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2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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On Doping: Last Thoughts on Sport, Play, and the Difference Between Them

November 12, 2012

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, immediately after the USADA revelations came out in the mainstream press. It’s far from perfect, but it failed to gain traction in various media outlets. I wonder if it raises too many uncomfortable questions or speculations. 

There’s a lot of rhetoric flying around over the current state of professional cycling—a lot of it very problematic. Either doping is all in the past or it’s something (still) best not talked about. But it seems as though the cyclists themselves remain the lone guilty parties. Over the next few weeks, I want to try to unpackage a lot of this in a series of posts. The following piece serves as my entry into the discussion. Read more…

Commuting America

August 10, 2012

I’ve been woefully delinquent over the past few weeks, and need to get back on track, but wanted to post this visual data quickly. As a means of planning to come back to it shortly.

The article reporting on this at the Sustainable Cities Collective offers some really interesting analysis and links to further studies that do a nice job of tying bike lanes, safety, etc., into commuters’ decisions.

Wounded

July 25, 2012

Three weeks in Vancouver. Three weeks off the bike. And now behind again on the blog. The title for this entry takes on multiple meanings, which will require further explanation over the next couple of posts, but let me start with a brief overview of the multiple meanings.

First, three weeks off the bike was especially painful. I missed my bike. I missed riding. I missed the exercise. I’ll expound further, perhaps, in a post devoted exclusively to the experience of not riding, but there was something missing during the trip. Secondly, my last ride was the long Vermont ride. I still need to post that report (coming soon), but in short it was un jour sans, and I had to get off my bike after 219km. Very disappointing. Adding insult to injury, less than 48 hours later, I was on a plane to Vancouver, left to stew for three weeks without being able to turn a crank in anger. More pain. Finally, there is the return to the bike. Three rides so far this week, and the discovery that my form is nowhere near where it was when I left for Vermont. The heat on Monday (41 with the humidex) was, in fairness, strong, but even so, I felt I was bleeding gears much too quickly every time the road turned upwards and recovering them much too slowly once things levelled off. Pride, soul, and body: all wounded.

The week has improved. After a short ride on Sunday (20km), followed by dying a thousand deaths on the way out to Mississauga and back (80km—Lower Base Line), today’s ride out McNiven and back (73km) was pleasant, although I did intentionally take my foot off the gas in order to just get the distance in and not worry about the pace. I felt a bit more confident on the bike, even if I was still struggling…

Riding with Friends

June 26, 2012

(Sunday’s) Ride: 69km—Dundas, Kilbride, Dundas

Weather: Warm, overcast

This is a week of riding in good company. It started Sunday with a great ride with a local friend from Café Domestique. A good, hard pace, comfortable chat, and great route. Later in the week, I ride with one of my oldest friends (for the first time), and then on Thursday I take on Vermont with a large group of friends met over the internet, who, after 350+km together, will have developed a deep bond. Riding brings people together. That’s good.

Give Me Air!

June 23, 2012

Today’s Ride: 20km—Mineral Springs

Weather: Sunny, hot

I recently finished William Fotheringham’s biography of the great Fausto Coppi. A very moving read, which I recommend. Coppi died from malaria in 1960 (malaria = bad air). And reportedly called for air near the end. I’m not dying (well, we’re all dying, right?), but have spent the past couple of weeks miserable with a bout of sinusitis, which is just unpleasant, and made all the worse on the bike when you desperately want to take in more air and can’t. I’m working at about 75-80% capacity at the moment, which makes riding possible, but exertions difficult. Hopefully, I can remedy the situation by Thursday.

Summer is here. Taking in even a short ride like this one without any drinks on board is foolish. I didn’t take anything to drink with me, and was suffering at the top of Wilson. Not badly, but would have been quite happy to take a swig of water or energy drink at that point. The pace wasn’t heavy (see previous paragraph—not the malaria bit, but the sinusitis part), but with a number of riders climbing, it was hard not to want to hunt them down. I resisted, but my pace and bigger gear meant I was eating them up anyway. And with limited oxygen, was huffing and puffing more than I should have done. And thirsty. Espresso at Café Domestique was most welcome, post-ride.

Tell Me I’m Not Ready

June 20, 2012

Today’s Ride: 91km—Onondaga, Harrisburg, Dundas

Weather: Hot, humid—40+ with humidex

Less than three hours. The best way to get through a hot and tough ride is to get it over with. Next week, I’ll be riding 200 on 100: 200 miles on Vermont’s scenic Highway 100. I’ve been looking forward to this for several months. Motivation for each ride has been, in part, a determination to prepare for next week. In this case, 200 miles translates to 358km in order to finish in North Adams, MA. For the past week or so I’ve been suffering badly from seasonal allergies. My sinuses have been inflamed and congested; I’ve been miserable. I’m not completely out of the woods, but today’s ride was an important one. I needed to put in a good ride, before taking on some shorter rides over the next week before Vermont.

Today started okay. I was breathing, which is always good. And only slightly limited in my oxygen intake. Out Fiddler’s Green and a nice breeze. Passing Lindley’s Farm, the waft of strawberries was lovely. And then into the zone. It was an unconscious ride, starting with what seemed like limited energy. But the rhythm came together, and I was turning a good and big gear. Through Harrisburg, I was finding my legs, and finally had the wind behind me. Confidence growing.

Back home, drenched in sweat. Feeling better for the ride, which was not always a good one. But stronger and more confident.

Figure Eights

June 16, 2012

Today’s Ride: 37km—Mineral Springs, Weirs Lane, and back again

Weather: Sunny, warm

Most of my rides consist of big loops, run either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Occasionally, I’ll run out along a particular line and follow it home. What I don’t do much is limit my distance from home by doing a more circuitous route that involves retracing my “crank steps” and cutting back on myself. Today, inspired by a drive to pick strawberries yesterday, I took in a dirt road closer to home that I’d not cycled. When I first arrived in Dundas, I’d ridden it on my mountain bike, but had avoided it on the road bike; driving along it yesterday, it was more compact and solid than I’d remembered. But how to incorporate it while still putting in a decent ride?

Regular Mineral Springs loop, adding on Weirs Lane’s climb, and then coming back around via Inksetter to return to the dirt along Sulphur Springs Rd., back up the hill to Ancaster, and then home along the Old Ancaster Rd. A nice loop with some decent climbing and never too far from home.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been fighting with a throat thing that seems to be evolving into allergies. A good/bad sign. Good that something isn’t knocking me out; bad that allergies aren’t always easily controlled. Today’s ride started out gingerly, but the climb up Wilson went fairly well and the pace improved. I didn’t feel my best in the humidity today, but the rhythm developed and I was comfortable throughout. Riding on dirt roads is nice. Different surface and, typically, more interesting roads.

Exploring Woolverton Rd.

June 14, 2012

Today’s Ride: 103km—Burlington, Grimsby, Woolverton Rd.

Weather: Sunny

A new route today, which involved heading out on familiar roads—up Sydenham and Snake Roads—and then cutting back along the lakefront trail, and south/east through Winona and Grimsby to take on Woolverton Rd. The picture to the side is a little misleading. Taken from the bottom, this is the easier half. Around the bend, coming out of the trees, the rider is in the sun and the incline pitches upward. In all, it’s 100m in less than 900m, and the worst of it toward the end. I was definitely at my limit, which could have stemmed from my first time trying the hill or its relatively late stage in the day’s ride. Maybe a bit of both. But that was hard. I’ll definitely have to head back that way again and try the various climbs up that side of the escarpment.

The day’s ride was generally fairly relaxed in its tempo. I rode fairly fast, but didn’t over-extend myself. With a long ride in Vermont scheduled for two weeks from today, I was mainly just turning the crank over rather than trying to push the pace. Putting some distance in the legs rather than training.

The approach to Woolverton Rd. The escarpment at this end seems to be more severe, especially as you get closer…

The view of Lake Ontario from Ridge Rd. If you look very closely, you might be able to make out Toronto in the hazy distance.

Ridge Rd.

Completing the V

June 14, 2012

Two rides:

Sunday: 26km—Up Valley Rd., Crooks Hollow, down Weirs Lane

Weather: Sunny, humid

Monday: 89km—Jerseyville, St. George, Concession 5

Weather: Sunny

Falling behind again. With morale low after the previous week’s poor riding, I set out on Sunday in sunny and hot weather and crossed paths with a number of cyclists out to enjoy the weather. My initial plan had been to go take it easy, but the number of riders on the road provoked a higher pace, especially on the climbs. I passed a good number of cyclists of various degrees of fitness, but found myself constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I had actually dropped them. A sign of a lack of confidence. As it happened, I had each time, but I found that sliver of doubt interesting and needing reassuring.

The same thing almost happened again on Monday morning as I hit Jerseyville Rd. I was surprised to find a cyclist behind me (maybe not; corner of the eye kind of thing). I raised the pace, and hammered hard from Shaver Rd. to Jerseyville. The cyclist could have been a figment of my imagination. And I don’t have such a fragile ego that being passed would have ruined a ride. And this was no race. But that was a long way to push to the pace in a big gear, resting on the drops. Which was good. Good for me to push myself. The pace remained high through St. George, and I eased up a bit on the return leg, letting the crank turn easily, still in a relatively big gear. But on fairly flat roads, momentum does most of the work.

All this to say that form seemed to be improved on the previous rides. The Velominati devote a lot of energy and attention to the promotion of Rule V. But in order to experience the V, one needs to hit bottom in order to “complete the V,” by climbing out of the valley inked on the page. The two rides at the beginning of the week offered that experience.