The flip side

4 03 2014

As good as January was, February was a cycling disaster.

One ride.

One ride in February = one flat tire

One ride in February = one flat tire

Not that there weren’t opportunities. But those always seemed to conflict with other planned activities or, worse, illness.

The damage done by an orange road hockey ball.

The damage done by an orange road hockey ball.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was waylaid by the flu for the second time in a winter.

After my first bout, in December, I thought I was in the clear, my immunity built up against further incursion. I even eschewed the flu shot; why bother?

Why bother indeed.

This round played out almost exactly the same as the first, a week-long head cold, a day of work in the snow and cold and then the sudden onset of dastardly flu symptoms. Now a week into recovery, and I’m still not 100 per cent.

But the month wasn’t a total write-off.

The FRF riding group gathered to plan for the coming season, a calendar that will include the highly-anticipated guerilla fondo, “Le Tour de Huit Ponts,” a craft beer ride and a trek up Mt. Baker in Washington State. We also have new, customized caps from Red Dots Cycling, and there was some discussion about hitting up a new local brewer for some sponsorship to flash their logo on FRF kits.

Oh yes, and we formally adopted the group’s motto: “More miles, more beer.”

Princess of Pavement celebrates her first race of the season, and the beginning of the Cobbled Classics in Belgian, with Belgian waffles at Nero.

Princess of Pavement celebrates her first race of the season, and the beginning of the Cobbled Classics in Belgian, with Belgian waffles at Nero.





A record start

1 02 2014

In July 200 kms is a good weekend of riding. In January, it’s a record.

A run of 15 straight dry days and a few fortuitously sunny Fridays meant ample opportunities to bundle up and ride in a month when I’m usually lucky to get out once or twice. And even then, it’s more likely to be trail rides on the mountain bike as the roads are gritted up with sand and sludge.

But this year, with December’s snow melted and long-since washed away, we’ve already managed to convene a couple of unofficial FRF rides, including one on New Year’s Day as well as some privateer efforts. And not all of them have been slacker, flat roll-outs.

Riding in the new year with a hardy group of chilled FRFers

Riding in the new year with a hardy group of chilled FRFers

There have been climbs.

Including the Patterson Hill (700 metres @ 11% with stretches of 14 and 15 per cent), Joffré climb (800 metres @ 9% with one segment at 17.5%) and my earliest-ever ascent of Burnaby Mountain.

Guy from FRF is a mountain goat, but for me a January climb up to SFU is unprecedented.

Guy from FRF is a mountain goat, but for me a January climb up to SFU is unprecedented.

Of course, whenever we’re blessed with unseasonably fine weather, it’s important to approach every ride as if it will be the last for awhile; the snow or snow will start to fall, the roads will grunge up. It’s inevitable we’ll pay for this fine January with a foul February, a miserable March or an awful April.

But right now I look at those kms as bonus mileage, a good start to the season, a springboard to good fitness.





Taking up the challenge(s)

22 11 2013

In the Big Ring/Princess of Pavement household, I do most of the cooking.

Partly because PofP isn’t very comfortable with the culinary arts; her diet before we got together consisted mostly of eggs, eggs and eggs. And partly because, with her long commute, it just makes sense for me to get things going in the kitchen.

Fortunately a long run of self-sustaining bachelordom meant I pretty much had to figure my way in the kitchen. Or starve.

Big Ring cuisine isn’t very fancy; lots of grilling with occasional forays into stir fry, omelettes, and international dishes like paella and butter chicken. I mostly make it up as I go along, sticking to some tried and true techniques. I don’t do recipes.

Then PofP took on her year-long recipe challenge. She wanted to explore the pages of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe magazine subscription she’d received as a Christmas present and expand her own culinary horizons. I was glad to be the beneficiary. At least once a month I got a break from the kitchen and enjoyed some very tasty meals.

This month, I decided to pick up the challenge. The latest issue had a number of recipes that tickled my tastebuds and sounded relatively easy.

When one, chicken in vinegar sauce, was billed as a classic French dish (poulet au vinaigre), I was sold. If we can’t live in France, we might as well eat as if we are.

It also helped that we already had most of the necessary ingredients in the pantry.

Now going in, I’ll admit to some trepidation to basing a sauce on vinegar. Around here we use it to clean the countertops and stainless steel. And the apple cider vinegar in our pantry was only there because of the fruit fly infestation we endured in the summer; it was the lure to attract them into the sticky trap.

But if it’s good enough for the French, it should be good enough for us.

And, son of a gun, it was.

I take on the recipe challenge, with a classic French dish of poulet au vinaigre.

I take on the recipe challenge, with a classic French dish of poulet au vinaigre.

 

I steamed some broccoli as a side dish, along with toasty baguette and glass of white wine. Vive le France!

In fact, it was a day of challenges, not the least of which was steeling myself against the wintery cold for an afternoon ride. But the sun was out, the roads dry; it would have been wrong not to ride!

Alas, only 38 km at an easy pace, but the exercise felt good and 6 degree air cleared my head for the cooking challenge ahead.

It's the Ride of the Fallen Leaves!

It’s the Ride of the Fallen Leaves!

 





Break on through

9 11 2013

Suddenly, it’s November.

Well, it is if you happen to set your calendar by this blog.

Yeah, the Big Ring has been a little quiet.

Life has a way of happening. And when it does, it conspires against riding.

September was unusually wet.

October was dark.

The end of the regular riding season is precipitous. They you are in late August; a few thousand kilometres or more in your legs, you’re at the peak of your fitness. Conversations carry on even as the road steepens up. The calories consumed at a snack break disappear around the coming bend.

Then September hits. The leaves start falling, the days shorten, things need to get done. Riding time dwindles from three or four a week to but one, preferably on the flats.

By October, winter sloth is beginning to take hold. Riding is the exception, rather than the rule. Vows to stay fit and active have a way of succumbing to the inertia of television. Excuses are abundant; it’s too wet, it’s too cold, it’s too dark, it’s too cloudy, I’m too tired, there’s a hockey game on TV….

The leaves are all but gone, but a good November sky beckons.

The leaves are all but gone, but a good November sky beckons.

Surprisingly, though, the quick demise of the season didn’t have a huge impact on my overall mileage. Nor did the arrival of Little Ring.

Thanks to some good weather through the summer, the FR Fuggitivi riding group, and a supportive Princess of Pavement, I was on the bike as much as last year.

The colours are worth a cool a fall ride.

The colours are worth a cool a fall ride.

There was no Fondo, and only one ride exceeded 100 kms. But there were plenty in the 80 km range at a good pace and a good amount of climbing. Sometimes it is quality over quantity.

Next season will be a test.

Guy, of FRF, says the first year with a new child is a bit of a “honeymoon period.” Mom is on maternity leave, the kid is not yet involved in extracurricular activities. It’s all pretty low maintenance.

As the season ends, Little Ring is more active, he wants to get out, go to the park to fly on the swings, he naps only once a day. By the time the season starts in earnest, he’ll be walking. And hopefully, scooting on his own balance bike.





A year in the life

30 08 2013

Dearest Little Ring

It’s hard to believe it was a year ago you wriggled into our lives. And our hearts.

It seems like you’ve been with us forever, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Your first day!

Your first day!

As far as papsies go, let’s just say I’m a little more, er, established, well past the age when most papsies become papsies. I was pretty set in my ways, none of which included spending much time with very young people, let alone babies.

But then your papsy met Princess of Pavement, and we kinda hit it off. Your mamsy let it be known she’d someday be pretty keen to have a Little Ring or Little Ringlette scampering around our feet, and I agreed I’d be cool with that too.

Fast forward a bunch of years, some trips to Europe and a couple of Gran Fondos and marathon runs and you happened. And our lives titled sideways forever more.

Those first couple of days in the hospital were pretty cool. You slept a lot, looking incredibly cute and wrinkled with your little bald head. The nurses were always close by to help us figure out how to change your diaper, then show us again because we’d forgotten, how to bathe you, show mamsy how to feed you. Piece of cake, we thought.

But then we brought you home and we were all on our own. And oh my did you cry. We thought we’d somehow broken you. Nothing brought you peace. We paced and rocked you. We sang softly to you every lullaby we could remember. We Googled for any other ideas. We even called the nurse hotline. What have we gotten ourselves into? we thought.

Your first bike race!

Your first bike race!

But somehow, we all started to figure things out, and were truly able to enjoy the wonder of you, the joys of all your first.

Your first great feeding and burp.

Your first bath, so tolerant of the water and the soap.

Your first visit to the public health nurse when you hardly cried after your first shot.

Your first sleep through the night.

Your first podium!

Your first podium!

Your first smile. Your first giggle.

Your first turdlumpen.

Your first visit with a doggie.

Your first Giro!

Your first Giro!

Your first tufts of actual hair upon your head.

Your first time in the high chair, getting a chance to taste real food even if it was all mashed and puréed.

Your first visit to a restaurant where you behaved so well and charmed the servers and the nearby diners.

Your first bouncy moments in the Jolly Jumper.

Your first visit to Musette caffée!

Your first visit to Musette caffée!

Your first chance to watch mamsy in a running race.

Your first fondo!

Your first fondo!

Your first army man crawl, oh how we waited for that one!

Your first big boy crawl, quickly followed by your tripod and then standing up!

Your first time clapping your hands.

Your first visit to a bike race.

Your first Gastown Grand Prix

Your first Gastown Grand Prix

Your first word, was it “da” or “hat?”

Your first time in a swing, and now you can’t get enough.

Your first taste of sorbetto and the big smile it put on your face. Uh oh, what have we done????

This guy is pedalling a long way but not going anywhere!

This guy is pedalling a long way but not going anywhere!

Your first day at daycare, so very brave!

And today, your very first birthday! Happy birthday Little Ring, my son.

Love,

Big Ring

Hey papsy, when can I get one of these???

Hey papsy, when can I get one of these???





The long way around

18 08 2013

Detours can be frustrating.

They can also be an opportunity.

Sunday’s FRF ride had plenty of both.

Our route was to be the most ambitious one yet, about 90 km to “The Goat” and back, via the new South Fraser Perimeter Road and over the Golden Ears Bridge. For some in the group, it was uncharted territory.

The first of the day’s many detours hit us early; the South Fraser Perimeter Road, the key to our route, was closed. Deconstruction crews are tearing down the old Port Mann Bridge, and the risk of a giant steel girder falling upon our head was too great.

We were kicked onto a narrow, hilly side road that ascended up into deepest, darkest suburban hell. So were the trucks, that couldn’t manage the steep climb and stalled out, clogging the road.

After an interminable time winding through ugly subdivisions, we finally came to a main road but no more signage as to where we needed to go to get back on course. Then it started to rain.

It was, for the group, a dark time. We didn’t know where we were, all but one of us was unprepared for rain. Doubt creeped into our eyes.

We’ll press on, it was decided, reassess if the weather deteriorates even more.

Back on course, the rain subsided, and we pedalled with renewed vigour.

Until Guy flatted.

Uh oh, the first flat of the day.

Uh oh, the first flat of the day.

Then it started raining again.

Shortly before our destination, I flatted.

It was that kind of day; it seems The Goat was mocking us.

When we reached him, we dutifully saluted for good luck. Given the way the ride had gone so far, our luck couldn’t get much worse.

FRF salutes The Goat. Hopefully the ride's bad luck is now behind us.

FRF salutes The Goat. Hopefully the ride’s bad luck is now behind us.

On the return trip we chose to take a couple of detours of our own, along pan-flat pastoral country roads with minimal traffic. The ride was good again.

Another detour. At least the builders at this bridge site kept a route open for pedestrians and portaging cyclists.

Another detour. At least the builders at this bridge site kept a route open for pedestrians and portaging cyclists.

Ahh, finally an activation button at Ford Dr. and Lougheed.

Ahh, finally an activation button at Ford Dr. and Lougheed.

Then we detoured to our coffee stop, in an odd little commercial development at the bottom of a new housing subdivision along the Fraser River. It was a bit of a find, as all the bikes strewn around the patio could attest.

A pit stop find off the beaten track.

A pit stop find off the beaten track.

As the girders were still falling from the sky along the Perimeter Road, we knew we’d have to find a different way home, through suburbia’s dark underbelly. We rode past crack shacks and scrap yards. We dodged lurching junkies and menacing pick-up trucks. The rain began again, this time harder, colder. It was a new kind of cyclist’s hell. Grim determination to get home fuelled every turn of the pedals.

It was the FRF group’s first official 100 km ride, a milestone. It was a day for the hard men.





Getting Strava-fied

31 07 2013

I’ve never raced my bike, but I love to win trophies.

Virtual ones.

I’ve been Strava-fied.

I first started logging my cycling mileage online in 2003. That’s when I found a little website called activebody.org. It’s pretty rudimentary, but I was able to transfer the data from my old school cycle computer to give me cumulative totals of my mileage and time on the bike by the week, the month and the year.

There was also seasonal “challenges” that allowed me to see how I stood against the other riders, those from my country and those in my age bracket.

Then I got a Garmin.

The Garmin changed my life!

The Garmin changed my life!

Suddenly I had more data than I knew what to do with. My ascents were no longer guesstimates. I could see my route on a map. I didn’t have to do math to figure out my average speed.

But each ride existed unto itself. So I still logged everything into activebody.org for the cumulative and comparative numbers. Besides, I kinda enjoyed watching my name rise up the ranks in the seasonal challenges.

Then last year, someone sent me an invite to join Strava.

I’d heard about Strava, even read articles about it. I really didn’t have a burning desire to join as Garmin’s site already gave me reams of info about my rides.

I let the invite slide deeper and deeper into the bowels of my email In box.

Then, one day curiosity got the better of me.

It didn’t take long for me to get hooked – as in the first time I noticed the little trophy icon at the top of my ride stats.

Now when I return from rides and download my Garmin, my eyes immediately dart to the little trophy icon to see how my effort compared to previous runs along the same segments. I want those trophy icons. If I come up dry, I’m disappointed; I obviously didn’t go hard enough.

When I download to Strava, the first thing I look for is the trophy.

When I download to Strava, the first thing I look for is the trophy.

Of course I harbor no illusions that I’ll ever be top of the heap in a sprint, or King of the Mountain on a climb; but the incentive to improve on my own performances can keep my legs churning when my spirit is flagging.








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