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When the Bikes Are All Cleaned Up and Tucked Away After Another Awesome Weekend, Cycling is All About Your Friends and the Good Times
We had two friends come back from heart procedures yesterday. One rode with us – he had a second stint put in last month after he still didn’t feel right after a first. It was all fist bumps and hi-fives after the ride. 37.7 miles of good times.
It did my heart good riding with my friend again.
Another came back from an ablation procedure. His path back has not been easy, or fast. It was all well wishes for him after seeing his first big ride at his favorite mountain bike trail on Strava.
So here I am, having just woken up from a nap, giving my friends kudos for their day’s effort and I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all my friends. There’s no doubt I’m fortunate.
The bikes and all of the toys that go with cycling are cool, but after the ride is done and the bikes are all cleaned up and put away, it’s the friends that make the sport spectacular. Without them I’m just turning a crank.
I like to ride every day I can, unless it’s raining. I don’t care how tired I am, I can go slow enough for a good spin to be a benefit to my sore legs.
Every once in a while, though, I find myself tired enough I’m thankful for a day of crappy weather. Wednesday and Thursday were a rare two in a row. Technically, Wednesday was rideable- 42 degrees with a 15-mph wind and a “feels like” temperature just above freezing… well, I called Chucker who instantly, happily agreed this was a day best for bath robes and nightwear. Thursday, however, was a legit day to skip. Cold, rainy and crappy – a true, “nope, this is not worth getting the bike out” night. Chuck didn’t even bother leaving work. My wife and I went to our daughters’ tennis match instead.
That gets us to Friday. Conditions were iffy all day but massively improved after 4. Chuck and I rolled out at 5:15, taking it fairly easy into the wind. It was a little breezy, but the sun popping out from the clouds made it well worth getting dressed. We did 22 miles at 17-1/2-ish mph… and my legs bugged me the whole time – almost fought the effort.
The ride was quite enjoyable, but here I sit Saturday morning wishing I hadn’t taken both days off. Today will be a big day and I’m sore. I’ll make the most of it, of course, I’ll will my legs to comply… with a sunny start to the morning and almost no wind, well, make hay while the sun is shining, I always say.
Do you get canker sores in your mouth when you finally start riding outside after a long indoor trainer season? I do. I’ve had to battle them every year.
Cycling in the cool spring air with all of that pollen in the air is a recipe for canker sores. I get them every spring once I get outside. Typically, we ride with our mouth open to get as much air to the lungs, and eventually the muscles, as possible. Riding with your mouth open all that time, believe it or not, can cause canker sores. They’re annoying and painful.
For years I used to rely on rinsing my mouth out in the morning with hydrogen peroxide. It works quite well but I always wondered if it was damaging my teeth. Unlikely, but possible – technically, hydrogen peroxide is acidic.
This year started out just like any other. I was rinsing with HP every morning and when I finally got let out with decent weather, we ran out of hydrogen peroxide. Within a few days I had three small canker sores. Now, if you’re a mom, at this point you’re thinking, “well you need more fruit”. Actually my fruit consumption always picks up in the spring – especially for bananas, apples and oranges – so that’s not it. Anyway, that Friday, my wife and I went to the grocery store so I could pick up some peroxide and she could check out the clearance aisle. While in the pharmacy aisles, I happened by Listerine – I’ve always loved the way my mouth felt after a good swish, so I picked up a bottle. Then, my wife suggested the non-alcohol version. Listerine isn’t a trigger for me, but it is for my wife so no alcohol it was.
When I got home, I started with the peroxide immediately to kick the canker sores. Then, after 30 minutes or so, I went in and swished with Listerine… and it was just like I always remembered (the taste and feel are no different with the no alcohol version). It was glorious.
And the next morning my canker sores were almost entirely healed. I did the hydrogen peroxide/30 minute wait/Listerine again. The next morning the canker sores were gone. I’ve since eliminated the hydrogen peroxide and am just sticking with the Listerine. The canker sores haven’t come back and my mouth feels fresh all day long. While hydrogen peroxide has been fantastic, I’m smitten with Listerine for now… it seems to work a little better and my mouth is happier for that.
When UnderArmor dumped Endomondo for Map My Fitness/Map My Ride/Map My Run, etc., etc., etc., I tried MMF for a minute but hated it. The synch between Garmin Connect and the app didn’t work well and messing with it just got… old. So I dropped MMF and just went with Strava, where I’ve got a paid account and many of the bells and whistles that come with the app. With Strava, the app doesn’t quite do for me what Endomondo used to. I could see my weekly, even daily, mileage as soon as I opened the app. For Strava, I have to hit all of the kudos, comment on a few activities, then, if I remember, I might look at my weekly totals – but daily mileage is a little cumbersome to get to. Put simply, I rarely bother looking until, maybe a quick glance Sunday afternoon.
Last year, at the last of Endomondo, I knew how many miles I’d ridden each month. I knew roughly how many miles I was up on 2019 (with the COVID sh!+ show I was up considerably by the middle of April) – I had a general handle where I was year-over-year.
This year, I haven’t got a clue. I know I’m down mileage in all four months over last year. My indoor mileage dropped because I started using a speed sensor that measures way low but provides an excellent motivational push that had me fitter entering spring than any year previous – I’ll take a few hundred miles off the top to be stronger in the spring. Then, of course, no five week layoff where I could ride daily till I was content (I even rode through having COVID)… but here’s the kicker; I really don’t care that I am down in mileage because the quality is so much better than I could have hoped for. I haven’t always been about quality over quantity, but I’m liking it right now. Couple that with the fact that I haven’t worried about where I’m at mileage wise… well, things are good.
On to speed. I had an interesting conversation riding my buddy, Mike home the long way after Sunday’s ride. He expressed a bit of surprise that I hadn’t started riding with the A Group yet, that I still ride with the B Group on Saturdays. He correctly pointed out that I could, with a little bit of effort, keep up with them. Mike isn’t wrong. However, I told him, I like riding with my friends. I like riding in the pace-line with my wife. I love riding the tandem on Sundays with her. I have fun riding with the rest of my friends and as long as I can maintain on Tuesday Night, I’m right where I want to be – and that’s exactly what I told him.
Many think, at 50, their glory days are behind them. My peak fitness days may be back in the past, but my glory days are mainly in front of me – and I’m going to spend as many of those as I can, riding with my wife and friends and a smile on my face.
And that’s exactly how it should be; good times, noodle salad… and a bicycle. Or five.
So, unlike previous years, I’m not going to worry about daily, weekly or monthly mileage. I’m not going to trouble myself with where I’m at year-over-year. This year is simply going to be about enjoying my bike and time with my friends.
One Crazy TNIL: Wind, Speed Wobbles, Flats and a Bunch of Friends to Share It With Who Made It Well Worth It.
Last night’s warm-up seven miles (stretched to almost nine for fun) was a foreshadowing of the night ahead. 18-1/2 mph into a grim headwind, 28-1/2 mph all the way home. The trip out, as one would expect, had a little suckin’ to it. The trip back was glorious – and even included an attempt at getting pulled over for speeding, sadly to no avail. I had the speed, but the officer was unwilling. I shall keep trying.
We were hanging out at the old start-point for the route, just kicking it after the warm-up, and I decided to head back to the actual start for no good reason. Mrs. Bgddy showed up to ride, so I said my hellos, then waited for the start. The A gang was hoping for a group start, but we B Groupers wisely waved them on. We knew what was coming and didn’t want any part of the pain they were about to impart on each other. We gave them a 30-second head start and rolled out into the headwind.
Four miles in I heard my wife in the background shout, “I’ve got a problem!” I looked back, got out of the group safely, then turned around to help her out. A couple of friends said her bike started shaking rather violently as she rode one-handed in the wind. After a quick check of the bike, speed wobbles was the diagnosis. She was pretty shook up so she shooed us on and said she’d meet up with us later. The group, having waited, rolled out together. Another mile north, then headwind again for another mile… and Dave flatted. Seven minutes to fix that, the group waited again (because that’s just how we roll). Then the real work started.
Shipman Road. It’s a road, for God’s sake, but it enjoys legendary status on Tuesday nights. Shipman Road is where a group goes to suffer… especially with a standard southwest wind – you’re dead into the teeth of it for six and a half miles. Technically, we’re on Shipman itself for five – and that’s where Dave flatted again – this time opting to call his wife for a lift home, then we had another mile and a half heading south… still, it’s 6.5 miles of headwind, and it sucks. However, after that 6-1/2 and another two uphill and into the wind, we finally turned tail and got some help from the wind.
My wife had caught us and turned about a half-mile, maybe a little more, in front of us so we played hell trying to track her down. I don’t know what she ate before the ride last night, but I need to find it! That Chica was super-charged – no more speed wobbles for her! We finally caught her on the last hill before heading into Shiatown. We regrouped quickly, then rolled out as we had the whole gang together.
Once climbing the final hill at 20-mph with a little help, Jonathan put the hammer down the back of the hill. We were approaching 31-mph, just a blazin’ down the road. I hadn’t even noticed that we dropped everybody. Jonathan, surprisingly, stayed up front till just before the Vernon sign with Chuck on my six. I kicked it up and went around Jonathan to nab the first sprint with a smile on my face.
Next up, after rolling through town, we had two miles of north with a cross-tailwind before the homestretch with almost a full tailwind. The whole mess of the evening came down to those last four miles of glorious helping tailwind. And the pace was lively. Once we accelerated through the final corner, the pace ramped up to 24 to 28-mph (38 to 45 km/h) and we kept the pressure on, rotating our double pace-line regularly. Most of us did our fair share of the pulling and I’m having a hard time remembering a more enjoyable homestretch. The pace was just crazy. Coming up to the final sprint, I thought I was in a weak position (three bikes back in the right, boxed in, lane) but the first two flicked off the front, then another. We were up to 27-mph and charging for home. I kicked the speed up, passing 31-mph and took the final sprint with Jonathan and Chuck right on my tail…
And then the triumphant mile and some change back to the parking lot. I was cooked. Put a fork in me. But, finally, after all of the vaccine mess I went through, I felt good. It was a mess getting to the end but it sure beat polishing the couch’s leather with my butt.
UPDATE: By the way, that’s my Venge leaning against the back of my Equinox… it’s got more than 230,000 miles on it with only a few repairs needed beyond normal maintenance. Freaking car is AMAZING.
Speculation About “Vaccine Flu” and Why Mine Was So Bad… Without the Agenda (Otherwise, Just Like Everyone Else)
This was a fairly big weekend on the bike. Thankfully, the rain mostly hit at exactly the right times we weren’t riding. Sunday’s foray was, after it rained all night long, a sad day for worm-kind however. Our bikes were absolutely covered in worms within minutes of rolling out. There’d been a text the night before, long after I feel asleep from a friend of mine who said he’d possibly meet us on the road – I confirmed a few hours later where we’d be and when at an hour nobody should be texting.
Sure enough, about five minutes after we were at the intersection we’d texted about, heading south into the wind, here they come, hell bent for leather, right by us – three A guys whom, at the pace they went by us, we had no desire in keeping up with. Four miles later, our group caught up in the parking lot of a convenience store we always stop at. While some made their way indoors to use the restroom, the rest of us congregated outside to talk about the state of the nation. Greg, who happens to be a pharmacist of excellent repute, asked how I was feeling. As it’s gone over time, every time I thought I was back to normal, I’d have a bit of a relapse and feel rough for a few hours, but it’s steadily gotten better to where I feel quite normal most of the time and I’m entirely off Tylenol or Dual Action Advil.
That got Greg thinking – and it’s something that I’ve thought of over the last couple of weeks as well; he wondered aloud if some of my problems centered around the fact that I went for a ride immediately after getting my first poke. Literally, 45 minutes after getting jabbed, I was down the road with my buddy, Chuck. Most people will sit with the shot in their arm muscle. I, on the other hand, was pumping that stuff all through my system by exercising. The reason for the speculation was the intense nature of my reaction and the duration. My friend said he’s only seen (or even heard of) one other reaction as bad as mine. That discussion got me to an obvious conclusion: I get my second jab next Friday and there’s no question I’m taking that day off the bike. I need to go through that mess again like I need a hit in the head!
That said, other than getting a considerable amount of sleep (between actual “at night” sleeping and naps, I caught up on about a year’s worth of waking up way too early), I felt quite good through the weekend. I tried to ride Friday afternoon but was stopped in my tracks by some ominous clouds that would have opened up on me had I stayed out in that mess. Saturday was a lively spring ride north of 19-mph for an average for 47 miles. Saturday was my very definition of fun. Sunday’s ride started out a little sketchy with a bit of drizzle and cloudy skies. The pace was a little slower than Saturday’s, but the companionship was excellent. 53 miles at 18.2 – we had an 18.8 average at 41 miles but I rode Mike home the long way both ways so I could pad my mileage a bit. Mike had no desire to hold the 18.8 average, and I didn’t, either. We talked about life and work all the way to his road before I turned around and took it to the barn.
Then, in the afternoon my wife and I headed to the tennis courts with our daughters. My eldest has been itching to give me a go now that she’s been practicing with the team for a few weeks. She’s gotten noticeably better and ended up taking it to me 6-5. I played a few games with my younger daughter until I was completely out of gas. We went home and had some supper and I crashed out on the couch, probably way too early.
I didn’t get much done around the house, but that was one incredible weekend. Good times and noodle salad, for sure.
Being a part of a double pace-line hurtling down the road at speeds north of 30-mph (50 km/h) is no place for a nervous person. That’s an astounding 44 feet per second – almost 15 meters per second… but I know of nothing on earth more exhilarating that can be done with ones clothes on.
There once was a time I thought my performance in that scenario was based on a razor-thin scientific understanding of body and its fuel, of electrolytes, perfect hydration and a little dash of perfect timing. I would bring supplement drinks on long rides (Hammer Perpetuem was a favorite) and carefully plot out when I would eat relative to riding, loosely attempting to take in the perfect mix of carbs and protein exactly at the right time to achieve optimal results.
I’m twenty pounds heavier today, vastly faster (until we get into the hills – heh), and I’ve chucked all of that “science” to the curb as I rode by. Fastly.
Back then, call it 2015, our average pace on a Tuesday night was roughly 21-mph. A good night was 22. Today we’re regularly pushing 23 & 24-mph on the same course. Back then there had to be a certain amount of hiding, especially when we got to the hills, to maintain that pace. Today, I’m up front at will, driving the pace.
Part of this most excellent rise in performance can actually, believe it or not, be put to equipment. A decent set of deep-dish wheels will go a long way in helping someone to be faster. With lightweight, aero wheels, maintaining those blistering speeds is vastly easier than the old “slightly aero” alloy wheels – the gains are upwards of 20 to 40 watts. This gain is inarguable – the only question is how far one should go. In a wind tunnel, we go with 80 mm wheels. In the real world 38 to 50 mm wheels are the cat’s pajamas – because we have to deal with crosswind as well.
Another advantage is my weight. I roll on relatively fast roads with little “up”. I don’t need to be all light and skinny. Having a little bit of blubber means having an vast power source readily available to burn through. I simply don’t bonk like I once did because I’ve got plenty of reserves.
All of that is “marginal gains”, though. Let’s look at what’s really important.
I’ve got the lightweight bike (16 pounds) with the aero wheels (50 mm) and the sleek setup. I’ve got everything a cyclist could want in a race bike. That’s all really great stuff, but it pales in comparison to what really matters; I’m fast because I know I am. When it comes down to putting the watts to the pedals, I know right down to my baby toes that I can hang with my gang. There is no amount of marginal gain that can top confidence – the difference between walking the path and cycling on it.
And the only way to get and build confidence is to get one’s butt out on the road and earn it.
Good times and noodle salad.
Tuesday Night In Lennon is a funny thing. You never know quite what you’re going to get but you do know you’ll need the good bike and your good legs. I had about 90% of my good legs last night (I thought, incorrectly, I only had about 80% when I got to the meeting spot). I’d been feeling a little “blah” the whole day and made a decision late in the afternoon that I’d give Lennon a go and if I got dropped, well so be it. I prepped the Venge, loaded up the Equinox and rolled out – not exactly knowing what to expect from the night and me.
The warm-up wasn’t terribly fast until we were about three miles in, heading north. The guy up front, Craig, has some internal “get there-itis” thing going on that I can’t wrap my head around. If ever there was a time to relax and spin the pedals, a seven mile warm-up before a 30-mile romp north of 25-mph would be perfect. But no. Not for Craig. He’s gotta get there so he tends to treat his warm-up like he’s late for something. After a mile above 20-mph, a quarter of that uphill and picking up speed, I eased off and slid off the back to spin a little easier with Brad on the way back to the parking lot. The important point was, I wasn’t unable to keep up due to not feeling great. It was more of an unwillingness during the warm-up.
The main event was looking a little tricky. We had a few new people and a few who weren’t going to keep up if the pace was pushed. If we were going to roll out with the A’s, it was going to be ugly, with B’s strewn all over the course. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and we rolled out a minute after the A’s left. I was in no shape to try to hang with the A’s.
We rolled out in a fairly tight group and it was kept marvelous. With partly to mainly cloudy skies, a light and variable breeze, and temps in the upper 70’s (24 C), you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spring evening. The group, for the most part, performed well above expectations and, with all of the headwind at the first half of the ride, we held a decent 20.3-mph average until the tailwind after the first set of hills. The next several hills were fast but nothing too fast to put people in a hurt locker. Our pace crept up to 22, then 23-mph with a 24 & 25 mixed in now and again.
Put simply, the ride was thoroughly enjoyable.
I started running out of gas with about five to go, just before the home stretch. I’d been up front, first three bikes, for way too long and after a decent uphill pull, I flicked off and headed back for a rest. Just as I was about to tuck in at the back of the group, a new guy in front of me flicked off in front of me and stopped pedaling, opening up an instant gap. I was screwed. As I tore around him, trying to marshal enough to get on the back of the group, I told him to never do that again. I dodged right to get in the far right lane of the double pace-line and catch some draft while I worked my way back into the group.
The home stretch was fast and mainly downhill, so that 20.3-mph average worked up to 21 even (34 km/h) before it came time for the sprint. I was holding on but gave the sprint a go anyway, taking the pace from 25-mph to 32-1/2 (52 km/h). And I burned my last match going over the line at 31.4.
I didn’t eat much last night, just enough to get some food into the gullet, but I slept like a baby. I sweated a lot out again last night, so I’m hoping this funk is almost done. I know how I feel is directly tied to my effort on the bike. The harder I go, the more it takes out of me and the flu symptoms return… but I just can’t help but go fast.
I rode 52-ish miles with my friends Sunday morning. After struggling with the vaccine flu much of the week, our CFO gave me a gift of a mild case of the sniffles, which, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been an issue – I doubt I’d have even gotten sick. Being drained from my body’s vociferous reaction to the vaccine, though, that case of the sniffles hit me hard. I was feeling pretty gnarly afterward.
Yesterday was another day, though. I woke up in a pool of my own sweat in the morning, so I figured I’d sweat it out the night before. I felt reasonably okay much of the day, though I faded as the day wore on. I made my way home a little early and managed a 15 minute nap before suiting up and that helped a lot. I rolled off down the road to pick Chuck up at 4:50, hoping I’d get to his house for the extra miles, but he met me about 3/4s of a mile up my street. I was feeling considerably better, but riding tends to run me down pretty quick of late and that usually means a rough night of sleep.
The plan was pretty simple; a nice, enjoyable 20-miler at a “Tuesday Night is tomorrow so let’s chill” pace. And that lasted for about two miles. I can’t remember if it was Chuck or me who took the pace up first, but it got hot in a hurry. I was on the Venge and it’s an absolute missile this year. Low and sleek in the front end, the Fast & Light 50 wheels… it’s just fast, solid and a wonder of perfectly solid craftsmanship. All of a sudden, we’re seven miles in looking at a 19.2-mph average and I start thinking, “Wait a minute… tomorrow’s TUESDAY NIGHT“.
I mentioned as much to Chuck and we both decided to dial it back considerably. While I struggled with being a little under the weather, the ride was fantastic and the conditions were spectacular (light breeze out of the south, partly cloudy, and room temperature).
And I paid for it last night. Worth it.
So, I don’t know if I’m going to head out to Lennon or not. I’m not 100% (hell, I’m not 80%), but there’s that need for speed that simply must be satisfied. Maybe I’ll go out and see how it goes… I’ll give it my best and if 80% isn’t good enough, I can simply slip off the back and take it home at my leisure. That’s probably how it’ll go.
One thing is for sure; I’ve had about enough of being sick for the next five or six years!