Monday, September 21, 2009

Been Awhile

So it's been awhile -- I've been biking a whole lot - just not blogging about it at all, which is kind of a shame, as I've enjoyed blogging - it's just that what started as a tool to keep me motivated turned out to be a tool for a task that didn't need to be done. Fortunately, I've been quite self-motivated, and hence, no blogging necessary.

That said, I rode the Three Creek Century ride yesterday & thought I'd share the details.

The 100 mile ride started in Carlisle, and was three loops of 50, 25, and 25 miles, meandering around the Conodoguinet, Yellow Breeches, and Big Spring creeks at 7AM -- when it was 37°F (that's less than 3°C if I have any followers across the pond). Yet, as the anticipated high of the day was 80°F (27°C for my friends across the pond), I went out in my normal riding gear (cycling shorts (well, to be honest, I wear "bib shorts" which are shorts that have two shoulder straps that make you look like a wrestler from the 80's -- Duffy thinks these look funny), short-sleeved jersey, gloves that didn't cover my fingertips). After riding the 3 miles to the start, I was thinking that I may have made a mistake.

Fortunately, there was a very, very short registration line (I literally walked up, said "I'm John Batzer" and then left to ride), so there wasn't too much time for my muscles to get cold - and that first 50 mile loop started out with a mid-grade climb, so I got the beginnings of a sweat going. Throughout the first 50 miles, I kept the pace a little faster than normal, if only to allow my body to combat the cold - yet, it was sunny and soon enough I had feeling in my fingertips and toes. The 20-22 m/h pace, however, would not last the whole day.

As the entire century was, the fifty mile loop was beautiful - it actually went right past King's Gap, without climbing it (I did consider adding the 12 mile detour, as King's Gap has only one road, so you come down the way you go up so it wouldn't require any rerouting -- but the entire ride would have been under tree-cover, and it was C-O-L-D at the time, and I still had 90 miles to pedal when I made that decision). There was a rest stop in Boiling Springs, and I stopped - got myself some grapes & a banana and went back on my way . . . played "catch me" with a group of other riders (they had me on large inclines and straightways, but I greatly outpaced them on gradual inclines).

Checked back in after the 50 mile loop before beginning the Opossum Lake loop (the "more challenging" of the two 25 mile loops) to restock my Gatorade & water, and eat some banana and a few really great butterscotch chip cookies. Hey - I was biking 100 miles, I can afford some cookies before 10AM.

The 25 mile loop was, well, challenging -- it actually goes almost directly in front of my house, which caused a bit of a problem for me. I have a TON of different rides that I take from my house - and it just so happens that the cues for this particular loop took me down a path that I've never, ever gone -- so I had a fun little 1 mile detour when I realized that the cues ended - stupid muscle memory. Any way, the tour took me to Opossum Lake, which was pretty (everything on this ride was pretty/beautiful/spectacular/you name it), and included some "biggish" climbs. Immediately after, that, though - there were two climbs - each between three-quarters and a mile in length, but each with a grade of 15% -- these, um, took a fair bit out of my legs. Still, though - managed to get through it all and checked back in for more butterscotch chip cookies.

The last of the 25 mile loops was a relatively easy one - although I was dealing with leg fatigue there -- I came close to bonking at about the 18 mile mark and had to stop and drink some water (I actually rode my bike off the path - fortunately, this was in a path that had no traffic at all -- I may have simply been paying too much attention to trying to catch up to the rider in front of me, but I wasn't taking any chances) before completing the ride, where my straightaway pace had gone down to 13-18 m/h (depending on how steep the previous incline had been).

I got back to the check in, collected my T-shirt, spoke to the ride organizers about this versus other long rides and some of the challenges that the established rides are dealing with (large bike clubs sign up all of their members & encourage everybody to post their best times, which turns rides into races), had myself a hot dog, some cookies, and a PB&J sandwich and rode the 3 miles back home. While I'll admit that I'll constantly measure my performance to other riders, and try to catch up with somebody ahead of me, just to see if I can do it - I'll never do so at the risk of safety -- I will only ever pass on the left, I'll only ever pass when there is absolutely no question that there is no other traffic, and I'll only ever pass when the rider in front of me knows that I'm passing.

A few observations from my ride:

  • Central Pennsylvania is really, really beautiful in some areas.

  • I believe I'm significantly heavier than everybody else who rode the full century - my body seems to like this weight - and the fact that I was able to ride 100 miles in less than 7 hours, without feeling like I was going to die at the end, leads me to think that I'm in better shape than I give myself credit for.

  • While I don't believe I'm stronger than most people, pound-for-pound, I have a lot more pounds (and at least a few more inches in height) than most people. When last I weighed myself, I was somewhere between 240 and 250 pounds (108-110 kg or 17-18 stone for my friends across the pond), and I believe that's why I'm able to outstrip most everybody on a gentle incline - it takes more power for me to keep up a reasonable pace without incline - and before the "graving is trying to pull me back down the hill" force becomes too, too great - my it's not all that much more difficult for me to keep the momentum going than it is for somebody who doesn't have as much momentum (mass * velocity).
  • I love, love, love seeing families out for a bike ride.
  • Bikes will never, ever move as fast as cars -- riding behind a cyclist when there is ample room to pass freaks us out. Glaring/yelling as you pass because we "shouldn't be on the road" makes you an asshat.

Now that it's the day after, I'm still feeling pretty good - I had a VERY, VERY tight left hamstring yesterday (I generally push harder with my left leg on a steep incline - no idea why I do this), and it's still not happy with me today, but I think I'll be fully back to normal tomorrow. I'm feeling VERY good about helping support a good cause & getting through everything. I'm NOT feeling guilty about eating an entire order of General Tso's shrimp and four beers last night. Oh, and I slept like a freaking log.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First Real Ride of the Season

Just got back from a great ride -- while I was able to sneak out once before, I don't really count it . . . it was more to make sure that my legs were still working and just to enjoy an unseasonably warm day. Today, I think, is the official start of the riding season for me. The temperature was in the 60's, a consistent breeze was blowing and everything just went about great.

I decided to start with Sterrett's Gap -- a relatively short but very aggressive climb (some grades reaching 15%), just to get my legs under me. It turns out that I'm a little rustier than I would have liked -- I was wearing my heart rate monitor and had to stop twice as my BPM climbed north of 190 -- once it was for two minutes to get things back to a more reasonable 130, and the next it was for about 5 minutes to get things back to 100 BPM, before the really, really crazy part of the climb. After that climb, though, things went swimmingly.

I decided to follow 944 up to McClure's Gap and then wind my way back into town -- I was actually going to follow Waggoner's Gap back up to 944 and retrace my steps to go back home (and add between 10 and 15 miles to what turned out to be a 25 mile ride), but a few raindrops were starting to hit me, and I figured that I had a good enough ride for a first ride.

After getting guilty emails all winter long reporting no activity, I turned on TrailGuru for this ride -- a few highlights from the service:

Altitude Reading from the ride
This is the altitude reading from the ride -- you see the Sterrett's Gap ascent -- it's the obvious one . . . I really like the whole ride, though, because aside from the biggie, there aren't any hills that you really need to save stamina for, but you're constantly either climbing or thinking about the next climb -- it keeps things interesting.
Speed reading from the ride
Experienced riders can probably draw this map from the altitude reading . . . isn't it funny how, when you're climbing you go slower?
Map of Today's Ride
Map of today's ride

If you're interested in all of the crazy technical details about the ride, check out: My Trailguru Report. I think I'm going to continue using this service - even on the very, very boring rides to & from work . . . if I have the iPhone battery life, why not?

For anybody following what I'm listening to, I started Fluke (or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings) by Christopher Moore. I still think the first Moore book I listed to, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christ's Childhood Pal), may be my favorite book, ever . . . since then, I've gone through Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, and You Suck: A Love Story. I've enjoyed them all immensely -- but a little bit less each time -- I'm hoping it's just because I didn't like all of the rules he created in his vampire world -- so a story about sex and whales might be what I need.

Monday, February 9, 2009

And a new season begins

And with an unusually mild day in February, my 2009 season begins. I made it out yesterday -- a nice little hilly sixteen mile ride during a windy 50-something degree day. It was awesome. Of course, I don't have a lot to report here - just that it feels great to be on the road again /Willy Nelson starts running through my head.

Unfortunately, I wasn't quite in as good of shape as I may have been. While I've been pretty diligent about hopping on the stationary recumbent bike this offseason, we've had some problems with it. First, a few weeks ago, we lost the ability to change the resistance -- we could say "1" or "8", but it would just give us something in the middle . . . then, a metallic clang came about last week and there was no resistance what-so-ever. That was kind-of cool -- push the pedals and watch them turn & turn & turn. However, "kind-of cool" does not make for a good workout. As such, we bought a spinning bike off of eBay . . . I set it up on Saturday, and haven't yet gotten on it (because I went actual riding on Sunday). Yay, stream-of-consciousness tangents! What I was trying to say was that I have a bit more around the middle than I should, and my average speed on the flat portions was closer to 15 miles per hour than the 20 miles per hour that I'm used to. At the end of the ride, continued into today, my hamstrings are screaming at me -- but I'll be back to normal after 2 or 3 rides like that. If I can be regularly commuting by April, I'll tackle the Waggoner's Gap / Doubling Gap ride by early May. Once I manage that, I'll be ready for anything.

My hope is to drop my two primary bikes off at the local bike shop (LBS) sometime in the next week or two, as I have a free tuneup for each of them. After that, should the weather hold, I'll be back to commuting in March - hopefully working my way up to 4 times a week by April. Then, of course, there is the Tour de Cure in late May, and SAGBRAW in early August. With all of that on top of random weekend rides and the commuting, I really think my goal of 5,000 miles in 2009 is quite attainable. Of course, check in here for updates.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting Light Outside

It's been awhile since my last post -- but I don't have a whole lot to write about -- I simply haven't been biking much. There have been the occasional trips outside when the weather has been nice, but there has been nothing with me and commuting -- it's been far too dark. Yes, there are those bicyclists out there who think it's NEVER too dark to bike - but I disagree. Some of the places I go through are quite heavily trafficked, and if there is even a question about whether or not I can be seen (despite my very flamboyantly orange reflective getup), I don't want to risk it.

My last trip into the office was in late October . . . the Winter Solstice was on December 21, and now, I'm leaving the office to daylight. Mind you, it's still near pitch-black by the time I get home, but we're moving in the right direction. I think, by the end of February, I'll be back on the road.

My goal this year is to bike 5,000 miles . . . if I can average 4 trips to work a week, we're looking at 31 weeks to get there - which leaves me just shy, until I consider weekend rides and charity rides, and a biking vacation this summer. I think I'll get there -- but we'll track progress here.