Monday, July 18, 2016

Shut Up Legs

Rolling underneath wind turbines
I grew up riding in the flatlands. As juniors we rode fast and hard. Hill repeats were done, but only with deep sighs, heel dragging and on the only two big hills we could find (Ramsey Hill in St.Paul, and the climb out of Fort Snelling). Mention these two hills to any racer in Minneapolis and you'll most likely get an "uff" sound.

The Twin Cities produces crit racers. They breed them in fact. All fast twitch muscles and explosive power. Hill climbing skills? Ha! A few folks I know there do okay at Almanzo or Horribly Hilly but by "okay" I mean, they can finish it. And for them to train for these events, they often come over to Wisconsin or down towards Winona.

Not until I moved to Connecticut did I start riding hills, and reluctantly start appreciating them. I've written about my love/hate cycle for climbing before and last weekend I was reminded that I've truly morphed into 90% mountain goat with very little chance of ever returning back to my sprinting days. Honestly, I just don't want to. I like hills. No, I LOVE hills (and the respite they offer on the descents).

Somehow a friend conned me into doing Tour de Fest, a century in the Fox River Valley connected with the event Paperfest. I was told I'd be fine the entire way down, then, for the last 40-50 miles it'll be a knife fight. Seven Hills road separated the two sections with seven steep farm rollers (which I should look forward to since I love climbing so much). I had no real clue how I'd feel since the only faster paced rides I've done since I was 17 years old were 30 milers and still hilly (but with a club).

The ride rolled out unceremoniously with an easy pace winding through Combined Locks to the East side of lake Winnebago. I knew I didn't dare move up front to pull, instead opting to just see how my legs did. Light Southwesterlies made for a little pushing depending where I was in the group but honestly, it all felt pretty easy and I thought, yeah, no worries, I've got this. Cue the sick, demented, Vincent Price laughter now.

A few miles before the hammer went down
Stop sign after stop sign and corner after corner, however, brought mini sprints and I had to push out of my saddle or allow a gap to form in the paceline. I just wasn't used to these explosive starts and my legs were getting punished because of it. At the fifty mile mark I thought "Crap! Lactic acid is building up. I'll be gimping the entire way back. What the hell?! I do frequent hill centuries and don't have this happen." And gimp it for about ten miles I did. But I must not have fallen apart too badly at Seven Hills since I caught up with the group at the next rest stop and hung with them for another ten miles (thanks to the friend who conned me into the ride and kept me moving forward that is). Then the hammer went down. Later than I had expected, but the pace jumped 5 mph within seconds to 27mph. I was able to hold on for, I'd like to say several miles, but in reality it was more like several seconds. I knew I had another 25 miles to go and I was all too happy throwing in the towel, falling off and enjoying the scenery around me.

Three or four miles before High Cliff and I realized one of my mistakes...not taking in enough calories during the ride (half a cookie and one banana). On my own centuries, I don't go crazy with food consumption but one peanut butter bagel and one bar or banana is what I've found I need (equalling about 500-550 calories vs. the measly 200-250 I took in). A quick inhalation of watermelon and a small piece of sweet bread and I was ready to roll again. Not fast, but roll.

I woke the next morning more sore than I've felt on even my 200k hilly rides, making me realize I am so NOT conditioned for this type of riding. Will I work on improving for this? Most likely not, but it was fun and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Thanks once again to my partner in crime who stuck with me even though I must have told him to ride ahead a hundred times (something I always do...but mean it). Here's to more bikefun and good beers to follow (with maybe a little less junk food after)!

With beautiful views like this, and great summer weather, how could I not
want to do this ride again?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Who The Hell Do I Think I Am?

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I'm a misfit of sorts in the cycling community. I ride steel, carbon and aluminum (and I'm jonesing for a ti gravel bike). I ride with roadies, tourers, gravel riders, mountain bikers, messengers, cyclocross racers and commuters. I ride slow and sometimes I ride "fastish". I ride for physical health and mental health. I like riding with groups of cool folks but I also adore riding solo. I know the road racing scene...I was in it heavily at one point, but I don't fit in anymore. I know the gravel racing scene...I'm not sure I fit into that anymore either. One could call me a chameleon I suppose, but I don't try to be. Honestly, I just ride.

Over the past year, I've gone through a few big transformations. I've had to take stock on what's really important to me, who I want to be, and how I want to spend my time. Needless to say, cycling is one of the largest cornerstones in my life and I'm guessing that won't change in the near future. But here's the thing...even though I have more free time now than I did a year ago, I'm finding I'm more selfish regarding who I spend it with and how I spend it. It's not that I don't think everyone in my life could add something to it (because they can), it's just that I'm a bit tired of the clicky attitude in some riding groups and find myself steering clear of it. So what if I show up to a faster group road ride and have a handlebar bag and a map case on my carbon steed? So what if I ride my carbon road frame in a mostly steel group road ride? And so what if I'm not on Strava? Isn't what's important is that I'm on my bike? There's a part of me that wants to scream "Get over yourself!" to the folks who snicker, shun or question me or any other rider who marches to their own beat. I'm happy. I'm outside. I'm a good ambassador to the cycling community. There's nothing else I'm willing to give. And with that, I'm going to head out and run some errands on my not so well maintained single speed, and it'll be grand.