Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How do you people survive the trainer?

Living in an inhospitable place like northern Canada in the winter means that the trainer becomes your only option when you want to continue using your cycling legs.  In lots of places, the weather is bad and you might have to ride the trainer for a few weeks, and then you can return to outdoor riding even if its a bit cold.  Here, you might have to ride it for several months!

I've tried the videos, watched movies, pedaling next to a friend; all with the same result.  It sucks. I've found that spin classes are the best way to ride a bike indoors because the instructors are usually upbeat and motivated to make everyone have a good sweat.  But riding my bike is about so much more than just the exercise.  It's about the scenery, the fresh air, the rush of descending hills, and the hard climbs.  In a spin class, its about sweating your ass off and getting a good workout for 60 minutes.  Then you have to get in a freeeeeezing cold car and slide home.

When it comes to commitment and riding a trainer I just don't have it.  I recently read Phil Gaimon's book, Procycling on $10 a day, and marveled at the commitment the pros have to riding so much for 11 of the 12 months on the calender, including 4 or 5 hours on a trainer.  That would kill me or I would go insane.  I also know a guy who trained indoors for the Ironman in Hawaii.  He had to train for the bike portion on a trainer all winter, and his training had to be done starting at 4:00 am in the morning.  To prepare for a 112 mile bike ride at race pace that means he had to ride 3-4 hours in the cold dark basement of his house several days a week.  He also had to find time to swim and run (on a treadmill or an indoor track) to train for the 2.4 mile swim and the 26.2 mile run.  I admire it, but I also think it borders on crazy ... no offence.

Which brings me to my most recent revelation.  I need to move somewhere else.  I have been in the great white north for most of my 40 years.  But I've also had the chance to live in several of the southern states during the internship portion of graduate school, and visit many other locations around the world. I've always said that the really nice places are packed full of people for a reason, and Canada is empty because it's f@#*~%g frigid.  Don't get me wrong, I love my country and all of the wonderful things here; but, if we ever get a chance to annex some small territory that's much warmer, I'll move faster than Mark Cavendish can sprint.

I hate the trainer and love to be outdoors.  I would ride my bike 12 months of the year if I could. Yes, I know there are lots of other things to enjoy like XC and downhill skiing, windsurfing, fly fishing, etc.  However, I think I can find the perfect spot where I can do both almost all year round. If I do, I'm confident that my family will follow me, and be grateful that we don't have to wear parkas, snow boots, long underwear, gloves, hats and snow pants for half of the year.  No more snow tires, frozen windshield wipers, or shoveling snow.  And don't misunderstand me here, this isn't a grass is always greener scenario.  It is truly inhospitable when you can literally freeze your fingers, toes, or nose walking to the corner store to get milk.  It is unbearable when you have regular snow storms similar to the one experienced by Buffalo (we're just better prepared because it's normal).  It is not fun to freeze your ass off between November and April.

I think I would love going to the cold mountains to ski, but then enjoy going back to the temperate city to do everything else.  I'm going to need help with this.  I need anybody out there to send me your suggestions of where to live.  I promise it's between you and I in case you think everyone will follow me and ruin this great hidden gem.  Here are the requirements: weather to bike in year round, mountains to ski at, opening for a job - unfortunately, affordable cost of living, low crime rate, and some clean lakes and rivers nearby.  Easy, right?  Send me your ideas, please!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Kamloops - great city for riding bikes and drinking coffee

I have no intention of racing bikes at my age unless there is a bear chasing me or I join an over 35 club that has races to see who can get to the beer first.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't want to become a better cyclist all around and that includes climbing hills.  The city I live in is really very flat.  There are a few good hills that we use for climbing, but it usually becomes climbing intervals. The hills are small enough that the best climbers in the city are done in under 1 minute.  Intervals are great for climbing, but nothing compares to the actual hour long climbs up steep slopes where there is no real recovery.  Perhaps physiologically there may be some argument that there is little difference, but actually riding up a mountain or huge canyon climbs, certainly test your mental state differently.  When I ride interval hills, I know the top is coming and it spurs me on just to finish the interval, but when I can't see around the corner and the endless uphill, it tests the concentration much more.

I think of this today because I returned from a recent trip to Kamloops.  It's a city located in the heart of British Columbia.  Mild winters and hot summers.  Lakes, rivers, gorgeous views, small town feel with almost everything you could want in a city (except for the pulp mill which stinks a bit).  In fact, there are so many hills that I thought this would be great for my legs, but not so good for my carbon wheels and brake pads.  I would either buy a set of aluminum clinchers or get a disc version of a bike for all of the long hard breaking.

It is an outdoors city that has a massive expanse of hills surrounding and protruding from within it. There is no shortage of hills to climb on quiet roads that would give you 2000-3000 feet of vertical to climb all over the place with gradients from nearly flat to 12% (or more).  Not to mention, there is plenty of straight flatter roads for time trialing in the valley and mountain biking everywhere for every level.  It really could be a bike haven for athletes training for cycling of any discipline or multi-sports.

If you want a great city for cycling, head to Kamloops, and there are plenty of good coffee shops throughout the city.  I didn't make it to many of the bike shops in town, but I've read really good reviews on a few of them including Spoke 'N Motion.  And don't forget about the bike ranch ... how many cities have that?

And, if you like to put the boards on in the winter and ski, pretty easy to get to world class powder at Sun Peaks just 45 minutes away!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Cape Epic - the craziest thing on Earth.

Riding a long way on a bike is tough if you want to do it fast.  You have to have endurance and strength - physically and mentally.  In a road bike race, there is lots of drafting to save energy and "coast" in the pack.  Climbing becomes a different story of course - drafting is of limited value to save a lot of energy.  Riding a mountain bike on rough terrain for hours is extra exhausting because the terrain puts harsh requirements on your body, and the drafting benefit is reduced.  Climbing hills on a mountain bike for hours at a time means it is all up to you with no real help from others.  You must stay with the stronger climbers just to get the draft on the downhills and flats if possible.

Cape Epic 2015 is about 50,000 feet of climbing in 700+ kilometers of length!!!

Watch the promo video:


I can't say that I have conquered any epic climbs in my cycling days yet, but I know that 50,000 feet in 8 days will not be on my agenda anytime soon.  I'm totally sane, and I am not in that good of shape (nor will I ever be).  I will blame that on my genetics.  Thanks mom and dad for making me the way I am and not allowing me to subject myself to anything that crazy.

For me, crazy starts to get real when my road rides get longer than 120 kilometers.  They are long enough for challenge and exercise, but my ass still feels like it is connected to my body and my man parts remain in commission for normal activities.  At about 140 kilometers or more, things start to really go numb or hurt.  Especially if we are trying to ride a fast pace.  What's funny is that a 40 km mountain bike ride is about the same as a 120 km road ride.  The thought of almost climbing up Everest twice on a bike in 8 days over 700+ km is unthinkable.

That being said, I admire these athletes so much.  Take the distance, the technicality, the climbing, the dust, and the risk of being eaten by lions - and you have a true challenge.  These are the best of the best in my mind.  Ride for 5 hours over a rough trail that ascends and descends a mountain or two and then go sleep in a tent on the ground.  No fancy buses or hotel rooms.  Just get in your sleeping bag and hope that the poisonous things are happier outside and that the carnivores were able to catch something earlier in the day.  Relaxing....  Do that 7 more times!  The prize for finishing should be knighthood, and if you win, maybe a small country just for you with servants and other fine things. Endurance athletes have different DNA than I do.  I am in awe of their talents, but not jealous.  Jealousy would imply that I want to be in their place.

I believe the closest I would ever get to Cape Epic is to take pictures to document the insanity.  (Call me Jared & Ashley Gruber - you are the best!  I'm sure you wish you had a third person to follow you guys around all the time.)

If you are not familiar with the race, the riders who lose their racing partners have to wear the Outcast Jersey if they wish to continue.  Maybe they should let them wear a normal jersey, but just strap a rotting piece of carrion on their back and send them out again.  It would make for a highly motivated faster ride and maybe better TV ratings?

The other detail I noticed when watching the footage on the internet of the last few races is the crazy helicopter pilots.  From the camera on the ground, it looked like the pilot was trying to give haircuts to some of the leading riders.  I guess the laws for flying low over people on the ground might be a little more relaxed in Africa?

Do yourself a favor.  Look up this race if you haven't heard of it and watch some of the coverage.  It will make your life seem easier, and the race you have coming up will seem that much more manageable.