Cycling for Sanity’s Sake

By: Garrick Valverde

I don’t believe we’re designed to live such easy lives. Yes, this is a cycling blog. Hold tight for a minute while I ruminate about our existence.

You’ve got it good. How do I know that? I know that because if you’re reading this, you have access to the Internet. That access makes you already ahead of half the planet. If you have a home or an apartment and are then reading this without freezing your fingers off (talking to my Midwest people, halla), you are above the nearly 2 billion people on the planet who live in an unstable housing situation. Also, it’s 2017. Have you ever had strep throat or an ear infection? A century ago, you could have died from it, or if you were lucky, your ear infection would only spread to your brain. So if you have recently posted on Facebook about how terrible 2016 was for you, please make sure and find someone who’s dying of a terminal disease, or fighting in a war, or living in war conditions (cough cough, Syria), and share that post to their Facebook page as soon as you get a chance. Of course we all have our problems. If I’m coming off as belittling, I don’t mean to. Some problems are very much real, but let’s be honest, some are very much not. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I believe cycling holds the antidote. Cycling, for me (and I’m going to make the leap that it is for you as well), provides a means of stepping out of our problems and occasionally seeing that they weren’t really problems to begin with.

As cyclists, we have a unique perspective. We see the angry drivers. We see the man flipping off a group of cyclists in colorful spandex dressed like Peter Pan. We see the people who risk our lives by not waiting to pass us until the oncoming traffic has cleared. We see the curse of our modern lives: the curse of a life that’s too easy. When there aren’t real problems, people tend to invent them. The issue of invented problems, I believe, can be traced back to a kind of biological neglect.

Now, I’m no biologist, but I’m going to speak like I’m one anyways. We’re designed to have to fight for our survival. We’re designed to have conflict because for hundreds of thousands of years everyday existence was physically and emotionally hard. As a result, we carry the badass biological drives past on from our ancestors that allowed them to survive. That biology, not to mention intellect, has brought us a long way. We have striped toothpaste, for example, and bikes made of woven plastic that can be ridden as fast as horses run (I’ll be honest, I had to look up how fast horses run). Yet when our badass biology isn’t satisfied, it turns against us.

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Scott’s only life problem at this moment is that his bike is lying on its drive side. If only he had the energy to fix that…

Cycling is our antidote. It satisfies the biological disposition that craves physical challenge. On the bike, we make ourselves uncomfortable on purpose. This is real discomfort, not discomfort from sitting in a desk. This is discomfort that hurts so much it rips us from our made up problems and removes us from the modern world. This is discomfort from chasing a gazelle. Ya you read that right, a gazelle. We’re in Africa now, and you’re not getting dinner (aka protein shake) unless you complete the next three sets of intervals! Oh, and you don’t live in a country of 350 million, you live in a tribe of your select riding mates who meet up at 9am when it’s 30 degrees out and prowl the countryside for 4 hours. The tribe regularly discusses the annual return of battle in the spring. You sharpen your weapons and master your skills and fitness. You study the enemy, stalk them on Strava, and give them kudos that are actually passive aggressive and really mean “nice, but you’re still going to lose”.

Okay, okay you’re back in America now. While winning the local race or even a big regional race isn’t ultimately that important, and frankly it will impress virtually no one outside the cycling world, what is important is the sanity we gain, and the perspective from being so uncomfortable we can truly enjoy our comforts. After all, there’s nothing like drinking cold water after a 90 mile hot road race or coming home to a warm house after freezing for several hours riding. We ride, among of course many other reasons, to not be driven mad by this modern world. We ride our bikes over to our friend’s houses like we did when we were kids. We’re adults now, but we still play and we still explore. We suffer daily on our bikes not as masochists, but as human beings who need to calm our badassness, less it spirals out of control and we wind up being the guy flipping off a stranger dressed like Peter Pan.

The Olathe Subaru presented by Scheels tribe! 4+ hours of suffering on the bike will, without a doubt, bring a group of teammates closer. (Shadd for some reason seemed unaffected by the 110 mile road race, however)

Cyclocross Isn’t Wrestling

Unlike a wrestling ring where the ropes can be used as a sling shot while performing acrobatic fighting maneuvers, the tape on a cyclocross course breaks when you run into it. To help you shred the course and not the tape, here are some words of wisdom from our OSC riders.

Kent Woermann

I find that riding single-track on my MTB really helps me get comfortable off-road again after a season of road racing. Riding fast on single-track requires intense focus, and it takes a while to feel comfortable making sharp turns, dodging rocks, avoiding trees, etc. Plus, the wide tires and suspension absorb some of my mistakes so they don’t hurt as bad. At the same time, I’ll start taking my CX bike out into the grass to practice basic skills (dismount, remount, turning, etc..) and do my intervals on improved gravel trails like Little Blue Trace or the Longview Trail.

Kent Woermann Cyclocross

Mountain bike trails and cyclocross bikes don’t always get along.

Benn Stover

I don’t really train my handling skills…

I just go try and get rad

But in a smooth and efficient way

I try and hone in on the flow

I surf the gnar

Benn Stover Cyclocross

Photo Credit – Keith Walberg

Garrick Valverde

I just try and do everything perfect. That being said, I’ve probably done one perfect dismount, ever. But my next dismount will be perfect, and the turn that follows will be done perfect, and the next off-camber will be perfect, and the next up hill.

Garrick Valverde Cyclocross

Garrick aiming for that whole perfection thing. Photo Credit – Roger Harrison

Michael Allison

Something that has really helped my handling skills off-road has been riding the Lawrence River Trails and the SMP CX course with my teammates who have more experience than me. Following their lines through the corners and frequently asking for their advice has drastically improved my ability to flow through corners and be competitive in the CX races.

Michael Allison Cyclocross

Michael attempting to Cyclocross. Photo Credit – Vince DeLaughder

Scott Williamson 

By far the best thing I do is to test the limits of the bike on trails and paths that may be a bit much for the bike, such as some rocky single track. Also, trying to follow the rest of the guys on the Lawrence river trail helps me find and improve my handling limits. 

Scott Williamson Cyclocross

Scott prefers fat tires for a more comfortable ride. Photo Credit – Roger Harrison

Conclusion

Shred more gnar, maybe ride some single-track, and perfect practice makes perfect.

Olathe Subaru Wednesday Evening Junior Ride!

What

A junior development ride led by the riders from the Olathe Subaru cycling team. All levels of junior riders are welcome to attend.

More experienced riders will practice race tactics around Clinton Dam, while younger riders will ride the out-and-back path that goes towards Clinton lake (approximately 4-5 miles).

Where

The Lawrence Rotary Arboretum in Lawrence, KS. (next to the YSI Sports Complex)

When

Wednesday, June 24th @ 6:30 pm

Let us know if you have any questions!

 

Performance Testing at Truman State University

This past weekend 5 members of the Olathe Subaru Cycling team headed up to Truman State University in Kirksville, MO for some performance testing. We also got to do some exploring around the local roads and eat a lot of awesome food.

Friday – Pre Test Day Hammerfest

The weekend kicked off Friday afternoon with a little bike ride. Grant, Scott, and myself all headed over to Michael’s house for a 4 hour ride at what we thought would be a casual pace. Knowing there was performance testing to be done the next day this seemed logical. As we were getting ready for the ride Michael informed us he had some threshold intervals on his schedule – because why not?

During the initial few minutes of the first interval I was hurting and really wanted to quit, but once we found our flow it was too much fun to worry about the pain in my legs or tomorrow’s test. Michael didn’t have his power meter so my job was to sit in his draft help him keep the wattage in the right zone, adding a fun dynamic to each effort. There isn’t much draft in the tailwind sections so Scott, Grant, and I all got plenty of work staying on Michaels wheel.

We were all a little cooked after the ride but it was totally worth it even if it impacted our results the following day. Riding bikes is all about having fun and we did a good job of that. After cleaning up and pounding some Chipotle we loaded up the car and started the 3+ hour drive northeast to Kirksville. We ended up getting into Kirksville around 10:30 which wasn’t too bad. We meant to leave a lot earlier but Ian…

Saturday – Part 1: Performance Testing

Our host for the weekend was Dr. Brian Snyder, a member of our sister team GP VeloTek and exercise science professor at the University. In the morning Brian and his wife, Carrie, cooked an awesome breakfast. They made pancakes, some sort of magically delicious sweet potato hash, sausage, muffins, eggs, and coffee. This was the perfect fuel we needed to crush the tests.

After breakfast we sat around to talk shop and let our food digest before loading up the cars and driving over to the Truman State University performance lab.

@scottryanw playing around in the lab before VO2 max testing at Truman State University

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DXA Scan

The first phase in all the testing was to do the DXA scans. For those of you not familiar, DXA is a full body x-ray that gives a very accurate breakdown of your body composition and bone density. We all learned a couple of interesting things during this:

  1. We all have good bone density – not something any of us were too concerned about but still nice to know.
  2. We are all a little ‘fatter’ then we initially thought. This isn’t to say that we have a ton of fat to lose, just that commonly available forms of measurement (calipers, bioelectrical impedance, bod pods, etc) all tend to under-estimate body fat %. For example, my skin caliper measurements have always shown 5-6% body-fat and my bioelectrical impedance scale (Tanita) has always shown 8-9%. The DEXA scan put me at 12.4%. The plus side to knowing this data is that I can safely lose more weight body-fat and get faster uphill without compromising performance – assuming I lose that fat in a smart way.

VO2max Test

The second phase of testing was the VO2max test. We were all a little nervous about this one, in part because the entire team is watching but mostly because we wanted to do well.

Basically how it works is you strap on some head gear that has a tube connected to a machine and your mouth. This tube measures every ounce of air that goes in or out of your lungs, more formally known as the respiratory exchange ratio. We used a 3 minute step protocol that gradually ramps up the intensity.

To start the test you begin around your tempo wattage. At first being forced to breath through a tube is really uncomfortable and gave a couple of us a little anxiety, but once you get past the first 30-60 seconds that goes away. Then, every 3 minutes you kick up the intensity until your exertion level and numbers start to indicate the end is near. Once you start getting close to the end the person running the test tells you to hit it hard like the final lap of a race and then hang on as long as you can. We all made it around 9-10 minutes before hitting the wall.

I won’t share any of our top secret numbers – just trust me when I say we all have the potential to go very fast.

@iansilovsky making his VO2 max test look easy #OSCmetabolictesting

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Wingate Test

The final test was the Wingate. This is a measure of our anaerobic ability, both in terms of maximal power and fatigue resistance. It’s only 30 seconds of sprinting but it feels like 4 times that length. You begin by spinning up your cadence as fast as possible (175+ rpm for most of us) then hitting a button to apply the resistance. Once you apply the resistance it starts hurting almost immediately – then you find out you’re only 10 seconds in. Around the 15 second mark you think it should be over. With 10 seconds to go you think you’re barely putting out any power and with 5 seconds to go you’re barely getting the pedals to turn.

@michaelallis0n crying out for help #OSCmetabolictesting

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Saturday – Part 2: Exploring Kirksville

After testing was complete we went back to Brian’s house. We were met with a huge lunch spread that Carrie put together for us while we were testing. We needed to get on the road before it got too late so we ate a ton of food as quickly as possible then kitted up and started riding.

On the way out we met up with some of the local riders who would be joining us. It was good to have some company especially since the flats heading south out of town were all into a headwind. After an hour or so our riding partners turned back and we continued on.

The next section of road heading south then turning west is definitely on my top 10 list of awesome roads. Super scenic, winding, flowing rolling that were never crazy steep, and just enough rough pavement to keep me on my toes. I couldn’t help but ride fast so we ended up getting a little pace-line action going that turned into a breakaway/chase style effort with Michael, Ian, and myself off the front and Garrick, Scott, and Brian chasing. So much fun!

After the fun rolling section the roads started to get really hilly. Non-stop big rollers that started to really hurt after a while. A couple of us where feeling the days events so we calmed it down a bit from here and kept it steady the remainder of the ride into town.

While the actual pavement isn’t the best – the scenic roads, unique terrain, and low traffic makes it totally worth exploring if you’re ever up that direction. We were all on the same page thinking it would be a wicked place for a road race.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:24:35 03:14:48 57.77 17.79 44.29 3,402.23
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Wrapping up

After our ride we got back to Brian’s for one final feast. Carrie made a Chipotle style buffet that was absolutely amazing. After dinner we had to get packed up and head home before it got too late.

A huge thanks to Brian Snyder and his students for taking us through the performance testing and showing us your local stomping grounds. A second huge thanks to Brian and his wife Carrie for hosting us for the weekend and feeding a team of hungry bike racers. That’s no easy feat!

Mid January Arkansas Team Camp Recap

We’re a little late posting this, but here is a recap of the trip we took down to Arkansas a few weeks ago.

As mentioned, a few weeks ago we joined GP Velotek on their annual training camp in Arkansas. The trip takes place over MLK weekend so quite a few people can swing getting away for a longer weekend. We took full advantage of the long weekend, and left Thursday morning for a five day training block.

Thursday afternoon we rolled in to Fayetteville around 1. We didn’t have too long of a route planned, but we still rushed around so we could enjoy the warmest part of the day. Scott, as usual on any of our travel weekends, had memorized all of the routes for us and took us on a loop that previewed the NWA Classic course. For the most part we kept the pace nice and steady just to open up the legs for the rest of the weekend.

Some pre ride reading

Some pre ride reading

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Friday we woke up early for breakfast, and then spent the rest of the morning anxious to hop on our bikes. Quite a few Velotekers rolled in that morning and were excited for the 60ish mile loop around Fayetteville. The temperatures had risen slightly from Thursday, which had everyone pretty excited. Coming from the 20-30 degree weather we had here in KS in late December/early January, it was incredible to enjoy some temps in the high 50s. There’s something about that first winter ride that people are able to do in just shorts, jersey, and maybe baselayer that gets people really excited. Every stop ahead or town sign momentarily turned the ride into a 500 m race.

Gravelly goodness

Gravelly goodness

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Saturdays route previewed the Hogeye loop of Joe Martin Stage Race. This was the first day we would do some serious climbing and most everyone took it easy for the first 20 miles or so before reaching the first steep climb of the loop. Once we hit the wall, the attacks started to go and was the first real race pace efforts any of us had done for the year. The rest of the day was pretty much the same, being fairly easy until the climbs, where we’d then split into select groups and push it a little bit. The route was a little over 70 miles at a pretty decent pace and weather in the low 60s! Our first big goal of the season is Joe Martin, so it was good for us all to get a little recon in, and test our climbing legs.

Chilling at the bottom of Devil's Den

Chilling at the bottom of Devil’s Den

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Saturday night we traveled further South to Mt. Magazine and stayed in the cabins there. Mt. Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas, and has some incredible riding. Sundays route took us to Mt. Nebo which is a 2.5 mile climb averaging close to 10%. The ride was easy up until this point to keep everyone’s legs fresh. Once we arrived at the climb, Garrick and Benn hit it hard to make a selection. Ian and I tried to match the pace, but couldn’t quite match it on the switchbacks, so we backed off. Kent and Scott took a different approach, starting off nice and steady to avoid cracking before reaching the top. Garrick smoked his own time of 15min from last year making it up in 14:40, Benn and I reached the top in just over 16, Ian and Kent were about a half a minute behind that, and Scott the sprinter killed it in a little over 18min. We took it moderately easy for the rest of the day, having a headwind on the return trip to the cabins. In Danville, we decided to tack on a little more mileage to the route so we could get a century in. The ride was solid, but one of the best parts was the slow climb back up Magazine while the sun was setting. For a mid-January ride, we couldn’t have asked for much more.

A very casual spin up Magazine

A very casual spin up Magazine

 

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On Monday we decided to do a loop around Mt. Magazine, which is a nice 60ish mile route that goes into Magazine and Paris. It was another gorgeous day, but we were pretty tired from the previous four days and were also dragging knowing we had to drive five hours immediately after finishing the ride. Other than a couple of townline sprints, the ride was pretty mild and enjoyable. When we reached the climb to go back up the mountain, we all took it at our own pace. Scott went ahead, while the rest of us stopped to shed some clothing. After about 20 minutes of climbing, Ian and I picked it up a bit in an effort to catch Scott, while Garrick and Benn decided to enjoy the scenery and take the climb more casually. Scott was able to hold on to beat us all to the summit, showing some impressive climbing form. We grabbed some quick leftovers at the top of the mountain, and got on the road pretty quick to head back to KC. The week ended up being about a 20 hour, 300ish+ mile week.

Before climbing the backside of Magazine

Before climbing the backside of Magazine