Dodged a trainer again

exercise-bike-1We’re going to have two mild weekend days, and I’m looking forward to getting in some bike rides. It’s a good thing, too, because I’m getting to the point where I would otherwise have to put in some time on a stationary bike.

I hate stationary bikes. The golf club I belong to has some recumbent stationaries in the fitness room. I rode them some last winter, but have been able to avoid them so far this year. Recumbents have no relation to the kind of riding I do, so they provide a workout, and make me sweat, but I don’t feel as though they provide as much benefit as I think they should.

At the fitness club my wife visits, the stationary bike situation offers more options. She lets me go there on the occasional guest pass, and I’ve been to spin classes there, although not this year, and I’ve ridden an upright stationary bike — the kind with the screen for picking the type of workout and the level of effort. They’ve got some spin bikes in the room with all the ellipticals and stairmasters and the other bikes, as well. Haven’t tried one yet.

Likewise, I’ve never even thought about getting an indoor trainer to use in the house — the kind you mount a real bike on. I think pedaling a real bike indoors would absolutely drive me bonkers. It’s a moot point anyway, since there is no room in our house for a trainer. We don’t have a basement, and both of our extra bedrooms are already being used for other purposes — both are full of furniture.

To me, biking is something you do outdoors, on a bike. I’m lucky to live in an area with a mild climate year round, and the chilly weather we’ve had lately is an anomaly. So if you can put up with a little time off the bike, the good biking weather will return soon enough, and you can do your pedaling outdoors again.

Anticipating a good year

I’ve been  bad lately.  Haven’t been riding much over the past couple of weeks.  When I have ridden, my mileage has been below what my average rides were a couple of months ago.  The one longer ride I took recently showed me just how much my biking fitness has declined.  I’m in a biking slump.

But there are some signs that I’ll be on the rebound soon.  For starters, my bike club had its monthly meeting tonight.  I don’t usually go, but made it a point to be there tonight.  They were collecting our annual dues, and I wanted to make sure I paid up.  Although I haven’t been on a club ride since October, I do like these folks, and do want to continue riding with them.

Turnout was pretty high, both because of the dues thing and because we got our first look at the design for this year’s club jerseys.  And it pleased me to find myself seated at a table with several folks I’ve ridden with a lot on past rides.  David, and Pippa, and Bob, and Debra have all gotten mentions in this blog from time to time.  Anyway, I forget who started the discussion, but we reached a consensus that we’re tired of showing up for club rides and getting left behind by the strong riders (see “ABC” from way back in March).

We had all ridden on “B” rides with each other at various times during last summer, and we decided we had to make the B’s in the club a visible, viable contingent.  One of us proposed that we round up a core of B riders — say, eight or so — who we could count on to be more-or-less regulars on weekend rides.  Then each of us would take a turn as B ride leader.  The idea is, if other slower riders know there will be a group of folks out each week who won’t be keeping a 17 mph average over 45 miles, they will be more likely to show up themselves and grow the ranks.

I’m ready.  I had already decided that I would step up and offer to lead more B rides this year.  It was great to learn that others share my attitude.

A nasty cold snap seems to be easing.  This weekend could be the start of this year’s real riding.

Watching what I eat

bacon-cheeseburger-friesNutrition is a topic that has never interested me. I eat what I like, pretty much, and have been lucky because not only is Mrs. Noob an excellent cook, but she does pay attention to nutrition, and cooks healthy meals. So my weight has never been the problem that it could be. I’m just heavy.

But I’m at the point where I’ve decided that watching what I eat has to be an integral part of my overall fitness regime. I jogged for 28 years before my knees gave out and I took up biking. During that time pounding the pavement, I learned that it doesn’t matter how much you exercise, if you eat like a pig, you’ll still gain weight.

My weight is probably 30 pounds higher than it should be. I can’t seem to crack the 200-pound threshold, although I came close while training for the century last summer.

The problem is, that in my late 50s, I need to bring down my weight. I’m already taking pills for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I know that if I embark on a regular exercise program — not just riding the bike when I feel like it, and the weather looks good — I will be able to bring those things back to their normal levels. What’s sad is, I’ve done it before, and then backslid.

Lately, I’m getting inspiration from my son. He’s set himself a goal of losing 150 pounds, and has already lost 60. He combines daily workouts with careful eating habits, and aims to drop only a couple of pounds each week. It’s working for him. Now, if I really put my mind and effort to it, maybe it can work for me, too.

Those new shoes are working out

It’s been a month now since getting my new cycling shoes, and they seem to be providing the relief my chronic numb toe needs. I can think of two reasons for the improvement: the shoes are a size larger than the ones I’d previously used, so there’s less squeezing of the foot when they swell with exercise, and they have a more adjustable strap system.

They use a rachet tightening strap at the top. I’ve been finding through trial and error that while it’s tempting to snug down that strap, it’s probably not the best idea. On a recent ride, the foot was bothering me when I stopped for a rest, and I found that the strap was just a little too tight. It seemed fine when I started out. Loosening it a couple of clicks did the trick.

I’ve concluded that the problem is with my left foot itself.  There must be something in its physiology that makes it a little different from the right foot.  It may be something that I have to live with.  However, it’s not giving me anywhere near the bother it used to with the old shoes, and for 90 percent of my riding, my foot is now fine.  So the shoes are working, and it looks like I won’t have to resort to any cockamamie solutions like slashing the mesh upper to ease the pressure on the foot.

My numb toe posts have gotten a lot of traffic over the past few months, continue to do so.  I don’t have any revelations that will help with the problem. For me, it turned out to be the shoes. So, I guess the only real advice I can give is: Don’t skimp. Buy one of the top name brands. Do your research. Road Bike Review is a good place to visit, and Performance Bike customers can leave reviews for each piece of equipment that outfit sells. Yes, they’re only anecdotal reviews, but taken as a whole, you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Use it or lose it

Joe Friel would not be happy with my latest ride. Instead of a moderate increase over my recent average workouts, I decided to go for a long ride with some real hills.

Mrs. Noob wanted to get in a ride, too, so we headed out together for Mopac. But before we got there, she discovered that she had forgotten her cell phone, and told me I couldn’t take off like I usually do when we ride together — that I had to stay closer to her this time. That’s hard to do. Her hybrid (yes, she’s still riding the hybrid — we never did get her a new bike) is heavy and slow, and I worked hard to keep my speed down.

Mostly, that wasn’t too bad. I spun a lot in the small chainring, and waited for her more frequently than I usually do when we’re out together. She just keeps plugging away, and although she will never be a fast rider, she is a much stronger rider than she was a year ago.

We had a nice tailwind as we hit my favorite downhill stretch on Mopac. I coasted the entire length, instead of hammering to see just how fast I could go. Today I managed 33 mph without turning the pedals once. Resting and speeding at the same time — nice.

Pat headed home after one loop around Mopac. That’s 13 miles, and is farther than she’s been riding lately. I decided to stay out, and headed for Southwest Parkway, which has some decent hills.

A hill winds for about a mile and a half past some apartments and a semiconductor plant to reach Southwest Parkway. I realized just how out of shape I’d let myself get over the past two months (see “Junk Miles“). While there was never any danger of me stopping on the way up, the ride which is relatively easy in late summer was a struggle this time.

I finally made it to the top, and stopped for a gulp of Heed and a Lara Bar. From here it’s another two-mile downhill, hitting 34 mph without much effort on my part. Then a swing through a four-mile circle loop through a nice residential neighborhood, the road always sloping slightly up, and in some places getting hilly.

Just before the end of this loop and the turn back onto Southwest Parkway, I make a rest stop. It’s at about the 24-mile point on the ride, and I was ready for a break. My heart rate was elevated, but I wasn’t breathing too hard. I chugged down some more Heed, and discovered that my new seat post-mounted water bottle cage had come loose. A quick tightening job, and I was ready to go again.

On this leg, I have to climb up the two-mile hill that I’d gone 34 mph on coming down. In late summer, I did it in the large chainring. This time, it was the small one, with an easy gear. Yech. I decided to make a slight modification to the route. Instead of climbing all the way to the top of the hill, then flying downhill toward home, I took a cutoff that eliminated both the uphill and the downhill.

Total ride time was two hours, eight minutes. Distance 28.7 miles. The 13.6 mph average speed was mostly attributable to the first leg of the trip, when I was slowing down for Mrs. Noob, but to be honest, those uphills in the SW Parkway leg probably took their toll, too. OK, I overreached. I tried to add too much mileage and intensity all at once, without ramping up to it. If nothing else, I now have a benchmark from where I’m starting for the coming year’s riding. Time to HTFU.

Broken glass

I don’t know what conditions are like where you ride, but it seems that the routes I ride have been plagued with more broken glass than is typical.

One particularly irksome spot is in a bike lane on a street that leads to two of my most frequently-traveled routes. Someone smashed a bottle there at least a week ago. It hasn’t been cleared yet.

I seem to manage to avoid the glass, at least the stuff I can see. My recent flats were caused by tiny shards of glass I couldn’t see, because they weren’t mixed in with lots of other obvious glass. It’s still a surprise to me to see that a sliver of glass so small that it can hardly be seen — even when you find it in the tire by running your fingers across it — can cause a puncture.

Part of the problem around here is that we’ve had very little rain recently, so the glass doesn’t get washed into the gutters. It’s bothersome to the point that when I have a ride where glass is not a problem, that’s worth making note of.

The Specialized Mondo Pro tire on my front wheel continues to perform amazingly well. It was the original tire that came with the bike, so I’ve had it for 11 months, and it’s got about 2,700 miles on it. It’s only flatted once, but I think it’s nearing the end of its natural life. The rear tire is the one that flats most often, but I still can’t complain about it. It’s a Vittoria Rubino Pro. However, it doesn’t appear to be able to last as long as the Specialized. I suspect I’ll be hitting the LBS within the next month to get two replacements, and start the serious biking season with new rubber on both wheels.

The city is pretty good about sending street sweepers around to sweep along gutters, but they usually do a street no more than twice a year. If some kind biker from the neighborhood were to head over there with a push broom and a paper bag, the glass problem could be irradicated quickly. Hm. It’s almost two miles from my house, but since I travel it three or more times a week…

Junk miles

It’s occurred to me that the miles I’ve been putting in lately aren’t doing a lot to build up my endurance, or speed, or agility on the bike. I rode regularly during December and the first week of January, knocked off while on the trip to San Francisco, but have ridden some since returning.

I’ve got a definite goal in mind: the MS 150 from Houston to Austin in April. It’ll really be 180 miles over two days, and I want to make sure I can handle two 90-mile days in a row without too much trouble.

Twenty miles for me is nothing. I ride it all the time. But I haven’t ridden many rides longer than that since October, and I haven’t really pushed myself when I do ride. I’ve heard some bikers refer to the kind of riding I’ve been doing as “junk miles.”

Clearly, I’m going to have to change my riding strategy. I’m back at work now, and the amount of time I spend in the saddle each week is going to be cut back. Once again, I’m going to have to ride with a plan.

But doggone it, I’ve sure been enjoying the rides I’ve taken over the last six weeks or so. I’m on the bike at least, and I’m feeling good at the end of each ride. It’s hard for me to call the miles I’m putting in “junk miles.” In fact, I don’t think any miles on the bike are junk miles. If I have to use a “j” word, I would call them “joyous” miles.