Monday, April 30, 2012

Why I Don't Miss Cycling ... Really

Friday's post was the only post of the week. And it was short.

There's a reason for this ... well, multiple reasons, really. One of them I mentioned in Friday's post.

We were up in the Florida panhandle last weekend, mostly to work on the house that we rent up there. Saturday, we rode before the rain. Sunday, we rode just a bit -- down to Seaside for coffee -- fighting 30-mph winds to get there. Then we drove home.

The wind followed us.

So, Monday, I rode up to the airport to get RandoGirl's car (she flew up, but we drove back together). It took almost two hours to ride a tad over 30 miles. Yep. Headwind. Not really a fun ride.

And I haven't been on a bike since.

Part of it was the weather. Part of it was I needed to do some work. Some of it was some recurring ... um, "interface issues" ... that were just going to need a few days off the bike to fix. And a lot of it was that my mom and her two sisters came to visit Wednesday, and I wanted to spend time entertaining them. I drove them all over Naples on Thursday, after hanging out on 5th Avenue drinking coffee in the morning. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, they had stuff to do in the afternoon, so I went to the gym. Part of that "make my bones dense again" promise I made to the doctor is that I lift weights twice a week. I planned to go out for a quick ride after.

Unfortunately, that plan fell apart. Halfway through the fourth rep of my set on the lower-back machine, I got an "Ouchie" from my back. Needless to say, I did not do a fifth rep.

It really hurt to walk the mile home from the gym, but it's what you do when you walked to the gym. That evening, I still tried to entertain my mom and her sisters. I probably didn't do that great a job that evening.

Saturday and Sunday, Mom and my aunts had people to see up in Fort Myers. They had come down for Pioneer Days up there, which is a thing for folks who were born there (as they were) to get together a reminisce about how nice the beaches were before all of those carpetbagging Yankees showed up.

(To my Yankee friends: I don't consider you evil. Most of the folks in south Florida do not consider you evil, either. You are our friends, and a wonderful source of recurring revenue. We like it when you come visit. We don't even mind that we can't get into Randy's Fish Market during March. It's okay. We can wait.)

Anyway, since Mom and the ladies were busy, I could have gone for a ride, if my back had allowed any movement at all. I hung out with a heat pad on my back instead, trying to do some more work and junk around the house.

The ladies left today. It's blustery and rainy, of course, and my back is still only 50%. Wednesday evening, RandoGirl and I are flying up to Knoxville, and will be driving the RandoDaughter's car back from college over the weekend. No biking.

The time off will do me good, though. It should clear up any lingering interface issues, and give my back time to heal. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. My legs will probably have lots of spring in them by next Monday.


Stupid back.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Got Nuthin'

Saturday, RandoGirl and I were up in Destin, FL, and tried to get in a quick 50 or so miles using a route I put together last summer. It follows some parts of the old Bonifay 400K route, with a couple of other nice, quiet, and surprisingly rolling roads.

The weather forecast was ominous, and as we drove to the school where the route began I looked out at the clouds gathering over the Gulf. The normal cerulean water looked beaten down and tinged with grey overtones, and the world was flinching cautious glances at the not-yet rumbling heavens. A few other early risers out were frantically trying to grab those last pre-storm precious moments before curling up on the sofa with a book for the afternoon.

They say that the sea restores us, but I think that's wrong. Water and sand work together to scour psychic wounds scabbed over with a cautery imposed by maturity, exposing the tips of sensitive nerves that harken back to feckless childhoods filled with sandcastles and splashing. Gone are the jellyfish stings and sunburns that shaped the more timid beings we became, as immortality and unbound potential return for a fleeting instant.

The ride went well, with winds waiting just long enough to push us homeward and the pre-storm cool making it easy to ride at a good pace. It started raining on us 10 minutes after we got back in the car to drive back to the house, and we spent the afternoon listening to the wind and rain wash the beach clean. By that evening, the last of the clouds were skittering away, the sea was cerulean once more, and the shore was free of castles.

Unbound potential.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When I Get to Heaven ...

It's 3:48 in the morning, and I can't get this song out of my head. “I was born under a wandering star ...” It's from Paint Your Wagon, which was a musical that they made into a movie. It had Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin and in my head I've got Lee Marvin's gravelly baritone singing “When I get to Heaven, tie me to a tree. Or soon I will start wandering and then you know where I'll be.”

Good song. Goofy movie, but a good song. I've always liked that line.

That's not what's keeping me up, though. What's got me awake at … now 3:52 in the morning … is my left leg. It was born under a wandering star.

I've got this thing called “Restless Leg Syndrome.” It may be the most ridiculous disease ever. What happens is that one of my legs – tonight it's the left, but sometimes it's the right – gets jumpy. It can't be still. It can lie there for maybe a while, but then it's got to move.

“You got to move. You got to move ...” Great. Now I've got Mick Jagger in my head.

The “while” thing changes, too. Sometimes, the leg's okay for a minute. Sometimes it's 15 seconds.

I can control it. Sort of. I can lie there and refuse to move the darned thing, while the ache grows and grows and the 15 seconds stretches into a minute, and then the ache subsides right about the time that the next wave of “You got to move” comes along and the whole damned thing starts over again. I can do that a few times, saying, “Screw you, leg. You're not the boss of me.” But then I give in.

“You're not the boss of me, and you're not so big. Life isn't fair ...”

Wow. The theme song from Malcolm in the Middle. I wonder what Frankie Muniz is doing now, anyway?

Sometimes I think my RLS is tied to my cycling. Sorry, I didn't do the “first-reference” thing above, but, yeah, “Restless Leg Syndrome” is enough of a real disease to get a three-letter acronym. Did you know that the phase “three-letter acronym” has it's own three-letter acronym? TLA. Funny.

RLS is enough of a real disease that I first heard of it from a commercial by a pharmaceutical company. “Ask your doctor about ...” yadda yadda. When I saw the commercial, I thought, “Dang, I get that sometimes.” Which is weird for me. I don't usually relate to drug commercials, most of which seem to be for things to treat Depression. I don't usually feel depressed, but those commercials sure make me feel sad. Maybe I need to ask my doctor about that.

Funny thing about the RLS medicine: It's really just a sleeping pill. There's no “cure” for RLS. The treatment is to make you sleep so heavily that you can ignore the leg. That's probably good, because the only thing that RLS can do to you is make you sleep-deprived, so that you would eventually become psychotic and need some really heavy medicine.

So, they don't treat RLS, but they can treat the side-effects from the symptoms. The downside of the treatment is that the pill makes you sleep for eight hours. Unless you take the pill about 10 pm, this makes it almost impossible to get up early the next morning and go for a bike ride. Since I don't like to take the pill unless I need to, I don't usually take it at 10 pm. And then the RLS hits at 2 am and I'm well and truly screwed if I really want to ride anywhere the next morning.

Anyway, I was saying maybe my RLS is related to my cycling. I didn't used to have it, and I didn't use to ride this much. Cycling obviously complicates my treatment for it, since if I didn't care about riding early, I would have taken my pill … um, two hours and 20 minutes ago now … and I would be asleep instead of writing this blog post.

But, instead, I was awake at 3:30 am, trying to be the boss of my leg, and I thought about a point that I wanted to make in a blog post, and that point is this: I was born under a wandering star.

Oops. And now Lee Marvin is back.

I've got friends that would be happy as clams to bike the same roads over and over. For them, the joy of cycling is more about turning over the cranks, leaning into a well-known curve, beating last week's time up an old familiar climb. I like those thing, too.

But there is something about turning down a brand new road that makes me giddy. Even when the road goes nowhere. Maybe it will peter out into a dirt road or become somebody's driveway, or end up on a busy road full of 18-wheelers doing 70 mph, so you turn around and get to see the same road in reverse. Maybe the road will just get worse and worse for miles, and then you get to where the bridge on this road used to be and you know why there haven't been any cars for a while.

You takes your chances on these roads. But sometimes they're worth it, and you find a road that you have to design a permanent or the next club century around. That chance left turn onto some unnamed street shows you five miles of pavement that you are now willing to bike 40 miles to ride. And you do it over and over, riding your little bit of heavenly asphalt, enjoying that stinger climb and zippy descent, smelling the flowers in the field below as you come down out of that tree-covered canopy.

I've found quite a few of those, and they are Heaven.

“But soon I will start wandering and then you know where I'll be ...”

It's 4:45 now. I'm going to see if my leg will calm down and let me sleep. If not, I'm going to put on some lights and go for a ride. I think there's a new bike trail off of Hwy 79 between the airport and Hwy 98, and I want to see where it goes this morning.

Might as well start that ride under that wandering star.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RandoBoy's Latest Favorite Things

Welcome to another installment of "Nifty Things I've Been Using Lately That Any Good Cyclist Should Consider Using," or NAFTA for short. Let's get to it ...

Almond Breeze

Ever since my last physical showed signs of bone-density loss, I've tried to get more calcium into my diet. Used to be, coming back from a really hard training ride, I would fix a smoothie with yogurt, frozen fruit, a little milk, whey protein, and glutamine. Lately, instead, I just come home and have a couple of glasses of Chocolate Almond Breeze.

Now, most folks know about having chocolate milk as a recovery drink. What makes this better, however, is that it's lactose free (RandoGirl appreciates that ... if you know what I mean) and actually has more calcium than regular milk. Nutritionally, it's got all kinds of good stuff, and if you're scientific-brained you might ought to use some of that thar book-learning what you got to see just how good it is for you.

Frankly, it had me at calcium ... okay, I'll be honest. It had me at the taste.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tires

John at The Bike Route put these on my Salsa Casseroll when they rebuilt it from a single-speed into a touring rig. They're heavy. They have a tread pattern that gives them a different kind of buzz than you get with most bicycle tires. The ones I'm using are wide -- 35C to be precise. When loaded, I keep them at the upper end of their pressure, at 80 psi. When out noodling, I run them at about 70 psi.

And they soak up the bumps. Gulf Shore Boulevard down here has some crummy pavement in the bike lane. You feel it on a race bike, but with these Schwalbe's you don't.

I got this bike set up as it is to do a month of loaded touring on the Pacific coast this fall, but I've been using it a lot lately for short noodling rides, or trips into old town for coffee or the farmer's market. One of the great things about having a bike set up like this is that it makes it easier to do recovery rides. You don't even try to go out and join the pack on an off day, and if the pack happens to pass you there is no way that you'll try to jump in. A touring bike on a recovery day still gives you a workout, but it also forces you to slow down and enjoy things.

Light & Motion Vis 360

Ever since the time change last month, it's been dark either getting to or during the first few minutes of the 7 a.m. group rides here. It's easy to put a blinky on the back of your bike, but when it's really dark I like to be able to see the road in front of me, too. This light allows me to do that on the way to the ride, but then take it off and stick it in a pocket when it's bright enough later and everyone starts going fast.

Since it goes on your helmet, the headlight lights up whatever you're looking at. This positioning also makes the rear blinking light -- which is almost too bright, to be honest -- more visible to cars overtaking you. Since it charges via a USB plug, I'm going to take it with me to the west coast and regularly top off the battery via my E-WERK and the Schmidt Dynamo Hub. I probably won't ride much at night, and will still have lights on the bike itself, but I hope that using the Vis 360 will provide extra safety and visibility during foggy mornings and going through tunnels.

Going Nowhere

UPDATE: SOLD OUT. The 500 spaces sold out in less than four hours this year. It was really good swag, and (more importantly) the cause was excellent!

Today is THE day to sign up for the Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere. I've signed up, and plan to ride my 200K of Nowhere in honor of Peter Lee next Wednesday (April 25th), starting at 7 am. The wind and temperature forecast down here look about perfect. The current forecast for middle Tennessee looks pretty good, too, so if you want to use last year's route this is a good time for it.

If you want to join me here, let me know. If you want to ride last year's route in College Grove, TN, let me know and I'll send you a route sheet. The markings (arrows with "W.K. Lee" for Peter) may still be visible. Either way, make sure that you sign up today since Fatty says it's going to fill up fast. The money goes to LiveStrong for a special project, and the swag and t-shirt are first-rate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

In Florida, The Wind is Called ... "The Wind"

Ah, Spring! When young man's thoughts turn to love, middle-aged man's thoughts turn to the stupid IRS, and a cyclist's thoughts turn to "Where the hell did this wind come from?"

In Florida, the cyclists love to boast how tough the wind is where they ride. Having ridden just about everywhere in this state, I will concede that it is normally the worst on the east coast of Florida. I think that the hardest century that I've ever done was one of the first ones I rode, which ran up and down the so-called Space Coast around Melbourne, and that was so tough because I let myself come unhitched from the pack and did 70 miles of it pretty much by my lonesome.

Florida cyclists like to say that the wind helps them prepare to climb mountains. That's a load of crap, mostly because good technique for climbing is nothing like good technique for working into the wind. Those of us who climb regularly learn that it's best to sit more upright, so your chest can expand as you suck in as much air as you can get. In Florida, you instead get to work on your time trial position, bending as low as possible and minimizing your body's turbulence. It may make you strong, but it sure ain't practice for the long climbs.

On the other hand, the wind here will train you to draft better in a paceline. Letting a gap upon up in the group when that Cat 2 freight train fellow at the front is cooking along at 27 mph into the wind will get you shot down here. You also quickly learn how to keep a rotating paceline tight, and just how important positioning is when the group has to echelon in a cross-wind.

These differences are not just because the wind is stronger here ... mostly because the wind isn't always stronger here. The differences here are really more the result of the terrain.

You see, when you don't have to curve a road around mountains or hills, that road tends to go straighter for longer stretches. This means that, when bucking a wind in Florida, you're going to be bucking it for at least a couple of miles. In Tennessee, we might end up fighting a headwind on some roads for a mile or two, but usually you'd fight it for maybe half a mile when you came around some big bend, and it would ease off a little when you tucked into the lee of that other big hill up yonder.

This past Saturday, I rode just over 20 miles with RandoGirl. She had a late morning appointment, so after I dropped her back at home I went back out for another 30 miles.

The wind was blowing between 15-20 mph out of the east, so I headed east and suffered for an hour. It was miserable. It hurt. I was tucked as low as I could get, grinding away with everything that I had. Finally, after about 17 miles, I turned west on Golden Gate Boulevard.

And that's the one good thing about a strong Florida wind. If you can put together a route where that wind is at your back on one of those bike-laned boulevards, you get to cruise back at 28 mph for half an hour without even working. It may not be quite as good as a long descent off a beautiful mountain on a clear fall day, but it ain't bad.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watching the Rat Race

I'm hanging out at the coffee shop this morning. It's a nice little place down on 5th Street in old Naples, with bunches of tables outside where about a dozen other people are sitting, reading, talking, and of course drinking coffee while noshing something. They make good danish here, and I'd get one except I still have one more pesky pound to lose.

Places like these are testimonies to the potential for a society that is -- while maybe not automobile-free -- less automobile-imprisoned. There are tons of cars going by, of course, but most of the folks sitting around me either walked here or rode their bikes here. It gives me hope.

There are still a few families down here … the last vestiges of Spring Break and folks that haven't headed back north to their primary residence. Grandparents watching kids, bouncing babies on their knee. The babies screech at something the rest of us either can't see or don't deem screech-worthy any more. Some of us roll our eyes and others remember how it was when our kids were babies, finding patience and a twinge of longing.

Since it's still early, there are lots of trucks. Things here constantly need fixin', or they need tearin' down and puttin' another one up. South Florida is a work in progress, constantly recreating itself, trying to stay on the leading edge of American excess. The rumor is that nearly 40% of all heated toilet seats are installed here.

I just made that up.

The other kind of vehicle that you see at this time of the morning is paramedics and fire trucks. It's not usually for car wrecks or even someone hitting a cyclist, thank goodness. It's just that early morning is when humans wake up and put an extra load on the circuit boards of our bodies, and sometimes that pops the breaker. Maybe the EMTs can reset it, and maybe they can't. Console yourself with the thought that, if he who dies with the most toys wins, you were definitely in there at the sprint for the finish line.

Meanwhile, there's a light breeze blowing offshore, keeping the humidity down and making life good here. I'm sitting in a coffee shop on a beautiful, sunny Friday morning, writing a blog. I rode my bike here, and my breaker didn't trip.

I'm winning.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Being One of the "Cool" Kids

I told you all earlier this week about doing a 200K that started with about 30 miles on Hwy 41. A few friends who know this stretch of road have since commented to the effect that, basically, I must be a suicidal maniac.

Well, maniac is a possibility. But suicidal? No, no, no. You see, the trick is to just not be cool.

Now, let's face facts: It's hard to be cool and be a randonneur. The cool kids all either ride bikes that look like this ...

Or this ...

They may even look a little like this ...

But that's stretching it a bit ... and I'm not just talking about the waistband of those shorts.

Cool kids don't use Gatorskin or Armadillo tires, or anything puncture resistant like that. They use the skinniest, lightest tires around, and they never have big bags full of tubes and tools and a patch kit on their bikes. This is because their rides are usually close enough to home that if something breaks they can call someone to pick them up, or just walk. Were I to call RandoGirl from Chokoloskee and tell her I had a flat tire and she needed to come pick me up, I am pretty sure that her reaction would be ... well, let's just say "unenthusiastic."

One thing that the cook kids never use, however, is the dorkoscope.

This is what I call the little mirror that either hooks onto the frame of your glasses or attaches to your helmet. I call it the dorkoscope because, when positioned properly, your shoulder or ear or something is in the mirror as a frame of reference -- hence, you are always looking at part of the dork.

The dork is you. Was I being too subtle there?

Anyway, when you ride with cool kids, they will smirk and point at guys with a dorkoscope. The cool kids may be willing to wear lycra that's two sizes too small and thinning around the buttocks (you know who are you), bright red shoes, and argyle socks that almost come to the knee, but would never be caught dead wearing a dorkoscope.

Which is ironic, really, because I've had times when the dorkoscope probably kept me from ending up dead.

I have a friend who's a cool kid. That friend often gets on me about riding with an iPod, even though I only put one earbud in, and that's on the right (non-traffic) side. I can hear traffic just fine.

But try to get that friend to wear a dorkoscope? No way. Why not? Well ... just, uh ... no way!

Another cool kid friend told me that he won't use a dorkoscope because it blocks his vision. Look at the above picture again. What, exactly, would be blocked by that dorkoscope? Maybe a low-flying duck, or some redneck's spit cup. Big deal.

So, when you see RandoBoy out on the road, you'll probably see him wearing a dorkoscope. He flies his dork flag proudly, knowing it keeps him safe.

As for Max Watzz ... well, he's still cool. Dumbass.

Monday, April 9, 2012

... And the Universe Laughed and Laughed

A callus is like a co-dependent girlfriend -- if you don't abuse it, you'll lose it. And endurance cyclists depend on calluses much more than we would care to admit. In particular, we are forced to harshly treat -- and thus maintain the toughness of -- the calluses on our taint.

It was the great Eddy Merckx who told us how to toughen our nether regions years ago: Take speed. No, wait, I meant to quote his much more misquoted line "Bite lots. Particularly lots of cake."

Just kidding, Eddy (hey, you're Belgian ... you're surrounded by chocolate ... and you're a grandfather now, so go ahead and pudge up a bit). What Eddy really said was, "Bike lots."

All of which is a meandering and confusing way of explaining why I went out last Thursday and rode a 200K by myself. Part of it was to burn off a little fat of my own (Eddy ain't the only one fond of chocolate), part of it was to see if I still could, and a big part of it was to see if my bottom was up to the task.

I was smart about this 200K. So, so smart. You see, first I looked at the weather forecast and saw what the wind was supposed to do. It was going to blow out of the south at 8 mph early, and then SSW at 10 mph in the afternoon. Based on this forecast, it would be stupid of me to do my route up to LaBelle and back; thus, I decided to do my Chocoloskee - Ave Maria loop.

The sun came up just after 7, but it was still cloudy from last night's rain when I started going southwest on Tamiami Trail. Traffic was fairly light, but there were more cars when the road went down to two lanes just past the turn for Marco Island.

Once past San Marco Road, traffic was thinner, but faster. Frankly, I hate this stretch of road. The speed limit is 60 mph, and few cars stick to that. Also, the shoulder is almost constantly rumbled with strips warning you of the next bridge.

So, how many bridges are there? Well, we're going into the Everglades. It's a swamp. Basically, 10% of the Tamiami Trail down there is a bridge, so you're perpetually weaving in around those strips, or hoping to get by them before the next semi roars past.

After 25 miles of this, I was glad to see these two radio towers.

Those are the heralds that you are approaching Carneston, which basically has a gas station and the Everglades Information Center. But it's the turn for Florida 29, too, and that meant I was done with the Tamiami Trail. A little down 29, I passed my first alligator road kill of the day.

He must not have known how to weave through the rumble strips.

I went all the way down to where the road ends in Chocoloskee, and then immediately came back to the Marathon station in Everglades City. I quickly topped off my bottles with ice and Gatorade (I wonder if that would have saved the little guy in the picture above?) and got a couple of candy bars.

Back on the road, the wind was doing what it was supposed to do: Blowing from the south.

They were flying the Swiss flag at half-mast in honor of Fabian Cancellara's collarbone.

At this point, my insidious plan was working, and I began to ponder my chances of doing a sub-eight-hour solo 200K. I was over 50 miles in after barely three hours, and the wind was now cruising me along at an easy 20 mph. If the weather forecast was right, when I turned west at about mile 80, I should just have a light crosswind.

And that's when I think I first heard the universe chuckle.

It must be alligator-mating season or something, because I saw two desiccated corpses off the road, and then came upon a more fresh specimen.

The turkey buzzards were loathe to give way to my approach. A truck had gone by just before me and he blew the hell out of his horn on the birds. They were nonplussed.

Just after crossing Alligator Alley -- the stretch of I-75 that runs between Naples and Miami -- I passed a canal that had live alligators. I took their picture and told them to stay away from the road. They, too, were nonplussed.

Just before my turn, I stopped again at Oil Well Park. Coming at this from the south, this was the first time that I had noticed the following:

Yeah, it's an Oil Well. You see, the road out to Ave Maria is Oil Well Road, but I always thought it was just named after the Oil Family (you know, Olive, Cole, and Nana of Popeye fame). Apparently, there used to be oil here, in what they called the Sunniland field (gotta be a story there). As often happens with oil, people sucked it out of the ground, and now it's gone and it ain't coming back.

Somebody please tell that to all of the RVs that passed me on Florida 29.

When I turned west on Oil Well Road, I expected a mild crosswind. My speed immediately slowed to 15 mph, and I was working pretty hard. I felt like Richard Dreyfuss's character from Jaws looking at more roadkill, saying "This is no crosswind!"

But denial ain't just a river in Egypt -- it's one of the stages of dying and a standard legal defense. I told myself that I must be going a little south, but that the road would turn more west after Ave Maria.

And the universe laughed out loud.

A cookie and a couple of flatbreads from Tropical Cafe, and I was ready for anything. Well, anything other than my worst fear -- the zombie apocalypse. My second worst fear was just that the forecast was wrong, and that the wind would be blowing between 10-15 mph out of the west ... the way that I had to go to get back home.

When I got to Oil Well Road, my worst fears were unrealized ... I think. Zombies are cagey. But my second worst fear was beating me in my face, and may have eaten my brains. Mmmm ... brains.

For those of you who live down here, you can see from the above picture that the expansion on Oil Well Road is almost finished, at least down by Ave Maria. I had my own little orange-barreled lane for half of the way down to DeSoto Boulevard, where I briefly turned south and out of the wind.

But soon I had to turn on Golden Gate Boulevard heading west again. I stopped at the store there for more drink, and then quickly continued. The wind was blowing even harder on Vanderbilt Beach Road, since I was getting closer to the coast.

I apologize for being a crappy photographer, by the way. I wanted to get a picture of one of the trees getting flapped about by the wind, but I didn't want to stop to do it. You see, I still had that "sub-eight-hour-solo-200K" thing going through my head, and was riding as hard as I could. Meanwhile, the universe was laughing at me so hard that it got the hiccups.

Serves the universe right.

By the time I hit Pelican Bay, I was over 120 miles in, my bottles were empty, and it was 2:45 pm. If I could finish by 3 pm, I would be under eight hours.

Close enough.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Snug on no Guns

You see what I was going for there? The palindrome?

Yeah, okay, it was lame.

A few readers have asked how those five pounds that I said I wanted to lose are going. Others have asked about my bone density issues. Many were surprised that my bones would not be dense, since I am.

See what I did there? Self-effacing pun?

Hey, sorry. They can't all be gems.

Anyway, to bring you up to speed, as of this morning four of the five pounds are gone. It has taken draconian dieting, since according to a recent unpublished article in the New Jersey Journal of Medicine and Magic fat molecules becomes stickier once you pass age 50. Apparently, they know that your days are numbered, and that the number is very small (probably single digits, in my case) and they're staying close in hopes of cashing in when the will is read. Fat molecules are stupid, however, since I'm blowing the last of my liquidity on cream-filled sponge cakes.

Little Debby has a snack for me. That sweet little tramp.

Meanwhile, I'm beefing up my bones via thrice-daily (as opposed to Mayor Daley) ingestion of calcium tablets. In addition, I have all but forsaken the delicious nectar known as Diet Coke, since it is apparently full of some kind of nitric acid that has 10 molars -- not to mention incisors and canines -- with which it chews away at your skeleton until you collapse in a flaccid puddle.

I also started lifting weights again -- so that my arms are no longer vestigial appendages -- and running. Just for fun, and since I live so close to the beach, I've also begun swimming a bit more. If I start buying only sleeveless jerseys, hire a coach, know off the top of my head what my average watts were on last Thursday's ride, and begin fixating on my transitions ... well, just dump me down a hole with a few dozen cases of Diet Coke and Little Debby sponge cakes.

At least I can go out with some dignity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Four More Laps

Regular readers of this blog may know that there is another far-less talented (but, oddly enough, more widely read ... go figure) cycling blogger named Elden Nelson, a.k.a., The Fat Cyclist. Elden is actually pretty funny (again, not as funny as I am, but his chuckle-per-paragraph quotient is not far off), and he actually uses his blog to do good things. Maybe not Superman good, but almost Batman good. My blog, as you know, is all about self-aggrandizement, which makes it Lex Luthor good.

One of the things that Elden does is the 100 Miles of Nowhere, which raises money for LiveStrong. Yesterday, he announced that he will be hosting this again, raising money for a camp that is just for children who have a parent suffering from cancer. It's a great idea, which puts it on that Batman level.

The idea behind the 100 Miles of Nowhere is pretty simple: Ride 100 miles on your bike, either on rollers or on a trainer or on a very short course. Ultimately, you go nowhere ... or, even less of anywhere than you do on a typical club century where you roam around until you get back to the high school parking lot and eat soggy spaghetti. The 100 Miles of Nowhere differs from this in that it is a self-supported celebration of masochism, and a testimony to the imagination of simple minds, since the trick is keeping yourself from lapsing into a coma while you pass that big oak tree in Mr. Wilson's yard for the 25th time.

Last year, I wanted to do something for my friend, Peter Lee, who cancer had slowly taken from us the previous fall. Since Peter was a randonneur, 100 miles would not do; thus was born the 200K of Nowhere.

The 200K of Nowhere stuck to the heart of the 100 Miles of Nowhere. It was a 25-mile loop on the best roads in middle Tennessee, mostly in College Grove and Bethesda. It had a few tough little climbs, fun descents, rollers, and everything in between. There was one "control" -- a vehicle full of food and drink in a parking lot -- and all the riders could stop there, sign and enter the time on their brevet card, get what they needed, and roll on.

There were eleven of us that May, and we had a blast riding on beautiful roads in gorgeous weather, remembering our friend Peter. I wish that I could do it again.

Somehow, I had not thought about the 100 Miles of Nowhere until yesterday when Fatty's blog dropped. As I read it, I thought, "Oh, well. I live 800 miles away from College Grove now. Guess I can't do this."

Then I thought, "Why not?"

"Really? You know how difficult it is to put together any kind of loop ride here?"

"What about in Pine Ridge? That's a loop."

"Yeah, but it's only six miles. You want to ride a six-mile loop ... uh ... 15 times?"

"Idiot. That's only 90 miles. Geez, how did you ever get out of high school."

"OK, then, 17 times. You want to do that?"

"No, I'm going to do it 21 times."

"What? Well, maybe you can, but not me. That won't be any fun."

"Hey, it's the 200K of Nowhere -- gotta be 125 miles. And of course it will be fun. You'll be on a bike. Bring an iPod, listen to music, enjoy the planet. You're doing this in honor of Peter Lee. He deserved more time on this planet, and would have given almost anything to have one more chance to ride two kilometers -- much less 200 -- no matter what route it was, what the weather was like, or how boring it would have been."

I didn't have anything to say to that. It's surprising when I win any argument.

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out the date for the Naples version of the 200K of Nowhere. Hopefully, the Tennessee version will still happen -- I'm pretty sure that there are at least a few folks up there who would like to do another ride in Peter's honor. If you live here, or plan to visit during late April or early May, and would care to join me for this, let me know. If you live up in Tennessee and want to know about the course up there, let me know. If you have this past weekend's winning lottery ticket and don't know how to cash it in, let me know.

To sign up formally, you'll have to watch for the next week or two. You have to spend some money, but he usually has good swag and a cool t-shirt. And the money is going to a really good cause.