Category Archives: Updates

Varn Park ride finalized!

My 100-mile (166-km) ride from The Villages to Varn Park finally has a date!

November 17, I’ll be setting off at 0700 (or so) with my wife, dog and parents in tow! My wife will most likely be the one posting my updates to the blog for anyone who’s interested in following that day.

I’ll be posting some random topics about this century ride in the coming weeks to hopefully be a guide for those people who want to try this for the first time – heck even some seasoned cyclists may find something of value!

Where the heck have I been?

I wish I could say that I have been off doing amazing things on or off the bike. To tell you the truth, the last couple of weeks have been lackluster to say the least.

It all started with my bike being less than perfect (mostly the rear wheel), but then my attempt to fix all the other problems obviously didn’t help. The bike shop I brought it to did do an amazing job fixing it up and my first ride on it was just wonderful. It honestly felt like a new bike.

The downside to this, I found a fault in my rear wheel that ride. Perhaps its my weight, requiring me to true it all the time, but one of my spoke popped all its tension out when I got out of my saddle for a climb. I shortened that ride because of this, only to find that the nipple/spoke or the rim is stripped. So now my wheel is all jacked up.

Still, it’s not awful, so I still get to ride. I know I’m not doing my wheel any favorites by climbing on it, but I still need to ride, right? The options are to hopefully get the spoke replaced (praying its not beyond repair) or to get a new wheel. I’d definitely not prefer the latter, since the wheel I’d want is pretty expensive (as all the good ones are).

So, I’ve been riding less as a result. I’m taking days off when I would have been out on a 12-20 mile ride. I’m not going on my mandatory one long ride (35+ miles).

The ugly side of retirement

To attempt to get out of the funk, I did something I really regret. I tried to go on a Villages Club ride. Why is this bad? Turns out retirement makes a great many men turn sour. I arrived early at their meeting spot as any good guy would. I had some adjustments to make to my pedals, so I quickly did that whilst waiting. In that time, two men had arrived and were continuously circling around the parking lot to keep their legs warm. Once I was satisfied with my pedals being sufficiently tight, I set off to greet one of them. Now, I know I can be quiet sometimes, but I adjusted my volume accordingly since I knew any amount of wind in someone ears would render them deaf to my docile tones. I kindly said, “Good morning!” with a wave and a smile on my face. Threatening and aggressive, I know. The guy was looking straight in my eyes, clearly heard my voice, then just looked away and kept riding. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him go off and attempted again when our paths met again. Stone face, Part 2!

OK! Off to the other guy. Same response. I was starting to feel a little unwelcome. By the time Guy 2 had his second chance, another man and woman had arrived. Third time’s a charm? Wrong! Both Stonewalled me. So, I did what any person would do when treated like a pariah – I left. I was clearly not welcome and those people didn’t seem like the kind I’d want to ride with in any case. So, I finished my ride and had a great time without those surly old timers. I’d like to say it was great day, but their attitudes really took their toll on my candor for the rest of the day. So, in the end, awful experience and I definitely won’t be returning to that club.

Work’s a “B”

So, the job’s starting to require more time as I progress thru training. This is not OK! Less and less time to ride the bike! Two posts ago, I commented on active recovery being the way to go for me – and I stand by that statement. However, with all the hours I’ll be putting into dialysis, I realize that was a dream at best. In fact, next week I’ll be lucky to ride at all on a weekday as I’ll be travelling 45 mins – 1 hour each way to a training class that’s scheduled from 08 – 17. With the weather the way it’s been the last week in the AM (50 ºF, 95+% humidity) and darkness setting in at 1830, I foresee this problem sticking around for a while.

Good news?

There is some! With a twist…I feel healthy, I’m staying interested in cycling and I have a good time on the bike pretty much no matter what. The twist is that the scenery is burning me out. I need some new places to ride and it’s tough to find any where since I’m new to Central Florida. I simply need to get to a club that won’t ignore me and cast me out with the lepers.

Abundant annoyances

Although I had a great week on the bike, my cycling off the bike took some huge hits this week. It’s really the little annoyances that make the huge difference once they stack all up together.

First, I thought I’d give my bike a good cleaning the other day. All the de-greasing and soap a bike could ask for. It turned out great to look at. Then I sat on it and tried to pedal. click-click-click. I could feel it each down-stroke of my right foot. It was just a small noise as first, but as my ride went on it became louder to the point where I didn’t want to ride.

Then this pesky rear wheel of mine is giving me some huge problems. With my higher than normal body mass, every bump I hit is risking a wobbly wheel. As I mentioned the other day, during my 130 km ride I hit a bad bump over some railroad tracks. While it didn’t give me a flat, it sure did make the wheel wobbly. So, I patched it up the best I could with a small crescent wrench and eye-sight. I was fairly proud of myself. But, just one short ride (the same as the click), and I could feel the wobble – in a big way.

Then my headset comes loose. Not all the way, just enough so I could notice it. Truth be told, if bearings were indestructible, I wouldn’t have cared it was so small of a difference.

So, being a prudent cyclist with little to no tools, I figured now would be a good time to bring it in to my local cyclery. The click was gone, my rear wheel was true, and my headset was solid again. For 25 miles.

Now to add insult to injury, my shifting was dodgy. Frustrated I took to my tools and tried to patch everything up. It’s been a while, so I headed to GCN’s youtube channel and went to town with the How To videos. I felt confident seeing as I used to do this stuff all the time when I was in college.

I’ve said it a couple times this week and I’ll say it again. Hindsight is 20/20. Before I’m fully capable, I’ll need some supplies, including but not limited to a stand (so annoying running from one side to another), truing stand, new cables, cable cutters, a decent Philp’s screwdriver, and a light! But, I didn’t have any of this, so now my poor steed is nearly out of commission. So, no ride today, tomorrow and until who knows when.

It’s odd. I feel helpless all of a sudden. Nothing to do, except blog about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my bike back in time for Thursday or Friday so I can get in some long rides (my days off from work).

In other news, my wife is the greatest. She tries to help me in any way she can. She’s still encouraging even when the mech’s got me frustrated. She even said a new rear wheel might be expensive “but doable.” Also, she started painting a picture of me on the bike! What a lady I’ve got.

In any case, see ya when I see ya!

Farewell, September.

This month in review

This month had a bunch of amazing events for me. Metric century, speed increases, a big hill kicking my ass – you know, the usual.

First and foremost is the metric century. It was a pretty emotional ride for me. I thought at one point that my physical abilities were beyond repair. To complete this ride after just 3 months of practice was just beautiful enough to make this guy cry – while riding. I will always remember that ride as the one that made me truly believe in myself. Confidence abound!

My speed increases came in like a marching band, slow and steady – up until this month. It seemed I just jumped past the 17 mph mark and went straight up to 18. Then as if by some crazy coincidence, the headwinds came – challenging my speeds. They did slow me down, but not as much as I expected. I kept my speed at or just above 18 mph. I’m very proud of this. I even had a couple 19 mph rides! Woo!

I also set my new high speed mark at 35 mph. What a thrill that was. Unfortunately it came right after a big hill took me down a couple notches, so I couldn’t go even faster or even enjoy it as much as I should have. But, I can’t have everything just given to me, right? I wouldn’t appreciate it if I didn’t work hard for it. The hills I’ve been riding up until that day were big for me and they’re starting to get small for me. Sugarloaf Mountain proved that to me with the resounding sound of my heavy huffing and puffing whilst zig-zagging uphill.

The good part of this, I did actually make it up the entire hill without getting out of the saddle. So, it’s still a win. Now, I’m just going to have to keep going back to climb that road over and over again until it’s yesterday’s news. I think once a week will probably suffice.

I’m doing pretty well in the Eddy Merckx Challenge, which I just wrote about. While it won’t end until October 9, I still think the brunt of my work will have occurred in September. I’m just 194 kilometers away with 9 days left!

Upcoming in October

150 miles per week and a 130 km ride. Read more about it on my October goals page! It should be interesting for me.

If your September was half as good as mine, you did well this month. I’ll see you all in October!

Eddy Merckx Challenge update

Well, it’s been 11 days, just over the halfway mark. 506 kilometers down, 194 to go.

Not too bad so far, although I was suffering from some pretty severe fatigue the other day with all the rides I’d been on with the stomach bug. But, yesterday’s rest day sure made it a ton easier to ride today – 1/2 century done, 2 more to go in 8 days.

Feeling pretty good about finishing this challenge. I’m sure I’ll be beat by the end, but it’ll be worth it just to know I could ride this much in 20 days.

Remember to track my progress over on the Eddy Merckx Challenge page!

1,000 miles!

This week I passed the 1,000 mile mark!

I can’t tell you how good it feels to say that. It seems like yesterday I struggled to ride 5 miles at once. Three months later, I’m riding 30-40 miles 3-4 times a week and I feel great (other than whatever stomach bug I picked up this week)!

Keep coming back to read about my next 1,000 miles! I know it won’t take 3 months this time around!

1000milesacrossus

1,000 miles in color! (courtesy of Headlong Running Betty)

Something I’ve been neglecting to mention as of late.

A look back

I read some of my earlier posts and realized something: I haven’t been talking out my weight in regards to my cycling recently. Granted, this blog isn’t supposed to be all about my weight, but it’s still worth mentioning as I sort of wanted to make this blog a bit of a road-block-buster for those who are overweight and want to ride their way to fitness. So, without further delay, here’s a summary of the last month or so related to my weight.

there are benefits!

Yes, there are. The biggest benefit to being heavy on a bike is faster muscle gain. How? Think about that extra weight for a minute and relate it to a bicycle. I weight 213 lbs when I started this blog. My ideal weight on a bike should be somewhere around 160-170. So that’s potentially 50 lbs of extra weight I have to force my legs to push thru on my bike. It’s like weight lifting with pedals!

I can physically see the difference in my quadriceps and hamstring muscles. They were bigger and more defined just after 2 months. No, they’re not ripped, but they’re getting there. I think by the time November rolls around, my legs will be powerhouses, capable of higher speeds, especially considering that I’ll be losing all the extra, useless weight.

If you’re overweight, you’ll get to this point pretty quick. Then it’s all about keeping up the pace to keep pushing your legs harder and harder as they get bigger and your weight drops.

downsides

While there are probably many, I’ll focus on the ones that probably get to people. First, let’s talk about comfort. I’ll not deny, being overweight on a bike is not the most comfortable position I’ve been in. All the extra weight really puts a strain on not only your butt, but also your feet. Both get numb on the longer rides at the start. Mine still do (it just takes longer now). But rest assured, this is a temporary discomfort that each person will learn to deal with in their own way. For me, it was frequent out-of-saddle time and using my backstrokes to give my feet a rest from the pressure. I also was guilty of unclipping from my pedals quite a bit. Now, I can handle it all. I logged 3:47:25 in the saddle on my metric century and the only discomfort I felt was due to my refusal to pedal at certain points, leading to some numb toes. If I had just kept pedaling, I would have been A-OK!

Second, the looks of it all. We Americans suffer from the give-a-shits. I looked awful on my bike 3 months ago. However, I just didn’t care anymore. Maybe it’s just each person’s breaking point that pushes them into doing something about their weight. For me, it was having to hold my breath while tying my shoes. It was then that I knew I was in trouble and just had to get over this snag. I knew I was overweight and that I’d look ridiculous (in my own mind). That’s just it, it’s in your mind. People don’t care what you look like on a bike. Get over it! Easier than it sounds, I know.  Seriously though, who cares what you look like? Get in the saddle and ride!

Third, the power requirements. Pedaling that extra weight around is tough. No doubt about it. Take a look back to my first rides. They were short (really short) and I had to take many rest days. This is OK! You’re going to have to recover more than a seasoned cyclist – you’re body is doing a lot more with your short rides than someone who’s used to riding. It’s hard to get going, I won’t deny this. But stick to it. You’ll be riding your metric century in no time!

Pedaling extra weight isn’t tough just because of the amount of riding you’ll be limited to at the start, it also has to do with the energy requirements at their base levels. Getting yourself moving on a bike at 160 lbs is stupid easy. Getting yourself to move at 215 lbs – not so easy. I used to dread red lights and stop signs just because of how much energy I’d have to spend just to get back moving again. And hills! Don’t get me started on hills! It takes so much energy to climb a hill, regardless of weight. But us heavier-set people have it a lot tougher. My climbing still suffers from this! Don’t fret, though! Like anything, with practice, it will get easier, so you can push yourself up those hills even faster! It’s all about persistence!

Silver lining

All of these things get easier over time. The muscle gain and the weight loss have an exponential gain to a certain point, meaning you’ll see a very large increase in ability at the start. At some point, this will taper off and improvement slows. Don’t take this the wrong way! This is a good thing! It means you’ve pushed yourself to the point where it needs a much tougher challenge to get better – this is called athleticism! You’ll keep improving if you keep challenging yourself. Don’t make each ride an easy one. Climb those hills! Increase your speed! Sprint! You will improve, you will see a difference and you will love it!

Pretty soon, you’ll be using phrases like, “gran fondo, anyone?”

Varn Park ride – rescheduling

After a long debate with myself, I’ve decided to move up the date of my English century ride to Varn Park to this November. I’ll probably make this ride before Thanksgiving Day, but no exact date is set as of now. I really underestimated myself and the improvement I’d undergo and thought March would be my pace. The metric century I completed really opened my eyes though.

I’ve also changed the route a bit, mostly in The Villages, but I’ll also be spending more time on the famed A1A for some amazing ocean views. These changes make the route 103 miles (previously 92), to make it a true English century.

Smorgasbord of thoughts.

I know I haven’t posted in a little while. What can I say? I’ve been trying to ride as much as possible.

The rides

I’ll just make this a quick listing of my rides lately and point out a few things about my riding, so I can go out on the saddle again this morning.

Sept. 18 – ride 1

  • 19.43 miles, 1:00:10
  • 19.37 mph average speed
  • 25.22 mph max speed
  • 166 bpm average heart rate
  • 179 bpm max heart rate

Sept 20 – ride 2

  • 32.66 miles, 1:46:22
  • 18.42 mph average speed
  • 31.1 mph max speed
  • 160 bpm average heart rate
  • 181 bpm max heart rate

Sept 20 – ride 3

  • 19.49 miles, 1:02:15
  • 18.79 mph average speed
  • 24.84 mph max speed
  • 162 bpm average heart rate
  • 177 bpm max heart rate

The things that most speak to me about these rides, is surprisingly not the speed, but my average heart rates. Similar ride lengths and routes used to yield 174 average and 193 max, fairly frequently, indicating that I was overworking my body. On the flip side, the same routes also yielded much lower averages and maxes even earlier than that, indicating that I hit the wall pretty hard in the past.

It seems that the training is paying off in a big way. My aerobic capabilities are increasing, making my endurance much longer. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I keep on losing weight, making the whole experience more exciting.

New gears. Yes, more gears!

Giro Aeon

Giro Aeon – Matte Red/Black

I invested in a new helmet, the Giro Aeon – mostly due to my old helmet being over 12 years old. Ride 3 was the first I took it out for a spin, and holy crap, the ventilation is amazing. It also doesn’t suffer from being overweight, unlike its counterpart.

maintenance

I still haven’t taken in my rear wheel for truing. So, yesterday, I did some patchwork. It isn’t perfect, but after Ride 3, it’s stayed as true as I made it.

Ride 2…what a ride. It was mostly through a lot of wet roads. Really wet roads. Florida has an addition to rain that makes riding post- or intra-rain rides particularly dangerous for both the rider and the bike. Sand. It’s everywhere. The dirt contains an abnormal amount of sand down here, and it shows when the rain erodes it all into the roads. This makes the round-a-bouts particularly tricky, not to mention all the windy roads. Add into this, after your ride, your bike will be plastered with sand. So, here’s to a good hosing down and washing.

Also, what a perfect time for my new lube to get here. The bike shop that tuned my bike put dry lube on my chain. So, all that lube was gone after Ride 2. I could hear the sand in my chain by the end of my ride. After a chain soak and wipe-down, my new wet lube should work wonders. Also, the shifting became a ton easier with a drop or 2 in their housings.

Lastly, I need new tires. Mine are starting to crack, and we all know what happens next.

The challenges keep coming

Strava introduced the Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge on Sept. 20 thru October 9 – ride 700 kilometers. First off, if you don’t know who Eddy Merckx is, look him up. One of the best in cycling history. I’ll be attempting this, with gusto. I figured I might as well give it a shot, since I’ll be able to ride every day from now on (pretty much).

My weekly goal of 70 kilometers miles has been nothing but ease this month. I’ve been crushing that goal. So, mid-month, I’m somewhat ignoring it. With the Eddy Merckx challenge, I should be riding 240 kilometers (140 miles) a week. So, ya. 70 kilometers miles is nothing.

October is going to have to be something different, or a lot more distance. We’ll just wait and see.

future blog!

Since I’ll be riding my butt off over the next 18 days, my blog will be decidedly boring and lacking pictures/screenshots altogether. I’ll do my best to make it interesting when I post, but I promise nothing. Hopefully, you all like this blog enough to keep coming back.

Pure awesomeness this week!

Why so great?

Lots of miles, lots of great rides, a big goal completed. I shock myself. If you had told me 3 months ago that I’d be able to ride 63 miles/102 kilometers, I’d have laughed at you. My gut, my flabby legs, my inept heart and lungs were too much to overcome 3 months ago. Now, while the gut is still there, it’s much smaller and gets in the way a lot less. I can even get down to my drop bars comfortably for a few miles at a time now! My legs are visibly stronger! My heart rate is slowly decreasing during these rides (don’t worry, I can still make it go to town). My lungs are doing their jobs swimmingly.

I haven’t felt this good about my fitness since 2004. As a result, I can sleep like no body’s business. Where I used to have problems even falling asleep, let alone staying asleep, now I’m asleep and sound within minutes and don’t wake up unless my hydration was a little over zealous before bed.

Also, on the non-bicycle topics, I got a new great job in dialysis (something I’ve wanted to do since learning about it in nursing school) and it pays more than the job I have now as an added bonus! This is super awesome news for a couple of reasons – first, I’ll be happier. A happier Joel leads to happier wife, dog, cat and rides! Second, the extra money will be a great bonus so I can provide more money to the hopeful new addition to our family! A baby Busi is on her/his way!

Seriously, I’m on cloud 9 and things are just getting better and better recently!

This week in riding

131.9 miles/212.3 kilometers ridden in 4 total rides – let’s not forget one of those was my first metric century!

MORE CHANGES?

If you haven’t been looking at my routes on Strava, I’ll give you a little update. I have been normalizing my routes more and more lately. I basically have a 12, 18 and 30 mile route that I’m doing pretty much every day I ride. I will still mix it up with my longer rides and probably put some different shorter ones in the next coming weeks – the same routes get a little boring.

Plus, I need new hills. The O’Dell Circle southbound and Morse Blvd southbound  hills still give me a run for my money and my Lake Weir route has some great hills as well, but that’s about it. However, I drove thru Clermont yesterday on my way to an Orlando City football (the real football) match and was surprised to see some amazing hills. While it’s a bit of a drive to get to Clermont, I think once the wife and I get another car, it will be less of a hassle to drive out to new hills.

Should be fun!

All in all, things couldn’t be better. I can’t wait to get better at what I’m doing, and that seems to be happening continually nowadays. My weight loss is seeming to slow down, but I’m almost positive that’s because I’m putting muscle back on in return – so I’m not worried about that.

Keep on keepin’ on, ladies and gents – I’ll do the same!