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Cycling on a Budget; How to Look like You Spent $15,000… on a Fraction of That.

Road cycling is an expensive sport. A new entry-level bike runs a Grand. A decent bike is three or four times that. A top-end bike is north of $12,000 and can be painted, if you’re lucky, by an Italian fella who won’t commit to a timeline. You’ll get your bike after he decides to get to it.

Once we’ve got our bike sorted, then we’ve got pedals, shoes, a helmet or two… Great. The pedals run north of a hundred bucks, the shoes are double that, easy, and a decent helmet can cost more than most people would expect to pay for a big box bike.

Then we have the joy of looking at clothes. Because you’ve heard of Rapha before, you check them out… only to find a pair of cycling gloves that costs more than that aforementioned big box bike. For a pair of gloves!?

In fact, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the $175 price tag.

Then you’ve got the $250 bibs and the $175 jersey. Times four. You swear. Your spouse rolls the eyes.

Folks, if it were really that expensive, I couldn’t have afforded to get into cycling, let alone my wife, too.  Don’t sweat it…  I’m not from the government, and I really am here to help.

There’s an art to looking good, on a budget. You’ve got to balance what you need with what you can afford.

You don’t need the $3,300 set of Enve wheels. $600-$800 will do fine. The bike? Buy used, $750-$1,500 (just be sure to get the right size). Shoes? Specialized Torch 2.0, one of the best deals on the market for a carbon fiber shoe – $150. Find a decent helmet on Competitive Cyclist, Pro Bike Kit, or Nashbar $100-ish – or hit the local bike shop. They’ll have something that will work – the lid I’m wearing in the photo above was purchased at the local shop. Bibs and jerseys? Clearance rack at the shop, or one of the aforementioned sites. Better, try Coconut bibs and jerseys on Amazon or eBay – you can’t go wrong there, for the price.  I don’t know as I’d try a century in one of the Coconut kits, but the bibs would be good for a metric.

So that’s the easy stuff. The trick is putting that budget stuff together to make it look good.  Kit yourself out in the most expensive clothing and put you on a Pinarello, you’re going to look pretty good – in most instances you do get what you pay for.  On the other hand, there are workarounds to a $#!+ ton of money.

First, eat less and ride more. If you look good, what you wear will look good.

Second, match what you wear with your bike.  It may seem cheesy but it looks cool when everything matches up.

Third, don’t go baggy on the jerseys.  If you’re bigger and feeling self-conscious, do what it takes to get yourself out the door.  Once you’re at a weight where you can, start switching to the tighter fitting kit.  You can’t look cool with five pounds of stuff in your back pockets and the back of your jersey sagging halfway to your knees.  That’s no bueno.

Fourth, bibs.  Not shorts.  The bibs hold what little gut you’ve got left, in.

Fifth, baggy bibs are bad.  Always.  The proper size is preferable but one size too small is better than a size too big and a droopy ass.  They should be fairly tight, but not ridiculously so.  Beware of sausage legs.  Return a pair of bibs that give you sausage legs.

Sixth, and perhaps this should be first, keep the bike clean and well lubed.  Your bike will make a distinct sound if it’s not lubed regularly.  It will sound dry when it’s ridden.  Others will notice that you don’t take care of your bike and you will feel self-conscious when yours is the loudest bike in a group (this can’t be helped with all of the kind, false-hope words in the world.  You can try to ignore it but you won’t be able to).  Better to just take twenty minutes a week to clean and lube your bike.

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Seventh, learn to ride in a straight line.  Playing “dodge the draft” is not going to win friends.  It will, however, influence people – but not in a good way.  Learn to ride well.

Eight, smile.  You’re out there to have fun.  Give fun your best effort.

Nine, and this is another important one, think about how you affect the cyclists you ride with.  Nothing makes one look bad like selfishness.

Ten, shop the clearance racks.  It won’t matter that it’s last year’s kit.  Purchasing clothing out of season is a great way to save a veritable $#!+ ton of money.  This includes internet sites – look for the clearance items.

To wrap this up, there are several things one can do to look good and competent on a bike that don’t have much cost whatsoever, just value.  There are ways around much of the expense in cycling – I only paid $750 for that Trek in the photos (though I’ve got extensive work and cost into getting it to look like it does in the photos).  One thing that will save a lot of cash is research.  Know what you want before you buy and you won’t waste any of your hard-earned cheese on something that ends up collecting dust.

Then there’s one final piece; if you want to look awesome, ride awesome.

 

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50,000 Miles. On a Bicycle

I crossed over 50,000 miles on a bicycle a week or so ago, since I started riding in May of 2011.

Some of the things I’ve seen from the saddle simply wouldn’t be noticed from behind the wheel of a car.

That’s a bald eagle…

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” — Ernest Hemingway, US author


“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” — Arthur Conan Doyle, British author

Some of the things I’ve seen from the saddle couldn’t have been seen from a car because I’d never have driven the roads. I go places on a bike I’d never bother otherwise.

I have friends, I never would have been lucky enough to meet, were it not for cycling.

There’s no question my wife and I are a happier couple for all of the riding we do together.

I’ve circled the Earth twice on a bicycle, and I’m very much looking forward to the next two.

Seeing the world from the saddle of a bicycle is as good as it gets.

Falling Into a Century

When I woke up yesterday morning, I was pretty sure I was riding a 100k. My buddy, Mike is in the middle of his triumphant return from a broken ass and he was set to ride with us again. The important part in that first sentence was the K.

Unfortunately, Friday’s 42 miles and Saturday’s 46 miles were too much for Mike’s hurtin’ heinie and he called to let me know he wouldn’t be there for the big 100k weekend finale.

That decision had ramifications for me. I was okay with 100 miles (161km), but I didn’t need the miles, I was already over the 1,000 mile mark for July by 19 miles. That, and I really like 100k rides. The 100 mile ride, while excellently, arrogantly American (I’ll see your 100k and raise you another 61), I really enjoy having something left in the tank after a ride. I don’t ride in a manner conducive to staying vertical after a full century. When I’m done, I need a little nappy.

I’ll skip the BS (back story). 100 miles it was. The weather was perfect. A cool start, low 60’s (16 C), no wind and impossibly sunny. Our group was ten deep (including my wife) and after a first warm-up mile, it was on.

I spent the first ten miles trying to convince myself I had another ninety-some miles left in me. It wasn’t going well. Twenty miles in and I was starting to feel it. Thirty in and we were pulling up to our first stop. Banana downed, other stopping issues tended to and we were rolling again. My wife and two others cut for the metric century, seven of us committed to the full century.

Fifty miles in and I was looking forward to lunch at the Hemlock McDonald’s. Having eaten and had an ice cold Coke, we rolled out. The legs were feeling it, though. Getting them moving again sucked. We were better than halfway there, though.

I didn’t think about mileage till we hit 70, and it was time to stop at a park in Chesaning. Only thirty to go. “I can do that standing on my head”, I thought. Just an hour and a half left. Water bottles were filled, I downed a quick banana, facilities were used, and we rolled out. That stop was much needed. Once I got my legs rolling again, I felt spectacular. We kept the pace north of 20-mph the rest of the way.

Members in our little rabble were starting to tire out about mile 85 but I was feeling surprisingly good. We were on the home stretch with just three miles to go and I took my final turn up front. I kept the speed between 21 and 22 mph, but as we approached the finish, I started ramping the speed up. We had the final City Limits sign to contend and even though I’d been up front for the last two miles, I wanted to try to give it a run from the front. We crested a little hill that I thought was supposed to be the last incline before the finish and I saw another – that double-hump gets me every year. I was almost out of gas but I knew if I went back I wouldn’t recover in time for the sign so I just kept my legs moving.

Over the crest of the second tiny incline and it was downhill to the City Limits sign. I picked up the pace, from 23-24 mph to 26. With a few hundred yards left, I launched and took the sign before pulling into the driveway of the fella who puts the ride on every year.

I was well and truly spent. I’d had enough.

I ended up with 279 miles on the week, and dinner was particularly yummy. And as one would expect, my nap was glorious.

The First Commandment of Recovery: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Life that was Saved.

I was on my Trek last evening after a full day of work, cruising down the road, the concerns of the day in the background for a short time. I wasn’t riding particularly fast, in fact I was into a bit of a headwind. I felt good, and thankful for recovery and my fitness.

I am grateful that I enjoy my life today.

It wasn’t always so, of course. My life used to be pain, fear, anger… wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then oblivion. But oblivion stopped working. More was the answer, I thought. If a lot isn’t enough, too much oughta be just right.

It was worse. Much worse. We’re not a glum lot though, and I surely won’t be dwelling on how “worse” it got, so moving on…

My main goal at the beginning of recovery was just to stop the pain. Then, once the pain subsided from rigorous stepwork, came working those same steps at the rest of my life. Then, when I’d finally made room in my melon, came happiness.  After my metabolism took a long jump off a short pier, fitness – and recovery got a lot more enjoyable.

That’s about where I was in my melon when I hit the tailwind (that’s really how I think, a bit of the pattern, if you will). You know life is going well when you’re grateful bucking a headwind because when you finally hit a tailwind, it really gets fun.

I opted for bonus miles.

A shower, some pizza, water, water filtered through ground up coffee beans, and a couple of hours watching the TdF…

If it gets better than that, one day at a time, I don’t know how.

The goal for recovery shouldn’t be just to sober or clean up.  That’s a first year goal, but recovery is meant to be bigger than quitting.  I believe we are saved from addiction to enjoy this life, while we’ve got it, and pass on our experience to others that it might help them find happiness on the path as well.

Thou shalt enjoy the life that was saved.

The Streak is Alive…. and Around the World. Twice. On a Bike.

It’s Saturday, 4:30am in the morning. Thank you, Lady Redundant Woman

There was a 4% chance of rain at 7am. It went up to 12% at 8 and 9. Just 14% at 10 and add another percent for 11.

This is the text I sent out at 6am:

Ridin’, baby! We have a window. 7:30 wheels roll.

Radar showed we were good. Weather Channel, sketchy but okay. Dark Sky? Rockin’, baby.

This is the text I sent out at 7am:

So much for that window. Going back to sleep.

It was raining cats and dogs, and sleep I did. It was wonderful. Still, being a cyclist from the enthusiast tribe, a Saturday off didn’t sit well. On the other hand, it had been 23 days since I last graced the couch leather with my heinie for a full day off the bike…

We (my wife and I) volunteered in the afternoon at my daughters’ inter-club swim meet – on again, off again rain.

We went out to eat lunch, ugly skies, sputtering rain.

We went home and I took a nap. My wife woke me up to go meet with a few others concerning logistics for the upcoming Assenmacher 100. The sun was trying to punch through the clouds.

The bikes had been readied to go for the morning so I proposed we ride the five and a half miles over.

Eleven miles. Not much but the streak continues. Barely. On the plus-side, the ride was a rare true commute, where we chose to ride rather than drive, and we only rode the miles necessary to get where we were going, take care of our business, then headed straight back home. Normally we go for dozens of extra miles.

As for the “Around the World” part, I just happened to notice that I’d crossed a couple of milestones in the last few weeks. First, that I just passed 50,000 miles since just before I started Fit Recovery in 2011. The first year wasn’t all that impressive with a whopping 1,820 miles, but that total grew in the years following:
2012: 5,360
2013: 5,630
2014: 6,000 (Low Estimate, I decided to unplug entirely for one year)
2015: 7,620
2016: 8,510
2017: 9,390
2018: 5,590 and counting (Guessing, I’ll end up around 9,000 miles again for the year)

Add those up, it’s 50,000 miles and some change (actually, that’s not, my summary page shows 50,046 miles and the rounded numbers above add up to just shy of 50,000 miles – I don’t know where Endomondo lost 50-ish miles, nor do I really care all that much) and the circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901 miles. Twice is 49,802.

I can remember when I was approaching my first lap around the earth, how good that made me feel… pretty awesome actually. The second trip around was a lot quicker, but what’s important is the richness cycling has brought to the lives of my wife and me. We’ve managed to have quite a lot of fun in all of those miles, and that’s what this was always all about: Fun. In the end, nobody is getting out alive so we may as well enjoy the time we’ve got.

Summertime Cycling; Water is Nice, but Lacking where it Counts

The Fourth of July is one of our best rides of the year. I’m on my sixth or seventh and we’ve always had a hot one. This year’s Fourth ride wasn’t the hottest, but it sure was up there. Then there’s One Helluva Ride in Hell, Michigan (yep, seriously). The ride is aptly named – it’s hot as hell on that one, every year… Not literally hot as hell, as in “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, but you get the idea. It’s freakin’ hot.

For some nutty reason that escapes me, I’m suited to cycling in the heat… if I’m careful about it. Where my friends suffer, I, for the most part, am able to enjoy myself*.

I learned something about hydration about six years ago that had a huge impact on what I drink on those nasty, hot, sticky days. If I had to guess, I darn-near ran myself out of electrolytes over the course of a few weeks, and it wasn’t pretty.

I was on a weight-loss kick so I decided I shouldn’t drink Gatorade anymore. After all, I didn’t need the sugar so I switched to water with a lemon and a lime wedge. On the bike I carried water. Two weeks at 150 miles a week and temps in the upper 80’s to mid 90’s (27-34 C) and I went from strong and 20+ mph for an average to struggling at 17-mph. That went on for a few days before I realized my sweat wasn’t salty anymore. We’ve had it pounded into us for so long that “salt is bad” and “we get enough salt in our normal diet without adding it” that I lived by it. I never added salt to my food (chicken noodle soup excepted). It was at that point I knew what I’d done.

I started reading up on electrolytes and how they worked in the body. To make a long story short, what I’d read suggested that if we run ourselves down on electrolytes, then drink a bunch of water, thinking we’re suffering a hydration problem, we dilute what little electrolytes we have in the body and bad things happen. That’s right where I was.

I bought a bunch of Gatorade (I am fully aware of the others and the sugarless products – I know, I know, but I’m okay with the good old fashioned Gatorade – it’s simple, cheap and it works) and within two days I was back to normal again, crushing out the mileage.

Now, when I’m doing hard, hot miles, I always take care of the electrolytes and I’m not afraid to add a little salt to whatever it is I’m eating… We have to remember that those average guidelines the talking heads put out are for average people. As weekend warrior athletes, average we are not.

*One Helluva Ride was a different story this year. I did everything right and still wanted to quit. I willed through it with the help of a friend, but I was hollerin’ uncle.

A Birthday 100k, and a Perfect Day

I readied the bikes and packed them on the car rack long before it was time to leave. It was mercifully cool at the start, 55° (just 13 C) and after our long heat wave, it felt almost chilly. We still started out in short sleeves and shorts as it was due to warm up quick with a perfectly clear sky and barely a breeze.

It was a thin crowd, just Chuck, Phill, my wife and me, but we made a fantastic ride of it. We held a comfortable pace the whole way down to Brighton, where I had a cup of coffee and the pleasure of splitting one of the best sticky buns I’ve ever eaten with my wife at a café. After firing down our treats, we mounted up headed back.

We had a little bit of a cross breeze for some of the ride home but for the most part it was a tailwind for almost 25 miles – if a mild one.

My wife and Phill split off and headed back to the high school parking lot and I rode with Chuck back to his house so I could get some bonus miles and a full 100k because I’m enrolled in this Strava thing for July that tracks how many 100k’s we do in the month… unfortunately, I forgot my phone in the car so I couldn’t track the ride and we were five miles down the road before I’d realized I didn’t have it. I did add it in later, though.

When Mrs. Bgddy and I got home, my oldest daughter had made real, honest to God biscuits and sausage gravy for my birthday breakfast. My favorite breakfast in the whole entire world… and she made everything, including the gravy, from scratch. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest birthday presents I’d ever received.

After breakfast, which was freaking phenomenal, I showered up and we all took a nap. For the afternoon’s entertainment we visited my sponsor who’s recovering in a rehabilitation center after being hit by a truck on a rural highway, helping to remove a roll of padding that had fallen off a carpet truck with a truck driver who’d stopped as well. He had several friends over for pizza and a meeting.

After, we headed home and watched the Tour de France coverage before crashing for the night.

I think I’d have OD’ed on awesome if we tried to fit one more cool thing in there.

Best day ever.