Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feeling Old, for a bit

I woke up this morning feeling old. Like 70 or 75. In fact I woke up at 2 or 3 and had to take a couple of ibuprofens and 2.5 mg of Zolpidem (generic Ambien) because I was feeling so wasted. I drank all the ice water I could get down and went back to sleep until 7:30, when I crawled out of bed feeling really, really tired. Not too stiff -- I think I have the water to thank for that -- but weighed down by major lethargy. I would have been depressed, if I hadn't been through it before; if I hadn't learned that being thoroughly wiped wasn't necessarily terminal.

I remember feeling like this last March, soon after I had started playing with the idea of riding 80 on my 80th. I had started keeping a log of my distances. Here's a cut-and-paste:

Wed Mar 15 - 6.4
Sat Mar 4 - 5.8
Tue Mar 8 - 1.8
??? Mar 16?? 6.4
Sat Mar 19 - 8.6
Wed Mar 23 - 11.0 Very stiff next morning; lethargic 'til late afternoon.

It was nice to reflect on that, today, and to remember that I had, since then, learned how reliable was the restorative power of rest and relaxation. Not to worry. The thing to do was to do nothing. Tincture of Time, as some doctor in my misty past once advised me. So my lethargy today was accepted as a gentle reminder to be lazy. I took a nap this afternoon (as I did yesterday afternoon) and I'm feeling better. I won't ride tomorrow, and I may not ride Tuesday. Some walking, stretching, household chores, short rides to the grocery store, but nothing that smacks of effort.

Bitter medicine, but I'm determined to take it like a man.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not very fast

Well, after my 6-mile warm-up and pit stop, I rode 10 miles in one hour and 12 minutes this morning, which sucks. And it was about a 90 percent effort on my part. Not encouraging. I think I should have waited another day. One day of recovery was not enough. Also, could it have been the wine I had yesterday evening. Anne and I split half a bottle of chardonnay, and I think I had more than half of the half we split. We were pouring it over ice and mixing it with club soda in the late-day sunlight on the back porch, and I think I had more than my share.

So I'm not going to put too much stock, or derive too much discouragement, from this performance. I'm going to take it easy for two days and ride the same course Tuesday -- or Wednesday.

Joe Friel, in The Cyclist Training Bible, says repeatedly that the single most common fault made by aspiring cyclists is riding too often, too hard. He emphasises in page after page that allowing enough time for recovery after a demanding ride is absolutely essential for improvement. He has coached scores of cyclists, he says, and whenever he finds one who refuses to allow enough time for recovery, he drops him. I accept this intellectually, but not emotionally. I wanted to ride today, but I should have known better. Especially since I am aware that one of the incontrovertible facts of aging is that it takes longer to recover.

So for the next couple of days, I'm taking it easy. (Drat!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

I don't wear shorts

A reader, Leslie, asks if I wear chamois-padded shorts. Maybe I should answer him in the "comments" section of this blog, but I'm not yet sure yet how to do that. Besides, his question brings up the larger one of equipment in general. So I'll address that in today's post.

The short answer on shorts is, no, I don't. I ride in loose-fitting cargo pants. The long answer (hopefully not too long) follows:

(Warning: This really is a bit long-winded. But I'm thinking of other folks in their sixties or seventies who might be fighting the urge to ride their bikes because of a mistaken belief that they are too old. I'm hoping that if they see how I got to the verge of riding 80 miles on my 80th, they could see how they might do it, too.)

So. I'm not really into equipment. At least not yet. A couple of years ago, when we moved to the Orenco Station neighborhood of Hillsboro, OR, I got the idea of riding to nearby stores on my bike as a way to get a little exercise, use less fossil fuel, and have a little fun. I had brought a 3-speed Japanese commuter bike, inherited from my sister-in-law, with us from the East Coast. I hadn't ridden in traffic, before, so when I got here I bought some flashing lights -- head and tail -- and when the weather was right I'd venture out to the post office, drug store, etc. I wore the same loose-fitting cargo pants and high-top Reeboks that I wear every day. I bought a helmet and a high-visibility vest, and for the first few outings that was it.

In other words, I wasn't planning to be a cyclist. I just wanted to use my bike to get around on. Without having to change my clothes. In pants that had pockets for my phone, camera, wallet, keys, etc.

Soon afterwards, I bought a rear-view mirror that attaches to my eyeglasses. I was too inflexible and far too unsteady to turn around while riding, like youngsters do, and look over my shoulder. But I found that there were times when I really needed to know what was coming up behind me. It took a long time to get comfortable with the mirror, but eventually it became second nature to use it, the way you use a side-view mirror on a car.

I already had an odometer on my bike. And a cable and combination padlock.

Oh -- and this is important -- when I saw that the Hillsboro Public Library was offering a one-hr class on bicycle safety, I went to it.

Anyway, for the first year or two, I only rode only once or twice a month. But then two things happened: I discovered that it was fun to just get out and ride, even when I had nowhere to go; and I realized I was getting old. I mean, old. Decrepit. Unsteady on my feet. Always thinking of a nap. Hurting myself by picking up a suitcase. In pain from sitting too long.

When I say unsteady, I mean it. I'd have people lurching to their feet to help me. I fell off my bike when I was stopped, because when I started to fall over I couldn't move my foot quickly enough to catch myself. (I survived without injury, but my cell phone was DOA.)

Did I say two things happened? Well, it was three. The third was that it dawned on me that while my general decrepitude was progressing apace, some of my cycling was actually getting easier. My body was actually responding. I was taking a hill in 2nd gear that used to demand 1st gear.

Wow. I began to wonder how far I could take this. If I'm actually getting better at 78, what could I expect at 79? 80? And, most of all, if my cycling improved, how much would it help my general conditioning? So I started riding a little farther, and farther. And feeling better and better. (Except for some days when I thought I would die, but more on that some other time.) I don't know exactly when the idea of riding 80 on my 80th hit me, but when it hit, it stuck.

And equipment had little to do with it. It was all about conditioning. If I got a lighter bike, with more gears, and clothes designed for bike riding, it would be irrelevant to what I was doing. And it would actually make it harder to gauge my progress. I'd always be wondering, "could I have done this on my old bike? In my cargo pants?"

So that's why I'm not wearing shorts, Leslie. (That and vanity -- you haven't seen me in shorts!) I do have a gel seatcover on my saddle, though. And I'm definitely going to keep my eye out for "chamois lotion," which I never even knew existed. Because the time may come when I need it. (For now, the problem is not friction, it's just the pressure points.)

Well, that's enough on equipment for now. Today I didn't ride, just did my core exercises. Tomorrow I plan to go 15 miles, with sprints.

Thanks for listening, and please ask me questions. ESPECIALLY if you are inexperienced, decrepit, old, scared, and wistful about your lost vitality. I'm having so much fun it makes me feel almost guilty. Help me assuage my guilt by letting me help you along the way. If I can do it, you can do it, and I'll bet I can prove that to you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Starting to focus on "speed"

I rode 13.6 miles this morning in cool, fresh sunshine. Warmed up for the first 6, stopping to eat a peanut-butter-and-jam and chase it with a double espresso at the Starbucks in Safeway at Tanasbourne. It was 8 am when I left the parking lot, heading south on 185th. 45 minutes later I was home, stopping only to pencil in mileage on my photocopied map.

I've been "training" since March, with the idea of riding 80 miles on my 80th birthday, which is September 28 (2011) and it's been a gas. The Hillsboro area is perfect for cycling, and since most of the roads around my home have a bike lane, I just ride my bike out of the garage and I'm on my way.

I rode 64.1 miles on the "Tour de Parks" ride last Saturday sponsored by the WashCo BTC(Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition) which was my longest by far. I started at 8am and finished about 4pm. Not bad, in a way, but at that rate I would take about ten hours to go 80 miles, and my butt was sore enough after eight. So I'm dropping back to shorter distances, riding faster, and hoping to develop enough stamina to do the 80 miles in the same time it took me last Saturday to do 64.1.

So today I did 7.6 miles in 45 minutes which is 10+ mph, right? So now all I have to do is keep that up for 8 hrs? Piece of cake.

I'll be logging my progress (or lack of it?) here for the next two months, so that anyone else contemplating getting off the couch can learn from my experience. I'll hope to keep it lively and to the point, but -- fair warning -- this is my first attempt at blogging, and right now I'm feeling a little technologically challenged by the interface. 'Til tomorrow...