Friday, December 22, 2017

Goal ride, 5,000mi. in one year

Marshall Ave. looking south into downtown Minneapolis

I achieved the goal of 5,000 miles by bike in a year on Monday Dec. 18th. It was a few days before I thought I would when I mapped out what it would take to achieve it. I had planned that it would be done the week before Christmas since I would not be commuting to work the following week but with the nice weather it made it possible to do it early in the week. 

Here is the tracking sheet I used to gauge whether or not I was on track. On the left are the weeks and dates as well as estimated mileage commuting and my starting and finishing mileage for the week. On the right is weather and actual mileage for the day of that week. I used a formula to insert the total into the current week (column C) to see how many miles I had left. I hadn't updated the formula when this was taken but reflects the Monday morning commute into the office. So, I knew I had only 11.3 miles left before hitting the 5,000 mile mark. I knew I would cross that on my way home on Monday since it is a 16.8 mi. commute. 
The weather on Friday was warm-ish for December and had a south wind which is a tailwind for me. So I began to think about which route I would take home. 
It didn't take long for me to decide. I was going to take the route that went past our church. 

You see, this has been a big year for me, my faith and our church. I biked from work to church many weeks this year for Wednesday night services during Advent and Lent and to help with Confirmation classes. Our church also is going through a transition now and I am on a committee that meets every other Tuesday night. This kind of thing would not have been possible before because my wife has Lyme's disease and was too sick for us to participate more at church. Thanks be to God that she is better now and we are able to plan and commit once again.
Additionally, I committed in January 2017 to listen to the as much of the Daily Audio Bible podcast as I could this year with the goal of hearing all of the Bible and Brian's teachings in a year. I usually listen to 3-4 days on one ride in. I am about a month behind as of this writing but have never tried reading or listening to the entire Bible in a year. I have learned so much and appreciate Brian's words of wisdom and his commitment to 'take the next step forward' in this journey. 

So back to the 5,000 mile mark. 
I stopped by our church on the way home and had a friendly dog-walker stop and ask if she could take a picture of me. I was a fun interaction as she said 'what are you doing, and looks like I could help'. I explained that this is the 5,000mi. mark for the year and that I attend the church and she was happy to help. 

What I haven't said yet is that for the last 3 days of commuting - my rear hub sounded like it had marbles in it. The steel frame of my Bianchi echos that noise quite loudly. The positive side of that is everyone could hear me coming. The downside is I didn't know exactly what was wrong and worried that it would give out on me before I crossed the line. It sounded like if you took about 3-4 marbles and put them into a metal cocktail shaker and gave it a good shake. So, I knew my time was limited. It all worked out in the end. 
I did the truck-bike commute on Tuesday and dropped the bike off at NOW Bikes for repair on my way home. Ryan is always so cheerful to greet me when I bring my bike in for repair. They do excellent work and are super people. He'll fix it up for more riding to come.

So what is next?
Last year I took the month of January off from biking. This was because we didn't have health insurance due to a change in my contract status and income. So Sandy and I decided that it would be best if I did the least risky activities in January so biking next to cars was out. What I learned was I could run again without pain and enjoy it. So January 2018 I will do the same. I already started looking at setting a goal and have once again created a training plan on an Excel spreadsheet. I'd like to run a half-marathon in February so I have a reason to get out and train every week. I think it's do-able so I have asked/challenged a couple friends to do it with me. It's the weekend of President's Day, Feb 17th in White Bear Lake. So off to a new challenge and goal. If you would want to run it with me, let me know. You'll probably be faster but I'll beat everyone sitting on their couch. 

To wrap things up this may be the last time you hear from me in a while. 
I have debated what to do with this blog. My idea is that it would serve as a diary of my rides, inspire others, provide equipment info and advice, and I dream that I could do interviews and post podcasts of everyday people who do extraordinary things through cycling. However, considering what it would take to make it successful and talking to someone who has done this before, it would be a ton of work. 

Sandy is feeling so much better and saw how easy it was for me to start this and said - I can do that!
She has had a dream for a couple years to launch and run a child training/parenting program. We framed up a blog site a year ago and she mapped out the topics she wanted to cover. She even researched how to turn a blog into a viable business and connected with a few others who do this now for their main income. Now, she is ready and I am excited to be a part of it. We bought a good microphone for podcasting and are on our way. Check it out here Simple Intentional Parenting

I'll be back in February to diary about the half-marathon training experience and describe the new goal for the spring gravel racing season. 
Until then.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

5k - not this week, why I ride outdoors and hate to pay for races

First of all, thanks for all the interest in the blog. I never expected so many views. Thanks for the clicks. Submit comments, questions, or suggestions in the comment box below or feel free to e-mail me or contact me on Facebook.

This week I'm not going to make it and that's ok.
It was my plan to achieve the goal of 5,000 miles in a year the week before Christmas.
I'm at 4,971 tonight and even though less than 30 miles from the goal, it is not probable this week.
As my previous post said, I need to balance my biking with all of my family committments and other priorities.
One of my priorities is to not be dead-dog tired at work. So tomorrow I am driving and just riding 1 mile across the Stone Arch bridge to work. I hate paying to park in downtown Mpls. so found some on street parking that is free. Still not super easy, takes a bit longer, have to dress accordingly. But tomorrow is Friday so it makes it easier. Truck bike commute it is.

This week was kind of cold. There were some flurries in the morning and that led to some slush. The shoulders still had plenty of salt residue to keep them clear but the bike paths were mostly packed with ice and a bit of snow. The studded tires I have work great but it's like pedaling through sand on a beach. It significantly slows my commute time but conversely increases my core temperature.
Here's a pic of the effects of trudging trough the slush.
You'll notice the front fender only covers the rear part of the tire so the brakes were pretty caked with snow and slush. The front derailleur also is a big collection point.
The nice stainless steel vacuum Thermos that fits easily into my bottle cage is usually full of coffee. On days like this the rear derailleur drinks some to function properly. It doesn't care what origin it is, as long as it's warm. Thankfully when I got inside, I was able to spray it off in the mop sink - a new perk at work this year. I plan to use it to stave off the salt damage to components. 

Most of the other bikes I have seen en route this week are Fat Bikes - not as many skinny tire/studded bikes. The locker room at work is also empty enough now I can play my own music. It's kind of fun to see the same hearty, dedicated riders out on the same route each day. There are a few that I see in the same sections of my route every day. Wish I knew who they were but just a quick wave and we pass each other leat we blind each other with out headlights. If there are any readers that take the E. River Road/Graco route let me know.

Back to the 5,000mi. quest. 
I mentioned that I am driving tomorrow and only getting the 2 bike miles in. 
Saturday we have 3 different family activities and one requires me to drive the kiddos hither and yon.
I could take the bike out but would rather consider it a recovery day and look forward to crossing the finish line next week. I also don't usually ride on Sunday since we have worahip at church, another priority, one that conflicts with a lot of fun rides, and football to watch, much lower priority, and a plethora of groceries to buy and sort through. Remember the 5 kids, they eat a ton of food. 
So next week, 5k it is.

One thing that makes this kind of a big deal to me is that all of my miles have been outdoors. I have been checking my other riding buddies profiles and some have long eclipsed the 5,000 mark for the year. They didn't make a big deal of it but most of them also ride indoors. This is not to diminish their achievement. I just don't like riding my bike indoors. I did it once or twice to see what it's like. It's fine. It's like the difference between running on a treadmill versus running outdoors. There are many pluses to it. The pros do it. People recovering from surgeries or injury do it. Power trainers do FTP & oxeygen tests and it works. They come out in the Spring just as fast if not faster than before.

However, I think of the adage about a tree growing in a windless environment and how the root structure doesn't grow. That makes me think riding outdoors has more advantages. But I am not a professional trainer, just a normal guy. Plus, it's cheaper.

This is not to say I would not ride indoors. If I had Zwift and the awesome Wahoo Kickr, I'd be riding indoors  (insert priorities for spending money on the kids and groceries and not on my biking toys). I like to think that by riding outdoors, even though slower, and more dangerous than the trainer, it builds my base strength and core and more importantly my bike handling. 

Some might say riding outside in the winter increases my level of fortitude or bad*ss-ness. I think it prepares me to not wimp out on any ride. It's tough. It's cold. It's slow sluggin' just like some of the gravel races I do in the spring. It builds my mental ability to deal with adversity in ways that spinning or pushing myself on the trainer cannot. You see I am in it for the challenge, not to see how flat out fast I can ride. The challenge of any adventure or ride is what keeps me motivated. Mostly people think I am just crazy though.

This brings me to another philosophy I have been contemplating, I hate paying for races. Not only do I have to feed the kids (top priority) I hate paying for things that should be free. 
I see this week is the final week to enter the Dirty Kanza registration lottery. I watched online last year as the registration debacle unfolded. It sold out in mere minutes and some peoples queue were clogged and didn't get in. I checked the site and it's $100 to register for just the 100 mile race. That's for an unsupported race. You get a hug and maybe a t-shirt for finishing. Plus the once in a lifetime accomplishment of finishing it - which is kind of priceless. That's why it's on my bucket list to finish the 200 miler at some point, but right now, I'm not paying to race it - at least not $100. I can go down there any other weekend and ride the same roads for free. Thanks .gpx files and Garmin. Who knows, I may even catch one of their free training rides. I understand these races cost money to host. I might make a donation to charity or a contribution to pay for a porta-potty at the start, some post-ride food, or a t-shirt. But paying for the privilege to ride on roads that are not closed off and no race support - no thanks.

Cycling is not cheap in itself and it also costs plenty to keep your bike in race shape and have the proper equipment and nutrition. That also doesn't factor in the cost of travel - gas, food, and lodging to get to the race. So, it better be worth it. The challenge, experience, the reward and cost. 
Just sayin'. I'm not sayin' it needs to be the way you do it - but for now my ethos is keep 'em free and you will get the right kind of riders. Notice the 2017 rides I am planning to do are all free. 
So, to close things out, what do you think I should do to celebrate the 5k milestone? 
Comment below or send me a message. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Quest for 5,000mi. & the improbable likelihood of being close

So 5,000 miles is a long ways.
When I Googled how far it was West to East across the U.S. I realized that it is practically across the country twice.
Some people set goals for the year. I'm not a great long range planner. Usually something happens 2 weeks in that kills my plan.

I've had a good year on the bike.
Probably the best year to be totally transparent.
I am fortunate enough to work for a company that has great bike facilities, a locker room, and supports a flexible work schedule if needed. I have been able to bike to work most days I wanted to.

I also, as the widget to the right suggests, track most all of my rides using Strava. So when I opened the app and clicked my profile mid-October to my surprise I had exceeded 4,000mi. this year.
I thought, 'wow, that's a lot and I could achieve 5,000 miles by January if I try hard'.

So, you may be reading this saying wow that's a crazy lot of miles and I could never do that.
You may be right, but keep reading. I have great circumstances. My commute to work is around 17 miles one way or 34-35miles a day.
If you cannot commute to work, it would be super hard to achieve 5,000 miles in a year.
If your commute is 4 miles one way, it too would be hard.

What looking at my Strava results did was prompt me to set another short term goal that was realistic and achievable given the right circumstances.
Some people may scoff at using Strava to track every little mile, but for me, it has paid off because it provides me with a good goal and a way to look back on my year.
*Strava Rant* I am not a KOM hunter. Tried it once, didn't pay off. If it happens it happens. I am only interested in KOMs that may be on my route and am certainly not naïve enough to think I can out sprint a youngster with a tailwind and strong leadout man or three with a 54 tooth TT bike. I once held a KOM in my neighborhood for about 1 hour until someone came up from behind and eeked me out by a few seconds thanks to the strong tailwind. Took the joy right out of my day when I had to tell my wife and kids 'hey, that KOM I just won, I just lost.'

Back to my stats. When I realized how close I was to 5,000 miles for the year. I did what I find natural. I'm a project manager and a data guy, so I created a tracking sheet in Excel and figured I could achieve my goal if I rode 102mi. a week from mid-October to the week before Christmas. 102 miles is my work commute both ways x3. So if I am feeling ambitious and the weather is good and I bike 4 days, I can bank some miles. I even added in a formula to auto calculate the balance of miles I will need to ride in the final week. It's my kind of geekery - simple but motivating.

The big what if has everything to do with the weather.
What if it snows. What if it gets really really cold. What if it rains like cats and dogs and then freezes like 6 inches deep and sticks like glue to the road?
Well that did happen this past week. On Monday it was 50 degrees on my ride home at 5pm and it turned to rain and snow overnight and in the morning it made for the worst commute yet this winter. I didn't ride in because I had a church meeting after work and it was horrible out. It took me 1:11hr. to drive what normally takes 30 minutes. I didn't see but maybe one or two bikers out in it and it didn't look like they had any other form of transportation.

November was a great month weather wise. A bit on the cold side which had me guessing at the best combo of socks and shoe covers and shoes and foil. I never quite figured it out. Then December warmed us up to shock us with the blast of freezing rain and now cold temps in the teens and twenties. So my total miles in November was pretty consistent. I averaged 109 miles per week because it was dry out. I also was able to ride my Felt road bike with slick tires.

So now we are into December and the snow and ice have come to stick around. I switched to my new to me Bianchi too-nice-to-be-winter-beater flat handled road bike and put my studded tires on. After the first couple rides, adjusted the psi, and feel comfortable once again and plan on crushing my goal the last week before Christmas.

So hopefully, this inspires you to take a look at what you can do to finish the year strong. The roads will clear off with the sunlight and salt. Get your mountain bike out with knobby tires and take a few laps. The clear crisp air is good for you and the biking will keep your core temperature up more than you think. Let me know what your goals are in the comments below.
Happy riding!

Welcome to my Blog

Thanks for visiting my new blog.
You may be wondering the same thing as I am, what's this blog about?
Good question. Answer is, whatever biking stuff is on my mind.
My hope is, it's on your mind too and you find it interesting. Who knows, maybe you will end up being in it too.

So first some basic info.
I'm what I consider a pretty normal guy.
I'm 40yrs old., family of seven (not so normal), own part of my house along with a big bank that I work for, have a nice corporate job to pay for my house, 2 cats not of my choice and a couple bikes.
My take on biking is pretty simple - ride what you can, when you can, and mostly outdoors.
I ride for my health and sanity and along the way achieve goals and do adventurous things.
My hope is this blog will inspire you to get out more, ride your bikes, and maybe get some gear that works better for you than you have now.