Sunday, February 28, 2016

A light (a giant glowing, yellow light) at the end of the tunnel...

40 degrees at the start of a February ride? I'll take it!
Why is it that the so called "easiest" winters are sometimes the most difficult to get through? Is it because we northerners get soft when the temps rarely dip below zero and we're not having to burrow through drifts of snow to get out of our houses? This winter (I'm completely jinxing us all since it's not over yet) has been hands-down one of the easiest I ever remember having--weather wise that is. As the Arctic warmed at alarming rates, and tornadoes ripped through the South in January and February, I sat drinking copious amounts of coffee—trying to get myself motivated to head out for blustery winter rides under heavy clouds. This whole coffee thing helped me succeed about 75% of the time. The other 25% my laziness won over—as did beer and pizza.

When the sun would poke out to say a quick "hello", it felt like angels were singing and I could accomplish anything. Sadly, warm temps in the winter usually also mean oppressive clouds. And so what should have been an easy winter, turned into one where I was just trying to keep the effects of SAD to a minimum. But yesterday and last Saturday gave me hope. The sun was shining from early morning on, the winds were brutal, but out of the SW which meant the temps were in the 40's-50's, and I got to ride with a great group of friends.

Shedding layers on the four mile climb up Blue Mound

The snow at the top of Blue Mound is a gentle reminder that winter isn't over yet

As I write this, I should be out once again with a different group, but I chickened out and opted to ride early and solo in hopes of not being blown off the roads in 25 mph winds and allowing my legs to go at their own pace after the earliest accent I've ever done up Blue Mound. Sure...there's a pang of guilt, but not enough to make me feel that bad as I watch every tree top sway in the gusts.

This week is supposed to bring a dose of reality. A little slap in the face telling us "you idiots, you didn't think you were getting off that easy--you live in Wisconsin after all". But March is just around the corner, and the spring gravel events are knocking at my door. I may have to set my gravel bike aside for a bit and haul out my winter steed for a few more weeks, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter...I can feel it.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Earning Liquid Carbs

At least we all rode down for these beers!

I live in Wisconsin. The land of great beer and cheese. Mix these two with brutally long winters and what do you get? Winter "insulation", day after regrets, and sluggish legs. I'm not the only one slapped with this reality. Several of my cycling friends have been looking at the calendar, doing the math, and swearing quietly under their breath, knowing what hauling ten extra pounds does to you while climbing hills on two wheels.

Honestly, I've never really cared about becoming deconditioned in the winter. It's been my yearly ritual to add a nice layer of warmth around my body come late October/early November and keep it there until I start getting serious about riding in early March. Then, within a month or two, I'm finely tuned once again from frequent 2+ hour rides. I'm the type who feels there's no way in hell I can keep the intensity up I do in the summer—without either turning into a crazed, obsessed athlete or getting sick. Nope, give me Jan Ulrich's training plan any day over Lance Armstrong's. I'm not calculated in what I eat (except for getting enough fresh produce in), I allow myself one too many glasses of liquid bread and I sometimes opt for a nap or book vs. going for a run or ride. Essentially, I allow myself to rest.

The only problem I have with this wonderful training theory is the spring events keep getting earlier and earlier (road racing season begins April 10th this year and there are several gravel events also in April) and I haven't really talked myself into ending my "rest" period any earlier. So this is how I see it. I have two options. I can a) say screw "training" and just play and do the best I can with what I've got or b) give myself a good kick in the ass and get moving (mind you I am active all winter...just not nearly as much as summer).

A good friend of mine in Colorado, and former junior racer at the time I raced, gave me such a brilliant training plan that I just had to share it. 25 miles on two wheels=1 beer. Yep, it's as simple as that. To enjoy a glass of liquid bread, I have to earn it. I like this idea so much I might even apply it to my runs as well. 5 miles of running=1 beer. I doubt I'll stick to this plan 100% but it sure is an easy guide to follow and when it's 25 degrees out, and all I want to do is turn my steed around, I'll know there is more than one consequence. By following this I still have no interest in racing or riding seriously...but it just might make March and April a bit easier on the legs and lungs.