After riding ninety miles at speeds most people can’t hold for nine, I was spent. I drove home using the cruise control so my legs wouldn’t cramp up on me. I downed a liter of Gatorade and a half-liter if water in the hour drive home. I arrived just after my wife left with the kids for a family cookout/birthday celebration. Rather than get in the shower first and risk it waking me up, I opted for a nap first. On waking 35 minutes later, I called my wife who started home to pick me up. I showered and dressed and we headed back to the cookout (my wife offered to pick me up so we could ride together rather than separately).
The cookout was just like any American cookout. Brats, hotdogs, noodle salad, that bean and sour cream dip and tortilla chips, soda and deserts, brownies and cake and ice cream and more cake…
Now if you don’t know already, 90 miles is worth about 5,000 calories, give or take. On top of that, I’ve got my normal 2,500 daily calories that I need just to keep on the right side of the grass, pumping air. To put this in simple terms, I get to eat like Michael Phelps from time to time.
So I filled my plate with a couple of Kogel’s dogs, some of the bean dip and chips, some mostaccioli, and a couple of veggies. When I was 95% done, I felt full and much better. I dumped my paper plate in the garbage and was done. No desert.
If ever there was a day to go wild on some cake and ice cream, that was it but I didn’t.
While I do love food and I love me some desert, the reality is this: When I’m full, I’m done. Even though I like to eat food that I find tasty, food is now my fuel. Food makes it possible for me to pedal like an animal. Cycling makes me happy while the food is fuel for that which provides my enjoyment. Too little and I won’t have the energy I need to ride. Too much and I’ll be fat and slow, unable to fit my gut into my tuck forcing me to carry extra weight and to ride more upright, thus less efficiently (see below). The wrong food and I’ll burn out early.
My life used to be different. I used to exercise to be able to enjoy sin-foods. Over the last few years I’ve evolved though. While I’m not pure as the driven snow by any means, I am more mindful. Careful.
Back when I started my little fitness experiment (it just happened to last fourteen years) I wanted to lose weight, yes, but the main goal was to be able to eat what and when I wanted – common among the overweight, or more aptly stated, the overindulgent. Over time though, I came to understand and feel how adversely the wrong food affected what had become more important than being able to eat – my daily bike rides. It was a slow process, the desire to eat better. It was creeping, unexpected and insidious – but it took hold nonetheless. All of a sudden when I’d grab a Coke off the shelf at the gas station I would think, “this bottle means five extra miles and for what”? The soda went first. Then most of the deserts. Then candy (I will always have a soft spot for moderate candy consumption).
Thus I did a dramatic about-face. What had been my goal, “whatever and whenever”, became a distraction to something bigger – what used to make me “feel happy” now gets in the way of what truly brings me joy: Riding a bike.
I participated, along with close to 1,500 other cyclists in One Helluva Ride yesterday. The ride goes through Hell, Michigan (look it up, it’s really a town in Michigan) and thus, the name. This one is known to be a tough hundred miler… It shouldn’t be too surprising, as the name alludes to, it’s hot. What is surprising is that this is NOT a flat and with the exception of yearly trips down to the mountains, all I know is flat. In short, One Helluva a Ride is aptly named.
I headed down early, left the house early enough that I’d have an hour and fifteen to spare. The moon was out and it was 65 degrees, heading to just shy of 85 and with rain expected in the afternoon, humidity was pegged. I stopped by a Mickey D’s for a quick on-the-go breakfast…
I arrived plenty early and there were already bikes everywhere
The goal for today was to take it relatively easy. My buddy Mike was tired, Chuck was just coming back from a cold, so that meant I’d be the domestique for the day.
The first twenty miles went by exceptionally well, enough that I got a little cocky. Once we got out into the boondocks the rollers started. Then they turned into hills, then climbs. Even though they were tough, the ride was quite breathtaking – including about four miles through a perfect tunnel of trees:
By the time we hit the metric century mark I was hurting. At 65 miles we pulled into the same state park that they held my wife’s triathlon at for lunch.
Chuck was in trouble, Phil was hurting and I was in rough shape from spending too much time up front at 22-25 mph though I felt I could go after some food. Just a simple turkey sammich lunch but I needed the food and it was good. After eating and on the way back to the Gatorade line I heard a woman behind me talking to another about how she couldn’t do more than “x” miles on a ride because she couldn’t help but listen to her “inner voice” tell her she couldn’t do it. I love people who call this negative Nancy their “inner voice”. I turned around with a smile on my face and I ask,
“Would you like to know how to beat that”?
She responds, “What”?
I say, “That voice that tells you ‘I can’t'”.
She says, “yeah”.
I jumped in…”You need to learn two words and please excuse my language but they’re “Fuck” and “You”
I went on to explain myself succinctly and you could see the light bulb appear over her head… It never fails to amaze me how many people think that inner voice must be heeded, even respected. Early in sobriety they teach us that the “inner voice” needs to be kicked around rather than respected. Look at it this way, if someone else spoke to me the way my “inner voice” does, I’d kick their ass so why, for the love of God, would I respect that? The idea that “I can’t” get beyond a certain distance is almost entirely mental. The notion that I can only ride so fast, within reason, is mostly mental. I can go a lot harder than the committee would have me believe. I squash that negativity because I’m a lot stronger than I’m usually willing to give myself credit for.
So with that, Mike asked if I’d be up for taking a shortcut for Chuck. He was fading fast so Mike asked if I’d stick with them if they knocked ten miles off. I decided I would hang with my friends to help rather than ditch them for my ego’s sake just to be able to write here that I did the full hundred. I did my best to pull as long as I could, often taking two or three miles up front per turn and did a much better job of taking it a little easier on the hills so our little group was actually able to stick together (though Phil did ride me a little for wiping him out after a hard, slightly downhill, three mile pull where we were topping 25 mph).
We pulled into the home stretch with 90 miles and almost exactly 4-1/2 hours of ride time, a 20 mph average. I am supremely happy with this, considering the degraded nature of our group, all of those damned rollers and the fact that I spent so much time up front… There was enough climbing that I had to use the cruise control for the ride home to keep from cramping up (completely hydrated, well fed and plenty of electrolytes added – I simply worked hard).
Oh! I almost forgot… When you’re putting out max power, you hit a rest stop and you’re standing there wondering what to grab… Try a nectarine if they have them. I like peaches as it is, but nectarines are simply amazing as cycling food – I ate three and simply put, they made me feel a lot better.
So, a 16 mile ride today (later on, after noon but before the Tigers game) will cap off my biggest single week ever at 225 miles. I’d planned on being at 250 but I knocked 15 miles off of Friday’s ride to let my legs recover (and I’m infinitely glad I did) and I’m cutting today’s ride a little short because I’m beat and I can feel it. Still, I’ll be 17 miles over my previous best week and the level of effort for the week was absolutely best ever in my life. Seriously.
One final note on a new pet peeve: Guys wearing their long hair in a bun. Yes, you look like a girl, only ugly and that facial
hair scruff does help differentiate the fact that you are, in some form, a male but geez Louise, you look stupid. Cut it out. Nobody, no matter how much money you make – as if that had anything to do with anything – can pull that off.