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Monthly Archives: May 2020

If You’re an Avid Enthusiast Cyclist, It’s Time to Take Razor to Leg…

My friends, for the avid enthusiast cyclist, if you haven’t already, it’s time to shed the winter fur and take a razor to the legs.  My wife prefers I go all year fur-free, and I happily oblige.

For those who didn’t know already, glistening guns are absolutely more aerodynamic – scientifically proven in a wind tunnel.  Shaving the guns is worth between two and four free seconds a mile.  That may not sound all too impressive, but that works out to between 200 and 320 free seconds over 100 miles.  Now, either you save three to six minutes or that’s watts you don’t have to produce to keep up.  Don’t stop reading just yet, though!  There’s more to this than just shave your legs to be like the rest of the sheep.

I messed up when I shaved my legs the first time – I listened to the damned internet before properly investigating whether or not I should even bother.

So here’s “the rest of the story”.  I was going to start riding with a group – my first club ride – and I didn’t want to look like a noob.  Everything on the web back then said you gotta shave the guns – and this was before Specialized tested shaved legs in their wind tunnel.  It was treated as a right of passage, almost.  It even made the rules.  I bought into the online hype and quietly, without telling my wife, went to town.  Now, I had some hairy legs back then.  Not quite yeti, but pretty freaking close.  I even had to regularly trim that leg hair with a set of clippers when it got too long and unruly.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much a shock for my wife the first time she crawled into bed and was like, “Hey, wait a minute“…  God bless her, she loved my newly shorn legs and I’ve never looked back.  But…

Upon discussing my new, sparkling guns with the owner of the local shop, he chuckled and said it was completely unnecessary as only racers bother.  I had to scrape my jaw up off the asphalt with a shovel – I must have looked pretty funny because I was wearing one hell of an incredulous look on my face.  I said, “But the internet”… and just let it trail off.

With that out of the way, there’s a pecking order of who shaves and who doesn’t – and this is important so you don’t show up for the wrong group with the wrong legs!

Roadies:  Shave.
Gravel Roadies: Yea or neigh.
Mountain bikers:  Don’t shave.
Triathletes:  Shave, without question. Including eyebrows, ears, nose holes… possibly eyelashes…  I’m just kidding.  Just the legs will do, but you’re thinking about the eyebrows, aren’t you?  I know.

Now, there’s a pecking order to that as well, because many of us cross lines into different genres of cycling.  You defer to shaving.  For instance, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally rides a gravel bike, you’re okay with hairy legs.  On the other hand, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally plays a roadie, you shave.  If you’re a triathlete dabbling in the other genres, think about investing in Nair… or see if you can be their CEO.  The point is, if you will ride, even occasionally, a shaving bike, you shave.  Or you’d better be able to lay down the watts so others are in awe at your fabulousness.

So, folks, the truth is you really don’t have to shave your legs if you’re a dude.  On the other hand, I’ll never go back.  Once you’ve ridden in a group for a while, you’ll pick out hairy guys in a pack almost instantly because they stick out like a sore, hairy thumb… and nine times in ten, that identifier tips you off to keep an extra watchful eye on how that person rides because they’re often new or not used to riding in a pack.  Or they’re the one whose wheel you want to ride.

So, shave your guns or don’t.  You will work a lot harder if you don’t.  It’s science.  And physics.  And rocket science.  Or something.

UPDATE:  As you will see in the comments section, there is a technicality in terms of what “Guns” are.  In weightlifting, guns are the arms – that which is used to pump iron.  In cycling, the “guns” are the legs – what you use to turn the pedals.  Just to be clear.

Would Life Be As Good If I I Didn’t Have to Walk Through Hell to Get Here?

This is a question I’ve been contemplating quite a bit lately; would life mean as much today if I hadn’t had to take a stroll through hell to get here, first?

I wake up in the morning and I can’t help but be thankful for the day before.  I think about work a little bit, check my email messages, think about coming home and seeing my wife and kids, think about a funny aspect of my ride the night before (Monday’s, for example, was a fun ride but I felt a little like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story because I had to layer up against the cold)… and all of a sudden, I’m thinking about just how good it is to be me and I can’t help but smile.

Every now and again, that morphs into, would I be this happy if I didn’t have to go through the hell of addiction first?  Would I even have the capability to recognize what I have as fantastic if I hadn’t been so low?  Better, without AA’s recovery program, would I be able to even grasp how truly beautiful my life is, let alone enjoy it?

See, here’s the cool part; my life isn’t all that awesome.  I have to go to work every day, just like the vast majority of us.  I have to pay the mortgage, we’re on a budget being a single-income family, work would be stressful if I let it get to me (and sometimes I do), we live in a small-ish old home (though I do have a spare room for my bikes, which is really cool)… see, there are things that aren’t perfect, or that could be improved upon, maybe, but I’m still exceedingly happy with what I have.

Now, most people would try to convince themselves they shouldn’t be as happy as this, and that would mess up that most excellent, “I’m grateful for what I do have” vibe.  I’m not most people…

This gets interesting when I look at the overall meaning of the bad things I’ve gone through in life – including a rape in college (oh yes), addiction, arrests, a trial in which I was looking at a lot more than a stint in the county jail, followed ultimately by my recovery.  All of the bad that I lived through, and there was a lot, makes all of today’s good better.

The simple answer to the question, why am I so grateful for what I have, is always the same.  Who cares?!  All that matters is “I am“.  The full answer is much deeper, richer.  When I seek to label things that happen to me as “bad”, I’m really doing myself a disservice because the bad makes the good, better.  Another way to look at it, the bad ends up making all the work worth the effort.

In the end, I’ll take my awesome life as I get it.  It’s all a matter of perspective – and for that, I am grateful.  Again.

Long, Slow Cycling Distance in the Spring; Why It’s Not So Bad to Put Some Slow, Enjoyable Miles In Preparation for the Season… And How COVIDcation Changed My Attitude About the Concept.

I was sure the LSD people were full of LSD when they suggested you could get fast by riding lots of slow miles in the spring. I thought, if you wanna ride fast, train fast – and I thought this way ever since I started riding.  And that’s how I trained, as soon as it was warm enough to shed a couple of the multiple layers I wore to keep warm.  I’d attack hills and barrel into headwinds.

Sure, I’d smatter in active recovery paced rides here and there, but you gotta ride hard, if you’re going to be fast, right?!

Over COVIDcation, I put in more than my fair share of slower miles.  In fact, I think my fastest ride until last week was an 18-1/2-mph average.  This, for me, is unheard of.  My active recovery rides average 17 to 17-1/2-mph.  I actually pulled into the driveway with a few rides in the 16-mph range.  I won’t lie, a couple of times I got pretty antsy riding with my wife.  I had to apologize for being a dope twice.

The one thing I did out of the ordinary is I took all of the headwind on many of these rides – and if I couldn’t eat it all, I’d break it off into big chunks, four or five miles at a time.  I’d settle down into a pace I could hold, often in the baby ring, and spin on down the road with my wife and/or Mike in tow.  I found, and lean in real close so none of my friends can hear, a small corner of my mind where I could actually like the headwind.  It was crazy.  But it’s true.  Taking 20-mile long chunks of headwind for my wife or friend became a badge of honor to wear.  Sure, they were slower than if I only took two or three mile turns, but the people I was riding with wouldn’t have been able to keep up if I did anyway – it worked out perfectly.

Then, last week, I had a solo afternoon ride.  Nobody to worry about but me.  I started out with a goal of 18-1/2-mph for the ride but that rose quickly when I found myself heading into the light breeze north of 20-mph.  My goal became 19.75-mph in the first two miles of the 19.75-mile loop.  Long story very short (longer version here), I pulled into the driveway with a 20.5-mph average and I could have gone faster… I may have been able to pull off a 21-mph average if I’d started out with that goal right out of the driveway.  (Let’s see, 18-1/2 = 29 km/h, 19.75 is 32 km, and 20.5 is 33 km/h and 21 is 34 km/h).

Friends, if memory serves, that ride was 2-mph faster than anything I’d ridden outside, since I’d gotten off the trainer.  In short, long, slow distance (at least slow by my standards) worked.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how, but there it is… that 20.5 average for that route was a PR.  I’d never ridden that route so fast.

The tough part is where do I mentally go from here?  If long, slow distance really does work, that means I can actually relax a little bit and enjoy the miles until, say, the end of May.  There’s no question I don’t have to train fast, early in the season, to ride fast later.

This creates a problem, of course.  At some point I’ll have to put the hammer down – and my real fear is, when it’s time, I might not want to.

And therein lies the rub.

Oh, $#!+… 2020

Coronavirus, murder hornets…. if you’ve asked, “Good God, what’s next?” for 2020…

That’s from Reign of Fire.

Are you freaking kidding me?! Dragons?!

Why Road Cyclists Wear Helmets: Part 1,274,321,167

My wife, on the fifth anniversary of her last Mother’s Day crash, went down yesterday. Before we go any further, she’s fine though a bit concussed – I went through the protocol last night with her – and very sore. She went down at speed, too.  20+ mph and if not for her helmet, God only knows what her condition would be today.  Interestingly, her helmet, a Kask Mojito, shows signs of sliding on the pavement but there were zero torsional injuries (a favorite reason the anti-helmet crowd sites to suggest they shouldn’t be worn – ask a neural surgeon, ER doc, nurse, ambulance tech, firefighter, or Sheriff’s deputy and they’ll have a different opinion, having spent time investigating, shoveling brain off the ground, or trying to put it back in someone’s melon).

There are a couple of competing theories as to what happened – I was up the road 50 yards, sprinting for a City Limits sign – but the important thing is, my wife wasn’t doing anything she hadn’t done several hundred times. When you’re riding at speed, shit just happens that you can’t avoid and can’t brace against. This is why we wear helmets.

Now, I wouldn’t want to piss off the anti-helmet nutters, so I’ll leave this carve out; as helmets go, you do what you want. If you want to ride like my grandma, by all means, feel free and enjoy yourself. If, however, you want to ride like we avid enthusiast roadies do, folks, there’s a reason we wear brain buckets.

They save lives and families.

Pay special attention to the cracks… my wife’s head didn’t split like that because she was wearing that helmet.

Fifteen Pounds of Awesome, Baby!

I took my Venge in for an official weighing at the shop. I had to pick up a chain for an old, heavy Fuji I fixed up for a guy at work, and I’m trying that carbon Selle Italia SLR again so an official weighing seemed apropos.

The SLR saddle is barely 100 grams. Next to the Romin that came on the bike, it’s a lightweight – a savings of 174 grams, give or take. So the last time I had that saddle on the Venge, I just don’t think I gave it a fair shake. And did I mention 174 grams?

So the official weight of the bike, with pedals, cages and my Garmin Varia and Edge mount (because I forgot to take the Garmin accessories off) is 16.35 pounds. 266 grams for the pedals, 56 for the cages, 79 grams for the Varia and mount and another 20 for the Edge mount… and the official weight is a hair under 15.5 pounds (bike weight never includes pedals, cages and accessories).

Which is absolutely badass.

The bike, brand new when I brought it home in 2013 was 18.8 pounds (with pedals and cages, if memory serves). I dropped the most weight on the wheels, the crank upgrade, the drivetrain upgrade from 105 to Ultegra, the stem, the brakes, the cassette, the chain, pedals, cages and chainrings.

In that order. Ahem

It’s not exactly Tour de France worthy, but it’s damn close for a fella with a budget.

Every time I look at that bike, I can’t help feeling thankful. I laid cash on the counter for that sexy beast. Before I sobered up, I had trouble keeping gas in my car. That’s a long way to climb and the journey has been spectacular.

Three Ways to Make Friends with the Wind on Your Bicycle… Or At Least Learn To Not Hate It So Much.

Michigan is notorious for windy spring days… southeastern Michigan is also relatively flat; you have to travel well north to find any hills so we in the southern lower peninsula look to the wind as our hill training.

The wind is Michigan’s mountains.  This is the initial step in making friends with the wind – and it’s a two step process.  1.  Accept that the wind is going to be a pain in the butt.  2.  Come to see the wind as a way to build fitness for later in the season when the wind calms down.

Most cyclists, when hit in the mouth with a headwind in the 18-mph (29-km/h) range over multiple days will grow weary fighting it – I’m already seeing mumbling on Strava about yet another day in the wind… but I have a strategy or three that’ll have you smiling, rather than cursing, when the gusts push back at you.

We all need somebody to lean on…

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It doesn’t exactly work in the current state of things, but under normal circumstances when the wind kicks up, find a few friends and stack ’em up!  The wind sucks a little less when you’ve got six people fighting it rather than you playing Don Quixote all by your lonesome.

Low as you go…

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When you’re battling the wind, the less you can look like a sail, the better.  Rather than having straight arms, put a little bend in them so you can get your head down a bit.  You’ll be amazed at how much it’ll help you slip through the wind.

Slow your roll, there Sparky

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Look, riding into the wind is going to suck.  It does and I’m not going to try to blow sunshine at you, hoping to convince you it won’t.  That’d be silly.  The goal is to simply pick a pace you can sustain and roll with it.  Hopefully you picked the headwind at the beginning of the ride and you can ride a tailwind home.  This last point is the key to accepting the wind for what it is.  Look at the bright side, you’re on the right side of the grass, pumping air and you’re riding a bicycle.  The only way life gets better is if someone walks up with a pile of money and hands it to you… to stay home and ride your bike.  I can tell you, that is spectacular.

Make your peace with the wind.  Of course it’s not as fun as cruising around with a 1 knot breeze without a care in the world, but you have to look at the other side of that coin… you’re riding a freaking bike!  It ain’t work, either.

Liebster Award, Thanks to Anna at Storm In A Wine Glass.

Typically, I don’t do the blog awards much anymore because I take them seriously, and done correctly they take a lot of time.  If you know me, I don’t have much in the way of time now that I’m back to work (!).  A week ago, I could have rocked this post out in a day.

That said, I unquestionably appreciate being recognized as consequential to the blogosphere by Anna at Storm in a Wine Glass.  So these are her questions for me:

  1.  What makes you cry of joy?  When my two teenage daughters heard that I’d be going back to work after six weeks of being at home, they each gave me a hug and said that they’d miss having me around the house.  The youngest even got a little misty.  Folks, after a month and a half at home, my kids don’t want to shoo me out the door?  Well it doesn’t get much better than that… except it does.  Mrs. Bgddy said the same thing.
  2. Favorite book and why?  Heh, the Big Book of AA.  No Big Book, no recovery, no me.  I’m worm food twenty years ago without recovery – my liver was givin’ ‘er all she’s got, Captain and that wasn’t enough.  While it is possible I’d have found another way to quit drinking, I love the way I chose and it works for me.
  3. Describe your perfect moment of the day.  There are a few…  First, coming home and being greeted by my wife like I’m a long lost friend finally returned from being marooned on a deserted island.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s perfect.  Hugs from my daughters, another perfect moment.  When I think about cruising down the road riding with my friends, be it fast or moderate, there are 50 perfect moments every time I ride one of my bicycles, and that’s why I like it so much.
  4. Your best quality?  I know how unimportant I really am, no matter how awesome I may be.
  5. Is there anything you struggle with that you’re continuously working on overcoming?  Nicotine.  Mother***er, nobody ever told me you smoke one cigarette and spend the rest of your life wanting another.  Same for chewing tobacco… However, as long as I don’t pick up I won’t have to quit again, and for that I am grateful.  Sometimes, that’s the only thing that keeps me from the nicotine train.
  6. The best piece of advice you ever received?  Now this is a tough question because I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years, between recovery and marriage counseling… but I can do this.  The best single piece of advice I ever received was from an old sponsor who has since passed away.  My wife and I, while we were trying to figure out how our relationship would work, we’d get into power struggle fights from time to time.  I would get pissed and climb into my truck, peel out of the driveway and tear off down the street… whilst dialing the number of my sponsor.  The first time I called him in a huff, he listened to me rant, until I got entirely through my side of what happened.  He then asked if I was done and when I answered in the affirmative, he said, “Jimmy [he was one of three people who could get away with calling me “Jimmy”], sometimes you want to throw them like a lawn dart, but you just gotta love ’em.”  I jumped in, “But Mike…” and he cut me off.  “Jimmy, you just gotta love ’em.”  And every time I tried to add to the story he’d cut me off.  “Jimmy, you just gotta love ’em.  So, whenever I fight with my wife or daughters, what do I think about, even though he’s been gone for years?  “Jimmy, sometimes you want to throw them like a lawn dart, but you just gotta love ’em.”  And so I do.  I love ’em, and I do what’s right.  Best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in a whole lifetime full of good advice.
  7. Describe what ‘hope’ means to you.  I live “hope”.  I know, through alcoholism and drug addiction, exactly what it’s like to live in hell and I was able to emerge from that clean.  That’s not hope, though.  That’s recovery.
  8. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done? For the record – I mean true bravery! Doing a sky dive isn’t brave if it doesn’t scare you. Bravery is doing something that scares the shit out of you!  Staying in treatment the first two weeks.  That’s when I made the decision to quit fighting and recover.  I went from wanting to get drunk one day to having the compulsion removed the next.  It was a small miracle.
  9. What did Little You want to be when he/she grew up?  An actor.
  10. Looking at a photo of Little You, what advice would you give him/her?  Do push-ups.  Lots and lots of push-ups.  They’ll work.  And “you’re a lot better looking than you give yourself credit for.  Look at yourself with kinder eyes.”
  11. ….and what advice would Little You give the you of here and now?  Little me would look at big me and hopefully feel the happiness and freedom I feel on a daily basis, he would look at my wife and my kids and see how they look at me, us, and he’d say, “Holy shit, man.  You made it.”  And he’d be right.  And I thank God for that each and every day.

I’m not going to nominate other bloggers, per se, though I’ll list a few I respect and if they choose to answer the same questions above, well they’ve been awarded the Liebster Award, too.

Biking2Work
Kecia at Push My Limits
Joliesattic
unironedman
Lighbulb Moment recovery coach
Life With Lisa
Journey to Life

 

Five Ways to Stay Active During Your COVIDcation; Fitness is the Key to Winning the Battle Against Future Viruses!

Who has a better chance of survival in the current pandemic climate; a person physically fit person who’s immune system is in the background doing push-ups, or a person who’s gut is taking a lap around the lazy river?

It’s not even a contest.

During the first few weeks of the COVIDcation lock down, I came across more walkers and bicycle riders than I did cars while I was out for my daily ride.  It was the first time that’s ever happened in the 27 years I’ve been into outdoor fitness (of one stripe or another).  It was wonderful to see, though on-foot traffic has slowed considerably of late.

Now is not the time to sit on the couch, though.  It’s time to stay active and I thought I might be able to help.  I’m going to get right into my list of five things you can do to stay active to help insure you’re as able as possible to weather virus storms such as this one.  After all, I’m sure most would prefer to be one of the asymptomatic majority over the alternative!

  1.  Ride a road bike!
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  2. Ride a gravel bike!
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  3. Ride a tandem20170421_173628
  4. Ride a mountain bike!wp-1490221401936.jpg
  5. Or, God forbid, you live in France, Spain or Italy, ride your bike on a trainer!
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This public service announcement has been brought to you by Fit Recovery because life is short and bikes are freaking cool.

ftea-c-19-cycling-team

A Surprise Wednesday Night PR…

I’ve been cycling rather slowly for more than a month. Whether I’m out with my wife, or my cycling buddy, Chuck, I’ve had good reason to take it kinda easy.  It hasn’t been all easy, though.  I’ve been hogging headwind for the better part of three weeks to at least get a better workout from my rides.  Still, I wondered if the easy miles weren’t to the detriment of speed.  It was through that filter I rode yesterday evening…

It was sunny, a light northerly breeze, and temperate, if below average. I started out into the wind and my average crept up to 18-mph. Then 18.4… 18.6… I was into my second mile, 18.8…

It was then I thought, “well maybe I go for the [19.75-mile] Jimmer Loop in exactly one hour.” It’s a really tough route to hold a good average on because there are so many turns and intersections so if I can squeeze close to 20-mph out of an average, I’m happy… 19.2, 19.3, 19.5… and I was into the wind. Heading west I was holding 22-mph on a horrible stretch of road, and fairly easily. 19.8-mph average.  Another mile north, into the wind again, and I was holding 21.  19.9.  Then there’s a mile loop around a subdivision that resembles a lollipop.  It’s almost impossible to hold a good average through that stretch because there isn’t much good… bad pavement, crosswind, tailwind for 20 seconds, headwind for another 20, then crosswind again, then bad pavement again… but I still had a 20-mph average turning back onto the main road.

And that’s when I started thinking about a PR over 20-mph average.  If memory serves Chuck and I never broke 20-mph on that loop.  We’ve been close a couple of times, but it’s just a horrible route for average – there’s no way to hold any momentum until you’re 14 miles into the 20-mile route.

After a short stint north, about a half-mile, it’s west again and a beautiful mile-long stretch of perfect pavement.  I was instantly up to 24-mph, flirting at times with 25 with the mild crosswind.  20.1 and 20.2…  A quick quarter-mile north followed by more bad pavement and then it gets tricky.  We go into a subdivision that starts out with a punchy little climb over a third of a mile that just saps you, and today it was into the wind, too.  A couple of tenths east, followed by more north, but flatter.  Then, a couple of tenths west, but you have to slow considerably for an intersection where the cross-traffic doesn’t stop.  More west, a jog south (my first tailwind of the ride), more west, then a straight three-quarter mile south and all downhill after a quick climb after the turn.  I was up to 26, easy, and I’d only lost a tenth off my average in the subdivision.  I gained it back when I turned east… for my second lap through the sub.  When I saw my average tick up to 20.2 before the second loop I knew I was going to challenge the 20-mph barrier for the route.  It was almost all crosswind and tailwind all the way home… if I just didn’t poop out.

20.3… Heading north again wasn’t all that bad.  The wind died down to almost nothing and I was still feeling pretty lively.  I held 20+ to the next sub before a nice downhill and some momentum.  A left turn and up a rise and out onto a main road with a bike lane… a little up and a nice downhill that helps you keep a great 25-ish mph pace for the next mile.  If you don’t get caught by the light, and I did.  A handful of brakes to slow down and stop, a quick drink, and I was hammering on the pedals immediately after the green.  I took it up to 22-23 and held it there in the crosswind. 20.4… and then south and tailwind.  20.5.  I was starting to fade but I only had three miles and change to go.  I kept my pace over the next two miles.  20.6… a mile in the crosswind and kept the pace just fast enough to keep from dropping the average.  Then a final three-quarters of a mile to my driveway and a new PR.  19.75 miles in 57m:47s.  20.53-mph average.

Here I was, worried about being hampered by too many slow miles and I completed that route faster than ever before.

I spent the rest of the evening with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.  Nobody knew why I was so chipper at the bandit AA meeting last night, but I did.