So here’s the scenario, and it’s not really all that hypothetical because it happened to me just yesterday…
You’ve been slogging out the miles in the cold all month long. In fact, for the first time ever you’ve only missed three days since the weather “technically” broke. Now, “broke” is a highly subjective term. In all honesty, it’s been cold and riding in temps below freezing is getting a little old. You do it though because t’s working. You feel spectacular, you’re fast and in better shape that you’ve ever been after the first month of the season.
So, you’re up on your normal rest day. You’ve got a club ride tomorrow and you know you want to rest the guns for tomorrow’s festivities… But, it’s 55 degrees and sunny out (albeit, crazy windy). What do you do?!
A). I don’t care, I have a plan and I’m sticking to it! Today is my day off and my butt is on the couch! Then you spend the rest of the evening staring out the window, lamenting what could have been…
B). Second place is first loser! Buckle up and hammer it hard! It’s sunny and 55! No warmup, you’re out of the driveway and on the gas! Woohoo!!! You pull a hammy on the first climb and limp home with one leg.
C). You decide to commune with nature and clean the yard, counting picking up sticks and raking the stones out of your grass and back into the shoulder as your “WOD”. Let’s see now… Carry the one, carry the three… 1,273 calories burned! You sit down to a feast, don’t skip desert and can’t imagine how you gained five pounds the next time you check the scale. [Ed. Tsk. Tsk.]
D). A perfect opportunity for a recovery ride! Still, it’s so nice out you decide on the race bike. Who cares that the thing is so awesome it cannot be ridden at speeds below 20 mph unless you’re riding dead into a gale-force wind… You’ll ride it slow, this time. Really… See B.
E). A perfect day for a recovery ride! You even opt for the rain bike and keep it to a speed that you’d be embarrassed if your friends saw you riding that slow and have a spectacularly enjoyable ride, coming in at about 16-1/2 mph. You feel like a hundred dollars.
I knew exactly what we were getting into this morning – we planned our ride out so that as the wind got stronger, we’d be heading home with it at our backs… And it actually worked!
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, for once the weather report was perfect.
We headed out at 9:30 with clear, sunny skies, temps just below freezing but rising, and mild winds at about 10 mph. We headed out directly into the wind – three guys who rode Barry-Roubaix yesterday, me, Mike, Matt and Phil. Dave, one of the guys who did B-R, was on his tandem with his wife (thank you for the shelter Dave and Sherry).
I was feeling surprisingly fantastic heading out and worked myself up the the front a few times but once I got to second or third bike it got tough hanging out with the horses who’d pull for two or three miles at a time. Mercifully, Phil did a spin class yesterday that had him pretty worn down so he had a tough time holding on in the wind. We had to wait for him a few times.
Somewhere around the 18 mile mark, Mike and I decided to drop from the big dogs, even though we both felt good enough to hang, to help Phil and Matt home. That turned out to be a fantastic decision. It meant Mike and I were in for some work as we’d be the only two pulling for the next 20 miles but we’d be at a pace that would make trudging through the wind livable.
Right on cue, the wind picked up from 15 mph to a sustained 20 with gusts up to 30… And we were heading back. We were laughing, Mike and I, taking 3-4 mile pulls at 25 mph, soft-pedaling so Phil could hang. Temps were already approaching the 40 degree mark and it felt like a heat wave.
We ended up with just over 37-1/2 miles in a little over two hours and it was my most enjoyable ride so far this year. Go figure, it should have sucked. The wind should have been a pain in the ass and pulled the joy right out of me… Not today though. Even with all of the work, I finished the ride with a smile on my face and an immense amount of gratitude for my Venge (and for taking the time to get used to riding in such an aggressive position on my bike). Having ridden a little more upright for so long on the Trek, I can really appreciate being able to cut into the wind so well. Honest to God, it’s badass. Now it’s nap time… After finishing my chocolate cherry smoothie:
Yes, it tastes way better than it looks.
568 miles for the month, a little light this week at 126, but I can live with that.
This cycling helmet retails for $160:
Now most people who ride a bike will, ironically, ask if I hit my head, paying that much for a bicycle helmet. $160 is a lot of dough when you can buy a helmet that protects the dome just as well for $40 or $50.
Now, I ride enough to know that the helmet is worth the money, and that’s the important part. This is the inside of the helmet:
FRONT?! No shit Batman! Here’s the back:
Now, first things first: The necessity for that sticker is not without precedent. There are photos on the Internet showing folks riding with their helmets backward. In 100% of those photos… All of them, they’re wearing cheap helmets.
The point, of course, is this:
If you’re dumb enough to drop $160 on a freaking helmet, you’re smart enough to know which is “Front”.
Wait, that didn’t come out right.
It being a Saturday, I’d normally be riding with my buds. It being cold as all get out we decided to go it alone today and meet tomorrow morning for a 50 miler. When I woke up this morning, we were into the “feels like” temps. 8 degrees (that’s -13 C). Ugh. I decided it prudent to wait to ride until the sun had a bit of time to warm things up a bit…
In the meantime I read a post written by Dan in Iowa that reminded me of why I dig cycling so much. At noon it was only 27 and with the wind it “felt like” 14. What to do, what to do!
I suited up, decided on 20 miles and hit it. Ten of the first eleven miles were into the wind. A pair of leg warmers and knee warmers, wool socks and toe covers wasn’t enough. My upper body was fine in my Specialized Element 2.0 jacket but everything below my thighs froze and that whole 20 miles was work. None of that ride put a smile on my face.
Still, I couldn’t help but be glad I rode… Tough miles always come in handy later in the season.
Gabrielle Glaser is on a one-woman mission to debunk Alcoholics Anonymous. She’s three very important things: Published, angry and ignorant as hell. Sadly, she may even have a growing audience, though that says more about the audience than it does what (or whom) she’s attacking. At the heart of her disdain for all that is AA is the absurd notion that she should be able to drink with control rather than abstain. Now, I think the notion that any alcoholic could somehow successfully consume alcohol in moderation is bat-shit crazy, but hey, do what you want! It’s a free world, right? Well, not really but you get what I mean. The point is, I’ve tried all of that “moderation” crap and it doesn’t work for me. Jesus man, if there was a way I could successfully drink moderately, believe me, I’d have found it. Once the receptors in my brain pick up that first drop, I’m off to the races and you won’t be able to stop me with anything less than a Howitzer. Well, maybe something considerably smaller, but I digress.
In any event, she contacted AA for a comment on her last attempted expose and their response was “AA has no opinions on outside issues”, and hers is definitely an “outside issue” – but this lackadaisical attitude of AA often drives many members up a wall. We want verbal or written retaliation, retribution, for AA to defend a way of life that has saved more wretches than the song brought tear to eye.
An example of one such attack would be Gaby’s assertion that AA’s success rate is between 5 and 8 percent. I have, myself, fallen for this slight of hand… When put in the proper context, it’s not, of course – only a dipshit freshman in statistics would make the mistake of looking at AA so obtusely – or someone who intended to deceive those who read their work. It’s closer to 100 percent than it is ten. In twenty-two years, I have never seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed the path. I’ve seen plenty who have half-assed it fall flat on their face but that’s a whole different can of worms. Now, of those who are sentenced to AA, only a small handful manage to get or stay sober for any length of time but only that handful who make it have any desire to be there and do what it takes to finally be free of the bondage of alcoholism. You can lead a horse to water but if that horse happens to be a drunk, he’ll pass that water up for a beer any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Choosing a life of sobriety is not easy. It requires a level of honesty that many people find uncomfortable. It requires a devotion to humility, service and respecting others (even those ignorant dopes who tread on us to sell a book). It requires that we alcoholics give up the escape – and it requires that we make a decision to do so of our own free will. Of those who walk through the door with their court paper in hand, how many end up with the willingness to make it? One in ten, if you’re lucky. The rest of them are marking time until they’re out of trouble and can drink again. You can’t possibly put that failure on AA, unless you’re that freshman or looking to deceive people.
Then there’s God. It helps if we embrace God, or a Higher Power, however it isn’t a necessity. Those who choose to attack AA, whether ignorantly or deceptively, mischaracterize the program as requiring a belief in God while an entire chapter of the instruction portion of the book (just 164 pages) is devoted to atheists and how AA can work for them, if they so choose. We have room for any drunk who is tired of being sick and tired. That’s just how we roll.
So, why the ignorant and deceptive attacks? The answer is quite simple: Alcoholics Anonymous is free. Free of charge, free of regulation, free of governance. There are no leaders in AA, only trusted servants – and those servants have no authority over any individual or group. Alcoholics Anonymous requires no paid professionals (though they sure do help in treatment, most can get along just fine without them). Finally Alcoholics Anonymous is, and forever shall remain, anonymous. In short, Alcoholics Anonymous can’t be sold or controlled. Most “progressive” weak-kneed liberals fear what they cannot sell or control, and therein lies the rub.
Now, here’s why AA does not and never should respond to such attacks: You can’t fix or debate stupid anymore than you can stop AA. You’d be better served outlawing churches, coffee makers, resentments and friendship. Short of that, Alcoholics Anonymous will move on, it will survive such attacks, ignorant or deceptive. In other, simpler words: You can’t put that genie back in the lamp. We, as a whole, are above retaliation because retaliation will not serve the betterment of those who seek refuge, who seek a better life, who seek to finally be free at last, of alcohol. If we try to debate stupid, or worse; bitter and stupid, eventually we will be dragged down to that level.
Better to let the whirling dervishes whirl.
Of course, as you can see, I don’t mind taking a poke at dopes for sport. Ah well, we never claim perfection. I do not represent AA in any way, shape or form. My opinions, as expressed here in this post, are my own and are not sanctioned in any way, shape or form by Alcoholics Anonymous. AA’s response to Gaby Glaser’s article was “AA does not have any opinion on outside issues”. AA may not, but I don’t mind throwing in to set the record straight once in a while.
The question may be asked, and fairly answered: Am I a bike snob?
I do love my bikes. My race bike is coolest in my stable (rivaled only by my wife’s race bike), my mountain bike matches my race bike and my rain bike will be painted this summer to match as well (though I’m going way cooler than just simple black and red). My helmet matches, most of my clothing matches, my wheels match, even my pedals match on the race bike. My socks are the proper length (though I do go with 3″ above the ankle, not the 5″ because I think the long socks look goofy – sorry), my sunglass arms always go over my helmet straps, my tire stamps match up with my valves… Heck, even my computer matches my bike. When it comes to my stuff, I am meticulous about looking good and making certain I ride competently.
When it comes to my bikes, I’m also very particular about what I ride on the road – carbon fiber all the way. Even my nasty weather bike has a composite frame. The mountain bike is aluminum, sure, but I only ride that a few times a year – I don’t have a need (or desire) for a $3,000 mountain bike. Does the choice to ride a carbon fiber frame make one a snob though?
Alas, to an extent, I could be seen as such. As far as I’m concerned about what I ride, I am very particular and because of that fact, the leap for the poorly informed could be that I am a snob… Let’s look at the definition of snob so we can all get an idea of where I’m coming from on this little slight of word – this trick in upending the English language:
- a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.
So, am I, well… That? Not even close, though I do have a particular disdain for those who ride a Time Trial bike in a group setting. I won’t go anywhere near them until (and unless) they prove themselves competent on such a bike within the group. That’s not snobby though, that’s self-preservation! How about what other people ride? This being an honest program, I can say with utter certainty that I could not possibly care less about what somebody else chooses to ride. I don’t look down my nose at anyone, not even the “I lost my license because I got a drunk driving ticket” cyclist. Hell, anyone who’s read more than three posts on this blog knows I can relate to that guy… If you missed it, the name of my blog is Fit Recovery – that “recovery” part isn’t a river in Egypt.
If that wasn’t enough, then we have to look at the idea that I would have to believe that my tastes are superior to others… That excludes me, incontrovertibly. While I may not understand one’s choice, that’s a far cry from believing my choice or “tastes” are superior.
Being a snob boils down to one simple thing: How one treats others. Just because one chooses to ride nice bikes and wear matching apparel, a snob, this does not one make.
I believe, rather than worrying about who is or is not a “snob”, it is far more important that I do my part to make the sport I love, attractive. Being a dick about how people choose to participate would probably counter that most excellent ideal.
God’s Not Dead.
I’m in a very weird place this last week. Times are great for getting work, I have a lot of business, but I’m a lot short on manpower. In fact, it’s one of those, “it’s never easy” periods in my life. Of course, I could whine about how difficult things are, go out on a prodigious bender to escape, flushing twenty-two years of sobriety down the toilet (the escape is what most drunks chase, usually to their demise)… I could, but that would be stupid because any idiot who has tried that in the past can tell you that it doesn’t work. Believe me, I used to be one of those idiots. In fact, the drunk approach makes everything harder and worse – every time. It’s that simple.
So, I can’t curl up in a ball and suck on my thumb or I can’t suck on a bottle of whiskey, ending up curled in a ball, sucking on my thumb. What to do, what to do!
Look, in context my problems are really quite awesome. I’d choose mine over another’s problems nine-point-nine times out of ten. Even so, once in a while I need to take an hour to step back and change my perspective and to do that I go for a bike ride. Sometimes it’s an escape, if only for an hour. Others, it’s just a way to stop thinking for a minute so I can come back with a fresh perspective. Either way, a bike ride is an opportunity to break some endorphins out of their cage and that’s always a good thing.
The prodigals at the Weather Channel were calling for a pretty crappy day – warm, but rainy. When I got to the office (around 6:15 – I had to meet one of my guys) it was foggy, misty and just plain ugly. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I’d had enough, I was beat down. Long about three in the afternoon, the rain stopped abruptly and the sky started to clear. By 3:30, the sun was breaking through the clouds and I didn’t care that it was supposed to be a rest day. I packed up my computer, completed a few last-minute tasks and got my butt out the door. I pulled into the driveway close to 4:30, unpacked the car and headed straight for my bike clothes. It was warm compared to the last month, in the high 40’s and the wind was blowing like crazy but I didn’t care, I figured I’d take it really slow and call it a recovery ride. The goal was to take a full hour to do my normal 16 mile route.
Into the 20 mph west wind, keeping my tempo down wasn’t too difficult, in fact I even managed to keep a lid on my warmth-and sun-charged enthusiasm with the crosswind, only hitting between 15 and 18 mph depending on headwind or crosswind. I did get into trouble about nine miles in when I finally had a little help… With the wind at my back I turned up the heat a little bit, ranging from 24-27 mph… There’s just something about a tailwind when I’m on a bike – comparing it to something illicit wouldn’t do it justice, but suffice it to say, I can’t control myself.
I pulled into the driveway with a couple of minutes to spare but in truth, I was a lot closer to that hour than I figured I would be when I clipped in. That ride was exactly what I needed to get back to a place where I could be proactive rather than reactive. I had a nice dinner with my family, watched a few minutes of TV and then enjoyed one more advantage of daily bike rides – I slept like a baby. Today is a new day and I’ve got what it takes to do what needs be done and I will… Then I’ll go for another ride this evening – whether I need it or not.
The Club Ride: The View From the Back of the Pack… I tried to talk myself into failing all day long – it turned out to be premature speculation.
All day long I was trading blows with my melon committee (that’s self-doubt for those late to the party) about how the club ride was going to go. I knew, of course, that I was going to get dropped – I ride with some ridiculously fast people and pretty much everybody gets dropped at one point or another – the only question was when and/or how spectacular the collapse would be.
It was chilly getting the bike set for the ride. That, of course, means I would be dressed perfectly once we got rolling. It was cold enough that I could have opted for knee warmers on top of my leg warmers but there’s a trade-off for the additional comfort: My legs don’t operate as well because they’re a little too bound up. Cloistered legs are simply not something one can get away with on Tuesday night. That’s the night the horses ride and while I’m no slouch, I’m no horse either.
We started with a bit of a tailwind, a touch over 20 mph and I’d made a decision on the seven mile warmup that tonight I was going to go against everything I am. I was going to hide. Not only that, I was going to hide on the proper side of the wind. Normally I take my turns up front. Normally when a hole opens up before the back of the line, I fill it and pull again too soon. I run out of gas too early.
I picked the right night to make the right choice.
I started out in the lead with my buddy Mike as I always do. We pulled for better than a mile at 21 mph before we pulled off and headed to the back. We turned north a half-mile later and it was on. 24 mph. 25. 26 and we stayed there for fifteen miles. I only took one more pull in those fourteen and, though people were dropping off like flies, I managed to keep contact, bridging a couple of gaps as guys fell off. The pace was furious but as we approached the hills I was surprised to feel pretty good. Climbing the hills I had plenty of leg. On flat ground I had to work hard to keep the pace but I told that voice in my head that said, “This is too much, too hard, too fast.” To shut up. I thought, “I’ll feel better in a minute, just stay with it…” And the committee got into line.
At the twenty-mile mark, with all of the tough hills out of the way, still with the lead group, four of us split off and took our usual three-mile shortcut. We were still at a crazy 22 mph average (at least crazy for a 38 degree (F) night in March, but rather than try to maintain it we let it drop a bit – we kept our speed between 20 and 22 on the flats, kept the climbs to 18-19 and rode the downhill sections hard.
We crossed the finish line, just under 30 miles at an average pace of 20.6 mph. On one hand, two years ago that was the best I could hope for mid-season in shorts and a jersey, without all of that cold weather crap slowing me down. On the other, this being an honest program, hiding for the first twenty, with the exception of one and a half stints up front, felt a little too much like cheating. I don’t like hiding. I don’t like knowing that while I may have had a great ride and held some really difficult speeds, I didn’t do more to help the whole group. I suppose the proper way to look at this is to try to combine my two strategies into something that works, where I take a couple of more turns at the front so I can be happy about doing my part but hide enough that I can still be of some use on that last ten miles.
Either way, after giving in to the committee earlier in the day, I managed to snatch a small victory from that part of my melon that says, “You can’t”… And that’s all good.
So, what can you expect if you ride a bike, just one hour a day, four hours on a weekend day and eat smart?
This answer is going to be incredibly short, beautiful and inspirational but it will require a few things from anyone who wants to go from flabby to fit.
For only a tiny minority, weight loss may be a form of rocket science. For only a fraction, who may have special problems, this won’t work. The chance you’re in this group is somewhere between slim and none. I’ve never met one though, and that’s how rare they are. There are also those with food allergies and mental issues that will have to be worked around. Those with a perfect life are even more rare than those who require the rocket science weight loss plan.
First and above all, you will have to be honest, with yourself and others. If you choose to bullshit yourself (or others), you really may be f@©ked and there’s an excellent chance you will die fat. Of course, that’s a choice too but chances are, because you lack the capacity to be honest, you’ll blame this on some external force that only you will believe.
Second, you will have to work. You’ll have to sweat. You will have to give it your best effort (refer back to honesty). Half-measures end in half-results and disappointment (that much isn’t rocket science).
Make sure your expectations line up with your effort. Remain dedicated while remembering that this is a one day at a time thing – you will have off days, second thoughts and difficult times. Do the right thing, right now and you’ll get through the difficult stretches. Let go of the rope on your personal @$$-kicking machine, perfection is not a requirement but progress sure helps.
Excuses. The only people who believe your excuses are you and the person selling you your donuts.
With that out of the way, I’ve heard of people losing as much as 80 pounds in a season. Eighty pounds. That’s a little on the extreme side but if you’re just looking to twenty or thirty, that would be easy when compared to 80. It’s not all that difficult either. Get your basal metabolic rate, stick to that, and ride every day. Every calorie you burn on the bike comes off your butt though your job would have to be taken into account as well. I have a desk job so you might as well call that sitting on the couch, if you’re more active at work, take that into account. Decide when you want to ride – before work, after work, even at night… Then just make sure to eat within 30-45 minutes after your ride and eat responsibly as normal. As far as effort is concerned, if you’re cursing you’re riding hard enough. Mix hard, medium and easy efforts. The order should be hard, easy, medium – rinse and repeat. Hard efforts should have you back at the house bathed in sweat and winded. Easy efforts should, once your fully committed, have you embarrassed to be riding so slow (keep the cadence up though). Medium efforts should be right smack-dab in the middle. Sweating and breathing heavy but able to sustain the effort. If you can, ride in the morning on an empty stomach. There is evidence that this helps train your body to burn fat. I never bothered with that but it’s definitely work a shot. The one good thing that I did stumble on was long rides. If you want to lose some serious weight, train for and do as many long rides as you can. Intervals are great if you’re short on time, an hour a day is better than nothing, sure – but if you want to drop some pounds, you can’t beat four or five hours on a bike at least once a week.
So, to that answer. If you manage to find the time to ride a bike on a regular and consistent basis, you can expect to look younger, feel younger, sleep better, be happier and live longer (assuming a Buick doesn’t take you out first). Oh, and if you’re a sober fellow, as I am, you can expect for the fitness to help you enjoy your sobriety that much more (at least that’s how it works for me). Of course, on the other hand, you could find out that you hate cycling altogether. That’s a possibility, I suppose. It might be worth the try though.
It was for me.