Saturday, June 29, 2013

How 75 miles and the wrong size shoes can humble you.

Sunday's 35 mile ride
As many of you know, I rode in the National MS Society's Tour De Farms in DeKalb the 22nd and 23rd of June. It was my second charity ride, but it was the longest ride I have ever done.

It's a two day event, with the big mileage day on Saturday (126) and smaller on Sunday (75,50,35). There were other mileage options on Saturday, 75,50,35 as well.

On Saturday morning, I was nervous. My bride woke me at 5:05am, not allowing me to wake to the horrible cry of the alarm clock. That was nice. She also had fresh coffee and peanut butter toast with a side of banana waiting for me both days. As I drove to my friend Todd's house, who has two family members with MS, I kep going over the routine of getting my shoes on, clipping in and out at stops and so on. I was a nervous wreck.

I also looked at the radar before I left. Alot of nasty weather was already in DeKalb, and was rapidly approaching the Aurora area. I knew from the information I read in the rider packet, they would still ride even if it rained. Thunderstorms would delay the ride.

And so they did. For an hour.

Todd and I trundled into the stadium where a variety of high carb breakfast foods were being offered. I chose to stick with a bagel and cream cheese(that was in a squeeze bottle too!). No coffee, only for the simple fact that I wasnt sure how long we would be waiting and I didnt want to make a hundred trips to the bathroom before the start.

Saturday's ride was good, however very painful for my feet. I was having a shoe dilemma that has since been remidied. Getting the right size shoe would make things alot easier. Logged 75 miles on Saturday. My longest ride ever. I was surprised at how well I felt after the ride. Yeah, I was tired, but I wasnt dead, like I thought I would've been.

Come Sunday, same routine in the early morning hours. However, alot less stress and nervousness. It was a sunny day, but there was a bit of a wind blowing southwest to northeast. I checked the weather, 12-13 mph winds with 22mph gusts. Shouldnt have looked. But I did, and so I try to put it out of my mind. Todd was gracious enough to let me draft through most of the ride.

As we were finishing up the ride, say around mile 30, I see a rider in the distance flailing his arms, almost as if he were riding no handed in a strong head wind. We were heading west bound, and there really wasnt a strong wind. As we approached the wobbly rider, I then noticed he was on a uni-cycle! Wow! Not quite sure how many miles he did on that unicycle, but wow!

At the end of the weekend, I was thinking of how I didnt reach my goals of 100 on Saturday and 50 on Sunday. I was getting pretty bummed about it too. Shan finally knocked some sense into me: "It's not 'only 75' it's SEVENTY-FIVE!"

Though I had accomplished a long distance ride, this weekend was not about me and my goals. It was about the thousands of people living with MS everyday. To be a part of the event, well, it's humbling at the least. Alot of the people who are stricken with the disease are not able to live normal lives. For me to ride for them, well, it is an honor. I need to put my selfishness aside and pay tribute to those brave people. They have made more accomplishments than I.

I did this for them.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Preperation not required

I've got the MS Tour De Farms coming up in a little less than 2 weeks and in preperation for this ride, 100 miles on Saturday, 50 on Sunday, I have been doing training rides. My ritual is to pour over the Map My Ride route creator for what seems like hours, only to come up with a small mileage route. Thats ok though, because what happens on that weekend in June, happens.

The same attitude goes toward the actual training ride. See, I was doing my longest ride yet, planned 41 miles, and got all set and ready to go. Drove to the starting point, and off I went. The route I took was mainly bike trails that are shared with pedestrians. It was busy that morning. Maybe I should have left earlier? Nah, thats ok. Enjoy the ride, I kept telling myself. Log those miles. Get time in the saddle.

All was going well, up until the first detour. I pulled into a parking lot, where the trail continued, and asked a fellow cyclist which way it went, just to verify I was on the correct heading. The young man pointed, and gave directions.

"Up that hill?" I asked, hoping he would say no, the smaller hill.

"Yeah, go up that hill, make a left, then follow the street to the church, veer left..."

This hill looked to be 45 degrees. I said thanks, pedaled off, determined to get my courage up to attack this hill.

My first thought, as I reached the bottom of the hill was that it reminded me of the bike race in Europe where most of the riders had to dismount and walk up. That one was a 30 degree incline. Airplanes dip their wings 30 degrees to turn. Ive had an hour's worth of flight time. I know 30 degrees.

So, lungs full, gears in the lowest, I set off to tackle this monster. The whole time I was pedaling, I kept thinking that this hill was nothing like that hill in Europe, and if they had to dismount, then I could do this one. I kept thinking that, all the way to the half  way point.

I made it this far, just keep going.

Nope. Not happening. So, dejected, I dismount. I swear, I  could hear a snickering as I unclipped. No one was around.

So, here I am, fat guy in spandex, walking his bike. Walking. His Bike. The clip clop of my cleats echoing off the houses as if to taunt me. Sort of like the local school bully shouting derogatory remarks to you as you walk by. The last thing I needed was to slip and fall. I didnt though.

I reached the top of the hill, and stopped just short of the intersection to catch my breath. Swung one leg over and clipped in as to prepare of a valiant launch. Off to my right, I heard the distant chatter of a male's voice. I look, and 2 cyclists were flying up the roadway, an obvious easier route than the one I took. One of them was saying how he had seen alot of people walking their bikes up that hill.

He rode right past me while saying that. Then he and his friend chuckled. By that time, I had gained momentum and was not too far behind them. I laughed too and said "Yeah, that thing about killed me!" The found that humorous as well. At least they were laughing with me at that point!

So, off I ride, determined to finish my ride. Along the way there were detours and misroutings, only because I didnt trust what my equipment was telling me. Then came the headwind on my way back to the starting point. Not only was it gusting to 20mph, but I was rerouted in a northly direction when I wanted to go south.

After figuring out where the heck I was and which way I wanted to go, I was 2 miles from where I needed to be. I turned around, rode back to the bridge I was detoured under, and walked up the hill. It's a reoccuring theme.

I saw 2 cyclists pedaling up the roadway as I reached the top. One gentleman stopped and asked if I was ok. I said yeah, and told him my situation. He said he was headed in the same direction, and that his third partner was where I was in the detour. I told him what happened to me and they waved him around.

After small chat about the new bike he had ordered, I said my so long and pedaled southward. I can see my destination ahead and could not wait to get back on that trail.

I cross the entrance to the tollway, and ride under the bridge of the path. I am looking for an entracne to the path and cant find one. I wasnt about to go back east by crossing the 4 lane road. Again, I dismount, number  3 I believe, and walk the bike up that hill to the trail. This one wasnt so bad though.

After a few more obstacles, like power company truck in the middle of the path, I was able to get back in motion. Then, the battery on my phone is in the yellow, so I had to shut that off. Five miles out from the end.

Needless to say, I got my 41 miles in. Plus and additional five miles. So, forty-six miles is my longest ride to date. This ride taught me that no matter what you encounter, you will never be fully prepared. You can make adjustments and work around situations, but to be prepared, is nearly impossible.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Hill-emental block

Since I've been taking a serious look at riding, one nemesis I've always had were the hills. Hated them when I was younger and rode everyday, hate them now, even though I don't ride everyday.
What's been the "mental block" when it comes to hills? I'm not really sure. Maybe its the lactic acid pain in my legs, maybe its the actual work. I'm not really sure.
When I was in school, my ride was an old Murray 10 speed frame, no brakes, and a Columbia 3 speed rear wheel sitting 26" tall. Now, I couldn't change gears, so it was stuck in the highest gear. Which is probably the reason why I don't like hills so much.
Fast forward to 2013. My ride is a '12 Giant Defy 5 Triple with a 700x25 wheelset. But what's this triple, you may ask? Its the front sprocket. There are 3 of them, alledgedly making hill climbing so much easier.
So they claim.
Well, I'm here to tell you that, in fact, that third little sprocket does indeed make climbing hills much easier.
Much easier.
However, there are some hills that just laugh at the fat guy in spandex, and snickers at him as he dismounts and walks the rest of the way up (thank you St Charles).
But, that's a story for another day.
There is a hill at one of the entrances of my subdivision that during the winter time dares cars that don't have all wheel drive to attempt the climb. Even the SUVs have a struggle. And during the warm weather, cyclists are often seen walking their rides up the hill, heads hung low, panting. I wanted to climb this hill to prove that I can conquer it. It intimidated me. It dared me to fail. It was taunting me. And I was afraid.
During this past weekend, my daughter wanted to get a 5 mile jog in and wanted me to ride next to her for moral and water support. Any chance to ride the Giant is a welcome time.
So I donned the gear, all except the shorts; it was a quick ride, who needed them, I thought. Always wear your cycling shorts. On your road bike.
She said she wanted to go up the hill. I asked her why she was trying to off me so close to Father's Day. She giggled. Oh boy. Hope I can make it.
As we approached the crossing point to get into the subdivision, I looked up the hill. This is going to be tough, but you need to support your daughter, I thought. We crossed the busy road, she kept walking, and I stopped to clip back in, and take a deep breath, anticipating the burn.
She started jogging, and I started pedaling. I was already in the lowest gear, so I didn't have to fiddle with the shifters.
As I caught up to her, she was having a difficult time. Halfway up the hill, she was in agony. I shouted encouraging phrases like "you're doing great, just keep moving..." and so on. We moved around a couple who were walking, but my daughter kept jogging, in agony. She was doing great! I was so proud of her.
As we reached the top of the hill she said she wanted to walk, I told her to keep going until we reached a sign up ahead that was maybe 10 yards away. She kept going. Legs burning and all.
Funny. My legs weren't burning at all. In fact, I wasn't even out of breath! I could tell because I was still encouraging my daughter without gasping for air!
As we reached the next intersection, I rode ahead, got the water bottle out for her and told her to stretch a little and rest. She did so, face all red and scrunched up.
I turned and looked back at the hill. I was amazed that I was standing at the top, looking back, breathing normally.
This day broke the block. It tore down the wall that kept me from achieving so much. I compare it to the scene in "The Right Stuff" where Chuck Yeager saddles up the X-1 and takes it past "that 'ol demon in the sky". Corny, but yeah, that was my demon.
The Hill.
Now, the block is less intrusive. The block is a discomfort, not a disabler. The block is welcomed, so that it can be chiseled away some more.