Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A Statistical Review

It was a good year, not a great year.

In 2019, my 16th season as a cyclist, I rode 162 times for a total of 4,557 miles. That’s my 8th-highest ride total and my 10th-highest mileage total, all-time. Last year I rode 183 times for a total of 5,358 miles, so the drop-off this year was kind of like wiping out the entire month of July. But in last year’s recap I predicted lower totals for 2019, and I did surpass my goal of 3,087 miles, so there’s that.

I did 1 gravel road race and 6 cyclocross races in 2019, numbers in which I am disappointed. The cyclocross season was cold and wet, and I’m not one of those people who thinks that’s how cyclocross should be. I fully expect to race cyclocross again next fall … when I can live with the conditions. Gravel, though, might be much more of a focal point in 2020. My racing schedule is only beginning to fill out. But mountain biking probably is not part of my plans. WORS is switching to a mostly-Saturday calendar that doesn’t fit well with my work schedule, and WEMS has always been a Saturday series. Gravel and road events may dominate my 2020 until the cyclocross season begins.

My “official” mileage goal for the new season will be a very modest 3,530, the number I need to reach 75,000 lifetime miles. Unofficially, I’m expecting a big year. I am shooting for 13 metric centuries in 2020 to bring my lifetime total to 100. I rode only 5 metric centuries this year, so 13 won’t be an easy target.

Outdoor cycling is the biggest component of my fitness regimen, but it’s not the only activity. Hiking, rucking, and snowshoeing kept me moving on 10 occasions in 2019 when the weather wouldn’t permit cycling. On 9 other bad weather dates, I turned to the turbo trainer in the home gym. I hit the weights 138 times to keep the upper body strong. I avoided sickness and injury all year, and I never had more than a couple of consecutive days off from some kind of athletic activity.

So, yeah: good but not great. My challenge for the remainder of the winter is to find more goals beyond racing. That’s how I will ensure a great 2020.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Missing Only The Sunshine

OK, surely this 25-mile solo effort was the last bike ride of 2019. We cracked 50° for the fourth time in the last eight days, but we’re expecting an accumulating snowfall tomorrow and then a cold and windy New Year’s Eve. I’m done. I’ll post my year-end statistical summary on Tuesday or Wednesday.

This would have been a good day to take a camera along. I saw fog over every body of water, a Milwaukee River rushing with far greater than normal speed thanks to last night’s rain, a trio of workers in T-shirts putting a roof on a new house, and, strangest of all, entire families riding bicycles on the Eisenbahn State Trail. It felt like April out there, even riding past an abandoned but still snow-covered Sunburst ski hill … more’s the pity.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

If This Is Winter, Then Bring It On!

Taking it all in at Glacial Blue Hills! (Nathan Patton photo)

In West Bend, today’s high of 53° broke the old record for this date: 52° on December 22, 1957. The average high for this date is only 29°. Today was the first 50° day since November 21, and that was the only 50° day in November. Today may prove to be the only 50° day in December; we’ll see what Thursday brings.

As I hope you would expect of me, I spent the day outdoors. In the morning I hiked the Ice Age Trail from Washington Street to Glacial Blue Hills and back, covering almost 4 miles in about 1.5 hours. That’s not a bad effort on rocky, up-and-down terrain that still wasn’t completely free of ice and snow. In the afternoon I rode my cyclocross bike around town … not fast, not far, but as much as I felt like doing. I would have been more ambitious if not for the brisk wind that always seemed to be holding me back.

Above-average daytime highs are in the forecast every day between now and next Sunday, so there should be additional opportunities for outdoor adventure. I’m going to soak it up, but I’m not going to do structured workouts. I will ride if I want to ride, hike if I want to hike, and not worry too much about my statistics. It’s just nice to be outside this late in the year.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Week 1 Of … Let’s Say 15

During warm weather months, Saturday mornings can be occasions for bike rides, bike races, yard work … any number of outdoor activities. But during cold weather months, Saturday mornings are nothing special. Even today—a very nice day for December 21—the morning was significantly colder than the afternoon, and I’m always going to choose to be outside for the warmest hours of the day if I can.

So, I did wait until late afternoon to ride my bike today, but I didn’t waste the morning. When my overnight work shift ended I checked into the company’s fitness room for an upper body strength training session. My workout looked a lot like my home gym routine. The difference, though, is significant. At home, all of my weightlifting moves are “push” moves. It’s hard to do “pull” moves with free weights. But the big cables-and-pulleys machine at work makes these moves easy. I’m talking about things like rows and lat pulldowns, centerpiece moves for strong back muscles. And hamstring curls … can’t forget those. These are exercises I have missed for a long time. I’m going to give them my Saturday mornings between now and, I think, March 28. By then I should be riding the bike outdoors on a regular basis again, and it will be time to update the strength training program to fit my new cycling objectives.

There’s a stationary bike in the fitness room. There’s also a pair of treadmills. Don’t know if I’ll bother with the stationary bike when I have a pretty nice turbo trainer setup at home, but I might put in some treadmill time. I don’t have that option at home anymore, and with the incline cranked up it’s not a bad change-of-pace workout.

I had the fitness room to myself today and that’s not likely to change, as my office is only sparsely staffed on weekends. That’s more than OK by me. Even when I have no other plans for my Saturday, I won’t want any delays in executing my morning workout.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Remembering The Washington County Bicycle Club

Here’s Jimmy on a WCBC ride in 2014. (Denny Bolinger photo)

Five years ago today, the Washington County Bicycle Club voted itself out of existence. Nothing has sprung up to take its place on the road, and locally-organized group rides are now exceedingly rare. But there’s hope, says Jim Scharrer, who was perhaps the WCBC’s most enthusiastic member.

“I have wondered if the old WCBC group would like second Saturday show-and-go rides during summer,” Scharrer said recently. “And maybe there would be interest in a Thursday night ‘Bikes, Bands and Brews’ ride starting and finishing at Music on Main in downtown West Bend.”

Since the demise of the WCBC, Scharrer has continued to ride locally as a member of Milwaukee’s Cream City Cycle Club.

“They schedule Washington County rides every year,” Scharrer said, “and they are great at planning camping and touring events.”

Milwaukee’s Bay View Bicycle Club also makes occasional visits to Washington County, and the Ozaukee Bicycle Club includes our roads on almost all of its weekly rides. But Scharrer says it’s not these dedicated road clubs that offer the greatest potential for growth.

“Metro Milwaukee Mountain Bikers has filled the (Washington County) bike club gap,” Scharrer says, highlighting the group’s strong advocacy for the development of Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area as a true mountain bike park. “And there is a great high school mountain biking program/team. Maybe some of these riders will find their way onto the road.”

Offering an extensive mix of on-road and off-road options, the newly-adopted Washington County Bikeway & Trail Network Plan also offers hope for the growth of local cycling, Scharrer says.

“The Washington County plan has benefits for all types of cyclists. Washington County and the surrounding area has some great low-traffic, well-maintained country roads. The Eisenbahn State Trail developed into a handy, safe way to access those scenic side roads from West Bend. Now, the county plan ties in perfectly with the Route of the Badger. Tie this into Dodge County and the progress being made on the Gold Star Memorial Trail connecting Mayville to Beaver Dam and the Wild Goose State Trail, and wow! Thanks to the people advocating and helping to connect all the trails.”

Enthusiasm for the bike park project at Glacial Blue Hills has led to a popular mountain bike ride there on Tuesdays, organized by Pedal Moraine. The new network of paved bike paths in the county plan may lead to group rides of a very different kind, something that is neither mountain biking nor traditional road riding. Whatever may come, as long as people are enjoying themselves on bikes, you can be sure Scharrer will welcome it. But when asked about his most enduring memory of the old Washington County Bike Club, he recalls perhaps the most hard-core ride in its history.

“The Alps of Ashford Ride!” Scharrer remembers: October 10, 2009. “Snow flurries, hills, more hills, scrapping the cuesheet and following bike tire tracks in the slush, post-ride beers at the Riverside Brewery … good times with good folks!”

It was like that sometimes, and maybe it could be like that again.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Slow But Still Moving

Partly inspired by a pair of really entertaining cyclocross races over in Belgium this weekend, and partly inspired to ride on what could be the last 40° day for months, today I got out for an hour and a half to do the ride you see on the map above. It wasn’t statistically impressive, but it didn’t need to be. I just wanted to ride.

Yesterday’s Ethias Cross in Essen and today’s Superprestige in Zonhoven featured outstanding competition in both the women’s and the men’s elite races. Watching them definitely influenced my choice today: I wanted the cyclocross bike to take me wherever my mood pointed. In Forest View Park, Quaas Creek Park, and Royal Oaks Park, I got to enjoy turf trails that would have been no fun with road tires.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Look Sharp!

I still have every pair of cycling shoes I’ve ever bought, but that will change with tomorrow’s garbage collection now that I have these new Shimano SH-XC501 beauties. These will be the go-to, everyday shoes for training. I expect to race in them too … perhaps only in fair weather until the “new” is gone. There might be a new helmet in my future too, but even without it I will be steppin’ out as one well-dressed cyclist in 2020!