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!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Do Old Guys Get Fat in Winter?

The elusive "Old Guys Who Get Fat in Winter"
Racing Team jersey
Several years ago on Ride the Rockies I saw a guy wearing an "Old Guys Who Get Fat in Winter" racing team jersey (but I've never been able to find one for sale!). Having battled the bulge in my 20s and lost it in my 30s, I could relate to the annual weight gain cycle that plagues many men (and women, I gather from this Fabulous 40 & Beyond post) as we age. Now approaching the big 5-0 it seems to get harder and harder to lose the lose the weight come springtime so I am trying harder to avoid the gain. But I am finding that gets tougher, too.

So why do old guys get fat in winter? Some theories suggest that humans, like most mammals, instinctively store fat in winter to stay warm. I am somewhat skeptical of this hibernation theory -- essentially that our metabolism slows down to conserve energy during a period of cold weather when food supplies are scarce. We live in a climate-controlled world with abundant supplies of food a short ride away (hopefully with heated car seats)!

I put more stock in the "Holiday 10" hypothesis. Beginning with Halloween candy and extending through Thanksgiving over-eating, Christmas cookies, and New Year's over-indulgence my holidays are punctuated with family events focused on eating, drinking and being merry. I cannot even begin to calculate the number of calories I consumed this past week but it had to be at least 1,000 per day in beer alone!

But I am not going to deprive myself of holiday cheer in order to maintain my goal weight. As I have for the past 18 years I will simply increase calories burned to account for increased calories consumed. It's not really a very complicated concept. As I have often said, I swim, bike and run so I can drink beer (and enjoy other high calorie indulgences). And I eat beef to fuel my body with protein and nine other essential nutrients in a low calorie package (not to mention it tastes great and leaves me feeling full longer than other foods). 

One 3 oz. serving of beef provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10 percent of your daily calories
So here's my New Year's Resolution: Ride faster, run harder, swim more, eat more BEEF (and fruits and veggies) and save the calories for the good stuff (like my mom's pie!).

Diet and health can seem complicated. Keep it simple with beef.

Ride on,


P.S. Fire up a beef tenderloin for your New Year's celebration. One of the leanest and most tendcer cuts, tenderloin (aka filet) is an elegant and healthy way to ring in the new year and start 2013 off on the right foot! Try this recipe from Beef. It's What's for Dinner for a party pleaser!

I grilled up three 7-8 lb. whole tenderloins for Christmas dinner. The total price tag of $250 seems steep until you factor in that we fed 26 people for less than $10 per serving (and had at least half a roast leftover). Considering the crowd-pleasing flavor and low-calorie consequences (about 150 calories per serving), you can't go wrong with a tenderloin for your New Year's Eve party!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why I Hate 5Ks

Sitting on the couch watching the traditional Detroit Lions game, I am questioning my decision to run the 8th annual Turkey Rock Trot 5K. My feet hurt, my legs hurt, my back hurts and even my brain hurts. During the race I kept trying to tell myself the pain was only temporary but the fact is I am still hurting and probably will be for the rest of the day.

Me (at left), my brother Jon (right)
and nephew Alex (center)
looking pretty confident before the race.
The thing that hurts the most though is I didn't even run a particularly fast race (my unofficial time was 24:50 according to my Garmin Forerunner 410). My 8:00/mile pace was almost half-a-minute per mile slower my last race that covered twice the distance (10K) and only slightly faster than my last half marathon (13.1 miles).

I could blame the altitude (Castle Rock sits at about 6,400 ft.) but that last half marathon was in Denver (the Mile High City at 5,280 ft.). I could blame the weather but it was a fairly pleasant morning in the 40s with very little wind, similar to that 10K in North Dakota. I could blame it on a tough course but it's actually pretty flat and not particularly challenging. It just doesn't add up.

Maybe I'm just sore that I didn't reach my goal to break 24:00 and set a new 5K PR. I was battling a lot of mental "can't" during the race. My splits tell the story. I ran the first mile in 7:34, right on the pace I wanted to run today, and it's the toughest mile on the course. But for some reason I couldn't hold that pace and slowed to 8:06 in mile two.

I was just telling my brother and nephew that I got discouraged when I saw the 2K sign. "Only 1.2 miles?" I thought, "Not even halfway. I can't run this fast for another 2 miles." Then I got irritated. "Why do they have K markers instead of mile markers? We aren't in Europe!"

My brother just told me he got discouraged when a guy in an elf costume passed him. Funny how we let silly things discourage us. Thinking back I should have just set my sights on reaching the 3K marker and celebrating being over halfway. Instead I slowed down.

Here we are post-race, trying to mask the pain with a smile :)
By the time we made the turn towards home with about one mile to go I knew I would have to run a 7:30 mile to break 24:00. Instead, I slowed to 8:24 in the third mile before sprinting the final one-tenth of a mile to the finish line. To be honest, for much of that last mile I was thinking about walking, but I never did. 

I hate finishing a race feeling like I didn't give it my all. Seems like that happens to me every time I run a 5K. That's why I hate 5Ks. Short races require you to run all out for the entire race. To do that you have to push through the pain and negative thoughts that come with it. The devil on my shoulder got the best of me today.

While I didn't reach my goal I didn't quit either. I crossed the finish line ahead of everyone who didn't run the race :)

Ride on!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let's Talk Turkey (and BEEF, of course!)

With Thanksgiving fast approaching (why is it so early this year?) many people's thoughts turn to turkey. According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving and approximately 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving in 2011. Frankly, Thanksgiving is one of the few days out of the year that even I will consume fowl :)

But more and more every year, most runners' thoughts about Thanksgiving include beginning the day with a 5K, commonly known as a "turkey trot." I found 458 activities matching "turkey trot" on Active.com, including these 10 Turkey Trots to be Thankful For. And why not? It's a great way to start a day when the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone, according to the Caloric Control Council. That's twice the number of calories (2,000) recommended daily for most Americans!

I'll be trimming up a beef rib roast for Christmas!
Speaking of calories, did you know there are more calories in 6 ounces of white and dark meat turkey (340) than the same amount of BEEF prime rib (330)? I've blogged before about how turkey (and bison) are not leaner than beef but even I found this calorie comparison surprising! Check out this Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator to total your Thanksgiving feast calories and see how far you must walk in steps, miles and kilometers to walk it off.

I'll be running in my Team BEEF jersey
on Turkey Day 2012!
Running a Turkey Day race has been a holiday tradition for me since my first Turkey Rock Trot shortly after moving to Castle Rock, Colorado, in 2006. This year I will be running it with my brother, Jon, and other family members visiting for Thanksgiving. My goal is to break 24 minutes for the first time and set a new PR around 23:30 (according to Athlinks my official 5K record is 24:09). This would be about the same pace (7:35/mile) that I ran the Beefin' It Up; Fuel for the Finish 10K in North Dakota earlier this year (at a much lower altitude!).

I have been running fairly consistently since that race, averaging around 8 minute miles on training runs in mostly flat, lower altitude places like Lubbock, Texas (on the campus of Texas Tech University), Kansas City (through Westport) and Manhattan, Kansas (through Aggieville and the campus of Kansas State University).

To get back in race form I plan to follow a similar pattern to my Two-Week 10K Training Program, working in at least one speed workout per week on the local high school track. But right now I'm heading out for an LSD trail run with my black lab, Casey. Goal for today is just to enjoy the bright Colorado sunshine and burn some calories!

Ride on...


Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Two Week 10K Training Program

I saw this post from a friend on Facebook this morning...

...and it reminded me of a post I wrote one year ago on October 1 called My Two Week Half Marathon Training Program. This post remains one of the top five most read posts on my blog. The funny thing is that it's not really a training program at all. I was making it up as I went along. I had signed up for the Denver Rock 'n' Roll half marathon two weeks prior to the race and was winging it. Two weeks later I ran my second fastest half in 146:43 (8:08/mile)!

One week ago today I ran the fastest race of my life following a similar training schedule, setting a new PR at the 10K distance (47:04) and the fastest per mile pace (7:35) of any race I have run. So now I present to you, my two week 10K training program:

click image to enlarge

Basically all I did was vary my mileage and intensity with longer runs on the weekends (5 mi.) and shorter runs during the week, mixing in one high intensity track workout the Tuesday (10/2) before the race. I did jog about a mile while marking the course on the day before the race but didn't capture it on my Garmin Forerunner. But I made sure to save up plenty of energy to give it my all on race day. And that's what I did!

The bottom line is I never really follow any training regimen. Never have. Maybe that's why I'm a mediocre athlete. But then again I don't make a living as an athlete. I travel a lot for work and really can't follow a rigid training schedule. Business travel with a bike really isn't practical. And have you ever tried swimming laps in Holiday Inn Express pool? So I do what I can when I can. When I'm on the road, I run. When I'm home, I ride. In the winter I swim at the rec center and run on the treadmill. In the summer I ride my bike to work.

Today I think I'll go for a mountain bike ride on the Ridgeline Open Space. I'm not training for anything at this point. Just having fun and staying in motion. Maintaining a base level of fitness is the key to my two week training programs. I'm not starting on the couch. But if you are, it's never too late to start moving!

Ride on...


Monday, October 8, 2012

Fighting the Devil on my Shoulder

Approaching the finish line!
Everytime I run a race a little devil appears on my shoulder, usually about two-thirds the way into the race. "You can't do this. You're too tired. Your legs feel like lead. Your lungs are burning. You should slow down. Maybe walk a little. Or just quit." That devil cost me a PR in last year's Denver Rock 'n' Roll half marathon.

Fortunately I have an Angel on my other shoulder who balances that out. "You can do this. You have trained hard. The pain is temporary. Think how good it will feel to cross the finish line knowing you reached your goal -- and then post it on Facebook!"

Yes, sadly, I actually think about that when I am running :)

This past Saturday I beat the devil at his own game. I used him as motivation to run harder. I was expecting him. And when he showed up my Angel was prepared to fight with words of encouragement.

One of the angels on my shoulder was my friend Sheila Ressler, who not only helped plan the race but also finished her first 5K!
Since I had helped mark the course for the Beefin' it up; Fuel for the Finish 10K, I knew the course. Between miles 4 and 5 in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park there was a nasty hill. A long, steady incline that ended with a steep, winding climb. To make it worse, a cold headwind blew down the hill. Having experienced it on the back of a four-wheeler the morning before, I knew this is where the devil would appear.

Yet another angel, Kathy Tokach, handled many of the details of planning her first race like a pro.
Saturday morning was cold, but not as cold as Friday morning. And a clear, blue, sunny sky greeted the 175 runners and walkers who showed up for the race. I took the sun as a sign the Angel would be strong!

Turns out I had several angels on my shoulder! Two Facebook friends, Sarah and Teresa ran their first 5Ks in identical times of 36:21. I'd have loved to see them cross the line together (but I was still out on the course!).
At the start of the 10K I took off fast. I wanted to lead out the group through the first turns to make sure everyone made it to the main part of the course. One young woman, who I now know as Brie, took off fast. And sure enough, she missed the first turn. I yelled to her as I made the turn and she quickly turned around then caught and passed me, with a guy in neon-colored shoes, who I now know as Jared) right behind her. I had held the lead for about .2 miles and now sat in third.

I kept Brie and Jared in my sights up the mile-long climb to the 5K turnaround point. But when I crested the hill into Fort Lincoln they were long gone. I hoped they could follow the markings we had made on the pavement. When the landscape opened up at the bottom of the big hill (the same brutal one we would climb on the way back) I could see them make the turn on the road that would take them to the turnaround point.

Brie and Jared were still running together when they passed me heading back from the turnaround. We high-fived as we passed. I was still in third. And when I made the turn at the 5K mark I was right on my goal pace. I had just run my fastest 5K ever!

I like an out-and back course because I think it's fun to see all of the other runners, give some high fives and offer words of encouragement. I saw my friend Calli on the way back and she said "nice work." I liked that comment. It reminded me that there was still work to be done. A hill to be climbed.

Turning back on the main road it hit me. The wind. The hill. The devil. But this time I was ready. I actually talked to him. "Shut up!" I said when the negative thoughts creeped in. "Go away!"

That hill sucked. But I didn't let it beat me. That mile was my only one over eight minutes and it was 8:00.10! At the top of the hill I checked my Garmin Forerunner 410. I was still on pace to break 48:00. In fact, I had a shot at 47:00! The devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat :)

After crossing under the road and turning towards the finish line I saw the clock was still on 46:00 and change. I heard the DJ announce my name and sprinted towards the finish. I was still in third. I was going to make my goal. I crossed at 47:04 and yelled. Something like AAAAAAGGGHHH!

It was a painful, happy, satisfied, ardurous sound. I had just ran the fastest race in my life. Not only the fastest 10K, the fastest pace at ANY distance (7:35/mile). Take that, devil! At age 48. I'm not getting older. I'm getting faster!

The Beefin It Up! planning committee: from left: Michelle Marohl, Sheila Ressler, Sheyna Strommen, and Kathy Tokach.

The first-ever Beefin it up; Fuel for the Finish 5/10K was a huge success and provided me with a memory of a lifetime. Thanks to the North Dakota CattleWomen for inviting me to take part. Congratulation on putting together a tremendous race.

Ride on!


P.S. Jared and Brie took first and second in the 10K. Check out the full results here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm Not Getting Older; I'm Getting Faster

As I mentioned in my last post I was invited to serve as the official "spokesrunner" of the first-ever Beefin it up; Fuel for the Finish 5/10K. The race was being managed by two friends from the North Dakota CattleWomen's Association and I was honored by the invitation. However, I also was a little nervous. I am not an elite runnner. I have never had a "podium finish." I didn't want to show up and turn in a mediocre performance!

And I didn't just want to set a new PR for the 10K (55:29 set in my first 10K in 2007). I wanted run the fastest race of my life! By that I mean a faster per mile pace than any race I had run at any distance. This would mean I would have to run faster than 7:45/mile, a pace I set in the mostly downhill Trolley Run in Kansas City way back in 2004. So I set my goal at 48:00 (essentially 7:44/mile).

Keep in mind this meant I'd have to run 6.2 miles (10K) at a faster pace than I had ever run 3.1 (5K). My 5K PR is 24:09 (7:46/mile). After I announced my goal on Facebook and began having second thoughts. What was I thinking? I'm 48 years old. I haven't run a sub-8 race in two years!

So I started ramping up my miles but, more important, the intensity of my running workouts. I began pushing myself to run harder and faster, incorporating interval training and speed work. On several occasions I was able to run a sub-8:00 pace in training over the past two months but nothing to indicate that I was capable of running the fastest race of my life.

Sheila pounds in the mile marker "steaks" while Kathy waits on the four-wheeler. The 10K course followed along the Missouri River into Fort Lincoln State Park in Mandan, ND.
I flew in to Bismarck, ND, on Thursday and got up Friday a.m. to help mark the course with my friend Kathy and Sheila. The plan was to drive the course, which included sections of bike path and road, on Kathy's four-wheeler, marking the miles using my Garmin Forerunner 410 GPS-eanbled running watch. The plan did not include doing this in cold (28F), windy and overcast conditions!

After marking the miles I headed out to conduct a TV interview with KX News (CBS) in Bismarck. I was still shivering when I showed up for the interview. From there I met Sheila at the KFYR (NBC) TV studio for a live interview on the Noon Report. Then it was back to the course to mark key turns along the route.

Outside the KFYR (NBC) TV studio in downtown Bismarck, ND
We wrapped up the day with dinner at Montana Mike's steakhouse in Mandan, where I ordered my traditional pre-race meal of steak (filet) and sweet potatoes, two power foods that provide great fuel for the physical activity. I hit the sack early but slept fitfully in nervous anticipation of the race the next morning.

Could I pull off the fastest race of my life or was I overly-ambitious in setting such a lofty goal? Only time would tell.

To be continued...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cool Running

When I woke up yesterday morning and saw Facebook posts from friends in North Dakota (yes, I have friends in North Dakota) talking about snow I was a little worried. After all, the big race I have been training for since I parked the road bike and strapped on my running shoes is this weekend in North Dakota! While its not exactly like I'm on the Jamaican Bobsled team competing at the Calgary Olympics, the thought of running in the snow in October is a bit disconcerting, even for a guy from Colorado.

Heading out for the Turkey Rock Trot on Thanksgiving day 2007 is was 17F!
The good news is there was no snow on the ground when my flight arrived in Bismarck last night. It was cold and windy (temps in the 20s last night) but no wet stuff. And the forecast for tomorrow is sunny and cold (30s). Should be great running weather. I don't mind cold as long as the sun is shining.

I have run one race in extreme cold, the Turkey Rock Trot  on Thanksgiving Day 2007 in Castle Rock, CO. I have also run in pretty extreme heat. Temps topped out over 90F during the 13.1-mile run leg of the 2007 Vineman 70.3 triathlon. I'd take cold any day!

So I think things are looking good for me to make a run at setting a new personal record in the 10K. Actually, that should be fairly easy given that my best to date at this distance (I've only run two official 10Ks) was 55:29 at the Fans on the Field 10K in 2007. But my goal tomorrow is to break 48:00. That won't be easy. Given that my personal best in the 5K is 24:09, to break 48:00 I would essentially have to run two personal best 5Ks back-to-back!

I am now headed out to check out the course with Kathy Tokach and Sheila Ressler from the North Dakota Cattlewomen, sponsors of the race. Kathy and Sheila have done a great job planning the Inaugural Beefin It Up; Fuel for the Finish 5/10K race. Later this morning I will be conducting two TV interviews today as the official spokesrunner for this is a first-of-its-kind BEEF exclusive running event! Stay tuned for details and results.

Ride on!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Running into Fall

Wow. Nothing like taking a 2 month hiatus from blogging to help retain readers :) Of course, it helps to have readers to retain (hi mom!). Truth is I haven't had much to write about. I haven't had any events to train for since finishing Ride the Rockies in June so have just been working to maintain my weight and fitness level.

With the Hankster and Woody at the finish of RTR 2012.
I have also been transitioning from riding to running in anticipation of several Fall running events. Its my favorite time of year for running. My two fastest half marathons were run in September and October. Two years ago I set my personal best at 1:46:00 in the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Half Marathon. One year ago  I ran a 1:46:43 in the Rock 'n' Roll Denver half. My goal this year was to run one of these two events in sub-8 miles and break 1:45.

Me and Elvis at the finish of last year's Rock 'n' Roll Denver half.
Problem is I never pulled the trigger and registered for either event! Denver is next Saturday. I have until tomorrow to decide whether to register. I am following my two-week half marathon training program, so will be ready to run. The only problem is pulling the trigger on the $115 registration fee. That's a lot of money to pay to torture myself!

I'd really love to get back to KC to try and break my personal record. Unfortunately the $40 I could save on the registration fee wouldn't offset the travel costs to get there!

So I'm thinking I'm just going to focus my efforts this Fall on the first-ever Beefin It Up; Fuel for the Finish 5K Run/Walk 10K Run in Mandan, North Dakota, on October 6. I was invited by the North Dakota Cattlewomen to be the official spokesrunner for the event! I will be doing some TV interviews on Friday then running the 10K on Saturday.

My goal is to run a sub-50 minute race with a stretch goal to average 7:45/mile and break 48:00. I've only run two 10Ks before and my best is 55:29 at the Fans on the Field run in 2007. So this would be a significant improvement, to say the least. But I think it's doable. I'm running in the low 8:00s around my home at 6,400 ft and above (Mandan sits at 1,944) and I still have three weeks to train.

But there's still the Denver half next week. Should I do it??


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Riding with Big Troy and the Boys

Home on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies!
I often ride solo when I am in training or out for a leisurely ride. I like to lose myself in thought and enjoy the scenery along Colorado's Front Range. Sometimes, like this morning, I'll meet up with my buddy Troy. These rides are a little more intense, perhaps a bit competitive. As Troy said this morning, "We are perfect training partners. No slackin' when we're riding together!!!"

At the Sprucewood Inn with Big Troy.
Recently Troy and I have been meeting up with his friends John, Mark, Dan and Randy, who push it to a whole 'nother level (I've never tried writng that before and just now realized how grammatically incorrect that is, but I'm still going to say it!). These guys attack Deer Creek Canyon/High Grade Road (a category one climb like those seen on Le Tour) like a pack of wolves on a lamb (OK, so that's hyperbole but you get the picture). Only sometimes I feel like the lamb.

Team BEEF on this year's Elephant Rock ride
I like riding with a small group of strong riders like Troy and the boys, especially in large "event" rides like Elephant Rock, Colorado Bike MS and the Buffalo Bicycle Classic. It's fun to grab the wheel of the guy in front of you and hang on for dear life, taking turns pulling at the front and blowing past riders laboring along on inferior equipment or unconditioned legs.

Riding in large group events does have its challenges, like waiting in line for porta-potties and keeping a close eye out for riders to don't follow the rules of the road. Some people hate it (like my friend Jeff who rode solo from San Diego to Bar Harbor, Maine and wrote a book about it). Others (like me) like the atmosphere and social aspect of riding with a pack of several thousand other riders.

Following the rules of the road is especially important in large group rides and will help you and the other riders avoid serious injury. Nothing puts a damper on the fun like seeing the ambulance cart a rider off the course to the hospital. I've had it happen to friends and have had my own trip to the ER compliments of the Castle Rock Fire and Rescue Department. Not my idea of fun. My first goal in a large group ride is to cross the finish line...on my bike!

My trip to the ER after an unfortunate encounter with a car in 2007. I was lucky that a broken collarbone was the worst of my injuries!
Ride on (and ride safe!)...


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Riding with the Pack

Sometimes in life you have an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself, to use your gifts and talents to help others, to leave a positive mark on the people and community around us. I had that opportunity this past weekend and I want to share the feeling and invite others to be part of it!

The story starts more than a year ago when I met Ed and Tim Blach on the Elephant Rock ride in Castle Rock. As usual for these big group rides I was wearing my Team BEEF jersey to remind other riders that beef provides "fuel for the finish" (as I cruise past them on the last 20 miles of a century ride!). To make a long story short Ed and Tim's brother Randy works in the same building as I do and is a good friend in the beef community.

Nearly 50 cyclists rode in the 2012 Colorado Bike MS as part of Patty's Pack.
After we sang the chorus of "It's a Small World" (not literally) the brothers shared the story of Patty's Pack, a bike team formed in memory of their sister Patty Metzler, who died of complications from MS at age 55. I learned more about Patty after I decided to join the team and ride with Patty's Pack in the 2012 Colorado Bike MS ride.

In the words of Patty's daughter Hannah...

"As many of you know, my mom, Patty Metzler passed away due to complications with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2007. Throughout her life she enjoyed many activities including playing softball for Colorado State University in her college days, raising 5 children, and sharing a lust for life with everyone she knew. It was only when MS disrupted her day to day abilities that she had to give up some of her joys in order to focus on her health.

"Patty was 26 years old when she first remembers missing a step and falling outside of a department store. Next it was the numb limbs on her left side, or sometimes she just couldn't get her smile muscles to work on her face. One thing led to another and she was eventually confined to a wheelchair. Though you would have thought this would dampen Patty's spirit, the exact opposite happened. My mom gave others the courage to face their insurmountable daily challenges while saddled to her own every day. She never complained, and when people would ask her how she dealt with her MS so well, all Patty would say is, this is what God has blessed me with.

"For those of you that did not know my mom, she was a very kind, loving and compassionate person.  I miss her dearly, but this ride helps me to keep her memory alive, and hopefully in the future rid the world of MS."

I met Hannah on the Bike MS ride this past weekend and am happy to report that Patty lives on through her daughter's spirit and determination to eradicate the world of MS.
Patty's Pack started with six riders in 2007 and has grown to over 50 riders this year. The team has raised over $120,000 since 2007 and the goal is to raise $50,000 in 2012. To date we have raised just over $39,000. Even though we have finished the ride we will not stop until we reach that goal!

Five of the original six members of Patty's Pack. From left: Ed Blach (Patty's brother), Darci Jones Blach, Hannah Metzler Long (Patty's daughter), Kyle Blach, and Tim Blach (Patty's brother)
I rode in my first Bike MS ride in 2000 as part of a personal weight loss effort. I had no connection to MS. I was doing it the ride for myself and dreaded fundraising. I hate asking people for money! But after sending out an e-mail to some close friends and family I began to receive checks with notes of thanks and stories of loved ones living with MS or who's lives had been cut short by MS. They were thanking ME for the opportunity to participate!

In promoting my fundraising efforts for the Bike MS ride I learned that a high school classmate, Kathy Reagan Young, lives with MS. I dedicated my ride to Kathy, carrying her on my back as Patty's "wings" carried me through the two-day ride. Check out Kathy's FUMS blog for more of her story.
Over a period of five years I raised over $20,000 riding in the Kansas City and Topeka MS rides and met many people living with this insidious disease. After moving to Colorado I stopped fundraising for MS for several years...until that day a little over a year ago when I met Ed and Tim and heard the story of Patty's Pack. That's when I remembered what it felt like to be part of something bigger than myself, to use my gifts and talents to help others, and to leave a positive mark on the people and community around me.

I set a personal goal this year to raise $5,000. Going into the ride this past weekend I had raised just over half that. I could stop there and feel good about what I accomplished, after all that's a lot more than most people raise. But after meeting Hannah this weekend I am determined to reach my goal and help my new team reach ours.

I finished the 2012 Bike MS ride but have not yet reached my fundraising goal so the effort is not over!

Please visit my BEEFMAN fundraising page and join the effort. Contribute whatever you can afford: $10, $25, $50, $100 ... every dollar gets us closer to our goal. Experience the feeling of what it's like to be part of something bigger than yourself. Then next year join the team and ride with the Pack!

Ride on,


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ride the Rockies Recap: Earth, Wind and Fire!

Waking up this morning in my own bed, with no tent to pack, no porta potty lines and no miles to ride was a big change after six days on Ride the Rockies. RTR is much more than a bike ride, after all, it's a rolling campground! 2,000 riders, countless volunteers, food vendors, SAG vans, bag trucks and porta potties moving from town to town and aid stations every 10-15 miles in between. It's a major ordeal under ideal circumstances, but the circumstances in the Rocky Mountains are rarely ideal, with weather and road conditions often interfering with the best laid plans.

This year's ride had it's fair share of challenges. I think the name of '70s super group Earth, Wind and Fire sums it up pretty well. Treacherous dirt/gravel roads (earth), strong headwinds and the High Park fire were the major challenges for this year's riders, staff and volunteers. But in the end we overcame the challenges and, for me, the good memories far outweigh the bad.

But let's talk about the dirt first. On day three, in the midst of a 50-mile, 6,000 ft. climb from Carbondale to the summit of Independence Pass (12,095 ft.), we encountered a three-mile stretch of dirt/sand bike path more suitable for fat tires than skinny ones. Although I avoided going down (I saw three riders fall during my time on the path), the additional effort it required to ride this stretch (thinking running on the beach) took it's toll later in the day climbing the Pass and the final 20 miles into the overnight stop in Leadville.

But it was the 15-mile stretch of dirt/gravel road on day four, after climbing Fremont (11,318) and Ute passes (not the one near Colorado Springs, this is Ute Pass is on Ute Pass Rd/Co Rd 15 in Arapaho National Forest near Silverthorne), that was the worst. This loose dirt/gravel road is unsuitable for skinny ties and put the cyclists in a no win situation of either gutting it out and risking a fall, walking or SAGing the 15 miles.

Of the three main challenges, earth, wind and fire, the dirt roads were the only one in the control of Chandler Smith, the ride director who took over three years ago. Frankly, I think it was irresponsponsible of him to put us on this road for safety reasons alone. But to put it in the second half of a 93-mile day was cruel and unusual punishment! It also meant another day with hundreds of riders SAGing to the finish (SAG is the acronym for "support and gear" vehicles that will pick up riders and transport them to the next aid staion/finish line). What we affectionately call the "van of shame" became the bus of shame as organizers had to send full size motor coaches out to pick up masses of riders who were unable to finish.

I am proad to say I have never hitched a ride on the van of shame. I adhere to the mantra "Death Before SAG" as do most of the people I ride with on RTR. We aren't the fastest riders (nor by far the slowest) but we finish the ride if at all possible (certain situations like severe illness, injury or mechanical problems would be viable reasons, along with death!). Unfortunatrely, SAGing seems to havev become the norm for a high percentage of riders on RTR due to the increasingly difficult routes planned by Smith, who apparently wants to weed out certain riders. The question is whether his strategy will work or simply result in needing more SAG vans and drivers to pick up riders.

Kudos go to the staff and volunteers, though, who responded to the high volume of SAGers as best they could given the circumstances. High praise, also, for the handling of a last minute route change on the final day of the ride due to the High Park fire. I thought the revised route was perfect for the final day (45 miles, mostly downhill!).

Smoke from the High Point fire was visible as we left Ft. Collins on the way home from the ride, but wasn't an issue on the ride after a last minute route change for day six.
Of course wind is a wildcard that is hard to predict and impossible to manage. It is what is is (read my "Ode to Wind"). And for most of the ride it was a headwind that extended the suffering of already long days. But the fickle wind turned in our favor the last day and gave us a nice boost on the final 20 miles to the finish line at Odell Brewery Company in Fort Collins.

The finish line is always a good memory. That's why I ride. To cross the finish line. To look back and say, I set a goal and I acccomplished it. I set out to train hard so I could ride every mile and enjoy it. And I did! So here's to the great memories. Pictures never really capture it, but here are some of my favorites...
Here's me and Woody (and his daughter) at the start. Woody and I met on RTR in 2005. His wife, Lora, also rides but is pregnant with theire second child so she drove us to the start in Gunnison.
Day one took us from Gunnison to Hotchkiss around Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Not sure why this area is called the "Bay of Chickens" but it was too funny not to stop and get a picture with me in my Team BEEF jersey. Wearing my beef jersey gives me lots of opportunities to spread the word about the importance of high quality protein in training for and finishing a major physical challenge like Ride the Rockies (I burned 28,733 calories in six days and ate seemingly non-stop during the ride).

Caught this action shot of Woody riding in his typical attire, Hawaiian short and riding sandals.
After riding around Blue Mesa we climbed to the rim of this canyon before crossing McClure Pass on the way to Hotchkiss. I think this is part of the Black Canyon but am not sure.
Climbing McClure Pass I spotted this old "Enjoy Colorado Beef Everyday" sign on a ranchers fence. I ate beef every day on the ride to repair my muscles and refuel my body for the next day.
Meeting up with old friends like the guys from Team Bob is one of my favorite parts of Ride the Rockies. I met Bob (front row, at left, in the white jersey) on my first ride in 2005. At the end of the ride he paid me one of the highest compliments, saying I was "The only Republican he has ever liked!"

The Redstone General Store was an unplanned aid station towards the end of the first day. Riders stopped and enjoyed ice cream and other treats before riding the final miles to Hotchkiss.

Aid stations all along the route provide food, water, Gatorade, porta potties and bike repair tents. The logistics of the ride are staggering and the staff and volunteers do a tremendous job providing the support riders need to finish.

Day three was the hardest day of the ride, taking us from Carbondale to Leadville, climbing the first 50 miles from 6,181 ft. to 12,095 at the top of Independence Pass. But the tough part was the final 20 miles into Leadville after descending the pass. A steep, nasty climb by Twin Lakes and a poorly maintained road the jarred your bike every 10 feet made this a miserable finish to a tough day. More than 700 riders, more than 1/3 of the total, were unable to finish and had to catrch a ride on the van of shame. Not me!
Paul the Pilot from Tean Bar2Bar (he flies for United) jumped behind the griddle to help the guy from Hub Grub through the breakfast rush at the first aid staion on the morning of day three. Paul rode with his son, Till, on a tandem. His daughter, Lea, rode solo for the first time after several years with him on the tandem.

The day five ride through Rocky Mountain National Park over Trail Ridge Road into Estes Park was my favorite part of the ride. I rode solo up the eastern side from Estes to the Alpine Visitor's Center back in 2004 while on vacation with my family. After experiencing the amazing feeling of riding above timberline I caught the big and signed up for Ride the Rockies the following year.

Reaching the pinnacle of Trail Ridge Road (12,183 ft.) was the highest point of the ride, literally and figuratively!
Team Bar2Bar and Team Bob often combine campgrounds. Our spot in Estes Park was centrally located in between the shower trucks, baggage trucks and breakfast pavillion. As an added bonus I found a private bathroom at a nearby park. No lines, no porta potty!
Woody rides a touring bike with a saddle pack carrying everything from a solar powered charger to beer and ice for the campground. Here he hauls refreshments to the fairgrounds in Estes Park on our final night of the ride.
Riding with Woody was a pleasure this year. He's a lot of fun to hang out with and knows how to do RTR the right way, riding every mile and enjoying every minute. Woody's father-in-law Jack is one of the founding members of Team Bar2Bar.
Antonio "Hank" Martin and Paul "the Pilot" Mattson are two good guys. Look for Paul in the cockpit on your next United flight to Europe or India and Hank the next time you flag down a rickshaw (pedicab) in downtown Louisville, Colorado!

Reaching the finish line is always a bittersweet moment. The ride is over. Goal accomplished. But the goodbyes are inevitable. Here Woody and I say "see ya next year" to Steve and Paul from Team Bob.
My lovely wife Leslie is very supportive of my cycling, running and triathlon hobby even though she has no desire to swim, bike or run! Joining us in Ft. Collins for the after party she transported Woody and I home from our week on the ride before we even showered. Now that's love!

So there you have it. Ride the Rockies 2012 is history. Just another fading memory. I have some pictures and great stories, but they can never capture the experience like living it -- every mile, every conversation, every ache and pain (physical and mental). If you haven't challenged yourself lately, do it now. Set a goal, train hard, and persevere until you reach the finish line.

Now I just have to answer the question that comes to mind after every accomplished goal. What's next? Suggestions welcome :)

Ride on!