Unfit

I’m in no shape to race Gravel Grovel this year.  It’s less than three weeks away, and I haven’t trained nearly enough.  Even though I’ve already registered, I’m not attending.

My goal now is to be read to race the 2014 grovel – at 175 lbs or so.  Wish me luck.

Sick Day

I’m still sick today.  I stayed home from work and skipped volleyball.  Diane had to work so I spent most of the day in the company of the dogs and my Kindle.  I didn’t leave the house.

Since getting sick, I haven’t been drinking beer (other than the partial one in Michigan City that I couldn’t finish).  This has made me re-think my dietary choices.  I need to lose weight.  I need to get fitter.  I intend to race Gravel Grovel in November.

If I could drop under 200 lbs sometime next year, and ride six centuries… that would make up for a lot.

For Real This Time

As I mentioned before, I intend to reach my goal weight of 175lbs by the end of 2013.  I’ve got 65lbs to go, so that’s only 5lbs a month.

I’m no longer counting my previous 100lb weight loss.  I’ve gained 40 of that back and I haven’t lost weight in a long time now.  So, today, I start from 240.8lbs.  I’ll will be weighing regularly again, but not daily like I used to.  I’m considering only doing it monthly.

I gave up beer, but then I had some at Car-Free Happy Hour on Thursday.  That’s okay, Once a month won’t hurt.

I ordered parts for the new bike yesterday.  It could be rideable within a week.  I look forward to putting thousands of miles on it next year.

I want to ride at least 6000 miles in 2013.  I’ll race Gravel Grovel again in November.  I might race The Death March.

I’m probably going to hold off on buying bikes for a while.  I have five again, and I’ll spend money and time getting them set up the way I want.  The single-speed is a mess.  The rSogn is waiting on parts.  The Big Dummy and recumbent could each using dynamo lighting.  The Fargo could use different handlebars.

I’ll re-do my weigh-in page here on the blog soon.  I’ll start updating it again when I weigh.  I’m still not tracking everything I eat, but cooking at home has been a huge help.

Once I’m done here at the computer, I’m going to head out for a solo excursion into Indiana.  I have no destination in mind, but I’d like to crank out 40 or 50 miles.

Gravel Grovel 2012

Update: Sub-9 posted the results, and I’m listed with my time at 8:02, not a DNF!  Whee!

After a bad year physically I was in no shape to race the Gravel Grovel again.  I’m stubborn.  I did it anyway.

Three of us from the RCCS decided to do it this year: Timothy, Asher, and myself.  I was to get a ride with Timothy to and from the race.  Asher was riding with Denis, his spouse.

Timothy wanted to drive up Friday instead of getting up early Saturday.  He also wanted to camp, but I wanted nothing to do with that.  The forecast lows were about 20 degrees.  Timothy had recently purchased a roof-rack for his car.  He came by, and we loaded the bikes and had an uneventful drive to the Bedford area.  We stopped at a cheap motel where I had reserved a room for myself.  I checked-in, and we continued on to the horse camp where the Grovel begins.

Once there, Timothy set up his tent and we waited for Asher and Denis to arrive.

Bikes and Blue Sky

The temperature dropped during the day Friday.  I froze in the gusty winds while waiting for Timothy to finish setting up his tent.  I was very glad for my motel room waiting for me.

Timothy’s retreat

Before long, Asher and Denis arrived and drove us all into Bedford to find a suitable restaurant for dinner.  I don’t remember the name of the place we found, but it was, uh, odd.  The food was acceptable.  Apparently they are popular, and service wasn’t great.

We dropped Timothy back at camp, and the rest of us continued to the motel.  Asher and Denis had a room next to mine.

I slept poorly.  I was keyed-up about the race.  I could hear the highway traffic.  In the morning, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm went off.  That’s extremely rare for me.

It was 24 degrees, but the wind had let up.  The skies were mostly clear.  This could be a good day.

Asher and Denis took off early to buy some things Asher had forgotten at home.  That included his helmet.  They returned, and I got a ride back to the camp where preparations were being made for the race.  I signed in and got a cup of coffee.

As ready as I’m going to be

We had some time to kill, so we hung out by the wood stove and enjoyed the heat, knowing we’d be out in the elements for hours.

Asher is ready to go

Eventually, it was time to line up and listen to instructions before the pace car led us out in a mass start.  I couldn’t hear most of what was said due to the constant talking from nearly everybody.

We had a mass start of 200+ bikes. I was near the back of the mass, just to avoid being passed too much early on. I lost track of Timothy pretty quickly.

After a little north-east run of about four miles, I noticed my pace was pathetic, yet I was with other riders. I assumed the GPS was just being silly due to tree cover.

We turn west for a little out-and-back. Somewhere along here I lost Asher. As I get to the turn-around, I’m beginning to doubt my ability to finish this race. I’m not even ten miles in and considering riding back to the camp.

Unlike last year, I did grab a few photos during the race.

Run-of-the-mill gravel

On the return leg, I see Asher still heading on the “out” portion of the out-and-back. He yelled something unintelligible and kept going. I didn’t stop.

I end up riding mostly alone for a while. There are several well-marked turns. My speed is still abysmal. Our route loops back on itself, and eventually I come to the first SAG stop. It was listening to others here (including one guy quitting due to cold feet) that I decided to try to continue on. I know I’ll suffer, but I won’t hate myself later.

Fargo in it’s element

At about mile 30, I’m heading toward the long out-and-back to Story Indiana. This is road most of the way, but several miles has been described as “not-road”, “goat track”, “single-track”, and worse. It’s a hilly beast with a lot of mud, and it’s where most of the injuries occur. People tend to lose there drivetrains there too, which leads to a long walk to Story.

I know how hard this stretch can be. I have a better bike for it, but my legs are rubber. I continue on anyway, knowing I’m now committed to finishing the course.

The scenery was worth it

I walk the steep bits. I splash through mud, coating me, my bike, and my water bottles with a combination of water, mud, and horse shit. Yes, this area is used for horse riding too. I pulled over and made way for the faster people returning from the out-and-back.

One of the easier stretches of the “not-road”

Eventually I’m back on gravel where I barely manage to climb a steep hill without walking. Then a swooping downhill run that ends abruptly at a sharp turn. I was paying attention, and the disc brakes on the Fargo got my speed under control in time.

Then it’s a wandering route to Story. Timothy is coming back the other way, we exchange a few words while passing.

I arrive at the Story SAG. There are extra bikes there. It turns out a rider crashed (I assume on the not-road) and broke a rib. He rode to Story to get a ride. He and his friends left the bikes there.

They were offering beer at the SAG, but not only am I not drinking beer now, I generally don’t when on a race. I didn’t on last year’s Grovel either. I filled up my water bottles and snacked a bit before heading back.

I rode with a tandem team for a while (road tandem on this mess). They eventually pulled ahead on the road, but once we hit the “goat track”, I passed them again. They were walking, so I won’t say I “dropped” them.

I really enjoyed my second trip through this stretch, even with the deer-head some hunter had recently dumped.

Back on the gravel road, I was soon passed by the tandem team again. I continued on until about mile 50, when I turned on my lights. I realized that there was no way I would make the time cut-off. I tried to think about ways to avoid riding the next 12 miles. The gravel was large and loose in this stretch. My speed stayed in the single-digits, except on descents. I was miserable. I saw no one for quite a while. I assumed I’d be dead last of those finishing.

I needed a pee break. There were no cars, no bikes, no people. It was quiet and peaceful. I leaned my bike against a tree and stood at the edge of the road watering the weeds. I had barely finished and put everything away (darn bib tights!) when I heard the crunch of gravel, and a woman rode around the bend. I talked to her briefly, and was told there were still two more behind her. This gave me hope. I would not allow another cyclist to pass me.

Eventually the nasty loose gravel was replaced with smoother gravel roads. I pushed hard. The last eight miles of the race were my fastest. I felt better, other than my toes cramping up (what’s up with that?) I pushed hard. I was done drinking water. One bottle was empty, the other had too much mud/horse-shit on it.

There was the closed bridge that required lifting the bike over the barriers. My body was so weak, I could barely lift the bike. I continued on and rode back to a nearly empty camp.

I knew I missed the time limit. So it’s a DNF. I don’t care about that. I pushed through my own personal pain to finish the race course. That was my main goal. The other goal was to have fun. I did that too. I was hoping for some of the food they serve after the race, but it was put away, and I got nothing but two piece of pecan pie that hadn’t been hauled off yet.

It wasn’t until I arrived back and checked my phone that I saw that Asher had dropped out. I assumed as much earlier in the day. This just confirmed it.

Download

Asher and Denis had left hours before.  Most of the other racers had left.  Timothy and a few stragglers were still there.  I changed clothes while Timothy loaded my bike.  He drove me home.  I made the decision almost immediately to give myself Sunday (today) to recover.  No riding.  I’ll be back on the bike for the morning commute tomorrow though.

The Fargo was a mess.  It had mud everywhere.  There was only one good way to get it clean.

Warm shower for a friend

Even being two hours slower than last year, It felt great to complete the course.  If I had bailed on the race I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.  I was very close to not going.  Only my stubbornness kept me in the race.

I’m viewing this race my new beginning with getting in big miles.  Many of those miles will be on the recumbent to avoid hurting my neck (it’s rather stiff today).  Others will be on the new bike, once it’s complete.  I’ll continue to use the Fargo for gravel rides, but I’ll switch a few things around.

Things that worked:

I bought shoe covers for my clipless shoes.  My feet remained warm enough.  They got cold once before the first SAG stop, but I warmed them by the fire, and they never got cold again.  Overall my clothing choices were fine.  I had my bib tights, another pair of tights over those, top base layer, wool sweater, wool socks, jacket, balaclava, hat, helmet with cover, sunglasses, old Shimano mountain bike shoes, and cheap Nashbar shoe covers.

The Fargo did fine.  I had zero mechanical issues other than some rough shifting due to mud.  The Fargo handles beautifully on the terrain.  Only the motor (me) had issues.

Things to change:

I really want a different seatpost and saddle on the Fargo.  What’s there isn’t terrible, but it’s not my favorite.  On the other hand, I rode 62 miles on it, with only minor discomfort on my backside.

The handlebars, while great for control on the rough stuff, hurt my wrists when down in the drops.  I’m not sure if simply rotating the bars to another angle will fix it, or if I’ll have to buy some different bars.  It’ll require some experimentation to figure it out.

I need to train if I expect to race.  I’ll never finish near the front, and that’s fine.  Getting a DNF due to time sucks.  Even last year’s 6:05, while not  DNF, meant I was one of the last few to arrive.

Committed

I’m racing the Gravel Grovel this Saturday.  I know I’ll suffer, but I’ll hate myself and sink into depression if I don’t do it.  I’ll be joined by Asher and Timothy because misery loves company.

I did spend good money to buy an appropriate bike, the Fargo, for this race.  I paid the registration fee.  I bought shoe covers to keep my feet warm.  I have to race.

I’ve been without beer or junk food since Friday.  My mood is improved, but I don’t know how long-lasting that will be.

I’ve had muscle aches in my legs for months now.  They disappeared today.  I have no idea what’s going on there.  I hope they stay gone.  I still have the normal neck/shoulder mess going on, but that’s not going to go away.

I reserved a hotel room in Bedford Indiana.  I’m riding with Timothy, and he wants to drive up the night before.  This should hopefully allow me to arrive at the race well-rested.

I need to take the Fargo out for a last-minute ride on Thanksgiving to make sure everything is ready.

I consider this race as the kick-off to focusing on my health and fitness again.  I did well in 2007 and 2008.  I did a ton of riding in 2009 and 2010.  2011 saw my first neck issues, but the riding was still good.  2012 has been poor.  I’ve drank too much, ate too much, rode less, had physical and mental issues to deal with.  I put too many things at a higher priority than my fitness, yet being healthy should be my primary goal.

I’m not waiting for the new year.  January first is just another arbitrary date.  I’m starting now.

Pain and Stupidity

I’ve had recent flare-up of neck, shoulder, and back pain.  Just for added giggles my wrists have been very painful too.  I don’t know why this is happening, but it’s really poor timing as I’m about a week and a half away from racing Gravel Grovel, and I really haven’t done any training.

Today I remembered that my doctor told me to take naproxen daily to help with this.  I did for a while, then basically forgot about it.  Even with the pain returning, it didn’t jog my memory until today.

So, I took the pills again a little bit ago.  I wonder how much training time I missed due to my forgetfulness.  I hope they work well enough.

Still Riding

I’ve had less time, so I haven’t been posting here much.  I tend to post small snippets on Google+, as that’s much quicker than writing a full blog post.

My geek side is going to make a quick appearance.  I’ve installed Linux on my laptop.  I still have Windows too, and can use which ever I need.  I’m hoping to get where I don’t need Windows anymore, and can dedicated the whole hard drive to Linux.  Bicycling has complicated that a little, as my GPS software runs under Windows only.  I’ve found a replacement that will probably do the job.

I am back to riding the bike every day.  I spend many of those days on the recumbent, as my neck is bothering me again.  On Friday, I rode the Big Dummy to work, then out for beer after work, and I hauled two growlers of beer home.

Saturday morning, I rode with Tim, on what was supposed to be a “spirited road ride”, but I didn’t get the memo, and I rode the Big Dummy.  That’s totally the wrong bike that kind of riding.  I worked hard, I went slow, and I held Tim up, but it was good to get out.

After we parted ways, I ran some errands, and ran across this couple with three children with their new Madsen cargo bike.

Madsen
Madsen

I ended the day with 25.8 miles.

Today, Sunday, Tim picked me up for a mountain bike ride at Waverly Hills Park.  I had ridden there once before with him, but I didn’t own a mountain bike, so I borrowed his too-small single-speed Monocog.

Trail
Trail

This time, I had my Fargo.  I’m out of shape, and the climbs were killing me.  The descents were amazing on the Fargo.  The handlebars on that bike are great for off-road use.  I grab the drops and can brake and shift without worrying about letting go of the bars.  The only problem with the bars is it’s not comfortable to ride that way.  My wrists kept hurting.  I may have to try rotating the bars to a different angle, but then I’m worried I won’t be able to be comfortable riding the hoods on the street.

Fargo
Fargo

I only truly fell once.  It was soft dirt, and didn’t hurt.  I did get rather dirty.

Good Morning!
Good Morning!

I still have doubts about my fitness for Gravel Grovel.  This ride really winded me and was only 9.3 miles.  Granted, it’s much rougher terrain than most of Gravel Grovel.

 

Gravel Roads and “Not” Roads

Tim, Asher, and I went out to New Castle Kentucky on Sunday for a mixed-terrain ride.  Asher and I are riding Gravel Grovel, so this is a training ride.

Tim, Timothy, and I rode some of the same roads almost a year ago.  This time, it was a shorter route of about 47 miles.  We still had the creek crossing to deal with, but it would be near the end of the ride instead of the beginning.

We arrived in New Castle just in time for a nice sunrise.

Kentucky sunrise

It was quite a cool morning, but I was dressed for it.  It took a while for the sun to burn off the morning fog and mist.

Morning mist

I hadn’t had time to load my GPS with the route ahead of time.  Tim had his GPS and navigation duties.  It also helped that he’s better at remembering roads than I am, and we’d been to most of these before.

What didn’t help, is he hadn’t charged his batteries, and I had to loan him mine.  I was then unable to track the route.

Lonely gravel

My new Fargo is the perfect bike for this.  On the fast descents on large chunky gravel, the bike was rock solid and inspired confidence.  I’ll write more about the bike later.

Salsa Fargo

Although I absolutely bombed downhill, I struggled on the climbs.  I’m out of shape and too heavy.  I’m really going to have to work on this for the upcoming Gravel Grovel.

The bike is geared low enough, and I never had to walk a hill, but it was close.

Tim and Asher goofing off

As the Fargo doesn’t have a bike computer yet, and my GPS had Tim’s dead batteries in it, I really had no idea how far along we were.  I also had no idea what time it was.

I suffered.  I stopped for breaks several times when the other two were ahead, over a hill, and I couldn’t see them.  They’d eventually wait for me, so I always caught up.

We eventually came to the “not” road.  This is a stretch of land, heavily grown, with a creek running through it.  It’s shown on every map we can find as a road, but in reality, it’s trees, underbrush, thorns, and the creek.  In other words, it’s a blast!

Last time I was here, the temperature was about 30 degrees.  Now it had warmed to almost 70.  I was much less worried about getting wet.

After walking/carrying/pushing my bike through thick underbrush, over logs, and through thorny patches, ripping my tights on the way, I reached the creek.  Rather than take off our shoes to avoid frozen feet, we were able to simply walk through the water.

I was wearing my clipless SPD shoes, so walking on the slippery rocks underwater was a careful affair, but it worked well.  We played near the waterfall a bit before lugging the bikes back up on land and returning to an actual road again.

You can lead a bike to water…

We had another five or so miles to roll back to Tim’s car.  Most of that was on a wonderful gravel road.  The last stretch was a busier paved road.  It would have been fine, but I was tired and ready for the ride to end.

I finished the ride with 47 hard-earned miles.  I needed a nap later.

Tim’s write-up is here.  Be sure to check it out.  He has better pictures.

Grovel Training

Tim, Asher, and I had planned to do a 50-mile gravel ride today as training for Gravel Grovel.  I am registered for the Gravel Grovel again this year.  I have a better bike for it this year, but I’m out of shape and my weight it up.

Asher is also planning on racing.  Tim isn’t, due to other obligations that day, but he’s willing to train with us.

Due to unplanned circumstances, Tim wasn’t able to drive his car to haul three bikes out to the planned ride location.  I hurriedly made up a route the night before (after having too much beer) that stayed in the Louisville area and didn’t require a car.

The new route had very little gravel, but it had some hills, and allowed me to stretch my legs on the new bike for 50 miles or so.

Asher arrived at my house at an ungodly hour.  I only managed three hours of sleep – mostly due to my light-night drinking and carousing.  Once we were ready, we both headed to Tim’s house.

It wasn’t 6:00am yet.  It was dark and cold.  Heading out Taylorsville Rd, which can be stressful during the day, just wasn’t an issue.  Once we left the urban “heat island” the temperatures plummeted, and I got quite cold.

My new bike at the Fisherville Post Office

Eventually the sun came up enough to slightly warm us.  As we got outside the city there was fog in the low-lying areas.  It was actually a beautiful ride.

I was suffering early.  I had no energy.  I’m out of shape.  The lack of sleep and too much alcohol the night before didn’t help, but the biggest problem was that I hadn’t eaten breakfast.  I’d been munching on some peanut butter crackers, but that wasn’t enough.

We stopped at a gas station for some more immediate calories and to warm our hands and toes.

Tim and Asher

The gas station stop helped me immensely for a temporary basis.  I would continue to “run out of steam” several times throughout the ride.

The overall route had us heading out of town to the southeast, turning north in a more rural area, then going back into town from the northeast.  We traveled some major roads, but traffic wasn’t a problem on a Sunday morning.  I had been drunk when planning the route, but it worked.

Once we arrived back in town, we deviated from the route.  We were I was tired and wanted to cut a few miles and a few hills off the ride.

At one point, I stopped at a four-way stop sign quickly (wasn’t paying attention and almost ran in front of a car).  I had shifted the bike, but the pedals hadn’t rotated enough to actually perform the shift.  Once I started to go again, the gears shifted with a loud “pop”.  The bike did not shift well after that.  Closer inspection revealed that I bent a couple of links in the chain.  Ah well, I’ll need to buy a new chain.

We made pretty good time down Westport Rd and wound through Cherokee/Seneca parks and to Twig and Leaf, a local restaurant that serves great breakfast and lousy but serviceable coffee.

Tim had family matters to attend to, and headed home.  Asher headed back my direction, it’s on his way home anyway, and stopped by to share some IPA with me, and get his clothes covered in dog hair.  🙂

I ended the ride with 52.5 miles.  That’s the longest ride I’ve done in a while.  It’s the longest ride I’ve done on the new bike.  I’ll write up impression about the Fargo at  a later date.

I fully intended to take a nap.  I was quite tired after the day’s adventure (and four days of being out late drinking), but I’ve been doing housework, playing on the computer, and reading a book.

I did not go out to a bar again tonight, nor will I.  I’m actually considering a shorter urban ride on my single-speed.

My poor performance on this ride reminds me I need to lose weight and get stronger for the Gravel Grovel.  My goal this year is to finish in less than six hours.

Download

Life is Crazy

I haven’t posted in a while, but things have been happening.

Depression
I’ve been suffering on and off with depression a fair amount again.  I’m still on the fence about what to do about it. If I can make enough changes to ease things, great.  Otherwise, I may turn to professional help.

Houseboat Trip
Robin and I went on the houseboat trip.  It was four days of fun, sun, a storm, alcohol, and cool people.

New Bike
I gave the new-ish hybrid bike to Dawn.  She needs a bike for transportation.  I didn’t have a use for it.  I had bought it as a gravel bike, then decided to go with a Salsa Fargo instead.

Newer Bike 
I have the Fargo.  I’ve ridden it to work a few times, and around town for fun.  I took it on some trails today, and realized that I still suck at mountain biking.  🙂

Robin
I decided I needed to end my relationship with Robin.  I need to get my head out of my ass and figure out my life.  She didn’t do anything wrong.  I’m not pointing fingers.  I just wasn’t behaving myself with proper lifestyle choices while around her.  That’s my fault, but it needed to stop.  🙁

Gravel Grovel
I’m still planning on racing Gravel Grovel this year, but I haven’t registered yet.  I went for a ride today, and at only 18.5 miles, I was beat.  My fitness level has really deteriorated.  I’m going to have to make a concerted effort to fix this quickly.  I’ve only got a little over two months.

Gravel Grinder

I purchased the new cheap hybrid as a gravel machine.  It really won’t do well in that role until I’ve spent way too much money in upgrades.

I’ve made a change of plans.

Salsa Fargo

Robin drove me out to Main Street Bikes in Shelbyville Kentucky to test ride a Salsa Fargo 2.  They have one in stock that has been used as a demo bike.  It’s the large size, which seems to be what I need (but not the extra-large like Patrick has).

I took it for a spin around town, and I’m hooked.  With a swap of the stem, and moving some spacers around, the bars will be high enough for me to ride, even with my neck issues.

It’s the higher-end model with the BB7 brakes, SRAM 2×10 drivetrain with brifters, and Thudbuster seatpost.  I’ll probably swap out the seatpost.

I got back and put down a (large <gulp>) deposit.  The bike is mine.  I’ll pick it up in two weeks when I finish paying for it.

This bike won’t be a road-touring bike.  I’ll use my recumbent for that.  It won’t be for commuting, but I may ride it to work a few times to show it off.  I’ll just carry my stuff in a backpack, because I don’t intend to put a rack on it.  I won’t be putting fenders on it.

This bike is for off-road, gravel, mud, whatever.  I may do camping trips on it that require off-road capability.  I’ll have to learn about bikepacking.

I intend to race the Gravel Grovel again this year, and this is the bike to do it on.  It should do the trick better than the LHT that I used last year.  If I lose 20lbs by then,  I might even do as well (?) as I did last year.

Now the decision is what to do with the hybrid bike.  Sell it?  Keep it and add fenders?  I don’t know at this point.

Goodbye 2011. What’s In Store Now?

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.  When it’s time for a change, you should work at it immediately.  I do, however, believe in looking back at things.  I’m looking back at 2011.

Bike Miles

I rode 5502.9 miles in 2011.  That’s more than 400 miles over 2010’s 5087.2.  By comparison, 2009 was only 3860 miles.  November 2011 was a new personal record month.  I had 697.7 miles.  December is my best December yet, but nothing exceptional at 444.9 miles.

I hope to surpass 6000 miles in 2012, and have a one-month best of 750 miles.

Car-Free

I sold my truck and became car-free on November 4th.  I’m still adjusting to living without a car, but it’s not a difficult adjustment after living most of the year as if I were already car-free.

Bikes

I bought the Big Dummy as my car truck replacement once I knew I actually would sell the truck.  I still have some fit issues to get dialed in, but the bike has been great at hauling things (and people!).

I’ve spent a lot of money on bikes this year.  In addition to buying the Big Dummy, I bought a SON dynohub and lighting system for the LHT in April.  I later moved the wheel and lights to the single-speed.

In March, I bought a used kid-trailer as an affordable cargo hauler.  I haven’t used it since buying the Big Dummy, but it could be useful to tow it with the Big Dummy if I really need to haul a lot.

In December I bought new wheels (including Shimano dynohub) for the LHT.  I also bought new brakes.  Now, January 1st, the bike is still partially assembled in my kitchen.

Health

2011 has been a challenging year due to health issues.

In June I had a horrible neck pain problem.  It kept me off the bike briefly.  It made me miss some longer pleasure rides that I wanted to do.  With some treatment and strength training it was resolved to the point that I can function normally, but it never went away.

In September I was hospitalized due to a bowel obstruction.  Luckily it resolved without surgery, but it was scary.  I only missed one important ride, and had no lasting effects.

On the day after Christmas my neck issue returned.  I’m still struggling with it, and I see myself riding the recumbent more often now.  I wasn’t car-free last time, so my options are a bit more limited now.

The various doctor visits may have actually added to my overall mileage for the year.  I had doctor visits in New Albany and east of Lyndon that took me a bit farther for transportation cycling than I normally go.

Weight

Ah, the elephant in the room.  First let’s look at my monthly average weight since I started tracking it in 10/2007.  Up until July 2009, things look great, then a bit of a bump, lost again, then steady increase since March 2010.

Now let’s look at the same values beginning January 2009.  You’ll notice that most of it is between 200 and 220lbs.  That changes when it goes above 230 in July 2011.  It stays above 230 until the last two month of the year.

It’s a little bit depressing, but not all that surprising.  I’ve been treating myself to good food and beer as if I don’t have a weight problem.  I not going to give these things up, but I need to make better decisions on how much and how often to consume these things.

2011 was not a good year for weight loss.  I ended the year 13lbs heavier than I started it.  Ugh.  As Tim would say, I have an “intake valve problem”.

Exercise

Other than cycling I’ve done little exercising.  I had my push-up plan back in 2008 that I abandoned after suffer shoulder pain.  I’m supposed to be using some dumbbells to strengthen my upper body to help with the neck and shoulder issues, but I’ve not been using them as much as I should.

I was training for a triathlon early in the year, but ditched that after suffering problems in the swim portion of the training.  I did not enjoy the running, but I was capable of performing what was needed.

I did race my first bicycle race in November, the Gravel Grovel.  I met my goal of less that 6.5 hrs (just over 6 hours).

My biggest problem right now, is that my most common exercise other than cycling is the 12 ounce lift (lifting the beer to my lips).

Relationships

Okay, where to begin?

When I started this blog in November of 2007, my 13-year marriage was ending.  I didn’t talk about it publicly for months, but it was happening.

I married Kristy in 2009.  It was a much different marriage than the first, but didn’t work out for much different reasons.  We are now officially divorced.

Interesting tidbit.  I met an interesting woman, Robin, a few days ago.  My desires in a relationship are a bit different now.  I’m not ready to rush in to living together or marriage (eek!  I said the M word!), but she lives nearby (walking distance, no bike even needed!) and we have some common interests.  We rang in the new year together.  I’m not going to talk much more about her for the time being.

2012

Most goals stay the same.  Goal weight of 175lbs.  Stay sane.  Be happy.

Some goals have changed.  Ride 6000 miles for the year.  Ride 750 miles or more in at least one month.  Save more money.

All of this is for nothing if the Mayans were right.

Happy New Year everyone!

Gravel Grovel – Complete!

Why did I choose a gravel road and off-road race as my first bike race?  Probably because I knew I’d be better at that than a road race.

Yesterday was the Gravel Grovel, a 60-mile bicycle race over all kinds of terrain.

Tim picked me up early and we stopped at Sunergos for coffee.  Patrick was supposed to ride with us, but had come down with something the night before, and had to cancel.  That was a pity, he had just set up a new Salsa Fargo for this kind of riding.

Timothy drove separately and met us there.  Michael was supposed to drive over from Bloomington, the shortest drive of all of us, but had mechanical issues with his bike and cancelled also.

Beautiful sky on the morning drive
Beautiful sky on the morning drive

We stopped again in Seymour IN for a bathroom break, again I enjoyed the morning sky.

Departing clouds?
Departing clouds?

It was also fun to compare the very different bikes Tim and I were riding.

My Surly LHT and Tim's Cannondale 29er
My Surly LHT and Tim’s Cannondale 29er

We arrived at Maumee Boy Scout camp plenty early and found a parking spot.  We took the time to sign-in, prepare the bikes and our clothes.  Timothy met us.

Timothy and Tim
Timothy and Tim

The race began at 10:00am.  I did not bring the camera on the race as I knew it would slow me down.  This was a race, not a tour.  Tim, did take his camera and managed some good pictures, and still finished 10 minutes ahead of me.  His thoughts and pictures can be found here.

As the pack of several hundred bicyclists rolled out of the camp behind the SRAM lead car we turned on a paved road.  I noticed one of the orange turn markers pointing down a gravel road, but the lead car, and several hundred cyclists went straight, so I assumed they knew the route.

After a climb and descent, I noticed the lead car and several hundred cyclists turned around and facing back toward us.  Everyone had missed the turn.

After climbing and descending that hill again, we turned on the gravel road.  Looking at the GPS track, it seems that mistake added 5.6 miles or so.

Using a GPS for navigation is not allowed on this race.  You can use it for tracking your route as I did.  We were provided with a cue sheet and a map.  I’m not great with cue sheets, and the map was hard to read.  Luckily, there were also orange signs placed around the course for turns.  This worked well.  There were no further routing mishaps.

I knew I had to keep moving.  That’s why I left my camera in the car.  I also know I tend to not eat often enough unless I stop.  I did my best to eat while riding, often times choking on food due to breathing too hard.

There were a couple of stops to refill water bottles and have a snack.  I took advantage of these, but didn’t dawdle.  One of the stops had cans of beer.  If I had been touring, I would have enjoyed one.  I declined the beer this time.

The route was mostly as I expected.  There was a lot of gravel.  There was a closed bridge with a barrier you had to lift your bike over.  You traveled many of the roads twice, going the other direction the second time around.  Good signage made this easy to do without getting lost.

One part of the route did surprise me.  Combs Rd was mostly what I call a “not road”.  It was in no way passable by an automobile.  It was singletrack for about two miles (I’m guessing).  It was fairly technical with logs, mud pits, bricks(!?), stream crossings, etc.  It also had a large climb.  The beauty of it?  We got to do it again in the other direction.

My LHT did perfectly fine on the ride, other than Combs Rd.  I didn’t have much traction on mud.  I managed to fall once.  I walked up the steepest bit of it, and around the fallen trees and logs.

I wasn’t the only one with problems on it.  I watched one guy go over the bars.  I stopped and talked to him.  He was unhurt, just embarrassed and tired.  Another guy managed to snap his derailleur completely off.  He was working to convert his bike to a single-speed to continue the ride.  I saw him later, he had managed to do so.

We had originally planned this as five of us riding together as a group.  With two cancels, it would have been three of us, but we were unable to stay together.  Tim later described it as riding “in his own personal pain bubble”.  I think that’s accurate.  We did ride together a bit.  We regrouped at stops, but when it came down to it, each of us had to climb the next hill at our own pace.

My goal was to finish in less than 6h:30m.  I succeeded there.  Although Tim and Timothy both finished before me (by ten minutes or so), I finished in 6h:13m.  The official results haven’t been posted, but I’m sure it’ll only be a minute or two different from that.  I met my goal.

In the aftermath of it, I’m left with an extremely stiff neck, a skinned up knee, and a very dirty bike.  I did have fun and I’m tentatively planning on racing it again next year with a goal of less than six hours.

Tim managed to get a picture of me zooming past the finish line.  That brown spot on my trunk bag is mud from where I fell on Combs Rd.

Finished!
Finished!

Here’s my GPS track for the race.

Download

For a feeling of what the roads and terrain were like, look at this video from last year’s event.  Although they took a different course, it was mostly the same roads, including Combs Rd.

After the race, we gathered in the hall for food (rice, meats, sauces, pie) and giving away trophies to the winners of each category (big hunks of engraved rock).  There were raffle prizes, mostly little things, but there was an expensive wheelset given away.  I won a SRAM hat, which I gave to Tim as I don’t care for hats.

Even after the meal I was hungry, and I intended to cook when I got home.  I was too tired.  I took a hot bath and massaged the kinks out of my legs.  Then I laid down and read a book.  After that I slept.  I didn’t bother to set an alarm.  Yep, a good time.

Edit:
The official results were posted.  I tied Timothy for 126th place (overall) at a time of 6h:05m.  Even better than I expected.  Maybe I’ll shoot for sub-5h:30m next year.