Category Archives: Bike

One week of strong

So, I think that one of the really positive outtakes from “Muscle over 40” for me has been just a little more desire to be active. And this week’s “Fitness and Freshness” shows a pretty strong uptick:

I’m finally back to where I was at the beginning of April, when I stopped running for a while due to a gimp ankle. The ankle’s feeling much better.

Today was a day off. Originally, I thought I was going to study, but there’s some local drama going around, so my sleep game has been off. Plus, the kids went off to work and school, and Mrs J looked at me and said “Wanna go?”

“Yuh.” ;)

“OK”, she said, and tossed my running shoes at me. Let’s go.

Le. Sigh.

The run was strangely, strangely good. Which either means I’m about to break again, or that I may actually be getting better. Short run, just a couple miles.

After the run, it was on the bike again, down River Road, soaking in the light and air, and just kind of being joyous. It was weird being on River Road during the part of the day when most folks are working – most Saturdays and Sundays, it’s tons of “Always Wave at your fellow cyclists who you see out there on the road“. But this time, not so much. Like two other cyclists. On the other hand, the fishermen under the IH-95 bridge seemed pretty friendly, though Narragansett tallboys at 8 AM will do that for you.

Workout at the YMCA was humbling. Lessons learned:

    DOMS* is most definitely a thing
    60 year old ladies can kick my butt
    I have the upper body of a cyclist and the midsection of a football fan
  • RE: DOMS – I think it’s mostly the body saying “OK, I gave you the one day, but you really want to keep doing this?” But it had set in for certain this morning, mostly in the quads and glutes after doing the trap bar deadlifts on Wednesday. The run did a pretty good job of shaking it out, but still.
  • Re: 60 year old ladies – Today’s workout was mostly arms, but it also included a set on the squat machine. In which, when I got there, there was a fit 60 something woman saying “Just one more set”. Fine, I said, as I didn’t necessarily mind the recovery.
  • When she was done, I fiddled around trying to figure out the machine, thinking I would need to add some weight. Turns out, I didn’t have to to add an ounce. Woman was crushing it, and much like Mrs. Jank, could easily take me in a fair fight.
  • Re: My upper body – for the flys and the other arm exercises, I used a pathetic amount of weight as judged by the portion of the stack that I moved. Luckily, the woman from earlier was finished after the squat machine, so she didn’t stick around to kick sand in my face.
  • Oldest kid works at the Y. He’d been up at 4 and out of the house at 4:30 in order to open the pool for the 5 AM swimmers. So, as I was finishing up, he was getting off, so we headed downtown for coffee and bagels. Really proud of the guy he’s growing into; happy to have him home for the summer.
  • On the way out, I realized that I’d carried my new camera like 50 miles at this point without snapping any snaps. So, I parked the bike outside Harp and Hound.
  • Probably should have stayed there for 3 hours.
  • Muscle after 40, Week 1, Day 2

    Cut out of work early today. Beautiful day, so instead of just stoping at the gym on my way home, I went home first, and rode the bike to the Y.

    What a time to be alive! The ride was awesome, but it usually is – down hill from the house, then a cruise down River Road, through downtown, and stop at the Y. The Mystic Y is about 6 months redone, and it is amazeballs. Lots of natural light, and, a decent number of people. Felt good to be using something other than the pool.

    Regardless, today’s activity was harder than Day 1. Not sure if it was residual tired from Monday, or if I used weights that were too heavy, but I’m pretty sure that it really was some muscle groups I don’t usually hit. Doesn’t matter, because I got ‘er done.

    Rode home up the other side of the river, stopped at Kelley’s Pace for another ankle brace. I think the leg is mostly good now, but i’m going to keep using the brace as a prophylactic probably through the end of the calendar year.

    Pshew. Run tomorrow and Friday, rest Saturday, and then do the flyaway leg of the Vermont City Marathon on Sunday. Life is hard.

    “Rolling” Hills?

    Spring may finally have arrived in southern New England, though, as has been characteristic the last few years, we’ve gone straight from a disappointing winter into early summer, apparently somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

    Friday, I finally said “Y’know what? I’m a cyclist. Why aren’t I riding my bike more?”

    Answering, I said “Uh, ’cause it’s cold-ish, and may rain?”

    “But I live in New England. Possibly the only place on the planet with weather that can make a person whinier about the weather than old England. There are places where it is much, much warmer. And places where it is much, much colder. Sure, it’s not 75 and sunny all the time, but who wants to put up with Californians? Point is, you could ride outside almost 330 days of the year and be in no risk of the weather killing you. On the other 30 days, you can almost certainly get in a few miles of XC skiing. Bad weather is an entering argument, but shape means you can treasure the amazeballs days. And you can’t get shape by whining.”

    “Self, you make an excellent point. Giddyup.”

    Friday, I was back from a trip to our Nation’s capital, trodding the halls of power, and weaving my way among the throngs of teenagers from the heartland out in DC to see that socialism can actually build a pretty good lifestyle; that walkable cities with transit are pretty stinking cool, and that robust public support for the arts and humanities provides a really interesting way to spend a few days wandering among the collective artifacts that have shaped our history, our art, our sense of self, and our technology.

    Mostly, tho, it looked like almost any middle school outing – the adults pretending that they had a shred of cool; the children actively ignoring anyone over 18, the vendors trying desperately to pry hard earned spending money out of the kids’ wallets in exchange for red, white, and blue trinkets made in China.

    But the runs was good. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that without hesitation; this week felt like a breakthrough. Cranking out 6 on Sunday, and hopefully running one of the legs of the Vermont City Marathon Relay next weekend. Woot.

    Enough running, tho. What I really want to talk about is the bike.

    There are few things quite so transcendent as the first few rides in the spring, regardless of one’s state of training coming out of a deep winter. The combination of the turn from grey of deep winter, to the brown of mud and very early spring, to the first hints of color from the daffodils and tulips, the first greens from the skunk cabbage and elephants’ ears and fiddleheads. The sounds – the first spring peepers; the hoot of the owls, the deeper ribbets of the leopard and bull frogs, and the terrifying screeching of the fisher cats. The smells – from the damp of melting ice and snow, the earth as it starts to wake, the dead skunk that’s been under a snow pile or frozen mid-puetrificaiton for six months, and finally the flowers and grasses, and blooming trees – amazing.

    Then there’s the transition of bikes – last ride on the winter bike, with the bullet proof tires to ensure that cinders don’t end your ride prematurely with a tire change in freezing rain (or a call to a significant other, more likely). The first time when you, against better judgement, take out the summer bike, with the good wheels and tires out on roads that might not be completely salt and cinder free and feel again the joy of a beautiful bike under your seat…

    I’d made that first ride on the good bike back in April – we had a couple weeks of steady rain, with one 40 degree sunny day that fell on a weekend. I could tell that the fitness wasn’t where I want it to be, but the bike absolutely did not let down.

    Fast forward back to this weekend. Friday, my afternoon meetings were cancelled, and, well, I cashed in some hard earned leave in order to ride my bike around Newport.

    The ride was, actually pretty good – breezy and cool, but not cold. Shorts, wool jersey, and wool undershirt kept me pretty comfy. I’ve been letting my hair grow – managing bangs that stuck out under my helmet was more of a PITA than I anticipated; but partly, I didn’t want to stop in order to rearrange my helmet.

    Having ridden around Newport for a while, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the winds, and figuring if I should do Ocean Drive counterclockwise or clockwise. Today was a counterclockwise day, which meant I started out by heading through downtown. It’s the start of tourist season, but the road improvements aren’t yet finished, so closures and construction made it a bear.

    I’ll also never quite understand why the middle of downtown is a two-lane, dead straight, divided highway for like half a mile, with only two pedestrian crossings. This is not shared-use friendly design. Were I on the Newport town council, I’d open every meeting by proposing cutting this down to two lanes, and relclaiming the other half for mixed-use commercial/residential to help out with the bike-able/transit housing shortage for both Salve Regina and the NAVSTA.

    Anyway, fought against the wind until I hit Brenton Point State Park, then crushed it eastbound on Ocean Ave. The one gripe I had was the dude on the e-bike who stayed JUST out of touch – wished I’d caught him to have a draft on the way back.

    When I hit the end of Ocean Drive, I thought about going back, but a mile into the wind on legs that aren’t yet accustomed to riding, and I turned around, rode past the Gilded Age 1.0 mansions, wishing that the robber barons of today had the common courtesy to place their unbalanced gains on such public display, and took the short way back home. 21 miles and happy.

    Saturday was like the actual day of summer that we’re going to get this year, apparently. Fortunately, our troop had enough adults at the Zombie Camporee that I was able to break free for some miles. Reminded me of EVERYTHING i love about riding in eastern CT. Highlights:

    • The corner of Plains Road and Under the Mountain Road in Franklin – no real sign, just two roads coming together in a wood, in which case I couldn’t tell which one was the less traveled…
    • Robinson Hill Road – Nutmeggers didn’t know sarcasm – if a road has “Hill” in the name, it’s going to be a hill. That said, Robinson Hill Road is extreme even for this rule. I rolled into it at about 10 miles, so should have been plenty warmed up, and should have been able to crush this. More later
    • Jerusalem Road – On the east bank of the Shetucket River. One of the quintessential New England roads – forest, farms, homes. Two lanes, next to no traffic, turns and whoop-de-doo hills. Short climbs to crush – man.
    • A “town” every 5 miles or so, which is great to catch the breath.

    Chris Case had a pretty good bit capturing much of this in a reprint at the end of this month’s VeloNews. You get to read about it, I get to live it.

    Anyway, enough. Got three weeks to finish up school for this quarter, and, as always, I’m way behind the eight ball.

    Home Stretch

    Big year since the last post way back in May. The short version is that I’m finally starting to feel whatever my “normal” is supposed to be. Ran the Tarzan Brown race again this year, and pretty comfortably finished the 5.5 miles under 50 minutes. I was a little discouraged about that, until I went back into Strava and found out that, even when I was feeling “strong”, my previous best was 47 minutes. Granted, that’s 30 seconds/mile faster, but I’m also carrying about 25 more pounds than I was for that race.

    So, I’m fat, but the legs are back.

    Lovely wife and I went for a possible last ride yesterday. Temperatures were in the 40’s, but the ride was awesome when we were in the sun and out of the wind.

    But, boy – the wind. I set two strava PRs and matched another best effort, because winter was coming down from Canada with a vengeance.

    Main goal of the ride was to get out to the Stonington Farmers’ Market in the Velvet Mill. We hadn’t been together for a couple months, so it was good to get back there. Picked up a beautiful ciabatta, shrimp and amazing scallops, and cheese curds.

    The ride home was pretty non-eventful. We stayed off Rt 1 and mostly stayed in the woods and hills to stay out of the wind. Coffee stop, and home to toasted bread and cheese. Amazing.

    Oh, and this was supper:

    Haze Grey and What do I weigh?

    We’d been having a decent bout of spring in New England, largely because I spent a big chunk of the last two weeks on travel. So, of course, it’s got to be nice here. So nice, in fact, that the wife and kids put fans in the windows, and the leaves came out.

    Today? Not so much. Friday? Beautiful. This morning? Grey. Not even the grey of a TV tuned to an unused channel, but the grey of limbo. Even the new leaves seemed subdued. You can thank Troop 76, because we’re camping this weekend, and our motto is “Troop 76 percent chance of rain”, with the records to back that up.

    I had crap to do first thing in the morning, and didn’t get out to ride until about lunch, at which time the grey and misty morning had turned into grey and drizzly if not actually rainy. But, I saddled up the Cannondale, thinking that maybe it was raining because I’d been a New England bike apostate by riding in the basement in front of Zwift all winter, instead of doing my penance in March and April on the salt bike, bundled up against the cold and slush.

    I’d like to say transcendence set in during the ride. But I can’t – the ride was cold and wet; the cars sent up spray, and I can’t even pretend to have “early season fitness”; this ride was fueled by guilt and what few dad watts I’ve got left (I think that teenage children may actually drain dad watts).

    Neither can i say I was sad to ride today. There was value in the cold rain, and reality in the painful joy of hot water on cold flesh. I still can ride, I still love where I ride, and maybe not all things good are joyful.

    The tale of the scale hasn’t been good. I haven’t gained weight; neither have I lost any. Fitness seems to be coming back, which is good. I don’t think I’m going to die at the Vermont City Marathon relay in three weeks.

    And the campout is awesome. The frogs are louder than the scouts; and letting boys self-organize occasionally yields amazing stuff – like the campstove donuts that were embellished with the addition of girl scout cookies and marshmallows. 6 hours of laughter brings light to absolutely any day. Though I do hope that the sun comes out tomorrow.

    So, it turns out the world exists before 6AM

    I did something unusual for me this morning – I got my butt out of bed and went for a ride. River Road, as always, was spectacular.

    River view, overcast, docks

    The ride itself was only kinda meh – not feeling strong, but I think this may have been the Cannondale’s first outing this year. Not a huge ride, but the victory was 100% getting out of the door.

    On track for this year’s mileage; now to focus on losing weight.

    So, I really, really like Zwift

    Dunno why. Maybe it’s the combination of technology, maybe it’s the low overhead for a workout. It boils down to:

      put on shorts
      grab water
      walk down stairs
      put on shoes
      ride
      Finish ride
      Check Strava
      Take off shoes
      Walk upstairs
      Shower
      Beers

    When the bike’s loud, I oil the chain. About once a week, I check the tires. Easy.

    Now, if I can do it enough to get some fitness, I’ll be happy.

    Cycling Podcasts, 2017 Edition

    So, Oomloop Het Newsbladt is up this weekend. Is it road season yet?

    I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve got a long-ish commute, and, while being in New England means that summer days are beautiful and almost endless, winter evenings are cold, damp, and almost endless, too, so I spend a lot of time in the basement on the trainer watching Zwift go by and pretending I’m actually fit.

    Being an American, road bike racing isn’t something that was easy to come by when I was a kid in the ’80s. It was on the radar, since Greg “LeMan” LeMonde was wrecking stuff in Europe, and it’s pretty easy to get on the American news cycle by going and doing anything better than Frenchmen. My first real exposure to cycling was during Armstrong’s post-cancer run and the 7 Tours de France which have been stricken from the history.

    Podcasts have played a huge part in my appreciation of Pro Cycling – they’ve filled in the appreciation for the non-Grand-Tour races, non-American teams, and the sport in general. Cillian Kelly deserves a special shout for filling the history gap.

    Podcasting about pro bike races is pretty darn effective in a way that it’s not for other sports. For other sports, it’s tough to discern between similar plays if you haven’t seen them – a double play can be turned dozens of different ways, but to really capture each one requires hundreds of words. Most sports commentary is best done with video. Pictures of cycling, though, are pretty similar (unless it’s wrecks).

    With a bike race, however, much of the action is actually hidden from the video. I gladly watch hours of shots of the peleton flying past countryside around the world; but it’s tough to pick out How The Race Was Won ™ over a multi-hour race. Different people see different things; and there’s 180 different stories – racers with different schedules, different goals, different skills; any one of whom can be the key to a given race.

    Which is why cycling podcasts are the absolute bomb-diggity. The ones I’ll list here have a couple of common threads. Generally, the ones I like also come from people whose writing I also really like – good writers and good speakers. I think all of the ones I’m listing here are group podcasts – see previous paragraph about different people seeing different things. And finally, all of the ones I like are produced by cyclists themselves. Cycling is unique in that it’s much easier to relate to – get out and ride a bike. As soon as you see someone else riding, try to catch them, and it’s a race. That’s kind of reductionist, i know, but when was the last time most of the folks watching the NFL pulled together a pickup game?

    So, kind of in order, here’s my six (6) recommendations for cycling podcasts to follow.

    • The Cycling Podcast: Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie, Daniel Friebe, and Orla Chennaoui are all fixtures in the British cycling press. Weekly show, monthly show focusing on women’s cycling, and a “Friends of the Podcast” program which gets you 11 extra episodes (in depth reporting) for about $12/year. Daily shows from the Grand Tours. TCP strikes a great balance between on-the-ground reporting, personalities, and direct relationships to the current pro-riders. They’re a little Sky-heavy, but, eh?
    • The Recon Ride: Dane Cash and Cosmo Catalano (Who I’ve plugged twice already this post) have been doing a pre-Pro Tour race podcast for about a year. They got picked up by CyclingNews this spring. Solid format – race review, team review, and predictions; my only gripe is that they don’t do post-race stuff.
    • The Slow Ride Podcast: This one is a new one for me. I picked them up after US Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford this year thanks to their capturing Jeremy Hyde’s deraileur failure. Only a couple episodes in, but they’ve got the chemistry/rider criteria down really well.
    • The Velocast: The first podcast I paid money for, and haven’t regretted a dime. Scott and John are cranky old Scotsmen. Occasionally get on the ground, but fill the time well. Daily Grand Tour shows, weekly shows otherwise, and an amazing “This Week In Cycling History” with Cillian Kelly.
    • Velonews: Velonews is probably the best US magazine covering bike racing; the crew shines in the podcast. Weekly. They’ve also got a good training/racing bit that comes out weekly. I really hope the magazine can hang on.
    • The Paceline: This podcast doesn’t have a whole lot of pro race content, but I mention it because Elden Nelson (now a fixture on RKP) and Patrick Brady have entertained me with their writing for years, and the podcast has an occasional nugget.

    And, while it doesn’t count as a podcast, I’ll recommend GCN as a great source of trainer videos, race reports, and bike culture.

    Pshew. Blogging is hard. What did I miss?

    Zwiftly Getting Largzer

    Bleh.

    Or more accurately Blerch.

    Yep, that pasty bum has gotten me down for the last month or so, and the onset of winter hasn’t helped much. Nor has recovery from Lyme, or changing positions at work, or coming into the last third of the current graduate degree, or Melissa being in AWESOME shape and about to crush the Houston Marathon.

    But, I think I’ve found at least part of the solution.

    Last winter, I invested in a Kinetic Road Machine, and put in a pretty decent two months on TrainerRoad. I really kind of liked the structure, and loved having NO excuses not to train, as the weather is always about 65 and New England sunny in my basement. Plus, I could throw on “Victory at Sea” and catch up on some propaganda.

    Trainerroad was good – really good. The workouts were great, and the structure was pretty nice. Reasonably priced; great value. I thought I was going to be back this winter.

    But, earlier this month, Strava reminded me that I got a free 2 months of Zwift since I’ve been wasting money on Strava Premium for the last couple of years (Wasting since I’m obviously not using it; really enjoy the service). So, I figured I’d go ahead and try it.

    Getting set up in Zwift was about as close to painless as I’ve had. They’ve got a great iOS app that I installed on my phone that uses the pairings I’ve already got for the bluetooth cadence, heart rate, and Kinetic trainer with the Strava app, and a pretty lightweight application that runs on the 8 year old Mac Mini I’ve got in the basement to run Plex.

    They’ve also added workouts – I ran the FTP test tonight:

    The workouts look almost right for me- enough to chose from; enough plans that I’ll stay interested, and already tied in. The thing that’s missing that Trainerroad had, is detailed control over the training plan, and the ability to select a plan, and have no thought necessary when logging in to workout – the right one is already selected.

    Anyway, all is good. Miss you, Blog World.

    Learning to Love Moving (again)

    First Saturday of fall, and New England has her moxie back – cold and damp, despite having been hot and humid 10 days ago. Nike+ run club had “speed” work on the calendar in the form of 5 x 400m repeats. So, wanting to get really back in the spin of things, I decided that N and I should ride to the track, run, and then get coffee. So, not really a pure run, not a pure ride, but something in the middle.

    So, with fall being upon us, many local riders have hung up the wheels and won’t be seen again until Memorial Day. Making sure to emphasize the change of seasons, Mother Nature made sure it was grey and cold; I don’t think that we passed another rider all day.

    OnOurWay

    The sky threatened more rain, but that was mostly just bluster.

    Grey

    I’ve been riding a lot this summer with #2 son. He’d asked for a real bike for his birthday, and we hooked him up. That, plus me being down a notch this year with Lyme has given us a great chance to ride. At the end of track season last year, he got diagnosed with exercise induced asthma, got an inhaler (we’ve filed the TUE), and has been kicking butt and taking names. To the point where his word cloud project at school was focused on cycling.

    WordCloud

    So, I kind of strong-armed him into doing a bike-run-bike with me Saturday morning, despite the fact that most of his friends were sitting in their basements playing Density, or some such other game. Bike of choice was the Nashbar Cross bike, since it’s got a rack on the back where I could strap my runners. The ride up to the high school is one of my favorites; hill up to Flanders right out of the gate from the house; long, downhill-ish straight, and one little kicker before rolling into the school. Not a lot of traffic, and a good warmup.

    At the track, we stopped, changed into the sneakers, and watched the JV crew gear up for a game. For the 400 repeats, I got a little confused by the Nike+ app until I figured it out. There’s no warmup period; rather, the app starts with the first 400. Press go, and it starts timing the interval. Press stop after the first interval, and the recovery timer starts, then press go for the next interval. Didn’t figure that out for a while, possibly due to my heart trying to escape my throat.

    Yay.Track

    So, I’m not much of a speed guy. I’m not much of an endurance guy either any more, but I’ve never really claimed to be a speed guy. I’ve dutifully avoided the track for most of my life, with the exception of twice a year during my Navy days running the Physical Readiness Test – 12 laps a year, like it or not. Today, I got to relive why.

    The first 400 kind of didn’t count, since it wasn’t until about 150 in that I realized the Nike+ app had started the rep as soon as I started the workout. N started at the same time as me, and had opened up about 50 meters by the time I realized I was supposed to be going hard, but I caught him by the end of the first 400.

    After the first 400, I’d kind of jogged it while fiddling with my phone, and was surprised when the distance started counting up again, indicating that I’d started it. So, I ran that one slightly faster, mostly out of surprise.

    After that one, my lungs were trying to climb up out of my throat, probably because that’s the easier way to get oxygen into them, so I decided to extend my recovery period to a whole easy lap in between 400 efforts. N caught up to me again, looked like he was having fun, and said “How many more?” “Only three”, I said, and we crossed the start, and he was off.

    For the first half a lap, I thought I could catch him on the back stretch, but the lungs were gasping, I started to taste half-chewed dates (pre-outing breakfast) in my throat, and I decided just to hold on until I was done. Which I did, and after that lap, decided that, not only would i extend the rest interval to a whole lap, but that it was OK if I walked that lap.

    The last two 400’s were tough, and I was thrilled to be walking at the end of them. So, N talked XC strategy with a couple of the high school runners who were doing an 800s workout, and I pretended to take my time getting my bike shoes back on. Then, back to the bike!

    Our high school backs up to an awesome bit of state park land with some of the finest two track in the Northeast. Plus, the high school is on the top of a hill overlooking the sound, so, with the cross bikes, we were looking at about 2 miles of downhill, which we bombed.

    EnterTheDeepDarkWoods

    The kid cleaned it, no problem. I had to stop to pick up my running shoes; they were insufficiently strapped to the bike rack, and managed to either bounce off or get stripped off by some of the verdant but dying vegetation covering the trails. Another 4 miles of spinning, and we were downtown, and at the toughest part of the outing: which place to get coffee.

    Bartleby’s, our usual, must be on the Fred schedule. It’s the start/finish of several local rides, and there are bikes stacked up outside most weekend (and weekday) mornings. But, in a clear sign that cycling season should be over, the chairs were not outside, and no bikes were leaning against the building. Kind of shocking. So, we stopped at the Green Marble – tougher to people watch, but still had tables and chairs out, and, if I’ve got to be pressed, probably has the best latte in town.

    PostRideLatte