Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

It is still all about the big ring

Big, Bigger, Bigger still!
Amongst cycling hardmen, the term "53x11" refers to pushing the hardest gear you have. The 53 big ring was macho and for generations of cyclists it was the only option.  Riding the same gearing combo as the winners of the Tour de France meant you were a "real" cyclist.  Triples were for wimps and having one was paramount to wearing a shirt that said, "loser."

Several years ago the "compact" crank was born and the 53 has largely been replaced by a 50 up front.  The change to a 50 was really to accommodate the change from the small ring up front from a 39 to a 34.  This allowed those with more than 4% body fat to climb at a cadence higher than 40 on sustained road climbs.  Although they have become the norm now, the 50/34 crankset was initially referred to as, "the proud mans triple."

Within our band of merry men the throw down is still about gears.  For gravel rides in particular we get excited about big rings.  The difference is, now we are talking about how big we can go on the back cassette.  

Cassettes ranges of 11-23 to 11-26 were about it.  If you wanted to draw attention you could go 11-28.  You can climb most paved roads with a 34 small ring up front and a 28 big ring in back.  

With Gravel you can't go too low.  Even the murders are sporting 32s in back.  I felt like I had a pizze plate in back when I went to a 36.  Now some are super sizing and going as big as a 40 in back.  KB went sub compact in front.  He is ahead of the curve.

If you were on a Sunday ride with us and the conversation turned to drugs.  We might be talking EPO or we might be talking Flowmax.  That is just where we are.

However, don't think we have become a bunch of pot bellied, primal jersey wearing old farts.  We are the fastest bunch of bad asses that AARP is chasing.  The message is the same for AARP and other masters cyclists.  Keep chasing; you'll never catch us.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Not dead; just resting

Hottie and Evo rolling fat at Long Beach, Washington

When you follow a blog and all of a sudden it goes quiet, typically something less than awesome is going on.  The awkward pause before the bad news.  

Not this time.  Work is busy.  Fun is keeping us busy and life is still screaming at mach one.  I've been writing; I just haven't been posting.  I'll catch up soon. Well, soonish.  

In the meantime.  Here are a few pics to make you wonder....
Alaska or Maui ?
Lester Road welcoming Committee
Grandkids getting wet
Hottie at the falls
Grandson Drew and mom Julie
El Chefe' stylin' it
Men and Murders in the Methow

Monday, May 22, 2017

4 weeks out, 4 hours and 4 zones

McWoodie, AA and Whiplash overlooking Seattle
After nine of us circled Mercer in the sunshine, five of us refused to go home.  We added some kilometers and some climbing.  That isn't noteworthy.  What made this one special to me was that I was among the guys who added on.  This was the best I felt on a bike in 2017.  I ain't fibbing.  Now all I have to do is go long on kilometers and short on carbs. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The best ride of my life

Aside from the wider tires, the Sunday ride looked like so many others.....

When El Jefe referred to a specific late March team ride as the best ride of my life my first thought was that I considered it the worst ride of my life.  How could a ride where you get dropped, have to call for a ride and end up in the ER be your best ride? 

My perplexed expression sparked him to further explain, “You were finally able to get a diagnosis for a recurring problem that could have had catastrophic results if undiagnosed.” 

After spending Sunday afternoon in the ER the events of the next weeks played out a predictable story.  An appointment with a cardiologist resulted in a plan for surgery.  Medication in advance of surgery and preparatory tests all hit the calendar radar. My denial skillset was overwhelmed.  This was going to suck.

While I generally subscribe to the philosophy that minor surgery happens to someone else and major surgery is you, this one isn’t minor for anyone.  As heart surgeries go this leans toward, but does not reach, the minor end of the spectrum.  It is, however, your freaking heart. An overnight stay at the hospital would be a first for me.
Even though I am more of a sprinter, they gave me GC socks.  I didn't complain.
The surgery went well but you have to grade on a curve. Grading on a curve has been a concept I have been struggling to embrace for a few years. Even so; it seems to be becoming a way of life.  I was hurting when I woke up and the first few hours we no fun at all.
I dug deep into my suitcase of courage
Hottie was by my side for the ugly hours after surgery and by the time I was feeling better my teammates started showing up with well wishes. The stuff those doctors can do is really nothing short of miracles.

The next morning I got the figurative slap on the ass and was sent home.  The next week went according to plan and based on my follow up with the doctor, I am on the path to what should be a full recovery.
Recovery isn't all bad......
Exactly one week after waking up in the cardiac ward of the hospital I was smiling as I applied Buttonhole in preparation for my first post-surgery ride.  I watched my heart rate and stayed focused on how everything felt. I had to fight my inclination to get out of the saddle and power up a short climb. In that sense, it wasn’t an easy ride. 

The mental energy required to keep my heart rate in zone one was equal to, or greater than, the effort to maintain zone four or five.  Once you’re in zone five you just keep the needle buried and in a way that becomes easier.

I’ve got the green light to start increasing my ride duration and assuming that goes well then I can begin to increase intensity in a few weeks.
Post Surgery ride with Hottie.  I felt Strong like Bull.
I’m sure in no time I will be back to sharing stories of big rides and babbling on about equipment reviews and other meaningless drivel.

On the bright side, as age and circumstance weaken my powers of denial, it won’t be too long before I will be able to expand my forgetfulness skillset. Someone thought through this process.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I'm melting!

March 25th.  Looking East, Northeast.  My favorite sign!
The mud season is upon us and while many dread this time of year, the hope it brings as it ushers in spring, energizes my soul.  I went for a ride and it looked like this.
Further south, looking north.
A couple miles up Texas Creek.  For today, this was far enough.  Looking south
The back road was clear as well.  
I took note of how I have learned to spot animal bones among branches and roots.  The flair at the ends is usually more pronounced that roots or branches.  This time of year as the snow melts out the ditches reveal more than a few winter casualties.
Winter hasn't totally given up.  This is how we spent the morning.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The ghost on the machine

They say the only thing worse than riding in the rain is riding on a trainer.  In this case, “they” are correct. Never the less sometimes riding indoors is the best option. Weather, daylight, schedule or other circumstances dictate that you must log time in the cave.

I set up the rollers and get my bike from the garage.  Then I put on a costume and add a layer because it is cold downstairs.  I gather my shoes, music media and a water bottle and saunter down the stairs in near silence.  The room is quiet and the sound of my cleats clipping echoes in the stillness.

Once I start spinning I put some music in my ears and start watching my bike computer to monitor how hard I’m working.  The plan today is to warm up then hold my effort at the “sweet spot” for an hour and a half with four two minute hard efforts spread out at fifteen minute intervals.  After each interval, instead of pure recovery, I just drop back to sweet spot (max fat burning) and hold that.
Some other Fred
The music in my ears drowns out the turbine noise of the trainer.  Before long my effort has warmed me and I take off my sweatshirt.  I have a towel under my bike and a hand towel on my handlebars to catch the sweat that is now rolling down my arms.

As I ramp up my effort at first it feels strange after holding a set level for so long.  Then I feel strong and as the second minute expires I am starting to falter.  As I back off at first it feels easy then I have to really watch my speed to keep my effort at the level I am supposed to maintain.

There is no pretty scenery or companions to chat with.  This isn’t a ride it is a workout.  I watch the clock.  I enjoy every run.  I enjoy every ride outdoors.  I’m not a fan of my time on a trainer. 

Many years ago I did a triathlon with some co-workers. As part of our training we met to swim laps at a high school pool two mornings a week.  I hated every lap.  If there was a, “zone” or “flow state” I never found it.   I counted the laps and was bored by the second lap.  

I am keenly aware of Einstein’s theory of relativity and for this activity time is relatively slow.  I keep measuring things in terms of, “last one before the last one” and similar mental gymnastics to put lipstick on this pig of a workout.
This lacks punctuation.  I'm thinking a period plus either a question or exclamation mark.

Finally I am cooling down and I hit my targeted time.  As if to prove to myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought I add an extra kilometer before stepping off.

The room is once again quiet expect for my breathing.  There is condensation on the window and I have warmed the room several degrees.  I pull off my shoes and collect my water bottle and earphones and Garmin device.  I feel tired but satisfied.  It is said success comes from deliberate practice and it doesn’t get more deliberate than riding on a trainer.  It is just one check in one box but when strung together it creates success. 

I walk down the hall and the tile feels cold on my stocking feet.  Before heading upstairs I look back down the hallway toward the den.  There are footprints on the tile from my wet socks and it looks like a ghost has walked down the hallway.

I am that ghost.