It’s Hammer Time!!!

His name is Lars Olenfuld the third.  He is the type of guy who will steal your girlfriend when you’re not looking and make you feel good about it.  His boom box is always rocking a intense guitar solo accompanied by the hypnotizing beat of the base drum.  He sports an epic mullet, a mullet of which there have been written many epic stories.  Stories involving pirates, sea monsters and riding horses backwards whilst juggling chainsaws.  Men want to be him and women want to be seen with him.

I first met Lars on a warm summer afternoon.  I was out on a training ride, heading into a stiff north wind and no matter how much I shifted I couldn’t find a gear capable of ending the burning in my legs.  I rounded a corner and there sitting upon the the wooden guardrail of a two lane country bridge sat Lars. He was listening to Simple Man and shining up his pair of aviator sunglasses.  I rolled to a stop pulling up next to Lars, looking like an awkward middle school boy standing next to the coolest kid in the high school.

“Hey there,” I said trying to be as cool and collected as I could dressed head to toe in spandex.

“You like riding that thing?” Lars pointed to my bike.  He reached over and cranked his boom box up to 11 just as the guitar solo began.

“Yep,” I said over the wailing guitar.

“No you don’t.” Lars spat at the ground near my shaking legs.  “You’re weak, you hate that bike right now.  In fact your secretly hoping I’ll give you a ride home in my sweet pick up truck.”  Lars’ mullet glistened in the mid-afternoon sun.

“No I don’t.  I love riding my bike. It’s well…awesome.” I said in protest. “I’m getting faster everyday.”

“Stop lying to me boy.” Lars stood up and moved towards my bike he placed his hand upon the hoods of my bike and gave it a shake. “Want to know the secret to riding fast?”  Lars said.

“Getting more aero?” I replied.

Lars reached into the back pocket of his tightly fitting Levis and pulled out a rusty ball pean hammer.  “This is the secret to riding faster.”

“You’ve been out here too long.” I said laughing. “No way a hammer makes you faster.”

“Oh but it does,” Lars calmly replied.  “If you want to ride faster, every now and again you must visit the man with the hammer and guess what? I’m yours.”  He raised the hammer high into the air above his head.  The rust on the head of the hammer glistening like rich man’s gold.  Lars dropped the hammer upon my quivering exhausted quads and a pain like I had never felt before shot through my entire body.  I hopped back onto my bike as Lars continued to reign hammer blows down upon my legs.  I began to pedal, gears I couldn’t push before I was now able to spin.

My pulse quickened, sweat dripped from my brow.  The average speed on my computer slowly rose. Lars followed along all the while beating me mercilessly with the hammer.  I rode faster than I ever had in my life that day.

Yes Lars Olenfuld the Third is my man with the hammer and if you want to ride your bike faster you must find your own.  Because as Lars says, if you want to ride faster you must visit the man with the hammer.

Dedicated to Lars Olenfuld the Third

Dedicated to Lars Olenfuld the Third

 

I’ve got some work to do.

We are now three weeks into the Year of Awesome and so far the year has been just that awesome.  Even the weather has been awesome, but not in the traditional sense of the word, I mean awesome in the fact that I can now say I’ve survived a polar vortex, whatever that is. I just know they are awesome.

So in an effort to keep up with my year awesome, I decided it was time to see if my cycling skills were as awesome as I remembered them being.  This year I’ve taken some time off the bike, not a lot mind you, but I’ve taken some time off.  It’s been nice, I’ve used my extra time to take up knitting, (not really), basket making (not really,) and have donated some of my time to the rescue of dust bunnies from being killed by brooms (it’s a very worthy cause as brooms kill more dust bunnies in one year than any other cause).

What should my return to serious cycling look like? I thought as I looked upon my bike locked in to the clutches of a trainer.  I fancy myself in pretty good shape so I decided take on one of the workouts I was doing while I was nearing peak form last season. I couldn’t have lost all that much fitness, I mean I’m walking a ton in my work for the dust bunnies and I have been riding at small amount.  This has to account for something right?

The workout I chose to do was a Sufferfest video.  I love these videos combinations of pro race footage, snarky onscreen comments, and good music make the hours fly by while on the trainer.   Which for those who have ridden trainers know this is no small feat.

I was barely through the warm up when I realized the grave error in my ways.  I mean I was still reading the workout instructions and my legs were already aching. Oh well I’m committed now soldier on there Danny Boy, Soldier on.

Before launching into the workout I had informed my wife and daughter that they might hear some “noises” coming from the trainer room.  My daughter describes these “noises” as puking sounds and she’ll often ask how many times I threw up during a workout.  While my family thinks these noises are of me vomiting, I like to think of the as grunts of awesomeness.

I was about 10 seconds in to the first interval when the first grunt of awesomeness exploded from my lips.  I was gasping for air, legs burning, sweat running down my face and I’d only being riding for 10 minutes. I had another 52 minutes of this to endure….AWESOME!!

IMG_1311

I stopped at minute 15 to adjust my bike’s seat.  Comfort is key after all when suffering.  I nearly bailed out at this point, but for some reason thoughts of my former glory forced me to once again throw my leg over the bar and climb aboard to resume the agony.

This workout features a 20 minute interval where that is does it’s best to mimic a hill climb.  Now in the summer I love a good hill, they are some of my favorite things as a cyclist.  Something about reaching me top makes me want to sing out like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.  Simulated indoor hills, however, stink.  You can climb and climb all day long and not end up at the top of the hill, No you end up exactly where you started. Not Awesome.

So I was about 4 minutes or so into my fake climb to nowhere when my water bottle escaped from my death clutch and landed just out of reach on the floor. Now I realize that during a race there is no stoping for a dropped bottle, but this wasn’t a race this was survival and survival dictates that one must be hydrated so I decided to retrieve the bottle as soon as the interval was over.  An agonizing 16 minutes later my throat was as dry as the Sahara and I was grunting awesomeness every 2 seconds.  I was miserable, but loving every second of it.

I got off the bike and headed out to fill up my bottle.  When I reached the kitchen, my wife and daughter both looked at me with strange looks.  I vaguely remember making conversation with them as I filled my bottle, but as it turns out instead of speaking intelligently I was merely mumbling and grunting loudly.  Henceforth the strange looks and the cause of my daughter’s next three nights of nightmare.

I don’t remember the second half of the workout.  All I remember is waking up on my bike as the credits rolled.  My lungs were burning and my legs felt as it they had just seen a very large man with a hammer.  A large smile spread across my face as I realized it was over.

It was in that moment I realized something very important.  If I want to improve as a cyclist I have work to do and for me that’s AWESOME.  Time to punch the clock.

God Bless.

Spinning My Wheels

I hate to admit it but my outdoor cycling season is quickly coming to a end.  I’m going to hold out as long as I can, but the reality that unless I become a giant fan of riding in the dark part of my next six months of my cycling life are going to be spent spinning indoors.

In preparation to make this transition a little easier on myself, I’ve been doing a few rides on my rollers recently.  Truth be told I’m really trying to psyche myself up for the indoor trainer season by trying to trick my brain in to thinking that indoor training really isn’t all that bad.

Rollers

Rollers (Photo credit: rutt)

So the other night I headed to the garage, pumped up the bike tires, dusted off the rollers and climbed aboard.  My dog, who had eagerly followed me into the garage, was spending her time hunting mice.

Under the cold fluorescent lights of my dingy garage I was trying desperately to stay on the rollers and not go flying off the side.  If you’ve never ridden rollers before consider yourself lucky they are very similar to riding your bike on an ice rink.  One swift move and bam on the floor you go.  Trust me on this one, they take a while to get use too and I’m not too sure I’ve mastered them yet.

While I was struggling with my balance, my lovely dog spent the time contently hunting mice in the corner of the garage and when she tired of that she came and laid next to rollers.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, but we had given her table scraps recently which gave her as some would say “the gas”.  Every so often, while trying to maintain focus, the smell of my lovely dogs digestion system would fill my nostrils and cause me to become distracted.  This in turn forced me to nearly crash off the rollers.

This went on for what seemed to be an eternity, which in reality was about 15 minutes, and as the seconds ticked by I began to question my own sanity and motivations.  Why on earth would I leave the comfort of my favorite easy chair to spend time in the saddle balancing precariously on rollers while my dog does her best skunk impersonation.  I may need to have my head examined.

the little stinker.

the little stinker.

I guess I do it because I trust that it will make me a better rider in the future.  That the time spent spinning my wheels indoors will prepare me to climb a hill faster, ride further, or will simply help me look cooler on the bike (yeah right, hard to look cool while wearing spandex, but yet I manage).

 

My time spinning my wheels makes me think of all those times in my spiritual life where I have felt like I am simply spinning my wheels and not really growing in my faith.  You know those moments where prayer feels a little flat, like your simply going through the motions.  It is during these spiritual doldrums that it is all too easy to lose focus and slip off the track you are supposed to be on.  I have learned that these doldrums serve a purpose.  These prayers,  just like riding the rollers, prepare you for the next phase of your journey.  There is no such thing as a wasted prayer.  We need to trust in God’s plan for us and continue to do what He places before us, even if it does feel like we are simply spinning our wheels.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my dog just ate a large bowl of leftover chili and I have another roller session planned.  This could prove interesting.

 

Getting Dropped

Go on enough group bike rides and it’s bound to happen.  It called getting dropped and it sucks.  One minute your leading the charge down a quiet country road and the next your watching the wheel you where supposed to grab onto slip further and further down the road.  Soon you are left all by yourself as the group rides into the sunset, leaving to you to suffer all by yourself until either you reach the regroup point or the ride is over.

Call it a right of passage, but tonight I was dropped by the group on my Monday night ride.  I was taking my turn leading the charge and as I approached a turn I looked back to see if all the riders where still with the group and in that moment as I was looking back the group passed me. The group moved further down the road and oddly I wasn’t with them.  Just like that I was left to fend for myself.  Make one mistake and bam your paying for it.

Not wanting to admit defeat, I shifted down gritted my teeth and began to chase.  I pedaled with all I had, my legs searing my lungs burning but it was no use. Despite my Jens Voigt like effort separation between the group and myself grew with each painful pedal stroke.  I was dropped and my resisting it didn’t change that it had happened.  I sat up, shifted into an easier gear and continued my ride conceding that I’d be the one of the last ones at the regroup point.

Even if you aren’t a cyclist many of us often “drop” things in our daily lives.  We fill our lives with all sorts of activities and events. With each additional event we move faster and faster as we follow the group down the group the road and before we now it we are speeding down the road and we’ve dropped what should be a very important part of lives.

Jens Voigt at Sparkassen Giro Bochum

Jens Voigt at Sparkassen Giro Bochum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All too often the first thing we drop as we get busier is our relationship with God.  It takes only a moment to drop it and before we know it we are too busy to pray, too busy to attend mass and we justify it by saying that we are just keeping up with the group.

God desires a relationship with you and while we may drop Him, He will never drop us.  All we have to do is take a moment out of our busy lives to regroup and reconnect with God.  It is that moment of reconnection that God will provide respite from the wind and shelter from the storm.  God will take his turn at the front and working together He will help you reach your destination.  As we explore our often all too busy lives, be sure not to drop your relationship with God, because as every cyclist knows, its always best to ride with a partner.

I Crossed the Line.

I crossed the line.

Eventually, I knew it would happen.  The line had sat out there tempting me for years.  Every so often it would beckon to me softly.  Tempting me, daring me to cross it, but each time the line presented itself to me, I was able to resist the temptation.  That is until this past Saturday.

The day had started out like most other Saturday’s in my house.  A trip to the local coffee shop for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and some conversation.  Little did I know that as I sat and sipped on coffee cooled to the perfect drinking temperature and discussed future summer plans with friends that today was going to be the day.

Returning home from the coffee shop normalcy reigned supreme.  Housecleaning, a little internet surfing (I had to see how my favorite riders were prepping for the next days Paris-Roubaix race).  Little did I know I was mere hours from crossing the line, a line that once crossed there is no turning back from.

Josef Fischer

I dropped my daughter off at a birthday party and found myself with a few hours of alone time.  The wipers on the cars swished back and forth wiping the steady cold spring rain from my windshield.  I waited at the stoplight when I heard the line beckon.  It called my name, quietly at first and then growing louder with each rhythmic wipe of the wipers.  The car’s thermometer joined in when it chimed altering me to the near freezing conditions outside my car.  39 degrees and rainy lovely day.

When I returned to my empty house, before I realized what was even going on I was inching ever closer the line. A line I had resisted for years, offering excuse after excuse as to why I wouldn’t cross it.  But today I was inexplicably drawn to this mythical line a line I had successfully avoided for years.

I will admit it felt good to cross the line, it felt real good in fact, maybe a little too good.  Sweat began to drip from my forehead rolling down my wet face into my open eyes.  The stinging and burning making me feel alive.  Water rolled off my tires, spraying my back with a mixture of ice cold water and grit.  The cold spring air stinging my face, freezing my hand, and making me glad to be alive.

Every spring, when I’d see rain drops roll off my window, I always postpone my bike ride.  Preferring the comfort of my couch to the discomfort of the bike, but last Saturday I crossed the line and rode.  I rode a measly 22 miles, but it was pure bliss.  I was alive, I was on my bike, I was outside, I had crossed the line and had finally become a hard core cyclist.  No longer was I just the recreational cyclist who thoroughly enjoyed a Saturday ride.  I was the guy who despite the abysmal conditions threw my leg over the bike and began to pedal.

Riding in the spring rain had scared me for years.  It’s too cold, too wet.  My bike will melt, it’s not really a rain bike afterall.  Well guess what, bikes aren’t made out of sugar so they are okay to ride in the rain and as the miles ticked by I wasn’t as cold as I thought I’d be.  I wasn’t as wet as I thought I be, (turns out I was wetter, but that’s besides the point).  The entire ride wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be. In fact, it has become one of my most cherished bike riding experiences ever.

Pavé under repair by Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix

We all have lines in our life that we need to cross every now and then.  We all put barriers up, whether it be a barrier to God or a barrier to our spouse.  Whatever the barrier is, our lives our full of lines.  Crossing those lines is scary, it leaves us vulnerable, exposed to the elements.

God call us all to a life of service and sometimes that service includes crossing a line or two.  It involves going out into the elements, exposed and vulnerable.  We need to remember that while God calls out into the elements.  He will never leave us alone.  He will provide shelter from the storm when it blows too hard, a charcoal fire to warm cold hands by, a cup of warm coffee and conversation to replenish your soul.

Look around your life, find the lines that need to be crossed and cross them. Do what God is calling you to do, be unafraid to live your life according to His will.  You may find that crossing a line isn’t as scary as you think it is.  It may just open up a whole new world of possibilities for you.

Winds of Change

When I go out for my bike rides, I usually always try to ride into the wind first.  Get the hard work out of the way and then enjoy the tailwind on the way home.  This has been my cycling M.O. since day one.

I recently went out for a fall bike ride to take in some of the fall colors and get in a few last road miles before I have to shackle my bike to the indoor trainer for the winter.

As I left my house, I was greeted by a gentle breeze.  Nothing serious, just a pleasant warm fall breeze.  Keeping in line with my ride into the wind first mentality, I pointed my bike directly into the day’s weak wind.

Fast forward 5 miles into my ride and that subtle breeze had transformed itself into a full force headwind capable of turning the fallen leaves into stinging projectiles.  I continued to pedal despite the leaves bouncing off my carbon frame with a surprisingly loud thud.

The strong headwind had turned my easy fall ride into a challenging battle of man vs bike vs wind vs hills.  I started to question why I even rode bike and why I was pedaling this stupid contraption towards some silly predetermined turnaround.

I crested a small hill and was greeted by more wind driven leave missiles.  It seemed as if each leaf was strategically aimed at my legs, arms, and face.  The longer I pedaled into the wind the more I became convinced that all of these leaves striking my body were going to leave welts.

They look pretty, but they’re dangerous

It then hit me like a leaf across the face, why don’t you simply turn around.  Why do you keep going forward despite the suffering?  Each pedal stroke brought a steady stream of burning legs topped off by a fresh barrage of leaf induced welts.

Why don’t I just turn around it would be so much easier to go with the wind?

I continued on towards this arbitrary turn around line in the road and the closer I got it the clearer it became.  I continued into the wind because I chose to.  I made the choice to pedal myself towards that silly line in the road.  No one but myself was forcing me to pedal towards that line.

I reached that line and once the bike was turned around and the wind was safely at my back, I thought about my life.  It was at that moment I realized that just as I chose to pedal towards this spot in the road, I choose every morning to wake up and follow Christ.  No one forces me to pedal into the wind, but myself and no one forces me to follow Christ but myself.  Christ doesn’t force me to follow Him, it is a choice I make.

There are days in my life were it may seem easier to stop following Christ’s path for me.  Where I would rather turn around and go with the flow of modern society rather than stand in opposition to it.  Yet despite this temptation I continue to follow Christ and His will.

Following Christ is not always an easy thing to do.  There are going to be times where you will be asked to suffer for your beliefs.  When those times arrive in your life resist the temptation to turn around and go with flow. Instead, put your head down shift gears and keep pedaling.  Yes, simply keep pedaling and one day you will find yourself smiling, wind at your back and the light of eternal life upon your face.

Why Didn’t I Think of This Before

As a cyclist I am always looking for new and innovative foods to eat while out riding.  I’ve experimented with many different types of foods, I’ve tried Peanut Butter and Jelly the good old standby of the jersey pocket. I also eaten bananas, apples, and raisins.  All of which are good food choices.

The red candy corn isn’t rotten it’s the new Carmel Apple flavor. Very delicious.

This past week I started experimenting with a new bike delicacy.  Candy corn and peanuts mixed together.  This little treat has been a fall staple in my house for years, but its use for bike fuel has eluded me until this past week.

Candy Corn Peanuts is very easy to make. Take a bag of candy corn and a jar of peanuts pour into a bowl and shake.  That’s it.  You don’t even need to turn on a stove.

To use this mixture as bike fuel.  Simply fill up a snack sized ziplock bag and place in your jersey pocket.  The mixture is delicious and provides the right mixture of sweet and salty when out for a ride.  The peanuts are also a good source of protein.

Candy Corn bagged and ready to go.

The one downside to this mixture is that it is slightly difficult to eat with bike gloves on.  I ended up dropping quite a few peanuts and candy corn pieces on the ground as I was on my ride.  I would not use this mixture while racing or in a competitive group ride as you would undoubtably end up pelting fellow riders with dropped pieces of candy corn.

For the recreational ride, however, it works perfectly. The candy corn doesn’t melt when sitting in the jersey pocket for extended periods of time and the saltiness of the peanuts tastes great while riding.

Candy corn and peanuts is a simple yet elegant solution to your on bike fueling needs. While this has typically been a fall treat in my house, I am now thinking it may become a yearlong staple in my cycling food rotation.