Wednesday, May 27, 2015


     The bike I purchased twenty-five years ago continues to serve me well, but strictly as my "trainer-bike."  I occasionally lube the chain, had the bottom bracket serviced around 2010 (or maybe 2008, who's counting), and actually had to change a tire a few years ago.  I bring this up because it has been overly used these last two weeks, since we have had rain every day (except yesterday) since returning from Germany.
     Years ago I had a Chris Carmichael Time Trial tape to give structure to my training.  The tape has long since worn out, but I still follow the regimen.  Up to a point.  It seems I am very comfortable at 84 RPM, but knocking out 90 takes a lot of effort.  It is a constant battle, one I lose unless extremely motivated.  The bike is not equipped to show cadence, so I use the old-fashioned way: counting strokes.  Fifteen strokes in ten seconds gives me 90 RPM.  I hit fourteen on a regular basis.
     This year I added a high-cadence portion to my work-out: three sets of 110 RPM.  I started at ten seconds and have moved up to thirty and the plan is to see what happens once I get to one minute.  But accurately counting strokes and accelerating is a chore.  Indeed, the other day I did twenty strokes, for 120 RPM.  I wasn't sure of my count, but even being one off still achieved the goal.
     Then a stroke of genius: use my road bike, equipped with cadence.  All I had to do was change out the quick-release (it didn't fit the trainer) and I could monitor my stroke count with just a glance at the computer.  All went well as I warmed up.  But on my first five-minute interval my cadence moved between 78 and 80.  I knew my legs were a tad "loggy" but it felt like my normal 84.  For the second interval, even with the computer, I counted strokes.  Like clockwork for the entire five minutes: 14.  Not good.  Same thing for the third interval.  Pook ding-fu!  My computer is shorting me!!
     When I ran it up to 110, it seemed accurate.  Once I got over my shock, I had to contemplate the situation.  While I know that computers are sometimes wrong, my experience is that they do what their programming tells them to do.  The fact that it was accurate at 110/120 pointed toward me.  After all, it just counted every time it went past the magnet, which didn't move (well it does sometimes, but then I get no count at all).  Bottom line: for the last ten-plus years, I have been counting "one" when the clock hits any of the zeros, and "fourteen" when it hits the next one.  Until this week, it never occurred to me that this was thirteen strokes.
     I may have to come up a gear, but from here on out, I'll be counting sixteen.  Maybe my time trial speed will improve.  We shall see in four weeks.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


     I normally reserve this blog for cycling activities, so I really need to spin it this way: our two week holiday (using the British term for vacation) resulted in my being off the bike, necessitating serious training now that we're back.
     One activity on our to-do (I detest the term "bucket") list was to volunteer at son Kurt's running events.  Several years ago he left the corporate world to pursue his passion: trail running.  Yes, he does run a lot (completing the Rocky Raccoon this year), but he and wife, Nicola, started Cotswold Running.  They organize off-road long-distance races.  I refer you to their website.  His Evesham Ultra (~45 miles) on April 26 fit nicely into our calendar.
     In addition, touring Berlin has been high on Marilane's agenda for quite a while, so we cobbled the two together since we were more or less "in the neighborhood."
     Kurt met us at Heathrow after our non-stop flight from Austin.  I prefer the back seat when driving in the UK, as I tend to not jerk as much when the cars come from different directions.  Therefore most of the conversation in the two hour trip was between Marilane and Kurt.  Once we left the city, the vibrant yellow rapeseed fields held my attention.  And, I managed to stay awake.  Kurt has a small house and Nic's parents from Scotland were also volunteering and staying with them, so we stayed at the Evesham Hotel (quirky but very nice).  I mention this because in strolling between the hotel and house, we passed lovely trees in bloom.  I might also mention we managed to bring some really cold air with us, so all pictures have us well-layered.
     It doesn't matter what the goal, be it studying for a test, achieving something in business, training for an athletic event, the old maxim holds true: the harder you prepare, the easier the test (task).  In my cycling venues, when everything goes smooth as butter, I know the organizers worked their butts off in the preparation.  Same for Kurt's runs.
     Marilane and I had several chores, minor helping with check-in, then walk to the first turns to direct the runners (they had the whole course marked, but people waving in front of faces and giving encouragement is always welcome), then we had several hours off before the runners returned.  We were charged with serving refreshments in the hall while Kurt and Nic handled the finish line.  In a seven-to-ten hour race, the runners come in more or less separately.
     One of the things Kurt does is post a large map of the race course on the wall.  I didn't think much about it until he started receiving calls from runners who had missed a turn and needed to get back on course.  He knows his routes like the back of his hand and only needed for the runner to describe the surroundings before he found him on the map and directed him/her the best way to pick up the course.  Almost all of the runners did "bonus" miles.  Interestingly enough, almost all the runners praised how well the course was marked, blaming themselves for their mistakes.
     All runners accounted for, none injured; we celebrated at the pub.  Check-mark on our list.  We managed a few touristy things also.  On a visit several years ago we attended a play in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).  This year we had a very interesting back-stage tour.  We also toured Hampton Court, another place on Marilane's list of things to see.  Then it was a flight to Berlin.
     Marilane had booked us a private guide to take us around town to important spots and explain history.  We learn so much more on a private tour.  Our first act upon checking in was to purchase five-day transit passes.  These are good on all the trains, trams, and buses within the city, and Potsdam.  I loved not messing with paying each time we got on.  Highlights of the trip included the Jewish Quarter, the
Wall, Museum Island (including Nefertiti and the gate of Ishtar) the Reichstag building, a trip to the palace in Potsdam and in the other direction, attended a choral concert at the  Cistercian Kloster Chorin.  We took a blah river cruise of the city. We also ran across a May Day protest march (several groups, mostly labor).  We didn't have time for several other museums, found a great vegan restaurant.
     The train drivers (are they really still called engineers?) called a strike for 3pm Tuesday.  I lost track of the day, so we took several unnecessary taxi rides on Monday.  Tuesday afternoon we flew to London, stayed overnight and came home Wednesday.  Here it is Sunday and I'm still not over jet-lag.