Thursday, June 14, 2012

65 Miles Later

65 Miles Later
Despite our idyllically mild summer, I have not been doing much in the way of long or difficult rides. Somehow I just haven't been able to get into the rhythm of things after returning from Ireland. My body is absolutely treacherous when it comes to things like this, too. The more and harder I ride, the more and harder it wants to ride. But if I ease up, it quickly gets lethargic and soft, creating a vicious cycle. "I can't join that fast group ride today, I am too out of shape!..." but of course that only makes it worse for next time.

Today, however, I woke up with a calm sense of certainty. This was the day I would get off my butt, move my schedule around, and go on a long ride. I didn't know how long, but it was going to happen. Setting off in the early afternoon, I eased myself into it by stopping at the Ride Studio Cafe 10 miles in. I think secretly I hoped there would be someone there who'd ride with me, saving me from the urge to sit around drinking coffee and reading magazines all day. But no such luck. Summoning my willpower I pressed on. 

And after that, something strange happened. Namely, I sort of relaxed on the bike and got lost in daydreaming. This happens to me sometimes, but never for this long. Before I knew it I was approaching the end of a familiar training loop on auto-pilot. Surprised and not feeling very creative, I could think of nothing to do but repeat the loop, determined to be more mindful this time around. There is a hill along the way, and it's one I have always disliked. How was it possible that I hadn't noticed it, daydreaming while climbing and not even feeling the dreaded "out of shape" pain? 

The second time around the loop, I approached the hill with awareness. Okay, so here it was ahead. I downshifted. Now here I was, cycling up the hill. I waited for the misery of it to wash over me, but it didn't. Instead, it was almost meditative. Enjoying the shade of the leafy trees, my mind wandered in the middle of the climb. Before I knew it, I'd completed the entire loop again and it was time to ride home before it got dark. 

I rode a total of 65 miles and it took me about 4 hours. It was not a difficult route, but I am still surprised that I was able to just go out and do it. My muscles may have turned to jelly over the past couple of months, but apparently some of the endurance I'd built up is still there. The mysterious ways in which the human body responds to cycling and changes because of it never cease to amaze me. Several hours and a cheeseburger later, I am now clutching my aching legs, reaching for Ibuprofen, and complaining - but also feeling deliciously alive. No matter what we might think, we are never too out of shape for a ride.

45 comments:

  1. Great job! I've had the same experience and the same anxiety, hang in there, you may surprise yourself even more.
    You may want to try some compression sock that cover quads, I doubted them until discovering some I had laying around back surgery afew years ago...they really worked for my old legs!

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  2. Given the recent news on biome mapping, we can all think of our bodies not as single entities but as compounds of billions of cells and bacteria that work in coordination, an entire system of ecologies that help legs pump bicycles and stomachs digest cheeseburgers.

    Thanks microbes!

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  3. You should definitely try a 200 km brevet. I think you could do it within the time limit.

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    1. Unfortunately I tend to have scheduling conflicts with these things; couldn't even make it to the 100K Populaire back in April.

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  4. Back in the day, when I did the sport cycling thing, I found that being as lean and light as possible did wonders. That meant cheeseburgers were off the menu until there was nothing to pinch, anywhere.

    And climbing is virtually effortless when you're skinny (and don't have a milk crate zip-tied to your rear rack).

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    1. Cheeseburgers won't make you gain weight; it's the cheap starchy buns, heaping sides of fries (chips), and huge sugary sodas often consumed with them that do that.

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    2. So true! Carbs are what make us fat.

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    3. But huge chunks of fatty meat and cheese will make you gain weight, and potatoes and carbs are not always bad. Irish peasants who ate almost nothing but potatoes weren't fat, nor are the Japanese or Filipinos who live largely on polished rice. Science here always seems to come back to what Grandma said, "shut up and eat your pot roast and potatoes or you'll feel the back of my hand." (Substitute beef burrito in flour tortilla, or chicken curry and rice as you wish.) I expect that normal people normally active can eat a vast range of non- or minimally-processed foods and be perfectly healthy and that the principle problem is the quantities and one's level of activity. I think Gary Taubes will shortly fall by the wayside to lie forgotten with Robert Atkins.

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    4. Irish peasants were thin not because they ate potatoes but despite of it. They worked all day and ate relatively little. The Japanese etc eat seaweed, soy and fish, and not just polished rice - and again small portions and an active lifestyle are key. American portions are enormous, with bread and potato-based side dishes often accounting for most of the calories in a meal. One figure I recall, is that in a restaurant-served order, the hamburger itself is around 250cal, while the "side" of fries can be up to 1000cal. It's not just the carbs, but the cheap deep fried oil and all that stuff. There are lots of "filler" foods we eat that have no real nutritional value. The cheeseburger however is not one of them.

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    5. cheese and burgers are saturated fat bombs (9x the calories/gm vs bun). they are not good for your bum or your ticker.

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    6. Sure, some of them. It depends on the meat and it depends on the cheese. As with everything, it's not simple.

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    7. Carbs are my staple. I don't buy the fat-is-good-for-you theory, but diet should be an individual thing, so to each his own.

      My food bill is very low; my bodyfat, even lower.

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    8. "bread and potato-based side dishes often accounting for most of the calories in a meal."

      this statement is not correct. There has been a massive increase in consumption of cheese over the long-term and over the past few decades. americans consume 9x more cheese today than they did in 1909 -- ~30 lbs per person each year. weight for weight cheese is the most caloric and the most damaging food commonly eaten in the usa. .

      http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June03/Datafeature/images/cheeseChartImage.jpg

      http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/February05/Findings/charts/finding_cheese_250.gif

      moreover, huge amounts of epidemiological evidence suggests that red meat, in particular, is very bad for you. other omni and veg*n sources of protein are better choices.

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    9. No food is bad, as long as it's real food. Balance and portion size.

      @Velouria "Irish peasants were thin..." Hear, hear.

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    10. (9x the calories/gm vs bun).

      That's wrong. Fat has 9cal per gram, as opposed to 4cal/gr for carbs. But fat lead to more satiety, so you eat less.

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  5. What was your daily milage in Ireland? Between that trip and the transportational riding you do, you may not be as out of shape as you imagined!

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    1. I did not really count my miles in Ireland, but maybe 30 miles per day or so. Some days more, some days much less. I wish I could say that riding for transportation keeps me in shape, but it does not. At best it keeps my weight stable while I eat whatever I want. But the muscle tone I gain from roadcycling atrophies pretty quickly unless I do 100+ miles a week specifically on a drop bar bike. No doubt it has to do with a combination of positioning and effort.

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  6. Super stuff! I had the same plan the day before yesterday. Had spare time on my hands while waiting for work coming in - so instead of cleaning the house (!) I just headed out to see how far I felt like going - though I only managed 60 miles. Had to stop at a shop mid-way to buy a Twix chocolate/biscuit bar - had a craving that wouldn't go away! Great to read you got out for a longer stint - invaluable way to unwind :)

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  7. inspiring post! i'll bear it in mind over weekend (im planning a 65 miler on a recumbent, but suspect im in way worse shape than you, so it may be painful, and perhaps involve more coffee and magazines..)

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  8. Interesting that the second time you climbed the hill it was easier. I often find I'm not fully warmed up until 20-30 miles into a ride, and hills feel much more difficult if I'm not fully warmed up.

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  9. I often find myself drifting into reverie on my bicycle; the miles just seem to go...

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    1. It's pretty bad when I already know the route well; I can literally switch into auto-pilot mode and not even remember the ride!

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  10. There's nothing like the feeling of knocking work on the head and going out for a ride. Great story - thanks for sharing. :-)

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  11. Riding for transportation DOES keep you in shape - superbly. Even after a month of simple commuting / grocery running on my bicycle when I head out for a 50 plus ride or hill climb event I find that not only am I am to complete it but my recovery time is very, very short.

    That being said, I turned 60 this year so maintaining an old carcass might be simpler than a "junior" model!

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  12. 'No matter what we might think, we are never too out of shape for a ride.'

    How else would one get into shape? It's the easiest thing in the world...just start pedaling :)

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    1. First clip in, then start pedaling : )

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  13. "The more and harder I ride, the more and harder it wants to ride. But if I ease up, it quickly gets lethargic and soft, creating a vicious cycle."

    Yes, that has been my experience, exactly, through all of the years I've been riding.

    When I raced, and when I did bike tours of the Alps and Pyrenees, I rode as many as 15,000 miles in a year. And I still wanted to do more. And I wanted even more challenging rides. But when I'm off my bike for a while, I get lethargic, and sometimes I even wonder whether I'll ever ride again.

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  14. I often find the same out of this world effect, if I drink 5 pints of beer before I get on my bike.

    It's weird I know but one forgets most things even falling off if one consumes a flagon of grog from time to time

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  15. What you've spoken of is also true with runners. The more one runs, the more one wants/needs to run. Been through this first as a runner then as a bicyclist. The problem with bicycling, however, was soon it required huge chunks of time and money. Six, seven hours per ride and then the recovery time! Thankfully, kids changed that and now I'm a firm believer in the 'just keep moving' notion of health and fitness and happily putter daily as a transportation cyclist and clap along the sidelines as cyclocross and road racers zoom by..:)

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  16. Daydreaming for me means I'm not actively pushing it, the muscle memory and reserve kick in. Oddly enough I only recently started doing it.

    Sounds like someone is off the strict veggie fare -- too bad there aren't any vegetarians here today to scold you.

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    1. This was definitely not a pushing myself type of ride. This bike does not really encourage that type of riding I find. But the distance just crept up on me.

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    2. BTW the concept is related to base building, which you're in the process of.

      Maintain it, you can make withdrawals. Put a few decades in, it's still there when you need it.

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  17. Is that the Soma Smoothie in the picture? I wonder how much the bike had to do with your smooth experience ;)

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    1. Yes, it is the Smoothie. Impossible to tell how much the bike had to do with this ride, since I can never replicate the same exact conditions on a different bike. But the Smoothie is very comfortable and reasonably fast, which seems to make the miles go by easily.

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  18. " No matter what we might think, we are never too out of shape for a ride."

    Amen.

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  19. Your writing alchemy vividly draws and evokes the intimacy of riding's emotional and physical attraction. These almost daily little posts are like, unexpected, delightful little presents to find and keep. Thank you for sharing!

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  20. I want to to hear about the new racebike.

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  21. When I was a runner and experiencing similar things, my running buddies and I would refer to it as "making a comeback". Often, those downturns in training can have a great rest and recreational effect, preparing you for better levels of fitness later on.

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  22. I relate to the mindset of "not having enough miles." It takes the form of an insidious little internal dialog, and I think it's a large part of what Grant Petersen addresses in his book, Just Ride. However, for me at least, it often is more fun to ride long and hard when I'm more fit, and so begins that vicious cycle. I'm trying (and so far failing miserably) to sneak in enough miles to do the D2R2 in August, and at the same time working on convincing myself that I should just attempt it and not worry about finishing times, etc. (Of course the abbreviated version is not for me!)

    On the subject of long, hard rides, a quick shout out to our local Beacon, NY bicycle mechanic, currently doing the Tour Divide. Yeah, Just Ride!

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  23. Nobody has mentioned it so I will. Sixty-five miles in four hours is pretty good. Boston traffic and some hills and you'd have to be flying to average much higher. Sounds like a base of fitness to me.

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  24. I'm afraid I can be sympathetic to your plight of getting "soft" because you spent to much time touring around Ireland. It kinda like saying "it's so hard being pretty." But I am still impressed with your time.

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  25. In what ways do you think this ride may have been different on your Rivendell Sam?

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    1. I no longer own the bike, but remembering when I did - I would say the ride would have been very comfortable but slower.

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