January 20, 2024

Did I Have it Right All Along?

If you've spent any time at all surfing these pages you know I have posted hundreds of thousands of words trying to articulate the benefits of commuting to work by bicycle, and it is very nice to see that this topic is still as relevant today as it has ever been.  Back in 2008 during the financial crisis and subsequent inflation and big spike in petrol prices in the states, traffic to this site nearly tripled.  Today, that cycle continues - at least evidenced by YouTube content, social media, podcasts, and everything else that has taken the place of the humble blog.  My own fault, really: a personal education journey and subsequent tripling of my workload in the office has wiped out any desires to spend additional hours at the keyboard to type out what others are articulating very well in fewer typed words or well produced videos. 

To that end, I want to share the following with those of you loyal readers some of my favorites from the vast array of content out there these days, particularly from a source which - in my opinion - represents the best of cycling on the internet:  GCN. 

Now, hold on ... there are as many opinions about other people’s opinions out there as there are.... well, opinions.  Some have criticized GCN as being too "racer" focused, which may well have been accurate a few years back, but I contend they have become quite aware of this notion.  Their content of late is broad, well-balanced, and it paints a far wider picture of cycling than it had perhaps originally intended.  Simon Richardson seems to be a champion of this balance, with a terrific blend of well-timed delivery, humor, research, and first-hand knowledge across a wide range of cycling topics.  Needless to continue reinforcing what is clearly apparent here:  I'm a fan of their stuff and have been watching it here and there for over five years now.  This isn't a plug, really -- they're doing just fine on YouTube, and certainly don't need my endorsement - and to be transparent, they haven't prompted, asked, or compensated me in any way for the posts below.  I simply feel they are worth sharing.

The first video delves into winter commuting - which may be a touch easier to stomach in the UK than, say, commuting in upper Manitoba this time of year ... or the American Midwest.  UK winters may not have the staggering Arctic temps and icy roads we must contend with here in the central US, but the content still translates well - especially considering most would only consider riding to and from work if the temperatures were well above freezing anyhow.  Beyond that mark, not much actually changes ... just add layers, and ride carefully.

Reinforcing another point that I've attempted to make on this blog over the years is the beneficial training that commuting to-and-from work provides.  For me, this was simply observational:  I did it because I liked it, and I just also happened to attend randonneuring events and the occasional ultra-distance race.  I never had much time to train in big chunks, so the commuting to and from work just had to do.  The daily exposure to the elements allowed continuous improvements in layering techniques, required adaptation to daily workout loads, demanded that I listen to my body, it kept the weight off, sharpened my logistical sensibilities, allowed me to experiment with lights and reflective gear, and so-on.

It never occurred to me that riding twice daily was actually a highly beneficial training tactic that others have begun to adopt, from pros to aspiring amateurs.  Turns out, recent research backs this up, and GCN (this piece also presented by Si), produced a brief video discussing it in some detail. 


Obviously, both videos have done quite a bit toward getting me back into a routine.  The pandemic un-did a lot for many, but I can only speak for myself:  comparing my fitness between 2018-2019, and today, a clear piece is missing that I have never successfully replaced:  consistency.  I have, however, not had a physical office to return to since our company radically downsized our real estate footprint in early 2021 … but that is beginning to change.  Now that our team has a mandatory once-per-day appearance at the office on the calendar, I have put bicycle commuting back into my lifestyle – and I didn’t realize just how much I’d missed it.  As I get my legs back underneath me and set big targets this spring, you can bet that I will be commuting to and from the office beyond our current once-a-week mandate, adding consistency and twice-per-day rides as a big part of my training regime.  Not only has it worked for me in the past, but research backs it up … not to mention all of the mental health benefits that will come with it. 

Remember that big bicycle boom that started during 2020?  Still have that bike today?  Well, here we are, friends.  I think, especially considering the current financial climate, riding back and forth to work may be just the thing for all of us.  Hope to see you out there!


April 30, 2023

Mental Health and My Recent Cycling Struggles

Vulnerability time.  This isn't really a post with a lot of research or specific insights into the benefits of cycling on mental health, but is rather a simple reflection on the last few years of my personal cycling, and - more specifically - how the pandemic seems to have really jerked the rug out from under me.

Yeah, yeah.... "boo hoo": another complaint about how damaging the lockdowns and the pandemic was for an individual, when it truly did have an impact on us all.  My case is simply another in a long list of evidence to the fact that "things were great until" ... yeah.  You know.  

One need not look much farther than the title of this blog, my email address, and all of the evidence that dates back to 2002 in these pages that commuting to and from work by bicycle was sorta my thing.  In fact, it was truly a large part of my identity.  This is a dangerous thing, really, in retrospect ... and I think there is evidence that suggests wrapping oneself up too much in one aspect of personal identity can be dangerous on the premise of what might occur if that with which one identifies is taken away or lost.  Taking away sight from someone passionate about photography or painting, for example.  Someone deeply enamored with a spouse, someone for whom they find purpose... and then that spouse gets ill and passes away.  A construction worker losing their hands in an accident.  A musician falling deaf.  A cyclist or runner who loses their legs.  Granted, each of these examples is an extreme case, and mine is not nearly so tragic ... but, I have noticed a marked difference in my attitude, my confidence, and how I approach problems these last three years since we transitioned from working in an office to working at home full time.  

First world problems, yes.  I still have my sight, my hearing, my arms, and my legs - and I still ride my bike here and there, even pretending to be a randonneur on occasion.  But, the consistency, the daily, self-forced exercise, the self-imposed routine that I once identified with so closely and loved is gone.  I have only been to the office a handful of times since March of 2020, and each of those times - because of a drastic remodel of the building and its facilities - have been by automobile.  In short, I feel like a sham, a failure, and honestly... I'm not even sure why I have renewed this domain name.  In so many ways, I'm definitely not the "commuterdude" I once was.

Why is that such a bad thing?  Well, in short, I have had a hard time standing on my own two feet as a person.  I think I had that problem before I started riding, which helped me find some self-worth and purpose in life.  That seems really, really silly typing it here ... which is the point of this entire post and exercise in self-discovery:  this "problem" isn't nearly as large a problem as it has become inside my own head.  I have self worth.  I have value in ways other than bicycle-centric subject matter.  The problem is, I haven't been believing it...and at the end of the day, I don't put myself first.  Hell, I usually don't put myself tenth.  

I'm relatively healthy, I have two wonderful children, a terrific life partner in my wife, people whom I consider friends, and a long standing career in data visualization for a global company.  In many regards, I have it better than a vast majority of the population.  So, what then is my problem exactly?  Is it not enough?  How dare I complain, honestly. 

You see, I love this sport.  I honestly think that I owe a large part of my adult health and mental fortitude to cycling.  Prior to finding myself needing to ride to work because of a broken down car so many years ago, I was not really in a good spot.  I wasn't taking care of myself, and I really didn't have much to point to as far as self-worth.  I worked hard, but really didn't like myself that much.  This is a problem that persists today.  In large part, cycling has been something about which I have been very passionate ... but, at the same time, I've only been using it to slow the bleeding, in a manner of speaking.  I still struggle with anxiety, depression, social awkwardness, low self-esteem, and have a tendency to try and bury all of this underneath a pile of poor eating habits.  Cycling - as passionate as I am about it - isn't enough to fix all of the root of those issues... it simply was enough exercise to keep my bad habits from sending me to the doctor's office.  Even going back to school as an adult wasn't enough to unload a lot of my personal baggage.  For some reason, what I have accomplished (regardless of category), and what I think of myself, are at odds.

I'm great at making plans, though. 

The last two years have seen me teeter-tottering on a repeating wave of big plans, and cancelled plans.  Big dietary plans, but quick cave-ins.  Big cycling plans, but big cancelations.  I still struggle from this problem of "if I can't be perfect, then I shouldn't even try", or "if I can't do it all, then what's the point of doing anything?".  The evidence of that is clear.... BIG plans to ride all of the spring brevets, but then consistently missing every single one of them.  Then, however, I'd go out and ride a solo 100km ride, on the heavy bike, and not die... so, what was I afraid of?  Am I embarrassed to let people see how far I've let myself go?  Am I worried about being last?.... like it even matters?  I have even shown up at the local Monday night ride on "the wrong bike", and have managed to hang in with the group... but, I still don't think I belong.  My jersey is too tight... I have too many bags.... I have fenders.... or I don't have fenders.... or I'm not a real gravel guy.... or those REALLY talented local racers will look at me funny... like that should matter....  or whatever my manufactured justification for not going might become in the hour or so leading up to the ride start, which is barely a mile from home.  Rinse.  Repeat.

The hard work that got me here has been forgotten, and there is part of me that doesn't want to hurt or suffer to try and get back to that good place again... the place where 200ks are "easy", and hanging in with the front group while having a conversation is just expected.  I am afraid to fail, but also afraid to do the work.

For the second year in a row, I find myself watching other people achieve things on Strava, while I ride alone... terrified to show myself, or to be judged, measured, compared.  I mean, I'm not fast.  Never have been.  And, no-one has ever cared, except me.... so, why this is a problem now, well, I'm still trying to figure that out.  But, it's a problem.  I'm actually in therapy.  Which... for me... someone keen to fix everything himself, or ignore the problems altogether, is a huge step.  Apparently it's "hip" to have a therapist nowadays, so, there's that.  

Most recently, I managed to try my hand at touring, and attempted to ride out to see my son at his school in Rolla, MO.  Missouri is a really pretty state, with the Ozark Mountains, and - of course - the Lake of the Ozarks, the Katy and Rock Island trails, and dozens of other notable cycling attractions - plus, it's also really hilly.  I planned for months, figured out the routes, hotels, and logistics ... and actually managed to get out of the driveway on day one!  Unfortunately, I ended up getting chased, caught, pulled off the bike, and bitten by a stray dog, about 20 miles into day two of six, which really put a damper on things.  Day three was spent in a regional ER getting the first round of rabies treatments, which is the standard course of action when the animal's vaccination status can't be verified.  Of course, this was a completely random thing, and while there are likely a dozen different scenarios I can think of where I got out of that unscathed, the fact is, I didn't... and things - like them or not - tend to happen for a reason.  At the end of the day, however, I was DOING IT.... and I felt really good.  I even completed the day two ride, not receiving the local sheriff's phone message about the dog's status until hours later ... and the bite itself was minor enough that the EMT's cleared me to continue.  Heck, I was ready for day three, which - in my mind, all told, should be success enough... but the trip still felt like another failure to complete something that I'd set out to do.  Needless to say, the subsequent trip to visit the daughter at her school in the opposite direction a couple weeks later was canceled, while I instead searched the internet for the best dog deterrents and pepper sprays.... none of which I'll likely ever need again.  Statistically, my dog-incident-per-mile ratio remains absurdly low, as is the case for most cyclists in this country.  Overthinking is something I do well, however - and more often than not, my noisy inner dialogue has talked me out of personal growth and challenges that I should be facing.  

As we move into May, I have finally had enough of all of this.  I am committing myself to starting a more sustainable dietary regimen, to get my health back on track.  I have committed to simply showing up ... which, clearly really is the hardest part of any journey.  I have committed myself to getting back into that which I love most:  randonneuring ... and to stop making excuses and saying "no" to myself and my goals.  Also on tap, I want to ride all of the local rail trails in their entirety over the next couple of years, including the monster loop of the Katy Trail and the proposed and planned Rock Island trail that (once finished) will create a 400-mile loop across Missouri and back.  Part of that trip will involve an off-course jog down into Rolla, so I can finally say "yes, I made it to Rolla by bicycle, under my own power".  Also, I will ride the Flint Hills Nature trail out to Council Grove (if not beyond to Herrington, should they ever finish it), and then up into Manhattan, KS.  

And finally, as my company finally starts to emerge from the throes of the pandemic and starts bringing us back into the office once a week, I will pack up my stuff into some panniers and ride there instead of driving.  Like I love to do.

Goals are good, plans are good ... and if none of these things actually work out, well.... life is still good, and I am still worth the effort.  I think more than ever I am a work in progress; and while most might think someone of my age and experience would have this all figured out, trust me:  I don't.  I don't think a lot of us really do, and that's okay to admit.  We get up, dust ourselves off, and keep at it.

I think the pandemic threw most of us off of our game ... but, in time we can hopefully each start to see the way back.  The painter can still find ways to be creative without eyesight, we all know what Beethoven accomplished after he lost his hearing, and even when we lose a loved one we can each still find purpose within ourselves.  That is my quest.  I hope you are each finding your way forward, too.  Much of my journey will still be atop a bicycle, because it still feels right.  I hope to see you out there.  There are a lot of great miles left to cover together.... and they don't have to be ridden alone.  I need to remember that, and allow myself to show up.  Trying to do all of this alone for the last few years, well.... yeah, it hasn't really worked.  Time to get back to it.  

Thanks for reading, as ever.

The trip to Rolla, April 20th, 2023: Day Two, after the dog bite, climbing some ridiculous hills on the way to Eldon, MO., and still finding a reason to smile.  Is it ever really "that bad," after all?

December 28, 2022

Confidence and Passion: Like Fine Wine? (A 2022 Wrap-Up Post)

As 2022 draws to a close, it seemed like - once again - a good time to draft a post to wrap up some thoughts on the year... and some random spouting on the completion of a 5-year journey through adult education that just wrapped up, as well.

The excuses are beginning to fall by the wayside ... yes, yes, my educational journey is now complete, and - as promised, both to you (if you're still here) and myself - that means a steady return to recreational writing.  Balanced against a bit of academic PTSD, perhaps.  The sprawling, 30,000-word epic posts are likely a thing of the past.  I'm not sure my wrists can take it, and in this early-21st Century culture of short attention spans and social media snippets, I'll save those longer stories for a future published book, perhaps.

So, as many might wonder, after a long educational journey, what have I learned?  It's a fair question.  I'm sure I know a little more than I used to.  I definitely know a lot more about myself than I expected to learn.  For now, I am simply happy to have finished.  Honestly, I'm content to avoid thinking about anything I might have learned for a while.

If life is like a wine cellar, we must treat our myriad bottles of personal knowledge and experience like bottles of good wine. There's a bottle for this hobby and that, and one for each chapter of life; that old relationship, those times with good friends forgotten, and all those miles on the road.

The main purpose of storing wine bottles on their sides is to prevent the drying out of the cork; yet another benefit involves the even distribution of sediment across a broader surface.  Wine enthusiasts and scientists still debate this; maybe horizontal storage simply maximizes available space; maybe dry corks are a myth.  Maybe it solved the issue of accidentally toppling upright bottles while fumbling about in dark cellars 150 years ago.  Regardless, as we put some of our experiences on the shelf (if only temporarily), horizontal storage prevents the best of our experiences from being packed too tightly, buried at the bottom of the bottle.  When the time comes to revisit them, only gentle agitation is required to bring them back into suspension.

Having given my bottle of mental fortitude a good shake, it is important to let things settle.  It is all in there.  Some lessons float to the top occasionally, but most will inevitably settle - which reinforces the importance for each of us to occasionally give ourselves a gentle turn once in a while.  Use it or lose it, others might succinctly say.  Fans of brevity and tidy analogies should shop elsewhere.

According to a few sources, only 10% of the wine produced today is meant to be stored and aged: most is meant for immediate consumption.  No matter what I've learned, experienced, or chosen to store - upright or otherwise - the point is to open it and enjoy it.  There is little as sad in this world as a bottle left undrunk, acrid, and past its prime.  

I could say the same for my bicycling experience since the pandemic took hold, now coming on three years ago.  What I had taken for granted has settled to the bottom of that particular bottle.  The last few years have seen fits and starts of various diets (all failed), panicked returns to training (most short-lived), brief returns to long distances, and the frustration associated with having left the bottle upright for too long.  Frustrated shaking has yet to unstick what daily commuting to and from work used to do for me, mentally and otherwise.

Yet, even as my own worst critic, that particular vintage still tastes perfect.  No matter how many times I decant it, despite the many hard lessons, missteps, and missed opportunities, I keep coming back.  The bright notes carry it well, and it tends to pair well with everything.

I've come to terms with the psychology of it all, at least today.  Cycling, for many, becomes an identity - especially when one struggles to confidently define themselves otherwise.  It is something that I do, yes, but it often takes too much of me when I let it.  Self-inflicted pressure tends to squeeze the joy out of most otherwise-terrific pastimes.  Surely as the title of this blog suggests, commuting to work became not just something I did - I had manufactured a responsibility for myself to do it, write about it, talk about it endlessly, obsess about it, and leverage it as the sole training base for my randonneuring endeavors.  Once it was gone, I felt a bit hollow ... but only because of what I had allowed it to become in my own mind.  But, in my own mind, what good was I without it?

So, what have I learned?  Balance.  Self-awareness.  Emotional intelligence.  A better understanding of the world.  Perhaps some confidence, too.  Pursuing education as an adult yielded a degree, yes, and righted a long-held personal belief that I had somehow done something wrong by not taking a more traditional path when I was younger.  The truth is, I took the journey I did from a lack of confidence.  Back then, I didn't think I could, so I didn't try very hard.  I barely showed up.  Instead, I took an arguably more difficult path, slowly gaining the confidence to endure what life threw my way.  I still survived, thrived... which should have told me I had what it took all along.  Own worst critic, indeed.  My only regret now is that I wasted far too much time being angry, anxious, and hesitant for no good reason.

For each of us, we get where we are - and appreciate where we are best - by valuing the lessons provided through the journey, not begrudging it through useless comparisons to misguided definitions of normalcy.  I rode back and forth to work on a bicycle because I enjoyed it - and it certainly does not follow societal norms in this area of the world.  The relative hardships of it were never a deterrent.  Even the harshest weather was looked at as a challenge.  Life should be no different: when there is passion and confidence, you simply get dressed and go.  

All told, my way is the only right way for me, yours only right for you.  Education or hard knocks... it doesn't matter.  While each can impact the fabric of our character, neither are all-defining.  Confidence and passion share a place in the bottle, each enhancing the other.  When both exist, we can be unstoppable if we'd only believe it.

I wish that simplistic view could translate and provide some hope for everyone.

Now, perhaps some cycling content?

I've managed to keep enough confidence and passion stirred up to get close to 5,000 miles logged for the year, which I'm pleased with.  Without the previously-normal back-n-forth jaunts to the office, many of these miles have been daily lunchtime rides, interspersed with longer weekend rides, and - yes - some "fake miles" on Zwift.  Say what you will, but for me, struggling with my weight, fitness, and consistency, indoor training with a smart trainer has been money well spent.  Granted, it is not doing anything for my recent timidity regarding the cold weather, but it is helping with every other aspect.  If I can get myself outdoors once in a while, that will be good for what I'm sure will be some chilly brevet starts in the coming Spring.

Miles aside, 2022 has found me finally showing up for a few things I'd never done before, like the terrific "Cranksgiving" event here in Kansas City.  I was invited to participate with a great team of friends, and with home-built and beefy modified bike trailers, we managed to haul in around 4,900 lbs. of food for a local food pantry, and had a great time doing it.  Afterwards there was chili, beer, and live music, and hey... the cold temps didn't "kill" me.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Paul T., Captain of Team Big Grin with a monster haul at the 2022 K.C. Cranksgiving!  I mentioned "cold", and yes... case in point, Paul is indeed wearing shorts here.  I, on the other hand, looked like I just came off the night shift of an Alaska region brevet.  The average temperature during the event was 26ºF, and it was quite windy... which clearly means different things to different people!

Team Big Grin, 2022 Winners of the Heaviest Team Haul!
Yeah, that's me on the left... apparently, I can't ride a bike without a reflective vest anymore, and I'm always freezing.  Haha!

Long-distance riding?  Absolutely!  With school work still dominating my free time for much of 2022, I still managed to get in a few randonneuring events, including a terrific 300km event that included 177 miles of new-to-me roads up in Nebraska.  It was a day filled with long stretches of awesome open road, scorching heat under cloudless skies, severe thunderstorms chasing us across the plains, and some really good group riding in the last 100km as a few of us regrouped after dark.  I'm immensely glad I made it out for this event, and I got a cool, limited, 100th Anniversary BRM 300km medal to remember it by.

June 11th, 2022, 300km event:  Randonneurs heading out of St. Joseph into a great day.

Fixed gear is the way... at least for these two intrepid riders!  The route heads west across the vast Missouri River Valley, approaching Rulo, NE.  (John S. on the left, and Spencer K., Audax KC and Nebraska Sandhills Randonneurs RBA, on the right)

Supercell thunderstorm about 20 miles behind us and closing.  While the shelf cloud mercifully provided some much-needed shade from the sun, the storm ultimately produced a tornado and baseball-sized hail around Marysville, KS. and other rural communities on 6/11/22.  As we cyclists rode along in the open, we were lucky the storm turned south and missed us.  Later that night, we were treated to quite a lightning display and only experienced a few errant sprinkles of rain. 

The June 11th 300km event went well enough that I began to think about establishing another streak of monthly rides to capture the personally-elusive 6th R-12 award - something I've started and stopped at least four separate times now.

This year was hot, to say the least.  The randonneuring events I rode over the summer months (five in total, four finishes) averaged 87 degrees Fahrenheit over their duration, with heat indexes exceeding 100 in almost every case.  When temperatures finally broke in the Fall, I had become so acclimatized to things that 70 degrees felt chilly enough for arm warmers.  It was ridiculous... and amid the pressures of various paper deadlines, homework, and family obligations, the streak ended yet again.  To say that I'm already eyeing 2023 as the year to get R-12 number six done might be an understatement... but there are other plans in the hopper, too.  

As far as new roads go, I did quite a bit of exploring in 2022, covering over 400 miles of never-before-ridden roads.  The previously mentioned 300km in Nebraska took care of much of that number, the rest being on local neighborhood roads that I've been trying to fill in on my wandrer.earthVeloViewer, Squadrats, and statshunters maps.  Pick your favorite, but any of these terrific sites that integrate with your Strava activities can reinvigorate your cycling experience, and introduce you to challenges you might not have considered trying:  many in your own backyard, which is great to keep with wheels turning in the winter months when you'd perhaps not fancy being dozens of miles from home in the cold and wind.

Also notable in 2022 was the culmination of a lot of planning in the form of attempts to visit each of my kids at their respective colleges via bicycle.  In each case, the round trip will end up being at least 400km... double that for one of the trips.  After getting the routes, stops, and hotels all perfectly planned, it never really occurred to me that I ought to perhaps train for the cycling itself.  While I thought I was prepared, I made several classic bikepacking (eh, more like loaded touring in my case) mistakes: I packed too much, under-estimated my abilities, and under-estimated the impact of a fully-loaded bicycle on average speed expectations and daily mileage plans... and, critically, I under-estimated the psychological impact of not meeting those expectations.  In my mind, I had it decided that this would be "just like a brevet" and I'd be cruising along with a 14-mph overall average, "no problem."  Instead, the sudden cold snap and 30 MPH headwind on day one had me barely averaging 10 MPH on the very hilly gravel route I'd chosen.  The attempted "leg one" of the journey ended up being a bust.  Like most cycling challenges, everything fell apart between my ears ... had I readjusted my expectations in the moment, I very well could have made it to the hotel - just later than planned - rested up for Day 2, and given it a good try once committed to the reality of my location the next morning.  Instead, I folded at the halfway mark and turned around for home, and having not ridden sensibly, I was too tired to enjoy the tailwind.  Training?  Check... it was still a solid 100-mile day with a full load, and I learned a lot.  I have since regained some fire in my belly around personal dietary concerns, some focused training over the winter, and some important mental reflection, with my eyes set on completing the goal before May this year... basically, my last chance to do it since they'll be graduating.

Cycling is often 80% mental, and 20% legs and logistics.  In early October, surprised by a cold front and strong headwind, I got things the wrong way around.  Sometimes we have to re-learn these sorts of lessons.  Here, 50 miles from both home and the planned hotel, I would argue silently with myself for 30 minutes before cashing it in and heading back home.  I still ended up having two really great weekends with each kid - I just got there "the easy way" instead.  2023...stay tuned.

All told, 2022 was a great year on the bike, and apparently I still have a good amount of passion for the sport.  Hopefully, you've all had a terrific 2022 on the bike!  I'm looking forward to a great season of Spring brevets, since it is once again a P-B-P year (the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km Grand Randonnee), which means there will be a lot of attention on qualifying, which generally equates to more riders!  Even if P-B-P is not in your sights, randonneuring is still a great way to spend time on a bicycle.  Come join us, eh?  If you have the passion, stretching your legs out to 100, 200, 300, 400, and even 600km is a really good test and a great way to build some confidence incrementally.  You'll be amazed at what you can do! 

Check out RUSA.org to find out more about randonneuring in the U.S., search for rides near you and try something new for 2023!  

Hope to see you out there, and - as ever - thanks for reading!

August 3, 2022

The Summer Check-In

 It's the 2022 edition of the summer blogpost... which will be very, very short indeed... we are still in the throes of the educational hurricane, but only a scant handful of weeks left until we get spit out the other side.  75-days from this writing, to be precise.  What will that mean?  Eh... we shall see.  Perhaps a return to the careful cadence of long-winded ride reports.  Perhaps something else entirely... there are still tales to tell, miles to discover, and goals to achieve.

For now... a photo drop.

I can't really call anything a streak... the pandemic, school, and work generally conspire to keep me off the long rides more often than not; but, we are still trying for that elusive R-12 #6, on our way to an eventual 10 total (at least).  This time, a wildflower shot from somewhere along the road between Centerville, KS. and Mound City, KS. on my most-recent 200km installment.  Ride report?  It was HOT.  Eyes on August... no relief in sight.

Caution:  This vehicle stops at railroad crossings

Two fixed gears on the Missouri River Valley highway back on June 11th's ACP 100th Anniversary 300km event.

On the ACP 300km, all roads lead to Nebraska.  Back in Rulo again...

Bridge-hunting on a solo gravel century back in May '22

Tile hunting, too.  You know about VeloViewer, don't you?
You're welcome.

Stay tuned ... stay hungry ... stay out there ...

Thanks for reading!

August 5, 2021

The Horizon Gets Closer

Yep yep ... it's been pretty quiet on this site for a long time; but more content is on the horizon.  For now, we're still out there writing a great story.

How 'bout you?

The view from Signal Oak, 7/5/2021


March 1, 2021

Spring Training

 I write this with a great deal of hope for the new year, as it seems the headwinds are ... slowly ... shifting toward a better outlook.  While it might be another full 12-months before we're truly back to "normal" (whatever that looks like), it feels like there is more bad news behind us than in front.  There's still a lot of caution required, and being this close to the finish line I cannot even begin to suggest that anything is "over" until it is well and truly over.  I think it's fair to say we cannot approach a new season of riding with reckless abandon but it finally feels like the season can, at the very least, actually happen.  It is up to each of us.  

All told, the prospect of posting new events, instead of canceling them, is exciting.

After a full year of introspection and discovery, I have begun looking at the bikes - and myself - and wondering of what I might be capable.  I wonder how many others are wondering the same thing.  Winter is loosening its grip, and I cannot help but notice the slow march of morning sun across a different part of the floor in my work-from-home office.  Gads, I need to get out of this little room... if only for a day.  A blissful, warm day full of sunshine, the faint tinge of chain oil in the air, and the reassuring promise of cleats clicking into pedals accompanying the first birdsong of a new dawn.  Let's GO.

Wait a shake... how long has it been? 

Well, for me, it's been a bit.  After a long, long while under wraps during the last year it is probably safe to suggest we could all use a little less stress in our lives, especially if we're out there trying to ride away from it.  The first few events on the spring calendar are fast-approaching, so it's time once again to check your bag!

Tubes.   Yeah, yeah... after lots and lots of research, tubes are very much still relevant for a lot of riders, even serious ones.  I won't debate things here.  If you catch me talking about marginal gains, hysteretic damping, rotating mass and angles of attack while I'm riding around with four full water bottles, a canvas saddlebag and at least 20 lbs of COVID weight around my midsection.... you should hit me over the back of the head with a really accurate torque wrench and call my wife.  Yes, the horror ... INNERTUBES.     

Little else is as frustrating as reaching into your seatbag to swap in a new innertube and feeling the sticky, rubbery resistance of a spare tube that has pretty much welded itself together due to age and oxidation.  Check your spares!   And hey... check them early, and get in touch with your local bike shop ASAP.  Supply chain issues and backorders are still a problem going into the new year ... which is both a good thing, and a terribly bad thing at once.  

On that note, how new are your tires?   If you spent a lot of time on an indoor trainer over the last fall/winter, your bike tire might be completely torched, also.  

How about your patch kit?  Tire boots?  

Okay, okay.... to make sure I'm not talking to nobody here:  when was the last time you refreshed your sealant?  Got enough plugs?  Tubeless folks, especially, how IS that spare tube you should be carrying anyways??  Maybe that spendy Tubolito thing isn't such a terrible idea after all?   After all, it takes up a lot less space in your bag, right?  There.

Wait... what's in my bag, anyways??

For me, I still fall into the trap of the "ample" saddlebag.  It's apparently like this with laptop bags, full-frame hiking packs, as well as cycling seatbags:  the bigger the bag, the more apt one is to want to fill it.  Further, the easier it is to forget what you have in there!

Each year it is important to take full inventory of one's saddlebag contents and repair kit.  On my last run-through, I found I had been carrying around a spoke wrench for a type of wheel that I'd sold off maybe seven years ago.  Maybe it was a good luck charm?  yeah, yeah... that's it.  Further, while I'm all about preparedness, I'm not sure I really need to be carrying around waterproof matches in July.  Or a space blanket... despite that one, really nasty experience ages ago.  Or spare postcards for information controls... which, maybe aren't even a thing anymore?  Maybe those are good fire-starter kindling... or could work as a tire boot...  the places my brain goes sometimes... 

Granted, a big saddlebag makes it easy to want to carry the kitchen sink - and REAL tools, in the heat of a ditch repair, are FAR more useful than weirdly-shaped multi-tool tools, but an annual inventory is a good exercise.  Spread everything out on the dining room table, and just walk through WHY you're carrying it in the first place.  Remember that ingenuity weighs nothing, so it's important to consider that in those roadside moments you should never let what you do not have prevent you from being inventive with what you do have.  Little zip ties and a couple feet of duct tape? ...yeah, those can stay in there.  But, that really specific spoke wrench for a wheel that I'm not riding?  Yeah, back in the toolbox at home.  Even that couple of bucks in quarters for a random vending machine... I dunno, but it did save my ride that one time up in Iowa...  and I'm still on the fence about that tiny Swiss Army knife in my kit that I have, literally, never EVER used.  Sigh....  I'll sleep on it.  

More stuff to check after some time away from randonneuring.... 

My cleats.  All the fasteners on the bike... are they snug?  Are all my generator light's wires in good shape?  When's the last time I checked the battery on my spare headlight and taillight?  Is there any cushion left in this handlebar tape?    

It's not like our bikes have been dormant, or left collecting dust, but, these sorts of annual checks can prevent a lot of roadside heartache when it comes time to get out there on a long ride.  Take the time, and ride assured!  

Maybe we'll see you out there this year! 


January 10, 2021

Getting the Best Out of the Worst

Welcome to 2021 ...

But, before we get all wistful and begin predictions on how great this year will be, I just want to take a breath and hope for a second that we're all not just fooling ourselves.  2020 taught me a LOT, and even if "normal" is never really normal again I have a lot of tools in the shed to at least make it easier to navigate things.  

As I look down the barrel ...ahem ... to the hopeful horizon of this new year, some thoughts.

The commute is dead

"We're not even considering having anyone back in an office until the end of 2nd quarter."

Those words sorta hung in the virtual air during our last executive conference call last month.  No matter what happens with the virus, the data is in, and working from home is not the slacker-ridden filth-storm all of the naysayers assumed it might be.  We are more productive, happier, and - yeah... at the end of the day, because a lot of folks don't know how to clock out when the laptop is 20-paces from the couch, they're getting a lot of bang for their buck out of us these days.  The office lease is up this year, too ... and with all of this evidence in place why would ANYone renew it?

(update:  harrowing statement was revised later:  "we're not going back to the office until 2022, at the earliest.")    What is "commuting," again??
That in mind, I have been looking at the bikes lately and wondering why I still have a rear rack mounted.  It's basically a REALLY heavy taillight mount, and has been since March 13th, 2020.  Fenders.... well, granted, on a must-finish brevet they are worth their weight.  On a commute, they're essential ... even on nice summer days, the bike trail is usually riddled with run-off, puddles, mud, dust ... there are always sprinklers running somewhere along the way ... I don't think I can bring myself to remove the fenders, even if it "never rains".  All told, the concept of "riding to work", which has been a massive chunk of my annual mileage since before this blog existed, is sorta dead.  I'm also inherently lazy, no matter what my mileage numbers look like.  Without the NEED to ride in the morning, I don't.  I have long since traded it for extra sleep.  No matter how much I try to trick myself into riding a quick AM loop to my own house, I haven't done it.  I'm looking forward to the time when I could actually wake up, ride to some cool coffee shop and hang out for a spell, and then ride back home for work ----- without the crushing anxiety and COVID worry that accompanies my personality type.  I could see adding that into my morning routine.  Right now, it's just not something I'm willing to do.  I'll give it a few more months, and maybe my morning commute comes back in that sort of guise.  For now... the rack is still mounted.  I keep getting these inklings that as soon as I undo those bolts, they'll call us back to the office.

I also forget that the rack and my commuting panniers can also enable touring.... just keep 'em, dude... think ahead.

All told - when it comes to cycling in general, riding back and forth to work is terrific ... but the only thing it really prepared me for was ... well, riding 12 miles at a time.  Yes, you CAN gain fitness within that framework, but my commute miles were largely spent in "no man's land".  Not losing fitness, but not really gaining anything either.  The rest days always too hard... the hard days not hard enough.  Finally being free from that framework has allowed me to switch to longer lunch rides, where I can apply a bit more training theory.  I'm still terrible at it ... but, I think I'm farther along than I would have been had 2020 been "normal".  2021 will be more about embracing this new framework, instead of wondering if I'll ever ride to and from a particular building again.

And maybe removing the rear rack.   Maybe.  

Getting the best out of the worst

Sometimes I need to get pushed outside of the box to move forward.  Maybe that's the case for all of us.  2020 was weird in so many ways, so it's no surprise that my mileage fell into the same category.  "Weird."  Many would say "fake", and part of me agrees ... more on that in a bit.  

I never really latched onto the concept of the 100km ride, but this year I managed to rack up thirty-four (*) of them.  When it was warmer, they were all genuine, outdoor gravel adventure rides ... not terribly fast (never are), but all within RUSA guidelines for the distance.  Turns out, for me, 2020 was terrific brevet training for a lot of the little intangible things.  The goal was as-little-as-possible contact with stores or towns, and sometimes I managed zero-contact rides with no stops at all.  Well, not including stops in the shade.  Ultimately, running into a C-store, once I was okay with it, really wasn't that big of a deal.  Just be sensible.  Put on the mask, go get what I need, and get out.... you know, like normal (but with a mask).  This has helped me get better at the get-in/get-out concept, which - on control efficiency - has always been a problem of mine.  I dawdle.  I'm WAY better at it now.  

Go Longer

While brevets should be manageable for all skill levels, it came up in a recent conversation that having controls too close together can become a crutch.  Sure, the sport will - and should - stretch people; but, for new riders used to charity events, passing a store every 20 miles or so - even if it isn't a control - is really helpful when easing into rando.  For me, again with the laziness.... I often leaned on them a little TOO much.  I either hydrate too often, or, carry too little to stretch much beyond 30 miles between controls.  While most would consider this to be reasonable, it isn't always practical.  Some of the longer events get into areas where it can be 45-60 miles between towns, and sometimes you're lucky if you get a store at all ... sometimes it's a water pump or a vending machine that might be working that day.  My "pack everything" 100km solo missions this summer helped me better understand how much I can carry, how much bike weight doesn't matter, how many calories I actually need, and how to manage pace and effort when it is just stupid hot and there is no store to fall into for 30-minutes of air conditioned recovery.  In a "normal" year, I'd never have tried it ... and while I won't know until later this year if it pays off, I have to think it will be something I can pull from.  

Fake Miles?

(*) Fake miles...  ultimately, my bubble popped.  I occasionally suffer from burnout, in a bad way.  As much as I'd like to be one of those guys that can just perpetually keep knocking out 800-mile months, I reach a point where just getting dressed for a ride starts to feel like a struggle.  This is all mental: anxiety, stress, mental fatigue, way too much internal dialogue, self-doubt, excuse-making, fear.  Sparking this, during one of those personal 100km rides in late summer, I had a close-call with an automobile and it rattled me pretty good.  I wish I had the ability to just let things roll off my back so I can move forward - but even at my age I still struggle.  I've been working a lot on mindfulness this year, for that and many other issues, but sometimes various feelings and incidents are at the front of my mind like a brick wall that I cannot scale.  As a result, the existence of a single car on any given road pegged my needle immediately as "too much traffic."  ANY wind is hurricane force.  If it's below 60 degrees F, it's "freezing".  By mid-October, just the slightest drop in temperatures was enough for me to justify spending the rest of the year inside.  All the winter gear, past experience ... didn't matter.  The upswing in COVID cases didn't help the process.  I wasn't going out there.  I dove into work, worked through lunch, and worked late, skipped taking vacation.

Another part of my brain, however, was still keen on various numbers and goals. I mounted the road bike into the trainer, activated a Zwift account, and took to cyberspace.  This was also something I'd never have previously considered doing at the lengths I did in late 2020.  I've used TrainerRoad before in Jan/Feb to get high intensity and threshold training - which has always paid off - but never for more than an hour at a sitting.  Cut to today, I have effectively ruined the bearings in the trainer's roller, have flattened and worn out the tread on a perfectly good tire, and watched most of the first season of the Original Star Trek series while finishing a virtual challenge that saw me ultimately stacking up seventeen of the years thirty-four 100km events inside the garage.  If I hadn't had the permission to finish the rides indoors, the challenges would not have been completed.  I'm confident of that.  

What I learned from riding seventeen metric centuries on an indoor trainer is summarized as pure saddle time and mental patience.  I cannot say it's any easier or harder than riding the same mileage outdoors; but I can tell you that it is extremely uncomfortable.  Without the floating feedback from the road to keep muscles and tendons from locking up, without the ability to coast, without the rewarding distractions of fresh air and scenery ... yeah.  It may be fake mileage ... but I begin to understand why a few ultra-distance professionals offer that if you can't ride RAAM (for example) on the indoor trainer, you probably can't ride it in real life.  A local gravel legend even took the concept to the outdoors itself ... gravel racers often poo-poo riding on pavement as "junk miles" ... and he often retorts "if you can't ride a double century on pavement, you can't ride it on gravel."  There is truth in that.  "Fake" or "Junk" miles still have their place, and trust me: being able to sit on a trainer for four hours, even with tiny breaks, makes riding outside feel like cheating.

Would I ever do it again?   Probably not.  The translation to actual outdoor road speed is absolutely disappointing - especially in my case, using a classic trainer.  Apparently, I can hammer out 62 miles in under three hours in this virtual world, but in real life?  Heck no.  While I can sit on a bike for far longer now at a stretch, climbing real hills with real wind resistance? ... yeah, I'm no faster outdoors than I was in September.  Has the time indoors helped?  In some ways, yes.  Indoor training is just a tool, and what I did this fall is largely incorrect use of that tool.

Indoor training is not "worthless", however ... if that were the case, professionals wouldn't do it at all.  But, slogging away on an indoor trainer for three hours is not "training" unless I make it "training".  At the end of the day, all I was doing was "getting the number".  Investing in a smart trainer would help me get closer to a real experience, and would genuinely provide real, focused, measurable training; but, honestly, If I had a grand to spend on anything I'd be riding a far nicer bicycle.  All told, I don't think upgrading my indoor experience helps me improve as a rider the way riding outdoors year-round has in the past.  I need cross training - not "more cycling", so, dollar for dollar, I'd buy a rowing machine.  In any case, I'm cancelling my Zwift membership and putting the old, worn-out classic trainer in the dumpster.  Partly because the bearings are shot, but partly because it's time for me to just "get out there" again.  That's not a judgment on indoor training - that's something I need to do, for many reasons.  Despite matching my 2019 mileage and getting some gains, all told I have still gained the wrong kind of weight, and have gotten very soft with regards to the weather.  Gotta work on this.  Soon.

I'm still glad I did it.  If 2020 was about trying something new, that accomplishment was a biggie.  Goals achieved, gains achieved in butt-time, pure cardio, and mental patience ... but, I don't think an "indoor 12-hr challenge" is in my future; and while I'm proud of my ridiculous result - yeah, it's sorta ridiculous.  I may be able to sit on a bike for longer now, and that will certainly help - but now I need to get back outside and learn how to sit on a bike for longer when it is cold and windy.  If it really is absolutely nasty outdoors, then I probably need the break anyways ... especially considering what I mentioned earlier about burnout still being a very real thing for me.  But, today, the combination of 2020's massive late-season base will absolutely pay off this year, and I'm happy with the result.  Should the asterisk be there?  Well, I'll be the first to put it there.  With my brain, and the challenges of 2020, I'm glad riding indoors was an option.  I'd hate to see what condition I would be in right now had I not logged those trainer miles.  Even if there was no pavement passing under my tires, my legs, resting pulse, my backside, and how I feel riding outside again each convince me it was, indeed, "real".  Not fake ... just different.  Like 2020.  YMMV.

Addendum:  (1/18/21)
Added in a few days later, yeah ... the above may come across as "harsh" in places with regards to indoor training.  My season (2020) would be in the dumpster without Zwift, however.  People will have their opinions on it, but, when the goal is just good training without the hassles of traffic and finding the right stretch of road, man... it's REALLY hard to replicate what indoor training can do for the aspiring cyclist.  Heart rate control, managing effort, endurance, FTP gains ... especially for riders who don't have the benefit of power meters on their outdoor bike ... there is a lot to be discovered indoors, and honestly -- while I am not in a hurry to stay inside, the benefits the experience have provided are already paying back on the road.  I've used it even in the best of years, including last year, just to focus on improving fitness.  Most of the time when I ride outdoors I am not focused on such things, and the trainer forces focus.  It is efficient.  Using TrainerRoad in the past has yielded big gains, and Zwift has been terrific throughout this very odd season.  Would I replace all of my outdoor riding with it?  Of course not ... I'm not sure any of us would.  But, doing those hard indoor miles, whether they are "real" or not, is no different than yoga, stretching, lifting weights ... it prepares and enables more enjoyment once you're back outside again.  I convinced myself that 3-hour tempo sessions didn't get me anything but a raw number, but, I've already seen evidence to suggest otherwise.  I ultimately do plan to invest in a better indoor trainer for even more improvements in the future, based on real power numbers and utilizing variable resistance.  For now, well, I have taped-up the vents on my shoes and busted out the gloves, because I have to be ready for cold brevet starts, for sure.  One thing the trainer definitely doesn't prepare me for are headwinds and chilled legs!  But, seriously, make no mistake:  if you want to get faster or better at climbing, tempo, sprints, or "whatever", using an indoor trainer and a structured training plan will get you there.  It's not a bad investment at all.

Here We Go Again

Even though I finished with the first chapter of my return to school back in August, with the last assignment turned in and the final grades posted, I knew I wasn't finished.  I took the fall 2020 semester off, yet as I write this I'm only a few days away from starting the graduate portion of my education journey.  The online, compressed format will afford me a Masters degree in only 20 months ... but, it's another 20 months of saying "maybe" to myself and my riding buddies.  

It will pay off.  It will pay off.  /repeat/ ....

If anything, I am already used to the routine and have a good idea from others on what to expect.  It should actually be less hectic, in some ways, than the accelerated undergrad program proved to be.  So, with high hopes, I just need to give myself permission to take a break and go ride.  The 2021 brevet schedule is out, and I have a plan.  Time to execute.  I will absolutely NEED the mental breaks that randonneuring provides.  A good, long ride ... yes, challenging, but challenging in a way that returns energy to handling life's (and schools) challenges.  In any case, this post serves as a small preamble to the forthcoming silence ... this basically means the fingers will be typing for academic purposes only, and that once again the blog will get a little stagnant.

By the time I post again, heck... maybe things WILL be "normal" again.  Whatever that means.  It is impossible to know what life will bring, but worrying about it is pointless.  It isn't always about what we've been handed ... it's what we can make of it.  Even though 2020 was very "weird" in a lot of ways, even from a cycling standpoint, I think I managed to make the best out of the worst.

I'm looking forward to spending a little time outside now, taking some photos, and always, always learning a little bit more about myself, how I can improve, and how I can help others.
Hopefully 2020 yielded some positives for all of you, as well - as "weird" as it was.  

Cheers, friends -- and thanks for reading!

November 12, 2020

Another End-Of-Summer ...er, Fall... Post

... But, this time it's 2020 ...  (sigh)

I'm not going to say much about it here.  Why add to the noise?  Until this whole thing blows over, I'm basically sticking to my original plans to limit contact with people as much as possible.  

It's not you, it's me.  (<-- cool, I finally get to say that to someone!)

It's not ALL bad news, however.  Outdoor activity here is alive and well, and my bike store friends are calling it "the great bike boom of 2020", something we've all been secretly wishing for ... but certainly would have preferred under better circumstances.  I can't even get inner-tubes right now!  

(gawd, he STILL uses inner-tubes?)

Among all the bad news out there, at least some industries are set to thrive for a long time.  When it blows over, the FB Marketplace and garage-sale market for bikes and parts is going to be IN-SANE.  Time to rebuild the stable with some solid beaters.... yissss

See, silver linings abound... patience...

For my own outdoor activity, I'm focusing on trying new things this year.  The daily commutes to/from the office - obviously - are long gone, the panniers packed away, replaced with a steady cadence of lunchtime rides instead.  A lot of additional motivation has been provided by various virtual challenges, helping keep me focused (distracted) and staying active.  On the weekends, I've fallen into a decent habit of longer rides ... and while I did grab one 200km back in May, I've pulled back and embraced the 100km distance.  Further, in the absence of RUSA rides for the majority of the year, it has been deeply satisfying to stray off the beaten path, discover a lot of new roads, and - ahem - steer clear of the usual string of c-stores, the usual pockets of traffic, and see some new horizons.  

100km.  I always sorta poo-pooed that distance, and I'm not sure why.  I was definitely a 200km junkie.  There was a lot of chatter in the forums surrounding the permanent's program earlier this summer that unleashed opinions about what does and does-not constitute a "real" randonneur.  Depending on the perspective, well.... I am not, and never will be, a randonneur.  That's fine.  Much like the stigmas about bike racing .. and how much it costs to be "competitive" these days, apparently I don't clear enough annually to be a "cyclist" at all by some definitions, which is also fine .. and that's assuming I have the physique or the genetic talent to look like or perform like a racer in the first place.  Zipp wheels?  I still doubt I've spent that much on all of the wheels I've ever had built up.  Also fine.  I'm dancing around a lot of highly-charged social commentary here, but ... in general ... people will continue to divide themselves, even as I am doing here.  I don't belong anywhere, and so I separate myself even more to make sure that I don't.  I'm getting too old to lose any sleep about "fitting in" anyhow, even though I'd like to.  I'll just say it, as much as it has become a "necessary evil" in our society, social media certainly doesn't help.  Comments like, "those aren't real bike-packing bags", "that's not a rando frame", and "that's not very fast"... and those "what the ___ are you doing here on THAT bike" looks in the group ride parking lot before the start ... yeah, I'm good.  This isn't a "better than thou" statement ... though if I have to type that.... HAHA... maybe it is ... but many riders I've encountered lately seem to still be preoccupied with pointing out differences instead of simply accepting them and trying to learn from their surroundings.  I just wanna ride my bike.  That's ultimately all we're doing, right?  We all want the same things, right?  

Morrissey seems to get it.  I'm okay by myself.  I don't need the draft, the noise, the politics, the hatred, or the attitude ... even though, yes, I'm slathering on a thick attitude here just by bringing any of this up.  Nice and cozy, hiding behind the keyboard again.

It isn't always sunshine and roses, no.  And, yeah... I suppose I AM degrading into "grumpy old man" mode.  Or is it "angry, middle-aged jerk-face"?  Depends on when you catch me, I guess.  I've been called worse, for sure.

Maybe I've got it all wrong ... again.

Compared to years past, in 2020 it does seem that cyclists DO, finally, wave back.  Almost universally, at least in this small slice of the world I see lately.  I think maybe we all sorta realize how lucky and fortunate we are to have the freedom to do what we do, and that by cycling -- in all of its forms -- we are overcoming the toils of this particularly nasty year, separately, but somehow together.  A nod, a tip of the cycling cap, or a full-on, arms-up wave.  I've seen it from kids on the sidewalk, the hybrid riders, the racers, and the weekenders.  Helmets, no helmets, mountain, road, e-bike (grumble).  We've all waving back.  It's nice.  We're all trying to improve ourselves or just escape.  We're all out riding a bike ... no matter what that looks like.  We've either been doing it for 2 weeks, 2 years, or 2 decades.

Especially since I am struggling with a cycling identity crisis of late, I'm down for waving at EVERY-body.  That previously-mentioned ugliness that popped up in the forums earlier this year, the more I think about it the more upset I get.  Most times, those hiding behind their keyboards do NOT represent majority thinking, myself included ... but, that fact aside, when you are already comfortably identifying within a niche of a niche, well... maybe there shouldn't be any loose stones laying around in this particular garden, eh?  No matter how you define "randonneur", one does not climb Everest without first learning to climb the hill behind their house.  We should spend a bit more time giving one another a chance, and less trying to sort ourselves into boxes.

Whoof, so 100km ... Besides being long enough to satisfy any distance itch I might have, it has served keep my weekends a little more open, allowing more time for around-the-house projects that I've been ignoring for years now.  Now that I'm stuck in with DIY projects, my brain is being exercised in new ways, and my confidence is growing new roots in more diverse areas.  I think for a while there, I was using the bike to avoid such things.  Chicken.  I've grown a bit in the last couple of years, if nothing else.  Now I ride for the health benefits, for the mental benefits, and to get out of this increasingly over-populated suburban deathtrap for a few hours.  Perhaps before I was riding to prove something else?  I dunno ... not enough space here, but I have thought about it.  I still enjoy it, love it, but it is nice in some ways to not "need" it quite as much as I once had.  That's progress.

All told, I will likely continue to stack 100km rides ... even as the weather turns, and various bikes go into dry-dock for maintenance, we have also embraced the interesting novelty of Zwift and indoor riding.  WHAT?  The dude?!?  Say it isn't so!   

Oh, c'mon.... it's training!

Well, it seems to help anyways ... weights, treadmill, core, stretching, and yes -- indoor mileage.  Since my personal Achilles heel on brevets always seems to be long, flat stretches of road with seemingly no end, well.... Zwift has already started to pay back a little.  I mean, if nothing else, it is NOT comfortable.  Those guys that did a virtual RAAM this year?  COME ON MAN.... I think that might actually be more difficult than the real thing.  So, if I've gotten into the habit of watching football games from the saddle, instead of from behind a bag of chips ... that's 3+ hours of really long, numbing, uncomfortable slog on a really, really long flat road.  It's working.  It's all about the mental game.  Because yeah, I want to be halfway through a 600km ride in a few years and be able to say "hey, at least we're not stuck on an indoor trainer for this long!"  Those little "I've had worse" nuggets HELP.

With that, HA.... "Thanks, George!"  <-- you know who you are...  apparently I have 15 more 100kms to go this year if I want to claim a sticker that says "Ultra 100km" or somesuch... better get to it.  Hey, that sticker means a LOT right now, pal.  LOL

It has been, and continues to be, a remarkable year.  

Yeah, I can't wait until all of these bothers are behind us ... but, I have to remember that, historically, humanity comes out of adversity with a newfound appreciation for nearly everything.  While 2020 was supposed to have been "the year" for a lot of things, it is impossible to say what our collective redirection yet means in a larger, longer sense.  

Only time will tell.   

My personal timidity will change with time, certainly; but for now I am keeping things safe and distanced.  I don't lose very much in that scenario - nothing I can't deal with, anyhow.  In another few months, things will begin to look progressively brighter for everyone, and then it will legitimately feel "right" to return to what we love ... no matter what that looks like at an individual level.  

For now, stay safe, take care of each other, and ... yeah, maybe start a blog?  

Never know.  

Maybe I'm not as weather-hearty as I used to be, but Zwift sure is nice when it's just miserable outside.

Who let the cows out? 

Where we measure time, and distance, in centuries

Variety is good ... although I'm not ready for 100km on FOOT, a half-marathon might do here and there.
Walking ... we're not completely crazy.  These knees can't take that anymore.

Where ya been ridin' lately?

Hidden treasures

No longer hunting for R-12 this year ... just out collecting old bridges and schoolhouses.

Long distance in 2020 ... "Just add water."