Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reflecting on Five Years

   Five years ago, we'd just had a baby and I was 190 pounds, the most I've ever weighed in my life.  Then came my 36th birthday and the surprise gift from my wife: a bicycle.  Yes, it'd been close to a quarter of a century since I'd been on one, and I'd never ridden a bike with more than one gear and never as an adult. It was a Walmart special, but it got me going out.
   I set off, then on July 9 of 2011 on this incredible journey.  That first few months, I shed some weight (about 15 pounds at the time) as I struggled to increase my distance.  Now those days seem like a different time of sticking to paths and avoiding major roads for fear of cars as I relied heavily on the Internet for enlightenment (okay, some things don't change) so that I could hopefully have a clue of what I was doing and be safe.  Not knowing how to properly shift my weight to remove one hand from the handlebars landed me hard on the pavement and skidding along to get that road rash I'd been so afraid of...I was right to fear it!
   Over those first months, there was a steady movement of greater skills and better equipment that remains rather ongoing, from my Schwinn gear and Bell bike computer to now my Pearl Izumi and Louis Garneau gear and my smart phone to track my rides.  But it reflects how it's all been a gradual growth and evolution, moving from the first basic bike to a hybrid bike that kept up with me better and allowed me to continue to strengthen my skills and body. More roads became possible and less scary, and then the clipless pedals.  I began meeting my family at further locales as they began to also join me as the girls got older.  Biking became more and more integral to who I was and what we were doing as a family.
  And then came the road bike, not a replacement but an addition.  And it opened more roads and longer rides to me that the hybrid just wasn't that well equipped for with it's sturdier, and heavier, frame (it's still great for family rides with the tag-a-long attached!).  Setting out for hours on the bike no longer meant a quick ride to the paths and back but to the next city and back, truly cycling along the front range, making me finally ready to call myself a cyclist.  I even had the chance to discover I really don't like group rides.  My rides are for myself, and I can stop whenever I like, though I also came to realize that I need to stop the frequent breaks if I was going to increase my endurance.
   The floods of 2013 were a major setback with roads and bridges out all along my main routes.  My main routes had to shift.  It made me more flexible, but it also began the winters that have been more challenging to get out on the bike with bitter cold and biting winds.  Forced to look for other alternatives, biking went inside on the trainer, which isn't nearly as freeing and fun.
   And now my life now includes regular visits to the recreation center (I would never have thought that would be something I'd enjoy!).  Joining this January and using their equipment (which, yes, includes the stationary bikes), I was able to begin the cycling season not so physically unfit from the winter's time cooped up inside.  In fact, I was able to start out at a higher level and just keep growing.     Five years later, my wife and I are consciously watching our diet, so I have dropped down to almost 160 pounds.  So, facing five years on the bike (with some other life changes) and being 41, I'm back to my college weight and jean size.  Ironically because the bike is what got me to this point, some of my bike gear doesn't fit quite as well as it used to!  The recent blood tests from my yearly physical show all my vital numbers in the healthy range (I've struggled in the past with my triglycerides and good cholesterol).  I feel better and am generally happier.
   So what next?  Continue to increase my endurance with higher average speeds and less stopping as I set out on longer rides.  To celebrate the past five years, I did a two-day century over two different rides from Friday (7/8) to Saturday (7/9).  On Friday, I went about 61 miles, then yesterday I went 46 more miles, so about 107 miles over the two days.  Of course, I realized after the fact that Friday's ride was almost a metric century!  It's amazing to me to think back to when just a mile about killed me and then when it became a goal to just reach 50 (and eventually 100) miles in a week!
   So I find myself, yet again, moving beyond the capabilities of the current bike and looking toward the need to get a new one but also continuing to enjoy the wonderful insanity of cycling.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another year (day hundred and somethingth)

   Today I looked back at my first posts to think about where I am from where I began.  I still don't always feel that instant ease I sense from those who've biked consistently since childhood.  I'm not anxious on the bike anymore (I gripped the drops so tightly when I first started road biking that I tore the handlebar tape), but it's still not quite that almost oneness.  I know my bike, though, and I'm comfortable and am learning enough basic maintenance to do some repairs and tweaking.
   This year brought some fun new challenges, namely taking the bikes up into the mountains during a vacation in order to bike the famous Summit County bike trails.  They didn't disappoint.  My hybrid bike, though, did.  On the way back from our first (and ultimately only) family ride, my tube began bulging out of the tire and hitting the brake pads as it went around.  I had the sense to get off and have my daughter get off the tag-along that was attached, but even as I let out air, the darn tube exploded.  Not a pleasant way to end, walking the final quarter mile back to the car!  An attempt to replace the tube revealed that the bead had been damaged, so I couldn't get a seal against the rim....
   I did get out twice up there by myself on the road bike, too.  Once, I got a bit lost and turned around, so just above Frisco, I ended up heading back.  It was an experience, though, in that the planning of the ride on MapMyRide.com didn't reveal the sheer steepness of an area of the path as it went up the mountain!  The second time out alone, I'd reconfirmed where I was heading, so I didn't miss my turn.  I was also aware that every mountainous hill I sped down was one that I was going to face going back.  I made it as far as just before Dillon Dam when I turned back, clocking about 30 miles roundtrip that time.
   There is no doubt that getting to actually use my bicycle to get from one mountain city to another was a highlight this summer and that the bikes were taken to be part of the vacation.  I'm sorry that the hybrid's ruined tire kept more family rides from happening, but the scenery was breathtaking and well worth pushing my asthmatic lungs to their limits!
   Back on the plains, getting out on the bike has often been challenging.  The spring and early summer offered rain and high winds.  Then the heat came!  I've actually done well with getting out relatively early, but then I look back at the posts from that first summer and my going out every single morning!  Despite having no infants keeping us up with late feedings, it's harder for some reason, but I don't know why.  I now go on far longer rides...the hour I have to go out and be back can now be a 20-mile ride instead of 10- to 13-mile ride.  My wife has suggested it's part of the cost of the 50+ miles on Saturday: it wears me out too much to get up early during the week.  Still, I want to try...
   So, my main changes this summer have been that I can do that long 40-50 miles on the bike but no longer have to stop at the places I used to rest along the way, so my endurance is up significantly.  I used to stop at the bottom of a long hill of a road up to highway 36 and ponder why I was torturing myself, but I no longer do and, in fact, use my inhaler a couple miles back while staying on the bike.  I have even switched water bottles around without stopping, though it was a challenge.  To date, my longest single ride has been almost 55.5 miles, a long way from my first rides that were under five miles!
   I was getting some pain in my feet, so I have switched to road shoes from my touring shoes in order to have a stiffer sole.  I'm still using SPD pedals (now broader ones for road cycling) and haven't decided about switching to SPD-SL style pedals (my shoes can handle either type of cleats).  I have discovered the fun challenge of one-sided clipless pedals, though!  And by "fun," I mean the horror of trying to clip back in after stopping.  I get it: when out on the open road, you don't stop often, so having two-sided pedals is unnecessary.  But I have to get through town first!  And right now, the town is torn up all over the place for road construction....
   In the end, I'm not seeing the pounds melt away like that first year, but I'm not starting out with a bunch of weight to lose, plus the muscles in my legs are showing the effects of all my efforts...that and that nifty cyclist tan....

A rant

   There is a lot of negative, anti-cyclist press that I feel the need to respond to.  To begin, it's important to know that I am someone who was, as a child, terrified of riding a bicycle (well, mostly of falling off the bicycle), so my parents' gift to me for my tenth birthday still sits--barely used--in their shed thirty years later.  I am one who has always been annoyed by rude road cyclists who take up too much lane or seem to think they're a car or, even more annoying, they run red lights and stop signs.  I am that person who once jokingly commented on rolling down a window and tipping over a cyclist who was taking up too much shoulder on a twisting mountain road. Finally, I have two cars that are used as the main mode of commuting to jobs, so I pay taxes to road maintenance and usage.
   And I am someone who discovered the love and joy of cycling at the age of 36 and have now joined the leg-shaved masses on touring around on my road bike.  However, in getting to this place, I took baby steps (and that nasty fall I'd always feared, just 25 years late), so with my first hybrid bike, I discovered and enjoyed the spectacular multi-use paths we had in Longmont until the flooding left them in shambles.  Being on the paths, there's a certain etiquette, and people on it are there out for runs, walks, and rides to enjoy just being out.  As a cyclist, you announce yourself as you pass someone, so that a quick "On your left!" or "Behind you!" keeps others from being startled or stepping into your way, thereby hurting both of you  You wave and nod to those you pass in both directions.
    Then I entered the world of road cycling.  What a change!  I love the speed it allows and the more distant places I can reach; yes, I go out onto the country roads that have useless shoulders but barely any traffic so getting around me isn't an issue.  I now understand the fun of exploring new roads and seeing new things at a slower speed than zooming around in a car.  I don't have a death wish just because I'm out.  On the contrary, I'm doing something healthy by getting off my butt and getting some exercise. I sprint down hills not because I think I'm a car but because I'm challenging myself to see how fast I can go and how long I can maintain it.
   I also take with me the lessons I learned on the paths, offering at least a nod to those passing in the other direction and a quick announcement to whomever I may pass.  But it's not always met with the same kindness.  Often, people approach me from behind so that I don't know they're there until they're next to me.  A startle could easily lead to a swerve of the bike that would take us both out at 30 or more miles per hour (that's a car crash on a public street with only a helmet to keep me safe).  Most people or groups announce and wave in a sort of camaraderie, but it annoys me that so many don't, nor do these same cyclists respond to my attempts at being pleasant, or even making eye contact.  It would take so little, especially when we're all out there enjoying the same sport and risking ourselves the same way for the fun of the freedom.
   So I'm left with my final observation: the same people who are bent over their aerobars with a stern grimace as they pass without a wave or announcement are the same people who zip through traffic in their cars like they're the only ones there and cut in front of you in line at Target...some people are just rude.  Since we're all in it together, though, we should be mindful of each other with acknowledgements and work so that none of us as cyclists is a nuisance to cars and drivers by abiding the laws; after all, most cyclists are also drivers and know how dangerous a rude cyclist can be.  But drivers need to be aware that cyclists aren't always looking to be in your way or to do something they shouldn't.  I admit a time early on when I was stopped at red light on my hybrid and the light changed to green, my foot slipped from the pedal and nearly threw me.  I was shaken and got in someone's way but not out of rudeness but purely because it made me hesitant.
   And to those who aren't into cycling, don't judge the masses by the arrogant and rude few (there are hundreds of cyclists on the roads of Colorado at any given moment, so obviously, not all cyclists are in your way).  While I've made mistakes in traffic, it was never in an attempt to be rude or break the law but out of trying to figure out how it all works while also having to guess what a driver is going to do (if you've never been faced with unclipping from new pedals, you have no idea about how daunting having to unclip and put a foot down at a stop sign really can be).  And, for better or worse, rolling stops are the norm as much for cars as cyclists.
   I have pulled up on my bike to a full stop at a stop sign (staying on the shoulder) and had a truck pull up next to me then honk at me when I went through the stop on my turn (which people in cars often don't let cyclists do--they complain cyclists don't stop for stop signs but then don't let you go on your turn when you do) because the truck was turning.  Drivers must be thoughtful of what a cyclist can't do as well: even as I was obeying the law, even as I was taking my right-of-way, there was no way I could see turn signals on a truck that was behind me as he prepared to turn through me and take my right-of-way from me and kill me.  That driver probably went on to complain about the cyclist who got in his way but no doubt left out his rolling stop and failure to yield.
   It's all about being mindful of and pleasant to each other no matter the number of wheels beneath us. Most cyclists really aren't rude or arrogant; we're just out enjoying ourselves. To suggest that anyone deserves injury or death, even in the rare times it is the cyclist's fault instead of the driver's, is decidedly disturbing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17, 2013...well, I feel stupid...

   Well, it's been about three years now since I first began biking, so I celebrated that fact a bit by getting a new pair of bibs and a jersey to make a Louis Garneau kit.  After recovering all last week to a pulled tricep in my right arm, this morning, found me fortunate enough to get the offer of child care, so I dropped off the kids then headed out.  I was cruising right along, making certain to stop with a foot down at a stop sign I know through blogs and groups that the police are handed out $100 tickets to cyclist for coasting through (or not even slowing).
   Continuing on, I noted that I'd been maintaining about 17mph or better average along the way.  For some stupid reason, I decided to really push myself and do a bit of a sprint.  Yeah, that's where my trouble began.  I pulled over at a country driveway to drink and cool back down, but it wasn't happening very fast.  I took my inhaler (gotta love cycling with asthma), but things just kept worsening as I tried to add water reasonably.  Then I started feeling faint, so I thought the better part of valor might be to scoot up to the patch of grass and sit down (lay down, if necessary) until I was feeling less shaky.  Barely coming to a stop, I fell like the proverbial sack of potatoes.  Getting back up, like any cyclist, I checked my bike and my brand new kit to make sure everything was okay then did a cursory check of me...still dizzy but upright with some bumps.
   I'd planned to take the newly tuned-up bike and my new gear on a nice long ride, but I was barely over nine miles out.  With my head swimming, I called my wife.  I don't know what I expected her to be able to do beyond talk me out of trying to go on and go home instead.  I knew that's what I should do, but I think my ego needed to be told that someone would be too worried to have me try to go on.
   Feeling completely stupid, I turned around and headed home at a much slower pace, taking my time and begin very aware of my body lest I get dizzy again and fall into traffic.  I have to say, basically passing out off the bike is far worse as far as embarrassing than the failure to clip.  On the bright side, I fell in grass this time instead of asphalt, so I'm more bruised and dinged.  And being in true cyclist mode this summer, the wounds I did get on my leg were easier to clean up.
    In retrospect, I realize that I probably wasn't prepared for being out in 70+ temperatures.  For those temps, I should've hydrated a bit before getting on the bike.  Plus, while my legs were doing great maintaining higher speeds, the rest of me wasn't at the point and that temperature, so I need to balance things better and probably get out on the bike sooner while it's still cool(er), especially since I feel like I missed some of the natural transition of going from spring to summer temperatures.
   On the bright side, I did have several cyclists who passed me double check to see if I was okay.  I lied and said I was, but it's nice to know that if I hadn't gotten right back up, someone would've checked my unconscious form by the road.  Now off to tend to the bruises on my body (I found more after getting home) and ego....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 2, 2014

   This has been a challenging year for cycling; between epic flooding followed by arctic blasts and snow then long bouts of illness, I just didn't get out as much as I'd have have hoped.  Starting now, though, I'm trying.  This last Saturday did include a 36-mile ride, which was refreshing, though it admittedly left me pretty sore after having not been out for about five weeks.
   The previous ride included my tire (not just my tube) blowing out, so I've had to get new tires.  At the suggestion of a colleague who's a devout cyclist, I put on 25m Vittoria's (up from 23m).  They have just a little bit of tread and extra material, which makes a surprising amount of difference, especially when cornering...the tread doesn't actually touch the pavement much except when cornering.  They're also Kevlar, so I'm hoping they hold up a lot better in the fall against slashes and the dreaded and demonic goat heads!
   On top of all of it, though, we've inherited a trailing bike for the oldest, which I attached to the hybrid last night to take out for the first time:

Honestly, I was a bit terrified at the thought of keeping us both upright, but we did well with only a little wobbling.  She, however, freaked out at first.  I didn't account for the fact that she's used to going around with training wheels and not having to maintain speed, so there she was, holding on while I was going 5 mph to keep us upright.  After the tears, we were fortunate enough to have a neighbor out with his dog, so he paced us as I got going again, and he was able to add enough distraction that we made it to the corner.  Soon, she was going like an old trooper.  In fact, I was coasting down a hill when she called, "Daddy, you're not pedaling!"  When I told her I was just letting us roll, she said, "We'll, I'm pedaling!"  No wonder I was accelerating despite the feathering of my brakes!  And, along with everything else, I noticed that one of the back brake pads is past the wear mark, so I get to learn how to replace bike pads now!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 15, 2013--weathering the Colorado Flooding of 2013

   It's amazing how quickly things can change!  Last weekend, I went on the longest and most rewarding ride I'd ever made, going up to Hwy 36 then down into Lyons to do the "Fruit Loops."  I wish I'd stopped to take pictures because now the "Fruit Loops" are under water, the road I used to get there is destroyed, and the town I went to--the first time getting to another city--has been evacuated.  So many people have been left wondering what to do next, it's just devastating to think about as we watch the news each night and see the images of the houses and cars under water.  A week ago, everything was fine and carrying on as usual when I stopped in Lyons to refill my water bottle.  The rain started that evening.  It was refreshing.  Then it continued.  And continued.  It wasn't anything that seemed that unusual until schools and county offices were closed on Thursday due to rising waters.  It was just rain!  Then the fullness of the problems revealed themselves as roads began to get closed.
   Now, the water is receding and revealing the level of devastation.  Homes lost and badly damaged, bridges over rivers out, businesses damaged.  It's truly a mess.  To the focus of my blog, a city engineer has stated what I feared: the St. Vrain Greenway is a loss.  It's very sad to see the chunks of 20 to 50 feet of sidewalk that just stop and bridges that lead to no where.  One area had such devastation that the paved path is hanging out over the rushing river and the bridge is half-gone.  Having to rebuild bridges and roads is obviously and necessarily first priority, but at this level of damage, it makes it uncertain when the greenway will be addressed for repair since it's not so much fixing it as much as it is completely rebuilding the entire system.  I feel selfish that it's one of my concerns, but it's something I (and my family) have grown to look forward to!  Of course, just over two years ago, I didn't even know that path was there, but now it's just one more thing the flood destroyed in our town.  The St. Vrain Greenway was described as the jewel of Longmont's recreational paths, and now it's not there.  The irony is that the thing that made it so beautiful is why it's gone: the St. Vrain River that it followed!  Now I have to figure out a new way to take the family for our weekend ride as we bemoan the last time we went being the last time we went.  At least for now.  They're calling it a 500-year-event (so, what, .5% chance of it happening?).  I could've lived without ever having to live through it!  I was a baby when the Big Thompson flooded in 1976, and now I've seen it do it again and a whole lot more.
   For the road cycling, much of my routes were also damaged and/or are closed, so I need to figure out how to get a good ride in still...I've come too far to give up on it now.  I've come to love cycling so much that it's hard to imagine not doing it anymore.  But it's going to be a challenge.  But beyond the flood, I continue to struggle with a sinus infection, so that'll be my excuse for not right now so that there is still hope to get back out next weekend....
   On the bright side, I've lost about five pounds in the last month.  Between being back to work and the activity it brings, getting a couple nice long rides in, and watching my caloric intake, I've managed to get back on the right path.  I was down to 171 two years ago but then put back on a few pounds last year, so now it's time to surpass that and keep it that way (though my wife would say to shut up and move on since it was never more than 8 pounds that I re-gained)!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September 4, 2013--To Group or Not to Group?

   I've been faced with growing a bit bored with my usual routes.  I wouldn't have thought that would happen, but it starts feeling like I'm not being challenged always doing the same way.  Plus, with part of it on the greenway, I get tired of always having to announce myself to pedestrians.  I've looked a lot at mapmyride.com to find rides nearby that others have created, but it's a lot to sort through, plus many of them are basically variants on going to Carter Lake, which doesn't appeal to me for it's lack of shoulder and tight curves.
   I've joined a couple MeetUps that do group rides in the area, but I've mostly been lurking.  One seems to spend most of its time on the path, which doesn't have as much appeal, and the other is road bikes, which has more appeal but comes with it fear I might not be able to keep up, especially since they've passed me before!  Fortunately, one of my colleagues is a member of that group (The St. Vrain Chain Gang), and he encouraged me to join, especially since their ride this last weekend was one that I was curious about: what's known as the Fruit Loops in Lyons.  Life conspired against me, though, with a little one that was sick and kept us up on Satirday night, so I overslept on Sunday.  I was a bit nervous about it, though, so probably about any excuse not to go, I suppose.  I worry that I'm not fast enough and that I'm not familiar with group etiquette...plus bike riding is partly about being out by myself.  I've still got to decide, but it won't be this weekend since they're heading up to Carter Lake!  Oh well...I like to drive a new route once before biking it so I can get an idea of traffic and shoulders, so I've driven the route the group took on Sunday, so I'm ready to go.  I do need to make myself go out since it's getting harder to get all rides in with the return to work.  My plans for rides over the long weekend became none when it was all said and done, though.
   On the bright side, I did bike to and from work today, adding a few extra miles on the way home to get me to a bit over 21 miles for the day...not too bad for the middle of the week!  Now to just get in a couple more rides this weekend.  And decide about doing a darn group ride...