Meet Suzy

The new girl

The new girl

There is always something to cheer me up. In this case, it is Suzy, my new S5. Today was her inaugural ride. It was, well, FANTASTIC!!!!!! With all that has been going on lately, a day like today is exactly what I needed. We rolled out around 8AM, the 4 of us going over a route we haven’t done in over a year. Riding Suzy was effortless. Over the course of the next 45 miles, we rolled over some great roads in Westchester County, through towns, over hills and down long descents. I really wanted to put her through the paces so I would know what needs to be adjusted. Other than some slight numbness in my hands around mile 20, it was pure joy. The climbs were faster than I have ever climbed them before and the descents were faster and more stable. I didn’t want the ride to end.

Unless next weekend… when I will give her more road to eat!

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Enthusiasm versus obsession

There is only a slight difference between enthusiasm and obsession. An obsession is defined by need where enthusiasm is fueled by desire. When it comes to cycling, it is difficult for me to draw the line.

I have been plagued by a lot of work for my job this week, and have been working long hours. That being the case, as well as a lot of work this weekend meant calling off any riding this weekend. The last thing I need is to get a phone call for work while I am riding and be several hours from being able to get back to a computer. That being said, I feel the pressure of not riding this week.

As I walk by the room I store my bike in, I hear this angel and the devil on my shoulders having the following argument:

Devil: You know you really should be out there on your bike today. 

Angel: But it is just one week off. You deserve some rest.

Devil: The weather is great outside. How often do you think about not being to ride when the weather is just right?

Angel: You would jeopardize your job just because we have some sun?

Devil: Not every ride has to be 100 miles. Just go out for a little while.

Angel: You have so many other things to do right now, including working.

 

This argument goes on and on. While I am sure I captured the argument correctly, I don’t know that I have the right roles. I will let them duke it out for now, but in the end, this is my week off. My time to just relax a little while I focus on work and obsess about the arrival of my new bike. 

Sweet success

Finish Line Photo!

Finish Line Photo!

Sometimes, things go according to the plan. That being said, usually the plan is the “best case scenario” where nothing goes wrong. In cycling this means that the sun is shining all day, the wind is at your back, the roads were freshly tarred only a few weeks back, and everything else that could go wrong doesn’t. With a few minor exceptions, that is the perfect description for what happened during the Niagara Falls Gran Fondo.

Unlike the other Gran Fondos I have done, this one had favorable weather. It was cool in the morning, about 45 degrees, but warmed up significantly to a balmy 65 during the day. The skies were blue all day, and the wind was fairly mild. I was able to demo the Cervelo S5 for the ride, and now I have a new love affair. The woman running the demos from the Cervelo tent had to almost wrestle it from me. More on that later.

The start line was fairly chilly, but not too bad, and we self-seeded in the 5+ hour completion pen and we set off around 7AM. The  views were fantastic. The roads were completely closed to car traffic, and many of them were freshly paved. At one point we were riding on the QEW (highway) which was as smooth as glass, and then riding through the Thorold Tunnel. In the tunnel as we whizzed past as 25 mph, there was a guy on the sidewalk playing the accordion. The effect was fantastic and surreal.

After several more miles of  scenic views, we reached the KOM climb. At first it seemed like it wasn’t going to be too bad. Honestly, we had already climbed worse earlier in the day. Then we crested a rise and saw why it is called “The Wall”. A section of road at close to 18% grade rose in the distance at an angle that seemed to be an illusion. Like many hills that seem larger from a distance, I expected this one to become “more realistic” once we found its base. At the base, I threw away realism and just dropped to the lowest gear I had. It wasn’t long before my heart rate was maxed at 177bpm and I was struggling to stay moving forward, standing on the pedals at a whopping 3mph. I knew I could reach the top, but my efforts of determination were being thwarted by the masses of people who were dismounting and walking up the hill. In my brain I was wrestling with the idea that the hill was going to beat me because look at what it did to all of these other people! I wrestled my super light and twitchy S5 up the hill and rode over the top with beaming pride. I wasn’t the fastest. In fact my buddy beat me my almost 40 seconds out of my 8.5  minute KOM result, but I made it.

The remainder of the ride was almost done at Time Trial pace to keep our time under 4:30:00, but we did stop to have a sip of champagne at one of the more popular rest stops. (honestly, who gets to ride on the highway, closed to traffic, through tunnels that go under water, drink champagne and ride a flagship bike?) The whole event is like a dream come true.

I guess hard work DOES pay off!

I’m back, baby!

Apparently I wasn’t as far off the proverbial trail as I thought I was. After my renewed resolve from my last post, I did exactly as I said I would. I cut out all junk, from my diet, no more processed sugars, no soda at all (only water or tea), and removed gluten. I rode in to work (about 8 miles each way) several days last week. The result? Not (too) bad.

This past weekend in prep for the Gran Fondo Niagara, my friend Byron and I, along with Mike and Shawn rode a route we named the Bear Mountain Express. It rolls about 80 miles total with the turn around point at the top of Bear Mountain. With 8,000 of climbing over the 80 miles, we were all sufficiently wrung out. We had great weather the entire day, and no incidents (aside from a few turn arounds). Our speed was slower overall that I would have liked to have seen, but after taking so much time off, I was happy with the ride. I felt strong all day long. 

Tonight I rode a brief (30 minute) recovery ride, and tomorrow and Wednesday I will commute in on the bike. This weekend is the big event. I am as prepared as I am going to be at this point. 

I’ve met my enemy, and his name is ‘arrogance’

First and foremost: I am sorry. I have been away from writing and from cycling all together. The writing more than the cycling, but as the two go hand in hand for this blog, a lack of one meant a lack of the other. My apologies all around for not writing sooner. Now that is out of the way, let’s move on… 

A few weeks ago I was helping to bring some ‘new’ cyclists in to the sport. We were riding easy, only 30 miles or so, and at a slower than normal pace. We were throwing out tips along the way regarding both ascending hills and descending. At the end of a 30 mile ride one morning, I was talking with my friend B and we both concluded that we don’t remember the last time we went out for a ride and weren’t “pushing it in to the red” for the entire ride.  The following week, we did the same with the same group and then I rode a 62 mile group ride with the neophyte cyclists in our group. We rolled slow for the day, and it was a great accomplishment for them to have ridden this. I then spent a week off the bike. Here’s the issue:

That makes four (4) weeks of not really riding much, and never pushing very hard. When I was on the bike I had a false sense of ease. The devil on my shoulder was suddenly very active. “Eat more, you can burn it off!” he said, along with “Go ahead, have another glass of wine, your riding will be fine.” Coupled with a few stressful weeks at work, the cycling came to a slow churn and my weight went up, and the fitness level dropped dramatically.

Here’s the rub; this past weekend I rode in the Golden Apple. It is a group ride put on by a local bike club. I figured “100 miles, no problem, I can ride that. How many other centuries have I done this year? It will be a cake walk.” -said by the arrogant devil on my shoulder. I couldn’t have been less prepared if I tried.

After the first ten (10) miles, there was an optional 1 mile uphill time trial. I imploded on the hill. Not even 200 meters in, my heart rate spiked to 185 and I was forced to slow down. The rest of the TT was spent at a measly pace. Several people released 30 seconds after me passed me before I reached the end.  After the TT, the ride had unrelenting rolling hills. (7,500+ ft of climbing). We were making good time, but at mile 50 something terrible happened. I bonked. I felt the power drain from me, and I was scrambling to eat as much as fast as I could just to stay on the bike. After a miserable 7 miles in steep, short hills, we made it to the rest stop. I was eating and drinking enough to want to vomit, but I felt recovered so we pressed on. Less than 10 miles later, I went back in to the bonk. Small hills were killing me, my max speed was 11 mph, and I was wobbly on the bike. At one point I was climbing next to a drainage ditch and thought that falling off the bike in to the ditch would be sweet release from the torture I was in. 

I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t eaten right the week before, I hadn’t trained ride the month before and being 15 lbs heavier than I should have been (25 heavier than I was at the start of the season) was a testament to the idea that my own arrogance was at fault. I believed for the short time leading up to the ride that I was more or less invincible on the bike. I could do whatever I wanted and I would get through it. Having to cut the 100 mile ride short at 81 miles is a rude enough awakening for me. 

So now what?

  1. Commute to work via bike as much as humanly possible.
  2. Drink only water. No soda, no wine, no more junk.
  3. Eat like I did during the winter. No sugars, low/complex carbs.
  4. Work on core exercises and stretching daily. 

The Gran Fondo Niagara Falls is in two weeks. I know that I can’t be in my top form, but I can be FAR from my worst, and far better than where I was on Sunday. 

Cycling Evangelism

If you love something, do it well and share it. I spent a lot of time on the bike, and a lot of that time either having fun or training hard. No matter what type of ride it is though, I look back at each and every ride and realize that I have never had a bad time on the bike. Sometimes it is cold, sometimes it is hot. It rains, it snows, it is windy. My legs hurt, I suffer up hills, I bonk. I get flat tires, I have had serious (enough) mechanical issues on the bike. I am still willing to say that any day on the bike is a good day.

I want to share that. Maybe cycling isn’t for everyone, I am not making that judgement call.  When friends talk to me about cycling though, the conversation often ends with them making the statement “I have to get my bike out of storage and go for a ride“. When they hear about my rides they shy away from saying things like “I want to ride with you“, but that isn’t what I want. There is plenty of time for me to go out alone and suffer. Sometimes I want to help others get in to cycling.  To understand that the bike doesn’t HAVE to be uncomfortable. That hard days can be good days.

This Sunday, we are going out with a group, some of who are new to cycling. I am über excited about this. Not because it will be a long ride (it won’t) and it won’t be difficult, but because I can share in some of the simple joys of cycling. I can share the feelings of freedom, of conquest, of comraderie, and of being on top of the world. I am looking forward to teaching about pacelines, high cadence, heart rate, calling out road hazards, and just having a good time.

It is easy to say “if others can see cycling the way I do, how could you not love it like I do?”. Cycling may not be for everyone, but giving it a fair shot means getting all of the help you can in the beginning. It means gettings help to understand the mechanics of what works and avoid some of the pitfalls that makes it frustrating.

NYC Citibike

If you are in the city, you will see them everywhere. Almost on every street corner, at most traffic lights and traveling with traffic, you can always spot the blue Citi Bike.  Today was the first time I have taken one. I had an appointment about 10 blocks away, and figured this was the perfect reason.

It was easy. Just swipe your keytag (if you are a yearly member), take the bike and go. I was at my destination in less time than if I had to take the subway or fight over hailing a cab. Dropping off the bike was just as easy. Just slide it in to an empty dock. Viola! 

As I said to someone earlier today… CitiBike is the best new way to get around NYC!