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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.

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How to Be Happy with the Bike You’ve Got… and Refrain from Purchasing yet another Wheelset…

 

On the question of the wheels, you got me, folks. I have no freaking clue.

Good luck – and if you figure it out, please leave a comment… I would love to know.

As the bikes go, get a good set of wheels, a mediocre set, and a cheap rear wheel. Then, an A bike and a rain bike. Dress your A bike up till you get to a point where the thought of dressing up a new bike is worse than letting your current bike go…

Bob’s your uncle.

Cycling is an Experiment in Happiness, Shrouded behind Fitness and Health, Under the Cover of Lycra Shorts and Cycling Jerseys (what little cover there may be).

I bought a bike to keep from getting fat when I was 41 after growing bored with running.  I knew I had to do something so I figured I’d see if triathlon floated my boat…

I’ve been off of nicotine for some time now, and off of cigarettes for more than a decade, probably going on two but I didn’t pay attention to my quit date or even the year.  The point is, quitting smoking made food taste good and I went from a guy who ate to live to a guy who loves to eat.  This, and being sedentary, thin and fit, do not go hand-in-hand.  Nor does smoking go with being fit, but let’s not get too lost in the woods, here.

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A week-and-a-half into cycling and I was absolutely hooked.  Before long, I realized that the run and swim were messing up a perfectly good bike ride (or eating into more time on the bike, however you want to look at it), so I hung up the trunks and the running shoes.

I rode solo most of the time for almost two years before finding a normal group to ride with.  Once I started riding with friends, cycling evolved.  It became less about a way to stay fit than a way to enjoy myself.  The fact that I’m able to stay fit and relatively thin, in addition to being exceptionally healthy, is now just a bonus.

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Cycling has entirely changed how I look at fitness.  Fitness changed from a chore to a way of life.

While there’s no escaping the fact that Lycra shorts and cycling jerseys are a part of the deal, I’ve come to find a greater understanding about cycling as I’ve continued to grow in the sport.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but buying a used Huffy for $20 at a garage sale turned out to be an experiment in happiness.

Before that, all I knew about cycling came from a cheap $150 big box bicycle and from riding as a kid.  Now it’s about expensive toys, good friends, good food, and seeing the country from the saddle.  I can’t wait to see where I visit next with my bicycle; if the next eight years are anywhere near as good as the first, it’s gonna be good.

 

Tuesday Night Club Ride: Grit, Determination… and a Freaking Shortcut!

Last night’s club ride was comical as they get. Jonathan texted me after, at 9pm to warn me not to look at my bike till I have time to clean it. I hadn’t planned on it. The bike is sitting in the living room as I type this, drying out…

There was a Zero percent chance of rain from 4pm to 8pm. Perfect, as we were riding from 5:30 to 7. Zero percent. Not five or ten percent. Not fifteen or twenty. Zero.

Our six mile warm-up was relatively dry if the road was a bit damp. It wasn’t like we had to watch out for rooster-tails. We’d had rain earlier in the day but that was all over, according to two weather service apps.

Done with the warm-up, we gathered in the parking lot to wait for the start. The crowd was sparse at best, no doubt because of the damp (not wet), cool, cloudy weather. A quick decision was made to combine the A and B groups.

We rolled out as one…

The first mile and some change was wonderful. The pace was calm and serene. I almost expected to see a prancing unicorn fart a rainbow.

We made a right, into the breeze, and that unicorn took a $#!+ and got on it. The pace definitely wasn’t outrageous but it was fast. That’s the glorious nature of a headwind on a really fast group – those at the front are having a tough time keeping the pace while those at the back are having a nice chat. We did have a nice few miles.

I can’t recall exactly when it started misting – technically not rain – but before long, we were climbing hills while trying to duck away from rooster-tail spray. The first set of hills were miraculously reasonable, but after a long, shallow descent we were back to the hills again and I was up front. My legs were cold and they weren’t quite working as I would normally expect so I was way into the red trying to muscle up a fairly simple hill. I made it to the crest and tapped out, drifting to the back making a lot of noise I normally wouldn’t for the labored breathing.

I held on, though. I got to the back and mustered a push to latch on and took the next mile to calm my breathing down.

Then there was a decision to make. Either split the B group off or stay with the A’s. They’d said they would keep it reasonable if we wanted to stay with them and they’d done a fair job of that to the 18 mile mark (we were only at 23-mph for an average, normally they’d be at 25+). Several of us decided to take our toys and head for home at a more reasonable pace and cutting three miles off. I was disappointed that I wanted to head back early but I was tired of chewing on road grit and I was quite cold (knee warmers, arm warmers, jersey & shorts – it was in the mid-50’s [14C] and wet). We rolled well that last ten miles and the pace was slightly more reasonable.

I skipped the intermediate sprint because it didn’t seem quite right to blow the energy when we were plowing through the wet roads. We just kept the line rolling. The next eight miles was just doing my part and hanging with the group. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary.

Coming up to the final sprint, Chuck was up front pulling at about 20-mph when he arm-flicked out to a new kid on an old, steel Specialized Allez. He immediately got on the gas and started cranking it up. I waited till he got up to what I thought was a good speed and went, pushing my cold legs for all they were worth. I’d almost gone too early but managed to keep the push on at 31-mph just long enough to take the sprint. I think it was Jonathan in second and Chucker pipped the new guy for third.

We soft pedaled after that, and took it back to base, soggy, cold, and in need of some heat. It was tired fist bumps and laughs that last half-mile.

My friends, it was an ugly night, but dinner sure did taste good. Thankfully I’d put a fleece pullover in my truck as an afterthought, just in case I wanted something to change into after the ride so I wouldn’t be chilly during the club board meeting.

Good thing I had because that was likely the only thing between me and pneumonia. It was one of those nights that puts hair on your chest. If I needed anymore hair on my chest at 48-years-old. Which I don’t (especially no more gray… where did they come from!).

Stats for the ride:

28.28 miles in 1h:15m:51s for an average speed of 22.4-mph (my buddy Chuck got 22.6 on his Garmin). 503 feet of elevation gain with an estimated average power of 234w. I had a high wattage of 804 and a max speed of 31.1-mph (50 km/h)

A special thanks to the A Group for the exceptional pace – it was just right [insert “gentlemanly bow” emoji here]. And a personal thank you to Todd… Big fella, riding behind you is like drafting a battleship. Thanks, brother.

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, Fear, and Dealing with something I can’t Unsee.

I was 👌 that close to writing a fluff piece about cycling today, but…

I couldn’t.

I had a mini, two-second panic attack out on the road last night, riding with Chuck.  My first ever.

A car passed us, just a little closer than normal – maybe 2-1/2 feet instead of 3′ – something that normally wouldn’t even phase me… that has to get down to inches before I even think about getting nervous, and even then, it’s gone pretty fast.  I don’t know why I am blessed so, I’m just glad that I am.

We rode by the site of that motorcycle accident from the other day and I saw the bloodstain on the asphalt with the paint outline. I can’t unsee the look on that poor guy’s face. It was an expression that showed half “oh, $#!+… I’m F***ED” and half “wait, why can’t I talk, I need to get back on my bike and get out of here” bewilderment.  The vehicle passed us shortly after that, and that’s when I had my little moment.

54,000 miles and I can’t remember, not once, ever thinking I didn’t want to be on the road until last night. And it sucked.  

That face is starting to blur around the edges, though, and I know what I have to do. I have to keep getting my butt back in that saddle until I’m back to my normal self.  I have to keep talking to friends about it, and I’ll probably have to write about it a time or two until it’s gone – but it will go, because that fear is irrational and most important; I want it gone.  Too often we let our fears define who we are.  I won’t say anything about anyone else, but in my world, that shit is a choice and I won’t accept a life of being defined by a fear.

The reality is, I’m happiest when I’m working my recovery program, putting effort into my marriage and family, and cycling.

Just something to kick around.

I took My Trek 5200 Out for a Spin Last Night with My Buddy, Chucker…

Ever since I put my Ican wheels on the Venge, that bike has gotten an inordinate amount of love – and for good reason.  The Venge’s days for this year are numbered.  It’s almost time to take it apart, clean and lube the parts, reassemble it and put it to bed for the year.  In fact, it’s almost gravel bike season for that matter.

So the weather was iffy, but not too bad last evening.  Wind out of the east, maybe 10-12-mph.  Overcast is the correct term for the cloud cover, and “blanket” doesn’t quite do it, either.  I’ll go with “downed comforter”.  We also had some mist in the air but that proved to be short-lived.  At least it was comfortable at room temperature.

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I left a little early to get to Chuck’s house because I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and ride – even if it was misting a little bit.  The plan was for a slow-ish day but I picked up the pace a little faster than I probably intended but that happens when I’m feeling really good.  The asphalt was a little wet but not near enough to throw up a rooster tail.

I pulled into Chuck’s driveway, and just like that, the mist stopped and it lightened up just enough to give a fella some hope.

We started out with a tailwind and rather than start hammering, Chuck was content with just cruising – which I was more than happy with as we’ll be hammering out the hard miles this evening anyway.

I love this time of year.  Bad weather days are on the increase and that will mean I finally get some time off the bike without feeling like I’m missing out (I’ve only taken eight days off since April – I’d rather take active recovery rides than a day off if the sun’s shining, or even if it isn’t, as long as it isn’t raining).

We rolled past the site of that motorcycle accident from last Thursday, twice, and I got a little closer to making peace with what I saw.  I still have a tough time with that empty look on the guy’s face.

From that point on, we were eating wind most of the way home.  We didn’t sit around watching the grass grow, but we weren’t hammering it too hard, either.  We simply put our heads down and motored.  Before I knew it we were on the home stretch.  I pulled into the driveway with 23-1/2 miles and a big case of the “life is awesome’s”.

I do love that about a good bike ride with a good friend.  It doesn’t get much better than that… until you start hitting 24-mph.