The bike fixes everything

I have  a friend whose motto is “the bike fixes everything”.  Man how true that is.  We all ride for different reason.  Different goals.  This bike riding gig for sure does not put a roof over my head.  It does not put food on my table.  Hell if anything it takes food off my table (have you seen bike prices lately?).  My motivation is well, I don’t know what exactly.  I guess if I didn’t ride I would surf the web all night or play video games.   I would stuff my face with all sorts of pizza and donuts.  That would never end well.

The one thing that amazes me though are the things that go through my mind while on two wheels.  A problem at work.  My honey do list that never seems to get completed.  What bill I forgot to pay.  How I’m going to handle a problem with the teenager in the house.  What I am going to cook for dinner. All while zipping down the road.  Sometimes though you are able to escape reality.  I mean that is one reason why I ride my bike.  Don’t get me wrong, my reality is not bad at all.  Hell my wife encourages me to go for rides.  Maybe she can tell if I’m getting grumpy, maybe I started to snore again, or she just wanted some alone time?  Either way she encourages my riding habit and that is a good thing.   The truly best rides are the ones where I don’t think of anything.  The rides where I can forget about reality for a few hours.  Usually reality is lost because i cant get enough oxygen to my brain.  My lungs and legs are burning way to bad to even be able to think about anything.  I’m on autopilot at this point.  Can’t think. Won’t think.  Don’t want to think.

I hung up the wheels right after Jingle Cross.  This was only suppose to last 1 week.  One week turned into two weeks. Two weeks turned into three weeks.

In all of my years of riding a bike many problems have been fixed.  Many a teenagers issues have been resolved (well not THAT many).  Many items on the honey do list have been crossed off.  Hours of snore-less sleep has been had.  Days of reality have been forgotten.  All because of the bike.

It’s time to solve some more problems.  Time to fix some teenager issues.  Time to escape reality for a bit (after I clean the Jingle Cross mud off of my bike first).

Yes the bike really does fix everything.

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Why I ride ….

I have been asked a number of times as to why I ride my bike or how I got into cycling.  How I got into cycling  is easy.  We were on a family vacation up in Michigan and I remember watching a bike race on tv.  This particular bike race happened to be the Tour de France and it was the summer of 1986, the first time (and only time) an american has ever won the Tour.  I was 10.

I went home after that vacation and rode my bike, a lot.  Well what I thougth was a lot.   In reality it was probably only like 5 miles or something like that.  My parents probably thought I was crazy or nuts or both (I’m sure they still think that today).  My parents were supportive.  I just had to wear my helmet and stay within the city limits.  The summer turned into winter and well I did not know about rule #5 so there was no riding in the winter.  Although I know about about rule #5 now, I still don’t ride much in the winter!

Not sure what the draw was to cycling.  Maybe it was the freedom to just ride around town.  I tried baseball for 3 years.  I HATED it.  The last year I wanted to quit but my parents would not let me.  I was part of a team and it was not fair to the team they said.  I really disliked them that summer.  I do thank them for it now though.  So I rode my bike to baseball practice and than around town and than home.  I finally towed the line for my first race at 13 .. the rest is history.

But back to WHY I ride.  You know, I honestly have no idea.  I never really thought about it much.  I just like it.  Everyone has their hobbies right?  I guess I could of chosen to of been a  gamer, stripper, prostitue, coke head, fire twiller, or even a hula hooper (would have been cheaper)!   But no, I chose cycling.  I don’t ride to stay in shape.  I don’t ride to get my 30 minutes of exercise a day that they say I need.  Hell any cyclist knows I don’t ride for the money or chicks (although chicks in spandex does have its pluses)!  I like the freedom of the road.  The speed of riding.  Pushing myself physicall and mentally.  Feeling that feel after a really hard ride or race.  It’s a sense of accomplishment.  It’s a peace of mind.  I also ride for the comradity with others.  There are a LOT of fun and interesitng people in cycling.  They all have their own stories.  I guess I also ride for my state of mind.  My better half notices it when I don’t get a ride in.  she says I get crabby (I beg to differ).  Even during this past winter she told me she wishes nicer weahter would get here so I could go ride and not be moody anymore!  I never noticed it before, but I guess others do.   That is fascinating to me.

Monday through Friday  I sit at my  desk and stare out my window.  I count down the time till 5 o’clock, than its time to hit the road on 2 wheels.  So I guess that is why I ride.  Not very exciting is it?  Kind of boring.  It is way more fun to not think about why you ride.  Just go ride!  Don’t be a thinker, be a doer!! (or a do-her)

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Toeing the Line

So a friend recently sent me an email from a co-worker of his.  In the email was the co-workers social media post about his first race.  Basically they were going fast (20mph-ish) and he got dropped,  than he quit half way through the road race.  My initial reaction was WTF?!?! I mean ONLY going 20mph?!?! That is just a warming up pace around these neck of the woods.  What really got me though was the quiting part.  For crying out loud people if you do a race finish the bastard!  Even if you get dropped you will still be going harder than you would be by just riding by yourself.  Call it training.  Call it trying to suck less next time (see previous post).   Granted there are times when you can not finish a race.  You have a crashwrist1 wrist2 wrist3or you have a mechanical.  But just to up and give up is douchy!  I understand if you are a pro and there are tactics at play.  But come on now. We are all armchair bike racers.  Finish the damn race.

But this got me thinking (nothing good happens when I think).  I have to give this guy props.  Not props for QUITING but props for even starting the race.  I don’t know the guy, but my understanding is that he is not new to cycling but new to racing.  It is a HUGE jump from bike riding to bike racing.  You can ride, ride, and ride some more and think you are riding well.  You than line up for your first race and bam! off the back you are.  It happens that fast.  Puts you in place real quick that is for sure.  It does take balls (girls included) to toe the line for a race.  It is intimidating as hell.  It is scarey as hell, at least for me.  If you toe the line at a race you just moved to a totally dfferent level of bike riding.  It does not matter where you finish.  You toed the line.  Yes it may not be for everyone but why not give it a shot!

My first bike race was a state championship road race.  I was 13.  My dad drove 2 ½ to this race. We left the house at  the ass crack of dawn.  I just got my racing license in the mail the week before.  I had to do this thing they call a rollout.  What the hell is a rollout I thought  (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=usa+cycling+jr+rollout )?  Needless to say I had to adjust some of my gearing.  I found a teammate at the race and we took off my big chainring.  I toed the line not really knowing what was about to happen.  The official started us and holy shit!!! The pack of us, 10 or so juniors, took off like a bat out of hell.  I was immedialy off the back.  I rode that whole damn course by myself.  It sucked, but it also made me to ride more. Ride harder.  To train more.  After that I had some success as a junior on the local level.  Things got put into persepctive again on a national level when I was 17 and 18.  I went to the junior nations those two years.  I towed the line with the likes of Kevin Livingston and George Hincapie.  jrnatsI got dropped than too.  HARD!  But one thing I have never done is quit (unless I crashed and could not get back up)!

So to all the people new and old who toe the line, my hat off to you.  You have decided to step it up.  You have decided to take your bike riding to a whole new level.  Yes, you may decide it is not for you but shit man, at least you tried!  Just DON’T QUIT!!!

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Suckage

So we like to ride bikes.   We spend a lot of time (and money) riding bikes.  Our goal is to suck less than we did the day before, the week before, the month before, the last race.  There are many different ways we measure our suckage or sucking less.  We ride the same route and compare our time or pace from the time before,  we download and over analyze our Garmin data.  We check Strave.  We check our resting heart rate in the mornings.  Is it lower?  Is it higher?  Oh shit its higher, I might be overtraining, I might be getting a cold, damn my season is doomed!  What does the scale say today?  Shit I ate too much.  I need to poop before I step on the scale.  I lost 3 pounds overnight, I need to drink more!  Yikes!

Then there is the weekly Worlds.  This weekly ride can be on any day of the week.  Normally it is early in the week to give us serious racers time to recover, so we can bring our A game to the real races on the weekend.  So all of us put on our best kits, use our best carbon, tubular,  race wheels and get together for a good ol’ fashioned dick swinging match.  Trust me when I say that you don’t have to be a dude to be part of the dick swinging match.  Quite a few gals in this neck of the woods can lay the hurt on us guys.  I have no problem getting chicked.  I will give credit where credit is due.

This weekly worlds ride is how I  measure my suckage.  There are weeks I am dangling off the back (most weeks) and then there are weeks where I am in the mix.  Yes I know I cannot drill the pace at 26/28mph heading into a headwind (or even with no headwind).  My strategy is to suck someone’s wheel as long as I can.  Every week I feel a bit better.  I hang on just a bit longer.  Finish a bit farther up in the group.  Sometimes I actually finish with the main group.  This is how I measure my suckage or my sucking less.

This week i was feeling not too bad.  On occasion a few of the really good riders will show up on their cross bikes with cross/gravel tires (showoffs). I think to myself, sweet that will slow them down a bit, and I will be able to hang on a bit longer.

Tonight was no different.  A really strong local guy showed up on his gravel bike.  During the ride I was dying, but hanging in there.  I was feeling pretty good (besides the dying part).  Then I notice this guy (NOT the Legend, he was on his road bike) come by me on his gravel bike, shit!!  I HAVE to hang on his wheel.  I hang on a bit and at one point even go past him, thinking he was gone.  That’s what I get for thinking.  The reality is he came by me again, going up hill! shit shit!  I was not lovin’ it that is for sure.  At that moment it occurred to me that he also raced a 113 mile gravel race this past weekend.  I suck!

I thought about how much I do suck.  I am ok with my suckage though.  I have embraced my suckage.  I still have fun and that is what matters!  I will be out there again next week and the week after evaluating my suckage.

Ps .. I have not downloaded my Garmin data yet.  If the pace is lower than last week than that means I my feeling good was due to slower speed which in turn means I was sucking all that much more.

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2.0

So I have not posted much the past almost 2 years.  Deal with it.  I will try to post a bit more now.  Just a reminder though,  I am not much a writer.  The posts will be full of grammatical errors.  My bad.

This year I have been riding more than last year.  Last year I was consistently inconsistent with my riding.  It was to the point where I didn’t care anymore.  I did a few crits and some cyclocross.  I  did do the local Tuesday night cx races.  How can you NOT do those.  They were the highlight of my week through the fall.  It was a sad day on the Tuesday before thanksgiving when the races stopped for the winter.  I no longer knew what to do on my Tuesday nights.  Someone can only watch so much internet porn on Tuesday nights!  The winter passed and I stayed somewhat busy and active.  Finding new motivation through my team.

My team kicks ass!  It is such a diverse group of people through all different abilities.  But everyone has 2 things in common.  We like to ride bikes and we like to have fun.  It seems a LOT of people take this cycling thing all to seriously.  Don’t get me wrong we take our bike riding serious but we take having fun WHILE bike riding more serious.  That does not mean that some people on our team will rip your legs off on a ride or race.  They will.  But we keep things like and let the bike riding speak for itself.  We have more laughs than we do heartbeats while racing and that is the way it should be.

This weekend was Cedar Cross.  A 113 mile gravel ride/race.  Some people race it and some ride it.  There is also a “short course” which is 40 miles.  I decided to do the short course.  I am doing the hairy Hundred in 2 weeks and I was afraid that if I do the 113 miles this week there will be no way I will be riding 100 miles in 2 weeks.  The pain and agony would be to fresh in my mind to want to do 100 miles.  So I sandbagged and did the short course.  Rode with a few teammates and a couple of other riders from another local team.  We have a good time out there.  Well besides 3 freaking flats from one of our guys.  We are going to have an emergency meeting to see if he is off the team for picking shitty gear.  Most of our team did the 113 mile option.  My hats off to them.  Yes there were times that I felt like I should of done the longer course.  I was even thinking about it the night before the ride.  I was even thinking about it the morning of the ride.  Oh well.  I sandbagged.  It happens.  I admit it.  Opps.   The whole team kicked ass today.  Like I said it is because of this team I have found new fun and motivation to ride my bike.  I have been doing this a long time and it is awesome to find new fun and motivation in something such as riding a bike.

cc1 cc2

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Motivation …….

Motivation, it’s a funny kind of thing.  It’s amazing how motivation is there and then the next day it’s gone.  And not just gone, but like over the horizon gone, with no sign of coming back.  This happens to me every year about this time, give or take a month or two.  Before last year, I would hang up my wheels after the last big road race of the season, the gateway cup and not touch them until the spring.  I would make half ass attempts to “maintain fitness” , whatever that means, through the winter but I would always fail.  Not like I was worried about failing in this case.  Quite frankly I didn’t really care.  I would adopt the seefood diet, you know the one where what you see is what you eat!  I would not even really think about riding the bike.  I would make excuse after excuse NOT to ride the bike.  Afterall is it the  “off season”.  I told myself I can take a month or two off and still have plenty of time to get back in shape by spring.  I would sit around at night, watch tv, eat food, and gain about 15-20 pounds!  I would not pick up the bike again until april.  Man the early few months of riding and racing sucked.

 Things changed a bit last year though.  A good friend of mine put together a Thursday night gravel ride here in town.  We would meet at 5:30 and ride about an 1 ½ to 2 hours along the trail and back gravel roads.  It would be dark due to daylight savings time (that is a totally different topic).  We would ride with lights and as it got colder I figured misery loves company and I would not really have an excuse not to ride when 20 of my riding friends were out there.  So I invested in a set of good lights and some “gravel” tires for my road bike.  One thing led to another and I purchased  a used cross bike frame and than built it up from spare parts I had from over the years.  Over the winter we would ride every Thursday.  It was the best day of the week.  Those rides were awesome!  Kept me motivated over the winter to keep riding.  Nothing to serious but for sure not a couch potato.  Come spring time I was ready to hit the road and I was riding pretty well.  Fast forward to now …..

 

The lack of motivation is back.  Not really sure what happened or where it went.  I mean there has been this awesome cross series every Tuesday for the past 12 weeks here in town.  It has been totally kick ass!  The Thursday night gravel rides have started back up and those are a ton of fun.  But something is missing this year.  If it was not for the Tuesday cross or Thursday gravel rides I don’t think I would be riding right now.  I mean I even bailed on a ride today when asked by a good friend.  Granted I did work yesterday and had stuff I wanted to get done today but normally that would not of stopped me from going.

 I think motivation has set sail, has left the building.  Not sure where the hell it went but it needs to come back fast.  Not because I have these big plans for next years racing but because if it doesn’t I will balloon up like bloating road kill in the hot summer sun before it bursts!  So we will see what the next few weeks bring.  And with it being the holidays and all that just means I will be stuffing lots of goodies in my pie hole!  I need to get back in the saddle!

Maybe this is what I need for motivation?

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The simple things ……

Man there has been a lot of shit hitting the fan in the cycling world lately. It was only a matter of time though. Right now it is not looking good for the sport of cycling but I think in the long run it’s for the best. When did things get so complicated? Make sure you eat this, eat that, ride this hard, ride this long, drink this much water, take this much EPO, get this much blood taken out, get this much blood back in … etc, etc. The list goes on!

I remember as a kid, growing up in a small town, just riding our bikes around town. A childhood friend named Adam and I would ride our bikes all over the place. He had a Mt. bike at the time and I had a Schwinn Varsity. Man that was a good bike. We would ride all over the place. We would stop in a local pharmacy for a chocolate malt shake. Man those were tasty! We just loved riding our bikes. Nothing complicated, just out riding the day away. The only rule, I had to be home before the street light came on in front of our house. That was simple.

I guess as I got older maybe things did get more complicated. I mean I got more into cycling and wanted to race. I remember my first race. It was about 2 ½ hours away and the junior races always go first. It was the State Championship Road Race. My dad and I got up at the ass crack of dawn, drove 2 ½ hours, and I almost did not get to race. I just got my racing license the week before and I did not know there was a rule book or even a thing called Jr. gear restrictions. Gear restrictions? What are those? They did this test called a rollout and I was WAY over the limit (52×12 I guess is too big of a gear for a Jr.?). I thought I was done, pack up and head home. As I was riding back to find my dad I found some other guys from the local cycling club from back home, they decided to take my front chain ring off. I went back to do another rollout and I passed! I was in the race!

I lined up with the other juniors, not having a clue what I was in for. If I remember correctly it was a 20ish mile loop. I don’t remember much about the race itself besides I was by myself in less than a mile and it was HILLY!!! Ahhh those were the days my friend! The largest of my concern was a rollout test! Man how times change. I also remember being at the start line at the Junior Nationals when I was 16. Also lining up in that race was George Hincapie, Fred Rodriguez, and Kevin Livingston among others (More about that experience at a later time). Man how life has changed. If only it was just about riding the bike still!

 

Big George on the cover of the Nationals program that year.

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Suffering

Bike riding is all about suffering.  I don’t care if you ride your bike slow, ride it fast, ride it long, ride it short (insert “that’s what she said” comments here).  At one point or another anyone who has ridden a bike has suffered.  But WHY?!?! For most of us this is just a hobby.  Something that we are suppose to ENJOY!  But we go out there day in and day out and ride our bikes and suffer.  It downright hurts at times.  No we are not getting paid for this so called HOBBY.  In fact we take a huge loss.  Time and money spent on equipment to make us go .0001 MPH faster, time tweaking our bikes to shift just right, time traveling to rides and races.  And why do we do this you ask?  It is so we can suffer!  I wonder if I can make my hobby a tax write off?  Hmmm than again maybe I don’t want to keep track of such an expenses.  It might be depressing to see how much money I have spent only to realize that I still suck at riding a bike.

Recently there have been a few references to suffering on the bike.  Bicycling magazine has a multi page article talking about suffering.  Basically all I got out of this article is that suffering is in the mind.  You can tell yourself it doesn’t hurt and you can go faster and harder.  I call bullshit on that!  Than again maybe I need some extra motivation … $$$$.  Than maybe, just maybe I can suffer a bit more.

Recently during the USA Pro Challange.  Garmin superhero DZ rode so hard that he puked!  AND this was while he was still riding!  Now that is suffering done right.  His boss at the end of race had this to say about it …

“I knew that he’d just ridden so hard that he just threw up,” Vaughters said. “I mean good for him. That’s what I pay him for. He definitely put in a pretty solid effort the last couple of days. He’ll be tired tomorrow, there’s no doubt about that.”

Bottom line is that I guess we all like to suffer.  We do it day and and day out.  We work our “normal” office jobs, hurry home, change into our spandex, and out the door we go for a few hours of suffering.  We come home and complain how hard it was, or how bad the ride was, or how we could of done this or that differently.  We upload our Garmin data and analyze it, look at our numbers, see how bad we were suffering and see how bad we still suck at riding a bike.  But you know what?….

I will be out there tomorrow doing it again!

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Blood, sweat, tears

So all of this Olympic stuff has got me thinking a lot.  At one time my goal as a kid was the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  This was also the first year they let professionals in so I knew my already .0001% chance was even slimmer.  Once I hit 18 I got burned out and never did make it to the Olympics.  I love listening and watching the athletes stories of how they got to where they are now.  All of the hard work, dedication, sacrifice of everyday things we take for granted.  All of the time, money, effort, sacrifice that is put in by the parents as well.  It is so awesome when they show the parents in the stands after their child just won an event.  I don’t care what country they are from, the reaction is always the same.  I think a lot of times they should also award the parents with a medal also!

I got into cycling when I was around 13.  My parents were always super supportive.  It was up to me to pay for my own equipment (paper route, mowing lawns) but they always took me to the races.  Granted they did not know much if anything about proper training, nutrition, etc.  This was before the internet was really around.  I am not faulting them at all.  They always went above and beyond in my book.
The local cycling club had a Tuesday night time trial during the summer months.  It was a 5 mile out and back (10 miles total) course.  We lived about 30 minutes away.  Every Tuesday my mom would help me fold my newspapers so I could do my route faster than normal and than load up my bike in the minivan along with my 3 younger brothers.  My dad would meet us there and I would do my ride.  Remember this was in the summer!!  They would wait there in the hot weather for me to do my ride.  We would pack up and head home afterwards.  This was every Tuesday for a couple of months!  Talk about dedication on their part.
There were a number of times we would have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive to races that were 2 to 2 1/2 hours away.  Racing as a junior my races were always first thing in the morning.  Mom would get up to make me some of those Lipton pasts noodles for “carbo loading” and than Dad and I would hit the road.  At times the whole family would go to.  I had my own cheering section!
Like I said I think the parents should get the same medal that their child gets in the Olympics for all of the work they have had to do also.  I know that my love of cycling that I have would not of been possible if it was not for the help of my parents.  They were awesome and still are awesome to this day!
Missy Franklin’s parents reaction to her gold medal swim …..  
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Losing my mind.

So this week has felt like that.  I was gone all week for work and it was mind overload of a wealth of new information.  We went through 2 books that were about 2″ think each.  Along with sitting in a classrooom for 5 days 7 hours a day! I was losing my mind!  It felt so good to be back home!  I decided to go for a little bike ride.  Well less than a mile from my house I hit a patch of fresh (and I mean FRESH) chip-n-seal road (http://www.wagnerpaving.com/services/chipnseal.htm).  Needless to say I went down and went down hard (thats what she said).  I have no memory of the crash or of my ride home.  After a trip to the ER and a CAT scan all things are good.  But the not remembering about 15 minutes of my life is kind of bugging me.  Oh well it could of been a lot worse.  It seems computer also tend to get dazed and confused as well (last ling in the pic below).  At least some software programmer somewhere has a sense of humor!

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