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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Some Winter Training Mistakes I’ve Made that have led to Excess Poundage

You’d think that once one gets this whole fitness thing down, it’d be good times and noodle salad from then on, right?  Not so, at least in my case.  Like anything else, as changes come at me I have to adapt.  If I don’t, bad things happen – or in this case, minor inconveniences happen.  I’m only about 6 pounds over where I want to be right now.  That’s not exactly anything to freak out over, but it was unexpected.  This is where I went wrong:
Diet

My diet was my biggest mess-up of the winter.  I just happened to read an old post I’d written that dealt with my winter diet a year or two ago.  I used to skip a meal, whether breakfast or lunch (skipping breakfast seems to suit me), all winter long.  This year I ate three squares a day all winter long.  Unfortunately that only works during cycling season.  Thankfully I’m not looking at a huge hurdle.

Calories burned summer to winter

This goes back to the first item, my diet.  During the summer I burn between 13,000 and 15,000 calories a week riding my bike (give or take, it’s a guide, not set in stone – specifically for generalized illustrations like this).  During the winter that knocks back to only 3,000 to 5,000 calories a week.  I have to adjust for this.  Unfortunately I didn’t go quite far enough (close, but no cigar, as they say).

The 26,000 calorie week in September and 8,500 calorie week in February are obviously outliers – we had a nice weekend a few weeks ago so we actually got three days of outdoor cycling in and the late August/early September week was DALMAC.  Believe it or not, that’s a real count too.  Almost eight pounds worth of calories in one week.

Weight training

This is another one I hadn’t counted on – one day I was sitting at my desk and thought, “You should be doing something weight lifty” – so I did… when I shot up five pounds in just a month, I freaked a little bit.  I’ve been hitting the push-ups pretty hard and it’s really showing.  My arms and chest grew a few inches in a matter of a few weeks.  It looks good, but there’s some heft to the extra muscle.  This isn’t a complaint, mind you.  I’d much prefer how I look today to just a couple of months ago.  Still, weight’s weight on a bike.  Oh yeah, Mrs. Bgddy said, “Don’t change a thing.”

Cycling Training Increases/Gains

Normally over the winter I lose a little bit of leg muscle because I’m pushing easier gears.  This year I actually think I gained some.  I’ve been pushing the hardest gears I could and it’s paid off.  A couple of more pounds, though that only counts against the overall number.  I’ll take stronger legs and a couple extra pounds any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

So that about does it.  In lieu of giving myself the chance to screw this up again next Autumn, I’m going to put together a little reminder that I can look at the end of each season so I can have a better plan going into the slow season.

Keeping in mind of course, slow is a relative term.  Just not a relative of mine.

Peter Sagan on a Pedestal….  It’s Hard not to put Him up there.

Peter Sagan is my favorite cyclist since Armstrong tore up the Tour de France peloton – only, presumably, Sagan actually is clean.  Keep in mind, when Armstrong was winning we were under the impression he actually was clean.  That said, I don’t want to go back there with this post because a professional most people can like, or at least not hate, is a rare thing.  And Sagan is one that most can like.  For me, it also doesn’t hurt that he rides a Specialized Venge.

I recently read a post written by a friend about Sagan and a back and forth tweet between a young British cyclist and Peter, and their shared love of Haribo gummy bears.

And thus…

It just doesn’t get much cooler than that.  The World Champ taking a second to reply to the random tweet of a fan.

Sadly, we fans have a funny way of burning these rare greats out, because we all want our “Peter Sagan tweeted me back” moment.  We put people like this on a pedestal then watch as they’re knocked off – some even seem to delight at the process.

As far as I’m concerned, all I can do is sit back and hope this doesn’t happen when it comes to Peter Sagan.  He’s turned out to be cycling’s caped crusader – the nice guy who does really well riding a bike for a living.  He gets to do what many of us only dream of and he’s one of the rare few who genuinely looks like he’s having as much fun as I do when I’m on my bike – and that’s something special right there.

Meantime, pass the gummy bears.  We’ll be buying more Haribo gummy bears.  If they’re good enough to refuel the Champ, they’re good enough for little old me.

Not Much of an Escape from the Cyclist’s Hamster Wheel…

My wife, four friends, and I took the mountain bikes out on Sunday.  We’d planned all week on taking the road bikes out but the weather turned out much colder that what was prognosticated.  Friday and Saturday were simply too cold to ride outdoors with temperatures well below my 20 degree (-7C) cutoff.

Sunday was being reported as the pick day of the weekend and temps were supposed to start at freezing and work their way up to almost 50 by 3 pm.  Unfortunately the wind was absolutely whipping in from the southeast and as with most of our paved routes, we’re pretty much limited to southwest and northwest except one decent east to west loop.  I picked that rather than fight what had turned out to be a 15-20 mph wind with gusts above 25.

To the west we headed, with a little help from the wind.  Something like twelve miles, head north with a solid tailwind for a mile, then east… and that’s exactly when it started sucking.  The wind was blowing so hard it didn’t matter where you were, you weren’t getting a break.  I stayed up at the front of the echelon, either first or second bike, for quite a while before deciding to fall back and try to take a break for a bit.  I only managed a mile or two before I realized I was having an easier go of it up front (less dodging of the potholes – we were, after all, on dirt roads).  I stayed up at the front the rest of the way back and couldn’t believe that I actually felt pretty decent when we pulled up to my driveway…  Good enough that I rode with my buddy Mike halfway to his house for some bonus miles.

At the beginning of the winter, technically on Novermber 23rd, 2016, I wrote the following:

Cycling and how I will get faster over the winter….  Notice, please, that I didn’t use the word “intend” or “plan” or “think I can” in the Title?  While this isn’t a foregone conclusion, as I still have to put in the saddle time, I have already started on the path….

So we’re coming up on the end of winter, and the results are in…  I think.  I did get faster over the winter, on my trainer.  Or maybe that’s to say I didn’t lose as much as I normally would over the winter, but I don’t think that’s the case – I really do feel quite good with where I’m at.  I actually feel faster, and so far the results have translated to the road.  One thing is undeniable:  I’m vastly stronger that last fall – I just have to translate that onto the road over hours instead of just 45 minutes a day.

The plan was to spend most of my trainer time in the third hardest gear (52/13) on the hardest resistance setting (on the trainer).  I ended up doing one gear better.  I moved up to 52/12 in late January and managed to get to a point where I can do a whole 45 minute workout horsing just that gear.  I’m even tinkering with my last gear every now and again (52/11).

In other words, I did even better than I’d hoped when I devised my little plan back in November.

This is where I spent all of those frigid winter days…

In addition, I started doing push-ups again and have stuck with that, five days a week, since January so now my upper body is better prepared for the upcoming glut of miles that should start in about two weeks.

In the end, I’d put on more weight than I’d hoped though, as one would imagine with a bunch of extra muscle – I’m sitting at a solid 181 pounds right now so I’ve cut out breakfast entirely and that’s begun to show positive affects as it always does (I know, I know…. I’ll do my diet how it works, not how you think I should do it.  Thank you in advance for your concern).

Unfortunately, that nice stretch of weather we had didn’t last.  It’s been cold as, well, it’s been really frickin’ unseasonably cold.  For the time being, it’ll be a little more of this:

Spring is close though, and I’m ready!

This is a wonderful place to be.  I’ve always gone into Spring a little tentative.   Did I do enough over the winter?  Will I get stuck playing catch up?  Not this year.  I’m caught up and good to go – so in light of a couple of revelations, I’m putting together a transition plan that I can refer back to as soon as the snow starts flying…. more on that later. 

A new dawn on the horizon; Autonomous vehicles could mean an end to cycling fatalities

One of the benefits of living in the suburbs between the Motor City and Vehicle City is that a lot of news centers around automobiles.  After the International Auto Show last month, there’s a lot of news surrounding autonomous vehicles of late.  The interesting bit that was discussed this morning on WJR by Paul W. Smith centered on fully autonomous vehicles, not partially autonomous.  Paul envisions a society in which we’re no longer “allowed” to drive our non-autonomous vehicles except at specially designated tracks.

That seems rather far-fetched, but then he added this notion:  Our fathers and grandfathers used to be able to ride their horses to and from work, but that’s all but impossible in today’s industrialized world.  He imagined that world evolving to a point where vehicles drove themselves, assuming safety is achieved, in the next 10 to 20 years.

How difficult a stretch is it?  We’ll see what happens in the next ten years but as a cyclist, if they get the science right, a world where we wear laser reflective clothing so that automated vehicle sensors pick us up (say on the shoes, sides, front and back, on the short cuffs and on the jersey backs and shoulders…).  Imagine being able to ride on roads were vehicles couldn’t hit us!  That’s where we’re headed and while there once was a time I wouldn’t have wanted to relinquish my driving duties, I’d trade up in a heartbeat to be able to cycle in peace.

This would, no doubt, lead to some simple rules that would need to be obeyed in order to stay safe and keep traffic efficient, but think of all of the road rage that would be saved!  While I imagine this would only be displaced elsewhere, I would assume that not having to go through the motions of getting around a cyclist, letting the car do the work, would make the experience a little less unsettling.

The technology would cause some problems, I’m sure, though I’m not as opposed as I once was.  I look forward to a day when we aren’t plucked off the side of the road.

Cycling, Free Speed, and Slamming the Stem;  Slam ‘Em All!

I’ve slammed the stem on every bike I own.  One, I got just right.

One is limited by the frame’s geometry, I just can’t get it any lower.

There’s about 10 mm less drop on my Trek

Then there’s the mountain bikes…  Slammed:

…And really slammed:

Slammed and stretched is fast.  To an extent, and understanding that extent can be the difference between riding that ride with a smile and a sore ass, or worse, back, shoulders or hands.

Now, before we get too deep down the rabbit hole, allow me the dalliance of pointing something out…  Look at the stems on the mountain bikes.  Take particular note of the stack of spacers above the stem.  DON’T cut your fork until you’re positive you like the stem where it’s at.  I rode the Venge for a full season with 20mm of spacers stacked above the stem before I finally had the fork chopped.  You can take it off, but it’s impossible to put it back on.  The Rockhopper will get the same treatment, eventually.

Next up is the notion of comfort.  I am not a particularly flexible man.  I can’t touch my toes without bending at the knees.  I had lower back pain for decades before I picked up cycling.  Decades.  If anything, riding lowered fixed my problems.  Fixed.  Repaired.  In the past.

I am not a doctor but this is my experience and I am eternally grateful that I thumbed my nose at traditional wisdom that has one sitting upright on their bike.  This, however, may not be for everyone.  In fact, I may be the odd, rare bird.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

Riding lower, if done wisely and with some forethought, is vastly faster.  On the order of 1-2 mph over cycling upright.  Free Speed.

The problem is the forethought, and that’s where I’m taking this post.

Being older-ish, but not all that old (44 at the time I bought the Venge), and knowing I had flexibility only slightly better than that of plywood, I couldn’t just slam everything down to the frame and ride off into the sunset.  I did it slow, five or ten millimeters at a time, taking as much time as was necessary to get used to it, then I’d lower the bar some more.

Each time I lowered my handlebar, my back felt  little better and eventually I got to a point of diminishing returns, where the bar was simply too low and I couldn’t get comfortable (no matter how much I wanted to).  At that point I raised it 5mm and called it good.

I haven’t looked back.

Understanding bike sizes and geometry.

The size of a bike has a lot to do with how low one can drop stem.  Typically speaking, I ride a 58-59 cm frame.  This goes by my height (6’0″), inseam (33.6″ or 85.3 cm) and arm length (long, never measured myself).  The Trek, above, second photo, is a 58 cm standard frame.  It is the proper size for a more traditional, upright posture on a road bike.  I can get low enough, because of the 80 mm stem I put on it, and the standard drop bar helps too.

The Specialized, my “good” bike, however, is a compact geometry and is a 56 cm frame and some serious drop to it.

Point is, if you want to ride lower, the first, easiest, place to start is get a bike that’s a size, or even two, smaller.  From there you simply add a longer stem and you’re good to ride.  In the case of my Venge, the bike came with a 100 mm stem on it already.

I beat this drum on a fairly regular basis because what I did is so contrary to the current wisdom of the cycling industry.  Do not be afraid of dropping your handlebar from where it was set during a professional fitting.  Once I got used to my setup it became natural, even preferred, and as speed on a bicycle goes, you can’t get more “free” than lowering the handlebar.  Done wisely, there is literally no cost whatsoever.

As long as you can live with a few spacers stacked above your stem until you’re certain you’ve got the stem as low as it can go, comfortably, you’ll have left yourself the ability to easily undo what you’ve done.  

Suffice it to say, some things you just can’t unread…

A new person followed my blog the other day, whether to actually read mine or get me to read hers, I don’t know.  

I clicked over to read some of her work, same as I do for everybody who follows me.  If I like what they have to say, I’ll follow theirs.  If not, I simply move on.  No sense in wasting either of our time.

This blog was different than any I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been blogging.  Pornographic, from a woman’s perspective.  Just the three line teasers were too much – but I felt compelled to click on just one post to see if this woman was the real deal or if she was faking it.  

I read a touch more than one paragraph and exited.  I’ll never go back.  The post centered on her penchant for being polyamorous – multiple guys.  The post went downhill, and fast.

I didn’t stick around.  I made it a whole paragraph and a half – long enough to see where it was going, but not long enough for the post to get there, before retreating to the relative safety of my much simpler life.

This is how I choose to roll, because some crap can’t be unread.

Whether about recovery, my marriage, work, or life in general, I live by a simple principle:  Spend enough time in a barbershop, eventually I’m getting my hair cut.

The greatest requirement in this simple principle is honesty.  I know I am particularly susceptible to things that will provide instant gratification but come with catastrophic long-term consequences.

Consuming alcohol will provide an immediate escape but comes with the ultimate escape – first through giving up everything that is good in my life to stay drunk, followed by an early demise when my body shuts down from the abuse.

That blog is a twist on the same theme, only the casualties wouldn’t be quite so drastic – only my marriage and the love of my daughters.  Better, I wouldn’t even be granted the gift of death, just loneliness and despair.

The ugly part is that end result wouldn’t be set in stone, would it?  Certainly I could dabble around the edges without singing my hair, no?  Therein lies the rub.  Certainly, considering my addiction recovery success, considering the success of my marriage, I should be grown up enough to endure a guilty pleasure or two, no?

Nope.  Not this guy.

I can’t dabble around the edge of the pool without getting wet.  I can’t play in the ankle-deep water, I have to get in so the waves crash over my head so I can ride them.  To thine own self be true – and the truth is, a cheap thrill isn’t worth the risk – my happiness, and ultimately that of my wife and kids.  I love them too much – and me too.

Shared from WordPress:  He Asked for His Faith to Be Increased.  He didn’t only get a Seashell….

How A Seashell Saved My Life – http://wp.me/p8lQD3-Wo

This is a long post, but if you happen to be having a difficulty finding, defining, or understanding how a Higher Power works in one’s life, read this post.  It’s a small miracle, I kid you not.

The Magic Piece to Making it in Recovery and its Simplicity – and How that Works for Everything.

I reposted a video a while back that had me laughing so hard I pulled an ab.

If you haven’t seen the clip, please click over and check it out, it’s actually important to the rest of the post.  I’ll wait….

Okay, now what was the funniest part of the clip for you?  Probably that first, shouted “STOP IT“, right?  It just kind of hits you.  There once was a time when today’s politically modeled excuses were laughed out of the room.

That’s not the funniest part for a recovering drunk, at least not this one.  No, the funniest part is when Newhart tells the woman, after she tries to add importance to her condition because she’s had the problem since childhood… He breaks in, “No… we don’t go there.”  When she gets to “My horoscope says…” and Newhart cuts her off, “We definitely don’t go there”…  That’s the funniest part.

I find most excuses for unhealthy behavior repugnant on their face and while I may feign tolerance for others, I certainly don’t buy that horseshit for me – and this is why I made it in recovery.  We call it honesty.

I have done things in my past that would shock most normal, decent people.  I could have excuses for failure too, for sitting back and taking life drunk, for being a waste of oxygen.  “But it’s not my fault, I’m an alcoholic, you see?”

I can remember being offended, at first, when my sponsors wouldn’t tolerate my excuses.  After all, didn’t I deserve the same tolerance of my faults as everyone else?

The question came down to this; “Do you want to get better or do you want to stay sick?”… and they actually gave me the choice in those exact simple terms.  I learned at 23 what most drunks don’t get till they sober up in their 50’s or later.  Oh, I can choose to be a f***ed up poobah.  I can have my excuses, as full of crap as they were, but I can’t have my excuses and a happy, sober, clean life at the same time.

I can also choose not to like it and lash out, blaming society for unfairly casting their judgment on me [hang on a sec, I think I can muster a tear…].  I can also put that in one hand and $#!+ in the other.  Take a guess which hand fills first.

Here’s my trick…

I am not my messed up first thoughts.  I am not some of the demented ideas I have.  I am not the guy in my drinking dreams.  I am not even the drunk I used to be.

Today I am my second thoughts.

Let me float a simple concept by you.  What is a dream?  I don’t mean an aspiration, I mean a real, you’re asleep dream?  Your excuse makers will come up with some scientific gobbledygook that goes back to how their mommy sat them on the toilet sideways that led to the dream.

Not me.

A dream is the mind’s way of taking out the garbage.  Plain and simple.

Drinking dream?  I’m not a loser because I had the dream!  My melon was taking the trash out to the curb.  Call my sponsor, have a cup of coffee and thank God it was only garbage day.  Done.

Now let’s put a little twist to that.  My first thoughts can be garbage too.  Say I have a tough day at the office.  My first thought is to go get good and drunk…  Hey, thoughts happen.  My second thought is what defines who I am.  Do I play with the notion of going to the bar?  Do I roll that around in my melon and entertain it?

If I do entertain the first thought with a second and third, I am a drunk.  Dry or wet, drunk all the same.

That’s not what I do though.  My second thought is, “Crap, I need some help.  I’m a mess.  I need someone to talk to.”  I dial my sponsor and talk through what’s going on, and get a game plan together for how I can do better.  Then I do it.  That’s who I am, and that’s why I’m currently in the 3% of sober people who go on to make it in recovery.

(PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A PROMISE ON FUTURE RESULTS)

I am not me because my mommy kicked the hell out of me when my dad and best friend had to drag me into the house because I was too blowed out to walk (remember all of those lower back problems I’ve written about?).  I am not who I am because I was raped in college by a dude while I was passed out. Even better, the University and cops swept it under the rug and booted me a few months after because I was a wreck!  Let me tell you, folks, that $#!+ takes a little effort to work through, but work through it I did.

I am making it because I know how to take out my melon’s garbage.  I am making it because my second thoughts don’t slide me under the bus anymore.  My second thoughts don’t make things worse.  My second thoughts lead me back to the sober, happy path – and in the rare event I can’t get there on my own, I call someone who knows me, who will help me to sort through the quagmire till I can – as ugly as that work may be.

Alas, while I would love to claim credit for this concept, the only reason I picked up this most wonderful life skill is that Chuck and Tom passed them on to me twenty-four years ago, but I picked it up and worked with it, and now I offer it freely because that beats this:

“But I have a disease that makes me”…

“No, no.  We don’t go there.”

“But society places a stigma…”

“No, we definitely don’t ever go there.”

(Righteous indignation is reserved for those who do not follow their name with “and I’m an alcoholic”.)

Banning Parents from Driving Kids to School? Now that may not be the worst idea ever…

When I was 13 years-old, my daughter’s age, I would ride my bike to school when it was nice out.  If memory serves, it was ten or twelve miles if we went the long (paved) way, and eight if we took the shortcut and used dirt roads.  The only trick was the shortcut required we ride on the side of an exceptionally busy 55 mph paved road for a mile.  We didn’t like that and the paved option led us right to the back entrance of our middle school (seventh grade).  At just 13, I had freedom.  Today, we live just five miles from my daughter’s school, on roads much less dangerous that those I rode to school on, yet she’s never once ridden a bike to school.

Jamie Beach at Bike Radar recently wrote a report that looked at how they do things in the Netherlands, where Dutch kids regularly ride their bikes to school and according to studies, their kids are vastly happier than those of the US, UK, and Germany.  I’ll let Jamie take it from there:

But humour me here, let’s look at all the benefits we’d enjoy IF we could somehow take all those cars off the road and away from schools…

First, there would be far less congestion and traffic fumes, particularly around schools. If you live in a city, you’re probably familiar with that nasty taste in the back of your throat that indicates air quality is not what it should be. The World Health Organisation says it’s a mass killer, responsible for over 3m preventable deaths worldwide annually due to heart disease, asthma and lung cancer. In fact, the EU’s five most prosperous economies (Germany, France, the UK, Spain and Italy) all fail the WHO’s recommended limits for air pollution.

Second, parents would insist on better cycling infrastructure. I know, it’s scary to think that our children would be out there, battling road traffic. But we can accompany them ourselves, and teach them how to navigate crossings. This seems to be the Dutch approach, a cycling culture that’s passed down from parent to child. Of course, if you live next to a motorway or freeway then maybe there’s just no way your child can safely cycle to school, and the school bus could be a better option. But for most of us, segregated cycle lanes would be an excellent option.

Third, kids would get more exercise – which has been proven by scientists to improve concentration and cognitive mapping in the developing brain. A 2012 Danish study found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than being driven, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration. A separate US study has found that children growing up in traffic-heavy neighbourhoods have a much more negative attitude towards their environment, and a weaker ability to accurately map it.

As mentioned above, it will also give children that crucial sense of independence, essential to life happiness. These things do matter. If young people feel they can ride to school, go visit friends when they want, or just get out and explore their neighbourhood, they’ll be happier, and parents will feel less like chauffeurs.

Let’s not forget, either, that cycling is a useful life skill – just as Dutch parents cycle everywhere themselves, it would be great if more adults in Britain, the US and Australia got on their bikes. It frustrates me just how car-dependent we’ve become here in the UK, sold on the promise of convenience and thrills, when the reality is our roads are absurdly clogged and road rage abounds. And the solution isn’t bigger roads, that’s a very short-term answer to the problem.

Finally, it’s so much cheaper to cycle everywhere; just think of all the money we’d save on petrol and public transport. Sure, the weather’s sometimes against us, and there could be hills to deal with, but both can be tackled with a bit of determination and the right gear. As the authors of my book on Dutch kids found out, it’s important to foster a bit of resilience and grit – this is often cited as a key factor in happiness later in life.

I like his thinking – and equally interesting as his points, if my kids rode to school and home, they’d be quicker, by as much as 40 minutes each way, than if they take the bus.

What if there was a massive influx of cyclists on our roads?  All of a sudden, bam!  Tomorrow there’s a 40% increase in cyclists.  Politicians were actually pressured into adding that nice 2′ shoulder (which, in turn, makes the roads last longer because the bigger trucks aren’t constantly riding right on the edge of the road/lane).

I do know one thing for certain, I never got a bike smile on the couch: