Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game 7 - similarities between baseball and cycling

Game 7 of the 2014 World Series is tonight.  Baseball was my first love, so I wanted to share this one. 

Let's admit it, people look at baseball and see it as a slow sport - "My god, another pitching change?".  People also look at cycling and see it as boring - "It doesn't look like they are riding hard when they have their jerseys stuffed with water bottles". 

On the surface, both sports can make most sleepy (except that the grand tours start in the early morning).  What's great about baseball and bicycle racing are the nuances of the sport: is the pitcher "on" tonight?  is the pressure getting to him?  did that leadout train drop their sprinter off too early?  bringing in the left hander made sense for those first two batters but what about the next three?  with only two teammates over the last 50km has the team leader been able to hydrate and eat for the next climb?  and, so on.

Another exciting aspect of both sports is the arousal levels of the athletes/ players.  Sunday saw the Giants blow out the Royals, and Tuesday saw the reversal.  I doubt the baseball manager is yelling at his players to pump them up before their game.  The fans yell at the players, but the fans "get" the nuances of the sport (right?). 

I would love to see tonight's game come down to the 9th inning, so that we can watch the real pressure that these players are under.  If that happens, it would be like what cycling fans got to see with the 1989 Tour de France where it came down to the final meters of the final 21st stage time trial when Greg LeMond beat Lauren Fignon by just eight seconds, after 87 hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds of racing over three weeks.  Truly, one of our sports most exciting moments!

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Juniors Director

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I love my commute, and I save time too

Silicon Valley is booming again, and traffic is horrible.  Not only do I have a beautiful bike ride into work, it often takes me less time than if I was in my car.
This is my morning commute going across the San Francisco Bay, from Fremont into East Palo Alto.  I love this view!
This is the commuters view.  Yes, they have their music, phones, coffee and eyeliner, but they also have brake lights!

My commuting tip: drive into work with an extra days clothes (or the whole week) and use your car as your "locker room".  This way you eliminate having to carry clothes -and- you have a car at work if needed. 

Math: 30km commute by car @ average of 45 minutes (30 minutes if 6am or 8pm, 75 minutes if 8pm or 5pm), or 30km commute by bike @ average of 75 minutes = 75 minutes of exercise for just 30 minutes of my time!  Double bonus when I leave home at 8am or leave work at 5pm and ride faster than traffic!

Practical: I rode 16,000 kilometers in my training year (Oct 1- Sept 30) and a majority come from commuting.  These are not junk miles, they are base miles, a means to get to "the morning ride" (Palo Alto) and Tuesday and Thursday night training (Fremont) as well as getting to work or home at a predictable time.  It's also my therapy!  I want to hear about your commute.... Larry Nolan, NCCF Team Specialized Juniors Director

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Music and cycling

November 2014 issue of Cycle Sport came in the mail the other day.  I especially enjoyed the short piece on "Manuel Quinziato's Love of Music". 
Of special interest to me was this line: "It can lift you up when you are down and helps me to train".  I glammed onto that gem because there are so many articles written about riders and celebrities "favorites".  Favored books, movies, places to go and music.  My preference is to read what drives a rider more than a referral to their favorite.  This article does not bring out Manuel's reasons but it does hint to the emotional charge that riders get out of their favored tunes. 
I won't list my favorites, but I will admit that a 140 beat per minute song can get me fired up, a classical song can calm me down, and a good blues song actually makes me feel better about my day.  What does music do for you?  Do you have an emotional tie to what you are listening to?
Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Junior Director

Monday, October 13, 2014

Keeping it real...

Debbie and I will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary in November.  She is my love, my rock, and she helps me to keep a realistic perspective.  I just finished up a memorable 2014 racing season with four USA masters national championships and three masters world titles in the UK and then came home to her welcoming poster on the garage door.  What a sweetie!  On the other side of the door is a pile of laundry and a floor that needs my attention.  Keeping it real...

Living with Debbie helps to keep me grounded and helps me better direct the junior team.  Every junior teammate has either won a national championship and/ or raced internationally with USA Cycling.  Yet that fact entitles them to nothing.  No promise of a professional contract, no free lunch, and never a sense of entitlement!

I race my bike because I love to stay fit, commute to work and clear my head, keep it social and fun, plus the challenges of competition, and trying to stay fast as I age.  I am not competing with the juniors but we go through similar tests.  I need to look beyond peer racing and race with really fast people so that I can compete at nationals and worlds, not just follow.  I need to continually recreate who I am with my training, life balance and recovery.  I'm up for the challenge and I am so very thankful that Debbie allows me to reach for these goals, race my bike and help juniors as much as I am able.  Thanks babe.  Lar

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The journey is the reward

I worked at Apple for 14 years and the marketing folks started using "The journey is the reward" with much success.  I thought I would borrow the notion on the eve of my long flight from California to Manchester, England.  Tomorrow's trip is not the journey I want to write about.  I hope its uneventful. 

I attended my first UCI Masters Track World Championships in 1999, then again in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009.  I turned 55 in 2013, so my goal was to go to worlds and break a new world record.

Three weeks before the big event I was taken down in a track race and broke four ribs and my pelvis.  The road back to fitness, strength and speed has been a long one, but the journey has been the reward for many reasons. 

Truthfully, I wasn't going to break a world record last year.  I just wasn't fit enough and my head wasn't on right.  My father passed away and I lacked focus and purpose.  I also made the rookie mistake of thinking I could hold good fitness for a long racing season (wrong!) 

For my 2014 comeback, I looked for patterns in my past training and quickly realized that when I set  "big hairy audacious goals", then every training session and every race had a purpose.  I carefully laid out these stepping stones to help me get to Masters Track Worlds. 
My BHAG is to win a world championship with a new world record on Monday, 6 October in the 2,000meter pursuit. 
A special thank you goes out to friend, teammate, 1988 and 1996 USA Olympian Mike McCarthy for teaching me to dream big.  And, the reason I am dreaming so big is because of my competition.  The current world record holder (James Host) returns to Manchester after breaking his hip last year, so he will be highly motivated.  Plus, silver medalist (Stephane LeBeau) from last years 50-54 age group turns 55+ this year.  Because I haven't attended since 2009 James and Stephane will have the advantage of starting after me and knowing my time.  If I don't place top two I don't earn the chance to race for the gold medal.  Knowing this, it's only logical to try to break the old world record.  That way I'm assured the gold medal ride.
Finally, even if I race poorly at this years worlds, I can look back at the path that got me here with pride... a much longer recovery than I ever expected, helping new racers at the Early Birds in January, off to camps, Valley of the Sun, San Dimas, Sea Otter and nationals with the juniors, then the build up to worlds through elite and masters state track, masters track nationals, masters road nationals (with my 2nd criterium title and 50th national championship) to the last three weeks of motorpacing and tapering.  The Journey has been the reward!
Thanks for supporting the NCCF Team Specialized Juniors and Masters, Larry Nolan
"Innovate or die" the inside of my 2009 Specialized SL2 fork

Saturday, September 20, 2014

what were they thinking?

The other day I read how many views Nicki Minja's Anaconda has on YouTube.  I watched it.  I contributed one of the 180 million views.

While in YouTube I re-watched both the men's and women's 2012 London Olympic Points Race.  Sadly, that's 75K and 10K views respectively as compared to 180M.  Thankfully, we can learn a LOT more when we watch the Olympic points races! 

10,000 to 180,000,000!  Our sport is either incredibly small, or cyclist don't understand just how much they can learn from these videos. 

For me, the most exciting bits of a points race is that you are thinking the entire time.  Observing, judging, calculating, positioning, gambling, reacting, initiating, lighting it up, or recovering before the next explosive effort.  You're breathing through every pore in your body, yet asking the blood pumping through your body to drive your speed -and- help your brain process a bunch of information that comes at you so very quickly.  That's the beauty of this bike racing discipline.  At first is can seem confusing because riders are all over the track, but the event is absolutely beautiful if you are catching the nuances of the race.  There's riders in over their head, and opening gaps.  There's riders that are strong, but not picking up points.  And, there are even a few riders taking a full lap on their competitors to rack up an extra 20 points.  Most points wins!  In three weeks I get to compete in the points race at the UCI masters world championship.  I'll keep studying the videos, practicing my instinctiveness and hope for the best. 

So, what's the next video you'll watch? 

Women's 2012 Olympic Points Race -
Men's 2012 Olympic Points Race -

Larry Nolan, Team Specialized Juniors Director

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The people behind the scenes

It's been a little over 2 weeks now since my return to the states from my 5 week race block in Europe. Since I've been back, I've been able to reminisce on all the great experiences, all the great memories made, and all of the people that I am so grateful for who helped support me to get to where I am now. Sometimes though we tend to forget the people that do just as an important job as the people we regularly talk about. During my European racing experience, I came to a realization that there are so many unsung heroes behind the scenes that do whatever it takes to help provide opportunities such as this one. From the USA Cycling European Technical Coordinator, Andrew Hawkes, to the experienced Junior and U23 Directors to the multiple USA Cycling mechanics and soigneurs that are all based in Sittard. Without this big group of USA Cycling staff members, these opportunities to race in Europe just would not be the same. I'd like to extend a special thank you to the USA Cycling staff in Europe for helping make my first trip to race in Europe one that I will never forget.

A HUGE thank you to the NCCF board members for their generous support, thank you to Larry Nolan for your guidance and keeping it real, thank you to my parents, family, and friends for their continued support, to my coach Mike McKovich for helping to reach my potential, and to Billy Innes and all of USA Cycling for providing this opportunity to me and all the juniors that participated for a trip of a lifetime!

Keep on pedaling,
Nick Castellano