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Surviving a Big Week on the Bike

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I put in a 466 mile week at the end of August and into September. 377 of them coming in just four days. My average pace for the 466 was north of 19-mph.

So, how did I prepare for that with a wife, kids and a job?

I wish there was a magic bullet. “Yeah, just ride so many days in a row, for so many miles, at such-and-such a pace, and you’ll be great!” Wouldn’t it be wonderful? It would, but that’s not how it works.

In all seriousness, as a working stiff, there’s really no great way to train for a four day tour where you’ll be putting in upwards of 100 miles a day – and all four days are going to be a fairly hard effort. There are a few things that will be helpful to know up front.

  • Day One, be careful. It’ll be easy to go out too fast. Your adrenaline will be maxed, so you’ll have to contain yourself a little bit. This is especially true if you’ve done the ride before – the more I ride tours, the more excited I am to do them. Just remember how many days you’ve got in front of you.
  • Day Two sucks the worst. You’re fresh off your first hundred. Your butt’s a little sore, your legs are tired… and you’re just not feeling up to snuff. You’ve gotta muscle up. It’ll only hurt until you get settled in, maybe ten or twenty miles in. Just keep pedaling.
  • Day Three should feel better – well, most of you should feel better. Your ass will feel as though it’s on fire when you first sit on your saddle, but that’ll numb out as the day progresses. Don’t worry. Just keep pedaling.
  • Day Four will likely be your best day. You’re ass will be red enough they’ll be shooting blow darts at you in the locker room when you shower up after Day Three, but your legs will have adjusted and, other than the aforementioned fire heinie, you should feel pretty spry. Just keep pedaling.
  • I’ve only ever done a four-day, so I can’t really speak to what’s next, but rinse and repeat just keep pedaling. Your Dave’s Insanity Sauce butt will recover just fine. Later. Much, much later. As long as you don’t have an extra hole or two in there, you’ll be alright. If you do, Aquaphor. Buy some. Use it. Love it.

Now, the previous commentary was meant to be truthful, but also funny as all get out. If you didn’t laugh at the part about having blow darts shot at your baboon ass, you’ve got something wrong with you. That bit was funny. Thanks for the heavy lifting on that one, Chuck.

Let’s get into some real, valuable information, though. This is the middle of Day Three and those six smiles are all genuine (Todd was having a rough go).

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  • First, get your gearing right for your environment. I’ve got compact chainrings and an 11/28 cassette on the my tour bike. On my Tuesday Night fast bike I’ve got more of a corncob – 11/25 for the 52/36 chainrings on that bike. If you’re riding a flat course, then go with the corncob. On the other hand, if you’ll be doing a lot of climbing, go with some easy gears. Also, factor in you’ll be tired by the second day. You’ll want one or two easier gears than you think for those late-week hills.
  • EAT! You shouldn’t be out on a multi-day tour to lose weight. Trying to ride hungry is ill-advised, as you’ll already be pushing the comfort zone. Nobody needs to throw in a bonk halfway through the trip.

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  • Gu UP! Aussies call them something else, but we Americans call the single-serving packaged gels, “Gu’s”. Point is this; if you’re feeling rough, if you feel some butt pain spring up, maybe a sore muscle or something, I always look at that as my body’s way of saying, “Yo! Knucklehead! You’d better send something for me to burn up pretty quick or I’m gonna make this $#!+ hurt for real!” I always fire down a gel when I start to hurt for no good reason. Preferably something with caffeine. Gu Roctane is good for that. Lots of caffeine. And a Coke. Sweet Jesus in a manger, a Coke always makes miles feel better.
  • Speaking of Gu’s, if you’ve got a big climb coming up late in the day (and if you’re lucky enough to know about it ahead of time, ahem), fire down a Gu about 10 or 15 minutes before you get there. It’ll kick in just as you get to the hill and it’ll help A LOT. We’ve got a monster 18%’er after a 2-mile 2-4% climb at mile 91-ish on day three of a normal tour I do. There’s a rest stop at mile 89, so (at a friend’s suggestion, thanks, Chad) I fired down a Gu Jet Blackberry just before I left. I beat my best time on the climb up to the wall by more than a minute and knocked 30 seconds off the big climb. There’s no question it helped.

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  • Dude, here’s the tricky part; you finish by not getting off the bike. Keep track of the electrolytes, eat well (not a bunch of sugary crap, unless said sugary crap is ice cream… in that case, knock yourself out), and drink lots. Keep pedaling… and don’t listen to any self-sabotaging bull$#!+ coming from the melon committee (the one in your melon, your head). It’ll be hard but you’ve gotta shut that $#!+ down or it’ll eat you up alive because long tours hurt.
  • Garmin Edge 520 Plus (or better). Buy one. Use it. Download the routes from Ride with GPS to it and follow the turn-by-turn directions (and set up one of your fields with the “Distance To” feature so it’ll tell you the distance to the next turn). Not having to worry about a cue sheet is WONDERFUL.
  • If you’re riding alone, leave a little early and wait for a group to pass you in a pace line. Start to pedal harder as the first one goes by and as the last one passes, latch on to the back. Let the person in front of you know you’re there (don’t be all shy about it, a pace line is not the place to be shy). If you can keep up well, these will be your new friends. Be nice to them and they will likely be nice to you. Do your turns up front and they’ll accept you into their group without hesitation. Almost everyone loves another person in their group who will help. We’ve got a guy who joins us every DALMAC, who showed up exactly that way about four years ago. Now he rides with us, eats with us, camps with us… he’s just as much a part of our group as I am.
  • Finally, and lean in because this is important, you need a new, clean kit for every day. I own, currently, about eight full kits (jersey & bibs), but only four make the rotation on tours. I have a specific jersey & bib combo for each day, too. Semi-pro kit for day one, pro kits for days two and three, and a very specific bib/jersey combo for day four, that match perfectly with the bike and saddle I’m using (the kit below is Day Four’s – Gore bibs and my Affable Hammers jersey). For whatever reason, the chamois in those bibs is perfect for the Trek’s saddle. I don’t know why, either, because it’s a thin chamois and I generally prefer thicker… but the point is, I stick with what works and I always use my best stuff on tours. They’re long days, my friends. I give myself the best chance of making it to the end with a smile on my face… and enough in the tank for one last sprint.

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Most of all, my friends, have fun. We’re not getting any younger and nobody gets out alive. Enjoy what time you’ve got left, you never know how much that is.

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You Can’t Recover if You Don’t Quit; Paging Captain Obvious

Recovering from addiction, if done right, will be the hardest thing you ever do in life.  If you’re doing it wrong, then doing it right will be the second hardest thing you ever do.

For the last, oh, I don’t know, several thousand years or so, alcoholics have been trying to switch addictions to cope with quitting their drug/drink of choice.  Beer only, wine only, liquor only, foo-foo drinks only… weed only, pills only, heroin only, cocaine only, weed and beer, coke to get up, booze to come down… you get the idea.  Hey, why not swing for the fences and throw meth in there for good measure?  I’m sure that’ll end well.

Friends, there is no escape an addict won’t exploit.  If it makes us feel good, without proper motives and checks, we’ll abuse it.  It’s what we do.

The problem is not that we abuse the $#!+ that makes us feel good, it’s that we have to escape what is happening around us, that we want to escape life (usually synonymous with our bad decisions and the wreckage we create).  As addicts, we used to escape, to hide from life, therefore anything that gives us that escape in recovery has to be suspect (even, gulp, cycling).  If it’s mood or mind-altering, in the form of a drug, it’s simply off limits (there are exceptions, obviously, but none of them include self-diagnosis or pot – though feel free to kid yourself.  I won’t try to stop you).  If it’s something that simply puts a smile on our face, like cycling in my case, we must constantly assess our motives and our behavior.  If we don’t, we risk creating more, new wreckage from which we’ll seek to hide.  And that will start the cycle of destruction and the downward spiral to relapse.

That’s how $#!+ works.

In the end, Captain Obvious, it’s very simple; quit first, recover second.  Sadly, we don’t get to put the cart before the horse.  I can’t have the benefits of recovery if I won’t quit in the first place.

 

Everesting 2 – So Close, Yet So Far

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My friends, if you’re ever in need of motivation to push on, read the linked post.

I missed this one, it was written back in may, when I was buried under work. Check it out if you get a minute.

A $17,000 eBike?! Where Can I Sign Up?! All of a Sudden My 38-Mile Commute to Work Can Be Done on a Bicycle?! HOLY $#!+

Specialized just came out with a road eBike.  The S-Works version runs $13,500, but get this; it’s pedal assist up to 28.5-mph.  And it comes in under 30 pounds.  It’s three settings are controlled by an app you run on your smartphone.  Disc brakes, carbon everything, and it looks an awful lot like a Tarmac… except at the down tube (where the battery is stored) and the bottom bracket shell (where the gears are stored).  There’s a more reasonable version that’s a little heavier, but still delivers the same power that runs for $9,000.

The bells and whistles version, limited to a 250 model run, goes for a whopping $17,000.

Still, the system is good for 80 miles (120 with the extender battery).

Let that sink in.

In my case, if I can average 25-mph, my 38 mile commute can be done in less than two-hours (1h:35m to be exact)… and I get a fantastic morning and afternoon workout in without having to mess around after work.  In other words, I would actually gain about 50 minutes in the afternoon by riding my bike home.  Think of the gas money one could save whilst maintaining fantastic health.

Oh, it’s an exciting time to be alive, my friends.

Ah, Almost Back to Normal Again

Since I’ve gotten back from the west side of the State, things have slowly gone back to a more “normal” state of affairs. I’m into the office early, which means I’m leaving early as well, and it seems like I’m pulling into the driveway before I know it – I’m home well before 5 pm. My drive is less than 45 minutes (I haven’t had less than a 38 minute drive to work in more than 23 years). Better, I’m able to stay up a little later and sleep in (if you can call it that, and most normal people don’t – I still have my alarm set for 4 am).

I rode what we call the “Deer Loop” with some friends yesterday morning, under utterly perfect conditions. 3-mph wind, not a cloud in the sky, and mercifully cool (low 60’s – perfect starting temp [16.7 C]). When I included “Deer Loop” in my Strava ride title, one of my friends asked in the comments, “Did you bring the deer magnet with you”. I laughed out loud – my buddy, Mike (aka the Deer Magnet) has a funny way of attracting animals so he hits them. He got a deer two years ago and a dog and a squirrel so far this year. I don’t know how many near misses there were, but I was there for a few with deer crossing just in front of us… and I’ve heard of many more than I saw…

Which leads me to the big plus: My mileage is heading in the right direction. Two weeks ago, with the long Fourth of July weekend, I managed to clock in more than 300 miles for the week. Last week, with a normal work schedule I was over 210 miles. I also popped over 4,000 miles for the year last week, so it seems I’ll still be able to have a decent year after the job and our crappy start to the Spring.

In other cycling news, the Trek is in for a paint touch-up. I put a gnarly gouge in the top tube when I had a wrench slip off the headset lock nut. It was bad – and just two days after I put an awesome new Punisher sticker on it, too…

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re really good and looking up. Now if I could just drop about five more pounds! Dammit, they’re a lot harder to take off than put on!

My Key to a Relentless Positive Attitude: Part 145

This is not going to be an easy post to take – especially if you’re a negative person who likes to blame your problems on others…  Good luck!

Positivism doesn’t happen on it’s own.  I didn’t wake up this morning and realize my life was spectacular enough that I can now go about being a happy positive guy.  Shit just doesn’t work like that.  For anyone.

There are constant forces at work to drag us down, right?  People who wrong us and make us angry?  People, places or things that make us this, or make us feel that?

Well yes there are, but they only count for anything if I want to be dragged down.  And stay down.  That isn’t me.

The trick to relentless positivism

I have to completely divorce myself from the outside world when it comes to concentrating my energy on my attitude.  The second “you” enter my train of thought, I’m pooched.  People, places and things are entirely out of my control.  It’s not about how the outside world is, but how I perceive it and how I then, in turn, react to it.

My positivism is not an accident….

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you know I was working on a difficult project a couple of hours’ commute from my house.  Each way.  We were given a target date when the owner was going to start moving furniture in.  My boss, just back in April, confided in me that he thought it was an impossible goal, that it wasn’t going to happen – there was no way the owners would be moving in on time.

My team beat the date by three weeks.  It’s been an ugly process getting there, but we’re there. We blew the budget, of course, because you can have something built fast, built well, and built inexpensively… you only get to pick two.  The owner picked fast and built well and we delivered.  It cost an arm and a leg.

I gave that job everything I had, every day.  I didn’t miss a minute of work, not even to have a crown fixed that I’d accidentally loosened on a Jujyfruit the day before I was to start – I put that crown back on and ate on the other side of my mouth until I had an open vacation day four months later that I used to go to the dentist.  There were several days I’d have to stop at a rest area on the way home to take a nap because I was getting too tired to drive safely.  I had only had three waking hours a day for my family.  My wife and kids got to a point they told me they missed me… but I still took that job by the horns and I made it my bitch.  One day at a time.

On my last day, several of the foremen from the other subcontractors told me how much they were going to miss my positive attitude on the job, that I was a light on that site.

Folks, that four months (and some change) out of my life was hard.  My car broke down twice, I had that tooth issue, my glasses broke, my phone was stolen, the owner’s management team rode us like red-headed rented mules… there were a dozen other little things that could have brought me down but I didn’t budge.  I just kept motoring ahead, one day at a time, with my eye on the prize.

My friends, not letting that outside stuff get to me was, plain and simple, a choice.  At each opportunity to fail or fold, I thought to myself, “Is this the thing that you let bring you down?”  Each time I answered “F*** NO.”  I became so relentlessly positive that I got strength from making the choice to stay positive, to keep winning.  Just the act of acknowledging the difficulty and that I wasn’t going to let it break me made me stronger, more resolute.  More positive.

It wasn’t always easy.  I wasn’t perfect.  There were times the drive really got to me.  The look on my wife’s face when she said she and the girls missed me… driving down to work without my glasses was scary as hell (my eyes are not bad enough I couldn’t pass the State’s eye test – my driver’s license did not require corrective lenses, I’d just gotten so used to seeing perfectly…).  One particular time, when my team and I were on the hot seat to get some critical work done and we were struggling to produce, that one almost got me.  I quieted up for two days… but then I realized what I was doing to myself and I asked that most important question.  “Will this be the thing I let bring me down?”

I bounced back the next day.

I have a choice of whether or not I will let an event or another person bring me down.  Every single day.  I don’t know what God’s plan for me is, but if my past is any indicator, He’s got some big plans and I’m going to have a lot of fun fulfilling them.  Either I can get on with it, or I can curl up in a ball on the floor and stick my thumb in my mouth.  It’s my choice.

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20190709_071432That stack of drywall you see under the bridge is all we’ve got left on a job that needed more than 2,000,000 sf.  That’s it.  There’s so little remaining to do, I’ve worked myself right out of the job – there’s nothing to gain by having full-time project manager-level supervision on site anymore so I was sent back to the office to save money.

I don’t have to be perfect, or mistake-free.  I don’t have to be the best, or the strongest.  I just have to give it my best and care about what I do.  I have to choose to remain positive.  The key to being positive is choosing to be positive, and refusing to let my negative thoughts get in my way.

I can choose to quit and ball up in the fetal position tomorrow.  As long as I remember that tomorrow never gets here.

And Finally, Some Decent Miles to Go with Summertime (and How Sobriety Factors into the Fun)

On one hand, this summer, if you could call it that until two weeks ago, should have been a YUGE letdown. My miles are down, my weight is slightly up, and the weather has just plain sucked. I haven’t even topped 4,000 miles for the year yet, and I’m liking food way more than I should.

On the other hand, I’m on the job of my career and I’m freaking digging it and the pay has been quite nice.

I don’t know what the rest of this year will hold, but beyond the sacrifices, I’m having fun and I’m happy. And that’s what really matters.

Then, out of nowhere, the best cycling weekend yet this year. It was supposed to rain every day, but the worst we got was a popcorn storm for ten minutes, and never while we were on the bikes.  I could have put in so many more miles, though… 75 on Thursday, 40 Friday, another 56 for Saturday, and we’ve got a 100k on tap for today.  If memory serves, I’d have sprinkled in an 80-100 miler in there and at least one of the 40 or 56 mile rides would have been a 100k.  I’m not that guy this year, though.  For the longest time, I feared I would like cycling less if I let off the gas, if I didn’t try to cram absolutely every last mile in.  I was so wrong; I like it more.

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Because I’m not always trying to push max miles out of every ride, my enjoyment of the sport increased and I enjoy each mile much more.  In the end, there’s still no place I’d rather be than on my bike, and the search still continues for the sucker who’ll pay me to ride it.  I’ll let you know when my luck changes.

In the meantime, it’s just another day in paradise on two wheels.

There once was a time when all I could do was think about how I could escape being miserable.  Every day I’d try to figure out how to game the system so I could have just one more day drunk before the house of cards crumbled under the weight of my poor choices.  Today, 26 years without a drink or a drug, and I’m working on making content and happy, happier.  Talk about a difference that’ll put a smile on your face!

My friends, once I embraced that the hardest thing I would ever do in my life occurred 26 years ago, in quitting drinking (and eventually, smoking), once I realized I’d already been through hell and as long as I keep on the right path, I don’t ever have to go back, life became less about survival and more about enjoyment.

Just for today.  Keep quit, no matter what.  Even if your ass falls off… and in the event it does, put it in a paper bag and take it to a meeting.  They’ll show you how they put theirs back on.  There’s only misery at the bottom of that bottle.  It won’t get better this time.  There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Shit, there’s no rainbow.  Because there’s no sunshine.  Just keep quitting.