I strapped on my bike shoes, set my iPod shuffle up on one ear so I could still hear traffic with the other one, and started my laps. The business park was pretty close to deserted by noon, as the early-morning fitness nuts hadn't been up til 1AM playing terrible poker and giving money away like a Democrat at a homeless shelter, so I had the route mostly to myself. I started off going clockwise on the short loop, a 2-mile lap that just has enough hill to warm up my legs. After one lap of that, I reversed course for a counter-clockwise 3-mile loop that took me through an offshoot in the business park and added a couple of fairly steep inclines to the ride.
Falstaff's first law of cycling states that whatever you zoom down, you're eventually going to have to climb back up, and that's always the hard part, but this deserted lap of asphalt through the business park let me work on my climbing, get more comfortable with my gearing and work on riding more in the drops (the lower curved part of the handlebars). With a road bike, there are a bunch of different places to put your hands, to keep you from getting fatigued during a ride, but I've never been very comfortable riding hunched over in the drops. When I started, it was because my knees kept hitting me in the gut, but that excuse has faded as my gut has shrunk. My knees still hit me in the gut, but a lot less, and it doesn't bother me as much.
Now my concern has been more along the lines of control. When I'm riding laid out and steering from the drops I feel like I have less control of the bike, and I can't look as much forward, because the neck can only bend like that for so long, so I have to look ahead with my eyes more and keep my head down. So that took some getting used to. Another thing I realized when I finally got comfortable riding more laid out, is that the pedal stroke is much more efficient in that position, and I get 2-3 mph more out of my pedaling when I'm in the drops. I'm using slightly different muscle groups and using them in a more efficient manner, so I can keep my speed and cadence up without pedaling as hard, and that lets me ride longer distances.
So I put in 15 miles yesterday by myself and then hooked up with a couple of friends today for a 13-mile ride. One of these friends is a triathlete, and there's no way I can keep up with him climbing hills, but I noticed that riding with stronger riders forced me to keep a better pace for longer, and I rode a lot longer in a higher gear than I normally do, so after 13 miles with them, I was more tired than after 15 miles by myself. I was pretty surprised at the pace we kept for a lot of the ride, averaging 16 mph for the first 5-6 miles, then averaging 19-20 for a couple miles through a long flat section. I realized that it's just the hills that kill me, if I lived in Kansas, I could ride for hours without stopping.
So as I work on my training, I need to focus on attacking hills more and finding better places to climb harder and longer. And I need to make myself do it, rather than wussing out. If I can get together with people and ride more often, that will help, because I want to be able to keep up with the stronger riders. It's still fun to ride, especially when I can find folks to ride with, and it's even more fun for me if they're people that I have to work to keep up with , because I always want to push myself to do better and improve.
I went down to my parents' house last weekend for a cookout, and found myself truly humbled by one hill on my ride, having to get off the bike and walk back up that beast. So now I have a new goal for Thanksgiving - to be strong enough to ride back up that bitch. And to weigh in at under 210 by Thanksgiving. It's tougher than it sounds, since I have two weeks of work travel between now and then, and that always means drinks and dinner with clients, so at least my hotel this week has a good gym in it.
I'm a little concerned about getting under 200 by Vegas. It's gonna be tough to lose 15 pounds in the few weeks we have left, but I'll at least be very very close to 200 if I don't make it under. I have 6 weeks left, and 15 pounds, which is close to 3 pounds per week, with two weeks worth of conferences and Thanksgiving between now and Vegas, so that might not happen. But worst case would be under 200 by Christmas, and that would still make me very, very happy.
I'm pretty happy with the way I look at 215, but I still have some belly to lose, and a few more places on my legs and chest that could stand to be more toned. So I think my original goal weight of 190 might end up being lighter than I want to be. I think if I can get down to 195 I'll be happy floating between 195 - 200 for a while. As long as I keep working out I feel like I can maintain whatever weight I want, I just need to continue to pay attention to what I eat and exercise like a fiend.
My buddy Bill told me today that he wouldn't have recognized me if he didn't know who he was meeting for our ride, and it's only been since summer since I saw him last. Oughta be interesting running into some clients and friends from other offices of ours at the WFX conference this week, since most of them I haven't seen in at least a year.