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Choosing which type of cyclist I want to be

We rode 70 miles on Saturday, tailwind on the way out, headwind on the way in.  It was a great, fun ride, but it was tough.  Headwind on the way home always is.  My buddy, Mike was toasted, my wife was smoked.  I was ready to be done, but I was still technically “okay”.  I slept well Saturday night, I will say that.

Rare for a weekend ride, Big Joe came out to ride with us.  He was hurtin’ for certain too, but Joe is a diesel; terrible on the hills, but when he gets a head of steam and some flat, he’s strong.  He’s gold on downhills too because he’s a big guy (he rides a 62 cm Trek Domane).  They say being second bike behind someone is a 10-30% advantage…. Joe’s a 30% guy, no doubt about it.

Diesels all have the same kryptonite though:  up.  We will come back to that…

I was happily surprised when Joe pulled into the driveway for Sunday’s ride.  

Cycling is all about the friendships for me.  I love going fast, but I like laughing and talking with my friends as we are at it.   For yesterday’s ride, one of the A guys texted and asked what we were doing.  He knows how to play nice, so I let him know our plans.  That’s when he dropped that his BCB (best cycling bud) would be there too.

Greg alone, we can expect a little faster than normal, but like I said, he plays nice.  He’s very fast, and he’s one of those guys that makes fast look easy.  It’s a little unnerving, but cool at the same time.  Add in Dave, though, and something crazy that belongs on Outrageous Acts of Science happens…  The two of them together, and tongues will be dangling, sweat dripping, and snot slopping onto top tubes.  It’s like one feeds off the other and fast happens.

I was the only one of us B guys who knew both would be riding with us on Sunday, until we were a few miles into the ride.  I assured everyone that we were staying together, that nobody was getting dropped.

My wife and Mike still dropped off early, opting to forego the pain of hanging on.  Phill, Brad, Joe and I stuck with it and we got exactly what was expected.  

I stayed up front with Greg, Dave and his wife on their tandem (they have an awesome Co-motion Macchiato) so my friends would have a better draft.  I didn’t do any time up front, though….  

We got to our first tailwind stretch of any length and that’s when things got messy.  I was holding Greg’s wheel easily, between 24 and 27 mph.  Dave was behind me, and Phill, Brad and Joe behind them.  I counted shadows to make sure we were all there a few times, when I could, but I knew cohesion wasn’t going last.

I stayed with the group until a turn, and faded off.  I knew at least one of us was off the back.  It was too many many miles, too fast.  Sure enough, Phill and Brad were there but Joe was nowhere to be found.  I pulled off to the side of the road and waited.

A few minutes later, Joe shot the corner and I started rolling again, watched for him over my shoulder, and picked up the pace as he caught on.  He thanked me but said I didn’t have to wait, that he knew the way home.  I simply said that nobody was riding alone today and we pressed on.  

A few miles up the road we caught up to everyone at a convenience store and we took a minute to grab something to drink and fire down some grub (my favorite are bananas).  From there we pressed on.  Eventually, Greg headed north and Dave and his wife pulled away.  The four of us rolled on together.  Phill split off for home, then Brad, and it was just Joe and I.  Joe pulled three, I took the last three and we pulled into the driveway with a 19.97 mph average.  Considering how slow our first ten miles were, that was nothing short of impressive.

I’m not all that impressive a cyclist (and at my age, how much does that really matter?).

I know I can be a good friend though, and that’s the type of cyclist I want to be.  

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We Interupt this Blog for an Indian Summer….

My friends, the weather is just too nice and it is not going to last.  We haven’t gotten the frost yet, but this is Michigan and I have a funny feeling we are going to pay for the last couple of mild winters this year…

Long story short, I’m out…

Doing this:

Making hay while the sun is shining…. I’ll be back Monday morning, 7am EST as usual.

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding One’s “Good Enough”…

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding Your “Good Enough” (because I was lucky enough to find mine).  Maybe I should have titled the post “How I Found My Good Enough”?  Meh, anyway, as I was saying…

Fair (trigger, heh) warning, if you think this is going to be one of those “in the end zone, spike the ball” posts, I’m going to disappoint you – or if you enjoy someone else’s struggles, it may put a smile on your mug).  This is going to move more than Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint.

Getting my “good enough” was all about figuring out where I wanted to fit in the cycling world.  It was about figuring out where I wanted to be in relation to the others I ride with.  I make no bones about it, the only excuse for not being fast enough to hang with people who race for fun is “I don’t want to”.  It’s not that “I” can’t, or even “you” for that matter.  It’s not that we don’t have a good enough bike, it’s not that we’re too fat (or even a few pounds too heavy).  It’s all “want to”.  You either have the “want to” or you don’t – and no amount of butt-kissing or lying will change that.  The proper “want to” will fix anything.  Too fat?  I’ll have to knock off the sweets and burgers so I can keep up.  Problem solved.  It may take some time, of course, but if I want something bad enough, I’ll figure that $#!+ out.

My “good enough” centers around a group of friends.  Some of them are older, a few are younger.  Generally speaking, we’re all about the same fitness level, though a few of us are a little stronger than the rest.  The real trick is that we ride well together, and we ride together often.  We go on road trips together, dine together, and we laugh together.  A lot.


My “good enough” is not just riding with my friends though.  My “good enough” is riding well with my friends.  It’s being able to bridge gaps to help a friend who has fallen off the back, or chase my friends down to help one or more back (my friends have done this more than a few times for me as well).

My “good enough” is just a little bit better, so I can be of decent use to my friends because if we learn anything in recovery, it’s that you’re not really living until you’re of use to others.

My good enough is being a guy my friends want to have around, so we can have moments like this….

And see things like this…

As long as I’m fast enough for all of that, it’ll do for my “good enough”.

Don’t be Afraid (or Ashamed) of Who You Are… A Two-Wheeled Lesson on Life

When it comes to cycling, I’m a B guy.  I am a B guy because I don’t want to work hard enough to be an A guy (though it should be clarified, our A Group is ridiculously fast – 24 mph average on open roads).  I am more than content with 20-22 mph, which places me in the B Group.  This is who I am and I’m normally content with that.

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The other day I was hanging on with two of the A guys for the bunch sprint at the finish of our Tuesday night ride.  I wrote about the experience on Wednesday.  Now, I am one of the best B sprinters, there’s no doubt, but one of the A guys left me in the dust and crossed the line first by several bike lengths that night.  All I could do was watch him pull away.  As I wrote, “that’s the difference between an A and a B guy, right there”.

Most people would take that experience and turn it into a reason to revamp the training plan, to lose another five pounds, to eat better and work harder…. only to fall flat after a few weeks, and all based on getting beat by someone who happens to be a little stronger pedaling a bike.

I could do that to myself, but I won’t because I know something special: I don’t want to give up what that other guy has to in order to ride as fast as he does.  In the end, it all comes down to watts and “want to”.  Being faster or stronger won’t mean a thing when it comes to riding with my friends.  I’m already strong enough and fast enough to do more than my share for the group.  I’m healthy and my weight is under excellent control.  More important, I’m happy.

While the pursuit of better makes a great postcard, when it comes to cycling I’ve found something that I can call “good enough”.  I have no need to go any further or faster.  I am good enough for government work, as I like to say.

I recently had a friend from the A gang say to me, “I just rode a hundred miles and I didn’t enjoy one of them.”

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That won’t be me.  No amount of “fast” is worth that at my age.  That same day I rode a hundred miles and I enjoyed all but five of them.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t working hard, we still turned in a sub-five hour hundred miles, but my tongue wasn’t dangling down by my spokes either.

In terms of cycling, speed, and where I want to be in that mix, perspective is everything.

Such is life.  I can’t compare my totality, everything I “have” and everything I am, to someone else’s shiny exterior.  A friend of mine may have a nicer house, better vehicles, and a boat… but I also have to look at what he gives up to have all of that.  

If I’m not willing to give up what he does, well then it’s best to be content with what I’ve got.  I am.

August Activity…

1,040 miles in 55 hours, 32 minutes and some loose change.

Average pace:  18.7 mph (or 30 km/h).

Calories burned (or so Endomondo says):  64,383

More fun than a guy should be allowed to have (with his clothes on, anyway).  

Back in the Fire – Riding like I mean it;  Or Conversely, How to Get Faster on  Bicycle (unfortunately, there’s really only a hard way).

After DALMAC, most normal people take a day or two off.  If for nothing other than giving their hamburger heinie a break.  I’m not most people.  Nor are my friends.

My wife, Matt and I rode with my brother from another cycling mother, Mike.  Matt split off a few miles early and headed over to the shop while the rest of us knocked out the last of an easy, butt painful, 34 miles.  Call that active recovery.

Then came Tuesday.  It was supposed to rain so I was looking forward to an easy day off on the couch to let my tookis (tookus in Yiddish) heal a little bit.  Lo and behold, it was only little popcorn showers mixed with a bunch of sun.  And wind.  We rode, and it was hard.  And windy.

 

Now, in case you didn’t know, there’s an easy side and a hard side to a double pace line when the wind creeps up beyond, say, 10 mph.  The hard side is the one that gets beaten by the crosswind.  The easy side is protected by the hard side.  I always pick the hard side for the first seven or eight miles so I can have the easy side for the next five before the tailwind.

Now, if you’re a strong rider, you’re not worried (or surprised) when you round a corner and find two cyclists in the hard line and twelve stacked, vying for six square inches of draft, straddling the yellow line, in the easy…. which is no longer easy because you get no protection and you have to struggle for space.

Three things you can do here:

  1. Panic, join the fracas and drop to the back.
  2. Relax, don’t panic.  Once the riders at the back grow weary of fighting to be last bike (usually less than a minute), they’ll wise up and fill the spaces (this is the option I prefer).
  3. Relax, don’t panic and slide over and take one of the slots on the harder side.

That last option is where you get stronger, the second is where you get wiser and start mixing in some strategy….  That first option is where you get dropped.  Just so we’re clear.

I used option two and three last night.

We did get wet about six miles in but that cloud passed and led to bright sunshine… and a brutal headwind.  We soldiered on and made the best of it.

Then came the merciful tailwind and we hammered up our first hills easily above 20 mph, about 3-5 mph faster than normal.  We flew down the back side heading into town, I was three bikes back with a bit more than two miles to the intermediate City Limit sprint.  The first pair peeled off, then the second, leaving me up front with too much distance between us and the City Limits sign.  With the tailwind, it looked like I’d be the lead out.  Instead, I jumped.  I gave it everything I had to create some separation and then did my best to keep it.

The gamble worked and I took the sprint by maybe 50 yards.

Next was the final sprint, and that was eight miles away but we had tailwind almost all the way home.  We also picked up two of the A guys who’d dropped off the back of the lead group.  We flew down the road between 24 and 28 mph, sometimes touching 30 and before I knew it, we were setting up for the main sprint.  I was three bikes back again, one of the A guys up front and a B guy, and the other A guy behind the first.  As soon as the two ahead of them peeled off, the two A guys jumped, a mile and a half earlier than we normally go for the sprint (!).  I was the only B guy to make it and we hammered out a lively pace, north of 28 (we were going to fast for anything more than an initial glance at the speedo), the three of us in a line and me holding on by my teeth.

The first guy pulled off and the second attacked, just two miles an hour faster but it was all I could do to hang on.  The guy who’d just come off the front slid off the back. Coming up to the farm house, and my cue to start my sprint, the lead guy attacked and left me in the dust.  I just smiled as he pulled away.  That’s the difference between an A guy and a B guy, right there.  I had nothing left to answer the attack.

My legs felt smoked that whole ride but it was one of those days, I just wouldn’t let that get in the way of horsing around.

I expected to be hobbling around like an old man this morning but feel exceptionally spry and there’s no doubt I had a blast right up until I packed my bike away for the night.  One thing I know for sure:  I don’t have that much fun trying to battle to be last bike.

I’ve Been Away for a Few Days, and God Knows, I Needed It.

Out of nowhere, on Thursday morning I decided to take a long weekend off from the blog.  Entirely, no writing, no reading (unless I was bored and not ready to fall asleep yet), no posting or blogging.

I decided to completely concentrate on my wife and friends this past weekend.  DALMAC weekend.  Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw City.  380 miles, give or take, in four days.

The start of another glorious bike ride…

Thursday…

Thursday…

Thursday 103.8 miles

My wife and Matt in Vestaburg

Friday: 102.4 miles

Saturday: 101 miles on the nose.

Sunday! 70.1 miles.

I cannot recall the last time I relied on my phone so little, had so much fun…. and slept so well.  I’m guessing it’s been 15 years, maybe more.  A minimum of eight hours every night, and I still woke up at 4am every day.

I’ll write more about the trip over the coming week but I won’t be doing a ride recap per se, other than to keep it simple: We rode our bikes, very fast, and had more fun than politicians like for people to have (because it keeps us thinking of something other than them).  Our average for the trip was a bit more than 18-1/2 mph (30 km/h).  Slow for our group but with 6,000 to 8,000 feet of up on each of the last three days, a fair pace indeed.

Other than that, there were laughs and fist bumps all around.  Life doesn’t get much better.

More later.  A lot more.