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Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Post for My Buddy, Aaron

It’s hot.  Not Nova Scotia in August hot, it’s hot. It’s “I have to rehydrate after the five mile warm-up” hot.  It’s “let’s get in the shade till we start because the sun hurts” hot – and the humidity is pegged.  It’s “I have an advantage” hot.  Oh, and because it’s Tuesday, it’s windy.

I formed a game plan as I “warmed up”, which line I wanted to be in, where I’d switch lines to get the most protection, etc..  And threw it right out the window five seconds after we started – I was lead out and on the wrong side. “So be it”, I thought. “I’m working tonight”…

After our mile-and-a-half pull we turned north with the wind at our back. My legs were protesting quite a bit during the warm-up so I was nervous about the start. All worries faded away as the pace passed 27 miles an hour on the six mile stretch. I was pulling again before we got to the end. Then as I faded back after, a hole opened up way to early, only two riders back. I took it – you never get stronger at the back.

A mile north and then the suck started. A sharp left had us almost dead into a 20 mph wind and we were north of 21 mph.  All of a sudden the pulls went from a mile plus to a third of a mile and I didn’t miss a turn.  Surprisingly, ecstatically, I realized I was having to let up quite often so I didn’t half-wheel the guy next to me… “When did this happen”, I wondered to my melon committee.  To my surprise one of the junior members piped up, “you never get stronger at the back, jerk”.  It is rare when the committee gets it.

Over the course if the next seven miles I took way too many turns up front and when we got to the hills people started burning up and the group got chippy.  A few of my normal buds had fallen off, leaving only Mike and I in the group.  I hollered up to Mike that I was dropping off with the others… We started this practice last year – you’ve got the categorized racers (3&4), a world ranked duathlete/triathlete and a few other racers whose rank I don’t know – when they get to culling the herd, we used to hang on until we were individually cooked then finish the ride alone.  Several of us talked about watching out for one another, dropping off together so we could finish the ride faster and with a tight group of friends. We’re darn near down to a science at this point and it’s been much more enjoyable…  Roll out trains, perfect echelons and a sprint to the finish every week.

We formed up going up a pretty fair little hill and once everybody had a few seconds to recover, we got after it.  Mike and I are the strongest (and when did that happen) so we do the lion’s share of the pulling and I made sure, with the exception of the steepest hills which are “every man for himself”, to relax a little bit on the climbs so we could stay together and when we did split we regrouped before or during each descent.  Once we got into town we picked up a tandem, a father and his daughter, so Mike and I got a better chance to recover…  We used that to pick up the pace.  I can’t ever remember working so hard and having so much fun doing it.

We cycled through our rotation until we turned right to head down the home stretch, one of the first times I can remember being a little bummed that we only had seven miles to go.  We held our pace until we were down to four.  Mike had been pulling for about two miles but I wanted him to be rested for the sprint so I accelerated and when I drew even I said, “Rest up brother, ’cause we’re goin'”.  Once I’d given him time to latch on I slowly started picking up the pace.  22 mph, 23, 24, 25…  I was feeling awesome but I had to hold back so I had some left.  26, 27, 29 mph… 30.  We had two to go so I signaled to the tandem that I was heading back to recharge.  I spent a minute catching my breath – we were up to 31 mph.  “Only one to go, just hold on”, I thought…  “Not yet”…  The final corner was in sight and we were closing fast…  “Half mile to go…  Three…”  I blew out a sharp breath and let my lungs fill…  “Two”…  One more exhale – lungs fill…  “GO“…  I upshifted to my last gear – 52/11 on flat road and put the hammer down and shot by the tandem.  “Quarter mile to go…  not too much”…  And that was it.  I was later told that I went by at north of 34 mph – with a crosswind and on a flat stretch.

This is why I push myself so hard.  It doesn’t have much to do with beating anyone else, it has everything to do with beating the old me.  Of course, lest I need to point out the obvious, when I beat up on who I once was, I still win.

 

[ED.  One minor note on “you never get stronger at the back”…  Technically you do, but it takes a lot longer to see progress and I’ve been clinging on back there long enough so when I want to quit or hide, that’s what I use for motivation to muscle up a little bit.]

 

Why it shouldn’t matter that you’re a vegetarian… And why it does.

I read a couple of posts the other day that placed vegetarians in the victim role when it comes to their acceptance and it drove me up a wall.  Now, possibly I am at fault from time to time for lumping all vegetarians into the same camp but hey, if the s#!t fits, wear it.  What had me fired up was the manner in which it was stated that vegetarians are often verbally derided for their choice in diet and each author gave a semi-credible list of possible reasons.  The problem, in both cases, is that they left out the most glaring reason why vegetarians and vegans are so often given the cold shoulder:  They keep attacking those who eat meat by suggesting an end to its consumption or worse, by attempting to shape legislation that would make its consumption more costly or difficult for the 95% of the population that does eat meat.  In short, I could give a crap if you’re a vegetarian or vegan until you try to piss in my swimming pool.  Then we have a problem.  If you want to be left alone, shut the hell up and eat your beans and sprouts and leave everyone else alone – and if you’re not one of those, pass the word on to those you know who most certainly are of that ilk.

I decided to come up with my own list of the reasons for my lack of acceptance of the vegetarian’s insistence that their idea of a diet is better than a standard omnivore diet when it is most definitely not:

*While you insist that you can get by on a vegetarian, or worse a vegan diet you’re over there sucking down whey protein shakes like they’re going out of style so you can get enough protein because you’ve finally figured out that beans and legumes just ain’t gettin’ it.  Fortunately, as an omnivore I don’t need that processed crap.  Gimme a steak and I’m good.

*Iron:  It isn’t just for pumping.  Even on a fish and chicken diet you don’t get enough iron.  An older buddy of mine’s wife tried him on the precursor to the vegetarian diet, the fish and chicken diet…  Within two years his kidneys were shutting down from a lack of iron.  A few steaks later and he’s healthy as an ox again.  Uh, no thanks.  My diet ensures I don’t have to be a meticulous weenie to follow it.  While this example is purely observational, there are a wealth of studies that show vegetarian diets, without supplements, are lacking in even a minimum of the iron a body needs to function.

*Vegan and vegetarian diets are exceptionally unhealthy in the long-term unless you’re a nutritionist – and even then it’s 50/50 at best.

*No matter how dearly vegetarians cling to the notion that mankind wasn’t meant to eat meat, no matter how harshly one might attempt to defend that position, no matter how conclusive one might believe the “evidence” is, you are and forever will be wrong.  So when you cart out your list of misinformed talking points and people roll their eyes to the sky and say, “hmmm…” or “I never looked at it like that”, they’re not agreeing with you.  What that means is, “Oh dear Lord, not another one…maybe if I just don’t say anything they’ll shut up and go talk to someone else.”

*There is no credible scientific evidence that a vegan or vegetarian diet is better than any other diet.

*And finally, there is no credible scientific evidence that eating a balanced diet that includes meat – even red meatis bad…  On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence that vegan and vegetarian diets are bad, especially for children and those who don’t meticulously track minerals and vitamins commonly deficient in a vegetarian diet.

What is happening here is one segment of vegetarians are complaining about being attacked by “society” (there “society” goes again) but they’re only being attacked because another segment of their “society” keeps attacking “society” at large.  I know, it’s enough to make your head spin.  Simply put, if you think anyone else on this planet should stop eating meat and do anything to stop them doing so, you’re a self-centered jerk.  Cut it out and we’ll leave you alone too.  Deal?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Pass me the bacon.

 

What Is Chip-Seal: The Cyclist’s Bane

Last year I wrote a post complaining about chip-seal roads. The road commission had just done about 25% of the roads on my favorite routes and I was quite a bit less than pleased.  After two to four weeks of constant road traffic newly chip-sealed roads are fit for cycling traffic again… Before that, they’re dangerous so I had to come up with new daily routes for a month.

In response to that post, I had a couple of people ask what chip-seal is, well here you go…

In words, chip-seal is a new 1/2″-1″ topping of fresh asphalt which is left to cure for a few weeks. During that time, roads are awesome for cyclists – imagine a once bumpy road that is now just shy of glass smooth. Life is good – and fast.

After the setup period, the crew comes back and sprays a thin coat of tar over the road followed by a thin coat of gravel. As cars travel over the gravel (rock “chips”) it becomes embedded in the tar and creates a hard, mildly lumpy road surface. Chip-seal, at least for the first year, is a speed sucker for a cyclist.

Over the space of a year the surface becomes smoother and more reasonable for cycling, though the surface is really rough on tire longevity. The rough stretch, the 2-4 weeks it takes for traffic to trample down the chips, is where we cyclists run into trouble.  In a perfectly dry setting, flats are common.  Throw in a little rain and the smaller chips stick to tires and become embedded in the rubber and you almost can’t avoid a flat. Needless to say, we avoid the newly chip-sealed roads like the plague.

This year, the crew is at it again so while out on an easy day I stopped and took a few photos of a brand new “chipped” surface – thankfully this section only butts up to my normal 16 and 20 mile routes:

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Now, I think you can see why new chip-seal sucks. If you’re not sold yet, imagine the dust kicked up by a car on a newly chipped road.  It’s nasty.  On the other hand, after the chips are smoothed out a bit and after they’re swept (think rotating broom, one lane wide, on the front of a dump truck), they turn into this:

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I’d say 75% of the roads I ride on are chip-sealed surfaces and they normally wait until August to start spreading their joy but (thankfully) they went early this year. All of the surfaces are done (I hope) before the big centuries get rolling.

That’s chip-seal folks.

The Noob’s Guide to Buying the Proper Bicycle/Cycling Helmet…

Ah, the melon protector…  Nothing says “I get it” or “I know what I’m doing” more than a decent dome cover – and fortunately I’ve been all over the map so I can offer a few tips for picking a helmet that will work for you whilst not looking stupid in the process – as it could be argued, I did.

First, I have a big problem when it comes to my dome in the first place…  A size 7-1/4, I’ve got a small-ish head so finding the proper protector for it was not easy – they’re either too big or too small.  Because of this reality I stuck with purchasing one from my local bike shop rather than attempting to get something from an online store so I could try before I bought.  Of course, at first I had no idea what I was doing.  Mistakes were made.

My first helmet was a low-end Specialized mountain bike helmet, a large and it was too big.  Though it did fit, I always felt a little top heavy and goofy in it.  I still have that helmet and I do use it occasionally as a backup – and it does match my mountain bikes (matching the steed is important but not entirely necessary) but in the case of this helmet, I’d crashed the day before (rather than running my 9 year-old daughter over, who crashed immediately in front of me) and I almost hit my head…  I was that close to being in a diaper so I just wanted a helmet, now.  I picked one that was less than $80 and felt okay.  Unfortunately I didn’t look in the mirror, ’cause that thing was gnarly big:
MtnMelonCoverFor my next helmet I had evolved from mountain biking to road cycling and I’d read that having a decent aerodynamic helmet was on par with having a decent set of aero wheels…  now, I already had a good set of wheels so it made sense to ditch the oversized mountain bike helmet for something a little more, um sleek.  Add to that the fact that the old helmet clashed horribly with my new road bike and I was going to get into cycling with the big dogs on Tuesday night and I had to upgrade.  The Trek helmet I chose, a small, ended up being too small – but hey, on the bright side, it matched the bike (this is written tongue-in-cheek):
BontDomeCoverClose but not quite (this photo was taken after my first sub-five hour century so forgive the fact that it’s a little cockeyed – I was beat).  Here’s where the small is a problem:  The dome cover rides high on my forehead.  For a proper fit, you’re only supposed to be able to fit two fingers from the bridge of your nose to the brim of the protector…  That’s three, so while it was vastly preferable to my old helmet, it was too small indeed.  In this case I probably tried a little too hard to get the fashion end right while forsaking safety too much to get there…  Sadly I missed on the fashion end too because unsafe is, well stupid and in my case a very noob-ish mistake.

Finally, last year I got it right.  The idea behind the color scheme on my 5200 was “red, white and blue” so having a blue helmet didn’t make sense – I needed a little more white in there.  This time, instead of attempting to figure this out on my own I went to the owner of my local shop for a little guidance.  Unfortunately he’s quite a bit “old school” so the idea that I was making a big deal about my melon cover and its sizing seemed silly…  Thankfully, one of his mechanics, a serious mountain biker and cyclist, understood my plight and helped out:  We went tried out a few different options – well, almost everything he had in stock – and I finally settled on a medium Specialized Propero II.   This is Specialized’s mid-grade road helmet so it’s not the lightest Specialized has to offer but it is aerodynamically sound, has a ton of vents and is reasonably priced:
SpecProperoIIThis helmet has it all:  The proper fit, aerodynamically sound, venting and it matches all of my bikes.  All told, I wasted about $140 finding this helmet and I was on something of a fairly limited budget – I didn’t have the money to blow.  Unfortunately I also have an “I want what I want when I want it” complex that I’ve been trying to  work through for some time and cycling makes getting that worked out much more difficult.  Worse still, going into shopping for cycling kit with that attitude can have you settling for something that seems good at first but really doesn’t work – and that’s exactly what happened in my case with helmets.

The key here is taking one’s time.  That last time I went into the shop looking for a helmet I was prepared to A) Look elsewhere if necessary, B) walk out of the shop without a helmet and C) have one ordered if I found a size that suited me but they didn’t have the right color.  It ended up we had to order the white one and I waited a couple of weeks to get it and was infinitely more satisfied with the purchase.  In fact, when the little pads inside the helmet wore out (a fine excuse for getting a new one btw), I like that melon cover so much I paid five bucks for new pads rather than pick up a new helmet.

Now that I’ve laid my noobishness bare, let’s look at the really low hanging fruit – here’s what not to do when purchasing a helmet:

1.  That Finding Nemo helmet is not cute on an adult.  I don’t care if you love Dory.
2.  Only go with Hi-Viz if you must – a Hi-Viz vest is enough, and the flag is only useful if you’re over 70 or under 12.  Too much of a good thing is bad.
3.  Fashion is fickle – don’t forsake safety for fashion (thankfully there are enough choices out there that both functionality and fashion are possible at the same time).  Remember, unsafe on a bike is never fashionable.  That stuff is for high school.
4.  Do not, under any circumstances, settle.  If you’re not sure in the shop, chances are you’ll be looking for something else before you should have to.
5.  This goes for online shopping as well – Don’t settle.  Send it back if it doesn’t work for you.
6.  Pay attention to sizing.  There are sizing charts on the helmet boxes…  Get the right size for your melon.
7.  Cycling helmets are the equivalent of “accessorizing”.  So are gloves, shoes and shades.  You can opt out, at your own peril.  Goofy lookin’ is a waste of money.  Trust me.

The final biggest rule is, even though we want to refrain from “goofy lookin'”:  Don’t take yourself so seriously – nobody else does.

Just a Nice, Easy Ride…

We’re up north just for the day so we brought the bikes up and Mrs. Bgddy and I went out for a nice, easy 25 miler. The temp was a perfect 80 with abundant sunshine… Followed by a medium-rare New York Strip and, you guessed it, noodle salad. Simply doesn’t get any better – a perfect day.

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Tinkering Away Again, Sans Margatitaville: Slamming Stems and Servicing the Headset

The other night I learned a new trick, simply out of curiosity:  I took apart and cleaned the headsets on my Venge and my wife’s road bike.

My wife and I went for a ride Friday and talked about swapping out spacers to start lowering her handlebar.  She decided she was game so I figured I’d do the same for mine.  Then I figured, “hey, I rode in the rain the other day so I should just take the whole fork out, clean and re-lube everything and put it all back together – for both bikes as the wife’s has never been cleaned…

I started with mine first so I’d know what I was doing when I got to Mrs. Bgddy’s. The whole process took about 30 minutes for both bikes and with the thread-less stem setup, it was outrageously easy.  My bike took twenty minutes, Mrs. Bgddy’s only ten and they’re good to go for, at least, the rest of the season (or until we ride in the rain again).

So now my stem is just shy of completely slammed and my wife’s is well on its way to looking like a proper road bike.  Rather than go through the steps in print, here’s a decent video if you don’t know how to clean and relube (service) your headset:

I found out the hard way that servicing the headset is extremely important for someone who puts a lot of miles on a bike.  In my case, I’d never done it and when I developed a creak that sounded like it came from the drivetrain the mechanics at the shop started there and while that didn’t end up being the problem, mine was choked with dust from almost a year (minus the winter months) of high mileage.

My wife and I used our 25 mile ride yesterday to assess the changes – I lowered mine about 1/4″ (one spacer) and my wife’s 1/2″ (two after stating I’d only do one – the way the stack worked I had to do two, there simply wasn’t enough room on top of the stem for the second spacer).  I never told Mrs. Bgddy that I had to go with two so I was interested to see what she thought and for mine, I thought I was already as low as I could go comfortably.  In my case I was mistaken.  Surprisingly, I like the new setup much better – it’s more comfortable but the real test will be a 50 miler this morning with a few of the guys from Tuesday night.  The real reward though was my wife’s love of her new setup.  She was over the moon over the lower bars, in all three positions (top, hoods and drops).

At 15.5 mph average we didn’t exactly burn it up but she did say she felt like she didn’t have to work so hard to maintain her speed.  Ah, the magic of lowering the bars…  15 of the 25 miles were over her normal 16 mph average but we had a couple of slow stretches getting through trail traffic and stopping at the restroom/air/water station on the trail where we met a father and his son out on a 200 mile round camping trip on their touring bikes.

 

 

A Reason to Celebrate…Again

I celebrate a lot, if you haven’t noticed.  Often the celebrations are over small things but a few times a year I get into a good one.  Recently I celebrated my 44th birthday and the family celebration was awesome.  Fourteen years ago birthdays started taking on a new importance for me.  In 1991 doctors, after performing a blood test on me checking liver enzymes, predicted it was unlikely I’d make it beyond my 30th birthday, that I’d develop cirrhosis of the liver and make an ugly, quick exit.  After I quit drinking entirely and my liver’s enzyme levels returned to normal, about seven years in, I knew I wouldn’t have to suffer that fate (or so the doctors said).  Those days are long behind me now and short of going back in a time machine and undoing a thing or two, I couldn’t be healthier.

So every year on my birthday I celebrate being on the right side of the grass, pumping air on borrowed time.  Often times we hear clichés such as, “live like there’s no tomorrow” – silly things that people claim to take to heart but do so for about 20 seconds a day during that rare instant when the thought passes through their melon – and it’s gone again that fast…

I am an easy-going, happy guy for a reason:  I’ve been through hell and I was sentenced to death (so to speak).  Once I reached the conclusion that each day really is a gift I was set free.

It doesn’t stop there though.  Too often I see people use “live like there’s no tomorrow” as an excuse to detach from responsibility or as an excuse to withdraw.  After all, who would go to work if there really were no tomorrow?  Living knowing that each day is a gift means embracing my responsibilities.  In the bad old days I used to drink to escape my self-disgust for procrastinating on everything and simply being an overall loser.  In order for me to truly enjoy my life as a sober fellow, I was taught very early on that I am the only person on the planet that I have control over and I have to do the next right thing in front of me at any given moment.  Living happily isn’t a matter of living free of responsibilities but of taking care of the responsibilities I have.

 

Cycling for Noobs: Why you get dropped at the weekly club ride…And what to do about it.

You’re cruising along with the advanced group at a great pace, twenty deep in a double pace line and all is well in your world.

All of a sudden all hell breaks lose and you’re left soft-pedaling alone wondering what just happened as a select group pulls away and vanishes around the next corner.

What went wrong?

The joy of the Attack

Advanced club rides are used as mini race simulations for local racers.  Part of racing, and I’ve done this myself from time to time as a non-racer, is attacking off the front.  Sometimes the group chases them down, other times (like in my cases) they know the rider who went off isn’t strong enough to stay off – they know they’ll be reeled in soon enough.

What to do?

Often you’ll see this one develop if you’re paying attention.  The idea that most noobs miss (something that I was notorious for) is not looking far enough ahead because they’re worried about running into the wheel in front of them.  As you grow in your abilities, start looking up the group a little bit, three or four riders ahead.  Unless you’re at the very back, you’ll see the attack happen and you’ll be able to see whether or not the leaders chase.  If they do, it’s time to put the hammer down…  Or simply let everyone go around you if you’re not up for it.

Noob almost causes an accident

This happened just last night.  Three riders up one of the guys got squirrely and almost took out a racer and his wife on their brand new $13,000 tandem.  He was not pleased.  He shot to the front and took the group from a mild-mannered 23/24 mph to 29, just like that.  He did this to shake the group up and drop the guy who almost took him out (he almost got me and a couple of other friends later and I did say something, politely, after the ride).  As we noobs ride along, if we’re at speeds that put us close to the red-line, we tire out.  When we tire out, if we’re not careful we make stupid mistakes and often have a tough time holding a good line.  First, if this describes the way you ride, you should fall off the back rather than risk hurting someone.  Second, those who can ride very fast know that a little bit of speed will shake off the weary, thereby protecting their season and bicycle (which likely cost them thousands of dollars that they won’t have to replace what you broke because you can’t hold a line).  This can be interpreted as “mean spirited” by the self-centered, but it’s not.  Or do you have an extra eight grand lying around to replace someone’s bike because you swerved and took their wheel out?  I thought not.

What to do?

Now, like before, if you’re paying attention you’ll see this one develop too.  The charge will be furious but you’ll only have to hold the higher speed for a minute or two so try to keep up if you’ve got the gas in the tank, speeds will return to normal soon enough.

Crosswinds

Strong crosswinds will break up a tight group fast.  As soon as the echelons start forming cover is at a premium.  The problem is that with the wind coming from the side, or worse still, from the front and to one side (a cross headwind), spaces in the draft fill up quickly and trying to hang on can get ugly in a hurry.  Most noobs, myself included on a regular basis, get stuck in what they call “the ditch”.  Let’s say the wind is coming from the right.  The echelon will from the right of the lane with cyclists staggering to the left until they hit the yellow line.  You’re the next one, behind the person on the yellow line so you’re only getting a minimal break from the wind.  It’s bad enough that you might as well be pulling.

Another fun scenario is always being on the wrong side of the crosswind.

What to do?

In the case of the wrong side of the pace line, if the wind will be coming from the right when you turn, go into the turn a little slow and fade to the side and simply make sure you get into the left lane.  This offers the most protection.

In the case of the echelon, try to form a second line.  If that doesn’t work, well you’re hit.  Fall off the back and join up with a few of the other stragglers (there should be plenty).

You’re simply not fit enough for the group.

Now, we’re talking about the advanced group here, please remember.  This is the group for those who don’t wear pull-ups anymore so leave the whining in the car because at the first sign of weakness everyone in the group will drop you.  Be aware of this going in:  They don’t wait for you in the advanced rides – that’s why they call them advanced.  When you ride in the advanced group it’s on you to keep up.  Case in point, we have a guy who rides in our group with a time trial bike, I’ve written about this guy before.  He has no business on that bike in a group (though he is getting better)…  When we get to the hills, where I know he can’t climb on that bike, I first make sure I’m on the front so I can control the pace, and then I absolutely shred his TT bike riding ass.  I work those hills so hard that I’ve almost knocked myself out of the group a couple of times.

Now, you might think this is mean (and I’m okay with that, you go right ahead) but this guy has almost ran into a dozen other cyclists with that stupid bike because he’s too far from the brakes when he needs them…  It’s self-preservation baby.

Oh, and guess which bike he showed up with this week after three weeks of me kicking his ass in the hills…  That’s right, he brought the road bike this week.  I didn’t have to say a word.

Growth and Transformation; From Noob to Cyclist

July 2011:

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No shirt…  Nice.  Notice the tennis shoes?  Yeah.  I know.  Just hang on a minute.  It gets better.

2012.  Better, but good God am I skinny!:

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Incidentally, there’s a reason for my being so skinny.  This was the first time I’d really started putting in some big miles on the bike…
I dropped down to pro cyclist weight (2.0 pounds per vertical inch) and I hadn’t figured out how to eat to sustain a more reasonable weight yet.
The change came shortly after these photos were taken.

2013  Getting better…

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2014 – Now that’s more like it!

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It’s amazing to me that I A) survived my initial geeky entry into cycling and B) never knew I was geeky.

Funny how that works, ain’t it?

The point of this post, fellow noobs, is don’t take yourself or “society” so seriously. We all look dorky at first. Even the cool kids. It’s a rite of passage.

The Number One Rule of Cycling: Show Up.

Last evening was looking ugly on the Weather Channel. One of those 100% chance of 30% rain nights. It was cold too, 20 degrees below normal – so cold I contemplated pulling the leg warmers out. I did opt for a long sleeve jersey and I needed it.

I showed up.

I took a day off Monday to play badminton with my family… My father-in-law is up from his home in paradise and my niece and nephew are staying at the house. Still, the wind was gonna suck and the group was going to be antsy.

I still showed up.

Man, if it rained that would throw a double dose of suck at us. Slick roads and rooster tails… Damn.

I showed up.

Nobody ever got faster riding the damn couch.

We made it the whole warmup (seven miles) and 1-1/4 miles of the club ride dry. It had been sprinkling once in a great while for four hours so I’d hoped if we did get wet it wouldn’t be enough to wet the asphalt. Nope, I took my pull up front and was treated to rooster tail for supper as soon as I fell to the back. We went on, around 22-23 mph – quite subdued even considering the rain, and I felt… Great. Go figure.

Fourteen miles in, all hell broke lose. One of the Clydesdales who’d managed to hang on to that point got squirrelly and almost took out a racer and his wife on their brand new $13,000 tandem. Within a minute he’d shot to the front and took the pace to 29 mph to shake the group up and drop the offender. I was stuck on like a tick, no worries, until my buddy Mike fell back and said he was dropping off. I checked my six and signaled I was hopping out too. A few more, Carla, Brad and Phil went too. We formed up quickly and kept hammering away.

The rain had stopped a while back but now we were fighting the cold. It was nasty. We soldiered on at pace and I made sure to take at least my fair share up front. Tough to get stronger chilling at the back.

Then we finally headed east with the wind at our back, the home stretch. Chuck attacked. I was two wheels back and could hear Mike yell “Go get him Jim”.

Imagine that.

Two years ago on my first few club rides and I’m dropped every ride as soon as the speed passes 25 mph and I’m bringing up the rear with the first guys to drop off. I don’t know my butt from a hole in the ground but I know I like it…

Today, after a monster ride on Saturday I’m hanging in just fine at almost 30 mph and only fall off with the last group so I can hang with my friends… And when one of the others attacks, the guy I respect the most sends me after him because he knows I’ll run him down.

Dude, always show up.

I ran him down, maybe a little too fast because I could hear Mike say, “not that fast”! Funny thing… I have mad power on the acceleration but I can’t sustain it for very long.

We had a great finish and ended up holding a 21.6 mph average. Considering the slow start, the fact that we were slow through 15-20 minutes if rain and that we slow down or stop for every traffic signal, that average is huge… A tenth faster than I’ve ever completed that track and in crappy conditions. Oh, and we did the full 33 mile route, we skipped the shortcut.

I just showed up.

I’m not suggesting perfection, nobody is. I’m not saying every day will be a confidence booster, indeed you’ve got a rare shot at best. But we learn from from every ride, good or bad, don’t we? Of course we do.

One thing is certain though: If I’d have polished the leather couch with my butt instead if toughing it out, I’d have missed out. That’s why the number one rule in cycling is “Just show up”.