Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Statistical Review

My 2015 was a triumph of consistency. I rode 6,236 miles to establish a new personal record, beating last year’s mark by exactly 1,000 miles. I rode on 215 out of 365 days this year, beating my old record of 204 (set in 2012). But that works out to just 29 miles per ride, which is no great feat. My longest ride was 69 miles, one of only six metric centuries. Getting to 6,236 was a slow, steady climb. Here’s how it happened, month-by-month:

241 January PR
050 February
538 March PR
519 April
691 May
816 June PR
884 July
826 August PR
675 September
501 October
350 November PR
145 December

According to Garmin, I rode for a total of 396 hours, 9 minutes, 6 seconds. That’s almost 59 more hours than last year (337:16:12).

I competed in 10 WCA cyclocross races and 3 mountain bike races (2 WEMS, 1 WORS). Moving up to Cat 3 for cyclocross—which in Wisconsin means racing against Cat 1 and Cat 2 guys as well—was an interesting challenge for me … with no noteworthy results. But my victory in the Reforestation Ramble mountain bike race was enormously satisfying!

For what it’s worth, I set new best times on my most often repeated training rides. In April I covered the Eisenbahn State Trail from Main Street in Campbellsport to my home in West Bend in 48:25 (15.6 miles @ 19.33 mph), and in July I went from my house to Campbellsport in 51:17 (15.6 miles @ 18.25 mph). Those were cyclocross bike efforts on a mostly-gravel trail. In September I recorded my fastest-ever lap on the mountain bike trails at New Fane: 24:27.

I spent just 2 hours on the indoor trainer this year, and I’m totally OK with that. The mild weather of January 2015 called me outside more than ever before. I might have done more on the trainer in February, but by then I was scrambling to find a new job. I went hiking just 7 times in 2015, down from 12 last year, and I went snowshoeing just 2 times, down from 8 times in 2014. Those stats, too, were influenced by the greater frequency of my bike rides. I completed 124 upper body strength workouts, down from 135 last year. In November I had a little crisis of motivation in the home gym. Things are back to normal now.

I hesitate to set any mileage goals for 2016. This year’s grand total went so far beyond my previous record that I may never reach it again, much less surpass it. Given that the bike riding will more-or-less take care of itself, maybe the only number I should worry about is my weight. As 2015 ends I am 193 pounds. I was 198 on this date last year. In 2015 my weight ranged from a high of 204 in March to a low of 185 in November. As extreme as that sounds, it’s normal for me. Gaining weight since the end of the cyclocross season—especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas in the interim—was not a surprise. My first challenge in 2016 will be to hold off any additional pounds!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

N+1 … -X?

This deep into December, every outdoor ride could be the last outdoor ride of the year. Today’s ride was just my fifth this month and the first on my BMC since November 3. Usually I’m done with the open road by now, opting instead for routes through heavily-wooded parks as a concession to the wind and to limited daylight. Such rides are better on the cyclocross bike or the 29er. Today was dry and relatively warm, so 30 miles on the road was the right call. It’s good to have options.

Lately I have been thinking that maybe I have one too many options.

Do you know the punchline to the joke about the ideal number of bicycles any given cyclist should have? It’s N+1, where N is the current number of bicycles in the cyclist’s inventory. I have four bikes: one for mountain biking, one for cyclocross, and two for the road. Since getting my BMC at the beginning of 2014, I have ridden my Raleigh just six times: four times last year and only twice in 2015. On each of those occasions I might have chosen the BMC instead. The Raleigh is a great bike, but it’s redundant.

For 2016 I would like to have a new cyclocross bike, something with a lighter frame, disc brakes, and maybe a 1x11 drivetrain. That’s no small expense, so I’m thinking about selling the Raleigh to offset a chunk of it. And there is a good case for selling my current cyclocross bike too. After all, if I didn’t ride two road bikes then why should I expect to need two cyclocross bikes? By itself, neither the Raleigh nor the Diamondback will yield enough cash to pay for a new cyclocross bike. Selling both would still fail to cover the entire cost, but it would get me respectably close. In 2012 I sold two bikes for which I no longer had a clear need, and I made enough money from those sales to buy my 29er.

I like bikes—that should be pretty obvious—but I am no collector. I don’t want a garage full of them. In truth I probably could get by with just a cyclocross bike and a mountain bike. For now, at least, I have no plans to unload my BMC. It’s too nice, and though I ignored it for almost seven weeks I was quickly reminded today why it is the bike I ride the most.

Today’s ride brought me to 6,210 miles, year-to-date. With just 26 more I will be 1,000 miles ahead of last year. It would be kind of neat to say that I beat my previous personal record by 1,000 miles. The week ahead should be warm enough for a little more riding. Minor goals are still goals, after all.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Apostates

We’re only two weeks from the end of 2015, my 12th year as a dedicated cyclist. As I have noted before, this journey really began in 2003 but I don’t count that year. I wasn’t a cyclist in 2003; I was just a guy on a bike. When I make dinner, am I a chef? When I put a bandage on a skinned knee, am I a doctor? Of course not.

By late summer 2003, I had developed an appreciation for riding that wasn’t there at the start. I knew that in 2004 “getting a little exercise” wouldn’t be good enough. But there was no dramatic moment of conversion, no Road to Damascus vision. Cycling as a vocation—and assuredly it is, though I derive no income from it—presented itself slowly. And it showed up later in life than it might have. In 2003 I was 38 years old, an age at which many people are settled into comfortable routines that don’t easily accommodate new passions.

My passion for cycling emerged at a time when many of my new friends and acquaintances were already losing their enthusiasm for the sport. Their greatest successes were behind them and they were dealing with their decline … some with more grace than others. A new world was opening for me, so of course my enthusiasm was high. Twelve years on—or 13, whatever—I am still discovering cycling, still making fitness and performance gains, and still looking to the future. Some of my friends, though, are done.

What makes people walk away from cycling? The common thread seems to be that they no longer can perform at the level they once knew. And when they go, what makes them go so completely? It’s one thing to give up racing, but quite another to give up riding altogether. How sad that seems.

My own path to competitive cycling was a long one. I was 41 years old at the 2006 Omro Classic, the now-defunct Wisport race in which I made my debut. And then I merely dabbled in racing until 2011, at which time I added cyclocross and mountain biking to the mix. For the last five seasons I have been “one of the guys” and I can’t imagine giving that up.

Three years ago I walked away from softball, a game I had loved since 1982. First it took a back seat to cycling, then it became something in which I no longer could find enjoyment. I still loved the sport and I still could play well, but the composition of my team was changing in a way I couldn’t support. Switching teams might have extended that career, but I was content to walk away and reallocate the time to cycling. And there is a team aspect to cycling, but I could enjoy the sport without it. Going solo as a softball player doesn’t work. Going solo as a cyclist is almost inevitable.

But not in 2016. I remain committed to racing and to Team Pedal Moraine. For as long as I continue to race I hope to be part of a team. After that, I hope to keep riding, and to remain a fan of bicycle racing, and to continue to be an advocate for the sport. It’s the closest thing I have to a religious calling, and too beautiful to betray.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Presenting The 2016 Cheesehead Roubaix

The 7th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix will begin at Newburg Fireman’s Park on Sunday, April 24, at 9 a.m.  Inspired by Spring Classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Cheesehead Roubaix is a 63-mile ride that features almost 10 miles of dirt and gravel. The ride will test your fitness with rough road conditions and about 2,000 feet of climbing.

Cheesehead Roubaix is free of charge, but please consider making a voluntary contribution to the Newburg Fire Department to show your appreciation for the use of its facility. There will be a donations jar in the parking lot prior to the ride. Last year we collected $1,044. Thank You! According to the fire department, portable toilets will be available at the park—that’s a new amenity for 2016—and it looks like there will be beverages for sale at the concessions stand when the ride is done.

There will be a mid-ride rest stop courtesy of our friends from BELGIANWERKX. Please let us know you plan to attend so that we can ensure there’s enough food and drink for everyone. Join the fun at the Facebook event page, send me email or leave a comment below.

Moroder Photography will be on hand again to preserve your Cheesehead Roubaix memories. Check out these awesome images from last year!

Cheesehead Roubaix is designed for self-sufficient cyclists. The rest stop will be your only support. The ride uses only open public roads and park paths. You are responsible for your own safety and conduct, and you are expressly not exempt from Wisconsin traffic laws. Represent the sport well. Please visit the Cheesehead Roubaix website and print out your own copy of the cuesheet and map. The website also offers a data file for Garmin GPS devices.

See you on April 24!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Picture Of Boring And Gray

The only thing worse than riding on days like these … is not riding on days like these.

We’re in another one of those weather funks that are common to Washington County: day after day of gloomy clouds, temperatures in the 40s, and a sensation of dampness even when there’s no rain. Last week I rode my bike for just 3 hours. This week I rode my bike for just 3 hours. I’m calling it “training” but it probably isn’t. My week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday, but there’s no reason to think I’m going to ride tomorrow. Looks like we’re going to have an all-day soaker. Could be worse: could be snow.

With my outdoor activity level falling precipitously, I have been turning my attention to the smallest details of my life in an effort to stave off abject boredom. Two weeks ago I was almost giddy with delight when I made a new label for my home’s circuit breaker panel. Today I discarded all of my old audio cassettes, a dusty pile of junk that warranted only a few MP3 replacements. On Monday I will go to city hall to pay my property tax bill, and won’t that be fun? I’m also thinking about going to the hardware store to make another set of house keys, but I’m not sure my heart can take it.

Back on Nov. 19, I mentioned that I was getting into reading again. I have knocked out 4 books in the last month and I expect to finish 1-2 more before the end of the year. No Oscar Wilde, though; I am working through the African adventure novels of Sir Henry Rider Haggard … and it just occurred to me that my choice might have been inspired subconsciously by a desire for hot, sunny weather. Around here, we won’t see anything like that for months.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Nicki Lock Rocks Jingle Cross!

If you don’t think of Iowa as one of America’s bike racing hot spots, then you don’t know Jingle Cross: three days of racing, including a UCI C1 race for the pros on Saturday. What does C1 mean? It means heavy hitters like defending national champions Jeremy Powers and Katie Compton show up in search of prize money and UCI points that will be useful later at the world cyclocross championships. World and national championships aside, C1 events are second in prestige only to World Cup races. North America has just one of those: CrossVegas. Jingle Cross wants to join that illustrious company in 2016. If that happens, you'll see not just the top domestic professionals racing in Iowa City, but also the top international pros.

Of course, not everyone is a pro and Jingle Cross attracts a big field of dedicated amateurs. Many of my friends and rivals were in action over the weekend, but nobody put up a result as impressive as West Bend’s own Nicki Lock (Belgianwerkx). On Saturday, Nicki won the women’s Cat 2 race … in familiar company. Sharing the podium with her were Delafield’s Heidi Beck (Twin Six / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) and Belmont’s Kayla Doan (KS Energy Services / MOSH / Team Wisconsin). Heidi is our state champion for 2015. Nicki had not beaten her all year, and Nicki was just 1-6 against Kayla. But on a muddy course on Saturday, Nicki had the right stuff. Congratulations!