Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goal attained, despite wind, with 8 minutes to spare

It was touch and go, there, for a while, because the headwind dogged me for long stretches and really slowed me down. I had been pretty cocky during the days leading up to the ride, but after the first ten or fifteen miles I had serious doubts about finishing within the eight hours I had set for myself.

In the end, I think it was simply that my training paid off. I had enough stamina to keep going. So I got off my bike at 4:22, seven hours and 52 minutes after starting the ride, just as the odometer registered 80 miles. And, yes, I was tired.

I know there's more to tell, and many to thank -- friends, neighbors, family, and representatives from WashCoBTC, Elders in Action, and Greenfield Health were there to greet me and congratulate me.

But now I must rest for a bit. Probably no more blog posts for a few weeks, but I hope to get back to it, because I'd like to summarize what I've learned from this experience, in the hopes that it will help others to realize some of the joys that are out there waiting for those who go after them.

Meanwhile, Casey Parks has put a nice summary of the finish line festivities on the OregonianLive website. To read it, click on "Casey's after-ride follow-up" under "related links," at right. (Thanks, Casey!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming down the home stretch ...

I can think of little to add to yesterday's post except to note that accuweather is calling for wind of up to 8 mph out of the east-northeast in the afternoon, and that is likely to slow me down, some. This may tempt me to start the third and fourth laps early, if the first and second laps go well enough to allow me to do so.

Beyond that, my only concern is that, if anyone decides to ride any part of the course with me, I might not handle it well. I've never ridden with other cyclers. Even on the "tour de parks" of last summer, I was almost always riding alone, with others on the tour well ahead or behind me. I'm not terribly steady on the bike, and I've got my seat set pretty high, so my center of gravity is on the high side, making me even more wobbly than I would be otherwise.

I've seen other cyclers riding side-by-side within the bike lane on the local streets, and I'm concerned that some friendly supportive soul might come up alongside me and freak me out.

There's one stretch of road that is of even more concern. Just west of the airport, on 25th Ave, about a quarter of a mile south of Evergreen, there's no bike lane. During rush hour, with cars -- and sometimes wide-bodied trucks -- going both north and south, I just get off the pavement. Going south, there's a pretty decent gravel pathway, which I can ride, but I do it at very slow speeds. Going north, if things look spooky, I intend to get off my bike and walk, because the incline drops off too steeply to the right for comfort. If I have cyclists behind me, I worry that we might get entangled if my maneuvers take them by surprise.

Otherwise, everything looks rosy, and I'm really looking forward to the ride. The extra day of rest (four days, when my maximum for the past few weeks has been three) makes me feel really restored and ready to go.

See you at the Pavilion around 4:15-4:30! And if I'm late, save me a cupcake!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Final Plans for Wednesday's ride

I plan to ride the 20-mile loop four times, on Wednesday, starting at 8:30 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm. That should put me at the Pavilion a little before 4:30 pm.

A neighbor has agreed to verify my passage as I start out on each lap.

At "3" on the map, our buddies Antony and Ed at Compuchips, (to whom we turn with all our computer problems and questions) have agreed to witness my coming by at roughly 9:30, 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30. Ed and Antony are super cool guys. Today they gave me a mini-micro digital video camera to mount on my handlebars. The memory chip is about the size of my pinkie fingernail. I hope I get a chance to set it up tomorrow...

"4" is where I'll swing by the drive-up window at Walgreens, where the crew has agreed to make note of my presence -- at roughly 9:45, 11:45, 1:40, and 3:40. Anne and I are regulars, there. They seem to get a kick out of the fact that we show up with our backpacks, rain or shine. (It's only about a 15-minute walk from our house.) We get a kick out of them, too, and are constantly amazed at their good nature and efficiency even when they are insanely busy.

"2" is where I turn around, about 100 yards from the end of Evergreen, because swinging into the parking lot of the Zion Lutheran Church is a safer maneuvre than a U-turn at the junction with Glencoe. I have no one set up to witness my passage there.

I've written this post in haste (is that where "post-haste" comes from?) and may well change things tomorrow. Gotta get to orchestra, now.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Celebration planned by local groups to promote cycling and active elders.

In order to raise awareness of the fact that advanced age need not mean dispensing with the joys of physical activity, the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition and Elders in Action are combining forces to make a celebration of my birthday ride by serving coffee and cupcakes (80 of them) at the Orenco Station Central Park Pavilion at 4 pm this Wednesday. As readers of this blog, you are most heartily invited to come, and to bring friends and family.

I would really like to meet each and every one of you.

Tomorrow I'll try to post a map of the route I plan to take, with an approximate timetable.

Friday, September 23, 2011

40.5 miles in 3 hrs 35 min for 11.3 mph

It's hard for me to believe that I was having trouble maintaining a 10 mph average for 20 or 30 miles, just a few weeks ago. Today, as I was finishing my 40-miler, which included hills, I was feeling stronger than I ever have.

I started at 7:25 am and finished at 11:00. Three hours and 35 minutes. That included a couple of brief stops along the way, including one necessitated by my gear-shift getting out of adjustment again. That translates to a 11.3-mph average.

If you use the figure from the computer on my bike, which says I was actually moving for only three hours and 21 minutes, it works out to 12.08 mph.

Now, six hours later, I feel only minimally stiff, and full of energy.

I have four days' rest before my birthday, and in the past that much rest has just made me stronger and faster.

I don't want to sound cocky, but I don't see -- short of some random mishap -- how I can fail to finish my ride well ahead of the 8 hours I set for myself . This could be a problem. I understand some folks are planning to greet me at the finish line, presumably around 4 pm. At this rate I could get to the finish line before any of the greeters are there!

Well, I'll work something out. And post whatever I come up with tomorrow or Sunday. Right now, I'll settle for basking in the sweet irony of the situation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forty miles in 4 hrs 2 minutes -- with 16-minute pit stop

I sketched out what looked to be a thirty-five or forty mile ride for this morning, and started out at about 7:30 in fifty-degree weather. Only two days' rest after my 74-miler, and my legs were stiff. Hadn't slept too well, either; got up at 6:30 because I was tired of trying to get back to sleep.

With some muscle milk, gator ade, and icewater in my basket, I took off in low gear and eased into the ride, feeling better with every push on the pedal. It was great to be out there, and half an hour later I wasn't feeling tired or sleepy and my legs were limbered up.

I did take a long break at Safeway (got behind some lady in the Starbucks concession who ordered something complicated and paid for it with singles and small change she fished out of her purse; cost me 3 minutes minimum!) so that may be why I felt so fresh as I started out again. Took the hills on Cornell on the way to Murray better than I had the last time I rode this route. Hit 22.4 mph going down Murray to TV Highway. Stopped for a slug of muscle milk when I got to the corner.

Delighted to come across a milepost -- #5 -- and eventually #11 -- and checked my odometer. Perfect. It read 24.8 at #5 and 30.8 at #11. Couldn't ask for more.

I was doing all I could to make up for the 16-minute pit stop, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that I wasn't going to make my 10 mph on this ride. I was gaining on it, but with less than ten miles to go ...

On one stretch on TV Highway I got up to 20 mph ... that's a mile in 3 minutes. Oh, if I could only keep that up! I did -- for about 45 seconds.

About 36 miles into the ride I saw that following the route on my sketch map was going to get me home in less than 40 miles. I thought if I could add a few miles to my ride, and go fast enough, I could reach my 10 mph average. So I took an ad hoc detour.

It almost worked. I clocked 40 miles, but when the odometer tripped 40.0, my stopwatch registered 4:02.

Rolling time was lots better. According to the bike's stopwatch, it was 3:28:02. Not too shabby for a tapering-off ride.

And I felt better at the end than the start. No question, this could get addictive!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The good news about my old three-speed

After I got done with my ride on Saturday I tinkered with the linkage to my three-speed hub and found that it had gotten out of adjustment. That's why I had only two speeds during my ride. Second and Third. Low had disappeared. (I'm very glad my route had no steep hills!) A little more tinkering, though, and I was back to three speeds.

It got me to thinking about what Nick at the Hillsboro Bike 'n Hike had told me about replacement hubs. Hubs are available which will turn my old 3-speed into a 5-speed, or even up to a 14-speed. The 14-speed is hideously expensive, but the 5-speed looks tempting. I'll be looking into that.

I might never have found out about those hubs if I hadn't had trouble with my three-speed. I had thought that as long as I kept my present bike, I would be limited to three speeds.

I'd heard about those multi-speed hubs a few weeks ago, but hadn't realized they were so readily available. But I wouldn't have wanted to get one before my birthday ride, anyway. It would have been cheating. But after I've turned 80, hey that's different.

Saw my audiologist, Todd, at "Accurate Hearing and Audiology," today. He's an avid cyclist and suggests that for the countdown days before my birthday I should taper off the intensity of my rides but not stop completely. Ten days' rest would probably cost me some of the conditioning I've achieved to date. Accordingly, I plan to ride about 35 miles tomorrow, on a course that has some hills -- so I can take advantage of my newly-rediscovered 1st gear.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seventy-four miles, with 22 minutes to spare

Yesterday's ride was wonderful in that it re-enforced the conclusion that training actually makes you stronger -- even at my age.

Simply put, for the entire 74 miles, I was maintaining my speed -- or perhaps even increasing it -- despite increased fatigue. The second long loop was clearly faster than the first. (Look in the "stopwatch" and "computer" columns.) The third long loop was about as fast as the second (the elapsed time was less, but the distance was less, as well.) Even the short loops, begun after 60 miles of riding and six hours or more in the saddle, held up surprisingly: I rode the final 6.8 miles in 37.5 minutes, for an average speed of 10.88 mph. (That includes stops along the way, mainly traffic lights; the "rolling time" was -- according to the computer -- 35:48.) That's faster than the first 20.4 miles, which took 1 hr 55 minutes, for an average speed of 10.64.

I'm not going to take the time to calculate the speeds of each loop any more precisely, for a couple of reasons, the first being that my note-taking is less than impeccable. The (admittedly long-winded) explanation of why this is so follows:

--- I rode the first two-tenths of a mile without my computer registering it. I happened to look down to see it reading "00.0" when it should have read, "00.2." Likewise, the mph read-out was "00.0," even though I was moving. I stopped and discovered that the computer itself, a compact instrument about the size of a man's belt buckle, was not snapped firmly into place on its mount on the handlebars. I pushed it forward with my thumb, heard it snap, eased forward, saw numbers appear, and I was on my way. Butfor the rest of that loop, the odometer would register about .2 miles less than it should, and the computer's stopwatch a minute or two less than it should.

--- It started to mist about ten minutes later, and after another 15 minutes it was raining. I could no longer read the odometer, but I knew the route, so although I couldn't check my progress (5 miles, so my wristwatch stopwatch should read less than 30 minutes, etc.) and my speed (I try to avoid falling below 10 mph) I had a pretty good feel for how I was doing. But there was something goofy about my gear shifting. I couldn't sense any difference between 2nd gear and 3rd gear. And I seemed to be working a lot harder than I should have, in 1st. Except for not being able to read my odometer and speedometer, the rain was not a problem, especially since I'd started out in my rain jacket (although that was because of the cool temperature; it wasn't supposed to rain.)

I also knew I had to take into account Friday's recalibration of my computer, from 2045mm to 2184mm. That should make all my loops read out longer, so I had to figure out some shortcuts along the way, and then check when I came back for a pit stop to see how far I'd actually ridden. This was made more complicated by the fact that I'd ridden the first 2. miles without the computer making contact.

Nearing the end of the loop I was contemplating aborting because of the rain. I was becoming sodden, and I remembered how cold I'd gotten the last time I'd ridden wet for a long time. But, looking around the sky for something to be optimistic about, I saw to my surprise a lightening to the southeast ... and a few minutes later, a brightening of the lightening. Minutes after that, the rain had actually stopped. I was so delighted I stopped to take a picture.

I carry my camera in the left-hand cargo pocket of my pants. Ten miles into the ride, I had hauled it out to enclose it in a plastic bag (I try to always have two or three with me, for shopping) because it was raining so hard I was afraid the camera would get wet. Now, though, as I tried to haul it out by tugging on a handle of the plastic bag, it seemed to be stuck. I say "seemed to be," because my left hand was numb, as it often gets to be when I'm riding, and as I reached down into my pocket to explore the situation, I couldn't feel anything with my fingertips. And the camera wasn't coming out. So I twisted my torso until I could grab the outside of the pouch-like pocket with my right hand, and work a couple of fingers down into the opening to make it wider. Then I shoved my numb hand down into the pocket far enough to close my fingers around the camera, and hauled it out, clutched in the numb claw which was my left hand. And I discovered why it had been so reluctant to be disgorged: its snout was erect. It somehow had gotten turned on while in my pocket, and the telescoping lens barrel was fully extended. No wonder it had been hard to pull out.

So, mystery solved, I took the picture, hoping to record the glistening pavement and the lightening sky ... but it had cost me a few more minutes, minutes I could only estimate.

I got back at the end of the first loop at 9:56; just time enough to replenish my water, re-set my odometer and stopwatch, and enter the penciled notes on my log before it was time to go, and at 10:00 I was off on the second loop.

The second loop went much better, and I was back for my pit stop at 11:47, which meant I had 13 minutes before my scheduled departure at 12:00. That meant I had time to go to the bathroom. Which was more complicated than I had anticipated.

I wear two pairs of liners to ride in. They are stretchy things, form-fitting, with foam padding to help ease the discomfort of sitting on a narrow saddle for multiple hours. They really do decrease the discomfort, but they have no fly, which means they have to be dropped below the knee to ... well, to answer nature's calling. Now this means four waistbands have to be negotiated: trousers, both liners, and underpants. They have to be taken down one at a time, because the combined resistance of all three elastic waistbands is simply too great to be overcome with one pair of thumbs. And then they have to come up one at a time, too, with care that they are not bunched or rolled, because there will be no opportunity within the next few hours to make adjustments.

All of which I brought off with admirable alacrity -- so much so that it occurred to me I might actually leave for the third loop a few minutes early, therefore building up my safety margin for the long haul. All elastic waistbands in place, a glance at my watch as I pulled up my trousers told me this was indeed possible. In no time I was in the alley, and, having zeroed out my odometer and stopwatch, and having made a mental note of the time -- 11:57, which I planned to jot down later -- put my right foot on right pedal, pushed off, and, swinging my left foot up ...

... put it right back down again. My pants were falling down. I had neglected to fasten my belt, they were riding a couple of inches low, and although I could walk without noticing anything wrong, lifting one leg high enough to get on a bike was impossible. I was hobbled.

I was in the middle of the alley, with nowhere nearby to lean my bike. I tried to lean it against me, while I used both hands to fasten my belt. But the front wheel kept turning, and rolling away from me, and I'd have to drop my belt to grab it. Then I hooked a pedal against my calf, and trapped the bike long enough to get my pants hitched up and my belt fastened. Finally in the saddle, I saw from the stopwatch on my wrist that I'd lost over a minute to these shenanigans.

And so you see why I have trouble making precise notes of start times, end times, etc. That's the first reason I'm skipping a lot of calculations. No point in making precise calculations of imprecise data. But the second reason for not calculating is that the bottom line is already clear: the training is paying off, my endurance and my speed are increasing. As I approach my 80th birthday, I'm getting stronger. That's what counts. And it feels mighty good, believe me.

I've got ten days to go. In my next post I'll touch on how I plan to use the time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

10.52 mph overall

Yesterday was a day of glitches and surprises, but the bottom line is that I beat my previous speed and rode my greatest distance. Three long loops and two short ones. And along the way I discovered that I had a two-speed bike, not a three-speed.

Details in tomorrow's post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Seventy-four miles with a newly-calibrated odometer

If I didn't know myself better I'd suspect some chicanery.

Following Leslie's directions (which are identical to those of the manufacturer, Trek) I re-calibrated the odometer (with Anne's help) and it looks like I've been riding about a mile further than I needed to on every "20-mile" loop. The length of my roll-out (circumference of my wheel) is 2184 mm. My Trek had been set to only 2045 mm. That's better than a five percent difference. That's about four miles saved out of 80. That should result in more than 20 minutes off the total time.

I'll take it! No shame!

I plan to leave at 7 am tomorrow, ride the long loop three times and the short one twice, and be done before 2:30. The weather looks great: cool, cloudy until noon, and very little wind. If that holds, I have no complaints. I didn't sleep worth a darn last night, but I've been lazing around pretty good today, and I'd say I'm pretty well rested. A good night's sleep tonight should do it.

I'll be cutting some corners off the established loops (cutting out the "loop de loop," for instance) and jotting down the new distances on my log as I go. I should be able come out pretty close to seventy-four, tomorrow --close enough to count for a training ride, anyway.

I'm really looking forward to it. And that's a good sign.

'Til tomorow..

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back on track after Saturday's abort

Rest, cool weather, and good fueling? A good night's sleeep last night? Lots of stretching over the weekend? All of the above? Anyway, I left the driveway at 7 am and finished the run at 1:38.

Three loops of 20.1 miles each, topped off with one of 6.7 miles = a tidy 67.

Strangely, I rode each of the 20.1 mile loops faster than the previous one. The first I rode in 1:48:53. The second was more than a minute and a half faster, at 1:47:22. And the third -- although I was definitely feeling more tired -- I rode in 1:46:03. These are figures from the bicycle computer, which only measures the time that the wheels are turning, not the time stopped at traffic lights, etc. But even total elapsed time, as measured by my stopwatch, showed me speeding up rather than slowing down as the ride progressed. Rounded off to the nearest second, my notes show 1:52, 1:52, and 1:50.

Could I have gone farther, at the same speed? I really can't say. I felt like I was on my last legs during the last loop, yet that was my fastest. And then I went on to ride the final 6.7 -- which has more hills than the long loop -- in 39 minutes, for an average of 10.3 mph.

I really don't understand it. But I'm not complaining.

Monday, September 12, 2011

67 miles tomorrow, under ideal conditions.

I couldn't ask for a better forecast. Fifty degrees and no wind at 7 am; 75 degrees and 3 mph wind at 2 pm. And I feel rested and ready to go.

I plan to ride the 20-mile loop three times (adding that new little "loop de loop" to accommodate my self-calibrating odometer) followed by the 7 mile loop, which will probably read out to 6.8 or so. But since the long loops will probably read out a shade more than 20, my total should be a good 47.

I only rode 42 and change Saturday, but I was working hard because of the tire going flat, so I'm going to consider it an equivalent, for training purposes, of sixty; meaning that I should be in shape to go the distance today.

That's pretty sloppy reasoning, I'll admit. But I certainly should be able to do the first sixty, averaging 10 mph. I'll make that my first task. Then I'll tackle the final 7 with whatever I have left.

I've got all my Hammer fuel mixed, and my odometer set, so it's time to get ready for orchestra rehearsal.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flat tire at 40 and all's well.

Sometimes I get so lucky it makes me nervous. Like today.

The plan was to ride three 20-mile loops to get in 60 miles, and do it in 6 hours. I didn't make it, but I feel great about it, because I'm still on track to go 67 next Tuesday or Wednesday, which was the original plan. Here's how it went.

The ride started out better than normal, with my legs feeling strong, my energy high, the temperature cool and no wind. I left at 6am, when it was just beginning to get light. It was too dark for me to read my odometer, but I know the route pretty well, now, and when I got to the spot that I recognize as 3 miles out, I glanced at my watch and saw I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule. At the Zion Lutheran Church, where I turn around, and where my odometer always reads 5.9 miles, I looked at my watch I and saw again I was ahead of schedule. (I didn't look at my odometer.) But then a few miles later, where it should have read 8.9 miles, it only read 8.4. Yikes! Where'd that half-mile go? I kept pedalling, but I was in a quandary. This was a major tactical challenge.

I've been working my way up towards 80 in 8 via measured increments -- adding 6 or 7 miles per ride, two rides per week, and holding always to the 10 mph minimum average. But if I couldn't rely on my odometer, how could I possibly gauge my progress? In fact, how could I be sure that I would be riding 80 miles on the big day? My head was full of confusion. And what had happened to my odometer, anyway?

Then I remembered that I had pumped up my tires, yesterday. The first time in a few weeks. That might explain the odometer: pumped up tires = greater circumference = fewer revolutions per mile = lower registered miles on odometer. Okay, so that was the why. But now what do I do about it?

Well, my watch was still working, and I knew I had to be back home well before 8:00, or I'd be riding slower than last Tuesday. After all, the odometer might be reading differently, but the loop was still the same loop. So I just kept up a "cruise" pace, and, since I continued to feel strong, that wasn't too hard.

I got home at 7:49, which meant that I was beating 10mph; took an 11-minute pit stop, and was on my way by 10:00. And by then I had figured out what to do. I would add an extemporanous loop the the loop (a "loop de loop") by going around the outside of a shopping center that I usually ride through. That should add about a mile. If I did that and got back by 12:00, that would mean I was maintaining 10mph even according to the new "calibration" of the odometer. I felt very satisfied with this solution, especially since I was still feeling strong. I dutifully swigged my "Perpetuem" fuel, my Gator Ade, and my ice water, and although it was getting a lot hotter, I was comfortable. Only ... somehow I didn't seem to be going as fast as I thought I ought to be. Yes, the breeze was rising, but it seemed somehow that there was something else slowing me down...

Anyway, I got back home at 9:54, with the odometer reading 20.1 miles. The loop had obviously added .9 miles. Great. Now if I could do this again, I would only be .6 miles short of 60 miles for the day as measured by the new calibration of the odometer. I grabbed a cheese sandwich from the kitchen, slathered on some sunscreen, re-set the odometer and my wristwatch, and was on my way at 10am sharp.

Once out on the street, I noticed there was something queasy about the steering. I kept going -- carefully -- trying to keep up speed while analyzing this new phenomenon. A mile later, the "thump, thump, thump" of my rear wheel go through to me. Flat! (That also explained the queasy steering.) I pulled over and called Anne, who came and got me.

So why do I feel lucky? I was close to home. Anne was there in minutes. And in those few minutes while I waited for her, I realized (a) I had never ridden stronger; (b) I had done it on a tire that was going increasingly flat, so I would clearly have ridden even stronger with a good tire; the 42 (or so) miles I had put in were enough to count for a good training session (what if it had happened 5 miles into the first loop?). So I had passed muster to stay on schedule for my next ride, and could reasonably expect myself to ride 67 miles on Tuesday.

And on top of that, Bike n' Hike in Hillsboro fixed the flat while Anne and I went out for lunch.

Analysis: I think my perceived strength gain was due to two things. First, I have been stretching very assiduously, thoughtfully, frequently (but always gently) for the past three days. As the days passed I could sense that my movements were more fluid, and there was less resistance from opposing muscles, as I moved around the house, up and down stairs, etc. Second, I think I have to give credit to Hammer Gel and Hammer Perpetuem. While chatting with John at Bike 'n Hike I saw his display of Hammer products (which I hadn't seen before, nor had his store shown up when I had searched the Hammer website for outlets) and I asked him if he had a personal opinion about them. He said he had never been a fan of such products, but on a recent exceptionally grueling long-distance ride he had used Perpetuem and had survived so well that he has to give Perpetuem credit. He shook his head. "I don't know what else could have done it," he said (or words to that effect).

So I still have to puzzle out what to do about the odometer, but in the meantime, I can take pleasure in figuring out th loop de loop, hammer, and stretch.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sixty miles in six hours before it gets hot

Tomorrow's ride is shaping up nicely. I'm riding three 20-mile loops, stopping off at home after each. It's supposed to be hot, but not too hot until mid-day, by which time I expect to be done. Best of all they're calling for little if any wind.

Starting around 7 am should have me done by 1:00 p.m. It's supposed to be only 84 degrees by then.

The "Tour de Parks" I rode in July was 64 miles long, and ended up hot -- in the mid-80's as I remember it -- by the time I got to the end, which was about 4 pm. I was taking it easy, that day, with frequent leisurely stops, so tomorrow's ride will be more demanding. But from the standpoint of heat, I learned on that long July ride that you create your own breeze by riding.

I'll be well armed with fluids -- liquid fuel drink, Gator Ade, and icewater, all ice cold as I leave, and all to be replenished at each pit stop.

The loop I ride never takes me further than 6 or 8 miles from home; I ride with my cell phone; and Anne will be the "Houston" I can call if I find I have a situation.

And I'm in good shape. I've been stretching assiduously and will continue to do so. I'm hoping to catch a nap this afternoon. And if I sleep well tonight (a challenge, because concern that I might not sleep well often makes it difficult to sleep) tomorrow should be a breeze -- self-created, of course.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

54.2 miles in 5 hrs 24 1/2 min. = 10.0216 mph

Warning: This post could prove tedious for anyone not interested in the complexities of training for a timed ride.

At first I thought I'd missed the 10 mph mark for today's ride. About a mile from the end of the final loop, a 7-miler, I had about given up.

I had started the loop a couple of minutes late. If I had started it on time -- 11:42 -- all I would have needed to do was to ride the 7 miles in 42 minutes (a 10 mph average) which would have gotten me to the end by 12:24, and that, in turn, would have given me a 10 mph average for the entire 54 miles.

But because of my late start, 42 minutes wasn't going to be good enough. I had to do it in 40 minutes or less. And a glance at my trip odometer and stopwatch (a function of my wristwatch) convinced me I wasn't gonna. As I saw the odometer come up on "6.0," my wristwatch showed 34 minutes and some seconds. That meant I was doing better than 10 mph, but not a full two minutes better. I hadn't had time to take in how many seconds more than 34 minutes had elapsed, I only knew that it was more than 34 minutes, which meant I was making up less than 2 minutes.

If I had the heart of a lion and the spirit of a champion, I would have turned on the afterburner right then and burned rubber. But I had no motivation beyond doggedly keeping my pace. The ride seemed plagued with encumbrances, anyway. The biggest slow-downer was Nature: Nature called me twice, and answering her required 8 minutes in the bathroom at the end of the first 20-mile loop, and another 3 at the end of the second. And that was what made me late starting the final loop. Then, a little over a mile into that final loop, there was the traffic light at 229th and Cornell that I love to hate, which turned red in spite of my long and hectic race to beat it. (I had seen that it was green from 100 yards away, stood on the pedals hard, determined to get there before it changed. It went to amber, and for an instant I considering charging ahead, but then decided against it, and braked to a stop, only to watch it stay amber for an insultingly, teasingly long time, sneering at me as I realized that I could easily have gotten through the intersection before it turned red. I timed it: it was red for a full one minute and 30 seconds!) Coming back across Cornell at Brookwood a while later, I miss-timed that light, and that cost me another minute. Then on a bike-and-pedestrian path near the library I came up behind three men ambling along three abreast, taking up the full width of the path. I pressed the thumb thingy on my bell, but it jammed; pressed it harder again and it rang, just as I came up on them so close I had to brake. They startled, and two of them moved to the right, and one to the left, indecisevely, while I mumbled, "'Scuse me" and wobbled at snail's pace through the narrow opening they had provided and up the path, which, of course, at this point was uphill.

And so it was that I came into the final stretch, with no oomph left and no optimism about today's time. I pulled into my driveway and grabbed my pencil to jot down the time. My stopwatch read 0:41, when I ached for it to read 0:40. Then I pressed the button that flicks it over to time of day: 12:24. I blinked. Looked again. It was actually 12:24:30. I was only 30 seconds over my deadline! How could this be?

No matter. What it is, it is, I thought, and hung up my bike, put my gear away, and took a shower. Then I came back and looked at the notes I'd made during the day, and it came clear.

First, I'd simply made a mistake about how late I was starting that final leg. I was only one minute late, not two. The note that I'd made just as I was starting it showed that it was 11:43, not 11:44. So riding it in 41 minutes was good enough to make up the time lost by the late start.

But then something even better emerged. I realized that had ridden 54.2 miles, not 54. How could this be? Well, you see, my bicycle "computer" has two odometers. One registers total miles ridden. It rounds the miles off, not showing tenths. The other is a trip odometer. It shows tenths of a mile. I always reset the first of these at the beginning of a day's ride, but I re-set the trip odometer at the beginning of each loop. And I write down what it records at the end of each loop. And today, I wrote down "20.1" at the end of each of what I've been calling the 20-mile loops. The overall odometer, however, rounded off these tenths, and showed, simply, "54".

So to get the accurate measure of my overall ride, I added the loops (20.1+7+20.1+7) and came up with 54.2. I divided that by 5 hrs. and 24.5 minutes, and voila! I did better than 10 mph for the day.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Fifty-Four Miles tomorrow, and All's Well

The ride tomorrow calls for two 20-mile loops and two 7-mile ones, for 54 total, or 7 miles more than last Saturday. Feels very do-able. Psychologically, all I have to do is what I did Saturday, (20-7-20) then add the 7-mile loop, which always feels like the easy one.

The weather looks good, starting off cool and rising to about 80 at noon, by which time I'll be back home again. Best of all, there's supposed to be little or no wind!

And I'm feeling very rested. This is my "short rest" period, only two days since my hard ride in the wind last Saturday, and I didn't expect to feel this good. Had a nap this afternoon for insurance. My legs are a bit stiff, but they haven't felt all that tired, today. We walked out for groceries and some shopping, probably 2.5 miles in all, and I've been up and down stairs all day.

I've got my Hammer endurance fuel measured out, my odometer re-set to zero, and my alarm clock set.

So it's time to eat my spinach (I sautee a big frying pan of it and roll it in a wrap. Joe Friel says spinach builds muscles!) and have a glass or two of wine, get in my jammies and onto the couch with Anne to watch some Netflix on her laptop.

It's been a big weekend. The story in the Oregonian generated no end of pleasant exchanges, in e-mail and in person, and when I go to sleep tonight I expect I'll be feeling not anxiety, but a warm fuzzy glow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

As I write this, Leslie Newman -- a friend from an earlier life who has been coaching me via e-mail since last spring -- has no doubt finished his 100-mile ride for the day, the "Tour de Valley" in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I've lost track of the number of 100-milers ("centuries") he's ridden this year. (And his average speed for them is usually over 20 mph.) In between his centuries, he takes short rides -- 3o or 40 miles -- after work in the evenings.

This is a guy who, several years ago, was in an auto accident and messed up his knee so bad his doctor told him that from then on he'd better settle for riding his bike no more than an easy five or six miles at a time.

Leslie has been giving me unstinting coaching and support from 3000 miles away ever since he learned about what I was hoping to do. A small example of his determination to support my effort is the "care package" from Hammer Nutrition Products he shipped me last week. (Extreme Endurance Fuel, Rapid Endurance Fuel, Recovery Drink, Electrolites.) I had told him that Hammer products weren't much in evidence in my neighborhood -- so he shipped me a bunch. (I tried some of them out last Saturday, and I think they're going to cure me of my peanut-butter sandwiches.)

But more important than the care package is the information he's given me, drawing on his experience to answer questions on subjects from tire pressure to recovery time, from pacing to hill climbing. Any time I had a question, I'd ask Leslie, and he'd fire back an answer. He recommended a couple of great books on cycling (such as Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible) and countless useful websites. But most of all, by fielding all my questions, he's enabled me to compress a few years' experience into a few months, and in this particular project of mine, time is literally of the essence.

I've known Leslie for ... let's see ... about 40 years. He grew up with my kids, in rural Virginia. We lived on opposite sides of a creek about a quarter of a mile wide, and Leslie used to swim over to visit. He was a great kid, and we were always glad to see him. He'd ride his bicycle with our kids, too. They didn't go to school together, because we lived in different counties, but they spent a lot of time together, and when the idea of a bicycle trip together came up one summer, Anne and I gave our blessings. Somehow, we felt that Kevin, Sean, and Leslie could look out for themselves. I believe they went all the way to West Virginia. The only details I remember was that Kevin's bike kept breaking down, and that they had a fantastic tail-wind on the way home.

Anyway, I figured it was time my readers knew a little more about the "Leslie" who's been signing those useful comments to my blog over the past few weeks. My "secret weapon" should be a secret no longer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

47 miles with only 2 minutes to spare. Wind sucks!

"Rain or Shine? No! Shine Only!"

That, or words to that effect, is the advice of my son Sean, regarding my Birthday Ride. He's tough, and he's no stranger to endurance feats, so his suggestion that I should not be bull-headed about riding in the rain carries a lot of weight with me. When still in his teens, he rode out of our driveway one morning, pushing his rat-trap pedals with his bare feet, and came back in the evening announcing that he'd been to Richmond and back -- 65 miles away. He and I had a five day cycle tour through Nova Scotia when I was in my 40's, and to say I couldn't keep up with him doesn't begin to tell it. After moving out to the Portland area, he traded his bike for running shoes and ran Hood-to-Coast for Nationwide until sidelined by a brain tumor and ensuing illnesses.

So when he suggests I plan to allow myself to be rained out, I listen. Especially when I remember the grueling 35 miles in the rain I rode last July 18. No, I don't think I want to try to do that for 80 miles.

And after this morning, I was wondering whether I should be ready to postpone on account of wind conditions. Because the breeze I was riding in today offered a major challenge. On one stretch where I normally travel about 12 mph, I was heading directly into the wind (East North-East) and I was struggling to go 6. I figured the breeze to be between 10 and 15 mph, and when I got home I checked accuweather, which put it at 13, so I was probably close to right. I was riding a loop, so there were times when the wind was (diagonally) at my back, actually helping me, some, pushing me along. (And there were times toward the end, when the temperature approached 90, when it was undeniably refreshing.) All in all, though I think it took a toll. You'd think that the headwind I encountered going east and the tailwind going west would cancel each other out, but it sure didn't feel that way.

But no -- I can't postpone because of wind. I can't postpone, period. We've got other commitments starting the weekend following my birthday (the 28th), and I'll need the preceding days to get ready. I could arguably postpone the ride one day, but I have an orchestra rehearsal on the 29th, and I'm pretty sure I'd be too tired to play my violin the night after I rode 80 miles, so that won't do. (I'll be missing three rehearsals in October as it is, and I can't afford to miss a fourth.) So I'll just have to handle what wind there is as best I can, and hope for the best.

Today's ride was successful, under the circumstances. Forty-seven miles in elapsed time of 4 hrs 40 minutes = 10.07 mph. Not much of a cushion, there. Doesn't leave much leeway. However I was feeling stronger than last Tuesday, and I think I handled the wind better than I would have a few days ago. So I'm going to go on the assumption that the training is working, that I'm still gaining strength and endurance. I'm on track.

Can anybody tell me: is September usually windy in these parts?

And if any experienced cyclists reading that can tell me: Is it my imagination that the tailwind doesn't make up for the headwind, or is it real?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Forty-seven miles tomorrow, and the "Cycle of Anxiety."

I'm feeling good. Rested. Legs are tight, but I'm still stretching, and I have reason to hope that they won't give me trouble. The bad knee is quiescent.

Casey Parks put a story in the Oregonian (see "Related Links" on the right-hand edge of your screen) that sums up what I'm trying to do here much better than I've been able to, in all these posts. I hope you have time to read it. She's a gifted writer. She tends to put me in a better light than I deserve, but she catches the essence of what I'm involved in: taking what steps I can to stem the encroaching frailty associated with advanced age.

Tomorrow, I expect to do the 20 mile loop shown above followed by a 7 mile loop and then the 20-miler again. That will make it 7 more miles than last Tuesday. I plan to take a short break after each loop, but be back on my bike in time to maintain a 10 mph average. The weather looks good, starting off cool, and only getting up to the high seventies by noon. I hope I remember to put on sun block, because it's going to be a bright one.

I've become aware of what I think of as a "Cycle of Anxiety." I think of what's ahead of me, the task of riding longer and harder than I ever have, not knowing whether I'll meet my goals or not, not knowing whether I'll have that ghastly feeling of the body simply refusing to respond to what I'm asking of it. High anxiety, and it often hits me as I'm riding. But then -- so far, at least -- a remarkable thing happens: I start realizing I'm not feeling so bad after all, and I'm actually feeling stronger halfway through the ride than I did at the beginning. To be followed quickly by a sensation of impending exhaustion, during which I wonder if I'm dehydrated, or need more fuel, or simply have used up all those mysterious reserves which often lurk beneath a surface of panic. Then a warm glow may creep over my legs, for no reason at all, calling to mind that elusive "second wind" which so often seems like no more than a myth until it suddenly arrives, miracle-like.

That's a very sketchy description, but I hope it gets across the way anxiety comes in cycles, alternating with sensations of well-being and empowerment. And what's interesting to me is that every swoop in this roller-coaster comes as a surprise. I can never seem to tell five minutes ahead of time how I'm about to feel.

I'm telling you this to help me remember it tomorrow. I've ridden 47 miles before, but never at the pace I intend to keep up tomorrow. So, yes, I'm anxious. But I'm also excited, because I hope to find that I've gotten stronger, so that -- overall -- I'll ride these 47 miles as easily as I did the 40 last Tuesday. That would be mighty fine. That's what I want to remember during those periods of anxiety tomorrow.