|Summer good. Winter bad.|
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
Moments ago the Common Council of the City of West Bend approved Bike Friendly West Bend’s proposal for a signed and painted bike route. Known at least for now as the “orange loop,” this route will take shape in 2021 and will serve as a model for a larger network of routes that the city will consider if the orange loop proves popular with riders.
Saturday, December 19, 2020
|The route includes a spur to serve Ridge Run Park and UW–Milwaukee’s Washington County campus.|
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Today was the first 50° day in almost two weeks, so I rode my bike for the first time since November 9—yes, a full month ago—and kept alive a streak of riding at least once per month that began in February 2014. The ride wasn’t fast or far, but it was fun. I plan to ride again tomorrow on what could be another 50° day before winter weather returns for the weekend.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
If you follow pro cyclists like Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter on social media, then you’ll see them employing a massive array of cross-training techniques to target very specific muscle groups. Abdominals, for example. No amount of cycling will give you strong abs, but having strong abs will make you a better cyclist. Kate and Nino work on their legs in the gym too, but it’s their dedication to the “little” things like balance, stability, and flexibility that I find inspiring.
Over the last 13 months I added a weighted rucksack, resistance bands, and a Garmin Forerunner to my arsenal of exercise tools. I’m kind of proud of that, as it demonstrates a willingness to try new things in pursuit of greater fitness. I will have done something like 25-30 ruck marches by the end of this year and now that I’m into my winter strength training program I am using the resistance bands three days per week. But it’s the Garmin Forerunner that really could be a game changer.
Pardon the pun.
By uploading all of my walks, hikes, ruck marches, and snowshoe treks to Garmin Connect, the Forerunner allows me to quantify what I couldn’t quantify before. And because I can quantify those activities, I can compete against my own numbers or against other people. I haven’t yet joined the Strava and/or Zwift craze to make a game of my cycling activities, and although I have used my Garmin Edge to access Garmin Connect for years I have used its game features only incidentally. When Garmin Connect has informed me that I earned an achievement badge, my reaction has been something like, “Um, OK.”
Garmin Connect badges are little rewards for meeting challenges and they have point values based on difficulty. Some badges can be earned only once while others can be earned as many times as the challenge is met—e.g., your first 5-mile bike ride is worth 1 point while every 100-mile ride is worth 8. Points allow for competition between users, and here’s how I stack up against my friends right now:
There’s definitely a whimsical videogame quality to this system and I never took it seriously as a cyclist, but now I’m reconsidering it. For me, cycling is its own reward. My other activities are too, but not to the same extent. I could use a little motivation and Garmin badges are exactly that. So, for the first time ever, I am actively pursuing one:
And Garmin Connect gives me an easy way to track my progress:
That’s kind of neat, isn’t it? It’s kind of silly too, but I don’t pay anything to use Garmin Connect and if the pursuit of badges gets me to exercise more and/or in different ways, then what’s the harm? I hasten to add, however, that I won’t be giving myself credit for normal daily activities. I could wear my Forerunner all day and capture my steps through the aisles of the grocery store or behind a lawnmower or in any number of mundane situations, but that’s not what I bought the device to do. The idea is to do more than what is required by daily life and become better than I was before. So, game on!
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
We’ve reached the final month of 2020. I can safely predict that in these 31 days we won’t see any major changes to bicycling infrastructure in West Bend. And that means the city’s 2020 Park and Open Space Plan—a lengthy set of objectives, guidelines, and recommendations adopted way back on March 17, 2008—will have missed many of its targets. Now, municipalities make long-range plans all the time, and in this case the completion of the plan was necessary to keep the city eligible for certain state and federal grants. It’s hard to say how much of the plan was expected to reach implementation and how much was just pro forma busywork. But let’s not get stuck on that; let’s simply look at what might have been for bicycling in West Bend versus what is.
In the 2020 plan, a section called “Bicycle and Pedestrian Route and Trail System” proposed one big idea that lives on: a partnership with Washington County, other adjoining governments, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. That partnership led to the creation of Washington County’s master bike plan in May 2019. Of course, the new Washington County plan itself is only a plan. In a few years I might be poking fun at it for not going anywhere. But at least for now I can hope that it will fare better than the city’s gaze into the future. Flipping through the 100+ pages of the city’s 2020 plan, the first really tantalizing thing we see is Map 27:
The Eisenbahn State Trail, shown in purple, was already the centerpiece of local bicycling infrastructure by 2008. The Riverfront Parkway is there too … shown in yellow and somewhat hard to pick out from a yellow background. All those wonderful red lines are bike routes that the city imagined we would have by now.
Solid red lines represent off-street routes, and just think about how amazing they would be! Imagine a 4-mile trail connecting Park Site O and Quaas Creek Park, intersecting with the Eisenbahn and with the Riverfront Parkway. Imagine filling the small gap in the Riverfront Parkway between Brookview Drive and River Road. Imagine a Milwaukee River Parkway extending eastbound toward Newburg and Ozaukee County. Imagine a Four Lakes Parkway taking you through Lac Lawrann Conservancy, where bikes are not welcome on the existing trails. Imagine a Wingate Creek Parkway as an alternative to busy River Road and Trenton Road, providing safe and enjoyable riding on the city’s east side. We got none of it.
Broken red lines represent on-street routes, including portions of Rusco Drive, 18th Avenue, Decorah Road, University Drive, Chestnut Street, and Park Avenue, all of which were incorporated in the plan Bike Friendly West Bend presented to the Common Council in December 2017. Appendix A, Objective 5 of the 2020 plan even suggested route markers for bicycling. Bike Friendly West Bend wanted the same thing, but the bike routes initiative failed to find enough support.
We got a few improvements the 2020 plan didn’t anticipate, things like bike racks throughout the city and a few well-placed bike repair stands, but those efforts were driven by Bike Friendly West Bend and a handful of dedicated private citizens, not by city government. The most notable bike/ped achievement of government since 2008 was the construction of a sidewalk on River Road between Sand Drive and the high school parking lot. That’s a nice safety enhancement for the kids, but it’s hardly a network of non-motorized routes connecting every part of town.
So, now what? Should we forget about the 2020 plan when 2020 expires, or should we double down? It’s a very different looking Common Council than the one from December 2017, with new members eager to build trust and goodwill with their constituents. Will 2021 be the right time to make another push for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Last night, for the first time ever, I wore my Garmin Forerunner as I slept. So, when I awoke today I was treated to a mountain of data. Whether any of it proves useful remains to be seen.
The big number, as far as I’m concerned, is the total amount of sleep. If you had told me last night that I could expect almost 7 hours of sleep, then I would have thanked you heartily because that is not typical. But it was Saturday night and I had had a fairly active and yet not stressful day. I do sleep better on weekends, but 7 hours is still really good for me. The deep/light breakdown, though, leaves something to be desired.
I can’t account for that moment of wakefulness shortly before 6 a.m. Being awake briefly at 6:30 was the result of my alarm clock. I had set it for that time in hopes of finding a live stream of today’s UCI Cyclocross World Cup race, but I quickly abandoned that effort and went back to sleep.
My overnight resting heart rate was 40 beats per minute:
From about 12:30 until about 1 a.m., the watch measured my heart rate at 33 bpm. I think that’s a data collection error; maybe I shifted my arm and the watch wasn’t making good contact with my skin … I don’t know. It’s certainly an anomaly. The long periods at 40 bpm argue strongly for the accuracy of that measurement. And 40 bpm is a number I have seen before in my own manual sampling, while 33 bpm is not. The highest number on the chart is 67 bpm, the result of jumping out of bed to silence the alarm clock. I know heart rate is a very individual thing and that it can be affected by a big variety of factors, but in general a low resting heart rate is a good indicator of fitness. So, I’m happy with 40 bpm … happy, but not surprised.
Now the question is what to do with this data. Are these just numbers, interesting but trivial, or by collecting this kind of data over time can I identify opportunities to improve my sleep and thereby improve not just my athletic performance, but also my life in general?
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Further to Tuesday’s post about getting cozy in advance of what promises to be another long winter, today was Deep Cleaning Day in the home gym. Basically, move everything out and then sweep/vacuum/mop until the last speck of dust is gone and the whole house smells like Pine-Sol. This area hasn’t been cleaned so thoroughly since the day I moved in, and it wasn’t too much of a hassle. I should repeat this process at least once a year. It’s immediately rewarding.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Things have been weird in the week since you last heard from me. Weird, but wonderful.
Late in the afternoon last Wednesday, my current employer announced an immediate return to working from home. I wasted no time driving to Brookfield to retrieve my company-issued laptop, as it is necessary for many of the tasks I perform. I’m now in my last two weeks of employment with that company and I’m delighted that all of it will be spent at home. At the end of the month I will return the laptop and my card key and that will be that. Working from home for these final days will have saved me a total of 11 roundtrip drives: 726 miles, about $50 in gasoline, and roughly 12 hours in the car. That's not to be despised.
And my new job will start at home. How long that will last is anyone’s guess … probably through winter, at least. Sooner or later we’ll get a handle on the pandemic and then I’ll most likely be asked to report to the office. But in the meantime I want to be comfortable. The nesting instinct has been strong lately and this is not the first time I’ve felt it. During my first round of working from home, 2011-2015, I recognized that some things about the house that had been OK when I saw them only occasionally were intolerable when I was exposed to them constantly. I was motivated to make a number of changes that resulted in a cleaner, safer, more comfortable home. The newest manifestation of that impulse already has led to changes in the family room and the home gym, areas immediately adjacent to the home office in which I spend so much time. New furnishings will make the family room a place where I can really relax. That’s something I do poorly and it hurts my sleep, which in turn hurts my athletic performance. So, I’m going to allow myself some down time … every once in a while. The changes in the home gym are less substantial: a little cleaning and decluttering to make workout time a real no-nonsense event. I don’t want to linger in the home gym; I want to get the job done.
Three weeks into my winter strength training program, I’m already seeing progress. Week One hurt, but by the end of April I should be a monster. This winter will be mostly about fixing areas that I have injured or neglected over the years, shoulders and back especially. Right now I don’t have a plan for winter turbo trainer rides. I’m not sure how much I’m going to commit to bike-specific fitness. There’s still no reason to think bike racing will return to normal in 2021, and without that incentive I will struggle to convince myself to train like a racer. It’s OK though. Even if I avoid the trainer altogether this winter, I’ll come back strong next spring if I stick to my strength training program, sort out my sleep issues, and make a couple of fairly painless adjustments to my diet.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Yesterday I notified my employer that I will be taking a new job on November 30. Not just any job, but a great job … maybe even a dream job. It’s here in West Bend, not 33 miles away in Brookfield, and the schedule is perfect for me. The pay is considerably higher, the benefits are better, the career path is clearer. There are so many things to feel good about, and I’m anxious to get into the work.
How the new job will affect me as a cyclist is secondary to how it will affect me financially, but the changes are noteworthy.
Since September 2015, I have worked overnight in Brookfield every Monday through Friday. Because my work week doesn’t end until 7 o’clock on Saturday morning, getting to a Saturday race could be tough. On many occasions I traveled to a race venue immediately after work, and on many others I simply scratched the race off my schedule because it was too far away or had too early a start time. My new work schedule will fix these problems. I will be able to sleep overnight on Friday, setting me up for a successful weekend.
I’ve had a clear preference for Sunday races, but Saturday races are more common. If the 2020 WCA cyclocross season had gone ahead as planned, then 10 of its 14 races would have run on Saturdays. The Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series has always followed a Saturday schedule, and on the 2021 schedule of the Wisconsin Off-Road Series 4 of the 8 races will be on Saturdays. Having a work week that ends on Friday morning also will allow me to travel to more distant races in downstate Illinois and elsewhere. Maybe there’s an Ill Kanza gravel grinder in my future, or more Heart of Illinois Cyclocross races, or a Ride Across Indiana gran fondo. Maybe 2021 will be the year I get back into mountain bike racing at Chequamegon or Ore to Shore or Wausau24, intriguing events my old schedule wouldn’t accommodate. With all of that in mind I’m looking into mountain bikes again, as I don’t own one right now.
My 2020 season will end without a single bike race. Blame COVID-19 for that. But it hasn’t been a bad year for me otherwise, and I expect to enter 2021 in a position of strength. If we get on top of the virus and bike races return, then I will be ready.
Monday, November 9, 2020
That was fun! Today was the 6th consecutive day above 70° in West Bend. The weather wasn’t just good, it was historically good. Average for this time of year is only 49° and we didn’t simply exceed the average, we set all-time highs.
Why was it so warm? Because we had a steady supply of brisk winds from the south. And those winds were limiting: I rode frequently but I didn’t ride long. I was on a diet of 90- to 120-minute rides during the last week. On a couple of occasions I might have ridden longer if we were still on Daylight Saving Time, but it was hard enough to work overnight, then sleep a few hours, then complete a worthwhile ride before the sun went down.
Over the last 7 days I racked up an even 200 miles in 12 hours. That brought my mileage total to 5,170 this season, the 5th highest total in my 17 years as a cyclist. As I was approaching 5,000 miles I considered stopping there and making 2020 a reference season, but the arrival of this unusually warm weather compelled me to keep going.
My cycling season might be over now. Tomorrow’s temperature will be well above average again, but rain probably will keep me off the bike. And after tomorrow the temperature will drop back into the 40s. I’m cherry picking from now on. If we get another unexpected round of freakishly good weather, then I’m game. Otherwise, I’m done.
Sunday, November 8, 2020
The UCI road racing season ended today in Madrid and, well, you could say Primož Roglič had a good 2020 campaign. But whether he had success or failure, he always conducted himself with class. I mean …
Here he is moments after losing the Tour de France on the next-to-last day, embracing the winner, Tadej Pogačar:
And here he is after securing overall victory in the Vuelta a España on the next-to-last day, complimenting the efforts of his closest rival, Richard Carapaz:
Similar circumstances. Vastly different outcomes. Same guy. There’s a lesson in sportsmanship, grace, and dignity. I’m impressed.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Today was the first 60° day in West Bend since October 17, so after my overnight shift at work I elected to stay up and make use of the warm sunshine. The result? I finally got the last 30 miles I needed to reach 5,000 this season. Now, this slow effort on zero rest didn’t meet any definition of training, but that’s OK. I’m just happy to reach the 5,000-mile plateau for the 7th time in my 17 seasons as a cyclist.
It looks like we’re in for a streak of 60° days between now and next Monday. Care to guess when we last strung together 7 consecutive days of 60° or warmer? It was September 21-27. So, yeah, October wasn’t great and we’re probably seeing all we’re going to see of decent weather in November. With 5,000 miles in my pocket and a handful of pleasant afternoons still to exploit, I’m now shooting for 5,114, which would push this season into my all-time Top 5.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
I expect too much of West Bend and Washington County, I really do. Wherever there are woods, I see a mountain bike trail. Wherever there’s a park, I see a cyclocross course. And now, despite my best efforts to ignore it, I see a velodrome. It’s already there; we could have it up and running in no time.
Sitting on 1⅓ acres in the northeast corner of Sandy Knoll County Park is an old ice skating rink that hasn’t been used in decades. In the absence of operating funds from the county budget, Washington County Parks is very motivated to find new ways to generate user fees from its properties. Simply by setting its lawnmower blades a little lower, the county could turn this neglected nook into a very serviceable 250-meter velodrome. A grass surface? Yes, and why not? It would hardly be unique. If you want a wooden track you’ll have to go indoors, and an outdoor-friendly asphalt surface would be expensive to construct and to maintain. Grass is also a more forgiving place to land in a crash, of which there are no shortages in track racing. Perhaps the biggest drawback at Sandy Knoll is the absence of banked corners: we’re talking about flat turns. With a lot of landscaping you could sort that out, but you would forever be maintaining those berms. I imagine Sandy Knoll as a practice-only track, not as a venue for sanctioned races. The limitations are too great to overcome in any realistic scenario, and even in the most idealistic scenario I don’t think there’s much demand. But there is parking nearby, and nice bathrooms …
Is this something for the fat bike crowd, maybe? Wait for snow, pack it down, set out some traffic cones, let ’er rip? Sprints and pursuits (both individual and team) could work well for fat bikes on packed snow. I can imagine that. I wouldn’t do it, but I would show up with extra beer! Anybody want to run with this idea?
Monday, October 26, 2020
Today is the anniversary of my last bike race: October 26, 2019. Perhaps I should say most recent instead of last; I am not ready to be an ex-racer. But who knows when I will be allowed to race again? The coronavirus isn’t remotely close to containment, much less resolution. If I want to compete against anyone but myself in 2021, then I may have to dust off the credit card and join the Zwift revolution. It’s more likely, though, that I will content myself with individual goals like these:
- Complete a 300-mile week. (Current record: 283 miles)
- Extend my longest ride. (Current record: 114 miles)
- Complete 100 career metric centuries. (Current total: 92)
- Complete a solo century. (I’ve never done one.)
- Complete centuries on consecutive days. (I’ve never gone back-to-back.)
Those would be worthy accomplishments in 2021. Right now I’m still trying to polish off 2020, but my quest for 5,000 miles has stalled. I am assuming that the next 10 weeks cannot possibly be as bad as last week. I need only 66 rotten miles—just 2 or 3 more rides—but I don’t know when I will get them. I do know that it won’t be 30-something degrees when I next hop into the saddle. What the hell? Unimpressive as it is, our weather history says we still should be hitting the mid-50s at this time of year. My furnace has been running for weeks. We had snow yesterday and early this morning … only a trace, perhaps, but it’s hateful and insulting in any amount. Just give me a couple of “average” days between now and next Monday and let me be done.
At least there was good professional bike racing at the end of last week. I said on Wednesday that the Giro d’Italia appeared to be a two-man race between Joao Almeida and Wilco Kelderman, but things turned out very differently. On Thursday’s Stage 18, Almeida lost almost 5 minutes and Kelderman lost more than 2 minutes to Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who vaulted into 2nd and 3rd, respectively, as Kelderman backed into the top spot. Kelderman faltered again on Saturday, allowing Hindley to take the maglia rosa. Hindley and Geoghegan Hart started Sunday’s final stage—a flat, 15.7-kilometer individual time trial—on equal time, so it was winner-take-all. How’s that for drama? I had failed in all of my previous attempts to find live video of the Giro, but on Sunday I coaxed a pirated feed into working just well enough to watch Geoghegan Hart prevail. Good stuff. And the Vuelta a España was plenty entertaining too. Unfortunately, today’s a rest day for the Spanish race. I could use the distraction.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
|I completed today's route counter-clockwise.|
Grand Tours often begin with a short time trial and end with a more-or-less processional stage that serves as a lap of honor for the overall champion. And as these stages typically occur on weekends they draw the largest numbers of TV viewers and in-person spectators … who must be bored and/or confused. There’s nothing especially interesting about a short time trial; such stages exist only to put someone in the race leader’s jersey so that there will be a modicum of order on the road the next day. And the last stage of a Grand Tour is almost always a day for the handful of sprinters who managed to drag themselves over the mountains; the overall champions who keep out of the fray are greeted with bewildered applause by onlookers who don’t understand why the guy who won the stage isn’t the guy who won the race.
Things are otherwise in this year’s Vuelta a España, that cruel consolation prize for the men whose seasons haven’t gone as well as they had hoped. The Spanish tour began on Tuesday in Spain rather than in the Netherlands, where it had no business in the first place. (You can’t convince me that a Grand Tour should ever begin in a country with which the host nation doesn’t share a border.) In the pre-coronavirus plans, the Vuelta was supposed to spend its first three days in the Netherlands. Now shortened to 18 stages, the Vuelta began yesterday with a full-on battle for the general classification. And that battle continued today. We already have a legitimate leader in Primož Roglič and we already have big time gaps between contenders and pretenders. We’ve seen plenty of Grand Tours in which a GC favorite was happy to lose the jersey of race leadership after taking it early. After all, the leader and his team have responsibilities that the other riders don’t have, and those responsibilities are a drain on their energies. Strategically, it’s usually best to take the jersey as late as possible. But if he’s smart, Roglič will defend this one with everything he has. Europe is starting to quarantine again as the coronavirus regathers momentum, and there’s no guarantee that an already shortened Vuelta won’t be shortened further. Whatever may occur, I’ll be watching: each stage will be on NBC Sports Gold.
I have not been watching the Giro d’Italia, now in its final week. I haven’t found streaming coverage that isn’t locked down. I’ve tried all the usual tricks including a VPN tunnel to circumvent geographical restrictions, but no luck. Honestly, though, it’s not a compelling field this year. Looks like a two-man race now between Joao Almeida and Wilco Kelderman, and I can’t get worked up for that.
I’m having a hard enough time getting worked up for my own rides. Bad weather is the main reason for that, and now seasonal chores are demanding a chunk of my time. Tomorrow is the final curbside brush collection day of the year in West Bend, so I’ve been trimming trees and shrubs. There’s grass to cut and soon enough there will be leaves to rake. Too soon there will be snow to shovel, and next week is our last week this year on Daylight Saving Time. It’s getting harder to find time for everything. I came into this week 100 miles short of my 5,000-mile goal for the 2020 season, itself a consolation prize of sorts. Today I collected 34 of those miles. I’ll get shut out tomorrow by an all-day rain and then try to come back on Friday and Saturday to finish things off. Next week’s forecast offers only more misery, so there’s every reason to wrap things up as soon as possible.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
There’s no getting away from high winds right now. Seriously: every single day. But the leaves are pretty even if there’s no sunshine backing them up. I’m doing most of my rides in town these days, cutting through the parks to hide among the trees. Today’s ride took me through Forest View, Quaas Creek, Riverside, and finally Regner, where I snapped the picture above. If you’re into the fall foliage thing, then get out there tomorrow and/or Friday. Washington County is about to become much colder and much wetter.
Monday, October 12, 2020
As I predicted yesterday, I did not get on the bike today. But after doing all of my household chores and waiting out the rain, this afternoon I took a second crack at the 5-kilometer rucking course I plotted in my neighborhood back on October 4. This is going to be my bread-and-butter workout when the cycling season is done, and it will be fun to see the statistics accumulate. Looks like 50 minutes is going to be a good benchmark time. Don’t worry too much about calories, though. Garmin is calculating those numbers against my current bodyweight. It doesn’t realize I’m carrying a 25-pound rucksack. Because I’m moving more weight, I’m burning more calories. The difference is probably 10-15 percent—a big margin of error—but I don’t care. My goal for this workout is to do it frequently at an athletic pace. Good things will follow naturally from that simple approach.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
|Today's ride with "El Contador" was executed counter-clockwise.|
This week was a return to form: 214 miles and 13 hours in the saddle. Throw in a 2-hour Ice Age Trail hike on Monday, the “rest” day, and I was very active! I rode on each of the last 6 days but my streak may come to an end tomorrow due to rain. That’s fine; I have several household chores to complete before my new work week begins on Monday night. I need 227 more miles to reach my goal of 5,000 this season, but I don’t expect much from the week to come. The weather forecast isn’t lining up for me. I’ll probably spend more time on lawn & garden tasks and on cross-training than I spend on the bike.
I watched a lot of racing this weekend, starting with the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships on Saturday. That was cross-country; downhill was today but I didn’t watch too much of it. Downhill doesn’t appeal to me very much, and the slow, muddy conditions today made the race even less exciting. This morning began with the Paris-Tours road race and ended with Superprestige cyclocross. If you were lucky you also could find coverage of Gent-Wevelgem and the 9th stage of the Giro d’Italia, but I couldn’t watch everything, so I took a pass on those. I think I can look forward to Scheldeprijs and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the week to come, but unfortunately COVID-19 cases are rising again in Europe. Paris-Roubaix already has been cancelled for October 25.
By the way, there were no North Americans today in either the men’s or women’s elite Superprestige races at Gieten, Netherlands. I don’t know whether we should expect that to change as the season progresses. Americans and Canadians have always been on the back foot in European cyclocross. This year could leave us ever farther behind.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
I followed up a record week on the bike with my poorest numbers since April, covering only 40 miles in 2.5 hours over the last 7 days. We were 10-15 degrees below normal all week, and wet most of that time. Friday night bottomed out at 33° and I felt pretty smart for already having turned off my outdoor spigots until next spring. The week to come should be better … not great, but at least average for this time of year. Looks like Tuesday will be our first 60° day since September 27.
Yeah, this week was a really unwelcome break in my cycling season, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did ruck marches Thursday, Saturday, and today with my new GPS-enabled watch. Thursday’s and Saturday’s routes weren’t quite right, but today I nailed a 5-kilometer route that I can do repeatedly with a target pace to ensure I’m working hard enough. There will be hikes and ruck marches farther afield, and I will look forward to those adventures for their novelty. But for me there has to be a standard route that begins just outside my door and simply gets the job done. I want to keep the execution of the everyday workout easy and thereby eliminate any excuses not to do it. That strategy already works for me as a cyclist. I don’t have to take the bike somewhere to do a ride; I just roll out of my driveway.
This week’s ruck marches—my first since early May—were not especially demanding. Nevertheless, I felt them. They hit my legs and feet in a way that was very different from cycling, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I had a similar revelation a decade ago when I got into stair climbing. The mild soreness that followed my initial efforts was proof that cycling leaves some leg muscles unchallenged. To be a more complete athlete, I need to find these weak spots and make them strong. And I’m starting to think I should be cross-training throughout the year, not just during the cold weather months. In summer I’m so desirous of big mileage totals on the bike that I neglect other training opportunities. Sure, I still do upper body strength training all year long, but I typically don’t do any walking/hiking/rucking. During the cycling season, dedicating just one day a week to activities like those might make me both fresher and stronger. Being on the bike so much can feel like a job. I don’t take as much rest as I should, and cross-training could give me a weekly break without guilt.
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
I finished September with 806 miles, a personal record. The old mark was 800 miles, set in 2009. So, I didn’t beat it by much, but I beat it. And for the first time ever I have completed four consecutive 800-mile months. In 2009, September was my only 800-mile month. With three months left in 2020—only one of which I intend to use—this is now a Top 10 season for both miles and ride frequency. Not bad for being “stuck at home” due to the pandemic.
In Case You Missed It …
On Monday, USA Cycling cancelled the 2020 cyclocross national championships. Not a surprise. As I said before, it would have been an event of questionable legitimacy anyway, because many top riders would opt out rather than risk infection.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Was today the last 70° day of 2020? It was 70° this morning, but you had to be awake very early to feel it. The temperature will continue to fall throughout the rest of the day. And things will get considerably worse later this week. So, was today the last 70° day and the last 60° day of 2020? Questions like these weigh on me every year at this time. I’ve given up on another 80° day; we haven’t seen one of those since August 27. By Friday we could be looking at daytime highs below 50°! I still have work to do before I wrap up my cycling season, but my enthusiasm will drop with the temperature. With 481 miles to ride before I reach my target of 5,000, I may be picking them off only 20-25 at a time. My per-ride average right now is 30.33, but it’s going to start coming down.
Instead of dwelling further on the disappearance of fair weather, let me tell you about the week I just finished. It was a good one. I rode all 7 days and put up 283.05 miles in 16:44:17. Those are record numbers, beating the 263.57 and 15:47:52 I posted earlier this year, June 15-21. Same basic approach: no rest days and a metric century to finish the week. And you know what? I don’t feel fatigued. Today I could have gone for 100 miles if I had not been so certain of the approach of rain. Oh, well. Good week!
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
This week I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 35 fitness tracking watch. I plan to use it mostly during the cycling offseason to put metrics around my cross-training activities—hiking, ruck marches, snowshoeing, etc.—with the expectation that the resulting statistics will motivate me to be more active during the winter. The watch will allow me to upload my activities to Garmin Connect, which I already use for every bike ride. And assuming Garmin can keep its website up from now on, it will be nice to have all of my stats in one place.
“Segal’s Law” says a man with one watch always knows the time, while a man with two watches is never sure. Cute, but inaccurate. A man’s only watch may be wrong, and then what good is his confidence in it? The more points of data one has, the closer one gets to the truth ... even if no single point of data is definitive. My new watch has a bike mode, and at least until the novelty wears off I will activate it whenever I ride. On its maiden voyage today, the handlebar-mounted Forerunner compared very favorably to my Garmin Edge cycling computer:
It’s good to know the Forerunner can function as a backup bike computer if the Edge fails.
There’s also heart rate tracking, which used to be part of my training until I abandoned it several years ago. I didn’t like wearing a chest strap. The sensor in the watch seems accurate enough, I guess, so maybe I’ll start to pay attention to those numbers again as my workouts evolve. Heart rate is not as good a metric as power (Watts) for cycling, but there’s still a place for heart rate training zones, on and off the bike. Anything that makes me work a little harder is going to be welcome as winter approaches and I try, again, to keep from gaining too much offseason weight.
Monday, September 21, 2020
Philippe Gilbert has been one of my favorite road racers for a long time … maybe my favorite road racer ever. He has been the world champion, the Belgian champion, a stage winner in each of the three Grand Tours, and a prolific winner of one-day races. Without question, he is one of the greatest cyclists of all time. So, what does it take to get there? Natural ability, obviously, but also a commitment to training. And what does the latter look like? This:
That’s what Gilbert posted on Instagram yesterday. My training week ended on Sunday too. I don’t have a power meter, so I can’t calculate my Training Stress Score (TSS), but here’s how I measured up otherwise:
Yeah, not even close. In my defense, riding a bike is not my job. I’m actually pretty happy with a 12-hour, 200-mile week this late in the year. The professionals are tuning up for a rapid succession of one-day classics that usually run in spring but this year were moved to autumn by the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe it’s the Tour de France afterglow talking, but I don’t think the classics are going to lose anything for having been rescheduled. Just look at what’s coming in the next 5 weeks:
Oh, and this week we have the World Championships and in October we have the “other” two Grand Tours: the Giro and the Vuelta. It’s a good time to be a cycling fan.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
A great race concluded today in Paris. The 2020 Tour de France was an absolute triumph, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tadej Pogačar got the better of fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič in yesterday’s individual time trial, elevating the 21-year-old to first place overall. (Pogačar will turn 22 tomorrow. How good will that birthday celebration feel?) And today on the Champs-Élysées the green jersey wearer, Sam Bennett, proved again that he was this year’s best sprinter. The Tour’s 21 stages gave us a little bit of everything, including victories by riders from whom we didn’t expect results. This was a real race with real drama, not some watered-down version conducted in isolation to the accompaniment of pre-recorded crowd noise. This was the Tour we all needed: a continuation of a great tradition at a time when almost nothing else seems normal. Chapeau!
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Sunday, September 13, 2020
|Today's ride on my cyclocross bike: mostly Eisenbahn State Trail with a couple of on-road loops.|
Bad weather kept me off the bike for most of the last week, but today I did a 63-mile ride to surpass 4,000 miles, year-to-date. I rode only 3 times in the last 7 days for a total of 126 miles, my lowest total since May 11-17. What can I tell you? All-day rains, high winds, and temperatures that were as much as 20° below normal had a depressing effect on my statistics and on me. The forecast for the week to come shows—at least for now—temperatures that are closer to historical averages and almost no chance of rain. I need to take advantage of that. I’m certainly not overtrained now! I will try to ride every day to make a big dent in the 967 miles I still need to reach 5,000. Today’s ride was my 4th metric century of 2020 and 91st all-time. Looks like I’m not going to reach 100 this year as I had hoped, but maybe I can get a little closer next week.
Today also was notable for a brutal Tour de France stage that removed defending champion Egan Bernal and perennial “next year” man Nairo Quintana from any further consideration as challengers for this year’s title. This has been a good Tour so far, a legitimate competition altered only cosmetically and not substantially by COVID-19, but now it’s down to a two-man race. Pick your Slovenian: current leader Primož Roglič or mountain climber supreme Tadej Pogačar. Roglič has a 40-second lead and the stronger team. It’s his race to lose.
Finally, today was the start of the elite cyclocross season. I watched the EKZ CrossTour series race from Baden, Switzerland, and it made me a little sad that there won’t be any cyclocross in Wisconsin this year. Europe will hold more than 100 elite events this season, many of which will be televised/streamed (what’s the difference?). I’ll watch as many as I can and try to stay close to the sport … in spirit, anyway. Both the men’s and women’s races were mostly Swiss affairs today, with a number of pro mountain bikers using the event as training for the upcoming and condensed UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season. I’m looking forward to that too, but I’m really looking forward to the first cyclocross event with all of the top contenders: the Telenet Superprestige series race from Gieten, Netherlands, on October 11.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
|Looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday especially!|
Summer is supposed to last until September 22, but the weather forecast for the upcoming week is anything but summer-like. We’re going to struggle just to get to 60° and we’ll have plenty of rain and wind from the northeast to add to the misery. I’m already wondering whether I will look back on it as the week my quest for 5,000 miles suffered a blow from which it could not recover. I need 1,093 more miles to reach 5,000 this season. It’s not guaranteed.
Today was nice: a little bit above the 75° historical average for this date. But I feel the changing of the seasons acutely. The easy life of warm days and late sunsets is fast becoming a struggle to get motivated and to find a good window of time in which to ride. I want to be done. I want to have ridden 5,000 miles this year. There are other things I want to do this fall, especially at home. I live a very Spartan lifestyle, but I do have some nesting instincts. I have a To Do list of home and garden projects that will be a great source of satisfaction once I get off the bike.
I admitted to myself today that I am not going to take my bikes anywhere by car for the rest of the year, so I removed my trailer hitch rack and placed it in storage for the winter. The rack worked beautifully when my son and I took our bikes to Pennsylvania at the end of June, but I haven’t used it since. I left it in place for as long as I could hope there would be a cyclocross season or some gravel event. Those hopes are all gone now. Hell, I even laundered my balaclavas and long-finger gloves this weekend; I kid you not.
Monday, August 31, 2020
This month I rode 835 miles to set a new personal record for August, beating the 827 miles I rode in August 2018. June 2020 was a record month too, and hopefully September 2020 will be. These are nice little goals in a season without racing.
My record for September is 800 miles, set in 2009. It’s the oldest of my monthly records, so it’s a good target for an upgrade. In subsequent Septembers I haven’t come close to 800 miles:
Throw out 2013. I spent most of that September recovering from a badly fractured collarbone. My average in the remaining nine Septembers was 590 miles. I never got within 100 miles of a new record. But I think I can this season, because there’s nothing to distract me. In 2011 I started racing cyclocross, and that led to a lot of low-mileage weekends. Two fairly ordinary weekends are the difference between a 590-mile September and an 800-mile September, so I like my chances.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Early in the 2013 season I switched from a traditional cycling computer to a Garmin GPS device. In the 7½ years since, I have logged some pretty big numbers. Garmin has given me a way to track a huge variety of statistics that were unavailable on my old cycling computer. But actually I don’t even scratch the surface. On most rides I’m interested only in time, speed, and distance.
I am sort of interested in elevation gain, though Garmin has given me reason to suspect inaccuracies in those calculations. But there’s a threshold above which the raw numbers are so big that a couple of percentage points of miscalculation become meaningless. So, today I celebrate the completion of 1,000,000 feet of climbing since deploying my first Garmin device. That’s more than 189 miles, more than 34 times the elevation change between sea level and the summit of Mt. Everest.
Not bad for a cyclist whose rides are almost exclusively confined to the relatively flat Midwest, right? Well, this is just another Fun With Statistics moment; there’s no polka dot jersey for me. I spread those 1,000,000 feet of climbing over a total distance of 39,448 miles—208,285,440 feet—making my average gradient a very manageable one half of one percent!
It sure felt steeper.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Cycling is not the same thing for everyone. I know mountain bikers with zero interest in any other kind of riding. I know roadies whose tires will never touch dirt, grass, or gravel. I know commuters who can’t understand what all the sweating, heavy breathing, power meters, and Strava segments are supposed to prove. For this blog I try to be open to almost everything that can be called cycling, even if I don’t find it especially appealing. In my life as a cyclist I am fortunate that I can enjoy more than just one discipline. I’ve done traditional road races, time trials, cross country mountain bike races, gravel races … even BMX if I can count my childhood in the 1970s. And outside of competition I do really enjoy simply riding around, on country roads and rec trails most particularly.
But I have my likes and dislikes, my preferences and prejudices. Some things in the cycling universe are so distasteful to me that Never Will I Ever associate myself with them. Submitted for your consideration are these five pieces of the ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle we call cycling, and I’m labeling them Vol. 1 because I fully expect to find more things to hate in the not-too-distant future.
If I were riding for transportation, then an e-bike might be a good choice. But I ride for fitness and competition. I want to get stronger and faster. If I can’t do it under my own power, then I can’t do it.
They’re just too dorky. Sorry. As with e-bikes, if I ever get to the point where I can’t ride a proper bicycle, then I’m done being a cyclist.
Like any brand, Specialized has supporters and detractors who argue the merits of its product line. I don’t have a problem with Specialized’s technical specifications—its stuff is almost indistinguishable from that of Trek, Cannondale, Giant, etc.—but I do have a problem with Specialized’s business practices, and for that reason I refuse to patronize the company. Get out your Google if you don’t understand my objections; I’m probably leaving myself open to a lawsuit if I enumerate them here. Goodness knows, Specialized has lawyers.
Fine products, no doubt, but worth the high price tag? I can’t be convinced. Short-sleeve jerseys at $195, bib shorts at $270, sunglasses at $180, shoes at $355, socks at $30 a pair … you must be out of your mind. I’m going to keep outfitting myself with Aero Tech Designs, Louis Garneau, and one or two other high-quality, high-value brands. That may hurt my chances of being invited to tea at Buckingham Palace, but at least I won’t lose $1,000 of kit in my next crash.
Preventing crashes should be a high priority for any cyclist, so why do so many shut out the sounds that could warn them of danger? Earbuds have no place in cycling. If you’re that bored, then maybe you should find something else to do. And I don’t care where you’re riding. Even on a rec trail, earbuds are a bad idea. You may not have motor vehicles to worry about, but can you hear another rider coming up from behind? Can you hear that rustling in the weeds that could be an animal ready to dart across your path?
There! That’s better. Good to get it off my chest.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
This was a full-on summer day, the likes of which West Bend rarely sees. We’ve had a few 90° days this year but I don’t think the others came close to that 107° “feels like” reading. I’m sure the combination of air temperature, sun, high WSW winds, and high humidity made today a challenge for a lot of people.
But I revel in hot weather, so there was no hiding next to the air conditioner for me. I knocked out a 33-mile ride to complete yet another 200-mile week. (It’s a good thing I keep my own training log in Microsoft Excel, as Garmin Connect is still down.) I should hit 3,000 miles, year-to-date, in the week to come. Tomorrow I will do my 100th ride this season, and by mid-August I expect to reach this year’s “official” mileage goal: 3,530.
At this point, though, I won’t be satisfied with 2020 unless I get to 5,000 miles. That’s a worthy goal in this climate which, as we all know, far more frequently feels like 7° than like 107°.
Friday, July 24, 2020
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Today the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced the cancellation of its 2020 cyclocross season. No one should be surprised, but it’s OK to be disappointed. And it’s OK to miss the Tuesday evening practice series at Royal Oaks Park in West Bend, which would have begun its 9th season next month. I’ll try to bring that back in 2021 if there’s a demand for it.
I now have literally nothing to train for in 2020, and my season really is going to be just an accumulation of statistics. It’s a good thing I find them motivating, though I know they mean nothing to anyone else. Today is a rest day for me. I’ll be back in the saddle tomorrow and I hope I won’t be too bummed about cyclocross to give a good effort.
My numbers are important to me and this week none is more important than 40. This is my first week back at full employment since early April. In my July 7 blog post I was kvetching about having to return to the office while still being limited to a 32-hour schedule, but happy days are here again … relatively speaking. I will feel that 20 percent bump in my paychecks starting next Friday.
With a lot of free time on my hands and a little extra walkin’ around money, I might run my odometer up to 5,000 miles and then leave the bikes alone for a while. I never allow myself to do as much hiking as I would like. Maybe this fall will provide the perfect opportunity to hit the trails on foot or to explore some new interest.
Thursday, July 9, 2020
In a strange season that probably won’t come with any licenses, trail passes, race entries, or special event fees, I’m still finding ways to spend money on cycling. The bikes have been running like champs, but I’ve been forced to replace some of the little things that enhance my sport.
It seems like half of my cycling wardrobe instantly got old and worn out, and I have had to throw away several pieces. This week I purchased more bib shorts. I started wearing bibs in 2011 and in recent years I have switched to bibs exclusively during warm weather months. I still have some regular cycling shorts—all in scandalously poor condition—but I use them only under tights on chilly rides. You’re welcome.
Many of my socks have died this year too, so I will be buying more of those soon. I’m doing OK on jerseys, but two of my nicest have dead zippers that prevent me from wearing them. They are in great shape otherwise, so today I hired a local seamstress to repair or replace the zippers at a considerable discount to the replacement price of the jerseys themselves.
I went through another tail light this year, so I replaced it immediately. I ride with a tail light even on bright, sunny days, as I am convinced it enhances safety in traffic. And I got a new CO2 inflator to replace one on which I couldn’t rely. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use it; this has been a year without flat tires … so far. I replaced my cable lock while I was in Pennsylvania, as the trip revealed the frustratingly fickle nature of the old lock. Busting open a knuckle while trying repeatedly to lock my bike to my car rack was the last straw. Accessories like these are really nice to have and they don’t cost a fortune. I paid about $100 for the lot.
But there may be a larger expense on the horizon: my GPS device. In recent weeks I have seen erratic behavior from my Garmin. It’s an old Edge 500 … probably past its expected service life. Still, I hope I don’t have to drop $200-300 on a new device this year. When the time comes, it will be nice not waiting so long for the device to acquire a satellite signal and not having to import my activities manually on the Garmin Connect website. And hopefully the new device will be a little smarter beneath overhanging trees, where the current device under-reports my speed and distance.
This could be a $500-750 year for clothing and accessories. That’s not insubstantial but it’s not the end of the world. I’m making these acquisitions with the expectation that I will get several seasons out of them, just as I did with their predecessors. It’s money I wish I didn’t have to spend, but it’s money well-spent.