June 28, 2009

Confessions of a cycling addict

Even when you know something is absolutely the right decision, its sometimes really hard to let things go. This is good in some ways, because after solid weeks of commuting back and forth and basically being car-free, I'm clearly not burned out: the last two days I have been struggling with ways to just squeeze in that 200k before June is history. I find myself knowing full well that I'm not going to do it, but the desire is still there. Its all for the best, because the farther I stay away from burnout, the better. The only thing that bothers me a little is possibly losing some of the endurance edge that I've built up by no longer doing a long ride every 30 days, but I think that can be achieved again easily enough if I keep my weight under control and do some 'smarter' rides. Kinda brings back the training theories of old, like hammering out 70% of the target distance at a higher effort, something along those lines. That keeps me out of the triple digits, gets me home faster, and is probably a better tool to prevent burnout anyways.

Noah stopped into the shop yesterday which made for good conversation, and got me thinking about that fact, especially about February's 200k, one that I'm glad I did for the experience and personal lesson, but its still an example of me pushing the issue: everything pointed to me taking a month off, I had the R12 bagged up, and yet there was the pressure (self imposed) to keep doing the same thing every month, just because. A good lesson to remember, as once again I find myself looking for ways, in the next 72 hours, to squeeze it in unneccessarily. I laugh at myself, even as I write this: Badgerland's comment rings so true...I just try too hard sometimes. But, I know better, deep down, and I will flip the calendar over to July and relax about it, without a 200k in the books. I will make sure that my commute efforts are balanced, and that at least once every two weeks I get some sort of "bagless" fun weekend hammerfest under my wheels, to shake things up and keep an edge on things.

Come 2010, things will start to ramp up I have a feeling, things like revenge on a certain 20 mile loop down south, perhaps. Should I even announce such things? Well, I thought about that. Its hard to know where I'll be next year, honestly. I can't divulge too much in these pages, but I have to be honest about things: the econony has been hard on everyone, including me and the family. While I won't lament my personal situation, there is the fact that focus has been pulled back to more immediate concerns, so I really hope the cards are aligned right over the next 18 months. Let's just say that The Tejas-500 in 2010 is a legitimate hope and goal - the wife and I already have a roadmap to make it happen, but there are a lot of unknowns. The only thing I can guarantee is my own fitness and personal readiness for it. If I was worried about appearances, I wouldn't have mentioned this at all, and financially its the same for the whole country right now....so there you have it. Heck, I can only hope the event itself still happens, because many rides have simply not shown up on the calendar this year - which is sad. Aside from those 'secondary' concerns, the difference this time is I will prepare myself physically and mentally as-if my attendance at Tejas is a guarantee. That will be the contrast between 2010 and my first two attempts.

Looking back, while my intentions were good, I wasn't really ready either of those times. Cutting right to it, that makes the preliminary training goal similar to what Jeff W. was aiming to pull off last month, and that's a sub-24 hour 600km brevet. I defer to the old Byron Rieper standard for things like RAAM and Furnace Creek preparations: "if you're not on pace to ride 400 miles in 24 hours, go home." A tall order? You bet...but they don't make cyclists like Byron very often...guys like Danny Chew, Dan Jordan, Mark Metcalfe, Sam Baugh. Not to be a name dropper, but these are the folks whose training journals and accolades I'll be studying carefully. There is a lot of work to be done. I've been privledged enough to have ridden close to or talked with riders like this over the years, and there is a formula, unique to each, yes, but consistent in many ways. Speed and endurance comes with patience, good nutrition, focus, drive, and proper training. My usual trick of
starting fast and ending up slow has to stop. I need to find my 400-mile pace early and train to stay there, stay predictable. I need to train to eliminate the 'lap factor'. Just affording the entry fee truly is a secondary concern right now.

So, these last ten pounds are toast. Tomorrow is a new day, and I put focus back on the diet and really get 'off vacation'. Will I have fun on the bike and smell the flowers? Of course! It won't ALL be heads down hammering...but if I'm talking about it, I need to make it happen: either do it, or shut up about it already. My choice is made. I've made good strides since that last struggle of a 200k in February, so its time to make the rest of the journey. Let's do this.

June 24, 2009

click...welcome to Summer.

This week's return to the bike after a relaxing vacation was more than welcome, but I wasn't really expecting the crash-course in heat acclimation.  It's good training, though, and the beginnings of true tests of self-reliance.  I've left the car with a full tank of gas, and my tentative goal is to keep that one tank for the rest of summer.  Now, now, the way these self-challenges usually work is there will be a bevy of unexpected crud that will rain down upon me, and I'll have to drive to the airport or something - we'll see.  But, that's my best intent.  Last year, I had things pretty easy temperature-wise, and I didn't really take advantage of it.  I'm missing those conditions now!  But, I press on.  If could always be worse, which is a difficult thing to say when the heat index yesterday was easily in the hundred-teens.

What comes along with it, however, is pleasant.  There is a lot to be said for the olfactory excitement that comes with increases in heat.  Take stew, for example:  put a buncha stuff in a pot, and it smells... well, like nothing, really.  Turn on the heat, and within an hour the house will be filled with pleasant aromas.  It seems the outdoors is the same way, to a certain extent.  There is a wild smell to the flowers, fields, and there is a waft of sunscreen and chlorine from local pools, something I didn't really notice a couple weeks ago.  Unfortunately, there is also a strong smell of stagnant water along the bike trail - but that's okay.  Nature!  Whoooo!  

Speaking of the bike trail, not since probably 2004 have I seen the trails so empty in the afternoons, and instead busy in the mornings!  Things have flip-flopped, as the weather has reached a point where people are rising early to get workouts in before the heat really builds up.  This morning started out in the lower 70's after some wild impulse thunderstorm activity from a passing shortwave, and it was "almost" cool feeling.  Halfway to work, however, the truth was another day of relative misery in store:  humidity was high, and even tenderized efforts weren't rewarded with any respite.  I arrived just as sweaty as I had the day before.  I'm hopeful for a repeat of last nights thunderstorm pop-up, for my ride home tonight from job #2.  Pray for rain, they say... I'm there.  It will be a thrilling treat to get a cool summer shower to wrap up an especially hot couple of days, maybe a little light-show along with it.  I even took the bike out last night after dark, just to ride around the block a little and watch the lightning flash and the hear the skies groan.  A LOT of energy - it's remarkable to see.  

I've been pulling out some of my old methods for surviving the extreme heat, taken from many a stint at summertime 12 and 24 hour races, brevets, and commutes under high-heat advisories.  These days, even fully frozen water bottles are fully thawed and warming after only 10 miles - and that's even with insulated bottles.  For the commute, normally a one-bottle job, I've been running two this week:  one for the inside of me: stay hydrated!  Staying hydrated while sitting at the desk is a good idea, too.  Don't head home in the afternoon on a hydration deficit, or you'll end up paying for it.  The other bottle for the outside of me:  A long squirt of icy water down the back feels GOOD at that long stop-light when the pavement is baking me from the ankles up.  A plastic zipper-seal baggie, sandwich-sized, filled with ice and sealed - then with one of the bottom corners snipped, small, maybe a 1/16th inch - just enough to allow one drop at a time to pass.  Stick that in the center back pocket, with the cut corner facing down and there will be a nice stream of cold water to keep you chilled after a while.  You're gonna get wet anyways, right?  Might as well be cool moisture, because the humidity here is too high to allow evaporative cooling to work with sweat alone - depending on what you're wearing, that is.

Clothing is important, too, this time of year.  You know, honestly, I'm a cycling-geek big-time.  Do I really have to get all suited up, gloves, cap, all that jazz, JUST to ride to work?  When the temperature is between maybe 32 and 70, probably not.  I see plenty of people just riding along in jeans, t-shirt, maybe a button-up with a few buttons un-done, casual shorts - whatever.  I think I just get suited up in the cycling garb, A) because I've paid for it already, so I might as well use it, and B) it's just habit.  I started riding recreationally before I ever considered commuting regularly, so it was just "what you did" to get ready to ride the bike, even if it was only for a few miles.  This time of year, however, technical fabrics, jerseys, shorts are nearly essential.  You NEED something to move that moisture away from your skin, something that is designed to cool, someplace to stash an extra water bottle (back pockets).  You have to have something on your head to move sweat away from your eyes, keep the blistering sun off your face a little.  Cycling-specific clothing and accessories, even if you only have one "kit" are, in my opinion, absolute life-savers - literally.  If your body can't cool itself, you are putting yourself at serious risk.  I can even tell a difference when I wear a "power-dry" or whatever athletic t-shirt.... they're just not the same as a good jersey.  As long as I'm moving through the air, no matter how hot it is, I feel fairly good in these get-ups.  They don't have to be expensive, either.  A lot of jerseys or shorts will run upwards of a full Benjamin, but my basic, no-frills, solid color, no ads or graphics jersey is about $44, shorts a little more.  Hand wash, hang dry, and they're ready for the next day's commute.  Shop the close-out bins if you need to, but you don't have to have a full wardrobe of cycling gear by any means.  Just a couple good pair of shorts, a jersey or two, and weeks like this one are far more tolerable.  Compared to regular casual clothing, the technical stuff DOES make a difference in this heat.  Considering we're all supposed to be "avoiding strenuous exercise" during this Excessive Heat Warning, I'll take any advantage I can get.  

Areas to the south where you wouldn't think twice about associating the word "hot" with the city names, it hasn't been this warm or humid.  Places like Houston, Phoenix... nope.  It's been hotter here, in some cases the heat index in some Texas cities has been cooler than our actual temperature.  Training?  Check...   Between Bob Burn's brevet series and the wild weather, the Kansas City area certainly gets me ready for whatever cycling challenges lay ahead.  Surviving this week will be the first real test of summer fitness, and so far --- well, so far I feel like the dried-out grass clippings that I've been running over these past few days:  squeezed dry, and cooked.  But, it's getting better, easier... One thing is for sure:  summer is in the house.  

June 23, 2009

REVIEW: Global Ride: Hawaii Rides DVD Box Set

Jeff and company at Global Ride contacted me a while back and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a new line of indoor cycling training DVDs, and I was all ears. I've been looking for something to spice up my winter-time indoor sessions for a while now, and this seemed interesting enough. My normal winter routine usually finds me suiting up in multiple layers for an outdoor cycling adventure, but there are those days where winter is really unkind. The roads can be impassible with ice, and things can be otherwise dangerous. When this happens I am pretty old-school: a wind trainer, a terry-cloth towel, and Tour De France videos. Yeah, I'm not the kind of person that will spend money on training videos, but after reviewing these from Global Ride I think it's simply been a matter of not choosing the right ones. While it is thrilling to "chase" that breakaway on stage 16, or follow Lance up an Alpine climb, sometimes there is something missing... I mean, honestly, you can only watch the same stages over and over so many times, which is part of the challenge of training indoors in the first place: finding variety.

There are lots of options at the beginning of the videos, which come in a modestly packaged box-set of three DVDs. Each disc has a straight-forward menu, giving you a myriad of options. You can select your background music preference, choose whether or not you want a personal trainer along for the ride with you, or you can choose one of three (depending on the disc you select) pre- or post-ride workouts. These include yoga, pilates, and strength training, each of which is a huge bonus for this package. Most cycling videos simply leave you with the ride, and the cooldown - the Global Ride DVDs workouts are good in their own right, and complement the cycling workouts nicely.

The opening sequences of each ride start out with a lush slideshow of the locale and theme of the package, Hawaii in this case. I personally think this is an improvement over other videos; you have some music and some images that float across the screen while you get yourself ready. Getting myself ready: I find myself in this scenario quite a bit, actually, so I appreciated the extra time to prepare as each video ramps up. Since riding indoors is not "normal" for my routine, I find myself often forgetting simple things like my gloves, or my water bottles. Instead of having to pause the video, I can easily keep it rolling with this warm-up "buffer", and get back on the bike before anything really gets started. This, however, is my first indication that these DVDs are probably meant for cyclists that are familiar with indoor riding and training already: while its easy to deduce that this first portion of the DVD is for warm-up, there is never any announcement to confirm that suspicion, and it made me think that I'd missed something. As the DVD continues play, it simply transitions into the first part of the workout. Its my first notion that perhaps there could be more text or scrolling graphics, maybe a "dashboard" of sorts, to let the viewer/rider know what's expected, and what's coming up. For beginners shopping for their first indoor training DVD, this might prove detrimental: as the first scene appeared and the actual training portion of the video unfurled, the coaching companion was assuming that I was already in my target zone. Now, to be perfectly fair, I chose to watch the third DVD in the package first, mainly because I chose based on the title and scope of the videos. Correcting myself, I tossed in the first DVD of the set, and the coach does indicate the first section is for warm-up.

The coaches: this is a unique feature of the Global Ride DVDs, something I had never come across before. Part of the robust suite of menu features, the viewer can select the nationality of their personal coach! You have the option of choosing an American, an Australian, or an Italian coach, or you can choose to listen to a recorded spin-class session from the Harbor Fitness studio. I personally preferred the Italian coach, honestly - maybe it's my appreciation for cycling's racing heritage, but the Italian was much easier to listen to while I rode along. The Australian coach was good, but a little droll. The American coach seemed to provide the most information from a training perspective, but seemed a little unscripted. She kept giving me her resume, and reminding me that I was watching a video, which was interesting since I already knew that I was watching a video: the frustrating part of that was the fact that, while informative, she tended to detract from the imagery unfolding on the screen in front of me. I find this particularly important to note as riding indoors is already a labor for many cyclists, including myself. A large portion of us are into cycling not only for the physical benefits, but for the fact we are outdoors. Global Ride went to a lot of trouble to get the fantastic vistas and scenic overlooks captured on film from the saddle of a bicycle, and to better fit the notion of "being there" in those images, truly along for the ride, the commentary should be scripted to match. There is, however, an option to disable the coaching commentary altogether from the main menu, so you can ride along in "iPOD-land", forget how bad the weather outside is, and absorb the full effect of the videos as they pass across the screen. No desire for headphones? No problem: the soundtracks that are set to the scenery are very good in their own right, and I enjoyed the electronica and pulsing beats while I pedaled along Hawaii's coastline. In many scenes, the music was precisely in-time with the cadence of the cyclist on the screen; well done. There was a mild critique that popped into my head, however, while riding along listening to the music and the Italian coach: the soundtrack is good, but the producers might have opted for music without lyrics, as the coach and the music often talked over one another, which was a little distracting.

The imagery is fantastic, and the views spectacular. The producers truly captured what it must be like to really ride at the location, choosing good roads with challenging terrain. Again, however, a few "wishes" came to mind. The production would have benefited from anti-vibration smoothing on some of the shots, but it did add to the realism. I would have liked to have seen the DVDs played on an upconversion-DVD player, as the images would have really popped had they come from an HD source, but I can't fault Global Ride for my technoligical shortcomings in the exercise room here at home. Though I am hopeful, someday, for some ambitious company to release a high-quality set of indoor cycling DVDs on Blu-Ray.

After about ten minutes of pedaling, my overly-critical mind began to settle in. This is something that I'll be watching from the seat of a bicycle, indoors, while there is probably six inches of snow on the roads outside - and as the pace picked up, and the sweat began to bead, I felt myself getting pulled into the screen, right alongside the rider shown - the body heat building as the images floated by: it really is, if you let it happen, just like being there. Early on I felt it might have been neat to have more than one rider shown on the road, for a paceline feel, but I began to appreciate the fact that Global Ride chose to make these videos about the scenery, and not about racing, or pacelines, or watching someone else's wheel. From a long-distance cycling perspective, one could say this was like doing a brevet in Hawaii, and I put myself into that mindset while I rode along.

It's been said that every mile of indoor training is like riding four miles outdoors - so riding inside is truly a mental test, just as much as it's about maintaining fitness. Even the professionals have been quoted as not liking riding indoors for more than an hour or so, so that's a genuine concern. Getting a grip on mental focus, having something visually powerful to distract me from the fact that I'm trapped inside, is difficult, and Global Ride seems to have delivered here. After that first ten minutes, I was absorbed into the images, no longer paying attention to the time that had passed. It was easier to stay on the saddle, as the scenery passed by. With three DVDs, multiple soundtracks and coaches to choose from on each one, I think there is plenty here to keep me occupied through even the longest off-season. The Global Ride DVDs took me far away, mentally, to an exotic locale, and delivered the imagery and coaching focus I needed to stay on my plan. Let's remember, I received these DVDs and previewed them during the late Spring... and I still got a full workout indoors. After 30 minutes, I was fully into the scene and forgot where I was, the coach popping in from time to time to prod along the effort and motivation. The images of the rider on the screen seemed to mimic how I was feeling, how I would probably look had I really been there in the moment. Quite realistic. Just like while riding in real life, every time the pain came up or I became tired I simply trained my gaze out over the passing ocean, and took deeper breaths. It works! During the downhill scenes, I found myself increasing my pace to "stay" with the rider on the screen, and to make my feeling on the trainer match what I was seeing on the screen. It's quite effective, and almost subconscious, just like real road riding.

I'm a goat at heart. I like climbs: long, steady, stupid climbs, and I found myself barking with glee as the first DVD transistioned to the "Maui Cliff Climbs" section of the workout. The coach announces that it's time to take the intensity up to 90% for this section, and I answer by cranking up the resistance and standing up for the next 20 minutes. Just stunning: the climb shown is like nothing I had ever seen before, and - true - while I wasn't really there, I still reacted the same way. Just astonishing that there exists a place like this where someone can ride, for real - and I'm compelled to visit in real life someday because of this DVD. Global Ride should strike up a deal with the Hawaiian Tourism board or something, and sell a tour package that highlights the roads showcased in this set of DVDs. Prior to this, I had really no desire to visit Hawaii, simply from the notion that it would be too trappy, too touristy. Now, I just want to fly there with my bike and find these Maui Cliffs. Dude... wicked climbs!! I really, really wanted to be that cyclist in the video, and the best part of the presentation was that I practically WAS, as the music pumped out of the speakers, and the singer (no longer annoying with the lyrics) tells me that I'm "taking her higher", and I "am amazing". Ten minutes left until the end of the ride, and I find myself wanting to downshift and rest, but the images are still pitching upward, and sitting down or shifting just somehow doesn't seem right. The coach says its time to push harder and faster, and the road pitches up again! Dang... I like this video.

The cool-down section was neat, transistioning back to a slide-show format with some motivational snippets about cycling floating across the screen, along with training tips. Strangely, the coach's input about what exactly a "cool-down" entails is missing, which again might confuse novice cyclists and people on their first indoor ride - reinforcing the notion that the focus here might be towards more experienced cyclists. Taking all these factors into account, and the general theme of the DVDs, I have to recommend them for advanced or enthusiast cyclists with knowledge of training theory and some understanding of heart-rate zones and the like - which is probably right on the money for someone that would be considering indoor training in the first place. What these videos lack in the hand-holding department, however, they more than make up for with some of the best bicycling location footage ever captured on film.

The video immediately segues into the bonus training section, as the cool-down comes to a close. Strength training, pilates and yoga are certainly training features I could benefit from, being a cycling-only person. The key to riding successful endurance events is overall strength, as well as cycling prowess, so this is something I'm sure I'll use quite a bit. Being flexible, mentally tough - these bonus sections are very valuable training tools, and provide exercises that cyclists generally don't think about for themselves. Especially in the off-season, the bonus exercise programs that are included on each Global Ride DVD can go a long way to preventing injury and keeping you fit and healthy - ready for a solid spring.

Overall I give these videos a solid arm-up for quality, value, and uniqueness. There are a lot of training videos, but not many that can offer what Global Ride has packaged here. The only criticism I have has to do with the lack of "data", which might confuse those new to the indoor training experience - but a little outside research, and a heart-rate monitor, and those riders will be in fine shape with these DVDs. Just don't expect a lot of "you should be here, doing this, in this gear" kind of guidance. In exchange, however, you can't find an indoor training video that is shot on-location like this. It's truly unique, and is on a pedestal high above the usual Tour de France re-runs or movies-of-the-week that one might normally subject oneself to while riding indoors - although it is still kinda fun to chase Jalabert up those mountains. There is even a silver-lining and hidden benefit to the lack of data and hand-holding from a training perspective: sometimes I just want to get on the bike and ride, and these videos will let you do that without making you feel guilty for not pushing hard enough. The settings allow you to hear what you want to, and you can tailor each ride to your liking - something else that no other indoor cycling training video package offers. I think Global Ride has done something unique and enticing here, and I think anyone looking for something new this winter would do well to seek out these DVDs.

You can learn more at http://globalride.net - Keep watching, as they've just begun wrapping up the new Italy Series of DVDs, which should prove particularly stunning!

Thanks for reading!

June 18, 2009

Perspectives from the great north.

I'm enjoying a nice vacation from the bike right now, sitting on a balcony overlooking a stand of pine and a couple of small lakes. Its awesome! Do I miss the bike? Obvious question, perhaps. The answer is actually 'no', not at the moment. I am human, after all, not so shallow that I can't function without it - but I will be pleased to get back in the saddle to head off some of my vacationary indescretions. I have been relaxing - rather, *learning* how to relax - on this journey. I still get those spurts of inability to sit still, but those have been fading over the last few days. I'm going to make solid efforts to pull this marked lack of momentum into the 'real' life that awaits my return to Kansas - tailored towards getting things done and doing good work, of course, but this de-stressing mentality is needed with my increased work schedule. Some bike things will have to be rethought: life is getting hard enough, and I've found myself adding stress with plans for
another R-12, along with everything else that is coming up. I simply can't do it all, and coming to grips with that had been difficult in the weeks leading up to this vacation. I'd been tossing back and forth about silly things like whether or not to do a certain ride that I've never done before - something that actually sounds like fun - but I've found myself inexcusably dismissive of these "funner" rides for foundless reasons like their being "too short" or that they "don't count towards X". Continuing that madness, I then begin stressing over something like a last-minute before-the-month-is-out 200k, solo, starting at 3am just so I can fit it in and still have time to do laundry and hang with the fam for a few hours before I have to go back to work. It's kinda dumb on my part, honestly, and it should go without saying that I'm tabling plans for the second R-12 for now, and will be planning on just maintaining endurance and building speed and strength for future endea
vors: things that will require more time and money: neither of which I have the luxury of possessing currently.

It feels good to be healthy again, to perhaps be 'ready' for bigger cycling challenges - but those challenges will have to wait. Focus on my long-term plan is critical. There truly are "more important things", and getting the chance to step away from "life" for a while on vacation, like this, is an excellent way to realize what those "more important things" are. Pursuits like cycling truly are "extras". Course, not to mislead anyone - nor myself: bicycling is important to me, a great outlet. I'm not hanging it up, that's for sure - but if work won't allow me the reasonable buffers of spare time needed to keep an R-12 going, then I can't keep it going. Simple as that.

Thinking along the lines of how much time a 200k takes, and how, lately, I can't even find time to mow the grass - well, the decision is simple, and I've been an idiot to try and keep squeezing all this in. I DO have time for the shorter, "funner" rides, and I've skipped them, unneccessarily - adopting an all-or-nothing policy which, just like trying to fit it ALL in, doesn't accomplish much for de-stressing, either. Yeah, its ridiculous. I miss the wife and kids with all the work hours...why do a 12 hour ride, too? Silly. I get plenty of saddle-time from commuting. Keeping commuting going with my schedule is hard enough - so, essentially, *that* is my challenge. More ambitious pursuits will be waiting for me when I once again return to being a one-job-pony.

For now, I'm looking forward to some smaller mini-vacations, like an upcoming S24O in July. Might attend the Tour de Shawnee. Might organize another DSR, might make the Hard Cider ride happen, might hit the roads for a 200k again in August for good measure, who knows, and then it will be MS-150 time again before I know it, another mini-vacation - and most importantly, this year I'm strictly riding the ride, instead of leading a team. All of this, with the occasional "home-by-noon" speedwork should keep me mentally and physically happy and fit, and I'll have a lot more family time as a result - which is worth far more than any brevet card or medal I could hope to earn.

Hopefully, events like TTTT (www.tt24tt.com), The Last-Chance 1200, and the Iowa 24-hour race, will still be around when I can rejoin the chase. I feel enough accomplishment just having returned to, and exceeding, the form required to consider taking them on. The tests, however, will wait until I can bring the life-work balance back on track.

For today, I'm sticking the phone back on the charger and getting back to staring at the pine trees and ducks, with a kid under each arm.

June 9, 2009

Advocacy Alert - The League needs us to speak up


The text below is copied directly from the League's webpage: take a look:

(begin League of American Bicyclists content:)
Proposal to End Federal Funding for Bike Projects
(6.05.09) A proposal by House Republican leaders to slash critical federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects was branded as “short-sighted and out of touch with reality” in a short statement issued by the President of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke. “House Republican leaders have chosen once again to scapegoat bicycling and walking programs, proposing to end the popular and successful Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to Schools programs and to terminate four non-motorized pilot projects mid-stream. These programs are hugely popular with communities across the country and address numerous challenges facing our nation – such as climate change, obesity and oil dependence. We know that State Departments of Transportation have reluctantly implemented these programs over the years despite overwhelming public support, and will not support them independently. To suggest ending these programs is short-sighted and out of touch with reality.”

In addition, the League notes that:

the Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to Schools programs are routinely oversubscribed by a factor of three or more whenever States request applications for funding under these programs.
More than 40 percent of all trips in the United States are two miles or less and that almost three-quarters of all car trips are two miles or less, suggesting that most travel is local, regardless of mode.
A 3 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled in 2008 resulted in a 30 percent reduction in congestion in metropolitan areas around the country, suggesting that demand management strategies such as increasing bicycling and walking are extremely effective in addressing congestion and other traffic-related issues
and subsidies given through tax breaks to drivers to pay for parking at work cost the taxpayer almost as much per year ($4 billion) as Boehner’s and Cantor’s proposal to slash support for bicycling and walking would save in five years.
“We will be asking the White House to reject these proposed cuts out of hand,” continued Clarke. “At a time when we are struggling across several fronts to tackle pressing national concerns related to oil dependence, obesity and the costs of physical inactivity, climate change, air quality and economic competitiveness, it seems inconceivable that we would gut some of the few modest programs that encourage and enable people to walk and bicycle for everyday trips.”
(end League of American Bicyclists content:)

WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY, and help make sure this doesn't happen!

June 8, 2009

Frustration as a motivational training tool

So, after a really bizarre non-start to the 200K, I came home and recollected myself, talked to the wife for a while, and then got shoved out the door to ride anyways. 
She knows me pretty well - and getting a ride is better than NOT getting a ride, even if it wasn't for RUSA credit.  So, I saddled up. 
I guess I needed to blow off some steam, and it worked.  I left a lot of myself out on the roads on this last ride, pushing myself pretty hard.  I started out heading south on MurLen, and saw several cyclists here and there, including a group that had a member comment about how much he liked my bike... then I realized I'd left my headlight on, which might have been why he noticed.  The wind was just right, and even though I knew I'd pay for it later on, I began to ramp up through the gears.  I passed a couple more riders on 175th, even before reaching 169 highway.  After that, I let it fly.  Thoughts ran through my head... should I go to Paola?  Should I just head out to Gardner?  Maybe... just maybe... I could catch the 200K in-progress before they get to Wellsville?  Bet... game on!

I planned my attack, and kept the speed high.  175th to Clare Rd., then 199th.... dang... lot of riders out today!  199th's hills stretched out ahead of me, and I hammered - pausing at Gardner Rd., and then getting the forced turn at Four Corner's road due to construction.  There is also a lot of construction out here on these roads, and it struck me that I hadn't been out on a daylight, sunny, weekend ride in months.  On ANY of these local roads.  In fact, the last time I was on this stretch of road, it was dark, way back at the Moonlight ride in October of last year.  Yikes.  With 199th being closed, it was time to enter brevet-mode... the only way I was gonna get to Wellsville was on US-56, and so it was.  I hopped onto the highway, with the barely existent shoulder, and continued the pace as best I could.  Traffic was still steady for a Sunday, which is unfortunate.  I flew along, watching the birds flitter around, listening to squeaky oil derricks, and trying my best to keep the bicycle tires inside the 6 inch shoulder I had.  This is why I wear those ridiculous blaze-yellow jerseys... anything less conspicuous, I'm not sure how well I'd fare on these highway sections.  I figure, highways workers have to wear these colors - there must be something to it, and I don't really want to advertise for anyone - so the fancier jersey's are "out".  Seems to work for me.  

I fly through Edgerton, KS., and continue west - I've still got water, and Wellsville isn't too far from here.... but wait...  bogeys!  Targets!  Acquired!  Up the road about a mile or more, a little, unmistakable blip of a cyclist.  It's not one of the permanent riders, no - wrong road... but it IS motivation.  Time to catch em, if I can... I try to remember the maps in my head... the turn south to Wellsville is only a few miles, maybe one mile past the Douglas County line?  Bah.... just get 'em.  One mile... still don't have em... (well, I didn't expect to that quickly)... but eventually the Douglas County line arrives, and they are only slightly closer... THEY!  I see another rider pop out to the left, very briefly they ride two abreast... two targets... ack!  Three!  Another one pops out... and then they fade back into a paceline... crud, catching a paceline is hard, even if it's only three guys.  If they are rotating and taking turns, they will easily hold me off.  Only solution... see what I got.  I click another gear, and raise the pace until my cadence is back where it was in the previous gear.  The turn is coming!  Move it!!  I pull in another 1/4 mile, perhaps... they are slightly closer, and I can start to pick out colors on their jerseys and more distinct shapes.  But, the turn is nearly here.... there's K-33 south... the first Wellsville turn... DG-1061, on the permanent route, is next... okay, what's my move?  Do I try to catch them, or do I turn south and try to catch the permanent riders, whom I haven't seen and don't know where they are?  There's 1061... and now I can really see the three of them, as they have already turned, probably a half-mile away now.... SO close...
I turn north... I gotta catch these guys, I don't know WHY - but I do.... 

The southern wind is picking up bigtime, and the three riders are regrouped and pushing harder.  It almost seems like they have gained back some distance by the time I make the turn onto 1061 north myself.  I slugged some water, and took another shot of Hammer Gel - alright, you abandoned your original plan for these three mystery riders... get 'em, already!  I peer down, and I'm already north of 25 mph... there is some push left, so do it!  As it's been said.... "get it on...."  It's time to make it hurt a little, and if speed is what I want back in my game then its time to push harder than I would normally push - chase them down, and be stronger for it.  I channel in some of my frustration from the previous evening in the garage, and raise the pace once again.  I have to be faster and stronger then these three working together.  I crest another hill, and I see them again - closer... close enough to see a head pop around and look back.  Do they know I'm here?  The head snaps back in line, and it seems like they organize a little more, lining up perfectly.  Oh, no.... I will get you....  My quads are on fire on the next hill.... I'm moving tons of air with each breath.... spitting on the road... the body is reaching its limit, and stuff begins to protest.  I remember the tactics I'd seen on countless races and 'Tour videos, Paul Sherwin talking in my ear all of the sudden -- I love moments like that on the bike... DEEPLY vested in the moment of the chase!!!  "If he's going to reel them in, he's going to have to do it in the hills - he won't catch out these three on the flats...."  ..and his classic counterpart...  "right you are, Paul, exactly... look at the face of this man, he can nearly smell the finishing line, and he want's the stage victory so very badly... but if he's going to catch these three before the line in Eudora, he's going to have to take advantage of these climbs before the road flattens out for the last few kilometers ...."  Another hill, destroyed...!  They are closer... another hill.... legs on fire!  I can hear them shifting, just ahead from me... there they are!  I'm finally on a wheel..... and I have just enough composure left to pull off the "morning!  How's it goin'?!" greeting... in as clear and calm a voice as I can muster underneath the effort it took to get there.  At this point, the threesome is split... there is a lone rider off the front, and then these two behind...  and I am greeted with "hey there, go chase down THAT guy!  We can't get him to slow down!"  with a chuckle... "ok, I'll see what I can do!"  Still amped up, I pull out, and raise the pace again to catch the lone leader... and a few strokes later, I'm there, on HIS wheel!  Awesome!  A few pleasantries are exchanged, and he says something about there being two riders behind him... unsure what that meant - but I was anxious to keep my fantasy alive... I pulled around the right as he ducked left to receive a pull, perhaps?, but I had my eyes on that imaginary line again.  After chasing for eight miles, I wasn't going to fall into a paceline - no sir... I was taking Eudora, solo... and so I picked up the pace again, right when the RAIN BEGAN!  Ahhhh..... there is something dramatic about the scenes playing out in my head as I continued my own training, hammering again, leaving the threesome behind, and tearing a hole in the rain at 27 mph.... I felt really, really alive.  I never even looked back.  They could have turned off at any of the numerous intersections I passed in the next six miles to Eudora, but I still pretended they were behind me, and I was taking this imaginary stage I'd set up for myself.  It's been a long, long time, even if the only willing participant was myself, that I felt that racing urge, that drive to catch, pass, and stay away.  And to be able to pull it off again....  I'm slowly reaching a point where, if I play things right, stay injury-free, and look carefully at finances for 2010, that I will create a new benchmark year for myself.  No longer will I wax on about 2003... but I will write a new story.... Ahhhhhh..... I feel good today.

The rain fades, Eudora comes, the fanfare in my mind fading a little, no sign of my pursuers.  I pause at Casey's and fill my bottles, and the rest of the ride is spent at a slower (nearly by force) pace.  I ride up the permanent route, backwards, and pass by Linwood, around the hairpin curve to Golden Road, and pick up the pavement markings from the JCBC Spring Classic on the pavement, and follow that back in towards the south and east.  I pass over the Kansas river again, down to Desoto, and zig-zag my way back to 151st Street near Gardner Lake, then thru New Century Air Center, and finally slowing WAY down as I gulp my last drops of water near 167th and Clare Road.  It's getting HOT, and the headwind all the way south from Linwood is taking its toll.  I find a soccer park and a water fountain, and top off the bottles and myself with cold, cold water.  Ahhh..... better... 175th, across the tracks, and back north on Murlen, hammering a little bit more with the wind at my back for the first time in 20 miles or so.  WheeeeeW!!!!!  I arrive SPENT, cooked, toasted..... very aware of my legs...  a GOOD, solid workout, with nothing much left in the legs.  As it should be... I haven't had a ride like this in years.  Now, to rest.  Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty good right now!  What could have been a weekend-ruiner from the debacle in the garage the previous evening, well, it turned out okay.  It wasn't a 200K, it wasn't for credit... but with a feeling like this, the heat, the scenery, the challenges along the way - this was a good ride.  

Thanks for reading!

June 6, 2009

Freaking bummerland

I suppose it won't be a total loss: there is lots of month left for me, but who am I kidding? I think I might be trying too hard to get another R-12 started, and fate is shaking her finger at me. Because of a family member's car woes I lent a helping hand on Thursday this week and let them borrow my car for a few days. No biggie at all, really, because I haven't been using it. The commuting has been going really well, and we have the wife's car if needed...which, would come up this weekend because I knew I'd have to travel to the ride start Sunday AM. The ride start, honestly, is a skip away - like 30 miles from the house. The usual solution is simply to make it a 300k by riding to and from the event. No biggie, but time is not on my side: I have to be back in time to make a Sunday night dinner - and even though I'm feeling especially strong, its best not to push one's luck. So, I make my plans, lay out clothes, and mix bottles. The usual. The time comes, after w
atching "Bolt" with the kids and putting them to bed, to perform the last step: pack the wifes car. It's a bigger car, slightly, than mine so this should be a snap. I drop the fold down seats, and take the front wheel off the bike. I begin to get it into the trunk - but its hitting something. I try a different angle...no....backwards? No. what the? So, I remove the rear wheel also...try again... No. Denied. Fail. WHAT IS THE DEAL? What appears to be a larger car yields a smaller trunk, and a tiny little pass-thru where the seats fold down, instead of the fully open fold down I get with my car. With the fenders attached, I can't get the frame in sideways to sit wheel-less inside the trunk either. The farthest I can get it in longways, the handlebars are sticking out of the lid...and I'm sorry: its ME: I ain't bungeeing or tying the trunk lid down against my bike's bartape. No sir. It's either IN the car where nothing will happen to it, or its OUT of the
car - there is no halfway. I try laying it across the back seats, but the doors won't close.. And I discover I've now left a nice chainring tattoo across the wife's light grey interior now. Pause, apply stain lifter, clean.....whew...... I try every possible angle, approach, and nothing gets the bike in the car without having something about to get bent, pressed against wrong, kinked, or sticking out. So, I can either remove the rear fender, which requires removing generator taillight wiring (no.), or I can remove the seatpost - which is a ridiculously tight fit (no.) - or I can remove the front fender and turn the handlebars sideways.... Dude, this is getting stupid..... I will remove a front wheel for bike portage, but I don't need to be reassembling a bike in a parking lot before a 126 mile ride, where everything needs to work so I can get home on time: oh, yeah..and have time to take the bike apart again so I can get it home. Let's forget the hour I just killed t
rying to Rubiks Jenga Uno this bike into this stupid car.... This is BS. It's now an hour past when I wanted to get to bed for the 4am alarm call... I'm sweating, stressed, nearly hopping mad, confused why Kia makes a larger car with LESS storage space than my (under loan) Kia Rio has...into-which my bike slides easily in and out of with no hassles, and ticked at myself for making assumptions that it was gonna fit just fine without checking first, and not at least attempting to pack the car until an hour before bed-down. I tried everything - I can pack a car: I once got a lawn mower and about 20 boxes of stuff and two people into a 91 Escort. Why the heck can't this bicycle fit into this car?!?!?! Why is the passthru so small? How come that part of the trunk is shaped that way? Theres no reason for it! No matter what I try, something is preventing something from closing, or the frame is resting on a component that will get bent or pushed out of adjustment in transit
, and that's not worth it, either.
I shoulda loaned the wife's car, but I didn't think it'd be this way, as I'm standing in the garage with the bike upside-down, both wheels removed, and beginning to wonder if I really need those fenders on there....hmmm....DUDE, NO, STOP. This is dumb. Just...stop......


I'll wake up, drive up there, get cards and cue sheets passed out, see the riders off, and go home. Maybe I'll ride somewhere else later, just meander, and then come home and chill. It just won't be the same, and won't be for the RUSA credit I was looking to get. Who knows...but, I DO know I won't be riding the All's Wellsville in 6 hours, that's apparent. Ooooooooohhhhhhh well. With the weight loss, the strength I've been feeling lately, the good meal tonight, the bike running great, an awesome tailwind forecast and sunny skies and mid-80s on tap, and an actual GROUP of riders on a KC Area PERMANENT?!? Six riders?! Dude...that was gonna be sweeeeet .... I was just really excited about this one. Maybe I can get another one later this month: but a few things are certain: my next 'car' will be a pickup truck. Family can borrow my wife's car. AHGGHGHHGGGG.....!!!!!!

June 5, 2009

200K and 1000K this weekend!

I'm not doing the BIG ONE this year... maybe next?
But, it oughta be an epic journey! Check the KCBrevets webpage and follow the ride!

Also happening this weekend, the All's Wellsville 200K Permanent ride from KCK to Ottawa, KS. and back. Should be an AWEsome day for a ride, and we've got six hearty riders taking part!
Look for photos and posts from the road, and a full ride report here after the ride wraps up.

Posts from the road, eh?
Cyclists UNITE! Look for me on BrightKite.

June 1, 2009

200K permanent this weekend!

Happy birthday to me - it's a 200K permanent!
This time, we head out to Ottawa and back on the All's Wellsville route.
Should be a good time, as we already have four people on the board for this one.  

If you are interested, please contact our RPC:  Spencer before Wednesday at the latest - after that, we can't accommodate your request.

(I'll be working on getting better notice for these next month)