Showing posts from 2015

My Top 7 Favorite Rides/Races of 2015

As you learned last year, I love favorites lists. They help me clarify what I enjoy doing, they help race promoters adjust their offerings and they spread the word about events you might not have heard of. This was a unique year because I actually had sponsors. Help from Bicycles International, Luksha Reconstruction and SixSixOne products motivated me to hit a few more stops around the state. These included several places I had never been before. This year's list includes some personal victories and a couple unique locations. Here are my top seven favorite rides/races of 2015.

Number 7: Edinburgh CX Challenge (Dunedin, FL)
Autumn is the busiest time of year in Florida for many reasons. The snowbirds return, businesses get busy and both CX and XC kick off their seasons often pairing races on the same weekends. This forces all of us racers to choose one or the other. For the last two years I chose CX. However, my piggy bank only allowed for a couple forays. They were run by Zach Fou…

Contemplating Crossfit Competitions

On Saturday, December 12th, 2015 North Port Crossfit held their first local competition: The Jingle Bell Throwdown. This involved an entire day of WODs starting at 9am and carrying through to 3pm. The participants were broke up into four categories: Scaled for men, scaled for women, RX for men and RX for women, For the uninitiated Scaled is a scaled down version of a listed WOD where as RX is the actual WOD (Weight and reps) as prescribed. There was an even mix among the genders with seventeen men and seventeen women taking part.
For those who follow my humble little blog you are aware that I have been studying up on Crossfit since last summer. Why the study? Because I can't afford to sign up. Instead I have been hitting the weights at home and learning what I can to improve my form and function. Visiting a Box and watching a live competition seemed like the next best step.

As a spectator there were a few things I noticed right away. First was that the range of people doing this …

The Before Pictures/Stats

I always forget to do the before/after pictures but not this time. These were taken on Dec 6th, 2015. As I said in the previous post, my goals are both physical and performance based but here I will list some of the stats that are most relevant. I hope to share encouragement with others who are going through the same process. I'm excited by the prospect of great change.
Height 5'9"  Weight 182pds
Chest: 41in Arms: 14.75in Legs: 23in
Overhead Max: 130pds Deadlift Max: 160pds Snatch Max: 60pds
Pull-ups (Non-stop): 15reps Push-ups (Non-stop): 40reps
Current 5K race: 32min
Crossfit Cindy (20min): 8 rds + 5 reps Crossfit Fran (21-15-9): Unable to complete

Time to Stack the Weights

In 1987 I bought my first Muscle & Fitness Magazine (Pictured above). I loved lifting weights and wanted more than anything to strengthen myself and perhaps become a bodybuilder. The problem was that I was a very skinny kid with many problems. These included an eating disorder, emotional issues and a volatile home life. By age 16 I was 5'6" tall but only 116 pounds and I wasn't getting any bigger. It wasn't until I hit 38 that my life truly started to stabilize. I began to gain weight (And Muscle) reaching my current condition of 5'9" and 180 pds.
At 42 I have the opportunity to fulfill that lifelong dream. Stability has allowed for the growth of self-discipline. I have just enough equipment, food, supplements and time to work on this worthy goal. I have to put some of my other hobbies aside but I believe it will be worth it. Many of my past endeavors have been hampered by my desire to do this. For the next ten months or so I will be writing a new book a…

Making Memories at the Edaville Rail Run

There are many races where you have that signature moment when you ask: What the hell am I doing? That moment came in the very first mile of the 2015 Edaville Rail Run. A freezing twenty mile an hour wind barreled across the cranberry bogs and slammed into hundreds of runners who tucked deep into their sweat clothes. The wind was a constant obstacle at what was otherwise a flat, 5 mile trail run. But I must back up a little because the race itself was only one part of the journey.
I grew up in Massachusetts (25 years). My wife Terri and I lived there together for about three and a half years (Two years in Carver). We had good jobs and an active social life despite the weather. Terri competed in Dressage while my brother Kevin and I competed in mountain bike racing. Living with my parents was difficult, cramped into a single wide mobile home. We looked into getting a place of our own but the cost of living was just outrageous. We moved back to Florida in 2010.

Five years passed before…

A Daily Warm-up for Old Bastards

I tend to design the best warm-ups when I'm sick or injured. After another round of back pain followed by a pulled Latissimus dorsi and/or Serratus posterior muscle, not sure which is hurt, I have changed my starting routine. The logic is that if I can do a warm-up while I'm sick or hurt then I never have an excuse not to do it. As you can imagine this takes some creativity.
While I'm not yet an old bastard, I do sometimes feel like one. There are mornings where stiffness and ache threaten to ruin my plans. The truth is that when we get older we need more time to get the engine going so mobility becomes a bigger priority. They have a saying in Crossfit, "The shorter the workout, the longer the warm-up." Such logic applies to this cause. In this case the workout is your wake-up, that step into daily life.

All you need to do this warm-up is a piece of PVC pipe about 5 feet long and maybe 3 or 4 inches wide. This length/size/weight will allow you to do basic exerci…

Stop Training & Start Having Fun

You know that instant when you get over yourself and start enjoy the moment? That finally happened to me. Two years ago I was an active runner competing in a race series and obsessing about beating my competition. I chose races based on how well I might place. How ridiculous is that? I was constantly suffering from injuries incurred during training and I was killing myself during the events. After one year I was beat down by my own efforts. I had missed the point entirely.

This time around I decided to stop training and start having fun. Instead of methodically building up to a race, I will sign up spontaneously. Instead of pushing myself to get faster, I will run at an agreeable pace. This is an attempt to stop the crash and burn cycle that has plagued all of my athletic endeavors. So far it appears to be working.

At the 2015 Trick or Trot 5k in Englewood (My Favorite Race), I threw all those unrealistic expectations in the garbage. In the spirit of Halloween I dressed up as The Pun…

Edinburgh Cyclocross Challenge - Photos

The third weekend of FLCX took place at Highlander park in Dunedin, Florida and it was another hot one, at least for the first day. Saturday's races took place under a scorching sun which was ironic considering that Highlander is also a water park. Right next to the course was a full size pool and children's sprayground. If only there had been moisture on the course. A well timed rain would have made for a completely different experience. As it were, Edinburgh was mostly flat grass with a dust cloud sand pit, some shaded singletrack and a couple cement bike paths. These made for a fast race. Ryan Woodall held the Saturday record of 5:25 a lap which he took as part of his Pro win.
This was my return to racing after a disastrous start at Veterans park. There I overheated and had an asthma attack, here was I was determined to avoid those traps. It was not an easy task. Electing to take on the crowded category 4/5 race was a great idea. I found them to be a varied assortment of r…

Racing with Exercise Induced Asthma

The whistle blows. I'm racing along with the pack, keeping an eye on the jersey in front of me, barely aware of the rider behind me. My pace is steady and the obstacles are manageable. Then suddenly I notice that my breathing is a little forced. I'm taking larger gulps of air and trying to calm them down by breathing through my nose. I ignore the discomfort and keep on. Half a lap later my gasping is so loud that spectators can hear it. Instead of cheering they pause and listen. They know that something is wrong. They might even spot the problem before I do.
In my mind I'm thinking: It's a race. It's supposed to be hard. There is supposed be pain. I'm pushing the pace. I'm focused on a goal. It is within this mentality that I am often the last to acknowledge what is happening, I was hyperventilating. My lungs were restricting, closing up, depleting the oxygen that my muscles desperately needed. I was growing weaker, getting slower. The obstacles became too…

Veterans Memorial Park CX Race Photos

The first race of the Florida Cyclocross Season was a hit. Veteran's Memorial Park in Hudson was well attended despite weather conditions that might have frightened less hearty sportsmen. On Saturday, Sept 5th, 2015 the heat was on. Literally, it was like 95 degrees in the sun. Around mid show there was a brief interval of rain to cool things off but then it went right back to scorching. Still, nothing was going to stop these riders.
Big thanks to Zach Fout of Cycology Coaching Solutions for crafting a fun course full of sand traps and mud pits with a few tricky off cambers bits to keep riders on their toes. Even the kids had an entertaining race with one ambitious young man who rode under the tape several times creating his own loop. While there I managed to get a few photos of the event and competitors then pasted them on Facebook. Feel free to tag yourself or friends.
Veteran's Memorial Park CX Race (Sat)

The Season is Upon Us!

The summer is almost over and CX Season is about to start! I have been training in a manner befitting someone who has to visit every five minutes to make future decisions. Regardless, things have gone smoothly. No injuries, no major mechanical issues. I was banging out the reps, running up my cardio and biking over everything that can even vaguely be considered an incline. For example: Hill repeats on the Venice bicycle bridge. It takes 20 laps of that 50 footer to make 1,000 feet of climb at 5%. That's about as big as it gets around here but results should follow.

I have always had trouble sticking with a training plan for very long. However, I have found the cure to that problem - Crossfit. I've been dabbling with CF for a while but this summer I decided to look more deeply into this phenomenon. I read a couple books (Inside the Box & Learning to Breathe Fire). I watched dozen of videos and got my wife Terri involved. We do solid warm-ups followed by WOD'…

Summer of Sweat: Part Two

July 4th, 2015 (Englewood, FL) - Training is a process of self-discovery. This is where you feel out your limits and work beyond them. It's the self-study part we need to pay attention to. In this update about my CX training summer of sweat I'm taking note of the some the things I'm learning about myself. In addition I'm training my wife Terri and I have quite a bit to learn about that process as well.
Why Easy is Never Easy - My tendency towards intensity has to be bound with sturdy strings. This first week is all about habit so we're talking low reps and easy pace. However, there is always an evil little bird humming in my ear saying, "You can do more." No matter how many times you try to swat this bird, it keeps coming back. Resisting that temptation is the difference between floating and drowning. When floating you might not be going very fast but at least you're above water. This is the explanation for why easy is never easy, it keeps you busy.

Summer of Sweat: Part One

Mon, June 29th, 2015 (Englewood, FL) - I love training. Not more than competition but there is a real sense of purpose that comes from pushing yourself to a new level with a clear goal in mind. This is my second day of an eight week build up to the fall Cyclocross season. Last year I tried CX for the first time and fell in love. It combines all the things I love about Mountain Biking with all the things I enjoyed about BMX Racing. Last year I could only afford to do 4 races but this year I have sponsors and a schedule. A little help goes a long way.
As for the process, I'm already sweating. Weighed in at 175.6 and will check that number as the summer goes on. I have a series of conditioning exercises plus CX riding blocks all lined up on my white boards (Of which I have 3). I'll be keeping careful track of RPE's, nutrition, hydration, miles and hours on the bike as well as personal records for each exercise in my home gym. I plan to suffer, OCD style! It is crazy hot ever…

SCORR Builds a Bridge

Sat, June 27th (Venice, FL) - Remember that pesky water crossing on the BoldyGo trail in the Carlton Reserve? Well, it's still there but you no longer have to get your feet wet. A trail addition has been added that bypasses the creek and the steep rollers but reaches a newly built wooden bridge that spans the water farther upstream. Hoorah for trail progress!
A dozen members of the Sarasota County off Road Riders (SCORR) carried an 800 pound log, equal to half a telephone pole, through the woods to a selected location. This pole was used as the core of the wooden bridge which was built on site. The bypass has been cleared and will allow riders to choose the hard route over the rollers and through the water or the easy route over the bridge. This bypass will be especially useful in the deeper summer months when the water crossing becomes impassable.
Yours truly was on hand to help out and I also managed to take a full array of pictures that show the construction process. You can s…

Book Review: On Top of Your Game by Carrie Cheadle

After a couple epic fails during XC mountain bike races I thought I might need a little psychological boost so I picked up Carrie Cheadle's book, On Top of Your Game. I heard about the book during an interview she gave to Mountain Bike Radio. In the book, the author addresses common mistakes that athletes of any sport can relate to but I found them to have relevance for bike racing. The premise is that while we all prepare physically for our sports, we tend to forget about the psychological aspect until something goes wrong. Her book contains a series of mental exercises that can alleviate such problems, mostly by fixing our focus in the right direction.
Luckily I'm long past the anxiety shakes that hindered my first few races so there were chunks of this book that didn't apply to me. However, there were some gems that hit my issues right on the money. One was my tendency to create "Secret Goals." The author defined that habit as the hidden agenda that we carry …

Summer Hibernation... sort of?

Where is Alex? This year kicked off with a ton of riding, racing and travel. Having competed in 9 races and took part in more than 20 events plus group rides, it is time to rest. Right now I'm enjoying a week off from everything. I will start an aggressive CX specific training schedule next week. It will consist of short blocks of riding and exercise which I will be writing about.

Florida summers can be brutally hot! With no AC in our car we're not taking any trips in July & Aug. Instead we are saving our pennies for the upcoming Cyclocross season and for a new car.
So stay cool, stay dry and I'll see you all in the fall.
I want to thank my sponsors Bicycles International of Venice, Luksha Reconstruction and Sixsixone.

Spending the Night at Santos Campground

June 10th, 2015 (Ocala, FL) - Hotels are expensive! You'd think that with all the complicated websites created to help you find the best deal, the price might actually go down. So much for technology. We haven't been on a camping trip in about five years. It was time to drag the tent out. Granted summertime in Florida is not ideal for camping but with a little luck you can get away with it. A few days before our trip the air conditioning in our car died. So much for luck.
It was my wife's vacation so we were not going to let anything stop us. I went through Reserve America to pay for a site at Santos campground and then I signed up for the Hump Day Hustle race on the Santos Bicycle Shop website. On the big day we were blessed with many miles of overcast skies with intermittent rain which cooled things down for the long drive. The normal 90+ weather can drop 20 degrees in a good storm.
 Once arriving in Ocala we suddenly realized that we had forgotten our pillows and blank…

Breaking the Curse: My First Race at Santos

June 10th, 2015 (Ocala, FL) - Ever since I moved to Florida I've done very little cross country racing because, well, I've been cursed. I'm fine when it comes to endurance or gravel grinders, BMX or CX racing. For some unknown reason I can't get through an XC race without something going horribly wrong. At my first race: I crashed out. At my second: I had a mechanical on the start line. At my third: I had an asthma attack during the first lap. The Finals of the Hump Day Hustle was to be my fourth race and I was fed up!
This time I was taking precautions and altering expectations. I was studying sports psychology to change my focus. I was training with weekend rides that exceeded 50 miles. Learning from the past I would not sprint off the line blowing out my lungs. I would not exceed my red line. I would not attack until it favored my strengths. This time I was determined to change my fate.

The race started at the Santos Bicycle Shop and kicked off at 6:30pm with a lar…