Monday, December 07, 2015

My best worst bike ride far

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times[...]"

So begins the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities, and so describes a bike ride that could be similarly titled A Tale of Three Towns and Two Civil War Battlefields, but that will probably live in my heart forever as A Tale of the First Time I Bonked.

I had been notified about a month ago that I would be sent to Winchester, VA for a client in early December. One of the first things I did was to start researching a bike route through the area. I put out a request to the good folks of RABA(.org) to give me some ideas, and I hunted through Strava's segments to find the best options around.

One area that specifically appealed to me was exploring the 'rails to trails' options that just really don't exist in Richmond. These are old rail-beds that have been converted to multi-use pathways. They are typically completely closed to motor vehicles and provide miles of uninterrupted recreational access, and there are two within a quick jaunt from Winchester: the C&O Canal Towpath and the W&OD Trail. The unpaved C&O Canal Towpath seemed intriguing because it would allow me to explore Harper's Ferry, WV, a place I'd always heard about but never seen. I was concerned about road-tires on an unpaved surface, but I'd seen enough pictures of people on road bikes to allay any real concerns. Plus, I have wider 28 tires on my winter bike, so I figured any bumps would be better absorbed.

And since I would be near Harper's Ferry, it was suggested that I take in Antietam National Battlefield.

So I put together a route that would take me from Shepherdstown, WV to Antietam, down through Gathland State Park to Brunswick, MD, along the towpath to Harper's Ferry, and then back to Shepherdstown. All told, 46.6 miles @ ~2200 feet of climbing. Should be do-able in about 2.5 hours of riding.

I planned to do a bit of shopping in Harper's Ferry, so I took a saddlebag, and with the daylight fading early, I took my big light. I also mounted up the GoPro, an extra jacket, a heavier hat, gel-packs, water, extra tools, and planned to use the phone-mount on the bike stem to navigate, rather than going off cue sheets. The bike was pretty loaded down, but has much friendlier gearing than the race bike, so I wasn't too worried about the weight.

I left Richmond at 9am, intending to hit the trail from Shepherdstown at noon, pick up lunch in Brunswick, and meander my way up the towpath in time to be back at the car before the sun set.

That is not what happened.

The drive up was relatively uneventful, but I didn't make it to Shepherdstown until 12:30, and what I expected to be a sleepy little mountain town was teeming with life, so there would be no back-seat changing in the car. That meant I didn't get on the road until almost 1pm, which put me at risk of losing the sun before I even turned a pedal.

Once I got rolling, though, the weather was perfect at 52-degrees, the sun was shining, and the bike was performing flawlessly. The ride to Antietam was a nice warm-up, and Antietam itself was breath-taking. I got off, took some pics, and explored around the area a bit.

Then I discovered a little gem of a descent that got the bike over 40mph for the first time ever. Whee!

The route from Antietam to Gathland was fantastic. There were challenging climbs, great descents, long (long) climbs, and almost no traffic. And the views! Mountains and valleys and rivers and miles and miles of beautiful countryside.

But the world changed when I made the final turn to Gathland State Park. I knew I had a big climb ahead, so I stopped and took an energy gel and a bunch of water, but almost from the first pedal-stroke I got that feeling...that feeling that either a tire is low on pressure or my body isn't up to the task. The tires looked fine.

I mashed and pushed and powered through and finally found myself on the steep stuff. With no pride on the table, I let the little ring do the work and forced every pedal stroke to the top, and I very nearly puked when I got there. The big spike in the map up there? That's the climb to Gathland. It's a beast, and it came at the end of 1600' of climbing on the day up to that point.

But I had made it, and I knew the route well enough to know that it was mostly downhill from there for the rest of the day. Woohoo!

And holy crap the ride down! 45.7mph on the Garmin--the fastest I have ever been on 2 wheels.

Another several miles of quick running on gentle rollers brought me into Brunswick, MD, where I stopped for coffee at Beans in the Belfry, a neat old church that had been converted into an even neater new coffee shop. There was a group of bluegrass players in one corner jamming out, and though I probably definitely SHOULD have eaten lunch, I realized it was almost 3pm, and I still wanted to do Sunday afternoon shopping in Harper's Ferry. I had to skeedaddle.

That brought me to the C&O Canal Towpath, what should have been the easiest run in the history of easy runs. 20-ish miles of 0.1% climbing on packed, small-stone gravel. Fuck the towpath: it is horrible.

Up to this point, my average speed on the day had been 17.5mph. Not blazing fast, but I had done some pretty epic climbing.

I could barely get the bike to 17.5mph on the towpath. I saw 18 for a few glorious minutes, but that just wasn't maintainable. My arms were shaken, my phone flew off the bike (for the first time ever), and the fenders were picking up debris. I was grateful to have to port the bike across the bridge to Harper's Ferry...which was awesome.

I scored a Strava KOM for my run up through town, and in spite of the late hour, did manage to get just a bit of shopping done (along with buying the worst cup of coffee in recent memory). The views were awesome, but again: that late hour thing. It was after 4pm when I got back on the towpath with 13 miles ahead of me. This should not have been risky, but I was starting to get a sense of foreboding.

While the sunset was pretty cool against the mountains ahead, and the deer in the middle of the path were neat to see, my body just wasn't working right any more. I stopped and ate my last energy gel, but saw no real improvement. Then I started feeling cold. Like really, really cold. This is not normally a problem because my heart is usually going at about 172bpm, more than enough to keep my body warm. And then I started paying more attention to the speedo...I was having trouble holding on to 15mph. Then 14mph. Then 13mph. Then I was out of the big ring. ON FLAT GROUND.

I pulled off and switched to my heavier jacket. I made it half a mile before I had to put on my heavier hat.

And I ran out of light.

And I was still MILES from anywhere on that endless towpath.

I switched on the big light and rolled on, now at just barely more than 10mph, in the small ring. Not 2 minutes later I came to a sign warning of "extreme danger to cyclists". There was a passage less than 2-feet across with a 10-foot vertical drop on one side and an iron railing on the other side. This passage was built of uneven stone slabs with tire-grabbing 30mm gaps running lengthwise down the center. Extreme danger indeed, and I was grateful to have that heavy light.

4 miles and 8 years later I saw the lights of Shepherdstown, and dead though I was, I climbed the switch-backs to the bridge like a champ, bolted across the bridge, and nearly cried when I made it to the car.

I cruised to the hotel on auto-pilot, ate a whole pizza, and started looking over data to see what had gone wrong.

Analysis of the whole ride shows a dramatic temperature drop @ 35 miles, along with a drop in average speed, power, and heart rate. Cadence drops correspond to downhill segments early in the ride, and breaks later in the ride. The breaks get really frequent @ ~40 miles.

Analysis of the first half of the towpath--heading toward Harper's Ferry. Speeds were relatively stable, heart-rate stayed near my afore-mentioned 170 rate, and breaks only happened a couple of times to take in the occasional view (for the most part, the promised views on the towpath didn't happen)

Analysis of the second half of the towpath--from Harper's Ferry to Shepherdstown. A precipitous drop in temperature is easy to see, but the real humdinger is the heart-rate chart. My body was no longer capable of getting that up to 170, or even 160 after mile 39.

I hit the wall, bonked, popped, whatever you want to call it at mile 38. There's a weird swooping dip in the heart rate that does not correspond to a stop, but does happen just after temps drop into the 30's. And from there you can see each time I stopped, my heart gave me a little less afterward. This was not just fatigue--I've done 60 and 75 mile rides with more climbing and been ok. This was physiological and systemic. I was literally unable to proceed.

Not eating lunch was a devastating decision. I tried to shave time to save the daylight, but ended up losing the time, the daylight, almost the will to live. And for almost every pedal-stroke from mile 35 to 45, there was not a soul around to help.

I hate the towpath with its exposed rocks & roots and limited access for help, but it was not the towpath that put me into that position--it was entirely my choices throughout the day. And because I know that, I still look back on the first half of the ride as being one of the best challenges I've ever taken on. And now, with a little more experience and wisdom, I don't suspect I'll fall into that kind of trap again.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

I wanna go fast...inside?

Since I'm pretty sure I almost died (DIED!) from cold last week, I followed some questionable advice on the Internet and ordered an indoor trainer this morning. I guess it's time to sign up for Zwift.

...which, incidentally, may have solved one of my biggest challenges with the treadmill! I put the treadmill in front of a window last winter so that I wouldn't just have to stare at a wall while I ran, but the number of times I get to run during the daylight has diminished to roughly zero. Staring at a darkened reflection of myself is curiously off-putting (and off-balancing!), so I started wondering if there was a Zwift-like thing-a-ma-jigger for runners.

Of course, my treadmill is a 2008 vintage, so it wasn't going to be a smart-app kind of thing: I was just looking for rolling video of scenery. I found a few things on the Tubes that were...dreadful. They were just freakin' dreadful. One claimed to be scenery from England, and looked nice enough, until the car taking the video pins the throttle (and accelerates the video) on a country road. Another was just shots from some urban metropolis slowly zooming in. I guess the thought was to create the illusion of movement. No. No no no. God no.

Finally I found what looked to be the most boring thing of all: a 3rd person view of a dude running through the woods. And it was perfect. 52 minutes of some guy's back. I found myself breathing heavier as he climbed, and almost instinctively jumping over obstacles in his path. I might have even ducked under a branch or two.

But for 31.5 minutes, I barely looked at the clock and just focused on the running.

Winter training just got a whole lot less awful.

And the best part? Now I can train with my bestest bestie! Lady K has declared her intention to run a 5K this Spring, and with the treadmill and the bike trainer in the same space, I think we'll be more likely to use both! Huzzah!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Half Marathon? Half Marathon

My darling wife likes to remind me that I'm not very good at hobbies. To be fair, I did tell her this some time ago. Of course, I also told her that only crazy people run farther than 6.2 miles, and that I am not crazy.

Way back in July, when I was running pretty fast 5K's on a business trip in England (because really, 3 weeks abroad is too long, and one can only drink so much beer), I had a conversation with a local Windsor gentleman about good runs in the area. He told me about Dorney Lake, where the Olympic rowing competitions had occurred in 2012. He said it was only about 4 miles from my hotel, which put a round-trip run decidedly into crazy-person range, but I figured it was a nice day, and there was nothing saying I had to run all the way.

So I charged up the iPod and headed out. The run was great for a while. The banks of the Thames river in July make for some fantastic scenery, and the boat traffic made a perfect backdrop to the day. So perfect, in fact, that I completely missed the mile-long lake on my right. By the time I realized my mistake, I had already run 7 miles, including a mile of doubling-back to find a way around a canal lock. That meant I was 6 miles from the hotel with only a river to guide me back home, and with storm clouds closing in, I was not interested in walking that 6 miles. Think of the poor iPod!

So I kept running. And running. And beginning to question my rules about crazy people. At 10 miles I convinced myself to sign up for a half marathon, if only for the humor of it. Let me be perfectly clear: what seems funny after 10 miles of running does not seem funny under normal circumstances. This was not rational thought.

At 11 miles I'd had enough. My legs were screaming, and even though I'd backed way off my usual pace (like way, way off), I knew I was in for some pain if I kept pushing.

But the seed had been planted. I needed to do a half marathon.

And as soon as I got back stateside, I signed up...and quit running.

Bikes had taken over my focus almost completely, and I'd already signed up for 3 races before I even bought my first road bike. Again--hobbies? Not really my strong suit. I bought a road bike in late August and put 500 miles on it over the course of 30 days, including a few rides in the 50 - 75 mile range.

Then I bought a winter bike for commuting and put another 400 miles on that in the next 30 days, all the while thinking that I might want to train for that half marathon at some point.

Once the last bike race was run, I realized I had only 2 weeks before the Richmond Marathon, my chosen event. I hastily rushed to the treadmill and bonked after only 2 miles. Two days later I made it 4.25 miles before begging myself not to puke all over the floor.

With exactly 7 days to the event, I decided to go all-in and do a 10-mile run outside. Once again I backed my pace down and made it 6.22 miles before my legs seized. And I mean seized. I couldn't run at all, and walking looked...interesting. I was 4 miles from home without a phone, so the only real option was to walk. I made it a mile before my legs loosened up enough to run tentatively. I managed to eke out another 5K at a really careful pace, and figured my plan for the half marathon would be:

run 10K
walk 1K
run 5K
walk 1K
run 5K

I didn't run another step for the next 6 days, and only jumped on the bike once for a short ride to test some repairs, so the plan to end with vomit looked really solid.

As did the alternate plan to stay home and play video games, instead.

Half-marathon day came, and with it the first cold weather we'd seen in some time. The temp at the start was in the upper 30's, and it maybe got to 50 that day. I rolled up in my cycling finest (Pearl Izumi's riding jackets are perfectly tailored for running, and with back pockets, I could carry my phone!) with literally seconds to spare. I even had to run about half a mile to get to the start.

And then I started. I set a goal pace of 7:45, which is not a race pace for me by any stretch, but I figured it would give me the best chance of making that first 10K. And one by one the miles melted away. The first 2 miles were occupied with passing. The next 3 were spent finding human metronomes. And once I found a guy who was banging out perfect 7:41's (seriously: 6 in a row!), I glued myself to him and stopped clock-watching.

I had decided prior to the event that I would drink water on the course, something I'd NEVER done before. I find it to be very disruptive to my tummy, but everything I'd read said I would pop at 10 miles if I didn't stay hydrated.

So I drank at every single table, but I didn't stop. Then at 8.5 miles, my metronome sped up and I went back to bad habits of watching my pace religiously.

At 10 miles I realized holy crap I'd run 10 miles. That, of course, called into question the ability to finish.

At 10.5 miles I realized I'd ignored my gel packs, and that it was probably too late.

At 10.6 miles I said "screw it" and had one on the run. Another new experience. The next mile was a mix of excruciating pain, hopelessness, and delirium. The water wouldn't go down at the water stop. My brain kept telling me "just a little over 2 miles" while simultaneously screaming "you'll never make another 2 miles feeling like this".

At 11.5 miles I realized I had it. I *was* going to make it.

At 12.1 miles I wanted to give up and walk. Came really close, too.

At 12.5 miles, when everybody on the sidelines was screaming "it's all downhill from here!", I realized that was really bad news: my legs do not like running downhill, especially after 12.x miles of NOT running downhill.

Then, as if by magic, the 13 mile sign popped up, and the downhill got so steep I just had to fly. Holding back was more painful than letting my feet slap.

And then it was done. Just like that. I heard my name and felt pretty frickin' amazing. It was only after making it through the finishers' corral, getting the hat, the medal, and the blanket, that I thought to check my time.

1:41:24. I'd gotten my pacing almost EXACTLY where I'd wanted @ 7:44, and I'd made it.

So...uh...I signed up for next year's marathon. Which is a distance only crazy people run.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goin' Fast Again...sorta

So I recently mentioned that I'd gotten a fancy new bike. It's a 2011 Blue Axino, hi-mod carbon/carbon tour-de-technologie dripping in fancy SRAM components. Or at least it was.

For, you see, no sooner had I gotten the bike than I rushed out and put as many miles on it as I could, racking up 499.5 before things went boom. It started simply enough, popping a spoke on a morning training ride. That took a trip to the shop, whereupon a neighboring spoke popped. They got me up and running just in time to take the bike on vacation, where I likely filled all of the moving parts full of sand.

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum @ Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Then I took it out for a 64-mile ride with RABA(.org)'s Heart of Virginia Bike Festival, which was the farthest and longest I'd ever been on a bike up until that point.

RABA Heart of Virginia Metric Century

A couple weeks later saw me tackling mountain roads on a 75-mile ride with my good friend Daniel, and then the UCI World's came to town. All in all it was a fantastic time to have a really cool fancy bike in Richmond, VA.

But then a week later it all came to a grinding halt.
DoubleTap? NoTap.

The rear shift-lever snapped off one morning on a 12-mile morning warm-up ride, and nobody could fix it. Apparently, though the bike itself was a 2011, the parts were not. The previous owner must have just raided a parts bin for anything that said "SRAM Force", because the LBS said these components were circa 2006.

With no way to shift the rear cassette, the bike went from a 20-speed to a 2-speed, and parts to repair a 2x10 drivetrain were crazy expensive. Thus I decided to park the bike for winter and pick up a dedicated winter bike.

The winter bike would need to be relatively light, support panniers, be able to pull a trailer, run disc brakes (the HoVA ride was wet, and my fancy high-dollar rim brakes were all but useless), and have a semi-decent set of components for little money. That's a tall order for a bike, but I was astonished when Fuji's 2015 Sportif 1.1d checked every single tick-box for less than $1000.

Beautiful? YMMV, but visible!

Even better was the bright contrast-y red, which should not be mistaken for any flavor of weather or road condition, ever.

The bike features a Shimano 105 group-set, minus only the cranks & rings. Learning how to use it took almost 400 miles, since I'd just put 500 on a SRAM DoubleTap system, but it was so worth it. This bike weighs a full 7 lbs more than the Blue, but with naught but a saddle & seatpost change was easily 10x more comfortable. Beefier, yes, but one week after buying it I ran it in the Martin's Tour of Richmond Piccolo Fondo for 12th place overall.

I've since commuted the 22 miles to work on it several times, and have been very impressed at how capable it is. Sure, each wheel is a pound heavier than the Blue's Eastons, but I figured that would be great training for when the Blue was all fixed up. I even posted a Strava KOM on it while loaded down with 25lbs of laptops & lunch & extra clothes!

So after a few hundred miles on a Shimano drivetrain, I started worrying about switching back and forth constantly. It's hard going from one to the other--I've shifted up several times on climbs where I expected a double-shift down. And since the Fuji's new Shimano kit was smoother than the aging SRAM setup on the Blue, I bit the bullet and priced out a whole drivetrain replacement. It would be cheaper to do the whole thing (shifters, derailleurs, cassette, chain) with new components than just to get 2x10 SRAM Force shifters.

I ain't crazy, and I'm not throwing good money at bad, so I ordered basically a full Ultegra setup (minus the cranks & rings, because it came to me with a Dura-Ace 7900 crankset) and had the LBS install it. Even installed it still came up to just the price of the older SRAM shifters. Durn.

So last night, after a month of riding a 25 lb bike, I stepped onto my 18 lb beauty, and...was not impressed. The Ultegra components were amazing. Shifting was almost telepathically fast and 99% accurate, but the bike just didn't feel good under me.

You see, I spent months investigating bike sizes before buying it, and had bought a just-barely-too-large bike last year in my Giant Roam 2 hybrid. It took a lot of experimentation to get that bike to fit me...decently. With the Blue, all the sizing research said it was the perfect fit at 56cm, but everyone who saw me on a 56cm bike said I should drop to 54cm. The Fuji is 54, and it fits me like a glove.

So my shake-down ride was spent feeling like a kid on dad's bike. Some measurements of the two revealed pretty substantial differences in effective reach, and my attempts to compensate for that involved pushing the seat way too far forward. So now, in addition to all the drive-line bits, I'm throwing a crazy-short 70mm stem on it. That's a solid 40mm shorter than the one on there now, but should allow me to put the seat back where it belongs, reducing the stress on my back, and also bring the bars just a smidge closer, hopefully resulting in an overall more comfortable--and more powerful--riding position. A pro fit will follow, but given the price of a stem, it's hard not to swing at that first.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Caution: PowerShell Nerd Alert

Yesterday morning I was asked to help with a SharePoint Online task that required identifying all personal MySites and modifying an attribute. This seems like a pretty straight-forward task for PowerShell, but it turns out there are some limitations on how SharePoint is accessible.

A check of my usual sources (Technet, Google, etc) informed me that what I was being asked to do wasn't directly possible. You can certainly make changes to individual MySites from PowerShell, but you cannot query for them without also knowing their URL's, which is ridiculous because how are you supposed to know the URL of something if you don't even know it exists?

Except it is possible.

The secret is to not query for the MySites, but rather for the users' email addresses, then to take that output and convert it into MySite format and append it to your tenant's URL configuration, and then query for the existence of that object.

It even turns out there's a convenient text conversion operator that's almost custom-tailored for the task. $_.windowsemailaddress -replace "\W","_" replaces all special characters in an email address with underscores.

And because running this without error control can result in a bajillion errors on users who haven't yet initialized their MySites, adding the try{} catch{} statement results in a clean output of your subset of users who have initialized their sites. You could modify the catch {} statement to generate a list of non-initialized users, if you felt so inclined.

Of course you could modify the whole thing to query only for licensed MSOLuser objects, too. That a cleaner implementation, but my goal was to reduce the number of installed components necessary on the system running the command.

The script assumes your userID is @*

Happy PowerShelling!

#   This script queries SharePoint Online for a list of personal MySites and their external sharing status.
#   In order for it to run properly, the machine on which it runs will need the following software installed:
#      1.  Microsoft Online Sign-In Assistant (
#      2.  SharePoint Online Management Shell (
#   Created 10/07/2015 by Adrian Amos, Synergy Technical, LLC

import-module Microsoft.Online.SharePoint.PowerShell -DisableNameChecking

#Get Admin Credential
$cred = get-credential

#Extract Tenant name from credential
$username = $cred.username
$tenant_full = $username | sls '(?<=@)(.*)' | select -expa matches | select -expa value | % {$_.trim()}
$tenant = $tenant_full.substring(0, $tenant_full.length - 16)

#Rename Powershell window to tenant name
$Host.UI.RawUI.WindowTitle = $tenant

#Connect to Exchange Online
write-host "Connecting to Exchange Online..."
$exol_session = new-pssession -configurationname Microsoft.Exchange -connectionuri "" -authentication basic -allowredirection -credential $cred
import-pssession $exol_session -disablenamechecking
write-host ""

#Connect to SharePoint Online
write-host "Connecting to SharePoint Online..."
$sharepoint_url = "https://" + $tenant + ""
Connect-SPOService -url $sharepoint_url -credential $cred

#Convert Email addresses for mailbox-enabled objects to SharePoint MySite format
write-host "Querying users..."
$email_addresses = @(get-mailbox -resultsize 2000 | select windowsemailaddress)
write-host "Converting email addresses to MySite subfolder names..."
$scrub = @(foreach ($email_address in $email_addresses) {$email_address.windowsemailaddress -replace "\W","_"})
write-host "Generating list of SharePoint MySites to query..."
$sp_mysite_list = @(foreach ($entry in $scrub) {$("https://" + $tenant + "" + $entry)})

write-host "Querying MySites..."
foreach ($sp_mysite in $sp_mysite_list) {try {get-sposite $sp_mysite | select url,sharingcapability} catch {}}

Monday, August 24, 2015

Anthem Moonlight Ride 2015 Recap

Saturday morning, after making a seat-adjustment to my new (to me) Blue Axino, I set out for a 36 mile round-trip with RABA. The bike felt amazing, and I felt like I still had plenty of energy for the evening's 15-mile Full Moon event.

The Blue Axino, in her natural habitat: surrounded by other fast machines

So like an idiot I parked 5 miles away and biked in and arrived as the starting corral was forming.

I had registered in Wave B, or "Weekend Warriors", but had been warned that I would be weaving in and out of a lot of traffic in that group, so I made my way to the front and awaited the start of the race ride.

The view when I got there. It got a little more crowded up front before the ride finally started.

Out of the gate, traffic was thick and slow. I found this a bit surprising since the only bikes in front of me were in Wave A: "hard core". After a half-mile or so of just riding, I decided to do the only thing I know how to do: ride as fast as I can.

By mile marker 3, I had passed the overwhelming majority of Wave A. Then came the turn-around, and a guy nearly wiped out on some loose gravel in the middle of the turn (thanks Obama...).

At 4.5 miles, I was down to a handful of riders out front, and one guy was trying to make a run on me into Bryan Park. One thing this bike does exceptionally well, though, is climb, so I put down the pace for the next mile and set a MapMyRide record 1:22 for the next half mile of climbing, finally passing the last two riders as we came out of the park.  For the next 6.5 miles, all I saw were headlights behind me.

My dad got a shot of me at mile 10. Thanks, dad!

I got my own police escort for several miles, and kept thinking I was going to burn out and get blown away by a big break-away pack, but they just stayed about 2 blocks back the whole time.

Until mile 13, when the next rider back turned off his headlight and made a run on me. I was burning out, had no idea how much farther I had to go (a gap that has since been filled with the ordering of a Garmin Edge 520), and had backed off from my 21.2mph pace to a 19.5mph mile. I looked down into my mirror, and instead of headlights, I saw a grinning face.

He passed me on the hill, but tucked back in for the draft for the next half mile, taking advantage of my confusion when a course-worker nearly sent me down the wrong road to re-claim the position.

I hauled him back down as we over-took riders on the half-moon (8-mile) ride, then ran into more confusion as the course was not clearly laid out into the finish corral. As I was defending the inside line into the final turn, he darted out left as the 8-miler in front of us locked up. We both nailed the brakes, missed the guy by a foot or so, and then realized we'd left our steeds in top gear (53/11 on mine). At 5mph we both forced a slog to the finish line, with me getting the final power stroke that put me 1/4 of a bike-length ahead.

I was absolutely blown away that, having never competed on a bicycle, I'd just won my first event.

Then I learned that there was a small group that was evidently a couple of MILES ahead of me just about the whole time. I never even saw them, but there were about 10 of them, and they were apparently flying.

So I didn't win, but I did ride the whole course distance in under 41 minutes, ended up putting just over 60 miles on the bike for the day, and most importantly: I didn't wreck.

Now I have to get back to training for the Heart of Virginia metric century and the Martin's Tour of Richmond piccolo fondo.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Another year, another dang hobby...or two

Last year around this time, I'd just bought a bike. We were living in temporary housing while our house was being rebuilt from the fire, and I was riding to work. What I didn't realize was that I was just about at my heaviest, having just recently crossed the 170lb mark.

In spite of the fact that I put 99 miles on that bicycle in April of last year, by June I was at 175lbs, and my size 34 pants were starting to feel a little snug. Given that I'd ironically worn size 36 jeans in college, I did not find this the least bit amusing.

Clearly something needed to change, and the impending World Cup gave me the opportunity I didn't know I was looking for. On April 10 I happened to find a German training jersey at Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked it up to show my support for the country, along with a couple pairs of soccer shorts. The thought was that I would be coaching the kids' team again, so why not look the part?

But the shorts felt like they were cutting me in half, and every time I looked down I just saw a bulge of belly. Twas gross.

So I went through the Spring riding my bike, running with the kids on the soccer field, all the while gaining more and more weight. But by the end of their season I knew I wanted to play some actual soccer, and watching Germany DESTROY the competition solidified it.

In July, one month after I started logging every piece of food I ate (in MapMyFitness), I put my name out on the regional soccer league's web site. I wanted in.

I got radio silence for a few weeks, but in August the phone rang, and I was on a team. We were a bit of a mess, with most of us returning to the sport after many years away, but over the course of the season we started to figure it out, and by the end of the season I had dropped 20lbs and could almost stay on the field for 30 minutes without feeling like my lungs were coming out.

The team ended up with a losing season, overall, but it was good enough to convince us to take on an indoor league over the Winter. By the time that season started, I'd lost another 5lbs and was starting to think about turning my treadmill training into something productive.

I signed up for the Monument Avenue 10K for the 3rd time (after swearing I'd never do it again in 2010) and got serious about running, both for stamina on the soccer field and for its own sake.

In March I convinced Alastair to sign up for a .5 mile run, benefiting his school. On the day of the race, I weighed myself at 145.9 and decided, on a lark, to join the 5K happening at the same event. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall, my first ever competitive running podium. What's more, Alastair came in 3rd place in his run, absolutely tearing it up out there.

With 2 weeks left until the 10K, I felt pretty good about my chances to improve on a PR of 52:11.

The soccer season started around the same time, and I was astonished to realize how much faster I was on the field, and how much longer I could stay in the action.

Race day, though, was below freezing and windy. Lots of self-doubt crept in during the mile+ walk to the starting line. Once the race started, though, I found a pretty steady rhythm (thanks to my Garmin watch) and a couple of rabbits to chase, and ended up blowing my old PR out of the water by over 5 minutes with a 46:44. That's a solid minute off the pace I wanted to keep, so now I already have a goal for next year. Sigh...

And to make it worse, I just signed up for another 5K this morning: the Hanover County Pooch Pursuit. I keep telling myself that I hate running, and that I only do it for stamina on the soccer field, but I'm kind of addicted to competition.

The good news is that, barring injury, I can now go a full 45 minutes on the field before old age gets the better of me, and my weight is a full 30lbs down from last Summer.

Now to just find the time and space to take that fancy bike out for a ride...