Friday, October 31, 2008
The other thing you should know is I’m a sucker for free stuff. I really don’t care what it is if it’s free I’m there. With that being said the other day I saw an ad on the web for 5 free samples of a new sports drink. I just couldn’t pass that one up so I gave the minimum amount of personal information up and sent off my request. Usually it takes a couple of months for free samples to arrive if they arrive at all so I quickly forgot about it.
Last night when we got the mail there was a package for me. It was the sports drink samples and it took less than a week to arrive. I know, kind of weird. When I pulled out the samples everyone was mesmerized by the bright shiny packages that came out. There were three different flavors so immediately, the kids found the best sounding flavor and asked if they could try it.
They chose a great sounding flavor – Mangosteen. Just the sound of it made my mouth water. Mango’s and Steen combined into one flavor. OK, I really don’t know what Steen is but the Mango sounded great. Could it be that my old standard of Gatorade would be replaced? My mind was racing as my son got out a bike bottle and mixed it up.
After the Mangosteen concoction was mixed up we all poured some into small glasses to give it a taste test. Have you ever thought you were going to take a drink of seven-up only to find out you are drinking water instead? I had one of these experiences with Mangosteen. As I took my first sip I was expecting to taste a smooth mango taste but what I really tasted was the nasty taste of soap. Before I could say “Hey, this stuff tastes like soap!” one of my kids beat me to it. Jenny was talking to someone at the door while we did the taste testing but when she got back she gave the Mangosteen a whirl and said exactly the same thing. Could it be that Mangosteen is really another name for soap? Was the free sample actually for soap and not a sports drink? I checked the package and it was really a sports drink.
The most anyone drank of the Mangosteen was one sip except for me. For some reason I kept drinking my sample until it was all gone. I think I was hoping that it would magically transform itself into something that tasted good. No luck, it still tasted like soap.
My oldest son was at work last night for the taste testing so we pulled out the bike bottle from the fridge this morning just to see his reaction. This was going to be good. To my surprise he actually liked it! I don’t remember making him eat soap when he was younger if he said a bad word so I’m not sure where he acquired the taste. I guess we all have different tastes. He must prefer soap.
I didn’t say who made this Mangosteen because I’m sure a company worked really hard to get just the right concoction together. It just wasn’t for anyone in our family except for soap boy. For now I guess I’m still a creature of habit with the lemon-lime Gatorade. I’m staying!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
There are tons of reasons why I like to ride but I’ve narrowed my list down to 5 major reasons. Here they are:
Cycling keeps me in shape
I’ve cycled since I was in college but a couple of years ago I had a blood test and failed it miserably. I used that as an incentive to really hit the training hard and get serious about getting in shape. I haven’t failed a blood test since. I also justify cycling as my own little health care plan. My thinking is for every ride or trainer session that I put in now that will be one more ride I’ll be able to take when I’m a lot older and retired. I’m really hoping that it works out this way.
Cycling allows me to set goals and achieve them
I’ve always tried to set small goals and work toward them but cycling has given me the chance to set major cycling goals and work for months toward them. It’s so rewarding to train for months for a specific ride and then accomplish it. This keeps me active and working toward something all the time.
Cycling makes me feel like a kid again
Every time I hop in my bike and make those first few pedal strokes I remember all over again the sensation of what it was like being a kid and riding a bike. There’s nothing quite like riding a bike other than maybe flying. When I’m out riding I also have the urge to yell “Wooooo-Whoooo” because I’m having such a good time. Some times I do but most of the time that just scares others so I keep it to myself.
Cycling is my version of an adventure
Going for a long bike ride to me is an adventure. Even if it’s on a route that I’ve been on hundreds of times before there is always something new to see at the speed of a bike. I don’t have to go to far away destinations to have these adventures either. A lot of times I just sit down at the computer, map out a route that looks rural and download it to my Garmin. Then the fun begins. Some routes are better than others but it’s always fun to go out on a cycling adventure.
Cycling is a good excuse to spend time with my buddy
This is by far the biggest reason I like to ride. Going for a bike ride with my best cycling buddy Jenny (my wife) makes all the difference. It’s a great time to catch up and spend time together. We’ve gone on really long rides and super short ones but they’ve always been fun. Except for that time Jenny broke her shoulder. That one, not so fun.
I’m sure you probably have your own list of why you like to ride such as saving money, saving the environment, etc. but I’m sticking with my five. I'm sticking with cycling!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
For most people forgetting to unclip your feet at a stop only happens once. That is unless you’re a slow learner. My induction into the bruised pride club happened a couple of years ago on a ride while the kids were at a youth night for our church. As I was finishing up my ride I slowed down to make a left turn into a parking lot. As I looked over my shoulder for traffic I noticed there was a car approaching behind me. Since the car was going faster then I was I thought all I would need to do was slow down a little more and let the car pass me than I would be able to cross the street into the parking lot to pick up the kids. As I waited for the car to pass it didn’t. I looked over again and now the car was right beside me so I slowed down a little more to let it pass. I waited and waited and the car still didn’t pass me so I slowed down to almost a dead stop. As I was starting to wobble the car next to me laid on its horn which scared the pants off me and also prompted me to instinctively hit both of my brakes. I was now stopped but both of my feet were still hooked to their pedals. I struggled to get a foot loose but there was nothing I could do but to think about how stupid I probably looked. Luckily, I didn’t fall into traffic side of the road. Once I hit the ground the car beside me sped off and I imagined that the car full of people had a great laugh at my expense.
What I gained from this was a good scrape on my elbow and knee and a membership into one of the greatest clubs known to cycling. The bruised pride club. I’ve always remembered to unclip when stopping from then on but I still count myself to be in good company in this exclusive club. Are you a member?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
As I prepared to go for a ride I looked at the temperature outside for some guidance on what to wear. Since it was only 47 degrees I decided to error on the side of more layers but I think I went a little overboard. For some reason it takes me at least 2 months of cold weather riding to really get in the groove of knowing what to wear.
As I headed down the hill from our house I was glad I had worn all of the layers because the wind in my face was very cold and I was riding in the shade. The downhill section from my house only lasts for all of 30 seconds though and then the 300 feet of climbing stares you right in the face. As I was standing and mashing pedals up the hill I noticed that the sun was now shining and that intense cold I had felt only a couple of minutes earlier was a very distant memory. I was cooking and wondering why the heck I had worn all of those layers.
Luckily, by the time I got over the first hill and things leveled off I rode back into the shade of the trees and all of my layers were tolerable again. There weren’t many people out so I was able to ride along and just enjoy the scenery. Since I needed to be back in a couple of hours in order to go to the Beavers/Husky football game I decided I would just ride out to this nice field with a park bench and turn around.
As I sat on the park bench drinking some water it was really nice to take a look around to enjoy what fall was doing to all of the trees. Even though most of the trees where we live are evergreen there is an occasional tree that turns colors. I like that.
The ride back home was nice but more people were out on the road by this time. All in all it was a nice ride and a very worth while use of my yard work credit. To round out a great day the Beavers beat the Huskies very easily and we all had a great time at the game. Good times. Go Beavs!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My bike bottle collection started years ago when I bought my first road bike. It was a used Centurion I bought in grad school and it came with a free bike bottle. Back then I thought I’d never have a use for a bike bottle but I obviously didn’t know then what I know now.
Until 2006 we always had a small collection of bike bottles. Then, we found the holy grail of free bike bottles, The Seattle Bike Expo. This is a bike show held in the middle of March every year. It has a couple hundred booths and if you get there early enough on the first day a lot of the vendors are handing out free bike bottles. The first year we attended the expo Jenny looked at the 6 or 7 bike bottles that we came home with and said, “What are we going to do with all of those”? I assured her that they were a necessity and we had to keep them. She reluctantly agreed. Now she’s a believer.
In fact, Jenny has become quite the bike bottle connoisseur. She likes the bike bottles that are tall with the with the medium size lids. If I’m getting bike bottles ready before a ride I know these are her favorites but as a plan B she will use the tall ones with the large size lids. Under no circumstances will she ever use the ones that have the plastic nozzle. I was right, they are a necessity.
Our bike bottles use to be located in a large metal bowl down in the far reaches of a back cupboard. If you were to relate this to a neighborhood this would be the ghetto. Our bike bottles have really moved themselves up in the world over the years. They are now stacked neatly in the high rent district of our cupboard next to the microwave. I guess location is everything.
Every year that we’ve gone to the expo we come home with more bike bottles. To me it’s a lot like topping your personal best for a century or climbing that monstrous hill faster. Last year we topped our personal best for bike bottles at the expo and felt like it was a major accomplishment. Now, before all of the Pacific Northwesterners get ticked at me we actually use all of these bike bottles.
The obvious use for bike bottles is for rides and we definitely use tons of them for that purpose but other uses are almost unlimited. Here are some of my favorites.
The kids bring them to school in their lunches. That way they don’t fill up the landfills with plastic water bottles. Call it my version of being a tree hugger. I’m sure the kids are also the envy of all their classmates. I mean who doesn’t look cool drinking out of a bike bottle.
I bring a small bike bottle to work every morning filled with milk. I’m sure people see it hanging out of my backpack and think I’m using it on a lunchtime ride or something when in reality I use the milk for a bowl of granola while I sit at my desk.
Finally, I’ve never had to resort to using a bike bottle for this but the Fat Cyclist has used bike bottles for emergency situations.
For some reason our bike bottle supply never gets above 30 even though we end up acquiring them at different events and occasions all the time. There must be a mystical force that makes them vanish similar to the mystical force that makes socks disappear in the dryer every week. It’s either that or the kids don’t bring them home from school. I personally think it’s the mystical force.
I don’t have a bike bottle addiction, I really don’t. I’m sure I could quit acquiring them any time I want. I just don’t want to. That doesn’t sound like an addiction does it?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last Saturday was a nice crisp sunny fall day. Perfect for a bike ride. Rather than riding I spent most of the day working in the yard. Yuck!! For some people spending the day working in the yard is therapeutic and almost like a little slice of heaven. To me it reminds me of the ordeal of eating vegetables as a kid. You’ve got to do it but it’s not a pleasant experience. I have grown up a little since those kid vegetable days though. These days I only stomp around making faces for a couple of minutes before I give up and head out to do the yard work.
This last Saturday as I worked out in the yard mowing and hauling dirt I tried to think of the advantages of yard work over cycling. I seriously wracked my brains and could only come up with two advantages. Here they are:
- You don’t have to deal with hostel drivers shouting obscenities and throwing things at you while you’re carting dirt around the yard. That is unless you stole the dirt from your neighbors yard and he just caught you.
- Doing yard work scores major points with your wife which in turn builds up cycling trip credits for the spring and summer. (at least that’s what I’m hoping)
That’s my entire list. I just couldn’t come up with any other advantages of doing yard work over cycling.
On the other hand the list of advantages of cycling over yard work is almost unlimited. Here is a short list that came to mind. I’m sure there are thousands more.
- The harder you work cycling the more breeze you have in your face to cool you off. When doing yard work the harder you work is just that, harder work. No advantage.
- In cycling if you get tired you can coast and you still make progress toward your destination.
- If you don’t wear gloves while you ride your bike you don’t run the risk of getting blisters the size of
on your hands. Texas
- If you get tired while you’re cycling and you’re riding with a buddy you can pull behind him to draft. I don’t know much about yard work but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any opportunities for drafting even if you’re following someone else with a wheelbarrow.
- If you take your wife on a great cycling adventure you score major points with her which in turn builds up cycling trip credits for the spring and summer.
I think I’ve just talked myself out of doing yard work for the rest of the year. It’s a good thing winter is coming.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Years ago when Jenny and I went on our first long distance organized ride we overheard someone talking about his pre-ride meal. He very proudly told his riding buddy that he had a huge plate of spaghetti before the ride. I’m usually a big fan of spaghetti but he was telling his buddy this at 6:30 in the morning. I can honestly say I’ve never climbed out of bed in the morning and said “Boy, I’m starving I think I’ll start off the day with a big bowl of spaghetti”. Actually, I don’t think I ever will.
Back then I didn’t know much about good cycling nutrition but since then I’m discovered the perfect pre-ride cycling fuel. That’s right my favorite pre-ride meal is a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich! This might sound funny but here are my reasons why it’s the prefect pre-ride food.
- A PB&J is full of the perfect blend of carbohydrates, protein, and youth.
- This meal is portable so you can take it with you and eat it on your way to meet up with your buddies.
- It’s relatively cheap when you compare it specialized cycling food.
- It gives you a good case of PB&J breath which I’m sure your cycling buddies will all envy.
- Most importantly it’s full of your daily recommended allowance of youth.
I don’t care who you are, riding a bike makes you feel like a kid again or at least it should so eating a PB&J before a ride doesn’t just taste magically delicious it also gets the youth juices going before you start turning those pedals.
You should be careful with what you combine your PB&J with though. If you were to eat a PB&J with an orange soda and follow it up with some pop rocks you would far exceed your daily allowance of youth. This might cause you to ride off of your trail spontaneously throwing rocks and catching frogs. Trust me your cycling buddies won’t like this.
If you’ve never tried a pre-ride PB&J you should give it a spin but be careful. They’re powerful!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
As I pedaled away from
After a while I rode into a small town and had to wait at a train crossing for an oncoming train. As I waited, I made use of my time by switching water bottles and stretching a little. Along behind me came some older ladies that were out for a walk. As they noticed that I was riding a bike with a number on it they walked over to me in amazement. One of them said “There’s no way you have made it here from
The route on the second day into
The Worlds Largest Egg (amazing what you see out riding you bike)
After the first 5 miles or so I got into the groove of riding again and I was feeling really good. The only problem was I was really getting tired of riding alone. I brought along an iPod to listen to which was nice but that even got old after a while. I even resorted to listening to church talks while I rode which I must admit was nice to hear someone talking even if it wasn’t to me.
After 20 miles or so I started into the rolling hills that I had read about. From what I read, the rollers weren’t a problem at all and in most cases if you were fast enough going down the previous hill you could usually clear the next roller. I certainly didn’t see many of those kind of rollers on the hills I was riding. After the first couple of rollers I developed a plan of attack that worked for me though. As I approached each uphill section I sat and pedaled until either I lost patience with the slow pace or my back started hurting. Once either one of these conditions were met I would then stand and mash pedals up the rest of the hill until I got to the top. Then I would coast down the next hill and repeat. It was my version of Lather, Rinse, Repeat. The rolling hills lasted for a good 30 miles and man was I glad to be finished with them.
I was now 50 miles into the route for the day and I had yet to see another rider so the loneliness was really starting to get to me. At this point I learned one of the most valuable lessons that I would take away from the ride. As I rode along I looked over to my left and there was a group of people setting up an STP rest stop at an elementary school. I thought about stopping but I knew I would be meeting Jenny for lunch in another 10 miles or so. As I rode by this group they noticed that I was an STP rider and they all clapped and cheered for me as I rode by. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to have someone cheer for me. After riding alone for a solid day a half I almost started bawling because someone else noticed me. Those people who cheered for me probably didn’t think much of it but it sure gave me a boost. This is what I learned. Everyone deserves a good cheering section in whatever they are doing large or small. It’s just important.
After another 10 miles I met Jenny in a park at an official STP rest stop. It sure was nice to see her and spend some time with her. I was the first rider there so the helpers scrambled around to make me a sandwich. It wasn’t anything special but man did it taste great. I must have been suffering from powerbar overload. I even drank a banana flavored sports drink and liked it! Amazing what you’ll consume on a long ride.
The next landmark that I came to was the
After I crossed into the state of
As I rode into
As I wondered around the park there were bikes lying all over the place. There were also a lot of 1 day riders lying on the grass asleep. I can’t imagine riding 204 miles in one day but if I ever did I would probably pass out in the middle of the park too. After I took a shower in one of the shower trucks that they have in the park Jenny and I grabbed some food and hung out for a while before heading home.
For me, this ride was a lonely but rewarding ride. I was very glad that I had completed it. I learned that with a lot of determination and perseverance I also learned that everyone needs a cheering section.
Jenny did a great job in her support vehicle role. She was always there too supply me with additional food, Gatorade, and moral support. She also drew on the side of our car a big picture of me riding my bike with the words below it. Go Mike! All while wearing a sling.
We are planning on riding the STP again in 2009 but hopefully this time with more people. If you’re interested in doing a Friday/Saturday STP let me know because we’d love to have the company.
Friday, October 10, 2008
My STP experience started at 5 AM in front of the
I quickly got into the groove of riding and the miles started to fly by. As I rode next to
After riding for a couple of hours both of my water bottles were empty and I was ready for a quick break so I stopped at a nearby 7-11. One of the employees was outside emptying the garbage so I asked her if I could fill up my water bottles inside. She didn’t have a problem with that but then she took a look at me and said “where did you come from and where are you riding to?” When I told her I came from
I rode for a couple more hours and then I met Jenny at a Safeway for lunch. It was really nice to take a break even if it was sitting on the back bumper of the car eating a sandwich. While we were in the Safeway parking lot we actually saw 3 other people that were riding the STP a day early like I was. I talked to them for a couple of minutes but they didn’t seem interested in riding together. This was kind of a bummer because it was getting hard to ride alone.
After lunch, the course took me on a fairly busy 2 lane highway. The traffic didn’t bother me but there was a terrible headwind that I had to ride into. This headwind would last for the next 40 miles. As I got to mile 70 I realized that I had just passed the farthest that I had ever ridden. It felt like quite an accomplishment but at the same time I realized that I had at least a couple more hours to ride and I was pretty spent from riding into the heavy headwind. I really had no other choice but to keep riding and stick it out for the following reasons:
I was stranded all alone on my bike in the middle of nowhere
I had already bought an STP t-shirt and I would feel like a total dork wearing it if I didn’t finish the ride.
I ended up riding the last 30 miles telling me myself over and over again. Do it for the shirt, do it for the shirt, do it for the shirt. I know it was dumb but it kept me going. As I pulled into
Day 2: The Ride into
Thursday, October 9, 2008
A couple of years ago Jenny and I decided it was time for us to complete a century. If you’ve every lived in the Pacific Northwest you know that the
I had thought about doing the STP for a couple of years but it’s a Saturday/Sunday ride. Since we have a religious obligation on Sunday which keeps us from riding I had always told myself that the STP wasn’t a possibility.
When we decided to ride the STP we planned on riding by ourselves on Friday and staying the night in
Jenny and I trained a lot that spring doing plenty of 65 mile rides. We had pretty well adapted to that length so 3 weeks before the STP we decided to kick it up a notch and increase our training ride to 80 miles.
Since it was a Saturday and we didn’t want to be away from the kids all day we decided to start at 6AM. The beginning of our route was going to be on the Centennial trail which would be a nice warm up before hitting the road and dealing with cars for hours. As we rode, there were a lot of bunnies crossing the trail in front of us. It was kind of nice but you really had to concentrate on not hitting any of them. About 10 miles into the ride we looked up the trail saw a big pack of dogs in front of us. As we got closer most of them headed off into the bushes but one mangy dog stayed behind to growl and bark at us. As we approached him I unclipped one foot from my pedal in order to apply a good kick if he decided to attack. Both Jenny and I rode by him as he stared at us but the second we got passed him he started chasing us and increased his barking. Jenny looked back to see where he was and swerved a little. This little swerve caused her to barely go off the trail. Since she was still in a rush to get away from the dog when she attempted to get back on the trail her wheel caught the lip of the pavement and down she went directly on her shoulder. Wouldn’t you know it, Jenny’s fall scared the dog away and he slipped into the bushes with all of his other dog friends.
Jenny was in major pain at this point. Lucky for us our car was only about half a mile from where we were. After sitting for a while Jenny was able to walk under her own power back to the car. Because it was so early in the morning the local walk-in clinic wasn’t open for a few more hours.
We ended up going home and Jenny fell asleep for a while. We were both hoping that her shoulder would only be bruised up and that ice and rest would do the trick. Well, the walk up clinic x-rays told a different story. She broke her shoulder which meant that she would need to be in a sling for 6 weeks.
This was a major disappointment because we had trained so hard for the STP and it was only a matter of weeks away. After talking about this situation for a while we decided that I would make the ride by myself and Jenny would drive a support vehicle for me. Not the optimal solution but it worked given the situation. I ended up training for the next couple of weeks alone which just wasn’t the same. To make matters worse the day before the big ride I started to come down with a slight head cold. At this point I really started to doubt if the STP was really possible.
More to come tomorrow………………
Saturday, October 4, 2008
1. The route must pass somewhere great to eat.
2. The route must include mainly rural deserted roads with hopefully some great scenery.
Jenny had been to a small diner in Silvana years before that was surrounded with farms and rural roads so we decided to give this area a try. Neither one of us had ever ridden there before so we had to rely on www.mapitpronto.com for some good roads. This site allows you to plan out a route by viewing a map and clicking on the roads you would like to ride. Once you are done you can download of the road to your Garmin and you’re ready to go.
On Friday when we got up it was raining. Not surprising for the area that we live in but kind of a bummer anyway. We decided to still give it a try so we got all of our battle raingear on and headed out to Silvana. As a plan B we decided if we got there and the rain was really dumping we would just to out to eat.
As luck would have it the rain subsided on the drive to Silvana so we were good to go. We ended up parking by the diner and we headed out from there. The route started out on a nice level road for about a half a mile and just as we rode around a bend in the road we came to a really steep hill. Pounding up hills without much of a warm up isn’t my favorite thing to do but we both survived. At the top of the hill I saw the following clump of signs. Can it get anymore confusing that this? Thank heavens for GPS devices.
This portion of the route was really nice as we rode passed a lot of farms and tons of grazing horses. Up the road a little bit we encountered a sign that basically said we were entering a private road and trespassing wasn’t allowed. Yikes, this road was the only connecting road over to Marine View drive. Since we didn’t see anyone around we decided to brave it and ride on their private road anyway.
This private road turned out to be a great place to ride. It was a series of some steep hills followed by very fun descents. It was interesting to me that when you got to the top of each hill there were a couple of huge fenced houses that had great views of the valley. Then, when you got to the bottom of each hill there were smaller houses with an occasional trailer. These houses at the bottom of each hill didn’t the view of the large ones. I guess location is everything when it comes to real estate. Either way, this road was really fun to ride.
As we rode along it started to lightly rain. The rain wasn’t heavy enough to soak you but was present enough to know it was raining. This is the typical rain we get in Western Washington from October to early July. It actually felt nice to ride in this rain because it helped to cool us off.
The rest of the ride was uneventful other than spotting a lot of different animals. We don’t normally ride near farms so this was interesting. When our ride ended we went to the diner by our parked car. We obviously didn’t look like locals because our server asked us if it was the first time that we had been there. She did recommend the pancakes which turned out to be great. They were huge.
As we drove home the rain storm turned into a downpour. It was nice to have good timing.