Category Archives: Old stuffs

The Ride to Varn Park

Let me first say this: this ride was the most amazing thing I’ve done in a very long time. The route, my newly rebuilt rear wheel (who cares that the front wheel doesn’t match?), the distance, the breaks, and last but not least, my family in tow. The only thing it lacked was a worthy ending. I’ll get to that.

  • Start time – 0730
  • Temperature – 72ºF
  • Humidity – 85%
  • Winds – <5 mph

Where is my Mind?


Even the stoic Bambina looks on in anticipation!


The Pixies definitely rang thru my head at the start of this ride. What was I thinking? I rode 82 miles in a previous ride, but I was a wreck at the end of it. I had my doubts before but they were quickly snuffed out before the day arrived. Now, being in the saddle was a different story. The ride thru The Villages, all I could think of was my potential failure. 100 miles? No way.

In any case, I did actually keep my head straight at the start despite its betrayal. My wife helped me by creeping off to the side of my route as I passed by my parents’ neighborhood. All I can ever do is smile in her presence.


As I exited the retirement compound, my mind and my body went into super-ride mode! I don’t know how it happened but I just had a rush of energy that would keep me going until my first break. Highway 42 is an amazing road to ride, mostly due to it’s abundant foliage and resulting shade. By the time I hit this road, the temperature had already risen, but the humidity was staying strong, so the shade was most welcome. The heat kept rising, but it was still bearable. But, I could feel that it would make itself a force to deal with soon. Then, the family came!

car2 car1I don’t think there’s anything better than seeing your wife’s vehicle covered in shoe polish-written words of encouragement. After seeing this, I couldn’t help but feel better about this ride. Energy wave #2!


Smiling at my wife’s car.


wifey2As I pulled into my first break at mile 37, I was feeling great. My pace was above what I had expected to maintain, but I felt much better than expected. Not tired one bit. The constant nibbling on Cliff Bars, a Cliff gel every 45 mins to 1 hour along with a Salt Stick pill helped immensely. So, I enjoyed a refreshing 15 are you my mommyminute break with my wife and my mom, who came along for the ride.

The next portion of the ride would be all uncharted territory for me (on a bike). But, the Ocala National Forest proved to be everything I hoped for in the end. There were nice, clean shoulders to ride on, and very smooth asphalt the entire way thru.


Grumpy-Joel. Not really, just a bad picture. I was stoked at this point of the ride.

Near the exit of the Forest, I received a nice welcome to my long break at mile 60. Chairs, a small meal (PB sandwich and a banana), and cheers from the family! It was perfect timing too as my rear was starting to get sore. But, I took about 45 minutes here, mostly to allow time for the fuel to hit my body. Then, I headed out once again.

The damnedest thing happened too. I somewhat sensed that I might need some high sugar intake at some point in the near future, so I asked my wife to buy some Coke. Do I drink it?

It wasn’t Part of the Plan!

The East portion of Ocala National Forest is pretty amazing. It’s a different kind of Forest than I’m used to (which consist mostly of pine and aspen trees). There’s broad-leaved trees everywhere…and armadillos. In any case, the other thing it is, is flat and straight. So, I basically zoned out for quite some time, aided by the numbering system spray-painted on the shoulder (I counted from 460 to 783). This was bad. By zoning out I had neglected my nourishment and forgotten to drink and nibble on a Cliff Bar 4 or 5 times as well as forgotten a Salt Stick pill and gel. So, my sugars dropped pretty heavily right around mile 85.

coke-it does a body good

Coke! It does a hypoglycemic body good!

Ashamed, I drank some Coke. There’s nothing like pure sugar to get your sugars back up to normal. It was a well-needed boost and the rest of the Eastbound route flew by.

I could tell the coast was coming by the increasing cars in Ormond Beach, but it seemed like an eternity before the big bridge to the barrier islands came.  This climb was enormous for Florida standards (it’s a draw bridge that allows very large ships under it). Unfortunately, I didn’t record it, but oh well. It was a great climb, and considering how tired I felt before it, I flew up it and came down a more healthy, energized man.

Take a Coast up the Coast – The A1A

There’s something amazing about the ocean. Just seeing it made all my fatigue go away. From here on out, it was one hell of a ride. The ocean on my right, my steed below me and nothing but the sound of waves crashing onto the beaches in my ears – that and the 20 mph side-wind.

A1ADespite the winds, the A1A was such a great stretch of road to be on. But, as you can see to the left, clouds were rolling in and the much anticipated torrential downpour of rain was steamrolling its way to the east coast. I was so into the scenery and the fact that I was at mile 90, that I didn’t even realize how little space on which I was riding.

A1A space2I also didn’t notice how rough the A1A is either. Not until I tried to take a bite to eat and almost dropped my food! I tried several things to get out of the funks that now became apparent to me. First, I slowed the pace, then tried to go to the walking path on the other side (which turned out to be more windy and bumpier). It seemed that I would end on a more difficult note. It still wouldn’t be a bad note, right?

Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall

And fall it did. It started slow, slow enough for me to keep going. At mile 98, I felt the urge to scream at the sky for ruining the end to a perfect century ride. Maybe the sky heard me…the rain kept falling, but didn’t really get bad. Mile 99…still going, still semi-blind from the water on my glasses. Mile 100! Get me into a car!

My wife had kept on stopping throughout the ride every 10 miles or so, just to make sure I was still alive, I suppose. She had stopped to take some pictures right around mile 90, when the rain started to make its presence known. So, I figured it wouldn’t be long now.

Well, the universe just worked enough for me that day. Now it was done. Mile 101, the winds picked up and the rain started falling harder. Mile 102, harder. Mile 103, lightning. Mile 104, torrential downpour.

I immediately stopped and frantically tried to use my phone to dial my wife, who was waiting about 2 miles up the road at Varn Park. Turns out, iPhones don’t recognize your freezing, wet hands in the rain. So I’ll try voice activation. All the noise from the wind and rain make it impossible for the phone to recognize anything I say.

Until, I finally get a call from her. We figure out where I am, and she came to pick me up. Ride’s over. I’m sopping wet and freezing cold. The only thing I can think of is how much awesomeness I missed out by actually ending my ride where I planned to do so – Varn Park, with my wife, dog, mom and dad waiting for me.

I guess you can’t have everything, right?


The worst ending that doesn’t involve injury. Sopping wet and freezing cold. Still, there’s a smile on my face for a reason.

104.5+ miles in one ride. So much fun!

Turns out my wife had banners made up and streamers to throw in my face as well as silly-string to cover me with. What a woman I married – almost as excited as I was to finish.


I know it’s not a word. Neither is stategery, but a president used that word.

I’m starting to really feel like a cyclist these days. All I talk about is cycling (and some video games), all I do is cycling (and play some video games) and all I can think about is cycling. This ride was sort of a testament to that fact. I can’t go a couple minutes without thinking about getting on my bike and it’s starting to show in my rides. Not only is my stamina a hell of a lot better than it was 4 months ago, but my enjoyment level is thru the roof. This ride was no exception. Completing it is the most incredible thing I’ve done…ever.







First group ride in a loooooong time

Santos Group

I got invited to ride with a small group of people from Santos Bike Shop last weekend. It was a great experience, but man do I need some practice.

It was 42ºF when I arrived at the shop. Not just cold, but biting cold because of the humidity. But, with all the warm gear I had, I was determined to finally ride in a group, especially after being snubbed by The Villages group. All of these guys were very welcoming right off the start. I had only talked to one of the guys a couple times before, so this was a relief. After some jokes about ebola, we set off!


The ride wasn’t difficult on a physical level at all mostly because I never had to pull the group. Three of us would be riding a century within 2 days and another had been off the bike for a couple weeks and was sick to boot. As a result, the route was fairly flat and the pace was moderate.

For the most part, I think I did OK. I did play a small part in dropping the sick guy early on (I felt awful about this). I allowed a small gap in front of me and didn’t correct it quickly enough so it became a large gap (the pace had picked up and I wasn’t prepared). So, our sick compatriot wasn’t in the condition to correct the big gap like I was. Being new again, I wasn’t in the mindset to check back to make sure we hadn’t dropped anyone, so he fell back quite a bit before anyone noticed. Luckily we did notice and we caught him back up.

Still, I felt bad and it was difficult for me to express my apologies adequately to a new group of guys. He was pretty frustrated with me (and the rest to a lesser extent), but later in the ride we talked about it and quickly made amends. I’ll come back to him later.

The rest of the ride went well, but I must say dropping our sick guy was a rude awakening to how out of it I was. For the rest of the ride, I was somewhat paranoid about leaving gaps and probably caused some headaches with my braking and my silent rear hub.

At the end I got my first real taste of the sprinting skills of some of the guys. I wasn’t really prepared for it, but I took off anyway. It was an uphill sprint, so I was definitely at a disadvantage there as my hills suck at this time. But, it was good to get out of the saddle with the others. The guy who ended in front was also the guy who had pulled a good portion of the ride, so that was interesting.

The group is a good group of guys who were more than accepting of my faults, for which I am very grateful. In the end, I was invited back to future rides and I definitely plan on going again once I get another Saturday off.

Back to the Shop

We ended up back at the shop at the end of the ride. Chris, the owner, and I had talked previously about the centuries we’d both be going on in the next 2 days. What started out as a simple question from him turned into a very long discussion with him and the sick guy, Jamie.

“So, what are you taking for nourishment?” These guys knew their stuff. Each had a very different take on what’s best. Chris aims for gels and electrolyte mixes, Jamie goes for foods, bars and Salt Sticks.

Having never ridden 100 miles in one sitting, I didn’t know what I’d need. But talking with both these guys set me up for success. I tried out some new things on the century ride, which I’ll discuss in my next post. But, these guys certainly helped me complete the century, for sure. For that, thanks a million, guys!

Back in the saddle, for real?

This was the final step toward truly getting back in the saddle. Before it had just been boredom and a need for weight loss. After this ride, I felt like I was a cyclist again. And it feels great!

Thanks again to the Santos crew for inviting me. I look forward to contributing in any way I can in future rides!

Problems on the intraweb

I’m typing this on my phone because my home internet is a mess and doesn’t load the blog in under an hour. I’ll be back up and running soon.

Briefly, the century ride is complete! Sorry it took so long to post that…

I’ll write a thorough update once my web is fixed.

Riding off the grid

So I’ve been AFK for almost 2 weeks. Trying to come up with something to talk about while not boring people to death. Here’s what resulted:

After a few misfortunes over the last month (messing up the bike, getting it fixed, working a 5-day work schedule, scale being smashed to bits), I’ve come to realize how little some things matter to my fitness. I originally needed the scale in order to track my progress in weight loss, but now could care less about my weight – I can see and definitely feel the difference.

The same could be said about this blog. While it’s a great tool to find information as well as share it, it’s not necessary for my journey to well-being. Don’t fret, I’ll still be posting.

However, I thought I’d just share this revelation with you readers to use as a segue to talk about some recent rides I’ve taken – just a couple of them.

Disconnected From Technology

If you’d like to see the summaries, go here – I’m talking about 10/29 – 11/4. I didn’t really worry about numbers and most, if not all, of the pause time is on there, so they’re not even close to accurate.

I’ve set off on the last 5 rides with the phone in my back pocket (usually, it’s mounted on my stem) and my heart rate monitor at home. I wanted to ride alone so to speak – no screen to tell me my heart rate is too slow, that I need to speed up, that there’s 20 miles left…too many things to worry about instead of just enjoying the ride. Without the distractions, cycling is such a simple yet amazing experience.

So, what did I do instead of worry about numbers? I enjoyed the scenery for one. I went on 2 longer rides that I previously rode and really soaked up all the things around Lake Weir and Belleview. Trees, grass, ponds, animals, people – all mixed up in a beautiful blurred painting as a zip past.

There’s also this thing about one’s bike talking. This is something that I’ve missed a lot since college. I used to be able to tell what was right or wrong with my bike just by riding it a certain way (e.g. riding out of the saddle can quickly tell you whether your stem/headset needs adjusting). With my focus on the ride, these things become more apparent. And my bike, is riding beautifully. No chain rubs, no bracket clicks, no headset vibrations – just a smooth, easy ride. This, my friends, is a beautiful thing!

Lastly, the experience itself is flat out better – I mean performance better. The numbers might be deceiving, mostly due to pause times (I couldn’t very well take out my phone to pause the recorder). But, I can tell you, I knew they were better rides just by the way I felt afterward. My adrenalin was topped, my heart pounding, sweat dripping off my nose and chin, followed later by exhausted muscles and a sadistic satisfaction as a result. All in all, a great week of riding.

The Worst of the Best Rides

As of late, I’ve been talking about the winds in Florida. Winds are tame in the early morning, no more than 5 mph before 10 or 11. They usually kick up after that to at least 15 mph. Recently, though, there have been some days with gusts in the 30’s. I had come to notice that the winds have always been coming from either the West or Northwest. This is a tricky direction where I live. Just getting out of The Villages is tough purely because I have to go north to be safe (I can go east for a short time, but the construction currently there is frightening). So, I’ve been doing what I had thought was the best idea, trying out some southerly rides (which turn out to be heavy wind-ridden on the way home) and, my last ride went west. The idea here is to try to get a mostly headwind (not direct like going north) early on when energy levels are high, and use the tailwinds to get home.

Well, the southerly rides, as I said turn into northerly rides on the way home and that’s just awful. So, my last ride went west to Inverness. I started fairly early, so the winds were negligible. The ride went great on the way there. The scenery was amazing – lost of meadows, ponds with lily pads galore and even some nice sloping hills. Right around mile 20, the winds started to kick up. How fast, I would find out when I turned around to go home, because lucky me! – they were coming from the East this fine day! They were beyond fast, with gusts that made riding straight impossible. I was deafened by the roars in my ears, making hearing oncoming vehicles difficult. A bad mix. Nevertheless, I pushed through the wind and made it to The Villages. As soon as I turned away from the headwind to make it into a tailwind, “TSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” Tire blow-out. Not just tube – tube and tire.

My rear Gatorskin’s sidewall was shot. After a quick inner tube change (I don’t carry a patch kit), and some cunning use of a Cliff Bar wrapper to line the inside of my tire to prevent the tube from protruding, I rode with that tailwind at a stunning speed of 12 mph to prevent another tube from puncture (I also left Strava running whilst changing the tube. Hence why my numbers are spectacularly awful). Perfect ending, I know. Still a better ride than some previous ones purely due to the absence of my phone screen on my stem.

The end result, I’m waiting 2 days for some tires to be delivered before I ride again. I ordered 25mm tires at the recommendation of my cousin this time around to see what all the fuss is about (being as old-school as a 33-year-old can, I’ve ridden 23mm since the day I got my first real bike).

More on that to come…maybe.

There’s a downside to everything

For example, riding jerseys and shorts are a great way to increase comfort and to reduce wind resistance. However, their downside is this:

arm tan line Leg tan line

The 1 hour rides

Due to my 5-day work schedule this past week, I set out to ride only 1 hour each day.

I had a great time doing things this way. The hour was quick enough to prevent scenery burnout and I was able to really test my speed improvements, if I had any over the last couple weeks.

Ride 1

Since I’m not so app-savvy whilst in the saddle, this ride got split into 2 different rides, as opposed to 2 laps. But, the stats would be close to the same, with the last 5+ miles suffering quite a bit due to the split and me eagerly trying to start the app up again, failing, then just giving into technology’s superiority and stopping to get the app recording again.

Lap 1

  • 20.1 miles; 01:00:01
  • 20.1 mph ave. speed – new record!
  • 34.7 mph max speed

Lap 2

  • 5.5 miles; 00:18:36
  • 17.7 mph ave. speed – yuck!
  • 26.8 mph max speed

OK, so the lap 2 is pathetic, but like I said, I had to stop to get the app going and I’m chalking up my poor performance to that cooling down period. Lap 1 is what I’m really focused on in any case as I was aiming for 1 hour rides. 20.1 mph average speed! I had so much fun going this fast! The lack of wind made it so easy to really push myself hard and to get all my muscles working the way I’ve been used to working them. Easy in that it wasn’t any extra work than before. I still worked my ass off this ride and had to take an extra roll around my neighborhood for a cool down. What fun though!

Ride 2

  • 19.7 miles; 01:01:32
  • 19.2 mph ave. speed
  • 30.2 mph max speed

WINDS! I can’t believe how windy it’s getting in Florida. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to live in Kansas (the true capitol of wind), and my afternoon rides are starting to remind me of what it might have been like to ride there. They always seem to come from the Northwest too, so there’s no real good routes to go on that would allow that to become a tailwind.

Regardless, I am still making improvements on windy rides. 19.2 mph with a cross/headwind for a vast majority of the ride sounds pretty good to me.

I finally found the infamous golf cart bridge across Hwy 441 and climbed that twice. It’s a nice steep grade, but only a couple hundred feet long – still the steepest I’ve found here, including Suglarloaf “Mountain”. So I’ll probably keep heading that way to keep climbing something substantially steep – I’ll try to get a picture next time as well.

Ride 3

  • 17.3 miles; 00:55:36 – actual distance and time is longer, the last 3 miles weren’t recorded.
  • 18.7 mph ave. speed
  • 39.8 mph max speed – new record!

Yay! Another new max speed record! It all happened on Micro Racetrack Rd., a stretch that I typically don’t do well on. This ride was different though! All those windy rides are paying off! This ride was windy as well, but for Micro Racetrack, the winds seemed to stop. So, I took advantage and really pushed hard up this road and the result is my new speed record!

My respite from the wind was short-lived, as soon as I left Micro Racetrack, cross/headwinds reunite! I think my average speed was around 20.3 mph at the end of Micro Racetrack, and as you can tell, I dropped significantly thereafter. I was actually expecting some portions of my return home to have tailwinds, but that expectation was thwarted by nature. Still, 18.7 mph isn’t bad, just not my best.

The last 3 miles got cut off in Strava for some reason. Not going to over think it. But I really wish it was there because I sprinted the last mile up Buttonwood and I really wanted to see if I made a new record for myself to beat. I guess I’ll just have to try it again soon.


I made some great improvements on my speed this week, and it’s not even over yet! I think with some morning rides (when I more frequently ride), I will be able to better judge my improvements.

Some of this has to be a result of some weight loss or, at the very least, weight transfer (fat to muscle). I can somewhat verify that I’ve gained some nice, lean muscle just by looking at my legs and arms, but I can’t confirm the weight gain/loss until I replace my scale…it’ll happen soon – I just have to find time (and that time is better spent in the saddle).

The stark absence of my ride analyses explained!

I know, a riveting subject. One that needs explanation nonetheless. Don’t worry, there’s a ride later on.

So, as I mentioned before, I had some difficulty getting on my bike once my new job started back at the beginning of October. This also just happened to be when my lovely bike broke (or more accurately, I broke it) – at the end of the Eddy Merckx Strava Challenge.

Stage is set. All of these things added together ‘kinda-sorta’ burned me out with the blog and riding. Not a bad burnout, a good one. How can it be a good burnout? Does such a thing exist? Yes!

SCorched Earth

The blog had gotten difficult to post on during my new job training, simply because I spent so much time in front of a computer, and will continue to do so for the next 4 weeks. So that’s not changing. This is good because, to be honest, computer-ing takes it out of me. Sitting at work, then at home for such a long time staring at a wall of text exhausts my mind with its dullness. Simply put, I enjoyed not being on this blog for those 2 weeks. It gave me a needed break.

While I didn’t have a choice in my break from my bike for about 3 days, I chose not to ride as much over the last 2 weeks because of the 777.8 km I had ridden in the 17 days prior to my faulty mechanical skills ruining my bike. I had a lot of time put on the bike in those 17 days in a lot of the same routes (which many cyclists can tell you, gets pretty boring after a while). No, not in the 17 days, but also add in the 3 months prior and it was a lot of the same ‘ol scenery. While this is good in some aspects, it made my rides a little grind-esque. So, my rides decreased in quantity and quality for about 2 weeks.

The good news, I will find balance eventually. The new job schedule is kind of crap at the moment due to special classes in far off lands, but it will be more manageable in the the next 3 weeks. So, yay!

Semi-nude Photos

Oh yes, my physical progress page. I’ve been slacking, I know. Our scale was accidentally kicked by yours truly and it shattered into a million bits, making it impossible to weigh myself.

Also add in that I’ve been having a good ‘ol time with food lately, making me less proud of myself over the last 2 weeks. No worries, I’ll get it back in no time. Just needed to lapse right quick.

Make it all stop!

OK! Last weekend I completed an absolutely wonderful ride to Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. Yes, that’s the name of a town here.

The Ride!

  • 60.7 miles; 03:20:29
  • 18.2 mph average speed
  • 38.7 mph max. speed – new personal record!

The scenery was amazing. So much goodness in the land around Lake County. Dense foliage and gently sloping hills abound!

10.19.2014 HINTH sign

The sign that proves the name!

10.19.2014 HINTH Pond

Pond full of lily pads. I should have taken a panoramic, this open area was huge!

10.19.2014 HINTH overlook

An overlook of the area north of Howey-in-the-Hills. You can see just a sliver of Little Lake Harris near the horizon.

I am very proud of this ride. Lots of mileage (almost another metric century) – to be honest, it probably was 100 km due to all the back-tracking I did for these pictures as well as forgetting to get water refills about 1 mile out of town.

Let’s talk about winds!

Yes, we all hate them. But I’m starting to enjoy the results of riding in them. I am getting much better at riding in the drops – I still need work, but man what an improvement. Without the winds, I would have delayed the discomfort of the drops for a while. Since that’s not the case, I find my speed is increasing on flatland as well as downhills. This ride, I was able to reach yet another high speed – 38.7 mph! Thank you, drops!

Since I reaped the benefit of riding in winds, they needed their revenge. And they got it on this ride. From mile 38 to my terminus, nothing but head and cross winds. Yes, my average speed suffered greatly as a result. But hey, 18.2 mph with no tailwinds (they started up right about when I exited the hills of Howey-in-the-Hills), sounds pretty good to me! In any case, I spent most of the last 20 miles in the drops at a steady 17-18 mph. It actually felt amazing to tear thru the winds that would have previously destroyed my momentum as well as my spirit just a month ago. It just goes to show you how much riding in what we might consider crap conditions, could end up being the place we make the most improvements.

All this, Summarized

Great speed, great technique in the winds, great scenery = great ride, happy Joel!

I will be getting in just one photo this month for comparison with July (without a weight since I have no more scale in the house).

I will be posting more, but less than I was at the start of all this.

The Gran Fondo!

Oh yes! Completed! Only with some minor difficulty, mostly related to my phone’s tracking app too. So no riding problems except…you guessed it! WIND!

  • 80.94 miles, 04:40:48 (Strava link – inaccurate numbers)
  • 02:54:59 paused time (there’s a reason I’m posting this)
  • 17.3 mph average speed
  • 37.43 mph max speed

Some explanation about the paused time. Yes, 3 hours is a long time to pause. It should have only been around 45 mins, but I ran into some phone problems. So, I had to take some longer breaks after my big break at 50 miles to sit back and let my phone charge so as to not lose my ride. In retrospect, this made my ride a hell of a lot more difficult. Trying to warm up 4 times is a pain in the arse to say the least. But, I wanted this ride completed so I could analyze it, especially the end. Again, looking back, I probably should have just kept going instead of waiting for the wife to come with my charger. Oh well. You live, you learn.

The nitty-gritty

Breakfast at 0530. 1 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/8 cup raisins, 1 tbsp maple syrup and a giant glass of water. I waited about 30 mins to start stretching and warming up, and by 0615, I was off!

The gear

  • 1 helmet
  • 1 pair glasses
  • 1 pair riding gloves
  • 1 tail light
  • 1 head light
  • 1 hand pump
  • 2 bottles
  • 1 inner tube
  • 1 multi tool
  • 2 tire levers
  • 8 energy gels
  • 15 cups water
  • 4 cups gatorade
  • 1 Powerbar

I aimed to keep my speed above 17 mph, although this was secondary to completing the 130 km. If I dipped slightly below, it wouldn’t have killed me, but it all turned out great in the end. But, to split it up, I wanted the first 20 miles to be around 17 mph, the next 40 to be 18 mph and the final 20 to be 17 mph again.

I chose a familiar route that combined a lot of smaller rides into one. Lake Weir, The Villages figure 8, and Hwy 301. There was some mileage at the start that was unknown to me, but most of it I had driven before and felt confident about it on the bike.

The first 20

All went as planned. I was around 17.5 mph and still feeling like new. While turning off of Hwy 44, I hit some poorly covered railroad tracks hard with my rear wheel and was a little worried about a flat for a bit, but my tube held firm. Shortly after, I got locked into a gated community with some surely old people residents who refused to let me out. But it didn’t slow me down much.

The middle 40

Again, went as planned – until my mile 50 break. During my trip up Morse Blvd, I changed my course as I was joined by another cyclist named Bob. He was cordial and talkative and we got to know each other as well as 2 unfamiliar cyclists could in the 3.5 km we rode together. The good news, I found about the 2 clubs that ride thru The Villages every day of the week, minus Sunday. So, maybe I’ll be doing some club rides here soon. In any case, his club showed up and we went our separate ways. Before I knew it, I was out of the compound and into untamed Florida!

The trip around Lake Weir was amazing! I did a lot better than I thought on the hills, and even found a new hill to climb! The best part about this discovery is the descent. Yet another new high speed at 37.43 mph! Pretty intoxicating, to say the least! That little bit of speed helped my confidence and energy levels quite a bit for the rest of the ride around Lake Weir. I kept my speed around 18 mph, like I had planned, so I was feeling pretty good.

Then the trouble hit. At 50 miles, I took my scheduled break and attempted to charge my phone in the wife’s car. It was a nice 30 min break, but the phone didn’t charge as much as I’d hoped. Oh well, right? I’ll get to that pesky phone later.

The final 20

As I set off from my break, I felt good for a few miles. Then the sugar dip came. I downed 2 gels and a lot of my Gatorade and felt a lot better, but slightly shaky on the pedals. This would prove to be my downfall toward the end.

To make things worse, as soon as I turned on to Buena Vista Blvd, the headwinds came. At least 15 mph of constant wind with gusts in the 20’s. While this may not seems like much to some, it kills me. I’m not quite used to riding in the winds yet, and spending a lot of time in the drops this late proved difficult. So the wind got the best of me.

Also, that pesky phone started flashing its low batter warning. So, I felt compelled to take a break at my parent’s abode. When I arrived, I called the wife to come meet me with the charger again. She got there as quickly as she could, but that turned out to be an hour. Then I had to wait for the phone to charge and I was rather impatient after another hour and set off with just over 10% of battery life. Hindsight is 20/20 – I could have just finished my ride in that hour. Again – you live, you learn.

As I set off from my parent’s house, I felt OK, but still shaky in the pedals. Once I got a good taste of that same headwind, I started to not feel OK. Nevertheless, I pushed onward.

I got home with about 2 miles left on the ride and no battery life. So more pause time to charge and cool down the muscles…what a pain. Once I had that 10% of battery, I set off for the final 2 miles of the ride.

The finish was less climactic this time around. While this is 30 km longer than my previous distance record, I didn’t feel so emotional about the finish. No idea why.

Active recovery

All in all, I think I have some thanks to give to Bgddyjim @ Fit Recovery. I think that I did a lot better with the active recovery than I would have with a rest day. My legs felt so much lighter than they have with rest days. Good on ya, Bgddyjim!

what did we learn?

If you’re using only an iPhone, get a battery case! I can’t tell you how much easier this ride would have been with the knowledge that my phone would record my every mile without crapping out on me.

Short breaks take the cake. I could feel the difference in my legs and chest after my unscheduled breaks – especially the last two. Stretching helped, but my warm-ups on the bike took forever. I will be investing in that iPhone battery case to make this happen for me. But even on my 50 mile break, I felt that I could have cut it down some to keep the legs warm.

Challenge accepted! And completed!

Eddy Merckx and Gran Fondo completed! Both with this ride. That felt and still feels great. So, 700 km in 15 days for me and a 130 km ride completed!


A change of pace

After doing some reading at my favorite blog, I did some research about active recovery and have decided to give it a shot during this month. Basically, I won’t be taking any days off (except in the case of bad, bad weather). Instead, one day will be dedicated to a nice slow and easy ride every once in a while. I’ll be starting this immediately, and at the time of this post, I’ve already taken my first active recovery day.

I planned this day to be the day before my big 130 km ride, which I just completed…I’ll be blogging separately about that ride. So, the gauntlet is set. We’ll have to see how the next few days go physically so I can make my first assessment of active recovery.

Let’s get into some riding

Nothing really special about the last 4 rides I had. Except the wind. It’s really starting to cramp my style. The worst part is, the wind always comes from the Northwest here, which just happens to be a headwind for the last 2-5 miles on each of my routes, no matter what I do. So that’s fun.

I think the most aggravating part of the wind is that I can’t hear anything – including the awful golf carts driven by the senile. It also isn’t fun going into these round-a-bouts with the same senile people driving automobiles. But, hey! What’s life without some risky behavior every once in a while?

In any case, I suffered somewhat on the rides on Sept 30, Oct 1 and Oct 2. I don’t know why, but my body felt slightly bonked the entire way on all 3 rides. I pushed thru each though with some difficulty. Average speeds still up there in the 18 mph bracket, so that’s nice given those nasty headwinds.

I’ve noticed that my time in the drops is becoming extended with each ride. As of late I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible down there – mostly due to the head/side winds. I don’t notice much of a speed increase when I do, but I know that’s probably me just ignoring the fact that if I wasn’t in the drops, my speed would be significantly lower – who knows?

All in all, good rides.

Active recovery – take 1

I took the ride nice and slow and didn’t try to push my heart rate above 160 (and I only did briefly). It went well. I got to enjoy the lovely scenery of the perfectly manicured lawns and medians of The Villages (yes, that’s sarcasm).  Thirty minutes was the goal and I hit it perfectly with an average speed of 15.5 mph. We’ll see how much it benefits me in the big ride of 130 km in my next post!

Also, here’s a picture =)


Breaking in The Villages.

Humbled by Sugarloaf Mountain

not quite ready

Today I set out for a 30+ mile ride up and around Sugarloaf Mountain, in Clermont, Florida. It’s not a real mountain, more like a big hill. In any case, it’s the highest point in Florida and I figured I’d give climbing it a shot. I heard from other people in the area that it’s a tough climb, and I couldn’t quite believe it. This, based on my conception of Florida’s flatness and also based on the widely followed practice of constructing roads that traverse inclines, instead of tackle them head on. Double wrong.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf incline (courtesy of

The incline maxes out around a 15% grade. It’s only 1 km, but that km is kind of ridiculous for me at this time. This is by far the largest climb I’ve attempted since returning to the saddle. While I completed the climb, I didn’t feel too good afterwards. The huffing and puffing wasn’t sufficient to supply my muscles with oxygen and I found that after only 6 km of riding, my legs were ready to throw in the towel. I tried to down a gel at the top of the hill, then another about 3 km later. I felt a bit better, but back at the start of my route, I hit the wall at the first incline.  30 meter climb over a 400 meter distance. I tackled this climb with some difficulty the first time around, but this time proved to be impossible. My body told me that this was it. I felt if I had gone any further, I might have a heart attack.

So, I stopped, turned around and loaded up the bike. The good news: this is the first time in a while I’ve let myself hit the wall. Normally, if a cyclist is smart, it can be avoided, either by knowing what you can and can’t do (like I didn’t today) or by preparing mentally and physically for the ride ahead (which I’ll address in a bit). So, I was dumb this time. But hell, at least I tried. I got further than I would have 3 months ago, right? I’ll do better next time, for sure.

the ride

No really accurate numbers here…mostly because Wahoo needs to fix their app like something fierce. But, here’s an estimate:

  • approx. 12.5 miles, 00:45:00
  • approx. 16.7 mph average speed
  • 38.3 mph max speed – new personal record!
  • 162 bpm average heart rate
  • 186 bpm max heart rate

Not awful for the distance, but not great either. I’ll get there. It was awesome almost reaching 40 mph though – felt like I was back in college!

the indigenous people in my belly are revolting

Part of the reason I feel I didn’t do as well as I could have is this stomach bug I’ve got going on. While it’s not a very active bug, it certainly makes me feel drained. It’s on its 4th day now, and the fact that I’ve ridden as much as I have kind of makes me feel proud. I don’t feel well and probably should take some days off…after today. The 12 or so miles I rode today just aren’t enough. I feel like Charleton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes. “Damn you all to hell!” (talking to me abdomen).

So, I wasn’t in the right physical state to try this climb seriously and I should have known better. Lesson learned.

Attempt #2 hopefully coming up next weekend.