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TNIL: Very, Very Fantastic, Fun and Fast Edition

I’d been looking forward to a Tuesday like this all summer long. Three came close, but last night was perfect. If the wind was more than 2-mph I’d be shocked. There were a few clouds in the sky, but gloriously sunny otherwise… and the temp, at 81 (27 C), couldn’t have been better.

And I forgot my helmet at home. Doh! I always check that I have my helmet, shoes and sunglasses before I leave the driveway but I was, erm, distracted by my wife with a really good kiss and simply wasn’t thinking right as I headed out.

I realized what I’d done about four miles from the church. I called my wife, who tossed the helmet in her car and headed my way… I turned my car around and met her halfway. I rolled into the parking lot a few minutes late for the warm-up but I’d called Chucker and let him know I’d be late. Five were waiting when I got there.

I quickly got ready and we rolled out.

We started slow but built up speed as we went… from 16-mph till we were cruising at 22. The warm-up went quick and Chucker spit off for a couple of extra miles while Dale and I headed back to get ready for the start.

As has been the perplexing norm, and this was surprising on the single best Tuesday night of the year, we didn’t have a big enough group to scrape separate A Elite and A groups so we rolled out together. Unlike previous editions, I noticed right away that we had one of ours paired up with almost every elite rider. That had a cooling affect on the pace. The only problem I ran into was being stuck behind Jared… he’s shorter and astonishingly fit so for a 6′ tall cyclist who hasn’t missed a meal in quite a while, it’s like trying to draft behind fettuccini. I’d get to three bikes back and start heading toward the red line. By the time I got up front I was already spent. This went on for a few cycles but I saw an opportunity… Craig pulled out of the line and Jared went over to talk to him just short of a stop sign. I took the opportunity to jump up a place and get behind James. At 6’1, and a fella who likes to ride upright, it was like drafting behind a battleship by comparison. I stopped hitting the red line till I was up front and the whole outlook of the ride changed immediately. Dave was on a vintage Assenmacher that he’d sent to California to be painted by a nationally renowned painter and I was amazed that he lasted as long as he did with the main group on a bike with down tube shifters.

We were pushing a 24-mph average (38 kmh) as we approached the hills, sixteen miles into the ride. Chuck wanted to pull out of the main group rather than have the elite guys crank it up (which they always do, and had said before we left that they would again) and drop us. Three others went with us – Dave had peeled off, I found out after reviewing Strava afterward. We were sitting on a 23.5-mph average when we split off.

As we headed back the way we came, Chuck suggested taking it easy – around 20-mph – up a climb we normally hit at about 22. This is followed by a quick downhill section into town we normally do around 30, but kept a lid at 27 to preserve a little for the final push home. Through town and heading north our average had fallen to 23.1. I wanted to best a 23 at the finish. I wanted it bad.

A photo from a different day…

With eight miles to go I shouted up to Chuck to try to keep it above 23… and everyone responded well. We pounded out those last eight miles and took that average up to 23.2 as we crossed the City Limits line (I had a 23.1 on my Garmin but Chuck had a 23.2, so we’re going with that).

I reset my computer and shifted to the baby ring… spent. It was all smiles and fist bumps as we headed back to the parking lot, the sun getting low on the best Tuesday weather we’d had all year.

That was my fastest Tuesday night of the year, too. I was beaming all night from that ride. It was perfect all the way around. The elite guys had a blast (a couple of comments on Strava and a couple of texts back and forth informed me of their thoughts), we A guys had a fantastic ride – Todd put it best in a text; it’s all about the brotherhood when we’re out there. He was right.

I slept like a baby last night.

The A-100K Pre-ride Is In The Books; Good Times and Bike Salad… Er Somethin’

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again! We’re into August and with the 1st falling on a Sunday, that means we’re only two weeks out from the Assenmacher 100 (more on that later). Every year, for those who can’t ride on the day of the ride, for volunteers and people who will be out of town, and to check that the roads are properly marked and we didn’t have any new construction projects pop up that have to be routed around, we take to the streets to ride the 100k and 100-mile routes.

The weather was very nice for a long day in the saddle. We’d had rain the night before but everything was dry and the temperature cool for the start – almost arm-warmer weather. Mike met me at my house and we rolled to pick up Chucker and head to the start for some bonus miles. The pace was relaxed and we talked the whole way. About a mile left and a big cargo van passed us, Jarred was in the passenger seat of Craig’s van… and Jesse was going to meet us there… and we were picking up Todd and Greg on the road. That meant at least five A Elite riders – and a sixth pulled into the lot just before we were about to leave. The Elite guys are a funny bunch. They play nice with we normal A riders, right up until someone attacks or half-wheels one of them. From that point on, you almost just have to let them go because the group ride becomes a competition to drop everyone else, instantly.

That didn’t happen yesterday, though.

We rolled out of the parking lot at a decent pace and it slowly ratcheted up until we had a gap between the upper-tier riders and we normal folk. They dialed it back, though, and I helped to bring the two groups back together. After that, we established a bit of a max pace and the ride smoothed out.

The roads are in fantastic shape this year and even though the pace was a little hot into the headwind, the ride was social and fun. We had to battle quite a bit of headwind, especially of the crossing variety with wind’s steady at 8 to 10-mph. The Elite guys would take miles at a time up front while we normal folk stuck to a mile or less so we didn’t burn ourselves out.

With the slow roll over, we’d worked our average all the way up to 19.5 by the time we were getting to the home stretch. Two of the Elite guys dropped to head home and the other four took off with one of ours because they were getting a little long as well. That left six of us to fend for ourselves for the last, say twelve miles.

With the exception of the Lennon City Limits sign, we kept the pace steady and moderate. We didn’t add to that 19.5 but we didn’t lose any, either. Without the slow roll, my wife’s Garmin showed a 19.9 average. Not bad for a Sunday ride.

I always wonder how much fun the Elite guys have riding with us but the texts and comments on Strava put any worries to rest. Chuck, Mike and I rolled home… easy, but not too easy. I pulled into the driveway with 76 miles and change. I wanted three things: A shower, lunch, and a nap. In that order. And that’s exactly what I got.

The Best Outcome For a Tragic Death; Friends Come Together

We said goodbye to our friend, son, uncle, brother, cycling buddy and top-notch mechanic yesterday in one of the most fitting homecomings I’d ever seen. Sean was even a friend and cycling buddy of the pastor who led the proceeding. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place and half of everyone who rides on Tuesday night was there. The bike shop closed, with “Closed Saturday for our friend, Sean” on the billboard. All of the long-time employees were there.

And we sent our friend home.

The funeral procession to the cemetery was massive – it took several minutes for everyone to park… best, when the owner of the funeral home announced the end of the service after some final words… nobody left. Not one person went to their car to leave. We stood around, out in the sunshine talking about Sean and the good times we’d had together. We hugged his parents, brothers and nephews. We talked about things to come and rides we’d take in his memory. And we tried to figure out how in God’s name we’d keep our bikes quiet and on the road without Sean.

We planned out this morning’s ride, too, and it looks like we’ve got great weather and a big crowd planning on showing up.

A friend said, it’s these sudden deaths that are hard to deal with, that hurt the most. When we can see it coming, we’ve got time to get ready, to prepare ourselves for it. He was right, but we’ll grow stronger and closer as a group because of it. I can see the gears already turning.

I spent the rest of my day doing normal Saturday chores. I tended to the grass while my wife and daughters watched over one of our cycling buddy’s kids while they went out to lunch – a rare date day for them after the funeral (they have four kids between one & six years-old). Then my wife and I went out to dinner as our daughters scattered with the wind. We talked about things to come with our kids – the hope and landmines ahead. In a classic struggle between good and evil, sadly our daughters have our genes. They’re exceedingly smart, and if they even look at drugs or alcohol, they’re cooked.

While there’s no doubt life is precarious, I wonder if that’s partly what makes living the good life so fantastic. Do you think, maybe?

Enough with the questions. It’s time to ride, baby. Today it is good to be me.

Now I Remember Why I Ride a Bike Every Day! Building the Fitness to Be Able to Ride That Much HURTS!

I used to think riding every day was a less painful way of life than taking more than one day off a week (say, ride four, three off). After riding every day excepting rain days (maybe one a week), I took two weeks off for vacation, only two riding days the whole stretch. I was surprised to find I felt really good throughout the vacation.

Now, I wasn’t inactive those two weeks. I swam a minimum of an hour a day, usually a lot more, and we had 68 stairs down to the boathouse… I walked that at least three times a day, plus a day hiking at Tallulah Gorge and walking the neighborhood we stayed in with my wife.

The way I ride, though, cycling fit is a lot more “fit” than what I did on my break. I expected to experience a little pain from slowing down, but apparently I didn’t slow down that much.

Then I went directly back to my normal cycling routine the day we got back. 100 miles Sunday, 20 Monday, 40 Tuesday, 20 Wednesday, 20 Thursday…

I woke up this morning and immediately popped two Tylenol. I even found it difficult to make my coffee – which is why I reached for the Tylenol in the first place. I’ve got a couple of over-use saddle sores that I’m dealing with and I ache down to my baby toes even though three out of the last six days on the bike were relatively easy.

The point is, I know an inactive lifestyle is vastly more painful than that of an active lifestyle, but an exceptionally active lifestyle isn’t less painful than an active lifestyle – it’s simply painful going from active to exceptionally active.

And so I learned something this week. I still love riding every day and I will continue to do so… I just have to watch how I come back from an extended period off the bike. I may have to take a couple of weeks to work back to shape rather than trying to cram everything into a week.

TNIL: Found Out What Happens When You Take Two Weeks Off and Eat Too Much During That Vacation Edition

“I came back from vacation without missing a beat”, I thought as I rolled out for the warm-up last evening. Monday’s easy ride did some good after Sunday’s hundred and I was feeling good. The warm-up loop was excellent.

We had a sparse turnout for the A group so we rolled out with the A Elites. Oh, yippee. On the positive side, the weather was absolutely perfect for this. Barely a breeze, sunny and low 80s for a temp (27 C) The ride was great while we all caught up in the first mile but the instant one elite guy half-wheeled another, it was all over and any promise of a mellowed 22-mph ‘club’ ride went out the window in a hurry. I hung on as long as I had the want to but I ended up sitting up and waiting for the tandem and several others who were spit off the back before me.

The tandem never showed, they’d turned for a wise shortcut. Winston and I waited for Clark, Dave and a guy Winston knew who had joined us… on his mountain bike. At this point in the ride we’d been pushing a 24-mph average… and the dude was on a mountain bike.

Winston, Clark, Dave, MTB guy and I rolled out and kept the average around 21-1/2 for quite a while but I started fading with about eight miles left. With five miles left I was suffering. Three miles to go, out of 33, and I was “stick a fork in me” done. I had nothing left.

I did fine on the hundred miler Sunday but Tuesday night was too much. On the plus-side, once I was home, showered and had eaten, I fell asleep almost instantly. I didn’t move last night except to wake up in the morning. It’s about time I ran into a salad or two. I had a little too much fun with food on vacation.

Coming Back After Two Weeks Off A Bike In Style

My wife and kids and I were on vacation in Tiger, Georgia for the last two weeks. Normally, we ride almost every day when we’re down there. This year, we had rain every stinkin’ day and night. The real trick is the timing of the rain. The route we like is tree-covered, with a lot of up and more twists and turns than an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Rain makes the route absolutely treacherous and the tree-cover means it won’t dry out. We managed to ride twice in two weeks.

We arrived home late Saturday night with a favorite annual summer ride scheduled for Sunday morning. A 100-mile annual summer ride.

I was pretty sure one of two things was going to happen: 1. My tongue was going to be dangling precariously close to my spokes by mile 50. Or 2. I was going to be Frankie Fresh Legs and kill it. I had doubts it would be the latter. How could someone possibly miss two weeks and come back to a hundred-mile slog in perfect blue skies, a minor breeze and 91 degree weather (31 C)?

I didn’t get to sleep till 11 Saturday and I had to be rolling out the driveway, bike in car, at 7 am so I could have enough time to get ready. I slept great, though, and till almost 5 am. A couple of cups of coffee and I was ready to prep my bike, shower and get ready. I loaded Mrs. Bgddy’s bike on the bike rack for her vehicle (we drove separately so she could take her time and so she could ride a shorter route if she wanted).

made it to our friend’s house at around 7:30. I took my time getting ready. My wife showed up just in time, got ready and we rolled out.

The weather report on Friday showed Sunday to be a washout. Thankfully, Saturday was the bad day and Sunday turned out to be glorious. I had the Venge and as I settled in after five miles, I was feeling quite good. A little to soon for judgement, but I was encouraged. And it just got better from there. We were into the wind or with a crosswind so pulls were fairly short, especially while we were in a double pace-line. That all changed at our first stop, about 35 miles in. The 100k group split from the 100-mile group and we lost about half of the group.

We singled up at that point and hammered for our lunch stop at 57 miles.

At 55-miles I was feeling surprisingly great. I was Frankie Fresh Legs. For lunch our hands were a little tied. The local Subway was closed so we were stuck with McDonald’s. After lunch we took a few miles to work up to pace again and the miles ticked by until we hit the tailwind section home and things really heated up. After 90 miles I could feel my energy level drop. Things started hurting and the ride became a struggle. One of our group started cramping so he dropped off the back to soft pedal home and another was starting to flag. I was ready to take it to the barn but a couple in the group wanted to do a two-mile jog to make up for some lost miles in the middle of the ride that were sacrificed for smoother asphalt. Mike took his toy and went home but the five of us remaining made the turn for the extra miles.

Best I can say is I hung in and got my miles. I stopped my Garmin in the driveway at 100.56 miles at a pace of 19.2-mph. 5:16 and change in moving time.

So here I am, Monday morning and I’m a little sore but a lot better than I expected. I’d say the time off did a lot of good and not much harm… I don’t plan on making a habit out of time off the bike, though.

Taking Some Time Off the Bike – Needed Maybe, Not Wanted

We’re in the midst of the rainiest weather I’ve ever seen in my lifetime… and the roads we’ve got to choose from are far too dangerous to ride in the rain. I’ve ridden once in the last week and a couple days.

I miss my bike but have more than kept busy, though nothing Strava-worthy.

Today is a total washout but tomorrow looks quite promising. In the meantime, I remain thankful to be on the ride side of the grass, pumping air… and am looking forward to stretching my legs when the latest deluge is done – I’ve got a 100-miler coming up Sunday. Out of the frying pan, as they say.

We Interrupt this Awesome Life for A Lot More Awesome; A Recovery Tale for Everyone

The only sure constant besides death and taxes is, life with throw curveballs at you as long as you’re on the right side of the grass. Since I sobered up in ’92, I’ve dodged more proverbial landmines than I could possibly begin to list. The main difference between when I was a much younger lad pre-recovery and today is that I used to step on them back then.

Sad truth is, I simply made poor choices when I was drinking – and my bad choices on top of bad choices had a tendency to compound, as one would imagine they would. I’m here to tell you, I don’t think I could have amounted to as much as I did without the guidance of Alcoholics Anonymous. While it isn’t for everyone (well, technically it is for anyone, but I feel obligated to say it isn’t for those who choose a different path – and I have no opinion on the choice to go a different way – I wouldn’t, but what I would and wouldn’t do is about as consequential as bat shit), AA offered a path to correcting more than just the booze-related problems. It is often said, you can sober up a horse thief, but what’s left is still a horse thief.

In AA lies the ability to fix the “horse thief” stuff. In fact, we believe it’s the outlying issues that drove/drive us to drink in the first place. Another way to look at it is like this; take someone who used to be an angry drunk. If they’re not a drunk anymore, what’s left? Angry.

And so it was, I set about a path to fix me. Not the world around me, but me. And this has paid dividends upon compound interest. I’d never say I’m to a land of unicorns and rainbows, but freedom and happiness sure feel good after hell on earth.

While one could poke holes all day long into my theories on and understanding of happiness (and I have people who literally do poke at me for weaknesses, simply because they can’t stand seeing someone else being happy with acceptance of life on life’s terms) you’ll wear yourself out trying because my enjoyment of life and recovery doesn’t depend on the believing of others it’s worked.

And so it is with recovery. Have a little compound awesome for yourself. It’s there for anyone who wants to work for it. And it’s sweet.

How Strava Wrecks My Enjoyment of Cycling

I have a blog friend, Sheree, who likes to post photos she takes of flowers on her blog. She is, without question, a fair rider and has an inside look at pro racing. A cycling enthusiast, she is.

So I’ve been inspired to snap photos of flowers while out on rides when I have the chance. Too often, though, I can’t get the good shots because I can’t get to my phone in time.

Typically, you’d have me turn around and run through that stretch of road again to get that shot, right? But I can’t. To turn around would knock a half-mile-an-hour off my average on Strava… what if I had to do that twice in one ride?! What would my friends think if they saw a 16-1/2 mph average for an easy ride rather than a 17-1/2 average?!

This is a sickness of mine.

Now, I conveniently blamed this on Strava as click-bait, but other than to get people to the post, I won’t sink to blaming a flaw in me on an app. I would say to do so would show a greater flaw in me. Say, allowing what other people thought of me dictate how I choose to ride a bicycle in the first place?

But I do. I’d rather show a better average on Strava than circle back, to borrow and properly use a phrase, for a good photo for a post.

Now, to be fair, most often I find these photo ops while riding with a bunch of friends in a pace-line. It’s not like I can throw up an arm and have everyone turn back around so I can get a photo of a flower, but that rare solo ride…

Or when those flowers show up enough I actually have time to get my phone out whilst riding with friends…

Either way, this is an interesting line of thought. I’m thinking now that I’m 51 I oughta loosen up a little bit. Stop and smell the 🌹. Then take a picture or two just for the heck of it.

If you’re not working on something, you can sink to anything.

Just a thought.

The technical proficiency of blowing a snot rocket whilst, and at the same time, riding a bike; it is an art.

I’d like to thank Sheree for the inspiration for this post.

Clearing your nose whilst cycling, without getting snot on you, or the people following behind, is an art every cyclist should master. It’s a necessity for the fast crew especially. And when cycling in muggy weather. And cold weather. And cool, dry weather. Well, pretty much everything except warm, dry weather. So Arizona for six months out of the year except when it’s hot enough to melt your tires and stuff.

Anyway, it’s an important skill because if you can’t, you’ll spend half an hour cleaning snot drippings off your top tube after a ride! Nobody wants to do that.

Before we get into the art of hurling said snot rocket, let’s get a couple of important items out of the way.

1. Wind direction matters. Don’t snot on the side into the wind or with the wind quartering in the direction you will be snotting.

2. If you’re snotting absolutely, positively cannot wait till you get to the back of the group, signal and pull off to the side so you don’t cover others in snot, thus tempting them to push you into a ditch.

3. With a tailwind, launch away. Either side.

4. With a headwind, either side works but there has to be some down to the projection of said snot rocket otherwise, it’ll get messy (shoulder or side of the face).

Now, what you’ve been waiting for, technique!

Those people who claim they can’t blow a snot rocket simply mess their snot rocket technique up. The trick is which finger to block which nostril with. If you’re snotting right, you block the right nostril with your right pointer finger. Snotting left, block the left nostril with the left pointer finger and blow. Do not try to reverse this or you’ll wear that snot rocket!

Now, you don’t sit upright to blow a snot rocket. Simply roll your head right or left so the blow nostril is a little below the block finger – and make sure to get your elbow up out of the way! And make sure to take the wind into account, as mentioned earlier.

If you typically wear your snot rockets, here’s what you’re doing wrong: you’re snotting into the wind, blocking the wrong nostril with the wrong finger of the opposite hand. And you’re sitting up, making the wearing of the dreaded snot rocket a certainty!

On blocking the wrong nostril with the wrong hand (blow right, block left or vice versa); what this does is cause a cavitation in the wind which blows snot up into your face and on your glasses. This is, as we say, no bueno. Or non buono in Italian. Or… erm… not good in Irish (or possibly aon mhaith, but let’s not get lost in the woods!)

The final piece to this puzzle is the blow. It should be quick and forceful. If you hold back with a weak blow, your snot ball won’t reach escape velocity before slowing down which will allow it to be affected by the wind and air movement. Trust the steps above and blow that snot out. Smite it to the ground!

You are now trained, grasshopper. Snot forth. Whilst happily pedaling.