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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Michigan District Championships Swim Meet

My girl’s second swim meet is today, it just so happens their the District Championships (!). She’ll be swimming today and tomorrow so I’ll write another post for tomorrow’s meet :

First race 50 Freestyle: 43.37 1st place in her heat (!!! Woohoo!)

100 Medley: 2:08.34 3rd in her heat (considering that this had her two toughest strokes (breast and butterfly), 2nd is pretty stinkin’ awesome!

Her final was the 50 backstroke and she absolutely killed it until the last ten yards… She was in second but misjudged the wall and coasted too far. 4th place in her heat.

Today’s meet was incredibly successful with some great strides.

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Donuts

I love donuts.  Listen to the words coming out of my mouth:  I LOVE DONUTS.

My daughters, every once in a while, like to ask me to pick up donuts, usually about the time we’re driving by a Tim Horton’s.  I am tempted to swing in, every single stinking time. 

The battle that goes on in my head, while I stay cool on the outside, is not fit for print.  Just know there are a lot of curse words flying about and I’m just shy of having to pull out a flame thrower to bring my melon committee to order.

I struggle with few foods, but when it comes to donuts I am simply powerless against them once I start on the first.

My favorite commercial of late is for the Tread Climber.  A woman lost 60-some pounds on hers and about gaining the weight initially, she says “you can’t blame that on baby weight, that was donuts”.  I laugh every time I see it.

Because I skip the donuts, I am also one of those guys that a lot of other guys want to be.  I don’t wear big clothes.  I own the slim-fit suits that are so popular today, and I make them look good.  I had to buy the slacks a size bigger in the waist and have them taken in so that I could get my cycling legs into them.

The point is, even though those damned tasty lumps of fried dough and sugar are so wonderful, looking awesome in a suit that maybe 10-20% of the US male population could even fit into, let alone make look good, is better.

Oh, and looked at another way, I’m not living in reverse… 10 minutes of pleasure followed by years if misery.

Instead, I’ve got a decade of happiness with a few seconds of misery for choosing to pass the donut shop up.

P.S. If you haven’t heard, the First Lady suggested in lieu of potato chips, on The Tonight Show, kale chips. I saw the clip this morning… I would sooner eat my own ass with a spoon than substitute real potato chips with baked kale. Btw, I wonder how Idaho feels about that. It’s going to be a long three years.

In the meantime, “Let them eat Kale”!

75% chance I’m audited this year now. Of course, that happens and I start commenting on what her clothing designers/tailors are trying so hard to hide.

My secret to remaining a happily married man…

Folks, when it’s all boiled down, one of the great magical wonders of having a fun, vibrant and enjoyably devoted marriage, it comes down to three words:

Spoonin’ and Forkin’.

Mrs. Bgddy approves this message. Use it wisely.

The Noob’s Guide to the Aerodynamic Cycling Position – Slam The Stem

As is usual with my Noob’s Guide Series, which is ridiculously extensive, I pick an aspect of cycling that I fought and/or messed up only to come around and see the light, mending my foolish, ignorant ways…  And then I write about it!  Woohoo!

Well, this is not one of those posts.  Do you have a road bike that’s set up so the saddle is only an inch or two below the handlebar, or worse, level with it?  Concerned about speed, or your lack thereof?  What would you pay to ride 1 to 1-1/2 mph faster with no more effort than you’re putting out right now?  What if I told you it wouldn’t cost you a penny in new components and that I’ll tell you how to do just that, for nothing?  Read on…

Most folks who know cycling (my LBS owner included) shoot for comfort first and aerodynamics second.  While a noble idea, it does make sense to a point – if you’re uncomfortable, you probably won’t ride.  However, if a cyclist has an eye on speed and can’t get there because his/her road bike is set up like a mountain bike, that will lead to a dust-covered bike also.

Well, a new friend commented on one of my more popular posts the other day about the difficulties involved with cycling in the wind and it got me to thinking…  Anyone who’s gone for a ride when the winds start topping 30 mph (48 km/h), the difference between riding into the wind upright on the bar top and the drops with your nose a few inches from the stem is huge – the wind still sucks, but it sucks a lot less when you’re low.

Now, let me be very clear before we get into this:  First, I may be an exception in an otherwise sound practice when it comes to choosing comfort over aerodynamics – I don’t know and certainly don’t care because at this point, I’m comfortable and in a great position on the bike.  Second, I didn’t have much of a gut at all when I started cycling.  A person can’t get around their gut to get low so typically, if you’re going to ride in an aerodynamic position, you have to lose most of that first.  Finally, don’t ever let anyone tell you there isn’t much of a difference aerodynamically between riding upright and flat.  Aerodynamics make a huge difference – anyone who claims otherwise is mistaken.  Some of this can be overcome by building leg strength and cardiovascular endurance, sure, but you can ride faster and/or with less effort if you can do so without turning your body into a giant sail.

I started cycling on a mountain bike – a Trek 3700.  One of the first things I did to that bike was buy a road stem (10 degree) and I flipped it when I installed it so unlike many mountain bikes, my bar is an inch or two lower than my saddle.  Even so, I’m still pretty upright on it.  When I started riding road bikes though, I had the shop set them up as close to the way the pros do as my flexibility would allow – and then I worked on increasing my flexibility so I could lower the stem even farther.  Now, I could have gone to any length and taken some yoga classes.  I could have stretched on a regular basis (more than simple toe touches to help my hamstring flexibility which I did regularly) – but I didn’t.  All I did was A) buy an aggressive road saddle [yes they make special saddles for an aggressive cycling posture] and B) simply rode in the drops more and as I grew more accustomed to the drop, I’d lower the stem by a couple of millimeters and get used to that.  When I brought my Trek home I had a 2-1/2″ drop. I ended up with a 4-1/2″ drop on my Trek and a 4-3/4″ drop on my Venge from the nose of the saddle to the bar top.  To get technical here, the reason for the greater drop on the Venge is that the drops are shallower than on the Trek…  Setting the bikes next to each other, while the drop from the saddle to the bar top is greater on the Venge, the drop bars line up almost perfectly on the two bikes – meaning I’m not actually riding any lower on the Venge when I’m in the drops.  To become accustomed to riding lower, almost two years ago now, I added a “drop” day in my training schedule.  Every Wednesday I spend as much of my daily ride as is practicable in the drops.  Doing this greatly improved my flexibility and ability to ride lower, thus more aerodynamically.  Also, over the winter (on the turbo trainer) I go even lower because I don’t have to worry about watching where I’m going…  This year I’ve even managed to get to a point where I can rest my forehead on the stem of my 5200 while I ride (though only for a few minutes at a time, that’s pretty low folks).  In short, I’ll be switching out another spacer on the Venge’s stem shortly (the Trek’s bottomed out, it won’t go lower).

There will be detractors out there who believe that I was wrong to go about this the way that I did – and I’m perfectly okay with this.  Call me crazy, call me wrong, call me out of touch, go ahead and say that I’m completely nuts.  Whether or not you agree, the systematic way I went about getting lower  worked.  If you choose to do what I did just be careful so you don’t end up hurting yourself (check with your doctor if you have questions or back problems, ride safely, yada, yada, yada).  Also, please reread this post if you must, I made these changes slowly over two years.  When I started this little experiment with the 5200 the shop had set me up, based on flexibility.  Thankfully my 5200, a ’99, was the last year Trek used a quill stem so I had a very flexible bike – and a lot of stem to work with.  Many of the newer threadless stem setups don’t have that much adjustability built-in (though the bike shop can set up a new bike with more stem flexibility, you’ll just have to move spacers from below the stem to above the stem to lower the bar as you progress) [*see below for an explanation of how to order your bike like this].

To get back on track, I’ve done several speed experiments with different positions and I feel pretty safe in saying that the additional work required to support a more upright cycling position translates to as much as 1.5 mph on the average.  So that means if your saddle and bar top are on roughly the same level and your average hard effort over 20 miles is 18 mph, you’ll ride 19.5 mph if you can work your bar  down 4 or 5 inches to a more aerodynamic position.  My experience is backed up by using another method to prove it as well:  The Bike Calculator App shows that 230 watts over 30 miles on a flat gradient with no wind translates to 18.3 mph when riding with your hands on the bar top.  That same 230 watts is good for 20.4 mph in the drops – a difference of more than 2 mph.  Now, if your bar top is on plane with your saddle, your drops will be about on the same level with the bar top on my bike.  My drops will be about 4″ lower than yours…  In other words, you riding in your drops would be akin to me on my bar top.  While other variables makes actual quantification difficult, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that lower and flatter is either faster or less work (generally speaking though, if you’re willing to go to these lengths to lower your bar height, it’s only going to be faster, you won’t take it any easier).

The whole point is, if you’re languishing at 17-18 mph and you can’t figure out how anyone rides beyond 20, take a look at the saddle/bar drop – if you’re in the “comfort” position, do what you can to fix that.  As far as I’m concerned, it was worth every bit of effort to get there.  This cost me exactly zero dollars, sped me up by about a mile per hour with no extra effort, I’m no worse for the wear…  And not to toot my own horn but I look like I belong on my race bike when I ride it.

*Ordering your bike so you can start out upright and get low is quite simple and won’t require much on your part. First, realize that the race bikes (Venge, Tarmac, Madone) start out a little lower.  The endurance bikes (Domane, Roubaix) a little more upright.  Also, you’ll have a range of sizes available for your height – if you want upright, order to the high side of that range. If you want a high saddle and low bars, order to the low-end of the range (i.e. My size range is 56-59 cm – my Venge is a 56).  Now, when the bike is shipped, the fork will come a little long – the shop will simply stack a few spacers below the stem. As you become more flexible, you simply loosen the stem, take a spacer from below the stem off, replace the stem, place the spacer on the tube above the stem and tighten everything back up properly.  Your bar is lower.

Another simple solution to lower the handle bars is to swap out that 30-45 degree stem for a 10 degree road stem – you can even invert it (install it upside down).  That’s usually good for a couple of inches, though it’ll cost you $30-$100 depending on the material and brand.

Finally, I thought an illustration might be in order to make sure everyone understands “saddle nose to bar top drop”.  I’ll use a photo of my Cannondale as the example.  It has a 6″ drop from the saddle nose to the bar top:

Saddle Nose to Bar Top Drop

Saddle Nose to Bar Top Drop

Now, jumping from a 4-3/4″ drop on the Venge to a 6″ drop on the Cannondale, all at once will not be easy (maybe not even advisable), but I’m going to give it my best shot.  If I can, I’ll be able to swap around the last two spacers on my Venge and really slam the stem.  Doing this won’t net anywhere near the benefit described above (going from zero to 4-3/4″), but it surely won’t hurt.

So, if you can (check with your doctor, priest and/or rabbi, local grocery store clerk and government agencies, yada, yada, yada), slam that stem baby, and put some pep in that step.

Eleven Miles

Eleven miles. On a bike, it’s nothing. A warmup for a Century. Not even a half an hour at speed, thirty five minutes if I’m taking it easy.

It was 40° and mostly sunny at noon today. I walked out the door to stretch my legs and knew there was no way I was putting in a full day at the office. By 2 o’clock I had everything pressing done and the Cannondale in the back of my truck. By 2:15 I was on the road heading home.

Even though I’m not one hundred percent following my short cold, there was no way I was missing out on the nicest day in four months for a bike ride.

I packed a bunch of registration forms into a small backpack (to drop off at the LBS), geared up and was out the door. For the first time since before I started cycling I didn’t bother with the activity tracker. No waiting for the GPS signal, no countdown. Just clipped in and went. I was grinning before I passed my neighbor’s driveway, less than a hundred yards from mine.

I’d been waiting, praying for this day since my dad passed away.

I could handle the sadness, the loss, the fact that my dad, the awesomest dad I knew, was in a diaper when he died – that strong man, the guy who taught me to be a man, had to have his ass wiped for him… I could have handled all of that if I could just get my ass in a saddle, on the road, for a ride. If I could just escape for a minute, get my grin back.

It’s amazing what will pass for a beautiful day to ride after the one of the gnarliest winters my State has seen since I moved here… In 1975.

It’s also amazing what a silly little eleven miles will do for a fella’s disposition. My prayer was answered, I got my escape, I got centered, reconnected, renewed, whatever you want to call it – I’m back.

One of the first thoughts I had when I learned he’d passed, after the relief and asking God to take care of my pops till I get there so we can hit one of Heaven’s golf courses was, “geez, this couldn’t have waited for spring”? I know how silly that is, how selfish it is, and I dismissed it as such immediately… But still, I can throw a bike ride at anything and be better for it after.

Whatever, it is what it is and I got my fix. I feel better, last vestiges of a cold and all.

Wow, that got a bit deeper than I’d intended when I set about writing this post. On a lighter note, the Cannondale upgrades surpassed my expectations. The saddle, a Specialized Aria (I think) is perfect and the new (old) wheels from the Venge smoothed the pavement right out. Getting used to the drops will be a challenge, it’s a straight up pro setup – 5″-6″ [ED. I was guessing when I wrote this post, I measured it:  6″ on the nose] of drop from the saddle nose to the bar top, almost a foot down to the drops… My back is just a few degrees from flat on the hoods. It is flat riding in the drops. That said, I will get there (more on that tomorrow), and I can tell you, I finally, really like that bike. Of course it helps that the rest of the setup is right – the saddle is back as far as it can go and the new 110 mm stem is exactly the right length so I fit on that little bike quite well. I am supremely glad that I hung onto it and kept at trying to make it right. It’s the perfect wet weather/road steed.

UPDATE: Man, I slept like a baby last night.

The Decision to Unplug the Cycling…

I’ve been somewhat of a stats junky ever since I started cycling.  I am not a competitive cyclist, I don’t race and don’t have a desire to.  I don’t sport a $2,000 power meter and don’t ever plan on wanting one.  I do, however, track almost every single mile I ride throughout the year on Endomondo through my iPhone – all 5,000+ miles.  With Endomondo I get a full breakdown of average speed, current speed, time and distance and with the help of the Cycle Computer App, I’m able to get a fair guess at average wattage.  When properly used and analyzed I believe it’s helped me immeasurably, get to a point where I’m able to cycle with some of our club’s faster cyclists (even if I haven’t been willing to put in the effort to catch the real racers in the club).

I have to, whether I like it or not, bring my phone with me on the vast majority of my rides so I’ve never really looked at hitting the GPS button on the phone as that big of a deal.  That attitude began evolving last year.  While I always brought my phone and tracked the miles, it spent most of the time silenced in my back pocket – and I still managed to log the fastest long distance miles I’ve ever ridden (Fastest was 58 miles at just shy of 23 mph on open roads, obeying all Michigan traffic laws).  While I spent most of those miles sheltered, ten to fifteen riders back in a pace-line, we were still averaging 26-28 mph when we had straight shots.  That’s fast baby – and miraculously I didn’t need to hear the miles chiming off every 2 minutes and 10 seconds to actually ride that fast (I’m being flippant of course).

Then, just yesterday, I read a post written by a blogger who is quickly becoming one of my favorites about the “Quality Controller“:

Some cycling companions are, to put it bluntly, numbers monkeys. When they invite you out on a ride you ask them ‘what’s the plan, where are we going’, and they will give you a forensic breakdown of the distance you will cover, the height you will gain, the kind of average speed you can expect to travel and even the gradient of some of the climbs.

But for some, for the Quality Controllers among us, all this is superfluous.

They will take you out for a ride, and you will be out on the bike for no more than an hour and a half, but you will cover 25 or 30 of the most varied, interesting and downright pleasurable miles you have ever had the good fortune to pedal. You will ride along dappled country lanes, up onto wide and breathless hilltops, down sweeping valleys, and through villages of exquisite English beauty.

I am currently a “numbers monkey” but Matt Assenmacher, the owner of our local bike shop(s) is the quintessential definition of the Quality Controller [I’m editing the quote for space]:

With each significant landmark you pass your friend will regale you with history and culture, describe the geographical features, or simply tell you a funny story. He will then whisk you along to a café which treats it’s cyclists like minor celebrities…

And as you pedal happily along, basking in the sheer joy of riding your bike with this man, you look across at him and notice…surely, it can’t be right…he has no onboard computer, and a map in his back pocket…

And finally, the most important part:

If you push him, your friend will give you stories of times he has spent engaged in some of the hardest riding, clocking up the most tremendous mileage possible. The Quality Controller has done it all and got it out of his system, and is now committed to quality.  He doesn’t look down his nose at those who log mileage and engage in fevered competition with each other to the top of the next climb – he has lived that life – but knows now that his role in life is to ride quality miles, and pass on his serene knowledge to those who choose to listen.

Now I admittedly still have a lot to learn and I absolutely don’t want to throw away the decent base that I’ve built up – I still want to be as fast as I am now, but I want to be a quality controller too, and there is one fantastically pressing reason for this:   My wife.

It turned out that my wife, while not quite the carbon-phile that I am, is really getting into cycling in a big way, she’s talking about triathlons and centuries this year.  Also, while the kids are in school on Friday’s my wife and I go for a 20 mile (give or take) ride stopping off at Wendy’s for lunch on the way home.  Even though I loved the speed of Tuesday night rides, Friday quickly became my favorite ride.  We don’t exactly tear it up, but I think that’s kind of the point – I do tear @$$ around the neighborhood almost every other day and it’s a breath of fresh air to ride easy and try my best to be my wife’s “Quality” guy.

So that, added to the rest of what I’ve been kicking around for quite some time…  I’m going to unplug the cycling, completely.  No more Endomondo, no more worrying about whether or not I’ll make the top ten in Michigan for the National Bike Challenge, no more challenges and no more watts.  While I haven’t done it all, I have taken Endomondo as far as I think I need to.  It’s time to start focusing more on the quality of the ride rather than how fast I can get back to my driveway.

UPDATE:  It appears as though I may have caused a bit of confusion with this post.  Two of my friends posted comments about headphones (or ear buds).  I never ride with either as I believe it’s far too dangerous.  I have a phone mount for my phone that clips on to my stem so I can hear the speaker when the miles chime off.  I discourage and am, in fact, quite against anyone using headphones or ear buds on a bike.  If you do, it’s your choice, but I think it’s stupid.

The Family that Cycles Together…

Clockwise from top left...  Bgddy, Mrs. Bgddy, Bella and Josie

Clockwise from top left… Bgddy, Mrs. Bgddy, Bella and Josie

…Stays together.

Oh, for the love of Mike…

Well, my youngest brought something home so for the first time this winter I’m down with a cold.  Thankfully it’s not too miserable, I am at the office, but it still sucks.  We got another 3″ of snow last night to make this the third highest snowfall in our neck of the woods in recorded history.  Thank God I’ve got a 4WD truck, that’s all I can say about that.  In any event, I updated my bike page with a stock photo of the new Hardrock and that’ll have to do until spring – the addition takes my S-1 bike total to 5, though the Trek 3700 will end up as my spare muck bike and a bike for friends who want to go for a ride.

Other than that, I’ve got some work to get done over the next few hours and then I’m done – heading home to crash for the night.

 

My Father Was Like Philip Seymour Hoffman

Yup, sadly this sounds about right. Terrible.

Getting Out of Myself…

This is a companion post to yesterday’s.

An interesting point, before I get into the meat and potatoes of this, occurred to me while reading another post this morning. The author has been having a tough go of things lately, lots of self-induced stress (really, is there any other kind?), etc..  We drunks deal with this from day one of recovery.  Our lives are in shambles, we’re usually very ill and are in deep financial trouble.  To make things worse, we stop taking the one medication that we know numbs the thinking, or pain (or in many cases, only used to numb the thinking).  Let’s just say the negative thinking that comes with this is difficult to bear.  We want things better now.  Unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that.

For a time we get to focus on fixing ourselves but we learn, after the urges to drink fade in intensity and become manageable on our own, that recovery from alcoholism is so much more than just “not drinking anymore”; it’s a total transformation of our lives.  Put simply, we often find, if we’re paying attention, that putting down the drink simply isn’t enough.

This is the point where the post I read this morning melds with my post from yesterday, and with my lunch plans…

The post I read this morning was written by a person who has struggled with an eating disorder and body image problem.  Not alcoholism, but in this case, the affliction doesn’t matter (I look for how things are alike, not different). The author had been in a funk for several months and is just managing to come out of it. Recovery from alcoholism has many forms of “funk” as well and there is one prescription to beating all varieties:  Working with others.  This is specifically what pulled recovery from that hopeless state of mind and body out of the psych ward back in the late 1930’s.

It is a known reality that it is near impossible to languish in one’s own morass while helping another enjoy their life more.  This is so for several reasons, but looking at the selfish first:  I’ve not been having an easy time lately with my dad’s passing and a few other tiny things that have me off.  Now don’t get the wrong impression here, I’m far from “down”, but where is it written that we must be fully immersed in full-blown depression before we take action to counter that which we surely know will come without action?…  Exactly.  I took a new friend out to lunch yesterday.  He relies on others heavily because he is blind and has a harder time making his way around.  I spent an hour and a half of my day making his.

We call this, in the group I run with, “getting out of myself”.  If I stay stuck in my little world, the space between my ears, I tend to think with the same melon that created my problem to begin with.  If, on the other hand, I’m helping someone else, the solutions to my problems tend to show up out of the blue.  I choose to look at this as “God working in mysterious ways” but there are certainly others.  The point is (whatever you choose to call it), worrying about a problem has never helped me solve anything while working with others has.  By the time I dropped him off, my outlook on life was much better.  My problems seemed smaller, easier to deal with.

As a side note, I like to look at my life, from the day I put the jug down to yesterday as a rollercoaster ride.  At first the highs were very high and the lows really sucked.  The goal over time has been to smooth that rollercoaster out so the highs aren’t all that high and the lows are but little rollers.  This is the how and why that triggers taking action:  I’m simply not used to being very low anymore.  When I’m a little down, working with someone else to make their life more enjoyable is a natural reaction (which is exactly why I failed to include this aspect of what I was doing in my post yesterday – it’s such a natural reaction anymore it’s almost subconscious).

Another way that “getting out of myself” helps me get over my own petty problems, and this is the important one, when I help a friend with his problems I have to think about solutions.  I have to help him work on what ails him and 90% of the time, what ails him ails me, just in a smaller way.  It’s not rocket science, if I’m not stuck in my little box – if I’m looking at how a friend can fix his issues, eventually I’ll stumble upon the answer to my problems.

This works on anything, no matter how small.  Lacking drive to hit your workouts?  Work with another.  Their motivation will rub off on you.  Doesn’t it always work that way?

This, I have no doubt, is the way the world is meant to work.  Brother helping sister, helping brother.