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Cycling, Tough Choices and Anger: What kind of cyclist do I want to be when I grow up?

If there were a problem with cycling, it would be its diversity.  Everyone hates the road cyclists who laugh at the fat, slow plodders, who ride leisure bikes and hate anyone who wears cycling-specific clothing.  The mountain bikers hate the roadies, the commuters hate the racers and the randonneurs pretty much hate everybody.  Complaints are flung about concerning respect, passing on the right, passing three abreast…  If that weren’t bad enough, and it usually is, there are motorists out there who pretty much hate all of us.  Really, when you look at this little microcosm of society, the irony is awesome.  It can sometimes seem that everyone just wants to be angry.

It’s not quite as fever-pitched as a battle as it can be made out to be in the media but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows either.

I used to be exceptionally level-headed when it came to motorists.  I’d get a diesel pickup truck driver blow his exhaust out as he passed, I’d laugh.  Someone would buzz me, I’d wave.  Hey, I even had a kid chuck a full 2-liter of Coke out the window at me once.  I flipped that guy off, but I thought that was fair.  I’ve since grown a little more jaded.  I’ve chased a couple of cars down, or at least tried to, had one SUV driver head straight for me as if he were going to run me over, before veering off at the last second, narrowly missing me (and this wasn’t an accident, he blocked the lane first and I went around him)…  I’ve become an angry cyclist, to match the aggression I see too often.

A few weeks ago, heading home and in the last ten miles of a century, the driver in a car behind us honked its horn a couple of times just before it passed us.  Reflexively, up went my middle finger.

One of my friends yelled at me, “Hey man, that’s somebody’s grandma!  She was just letting us know she was back there.”

Dammit.  I apologized to everyone in our group when we got back.  I didn’t even know the honker was a lady, let alone an elder.  I still wish I could find that lady and profusely apologize for my profanity, but I can’t.  The damage is done.

However, that experience was not without its benefit.  See, when we “Friends of Bill” quit drinking, we learn to apply a set of principles to our entire lives.  To continually evaluate our impact on those around us.  To promptly admit it when we’re wrong and to make amends for those errors wherever possible…  Not just as it pertains to drinking, but to everything we do and everyone we encounter – and here’s why:  I am an escape drinker, when you boil it down, all drunks are in some way.  I drink to oblivion to escape the reality that I make crappy choices when I’m in that madness.  The more I have to escape from, the harder it is to stay away from the first drink that inevitably leads to me in a jail cell, or worse.  The idea behind a rigorously honest approach to self-evaluation is that, done correctly, the less I have to escape from, through being a productive member of society and an all-around decent guy, the easier it is to remember the misery of being a drunk.  The easier it is to stay away from the real wreckage.

Well, I applied that principle to the unfortunate gesture I made toward that older lady.

While I can’t make direct amends, I can make them indirectly.  I can change my behavior.  I don’t know how, or when, my cynicism crept in but it did and it needs to go.  I’ve ceased flipping the bird and am back to smiling and waving…  The simple truth is, if I’m going to be the happy me, there’s no room for the angry guy.  While this probably won’t change a whole lot of attitudes towards cyclists, I’m not necessarily making this change for them.  While everyone will benefit from a nicer me, ultimately I’m making the change for me.

We have a funny saying in recovery’s circles:  I can have all of my misery back any time I want, all I have to do is sidle up to a bar and take that first drink.  Oh, one more thing…  If you notice, twice I mentioned the “first drink”.  If you wonder why I pay so much attention to that first one, rather than the eighth or the one that gets me happily inebriated…  This is very simple to explain:  When you get run over by a freight train, which car kills you, the caboose or the locomotive?

Exactly.

Finally, to wrap this post up, I began my little change in attitude about two weeks ago and it’s gone quite well.  Every time I have a reason to be angry about a motorist or some other perceived slight, I remember that I’m not going to be that angry guy anymore…  Then I think about Skipper and the Penguins of Madagascar.  “Smile and wave, boys.  Smile and wave.”  I changed the tape that played in my head.  Simple as that, and it only takes about 20 years of practice to be good at it.

Tuesday Night Club Ride: Pre-DALMAC Fun Edition

The Tuesday before DALMAC is always tame by normal standards.  The racers stay home and we B cyclists have a field day.  We keep the pace fun and lively but we rarely top 23 mph…  I think last year we ended up with a 20-1/2 mph average…  Respectable for sure but to give you an idea how weak the field is, I dropped everyone last year.

I very well could have stayed home too, justified a day off.  I’m crushing every pseudo-goal I could have had at the beginning of the year.  My 31 in 31 for August is over, I’ve ridden some 52 days in a row, my legs are like maple tree trunks, I feel spectacular, my bike is perfectly tuned and good to go…  On the other hand, my friends, this is me we’re talking about here.

With the kids at grandma and grandpa’s house Mrs. Bgddy was free to fly with us.  I figured with it being a quiet night it would be a great time for my wife to hang with the big group till the finish.

We did an exceptionally mild 15 mph warm-up for 8-1/2 miles.  We talked about preparations for DALMAC and had a pretty jovial time with a plenty of laughs…  We rolled into the parking lot and there were only a few cars, almost all B riders.  Excellent.

We took a loop around the block to keep our legs loose, even if it was 91 sunny degrees.  We came around the corner…

Both lots were full, the racers showed.  All at once.

So much for easy.

Mike and I led the rollout at 6:03.  We started at 16 letting everyone catch up and worked up to 20.  That was the last time we saw 20, hell that was the last time we saw 23 unless we were stopping for traffic.

I was feeling good so I spent my share of time up front.  After ten miles, on my way back after a pull,  Mike looked at me and said, “I’m done”.  To that my wife added, “Thank God, because I didn’t know how much more of that I could have taken”.  With that, we were off the back.

We rolled at 20-21, a comfortable pace, and I looked back to see Mike off the back again.  He was really done, and waved at us to continue on without him.

See, that would destroy me going into a hard four-day ride.  Mentally,  I mean.  I have to have a strong showing before the ride or I’d let that tough ride haunt me for the next 400 miles.  Even my awesomeness can’t withstand a bad ride going into something that will test every bit of my fitness and mental “want to”.

We rolled on without him and cut another six miles off our normal ride.  We did well too.  We picked up two guys from the shop and we split the time up front over the next 9 miles.  With two miles to go, we started ramping it up.  Justin finished a steady 22 mph pull and Mike (shop Mike, not my buddy Mike) took over taking it to 24.  With more well over a mile left, it was my turn and I hammered everybody.  Beyond 25 and by the time we hit the sprint mark I was at 26, and done.   My wife, whom I spent all night protecting, rolled right by me…  I had nothing left so I let her go – but Mike overtook her at the last 50 meters…

Hey, it is what it is.  Sometimes I’m the sprinter.  Last night I was the rollout train.

We crossed the finish line with a 21.1 mph average for the 24 miles (and change).  Hard to believe that just last year my wife’s best effort topped only 17 mph.  She’s come a long way in a year.  We had a couple of laughs with the guys in the parking lot, packed up and headed for the diner.  Dinner tasted extra good last night.

 

The Best Bike Ride Ever.

My ride started out at about a quarter to five in the evening.  We’d been under cloud cover for better than a week, it feels like a month as much as I need to feel the sun on me, but not yesterday.  We’re emerging from a stretch of unseasonably cool weather and heading into another round of hot.  I love the heat and humidity when I’m making my own breeze.

For once, in fact only the second or third time this month, I was riding solo.  I’ve come to enjoy, relish even, cycling with my wife on off days, heck even on days at this point, or my friends.  As late as last year I was riding solo most of the time.  Mrs. Bgddy was tired though, after spending the night with our daughters and their “one friend each” at the local indoor water park for their birthdays, so she wanted to stay home after climbing a few thousand stairs over the last twenty-four hours.

The weather was perfect, mid-80’s.  The breeze was so mild that I couldn’t tell its direction, nor did I care.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  I clipped into my Venge and rolled out, my first time on the “good bike” since Friday because of the threat of rain or wet roads.  I love my rain bike, it’s a good, solid bike but there’s just something about the Venge that makes cycling that much more enjoyable…  Fast, efficient and comfortable.  It has it all.

Our small town is getting one of those ridiculous roundabouts and they repaved the main connection road that I needed to get from one side of town to the other so my normal 16 mile route has been closed for more than a month.  My wife and I have been putting in our miles elsewhere.  The round-about isn’t done yet but the repaving is so I headed east for two miles then turned around to do as much of my old route as possible while still getting my desired 16.  I’d started out with a plan of simply taking an hour to do the sixteen but quickly found myself in the enjoyable position of that goal being too easy.  I love it when that happens.  Too often over the last month I’ve found that I not only wanted a 16 mph recovery day, I needed it.  I suppose that’s a good thing, I’m making the most of my time in the saddle, but going into my four-day tour I want to feel like I’m having to hold myself back, that whatever my planned ride is, it’s too slow.

I was going to take some photos during the ride but I just didn’t want to bother taking my phone out of my back pocket…  I just didn’t want to mess with the perfection.  I don’t know how else to describe it, so I just rolled on, enjoying the perfect sunshine and warmth of the fading day.  Twelve miles in I came to my favorite corner.  It’s back in a tiny three road subdivision and heading south on the right road you’re met with a slight downhill that makes picking up speed easy and is followed by a sharp right hand turn at an intersection with no stop or yield sign – the only way you can go is right and you can see far enough that I have plenty of time to slow up if a car is coming the other way (though that has never happened)…  This means I can ramp up my speed leading into the corner, drop my left foot and lean the bike hard into the apex.  I take that right turn at better than 23 miles an hour in the drops, right knee flared out to force my center of gravity out, to help with the turn.  Do you remember the feeling when you were a kid, hitting a jump just right?  That right turn makes me feel like that.  The only difference is I have a driver’s license and it says that I’m 45, not 12.

After my corner I headed home, pedaling easy at 19 mph.  I turned west and found that I’d been battling the wind for a while, it was just barely out of the west.  I picked the speed up with that little bit of help and just cruised, a smile stretched across my face.  At the 16 mile mark, still a touch more than a mile from home, I sat up and rode easy, cooling down as much as the 85 degree sun-drenched stretch of road would allow.  I pulled into my driveway still smiling.  My first ever perfect calendar month.  31 days for 31 days.  I burned 62,046 calories last month according to Endomondo (their estimate is probably a bit high) which netted me a top 2% finish amongst my peers in a calorie burning challenge.  In another challenge, my 1,671 km (1,038.36 miles) netted a top 1.7% finish.  Yesterday’s ride was the perfect cap to a perfectly enjoyable month.  22 years ago, when I made the decision to quit fighting King Alcohol and sober up, this is what I’d hoped for.   I didn’t sober up to ride a bike or other such silliness.  I quit drinking with the hope that one day I’d be able to enjoy my life.  The truth is, my best-case scenario back then was aiming low.

For me there is no best bike ride ever.  They’re all good in their own way.  Sure beats a day drunk in a ditch – or worse, a night the County slammer.

1,000 Mile August!

I need a nap.  I had to take the tank again yesterday so I had to leave one of my water bottles at home to fit my tools – long story.  In any event, 51-1/4 miles in 2h:44m. Other than the roads being wet, it was a perfect morning for a bike ride.

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So, originally I was going to take this afternoon off, you know, to “taper”, but I decided against that to keep my legs spun up… And because a ride this afternoon will mean a perfect 31 for 31 day month, averaging more than 50 km a day (33 miles) – 1,037 miles total, without missing a minute of work or shirking my any of my responsibilities.

Besides, it really was a taper week anyway:
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You’ll see what I mean by that next Monday…  Chuckle.

Where’d Those Hills Come From?! Cycling Out of My Element Just 30 Miles from Home

Saturday morning, late August.

We started out at 7:30.  It had stopped raining at 4:30 am.  I know this because I was awake.  Unfortunately rain was still in the forecast but we had a three or four hour window so I chose to take my rain bike, a ’99 carbon Trek 5200.  I’ve got my Venge completely ready for my four-day 380 mile tour next week and I’m not about to ride it in conditions that would have me stripping the whole thing down to clean it up…

There is one thing I like about the Trek, even over the Venge at times.  It has a triple.  The Venge, even with its pro compact, just doesn’t have the climbing gears the Trek does.  On the other hand, the Venge, with all of my tools and two full water bottles, is lighter than the 5200 with nothing on it.  My buddy Mike calls our 5200’s (he has one as his rain bike too) “The Tanks”.  There’s a four pound difference between my Venge and 5200.

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20.5 Pounds

 

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16.6 Pounds of Awesome

Mike and Chuck, on the other hand, had their “A” bikes which meant I was going to work today… I tried to block the negative side of that thought out and concentrate on the positive aspect – I was going to get some work in today.  Avid cyclists know exactly what that last sentence is getting at.  If you don’t get it, keep coming back and pedal harder.  You will.

The asphalt was mostly dry and since the last time we took this route they’d repaved it.  It was some beautifully smooth sailing.  They even added a decent shoulder so we rarely had to deal directly with traffic.  Even so, our journey wasn’t without its entire asses (much more than just the stink-eye, they were the entire ass) who felt it necessary to lean on their horn for a quarter of a mile, then crowd us, giving us a whole foot as they passed.  Ah well, a day in the life.

On we rode, along the normal southeastern Michigan terrain, a little up hill here, a little downhill there… Not Ohio or Florida flat, but considering I’ve logged some good miles in Kentucky, North Carolina and northern Georgia, we’re pretty flat up here in Michigan.

Then we came to the GM Proving Grounds… Now there are some decent hills there. Nothing we can’t climb at 15 mph but they make you work, that’s for certain. However, we didn’t turn where we should have to start up the second hill… we kept on, heading south. Up a hill, down a hill, up again. We turned into Kensington Metropark. We stopped at the first place we could and I checked the radar. The rain was moving in on us but we had two hours or so before it hit us… Plenty of time – kind of.

Kensington has a Rollerblade / running path that I used to frequent until they slapped a ridiculous speed limit on it (10 mph, my best time for the 8 miles was 24m:30s, double the speed limit). Kensington is anything but flat. In fact there are two awesome climbs that had me in the baby ring. Not the granny gear but pretty close.

Remember I was on the tank, the rain bike? Yeah, I felt every extra pound on those climbs. I managed, I kept up, but it hurt and I had to work hard to do it.

We spent about a half-hour in the park before turning for home. I knew we’d have another decent, long climb when we went by the Proving Grounds again but I wasn’t prepared for the one we hit just before that… All of a sudden, there it was, a real monster.  Had to be a mile long and better than 10%.  Not quite granny gear worthy, but close. The next three miles were darn near all uphill and the tank was weighing on me.

Ten miles from home and the sky to the west started darkening. It was going to be close. Last year, riding with Chuck and Mike was tough. They were the hammers and I was along for the ride. This year I caught up a little bit. It’s more like three hammers now, so we each took long turns up front. The miles ticked off and the sky grew ugly.

Then we hit the home stretch and took it easy for the last mile. 58-1/2 miles, 18.4 mph with some major climbing. We packed up, hit the road and not three minutes later the sky opened up. Unbelievable.

970 miles on the month and we’re doing 50 this morning. Decent weather report, decent temp, and a bunch of friends. Another perfect weekend.

Almost Enough… Is there such a thing as too much Cycling?

As of 2014, my best month was 803 miles, August of 2013 and I was only over 800 miles in a month one time.  I may have broken that last year but I wasn’t tracking mileage so I can’t be certain.  This year I smashed the 800 mile mark in three of four in-season months:  879, 850 and I’m over 910 miles so far in August (sadly with rain in the forecast for today, I may not be able to break a thousand for the month now.  I’m not going to ride in the rain and risk a cold right before my big tour next week – I’ll have to see how things work out… We got our ride in! Finished 10 minutes before it rained! 970 miles, I’ll hit 1,020 tomorrow – PERFECT!).

My best cycling bud, Mike, moved just two miles from my house last year and I had a feeling that was going to bode well for my mileage this year.  I wasn’t mistaken.

Not only that, as if a gift from God, my wife and I started riding together on a regular basis.  We’re up to four or five days a week now.  There’s nothing better than getting fit and Sexy with your best friend, especially when that person also happens to be the woman you’re married to.  She’s really taken it to the next level as a cyclist and is the talk of the Tuesday night advanced group.

Finally, I decided that all of that stuff about taking days off was hype.  After all, if the pros can handle a three-week tour at speeds vastly greater than I’m willing to ride, why can’t I ride every day.  Not only have I not suffered “dead legs”, they feel better this year than they did the last two.  The trick has been embracing slower rides in lieu of days off – slower being about five or six miles per hour slower than my average when I’m giving it everything I’ve got.  I’m a 22 mph average guy, so we’re talking 16-17 mph for an average on the slow days.  The idea being that I knock off enough speed that “I’d be embarrassed to have my friends catch me riding that slow”.  These slower rides aren’t without purpose though, just to crank up mileage.  When you combine slower speeds and a normal cadence (80-90) on a bike ride, the end result is energizing the legs.

In any event, I read a post the other day that pointed to studies on how much is too much and I’m telling you right now, those who push for limiting how much cardiovascular activity one engages in are not going to like the results of that study.  In fact, the results showed “the more, the merrier”, at least to an extent:

“Risk continued to drop with ever-increasing activity levels: 37% lower at two to three times the minimum guidelines and 39% lower at three to five times. But at that point – the equivalent of 450 to 750 minutes of moderate weekly activity – the association plateaued. There was no additional mortality benefit for even more exercise, but neither were there any negative associations.

Folks, 750 minutes of moderate weekly activity is 12-1/2 hours, just shy of two hours a day.  Not only is that a lot, it’s fair to say that I am… (I’m trying to think of a politically flattering way to say this – in other words, say that I’m a bit of a cycling nut, but with positivity)…  Uh, I am…  enthusiastic about my penchant for cycling (yes! that’s it) and 750 minutes a week is actually quite close to my rarefied air, between 200 and 250 miles a week.  I’ll take 40% less likely to die and the plateau and my daily miles.  That’s like winning the lotto for a guy like me.

Now there’s no doubt that we have to be very careful with our passion for sport and one should always do their due diligence when it comes to their health and wellness.  When we’re talking about exceptional levels of exercise there are risks.  For cyclists, we have to watch bone density.  Going out for a run every now and again helps negate that.

That said, the studies examined in the linked post show that, at least until the next study comes out, it’s all good. Go for your ride, baby.  At least for now, you’re probably not going to get to “too much”, within reason of course.  Chuckle.

 

DALMAC

380 Miles in 4 DaysSeptember 4th, 2015
16 hours to go.

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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