Smells Like Jock Spirit

Well the house sure smells like a jock lives here now. We’ll come back to jocks later but thanks to my cycling coach Petrina I’ve now got a medicine cabinet full of smelly body rubs and anti inflammatory drugs. (The drugs were my idea.) It smells like the Maple Leafs dressing room on a Saturday night. 

Of course I resisted Petrina’s suggestion which is just me being afraid and pretending that I had it all together. Well I don’t. After falling down the stairs about four or five months ago tearing off the supra…whatever muscle that supplies lift to the arm I’ve been really sore. After three months of physio and it was getting better and now I think I might have torn a tendon in yoga two weeks ago.

The good news is Petrina has a guy who specializes in sports injuries. The bad news is I can’t get to see him for a week and a half. The good news is the drugs and anti inflammatory rubs are doing a pretty good job. 

So I noticed another complaint. You know the Leonard Cohen song about aching where you used to play… Well I don’t play much at all these days but after riding 100 km per week for three months now there’s not much play left if you get my drift. So Petrina suggested I lower the tilt of my saddle about a millimetre. 

Isn’t great to have a coach in your corner for moments like these 😩

2 KM To Go

I was talking to the guy at CyclePath this morning and he’s one of the ride leaders for the Oakville Cycling Club.DSCF1745

He was encouraging me to return to the club group rides as my average speed of 22 kph is the average speed for the recreational cycling group.

The reason the average is so low is the OCC rides include some pretty daunting hills south of Milton and while you might be hitting 28-30 kph on the flats it’s the hills that have you climbing at a crawl.

My next goal is to raise my training average to 24-26 kph and that would bring me within shooting distance of some of the slightly faster group rides.

I want to make this work.

In Photo above: This is my Thursday morning training group from the CyclingCentre.ca. Anyone of these ladies can whup my butt up and down the backroads of Milton. A few of them are so kind as to shout words of encouragement as they blissfully ride by.

It’s a blessing but it’s tough being in this group of accomplished riders. It’s also a challenge. A good day is when I can keep up to them as we return to our vehicles. BTW the Tuesday morning group is no less daunting and skilled.cropped-3098_10153538706381169_7552897096369745097_n.jpg

BTW don’t be intimidated by my trials. The CyclingCentre has courses for everyone and we all have to start somewhere. I’m approaching 68 and while I maybe young in spirit the body is ageing. If you’re younger than me and in at least modestly decent shape cycling should be a breeze. If you’re older than me and in great shape like the 74-year-old racer I met on the weekend you are exactly who I want to be when I grow up!

QRP Field Day In Bronte

One of my other passions in life is Amateur Radio contesting. Ham radio contesting goes back to the days of Marconi and is more popular today than ever. There are about one million Hams licensed by their federal government in Japan and the same number in the U.S. Canada has about 40,000 licensed hams but about half are considered active.

In some international contests thousands of Amateur Radio operators take to the air for contests that last as little as four hours and often as long as 48 hours. The two-day long contests allow operators to experience all of the propagation conditions that change every 11 years in a solar cycle, every month, every day and sometimes even every hour. Some frequencies work to propagate signals in the daytime and other frequencies are better at night.

Trust me, it can be great fun.

At the end of the contest all of the participating stations file their logs of contacts completed online to a central website and within a short period of time contesters can look up their personal standings.

This past weekend was the annual American Radio Relay League’s Field Day. Field Day is not only a contest but it is also a North American wide demonstration of Amateur Radio operators ability to setup stations under simulated emergency conditions.

Often run by local clubs some operators also setup individual stations and a few run mobile stations capable of global communications.DSCF1756

So for fun, I set up a QRP (very low power) station on a bench at Bronte Harbour here in Oakville and worked Field Day. My transceiver (a receiver and transmitter combined in one box) is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket and my antenna was a single wire launched into a nearby tree using an arborists weighted bean bag (less scary than a bow and arrow or a pressurized potato canon – it’s a long story).

In photo: the LNR blue box is the radio. There’s a small hand-held transceiver above it which thanks to Internet connections at an automated remote Oakville repeater station has global communications capabilities and to the right is a Morse code set of paddles. The green thing is my cell phone.

Using headphones and Morse code I worked about 30 different stations over a few hours of operating thus proving my point that a QRP station can be a viable emergency communications device.

Ham Radio still has a place in this modern world of cellphones and the Internet. In wide-scale disasters such as wildfires, floods, tornados, hurricanes and ice-storms modern technology fails either from being overloaded with calls or from a loss of hydro power.

Hams often volunteer their communications services to such organizations as the Red Cross (which provides shelter and displaced person registration) and the Salvation Army (which provides similar services) during these large-scale disasters.

Morse code with its short forms and overall speed is just as effective for this kind of work as voice and is, in fact, much more efficient thus allowing a 3-watt pocketable radio to work the world under the right conditions.

 

Warp-Core Meltdown

Back from a tough 30K ride to Burlington and back. Couldn’t get any power so worked on looking good. 👀 Knees up. Relax shoulders. Change gears a lot more often. Spin up, drive in harder gear, gear lighter, spin up, drive in harder gear. Wave at passing cyclists  Stop for red lights. Ignore the headwind  image

Every time I thought about something else my legs stopped. After a break in Burlington thought I’d do a leisurely return to Oakville.

Then a 50-year-old guy sails past me doing about 28. Then three young women who likely were his students pass me. So we put the impulse engines back online and within 500 meters I’ve caught up. I stay back to be respectful and we do about km.

I’m starting to breath hard. I’m not wearing my heart monitor but I know I’m out past my 143 bpm theoretical max. My guess is I’m hitting 150 which I can maintain for a kilometre or so but I’m eating up my own reserves.

If I can spin up (lighten the load captain) and reduce my energy expenditure I can stay with these guys by more efficient riding (Something like a jump into warp speed) but I’ve got to get my heart rate down right now so I gear down again  to reduce the force and I start getting closer and then somewhere around Guelph Line the foursome kicks up their speed to 32 kph and I gear harder to try to keep up. My breathing can be heard across the lake and the foursome is dropping me faster than a bad date  and then suddenly my forward motion drops and the bike falls out of light speed and the warp core shuts down in an act of preservation and I’m drifting down propelled only by my forward momentum

The foursome disappears down the road and as I drop back down to about 24 kph I shake my fist as those famous words echo in my ears “…curse you Red Baron.”

Thats me (above) recovering with bananas, coffee and the weekend newspapers. I’m reminded again what doesn’t kill you…..

Coffee, Tea and Me

Today Petrina (www.cyclingcentre.ca) had us sprinting up and down the backroads building strength in our legs. On the return trip she had us clipping out one foot and pedalling with the other. Every hundred meters or so we’d switch.

There’s logic behind all this madness and to find out why we’re doing all these tricks you’d  have to join the group and let Petrina do her thing.DSCF1731

I had no idea that proper cycling would be so hard…think I’ve said that before but it is when you’re doing it right.

Petrina is tough as nails but she is also a sweet girl. For someone with a drill sergeant’s demeanour, she’s got a heart of gold. She practically willed one of the newer riders up a very steep trail. As I pedalled…slowly…past them I could hear the rider saying empathically “I can’t Petrina” and I could hear Petrina saying just as empathically “Yes you can!”

I later found out that yes she could and yes she did do the climb. Petrina knew best….again.

One of the tricks of hiring a coach is you’ve got to be coachable. I have a lot of respect for Petrina, who has raced on the pro circuits, and it’s a good practice for me to work on accepting her directions without question or complaint.

Not everyone can do this. If you’re not teachable, there’s not much a coach can do for you but take your money. When you let a coach under your protective cover suddenly you’ve got an ally.

Today was a tough day but exhilarating at the same time.

Oh and the tea and coffee?

One of the ladies invited all over to her place for tea (I think everyone had coffee) and homemade scones. I wasn’t going to go as I am the only man in the group and then I got thinking about it and went anyway.

We had a wonderful time swapping stories and hanging out together. The ladies who ride on both the Tuesday and Thursday morning classes are just the best.

Here’s the gang:

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It’s a pleasure riding with these folks. Many of them shout words of encouragement as I struggle to keep up. I am starting to catchup but it’s going to take some more hill work 😦

Sharing The Road

So were pedalling ourselves up 4th Line from Base Line Road and some Bozo thinks it’s okay to swerve his 4,000 pound black VW SUV around us in a dangerous and aggressive manner.

Okay we were riding two across which is okay under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act but against “policy” here in Halton. I didn’t know municipalities had the power to set “policies” whenever they felt like it but seems like they might.

This particular one is dumb and dangerous as it forces group rides into long strings of riders which are difficult to pass on country roadways. Two across riding is much safer as it shortens the amount of time need to pass the bicycling group. Unfortunately many drivers think they are the primary vehicle on the road and don’t slow down enough to safely pass a group of cyclists. Too late and with tragic results too many drivers here in Ontario find they aren’t the primary vehicle and by law must share the road with slower moving vehicles and aggressive driving to express discontent is dangerous and illegal.giphy

Anyway back to Bozo. I indicate in a clear manner that I thought his driving sucked but he didn’t take the bait and stop as I’d photograph him and his license plate and make a complaint with Halton Regional Police. If he (or she) was particularly aggressive I’d wallop a video up on FaceBook and YouTube.

Yes I know we were riding two across but two wrongs don’t make a right especially when one of us is driving a vehicle capable of causing vehicular manslaughter.

I really hate fat, angry older men who can’t control their temper and act out in childish and an aggressive manner. They are danger to themselves (from stress related heart attacks) and everyone else on the road.

After my communication with Bozo, my coach Petrina gave me  rather stern dressing down about how my behaviour could set Mr. Bozo off and he could roar through the main group of our friends pedalling ahead of us.

I hadn’t considered that outcome.

I’m starting to think a GO Pro on the handlebars might do the trick.

 

 

The OCC Kit

I got the word that my jersey and cycling pants (thanks to Garneau) were ready for pickup at Cyclepath Oakville.

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Slimming what?

For newcomers not only are cycling shorts an absolute necessity (and always worn without underwear to prevent irritation of places you only see on yourself with a handheld mirror) but the can be very slimming as well even stylish.

Case in point the Oakville Cycling Club kit for 2016. Pretty snazzy if I do say so myself. Kind of makes me a chick magnet? Okay maybe not so much but at least when I rejoin the evening rides (I’m feeling more confident after taking lessons from www.cyclingcentre.ca) I’ll look gooood.

Marion’s Big Day

Marion got herself a used Specialized Ruby carbon-fibre bike with Shimano 105 components and she is over the moon. We had it tuned up and fitted and it’s like new.

Well that’s after a couple obligatory falls as she got used to being clipped into the pedals but within a few minutes she got the hang of it  I’m pretty sure everyone who starts riding clipped in goes through this and I was no exception except I managed to do it in the middle of a busy intersection.

We went out in front of the house and practiced clipping in and out. Once we got that we biked over to the highschool parking lot where we practice going up and down the gears controlled by the right hand.

inside of half an hour Marion was shifting like a pro.  We’re going to get a couple more short rides in this weekend before she attends Petrina’s ( of the http://www.cyclingcentre.ca)beginners’s class Monday night here in Oakville.

No photos allowed yet 🙂

 

A Tale Of Two Heroes

Two different people with very different stories but a singular thread that ties them together.

The first story is about Muhammad Ali.muhammad-ali-AB

Not his boxing prowess. He was the “Greatest” after all.

Not his brashness in his youth. Hard as it was to hear some of what he had to say, he was right and history has already said so.

It wasn’t even his last fight against Parkinson’s. Who can forget him – shaking, shuffling slowly but moving forward to light the caldron at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics?

What stands out today is the overwhelming thoughts expressed  in newspaper column after newspaper column that a king who made us all better and stronger and less afraid has died and his loss is personal and immediate and sharp.

The second story is also about a hero. Not on the same stage but closer to home.

Thanks to my new coach Petrina and my new carbon-fibre road bike I’m all about cycling these days (Half measures availing us nothing and all that.) so a story in today’s morning newspaper about Canadian cyclist Tara Whitten who won a bronze medal in team pursuit at the 2012 Olympics grabbed my attention.2012 Olympic Games

You see Tara had what seemed like a serious but not life-threatening training crash into the back of a small bus (on a bicycle I’m not sure there’s anything small about any bus you’re about to smack into) and after regaining consciousness thought she was okay.

Turns out she wasn’t okay. The accident happened in Rio where she was inspecting the Olympic course and upon her arrival in Calgary she discovered she had fractured the base of her skull and had a concussion.

That alone would have been enough to change my life and end my cycling days but Tara, after wearing a neck brace for weeks, won silver at an international time trial last Friday and this after being deprived of weeks of training.

Why did she go back out racing and why did she place silver (amazing result)?

Here’s where our two stories collide (if you’ll pardon the pun) and it’s Tara to whom we turn for the answer when she said (and I quote from the National Post story in today’s sports section):

“I love racing on my bike, so I just have to go out and do what I can do.”

Now you and I are no Tara Whitten and we’re sure no Muhammad Ali but if there’s something we truly love to do, isn’t it just essential that we just go out and see what we too can do?

Who knows. You might change the world. You’ll certainly change your own personal world.

See you down the road….