Monday, November 30, 2009

"There is NO Normal..."

These wise words came from Neighbor Ted, at the end of our 19 mile ride today.  You see, Ted looks like your basic Domesticated North American Next-Door Neighbor...he has a demanding job, wonderful wife,  new baby and a busy life.  He is not a longtime competitive cyclist, not a triathlete, and is not a super-ripped JCPenney underwear model with six-pack abs (okay, I'm guessing on that last one).  He is a great guy, just like many people we all know. 

And yet, when he gets a chance to ride, which is not too often, he considers 40 miles to be his minimal distance, but really feels good about getting in 60 to 70 one ride...on a bicycle.  I try to avoid driving somewhere in my truck that distance.  He just completed the 109 miler of El Tour, beating his previous year's time!  In short, he is an endurance monster on two wheels and I am envious and inspired at the same time! 

If you have been following this blog, you have read where I describe any ride above 20 miles to be a "long ride".  So, given that Neighbor Ted and I seem similar in so many other ways, I wondered how he could regularly handle rides 2-3 times as long as a challenging "long ride" for me, at a much higher speed?

So, after our ride today, I was asking him about his "normal speed" and "normal distances", just to try to understand why, after my months of frequent riding and ever-growing "long rides", I am nowhere near his mph or distance. 

His response was patient, reassuring and simple:  there is no "normal".  Among us amatuers, factors such as weight, bike, history, workout routine, nutrition and psychology are going to be so different from everyone else's, so it is foolish to try to compare or calibrate between two different cyclists' abilities.  There is no normal.

The only comparison that really matters, is to our own previous results.  This month, I have ridden 158 miles!  That is more than I rode in October, or any other month ever in my life.  So, my November mileage is above "my normal"...and I will be content with that for now.

But someday, I want to be like Neighbor Ted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Year-End Weight Loss Challenge (thanks to Cycling Phun!)

I have joined the guys at in an end-of-the-year weight loss challenge.   I follow that blog and Phun challenged any readers to commit to some goal for year-end.  I hope that Phun is cool with me sharing the idea to those of you following here.  He has been very encouraging and welcoming to me.

I am in to lose 10 pounds by 1/1/10 (most are doing this goal).  So, I would like to widen the circle and see if any of you would like to join in on this.  You can check in on this blog, or go over to the link above and leave a comment with your goal. 

So, if you want to join in, just leave a comment with your goal of weight loss, mileage, fitness activity, etc. (no need to disclose your weight, etc.).  Then, once a week (on Fridays), I'll mention my progress, struggles, etc. and you can comment with your progress.  This could be a fun way to set a goal, have some semi-anonymous accountability and make some progress around the holidays. 

Who's in?

Busted Flat in Baton Rouge...

uh, I mean Tucson. My sweet daughter and I went on a morning Thanksgiving ride.  We intended to do our 6.5 mile neighborhood loop, but I rode through some glass while crossing a bridge and got my first flat since I began riding last May.  Bummer.  In case you are wondering, yes, I do have a spare tube that I have keep in my bag under my seat...except that I took it out before our ride yesterday!  Bad timing.

I'll change it out today and get in about 13 miles today and a longer ride sometime this weekend.   My son, Sammo, and I are going to jump on the bikes sometime as well.  He has a cool Trek bike that is ready for mileage!

Also, I went for a nice short ride with Crazy Jim on Wednesday to break in his new Trek FX 7.2 bike.  It was fun and now that he just moved into the neigborhood, we should be riding alot together.  Good times.

Next up, I'll plan out some goals for mileage in December and by the end of the year, I will commit to some new races and goals for early next year.  There are some in races in April that I am looking at that should be similar in mileage to my El Tour route, but I will work on improving my speed. 

Keep riding everyone!
Big Clyde

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Participation Medals" just got shinier!

Participation Trophies.  You know what these are, right?  These days, you get a medal or trophy just for showing up and being on the team, in the race, etc.  When I was a kid, only a select few (the best!) received trophies at the end of the season.  They were very cool and coveted by everyone on the team. 

I received exactly one:  Most Improved Player for my junior varsity tennis team in 1983.  I kept it until about two years ago.  It was my only trophy and I was proud of it, though I never achieved greatness at tennis.  In fact, I realized that I would never be one of our top players, so I didn't even turn out for the varsity team the next year.   What a mistake, but that was what I did.

Now that I have kids of my own, I have disliked this "feel-good" practice of handing out "participation trophies".  The seem less shiny and valuable, given that every kid gets one, just for being on the team.  I don't share those thoughts with my kids, but I still wonder about the message that is sent when everyone gets celebrated, regardless of their performance!  Seems like a step backwards to me...

And yet, I now am re-thinking all of that.  Because when I crossed the finish line in my first bicycle race this past weekend, someone gave me a medal...just for completing the race, regardless of my performance.  Of course, I wore it home (just for convenience, really).  Then, put it back on after I showered and changed my clothes for the rest of the night (and in the car to the restaurant...and back on after we left the restaurant).  Wore it around the house on Sunday morning...then, put it back on after church.  You get the idea.

I didn't wear it today (decided to give it a home on my bathroom mirror), but now it serves as a reminder that I actually did something significant, despite finishing middle of the pack.  And that means, I can do it again someday soon...only this time, I bet I can do even better.   Now, I am even more motivated.

Maybe, the medals and trophies (and race numbers, etc.) that are handed out so frequently today are meant to motivate aspiring athletes for future seasons and better performances ahead.  Maybe the whole idea of that shiny metal object is not to signify that the recipient is somehow better than the rest...maybe it is just to inspire each of us to keep going and do better next time.  Seems to be working that way for me.

By the way, a few posts back, I mentioned that my doctor and co-worker are now interested in cycling because they have seen me make some progress.  Now, my friend Crazy Jim is buying a bike.  Good times.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

El Tour...Middle of the 35-Mile Pack

My daughter says I have to post "something, anything" today about the El Tour de Tucson race that I did yesterday, but I am still enjoying the after-effects of completing it.  I'll post more later, but here are some of the quick highlights:
  • I was so grateful to my family for encouraging me throughout this long process.  Yes, I have been a bit obsessive (in thinking and talking and fussing) with this.  I love them all very much.
  • I completed the 35-mile race in 2 hrs 27 mins, which was faster than my 3 hour goal.  For a new Clydesdale cyclist, this was a great achievement and I am very pleased with it.
  • According to race stats, out of the 1,111 cyclists in my route, I ranked #555!  Yes, I am the last person to be in the top half of my race.  That is funny to me.  Mom and Dad always said I was above average...barely, but still.
  • I was happy to see so many people on race day, though I pretty much rode by myself, which was the plan.  I didn't want to slow anyone down, or be slowed by anyone.  
  • It was great to see Alex and Jay at the start, my family with our "Mighty" family t-shirts cheering me on (cowbells are really loud when hit with a drumstick!), Cory rode with me for awhile, Neighbor Ted came along just at the right time to encourage me to finish strong, and then I saw Jay, Lynn and Laura at the finishing line. Ted, Cory, Lynn and Alex all beat their previous times and Jay ranked #25!!!
  • Though I lost steam somewhere along mile 25, I rallied back during the last couple of miles.  Felt great energy last night, long after the race.  WHY?
  • A highlight for me was seeing Alicia, wife of my friend Jim who died this past summer.  She was looking for me at the starting line of our race and thanked me for thinking of her family and of Jim.  I was surprised to hear that Jim had ridden a 110 mile race in Ohio some years back.  That was inspiring to me and I thought of him often during my race.  God is with her as she bravely faces each day without Jim.  Jim would be so proud of her.
Big Clyde

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To my few followers, thank you for signing up!

There are only four of you today, but I am so very grateful that someone is out there.  Sadly, I started the blog because I needed to dialogue (or whine) about my new efforts in cycling and hopefully, someone would encourage me along the way.   That has already happened from you followers and some other drop-in commentors.

Big Wind - The handsome follower with the glasses was my first and will support me no matter what...and not just because he is my father...he also married a wonderful lady 49 years ago, who has posted many times here.    Thanks, Mom and Dad!

SusieTri - My first non-relative (!) and a tri-athlete, competed in IronMan Arizona last week.  Thanks for the encouragement and insight.  How'd you do in Tempe, Susie?  Looking forward to reading all about it.

Snod66 - My best friend from grade school (who lives several states away).  Or could it be his much better half?  Either way, the lack of any comments and the lack of an avatar image, somehow looks creepy coming from a close friend.  The image somehow reminds me of the quiet kid in the back of the classroom that eventually winds up being interviewed by Chris Hansen on NBC's "To Catch a Predator".  Don't just sit on the stool in the kitchen eating cookies and drinking sweet tea!  Make a comment or something.  At least, submit a picture of yourself, so that you aren't looking so shadowy.

And Dan just dropped in today.  Looks like he just completed his first marathon!  Very cool.  Seems so daunting...I will likely stick to cycling.  They say the "century" (a 100-mile cycling race) is the cousin to the runner's marathon.  Maybe someday.  Thanks for following along, Dan.  Please pass on any advice...I'll put it to good use.

My thanks also to Duane and Cody who have jumped in with comments.   And finally, my sweet Bookreader28, thanks for the fun and encouraging comments.   I can't believe you really like Bon Jovi (but their Christmas song is pretty sweet!).

Big Clyde

Can't think, Can't sleep...El Tour is now an obsession

My patient wife must be wishing she had her old husband back.  He didn't exercise, didn't constantly mess around with new bike stuff for his new bike, and didn't constantly bring up the El Tour de Tucson race (coming this weekend).

I was that old husband in May (and through most of the summer)...but after almost 19 years of marriage, she is seeing me become increasingly obsessed with cycling.  I don't think I am, because I know that my performance is still so very limited compared to even the casual cyclist.  But I find that it is all that I think about...I find myself noticing the incline grade of roads as I am driving.  I am now paying attention to which streets have bike lanes or wide shoulders, good smooth pavement, hills that I could climb (and the very steep hills that laugh at me).

For the record, I still don't think I have lost much weight.  My doctor recently noted a 6 lb drop since I started cycling, but the bathroom scale hasn't really budged.  But I do know that my quads are bigger and more muscular and the belly has less "jelly" to it now.

I will join 9,000 other cyclists this weekend in the El Tour de Tucson race and will ride 36 miles.  Then, I will find the next race and sign up for it (so that I don't cuddle up on the coach with my El Tour participation medal for the rest of my life).

So, is it an obsession?  It's an odd thing for me to describe...I wouldn't say that I love riding (it is hard, my progress seems slow and at such a low level compared to virtually everyone in the real world and blogger world)...and yet, I do love that I can see some progress each month, some weight is shifting (and burning away) and I love the feeling that I am actually doing something.  Maybe a year from now, I will do the 66 or 81 (or 110) mile route of El Tour and will be a very different person.  I am hopeful.

Which is why I guess I am obsessed.  Hope is not found on the couch.

Keep riding!

Big Clyde

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The last BIG ride before El Tour...36 miles!!

Great day for me today.  I rode my bike 36 miles this afternoon, which feels awesome!  When I started riding last May, I committed to riding the 36 mile route of El Tour de Tucson.  But life and other commitments would get in the way, so my training was off and on.  Until today, I wasn't sure if I could handle that distance.  But today confirmed that I can do it.  The race is 6 days away.  Very exciting for me.  My first race.

I did ride twice since my last post.  I rode for about 13 miles on Thursday, going at a faster pace than normal, then went for a fun ride with my boy Joe on Saturday. 

Back to today, my pace was slower than I would have liked, but I was trying to conserve energy for the longer distance and was battling some wind.  Given that it is almost never windy here, a 7-10 mph wind can mess with me.   Nonetheless, I did it (took me three hours, but I did it).  Good times.

Keep riding.

Big Clyde

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today's ride...13.4 miles

Just a quick ride out this morning, with my friend J.  I was a bit gassed from riding a longer distance yesterday afternoon, but kept a decent pace.  Will do a similar, but more intense ride on Wednesday, then a long ride on last long ride before El Tour. 

By the way, on yesterday's tiresome ride, I kept remembering that youtube video David After the Dentist.   "Is this going to be forever?"

Big Clyde

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Carnitas Fajitas + bike ride? No es bueno!!

First things first!  My thanks to the many friends and family who have agreed to donate funds to the Tu Nidito organization that benefits children who have lost a parent in the Greater Tucson area.  It will directly benefit the children of a good friend who we lost this summer.  With donations and company matching funds, I am guessing we will raise about $500 for my race.  As my friend Jim used to say, "Awesome!"

Secondly, after my longest ride of 28.3 miles last weekend, I did not ride again until a week later (this past weekend).  I rode 6.5 on Saturday and 18.5 on Sunday.  I focused on some speed intervals for the short ride and some hills on the second.  However...

There are a few things that this new budding Clydesdale has just learned about activity and food choices. 
1.  If you ride your largest distance, you will likely feel tired for the next several days...this is normal, ride soon anyway.  After my long Saturday ride, I didn't get back on the bike until a week later.  When I did, my legs felt heavy and tired.  I am thinking that I should have ridden a few times throughout the week (even short rides)...just to keep the muscles moving, etc.  
2.  If you decide to make up for that lethargic week, by putting alot of your miles into a Sunday afternoon, then avoid the big Sunday lunch at Macayo's Mexican Restaurant.  The fam and I had a blast with our friends (14 of us!), but after some carnitas, chips & salsa, and a "Baja Pizza", we drove home asap and I jumped on the bike.  I did not hurl, or even have a belly ache, but I (again) just felt like I had no fuel in the tank.  No energy + long ride with hills = lackluster performance. 

I guess I have to remember basic guidelines about using food as fuel, if you are going to exercise.  I lost a great training opportunity this weekend and I haven't much time left before the race.  Less than two weeks away.  Need to make better choices in training and food.

Still, I am grateful for 25 miles this past weekend and I'll be out again early tomorrow morning. 

Keep riding,

Big Clyde

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

El Tour de Tucson - Dedication to Jim Smith

I am dedicating my ride in El Tour to Jim Smith, a good friend of mine, who died this past summer after a two year bout with a brain tumor.  I worked with Jim, but then we became friends and really got to know each other.  He was a brother in Christ, a loving husband and father and loved by so many people.  During his final two years, we would meet at the hospital, rehab center, Starbucks and even at his office, when he was feeling better.  He was always positive, always smiling and confident.  Even when he knew that he was up against it and might not survive this, he just chose to find the upside and spend the rest of his days showing love and encouragement to all around him.  You just felt better around him, this big smiling, happy guy who was tolerant, smart and kind to everyone.  His favorite word was "AWESOME", which he used in just about every other sentence.  This was his way of expressing his own upbeat attitude and giving encouragement to anyone near him. 

I could not stop crying at his funeral.  He was too good to lose and we all knew it.  I cry when I think of him now.  I started this blog because I know that I am not very disciplined, not athletic and would need encouragement, even from strangers.  Thankfully, I have received that already.  I know that if Jim is able to watch from Heaven, he is encouraging me now. 

Recently, I learned that his four boys are benefitting from Tu Nidito, a Tucson-based organization that helps children who have lost a parent.  So, now I am raising funds for Tu Nidito, which is affiliated with El Tour. 

As I train and race in El Tour, I will think of Jimmy, his wife and boys and dedicate my efforts to him. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday's Ride...28.3 miles!

Feeling pretty happy with yesterday's ride, given that it is my longest ride in terms of distance and time.  My goal is to focus now on more time in the saddle.  Today, I rode for 2 hours and 22 minutes in a pretty hilly area.  Though the pace is not great by most cyclists' standards, it is pretty good for me at this point.  Approx 12 mph.

I worked on pacing myself on the first big hill (which isn't too daunting anymore) and tried to conserve energy during the first hour.  That must have helped.  At the end of my ride, I determined that I certainly could have finished another 8 miles, which would equal the distance of my route in El Tour this year.  36 miles will be a challenge, but I am told that the ride itself has a lot more flat miles (or even downhill) than what I just rode.  Three weeks away and I will ride many miles before the race.

Big Clyde