Wednesday, August 23, 2006

fitness focus

Bike's still in the shop, so I've been forced to break routine. This has meant breaking out the heart monitor and getting a little creative.

On the fitness front, I've been walking with sprinting intervals to make the heart work a little harder for short periods.

And I've added in a little more emphasis on weight training, stair climbing, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and the like.

Most of this activity is of the type that requires rest days for muscle recovery & such.

And I'm still working on that elusive healthy diet thing. Bleh. Parents teach your kids to eat rabbit food while they're young, because it's mighty hard to do in middle age.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

hoofing it

I haven't been in the best of health lately (various stresses coming together at one point in time, for the most part), so getting exercise is even more important to me than normal.

There's a temptation to reduce fitness activity when one isn't feeling well, and I've taken that path many times. But as I grow older and chalk up more life experience, I've been concluding that most of the time that's exactly the opposite of what I should do.

So I got up early for another ride, but a pre-ride bike check (a very good thing to do regularly if you put your bike through any real strain) revealed a couple of popped spokes on the rear tire.

I'm not equipped for such repairs (although I'll have that fixed soon, as I can't imagine a spoke wrench & a few spares can be insanely expensive), so I had to make alternate plans.

Fortunately, I invested in a new pair of crosstrainer shoes the other day, so I donned a floppy hat and Camelbak, and headed off for a vigorous walk (something my riding partner has been reminding me to do anyway).

I don't know exactly how far for for precisely how long I walked, but I put in several miles around the lakes & hills here.

Just as I have a more intimate experience of my environment when cycling than when driving, walking provides a closer look than just cycling.

However, insects & the many, many unfettered dogs around here are basically impossible to avoid while walking. The city dweller with no experience being attacked by dogs & bugs would've likely had a bad time doing what I did this morning.

It's good to break up the routine anyway, as trekking is more than just bicycling.

For me, it's important to maintain at least basic fitness for a range of activities including walking, cycling, and canoeing. This way I'm able to take advantage of many opportunities to explore as I stumble across them.

I also need to work on some other skills, such as getting up & down the sides of hills & caves. But the hills around here don't make it too convenient.

I have consistently good results from focusing on trekking opportunities that fall within my budget, interests, and local availability. This makes it easier to maintain some level of motivation.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unusual ride after work today. Turns out someone from a nearby town tried his hand at swimming in one of the lakes around midnight and drowned after swimming out around 30 feet.

As I cycled by the lake, his family was in mourning while the monthly Fishing Club meeting took place maybe a hundred feet away. It was surreal.

I tried to be respectful and mind my own business as best I could.

As I proceeded with the ride, I noticed that I was making certain hills in significantly higher gears with much less effort than on previous occasions. I attribute this to the longer weekend rides pushing my limits & forcing my body to adapt.

I'm just trying to think of ways to get at it more without the heat killing me. First thing in the morning's not so bad, but after work it can be much less tolerable.

How the local racing gearheads get out & hit the road for 30 or 60 miles after work is beyond me. Cheers to them!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

32-mile Longleaf solo ride

I made my target plus a few miles this morning.

trip = 32.0 miles
avg speed = 12.9 mph
max speed = 22.2 mph
time = 2:28:32

And I passed the 500-mile mark with a final odometer reading of 512.

Start time was 7:50 a.m. from Prentiss, as I didn't want to spend time driving to Bassfield that could be spent pedaling.

I turned around after about an hour & a half, knowing from experience that it's desirable to be off the trail & out of the heat by 11 a.m. (It is still August, after all.)

I just missed the 11 a.m. target, as I spent a little extra time at rest areas chatting with fellow riders who actually happen to live on a road near my home on which I'd actually ridden yesterday.

One of them also turned out to be a fellow Trek 7300 rider, although hers is the 2006 model. The other earned a little of my respect by making the entire trip on a big ol' Mongoose with knobby tires.

Their trip was just shy of the distance of mine, although they'd started riding at 6:30 a.m., allowing a more leisurely pace. But they picked up the pace from Carson to Prentiss when I warned them about the heat factor.

About 3 miles from the end, my right knee protested acutely, but a quick stretch stop got me going again.

Pre-ride, I had a cup of coffee & bowl of Total at the house before driving to Prentiss. My next food was a cup of mixed fruit at the 20-mile mark, and it tasted like the most delicious thing I've ever tasted at the time.

As soon as I had the bike mounted, I dashed straight for a country cookin' buffet in Prentiss without bothering to even towel or change clothes. At around 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday, I suddenly found myself surrounded by people in their Sunday finest as I drained the buffet of anything that looked calorie-laden.

I couldn't have managed more stares if I'd donned a top hat & cane to sing Hello, Dolly.

But I figure I'm not the first sweaty guy they've seen walk in to throw a little tourist money around.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Not all aspects of getting out & exploring are what one might call sexy, exactly.

Today I spent around an hour of wheel-spinning time out on the bike, and it can be fun rambling on at length about that part.

But then I kicked myself for not having gotten around to basic bike maintenance lately. So I headed out to The Bike Rack and picked up the degreasing fluid I always forget when I'm there (because degreaser isn't as cool as new bar ends), then I came back and spent a while degreasing and oiling the drive train.

In no way can this be considered fun, although there's a certain geek fascination to such processes.

I also had to plot out my route for tomorrow's trip. This sort of thing is probably only interesting to map geeks such as m'self. As I'm 20 miles away from breaking the 500-mile mark on my new bike, and I didn't put in the 30 miles I'd planned this morning, I'm leaning toward something like taking Longleaf from Bassfield to Sumrall and back.

Then there's digging up food to take along, cleaning the Camelbak, mounting the bike rack on the Sentra (and covering it in plastic, so it won't be soaked in the morning from tonight's rain), and putting gear together in general.

It's not actually necessary to make a lot of fuss about all these details for most people on most trips. But as my bad memory is the stuff of local legend, and I plan to ride solo in the morning, I try to be a little extra fanatical. That way I only need to worry about getting up & conscious in the morning before starting the drive to Longleaf.

In fact, much of this isn't strictly necessary for the kind of half-day touring I do during the summer heat. One could get away with carrying only a bike, some water, and a credit card.

Even most of the bike maintenance can technically be skipped, as well as they make bike components these days. My usual riding partner's idea of maintenance mainly consists of airing up the tires every 20 riding miles and periodically spraying some WD-40 on the drive train.

He also routinely tells me I don't travel light enough, while depending on me to carry the extra load. Of course, 25 miles is the most I've seen him ride, as his mountain bike isn't much pleasure to ride after a while. So to me it seems natural that I'd be more likely to think in terms of riding off into the sunset.

Simple fact is that different people ride differently. I, for one, focus on a zillion details between rides, then figure I'm good even if WWIII breaks out while I'm on the ride.
After work yesterday, I added some of what I call "scorpion" bar ends to my 7300, essentially adding several additional hand positions for bike riding. After more meaningful distances, more options correlates somewhat with more comfort.

And I strapped on a small tool kit under the seat for flat kit & such. In a nutshell, I'm making one or two additions at a time to gradually increase gear load while gradually increasing distances and more technically challenging routes.

This morning I also added in some uphill sprinting.

Add in the fact that my bud got us exploring a route I hadn't ridden since my teens (long enough that I'd forgotten a few beastly details), and this morning's ride was fairly novel.

We hit it early enough to get in a vigorous ride before heat & traffic had a chance to become just intolerable.

August heat is certainly a factor. I figure when things start to cool down this fall, what I call "bike touring season" should present some great opportunities, simply by virtue of the fact that the environmental conditions won't be so oppressive.

With all the hilly terrain out here, it's just not possible to slide into the steady cadence of Longleaf trail. I might find myself dropping as low as 5.6 mph up a long, steep hill, and 32.7 mph down the other side.

At one point, my partner expressed relief that a certain hill had finally become less steep, but seconds later we went into a turn revealing a punishing change of slope. On at least one hill I can think of off-hand out here, I find myself entering a sequence of 90-degree turns at over 35 mph.

This morning's obligatory stats: 32.7 mph max speed, 12.3 mph avg speed, 11.7 m trip, 58:13 time.

My bud's started getting a craving for a faster bike, on which he can make longer rides than on his MTB. So in the spring he may be pushing me to my very limit instead of the more leisurely rides of 2006.

Friday, August 04, 2006


In my present job, I'm essentially responsible for turning (usually large amounts of) paper into digital stuff (databases, images, searchable PDFs, etc.). So I'm in the office a lot. The desire to get out and explore can be pretty intense.

My last job had me traveling around Mississippi a great deal, but seldom with any meaningful time to explore at a leisurely pace. I drove around working on computer networks, always spotting places I'd like to check out by bicycle, canoe, on foot, etc. I filled countless hours behind the wheel with Pimsleur Spanish CDs (which really do work, to my astonishment and pleasure) and daydreams of coming back and seeing more.

One of my absolute favorite ways to explore is by bike (not motorcycle, although that's also cool). When I'm cruising on my bike, I can look at exactly the same things I'd see from through a vehicle window, but I see so much *more*.

Bicycling is slower, and slower is simply better. Details aren't lost in a blur.

Sound and scent aren't blocked by the noise & fumes of internal combustion engines and sealed windows.

It's also not passive, like driving or riding. On my bike, I move myself with only the mechanical assistance of the ol' Trek.

Don't get me wrong, now. I'm not fanatically against cars. My faithful Sentra serves me pretty well and even carries my bike to places I'd like to get to know better.

It's not that cars are inherently bad, but that foot on pedal or oars in water are just that great.