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.