Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Gods Grant a Pass

That’s a good question.

Even though we are well into spring, it was cold and rainy this morning; pretty heinous for the last day of April on the Mason Dixon line. The Fat Cat was seriously considering calling off the show today until he saw a car pass by, covered in snow. All of the sudden, the thought of riding up above the snow line and into the dark and churning cloudscape above took on the air of the epic. He might not have the genetics to take on the pros, or even a good club rider, but The Cat could get out there and take on Mother Nature in a bad mood when no one else would. That, at least, gives The Fat Cat some figurative separation from the pack.

How odd to be in full winter gear just days after flitting about in fancy pants summer kits. Ernestina, the blue Colnago cross, was the Fat Cat’s sole companion as he started up the Mountain. As many of you are aware, Ernestina is unburdened by the yoke of metrics. She’s that foreign babe that loves to get dirty. She cares not for deadlines and commitment. She may have a bit of a weight problem, but she’s one hell of a ride; the perfect chick for a trip into the abyss. She’d get me there and back. It might not be quick, but it’d be a sure thing.

Funny, but even when you don’t have a speedo staring you in the face, you can still tell if you’re on point. The Fat Cat was feeling flush on the run in and hit the wall with aplomb. What a difference a little forced reduction in training time and a bit of gorging can do for a man. The climbing speed was definitely good and the breathing was unusually well in control. Coming across the middle section and shifting up, The Cat knew it was one of those rare days when the pedaling is easy, shockingly easy. Bicycling magazine recently did a piece on Andy Hampsten’s legendary ride over the Gavia pass. He related that, during that race, he felt this same thing. He thought the other riders were joking, slowing down to fool him. It’s one of those sensations, The Fat Cat fears, one can spend a lifetime trying to find again.
Luckily, The Cat had the prescience to bring along his “worlds greatest dad” pocket watch and to have checked it at the start. Despite having brought along his bad weather bike, the ghost of a thought of breaking the 30 minute barrier swirled about his silly head. He noticed that, even though black clouds swirled just overhead—so close he could reach up and run a finger along their bellies—there was not so much as a whisper of wind. It was as if the Gods, seeing the headstrong hero charge pall mall into the breach, nodded their heads and granted him pass. All that was left now was to see if titanic Chronos was among them.
Feeling great at the pull off , 2/3rds of the way to the top, a time check would tell the tale, fact or fantasy. A reading of 20 minutes or less would mean that all was possible. And the pocket watch said…19 ½ minutes. Jesus! As the wet turned into snow, The Cat pumped his way, almost comfortably, up the mountain’s last defense. At the line it was twenty nine and one half minutes on a cross bike in winter gear. Hooray for the blue Colnago!
It seems silly for a man to wheel around in the clouds and spring snow, ear to ear with euphoria, over something so trivial in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless it was so. The rest of the ride degenerated into a giddy festival of photography, the Fat Cat impervious to the cold. On the way down, he was high enough to ride the first part of the pike with one hand on the bars, riding the front brake, and one holding a camera, filming the descent. Feel free to bore yourself in the viewing. It was more fun than it films. I'm too lazy to add music. Besides, I like the sound of the wind drag.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Pain in the Knee

Still tired from all the literary acrobatics and the celebration of "take your kids to work day", The Fat Cat did not tackle the mountains Thursday. Instead, he went to the Law school criterium. The Fat Cat promptly flatted right there on the start line. The field failed to return by the time the tire was fixed. It seems the fearless leader of the WVU racing team had done an endo and was on his way to the ER. Poof, that ride was off too. In the end The Fat Cat Noodled around with Piano Dan a bit and then did 5, 20mph laps. Total ride distance, 12 miles.

If you just have to have more reading material, here is something on knee pain. Believe it or not, The Fat Cat is a Diplomate of the American Board of Chiropractic Orthopedists and a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. The following is just a reply to a group message and is by no means compehensive not should it take the place of professional evaluation.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is probably the most common, but not the only, cause of anterior knee pain. Patellar tendinitis, various surrounding bursa, and the menisci (cartilage) are among the differentials. If it is PFPS, there are several factors involved in its causation ranging from physical alignment issues, to bike alignment issues, to training issues. If you have never had a bike fitting from a qualified professional, it would be a good idea.
One of the simplest things to look at with anterior knee pain with relation to cycling is seat height. Typically a seat that is too low can exert excessive force across the patellofemoral complex. You should have about a 10 degree or so bend in the knee when it is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Pedal on a trainer for a few minutes, stop, and have someone look at the knee angle. When you look yourself you tend to alter the ankle angle and the resulting angle is not your true riding position.
Foot/cleat alignment is another issue. You need to have about 15 or more degrees of "float" in the pedals/cleats to allow some wiggle room for any physical alignment issues that might transfer stress to the knee and to allow for normal biomechanical motion of the lower extremity. The most common anatomical factor involving the foot is pronation (flat feet). You can grossly test this by standing with wet feet on cement. Look to see if you have the "Fred Flintstone" footprint rather than a sort of a "C" shaped print. If you do have pronation issues you can try an over the counter arch support insert first. You made need a professionally casted orthotic.
Type of riding/training is another factor, especially if you have alignment issues. DO NOT REST. There are muscle imbalances at issue in most of these cases and rest can exacerbate these weaknesses. Relative rest is the watch word. It's hard to do in WV, but avoiding hills that you can not spin up at a nice 70 to 90 cadence is a good idea. You should spin at 90 or so cadence in general to exert less force per pedal stroke. Avoid high intensity sprints and limit distance.
As far as treatment, there is a lot we could get into. Being evaluated by a qualified professional is a good idea. Frank's suggestion (A sports physical therapist.) is a good one. As far as simple self treatment options, ice is a good post ride measure. A common weakness involved is of a portion of the quadriceps called the vastus medialis oblique. Its function is to pull/guide the kneecap medially through its sulcus in the femur. If it is dysfunctional, the patella will not glide smoothly along its track which can result in wear and tear and resultant pain. You can do knee extension exercises with the foot turned outward. Tapping just above the medial kneecap to "wake up" the VMO can be helpful. Of, course, stretch the hams and the quads.
There are lots of treatment options beyond the above. Get an evaluation. If you simply must handle this yourself for a while, check the bike position issues, the foot pronation/position issue, ice when it is exacerbated, reduce strain on the knee as mentioned, and do some targeted exercises. This should help in a month or so. If it is still there, get some help.
Oh, I forgot, but you've probably already noticed, sitting with your knees bent at 90 degrees or more can be aggravating due to a bowstring effect. Try to sit with the leg extended and a slight bend in the knee.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Marshmallow Fluff and a Shot of Jack

(If you are easily offended, please skip this diatribe. We'll return to the regular format next post. Let's call this one a "sylistic exercise." If you are under 17, go back to sneaking hits of porn while your parents are in the other room. You can come back next week.)
When Fat Cat heard that the filthy bastard, Aerobinator, had snuck up the pike in 25 min, he did a spit take with his Evian, choked on his Nature Valley granola bar and wrapped his Prius around a maple. Spitting out a tooth, he laughed. You really are a Goddamn tree hugger now, you piece of shit. He took a belt from the bottle of Mad Dog he hid under the seat, gave the anemic fucker of a car one good kick and took the bike off the top.

On the way to Mud Pike, a stop at the True Value was in order. You’d think those hardware pimps had never seen a mother fucker clad in blood soaked lycra before. Just give me the goods and quit gawking you fat bastard. The Fat Cat sat down on the curb, popped the cap off the can of spray paint, took a deep breath, and went to work. Finished, he sat back and knocked back the bottle of MD 20/20— waiting for the high dollar poser bike, all dressed in a coat of anonymous, light eating, black paint, to dry.
Look familiar?

By the time the Flanders Fat Cat finally got to the bottom of that God forsaken obsession of a hill called Mud Pike, he had his nuts all twisted into a knot for that couple of minutes Aerobinator had put on him. Just as The Cat started his charge up the run in, a Goddamn headwind rolled down off the mountain. Shit! How the hell do you get a fucking headwind when there’s not a damn cloud in the sky? Not gonna pick up any time down here.

One half mile later the pike’s first shot, haymaker punch was met with a deranged zeal. It was blocking the wind! All right you chicken shit mother fucker, watch me hit your ass like a battering ram now. The cranks turned round at 60+ and the eyes bulged like Gollum’s mongoloid brother's. By the hairpin, the wind induced deficit was erased but the left quad started whistling a happy fucking tune. Truthfully, the mutinous little son of a bitch had been singing a softer version of the song for a week or so.

The Fat Cat rounded the next turn standing on the pedals against the 15% grade, happy for the 6% just around the bend. Oh yeah, I got this mutha now. Bam! Old Fuck Winter’s last stand slammed The Cat right in the chest before he had a chance to sit down and furl the sails. Motherless son-of-a-bitch, can this get any worse!

At about two miles of climbing the quad, now a screaming school girl who had just met the local pedophile, went pop. A fascicule or two of the vastus lateralis twanged back like a couple of over-tuned piano strings. A dandy little divot opened up only to be quickly filled with a sweet little golf ball sized knot. The rest of the assault was to be filled with a constant cadence from the saner half of the brain—stop, stop, stop mother fucker stop.

Still, despite having about as much form as a monkey fucking a football, the time check at the pull off left a glimmer of hope. If The Fat Cat could man up and hammer his legs into Swiss steak, he might just break his stupid little personal record and come in under 30 minutes. Snot pendula swung in time to The Cat’s cadence, worming about in rasping respirations until Old Fart Winter rammed them down his throat. “Fuuuuck!” cried The Cat aloud against the wind. “Where is this shit eating wind coming from?”

Having been slowed to a crawl, he knew he was lost. Out of spite The Fat Cat still gave the mountain one last kick in the balls on the finishing rise. Thirty fucking one twenty four. He was too damn tired to give his ride the old Bjarn Riis toss into the bushes so he just spit. From the top he could now see his cold grey nemesis squatting behind the other side of the ridge.

Was it the cold wind? Was it the blown quad? Was it the bonk? Was it the Mad Dog? Whatever it was the Cat was shaking and riding like shit all along the ridgeline. He climbed fire tower hill without even knowing it, and that scared the hell out of him. On the descent the spine was jarred and the teeth gored the tongue thanks to a 40 mph fucking pothole he failed to account for. The topper was the tire that finally crapped out 500 yards from home. Walking along the roadside in reverse stiletto road shoes gave the quad such a fit that The Cat just started to laugh. What a sight, some bleary eyed bastard, flat black bike slung across his back, limping along a back ass country road on a Tuesday afternoon.

There you go NYC Bicycle Bastardizer, a little fist shaking from a Velveeta eater. Of course, the whole attitude thing is bullshit. I just love riding in any form, be it noodling, touring, racing or mountain biking. The reason for stating the blog is so that members of our local bike group don't have to sit through a lenthy ride report from a "literary genius" who just has fun writing, badly of not. In fact, for a self diagnosed lifelong manic depressive (I like the term better than the new "bipolar") I am one happy son-of-a-bitch. I hope you get there someday. Anytime you need a big old hunk of Twinky with cherry Kool-Aid to wash it down, come on back and visit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Fantastic 50 Tour

Today's ride was simply soul stimulating. The weather lived up to all expectations. The skies were clear blue, the sun heated the landscape to a perfect 73 degrees and there was virtually no wind to speak of. It was the ultimate in bicycling comfort. The Flanders Fat Cat tried desperately, via land lines, airwaves, spider webs and other media, to free his comrades from their slavery to the man, their worship of the almighty dollar and their lawn and landscape idolatry. In the end good old Lord MonkeyButt was the only true visionary to Join The Fat Cat in recognizing the cosmic forces converging on the mountain.

We blasted up the first/worst part of Mud Pike, drunk with the power of our bare legs. A nice pace was kept up through the rest of the climb but in a silent accord, both riders stayed together and crested the summit side by side. The time, 32min on the nose, was decent for having eased up for half the ascent. That cut 5 minutes off the gap between The Cat and The Aerobinator. Look out you genetic mutant, The Cat's comin for ya!

Lord MonkeyButt was feeling frisky all across Skyline. Alot of pushing and pouncing got the training portion out of the way by the Summit Golf Course and the touring portion was a go.
The rest of the ride was nothing less than euphoric. At the risk of sounding repetitive, no high priced tour could match what we've got right here in our own back yard. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves

Wine bottles and wirey bikes at the top of Fayette springs road.
Lord MonkeyButt having maybe tasted one two many samples at Cristian Clay Winery
Rick uses "more power" to sculpt oaks into osprey.
Looks inviting but beware!
Climbing historic Kentuck Knob, blissfully unaware.

The Fat Cat just before a politely rude old troll popped out of Frank LLoyd Wright's creation. "You're welcome to leave now," she told us. She obviously had no affinity for wandering cyclists crashing her tightly run tour. She tossed out a couple more of these sugary snide bon mots as we mounted our steeds. Lord Monkey but was sternly admonished to please stop taking pictures as it is not allowed. Think Nancy Pelosi if you're a republican or Nancy Reagan if you're a democrat.
The Firefly Grill in Ohiopyle Pa provided a cornucopia of cyclist friendly fare. The turkey chiabatas proved excellent fuel for the super steep climb back out of the river canyon. On that climb we were turning the cranks over only one time every 2 seconds for a good chunk of time. But, suprisingly, it felt great.
MonkeyButt, thinking about his thumb and pickup trucks.

We climbed over 8,000 feet in 50 miles (according to gps) but nary a whimper issued from either rider. In fact, after climbing out of the river gorge, The Cat felt long dormant lobes of his lung open up like the spring buds. We rewarded ourselves with a 50 mph plunge down the mountain via route 40. Passing cars, it never gets old. All the Cat can say is, "wish you were there."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Day, Another Whippin'

Doesn’t anyone out there have any friends that aren’t semi-pro riders? Can’t anyone please bring along a new recruit that The Flanders Fat Cat can schlap about a bit? Sandbag brought a friend of his, Rick (but he doesn't mind being called Steve), along for the ride. The new recruit, sporting titanium and a Rox Shox factory kit, was in transit from Delaware to Colorado and looking for a game. Turns out he used to work at Wamsley’s cycle shop, he did work with Rock Shox, he rode with the hammers in Colorado Springs and spoke of his time at the Sea Otter Classic and such. One look at this character, whom the Fat Cat dwarfed by a literal 45 lbs, and it was obvious that there was to be trouble in the hills. Dammit, The Cat is going to hang it up if he can’t beat up on somebody, but quick.

I kid! I kid cause I love. The Flanders Fat Cat takes on all comers. Bring it on boys. And, if the Cat can’t beat you today, well, even Lord Nelson had to take a few knocks from the Admiralty on the way up.

We three Grimpeurs started up Mud Pike on a great day. The skies were not starry but the climes were definitely cloudless, with heaven denying nothing to gaudy day. Mr. Titanium was rolling a 39x23 so the cyclists three turned away from the Pike before she started to bite. We skirted along the foot of the mountain via Barton Hollow road, headed for the slightly easier Jummonville climb. The Cat, ever the gracious host, offered his smaller companion a rear wheel trade, 25 for 23. A sigh of relief whispered across The Fat Cat’s lips when the offer was politely turned down.
Test accelerations at key spots—a long flat, a steep little climb—were thrown out all along Fairchance Hopwood and Hopwood Coolspring roads. The new guy was right there with every look over the shoulder. The only time The Fat Cat was able to put any significant distance between himself and the other riders was, of course, on the tucked in downhills. So it went, all fun and games, until we hit the wall.

The Jummonville climb is about 1 mile shorter than Mud Pike with a couple hundred less feet in elevation and thus, a lesser overall grade. But, just like all those scrappy short guys out there, it comes out swinging. The first few hundred yards are very steep and the rest of the first mile or so is no slouch either. Right away Mr. 23 skidooed up the wall like a coach roach in the light. He gapped the Cat and Sandbag easily and then quickly disappeared around the first curve, earning the Grimpeur name, “23 skidoo” (or just “Skidoo” for short).

Fighting off Jummonville’s heavy initial punch, The Cat struggled with Sandbag right on his wheel. Breathing heavily, the Cat looked within. Could he allow one new guy a breakaway win and then let the other new guy sit in for a possible blow by at the line? No damn way. Skidoo’s break was too stunning to think about bridging but Sandbag was going to have to work for his dish of cheap Chinese takeout. When the incline let up just a bit, The Fat Cat worked over the drive train for all he was worth. In his mind Sandbag was always right there, sucking wheel. Despite intermittent threats of cramping from the hams and a gentle stitching in the sides, he dare not let up. The speedo was pushed just into the double digits for the last mile. It was not until Jummonville camp was in sight that The Cat finally glanced back under the arm. Sandbag was nowhere to be seen. At the top it was Skidoo in polka dots with The Flanders Fat cat several minutes in second and Sandbag a couple more back in third.
All together again at the top, the tiny peleton made its way across Skyline Drive at a surprisingly good pace after the climb. We passed the Summit inn, the Summit Golf Course and Laurel Caverns on the way to the well anticipated Mud Pike descent. The Grimpeurs bombed down the Pike at 45+ mph in the bright sun, shielded from the cool temperatures by hot adrenalin. By virtue of his mass and his local knowledge, The Fat Cat made the bottom first with enough time to snap a few photos.

What a great day, a great ride and a great workout. Skidoo can come back anytime (but he has to wear a 50 lb pack). By the way, it seems Skidoo has a longstanding flatlander nickname as well--The Human Lung.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sunshine and Sand

Two new riders joined the ranks of the Grimpuers and rode with The Flanders Fat Cat on this fine Tuesday afternoon. The Newbie that skipped out on Tuesday, Dave Barnett, called and begged a tryout. We had to drive out to Lake o the Woods to retrieve Dave’s bike so The Cat, always merciful, nodded in assent to the idea that we start in the highlands and roll about up there, skipping the monstrous ascent. As we were about to leave Morgantown, The cell sounded with a call from another hoping to join the order. The name, Tim Nelm’s, evoked an expression of fearful recognition on Dave’s face. I believe he said, “You guys are gonna kill me.” Such statements from one of 150lbs soaking, looking to be at 10 or 12% body fat at most, often seen wearing running race shirts, and employed in the sporting industry, made him suspect.

It was agreed that Tim would park at Rich’s Farms and start up Wymps Gap. We would meet him after retrieving newbie Dave’s bike. As suspected, Dave, who claimed to have only ridden once this year, motored smartly up the back side of Wymps. At the Summit there was no sign of Tim nor was he seen on any of the roads below. The next thing we knew we were at the bottom of Wymps. Tim was found snickering at Rich’s Farms, his evil plan to lure The Cat and his companion down the mountain come to fruition.

The Fat Cat and Tim set a good pace along the rolling flats of 857. The newbie was not dropped, HMMM. We turned up Prison Camp road and amicably made our way to Mud Pike. The group hit the big grades and the “newbie” spun up just fine on his Lemond triple. In fact, The Fat Cat was almost dropped a couple of times, having to catch up. Nelms stood on his pedals and chatted it up all the way to the top while Dave and The Cat occasionally grunted out a rudimentary response. All finished the ascent together but, it was obvious that, had the polka dot jersey been contested, Nelms would have been the victor.

In lieu of a jersey ceremony at the summit, Tim and Dave were bestowed their Grimpeur names. Having nearly left the Fat Cat behind on his own Mountain, Dave shall hereafter be known as, Sandbag. Tim, who lived on an Indian reservation for 5 years, was given the title, Talks-With-Legs.

After gaining the summit, we band of brothers, Grimpeurs all, took off under the blue sky and flew down Skyline Drive towards Bruceton Mills. The Cat led the way, his impressive mass shifting from burden to boon on the descending ribbon of asphalt. Right up until the last sprint was unleased before Bruceton, Sandbag hung right in there, chewing on half a powerbar.

The peleton of three proceeded through the farm fresh dung cloud of 73 and made the right on Hileman. For the first time on the ride, Sandbag started to fade on the climb back to Wymps, lending some credence to his assertion that he never rides more than 20 miles. The Fat Cat and Talks-With-Legs graciously slackened the pace. Good conversation ensued all the way to Lake of the Woods’ sparkling mountain waters. Sandbag and The Cat twisted Talks-With-legs’ arm and he joined them at Sandbag’s lakeside cabin for a little Summer Brew, purely for medicinal purposes, of course. Afterwards, Sandbag and The Cat loaded their frothy steeds for the drive home. Talks-with-Legs rode off into the sun and untold miles more.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Intervals, Oddities and Pure Joy

Well, as expected, the two newbies from the neighborhood stiffed The Fat Cat. Should have known it would happen when the least in shape of the two used The Cat’s name and that of Lance Armstrong in the same sentence. Hopes were high for the other one, though. He had the cyclist build. But, it can’t be said that the sudden scarcity of the two wasn’t met with fair amount of relief on the part of The Flanders Fat Cat. Today was the most beautiful day of the year so far and nursing a couple of prospects up the rail trail’s 3 % grade would have been a bit of a cooler. So, summer kit, skinny tires and countless climbs were the order of the day.

All the chatter on the Morgantown Bike Club site this weekend about the best roads from Morgantown to Ohiopyle State Park in PA got the Fat Cat hankering for those parts. But, first things first. Being that polls show the wildly ill informed public believes The Flanders Fat Cat can catch The Aerobinator, some effort toward that end was required. Mud Pike was viciously attacked in a masochist frenzy called, “mountervals” (or pikervals— can’t decide). The idea was to hit all the steepest parts at a cadence of 60 to 70 rpm until such revolutions can no longer be maintained or until something breaks. In between the mountervals the heart is allowed to return to the mediastinum, along side the smoldering lungs, while the rider either pokes along the lesser grades or rides in circles. What a way to spend a lovely day, eh?

Cresting the knee popper after the hairpin, clinging by a hairs breadth to the underside of 60 rpm, what oddity should greet the gasping Cat but an overturned baby jumper thingy gazing out over the scenic overlook. And, as if that bit of littering weren’t odd and/or ballsy enough, around the next curve a white bassinet sat bolt upright on the crumbling roadside. A tiny, spooky, white teddy bear dangled above the little bed, the last vestige of some baby’s mobile. As the recovering cat passed the discarded furniture, a wake of buzzards exploded from the woods. Involuntary spasms bunny hopped the Cervelo a few feet to the right, a feat The Fat Cat could never voluntarily accomplish.

The Cat dismounted and approached the eerie refuse. Slowly, he peered over the white wicker sides, afraid of what might be found that would interest buzzards so. And there it was, unmoving, tucked in yellowed linen. A dead…printer. Some yahoos thought The Fat Cat’s mountain was a great place to dump their no longer needed stuff. He wasn’t too mad though, since the refuse was just bizarre enough to cross over from junk to entertainment- in a Cohen brothers sort of a way. The Fat Cat fretted about the back story behind the abandonment of the yahoo baby’s things, and incongruous printer, until the cleansing grade and another pikerval washed all thought away.

Having completed 40 minutes or so of mountervals, the Flanders Fat Cat was finally free to roam. He shot across Skyline drive, surprisingly fresh after the workout. Then it was down the back side of the summit via famous old route 40 at 40mph. No cars dared pass. The freefall continued down Wharton Furnace road, chasing the Big Sandy creek. New ground was broken with a turn up Fayette Springs road. The wooded way was dotted with great old log cabins and aging hunting camps to keep the steep climb interesting. Fayette Springs gurgled the Fat Cat out in Chalk Hill at the Christian Clay Winery. Across the road Rick, an old friend of The Cat, had set up shop and was out carving eagles and bears and such with a chainsaw for the tourists. Rick is one of those fringe types. He’s always doing something odd but interesting like beating the leaf springs of old cars into swords.

The Cat crossed 40 and headed out on Kentuck road (aka Chalk Hill Ohiopyle road). He cut through Deer Lake, a funky little mountain community mix of palatial new lakeside homes alongside old, friendly little aluminum sided boxes. Old mill road was fascinating for both its horse farms and its bi-colored way, red asphalt on the eastbound side and grey on the westbound.

From there it was back over Fayette Springs, down fantastic Wharton Furnace and over on Quebec Run to the foot of the mighty Kirby climb. It is the opinion of The Fat Cat that this thousand vertical foot climb in just around two miles is the hardest in the locality. Crawling up its remorseless double digit grades at 4 mph or so only reinforced the idea.

Back on Skyline, after the grind of the Kirby gradient, The Cat did not feel his usual limping and broken self. At the bottom of the pike he might have even felt refreshed, if not renewed. Nothing like 40 miles in the high mountains on a sun drenched day to put a man right. No high priced tour from the back of Bicycle magazine could have been any better. What a great place to live and ride!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Calculation Fascinations

One rider, The Fat Cat of Flanders, ascended glorious Mud Pike today. The question of the day: what is The Fat Cat capable of at this point and, what is he able to delude himself into thinking he is capable of? First off, The Cat’s CycleDumb coach says that the flabby feline needs to, “Lower the gun barrels a bit sometimes.” If The Cat’s amazing powers of metaphoric interpretation are correct, then the captain is suggesting that someone of The Cats prolific dimensions should stop trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Well, despite the fact that The Fat Cat of Flanders would surely be a champion sprinter if he gave up on the climbs, he has made a career of trying to beat the square peg, round hole conundrum. The great thing about such an approach is that nobody expects a successful outcome. If one were to make the grade, they would be lauded as a visionary and an inspiration. Notice the use of modifiers, trying and would be, which rightly indicate that The Fat Cat is, as yet, lauded only in his own mind. But, at least nobody is surprised or disappointed.

On this overcast and surprisingly chilly48 degree day, The Fat Cat revved up the old Cervelo for another square peg assault on the Pike. Time to time trial and get a good baseline reading for the training to come. The Cat wanted to keep the cadence above 50 with an eventual goal of 60+ up the mountain. Unfortunately, a heavy fore wind slowed The Fat Cat like a prize fighter palming a flailing boys head (excuse#1). The mountain dictated the cadence and in the end it was about 45. What else is one to expect when a regular family guy (excuse#2) insists on the same gearing used in the pro peleton (excuse #3).

33 Minutes and 40 seconds to go 4 miles. I suck. There was no vomitus but The Flanders Fat Cat did just about all he could do. And, all he could do was go 3 minutes slower than his own personal record and 7+ minutes slower than the overall record as held by the dastardly Aerobinator. What’s a boy to do? Answer: crunch the numbers to see just how small the round hole really is.

Having no access to a power meter, we’ll use the equation: weight x 9.8 x elevation/ time = power. Given that the Fat Cat is “down to” 190 and his bike is about 20 lbs (95.45 kg) with winter accoutrements and cloths, the climb of Mud Pike is 464 meters and the ascent took 2020 seconds, the power produced is roughly 215 watts. Adding the 10% suggested by Allen Lim (Landis’ coach) to account for wind resistance and such (although, I am sure it should be higher given the gale force blow on the mountain) we get the hefty sum of 237. That’s supposedly equivalent to the power output of a cat 3 rider. Funny, cat 3 riders routinely sour The Fat Cat’s milk. For further comparison, a cat 1 puts out 350 watts and a pro makes 365 to 385 watts for 30 min on average.

What would it take to catch the aerobinator and his 1560 seconds? At his current weight The Cat would have to push a crazy 306 watts, a 23% increase. It might be easier to cut the weight by 15 lbs (without loosing any strength!). In that case the power output would have to be 284 watts, a 17% increase. The Cat was able to gain 35 watts in about 5 weeks last fall and could easily lose 15 lbs in 60 days if only he was able to resist the seductive draw of rocky road at Coldstone. At 7 watts/week it would take a highly theoretical 7 or 8 weeks to close the gap. Sounds all scientific so it must be true, right?

Is all this really possible for a balding, and to be honest, man of spotty willpower at best? Well, it’s enough for The Fat Cat of Flanders to delude himself into a wasted season of hammering away at that square peg. Are you frightened Kean?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Meadville or How I learned to stop biking and learned to run again.

A guest spot by the wandering MonkeyButt. Couldn't figure out how to apply"Somewhere Out There" as background music.

Aaaaahh yes, the open road called and I fancied myself again, the traveling man. I left home early Monday morning w/ a tear in my eye, twenty dollars in my pocket, 3/4 tank of gas in the Subaru Trucklette and no bike. MEADVILLE! The home of the trusty blue handled Channel Locks still made in PA! The big time, or close to it I thought. The Inn sounded inviting...the name beckoned QUALITY!
The brochure assured me of a fully stocked and ready exercise room and I got all prepped in my finest back shorts and headed down. I surveyed the dank room. No water in the dispenser, a broke down AC unit and a 25 inch TV. Now, down in the Country Bunker of Greene County, I have no TV services. Dont get me wrong, I have a TV, I have a DVD/Laser Disc player and a full compliment of media but alas no wires or satellites bringing me the world, so this TV was a novelty indeed! I tuned it to a channel broadcasting ALICE, a show Ive forgotten in the dust bin of my mind. I looked, A Nordic Track Treadmill, A Nordic spinny thing and a Nordic Exer-bike....I smiled....I can do my Grimpeur duties in the comfort of a enclosed room whilst looking at the still intact snow piles outside my window. BUT..

This sight greeted me. Looking down I saw the crank and pedal lying quietly on the floor. I picked it up and forced it back onto the bottom bracket only to have it fall off just as quickly. I shuddered.
The only other choice was to abandon the whole training plan and retire to the comfort of the converted fire station transformed into a bar offering up dollar beers or to run.
I ran. I ran so far away as the old song goes and did a few miles on the treadmill contemplating my loss. It wasnt Grimpeuing as I wanted it to be but at least it was something.
After the run I somehow found myself at the fire station eating fish and supporting the local beer trade.
I guess a bike comes up w/ me this weekend.

Climbing Astride the Throne

Tuesday’s ride started out in Cheat Lake at about 2 AM. Why the early start? It may have been the gas station burrito the Fat Cat wolfed down for lunch earlier that started the internal gears churning. Whatever the cause, a Grand Boucle de Toilet ensued. The Flanders Fat Cat spent the rest of the night riding the upstairs lavatory and then to the kids” bathroom, down to the tertiary throne and then around and around again in a commode criterium of sorts. The dawn arrived with more aching muscles than after a mountain time trial and more dehydration than the Death Valley 100.
What a shame too. Despite a morning on the couch, praying for rain, the weather was great. All morning the Fat Cat waged an internal struggle between common sense and bravado. If Lemond won the Tour in similar straits and if Bobke can take care of business right in front of a picnicking French family of four, who was the Cat to leisure about in convalescence? Of course, The Cat is not on tour and does not stand to be remunerated in any form for such daring acts of do. But, these realizations sometimes come begrudgingly.

Finally, the dry mouth, the weak legs and the recollection that bravado in the face of illness most likely started that 5 week cascade of fever, mucous and generalized malaise a few weeks ago, won out. In short, there was no Tuesday Grimpeur ride today. The mountain mourns. We’ll try again Thursday.

Maybe I should've tried Wymps Gap?