Well spring arrived last week and will be making it’s exit today to make way for summer. I’m back to it in full swing again… I went from 40 or 50 miles (cold, rain and crap) a week to almost 150 miles last week and my every-other-Tuesday club ride starts in earnest again this evening…
So I’m sleeping soundly, in dreamland, and I find myself in some nondescript mountainous region on a cycling vacation and I got dropped because of a seat post issue… A seat post issue that began the dream before!!!
I tried to catch up for a couple of miles but took a wrong turn… And that’s when I woke up, stinkin’ two hours early, covered in sweat and I can’t fall back to sleep.
Ah, my first cycling dream of the season… Woohoo!!! Cycling season’s here!!! By the way, I didn’t mention that I wore shorts and a summer jersey yesterday for my ride yesterday!
It’s all good baby!
After a log slog in the rain on the road bike you will be left with somewhat of a mess depending on where you live. In Michigan, we have dirt, lots and lots of dirt to contend with. With dirt everywhere, after a long ride in the rain, on top of the water washing most of the grease out of where you deposited it to keep the parts working properly, you end up with dirt in its place.
Now, allow me a caveat or two before I begin: First, I don’t have to ride in the rain very often. Normally I can just skip rainy days after May because we don’t get many – I might end up with a day off every two weeks, so when I did bump into a long, soaked ride I went a little overboard and treated it as my quarterly cleaning. Second, if you haven’t given your bike a good cleaning in a while, these steps are probably necessary and from what I understand if you ride in the rain a lot, then all you have to do is clean it well more often.
Now, I have some pretty nice equipment. My bikes were all purchased used, as was my wife’s and I don’t want to afford new rides, at least not yet, so keeping what we have in good working order is exceptionally important.
After the Dawn Farm Ride For Recovery, a 3+ hour slog, my wife and I immediately wiped the bikes down before packing them in the van, concentrating especially on the steel parts (bolts, cables, screw heads etc.) or the things that can rust and the paint job.
Once we got home I brought them inside and got to work. First, I cleaned off the paint, then the metal components. Next I took off the wheels and cleaned them up. I checked the bearings to make sure I didn’t get any grime in those bearings then cleaned the brakes, brake pads and the impossible to get at places when the wheels are on. I cleaned off the skewers and re-greased them. Next up was the seat post which I marked, pulled out, cleaned, re-greased and replaced. Then, because I have a quill stem on my bike, I pulled it, cleaned all of the pieces, re-greased and replaced the stem (there was quite a bit of water trapped in there). Finally I cleaned the chain, cassette and the derailleurs and re-lubed everything. Then I helped my wife do the same to her bike. Then we took a fabulous Sunday nap.
Yesterday I ran into something unanticipated… About a mile into a slow recovery ride I noticed that my bike wasn’t shifting properly – it was way off, both on the way up and down the cassette. I stopped several times over the next few miles and tried to fix the problem with the barrel adjuster but couldn’t get it quite right. Eight miles in I resorted to my multi-tool as I’d figured out the cable was too loose – and still couldn’t get it. After that I stopped by the shop on the way by and had Matt look at it… The culprit was the rear cable housing. The rain had washed out all of the lube and the cable was getting hung up on the bend to the derailleur. A nice dose of bike lube and resetting the tension and I was on my way. I never saw that one coming so keep it in mind should you ever have problems getting the derailleur tuned in correctly.
So, was all of this necessary? Probably not, with the exception of the stem – had I left that alone I could have had some serious ramifications. But, I like having nice stuff and I don’t want to have to replace it so taking care to make sure it stays in fantastic working order is a priority. As my wife pointed out when we were done, you can’t even tell we had them out in the rain…
You can call it overkill if you wish, but you can’t argue that our bikes aren’t better off for the effort.
I live a pretty interesting life. At 22 I began kicking alcoholism one day at a time, and I just repeated that process, with quite a bit of progress, 7,468 times. The funny thing about recovery is that if you do something that works often enough, eventually you get pretty good at it. Starting out was a pretty rocky road though. There aren’t too many people who quit drinking on a winning streak (I’ve never met one in more than 20 years and I know a lot of recovering people) and I certainly wasn’t one of them. Starting out I was hauling a trainload of crap that I thought was all but insurmountable and I’d thought about suicide more than once as the permanent solution to what turned out to be a very temporary problem. These problems, or more properly expressed – issues that compounded and got worse due to a lack of activity to rectify on my part – in combination with trying to grow in a new way of life, had me battling panic attacks and the whole nine yards more than a year without a drink. As I grew and learned to deal with everything that I possibly could in a given day the panic attacks subsided and things got better.
I was physically active during that time, rollerblading at a local park three or four days a week (8-40 miles a day depending on how much time I had) but I can look back on those days in hindsight and know that the activity helped alleviate some of the symptoms of my problems but I really didn’t understand the importance of it until many, many years later.
Fast forward 19 years and two decades worth of paying attention to, and tuning how, I “work” – to yesterday, and to the point of this post… I’m out riding in the wettest conditions I’ve ever seen from the saddle of a bicycle. If ever there was a time to give up and call it a day, catching a ride back, yesterday was it. I didn’t want to though (keep in mind, there is a difference between wanting to and having to – several people dropped due to hypothermia symptoms yesterday and had that been the case with me I’d have dropped in a second, but I was quite comfortable as long as I kept moving). I just kept pushing until I was done. For intelligence’s sake and a desire to get back to my wife who had finished a shorter ride earlier, I did cut out a loop that added five miles to the ride but would have taken me out of my way to complete it.
I slept like a baby last night and I wish I could bottle the way I felt this morning on the drive to the office and sell it, I’d be retired on a tropical island inside of two months. I felt like I could take on the world and come out on top. That simple ride through adversity yesterday has me in a frame of mind where I not only can perform the tasks at hand, I want to because I know if I can push through that, a few issues at work are going to be child’s play.
Unfortunately I can’t bottle it, I can only recommend regular strenuous exercise as a means to combat depression because the only way to get the benefit is to kick it out, one mile at a time.
Mrs. Bgddy and I took off from the house just after six am. The forecast was for a chance of rain starting at 10 or 11 am, and only a chance at that – 30%…
My wife, being the carefree awesome woman that she is, had us late for the start by about ten minutes but honestly, for a sportive who cares? We started out riding together (the 100k and the 40k followed the same route for 25k). Mrs. Bgddy unnecessarily asked if I’d ride with her until the routes parted (I’d planned on it anyway). It started sprinkling within the first two miles… She impressed me though, sucking it up and holding a 17.5 mph pace for the first ten miles. We slowed down a bit after that and just enjoyed the ride together, chatting most of the way until we parted company. The sprinkles had morphed into an all-out rain somewhere around the ten mile mark.
When I turned I put the hammer down as much as I could heading into the wind driven rain, I figure I was around 18-19 mph 3:10-3:15 minute miles. I came upon a group of three guys who’d passed us a few miles before the courses split so I figured I’d steal a draft for a bit and hide from the wind… Unfortunately, being my first long ride in the rain, I didn’t realize that I’d soak myself even worse trying to draft… Oh did that suck. I tried to stay just to the left of the guy in front of me to catch some draft but miss the spray off his back tire. Yeah that didn’t work and I was miserable behind them so I decided to pass them up and go it alone.
I entered the first rest area that I stopped at when we hit the turnaround, soaked and pretty dejected. I thought about sagging back but had a small bite to eat (J-B Energy Beans and a Clif Bar) and thought on quitting for a minute. When I got off the bike, that’s when I got cold… So I figured with the wind at my back, I’d be able to make decent time and maybe I’d warm back up. I was right on both counts, though I decided to cut five miles off by skipping a loop so I could get back sooner to my wife. My first mile was a 2:53, the second a 2:40 and the next was a 2:35 and I warmed right back up before the second. I put my head down and charged for it. Amazingly, my spirits, even though the rain had picked up, were excellent and high! I felt awesome so I just kept rolling. I stopped for a couple of potty breaks, just long enough to go, clean my glasses and head back out so I never really cooled down. I got back still feeling spectacular and strong, 57 miles in 3h:19m:28s, a 17.2 mph average, a bit slower than last year, but considering the conditions and that the last 25 miles were done at a 20mph+ average, I couldn’t be happier – and I got to sit down with my awesome wife and talk about our rides – her longest yet.
The weather was crap, but the ride, day and talking about it with my wife afterwards were incredible. I am one happy Bgddy.
The ride was even bigger and better this year too. The volunteer staff was awesome and on the ball. The rest stops were excellently stocked and they did a marvelous job considering the weather.
Finally, a few notes… First, the expensive cycling clothing that I bought performed fantastically in the adverse conditions. I couldn’t be happier. Specialized products are awesome. Secondly, I LOVE riding with my wife, what a treat. And third, riding in the rain, sucked, but is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be – and I kept a great attitude throughout and really enjoyed myself (considering, of course). I was really surprised with how good I felt afterward too. I expected to be a mess but I was strong, and once I made peace with the conditions I was able to maintain a lively and chipper mood all the way to the finish line. I’m in better shape than I’d given myself credit for.
Woohoo! 3,100 calories down the drain!
This was my view as I ate lunch down at my buddy, Jim’s house (aka the running club) on Saturday. If it gets any better than this you’ll have to pinch me so I can be sure I’m not dreaming.
Today proved to be way too nice, I couldn’t fight the urge to ride. My MTB buddy Tim showed up on his bike so after he ran around the lake (5k exact) we went out for a nice 11 mile tool about town, then I rode home (20.7 mph avg for the first 10!!!) for a grand total of 35 miles for the day. I did make sure to eat right after so I should be good for tomorrow’s 100k. Not smart, but what’s a guy to do? If you’re going to expect extraordinary things from your body, you actually have to make it do extraordinary things… Works for me.
Oh, and to give you an idea of just how nasty this spring has been…
I’ve never, in all of the years I’ve been coming out here, seen the any of the docks under water.
All I truly have to give is my experience, strength and hope…
Scientists have been saying for a while now (at least for a decade, the notion is just making the news cycle again) that happiness and the ability to enjoy life are contagious and I believe this to be true, down to my baby toes. This belief is not based on an emotional “feeling” or “hope” (though you’re more than welcome to add one or both if you wish), but on cold, hard, eyewitness fact. Not only have I caught it, I’ve passed it on and more importantly I’ve seen it pass through a room of mopers faster than a wildfire.
I follow the fitness blog of somewhat of a super-chick. She and I are a lot alike in many ways (and very different at the same time). She wrote a post yesterday entitled, Elite Athletes Don’t Give Up – Why Should You? The gist of the post is that many professional athletes come from an existence that is, to say the least, less than desirable and that they must work hard to rise to the top of their sport in order to be paid to play for a living and the one thing they have over the rest of us is that they simply won’t give up. They also have a positive mental attitude (PMA) which allows them to push through difficulties as well. These, I believe, are also contagious – I’ve had them passed on to me, passed them on and have seen them passed on to others as well.
Physical fitness or the desire to be fit are a little less contagious but they can be caught if the person so chooses (sadly, as I’ve seen on countless occasions, this one does require the host’s willingness to accept the bug). The tough part in this choice of lifestyle, at least as it has been my experience, is that it can take a long time before it sets in. In my case, I started running in my early 30’s because I’d packed on about 45 pounds. Now I’d been skinny all of my life but my metabolism or “furnace” started to fade – or for the lack of a better metaphor, produced less heat – when I hit 30 or 31. In addition, I quit cigarettes right about the same time and discovered that food actually does taste really good. Like most people who realize they are getting larger around the midsection but don’t want to do anything about it, I decided that I’d get fat but changed my mind the very next day (let’s just say my thinking evolved – it just did so quickly) and I picked up running. I quickly lost 24 pounds but still had a bit of a belly and every winter, when miles were cut because of snow and/or cold, I’d develop love handles and gain a few back. I liked running, never loved it, but stuck with it because the thought of getting fat scared the hell out of me and no matter what, running sucked a lot less than getting fat. This see-saw continued for almost ten years before I found the one thing that I could enjoy, even love, on a daily basis – the one thing that would change my life, get my furnace kicking on over-drive again: Cycling.
Here’s the progression:
31 years old, Couch potato, 195 pounds (up from 150 or so)
31-40 years old, Running, 520-850 miles per year; 170-171 pounds – little belly and love handles over winter. Changed diet little.
Cycling/Triathlon Training, 2,050 miles first year*, 5,400 second year (40-present); lean, mean, awesome machine – furnace fire is back to full blast. 155-160 pounds, no love handles, no belly. I’ve found true joy – I actually get giddy to go for a ride, daily. My first year I dropped some very bad dietary habits (chief among them, soda) so I could lean up and be faster. Attained peak body satisfaction last year, continues to present (if not even more so).
In other words, I’ve stuck with this for more than ten years before I was finally satisfied with where I was. Ten years of not quitting before the miracle could happen. Ten years of minor injuries, setbacks and normal post-run soreness. Ten years of occasionally suiting up when everything else in me said stay in bed. Ten years of yo-yo body fat before I made it and the furnace kicked into high gear. We have a semi-famous saying in recovery: “Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
Well folks, this applies to fitness as well. This process could have been a lot faster had I worked harder, but this is no reason for despair (as some may suggest), for I have one bit of knowledge, one tiny notion that changes that attitude: It took what it took because I needed to go through what I did to get to where I wanted to be. I needed the yo-yo, I needed the trouble dropping weight. I had to be prepared to accept the freedom and happiness that comes with crossing a goal line of sorts, because anyone who has been where I am knows that when you cross the goal line it is definitely not the time for an end zone dance. The beautiful thing about crossing that goal line is that doing so opens up a new, much longer field. Recovery is based on the exact same principle, and specifically why I was able to stick with running for so long… I didn’t have to be perfect, I didn’t have to drop all of the weight at once, I didn’t have to see all of the results I wanted right now because just dropping the 24 pounds, running and finding my place in the running community was better than where I was when I made the decision to get fat in the first place. In other words, there were benefits to be recognized even if I wasn’t exactly where I’d hoped to be. I just had to stick it out, I had to go through the entire process, so when my foot touched that pedal for the first time, when I plunked my butt down on my first saddle as an athlete with a triathlon goal, it would set off a reaction in me that would change my life in such a positive way that I simply can’t quantify it in words without sounding crazy to someone who hasn’t been where I now stand.
This is my experience. This is my strength. And my hope is that passing this on might help someone else to see life, and fitness, differently.
P.S. Go back to that link to the AA Promises and read them. Just think of those two paragraphs as applying to fitness rather than to my alcoholism… Do you see?
* I started tracking my mileage a week or two prior to buying my first bike at the end of May – I’m guessing a little bit on the overall first year mileage. Tracked miles are around 1,850 – I added on another 200 miles for the first five months of that year, probably a little low, but it really shouldn’t matter that much.
60’s and 70’s as far as the eye can see, the grass is green, the sun is out and all is forgiven.
She took her sweet time showing up to the party but we’re mere days away from packing the tights away till October. Thank God, I’m almost giddy. Tomorrow’s temp is supposed to hit 70 – WITH SUNSHINE!
Of course, they’ve changed the forecast for Sunday to a slight chance of rain so that might mess with the Ride for Recovery, but I don’t melt so one way or another, I’m riding.
Also, because the warmth finally came around I’m still planning a ride today with Mrs. Bgddy. As well, I’m riding down to the running club tomorrow morning because it’s going to be warm… I know I should take the day off to “taper” before my first long ride of the year, but I’ve had enough days off because of cold, rain and snow. I just might have a little conversation with the legs to let them know who’s in charge here.
On another note, I should pass 50,000 hits today in the year and a half this blog has been in existence. I wanted to take a minute to thank all of the great folks I’ve virtually met over the last eighteen months. Thanks for all of the great advice, stories and conversations we’ve had. When I started this little blog I’d hoped for maybe 12,000 a year. I received more than double that my first year and it looks like I’ll double that again this year. Thank you for reading, thanks for commenting and most of all, thanks for the friendship.
I’d love to spend more time, but it’s time to ride baby! Woohoo!
UPDATE: 50,017!!! I was out on my bike when I passed the mark. After a nice ride with Mrs. Bgddy this morning, and the sun burning through the thin wispy clouds, I couldn’t settle for 8 miles – I threw in another 16 before the kids came home.
My definition of spring taper: “Shut up legs, it’s nice outside! I’ll rest you in a couple of weeks”.