Friday, October 21, 2016

Easy. Hard. Easy. Easy. Easy. Waaaaaaayyy Too Hard.

After another 300 mile week, last week I decided to take it easy.  
On Monday, I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and rode in the cooler morning air and got in some moderate miles. That night, I soft-pedaled the Tri-Hard group ride and cruised with a guy who was cooked himself. I wasn't interested in riding hard, it was dark, and this guy didn't know the course. Perfect. Spin the legs a little and then call it quits.
Refreshed somewhat, I hit it on Tuesday at Destroyer. As this is my favorite ride of the week, I couldn't sit up. It's also my only real dose of intensity. I threw stupid attacks and sat up, recovered, and did it again. The other guys said they loved it, as apparently not a lot of other riders down here do that sort of thing mid-ride. This encouraged other people to throw their own attacks, so instead of a grind fest there was the tactical aspect as well. Lots of fun, if not particularly easy.
I'd been riding for nine straight days, so I skipped the Pain Train Wednesday. My legs were pretty much cooked.

Thursday's Base group ride was 1:15 of slowly-increasing intensity. The last lap has evolved into a hot lap, and one by one the riders fell off the pack until I was the last one left standing. The legs still felt like lead, but as this is my "big fish in a little pond ride" I had to maintain the pecking order. Other riders are slowly developing their engines week by week, so I expect them to beat me down by the end of my trip.
Friday I got out of school and took a nap. I never got up. It was glorious. I just sat in the room and ate whatever processed crap I had on hand and didn't look at my bike.
When I awoke Saturday, I really didn't have a lot of motivation.Eventually I kitted up and rolled out of the door at 11:00 AM. I noticed it was warmer than it had been, and quickly realized I was going to lose a little water weight. I headed north with no particular destination in mind, and eventually found myself on the road to Snow Boogers. My legs settled into a rhythm, and the miles ticked off at a reasonable pace. 
A stop at the store in Big Level is kinda required for a couple reasons. One, there isn't much else I know of for miles around, and I needed to refill the bottles. The bigger reason is that the store's owners were extra-nice to us on the Southern Magnolia, so I like spending a little money there to pay them back for their hospitality. Also, I just really like the rural community vibe. Farmers walking across the road to shake hands and catch up. Kids playing on the dirt pile next to Snow Boogers. An older guy came out of the store and chatted with me for a while, wishing me safe travels at the end of our conversation. People just being normal human beings. It reminds me a lot of the area around my parent's farm, just a lot flatter.
Still feeling strong, I decided to explore a loop a nice man had described to me on a previous visit. Tree-lined roads rolling through the countryside with little traffic other than the odd truck pulling a trailer full of cattle. The legs were still ticking over 15 miles later when I completed the loop and returned to Big Level. I had ridden a little over 55 miles at that point, so I figured I deserved a Snow Booger.
As I stood on the deck waiting for my strawberry shaved ice, I started to feel a little light-headed. Nothing serious, but a little troubling. I'd downed four large bottles of water in three hours, but it apparently wasn't enough. I sat down on the steps and ate my Snow Booger (I just like saying that), trying to straighten out my head a bit before I got on the road. A trip to the store for a Coke and more water helped refresh me a little more, and I pushed off, slower than before. I still had 40 miles to ride and not a lot of other options.
The further I went south, the more the afternoon headwind off the coast intensified. It was like it was pushing me back, saying, "turn around and head back to Big Level. You like it there far more than Biloxi." I kept trudging along. My legs came unglued, still spinning, just without the same enthusiasm they once had. Blackwell Farm, a magical road that expands or contracts depending on how you feel, stretched on forever. Each little rise and false flat was like a further insult. I stopped in shaded spots here and there, and the sweat poured of of me without the cooling effect of riding. Nice to know I could still sweat.
Eventually I made it home. 95 miles on the nose. My kit, so fresh and clean that morning, was streaked with salt and soaked with sweat. I leaned my bike against the wall and sat under the shower to cool off and stave off further saddle sores. I climbed into bed to put up my legs and download the Garmin file. Eventually I cooled off enough the air conditioning chilled me, and moved my legs under the sheet. As they bent at the knee slightly, charley horses ripped through both legs for what seemed like an eternity. I might have screamed. Massaging and manipulating the spastic muscles eventually settled things down, and I started downing anything salty I could find. Chug chug chug eat eat eat.
It was late and I needed to eat something more substantial than I had in the room. I was also afraid to take a nap, since I might bend a leg in my sleep and fire up the charley horse again. My legs were cooked, so I wasn't walking anywhere. I looked at the bike leaning against the wall, and resigned myself to climbing back into the saddle. I threw on some baggy shorts and a t-shirt- and then it hit me. In the over two thousand miles I had ridden since I had been down here, these were the first ones I had done that I would term utility cycling. Not training, but riding for a mundane task. Weird.
I rode out to the club (one of the few places open on base at that time) and sat at the bar, nursing a beer while I waited for my burger. Not what I wanted (I was thinking steak), but it was what they had. When it arrived, I wolfed it down, paid my tab, and walked outside to be slapped in the face by my old friend, the wind. All the way back to my room I ground, soaking my cotton clothes in sweat. Another shower. 101 total miles for the day. The last century was a lot easier.
Sunday I rode, but you can be damn sure I didn't ride hard or far.
My "easy" week was over 265 miles. I think I did that wrong.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

He's Got Legs.

The other day I was reading Steve Tilford's blog, because I really don't have much to do during weekends (especially long weekends) but eat, sleep, and ride. That may sound wonderful, but since I can only do so much riding in this environment I am left with a lot of time to eat and sleep. Sleep is a wonderful thing, but if I do too much of it I feel completely dull and it throws off my sleep schedule for the rest of the week. Eating is a wonderful thing as well, but again, too much of a good thing is counter-productive.
I was skimming through it and came across a picture of a rider without reading the post relating to it. This guy had SoCal Masters legs- tanned to a deep bronze and sporting muscles I didn't know humans could grow. My legs are starting to get pretty lean and venous with all of the miles I'm putting into them, and they're pretty tan by my British Isle standards. My mid-section still needs a lot of work, and my moobs could go down a cup size or two, but I have been pretty happy with the way my legs have been shaping up. Then I saw this picture.
Turns out, the reason Steve posted the picture was because the guy had just accepted a four year ban for refusing to submit to a doping test. Now, as I understand it, the Race Clean initiative has increased the number of tests significantly, but the chances are that any out-of-competition testing is done because USADA is pretty sure that the guy is doped to the gills. Somebody (or a group of somebodies) dropped a dime on this guy and he knew he was busted, so he refused to submit. Pretty smart on his part, because he could always claim that he knew he was going to get hit for the OTC cold medicine he just took, conveniently overlooking the 362 banned substances he brought across the border from a pharmacia or was prescribed by his "anti-aging" doctor. The Southwest is known for their "extremely competitive" Masters scene, and doping is just part of the arms race. Chances are, whatever this guy was popping or injecting or rubbing on his lady parts was allowing him to build muscles that are usually found on race horses owned by the mob.
I realize that this guy may have been more genetically gifted than I am. That wouldn't be hard to fathom. He probably ate better, trained smarter, and generally did all the things he was supposed to do according to the editors at Bicycling magazine. He might have even stepped inside a gym at one point or another. Whatever the reason, his legs were more defined and developed than mine will ever be.
I'm too lazy to do the work and too poor/scared/quasi-ethical to do the dope, so if he's not using them for the next four years, would it be wrong for me to ask if I could borrow his legs for a while? I promise not to scrape them up too much, although the tan will fade to the same shade as the underbelly of a halibut, which may decrease the potential of skin cancer- not that it will be much of a concern after all of the other cancers spurred on by the doping get going.
Just a thought. Probably not a good one, but a thought nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I rode in the morning. 90 minutes to get in some miles before the sun got too high in the sky. I had nothing better to do on a day off. Afterwards, I walked around, took naps, and debated with my wife via text about getting a German Shepherd puppy. For the record, I was against it, as we have a wonderful Lab already, plus two cats and a toddler. I love German Shepherds, but this was impulsive and I'm not one to take on the awesome responsibility of a new dog on a whim. She won the argument, but realized in time that the ad was a puppy mill scam and didn't go through with it. I was proud and relieved. The last thing I want to do is for myself and the rest of the family to get attached to a dog and then find it has a gazillion breeding-related problems. Better to wait for the right dog.
Crisis averted, I slept, ate and generally goofed off. Late in the afternoon, I suited up and rode into the wind for a group ride. Going over the bridge into Ocean Springs, buffeted by winds, I knew my legs were cooked from a 300 mile week. Perhaps a two-a-day was not the best idea. Then again, this ride is usually pretty chill, so I thought I could ride relatively easy.
When I pulled up to the shop, I recognized a couple of the faces and realized I wasn't going to get to spin easy. We pulled off and within a half mile the pace ramped up as we crossed back over the bridge I had just crossed to get there, except instead of using the bike/pedestrian path we took the wide shoulder. That would have been great, except it hadn't been swept since the bridge was buit, and was littered with broken bottles and whatever else flies out of passing cars. 

As we crested the local KOM, my rear tire flatted. I knew I was riding a little too far into the shoulder, thus increasing my chances of picking up some glass, but the alternative was riding the ghost line around drivers both surprised and somewhat outraged by your presence. While the rest of the group rode ahead to get off the bridge of death and debris, I quickly fixed the flat and tried to meet up with them.
Once reunited, the hostilities began anew. I had no problem keeping up as we "climbed", but I realized my legs were more than a little flat. I needed rest more than I needed intensity. I backed off and rode with slower riders, guiding them around the route that I discovered only a month before. Funny how quickly you become the pathfinder in group ride situations.
The rest of the ride was a pleasant spin, and the persistent ache in my legs faded. Short of a day or two off the bike, it was just what I needed.
When I got home, it was obvious that the tire was toast. 2000 miles on this sort of pavement and a couple flats was all it had in it. The center of the tread was thin and a couple slits and a healthy gouge convinced me to replace it before it failed out in the middle of nowhere. I had a couple brand new spares along with me, as I had anticipated this sort of thing. I just didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it did.
The goal is to wear my legs into nothing before I leave. By all indications, I'm on track for that sort of outcome.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mr. Sulu, All Ahead Meh.

I've been doing a lot of riding lately, and the vast majority has been... shall we say... non-intense. Lots and lots and lots of long, slow distance, designed to built my diesel back up after years of neglect. I just don't have the time and opportunity to ride this much back home, and this environment does not lend itself to intense workouts- unless you're at the casino buffet, elbowing your way past elderly bus tourists to get to the piles of peel and eat shrimp. Since I have yet to hit a buffet on this trip, intensity hasn't been a major part of my day.
Sure, I'll kick it up for short periods of time here and there on group rides, but most of the time I'm not killing myself. Chug chug chug. Racking up the hours and miles while I can.
The theory is that I'll build my diesel up, try to maintain some portion of it this winter, and then add intensity to rebuild the top end I'm not working on currently. If my meh is a little faster than the other guy's meh, I'll have more to throw down at the finish line.
It's science. Or conjecture. I get those two mixed up.
Either way, it kills time and is helping me lose weight, which is also a good thing. I've been averaging over 275 miles a week since I got here. Some weeks it's more, some weeks it's less, but even the lightest weeks are a significant jump from the volume I do at home. Lots and lots of meh.
I just read an article by Chris Carmichael saying this is exactly what I should be doing in October and November. He should know, because he doped juniors without their knowledge.

Chances are, I'll charge into December and burn myself out, getting sick, gaining a lot of weight, and generally ruining whatever it is I'm building here. That's just how I roll.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Offending People.

I can be sarcastic, profane, offensive, and abrasive. As far as charm goes, that's all I have going for me.
Last week I offended Joey Bacala with a comment about Katrina and the Gulf Coast in this blog. It wasn't intentional or directed in any way towards him or anyone he knows, but he had every reason to take offense. With every word I publish online, my chances of offending you increase exponentially. Give me time, because I type very slowly.
I was somewhat surprised when blog traffic tripled after the offending post was published. I hadn't made any attempt to publicize the blog recently. Curious, I Googled my blog's URL and found a short post and responses on the Biloxi Reddit, posted by "ButtPlugsWasTaken" (I'm assuming it's an alias). While their responses weren't as articulate or well-reasoned as Joey's, I imagine the gist of the message was much the same. I'm a fucktard.
I'd always heard that Reddit was a haven for thoughtful debate and discourse, so I signed up and responded to the post to provide the readers a venue to address me more directly if they so choose. I'm sure somebody will win the Pulitzer for distinguished commentary from this venture. I'm also bored, which can be a dangerous state for a confrontational, aggressive-aggressive person like me. Let's see where this takes us, shall we?

Will I make any more comments like the one that started all of this? Probably not. It's not reflective of my current state of mind. There's a bunch of people down here I like, even if I don't particularly care for where they live. Those people have made what could have been another extremely stressful and depressing time much more bearable. I've discovered communities in the surrounding area that, while not my cup of tea, have actual depth to them. I'm not going to move the whole family to the Gulf Coast because of them, but I can appreciate how they differ (in my mind) from Biloxi/Gulfport. Had I met these people on my previous trips, my opinion might have been very different.
Opinions vary. Different people are drawn to different places. As my great-grandfather told all of his kids, "it's a big country. You don't have to live right next to each other." There's someplace for everyone if you look hard enough. While you're looking, you'll also discover the places that aren't for you. It's not always an easy process, but eventually you'll get there.
When you do, let me know so I can make offensive comments about it.
... and Joey, if you want, when I get back we'll hash it out over a beer and you can tell me exactly what you think of me and my stupid-ass opinions.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Snow Boogers.

The original plan was to ride a couple hours and then put the feet up. That all changed when I awoke to find cooler temperatures had rolled in. Hurricane Matthew still was pushing in that steady wind from the north, but with it came weather that I find downright pleasant. Not sure how long my good fortune might last, I went long.
Last week's Southern Magnolia century took me by a small gas station and roadside stand that advertised something called "snow boogers". I didn't ask at the time, but the first-grader in me was intrigued. Let's be honest, "snow boogers" were just an excuse to ride, a goal to be reached that could have just as easily been "the Coke machine out in the middle of nowhere". It was a direction, and reaching it wasn't really the point of going. Between me and boogerland were some of the better roads I've found down here- smooth and low traffic. Rolling hills through farmland. Nice people who actually know and care about their neighbors. Just a really cool vibe as compared to what I find right on the coast.
After making a couple intentional wrong turns along the way to explore some promising-looking roads, I reached my destination. The nice people at the store took time to chat with a stranger, even though they were swamped with the post-church breakfast rush. It seemed like everyone for miles around had ridden their truck, tractor, or four wheeler to the store and were either chowing down or sitting around talking. Everyone seemed to know anyone, and nobody gave the fat stranger in spandex more than a passing glance. The enticing smell of bacon enveloped you in the small store, and I had to make my purchases quickly and beat a hasty retreat before I gave in and worked myself into a pork fat coma. While I do love me some bacon (and most of what was on the menu), I had 45 miles left to ride before I got home. Better to play it safe and keep my guts intact.
I did get a snow booger. This one was the most pedestrian on their adventurous menu. Again, I was playing it safe. It wasn't life altering by any stretch, but it really wasn't the true goal for the day. I got out and put in a lot of miles. The kind I never have time for at home. The kind that eat up the free time I am cursed with down here on long weekends. The kind that might just build a base for something next year, if my legs don't fall off first.
I rode some new roads. I talked with some nice folks. I ate a booger. I'd say that qualifies as a good day.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Five Pounds and Crusty.

I got back from the other day's ride beat down. Hurricane Matthew-influenced winds were channeled down the open roads into demoralizing headwinds. I downed bottle out of bottle to refill the liquid streaming from my body as I fought to maintain some sort of forward progress. By the time I reached some semblance of shelter from the onslaught on the tree-lined side roads, I had pretty much emptied the tank.
The ride became less fun and shifted to an obligation as the strength left my legs.
I held my breath each time I rode past roadkill slowly cooking in the sun. Sometimes I wouldn't see it in time, instead trapping the taste of carrion in my nose and mouth, which enhanced the whole experience.
I turned down roads I'd never explored before. Some led where I thought they should, and others didn't. Without mountains to navigate by and the sun directly overhead, I only had a vague idea of which direction I was headed, not that I had any particular place to be or any real schedule. The ride went where the ride went and ended whenever it ended.
Eventually my fun meter pegged and I was on familiar roads. I headed home after stopping at a gas station for more water and a Coke, which have become an integral part of my longer rides lately. My legs ached.
A few miles from home I noticed my mesh backs of my gloves had a white border of salt around the sweat soaked material that slowly grew. The rest of my kit was similarly crusty.
I'd weighed myself before I left for the ride. Three and a half hours later I weighed myself again. Despite doing my best to counteract dehydration, obviously I failed. I weighed over five pounds less.
Three and a half hours equals five pounds today. 
I only wish actual weight loss was that quick.