A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Five Tips for Surviving Multiple Day Cycling Events and Century Rides

After surviving the longest Ride the Rockies in history in 2013 and toughest day ever on Ride the Rockies in 2014, I've learned a few lessons (the hard way) about how to survive long-mileage and multiple day rides. Actually, I've compiled these tips over the years, having finished eight RTRs and ten Bike MS rides (2-day, 150 miles) since I began long distance cycling in 2000.

Ride the Rockies 2014 was easily the most challenging of the eight I have completed, with over 30,000 ft. of elevation gain!

Participating in long-distance and multiple day rides requires a significant amount of training (this article has some great training tips for multi-day rides) to avoid suffering during the ride. Don't get me wrong, you can do long distance rides without a significant amount of training. I know a lot of people who do but most of them suffer the consequences, including more time on the bike each day and the resulting aches and pains that go with it!

Ride the Rockies 2013 became the longest in history when a reroute due to wildfires added 33 miles to the route.
Regardless of your training level, these five tips will help you survive your first century ride, multi-day charity ride or a week-long bike tour like Ride the Rockies:

1) Stretch Before You Get Sore/Tight -- Whether you believe in stretching before, during or after a workout (my brother is into dynamic stretching), one thing is clear: once you start to develop tightness/soreness it is hard to recover on a long distance or multi-day ride. By Day Three that little twinge had become a sharp-stabbing pain like a dagger being thrust under my right shoulder blade. The tightness in my right should eventually migrated to my lower back and right hip, running down my IT band to my knee (I must have been overcompensating on my right side). At times I was forced to get off the bike and stretch every 5-10 miles (even less when climbing) to relieve the pain.

2) Apply Chamois Butter Before You Start Chafing -- Speaking or pain, one of the most common questions I get after the ride is "does your butt hurt"? Seems like kind of a personal question but most people find it hard to fathom sitting on a small, hard bike saddle for hours and days on end (literally). No matter how much riding you do before the big event this can become a problem. They actually make a special product called Chamois Butt'r designed to prevent chafing and soreness. This year I finally got smart and applied it on the first day rather than waiting until saddle sores began to appear and I avoided them altogether. This tip also applies to sunscreen and lip balm. Just be sure to double check which tube you grab before applying (yes, I know someone who applied butt butter on their face as sunscreen).

3) Drink Before You Feel Thirsty -- I learned this lesson on my first Ride the Rockies when I ended up in the ER in Leadville, Colorado suffering from altitude sickness! Hydration is critical on long rides, especially when riding at altitude. I was able to stay hydrated for most of the ride this year. I did feel a little parched one day but recognized the tell-tale signs (I know I am getting dehydrated when I have difficulty swallowing while riding) and increased my water intake and it never became an issue. 

One 3 oz. serving of beef provides more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10% of your daily calories!
4) Eat Before You Feel Hungry (or fuel before you bonk) -- Similar to staying hydrated, it is important to keep fuel in your tank during a long ride. If you've ever run out of fuel (or bonked), you know what I mean! Fortunately, most long distance rides are supported and offer a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods along the route. I try to eat something at least every hour -- or at every aid station: fruit, pretzels, animal crackers, basically whatever they provide! I carry Clif Shot Bloks on me for fuel between stops. And, of course, at the end of the day I always seek out a big burger or steak to help my muscles repair fuel up for the following day on the zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins in beef.

5) Death Before SAG -- Until this year on Ride the Rockies I had never ridden in a Support and Gear (SAG) vehicle on a long ride. I have been fortunate to avoid a major mechanical breakdown requiring a ride and have vowed to never hitch a ride because I was tired, sore, or mentally done with the ride. This attitude is captured in a saying I heard on my first Ride the Rockies: Death Before SAG. I have never come close to a choice between death and sagging and obviously don't ever want to test it! For me, it's just an attitude you have to have going into the ride or you risk succumbing to the the temptation! There's a team on the Colorado Bike MS ride named "Ain't Too Proud to SAG." I think that's the wrong attitude (but, hey, they're doing it for a good cause!). To me, SAG is a last resort option in the event of a physical or mechanical breakdown (or thundersnow storms at the summit of Berthoud Pass).

Support and Gear (SAG) vans drive up and down the route rescuing riders who have broken down -- either mechanically, physically or mentally!
Photo credit: http://www.mvermeulen.com/rtr2009/
What multiple-day or long distance rides do you have coming up yet this summer? What tips would you share? Please post a comment!

Ride on!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

BEEFWIFE: Rhut-rho, Shaggy, it’s Rhubarb season!

One of the BEEFMAN’s colleagues sent him home with a few stalks of rhubarb last month so I decided to make Scalloped Rhubarb, a super simple, yummy, gooey deliciously sweet and tart dessert recipe I got from my mother-in-law (guess that makes her the BEEFMOM!). It's getting late in the rhubarb season (April-June) but if you can still find some, this would make a great Father's Day dessert.

Rhubarb looks like red celery and typically used as a fruit but technically is a vegetable.  The stalks are edible but the leaves contain oxalic acid and can be toxic so discard the tops.

To peel or not to peel, that is the question.  As I was making this, I peeled the rhubarb because of the celery-like strings and for some reason I had it in my head that you were supposed to peel before cooking (where did I come up with that?).  As I sat down to write, I decided to do a little internet research with some of my favorite Food Network chefs’ recipes and found that no one says “step 1: peel the rhubarb.”  Thanks, Ina (Garten), Anne (Burrell) and Bobby (Flay); wish I had checked BEFORE I made this!

At least I can show you what peeled rhubarb looks like even though you NEVER have to do this step.  After NOT peeling your rhubarb, cut into one-inch pieces.

Next cube your bread.  I like to use challah which is a traditional Jewish yeast egg bread that I get in my local grocery store; I think it gives a little more texture to the dessert.  The BEEFMOM used white sandwich bread, so feel free to experiment with bread types.  I removed the bottom crust first but not the top crust.

Pour the melted butter over the bread cubes and stir to coat.  Add sugar and mix well.  I could just stop right here and eat the whole bowl.  Like a butter and sugar sandwich!  You had those as a kid, didn’t you?

Fold in the rhubarb.

Spread into a greased baking dish.  Add one tablespoon of water into each corner of the pan but do NOT mix in.  Bake 45 minutes until golden and gooey and delicious looking!

YUM... add a little scoop of vanilla ice cream and prepare to be amazed!

Scalloped Rhubarb

6 cups bread cubes, crusts removed (or not removed, your choice)
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
4 cups rhubarb, cut into one-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bread cubes with butter; add sugar and mix well until bread is well coated.  Fold in rhubarb. Pour mixture into greased 13x9 baking dish.  Put one tablespoon water in each of the four corners of the pan but do not mix in.  Bake 45 minutes, covering during last 10 minutes if top is getting too brown.

Alternate:  I was going to make this one time in the fall and couldn’t find rhubarb (fresh or frozen) in my store so I made with blueberries instead.  I cut the sugar almost in half and it turned out lovely so feel free to try with other fruits adjusting the sugar to which produce you use and to your taste.


Leslie (aka the BEEFWIFE)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ride the Rockies 2014 Day Six: Welcome to Golden!

The final descent down Lookout Mountain into Golden, Colorado, made it all worth it. Six days of riding featuring some of the toughest climbing I have done: Boulder Canyon (especially the middle third), Berthoud Pass (Empire to Mile 66). the Three Bitches (see below), Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass (a tough combo), Loveland Pass (especially Keystone to A-Basin), and Floyd Hill (a nasty little stretch of about two miles at 8-10% grade). After all that we were rewarded with a true downhill finish featuring amazing views of downtown Golden and the Coors Brewery.

I'm still not sure which of these steep climbs are the ones locals call the "Three Bitches." The first three were tough, but the two in the middle were just plain nasty. And that little bump at the end was brutal. The fact that it was a totally unnecessary detour through a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes supports my theory that ride director Chandler Smith suffers from Sadistic Personality Disorder
Day Six began in Breckenridge with a nice easy five mile cruise on the bike path until we hung a right and climbed over Swan Mountain (steep but short) and into Keystone. From Keystone to A-Basin ski area is the toughest part of the climb up Loveland Pass (straight and steep, especially the four miles below A-Basin). It was funny to see skiers heading to the slopes as we rode up to the parking lot. Three of them were Team Bar2Bar members Woody, Paul (the Pilot) and Leah (Paul's daughter, the stoker).

The Bar2Bar Ski Team gears up to ski a few runs at A-Basin int he cycling helmets and jerseys! From left: Lea, Paul (the Pilot) and Woody.
Paul and Lea drove up from their home in Frisco with the tandem and ski equipment so they could ski a few runs before finishing the ride. Woody rode up and skied a few "laps" (as he calls them) before getting back on his bike and rejoining the ride. The Bar2Bar Ski Team accomplished something I'm sure few, if any, others have done: skiing in the middle of a ride on Ride the Rockies!

The video above captures the final ascent to the summit of Loveland Pass (it's pretty long, about 20 minutes, but not much happens in the middle -- from 8:00 to 12:00 -- so feel you might want to fast forward through this section!). We had a nice tailwind up the pass. I call this tailwind "Angel's Wings" because it literally feels like you are being lifted up from an invisible force. The views from the top are awe inspiring and you definitely feel a little closer to heaven!

The next 35 miles featured a mostly downhill combination of bike path and side roads through the old mining towns of Silver Plume and Georgetown. Shawn and I rocked this section and were joined by Omar, a wounded veteran, for the stretch into Idaho Springs (we rode up some of this stretch on Day One before the snowstorm on the summit of Berthoud Pass shut down the ride).

Omar is part of a program called Ride2Recovery that helps wounded veterans recover from mental and physical injuries through cycling. After being bed ridden for three months following spinal injuries, cycling helped Omar get back up and moving. He is now training for the U.S. Paralympic Team. There were several Ride2Recovery participants on RTR this year. Click here to donate to this great cause.

It was honor to meet Omar, a veteran wounded in service to our country in Iraq. Thank you for our freedom, Omar!
Omar and I lamented being "larger" riders as we started the climb up Floyd Hill. Struggling up the steep climb (1,000 feet in two miles) I kept saying, "I don't know who Floyd is but I don't like him! Turns out he was an early rancher in Colorado. So he must have been a good guy but the hill named after him sucks!

Shawn was a great teammate, doing lots of pulling and offering words of encouragement after leaving me in his wake on the big climbs. "See you at the top," he'd shout over his shoulder as he took off. :)
After the short descent of Floyd Hill we had a little climbing to do to get to the top of Lookout Mountain, but the end was near and the thought of the final descent (and the burger I had at the aid station in Idaho Springs) gave my legs the last burst of energy they needed and soon we were overlooking Golden, the final stop on RTR2014. The following video captures the windy descent of Lookout Mountain in Golden.

Passing under the Golden Arch, Shawn and I joined the other cyclists in celebrating surviving one of the toughest Ride the Rockies in history. Given the cold weather and over 25,000 feet of climbing (considering I was about 1,500 feet below the top of Berthoud when they closed the pass to cyclists), I think this was the most challenging of the eight RTRs I have completed. Of course, that makes the feeling of crossing the finish line all the more satisfying. After all, that's why we ride, right Omar?

Shawn captured this shot of me crossing under the Golden Arch, which doubled as the finish line for Ride the Rockies 2014.

It was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning with nothing on the agenda except to rest up and getting ready to re-enter the real world. Only two weeks until my next big ride -- the Colorado Bike MS with Patty's Pack. Stay tuned for details on how you can be part of this fundraising effort to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Ride on!