Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Limiters Part Deux

After putting some thought into what was keeping me out of the pack during cycling road races I came up with the following list of what athletes call “limiters:”

Strength-to-weight ratio
Aerobic fitness
Mental toughness

I’ve already addressed strength-to-weight ratio, so today I’ll just drone on about the heart and mind.

I’ve participated in endurance sports for about twenty five years now, and tough I never won any races – or even came close – I did develop a fairly good idea of how to complete the distance in a competitive fashion. An endurance event is anything lasting over two hours and thus issues such as nutrition, hydration and body maintenance come into play. Cat 4 criteriums, time trials, cyclocross races and short course mountain bike events last only thirty to forty minutes and even the longer road races rarely last more than two hours, so this bike racing is putting me in a new realm.

Finishing an endurance event, especially ultra marathons, and Ironman events, is contingent upon: nutrition/hydration, body maintenance, and fitness, in that order. Your body is like an automobile in that even a Ferrari conks out if you don’t put gasoline in it and it goes pretty dang slow if you don’t inflate the tires. Nutrition/hydration is the body’s gasoline; you don’t feed the machine it stops moving. Body maintenance (eliminating/reducing blistering, chaffing, GI distress) is like driving on flat tires, you may continue down the road, but it’s going to be a slow, uncomfortable trip. The point is that when it comes to completing endurance events fitness isn’t the paramount concern; some folks may say I’m crazy, but time and time again I’ve seen properly prepared folks trot past some super fit dude as he lays collapsed in the parking strip awaiting an ambulance.

When it comes to bicycle racing I’m learning that it’s all about supreme aerobic fitness and the ability to briefly tolerate extreme misery. Even in Ironman I never felt like my heart was going to explode, the pain of long races is more associated with bodily discomfort: an aching back, aching knees, sore feet, bad stomach, but in bike racing, at least for me, it’s all about overcoming the sensation that you’re about to go into cardiac arrest. I think a good way to improve my high end aerobic fitness is to engage in more short/explosive efforts and reduce the number of moderately paced “bike rides.” Up until now most of my training has simply been getting on my bike and riding it around for a couple of hours. From now on it’s going to be more hills and more time on the trainer.

Increasing my high end aerobic fitness will, I think, have the side benefit of increasing my mental toughness. I’m quite used to enduring long periods of low level pain, but I need to work on my ability to tough out short periods of high end suffering in order to avoid getting dropped off the back and left for dead.

Got in 22 miles yesterday, which now puts me at 625 miles for the year. Tuesday and today were trainer days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Back when I was a triathlete I learned a new word: “limiter.” It means that thing which is holding you back, slowing you down. In other words the aspect you have to improve upon in order to race faster. After Saturday’s dismal showing at my first Cat 4 road race I’ve determined that I have three limiters:

Strength-to-weight ratio
Aerobic fitness
Mental toughness

When compared to other bicycle racers I’m fairly strong, but at five nine, one hundred and seventy five pounds I’m also a bit heavy for a bike rider, so from a strength-to-weight ratio point of view I think I come out a bit on the low side. My weight issue isn’t as cut and dried as simply losing a spare tire; the extra ten to fifteen pounds that I have on my competition doesn’t come from belly fat but instead from upper body muscle. I’m a far cry from a body builder, but compared to most of my cycling competition I’m carrying a lot of muscle.

My doctor said that I was totally crazy for wanting to lose muscle in order to decrease my body mass for cycling. I’m forty six years old and after forty it’s hard enough to just maintain muscle mass much less build more, and here I am wanting to sacrifice what I have. This is one of those fitness versus health issues. I’ve written in the past that racing Ironman made me realize that being super fit doesn’t equal being super healthy. I’m in this athletic stuff primarily for my health
I think I can safely lose five to eight pounds, that would put me down into the one sixties; if I can get there without sacrificing strength I think I’ll be that tiny bit more competitive. Bicycle races are won and lost by tiny bits.

Rode the trainer while watching a Sufferfest video, so no miles to report.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Rode the Independence Valley Road Race on Saturday – my first Cat 4 road race. I was taken to school – to say the least.

After a prolonged roll out and a bike pile-up, we turned left and started up a seven to eight percent grade. My plan was to push as far ahead as possible and then do the “pack slide” hoping to grab a hold of the rear of the pack by the summit. I held my own for about a half mile but then I just lost it, I couldn’t hold on. I crested the hill alone and started a breakneck descent hoping to catch the wheel of a small straggler group but everyone was gone, save a few dots down the road.
My goal now was to not get passed by the Cat 5’s. I passed an Apex guy and then nearly caught a Cycle U rider on the second hill. Near the top of the final hill I saw the dreaded flashing yellow light of the Cat 5 lead vehicle; I pulled over and let the group pass. The Masters caught me just shy of the end of the first lap.
I was totally out the race, so I turned off the course and headed for the car. I did a thirty minute cool down then waited for my teammates to show. A humiliating day to say the least.

This bike racing thing is so different than any other adult-orientated athletic event. The other “races” I’ve participated in: running road races, trail runs, triathlons are all about you doing your own thing, going as fast as you can, but basically just making it to the finish line. I put quotations around the word “races” in that sentence because now that I look back on it I never really raced. They weren’t races they were “events.” Cycling is a race.

Bicycle racing is all about some guy or some small group of guys trying to completely destroy you. All weakness is completely held up to the light for the world to see. It’s a viscous sport man. I’m going to have to harden up.

Rode 83 miles since Thursday putting my total at 603 miles.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get Up Stand Up

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that spring has sprung here in the Northwest but we are, finally, getting some outdoor riding weather. Rode the Budu West Side Racing Series Mountain Bike race at Fort Stellacoom park on Sunday. That was a good race, albeit a bit chilly. I took second in the beginner class behind my teammate Jason. I don’t feel like a sandbagger out there as I’m not really blowing the competition away; it seems like there is always some guy pushing my wheel. Including warm-up I logged 11 miles. Monday I logged 12 miles running errands, Tuesday I got in 27 miles, Wednesday 32 and yesterday I went with Steph and Gina for 46 good miles. That’s 128 so far for the week which make a total of 498 miles. I think I missed a couple of days there. Oh yeah I rode into Seattle on Friday to meet with the Matt and Mikoyo of Georgetown Sewing that was 22 miles. So I’m at 520.

I was driving along doing my chauffer thing yesterday when Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up came on the radio. I’d never listened to the words before – you can’t fool all the people all the time...

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Preacher man, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. come on!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!

Get up, stand up! (jah, jah! )
Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Don't give up the fight! (life is your right! )
Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight! )
Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord! )
Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on! )
Don't give up the fight! (yeah! )

We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty god is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah! )

So you better:
Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! )
Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights! )
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it up! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! /fadeout/

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Universal Dimension

The recent killing of sixteen civilians in Afghanistan got me thinking about these words by the Dali Lama:

…because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others’ happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility and so on. It is these which provide happiness both for ourselves and for others.

The kicker here is that our every action has a universal dimension. We don’t live in a vacuum; everything that we do, every decision that we make has a downstream affect. That affect can be positive or it can be negative. It seems like the “I want mine now and screw everyone else” attitude has become prevalent in American society.
The “Trumpification” of our society, wherein a privileged few take take take, yet give nothing is unsustainable.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I just ran across this great picture. A great shot of a cool guy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Main Street

Seattle is in one of its rainy moods. Cold and wet for as long as the forecasters can see. Right now it’s 38 and raining; it looks like another trainer day.

I’m reading Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, a surprisingly timely tale despite the fact that it was published in 1920 and details the life in a small Minnesota town just prior, during and after the First World War. Lewis really attacks the “why can’t you just be happy with the way that things are” mentality of small town conservatism.

“It has not yet been recorded that any human being has gained a very large or permanent contentment from mediation upon the fact the he is better off than others.”

- Sinclair Lewis

Monday, March 12, 2012


The flu (mine- proceeded by my daughter’s) and cruddy weather have kept me indoors and on the trainer. All that sitt’n and spin’n gives one time to think.

Today I watched a documentary on the Amish as I was peddling along. It got me to thinking about how out of control the typical modern American life has become. The day after a tornado rips down an Amish barn a clean-up crew of neighbors, family and friends arrives on the scene. Two weeks later the cows have a new home – a job is in need of getting done, and the community simply pitches in a does it. Compare that to the typical Joe down the road who lost his garage in the same storm. After he finally squeezes a few bucks out of the insurance company he has to gather bids, find contractors – maybe they show, maybe they don’t and twelve months later, if he’s lucky, he has a place to put that four wheel contraption, which he probably knows very little about how to repair and maintain.

It’s no wonder that so many Americans are so pissed off. We speak incessantly on irreparable phones which we have no idea of how, when, where or by whom they were made. We depend totally on automobiles that burn an unsustainable resource while at the same time maintaining a healthy ignorance of the internal combustion engine. Our jobs are tenuous, our homes leveraged, our bank accounts drained. How many Americans can grow a carrot much less raise a cow? We have no control over our everyday lives - this produces malaise - malaise ignites anger.

I think many Americans are waking up to the fact that the bank owns their house, their car, their four-wheeler, their snowmobile. They see that they are a single paycheck away from losing the entire house of cards. The next step is to look for someone to blame. Lord knows they can’t look in a mirror. Blame the President, the immigrants, the gays, the feminists; the blowhards have no shortage of places to point their chubby little fingers. Many are happy to follow that index finger, so long as it doesn’t point to them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Soaring Eagle Mountain Bike Race

I rode my first mountain bike race on Sunday. I was a bit nervous as my technical skills are fairly low end and I didn’t want to be the gaper on the trail clogging up the system. I’ve never raced trail before, so entering as a “beginner” seemed legit. The race started at nine; at eight thirty I decided to go for a warmer upper.
I rode out onto the race course with no idea of how long it would take me to get back to the start line. At about eight fifty I was getting pretty nervous. Luckily a couple of minutes later I spotted a herd of colorful riders. I pulled up as the race director called beginner forty plus to the start line.

My teammate Jason lined up in front, I eased in behind him. They were running the forties and fifties together and the field behind me was substantial. I didn’t survey the crowd too closely for fear that I’d have a natural tendency to self seed myself a little further back. I figured I’d line up near the front, push hard and if folks need to get around me well they’ll just have to work at it.

The opening sprint was run on a soupy road, but after about a hundred yards we turned left and descended some groomed single track. Jason and four or five other guys were gone down the hill while I tried to stay aboard my trusty Yeti. I could feel the pack pushing hard at my back. I started asking “what the hell did I get myself into?”

With every descent comes an ascent and the climb back out of the ravine revealed that while I wasn’t the most technically savvy, I was quite a bit stronger than most of the field. The climb, coupled with some rolling terrain allowed me to separate from the pack and to push my way forward. Some guys were cool about letting me get by, others made me work for it.

I started the second lap behind a Cycle U rider, he was more skilled but I think I could compete with him from a strength standpoint, so just tried to keep him in my sights on the downhill and pushed it as hard as I could on only flat portion. He went down at a log jump and I seized the opportunity to get around him. A few minutes later I found myself behind another rider who was going maybe ninety five percent of my pace. I was pushing hard to get around him, but he didn’t give an inch. I wanted to put some distance between myself and the Cycle U guy and this hold-up was starting to get aggravating.

It’s easy to pass someone who is riding considerably slower than yourself, but it’s a bitch to get around someone who is just a little slower: you need a lot more space. Finally I pushed around the guy and rode hard to bury him. Once he was out of sight I was on my own; I didn’t see another rider for the remainder of the race. I crossed the finish line with no idea of how I had placed. It turns out I placed second behind my teammate Jason. My first top ten finish. It looks like I’ll have to try another mountain bike race.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Truth Hurts

“They” call the time trail the race of truth; perhaps this is why “they” also say that the truth hurts.

I kicked off my 2012 bike racing season with the Icebreaker Time Trial down near Black Diamond. I was out of bed at 4:00 AM in order to be at the race site bright and early as I was bringing down a carload of road signs, tents, radios and other miscellaneous race stuff. After helping my teammates set up the course – my team, Cucina Fresca organizes this event – I loitered about a bit and then hopped on the trainer for a good warm-up session.

Warming up for an early season time trial is a bit of a tricky matter as I wanted to get good and hot, but I didn’t want to soak my skin suit in sweat thereby risking a freezing ten mile ride on the course. This was my first experience with the skin suit and I learned that you don’t put on the top half until absolutely the last minute, because once you’re in that thing you’re in it. Fortunately I was able to use short fast bursts on the trainer to elevate my heart rate without becoming too overheated. I popped my bike out of the trainer five minutes before my start time, pulled off my wool tights, put on my helmet and rolled over to the starting queue.

I arrived up with two minutes to spare.

Last year I took off from the start line like I was being chased by zombies; two miles down the road I was up on the bullhorns gasping for air. I vowed not to repeat that mistake. I rolled out at about ninety percent and settled into a good sustainable pace. My strategy was to get to the turnaround in good shape and then turn it on for the return trip. It seemed, and I guess it still does seem, like a good plan: it’s better to gradually get faster instead of gradually getting slower.
Despite getting passed three times – when the second guy came past I glanced at my Garmin, it said 24.9 mph, I mean damn that guy must have been going 27, maybe even, 28 miles an hour. I finished strong and never did spike my heart into that potential cardiac arrest range. I did the ten mile course in 26:02, nearly a minute faster than last year – I’ll take that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Weekend Kickoff

Well despite the snowy/rainy weather my bike racing season will officially kick-off on Saturday morning at the IceBreaker Time Trial. I’ve dusted off my TT bike, but have only managed two trainer rides aboard the speed machine. Today I’m pulling the GatorSkins off of my good wheels and putting on some new Continental racing tires. The weather is supposed to improve this afternoon so I hope to get out on the roads for a couple of hours.

I think I’ll also compete in a mountain bike race this Sunday. I’ll enter as a “beginner.” My big concern is getting in the way of other racers. It’s okay to be a neophyte, but you don’t want to be an obstacle or a hazard.

Got my first piece of mail addressed to my new bicycle clothing company: Greenlite Heavy Industries. That’s a good feeling.