Numbers Don’t Lie

Well, actually they can and they do on occasion, but not in this case.

It’s bike season…at least according to the calendar. The weather in Chicago continues to be crap. We will have a day here or there in the mid-to-upper 70s and then more cold weather. A dismal spring is hard to take especially following a terrible winter.

Yet I started biking in mid-April and rode each weekend except last weekend because between graduation, related activities and rain it just never happened. Most rides have been cold. I tend to layer 2 shirts and a jacket and I am still cold.

Today the weather could be described as adequate, it was in the 60s when I started and the 70s by the time I finished 3.5 hours later. I was wiped by the time it was over. My hope was that I would notice increased speed this week being that I rode my road bike for the first time this year. I had been on my mountain bike until this weekend partly because I preferred the wide tires in the semi-wet weather and partly because my rode bike needed some heavy maintenance. It had been 4 years and approximately 3,500 miles so it was time for a major tune up and some new parts. 

Every ride so far this year has been a struggle and had taken far longer than it should have. Today’s ride felt the same. I broke the 50 mile mark for the first time this year but averaged barely over 15 mph and with a stop after 30, it took 1:33. Once I get into a normal pattern I usually average much closer to 16 mph. Even 1 mph over 50+ miles makes a big difference. I have been depressed about my riding…one of the few things I count on for joy.

So here is where the numbers don’t lie comes in. Apparently mood and weather  impact perception. This is what I wrote on June 11,2007:

I have been adding 5 miles a week to my ride and topped out this week at 48.5. Average speed at a hair under 15 mph which included 8 minutes of nonride time, 6 for a break and a few stop lights.

And in that post titled June Rocks and Rolls I was having a great time and feeling strong about my riding. Yet, the numbers this year were slightly better. Go figure.

I suspect that a little sunshine and warmth are all I need to turn the attitude around. I am tracking to being ready for my annual century ride. 100 miles. Now that is a number that doesn’t lie.


Skinned Knee

Remember when as a young child you would fall, skin your knee or elbow or something. If you were lucky like me you had a mom to check  it out, bandage it up, maybe kiss your forehead and send you on your way. No biggy.


My wife and I went biking yesterday. My first of the year.  I surprised my wife  by asking her to come along. She assumes that when I say I am riding that it is solo. Mostly it is but recently we have not had time  together and anyway every once in awhile I try to keep her off-guard. It’s good for the marriage.

The day started warm for April in Chicago, somewhere in the low seventies. Good weather to watch a high school baseball double header. By late afternoon it had already started to cool off. I under dressed for the ride.

All in all it was a good ride. The legs still work after a long winter of nothingness. Husband and wife were together. Not too windy.

We went close to 20 miles. It got progressively cooler and dark clouds rolled in. Good chance of rain before we made it home. Yet finally here we were within a 1/2 mile of the house. I wanted to get off a busy and potholed street so I made a modestly sharp right turn onto what is usually a concrete path. Yesterday it was a concrete path covered with loose stones. Down, down, down I plunged onto the hard, unforgiving plane of the urban jungle. (Pretty dramatic reading given that the top of my bike frame  is all 33 inches off the ground.)

Three inch by two inch scrape on my knee with a few cuts. Lots of blood. Each hand has torn skin on at least one finger. So what say you. Be a man. Not as if you have broken bones, torn limbs or some serious disease. And yet, I retort, do you know how many nerve endings are at the surface of your knee. Billions. Look it up on Web MD if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, we were still not home and in case you forgot it is challenging to ride a bike without flexing your knee. Each rotation sent screaming pain through my soul and trickling blood down my leg. And no mommy at home to do what mommies do.

Actually, living on my own for a long time got me to the point where I tend to do these situations my self. My wife kindly offered to minister to me but all that could be done was to wipe off the blood, clean the wound, and rub some antibacterial salve on the area. I did. For a couple of hours the pain was intense but I am relatively good with pain, even strong pain, if I know it will go away at some point. My wife  helped by going out to pick up dinner and a movie. I was in no condition or mood to leave the house.

Today only moderate pain except for when I occasionally swipe the knee against something. Then I am reminded about the billion nerve endings. Fortunately the prognosis is good. The patient will survive.

Friday Night Lites

No deep thinking going on right now. Too much weighing on the brain. So…

Century Riding. While on a bike for almost seven hours what was it that I thought most about you may ask. I kept thinking that I had to pedal. At one point after 70 miles my mind could think of nothing but how I had to send messages to my legs to keep moving. They were not moving on their own. I began to wonder how many revolutions of the pedal does it take to go 107 miles?

Intellectual or Pseudo-Intellectual. I was listening to a review of a locally produced play on public radio. The reviewer compared the experience to that of the Burgermeisters of the 1920s seeing the Three Penny Opera for the first time. I ask you, does that show a deep knowledge of the theatre or was she just showing off? (Be sure to check out the cool website for the TPO).

The Six Pounds I Lost are Now Found. One benefit of riding all day is that you lose a few pounds. Sure some is water weight but you do burn some calories. By Friday they are all back where they live…in my gut.

My Son’s Soccer Team is Not Playing Great But He Is.  He is in his senior year and playing the best soccer of his life. Some scouts from elite teams have come to watch him play. Too bad he wants to play baseball in college.

Happy Birthday Hervey. Hervey Juris, one of my MBA professors, mentors and 30 years ago occasional tennis partner, turned 70 this month. I saw him 3 months ago for the first time in over 8 years. He and his lovely wife Leslie have a beautiful home in Sante Fe. I still need to write about the fabulous night I had visiting. The are two warm, inviting and intelligent people.

The Economist’s Technology Quarterly. Always some of the most interesting reading on emerging technologies. Where else can you find an article on robotics titled “I, Human”? My problem? The new one came out in the September 6th edition and I am still carrying around the last one waiting to find time to read it.

Teach Your Children Well. I have a younger associate that is very bright but thinks narrowly and therefore does not deliver client ready stuff. He has become too used to waiting for me to give him answers so tonight I tried the Socratic method to try and draw out ideas and thought process. He did not understand most of my questions. I am running out of ideas.

About all I can write for now. Later.

100 Miles Redux

The Cubs and I have made history this weekend. For the first time in 100 years the Cubs have made the post-season 2 years in a row. For the first time 52 years I have completed 100 mile rides in consecutive years. The big difference being that they have been trying for each of the past 100 years and I have been doing this for three.

If you read this regularly you know the degree of trepidation I had regarding this ride. The summer had too many other distractions for me to ride as much as last year. I felt physically, mentally and emotionally unprepared. However, if one can say nothing else about me it can be said that I am determined and a plugger. With the support of my wife and encouragement from buddy Frank and others, I could not not try.

When I left this morning the temps were cool but not cold yet it was overcast and looked as if it would rain. At times we rode though fog. And yet my biggest fear on these rides is always the wind on the ride back. The weather gods cooperated in a big way. It stayed pleasently cool, never rained and most or the wind was on the first half of the ride. I almost yelped with joy as we took the first turn south and there was barely a breeze.

Key stats

 107.9 miles (not counting the 5 mile round trip from my house.)

Ride time: 6 hours 53 minutes

Total time with rest stops (4) and stop lights ( a gazillion): 8 hours 27 minutes

Average speed while riding: 16.02 mph

Tomorrow Beckons

Another bad day today. I now know that I have had the last conversation with my mother, ever. She was in such pain the last couple of days they give her enough drugs to keep her out. It was hard sitting with her today.

When I wake up tomorrow I am supposed to ride 100 miles. So much changes in a year. Last year I was pumped. I wanted so badly to conquer this milestone and I did. This year I am mentally and physically drained. But, I will never know if I can unless I try. Feel free to leave encouraging messages on my cell throughout the day. I will check for them at the rest stops.

No matter what happens in life, tomorrow always calls.

Sunday’s Ride

Better. 60 modestly strong miles. Still far short of 100.

When Is A Mile Not A Mile?

A mile always is 1760 yards or 5,280 feet.

I have known the distance of the mile since childhood. During my youth the mile was the glamour race. Roger Bannister first broke the magic 4 minute mark On May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4. From that moment on, people have been striving to conquer the mile.

Fast forward 54 years from Sir Roger’s historic achievement. For the last five summers, I too have been striving to conquer the mile. One mile at at time, typically 50 + of them on a Sunday morning. On a good day energy flows through my body into my legs and they make revolution after revolution. I do not glide through each mile or passively cycle. I take the initiative. I apply force. That mile is mine.

Over a course of 50 miles some miles some are covered faster than others. You can’t, I can’t, sprint 50 miles. But each on is taken. One by one. That is how a good day works.

Typically by the end of August they are all good riding days. Not this year. Last week i was dead from the moment I left the house. Today felt decent for the first have of the ride and then lost it completely. None of the last 25 mile were conquered. They were ridden, after all I had to get home, but the experience was mentally and physically gruesome.

I can’t say why my riding has deteriorated. I suspect the demands of this summer are getting to me.

So let’s get philosophical for a moment. How do you know when to “be mentally tough and work through it” vs. “listen to your body”? Both of these are reasonable approaches to a situation and I am sure that I can find self-help books to promote one philosophy or the other.  Do winners always go for it? Are people in touch with their needs more effective because they play within themselves?

The practical application for me is that four Sundays from today is the North Shore Century. This is the one I rode last year. I started the summer with a goal–beat last year’s time by 30 minutes. I did not anticipate a sick Mom or a horrendous work schedule and the exponentially greater strain when these two things are combined with all of life’s other irritations. Do I go for it even knowing I am not near the conditioning of last year? Is “going for it no matter what” the sign of a winner? What does it say about me if I do not try.

I realize that the downside of starting and not finishing the ride is relatively small. I am guessing that I can get someone to pick me up. But if over the next three weekends I am still unable to complete a solid 50 why go for 100?

For the moment I am taking inspiration not from world class byciclists but from Sir Roger. The year he broke 4 minutes he had already started Med school and could train for less than an hour per day. There is still hope for me.

A mile is not a mile when you cannot attack it the way that you can. A 5+ minute mile is not the same as one ridden in 4 minutes or less. That is when a mile is not a mile.