Hill Work in Ohio

Visit a town with some regularity and it can become so familiar it can start to feel like home. Add some good habits to the mix like cycling and strength training and you start to drop some of those bad travel habits like late night TV and snacks. Yesterday’s ride had me sleeping like a baby, up and at em’, and productive all day contrary to the usual travel induced, all day brain fog my head is in on any given business trip. Just like Guinness I just don’t travel well.

Heavy downpours accompanied by intense lightning discouraged my riding plans so I headed straight for the gym after a long day reporting, strategizing, communicating, barking…..you know… Work. The hour of pushing and pulling in a gym doesn’t quite match the calorie burn and post ride euphoria I get from the bike but the alternative was a few cold ones at the bar followed by poor food choices.

The next day brought clouds and light rain. I waited alone at Biowheels for the group to form until I was joined by Matthew and his friend Kyle. Now these guys are both fit (read: light and strong) hill climbers so I immediately offered up the chance for them to leave me behind. I am not sure if they were being polite or if they are secretly sadists prepared to bring the pain but they both agreed to ride with me in tow. So into the hill work through the rain we rode. I was riding well today so some adaptation had occurred over the last two days. I love the human body. Push it and it responds. The fact remains though, these guys took it easy on me.

The course was not much different than Monday up and down hills, through farmland and residential areas all beautiful to the eye. Thursday I put in a solo effort that added another thirty miles to the books. I return home to the hotel in time to pack the bike, Kit and business attire to prepare for Friday’s flight to Connecticut where I will ride on the roads of my youth and continue to prepare for my ten day cycling adventure in the mountains of Dahlonega, GA.

Off to Ohio

Work shuttles me once a month north to Ohio. When motivation is high, I bring the Mooney. On this trip I planned to spend a week in Cincinnati in servitude and then another week in Mystic, CT visiting folks. The prospect of two weeks off the bike inspired the necessary motivation to pack the bike and kit along with my business attire, drag the bike around, rent large vehicles, pay the baggage fees, and subject frame and wheel to airport portage abuse.

 I arrived at the Cincinnati airport on Sunday morning with full intentions on riding three to four hours in the seven hills. By the time I made it to the hotel two hours later, a massive headache had me face done in a pillow while my bike remained safe and secure in its travel case. The ride would have to wait. “Best laid plans…” The next day a colleague informed me that there was a group ride starting about seven miles from the hotel. Things were looking up.

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I arrived at Biowheels just in time to purchase some CO2 cartridges, borrow a track pump from the shop, top off the wheels, shake some hands and leave with the “A” group. The ladies and gentleman of this shop ride took off up the first hill climb like the “A” group hill climbers I am not. I was sucking some serious wind trying to hold their wheels for the next several miles while my bronchial tubes wheezed like a grampus reminding me that I was not prepared for hammering climbs. My colleague Matthew being a gentleman, rolled back to ride with me for the entire ride. I gave him an opportunity to leave me to my own devices but he refused and so I welcomed his company.

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It was a pleasant yet difficult ride, plenty of small steep hills and long steady climbs to help me prepare for Dahlonega, GA. We rode on roads reminiscent of my home town of North Stonington; stone embedded tarmac lined with stone walls and deciduous trees. Homes of affluence, farmland and forest filled the view. Hot summer air singed my lungs and warmed my quads as we meandered the seven hills of north of Cincinnati. I returned to my hotel room feeling great and anxious for the riding in store for the coming days.

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Inside Stories

“This is what made you cry”, I asked?

“It reminds me of you!”, she replied with an outpour of emotion instantly conveying to me that I was in her heart and in her mind… that I was loved deeply and without restraint. 20140610_082642-1

I had just finished reading a page from Inside Stories II upon her request as she was admittedly unable to complete the read on her own. The book is a sequel to Inside Stories containing pictures of the very labels you can find sewn inside a pocket or inside flap of one of their high quality road cycling garments. Apparently this label hit home.20140610_082737-1

It reads:

“We ride silently, like mime artists, through the city. Invisible lines guide us as we negotiate favourite corners, ridden with a little extra speed; that bench at the top of the hill, the perfect stop to marvel at the skyline; a shortcut behind an old pub, memories still ringing with drunken laughter.

We move with hardly a sound, uncovering the city with movement. Every rider draws their own intimate map of the metropolis with these untraceable grooves. The road continues to buzz with hard reality, but in amidst the din, thousands of invisible routes are blooming, as the two wheels carve new lines through the madness.”

One of the objectives of a savvy marketing team on a storied brand is to make an emotional connection with the consumer. Touch them in a way that cultivates a loyalty to the brand. To go so far as make an emotional connection with a customer’s spouse, well, then you know these guys have a finger on the pulse. I am speaking, of course, about the marketing genius of Rapha.

I discovered Rapha in 2009 while searching for tasteful cycling kit that performed well. What I found was an internet based brand with a website filled with road cycling content. The Continental was making its way across the USA, riding steep gravel roads on little known routes in some very remote areas of our beautiful country. The stories written by one of the riders in the group, photographs taken, or video filmed in iconic black and white, conveyed the effort and emotion, the very suffering experienced during a difficult climb or extended route through extreme weather. These stories reminded me of the countless hours I had spent in the saddle 25 years past.

Rapha had made that connection and then delivered on its promise.

The Elements

Two days riding in the hills of Sebring was a study of riding in the wind and rain. Like an illustration from Jo Burt the group remained in tight formation with the force of nature surrounding us like the darkness of night. Respite is found only for those skilled in the art  of sucking wheel. In front of me a rider begins to struggle with the affects and allows gaps to open then work his way back to the wheel causing the accordion effect I despise. Others in the group had less patience than I and began voicing their opinions emphatically. The gentleman rotated out and was gone.

It is the way of the cyclist. Keep up, contribute, and share, else go it alone. No one waits or hardly cares.

I spent a bit too long at the front in the wind. Failing to rotate before exhausting reserves I found it difficult to hold onto the back and I too was gone.  I was amongst the dropped in just over 20 miles leaving me alone and more than a little disappointed. A small groupetto of five formed that quickly became three. We three worked together pretty well but the work was hard and the result was marginal. The wind was winning.

I spent the balance of the day in recovery.

The news was foreboding. Heavy rain was expected on our second day and the morning sky confirmed its impending arrival. The peloton travelled at a fair clip over the hills, through the orange groves, and along the lake. “You must have had a good night’s sleep”, Ken News commented noting my arrival to the rest stop in good position. 

The sky grew grim and everyone instinctively mounted their bikes to finish the ride before it broke loose. We rode around the lake in formation with Sindicato taking lead. Jackie Leon was just in front of me riding confidently. I could not help but be impressed by the progress she has made in the past few years and when it was her turn she rode the front steady and strong.

Once again I spent too much time at the front and just before a set of hills that loosened a few of us off the back. About six in all we rode as the heavens poured rain like a waterfall in spring. We arrived at a gas station with 15 miles left when a rider said let’s hold up for a couple of guys. I played along and enjoyed a hot tea while we engaged in idle conversation.  The time seemed to be slipping away when I eventually asked, “for whom are we waiting?” “The SAG” was the response.

“I came to ride”, I muttered as I mounted the Mooney. “You’re a wild man”, was the response. I shuttered at the thought of spending hours with five shivering cyclist at a gas station waiting to be rescued rather than ride a mere 15 mile.  The rain continued to pour from the sky. Beads of water formed on the bill of my cap moving side to side with the cadence of my pedal stroke. Again like a Jo Burt illustration I had to breathe from the side of my mouth to avoid breathing water into my lungs.

Sleep came easy like it always does when you spend the day exposed to the elements.

Return to Sebring

I am looking forward to spending a spring weekend rolling around the hills, lakes and orange groves of Sebring, FL  with Ken and company from the Highland Pedalers. Two metric centuries should be just what I need to dislodge my fitness worries and add some much need miles to my base. I wouldn’t call the regular diet of rollers climbing, but the grades are just enough to shake you loose from the peloton should you arrive unprepared.  

The Highland Pedalers proudly host the Everglades Bicycle Club providing route marking, ride marshals and SAG for the EBC Spring Break Weekend. The routes are well marked, the rest stops are well stocked and the people are friendly. What I really dig about the weekend is the rural countryside we cruise around for a few hours each day.

If you are looking at getting the hell out of Miami for a weekend of countryside riding, pack up the SUV Wednesday night, skip work at 1:00 and head north to Sebring.

That’s what I will be doing.

Wasted

The day after a big ride can sometimes leave you without your mojo. Gym rats don’t get it. Tell a gym rat you were cooked after a hard 75 mile ride and they will ask, “are you sore?”  These guys don’t understand. An endurance athlete doles out the effort over four to five hours, exhausting energy stores of glycogen, draining his will, depleting his very soul.

No I am not sore, I am wasted.

Almost like a hangover, you pull yourself out of bed moving slow and deliberate. The mind in a haze, simple tasks take your entire focus. You slide your tongue across the roof of your dry sticky mouth to confirm the headache you feel is caused by dehydration. This is the kind of dehydration that takes an entire day to cure. After a few hours you give in and take some NSAIDS for relief. Staring off into the distance you keep telling yourself, “I have to ride. Just 30-40 miles will be good. Just go easy”. Then nothing, you don’t move an inch. Almost paralyzed you keep staring while feelings of guilt however strong cannot motivate you to ride. Your body knows what it needs and it is taking control.

Last night I spent an hour in the gym with Thomas providing direction. Today, I am a little sore…but I am not wasted.

Easter’s Best

Riding out on Saturday I came across Alex Labora returning from his morning jaunt. He was kind enough to roll in my direction for a while providing enough time to catch up and make plans to ride Sunday’s regular ride to Gorgio’s. This ride is usually pretty spirited and with the winds we have been enduring lately the lactic acid will flow.  Whether out front pulling or sucking wheel there will be little respite, no quarter for the weary.

The thought of Sunday’s effort made me rethink my Saturday mileage. I can feel Thomas’ Friday evening strength training on my legs while anticipating sixty at tempo while keeping cadence at 90-100. At Deerfield I topped off the hydration supply and squeezed in a bit of honey to fuel the Mito. I have changed my onboard nutrition towards the simple. Tea, lemon, and honey fill the bidons while a concentrated mixture inside a recycled EFS bottle is nestled in my right jersey pocket at the ready for quick refuels. The legs feel fine so the original sixty stay as planned.

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The return home consisted of a series of chases as I encountered solo riders en route. These carrots help me keep the pace high while maintaining my target cadence. Road construction forced me to ride some rough tarmac laden with debris. A quick fix following a flat was executed in the shade of the mangroves lining the sidewalk. A bench makes for light work by limiting time spent bent over the wheel. Five miles later while rolling through the city the rear tire took another hit. This time a serious gash was torn into the sidewall. Application of a Knog Porno Patch to the inside of the tire and a Park Super Patch to the tube had me mounting the wheel in less than 5 min.

Knog Patch

20140419_193414In a fit of hunger I pan roasted chicken breast in herbs and GI then quickly dispensed with it. My simple on board nutrition leaves me little in the tank post ride and my restricted diet does not provide for quick fixes like recovery bars and drinks. As my hunger subsides so does my aggressive sense of urgency. No time to relax, must rush to the LBS to restock on tires and tubes. I prefer the comfort of a 24mm width tire. This store had only 23mm, so after some muttering under my breath, an impulse buy has me carting home a couple of Continental Grand Prix 4000… in Yellow! I am sure the racing thoroughbreds will be scoffing as yellow is exclusively reserved for the wearer of the maillot jaune, the leader of Le Tour.  “Sometimes as cigar is just a cigar”. I just like yellow.

 

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Saturday night I changed two tires while simultaneously cooking dinner for Renate and me. Who says men don’t multitask. Dinner was delicious. The wheels look great. A quick chain cleaning completes the Mooney’s preparation for Sunday’s ride.

 

 

 

 

 

Pm003As it turns out, I did not wake early enough to join the group ride. Good thing too. The legs were well worn and a decision to keep the ride down to two hours was a prudent one. Still the bike looks great wearing it’s Easter’s Best.

 

2014 Six Gap Century

It may be premature, but I am setting my sites on the Six-Gap Century in September. It seems almost idiotic that this is the result of surviving a four day training block without any residual Sciatica pain. Friday night I cruised through the gym, Saturday I put in forty miles with decent results and Sunday I turned in another forty-two. Tonight’s gym workout finishes the four day block.

Planning out the annual training calendar is always exciting. You look forward with childlike enthusiasm at the coming months. Free from the pain of injury, the stress created by deadlines, the concern of time consumed by family affairs and free from self doubt, all is possible. Soon you have a Grandfondo scheduled every weekend and a training schedule that looks more like a professional race calendar. More than a little pruning produces a more realistic calendar and promises to keep Renate from going AWOL.

So that’s it.

The 2014 Six Gap Century.

One big event to focus on.

Everything else is training.

The ride consists of eleven thousand feet of climbing over six mountain passes with none tougher than Hogpen Gap averaging a 7% grade over seven miles. Your thoughts transcend reality as Hogpen slows you to a crawl while expending maximum effort. Once you crest the gap you descend at break neck speeds while experiencing a freefall into fear.  

Oh yes please, more…more of this.

Good Biker

I am going on my 15th month of Base Training.

Consistency has been difficult with sickness and injuries plaguing my return to the bike. Returning Sciatica pain is my current obstacle to progression. This time it took five days to overcome and consisted of 2-3 waves of excruciating pain per day lasting 60-90 minutes long.  Ibuprofen doesn’t touch the pain and doctors won’t prescribe the good stuff. You just have to curl up into the prone position with a pillow between the legs and deal with it. Sciatica has introduced a whole new level of suffering for me. After the painfest, it has taken me a few weeks of light training to return to workable condition and have the confidence to start base training again.

So April I begin all over again.

Yesterday’s ride started slow while a steady headwind kept the effort higher than the MPH would indicate. On a time schedule, I turned around after an hour and headed home. Construction detours lead me onto traffic heavy South Bayshore Drive. Before long a fellow rider rolled up behind me dressed in Discovery Channel kit from the late 90’s. Apparently annoyed at my pace, he veered erratically left in a small gap between cars and started passing a bus on the left while its left turn signals were blinking then ran a red light. I caught up with him at the next red light where he was impatiently waiting for the obstructing traffic to clear. The light turned green while I rolled by blurting out, “not the brightest bulb in the box,  are yah”.

The Discovery rider, apparently pissed, rode by at a brisk paceand without thinking, I gave chase. “What are you doing?” I asked myself in disbelief. “You are not the guy rider you were in 2012, let him go – this is BASE TRAINING”. Before I could quit I caught his wheel.

He poked his head up from his effort to forget me and noticed I was on him. He then commences to attempt to ride me off his wheel. To my surprise, he cannot and so he begins playing track style cat and mouse. Dart to the left, sprint, Zig right, Zag left. I remained the tenacious cat exhausting his prey. Disgusted he could not drop me, he slows thinking he will jump on my wheel when I pass. His move fully anticipated, my mind and drive train were prepared for a full on sprint. With Cars to the left, the road narrowed to fit only one bike. I knew the idiot had pigeon holed himself. Out of the saddle, I launched myself passed him and into the narrow gap between car and sidewalk. A red light would soon shorten the affair. Discovery rider had once again decided to pass cars on the left into oncoming traffic and travelled through the intersection at speed without concern for the red light nor the cars swerving to avoid collision.

For a moment I watched him as his image waned. I wanted to chase and wondered wantonly if I should have ditched the red light myself. Then a SUV pulls up alongside with his window down…

“You’re a Good Biker “, he exclaims.

Return of the Commute

Sick of my own whining I revert to my time honored solution for laying down mid-week miles. Yes, I have returned to commuting. Easier said than done, working the preparation and logistics into a routine takes some forethought and yields a few mistakes. Albeit, the same mistakes I made and mended the last time I started down this path which were the same… 

Yeah you get the picture, stop something long enough and your routine is no longer a routine.

The solution is in the doing.

Commuting by bike changes the rhythm of my day. I awake and leave the house a little earlier and cannot help feeling like it is Saturday morning. The ride itself never fails to make me feel connected to nature, really experience the weather and become part of the landscape unfolding before me. Although some motorists may temporarily derail the euphoric mood with their poor behavior I always return to center and feel more positive as the work day begins.

Cleaning up in a sink has its challenges but all can be overcome with good preparation. Monday I bring my Rapha Soignuer Bag to the office containing Tuesday’s office attire, a wash cloth and small towel, the return ride’s kit and the essential toiletries. Well appointed luggage is the trademark of an organized gentleman.

Repeating this process for Wed/Thurs delivers two days of excuse free riding and leaves only Wednesday for that post commute drive debate. That is three days of riding sandwiched by two days in the gym completing a work week’s worth of workouts.

The solution is always found in the doing.

Get on a Bike and Ride!