A Second Century

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I took this picture today while on my second Century Ride of the Summer (more on that later).  I thought it was kinda cool!

I took this picture today while on my second Century Ride of the Summer (more on that later). I thought it was kinda cool!

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Rite of Passage, part 2

In preparing for the Tri-State Tour Century Ride I established three priorities:

  1. Don’t ride alone.  The potential for getting lost in Chicago was high and highly undesirable.
  2. Pace yourself.  100 miles is farther than I’ve ever ridden and I don’t want to waste myself early.
  3. Shut off the GPS and get lots of pictures.  There is no way the battery in my phone was going to last the entire day running GPS and Mapping My Ride.  So, forego the detailed analysis of the ride and get plenty of pictures.  The added bonus of pictures is that they force you to look around and (theoretically) enjoy the ride.

So, how did I do?  Let’s find out shall we?

Don’t Ride Alone.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

I went into this ride absolutely clueless.  I had a vague notion of the path of travel from the 3+ years we had lived in Lake County, North of Chicago, but had no idea now many riders would be going, or who any of them might be.  I knew I didn’t want to get into a situation where I would be lost and alone somewhere in Chicago.  Maps and notes were provided with an emergency phone number, so the organizers were aware of my concerns.  I suppose more than anything I wanted to be sure to meet some new people.  You know me…I need people.

It turned out that 37 of us were registered for the ride.  Hmmm…an odd number. Guess who was the only “single” riding out with the group?  No problem.  I enjoy a good social challenge.  I quickly fell in with the middle of the pack and met Andrew, a police office with the Hammond department and we easily rode together the 18 miles to the first SAG stop in downtown Chicago.  We joined up with Aaron, Tom, Eric, and another gentleman as we rode the next 21 miles through the North side into the suburbs.  39 miles in and I was feeling great!  As a group we were keeping a good pace, chatting about anything and everything, learning one another’s story, and getting it done!  We were all really enjoying the ride.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

About 6 miles out of SAG stop #2 we were stopped at a light and Andrew tells me to check out my rear tire.  It was all bubbled up and about to let go!  We all checked it out and found three locations were the the rubber and threads had been compromised.  I was out of the group.  They offered to stay with me until the mobile SAG could get there to replace the tire, but when we learned it was “going to be a while” before the rescuers came, I thanked them all for a great ride and sent them on their way.  We exchanged numbers to see if I might catch up to them, but that was my day for riding with this great group of guys.  The rest of my day was spent alone, watching closely for the road markers and orange streamers that marked the remaining 40 miles to Kenosha, WI.  Thank God for the paper maps and keynotes because on two occasions I was off course in totally unknown territory.  Both times I got back on track with minimal loss of time and energy.

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

At this point I  want to thank Rob Layton, Director of Bicycle Illinois and the Tri-state Tour.  Not only did he provide turn-by-turn notes and maps of 100 miles through three states and across urban streets, bike trails, and rural roads, but he checked every inch up to the day before the ride and provided amazing support.  Every SAG had plenty of food, bathrooms and supportive volunteers.  When I called the emergency number and gave my location Rob knew exactly where I was and came right away.  He even replaced the tire for me, allowing me some recovery time.  Rob was DEFINITELY faster in changing the tire then I would have been. Thanks Rob.  Awesome job and fantastic ride!

Pace Yourself

I was doing really well until the tire change. The morning weather was spectacular – about 65 degrees when we set off.  We had started pretty easily through the potholes and traffic lights of Hammond and the South side.  The Lake Shore pedestrian trail was a mess with traffic that kept our pace under 15 mph most of the time.  City riding on the North side was less congested, but traffic lights kept us from getting too crazy.  All this was good in the fact that it kept energy consumption to a minimum.  As I said, the first 45 miles were really pretty easy.  I’m not sure I had even broken a sweat!

However, after my 40 minutes on the side of the road I knew the sweepers couldn’t be far behind me and I didn’t want to ride into the finish with them as my companions.  More than that, I wanted to catch up to my boys and see if we couldn’t finish this thing together.  So I set off at a pretty good clip.  I have no idea what my speeds were (I was saving phone battery, so no MapMyRide on this day), but I was on a bike trail so I kicked it up a few notches and was soon in my steady breathing pattern for a good 18 mph or so (which is a pretty good cruising speed for me).  I short-stopped SAG #3 and  cruised into SAG #4 feeling a bit tired, but no aches or pains and my hydration was good.

In the end I missed the boys in Kenosha, WI, by less than 10 minutes and that felt great!  I had made up about 30 minutes over the course of about 40 miles.  The guys weren’t exactly crushing it, but it was good to know that my efforts had caught me up.  At least the sweepers were never seen and I do know that several people were pulling in behind me as I was leaving each SAG.

Of course, there are only 85 miles between Hammond, IN, and Kenosha, WI.  My Century ride was not yet accomplished.  The Century demanded an additional loop through town to hit the mark.  As I pulled in to SAG #5 to the applause of my wife (Thank you Mary) and an unknown lady she had met while waiting for me, I saw that Eric the Young was still there!  As was one of my guys.  All congratulated me on (almost) catching them!  But my ride wasn’t over and I loudly asked, “Who wants to finish the Century?”  Eric the Young promptly stepped up to the challenge as well as two new friends, Lyndsey and Dierdre.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

The pace was easy as we made our priority finishing this Century Ride.  It was a first for all of us and from the first pedal strokes we all knew…we were in this thing together. What a great privilege to finish the day with these new friends.  We made our way north from the High School, then West to the stoney shore of Lake Michigan.  We stopped to look around and get a few pictures, then made our way south through town, admiring the lake shore homes and scenery of rural Wisconsin.  In the end we celebrated our Rite of Passage together!  It was awesome to know that although I may never meet these great people again, we will always share this one moment.  What an awesome…awesome thing!

Shut off the GPS and Get Lots of Pictures

Well… I DID shut off the GPS, and amazingly my phone battery lasted all day! Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of pictures.  The ride didn’t really allow for it.  The roads South of Chicago were madly in need of repair.  They were terribly and to let go of the handlebars for even a moment was sheer craziness.  Downtown was far too busy for pictures, and by the time we got to Lake County I was hustling to catch up.

I DO have to tell you about one picture I missed, but will never forget.  When rounding a bend on the southern end of the Lake Shore path (right about the area of The Loop) we ran into and through the Chicago “Biggest Loser” 15k walk/run.  There were THOUSANDS of bright orange t-shirts, filled with people who were/were NOT happy to be there, and were/were NOT happy that four guys on bicycles were riding into their sea of humanity.  It was CRAZY, and there was NO WAY I was gonna get ANY pictures of this moment!  HA!

What few pictures I did get I will share with you though…

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

St. Michael's Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, "My Kinda Town!

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, “My Kinda Town!

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun...

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun…

The Marina.  People seemed a bit curious about us.

The Marina. People seemed a bit curious about us.

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL.

Feeling good at Sag #2!

Feeling good at Sag #2!

The path into Wisconsin...FINALLY!

The path into Wisconsin…FINALLY!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, "We do!" This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, “We do!” This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

It was truly a great day in so many ways and affirms my commitment to cycling, not just as a means toward fitness, but as a social device.  It really is a great way to meet new and fascinating people.  People you may never see again, but with whom you share something special; a moment, a passion, a way of life.  I love this, and I will forever…

Enjoy the Ride!

Rite of Passage

Sociologists will tell you that cultures are defined in some way by their Rites of Passage…

A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

For the professional athlete it may be that first live television interview.  For the student it may be the turning of the tassel or donning of the hood.  For Christians it may be Baptism, for the Jew it may be the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  For the runner it is the 5K, half and/or full marathon.  For the Native American Indian it was the first hunt.  For the U.S. Marine it is the Crucible.  In all cases the person who enters the event is different from the person who emerges.  Rites of Passage change us.

I’ve had a few Rites of Passage in my life; my first shave (what boy can forget his mother’s words at his first shave, “It’ll only grow back darker and thicker!  Don’t cut yourself!”), getting my driver’s license, my first date, Recognition at the US Air Force Academy, earning my Master’s Degree.  All of them changed me in some way.

The cyclist’s Rite of Passage would seem to be The Century Ride.

100 miles ridden in a single day.  Your typical weekend or neighborhood rider can’t do it.  It demonstrates a level of commitment to the sport in time and training.  Depending on your level of training a Century Ride can take 5 to 9 hours.  Most people cannot fathom sitting on a bicycle seat for that period of time.  Well, based on the responses I get anyway…

Century Sticker

It really is quite amazing how far you can travel in 100 miles.  In my case the ride began in Hammond, IN and finished with an 18 mile loop around and through Kenosha, WI.  It was aptly named, “The Tri-State Tour,” and was a well organized event sponsored by Bicycle Illinois (www.bicycleillinois.com).

I’ll get into the specifics of the ride in part 2 of this post, but for now just let me say that I had a GREAT day!

All the major components of a GREAT ride were present…

  • The weather was phenomenal! Mid-70s with sunshine and just enough clouds to keep it interesting.  We had a bit of a wind off the lake, but it was easily manageable.
  • The setting was ever changing, multi-faceted and fascinating.  We rode urban streets, suburban neighborhoods, beach front and wooded bike paths.  It was metropolitan, it was rural, it was exciting!
  • Stories abound.  There was a lot happening and while I couldn’t record every moment there is plenty I will never forget!
  • The planning and support from ride volunteers was amazing.  More on this later, but let’s just say I am so glad for the SAG vehicle.
  • I made new friends.  With only 37 total riders (and knowing no one before the ride) my choice was simple, either make new friends or ride alone and risk getting lost.  My decision was made within the first 1/4 mile of the ride.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, (me) and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

All told I put in about 109 miles on Sunday in a little over 7 hours of riding.  Nope, I couldn’t have done a whole lot more.  I experienced some phenomenal cramping on the way home and later that night.  But I am very proud to say that I did it… I DID IT!

Now I’m looking for new and greater challenges.

That’s the thing with Rites of Passage, they tell us we can do more… BE more than previously imagined.  I now know I can ride the Century.  What’s next?  I’m considering the RAGBRAI for next year.  Perhaps a major ride in Pennsylvania with my friend Greg Petersheim, or Arkansas with my Brother-in-law Jeremy.  I don’t know, but my boundaries are now wider than they were, and that is really fun to think about!

What Rites of Passage have you accomplished?  What epic ride have you enjoyed?  Whatever the answer (and Please… share your answers with us), my hope for you is that you…

Enjoy the Ride!

The Greatest Gift

Two years ago my life was changed in a major way.

WHA?!?!? What's Steve doing here?

I was given the opportunity to borrow a road bike by my neighbor Steve MacDonald. (Read all about it in my post, My Ride)  I’m not sure how to adequately describe all that is encapsulated in the 1,800 miles I’ve put on it since.

That bike has birthed a passion in me; it is alternately a place of solace, peace and rest, as well as a place of pain, fatigue and whatever it is that does not kill me but only makes me stronger.  I’ve grown a lot on that bike and I’ve come to love it.

The bike has never been mine.

When Steve first loaned it to me I told him I didn’t have the money to buy it.  His reply, “I’m not selling it.  I just want you to ride it.”  And I have!  Just this past weekend I literally rode the second set of tires off the bike.  Steve’s only asked to ride it once and when I ask him if I can pay for the bike he simply replies, “It’s not for sale.”

This past Spring he let me get the bike fitted to me.  (Yep, I posted about that too, read A Bicycle Fit for Me!)  That has changed and energized my riding.  Now, even more of the component parts of the bike belong to me.  But Steve was excited to see it.

Guess what… the bike BECAME mine today!

My Bike!

Tonight Steve walked down his driveway to ask how my first Century Ride had gone over the weekend.  I told him it went very well, and the bike handled it all beautifully.  I shared a couple highlights and then Steve looked at me and utterly blew my mind!  “I’ve been thinking about it and I think you should have the bike.”  That’s what he said!  I was stunned and didn’t know how to respond.  I said, I couldn’t do that, he had money in the bike and Steve simply said, “I can see that you love the bike. I think you should have it.  You can’t out give God.”  For my part I told Steve that I had heard that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but I didn’t know He owns the bicycles as well.

I have been greatly blessed!

I still can’t really believe that the bike is mine.  Steve is looking for a new bike and more than anything I really would like to ride with him.  Of course, he’ll have some new carbon fiber bike and I’ll have my trusty 2009, Aluminum, Trek Alpha with the carbon forks… and I’ll be loving every minute of it!  Why?  Because it is mine!

Completing the Century in Kenosha, WIIn the next few days I will be posting my blog about my first Century Ride, the Tri-State Tour (see my Bucket List page for a brief overview).  Until next time I’ll be out on MY new bike…

Enjoying the ride!

Going NO-where!

Oi vey am I getting tired of riding without getting anywhere!

No, this is not my view, it is a stock pic from the internet.  But you get the point.  Wouldn't a front tire look good about now?

No, this is not my view, it is a stock pic from the internet. But you get the point. Wouldn’t a front tire look good about now?

It is now just about mid-February and man…am I tired of riding a stationary bike!  They call it a spin-bike for a reason you know; that’s all your doing, spinning and spinning and spinning.  In the gym where I spin (see, I can’t even call it cycling) I am forced to sit in row three of the main cardio area.  Ahead of me are a row of elliptical trainers, preceded by the treadmills.  So I watch people bounce up and down (yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking) waiting to discover how they stop those crazy things, while wondering why, no matter HOW HARD I pedal, I can’t seem to catch up to the old lady in the headband and multi-layered Revlon!  Motivational?  NO!

There are Televisions up there, but at 5:30 pm we get to watch the news shows, sponge Bob, and Pardon The Interruption.  The most entertainment I get is watching Tony Kornheiser mouth the words the closed captioning will give me in 13 seconds while waving his Canadian flag (although there is the entertainment of watching the elliptical rider try to dismount without pulling anything).  All that to say…

I’m getting bored!

So give me some feedback people.  I have four priorities for this coming season of riding and I need your help in how to attack them.  Here they are:

  1. I want to learn to ride more “quietly.”  I bob in the saddle pretty easily and I want to develop that powerful and elegant smoothness to my riding.  I want to ride in that place of synergy; when I am nudging the bike and the bike is sailing along!
  2. I want to raise my Lactic Threshold.  I’ve been reading a lot about lactic acid, that burning in the muscles when they are working hard, and I know that this was a major hurdle for me last year.  It seems I can ride forever over relatively flat land, but when the legs are burning… I burn out!  This leads me to my next priority.
  3. I want to climb more productively.  I’ve said it a few times, the hills around Bloomington, IN kicked my saddle last year and this year…no way.  I want to show up at the Hilly Hundred ready to kick back.
  4. I want to complete a century ride in one sitting.  Last year I completed 100 miles…over two days.  My longest single ride to date has been 57 miles (read about that adventure in A Ride That Changed Everything…).  This year I’m slated for my first true Century ride in August.  I need to know what I’m doing as I prepare for it.  Actually, my first major ride of the year in May will be 60 miles, so here’s to breaking personal records early and often! (see 2013 Riding Schedule for specific dates if you want to join me.  Fundraising will begin very soon!)

There you go my friends!  My four priorities for 2013.  Give me your feedback please.  What can I do in the off-season and in the early season to accomplish these priorities?  If it includes riding with you, all the better!

Help me set some goals and, as always… Enjoy the ride!