Monday, November 24, 2014

The 10,000-Mile Gorilla

It's so easy to chase miles.

You start by keeping a ride diary ... just something to help you track progress towards goals -- usually weight or a big event. "I'm going to get under 180 pounds by the end of February." "I need to do two sets of Intervals and one long Tempo ride this week, then taper next week." "If I hope to have fun on that tour at the end of the summer, I'd better continue doing at least one five-hour-plus ride every week until then."

My diary is simple. Every morning, I write down my resting heart rate when I wake up, and what I weigh before I get in the shower. When I come in from a ride, I write down the number of miles (rounded up or down) and the moving time (rounded to the nearest quarter-hour). At the top there's the goal for each week, and at the bottom right there's the weekly and year-to-date totals. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

You look at the weight and say, "Better cut down on the post-ride chips and salsa." You look at Saturday's goal and you decide to skip the Thursday night ride so your legs will have some snap. But the thing that you look at the most is that big number in the bottom right.

YTD Total.

It didn't used to be a big deal in winter. "You'll catch up when it warms up," you say Sunday night after barely logging 100 miles for the week. But it's there ... lurking in the cold dark ... waiting.

The 10,000-Mile Gorilla.

I've ridden 10,000 miles every year since 2008, except 2011 when I only rode 9,700 and I compensated for that year by doing over 11,000 in 2012. It's gotten to be the number by which I fend off the inevitable -- the county line of health, if you will. As long as I continue to sprint over that county line every year, I will be ...

Vital.

Strong.

Young.


We are numbers-driven creatures. You are asked to grade everything from how well your waiter did to the pain in your shoulder on a scale of 1-to-10. The media targets us based on age and income, and the world judges us based on weight and skin color. I'm in a key demographic for retirement properties and reverse mortgages and home security systems. If the center seat on an airplane is open next to me, it is now one of the first to go ... although, back in my fat days, that was not the case.

And I'm not complaining about that, for the most part. The marketing is smart business and the prejudice is ingrained reactions that will hopefully erode with each generation. Thanks to demographics nobody tries to sell me a clothing-optional single's getaway at Sandals Resort, although I am getting tired of the robocalls offering me free monitoring on my security system for a year. And, while I like to think that I wouldn't care about the race of the person next to me on the Southwest flight to Tampa, I probably will try to avoid the center seat bookended by fatties.

Once you acknowledge the absolute power inherent in numbers, however, you see why I have to stop fighting the 10,000-Mile Gorilla. Because the fact is that I am 55 years old, and the Gorilla is ageless. So, sooner or later he is going to win.

Just not this year.


I hit 10,000 miles on a club ride Saturday. It was a windy day, chilly at first but warming up to near 60 in the afternoon. That's what the average high in middle Tennessee is supposed to be this time of year, but we haven't been hitting that lately. So I was glad to have knocked out the Gorilla early this year.

But what a fight it was ...

There were a lot of frigid rides last winter. Then there was the soggy 300K at the end of March where I DNF'd and short-cutted my way home. April saw back-to-back 400Ks, and then in May I came to my senses on a 600K and decided to stop randonneuring. The result of all of this was that I had enough miles in the training diary to almost cruise through the rest of year.

But there's a funny thing about those miles since I stopped randonneuring:

  • They've been more fun. While not every mile has been good, I don't force myself to go out on a ride just because I need to train or I need that brevet to qualify for some grand randonnee or an award. I ride, for the most part, because I want to.
  • They're less adventurous. Regular readers may have noticed a decline in the number of blog posts. Primarily, that's because I haven't been doing many rides that are worthy of a blog post.
So I write about the Italy trip, or a ride from coffee shop to coffee shop. These rides are more fun, and I see beautiful stuff, but they are not Epic. There's been no 300Ks or 400Ks or 600Ks or 1200Ks.

No number rides.

And so I can't quantify these rides, or even put them in my training diary as Goal Events. Instead, the Goal for most Saturdays is "Ride." If the weather is great and somebody's interested, I'll go do a 200K. If the morning is cold or wet, I'll wait and ride something fun in the afternoon.

If I feel like it.

So this may be the last year that I defeat the 10,000-Mile Gorilla. If it is, I'd like to think that it's because I retired while I was still the champ.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Mugged

During the summer, I kept promising myself a fun slower ride with stops for coffee. I got to do that somewhat in June in Washington, mostly because they celebrate coffee enough that there are all of these espresso joints on the main cycling routes. But Nashville has lots of good coffee brewers, too, and I knew that it would be relatively easy to put together a route that would hit those places. Saturday, some friends were planning a short mid-day ride that would include a good coffee shop, so I decided to book-end it with a few miles and more caffeine.

It had been cold all week and Saturday was no different. Since the group was not starting their ride until 11, I waited around the house until 9 am when the temperature was finally above freezing. Then, with my travel mug on Sparkeltini still half-full of that morning's french-pressed Zaragoza, I rode the five miles to Westhaven and High-Brow Brew.


It's very nice to have a place with great coffee this close to my house. They've also got some tasty pastries, but I've been eating too much of that stuff lately. My travel mug re-filled, I hit the road.


Del Rio Pike was remarkably empty for a Saturday morning ... either everyone was hibernating for the day or they had already gotten to the mall. The peak leaves had fallen, of course, but there were still lots of oak leaves hanging on. Next week's forecast polar vortex will probably knock them loose, getting everyone out with their rakes, blowers, and mulching mowers.


For as long as I have lived here, Old Natchez Road has been a minefield of potholes and crappy pavement. This past summer, they rebuilt a couple of the bridges and then repaved the road. As much running and cycling traffic as it gets, I really wish that they had a multi-use trail, bike lane, or at least more of a shoulder on it. But it was nice enough being able to ride that way Saturday not having to constantly dodge punji pits.


They weren't quite done with Old Natchez past Moran, but it looks as if they will be by next weekend. Until then, a quarter mile of the old pavement was a nice reminder of how good things are now.

I went up Vaughn and over Old Hickory Boulevard into the park. Time was getting tight, but a bike ride through the park is always nice.


The golds there had burnished into a coppery vibe, tinged with hints of verdigris tarnish. The leaves on the road were still golden and supple, not yet desiccated and crackling into dust but no longer wet enough to go slippy under bicycle tires. I didn't see any other cyclists, but there were plenty of bundled-up walkers with dogs.

The hills and walkers in the park kept my speed down, and I barely got to the Starbuck's in Belle Meade before 11. Everyone there was ready to ride, so I didn't get coffee there then. Fortunately, I still had some of the good stuff from High-Brow, so this was not a problem.


The route was a compilation of multi-use trails, bike lanes, and calm roads. We got to ride a few miles on a multi-use trail on top of the berm running along the narrows of the Cumberland River past the Nashville Metro Center, and then went by the edge of Germantown and the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Somehow, we emerged in downtown, riding by government offices, honky-tonks, and the Music City Star train station before we arrived at our next coffee stop, Crema.


I got my cup refilled with some El Salvador drip, and RandoGirl got a latte. After 40 miles, I now felt that I deserved a chocolate croissant.


We took a different route back, going by some of the renovated condos along the river before taking the pedestrian bridge and climbing back up Demonbreun and down Music Row. We skirted the edge of Sylvan Park before getting onto busier West End Avenue at the end.

After getting a cup of Starbuck's coffee and kissing RandoGirl goodbye, I started back towards home. The day had warmed up a bit, and I was riding much harder than I had with the group. After crossing back over Old Hickory on the bike lane on Hillsborough Road, I stopped to take off my jacket, glove liners, and head tube. This left me cool enough that I was able to push the pace for the rest of my ride, but strained the limits of the pockets of my wool jersey.

I kept to the bike lanes on Hillsborough Road all the way into downtown Franklin. By now, I was ready for another cup of coffee.


Frothy Monkey is a little further from the house than High-Brow Brew, but the coffee is almost as good. Also, I was ready for some real food now.


By the time I left there, the day was starting to cool down again. I took some of the bulk out of one my pockets by pulling out my glove liners, and that was enough to get me home. Somehow, I had managed to get in a nice 75-mile day with a decent workout, but still stop and smell the coffee.

That made this a long ride with all of the perks.

Ha-ha. I kill myself.