I rode my bike every day this week. It was supposed to rain three days this week in the afternoon or evening so that should have meant I’d finally get a day off after 36 days in a row. No such luck… Or, can you really call rain lucky? I think not, but that’s just me. It actually did rain on Tuesday, but cleared up before the club ride and warm up (at 5 pm). Then it rained again on Wednesday afternoon, before I got home. My wife and I went out for a ride on the mountain bikes. Thursday rain was in the forecast again, though it was supposed to clear up by noon. It rained, it cleared up by noon, but it stayed cool, cloudy and windy, considering the 80’s and 90’s we’d had just days before. My wife and I rode 16 miles. Yesterday was glorious. Mostly sunny with a minimal wind, all day long. It was wonderful. I got a little more than 22 in.
My lightest week over the last five was 232 miles, my heaviest was better than 250. This week, I might surpass 200 but only if we get all of our 120 miles in between today and tomorrow morning. In fact, the only really hard ride I went on this week (so far) was on Tuesday and the tough part of that ride only lasted 13 miles. Tomorrow’s going to be relatively easy, maybe an 18 or 19 mph average over 50 miles and today we’re planning on 70 and I’m guessing we do between 19 and 20… Decent, for sure, but nothing like the last five weeks where we’d ride a century on one of the weekend days. For Mountain Mayhem: Beat the Heat, we averaged 17 mph and we were one of the first 105 mile teams across the line. 17 in those hills was plenty fast. The next weekend we did the Assenmacher 100 pre-ride at just a smidge under 20 mph. For the actual Assenmacher I averaged 20.5 and could have been faster but chose to enjoy the last 40 miles rather than push the pace.
In other words, I took a week off without missing a day. This week was the first time since I bought a bike that I was actually looking forward to a rain day. Normally they come at the worst possible time and I’m bummed out that I’ve gotta take a day off or choose to ride in the rain. It’s a good problem to have.
Next week I’ll pass my total mileage for 2012. A week or two later I’ll pass my total for 2013. I’ll pass 2014 before October is done – assuming, of course, I remain healthy. Life is, most certainly, good.
How is your bike shifting? A little slow, one way or the other, either up or down the cassette? Up the cassette is an easier gear, down is to a harder gear. Simple. Right?
Well, until you’re out in the middle of a hilly 100 miler, you’re shifting a ton and your cable stretches a little bit… All of a sudden, you shift to an easier gear and… hesitation. Man, I hate that. You?
Now, this post will go over the entire gamut of the rear derailleur adjustments to keep you flying and shifting smoothly… And with a minimal amount of hassle.
The in-line adjusters are very simple, once you pick the correct one. See, my shifter cables run under the bar tape (or inside the handlebar now) so the adjuster on the right operates the front derailleur (left shifter). The adjuster on the left operates the right shifter and rear derailleur. If they’re set up properly, you simply turn the adjuster (the one on the left, that operates the right shifter) the same way that shifting is slow… This is tricky of course, if you don’t know your righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. So, say you’re slow going up the cassette to an easier gear. You simply turn the barrel adjuster away from you so the little silver piece moves to the left. No more than a quarter turn at a time, preferably an eighth. Your shifting should improve immediately. Easy as pie. If it’s hesitating going down the cassette, twist the adjuster the adjuster toward you.
The in-line adjusters aren’t fool-proof though. Twist them too lose and your cable will rattle in your shifter handle – for that reason the in-line adjuster should only be used while you’re riding and then adjusted with the barrel adjuster at the back of the rear derailleur as soon as possible. Just be sure to screw the in-line adjuster back in first, before you index the shifting.
Next, to adjust the index on your rear derailleur with the barrel adjuster at the derailleur, either do it on a stand (easier) or with the bike upside down if you’re in a pinch. Just pay attention to which way you’re turning the adjuster if the bike is upside-down.
Now remember, this is just an adjustment, not a full indexing so don’t mess with the set screws and don’t bother with half of the other crap in the web tutorials, they’re only necessary for a full indexing.
First, shift to the smallest (hardest) gear in the back. Make sure you turn your in-line adjuster in all the way (turn it clockwise)… Then start turning over the pedals and take your barrel adjuster and twist it, one way or the other, it doesn’t actually matter, until it the chain starts clicking… Now, turn it the other way until the chain starts clicking again… Dead bang in the middle should be the perfect setting. Turn it back to the middle and try shifting up the cassette. If it shifts crisply (very little lag between the moving the shifter and the derailleur moving the chain), then shift back down the cassette… If it’s slow going down the cassette into harder gears, simply turn the barrel adjuster clockwise. Keep in mind, you’re pedaling all the while. If it’s slow going up the cassette into easier gears, turn it counter clockwise, a quarter or an eighth of a turn at a time… Fine-tune it until the shifting lag is the same both up and down the cassette.
Because you tightened the in-line adjuster down (or at least got it to the middle), when your cable stretches you’ll be able to give the in-line adjuster a quick twist and get your shifting squared away, quickly and easily.
That’s really all there is to adjusting the rear derailleur. For bigger problems, if these simple steps don’t vastly improve your shifting, then you can take it to the shop to have them figure it out.
Now, for the smart alec who will complain that it took more than a minute, besides the fact that you need a bike maintenance course, I can’t give you your money back. You didn’t send me any to begin with. Sheesh.
Today’s post will be rather short and sweet as my wife and I went out last evening, for a bike ride and dinner, to celebrate being a couple for twenty years.
On August 19th, 1995 we went on our first unofficial date together. We met at a dance, danced the night away and went to a local boat launch to drink coffee and learn something about each other. We talked for several hours, about Elvis and the Beatles, about Star Wars and sobriety.
As fate would have it, Jessica was the woman God made for me, as I was the man He made for her.
We’ve been through good times and bad. We’ve been richer and poorer. In sickness and health. My wife has been my best friend since that day; my hot, smokin’ babymama (in the Elvis sense, not the seedy “mother of my babies”).
We would go on to marry, to make a commitment to God and have wonderful children and build a beautiful life together… Through faith, hard work, and dedication. Forsaking all others, till death do us part.
Our successful marriage didn’t come easy though. It took struggle, work, compromise, understanding and doing a whole lot of stuff for the other that we didn’t want to do – and it ultimately took making a conscious decision to be married, not two people living single but together. As my good friend Mike once said, “Jimmy, sometimes you wanna throw ’em like a dart but you just gotta love ’em”. Truer words have never been spoken.
[ED. Just in case you’re wondering, my drink is an Arnold Palmer – half-and-half lemonade and iced tea. Also, an hour before the photo of my wife and I on our mountain bikes was taken, it was raining. I was CERTAIN that I’d finally get a day off… Well, it cleared up so we went for an easy 14 mph spin down the dirt road, ten miles out and back.]
It was supposed to be raining yesterday evening for the club ride. I’d have been at home, finally taking a day off the bike and having dinner with my wife, celebrating our 20 years as a couple… The skies were cloudy and it was hot but with a wind out of the south between six and eight miles an hour, we weren’t likely to have anything blow in on us so I was riding – and I felt better last night than I’ve felt in weeks. I felt fast. My legs felt lively. It defied logic that I felt that good but there it is.
I led for the whole seven mile warm-up, averaging near 16 mph, sitting up there with McMike feeling marvelous. Phill, Chuck and Brad were along with us and they weren’t really close enough to catch a draft, so saying I “led” the warm-up is really more about explaining the lineup. Somewhere along the way, Brad said that he was going to keep it to the short route. He’s going through chemo and he didn’t want to push it too hard, for too long. I thought about it for five seconds and offered to ride in with him. I wanted him to ride in knowing that his boys have his back and I’m off of some huge mileage and on no rest for more than more than a month… It made sense, at the time.
We rolled out just past six. Chuck and I up front and it was fast right out of the gate. We started at 19 and took it up to 21 with a crosswind. We led for just over a mile before turning right to catch a tailwind. The pace jumped to 28, now. It didn’t come down, with the exception of one stop for traffic at a busy intersection, till we turned southwest.
Into a headwind we were between 23 and 24. I took enough turns up front that I lost count at five. I felt spectacular, strong… Good. I’d say it’s been three weeks since I felt close to that spry and I’m sure the fact that I knew I only had to hold on for twelve miles improved my attitude considerably.
The rotation into the wind was pretty quick, 30 seconds to a minute, and even though the group was pretty big, we didn’t have more than 14 of us who did all of the pulling. With only two miles to the intersection where Brad and I would split with the group, I was one bike from the front again and we ran into a bit of a weird scenario. Matt found himself close to the front, second bike to be exact, and he’s usually not up that far, so when the lead bikes pulled off to drop back, Matt went too. That tends to create a bit of a traffic jam up front, not to mention that the guy who was third now has to catch up with me… I picked up my speed, considerably, to clear the mess of cyclists dropping back and I probably held that just a little too long. Chuck hollered at me to give him a chance to catch up – and he was right, I was a little too overzealous… So I soft-pedaled for a second to let him catch up. We were even-up for about ten seconds and Chuck tried to drop the hammer on me.
I noticed his cadence pick up before his speed, so I matched him. Before I knew it we were passing 28 mph into the wind and there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth behind us. One guy was yelling to back it off but Chuck was intent on putting the hurt on me. We kept accelerating. I dropped off the front and let him beat me. I was smoked anyway and it seemed like the right thing to do after I pissed him off, even if it was unintentional.
For the first time that evening, I dropped all the way to the back of the group, ninety percent of the way to hyperventilating. Once I caught my breath I asked Brad if we were still heading back early. He replied in the affirmative so we backed off a little to let the group make their right so we could check traffic and make the left to head home. We made thirteen and a quarter miles in 34 minutes – almost a 23 mph average on open roads, stopping for stop signs and the whole nine yards. Folks, that was fast.
I took the lead and let Brad draft me the whole way back, between 16 and 20 mph. I won’t lie, I was a little bummed out that I’d chosen to cut out early. I had plenty of leg left, even after all of those turns up front… It would have been an awesome 30 miles, probably a record (Phill later texted me that they’d done the 29 miles [and change] in 1:16, a minute faster than our previous best). Brad and I talked about his health, how he was doing and his plans for the following year. He hadn’t felt well since June so this season was pretty much a bust. Even though I had wished I’d kept going, after the eight miles back, I knew I’d done the right thing.
We made the trip back, almost eight miles, in decent time and ended up just shy of a 21 mph average overall. We packed up and headed over to the restaurant for dinner. I’ve had plenty of times where I needed help from my friends, Every now and again it’s nice to have some to give back.
Last year I couldn’t ride more than six days in a row. I knew I couldn’t. Taking one day off a week meant that I wouldn’t end up with dead legs after thirteen consecutive days on the bike. I chose one day off a week because I tried one every two weeks the year before and while that worked, at the end of those two weeks I usually felt a little tired out.
That screen shot of my Endomondo account represents 46 bike rides over 36 straight days and I covered 1,220 miles. That’s an average of 33.88 miles each and every day… And if it weren’t for the pesky job, I could have gone farther. Alas, I have to pay for my bikes and vacations (and all of that food) somehow. The point is, as of March I was certain that I couldn’t possibly ride more than two weeks in a row, at any speed. I needed to take a day off.
I was wrong. I didn’t know how to. The desire was there, I just lacked in the know-how.
I started riding three or even four slow days during the week, between 16 and 18 mph on average. It’s called active recovery, and if I go slow enough on the active recovery days I can keep riding as if I were taking regular time off all along. Now, I’m under no illusions here. I know I’m going to have to pay the piper sooner or later, or I could end up with a nagging injury that takes months to recover from. We’re actually looking at rain over the next three days. Considering this is the dry time of the year, I’ll probably end up with one or two days off out of the three, and that’ll do. Additionally, with my big ride of the year only a few weeks away, I will be slowing down considerably before it gets here – both in terms of actual speed and I’ll take a few days off (or ride short, extra slow miles) so I can go into the four-day, 380 mile trip with fresh legs. Either way, I’ve turned I can’t into I can, with a little bit of know-how.
Second, I don’t race. I never have, nor do I have a desire to. Is it a waste of talent? Possibly, because I have the legs to compete, possibly as high as Cat 3 or 4. What I don’t have is the desire to work that hard. I’m a 45 year-old man with a wife and two kids and a great, if difficult, job. I wake up every day, happy to be alive and grateful for the choices I’ve made that got me where I am today. I like my life so much, and cycling is a part of that, that I’m not willing to risk the balance I have to race a bicycle. It’s just not worth the risk. This is my “I don’t want to”.
Finally, I bumped over 5,000 miles for the year last week. I’m currently at 5,200 and some change. Two years ago my total for the year was 5,400… Last year was 6,000… I didn’t think I could do much better than that and I was hoping for 10,000 km this year. I’ll blow by that before we hit October.
I used to believe that there were limits to what I could do in terms of recovery and cycling. Too many times I’ve been wrong. Any more, as long as I’m honest (with myself and others), I’ve found I can do darn near anything I want. It’s just a matter of want to.
That’s a good place to be.
It was better than 70 degrees (F) when I stepped out the door on Sunday morning while I was prepping for the Assenmacher 100. In Florida, that’s any day of the week in August, in Michigan… Well, that’s a lot of the days in August too but it was still pretty freakin’ warm and the forecast was for lots of sun and a balmy 91 degrees. With 40 miles on Saturday (24 with my buddy Mike and another 16 with my wife several hours after Mike and I got back) I was feeling odd. Sore isn’t the right word, maybe tight would be better. Definitely not enough to worry about though. I’d ridden my bike 36 straight days without a day off, just to see how long I can go, I was feeling a little lethargic. Not tired, not particularly sore, just not as lively as usual – as one might expect.
I packed my bike and all of my gear with care, making sure I didn’t miss anything. I filled my water bottles and added Perpetuem in one and Heed in another, then did the same for my wife. I did forget to pump up the tires when things started getting hectic, close to our departure time. Mrs. Bgddy was riding to the start and I was driving… For the first time I didn’t need (or want) the extra eleven miles that I’d get by riding there and back. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist of a cyclist to figure out that after 101 miles in temps north of 90 degrees, a little air conditioning on the way home will be awesome.
I paid, got my tee-shirt, went back to the car and got my gear ready and took my bike into the shop to pump my tires up. A few trips to the restroom and some chatting with friends and we were ready to line up:
We rolled out at just after 8 am, Mike and I up front. We were prepared for a rough, fast day but we started out relatively slow, between 18 & 20 mph to allow everyone to form up. After a couple of miles we were jumped by two of the fastest guys in the group and as I fell back I got ready to go… And nothing happened. We went from 20 to 22 mph, and stayed there. I tried not to get too excited, enjoying the morning and reasonable speed but I was certain the pain was coming… The pace was jumped up from time to time but we never broke 24 mph in the first 15 miles. I was a little more than stoked as it appeared the racers decided to save a little for later when the heat cranked up. One thing I really noticed was the lack of depth in the group this year. The Assenmacher 100 is one of the biggest rides of the year in our area and one of the rare opportunities for the big dogs to ride really fast with a lot of help. This year, instead of the normal 30 racers who show up to lead the group, we only had 14-20. This meant that we, the B guys, had to take our turns up front rather than sit back and enjoy the draft. I took every turn I came up for in the first 30 miles and we pulled into the first rest area with a paltry 21.5 mph average. Not bad by any stretch, but two years ago we pulled into the same stop close to 24.
We reloaded the water bottles (I chose Gatorade because I know better than to go for water), took a couple of quick bites to eat and prepared to roll out. The problem we ran into, with a group that big, is getting everyone through the lines and back on the bikes. I think we were stopped for about 15 minutes. Someone yelled out, “Rolling out!” A minute later we were on our way but my Mike, my cycling brother from another mother, wasn’t in the group. He’d left early with one of the tandems, leaving me, Chuck and Phill to fed for ourselves.
We had come up with a game plan to evaluate the ride at that rest stop. If we were all feeling good and the speed was reasonable, we were going to hammer it out with the group till the 57 mile rest stop and then head out in our own little group at a 20 mph pace so we could enjoy the last 43 miles rather than try to hang on with our tongues dangling from our mouths. Both items were checked off for the rest of us so I figured we’d catch Mike and the tandem before the next stop anyway… We rolled out, keeping the subdued pace for the next 27 miles, though we almost made a wrong turn in there somewhere… Half of the group missed it and the rest of us soft pedaled until we thought everyone was on. We missed Dave and his wife coming up a ways back on their tandem. They had to struggle for miles to get back and that effort absolutely cooked Dave. I didn’t find out about the mistake we’d made until after the ride – and even though I was in the middle of that lead group, I felt horrible about the mistake.
Fifty-one miles, just better than halfway in and I was starting to hurt. I had decreased my frequency of taking turns up front by half and when I did take a turn, they were short, maybe a half-mile. I was still exceptionally pleased that I’d made it as far as I had with the group. We rolled into the 57 mile rest stop with that same 21.5 mph average and as we pulled in and propped our bikes against trees or each other, Mike and the tandem were already prepping to roll out. I had to make a decision: Skip a much-needed rest stop and ride with them, or take my time to relieve myself in addition to food and topping off the water bottles. I wasn’t waiting another 18 miles. No way that was going to work. I let them go and refueled.
As we prepped to leave I let Chuck, Chuck and Phill (that is two Chucks, not a typo) know that I was going to beat the big group out and ride back easy. One of the Chuck’s decided to stay with the group to see if he could muscle it out but the other Chuck, Phill and Matt decided to stay with me to enjoy a more reasonable 20-22 mph ride in. Unfortunately Jesse heard us talking and said he’d like to hang with us. He’s a one time racer and has a ridiculous engine but because he’s slowed down a bit since becoming a father… I was afraid that he was the one solid link that would beat the rest of us to a pulp… I was right, and Jesse and I were the only two taking turns up front at first so I got hammered hard. After 20 minutes though, the lead group caught us and many of the guys (Jesse included) took up their pace. Phill and Jesse made it, Matt and Chuck tried and stayed for a while, and I didn’t make a move. I had a plan and I was sticking to it, even if that meant riding in alone. Two guys stuck with me and we caught Matt after a mile and picked up two more after they were spit off the back of the main group. From there on in, it was tough sledding because of the heat and the fact that I had to spend a considerable amount of time up front – and eventually even our meager 20 mph pace was too much for some of the guys in the heat. We ended up whittled down to just me and one other guy for the final 5 mile push into town.
I looked at the clock on my computer with three miles to go, to make sure we’d make it inside of 5 hours, my only real “goal” for the ride and it only took one look to know that we’d be okay. If we kept it at 20, we only needed nine minutes and we were at 4:44. I could darn-near hit that on a BMX bike. We crossed the 100 mile mark at 4:52:52. We sat up and rode in easy for the last mile taking almost five minutes, including the stoplight we got stuck at, to roll into the parking lot. It wasn’t my best century, but as long as I beat five hours (riding time), I’m a happy guy.
To wrap this up, my streak of consecutive cycling days is still going at 36 and 1,204 miles, though it’s not going to last much longer. They’re calling for a good chance of rain for the three of the next four days starting tomorrow afternoon. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m not going to bother riding in the rain after a streak like that. It’s time to let the legs recover for a minute.
Cycling and Fitness: How Many Miles Should I Be Riding Every Week? Well, That Depends on How Much Fun You Want to Have.
Riding a hundred miles a week was a big deal for me when I first started riding a bike for fitness. I love riding a bike. Now that I’m one of the super-cool kids, I like cycling even more and I can fit in a few more in a week. I like the speed, camaraderie, and the fact that cycling has made my wife’s ass super-awesome. Really, you could bounce a quarter off it. Quarter-bounce aside, I’ve had an interesting road when it comes to mileage in the last four years…
My first year, first summer really, because I rode no miles that first winter, 60 to 75 miles a week was a fairly big deal. I was on a mountain bike and just building my fitness. I started out, no kidding, with 4 miles at about 15 mph as my best effort. By the time my second year rolled around, I was pushing 35 miles on a decent Trek 3700 that I’d bought from a friend just a couple of weeks into riding. That’s when I started hitting the 100 mile a week mark. I’d ride 8-10 miles a day during the week and 30-40 on the weekends. I lost some weight and started to get fast. Then I bought a road bike because I was geared out on the mountain bike – meaning I would, on downhill sections and even flat ground once in a while, run out of gears and have to coast because I simply couldn’t pedal any faster.
The road bike is what really opened things up. I went from 8-10 miles a day to 13 and eventually 16, during the week and 25-40 each day on the weekends. I rode five or six days a week. That’s 113 to 129 miles a week, and I really lost weight. I got so light my wife got nervous and asked me to start eating a little more. Chris Froome may be attractive to Sky, but my wife liked a little more meat on the bones than that. I was almost exactly 2 lbs per inch in height back then… Legitimate pro climber weight. I really got into the club rides and started with the metric and standard centuries. My mileage went through the roof. And I kept my weight at the low end of where my wife liked me. I was between 150 and 200 miles a week, in-season of course, all the way up until last year when I started riding on a regular basis with a group of between four and six from our Tuesday night club ride. We are all suited to about the same average speed and we all like the long rides.
This year, I no longer take days off unless it’s raining (though I trade days off for very slow rides with my wife). It’s been more than 55 days since a shower has derailed my chance to ride a bike and I even ended up taking a day off on vacation just because. That isn’t to say it hasn’t rained, it has, just not when I normally ride (5-6 pm during the week). I’ve clipped into my road or mountain bike every one of the last 36 days. I am lean, mean, fast… and happy. I exercise to stay thin – I will never allow myself to cross into “overweight” again – I’ve been there and it sucked. I choose a bicycle because it feeds everything I love about staying fit:
- Friends – My friends and I, including my wife on the top of that list, have enjoyed thousands of miles together. We’ve camped together for organized rides, ridden just for the heck of it, my friends have even helped to bring my wife along as a cyclist… The friendships are tough to describe because they’re definitely not traditional friendships, but they are good.
- The Gear – I love having cool gear. Call it my answer to the midlife crisis, that works for me. My bikes are my less expensive answer to sports cars – and the bikes run off of fat, not so much my wallet.
- The Food – I would be eating like a bird to stay the weight I’m at right now if I wasn’t as active as I am. Last night I ate at Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers without guilt or regret or having to worry if I’d put on an extra pound or two. That sure beats a salad.
I’m riding between 230 and 250 miles a week this year. That may seem like a lot, but it’s really not all that bad. 16 miles a day during the week, 38 with the club on Tuesdays, 40 on Saturday and 100 on Sunday (or vice-versa). I’ve enjoyed every single mile and only ride alone one day a week anymore. Today my friends and I will ride the Assenmacher 100 (mile). We’ll ride with the racers for as long as they keep our 25 mph pace steady and then we’ll drop as a group and finish the ride together. We’ll help one another to ride faster. At the end, we’ll all sit down and have a hotdog or two, some salad and a piece of watermelon and we’ll spend an hour talking about the finer points of the ride. Tomorrow I’ll ride with my wife after I get home from work. We’ll talk about the day’s goings on and what our plans are for the coming week and beyond. We’ll spend time together on two wheels. Tuesday I’ll hammer out another club ride with the boys and laugh about the ride over dinner… Wednesday and Thursday will be easy, spent with my wife. Friday we’ll increase the intensity and extend the mileage a little. Maybe. Then we’ll put in some long miles on the weekend.
What will be missing is complaining about who sweated on the treadmill and didn’t wipe it up. We won’t complain about who didn’t put their weights away or who was grunting their way through a set… We won’t even bother talking about the latest food craze, because we all get to eat as we please – as long as it’s good food and makes for good fuel, within reason it doesn’t matter. Burgers, nachos, steaks, mashed potatoes, green beans, some salad, chicken, pork, pasta… It’s all good.
The proper amount of miles to put in on two wheels is as many as I can fit in, but not so many that the happy balance is upset. I love my life as a cyclist, it’s what I was always looking for in staying fit. It’s everything I was looking for. Four years ago that was 60-100 miles a week. Today it’s 230-250 a week. I don’t know what it will be tomorrow, but right now I’m out the door. It’s time for another hundred.
I woke up Monday morning and knew I was in trouble… Sunday’s Assenmacher 100 pre-ride took a lot out of me. I really had to work and my legs we’re feeling sluggish from all of the hard miles and an utter disregard for taking time off.
Tuesday night’s club ride was rough. I was able to muscle it out but I was hurting. Bad. I didn’t know how I was going to recover for the actual Assenmacher 100 this coming Sunday and we’ll do that century 10 to 20% faster than we did the pre-ride. I had ridden 30 of the last 30 days and averaged almost 34 miles a day during that stretch.
For the first time this season, I questioned whether I’d be able to get through a ride. I’d felt this before. It was “tired”.
I thought about taking a few days off but poo-poo’ed that. I rode Wednesday, just 16 miles and took a little more than an hour to do it. A minute more. My legs hurt, I could still feel the remnants of the cramping from last Sunday and the club ride.
Thursday was exactly the same, just two minutes faster. Even that was work. How could that be?! Tuesday’s ride was almost 22 and we did the pre-ride century at 20. Dammit, I’m a fast guy! Maybe trying to go 30 for 30 wasn’t such a great idea.
Then Friday. I had a supplier golf outing and we were supposed to get some heavy weather in the afternoon, so maybe I could just take Friday off. Maybe?
I have to be very careful at these outings. There’s obviously a lot of drinking and cigars… Dozens and dozens of them. I once loved cigars, and my drinking history is well documented on this page. Hanging around that mess isn’t always easy. One of the three I was golfing with was absolutely hammered. The other two were drinking, but fairly responsibly…and one was smoking cigars. Ah well, that stuff isn’t for me anymore, though I can have my misery back whenever I want. All I have to do is take a drink and watch my life head straight down the drain.
When I got home it was 87 degrees (F) and rising… And sunny, no sign of a storm. I suited up and prepared for another hour-long sixteen miles. Three quarters of a mile in and I was pushing 19, easy. Must be the wind at my back. Hang a left, second mile at 19.5. Third at 20.5, fourth at 20… Then I headed back west… 22.5 and I was barely breathing heavy. I thought, “Now that’s more like it!”
I ended up with my foot on the neck of my enthusiasm and slowed it down to a reasonable 18-20 mph and just let my legs spin freely – to save it for Sunday, but I was super fired up that my legs finally came back. Responsiveness was back, no pain, no hesitation, no tiredness, just lots of “go” in them. In one day I went from worried about being able to keep up on Sunday, to excited to get it done. By the time I pulled into my driveway the clouds were building and darkening. Halfway through dinner the skies opened up and it rained cats and dogs for about twenty minutes.
If I needed anything it was that ride. Not only for Sunday, but gave me an hour to get my head straight again.
Sometimes I hate being a recovering drunk. People offered me drinks all day long and I turned every last one down. I had to. I know me and what happens when one drop crosses my lips. It sparks an obsession, a craving, that I absolutely cannot control. I am utterly powerless. Fair or not, it is what it is and given the choice, I’ll take this over cancer any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Still, sometimes it’s tough to control my emotions and thoughts – it’s easy to feel like a social pariah because I can’t accept a drink. In the end though, I have to keep my melon committee focused on what’s important, because whining about being a drunk isn’t going to change the fact that I am.
My wife and kids, riding a bike, my business… I will give up everything good in my life to chase the escape of being drunk. This is the definition of powerlessness. In fact, one of the most brutal aspects of alcoholism is that it won’t just kill you. First it takes away everything that’s worthwhile in life and leaves you a shell of a human being.
Finally, for the “sexy legs”… That’s just what happens when you ride a thousand miles a month and eat well. 33 days and counting. 1,063 miles, and I’ll be getting at least 20 more today and a hundred tomorrow. No hill for a mountain climber.
Endurance Athletics, Cycling, Running and the Heart: How Much is too Hard on the Heart? The Answer I Like is Balanced.
Everyone knows that exercise does a body good. Humans are meant to move and all too often we find lack of movement to be a main culprit in obesity or worse. Having watched my grandfather slowly waste away and die after a broken hip, I’ve seen firsthand what an absolutely sedentary lifestyle can do to someone. There’s another side to that equation though, a balance…
I recently read an article in the August, 2015 Velo Magazine that looks at the incidence of heart disease amongst those who regularly push their bodies past the limits. This post will not be an attempt at taking down the science used to come to the conclusion that too much of a good thing is bad. That makes enough sense to me, and because I’m okay with being honest I don’t mind writing that I only want to go so far with my fitness anyway because I’m already fast enough in my humble opinion. I don’t like pushing myself hard enough to ride with the racers. In fact, to me, pushing that hard takes a lot of the joy out of it. While I do ride a lot and put in some fairly decent mileage, I manage an excellent balance in life. Enough cycling, enough family time and enough work, but not too much of the first and last on the list (except on occasion).
The article, entitled Cycling to Extremes looks at heart arrhythmia in those in the upper echelon of endurance athletes. The gist is this: Those who cycle or run hard in their youth and follow their career in professional sports with rest and leisurely activity exhibit excellent longevity in terms of overall and heart health. Those who continue to push well into their late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s show obvious signs of stress and the degeneration of the heart muscle. That’s all well and good, and certainly makes sense, but they stop short of actually defining what is too much and what is safe, largely because the science is unclear and there is a large “gray area”. If that wasn’t confusing enough, one must factor in that while we’re all supposed to be equal in the eyes of the government, we’re not in terms of generics. What is good for me could eventually kill someone else with a weaker heart, and conversely, what could be a Sunday ride for someone else could lead to dysarhythmia for me.
The only thing I like when it comes decision time for someone to find the proper balance is personal honesty in conjunction with a good medical opinion. No one can determine for us what is or is not acceptable because one extreme will use the fact that too much exertion can lead to heart problems to justify doing nothing while the other either won’t care or is often in utter denial. While denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, it isn’t a mountain in the Himalayas that can only be summited by a chosen few, either. Finally, it must be accepted that some people are willing to die to continue to perform in their chosen sport. It’s just the way some people are wired, though I can’t see requiring someone else to pay for that choice… As with so many things in life, the knee-jerk reaction is to point to others and accuse. He’s too active, she’s not active enough, he’s lazy, she’s too fanatical… These charges are all too common and normally based on utter ignorance of the full reality or on only a sliver of what really is. The problem inherent there is that if you require someone else to pay for your choice (say taxpayers), you invite their opinion as well, as ignorant as that may be… And because we all can’t vote on the right thing to do for each individual, these things require a corruptible, often contemptible bureaucracy.
For example, and completely off topic, I was accused the other day of being uncaring to the working class, simply because I ride a very nice bicycle. I am the working class! The person making the accusation knows about me, only that I ride every Tuesday with our local club and that I ride an expensive bicycle. From that he was able to determine my wealth, how much I pay in taxes and that it should be more because I ride that nice bike. After all, his son graduated with “college debt” and “only makes $35,000 a year” coming out of school. The word “ignorance” is far too kind for that level of prejudice, he has absolutely no idea the sacrifices I chose to make to own the bicycle that I do, he has no clue as to the simplicity with which I live my life in all areas except that bike… He knew, based solely on the bike I ride that I should pay more tax, presumably so his son wouldn’t have to pay for college. That same lack of logic and ignorance can, and will, be applied to fitness by armchair quarterbacking bureaucrats the world over under the guise of intelligence. If you think this is foil hat territory, just look at school lunches that are too small to properly nourish high school athletes. It happens every day and in dealing with far less debatable topics. To that end, I thought it important to begin the discussion of the boundaries of that gray area.
Using myself as an example, I can look at duration for five of the seven days in a week and say that I don’t ride too long, 50 to 90 minutes a day. I also ride quite slow for most of those. The trick gets into the weekend where I’ll ride anywhere from a couple of hours all the way up to six, both days and at least one of those is going to be at a fairly aggressive pace. Going by the two examples used in the article, arrhythmia issues begin with a fairly common feeling of the heart fluttering in the chest as if it were a “flopping fish”, often during periods of rest. While I have experienced this feeling (only once on a ride and a few times while resting), I discussed it with my doctor and after several tests, including an EKG and an ultrasound, it was determined by him that I was in fine shape and all was well. The problem, according to the article, that this is fairly common even in fully healthy individuals who exercise a lot. The problems are apparent when this begins to occur more frequently. We get into trouble when we continue to repeatedly challenge the limits and we damage the heart… That said, when my level of training for cycling and the duration at which I train are taken as a whole, I am well below levels of concern. When my doctor’s involvement is added to the mix, while some may view my cycling habit as extreme, I am, simply stated, just exceptionally fit.
This is, of course, by design. I enjoy cycling. I love it. I love sharing the sport with my wife and daughters and the feeling of relief it brings to an otherwise stressful life. While I do train hard from time to time, I absolutely slow down long enough to see and smell the proverbial roses. In other words, my fitness schedule adds to my life’s balance, it doesn’t detract from it and it absolutely cannot be said that I push too far over the edge when I ride. Finally, I have no desire to be at the top of the food chain when it comes to cycling or any other activity – I have no desire to turn fitness into another job that must be trained for and I have no delusions of grandeur, as if I will be a more validated person if I can win a race. Dude, I just like to ride. Maintaining my fitness is exceptionally important to me because I believe in the idea that if I want to be active at 80, I’d better be at 40.
In the end, lest we end up in some dystopia where we have to sneak our pre-GPS trackable bikes out the door for a ride, for fear some bureaucrat might find our desire to sweat a little, unnerving, each of us should take a moment to consider, just how fast is fast, and is damaging the ticker worth being just a little faster.
The science is beginning to show that the results of failing to honestly assess our fitness can be dire. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thu…
This is my test for knowing whether or not I’m too avid an enthusiast when it comes to cycling: I love it, yes. The idea is to love it well into old age – not damage my ticker to be fast. I’ll leave being ultra-fast to others. In the end, it always comes down to balance. Too much of a good thing, or too little, often leads to trouble. Honesty is always the best policy.