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Drafting Youth July 22, 2007

Posted by Bill in Conditioning.
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The title of this post has too many connotations in our war-weary land, but it is a bicycling metaphor I’m after here, so my apologies to those brought to this site with other topics in mind.

bike trail

A good workout has many emotional/psychological levels or spaces, and sustaining and enjoying workouts can be a full-time mental exploration of those spaces, particularly in the first weeks and months of kneeling before the Gods of Aerobia and praying for the endorphin blessing.

There are choices to make. Do I worry about my speed, or do I just pedal comfortably? Do I resent the super-fit team riders whose rear aspects become way too familiar, or do I look to them for inspiration? This vocal committee in our heads can present a very energetic struggle, or it can be virtually silent and existential. One choice I have made in this ongoing conversation has served me well, and its pleasures were brought to me once again today.

In the course of any workout, there is no average speed and no typical motivation among riders. Passing is very equal opportunity, and age and gender are not great predictors of workout speed. However, age is a somewhat better speed indicator, as young people generally have not endured a thirty year hiatus off the bike. And as people of any age or gender work to establish a more fit physiology for their futures, growth happens slowly as tissues grow and the chemistry changes, so everyone is on some path, our bodies obeying some quiet natural curve of change. In other words, older riders get passed a lot. How to cope with grace?

As anyone who has ever appreciated a coach can tell you, it is impossible to drive yourself to your full potential, to find a level of performance beyond what you believe your capacity to be. We generally aren’t even aware that we hold such beliefs while we are in the midst of exertion. In fact, we usually tend to find a level of comfort beyond which we don’t tend to venture, at least for very long periods of time. Younger cyclists present us with an opportunity.

Today I was passed by a woman who was pedaling an extremely consistent 20 mph pace, using an efficiency of pedaling motion and posture I admired extremely. My first thought was, “Whoa, what a machine.” I was in the latter third of my mileage, so I was less than inclined to fall in with her, but did so nonetheless, keeping a hundred feet or so behind. After a mile or so I was aware that I was at my maximum output, and that output moved past my maximum after about three. Hearing my hamstrings warning of “cramps a’comin’!” I backed off, grabbed a few gulps of water between pants, and watched her disappear down the trail. Awesome.

I have enjoyed this service before from other younger riders, and I yet to have the pleasure of thanking them for their pace. Without their lead, I would not have felt the limits I’m working to push past. Occasionally I am aware I am providing the same service to others – I pass riders only to sense them falling in with me for awhile, some distance back. I would never imagine that we’re not competitive out there – we all want to be faster than everyone else – but in practice it’s a pretty decent cooperative community of coaches. I’ll use this blog to thank my coaches in print – thanks for the inspiration and leadership, and for all you teach.


Eppie’s Great Race July 22, 2007

Posted by Bill in Conditioning, Events.
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TVO logo

For the last 34 years, Eppie Johnson of Sacramento restaurant fame has hosted Eppie’s Great Race, primarily as a promotional gimmick to publicize his business, but in recent years as simply a matter of pride and tradition. It has become a significant fund raiser for Sacramento County Therapeutic Recreation Services, so it feels pretty good to part with the dough it takes to join in the fun of a great Sacramento institution.

Being a part of this event was incredibly good for the three people you see pictured below, Team Valley Oak. This was the first “race” for all of us, and the preparation for the event was perhaps more fun and inspiring than the race itself. Team Valley Oak is comprised of Bill, Lisa and Robb, all educators in Davis.



Despite the kamikaze canoe and mid-rapid collision and dunking, dumping Robb in the American River and costing Team Valley Oak a couple hundred places in the finish, it was an incredibly satisfying day, culminating months of preparation and conditioning for the team.robb_eppies

Also part of the team was our all-important support team, pictured below. In an event with insufficient parking for some two thousand competitors, drivers and support become vital for an event that really works. Gillian, Leo & Karen made  it all happen in a way that kept it fun and manageable.

Team Valley Oak

I’ve listed this in the conditioning category, as having a goal for performance is key to the fun and evidence of a payoff for getting into shape. Some intellectually-contrived goal of “being in shape” and “living longer” is rarely enough to get us moving. But having a race to run… now there’s a goal you can taste.All of Team Valley Oak

Regardless of all, this race was a blast. These people look happy for a reason.

Observations for Older Riders July 7, 2007

Posted by Bill in Conditioning, Equipment.
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Hey Guys,

And I am speaking to guys out there. I’m pretty certain that most women don’t go after hurting themselves when they try to get back into shape, unlike the guys. An observation I’ve made, and this is based on my unscientific visual poll of the bike trail population, is that I see the same women (ages 40-80 I’m talking about) week after week, walking or biking the parkway jogging/bike trail. Conversely, I see a very high turnover in the male population in the same age group. I’ve given this some thought during my time on the trail, and I’d like to hear from you if you have any comments on why this might be the case.

1. Men have swallowed, hook line & sinker, the PE coach advice “No pain, no gain.” This is garbage, but it’s a macho credo, and you’ll do yourself a huge favor if you drop it now. Pain is pain, and intelligent beings that we are, we will not come back for second helpings. Your body and creative mind will provide you with reasons a-plenty for not getting back on the bike, pumping and panting like John Belushi in an ultramarathon. Learn from the women… ride with a friend, exert to a level that allows you to talk, and take yourself out for good coffee afterwards. I saw a workout line of four older guys today, and they were having a blast. They had a good pace going, they had good bikes and proper clothing with helmets, and they were talking, not panting. So stop the torture, find some friends, and commit yourself to FUN.

2. You have worked hard to get this out of shape, now go get yourself a good bike and the right clothes. Taking Junior’s thirty-year-old Schwinn out of the storage shed out back and duct taping the handle bars will not leave you wanting more. Bikes are like people: they wear out as entire entity, and as the whole machine conspires to fail, with all its tired pieces in one grand groaning concert, you will not be left with a good experience seducing you back for more. And if you think all bikes with two wheels are equal, you would be misinformed. Ride a bunch of them, and don’t stop with the rides at Target and WalMart. Check out REI, City Bicycle Works (Sacramento), Carmichael Cycle, or anyplace else that’s handy, and listen to all the advice. Don’t be afraid to throw some real money into this. The co-pays for a heart attack run into the thousands, so why not take a goodly chunk of that to avoid the co-pay in the first place? Also, if you’ve dropped a thousand bucks on a bike, the phrase, “Honey, I’ve spent so much money on this bike I have to get out on it again if I’m going to get my money’s worth” works a whole lot better than if you bought the $79 special at Target. What do you get by spending more? Lighter weight (often by far), better bearings, stronger alloys, dependable machinery, UV-resistant plastics, and service. That last item should be in lights, as you’ll get blank stares from Target employees along with the suggestion you take your bike to a mechanic at, say, one of the stores mentioned above. Modern bikes are complicated. Shop and compare carefully.

Also, if your back and neck are fussy, but you want a speedy experience, consider the vast array of recumbent bicycles. This link takes you to a discussion of them. The parkway has a mess of them, so don’t despair if you don’t want to do the full-tuck racing thing. Click on the pic to visit a place in PA that sells ’em…

recumbent bikes

3. Clothes! You will not find an easy chair on wheels, so pad your butt. Heavily. This is not the place to skimp. That twenty bucks difference in riding pants with heavier padding will be your best investment ever. If your crotch begins to chafe, head back to the bike store and ask for advice. Consider the following: saddle upgrades, underwear (high-tech is good) adjustment, padding lubricants, etc. If you do serious mileage, you are bound to chafe your crotch somewhere, and magic goo known as chamois butter can help a great deal. A favorite of many is made by Assos of Switzerland. Pricey, but what’s your crotch worth, anyhow?

Also, as you get more devoted to the aerobic experience, you will find that you need to get rid of heat. Cotton will kill you because it resists evaporation and you will not be able to cool off. Put yourself into as much lightweight high-tech polyester as you can stand (logos, while cool, are not required) because it will wick moisture away from your body and cool you very effectively as long as you’re moving.

4. If you are into tools and are handy with them, have fun with your bike. Take a bike maintenance class (REI has them periodically) , and make yourself the bike guru for the neighborhood. Keep your bike pristine, pet your chain and dérailleur regularly with good lubricants, and have an old-fashioned mechanical relationship with it.