of the things I love about Tucson is that there are so many super fit old guys still out racing and riding their bikes. And they still have just as much fire in the bellies as any 22 year old neo-pro.

Preston Robertson and I bridging up to the 2 leaders. Preston is another super fit guy. 59 years young with his ears pinned back and fighting for every peddle stroke. Eventually I was able to shake him before reaching teammate Jay Guyot and Phil Hollman. But he held on, in no-mans-land for 4 laps to take 3rd in the 55+.

Jay Guyot and I in the break along with Phil Holman. I overslept and arrived at the race with only minutes to spare as shown by my sloppy number pinning.

Cyclists are always worried about our weight. Since giving up gluten, I've lost 8 pounds. Finally a podium shot were I didn't look at it and cringe.
It's great to be in the best condition of your life at age 56.

Photo credit: Damion Alexander (

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Living like a Nomad

I've been living as somewhat of a nomad lately. We're doing a fairly extensive bathroom remodel at Kyria's house so I have been staying at my house on the other side of town, which I also rent weekly through a vacation rental website ( So, a couple of weeks ago, I had renters and ended up staying at a local hotel. Then last week I was in San Diego on the boat.

I've always been a minimalist so living like a nomad is easy for me. What few things I have, I now have to split between 3 places. And even after doing so, I still don't feel like I'm short of anything important. Bikes for example; I have 3 in San Diego on the boat. 2 folding bikes that Kyria and I enjoy riding around Point Loma and Shelter Island and my last year's Trek Madone. By leaving it there it will be easier to catch a last minute flight for the weekend without having to worry about bringing a bike along.

I have been feeling much better physically after missing racing at Valley Of The Sun. It was one of my target races and I was pre-registered, only to come down with a viral infection 2 days before the race. My other target races this year are: Tucson Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, and San Dimas.

This weekend is Colossal Cave Road Race. It's sort of a grudge race for me. 2 years ago I was disqualified because I took a bottle in the feed zone that wasn't mine. The whole thing was really stupid. Another team's support person was holding up a bottle in the feed zone and I thought their guys were out of the race, so I snatched it. Immediately that team member rode up next to me and said "that's my bottle". I handed it to him and he said "Thanks Lou, let me know if you need a sip". I said "sure thing". And that was the end of it. No harm, no foul.

One of my teammates was up the road in a 6-man break. They had been out of sight for most of the race. With one lap to go at the top of the hill 2 P&S guys attacked and I went with them. We were in no-man's-land heading into the 3 mile climb before the hill sprint and they made a huge tactical mistake. Instead of attacking and relaying, they both traded pulls on the front and let me sit in.

About halfway up the 3 mile climb I attacked them, and neither could respond. So I bridged up to the group of 6 on the front. I could see them in the distance just before the right hand turn into the final climb. When I arrived I learned that Dan Naif had gotten away and was up the road. I sat on for a few pulls and then swung out wide and got away but could not see Dan. He had already crossed the line for the win. I rolled across alone for 2nd.

I had to leave the race before the award ceremony but within a half hour I got a text message from one of my teammates that I had been DQ'd for "stealing" a bottle. Turns out, their whole team protested. Seemed like a pretty weak thing to do. But, that's what I get for leaving early, I suppose.

Here's some video I took from last Friday night in San Diego relaxing on the boat.

Later that evening we went for a cruise in the dinghy. Below is a pic of the sunset.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lazy Day on The Bay

Today was a planned rest day. And when I say "rest" I mean, I don't ride and I try to stay off my feet as much as possible. When I'm in San Diego on a rest day, it's easy to figure out what to do. I fired up the twin diesels and cast off from the dock for an afternoon cruise in The Bay.

The San Diego Bay is 10 miles long with downtown San Diego on the east bay and Coronado Island and the Naval Airport to the west. In addition to a US Naval Base, The Bay also plays host to the US Coast Guard as well as the largest Sportfishing fleet in the Pacific. Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise lines have arrivals and departures along to boardwalk. The Maritime Museum is right next door. And just up the bay there is a huge cargo ship carrying several containers of Dole bananas.

A towering bridge connects Coronado to the mainland. Passing under the bridge you can see Glorietta Bay to the west and about a mile long mooring of 10-12 Naval Warships on the opposing shoreline.

I've been cruising this bay for nearly a year now and every time I go out, my senses are on overload.

The sun was shining bright across the Bay today as I motored to Glorietta, where I planned to anchor for the afternoon. As I entered the narrow channel there were only 2 other boats on the hook in the public mooring area in front of the Coronado Golf Course. I noted a band of fog slowly approaching the hi-rise condos on the Island from the west as I scanned the area for the perfect spot to take in the afternoon sun from the cockpit of Joyride

Between the time it took to drop anchor and power down the engines, the fog had completely enveloped the Bay - like within 2-3 minutes! Visibility was zero. Luckily I had nowhere to be for the next several hours.

Coronado Bridge. I was moored just to the left of the bridge in front of the golf course when the fog came in.

One of the Naval Aircraft Carriers that call San Diego Bay home.

If you're into big boats with big guns.
These are listings for a few of the sportfishing charters available.
I'd guess there are over 100 different ships for charter in the bay

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Just Getting By

I came across an article this morning that proposes that a six-future income no longer ensures financial security. Here is the breakdown that according to the article's author, is the way a typical American would spend the proceeds from a $200k gross salary.

I would agree that this is probably typical. I think it illustrates why the average American is having trouble making ends meet. Here is what I would do differently.

1. I'd live in a $1000/month apartment and stick the balance ($24,000/yr) into a growth position in the stock market. Since I'm renting, I can bank the $8,000 in property taxes. I can also bank the $3,600 in home maintenance.

2. With my first year savings in home maintenance I'd pay cash for a car - saving me $6,000/year in car payments.

3. 2 vacations a year??? Make it 1. $4,000 in the bank.

4. Children's lessons - nope. Mom and dad can teach their kids twice as effectively for free. $5,000 - bank it.

5. Consumer debt? This must be credit cards. We don't do credit cards. $3,000 in the kitty.

6. Personally, for me, I would make a contribution to my church. So, move the $2000/charity and add $3000 for a total of $5000 tithing.

That's $50,000 a year, plus another $5,700 from "What's left". These two total almost $60 grand a year into savings ($80k if you include the 401K contribution). In 5 years I'd have $3-400,000 plus a few thousand in interest. Now it's time to make a down payment on a house. But a $700k house? Nope. Lot's of nice houses just about anywhere in this country (excluding California) for $250k.

When I was working I lived on $50-75k year. Even in years when I made far more - I still held to that budget. I paid off my last loan in 2001. At age 53, I bought my first new car in 2013. A pick up actually. Still drive it. It just turned 80k miles. I think I'll keep it for at least 80k more. In the old days I would have been called a "cheapskate".

I was having coffee this morning with an old guy - probably 80ish. He was talking about how differently this generation views money from his generation. He said, "in my day people would never brag about money. We might talk about how much we saved when they purchased a product or service. Today, people like to brag about how much they spent". (e.g. my Escalade cost more than your Suburban).

Things don't always turn out the way we planned financially. Some folks fall victim to misfortune through no fault of their own. Others simply make bad decisions. It seems like there is this mentality that if someone is successful, they must have taken advantage of others somewhere along the way. But from my own personal experience it's all about making small adjustments, living well below your means and being consistent.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Long live the King

I like being an athlete. Mostly because of the competition. I like sports that select winners and losers. But the other thing I like about being an athlete is that I almost always feel great! So, on the rare occasion that I find myself feeling a little under that weather, I turn into a 2 year old. When I'm sick, I'm not very tough.

Monday night I went to bed feel outstanding. I drifted off to sleep planning the Tuesday Morning Group ride and visualizing the climb up the backside of Gates Pass. Once we all regrouped I was going to go long, - maybe 2-3 more hours and then shut things down in preparation for one of my target races this weekend - Valley of The Sun. I registered for the Master's 55+ category, and was going in fully expecting to win every stage and the GC. Not cocky - just optimistic.

I woke up early Tuesday morning around 1:00 am laying in a pool of my own sweat and a had very upset stomach. I spent the next couple of hours throwing up.

In the morning, instead of attending the University Racer Ride, I went to see the doc who diagnosed me with something called a sudden onset viral infection. He prescribed lots of fluids and rest. And that is exactly what I have done all week.

I host a weekly group ride on Thursdays. Mostly retired people who are still very fit and healthy. I'd say about half of them also still race. They are role models for me. Yesterday we rode 50 miles - out to Saguaro National Park East for 1 lap and back. I felt just OK. Mostly kind of weak as you would expect after spending 2 days in bed with a fever. On the way out we rode up Freeman - one of my favorite streets in Tucson. It's approximately a 1.5 mile ascent full of rollers with a kick up at the end. I didn't think we were going that hard, but somehow I scored a KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava.

I just signed up for Strava a month ago when I got my new Garmin. I'm still trying to figure it all out. I'm not sure why anyone would want to track a 2 minute effort (see illustration). But I am starting to understand now why sometimes I'll be on a group ride, for example riding through Saguaro East yesterday, and I'll pull over to re-group after the climb and most of the others will be looking down at their Garmin and fly past me with their ears pinned back. They're trying to record a good Strava segment. I dunno what I think about that.

Anyhow, no VOS racing for this boy this weekend. It's supposed to be in the mid-80's all weekend, so hopefully I can record some long recovery hours in the saddle.

And maybe a KOM or two.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bike Fitting - Science or Art?

I started playing the guitar in my early teens. I didn't want to play the folk guitar, I wanted to learn how to play whaling lead guitar like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. My first teacher told me that it was imperative to learn classical music theory. Being a very impatient 13 year old, I would go to my weekly lesson and pretend to be very studious and then go home and turn up the distortion on my amp and slam out Smoke On The Water for hours. Realizing that was not following his directions, my teacher told me that once I learned "theory" then I could forget it and just play with feeling and go where my emotions took me.

Today, when I listen to a lead guitar player I can immediately tell the guys who play a lick that follows some theoretical pattern and the guys who play with pure instinct and emotion. The instinct version always seems to flow with the song better. It just fits.

Old guitar players don't die, their timing just gets bad.

I can equate lead guitar with bike fitting.

I've been getting bike fits for almost 2 decades, from a handful of different guys who each follow some system of fitting "theory" such as BG Fit and Wobble-Naught. Donny Perry (aka Quixote) was my first coach and also somewhat of a pioneer bike fitter in the Midwest. He went on to become a master fitter at Specialized Bikes and now serves as a global marketing guy.

I recently took delivery of a new bike - a 2016 Trek Madone. Compared to all of my previous Madone's, this bike looks very radical. But, at the end of the day, the geometry is pretty much the same as that the previous years bikes. At the same time, I switched shoes. Actually, the same brand - Specialized. But the 2016 version is different and I also changed shoe sizes. So, with a new bike and new shoes I decided it was a good time to review my fit set-up - which I have been using for the past 4-5 years.

I decided to try a new Bike Fitter. Kurt Rosenquist ( is a very respected guy and has done over 3,000 fits in the past 30 years.

In the past, fitters who use the canned "systems" take loads of measurements. You sit down and they measure. You lay down, and they measure. You roll over onto your stomach and they measure some more. Today, most guys even have lasers pointing at different angles of the bike and your knees and hips. I've had florescent dots pasted on every joint on my body. And mirrors - more mirrors than a Vegas honeymoon suite (I've been to a Specialized shop in Morgan Hill and records video from three directions providing before and after views).

Once the measurements are compiled and recorded it's time to start fiddling with the bike. Lots of micro-adjustments and tape measurements. Adjust, measure, repeat. Sometimes a dozen times.

Finally, you are invited to climb aboard and take a spin while attached to a stationary trainer. For the most part, I have always been lead to believe that the "fit" is a science and your position was almost always determined by the numbers.

I spent 3 hours with Kurt last Wednesday. Most of the time was spent listening and talking. I learned so much about biomechanics. In fact, I learned a few things that directly fly in the face of what I have thought to be true about pedal stroke, body position and aerodynamics.

Here is just one example: I am 6'4" tall. By default, I have always ridden with 44mm wide handlebars. In fact, early in my career, I considered myself to be a sprinter and contemplated running wider 46mm bars. On the other hand, I have very narrow shoulders for my height. This helps me to be more aero. According to Kurt, 40 or 42mm bars would match my shoulder width and make my position more aero. What's more, my new Trek handlebars that I thought were 44's actually measure 46mm. Equipped with this new information, I still opted to stick with my existing handlebars, but in the future I might consider going with a narrower bar. Here's some interesting info from Kurt's website regarding some of the handlebar considerations. Pretty comprehensive, don't you think?

Back to the Fitworks Fit - Each part of the fit started with a lengthy explanation, so that I understood what we were trying to accomplish and therefore I could provide better feedback. Some of the areas addressed were, cleat position, saddle position, saddle height, cockpit length, drop, handlebar height, width, position. Mostly I learned that bike fitting is absolutely NOT a science, but rather an art. There are trade-offs with comfort, power, aerodynamics and handling.

In the end, I am not sure that we made any significant mods to my set-up. Only a few millimeters here and there. Mainly, I learned some very important things about hip position that will help me make more power and be more comfortable in the saddle.

I've been riding for a week now with the new set up. I can easily say that I can feel the difference. More comfort, more power and more stability. But most of all, I feel like I understand many of the "whys" that support my strengths and also areas where I can gain performance.

If you spend time in the saddle - whether you are an athlete or just enjoy riding your bike for several hours, I think having your bike professionally set up is a very good investment and will make your cycling experience much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Call Me Intolerant

In an attempt to humor my wife, I recently had some DNA testing done to see if I may be gluten intolerant. Honestly, I think the whole idea is sort of a "fad of the day" concept mostly invented by people who are way too self-absorbed. Everybody seems to think they're allergic to this or that, to the point that it takes 10 minutes for some people to order dinner because they have the server doing laps back and forth to the kitchen to find out if there is wheat, or dairy or nuts or butter, or, you name it, on their entrĂ©e'. When I was a kid, you ate what was served or you went hungry. In fact, it would be considered almost rude not to appreciate what your host prepared.

But not anymore. Today each child gets their own custom menu and neither are eating what their parents are eating. This is the result of too much dining out and not enough eating at the family table.

Sorry, I digress.

I went to see Dr. Tait a local sports doctor who does DNA testing as well as blood testing for food allergies and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. I would have bet big money on the fact that I am not intolerant, allergic or even slightly sensitive to any type of food. In fact, when it comes to food, I can't think of anything I don't like. Some foods I avoid or only eat as a treat - but intolerant? Not a chance.

My results were eye opening, if not shocking.

There are three primary genetic profiles. According to Dr. Tait, if you are positive in just one of the profiles you are someone sensitive to wheat and should limit your intake. If you are positive in 2 of the 3, wheat is definitely not your friend and you will always experience inflammation discomfort in your gut. And finally, if you test positive in all 3, you should completely avoid gluten. And continued consumption will quite-probably result in Celiac's disease - a very serious condition.

Sure enough, I tested positive in ALL 3 profiles.

At first, the thought of never eating wheat again didn't seem like such a big imposition. But as the first few weeks ensued I started thinking about never eating bread or pizza or pasta again. I know there are "gluten free" processed alternatives, but I think one of the big mistakes people make is to start buying processed foods that are supposed to contain wheat, but have something processed into them in place of wheat. This is just defeating the whole idea.

In addition to wheat, there is a long list of other foods that contain gluten. Basically, anything with a seed contains some gluten. But for me, I decided to start out by just removing wheat. I'll think about corn and a few other items in the future.

One thing that I am realizing is that I can eat like a horse and never feel bloated. In the past, when we would dine out, I would devour the basket of warm bread that comes out before your meal (and definitely not count the calories). As a result, I am eating more quality food than ever before and my gut feels great! I think I'm consuming more calories yet, I have lost 8 pounds.

I sure wish I had looked into this much sooner. It's been almost life-changing.

I did try a gluten free frozen pizza that other day. It was more like eating the cardboard that comes under the pizza. Gluten free pizza crust is like fat free butter. Since butter is 100% fat, I wonder what industrial sludge is used to make fat free butter? What I do know is that you can open a tub of fat free butter and place it on the ground in your driveway for a week and come back and it will still be sitting there - untouched. Even the bugs won't eat it. Not going to put that in my body.

My wife is a wise woman. I sure hope she never suggests I get tested for red wine sensitivity.