Monday, April 25, 2016

Seid Trips: Two Reservoir Ride

I knew through the week that the weather looked good for a Saturday ride. It's been a long time since I went out for an "epic" ride. Some time ago I plotted out a ride that would take me to someplace new and scenic. I decided to do that ride. Friday evening I prepped my bike. I got my clothes laid out along with the arm and leg warmers and a light jacket and put together the drinks and food I wanted to take with me. I got up Saturday morning ready to ride.
It was a bit cool, maybe in the high 40s when I started out. I felt good; I expected to feel a little tight and tired for the first ten miles. By then I start to warm up and can enjoy the ride. I traveled north on Round Barn Road, going under the 70 freeway overpass, and proceeding to SR 35. I then took that west to cross Route 1. At that point I began traveling on small, country roads. Each new segment seemed to be smaller and more pot-holed. After some miles making my way NW, to my surprise my GPS told me to make a left -- on to a gravel road. I wanted adventure! I must have traveled five or ten miles on gravel roads before getting back to paved roads and highways.
It was great to finally reach the first lake, Summit Lake Reservoir. The road bisected the easternmost part of the lake so that I had water on either side. When I reached the second reservoir, Prairie Creek Reservoir, I could tell it was much more of a recreational area with parks, beaches, and marinas.
I took in the scenery as I made my way around the northern tip of the lake and returned to the south to travel the western shores of the two reservoirs. I stopped at one point to have a rest and something to eat. I posted a selfie to FaceBook and then took a picture of my bike against the beauty of the lake and the sky.
At about the 70-mile point my legs began to cramp. I stopped along the highway (SR 38) just west of Hagerstown to rest a bit. I tried shaking and stretching. When I got back on the bike, my leg muscles would cramp again. I finally thought I should call family in case I just couldn't keep going. No answer. No answer. No answer. I kept trying to get back on the road. I walked my bike a few hundred yards to the top of the ascent. I got back on and began turning my legs a bit as I coasted. A little more and just a bit of twinging. I was in Hagerstown when my daughter tried calling. I sent her the text message through Siri: "I am in Hagerstown. I am doing ok."
I made it all the way home. I told my daughter I was glad no one answered their phones. I really wanted to be able to finish my ride. I didn't give up. 91 miles. A bit short of a century. But I planned for the adventure and not for the number of miles.
I remember thinking as I rode under 70. They call it a freeway. But riding my bike under my own power to go where I want to go is more of a free way to travel.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Seid Trips - Sharing the Ride Along the Trail

When I was a teen-ager, living in the tiny western Michigan village of New Era, Michigan, I had an unreciprocated crush on a girl who lived on the other side of the tracks. We went to school together; we went to church together; and together we had in common that our fathers were leaders in the small, independent Bible church. One would be hard-pressed to say who ran the church: Her father, the chair of the board, or mine, the pastor. Perhaps even more influential were our mothers, who were in the basement, molding the minds and hearts of the next generation.
Childhood church, father was pastor
On any given Saturday we would be around the church and parsonage helping our respective fathers. I might be mowing the parsonage lawn or even at the church printing off the Sunday bulletin on the mimeograph machine and neatly folding them to be handed out the next day. I knew that she would be across the street at the church, and I hoped to catch a glimpse of her or even run into her.
High School, Looking Cool
I remember one Saturday in particular. I was getting ready to go ride my new bike around the country roads leading out toward Lake Michigan. My Huffy Independence, as you can imagine, was red, white, and blue-themed. This was before the time of bicycle helmets. I was wearing my brother's cool beret. Red, white, and blue, of course. At the time I was wearing large tear-drop shaped glasses. I suppose I was going for a Peter Fonda, Easy Rider look. I guess I didn't pull it off very well. I rode across the street to stop and talk with my dream-girl. I don't remember what she said, but I know my pride was hurt, and I felt as goofy as I must have looked. Fast-forward about 40 years later and she's now been my partner in life for nearly that long. Suann has been nothing but supportive of my bike riding and my goofy outfits.
For the past year Suann has listened to me talk about bike-riding. Not once has she questioned the purchase of yet another cycling kit. She has never asked me to stay home on a weekend day rather than leave for a three to five hour bike ride. I know when I stumble through the front door, pushing my bike inside and starting to remove the sunglasses, the helmet, and sweat-soaked lycra, she's there to greet me with, "Did you have a good ride?" I try my best to share my experience with her, grateful that she makes me feel so good about the time and expense I spend on my hobby even though it's not something I can really share with her.
It's one of those odd coincidences of life. In a drawer of an end-table sits a college term paper Suann wrote a long time ago. Her topic was Multiple Sclerosis. Many years later she would be diagnosed with that debilitating disease. It's made her a bit forgetful. She doesn't always make the best decisions about what to do or how to do it. I've taken over most of the household chores such as laundry and washing dishes. Suann still walks, though with a wide-stance and a halting gait. After a few blocks her left leg refuses to work properly; a minute's-rest and she can proceed. She loves to be outside. In the fall she wants to pick up leaves for craft projects she can no longer do. In the summer she wants to pick all of our flowers to enjoy inside leaving our flowerbeds bloomless. Before the snow has barely melted in the spring she begs -- and bugs -- to buy plants to pot for the front porch, though in recent years they wilt and die before summer has ended.
I've been trying to find ways to share my bike riding with Suann. Garmin has a Live Event feature that will show on a map on their website the location of the rider with the GPS device. A few times I've taken Suann for a ride in the car and have either retraced my steps or "reccied" a new route. I've taken a few pictures with my iPhone and now have started to create videos I can share with her. But it still hasn't seemed to be enough.
I got the idea to look for some kind of trailer to pull behind the bike. We have a great rail trail nearby. We finally decided to buy a Cycletote special needs adult-sized bike trailer. It came this past week, and I spent the evening figuring out how to put it together: I only had to take it back apart and put it together correctly a few times and only stripped one bolt. Yesterday we went for our first ride.
For the first time, it was a pretty good experience. After a few tries I figured out how to take it apart enough to make it compact. I cleaned out the trunk of the car only to discover it won't fit in the trunk. Suann suggested the back seat; sure enough it did slide in without too much trouble. Other than one of the tires being a little low on air and that we couldn't figure out how to get our expensive Terrano-X bike-to-bike communication device to work, we had a great time.
Cardinal Greenway rail trail, small segment
We had to go out from the city of Richmond to find a trail head where the barriers were wide enough for the trailer to pass through. I hardly felt a difference in pulling the trailer. It actually felt like a good training tool: Chris Froome, 2015 Tour de France winner, describes his early years in South Africa without mountains to climb and training by riding with his brakes depressed creating greater resistance. A few times I got us up to 20 mph. The trail is very nice, though with some recent winds there were small branches strewn along the pavement. The trees and fields are still brown and bare. The sun was trying to get us into the 60s, but the breeze could be cool, especially on the return leg of the trip heading into the ESE wind.
My bike, Suann's "chariot"
We had a great time together; the next time will be even better. We'll figure out a way to make Suann a little more comfortable in the seat. We'll figure out what buttons to press to get our helmet-attached communication devices to work properly so we can talk to each other during the ride. I'll get better at setting-up and taking-down. Once we get to know our local trail, we'll start thinking about trips to explore other trails. New adventures await as we share the ride together.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Seid Trips - Zwift Mountain Climb

More than ten years ago I had a standard stationary exercise bike. A tension roller would press down on the thick rubber wheel to increase the resistance. I tried to make use of it, but it was a horrible experience. I found online a company in the UK that had developed a game-like interface that could turn an exercise bike into a virtual world of riding the bike through an imaginary world. It wasn't very engaging and after some time I eventually lost interest.
When I started cycling in the spring of 2015, I became aware of the new types of trainers you could use with bikes. It was June before I finally decided to buy a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Fluid Trainer. I suspect we must have been having some rainy days, and I missed being able to get on the bike. Meanwhile, I also discovered a new online resource for cycling called Zwift. Finally, someone had created a virtual world for cyclists that rivaled popular video games. With a bike on a trainer using a tiny ANT+ dongle and a speed sensor (and optional cadence and heart rate sensors), you could enter a virtual world of cycling roads around an imaginary island along with hundreds of other cyclists from around the world. As with many other computer games, you design your avatar and your equipment from a variety of options.
The genius of this game-play is that there are very subtle ways in which riders are motivated to work hard. Natural competitiveness makes many of us want to speed up, either to keep from being passed, to stay with another rider, or to catch up and pass another rider. Although "smart" trainers make going up (and down) hills more realistic by controlling the resistance, "dumb" trainers provide a similar effect because a rider begins to go faster in order to counter slowing down. The faster one goes, the greater the resistance. Because one begins to hear the sounds of slowing down and sees the slower movement, there is a natural reaction to maintain speed and to begin to rider harder.
Map and Elevation Chart of Mountain Climb
There are segments of the course that are timed, usually a sprint segment or a KOM (King of the Mountain) segment up a hill. Again, one feels the impulse to try to do better than before. Even when I plan just to do a recovery ride, I get pulled in to riding hard up a hill or sprinting for a personal record.
At first there was just a circuit around Watopia. Before the world championship race in 2015 held in Richmond, Virginia, Zwift opened up the virtual 2015 Road World Championship Course. In 2016 Zwift began charging about $10 a month. They began adding some new routes along with interesting new features along the route. This past week they opened an exciting new route that imitates the alpine mountain climbs well-known from races like the Tour de France.

I've been creating videos from my rides, so I decided to do a screen capture of a Zwift ride and include video of me riding on my trainer. I chose the mountain climb just to see what it was like. The video is about an hour. The audio of me talking is very faint. I don't expect anyone to watch the whole thing and listen to every word I say. I hope you find it a bit interesting.



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Suffering: An Easter Homily on Cycling

I can't help noticing the ways in which my renewed interest in cycling is informed by my decades of study in early Christianity. My worlds collided about a year ago when I heard references to a cycle race. My study of ancient rhetoric included a Greek term for hortatory language called paraenesis. I kept thinking of that word when I heard references on podcasts to the classic race held in early March. It took me a few days to realize that they were using the French pronunciation to talk about the race that goes from the city of Paris to the city of Nice in France, Paris-Nice.
A theme that cycling and the Christian religion have in common is suffering. Not only do cyclists refer to the room in which they set up their bike on a trainer as the "pain cave," but a company producing training videos for cycling calls themselves The Sufferfest and uses the metaphor of being from the country of Sufferlandria. What cycling and Christianity have in common is the possibility of the misconception about the role of suffering.
As Easter approaches many people think of the joy of spring and the new life in evidence all around us: baby animals such as chicks and lambs, early sprouting perennials like the Easter Lily. Some of these same people also think about the dark days of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday leading up to Easter.These are dark days of suffering and pain. This has led most Christians to think that it was the suffering itself that was redemptive as a payment for sin, a bloody act that exchanged one's life for the lives of many. For others it seems like an abhorrent teaching and a violent act that could not be the divine plan of a loving God.
In my view this understanding of New Testament teaching misunderstands the context of the language about death within the Hellenistic world of early Christianity. The focus should not be on the depth of the suffering and pain but the endurance and commitment of the person experiencing hardship. I like to illustrate the context with the text that best exhibits the Hellenistic influence on early Jewish and Christian texts of the Second Temple period, the document known as Fourth Maccabees. Put simply, the tyrant Antiochus attempts to force Jews to give up their allegiance to their tradition and teachings and perform sacrilegious acts in the temple. A mother and her seven sons one by one undergo suffering and torment but remain faithful.The aged priest Eleazar does the same. The author praises them with athletic imagery:
"Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine, for on that day virtue gave the awards and tested them for their endurance. The prize was immortality in endless life. Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother of the seven sons entered the competition, and the brothers contended. The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators. Reverence for God was victor and gave the crown to its own athletes. Who did not admire the athletes of the divine legislation? Who were not amazed? The tyrant himself and all his council marveled at their endurance, because of which they now stand before the divine throne and live the life of eternal blessedness" (4 Macc 17:11-18 NRS).
This Hellenistic concept of the death of the innocent hero being beneficial, salvific, redemptive for others is carried through in New Testament texts. The book of Hebrews, which I argue displays some influence from the Maccabean literature, uses similar language to describe the death of Jesus.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1-2 NRS).
Paul's letter to the Philippians encourages the recipients to act consistently and faithfully in the same self-sacrificial way to their friends as Jesus did for others. Fourth Maccabees reads, "They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring torture even to death" (4 Macc 17:10). Paul uses the same Greek phrase: "And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross" (Phi 2:7-8 NRS). Again, with athletic imagery, the encouragement is to endure the suffering for the greater good it brings about.
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phi 3:10-14 NRS).
I don't suggest cyclists stop talking about the "holy water" -- another metaphor from The Sufferfest -- produced by suffering on the bike. I just want us to be clear that we are not advocating pain for the sake of pain itself. Just experiencing the pain is not the goal. We shouldn't glamorize suffering for its own sake. We know that what we're doing is training our bodies to tolerate the pain of lactic acid in our muscles and to improve the body's ability to perform. We call them "endurance athletes" not masochistic athletes. Maybe some do. The real focus is on our ability to endure the stress and pain of the ride and remain committed to the efficacy of our experience. The Sufferfest group does refer to this with their acronym IWBMATTKYT, "I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow." We seek to improve and make progress toward a goal of being as fit and strong as a human can be. There's something divine about that.
One cyclist whose story has intrigued me is Evelyn Stevens, currently a cyclist with the powerful women's cycling team Boels-Dolmans. A few weeks ago my wife and I watched live-streaming video as Evie attempted to break the world hour record. Stevens described the effort as an "athletic meditation on suffering" ("Final Countdown for Evelyn Stevens Hour Record Attempt," Zipp News, Feb. 26, 2016). Her coach used vaguely biblical language, "She started with a full cup of energy, and she was pouring the last drops out in the last laps" (Caley Fretz, "Stevens sets new hour record mark," Velonews, Feb. 27, 2016). I hate to admit that halfway through I fell asleep in my recliner. When I awoke to Evie in her last moments of anguish, I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus' words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus became committed to undergo the impending torture, to drink the cup of suffering, "Could you not watch one hour" (Mark 14:37)?
Without the positive results that are brought about because of enduring being pushed to our limits, suffering would just be masochistic. The degree to which we value those outcomes determines the extent to which we can treat suffering as something worth enduring. For some people the objective is to be faster and stronger than anyone else. The result may be to go farther than we could before. Our competition may just be with our own bodies: We want to overcome the limits of what our mind and our muscles set for us and experience the joy of breaking barriers. It may actually be redemptive. Some people undertake extreme events like the Leadville 100 to honor a friend who died of cancer. Some ride or race in events to raise money to fight diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. Or to provide durable bikes in African countries so that people can get to jobs, school, or stores more easily and with less time (World Bicycle Relief). Whether we do it for our own development or for the good of others and society as a whole, the only way to overcome our natural limitations is to increase our ability to endure our own suffering. It makes not only that special event a day of celebration but the dark days of suffering to be a form of joy as well.

Attitudes about Cycling I've Encountered

I've had my own thoughts about cyclists over the years. I can get irritated seeing cyclists traveling down the middle of the street, riding on the sidewalk, or doing other precarious and dangerous things. When a colleague came into the office wearing his kit -- the memory seared into my brain is of tight, white shorts -- I had to wait several years before I could even think about pulling on the lycra. Yet, I have heard comments from other people about cyclists that have struck me as odd.

Wearing Sports Attire

When I mentioned in a group that I had taken up cycling, I happened later to be in a one-on-one setting for a conversation -- in the restroom. He said to me, with a smirk on his face, something like, "So you wear the lycra shorts when you ride your bike?" I sheepishly replied, "Yes." The conversation has stuck with me. I've tried to imagine the conversation taking place in the context of other sports. "I play on a baseball team." "Oh, do you wear a baseball uniform?" "I like to go skiing." "Oh, do you like to wear warm, water-resistant clothing when you ski?" "I enjoy a sport." "Oh, do you wear appropriate clothing designed for your sport and that is the traditional clothing associated with that sport?" In most every sport there is a uniform associated with the sport. Baseball, basketball, tennis, and soccer/football have customary clothing that is not essential to the playing of the sport (other than the shoes), but it's still acceptable, if not expected, that athletes or mere sporting enthusiasts will most likely don the traditional costume of the activity. In other cases, such as American football, swimming, or hockey, participants wear uniforms not only as part of tradition but also because the clothing permits the wearer to perform well in the activity and protects them during training and events.
Cycling is no different. The light and tight-fitting fabric of lycra or polyester blends has the necessary characteristics needed for the sport: It's aerodynamic in the wind, moisture is wicked away and quick drying, and it adds the least amount to the weight of the athlete. The "chamois" in the shorts provides padding for the comfort of the rider on the saddle and causes less chafing in one's more sensitive regions. The jersey has three pockets in the back that allow one to carry some necessary items for nutrition or bike repair. The helmet, of course, provides some measure of protection for the head. The shoes help the rider to have a full circle of pedaling and keep the feet from slipping off the pedals.
So why do people think cyclists are silly for wearing the clothing and equipment suited for the sport? I can tell you, when I went out for football my senior year in high school, I was quite happy to be wearing the football equipment and proud to wear the football jersey of my 1976 undefeated team at Shelby High School.

Hunched over Cyclists

Another comment I've heard about cyclists is that they ride hunched over and don't see the scenery around them. I can understand it may look that way. I don't tend to ride much in the drops. There are times when the headwind can be so strong you feel like you're constantly going up hill. I try to hunch over and get as aerodynamic as I can. It does help. In some ways the sorest part of my body after a long ride is my neck from craning up. I haven't tried to work on that yet, but I'm sure there are exercises and stretches I can be doing to alleviate that pain.
My experience over the past year of reading about cycling and listening to podcasts is that most cyclists are outside riding their bikes because they want to be close to nature, to propel themselves through forests or farm land, mountains or meadows, and through deserts or drenching rain. Like hikers they want to experience the multi-faceted world around them but a bit faster and still under their own power, a perfect combination of human and machine.
Here are some examples. The Global Cycling Network, an excellent vlogging group on Youtube, have a regular feature on social media of showing images people share of their bikes in the foreground of incredible vistas from around the world. Pro cyclists most often share images on social media not of themselves but of the incredible places they ride during training or visit during off-days during an event. The rather unique Youtube channel The Col Collective is less about how one rides up the iconic mountains of professional cycling than it is about the beauty and experience of the settings one can have so up-close and personal while riding the bike.

Sharing the Road

I've been fortunate not to have very many unpleasant encounters with motorists who dislike sharing the road with cyclists. I did have someone yell to me "Nice stop!" when I went through a stop sign rather than unclip, come to a full stop, only to have the right of way to proceed first anyway. I now come to a full stop at intersections when cars are anywhere near and always at red lights. On another occasion a pick-up truck driver narrowly crossed a highway in front of me and just laughed at my gesticulations of outrage (no, not that one). At times vehicles will come up behind me and suddenly floor their vehicles and take off down the road. I have no idea what that's about. I read and hear stories about motorists who dislike/hate cyclists and attack them in one way or another. The idea seems to be that the roads are there only for motorists.
It surprised me to learn that surfaced roads came about because of cycling in the first place. While most cyclists are also tax-paying motorists in the US, apparently fuel tax and vehicle fees only pay a fraction of the costs of road maintenance. In the US the governmental agency responsible for roads includes bicyclists as its constituency. The mission of the Department of Transportation includes bicyclists and pedestrians. There is no reason for motorists to think they rule the road and cyclists should just pedal around the park. The incidences of road rage involving cyclists or cases where tacks have been strewn along roads or barbed-wire stretched across a cycling path should make us sit up and recognize that we need to foster a greater sense of cooperation when it comes to sharing the road.
Cycling isn't unique in the misconceptions and biases people can have. It may be one of the most mild cases when we compare it to racism, nationalism, misogyny, or other forms of aggression and violence against people different than ourselves. But for some of us it is a daily concern and contributes to decline in enthusiasm for getting out on the road and even to the deaths of some cyclists who happened to encounter distracted drivers or motorists with murderous intents.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Weighing in on the Garmin Index Smart Scale

Last fall I discovered a new product by Garmin that would solve my problem with figuring out my body composition. I would tell people about exercising and dieting but not losing weight. The common response is that muscle weighs more than fat, so even though fat is reduced muscle weight can offset that reduction. Good answer! I thought with the new Garmin Index Smart Scale I would be able to track that increase in muscle mass.
The description reads:
The Garmin Index™ smart scale uses bioelectrical impedance to calculate your body composition. The device sends a small amount of electrical current (which you will not feel) from one foot through your body to the other foot. The device measures the electrical signal after it passes through your body to estimate aspects of your body composition.
It should be noted that stores selling this product do not seem to refer to this "bioelectrical impedance" but simply use the word "measure." My assumption was that the body fat, water content, muscle, and bone would be calculated not based on weight but by the electric current. It is obvious, however, when you look at my data that the data on body composition goes up and down relative to my weight. I'm not losing that much muscle, fat, and bone from day to day or week to week for that matter. It looks to me like the data is being calculated based on some algorithm connected to weight, whether there is any electrical current or not.
I wrote to Garmin about my problem with the data. On Jan. 18, 2016 I was told, "I have created a case in regards to this issue, to be reviewed by our engineers. It can take up too 3 weeks for a resolution to be found. We appreciate your patience in this matter, and apologize for the inconvenience." I wrote again on Feb. 26, 2016 asking about their response. I was told on Feb. 29, 2016, "I sincerely apologize for the length of time this has taken to get more details on the Smart Scale. I was able to locate your case 1190257 and it appears our engineers are still reviewing it. I did submit a request for an update since it is taking longer than normal. Also, once the engineers have come up with a resolution you will receive an email alerting you." I have not heard anything since.
I have no idea if my product is faulty, if I'm doing it wrong, or if this product just doesn't work as advertised. It's a nice scale. I love that it automatically sends the data through wifi to my Garmin online account. I could have saved myself the $150 and kept putting my weight into MyFitnessPal.
If anyone can make sense of this data and explain it to me, I would appreciate knowing that I haven't wasted my money.
I've done two tests. One is to hold a dumbbell while weighing. With the 20 lb. kettlebell (and clothes on) my weight is 278.4, body fat is 31.5%, muscle is 94.2, and bone mass is 22.3. As you can see from the data below, the scale is not simply measuring electrical impedance but estimating based on weight. The electrical current shouldn't be affected by my holding a weight, if it is measuring the impedance through my body. My other test was to see if it actually sends a current or not. I simply put my sneakers on. It did know that it couldn't send the current and displayed a big X. It's good to know there actually is current being detected.

date weight body fat % muscle bone
11/27/2015 256.8 36.5 88.6 18.9
11/28/2015 252.6 36.3 88.1 18.7
11/30/2015 248 35.6 87 18.3
12/1/2015 252.5 36.3 88.1 18.7
12/2/2015 250.2 35.8 87.5 18.5
12/3/2015 250.6 35.9 87.6 18.5
12/7/2015 260.1 29.2 89.9 20.5
12/8/2015 258.5 28.8 89.4 20.3
12/9/2015 254.7 29.3 88.8 20
12/10/2015 251.4 28.7 87.7 19.6
12/13/2015 255.9 28.8 88.8 20.1
12/14/2015 253.8 28.6 88.3 19.8
12/15/2015 252.7 28.8 88.3 19.8
12/16/2015 254.1 28.8 88.3 19.8
12/17/2015 255.8 28.9 88.8 20.1
12/21/2015 261.1 29.0 89.9 20.6
12/22/2015 257.7 28.7 89.4 20.3
12/23/2015 255.7 28.7 88.8 20.1
12/24/2015 254.9 29.0 88.8 20
12/26/2015 256.4 28.8 88.8 20.1
12/28/2015 256.6 28.9 88.8 20
12/29/2015 254.1 28.8 88.3 19.8
1/4/2016 259.4 29.0 89.9 20.6
1/5/2016 259.3 29.1 89.9 20.5
1/7/2016 256.4 29.1 88.8 20
1/11/2016 260.4 29.4 89.9 20.5
1/12/2016 257.3 29.3 89.4 20.3
1/13/2016 255.6 29.0 88.8 20
1/14/2016 255.5 29.3 88.8 20
1/16/2016 256.8 28.5 88.8 20.1
1/18/2016 258.8 29.1 89.4 20.3
1/19/2016 259.9 29.5 89.9 20.5
1/20/2016 257 28.8 89.4 20.3
1/21/2016 255.5 29.2 88.8 20
1/26/2016 254.2 28.6 88.3 19.8
1/27/2016 252.3 28.6 87.7 19.6
1/28/2016 257.9 29.1 89.4 20.3
2/7/2016 258 29.2 89.4 20.3
2/9/2016 256.5 28.9 88.8 20
2/11/2016 257.3 28.7 89.4 20.3
2/12/2016 262 29.1 90.4 20.8
2/15/2016 261.1 29.5 89.9 20.5
2/16/2016 259.5 29.3 89.9 20.5
2/17/2016 263.3 29.3 90.4 20.8
2/19/2016 257 29.2 89.4 20.3
2/20/2016 255.9 28.4 88.8 20.1
2/23/2016 260.5 29 89.9 20.6
2/25/2016 261.8 29.4 90.4 20.8
2/27/2016 257.7 28.8 89.4 20.3
2/29/2016 253.1 28.6 88.3 19.8
3/2/2016 255.8 29.4 88.8 20
3/3/2016 257.3 29.6 89.4 20.2
3/6/2016 262.1 29.4 90.4 20.8
3/7/2016 259.8 28.7 89.9 20.6
3/15/2016 254.3 28.2 88.3 19.9
3/19/2016 255.8 28.5 88.8 20.1
3/22/2016 257.3 29 89.4 20.3
3/24/2016 256.3 28.5 88.8 20.1
4/6/2016 262.2 29.4 90.4 20.8
4/11/2016 257 28.7 89.4 20.3
4/12/2016 258.5 29.1 89.4 20.3
4/13/2016 257.9 29.4 89.4 20.2
4/14/2016 258.8 28.8 89.4 20.3
4/20/2016 261.7 29 90.4 20.8
5/3/2016 259.8 29.3 89.9 20.5
5/5/2016 258.3 36.6 89.1 19
5/9/2016 264.9 37.5 90.8 19.6
5/19/2016 262.4 37.2 90.2 19.4
5/24/2016 266.3 37.8 91.3 19.8
5/25/2016 261.4 37.2 90.2 19.4
5/26/2016 260.3 36.9 89.7 19.2
5/31/2016 263.5 37.5 90.8 19.6
6/1/2016 262.2 37.2 90.2 19.4

Seid Trips - Sunny Day in Mid-March 30-mile Ride

It was a great day for a bike ride! The temperature was hitting the 70s, and there wasn't much wind. No leg warmers needed; nor fleecy base layer. It did feel a bit odd to be out in shorts, but it was certainly warm enough for it. Hopefully I've still got some tan left from last summer.
Ride through the Woods
I felt lighter today for some reason. My legs felt fresh; no trainer rides for several days. This time I was sure that I got my Garmin GPS device started properly. My neighbor called to me from his yard and wished me a good ride. There went my anonymity. Sometimes dressed in my cycling outfit with helmet and sunglasses I feel like the costumed superhero. A hidden identity, racing through the streets of the City of Roses incognito. I sometimes think about leaving through my driveway to the alley, like the Batmobile taking off on another adventure.
A favorite 30-mile circuit
I took video again on this trip. This time I would have the Garmin GPS data to overlay on the video. I am already having difficulty thinking of ways to make the video more interesting. I did take a different route than previously, but some of the roads are the same. One trick is to stop somewhere and set up the camera on the side of the road, ride back a ways, ride past the camera, turn around, get the camera, and continue on. It makes it look like you've got a camera crew along for the ride. My problem was that I didn't want to stop and mess around like that. Maybe on a ride that's not a training ride.
There were two Stava Segments for which I gave all out efforts. The first is the section going west from Abington called Abington Agony. I did get a personal record for this section. It is the entire section (3.6 miles) on Potter Shop Road from Abington to just before the turn for Willow Grove. I did get up the two hills pretty well, but I also gave some hard effort to the straight, flat stretches getting up to 35 mph at one point. I'm surprised to see that I'm in fifth place for that segment. I did that stretch 2:30 faster than my previous best time. I'm proud of that but disappointed that on the final Strava Segment I missed my personal record by about 20 seconds.



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Assessing our Talents in Life: Pros and Scholars

When I first created my blogsite and called it Seid Effect, I was reflecting on what effect my life and career was having on other people. In the description for the blogsite I wrote, "In mid-life and ten years into my current professional position, I wonder what effect my life is having. This blog may be a way to have more of an effect." It's now been five years later, and I have had to come to terms with the development of my career.
I'm reminded of this, as I start to write in this blogsite again and to write about my cycling, because I was listening to a podcast by Phil Gaimon, a rider with Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, a professional since 2009, and someone who writes, blogs, tweets, and posts in print and online. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book Pro Cycling on $10 a Day. In his inaugural podcast for Peloton Brief, Phil had this reflection on his own career.
It was a slow, very slow, painfully slow progression. But I got there, and I sort of had this understanding of talent from my own perspective. If I just outworked everyone else, I would get there. And eventually I did. But then there came a point where I got to the top and I’m riding for this world tour-level team and that was the first year where I didn’t start as the low man and end as the best guy. I did not win the Tour de France, or I would not be doing a podcast. But I kind of had to reassess first my talent and come to terms with there are people in the world who are better than me. And since then I’ve always sort of wrestled with or found it interesting to think about what talent is and maybe there’s something I could have done, you know, starting at 14 that changed my fate that kind of dictated that level or is there something that people are just born with and everyone kind of has – if you get it perfect you eventually reach your ceiling. And what is that? So I’ve been fortunate to be around this people that have, what I call, real talent. There is a level where I have talent, but they have a talent that I will never achieve or attain and that few people ever will.
I have come to this realization for myself. I had great aspirations for my career. With great perseverance I did finally achieve my goal of getting a doctorate from a university -- and it does, as Phil titled his book, still cost me $10 a day in student loans. With a little more perseverance I did get hired to the faculty of a graduate school and get to teach two classes a year in my field. But the number of people who teach full-time in my field in colleges is a fraction of those who get a doctorate in the field. I'm just smart enough to know that I don't have what it takes to be a scholar, at least by own definition of that term. As Phil says, "maybe there’s something I could have done, you know, starting at 14 that changed my fate." There's no way I can make up now for what I needed to do at 14 to pave the way for me to be the scholar I had hoped I would become. I think I still have a great deal to contribute and I have developed other skills and talents over the years that make me uniquely prepared for the job I do in educational technology, web site maintenance, document creation, and editing. So now I have to let go of youthful dreams and live in the reality of what I can do, what effect I can have, and just enjoy the ride.

How to Fuel for the Ride and Lose Weight

Let me just say up front: I don't know. After reading about nutrition, weight loss, and cycling, I am even more confused about what to do. Should I focus on protein, low carb, and low fat? Do I not need so much protein and should I focus mainly on carbohydrates for fuel while cycling? Or is it best to train my body to focus on being fat-burning and fuel my ride for endurance that way?

Protein

As someone having had bariatric surgery, I'm told I need to be sure to get plenty of protein because the malabsorptive effect of a smaller stomach pouch and less small intestine for food to pass through means less protein gets used. I've been drinking a daily recovery protein drink containing two scoops of protein powder, either Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey or sometimes Isopure Low-Carb. There are many articles online that discuss the benefits of using protein (balanced with carbohydrate) in the hour following strenuous exercise, such as Protein for Cyclists.
I've not been very scientific in measuring the amount of protein I'm taking in. I might record my diet in MyFitnessPal for a few days, but then I lose interest. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that not until recently did I think about the fact that if I take in more protein than I need it will get stored as fat. I have pretty much just focused on getting as much protein throughout the day without thinking about whether I was getting too much.

Carbohydrate

I have been watching YouTube videos about cycling for the past year. I came across the channel of the Cycling Maven, an Australian who works in the medical field and produces great videos about cycling. He also blogs and has this post Diet and Nutrition Tips for Cyclists. He advocates focusing mainly on eating carbohydrates.
In a nutshell, you need to be SMASHING the Carbs whilst reducing your fat and protein intake to a minimum. ... It’s the fuel we run on plain and simple. The meat and dairy industry would have us believe otherwise, but the truth is we don’t need much fat or protein in our diets. ... I’ve been living on a high carb/raw/vegan diet for five months now (no meat, dairy, oil, low fat) and I’ve NEVER felt stronger, faster and leaner on the bike.
I've been restricting the amount of carbohydrate (as much as I understand what foods are mainly carbohydrate) I take in. Except, of course, when going on long rides. Then I've packed the back pockets of my jersey with bars and gels to prevent "bonking" during the ride. He claims that too much protein-intake leads to cancer. So should I reduce protein and focus on carbs?

Fat

It's easy to fall into the notion that eating fat makes you fat. Of course, that's not how it works. When we eat more than our body needs of any source of fuel, the excess is stored as fat. I've probably been on more low-fat diets than anything.
While looking for a cycling movie to inspire me to ride, I came across Inspired to Ride, a documentary about the inaugural trans am bike race across the US. Billy Rice of Invictus Cycling and Performance states: "I believe in a mostly low carb, fat-adapted (keto-adapted, some say although there is a lot of confusion here) diet." A member of that team, Juliana Buhring, known as "Juju" of Team Juju, is said to "live entirely on steak and olive oil (along with her beloved coconut water)."
Since mid-October I've been following Trainer Road through the base, build, and specialty phases. Since I do these workouts at 5:30 in the morning, I'm doing them in a fasted state. Besides a pre-workout powder in my water bottle (caffeine and beta-aladine), I don't take in any fuel before or during my rides. For most of the time, my workouts have been in the fat-burning zone. But the further I went along, the more the rides included high-intensity intervals: I've moved from aerobic to anaerobic. I would then experience fatigue by Wednesday or Thursday of the week. By Thursday evening I would be craving pizza. While I think the training programs themselves are excellent, I don't think I've been very smart about what kind of fuel to take in and when to ride what kind of ride. I should be doing the high-intensity intervals in the early evening a few hours after a meal. But I usually don't want to do anything after work. Consequently, even though I've been putting in over 100 miles a week on the trainer and followed a structured program, I have not been losing any weight. In fact, I went from trying to keep my weight in the 240s to trying to keep in the 250s. While I've been doing a great job getting stronger and improving my cardiovascular fitness, I have not been able to get any leaner.
[I'll write in another blog about my attempt to track my body composition with the Garmin scale.]

The End of the Matter

I wish I had the answer about how best to fuel for the ride and to lose weight, but I remain quite confused and unsuccessful. I get tired of hearing people talk as though all human bodies are created equal and that if you just burn more calories than you take in you will lose weight. The problem is we are not simply machines with off and on switches. While we have much in common about our basic physiology, we can have very different impulses and urges. I value much of Stoic philosophy, that "reason rules the passions," but the voice of reason is still our voice and is influenced by our genetics, biological makeup, our moods and emotions, the stress of work and family, and the influence of years of upbringing that may have instilled bad habits and tendencies. It doesn't help that cycling is a lean person's sport. I've had the end in sight of no longer being obese but simply fat by BMI standards. But now the goal has been moved for me. Cycling has a practice of calling large cyclists Clydesdales. The cut-off is a ridiculous 200 lbs! I had to work my butt off, literally, in high school to get to a wrestling weight of 185! I'll never be anything but a Clydesdale.
I know that I should not be setting extreme goals for myself or comparing my weight to professional cyclists or endurance athletes. I should be content to be healthy and to be able to average 18 mph on my rides. But I got to that point because I was setting higher goals for myself. I need to have those goals in order to continue or at least maintain my improvement. Perhaps we need both to be satisfied with our accomplishments and not satisfied with staying where we're at. If I knew how to do better about fueling my rides and losing weight, I'd be doing it.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seid Trips - Spring Ride in Eastern Indiana

All week I kept checking on the weather report for the weekend. The temperature would be warm enough, but the prediction for the chance of precipitation changed from day to day. By the end of the week I had decided where I would ride. Well, I at least had narrowed down my choices. Wherever I would go, I would be using my new GoPro 4 Session action camera.
Friday night I did some shopping to have some fuel for the ride: Lunabar, Larabar, and bananas. I got some Pomegranate/Cherry juice to dilute in my bottles. I changed my rear wheel from the one I use on the trainer for my road rear wheel. I tried to do some adjusting of the gears but eventually I had to give up. I had bought a mount for the GoPro and had my gadgets all set to go: Garmin Edge 810, the mount for my iPhone 6, and the GoPro.
Heading up the Strava Segment "Brownsville Buttkicker"
I had thought about getting up early and taking off on a long ride. After a tough training week of high intensity intervals -- even though I had several days of recovery -- I was still tired and wanted more sleep. I knew that the longer I waited the warmer it would be. But the longer I wait to ride my bike the less chance I'll will go out for a ride. I began the typical struggle in myself and started the "self-talk" about why I needed to go for a ride. I had to take small steps: first just get a cup of old coffee and eat something; put my socks on; and then piece by piece finish getting dressed. Good base layer, leg warmers, and the last clean kit of the week.
My Favorite 50-Mile Ride
I got myself out the front door, choosing a favorite route that would be about 50 miles. The air was cool, a bit humid, not much wind, and sunlight streaming through the breaks in the clouds. The weather got warmer and sunnier as the day went on. My legs felt good. I was glad to be out and would enjoy the ride. Yet, for people like me, what motivates the most is the thought of making it back home having given the ride the best I had.
I did have a great ride. I felt strong on the hills. I kept my speed up on the long and straight roads. Only once did a couple of pups come out of their yard and try to out-sprint me. The traffic wasn't very heavy; no incidences with vehicles. I did notice how many men were out in their yards working on their cars, trucks, or tractors. I hope they were enjoying their Saturday as much as I was. I was pretty excited by my efforts on the Strava Segments I use to gauge my progress. I looked forward to using the GPX file with the video I shot. As I rode up the sidewalk to my house, unclipped, and came to a stop, my Garmin had some message about shutting down. I should have been able to press the button and then chose to save. I cannot describe how angry and frustrated I felt to not be able to see whether my training and my effort had paid off with a new personal record. I decided to use Garmin's software program, and it worked quite easily. The audio from the GoPro is terrible. There's constant road rumble and my voice hardly picked up at all. So I've muted all of the audio from the clips and have chosen some background music. I don't know if I'll try to add an additional audio track talking through the ride.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rediscovering the Bike


Cannondale CAAD8 - Claris
I’ve written elsewhere about the condition I found myself in during 2012. After years of using food as my source of escape and pleasure, my weight was topping out at 400 lbs., and I was beginning to have problems with light-headedness and tingly feet. I was being treated for high blood pressure and sleep apnea – the few times, when traveling abroad and I had to sleep without the CPAP machine, I would wake with fatigue, headache, and a swollen throat. I had made attempts to lose weight. Several times I joined Weight Watchers – either by attending meetings or using the online version – with some success. At least once or twice I managed to lose 50 lbs. But I always ended up putting the weight back on.

Bariatric Surgery and Weight Loss with the Treadmill and iFit

Me from 2011
I decided that I would try bariatric surgery. That began more than a year of preparation. As I recall, when I first thought about the surgery, it was not covered by my insurance. The next year I learned that it would be a possibility and I started the process. I worked with my doctor and a local dietitian. I chose St. Vincent’s Bariatric Center and Meridian Surgical with Dr. Margaret Inman. I had a positive experience attending seminars, talking with their dietitians, and finally going through the procedure. I have not had any complications. The next year or two are a bit of a blur, but I lost nearly 200 lbs. I am no longer needing to be treated for high blood pressure, I don’t need to use a CPAP machine (oxygen levels during sleep are normal), and I feel better than I have since my teen-age years.
Instrumental in my weight loss was the treadmill. I found that I could stick to a structured program (iFit) with daily workouts that progressed in difficulty and length. I started with just walking. Gradually I began walking faster and longer. I remember when I first dared to try to jog. A year later I was running five or six miles at a time and up to six or seven mph for short periods. I never imagined that I would be able to run again and to enjoy exercise.
Me in 2014
A year ago (spring 2015) I did reach something of a plateau. Perhaps it was my mid-life crisis. Perhaps I was having trouble dealing with my wife’s illness: Suann has Multiple Sclerosis and now spends her days with sleeping much of the morning, sitting in the living room doing word-search puzzles or knitting, and in the summer puttering around on the porch with her potted plants. I came to a crisis point in my own life with some stomach complications that apparently was a result of too much of an acidic diet (let’s just say too much focus on tomatoes and grapes) that was causing ulceration and pain. With that diagnosis and concerns about my choice of diet, both food and beverage, I gave up weekly pots of chili and daily bottles of wine.

Getting on a Bike Again

Because I had reached a plateau in my weight loss I tried to think about what I could do in addition to treadmill running. I have a faint memory of a moment when it occurred to me that maybe I could try riding a bike again. I had had a colleague that had gotten into bike riding. I knew I didn’t want to be like him, talking about cycling all the time, wearing skin-tight lycra, and participating in events like the annual 160-mile RAIN (Ride Across Indiana) Ride. I got excited, however, by the idea that maybe I could ride a bike again for a few miles on the local rail trail.

My Early Love of the Bike

The bike had been a big part of my youth. One of my earliest memories was of getting the bike I asked for at Christmas: a purple Sears Spyder bike with high-rise handlebars, banana seat, and a slick rear tire. I loved that bike and rode up and down the country road in front of our house and down the side roads that led to the oil pumps in the fields of southern Illinois. I particularly remember the summer day that I decided I would ride further than the end of our country block where our church (Glenwood Church, Noble, IL) was – my father was the pastor. It feels like I went on a Frodo-type quest, but most likely I just rode around a country block. I have faint – and not so faint – memories of the adventures of that day. I know I came across homes where kids lived with whom I went to school and rode the bus. I had some lunch somewhere. A dog chased me at some point. And I went swimming with friends in their pond and nearly drowned.
My parents and siblings (I'm the youngest) in Illinois in 60s
When we moved to a new town, St. Anne, IL, where my father would be pastor of another church, my memories are mainly about riding my bike around town. It wasn’t actually my bike but my brother’s hand-me-down bike. What a bike it was! It was a Schwinn with two-speeds, the gears being changed by kicking backward on the pedals. I tricked it out with the requisite high-rise handlebars and banana seat. Besides riding around town on my bike, practicing wheelies, and jumping over make-shift ramps in the alleyway, we would also go to the nearby clay pit. There was a brick factory in town that had left a big hole in the ground (maybe 15 ft. deep and a quarter of a mile in diameter) with various little hills. The main attraction was a steep descent followed by a little hill to jump from. My more athletic bike-riders were surprised and a bit jealous of the speed I could get going down the hill and that I was about the only one who could ride back up the hill thanks to being able to drop into the easier gear. Many hours of many days were spent in the sheer bliss of speeding around town and the excitement of soaring off hills for seconds of free flight.
We moved again. A new town. A new church. A new school. Sometime during high school I managed to buy a ten-speed bike. The Huffy Independence, as far as I can recollect. I was a bit athletic in those days. I loved playing basketball at the nearby elementary school outside court in the village of New Era, Michigan. I was on the basketball team at school; not really good, but I had a few moves and could make a basket once in a while. I was much better at one-on-one or pickup games. I went out for track, but I had no idea what I was doing or how to train. No idea about nutrition: We ate food based on how good it tasted and the pleasure it gave.
I loved that bike and I loved riding all over the country roads. Seven miles to the west was Lake Michigan. Here was the resort area of Stony Lake and further north the very popular Silver Lake with its famous sand dunes. I would take off on day-long adventures. At one time I had a girlfriend who lived some miles away and I could ride to visit her on a Saturday. One Saturday she said she was going with her mother to Muskegon to see an outside art and craft show at a park. I wanted to see her, so I figured out how to ride the back roads and make the 30-mile trip into Muskegon to spend some time with her. I think she appreciated my effort, though I think her mother didn’t like that I horned in the mother-daughter outing.
Wayfarer's Bike Trip from Quebec to Ludington, MI
I can remember being thrilled to ride my bike. I loved the freedom to go wherever I wanted. I loved the sounds of the bike on the road. I cared for my bike more than I did anything else. My father and brother enjoyed working on cars. At one point I took my bike apart, sanded it down and repainted it; I knew how to take the bike apart and regrease the bearings. I got a subscription to a bike magazine and would pore over the stories and pictures. One article was about riding along the Natchez Trace Parkway. It has only recently occurred to me that I now can do that.
I did take a few long trips. We had a youth pastor at the time, who was a cyclist. He had made trips to Florida from Michigan. He planned a long weekend trip for us that would take us north to his family’s cabin. On the long ride back along a busy highway, I remember he said he was trying to drop me and couldn’t believe that I could stick with him. There were also two summers of participating in bike trips organized by the Youth for Christ group in Ludington. Both were 1,000-mile trips over ten days; one from Val d’Or, Quebec to Ludington and the other from Interlaken, NY to Ludington: “We are the Wayfarers, we ride our bikes” our theme song went.

Lost Cycling to Getting an Education and Starting a Family

Brown University Commencement 1996
I don’t know what happened to my bike riding. I don’t remember what happened to my bike. After high school I began what would be my greatest adventure. I had a dream of becoming a pastor and a Bible scholar: I went from a Bible institute, to a Christian college, to a Christian college graduate school, a year of seminary, and then to ten years living and studying in Rhode Island until finally getting a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Brown University. Marriage to my high-school sweetheart also had its consequences (and rewards) of five beautiful, talented, gifted, delightful daughters--not quite one for each school I attended but in ways very connected to my educational pursuits and personal aspirations (Abigail was named during my Hebrew years; Heidi was named with my struggle to learn to read German; and Tabitha was my linguistic challenge to name her after Suann’s mother Dorcas – in the book of Acts the Greek name was Dorcas but the Hebrew was Tabitha). Along with this were years of coping with life by eating too much; my downfall was not sweets as much as it was volume of food and frequency. I did try riding a bike again during college; the bikes were a wedding present. I can remember the day I tried to ride around the countryside and found I could not do it. I just gave up.
My family, Christmas 2015

Finding a Renewed Love of Cycling

A year ago in the spring of 2015 I went to our local bike shop, Cycling and Fitness Warehouse in Richmond, Indiana. I spent more money than I thought I would need to. I got a Cannondale Quick 6 (I can’t remember for sure). I didn’t want drop-down handlebars. I had no intention of wrapping my hefty frame in lycra. I just wanted to ride a few miles every few days on the trail. The first day I brought the bike to a trail head and took off on my maiden voyage. After about ten miles or so I turned around and went back. It was a great experience! I could do it! The next ride I took off south of the city. I began discovering great roads with beautiful scenery. With the three rings on the front I could (just barely) get up the short, steep hills that lead up out of the Whitewater River gorge. It wasn’t long before I began yearning for a road bike and traded up for a Cannondale CAAD8 Claris.
I have rediscovered my love of the bike and the adventure of riding country roads. I began collecting kits for my cycling wardrobe. A few falls but not much damage learning to clip out of my pedals. I had to get a stronger rear wheel because of my weight (240-250) and the bumpy roads were breaking spokes too frequently. I love tech, so I have a Garmin Edge 810 mounted on my handlebars next to my iPhone. This week I will be adding a GoPro Hero4 Session action camera. All of my rides get uploaded to Strava. I proudly bore the cyclists badge of honor: tanned arms and legs but strange tan lines with pale hands and a visible line sometimes when wearing short sleeve shirts. I found rides I enjoyed around Richmond, Indiana. There are regular 30-mile and 50-mile rides; an occasional 75-mile ride; and one completed century ride (one ended at about 90 miles with a persistent flat and no more CO2 cannisters).
During a late fall ride to Huston Woods in OH
During the late fall, winter, and early spring I’ve been using a Trainer Road structured workout program. It has been fantastic. I get up most weekdays at 5:30am to do my ride in my study, though the desk is now the platform for my flat-screen TV and laptop and the room has my bike on a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine trainer, the folded-up treadmill that I’ve stopped using, my home-gym, and an Ab-Coaster. A collection of hand-towels are draped around the treadmill to drip-dry after my bike workouts. On the weekend I might take a ride or two using Zwift, a multiplayer video-game for cycling that simulates riding around the island of Watopia or the virtual 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia (the other Richmond). Zwift and Strava enable me to track my progress and to work at beating personal records on specific segments, usually climbing hills.
For 2015 I ended up riding about 3,000 miles (about 1,000 were actual road miles). While using Trainer Road and Zwift inside, I’ve been keeping up with a 100 mile per week goal. I am in the fourth week of the third phase of training. For those who know about these things, my Functional Threshold Power is 260 watts. Because I am struggling to lose more weight during training, my power to weight ratio is too low for me to admit to. While riding in Zwift, I can ride next to someone and see that my watts are nearly 100 more than theirs.
Riding in California in 2015
As I started riding more last year, I also began learning about pro cycling (Cannondale Pro Cycling and Boels-Dolmans). As with other sports, I became just as interested in women’s cycling as with men’s: I’ve always found women’s sports to be more exciting; women just seem to try harder and are scrappier; maybe it’s because I have five daughters and I want them to have every advantage and opportunity in life that males have; maybe it’s because along the way I have become a Quaker and I deeply value principles of equality and integrity. Although I have at times liked to watch some sports (having a winning team like the Indianapolis Colts or a player like Peyton Manning have fueled that interest in recent years), I now have discovered a love of watching and following pro cycling. I’ve discovered cycling literature, cycling blogs and websites, and especially cycling podcasts (The Cycling Podcast, Velocast, FattyCast, Pro Women's Cycling, The Outspoken Cyclist, Ask a Cycling Coach, Paceline Cycling Podcast). I became a member of USA Cycling, mainly as a way of supporting young people getting into cycling. I contribute monthly to World Bicycle Relief and now the podcasting about women’s pro cycling by Sarah Connolly through Patreon.

Sharing the Love of the Bike

I have to admit that I'm somewhat of a loner when it comes to cycling. I don't mean to be antisocial. Our city has an active group that organizes rides through Richmond Cycling FaceBook group several times a week based in our LBS (local bike shop), Cycling & Fitness Warehouse. I made contact with them early on and pay attention to their plans and enjoy the post-ride photos and comments.
Meeting with Dan Lee of SRAM/Zipp
I talk with several people locally who share the love of the bike. I got to know my best cycling friend rather serendipitously. I came to know Dan Lee, SRAM Road and Zipp PR Content Manager, through our mutual interest in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Dan and I email every other week or so and talk about our shared interests in cycling, family, and religion (yes, in that order). He lets me share my joys and frustrations, and I get to live vicariously through him as he travels the world to great cycling events. We did get a chance to meet. For him it was more like a pilgrimage back to the Earlham campus, where he had visited as a young man along with his father and met the famous Quaker scholar D. Elton Trueblood. We made sure to get a picture to commemorate our meeting on a sunny day in Richmond, Indiana. Dan was on his way to the other Richmond in Virginia for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. We shared the other passion of cyclists and had coffee at the local 5th Street Coffee & Bagel shop.
First ride of 2016

Where Do I Go From Here?

Maybe this is a response to a mid-life crisis of sorts. To me it has been the beginning of the rest of my life: The anticipation and even suffering to prepare for the next ride, the next adventure. I’m struggling to keep my weight down and would like to lose another 25-30 lbs. People might be surprised to know that my additional struggle is with mild anxiety or agoraphobia about riding my bike outside. I can honestly, but deeply frustratingly, say that the hardest thing about going out to ride a 50-mile or 100-mile ride is just getting out the front door. I have to plan for it. I have to leave at first-light. I have to have long debates with myself. Sometimes I even first go for a walk outside before getting ready to ride in order to ease myself into being out. I feel great once I’m out. People here are generally friendly and wave from their yards and farms. There’s no better feeling than arriving back home after an adventure. I look forward to checking out my ride on Strava. My wife waits for me to come home and tell her about my ride. I peel off the wet lycra, take a soothing shower, down a freezing cold protein shake, and enjoy the painful reminders of cramps here and there, sometimes a little hoarseness, maybe a few scrapes and bruises because I didn’t get clipped out fast enough either the time when my chain dropped (first fall and was happy to know it didn’t really hurt) or I took too slow of a u-turn when I saw the high climb looming ahead with a couple of large dogs running through the woods (I picked myself up and headed up the climb with a canine entourage).
I’ve been out a few times this spring. It looks like this Saturday will be warm enough (and maybe wet enough) for a great adventure on the bike. I have my new on-board camera ready. I’ll be rested up from this week’s training rides. I plan to begin sharing information about these rides. Where will I go? What will I see? Will I get new personal records on Strava Segments? Will I have the guts enough to do the Ride Across Indiana ride this year? Will I get myself to start riding with the local cycling group? Will we buy the bike trailer for special-needs adults and I begin taking Suann with me on some Sunday afternoon jaunts on the local trail here or trails in Ohio and Michigan? Will my power to weight ratio improve enough that I feel like I could compete in some Gran Fondos or even official races? Will anyone read my blogs and look at the images or videos? It will be my therapy. It will be what gives my life focus. It will be what renews me, strengthens me, gives me pleasure, and may even give me a new way of defining myself as … an athlete.