Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fast Track Fitness Training for Puny Wimps

Years ago Al and I were riding a week long, 70-90 mile a day tour with a few hundred other cycling friends. An otherwise pleasant guy became a prime jerk one day, hassling me at every rest stop with the "bunny foo foo" song. It punched my buttons - and that quite overjoyed his little mind. The next day he discovered that he could punch the same button by just doing the popping sound effect from the song whenever he was within earshot of me. (Hysterical.) I consider it a massive tribute to the fine moral training of my upbringing that the guy was both alive and still in possession of his tender male parts at the end of the tour. But my take-away from this experience was that I was way too sensitive to the fact that I was a puny wimp of a cyclist. I ride 100 per cent of my time with a guy so I understand the sport's gender differences. I also understand that I am not a physically talented athlete. (I am smack dab in the center of average, sitting comfortably at the apex of the bell curve, as it were.) After giving the matter a little thought, I decided to alter my training goals to accent the strengths I had.

Riding with Al I realized that my relative strengths were cardio, tenacity, and my love of crazy fast descents (which I think of as playing with the downhill stretches or "free rides"). So here is the training system I came up with for an aging puny wimp.

First, select some 20-30 mile local loops. I think of them as my "time trial" loops.

Next, remember that interval training will give you the biggest bang for your training time buck. Ride the loops aiming for moderate intensity with intervals at high intensity. (I did some research and discovered that perceived intensity was just as good as a heart rate monitor. Moderate intensity for me is a cardio level where I am breathing deeply and evenly - regardless of whether my heart rate is soaring or just going kinda fast.)

Next, since I ride on flat pedals minus clips or straps, I focus on constant, even pedal pressure. This means that I can vary intensity with my gears, with cadence, and by decreasing the amount of contact between my butt and my saddle. The last is an old mountain biking training routine. Ride a course without sitting down or standing up. (I knew someone who actually removed the bike's seat post and bike seat before heading out for training rides. Extreme? Yes. Effective? Very.)

Today Al and I completed our last 20 mile training ride. Tomorrow we start the 25 mile route. With a bit of luck, we should be back at our old fitness level in a week or two.

One picture. My very favorite (ever) event t-shirt from a ride. The crazy flamingo logo belongs to the Florida Freewheelers bicycle club. Love it...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And So It Grows...

We woke to a partly cloudy dawn, again 77 degrees and very humid. The wind had shifted to the southwest and was a gentle 5-7 mph. We did our short local loop, but today we did it just a little faster.

When we arrived home the flower stalk of the century plant loomed high. It's still growing, looking a little more like it might form a top bloom...but probably not this week. For those of you following it's progress, here is the latest picture.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Out Chasing Again -- And Really Feeling Good

The holiday weekend opened with a foggy dawn, 77 degrees and humid. As far as I was concerned, it was the perfect morning for a fast bike ride.

Al and I haven't really been able to ride full out for the past couple of months. We've been riding about a third of our usual miles and those have been done at what I refer to as a "ramble" or what others might call "snail's pace". It was me causing the problem, and I certainly was lucky to have such an understanding and supportive riding partner. But things have changed, and I'm now OK to ride as long and as hard as I want. Today Al suggested restarting our riding program by doing a short ride (20 miles) at a comfortably fast pace. So off we went on what I think of as our short local loop. The wind was about 10 mph from the northeast, and it blew away the fog in no time.

Too quickly the fun was done. We had completed the loop and were home. It was fabulous. The best part was a 4-mile glorious chase that Al won (but only barely...) Can't wait to get out again tomorrow!

One Pedal Stroke Around in Multiple Photos...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rainy Day Bike Jobs and Memories of Beach Bikes

Our morning ride was cut short when a deluge began. No joke. We're talking Noah and the ark weather here.

We sprinted home with hopes of heading out if the rain subsided. Checking radar on the internet we discovered that there was off and on again deluges coming at us for quite a while. We tucked the road bikes in and decided to do a few bike chores. Al did mechanical things. I tackled reorganizing tools, gear, and such.

It's amazing what ends up tucked in the back of gear bins. My laugh for the day came when I discovered we still had gear and such for the two beach bikes we donated to a charity several years ago. On the other hand, it did bring back memories of some great rides on Florida beaches. The beach bikes were clunky things, bought on the cheap at WalMart in 2005. (No way I'm taking any of my regular bikes on salty sand!!) We finally decided it was easier to rent bikes at the beach rather than store and haul our own. But I do remember the old bikes fondly...especially doing power skids with the coaster brakes. That was the best...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sweaty Cycling Fun and Wonderful Plants

If you plan to ride your bike in Florida in the summer, you have to accept that you are going to sweat...a lot.

Al and I have always devoted summer to water skiing. When the warm weather came this year, however, we decided we were just having too much fun cycling to put it aside until cool weather returned in the fall. We decided to do both, water skiing and cycling, this summer.

To achieve that we realized we had to adopt new biking routines for the hot weather. The salts in sweat are not friendly to bike gear. Everything now gets rinsed down and dried after rides: riding sandals, helmets, and bikes (handlebar tape, seat, frame). This new addition to our routine takes a few minutes, but it is fairly easy. Of course, there is no change for taking care of clothes and gloves post ride: the clothes washer.

A fun surprise this week was right outside out house. We have a century plant (agave plant) by the mailbox at the street. A flower stalk has emerged and is rapidly growing taller. It will continue to grow to a height of about 20-25 feet. Once the bloom ends, the plant dies. What a way to go, don't you think?

A final image. The little rural town in which we live has the majority of the world's caladium fields. The town is billed as the "Caladium Capital of the World". What you ask is a caladium? Well, it is a ornament plant which is hardy here in zone 10 but is grown as a bulb or as a house plant in chillier climes. Needless to say, it is a favorite plant around homes here. Just down the street from us the morning sun made one garden bed particularly lovely. Now imagine a whole field of these beauties!