Sunday, August 17, 2014

Return of the Double

I'm not much of a writer. I wish I was. Many times I feel compelled to share my thoughts and emotions, hoping that something might be of interest to someone other than myself. But for me, writing is just hard work, harder than riding my bike 200 miles in one day. Which is what I did yesterday.

The 200-mile, one-day ride, officially known by cyclists as a "double-century", has always been my definition of an ultra-marathon ride, and being able to complete one places you in the category of ultra-marathon cyclist.

Four months after breaking the 300-mile cross-Wisconsin record in 2012, I slipped on a small patch of black ice and broke my hip. Because of God's grace, I have been able to ride again, completing rides as long as 145 miles. But that little "ultra-nerve" just kept aggravating me, as I had hoped to someday place myself in the 200-mile category again. Yesterday, God's grace was present once again. Two years after the same weekend I broke the record, I completed my first post-surgery double-century.

But it wasn't without doubt or question. At one point I came so close to calling it quits. At mile 94 I have a flare-up of an old tendon injury, and my back was hurting. Then it started raining and it looked like thunderstorms were on the way. I told my wife, who was crewing, to meet me in another 10 miles and I'll see how I feel and make the decision. And then I remembered that I was not alone in this adventure, that God was right beside me and in complete control of what would happen on this ride. I could only do so much. I knew I had trained well. I had even received some deep tissue therapy earlier in the week to release some painful muscular trigger points. Worrying about failure wasn't going to help, so I realized I needed to hand this over to God. I began to meditate on a favorite Bible verse that I had posted on Facebook early in the morning before heading out for the ride. I was time for me to turn thought into action, to turn frustration into hope, and to let God take over:

"But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."

- Isaiah 40:31


Everything started getting better after that. The skies cleared up. Even my tendon and back pain disappeared. During the last 20 miles or so, I felt like I could do a lot more. It's funny how the body can be trained to the point of feeling stronger at 150 miles than it did at 50. My legs still seem to have that 300-mile memory. Even after I finished, my wife commented how great I looked and still full of energy.

But truthfully, 202 was enough to make me happy.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gazelles and the Frozen Custard Demons

I'm been pretty lazy on getting updates in this blog, mostly because I'd rather be outside riding that inside writing. But here I am, and hopefully there are still a few people who care to read about my scattered thoughts.

Over the past few weeks, I've spent more time on my climbing, trying to pay attention and focus what I've doing right and what I'm doing wrong. Even though it's been hurting like crazy, when I can climb well, it makes me feel alive. At my height and weight, I'm certainly not a natural climber. I guess it's similar to when I was a kid and dreamed of being a race horse jockey, knowing that I wasn't small and light enough.

Last year was a time of recovery from my accident in 2012. And although I've come to realize that this year is still a point in that recovery process, I've been allowed, thru the grace of God, into another phase of that recovery. But this phase feels less like recovery and more like what it (riding) should feel like.

Sometimes I like to use visualizations to get me thru the painful parts of a ride. Back in '88 while riding across the harsh open Plains out West on my cross-country ride, to fight the heat of that year's nationwide drought, I imagined I was a white stallion galloping across open, snow-covered lands. It worked. As long as I could maintain that image in my mind, I felt the coolness of that dream.

These days. I find myself imagining that I am a winged gazelle. It all works until I remember the 1/2 gallon of frozen custard I had the night before, and how it haunts me with the searing pain in my legs, and lungs that are ready to burst.

Maybe my next vision should be that I was never a Wisconsinite and have no idea that frozen custard exists! ;)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Heading for the road...

Since my last post, over a month ago, the weather has been slowly getting tamer. Although we have experienced one or two good snowfalls, with the temperatures sliding up and some early spring rain, that deep, deep base that was here for most of the winter, has nearly disappeared. Over the past 5 days, I've been on 4 road rides already. I have to say that riding my fat bike in the snow this winter has been a blessing, and something that has helped me from getting cabin fever. I haven't had this much fun in winter since I was cross-country skiing regularly back in the late '80s. But truthfully, I am so done with winter! I can't wait for those warm days of summer, feeling the air rushing across bare legs and arms, as the tires make that sweet hum along the old farm roads of this beautiful state we live in. After a long, cold and snowy winter, road bike season is finally here!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rollin on the River...


Today I went on a pretty special ride. First, I met up with my friend, Tom. Then we rode together to the Kletsch Park dam on the Milwaukee River, to meet up with a few other fat bikers. Our plan was to put in at the dam and ride the river north.

I can't recall the last time I had this much fun. The sun was out. The single track at Kletsch is in great shape right now, and the snowmobilers have packed down some great track for us. Then Nick Ginster supplied a great chili feed and bonfire afterwards.


What a perfect day!
 

 















 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A cold, snowy winter

I honestly don't remember the last time we had a winter like this in south-eastern Wisconsin. Maybe sometime in the '80s. Maybe sometime in the '70s. Maybe even as far back as the '60s. But for the most part, what has made this winter unusual, it seems, is that there has been a constant exchange of new snow and very cold temperatures. And it's the cold that has allowed the snow to stick around. For many of us, it seems like we're experiencing the kind of winter we remember as children. And for myself, as this has been my first winter riding a fat bike, it has proven to be exactly that. On those days we receive a fresh snowfall, I feel just like a kid again, and can't wait to get off school...uh, work...and go play in the soft, fluffy, fresh snow!


 

Monday, January 20, 2014

How much fat is good?



These are some of my observations from last Saturday's fat bike race:

The first thing that became obvious to me (before I got too tired to notice anything obvious!), was that my 4.8" tires were a clear advantage over the bikes that ran the more common 3.7" tires. I was able to ride over/through more of the ruts and soft, washed out areas without dabbing. I witnessed this several times from riders I was following during the first lap.



However, as I grew more tired of hauling the extra weight of the Moonlander (and it's heavier wheels) around on the second lap, I then began to notice the advantage of having a lighter bike, as a few of these same guys could throw the bike around and maneuver it through the mess. Maybe if a guy is heavy and strong (especially in the upper body), the Moonlander would offer the best advantage. His weight would also require a wider tire to minimize sinking.

But if the rider is light, agile, and experienced in quicker bike maneuvers (such as a BMX rider), the lighter machine might be the better choice. One particular rider was popping up his front end in areas where (with my heavier bike and lack of skill in bike maneuvering) I would try to roll over or plow through the same conditions.

In general, the wider tires offer less of an advantage in the groomed conditions that are more common in organized events, but instead would still be the best (choice) in the worst conditions.