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102 Days: It's All Uphill From Here

The 2nd installment of The 11,500 Foot View, counting down my attempt to accomplish an impossible goal, remain in the good graces of my family, run a business, stay sane, and blog about it.
Imagine you want to improve your golf game and Phil Mickelson agrees to evaluate your swing. Or you get to play a little one-on-one with Kobe Bryant so he can check out your game.

In theory, exciting.

In practice, incredibly intimidating.

To launch your insecurity meter to an all-time high, just have a world class athlete critique your performance in their sport. Your self-esteem will never sink so low.

Trust me.

These are a cyclist's legs
Gap Analysis, Cycling Style
My first step on the path to completing the Jeremiah Bishop Alpine Loop Gran Fondo involved taking a ride with my coach, pro mountain bike racer Jeremiah Bishop, so he could evaluate my fitness and form.

Within five minutes I learned a number of things:

  • I favor my right leg. In a big way. Jeremiah had me pedal one-legged, and while relatively smooth using my right leg, calling my left leg awkward and gangly does a disservice to baby deer.
  • I lean too far forward when I stand out of the saddle. Why? It's what I've always done. Not efficient, but comfortable. So then...
  • I learned, "What you like to do is irrelevant if you plan to make the last climb up the back side of Reddish Knob." Well, there is that.
  • My pedaling cadence is too low, especially on climbs. Somewhere along the way I decided grinding away at a big gear was the macho way to climb. Like everything else of the macho variety, it's also the worst way to climb, at least for me.
  • I need to eat while I ride, preferably every thirty minutes. Energy is everything. I get that. But eating while riding is something I'll have to learn to love. (You try swallowing between gasps for air. It's a real treat.)
We rode a few more miles and then Jeremiah chose a relatively steep hill to gauge my current fitness level. My heart rate soared from 160 beats/minute, flirted briefly with the 170s, and finally snuggled firmly into the 180s. (Since in theory my max heart rate should be 170 or so, 184 b/m is what exercise physiologists might define as "high.")

My vision tunneled and I got that sick, fuzzy, "I'm about to faint and I'm fine with that because laying on the ground seems really appealing right now" feeling, and fatigue made a coward out of me, as fatigue loves to do... so I stopped about 30 feet from the top.

These are my legs.  Really, they're not much smaller.
Heart pounding, breathing like a Mel Gibson phone rant, I managed to glance sideways and focus on Jeremiah's heart rate monitor -- which read 125 beats/minute. And falling.

At that moment I was in possession of three additional facts:

  1. Having a superstar for a coach also means your coach is a (darned) superstar,
  2. When your coach is speaking he might be narrating the video he's taking of your near-death experience, and
  3. I kinda hate Jeremiah Bishop, but only in the nicest possible way.
Where Am I Now?
Since every good gap analysis starts by determining the current state, here is my starting point.

On the plus side:

  • I'm 6' tall and weigh 160 pounds, so I don't need to lose weight. (Jeremiah feels actually keeping weight on will be a challenge for me, since some training rides will literally burn thousands of calories, especially as I get closer to Gran Fondo day.)
  • My resting heart rate is 58 beats/minute, my blood pressure is 120/80, and my LDL cholesterol is around 160. All good.
  • The size of the BNET readership means the pressure is significant. If I fail, I fail publicly. Good motivation.
  • Worse, if I fail I will feel I failed Jeremiah. Great motivation.
On the minus side:
  • I'm out of shape.
  • I have legs only a flamingo could love (while strikingly sexy on a flamingo, skinny legs are less than optimal for generating power.)
  • Finding time to train will be a major challenge.
  • I'm 51-gosh-darn-years-old.
  • I only have three months.
As far as gaps go, that's a gap only a true Six Sigma acolyte could love. But at least I know what I need to improve:



Flamingo photo courtesy Rene (and then some), CC 2.0