Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Morning Cycles

A blog entry in the stylistic form of my daughter inspired by her recent publication: Tidal Mornings

It's 6:22 AM.  I haven't looked at a clock since sometime just after midnight but I know it's 6:22.  I'm too tired to roll over and check.  I rest a little longer and muster the energy to turn my head. 6:24.  I briefly think I could drive a car to work but I won't.  I've only driven a car to work 2 times in the last 4 months and that's only because my day's obligations would be impossible without it.  It's time, I swing my heavy legs out of bed and my heavy head follows.  How can a body this strong feel this tired.

I'm up!  My morning routine consists of checking the weather.  Temperature, precipitation and wind speed are all considerations on my cycling garb.  38 degrees, dry with light wind; perfect!  Shorts, shirt, socks, shoes, jacket, bike tools, headlight, taillight, gloves, hat, helmet, iPod(optional), Garmin...I'm ready to go!  Coffee! Shit, I almost forgot the coffee.  Sometimes I don't even take a sip on the ride but I'd miss it if it wasn't there.  Now I'm ready to go.

I clumsily clomp down the oak stairs in my hard stiff bike shoes.  Which bike?  By now the decision has already been made.  If I'm feeling nostalgic I'll take my trusty old road bike.  I nearly started my cycling passion on this bike.  Is it raining?  Rain bike.  Is it snowing? Fat Bike. Is it icy? Studded bike. Do I want to disconnect from society, if even for just 30 minutes? Mountain bike. Today it will be the cross bike.  Light and nimble yet aggressive and confident, I love this bike.

I attach all the gear to the bike like a sailor rigging a ship.  Everything has it's place.  Even my shoes will have a place in the pedals, locked together as one.  Man and machine.  I open the door from the dark basement to reveal morning's first light.  At 6:22 it was still dark but now the day is waking up.  The sun hasn't ascended above the horizon but it will, and soon.  The sun has more energy than I at this time of day.  I mount my bike (click) (click) and we are off.  The smell of wet autumn leaves fills the air reminding me of the cold days to come.

The sleepiness that overtook me less than a half hour ago dissolves.  The crisp air awakens me, refreshes me, revives me!  My bike feels light and nimble, ready to play.  Sorry my friend, I slept too late for a long ride today, maybe tomorrow.  The first part of the ride is uphill.  Warming the body from within, banking gravity.  I'm thankful for the uphill start because the rest of the ride will be easy if I choose.  3 miles from home I'm at the highest point in my journey.  In the next 2 miles I am flying.  Twenty, thirty, forty miles per hour all under my own power.  I soar by the same dead porcupine on the side of the road, a little worse for the wear, reminding me of the passing time.
October Sunrise
I get to the point in my ride where I feel smug.  School is in session and traffic is backed up for over a mile, bumper to bumper, like a freight train just leaving the station, as it crawls ahead I smile.  The road is wide enough for me to safely ride by.  King of the cars!  The wind has turned against me, no matter, I am almost at work.  I arrive.  My clothes have gained two pounds that I have lost.  I should drink some water; coffee will do, lucky I remembered it.

I commute to work by bike.  Most people wonder why.  Why would you subject yourself to additional effort, cold, discomfort, time and the many other challenges commuting by bike brings?  Most people don't even consider that biking could be a mode of transportation even on the best of days. There are a panoply of reasons and I will try to do some of them justice.  Biking keeps me fit, my desk job does not.  By riding to work I fit  a 90 minute workout into 45 minutes, the additional time it takes to ride verses drive.  Biking saves me money.  Riding a few days it isn't that much but riding every day it really adds up.  Biking helps the environment.  It's inarguable that not burning our limited oil and creating greenhouse gasses will extend our time on this planet.  Biking keeps me young.  At 48 years old I've passed my physical peak but in the velo world  I can ride faster, longer and harder than 99% of the 20 year olds out there.  Take that aging!  Biking gives me independence.  Most people think their car gives them independence, sure, and when it breaks?  There is something rewarding about getting to where you are going entirely under your own power.  You should try it sometime.   And most of all, I like cookies and beer, not necessarily at the same time.  On tap for 6000 miles this year I've burned about 200,000 calories on the bike.  I still have to count some calories but I get to count higher.

With the time change soon upon us all of my rides will be in the dark and the cold and the snow.  And I will be right out there in it with my lights and my jacket and my fatbike.  Bring it on, I am ready!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Dempsey Challenge, 2015 - Giving 133%

(Sorry, too cold to take pictures, just a long winded post, pun intended)
I signed up for The Dempsey Challenge for my 7th time this year and exceeded  my fundraising goal of $1000 by 10 bucks bringing my total fundraising for The Dempsey Center to $9510 if my tally is right.  This year I joined team Big Bird who's 2015 fundraising was $6750.  I was wearing big bird plumage on my head for the ride.

I decided this years goal was to complete my fastest century ever.  WRONG!  And here is my list of excuses:
  • First, it was cold.  Riding in the cold is OK if you are dressed for it but A, you are wearing 5 lbs of extra clothes and closer to 8lbs after they soak up a days worth of sweat.  In terms of bike weight that is about $10,000 in weight reduction from a bike.   And B, cold air is denser than warm are and actually effects your speed on a bike.
  • Second, it was WINDY.  Friggin windy.  When all you have is about a 1/3hp engine (me) a 15MPH headwind makes a difference.  
  • Finally, there were no fast groups in the ride.  In years past there was a train of riders doing the course at 20MPH, sharing the load.  This year they were all doing Casco Bay Cyclocross.  The lack of fast riders did make for an interesting event.
So, at the start of the ride I queued up at the front of the pack and my wife was going to round up the rest of our team... We never did make it back together until after I finished.

I started off strong and made my way to the front to see if I could find a fast group to join.  A few miles in we had made our way to Patrick Dempsey and the group that started 3 minutes ahead of the full pack.  I reveled in the magic for about 30 seconds and went on ahead to find out that there were no fast groups, just a few lone wolves and some pairs of riders.  From there I rode with Alex from Bates for just about 1/2 of the ride.  I'm not sure his clothing choice of shorts was the best but he was keeping the weight down.  By the Naples rest stop we passed the current leader which won us a police escort to clear the path, very cool, no pun intended.  Also not close enough to draft, that would have been helpful.  About 10 miles later the previous leader, John, caught us and the 3 of us took turns forging a path through the shitty wind.  Somewhere just before the Harrison rest stop Alex dropped off.  I'm not quite sure where because I thought he was still with us until just before the stop.  Alex caught us at the stop and decided he'd rest a little longer when we left.

I rode with John for the last 50 miles.  He was getting some leg cramps and thought I was doing more of the pulling, I was getting tired and thought he was doing more of the pulling, it worked out fine.  At one point we caught Gustav, a freshman from Bates, and the 3 of us took turns until we stopped at the last rest stop and he kept going with about 15 to go.  The chicken soup at the stop was worth the wait, hot with plenty of salt replacement.  John and I were the second 100 mile riders to cross the line at 1:30 which just about tied my other fastest Dempsey time.  It might actually be a PR but I was looking for closer to a 5 hour century so I'm not counting it.

So, I talked to John for a few minutes and checked on the location of the rest of my team via google+ location.  They were still 30 miles out.  I had a choice, change into dry clothes and mill around for 2 hours and freeze, or, ride back out the course and intercept them.  Since I hadn't made a personal best on my century time I decided I could go for a different PR.  At that point I didn't realize that The Mallett Brothers were playing at 2:00 or I might have stayed to watch.  I started the course backwards which got lots of comments from the volunteers along the way that recognized me.  About 5 miles out who do I meet but Gustav doing the same thing as me.  He's looking for the rest of his friends from Bates including Alex.  We chat until he finds his group about 12 miles out.  I expected to meet my team just about at the last rest stop which is 16 miles from the finish.  Actually, if I hadn't found them by then I was planning on stopping there anyway to get some more chicken soup.  Well, I found them less than 1/8 mile past the rest stop.

I decided that I could really use a little real fuel so they went on and I backtracked for some soup.  It was fun to get back to the stop and tell them that I got to the finish and all they had was lobster so I came back for more chicken soup.  Unfortunately, I hadn't planned on riding hard back to the finish but Kelly and John now had a 10 minute lead on me and I had to put the hammer down to catch them by the finish.  The soup was good.  I caught them with somewhere around 4 miles to go. We finished, got a beer, got some food and then got the hell out of there.  We...were...freezing!!!

I didn't break my PR for speed but I did break 3 other records.  Longest ride, furthest ride and most elevation in a ride.

  • Distance: 132.9 Miles (a few more that didn't' get recorded)
  • Time:  7:40:42 Moving Time (8 hours 15 minutes total time.)
  • Elevation: 9075 feet (2600 feet more than my previous record)
  • Average Speed: 17.3MPH
  • Average Temp: About 35F
We got home, let the dogs burn off some steam, watched an episode of Walking Dead and went to bed at 7:45.  Up around 6:00, ready for a ride to work; s.l.o.w.l.y.