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It’s Time to Burn Off the Donuts, My Friends. That @$$ Won’t Lose Itself! It’s Time to Get Ready for Spring.

I’m all kinds of fired up.  Play time is over.

My favorite new saying is “my ass won’t lose itself”.  It strikes my funny bone.  For me, November and December are playtime.  Time to go out and explore new roads and take it easy for a bit.  Come January, though, playtime is over.

My half-diet has begun and I’m not far off from mid-summer weight (I managed to only gain three pounds over a two-week vacation). All that was left was to start powering up the trainer workouts and that started last night.  My first two days back were spent getting my legs spun up after a two-week diet of tennis with my wife and daughters.  Saturday’s indoor spin was easy, but Sunday’s dirt road ride was decent.  I had to be asked to take it down a notch once and I had to watch my speed the rest of the ride.  The change of pace did a lot of good.

Last night’s trainer ride started with a five minute warm-up followed by fifteen minutes in a gear almost too hard to hold for fifteen minutes… another five easy minute’s to recover, followed by fifteen minutes in the harder gear and a five minute cool-down.

A light supper with a pre-dinner salad of spinach, romaine, cucumbers, and celery… better to fill up on the greens before dinner – an idea I got from my buddy, Mike…

Two months from now, I’ll be ready to head outside again lighter and faster, rarin’ to go.

Good to Be Back; And Right Back After It…

Yesterday was my first ride after a week and five days of vacation.  While down south with family I didn’t spend one minute on a bicycle.  Speaking with a member of our bike club at the bike shop yesterday, she couldn’t believe we didn’t ride.  For me, this was by design.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on one of my bicycles in a year.  It’s not for a goal as lofty as being ridiculously fit, or exceptionally fast, as I’m neither.  I’m healthy, pretty fast, and I have a lot of fun riding.  I have this little nagging fear that, if I’m not wise about my riding, that it’ll lose its luster over time.  I’m funny with hobbies that way… let’s just say I have a history.

So, after some rain the night before, and a temp right at freezing, riding outdoors just didn’t seem to be in the cards.  I probably could have, but it wouldn’t have been much fun, so I opted for the trainer… and it was glorious.  The 45 minutes went by as if it was 25.  I was a spinning fool, just happy to be seated atop my Trek again.  My wife and I rode side by side, watching The Bourne Identity (for the umpteenth time – we both love that series).  Today, just an hour and a half after this posts, I’ll be out on the road, heading for dirt.  The temp should be just cold enough to solidify the dirt roads (30° or -1 C) but… well, I just got back from Florida and Tennessee.  30° is gonna suck.  Still, I’ll get around an hour and a half (maybe I’ll stretch it to two if I’m feeling it) outside, and I have a feeling, once I get over the temp change, it’s going to be fantastic to be on a bike, outside.

That’s why I took the vacation off, to be excited to be on the bike again.  It worked.

Now all that remains is to check the damage I did on the scale… It should be worth a laugh, at least.

Finally, A Ride Outside and Fit Recovery’s Eighth Anniversary

Conditions were finally reasonable for a dirt road ride Saturday. It was cold, right at freezing, but some decent winter clothing and a windproof jacket kept the cold at bay. We had a small group of three so the pace was pretty reasonable. We were out for 1h:45m and covered a little more than 27 miles.

I was a little chilly coming home, but it was really great to be outside.

Saturday night was our company end of year celebration, so I didn’t eat much after the ride, knowing I’d likely eat a lot for dinner.

I was not mistaken, dinner was good and was capped off with tres leche cake, a cake saturated with condensed, evaporated and regular milks. Oh. My. God, it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, by the time we got home, I was freezing to the point of shivering uncontrollably. I knew exactly what was happening. Some of our guys had been hammered with a bug of some sort the week earlier. I thought I’d stayed far enough away. I was mistaken.

I tried fall asleep on the couch with four layers of blankets over flannel PJ’s and my bath robe. My fever broke early Sunday morning but I was a wreck. Over the next 36 hours I ate no solid food. I even threw up for the first time since I quit drinking (it’s a thing, I used to throw up due to overindulgence regularly). I’ve been through three bouts of food poisoning and never got sick. I was in bad shape.

The bug broke Monday morning. I was hungry for the first time since Saturday and started with a bit of chicken noodle soup. Not exactly BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), but close enough for government work.

Enough of that! Speaking of work, I’m back today, thank goodness. It was a rough couple of days.

Finally, for this post, I received notice yesterday that this is the 8th anniversary of my blog. Pretty cool.

How To Become a Fast Cyclist; The Tools You’ll Need, Plus the One Single, Most Important Factor That’ll Allow One to Achieve Fast…

I am fortunate enough to be in the upper crust of cyclists (I almost used the word “lucky”, but luck has/had nothing to do with it).  Locally, I’m in the second tier of riders, but I’m told by visitors who happen by our group, our B Group is everyone else’s A Group, so I’m also fortunate to have a great pool of exceptional cyclists to ride with who consistently help me improve.  I’ve been riding with the same group for seven years and we, as a group, have increased our average pace over our usual 28+ mile course from 20.5-mph to well over 23-mph.  The A Group increased from 21.5 to 25-mph over 32 miles (and change).  Keep in mind, this is all on open roads… we have to stop for stop signs.  If we were to close the course so we didn’t have to worry about traffic, we’d easily be able to maintain 24-ish and 27-ish mph averages.

I detailed, specifically, the workouts I did, from day one on a mountain bike two sizes too small, to get fast in this post if you’re interested.

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I love that post.  It’s one of my most popular of all-time, but it’s missing a little something.  What’s more important than simply going fast, which anyone can do with the right equipment and desire, is being happy on the bike.  Some people have to push it to the edge to smile, and for those folks, more power to their pedals.  This is why I ride with the B Group rather than the A’s.  With a little work, I could ride with the faster group.  I’m infinitely happy with the friends I ride with, though.  I don’t need to be any faster.  So, my point is this: Enjoy cycling first.  If you’re still willing to put in the work required to be fast, read on.

Next, on to the important stuff.  The equipment you’ll need is important to the discussion.  You absolutely can get away with an aluminum bike in a fast group; I have two friends who ride aluminum road bikes – well, only one, now.  One guy finally picked up a Venge.  The second guy rides a high-end Specialized Allez with Zipp wheels, a Specialized Aerofly carbon handlebar and all the bells and whistles you’d want on a high-end race bike.  Basically, he rides the equivalent of an aluminum Venge.   He, and four others, hold the World Record for cross-state travel.  In other words, you don’t need carbon fiber to succeed (though it certainly doesn’t hurt).

More important is the component set, or groupset.  At a minimum, you’ll want Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival.  Better, Ultegra or Force.  I left Campagnolo out, but that’d be the Potenza or Chorus lines… or Record and another $800 to $1,000… The 105 and Rival levels are the entry-level race sets.  Anything below those and you have to deal with inadequacies and inefficiencies that get in the way of maintaining speed.  You could get away with Shimano Sora, but the 9-speed drivetrain leaves “cadence holes” – gaps in cadence between cogs, greater than 10 RPM.  11-speed is preferable, though I do fine with 10-speed.

I’ve got one of each component sets; an Ultegra bike and a 105, the only difference between the groupsets is weight.  They operate about the same, which would be excellently.

Next, and just as important as the groupset, are the wheels if you want to be fast.  Without question or exception, unless you’re freakishly strong, you’ll want a decent set of wheels on that bike.  On my good bike, shown above, I’ve got 38 mm carbon fiber wheels.  Some prefer 50 mm at a minimum but we deal with a lot of wind during the beginning and end months of a season.  I chose a rim that would be compliant in higher winds.  Alloy wheels are fine, though we would want to look for something with a decent aero profile, if possible.  I also prefer bladed aero spokes.  The important point with wheels is that they roll well.  The original wheels that came with my Venge are absolutely horrible – I can’t stand them.  They’re easily a mile an hour slower than the Velocity/Vuelta set on my Trek (below).  While you’ll want a good set of wheels, good doesn’t have to mean expensive.  I’ve only got $550 into the Velocity/Vuelta wheels below.  My Ican wheelset was less than $500.

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I’ve got Velocity Fusion rims with Vuelta Hubs (sealed bearings) with 24 mm tires on my Trek

Now, let me be exceptionally clear here, all of the aero stuff in the world won’t make you faster – that stuff makes fast easier.  If you’re thinking you’re going to buy a set of aero wheels and an aero bike with an aero handlebar and you’re going to jump from a 16-mph average to 20, you’re going to be deeply disappointed to find you just blew $5,000, you’ve got no excuses left, and the real problem all along was the engine.  Of course, at least you’ll love the new bike!

The final factor in fast is your bike’s weight.  This is usually taken care of by choosing a decent wheelset and higher-end components.  Even an aluminum bike will be fairly light with a Dura-Ace groupset and decent wheels.  Bike weight is behind rider weight, of course, and losing rider weight is free.  The important point here, fast will be easier, considerably so, on a 15 pound bike than it will on a 24 pounder.

To put a bow on this post, the last, and without question, most important factor in the quest for speed, the thing that separates the men and women from the boys and girls, was mentioned earlier in this post as “desire”.

Simpler, and the way I like to say it, is “want to”.  A light, fast bike with fantastic wheels and a Dollar will get you a cup of coffee without “want to”.  In fact, as fast as I am, once I ran out of “want to”, that was it… I only got faster when and because the group got faster.  I am just as fast on my 1999 Trek 5200 (right) as I am on the “aero everything” Specialized Venge (left) – even with the alloy wheels on the Trek.  In fact, up until just this year, four full seasons after I bought my Venge, my fastest ride ever was on my trusty, old Trek.  And the Trek is three pounds heavier.

New, carbon fiber, aero bikes are fantastic.  All of that carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium look awesome and you can bank on the fact that they’re fun to ride.

But without want to, that crap is useless.

Ride hard, my friends.

Vegans Over the Edge… Yet Again: Class Action Lawsuit Against Burger King for Using Same Grill as Normal Burgers. Paging Captain Obvious, Please Call the Office

Trigger (heh) warning:  This post will be somewhat of a hit piece on a specific, small, yet exceedingly loud portion of the vegan/vegetarian population.  Not quite what would come out of the New York Times if it pertained to President Trump, because at least this will be truthful, but I’m going to be pretty blunt, as my disclaimer to the left explains.  I’m not, in any way, shape, form, or manner, trying to say all vegans and/or vegetarians are bad, mean-spirited, ignoramuses… just that a very specific cult of that small group is.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

My wife has a vegetarian friend who once complained that my grill had meat cooked on it at one time, so she’d prefer it if I didn’t grill her veggie burger on that same grill…  I did figure a way around that for her, though.  I steam cleaned that side of the grill to her liking, applied some oil to keep her burger from sticking, and grilled her veggie burger.  I did this because I love my wife, and her friend is pretty cool about the whole thing, anyway.  Now, if she were like some people…

When Burger King came out with their Impossible Whopper, however, I had a feeling a complaint wasn’t too far off because there’s no way Burger King was going to appease the vegan nutter base.  What’s it been?  Three months and some change.  One way or another, someone was going to go all apoplectic.  I should have published something to show what a genius I am… and what a loser the vegan who would eventually sue Burger King is:

The lawsuit alleges that if he had known the burger would be cooked in such a manner, he would have not purchased it.
The Burger King that Williams visited did not have signage at the drive-thru indicating that the plant-based burger would be cooked on the same grill as meat, the suit says.

Paging Captain Obvious, please call the office.

What did this knucklehead think, Burger King would install another grill to grill their Impossible Whopper?  The guy, if he thought that, is impossibly stupid.  He obviously has never looked beyond the cash counter to see how little room there is in the back of a Burger King – there’s certainly no room for another broiler!

Where this, and so many sordid stories like it, runs afoul of decency is when nutters try to impose their idiosyncrasies on the rest of civilization.  It’s not Burger King’s job to anticipate and prepare for every nut who walks into a Burger King.  If Phillip Williams has a problem with his veggie burger being cooked on the same grill as a normal burger, perhaps he should be wearing signage stating that his beliefs run counter to popular norms and he prefers his burgers to be prepared a special way… this way the employees can simply nuke his Impossible Whopper (I’d bet that’s BK’s “non-broiler method of preparation”) and be done with it:

“For guests looking for a meat-free option, a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request,” the site notes.

This can be put in simple terms, folks; if you require your food to be prepared in a special way, not in the norm, and obviously Phillip Williams knows he does, then it’s his responsibility to make sure his needs are met, not someone else’s.

Better, in a sane world the court would make the complainant prove his/her/their Impossible Whopper actually did get beef on it from being cooked on the same grill.  What most people don’t know about Burger King broilers (that I happen to), is that the grill is a based on a conveyor belt system, about 2-1/2 feet wide by, maybe five feet long (if memory serves), so the grill actually goes through the fire a second time which gives any meat that might be stuck to the links time to cook off.  Thinking back on teenage days at BK, more than three decades ago, I can’t remember ever seeing any buildup on the conveyor, certainly not like one would see on their home grill, and certainly not in amounts that would lead to meat clinging to the conveyor so it could then be transferred to someone’s Impossible Whopper – the claim this could happen seems shady to me.

Anyway, insufferable people are insufferable.  Paging Captain Obvious.  Again.

Junk Miles Versus Training: How to Get the Most Out of Your Body on the Bike

This post is for those who want to be faster on the bike – and I mean fast.  If you don’t, if you believe putzing around the neighborhood is for you, then you may not need this post.  On the other hand, it can’t hurt.  Either way, what’s most important is that you’re smiling when you’re on (and off) your bike – if putzing around puts a smile on your face, fantastic.  If putzing leaves you wanting a little more, read on.  Fair warning though, I’m not about to beat around the bush.

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Speed on a bicycle does not come on its own, and it rarely comes freely.  The faster I ride, the harder I have to be willing to work at it.  I can’t remember the formula, but there’s a lot of talk out there about how the force required to push the wind doubles as your speed increases.  I’m here to tell you, I know exactly what that feels like.  Anyone who’s tried to get their bike up to 30 or 35-mph (48-56 km/h) on flat ground knows this feeling intimately.

There once was a time, 14-mph on a mountain bike over four miles was about max effort for me.  That was long ago.

My friends, we are going to discuss an uncomfortable phrase for a minute.  It’s uncomfortable for some because those who log lots of miles like this have a tendency to think they’re working a lot harder than they are.  Then they wonder, after putting in all of those miles, why they struggle to hang with the fast crowd.  Pointing out that it takes more than turning the cranks to get off the porch and ride with the big dogs is… uh, touchy.  And heavens to Murgatroyd, we wouldn’t want touchy!

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The phrase is “Junk miles”.  Junk miles are those miles ridden where you can easily hold a conversation, speaking freely in full sentences for hours on end.  Your ability to ride fast will be directly proportional to the amount of junk miles you put in.  This isn’t to say junk miles aren’t allowed, they’re absolutely necessary.  We simply must make sure the junk miles have their place and aren’t confused with what is needed to increase one’s overall speed and fitness.  They also like to call this “zone two”.

It’s a lot like eating junk food.  Junk food is certainly fun to eat, especially when you’re clocking 300 miles a week.  Sadly, the more you eat, the heavier you get, the worse you ride.  Well, junk miles work on the same principle – minus the extra weight.  Oh, sure, there are those who like to claim cruising around in “zone two” is better for weight loss, but that horse-pucky never worked for me, anyway.  And it certainly won’t make one fast.  It will, however, get me used to riding a lot slower than I’m capable of.

In other words, if I want to be fast, I have to work at it.  And as it turns out, a lot.

First, I’m not without sympathy.  Junk miles are awesome fun.  My buddy, Mike and I went for a cruise a couple of weeks ago – we averaged 17.3-mph over 35 miles – and it was a blast.  Not only could I have pulled the entire ride, including into the wind, I easily could have averaged another couple of miles an hour faster… by myself… but it’s the end of the season and it’s time to sit back and enjoy a little R & R miles before the snow flies and the real training picks up again in January to get ready for spring.

So, the following is how I balance the good miles with the junk miles.

First of all, I’m not a big believer in pushing hard every day, year ’round.  That’s a fantastic way to burn yourself out or worse, injure yourself.  I admire those who can, I just prefer to take it easy for a couple of months at the end of the year.  Usually November and December are all easy miles, mainly indoors on the trainer.

The real works starts January 1st.  I eat better, and I work hard on the trainer building up for March.  To start, I do hard workouts every other day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, rinse and repeat (sometimes I’ll ride easy Sunday if I’m feeling tired).  Once in a while, I’ll take a day off, and the other odd days are easy spinning trainer rides to loosen my legs up.  I do that for two weeks.  Then I switch to a harder gear for part of the hard workouts for a week.  Then, the next week, a harder gear still for the tough workouts.

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February is a continuation of January, but with a still harder gear (my highest gear) added in.  Same easy days, too, by the way.  I’ll also work in some intervals during February, steadily increasing the intensity of my workouts until we head outside.

In-season, say from April through October, my schedule is simple.  Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday are the hard effort days.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are some varying form of less intensive cycling than the harder days.  Let’s say 17-18-mph is easy, I’ll do that one or two days, depending on how my legs feel.  The remaining are between 18 & 19.  The fast days are 19-20 over the weekend and 21-23 on Tuesday night.

Monday and Wednesday are what could be “junk miles”, but they’re necessary rest for a working stiff who likes to spend an hour a day on the bike whether he needs it or not (or more, especially on the weekends).

A friend of mine who is currently trying to get his pro card enjoys saying, nobody loves going slow like a pro.  Some of his workouts show it, too.  The trick is, his hard workouts would leave me hyperventilating in a heap on the side of the road.  I try to follow the same principle, I just don’t bother with the panting heap on the side of the road part.  I’m old enough to be his dad… and I have no desire to work hard enough to be that fast.

In short, to wrap this post up, own who you are and how you want to ride.  If you want to be faster, put in the work.  Don’t think that by riding slow everywhere you go, you will magically become fast.  You’ll be disappointed in your results.  Every time.

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Day 259 Days of Recovery from Procrastination

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I’ve never seen anyone drink their way to happiness…

Or, as the linked post explains, I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate themselves into happiness.

Never thought of it quite so simply, but it sure does work.  Please take a moment and check the linked post out.