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A View from the Drops; A Crazy Week in the Life of a Cycling Enthusiast…

This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.

Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.

And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.

Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.

Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.

I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.

My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.

Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.

We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.

From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.

My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.

Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.

According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.


A New B Group Record, with a lot of Help from Our A Group Friends

I’m sitting on the couch watching the Red Sox and Yankees playoff game. I’m showered up, I’ve eaten, and I feel like a thousand Dollars.

Last night was an iffy weather night.  It was unseasonably warm (sadly, that’s about to end) but we had a chance of a popcorn shower.  In fact, it started raining at about 3:30 hard, and we were set to roll at 4:45 for the warm-up lap.  I readied the Venge anyway – I wanted my last night in shorts and short-sleeves to be on the good bike.

The car was hit by a few drops on the way out to the meeting point but that was it.  Once I got the bike out of the back, the sun came out and we were clear.

The warm-up was slow, relatively.  With the mild-ish wind out of the southwest, the first leg of the loop is always a bit ugly.

We set up in the parking lot for an end-of-season photo and it was suggested that maybe the A’s and B’s roll together for the first twenty.  There were no objections, so off we went.  Last week on the Trek, there were several times in the first twenty miles where I was struggling mightily.  It was cold and wet last week but I was dressed for it – I was also on the Trek.  Simply put, that bike is just a little harder to ride fast, because there were no issues last night.  Once I got into the rhythm (and decided to take shorter turns at the front), I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  Eight miles in we were looking at a 24-mph average.

There was no let-up into the wind either, the only thing that changed was the turns up front were shorter.

We’d decided early on to split at the 20-mile point, so when the time came we split seamlessly.  The B’s stopped atop a hill to wait for any stragglers left on the hill and the A’s rolled right by us.  When the last guy pulled in, we rolled.  Two tandems and a bunch of singles.  With a tailwind all the way home, we were hard at it from the gun.

I timed the intermediate sprint perfectly by using a friend of mine (unwittingly on his part) to block the other sprinters.  I solo’ed off the front to pick the sign off.  We regrouped in town and instead of taking it easy, Chuck charged up front and prodded the lead guys to kick it up for our average speed’s sake.

The rest of the ride was single pace line and exceptionally fast.  We kept the turns up front short, with the exception of one of the A Guys who stayed with us because he doesn’t handle the heat well.  He was up front so long and so fast, he burned me out drafting behind him.  I used an intersection to fall back for a rest.

The last three miles were energetic.  After the intersection, there’s a little climb over a quarter-mile that we did at a mercifully easy 19-mph, but once we crested, the pace picked up again for the charge to the finish.  The line cycled through and I found myself three bikes back with two miles to go.  I figured I’d be the lead out.

Dave came up on my left, though, with about a half-mile to go and said he’d lead me out and I was just about to jump when a new guy, Bobby, drifted up on Dave’s wheel.  I figured I’d let him go and take third bike for the sprint but Dave went a little faster than he’d assumed and Bobby lost his wheel.  I didn’t try to chase Dave down.

I rode Bobby’s wheel in and launched a little sprint to get around him, figuring I would give it just enough to take second – and my buddy, Chuck pipped me for the sign at the last second.  We’re talking inches.  I caught my breath a bit and pulled my phone out of my pocket to stop Strava…  Had I stopped it just after the line I’d have registered Chuck’s 23.1-mph average for the 28-ish mile loop – our best ever by a full half-mile per hour.  What a ride!

So getting back to sitting on the couch, watching baseball…  It never ceases to amaze me how good I feel after a ride like that.  Gratitude, happiness, strength, and at ease with the world, all at once.  I just set back and reveled in it… and I drifted off to sleep.

If I could bottle that and sell it, I’d never have to work another day in my life.

Sadly, I can’t.  You have to buy your own bike and ride it.

Make that Five 1,000 Mile Months in a Row… It’s almost Time for a Day Off

Friday, three days early, I stopped my bike in my driveway with exactly 1,000 miles for the month of September (on Strava – Endomondo is more accurate at 1,014 1041 – but that requires more than a three-sentence explanation). It helps, of course, that I started the month off with 160 miles in the first two days – but I still had to ride the other 840 miles over the remainder of the month.

My only day off this month was a… whoops. I didn’t take a day off yet this month. Anyway, I probably will tomorrow because the weather is supposed to suck… For two weeks.  Hopefully it’s just the Weather Channel being overzealous.

For my yearly tally so far, it looks like I’ve got a chance to break 10,000 miles this year if everything works out.  I’ve got 8,200 miles on the year with October, November and December left.  If I go by last year’s mileage it’ll be close, but it looks like I’ll have about 400 miles as a cushion.  Now, I have to clarify for the purists; that total includes trainer miles.  I figure, if I ride ’em, I count ’em.  Not everyone agrees with that perspective.  Either way, if I only count outdoor miles for the year, I should end up with more than 8,000 – and that’s not bad for a working fella.

I’m feeling like a pretty lucky fella, lately.  My fitness is great, my health is as well, and my stress level is relatively low.  Good times and noodle salad, my friends.  It’s as good as it gets, and that’s all I could ask for.

Road Cycling and the three second on-the-road, how to fix a squeaky cleat…

You’re out on a ride and you walk into some wet grass to get to a porta-john. You hit the snack stand at the rest area, refill your water bottles and head for your bike. You throw your leg over the top tube, clip your first foot into the pedal and wait for the call to roll…

“Let’s roll”, you hear, and push off. You clip your second foot in and pedal for the road. You hit 17-1/2-mph and hear, “squeak, squeak, squeak….” every time your right foot hits the bottom of the pedal stroke. Within three-quarters of a mile, you’re mental over the squeaky cleat.


At the next rest stop, after you’ve eaten your banana, rub the peel on your cleat and where it will contact the pedal. You don’t have to make a total mess of it, just a little goes a long way.

No more squeaky cleat.


My Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness, and Levity…

I was down to my cruising weight about two months ago. Now I’m just having fun with it. I figure, why not get light going into Thanksgiving this year. Then I can simply watch what I eat the rest of the winter and I’ll be a lot happier, and lighter, next spring (I let this last winter get me a little bit).

I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last five weeks since I had my yearly physical and I’ve decided to keep that up.  The doctor’s assistant called a week after the appointment and said my bad cholesterol came back a little high.  She also added that my ratio was good, I just had to watch what I was eating a little more closely.

I took that to heart, of course, and changed how I ate immediately.  I didn’t completely cut the crap tasty food out, I’m simply more mindful about what it is I’m eating most of the time The way I see it, I’m way too active to be a saint all of the time.

The prescription was pretty simple. Eat smarter, more fast miles. Rinse and repeat.  The results have been uplifting, if expected.


Keeping fit, active, healthy, and most important, out of the doctor’s office and the prescription medication trap, is a simple equation on any one of my bikes.  (Eat well + get fit) x ride hard = smile more.

So that brings me to my Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness and Levity… or P.A.S.S.U.O.T.L.  

Or pass you on the left…

Ride hard, my friends.  It’s  cheaper than the doctor – and I’d rather cough up the funds for the McLaren* of race bikes than fund my doctor’s vacation home… if you know what I mean

*Or a Ford GT40 if we’re talking about the Trek – if you know your car and race bike history, you know putting the two together is quite accurate, historically speaking.



Whose Calorie Tracker is Right, Anyway? A Case Study in why it can be Difficult to Lose Weight using Fitness Tracker Data

For the longest time I relied, loosely, on data I got from Endomondo to watch what I ate while balancing a ridiculously active cycling habit. There once was a time I couldn’t eat enough “good” food to keep weight on so I added a little fast food on occasion. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s… they were all on the table. I didn’t overdo it, of course, maybe a couple of times a week, but I didn’t shy away, either. It was a good problem to have.

Two years later it got to a point where I was eating two value meals after a Tuesday night ride to keep my weight up. And that’s about the time everything caught up to me. My problems started when I didn’t taper down the extra food and fast food after DALMAC (typically our “end of the season” tour – after that, we tend to ride a little easier). I kept eating as if I were putting in 250 mile weeks. I didn’t put on a lot of weight, but I got a little mushy, and I didn’t like it.

This year, I’m down at my fighting weight and I’m smarter going into fall. I’ve already started to taper and I’m saving fast food for big ride days only.

However, it seems I may have been using bad information all along. Take yesterday’s 54 mile ride: Endomondo gave me 3,307 calories to make up for. That’s a lot of chips and salsa, folks! Strava, for the same ride: 1,803.  Where the extra 1,500 calories went, I don’t know.

Let’s look at another. Last Saturday’s 101 mile effort at 20.2-mph, the last two hours of which were in the rain. Endomondo: 6,559 Strava: 3,832. Even a short 20-miler. Endomodo: 1,216 vs. Strava: 616 calories.

Folks, I have no doubt in my mind that Endomondo is too high in their estimate, and I paid for it.  That led to my troubles regulating my weight over the last couple of years.

User beware.

Avoid these MISTAKES to get a dad bod

If you like my blog, you’ll LOVE this post. Read it, in all it’s freaking brilliance.