I’m a fiend for pecans. A freak. I love ’em.
Imagine my surprise when I walked into my local gas station to find Bourbon Pecan coffee in one of the brew machines… right next to my normal, Bogata Sunrise.
I had to try it. There’s no way the bourbon didn’t completely cook out. I’m just going to taste the pecans.
I paid for my coffee and rolled. I took one swig and I definitely could taste the bourbon. I dumped the rest out.
That single taste f***ed me up for two days.
Two days of ridiculous, “man a beer would taste good right now!” thoughts. Two days of glamorizing. Two days of fighting those first thoughts off with some solid recovery kungfu… Sure, I prevailed but I shouldn’t have had to in the first place. I should have known better.
The whole experience, while taxing, has been beneficial, though. First, if I ever needed a little evidence that I’m not cured, I just had it tapdance all over my tastebuds.
Second, no harm, no foul. I didn’t drink.
Third, I’m grateful for that little bit of understanding gained in the first item.
Fourth, and most important, I’m glad I have the honesty to recognize that understanding. If it were easy, anyone could do it.
The Speed Trap; Understanding how Cycling, Weight Loss and Speed Work – Is Slower Better for Dropping Weight?
I know a physician’s assistant. She is exceptional at her job and teaches on the side as well. The common refrain is, “those who can’t do, teach”, but magine how intelligent and dedicated you’d have to be to do both… She, like me and several of my friends, is also an avid enthusiast when it comes to cycling. She’s counts her years of cycling in decades. She’s toured the United States on a bike, including crossing it.
So we’re out on a ride the other day, a particularly easy ride because we were coming up on the A-100, and she mentions that we should ride slower on a regular basis because “it’s better for fat burning”. She also added that if you ride too fast, you burn muscle instead of fat”.
Both of those statements have some truth, but they’re not entirely accurate, either. Speed is relative, burning fat off of those stubborn places isn’t.
See, I am an above average cyclist. I spent three years (my lightest three years, by the way) pushing myself so I could be in the fast, above average group. There were countless times I almost covered my top tube in the morning’s breakfast. A number of times I choked up some bile… Folks, I rode hard and I lost a fair amount of weight back then. I went from 171 down to 150 – I’m currently 175 but like to think that extra few pounds are due to my massive legs. Back then, my wife complained I was too skinny, and she was correct. Looking back at photos, I was. I like me between 170 and 175, it’s a good balance. Unfortunately, pulled pork sammiches have a tendency of getting in the way. Let’s not go too far down that rabbit hole, though, because I’m not about to eat like a bunny, either.
The whole “ride slower because it burns more fat” notion is derived from the idea that at a certain heart rate “zone”, a person typically burns more fat… That would be “zone two”. The other side of that coin, as my PA friend stated, is zone 5 or the anaerobic zone – and that zone does burn muscle (and possibly the upper end of zone 4, too). I have to be going faster than 25 miles an hour (with no tailwind to help) to hit it, though. She’s closer to 22 or 23 – and that’s where the “speed” in her hypothesis gets dicey.
My zone two is somewhere around a 17-1/2 mph average. It’s enough to get the blood pumping, but hardly fast enough to call it a workout – and that’s a solo average, just to be clear. Her zone two is probably 15 or 16 mph. My average is a bit higher because I trained my body to ride faster with less energy output…
Now, here’s why I’m a little skeptical about the whole “riding fast burns muscle” idea:
Folks, I didn’t get those guns taking it easy in zone two. Those are all zones three, four and five – with a smattering of zone two in between the hard days as recovery rides so I could still ride every day.
In the end, the heartrate zone training theory is likely sound and based on decent science but all too often the science of the day is twisted to manipulate a desired effort level. A walk, it could be said, is better for losing weight than a jog. There are definitely benefits to walking over jogging (less impact, etc.), but walking to lose weight is vastly worse for getting to the goal, which is weight loss, because it takes one longer to get to that goal.
The reality is, riding slow may be better for thee, but not for me – because I don’t want to ride slow, and it only works if you’ll do it.
Ride hard, my friends. Don’t buy into the hype.
Thou Shalt Honor the Recovery Ride
Every avid cycling enthusiast rides too much… in the estimation of normal folk. And this, we know, is because normal folk are wrong. One only rides too much if cycling negatively impacts life off the bike and is greater than one hour a day during the week and
two three four hours each weekend day, then, and only then, can the notion of “too much” be contemplated.
That said, this commandment is for the avid enthusiast who rides daily.
One should refrain from riding in a manner that is “all hammer all the time”. Doing so will surely result in injury, and be boring. Therefore, the ninth commandment of the cycling enthusiast; Thou shalt honor the recovery ride.
Enjoy your bike on occasion. Spin your legs a bit and enjoy the scenery that you normally miss because you’re in the hurt box, head down, tongue dangling precariously close to the spokes.
Your body, and your melon will thank you for it.
The weather apps sent our gang into tizzy Saturday night. My messaging service blew up. Mostly my buddy, Chuck. I would post the im’s here, but it boils down to every variant of WTF that you can think of. Everyone but Dark Sky called for a 50/50 chance of a washout. Dark Sky forecast a 4% chance…
I put the good wheels on the Trek and dialed in the rear derailleur.
By the time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, I was expecting to be bummed. I was happily mistaken. The Weather Channel had dropped all expectations of rain till after 2pm. Dark Sky stood firm where they’d been the night before, Accuweather said we were good till 2 and the local aviation weather said we were 12% till after 4pm. I’m a weather junky, what can I say?
Tires pumped, water bottles filled, kit laid out. I ate some breakfast and rinsed it down with copious amounts of coffee. Then the fog rolled in. Dammit.
I readied, loaded the truck and rolled for the start line. The fog was only an issue for the first mile or two… when we were trying to work our way through the slower starters at 22-mph.
Photos from last year’s A-100. Too fast for photos this year.
With the crowd fading in the rearview, we put the hammer down and never looked back. We picked up a couple of groups, including some strong cyclists from the Hope Water Project. We remained up front doing much of the work for almost fifty miles but their stronger people contributed well to the effort. I overheard a few wondering aloud if we were going to pull the whole way – it felt good.
I was, along with many of my friends, in my Affable Hammers’ jersey and one of the HWP guys rode up alongside me and said, “Man, you guys really live up to that jersey.” I felt pride for our group. We were crushing it, holding a solid 23 – 24-mph, but living in the shadow of our 25-mph A group, it’s sometimes easy to discount how far we’ve come.
We rolled into the lunch stop, 54-ish miles in, with a 21-1/2-mph average – an amazing effort by the B Group. We’ve only been that fast once before, but we had a train of sixteen A guys to pull us down the road. We ate quick and readied to roll out but the Hope Water group wanted to wait for someone who’d just come in. We rolled on without them – a decision I didn’t feel great about, but I wasn’t staying back in protest, either.
We ended up meeting at the 72 mile rest stop, and this time we waited for them to get fed and watered before rolling. They were about two or three minutes back of us when they rolled in but we figured “bigger group, less work”. From that rest stop on, things got tough. I’d spent the first half of the ride up front every chance I got and I was paying for it. Fortunately, some of the Hope Water folks were legit (I mean that they were more legit than us) and they’d started taking big turns up front way back 40 miles ago. We’d lost a couple, but there was one fella in particular, a racer, who really stepped up. Dude was freaking amazing. He’d take four-mile long turns at the front, into the wind, at 24-mph. The rest of us struggled to get a mile up front in those conditions.
I’d staked out a position pretty far back, so I only got to the front a couple of times. I could feel my legs wanting to cramp up – you know that point where your legs are just on the verge of a cramp, but not quite there yet? As if your body is saying, “Hey there, bucko… you’d better knock that $#!+ off or I’m gonna hurt you”. Yeah, that was me.
I pushed through it, though, getting out of the saddle every chance I got.
We passed up the last rest area at pace, something like fifteen short miles from home. We hadn’t seen a cloud that even gave the hint of precipitation all morning long, and while the wind was picking up a bit, it was obvious we were going to make it. Chuck deemed the Hope Water guy our MVA – Most Valuable Animal, and he earned that title on the way back. We had one issue three miles from base, the youngest member of our group, a fourteen year-old boy, was trying his hardest not to puke on his top tube, so we slowed it down once he caught his breath at a busy intersection.
We pulled into the parking lot, 100.8 official miles, in 4:46:44 ride time. A 21-mph average, on the nose. For our rabble, the effort was Herculean. We’re only 1/2 to 1-mph faster on our 30 mile Tuesday night ride. Folks, our tongues were dangling down by our spokes much of the last 30 miles, but it was all laughs, hi-fives, and pats on the back in the parking lot. And we didn’t get hit with even a drop of rain. The weather held for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. We were on our way home from packing up at 6:20 when it finally drizzled a little bit.
One last note. There are a few in our club that read this blog, I’ve known about that for some time, and let me tell you friends, the thought is nerve-wracking. As I was making my way to the car, to head home to shower, a fella I’d never seen before approached and said, “Hey, you’re the guy that writes that blog!” My jaw didn’t literally hit the grass, but it was close. He went on to say that he enjoyed reading and that he didn’t know if I was paid to write, but I should be (you hear that Specialized?), and that he really enjoyed reading my posts, that it was neat to find someone with such a passion for cycling. Friends, I can’t put it into words.
To you, my friend, please don’t forget that I had “100 miles-at-21-mph-brain”, I was cooked. And I completely messed up, because I was so taken aback. I didn’t even catch your name, where you ride out of, or whether or not you want to ride with us in the future. Brother, I am truly, deeply sorry for not being a better host. I’ve never had that happen to me before, and I was a little dumbfounded. If you’re interested, we’ll be at the Lennon Wesleyan Church Tuesday evenings at 6 (though tomorrow looks to be a washout and I won’t show if it’s gnarly… I need the rest more than the miles this week). You already know, wherever you fit in the food chain, we’ve got a group for you to ride with. If you can’t make it, and should I not see you until next year’s A-100, thanks for making writing worth it. Thank you. Ride hard, my friend.
We rolled at 7:30am in the morning (thank you Lady Redundant Woman), blinky lights a flashin’. The clouds were thick and low. I didn’t bother with sunglasses and was atop the Trek.
And not because it was going to rain, there was only a 10% chance, small enough odds that the Venge should have been the choice. I’ve come to appreciate the Trek. It’s old, and a little heavy, but with all of the new components on it, the bike is exceptional and enjoyable to ride.
It’s just… Cool.
Anyway, five miles in and everything was great. Seven in and the fog was getting thick. I had to take my glasses off after a turn up front to wipe them on the leg of my shorts so I could see.
Three miles later, the fog was lifting. Two more and the sun was breaking through the funk. We were cruising easy, a smile on my face, it was a hands on the bar top morning.
The rest of my day was a mess (work), but it was far more manageable because I’d gotten out for that morning ride. I was grateful for being me right up until I fell asleep that evening, even through the troubles of the day.
Saturday was a carbon copy of Friday, though with a shorter distance. After the ride I spent some time with a couple of my best friends, volunteering for the local ride. We had lunch and quite a few laughs together. There’s something about a little bit of work and time spent with cycling buds that makes good food taste even better. After, I picked up Mrs. Bgddy’s wheel from the shop (broken spoke) and headed home for a much-needed 24 minute nap. I woke up feeling refreshed so I took my daughter over to the shop and we worked a little more to get the food sorted and out the door for the rest stop volunteers. After some pizza for dinner (mmm… pizza!), I watched a bit of Star Wars TLJ and drifted off to sleep.
Here we are, it’s 5am in the morning (thank you, Lady Redundant Woman) Sunday, and the ride goes in three hours. I’ve been up for a bit more than an hour already. There’s a chance for some rain today, so I’ve got the Trek dialed in and ready to go with the good wheels on it.
The A-100 always signifies the beginning of the end of the cycling season. On one hand, it’s sad that we’ve only got a couple of months left before we’re bundling up to ride. On the other, with the A-100 at hand, we’ve got some great cycling over the next month and I’m looking forward to all of it.
Fitness works best when it’s the result of doing what one wants to do for fun. I wouldn’t want it any other way…. the alternative is a little too much like work.
Today’s post was supposed to go in a very different direction, but I read a great post written by a younger fella who stumbled into road cycling like I did… after finding mountain biking, first. His post inspired me…
Mountain biking is fantastic in that you don’t have to worry about traffic, even on the road because you can always ride on the gravel shoulder should you want to get off the asphalt and there’s no traffic other than bicycles and pedestrians on mtb trails. Many start there for that reason alone. As an added bonus, you don’t much have to worry about how you dress unless you really want to because the mountain biking culture is more laid back.
Road cycling is a different animal altogether. You get the aloof of the aloof cyclists. The pro looking, matching kits. The hyper-expensive, ultra-lightweight bikes (though don’t get me wrong, a full carbon mountain bike is just as much as a top-end road bike). You get the ridiculously high 7″ long socks (I don’t know how they became cool). You get the logos on the tires matching up with the presta valve stem on the wheels, the cable housings cut to an exact and specific length, the perfect saddle to handlebar drop… and about a hundred-forty rules that govern everything from saddle bags to shaving one’s legs (if you care to follow any of them – I follow most, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek).
Does all of that crap really matter, though?
Folks, I’m so nitpicky, I went to the trouble of special-ordering a black anodized seat post collar for the Trek because I didn’t like how the original natural aluminum colored seat post collar looked on the bike after I had it painted:
I swapped the brakes on the Specialized when I found a black and red FSA set that was the perfect shade of red to match the bike (and I put the 105 brakes on my wife’s bike because she was in desperate need of some decent brakes):
Even the pedals match on the Venge!
So, the question is, is all of that bull$#!+ worth the effort?
The easy, quick answer is absolutely, it’s worth the effort… even if it’s entirely unnecessary.
That’s right, my friends. Entirely unnecessary. There’s only one person on this whole planet, out of something like 7-1/2 billion, that would pick out the aluminum seat post collar on the Trek as sticking out like a sore thumb. This guy. Okay, maybe two (and I happen to know the other one – Dave), but the owner of the local shop spent so much time trying to talk me out of ordering the part, he actually burned up what little profit he’d have made had he just ordered it!
After it’s all done and I’m sitting there trying to pick out which bike I want to ride and I can’t decide because they’re both awesome, but I choose the Trek because there’s a 10% chance of rain and it’s going to be an easier pace – then I don my perfectly matching kit and my 5″ Trek Segafredo socks and my expertly matched Kask Mojito helmet, then slip on my almost orange shoes (because someone at Specialized is a freaking idiot, but the shoes work, strangely)… There’s something to the notion that you ride fast when you feel fast. You ride well when you look good (curse you, English – it should be ride good, look good, but I just can’t bring myself to do it). It’s all mental, of course, but it’s there.
The final judgment is, going to the trouble of matching bikes, components, and kit is entirely unnecessary and absolutely worth the effort.
The Battlebot commercial begins. A skinny fella says, “We’ve got one more shot. We’ve got nothing left to lose”.
My jaw doesn’t literally hit the floor – because that would be damn-near impossible unless I was actually lying on the floor, belly down… and why would I do that when I’ve got a leather recliner?! I literally wouldn’t, because that would literally be stupid.
The two statements were opposites, of course. If you only have one more shot, you’ve got everything to lose.
“My heart is literally pounding out of my chest” is another favorite of mine. No, sweetie, it literally is beating entirely in your chest. If what you said were true, you’d literally be quite dead.
It’s as if people simply repeat a clichè without thinking about what the clichè actually means.
Ah well, it makes good TV I suppose.
Before you head to the comments section, the overuse of the word “literally” was purposeful to set up the “literally pounding out of my chest”. If you missed it and were about to comment angrily about the overuse of the word, well, you literally missed the gag. It was on you. Sorry. The overuse of the word “literally” is right up there in the pantheon of overused phrases. Erm. Literally.