Untempered ambition

August 22, 2005 at 10:57 pm

Author’s Note: I’ve provided some links to help make my case, but I suggest you read through without them first…

It wasn’t at all like Archimedes – it didn’t happen all at once. It started with a gnawing at the back of the skull, an itch that you can’t scratch, and then as the days pass, it worms its way into your conscious mind.

Through a quirk of chance, we’d crossed paths before. That time he was hustling to get a new magazine going, something devoted to “the latest thing“. My contacts told me that he’d made some dough running that scam in the past, but this one didn’t pan out. He melted away, and I forgot about him for a few years.

Then one day, I came across his name again. I had to give him credit this time. Blogs had been hot for years, and with the Texans’s seventh win, cycling was in the news. Put those two together, and you’ve got a hook. Add a bit of human interest, and it’s foolproof, especially when you have a friend who specializes in anatomical prosthetics.

I’ve got to admit that his writing’s good. Great, even. Some might say he has a gift for comedy. He had me fooled, and he could have gotten away with it for a long time, but he’d gotten what he wanted, and made it to the top. And, like some many of his ilk, he got careless.

He even admitted it in his blog, when he wrote, “There is no single entry in this blog that is entirely honest.”

But I don’t think he’s going to come clean, and since I have eyewitness proof, I think I’m going to have to force his hand.

Some are fat. Some are cyclists. But like that story of so many years ago, I’ll have to be the small child here, and be the first to point out the truth.

The Fat Cyclist has insufficient weight. 167.2 pounds does not a compelling story make.

Zoo Two

August 20, 2005 at 11:33 pm

A few weeks ago, Bret, one of my PM friends (well, I call people like Bret friends since they’re people that tolerate my presence), told me he was looking at my bicycle climb site and and saw a climb named “The Zoo”. One day, he said, “I think I’d like to climb the zoo – let’s set up a time and go up it together”.

I should perhaps step back a bit and explain a bit. The Fat Cyclist has written at length (and at more length) about how to size up cycling competition. While such guides are useful if one wants to avoid human interaction, if the rider in question lives on the Eastside of Seattle, you can get all the information you need with a single question:

“Have you ever done the Zoo?”

There are three answers you get:

  • What’s the zoo?
    This rider really isn’t worth your time. Even if they can drop you on the flats, they haven’t suffered sufficiently, and therefore any of their achievements can never rise to your level.
  • No
    This rider is no competition to you. No matter what happens on the ride, you have tried and triumphed, and therefore possess an inner strength that they are lacking. This is great consolation when they ride away from you on their big chainring.
  • Yes. It’s pretty steep.
    Beware this rider. Not only have they tried and triumphed, they are playing mind games with you. The zoo is “pretty steep” in the same sense that on Oxy-Acetylene torch is “pretty hot”, or Everest is “pretty tall”.

Cyclists have this weird thing about shared suffering. Hard climbs are always better when somebody else is suffering along with you, and if you can sucker in an unsuspecting rider who doesn’t really know what they’re in for, all the better.

So I was happy to set up a time to ride the Zoo with Bret. Happy… No, that’s not it, what’s that word again? Ah, that’s it. Disturbed. I was disturbed about it. But there’s nothing to be done about it – if you’ve ridden the zoo, you can’t wimp out when somebody else wants to try it.

The weather this morning was perfect. About 60 degrees, and sunny. On the ride there, I toyed briefly with saying that it had been a little cold when I rode up it early this morning, but I decided that that would be too cruel. Okay, that’s not really truthful. I just didn’t think I could pull it off.

The ride was about as good my first trip up it last year. In other words, 25 minutes of suffering, but not as bad as before. Bret suffered well and made it to the top, all 1200 feet of it.

Oh, and we had a surprise companion with us. More on that later…

Cycling, diet and weight loss

August 17, 2005 at 11:27 am

A post over at the Fat Cyclist (entitled “I Fear My Bathroom Scale“) got me thinking.

I first started cycling seriously a few years ago, when 9 months of being a PM and not working out had added about 20 pounds on my frame. The weight came off fairly easily, but I was hungry a fair bit, and it took me quite a while to come up with a nutrition plan that worked, both when I’m training hard and when I’m not.

The basic problem is that if you are a recreational athlete, you need two different diet approaches. Both have the aim of keeping your blood sugar at a consistent level, but the way that you do that during (and after) exercise is very different from how you do it the rest of the time. You also need to realize that an approach that works for mostly sedentary people may be the wrong thing for you as an athlete, with Atkins being the prototypical example of this.

There are two good books that I know that can help a lot. The first is Chris Carmichael’s “Food for Fitness“. Chris’ hypothesis is that you should match what you eat to the period of training that you’re in. That conceptually makes a lot of sense if you’re on a fairly serious training regimen, but it probably over the top for many recreational athletes. That doesn’t mean that this book isn’t valuable, however – it has a lot of great basic nutritional information and covers fairly well how your diet needs are different than those of the sedentary part of the population.

The second book is “The South Beach Diet”. In general, most diet books aren’t very useful, but there’s a lot of good science – and clinical research – behind the South Beach approach. To sum up, each fewer processed foods, more natural foods, and you’ll keep your blood sugar more constant, and therefore not be hungry all the time. I know several people who have lost good amounts of weight while not spending a lot of time hungry. There are some sacrifices here – I don’t eat as much pasta as I used to, nor rice, and when I do, they’re the whole-wheat varieties. Same with bread. But it’s something that’s sustainable.

So, for me, I’m “South Beach” on most days, trying to eat things that will give me sustained energy. That often means eating a little more fat that you would on low-fat diets, which is a good thing in my book. There are a bunch of “south beach” brand foods in the supermarket, but the ones I’ve tried have been pretty poor, so I’d suggest staying with the natural food.

I then modify on days when I work out. During workouts, my goal is to get enough glucose into my system on a consistent basis so I can burn fat efficiently. For me, this means a snack about an hour before (banana or clif bar, something like that), then Accelerade to drink now and then plus something else to munch on during stops (sometimes Clif bars, sometimes newtons). If I get it right, I’ll have a nice constant stream of glucose so that I can get most of my energy from my fat stores. If I do this right, I don’t get that “I’ve got to eat and eat and eat” feeling that Mr. Fat Cyclist (can I can you “Fat”?) speaks about in his post.

On the first day of RSVP, I rode about 6 hours on Accelerade, a couple of clif bars, some beef jerky (sodium), and a few other assorted nibbles. That’s not a lot of food, which means the bulk of my energy came from my fat stores. That’s good – not only does it help with weight loss, it means that I can have plenty of energy without trying to each a lot, which is bad – you can only expect to get a limited number of calories from eating without getting too much food in your stomach.

I should also probably note that you may need to back off a bit if you’re in a sport for weight loss. The goal is to get your fat-burning metabolism working well and to use that for the bulk of your ride – that means you need to spend most of your time in a comfortable aerobic range. If you can find a good group ride that isn’t too gonzo for your fitness level, you can stay comfortably aerobic on the flats and then push yourself (if you want) on the hills. If you push too hard, you won’t establish the aerobic engine that you need. Carmichael talks about this in “The ultimate ride“, also a good book.

Oh, and I use my scale, but mostly to weight myself before and after workouts to see how I’m doing on hydration.


RSVP 2005 non-trip report

August 9, 2005 at 6:07 pm

I joined somewhere around 900 other riders on RSVP this past weekend, for my second time in as many years, and I’m now recuperating in sunny Walnut Creek, CA.

I had intended to write a general ride report, something like, I did last year. Though restricting myself to topics that people find interesting has never been one of my guidelines in writing blog entries – a fact that should be painfully obvious thus far – I’ve decided not to tell you that I had one flat, and consumed 132 oz of Blueberry Accelerade. Nor will I tell you my maximum heart rate (163), the total number of miles (around 195), or other minutiae.

Instead, I’m not going to write that at all. In fact, I started doing a “trip report lite” (30% less boring), but just deleted 250 words of it.

Instead, I’d like to talk about nicknames.

The first – and arguably lamest  – example really wasn’t a nickname, but a description. “Yellow Jersey Women” describes a women who I pulled through one unexpectedly windy section of the first day, but who disappeared before we could learn her way. Yellow Jersey (not her real name) also rode with us the second day and was a nice addition to the group on the second day, when she held up her end by riding in another yellow jersey, though there was an unconfirmed report of an early morning sighting of a white jersey. Tamara was a good addition to the group.

The second was coming up with a nickname for Jeff, which was an undertaking of the utmost importance. I tried out “Georgie” a few times on Saturday morning. Jeff was at the front, doing his best imitation of George Hincapie, spending extended time at the front of the group, while I did my best imitation of a tour team leader – hanging back and not doing any work. “Georgie” stuck okay until we made a stop at a store near Lynden to get some hot food. Jeff stopped for some mac & cheese, decided to add a piece of chicken, and then walked out of the store with an entire roast chicken. So, “Chicken boy” was awarded, though I’m unsure if it will remain sticky over time. Jeff confounded the whole thing by wearing his “Sponge Bob” jersey the second day, which provided some unfortunate competition with “chicken boy” (hmm. Perhaps “Mr. Chicken” or even “Señor Pollo” would be better…), and was certainly a crowd favorite.

There was no obvious choice for Gustavo on the first day. “Guy who can outride me pretty much anywhere” was a bit ungainly, and “somewhat unattentive son-in-law”, while a fair description, lacked the necessary panache. Gustavo solved things the second day by showing up in white calf-height socks, and “sock boy” was awarded at the appropriate time. Through a rather bizarre juxtaposition of the addition of another Microsoft rider, a discussion of the difficiencies of nutrition bars, a 15-minute ferry wait, a felicitously positioned pickup-load of potatoes, and a lack of free time on Jeff and my part to form a band using a specific name, he was temporarily awarded the appelation “groin potatoes”, which is one of the least sticky nicknames I’ve heard of.