My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teaching Her to Ride (Finally!)

My daughter turned 9 last August (2010), just before school started.  We lived in a hilly development of a small town.  I worked out of town during the week. Unfortunately she did not know how to ride her bike.  For various reasons (excuses), I never got her interested and on her bike enough to get her riding solo.  Worse still, after the 2010 RAGBRAI, she said that she wanted to ride RAGBRAI with me.  So I know she wants to ride.  As an incentive, I said she needed to be able to ride independently in order to go with me on that adventure.

Last fall we moved into a larger (and flatter) community.  And this winter, I changed jobs to be home full time again.  So, in the spring, we started again, in fits and starts.  But she was interested in riding.  And as it warmed up, I sometime rode to her school on my commuter bike with her trailer bike attached.
Riding home from after-school in April
Like I said, we worked on it on and off during the spring and into the summer.  She almost had it, but I think that a fear of falling was weighing on her mind.  She was quick to jump off if she felt that she was at all wobbly.  RAGBRAI came and went.  She still wasn't there.  Mostly because I didn't get her out on the bike enough.  There was always something else to do.  Or she didn't want to.  Or....

Finally in early August... She's Got It!  She was able to go 20... then 50... then 150... then 300 feet solo.  Next up, starting on her own.  She quickly picked that up.
First solo ride!
After a couple days of staying on our cul de sac and getting comfortable with riding, we took off on a longer ride and ended up going 3 miles total.  Now, we have ridden across town to the grocery store (3 mi one-way) a few times, in addition to a few more rides with the trailer bike (including a 12-mile ride).
Riding back home from the grocery store.

Enjoying a ride together
On that first night riding three miles, Olivia told me that riding her bike was a real "joy!" - the wind in her hair, being able to move quickly.  She certainly is "Loving The Bike." She rides it all over the neighborhood... even when she's just going to her friend's house - across the street!

Next up, a tandem bike (this one would be great!) and RAGBRAI.  Ok, maybe not next up.  But it's definitely on the list of things we want to do.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RAGBRAI Wrap-Up for 2011

As you know by now, I was able to join the weeklong great bike ride across Iowa known as RAGBRAI for the last two days (July 29 and 30).  I was super excited to be work out the details and make it happen.

Making it work:
  1. My parents live in Dubuque, which pretty much is like the middle of an hourglass from any point in WI to any point in IA.  My 9 (now 10) year old daughter doesn't get to see her paternal grandparents, who are both in the lower 80s, very often.  So, on the way to RAGBRAI, I dropped her off at my folks.  She got to spend a long weekend with them (Th afternoon - late Sun afternoon).  I returned there Saturday evening and got to spend time w/ the family as well.  Having dropped Olivia off, I was on my way!
  2. Dropping my car off and getting it back: This actually worked out pretty well.  A friend of mine from college is now a prof at Iowa.  I was able to drive to Iowa City, pick he and his wife up and continue on to Grinnell.  At Grinnell, I unloaded, then they took my car back to their place.  On Saturday, I hooked up with a team from near DesMoines to get a ride back to Iowa City to get my car back.  Thanks again, Nick & Margaret! And thank you, Jeff for the ride Saturday from D'port to IC!
  3. Hooking up with the team.  Thanks to the team manager, Colleen, I knew where in town Team LIVESTRONG would be - on the Grinnell HS campus.  And with a big black school bus, it should be easy to find.  But, I drove right past it! LOL.  I found them after a few minutes and was introduced to Brian who was on the staff with the team.  By the time I got the tent set up and pretty much settled in, it was dark.
  4. Me in front of the bus I couldn't find.
Now... on the event itself...

Friday, July 29: I woke up in my tent in Grinnell at about 6:00.  When I poked my head out, many riders on the team had already been packing up their tents and some were on the road.  Today was college spirit day and the organizers had worked with the four largest schools in the state (Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Drake) to offer school bike jerseys.  My wonderful wife bought me the Drake one as a birthday present.  As a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alum (class of '87), I was thrilled to be able to wear this.
Because Team LIVESTRONG had been riding together all week and gotten to know each other, and because I was not in Team LS gear that day, I wasn't recognized by others on the team during the ride.  (Not as in shunned, but as in not knowing that I was part of the team as well.)

I did ride with a couple of other Bulldogs during the day, though, and saw about a dozen other DU jerseys.  One of the guys I rode with was a current student, Payton.  We rode together for about an hour, through the Amana Colonies, talking about campus life, how school was going for him (it's going well, he's pre-med), family, etc.  Great kid. Wish him well.  When we got to Oxford, the last town before we reached the overnight town, we parted ways. He in search of food. Me in search of beer.

This day, we spent most of our time on US Hwy 6.  6 isn't too busy, as it runs parallel to I-80 just a few miles north of it.  But in the Amanas, US Hwy 151 joins with 6 for a short while. This is a busy road and I was surprised that we weren't redirected to a county road to the north or south. Payton and I actually passed a semi truck caught in the middle of all the cyclists for about 2 miles.  He was stuck going only as fast as the slowest cyclist. Of the days I've ridden RAGBRAI (all nine of them), this is the only one that I was surprised with the route selection.  I was also disappointed there wasn't a deputy to control the intersection where 151 meets 6 from the south.

It was a 75 mile day, from Grinnell to Coralville.  A great day for riding.  There were some rolling hills at the end and it was challenging.  I arrived at the TLS camp at about 2:30.
Rolling into Brooklyn Friday morning.
 Camp Life: Once in camp, you are responsible for finding your gear and setting yourself up for the night.  While in camp, but before I headed to the showers, I was able to witness a large group of TLS riders come into camp together.  People in the camp stood up and cheered.  Very cool and supportive of other riders, I thought.

The staff, on their own, decided to buy us all a pasta dinner that night. Pasta for about 80 riders. Plus salad, bread, and... PIE!  We ate as a group before the nightly team meeting.  This was my first team meeting. I understood them to be a time to talk logistics, share cancer stories, and support each other.  It was all that and more.  It was truly inspirational. 

First, we heard from Drew, a young man who is battling a rare form of cancer that has already taken his leg.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, this young man rode the last several miles of today's ride and was leading the procession of riders into camp that we had cheered for earlier in the afternoon.  He and his family spoke about his challenges and his determination.
Drew (center) with his brother, mother, and father.
Next, several team members shared their stories.  Why they ride and why they fundraise for LIVESTRONG.  Survivors. Loved ones. Fighters.  Amazing stories.  People who have ridden with the team all five years it has been together, others who participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenges in Philly, Austin, and other places.  People who have directly benefited from the work of
Sidebar: I don't care what people think about Lance.  Whether he doped on the Tour or not.  Whether he's a cheat and a profiteer (there's a whole debate about .org versus .com and how one benefits from the goodwill generated by the other).  What I do care about is the great work that the non-profit LIVESTRONG is doing.  And that meeting affirmed for me that I will stay involved with the organization as long as I ride RAGBRAI and suppoprt their work always.

Sorry for the sidebar.... *steps off soapbox*

Anyway, it was a great evening.  I got to meet some of the other riders.  We hung out afterwards and talked and rested.  And drank beer.  Ok, not beer, but Michelob Ultra.  (Yes, it was provided by Michelob.  And, shh, don't tell anyone, but the staff also bought us some Fat Tire!)

Saturday, July 30:  I was up and ready to roll by 7:30 Saturday morning.  I was also the last rider to load his/her gear mount his/her bike!  For the last day, we all rode our 2011 Team LIVESTRONG jerseys as we pedaled the 65 miles from Coralville to Davenport.

Coralville is a suburb of Iowa City, which means the Univ. of Iowa.  Our route took us into the heart of campus, though not past Kinnick Stadium.  Nice campus.  It's not Madison, but it's nice. 

It was a great day for riding.  For the most part, I stayed on the bike and kept motoring on towards Davenport.  The team was scheduled to meet up outside Davenport and ride to the dip site on the Mississippi River in formation.  That was to be between 12:00-1:00.  I arrived shortly after 12.  About half the team was already there.  We actually met up in town just a couple miles before the end point of the ride.  A good choice, as there were some hills that would have destroyed the formation ride.

While we waited to collect our team, Team Air Force came by in formation.  We cheered them on.  They cheered back.  They had well over 100 riders riding two abreast.  At about 1:15, we mounted and got in line.  Survivors in the front, the rest behind them.  We rode about 4 miles in formation heading to the river. 
Team LIVESTRONG riding in formation to end RAGBRAI XXXIX
I thought a lot about my sister who died 29 years ago, at the age of 21. And I though about a colleague from my last job: he retired last summer, was diagnosed before Christmas, and passed away this spring. 

We were cheered by people on the side of the road to watch the crazy cyclists finish a week of riding, by other cyclists who passed us on their way in, and by some motorists who tooted their horns.  It was kind of awesome. And inspiring.

And with that, we reached our end point.  We didn't dip - the site was limited due to recent flooding and the line was long.  There were hugs and goodbyes.  I rode off to find the bus to gather my gear together and hook up with my ride.  And before I knew it, RAGBRAI XXXIX was done.

One final little note: the TLS bus and the bus I was riding back to Iowa City with were about 2-3 miles apart.  I had all my gear (including a duffle bag, a tent, and a sleeping bag) to get from point a to point b... on a bicycle.  I made it.  It wasn't pretty, but I made it.

Yes, I hope to return next year.  For the full week.  For the record, Olivia is talking about riding part of the way, too.  Tandem?  And yes, I will be riding with Team LIVESTRONG again.  And yes, your donations are always welcome on my team fundraising page!

Thanks for reading.  Feedback welcome!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Over the weekend, the Register's Annual Great Brike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) began in Glenwood, just south of Council Bluffs/Omaha (NE).  Next Saturday it will pull into Davenport after seven days of riding the highways and biways of rural Iowa.

Followers of this blog (both of you), know that I started this as a way to document my RAGBRAI experience in 2010.  You know that I rode all week and had a blast.  It was demanding and challenging and fun.

So, today is day two of the ride, from Atlantic to Carroll.  (You can see the route maps here.)

And I'm sitting in my office.


I wish I were there.  I wish I were riding my bike, eating homemade treats baked by people raising moeny for a new roof for their local church or a new jungle-gym for the community park.  I wish I were drinking beer to rehydrate after a 65 mile ride, swapping stories with teammates, and sleeping in a tent. 

I have RAGBRAI fever.

And following some folks on Twitter who are riding is allowing me to vicariously ride along with them.  And it is fueling the fever.  It's like an itch I can't scratch.

At least not today. But soon. Very soon.

Thursday afternoon I'll be driving to central Iowa to meet up with Team LIVESTRONG in Grinnell.  I'll camp overnight with them and will be riding days 6 (75 mi Grinnell to Coralville/Iowa City) and 7 (65 mi Coralville to Davenport).

As part of Team LIVESTRONG, I committed to raising funds for LIVESTRONG.  If you are interested in donating to support the cause, you can contribute on my donation webpage.  I am 83% of the way to my goal for this year.  And thanks to all who have contributed this year and/or last.

Side note: Saturday will be crazy in Davenport.  In addition to 20,000 (or so) cyclists rolling into town, Davenport will be hosting it's annual Bix Fest. Bix Beiderbecke was a Davenport native jazz musician.  With the Bix Fest is the Bix7 road race for runnners.  There will be about 10,000 runners in town as well.  Plus all the people there for the jazz festival.  Should be a crazy weekend in the Quad Cities!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycling for Life

Why am I writing about the health benefits of cycling?  In short, to testify.

As I noted in my first blog post leading up to my posts about last year's RAGBRAI:
You see, I'm a 45 year old man with a desk job.  I don't eat the best.  At least I didn't used to, trying to do better now.  And my doc thought I should shed a few lbs and lower my cholesterol before it got bad.  So I've being toying with riding a bike to get exercise.  I can't run (due to a hip replacement) and I can't swim (because I can't swim).  So, I figured biking would be good.

In the fall of 2009, six months before I began riding to prepare for RAGBRAI, I had my annual physical.  It included a cholesterol check.  The results: my triglycerides were at 206 and my blood pressure (BP) was 135/91.  According to the American Heart Association, the triglycerides is "High" and my blood pressure is Stage 1 HBP.  My father has a history of cardiac issues.  It runs in his family.  In my family.

So, I could do nothing and end up on medications and what not waiting for something to happen (the only thing that would happen though would be a cardiac arrest, a stroke, or some such other event).  Or I could get off my duff and do something about it.

So last spring I did something about it.  I started riding, with the goal of completing RAGBRAI last July.  I am thrilled to say I did it.  Over 2100 training miles to prepare and more than 450 miles that week in Iowa.

Then I stopped.  Between August and mid-February, I was only on my bike maybe four times. Not per week.  Or per month.  Total.  There were always other priorities, or explanations... or excuses.

For my annual check up in October, my BP was still at a Stage 1 HBP level, 146/87.  (I don't know what it was when I was riding regularly March - July.  My guess is that it was lower.)

On February 14, I started a new job closer to home.  A job where I can be at home every night.  A job I can ride to during the day.  So I started biking.  During the school year, I would drive my daughter to school, then commute into Madison to park and ride the rest of the way in.  Now that school is out, I am riding all the way to work on most days.

In May, I had another doctor's appointment.  And another blood draw.  This time, my triglycerides came in at 113 - well within the normal range.  My BP is down as well, to 126/80, which is "prehypertension," but at the low end of that range and close to normal, as well as moving in the right direction.  While my weight is still too high, it is inching down as well.  My pants that used to be too tight in the waist are now getting a little loose.

So, yeah, I am cycling for health.  And somewhere along the way, very early on, I began loving the bike.  So now, I am cycling for life.

<150 Normal 
150-199 Borderline High  
200-499 High
500+ Very High  

Blood Pressure

My Scores
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
less than 120
less than 80
120 – 139
80 – 89

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)   
   Stage 1
140 – 159
90 – 99
   Stage 2
160 – 179
100 – 109
Hypertensive Crisis (Emergency care needed)   
(Source: American Heart Association)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ride for the Arts

This past Sunday, I got up at 4:30 and drove to Milwaukee to participate in the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts, which was scheduled to start at 7:00.  About 7,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities joined the ride this year.  They could choose from a 5-mi family ride; a 12-mi ride; a 25-mi ride; a 50-mi ride; and a 75-mi ride.  Having not put on as many miles this spring as I wanted to, I chose the 50 mile route.

Like all the routes, the 50-miler started and ended at the Summerfest Grounds on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The route was basically an out and back to the Concordia University - Wisconsin campus in Mequon.  (Coincidentally, this is where my step-son Ryan is attending school.)

The start of the route this year was different though than in the past.  This year, route organizers received permission from the State DOT to include the Hoan Bridge, which is part of I-794.  I'm guessing there was a lot of concern about bicyclists on the bridge, which is next to a Great Lake, even though it was closed to vehicular traffic at 5:30a that day (until 10:00a). Organizers were very specific before the start about not stopping on the bridge, no picture taking from the bridge, and don't get distracted by the view.  (We were, I'm guessing, about 10 stories up in the air.)  I heard later someone said it was a success and that no one was blown off (as some skeptics thought might happen).

So, after a short delay to the start (so volunteers could cover up some gaps in the pavement with plywood and carpeting), we got started at about 7:25.  We left Summerfest and turned left to head south on the bridge.  After crossing, we exited, and then re-entered the bridge northbound headed back.  It was about 2.5 miles each way.

Me and a few thousand friends riding across the Hoand Bridge in Milwaukee during the Ride for the Arts. (I am in front on the left, red & white jersey, black & yellow helmet.)
Photo Source: Third Coast Digest (via their Flickr page, linked from the Ride for the Arts Facebook page)
 From the bridge, we rode north through the suburbs to Mequon where there was a rest stop.  The organizers had fruit, bars, water, and Gatorade out for us.  Wheel & Sprocket, one of the sponsors, was also there to help with mechanical issues. 

Upon leaving Concordia, 50-mile riders turned back south to head back to Summerfest.  (The 75-milers headed north to Port Washington and then turned back.)

It was a great ride.  A beautiful day for it.  Temps in the 60s to start, climbing into the 80s. And sunny.  There was a bit of a wind from the north/northwest.  I averaged over 16 mph going north and over 19 mph on the way back! for an average of 17.25.  Which is fast for me. (I normally average about 15-16)  I peddled hard and rode strong.  And I'm glad I chose the 50-mile route so I could ride hard.  (I would have bonked on the 75-mile route going that hard.)

This was the second year I rode this ride.  It's great to support the arts by participating.  It's fun to push myself to ride further and faster in these kinds of events than I do when I'm on the road riding solo.  While I have no illusions of ever being a racer (ok, maybe sometimes I fantasize about it), it's a blast seeing results like I had on Sunday. 

Only downside to the day: The "50-mile" route was really only 43.5 miles.

Next year, I AM doing the 75!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Riding in LaCrosse

Last week, the state association of my profession held its annual spring conference in LaCrosse.  Normally, the conference starts kicks off with a golf outing that benefits the scholarship foundation we have.  (Which, by the way, provides almost $20,000 in scholarships annually to HS seniors in the state.)  And this year was no exception.

But not everyone golfs. So two of my colleagues who work in the LaCrosse area organized an alternative activity for the day - a 26 mile bike ride on a trail that runs along side the Mississippi River.  Proceeds from our ride are going to the Family and Children's Center of Western Wisconsin.  I'm not sure how many people signed up to ride, but there were seven of us who braved the weather and peddled to Trempealeau and back that day.  (It was raining all day, with temps in the low 50s.)

At 10:00 we gathered in Onalaska to start the ride.  By 10:20 we were mounted and rolling.  This was a non-competitive and no-drop ride, so the seven of us rode together and chatted most of the way up.  Larry and I talked a lot about the current state of funding and changes coming our way from the State.
Mounting up and heading out at the trail head.
(L-R: Me, Kent, Erin, Jeff A, Jeff S, Larry & Jason)

The trail was crushed limestone, but flat and straight. I swear in 13 miles each way, we didn't turn once.  The trail was in decent shape for being so wet.  It was packed fairly hard, but there were vehicle tracks (from the DNR trucks) in which water pooled.  Of course, because they were packed even further by trucks, the tracks were the firmest ground to ride on.

As we approached Trempealeau, the group split a bit as a couple riders were interested in getting out of the cold rain while others were keeping at their pace. By 11:45 we had racked the bikes and went into the Trempealeau Hotel for lunch.  Being good organizers, Larry and Jason had made arrangements for us to lunch there, so when seven dripping wet and muddy riders showed up, it wasn't too much of a surprise.
Took a little of the trail home with me on my tail.
Lunch at the Historic Trempealeau Hotel
After some hot beverages, cold beer (at least for Kent and I) and great food, it was time for the return trip.  The rain never let up and the temp only rose a few degrees.  But for some reason it didn't seem so cold on the way back.  The two Jeffs were anxious, I suspect, to get out of the rain and chose to ride on ahead.  The rest of us hung pretty much together for about half the trip back.  Kent and I did get ahead of the others but waited after crossing over the Black River bridge.
Erin and Larry crossing the Black River bridge
From there, Jason and I took off, trying to see if we could catch the Jeffs. I sucked wind trying to hold onto Jason's wheel for the first couple miles. Then I took point. It was fun pushing ourselves. At some point Jason turned back and rode in with the others.  He says he couldn't keep up but I don't believe I dropped him. Not for a second.  I arrived back at the trail head as the Jeffs were warming back up and getting ready to leave. Not too long after I arrived at the destination, the others rode up.
Jason, Erin and Larry finishing the ride
We chatted, then packed up and headed out.  Time for a hot shower to warm up and wash away the grit and grime.
Jason is taking some of the trail home with him, too.
And yes, I gave my bike a shower too!  Though not as bad as Jason's bike (above), there was a lot of grit and grime on my bike.
It was a great ride with some great folks who are also Loving The Bike. Thanks Larry & Jason for organizing this great event!

Oh, and it turns out that the golf was cancelled for the day! The weather was too much for almost all of them.  (Though I hear that there was one foursome that did play a full 18.)

The next day, the weather was perfect.  And there was no event planned after 5:30, so I took advantage and did a 26 mile ride on the county highways in the area.  This included a challenging climb up Cty Hwy YY - which MapMyRide lists as a Cat 4 climb.  (Potter Hill on Day 7 of RAGBRAI XXXVIII was only a Cat 5.) 
It was a great climb and the views from the top in the Coulee region are beautiful! If you're ever in the LaCrosse area, be sure to bring a bike!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Family Ride

I thought about writing today about how awesome my rides were this weekend - a 25 mi ride averaging 17+ mph (which is fast for me) and a 39 mile ride w/ lots of hills and fighting the wind.  But, something better happened yesterday.

On Saturday, I was talking w/ my 21 y.o. step-son about going for a bike ride.  He is interested in biking to add some aerobic work to his routine.  He's going to be using my old Schwinn.  We decided to do a ride Sunday morning.  My 9 y.o. daughter wanted to join us.  Sunday morning started with coffee, the paper, and the previous day's stage of the Tour of California.  As others woke up, we made breakfast (waffles, from scratch) and started getting ready.

At 10:00 the three of us headed out to the garage to get the bikes ready and head out.  I was on DB, my commuter bike, Olivia was on the trailer bike attached to DB, and Ryan on the Schwinn.  We had a great ride! It wasn't the fastest, but we had fun.  We went about 5-3/4 miles in town. I was real happy that Olivia wanted to go along.

She enjoys riding with me and likes it when I pick her from school using the bike too.

After we returned home, I switched bikes to my road bike and Ryan I took off again. We rode together for about 4 miles before he pealed off to head home.  I'm glad he rode, too. He seemed to like it. So, maybe there are a couple more people in the family who are Loving The Bike.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Beautiful spring day
Cars stand still, stuck in traffic
Bike commute to work

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Been too long...

Well, it has been an interesting, but not especially productive month since my last post. For those of you hanging with baited breath for this next post, sorry for the delay. Raise your hand if that includes you... Bueller... Bueller... Bueller.  Ok, for everyone else (basically, everyone), here it is anyway....

When I last left you, I had just completed a 40-mile ride and was looking forward to the Feed the Need Ride in SW WI.  I had signed up for the 75K ride (just under 50 miles), and the weather was not looking too friendly.  Turns out there were only a few riders scheduled (less than 40).  When the organizers surveyed riders about cancelling due to the weather (predicted snow), 90% said they would cancel. So the Feed the Need Ride was cancelled.

That didn't happen though two weeks later. Both the LaCrosse (WI) Fitness Festival ride and the Minnesota Gran Fondo (MGF) went off on schedule. 
Though the weather conditions were not much better than they were earlier in April. 

For the Saturday ride (April 30) in LaCrosse, the temps were in the 40s and it rained.  It was a 32 mile ride that I completed in just over two hours. The rain didn't start until the second hour of the ride.  By then, I was warmed up enough that the rain wasn't too bad.

The one downside of the ride was the feeling I got that the ride was an after-thought.  Parts of the course weren't marked very well, particularly in town itself.  In addition, riders returning from the 32-mile course were arriving at the same time as the 5K run/walk was going on.  A 5K run only takes about 15 minutes, and this event could have been scheduled to start at 8:00 instead of 9:00.  Or the bikes could've started at 8:00 instead of 7:00.

From LaCrosse, I followed Hwy 61 north to the Twin Cities for the MGF.  Check in was on Saturday at the State Fairgrounds in St Paul at the Minnesota Bike Expo. At the Expo I got meet Jeff, another member of the Groucho Sports team. Another great guy! (No surprise.) They also had a sample Loving The Bike kit there. It looks even better than I had imagined it.  A pre-sale order has been placed and it will be generally available here starting in June.

I spent the night at my brother's (Thanks Chuck!), before heading out to Lakeville, MN for the ride.  For the ride, I signed up for the timed ride, the Gran Fondo.  We lined up at 7:30 and had an escort out of town.  The 68-mile ride went west for about 23 miles to Jordan, before tunring south and east to Lonsdale.  From there, we traveled north and east back to Lakeville.
The weather that day was 34 when we started at 7:30.  By the time I rolled back into Lakeville, it had warmed up to 37.  The cold, though, wasn't the issue, it was the wind.  The wind speed was in the 20-25 mph range, gusting to 35 (at least that's the data from MSP airport, 20 miles north - it may have been higher out in the open farm country).  And it was coming straight out of the west. In other words, for the first third of the route, we were riding into the teeth of a difficult headwind.

It. Was. Nasty.

I actually contemplated giving up and SAGging back to the start/finish. Quitting. My feet were cold and I felt like I was dragging a parachute. Staying to the right, I jealously watched other riders pass me on the left, cutting through the wind like a hot knife through butter. (Or so I thought.)

I pulled over at a church to get out of the wind, collect myself and munch on a granola bar. After a few minutes of rest, I clipped back in and pushed on towards Jordan. I was as glad to arrive there as I was at Quasky on Day 6 of RAGBRAI last year. It took 2:15 for me to cover the 23 miles.  A distance I normally cover in 1:30. I was cold. I was tired. I was sore. I was relieved to be there.  I rested for 20 minutes or so, grabbing some snacks to refuel on and using the facilities.

I will say that the ride organizers and the local community did a FABULOUS job with the rest stop!  Thanks for your hospitality, Jordan HS!

Despite turning south, the wind was still a nasty element for much of the rest of the day - at least the parts where we were peddling south and north.  Going east was, understandably, pretty darned nice. The crosswinds though were difficult to ride in.  I rode the 22 miles to Lonsdale in just under 1:30. At the rest stop there, they had a wide assortment of snacks, plus pasta! I wasn't planning on eating there, but it was good. In retrospect, a protein would have been a better option, but the pasta was pretty good.

From Lonsdale, we rode north and east back to Lakeville. As we entered town, I was caught at a red light with a few other riders. One said he'd let us go first up the hill as he was struggling. I didn't believe him. But as we took off, I turned to someone riding with him and said I was jealous of their ability to cut through the wind. He responded that it was tough for them too.  That made me feel a little better. And gave me a boost of adrenaline that I used to try to and keep up with a couple of these more fit riders.  A well placed red light helped with that. But I did ok on those closing miles.

I covered the last 23 miles in 1:26 and arrived back at the start/finish 6:20 after I left. I was 134th in time (which included the stop time at the rest areas).  Out of 165.  Bottom 20%.  Ok, I knew I didn't have a good ride.  That confirms it. Guess Team Radio Shack won't be calling anytime soon.

But, I completed the 68 miles. I made it back to Lakeville. On my own. I didn't quit. I didn't SAG. I made it. And here I am back at Lakeville North HS:

The next rides I want to do are a 75-mile ride in Milwaukee (Miller LiIte Ride for the Arts) on 6/5 and a 50-mile ride in July for the Boys and Girls Club in Madison. Until then, I need to get on my bike more. While I have been riding my commute bike 9 mi/day, I haven't logged any miles on the road bike since the MGF.  Time to ride!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

Last week I was successful in climbing into the saddle each day.  It was a good week for commuting for the three days I was in the office.  I was out sick on Wednesday, but by the end of day, felt well enough to ride a couple miles.  On Friday was at a conference, but hit the fitness room at the hotel for 45 minutes on the stationary bike.  I capped the week off with two great rides this past weekend.

On Saturday, I rode almost twice as far as I had all year.  I went 39.35 miles in just under 2-3/4 hours with a couple of decent climbs.  The day was cooler than predicted and overcast.  I let the bike decide where to go, and by the first 1/2 mile had already gone a different direction than I was thinking I would when I saddled up.  From Waunakee, I ended up riding through Cross Plains to County Hwy S back to Madison.  Heading south of of Cross Plains on Cty P was the first big (relative to the any others to date this year) was ahead.  When I reached the top, I was smiling from ear to ear.  Felt GREAT to conquer the hill.  After coming back down the other side, I turned to head east to Madison.  I wasn't sure where I'd come into town, but I knew I'd get there. Just over 6 miles later, I arrived at the strip malls and mega-churches.  I turned north and let the tailwind push back to Waunakee.

On Sunday, the air had warmed into the upper 70s but the wind had kicked up from the S-SW.  Of the almost 27 miles I rode, about 11 were into the wind and only 7 had it at my back.  And at 6'1", 225, my body acts like a sail when I have a tailwind, but a parachute when riding into it.  This explains why my average speed was under 15 for the ride. 

These are the ones that I designed with the help of some twitter friends and the good people at Groucho Sports.  The jerseys can be ordered here if you are interested.  This is really exciting to see my vision come to life as a jersey.  And it's for a great cause!  Part of the profits go to the World Bicycle Relief.  A $114 donation was made just from the pre-order.

At some point soon (I hope), the Loving The Bike jersey and shorts will be on sale.  And a third design may see the light of day too.  This one for #30DaysOfBiking.
Though it is likely that if this one is made it will be different from this. (Though I love this one!)

Anyway, this coming Saturday is the Feed the Need ride in SW WI to raise money for food pantries in that part of the state.  I signed up for the 75 kilometer (about 46.6 mi) ride.  Having just done almost 40 a couple days ago, I am more confident about this ride.  Though I did look at the profile today, and there are four Cat-5 hills to climb.  But, I'd rather have hills to climb than wind to cut through.  Hopefully the weather will be better than what is currently in the forecast - overnight low of 24, high of 44, with some... SNOW!  Not sure I'll be showing off the #bikeschool jersey.  But I'll be wearing it.

Have an incredible week!  Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


April is the month for 30 days  of biking! Or so a couple guys (Patrick and Zach) from the Twin Cities want you to believe.  Through Twitter, they have spread the word. And this year (it's second), over 1700 people worldwide (87 countries are represented!) agree with them and have registered to commit to riding their bike at least once a day.  Then, you're supposed to tweet, post on facebook, or write a blog post about your day. 

The 30days website is a celebration of riding and tweeting.  The home page tracks all tweets with the #30daysofbiking hashtag flying around the internets.  Patrick reported earlier today that over 100 tweets per hour are coming through.

Today, April 5th is (obviously) the 5th day of the challenge. and I am 5 for 5 so far.  As I have been doing pretty much every day since I started my new job in Madison in Feruary, I have been riding my bike part way to work and back.  (The scheduling to get the daughter to school and still get to work on time isn't working with riding all the way in.  Of course, the weather hasn't been conducive to it either.... I know, excuses, excuses.)  So, I am driving into Madison, parking then riding the rest of the way.  For now.

This past Saturday, I was able to log in a "real" ride of more than hour, covering 16.7 miles.  It was a real good ride.  A bit of wind, but a gorgeous day and it was wonderful being on the bike. Making progress towards being ready for those rides I signed up for.

On Sunday, I had hoped to get in a long ride again that day - after all I am trying to get ready for a 75K (46.6 mi) that I signed up for... and is happening in less than two weeks!  But the day was spent with the family! And there are NO regrets about that.  So, when it was time to run to the grocery store, I hopped on DB (the bike I use to commute to work on) and off we went.  The new trunk bag worked out great for hauling a few things back.

It doesn't matter if it's around the block, to the store and back, commuting to work or school, training for upcoming rides or professional racing.  Just get on the bike!  I am and I love it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Rides

So I'm looking at the calendar trying to figure out when and where I can ride an organized ride that isn't too far away.  There are three coming up in the next 6-1/2 weeks that I am really interested in.  Two are on the same weekend (4/30 and 5/1).

The first is a charity ride, Feed the Need Ride, raising funds for local food pantries in SW WI.  That part of the state has always struggled economically for as long as I can remember.  (I grew up in Dbq, IA which is just across the Mississippi River from this region.)  So, this is a great cause.  There's a 12-mi family ride option, two 50K rides (morning and afternoon - or you can do both!), 75K, 100K, or a 150K.  I am thinking I'll sign up for the 75K ride. 

The next ride is a part of LaCrosse Fitness Festival the weekend of April 29-May1.  In addition to a marathon, half-marathon, and cycling criterium, there is also a bike tour of the Coulee Region on Saturday of the weekend, with 32 and 62 mile options.  The website describes the rides as "a liesure, noncompetitive, untimed event."  But goes on to describe the 62-mi route as having "rolling hills and a few major climbs. Incredible scenery and great cycling for the experienced rider!"  I am torn.  I would like to do the 62, but...

The next day is the Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride and Minnesota Gran Fondo (MGF).  The Gran Fondo is a timed ride, with 68 and 100 mile options.  The riders ride the same course as those doing the untimed Ironman Ride.  The Ironman also has 17 and 30 mile options.  There is a limited number of riders for the MGF, but if I can't get in that, I can still ride the Ironman.  The only difference is the timing mechanism.  And the reg fees for the MGF include the jersey.  The Ironman jersey is sold separately (and I might not buy it - not a great design, imo).

I could do a 62-mi ride in LaCrosse on Saturday and a timed 100-miler on Sunday if I were back in RAGBRAI shape.  But, I'm not.  Right now, I'm riding 3-miles twice a day during the week and getting in a 12-15 mile ride in on the weekend.

If I didn't have other commitments after-work, maybe I could devote more time to riding a couple/few hours each day and take longer rides on the weekends and it wouldn't be a problem.  But, I don't know if I can get enough serious ride time in to be ready for a 100K and a 100-mi on consecutive days.

What do you think?
a) 62-mi in LaCrosse + 100-mi MGF,
b) 32-mi in LaCrosse + 100-mi MGF,
c) 62-mi in LaCrosse + 68-mi MGF, or
d) 32-mi in LaCrosse + 68-mi MGF?

If I were to be conservative, I would (and maybe should) choose D.  I would like to choose A, but don't seriously think I'll be ready in time.  What would you do?

Later in the spring, on Sunday, June 5, I'll be in Milwaukee for the Miller Arts Ride for the Arts pedaling the 75-mi route. I know I can be ready for that!

If you are in the neighborhood of any of these rides and want to meet up, follow the links above and let me know.  I'd love to ride w/ you.  Or at least watch you ride away from me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Advent of Spring!

Sometime in the middle of night we lost an hour this past Saturday.  If you went to bed at 11pm and got 8 hours of sleep, you woke up at 8am.  I've been mulling this antiquated change over the last couple days and haven't reached a conclusion about it.  One thing's certain, the change in chronography has harkened the start of spring, with the "longer" days and all.

Temperatures have been climbing as well.  After an overnight low of 19, it climbed to 45 this afternoon.  (Tomorrow, it's supposed to hit 50 and by the end of the week it should get up to 60!)  This creates a challenge for bike commuters.  Clothing required for temps in the low 20s are dramatically different from what's needed in the mid 40s.  Today, when I got back to the car, I was sweating pretty heavily, in my Columbia coat and two layers on my legs.

So, it seems clear, this is the advent of spring.  The snow is melting.  They days *are* getting longer.  The air is warming up.  It's a pleasure to ride any time, but the spring time is especially nice.

I am happy to report that last week, I did ride 5 of 7 days (4 of 5 park-n-cycling to work + a ride over the weekend).  And I love how I feel when I finish even the short rides.  The adrenaline... and the endorphines... have kicked in. It feels great.  I'm loving life and #lovingthebike.

And here is the bike I use on the commute.  Meet DB: 
Just added the fenders this week - a good thing, with the melting snow.  Next up a rear rack and panniers, so I don't have to sling a messenger bag over my shoulder. 
Something like these would be perfect - and they're only about 25 bucks!

Are you ready to ride this spring?  If you are, keep the rubber side down!  If not, I encourage you to dig the bike out of the garage and tune it up.  Spring is here!  Happy cycling!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bike Jersey Designs

One thing that bicycling has brought me is connections with other bikers across the country and even overseas, primarily through Twitter.  It started with opening a Twitter account to share my thoughts while on RAGBRAI last summer.  My connections to the "outside world" (or maybe its the insular world) of bicycling culture came when I started being followed by @thebeerrunner, who is from Milwaukee and who also rode RAGBRAI XXXVIII.  (Twitter almost sounds like cyber-stalking, doesn't it?)  Of course, with a handle like that, I had to follow him back.  Through The Beer Runner, I started following @bikerly (Jim), @lovingthebike (Darryl), and @egggman (Mike), as well as the folks at @grouchosports. (More on Groucho in a moment.)

Turns out that Jim, Mike and Darryl have conspired to create #bikeschool - originally conceived as a way to tag life lessons learned while riding a bike.  It evolved into a weekly tweetchat on Thursday evenings. (History here.) 
Through #bikeschool, I've met many more bike enthusiasts.  People from a variety of walks of life who approach riding in an infinite number of ways.  It's been great cyber-meeting some great people.

One day, tweeting with Jim, we were talking about a #bikeschool RAGBRAI team, when I sarcastically said something like "only if there's a jersey in it!"  And an idea was born.  So, I began sketching.  I sent my idea to Jim and he liked it.  Ironically, at the same time the three (Jim, Mike & Darryl) were talking amongst themselves about creating a jersey and/or having a design contest.  In fact, Mike had posted his own draft of a design for the jersey.  Turns out, that they liked my drawing.  I revised my sketch to incorporate some of Mike's ideas and we collaborated to come up with a near final design.  A twitter friend Heather (@shitcyclistsays) suggested adding more green - a great idea that we added.  Nice touch!  Now, it's moving forward with production.

Which is where Groucho Sports comes in.  Groucho is a new sports apparel company in the Twin Cities with a target clientelle of runners, cyclists, and triathletes.  The drawings are currently with the Groucho designer and being prepared for production.  I can't wait to see the sample when it's ready.  Groucho is going to contribute a portion of all sales to non-profits.

Here are the sketches for the #bikeschool jersey:

The other jersey is for a year old biking website,, that Darryl has developed.  We've worked through a few different concepts and this is what we came up with.  It's really cool.
Darryl is working on securing sponsors to be placed on the back pockets.  These sketches have just been sent to Groucho for the designer to work on and prepare a sample before going to production.  Darryl and I are both excited about this design.

The final products will probably be a little different than what's shown above.  But it's still cool to know that my concepts will be made and sold.  Kinda fun to express the creativity.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bike Commute Continues

Not a lot to report on my own riding this past week.  I logged 35 miles during the week, including a 12 mile ride on Sunday.  I have been doing the park and ride during the week.  Generally, I park about 3 miles away from the office and ride my bike in.  It's not of riding, but it works out great.  Even in the current weather (in the 20s on the ride to work).

Sunday was a great ride, despite not having acquired the appropriate footwear (see last week's post).  My rides are slower than last fall (ok, summer), but it'll come. As will lung capacity and leg strength.

So, the long and short of it that I rode 5 of the seven days last week.

One new development in the bike world is #30daysofbiking.  What is 30 Days of Biking?!?  Simply a commitment to ride every day for a month in April. 

The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online. We believe biking enriches life, builds community, and preserves the Earth. This is the second year, and third round, of 30 Days of Biking!

So, if you like biking and/or want to take a step to improve your health and happiness, make a commitment to ride every day this April.  Register here.

I'm hoping that part of my 30 days will include a charity ride called Feed the Need to benefit local food pantries in southwestern Wisconsin.  Ride distances include 12-mi; 50K, 75K; 100K; and 150K.  There are also run option, duathlons, and a 50K ride-5K run-50K ride combination.  Wanna join me?  Or want more information?  Click the link above.

I would also like to wrap the month up with riding the Coulee Region Bike Tour in LaCrosse at the end of the month (4/30).  There are 32-mile and 62-mile options. 

Big things in the works for April.  Better get busy in March to get ready!

Oh, and before I go, this is a great time to remind my readers that I am raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation via the RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG.  So far, I am already more than 25% towards my goal.  While I won't be able to ride with the team this year, that doesn't mean the work that LAF does gets time off, too.  If you want to support a great cause, please consider supporting my efforts by making a donation here.  THANKS!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Lesson on Cold Weather Riding

But first, yes, week two still has me doing a park & ride, driving into Madison then parking some place free (re: not downtown!) and riding my bike from there.  I had Monday off (furlough day at the State) and gave a presentation to new superintendents on Wednesday away from the office, so obviously I didn't ride to work those days.  But, I did get rides in Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday was a short ride - about a mile each way, because I was running late and wanted to get as close as I could.  Thursday and Friday I parked 3.4 miles away and rode in.  It takes just 13-15 minutes each way, depending on lights, etc.  Nice ride.  This is working out great!  Depending on the timing, I may start parking 4.5 miles away.

Soon, I hope to ride all the way in.  Perhaps in the spring, when the weather is more cooperative.

Speaking of weather...

Today was a beautiful morning.  Sun shining and the air was crisp.  After running to the store quick, I decided to go for a ride.  So what if it was only about 15F out.  I layered up - four on top, three on the bottom, double gloved and double socked.

This is me after I got back - that's frost on the beard (it's not that white... yet).
I started out riding a 10.67 mi loop I rode previously.  About 1/2-way thru, I was feeling good. Feeling strong.  Lungs were doing great, so I turned left and made my ride a little longer.  It ended up being just over 15 miles all told.

A couple miles further down the road, my feet started to hurt.  I had thought that double-layering would be sufficient.  By the time I got back home, they were really cold.  (Did I mention it was only about 15F out when I rode?)  I was actually worried about frost bite.  I shed my shoes and socks and wrapped my feet in a blanket and sat on them.  I don't recall ever having my feet be that cold before.  Not even the day in January 1986 when I sat in Soldier Field during a Bears' playoff game.

Turns out, it may have not been a good idea to double-sock.  My cycling shoe was fitted with one sock on.  I may have reduced circulation to my feet, compounding the problem rather than impriving it. 

So, what's to do about it?  Two things: wool socks and shoe covers.  Proper equipment goes a loooonnnnngggg way.  Now, I gotta get it. #bikeschool lesson of the week.

Other than the problem w/ the feet, it was a great ride.

Friday, February 18, 2011

And the Bike Commuting Starts

This week I started my new job in Madison.  One block from the capital square.  Where there isn't parking anywhere.  Unless you pay.  Out the nose.

So I started the week parking about a mile away and walking.  Felt great!  But it was a little slow.  (I was acutally 30 min late my first day - mostly from trying to figure where I could even find a spot to park.)

On Wednesday, I loaded up the road bike and took it with.  I parked in the same area and zipped in to the office.  On a bicylce 1 mile is nothing.  So Thursday I parked a little further away - 3.4 mi and rode from there.  The weather was great - got up into the 50s.  The snow was melting.  And there was plenty of road spray.  I was wearing my work pants (dockers).  They were soaked for three hours.  While I was sitting in my desk chair in my cubicle.  That was *sooo* comfy! (Ha!)

Lesson #1 - ride prepared.  Either have extra clothes with you or ride in riding gear.  So you can change.

Finally, on Friday, I was running behind and had to park closer - 1.7 mi away.  I had on the right gear and packed my work pants.  I didn't need to today.  Roads were dry.  And so was I when I arrived at the office. 

So that was my first week - about 12 miles total.  I will park further away as I get my lungs back in shape.  I need to get a fender and a lock for my Parkway.  They don't want me keeping the bike in my work space.  And I'm not leaving the Synapse outside.  It's not a spectacular bike, but I like it and it did cost a few Benjamins.

Probably the biggest challenge to riding - other than getting out the door on time so I can be at the office on time - is my lungs.  Being asthmatic (and having not worked them for too long), they burn in the cold fresh air as I pump away.  Like my atrophied leg muscles, they'll get stronger too.

Soon, I'll be riding all the way in (only 10 miles) from home.  Looking forward to more time on the bike.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Actual Ride ... on Real Roads

This past weekend it got above 32F!  Snow was melting.  The sun was shining.  Perfect day for a ride!

This would be the first ride of the year.  Well, the first REAL ride.  While getting in the saddle on the trainer down in the basement is exercise, it is not riding on the roads.  So, with Carol busy on a work project, I took advantage of the time and weather to go for a "short" ride.  (Short being a relative term.  Compared to rides I was doing last summer, it would be nothing.  Relative to my current fitness level it would be... not short!)

This would also be a great chance to try on my LIVESTRONG thermal jersey and pants.

Umm, yeah.  Not thrilled with the way it's fitting.  All that time not riding last fall and through the winter is showing up.  Spandex has no mercy.

10.67 miles and 43 minutes lated, I was gassed, achy and wet.  And loving it.  My lungs were burning and my legs ached.  As for the wet, there was plenty of road spray.  And then I took a fall going through some slush.  LMAO.

A great ride.  A great day to be #lovingthebike.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A staggered start (or a tale of guilt)

Ok, that's not really the right word, but I can't think of it offhand.  It's more like going in spurts - go, stop, go, stop.  Like a 15 y.o. trying to leave from a standing stop driving a manual transmission car for the first time.  Got the picture?

So, the last time I wrote, It was Jan. 10th.  It's been three weeks since.  I haven't had a lot to write about since then in terms of actually doing anything related to riding.  Oh, I've been on the trainer a couple times, including that day, the day after, and on Saturday the 15th.... Sixteen days ago.

There are excuses and rationalizations I could provide.  Some legit.  Others not so much.  And the truth of the matter is that the next two weeks won't have a lot of seat time either.  These are my final days at my current job, the one 250 miles away from home.  Soon, I'll be starting my new job in Madison and I will be home full time!

So, there you have it.  I have logged about 2h 35m (guessing that equals maybe 40 mi) on the trainer so far.  Nice thing is that I was able to move up to 45 minutes pretty quickly.  (In contrast to last year, when the first days were hell.)

I am excited and anxious.  That was reinforced this weekend with the route announcement for RAGBRAI XXIX (see  The jerseys are on sale, too!
NICE! (and only $60.00)
 The other development lately is something called #bikeschool on twitter.  I have picked up some followers (and started following back) who are seriously into biking.  Each Thursday night at 8:00 they have bike school, where all the posts include the afrementioned hashtag and a moderator (teacher) throws out some questions and people chime in with their responses.  Fast, fun and funny.  People from the Twin Cities , Austin, Milwaukee and beyond all sharing.  Kinda cool.  Have only made two so far, but the hour flies by. 

Anyway, I am getting ramped up to ride.  Even if I haven't actually ridden much yet.  And I feel a little guilty for not riding more.  But I cannot change the past, only determine my own future.  And that future includes more time in the saddle.

Oh, and as you can see, thanks to the Fat Cyclist, my blog is UCI approved!  Woo Hoo!  Thanks Fatty!