Saturday, July 23, 2011

Final Race report Part 2- L'Etape du Tour: Bringing it home

So where was I.... oh yea, heading into Murat.  It was downhill into Murat with beautiful sweeping turns on smoothly-paved roads.  A cyclists' dream. I think I was going 43 mph. Things started to dry up a bit now. Again, all the town's people were out and about and cheering all the riders on. From there, it was a long slog up and down and up and down. Then I climbed up to the highest point of the route, where they thankfully set up a fuel/feed station.  I quickly dumped my 2 bottles, filled both bottles with new drink.  Had a banana and some type of of hot liquid they had waiting for us.  Knowing that this was the last push, I took on this last 50km with the knowledge that if I didn't crash out, I was going to finish this bad boy.  Most of this last section was downhill but for 2 climbs- one with this great castle on top of the hillside, and then the final 2km into the town of Saint-Flour.  An uphill finish, of course...

The Finish.
By the time I got to this last 2km, I was spent.  Completely done, toast.  Several riders were passing me with energy as if they were fresh.  I didn't let it get me down, as all I wanted to do was cross that finish line.  Countering my slow speed though, were the hundreds of fans lining the final run up to the finish line.  As I passed the 1km sign, the cheering became louder and louder.  At around 500m left, you take your last hairpin turn to the right (like a u-turn) to bring it home.  (I specifically remember watching the pros only a week earlier on TV- Contador, Shleck, Evans, etc., take this same turn and make the final uphill push to the line.) At this point, it really felt as if all of those lining the course were coaxing me to give it one last push.  With that, I gathered up all of the energy I had left, dropped the bike into a big gear, got out of my saddle and pushed it as hard as I could to the line.  With no one else around me, I could hear the announcer calling my number out over the loud speaker and pushing me on for the last 30 meters.  As I crossed the line, so many emotions came over me. Finis!!  The final carnage?  Approximately 1850 finishers of the 6000+ that started this event.

If you ask me today if I'd come back and do another L'Etape, I would say absolutely. The experience certainly lived up to the expectation, and then some. Not sure if I'd be saying that if it were a beautiful sunny day, but I'd like to think so.  It can't go without saying how much my wife's "support" in this endeavor has meant to me over the last 6 months. It all culminated with hearing Melisa's voice somewhere near the 30 mile marker yelling "Go Ed!!". Amidst all the general cheering going on, I could clearly pick out her voice. Those few words of encouragement cut through the air and gave me the needed push to carry on for the rest of the day's event. I love my wife.  (Melisa tells me that the little one inside her was kicking away in excitement too.  I'll have to ask him when he's a bit older if he remembers that day...)

Thanks to all of my friends, family and readers of this blog for your supportive emails, tweets, and general comments. This whole L'Etape blog idea started as an additional way to guilt me into keeping up with my training, and if nothing else, a way to diary my thoughts over the last 6 months. It's turned into much more than that for me, and I hope it's been entertaining for you.  Maybe I'll be back with another blog for my next adventure.  Until then, train hard, be safe and most of all, show your support for your family and friends in everything they do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Final race report Part 1- L'Etape du Tour: Be careful what you wish for...

What a day, what a day.....where do I start?

Saturday- July 16th
Woke up in the hotel and grabbed a quick breakfast (well, actually 2 breakfasts: one at the boulangerie across the street at 6am- nothing like fresh croissant and pain chocolat, and the other at the hotel- more croissant and pain chocolat). The trip organizer, Sports International (a company out of the U.K.- awesome logistics I have to say) had a coach bus waiting for us at 8am to travel to the race/event village, first to handle registration and then the build out of our bikes.  Registration was smooth and quick, leaving loads of time to purchase teeshirts, jerseys, etc.  Then went to build up my bike. Things went smooth.  A couple of small adjustments by the guys at Wiggle (they had 1/2 a dozen mechanics on site in case anyone had issues).  After the build out, we all left our bikes at a secure location which was monitored and watched 24/7.  Back to town by 3:30pm, I set off to prepare for the next day's event: clothing, food, supplements, etc.  Then it was a quick dinner and got to bed early.

Sunday- July 17th (Race Day)
While I knew that rain was forecasted for the early part of the morning, no one could've predicted how this day would roll out.  Downstairs at 4am for breakfast, then it was back to the room to get changed into race gear (should've been Armageddon gear).  As I looked out the window, it was clearly raining.  With that, I brought along on the bus to the event, a rain jacket, a rain vest, both full and half fingered gloves, arm warmers, over boots.  I assessed the weather while picking up my bike and determined that I'd skip the rain jacket and over boots, and go with the rain vest, arm warmers and half-fingered gloves.  In hind-sight, some potentially poor decisions (or guesses rather), however I now know that none of the gear available would've made one bit of a difference.

I checked my bike, my cycling computer, the air pressure and then jumped on my saddle for the quick 2 km ride to the start pens (I think there were 12 pens holding in total approx. 6,500 racers).  The very first thing I noticed was the overwhelming security and seriousness the French treat this event (and cycling in general).  Yes, I knew that the roads would be closed for the race, just like in the Tour de France.  But, I immediately felt like a pro as every single intersection along the race route was closed off personally by police, with thousands of others assisting in making sure we were on track and avoiding the various road furniture. (The only way to describe it is to literally watch a stage of any major cycling race, and just replace the pros with regular folk, although there were pros racing this event that happened to skip the TdF this year.)  Now I'm in my pen at around 6:30am and the rain (which had stopped and caused me to make poor clothing choices earlier) started again.  Then the wind picked up and never let up. So, all before the start time of 7am, we were all shivering and wet, hoping we would get warm when we started to ride.  I'm not exactly sure what time I actually got off as the first pen was released at approx. 7am.  I was in the 7th pen and certainly didn't leave before 7:20am.  I wasn't worried about the timing as the bikes had an electronic chip that would set off once you crossed the start line.

Off we go, it was as I expected.  The very first mile, everyone's getting situated and up to speed, and then comes the craziness (as always). The pace immediately shot off to approx 24-28 mph.  Everyone grabbing the wheel of the guy in front of him.  I'm loving the pace as I'm tucked in a peloton of a hundred or so riders, but all I can think about are the conditions.  Very wet roads and very twitchy/nervous/aggressive/anxious riders.  Bad combination. My group catches the rear of what must've been the back of the 6th pen.  This is all great as I'm on course to do about 24 miles in the very first hour, but then remind myself that we're not even close to the climbs yet.  I immediately let the peloton go and settle into my own pace at the very first feeling that they are moving at a pace I wouldn’t be able to sustain for an hour. (I remember looking down at my odometer and at the end of the second full hour I had logged in only 30 miles total. A drastic difference from the first hour.)

Before the start of the race, I was thinking that bad weather would work to my advantage.  My thoughts- sure, anyone can ride in the beautiful sunshine, but turn on some mixed weather and only those who can tough it out would survive.  Little did I know how that thought would come back to test me on a personal level.  Not less than an hour into the race did the heavy rain and gale type wind (and cold) settles in on the region.  For most of this miserable day, it was b/n 35 degrees and 44 degrees.  I was wet and cold as was everyone else.  For a while the heat I was generating just barely compensated for the coldness and wetness against my body. But soon all things started to fail.  I wasn't staying on top of my nutrition b/c I couldn't reach into the pockets on the rear of my shirt to grab some food because my arms were so cold and hands numb. (More than anything, this made me very nervous as I couldn't really shift nor eel myself grabbing my brakes too well.) Thus without eating I wasn't feeding the furnace which only led to the continuation of the vicious circle.  (Why didn't I simply stop and eat? Good question, but the concept of stopping when you're in the middle of a group who is partially shielding you from the wind wasn't an option.) Everyone, I mean everyone, was suffering.  Once of the oddest sites I've ever seen were all the abandoned bikes along the road.  I'm not talking your average Schwinn, but HUNDREDS of hard core carbon fiber bikes just leaned up against fences along the course.  (Note- we were told that if you get pulled off the course for injury or choose to quit, there will be a "Broom" truck that will come by throughout the day and pick up the bikes left along the road.)  It was clear that the riders must have already been picked up or grabbed a ride in the many ambulances who were dealing with what seemed like hundreds of hypothermia cases.  (Obviously you got to be pretty miserable to simply leave your wheels on the road.  Granted, the public wasn't on the road that day so maybe the fear of having you bike stolen was low, but just an illustration of how ugly it was.)  I saw countless of cyclists in the doorways of people's homes trying to get warm, or being toweled off by the local residents.  Hats off to all those residents who stood out to watch the event and shared what they had with all of the participants- food, hot tea, towels, clothing and their homes. This is all BEFORE the first feed/drink station.

Feed Station One- Pure carnage.
The approach to the first feed station was a long fast 2 miles down a steep hill. Barely being able to feel my brakes, I safely found my way into the town of Allanche where they staged the first fuel pit stop.  There, I quickly scoped out where the food was, the bathrooms, etc.  EVERYONE was shivering uncontrollably (me included).  I've only felt that uncontrollably cold once before and it's no fun. The worst part about this was that the event organizers weren't prepared to deal with the sheer numbers of soon to be hypothermia cases in Allanche, nor the numbers who were quitting the race all at the same time.  (Literally, how to transport the thousands, yes thousands, of riders now stuck in this little town.)  I didn't realize the numbers of people quitting, until I saw the lines and lines of bikes leaning against each other in a penned off area. Stupid me, I thought that all these bikes were from riders on a bathroom line.  (But no line anywhere.) Then I noticed race staff taking bikes from riders and the riders going into the (warm) coach buses. I must have seen at least 1,000 bikes, maybe more. Shivering uncontrollably as I was, I scanned the square for a bakery or cafe.  Having found one I leaned my bike up against the wall of the cafe (there were hundreds of people scattered in bakeries, butchers, cafes, etc.) and quickly went inside and ordered up a hot chocolate.  Then another.  Not able to warm up after what must have been an hour, I went outside to decide whether or not I was going to continue on or throw in the towel. (How quickly nature can make you consider shelving all that you've trained for.)  I stood outside by the pen of bikes all waiting to be loaded onto 18 wheeler trucks, getting rained on some more in an attempt to make up my mind.  I can't tell you how many times race personnel asked me if I was "finis"?  I would simply respond "Je ne sais pas" (I.e., I don't know).  With a smile they would walk away and must have been thinking that it was only a matter of time until I too gave up.  After 5 minutes back in these miserable conditions, I didn't give it another thought- on my bike I went.  Not sure what it was exactly that got me back on my bike, but I kept on reading the potential final scripts in my mind- "Ed comes to France and quits...", Ed decides to continue and ends up in a ditch on the side of the road, frozen..."; "Ed decides to continue and finishes somehow".  With Melisa in mind, Alpe D'Huez (the name my father in law gave the yet unborn child) and my mother in law Grace, who's in a current fight for her life, makes my near hypothermia seem insanely trivial, I put down a ton of calories and was off into the freezing rain and wind.

Fighting back the chill
Once back on the bike and with belly full, I just kept thinking "baby steps".  Just focus on one mile and then another mile and so on.  Soon, I seemed to be gaining a bit more of my heat and the rain slowed to a mild drizzle. The air still cold (and much colder on the downhill portions), I tried to vent my shirt as much as possible to start the drying process. As you would imagine, there weren't many riders out there in front of me at this point.  (Remember, I was in a cafe for an hour and didn't see many riders leave that town after I got there.) As I would pass through the little towns, the people lining the streets would cheer loudly egging me to continue yelling "Bon Courage!" and "Allez allez!".  What a great lift those towns’ people gave me throughout the day.  Eventually some other riders road up to me and we decided to ride together for part of the next hour or 2. Luckily the sun came out for a bit while I approached a long 2 or 3 mile steep climb.  I knew I'd be burning the fire real hot on the climb so I used this time wisely to open up my rain vest and pull down the arm warmers in an attempt to get a bit dryer.  It seemed to be working.

The French...
Feeling a bit rejuvenated for the first time, I pushed on fairly hard and came to the base of the Puy de Mary. (It's one of the big climbs on the route.)  There, there were about a dozen or so riders who were stopped and clearly arguing with race officials.  Apparently, the race officials and the police were not allowing the riders to go over the Puy de Mary since it was snowing on the pass and was 35 degrees.  In fact, they were sending back the riders who hadn't already passed over the other side of that summit. With more riders coming now to this point of the course, the arguments and pressure of the moment b/n racers and race officials was getting quite heated.  Then more police showed up and a "broom" truck and several coach buses (obviously the plan was to convince the riders to quit and hang it up). Gotta love the way the French reasoned with the riders- essentially we've decided how things will go and that's that. Not interested in getting caught up in this commotion, I wanted to figure out a way to continue to ride. I recalled from the race map that the route went over the pass into the town of Murat. I also remembered that about a 1/2 mile back up the road (yes, straight up a 10% grade I just bombed down) there was a road sign that indicated straight to "Murat". (We had turned right and came down the hill.)  I mentioned that to one other rider and in an instant we started to ride back up the road to that intersection. (We didn't want to be involuntarily pulled off our bikes by the authorities.)  When we got to that intersection with the sign to Murat, the race staff who had the road blocked off just let us through and we continued on to Murat.  (As I understand it, anyone that came after us to that intersection was told they could carry on with the race but had to avoid the Puy de Mary climb.  (I felt bad for those 50 or 60 riders who were now arguing with race officials as they probably threw in the towel, either out of disgust with the race officials or b/c they were convinced by the officials to call it a day.)

Part 2 tomorrow....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Arrive en France

We finally made it in to Claremond Ferrand late last night but not before pulling over to have a great dinner in some un-named town along the way.

Got up early this morning and walked to the local boulangerie and picked up fresh croissants (plain et avec chocolat). Surprised at how much of my French has come back so quickly. (My friend Maria would be proud....and surprised.)

Well, it's off to the start town of Issoire this morning to register, build the bike, take it for a little spin to make sure all is in working order, buy some additional (probably uneeded) cycling gear, yada, yada....

While it's absolutely blue sky today with highs in the high 70's, tomorrow's weather looks like it's going to be a wet one all day. What fun!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Slow Start....Brief update

Let's see- our plane from Newark to Brussels was delayed as it had a bad fuel pump. Finally get on the plane and arrive in Brussels only to miss our connecting flight to Lyon, France. So instead of arriving in Lyon at 10:30am, we are sitting around the Brussels airport waiting to catch a 5pm flight that will get us in at 6:30pm. Fingers crossed.....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tour de France- Stage 9 Issoire to Saint Flour

In case you've been following this blog, today's stage of the Tour de France (Stage 9) is the stage I'll be riding next Sunday.  You can watch it on the Versus Network (If you're a Verizon cable subscriber, it should be on channel 90, or digital 590). Have a great day!

Friday, July 8, 2011

8 days and counting...

Less than 8 days until Letape.  Last Saturday was my last 6 hour ride in my training program.  With that last big ride under my belt, Ive started to get a sense of relief, joy, etc., for the first time. And it couldn't have come at a better time as I've been feeling tapped out physically.  A friend who joined me for part of Saturday's ride asked me how I feel.  "Really fit, but not fresh at all." I know I'm as fit as I've ever been as a cyclist, but, I'm sore and feel like the tank is empty, nearly everyday.  Thankfully, the recovery portion of this training program has started this week.  (Well, I go from a 12 hour week, to a 9 hour week.  That's improvement, right? At least next week, the final week, is only 3 hours.) With 2 people in my office gone on vacation and having to pick up the load while they are away, the lighter training schedule couldn't have come at a better time. 

Now i need to get the gear and nutrition for the trip dialed.  Sports International, the tour company providing logistics for this event, just forwarded the final detailed itinerary.  One of the things I was looking forward to was the fact that SI is providing it's own pit stops along the route.  This is typically great since it's reserved for only those traveling in their party, thus giving the ability to avoid the water and food stops provided by the race organization for the masses. (I think there are 4,000 people riding this event.) Unfortunately for me, these "private" pitstops won't accommodate my request to bring along the fuel I like to use.  I mistakenly thought that I could have them bring to each scheduled stops the fuel I wanted (Hammer Nutrition Products) thus giving me the ability to carry less food with me along the ride. As it turns out, the Powerbar company is handling these pitstops for them and won't carry another company's products. Go figure. So if I want to use the products I've been using, I'll need to carry all of the product for the full 208 kilometer ride. 

With a goal of about 250 calories per hour here's what I think I will carry:Hammer Heed to start with in both water bottles

6 Hammer Fizz tablets
6 xsmall baggies each with 1 endurolyte, 1 race cap, 1 ammonia buffer
2 flasks each with 4 scoops of Perpetuem (made into a thick paste)
3 Cliff Shot Bloc packages
6 Hammer Gels

On the gear side of things, here's what I think I will bring along for the ride:
Cervelo R3 bike
2 CO2 canisters (I'll have to buy these in France since you can't fly with these)
Mini toolkit
2 water bottles
2 spare tubes
2 tire levers
Credit card
Camera? (would love to take photos but maybe just use phone)
Garmin Edge 800

Castelli race top (think I will wear white but maybe red)
Castelli "Garmin/Cervelo" body paint bib shorts
Swiftwick "Mellow Johnnys" socks
Specialized body geometry fingerless gloves (and set of full fingered in case of bad weather)
Mellow Johnnys arm warmers (just in case)
Sidi 6.6 shoes
Belgium Butt Budder (for those special body areas)
Nubutte chamois butter (yea, I mix this and belgium for a nice combo)
Oakley Jawbone sunglasses
Cateye Whisper Plus helmet

Be back soon....

Monday, June 27, 2011

A cause to ride for...

Melisa at 23 weeks
I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted a note on this blog. Most of the time since the last post has been training, recovering, thinking about what I ate, what I'm going to eat, sleeping, thinking of when I'm going to get more sleep, how many calories I've burned, how much power I'm generating (or more likely, not generating), etc.....  And while doing all of this, I've been thoroughly focused and distracted at the same time.  What do I mean?  Well, the thought of having a "boy" in October has my mind completely preoccupied.  (Oh yea, small note-  Melisa is expecting our first child in October!!) 

The thought of a child on the way has completely changed everything I think about and how I process even the smallest everyday decisions.  Maybe that's overstating it (which in time may pass), but as I wind up my training for L'Etape over the next couple of weeks, I catch myself thinking about the following- I'm simultaneously riding at my best, feeling extremely fit, and yet, I'm completely terrified of what might happen if I crash and get injured.  (I guess that's what life insurance is for, right?) I mean, I've crashed, broken bones, torn tendons, had chunks of flesh ripped from my body all in the name of self-indulgent "fun", never once going into any of those activities nervous about the outcome. As a good friend of mine used to repeat over and over when we were growing up (and when we were doing stupid things), "Hesitation Kills".  I've kept that motto in my mind for years and, for the most part, it's treated me pretty well and kept me (conversely & ironically) "safe".  However, now I find myself questioning that "theory".  Has Melisa's pregnancy shifted the laws of physics and thus the theory, or is it just my brain playing games? On a conscious level I know the answer to that, but....

Anyway, getting back to the matter at hand, training has been going well.  Got myself a new, Fizik saddle- The Antares.  I've had long Saturday rides now for many weeks that go 6 hours in length. This saddle has made all the difference in the world, literally.  My butt has found its match (thankfully).  This IS the last 12 hour week of heavy training- next week is 9 hours and the week leading up to the event a mere 3 hours.  (Can't wait!!)  As part of the next blog, I'm going to lay out all of my clothing and nutrition products.  This is my selfish way of forcing myself to get organized about what I'm going to wear and eat.  So, once I post it, I'll have gotten that portion of prep out of the way. Thanks.  Having said that, it's been months and months of trying out things that have worked (and many that haven't). I feel it only fitting to give major props to the products (and their makers) that have supported me in this effort (and for some products, over many years). Until then...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Post Gran Fondo

Morning of Gran Fondo
Last weekend's Gran Fondo NYC turned out to be a great tune-up event and a real test of my current training level and overall condition of the elbow.  The event started on the the lower level of the George Washington Bridge at 7am.  I got there at 6am, choosing to not bring any additional clothing other than a cycling vest.  It was freezing!!  What a long hour. With literally thousands of riders lined up and ready to go, the event got off w/o a hitch.  My initial concern with so many cyclists was to stay clear of those who I felt were less competent/confident with riding in such a tight group. (I assume many people had the same idea as I.)
That's George Hincapie 2nd from the left

that's me on the left
After crossing the bridge we wound around on to and into Palisades Park, a beautiful park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. With many long downhill straightaways in the park, I figured I'd use my downhill skills to pass as many as I could right at the get go.  Although some of the riders were clearly a bit sketched out with the sheer numbers of riders on the road, I was able to clear past what felt like several hundred riders.  Then it was the climb out of the park heading north on to route 9W.  The first big climb and it hit everyone like a wall. Felt good though.  On 9W, everyone kind of settled in to their own pace.  I was taking in as much of the scenery as possible.  I've never really spent anytime on the New Jersey side of the Hudson.  Some of it was absolutely beautiful.  With 4 "timed" climbs (not worth explaining), the event took the riders all the way up to Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain. Bear Mountain was a 4 mile sufferfest.  It wasn't the steepest climb, but was the type that never seemed to end. A true "bear" of a climb. Here are some additional photos of me captured by event photographers. (Don't mind the open shirt- it was hot.)

On the first timed climb

On my way up Bear Mountain (This is where I saw Hincapie for the first time flying downhill)
this is right after the finish of the Bear Mountain climb
Coming down Bear Mountain (top speed- 41.5 mph)
The finish
 Some 7 hours later, I finished.  Best part was that the elbow didn't hurt!  Great sign.  As for my fitness, things are on track, but I've got lots of work to do, both physically and mentally.  L'Etape in July will be another 25 miles longer, with 2.5x the amount of elevation gain.  So, I definitely got my work cut out for me, but looking forward to the challenge.  As always, thanks for the support. Be back next week.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pre-Gran Fondo NYC

This one will be short.  I registered for the Gran Fondo NYC (a 100 mile cycling ride/race) many months ago "hoping" my elbow would be fine for tomorrow's event.  (My next post will provide details about the Gran Fondo, but if you can't wait, click here.)  I've gotten the thumbs up from Dr., physical therapist and my online coach to proceed, so away we go tomorrow morning at 7am.  It will be good to see how the elbow feels on a 100 mile ride.  Hopefully not much pain or soreness.  Unfortunately, my buddy Andrew who I planned on riding with is out for the count having come done with a confirmed case of Strep Throat.  (Hope I didn't catch it from him in the last several days.)  I feel horrible for him as he's put in loads of training for this event.  I was looking forward to riding this with a friend, but, alas, I'll have to ride it for both of us.  Send positive energy.  Be back in 24 hours......

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I get "Retuled" & focused...

It's been a while since my last post. Travel, work and training have kept me away.  No excuse. Here's an update on things:

This past week I finally completed the rest of the plans for the France trip.  So here's the brief summary of the trip-
Day 1- Fly to Lyon, France
Day 2- Arrive in Lyon & pick up rental car/drive to Clermond-Ferrand, France
Day 3- Sight see/build bike/race registration
Day 4- Race Day!
Day 5- Drive to Aix-en Provence/Sight see
Days 6/7- Sight see south of France
Day 8- TGV to Paris/See Paris
Day 9-10- See Paris/see finale of Tour de France
Day 11- Fly home

With that completely behind me, I've truly focused on the training now that the elbow is showing its first signs of recovery. My training program has me on the bike for a bit over 11 hours a week. (All indoors so far....) And the hours and intensity build from here. With a half dozen different cycling shorts in rotation, I'm certainly developing a love (and hate) for certain shorts.  The current love?  Castelli Body Paint Bibshort.  Expensive but the best so far. (I won't bother mentioning those shorts getting the pink slip.)  For a about 3rd of the price, the Hammer bibs are a really good choice, but the Castelli's fit me just slightly better.  

As part of the stepped up training, I finally got "Retuled".  I'll explain. Retule is a bike fit system that uses digital imaging and motion capture to get the fit on your bike completely dialed-in. The traditional way of getting fit utilizes static measurements (i.e., the measurements are taken while you sit still on the bike).  Instead, the Retule system places probes on certain key areas of your body (feet, ankles, knees, hips, elbow, shoulder, hands, etc.) and measures the angles while you spin.  Over the course of 90 minutes, the Retule rep adjusts and tweaked my saddle height, the seat position (fore and aft), the cleat on my shoe, the height of my bars such that I'm maximizing comfort and efficiency while riding. It's been 2 weeks since the bike fit and can say that I'm definitely feeling more comfortable.  Overall, the adjustments weren't huge if you're counting cm or inches; but the fairly small adjustments have made sitting in that saddle for many hours more pleasurable. (Not sure that sounds appropriate.)

All that said, it's time to really get focused to stay on the straight and narrow (training path that is...). Hopefully the weather will start getting warmer so I can take the training outdoors, but until then, it's in front of the TV monitor spinning away.  I really appreciate the support I get from my friends and family in this endeavor- you guys keep me completely motivated. Keep it up!  Check back in soon....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Things taking shape

Some early planning...
With the race approx. 80 days away, I pulled out the course map to re-connect with what I've been training for. I hadn't seen this map since I registered, thinking I would focus on training and not get distracted with the event itself.  (Good thing- that's a long ride.) 

Feeling good about my training overall, I thought it might be time to get some of the planning for this trip out of the way.  So it was off to where I locked in flights. Leaving NY on July 14th, we will fly to Lyon, France arriving on Friday, the 15th. With the race on the 17th, it gives us almost 2 days to travel a only few hours to the town on Issoire, where it all gets started.  Booked our return from Paris on July 25th, the day after the TdF finale. We booked 2 VIP tickets that allows us access to one of the grandstands along the Champs Elysees to watch the final showdown while the real racers fly around 1/2 dozen to a dozen times.  So, other than the flight there and back, my event and the TdF finale, we have left the remaining 7 days free for travel.  

With that in mind, I put in a call to a French cousin of mine, Marcel (my mom is French, hence the french relatives), who lives in Aix en Provence, an area in the South of France just north of Marseilles. (See the "A" on the map to the left.)  I hadn't seen or talked to Marcel in almost 20 years (I think he must now be 55 or 56?). Once we got on the phone, it was as if we picked up where we left off in our last conversation so many years earlier.  I wanted get his thoughts on where we should visit for the remaining part of the trip.  He's going to provide us with some suggestions, but I think we're going to drive south to Marcel's home and stay with him for a day or 2- all to be firmed up later.  (If you have any suggestions, please send me a note!!)

My elbow is going through some weirdness. I thought physical therapy was going really well until almost 2 weeks ago. The Doctor had me stop doing physical therapy for a week or 2 as I was/am having noticeable pain in the elbow- actually, I'd say my elbow feels like it did right before the surgery. Not sure that's normal/abnormal, but I'm hoping that I'm just passing through a phase on to more healing.  We'll see.  Truth be told, it's supposed to be a full 4 months before I'm better so I'm only really a bit over 1/2 way there. Hopefully I'm just jumping the gun and simply need to be patient.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to Quentin Field-Boden, the author (and my "virtual" coach) of the training plan I downloaded through  (In my last blog, I mentioned that I downloaded a workout plan that was created by a coach specifically for L'Etape.)  Quentin's been extremely helpful and responsive in answering many of my questions. (Click here if you want to read his blog or follow him on twitter.) That's it for now- train hard, eat well, get plenty of rest and most of all, get outside!

Monday, March 14, 2011

L'Etape is back on!

Didn't think I've been gone this long.  Wow. Over the last three or so weeks, I've been focused on my physical therapy and my training. A few last minute travels to the west coast have made keeping to the training plan a bit challenging. Doing the best i can with this.  Since last time I blogged, I've adopted a full-on training plan based on Power (vs. Heart Rate) with the help of a power meter. Until I got into the science behind training with power, I didn't fully understand.  To summarize it really simple- whereas heart rate tells you what your input is, power tells you what you're output is, which is key. With this, you can truly know how much work you're expending in a given workout. This, coupled with an incredible free online software-, has really quantified this training thing for me.  (The software was created by the top experts in endurance and strength training.  The science is really amazing.)  Still reading and re-reading the materials in Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggans' "Training and Racing With A Power Meter", considered the bible in this field.  Will report back and post some cool data/graphs in the next month.

You recall me saying how a new client had planned an event that I needed to attend on the same weekend I was to do L'Etape?  Well, the event just got rescheduled two weeks later in July; thus L'Etape is back on!  Trust me, the other event I was going to substitute in- La Marmotte, isn't a joke. Certainly one could say it's a lot more difficult in many respects.  But, I've always wanted to ride a Tour de France stage, and unless things change again, it seems as though I'm getting closer to fulfilling that dream.  Knowing that things/life can change at any moment, I'll keep my head down and keep it all moving forward one step at a time.

Be back soon..... 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Faith can bring you pain- La Marmotte?

Some good news and some not so good news:  First some good-  Late last week I was fortunate enough to land a new client that I've been looking to work with for years. Through patience, a little perseverance and a whole lot of "being in the right place at the right time", it happened.  Who can complain, right?  Now for some not so good news- the first project I'm working on with this new client will probably require me to be in the LA area the day (and night) before my planned L'Etape ride. So, this put a damper into my plans as you might imagine. Not only my ride but our overall July trip to France.  I wasn't complaining (as I was fortunate to land the client and lucky to have problems like this), just a bit deflated.  Of course, my initial thought-  was all of this planning and training going to be for naught? Not a chance.  I decided not to let this change much of my plans. I would just keep training with the faith that another plan would fall into place.

Well, just a couple of days ago I connected with this UK-based touring company who has a cycling trip planned to France a couple of days after when I was to ride L'Etape.  His plan is to ride the infamous "La Marmotte"- one of France's most legendary rides consisting of 174km and over 16,000 feet of climbing- ouch! (Compare this to L'Etape which has 13,000 feet of climbing over 205km). La Marmotte notches up the painfest exponentially.  Oh yea, then there's the difference in altitude.  This route takes you over the alpine passes of Glandon (5964ft), Télégraphe (5150ft), Galibier (8668ft) and Lautaret (6749ft). Not only did I find a replacement trip, but one that knocks the pants off of the other ride. Got a few other things to work out with this itinerary but it's looking promising (I think...)  Extra pain, here I come!  Thanks for reading...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Exercise, discipline and affection

This is the first photo after taking my brace off
I borrowed the title to today's blog from Cesar Milan (the infamous "Dog Whisperer") as I found it appropriate.
This week started my physical therapy, which was great, since it also meant I no longer needed that Robo-brace. I am now not only free, but encouraged by Dr. Altchek, to move it up and down, side to side, and twist the wrist in and out.  What I wasn't prepared for was the new "pain" I started to feel.  While I marvel at the great artistry of the Dr.'s handy work (I wonder how much of the scar will be noticeable in a year's time), I guess I'm just surprised at the level of discomfort I'm feeling internally.   For this week and next, physical therapy ("PT") has been quite boring. Here's what goes on during the whole hour: heating pad, ultrasound, unweighted exercises lifting and twisting my arm and wrist, massage, ice.  I'm not complaining at all, it's just when I was told we were going to start slow, didn't realize this slow!  Given the pain I'm now feeling, I guess it's a good thing we start slow. (I'm quickly reminded at how weak I am when I attempt to open the door or pull on something with my right hand.)

My riding regimen has been getting better now that I've been given the OK to hold on to the handle bar with my right hand (although I can't weight that arm just yet but it sure makes it easier to balance).  Recently I downloaded another great video that's hosted by Robbie Ventura. It's the "Climb" video of the indoor training DVD/download series.  (Robbie Ventura is a former pro cyclist who was on the Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal Team some years back.  Robbie is also the founder of Vision Quest Coaching, a training and coaching facility in Highland Park, IL.) This video rocks! It's shot with Robbie out on a ride, from many camera angles, with Robbie himself leading the instruction.  It seems like the best series of videos I've yet to discover.  I hope to get a few more in the series (although I've got a 1/2 dozen videos right now, so maybe sometime down the line).

I'm trying to become more disciplined in my life. Part of that is understanding what true discipline is. I mean, take this weekend for instance.  Weather in the 40's, sun is out.  What am I doing indoors? There's got to be something I could do outdoors that wouldn't have the potential of re-injuring myself, right? (You don't know how much mind time I can spend thinking about this.) But, like other things in life, I'm learning that when you buy into a "good" plan, you need to be disciplined to keep to that plan in order to get the benefits from it.  Now, the schedule of that plan may not be what I want, but it's what I need. (Reminds me of a famous Rolling Stone song...) I'm simply referring to the decision I made to get surgery, but we could be talking about life, religion, etc., it's all the same. Having discipline, I presume, is to have faith that I'll get exactly what I need and will be blessed with the benefits of having the patience to know that all things come in time. (Not my time but some "larger" time.  Yes, I actually believe that.)  So, for now, I will keep to the Dr.'s plan (i.e., take it slow) and feel grateful for the health I have and the healing and benefits to follow.

This is, after all, Valentine's Day weekend (even though it's technically tomorrow). I attempted to show a bit of my affection to Melisa, by taking her to Xavier's H20 ON The Hudson, in Yonkers, NY.  I first saw this restaurant on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" TV show. (Truth be told, part of me going to a good restaurant is for selfish reasons; I mean, I going to be there too, no?)  Well, I can happily report back that Xavier's didn't disappoint.  Definitely would give it a thumbs up. The best part of the night was that I actually surprised Melisa on the choice of restaurant. Usually, I can't keep the secret from her. (You would think with 1000's of restaurants in NYC, it would be easy to keep a restaurant selection mum.  But then, I've got lose lips when it comes to keeping things from my wife. It's just the way it is with me.)  Despite this, I was hoping to keep this one to myself.  The tricky part was that if she saw that I was driving, not to the city, but to "Yonkers", she could easily guess where we were going. (I got no beef with Yonkers or the Bronx, it's just that we don't really ever travel there for food.) Luckily for me, I've been telling her for weeks about this review I read that ranked the top pizza places in the U.S., and ranked Zaza Restaurant in Scarsdale, NY, as the highest rated pizza place in all of New York State. (A little geography for you- the southern part of Scarsdale borders the northern part of Yonkers.) As we've never been there, I thought she just might guess we were going to Zaza. (But then I thought, if she guessed we were going to Zaza, what does that say about me, when my wife thinks I'll take her to a pizza place for our Valentine's dinner?)  Anyway, as we were clearly driving towards Yonkers, she said "I think I know where we're going but don't want to ruin it for you". (It was clear she felt bad that she might reveal the place I had tried so hard to keep secret.)  Feeling defeated, I let her know that it was OK for her to confirm where we were going.  She said: pizza?
Happy Valentine's Day....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not all Cows are alike; New L'Etape DVD and Nerve damage?

Eat To Live ImageNot all cows are alike
I've recently read a book that my old friend Roger bought us as a gift (well, actually, he first attempted to bring us an orchid that unfortunately didn't survive the car ride up from the city, so the book was sent as a replacement).  The book, "The 150 Healthiest Food on Earth" by Jonny Bowden, was a quick read.  Bowden, a respected Nutritionist, basically tells the same tale as my favorite book in this genre of books- "Eat to Live", by Joel Furhman (a MUST have for anyone looking to live a healthier disease free life.  Furhman's the guy that Dr. Oz goes to for nutritional guidance.  I actually once visited Furhman at his medical office in New Jersey.  Nice guy and incredibly knowledgeable on all things related to diet and nutrition).

The one chapter in Bowden's book that I found completely fascinating was the chapter on Dairy. (But for my Achilles heal called Ice Cream, I swore off dairy many years ago.)  As crazy as this may sound, my hypothesis was this- humans are the only animals that consume dairy after the babies grow up.  (I can't think of any other animal that drinks its mother's milk after they're weened.) Thus, I thought that it wasn't natural to consume milk. On top of that, I wasn't into the consistency of milk.  Bowden, a guy who's into raw foods, gets into the benefits of raw, organic, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from grass-fed cows. As it turns out, the "pasteurization" process destroys, enzymes, vitamins, milk proteins and kills beneficial bacteria and promotes pathogens.  I was amazed at several things: the deficiency of nutrients in grain fed cows (i.e., nearly ALL milk products you purchase in a supermarket come from grain fed cows); and the amount of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics consumed by those cows.  Bowden points out the many benefits to consuming products from cows that are fed grass: beneficial fats like Omega-3's (which are absent from grain fed animals), high quality whey protein, highest quality calcium, conjugated linolenic acid, a healthy fat that has anti-cancer properties, etc.  All this said, I'm putting aside my long-standing hypothesis about milk and it's consumption by adults (and the few dangers that exist in consuming unpasteurized milk products- pregnancy isn't one that I have to worry about) and have decided to add several raw grass-fed dairy products to my diet: raw milk (in place of soy milk for my morning shakes), plain raw yogurt and raw unpasteurized cheeses. Whole Foods Market is great for finding many of these products.  We'll see how it goes but almost 2 weeks into the experiment and I'm feeling good (i.e., bodily functions haven't changed nor has my weight).

L'Etape DVD
This is an image from the DVD
 As for my training, I'd say it was another "good" training week.  For the most part, I kept to the right food choices, more P90X sessions, and more importantly, more time on the bike.  I've found 2 additional videos (one I could download and one that's arriving as a DVD) that will really add to the training time on the stationary bike. The first is from Epic Rides. I downloaded the "Bear Tooth Pass" climbing video. (Bear Tooth Pass is a famous 11,000 ft pass in Wyoming that's absolutely beautiful.)  Great workout. The DVD I'm really waiting to receive is from called L'ETAPE DU TOUR 2011 - THE RECON.  So these guys went out and recorded the actual ride that I will be doing this July, made an instructional/workout video and put it up for sale. (I love the Internet...) How cool that I get to preview my ride? Very.  If you get a chance, click on the link and watch the video. Once I get the DVD and watch it, I'll be sure to post my impressions of the video, and more importantly, the 205km ride that awaits.

Nerve damage?
Since my surgery I've had this odd sensitivity on my elbow (you know, the bone you call the funny bone) and on the back side of the forearm (neither are near the incision area). It's so sensitive that the touch of a shirt provokes a burning sensation on the skin. In addition, a small section of my skin in this area (again, away from the incision area) feels "dull" or numb, as if not all my nerves are firing.  Called the Dr. and he indicated that this "sometimes" happens as there's a nerve that can get damaged or cut during the procedure I had. My condition "usually" goes away, but it can take months.  In the meantime, he's prescribed Lyrica (generic name is Pregabalin).  Here's the official word on what it's used for:

Pregabalin is used to relieve neuropathic pain (pain from damaged nerves) that can occur in your arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or toes if you have diabetes or in the area of your rash if you have had shingles (a painful rash that occurs after infection with herpes zoster). It is also used to treat fibromyalgia (a long-lasting condition that may cause pain, muscle stiffness and tenderness, tiredness, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Pregabalin is used with other medications to treat certain types of seizures in people with epilepsy. Pregabalin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants. It works by decreasing the number of pain signals that are sent out by damaged nerves in the body.

Of the gazillion side effects, the one I like the best is: "Lyrica may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a small number of people, about 1 in 500".  I don't know about you, but 1 in 500 seems like a lot.  How about this one: "If you have suicidal thoughts or actions, do not stop Lyrica without first talking to a healthcare provider."  Are they for real? No suicidal thoughts or actions (or other side effects) just yet, but I've put Melisa suicide watch just in case.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some midweek thoughts...

What a day. For those of you who don't live in the NYC area, what I would call a "weather" panic hit the area earlier today. I think most of the area received warnings from the local media indicating a crazy snow storm. Result? Office closes early. So, I came home a bit earlier than usual tonight.

Not sure if you're following, but Alberto Contador (yea, the 2010 Tour de France winner last year who had the rivalry with Lance) was suspended from cycling for 1 year, AND, stripped of his 2010 TdF title.  (For the full story, read this: Contador Stripped of TdF Victory).  With cycling being one of the most regulated sports, I'm just completely blown away that anyone would dose.  Then again, I think "who cares"? Is it really any different in any other professional sport? This also gets me thinking about Lance.  Did he dose too? He won, what, 7 TdF titles?  Can someone be that good w/o drugs?  Although he's accused of taking illegal performance enhancing substances, he's never tested positive (to date that is). So does that make him the greatest cheat, or is he simply the greatest cyclist (dare I say athlete) in history? And if he were ever determined to be a doser, then what of Livestrong? 

Training since Saturday has been good. Several P90X sessions: Shoulder and Arms (again), and Ab Ripper X. (Someone posted this video online. To watch, click here- Ab RipperX). Can't say enough about this routine. Tony's the man.  I wish I could do all of the other videos, but can't weight my right arm, thus anything that requires both arms- pushups, pullups, lots of the floor exercises, are a no go. But, in time I'll get back to working all of that into the routine.  2 of my favorite DVDs are Core Synergistics and Plyometrics. I digress....

Cycling this week has been good (so far). I've been using several videos that are absolutely awesome to watch.  The company who produces these videos is I've got three of them so far: "Local Hero", "Angels" and "The Hunted".  All offer a bit of a different experience. Definitely make the time pass by quite easy. This weekend I'll stack 2 videos back to back to get a longer workout in. While they aren't perfect, they certainly beat any other video I'm familiar with.  (That includes any of those Spinning workouts you'll find out there.) Let's not get me started on "Spinning" which I've had major issues with for some time. (I'll leave that for another discussion.)

The elbow is actually feeling a bit sore. Maybe cause I've stopped taking meds. But, the wound itself is where I'm feeling it. No surprise I guess. (Suppose I need to remember that when someone takes a scalpel to your arm, it's going to be sore no matter how nice it looks.)  Swelling is really reduced but still have a couple strange deadspots on the back of my elbow (i.e., it feels like certain areas are partiallly numb, like my nerves aren't firing on all cylinders.)  I'll give it another week before I start worrying.  Still wearing my robocop arm brace, which at least lets me wear real dress shirts.  But I kind of like the excuse of wearing short sleeve shirts in the middle of winter.

Finally, I just want to go on record to say I really appreciate my family & friends. Thank you.

Let me leave you with the new recently revealed 2011 Garmin Slipstream Team Jersey.  This is what the team will be racing in this year. You like? Dislike?

2011 Aero Jersey
Be back soon....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sutures come out...

Yesterday was my visit to Dr. Altchek's office where my suture was removed. I had one of the nurses take a couple photos (one before and one after).  In the first image, this is what my elbow looked like after they cut away the partial cast, gauze and ace wrap. A bit swollen, and bruised, but overall better than I thought.  The 2nd photo is after the nurse cleaned up the elbow and removed transparent bandages.  (That blue "string" is the "Suture". If you haven't had surgery before, the suture is basically the thread they use to hold the wound closed.) To my absolute surprise, removing the string/suture was nearly painless.  Gotta give the doctor insane amount of credit, as you can barely tell where the incision line is. (Sure I can feel it.) Hopefully it will heal looking as clean as it does now. (And finally, I get to shower w/o a bag on the arm.) I did ask the nurse to take a photo of Altchek's bike in his office, but I'm told his bike wasn't there, but was home. Oh well.

After that, I was fitted with what I would call the Robo brace. Very cool to look at. Works well too. Essentially, it allows me to move my arm up and down, and allows my wrist to rotate, but it limits the movement b/n 15 and 105 degrees. That's almost a straight arm to just past 90 degrees. Not so bad.  I took a photo of my Robo brace when I got back to the office. Now I can wear real clothes again! Still have to use this contraption (and sleep with it) for the next 3 weeks, at which time I'll start my physical therapy.

Well, I'm excited to get back to my training program tomorrow, now that I can sweat and not worry about getting the incision wet. Will focus on keeping weight off the right arm, but plan of hitting it hard.

In the meantime, wishing you all success in achieving your training and nutrition goals. If you don't have any, now's a great time to start. Nothing major, just simple baby steps works best.....  Supplement recommendations for this week? Astaxanthin and high quality medical grade Omega 3 Fish Oil.  (I take 2 types- Omega XL, and Carlson's.) Go google it. Absolutely has changed my life. Be back soon....

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK day

6 days after surgery
Thought I'd start today's blog with a photo of the brace/cast on the arm. Not much to see (yet).  Sutures get removed on Thursday (1/20). Curious to see how big (or small) the incision is (and where it was made).  I "think" I know where Dr. Altchek did his work but can't be sure since the pain is generally in one area but not really specific. (BTW, Melisa thinks Altchek looks like a young Charlton Heston.  What do you think?)  Funny note about Altchek: I never doubted Altchek's credentials (his resume is serious stuff- Co-Chief of Sports Medicine at HSS (Hospital for Special Surgery), NY Mets doctor, pitchers in the waiting room on my first visit, etc.), but what closed the deal for me was the super high end Colnago carbon road bike hanging in his office on one of those floor to ceiling bike stands. How cool? (I'll see if he'll let me take a photo of it on Thursday when I see him next.)  The paint job on it is complete custom to HSS.

This is Bandido thinking I'm going to give him a treat. 

So today started with Bandido (the dog) waking me quite early. Good thing since it took me a minute to get the bike set up in the basement with the appropriate support and balancing equipment close by. (By balancing equipment I mean a step stool and chair so I can get an assist getting on and off bike, and a place to rest my hand comfortably as I ride.)  For those of you bike geeks looking at the photo, yes, my bars are quite high in relation to my saddle. I did that intentionally before last week's surgery thinking it would relieve weight off of the one good hand as I train.  It's a pretty upright position but so far so good.

For the workout, I started with a P90X "Shoulders & Arms" workout. Obviously only worked the left side. That was a bit odd but it felt good since it's been 1 week since I did any type of training.  For those familiar with P90X, I'm on my 2nd cycle. The first 3 month cycle went great with all the results to show for it.  Until I did it, I would laugh at the infomercials too, but I can attest that it does everything it said it would: my strength and endurance on the bike and on runs are better than I can remember; weight dropped fairly significantly (lost 13lbs), and generally feel great. Tony Horton (the video's MC and trainer) is the real deal for sure. I'm a month in on my 2nd cycle.  For those unfamiliar with the P90X program, it's one of the best strength, endurance and flexibility programs out there.  The program is 3 months in length, and can be repeated as many times as you'd like.  I never get bored with Tony- he's strong, funny and motivating.  OK, enough of that.  If you're curious about the program, feel free to ask.

Then it was onto the bike:
10 minute warm up at 70% Threshold Heart Rate ("THR") w/ high cadence
10 minutes at 75% THR w/ high cadence
3 x 12 minute intervals at 90% THR at 60rpm with 5 min rests in between each interval
10 minute at 75% THR w/ high cadence
10 minute cool down- high cadence

The basement setup: a bit rough but it works (so far)
Very good first day of training. I was careful not to weight the right arm much if at all.  However, I'm a bit concerned with the sweat factor.  Although I have a fan blowing on me when I ride, my post-Op instructions say not to get the inside of the cotton and/or ace bandage wet.  Not sure if it's bad for my suture.  Anyone know? I'll call a friend who's a surgeon but wasn't sure if that was a very bad no no, or just a "don't get it wet in the shower" type of thing.  Oh well, it's off to dinner and then try to figure out what I'm going to wear tomorrow as a shirt to work.  I went into the office last Friday (why I have no idea) and wore the one button down shirt that this thing on my arm could fit in.  I guess I could wear it again tomorrow, but what then for Wednesday?  I assume that Thursday they'll be putting on a much smaller thing after removal of the sutures. But until then, I've got to cover 2 days at work.  Short sleeves maybe? Talk soon... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week One: Where do I start?

Each year, the organizers of one of my favorite sporting events, the Tour de France (the "Tour"), organize an amateur race/ride on one of the Tour's big mountain stage rides.  This race/ride s called L'Etape du Tour ("L'Etape").  Usually held in the Alps or the Pyrenees, this is one of the only ways an amateur cyclist like myself can get a taste of what it's like to ride one of the toughest mountain stages of one of the greatest annual athletic events. 

The Idea:
My wife (Melisa) and I have been talking about taking a vacation to Paris (and France in general) for years. Growing up with a French mother, speaking the language (although Melisa is sceptical of this fact) and having been to France several times growing up and in my 20's (although it's been a while since I've been there), the draw to go back there never took precedent over my desire to see other places in the world.  Having said that, I've always dreamed of sitting along the Champs Elysees on a beautiful July day watching the Tour come riding into Paris on the final day.  (Certainly more of a dream for me than going to, say, the Superbowl...)  Watching the Tour on TV year after year, I've wondered what it would be like to ride one of those great mountain stages. (If you've never seen the coverage of any of the mountain stages of the Tour, make sure you tune in this summer- more drama than any of those nutty reality shows).  So enough already we said- this year was going to be the year that we went to France to watch the Tour as part of our French holiday.  Then, only weeks ago, I learned of L'Etape.  Was it really true? I mean, I knew of tour companies that created vacations around the Tour- they follow certain stages of the Tour, and some, even allowing you to get out and ride certain legs of the Tour.  But, a full-on organized race/ride for us mortals? In my mind, you couldn't imagine the timing of this information. Thus, with a few clicks of the mouse and the payment of the entry fee, the idea of riding L'Etape became reality: a trip to France to incorporate culture, Paris, the Tour, and now..... L'Etape.  Now, figuring the rest out....

Not a writer by any stretch of the imagination (my wife, Melisa, will be shocked to learn that I've even considered keeping a regular journal on any subject), I'm interested in taking myself out of my natural comfort zone and have thus started this blog to keep a record of my journey to L'Etape.  I guess it's best just to jump right in.

2011 L'Etape:
This year the Tour organizers have provided 2 different L'Etapes (or as they refer to it, "Acts"):  the first "Act" takes place on July 11, 2011 and travels over the famed "Alp D"Huez", probably the most famous (and most difficult) mountain stage in the Tour's history.  Unfortunately for me, our goal was to see the Tour finish up in Paris on July 24th. (For a schedule of the Tour, click  on this link: Tour Schedule). For me to ride the first Act would mean I'd have to be in France for more than 2 weeks (when factoring in travel days, etc.) which was not possible with my work schedule. Thus, it was Act 2 for me- 208km from Issoire to Saint-Flour: Sunday July 17, 2011.  Here's a profile of the race:

What are my goals with L'Etape? As much as I focus much of my daily thoughts on health, nutrition (and my next ride, climb, run, etc.), I'm a realist.  I have no delusions regarding my current ability, age, time constraints, etc.  That said, I'm very competitive by nature and constantly use goals as a motivation tool.  Without these self-imposed goals, I'm lost.  So here it is: I'm throwing down the personal goal of finishing in the top 20% of this year's finishers at L'Etape.  (So, if there are 5,000 riders, I'm looking to finish in the top 1,000.  Is that realistic?  Not sure at this point. I'm going to do more research to see how well others I have fared over the years.)

Oh yea, I forgot to mention.  For years now I've had chronic pain in my right elbow. It's gotten so painful that I've stopped bouldering and climbing.  Even going out for rides (road and Mtb) provides a hefty dose of pain.  After visiting my Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. David Altchek at Hospital For Special Surgery, he confirmed that I had a tear in my tendon and a glob of scar tissue that he says has been there for a long time. So, last Tuesday, Jan 11th, I had surgery to repair the tendon and remove the scar tissue.  Recovery, I'm told, will take a full 4 months to get to full strength.  Oh well.  As Tony Horton says (from P90X fame- luv this guy and his program: you'll see more of Tony's program incorporated into my training below), "modify, modify, modify...."

The Equipment:
2011 Cervelo R3
The bike in my kichen...
Currently my plan is to bring my road bike with me to L'Etape.
For those equipment geeks, here's the component build out:
Headset- Cane Creek IS-3
Seat post- 3T Dorico Team
Shifters- SRAM Rival
Front/Rear Derailleurs- SRAM Rival
Brakes- SRAM Rival
Crankset- SRAM S900 Compact  (50/34)
Bottom Bracket- SRAM PRessfit BBright
Handlebars- 3T Ergonova OE
Stem- 3T ARX Pro
Saddle- Specialized BG Gel
Wheels- DT Swiss 1450
Cassette- Shimano 11-27
Tires- Vittoria Open Corsa EVO CX 22mm
Heart Rate Monitor/GPS- Garmin 800

Training Regimen:
Having raced many 12 hour, 24 hour and multi-day Adventure Races (think Eco-Challenge, Primal Quest, etc.  For more on AR, see: Adventure Racing), I've come to understand that the stresses of events like L'Etape are mostly mental.  Yes, there are physical struggles along the way (especially if your pushing yourself to do the best you can), but I believe that the limitations we place on ourselves are mostly mental barriers.  Putting aside things that aren't w/n my control  (unforeseen accidents, injuries, equipment failures, etc.) I'm not spending much time worrying if I can "finish" this event; rather I'm focused on making sure I'm as mentally and physically prepared as I can be to really enjoy myself.  Sure it's a going to be a sufferfest, but let's suffer in style, right?

So the basic training plan I'm going with comes from Tim Marsh's informative guide to L'Etape: "Guide To Tackling L'Etape". A fantastic read on all things regarding L'Etape (traveling, logistics, where to stay, training, etc.)  It's available via book or pdf.  It's a basic 16 week program. Although I've got longer than that, I'm giving myself a bit longer due to the recovery of the elbow, additional P90X workouts and general unexpected downtime.  I'll post my training logs and thoughts as I go.

I'm not going to say much here other than whenever I train (whether it's on runs or rides) I use exclusively Hammer Products.  I've used Hammer products and supplements for years in training and racing and can't say enough about the quality of their products.  So I'm not going to change anything here since it always works.  As for my normal meals, I eat a fairly vegetarian diet (plus fish).  I try not to over think this, but attempt to consume "real" food; that is, eat food in the form it was raised or grown.  Pretty simple.  As for supplements, I completely believe in their effectiveness.  I take lots of supplements daily and have for sometime. (Here's a short list of my favorites: L-Carnitine, DMAE, MSM/Glucosomine/Condroitin, Astaxanthin, Omega 3 Fish Oil, Folic Acid, B-6, Chromium Picolinate, R-Lipoic Acid, Quercitin, Co-Q10, Turmeric, and Diindolylmethane and Whey Protein Isolate).

So I think that's enough for the set up.  Be back soon......