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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cycling Movies for A Rainy Day--UPDATE--

With nothing but rain on the horizon and a good excuse to rest the legs, I thought I would bike vicariously through Hollywood.

Here are a few samples from some of the best... or shall we say... "classic" cycling movies.

Breaking Away is one of the first American cycling movies.

The Flying Scotsman is a sexed up story of Graeme Orbee's troubled attempt at the hour record.

Island Etude is Taiwan's ode to cycling. This movie really ignited a Taiwanese romance with the bike. Can anyone imagine carrying all that crap on your back?

Race Across The Sky is a beautifully shot documentary on the Leadville 100.

A Sunday In Hell= Classic!

The 9 Ball Diaries is a great documentary on cyclocross.

American Flyers sought to capitalize on Team 7-11's rise in the 80's as the USA really entered the sport.

The Greatest Show on Earth is great for the coming Giro

RAD is Totally Awesome!

Follow the riff raff in Detour de France

Quick Silver is a degree of Kevin Bacon

Les Triplettes de Belleville uses the Tour de France as a plot device. Great animated movie.

One of the Greats. Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Nicole Kidman's greatest film.

The Bicycle Thief

Morrissey at the Salford Lads Club. Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weight Loss and Nutrition

As an old wrestler I know a thing or two about weight loss; both healthy and unhealthy. As I have been biking my weight has stagnated and then risen 5lbs from 2 years ago. The rise is mainly due to all the muscle I have added to my legs from hill climbing. More importantly is my vitals. I was a little concerned about my metabolism so I had it checked. The symptoms were mainly that I am chronically hypothermic. My body temperature runs between 93F and 95F (34C-35C).


I am 35 years old and not getting younger.

My Blood Pressure is 130/56

My Resting Heart Rate is 47bpm

My Weight is 67-68kg (148-150lbs)

My Height is 170cm… about 5’6” tall.

I would like to lose the last little bit of fat I have clinging to my body and it is tough. I know… vanity. It is so much cheaper taking it off me than off may bike.

What can I do about it?

1. Rest, Sleep and Recovery: Sleeping is something you can do when hungry and not feel uncomfortable. The body can then start raiding the fat stores. Sleep can also curtail the cravings for complex carbohydrates/ simple sugars; sweets. Get a little more sleep than you normally do if you are finding it difficult to resist cravings for crap. Simple sugars represent energy that is ready to instantly enter the system without really making the body work for it. Pure Energy is the smallest of packages i.e. a recipe for disaster.

2. Know what you’re putting in your face. Count calories, evaluate fats, track simple sugars, understand your fuel supply. The fewer calories in the most space is a good rule of thumb. You can fill yourself up better without overfilling your fuel tank. ¼ cup of nuts could be the equivalent to three cups of berries. Nuts have some good fats and berries have some good sugars. Avoid sauces like mayonnaise, butter, mystery Mei Er Mei honey butter. Lots and lots of calories in the sauces.

To track intake and exercise you can use: or to see what you need to start doing. It takes a little discipline to not lie to yourself.

3. Eat plenty of healthy fats -- almonds, avocados, walnuts (if you can), fatty fish like salmon. These foods are filling, full of energy and the body won’t feel hungry 20 minutes later as with just veggies. The main idea is to eat a little bit (say a 2 oz of salmon or a quarter cup of nuts) and then understand that is the stopping point. Slow down and you will feel full.

4. I am a really boring eater because I learned a long time ago to eat for the content and not for the taste. That is not to say I don’t have chocolate lust periodically or need a burger on occasion, but to really lose weight, find some nutritionally balanced foods that work, and eat the same types of foods every day. That way you don't really have to think too hard about the diet. For example, I have some cereal and yogurt for breakfast with a banana if I feel really tired, fresh vegetables (steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli), peanuts or seeds or for a snack, some people recommend nuts, but I am allergic. I then try to have some sort of lean protein and veggies for dinner. I may have some fruit if I'm getting some cravings for sweets. Taiwan is excellent to get fresh fruit. Last night was watermelon, which is in season. Just make sure to wash everything really well, especially the broccoli. I have found a little more protein than I bargained for on a few ears of broccoli. Think about eating like Phil Donahue’s Human Animal might; basic meats, raw fruits and veggies and few refined carbs. Cut the potatoes and corn. Sweet potatoes are ok and sweet potato leaves are even better. Have some good fat every day. Good fats come from eating fish, or from seeds. What is simplest though is to use a flaxseed oil or fish oil supplement. 500mg a day I think. Good fats actually help the body process calories. Be sure you are drinking lots of water too. The body needs water to metabolize food.

A big problem is that Taiwanese food is cheap and easy to get on the street. It is often drowned in oil or deep-fried. The traditional Taiwanese diet still reflects a diet of sustenance where fat is prized for its caloric content. Taiwanese food is often high in sodium as well. It takes a little disciplined selection to avoid the bad stuff. I rarely have food from the fried chicken stall for these reasons.

Another problem is the availability of the good stuff. It is hard to find unsalted nuts, seeds and unsweetened dried fruit. There are a few places that sell what I need and they are spread all over town, so I stock up when I can. Though a good, cheap sushi place is an excellent source of lean protein.

5. Let’s face it… we are not 25 forever and as the body starts to deteriorate (sorry folks!) we need to make more of an effort to eat right to maintain good health. You don't work hard to get in shape and then stay there by doing nothing; you have to keep working at it to stay fit. Maintaining a healthy weight is like cycling. You have to continue to work at it to make it work.

6. Reduce long sustained workouts and increase sprints and anaerobic work. Throw some intervals in your weekly schedule. Intense efforts stimulate hormone production. Now that I am done with a project, I intend to get back to my night rides, where I do sprints and intervals for 45min. in a loop around my district and on the hill behind my house.

7. Cut out the crap. Artificially sweetened juice, sport drinks, pop, energy bars, candy and excessively processed foods have to go. On a ride I will have the occasional sport drink, energy gel or Snickers bar, but sometimes these can be valuable DURING a ride.

8. Avoid Taiwanese bread. Taiwanese breads are full of sugar. Even wheat bread should be moderated. If you want sandwiches or something then use whole grains. Finga’s in Taichung makes some good breads and salads for training FYI.

9. Take your daily food intake and sprinkle in around the day. Eat six or more small meals spread out. Don't go more than 5 waking hours without eating. Don't eat any huge meals. Eat a small meal within an hour or two of bed, and eat breakfast within an hour of waking up, unless you do a mid or low intensity ride first thing in the morning.

10. Watch the rewards and recovery. After we finish a physical task we want to celebrate and often use exercise as an excuse to gorge on sweets. I like ice cream as much as the next guy and it is healthy to treat yourself. Treats should be in moderation. After a ride I drink chocolate milk to help my muscles recover and then I might have a good meal while my body is still running hot. At this point my glycogen stores are depleted and I am running in deficit. A little food couldn’t hurt. The celebrations should stop there and not continue into the next meal and the next day. Lots of people think, “Oh, I rode 80k two days ago. My muscles are sore so I can eat anything.” Wrong. The first hour after a work out is the most important for filling the body’s glycogen stores and setting the table for recovery. After that the effects of food intake drastically diminish. Sure, a beer after a good ride. An ice-cream. But then stop and get back on the wagon.

11. Cut the booze. Alcohol is like super concentrated calories and those calories are very easy to consume.

12. Get a partner to help you. As I stated before, I am a simple eater. I don’t need the big production, I need the vitamins, minerals, calories, sugars, starches and micronutrients that make up our food. It is hard to find other people who think like this.

Many of us have other people in our lives with whom we enjoy and use meals to embrace their company. This makes it hard to eat simply when they are not with the program. They may want to eat when you are not hungry. I know this and it sucks. I took a road trip with my Taiwanese in-laws from Seattle to L.A. They wanted to eat all the time and I didn’t. I also wanted then to try food, so as a good host and son-in-law, I ate with them and consumed far more than I was comfortable consuming. It took me over a year to recover… if I have fully recovered at all. I used to be able to pop back into fighting weight after a couple weeks. Not any more. A sympathetic partner can help a lot, but managing calories around shared eating schedules is another way to embrace the company without making the other person or people feel like you are cutting them out or criticizing their lifestyle. See if it can be a whole lifestyle thing. It couldn't hurt to ask.

BONUS: A little weight training can help burn the fat real fast. Creating new muscle taps into the fat stores real fast and can strengthen the core muscles for good riding posture.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Itch Is Back

The Itch is back. No, not something I picked up in college, but the itch to get back on the bike and start training for another ride. The perils of the cycling life. My body needs a little rest and I need to have the control to let myself recuperate. Google Maps becomes a form of internet porn as I plot routes and calculate riding times. I analyze the terrain and make mental notes on the kind of planning I will need to make the ride happen. This is how a "project" starts. This is definitely a disease I don't want the antidote for.

Any suggestions? I am finding how much is really within a day's ride.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Spring Classic: Taichung to Kaohsiung--158mi/254km

Route: Highway 17 to Kaohsiung
Distance: 158 miles / 254 kilometers
Time: 9:11:21
Average Speed: 17.1mph / 27.5 kph
Wind: NW / South

The original plan had been a Paris-Roubaix tribute ride in honor of the Spring Classics. I decided I should do a ride of a similar length and flat terrain. Kaohsiung was the perfect destination. I was sold on the idea and made it my project for April.

"Fuck, I'm going to Kaohsiung!" I said aloud as I was only about 300 meters from my front door. The streets were still wet and I could feel a tenderness in my upper calf muscle, an overuse injury from a month of preparation. I had on my yellow backpack full of granola bars, bananas, a light change of clothes, cash, bike bag, peanuts, cranberries, Tylenol, Benadryl and a back-up mini-pump in case my CO2 cartridges failed again. I was wearing a new set of Assos bibs and rolling on new tires. I had been far more focused the week before, but the injury had filled my head with doubt. "Kaohsiung, fuck!", I growled under my breath.

The Coast

I was feeling fast and I had refreshed the ipod with enough new songs to keep me pleasantly surprised. Everything seemed to be moving in fast motion. This was the third time I had taken this route in a month and all the familiar landmarks were passing by sooner than anticipated.

As I hit the bridge to Changhua around 6:30am, the foggy morning light erupted with a loud ripping noise. I looked around to see what was going on. Off to my right a giant plume of white smoke billowed up from behind the river. About three dozen green and white flashes filled the sky. "Now I have to do it, if they're letting off rockets for me", I thought to myself. It was too perfect.

I am sure there is a way to interpret good luck into this... there always is.

I made excellent time to Lukang and I was in Yunlin County about the time I started waking up. The sun never really came out and it was one of those days that was perpetually morning... and felt like it. Everything was spinning so well my speed remained steady hovering between 34 and 36kph (21-23mph). I kept trying to dial it back as it was going to be a long day, but it just wasn't in my comfort zone so I just let my body tell me what speed was right. Every hour or so I would stick food in my mouth, but I really didn't want to eat anything.


The area south of Mailiao is a wasteland of dilapidated concrete and brick buildings, used and disused fish and oyster pools, makeshift talking bars, and unfinished mega-temples. I don't recall seeing a single finished temple without huge sections of exposed concrete. The streets are lined with bales and stacks of grey and white oyster shells. Most of these small towns appeared to only be inhabited by little men with pipe-cleaner builds, oversized shorts and a limp. The coast of Taiwan seems to be where all the rough edges from all of Taiwan are collected and neglected. The townships and counties just throw a plastic tarp over these places and wish them away. There are few gas stations or convenience stores, so if you want to take this route be sure to bring extra water and food.


Every bridge doubled as a fishing platform and there was no shortage of folks relaxing in the roadway waiting for their catch. I was still keeping my speed up but my leg injury flared up as I had feared. The area behind my calf was in pain and an occasional shock of pain would shoot through my knee. I changed my foot position to the most comfortable position to pedal without aggravating my injury. I pointed my toe down slightly and managed the ache as well as I could. My mind raced for escape routes and I decided the best one would be the HSR station in Kaohsiung. A little nagging soreness wouldn't be enough to slow me down.
Southbound and Down, Loaded up and Truckin'

I was soon on top of my fastest century ride to date. I hit 100 miles in 4.9 riding hours and about 6 hours total. I was in Tainan county by 12:00pm. The scenery was still a desolate collection of mud puddles and brown wetlands. Between townships an occasional canal would creep inland to give me a bridge to cross or a little hill to climb. The most interesting part of Tainan county were the shrines along the road (which I didn't get a picture of). Many of the people who live along the southern coast are the ancestors of plains aborigines and they have incorporated many of their traditional religious practices into contemporary life. These ex-aborigines may not know their beliefs have a root in Austronesian Taiwan, but if you take a closer look at these shrines you will notice how different they are from Hoklo style shrines.


My neutral NW breeze turned into an annoying headwind after the town of Budai, but at least my leg pain had disappeared. I don't know whether it had abated or if I just failed to acknowledge it. After I had completed 100 miles I dialed it back a bit. I realized I was pacing myself too fast and needed to conserve energy. I also needed to pee a lot more. I made more potty stops on the final third of the ride than I have ever taken. My taste for granola bars and gels had begun to wane as well.

After a while more and more inland canals announced I was in Tainan city. I had to stop for a coffee and another pee. I am so non-pro... I just will not piss myself to save time. I stopped at a 7-11 but they didn't have coffee or a restroom. I stopped at another, but their restroom was closed because some jerk-off had crapped in the urinal and the poor clerk was getting paid NT80 per hour to scoop poo out of a urinal with a plastic soup spoon. The scene was revolting (and so I thought I would share it). I had to continue for another 15 minutes to find a suitable place to pee and then enjoy a Fin sport drink and a large coffee. I was really getting tired. I had just been driving a fast pace and by Tainan I was paying the price.

Tainan Beachfront

I seriously dialed back to 17-18mph and enjoyed the Tainan beachfront. I hadn't been out there in 12 years and it was nice to see that they cleaned it up and added a bike path. In Taiwan a bike path often means a pedestrian road with bikes pained on it where people can walk dogs and kids can hang out eating hot dogs and fish balls while blocking the way. Tainan was no different. After 5 minutes on the bike path I was back on the road.

Shrimp Pots in Taiwan

The Bike Trail


Something happens between Tainan and Kaohsiung. Tainan always feels very alive, electric, friendly and vivid... like an amusement park without the rides. As soon as you slip over to Kaohsiung county the mood changes to become more cool, muted and subdued. It is not necessarily bad, but a totally different feeling. I must say that when I first visited Kaohsiung a dozen years ago, it was a total shithole. Today it is a completely different city. It is still cool and subdued, but it is pretty with wide avenues and real public space. It is the polar opposite of Taipei. Taipei is cold, gloomy, heartless and filthy. Kaohsiung always feels like that moment of quiet contentment when you realize you are waking up in the morning, but your alarm hasn't gone off yet... if that makes any sense to anyone.

Design Inspired By A 1962 National Geographic

I slid into Kaohsiung and followed the signs to the High Speed Rail. It was not going to be long enough and so I passed it and tried not to get lost for 15 miles until I could get close enough to my original goal of 160 miles. I finally made my way to the station, disassembled my bike and took the escalator to get tickets. It was 4:24 in the afternoon and I had been on the bike for over 9 hours. I realized the station I had gone to was the local MRT train and not the HSR. Whoops! I trained it one more stop and was on the train to Taichung exactly 12 hours after I stepped out my front door. By 6:50pm I was back in Taichung.


If you want to go south there are prettier routes. A lot of cyclists like the Highway 17 because there are fewer stop lights. It was a fun physical test and I was pretty comfortable the entire way down. I keep thinking that Kenting isn't too far out of reach. Maybe next time. I am happy to make this my own little Spring Classic. Fabien Cancellara beat me by 2 hours and 35 minutes... with a cobblestone handicap. So, I was the official winner of the Hell of the East, the Taichung-Kaohsiung classic. Good enough for me. Damn I am tired today.

I Made It!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Price of Comfort: Bike Clothing for Taiwan

Ahhh...springtime! Bryant Park and the new Spring fashions are out on the velodrome. Pearl Izumi has a cohesive collection that really tells a story and Rapha is looking couture as ever. Gore could show us a little more of its point of view and Team Fuji is giving us something we have never seen before.

Yes, there are times it seems like a fashion show out on the tarmac and cycling clothes are not exactly versatile nor are they modest. Most of all... this stuff ain't cheap. To dress pro-tour the weight savings is felt mostly in the wallet. We've all seen the local bike clubs out on the 20km ride dressed in full kit with the ever pro-flourish, sans aero time trial helmet. Still, there are times and places to spend on cycling clothing and other times and places to skimp.

A lot of it depends on the kind of rider you are. If I am mainly out for a joyride with the boys and a beer afterward then a full kit is overkill. If cycling is more than a little Saturday jaunt, then it may be worth spending for the right gear.

Whenever I ride I usually suit up in my dedicated cycling clothes. Even when I commute to work I do this. The main reason is that Taiwan can be frickin' hot and frickin' humid. It is easy to be covered in sweat after just a few minutes of riding and I don't want to stink up my office. Cycling clothing is made to wick moisture from the body and allow air to come between the fabric and the skin. It dries fast too. Anyone who has ever ridden in a T-shirt knows that it quickly becomes a 40-lb blanket of chaffing, sweat-soaked cloth that plasters itself against your back.

A good jersey can be had for cheap. There are several places in Taiwan and online to pick one up. Lots of guys like the "sponsor" logos and other guys like the clean look... I don't give a shit either way. As long as it is at a good price and not one of those dorky Primal Wear Pink Floyd jerseys I am fine. I think the jersey is a good place to skimp. The only thing I really look for is a full length zipper or at least 3/4 zipper for better ventilation. A descent jersey should have three good pockets in the back. Depending on your... fitness... you can get "race fit" and "club fit". Club fit is more relaxed to hide bumps and bellies. The race fit are tight and more aerodynamic.

If you are not about to squeeze into a jersey but want to get a nice T-shirt for riding, I highly suggest going to a camping store and getting some of those microfiber T-shirts or Under Armor T-shirts. Arcaeopteryx, Mammut and North Face make good shirts. I will pick up some at REI this summer when I go to Seattle. They just make a good Taiwan shirt in general.

In a sport like cycling comfort is king. The last thing anyone wants on a long ride is a "hot spot" where the clothing is uncomfortable and then all your attention is drawn to that spot and how uncomfortable it feels, magnifying the feeling. Oh, how it becomes unbearable and makes minutes turn into hours.

I now have three pairs of bottoms. I just spent a hefty amount of cash on a new set of ASSOS bibs. For cycling clothing the number one name is ASSOS. Any cyclist who may spend several hours in the saddle, a good set of bottoms makes all the difference.

Good cycling shorts should be made of lycra-like material and have a descent chamois pad. The lycra will stretch and move with the body rather than resist against it as friction and the chamois adds a little padding to take more of the bumps and vibration that can wear out the rider after a period of time. The material is breathable, but also wind resistant. Still, cycling shorts scare the hell out of a lot of people. Many folks are self conscious about their bodies and have a hard time getting used to revealing so much information to the general public. It can take a little effort, but the difference between plain shorts and cycling shorts is clear.

The Cheap Brand

A few weeks ago I went into a cheap cycle-wear outfitter and the owner noticed I was wearing Assos shorts. "Oh, Assos... veddy goo-de! We making some just like Assos." he told me with a thumbs-up sign. About six months ago I bought a set of bib-shorts that I was told were "just like Assos". The chamois was supposed to be made of the same material. Seeing as they were a third of the price I bought them to try out. Big mistake. Not all material is the same. Cheaper lycra-like material will stretch over time and lose its ability to hug the body. The chamois of my cheap bibs now hangs and bunches up like I am carrying a load. Worst of all... the stitching is too tight, creating an abrasive edge that I can really start to feel after about two hours. The lycra is so thin my leg hair comes out of the material, which isn't good for a beast of a man like myself.

Assos Bib

The Assos chamois is sewn in with a light, soft stitch that won't rub. The padding is dimpled for better cooling and wicking and the whole thing holds fast to the body. The difference in comfort is tremendous. The difference is also very expensive.

SIDI Dragons

I don't feel I need to spend a lot of money on gloves. I have a set of Assos gloves that were on sale and my socks too. The socks are a dual layer mesh that allows padding, circulation and wicking. Taiwan it is all about the wicking and the drying.

For colder weather I have a set of Adidas arm warmers. I really don't need much more than that. They are inexpensive and Taiwan doesn't get that cold, so they work to trap heat and keep the wind off. A light windbreaker can work wonders. It should be something light that can be wadded up and stuffed in a jersey pocket. I also have a Craft base layer that is easy to pack up and warm enough for the high mountains.

The shoes. For shoes in Taiwan I highly recommend the SIDI, Adidas or Specialized mountain bike shoes. Even for road bikes the mountain bike shoes are not much different. They are cheaper and have enough tread on the bottoms that you can walk in them like normal shoes. This is great if you need to walk any distance or include some other transportation. On Saturday I quickly threw my bike in my bike bag and changed into shorts and a T-shirt before boarding the HSR home. I didn't need to carry any additional shoes and really didn't notice that I was wearing bike shoes. They are really excellent for Taiwan's unpredictable environment.

The longer and more cycling you do, the more you should spend on quality clothing that is dedicated for cycling.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The A-Team Called To Rescue Taiwan Bicycle Industry

According to TBEA Chairman Y.M. Yang, when your industry takes a 20% drop in export volume and if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

"As TEBA Chairman, I strongly encourage bicycle companies to improve themselves using the methods pioneered by the A-Team." --Y.M. Yang
Industry insiders should expect Taiwanese bicycle manufactures to begin retrofitting their bicycles with homemade flamethrowers, compressed air missiles and attempt daring escapes from board meetings using helium and simple trash bags. The fabrication time will be vastly reduced by introducing a funky base line and focusing on thick bejeweled fingers busily at work.

Taiwanese companies are already looking into replacing their foreign and domestic fabrication specialists and engineers with simply one multitalented "Big Angry Mudsucker", which will be arriving in Kaohsiung Port later this month to avoid the dangers of air travel.

Yang suspects that Taiwan will have no trouble obtaining the services of the A-Team as Taiwan's lack of UN membership would make it difficult to extradite the A-Team to the United States or other member nations where they could be tried for a crime they did not commit.

Earth Cycles: Happy Earth Day!!!

Environmental Facts About Cycling:

· On a bicycle you take up little space, burn no gasoline and produce no waste, and A bike can travel 1,600 kilometres (960 miles) on the equivalent energy of a gallon of gas.

· Between 70 and 100 bicycles can be built with the resources required to build one car.

· In a North American urban environment, people living up to 12 kilometers (7.2 miles) from their workplace can commute by bike in less than one hour (some, a lot less!) Also, a roadway can carry about three times as many cyclists as people in cars.

· Per mile, a 12-foot wide bike path costs about 5% as much as a 12-foot wide road to construct. A bike weighs just one one-hundredth what a typical car weighs--27 in comparison to 2700 pounds, and when moving takes up just 3.3% to 5% as much space as a moving car and five percent of the parking space. As a result, the construction and maintenance of bicycle paths and parking places is--commuter mile for commuter mile--vastly less expensive.

· In urban areas, according to the EPA about 40% of the hazardous air pollutants come from mobile sources (Environmental Protection Agency, 1999). Elsewhere, 80% has been cited.

· Less than one trip in 100 is by bicycle. If that ratio were raised to one and one half trips per 100, which is less than one bike trip every two weeks for the average person, the US would save more than 462 million gallons of gasoline per year.

· Bicycles use 2% as much energy as cars per passenger-kilometer, and cost less than 3% as much to purchase.

· “In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling, one-quarter are made on a school bus, and over half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.

·4.3 billion is the estimated annual cost of traffic jams to commuters in 29 major U.S. cities.

· 100 bicycles can be produced for the same energy and resources it takes to build one medium-sized automobile.

· Industrial world cities typically use at least one third of their land for roads and parking lots for vehicles.

518 Miles in one Day!!!

Life Ain't Easy For A Boy Named Drew!

Jure Robic

Last night I was just thinking about the possibility of a Taichung to Kenting ride and how great that would be. Then I was sent this old New York Times profile on Jure Robic, from 2006. I totally suck!

‘‘ 'During race, I am going crazy, definitely,’’ he says, smiling in bemused despair. ‘‘I cannot explain why is that, but it is true."’

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.

‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride faster.’’

His wife, a nurse, interjects: ‘‘The first time I went to a race, I was not prepared to see what happens to his mind. We nearly split up.’’

I find the mental aspect real interesting. Although I have never done anything near 518 miles, I have had periods where I test my physical endurance. Five centuries in 14 days is a good example of this. People ask me all the time how I can possibly ride for so long and I never have a solid answer. Most, but not all of my very difficult "projects" I do solo and sometimes I just enjoy it that way.

When I am on a long solo ride my mind drifts off into some wild places and my mind fills with an inner dialogue between myself and whomever I wish to talk to. I have had some brilliant papers written and lost on a bike ride. At the same time I am constantly "checking my instruments". I am monitoring my speed, gearing, energy levels, equipment, comfort, hydration and environment.

Beyond that there is a mental threshold for pain, punishment and fatigue. I have been on some rides where I have mentally pushed myself through cramps and aches to make it back home. The mind can manage discomfort and push it to the background, almost like when the mind wanders off during a boring lecture or staff meeting, the pain stands in the distance and the mind fails to acknowledge it like an accidental encounter after a bad, drunken one night stand.

By my third century in January I had developed a pain in my leg from over use. The pain would disappear after a couple days, but then come back in the middle of my next ride when I was already committed to a day on the bike. At that point my body would continue to operate normally, but my mind would manage the aching and place it elsewhere. I was never totally comfortable, but I could still finish another imperial century.

The best training I had in mind/body management did not come from the saddle of a bike at all, but from the wrestling mat.

Long before I started seriously (and not so seriously) cycling, I was a pretty good wrestler. I started when I was 5 years old and continued training up into college. I won a few medals and made the newspaper a few times as well. Wrestling is one of the most demanding sports a person can train for. A wrestler must keep strength and endurance up while keeping the weight down. I would typically shed 7-lbs for the season (and sometimes in a night). A wrestling match is 6 minutes of full exertion in which one participant tries to force the other to hold his back to the mat... and the other wrestler absolutely does not want to stay there. The training is demanding and forces the wrestler to draw strength from where there is none. Furthermore, with the rigid weight categories it takes a tremendous amount of discipline to resist the urge to eat. I would ask for oranges on my birthday and limit my portions on Thanksgiving and Christmas to "polite" servings. I would sit next to people stuffing themselves with pizza and fries and instead spit into a cup while wearing 10 layers of plastic and wool. A few times I'd falter and beg to chew on fries just to spit them out. I wanted the taste. It sounds kind of sick, but I can not emphasize how greatly it helped me in life, both in the arena of athletics and in living life. Although my coach never told us to drop weight or anything like that, he would call our discipline "mental toughness" and I had always assumed most people had that. Only later in life have I realized how few actually have the ability to mentally "fight" through both physical and emotional obstacles. When I was living in Seattle this training to "fight through" is the only only thing that got me past the worst working environment EVER! I imagined every day as a physical test of endurance and on my way to work I mentally prepared like I would for a competition. I remember walking through the door every day and imagining I was stepping on the mat or walking into the gym. (I think in retrospect it also helped that I had been mercilessly teased as a child and had to learn how to handle bullying. My mom said not to fight, so I didn't... until the day she turned me loose and I gave QB a few bloody noses and later stacked up a couple suspensions from school.)

A clipping my mom sent me from the 1992 KingCo Tournament.

So today I am at mid-week before a long, hard ride and I am making the same mental preparations. I am imagining how to manage the physical strain... and again I have been nursing an overuse injury from riding when I should have been resting. I am fighting hypothermia. I am getting ready for a battle against myself. On Saturday I am going to step out my front door and fight my way to Kaohsiung against wind, weather, weakness and pain, and I will reach back to my days as a wrestler and push myself to become better and do something I once would have thought was impossible.