Cycling

Mount Umunhum opening at last

In 2004 I headed up Mount Umunhum for the first time, hoping to conquer my last Peninsula summit. Unfortunately I was thwarted by the private land which blocked the road, tantalizingly close to the summit.

Thirteen years later, and thanks to lots of hard work by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (donate here =) and the voters of Measure AA last year, Mount Umunhum is finally set to open to the public for the first time on September 17.

The Grand Opening ceremony is fully booked, but starting September 18 the summit (and the road there) will be open to the public. Exciting!

In other news, the famous red barn familiar to riders of Highway 84 West will soon become part of the new La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, with 6 miles of hiking trails. Great news.

Like human-powered flight

My sentiments exactly:

Riding bikes is the closest any of us can come to human-powered flight, and the fact that we just happen to still be connected to the ground doesn’t diminish from the sensation.

Get a grip on it

Innovation in packaging:

I love how the handles swing out to let you feel what it’s like to ride with them.

How to run the fastest marathon ever

Some fascinating techniques:

At the start the three athletes were immediately joined by six pacers, who adopted an arrowhead formation behind a Tesla electric car with a giant clock timer on it. Wind tunnel studies show that this formation would help them as it saves energy…

Kipchoge was also using a new carbohydrate-rich sports drink, delivered by helpers on mopeds so he did not have to slow down…

Then there was the use of Nike’s Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes, which some have suggested should be illegal because they contain a special curved plate that allows runners to roll through instead of bending toes and losing energy.

Meditation for pain and sport

Another connection between the mind and physical performance:

By the end of the cold shower you will have experienced all of the negative sensations without any of the negative perceptions. You’ve eliminated the fear and whining that a normal person would associate with a cold shower…

Competitive runners don’t feel less pain than you — they feel much more. It just doesn’t bother them…

One tip I’ve started doing is when pedaling hard, to wiggle my fingers and toes. Because, hey, if I can still wiggle my toes it can’t be that bad, right?

(previously)

Peloton by Harold Braul

I love the Peloton Series by Harold Braul; dreamy and beautiful.

Good article on Danny Pate

One of the few pros I raced against when we were juniors, Danny Pate is coming back to a US team after years in Europe.

Even as juniors I remember him being more concerned about having fun and being fair on the bike than winning. Glad to see he’s kept that attitude even while racing in a tough time for cycling.

Training the mind and body

I’ve been a regular cyclist for 25 years. For the first decade, I was serious, riding every day and following schedules from books and coaches. But if I’m honest, my approach was always based more on “trying” than “training”–I would often skip days, then put out an extreme effort when I did ride to make up for my inconsistency. In the end, this meant I had less fitness than I could have, and races and training involved more pain than they needed to.

Since my son was born, the limits on my time have forced me to focus my riding. I now do most of my rides before dawn on the indoor trainer, and each ride has some structure to it, often interval training. Because of the consistency and efficiency of the indoor rides, I can get up to 5 1-hour workouts per week, and finish before he wakes up in the morning.

A typical interval session sees me spinning slowly at first, then shifting gears to increase the effort for a period of time before going back to spinning. This process repeats up to 30 times per workout. It feels mechanical at times; that I’m treating my body like an IKEA chair durability test. But it’s had a remarkable effect: in just a few hours a week, I’m now close to the fitness I had 15-20 years ago, when I had much more time to ride. And these efforts feel a lot easier than the workouts I did then.

Recently I also started using the Headspace service to practice mindfulness and guided meditation. It struck me today how similar the process is to my cycling training. The Headspace approach is based on short (10-minute) daily sessions. I do them before I ride in the morning–which means getting up just a little bit earlier, but gives more consistency than trying to fit it in later. A typical session spends a little bit of time relaxing and getting settled, then focuses on one or two physical sensations: sound, body tension, breathing, etc.

The part most similar to my cycling is near the end of each session, where the guide encourages you to let the mind go, to let it wander and think about whatever it likes. Since this comes after several minutes of focus, it feels like a rest, giving the mind a chance to catch up to the effort. But every time, after a minute of rest, the guide tells you to refocus, to pull the mind back to center and let go of the thoughts it had wandered to. This feels to me almost exactly like the point in a cycling workout where I shift up and start a new interval effort. The mindful focus is the effort, the wandering the rest interval.

You can’t expect to always be focused, just as you can’t expect to always push at the highest level on a bike. Both processes involve effort and rest. And also like cycling, you can’t make up for an inconsistent mental life by “trying” even harder. The mind requires regular training, just like the body, and the right type of training makes everything easier and more effective.

In a recent Sunset magazine article, a writer spent a day just like a Hollywood celebrity. It involved workouts, special meals, and a busy social schedule. He came away with the feeling that the celebrity life was more like athletic training than hedonistic indulgence. As a celebrity, your image is your livelihood, and it requires regular effort to maintain.

Training isn’t something just for athletes–it’s a process for the mind and the lifestyle as well. It’s been interesting to see how similar techniques can benefit each of those.

How fresh legs feel

Floating bikes

Tour de Suisse tackles the P2HR

My “Perfect 2-Hour Ride” in Zürich looped around the Pfannenstiel, a climb that the Tour de Suisse went over in today’s time trial. I watched it online and it was cool to see professionals on the same roads I rode not long ago!

Kreuziger descends from the Pfannenstiel:

Kreuziger at the point I took some photos last fall:

Kreuziger climbing Pfannenstiel:

Fränk Schleck descends toward the Zürichsee:

Schleck climbs:

Valverde climbs; I never had this many cheering fans along the road, I’m afraid:

John Gadret at the peak, where I’d go straight but the tour went left.