Friday, February 7, 2014

Mosquito Lagoon 300k Brevet

191.1 mi 11:48 16.2mph pace

6:00am start. 64 degrees, calm and foggy with very limited visibility. Ready to roll on my first 300k Brevet.
This doesn't begin to show how foggy it was
I decided to drive over late the night before the ride. I left my house at 9:00 and arrived at the hotel in Melbourne, Florida a little after 1:00. I found a fast food restaurant still open so I went in to use the restroom. I then returned to the hotel where the ride would start. I pulled in the back parking lot to try to get some sleep in the car. (The hotel was booked by the time I registered to ride.)
It took me awhile to get comfortable but I did manage to get a little sleep before my 4:30 alarm got me moving. A little car camping never hurt anyone, right? :-) Since I was in a very remote section of the parking lot, I changed in the car and got myself ready for the ride. I tried to get the latest weather forecast but I couldn't find anything local. The earlier forecast said it was to be very foggy (and it was), low 60's (and it was) with temps climbing to the low 80's. The fog wouldn't clear until mid-morning. So, arm sleeves and short sleeves should do it.
I got myself ready to go, loaded my pockets with the food I thought I would need/want, back up batteries, and 3 back up power sticks for my iPhone and/or lights. I rode the 150 meters to the lobby of the hotel and I was already wet. Amazing. Riding in the clouds. A quick registration and a bathroom stop. Ready to ride.
After some last minute instructions, the ride started promptly at 6:00am. I saw a few people who I knew were part of the group I wanted to ride with. They were all behind me though so I couldn't really settle in with them before the ride. It was very dark with extremely low visibility. Error number one. I didn't have a chance of reading my cue sheet. Fortunately, I could just follow other riders. I loved this. There were about 45 riders weaving their way out of town with lights galore. It was dark but there is no way a driver couldn't see us.
We wound our way through some of the downtown streets working our way out of town. Very quickly we were heading west, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was so dark. It was so foggy. A group of riders ahead of me were moving at 20mph+. I wasn't going to be able to stay with them. The group I wanted to ride with was riding along at 18mph. Once the "fast guys" rode off into the fog, I found myself in the lead. It was a very long straight away so kept the lead and held the 18mph pace. I kept checking behind me to make sure the others were there. All I could verify is that there were at least 2 riders behind me. I couldn't tell who they were though. Even though I couldn't read my cue sheet yet, I kept the lead since there were no opportunities to turn off this road.

It was really cool riding along in the darkness with that heavy fog. I was soaked to the bone as if it was raining. I was dressed perfectly though. I was quite comfortable with my choice of arm sleeves. I couldn't read my speedometer unless I passed under one of the rare street lights. I couldn't read my odometer at all. A group of 3 recumbent riders passed me. I was glad to see them go by hoping they would show me my first turn. It wasn't long before their tail lights disappeared in the fog. So that plan didn't work.
I slowed down a bit to encourage one of the riders behind me to take the lead. After 1/2 mile or so, one of them finally came by. I told him I couldn't read my cue sheet and didn't know where the turn was. He was okay with that. We were quickly back up to 18mph and I was feeling a little more relaxed since I didn't have to worry about missing the turn.
We eventually got to our turn. The roads were very wet ... and slippery. I slowed to take the turn very cautiously since it was wet and I couldn't really see too far down the road. It was very dark and virtually nothing around. It turned out, the group of riders I wanted to ride with were behind me the whole time. There were dozen of us riding in this group. Good stuff. We now had a chance to ride side-by-side and chat a bit. I was feeling pretty good about the group at that point.
I had 2 concerns early on. First, my knees were feeling the niggles I normally don't feel except when I've done a hard workout. They didn't really hurt but with most of the ride ahead of me, it was reason for pause. The second concern was my bum. I have had more discomfort over the last week than I normally have ... ever! From the very start of every ride, I have been so tender in that area that it has made even short rides challenging. I was already uncomfortable. I had a lot of miles to go for this problem already. All I could do was hope for the best.
Dawn was breaking, or at least it was trying to. With the heavy fog, it wasn't getting all that bright. But I was able to read my cue sheet and my speedometer/odometer.
Even though I knew a few people in our current group, I really wasn’t sure who all was there. I was either co-pulling or riding in the second position for quite some time. There was a lot of conversation behind me but I only recognized one of the voices. He is a guy I met during the 200km ride last month. Good guy and fun to ride with. But I did not recognize the others. We hadn’t ridden 20 miles yet so plenty of time to meet them.
Now that it was light, it was an incredible morning. The heavy fog was still with us but we could see some of our surroundings. There wasn’t much there except for the beauty of rural, central Florida. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing all the very cool birds you see here. Many of them are quite large (relatively speaking) and it’s very easy to get a good view of them, even while riding along at a nice pace.
At 30 miles into the ride, we hit our first “hidden” control. The first published control wasn’t until mile 60 but it was nice to get a bit of a break here. We had our Brevet cards signed and a chance to refill our water bottles. This was also a good chance to see who was in our group. I introduced myself to one woman I didn’t know and she said she wasn’t riding with us. She lived nearby and just wanted to cheer on the riders with one of her friends. I thought that was really cool. I did get to meet others. At this point, there were 10 riders in our group. I met 3 of the others during the 200km so I felt like I already kind of knew them. Very cool.
Soon, we were on our way again. I was surprised at our pace, still hovering around 18mph. This was faster than our pace during the 200km so I wasn’t so sure this was manageable for the whole ride. It was a flat route though so I was willing to give it a go. Around 40 miles in, one of our group had a blowout. Amazing really. He was the last in our peloton of 10. How is it possible 9 riders passed by unscathed and the last rider in the group hit the debris?!
After our little break, we got going again. I was still amazed at how rural our route was. Very little traffic and almost nothing else. Not long after our restart, we passed 2 large birds that I didn’t expect to see … even in Florida. We saw 2 ostriches right up by the road. They looked at us with a curiosity that said we were the oddity. On second thought, maybe they were right. At 50 miles, we were only 20 miles or so from Orlando. You’d never know it based on our surroundings. Very cool.
We continued our ride north to the first, published control at 60 miles. This was a nice little, very old fashioned convenience store. The clerks were armed with a stamp and willingness to sign, stamp and not the time on our Brevet cards. Just to be sure, we also each made a purchase so that we would have a receipt to turn in with our cards. They also didn’t mind our using their restroom. I love how the people working in these stores just take this little blitz in stride. Very cool. It’s also worth noting here that my knee discomfort was gone. My knees felt perfectly fine. Odd how these things work.
A little confusion as we set out again but we quickly got our bearings. For the first time on the ride, traffic was actually getting a little heavy. Road construction didn’t make things any easier. We had a very narrow shoulder to use with many areas of debris. Fortunately, the drivers were very respectful as they passed us. I think riding in a group helped a lot. It wasn’t long before we were through this area and onto our next official control. This was a post card control where we had to take a post card given to us at the start, sign and time it before dropping it in the mail. No one was there and there were no services to be had. That was okay though since we had stopped less than 25 miles earlier.
Once again, it was a little tricky getting out of town on the right route. We did manage though. We were finally heading east and a little north to our next control, 30 miles away. Very quickly the traffic disappeared and we were back to nature. This stretch took us through the Hickory Bluff Nature Preserve. Beautifully paved roads took us through some beautiful Florida wilderness. An osprey passed about 20 feet overhead with his fresh catch of the day. I love seeing them so close. There were many other birds, most unknown to me. There were lots of ponds, a lake and lots of streams and wetlands too. One unexpected sight was a secure radar installation in support of Cape Canaveral. It seemed very much out of place here but there it was.
The traffic was so light that we were able to ride in 2 columns. It was great to be able to talk to the others as we pedaled along. Out of nowhere, an eagle passed overhead. I couldn’t tell you what kind of eagle though. I really need to study up on this stuff a little more. We passed under route 95, a major north/south highway running along the entire east coast of the United States. Even here, not much of anything to see. There was no exit off the highway so there were no stores, gas stations, etc. around. Just a whole bunch of nature. Nice!
We finally hit our furthest point north on this route and our next control. 110 miles in and the day had turned into a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low 80’s. This was an info control so there was nothing here except a RUSA sign with some stickers. We had to take a sticker and place it in the appropriate place in our Brevet card and write down the time. Just a very quick stop since we had lunch waiting for us only 5 miles up the road.
We pulled into the next control where they had a great lunch waiting. Lentil soup and/or turkey soup. I thought it was an odd choice but I’m here to tell you, the turkey soup was fantastic and really hit the spot! Plenty of other great stuff to offer too. A bit of an extended stop here to enjoy all the goodies. We were in a park with picnic tables, shade, restrooms, etc. There was a lot of activity there other than us. I love seeing people taking advantage of public spaces like this.
It had warmed up and cleared up enough by now that most of us removed our reflective vests and in my case, I took off my sleeves preferring the short sleeves of my jersey. It was comfortably warm and not really hot. There was a nice ocean breeze so it helped keep the temps very comfortable. We took off and my speedometer/odometer stopped working. Ugh! It was frustrating not knowing how far we had to the next turn or landmark. I still had my Strava application running on my iPhone, but that was in my pocket and not all that accessible while riding. Oh well. That’s what these Brevets are all about. Putting up with whatever the ride throws at you.
As we were approaching the Canaveral National Seashore, another flat for one of our riders. What bad luck. The same guy that had the blowout earlier had a flat. We pulled off so that he could deal with the issue. This time, his tired was shredded pretty good. It might have survived the rest of the trip but one of the guys in the group had a spare tire. He gave it to the cyclist in need so we all felt a lot better about the remainder of the ride. I spent most of the time trying to get my speedometer going. No luck. I did discover that what I thought was telling me was a full battery was probably telling me it was a dead battery. Oh well. That’s the way it is.
We got back on the road and continued our ride heading south along the water. What a beautiful place to ride. Riding along the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on one side and the Canaveral National Seashore on the other was such a treat. Beautifully paved roads, little traffic and lovely scenery. We were riding alongside Mosquito Lagoon, the namesake of this ride. Very cool. Soon we were heading over the causeway taking us into Titusville.
140 miles into the ride, I decided this was a great time to test out my legs. I decided to ride hard to the top of the causeway. I had 2 reasons for this. First, I wanted to test my legs. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, I had to stand as much as possible. All last week, I had some terrible discomfort where I meet the saddle. It wasn’t just sore, it was really uncomfortable from the moment I started a ride through the end. Not a great way to start a 300km ride but it’s what I had to work with. At this point, the discomfort was getting almost unbearable. I was standing a lot. I would stand, coast, pedal while standing, etc. Anything to try to feel better. When I would sit down again, I was very careful to try to find a comfortable way to sit down. It wasn’t really working. Ugh.
The ride up the bridge was easy. I got to the top and coasted down. This gave me the opportunity to stand all the way down the bridge. Heaven on earth! The last 45 miles might be tough. 20 more miles to the next control. On we rode. We were riding through some beautiful areas with nice homes, nice neighborhoods and nice views. Since we weren’t on the main roads, we didn’t have much traffic either. Oddly, my speedometer began working again. I was able to figure out how many miles I missed so now I could track where we were on the cue sheet a lot easier. That helped a lot. Our pace had slowed significantly as a couple of our riders were struggling. They were hanging in there but clearly it was not so much fun for them at this point. I decided this was a great opportunity to lend a little moral support. I spent a little time next to each of them encouraging them and letting them know how great they were doing. I think the biggest support I gave them was just a little distraction from watching the miles go by. It helped me too. They were doing great, really.
We approached our next causeway. Several miles before we were there, lots of complaints about the “hill”. I tried to get everyone thinking positively about this. “Just think about how much fun the downhill will be”. “Just grab onto my wheel” and anything else I could think of that I thought might help.
We hit the causeway and the pace dropped to next to nothing. I jumped into the lead and rode up the hill with ease. I really wasn’t pushing at all. I was pretty happy about how strong my legs felt. (My bum on the other hand was another story.) After cresting the top of the bridge, I coasted down the other side. I let my momentum take me to the left turn where I stopped to wait for the others. As I turned around, I saw the next rider just cresting the top of the bridge. I guess my legs still remember a little bit about riding those Vermont hills. Side note: I was by far the strongest rider on the hills in our group. In Vermont, I am almost always the weakest climbing. Funny how that works. 
After most of our group got to the bottom, we crossed the road and waited for the last few riders before pulling into the next (and last) control. They were nowhere to be seen. Hmmm. I decided to ride back up to make sure they were okay. Just as I started to cross the highway again, I saw the 3 missing riders coming. One of the riders struggling earlier had a really tough time climbing. She was fine, just slow. I was glad for her sake that we had a control to give all of us some rest.
160.5 miles done. Except for my bum, I was feeling pretty good. We took care of business getting out cards signed and stamped. I bought more to drink and used the rest room. We took a little bit of a break here waiting for the struggling riders to let us know when they were ready to ride. My feet were starting to feel like they were getting cramps but not bad. In hind sight, I should have taken off my shoes and readjusted them. My feet were swollen some which is what I think was causing the problem. My toes were also a bit sore, as if my shoes were a bit too small. Again, I think a little time with my shoes off would have helped.
It was getting dark again so I donned my sleeves and reflective vest and got my lights going. Ready to go, we were soon on our way. We had an incredible view of Cape Canaveral. We could clearly see the NASA buildings and the launch pad from our spot across the water. What a great place this would be to watch a launch. Too bad they aren’t doing that here anymore.
It was pretty dark now but we all had good lights and we were traveling in a group. Most drivers were very respectful of our space and we had no real issues as the miles passed by. One more causeway to cross and then the last couple of winding miles home. Easy peasy. We got back to the hotel and checked in for our final control. 300km done! In fact, I logged 191 miles for this ride. By far, my longest ride to date.
Very wet fog, warm sunshine and cool evening darkness. What a fantastic day. What a fantastic group of people to ride with. What an incredible day for a ride.

I thanked everyone and made sure they knew what a great event this was. I said my goodbyes to our close knit group of riders and returned to my car for the 4 hour ride home. I got home at 1:00am. I took a quick shower and checked out my tender bum. (More on that below.) I then did my standard core workout. Only 12 minutes but very possibly, much tougher than the ride! In order to keep a streak going, you are going to have days like this. It was really tough, but I got it done.
SPOILER ALERT: I apologize if this is too much information. Feel free to stop reading here.
I discovered that I was bleeding where I had the discomfort. Upon closer examination, I had an open wound about an inch long that was incredibly sore and tender to the touch. For that matter, it was just plain tender. It’s no wonder I was having some difficulty on the ride.
I know the best thing to do would be to stop riding. I hope to avoid that with shorter rides and Neosporin. My ride on Sunday was very difficult. I think I spent more time standing on this ride than I did sitting. We’ll see how that goes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The New Normal

The move out of our Massachusetts home is complete. About half the household goods were moved to Vermont along with most of what was in the shed and the garage. The rest was moved to Florida. 3 round trips from Massachusetts to Vermont, 1 round trip from Vermont to Florida and another 1-way trip from Massachusetts to Florida later, I arrived in Florida to begin our new lives.

In the last 3 weeks, I drove a little more than 7,500 miles driving through 14 different states. And that doesn’t count the state of the numb butt! J I got the boat moved down to Florida from Vermont. I got my wife’s car down to Florida from Massachusetts. I’ll never know how my wife managed to get 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag, but the house looks great.

With all the packing, moving, unpacking, packing, moving, unpacking, packing moving and unpacking, most nights I managed only 3 or 4 hours of sleep. Many days, every muscle, bone and fiber in my body hurt. Somehow I managed to keep my riding streak intact, which now stands at 1,169 consecutive days. I can’t say most of my rides over the last 3 or 4 weeks were quality rides, but they were at least 10 miles and 30 minutes. Unfortunately, my core streak ended somewhere around 95 consecutive days. The good news is after 4 days, I was able to restart my core streak, which now stands at 19 consecutive days.

Now the real work begins. I need to update dailymile. And then I will have fully arrived at the new normal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Each of Us is Ordinary, Yet One of a Kind

I was thinking (again) about how wonderful dailymile is for me. It's a place where I can come to blab on about my workouts, primarily cycling, without driving those near and dear to me crazy with more talk of cycling. As my online victims, you can choose to ignore my posts if you'd like. No harm, no foul.

But more importantly, I was thinking about how much encouragement, motivation and help I get here. Often that comes from comments made to my posts. But many other times, it comes from reading your posts and the amazing things you have achieved, are achieving on a regular basis or are working to achieve.

It's also worth noting that inspiration doesn't only come from the longest workouts or the fastest times. (Although those can be pretty amazing!) Often times I get inspired by someone who managed to get their first 2 mile run done. Or a cyclist who got a new PR with their 20 mile ride. Or the swimmer who managed their first 200 meter swim without stopping.

We are all at different places with our respective physical activities. We all have different goals and expectations from our workouts. We all have different challenges as they relate to our workouts. We all have a different mental make-up. Essentially, we are each one of a kind.

At the same time, we all know what it's like to have road blocks put in front of us. We can all identify with the amazing feeling it is to set a new PR. We all know how difficult it can be to balance life's responsibilities of family, work and personal fulfillment. The differences between us in terms of our chosen sport or activities, ages, gender and abilities is nothing compared to what we share in terms of achieving our goals in these endeavors. Essentially, each of us is pretty ordinary.

Recognizing how much we share with others promotes compassion, humility and respect for one another. Recognizing our uniqueness promotes pride, self-development and achievement. Thanks for being there.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Goal Review and New Goals for 2013

I managed to ride every day in 2012. I have a consecutive days riding streak that is now at 1,096 days. Although I’m very happy with this, I would not necessarily recommend it. But it works for me. I’ll probably write more on that topic later.
I have mixed emotions regarding my 2012 fitness goals. I only completely achieved 2 of them. That’s not good. On the other hand, the 2 that I did complete were the most important to me.  I suppose that just makes sense.
The summary is below.
2012 Fitness Goals
·         Ride 12,000 miles – SUCCESS - I am particularly happy about achieving this goal. When I set it, I felt it was extremely aggressive, but possible. I knew there wasn’t a lot of room for goofing off here. I rode at least once every day and some days I rode twice. My total miles for the year ended at 13,633!

·         Complete 3 century rides – FAIL – I’m not upset about this one at all. I rode a Florida century ride in January and a Vermont century ride in June. The fact that I didn’t ride another one was mostly a scheduling challenge. I’ll spare you the details, but the bottom line is it just didn’t work out and that’s okay.

·         Begin Brevet rides with a 200km and a 300km ride – FAIL – This one bothers me. On one hand, I had the same scheduling challenges here as I did with my century rides. However I could have ridden these on my own anytime. They wouldn’t have been official, but that wasn’t really the goal. A lack of proper planning to make this happen prevented success here. L

·         Daily core workout – FAIL – I knew this would be tough for me. Even though it would seem easier to do this than it would be to ride every day, I just have a really tough time with these. I need them badly but I don’t enjoy them. Weakness, that’s all that prevented me from achieving this goal.

·         Complete 3, 5 minute planks – FAIL – This is really part of the previous goal. (Maybe I should have combined them so it’s only 1 fail instead of 2.) J I did manage to hold a single plank for 5 minutes and 5 seconds, so that’s something.

·         Have fun! – SUCCESS – The more I ride the more I enjoy it! Like with most things, as I get a modestly better and learn a little more about the sport of road cycling, the enjoyment increases. I still have a long way to go on both fronts. So I anticipate even more fun in the future!
2013 Fitness Goals
·         Ride 10,000 miles – This number is significantly lower than what I achieved in 2012. However I would like to add more quality miles to my schedule. I believe this will necessitate more “easy” days which will be at least partially defined by lower miles.
·         Become a Randonneur – In order to achieve this status, I must complete a certified 200km brevet. Although I’m not sure which event I will ride, I have two excellent possibilities.

·         Complete a 300 km brevet – If I’m going to do the randonneuring thing, then I might as well do it!

·         Compete in a 24 hour ride – Inspired by my dailymile friend Richard C., the discipline to compete in, and the satisfaction of completing a 24 hour ride is simply too much to resist.

·         Do a daily core workout – It doesn’t matter what I do as much as it does to do something each day.

·         Complete 100 Push-up program – After 2 false starts in 2012, I feel like this is a hurdle I must cross. I can think of no acceptable reason for not being able to complete this program during 2012. I need to make this happen.

·         Lose 30 pounds – I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions nor am I a fan of having a specific weight loss goal. Normally, I feel that the goal should be restated to “a healthy life style” or some such thing. In order to achieve the long term cycling goals I have, weight loss is important. I feel that losing 30 pounds is quite achievable and leaves plenty of meat on these old bones.

·         Have fun!! – After all, isn’t this what it’s all about?!
Initially, I was a little concerned about having too many goals for 2013. As I review them, I realized that I really only have 3 or 4, okay, maybe 5 goals. The rest are the things I need to do in order to achieve my primary goals. Simply put, I want to become a randonneur and I want to complete a 24 hour ride. I need the other stuff to get me there.

I am very excited about tackling these goals. 2013 is going to be a very fun cycling year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Shortly after my wife and I were married nearly 25 years ago, we decided that when it came time to retire, we would like to spend the summers in Vermont and the winters in a warm weather climate somewhere. We took several vacations investigating possible winter retirement destinations. The life of a “snowbird” didn’t sound so bad to us. We already had a summer place in northern Vermont on the shores of Lake Champlain. About 10 years ago, we found a place in southwest Florida that we fell in love with. It’s on a salt water canal that has direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. All that was left was for us to save up enough money so that we could actually retire.
We have spent almost every summer weekend driving from our home in Massachusetts to our summer camp in Vermont. As you can imagine, the weekends flew by. We would also try to spend at least one full week there, usually over the 4th of July week. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and never regretted any of it. For the last 10 years, we have also tried to get down to Florida as often as possible so that we could spend time there. My wife would usually manage to get down there 5 or 6 times each year. I would get there less often. We tried to spend a week or more there each year during January. We love it there too.
Earlier this year my wife was given the opportunity to retire at the end of this month. We are thrilled! However, I’m not ready to retire yet, so I needed to figure out how I was going to manage that. About 2 months ago, I decided that I would start my own consulting business. I have been doing this on and off for the last several years. But turning this into a full time thing is a little different. So now it’s real. We will be making the transition to “snowbird” status this winter.
Even though this has been our plan for many years, now that it is becoming real it’s a little scary. The new life style, the new business, etc. are all cause for some anxiety. We’re figuring things out and I know we will be fine. Since this is a cycling blog, I wanted to talk about the good, bad and ugly the impact this has on my cycling. Please understand that I know most of these things are trivial matters. Having said that, I am still surprised by the amount time I’ve spent worrying (needlessly I’m sure!) about these issues.
This move will do a lot of really good things as it relates to my cycling. But it will also create some challenges for me personally. Part of my reasons for writing this blog are cathartic. It helps to “talk this out” even if it’s only through a blog post. So here goes.
The Good – The weather.
The vast majority of my rides will be in warm temperatures. One of the reasons that I have not been willing to ride in cold and rainy weather here is because I didn’t really have the proper clothes for it. Knowing that this move was imminent, it was very difficult to justify the expense of good winter riding gear. It pained me to have to get rid of most of my winter running gear when I had to give up running many years ago. I didn’t want to go through that again if I could help it.
The Good – Time to ride.
For the most part, having my own business will allow me to ride when it’s convenient. There will be times when this isn’t possible but for the most part, I will be able to control my calendar. I love that!
The Good – Group rides.
Our lifestyle of being in Massachusetts during the week and Vermont on the weekends has made it senseless to join a cycling club. I have been riding with an informal riding group in Vermont. I love the people and enjoy riding with them but I have only been able to join them a few times. Living there all summer will allow me to plan weekday rides with them as well as justify a full Saturday or Sunday riding with them.
I have already joined a cycling club in southwest Florida, The Caloosa Riders ( Last year I attended one of their meetings to see what the people were like and what kind of a group it is. Although it’s hard to tell from one meeting, they seemed to be a good group. I’m looking forward to getting to know them and riding with them in the future.
I am also interested in becoming a Randonneur. Although there isn’t a club exactly in my area, there are two that have events in my area. The Central Florida Randonneurs ( are located in the Orlando area. I have spoken with one of their members so I have the right contact there. The other group is The South Florida Randonneurs ( They are located in the Miami area. Both groups have rides that would be accessible to my area in southwest Florida. I haven’t been in touch with anyone in that group yet but I suspect I will be. Again, I look forward to more group rides.
The Good – There is a new road bike in my future
Our plans are to drive back and forth some years, and fly back and forth other years. As a result, I decided it made sense to have a road bike at each location. (Doesn’t it always make more sense to justify another bike when possible?) I will be driving my boat down to Florida in late February. Shortly after I arrive, I will be looking for my new bike. I never bought a new bike so this will be fun … and a little nerve racking! There are so many good choices. My budget will get me into the low end of carbon fiber bikes. As such, my short list includes Felt Z3, SCOTT CR1, Cervelo R3 and Specialized Roubaix. I’m not sure these will all be in my budget, but they will be close. I’ve only ridden the Felt, so I have some test rides to complete too! Now there is something to look forward to.
The Bad – Lack of hills
I love riding the hills I have in Eastern Massachusetts. I’m not particularly good at them, but I’m getting better. Regardless, I love them!! I love the challenge of climbing the hills and the reward of the downhill afterwards. And what could be better than riding quickly along rolling hills through wooded and winding roadways! Sometimes I even notice the smile on my face as I am riding along roads like this. Granted, I will still have some beautiful hills when we are in Vermont, but I’m afraid my Florida rides might be a little boring. I’m hopeful that my new riding club will introduce me to some nicer routes than what I’m aware of now.
The Ugly – Transition to the hills of Vermont
I would imagine that the first few weeks riding in Vermont each spring will be difficult. After spending 6 or 7 months riding mostly flats, the hills will be tough! The first few hilly rides might get pretty ugly!!
We are very lucky to be able to move into this new phase of our lives. Although I am a bit anxious about many of these issues, I am looking forward to making this transition to “snow bird” status. We have a lot to do over the next several months, but a good part of the enjoyment comes from the journey.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Yes, but will you WIN?

In my running days, I ran somewhere between 25 and 35 races each year. Most of my races were between 10 miles and the full marathon. Some of these races were more important to me than others, but I tried to do my best in all of them. One question I used to get from time to time was, will you win? Granted, this question came from my non-running friends.

I was in the Open division. The winner of almost every race came from the Open division. So the chances of me actually winning a race was somewhere between slim and none. Actually, my chances were much closer to none. I really didn’t stand a chance of winning an age group either. So when answering the question, I used to answer “no”, and then go to great explaining that I had certain goals for each race and that meeting or achieving those goals was my “win”. Their eyes would usually glaze over somewhere right after the “no”.
Then one Saturday, I found myself at the starting line of a small 10k that I thought I might actually win. Recovering from 2 stress fractures in my foot, I was not yet running my best. I was improving and still had hopes of running Boston. The qualifying time for the Men’s Open category was 2:50:00. Since I managed to qualify, I hated to waste it. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to run my best there, I thought I should be able to do okay. I digress.
The race was sponsored by the good people at Make a Wish Foundation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, they are a large charity raising money through a lot of different ventures so that they can grant a last wish to a terminally ill child. This was a first year event so I expected the turnout to be small. That’s one of the reasons I chose this race. No pressure. I did expect it to be very well organized since they had many resources at their disposal.
I showed up about an hour before race time. I am the first one there. No one is there except me. I figured I must have screwed up and went to the wrong place. As I was trying to decide what to do, a pickup truck pulls up and starts setting up a table. I ask them if they are there for the 10k. They are. Whew! So maybe this won’t be the best organized race going, but I don’t really care. This was really a test of my foot and my recovery. People start to show up and they are slowly getting their act together.
As race time draws near, it’s clear that we are not going to start on time. My car was not close to the starting line. It was a cold, March morning so I didn’t want to take off my sweats until the last possible moment. But they are running much later than even I thought. There were 25 or 30 of us kind of bouncing up and down in an effort to keep warm while they went into great detail about what it is they do. They tell us that the course is an out and back. There is a barrel in the road at the turn-around point. They remind us that this is a marathon. What?! All the runners look at each other with great concern. This is supposed to be a 10k! Finally someone points this out to the race director who responds with a “yes, a 10k marathon”.
I guess they’re new at this. All the runners got a good laugh out of this description but were quite relieved that it was in fact a 10k. Like I said earlier, I was sizing up the runners and I only saw one guy that I thought was certain to beat me. Of course I’ve been wrong before. So I tried not to get too excited. The race director asks us all to step up to the starting line. The race was to go off in 1 minute. Just then, a full-fledged press truck pulls out in front of the starting line. No kidding!! The truck was loaded up with photographers and a video crew. Really!! It was quite what you’d see for the Boston Marathon, but still!
The gun sounds and we’re off. My race strategy was that my first mile was my slowest with subsequently faster miles as I ran the race. When I say slower, I mean only a few seconds slower. This seemed to allow me to stay relaxed and get into a nice rhythm for the race. I was hoping to run 6 minute miles so my goal was to run the race right around 37 minutes. I felt like I was doing a good job of running my pace. I had the one guy I thought would give me a run for my money running next to me. For the first ½ mile, we had to run to the side of the press truck because they were moving too slow. We did share a laugh with each other that they would even have a press truck for this race.
We got to the first mile split and I checked my time. 6 minutes on the dot. Perfect. I guess it wasn’t so perfect for my new found running friend though. He said something like I can’t hold this pace or this is too fast or some such thing. At any rate, I immediately found myself running alone. Well, me and the press truck. (Was I supposed to wave to them?) I thought I might not ever win a race, but at least I’m leading for a while.
It was really cool being in the lead, even if this was a very small race. Around 2.5 miles a guy catches up to me and starts chatting. I’m wondering who this guy is.  He just caught me and wants to have a conversation. Clearly I don’t stand a chance. Then he asks me if this is a race or something. I answer his question along with a few others and then he peels off. Again, I am alone in front. I have no idea how big my lead is, but I’m in front.
We get to the turn-around point barrel and I start heading back. I was amazed to find that I had a huge lead! The person in second place was 800 meters or more behind. I thought I might actually win! I was feeling good and was certain I could maintain this pace if not actually get a little quicker. I didn’t dare turn-around for fear someone would be on my shoulder. I ran assuming someone was on my shoulder. I was running 6 minute miles, which felt easy. After all, this race was like a sprint to me.
I managed to extend my lead during the second half of the race and was shocked to find that I won my very first race! Although my time was slow compared to my marathon-ready times, it wasn’t bad. Although I am certain that I ran very close to 6 minute miles. My finishing time was 35:50, which would be something like a 5:48 pace. I really don’t think I was in that kind of shape so I suspect this was really closer to 6 miles even.
I had my first win. I was hoping that I might get a ribbon or a little medal or some remembrance of my first and probably only win. After everyone finished, they made the announced the male and female winners. They said that they could give us our plaques when they held their annual awards dinner in November. Don’t worry though. We would each receive 2 complimentary tickets to the dinner.
At this point, I wasn’t too sure this was going to happen. But as November rolled around, we did in fact receive our 2 tickets. We showed up at the dinner. It was huge!! There must have been 500 people there! It turns out that this dinner was for everything they did the previous year. It was a very nice, upscale event. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by a very nice dinner. As people were finishing up dinner they began with the awards.
They went through a lot of awards for many very deserving people receiving recognition for their hard work over the past year. At long last, they got to the 10k Marathon! (They were still calling it this.) They started off by running clips form the video they made during the race. It seemed to go on forever. I was so embarrassed!! The video seemed to run long to me so I can only imagine how boring it must have been to everyone else there.
Following the video, they announced the female and male winners and had both of us come up to receive our plaques. I was shocked! They made up beautiful plaques engraved with our names and of course, the 10k Marathon Winner. We then stood to have our pictures taken with everyone there who was anyone. Even though I was highly embarrassed by the extent of their recognition, I was thrilled to have such a beautiful commemoration for what did in fact turn out to be my only win.
Yes, but will you win? Maybe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Faith-based Training - You Gotta Believe


I used to be a runner. I used to be a marathoner. I used to love training. I used to love racing. It all seemed so simple. It all seemed so black & white. It all seemed so natural. But was it really? Or was I remembering what it was like towards the end of my running career and forgetting what it was like when I first started?
To me, the formula was pretty simple. Build a solid base of miles in the “off season”. That meant running about 45 miles per week. Marathon training required that I up the mileage to a base of 70 miles 12 weeks before my target marathon. 8 weeks would do in a pinch. 2 days each week of track intervals. 2 days each week of tempo runs. 1 day each week for a 20 miler. And 2 days where I let my body tell me what I should to do. Simple.
Due to a running injury, I had to have knee surgery to repair a simple tear. The expectation was that I would be grounded for a week, maybe two. I never would have guessed that my short run the morning of my scheduled surgery would be my last run. The surgery was a complete success. In fact, I was walking 9 holes of golf and carrying my golf clubs on a hilly course only 6 days after my surgery.
The problem was that my surgeon found a different problem once he got a look inside my knee. I have no lubrication in my knees. The result is bone on bone scraping with every step I take. The wear and tear from running is anywhere from 20 to 30 times worse than it is from walking. My surgeon estimated that I would like need replacement surgery in 3 to 5 years if I kept running. That was more than 13 years ago.
Return to Rookie-hood
I tried many exercise routines to replace running. It was 10 or 11 years before I finally tried road cycling. The initial investment just to try cycling was a bit steep. I didn’t want to make that initial investment only to discover I really didn’t care for road cycling. But once I tried it, I fell in love with it immediately. I didn’t really know what I was doing.
My only goal early on was to ride as often as I could and build a solid base of miles. I knew from marathon running that anything I would want to try later on would require a solid base of miles. It seemed logical to me that the same thing would be true of road cycling. I didn’t know anything about the sport, not even from a spectator perspective. But I knew it would take some time to build that solid base of miles.
Organized Event
When I first started riding I thought I wanted to participate in bike races. I thought bike racing would be comparable to road racing. I was very disappointed to learn that I could not be more wrong. I think of the two kind of like this. RUNNER: I finished my first marathon in 5 hours. REACTION FROM OTHER RUNNERS: Fantastic!! Congratulations!! You are now a marathoner!!! And on and on it goes. Compare that to Cycling races. CYCLIST: I finished my first Century bike race and I didn’t get dropped from the peloton until the 80 mile mark. REACTION FROM OTHER CYCLISTS: So, are you going to throw your bike in the dump and burn the cycling kit? Okay, maybe a little bit of an exaggeration, but not too much.
A little over a year ago I participated in my first century ride. With no previous long distance cycling experience, I wanted to be sure that my training was going to be enough for me to achieve my primary goal, to finish. At the time, I only knew one person who had completed a century ride. Even he had only one century ride under his belt so his ability to help me was limited.
I was very fortunate to find a few long distance cyclists on dailymile ( who were able to provide some great information. I should take this opportunity to specifically thank dailymile friend Richard C. for patiently answering all my questions, sending me detailed information on hydration and calorie requirements, Heart Rate profiles and pacing recommendations along with a large number of other great bits of information.
I knew what I had to do as a marathon running to be successful. I had no idea what I needed to be successful as a Century cyclist. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what success was. Talk about operating at a deficit! But I knew I needed to have a training plan. Instead of being able to turn the information I was getting and turning it into a solid training plan, I was becoming overwhelmed. I really just wanted a training plan. How many days should I ride each week? How far should I ride each day? What kind of intensity should I be putting into each ride? If I can ride x miles in y time, how fast will my century ride be?
Clearly it wasn’t going to be that easy.
I did numerous searches for century ride training programs for century rides. I found plans that talked about how many days each week I should ride. I found training plans that told me what my heart rate should be on each ride. I found training plans that told me how many watts I should be pushing on each ride.
Not that it was part of the training per se, but complicating all this was getting amazing, detailed information about how many calories I should be taking in each hour, how much water and electrolyte replacement drink I should be taking in each hour, and the most critical of all, my bum hurt seemingly all the time!
Training plans seemed to go from the ridiculously simple, very low mileage plans designed to get someone across the century finish line. Eventually. Not that I knew what that would be for me, but there was no emphasis whatsoever on time. Other plans were so ridiculously complex and detailed, that I was completely lost on how I could possibly participate in such a plan on my own.
Even though I had no previous experience riding century rides, I knew none of what I found would be right for me. What was wrong with these plans? Some of them were written by highly respected cycling coaches. Some were designed by cycling teams and proven over time. Some were far too conservative, or at least I thought they were. I wasn’t really sold on tracking my training according to an HR monitor, so that wasn’t going to work for me. I wasn’t going to buy a Power Tap, so using WATTS wasn’t an option.
That got me thinking back to my marathon training. Why did I feel so confident in that? Well the bottom line was experience, sure. But it was more than that. The real difference was that I believed in what I was doing. It wasn’t even a question. It was a simple fact. Talk about faith!! So I do I use this concept of “faith-based” training. That’s what I needed.
So what is “faith-based” training? I think it’s pretty simple really. The components are:
·         Believable
·         Manageable
·         Flexible
·         Enjoyable
Believable: I honestly believe there are any number of training plans that will help me be successful. No matter which plan you choose, it has to be a plan that you believe in. If this plan is coming from your coach, then you have to first believe in the coach. If you don’t, it’s going to be difficult to buy into any plan that s/he is proposing. Believing in the coach can go a long way, but you still have to believe in the plan. That means that specific plan for YOU. Sure, that plan got elite athletes to achieve their goals, but I’m not an elite athlete. So it has to be believable … for you.
Manageable: The training plan has to fit your schedule and your life. We all give up certain things when we are training. Expect to make sacrifices. Most of us have families and jobs that require a certain amount of our time. Maybe drinks with the gang after work, or you need to get your spouse to help get the kids on the bus in the morning. But it can’t be such a drastic departure from our normal lives that we simply can’t stick to it.
Flexible: The plan should be specific enough to be clear on what needs to be done on any given day. But it should be general enough to provide overall goals for the week. For example, I used to plan my track workouts Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes I had to travel out of town. I could almost always get a run in while I was away. But to get a long run or a track workout done was much more difficult. So I might have to do my track intervals on Monday one week and skip the second one. I might even do a little more since I would only be doing that workout once that particular week. But I was confident that the plan still gave me plenty of quality to achieve my goals.
Enjoyable: You might have thought this last item to be a bit odd. But I think this is essential to faith-based training. Whether your goal is to run a 5k, complete a century ride or complete an ironman, training is hard! That’s part of why these goals are important to us. Because it’s hard! If you don’t enjoy the training that’s required to get you there, it will be very difficult if not impossible to stick with it over a period of many weeks. First of all, I competed in events that I enjoyed the most. I did run the occasional 5k, but I much preferred longer distances. As a result, almost all of my races were 10 miles or more. That’s what I enjoyed.
Does that mean I always enjoyed my track workouts? Absolutely not. Did I always enjoy my 20 mile runs? Usually, but not always. I found that I preferred running 400’s on the track over fartlek on the roads. I found I liked to compete against myself and the track would allow me to do that. I found I enjoyed running with other people, so I worked it out so I could run track intervals on days when others would also be running intervals. On weekends, I would sometimes drive 15 or 20 miles to meet friends who were also running 20 miles that day. Even though it was hard, I can honestly say I looked forward to almost every workout.
So what did I do for my training before my first century ride? I used faith-based training to develop a plan I could believe in. It might not have been the most efficient plan or be the best plan and it might not have allowed me to get the most out of my abilities. But it did allow me to achieve my goals for my first century and have fun training for it.
Specifically, I “talked” to as many people as I could find. I read as many articles as I could get my hands on. I tried to ride as much as I could. And in the end, I believed I would be able to complete my first century ride, complete it within a self-imposed time frame and enjoy the experience.
Looking back a year and a half at that first century ride, it remains a very special event for me. It is not my fastest. But it is my favorite. I learned a lot from that first ride. I learned that I was not doing enough high intensity rides. I learned that I needed to incorporate more hills into my training, at least if I planned on riding hilly century rides. And I learned that I loved it, all because I relied on faith-based training. You gotta believe.