In near future I’ll make a broader post about winter cycling gear; but for now, just a brief review of one component that I recently bought, the Craft brand neoprene cycling booties.

Riding in colder temps, the cycling shoes we all use, whose well-ventilated design is great for summer, are a detriment. Feet very quickly get cold even in 40 degrees, let alone 30, 20, or lower. Thicker socks certainly help, and a good pair of wool socks is indispensable. One inadvisable thing would be to layer multiple pairs of socks; this leads to compression problems with the feet and symptoms basically identical to being cold; besides which, the cold soon permeates the extra pair and your feet are just cold anyway.

The solution favored by many riders who insist on continuing to ride in the cold season – commuters, randonneurs, or just those hardbitten fools who love to ride – are cycling overshoes, or cycling booties.

These come in a variety of materials and designs, but the basic idea is the same: cover the entire foot (shoe and all), add another layer of wind protection, and insulate against the cold.

After reading a bit on various options, I decided to go with the advice of friend and local endurance rider Keith “Red Leader” G, and pick up a pair of Craft neoprene booties.

Below is a picture of me wearing one on a recent ride (the yellow ankle band is something I wear atop them; it is not part of the boot).

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First thing for the prospective buyer to be aware of is: BUY LARGE. Meaning, larger size than you need on paper. There are sizing charts out there for translating your bike shoe size to size of overshoe/booty; and, one piece of advice you see everywhere is, “buy larger than this indicates you should!”. I heartily second that. After referencing such a sizing chart, I bought the next size up; however, the ones I received are still quite tight. If I had it to do again I would have bought yet a larger size.

The shoes work great for me. I’m still fine-tuning my wardrobe for winter riding, but currently I wear these in anything less than probably 36 degrees or so (depending on ride distance). I’ve worn them down to nearly single digits (with a good thick pair of wool socks in that case) without feeling cold. My feet did feel “chilly” by ride’s end when it’s been that cold, but they never felt outright cold, or uncomfortable. This would never be the case with straight socks and cycling shoes.

Full disclosure, I DO think that, for me personally, if I were riding a prolonged distance – let’s say 25 miles or more – in 20 degrees or colder, I think my feet would be a little cold. Probably still not COLD, but, cold. So these aren’t a magic bullet. They do insulate your feet, they do hold in warmth and add another layer of wind protection, but they aren’t a fireplace. THIS winter specifically, I think there’s no likelihood that I will ride far enough in cold enough temps that I’ll need more; but, by next year, I expect to be up to doing long rides pretty routinely and for such outings, would possibly want – and need – more.

The shoes “fasten” in multiple ways. There’s a velcro strap across the foot bottom (somewhat visible in below picture); a zipper up the side/back (visible in picture above), and another velcro strap that closes across the top of the zipper.

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The shoes being quite tight on me as mentioned, it took me a short while to work out an easy way in and out of the shoes, but I’ve got it down pat now, as follows:

After putting on bike shorts, socks, leggings if appropriate, etc, I put the neoprene booty on one foot. I first zip up the zipper and fasten the top velcro; then, grasping it firmly around the top, pull it over my foot like a boot-style slipper. With the bottom velcro left open, I’m able to “peel back” the rubberlike shoe, bunching it around my ankle, to fully reveal my foot. I then put my shoe on that foot, tighten it up like normal, and then, grasping the “toe” portion of the neoprene covering, stretch it out and over the toe of the shoe. A second or two of adjusting the back and sides (especially over the ratchet strap on the bike shoe), and the shoe is well fit. I simply close the velcro on the shoe bottom, and then repeat with the other foot.

Upon arriving home after the ride, I take them off in exactly the reverse order. Undo the bottom velcro, pull the shoe back (toe portion first) to give some slack, unbuckle and remove bike shoe, then undo top velcro on Craft shoe, unzip and remove from foot.

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For comfort while riding I give these a 5 of 5.

For secure snug fit, also 5 of 5.

For protection from cold, probably 4 of 5. Again, depending upon your precise mileage and temps, these will be hugely useful in a wide range of conditions.

For weight efficiency, 5 of 5. The shoes do add weight, of course – they have mass – but it isn’t noticeable, and especially not for the value they add. Picture a lightweight, flexible, quasi-rubber set of slippers atop your bike shoes – that’s what these are.

For safety, I give them 4 of 5. Each shoe has a small reflective strip down the back (visible in picture #1), and the very tops of the boots as well as those “circles” on the shoes in the picture below are semi-reflective. I personally always wear the yellow reflective ankle bands in anything other than broad daylight, so those combined with these shoes = great awareness to following cars that you are there.

Winter here this year has been pretty mild, and I’ve not been able to really test these in LOW LOW temps and/or for longer mileage. But with my ride distances slowly creeping up, I am hopeful of another couple of good really cold days for me to test these guys for some distance.

Weekend wrap-up of #bikehour rides.

The daily ride is finally growing up, as evidenced by this weekend’s mileage.

Friday 2/6:

Late-evening start to ride. Headed out around 8:15 PM, after a short nap (yes!) at home. Temps were quite nice – I don’t recall exactly but roughly around 40-45. I took a route that I rode periodically prior to my recent fall from fitness/nutritional grace – here in Ottawa, I take Eisenhower, south to Old State Highway 50, which meanders along through some rollers, some flats and some long gradual grades, to John Brown Highway. I take that a few miles back east to 59 Highway, where I make the 8ish mile finish back home. Overall route is about 26.5 miles.

My first 20+ mile in this streak; in fact, my first 20+ mile bike ride in some 5 weeks, and my first 20+ mile ride in the state of Kansas since mid-October. That last ride was a much slower-paced, with frequent stops, group ride on the Katy Trail with about 10-11 other friends; prior to THAT, my last 20+ mile bike ride in Kansas was actually the Bike MS ride in mid-September, a shocking 4.5+ months ago and before the entire saga with my mom’s passing.

I won’t claim this 26 miler was easy for me; in fact, considering that my longest ride in the streak to date was basically 18.5 miles (which I’ve done 3-4 times), this was 40%+ longer than anything on the streak so far. That’s a big jump up. But, I handled it (including the hills, which really reminded me how much difference even 10 pounds of body weight makes when climbing) decently well. The highlight of the ride was probably the stretch east on JB Highway. For one, I had a little tailwind behind me, and for two, I was headed directly at a sometimes-cloud-shrouded full (or near-full) moon which hung brilliantly in the sky. Listening to an awesome Pandora mix, riding along a nearly-zero-traffic road into the late Friday evening, chasing the moon – magical.

Saturday 2/7:

Weatherwise even nicer than Friday. High temperature today hit something like 70! But, a combination of the gym, which I’ve recently returned to, plus my unusually (for me in current era) long ride of Friday, meant I was SORE. Like, no exaggeration, 8 or 8+ on 10 scale. Therefore, I didn’t see the need to attempt a “heroic” (air quotes because it’s all relative) ride distance today. I was quite content with 12.1 miles on the “airport road” route, on a 4 PM ride. Full spring outfit for me – shorts, t-shirt, fingerless gloves. Excellent.

Sunday 2/8:

Back to a slightly longer ride, on which I set out about 8:30 AM. Nice out, maybe 45-50 degrees at that time. I’d just missed a REALLY beautiful dawn, which would have been awesome to ride in if I’d left 60-90 minutes earlier. All the same, nice.

I employed a route that I’ve not ridden in some time – basically getting on 68 Highway from 7th street here in town and go due west. 10 miles gets you to Franklin, at which point I typically (and did so today) return.

Wind was fairly nasty. It was stronger than I anticipated from my weather app, and coming from about the NNW. This meant I was mostly going into it heading out and mostly had it with me coming back; but, being not straight on, it was always threatening me a little bit. More than a couple times, a sudden strong gust almost took me off the bike in one way or another.

The only other excitement of the ride was a nice little dog encounter just ~3 miles in. Battling the headwind meant I was rolling along at between 10.5-12.5 mph during this stretch. At some point I heard a dog just behind me barking. Riding the bike enough and being chased enough by dogs gives one the ability to tell pretty quickly from a bark both the size of the dog and its intentions, and right away I knew this wasn’t good. I never DID see the animal, but from the bark it was a larger one, and it was serious. It gave chase for a short time, barking, and then essentially rammed or sideswiped me on my left leg! This startled me and upped the adrenaline. In that split second in which many thoughts race through, I realized that it was conceivable the dog could do this again, with more emphasis, possibly knocking me down, at which point there would be a confrontation. Fortunately, this “swipe” from the dog was its parting shot, and it dropped off the pace and receded down the road.

I knew that on the return, I would have a very respectable tailwind and be going MUCH faster, and didn’t have much worry; in fact, I looked forward to the dog coming out again to greet me, to shifting up a ring or two, and dropping the beast. Alas, on the return, as I kept my head on a swivel not knowing precisely which house was “his”, I heard a single token bark from the porch as I rode by. Making 17-20 mph during this stretch, I’m sure the dog realized I was already going too fast to be worth attempting to run down.

As I said at the start, the daily ride is growing up. Friday was the streak’s longest ride yet; Friday + Saturday was my highest 2-day mileage yet; and with Sunday’s ride, I had my second 20+ miler and the highest 3-day mileage yet. Things are coming gradually easier now, and I can discern gradual progress in several aspects of fitness and my on-bike ability.

Streak extends to 23 days, and we’re just getting started!! At start of Sunday’s ride I thought with a smile, I’m not sure how many of my friends & family would have believed at the start of the streak that I’d actually make it to 23 days without faltering, but I’ve gotten here and am just getting warmed up. The really fun days are still ahead.

Catching up on the last few rides.

Streak is still alive; it extended to day 20 with yesterday’s ride.

Tuesday 2/3 – got in 18.6 miles on an evening ride in Ottawa. My longest ride of the streak thus far – by a massive 1/3 of a mile. My now-familiar route of riding to Princeton on Hwy 59, back to Ottawa, taking the “cemetery connector” (side road beside Wally World), then instead of going directly home, just another couple miles in town. Longest ride of streak to date and one of the least taxing. Progress is definitely occurring.

Most prominent on this ride (and the ensuing couple that have followed to date) is that The Factor Which Shall Not Be Named – which I alluded to in the 2/2 #bikehour post with this:

The ride was also great for another reason which I’m not yet ready to make public. Sometime, I will.

…was very much in evidence here too. It may be weeks before I’m ready to disclose this publicly, but, it’s all kinds of good.

Wednesday 2/4 – 4:50 AM ride in Ottawa. The “airport road” route. 11.7 miles total. Not especially significant for any particular reason. I remember it was quite cold, and also The Factor Which Shall Not Be Named was still rollin’.

Thursday 2/5 – 5:30 PM ride in Ottawa. More or less the same “airport road” route but with just a couple additional miles on 59 highway thrown in. There was quite a respectable wind from the south, so I was making quite good speed (for me) on the last several miles back to the house. Temperature was around 30 degrees, and there was still ice on the ground from the recent spate of bad weather; fortunately, the ice was confined to the FAR edges of the road shoulder and in the grass, so the roads were totally safe for bikes. The Factor Which Shall Not Be Named still in play.

I’m quite glad that I’ve been able to maintain the streak without needing to resort to inside riding. I still give myself that out if necessary – as I have since day one (for example, if there’s 8 inches of snow on the ground, I ain’t riding my road bike) – but, I’m making it a point to avoid it if at all possible. With the next several days looking quite spring-y, neither snow nor ice is anywhere in sight. Only another few weeks of potential winter weather remain – then, after that, clear sailing from a weather perspective.

I wanted to quit.

Last evening I felt like stepping back from the streak. I’d somewhat miscalculated the amount of ice left on the ground in Ottawa for the evening ride I had planned, and I was very apprehensive about falling. Muddled up in my feelings was the old familiar demons of “will I ever be able to succeed at what I’m trying to do” – referring to losing lots of weight and getting into very good shape. Sometimes it seems like you’re giving it 100% and it’s not enough.

I could excuse myself from my very public reporting on my streak: “too much ice. I misjudged. I’ll start another streak later.” But searching my insides, I found that in thinking this way, I was really looking for a way out.

I didn’t like that.

I’ve taken several steps recently to turn around this fitness & weight situation that I’ve fallen into post-my mom’s passing. I reminded myself yesterday evening how much work I’ve done and even a couple of specific recent steps, which should tell me all I need to know about how much I want to keep fighting and win. Don’t give up now.

It’s true, there was more ice on the ground than I bargained for. And I WAS very nervous about falling. But I knew that a will always finds a way. Let’s go to Forest Park, I thought, drive around there. I bet the circle there is clear. Will be a pretty boring ride – 10 laps around a circular ~.8 mile “track” – but, it’s infinitely better than cashing in. I drove up and surely enough, road there was totally clear.

24 degrees out with windchill lower, so it was cold. I dressed about as warmly as I currently have the ability to for a bike ride – again, another post later on winter riding apparel – and set out. I was in fact never vaguely chilly, let alone cold, during the ride. Granted that it was only 10 miles, versus 20 or 30 or 50.

Ride started out in a similarly crappy mindset. First, I’d forgotten to turn the tail-light on at the house, so I wanted to stop and do that. If you have the light, you should use it. Second, I experienced some issue with my front derailleur, which I still need to sort out. I could ride only in the small ring. Not a huge issue for now, but it does greatly reduce the gears available. Third, in my “full winter wardrobe” I felt fat and bulky, and pictured myself as a large fat man rolling down the street on a bicycle. “Who am I kidding” time in my mind. I was not in a good headspace.

Things changed not long after I entered the park. I reminded myself, you tend to view things very mathematically and objectively. Yes you’re not in the shape now that you want to be in, but let’s see how long it’ll take to get there. I’ve long viewed miles on the bike as “little calorie machines”. That is, (within common sense limitations) the more miles you ride, the more calories you are going to burn. YOU control your progress, to a significant extent. Progress doesn’t control you. So as I glided around the track again, and again, my mind worked, turning over models of average daily mileage versus net calories burned per mile versus calories in a pound. And as I continued taking silent circles, punctuated only by my breathing, around the track under a brilliant watchful moon, the ride turned into among the favorites I’ve ever taken. *I can do this*, I realized. It’ll be work, and effort, and it’ll be commitment, but I can reach my goal not in years or decades, but months. Things will gradually come easier as the weight ebbs away, cardio improves, weather improves allowing for lighter riding and further mileage, etc. I arrived at a few key dates in my head and accompanying milestones. I renewed my intensity and my commitment to see the work through. I can do this, and I will do this.

I view this ride as a turning point. In future there may – and almost certainly will – be others. For now, this one was huge.

The ride was also great for another reason which I’m not yet ready to make public. Sometime, I will.

Soon enough the 10 miles was over, and I was back home. There, in the bathroom brushing teeth and getting ready to shower & go to bed, I looked up into the mirror and I saw a winner.

#bikehour extends to 16 days, with two cold, rainy weekend ride days under the belt; and it leaves behind its first month (not a complete month though) and enters its second.

Friday I got in 13.5 miles in an evening ride in Ottawa. East on 68 up to Wal Mart distribution center, around their giant parking lot a time or two, back, and then up Montana to Sand Creek and back home via 59.

Saturday was the first rainy-day ride on the streak. Left the house (Ottawa) about 6:20 AM. 32-35 degrees out and raining; sub-30 degree wind chills. Not idyllic weather. For the first time, I rocked my full rain ensemble: usual outfit with the exception of head gear, which was, in this order, cycling cap, hood of rain/wind jacket, bike helmet.

I rode Storm, and she doesn’t have fenders, so I knew it was unavoidable that I’d get wet and somewhat gritty. It had already been raining for several hours, and roads were soaked.

Being still raining, I put all the stuff that I carry in my belt-bag, into a ziploc bag. Actually, I put two items that I carry with me in memory of my Mom into a ziploc, then put THAT bag into a second ziploc, which held all the other stuff (a gel or two, spare tubes, tire changing stuff). Wrapped it up and put in belt bag. Stayed bone dry. Phone also got the double-ziploc treatment. No earphones and music on this ride.

Route was a very simple one – up to Princeton and back (without the “cemetery connector”). 16.6 miles. I wanted something with very few turns, to acquaint myself with the wet-weather riding I was getting into. I’ve not ridden a ton in rain, and not at all in 4 months (almost to the day).

Ride was fairly uneventful. It was pretty epic what with the cold steady rain which fell wire to wire on the ride. My body was fairly chilled when I reached the house. More musings on winter gear to come in a separate, non-#bikehour post.

Sunday’s ride was not quite as pleasant. Saturday night I stayed up north with a friend watching the UFC PPV, so I didn’t get to sleep until close to 1 AM. Woke up just a few hours later to head out into more of the same as Saturday’s ride, before conditions get REALLY bad today from a wind perspective. Precipitation is supposed to taper off this afternoon, but temps will be falling to “really really” cold and winds will really pick up. I didn’t want a piece of that, so wanted to get the ride knocked out early. As a consequence, my body is still pretty fatigued and this morning’s ride – some of it into a respectable north headwind – wasn’t the easiest.

Headed out around 7:30 from the area of the office where I work. I rode a simple “Tetris L” shaped route. Nall south to 143rd, west on that to Switzer, back north to 135th, east on 135th (very little traffic at this time on a cold rainy Sunday morning, so I had the full right lane with no issues), back to Metcalf, north on that to 119th and back to the start/finish. Most of the ride went ok, but I started to hit some kind of wall of fatigue on Swizer. I attribute a combination of not a ton of sleep last couple days, riding in cold/rain, headwind, and body still getting used to riding every day. The turn north on Metcalf was especially tough. I crawled up Metcalf in some pretty low gears, looking forward to getting into warmer, dry clothes and a good breakfast.

Riding the bike in general is about taking the bad with the good; and attempting to build a long streak will certainly contain a good portion of both. All in all, while this weekend’s rides contained some challenges, on balance they were great, and enjoyable; and, as is pretty much always the case, I’m glad I did them.

Weather tomorrow looks very dicey; for example, at 5 AM in Ottawa it’s forecast to be in single-digits with sub-zero windchill. From a sheer TEMPERATURE perspective, I could handle 10 miles of that; but I’m concerned about possible icing on the road with all this precip. So I will play it by ear, knowing that I still allow myself the weather-mandated-bailout option of riding indoors.  I was fairly sure I’d have to exercise that option today; I was able to avoid it, but tomorrow it may be unavoidable.

Short update to clean the decks of the 3 most recent rides.

#bikehour streak is still alive, going strong after 13 days.

Tuesday (1/27/2015) I rode 18.3 miles, this time here up north on the paved trails with good friend and long-time riding buddy Mr. V. Incredibly, this was the first time I’d ridden with Mr. V in a quarter of a year. We took advantage of the springlike day to get in a nice ride from our office, to the trail, about 9 miles out and back.

Wednesday (1/28/2015) I got in an 11.6 mile morning ride in Ottawa. The same “airport road” route I’ve taken a time or two previously. I want to say it was about 35-40 degrees with a little colder windchill.

Thursday (1/29/2015) I got in a 13 mile evening ride in Ottawa. Around 40 degrees. Rode up to Forest Park, and around the ~1 mile loop there about 3-4 times, then out and some meandering miles up north before heading east on Sand Creek, back to Montana/Davis, then 68 highway and 59/Main back home.

Streak stands strong after 13 days, and we’re not going anywhere. Just getting started. The average daily mileage is still only 13.9, but considering the colder weather and just re-entering “the game” after allowing myself to fall off a cliff, I’m quite content with rate of progress. Soon, the numbers will be coming up.

Next “milestone” will be mid-next week, when I pass the longest consecutive streak that I’ve ever ridden, which is 18 days. In that 18 day streak, there were several longer days (20, 25, 30, I think a 60) although also a few 1, 2, 3 milers. I’m already on my longest personal streak of consecutive 10+ mile days.

Weather this weekend is looking pretty iffy, so I will be keeping a close eye on that and planning accordingly.

#bikehour – 1/26/2015

January 26, 2015

Nothing overly exciting to report from today’s ride, except that the streak has pushed into double digits, today being day 10.

Started out at 4:45 AM, in Ottawa. Rode the identical route to Saturday – up to Princeton and back. I’d forgotten the other day to mention that the route back included the short diversion upon Labette Rd by Wally World, then down by the graveyard and back. This gets it to 18.3 miles. Straight to Princeton and back would have been ~16 miles.

Temperature was about 28-30 degrees to start. Wore the faux wool top, yellow wind/rain jacket, leggings, and the full winter gloves. Wore the Craft overshoes. No balaclava.

I continue to discern gradual progress. I’m definitely getting back in tune with the bike now, as has been the case for the last 5 or so rides in the series. The first 5, I was still fighting it and trying to get back in the groove. Cardio is coming along, the arm weariness thing is rapidly ebbing away. Now only muscle endurance and cardio remain the major barriers, and I am pushing hard against those with the riding every day, good healthy diet, and gym.

Notable music: Lots of gothy goodness today. First song was one of Gary Numan’s seemingly dozens of versions of “Down in the Park”. Also coming over the airwaves during the ride was Depeche Mode “Suffer Well”, Perfect Circle’s “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums”, and some NIN song I hadn’t previously heard but liked. There was another couple songs I’d not heard before but liked a lot. All wove together to provide a great soundtrack to the very-dark, cold, early morning ride.

Two more successful days logged in the streak, which now stands at 9.

Last few days have been a rollercoaster series of “highs” for the still-very-young streak:

Friday’s ride was the coldest on the streak to date (around 18-20 degrees).

Saturday’s was the longest on the streak to date (18.3 miles).

Sunday’s was the windiest and also rainiest on the streak to date.

The wind Sunday morning was bananas. Having looked ahead at the forecast, I knew it was going to be windy all day, and that the earlier start I could get, the better. Even at 5 AM, wind was already a sustained 15-20 mph with very strong gusts; and later on it was only heavier. I got rolling around 6:20 AM. The plan was to ride north on 59 to Sand Creek, go west a mile or two, double back, cross over 59 on Sand Creek, then south on Montana/Davis and back. Fundamentally the same rectangle I did on, I think, day 1.

With the wind coming strongly from the WNW, I knew that paradoxically, there wasn’t really going to be ANY part of today’s ride where I wouldn’t battle it, and that turned out true.

Immediately on my way north out of town, I felt the wind. The first half mile or so it didn’t seem that awesome, but it soon imposed itself. After probably 1.5 miles, sheets of cold rain were falling nearly horizontally on me from the west (my left) in the dark as I climbed over the overpass north of town. There was NO traffic out, which was a blessing, because tacking against the wind resulted in a jagged course for me.

At times the wind felt like a physical force pressing against my entire body like a giant hand. But that wasn’t as unpleasant as the huge gusts that would rise up and attempt to push me over. At least half a dozen times on the ride (no exaggeration) I said “good God” out loud in response to these blasts.

I reached Sand Creek, gradually, the rain still coming down, occasionally stinging my leg or face. As planned, I turned west, but this leg of the trip was even harder than the difficulty I knew awaited me. I was going *mostly* directly into the wind, and from time to time huge gusts would attempt to either undercut my bike, taking the tires out from below me, or else push me directly over. It was anything but pleasant and yet still, a spark of joy remained :) I was proud that I was sticking it out in these conditions and going through the streak. One thought ran through my head that on future rando days, I may well have to battle dozens of miles of this. Another thought, very early on in the ride was that if I didn’t have this streak going, no way in HELL would I have gotten out at 6 AM on a morning like this to ride (and later would have been even worse, from a wind perspective, although not rain).

So after only a short distance (maybe a mile, or less) on Sand Creek, I doubled back to take it east to Montana. This was the most “wind-friendly” part of the ride (also the rain had let up around halfway to Montana), but as mentioned above, it wasn’t carefree. Owing to the direction and intensity of wind, even on this portion the wind occasionally tried to push me over or take out my tires. I made it with relatively good time (sometimes simply coasting and concentrating on keeping the bike upright instead of introducing instability with pedaling) to Montana, and turned down.

Realizing I would arrive home with a shade under 10, I turned off of 68 highway about halfway to 59, for another little loop north and then back east. Repeat in microcosm form the earlier part of the ride. Battle hard northward; when finally turn east, get pushed along like a locomotive albeit one that tries to knock you over with the occasional blast from the side; then turn south.

I did make it home without incident, though not without a few jolts of adrenaline, ending with 12 miles and an average speed of 12 mph in these crazy conditions.

What a contrast had been Saturday evening’s ride. I’d set out at 4:30 PM into what literally was like a spring day. Shorts, my red T-shirt (!) and fingerless (!) gloves. It was niiiice – like an early preview of spring. I opted for a straightforward ride to Princeton and back, totaling 18.3 miles. Wind was pretty strong, from the SSW, so I was pushing into a decent headwind at first but then had a decent tailwind to end. Upon reaching my familiar haunt of Subway at ride’s end I found myself wanting to ride a lot more, but a) I’d not brought the headlights, knowing that I would finish before dark, and b) I knew that I had this beastly Sunday morning windy ride to contend with and wanted to keep my legs fresh. Again, I’m in this for the long haul and am not overly concerned about turning in “short” (air quotes because it’s all relative) rides for a little while as I lose weight, gain fitness and the body gets the full message about what it’s in for.

With 9 straight days of 10+ mile rides in the bank, I think I’ve either equalled, beaten or am about to beat :) my all-time best. After another few days I know I’ll be there. For total mileage, the current streak can’t compete with past efforts, not yet. I’ve got 120 miles in 9 days, an average of only 13.3 per day. However, over time, the average will most certainly expand… :)

So, two lessons were learned today, and fortunately neither one carried major ramifications.

The first was experienced shortly after leaving the house. Somehow – and still not real sure what occurred here – I misread or misunderstood the hourly forecast on my phone. I thought I would be riding in roughly 26-28 degrees. Therefore I dressed accordingly. Similar to yesterday, but with the thicker wool socks, and also with the heavier winter gloves. Sadly, almost immediately I realized “hey, this feels colder than 26.” I passed a bank clock in town that said 20. I thought “nahhh, must be wrong.” A mile or so later, a second bank clock. This one said, I think, 18 or 19. Ok…..and on the return trip to the house, the first clock actually had dropped by a degree, and my weather app was now informing me it was 20 degrees. My water bottle (from which I didn’t drink on the ride) was very icy – a first for me on this streak. I’m surprised to report that, even on short bike rides, the difference between 18-20 degrees and 26-28 degrees is quite noticeable.

Definitely the coldest ride for me on this current streak.

The second lesson was shortly to come. And that is: when riding in pre-dawn darkness, on dark country roads, make *sure* your headlights are good & charged up. I run 2 rechargeable Li-ion headlights. One has a shorter, 2ish hour life at max brightness, the other about 4 or so. I charged these (probably not 100%) a couple days ago and assumed I still had enough juice. I was wrong. Light #1 died on me probably 2 miles into the ride, leaving only the one (less bright although longer-lived) light. From the gauge on THAT one, though, I could see it was quite low. During the darkest stretch of the ride (very little ambient light), when I had the light on high, it switched itself to low and stayed there – a sure sign it didn’t have a lot of life left. Not a great feeling when it’s so dark your visibility is much shorter than your reaction time.

The one good thing is that I wasn’t intending to do much more than the 10 mile minimum, anyway. I am in this for the very long haul and want to build up gradually, making sure the body is getting the message that this every-day riding thing is the norm and especially that it must do this along with regular gym sessions, which I attended again today. So I planned the “airport road” route that I did a couple days ago, which would get about 10.5 miles. With the headlight situation though, I decided to cut it somewhat short and, only several seconds past the 5-mile point in the ride, turned back for home. I ended with 10.2 miles.

In all, not the most enjoyable ride ever, primarily a combination of a) being colder than I thought I’d be (I would have worn a balaclava had I known the actual temp, plus I just would have been mentally more prepared and b) the dread of my lights dying while I was out on dark roads, including a couple of highway-shoulder miles. The ride was ok – and as a friend once remarked, the worst day on the bike beats the best day at work – but, certainly not my finest hour.

But, it all works for the better. I learned two important lessons, extended the streak to 7 days, and got to ride my bike for a while. Who can complain.

I’m not 100% sure but I think my personal best for consecutive 10+ mile days is around 8. So with rides on Saturday and Sunday, I will probably be at a new best streak for me. If not, then certainly early next week.

Notable music: u2 “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own” was first song up. This one has always reminded me of my dad. A Geoff Tate-sang version of Welcome to the Machine followed that, which I’d never heard before. “No More Lies” by Iron Maiden was playing during the darkest stretch of the ride, which with a little smile I thought would be more appropriate as “No More Light”. “One” by u2 (a live version) was playing as I returned home.

Also, just clarifying my intentions RE: #bikehour – it’s not necessarily the plan to log a writeup about every single ride in the streak. I’m hoping to do that for as many of them as time allows, because most bike rides bring about a thought, an idea, or a development that I find worthwhile, but I don’t necessarily mean to do one every day.

Extended the streak to 6 days today, although I still cannot claim it’s real easy for me, yet.

Got in 10.7 miles.

Start time and conditions were pretty much identical to yesterday. Around 4:30-5 AM, in Ottawa, and start temp roughly 26-28 degrees. Wore same outfit but this time forgot lip balm, and felt its absence pretty early on the ride.  Otherwise, generally pretty comfy.  Feet *slightly* chilly but not bad.  I recently bought a much thicker pair of wool socks which I will employ on colder rides (or same temp + longer mileage).

The route was a somewhat disjointed one. South a few blocks to 15th street, east on that, past the graveyard and over some rollers. This road has some rollers and some gradients, but alas only goes for a few miles before the pavement turns to hard rocky gravel. I’m not enthused to take my current bike over that, so the planned route was to approach this border, then turn back, then down the road by the graveyard, which loops up and around, by Wal Mart, and then Main St (59) back home. That’s what I did.

Only 10.7 miles but it wasn’t the easiest. For one, the rollers at the start took some out of me. For two, probably more significantly, went to gym yesterday for first time in some weeks. Differently from my customary routine, I went in the EVENING, after work. I was blown away by how much harder the workout felt ( = unpleasant) after a hard day’s work, contrasted with pre-work morning workout. I got through it fine, but was tired after, and then this morning, having only 12 or so hours elapsed versus 24 hours had to have an effect.

Again, as with the bike aspect itself, easier times are coming, and the body is just going through an adapting period.

A good segue to inventory the challenges I recognized in returning to fitness from the condition I was in, and where I am now with those.

Following my descent into depression, horrible eating, and just general disinterest following my mom’s passing, I reached a pretty sorry state fitness-wise. Among the challenges I knew faced me were overcoming the apathy and finding the enthusiasm again; finding the “courage” or confidence to ride again in public while feeling like I probably look out there like I am working as hard as I am; muscular endurance and cardio; the sheer weight itself; and, one which I didn’t realize was specifically how weary my arms would be in supporting my heavier frame on the bike which it was unaccustomed to doing.

Fast forward 6 daily rides now. The arm weariness thing is MUCH better. Certainly the apathy has been put to pasture and the enthusiasm is back. Similarly I no longer have the same dread of riding in public that I felt (progressively more strongly) during my descent. Together, those were THE biggest hurdle, actually. The weight itself – well, it’s coming around, of course, and will be gradual. I can feel the last several days that I am moving in the right direction.

Now we’re mostly down to cardio and muscular endurance – the legs being willing to keep working consistently over the course of steadily longer rides and day after day, and the cardio/stamina to improve apace so that the energy is there. Right now this represents the biggest limitation. But like the others, I’ll get there! Easier days are coming. The magic of being able to hop on the bike and ride X miles over more/less any terrain is not terribly far away. Maybe weeks, maybe even a couple months – but I’m reeling it back.

Notable music: “Control” by VNV Nation was the first song Pandora gave me. Probably my least favorite song on my most favorite album of theirs, so, there ya go. Some hitherto unknown, very cool song that mixed drum and bass with choir-style vocals came on and was awesome. Another Nephilim song, this one slower and quieter, provided the wind-down soundtrack to my return to the house. Musically the highlight was undoubtedly “The Scientist” by Coldplay, which came on roughly midway. “Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be this hard / Oh take me back to the start.” Perfectly appropriate for this rebuilding era I’m working hard to graduate from.

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