Five and a half weeks off the bike was all I could handle with the weather continuing to hit the bottom 70’s and the hills beckoning so suggestively. I’d still been riding an easy 10 hours a week, just for something to do during lunch and to keep the weight down, but I managed to hold real training off until my birthday on the 16th. I gave myself a present by kicking off the 2013 season with a hard effort up Sunshine climb. Going to the top of the steep part where I usually stop is a little under 40 minutes when I go hard, which I now know thanks to my newfound obsession with Strava. I never knew how long it took to climb Sunshine until Strava told me to climb it faster. It’s a good thing Strava was invented, because otherwise I certainly wouldn’t have stumbled upon this optimized method of training by doing every climb (every day) all out in an attempt to humble online strangers.
I’m attempting to carry on normal person behavior and activities throughout the winter and hopefully during the race season as well, because I’ve decided that it might stave off the obsession and resulting depression that comes with a life filled only with bicycle racing and training. This past week, with Michael The SenselessBoss coming into town to visit and train, I could think of nothing more normal person behavioral than having Thanksgiving with friends, hiking, going out for some dinners, drinking a couple beers out on Pearl Street, and going to a strip club.
Michael, my training buddy from Santa Yenez back in the winter of 2010, burned a few thousand pounds of dinosaur bones on his journey over from Iowa. Or Ohio. Or maybe Nebraska. One of those worthless states. Anyways, he got here mid day Thursday (Thanksgiving), right after I’d descended from climbing Sunshine to the top to see if the Strava gods would be kind that day. The Strava gods were not forgiving, so I decided to take out my anger on Michael, who, like I mentioned, had just been cooped up in a car for the past 92 hours or so. I met him at my apartment and I told him we’d do a flat route, impatiently hounding him to hurry up and get ready so we could get in three more quick hours before Thanksgiving dinner at Tim’s apartment. Side story: Tim and I planned on meeting in North Boulder for a ride about three weeks ago. On my way out there I saw someone up ahead of me so I started going faster so I could pass with a lot of speed. I always pass people going at least 15 mph faster than them to make them feel shamefully slow. As I was about to start my 300 meter sprint I noticed that the person I was coming up on was Tim. I was a bit confused since I thought he still lived down in South Boulder, so I wondered what he was doing here in my neck of the woods way up in Gunbarel. I pulled up beside him and said hello. He told me that the reason he’d moved north like me was because, as everyone knows, Gunbarel is THE happening place between Boulder and Longmont. There’s even rumor of Gunbarel hosting a stage of the USA Pro Challenge next year. I made that rumor. But back on track to the off-track story, Tim and I finished our ride that day and headed home to our respective refrigerators. It turned out that he lived on the same street as me. Then it turned out that he lived in the same apartment complex. And then, as he pulled up to his apartment, I realized he lived in the same building as me. This sort of thing happens in Gunbarel all the time. It has that small town feel where you bump into people you know, despite being a large, bustling epicenter of excitement, night life, new world-wide-setting trends, and cultural evolution.
And back to the other story: the howling wind on Thanksgiving didn’t agree with Michael’s sea-level, car-lagged, one ride a week legs. It didn’t agree with mine either, but I knew I’d have to ride pretty hard to make things difficult for Michael on my wheel. I punished us both, quickly jumping to my favorite, almost unsustainable pace. I was pumping out enough watts to power a couple Easy Bake ovens, and I know this because I was able to monitor all my data with the five viewable fields on just one screen, and also navigate without getting lost, thanks to my new Garmin 800. The ultimate sign of a douche bag is when said bag does a product plug for a non-sponsor in order to look pro.
I began feeling the effort and my lack of fitness roughly four hours into the ride, so we slowed down a bit and rode two up. Michael kept talking and asking me questions, though, so I eventually sped up again so I didn’t have to talk. We arrived home pretty cracked and laid on the couch while Kim and Adelaide finished preparing their meals for the Thanksgiving feast. I threw together a salad in four minutes and rounded up one full pie and one mostly full pie I’d bought the night before; we walked the 50 feet around to the front side of the building to Tim and his girlfriend, Tina’s, apartment. Introductions were made, and forgotten within half a second, as my stomach grumbled and my legs bowed, bringing me to the soft carpeted floor in a puddle of limbs. The “Missfit Thanksgiving” has been going on for years, started by a group of friends that don’t even live in Boulder anymore. It always has a bunch of new people each year, accumulating new members and new dishes with every edition. I was invited last year by Tim, and the rules are that if you attend once you have a lifetime invitation. This was a relief because last year I ate about 1/4th of the food that 16 people brought, and wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed back.
The quantity of food I was able to consume this year was surprisingly wimpy compared to last year, and as I sit here typing this, hungrily sipping hot tea in an attempt to forget my sad stomach, I’m thoroughly upset with past Kennett for not forcing more down. Aside from the food, I’d say the highlight of the night was during Charades when Michael acted out Garfield by rubbing up on someone’s leg like a cat. The pedophile jokes from the law student and his girlfriend were pretty good too.
The next day was another big ride, though less intense thankfully, because my legs were pretty cooked from the day before. Michael, Tim, and I rode over to meet Matt in the slums of Boulder for a journey into the mountains of Coal Creek and then Golden Gate park, elevation 9,400 ft. Michael’s sea level legs held surprisingly strong in the high, crisp air. The sun’s brilliant rays treated us to an amazing late November day as we ground our way up 15% dirt grades in the thinning alpine forest. Running strong on gas station cappuccino and sausage stuffing from the night before (uhhh…), I decided to burn off some extra energy on Sunshine by myself after we descended Boulder Canyon. I returned home ready to devour a goat or four. We unleashed our appetites upon the pantry of a house for which Kim was dog sitting.
Day three of the mini training camp involved calling in a fresher pair of legs: Liam, my fastest work colleague who was most likely ready for some revenge after I’d taken him up Sunshine for a “sort of” hard effort the week before. He was also ready to take revenge on Michael, for Michael had stormed past him for the win, stamping out Liam’s chance at glory in the Tour of Galena last spring. We went up Sunshine, down Poorman, and ventured up a NASTY dirt climb, called Logan Mill, which snaked its way up the side of a steep ridge, shadowing Sugarloaf Mt. Road. Michael attacked early on the steep slopes and I followed, knowing his legs were already cracked and the only reason he was attacking was because he’d soon be paper-boying up the steep brute. He went again when I got on his wheel. Then again. And then one more vicious time before I countered, finally dropping him. Earlier I’d been suffering pretty badly doing 250 watts. Now I was surging at 500 up this damn gravel climb with nowhere to go except pain and suffering. I eased up to let the other guys catch back up, hoping I’d won the penis contest and we’d ride civilized to the top. Not so. Liam came around with venom in his eyes and crushed the next 15 minutes to the false summit, with me never being able to close the 30 second gap. Why the hell were we riding so hard when we were so tired? One might as well ask what I’d do for a Klondike Bar.
We got somewhat lost after regrouping at the top, despite all having GPS devices. We ended up having to rely on directions from a chance van passing by, which pointed us the right way to the closest paved road–just 500 meters around the bend. The problem with reading a GPS machine is that you have to be able to see straight, which I’m not sure any of us were capable of doing at that point.
For dinner, Michael and I treated ourselves to some pho Vietnamese soup, which is one of the best recovery foods you could ask for: rice noodles, liquid, salt, hot sauce, and MSG. For dessert: Boom frozen yogurt. Somehow we mustered the energy to head out to Pearl Street instead of retreating home to the couches.
The next day was similar, though Michael took an easy coffee shop day and I rode with a new training partner, Jon Moro, for the first couple hours of my day. As the hours ticked by, I realized I was feeling better and better, somehow not even feeling fatigue or pain in my legs at all. It was eerily bizarre. I stopped to re-calibrate my Powertap in case it was off, which it was not. I felt amazingly good considering it was the fourth day on in a row. In fact, I now felt better after 18 hours of training since Thursday than I did when I started this block. It was really strange, something that I’ve never experienced before. At the top of the final climb I let out a few screams and roars as I tore the last shreds of muscle from my legs in a sprint. For dinner: delicious, delicious Indian food from Curry & Kebob, which was quite possibly the tastiest thing I’d eaten all year. Hunger makes the best sauce. Tragically, we got there four minutes before they opened. Our stomaches couldn’t wait that long so we bought breadsticks from Little Cesar’s Pizza next door and greedily devoured them with marinara sauce in Michael’s car, temporarily forgetting about the locked doors of the Indian place. More frozen yogurt for dessert.
Monday morning hit me hard. I’d promised Michael a hike sometime that weekend, so we got up early and scrambled our way to the top of the Flatirons before I had to go to work and Michael began his voyage back to Iowa. Michael is afraid of heights, so I found a small cliff for us to clamber over, with me having to haul him up by the arm for the last pitch. It began snowing lightly on the way down. The air was filled with thick clouds and chills that hadn’t been present the past week. We’d ended our training camp just in time, making it down on shaky legs into town and to the warmth of breakfast burritos at the Walnut Cafe. Michael ordered a hot chocolate that was absolutely loaded with whipped cream, which was soon covering his face when our stunningly large-breasted waitress came back with our food. Some of his absent mindedness must have wore off on me because I lost my debit card, a pair of gloves, and a hat that weekend. Pretty minor mishaps compared to what Michael managed to do on his drive home–mix up his piss jar with his drinking bottle.
Later that day I was so tired sitting at my desk that I was having difficulty holding my eyes open, despite being four cups of coffee deep. I’d written something on the back of my hand in pen earlier and while I was washing my hands in the bathroom I was careful to not let the water soak through my palm to the back of my hand and erase what I’d written. Then I realized water usually isn’t able to pass through a hand like it can with a piece of paper. Body and mind are in shambles. Must have done something right.