August 25, 2015

Cool crisp morning air. The first hints of Autumn. Head out into darkness, single headlight attached, reflective ankle bands announcing my presence to those behind.

Last year’s warm-up-miles portion of the ride is this week’s medium-level exertion ride. Much work ahead just to get back to break-even, and then the great beyond.

I’ve finally made peace with that now, though, and this is critical to my getting back on track. Sheer faithful and optimistic determination, fueled by the wisdom of those whom I hold in regard, push me forward. Ever forward, a little at a time.

The past does not exist, says Ron, and he is right. Put forth a consistent, good effort every day, day after day after day after day, and you will arrive at the ability to do incredible things, says James. And he is right.

I’m just a little stronger during this morning’s ride than during yesterday’s. Just a little fresher. Just a little closer to where I am going. And as I push hard on the last couple of turns to my house, the same phrase keeps echoing in my head in time with my invigorated, beating heart: 2016. 2016. 2016.


I am the tailwind

September 10, 2014

Pre-dawn start to ride
Flecks of rain fall diagonally toward me, passing through my headlight beams
Fresh coat of water covers the streets from passing rain last night
Will it open up on me this morning or will I ride free? Time alone will tell, but I’m goin’
Lungs and legs open up a mile or two down the road
This never gets old, and I hope that it never will
Spray of water off both tires as I wind my way through dark wet streets
Now I’m back near the start
Gliding along in pace with the winding stream of taillights ahead
A wave of sleepy people starting their day, moving forward in time and space into their routines
Make the final turn into the parking garage just as “Streets” by u2 swells up in the headphones
Right here I realize:
*I* am the tailwind.

A first synthesis ride

February 20, 2013

So last night I took my first “real” ride of any distance in 2.5 weeks.  I’d been on the bike 4-5 times in the interval, but for a TOTAL of maybe 10-12 miles, and never more than 3 at a stretch…just very short rides to keep “in touch” with the bike.

Recently much has kept me off the bike.  I’ve been working through some things in the personal life, working a fair amount, the weather has been inconsistent, and crowning it all I had a battle with the nasty flu that is going around.  All these things contributed to keeping me off the bike for – well, one of the longest stretches since I first bought the current bike in January 2012.

But, finally, there I was last night.  The weather wasn’t hospitable to it – it was well below freezing when I set out at about 7 PM and dropped below 20 before I arrived home.  Plus I am still battling the remaining 20% of the flu I’d been suffering.  But with the forecast calling for between 6 and 12+ inches of snow, ice, sleet to fall in the next 24 hours, I knew I would NOT be riding for the next few days – so better to sneak in at least one ride.

I was eager for the ride for more reasons than one.  Beyond just the joy of riding and reconnecting with the bike (which I truly believe, as my blog’s subtitle says, saved my life), I recognized that depending upon route selection, this would be a good “synthesis ride” for me – a good ability to gauge my progress along the all-important power-to-weight continuum.  I’ve been applying myself dedicatedly to improving the power-to-weight ratio for some weeks now, continuing to eat healthy and lose weight while going regularly to the gym for strength training.  I’ve seen the results in numerous little ways, and was eager to assess its impact-thus-far on the bike.

I chose a route that for me historically has been fairly challenging.  Or at least, not a piece of cake.  It’s a roughly 24 mile route up north to LeLoup and back via 68 Highway, a route originally suggested to me by Randy Rasa of kansascyclist.com.  The route has certainly gotten less difficult for me as I’ve lost weight over the months, but I hadn’t done the route in the past several weeks of strength training and weight loss and was eager to measure my progress against it.

Additionally, I have a slightly tweaked fueling strategy that I plan to essay for this cycling season, and this would be a first ride to give that a test.

This became one of those bike rides you live for.  Crisp and cold, yes.  I wore my normal winter gear – leggings with 2 pairs of shorts, t-shirt underneath with long-sleeve shirt atop – but in addition I wore atop THAT a warm red sweatshirt, and on my head a cap/ear cover which I only employ when it’s below 30ish.  All of that gear kept me comfortably warm for the most part (although by ride’s end my feet were cold), and I fired up my usual Pandora mix station as I weaved my way through traffic lights out of town.  Coming up to the first inclines on 68 east, I could immediately perceive a difference in the amount of “push” I needed to exert.  My body felt stronger, quicker and lighter than before, and I made good time up the couple of small inclines with good cadence.

The ride to LeLoup is a beautiful stretch of quiet country road, with a few small rolling hills, and these I also took with less exertion than is typically the case for me.  The night sky was (in parts) clear and bright, and the tunes were as always a perfect soundtrack to my private reel of thoughts as the miles ticked away and the Kansas landscape glided silently past in the darkness.

Making the turn east for the next stretch, I continued feeling very good…a little quicker, a little stronger, and a little lighter.  For maybe the first time in my life, or one of the first rides, I was feeling like a “real cyclist”.  I’m aware that even after all the time I’ve put in on the bike and all my effort in losing weight, I’m just now starting to open the door into a different “era” for me in terms of on-bike potential, and it’s a very cool thing to experience, if difficult to capture in words.

I took a short break at my usual place – halfway in, about 12 miles.  Briefly stopped at my familiar stop-sign breaking point, drank some more water and relaxed a minute or two.  The moon seemed to be directly overhead, aligned with the stop sign, and fringed with bright stars – a beautiful moment to be alive and enjoying a bike ride on this crisp night.  Soon enough I jumped back aboard for the return to O-town.  The first few miles here are on Tennessee Road, with another few rolling hills.  A couple of these climbs in particular have in the past played havoc with my cadence and breathing.  This night though, the “synthesis ride” could hardly have been much more encouraging…I rolled up each climb and down the other side in stride.  Turning back west on 68, passing familiar landmarks and more rollers, I arrived back in town cold (especially the aforementioned feet) but feeling very good.  The fueling strategy seems to be an A+ at this point – when doing this route in the past, I always would feel a little “protest” from my legs in the last couple miles, but not today.  I felt as though, if not for the temperature and the time of day (this on a work-night), I could comfortably have extended the ride for another X number of miles.

In all, I couldn’t have been more heartened by this “synthesis ride” than I was/am.  It’s a very encouraging start to what should be a really fun year of cycling.  Clearly the weight loss, the healthier eating, and the strength training are cohering (synthesizing) into making me a stronger rider.  Now with spring just around the corner…warmer temps, and longer daylight, I will be able to integrate the final piece which is more frequent and longer rides, building the miles.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

January 9, 2012

(Originally written 1/5/2012, before this blog was up and running.)

Since the long-range cycling bug bit me, I’ve read much about the subject online. Blogs and vlogs of riders, forums, various trail sites, etc.  One thing that initially surprised me was a reference to getting chased by dogs on longer rides. I assumed this was an anomaly until I read similar bemoaning in several other places.  The theme emerged: getting chased by the occasional dog is a fact of the long-range cyclist’s life.

Like most folks entering a new hobby, I found myself asking, “I wonder how long until I’m there?”  Now this is usually a wistful question, but in this case, it was a pondering on a development that I’d rather avoid altogether 🙂

Well, didn’t take too long to get my answer.

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I Was in the Music

January 9, 2012

(Originally written 1/4/2012, before this blog was up and running.)

Tonight I understood much.  I understood better how to pace myself on longer rides.  When to let go, when to hold back.  I understood, more than ever before, that cycling is about patience, persistence. Goals are achieved not by dead sprinting, not by unremitting brute force, but by the accumulation of effort over time.  The next mile is reached, the next town, the next ride distance, the next goal.

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