Goodbye 2016

According to valuable and reputable sources (the Internet of course), 2016 by all accounts was a disaster. It was fraught with bad news, celebrity deaths, hard choices, media mishaps and fiery presidential debates. We won’t even discuss the riots, looting, court cases, war, famine, etc. The list goes on and on, and so do the Internet Memes about the horrors of 2016, and how 2017 will be a fresh start.

I don’t necessarily buy in to the hoopla about that, but I can guess that there is a sigh of relief as 2016 drew to a close and Mariah Carey dropped the mic at the New Years Eve ball. Additionally, I guess there are probably a lot of New Years Resolutions. I forgot to make any. In fact, I fell asleep laying on the couch, my wife in the love seat and daughter on the recliner. At ten after midnight my wife woke up and said “Hey, we all missed it!”. True story, none of us stayed awake.

But with that done and over with, my goals haven’t changed. Lose weight, ride more, be a better person, end world hunger, invent(ed) a time machine, and  putting on underwear BEFORE I put on pants. (I really have to write that one down sometimes)

My advice to all of you? Keep it up. Whatever it is you do well, keep doing what you’re doing. For those things you do poorly, fix it or quit doing it. Insanity is defined by doing the same actions over and over expecting different results.

For you, I will try to be the sanest person I know.

 

Slower is faster

This past weekend was the Cape Cod Getaway for Bike MS. This 150 mile ride over 2 days is usually considered a more fun ride than a difficult ride, and since the ride is relatively flat (only about 3000 ft of hills over the 75 or 100 mile routes on each day), we tend to cruise quickly.

This year though, since my buddy and I have both been cycling less, we decided to just take it easy, and not to push too hard. Here are very interesting facts that we discovered:

  1. We saw parts of the course we had never noticed before.
  2. We talked a lot more while riding.
  3. We didn’t need to eat and drink as much since our heart rates were well below Zone 4.
  4. We finished faster overall.

But not being pushing so hard, we were able to skip 1 or 2 rest stops at a time, refilling water as necessary and eating while rolling. As compared to previous years, our stopped time was more than 90 minutes. This past weekend? 14 minutes only for the whole day.

By riding 2 MPH slower as a moving pace, we finished the ride over 30 minutes faster, and we have a much better ride.

Now to build that “slow pace” up to the original “fast pace”…

Welcome back, it’s time to get serious again.

After the 2014 cycling season, I came to a few conclusions. First and foremost, there is a thing called “too much”. I rode my heart out on some of the most challenging rides, and as my previous post suggests, I was cooked. Mentally as well as physically, I had a “let’s see other people for now” moment with my Cervélo. I started out 2015 with the hopes of a smooth year, but a lack of cooperating health, weight gain and time constraints pooched my spring. I didn’t even show up to a few of the bigger rides, knowing that attempting a century with no training and 30 lbs over weight would be a recipe for failure.

The second idea that settled in to my head after admitting to a fallen season was that cycling could be fun again. Without the pressure of spring training, and  cold, early morning rides in the dark, I could take my time.  I could get up at 10 A.M. instead of 6 A.M.. I didn’t have to get a Strava PR on every hill. I didn’t even have to go out for 60+ mile rides. I could hook up with my friends, ride 20 miles, and be back in time for lunch; so that’s what we did. Along the way, we laughed. We had miles of laughter, camaraderie and friendship that can really only happen when you are all in spandex, flying down a country road, and having the time of your life. I didn’t get home thinking “phew, that was a tough ride”. I got home thinking “That was the most fun I have had on a bike in a long time. Who wants some chocolate milk?”

Now 2016 is upon us, and that means the pendulum should find the happy medium between the two states of existence. My goal is to ride hard enough that I feel like I have built myself up this season, but not so hard that I feel like a broken shell. Perhaps that means some spring training, and maybe even a few of the harder rides, but nothing so challenging that it takes athlete class performance to complete.

So what now? Well, with old man winter settling in finally, ski season is upon us and will likely consume the next few months. Any good weather days will still call for the road bike, but I am content for now to know that my weight loss is on track, skiing will commence if we get snow, and no matter what, remembering that having a good time is paramount.

Hiatus can be a good thing

Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing. For several year now, I have ridden during the summer months, and trained all through the winter and the spring. Usually in the autumn, I take it easy and go out for fun rides. After this past season though, I was ready for a break.

By “ready for a break” I really mean, ready to throw my bike off of a cliff. This past fall, I along side of my friends rode in the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, in Harrisonburg, WV. This ride, as claimed, really is one of the most grueling rides in the US. A single day Gran Fondo that climbs over 10,000ft in the 100 miles, and over 8000 of those feet are in the middle 50 miles. At the end, I was cooked. Done. Done with cycling. Ready to call it a draw. I hung up my bike and settled in for a long winter nap.

New Years day came and I decided that my hiatus had to come to an end, so in 30 degree temperatures, I went out for a short ride. After 15 miles and 1500 feet of climbing, I wound my way back home feeling energized. So the next day I went out again for 20 miles of the same terrain. I am thinking about those rides, and how great they were.

I will go back out again, as soon as the snow clears, but not because I am training for the season, but because I love it. Being away from cycling for several months made me appreciate how much I miss it. So for that reason, I will be out there this winter. Be happy first, and the rest will follow.

It’s not a matter of IF…

They say that when it comes to having an accident on the bike, it isn’t not a matter of if it is a matter of when. This weekend was my first “when”. 

The day started out full of omen (slipping on my buddy’s stairs and falling down in my cleats) and then he did the same. Wet leaves can be very treacherous! In the process of my slip and slide down a flight of stairs, I lost my glasses. When I fell they flew off my head and went in to a black hole nearby. I still don’t know where they went.

Not wanting to be late for the ride, we rolled out, me without eye protection. It was our first ride with this group, so we were both apprehensive. We rolled out at a moderate pace of 18mph or so, each taking turns at the front of the paceline. It was only a few miles in that the pace increased to 20+ and the hills started. After a brief but steep hill, I was off the back by about 50′ trying to get my heart rate down below 180. I knew I could easily catch back up, and that a downhill was coming up. The pack went out of sight over the ride and I laid down the hammer to catch up. Down the hill and around a curve, now pushing 30mph I saw a very cagey turn approaching. It was a shady, damp two lane road, with a down hill left turn, but the lane was almost covered in wet leaves. I hit the brakes a little to slow down before the turn and I immediately felt the back wheel slide about a foot left and right. Knowing that I needed to slow down, I eased up on the back brakes, applied evenly to the front as well, but now the bike was wobbling like a drunken sailor and I knew I had lost control of the bike. I fixed my eyes on the far bank of dirt of the turn hoping to ditch there. 

I didn’t make it. About five feet from the edge of the road the bike laid down beneath me. I remember hitting the ground. I slid for a while and then I think a tumble, and then I was off the road facing the other way. I saw a car coming around the corner and pulled myself off the road, quickly dragging my bike with me as the car passed within inches of running over my fallen steed. 

I slowly did an inventory of everything that hurt. Nothing seemed broken, but my shoulder hurt, my hip felt like it had been hit with an anesthetic, and my neck started to stiffen up almost immediately. I picked up my water bottles that went in two different directions and then my bike and realized that the front wheel was bent badly enough that it wouldn’t turn, even with the brakes all the way open. 

I walked down the hill a few feet to get off of the blind curve and sat on a rock wall to consider my next action. My buddy called my cell to see why I hadn’t caught up yet (sometimes I drop back but am back in the pack pretty quickly). I told him I went down in a bad turn and that I wasn’t riding. He came racing back. He called his wife and insisted that I go to the hospital. 

The hospital dressed my wounds (mostly road rash, some cuts and blood, etc) and X-Rayed my shoulder. Nothing broken. Phew! After the hospital I took the bike straight to the shop. The bike is the important part of this story, right? On the surface, aside from the front wheel, and some cosmetic scratches (and a sizable chip in the carbon near the steerer tube) the bike “seemed” ok. The shop is going to pull apart the head tube and ensure that nothing is bent or out of whack.

In the mean time, today is the dreaded “day after”. My shoulder hurts badly enough that I was glad to know that it isn’t broken. Without the X-Rays, I would think that something was. Bandages and Neosporin for the cuts and road rash, a sling for the shoulder and meds for the rest of the pain. The hip, shoulder and arms are all road rashed, and the amount of bruising and swelling is enough to keep my movement limited.

The good news is that it could have been worse. Much worse. It is an accident I can walk away from (or limp at least). Here’s to a speedy recovery for both me and my bike!

The best feeling in the world… ambition

With the main summer season drawing to a close, I am already mentally gearing up for the winter training. Working in the Information Technology industry means that I am well-learned from my school days regarding the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). The basic principle is that you identify a need, you design a solution, you develop the solution, test the solution and then implement it. By the time you implement a solution, you are back to the point at which you need to start identifying for the next generation of software and needs. I find this directly relates to cycling. *Bear with me here, I know it is a stretch*

We all have heard the story of the two cyclists in the fall. Cyclist A hangs up his bike and settles in for a long winter hibernation, while cyclist B spends the frigid winter either riding or on his indoor trainer. Come spring, cyclist A is starting all over, seeing none of his gains from the summer, where cyclist B is stronger and faster than he ever was.  I will never again be cyclist A. I have a tendency to schedule my most challenging events early in the spring (Gran Fondo NY, Harpoon B2B, etc) and in order to succeed at them, I have to train hard in the winter. I might even go as far as to say that my winter training is more intense than my summer riding. Last year I started training around February or so, with the serious training in March and April. It is now hardly November and I am already plotting my course for the training schedule. 

Last year I was determined to finish these events. This year, I am already setting my eye on strong finish time. I want to increase my overall speed, complete the events in faster time and not suffer through them. Suffering is for training rides, where as big events should be enjoyed. 

So this weekend I am putting away my short sleeve jerseys and taking out the winter gear. It is time to get to work!

A new love affair

When we start to get involved in a new  relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend, etc) we think about them a lot. We might even go so far as to call out sick and play hookey to spend time with them, or maybe take a day off of work during the week and have a nice picnic with them in the park. It is how we impress them, subconsciously stating that “I am available and you are important to me”.

I have decided to take a few days off to make this a long weekend to spend time with Suzy. The weather here is damn-near perfect. The temperature is in the mid 60’s during the day, crisp cool air, the leaves on the  trees are exploding with color and there are 10,000 places begging to be explored. Roads are getting a fresh tarmac in preparation for a snowy winter, and anyone who has had the pleasure will agree that a freshly paved road is pure gold when riding a bike.

I am excited to be out there on the bike instead of in the office on a Friday or a Monday. Instead of conference calls, I  will be yelling “car back” up the line. Instead of meeting reminders I will be signaling turns. Instead of stress causing my blood pressure to go up, I will be climbing hills, causing my heart to race.  Instead of deadlines, I will be holding the line.  I won’t spend time looking at network diagrams and Microsoft Outlook, I will be looking out over a landscape of autumn color from the top of local climbs.

Here’s to this weekend!