Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dealing with the Heat

This has been a long, hot summer (even by Houston standards)!  We have had very little rain this year, and temperatures started climbing into the 90's earlier than usual this year.

Scheduling rides at optimal times (i.e. in temperatures below 90) has been a challenge between the Redhead's schedule and the Princess's schedule.  For awhile, I rode at night.  Night riding is tons of fun on one hand, but scares me a little on the other.  When on the street, I have to be alert for drivers (who I can usually see coming) and the occasional pedestrian (who usually isn't easy to see until the last second).  On the trail, there are all kinds of critters that come out at night, and some of them are potentially aggressive if they feel threatened by me (or, perhaps, very hungry).  Plus, I go to bed later and still have to get up with the girls, so it isn't optimal.

Early morning is a viable option, but I enjoy staying up later and getting up "late" with the girls during my seasonal unemployment.  Additionally, I have trouble going to sleep for the night if less than three hours or so have passed after sunset, so Daylight Saving Time is not my friend if I want to be an early riser.

This week, I have had a two and a half hour window in the morning to ride between 9:30 and 11:30.  If I begin between 9:30 and 10:00, I can get the bulk of the ride done before the temperature crosses 90 degrees.  After 10:00, all bets are off!

Twice this week, Thursday and today, I began riding with the temperature at 91 degrees.  Both days, I rode 16 miles.  Both days, I emptied a 3 liter CamelBak: Thursday, it was empty by mile 13; today, I emptied it with about half a mile to go.

Thursday, I was a little dippy for several hours after the ride.  On Friday, I rode earlier, and I rode slower than Thursday (1:17 on Thursday; 1:20 on Friday).  After Friday's ride, I was in even worse shape than the day before (even though the temperature was cooler).

After Thursday's ride, I drank what I thought was an adequate amount of water.  I also craved foods that are not necessarily my friend when it comes to my weight-loss goals.

To add insult to injury, I woke up three pounds heavier on Friday.

Friday, I figured out that my problem was I wasn't replacing water sufficiently.  So, I drank, and consequently peed, like a fiend for the rest of the day.  By dinnertime, I felt almost human again.  I was pretty worthless the rest of the day, though.

I had been meaning to try a new blended salad (i.e. smoothie) recipe I had received earlier in the week.  The recipe?
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 8 oz. lettuce (I use romaine)
  • 1 oz. spinach
Saturday, I mixed and drank the new concoction.  I had altered the lettuce/spinach balance, and I liked it OK, but the spinach cut through the orange and raspberry a little.

The mixture fills most of a Vita Mix container, and it takes awhile to drink.  But, it's a measly 368 calories and a whopping 27 grams of fiber!

I felt tons better, and it stuck with me most of the day.  I continued to drink, and felt fine by the time I went to bed.

Today, I had the smoothie before riding.  I almost felt a little too full.  I also resolved to take it easy on the ride.  And, since I was starting late, I made sure my CamelBak was full and cold (at least to start).

Today's ride took 68 minutes (that includes dealing with stoplights along the route).  I don't think I've ever averaged 14 mph on one of these rides.

Starting temperature was 91.  Ending temperature was 99.  Yikes!

I'm writing this about an hour and a quarter after finishing.  Other than a shower and a glass of water, I've done nothing else special to recover yet.  I feel much better than I did the last three days (including the day off from riding), but I can also tell that I'm going to need to top things off.

I'm thinking that I need to make a practice of preceding rides in hot weather with a nutrient dense meal like the one I had today.  My guess is that the fact that it was high carbohydrate tempered with high fiber and that it was high vitamin and mineral (especially potassium and a number of B vitamins) helped me to beat the heat. 

It brings up a challenge, though: When I begin work in August, I'll ride to work (on the days I manage) in temps below 80.  After work, I'll ride home in 90+ temps.  The smoothie is ideal because liquefying the ingredients in a blender makes them more digestible.  Hauling a blender to work doesn't work for me for a number of reasons.  So, I may have to experiment and see whether or not the morning smoothie will have me stocked up with enough good stuff to keep me from bonking on a hot afternoon ride.  That's no fun, and it's less fun when cycling in the midst of cranky auto drivers during the evening rush (but that's another post altogether)!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Has It Been a Year?

First, allow me the opportunity to apologize to my followers (all two of you) for not updating this blog in almost a year.  I visit it frequently since it bookmarks my favorite bicycle blogs (including yours), but I haven't felt much like writing, nor have I had much to write about.

So, what's been happening in the last year?

Weight Loss Adventures

I'm a big guy.  Too big.  Yeah, I can blame it on genes, being "big boned," or whatever, but I am obese (by any measure) for two reasons:
  • I eat too much.
  • I move too little.
In December, I had sleep study done for the first time in nine years, and I got my CPAP equipment updated.  Within a month, I felt significantly better.  Better, in fact, than I had in years.

In January, the Redheaded One and I went out to dinner and a movie with another couple.  The husband had lost significant weight.  My wife wanted to know how.

The friend had sought treatment from a bariatric physciian.  He looked great and said that he felt great, too.

The Redheaded One insisted that I go see this doctor.  I didn't want to go the pharmacologically assisted route, but I felt ready to do something since I had gotten my sleep better dialed in.

Since January 22, I have lost 45 pounds.  Most of that weight loss can be attributed to two things:
  • Eating my veggies.
  • Eating less in general
Notice that I didn't include, "riding my bicycle."  For the first two months, I hardly rode at all.  But, when the annual ski trip rolled around, I felt in better ski shape than I had in years . . . and with next to no exercise!

Moral: If you're overfat, what you put in your mouth (and how much) is far more important to your physical well-being than how much you work out.  That's not to say exercise isn't important; exercise can't undo the damage of crappy eating (especially as you get older).

The Spring from Hell
On the first run of the aforementioned ski trip, the Redheaded One tore her ACL due to a combination of an inept snowboarder doing a faceplant in the middle of the egress lane and an inattentive lift operator not stopping the lift until said snowboarder moved his sorry ass.  A week-long ski trip turned into two days of skiing for the Princess and me.  Then, we got back to Houston ASAP so the injury could be treated.

At the same time, a parent needed to be moved to a nursing home, softball season and standardized test season commenced for the Princess, and extracurricular activity picked up for my school schedule.  It was not a fun time.

There were two bright spots, though . . .

First, I found out that I am going to be a grandfather come September!  My older daughter and her husband are expecting.  Baby and mama are doing just fine (other than some pesky nausea on Mama's part); son-in-law has been a champ taking care of his bride. 

Second, I made a commitment to participate in the 30 Days of Biking challenge during April.  The goal?  Ride my bike every day during the month of April.  Eight days in, I skipped a day and had to start over, but I met the goal.  Some days, I rode 20 miles.  Other days, I rode around the block.  Every day, that ride was a lifesaver.  I especially realized this when I took some time off of the bike for a couple of weeks and noticed that my disposition went south in a hurry!  Needless to say, I'm back on the bike now.

This Summer
After my experience with the 30 Days of Biking, I've made it a goal to ride every day this summer that I am in town.  I used my bike to get to work once this past school year.  Most days, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to ride to and from work, so I'm going to get myself conditioned to handle daily long distance (i.e. 20 + miles) in the heat.  It will also give me a chance to break in the sweet Brooks B-17 saddle that I received the Christmas before last.

Plus, it can't hurt my weight loss efforts, either!

I've also decided to write more . . . especially here.  I have no idea what riding the same couple of paths day in and day out will inspire, but I guess I'll find out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Am a Fair Weather Cyclist

So, it's summer, and I have plenty of free time.  I'm thinking that I'm going to be cycling every day and building up endurance and miles.

My daughter was scheduled to hang with a friend for the afternoon.  That meant plenty of time for a good ride.

But, it rained (cats and dogs) before riding time.

Riding through puddles didn't appeal to me.  I don't like getting wet, and I felt too lazy to do the extra bike maintenance after a wet ride.  Plus, I'm not real keen on wet brakes . . .

Right now, I'm kind of regretting my choice.  But, I have another commitment this evening.

There's always tomorrow . . . right?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stupid Bicycling: Chapter 2

Spotted in West Houston on a glorious May Saturday: Mom and two children decide to take a ride on residential streets.  Mom is rocking a cruiser with short shorts and flip-flops.

And . . . one of the children sitting atop the top tube.

Neither kid is wearing a helmet (which is mandatory for riders under 14 in our fair city).

I really need to start taking a camera out with me . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stupid Bicycling: Chapter 1

If we cyclists expect motorists to take us seriously, shouldn't we display common sense whenever we ride?

I've decided to chronicle the random acts of stupid bicycling that I witness so that whoever reads this blog (mostly me) will remember to avoid them.

For instance, I definitely won't be like the ninja-salmon cyclist I saw recently on Westheimer while driving home from an extended day at work.

Today, I saw three particularly egregious acts.  One of them potentially put me in danger . . .

While riding on the multi-use path at Barker Reservoir, I saw a paceline of cyclists in full kit cruising at a respectable road speed.  On the road, that would have been great.  On a trail that caters to pedestrians, skaters, and cyclists, it was almost criminal!  What a bunch of pansies!!!  If you're that afraid of cars, take up mountain biking.

Stupid trick two was a a couple of  time-trialers hunkered over their aero-bars.  I believe one can safely ride at higher speeds on the north side of the dam, but having one's hands away from the brakes given the amount of two-way traffic there is strikes me as foolish.  Perhaps a long stretch of country road with a low volume of traffic is a better idea.

The grand finale is a guy that I passed on my return trip.  We were riding into a headwind.  We were both about the same size.  He was riding a skinny tire rig with a nice 52-tooth big ring; I was riding my CrossTrail on the 36-tooth ring.  After a couple of minutes, I notice him drafting me.  That would have been OK except, (a) he didn't ask and (b) I didn't know him.  Fortunately, I had strong legs today.  Otherwise, he might have ridden straight up my butt had I decided to coast a bit.

To add insult to injury, as we round the corner and head south along the dam's eastern side, he pulls out, passes, and says, "Thanks for the pull," without bothering to return the favor.  Of course,  I said nothing, and I probably should have . . .

I wonder: Would I be a bad person if I carried an incredibly loud air horn and sounded it as an "idiot alarm" when I see stuff like this?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Making Peace with the Wind

Hello, blog, you poor, neglected thing!  Have you missed me?

It's Springtime!  Springtime brings a lot of things: Warmer weather, more sun, a return to lawn care, leaves on the trees, blooming wildflowers . . . 

And wind!

Compared to my hometown (Cheyenne, Wyoming), the wind here is nothing (except during a hurricane).  However, being a man broad of shoulders (and waistline) and creating enough rolling resistance for Lance Armstrong and three-quarters, I am the bicycling equivalent of a semi-truck or RV.  It only takes a little wind to slow me down (further).

It seems like every ride I've taken in the last couple of months has provided me with the opportunity to learn to deal with the wind.  And, since my bride and I have picked several breezy locales as possible retirement locales, I need be able to deal with the wind if I intend to keep riding into my senior years.

I don't remember where I read the interview, or who was being interviewed, but I remember that it was a rider who was a big-time cross-country (mountain bike) and cyclocross racer.  He advised novices to familiarize themselves with their gearing and become proficient and frequent, small changes in gearing.  His rationale was that maintaining consistent cadence and perceived exertion would save energy in the long run as opposed to hammering uphill and coasting downhill.

We don't have many hills to speak of in the Houston area, but I think the same principles can apply to dealing with wind and road conditions.

For me, that's only half of the equation, though.

The other half is personal comfort.  I've made some changes to my trusty steed that help in this regard:
  1. I got rid of the gel saddle cover.  I have a Brooks B-17 to put on, but the rails don't fit my clamp exactly, and I haven't been inclined to do anything about that, yet.  However, riding on the "naked" saddle (with padded shorts) has been more comfortable, and I think that I'm finally able to sit in the saddle for a couple of hours without a break.
  2. I did replace my handlebar grips with Ergon grips.  The Ergons distribute the pressure across more of the hand so I don't pinch the ulnar nerves in both hands like I did previously.  Handlebar discomfort doesn't go away immediately, but it does get reduced significantly.
  3. I haven't figured out a pedal solution that will make those more comfortable for long rides.  But, I'm a lot more comfortable with the pedals than I used to be, so I'm in no hurry to work on this one.
Today's ride was a blessing: Headwinds for the first half of the ride; tailwinds for the second half.  Temperatures were cool, traffic was light, coffee was good, and all of my body parts in contact with the bike remained relatively comfortable throughout the ride.

Since I didn't have to take coasting breaks with my butt in the air (trust me, you don't want to see that), or shake out hands and feet to get blood flowing, I was able to maintain a consistent cadence.  I used the whole range of gears on my middle chainring, so my speed varied a good deal.  However, I felt great at the end of the ride, and I'm up for clearing the jungle that is currently my backyard this afternoon (without a nap, even)!

I need to start taking a camera with me.  The Bluebonnets are so-so, but there were some red flowers that looked awesome.  If they're Indian Paintbrush, they're the biggest ones I've ever seen . .  .

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Interesting . . .

October and November are ideal months for bicycling in Houston. Unfortunately, they are also my busiest work months, and I haven't liberated myself from the car just yet. So, I haven't ridden as much as I would have liked.

Today, I rode out to Barker Reservoir (my usual Sunday ride). Barker isn't a typical reservoir; it mainly serves as a buffer for flood protection so that Buffalo Bayou doesn't overflow its banks every time we have a heavy rain. Barker Reservoir is also known as George Bush park, and it is host to, among other things, a nice multi-use trail that is mostly populated by recreational bicyclists.

When the reservoir floods, much of the trail isn't accessible (because it's under water). This morning, much of the water had receded and I was able to take a nice 20+ mile ride.

Some rain is in today's forecast. Outside, it is cool, overcast, and humid. The cloud cover seems to be darkening as the day wears on.

On my return trip, I noticed that the cars queued up at the light on Briar Forest all had their headlights on. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea for me to light up, too. After crossing Highway 6, I pulled off the road, turned on the lights mounted on my bike and clipped a red light to my CamelBak. Then, I proceeded in the bike lane on Briar Forest.

The light on my pack is a Planet Bike Super Flash. I had it on steady mode (after reading John Forester's reasoning behind using a steady red light in Effective Cycling). The Super Flash is advertised to be visible up to a mile away, and I'm sure that staring at it for long would melt one's eyeballs easily.

So, I'm riding in the bike lane. Usually, about half of the cars approaching me from behind move to the inside lane, and the most of the other half slow as they pass me just the other side of the dividing line. Today, though, driver behavior was considerably different.

Every car that approached me from behind moved to the inside lane. And, they did so much longer in advance than is my usual experience.

When I reached the stop light at Eldridge and Briar Forest, I attempted to merge into the traffic lane for better visibility. However, I waited too long, and cars were approaching too quickly. Instead, I stopped in the bike lane behind the last car in the outside lane.

The two cars approaching from behind slowed and stopped, too. One moved to the inside lane; the other stayed about 10 feet behind.

That doesn't usually happen. Usually, cars will slow, then pull up beside me if I'm in the bike lane.

In my Traffic Skills 101 class, Peter Wang wondered if some of the hostility I (and other cyclists) encountered on Houston roadways from time-to-time was due to motorists being scared coming up on us and wondered also if standing out more would remedy some of that hostility.

Evidently, being visible . . . really visible . . . helps a lot. Even in the daylight. Maybe eyeball-melting red lights are the ticket in the same way that many cars now use full-time daylight running lights.