Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spring 2014

Now that we've cleared the holidays, the old year recaps and the new year resolutions, not to mention the polar vortex (ice beards for all!), its time to start planning the spring.

Spring is going to be busy for reasons altogether new to me. I've never been much of an athlete either in comparison with other people in my family, or my classmates in school. So I find it very strange to be training hard right through the nastiness of subzero temps for the Almanzo 100 and the Dam to Dam 1/2 marathon, which take place 14 days apart from one another this coming May.

The Almanzo 100 has been on my mind since I started hearing rumblings about it last year in association with Trans Iowa and the Dirty Kanza 200. Unlike either of those extremely demanding rides, the Almanzo is shorter at "only" 100 miles (it is also free!). After watching the promo video filmed during the 2012 version, I needed to do this ride.

The Almanzo is also important because it planted the seed in my mind that riding on gravel with a road bike was not only possible but a ton of fun. That seed grew into a summer of training on the unpaved roads around my hometown. That unpaved training worked me harder for each mile and opened my eyes to the wonderful ride options in my area. After a successful first century this past September, I feel like I have a fighting chance of completing this ride.

I agreed to run the the Dam to Dam with my father and brother almost as an afterthought. I did the 7 mile Living History Farms run with them this November, and that went pretty well. The LHF run is a very difficult cross country run from a topographic standpoint, with several creek crossings (it was about 18 deg F) and steep hills that are crawled up more than climbed. I felt that running the flat and mostly downhill Dam to Dam half marathon should be easy by comparison, even with the extra miles.

But then I noticed that these two events take place exactly 2 weeks apart. While that should be plenty of time to recover from the Almanzo, it means that I need to train for both these events simultaneously. So that's why, come rain or snow or bitter cold, I'll be out running. Once the roads get clean enough for the road bike (maybe this weekend) I'll start sprinkling in the training rides. My current regimen is 2 mi or longer runs every day, plus some core and upper body exercises(I would rather run in sub zero temps than do push-ups, for the record).

While I need to ride more than run, the poorly lit polished streets do not allow me to actually ride hard enough to train, and the bike itself is not well suited to winter riding. The weather this weekend looks promising.

The big push is the contracted training window. Last year I had all spring and summer to train for a century. The Almanzo is in May, and it'll be March before I can count on ice and snow free roads. So 2 1/2 good months of riding, 3 at best. I'll keep in touch.

Unrelated: While I obviously support the idea of riding through the winter, I question the use of many of the "winter cycling clothing" articles that have appeared in the past month. Specialized clothing is almost universally expensive. While that's fine for people riding for recreation, for people seeking to ride as an economical form of transport it sends a message that winter riding is only for people who can afford the correct clothing. If you have clothing that you can walk in and still stay warm, you have clothing you can ride in.

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