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67,780 Clean, Sober, Happy, Active, Wonderful Miles in My 40’s

I started cycling and actually tracking mileage at 41, almost 42 years old so I’m shorting myself… meh, maybe 1,200 running miles but when you’re already above 65,000 what’s 1,200 between friends?!

At 50 years old I feel better than I ever thought possible.  I wouldn’t say anything silly, like “I feel better at 50 than I did at 30″… I most certainly do not.  However, between not drinking or using drugs, not smoking, eating a balanced diet and enough exercise to choke a horse, the equation isn’t exactly rocket science.

While a clean, active, happy existence isn’t a promise of longevity, if I’d kept up the way I was when I was a kid, there’s no question I’d be worm food already.  According to doctors, I’ve been alive 20 years longer than if I’d kept drinking – my liver was that cooked.

Life, after sobriety, doesn’t necessarily come at me any easier but I sure do react to it a lot better – and therefore life itself is vastly better.

Let’s hope in another decade I’m celebrating another 60 or 70,000 miles… and continued recovery.  Life does get better, as do I, if I work for it.

Enough that I feel sorry for those who wait for it to happen to them.

Decisions, Decisions… And a Pile of Miles

After riding my Trek for the B Group’s huge 24-mph best ever loop on Tuesday night and then for another excellent effort Thursday (we were expecting rain both nights), and with a fine wheelset now on the Trek, choosing between which bike to take becomes much more intricate.  I’d always assumed choosing the Venge between May and October would be a no-brainer unless rain was called for.  The Venge is better than two pounds lighter (1.2kg), it has 50’s on it… and look at it.

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The Trek is a damn fine machine, though… there’s just something about its classic look…

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Meh, I’ll have plenty of time to ride the Trek when the snow flies.  I rode the Venge yesterday for what ended up being just shy of a 100k ride with friends at a 20-mph average.  It was a beautiful day, if a little windy, but we worked the miles out so that we ate the vast majority of the headwind on the way out – a steady diet of 27 miles of headwind wore on us but we managed a healthy 18.5-mph average into the wind.  Then we headed for home with a most fantastic push and the average climbed quickly.  We ended up pulling into the driveway with a 20-mph average, on the nose.  61.27 miles in 3h:03m:31s

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This is pretty indicative of the conditions we ride in between May and the middle of September.  Over the last few years most of our roads were repaved so we are in the middle of being about as spoiled as a cyclist can get.  Minimal traffic, maximum awesome tarmac, sunshine and cycling with good, competent group of friends.

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So on tap for today, my weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I are going to ride out to the ride, about 16 miles each way, plus a 65 miler, so we’ll have to figure out where to add three more miles on the way home so we can get an even 100.  The conditions will be some of the best we’ve experienced all year.  Light breeze, partly cloudy, low 60’s at the start, rising only to the upper 70’s by the time we’re done, and with the wind increasing as the day goes so we get a better tailwind push home that we fight going out… plus 100 k of that ride I’ll be riding with my wife and the rest of my friends.

The only way life could get any better would be to do all of that and win the lottery.  On thing is certain; I am a fortunate man.  Call it a recovering drunk’s privilege.  Or something.  I may have to work on that.  It doesn’t sound “victimy” enough.  Chuckle.

With any luck, I’ll end up with almost 300 miles this week – and some fast miles at that!  118 of those miles were north of 20-mph… 57 were north of 21-mph, and 28 miles were north of 23.  Life’s been a perfect storm of awesome.  And I love it when that happens.

Cycling And Speed: There’s A Difference Between Knowing There’s A Hill… And Climbing The Hill; Beating The Mental Block To Being Your Best On A Bicycle

Who can forget when Neo just begins to discover he really is “the one“, when Morpheus utters that simple line, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, in the movie The Matrix (1999 [1999?!])?

So it is with cycling and speed. There’s a difference between knowing fast and cycling fast – actually doing it.  The tone of this post should not be taken as one of braggadocio, but of humility.  In cycling, the phrase there’s always someone faster was ever thus and shall always be.  I am a very small fish in a very big pond… but I’m a small fish who also happens to be decent with a keyboard – and we are a rare breed, indeed.

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First, I’m going to be straight up here.  If you try to push your limits, you’re going to get dropped every now and again.  You’re going to spend some miles crawling back after you’ve popped.  How can you learn to pass your limit if you don’t know your limit in the first place?

Next, and this is a big one, you have to shove aside that negative self-talk and doubt bullshit.  I know people near as strong as I am but talk themselves into hurting when they’ve got gas left in the tank.  They’re miserable and struggling and I’m just cruising along.  If ever there was a saying to embrace in cycling, “this too shall pass”.  When I’m feeling a haggard, I know it’ll pass and I’ll feel at least a little better before long.  There’s an ebb and flow to cycling at higher speeds.  Try to concentrate on the flow a lot more than the ebb.  In fact, let go of the ebb.

Save your good legs for the big days!  If you’re one who lets a lack of confidence gnaw at you, for the love of God and all that is holy, good legs for good days.  You don’t go out the day before a big ride and go hard.  We mere mortals have to pick our battles.  Of course, you don’t take a day off either.  The day before a big ride is perfect for an active recovery day.  You’ll want to be slow enough that you get a little antsy about whether or not you should be trying a little harder.  If ever there was a day to take a few pictures along your route, the day before a big day is it.  Chill out and ride on the bar-tops a bit.

Eat, but don’t be all crazy about it.  Carb-loading is great and all, but you can only store so much “carb” before it becomes “fat”.  An extra slice of pizza?  Great.  An extra pizza?  Not so much.   If you feel like crap when you clip in, you’ll be thinking about that extra pizza weighing you down.  Cue confidence train wreck and you dropping off the back, dejected.  Don’t do that to yourself.

Now, finally, repeat after me:  I am a badass.  I’m a horse.  I am fast.  I am strong.

Now get out there and hammer it out.

 

 

Strava Hits A Bottom of the Ninth, Two-Out, GRANDSLAM with Turn-By-Turn Route Importing… It’s As Easy As Starring a Route.

I finally started paying for Strava over the last set of changes to their free service.  Who can afford to offer their service for free?  I’d never be so generous (unless you happen to be an addict or alcoholic who has a desire to quit, then I’m “shirt off my back” generous – I’ve given my only bike to a guy who needed one to get to work).

I’m glad I’ve got access to the full line of services.  One upgrade they just came up with changed their relationship with Garmin forever.  It once was, if you wanted to import a route into your Garmin Edge 520 Plus (or better)… well, you’d be better off using Ride With GPS.  You’d export your file to the desktop of your computer, hook up your Garmin with a USB cable and transfer that file to the proper folder.  It was fast and fairly simple if you knew what you were doing – and if you had a laptop.

You still need the laptop if you’re on the free Strava service (you can’t create a route through the app unless you’re a paying member) and a computer even helps speed things up if you’re a paying member.

Bring up a ride that you want to make into a route.  Click the triple dot then select “create route”.  Edit the route if you wish, name the route, and save the route.  Then click on “Dashboard” and select my routes.  Make sure the new route is “starred”.  You’re done.  The next time your Garmin hooks up to your phone, the route will automatically download to your Garmin.

Like I said, homerun.  Granny tater in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a full count.

Now you can do more of this:

And less tinkering on a stinkin’ computer.

Happy Freedom Day, America. Though Her Citizens Have Their Flaws, Freedom For All Was Always the Point

The best of America is the freedom of her citizens. The beauty of its constitution and bill of rights is what makes it all work – and it’s what politicians fight tooth an nail to ignore and misrepresent, for one simple reason: they want us angry and divided so we’ll vote.

I won’t be commenting anymore on that. I will on what is great about America.

In the United States, we are one of the only countries in the World whose rights aren’t handed down from the government. We, unlike anywhere else on earth, are born with our rights or they are a natural part of taking the oath of Citizenship. It obviously took politicians a while to figure that simple truth out, but it did happen.

Other countries hand down citizens’ rights from on high and what is given, can be taken away. Not so in the United States of America and this presents a problem for politicians.

In this country, our rights come from God. We are born free and it’s the government’s job to protect that freedom. The angst in Washington DC is that political elites think of themselves as better than that.

If your politicians are not doing their job protecting your freedom, throw the bums out. More important, if your politician likes to interject themselves between you and your freedom, claiming without them you can’t truly be free, don’t let them run a lemonade stand. If you’re American, you were born with your rights. If you’re an immigrant, you granted yourself your own rights the minute you took the oath of Citizenship. They weren’t handed down to you, they’re yours. Don’t ever let a politician come between you and your freedom. Once you let that happen, they can take it away.

Just sayin’.

Happy Freedom Day America… and the same to all her citizens. All of them.

A Reasoned Look at Why Cycling Clubs Shouldn’t Rely On the Fast Members to Show Slower New Riders the Ropes.

I have to be a little careful how I broach this subject, but it’s an important one that just popped up in the real world so I just thought I’d write about my experience so that I might help others avoid a pitfall or two.

A few Tuesday nights ago we had about twelve B riders and a tandem and maybe eight A riders show up for a group ride (actually, I think they’re calling us the A & A- Groups now) for what used to be a club ride.  The club has decided not to sanction rides for the time being, so people are simply showing up to ride.  We had one, lone D rider show up that night and as I wrote in my post about it, I gave up my ride with the A- Group and showed him around the course.  He struggled mightily to stay in my draft while I was sitting up pedaling easy, my hands on the bar tops into a 15-mph headwind.  He dropped several times and I’d look back to see him 200 yards off my wheel so I’d have to wait till he caught up…

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Another club member, after I put out a group-wide ABP for C, D, & E riders, sarcastically (and quite ignorantly and shittily, I might add) pointed out that we A & B riders should happily drop our ride to show these slower riders around until more of the C, D, & E group riders decide to show up.

Ah, that Kumbaya world where cats and rats play together in harmony.  It’d be great, wouldn’t it?  Except that shit never actually works.

Here’s what really happens when that is tried.

A guy like me sacrifices his fastest, favorite ride of the week to show the newcomer the ropes.  Said newcomer struggles to keep up with what is an easy, even boring pace for the seasoned A/B rider.  The new rider becomes disheartened when they struggle while they’re watching said A/B rider glide along without a care in the world on the bar tops and into the wind whilst newcomer is down in the drops, pushing with all their might, with their tongue dangling precariously close to their spokes.

Said newcomer will rarely come back because they can’t relate to anyone.  Worse, they won’t be able to see a clear path to get from where they’re at to where the faster rider is at so they can ride with actual people.   Who wants to feel like their best effort isn’t close to good enough every time they show up?  Who wants to ride regularly with a group vastly faster than their best effort can hope to keep up with?

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Only your true cycling nuts will put up with that for any length of time.  That’d be me, and I’m telling you now, I’m few and far between.

Where this goes haywire is when slower riders mistakenly believe faster riders, in order to shepherd along slower riders, have a dial that they can simply turn to slow that pace down.  That’s not quite how it works.

In order to get my wife into cycling and into good enough shape to ride with my friends, I’d go out for a 40 to 65-mile ride with my friends.  When I got home, my wife would suit up and we’d ride together for another 20-30 more miles.  I was already smoked so I couldn’t have torn off all over God’s green earth if I wanted to.  My wife was able to build her fitness up to a point where now she can keep up with my friends and I.  The key was getting me to a point I was too tired to get antsy about the slow pace… and I am married to the woman I did that for.

The whole point is this:  Slow people mistakenly think fast people should be able to ride with slower folk but the reality is, we can’t.  Or I should say, we can’t anymore than those same slower folk can lead out the A Group.  I’d buy tickets to see the attempt.  Sure, every now and again we can throw out a nice recovery ride pace.  My easiest active recovery ride, or should I say my slowest, this year is 16.5-mph.  That’s faster than many cyclists’ best effort.

Over time, slower cyclists can gain considerable speed with some effort and a lot of want to… but in a day you can’t make a Thoroughbred stallion trot anymore than you can make a Tennessee Walking Horse a racer.

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UPDATE:  You might view my points in this post as “arrogant”.  If you scroll down to the comments section, you’ll see a friend of mine suggested exactly that – and you would have a point.  On the other hand, consider that it’s far more arrogant to expect others to give up their evening ride to cover for you… just sayin’ – that arrogant charge is commonly used one way, but I won’t accept the premise of that argument.

Amidst the Chaos, A Wonderful Weekend Of Happiness, Freedom, Peace and Cycling

Even when life gets difficult, recovery lights the way. With 201,000 miles on it, my Equinox is finally starting to nickle and dime us to death. It’s been paid off for a year and some change so we’re in that trap; is it better to fix everything that’s going wrong and not have a payment, or just pony up and buy a new vehicle? Either way, it’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, by a long shot.

The hard part is, it still runs like a top.

Anyway, enough of that doom and gloom, crap. We’re experiencing some of the best cycling weather in years, we just had our first cookout of the year, and other than my once outrageously reliable Chevy Equinox, life is fantastic. Whatever we end up doing, this too shall pass.

Friday afternoon was a quick, and I do mean quick, ride with my wife just to get our miles in before our dinner party. We only logged 19-3/4 miles and made it back with just enough time to shower up and I ran to the convenience store for a bag of ice. Our friends showed up shortly after I got back.

Saturday was a perfect day for a long ride but we didn’t have many takers show up. My wife and I rolled out alone and picked up Phill and Brad along the way. That ride had a bit of everything. Slow miles, mid-range, and we even got into some speed every now and again. I pulled into the driveway with an enjoyable 100 km.

Sunday’s have been deemed “Sunday Funday” for a month and a week now. Rather than push the pace, we just go out and have fun riding with friends. My wife and I have been taking the tandem out the last five Sundays in a row and we’re enjoying it more than in the past. First, we’re working together better, and second, when I don’t have to worry about pushing the pace to keep up, I don’t worry about working so hard – so I’m not fighting against my wife with every pedal stroke. We’re still working through some communication issues that come with noob tandem riders, but those communication errors make up about 5% of a given ride. In other words, they’re minimal (and usually funny).Yesterday’s ride fit that norm – 95% great, 5% working on the communication skills. We rolled out to sunshine and a barely there breeze and temps in the low 60’s – perfect cycling weather. We warmed up in a hurry, though. I hadn’t noticed but we crept up from an easy 18-19-mph to 21-1/2. I’d changed the nose angle on my saddle a little and I put a different saddle on for my wife (at her request) and we were both having a much better time producing power. In fact, we had to dial it back a time or two to keep it “Sunday Funday” pace. We even added miles on – about six at the half-way point.We stopped in Flushing and had a much needed Coke.

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We rolled for home, shedding riders as we went. Phill took off first, then Big Joe, and that left Jeff & Diane on Diane’s tandem and Dave. We kept an easy-ish clip the rest of the way home and I let our friends know I’d cut watermelon up and had it waiting in the refrigerator.We pulled into the driveway with exactly 46.57 miles… and this is important because I found out a few hours later that if that had been 47.07 miles, I’d have stopped exactly at 1,000 miles for the month. Instead, 999.5. Crime in Italy, Chuck. I was also 9 miles short on my 250 mile goal for the week. I thought about heading back out after I cut the grass, but thought better of it for once. I’ll top 1,000 for the month today and add to that total in Lennon tomorrow evening (we’ve got a spectacular forecast all the way through the weekend). I simply didn’t need the miles.

Later, after dropping my daughter at a friend’s house, we worked through those communication issues I mentioned earlier. We had some big laughs and sorted a lot out. I didn’t have any noodle salad for dinner last night, but did have a tasty pizza. Hey, I just had the thought maybe I should change “good times and noodle salad” to “good times and pizza”.

Noodle salad is good, for sure… but pizza, now that’s happiness and freedom on a plate.

Share Routes From Stava Directly to Your Garmin! Best News Is, It’s EASY!

Do you have a Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better?

You can now have your routes on Strava directly download to your Garmin for turn-by-turn directions with a few simple clicks of a mouse on your Strava homepage.

I’ll skip all the fluff and get right to the fun stuff.

Open your ride calendar on Strava.  Click on a ride that you’ll want to follow at a later date.  Under “Overview” and “Analysis” you’ll see a pencil and a triple dot.  Click on the triple dot and click on “Create Route”.  Name your route.  Save it.  Once that’s done, next to Strava in the upper left hand corner of your screen, click on “Dashboard” then “My Routes”.  When you get to your route page, find the route.  In the upper right hand corner of the small route map, you’ll see a wrench and a star.  Click on that star so it highlights yellow.

You’re done.

The next time your Garmin device connects, the route will automatically download to your “Courses” folder.

It’s that simple.  I’ve already done it.  You can still do it the old-fashioned way, by downloading the route from Ride With GPS to a folder on your desktop, then depositing that file in your Garmin (I use “Courses”, others use the “NewFiles” folder).  That’ll work just fine, but having used the new automatic link to Strava, it’s really nice.

Less Than A Month To Go Till… 50! When Did That Happen?!

Truly, I jest. I know exactly where the time went. I have a theory that helps slow the progression of time a little bit, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I felt it when I woke up this morning. I did another triathlawn yesterday, so that made for 68 miles cycling, golf, tennis, 38 miles cycling, cut the grass, and more tennis in two days. It’s been more than a decade since I could get away with that level of activity without paying for it.

I didn’t get much done on the grass cutting front, either. You know how it is, though, when your teenager daughters look at you and say, “Dad, will you play tennis with us?”… friends, there just aren’t many of those days left so I’m going to take every one I can get.

My wife, unbeknownst to me, took a video of me playing “don’t claw my entire hand off” with the cat on the refrigerator – his favorite game next to “hey, you pet me while I eat, sucker.” She played the video back for me and I was amazed at how gray I’d gotten… Wow. On the other side of that equation is a full freakin’ head of hair. No balding patch in the back, so I’ll take that!

Everything good I have, I owe to my Higher Power and my recovery, and this wonderful weekend was one of those occasions to look back and thank God I got what I did and not what I could have if I’d chosen the other path.  Most people say something along the lines, “alcohol and/or drugs took everything from me!”  I’m not one of those – I don’t subscribe to a passive role.  I gave everything up without even an inkling of a fight.  It’s the difference between being a victim and accepting my role in it.  I’m no victim.

One thing is certain, I wouldn’t be on the right side of the grass right now if I’d chosen different. My parents would have buried me because my liver just couldn’t keep up with me.

I can remember when I was younger, say 20, I just hoped I’d make it to 50. I never thought I’d get there doing it right.

It’s good to be me, recovered.

So, my trick to slowing time down ever so slightly.  This is not easy, so come in a little closer so we can keep this betwixt us…  I’ve learned to enjoy every minute I possibly can.  The theory is perfect, but I’m not so I have to continually work on it.  That’s my trick, though – and the more I practice it, the more enjoying life becomes my default, the more fun it is, the happier I am, and the more time slows.

And that’s when it gets really good.  One day at a time is all I’ve got, but if I can put a few of those together, before I know it, I’ve got something.

FOUR Tandems and an Anniversary… On Sunday Funday

I was tired after my 100-miler the day before and I almost hoped my wife would choose single bikes for Sunday Funday, but I knew better. I prepped the tandem.  We are better on the tandem than we’ve ever been so it’s important that we keep it rolling.

We met at my place, three more tandems, ours, and two more single bikes- Mike and Brad. First time I’ve ever been on a ride where the tandems outnumbered the single bikes and it was sweet.

We rolled out to spectacular conditions, a second day in a row. A little cooler, but if you’ve ever captained a tandem, a little cooler is good, you warm up fast. Not much in the way of wind, and not a cloud in the sky.

The goal for Sunday Funday is 40-ish miles at a 17-18-mph pace. We were up front most of the ride because I’m comfortable up there. Riding in a draft takes a lot of concentration because my wife likes to attempt the piloting of the bike from the stoker’s saddle. It’s actually quite funny, thinking back on it. I’ve gotta let that go. With a Garmin of her own to watch her speed, she’s gotten infinitely better about pedaling.

We lost the front of the group a bunch of miles into the ride, though, and to my surprise, Mrs. Bgddy kept her power up and let me dump speed by braking or calling out “coast”… It worked so well, and I mentioned this to my wife after the ride, I don’t think I’ll be as nervous next time.  We really did well.

We realized were short miles on the way home with the wind at our back, maybe two. We decided to add a part of our regular weekday route we call the Jimmer Loop. Specifically, we were going to attempt the Chucker Bonus Lap… on a tandem. There’s a sharp right turn having to watch traffic, going into a punchy, short climb followed by subdivision streets. One time around the loop got us all we needed, so we headed home.

Now, I ran into some saddle problems on the way home. Specifically, my keister was hurting. I attributed this to the amount of miles on the week (282 after Sunday Funday). Still, I was struggling. When we hit the driveway with 41 miles and some change, I’d had enough – actually, I’d had enough long before that.  It really took some mental effort to keep pedaling.

I had to do something about that saddle and I contemplated options as I cut the grass in the back yard… A Specialized Romin, I love the saddle, but it’s just not meant for a tandem.  It’s an aggressive race saddle.  I need something a little more relaxed.  With the increased torque and saddle-time involved in captaining a tandem, this is no place for a racing saddle.  I came up with a solution as I was making the final cut; I’d take my gravel bike saddle and put it on the tandem.  I love that Specialized Toupe saddle on dirt – it doesn’t phase me when I accidentally hit a pothole but it’s sturdy enough for long rides.  That should be perfect for the tandem.  And I won’t need it on the gravel bike until fall.

I jotted down the measurements of the Romin on the tandem and the Toupe on the gravel bike and went about moving the Toupe to the tandem.  I ran out of time before I could put the Romin on the gravel bike, though.  I had to pick up my eldest daughter from work and she wanted to play tennis.  I fiddled with the final adjustments on the tandem while she changed clothes.

We were off to complete my second Triathlawn of the weekend; Bike, Lawn, Tennis (thanks to the Unironedman for pointing out that this has the possibility of being the new triathlon trend).  My daughter smoked me in two straight games.  5-3 and 3-2 (we had to break a little early to get home for dinner).  I was absolutely tuckered out, but we had fun.

And the rest of the evening was spent as a family, my wife and I grateful to be together.  It just keeps getting better.  And I think I’ll let it.