Monday, December 22, 2008

How to become a cycling god.

I have a whole week off for Christmas.  With this new found freedom from work, I have been struggling these last few days on deciding what to do.  Well, this morning I awoke to an epiphany.   Let me preface this with a little background on myself. 

I have been riding and racing bicycles for the last ten years and have had a good time doing it.  Ever since I started riding, a goal of mine was simply to become a cycling god.  Needless to say, this didn’t happen.  This is the type of goal that is easier said than done.  I am not claiming that it is impossible, just that it is not as easy to attain as simply saying it.  Actually, it took me about six months of riding to realize that a less ambitious goal was needed.  I gave up my dreams of the tour, and instead focused on winning local group ride sprints to city limit signs.  But why?  Maybe what was limiting me was not my physical prowess, but my lack of a single-minded focus on attaining my goal.  Or maybe it was my college physiology classes and study of kinesiology (note the fancy word, which shows I am really smart) that lead me down the same path to nowhere that all the traditionalists are headed.  

I have spent a number of years researching physiology, sports psychology, and race tactics, but still have yet to honored with the badge of “mutant” or “genetic freak.”  I am thought of as a racer, but I want more than that.  I want other riders to lament even lining up to race when I pull up to the line.  I want people to secretly wonder if my mother was a cheetah and my father a gorilla.  I want Mothers to hold on to their children when I ride by for fear of them being blown over from my wake.  It seems that I’ll never get there unless I re-think my approach.  

Now, to the epiphany: Why not spend this week fully focused on attaining my long held goal?  “What is different today than yesterday,” you ask?  Let me tell you.  Instead of trying to doing what everyone else does, I will outside the box.  Why rely on the perspective of someone that builds upon the unstable foundation established long ago, when maybe it is a fresh look that is needed.  Heck, if the fundamental training and racing principles established in years past are holding us back, let’s build a new foundation - one which can support the weight of the cycling gods of the future? (myself included, of course) 

Where to start?  At the beginning, of course. 

Einstein is generally regarded as a smart guy.  And from my research, I see that he was an avid cyclist.  (Well, at least I found this picture of him riding a bike.  He seems happy enough, which Smartest_Cyclist_Evertells me he must really enjoy it, and hence trains a lot.) Anyway, Einstein is quoted as saying that if he had one hour to save the world, he would put 55 minutes to defining the problem and only 5 minutes to solving the problem.  Now, that is a fresh look.  That is thinking outside the box!Of course, I am not trying to save the world, so I probably don’t need to spend that much time defining the problem.  How complicated can riding a bike fast be when compared with the problem of saving the world?  In perspective, riding fast is easy.  I probably just need to shift into a big gear and turn it over really fast.  At this point you are probably thinking, “It’s not that easy!”

Of course it’s not.  Becoming a cycling god certainly takes more than that.   There are problems with the press, dealing with all the time zone changes from my many international ventures, even the continuous autograph sessions can get to be tedious after a few weeks. But I got it under control. 

You see, I have substantially more time than the hour Einstein was worried about.  Heck, with Christmas vacation, I can devote the rest of the week figuring out what I need to do to reach god-hood and then maybe the weekend to executing it.  I’ll then take a little time off, and then by New Years plan on hiring a press agent and Manager.

Marty McFly once said, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”  Hey, if McFly said it, it must be true.  Of course he had a time machine, which made things a little easier.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anyone want to buy an Autobike?

What is up with these infomercials?  Am I such a sucker that I will buy anything they sell, just so long as they say the same catch phrase over, and over, and over?  When I see all the smiling people using the product I can't help but say, "That could be me chopping onions at a million miles an hour!"

So what if I gotta have a LandRider auto-shifting bike for those Smiling all the way to the bankon-road training sessions and a Gazelle to get in those rainy day cross-training sessions?  They showed me real world examples of people using their products and getting happier and more buffed by the minute.

I also watched much of Senator Obama's infomercial last night.  I gotta say that I am sold.  Even though he didn't offer 3 E-Z payments, and he is certainly not as entertaining as Sarah Palin on SNL, I do think the ideas he was selling were versatile and well-packaged.

...Sometimes I question my ability to make an adult decision.  Is this one of those times? I dunno.

Friday, October 10, 2008

World's fugliest $118,000 bike

So, maybe it's the only $118,000 bike, but with the recent stock market activities, I am not sure it is a good investment of my hard-won racing dollars.

Ok, maybe I have not won that much money, and maybe even if the stock market was skyrocketing,Aurumania Gold Plated Bike I still wouldn't buy the thing.  But for goodness sakes, what idiot would?!?

Not that the 24k gold plating, the Swarovski crystals aren't worth it.  It's just that that stuff is not supposed to even be on a bike!  That's for stuff like necklaces and nipple rings.

Then, to top it all off, the thing is not the prettiest bike in the world either.  Granted, physical beauty shouldn't be used as a measurement for something's value - unless of course, it is completely f-ing useless otherwise! TooMuchMoney_Mount

If you're not convinced, then go for it!  Pick one up, resist the urge to melt the thing down and collect the proceeds from the raw materials, and have a blast watching it hang on its 24k wall mount!   Oh yeh, don't forget to write a check for $118,000.  (I am not sure if shipping is extra, so bring extra checks just in case.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hazing Incident at Local University

You probably heard that I was a victim of a hazing incident at the University of Santa Cruz.  It started 4 laps into the University Road Race.  It was the result of a number of brutal attacks from numerous riders.  I really cannot comment on who was taking part, because I just had my head down and was trying to imagine myself in a better place.  I fought back initially by hitting a PR for four minute power levels, but was forced to succumb the very next lap.  I completely fell apart and was summarily dropped on the floor, kicked around by the next group of riders, and then dropped again.   After a few solo laps of the course, I was caught be a group of riders who had likewise been victimized.   I eventually was able to recover from the beating, and finished the race in fine form. 

Special thanks to Laura for handing up water bottles, and to Greg, Chris, Clark, and Todd, for partaking in the madness.  With their presence, it was not a lonely experience.

In case you had not figured it out by now, this was a sanctioned bicycle race, and had nothing to do with any incidents of assault, battery, or physical violence (even if it felt like it).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Race Walk?

Watching the Olympics is a blast.  For some reason I am mesmerized by the Track and Field, Gymnastics (man, these 12 year olds are good), and (surprisingly) Table Tennis.  I find myself asking, "Why don't I care about these sports any other time of the year?"  I dunno.  I love them now, but knowing how this stuff works, I imagine that next week I'll probably blow them off for another 4 years.   I guess it is just another one of life's mysteries.  Speaking of mysteries...

racewalking.jpgWhat is up with this racewalking thing?  Have you seen it?  This is the only race I know of where the participant is not allowed to go as fast as they can go.  Basically, the racers have to walk as fast as they can walk.  "It is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs."  What this really means is that you have to shake your bootie like a honey bee doing a waggle dance.

But is it a sport?  I am willing to accept it, but what about the mainstream?  At they have a listing of "Top Sports," which contains Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Gymnastics, etc.  They also have another list of "All Sports."  Racewalking is not on the list.  Excuse me, but what are they trying to say?  Likewise, if you go to the Yahoo Olympics sports site and choose from the Sports menu "All Sports," you won't find it there either.  Wow.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cycling Movies

So we've all heard about "Breaking Away," right?  If you haven't, then someone needs to slap your parents.  Not for failing to introduce you to this Oscar winning film, but for raising a child in a such a pitiful and meaningless environment.

breakingaway.jpgAs far as films-with-bikes go, nothing beats Breaking Away.  Nonetheless, there are a few that are worth watching.  However, here are three other cycling-related films that I have recently watched.  All are completely different, and all are worth your time.

Triplets of Belleville: This one is about chubby kid who loves riding his bike.  His grandmother trains him and he eventually gets to ride the Tour de France.  He is kidnapped during the race and his skills are used to support a gambling ring.  Sound weird?  Well it is.  But since the movie is animated, you can temporarily suspend your disbelief for the story.  I don't think you'll ever see it on Cartoon 2_seconds.jpgNetwork though.  I am not sure it will hold the attention of a Sponge-Bob loving kid suffering from A.D.D.   It is however, funny, smart, and almost completely without dialog.  What a trip.

2 Seconds: A pro female downhiller loses an important race and consequently her job.  Looking for purpose, she takes a job as a bike courier and meets up with a bike shop owner who was a pro road racer.  Both love cycling.  Our heroine learns from her new mentor the truly important things in life.  If you ride a bike, then you'll relate to this one.

American Flyers:  This one is the only one on my list which is truly about bike racing.  Is about two brothers (one is played by Kevin Costner) who take a road trip to race in Colorado.  The back-story about their family problems and medical issues try to make this a serious film, but falls short.  Watch it for the bike racing.  The rest is just fluff used to tie the cycling scenes together.

Friday, June 06, 2008

My Lawn Rocks

Is your green thumb actually red, dried up, and shriveled?  Are you a lazy bum who wants to spend his weekends on the couch?  Are you completely inept in your ability to properly maintain, feed, and grow a yard that doesn't fuel the housing market decline?  If you are like me, you answered "yes" to all these questions.

lawn.JPGRecently, I decided to go for broke and buy synthetic grass.  That's right, "Welcome to the world of astro-turf, Mr. Spano." Actually, it is a pretty smart decision. There were a lot of reasons why I thought I should go for it, but mostly I was driven by the desire to save thousands of gallons of water, and keep the air free of lawnmower pollution.  (Hey man, we're talking about pulling the equivalent of 43 cars off the road!)  OK, so maybe the truth is that I am just lazy.  Either way, I kinda like the irony of justifying pulling out a lawn by claiming it is "going green."

So how's it look? lawncloseup.JPG Pretty darn good...and a helluva lot better than any lawn I could ever keep!  Put it this way, everyone stops and stares.  Everyone.  I even caught our local landscaping crew driving by real slow, trying to figure it all out.  Of course I can't tell if people are staring at it like they do at J. Lo's butt, or if they are staring at it like the bearded lady at the circus.

At this point I don't really care though.  I don't have to mow or fight weeds ever again...I mean, I am saving the planet!

The company I used was Progreen International.  I don't know if it is the best, but there are certainly no regrets here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Panoche Road Race 2008

Only in exceptional cases do I post race reports.  Panoche Road race was one of those cases.  Why?  Not because I did especially well, but instead because I suffered especially well.


Category: Masters 35+, Category 1/2/3

Teammates:  Aaron, Matt B., Andrew, Ramon, Clark, Chris

Weather: Hot, exposed, oven-like.

In case you hadn’t heard, this race was hot as hell.  Riding out, we were about 1/2 hour into it, when I noticed I had nearly finished my first water bottle.  I started to get concerned.  I reminded Aaron, “Keep drinking.”   He was.  I looked down, and noticed he gone through 3/4 of his.  We knew were in for a tough day.

Going out though wasn’t too bad.  Other than the guy running into my rear wheel (which made all kinds of racket), there weren’t any real items of interest.  However, when I saw Dan Martin moving up to the front just before the cross wind section, I knew we were preparing for a tough time.  When hit the cross wind section the race was ON.  It started off really fast, and then got faster!  I was in the gutter trying to echelon without riding too far in the dirt.  This took a certain amount of bravery and stupidity at the same time.  After 2-3 minutes I started to fall off…ever…so…slowly.  Inch by inch I lost ground.   Matt B., who was behind me, saw I was falling off.  He started to go around.  That little amount of draft let me hang in another 10 seconds.  Then someone else came around.  Another 10 seconds.  That was just enough.  It was then when the 6 strongmen (including our own Chris Wire) broke away from the field.  This slowed the field just enough to let me hang on.  I looked at Matt. “How about that?  That was f-ing brutal!”   (This was Matt’s first race in the 35+ 1/2/3, and they certainly weren’t playing nice!)

We went up the harder climbs and I was feeling good.  Andrew advised patience, and told me to sit in and attack after the turn around.   I needed to try and get across to the six.   This was a good plan.  Unfortunately, our group went too slow at the turnaround.  I tried to spur them on a bit and led part of the climb.  I then rested a bit and jumped.  Although the 6 were getting farther and farther away, and my solo attack would never catch, I figured I can thin the second group out some.  Ron Castia started to bridge, so I slowed a bit to pick up a chase partner.  This way we could keep the pressure on, and maybe (with a lot of luck) get across.

Soon after, Jeff Poulson bridges to us.  I shut down.  Ron was telling me to pull, but I knew I couldn’t help at all.  There was no way I was going to help Jeff make it up to the 6.  He is just too good.  So I sat on them both.  They continued to work for about 15 minutes, while I took a ride.  When what was left of the main field had just about caught us, both he and Ron sat up.  I attacked.

Boy was that a strong headwind.  I got into a rhythm and just kept pedaling though.  Sooner or later, someone will come along and help.  If not, at least my team can rest, while the other guys get discouraged chasing into what felt like a blow dryer. 

Thirty minutes later…I am all alone thinking, “Damn, it’s hot out here,” and “I am going all out, but can only manage 13mph!”  Fifteen minutes after that, I am still all alone thinking, “Damn, it’s hot out here…and my water bottle is empty…Oh, this sucks…Why won’t someone bridge up to me?”

After 53 minutes, I was finally caught.  By the whole group, no less. 

Clark, do you have some extra water?!?”

“I am dry.”   We’re all hating life at this point.

Then, they come: attack, after attack, after attack.  Ron Castia, and Jeff Poulson were valiant, but  Andrew, Ramon and Clark covered everything. 

Clark even made a couple of solo attempts.  Chalk this up to tenacity, and a really well organized team!  Everyone knew what to do. 

Then, after another really hard effort, when the group was quite unhappy, I attacked.  I knew I had no legs for any kind of sprint, so what the heck?  I figured on going out there and frying.  Hopefully I would soften up a couple of guys while our guys rested.  Five minutes later, I see “5k” painted on the street.  Is that real, or a mirage?  What is that for?  Our race, or some other event?  I am feeling quite lousy, but press on. 

Too long later, I see a real sign: 1K to go.  I look back and see no one.  I look forward and see the finish tent.  I look back and see no one.  Forward again to the finish. 

I roll directly to the water jugs with my rear wheel squeaking.

Whatever physiological system that was protecting my body from shutting down suddenly realized that I was done.  I started hyperventilating and I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.  I rolled to a stop, retained my balance, and started to re-hydrate.

When coherency returned, I looked at my rear wheel.  Remember back at the beginning of the race when some guy ran into my rear wheel?  Well, he tweaked a spoke and sent the wheel out of true.  I was rubbing my rear brake for the entire race!  Man, what a day.

One last thing:  Kudos to the feed zone volunteers!  Without them, there would have been a number of people in a very bad situation.  I personally would have ridden myself into the ground.  

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quantity or Quality?

If you are like me and think you know just about everything, every once in a while something new comes along.  It is certainly refreshing to find something new, because now I can say, “Up until today, I thought I knew everything.  But there was something that I did not know.  However, now that I have learned that, I do know everything.”  Let me share with you my new-found knowledge.

Let’s start off with a question – an easy one.  Is this guy a sprinter?


Answer: no. 

OK.  So we all got that one, but it’s not because the tires go flat every time he mounts the bike.Today, researchers at Stanford announced that although Human Growth Hormone can build muscles, it does not boost athletic performance.  Why??  Well, an analysis of a 27 HGH related studies (with a total of 303 participants) reveals that

1) Lean body mass was increased, but an accompanying strength increase was not shown.  Turns out the lean body mass seems to be the result of fluid retention. 

…and (here is the kicker)…

2) The hormone resulted in the generation of more lactate.  “In one study,…two cyclists given the hormone stopped a workout because of fatigue.

Say what?  You got it baby.  You weigh more, and get tired easier!  Not a plan for successful cycling, for sure.  Now you know everything too.