Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Santa Cyclist Rampage

The suit transforms you. Yesterday I participated in one of the most fun rides I've done in a long, long time, the Santa Cycle Rampage. Over the past few years, I've considered it, but I never had a Santa suit (since then I've learned you don't need one, but it does add to the fun!). Fortunately, my friend and co-worker Terri Bartlett, Activity and Life Enrichment Director at Luther Manor, offered and set me up with one last week. I had no more excuses! 

Friday after work, I went on a test ride while wearing the full suit, along with snow-white beard and wig. I quickly learned that the suit transforms you. There is an image that anyone who dons this suit must live up to. My only intention was to test the suit while riding. You know, make sure my pants didn't get caught in the chain, stuff like that. But less than one block down the road it became obvious that I had to communicate my new role with everyone who's path I crossed. I was now a superhero to everyone from the kids coming home in their school buses, to the guys driving huge 18-wheelers and blowing their air-horns, to the angry-looking young man on his cell phone who suddenly looked up and yelled with delight, "Santa!!!". 

The Saturday group ride was an unforgettable experience. I got to ride with some pretty awesome Santas on that ride. But my friend Tom Lais really summed it up well when he said, "We're seeing something special here today. We're bringing joy to so many people. And really, isn't that what's we're all here share the joy?"

And it probably doesn't hurt when the fat man is riding a fat bike. ;)

JS Online Photos

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!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A River Runs Through It

One of my favorite movies of all time, maybe the favorite, is "A River Runs Through It'. In some ways, the stories of the two brothers paralleled the experiences my own (younger) brother and I had growing up together. But like a river, there are "currents" that flow beneath the relationships of those close to us, those unique experiences that no one else knows of, but what makes them more precious than the most valuable gems on earth. Today's ride was a bit like that.

My original plans were to hop on my fat bike and ride up the Milwaukee River, going further north than I had been before. But soon after getting on the river. I realized my plans were to change. I was starting to head into slush. The slush turned into water. I found myself riding in about 4-5 inches of clear water, sitting over the remaining ice. At that point, I realized it was time to head for land. But when I tried to head straight to shore, the water became even deeper. So I turned and headed back the very same way I had arrived, covering my original tracks, because I knew they were solid and safe. Then I hit the land, I started to ride on the Kleztch Park trails that parallel the river. When the trails split off, I went up, and rode along the bluff, a steep ridge that runs about 100 feet or more above the river's level. I looked down and saw a familiar figure and his dog, a friendly pair I had met on the trails several times last fall and this winter. I can't recall the man's name, but his dog, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, answers by the name of "Chinatown", or China for short. I called down to my friend and we exchanged a few words about how beautiful the day was. Then he said, "Call my dog up there!". I thought it might be too steep and long of a climb, but I tried. And China came running up to me like just finding a long lost friend. Her owner called her back a couple minutes later (after she collected a bunch of ear scritches and belly rubs). He then called back up to me, "She's your friend for life now." I thanked him for the canine therapy, and we went on our own ways.

A little while later, I ran into Nick (and his dog), another friend of mine, who lives along the river, and is often found riding his own fat bike on the trails or the frozen river itself. Nick was there with his daughter, who he was towing in a sled behind his bike. He asked her what part of the ride was the most fun so far. She replied, "The part where we made a fast turn and I went flying off!" Nick told me his neighbor, David, was on the ice this morning and broke through it. I guess the water is only about 3 feet deep there, so it was more of a cool story to tell, than a real danger. David came by a little later with his own daughter, and their dog. Then came Chinatown and her owner. At some point, Nick handed David the bike. David told the girls to get on the sled, and they were off, with dogs leading the fun! I followed them a little later. River trail community makes me smile.

After I headed up along the high ridge again, I stopped at the Kleztch Park dam to take some photographs. A few minutes into it, I was surprised by man who had walked up behind me and greeted, "Hello, biker guy!" His name was Bill and he looked to be in his mid-50s (my age). He sported a long, greying ponytail, and talked of riding motorcycles and jogging. We talked about bicycles. We had a great conversation - about the beauty surrounding us, about family and commitments, about health, and about God. Bill's mom, who was suffering from Alzheimer's, was sitting in the car. I waved at her, and she waved back. At some point, Bill and I agreed to try and meet again, and wished each other God's blessings.

My plans to ride the river had changed. But my ride turned out to be much more rewarding than any solo ride would have been. I met old friends and made a new one. The day was about experiencing the undercurrents of our relationships and our lives, about what really matters - connecting with people and offering each other an memory than they may grow from and pass on to others.

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.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Perfect Powder on the Moon!

After a couple more inches of cold, powder this morning, the Kletzch Park trails along the Milwaukee River provided the perfect canvas for some single-track artistry!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

I finished off 2013 with a ride on my fat bike, and welcomed in 2014 with the same. Here are some photos from today ride, where I met up with some other friends to watch the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach.