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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tuesday Night Club Ride:  If You Aren’t Riding Your Bike as Fast as You can…. Edition

The hardest part of cycling with any speed is training faster than I want to ride.  The second is getting used to the hurt.

I put in 157 hard (but fun) miles over Saturday and Sunday.  My legs, on Monday, were smoked but I still managed 40 easy miles to loosen up my legs – or at least that’s what I was hoping for.

The warm-up last night was rough.  The wind was whipping at 15+ mph and it was picking up.  I hid like a champ but my quads protested mightily when I got to the front for a short pull into the wind.  It hurt.  The last two miles, with a tailwind, were almost comical.  We were pedaling fairly easy at 27 mph.

As has been the case for more than a month now, we split into our B Group after placing a new guy with some people who should have been his speed (as a side note, when you’re asked by a group leader what your pace is, DON’T EXAGGERATE).  

I started toward the front and prepared for the worst.  I knew the first 15 miles were going to suck.  I was right.  The wind was easily over 20 mph after a couple of miles and we were dead into it.  

On the plus-side, we literally rode right around a rainstorm.  We missed getting rained on by just a mile or so.  

The last of the headwind miles was brutal.  One of the guys asked another guy and me to pull, into the wind and uphill, for more than a full mile to deposit the tandem at the next hills so they could hold the pace they needed.  We did it, but I was actually worried about holding on to the group after the turn….

Then, Our Lady of Glorious Tailwind took over.  Our average after the first 15 miles was in the upper 16 mph range (just 26 km/h).  We would finish just shy of 20 when it was all said and done (32 km/h).  In other words, the last 15 was very fast.

Interestingly, working that hard really loosened my legs up by the time we were done (opposite of what I thought would happen).  The last ten miles felt a whole lot better than the first and middle ten.  I missed the 20 mile sprint into Vernon because one of the guys went too early and rather than let him go and flame out, I thought I could hold on.  I ran out of gas 200 meters from the line.  I did, however, position myself perfectly for the last sprint and took that one by a few bike lengths at something like 36 mph.

I have always advocated for a cyclist to ride to the limit of their endurance, both in person and on this blog.  To a point, this is good advice, but I’ve come to believe it is also shortsighted.  

Now that I’m a bit more knowledgeable, I believe it’s better to ride to the limit of one’s enjoyment.

There is a trick to my proposal though.  If I’m going to ride at the edge of my enjoyment, I have to train beyond it.

That’s really the ticket, isn’t it?  Having fun?  No matter how hard I push myself, if I’m not having fun, what use is the fitness?  I have never been more grateful for being a part of the B group as I have been this year.  Having fun is way better than depositing some of my breakfast on my top tube.

Just a thought.

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The Noob’s Guide to Cycling:  The Godforsaken Unfindable Bicycle “Click”.  How to Find It (BY Throwing the Kitchen Sink at It). 

Let me start by giving away the ending to this post:  I was absolutely wrong about the initial three causes and it was pure luck that I actually found the cause of my click in the end…

My problems began about a week and a half ago.  I developed a “click” in my Venge, located somewhere in the vicinity of the bottom bracket.  At first the click only appeared “under pressure” or when I was pedaling hard, and it grew progressively worse and more annoying.  There was no rhyme or reason to the click… it didn’t happen at set intervals or a specific time in the pedal stroke.

I was certain it was dirt in the bottom bracket – even though my bottom bracket, with the most advanced crankset available for my particular bike, is sealed up just slightly less tight than a frog’s butt.  The owner of the local shop had other ideas.  Due to a flaw in the installation of my crankset, there is no removing said crank without drilling the bolt that holds the everything together – I am riding the bike till the bottom bracket bearings fail before we attempt to drill the bolt out to save the crankset…  It’s a long story and I didn’t make much of a big deal about it, nor will I.  It’ll be fixed soon enough.  The point is, it’s not as simple as “just take the crank apart and clean it”.  I can’t.

I started out with the easiest cause of “phantom clicks”, the spokes.  Where the spokes overlap, over time they develop grooves that, when under pressure, will click.  I found two sets of spokes that were bad so I put pieces of paper in between them to see if that would quiet the click.  At first that worked.  The click came back after 30 miles over two days.

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Next I moved to the free hub.  I’d noticed a while back that two of the teeth were sticking in the free hub the last time I had it apart.  My thinking was, if they’re not fully engaging, that could lead to a random click.  I took the hub apart, checked the sealed bearings, cleaned and lubed everything (two of the teeth were sticky when I took the free hub off of the wheel) and put it back together.  The click went away.  For 17 of 30 miles.  The last 13 drove me nuts.

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Next I checked the seat collet (the bolt-on apparatus that holds the saddle to the seat post).  There was a little click in the saddle when I tugged rigorously on it.  I took that apart, cleaned and lubed everything and put the rear wheel from my rain bike on the Venge.  This was just before we went down to Kentucky for the Horsey Hundred over the weekend….  Wednesday’s easy ride was quiet.  Mercifully quiet, so I was sure the problem was in the rear wheel.  I tinkered with the spokes again, removed the free hub one more time and used a different lube and gave it a go on Thursday (we were leaving for Kentucky on Friday and I didn’t want to put the heavier wheels on the Venge – the hills are hard enough).  Absolutely quiet, and that ride was a 19 mph average so I was into the gas a little bit…  I was ecstatic.

Friday was a day off, driving to Kentucky (just shy of six hours from my house as a straight shot).  Saturday, certain I’d taken care of the problem, and with my good wheels on my good bike, we took off.  The first 60 of 104 miles were glorious and silent.  Then, on a particularly hard and off balance pedal stroke, the clicking came back with a vengeance.  My bike was clicking so much I though about tossing it into the woods and walking away a few times.   I was riding with Mrs. Bgddy though, so I’d shoot ahead and try a new thing, then race to catch her again.  First I put bits of paper between each overlapping spoke.  Clicking.  Then I checked the saddle again.  Nothing.  Then I had one of the shop mechanics check it at a rest stop.  Nothing, “But if you can leave it here for two days I’m sure I can find it”.  He was kidding, of course, and I got the joke.  I resigned myself to riding with the click.  It drove me up a wall…  I stopped to check the front quick release, then the rear.  I tightened each.  I’d go for five miles of clicking, then silent for two.  Three miles of clicking, silent for one…

When we got back to the hotel, after a shower and some food, I tore my rear wheel apart, cleared all of the paper from between the spokes, cleaned the free hub, then on a fluke, just to make sure I didn’t skip anything, I loosened the seat post collar and moved the seat post up and down several times.  I removed it, looked for any debris other than the carbon paste that was on it, installed it to the proper height (I know exactly where it goes – not close, not almost, exactly).

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The next morning I rode 52 hard miles without a sound.  The seat post.  Yesterday’s ride, 40 miles up front for all but a handful of miles and into the power often, absolutely silent and back to my favorite bike again.

Now, before you get too cocky and go off on an “I could have told you so” rant, I check the bolts on the seat post clamp with a torque wrench once a week as a part of my regular maintenance on my bikes.  The seat post never moved, slipped, dropped, and the bolts never loosened….  So I was under the impression that everything was okay with the seat post – heck, with the exception of lowering it early last year and pulling it at the end of last season for yearly cleaning, the seat post hasn’t been touched.  How it could develop a click as annoying as the one I’d had is beyond me, but it did.  And I’d skipped over the seat post in favor of more obvious candidates because I take such good care of the post in the first place!  I won’t be one of those with a fused seat post, let’s just put it that way.

Alas, the problem was the seat post – and the point is, if you develop a click in your bike, don’t do like I did and skip something that you regularly maintain because you regularly maintain it.  I went through a week and a half of annoyance because I skipped the saddle post on day one – and that’s the first thing I thought to check.  DOH!

Please, Don’t Cycle Stupid

Witnessed yesterday, live and in person, picture this:

A man rides down a short, steep hill.  One hand on the hood, feathering the brake, the other holding a can of beer.  He picks up speed coming down the hill (I needed and used both brakes) and promptly hit a spray paint marked speed bump at what looked to be 15 to 20 mph.

Long story short, he stopped his bike the rest of the way with his face.

On hitting the speed bump, the rider’s front wheel turned instantly following the line of the speed bump, launching him over the handlebar and planting him on his nose and chin.  He slid on his face for several feet, removing a fair bit of skin from his nose and chin in the process.

As he sat there on the ground bleeding on the pavement, another cyclist walked over with a half-crushed can, head oozing from the can’s opening and hands it to the dazed man… who says, “You didn’t spill all of your beer.”  It was priceless.

The injured man finished the ride on his bike.  The crash was at mile 60(ish) of 100.  One could hardly call the crash an “accident”.

My friends, please don’t ride stupid.  The idea is to keep the rubber side down.  Oh, and if drinking and driving a car don’t mix, you have to be worthy of the Darwin Award to ride a bike and drink.  

Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest.

On a brighter note:

The woman in pink and black up ahead is Mrs. Bgddy completing her first century.

Defining Fitness through Quality of Life – or Better, the Other way Around

I’ve heard and read a lot of stupid stuff over the years but my new doctor laid one on me that I hadn’t heard before – that the health risks outweigh the benefits of extreme athletics.  A friend of mine doubled down on that in a comment by sharing that she’d heard that not only do the risks outweigh the benefits, there are no benefits to exercising the way I choose to.

“Incredulous” is the best word that fits, for me.  Maybe “nuts” would be for anyone who actually believes as some doctors do.

I am slim enough to be able to complain about five extra pounds, and actually mean it.  I am fit enough to keep up with my kids and teach them sports by doing, not by trying to explain from the sideline.  I have a zest for life that the vast majority of the world would be jealous of…. because I get to play for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends.

I ride with my wife, spending hours on the road together throughout the week.  The fun we have cycling together passes on through every moment we spend together.  We laugh together like we used to when we were just kids dating.  I no longer seek an escape from life through drugs or alcohol, I have a Twelve Step Program that I work diligently, and my bikes.  Either one alone leaves something to be desired.  Together, I feel like I’ve won the lotto.  Every day I wake up.

No benefit indeed.

Life is short, bikes are cool, and cycling is fun – and anyone who would put out the garbage that there is no benefit to cycling ten or twelve hours a week, when done wisely, is a quack.  Better, with a straight face, look at some poor, obese person who’s body is shutting down due to complications from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and poor circulation then tell me there’s no benefit to riding a bike twelve hours a week.  How about someone who can’t leave their house because they’re too fat?  Someone who can’t even get out of bed?

The notion there is no benefit to a good bike ride is simply freaking nuts.  The idea that the risks outweigh the benefits is right behind it.

I wonder if the issue here isn’t about the definition of extreme, though.  While many could view what I do as extreme, mainly by duration of a weekend ride or perhaps by speed (with a fair bit of ignorance, I might add – I may be fast against the average Joe, but I am not fast against real speed), I find it hard to classify me as “extreme”.  Dedicated?  Absolutely, but extreme? Hardly.

The real issue here is laziness.  Labeling a fit cyclist or runner as “extreme” is lazy.  It’s measuring a fit person against a horrendously unfit populous to come up with an average that unfairly slants against a fit person.  Any doctor who would stoop to such a label for a fit person in their late 40’s who is so healthy they don’t take one prescriptive medication to correct a lack of fitness, is off (even if I would view the label as congratulatory anyway).

Life is about quality, and while I would definitely like some longevity, I wouldn’t trade my happiness for an extra ten years on the back of 85, 90 or 100.

Now, if you would excuse me, I have a hundred miles to ride.  Chuckle.

I can FINALLY See…. No, Seriously.

Last week I was sitting in a chair, looking through a giant apparatus as the depth of my ocular deterioration was assessed.  The optometrist, highly recommended by a friend who knows eye doctor’s, quietly said, “One or two?”

“One”, I replied.

“One or two?”

“Two.”

And so it went until, BAM…  

I got a little misty.  I haven’t seen clearly at a distance for 27 years now.  Just a row of crisp, clear letters.  They looked so beautiful.  

There was once a train of thought that said if you wear glasses your eyesight will worsen because your eyes are no longer working to focus (or something like that).  Right or wrong, I bought it and simply stopped wearing glasses….

The optometrist asked gently, again, “One or Two?”

I cleared the frog from my throat.  “Could you go back to One?  Yeah, One.  I’m sorry, I haven’t seen like this in a long time.”

I left the office, having been told my glasses would be in within eight days…  I tried to forget so I wouldn’t count the days.  I was going to be able to see again.  It took only three days for the call to come in.  Talk about under-promising and over-delivering!

I picked up my glasses after my ride on Wednesday.  It’s like life is in HD.

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So there I stood as I put my glasses on for the first time and looked in the mirror…  I could read the signs clear at the other side of the store, more than 100 feet away.  27 years is a long time to go missing most anything beyond a hundred feet (my vision is still good enough to pass the driver’s license exam, but it’s getting iffy).  I wore my new glasses all evening, marveling at what I had been missing.  Even watching the Tigers play on TV….

I knock Wal-Mart on a fairly regular basis (though rarely publicly).  Their internet order security sucks, among other issues, but what they do right is make necessary items accessible to everyone.  I do not have vision insurance so when my daughter complained about her eyesight, we decided to take care of me while we were at it, but we were paying cash.

In 1990, the last time I owned a pair of glasses, I remember the cost for the appointment and glasses topped $750 but my parents paid less than $100 after insurance.  My daughter and I were taken care of expertly for 60% of what one pair of glasses and sunglass clips cost 27 years ago, and that is awesome.  So knock Wal-Mart I may, they do provide a necessary service and for that I am grateful.

I still marvel at details I can now see clearly that I never paid attention to.  The reflection of the lamp on the flat screen TV, the way the leaves and grass move with the wind, raindrops hitting puddles.  HD Life is awesome! 

REST!  Finally!

Gnarly yesterday, nasty today…  Two rest days in a row !  I don’t quite know what to do with myself!

Oops.  Wrote that line at 4 am, Tuesday.  Crazy thing, it didn’t rain much all day.  They, meaning the Weather prognosticators, pushed the rain off to the late evening.  So the title should be “REST!  Almost!

It was a wonderful evening for a bike ride. 

My ride was one of those solo efforts that brought me back to the specialness of cycling, the pure enjoyment of being out on the road with nothing to do but aim the bike and push on the pedals.  No worries, no work, no problems.  It was just me and my bike and a bunch of miles.

I love those days on the bike where nothing matters but the pedaling and looking around.  Speed didn’t matter, but hitting the corners sure was fun….

It was as good as they get, and I’m still wearing the smile.

The Very Definition of Justice

How often do you see a douche park their Beemer or Benz taking up two parking spots?  I’ve seen one jerk take four parking spaces before.  This is justice:

When that punk starts throwing his hands up in the air like a little baby, my God, I haven’t laughed so hard in a while!