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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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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.

The difference between riding hard in pain and riding hard to enjoy it….

Our B Group finished the annual Assenmacher 100 miler in 4:55.  It was awesome and we all had a good time.  The conversation was lively, a few of my friends and I were able to drop back and help friends out who lost parts of their bike on potholes (two water bottles and one drop bar mirror) get back to the group…  I participated in each of the three instances.

I know of no better compliment in group cycling than to be asked by your friends to help one of them bridge back to the group.

At no point during that ride did I want to sit up and soft-pedal home.  It wasn’t easy, of course, but I wanted that five hour century.  Our whole group was at least 20 strong and we nailed it….

We had time for moments like this, whilst still being able to hammer out a decent pace…

With the mild breeze, I managed to head up to the front of the group and snap a succession of photos for the group on the way back….

We stopped, at least momentarily, at each of the rest stops for a quick bite to eat and to refill water bottles.  We finished strong, smiling and together.  There were laughs and fist-bumps a plenty.

Contrast that with the A Group.  They had a different experience.  Their finishing time?

4:17 and some change.  23-1/2 mph average on open roads… And they only stopped twice in 101 miles.

Speaking with many from their group, who were sitting in the shade on the sidewalk when we pulled up, you were hard-pressed to find anyone who actually had a good time.  One friend of mine said that he rode for a hundred miles and didn’t enjoy one of them.  Another said they were riding so hard he didn’t have time to eat anything on the bike.  My friend Chuck dropped after just 30 miles saying they were nuts (we caught up to him at the 30 mile rest stop and he rode with us the rest of the way).

I have no doubt some in our group struggled at times.  One would expect that in a sub-five hour century.  Sure, we were a little slower, but at least we had fun – and that’s exactly why I choose to ride with the B Group.  I’d rather be a little slower and enjoy myself than be fast….  And I’m one of the lucky few who could be fast enough to hang with the A guys.  I choose not to.  This isn’t to say there’s something wrong with racing or riding that fast, there isn’t.  The key for me is to be happy and enjoy my time on the bike – and if I’m going to have fun and enjoy the ride, I know I can’t do it at 23+ mph.

To thine own self be true.

That said, a 4:17 on that course is really impressive.  Damn, that’s fast!

Results from My Ticker Test just came in…

CLEAR!

Everything is pumping as it should.  The upper chambers are a little bigger than normal, but not enough that I’m having any backflow issues (no leaking valves).

The doctor said, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it.”

So I shall!

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WOOHOO!

Saying Goodbye, or Conversely, Why I do What I do.

I wrote about my wife’s cousin passing the other day in a very short, simple post.  Today, we will say goodbye.

To be very clear, she drank herself to death at the age of 44.  

It wasn’t anything other than an over-consumption of alcohol over maybe 25-ish of those 44 years that killed her.  Her death was not pretty.  It was uglier than Leaving Las Vegas.  It was also completely unnecessary.  She could have quit drinking five years ago and been living a healthy life with a few simple choices, an entire tain-load of meetings, and working Twelve Steps.  She could have quit last year and gone on a liver transplant list.

The only thing between her and life was air and opportunity.  And choice.

I left that lifestyle in the rearview mirror when I was just 22 years-old.  I quit drinking when I was just getting good at it, because I saw what was coming.  I knew (or maybe hoped is a better word) I was meant for better than a bloated, yellow death.  Technically, I already had begun developing the telltale yellow hue.

I still get the inevitable “but how do you know you’re an alcoholic” question.  It’s generally followed immediately, and before I can answer the first question, by “how do you know you can’t drink anymore”?

The answer to the second question is simple and easier that the first:  I know I can’t drink successfully because I will always be a two-fisted drinker.  I don’t want to drink, I want drunk.

So that leaves, how do I know I’m an alcoholic, having quit so young?

Here’s the honest answer:  I take it on faith.  I don’t know that I’m not “cured”, that twenty-five years off of booze didn’t fix me…. Except for one little hitch in the giddyup; I don’t want to drink.  I want drunk.  As they say, “once you’re a pickle, you don’t get to go back to being a cucumber.”

I continue going to meetings, working steps, and helping others achieve sobriety because I don’t want anyone to have to watch me bloat up, change colors, have my teeth rot out if my melon, all followed  by a nap I won’t wake up from….  The real question is, “How could being able to drink a beer be worth that risk?”

Someone who isn’t an alcoholic wouldn’t have to ask the question in the first place.  

Saying Goodbye means no more of these moments:


Now, who in their right mind would trade that for a case of beer, and a quick death?

Dangers

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“Everything is dangerous, my dear fellow.”…

The bane of my existence is the politician who, in the name of public safety, seeks to legislate the fun, or the taste, out of life…. for the good of the people.  

Apparently they need some Oscar Wilde…  Not too much though, because ronically, Wilde made the mistake of thinking Venezuela, in modern times, was the answer to life’s problems.  It sounds good, I’ll be the first one to admit.  The one inescapable problem is this:  If you don’t have to work, who in their right mind would?!  And therein lies the rub, and why Socialism always implodes under its own weight.  Always.

Wilde once wrote that the way to deal with poverty was to make poverty impossible.  Ask the dumpster divers in Venezuala how that’s working.  By trying to make poverty impossible, Socialism makes poverty inescapable.

Click the link above to discover the rest of the quote.

What to Do the Day AFTER a Long, Hard Bike Ride.  It isn’t “Take Time Off”.  Hear Me Out…

For the cycling enthusiast….

The thing to do the day after a nice, hard hundred miles on the bike, contrary to popular opinion, is not sit it out on the couch with a well-deserved rest day.

In fact, now that I’m on this kick, the thing to do the day before a hard hundred on the bike is not polish the couch with the seat of one’s pants either.

At the very least, the best thing to do on each occasion is to ride, short and slow.  My usual group pace average is between 19 and 21 mph for 100 miles.  That means the minimum the day before and after is between 16 and 18 miles in about an hour, give or take (give for 16 and take for 18).

I have seen a lot of people mess this up, so I’m going to lay out how I do what, when, so the legs stay as fresh as possible.

First, the worst thing I can do is take a day off the day before a big ride.  Second worst is ride hard the day before.  The key is balance.  Save the legs for the big days and go easy before and after.  Simple.

For example, I know Tuesday and at least one weekend day will be hard.  That means, without a doubt, Monday will be an easy day.  Wednesday is going to be easy, as will Friday (though I go longer on Friday, 30-50 miles).  Thursday and one weekend day will be moderate.

The trick is to make sure I do my best to have an easy or moderate day before a hard day.  That’s the balance and it requires flexibility.

I have a friend who, God bless him, would choose to do an interval day the day before our club ride earlier this season.  Intervals.  He’d show up Tuesday night with sore or dead legs.  He managed to stay with the group by hiding and sucking wheel, but he complained about it during the warm-up a few times.  Eventually, I did say something.  You have to pick your days for the hard efforts.

The key, in my experience, is to keep the legs spinning the day before and the day after a tough ride.  If nothing else, it’s a perfect excuse to take in the surroundings and enjoy sitting up a bit.  Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Even though riding a bike is play, working too hard at it will make your legs dull.  We enthusiasts need our happy time.  It makes the work that much more rewarding.  Trust me.

Don’t bother with a day off before a big ride.  Take the day off two or three days before the event.  Then use the day or two before to spin your legs up and get ready.