Training vs. riding – what are you doing?

Most weekdays, my alarm goes off at 5:00am (4:30 on sunny Tuesday summer mornings).  I roll out of bed, throw on my gear and head to the ride of the morning.  I don’t wear a heart rate monitor, I don’t use a PowerTap, and I don’t even have a computer on any of my bikes.  I’m not using RPE, VO2 max or wattage (unless you count the wattage in my lights).  I’m getting up at that ridiculous hour to get a ride in before I start my work day, and I’m riding because I need to.

I have always loved bikes, but we had a trial separation that lasted about 12 years or so when life got in the way.  I started a family, started a business, survived a horrible motorcycle accident and forgot about riding.  I put on some weight, and prepared to become “Middle Aged Man”.  At some point though, things started to change.  For some unknown reason, I got back on my 15-year-old mountain bike, and on a beautiful fall day I headed out to the Southern Kettle Moraine trails with my friend Mark.  I think we did 1 Blue Loop, which was enough for me at the time, and all the old feelings came rushing back.  As we exited into the parking lot a photographer snapped a picture of my fat ass for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I was literally back in the saddle from that day on.

“Then” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel picture)

"Now" (

Fast forward some years, and I more fit than I’ve ever been.  I’m riding 12 months a year, putting on more miles than I ever have, racing mountain bikes, and starting to add road bike races to the 2011 calendar.  I built a cyclocross bike this winter which can only mean there’s at least 1 ‘cross race in my future too and I’m starting to ride with a lot of people who train now.  I’m starting to get questions about my training too.


When exactly did my riding become training??

As Mark will tell you, this is a dangerous spot for me to be in.  I would make the World’s worst poker player because I have a habit of just going “all in”.  He knows (better than I do) that if my riding becomes training, I will instantly suck all of the life out of my greatest passion.  I’ll begin posting Zone charts and uploading HR data and buying books about science and other crap I could not care less about.  Worse yet, I’ll start geeking out about bike stuff – relying on the latest high-tech garbage to shave seconds off my time, blah, blah blah.  Worst of all, I’ll start to hate all of the “work” I have to do just to get out and ride.  I’ll forget why I ever got back on the bike on that beautiful fall day…

Thankfully, (and thanks to my friend Mark and others just like him) I know that I love riding too much to train.  If it means I lose a race because of it, or even skip a race to do a ride, then so be it.


Never say “…one last time”

“As they speed thru the finish the flags go down.
The fans get up, and get out of town.
The arena is empty except for one man,
Still driving and striving as fast as he can”

CAKE – “Going the Distance”

I guess I’ll never learn – I told myself this would probably be the last Kettles ride of the year.  I also went for a muddy ride by myself with no tools.  That was about the stupidest thing I’ve done since I started at the back of the pack in my first Crit (Superweek), thinking I would work my way up to the front.  FAIL.

For those of us who don’t hunt (anymore), this was the perfect day for a ride.  45 and misty, the Kettles were a virtual ghost town this morning.  Everyone was either hunting, racing Cross or has already set up their trainers in the basement.  Too bad for you, the conditions were awesome. I jumped out of my truck and felt fast – WORS fast.  Slapped on a bright yellow helmet and even clipped on a little trail bell to let all the hung over hunters know that my brown bike with the white seat was NOT a deer.  I shot out of the parking lot and flew to the first wooden bridge, where I immediately slid sideways and ate mud.  Time to take it down about 4 notches.  The roll-in and all of the piney woods with gravel and sandy soil were super fast.  The light rain stuck everything together and it felt like riding on rails.  The rest of the trails (MOST of the trails) was like riding on Vaseline covered marble.  It’s been a dry Fall and the hard-pack trails roll super fast when it’s dry, but that little bit of rain just created a sheet of slime on the cement-like surface.  I think I was going faster up the hills than down on my first Blue Loop.

A quick stop in the parking lot to shed a few layers, still not a sole in sight aside from 3 runners, and it was back on the trails.  By now the ground had soaked up a lot of the moisture and the trails were rolling pretty fast again.  Just shy of 4 miles in, I blew the chain apart.  Tools?  You bet, back in my truck in the parking lot!  Time for the walk of shame.  Still an awesome way to spend my morning.  Made it back to the parking lot around 9:45, just as a few crews of weekend warriors on their reflectorized full-suspension rigs were about to roll in.

In just 24 hours I’ll be rollin’ down the road in Tampa, I’m guessing that when I get back in December the skinny skis will have taken over the Kettles.  So long John and Emma – see you in Spring!