Monday, January 26, 2009

The Odometer of Life Rolls Over

I feel 50 today.

Which is probably only fair, as I turn 50 tomorrow. And, this past weekend, I celebrated my impending birthday in a classic Randoboy fashion: I rode twice my age.

Background: When I turned 40, I was large. Bluto large. My nickname was Fat Bastard. We're talking almost 300 pounds here.

I'd spent most of my 30's getting there, and as the 10's digit on my Life Odometer rolled over, I knew that I didn't want to spend the rest of my (probably shorter and more miserable) life that way. So I changed some things. No surgery or any of that crap, just got dedicated, lost weight, and started exercising.

I'd been addicted to food, so I became addicted to exercise. And hence was Randoboy born.

The Birthday Ride Begins

For Christmas that year, the Randowife bought me a new Novara hybrid from REI. On my 41st birthday, I took that bike up to the Silver Comet Trail -- a paved rails-to-trails path just north of Atlanta -- where I rode 20.5 miles west, turned around, and rode back. It took almost four hours, but I had ridden my age on my birthday.

For most people, that would be enough. But did I mention that I am an addict?

I did the "ride your age" thing until my 46th birthday. We lived in Tampa then, and the weather on the weekend nearest my birthday was excellent, so I rode 46 miles on the Withlacoochee Trail -- another rails-to-trails, but north of Tampa -- then turned around and yadda-yadda.

I meant it as a fluke. Honest. No way I was going to continue riding twice my age on my birthday.

Maybe part of being an addict is being a little obsessive-compulsive. You get into a pattern, and can't break it.

More likely it's this: Once you've started riding twice your age on your birthday, you've started proving something. I don't think it matters very much to anybody else, so it's just something I'm proving to myself. And what it proves to me is that, as long as I can ride twice my age, I don't have to start acting my age.

So, How Old Am I?

Saturday, I rode the George Dickel Permanent with Jeff Sammons, Jeff Bauer (no relation), Peter Lee, and Alan Gosart. Jeff Bauer and Peter were on Jeff's tandem -- it was Peter's first ride on any tandem, and for him to do 136 miles is phenomenal. For him to do it in the weather we had Saturday ... well, there's no word for it in your Earth language. On Tralfamadore we'd say it's w9lk4nsok32@$DDw09.

When we started, the freezing rain had just stopped in Nashville. The winds were blasting out of the north at a steady 15 mph, so with Jeff and Peter on the tandem it was all I could do to grab that wheel and try to hang on as we zoomed south. We averaged 19 mph to the George Dickel Distillery in Normandy, TN, even after missing a turn and getting 10 "bonus" miles.

Then we started north.

It was warmer by then, but the wind cut right through you. Again, I held onto that tandem wheel for dear life, because Jeff and Peter continued motoring. When we got back to the YMCA in Brentwood, our average speed was 17.5 mph.

I was tired and hungry, and ate lots of pizza with the Randowife and Randodaughter that evening. We were supposed to go out to dinner, but I didn't have the strength.

Not Bad for an Old Man

But I wasn't done yet. I had put together a flat tempo course for my friend Lisa Starmer, and she was going to ride it Sunday afternoon with some other racer friends. I figured I'd ride with them for as long as I could, since I needed some fast miles, too. We ended up riding over 60 miles during the cold, windy afternoon. They rode fast, and I somehow managed to stay with them. It was probably that "proving something" thing again. If you rearrange the letters in the word "stubborn," you can make "stupid." Okay, you have to turn one "b" upside down and flip the other, but you get the point.

So, I get home from that and I am done. Blown. Toast. Burned toast. Barely carbon.

Well, you get the picture.

But there is pasta in my future, because the Randowife and Randodaughter were taking me out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Bucca de Beppo. And when we get there, it's a freaking surprise party! So I get to eat pasta with my two favorite ladies and a bunch of my friends.

Here's a picture of us at dinner. You probably won't recognize most of these people because they aren't wearing helmets and/or spandex:

Does it get better than this?

Well, a kiss from a pretty girl about tops it off.

So, how old am I? My legs feel like I'm 197 miles old, but my soul tells me I'm 12.

Which do you think I'm gonna listen to?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

With Friends Like These ...

Last week, my friend Maurice Carter wrote a blog entry for me. He didn't mean to; he was just being creative and wrote a funny email to me. I then selfishly ripped him off, plagiarizing his writing skills so that I could be lazy. I used him.

But, hey, what are friends for?

And that's a good question, although probably too big a question for a single blog entry. Probably too big for a book or two, as well.

So we will narrow the question to this: What are cycling friends for?

Because most people who have lives outside of cycling (I've heard that such a thing exists) probably have a different set of friends there. My friend outside of cycling is a pink unicorn named Amber, who sings beautifully and smells of hyacinth. Ah, sweet Amber ...

My cycling friends, on the other hand, often smell pretty bad. Sometimes they wear pink. None of them has horns growing out of their forehead.

The above-mentioned Maurice, however, sings, and this is one of the things that makes him a great cycling friend.

The summer of 2001 and 2002, Maurice rode BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) with the Randowife and me. For those that have never heard of BRAG, it's similar to RAGBRAI in that you cross a state with a whole bunch of people biking at various speeds and utilizing a wide range of skillsets, stopping often to eat, take pictures, or just sit around. Usually, you only do about 50-70 miles per day. At night, there's a cage fight for the 14 hotel rooms in town.

In 2001, we rode a northern loop, starting in Rockmart before going up to Rome and Dalton, touching North Carolina, and then meandering southeast to the finish at Lake Hartwell, where we dipped our wheels into South Carolina. Lots of climbing followed by good descending, with varied terrain and lovely scenery.

In 2002, the Randowife and I rode a tandem across the southern portion of the state. If you've never been to South Georgia, it is primarily timber, corn, and livestock, and there are no hills. You can ride along for hours and hours looking to the horizon, where you will see more timber, corn, and livestock.

Typical conversation: "Oh, look! Timber."


"Yeah. Maybe soon we will see corn or livestock."

"I gotta pee."

This was the kind of ride that proved Maurice's merit as a great cycling friend, because he invented -- and excelled at -- the game of "Let's Sing Old Songs But With Cycling-Oriented Lyrics." This should have been a big seller this past Christmas, by the way, but marketing is apparently having a hard time with the name.

For example, as we rode the little 20-miler that enabled us to touch the Alabama border on the first day, Maurice began singing (to the tune of "Oh, Suzanna"):

"Oh, Lance Armstrong, won't you pull for me? 'Cause I'm bound for Alabama with a bandage on my knee."

(I don't remember why Maurice had a bandage on his knee, by the way, but it was obviously fortuitous in a lyrical fashion.)

This went on for a week. You would think that it would have gotten annoying, but it didn't. Maybe the 100-degree days cooked our brains, but I prefer to think that it was Maurice's inventiveness and plucky good humor.

That, and he can pull you along at 20 mph for hours on end like a freight train.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Five Degrees

Musings from my morning commute today ...

At five degrees, it hurts to take off your glove so you can close the door to the Randocave (a.k.a., my garage) using the fingerprint reader.

At five degrees, birds are still singing as the sun rises. Or maybe they’re bitching about how freaking cold it is. But if they’re OK at five degrees, then why shouldn’t I be? They don’t even have chemical warmers on tops of their feet.

At five degrees, you also need chemical warmers on the bottoms of your feet.

At five degrees, most cars still won’t give you a break. They’re trying to get to work and you are slowing them down. Never mind that you’re trying to get to work, too, and that they will end up stuck at the stop sign 20 cars deep in a quarter of a mile, so that shaving five seconds by passing you on a blind hill doesn’t really help them, much less you. I think it’s just a lack of empathy thing with most people in cars – you either have empathy, and consider that other people deserve to survive on this planet, or you don’t.

At five degrees, righteous anger will warm you up for a couple of minutes.

At five degrees, the insulated aluminum insulated coffee mug that fits so nicely in my rear bottle cage still keeps coffee warm, even after two miles and a cold downhill.

At five degrees, you have to blow on the rim of an aluminum insulated coffee mug, or your lip will freeze and stick.

At five degrees, some nice lady in a minivan with an Obama sticker will pass you (at a safe spot) and give you a “whoo-whoo” and a wave. And this will make your day.

At five degrees, climbing a long hill while wearing a balaclava will fog your glasses, big time.

At five degrees, the fog on your glasses will turn to frost. Really.

At five degrees, the steep descent after that long climb that has you doing 35 mph will show you the meaning of wind chill. I’m no meteorologist, but I think that equates to a wind chill temperature of -10 below Holy Crap!

At five degrees, doing 35 mph down a pot-hole strewn road with a wind chill of -10 below Holy Crap, unable to see a thing because your glasses are covered in frost and your eyes are stinging and tears are pouring out of them like brackish water from a New Orleans levee, and your legs are spinning at better than 160 RPM because you’re riding fixed ... that is an Adventure.

At five degrees, the insulated aluminum coffee cup still keeps the coffee almost warm after four miles. And this time I remembered to blow on the rim, keeping the second layer of skin on my lips for a few more minutes.

At five degrees, if you fire off a snot rocket, the projectile will freeze before it hits the ground, turning into a green ball that goes bouncing down the road. Okay, not really, but it is a cool visual, and you have to wonder how long it will remain semi-liquid on that cold road.

At five degrees, you are not willing to stop, pull out your watch, and time snot freezing on asphalt.

At five degrees, coffee that was steaming hot when I put it in the insulated aluminum coffee cup is, at best, “tepid” after five miles.

At five degrees, your brain is a little frozen, so you will forget to perform tasks in ways to which you have not yet become accustomed. You will, for example, forget the “warm the rim” step in drinking the tepid coffee from the insulated aluminum coffee mug.

At five degrees, the moisture in the balaclava may not quite freeze, but it is crunchy.

At five degrees, a crunchy balaclava begins to rub a now-raw lip the wrong way.

At five degrees, there is no right way for a crunchy balaclava to rub anything.

At five degrees, the lady out walking her dog waves at you and calls “Good morning.” You are both outside in weather that most people avoid, which makes you comrades in arms. And this will make your day.

At five degrees, two pairs of wool socks, chemical warmers, and Seal-Skinz are not enough to keep feet warm. You should have worn the insulated winter cycling boots – not the sandals.

At five degrees, the guys that are usually out working with the trains at the CSX railyard are not there.

At five degrees, when you get to work your bicycle cable lock will be stiff and unwieldy.

At five degrees, after a 45-minute ride, you are not willing to hassle with a stiff and unwieldy bicycle cable lock, and are more than willing to just pass it thru the frame once and let the front wheel take its chances.

At five degrees, walking into the office in bicycle clothing, people will react. Some will applaud, while others will shake their heads at your idiocy. Hopefully, some will be inspired. Either way, you’ve proven to yourself that you can ride to work in just about the worst weather that Tennessee nature can provide. And that will make your day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Top 10 Reasons I Need Winter Base Miles

Editor's Note: Today's blog entry comes from my friend Maurice Carter, who lives in Covington, GA, and rides as much as he can (which is never as much as he wants) with the Covington/Conyers Cycling Club. I've known Maurice for almost 30 years. Later this week I will reveal why he is such a great guy to ride with.

10. My belly keeps getting in the way of my legs on the upstroke. (Not funny, I know, but best to get the true ones out of the way first!)

9. My friends ride faster to get to the store stop before me, to be sure they get something to eat.

8. I find myself asking riders behind: "Does my butt make these shorts look big?"

7. Someone filed a restraining order last week stating I was following them closely and breathing heavily.

6. The pre-ride stretch is something I do to my jersey when getting dressed.

5. My bike hides from me while I'm inside the store stop.

4. On the climbs, I can't keep my heart rate down in the aerobic zone. (And, that includes the climb out of bed!)

3. When I try to calculate my power to weight ratio, the calculator gives an error because it can't handle that many leading zeros after the decimal.

2. The effort to type the phrase "Lactate Threshold" puts me over my Lactate Threshold.

1. When I started talking about another Six Gap ride this Fall, my bike listed itself on e-Bay.

Another Editor's Note: If you have any more reasons along this line, post a comment. By getting Maurice to write this entry (OK, he really sent it to me as an e-mail and I just stole it), I get to be very lazy with my blog. By getting you to post more stuff as comments, I am being even more lazy. Eventually, the blog will write itself, and I can sit around all day watching "Jerry Springer" and eating bon-bons.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Here's to Wrong Turns

I took New Year's Day off the bike, even though it was pretty nice outside. A little overcast, with patches of sun, but it got into the mid-50s. I told myself it was because the Randodaughter had some friends over the night before, and they stuck around until mid-afternoon. And the Randowife wasn't feeling well enough to ride, so I would have been solo. She told me to go, anyway, and I felt guilty for not.

But I still stayed off the bike.

It was burnout, of course. Sometimes you can get sick of even the things you love. I had been piling up the miles trying to get over 10,000 for the year, and now I was burned out. Toast. Crisp. The kind that gets black specks in the butter, and breaks when you eat it.

Then, Friday, I worked from home, and it was even nicer outside. The forecast for the weekend called for a good chance of rain, so about 1:30 I headed out for a lunch ride.

Traffic was pretty light, so I went down Nolensville Road almost all the way to Highway 840, spinning into the 10 mph headwind as the cars whizzed past. My plan was to do one of my regular routes, turning left on Spanntown Road, taking that to Almaville Road, and then come back via Coleman Hill to Cox Road and Wilson Pike. A 35-mile route that I've done a dozen times.

A good workout. Make me stronger. Basically, using a bicycle as a dumbbell.

It was so mind-numbing that, somehow. I missed Spanntown Road, so that as I turned left I realized that I was getting onto Old Murfreesboro Road. I was about to turn around and backtrack down Nolensville Road back to where I meant to turn, when a big dog came out and I had to put the hammer down to avoid being eaten.

So now I'm down this new road, and I've got a dog between me and my intended route. I knew where this road went, though, and it looked okay, so I kept going.

And Old Murfreesboro Road was really nice. It's the kind of road that used to be The Road, but when the state moved Highway 96 (a.k.a. Murfreesboro Road) it became a castaway -- the "Old" hermit that meanders along next to its more purpose-driven (and straight) replacement. I could see the young hotshot, which had more cars, and could also see Highway 840, which had a lot more cars. But the only people that get on Old Murfreesboro Road now are the folks that live on it ... and, of course, cyclists who miss the turn onto Spanntown.

I enjoyed a mile of nice rolling pavement with old farms, before the hermit smacked into the hotshot Highway 96. I turned left and went half a mile, then turned right onto Haley Road. I knew where this went, because I had seen it from the other end on Patterson Road, but had never taken it before.

And it was nice, too. Heading south, it took a little climb before crossing Highway 840, then a truly huge dog (or maybe a small horse that barked) came out and chased me for a little bit. But, again, it was a pretty little road without very many cars.

The sun had come out during most of this, and I was feeling really good. If I'd turned right on Patterson, I would have ended up with a nice 30-mile ride, getting home just after 3 pm.

I turned left, instead.

A few miles later, I turned right onto Morgan from Patterson. Why? Because I'd never been that way. I'd seen the road often enough, but really had no idea where it went. I know most of the roads down that way pretty well, though, and was sure that wherever it went, I could eventually find my way home. Probably by dark, but if not, I had lights.

And Morgan was nice, too. It eventually took me to Rocky Glade, which is a road we use on our 300K. It's also on the return route for Jack and Back, so it's very bike friendly.

By now I was fantasizing about just keeping on. As I mentioned, I had lights, and I had a jacket for when it got cold. I had a credit card, so I could check into a hotel if I got tired. The 300K route goes to Suwanee, and from there it's a short trip to Alabama, and Alabama is right next to Florida. It wouldn't be too hard to get to the beach by late Sunday. I'd always wanted to follow Highway 98 down the west coast of Florida.

I didn't, of course. I turned right and got home before dark, and worked another three or four hours. And, before I shut down the computer for the night, I checked Weather Underground to see what time would be good to ride on Saturday.

I was looking forward to it.