Friday, December 30, 2011

A Time to Plan

Here we are, about to welcome in another year. Christmas in our home this year was quiet and reflective. Although we were faced with some sadness this past summer, when we had to say good-bye to Linda's Mom, Lois Shutler, it was a blessing to be with her as she passed. Linda and I read some Scripture to her that evening. A little while later, as Linda and I sang to her, Jesus welcomed her into his arms. She now knows an eternal joy that we can only imagine. Praise God!

My job at Wheel & Sprocket Bike Shop is truly the best job I have ever had. Even though I have some catching up to do after having been out of the industry for nearly 20 years, I look at this opportunity as a second chance to re-enter a world that I fell in love with many years ago, that of bicycling. And even though my training plans didn't pan out exactly as I had hoped, I think I've matured enough to know that one must be flexible with plans, and put my complete trust in the Lord. And I am convinced that I have a solid foundation of fitness that will help me enter the new year ready for the next phase. Funny thing is, I think I'm in better shape than I've ever been for this time of year, both physically and spiritually...yes, even better shape than I was 25 years ago when I was in my prime and training 10,000 miles a year.

Over the next few months I will be preparing a new "steed" for my coral, a BMC Team Machine, the very same bike that lead Aussie Cadel Evans to a victory in the 2010 Tour de France. Route planning is another priority, in addition to collaborating with a charity for the record attempt.

One thing I really need to mention is that there is one extra special person in my life that is making this all possible, my wife. She continues to be my biggest encourager and supporter. She is the most selfless person I have ever known. I certainly hope that many people will be praying that the Lord to give me strength to carry out this record attempt, for there is truly power in corporate prayer. But if I may have only one prayer request, it would be that you pray that our heavenly Father shower my wife with blessings beyond her imagination.
Now I just want to thank everyone who has offered me encouraging words and emails this past year. There have been many times when your kind words have been the fire that has kept the pedals turning for another day. In closing, there is a Bible verse that I'd like to offer you, to remember whenever you might feel discouraged in your own journey. God bless, and may this next year bring us all closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 12:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Toasty Tootsie Toes

I see it's been over a month since my last entry. Well, since then I've been able to get more into a regular winter riding regimen as the mercury begins to plummet. Besides picking up one of the Gore jackets I reviewed in the last post, I nabbed some great new winter cycling shoes about a week ago, the Northwave Celsius Artic GTX. These things ROCK! So far, I've been able to ride for over 2 hours in sub-freezing temps, with wind chills in the low teens...and my toes were still feeling nice and toasty. The only negative I could find was that the cuffs are a wee bit on the low side. With my spider-legs, the bottom of my tights just barely reach to my ankles. So with these boots, I have to relie on the length and thickness of my Smartwool PhD socks to keep that inch or so of lower calf muscle protected from the chilly air. So far though, I haven't even noticed it enough for it to be a real concern. I've been able to get in 40 mile rides, and I still have a pair of chemical heat packets stored in my saddle bag for emergencies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Rain Date

This morning started out just as I had hoped - a steady rain and northwest winds gusting up to 35 mph. Bring it on!

No, I don't have water on the brain. I like a warm, sunny day just like the next cyclist. But yesterday I was given the chance to test out a new Gore-tex cycling jacket, and rain is what I needed. A co-worker, Paul, knew I've been looking for some new wet/cold weather cycling gear, so he offered to let me try out his Gore FUSION GT AS jacket. But as I rolled out the driveway earlier today, the skies were looking clearer, and it seemed like things would not go as I had hoped. The last Gore-tex jacket I owned was an early generation, mid-'80s version. Gore-tex back then was still very new in cycling wear, and pretty much anything was better than wearing the usual vinyl (sometimes vented) rain jackets that were the norm. But even the high-tech Gore-tex that so many people raved about, could not vent well enough for someone working up a good sweat on a bicycle. For a walk or hike along in a steady rain, it was fine. But that material just wasn't designed for high-intensity aerobic exercise. Well, at least I had the wind, and could see how it would pass the breathability test.

Just 5 miles into todays ride, a light rain began to fall. Looking good. Another 5 miles later, the rain changed to sleet. Looking better. And a couple minutes, that frozen water was now clumps of snowflakes about the size of nickles! We have ideal test conditions: 100% moisture with cold, blustery winds. I've never been so happy to have such miserable conditions on a bicycle ride!

So how did the jacket fare? Very well, I can honestly say. Eventually, the rain and wet, heavy snow had soaked my gloves and shoe covers completely through. During the last several miles, my fingers were starting to hurt from the cold and wet, and my feet were slowly following close behind in discomfort. My legs remained warm and quite dry, partly due to the great  Pearl Izumi AmFIB riding tights, and partly because the legs just create a lot of heat while cycling hard. But everything everything else remained dry and comfortably warm, without getting overheated or clammy from poor breathing of the fabric.

The wrists and neckline of the jacket closes tightly, so that even when riding directly into a driving rain, nothing leaks through. The jacket is slim cut, so that it doesn't flap in the wind, and the sleeves are cut long enough so that they won't leave you with a nerve-wracking pain in your wrists that cold snow and/or rain can often produce when it hits those sensitive areas. This jacket is well-designed and cut to be worn in the riding position. In short, I believe Gore has winner with this product.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Race the Lake - 2011

For the past two years, I've participated in "Race the Lake", a 90-mile bicycle race around Lake Winnebago. My first goal in a race is always to finish without crashing. My second goal is to better my time from previous years.

Nearly 1,500 people were in the 2011 event. I finished #312 out of 1,213 in the men's division. And #42 out of 195 in my age group, 50-54. Although my finishing time wasn't as good as I had hoped for, I was still able to shave a good 10 minutes off last year, even though the wind conditions were more difficult this year than last. But with the many crashes that happen each year, I'm just happy to finish without loosing any skin. The picture shown here was taken just after having some fun with a few other guys in a final sprint across the finish line. Yeah, I'm as tired as I look.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dances with Buck

It's not everday you find yourself in the middle of a sprint with a six-point buck. I guess today was to be the exception.

This afternoon I was rolling along on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a route I often take to warm up or cool down after spending the day on the backroads of Wisconsin. Sometimes, if I feel a little playful, I'll use the one-mile stretches between crossings for short interval work. But today I was feeling a bit more than playful, and so found myself beginning the start of a sprint I will never forget. I remember my speed was somewhere in the high 20s when my eyes suddenly met the eyes of a large buck standing right beside the trail's edge. At the moment I noticed him, he was probably 12 feet or so ahead of me.

As I was out of the saddle in the middle of the sprint, I really had no choice but to charge on through. My adrenaline was hitting an all-time high, and I knew at that moment that I might be this big boy's first "trail kill" if he were to decide to cross my path. But he didn't. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a now 20+ mph sprint, side-by-side, with a big ol' buck! For the next 100 feet or so, we rolled...uh..ran?...side by side, until he decided he had had enough of this horseplay, and turned off into the nearby brush. I was done with my sprints after that.

This afternoon, I just don't feel a need for that strong cup of coffee that I often enjoy after a good, hard ride. Maybe I'll see if there's any of that Sleeptime herbal tea left in the cupboard to bring this shaking down a bit.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Speedbump

Last week, my wife and I spent 3 days driving across the northern part of Wisconsin, with the hope of getting a route planned for the record attempt. From information I recieved on the current record holder's story, Fred Boethling, I was under the impression that most of Fred's route was along Highway 29. And when I first examined this route on a map, it appeared to make the most sense. And as we drove along on 29, I could see that much of the steeper climbs that smaller roads would include, would be a bit flatter and less severe. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, we also discovered that bicycles are not allowed on Highway 29 anywhere east of the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire area. So my first question was: "What did Fred Boethling actually take to set his record?" The answer came to me yesterday morning while talking with a customer at work. It seems that Highway 29 was an ordinary two-lane highway back in 2002, when Fred set the record. But according to my customer, the state did some major changes to the highway a few years ago. Last night I did some research and discovered that in 2005, the State of Wisconsin "upgraded" the corridor to a four-lane freeway/expressway, making it now illegal for bicyles. Highway 29 had long been known as "Bloody 29" because of the prevalence of grisly fatal traffic crashes along significant portions of the highway.

At least now I know. And quite possibly this is why no one has challenged Fred Boethling's record that he set in 2002. But I've already begun to work on an alternate route. I am not defeated yet!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shaking it down

This weekend we do our (first) shakedown ride/drive for next summer's cross-Wisconsin record attempt - Prescott, WI to Marinette, WI. I wish the temps we've had this past week would linger on a bit longer. How much I ride the course this weekend will be determined by the weather and how smoothly the route planning goes. I had hoped to be able to ride the course earlier this summer over a period of two days. But a death in the family and change of employment caused those plans to change. All in the Lord's time. And as my friend Ben often reminds me, "It's all good!". I have to agree. After all, for the most part, my training has gone well this past summer. Old injuries of 20 years ago, have not resurfaced, even though I've been getting in some good long days on the bike. I have that to be thankful for. Plans for selecting a support crew are beginning too. Stay tuned for next week's report!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Here comes the rain again...

So, a week ago last Sunday, I get caught doing a 100 miles in a down pour. This past Saturday, just 6 days later, I end up doing a 75 mile ride in nothing short of the same. Actually, the first 50 miles or so, consisted of steady, but not hard rain. But then the skies let loose again for the last 25 miles, bringing is huge, heavy drops that felt like hail against any exposed skin. I was riding with an tandem team, Steve and Barb, that must have had a hidden motor on their purple Co-Motion tandem. Now, anyone who has ever drafted behind a strong tandem team knows that you are usually in for a free ride. Tandems have the same frontal area as a single bike, but powered by two "motors". Unfortunately, when the streets are covered with flowing water that is closer to a small river than the beautifully dry, clean roads we envision in our cycling dreams, you really don't want to sit on the wheel of any bicycle...unless you like drinking in worm water all day long. And I did enough of that 6 days prior. So when we had each other's wheel, we usually just sat a few inches off to one side, and that made life so much more "pleasurable".

So we rolled, and we rolled hard, into the driving rain. It was a blast, as it is any time when I can get a ride in and get home safe and in one piece. Next week I might be meeting Steve for another ride, but this time he will be on his single bike.

Oh yes, did I mention how old Steve is? Well, let's just say that he won 3 gold medals in this years Wisconsin Senior the 60-65 age category. In fact, his time was faster that 1st place times in both age categories younger than him: 50-54 and 55-59.

Sometimes life can be so humbling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spider Monkeys and Strongman Jack

 This past Sunday's North Shore Century bicycle ride in Evanston, Illinois was all wet, literally. I rode most of the day with a local cycling club called The Spider Monkeys. They were a great group to ride with, as they obviously had spent a lot of time working on their pack handling skills. The first 70 miles or so were in a steady, but light rain - just enough to keep you chewing road grit as it spattered off the rear wheel you were drafting off. Good thing we missed running over those mushy, rain-soaked roadkill squirrels and opposums along the way. I'm sure they were organic, free-range and everything, but I found the the rest stop granola bars to have a more attractive presentation. As if getting an occasional taste of worm-water in your mouth wasn't enough, somewhere around the 70 mile mark, the rain machine went into overdrive, along with the now strong headwinds.

  Somewhere around the 75 mile mark, a couple of Spider Monkeys had flats. Everyone stopped to check their own tires. A few minutes later, a few of us decided to keep going and find an end to this day-long bike bath. I left the group with one other gentleman, Jack, a 56 year old cyclist from Poland. Jack was a strong rider, and had no problem keeping our 22-24 mph pace. A few miles later, we were caught by 3 young men - I'd say in their early 20s - in full-blown, fancy "Illinois Tech" racing kit. And their young, sinewy gams provided clear evidence that this paceline was not going to be any ordinary hayride. We all took turns pulling at the front, everyone appearing to behave themselves, with no sudden testosterone-driven jumps being displayed. A few more miles went by. With me having taken the lead, I looked back. All I saw was old man...uh, Strongman Jack sitting on my wheel, and no one else. I asked Jack what happened and he said, "You dropped them at that first hill a couple miles back." I replied, "What hill?". Well, needless to say (but I will anyway), Jack and I were beaming in the fact that us old geezers had dropped three guys half our age...without even trying.

  The last 20 miles felt like they were never going to end. The rains kept coming and the headwinds never let up. Jack was having a  blast riding on my wheel as we maintained speeds around 23-25 mph. I just wanted to see an end to this day. But despite the fact that it was the most uncomfortable century I had done all summer, it was also the easiest. After all, we have real  hills in Wisconsin. ;)

  And may I say to Jack, "It was real, my friend!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wait and Listen: Part Two

Well, here it is over one month since Part One. Please forgive my poor timing, but as I've mentioned before, writing doesn't come easy for me. .

When I got off the phone with my wife the afternoon of  Saturday, July 23rd, I was troubled. But I didn't quite know why. It was like a gentle voice tugging at my heart. That's the best way I can describe it.Sure, I could hear the dissapointment in my wife's voice when I told her that I wouldn't be coming to spend time with her mom that night. But surely she could understand why. I was tired. I had a long day at work, after all. But there was something else going on, but I didn't realize what it was until later that night. I just knew that I had to get over to see my mother-in-law that night. It was then I realized who that gentle voice was: The Holy Spirit. I felt I had no choice - I had to listen.

Linda walked in the door shortly after I came home from work. After being with her mom all day and not eaten anything, the nurse told Linda to go home, grab some dinner, and come back later. She told Linda everything would be all right. Well, Linda and I ate a quick meal, and I told her I would be coming along when she went back to see her mom that evening. Needless to say, she was very happy with that.

We got back there about an hour later. The nurse said that Mom had shown some response when she would talk with her, and said that was encouraging. But she also said it was good we were there. The nurse left. Linda and I pulled up a couple chairs and sat beside Mom's bed, gently talking to her. As Linda lovingly stroked Mom's hair, I read a Psalm. Then Linda began to sing the old hymn, "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling)", and I joined in.

A few minutes later, Jesus welcomed Mom into his loving arms. Lois Shutler was now truly home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wait and Listen: Part One

Yeah, it's been over a month since I've had anything to say. Well, in truth, it's just been difficult for me to write. Writing is not something that comes easy for me. Sometimes I think it's easier for me to knock off 100 miles on the bike than it is to tap out a simple paragraph. But the heartstrings have been pulled a bit too tight lately, so here goes.

For several months, my wife and I had plans to head up to northern Wisconsin for a few days during the weekend of July 23-24. We would check out the route that I will be using for next year's cross-state record attempt. I was planning to ride the 290 miles over a period of two days, and Linda would be practicing her support crew skills, giving us both a somewhat "leisurely" break from our everyday routine. But about two weeks before, those plans began to change. Lois, my mother-in-law, who's health had been going downhill lately, began to show signs of a departure from this earthy life. Several days before our planned trip, Linda and I both realized we should not be going anywhere far from home.

On Friday, July 22, Linda spent most of the day with Mom, and part of the evening. I worked the following day, on Saturday. Linda was also spending that day with Mom. She called me at work that afternoon, saying that the nurse had suggested Linda go home for a bit, take a break, and come back later in the evening. During our talk on the phone, Linda suggested I come over and visit a bit with Mom when I got off work. I said that I probably would have to head straight home, being very tired after a long, busy day. By the tone in Linda's voice, I could tell she was disappointed, but said she understood. I told he I would visit Mom tomorrow morning before heading to work. That visit never happened.

Right now I'm feeling like a just hammered out a hard 100 miles, and I need to take in some air. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One more step...

This past Monday I celebrated the 4th of July by bicycling from Milwaukee to Sturgeon Bay, WI. Despite a mild headwind for the majority of the ride, some of the worst saddle sores I have ever experienced in my life, and trying to ignore a nasty headcold that began about 2 days prior, I had quite a bit of fun. The roads were mostly smooth, with somewhat heavy (but well-behaved) holiday traffic. The sun was at my back, so that made it considerably more tolerble than if I had been heading south.

I had no problems with sore knees or achilles tendons, some issues which had bothered me in the past a few times. But those darn saddle sores...yes, they were what drained most of my energy. I came to the decision that it was due in part to the fact that I finally wore out my saddle, as the back rail supports seem to have let loose and are no longer fixed securely. I also think that I may have found the next weakness in my bike fit. This saddle has served me very well since last spring, and allowed me to accululate nearly 7,000 miles last year with absolutely no discomfort. In fact, I had mentioned to several people how I knew that saddle was a good fit because I never actually thought about it during a ride, even the 100+ mile ones. So tonight I brought home a test saddle from work, Wheel & Sprocket Bike Shop, to try out for a few days.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Taper

Well, I'm starting a new job this week. That means my training will have to take a back seat for the next several days. But that should work out just fine, since this is my taper week. A week from today, on July 4th, I'll be riding from Milwaukee to Sturgeon Bay, where I'll meet my wife and two other very special friends, Dave and Nancy. You see, Dave and Nancy were responsible for helping Linda and me meet! They now live in Salt lake City, Utah, but are spending the summer in Wisconsin. On my ride up there (yes, by bicycle), Linda will be getting her first experience at working as a support crew member, meeting me along the way to hand off fresh water bottles and food. After a quick shower at our hotel and some "recovery calories", we'll be joining Dave and Nancy for the local fireworks. I might need a few good booms to keep me awake!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Interesting Week

Last week Sunday, I was able to meet the PAC Tour for the first leg of their week long Door County tour. What made this significant for me was that I had a chance to see and ride with Lon Haldeman again. It had been 24 years back in 1987, as his wife, Susan Notorangelo, reminded me. That was when I did a couple of brevets they organized during "Ultra Week". It was a pleasure to see Lon and Susan again, but also to meet and ride with their daughter, Rebecca, and son-in-law, Christopher. We rode together for roughly 70 miles until I had to turn around and head back home to Milwaukee. Most of that ride was in the rain, but the company of this friendly group made for a very enjoyable morning. My total mileage for the day was 118.

Today I rode up to Plymouth, then over to Sheboygan Falls, then back home to Milwaukee. It was a hard ride, with hills and light head-cross winds on the way out and the way back. Total was 130.7 miles. My legs (especially quads) and dead tonight. I lost 5 pounds on the ride...obviously not drinking enough. I seem to be having a difficult time recovering from these long rides lately. Maybe I need a real recovery week!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How did this all get started?

I wasn't very good at sports when I was a kid. I was on the grade school basketball team only because our school was small and that meant every boy signed up. Actually playing during a game was a different matter. And I could probably count on one hand how many times I was passed the ball during the last 2 years. I was a tall, gangly, un-coordinated klutz that had no passion for the usual sports. I kind of liked baseball, but that still required running. Running fast. And I was clearly born with a deficit of fast-twitch muscle fibers. And let's not even talk about high school. The competition was stronger, and I just knew I was better off not trying out for sports. I didn't discover a sport that I really liked, and something I seemed to do reasonably well in, until I was 22 years old.

In 1980, I decided to dust off my candy-apple red Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed. I set a goal that by the end of summer I would ride my first "century", a 100 miles in one day. That September, with a group of other cyclists from American Youth Hostels, I did it! I had found something my Creator had designed by body and mind for, endurance cycling. The following year my goal would increase to a double-century, 200 miles in one day. So in 1981, I took a trip up to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Earlier that year, I had just bought out the remaining stock and tools of a bicycle shop in Two Rivers. My new steed was a beautiful iridescent orange Centurion Pro, a very close copy of a Cinelli road bike. It just seemed that a ride up along the shores of Lake Michigan and back would make a fitting route for my entry into the world of "ultra-marathon" cycling. In ultra-cycling, that usually means at least 200 miles in a 24-hour time period.

Well, I almost completed the trip, until I was struck by a hit-and run driver somewhere just out of Cedarburg...with about 5 miles to go. I was left lying in the ditch, with a broken rib and my eyeglasses somewhere on the opposite side of the road. Fortunately, a kind elderly couple stopped shorty after the accident, and drove me to the local police station. At that time, I didn't even know my rib was broken. With nearly 200 miles under my belt, and having been thrown into the ditch by a 2,000 pound vehicle, I was feeling pretty numb and the irritation a little old broken rib just didn't seem to be an obvious problem.

But from then on, I was hooked. The ultra bug had caught me and there was no return to normalcy. I began to make plans for next year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

God doesn't laugh at you

There's a popular phrase that goes, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Sounds pretty good, wouldn't you say? After all, if you believe in the omniscient God, you believe that he knows your plans before you do, and his plans might not always jive with yours. So to be so bold as to tell him what you're little pea-brain is conjuring up, seems to assume that we have ultimate control of our destiny. How bold! How brazen! How audacious!!! Surely, God must react with a simple, yet quite bold, chunk of omnipotent laughter.

Maybe not. Truthfully, I don't think God ever laughs at those he loves.

I was troubled by this phrase, so I decided to visit my deceptively-omniscient friend, Mr. Google. What I found was a blog post by a man named Andy Merrick written on this very subject. Andy explains this much better than I do, so I invite you to check out his explanation, which includes Biblical references to support that idea that God does not laugh at his children.

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."(Proverbs 16:3)

Of course, God is still the ones who makes the final decision, as we see here:
"To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue."(Proverbs 16:1)
Yet, as Mr. Merrick states in his blog, "There’s no laughing going on here!"

So don't be afraid to make plans - GREAT plans for your life. Just remember to include God as the head of your support crew, and you will be amazed at where he takes you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Click your heels, and tweak your cleats

Last week I made an equipment change on my road bike: Time RXS pedals. The past couple years I've been using Shimano SPD off-road pedals. I first started using the SPDs when I got back into cycling about 4 years ago. It was an easy and cheap way to get back into clipless pedals. A friend at a local bike shop got me a killer deal, and I ended up putting them on my winter commuter bike and then also my road bike. Those pedals are bomb-proof, and have gotten me through some extremely muddy, icy, and all-around sloppy conditions month after month. But just as when I knew it was time to get another road bike a little over a year ago (centuries on a heavy hybrid get a bit old), I knew it was time to slap some real road pedals on my real road bike.

I had ridden Time Equipe Titanium Mags with Time shoes a couple decades ago. Back then I was weighing in at just under 170# and that was the limit Time suggested for their pedals with the titanium spindles. I loved those pedals and shoes, one of the first companies to realize the importance of low stack height. Now, after two decades, I'm settling back in with a fighting weight of 170 again (actually, I'm closer to 165-167), as I concentrate on losing my spare tire and still maintain a decent strength to weight ratio (I'm not saying I'm strong...only that I think I have a good ratio). But I no longer live as dangerously these days, so my new Time pedals are the carbon model with just a regular steel spindle. I've realized the importance of reliability over feather-weight equipment as I've grown older.

Today I got my cleats dialed in and took my first "hard" ride with the Time pedals. They performed flawlessly. The wider, more stable platform compared to the SPDs, and the lower stack height, made me feel like the bike was an extension of me, the way a bike should feel. The way my bike felt 25 years ago.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Resting away

This morning my wife and I are heading out of town with several friends from church. We're planning to surprise another friend who is graduating from seminary. It will be a fun time, as I don't think our special friend has any idea that we will be traveling 5 hours away to honor her achievement and celebrate with her. It is an honor to have her as a friend.

This will also give me 3 days off the bike, which is also a good thing right now. Last month was my highest mileage month in over 20 years, with nearly 900 miles in May alone. My training has been going well as I've ramped up the distance, in addition to incorporating more hills and intensity in my workouts. But I also know that recovery is just as important, especially since this is the hardest I've worked on the bike in over 20 years...and that means my body is also 20 years older and a little slower to recover.

My dream has kept rather clear to me as the spring of 2011 matures. Plans for a support crew and equipment requirements will be starting soon, so that by winter I hope to have most of that laid out. And by the grace of God, in a little over a year from now, the record will have been broken.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The lilacs are intoxicating

What kind of weather could I hope for on the chosen day a year from now? The kind we had today. The temperatures were in the mid-70s, pleasant but not too hot. The humidity is 22%. And the winds are 20-30 mph...DIRECTLY from the west! I could not pick better weather to break a record.

And need I say, but the lilacs are quite intoxicating right now.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Respect the elements

Today's ride of 118 miles, my longest in over 20 years, left me drained, trashed, and humbled. I've done 3 centuries so far this year, but nothing like this one. The first element not to be taken lightly was the heat. Wisconsin has been experiencing a somewhat cool and wet spring...until today. I don't know what today's official high was, but I'm guessing we went over 90 degrees F.

The next element that brought me to my knees on today's ride was the terrain. The hills were alive with the sound of...lungs heaving and legs screaming. Heat and hills are a force to be respected of themselves, but put them side by side and they become the monster that comes to destroy. Oh yeah, then I might as well include the 20-30 mph cross-headwinds that toyed with my already confirmed physical and mental infirmity on the way back.

But it's what I wanted. Really.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dreams and Disciplines

So what's more important to have...dreams? ...or disciplines? Granted, you won't see a dream materialize without a certain amount of discipline to work towards the dream. On the other hand, a man with discipline and no dream will soon wither away and die. But the dream, fueled by passion, gives motivation and reason for the discipline. And there is nearly nothing on this green earth, that can stop a man (or woman) who follows their God-given dream.

I leave you now with two references to read and to pray about:
Phillipians 3:14
Proverbs 29:18

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Your old men will dream dreams"

Thirty years ago, in a land not so far away, dreams were in the making. It was 1981, and the sport of ultra-marathon cycling was making the press, as Lon Haldeman sets a new trans-continental record. During the summer of 1982, the first transcontinental bike race happened, "The Great American Bike Race". During that same year, I bicycled 220 miles across the state of Wisconsin in one day with two other cyclists. During that ride, I considered the possibility of a cross-state race. So in 1984, the first "Race Across Wisconsin" was held. I organized and directed that event for 4 years, as it grew from its humble field of 3 cyclists for the innaugeral year, all the way to a whopping field of 67 in 1987, the race's final year, complete with individual support crews and police escort. It was quite a sight to behold, and an even greater one to participate in, if you were there. In that final year, we even had a true local legend, 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist, Brent Emery.

So here I am, 30 years later and dreaming again. The dream had been a bit unclear since the latter part of the '80s, and even sat in hibernation you might say, until about 3 years ago when I hopped back in the saddle. Now it has cleared up quite a bit. In about 2 months I'll be 53 years old, and I've learned a bit about where my limitations fall. Knowing that, I'm hoping that wisdom that comes with age and experience will prove to be my ally, as I draw closer to this new dream. During this year, my training must become more intentional and focused. My plans need to include the formation of a support team. And over the past couple days, I've come to realize that the people on that team don't have to be cyclists themselves. Rather, I see the importance of trust between us all, and the faith that this dream can and will happen.

Over the past few weeks, my training rides have proved to be encouraging, as I feel my body grow stronger and my mind becoming focused. But these are the times to remember, and to draw on, as I know there will be many times over the next year when discouragement will attempt to rear its ugly head and pull me away from this dream. Prayer and good friends are what will help me through those difficult times.

Acts 2:17
In the last days, God says,
   I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
   your young men will see visions,
   your old men will dream dreams.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another mountain of praise

A couple days ago I completed a 110-mile ride through the rollers of the Northern Kettle Moraine Forest. It was one of those rides that breaks you down, yet builds you up. It was the kind of ride that reminds you that the hills are to be appreciated, yet respected. It was the kind of ride that brings clarity this blog, and to bring praise to the King of Kings.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Dream of Restoration: A Gift from God

I had this lucid dream last night. It was about our late greyhound, Zoomer, who we lost about 11 months ago to bone cancer. After a leg amputation in November of 2008 to save his life, he continued to run and play just like any normal dog. Zoomer lived for almost 2 more years, until the cancer returned to his lungs. This is how the dream went:

         "The Dream of Restoration: A Gift from God"

 I saw Zoomer in my dream. He was about 30 feet away from me. The first thing I noticed was his completely black coat. All the white hairs that he had grown over most of his life were now solid black, except for the white that made him Zoomer - white chest patch and white toes in his left rear paw. Even his muzzle, which began slowly turning white as young as 2 years old, was now solid black again! His luxurious black coat had returned in full. He was a beauty.

 Then Zoomer began walking towards me, and that was when I saw the most wonderful thing...he was walking on all four legs. He was whole again! But there was one other thing, something that I don't think I had ever seen in Zoomer before. There was an unusual peace, a look of contentment in his eyes. No sign of the normal anxiety that he seemed to have lived with his entire life. It was like a face that had personally seen the love of his Creator. And then Zoomer brought his face up to mine and kissed me as I wrapped my arms around him.

 I left the dream and fell back "into sleep". You see, during the entire dream I knew that I was dreaming. It was as if I could see myself witnessing this event and yet at the same time, living within it. It's called "lucid dreaming".

 I believe this dream was a gift from God. I have struggled on occasion with the final memory of Zoomer's last day. Even though that day itself was a beautiful one - abundant sunshine, soft cool breezes, and songbirds filling the air with their sweet voice - there was still the finality of death that seemed to cloud an otherwise clear vision of this incredible beauty around us. But today, I have a new memory, a new finality: I have seen the restoration of the Lord's Creation.
 Mark H. Ehlers - May 13, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011


Tomorrow morning the plan was to do my first ride in of over 100 miles in over 20 years. I was going to participate in the Oostburg Christian School Unity Ride. But a couple of potholes entered the arena this week and forced me to change that plan. First, there is the weather, which looks to be very wet and cold. A high of 45 degrees and 70% chance of rain doesn't sound like an enjoyable way to spend 6 hours on a bike, especially with a headcold about to reach it's peak. Yeah, a headcold - the second pothole in the road.

I was really hoping for this ride to happen, thinking it would be a great way to prepare for next Wednesday's 156-mile, one-day Bone Ride, led by local cycling legend, Tom Schuler. But unless some miraculous healing comes my way over the next couple days, the Bone Ride will have to wait another year for me to practice my wheel-sucking skills.

So far it's been a cool, wet spring in Wisconsin, and not good for my training.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The snake is on the loose

There is certain 50 year-old cyclist who I've had the pleasure to communicate with lately, a pro from days gone by. I knew of him back in the day, but have never actually met him personally. A year or so ago, he felt a calling to make a comeback to the sport. I've only been a laid-back ultra-marathon cyclist at my best, and never even touched the level of cycling that which this man was at his worst. When I heard of his return, I was inspired. Sure, it felt good that I could follow his story and possibly find inspiration as I pursued my own "comeback". But where my inspiration and encouragement lies is far deeper than his return to cycling. You see, this man accepted Christ as his Savior a while back, and it appears he is living his faith in the way he approaches his life and in how he has compassion for others. Like most of us that are children of the living God, we hope to grow more and more like Him as we mature in our faith and grow closer to Him. It's a process, a process that often hurts, especially when there is an opportunity in that process to grow the most.

My brother in Christ has been hurting lately. The world and all Satan's workers are at it again. Just when the evil one sees that someone is growing stronger, he often releases extra efforts to pull us away from the King. He knows what kind of ammo to use to do that, and often uses the very people we love the most to throw that ammo. That's what seems to be happening now. My bother has expressed deep discouragement from his dream to be in the race again. I want to tell him that whatever happens, to not lose his contact with the LORD. That's what I'm praying for tonight, that my brother keep his eyes focused on the King, and not the distractions of discouragement and dispair that are being used to draw him further away. I hope my brother knows he has all the tools he needs to fight this battle, in the Word.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remembering the good old days...

Since my wife and I were only married a little over three years ago, she never really knew me as an ultra-marathon cyclist back in the '80s. But a couple years ago, she realized that this passion had returned, and has supported me and my dream. At this time, I don't consider myself an ultra-marathon cyclist, as I have yet to do just a double-century in the last 20+ years. And yet, she believes in me, and often speaks of her husband "the ultra-marathon cyclist" when talking about me to her friends. Bless he heart.

Recently, I've been digging up cycling paraphernalia from my past, and showed her the photo below. This was taken halfway through the inaugural "Race Across Wisconsin" in 1984. We had only three riders who wanted to commit to such an insane act of bicycling across Wisconsin in one day, and making it somewhat of a friendly competition...just to keep it interesting!

Those insane by name were, from left to right in the photo: yours truly, Rich, and Brian. Only two of us would actually finish the race that long, hot day in August of 1984. The third one, Rich, had honorably dropped out, and helped in one of our support cars. When the support car approached me later that day just after passing through the Holy Hill area, Rich opened up his car window and proceeded to plant a new seed in my mind when he called out, "We got to get you signed up for the 'John Marino Open'"! (the 700-mile qualifier for Race Across America).

Whatever happens, to God be the glory!

One Day of Sun

This past Sunday, the day of the Milwaukee Roubaix, we were blessed with sunny skies. On either side of that day, both saturday and Monday, we had more snow. I opted out of that particular ride itself, however, and chose to ride on my own. I took a nice, but windy ride up to the outskirts of Sheboygan. The winds were crazy! Gusty with speeds around 25-40 mph. I finished with 85 miles under my belt, and was dog tired when I rolled inot the driveway that afternoon. It was a good ride though, and I'm hoping to do a century within a few weeks. With the upcoming weather forecast though, with more rain and snow on the way this week (it's sleeting/snowing right now), that will be quite the challenge to prepare for.

I just read an interview of Alexi Grewal in the recent issue of VeloNews. It seems he is a minister to the homeless. May the Lord bless him in his new adventures, both on and off the bike. He continues to be an inspiration to me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sun, where art thou?

Looking back a year ago, I had just finished the month of March with 500 road miles. And that was while still riding my hybrid! Just about one year ago, I picked up my road bike, a 2005 vintage Felt F65. It was a pleasure to get back on a real road bike, after being away for 20 years. Well, this spring is quite a bit wetter and colder, and it's been a challenge to get consistent road miles in.

My longest ride so far this year has been about 60 miles, but at a touring snail's pace (that's considerably slower than the pace of a racing snail). This Sunday I might accept an invitation to join a few other (much stronger) cyclists on the inaugural "Milwaukee Roubaix", a 100+ mile training ride to Holy Hill and back. For now, I struggle with the decision, not knowing if I will be biting off more than I can chew and thus getting chewed up by the rest of the group. Unfortunately, the weather forecast looks pretty lousy, with cold temps and high possibility of rain. Looks like this is an ideal opportunity for extra prayer!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Still cranking along...

I took a vacation day today. Rain had been in the forecast, but it seems to be taking it's time getting here. Okay by me, as it allowed me to get a good 25-mile ride in. These days I do a lot more than pedal on my rides...thinking, praying, planning, brainstorming, dreaming, etc. I've decided to sell off some of my treasured Leica camera gear. Heck, I rarely use it these days, and I'd like to pick up a new portrait lens for my DSLR to try and make a few extra dollars.

Tomorrow morning I'll go to my Men's Bible Study at 7:00 am, then come back home for some chow before I hop on my bike. I hope to get in a good long ride, 60+ miles, with maybe some hills in the Kettle Moraine area. My new IC3 riding kit should be coming soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A grand ride

Two days ago, this past Monday, I was able to get my longest and hilliest ride in so far this year, a 60-mile jaunt up to West Bend, Wisconsin. It felt good to stretch the legs on the boundary hills of the Northern Kettle Moraine. To cruise along the backroads where traffic is almost non-existant, and the rollers bring a delight to the heart that is found all too frequently in my life these days.

I'm in the middle of job changes right now, which is proving to be a bit of a struggle at 52 years old. I'm just not one that takes to changes too easily. And to make things even more difficult, I'm just a slow learner. But I believe that things will work out, if I keep my eyes fixed on the King.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where is that sun?

Today's weathman promised temperatures up to 52 degrees, with some partly-sunny skies this afternoon. It got up to 49 degrees, and the sun never did come out to visit. I really don't like these kind of days, cold and damp that is. But I just try and make the best of them until the sun shows up and begins to warm the old bones. I can't complain though - I am thankful that I was able to get in a 60-mile ride, along with some hills in the Northern Kettle Moraine.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Still missing you, Captain Z

I know this is a blog about my return to cycling, but occasionally I will have to take a side road and address other things in my life. Tonight, my wife and I were  cleaning out some old things from my late greyhound, Zoomer (aka: Captain Z). We had to put Zoomer to sleep last June after some very nasty osteosarcoma returned to his little body. It's been 8 months since we said good bye to our little buddy, but there are times when it still hurts. I got him as a puppy at 9 weeks old, and he was in my life for nearly 10 1/2 years. He was with me through some of the most painful years of my life, and through the most joyful ones. He was my buddy. He was my companion. He was my protector. He was a gift from the Creator. And even though part of my pain is just not having a dog in my life right now, I also know that much of that pain is from losing him and his own little personality.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that it's been 8 months now. Still, at other times, it seems like a lifetime ago...the last time I stroked his beautiful, smooth coat...or got a kiss from him. That's the way it always seems though: whenever a loved one leaves this life, the life after they go, is like a completely different life. And so in a way, it is. After all, the relationship is over. It is no longer. Your life has in a way that can never return.

My wife and I will most likely be getting another dog sometime in the future. We've agreed to wait at least 2 years after his death though. And since my wife has fallen in love with the greyhound breed, it will be another one of those graceful, gorgeous creatures. But there will never be another Zoomer. Zoomer contracted the bone cancer 20 months before we had him put to sleep. But before it had returned and attacked his lungs, he still love life during most of those final months, even though he had a cancerous rear leg amputated. And I will always remember how he lived during that time, living it with the same love for life and passion for running that he always had. I will always remember the walk he and I took to Brown Deer Park during the winter of 2008/2009, just a couple months after his leg was removed. He ran through the soft snow with abandon that is only possible when you are filled with joy to be alive. Zoomer showed me how to love life and be thankful, no matter what life brings you.

Zoomer taught me that, even when you are a crippled, old dog, you can still have fun going fast. Zoomer taught me that those who mean the most to you, are to be treasured and loved as much as you are capable of. And then, when you have nothing left to give, give them one last kiss.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good way to end February

After I returned from a small concert where my wife sang this afternoon, the streets had almost dried up from last night's snowfall. It was time to squeeze in a short ride. I took a leisurely jaunt around the River Hills/Fox Point area, with a quick trip to Beach Drive along Lake Michigan, to climb the hill for the first time this year. This climb is only about 1/4 mile long, so repeats will be in order in a few more weeks. 20 miles today, a good way to end the month of February.

As for hill training, I'll also be using the new road up in Port Washington - the one that rolls just south of town before hitting County Trunk "C". That climb is about .4 miles long, if you include the last small rise that brings you up to the intersection with "C". My plan is to use that for hill repeats on my frequent rides out to "Port". Then by May, I hope to take a trip out to the western part of the state, where I can get in some longer climbs.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with hills. As a tall, but rather light-weight cyclist (at least when I'm in fighting form), I've always enjoyed the process of getting in shape for climbing. Okay, I guess that's not the complete truth. The truth is, hills hurt! But to make them hurt less, you have to accept and believe that they are conquerable.

Cutting out the nightly buttered popcorn might help a bit too...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February thaw, and a new start!

Two days ago, on Sunday, I was able to get my first road ride in of the year. 40 miles of sunshine and smooth tarmac makes Mark a happy boy. To smell the early freshness of the coming spring and the dream of long rides through the countryside, are enough to keep me looking to the days ahead. I'm also looking forward to a new part-time job, working at a local bike shop. I made my bike shop debut 30 years ago when I got a mechanics job at Rainbow Jersey Bike Shop. I learned many facets of the cycling world at RBJ, and am indebted to Jerry Pearce for giving me the chance to break into the world of cycling back in the '80s.

Now, I as I enter into a new phase of my life, and new dreams as a cyclist, I will be spending some of my days at Emery's Bike Shop this coming spring. The Milwaukee location, owned and operated by 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist, Brent Emery, has an extremely impressive history of supporting the cycling community in the Metro-Milwaukee area. Brent's knowledge and involvement of the sport from many aspects is mind-bogeling in itself. I'm really looking forward to being part of the team and, and helping other people enjoy the healthy, fun sport of bicycling!

Friday, February 11, 2011

No fun when you're down and out

We got a blizzard last week Wednesday, and I ended up wrecking my back from too much shoveling. For 3 days I could barely get out of bed. But I'm slowly coming around and riding the rollers again. I'm even doing 2 workouts a day sometimes. This Sunday we're expecting to see some temperatures near 40 degrees, and I'm hoping to get a little road ride in. That would be so sweet!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wisconsin is winter

Well, that road ride a couple days ago will have to be treasured in my memory for awhile, as we are about to experience one of the worst snowstorms we've seen in a long time. The weathermen are forecasting a possible accumulation of over 2 feet of snow over the next 48 hours. It seems like we've already had about 5 or 6 inches since yesterday. It's snowing this morning, but very light. The big wallop should be coming late this afternoon and this evening, and continuing into Wednesday.

And to think I almost took the studded snow tires off the winter commuter bike.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I had a sweet dream today

I couldn't resist. The temperature was about 28 and sunny, with light winds out of the northwest. The streets were clearing up, with only small patches of snow runoff. It just looked like the perfect day to bring out the road bike, and it was. I had a little time in the middle of the day, so I slipped on my winter riding gear and hit the road. Only an easy 20 miles, but that was 20 miles of pure freedom.

And now the weatherman is predicting up to a foot of snow over the next 2 days. Back on the rollers, I guess. And turn the spring dream machine up another notch...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Joining IC3 and another day on the rollers

I recently joined the International Christian Cycling Club, or IC3. For any Christian that loves to bicycle - whether you're a tourist, commuter, or racer  - it's a great way to share your faith in Christ. Learn more about the club by clicking on the link above.

Today I had two workouts on the rollers. I'm trying to integrate two into each day as often as I can. First, it should keep my metabolism up higher for a longer period throughout the day, and that will hopefully train my body to burn fat more effitiently, a good thing for an ultramarathon cyclist. And secondly, it will allow my body a bit of recovery between workouts, so that I can up the intenstity without getting into overuse injuries.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I entered the world of ultra-marathon cycling 30 years ago, around the same time I got a job wrenching at a local bike shop. This year will also mark my return to ultra-marathon cycling. Yesterday I "auditioned" for a job at another local bike shop.
The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Strength and Inspiration: Where does it come from?

Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire): "And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me."

I have to admit to owning the DVD of the movie, "Chariots of Fire". Every time I view it, I can't get through it without having a fresh new charge of strength and inspiration. And this quote in particular usually brings on a few tears. What can I say? The truth is, I'm fueled by emotion and emotional moments such as this one where Eric shares the source of his strength.

I have a passage from Scripture that's included in my email signature that provides similar strength and inspiration each time I see it:

Psalm 121:1,2
A song of ascents.
I lift my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rolling right along...

My roller training season has offically started. Most non-cyclists have no idea what bicycle rollers are, and even many cyclists don't. But before all the fluid trainers, before all the mag trainers, and even before all the wind trainers, were the rollers. For decades this is what every competitive cyclist from the Great White North used to train with during the long, cold winter months. The older designs were commonly made of drums about 4.5 inches in diameter. These don't provide much resistance, and are mostly used to develop good form rather than strength on the bike.

But these days, you have the option of two additional sizes, 3 inch and 2.25 inch. The 2.25 are for mostly cyclists of the Nelson Vales or Eric Heiden  persuation, those fearless cyclists with quads measuring the same circumfrence as my waist. My old rollers in the '80s were 4.5 inch drums, and I could easily do a double century on them, even during the off season. But when I picked up a new set last year, I opted for the 3 inch drums. They seem to be the best compromise, allowing you get a somewhat decent workout and still remain on them long enough to concentrate on one's form. If you want to see what these are all about, here's a good example of how not to do it. And here's an example of how the great Eddy did it.

Anyway, when it's cold outside and don't feel like getting dressed up like the Michelin Man, I hop aboard the rollers, and dream of warmer days to come.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of dreams lost and found

It's been nearly two weeks since my last blog entry. Guess I better finish my story...

Well, I finished the RAAM qualifier back in 1985, but I didn't qualify. I could blame it on the strep throat. I could blame it on the allergic reaction to the anti-biotic. I could blame it on the fact that I didn't get enough sleep before the start. I could blame it on the fact that I was under trained and had developed two sore achilles tendons nearly three quarters of the way into the event. But the fact of the matter is, I simply didn't qualify. At the 500-mile mark, I was in a qualifying position, but at that point my crew decided that I need to stop for some real rest. Sure, I had been hallucinating for several hours now. But I hadn't really said anything about that until the race was all over. I think what gave me away was that I was having a hard time staying awake when they saw me at the checkpoints. So we stopped, and I slept for over two hours. By the time I got back on the bike, I had been passed by 10 other cyclists. That was the beggining of the end for me, and for any chance of me doing the 1986 Race Across AMerica.

I felt good that I had at least completed the 700-mile RAAM qualifier, but I was to come home with something else that I would rather not have. Those achilles tendons took a long time to heal, and for the next couple years, I felt the pain every morning I got up out of bed and placed my weight on them. Finally, one morning about two years later, I realized the pain was finally gone. By 1987 I had begun to participate in ultras again, but very cautiously and with no intention of competing, only for the enjoyment of the sport. In 1988, I decided to do something I had dreamed of for many years, ride my bike across the United States. But rather than a race, I loaded up my touring bike with panniers, a handlebar bag, cooking gear, a sleeping bag, and a ground pad. On June 19, 1988, I flew out to San Franciso with my boxed up home on wheels. The following day, I would begin a 2,000-mile, 30-day journey that would change my life forever - for the better.

But that's a story for another day...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grandiose dreams and itchy cleats

Roughly thirty years ago, when I heard of the first Race Across America/RAAM (The Great American Bike Race), I became intrigued by this new and unusual event. During the '80s, I worked at one of Milwaukee's best bike shops, Rainbow Jersey Bicycles,. And even though the owner, Jerry Pearce, was a dyed-in-the-wool (Merino wool, of course) supporter of traditional bicycle racing, he catered to my interest (maybe it was my whining) in ultra-marathon cycling, so that we became one of the world's first official information stations for RAAM updates. This was the era before the internet became a household "neccessity", so anything we learned about RAAM and ultra-cycling came via the special hot line (telephone) we had access to. And you can bet that I was checking those updates on a daily basis, since I was shop's only resident RAAM groupie.

In 1984, at the suggestion of a friend and fellow training partner, I signed up for the following year's regional 700-mile RAAM qualifier, called the Midwest John Marino Open (JMO) back then. Well, two weeks before the race, I contracted strep throat, and made a trip to my doctor. I began a regimen of antibiotics, and ignored the doc's suggestion that I shouldn't follow through with the event, considering that my health was now compromised. Of course I didn't follow his suggestion, as I had dreamed of the RAAM for several years now, and I was not about to give up the chance to find my own place on the starting line. And by now, my ultra-cleats were getting quite itchy. be continued.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

15 miles less to go...

About 12 years ago I did the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Michigan. At that time, I lived about 3 miles from Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, where the event occurs. So I filled up my backpack with an extra change of clothes and  towel, and roller-bladed to the site. Back in the '90s, I was a competitive speedskater. Sure I had a car, but skating just seemed like the logical way to commute to this annual rite of passage. Hmmm, there's a question open for debate: "Do Polar Bears use logic?". Well, I skated it to the lake, took the plunge, skated back home, and never got sick. But I'm pretty sure that will be the only time I'll feel a need to play that game.

Originally I had planned to bicycle to the plunge today, just to watch, and possibly to photograph. But with a high of 21 degrees and winds up to 40 mph, I decided to sleep in and make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast for my wife and me. She was pleased with my decision. But later this afternoon, when Linda announced that she was going to her health club to get in a swim, I realized that there was still an opportunity to get that first ride of the year in. So I set out on my road bike for the first time in months. Anyway, I had just purchased a new set of race wheels from a guy on craigslist (for about half the price of brand new ones), and if nothing else it was an excuse to find out how they rode. Seeing that the temperature and wind hadn't changed much from the original forecast, I limited my ride to 20 miles. And that was just enough to keep my extremities from going into a deep-freeze of their own.

The new wheels rode nice, but mostly, it just felt so good to be on the road bike again! That bike fits me so much better than my W.A.S. (Winter Assalt Vehicle), so I felt like I was back home again. While on the ride, I pondered about the mileage goal to set for this new year. In 2010 that goal was 6,000 miles, and I ended up doing just over 6,500 when I include last month's "snow-commutes" to work. For 2011, I think I'll go for 7,500 miles. Lord willing, I can make that goal. After all, last year I didn't really start training until March. And after today's ride, I've already got 20 miles under the belt. Now to finish off those leftover buttermilk pancakes...

Here we come, 2011!

Yesterday was my first day on the bike since getting that throat infection over two weeks ago. I took my WAV (Winter Assalt Vehicle) out for an easy 20 mile ride on the Interurban Trail. It's been balmy here the past couple days, hitting a high of near 50 yesterday. Today I hope to ride down to Bradford Beach to watch the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Unfortunately, the high temperature today is supposed to be only 25 degrees.