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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cycling: Riding Hard or Hardly Riding? Pick Your Poison.

On one hand, riding hard is a lot of work.  To get the most of it you need specialized clothing, special saddles, even special bikes to an extent.  Hardly riding is easy.  The bike doesn’t matter so much, clothing doesn’t matter.  Unless it’s hot and sunny out, you’re not even going to break a sweat.

On the other hand, hardly riding to lose weight and get fit will take forever and a day.  Riding hard, especially over decent distances, one can literally see the weight melt off with a fair diet over a single cycling season (April to November).

On one hand, hardly riding one can take in some decent scenery, provided one is willing enough to venture out more than a dozen miles from their house.

On the other, you’ll be hard-pressed to see anything but the road ahead if you’re riding hard.  In fact, I’ve been riding the exact same route at least once a week (in-season) for four years and I just saw a river that runs next to the road (it’s actually a hundred yards off the road, but it’s a pretty big freaking river, maybe 100 feet across) for the first time the other day.

The Best of Both Worlds…

There exists a middle ground though, for those of us who embrace speed…  Riding hard all of the time, you will eventually injure yourself.  At a minimum, bad things will happen.  Most science and coaching says that there should be easy efforts interspersed with hard efforts throughout the week.  These easier days can be used to take advantage of sightseeing (thus, how I finally noticed that river after all of those years).

Moreover, there is also a line of thought regarding training that says building a base in the early season should be done at slower speeds to build up the vascular infrastructure in the legs that will later support exceptional efforts.  I don’t much subscribe to this myself but it’s quite common to hear “you shouldn’t even shift out of the little ring in the first month or two of training”.  The little ring, for those not in the know, refers to the smaller of the two front chain rings on the crank (if you have a triple, you’d choose the middle ring as that one would typically be the “little ring” on a racing setup).  Max speed in the little ring on my Venge is 23 mph (52/36 chainrings).  A racing crank (52/39) is 25 mph.  A compact crank would be a shade above 21.5 mph (50/34).  My normal cruising speed on a hard ride is 22-25 mph.  I never use the little ring unless I’m climbing a fairly steep hill.  In other words, if one prescribes to the coaching that says “never out of the little ring for the base miles”, you’ll be cruising around at slower than normal speeds, a perfect time to sightsee.

Do what make you happy…

I’m a big advocate of cycling as fast as one can while keeping it fun.  For some, racing is fun.  For others, like me, cycling fast is great but I’m too old to want to turn training into work.  Still others, guessing the majority of cyclists, would rather play it safe and easy.  While I enjoy speed, to an extent, I am a “whatever floats your boat” kind of guy.  If you’re apprehensive about speed because you’ll have to give up those easy days, don’t worry about it any longer.  The truth is, even the fast guys get a chance to sightsee now and again.

Why Ride Hard? Why Bother with the Effort?

I’m harder on me than anyone else could be.  I give it my best till I’m spent, each and every time I get on my bike (with the obvious exception of recovery rides).  I don’t know why I like going fast, I don’t really know as I care why.  I just do.

I went out for a ride with my wife and buddy Brad this morning.  It was a little misty out with times of light rain, and it was windy.  I took the first pull up front.  Seven miles.  Then we turned south and I let my wife take a turn to her heart’s content.

We stopped at a convenience store, got situated and headed out.  Brad took a mile in the crosswind, then my wife took a few, then I hunkered down and took every mile into the headwind on the way back and maintained a 17 mph pace on the bar top so I could break more wind for my wife and friend.

If I need a reason to train hard, that’s as good as it gets.

32 miles, 17-1/2 mph pace and a great time.  Even though we got spritzed.

Have You Ever Noticed I Rarely Write About What I’m Going to Do?

I got the idea for this from a post I read the other day…

Have you ever noticed that I rarely write about what I’m going to do?

My posts about the Tuesday night club rides always post on Wednesday.  I write it Tuesday night, after I get home while it’s still fresh.  I ride it first.

Every ride I write about, except maybe a mention in passing, is written about after it’s happened.

Almost every post I’ve ever written about cycling has been in response to something that’s happened to me on a ride, or an issue I’ve been through…

Here’s where this is important:  I don’t write about intentions – only rarely do I write about something I plan on doing.  I never write about my intentions.

Intentions are largely bullshit.  “Plan the plan not the outcome”, as they say.

I learned this lesson when I first sobered up.  Half of my drinking career, as short as it was, centered around good intentions and broken promises.  It wasn’t for a lack of desire but a lack of willpower.  A complete lack of, and care about, accountability in regards to consequences.  I’d say, “I’m going to quit drinking.  I’m swearing off it.  No more!”

Two weeks later I’m hammered, wondering how it happened.

I no longer live by intention.  It took a while for me to get it but my father used to say, “Put an intention in one hand and s#!+ in the other…  Now tell me which fills first”.  I realize it’s a rarity, but what I want to do or what I plan to do is utterly useless until I actually do it.

To wrap this up, I also don’t confuse intentions with an honest assessment of what I have in front of me to attain goals.  If I want to hit a certain weight before the season really ramps up, I know what I’ve gotta do to get there.  While I will write about what I have in front of me, I won’t write about what I will do to get there.  I’ll do what I have to do, then write about what I did.

Just something to gnaw on for a Friday.  Weekend’s almost here.  Ride hard my friends.

The Gateway Drug…

The Gateway Drug to Fun:

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Racing, Riding or Randoneering, It’s All Good.

I met a guy at my daughter’s swim practice who races Cat 5 and triathlons because he needs the races to keep his motivation to train.

While I get it, that’s not me.  Not by a long shot.  First, I don’t need anything for my motivation other than my bike, a matching kit, a matching helmet, matching socks, matching shoes… and matching shades.

You should know I have a wry grin stretched across my face.

In all seriousness, while I definitely understand the “I need a race to train” mindset, I don’t subscribe to it. All I need is a free hour (or three… or five).

However, an interesting question would be “Can you even consider what I do, training?”

While I’m not just “riding my bike” like I did when I was a kid, when I rode yesterday, an easy-paced 18 mile fun ride on roads I hardly ever ride, it had absolutely nothing to do with my next event… I went for the ride because I love to ride. I just choose to ride at a faster pace than most because it’s the speed that makes cycling so exciting and fun for me.

The point is not to exalt one way of cycling over another, let me make that perfectly clear. The point, if there must be one, is to simply say “Dude, it’s all good, whatever floats your boat and gets you off the couch, out the door, and puts a smile on your face”.

Cycling is an adventure sport, whether it’s the long way around the block or a supported ride or Fondo or a point A to points B,C,D and E camping trip… Cycling is a means of burning off dinner, or decades worth of dinners. Cycling is a means of getting from point A back to point A in the longest distance time will allow. Cycling is a way for friends to get fit and enjoy life together. It’s a sport to bring families together. Finally, and this is my favorite part, cycling is a way to thumb one’s nose at growing old. While there’s no fighting aging, cycling has clearly slowed down its debilitating affect on my body. If that weren’t enough (and it would be), it also provides a level of happiness and contentment (for reasons too numerous to list here) that is easily felt down to a person’s baby toes.

Whatever floats your boat, my friends, ride hard. Or not.

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The View From The Drops: You’ll Never Know Your Limit…

TVFTD-Youneverknow

Tuesday Night Club Ride: 32 Mph Edition (that’s not km/h)

The dreaded northeastern wind.  I’ve written about this before, it’s the only direction the wind can blow that makes most of the ride suck.  Well, not really suck per se, because a bike ride, by its nature can’t suck.

The warmup was spirited, to say the least.  We started out easy enough but it got out of hand when we turned into the wind on the way back.  We were cruising at 22 mph into a 10 mph breeze.  For the warm-up.  Can you say “foreshadowing”?  I can.

The wind started kicking up toward the end…

We rolled at a minute past six. Mike and I took the lead mile before it got ugly, immediately.

With the cross headwind there was simply nowhere to hide on the right side of the pace line unless you were six inches to the left and your front wheel was even with the cyclist in front of you, meaning not only were wheels overlapped, bikes were overlapped.  Such is an echelon.  Anyway, I struggled mightily to hang on and made it.  We turned west and the speed ramped up considerably, staying north of 26.  If you remember, I get into trouble at 28…

One more mile north and the group started fracturing.  Guys were falling off the back as though getting dropped was a sport.  I was holding on though.  I was still under my threshold.  I could see the big turn to the southwest now, and I knew I’d be saved by a sweet tailwind if I could just hang on for another three-quarters of a mile…  We made it to the turn and rather than regroup as we normally do, all hell broke loose.  We went instantly from 18 mph rounding the hairpin, gravel-laden corner to 28 mph and the group fractured behind two racing tandems who couldn’t quite make the jump to light speed.  I was in that second pack and once we got our bearings and started working as a group, we began to reel in the lead, smaller pack.

With just over a ten mph tailwind, we hit 28… 29… then 30 and I could feel it… then 31 and 32, where we stayed until we caught the lead group.  It was comical how few we had left when we finally caught the lead pack.  I started looking for helmets and noticed that all but one of my friends was gone off the back.  I hung on between 29 and 31 mph for the next couple of miles but finally reached my limit.  My last buddy in the line made it less than a quarter-mile more than I did.  I caught him after a little more than a mile but I had to burn some gas to do it…  I had to hold 26 to get him, though once I caught up we took it down to an easy 22-23 to let a few others catch on.  In the meantime, Chuck checked his computer while I was catching my breath… we had a 24 mph average so far.

From there, I won’t lie to you, it was pretty much a blur.  I took all of my turns up front, took the first sprint (and spanked my arch nemesis in the process – which was awesome), did a little solo off the front when two of the guys up front weren’t lining up the best way to block the wind (if I’m going to eat the wind, I might as well make them chase me) and had a strong overall ride but I was absolutely smoked when we finished.

There’s no doubt that will go down as one of the harder Tuesday night club rides I’ve ever done.

The Hardest 17 Mile Recovery Ride I’ve Ever Done.

It was brilliantly sunny and warm yet again yesterday… though the wind finally picked up.  After three great days of 40+ miles my dogs were barking.

The idea of course, even though we were just looking for a recovery ride, was to incorporate some climbing into the ride because we were in Fenton where hills abound.  I asked my wife to ride with before I left for work in the morning so she actually got two rides in, one yesterday morning with my buddy Mike and she came out for another 17 with me.

The sun was glorious and it was our first ride sans arm and knee warmers.  This won’t hold for long, it is April in Michigan, but it sure was nice.  I explained to Mrs. Bgddy that I had absolutely no expectations for our ride within the first ten turns of the crank, that slow was the order of the day, as long as we got in some hills and a few miles to spin my legs out.  With that, we rolled out.

…And proceeded to hit every freakin’ hill we could find, except one which we would have no business being on in a recovery ride anyway – it’s the biggest hill we have in the county. We rolled out into the wind and were climbing the first decent hill within three-quarters of a mile and it didn’t let up until we were 15 miles in with only a couple to go..  Even though we took them fairly easy (I only bothered to get out of the saddle for a few).  I don’t quite know how to categorize the ride though.  First, it wasn’t a recovery ride.  It wasn’t near flat enough for that.  On the other hand, the pace was certainly all that tough either way.

Whatever it was, it was nice to take some time out of riding with everyone else to hang out with Mrs. Bgddy.  We did that 17 miles in a little more than an hour and I was glad to be done.  We may have to figure out a better route for Mondays though.  With the big club ride tonight, I don’t know about working that hard on Monday.  It’ll be an experiment in progress, I suppose.

Good Times and…

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…Noodle Salad.

While I was out with my friends tearing up the asphalt in the towns near Cohoctah, Michigan to the tune of 49 miles in two hours and twenty minutes, my wife was prepping for her first ever ride on a tandem with my buddy Brad.

There was a club ride yesterday, where they did our Tuesday night ride in reverse before the Genesee Valley Wanderers banquet.  During that banquet, I was voted in as the official El Presidente of the club…  I am jumping too far forward though.

Our ride was freaking badass.  Nice and easy – smooth and steady.  No wind… no, literally no wind.  There may be one ride a year where we have a minimal wind but we’ve had three already this year with a breeze less than three miles per hour.  This is something to be celebrated and enjoyed in our neck of the woods.  While we did average 21 mph, we only broke 25 once without a downhill to push us.  There were some excellent (if short) climbs, a few fast descents and plenty of smiles all around… even if a few of us were tiring out toward the end of the ride.  It was a perfect way to start a Sunday.

As I was finishing, my wife was heading out to try out a tandem at the club event.  This was a significant event in that, if she liked it, there’s a chance we might end up with a tandem of our own…  As strong as my wife is on a bike, I think the two of us would make a formidable team.  The only hurdles being A) Does she like riding tandem and B) Is she willing to address me as “Oh Captain My Captain” while we are on it…  Something tells me we’re going to have a tough time with the latter.

Her ride went excellently, and they even opted for the long route.  According to Brad they averaged about 20 mph.  I’m quite a bit stronger than Brad and they did it on a hybrid tandem (flat bar road bike).  In other words, my suspicion was confirmed… my wife is a badass.  We would rock a tandem.

Of course, me being me, there is no way I’m riding a bike with a flat bar.  It’s a drop bar road setup or nothing.  So we are going to start contemplating a tandem, at least for the time being.

Whether we end up picking one up or not, this past weekend was simply as good as they get.  I so missed short sleeves and shorts!

The Way Fitness Should Be, In My Perfect World

Please forgive the goofed up title… Autocorrect got me and rather than fix it, creating a warp in the space-time continuum, I’m going to leave it till tomorrow.

I rode my bicycle 54 miles yesterday.  There wasn’t one minute in the three hours it took that I wasn’t having fun. 

I went out to dinner last night.  I had some antipasto salad, some bread sticks and pizza.  It was good.  Good company, good food…  and decent fuel for my ride today. 

Here I sit this morning and I’m just about to get ready to do it all over again.  I’m almost giddy.  Sunshine, barely a breeze, and perfect cycling temperatures.

I don’t care about six-pack abs or rippling muscles.  I don’t care about the best way to get a magazine-worthy body.  I don’t have to.  I’m close enough for government work as it is, just by doing what I do.

Nope, what matters is spending some hours in the sun, rocketing down the road with my wife and friends.  What matters is an hour a day, whether I need it or not, during the week and a few hours a day on the weekends. 

There are sacrifices, of course.  I don’t have the time to make my yard look like I stole a fairway from a golf course.  As long as the grass is cut, I’m cool.  Oh, and I have to eat.  There’s that.  To ride like I do, I’ve gotta fuel the effort.

This is the way fitness is, in a perfect world.

I don’t have to worry about how I’ll fit my next workout into my life.  I can’t wait to get back outside and ride again because cycling is one of the fun parts in my life.

Ride hard, my friends.  You know I will.

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UPDATE: 49 miles on the nose, 2:20:36. 20.9 mph average. A perfect ride.

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