Archive for the ‘Bike Stories’ Category

safetypintutstep1While pinning on my event number for the Fletcher Flyer Century a couple of weeks ago, I swelled with pride, then suddenly felt very old, when realizing how many times I had done this in my lifetime.

My very fuzzy math says that I have competed and/or participated in about 200 bike race days, 120 cycling events, 40 triathlons, 20 running races and Lord knows what else.  For each of those events I was given 4 safety pins to affix the requisite race number.  This adds up to approximately 1,520 safety pins.

Each event brought a different adrenalin rush.  Before the 1980 Octoginta I was out of my mind with anxiety as it was my very first cycling event and I had barely ridden more than 40 miles at any one time prior.  Most regular bike centuries or metric centuries barely bring a heart rate spike worse than pumping up the tires.  On the start line for one of the Tour De Moore road races, my heart rate spiked at 148 before the official “Chips” finally set us off, then my heart rate actually went down until the first big climb.  Ironman Florida had my heart in my throat for weeks in advance, but on race day I was ridiculously calm.  Running is really not my thing, so I am usually just ready to get it over with.

However, now that I have started 2Vectors, my new technology consulting business, I begin every single morning with the feeling that today is event day.  This is what the lifetime of training and preparation are all about.  It comes in slightly different flavors as each of my events have, but the quiet smile inside, extra alertness and battle readiness are the same.  Whether Nigel and I succeed in this partnership or fail is entirely up to us.  We have logged the miles, paid our dues, have a great support team and are very focused on the outcome we have visualized.  For me, every day is event day!

Living with Elaine requires a few concessions.  Number one on the list is that I will be participating in Team In Training.  Elaine lost her sister, Donna, to blood cancer several years ago.  Raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been her passion since, and she is damn good at it, netting over $65,000 for the cause.

On June 3rd, Elaine’s team rode America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride.  AMBBR is a very tough and mountainous century around Lake Tahoe.  This sounded like a lot of fun, so I signed up, raised my money and helped out with the team training rides where I could.

For the most part, our group from Raleigh rode together, recollecting after the first major climb at mile 20. This took us up and around the stunning Emerald Bay.

At North Lake Tahoe the 72 milers turn East and the full century riders head toward Truckee and Donner Pass (the birthplace of the Shit Cube and a future blog article) on North 89.  This is a boring, hard, windy, out and back on a four-lane highway.  The drivers are cranky about the cyclists and the evidence of the budget crisis in California is clear as the road is absolutely horrible. Coach Marc and I tried almost everything we could think of to organize the team so that we could safely take turns pulling in the wind and finally found the right groove about halfway back.  The cyclists in the team were amazing.  I am just so proud of how well they rode.

Marc coached this, and many other events for LLS, because his sister is in remission from blood cancer and his cousin had been suffering from Multiple Myeloma since February, 2006.

At the end of the Truckee section we were all mentally spent and frustrated about the crappy road.  Each of us swore we would never ride it again.  The remaining ride took us the rest of the way around the lake and included the ascent over Spooner Pass.  The elevation at the top is 7,200 feet and a couple of us were feeling the effects of the altitude.  Thankfully, for me, it passed quickly as we descended the other side toward South Tahoe and home.  Overall I had a great day. Elaine rode impressively and I am so proud of her.  The rest of the team really showed their hard work of the previous weeks.

At the finish we all celebrated our success and swapped stories.  Nearly everyone complained about the road to Truckee, but no one was louder than me. Blah, blah, blah – stupid road – never doing it again – can’t believe they sent us out there – so unsafe –  blah, blah, blah.

A couple of days later coach Marc sent out a very nice note of congratulations to the team.  He also explained that, literally while we were riding the road to Truckee, complaining and whining, his cousin Sue lost her battle to blood cancer.

I feel so badly for Marc and his family that this happened.  I know how Donna’s death affected Elaine’s family years ago.  But, I have to say that I am embarrassed for complaining about the road to Truckee.  It was nothin’.


Kirsten And I Dropped The Punks

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Bike Stories

I actually got serious about college after Kirsten was born.  From her first breath, it was clear that she expected to eat almost every single day. Perhaps an education would help pay for that.

Being a financially strapped father, poser bike racer and college student, I would typically ride my bike to Washburn University for classes.  In 1988, when Kirsten was about 2 1/2 years old, I added a child seat to my old Colnago.  For those of you who don’t know, this was about the classiest racing machine you could have at the time.  So, imagine adding a child seat to your 2011 Cervelo with a Shimano Dura Ace Groupo.  Yes, I had other bikes for training and racing.

Anyway, I would happily pedal Kirsten to the grocery store or the 7-Eleven, while she cackled away in the baby seat on back.  Late one spring afternoon, I needed to go the school library – about three miles each way, so I hucked her on back after adjusting her little helmet adorned with lady bug stickers.

I have always been a very social cyclist and, frankly, I expect everyone else to wave and be civil as we see each other out on the road.  But, as Kirsten and I were leisurely riding to the library, a couple of young punks with shaved legs came by, passing on our left. They didn’t say a word, dismissing the “older” dude with the kid on the back as not a real cyclist.  Apparently, they missed my shaved legs and the Colnago decals.

Frankly, this pissed me off.  So, I turned around and said, “Kirsten, hold on – this is going to be fun!”   We quietly rode up behind them and held our position for about 15 seconds.  Yeah, they noticed us and picked up the pace even more.  The road up to the library has a fairly steep hill.  From the bottom they both stood up and attacked.  Kirsten and I hit the gas and passed them about 2/3 of the way up.  I raised my daughter right – she very enthusiastically said “hi” and waved at the two young men as we passed them.  They were too gassed to respond.

I have been riding bikes a L O N G time.  When I first bought these tire levers, Ronald Reagan had just been elected President, MTV was about to be launched, Post It Notes were brand new and IBM released the first PC with MS-DOS from Microsoft.  I was riding a black Colnago Mexico with a Campy Nuovo Record Group.  (Yes, I still have it)  My flat kit was really just a patch kit (in a metal box that included sand paper and a tube of glue) and a Silca frame pump.  Oh, and these levers.  (The same as Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, of course)

If these levers had a passport it would contain stamps from France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Costa Rica and Canada.  They have also been to at least 25 states in the U.S.  They have ridden with Giro d’Italia, Olympic, World, National, Pan American and State champions – as well as, Tour de France stage winners.

About seven years ago I rode the Skull Valley route which winds up in the mountain town of Wilhoit, Arizona.  This includes about 6K of climbing and is impossibly hard at times; however, the decent is smooth and ridiculously fast into Prescott.  I let it loose and hit 53 MPH on the way down.  Turn after turn I was hoping to not hit a rock or have a flat.  Literally at the bottom of the climb is a right turn onto the road into Prescott.  Rolling up to the stop sign I flatted my front tire.  Thank goodness it didn’t happen 45 seconds before.  So, I stopped at the 7-Eleven, popped off the front wheel, replaced the old tube and aired it up with an CO2 canister.  Once finished, I went inside to buy a Coke.  The lady behind the counter said, “apparently you have done that before – I watched you and it only took you 75 seconds to fix your tire!”  It is nice to have fans.  I said, “yeah, I have done that a few times.”  There aren’t no silly, flimsy, plastic tire levers that can do the job that quickly.

For many years I kept the levers, a spare tube, CO2 and a saddle wrench in a sock which was all stored conveniently in an old water bottle with the top cut off.  In turn, this conglomeration was stored in a water bottle cage on my bike.  In 2007, when training for Ironman Florida, Coach Daren Marceau and I were still about 45 miles from home on a 110 mile training ride when I thought I noticed something brush my leg.  I never saw anything and ignored it.  Upon arriving at home, I noticed that my flat kit (OK, the sock full of stuff which included these tire levers) had bounced out the topless water bottle.  It must have been what I had felt 2 1/2 hours earlier.

After the six hour ride, I was barely lucid enough to get my bike on my car, but the thought of losing these levers, which had been such a big part of my cycling life required me to rally.  Daren and I retraced our route home and we sort of guessed at where the thing must have fallen out.  Always the optimist, Daren said that he was headed out for a motorcycle ride the next day and would go down the road and see if he could find the kit.  Although I very much appreciated the gesture, I didn’t think that there was any way I would ever see it again.

About 3PM the next day, a widely grinning Coach Marceau rang my doorbell and handed me the flat kit containing my antique levers.  I just couldn’t believe it.  He had actually found it in a ditch, pretty darn close to where we had guessed it must have been.  Coach D, I will forever be grateful for your helping me become an Ironman, but man I will never forget your returning these cycling artifacts.  I hope to pass them down to one of my kids who will be forced to keep them forever, with no idea just how important that they are to me.  These old tools have brought me new life many many times.

Life has been all about having more fun.  The adventure this weekend was remarkably close, yet…

To that end, Elaine and I raced the Urban Assault Ride in Charlotte this past weekend.

Here’s how it works: You and your teammate set out on a city-wide quest for ‘checkpoints’ on your favorite two-wheeled machine.  At each checkpoint, you drop your bikes and complete a funky/adventurous obstacle course, then you remount bike and hit the streets for more.

The goal is to complete all the checkpoints in the shortest amount of time. You choose your own route and checkpoint order. This means that the most clever are often the victors.

Our friend Doug Ruwe, an Urban Assault veteran, laid out our course for us and gave us the skinny as to how to make this work.  And, this was amazingly helpful until we missed the very first turn and then improvised the rest of the day – leveraging the previously aforementioned advice.

Elaine and I laughed through the first miscue and followed a small group to the first stop.  This is where she jumped on the handlebars as we cruised around the parking lot on a BMX bike grabbing two flags and collecting our ‘bead’ for our necklace to prove that we made stop #1.

Note to self – a cyclocross bike would have been slightly better than a road bike for some of the terrain.

Stop #2 came after a winding trip through some of the nicest neighborhoods in Charlotte.  At the Mint I donned a large pair of hiking boots with a piece of inner tube attached to both and used my ‘slingshot’ to fling old shoes at Elaine, standing in a hula hoop, about 30 feet away.  Her job was to catch them in a basket.  The first one made it about 5 feet; however, the second hit her straight in the chest at Mach V.  It knocked her out of the hoop, but, no kidding, she didn’t even complain.  Ahhh…after adjusting to launch them up in the air, she quickly caught two.  Upon collecting bead #2 we were off.

Stacking blocks on a sledding disk preceded the big wheel course.  The big wheels are serious fun and this should have lasted much longer.  Three wheel skids through each turn and a final spin out at the finish had everyone roaring.  Four beads down and one to go.

Seriously lost for a few blocks downtown, we finally found the art museum for the mystery stop and then we hauled it out to Ray’s Splash Planet.  We went here last as we were expecting to have to dive in to the pool and retrieve beer.  Instead, we arrived and saw a field with about 6 cones arranged in a row and an ambulance in the parking lot.  Yeah, seriously, a guy had just broken his shoulder minutes before we arrived.  Perhaps we should have paid attention.

This photo may help, but the idea is that one person holds on to the handles on the wheel, while the second lifts the legs and you create a human wheelbarrow.

Elaine held the wheel while I tried to lift her which is remarkably difficult to do both at the same time.  We switched places and she tried to lift my goon size legs, but at least she figured out that to keep balance you have to grab both legs together at the same time.  Before switching yet again, she reminded me that she needed to crash on her left side – not the right hip.  We quickly got rolling and headed to the first cone and 180 degree turn.  After dodging three or four cones, just two from the end, we rolled into a deep pothole hidden by the grass and the wheel stopped.  Unfortunately, Elaine did not and we drove her left shoulder into the ground.  We both rolled and tumbled.

It was immediately obvious that she was seriously hurt.  It was also obvious that this girl is tough.  I waved over the EMT tending to the previous victim and we got her into the ambulance.  A giant logistic nightmare ensued to get her to the hospital with the bikes and me to the truck to collect her insurance card and such to meet her at the hospital.

Seven hours later (literally seven hours later) we left with the diagnosis of a fractured left humerus (the bone between shoulder and elbow) at her lesser tuberosity.  No, it was not funny.

Describing the whole experience, at least ten times, to the various medical staff, she smiled each time and said it was fun and that she would do it again.  So would I.  Next time we want more fun and lesser tuberosity.

I am honored that so many people – friends and friends of friends – reach out to me for guidance with selecting a new bike.

More commonly now I don’t really know the person I am speaking with, so I always start with a few questions to size them up.

How much do you plan to spend?  Anyone answering with, “how much do I have to spend?” or “I don’t really know if I will ride or not” begets the internal scoff and will receive a bit of a lecture about having the wrong stuff guarantees that you won’t like it.  The minimum you can spend is $650 + shorts, shoes, water bottles and a helmet = $1,000.  Wrap your head around that and call me back if you are serious.

Sometimes I get the used bike question.  I do know people who have bought used bikes that worked and just happened to fit and not make their asses or their hands hurt.  This is sort of a miracle and at best a lottery.  It is so difficult to find a used bike that fits and to do so you may need to fix something, or change the seat or pay for a $65 bike fit, which comes free with a new bike.  You really need to know what you are doing for a used bike to work out.  It is generally better to borrow one until you come to love cycling as much as I do … and you will. Then you will have to spend a LOT to be happy.

It is very important that the bike fit you.  Asses hurt from poor fitting bikes and, generally speaking, not the saddle.  Also, real bike shorts, with the chamois, worn WITHOUT underwear, are a must.  Again, the more you spend the better they generally are to a point.

If the bike seeker is deemed serious, we move on…  Think of a bike as a frame, components, and wheels.  some manufacturers start with a great frame and less expensive parts or vice versa.  I always say, get the best frame you can afford.  The more carbon fiber the better.  The drive train, wheels and other parts can all be upgraded later.  All of these parts become lighter and more efficient with price.  But, there is a law of diminishing return beyond which is sort of a foolish investment (which is exactly one step away from what I currently have).

Then I usually guide the would-be cyclist to a reputable bike shop who sells bikes I like in their price range.  I also steer them away from bike shops run by people who have pissed me off.  Hey, it is hard to piss Todd off, but he has a VERY good memory.

For lunch, or if the person is unusually serious, I will go with them and help them get started.

Cid Cardoso, Jr. (owner of Inside-Out Sports) and I created these videos which we hope will help.  Please feel free to share this article and my contact information with your friends and friends of friends.  I will be glad to do what I can.

More Related Videos:

Proper Road Bike Fit

Selecting Between A Road Vs A Time Trial Frame

I haven’t believed Tyler Hamilton for a long time, but I believed his story from the 60 Minutes interview last Sunday.  I think the guy is finally giving it up.

Hamilton Interview Part One

Hamilton Interview Part Two

Can the world come to grips with the fact that Lance doped?  Personally, I am fairly certain that he did in 1999 and through at least 2002.  After that maybe not – as cycling finally began to clean itself up.

In 2011 Livestrong will provide more than $45 million dollars for cancer research and programs for patients.  Cancer has or will touch all of our lives – perhaps very close to home.  There are 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S.  The answer to the moral dilemma may come by polling them.

But, more than cheating to win, Lance may have lied to a Grand Jury, defaulted on a contract with the United States Government (I thought that the USPS was a quasi-governmental organization?) and duped all of the world into believing that his fairy tale was completely legit.

Let’s just say that he is found guilty of doping in 1999 and he is stripped of his Tour title from that year.  To whom are we going to give the victory?

This is the top 10 General Classification from the 1999 Tour de France

  1. Lance Armstrong – probable doper
  2. Alex Zulle – admitted doper in Festina Affair
  3. Fernando Escartin – admitted doper
  4. Laurent Dufaux – admitted to EPO
  5. Angel Casero  – busted in Operation Puerto
  6. Abraham Olano  – never admitted, but implicated with Michele Ferrari
  7. Daniele Nardello – never met his potential and never implicated, but was coached by Rudy Pevenage (Ullrich’s drug dealer)
  8. Richard Virenque – doper
  9. Wladimir Belli – not implicated but on the 1999 Festina team
  10. Andrea Peron – minor drug implications

….Hmmm.  We could go with Olano who is the highest placed rider not busted.  Or, maybe Nardello who had such incredible talent which never translated to victories – perhaps because he didn’t do drugs.

Is hauling Lance off to jail going to help anyone?  I doubt it.  It won’t prevent anyone from doing drugs to win.  But it may have a catastrophic impact on those millions more cancer patients and their families.  The truth is that I just don’t care if Lance did Edgar Allan Poe (EPO).  He was clearly the greatest amongst the dopers for a very long time.  His punishment may be living with the giant lie and the constant worry that it will spill out uncontrollably – as it did for Tyler.

My legs are at that critical stage today.  The hair has grown to the point where it looks silly and is especially itchy.  What is the projected injury timeline whereby cessation of shaving is logical and/or acceptable?

My appendix was taken out five days ago.  The surgeon explained the high risk of hernia if I resume training before at least two weeks.  Which means that real training won’t resume for another twelve days or so.

So, five days in and twelve to go. Maximum itchiness is today.  I am feeling very lazy.  If I let it go one more day, past the stupid looking itchy stage, I may be in for the duration.

What to do ??  What to do?  Are there any rules for this?  Cool factor is very important to me!

Related Blog: Leg Shaving Explained

Ok, the title is a bit dramatic.  It wasn’t that bad, but it was hard for a short period of time.

Coach Alex McDonald of Fast Forward Triathlon decided that we needed baseline Lactate Threshold (LT) and Max Heart Rate (HR) numbers in order to dial in my training zones. Lactate threshold is the point in exercise where your body produces more blood lactate than it can reabsorb.  Once this threshold is reached, an athlete can only continue at the same output level for minutes.  One goal of training is to raise the HR where LT occurs such that athletes can perform at higher watts output for a longer period of time.  We also measured my maximum power output, measured in Watts, to gather a baseline with the goal of increasing this number through specific training.

How many of you are using the (220 – Age = LT) method?  This is, at best, an approximation, but chances are very slim it will work well for you. Training LT requires a more precise measurement.  UNC Wellness Performance Center and The Meredith Human Performance Lab both do a great job with LT and VO2 Max testing.

I met Alex at UNC Wellness. Of course I failed to return the questionnaire in advance, thus it had to be quickly reviewed before we could start.  “Wait a minute – we have a problem – you are in a high risk category Todd!”  “My age?”   “Uhhh, yes.”  Thank goodness Dr. Alex was there to monitor the EKG of the elderly patient per hospital protocol.

After the chest was shaved, glue sprayed on, and pads applied, all of the EKG leads were hooked up.  I also had a blood pressure cuff remain on my arm through the testing.  We decided not also do the VO2 Max testing and therefore didn’t have the mask and headset to measure expired gases.

Alex dictated the testing protocol as my bike was set up on the CompuTrainer.  I controlled the watts of exertion through a thorough warm-up.  Then the technician took over and we began the test by slowly ramping up the watts as I maintained a constant cadence.  As the test proceeded, my finger was pricked and blood lactate measurements were taken every two minutes.  With each cycle the watts were increased up to a point of very hard effort when it was clear that I had crossed the LT  and Anaerobic Threshold (AT).  Alex also monitored the EKG with the goal of ensuring I didn’t croak.

Afterward, I had a brief cool down period and then we set up for the Max HR test.  This is very straight-forward – continue ramping it up until you can’t do it any longer.  Then stand up and go some more.  In my case, the plastic block placed under front wheel broke in half as I stood up and I damn near fell off the trainer.  Yes, I am a brute or a giant fattie.  The whole process took about an hour and Coach Alex let me use this in place of my trainer ride for the day.

The truth is that I was not so happy to see the results.  It is amazing how my body has changed in the last few years with age.  My Max HR is down several beats and so is my LT.  The good news, is that this is important to know and we can develop a specific plan such that I can hang on a bit longer an perhaps even get a bit faster along the way.

Related Blog: What Have I Done?

The Capital Cycling Club ALWAYS puts on great rides.  The 2011 Ride For The Rock was also a great deal of fun … mostly.

This year the 100K began with a fairly quick pace.  The large pack began disintegrating about mile 3.   The IOSDT Happy Hour was the night before, and I was not feeling super good.  Inside I was screaming “please slow down just a bit.”

We roll up to the first sag stop in New Hill.  Where out front I am met by my very good buddy Dileep Dadlani.  I knew that Dileep was part of the organization, but it was super of him to give up riding in favor of taking care of the riders.

Dileep and his huge grin greets me as I roll to a stop.  My right foot barely makes it to the ground before we shake hands.

Here comes the ‘tard part…

Attempting to move out of the way, I press down on the left pedal and my front wheel rolls about 4 inches into a gravel filled pothole and turns sideways.  I damn near buy it, but quickly yank my left foot out of the pedal and smack the ground.  During this ballet maneuver my right calf snags the chain ring.

Not thinking too much of it I grab some food, say goodbye and roll off down old highway 1.

Several people commented about the blood gushing out, but I bucked up and rode the 2+ hours more to finish the ride.  It is remarkably difficult to see the back of your leg so I thought it was just scraped and bought some simple supplies at Rite Aid before heading home.

The advice from fellow riders to go to the hospital started to make a lot more sense when I took a shower.  It was starting to hurt and bleed like crazy.

I was a bit surprised when the doctor told me that he put in 13 stitches.  My lucky number.