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When the Bikes Are All Cleaned Up and Tucked Away After Another Awesome Weekend, Cycling is All About Your Friends and the Good Times

We had two friends come back from heart procedures yesterday. One rode with us – he had a second stint put in last month after he still didn’t feel right after a first. It was all fist bumps and hi-fives after the ride. 37.7 miles of good times.

It did my heart good riding with my friend again.

Another came back from an ablation procedure. His path back has not been easy, or fast. It was all well wishes for him after seeing his first big ride at his favorite mountain bike trail on Strava.

So here I am, having just woken up from a nap, giving my friends kudos for their day’s effort and I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all my friends. There’s no doubt I’m fortunate.

The bikes and all of the toys that go with cycling are cool, but after the ride is done and the bikes are all cleaned up and put away, it’s the friends that make the sport spectacular. Without them I’m just turning a crank.

A New Cycling Path for 2021… Some Things Won’t Likely Change. Some Will. A Lot.

When UnderArmor dumped Endomondo for Map My Fitness/Map My Ride/Map My Run, etc., etc., etc., I tried MMF for a minute but hated it. The synch between Garmin Connect and the app didn’t work well and messing with it just got… old. So I dropped MMF and just went with Strava, where I’ve got a paid account and many of the bells and whistles that come with the app. With Strava, the app doesn’t quite do for me what Endomondo used to. I could see my weekly, even daily, mileage as soon as I opened the app. For Strava, I have to hit all of the kudos, comment on a few activities, then, if I remember, I might look at my weekly totals – but daily mileage is a little cumbersome to get to. Put simply, I rarely bother looking until, maybe a quick glance Sunday afternoon.

Last year, at the last of Endomondo, I knew how many miles I’d ridden each month. I knew roughly how many miles I was up on 2019 (with the COVID sh!+ show I was up considerably by the middle of April) – I had a general handle where I was year-over-year.

This year, I haven’t got a clue. I know I’m down mileage in all four months over last year. My indoor mileage dropped because I started using a speed sensor that measures way low but provides an excellent motivational push that had me fitter entering spring than any year previous – I’ll take a few hundred miles off the top to be stronger in the spring. Then, of course, no five week layoff where I could ride daily till I was content (I even rode through having COVID)… but here’s the kicker; I really don’t care that I am down in mileage because the quality is so much better than I could have hoped for. I haven’t always been about quality over quantity, but I’m liking it right now. Couple that with the fact that I haven’t worried about where I’m at mileage wise… well, things are good.

On to speed. I had an interesting conversation riding my buddy, Mike home the long way after Sunday’s ride. He expressed a bit of surprise that I hadn’t started riding with the A Group yet, that I still ride with the B Group on Saturdays. He correctly pointed out that I could, with a little bit of effort, keep up with them. Mike isn’t wrong. However, I told him, I like riding with my friends. I like riding in the pace-line with my wife. I love riding the tandem on Sundays with her. I have fun riding with the rest of my friends and as long as I can maintain on Tuesday Night, I’m right where I want to be – and that’s exactly what I told him.

Many think, at 50, their glory days are behind them. My peak fitness days may be back in the past, but my glory days are mainly in front of me – and I’m going to spend as many of those as I can, riding with my wife and friends and a smile on my face.

And that’s exactly how it should be; good times, noodle salad… and a bicycle. Or five.

So, unlike previous years, I’m not going to worry about daily, weekly or monthly mileage. I’m not going to trouble myself with where I’m at year-over-year. This year is simply going to be about enjoying my bike and time with my friends.

Cycling Verses from the Lost Book of Jim

Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for I am drafting off the Lord on a Specialized Venge… and he’s way faster than evil, so kiss it, evil.

Jim 24:7 The work shall always keep till after thine bike ride.

Happy Easter weekend, everyone.

Would You Like Fitness and the Ability to Drop Weight at Will? Don’t Worry About the “Best” Way…

Once you hit middle-age and discover the difference between real food and fast food, you’re in trouble. Add to this the ability to use the kitchen in the manner it’s designed for (rather than a countertop for a microwave) and gaining weight is just a bit too easy.

If you want to be able to eat responsibly, be merry, and watch your weight (without having to watch it too hard), don’t look for the method that “works best”. Trying to do something you don’t love to stay trim, consistently, is not easy. It’s the opposite of easy.

Look for the thing that, when you wake up on a Saturday morning and you’re suiting up, makes you think, “My God, it is good to be me.” Do that.

And, if worse comes to worst, buy a bike and hope for the best.

It’ll set you free.

Back On the Road Again… Though No TNIL Report Today

The weather was quite lovely yesterday, if excessively windy. Actually, it was really windy. I was still feeling a little run down from my vaccine and almost thought about taking the night off riding entirely (it’d been a couple of days, no ride Sunday or Monday). Then I went outside after a nap on the couch which had the affect of making me feel several dozen times better. The sun was shining and it was warm. I prepped the Trek. I thought about the Venge for a minute, but with 20-mph winds and gusts even higher, the Trek was the right bike.

I wasn’t taking the trip up to Lennon, though. First, I didn’t want to fight the wind in a group. Second, I didn’t want to work that hard feeling the way I did. Chuck didn’t want to mess with the wind in the group, either, so he rode with me.

It started out fantastically with crossing tailwind all the way to Chuck’s house. Then, Chuck took the lead heading out of his subdivision and chewed up all the headwind miles. I took over as we headed north, then a loop in a small sub followed by another half-mile north, followed by my only full-mile pull into a headwind for the whole ride.

Chuck and I had been talking regularly over the last few days and he knew I’d been hammered by my first shot and wasn’t feeling well, so he took every headwind mile except that one. He’d just stay up front till we hit a tailwind stretch then he’d fall back so I could take my turn. Folks, that’s a friend right there.

I ended up with 25 miles for the evening at an average pace of 16.8-mph and, while I felt slightly nauseous at times, I did have a smile on my face when I pulled into the driveway. I brought my bike in, uploaded my ride to Strava, found out I’d gotten Strava’d…

Then the chills hit. I was warm but felt like I was freezing. I was petrified that I’d done damage and maybe even set myself back. I shivered through my hot shower. I was just about to curl up in a ball on the couch when… after I dried off and put some fleece pants and my robe, bam. I felt marvelous. Just like that, I warmed up and felt wonderful all evening long.

I did take an Advil Dual Action (acetaminophen plus ibuprofen) before I went to bed – actually, 20 minutes before I laid down… don’t ever take a pain med then lay down for bed right after, supposedly that’s bad for your stomach. Anyway, I did sleep like a baby for a little more than 4-1/2 hours but I woke up a little sore. I went out to the pantry and took a regular Tylenol then fell back asleep in my recliner on the couch.

And here I sit at work, properly medicated, feeling quite good, actually. With temps approaching 50 this afternoon, I’ll have to evaluate how I feel later today. I’d like to get out for an afternoon ride, but I’m not going to push it, either. We’re in for a cold spell tomorrow, followed by a wonderful weekend for cycling. I want to be 100% for that, so I’m not going to mess around with trying to do too much, too fast.

Fingers crossed that I’m through this – I really do feel quite well this morning. Fingers crossed.

The COVID Vaccine Flu; My Experience (Spoiler: It Sucks… But It Beats Dying)

Being an exceptionally healthy fellow, I anticipated an easy time of my first vaccine shot. After the first 24 hours, all I had was a bit of a sore arm. I figured I was in the clear.

I was mistaken.

I felt decent much of Saturday, riding 42 miles with friends in the morning and taking my mom to get her second shot, but as the day wore on, the vaccine caught up with me.

Sunday felt like I’d been hit by a linebacker (I almost went to get tested). I slept most of the day, taking in the neighborhood of five or six naps throughout. Monday was slightly better but I still felt run down and sore all over, though concentrating in the shoulders and I was exceptionally discombobulated. To give you an idea of how bad I was, for those who’ve been following this blog, it was almost 60 degrees (15 C) with a mild breeze, and not a cloud in the sky sunshine. I didn’t go for a bike ride. Monday, having been jabbed Friday evening, was day three. I showed up for work but left for home after 3-1/2 hours. I was too cooked. I napped a couple of times on getting home and spent the entire time on the couch, working or watching TV. I went to bed praying this funk would break overnight. I could only go three hours between Tylenol (one at a time) when my head hit the pillow.

And sure enough, it broke last night. The discombobulation is all but gone, though I’m still feeling worn out. There’s still some soreness, but I’m five or six hours between Tylenol now. I feel better with every passing hour… at least for the time being. With decently warm weather, but high winds in the forecast, I plan on riding tonight though I’m going to skip Lennon and ride by myself. I don’t need to push it that hard right now.

My experience follows a lot of reports. The vaccine either gets you on the first one or the second (sometimes not at all). Many of my friends experienced exactly what I’m reporting here. Now, in terms of actual sickness, how bad was it? Well, I had the flu a couple of years ago, whichever kind was going around, and that was much worse. The down-time was about the same, but with the vaccine flu, I didn’t actually feel sick. Just sore, discombobulated and extremely tired. Some report headaches and a fever, I experienced neither. In fact, my temp yesterday was a healthy 97.4 (36.333 C), my exact running temp, I don’t fluctuate more than a tenth or two either way.

For the record, I received the Moderna vaccine, though friends have reported the same symptoms and duration with Pfizer (without having to worry about a 3 to 4 hour erection – a little Viagra humor).

So, I was absolutely shocked I had such a tough time with the vaccine. I expected to fly through it. However I look at it, though, it sure beats getting the actual virus (or so I assume).

In a study of healthcare workers, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 80% effective in preventing COVID after just the first shot. The success rate shot to 90% after the second. This is fantastic news, and according to the article I read (and linked) it was good to see that they used words like “immune”, not focusing on just “protection”. I’ve got a couple of friends who got their first shot shortly after my wife and I did (an hour or two later). We’re all going to get our second shot together and we’re making it a date and going out to dinner.

Normal is only a few months away, worldwide. Don’t let the doom and gloom bullshit get you down. When it’s your turn, get your shots and give a friend a hug. And don’t be afraid of the vaccine flu – getting the actual virus is worse.

The COVID Vaccine, Exercise & Symptoms; My Experience (Updated)

After being stuck late Friday afternoon with my first vaccine shot (Moderna), I rode my bike 20 miles at an easy pace for me, averaging a touch better than 16.5-mph for a little more than an hour. I felt a couple of minor muscle pains toward the end, a slight stabbing pain in my quad, then one in my forearm – both on the side I was injected. Other than that, for Friday, nothing any different.

I am not the only one of my friends to ride shortly after being stuck, and a friend who happens to be a well-respected pharmacist was one (he rode through both shots).

Saturday was interesting. I woke up with a surprisingly sore arm. That my arm was sore was not the surprise. That’s expected. It was the degree of soreness that was surprising. It was not enough I bothered with pain management (not even a Tylenol). I went about my morning as I would any Saturday with rideable temperatures and sunshine. I prepped my Trek for the chilly start 36 F, or 2 C, but with the sun rising quickly. We’re upping the mileage as spring takes hold and we had a nice route on tap for the morning; 41 miles and some change on what we call the sod farm loop (a favorite of mine). My friends started showing up shortly before 9am and we rolled out with six in our group, picking up two on the road. We managed a lively, enjoyable pace for the course just shy of 19-mph. Other than feeling a little discombooberated (a variant of discombobulated) at times when my heart rate went up with my effort, I felt no ill-effects on the ride other than my sore shoulder.

It was a special day, too. My mother, who lives about 45 minutes from my house, was scheduled for her second shot and, with my sister’s family busy, I was taking her to get it done. I showered immediately on getting home, got ready, slid into my vehicle and headed down to pick her up. I also picked up lunch along the way and ate while my mom was in getting stuck. Shortly after eating, I hit a wall of sorts. I was tired. I almost took a nap in the car but didn’t want to miss my mom coming out. Her second shot was administered at the University of Michigan’s stadium, the Big House – with all of the people roaming around, I just wanted to make sure she found the car because I’d moved to a closer, better parking spot.

Everything went fine and I got my mom back to her car without incident. Then, I got my butt home, where I took a nap. Then I watched some TV… and took another nap. And another. After that third nap it dawned on me, it was the vaccine that had me drained.

My daughters had their boyfriends over in the afternoon and my wife and I cooked dinner for everyone. It was an enjoyable time – my girls choose well.

I watched a movie and one-quarter before wanting my bed. Sleep took me quickly and I slept wonderfully, through the night.

On waking this morning, there’s rain in the area so the ride is a bit up in the air. It just may be a day off, but only for the rain – the vaccine wouldn’t sideline me a bit. If it dries out, I’ll ride. The soreness in my arm has subsided greatly and I can’t tell how tired I am quite yet, but appears to be the extent of my first shot symptoms. I ran an interwebz scanner over my arm and apparently Bill Gates forgot to load the tracker into my vaccine. Lucky me. I also haven’t lapsed into an autistic ball on the floor or turned into a zombie, thank God. I am, however, thankfully well on the road to normal. I’m expecting a bit of a tougher time after my second shot, but I have no doubt I’ll ride through it. My pharmacist friend did.

My experience may differ from others. I am exceptionally healthy and firmly believe I’ve just hit middle-age at 50. My immune system is, and always has been, excellent. I am slightly overweight, because I love food, but am still on the good side of the Body Mass Index scale. I’m also quite exceptionally fit. While I could drop a few pounds, I have no doubt they’ll be gone before summer hits. Excess weight tends to burn off when you’re riding 200 to 300 miles a week.

UPDATE: Sunday was a little rough. Thankfully, the weather sucked. Cold, windy and raining, so I was quite happy to spend the day lounging around. Unfortunately, I got so much sleep during the day, I found it impossible to fall asleep later that evening. This morning, Monday morning, I simply feel discombobulated and a little sore all over. No fever, just random body pain (mostly in the shoulders) and feeling a little run down. I did show up for work this morning, though I don’t know if I’ll stick it out or just go home and sleep it off.

A Celebratory Stuck 20 Miles

I was home from the office early yesterday. After a rough week and all of four hours of sleep the night before, I was exhausted. I flipped my phone to vibrate, sat on the couch, turned on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives and I was out like a light. Put a fork in me, I was done. I woke up an hour later, somewhere around 3:30 and had to deal with some work, then more work, and a little more, but was ready to prep my bike to ride shortly after 4 – Chuck was on his way home and we were going to ride at 5:15… and that’s when the text came in from my wife.

From Brett (my neighbor across the street): Kroger (one of our local grocery stores’ pharmacy) has COVID shots till 5pm.

I immediately got on their website to try to schedule an appointment but the system was down. I called my wife and asked if they were taking walk-ins. She didn’t know, what she’d forwarded was the only info she had. I thought about it for a second. I don’t like rushing around, and what if I get over there to a madhouse with people milling about? I didn’t want any part of that. Better judgment hit me square in the mouth. Normal is six weeks away (two if I get the J&J version). The politics alone prompted me to get in my car and head over there immediately; politicians messing with my freedom strikes me that way.

There were three people in line ahead of me to fill out paperwork and a bunch already stuck, waiting their 15 minutes. Just as I was about to get my paperwork to fill out, my wife walked in and got in line, too. The line went fast and before I knew it, I was sitting in the chair, thanking the lady who was shooting us up for doing what she was doing (interesting side note, she said giving COVID shots was the nicest she’d ever been treated by people as a pharmacist). A few minutes later, my wife and I were sitting next to each other waiting to make sure we didn’t have a reaction (not even a little one). I think I was in the store for maybe 20 minutes total. I also received my second shot schedule date.

And with that, I was on my way back home. I had just enough time to get ready and head out the door and meet Chuck on the road.

With a full weekend of cycling ahead and 108 miles on the week already, I didn’t “need” much. Also, I don’t know what it does to the vaccine if you get right out and hammer out a big ride a half-hour after you’ve been stuck… I’m sure it wasn’t tested for that. We ended up with an easy 20-miles – and sure enough, in the last three miles I got a few strange muscle pains (left arm, left quad – stuck on the left side) that I’ll attribute to riding immediately after the vaccine.

My arm is quite sore this morning, but that’s the only side-effect I’m feeling. We’ve got a 40-miler on the books before I take my mom to get her second shot (and possibly out to lunch). “Back to normal” is only a couple months away, my friends.

And, for a humorous note in the post, I want you to think about something if you’re against the vaccine: your unwillingness to take the vaccine is the one thing far right and far left extremists agree upon, 100%. Chew on that while I laugh, thinking about the blood rushing to your melon*.

The point is simple; live with your choice. I will mine. And if you think I’m running around with a mask on my face in public for the rest of my life because you want to be protected from the choice you’ve made, you’re completely f***ing nuts. You’ve got six weeks, because once the 30 year-olds get their shots, I’m officially done with this shit.

Get the vaccine or get the virus. Choose.

*For those not familiar with American politics, our far right and far left are a ball of fun. Members of each think the other is comprised entirely of idiots, meanwhile completely lacking the ability to realize they’re side is a bunch of idiots, too. Watching each accuse the other of being stupid is one of the great joys in American political life. Better is when a left-wing extremist catches a whiff of their own arrogant aroma as they’re putting down a right-wing extremist. Puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.

That Knee… Why So Many Cyclists Are Ex-Runners; Or, Another Runner Earns His Cycling Shoes

That Knee — Read on

Another friendly runner is about to earn his cycling shoes…

Five or six of my best cycling friends are ex-runners. One, an accomplished runner, in the low five-minute miles for a marathon distance – he was fast. I am a one-time runner, much slower. My wife, too. I’m a rare ex-runner cyclist, though . I found cycling long before injuries sidelined me and I found a love for cycling I never had for running. I liked running, I love cycling.

About 25 years after I rode the wheels off the Murray Baja mountain bike my parents bought for me (coincidentally, exactly ten minutes after I was first licensed to drive a car), I bought my first real bike and found joy. I ran sparsely after for a couple of years, but once I picked up my first carbon fiber road bike/rocket ship, it was all over for running.

My best cycling friend, however, said he would go back to running in a minute if his body would let him.

Once we learn peace and serenity are achieved through the physical exertion of running, some of us have a tendency to overdo it. With excessive running, if the form isn’t perfect, the body will break down over time.

Thus, when we get to that point where we can’t (or don’t want to) run anymore, many turn to cycling because those of us who turn to running because it makes us feel spectacular, need something to do to keep that going.

For all you runners out there, I’m here to tell you, cycling works. In some ways better, in others, not. It’ll get you that euphoric feeling that running gives you, only you can ride every day without fear of beating your body to a pulp. There’s a big learning curve, of course, but once you get the hang of it… well, it’s quite fantastic.

If you are getting to the point where you think running is just too debilitating anymore, you’ve earned your cycling shoes. Try them on.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Springtime Cycling Training and How It Works: You Can Pay Now Or Pay Later. Either Way, You’ll Pay.

Spring is a tough time of year that provides the dedicated a chance to get fit early – if you’re willing. It’s a difficult time for many. The roads are often wet, sometimes salty, and the temperatures aren’t usually conducive to cycling enjoyment. I have friends who struggle to get out in the “pre-spring” month of March, then April. It is cold up here in Michigan, usually well into May.

I and many like me, on the other hand, can’t wait to get outside to get some fresh air and stretch the legs. Low to mid 40’s (4 to 6 C) is just enough to get me fired up and out the door. If we have some sunshine, I can hardly contain the enthusiasm! I have no problem cleaning a little schmutz off my bike after a ride. To feel the ground passing beneath me and the speed of my road bike is enough to make me forget about the chilly air temp – at least for an hour or two.

With early starts and long, slow miles, fitness comes fast and easy (I can’t believe I wrote “slow”, but it’s true – it works for spring miles). On the other hand, if you’re sitting it out, you’ll struggle to catch up – sometimes all season long. I’ve seen it happen and it’s a bummer to watch a friend struggle to keep up.

With early spring training, the formula is simple; pay now or pay later – one thing is certain, you’re going to pay.

I really feel bad for those who struggle to get out early in the season to ride, and I get it. I have a friend who has the ability to enjoy riding in absolutely the worst conditions. 7 degrees F (-13 C)? No problem. Snowing? Not even a worry. I can’t do it. No matter how hard I want to, I just can’t get out the door in those conditions (and I have the right clothing to do it – I just completely lack the want to). So I spend a couple of weeks catching up to him in the early spring. I do, however, possess enough want to to make my trainer miles count, so I’m not completely pooched. If you’re like me, though, and have a hard time shutting off the eating over the winter and you’re carrying some extra wattage weight and you can’t ride outside until it’s 55+ (12 C) and you hate the trainer… well, if you’re riding with the fast crowd, you’re done before you finally wheel your bike out the door for that first ride of the new year. You’ll be struggling to catch up much of the summer.

I have to pick my poison, because I am going to ride with the fast kids, so I’ll pay now, thank you kindly.