I don’t know what to say, I’m almost a little misty over this post. I started following Aaron (Chatter) from the beginning. This is his “woohoo! I made it” post. Give the brother a hand.
If you have not noticed I have been pretty absent lately. Since I got back from Ragnar Trails Atlanta (details here) I just have not felt like writing. Of course I could blame fatigue or writers block or being busy, but to be honest I have no clue why I have been so complacent on this blog and commenting on posts lately. Maybe its tied into post Ragnar depression or linked to exhaustion resulting from the intensity of my training routine.
Ragnar Saturday a few weeks ago hit me with extreme…
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Today is National Take Your Child to Work Day and they picked a good one. My daughters get to go with me to the Trademark attorney’s office followed by heading to my office to complete a project that’s due today. From there we’ll head out to lunch and then back to the office to start on another project that’s due tomorrow – a rain day.
I’m of two minds on NTYCTW day. On one hand, it’s a serious pain in my butt having to herd the kids around and to work my schedule around having them. On the other hand, once a year my daughters get to see that what their dad does isn’t simply a walk in the park. In the end the benefit outweighs the trouble as they get to see that I have to work really hard to get my few easy perks, like heading home a little early on a nice afternoon to go for a bike ride before taking the girls to swim practice. In fact, it’s 6 am and I’ve already been on the computer for two hours now. Five minutes catching up on comments for the blog that came in overnight, twenty five minutes catching up on new posts and ten minutes to write this one. The other hour and twenty has been spent working on, well, work.
Love to spend more time pontificating, but it’s time to get ready to go get ’em.
Work hard. Play harder.
I went out for the most therapeutic sixteen mile ride I’ve been on in at least six months today. Sunny, a fair breeze (10-15 mph NNW) and a temp in the mid-50’s.
Yesterday was a wash with winds topping 30 mph… I did the seven mile warmup and packed it in. Too dangerous for a club ride. Only a handful showed up. And I was down on myself for not manning up, even if it wasn’t safe.
Today I was all by myself. Nobody to chase, nobody to attack. Just me and the effort. I started out into the wind, same route I always ride, and let the hum-bugs get me down a bit before I found my spirit again after two or three hundred feet. I tucked down in the drops and hammered the pedals. Eight of the first nine miles, all into the wind and I was pushing for everything I had. Then I finally turned west with a helping crosswind and picked up the pace, still in the drops. One mile to turning south and I started to feel good. Not better, but good… I turned south to head home, breathing heavy and sweating. Straining to keep a round efficient stroke and my cadence up. Two miles from home and I’m headed west with that helping tailwind again and I’m crankin’. My inner-child let’s out an internal “Woohoo”! and I’m feeling it again. Last mile, south with the wind mainly at my back. This is the point where I’ll usually take it easy and cool down but that inner-child has me out of the saddle before I’m through the turn, cranking the pedals for all I’m worth to get the cadence up. No way I’m taking this mile easy. Now I’m joining my inner-child, almost giddy… “We’re taking this all the way to the driveway”, I tell him.
I didn’t physically have my arms raised in the air, forefingers pointing to Heaven, but I felt it.
“That’s right“, I think… “I love this shit”!
Every once in a while I get lost in everything. I’m so freaking busy, it’s getting to a point I don’t know what the next right thing to do is.
Then I have a ride like that, that brings me back, puts that smile on my face and spring in my step.
I forgot for a minute: I love the effort.
I was going to just leave my 700 mile review of my 2013 Venge Comp (same exact bike and components as the 2014 Elite – but mine has the cooler paint job) alone as my sole review of the bike but I’ve learned quite a bit about the bike over the last 2,300+ miles – and in case you hadn’t noticed, I really like writing about it because it’s a badass bike. First, my love of that bike has grown exponentially as I’ve become more used to it than my other bikes. See, the big deal with the Venge is it’s geometry. The sloping top tube / compact frame is absolutely spectacular as far as comfort and fit go. It never ceases to amaze me how genuinely good I feel on that bike. The other day on an early season 100 k training ride, the stoker on a tandem asked how I can possibly ride so low and be comfortable. I responded, “it’s the geometry of the bike, I’m not as comfortable on either of my other [standard] road bikes”… Then the captain agreed with my assessment, adding that he’d ridden a comparable bike and went farther adding that their comfort is “unmatched”. I ride more comfortably on my Venge than my 5200, with a traditional racing frame… The Venge’s handlebar is almost 3/4″ lower than the 5200’s. Another piece of equipment on the Venge that I’ve come to love is the Tarmac bend handlebar. It’s a cross between a traditional bend, an ergonomic bend and a shallow bend handlebar and is absolutely phenomenal. The bar top is shaped like the ergonomic bar through the first bend, to the brake/shifter hoods. Unlike the old-style road bar, that has a sweeping first curve, the Tarmac bend is about as close to a 90 degree bend as you can get with a tube – like the ergonomic bar. This offers a lot of bar top to let your hands roam. The Tarmac bend bar maintains a generous 140 mm drop (rather than the 120 mm typical with shallow drops) but lacks the “hump” standard with the ergonomic drop bars (never did like that). Where the Tarmac bend really shines is at the bar ends. While the typical ergonomic drop bar slopes down at the end, the Tarmac bend comes around to parallel with the ground.
Now, when I ride in the drops, I prefer my hands all the way out at the edge of the reach – even with the brake levers, just under the hoods. This keeps me close to the brakes, but more important (from a comfort standpoint), this position requires a good bend in the elbows which allows me to get really low but distributes the weight of my upper body evenly through my shoulders and arms and helps to absorb bumps. The ends though, offer a fantastic change for those times when wind doesn’t necessitate riding low – a midway point between slammed and on the hoods. One other excellent point to make about the handlebar is the perfect integration of the hoods to the setup. If you look at the photos above, notice the different position of the hoods between the Venge and 5200. While I don’t quite get the same support for my upper body on the Venge, I can ride lower without having to make up the difference by bending my elbows too far as I must to get that low on the 5200. Now, I’ve tried to lower the hoods on the Trek but with them that far forward on the bend, it makes reaching the hoods around the bar difficult. I realize I’ve blown a lot of words on the drop-bar, but I believe that special bend is worth it. That’s one special bar right there. As amended in my 700 mile review, I got rid of the standard wheels within the first month of buying the bike. The DT Swiss Axis 4.0 wheels that came on the bike are decent enough aluminum aero wheels but they’re heavy and compared to the Vuelta Corsa SLR rims that I picked up for the bike, the Axis are almost a full pound heavier and don’t roll nearly as smooth or as fast (I can absolutely feel the difference). I am much happier on that bike with the upgraded rims – ditching the old wheels was probably the soundest decision I’ve ever made concerning any of my bikes, and for a reasonable cost: Less than $400 shipped to my door (purchased from Nashbar). Finally, having ridden this bike on everything up to a full century, the Venge Comp offers an excellent blend of speed and comfort for a race bike. Fully dressed (with cages, and pedals), it tops the scales at just 17.3 pounds (16.5 without and the “as purchased” weight was 18.25) and is beautiful on climbs, blindingly fast on descents and still manages to be well-mannered, even on choppy pavement. I have well over 3,000 miles on it and, other than the original wheels, I have no complaints. It’s still tight, hasn’t developed one creek or tick (it’s still quiet as the day I brought it home). Now in all fairness, this is my “A” bike. It’s never seen anything worse than three minutes of sprinkles (no rain) and has only been on damp pavement once. In other words, I baby it. P.S. Invest in some carbon to carbon lube for the seat post – it’s worth it.
UPDATE: I have to amend this post… The crank did end up developing a “tick” and the drive side had to be replaced. What to watch for: the ticking, several ticks in rapid succession through the power zone on each side of the crank was born loud but was noticeable whenever the bike was under acceleration loads (seated or out of the saddle).
I’ve also swapped out the stem and handlebar to a lighter carbon wrapped FSA stem and the Specialized Aerofly handlebar. The weight loss was minimal, something like 80 grams, but the aerodynamic gain was pretty big. The jump in coolness factor is huge:
Also, I liked the Specialized Tarmac bend handlebar so much, I put that on the Trek (and had it painted). You can see the revised photos above that show the closeness of the setup between the two bikes.
UPDATE II (5/7/15): I just swapped out the FSA Gossamer crankset with a new S-Works Carbon crank and spider. I dropped about three-quarters of a pound (it’s down to 16.6 pounds without the pedals and cages – 17.4 with):
UPDATE III: November, 2016: I ended up throwing the Vuelta rims into the recycle bin. The wheels were light but they saved the weight in the rims, not the spokes and hub construction. I’d pop a spoke nipple when I pedaled too hard (I often exert enough force when I take off for a sprint to lift the front wheel off the ground) and the spokes on the rear wheel would lose tension every three or four months… also, I hit a pothole in a pack ride and ended up with four or five cracks in the rear rim at the spoke nipples. The rim was shot. I ended up having the original spokes and hubs laced into a couple of Velocity Fusion rims. They were fifteen hundredths of a pound heavier (each) but I don’t have problems with the spokes or tension anymore. I’ve got more than 11,000 miles on the bike and it still rides better than the day I bought it (the S-Works crank and Handlebar and the FSA Stem were worth the money). The bike, as it is in the photo below, is perfect. And FAST.
Something struck me this morning, made something in my life make sense.
I wrote the other day about a friend of mine getting hit by a car on the way out of town, in the opening miles of a nice three-hour bike ride. My initial reaction to the accident, to seeing a seasoned citizen knock down a friend, even if he didn’t appear to be seriously injured, was white-hot anger. I was pissed-off enough that when he walked over to check on the cyclist he’d struck I had to walk away.
Once the hub-bub died down and my brother-in-chain rings headed home, the remaining 63 miles or so calmed me down, or so I thought. In reality it tired me out and being tired only dulled the anger. Later on, in front of my in-laws and my kids, I went off on my wife over something utterly stupid. I didn’t see it then, don’t think I could have, but all of that anger that I’d stuffed down from the ride came spilling out in a moment of idiocy directed at my wife. As with most things in life, my wife played a part in this and my reaction, while way over the top, was not without merit.
That said, the only thing I can really change – the only thing I can do anything about, is me. If I’m truly working on being the best person I can be, I had to make amends for my part in the fiasco and I did just that on Sunday, even if I didn’t understand the full scope of why I was apologizing. After all, you can’t stay pissed at your wife on Easter Sunday. I think there’s a law or something. Then, when I could finally see the whole picture for what it was, I called my wife and let her know what was going on with me.
Sad fact is, I’m not used to being mad about much – I’m a fairly easy-going kind of guy. I’m just not used to being angry like that. That said, my amends are fully made and all will be well and forgiven (including my anger toward the guy who hit our compatriot).
Now, if you’re curious about why I made the initial apology to my wife almost two days ago now, before I could even fully understand why I blew up in the first place, the answer is very simple: Eating crow sucks, but it’s a lot better warm than cold – or worse, rotting.
Today was supposed to be a day off the bike. I’ve put in a fair amount of miles in the last couple of weeks, hundreds, and a lot of them hard. I needed a day off…
On the other hand, for the first time this year we’re experiencing temps warm enough to pitch the arm and leg warmers to the side. No toe covers, hats, full finger gloves… None of that crap.
Now, with temps at above 75, there was simply no chance I was staying off the bike. No chance I was missing out on the first day to sweat. What self-respecting cyclist could?!
Not this one.
I opted for short rather than easy. That 30 minute, ten mile ride did more to boost my attitude that I can put into words without sounding goofy. Oh how I missed sweating!
In other news FR news, the trademark process is almost done for my new company. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. To that end, to all of my cycling friends out there, please polish up your A road bike and snap a photo (you on it or not). It’ll come in handy as soon as this is done.
While I was out with the boys on Saturday for a 65 mile training ride, It finally struck me just how tough it is to ride 100 miles with a decent pace. Last year, with just five guys, we did a century in just under five hours (20.7 mph if I remember correctly). Our pace was pretty slow on saturday, under 18, but I was hurting those last few miles. Part of this is all of the cold weather crap. Arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves and the cold itself all restrict movement and actually mean you’re working harder – combine that with this only being April and I’m doing better than I usually am this early but I still felt like I was a long way from being ready for a century on Saturday.
Now all of that out of the way, as this was swirling around in the gray matter, I also realized how fortunate I am that I’ve been cycling for coming up on three years now and I’m just now understanding how hard 100 miles on a bike really is. I was so set on attaining certain goals that I never bothered to consider how hard any of this is to actually accomplish – I just kept pushing harder until I got the results I wanted.
Now that I’m at this point of understanding, I wouldn’t say that I’m a freak or special in any way (indeed, quite the contrary), but I finally do get the idea that I’ve managed to accomplish something special – either through determination or plain stubbornness, take your pick.
When I started this little adventure, I didn’t know my butt from a whole in the ground – I didn’t know anything about bikes (mountain, road or otherwise), training plans, nutrition… Nothing. I just knew I wanted to go as fast as I could so I did, one day, one mile at a time. There was a lot of trial and error but I was there before I knew it.
Without recapping everything, which would take a post so long even I couldn’t stand reading it (let alone write it), I think not knowing what I could or couldn’t do helped more than hurt. Sure I could have started out with much better habits, including rest and a few nutritional tips – maybe a few good hydration items as well, but in my ignorance I never bothered to wonder whether a 4-1/2 hour century was too hard or not, I just did it.
Now there’s no doubt, I needed a whole lot of help to be able to do that (we had a huge group), but there I was with my friends, crossing the finish line. As I’m preparing for this season, getting in my base miles, working myself up from 15 to 65 miles in a matter of four weeks (maybe five), I realized it’s better to concentrate on what’s next, rather than how hard it was to get here.
I will do this, as I always have, by interrupting the negative thoughts of how hard my path was with thoughts of what’s next because if I know anything, it’s this: If it was easy, anyone could do it.
A group of Tuesday night regulars gathered at a local high school for a brisk ride this morning. 40 degrees (F) but sunny as a day gets (there still isn’t a cloud in the sky 21 hours later). The temp was supposed to rise fairly quickly so I started out under-dressed in just a jersey, arm warmers and a light long-sleeved jersey. It was a cold start.
Not two miles into the ride, heading out of town on a busy but unavoidable road (that local cyclists frequent several days a week), an old man (85+, you know, one of those old-timers who no longer belongs behind the wheel of a car, who can barely stutter out an intelligible sentence let alone drive a car) clipped one of the last riders in our group on the left arm with his mirror. The cyclist went down instantly, hard. Fortunately he was up and walking right away. It could have turned out a lot worse. As I understand it, the guy wasn’t the last in line either, so it was amazing that the other(s) avoided him. I was just two riders from the front off the front so I saw nothing.
We all dismounted and I called the police (I could hear the sirens before I got off the phone with 911, maybe five minutes). One of the more level-headed guys went over and talked to the old man who’d hit our friend. Before the police showed up, as the old man was ambling over to check on the cyclist he’d hit, he looked at me and said (this is a quote) “But there was a car coming the other way”. I saw red and walked away without a word. Let me finish the sentence: There was a car coming the other way so I hit a guy riding his bike on the side of the road instead of waiting for a few seconds for opposing traffic to clear. The casing of his mirror was laying on the ground.
From that point the rest of us just stayed out of the way. We had two or three police cars, an ambulance and the freaking Fire Department show up with a pumper truck within ten minutes of the accident. One of the other guys and I checked out his bike to make sure it was at least rideable (we checked the wheel alignment, shifting mechanisms etc.) and the rest gathered on the sidewalk.
Our friend was checked out and released by the paramedics, the cops took his statement and talked to the old man (I could hear him say, “but there was a car coming the other way” again, and it looked to me like the cop lit into him pretty good).
That was the end of the ride for our buddy. He’d had enough so he got on his bike and rode the two miles back to his car. We went on.
We got in a pretty good 100k but fought the wind most of the day and we had a tough time… The group was shaky all day. And it was such a great day for a ride.
The well-known Velominati list of “The Rules” contains an interesting one: Don’t shave (the face, ladies – this is a guy only rule) the day of a race.
Now their reasoning I tongue-in-cheek and I don’t race but I’ve applied that rule to “long rides” and found that I prefer not shaving the morning of – technically, I’ve gone both ways on this and simply put, sweating is much less irritating if I haven’t shaved.
With that said, here are a few other special rules I stick to concerning long rides (we’re – my two best riding friends and I – going 75 miles in a few hours):
1. Never one drop more than two cups of coffee before the ride – and coffee consumption must be cut off a minimum of two hours before lift-off. Nothing worse than having to pull over to pee ten miles into a 75 mile ride.
2. Mom’s Best Blue-Pom Wheat-Fulls cereal is a must. Best pre-ride fuel I’ve ever consumed.
3. Shower before the ride. Nothing worse than drafting behind someone who stinks so bad that you can smell them at 25 mph.
Where do you come down on shaving before a big day on the bike?