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The Science and Reality of Eater-dynamics and Cycling; My Experience with Cycling, Food and Being Fast.

How important is a lightweight bike for keeping up with the fast group?

For anyone who’s ridden one, the answer is “pretty freakin’ important”.  “Aero” is big, too, although I can do just fine with a 21 year-old frame and a decent wheelset.

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Anyone who’s ridden an aero bike will tell you they do make fast easier, but you’ll be just as fast on a decently equipped non-aero bike.  I can choose either weapon – the specialized just makes “fast” a little easier.  The Trek is also a little more than two pounds heavier than the Specialized (15.8/18.3 respectively).

The real question is, “How important is having a lightweight body if you want to be fast”?  Let me save you the trouble; it’s pretty freakin’ important. Certainly more important than the aforementioned lightweight aero bike.

Many people are under the incorrect assumption that we who are fast can eat anything we want and still stay lean. That’s not entirely true. It’s not exactly false, either. When I went from 1,800 miles in 2011 to 5,300 miles in 2012, I dropped weight. Fast. I went from 172 pounds to 151 in one summer. I lost enough my wife suggested I’d better eat more in a hurry because I was too skinny.  And therein lies the rub, eating more.

Left 2012 vs Right 2015

I had to learn how to eat for all of those miles. By the time 2015 had rolled around I was back up to 168, just about perfect for how I like me. I learned to double what I ate during cycling season. My wife was happy. I was happy. And eating more was a lot of fun!

2016 and 2017 came and went with bumps in mileage (8,500 and 9,300 respectively) and all was well. 2018 was a big year at 10,100 miles but I started noticing a problem; I had become accustomed to eating a lot. Worse, I didn’t slow down the consumption over the fall and winter months, either – my definitions for full and hungry changed. My weight, for the first time since I started riding, stayed above 170 all year long. Last year was a decrease in miles and an increase in weight. I’m in the upper 170’s now… and I finally realized drastic measures are required again. This time I had to cut way back on what I’m eating. I’ve taken to what I’m calling a “half diet”. I eat half of what I used to.

As I got closer to 50, dropping weight became more difficult and it’s been too easy to justify eating with all of the miles… and what is it with age that good food tastes so much better?!

Anyway, the point is, it doesn’t matter how fast I am.  I, sadly, have to watch what and how I eat now.  Especially during the off-season.  I’m not used to having this problem but I’m dealing with it because it isn’t going to go away with hopes and dreams and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be fat.

So; cycling is good, food is good, fast is good… I just have to watch the one in the middle even though it doesn’t matter as much to being fast as some believe.  I’m faster at 175 pounds than I was at 155… particularly because a lot of that 20 pounds is in vastly bigger legs.  My daughter, without being prompted, called them “massive” compared to the rest of me.  Massive isn’t bad, but it’s heavy.

What I Love About Cycling: Part 1 It’s Not the Routes or Roads…

We rolled out Sunday morning, two tandems and two single bikes on a cool, almost cloudless morning. My wife and I on our tandem, Diane and Jeff on Diane’s (they aren’t a couple, they just ride together… and they’re strong), Mike and Chuck. We started out easy and built pace over several miles and Greg met us on the road.  The pace was fairly subdued throughout, though there were times I was working pretty hard – too hard to hold a conversation beyond a few words, but it was fun.

We stopped at the Tuesday night church parking lot to use the club’s porta-john but it was a little too early for my snack so after everyone was relieved we rolled out again.

After the break and a couple of miles to work back into it, my wife and I found our rhythm.  Later than usual, but we hit our stride nonetheless.  Greg split off to head home in Durand and we took it a little easier heading home.  We were sitting on an 18.5-mph average and the goal had been 17-18 (this adjusts according to who shows up, or it’s supposed to) so the worries about pace and keeping up went out the window.

And that is precisely when Jeff said, heading up a little 2%’er, “It’s not the roads you ride, it’s the friends you ride them with.”

And that sums up, in one sweet little sentence, why I enjoy cycling so much – love it, really.

We made plans for October on that ride, for Chuck’s birthday ride up in Interlochen.  We’ll head up there for the end of the week and spend a couple of days riding near the shore of Lake Michigan.  We’ve ridden throughout much of the pandemic with friends (after the fear calmed down to a dull roar), but the road trips have been cut to a bare minimum.  The pandemic was the very illustration of Jeff’s simple observation, though.  We had a blast this year.  It really didn’t matter the routes or roads we rode on.  It was the friends we rode them with.

The Fabulous Gloriousness That Is Cycling: Riding in a Fast Group of Friends… It’s as Good as It Gets

I put in a full day at work, ridden, rested, eaten, and I’m sitting on the couch, filled with gratitude for being me.A few stray thoughts have tried to stick in the gray matter, but they’re summarily dispatched with the cunning lethality of a samurai standing vigilant guard… in… um… my melon.We rolled out last evening, just eight pullers and two hanger’s on. We started out a little slow for my liking, but after the first mile, the pace cranked up into a light headwind.That would be the last time I worried about pace.We rolled out with the precision of a squad who’d put in thousands of miles together. We had two newer guys but they’d learned how to hide at the back. The eight of us who were taking turns up front had known each other for years. One fella in particular really stuck out. He rides a super nice LeMond modern steel bike (it weighs, dripping wet, something like 19 pounds, it’s really impressive). Dave’s hidden at the back for years but over the last several weeks he’s really come into his own. Before I left for vacation he’d managed to hang with the group for the full loop at a 23-mph pace, faster than he’d ever ridden in his life (he’s my age, a little older and has been cycling for decades). Last night, he took his lumps up front like a champ.Dave, if you read this, brother, it was really impressive, man. Nice work. It didn’t go unnoticed, all throughout the group.As we hit the 2/3’s mark, about 20 miles in, we singled up to make the most of the group we had. We were down to about six of us pulling and we hammered hard to the intermediate sprint. I was three bikes back and I heard one of the guys behind me, Toby, shift hard under pressure. That’s all I needed to hear and I hit the gas. Toby tucked in right behind me (I could see his shadow) and I tried to shake him to no avail and he cruised by me with Chuck on his tail with 100 yards to go (maybe a little less). Reports are, Chuck pipped him at the line by a tire.We hammered the home stretch, a couple miles into the wind and four home. The wind had died down a bit and we put in a great effort. Efficient is an excellent word for the whole ride. We had five or six for the final sprint to the line, but nobody actually sprinted. It seemed we were content with the 32 we were going as we crossed the line. I was.There weren’t any fist bumps with the virus, but you can bet we were all smiles as we downshifted and took our time heading back to the church parking lot.It was a perfect night.And that brings me back to the start of the post. It never ceases to amaze me how good I feel about the world and my place on it after a ride like that. It never gets old. I drifted off to sleep, a smile on my face. And I woke up with that smile still there.

The Fix For The Over-calculation of Calories in Strava, Endomondo, Garmin Connect… And Just How Far Off Are the Apps On Your Calorie Count? It’s A Lot.

I rode Tuesday night, our normal group ride night.  The main event was 28 miles of pure awesome.  It wasn’t terribly fast, but it was quick and I absolutely got the blood pumping.

Strava kicked back, once the ride uploaded, that I’d burned 846 calories over those 28 miles.  The average speed was 21.5-mph.  Max speed was just a shade under 35-mph.  Estimated average power was 218 watts.  My average heart rate was 136 bpm, max was 167, leading out the group at the first sprint sign above 30-mph for more than a half-mile.

I rode again Wednesday night.  Nothing special, just a little bit of an active recovery ride with my buddy, Chuck to burn off the stiffness from Tuesday night.  It’s been a long month and 2/3’s since my last day off and I’m really starting to feel it.  Thankfully I’ve got a couple of days off coming up.  God knows what I’ll write about (oh ye of little faith, I’m already working on those posts!).  Anyway, 22 miles, 17-mph average, 114 watts… and 1,236 calories.  Now how it God’s green earth do I burn 400 more calories on a shorter ride using 100 fewer watts over six fewer miles?!

Another ride Thursday, another 28 miles, but this one is a lot harder… more up.  A bit more than double that of Tuesday night.  I scored a new PR on that route, a 21.9-mph average.  My average power was 240 watts.  I was a happy man… another 12 achievements in 15 segments on Strava (that’s pretty good), including three cups and another on a warm-up climb.  Average heart rate was 142 bpm with a max of 166.  880 calories burned.

That same ride last week?  235 watts, 21.6-mph average… 1,859 calories burned.

What’s missing is the heart rate.  A heart rate monitor evens out the calorie burn and fixes the algorithm.  I’d bet a power meter would do about the same.  The point is, if you’re not using a heart rate monitor or power meter (or both), you’re burning less than half the calories your app says.  I knew it was bad.  I didn’t know it was that bad.

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Ride hard, my friends.  And know, if you’re not using a heart rate monitor, you’re actually burning about half the calories your app says you are.  If you eat according to your Strava or Endomondo calorie burn, don’t be surprised when you put on weight.

One good thing I did learn about all of this, my Garmin is set to 190 for my max heart rate.  I’ve bumped my head against 170 quite often but I can’t do much better.  I thought there was something wrong with me till I learned you get your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220… or, for me, 170.  It made everything make sense.

What to Do With Garmin Down?!

Garmin is down for some reason, so there’s no uploading (Bluetooth-ily) to Strava, Endomondo or Ride with GPS right now.  You don’t have to manually enter your rides, though.  In fact, uploading your rides is faster than manually entering them and it’s as easy as easy gets.

Strava and Endomondo are the same (I didn’t bother with RWGPS).

Open your computer/laptop.  Plug in your Garmin device.  Open your web browser.  Open up your homepage.  Hit the “+” button for “add a workout”.  Choose “Upload Activity” (Strava) or “Import from File” for Endomondo.  Your activity will be in the “Activities” folder on your Garmin device.  Choose the proper file by the date.  Click “Open”, customize your info and click “Save”.  You’re done.  Your ride will appear on your activity feed.

Super simple and you get all of your intricate data from your ride profile, rather than just entering in the miles and time and getting an average speed you’ll get everything, including segment records.

UPDATE:  Kecia commented that it’s possibly a ransomware issue at Garmin…  They’re still down as of 11 am today (7/24).  I confirmed Kecia’s comment against multiple news sources.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Garmin tracks the perpetrators down.  I have a feeling that’s going to get messy.

It’s Been 1,500 Miles Since My Last Day Off And I’m Still Lovin’ It

The last day it rained too much to squeeze a ride in around here was June 10th.

I’ve put just shy of 1,500 miles since that day and, while I’ve had a few rough mornings waking up, I’m usually up and moving freely again within 10 or 15 minutes… and if I’m really in bad shape, a Tylenol and an Advil together will have me feeling like I’m 25 again in short order.  Between my two road bikes and the tandem, there’s never a dull moment and I feel fortunate to be able to switch up bikes whenever I want – this way, there’s always something to tinker with.  Last night was removing a spacer from under the handlebar of the Trek to see if I would ride a little lower comfortably.  I’ll just say the jury is out after the first ride – I’m not going to toss the alloy spacer in the recycling bin just yet.  At the beginning of the season I was simply too… erm… well, chunky.  Too many winter dinners did me in.  I’m down fifteen pounds at the moment, though, and the weight is coming off easily as long as I’m not stupid.

I’ve got two months to drop another nine pounds (nine is the hopeful version, I’d be satisfied with four), then I’ll see if I can’t be a little more intelligent about the winter.  I don’t want to have to go through what I did this spring, staring at a number I don’t like on the scale.  This year I’ve been faster on a bike than at any point since I started cycling – even with the weight and riding every day.  Thankfully, our part of Michigan is mercifully flat!

The trick has been to take my active recovery rides.  To thoroughly and embrace the slow days has been a difficult journey through the brain, but now that I’ve got it, I’m having more fun than should be legal.  What I had to do was look at the slow days as building blocks for the fast days.  I still have to mentally hold myself back and remind myself that every day doesn’t have to be a building day… and once I took the time to look around and enjoy the scenery I was missing because my head was always down trying to get the most of a ride, I began to enjoy those slow days.

And so it was yesterday evening.  After a long week with four hard efforts (one trying unsuccessfully to outrun a thunderstorm), I could feel I needed an easy day.  I picked Chuck up at his house and we tooled around town talking about the day’s events.  We didn’t charge up one hill.  We didn’t knuckle down one time.  Just smooth, easy, fun miles.

This is the only way I know to ride every day, week after week.  And now that I’ve figured out my place in how this all works, I get the exhilaration of the fast group while enjoying cycling like the slow group does every now and again.

It’s the best of both cycling worlds.  Life is good.

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.

A Simple, If Humorous, Note on “Listening to Your Body”

Trigger (heh) warning:  If you happen to be a sissy, the following might trigger you into sucking your thumb and curling up into the fetal position for anywhere from five minutes to several days.  Do not read this post if this is something you’re capable of.  I haven’t sucked my thumb since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (I think I was 3) and the last time I was in the fetal position, I was actually in the womb, a person like me would be reasonably safe to read what I’m about to write.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

My daughter, for my 50th birthday, baked me the most delectable carrot cake (with cream cheese icing, of course) to ever have passed my lips.  It was one of those cake eating experiences that, because it’s so utterly fantastic, makes you close your eyes in ecstasy the first several bites.

So there I am last night, sitting on the couch after a big, fast Thursday night ride (36 total miles) and, because I’m so attuned to what my body is telling me, my body says, “Hey, yo!  Down here!  Hey, I need some carrot cake down here!”

Well, now that’s a reason to rejoice right there!  My body says it needs carrot cake!  Well, you know what happens next:  I’m ass-deep in cream cheese icing when I realized I’d made a mistake in interpretation…

My body only asked for carrots.  My melon filled in the “cake” part.

Oops.

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.

 

 

My Most Enjoyable Long Weekend

We rolled out Sunday morning with a small but lively group with a goal of just 45 miles at an easy, fun pace.

Yet another Sunday Funday on the tandem, my wife and I lighting up the front.  We kept the pace steady, around 20-mph, the first 13 miles but Diane and my wife both had to stop to use a port-john before we got to town so three single started rolling a few minutes before we took off out of the school parking lot.  We took it easy starting out but I fell into chase down mode and we took to reeling my friends in.  After a nasty (but shallow and short) incline that my wife hammered up, we started putting down the serious watts.  We had a sprint coming up in a few miles and it’s perfect for a tandem.  We pulled around the lead group with about a mile to go and kept ratcheting the pace up to be discouraging to anyone wanting to come around.  It didn’t work.

We pounded down the hill, shifting as we went until we settled into a good gear.  The other tandem had come around as well as three of the single bikes and we were two lengths behind.  Once everyone cleared us I figured my wife would ease up but she wanted the City Limits sign.  She was laying out some power, so I gave it everything I had.  In the stretch to the sign, we overtook all three single bikes at 34-mph and pulled along side the second tandem… but we needed another ten seconds.  The got us at the line by a half-length.  It was a good effort.

After a short stop at our normal gas station, we rolled out into the morning sun.  It was starting to warm up but we had virtually no wind.  The rest of the ride, up until about 43 miles when both our butts had had enough, was fantastic and we ended up pulling into the driveway with 45 miles and some change at 18.6-mph.  That was speedy for a Sunday Funday on the tandem.  And all was well.

I went out with a couple of friends and helped one of ours clear out some big items out of his garage.  It was well over 90° and the sun was hammering us, but it was worth helping a friend out.  We ended up working from noon till 3:30 or so.  It was some hard work but we all felt pretty good about helping a friend out.  After showering up, we had a fantastic dinner (grilled chicken and sweet potatoes along with a salad).  I put on Aquaman after and drifted off sometime in the special features and slept like a baby through the night.

We’re still muddling our way through COVIDcation, but I can’t complain.  It was a fantastic weekend of family, friends, sun, swimming, food and fun… and that most important aspect we celebrated the day before; Freedom.

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