It’s been a long time since I’ve updated the blog, so I’m taking a few minutes here to bring it all into focus.
It’s been a nightmare week at work, which has REALLY affected (more than anything) my ability to sit down and type this thing out. So much has happened, and is about to happen, so hopefully this won’t get too drawn-out.
In the last update, I was pulling the Bianchi down from the garage wall and rebuilding her, and that process is complete.
After the first 60 miles of riding her again, it was immediately clear that I’d made the right choice. What a fantastic ride! Down-hills are thrilling again, corners are cherished, and even just plain-ole pedaling the flats is a smooth, clean, flawless joy. The right frame for the job, and a terrific mix of components to pull it all together – I’m ready for anything this year.
Commuting? The CrossCheck is splendid looking in its commuter-gear. Not a terribly fancy bike to begin with, it looks BETTER with larger tires, fenders, lights and a true purpose, rather than looking like what I was asking it to do, which was nearly everything – the skinny tires belong on the Bianchi, not this tank – and that’s perfectly okay. The scary thing is, I’ve managed to get gears back on that bike, too – so I have a three-bike stable, with two of them geared now; which is perfect for more uniform training, and for more control over my destiny when it comes to being late to work or something – big ring, hammer it out! The single-speed, while perfect from a maintenance-free perspective, really didn’t lend itself towards that.
...AND the best part: if it’s really, really sloppy outside on a weekend ride or brevet, I can eliminate my excuses, pull down the CrossCheck and ride along with only one-less gear than the Bianchi has.
The stable is more well-rounded now.
The funny part is (I can laugh now) that this is pretty much exactly how it was a year ago – when I first started tearing things down and questioning what I had going on. Ugh… but if I hadn’t done it, I’d never have known – now that it’s recorded for the ages here, I can rest and just RIDE.
Oh yeah, and rounding things out is the Steamroller – now ready to go again after a brief rest on the shelf. Not sure what I’ll use it for, but there are a lot more urban and messenger-style rides happening downtown these days, so I can potentially see a fun use for it coming up.
SO, NOW WHAT?
Well, over the past month and a half, while BikeJournal members have oft wondered “what ever happened to the Dude?”, I have been busy, flying under the cycling radar in the cross-training sector. I have logged over 75 miles in runs on the road and the treadmill both, have benched, curled, dead-lifted and squatted, focuses on abdominals and the core, and done a lot of low-level cardio. The result is a slightly better-fitting suite of dress pants, and a more stable climbing platform when I’m out of the saddle – which is a huge improvement over the sorta “flailing around” climbing I’ve done in the past – which is pretty much why I’ve always been a faster SEATED climber than I have been a standing climber on the bike. Also, a stair-running routine at work during lunch, while raising a few eyebrows from my co-workers, has raised my LT a little bit. While I don’t have the heart-rate numbers to back it up, I can tell an improvement – week one saw me reaching the 8th floor severely winded and with a lot of lethargy in the legs, and five minutes ago it found me running PAST the 8th floor by mistake because I was warmed-up and ready to hit the ceiling. Definite improvements! Running up 8-floors will tend to do SOMETHING good for your health, and I’m a big believer in it now. Sure beats sitting at a desk, waiting for the afternoon to come – a little exercise in the middle of the day never killed anyone.
In the logistical arena, I’ve spent a good amount of time DE-thinking last year’s brevet approach.
Last year, while it was good to be prepared and kind fun having the Carradice bag along for the ride, I’m taking a more minimalist approach to brevet riding. Sure, even the fast riders tend to show up at the 400k with a Camelbak and a rack trunk – but for the 200 and 300K rides, I’ve decided to stick with simplicity. After some careful shopping, planning, and some lessons in miniaturization and space-management, I’ve managed to carry MORE than I did last year, in a smaller space. With one large-ish seat bag – about 4”x4” at the back end, and 7” long, I have managed to pack about 25 items. Some of these include a Fiber-Fix emergency spoke, tire boots (which circumvents carrying a spare tire), two tubes and six patches, inflators AND a pump (on the theory that I’ll get most of the way there with the mini-pump, and get max pressure with the inflators, instead of relying on one or the other), a good tire lever, a flashlight, spare batteries, chain tool, zip ties, a multi-tool, vitamins and electrolyte tabs, and enough space left for my PCS phone and brevet card. How did I get it all in there? Well, Jandd makes a terrific little seat bag with lots of pockets and potential – and there is still space on the seatpost for my taillight. The only thing I have to carry ON me is food and spare clothing, which is what back jersey pockets are designed for. I’m not sure what I was thinking last year, but I know I’m even more prepared than I was last year, even though on the surface it appears that I’m carrying FAR less stuff. I LOVE THAT.
For the longer brevets, I’ll start running into food storage issues – so the Camelbak might come along for the ride at the 400K and above mark – but I’m not sure yet.
I’ve ridden with folks that have carried VERY, VERY little, even up to the 600K distances. Reviewing my notes, and the habits of others, I’ve noticed something that is smacking me in the face.
I have been letting my fuel choice dictate my packing FAR too much in the past.
While I am a prisoner to Sustained Energy, and its DON’T MIX WITH SIMPLE SUGARS law, others are simply eating WHATEVER strikes them at the controls – and carrying VERY little of it with them from home.
While I struggle trying to figure out where I’m going to put all that extra powder for the mileage at hand, now-famous riders have completed 1200K rides carrying almost nothing of their own supply. They hit a control to get their card signed anyways, right? Let THEM supply the fuel! Stuff a few items down your trap while you are there, pocket the rest for consumption over the next few miles, and you’ve taken in enough fuel to last until the NEXT control, and so-on.
I watched a guy last year complete 200, 300 and 400K rides on fast food and c-store stuff -- and there is no reason why I can't enjoy the same flexibility, while still staying within my own personal guidelines for nutrition.
It’s helping me realize that there is a time and a place for certain things --- Sustained Energy in this case is WONDERFUL FUEL, and I recommend it to ANYONE ---- that is performing a long ride, with SUPPORT, or on a LOOP.
If you are racing a 12-hour on a loop, keep it in a cooler, with a jug of cold water, and remix your bottles after each lap – you’re racing, and don’t have time to worry about what might upset your stomach, and you need consistent energy for your intended result. Use the formulated fuels, the powders for that stuff, and you’ll have GREAT success!
For brevets, however, the only goal – no matter what your personal intent – is really only to FINISH. You know what works for you, food-wise, from training and snacking at convenience stores – why should a 200K or above be any different? Know your body – know that you are getting a good mix of carbs and protein and fat – and electrolytes, too. Avoid simple sugars, but don’t be DICTATED to. If you make a mistake, food-wise, learn from it – the stomach discomfort will only last a few miles, and you’ll be fine again – and wiser for it. But, getting anxious about how to carry scoop after scoop of engineered nutrition on an UN-SUPPORTED ride only sets you up for frustration. It's okay to carry some, as a guaranteed good-source of fuel, should the worst happen – and if controls get too spaced out – but let the controls hold your grub. Cashews, fig-netwons, corn chips, etc. Get your card signed, buy some grub, hit the road with full bottles, and full pockets – and stop trying to figure out how to carry 200+ miles worth of powder, dude. Just RIDE.
I’ll update again after the 200K, this weekend! The first step towards a season FULL of big goals!
Thanks for reading!