On August 10th I wrote about a new Specialized tire that I’d installed on my bike, the Espoir Sport with black belt flat protection… After 300 miles, I gave the tire a pretty good review, after 1,500 miles I could simply copy and paste the 300 mile review. The tire has been perfect, has barely begun showing signs of wear (you really have to look close), and hasn’t flatted once. For what they retail for you just can’t beat them. I’ll be picking up two more this winter for next year.
I purchased both from my LBS, full price, minus my club discount.
My goal for today was an enjoyable 104 mile ride, plus maybe a couple. I knew I was in for some climbing from our recon drive yesterday but I wasn’t too worried about it. I started promptly and 8:30. It was cold, but not all that bad. I picked up some Pearl Izumi toe covers recently and they did the job well. I had thought about using my full boots because it was so cold, but I was ecstatic that the P.I. toe covers did so well… Less to carry when it eventually did warm up.
I started out well and settled in quickly. I wanted to keep a 17.5 mph average till I got to the trailhead and I exceeded that. The climbs went exceptionally well on the way out. I’ve got my pace and cadence down pat and muscled up every hill easily – and there were hills on this ride. Climbing these hills reminded me somewhat, if North Carolina… Not as long, but very similar in terms of grade… And I didn’t struggle at all with them. I was quite excited about that.
I was nervous about only one thing – I only had one Gu Roctane, one Clif bar and 2 bags of Jelly Belly energy beans. Not a lot for a 100+ mile ride. On the other hand I had plenty of electrolyte tabs to add to my water and a few bucks cash so I figured I’d be ok.
The first 24 to the trail went extremely well. The people of Harrison, Michigan are incredibly biker friendly. I’ve only experienced better drivers in North Carolina. The closest anyone got was a half a lane. I started the trail leg out pretty fast. I realized, about 7 miles in that I had no reason to push it so I dialed it back a notch… That went well until mile 20 of 30 on the trail, or mile 44 overall. I started to feel famished and that is not a good sign. I’d eaten my Clif Bar at mile 34 and was down to One Gu and two bags of beans… for 64 miles.
Wind up to this point really wasn’t too much of a factor, as was forecasted, but it started to pick up – and push me. This was also not good.
I almost turned around right there, four miles to go to Midland. I should have.
I pulled into Midland a bit before noon, 54 miles in a bit less than 3-1/2 hours overall and I was tired. Not, oh this next 54 miles is going to hurt, tired, I was already hurting. I was in for a gut check. I stuck to the one Gu so I could save the beans for the rest stop in 20 miles. I sat on a park bench and sucked out every last drop from the foil bag and drank a bottle of electrolyte infused water.
Part two later – my WordPress app ate the other half so I’ll have to rewrite it…
I’ve showered, dressed and eaten. My jacket, shoes, gloves, shades and on board fuel are laid out with care, waiting to go.
It’s just starting to lighten up – I can see about 50 yards out. The temp is a balmy 39 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, not Celcius) and won’t be better than 65 by the time I get back. It’s going to be a cool day, lots of sun.
We scoped out my run on the way in yesterday – 80% of the 22 mile ride to the Pere Marquette rail trail is beautiful rolling hills with wide shoulders. It’s that last 20% that has me as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. No shoulders and pot holes everywhere, and a regularly exceeded 55 mph speed limit.
There will be climbing today, a lot of it. My main challenger in the National Bike Challenge followed his pattern and took yesterday off, I’ve got him by 37 points. This is a good and a bad thing – good because he won’t catch me unless he puts in huge miles today and tomorrow. Bad because I won’t have the same motivation to put in those last few miles before turning around as if he were right on my heels.
I’ll find something.
The plan is for a slow, easy ride to the trail, 17 mph average, followed by 60 hard miles on the trail, then another easy 22 back. We’ll see. I don’t normally stay slow with any regularity.
It’s 7:47, 43 minutes to go. The temp just dropped 2 degrees as it normally does at day break. Time to load up, pump the tires, and set out on another long ride solo adventure. Nobody but myself to rely on for 100+ miles – nobody but me, and really good equipment I should add…
10, 9, 8….
Just four points separate me and the guy in second place for National Bike Challenge… I’m going to lure him in today with a nice little 13 mile ride into downtown Swartz Creek, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he takes first place this evening… Then WHAM, drop a nice century on him tomorrow. Oh, what I’d pay to be a fly on the wall in his house on Sunday morning. And the best part is that there’s almost no time to recover. Now, this actually could get interesting. If he’s got a long ride planned for tomorrow as well…
Well, I’ve read from several competitive racing bloggers that it helps to know your competition, so I just checked mine out. Tim is a commuter – 18 miles a day, minimum, but he’s taken every Friday off his bike this month. In addition, his longest ride for the month is 43 miles. In fact, that was his longest ride since May – and his biggest Saturday/Sunday punch was this month at 73 miles. Of course, his long ride day is Saturday and then he commutes long to work on Sunday (usually 29 miles there and back)… I can tell you this, the guy is dedicated – he’s riding to work at 1 pm and riding home at 11 pm, in the dark. With my 13 mile ride today and 100 tomorrow, I should have a comfortable enough lead to take a rest on Sunday.
There’s more than 54 points between me and third place, so any way that this shakes out, it’s a first or a second place finish for the state for me.
Some of you may be wondering why this is a big deal to me… After all, we’re only talking about a challenge for a tracking app, yada, yada, yada… And you’d have a point. But when you consider the fact that I’ve never actually won anything… with the exception of team sports, this might make a little sense. To come in tops in my state, out of 600 other people who track their workouts for an entire month… Well, hopefully you can cut me some slack for being fired up.
This coming Saturday I’d planned a long but very simple/boring ride to finish September off big and to virtually guarantee a first place finish for Michigan in the National Bike Challenge. I was planning to drive from my mother-in-law’s house to Midland (45 minutes), ride 50 out then back and drive back to my mother-in-law’s.
Mrs. BDJ came up with a much better idea though. Instead I’ll be riding from Harrison to Clare where I’ll pick up the trail, ride to Midland and then head back. Now that’s an adventure!
Just the thought got me so fired up I had to temper myself on my ride this afternoon. I started out easy enough, but I got going in a hurry. In the end, after stopping at every light and stop sign on my 16 mile ride I still managed an average of 19 mph… No stops and I’d have been at 21 easy.
Tomorrow, I’ll ride easy with the misses before packing up and heading north… And then it’s on. I can’t wait. I’ll be sure to write about before Sunday morning.
I’m back on top for Michigan in the Endomondo/National Bike Challenge stats for Michigan after having to take last weekend off with a cold. I’d written the chance of staying on top off, but I was obviously mistaken. My lead, however, is slim. As of this morning it’s only seven points…
Originally, I was quite fired up because I’ll be riding in the Sloan Museum century that starts in Flint on the last day of the month, so I was certain that I’d have an insurmountable lead with 100 miles worth of points on the last day. Unfortunately the ride had to be pushed back to next Saturday so I was going to be under the gun to make up the miles. Well as luck would have it, my wife is taking the kids up north to go camping with her mother – which leaves me free to ride my butt off over the weekend. I’m going to be heading up north with the fam and bringing my bike with me so from there I’ll head down to Midland to do the Pere-Marquette rail trail again – I’m really excited now, I love that trail and to be able to ride it again so soon is a real treat.
This time I’ve invited my accountant and her husband along for an easier cruise. I won’t be doing the 200k again – depending on whether or not they go my overall distance will change. If they do, we’ll take an easy ride out to Clare, have a nice lunch and head back for something around a 100k. If that happens, I’ll have to go for a shorter 30 miler or so on Sunday. If, on the other hand, I’m riding solo again, I’ll be on the hook for 100 miles, in which case I can probably take Sunday off – if I really want to, and I doubt that I’ll really want to. 😉
Well, here I am, on my couch, dinner digesting, at 8:15…and it’s dark outside. What a bummer, summer is slipping away. I’m now about three weeks passed the one year mark for the purchase of my first road bike and I’m trying to objectively review my season, perhaps a bit early, but not by much. In the next couple of weeks the rain will be hitting us more frequently and I’ll grudgingly move my cycling indoors for another winter of spinning to stay in shape. Here are the results of that inventory:
First, my fitness level this year, when contrasted to last, has easily doubled. I’ve dropped about 14 pounds and I feel awesome almost every day, with the obvious exception of the day after a long ride (70+ miles). That alone has been worth all of the miles, the sweat, and pushing on when I would have rather laid down for a nice little nap. Add to that the fact that I feel like a kid when I’m on said bike and what more can a fella say?
I’m not done though. I’ve met some really great people who are a bunch of fun to ride with. I’ve got a fantastic bike that fits me like a glove (I was going to write “like silk boxers”, but let’s not get carried away) with equipment that is simply fantastic and reliable.
If that wasn’t enough, my wife has not only embraced my love of the new hobby, she’s begun to join me in it. That is worth all of the tea in China to me. I love riding with my wife.
On the actual riding side of equation, we were able to take our bikes on vacation and ride almost every day, in the mountains for crying out loud. I was able to put enough miles that I could have ridden from Michigan to Florida and back again – twice. My speed and stamina have both increased, though stamina quite a bit more than speed.
As far as my physique goes, my legs are lean, ripped trunks compared to last year. I finally have the legs I dreamed of when I started running more than ten years ago, they’re truly a thing of beauty. The love handles that I had struggled to lose every summer are a shadow of their former selves, as is my little 40-year-old man gut. My arms could use a little work, as they’ve been neglected for the better part of six months, but I’ll have a few months this winter to bring them back to their former glory. As far as health goes, I don’t even need to write about that. I’ve recovered from a full-blown, nasty cold in two days – the immune system is kickin’ and when that’s working well, it’s all good. My vitals are on the good side of awesome and I feel better than I did 15 years ago (I’d have gone with 20, but I’d almost drank myself to death – it should be obvious that I wasn’t feeling too good back then – I’ve gotta make the bar a fair height.
To wrap up the good side of the balance sheet, I’ve had an incredibly fun spring, summer and I’ll make the most of fall. It’s been a great year.
On the negative side of the ledger, I have to put my Tuesday night club ride, or better yet, my performance in it. I had high hopes of riding with the big dogs and I just haven’t been able to put together the right combination to bring it in. It isn’t for a lack of trying – well, technically it is for a lack of trying, I’ll leave the bullshit in the gutter where it belongs. I had to work harder to keep up with them. I should have been doing interval training and a friend of mine gave me a great one to do… The only thing between me and finishing with them was air and opportunity. When I boil it all down, I want what I’m doing to be enough, because I like how I train – to me, it’s all fun. And therein lies the rub. I didn’t want to give up the fun to get that fast. Properly stated, I hoped the fun stuff would be enough to get me up with the faster guys. It wasn’t.
Secondly, my knowledge of how bikes work needs to improve in a big way. I’m in that odd position where I’m just about intelligent enough…to be dangerous. Matt has to bail me out far too often. I’ll have to see if I can apprentice for him in the shop for a few hours a week.
Finally, and this isn’t much of a negative, I haven’t run a whole lot over the last seven months. In February and March I was faster than ever and had I kept up with it, I’d be in a much better position going into the winter… On the other hand, I had so much fun, it was absolutely worth it… And I’ve got the cold months to run my butt off.
I’ll have to think a little harder on that negative side, because that’s all I can think of for right now…
There is one last item that I really couldn’t put in either category – it fits in both. Cycling, specifically, has been both good and bad for my recovery. It’s been good because it clears my mind and relieves stress. The positive impact cannot be overstated. On the other hand, I’ve given up time running with several recovering friends on Saturdays for cycling because I enjoy cycling more than running. That’s a bad thing – my continued recovery depends on interacting with other recovering people – both newbies and long timers. I’ve taken steps to balance this out a bit better, but it isn’t quite the same. This will change over the winter, when the bike will be relegated to a trainer and I’ll be back to running weekly.
So, why do an inventory of the season? Folks, I do this for my life in general and again for work – and it takes just a little bit more than I could fit in a blog post to work through…
In this case, figure you’re a store owner for your fitness. If you don’t know what you’ve got on the shelves, how are you going to keep the shop open? I keep stock of where I’m at.
Search term of the day, “Will a 56 cm bike fit a man of 6’2″?
Welcome to my shortest answer, ever:
I’m 6’0” and have a perfectly awesome 58 cm bike, a 56 was too small for me. I believe my ideal size is between 58.5 and 59 cm, but those sizes aren’t available… Other important measurements: cockpit length: the distance from the nose of the saddle to the bar top (some use seat post to bar top). Crank arm length and about a dozen others. Get measured before you buy, then get the bike fitted to you. It’s not a cheap process, but it is worth it.
I can remember back when I sobered up all those years ago, how difficult it was to sleep. At first, sleeplessness was caused by DT’s (scroll down – it’s in the second batch of symptoms), and let me tell you something, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – it’s a horrendous awakening. Later, though, after I left treatment (a shout out to The People of the State of Michigan who funded my stint in treatment 20 years ago – Thanks, it worked and you got your money back, several times over) the reasons for my insomnia were more insidious – and getting a hold of those reasons to rectify them was no easy task. You see, unlike a normal illness in which you are prescribed a pill of some form, or offered corrective surgery, there is no removing a drunk’s will to get drunk. They’ve been trying since roughly ten years after they first invented alcohol and they still haven’t found a way around that.
In the circles I run, there’s a common phrase that we love to toss around: “You can sober up a horse thief, but when you’re done you’ve still got a horse thief”. In other words, once Dawn Farm sobered me up there was still a trainload of shit that I was trailing behind me that had to be cleaned up. I was 22 years old, coming up on 23, and I was faced with a stark reality. I had no marketable skills, only a partial education (dropped out of college for various reasons), no job, no money, no car and I was at the end of mom and dad’s rope. Not only did I believe that I didn’t have a future, I didn’t possess the skills to build one either. In other words, there was a lot to lose sleep over.
Now, before you old drunks chime in with the “Son, I spilled more than you drank” hoo-haa, don’t mess with me. If you hadn’t spilled so much, you’d have sobered up decades ago. They call that alcohol abuse where I come from.
Now, and here’s where it gets important; I knew I wasn’t capable of “thinking” my way out of my predicament. My best thinking landed me before a judge (and the aforementioned People of the State of Michigan) and in treatment for addiction. I looked to older sober men for advice on how to live right, on how to clean up the wreckage that I’d created in my drinking years – and to maintain a decent, productive life so that I didn’t ever have to go down that path again.
And so, Big Daddy Jim’s Self Evident Truth #4: Sleeping is difficult with a pile of crap on your chest.
Now that may read humorously, I smiled when I wrote it, but there’s a lot of truth in those eleven words when you really break it down.
Starting at the beginning, when my life was run amok by self-will and pleasure-seeking, I left a lot of very important things go by the wayside. When I flunked out of college, I had a good excuse so I shrugged it off – an excuse, by the way, that will not see the light of day on this blog, one because I’m over it, and two because to label it would mean to give it legitimacy as an excuse and it has none. Suffice it to say it was a touch worse than mommy setting me on the toilet sideways. More importantly, I used the alcohol to medicate the pain away instead of dealing with it. To put a metaphor to it, my life was a wreck because I tended to shrug off all of the important things that needed to be dealt with right away. Every time I did that, it was as if someone took a shovel and dumped a fresh load on my chest. To avoid smelling that through the night, I’d simply drink more so I could pass out peacefully. The more I drank, the more crap piled up, the more reason there was to drink.
If you think you’re dizzy after reading that last sentence, it’s a lot worse when it’s happening, trust me. So, here’s where the horse thief comes in, and why a pill won’t fix what ails a drunk: When I put down the jug, I still had all of that shit, from years of drinking, piled up on my chest – sitting there stinking to high heaven. To add to the problem, my capability of dealing with messes at that point did not equate to a shovel which I could use to remove the pile that I’d sculpted over the years – I had a teaspoon when I needed a back hoe. And that’s why I needed help to get my life sorted.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there though, and this is where the normal folks can start to relate…
Once I cleared that mountain from my chest I did sleep well. I slept well for years. Fortunately (or unfortunately in some cases), life isn’t stationary. It moves and changes, ebbs and flows. Once I had the pile removed and I could function like a young adult I began to grow. I started with a decent factory job and that grew into a job in the inspection department at another plant which grew into a marriage, which grew into a construction job, which grew into a management position, which grew into the management of a branch division, then kids and so on… With each of those changes came new responsibilities and new problems (or piles). I had a tendency, especially back then, but still even now, to not know how to shovel all of that stuff off of my chest before I turn in for the night. Over time a spoonful here and a spoonful there starts to amount to something – and unlike real shit, life shit doesn’t dry up and stop stinking. Life shit stinks until you deal with it. That said, I still need advice and perspective on how to deal with life’s new challenges because I don’t know every damned thing. As I grow into bigger and better things, new things must be dealt with and sometimes I just don’t have the answers… Well, when I don’t have the answers I tend to do that which I know – leave some of the mess on my chest. The more there is, the harder it is to sleep.
The short version is, “I have to clean up my shit”.