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An experiment — 1 month in

For those who might be interested, it’s been 1 month now since I started my experiment.

I can say in all honesty that I’ve done ‘something’ in German every day since then.  Some days it was small — like listening to a podcast.  Other days I’ve worked on an online course from Deutsche Welle.

Have I noticed a difference?  Yes, without a doubt.

But I think that more would be needed if I wanted to become truly fluent.  10 or 20 minutes a day is better than nothing, but probably not enough.

(note: this is a rough translation of what I wrote here)


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An experiment

I’ve decided to undertake an experiment over the next year.  Sort-of a ‘New Year’s Resolution’, starting a bit early.  I’m going to try doing something — no matter how small — “auf Deutsch” (in German) each day, and document it here:

I started learning German around 2003, then worked in Germany between July 2006 and March 2007.  I would say that I reached an ‘intermediate’ level of fluency at that point.  Since then, without using it every day, my German has gotten progressively worse.

I decided then to do something more concrete than just “improve my German”.  One of the purposes in writing it down will be to see just how much changes in a year, with minimal but consistent effort.


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It’s easier to write when you have a bunch of problems

Huh. I would not have guessed that it’s been 6 full months since writing anything here.  A few people have asked, so I checked.  Kind of fitting that the last post was about the first race back.  I guess it’s easier to write when you have bigger problems to write about.

The short version of the racing season goes like this: it went better than I feared, but not as well as I’d hoped.

I was able to race regularly, but not as much as I’m used to.   I actually raced at times, rather than just riding along with the pack.  Won a few races.  But when things got really hard I was often at my limit. A lot of the time I felt nervous.

The big problem was that I just couldn’t train hard, consistently.  Hard races or too much hard training would make my leg hurt.  Not a tired-hurt, but hurt deep inside somewhere (which would move around to different places).

I’ve accepted what my orthopedist, massotherapist, and physical therapist have told me: my anatomy is different now; it’s not going to be the same. Which doesn’t mean that it can’t still get better: looking back since May, things  continue to improve (but often in a two steps forward, one step back sort of way).

Maybe the biggest adjustment has been in learning to continuously make adjustments — both in attitude and in what I do physically.  I still have this constant — and I mean literally constant — awareness that my leg just feels different now.  I’m not sure that will ever go away (at this point, it doesn’t feel like it will).

One aspect of the ‘continuous adjustment’ was getting a full-on, medical bike fit at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. More on that in another post.

Update: Apparently I jinxed myself by writing this, as I woke up in the middle of the night with leg pain, and couldn’t ride. I’m blaming it on hammering a Strava segment 2 days ago. Stupid Strava.

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Arizona by the numbers

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Shawn and Aaron have their summaries here and here.

Here’s mine:
Cities visited: 2 (Tucson and Phoenix)
Number of unpack/repack cycles: 6
Days riding: 12
Miles ridden: 820
Feet climbed: 38,000
Farthest day: 101 miles (Madera Canyon)
Longest day: 99.8 miles, ~7 hrs (Lemmon)
Minutes riding in circles trying to find my hotel: 40
Times passed by hipster on fixie: 3
Times seeing hipster on fixie not able to stop: 3
Flats: 0 (Continental Gatorskins!)
Saddle sores: 2 (one on each side)
Visits to chiropractor: 3
Lost credit card: 1
Snickers bars eaten: 8
Best coffee: Le Buzz (Tucson, bottom of Mt Lemmon)
2nd best coffee: made with my Aeropress
Best lunch: Epic Cafe (Tucson)
Best dinner: Cup Cafe (Tucson)
Best pizza: Il Bosco (Phoenix)
Favorite stretch of road: Picture Rocks Rd, Saguaro National Park (see photo)
Favorite climb: Mount Lemmon
Least favorite climb: Mount Lemmon
Least favorite road: Most anything in Phoenix
Seemed like a good idea at the time: following Shawn, Aaron, and Sam on the dirt

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Mount Lemmon, on top

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The day after arriving in Tucson I tried riding up Mount Lemmon with Shawn. It did not go well. By mile 13 I was feeling pretty horrible. Trying to climb another 14 held no appeal. “I’m ready to go back down”, I said.

As with many things these days (so it seems), I needed to go back and conquer that demon.

This time I rode it more sensibly, at a pace that would let me enjoy the view rather than one that made me suffer.

At mile 13 it occurred to me that I should be grateful — and happy — just to be able to ride like this. 10 months ago I wouldn’t have imagined doing such a climb. It’s not that Lemmon is brutally steep. It’s just so darn long: you keep going up and up and up.

Actually it’s the perfect climb for where I am right now: it requires patience.

I made it to the part where most people stop — at the Cookie Cabin — then made the right turn on Ski Run to go up the final pitch to the “tippy top”. That is also the steep part of the climb, the part that you can’t really fake.

25 miles of patience allowed me to to finish those last 2, out of the saddle most of the way in the 39×26. I was on top of the world, any way you want to interpret that.
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Back to Double-A

After last week’s bad experience doing the Shootout ride, I didn’t really want to do it again. But on the other hand I was feeling like I needed to do it.

I happened to be reading about MLB spring training going on out here in Arizona, and about guys doing rehab assignments in the minor leagues.

There was my solution: I would do the “old guys” ride, which leaves 10 minutes before the (real) Shootout. That wasn’t what my ego really wanted, but it was the solution that made sense.

I hooked up with the group about 15 minutes into the ride. The group was pretty big — 60-70 riders, and not many of them “old guys”. 10 minutes later they passed the “Game On” starting point.

Whereas last week I was doing all I could do to just hang on, this week I was actually riding at the front and going with attacks — a familiar, yet at this time very strange sensation. It’s been 10 months since I last felt that.

When we finished the hard part, I stopped and waiting for Shawn and Aaron who were coming up with the Big Boys. We rode up Madera Canyon, and I knew that had been the right decision. Had I done the fast(er) ride, pretty sure I would have been limping home (again).

I also had the voice of Jim Behrens in my head, telling me that I’d done the right thing. (thanks, Jim)


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Dr. Feelgood

I often have the (misguided) tendency to look at the human body — my body — as if it were a car: something is wrong, you take it in to the mechanic and get it fixed.

That’s been one source of frustration over the last 10 months. Between seeing the ortho-, physio-, masso-, chiro- … I’ve very badly wanted to ‘get fixed’. Unfortunately none of them can order a new part, open the toolbox, and simply replace it.

But the thing is: they’ve all helped, each in their own way, and so I’ve learned to allow them to help.

From the moment I got off the plane in Phoenix last week, my leg didn’t feel right. Apparently sitting on a plane for 5 hours was enough to do … something. Add a walk through the airport schlepping luggage and a 2 hour drive to Tucson, and it’s even worse

I was hoping that riding would work it out, but it didn’t. Maybe easy riding would have, but it’s hard not to take advantage of 80-degree sunshine. 4 days later I was limping noticeably.

How do you deal with that, 2000 miles from home? Sit around and rest? Not really an option.

Through the magic of the Internet, I was able to find a ‘mechanic’ just a couple of miles from where I’m staying: a chiropractor who does Active Release Technique. I called at 5pm and they got me in by 5:30. It wasn’t pleasant. He found some tender spots that had me sweating and brought tears to my eyes.

But it helped. A second visit, no less unpleasant, had me out doing an easy 2 hour ride, which made the unpleasantness worth it. Now I just need it to help enough to get me through 5 days of riding back in Tucson.


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