The Day My Fitness Came Back…

When my vacation rolled around I was tired.  Tired enough that I was starting to struggle mightily to hold speeds that should have been easy.

After a 950 mile May, I busted 1,000 in June and for the first week and a half of July I was on pace for a whopping 1,500 miles for the month.  All while meeting my responsibilities to my wife, kids and work.

My wife drove down for vacation a week early and took my Trek with her, leaving me with my Venge.  I flew down and brought my shoes and a couple of spare kits with me (I packed a bag and sent it with her rather than pay to check a bag).  The idea was to ride every day.  We only rode once in the nine days I was down there and I was okay with it.  We were too busy having fun spending all day on the lake and all evening preparing dinner and playing cards.  I figure I probably swam two hours a day, much of it playing tag with my two daughters on a travel swim team and my niece and nephews who all swim like fishes.  Let’s just say it was a fairly active vacation, we just didn’t ride much.

After driving home Saturday night we rode on Sunday, a fairly easy ride, but fun.  Monday was short and slow but enjoyable, on the tandem.  Tuesday was a great ride with the club, a 40 mile night with the main 30 above 21 mph.  My legs were cramping hard those last five miles.  Wednesday was a decent effort on the tandem again and yesterday was an easy 16 mph day…  Then came the lone solo ride of the week this morning and my legs finally felt normal after a 2 mile warmup.  Not only did they feel normal, after a slow-ish 18 mph start, I was topping 22 and holding it with ease.  By the time I rolled over the halfway point I was just shy of a 20.5 mph average.  Perfect.

I dialed it back for the second half because I’ll be riding again with my wife again this evening and I’ve got two long rides scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday (150+ miles for the two days).  Best to keep a little powder dry because Sunday’s going to be tough.

This is why I rarely take days off.  It takes too long to spin the legs back up after a break.  Still, I have to work on some balance a little bit…  Of course, that is a good problem to have.

For the rest of the day I’ll be cutting grass and my friend Chuck and I are heading up to the hospital to visit Mike.

UPDATE:  On second thought, a better title would have been “The Day My Legs Came Back…  I didn’t lose any fitness, I just had to get my legs back onto the game.  

Beware the Charities You Donate Your Hard-earned Money to….

I received a call from a charity near and dear to my heart, breast cancer.  If ever there were a fan of boobs, only Bill Clinton can top me (mainly because I only have eyes for one set, but that doesn’t stop me from supporting boobs the world over).

In any event, when you get a phone call from a charity, chances are that only 50% of the money actually goes to the charity (half goes to the company that actually makes the call).  It gets ugly thereafter….

I asked the caller (and pay attention to the phrasing), “I would like to know the breakdown of how much actually goes to women with breast cancer”.  

“Fifteen percent goes to chatitable”…

I cut her off.  “Thank you for your call but I value my money more than spending 85 percent of it on administration”.  She hung up.

I’m a big boob supporter.  Think of me as a Victoria’s Secret Double D fan of breasts.  I love ’em almost as much as asses.  Nothing beats a great ass.  That said, I’m not giving my money to a charitable organization that values the organization more than the charity by an 8-1/2 to 1-1/2 margin.  It’s as simple as not wanting to waste money on a bloated organization.

In any event, in the US, of you’re contacted by a charity, they are obligated by law to give you the percentage that goes to actually helping people.  I won’t give to any charity worse than 15% administration to 85% charitable good.  I have to run my own company on tighter margins than that most years.

Brings to mind the Clinton Foundation…  As rich as the Clintons are, 85% goes to administration… Funny thing, that.  Who would want to elect someone who has a such a ridiculous penchant for mismanagement.  Just sayin’.

An Update on Time Trial Bike Guy:  He May Be Coming Around!  

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve written about time trial bike guy before.  See, there are two types of people who show up for a club ride with a time trial bike:  Those who know they don’t belong in a club ride and those who don’t know they don’t belong in a club ride.  Well, technically there’s a third:  Those who know they don’t belong in a group and don’t care.  

On that note, did you know you can turn a time trial bike into a road bike for less than $400?  $200 if you buy used stuff, and you can change it back to a time trial bike for triathlons any time you want, in less than an hour.  All you need is a handlebar and shifters.

I digress.  Time trial bike guy showed up on Tuesday and had a good ride.  He was only out of position once, but only long enough to figure out that he was out of position.  He pulled through, I think every time, and actually took some pretty decent turns up front.  

I do have hope for the guy because other than being unsafe because his bike handling skills are less than good and having a habit of not thinking about others riding around him, he’s actually a pretty good guy.  I want him to be a contributing member of the group, if he can get the safety thing right.

So, as much as he’s been maligned on this page (and in person, by me and others in the group), he showed some excellent progress last week.  I hope it lasts.

UPDATE:  This post deals only with time trial or triathlon bikes in a club/group setting.  These bikes, by their nature, are meant for solo performances (with the sole exception being team time trials, though if you’re reading this page the likelihood of you being good enough to compete in an actual team time trial is slim to none).  You can’t draft in a triathlon, after all.  Please don’t take this post as an overall disparaging commentary on the bikes themselves.  They have their place, no doubt about it.

An Update on My Friend…

My cycling brother from another mother had his triple bypass yesterday afternoon and it went perfectly.  According to his doctor, via his wife, it was a textbook surgery.  The doctor “couldn’t have hoped for a better case”.

Six weeks, starting right now, we’ll be starting to help him work back to cycling strength.

I spoke with him the other day, before he went under the knife and I was heartened to hear him say that he’s already got a goal (if a lofty one), to get back into shape before the horsey hundred next May so he can kick our friend “Chuck’s ass in the hills”.

Now let me be very clear about this whole “lofty goal” thing.  Chuck is the epitome of what we call, in cycling, a mountain goat.  This guy will go out of his way to find a hill to climb on his bike.  He likes climbing a lot more than I do (and that’s saying something)…  So it was with great enjoyment that I relayed Mike’s boast to Chuck last night, with a wry grin on my face.  His response was to chuckle and add, “Yeah, well he’s gonna need a leg transplant too”.

Leg transplant notwithstanding, it’s looking like my buddy will be back in working order shortly.  Thank you to all of the people who commented with prayers and well wishes when I wrote a post about his condition last week.  They worked.

When I got the good news last night I couldn’t help but think of one of the final scenes in Grumpy Old Men, where Walter Matthau is visiting Jack Lemmon’s character in the hospital.  The nurse looks at Max Goldman (Matthau) and asks how he knows John Gustafson (Lemmon), whether he’s friend or family.  Goldman responds with a cracking voice, “He’s my friend”.  That’d be how I feel about my buddy, Mike.  He’s my friend, but he’s my brother from another mother too.

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Tuesday Night Club Ride: Muscling Through it Edition

Last night’s club ride was a bear.  It was freakin’ hot, though for once the wind was reasonable in the single digits and out of the west.  That wasn’t the tough part.  My struggle for the evening was all about taking my vacation week off the bike.

While I didn’t feel like I’d lost any fitness, I did struggle a few times when I took the lead.  Before I left, taking a two mile pull at 23 mph wasn’t that big of a deal.  22 for a mile was tough last night.  

We rolled out promptly at 6 after a nice eight mile warmup, with the A group, and wound up the casualty of a gap after eleven miles.  Four of us went all at once though so we formed up quick and reeled in my friends Mike and Diane on their tandem in short order.  We picked up another solo rider a mile later and had us a nice little pace line.

24 miles in I started to cramp up.  Just five miles left and I was hurting.  I pushed all of the negativity and doubt from my melon.  I countered each passing negative thought with a simple truism:  You only get fast by going fast.  So that’s what I did.  I went fast.

The cramps in my quads were a slight nuisance but they subsided if I chose to spin rather than horse a harder gear, and if I pedaled in full circles it was bearable.  Every time I tried to hammer a decent gear though, a calf or quad would seize up a little bit.  Not enough I had to stop, but enough to be disconcerting.

We rolled up on the home stretch, three miles of downhill and pancake flat (after a short quarter-mile incline) and I was in the lead up the hill… meaning I got to rest after my turn up front…  Sometimes you’re the lead out.  Not last night.

I was three bikes back, a tandem and a horse of a guy in front of me, rounding the final corner.  We were between 24&25 and I’d spent enough time up front to justify sitting back, letting everyone else sprint.  Besides, cramping legs, yeah?!

I switch from the hoods to the drops and scooted my butt back a few millimeters on the saddle and took three breaths… not focusing on in but on the out.  Most people think single-mindedly about breathing, getting air in.  They rarely think about the other part of respiration that has everything to do with muscular performance: Getting CO2 out.  Anyway, I waited for someone else to go, reaching my last point of launch with no one coming.  I sprang out of my saddle, passing 32 mph, knowing I had more.  A quick glance over my shoulders and I knew I didn’t need it.  I had three bike lengths on the nearest guy.  I sat down and cruised across the line, protesting leg muscles be damned.

My wife, having gotten formed up with two of my friends, after missing the discombooberated rollout at the start, fared well, completing the full warmup and 30 mile course just five or six minutes behind us…

Getting the legs back after a long week off isn’t easy or comforting on the mind…  I’ve got a century coming up on Sunday.  Woohoo!!!

Back in the Saddle Again, Err, Again; Loosening the Legs Back Up After Vacation.

I honestly don’t know how I ever made it for five years with little to no physical activity other than golf and maybe a little skiing during the winter.

Well, it helped that I was fifteen years younger, in my early thirties.  Fast forward to my mid-forties and after a week off of the bike, I’m sore and grumpy… on vacation!  If that wasn’t bad enough, and it is, certain things just don’t function right when I don’t ride…  Let’s see, how to keep this PG-13…  You know what I can’t, and it’s freaking gross to write about so I won’t.  But you know where I was going to go with that.  If you don’t get it, please let it go.  Chuckle.

With the club ride tonight, I rode with my wife for an easy 55 minute 16 miles last evening.

Walking out of the front door holding my bike I had to chuckle.  It was hot.  Not quite Georgia hot, the sun is simply more intense down south, but it was hot nonetheless.  I was sweating just sitting outside waiting for my wife.  We rolled out at 5:15 with a goal of just getting our legs back after vacation (my wife was off the bike for two weeks, I was only down for one).  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cycling in the last five years, it’s that it takes a minute for the legs to come back after down time.  I’ve found that there is a definitive moment where all of a sudden what should have been an easy pace becomes easy again.

As an example, I’d had exactly seven days off of my bike when we rode Sunday morning.  I brought the rain bike so the ride was difficult enough just for that.  My legs, though they felt spectacular for the rest I got, weren’t exactly cooperating either.  Yesterday’s ride didn’t start out much better.  While there was a breeze out of the west, we were heading north and spinning at 17 mph just felt… off.  My wife was struggling even more than I was – she had the “WTF” look stretched across her beautiful face.

We soldiered on.  Lo and behold, long about the 14 mile mark, heading into the wind at 17 mph, my legs loosened up and I started feeling like me again, or more aptly stated, like a well rested me.  After that, 18 mph was easy.  Just like that, one minute I’m struggling to hold 17 mph and the next, 18 is easy.

Tonight’s ride should be rather interesting.  Low winds (5-6 mph), lots of sun, and hot.  Of course, I’ll take this over riding my mountain bike in the snow with temps in the 20’s (-7 C) any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  And thankfully, everything’s back to normal.

Those Excuses for Choosing to Live Unhealthy… They Don’t Work the Way Most People Think They Should.

I’m a recovering drunk.  It’s plain and simple.  If I put alcohol or drugs into my system there’s no telling when I’ll be able to stop, shy of passing out.  It is what it is.  There’s no changing it, no reversing the clock, no going back to a time when I could drink responsibly.  If I pick up a drink, within a matter of weeks I’ll be right back where I left off.  Period, end of narrative.

I’m sure there are millions of people out there who think that last paragraph is horseshit, that if I just practiced some magical self-control, I’d be able to drink like normal people.  This is perfectly okay with me.  My reality does not require anyone else’s blessing or understanding.  I’ve tried enough different ways to regulate my consumption of alcohol to know the only thing that really works is complete abstinence.  I am perfectly happy with this reality – better to be happy than dead in a ditch.  There are no acceptable excuses for my choosing to live as a practicing drunk, not even heredity (for which there is a mountain of scientific data).

In my case, as in almost every “excuse” case out there (including obesity), my excuse is all the more reason to abstain from that which will surely kill me.  Let’s use obesity as another example to make the case as obvious as possible.  Let’s say I overeat and under-exercise and I end up obese.  A typical excuse would be, “Well it runs in the family, it’s genetics”.  The excuse itself is all the more reason that I should be living a healthier life, not a reason for my being overweight.  Let’s say, just for fun, I have a history of heart disease that runs in my family.  This is not an excuse for needing heart surgery after a lifetime of eating unhealthy foods, it’s all the more reason I should be concentrating on foods that are better for my heart and a lot of exercise.

Let’s look at this with another disease, Alzheimer’s:  Even though there is no evidence of dementia and heredity (if anything there is scant evidence that it “skips” generations), I know good and well I get every one of my dad’s genes.  Comparing photos at the appropriate ages, we could have passed for brothers.  While never obese, he did have a stint at “overweight” as well.  Due to these realities, I adapted the way I live so that I give myself the best chance to avoid problems in the future – I eat “brain food” and exercise regularly (the latter is better against Alzheimer’s than the former, according to research but why not go with an “all of the above” approach, eh?).

There is a flip-side to this, however.  I also know that I don’t do righteous indignation well.  I wish this were otherwise.  Alas, it isn’t.  If I concentrate on how much everyone else is doing wrong I just end up miserable because I can’t do anything about what someone else chooses to do (no matter how much I don’t like it).  Not only that, when we concentrate on what we think others are doing wrong, we tend to miss the stupid $#!+ we screw up all on our own – and therein lies the rub.

Sadly, I’m like most anyone else, I’m nowhere near perfect.  I just do my best to be happy and call the rest good, keeping in mind that my happiness centers rigorous honesty.  Not rigorous honesty about other people, places or things…  I can’t control any of that.  I can only control the person I look at in the mirror every morning before I put shaving cream on his face….

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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