Richard Nelson

Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Are you a cyclist?

In cycling on 2007 October 28 Sunday at 19:40:00

You bike to work every day, rain or shine, snow or sleet. Are you a cyclist?

In your backyard shed you have a mountain bike you bought years ago from Canadian Tire. On really fine days you and your significant other ride to a nearby park and toodle along the bike path there. Are you a cyclist?

You belong to a cycling club and have several beautiful (and expensive) road bikes, none of them weighing more than 20 pounds. You don’t bike to go anywhere, but you put in a hundred-plus miles a week training, and you do duathlons or triathlons in the season. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a well-put-together hybrid bike with large panniers. You ride it to work most days. Though you won’t bike when there’s a lot of snow on the ground—you don’t like falling—you’re a twelve-month rider. You don’t bike anywhere else; indeed, you own a nice minivan you use to take your kids to hockey and to get groceries. Are you a cyclist?

Every summer you and your significant other bike hundreds of miles while on vacation. Your bike sports front and back panniers, a triple chainring, a well-broken-in leather saddle, and maybe a trailer with your camping gear. You can’t go fast, but you can go far. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a bike everywhere. It’s a matter of principle. Your bike is not beautiful nor expensive, but it’s serviceable and gets you places. Perhaps it has plastic flowers wired to the stem. You loathe our mechanized society and its consumption of irreplaceable oil. You loathe the BMWs and SUVs that clog our roads, that kill cyclists. You go to cyclist memorials. You demand bikelanes on every road. You bang on the sides of motor vehicles that (you think) threaten you. Are you a cyclist?

You and your spouse ride a tandem every weekend, and hang around with other tandem riders. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a recumbent bicycle, which you call a ’bent, or sometimes a human-powered vehicle. Your “upright” friends make fun of you climbing hills, but your back feels great. Are you a cyclist?

You’re a randonneur. Your season starts with a 200-kilometre ride. You think nothing of battling sleep while cycling the 1000 kilometres around Lake Ontario. Your training, indeed much of your life, is oriented toward qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris four years from now. Are you a cyclist?

Perhaps more important: do you consider all of these folks cyclists? If not, which ones?

Ours is a huge community, yet a weirdly hidden one—we hide from each other with labels and badges and qualifications that include us and exclude those who aren’t (we think) “real” cyclists. Hang around with performance cyclists, and they’re mildly contemptuous of the scruffy do-gooders on heavy steel mountain bikes with squeaking mechanicals or of “gutter bunny” commuters. In the world of cycling advocacy, the performance cyclists—Lycra-clad whippets travelling in packs they give a fancy French name to—barely register. And, of course, to most utilitarian cyclists, biking to work or school on their mountain bikes or hybrids, and to most of the folks on the bikepaths on pleasant weekend days, neither the performance cyclists nor the advocates matter.

Nor should they. We’re all cyclists. Practically every adult and near-adult in Toronto is a cyclist—sometime, somewhere, somehow. Some of us bike a lot, some of us less, but we’re still cyclists.


Objectives for this year

In training on 2007 October 28 Sunday at 19:16:00

It’s a bit like being in school: I think of my year as being the period between runnings of the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon!

I DNF’d on September 9, 2007, and I will be in Lake Monona at the start on September 7, 2008.

In the seven weeks since my DNF, I’ve decided on five objectives for this year, in more or less this order.

First, I must learn to suffer. I’ve never been big on suffering. If a work-out is difficult I’m inclined to step out of it, rationalizing that I don’t want to be injured. But I’m learning that pushing the envelope of my performance means that I must suffer—especially on the bike. (On the other hand, I have to be careful: this last week I’ve been suffering from a cold; after it abated I worked out a few times, and now I’m laid up again.)

Second, I need to improve my time management, with respect to working out. That is, there’s still much “training to train” I can do. The off season (i.e., now) is a good time to try out some of my ideas. One of them, for instance, is to do my work-outs as soon as I get up, at 5 a.m. Eastern Time—and then reward myself with my much-loved cup of coffee.

Third, I need to improve my technique, in all three disciplines, but especially swimming. Coach Steve and I met on September 29 and he had some useful critiques of my technique, but barely improving my swim stroke will take twenty minutes off my Ironman swim time, with no other changes. Coach Kelvin said he agreed with all of Steve’s comments.

Fourth, I need to get to the weight room twice a week at least. I blew off weight training last year, and I don’t think that helped in Wisconsin.

Fifth, I need to lose some weight. Getting under 170 pounds (on my 5’10½” mesomorphic frame) seems pretty reasonable.

“Biomechanical assessment”

In fitness on 2007 October 14 Sunday at 02:38:00

Coach Steve has several time recommended Scott Howitt at the Sports Performance Centre in Thornhill. I met Scott at the Team Bentley party early in the summer, and we agreed by e mail that I’d see him for a “biomechanical assessment” after I’d done Ironman Wisconsin.

Letting my cracked rib heal, and working with his schedule, I saw Scott on Saturday, October 13. He spent about an hour and a half with me: he watched me run, stretch, walk over bars, lunge, etc. One of his tests, the Thomas test, looks a lot like the picture I’ve inserted. (And I’m not sure, but I think that’s Scott in the pic.)

In our valedictory discussion, after I’d dressed, Scott had a few particularly interesting things to say. Most important, he said he found nothing that was worth his working on. I.e., no therapy was indicated. All the problems or issues were for me to work on, not a therapist. Indeed, he said, I was in better shape, biomechanically, than half the Maple Leafs they’d examined during training camp.

He wrote a two-page report I got just a few hours later—great service. I will share part of what he wrote in the summary:

“Richard has no current injuries and no limitations to his training. Some minor tweaking of muscle strength and flexibility to his improve his overall muscle balance is recommended. … Train harder and kick butt in IM Wisconsin.”

How did I feel? I was disappointed! I know that doesn’t make much sense unless, like Jeeves, you “consider the psychology of the individual” (I am working my way systematically through Wodehouse’s Jeeves & Wooster books): there is no magic bullet, nothing that I can delegate. My aches and pains, my “limitations”, are all in my control, as much as they can be controlled.

As Scott says, the key message is: “train harder”!

Smooth bike drills

In indoor cycling on 2007 October 10 Wednesday at 01:00:00

Tonight was a short but hard workout, 45 minutes or so of very smooth cycling drills with speed intervals thrown in. The new plan is to put as much power into the up stroke as the down stroke, producing an even hum. The new technique works certain muscles harder than before.