We rolled out yesterday morning at 8:30. It was a touch chilly, but with nary a cloud in the sky. It was set to warm up in a hurry though, so I dressed a little lighter than I normally would for the chilly start. I was counting on the coming warmth enough that I was nervous when I walked out the door. A mile in I knew I’d picked the perfect clothes for the morning. I was never too warm but I certainly wasn’t at all cold.
The next 42 miles were absolutely perfect. We had a decent eight person pace line, and we worked together like we were in mid-season form. The pace was easy and there were smiles all the way down the line. And with the sunshine, lack of wind, and warming temperature, it just kept getting better.
It’s hard to put my feelings into words as we all cruised down the road – part joy, part relief after far too many cold days, and a whole lot of gratitude at having the friends I do. It was such a gnarly winter and to finally be out in weather good enough that we could simply ride and enjoy the day, it was simply spectacular. I ended the day with just enough miles that I was ready to be done. Yesterday’s ride highlighted the wide chasm between being done because I was tired and being done because I don’t want to be cold anymore.
The former was glorious. I’d had enough of the latter. And it’s supposed to be even nicer today – it’s supposed to be 13° warmer at the start. I’ll take it.
Last year was my best cycling year by something like 700 miles – from 9,390 miles in 2017 to 10,115 last year. I rode 8,500 in 2016. With work this year, I have no hope of catching last year’s miles. The job I’m on now is a construction man’s dream – a unicorn job that, once complete and on my resume, will be a ticket to any job I want should the need ever arise to move.
The commute is killing my cycling, though. I’m already several hundred miles down from last year and I’ve accepted that this year is going to be more about enjoying the opportunities I have rather than trying to chase mileage goals when my schedule otherwise wouldn’t allow them. In years past, I could simply take off a couple of hours early to get my ride in – I always made the hours up one way or another.
This year, the job and commute simply won’t allow that. Last evening was a perfect example. After a long day, I arrived home and got the Trek ready for the trainer. While the temp was decent, call it average, the wind was absolutely howling – 27-mph sustained with gust over 40-mph. No chance I was riding in that. I was on the trainer and rolling at 5:18.
My daughter, however, had an honors ceremony last night. She was receiving her fourth varsity letter, this being only her sophomore year. She’s got, in order of achievement, diving, swimming, band, and this one is for academics – and she’s trying for a fifth this year in tennis (Her first year, too. Who knew? She’s a natural). The academics is the big one, though, obviously. As a parent, I only prayed my kids would be able to do a little better than their dear old dad. My girls are absolutely kicking my ass and I’m loving it.
So in year’s past I would trade off the ceremony for a special dinner if the event intruded on my miles, or I’d come home early and hope my phone didn’t ring while I was on the road. This year, I’ve decided not to care so much about the miles. I’m still riding regularly, but I’m going to free myself of the drive to maintain such a lofty mileage goals.
Cycling is awesome, but the things that are happening off the bike right now are too sweet to miss chasing miles.
As I always say, especially in recovery, happiness is entirely about my acceptance and perspective. I am happy because I accept that I am exactly where I should be in God’s grand plan (whatever that is, I’m not smart enough to have figured it out), and I will enjoy the gifts I am given… no matter how hard I have to look for them. Today it is good to be me, and to borrow a friend’s phrase, today I won’t drink.
It was supposed to be the best Tuesday night yet… a little windy, with winds out of the south-southwest at 15-mph diminishing to 10-mph (24 to 14 km/h), but a nice 55° (I think that’s 12 C). There was a chance of showers, but not until well after dark – 9:45 pm. I would be well into dreamland by then.
I readied the Venge and rolled for our meeting place. Once in the parking lot, I pulled the Venge out of the back of my SUV and finished getting kitted up – helmet, choice of gloves, shoes, etc. I hopped on the Venge and spun off down the road. I was still a little under the weather, but operating efficiently under the weather, not “damn, even my hair hurts” under the weather. The warm-up was easy, with a pretty steady crosswind. The clouds built up, but I didn’t care. With only a 10% chance of rain till 8:30, I’d be fine. I did a full 5.3 mile warm-up.
Sitting in the parking lot ready to go, the wind picked up and the clouds thickened. Still no worries. We rolled at 6 pm on the nose.
A mile and a half with what was now a howling crosswind and we turned north with a blistering tailwind. The pace went from 18-ish-mph to almost 30, right now. Then the wind shifted to the southwest and picked up. Gusts were easily 30-mph (48-km/h). Then the rain started. At first it was just sprinkles, but it went from intermittent to nasty in a hurry. The temp dropped.
And I turned around and headed back.
Folks, I needed that like I needed a hit in the head. Maybe if I was 100% healthy I’d have gutted it out – it looked like the rain was going to be spotty at worst, but at 80% and the chance of teetering to full-on sick, no thanks. Better to get better and ride another day than mess with that. Every now and again I just have to take my toy and go home.
Cycling Whilst, and at the Same Time, Being Under the Weather… Especially if the Weather isn’t Half Bad… Erm.
I know, I know, I can hear you already, but we only get maybe 250 decent cycling days a year. I’ve gotta take them when I can get them. And I was only a little under the weather…
I woke up feeling a little rough. Definitely a cold, not the flu. It was one of those colds where you know your immune system is going to kick its ass in short order, it’s just a matter of a day or two (in fact I do feel much better this morning). The ride home was going to be rough but I ended up spending most of the two-hour commute on the phone, so I didn’t have to stop and take a nap – which meant I got home in time to ride. Bonus.
It was sunny and 44° (7 C) when Chuck and I rolled out – he met me on my first mile, but the wind was pretty brutal – I’d call it 15-20-mph out of the southwest, so it pushed us for the first mile, but we were into it for the next two. Another push for a mile, then into it… and so on and so forth.
Then the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped precipitously. Still, I had a decent sweat going and I wasn’t ever uncomfortably cool. We kept a fairly healthy pace considering we have the Tuesday Night Club Ride coming up – also better to stay warm. I was going to reign it in at one point, but I figured better to finish quick and get out of the wind, which was picking up and we had the hardest stretch right in front of us. After a nice three-mile crosswind push, we turned south for the home stretch and bore down. It was drops all the way, trying to put my chin on the stem cap to keep as low-profile as possible. We held an impressive 18 to 20-mph into a howling cross-headwind, leap-frogging each other from time to time when the pace started dipping. At the end of the headwind stretch I was pretty well spent. We turned left, heading east, and let the wind push us for the next mile. The final mile was a sit up and spin into the wind mile. I don’t think we got much over 18 that last mile.
I pulled into the driveway with a nice 18.2-mph average. Chuck went on to finish his ride.
Shower, dinner, and I was out like a light just after 8 pm. And now it’s time to hit it all over again. It’s 3:45 am and I’m headed to shower and shave to head to work. I’ve been up for more than an hour. Such is the life.
I’ve had a miserable time with hot spots and foot pain over years of cycling. Sometimes it’s so bad I have to unclip my feet and let them dangle for a bit to get some life into them… not easy to do when you’re trying to stay in a group that’s clipping down the road at 24-mph.
To describe the pain, it used to center on the pads of my feet, just above the cleats, and radiates out. Over 60 miles, I could live with it, but it would crescendo after 75. The pain was excruciating after that.
I messed with cleat position, heel in, heel out, a little fore, a little more aft, nothing worked.
I still rode on, because the pain would always stop once I got off the bike. And I mean gone. No after effects. Once I got the cycling shoes off and put my running shoes on, the pain stopped (leaving the cycling shoes on, however, was ill-advised).
Well, I know my cleats aren’t the problem because I have them adjusted at the shop with the Look blocks to make sure the cleats work with my body mechanics. Shoes? I don’t think so. I’ve had the same problem over my last two pair
I was just about to the end of my rope, coming into trainer season (winter), when I had an epiphany. What if I didn’t tighten the Boa closure so much? I figure I’m about a quarter to a half-turn looser, and I’m a lot happier for it. The pain is all but gone. My mistake was in thinking that cycling shoes should be something like hockey skates… you wedge your feet in and crank them down. I found that isn’t the case.
The Difference Between Entry-level, Mid-range, and the Expensive High-end Road Bikes; Why the Fast Kids All Ride Expensive Bikes
Show up to a club ride with multiple fitness levels represented and you’ll notice the fastest riders will be, but for the rare exception, riding fairly expensive, usually carbon fiber, road bikes. There will be one or two who manage on upgraded entry-level bikes, but you’ll rarely see a seasoned cyclist on an entry-level bike in the fast group. For those new to cycling, the question is often why? Actually, that “why” would come shortly after an “are you kidding me?” when that noob learns of the price some are willing to pay for a bicycle, but let’s not get lost in the woods. Yet.
I’ll be the first to admit, a high-end race bike won’t make a cyclist much faster. There’s a bit of nuance required in that statement, though, so let’s not get too indignant. Some loud voices who are looking for attention will tell you that you’re going to be just as fast on a Sora equipped aluminum bike as long as you eat your beans and greens. There’s some truth to that, but there’s a lot more hot air in the notion.
So what gives? Why all the carbon fiber and high-strength alloys on a bicycle that costs more per pound than a Ferrari?
The knee-jerk uninitiated will often slough off the outrageous expense to some kind of egotistical satiation. Those who would think that would be wrong. Almost entirely (I’m sure there are a few out there who buy expensive bikes to satiate their ego). However, if what I wrote earlier is true, that a high-end bike won’t make a cyclist much faster, then why would a person spend that much on a road bike?!
The easiest way to explain this is that the expensive bike makes being fast easier. In other words, if I am already fit enough to be exceptionally fast on a road bike a high-end road bike makes riding at ridiculous speeds just a little easier.
As an illustration, I can ride my Trek 5200 just as fast as I can the Specialized. In fact, until recently some of my fastest miles ever ridden were on the Trek. Without question, though, on the Specialized, the same “fast” takes less effort.
If I’m buying a super-cycle thinking it’ll finally get me over that hump to the next faster group, it’ll likely be disheartening when I find I still can’t quite keep up. I’ll be closer, maybe I get an extra five or ten miles further with the group, but it won’t quite make up the difference.
In the simplest terms, there won’t be a magical jump that takes me from riding with the B Group to a century with the A Group at 25-mph. If I can ride 85 miles with the A Group at that pace on an upgraded entry-level bike, though, that super-steed will get me over the finish line. And that’s why.
So, is the cost worth it?
To me it is, but I don’t have a pile of expenses, either. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t overeat, don’t go on exotic vacations and I live in a humble home. Spending some cheese on a bike isn’t such a big deal. On the other hand, if I did any of those, maybe cycling wouldn’t be so important. In that case, I’d simply have to train with a little more “want to” if I wanted to keep up.
Of course, that Specialized sure looks awesome…
UPDATE: Please check out Brent’s comment below. He makes some great points that I didn’t cover.