A new twist

In order to ride this weekend out to Montauk, by friend B is coming down to stay with me tonight and we will roll out together in the morning. (Is 4:30 considered morning or really just late the night before?) In order to get his bike to me, he is going to take the train in to the city with his bike and ride to my place. So I rode in to work this morning so that we can both ride out together. 

When I stepped out the door this morning, I was shocked by how warm it was. It should be evident from my blog entries so far that I have yet to ride in the heat this year. Based on how my leg has been feeling (worse than I would like), I made a conscious decision to take my time getting to work. I told myself to “dial it back“, don’t push too hard and just take your time.  I should have known myself better. The first few miles were as expected. I rolled down hill towards the major roads before turning West. I was making pretty good time, slowly turning over the giant gear of the single speed commuter bike. After a while, I got on Skillman Ave, which is a long gradual descent. I was able to time the lights perfectly and made it across Queens in just a few short minutes until I reached the bridge.

On the bridge, I sat back, relaxed and just took my time, following a large guy on a mountain bike with full suspension. I followed him about half way up the bridge.  The whole time it felt like I had a small child in my brain saying “Can we go fast now? Now? How about now? Can I pass him? Come on! Let me pass him! I won’t push too hard, I promise. Just a little faster. Please? How about now?…”  Eventually, I submitted to the inisistent voice in my head and pulled out the governor. I passed the guy in front of me, and the guy in front of him, and the next three people, etc.

Before I realized it, I was attacking the second half of the bridge. My heart rate is up, I am panting a little bit, but I am really sweating. I expected to see someone off my wheel, but when I looked back, I was all alone. I had dropped the small group I started the climb with.

My “slow and easy” commute has turned in to a race. I check my speed and time for the commute once I get to work, and I am a full mph faster on average that I have been on any other day doing the commute. So much for taking it easy!


A general post

It feels like there isn’t enough time in the week to get everything done. I am not overstating a general fact, but instead conveying an obvious observation. Between life, commuting and the job to which I do, it feels like I have to plan out my time in days, not hours. I looked at my bike today, hanging on the wall in my apartment. It is still filthy from the last ride on the Gran Fondo in the pouring down rain. I have to clean it, get everything lubed and ready for another epic ride this coming weekend. 

Montagna 'dell OrsoI spent the weekend resting, hoping that the Prednisone and the muscle relaxers would clear up the Sciatica that has left me in agonizing pain. For the most part, the pain has gone. I still feel it though, enough to worry that it isn’t really gone, it’s just not as painful as it was. That being said, we had the nicest day of the year here. The cold rain finally broke on Sunday and Monday, with two incredible days of 75 degrees and bright blue skies.  Where was I? On the couch, resting. The rest of the week is supposed to be more rain followed by 90 degree heat. It appears that I have missed both days of spring.

More importantly than the weather though, this weekend will mark the longest ride I could have ever imagined.  Last year, on this ride, I achieved my first century. It was very flat, with all of the hills in the last six miles. I bonked. I epically just about fell off the bike. I had no more water, and needed food long before the last hour. I remember swaying on the bike going up the hills, wondering if I would fall in to the road or not. Somehow, I stayed upright and finished the ride. My buddy said to me “Next year, we go the whole distance, from Manhattan!”. I thought he was crazy. Perhaps I still do. On Saturday morning, at 5AM, we will embark on a 153 mile one-day ride. Still a very flat ride, but I am better prepared and a better cyclist. 

As an aside, I would recommend membership for anyone who is active (cyclist, runner, triathelete, etc) to get a membership to Active.com and ActiveAdvantage.com  Today I was in a free giveaway (first 5 entrants) to get an entry fee to the Ramapo Rally. I got in for free!  Not only does the site provide a lot of good information about activities in the area, but there are also hundreds of great articles about everything from training plan, to nutrition and recovery.  

To more good riding and a great season!

Enduring through tough conditions

Sunday, the Gran Fondo came and went and I rode my heart out. It started with a 5:00 AM arrival in the dark to the George Washington Bridge. After a brief ride up the bridge we were sectioned in to corrals by our numbers. I suppose we were about half way across the bridge, where we stood in the dark, in the cold with wind blowing about 20 mph across the bridge. People were crouching down behind the road divider in order to stay out of the wind.

At 7AM we rolled out in to the pouring rain. The peleton was about 2500 riders, which was far less than had registered, but based on the weather (50 degrees and raining hard) I wasn’t surprised. The first 40 miles on the way to Bear Mountain was great. We were feeling full of power, regardless of being out in the pouring rain.  We were rolling pretty fast in any paceline we could grab or lead. Then came Bear Mtn. The rain started to pick up at the base and we began our climb. About half way up, I was really suffering. My glasses had fogged up, the rain was really coming down now, and there was heavy fog on the mountain. Visibility was about 20′ but I climbed. At the top of the mountain it was wickedly cold. We grabbed food, and drink and descended immediately. Standing there we started to shiver. The descent was freezing and due to the rain, we stayed on the brakes.

What wasn’t expected was another 30 miles of climbing directly after Bear Mtn.  There were two additional major climbs, topping out around 20% grade. With each rest stop, we stopped for less time. We crossed the finish line in style, albeit soaking wet, freezing and tired. Of course the next day was 80 degrees and sunny. Now in less than 2 weeks I will be riding 150 miles from NYC to Montauk in one day, and then the Harpoon B2B. The real event season has begun. I hope it doesn’t entail riding in a lot more rain and cold, but it won’t stop me if it does.

The commute…

BikeCommuteTwo weeks ago I rode to and from work. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it isn’t that far of a commute. In fact, it is only 7 miles, and with those few miles, it is all relatively flat. Here is how it shakes out…

Out the door and through some relatively residential streets (for this area, that is rare). Then on to a larger road with lights every 3 blocks and down a long hill. Across 8 lanes of the “Boulevard of death” and make a left. Some climbing to follow, then a nice bike path, some descending and then the bridge.  The bridge is the only real climb. It is about a hundred feet. Gently sloped and long going in to the city, steep and short coming home.  After the bridge, all bets are off. It is like trying to ride your bike inside a blender. The city streets of Manhattan are bad enough most of the time, add in the rush hour traffic the proximity to a bridge/tunnel and we are into full-on mayhem.  There is a bike lane. I swear there is. Cars and drivers don’t know or care though, and it becomes a fast paces game of “thread the needle” between cabs, trucks and buses. The only comfort here is that I am not alone. I am right on the wheel of some other commuter in front of me, and there is a long line of cyclist behind me.  After a few hectic blocks I am at work.

Two weeks ago I rode in, and somehow strained something in my back or my glutes. Much like last time, I felt it start to tighten and strain like an anchor line on a cargo ship. Somehow my time for the ride home was the fastest I have done, but I was laid out on my back for almost a week afterwards.  The commute will resume in a few weeks. I don’t want to chance hurting myself again before the Gran Fondo, the Ride to Montauk or the Harpoon B2B.

I said I wouldn’t do that…

When I started this blog, one of the things I told myself is that I would write. For better or for worse, I would continue to write. This wouldn’t be like a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, where most people go for about six weeks and then you never see them again until they want to cancel their membership.  I WANT to write. I want to write about cycling. I want to share the experience of it, as best as I can using words. (OK, and maybe some pictures and/or videos)

After the battle with Bronchitis last month, training went back in to full swing. The following week, we rode 115 miles up and over Bear Mountain. It was my first time seeing it from a bike, and I was scared. I guess the training has paid off so far, because while it was a difficult 4.5 mile climb, it wasn’t terrible. We took our time, and talked the whole way up. We rounded a bend and were surprised that we had reached the top already.  A long day on the bike overall, but a great ride.

Then another disaster struck. Last week I was riding home from work (more about the commute via bike later) and my back started to hurt. The type of back pain you-know-will-be-a-problem-later kind of sore. By the time I got home it was dark out and I could hardly carry my bike up the stairs. The next day could best be described as excruciating pain. I could barely walk. My lower back had completely seized up and hurt to move even a little bit. Like an idiot with no sense I went to work anyway, and was performing a hobble/shuffle from my desk to my many meetings. The next morning I couldn’t walk at all.

That weekend I had to make the call that I wouldn’t be on the training ride. It was a difficult call to make, but I knew that in the long run, it would be best. Instead I offered my services to map out a difficult ride in my absence. Later it was quoted as “one of the hardest rides we have ever done” by those who rode it.

This week my back is feeling better. The muscles have relaxed and I can now feel that the source of the issue wasn’t my back at all, but a combination of my hips and my hamstrings. Stretching has helped that along in preperation for this week’s epic ride. We are planning for 140 miles, and about 11,000 ft of climbing. It will be a very long, difficult day. The Gran Fondo (110 miles, hilly) is only 2 weeks away now, the Montauk Ride (150 miles, flat) only 4 weeks away and the Harpoon B2B (150 miles, hilly) only 6 weeks away, this weekend is the last of the hard training rides until late June/July.  

More posts to follow. There is too much to update in a single post.