When I went on vacation with my wife and daughters I made a conscious decision to take it easy on the mileage. Very easy as a matter of fact. For the first time since 2011, with the exception of one week that I took off for vacation, I only rode 60 miles in a seven day week. It was odd only riding for 45 minutes a day and taking two sunny days off just for the heck of it, but it was time well spent, swimming and tubing on Lake Burton with my family.
I made the most of having to come home a week earlier than my wife and kids too, logging 235 miles the week after I got back – only three miles shy of my best Monday to Sunday week ever… I don’t want to count my miles before they’re ridden, but I’m going to have a huge week this week too. I’m at 151 miles right now and have a full century on tap for today… In fact, as you’re reading this, I’m on my way to meet the group right now.
Since returning from vacation, with mainly favorable weather, I haven’t missed a day. That’s 14 days in a row, it’ll be 15 once I clip in a short while from now. My last “streak”, just before vacation was 21 days, without a day off.
So, what does this have to do with “fitness”? Well, physical fitness, not so much. Physical fitness doesn’t require near what I do. Mental fitness, quite a lot. I’d never argue that what I choose to ride is required for a good fitness/diet regimen. On the other hand, it sure makes the diet end a whole lot easier to manage if you like to eat. Let’s just say putting in 200 miles a week on a bike affords one a little bit of leeway when it comes to feeding one’s face. The mental benefits, at least as far as I’m concerned, are huge though. My daily bike ride makes a stressful career just a little bit more bearable and makes me a better husband and father. My wife has made it quite clear that cycling has been good for me in that regard and that has a lot to do with why she supports it so much. What is most important to me is keeping a good balance. Too much time doing anything is bad, whether that’s work or play.
We’ll be starting out today’s century at a balmy 68 degrees and the temp is supposed to top 88 by the time we finish. It’s going to be a long, hard, hot day but I’m more than ready for it. I’m in the best shape of my life.
UPDATE: Well, that century is in the books! It was a tough one, super hot for the second half, we had some mechanical issues and one minor crash (thankfully the new kid was wearing his helmet!), but it was a blast! I took the yellow jersey, Matt took the green, Eli had the best young rider white jersey sewn up when he opted to hang with us for the century rather than cut it early for the metric (he’s only been on a bike five times), Phill took the polka-dot jersey, barely edging Chuck out by a couple of points, Adam and Diane took the most aggressive rider(s) award by a landslide and Chuck won the “Gutsy Performance of the Day” award. I’ll do a writeup on it tomorrow.
Cycling… With Friends: More Reasons Than You’ll Ever Need to Switch From Solo Cyclist to Club Cyclist.
When I got into cycling I thought it was going to be like bike riding when I was a kid, only with the purpose of staying in shape rather than getting from point A to point B and back again. I rode alone on my Trek 3700 mountain bike, always. Four, then five and six days a week. Starting out at 15 minutes and working up to an hour. I’d seen the Tour de France at least once or twice and I didn’t want anything to do with what I thought was the arrogant sport of road cycling. Sure I liked to go fast but I liked the quiet of the dirt roads… Then August 20th, 2011 came around.
Just shy of three months into my mountain biking/cycling experience, I’d ridden down to the running club, run my 7 miles and was just about to ride the ten miles back. We were celebrating my youngest daughter’s birthday and I had to get home in a hurry so I decided to see just how fast I could ride that paved/dirt road ten miles back to the house. I rode just shy of 11 miles, on an entry-level mountain bike, in 37 minutes and I ran out of high gears, twice. For the number crunchers, that’s just over a 17.5 mph, on knobby tires. That’s the day I found out mountain bikes just weren’t going to be enough. I wanted to go faster. Within two weeks I’d purchased my first used road bike from a private seller who’d listed a Cannondale race bike on Craigslist. Five months later I bought another… I had my first legitimate race bike, and I did become fast.
I’d spoken several times with the owner of our local bike shop about riding, in fact I bought that race bike from him – one of his loaners, and he asked if I’d ever ridden with anybody else. I explained that I was a wee bit apprehensive, for a number of reasons. Eventually I relented and my view of cycling, real cycling, not just “riding a bike”, took a turn for the better. Since those days I’ve been on more than a thousand bike rides, ridden more than 22,000 miles and had more fun than I thought possible. The most enjoyable of those rides have been with friends I met at that club ride, and now with my wife too.
I had assumed that all road cycling was “attacks off the front”, “hurting” those you ride with, and “making them suffer”, like I saw on TV. I thought it was all about the rules I read on the internet and high-priced bikes, and a never-ending trap of trying to afford crap that I shouldn’t want to afford or couldn’t. I thought it would be forever trying to keep up with the Lances or LeMonds… Everything I thought riding with friends was, was wrong.
Cycling with friends is about being a part of something bigger than the one man train I once was. It’s about fitness and accountability, it’s about helping those friends out and accepting their help all in the same ride. It’s about laughing, riding and enjoying the scenery together… And it is about attacking off the front and hurting them too – but that’s a good thing. Cycling with friends is everything that I thought diet and exercise shouldn’t be. It’s about exploring new places, sometimes at a pace that allows me to take in the sights, on two wheels with nothing but my body as the engine. Cycling with friends is good times and noodle salad. Cycling with my best friend, my wife, is about spending time together away from the cell phones, computers and bustle of business life. Cycling with friends is a journey back to the days when I was a kid, playing with my friends in the neighborhood, not a care in the world except what we were in the middle of right at that moment.
Cycling with friends is freedom from the bondage of everything that sucks in the world, if just for a short time, and it is good.
So, if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to try riding with a club, visit your local bike shop and get a feel for the group that’s right for you and give it a try. If you like friendship, laughter and feeling good about life, chances are you’ll fit right in.
Life is short, bikes are cool.
We’re 51 miles into a 58 mile ride, on the home stretch. The weather is beautiful, a little hot, but we’ve got a tailwind and I’m having a grand old time.
We’d been in formation for more than 2-1/2 hours and were in the midst of a free for all break. Matt was up a couple of bike lengths sitting bolt upright, no hands. Then me, Mike was next to and behind me, followed by Phill, Adam and Diane on their tandem, and Adam’s son. A couple of decent pedal strokes and I was even with Matt. We talked about…something…
That’s when I saw the dead and bloated, full-grown racoon carcass in the middle of my lane. I hopped out of my saddle and hit the gas. “I’m gonna bunny hop you.”… It wasn’t till I could smell it, and at more than 20 mph, that I realized how big the thing was.
I had just enough time to think, “Go around it”, followed immediately by, “you sissy.” I heaved on the hoods, picking the front wheel six inches off the ground and in one swift move, hopped the back end off the ground…
In the air (isn’t it amazing how short it is but how long it feels?) I had enough time to think, “Sweet, back wheel cleared.” Then I thought, “Uh oh, back wheel is way too high.” A split second later my front wheel touched down first. Technically, “slammed” may be the better word. Yes, that’s the ticket… Then my rear wheel hit and I rolled down the road unscathed. Beautiful. As I was rolling down the road I checked the path of my wheels to make sure they weren’t out of whack… They seemed fine.
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon. I’m carrying my front wheel, bike in the truck, across the parking lot. I’m walking towards the door of my favorite place to be when I’m not with my wife and kids or on my bike. I’m taking my wheel in to get it relaced because I’d busted a spoke nipple in the middle of the club ride the night before… And that’s when it hit me.
I don’t need new wheels! I need to not bunny hop dead shit in the road on my $5,000 race bike. Dumb ass.
Oh well, the world is best viewed through the eyes of a kid. I just happen to be a 45 year-old kid. Truth be told, that’s why I ride so much in the first place.
Last night’s club ride was a bit depressing, I won’t kid you. I had it all figured out and I was going to make it with the lead group to the finish. At 13 miles my legs were fresh and I’d only been up front twice… There was only one time in those first 13 where I had to tell myself to hang in there, that I’d recover in a minute and I’d feel better. Normally, that’s about four or five… The group was broken up by traffic at a main intersection that we always stop at but there was enough of a break to let some of the guys through, but not all of us… Greg, Dave, I, and a few others got stuck with a couple of cars coming. The second traffic cleared we clipped in and I figured I’d get out front because Dave and Greg would make short work of pulling us back to the group and I knew it was going to be hard. I got right on the gas, the instant my foot clipped in. I pulled up on the drop, pushed down hard on the pedal, and PING… Broken spoke nipple. I quickly checked to see if I could spread the brakes far enough to make the wheels miss, found I could not, so I withdrew. Dammit. Ah well, I did end up riding all the way back and actually held a pretty decent average on the way back, considering I had the brakes slowing me down every tire rotation (I dropped from a 20.6 average to 20.0)?
So, today is a decision… Do I stick with the wheels I’ve got or pony up for another set of wheels that I can afford, especially considering I’ve already got the cash in the slush fund? Now, I wouldn’t be able to come anything close to affording the Enve’s I want to put on the Venge, but I could definitely make some nice Rolf Prima Vigor’s work… or I could go for some of the Chinese knock-off carbon wheels with a tempting delivered price of around 2/3’s of the Rolf’s. This is turning out to be a little bit of a moral dilemma. I could get the wheels I want with money in the bank to spare, but I’d be supporting the piracy of technology that other companies came up with. So I’ve decided to not do anything right now. Worst case scenario, I’ve got my slightly heavier front wheel from the rain bike on the Venge while I get my Vuelta re-laced. I’ll just keep pumping money into the slush fund until I can afford those Enve’s.
This choice was made a little easier because of one simple, awesome truth: Century season is upon us! I’ve got one this coming Sunday, one next Saturday, and (I think) one each week after that all the way through August until we culminate with four centuries in a row at DALMAC over the Labor Day weekend. I don’t want to have to mess with getting a new, untested set of wheels in the midst of all of these miles… Speaking of, I had a lot of miles so far this season but it’s about to get hectic. At this rate and barring any unforeseen problems, I’ll absolutely smash the 10,000 km mark this year. Too cool, I’m way up on my personal best last year of almost exactly 6,000 miles.
In other words, all is well.
Gotta run. A little cycling joke there.
Read these words and know that they are true, the honest to God truth: Gatorade makes my ability to ride 200+ miles a week and my fitness possible. Sure, I could drink something more expensive (Hammer Heed comes to mind, actually I have that too) or use Nuun tablets (oh wait, yep, got that too) but in the end, good old Gatorade does the trick just fine – and it doesn’t cost $2.00 per serving like the others, more like a buck a quart.
I let my girls drink Gatorade 3/4’s of the year during swimming season (fall to spring) or when they’re extra active too.
Recently a couple of overly concerned people cornered my wife when she spoke highly of Gatorade. See, we do that in my house because back in the day, Gatorade saved my bacon… so to speak. It was way back, the first time I started topping 100 miles a week on the bike. I was still triathlon training too (Olympic length), so I was running twice a week and throwing in a swim every now and again. My intensity was also on the increase. My speeds were increasing precipitously.
Then I hit a wall. Minutes per mile flat-lined then slid and I struggled mildly to hit times that were once easy. Then I noticed that my sweat didn’t taste salty anymore. I was on a fairly decent diet back then. I’d cut out all sugary drinks, almost all snacks and deserts and I was still ignorant when it came to salt… I was still under the mistaken impression that salt was bad too. Ah, those were the days. After that episode two things changed: I learned to be okay with salt and I started drinking Gatorade more regularly. Since, I haven’t had any performance issues. Later, during a checkup, I explained what I’d gone through with my doctor and asked his opinion. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), my doctors have all been active and the one I was seeing at the time recommended that I continue drinking Gatorade despite the sugar content, to keep my electrolyte balance right. His take was that I’d obviously burn off the little bit of sugar in Gatorade with the mileage I was putting in and that the sugar content of Gatorade was still a fraction that of a can of soda (or “pop” for those of us in the north). Interestingly enough, my wife had the exact same experience I did. She’s always been a straight “only water” girl until she started putting in the more impressive weekly miles. Put simply, she bonked. Once she started drinking a glass of Gatorade a day, her performance rebounded. It’s this simple: If you’re not one of those who counts a walk around the block as “exercise”, eventually you’re going to get to a place where electrolytes must be replaced.
Going back to my wife’s experience of being chastised for allowing our kids to drink Gatorade, she was asked if she was aware that after Coca-Cola bought Gatorade, they changed the ingredients and it doesn’t have any of the good stuff in it anymore.
Oh, where to start. Coke doesn’t own Gatorade. Coke owns PowerAde. Pepsi owns Gatorade. That mistake notwithstanding, the composition of Gatorade was changed in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s to high fructose corn syrup but has since been changed back to plain old table sugar and dextrose (the original sugar additive to the drink). Either way, for the active family it works. It tastes good so we don’t get complaining from the kids (including me), it actually replaces electrolytes where plain water dilutes the electrolytes that are left in the body, and are difficult to replace with food when we’re talking about with the exceptionally active lifestyle that our family enjoys. Not to mention, if we decide we’re blowing too many calories on the normal Gatorade we can always choose the G2 Natural which cuts some of the crap calories out.
Now, here’s how the ignorance, that I mentioned in the title, works. You’ve got overweight, inactive people telling fit, active people how to raise their kids based on incorrect information without knowing the back story for why we went to a sports drink in the first place. In my wife’s case, she was caught unawares and didn’t really put up much of a fight. I don’t blame her either as we’re not too used to having to defend our active lifestyle too often… I might have frozen a little bit myself, at least until I had time to look up the information on Gatorade, but that’s really the point. All too often any more, people who masquerade as the Intelligencia run around chastising us for being rubes beholden to the machine, when in fact they’re the dopes in first place.
It gets better too… Some people choose to misuse or overuse these specialty products which can cause health issues. After all, sugar is still sugar whether it’s fructose, sucrose (table sugar) or dextrose (a naturally occurring form of glucose), if you’re not burning it off, it’s going to cause problems eventually. Now you get politicians and bureaucrats involved in banning or legislating these things away so that we who lead an active lifestyle have to pay through the nose or suffer through limited access to these products… If that weren’t bad enough, and it is, then you’ve got corporate ass-kissers like Wal-Mart who join in the witch hunt (Jelly Belly Energy Beans) – and all based on misuse and false information about a product in the first place. It’s enough to make one’s head spin and the funny thing is that unless you actually take the time to look these things up to get the rest of the story, chances are you’d go along with the misinformation because it tends to make some sort of sense. Take the high fructose corn syrup vs. sucrose/dextrose in Gatorade – that even made sense to me until I looked it up to find it untrue. Of course, I suppose that’s the difference between me and a lot of other people… I’ll actually go to the trouble of looking things up.
This is just one of a number of instances that have turned me into a cynical skeptic when it comes to the next big dietary fad – or the witch hunt against something that I enjoy.
UPDATE: On a proofread of this post I decided I’d left that last sentence a little short… I’ll look the facts up on the subject of a witch hunt if I’m interested or if I’m actually willing to give the target food item up in the first place. They could find that bacon can cause Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke, and any number of gnarly maladies and I’d still roll the dice. Some shit, suffice it to say, just makes life a little more worth living, and bacon is one of those things. At the same time, they could find that broccoli can add ten years to your life and I’d never even bother. Some shit, suffice it to say, is better left to rabbits.
With a blog name like Fit Recovery, you should get the impression that I write a lot about fitness and that I am, indeed, a recovered alcoholic (with the understanding that it only takes about ten minutes and a couple stupid decisions to become unrecovered).
In fact, I’ve been sober for 22 years now. That’s a decent start for sure, and you can bet that to stay sober for that long without going frickin’ nuts, it takes being able to work a decent recovery program. Long story short, my sobriety Kung Fu is strong.
That’s why I knew I might have a cycling problem when the owner of our local bike shop said I’d have to present him with a signed, dated letter from my wife stating that any future purchases of bicycles have been okayed.
Dude, I got cut off by the bike shop…
If ever there were evidence that I belong nowhere near an alcoholic beverage, that’s it.