Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

This week, our cycling group got a chance to present our recommendations to the city council for infrastructure that will develop cycling in the city.  Wouldn’t you know the council would meet while I am at work and I could not attend.  However, our local access channel, ICTN records these meetings and logs them on their website.  Despite not attending, I could still watch our fearless leader lay out the need for cycling infrastructure including cycle tracks in and around the city.

In addition, our group recently got a chance to see the plans for the downtown Irving renovations that would include cycle tracks, wider sidewalks, and fewer motoring lanes.  All of these would aid in getting people out of their cars and into the businesses along Irving Boulevard, the major artery through downtown Irving.

As part of this, a group of volunteers put together a Saturday event to lay out what the road, cycle track, and sidewalk upgrades could do when completed.  They called this event, Deep Irving Marketplace.  Vendors and volunteers put together pop-up shops to showcase what could happen once the construction completes.  Our cycling group did a pop-up bike shop where we were selling donated vintage bikes to raise funds to help our Earn-A-Bike program. 

The event was a success in many ways.  I saw a lot of folks in Big State Drug during the lunch hour; a lot more than I usually see.  We also heard from some others how much more business they had in their shops as well.  While we knew some motorists (and truck drivers) weren’t happy about fewer lanes and slower traffic, the idea was working.

So, I listened to the presentation and the Q&A that went along with it.  You can watch the meeting for yourself here.  I was hopeful that the information would be received well.  There are always curmudgeons around that will nay-say anything, but I hoped for the best in any case.

Most of the Q&A was positive.  I especially like John Danish’s description of why American cities don’t have things like sidewalk cafés. It is because we built for the car and the truck.  And, as a country, we did this despite the fact that paved roads were an innovation of the bicycle, not the car.  Mr. Danish described how this past choice affects things like cycling on city roads.  He rightfully stated that the city would have to deal with those that would complain about slower traffic because of changes like the downtown renovation.  However, I was completely surprised by one council member’s response.

Brad LaMorgese commented that if the council did anything to slow traffic on Macarthur that they would all be gone (my paraphrase).  Macarthur Boulevard is another major artery through Irving.  It is a north-south artery while Irving Boulevard in downtown Irving is east-west. I suppose he meant that their elected positions as council members would be at jeopardy if the addition of cycle tracks to Macarthur Boulevard resulted in slower traffic speeds similar to what happened at the Deep Irving event.

So, let me see if I can understand this correctly.  You are afraid of losing your elected position if you anger a bunch of motorists, many of whom do not live in Irving, solely because they would have to travel at a slower speed?  Are you really going to play that one?  The fear card?  Well, let’s look at that issue.

I drive on Macarthur quite a bit.  I don’t bike on Macarthur unless it is very early Sunday morning or in a large group.  I have said this before, Macarthur Blvd. is DANGEROUS!  It is not only dangerous for cyclists, it is dangerous as a motorist.  The primary reason for the danger is that despite the 35 mph speed limits for most of the road, many motorists completely ignore the limit.

Now, of course Mr. LaMorgese, if you are concerned about speeds on Macarthur, you and the city council can of course raise the speed limit to whatever your heart’s desire.  However, you have chosen to support the current set of limits.  I have to believe that you all agree with those speed limits, or are those just speed suggestions?

Therefore, since many drivers on Macarthur are speeding, you are fearful that the addition of infrastructure to support safe cycling might actually reduce folks to driving the speed limit and cause them to be angry at the council?  Keep in mind the self-proven realization that those folks that would be upset with slower speeds are likely the same ones that ignore speed limits and wouldn’t slow down for cyclists or pedestrians either.  And, these are the folks you believe would vote you out of office for doing so.  My, what leadership skills you have, sir.

I have watched how the city operates vis-à-vis cycling and many other things.  Our city council would bend over backwards to build a convention center (an ugly one, I might add), but does little to increase the number of cycle paths, cycle tracks, and other infrastructure to get more people outdoors and lower pollution and congestion while increasing health and quality of life.  A city that has a perfectly good planned 22-mile trail to connect north and south Irving, but won’t finish the last few miles. For the record, I do not accept the city’s current excuse.  The city has plenty of trails on the books and I hope we get busy on these quickly.  I would like to ride a few before I am too old to do so.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to be afraid of the fallout of doing what is right.  I guess that one might be afraid of maintaining his or her council seat if we build an infrastructure that invites every type of vehicle to safely share the roads and consequently anger all those fast car and SUV drivers.  You know those drivers are worth more than the Mom that wants to lead her family down to the store a couple of blocks on a bike instead of a car or SUV.  I guess that being fearful of interrupting the transient drivers, that don’t live or vote in Irving is better leadership than preparing our city for a future that includes cycling, walking, and running.

But remember this: I bike and I vote, plus I know a lot of other cyclists that vote as well.  Fear that.



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It seems that for a while now there is a great deal of buzz on the Interwebs about “planks”.  I recently read a Tweet or FB post from Ryan Hall commenting on how long he could hold a plank.  Even I got onto the plank bandwagon a month or two ago as just something extra to add to my Winter routine.  However, in my own opinion, I think I will stick with the old standby of push ups.

First, I will describe a plank.  It is similar to a push up.  You are prone on the floor, then you raise yourself on your elbows, straighten your body and hold it rigid (while breathing) for as long as possible.  This is not as easy as it looks.  After doing them for a week (four planks in all), I timed my next one and discovered I could not quite hold the plank for a full minute.

The planks benefits are in strengthening one’s core, which includes shoulders, chest, back, glutes, and quads.  Yes, I am sure a real anatomy aficionado would get more detailed, but that is what I saw from one illustration.  Runners and cyclists both need strong core muscles.  The core is what helps hold us firm in the saddle and on the road.

So, I am not against planks to improve one’s core.  The plank is an effective method, I think, for strengthening the core.  My difficulty just came from the length of the plank versus the level of improvement.  I know that I spend a longer length of time doing as many push ups as I can than when doing a plank alone.  Probably, if I had stuck with planks longer, I would have seen the same results as I have with push ups, it just would have taken longer.

Push ups, are just what your junior high or high school phys ed instructor or that ornery drill instructor from the military taught you.  Same prone position at the start, however, you use your upper body strength (your arms and shoulders) to lift your whole body off the floor.

To do push ups correctly, one should maintain that same rigidity of the whole body as you do during a plank.  Second, one is also supposed to go all the way down and all the way up.  If you looked at your arms in the down position, they would be close to a 90 degree bend at the elbow.  When you are all the way up, your back should be straight and not curved and your arms are straight.  This isn’t a yoga move.

After doing planks for about three weeks, I switched to push ups.  At first, I couldn’t do more than about 20 and not even all 20 at one time.  But, I stuck with it and over the next several weeks, I improved to my current 60 or so each day.  I got to a higher level for a week or so, but it’s gone back down since I took more time doing them correctly.  I still can’t do the whole 60 at one time, but I have improved to 30 on the first set.

I noticed the improvement a couple of weeks ago on a long run of about 8 miles.  Often, as I run longer, I just seem to get tired and really have to work at holding myself in the correct posture for running.  However, this particular Saturday, I didn’t.  I noticed a definite lack of effort in keeping my upper body straight and correct, even near the end of the run. That was a good feeling.

That good feeling has continued.  I believe that planks gave me a nice start, but I improved my core strength much quicker after the switch to push ups.  I only did planks for about three weeks and have been doing pushups for over a month, so I don’t really think the planks were the improvement.  I still hold with the push ups as the major reason my core improved.

Regardless of whether one does planks or pushups, I recommend core work for runners and cyclists.  I am a believer in core work after seeing the improvement in my running just from this short time of working my core.  I expect to see even more improvement over the Spring as I can get out for longer runs and rides. So, I’ll say that push ups are better than planks for core work, if you wish to improve a little quicker than planks alone would accomplish. Additionally, I think that push ups give the upper body more work than doing planks.  Happy running!

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Not too long ago, I wrote about how I had observed kids at one of our bike rodeo events that were really having trouble with their bike skills.    So, when our fearless leader of BikeIrving was talking to someone about what we could do for bicycling in Irving, she ended up talking with someone at Bear Creek Community Church.  It seems they were also interested in doing something along the lines of helping with cycling.  About that time, I was also talking with our fearless leader about how I would like to do something that teaches folks how to maintain their bikes.  This all led to BikeIrving partnering with Bear Creek Community Church to have our first Earn-a-Bike event this coming March 1st at the church.

Our plan is to hold the event with Bear Creek across two Saturdays, this coming Saturday, the 1st from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and March 15th from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  Volunteers at Bear Creek have been taking donations of older bikes.  We have quite a few in kids sizes, but could still use more in the adult sizes.  Parents can come with their children to pick out a bike and then some of us “experts” will be on hand to help them fix up and make the bike safe and ready to ride.

We really want to make this something that gets parents and kids out on bikes together, riding.  As you recall, my soapbox moment was that kids should be out riding.  The skills learned and the adventures shared are priceless.

When we were learning to become League Cycling Instructors, the teacher asked us all why we rode bikes as a kid.  Almost to the person, the one answer was ‘freedom’.  Riding bikes gave us freedom to go where we wished and to see places that we couldn’t reach by walking.  I remember in my neighborhood how we would ride around to find cola bottles to return for deposits and earn money for more cokes and candy.  Made a good Summer living that way.

But, I digress.  We want to give other parents and kids that same taste of freedom we shared.  We also hope to have more folks out cycling for their benefit and the benefit of the community.  Yet, we understand that even inexpensive bikes are often out of reach for many kids, and if you include adults, it gets more difficult.  The amount of donations of bikes so far show us that there are enough bikes out there if we can get them and put them back into circulation.

That’s where you come in.  We need help.  Lots of help.  If you live in the Irving area, please consider being a volunteer at one of the event days, March 1st or March 15th.  You do not have to be an “expert” at cycling or at fixing bikes.  I have already read “Zen and the Art of Bike Maintenance” for both of us.  If you have a few tools, great!  If not, no problem. Come on anyway.

We also need supplies.  We need tubes in 16″, 20″ and 24″ sizes.  We do have some help from a local bike shop, but we may need much more as well.  In addition, we need helmets.  We do not yet have a sponsor or someone to donate helmets and we would really like to hand those out with each bike. And, if you have an old bike, especially adult size, we can use those as well.

If you wish to drop off a donation at Bear Creek, please contact me via e-mail at bigmanrunning@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the volunteers there.  You can click on my e-mail address or the e-mail link on this blog.  If you wish to volunteer, please be at Bear Creek Community Church on Findley Drive thirty minutes before start time (7:30 AM this Saturday or 12:30 PM on the 15th).

Growing up, I think many of us took riding around on bikes for granted.  Yes, I know all the stats on safety and bikes and kids.  Part of what we are doing is encouraging each parent and child that receives a bike to be part of a Smart Cycling class to be held on a Saturday in April.  There we will teach both children and their parents how to ride safely and defensively.

It is my belief that we should do what we can so that all kids (even a few big kids) can share what we have learned about riding our bikes.  BikeIrving’s Earn-a-Bike event seeks to  help with that.  But, we can’t do it alone.  We need your help.  In addition, if you or anyone you know of could benefit from this event, please pass the word along.  Since you are reading this on either Twitter, Facebook, or WordPress, that is really easy.  Click a share choice below and happy cycling!

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I was talking this morning on the phone with an insurance lady that remarked how her grandmother told her that when she was older that the years would just fly by.  Now in her 30’s, the lady was realizing her grandmother was telling the truth.  This year, I turned 53 and time is moving quickly enough that I may soon have to have a conversation with Mr. Einstein about relativity.

Yes, we have come to another end of year.  However, please don’t look forward to my resolutions.  I resolve not to resolve.  After several mistakes as a younger person who said he would never do such and such, just to find out that later he very much was going to do such and such, I no longer try to test God‘s patience, nor my own.  I have a rough idea of the path I should be upon, only enough to see just a few steps in front of me, and there I will go.

No, instead, I am going to reflect a little on this past year and how it has and will shape my new year.  I am learning many new things and realizing that I am not that younger person any more (and my sweetie most likely says, “Thank the Lord!”).  I still haven’t become the person I wish to be, but as the apostle says, “I am daily straining forward to earn the prize”, or something very close to that any way.

This year marked seven years of cycling and five years of running.  Though I was only able to participate in one organized ride and my half marathon this month was cancelled due to the weather, I still ran and biked (and swam) for most of the year.  The discipline I have learned from both is invaluable.  No matter what may occur in daily life, I know I can get up most mornings and either run or ride off the dross (hope I used that word correctly).

In addition, the patience and sometimes just plain fearlessness learned from running helped me to do something I never thought I would be able to do.  I play in a band now.  OK, it’s a church band and I play bass, but it’s music and it’s worship, so there.  In response to a felt need, I started working at the first of the year to put my lackluster efforts at learning guitar into playing bass instead.

I worked with the band leader at our church, who was the bass player also.  I borrowed my daughter’s bass and started to relearn my scales and try to put those to good use in keeping rhythm.  I had the mistaken belief that this was simple since I had less strings and less complexity (4 instead of 6, and country bass).  I did not know what I was thinking. There is so much more to playing bass than just personal proficiency.  Yet, I did not quit.  Learned that one from running.

About May, the band leader said I needed to get ready because in the Fall he would be out some and I should prepare for an audition.  OK.  No problem.  I just needed to get serious.  In September, I started sitting with the band during their Wednesday practice to work on live playing (they played, I struggled to keep up).  I kept my bass unplugged and sat in a pew and followed along.  After a few weeks of this, it was time to put things to the test.

The band leader asked me to plug in and play with them.  It wasn’t the greatest of beginnings, but it began.  The band leader loaned me his bass since it had better tone.  I do think my daughter’s Dean Metalman V-shaped bass still had a little to do with that decision, but I’ll just say it was tone.  The next Sunday, I played for real, on the stage, plugged in, and everything. Very scary, but I survived the audition. My band leader said I could fill in the next Sunday when he was out.

While I survived the next Sunday with the band leader out, I brought back his bass to practice ready to be just the backup bass player.  Nope, not happening.  The band leader had his banjo out and ready to work.  I was in another week, and then another, and then another.  By now it was time to start working on Christmas music.  After a meeting and answering some serious questions, I was accepted.  I became the new bass player. Now, every Sunday it is my responsibility to keep the beat and help with the rhythm so that others can worship as well.

However, I was still playing on a borrowed bass.  Affording a new one was pretty much out of the question for some time.  I wasn’t sure just how to accomplish obtaining a bass that I could call my own.  But, following God and learning to be a runner and a cyclist taught me to rely on God, and determine what was really important.

I had two good six-string electric guitars.  One was a mid-1980’s Fender Stratocaster.  After a lot of thought and more than a little prayer, I sat down one Wednesday after Thanksgiving and put both of them on Craigslist in offer of a trade for a bass.  Within an hour or so, I had an offer of a trade on what looked like a great bass.  I called the guy up and we arranged to meet at my church before starting time.  He looked over both my guitars and even though the Fender had a little cosmetic damage, he was happy to trade.  The bass he traded hadn’t seen play in a year.  I now owned a bass.

Christmas concerts are over.  Candle light services are over.  But, every Sunday comes and I have to be ready to anchor my spot and know my music.  It takes work, like running.  It takes patience, like running.  It takes struggle and endurance, like running.  It takes making mistakes, like running. It takes learning new things and being fearless, like running (and learning to embrace the lycra in cycling).

I have a great year coming in 2014.  I get to get up every morning I wish to and run.  When it warms up, I will get up on Sunday mornings and ride, ride, ride.  I will continue to learn, and practice, and train so that I will be able to “take hold of the prize” as the apostle says.  It’s all a work in progress.  Happy New Year, and Happy Running!


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Mid-July.  That’s a long time in blog years to be off the Interwebs.  Truth is, I haven’t been able to think of too much too write about since then.  However, something recently happened that finally moved it’s way up my nervous system to become important enough to write about.  Bicycling.

A few weeks ago, I helped another LCI (League Cycling Instructor) in a nearby city with an event.  He was putting on a Bike Safety Town at his city’s Ecofest event.  Bicycling is green you know.

This was the first Safety Town type of event I had worked as an LCI.  The city of Arlington did most of the set up for us and provided the bicycles for the kids to ride.  Our job was to teach kids safety skills and then put them out on the course and have them practice those skills.  For the most part, all of that went as expected.  What got my attention was not the kids attention to safety, but many of them had real problems with the most important skill, bike control.

From my experience as a cyclist and my training as an LCI, I know that the first and most important skill in being safe on the road is simply to be able to control my bike well.  That includes riding in a straight line, making proper and controlled turns, being able to look behind and see dangers, and stopping.  While we teach these skills to riders of all ages, much of the skill comes simply from riding bikes often enough and long enough to become proficient in controlling your bike.

What I observed at this Safety Town was what I considered a high quantity of kids that could barely ride a bike.  I’m not talking about four and five-year-olds just starting out, but nine and ten-year-olds.  The most common comment I got from the kids was that they just hadn’t been on a bike very much.

I remember what it was like when I learned to ride a bike the first time.  It was scary.  It took me a year before I could completely ride without my feet touching the ground (we didn’t use training wheels).  I was seven at the time and I was a good bit behind my peers on learning to ride.  However, as soon as I could pick it up well, my riding advanced well.  Primarily because of the time we spent outside on bikes.

Bikes were major in my crowd at least until I was about thirteen or fourteen.  We rode everywhere in our neighborhoods.  While we had to work up from riding on our block to fully around the block and on to other streets, we covered a lot of ground.  Riding gave us access to our school friends and to places like parks and stores near us.  From about sixth grade to junior high, we rode the neighborhoods picking up soft drink bottles to turn in for their deposits.  We made a good bit of money this way that kept us in drinks and snacks all Summer long.

I am fairly certain that the lack of time kids spend on riding these days is primarily due to safety.  Though I know my streets as a kid were no more safer than today, the appearance of safety was different back then.  Blame it on media or whatever, parents are afraid of their kids being outside.  The rest of the problem may be too many video games, but mostly I think it’s the perception of safety that keeps kids off of bikes.

Regardless, my recommendation would still be — Get ’em on their bikes!  Yes, there are dangers outside.  Teach your kids how to ride safely.  Take them to Safety Towns run by LCI’s and let us teach them.  Put them in the proper safety gear (a helmet) and then watch them.  Make your neighborhoods safe.  Get together with neighbors and share watching over the kids while they are out riding.  Plant yourself at city hall with other parents and demand more paths and trails that actually, honest to God connect with places kids want to ride to, like school even.  Get the kids to ride in groups when they go out to keep them safe.

Trust me. Riding a bike is too important for your kids and mine to miss out on during growing up.  I probably didn’t get mine out enough, but I do know that they can ride. Riding is freedom and it’s responsibility.  Two things our kids need and need to practice.  Just because times change and things seem different is not a good enough reason to shy away from the real kinds of things that help kids grow up well. Get ’em on a bike…a lot.

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Yep, I’m back.  No, I didn’t go anywhere.  I’ve just been busy.

Since the first of this year, my family’s budget has been much more strict.  That can be problematic when you’re a triathlete, clydesdale or otherwise.  It’s kind of normal that in the 21st century, everything is an industry these days.  So, yes, there is the running industry, the triathlon industry, and I even work in the healthcare industry.  Side note: In my own personal opinion and belief, healthcare of any kind should never be considered an “industry” in any sense.  It should always and only be considered ministry, regardless of your religion.  We should be working ourselves out of a job, not creating permanence and profit. That being said, industries have one primary goal in mind: setting their followers free from the green stuff in their pocketbooks and making them feel good about it.

That’s not cynical, people, it’s just true.  Industries are in it for making money.  They exist because they have constituencies; followers.  Runners need shoes, shorts, shirts, gels, sleeves, compression gear…and the list goes on and on.  Get it–runners NEED this stuff (feel free to substitute cyclist, triathlete, etc.).  And, it’s true that there are times when we do need the stuff, or it may help us in one way or another.  However, many times, we just want it.  Of course, for many triathletes, what we  most want is the next race, or ride, or whatever event there is down the pike.

Previously, during most of the year, I was budgeted to one event per month (except for special instances). One race or one ride.  Now, even those will be hard to come by, so I am doing with less of them.  I attended one ride this Spring, primarily because it was inexpensive and we didn’t have to travel far (and there was something for sweetie to do while I rode).  I was able recently to sign up for the Dallas Half Marathon in December because of a birthday gift.  No, I am not complaining, but I am learning a lot more about what it means to be a runner or a cyclist this way.

I’ve learned I can do without Clif bars.  I’ve learned I can do with just Gatorade.  I already reported that while funds were available, I pre-bought two pair of running shoes so they would last.  I’m keeping my 400 mile pair in service for short runs to make them last even longer.  I’ve also learned to get more out of my workouts than just a notch up for the next race or event.

Usually, by now, I am into full swing cycle mode for the Summer.  That hasn’t happened this year.  I have switched to doing long runs on Saturdays instead of going out and riding.  Mainly because I can’t get any medium length ones during the weekdays.  I was finding that if I got up at 4AM and did 6 to 8 miles, I was wasted for working that day.  Also, by waiting until Saturday, I can run longer and get into better condition, all while seeing the sun come up.  Much better, I think.

But, I’ve gotten some riding time in as well.  I’ve just had to be creative.  I’ve loaded up the bike on the car and driven out to a large trail where I can ride safely on Sunday afternoons sometimes.  Yes, that may be anathema to some, but it is better than nothing.  A friend recently started up his Sunday morning group ride around town.  Since I don’t have to be at church at 7AM any more, I can now ride.  Also, much better.

I’ve been working on a better running workout that is doing me some good right now.  My weekday runs are limited to about 3 and no more than 5K at a time.  Then on Saturdays, I’ve been working from 8 to 14 miles.  I just finished the first cycle a couple of weeks ago and now I’m going from 9 to 14, then 10 to 14, then 12 to 14.  After I finish that cycle, I’ll go back to 8 and start over again.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far it has felt very good to get out and do the longer runs like I was doing for the marathon.

I’m trying to hold 1,000 yds. in swimming, but I waffle some.  I’m down to just one day as Mondays are seniors only at my pool.  It’s a lot less busy that way and I can swim better.  An Ironman friend of mine had been doing a workout where he ran to the pool, did his swim, then ran home.  I’ve started doing that some.  It’s a killer workout, to borrow a cliche, but well worth the effort.

I hadn’t really been a running clothes horse.  My only few important things I’ve had for a while; a couple pairs of compression shorts, and some really good socks, plus a pair of winter woolies and running pants for Winter.  Almost all of my shirts are race shirts or were bought at Wal Mart or Target.  You can get decent stuff there.  I haven’t need any clothes this  year, but if I did, I know where to look.

It’s been different not racing or going to rides as much.  I’ve been blessed with more great runs this way than usual.  I am still getting to do new things.  I’ve noticed I am running much faster than I used to run.  It’s decently exciting to finish a long run on Saturday and discover you didn’t take as long as you thought.  It’s also good to be able to run by the grocery store on your run and see folks you know.

Running and working out is about a lot more than just the events.  You really don’t have to have a lot of money to do it.  You do need to have really good shoes though.  There you cannot scrimp.  That just requires planning and budgeting to make it work.  I’ve been reminded a lot more lately of just what it means to be an athlete (or “late onset athleticism as John Bingham calls it).  At my new job, I have been able to put into practice all those things I believe in about being a craftsman such as doing a good job just because it’s the way you do a job.  Now, I’ve been able to apply those lessons to running, biking, and swimming.  Doing them well just because you should and because  you can.  Triathlon training on a budget does work.  Happy running, ya’ll!

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I hadn’t done any serious cycling since last Summer.  Though I had gotten out on the bike a few times this Spring, it’s been difficult trying to find time and place to do everything.  I was concerned whether or not I was ready to ride 60 miles at the Head for the Hills rally this past weekend. But, I was anxious to get out on a really long ride.

This ride is in Cedar Hill, TX; very near where I live.  I think this was my fifth year to ride it, but I’m not sure. It has always been a fun ride that is not too challenging.  I even got lost year before last and ended up in Mansfield, TX and had to make my way down a major highway just to get back to Midlothian.

I checked the weather the night before because wind can be a major factor on this ride.  My Weather Channel app said that the wind would be out of the north-northeast at 10 to 15 mph.  That didn’t sound bad.  However, the weather man ( or my weather app) lied about the wind speed.

I actually ran into a couple of folks I knew and lined up with them for the start.  They were talking about riding together, but when the start happened, there was too much waiting, so I took off.  Times a wastin’, ya’ll.

The whole first 35 miles or so was not only good, it was scary great.  We were moving fast.  I knew we had the wind at our backs, but it was only 10-15 mph, right?  We must just be moving well.  NOT.  The wind was at least 20 mph, and probably gusting higher. On some descents, it made it white-nuckle scary.

The back roads around Cedar Hill and northern Ellis County can get pretty narrow.  Many of these are chosen for the Head for the Hills ride and they are chosen well.  The twists and turns make the ride fun.  However, when you are dropping into a tight downhill turn on what is really only a one lane road at about 24 mph, the fun dies back somewhat.  I was fortunate in that I was in a large group of riders and could depend on them hollering back if any cars were coming.

I ran across one lady rider that was down just after a curve.  She had a lot of help around her, but I still thought it appropriate to ask if she was alright as she was being helped to the side. “Nope, not really.  Everything’s not quite alright,” was her answer as I peddled away.  I saw another guy go down in front of me.  I still don’t know what happened to him.  He was about 100 yards in front of me with his partner when he just flipped out and went down; on a straight road.  He was OK too, so I rode on.

When we made the turn back to the north, all the fun stopped.  Facing a 20 mph wind on a bike is a chore.  But, I’ve done it before and the ride still had to be finished, so I dropped the gears and the speed and just kept it up.  We made it up to the 40 mile rest stop fairly soon after the turn.  I decided it was time for a good rest before tackling the wind and the hills back to Cedar Hill.  This is a good rest stop because it is at a glider airport.  This time I got to see a glider get pulled up into the air.  It was a good day for gliding.  Lots of wind.

The last 20 miles or so were uneventful.  Just slow gutting it out against the wind.  Did I mention it’s all uphill back to Cedar Hill?  But, near the finish of the ride, things picked up. One guy near the finish that said he was going to draft off of me for a while.  I thought that was funny.  I’m not usually fast enough to draft from.  I also got a crack out of the two ladies that had just decided to stop at the Dairy Queen at the highway and have some ice cream before finishing.  Then there was the group of guys that turned back into the ride about a quarter mile from the race.  They had stopped to have lunch at Babe’s Fried Chicken before they finished.

I finished up in 5 hours even.  Certainly decent and typical for me at 60 miles.  However, we took off at 8AM and I was at 20 miles at 9:12 and 40 miles at 10:40, so you can get an idea of how much the wind slowed me down.  Five hours put me back in exactly at 1 PM.  You can see that it took from 10:40 to 1 PM just to get the last 25 or so miles done. Whew!

Cedar Hill is always a good ride.  I’ve hardly ever had any rain beyond just a few sprinkles.  It is often windy in one way or another.  A north wind in May is unusual and its a little better on this ride to have a south wind.  In addition, this ride helps a lot of folks in their area with the proceeds.  I’d recommend this one to anyone in the DFW area, especially because it’s close to us.  Most rides are much further out.

I’m probably going to be writing less for a while.  I’ve got several things I would like to work on besides just this blog.  I’d like to get a tech blog going and see how that works.  I’ve lost some of the motivation I used to have for writing, but thankfully, people keep actually reading what I write.  That always helps me remember that there is a good reason for what I’m doing.

I think I’ve finally gotten together a workout plan that works for my new schedule.  I run on Monday and Thursday mornings before work.  I spin on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to take off a little of the pressure from running.  I am doing my long runs on Saturday mornings (unless I have a ride).  That has helped in getting the longer miles in without getting up at 4 AM.  Now, I ride on Sunday afternoons when I can by taking the bike to Campion Trail.  I’d rather ride out myself, but the traffic just doesn’t work well.  I round this off with one or two evening swims, if I can.  That schedule should keep me fit and ready for whatever I want to do.

That should be enough for now.  My next ride is the Tour de Pepper in Dublin, TX in early June.  I’ll probably write again after that ride.  Happy running and cycling!

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Wow, I haven’t written a post on this blog since February 24th.  That’s wayyyyy behind.

Well, RL has intruded quite squarely into my writing.  It’s a toss up between the new job and the weather.  The new job is going well, but it’s a lot more tiring than I thought.  I’m pretty beat when I get home in the evenings, physically and mentally.  Add to that the rather longer stretch of cold weather we’ve had in North Texas this year and my motivation for writing seems sapped.

So, I started today on something maybe to change that.  I’m working on making video posts.  I hoped to do up one just in a jiffy…NOT.  I worked last night and this morning on that task and am still not finished with just a short two minute introduction video.  I have it made, but now I need to edit it just a little (cut off the bad front and ending), but I can’t figure out how my editor works.

I have been keeping up on my running and riding, but it’s not as consistent as I’d like.  I’ve managed only one 20 mile week since December.  Most of that problem is just weather.  Tired of the cold mornings.  I couldn’t run this Wednesday because of rain.  I did get up and run a good 8-miler Thursday, but it had just finished raining and dropped into the lower 40’s overnight.  A good run though.  I think the only thing that has gone good is my strength training.  I’ve moved up in weights some.

Not too much more to say today.  I’ve got an evening shift which is the only reason I managed to piece together enough brain cells for this much.  However, Spring is coming and things will be getting warmer.  I’m also finally starting to get comfortable in the new job, so I can shift my brain around a little more.  Happy Running and Cycling!

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The past week or so has been good for running, though in a weird sort of way.  I thought I’d relate my week to you all because as I reflect on it, I realize it’s time to take down my shingle as a “newbie“.  I write this to encourage anyone that can still safely and proudly display their shingle as a “newbie” runner, cyclist, or triathlete.

It’s February in North Texas and that means I am completely ready for Spring to be sprung, but the weather just doesn’t cooperate.  We go from warm humid days to freezing and raining overnight, it seems.  It can make one’s planning for morning run preparations quite difficult.  In addition, I usually try to ride early on Saturday mornings right now, but have found that below about 40 degreesF is just too cold. So, what to do?

Last week, I got in a full four days of running as is my usual bent.  On Thursday, it was the coolest of the week, I think.  I had to run a four miler to finish out the week and thought I’d run an old route I used to run.  It has a few hills and I discovered via an achilles problem that it’s not good to run hills every day.  But, my usual route is so flat and boring I just needed the change.

Being a cool morning, I could take out fairly quickly but figured I’d lose it pretty soon.  I’ve been working on pacing since last Fall during marathon training.  I’ve always tried to run by feel, but have found out that I can get lazy.  If my fitness, distance, and time is going to improve, I need to keep my pace in a range that keeps my body challenged.  So, I’ve been working on finding a pace that is comfortable, but at the edge.  It’s a bit like threshold running, but without going quite that far.  I am doing this so that I keep my pace improving as my fitness improves, and that I don’t get lazy.

This was a good morning for that.  I know that if I feel myself speeding up during a run and that it’s not correspondingly hard, then I am doing well.  On that morning, despite the cold and the hills, I was speeding up.  During the last mile, I was wondering if I would break a goal of mine, 4 miles in under 45 minutes.  For the longest time, I’ve been a 50 minute 4-miler.  During the last half-mile, I did my best to run nearly as fast as I could.  My final time was a little over 44 minutes.  Just a little over an 11-minute mile average.

This week, I was hopeful for a full week of running, but the weatherman wasn’t.  After two good days, I had to stay home on the trainer for Wednesday and Thursday because of cold and rain.  Although, the weatherman’s doom and gloom forecast for Thursday morning was behind schedule and I could have run.  Since Saturday was forecast to be sunny but cold in the morning, I thought I would console my missed runs with a real long run.  Cycling down near freezing is just uncomfortable to me and running is doable. I planned an 8-miler, longest run since December.

The first three or four miles seemed normal for this distance, but that was probably the hills.  At about 3.5 miles, I hit a flat spot that holds for a while.  I felt that same increasing pace again.  I was able to hold it and it was doing fine.  I was expecting to see another 11-minute or so average.  Imaging my surprise when I finished out and looked at the Strava reading: 1:30:29 and a 10:30-ish AVERAGE pace.  I cannot ever remember or believe I could have run this distance that quickly.

No it’s not real fast, relatively.  Yet, for me it’s speedy.  It hasn’t been that long since I was just doing 13 minute miles and if I had a really good day, it might be a 12:30. So, 11’s and 10’s of any sort seem like I’m burning rubber.  I guess after four and a half years of running, I might better quit considering myself a beginning runner.

Someone I know that just started a fitness regimen recently asked me, “How do you run for 26.2 miles?”  They couldn’t imagine running that far because it hurt so much to run just a little.  Well, when I started, it hurt then too.  But, I didn’t quit.  I adjusted and my body adjusted also.  If we keep going our body will continue to improve and prepare itself to improve even further.  But, we also have to watch out for plateaus where we become content with what we have done and forget to continue to improve.  If you’re a beginner or a “newbie”, then be proud you are.  Carry that title with honor and just keep going.  Tell yourself that one day, you will have to take that title down and put up a new one.  But, until then, even though it’s just a cliche’, you’re lapping everyone still on the couch.  You’re a runner.  You’re a cyclist.  You’re a triathlete.  Those are much better titles and having beginner beside them is no problem.  Happy running or cycling!  Remember, Spring will be here soon.

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This will be just a quick post this evening. Things are going well at the new job. We are learning how to adjust to the changes around the house.  While we were working on our cell phone plans to make them less expensive, I found a way to get my GPS tracking back without buying a new garmin.

I broke my smartphone a couple months ago. Phone-wise, I have been fine with my older phone. But, my smartphone was how I tracked my rides and runs. Without it, I fell back on known routes and a stopwatch.

In the process of swapping phones, I found out we couldn’t activate my wife’s smartphone on my account and lower the rate.  It was going to just be left aside, but then I got a brilliant idea.

Since the phone would still connect to wifi and I knew that Strava would work as long as it could access GPS, why not use it for runs.  Sure enough, after downloading, installing, and setting up Strava on the phone, I could use it like a garmin.  I took it out on this morning’s run.

Worked like a champ. Yet, there are a few tiny drawbacks.  I have to pull up Strava and make sure I am logged on before leaving the house.

Additionally, it will not sync new runs or rides until it is connected to wifi again. But, those are small problems indeed.

Keep this in mind if you have an older phone around or just have to upgrade. That older smartphone could be put to use for yourself or another runner.  And, another good mark for Strava.  Happy running!

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