Forcing through frost

For this morning's ride, I went back to my road bike.  And that felt like a good decision for a while, despite the temperature being in the teens (it was supposed to be 3-4 degrees warmer).  And then I got past the Metro at East Falls Church, and saw a bit of ice.  The first bit wasn't bad, and I went another half mile or so until I saw a second.

And that one wasn't good, but at least it was short.  Then there was a longer stretch, but the ice was mostly covered in snow (never would have guessed that I would preferentially choose snow for riding, but it was worlds better than the bits of exposed ice).  Then there was more.  By the time I got to the third street after Rt 29, I gave up and went to a nearly parallel road.  I went on the road for several blocks, then looked at taking the bridge across Rt 7.

The path to the bridge was clear, but the bridge was completely covered in snow (and maybe ice under that), so I turned around, and went back to the road.  Then down Rt 7 to Idylwood, where I turned right (my original path would have taken the bike trail to Virginia Ave, then a block on a road whose name I forget, and then turning right onto Idylwood.  Essentially, I cut out a couple of miles by turning there.

And that was probably a good decision, even if my snow/ice concerns were unfounded (which would surprise me), because going down Idylwood was when the cold started bothering me.  And man, did it ever.

I was balling my hands up, and still feeling it.  In fact, my face was even feeling cold, and I think that's the first time that was bothering me (I've only occasionally covered as much as my chin; usually, I have nothing covered there.  The one time I covered more than that, at the end of a ride, the minute or two that I did it was enough to convince me that doing so is a terrible idea).

But I soldiered on, and made it home.  I do think that the mittens I was extolling so much yesterday (forgot to mention: Burton AK 3L Hover Mitts) are just better for the hybrid (because of the flat bar and shifter mechanism).  I have to hold my hands a little differently, which exposes them (especially the thumbs) slightly more (or a lot more, depending on my grip).  Also, while I can do all my shifting that way, going down the cassette or down the chainring is tough.

Plus, I just got the bike back from the shop, where the brifter got replaced.  The brifter itself is fine, but I also asked them to look at the front derailleur, because I was having occasional problems with that.  Well, I'm still having the same problems.  Maybe it worked a little better the first time or two, but then it was right back where it'd been a week ago.  Not sure what to do about that.

Regardless, another recovery tomorrow, then riding hard on Saturday.

Catching up

[this was written yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to post it]

Somewhat interesting few days, for me, on the bike.

Sunday, I had a bit more time (I didn't need to be back until 0800, plus I got woken up a little early), so I decided to take a much longer ride. In fact, I was thinking, after Saturday's torture, that I should probably try to do the really hard rides during the week, and save the weekend for longer rides.

Anyway, I did twenty-four miles (which is quite a lot, riding the hybrid, I think), and had no trouble keeping my heartrate in my target range (which was a bit surprising after what happened Friday). It turned out I had time to do a bit more, but wasn't sure and didn't want to risk going overboard. But I still had a good time, and felt quite good afterwards.

Monday, I didn't have a lot of time, and wanted to take a different route, so I rode down to Shirlington, and circled around there (going up the long hill on S 31st St where I lived, many moons ago), then came back home. It was a bit annoying, actually, as way too many cars wanted to drive much too close to me for comfort. But that was the only downside to the ride; heart rate stayed in my target range pretty well. It was cold and wet, but that didn't bother me at all, that day.

Tuesday, the weather took a distinct turn for the worse, as we got an inch or so of snow. However, I had the presence of mind to check on my daughter's school, so I knew, starting out, that I had a bit more time than usual. Again, some jackasses wanted to drive way too close (and way too fast), but at least they were gone quickly, so I didn't end up dwelling on them. And again, it was cold, but not bothering me. I did wish I was riding my road bike (not the least of which reasons was that I can put the rain fender on, which would have kept the back of my coat from getting covered in salt), but I still had a good time.

The cold not bothering me either of those days says really good things about the snowboarding mittens I finally broke down and bought a couple weeks ago. They just rock. My hands don't get cold much, and, when they do, it's very easy to bunch my fists within and warm up. I feel the cold occasionally, but it rarely bothers me.

Today, even though I got my road bike back late yesterday, I decided I wanted to try to duplicate my torture ride from Saturday. So I kept the pedals on the hybrid, and got out there. Eventually. I woke up almost forty minutes late (first time in quite a while I've been more than fifteen minutes late getting up), and then realized I'd forgotten to charge my lights. Fortunately, I was able to make do in the lighting department. As expected, my front light had plenty of charge, and I was able to use my back-up rear light. Both did make it through the ride without issues (in fact, in an attempt to run down the back light, I ended up leaving it on the entire day.

But putting it on added to the time needed.

Fortunately, I wasn't planning a terribly long ride. So I got moving, and found almost no ice on the road (my secondary reason for riding the hybrid; it can deal with ice. I'd like to not break another brifter anytime soon). And I started pushing right away. I'm not sure if I pushed as hard as Saturday (I was trying, but I have no way of judging if I succeeded), but I was definitely pushing hard. Speeds over the first parts of the ride were very similar, though not identical. Anyway, I never got close to 200 heart rate; I topped out at 182. Health-wise, that's probably a good thing, but it was disappointing to me nonetheless.

The good part was that I did get a good ride in. Only about forty-five minutes, but it was a pretty tough forty-five. I did over 800' of elevation in there, and still averaged fourteen miles per hour (which is good, on that bike). It wasn't quite as much elevation per minute as Saturday's torture-fest, but it was pretty close.

One thing I do wonder is if Saturday's ride did any serious improvement for me, physiologically. I felt much better today, than after that ride (to say nothing of how much better I felt during it). I'll have to do my MacArthur loop this coming Saturday as a benchmark.

Another thing that I've realized, over the last several days, is that getting out of the saddle regularly is really important. It isn't a matter of pushing harder (though it does help with that), but more a matter of getting blood flowing better through the butt, and into the legs. It also helps with keeping hands warm, although that's less of a big deal.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll be back on the road bike, so we'll see how that goes. It'll definitely be nice to have better data from the rides.


Get your sh!t together

This morning did not start out well.  I got up on time, but immediately remembered that I hadn't charged my phone last night.  I found it, put it on the charger, then got dressed to ride.

I got out the door, and immediately realized I'd also forgotten to put the lights on the bike last night, and therefore left them inside.  Walked around the house, inside, walked through to get them, then got started again.  Three-tenths of a mile later, I realized I'd also forgotten my helmet due to changing my mind at the last minute about which jacket I was going to use (the FuguJack I put on has an integrated hood/balaclava).

Went back to the house, walked through again, got the helmet and got out the door.  When I got home, I was informed that that trip through the house had woken the little one.  Ugh.

Finally got on the road, and realized that I wasn't going to have time to do my planned ride, despite it not being a recovery day.  But once I was on the road, things went just fine.  I ended up getting back a little earlier than I'd planned, but that might have been a good thing, given that I'd woken the little one up.

I did manage to get a little ride in, in the afternoon, as well.  That wasn't bad, even with the snow that was coming down at the time.  I experimented with a new route, mostly just for the hybrid, and that worked out pretty well.


At a loss

I'm not sure what all I want to say about them, but I thought I should say something about the performance of the Caps.

The Caps have played five games since I last talked about them, the results being three wins followed by three losses (all games decided in regulation).

The Caps did not do especially well against the Red Wings, but got lucky with an early goal by Brouwer on the power play.  The Capitals got some backhanded help, too, when Howard injured himself on that play.  They scored twice more in the second on Mrazek, getting a little more luck.

Ericsson got one back just before the end of the second, but the Caps were able to hold it together without further scoring through the third.

In all, outplayed but they did have some strong plays that carried them through.

The Avalanche were next, and the Caps did well against them.  Beagle got the only goal of the first (I think it was a rebound of a Chimera shot), despite the Caps generally not doing great through that period.

In the second and third, though, the Caps turned it on and played very strongly.  Their only goal was an OV power play marker, but they only allowed one goal, by Tanguay on the power play, to go with it.  So Holtby outplayed Varly, though Varly did have a bit more work.  Both, however, were called on to make some pretty tough saves.

The Flyers game, as I think I alluded to in another post, I missed entirely.  Verdammt changes in channels.  But the Caps did reasonably well, getting an early goal an holding on to make that good enough.

Next were the Preds, with Trotz making his first return to Nashville since coming to Washington.  And it was quite a mixed bag.  They didn't do well through the first, with Seth Jones scoring the only goal on a wrister off a face-off.

Neal got a lucky bounce off a skate to give the Preds a two-goal advantage, early in the second.  Then OV struck twice, both one-timers from his normal spot.  The first looked like his normal power play goal, except that Alzner fed the pass instead of Green, Carlson, or Niskanen.  The second was a one-timer from his normal spot on the power play, except that the feed came out of the corner, via Brouwer (and it looked like a broken play, except that I've never seen Brouwer make a no-look pass like that one, so I'm not sure).

When MarJo scored, early in the third on the power play (nice determination on a stuff play; took him three tries), it looked like the Caps were going to cruise home.  Then Ekholm scored on the power play with 4 1/2 left, then Neal made a lucky pretty steal of a cross-ice, D-to-D, saucer pass and beat Holtby with a minute and a half left.

The Caps tried to tie it up again late, but weren't really able to control the puck in the offensive zone.

Finally, the Caps faced the Stars in a wild one that I turned off after the first period (they were looking pretty terrible up to that point).  They went down three-love, then tied it up early in the third, then surrendered two more, sixteen seconds apart, then got a late one to make it close again.

But that was the end of the scoring, and the Caps came home empty-handed.

I'm looking at the Corsi numbers now, and my feelings seem largely borne out.  The Caps did not do well, 5-on-5 close in Detroit (horrible, actually), nor great in Dallas (though closer than I'd've guessed), but were dominant in Nashville (which is a surprise; I didn't think they did poorly, but not nearly that well), Philadelphia, and Colorado.  The lowest of those latter three was 55.4%, which is very good.

As far as players, the offensive lines haven't changed much (other than the occasional musical chair at top-line left wing.  Bura's mostly been there, but several others are getting a shift or two a game).  OV and Backstrom are largely keeping the team afloat, killing it despite tough opposition.  Kuzya, MarJo, and Brouwer are doing pretty well, with MarJo getting most of the line's goals (who'd'a thunk it?).  And Fehr, Laich, and Ward continue to be a pretty decent shut-down line.

Wilson's been in that spot on the top line occasionally, but has mostly been on the fourth line.  Color me surprised, but he's still drawing penalties while there, so that's fantastic.  And while the line hasn't generated a lot of offense, they've done a good job keeping play in the offensive end of the ice.  If that's all that line does, I'd still call it a successful line (since it's the fourth).  And they have scored a few.

Beagle's been playing.  While I'm not thrilled with that, the results have not been bad.  As I said, that line has looked pretty decent.

Defensively, I believe Schmidt came back for one game (and I was hoping that was a sign that Trotz had realized Schmidt is the better player), but then got sent down, and then injured (and is out for several more weeks).  So Hillen has been getting a lot of playing time.  He's actually looked pretty good when I've noticed him, but his numbers are still pretty bad, despite heavy sheltering.

Alzner's looking better, offensively, but I'm a little concerned that his Corsi numbers aren't great.  I wonder if he's giving up something on the back end when he's getting more involved in the offense.  Nothing I can put my finger on, but I do wonder.

Niskanen's Corsi numbers have improved since I last looked, though he does seem to have gotten quite a few penalties.  I hope that's just an aberation, because this team definitely needs to stay out of the box.

On the goalie front, Peters finally played in the Dallas game, and was even down in the AHL for a bit.  So I'm not encouraged about Trotz keeping Holtby in good shape, despite the results over the span.  My one hope is that Korn is keeping a close eye on Holtby, and has been sure Holtby was in good shape.  Still, I'm worried about him being burnt out; he's too good to be wasted for a nothing stretch in the middle of the season.

Overall, despite how the Nashville game ended, it's hard to be upset, or even disappointed, with the overall results.

Let's hope the good feelings continue tonight, against Edmonton (who have, I believe, despite being around the bottom of the league overall, beaten the Caps the last several times they've played).  Go Caps!

Ride West, young man!

Yesterday, things did not go well for me, on the bike.  I was going to take a pretty long ride, but pretty slow, until I got to where the Custis trail meets the W&OD.  Instead of heeding the titular advice, I turned east, hit a patch of black ice on the turn, and wiped out.

Mercifully, the extent of the bodily injury was a not-too-bad scrape on my hip; hurt like hell when it happened, but otherwise pretty ignorable.  Somehow, though, falling down onto my left side, I snapped my right brifter, almost in half.  It was good enough to ride home, barely, after I played with it a bit, but I was stuck on, essentially, a two-speed bike.

I was a bit nervous about riding (I wasn't sure yet what state the brifter was in, and my hip was bothering me a little; I wasn't sure yet if there was something more serious), so I turned towards home pretty quickly.

So it ended up being merely a seven-mile ride, and I certainly need to replace the brifter (bike is currently in the shop for that.  Hoping they can get it back to me today, but dunno if that's a realistic hope).

And the hip, as I said, isn't doing badly at all.  Physically, I had no problems with this morning's ride, although it was on the hybrid, alas.  And the hybrid still has the spiked tires, also alas.  That made for a very slow ride, and one with very little data (no power or cadence data, as both meters are on the road bike (one inevitably, and the other accidentally)).

So slow, in fact, that I ended up shortening the route (and not getting lost, somehow) and getting back just about exactly when I was hoping to do so.  Taking hills while staying zone two on that hybrid is very slow work.  Slow enough that I got passed a couple of times today (first day I've ever been passed by more than one person, and it's rare that I get passed even once).  Plus, I ended up on the 18% grade of the Williamsburg hill near my house; I was trying to avoid that.

On the plus side, I actually did an excellent job of staying in zone two; I was worried a couple of times that I'd pushed too hard (including the aforementioned hill), but it looks like I kept it all good.

Snow tomorrow (though maybe just after I finish riding), so I'll probably ride the hybrid again tomorrow, regardless of availability.  But at the least, I'll remember to go get my cadence meter, if so.


It was the best of times, it was...

Yeah, not the best, Wednesday morning.  First, I woke up, and it sounded like the cars on the road were driving on very wet pavement.

I'd checked the weather the afternoon or evening (I forget exactly when) before, and it was promising very cold (20F) but dry.  Well, it turned out to be snowing.

Then I got to my bikes.  The pedals were on the road bike (I probably need to buy a second pair), plus I had forgotten to charge the phone.  On my first glance, I thought it said 10%, which was probably enough for the ride.  When I went to turn the computer on, I saw that the phone was actually saying 1%; not even enough to stay alive for the ride without recording for Strava.  Double ugh.

I still wasn't sure about the snow, so I went out with the road bike once I'd gotten dressed.  I decided, because of the salt on the roads, to take a bit of a chance with it.

But because the road conditions had me worried, I stayed on a big street, and basically went five miles down that street, then turned around and came straight back.

Aside from the worry, and the snow blowing into my eyes (especially at the beginning), it wasn't a bad ride, but I'm still glad I didn't push it any further.

Insult was added to injury, on the snow front, when I went to take my daughter to the bus, and I found the ski goggles I'd ordered eight days earlier had finally arrived (I'd ordered them via Prime, so I'm not sure what happened.  Very irritating, regardless of why).

The rest of the day went pretty well, except that I forgot to set the DVR to record the Caps game (had forgotten they were playing, and I only record automatically on CSN/+).  But my wife took me out for a very tasty (if extremely sinful, especially after I downed the extra-large slice of cheesecake).

That cheesecake came back to bite me a bit the next morning, when I woke up with a slightly upset stomach.  But I plowed into my normal ride (on clear roads and paths, this time), and felt pretty decent by the end of it.

This morning, my legs felt a little tired (which seems to be happening a lot recently, and I still don't know why; aside from doing four minutes of intervals each of Tuesday and Wednesday, I haven't pushed it in about a week), but otherwise things went well.  Although it was a bit colder than forecast (said 28F, but was mostly 25-27F, and got as low as 23F for a bit).

The one thing that I wonder about is that I saw quite a few more bikers this morning than I had in a week or more.  No idea why.

One thing I have decided.  I need to find a way to increase my output by a bit when I'm not paying full attention.  I tend to slide back to 70-80W, and I need to keep it up at 120-ish.  That'll get me done quite a bit faster without pushing me into Zone 3.  I also think I need to start doing some form of exercise that will work on pulling my legs upwards.  I think that'll help quite a bit when I'm looking to push hard (and maybe a little even when I'm not).


A bit of charity

I found out my work is sponsoring the 2015 American Diabetes Assn Tour de Cure, and decided to combine my love of riding with a bit of charity, and signed up for the June 7th ride in this area (Northern Virginia).  I need to find the course, but it'll be a 108-mile ride along (major?) roads.

I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, the great news is that my company will be matching donations if I meet the $500 minimum (if I meet it, all donations will be matched, not just those over $500), so if you'd like to help the American Diabetes Association's mission of community-based education and research funding, please go to my page and donate generously.

As someone who feels that large corporations are generally not doing their part to support other people, I would love to make them pay.  And, of course, all donations are tax deductible.

Also, I should point out that, as Americans' waist lines are expanding (note that no state in that picture is under 20% of self-reported obesity.  Not just being overweight, but actually obese), diabetes is likely to become a major, major problem in the not-too-distant future.  So anything we can do about it now will be a great help.

Thank you for your support.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Caps progress

I'm really not feeling too much like trying to play catch-up on all the games that I haven't written about (though I watched all of them except the Penguins game.  And yes, I'm still not sure how I missed that one.  And with the shutout win, I was very disappointed), so I'll go with some more general thoughts about current situation and recent past.

The biggest of those is the recent (not entirely unexpected) resurgence of Braden Holtby.  He's been amazing lately, outright stealing a couple of games, and coming close to a couple of others.  The downside, though, is that Trotz has lost confidence in Peters and won't play him.  Holtby is already up to twenty games now, and that's already too many.

Yes, I know he's still over fifty games from the (league) record, but pushing that didn't work all that well for the '96 Blues.  There's also the issue that it tends to burn out goalies, and this is the bigger problem.  On a game by game basis, putting Holtby in is, unquestionably, the right decision.  But cumulatively, it becomes disastrous.

Usually, it's something that happens with desperate coaches, but there's no reason to think that Trotz should be desperate.  So Barry, give Holtby a rest regularly.  It'll be good for both of you, even if it does lose a few games in the short term.  Really, it wouldn't be more than a few.  Holtby's long-term health is worth a hell of a lot more than that.  And Peters might surprise you, too (he's due for at least a little bit of positive regression to the mean).

Fehr and Alzner are both showing a bit of scoring touch (relative to their position, of course); let's hope that continues with both.

MarJo is having a very good year.  I was thinking about it when he scored his second last night, but couldn't remember him scoring multiples before.  Can't believe I forgot the game where he and OV each scored a pair.

Bura needs more ice time.  He's just killing it when he's out there, with his goal the other night just being the exclamation point on that.  I don't know what he did to get into Barry's dog house, but he needs to be on the ice.  I don't think the top line is the best place for him (his original 2C was better, I think), but it isn't a terrible place, either.

Kuzya seems to be coming into form as a good center.  His faceoffs are pretty terrible, but I'm not that sold on that being a huge liability.  I think I'd prefer to see Bura dropped down to 2C, Kuzya as 3C (whether with Laich and Ward or Chimmer and Ward), and move Fehr back up to the top line, where he was knocking it out of the park earlier in the season.

Fehr's a decent center, and surely better in the faceoff dot than either Bura or Kuzya, but his defensive prowess (mostly, getting his stick into passing lanes, which he's become excellent at) would really bolster the top line.

Laich has been pretty effective, but I still wouldn't mind seeing him dropped to fourth line in favor of Chimmer.  That's not a slight on Laich, just a recognition of Chimmer and Ward's chemistry.  Or maybe put Laich between Chimmer and Ward as a shutdown line again, dropping Kuzya down.

Then scratch Beagle, put Latta back in, and make the fourth line a soft-minutes scoring line, rather than a shutdown one.

And, for God's sake, stop putting Beagle on the top line.  It has never worked, and there's no reason to think it will.  At least now, it's gotten to be a rarity, but it still happens from time to time.

Wilson, I'm not sure how to handle.  He's lost his main value since being moved down, which was his ability to draw penalties.  But I'm not saying that it was a mistake to move him down; I don't think it was.  But I'm not sure where his best value is.  Maybe he'd do well in that fourth-line scoring line I postulated.

On the defensive side, I've been pretty pleased with how things have gone.  Carlson and Orpik are doing a good job eating up the tough assignments without getting crushed possessionally.  Alzner and Niskanen are doing a decent job with the not-quite-so-tough assignments, and Green and Schmidt are cleaning up in the easy time.

Except that Schmidt has been scratched a lot lately, and Hillen has been getting killed, possessionally.  With more offensize zone starts.  And easier competition.  The only thing I've heard that makes any sense at all is that it might be related to Schmidt's waiver status (as in, he's waiver-exempt unless he plays a few more games).

If it's related to Hillen's extra assist in half the number of games, then i'm going to say that Trotz has a blind spot regarding one or both of those two.  Because that's not the way to bet, if you're trying to figure out which is the better player.

And man, I thought it might have something to do with goal scoring (as Hillen has a higher PDO than Schmidt), but the goal-scoring is even more skewed towards Schmidt than are Fenwick or Corsi.  So color me befuddled.

In any event, what can be said is that the team is going along pretty well.  Their standings point pace is higher than it's been since Boudreau was at the helm, and they haven't had a really bad game since they played the Rangers a couple weeks ago.  And the only seriously worrisome sign is Holtby's workload.  And that'll be far more worrisome if Holtby plays the back end of the back-to-back tonight.  We'll see.

Go Caps!

And a cold day for all

I knew today was going to be cold; it was projected at 9F, as of last night.  So I got out lots of clothes.  Two pairs of socks for my feet.  Shorts and tights for my legs (although not the thermal shorts, as they were already dirty).  Base layer and jersey for my torso.  Ski gloves and liners for my hands.  FuguJack for the outer shell.

The only thing I didn't do, that I would have, is to wear a helmet cover for my head, but I don't have one of those.  Well, and the gloves that I was expecting to arrive yesterday did not; I was pretty pissed about that.  Somehow (assuming they arrive today), they will have taken two days to go fifteen miles or so.  A handoff to the post office (from UPS) had something to do with it; the irony there being that UPS still had to deliver some other packages today.  Regardless of the reason, it pissed me off to be missing cold-weather gloves on the coldest day of the year.

In any event, I got out on the road at the normal time, riding the hybrid.  I skipped any trails, so I might have been ok on the road bike, but didn't want to chance it (plus, the avoiding of the trails was not really a planned decision; more of one made while riding).

I got down to Shirlington, still feeling pretty well.  I only had the tiniest bit of chilliness in my fingers, and felt fine everywhere else.  But when I circled around Shirlington, I noticed that my phone or RFLKT+ had died, and after a couple minutes I figured out how to tell that it was the phone that had gotten too cold.  Ugh.

Since I was feeling a little bit in my fingers, I was already starting to think about turning around.  Seeing the phone dead confirmed that decision, and I felt really good about the decision once I realized that the phone being dead meant that I could end up in real danger if I had some sort of mechanical problem with the (sixteen or seventeen year old) bike.

So I ended up going straight home; I thought about the same side trip to East Falls Church I'd taken the last couple of days, but decided that my fingers weren't going to handle it.  Plus, I was even more likely to have trouble with mechanical issues.

My timing ended up being pretty good, as I got home right as my wife was outside to get the newspaper.  That meant I could take the bike straight inside, rather than leaving it in the garage for a while as I normally do.  Plus, I didn't need to take my hands out of my gloves to get the garage open.  Win, win.

One thing that occurred to me, that I didn't test, is that I might be able to wear my new middle-layer jacket under my FuguJack.  When I got home, I tested that, and it fits ok (not perfect, of course, but workable, I think).  So instead of a heavy base layer and jersey, I think I'll wear that jacket under the fugujack, next time I find temperatures in the single digits.  Or maybe a heavy base layer and the smartwool midlayer that I just remembered that I have (and that I got for just such days).  I guess we'll see.  The limiting factor will still be the gloves, though, I'm pretty sure.

Well, tomorrow will feel balmy, with temperatures in the mid to low 20s projected.  Recovery day.  And I think I'll ride the road bike.