The Lost Weekend

The_Lost_Weekend_posterNo, this post is not about a Ray Milland film from the 1940s. I’ll be traveling this weekend to Oklahoma, where I will attend a conference. That means much of my time will be spent sitting in open, airy rooms where they pack in too many seats, listening to speakers who never learned how to make an effective presentation.

The downside of that (you mean, that was the upside?) is that I won’t be able to get in any biking.

With any luck, I’ll be back Sunday in time to take out the mountain bike for awhile. Its gears are all working properly now, but I haven’t ridden it since I got it back from the mechanic two weeks ago. We’ve had a lot of rain around here lately, and the trails have been muddy. They ought to be dry enough to ride now.

Don’t cha just hate it when the demands of everyday life trump the fun stuff?

The Spam is Outta Control

WordPress, the platform I use for this blog, has a pretty good spam catcher. I know it’s pretty good, because every morning when I check my dashboard it tells me it caught x number of spam comments.

But it’s having a tough time keeping up with the barrage of spam that’s been hitting me lately. Monday, it caught almost 200 spam comments. This morning, another 79.

The problem is, with that many comments barraging the blog, some spam is bound to get through. So after deleting the dozens of comments WordPress managed to catch, I have to go back and delete the ones that got through, one by one.

Most often, the readers of this blog won’t even be aware of the spam that got through the gates, because the spammers pick ancient posts to spam — from two or three years ago, or even older than that.

This morning, they got to a post from just last week. I cleared it off, but also deleted a legitimate comment by a reader who responded to the spam. I hope I didn’t offend him by doing so.

I don’t know of a way around the problem. I’ll keep deleting the junk that gets through, and remain grateful that WordPress is as good as it is at catching most of the malefactors.

Isn’t It Interesting…

Only two other B riders showed up for our club ride Sunday, and we decided to head to Creedmoor. This staple of our Sunday routes had been forgotten lately; in fact, I hadn’t ridden it since June. The others were looking forward to the ride, too.

After not riding a route for awhile, some changes are bound to crop up. Most of the ones we ran into had to do with road construction. Our main way east out of our neighborhood narrows to a two-lane, unstriped, country-style road for a short stretch. Then, at a T-intersection, we turn left, and then pick up that road again at the first right.

The city is eliminating that zigzag. It’s adding a curve to the road, and the new route will meet the old at that first right. But it’s not ready yet, and while they’re working on it, the two lanes are quite narrow. I debated getting up onto a new sidewalk that has been put in along the road, but at 8:30 in the morning, there’s not a lot of traffic here. We got to the T-intersection without a problem.

A similar diversion is going in about a mile farther east, as the city straightens out another zigzag route. This time, the road was blocked by large barricades, but there was just enough room for a bike to get through. We were feeling good that bikes could get through where cars couldn’t.

Creedmoor is about 16 miles from our starting point. After a pleasant trip, we wheeled in for a breather at the convenience store stop we always use.

“Isn’t it interesting,” asked Maggie, “how easy that ride is now? Remember when we used to do this ride?”

I remembered. There were times I’d get to the store and want to stay for an hour, just to unwind. This time, a ten-minute stay seemed a little long, and we got back on the bikes for the return leg.

The ride is easier now, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been losing a little weight. Not much, mind you, but enough that I can tell. It feels good to have to fasten my belt to the last notch on some of my pants. The other is that I’m stronger. I credit mountain biking for that. It’s beefed up my legs. Hills are never going to be my strong suit, but by powering my way up short, steep climbs on the MTB, the longer, less steep climbs on the road bike aren’t the struggle they used to be.

Now, all I have to do is attend to some bike maintenance again. Isn’t it interesting that a chain can start skipping some cogs after a two-hour plus ride, when it was shifting smoothly at the start? I see a new chain and cassette on the horizon.

Thinking Time, Not Miles

It occurred to me the other day that once again, my riding has settled comfortably in the 25-mile range. Oh sure, I’ve got some longer rides under my belt — but nowhere near the metric centuries I did semi-frequently a couple of years ago. It seems that lately, my rides have been stuck in a range of between 23-27 miles.

A few years ago, I bemoaned the fact that I rode so many 25-milers. I felt that I was shortchanging myself — not putting in enough effort to improve as a cyclist. And I did work to get those long rides to longer distances. But now, I hardly ever think about distance.

In fact, if I pay attention at all, I pay attention to the number of minutes I spend on my bike. A long ride is anything over two hours. At my 14 mph average, that’s a 28-mile ride.

Most often, I keep my riding to familiar routes around my house. I can combine any number of roads and streets and the Veloway, and wind up with a ride that includes challenging hills, fast sections, and recovery segments. Most often, I knock off after I’ve done between an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. I feel refreshed. I’ve had some good exercise. I’ve spent time on the bike, which I really enjoy.

Then, if I want to push myself, I get out the mountain bike. A two-hour ride on that thing, and I’m ready to pass out. And I’ve probably covered only 14 miles or so in that amount of time. But the next day, I can tell I had some strenuous exercise — much more than a road bike gives me in the same amount of time.

So, I’m not complaining about the 25-mile ride anymore. Some might say I’ve gotten comfortable, but I say I know what works for me. I’ll continue to ride as often as possible, but I’ll keep an eye on the clock — not the odometer.

Bike-Work Balance

We finally had a taste of fall here over the weekend. It only lasted a day and a half, but the hint of the new season got me taking stock of some recent developments around here.

I’ve really cut back on my riding. The start of the new school year does that to me every year, but this time around it’s tougher. You see, in addition to being an instructor, this semester I’m also a student. I’m enrolled in a class for faculty that teaches us how to prepare a class for delivery online.

Now, you’d think for a blogger that wouldn’t be too difficult. But this class is far more rigorous than I expected. That’s good — it means we won’t take it lightly. And it’s really opened my eyes to some of the issues that must be confronted when moving a class online. But the work I’m doing on the class on my own time is eating into other areas of my life. Like biking.

Friday has always been a dependable biking day, and I can usually get some miles in then. Even if I have a bunch of meetings, which happens once a month, I can get home in time to take an hour ride. Not this time.

Friday is online class day. I’m expected to be working face-to-face with my instructors, adding to the materials I’ve already created. It’s been a month since I’ve ridden on Friday.

Tuesday evenings, I can often get home early to sneak in a ride of 12-15 miles. Not this time around. I’m at my desk, working on online materials.

Then there’s the work around the house that must be taken care of — nothing unique to me. I know we all have our household tasks to perform.

The problem for me is time management. Right now, I’m managing my time to make sure my online class work gets done. I’m not making a priority of any of the other stuff.

The upside of it is, I’m fresh on the bike. I took a two-hour ride Sunday, and racked up a couple of Strava personal records. I know that’s because my legs haven’t been put to work during the week. It felt good.

The downside is, if I continue to ride less, my fitness will suffer.

Well, it’s just a series of trade-offs. I’ll get to the end of this class in late November, and it ought to allow me additional time starting in January to ride. And blog. And rake leaves, and hang a new storm door, and fix the loose shingles on the roof, and… and…

In the meantime, if my blogging gets spotty, you’ll know why.

The Octogenarian Record-Holder

My virtual friend Steve Martin, he of “There and Back Again” fame, linked earlier today to a feel-good story: a British cyclist who broke the one-hour cycling record in the 80-84 year-old category. Sidney Schuman is 84.

He covered 28.388 kilometers (17.64 miles) in one hour.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

“This is not much of a record,” he said, “But that’s not the point.”

The point is that maybe 21 years from now, his record might be broken by a guy who now spends some time blogging about biking.

The Wife and the Mountain Bike

I came home from work today to find my mountain bike standing on the garage floor. This is unusual, because it normally hangs from hooks in the garage ceiling.

“Did you go for a mountain bike ride today?” I asked my wife.

“I did!” she replied.

Her own bike was over at our local bike mechanic, getting an overhaul.

“And did you take it down by yourself?” I asked. “That isn’t easy.”

“No,” she said, “it’s not.”

“How was your ride?” I asked. “Say, compared to last week, when you took it out.”

“You know, it was a lot tougher,” she said. “Those gears just didn’t want to shift.”

I’ve been meaning to run the mountain bike in to my mechanic for awhile now. It won’t shift into the lower gears on the rear, and it won’t shift from the middle ring to the small ring up front. But while she thought her trouble today was about the shifters, I suspected it was something else.

“When you took it out last week, I pumped up the tires beforehand,” I said. “I knew you would ride only on streets, so I gave you 60 pounds pressure. But I didn’t know you were riding today, and when I took the bike out Friday, I deflated the tires so I could ride the singletrack. They’ve only got about 35 pounds in them, maybe less.”

“Ah, that explains it,” she said. “When was was coming back up the hill by the supermarket, it felt like I was being pulled backward.”

I got an email from the mechanic today that her bike was ready, and after supper, I went over to pick it up. In the meantime, I dropped off the mountain bike. The next time she rides it, it’ll shift smoothly.

Although now that she has her own bike back, I’ll bet she won’t ride the mountain bike anytime soon.