Sunday, December 20, 2015

Miracle on 34th Street

I am sitting here watching one of my favorite Christmas shows-- Miracle on 34th Street
The case has been decided, Santa Claus does exist. Some of us call him Kris Kringle.  Others call him St. Nick.  Is he a jolly old elf? Is he a legend of splendid acts of charity and giving?
The story began in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in a manger.  God became man and took a human nature.  He was greeted by three kings while resting in the arms of His mother, the blessed Virgin Mary.  They brought him gifts and this gift giving continued, like it does now, through the ages.  Saint Nicholas maintained this tradition throughout his life.  But Christ always was his focus as it should always be.

The movie, Miracle on 34th Street is a wonderful movie, yet it misses the point.  Its not important to believe in Santa Claus.  Its not important to receive gifts to the point of excess.  The true point of Christmas is to realize that God humbled Himself and became man.  He is our Christmas gift.  He gave us His life.   Christ desires us all to believe Him: his word, his teachings, and His Church more than a generic and meaningless belief "in" His existence as we believe in the existence of atoms.
Mere belief is never enough.  Belief in God must be demonstrated.  Saint Nicholas, a priest and bishop, truly and entirely believed in Christ; therefore, he humbled himself to imitate Christ by giving of himself.  He gave up possessions and wealth to serve the poor (needy and lost) with a goal of leading them all to Christ and eternal life in heaven.

 Saint Nicholas is known to have saved three daughters from prostitution by secretly placing dowry money in a bag and dropping down the chimney of their home so the father of these beautiful woman could be married and preserved from debauchery.  Saint Nicholas is thought well of by mariners who prayed for his intercession to be saved from ship wreck amidst of a raging sea.

Saint Nicholas, as a bishop of the Catholic Church in the East fought the heresy of Arianism.  His desire to stay true to the faith taught through the ages caused him great pain and suffering at the hands of the Arians who had him tossed in jail and tortured to deny the true faith.  He remained true to Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, setting an example to all of us to always stand true for the faith even if it hurts.

So, there is a miracle on 34th street.  Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with a jolly old elf, but with the giving up of ourselves for the salvation and welfare of others.  It is for all of us to remember, including me who just posted a list of things I would like to receive.  That is wrong thinking, and a poor example of the true spirit of Christmas.  The true spirit of Christmas was exemplified by the three wise men (who risked their lives to deliver their gifts to God), and Saint Nicholas.  Each of them took an opportunity to give to whoever needed their help regardless of cost.  Let us remember Christmas that way; to give rather than to receive and to give of ourselves rather than things.

I did receive that Brooks Saddle given to me from my wonderful bride.  I do appreciate it very much and hope I can be a better man as we finish this Christmas season and a new year commences.  Til then, i shall see you on the road.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Wish List

Its December 10, 2015 and there is no, I mean zero, snow on the ground.  I do not ever remember a time while living in the Syracuse area of a time when there was no snow on the ground.  We have always had a white Christmas.  To top it all off, the temperatures are quite warm for the season too.  Today, for instance, it reached 50 degrees. It was a great day for a bike ride and the entire month has been a wonderful time to get out and ride.

So, since I have been cycle dreaming all Fall and Winter, I have cycled indoors on my trainer, on my spin bike, and I have ridden outside.  Last weekend I rode 40 miles along the Erie Canal between DeWitt and Canastota.  Because I am still riding my bicycles, I have been searching all over the internet for new ideas for gifts to buy my bicycles.  I will share some of my thoughts:

A Brooks Saddle.  This is tops for my Surly Long Haul Trucker.  It is the class of most touring bicycles.  Its an all leather saddle which breaks in over time and molds to your tush to become the most comfortable saddle ever.  The Brooks B-17 Saddle is made in England, and it seems that all wonderful and classic cycling gear for touring and bike commuting originates across the pond.  Take a look and watch a few videos on the Brooks tradition.  You will be hooked too.

I also would like the Cambium saddle for my road bike.  The Cambium saddle is made of natural rubber and denim.  It flexes beautifully and requires no break in period and little maintenance.  Those are the Brooks saddles I would love to get for the Surly LHT and the CAAD 8. 

Next, I would love to give a dynamo hub to my touring bike. Biologic Joule 3.  I have watched so many videos on winter riding and long distance touring and lighting is essential.
These dynamo hubs allow the rider to have a powerful set of head lights and tail lights mounted on the bike for good visibility; to see and to be seen.  Not to mention the ability to connect from cell phones and alt. charging devices to the hub to stay connected while to friends and family on cycling trips and overnights.

I love this idea because I want to ride more, into the evening and into the winter.  Both require lights to be seen and to see.  The Joule 3, or other quality hub will allow me that capability.  I need to reduce the running and increase the cycling to save my joints.

Following the dynamo hub, a good set of lights make a wonderful gift:  dynamo powered lights for the Surly and rechargeable lights for the CAAD 8. The Nite Rider Lumina 750 would be much appreciated and make my late year and evening riding safe.

I don't ask for much, but if I could ask for something for myself, I would kindly request some cycling casual clothes.  A nice pair of cycling jeans and a button down style shirt with wicking technology and well placed reflective material that can only be seen at night.  There are many manufacturers out there designing some good looking stuff, but Club Ride looks the best and is the most functional on and off the bicycle.
If you love riding your bike, but do not want to be "serious" and wear all the racing gear, than Club Ride is for you.  It allows you to wear clothes that are "everyday" looking in appearance yet designed for the casual and commuter cyclist.   The tops and bottoms are designed to move freely while paddling, not to allow a public view of a plumber's butt as you slightly bend to reach out for the handlebars of the bicycle.

When I go geo-caching or to the ice cream stand on my bike alone or with the kids, Club Ride clothes do not draw attention and scream, "Freak!"  All people notice is a guy and his kids riding up for a cool treat to end a summer's day. 

Get out there and ride.  Be safe on the streets and sit in comfort and style with an awesome saddle from Brooks while dressed to the nines in Club Ride designs that can be seen because your lights are being powered by a Joule 3 Dynamo Hub.  See you on the road.




Sunday, November 29, 2015

Learn to Cycle No-Handed



Pretty cool video.  I was very good at the "no hands" thing when I was a teenager.  As a matter of fact, I can recall several rides where I was oblivious to approaching bumps and small objects in the road.  I was that comfy without hands.  Not so much anymore.  Take a look.


Cold Weather Ride... Brrrr!


Its Thanksgiving weekend, and i have been exposed to the temptation of eating way to often, and I have repeatedly failed in maintaining any sense of self-discipline; I see food and I eat it.  It can be anything.  Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes of all kinds, and dessert.  I find it all good.   What makes matters worse is the traveling.

We drove to Long Island and ate road food:  burgers, fries, and snacks from gas stations.  then we drove home a few days later and ate from the same crappy menu all the way home, but we substituted an everything bagel with cream cheese from the Bagel Oasis in Fresh Meadows, Queens on place of the burger.  Damn it was good with a Yoo-hoo and a cup of light and sweet coffee.

So, what happened to make me ride the trainer for an hour last night and a couple hours in the cold weather and wind today?  Well, it is the scale.  It pushed up from my usual 165 to 169.8.  Ugh!  I cant accept that I will be sucking in my belly when I zip my suit pants tomorrow morning for work.  I hate that feeling.  This morning was the dawn of a new day.

I rolled out of bed later than usual, 10ish?  I showered and looked out the window as my neighbors all around were decorating their homes in Christmas lights and wreaths.  Everyone seemed so happy, smiling, laughing, admiring the straight string of lights dawning the front gutter.  Not me.  I am not a fan of the fanfare of Christmas since it diminishes the real reason for the season.  It makes me think how many children actually know what Christmas is other than the biggest gift grab of the year; as if today's kids aren't spoiled enough throughout the year.  But I digress...

I said to my beautiful bride, "I think we should buy new lights and decorations this year."  I continued my enthusiastic delay of game, "Starting fresh would be so nice. No tangled lights, fresh looking garland, beautiful and well shaped wreaths dawning the windows, maybe even some candles smartly placed could add some flare."  While I spoke, I knew I was gonna jump on my bike and ride long and far as I hope for the storm of the century that would make it impossible to join the throngs of Christmas lovers who toil about the outside of their homes only toil some more 4 months later to take it all down after the snow melts.

Ok, I rode from my house in Baldwinsville down route 370 into Onondaga Lake Park and through the park to the skate park and back through to Longbranch Rd up to route 57 and stopped at Starbucks for a much needed Soy Chai Latte.  Damn that was good.  It felt good to feel warm for a few moments.  I drank the warm chai and rode back up 370.  This time the wind was in my face.  The temp surely dropped.  Riding up hill and with a cold wind blowing in my face was torture.  But I knew I would be happy burning the calories and earning my evening dinner.

I love riding my bicycle. Since the weather is turning, my road bike is on the trainer and its time to ride the Surly LHT in the rougher environments.  The steel frame can handle anything and the wide, aggressive tires make it good for the road, grass, and snowy rad conditions I will ride her in.  Today was a first day.  I need better gloves and warmer toe covers to keep my tootsies warm.

One more small note before I sign off.  Every ride or every run, I am inspired by someone.  Today was no different.  There was an elderly gentleman at the park stopped midway along the paved path chatting with the park ranger.  I noticed the old man had a walker, but thought nothing of his "walk".  I rode on toward the skate park and made my way around the play ground and the bocci courts to start my "back track" through the park.  The elderly gentleman was walking with his walker.  As I approached him, you could hear the walker being slid across the pavement, one step at a time.  He was over a mile out from the main parking lot.  He just kept taking a step.  He kept on sliding the walking forward then taking another step.  H looked in good shape.  I remember how engaged he had been with the ranger; now all the energy he demonstrated to make it through Onondaga Lake Park. He was my inspiration to finish the "cold" ride.  Thank you sir for pushing me forward.  I hope to see you again.

I can't wait for the next ride outside. Maybe I can get a reprieve from stringing lights and decorations around the house.  Time will tell.

See you on the road.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter 7

The boys woke up early the next morning after falling asleep, exhausted on the the beach.  Their parents sat home wondering where they could be.  Laddy's mom sat up all night looking out the bay window in the front of the house while Jake's mom and dad exchanged epithets about who was at fault for teaching Jake how to disrespect the rules.

As the hours passed by, the boys' parents agreed to call the police and ask for help in locating the two boys.  The police didn't seem too worried.  "Boys will be boys," the officer said, "sometimes teenagers feel free and just go rogue."

Laddy's mom didn't like what the officer said.  She yelled at the officer, "How can you be so flippant!  Laddy and Jake are our boys.  We want them home safe, where they belong."

"Ma'am," the officer stammered, "you're right.  I apologize, but you need to know that these boys do not fit the runaway profile and its highly unlikely that they were abducted.  They prob...."

Laddy's mom emotionally interrupted the officer, "Unlikely!  Unlikely, you say?  Don't be so dismissive.  You have no idea what could be wrong..  Please do not treat my child as any less important than other children who may have grown up in lesser neighborhood or were left unattended while in a crowded area.  Just go!  Please go and find them," she said in exasperation.

"Yes, ma'am.  We will get right on it."  The officer turned and left the residence for his cruiser.

The two boys had never been in any serious trouble and had always minded themselves when out and about playing or riding their bikes around town.  The officer who arrived at the home of Laddy took the report and requested an APB, all points bulletin, for all officers on the street to keep an eye out for Laddy and Jake.  A description of the boys and their bicycles were sent out over the wire.
A buzz of despair hit the neighborhood.

Missing children sends chills down every one's spine. Its an eerie feeling to grab a carton of milk in the morning and to be spied upon from its side by a child who may be suffering although, more often than not, the child is fine; possibly with a separated or estranged parent or at a friends home due to poor communication.

Looking for children can be like looking for a lost set of keys before church on Sunday morning.  Time is flying.  Mass begins in 20 minutes and it may take 10 minutes to get to the church.  Panic sets in as you start yelling at the kids and your spouse to look harder or to be quiet.  All the while you know being calm is the only solution to solving the problem.  Finally, you throw in the towel and grab the spare set and just make it to Mass only to uncomfortably stand in the back of the church. A few hours later, BOOM, the keys are discovered under the recliner.  Its then that you realize that the keys had fallen out of your pocket when you sat down to watch your favorite television show.

 But this was Laddy and Jake.  These boys are always linked at the hip, never to be apart.  Where you find one, you discover the other.

That's kind of what happened with Laddy and Jake.  The two boys woke up on the beach, sand in their hair, in their damp shirts and shorts.  Like their parents who panicked late last night by calling the police, the boys panicked too.

Jake was the first to jump up from his slumber and realize the sun was bright; it must have been about 7am.  He shouted, "Laddy! We gotta get home." Jake kicked Laddy's shoulder.  Laddy stirred and realized at that moment, "Shit, we need to get outta here."

Laddy and Jake scrambled to their bikes and headed for the bridges then their homes on the other side of the bay.  The boys pedaled as if they raced the Tour De France.  Unlike the ride over the bridges to the lighthouse and the beach, this ride was quick and uneventful.  There were no cars or trucks speeding passed them and the air was still which meant no head wind.

Jake turned onto his street and Laddy continued on to his house.  Neither boy said a word.  They knew their parents would be angry.  Even Jake, who's parents seem to take a l'aissez fair approach to parenting, seemed a bit on edge as he rolled into his driveway.  He hoped his absence had gone unnoticed, and he may be able to slip back into his room, wake up, and stumble into the kitchen for a slice of toast like any other morning.  But today was unlike most mornings.  The driveway bustled with parents, siblings, and a few police officers.  All had that Mona Lisa look as Jake rolled up.

The first person to speak was Jake's mom.  She said in a gleeful yet stern voice, "Thank God you are home."  Jake looked at his mother and and a tear dropped from the corner of his eye.  He saw his mother, and he thought of the beautiful woman in blue on the beach who brought him back from the brink.  He loved her, and now realized how much he loved his mother.  He jumped off his bike, which crashed to the ground, and threw his arms around his mom.  He just held her tight; hoping never to be away from her again.

She pulled Jake close and kissed the top of his head, assuring Jake, "Everything will be ok."

All was well for Jake, not perfect, but better.  His mom and dad were home more often and started to ride bikes too.  The three of them would ride around the neighborhood; sometimes Laddy would bike along with them.  The two boys grew closer together after the beach incident; however, Jake and Laddy never shared the story about the beautiful lady and the wave that threatened Jake's life that summer's night.

See you on the road.

Monday, June 22, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter 6

Intuition can be a funny thing.  Most often we joke about a woman's intuition or a mom's intuition.  However, sometimes an intuition can be more than a feeling or a passing thought to avert disaster; it can be a part of a bigger plan as we learned about Jake's demise and communication with a beautiful woman in blue.

The sky was still dark when when Jake was pulled on to the beach.  His eyes were closed, and he was not breathing.  He lay lifeless on the sand.  Quickly his rescuer compressed his chest and turned Jake's head to the side.  Jake awoke.  Water exploded from his lungs.  His head once again hit the packed, water soaked sand as his eyes opened.  He saw Laddie and smiled.  Jake could not speak..  He still struggled to breathe comfortably.  Jake was alive.  His best friend had pulled him from the water and saved his life as the beautiful woman told him.

Laddie, as he rode his bike over the bridge he had a horrible feeling as he approached the draw bridge, the site of their mishap with the radio and the semi.  He thought about Jake being alone at the beach and worried that Jake may not be safe.  He spun his bicycle around and pedaled hard to return to his friend as quickly as possible.  As he rode back toward the beach, Laddie knew something was wrong.  He didn't see Jake.  The sky was too dark, but a glimmer of moon light reflected off the rear reflector of Jake's bike, and Laddie ran to it.

Jake was not there.

Laddie yelled, "Jake!"

There was no response.

Again he yelled, "Jake, where are you?"

No reply.  Only a loud silence.

So, without thinking, Laddie ran into the water.  He didn't think about the waves or the tide.  He knew his friend was drowning, and he had to find him quickly.  Laddie dove under the waves and splashed the surface of the water with his hands hoping to grab hold of Jake, the pal he had left behind.  He found nothing. He dove down into the waves one more time.  He held his breathe and with his eyes closed he reached out to touch the sand floor of the ocean and felt something.  He opened his eyes to see as he grabbed what he could not see, Jake's hand.  He pulled him up close to his body and stood up to walk ashore while dragging Jake to the beach.  He plopped him down and compressed Jake's chest three time before rolling his dearest friend over to spit out the water and to welcome him back to earth.

Jake smiled.

Laddie smiled back and said, "I am sorry I left you."

Jake struggled to breath, but nodded his head in forgiveness, and in a low, scratchy voice he replied, "Me too."

The boys were exhausted and fell asleep in the dry sand close to the dunes, happy that they were finally safe and together.  Although wet and cold, the boys did not worry about getting home just then, but would deal with that tomorrow.

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Runners Qualities...

http://runhaven.com/2015/04/29/8-reasons-you-should-never-date-a-runner/

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The New North West YMCA in Baldwinsville

Its has finally opened.  The new NW YMCA is open for business, and it is a phenomenal place to workout.  I didn't want to leave.  It truly is a beautiful activity center for the entire family.

My first visit to the new Baldwinsville YMCA was just a weight work out visit.  I walked in and headed right to the gym.  Upon entering the gym, all you see are tread mills, ellipticals, stair climbers, and stationary bikes.  Behind them there are Precor machines for circuit training and so much more.  This is a place where every part of your body can be worked out and strengthened however you desire.  There is a large room of free weights and free weight machines, too.  It truly is a gym for all styles of workouts.

Oh, but there is so much more.  On my second visit, I rode my bicycle in the rain to the new YMCA.  I locked it up to a street sign in the parking lot because there aren't any bike racks yet.  The racks are on order, and I was assured that the racks will be ready next week.  After checking in I headed to the locker room which is wide open, has plenty of locker space, and has several amenities similar to the Liverpool YMCA on Wetzel Road such as showers, sauna, scales, mirrors and sinks, and the swim suit dryer which I always appreciate.

After finding a locker, I changed into my swim trunks and entered the pool area from the men's locker room, a nice convenience.  Upon entering the pool area a whole world opens before your as if stepping into Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory for the first time.  There is a six lane lap pool, a children's pool, and a lazy river.  Its quite amazing.  I slipped int the pool and swam for thirty minutes before meeting up with a buddy to hit the weight room.

The weight room, as I mentioned earlier, has amble equipment for any level of athlete or health conscience individual.  I added dead lifts and squats to my exercise routine, to increase my cycling strength.  Today, my legs ache.  I guess adding these exercises was a good idea.  After we worked out some I discovered several new things in the Baldwinsville YMCA:  an indoor track circling the gym on the second level, which from above, while running, I realized the gym has another several sections, basketball courts, a twenty yard turf multi purpose field lined for football, soccer, and lacrosse.  Wow.  This facility is splendid.  I look forward to adding thirty minute runs each time I visit the Y on lifting days and as an alternative to running on treadmills during the cold, snowy winter months.

I failed to mention the aerobics room which I saw through the mirrors from the free weight room  and spinning room located to the left of the locker rooms.  The spinning room has at least 30 or 40 spin bikes.  I haven't much to say about them since I have yet to participate, but I will join a spin class.  Who doesn't love spin class after all?

I rode my bicycle home in the rain following my workout, and I cannot wait to return.  The Baldwinsville YMCA is a workout paradise for all the aforementioned reasons, but the best thing of all, its a workout facility where your children can have as much fun as you while being distracted by the pool, lazy river, and basketball courts.  Unlike being at the Wetzel Road YMCA, your kids will never interrupt you due to boredom.

Til next time, I will see you on the road.

Lake Anna Camp and Gear Review

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Great Article on Cycling FR Events

Our Race for an MS Cure Is a Summer Spectacle http://www.wsj.com/articles/our-race-for-an-ms-cure-is-a-summer-spectacle-1433543778

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Visiting Boston for the ADA

Being in Boston for the ADA is pretty cool.  It's always a great time being involved in a huge event.  So many opportunities to meet different people and to see new things.  That is a joy of living or visiting a larger city.  There are many things to be done in a major city besides the conference, especially if you're a runner or cyclist.

Although there are lots of cars driving around, there are wide sidewalks to run on and the Charles River to run along.  You can map out some awesome run and rides to land marks like Fenway Park or Fanuel Hall just to name a couple spots.

For the cyclist, there are bicycle lanes throughout the city.  While walking between the hotel and the convention center, I kept an eye out for the cyclist; I couldn't believe how many folks were commuters. Some were riding geared bikes with fenders and racks while many others rode fixies and carried a messenger bag over their shoulder.  I saw one young business woman dressed exceptionally well, in her helmet, sneakers, and skirt holding out her hand to make a right turn.  I thought that was so cool.

The largeness cities may not be the best places to live sometimes because of congestion and cost of living, but let me tell you, if I wasn't nursing an injury right now I would be on the street either running across town or riding up and down the streets looking for a cool place to grab a bite and have a drink.

I look forward to getting home though.  I miss my bike and running shoes... Oh, and my family.

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter Five

The sky was bright and the air was fresh. Jake's eyes opened, and although he couldn't see right away, he could smell roses and felt the gentle touch of a woman's hand caressing his cheek.  She held him close under her mantle as she had many before him, including her own son.  The woman had many children and hoped for more.  She loved all men, but especially children.  Children were innocent.  She recognized, unlike many moms and dads, that all children are good although they may have bad moments, just bad moments, nothing worse.  Children, however, may learn perpetual poor behavior when given a poor example by the adults in their lives who failed to educate them in charity or when acting in pride.

The woman was truly a beautiful creation; she was as pure as gold, inside and out.  Her hair was dark brown. It fell upon her shoulders in loose curls, and her eyes were as blue as the ocean.  Her touch was soft.  Her demeanor was humble yet strong and confident.  Like most mothers, she rescued him and held him, hoping to warm his body and bring him back to life.  Hope?  What is hope if not a positive desire for the good.  Well the woman is hope.  The woman has been hope to many, and today she is Jake's hope for life.

As Jake's eyes cleared he saw her face. He too noticed her beauty, and he could feel her love for him.  He tried to speak.   He couldn't say a word.  His eyes looked into hers, and he felt joy for the first time in is life.  Jake knew she loved him.  He knew that she only sought to restore him back to life.

Jake loved her.

Behind the woman was the sun, bright and warm.  The sky was blue and the air was fresh.  The scent of roses brought him peace.  The choir of angels sang a beautiful song, "Ave Maria, Gratia plena..." He understood now, as he came to his senses, that he lay beneath the mantle of Our Lady, the Mother of God.  He was in heaven.

He clung to her as a babe hoping she would never let him go.  She promised never to leave Jake; she would always be watching over him.  She prayed for his safety and the safety of all mankind.  She explained how she desired Jake to discipline his passions so as to be more mindful of his friends and family and to avoid placing himself and others in harms way.

"You have a long life to live in service to my Son," she explained and requested that he say an Our Father every morning and a Hail Mary each evening.  Jake agreed.

She said, "I love you."

Jake, with tears in his eyes replied, "I love you, too." He continued in all love and sincerity, "I Shall love Our Lord as you have loved me, and I will do as you as have requested."

The beautiful woman reached out to Jake, took his hand and kissed his forehead.  She said, "Laddie is waiting for you."

A brief side story:
Count Ghisallo, while traveling near the village of Magr├ęglio, was attacked by highway bandits. Spotting an image of the Virgin Mary at a roadside shrine, he broke away from his attackers and ran to it and took refuge; He plead for Our Lady's protection - and was miraculously saved from the robbers.
As the story spread, the Madonna del Ghisallo became known as patroness of local travelers. In more recent times, cyclists often stop to rest and pray at the chapel, which is a local landmark at the top of a steep hill. 

After World War II, Father Ermelindo Vigano, pastor at the shrine, proposed Ghisallo as the site of an Italian shrine for bicyclists, and she was given as patroness of cyclists on 13 October 1949 by Pope Pius XII. The chapel has become equal part religious shrine, part cycling museum, with artifacts and photos from the sport. There is an eternal flame burning there in memory of the cyclists who are no  longer with us, and Masses are said each Christmas Eve and every Feast of All Souls to commemorate them.

Til Jake returns to Laddie, I will see you on the road.  Madonna del Ghisallo, Pray for Us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Top Reasons Why I love to Run

I started running back in 2008 after my recovery from pneumonia.  I had been athletic most of my life, but fell into the adult trap of working eating and going to bed.  Other than mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, exercise was not part of my repertoire.  So, when I was diagnosed with pneumonia on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday of 2007 I stopped smoking because its hard to smoke when you cant inhale without coughing and I decided to just stop following the pneumonia diagnosis.  So, that is when I started to take an active role in my health.

I kicked smoking cold turkey with a little help from a lung infection.  Then I started to watch my carb in take and followed a rigid Atkins diet starting in January of 2008.  To sweeten the pot, my co-workers decided to have a weight loss contest.  With in 30 days I dropped at least 30 lbs.  My weight fell from 211 to 181 or so.  By April, I was sitting in the bleachers waiting for my son to finish up a Little League practice that seemed to last forever.  I had nothing to do, so I went for an afternoon run to kill the time.  I remember how hard it was to run that day.  I huffed and puffed.  I dripped in sweat, yet I made it back to the car and the ball field.  Once my son hopped into the car I drove the way I ran just to see how far I had gone; I ran a little less than a mile.  It was a start. The next practice I set a goal of running half of the square of roads that circumnavigated the field, and I did it, success.  That was only about a 2 miles.  Soon I slowed my pace and made it around the entire square of streets, almost 4 miles.  That when I started getting motivated, but I did not consider myself a runner yet.  I was a jogger, but no runner.

I won the contest at work.  I continued to run.  I stepped outside my comfort zone and actually told a few friends that I was running during my sons Little League practice.  Telling others really reinforces your commitment and also provided some positive re-enforcement.  Some folk said, "That's great; I used to run in college."  Others would say, "I wish I could find the time to exercise, never mind the running."  While a few friends would say, and I found this to be the most motivating factor, "You're crazy to run."  I loved hearing that.  So I continued to run.  I loved running.  However, I didn't actually consider myself a runner until I was asked to participate in a local run by a friend of mine who was an organizer of Paige's Butterfly Run. 

What a fun time that was.  I was nervous.  I was actually going to run, for the first time with hundreds of other people and receive a time. I will see how I compare to people who ARE RUNNERS.  I remember the excitement at the starting line.  I saw so many people I knew.  I had an awesome time, but the biggest take away was what I saw while running.

I saw men and women, boys and girls of all ages, sizes, and ability running.  Everyone was happy; everyone had the same goal to finish the race.  No one thought less of another runner because they were slow, overweight, old, or not athletic. Everyone in the race supported each other.  I had a conversations with several people about the course, about work, or about the beautiful day.  It didn't matter.  We were running.  As my friend Mike said, "You accomplished what 90%of Americans haven't accomplished today?" 

I replied, "Oh yeah?  Whats that?"

Mike said, "You got your ass off the couch."

That is true.  I was no longer a couch potato.. I was a runner.  I could run a 5K!  Maybe do more.  But, running helped push my weigh down as low as 158, but I have stabilized at 165.  I am happy with that but feel best closer to 160.  I only get that close as I get more intense about running and truly become conscious of my eating habits.

So, with that being said, What are my Top Reasons for Loving to Run?

1.  I love the act of running.  The ability to focus on my movement and to listen to my breathing puts me in a zone that takes away any pain.

2.  I love the solitude.  Even when running with others, once you hit that zone everything fades away.  At that point, its just you and your thoughts.  I find my most creative thinking to occur while I am running.  I think about running (first), but I also think about my life and interactions with people and co-workers.  I have thoughts about how I could make a difference in the world although I am still cogitating on how I may accomplish that task.  But having the ability to run and clear your mind from the daily grind is a huge relief.  A day without a run (or a bike ride) makes me quite grumpy.

3.  I feel good.  Running makes me feel good.  I feel like I've earned my meal for the day.  My pants seem to fit just a bit more comfortable.  I hate feeling uncomfortable.  Don't you?  Tight jeans or shorts ruin my day.  If or when I feel bloated, I go for a run.

4.  I love that I can take running with me where ever I go.  All I need is a pair of sneakers (preferably Nike), shorts, socks, and a t-shirt I can run anywhere.  I've run in Boston, NYC, San Diego, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Long Island, Saratoga Springs, Florida, and many other places.  Running takes you places and lets you see and do things that you may otherwise miss; for example, I have run the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum and took a selfie with Rocky.

5.  I love running because I have met new friends.  I meet other runners by participating in races, fundraisers, and clubs.  As a matter of fact, while running in Paige's Butterfly Run, I met Ray and John.  We ran together every Thursday at Onondaga Lake Park.  Eventually we ran Thursdays and Saturdays.  Soon we started a running club, The Lake Effect Run Club.  We started with an idea to run and invite others to run on Saturday mornings at the OLP.  We created a web page and posted our runs and told a story about each run, whether it was a weekly run or a race we participated in.   Soon we had 10, 15, 25, or 50 people running with us.  So running brings people together in a positive manner.

Those are my top 5 reasons to run.  I hope you, after reading my post, step outside your comfort zone and tie up your laces to run.  Who cares how far.  Who cares how fast.  Remember the words of my buddy, Mike, "You got your ass off the couch."

Til then, I will see you on the road.

Monday, June 1, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter Four

Laddie and Jake had just made it over the third bridge and arrived at the barrier islands.  The two friends rolled onto the small lawn which wrapped around the lighthouse and laid their bicycles beside the stoop that lead to the front door.  Laddie was exhausted and flopped onto the grass.  He placed his hands over his eyes to get a clear look at the beam of light emanating from the top of the beacon while Jake stood tall and looked backward at the three bridges they had just crossed and proudly declared, "We survived one hell of a ride.  I really thought," he continued, "that we would turn back after the boom box fell into the tank and that semi almost crushed us."

Laddie just groaned.  He rolled over and sat up on his knees.  He turned around, looked at Jake and said, "I'm not sure this was such a good idea.  What do we do now? Go home?"

"No way," Jake replied in an exhilarated voice.  "We go to the beach, hang for a while; maybe we can explore the dunes a bit.  This is awesome!"

Laddie rose to his feet, grabbed his bike and started to ride for the bridge.  He had enough excitement for the night and wanted it to end.  "I'm going home."

"Lad, you can't leave now.  We just arrived.  There is way to much to do.  The Beach?  What about hitting the beach,"Jake asked.  Angry and disappointed, Jake said, "I am not leaving; you go if you want, but I'm staying.  This is way to cool."

The two friends didn't see eye to eye.  Laddie pedaled off and left Jake standing at the foot of the lighthouse.  Jake called out to Laddie a few times, but Laddie kept pedaling.  Jake didn't flinch.  He held his ground and stayed behind watching his best friend ride over the bridge til Laddie disappeared to the bridge's opposite side.  Laddie was gone.  Jake stood alone in the dark.

As Laddie made it to the foot of the bridge and started riding across the bay in low gear his legs shook with fear.  He could not believe he rode away from his best and only true buddy.  As Laddie rode up onto the bridge, he heard Jake's last words, "I am not leaving..."  He was too far to hear even the echo of what Jake had shouted.

The wind picked up and the sky was pitch black except for the bright light whirling around the top of the lighthouse.  Jake finally moved.  He reached out for his bicycle and hung his helmet off the edge of the handlebar.  He threw his right leg over the top tube and quickly started to pedal.  He didn't look over his shoulder; he crossed over the small patch of grass  separating the lighthouse from the road and safely made it to the beach.  He sat motionless upon his saddle and listen for a few minutes to the wind blowing passed his ears.  He felt the cool breeze of ocean mist strike his face.  Jake smiled as he looked deep into the darkness.  He saw some breakers reach the shore; he saw the stars and the moon shining bright, but the moon was a rather small crescent.  He dropped his ride in the sand and flopped down next to his bike.

Like all kids, even the older teens, and adults for that matter, he kicked off his shoes, pulled off his socks and stepped into the water.  It was cold as the ocean typically can be up north.  Jake thought for a moment, "I wish Lad was here."

He spoke to himself and pretended he had been marooned on an island.  He rolled his knee length shorts slightly higher and splashed the waves with his hands.  The young man, free as a bird did not see what was coming and fell into the depths; he saw nothing but blackness.  He could feel the grit of the ocean floor slapping against his face. He panicked.

He screamed out while his lungs filled with water.  Jake was taking his last breath as his head poked through to the open air. He gasped and went under for the last time.

As Jake struggles for life and Laddie rides home, I will see you on the road.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter Three

Time is the healer of all wounds. Hmm... I am not so sure how true that is unless its a physical injury.  Bones heal, cuts scab over, and scares fade, all in time.  The wounds and scars of life linger although they seem to disappear until a memory brings them back like a slap to the face.

Laddie and Jake, the boys of our tale, are no different.  The last big adventure these two boys had was an evening ride over the three bridges that lead summer traffic to the beach.  Bicycles and pedestrians were banned from traveling over these bridges because of the high speed of cars and the bridges being designed without shoulders or sidewalks.  It would be safer to hitch a ride over the bridges as many kids did each day to enjoy the sun, sand, and waves.

Laddie and Jake went for a ride following a BBQ dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers and stopped by the marina which looked out over the bay,  They planned to sit and to listen to the silence of the night arrive on the shore.  The bridges could be seen over to the east of the marina.  Jake broke the silence, "Hey, Laddie, lets ride for the bridges and hit the beach before calling it a night."

Laddie knew this was a bad idea, but he reluctantly agreed. "Sure."

The first bridge was simple.  It was wide on the shoulder compared to the other two bridges, but still narrow on the right shoulder.  Getting hit by a car would push them over the low guard rail for sure.  I slight miscue to the left could send them to the coroner while causing unnecessary grief among family and friends.  But, older teens don't think.  They just do; they act with out fear and believe they are indestructible.

The first bridge, as I said, was the easy one.  As they approached the bridge they laughed at the sign warning pedestrians and cyclists to stop or possibly be fined or arrested.  Their bicycles saw less and less action as they prepared to drive. Jake carried a radio and blasted his favorite songs as he and Laddie pedaled over the bridge.  A few cars whizzed passed them.  Laddie shuddered as he felt the breeze.  Jake pedaled strong.  The two boys made it to the other side.  Two bridges to go.

The next bridge was built over the inlet.  It could be drawn up so larger boats and sail boats could pass through unfettered by the road.  The draw bridge section of the road was made of metal grating.  Two large control towers stood above the draw bridge.  It made for a cool design.  When driving over in a car, Laddie imagined gun turrets atop the towers defending the island from a naval invasion.  But today, tonight, there would be no invasion.  Jake rode over the bridge and lost hold of his radio, and it smashed onto the metal grate.  A few buttons and a couple of batteries fell to Davy Jones' locker never to be recovered.  Now the ride was silent.  Darkness set in.

Laddie shouted ahead to Jake, "Don't stop.  Keep going."

"Ok,"  Jake replied.

Thank goodness Jake listened to Laddie because just as the radio crashed to the road, a semi truck blew by the two boys and completely shattered what was left of the radio.  Jake turned white.

Two boys. Two bridges complete.  One bridge to go.

The last bridge lay in front of Laddie and Jake.  The last bridge terminated on the barrier islands where so many locals and tourists enjoyed the hot summer days and nights.  It is beautiful to spend a day or a night at the beach.  At night, the ocean sky is pitch black.  You cannot see anything.  You feel the sand under your feet.  You hear the waves crash upon the shore.  you hear the wind blow passed your ears as the tall grass in the dunes bend back with the breeze.  Once over the bridge, a tall light house would provide a little light.  It was bright, but high in the sky.  It illuminated the night so shippers could set a course away or toward land.  The light did not and could not provide the boys with proper illumination for walking about the dunes nor the beach.  Yet Laddie and Jake started to pedal for the last bridge while looking at and heading for the lighthouse.

Until the lighthouse... I will see you on the road.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Trip Running Errands by Bicycle

A few weeks ago, the weather in the greater Syracuse area was freezing cold and snowy.  I thought it would never end, however.  The weather has finally broke, and the sun shines.   Bike riding temperatures arrived and it's time to start pedaling and increasing the various ways to ride my Surly LHT.

I checked the ties for proper inflation and hooked up my two Vaude rear panniers and completed three errands in the village.  To make a but of a work out, I deviated my route home to add more miles and completed the ride with just under 15 miles in an hour.

What errands did I complete?

Well, I checked the air in my tires, attached my panniers and off I went to mail a letter.  The drive into the village center was a little tight with cars squeezing me to the right side and the pot holes are awful.  The village must do a better job repairing these wheel breakers sooner rather than later.  I made it safely to the post office and mailed the infamous check.  From the post office I rode over to the dry cleaner and picked up the pants I brought there two weeks earlier.  I rolled them up into the hanger and stuffed them neatly into my right pannier.  I was surprised the hanger actually fit.  My last stop brought me back up the road, closer to home.  The convenience store across from my development.  I purchased a pack of gum and a Monster drink for later.  I opened the gum; and I took a piece.  I placed the Monster zero calorie drink into my handle bar bag.

Three errands completed by bicycle.  That was pretty cool.  I extended my ride another five or six miles to make it more of a comfortable ride/workout to burn a few extra calories to earn my dinner for the evening.

The following day, Friday, I rode my Surly LHT to the Y to lift.  I loaded the panniers onto the bike and placed my work out clothes and sneakers into one rear pannier and in the other I placed my Kryptonite lock set, gym locker lock, glasses, and (if needed) my wind breaker.  The gum and my glasses I placed inside the handlebar bag.  Locking my bike at the Y was the first time I have ever used a U-Lock and cable, and the first time in decades that I locked up a bicycle.  I did look out the window a few times to make sure it was still there and that no one was messing with it. 

A small note on the panniers. I did remove the panniers and took the items out of the handlebar bag and placed them in the panniers to take inside with me.  The panniers fit perfect inside the gym locker.

My total round trip to the Y and back was almost 18 miles.  I followed the rules of the road and traveled along a route that took me through a couple of neighborhoods and low traffic roads for safety.  I stopped once each way to take a sip of water.  All in all, it was a fun and relaxing ride.  I look forward to riding again.

See you on the road.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We Were Once All Commuters: Chapter Two

Riding a bike on our own opened up the world to all of us kids.  Finally we could explore our neighborhoods and wider communities.  The same went for Laddie and Jake.  They loved riding their bicycles and as they grew older, their parents gave them permission to ride freely throughout their small village.

Summer came and school finally ended.  Although the two pals rode their bikes year round, the coming of summer vacation meant they could go to more wonderful places besides the back and forth to each others homes and to the library to complete school homework.  Now they had a license to travel.

Like all young boys, Laddie and Jake didn't plan where they were going until just before they went to wherever it was they wanted to go.  Today was just such a day...

Jake woke up early Thursday morning after his parents drove off for work, and he washed up, dressed in Mets tee and rode on over to Lad's house.  Lad was still sleeping and was greeted by his mom who invited him in and told him to wake Laddie up  so he could start his day rather than being lazy and bored all day.

"Wake up big guy," cried out Jake.

Laddie groaned and rolled onto his side.  Jake snapped open the shades and let "the sun shine in."  He even chanted in a rhythmic style, "Its time to get up, its time to get up.  The sun is out and shining bright."  He continued with a smile on his face while laughing intermittently, "Its time to get up and ride our bikes."

"Okay, okay," said Laddie.  "I will be up in a minute, let me get dressed. I will meet you in the kitchen."

The two boys ate a few pancakes  which Lad's mom made, but they added a few pats of butter and plenty of Log Cabin. A breakfast of champions for sure.  The two boys were now ready for a day of adventure.

After eating a hearty breakfast, loaded with energy Jake said lets ride down to the stationary store and play a few games.  So, off they went.  It was a short ride, about a mile away from Laddie's street.  Jake loved riding to Leo's Stationary Store.  He would hop curbs and do wheelies on the uneven slaps of concrete of the sidewalk.  Laddie just like pedaling along the even pavement of the road, however.  Riding along the street  meant that Laddie needed to be aware of approaching traffic on his left as he cycled with the traffic on the right side of the road.  He used hand signals to let the drivers know which direction he may be turning.

His left arm straight out, left turn.

His left arm held out and bent upwards at the elbow like a small wave of the hand, right turn.

His left arm extended and bent downwards at the elbow, slow stop.

Obeying the rules of the road was a prerequisite for safety and for being a responsible cyclist, and knowing the rules of the road gave their parents "piece of mind" while the boys rode around town.

Well, 10 or 15 minutes after finishing their breakfast, Laddie and Jake arrived safely at Leo's Stationary Store.  What a cool place.  Leo's was an old fashioned stationary store; it still had a counter with spinning stools and served fountain drinks, coffee, and tea.  As for stationary items, Laddie and Jake rarely took any notice unless they needed school supplies, but the arcade style video games was their want.

Jake stepped up to the soda counter and asked for a few dollars worth of quarters for the boys to play a few games of Asteroids and Frogger.  Once the coins had disappeared into the machine and all their lives had been liquidated, Laddie and Jake hopped onto their bikes and meandered around the village exploring new places.  Today's new place was the big park.

The big park was special.  It was named after the original owner of the land who had founded their community; his name was Argyle, Samuel Argyle.  Argyle Park was across the street from the town marina.  The center of the park was a small lake which emptied into a small pond which received water from the lake via three waterfalls.  It was a beautiful place to visit.  The sound of the boats, the falls, and the ducks relaxed the visitors.  Adjacent to the paring lot was a small sandy area where children could play on swings, monkey bars, and a spinner.  The spinner would sit 10 kids easy.  The older kids would run on the outside to start the spinner rotating, then jump on to enjoy the ride.  All the older kids, like Laddie and Jake, would argue over who sat at the pump seat.  The pump seat had a bar pumped back and forth to keep the spinner rotating.

Laddie saw the spinner. Dropped his bike and shouted to Jake, "C'mon, Jake.  Lets get the spinner going faster than ever before."

Jake loved a challenge.  Being the adventurer he is, Jake jumped off his bike while it was coasting onto the sand, and replied, "You got it.!"

Five or six kids, a few years younger than Lad and Jake, were already seated and ready for an older kid to start them off.  Jake grabbed the bench area next to the pump bar and started running as fast as he could while Lad tried to grab on to the opposite pump seat; he had a little trouble since Jake already had the Spinner moving rapidly.  Lad wildly jumped aboard and began pumping.  The Spinner circled faster and faster. Jake didn't make it to the pump seat.  The Spinner tossed Jake as he attempted to swing his body into the other pump seat.  Instead, Jake was on the round, face first in the sand.  he rolled onto his back and laughed.

Once the Spinner slowed up, Laddie hopped off to the screams of joy from the little boys and girls asking for another fast and dizzying ride.

Sirens blurred from the firehouse signaling to all that it was time for lunch.  The boys picked up their bicycles and rode over to Howie's Pizza.  Howie was a fat Italian guy who made the best pizza around.  Everyone in the village called him "Mr. Pizza."

The boys locked up their bikes and walked inside.  Each boy asked for a slice of cheese pizza, but Laddie grabbed a can of Coke, and Jake reached for a bottle of Yoo-Hoo.  Jake loved the chocolaty goodness of a well shaken bottle of Yoo-Hoo.  If it was good enough for Yogi Berra, it was good enough for him.  It was a stable of his weekend lunches in town.

While Laddie and Jake waited for their slices of pizza, they watched Mr. Pizza toss the dough into the air several times.  Once the pizza reached the correct size and thinness, Mr. Pizza would ad some sauce and cheese and push it into the brick oven.  The aroma satisfied anyone walking by Howie's Pizza.  Mr. Pizza made wonderful calzone and a the best zepplies (fried dough with powdered sugar) this side of the Hudson River.  Jake scarfed down his pizza.  Laddie choked down his slice,too.  Laddie then said to Jake, "Where to next, buddy?"

"I don't know," said Jake.  "Maybe we can ride over to the firehouse and look at the trucks. "

Laddie was excited, "Absolutely.  That sounds pretty cool .  I like the hook and ladder."

The two boys unlocked the bicycles and rode for the firehouse...

Until next week.  Laddie and Jake will see you on the road.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

We Were Once All Bike Commuter: Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a boy.  A boy who was just old enough to ride a bike, albeit with training wheels. He pedaled hard and had fun.  His riding talents improved as he grew.  He rode for many years and this is his story.

At the age of four young Lad stepped up on his new two wheeler while his dad held one hand on the handle bar and the other upon the rear of the saddle.  Lad pedaled.  He was nervous looking to his dad hoping to find security and said, "Don't let go."

His dad reassured him saying confidently, "Just keep pedaling and balance yourself.  You can do it."

Laddie hung on tight.  He smiled as his legs pumped up and down.  The bike picked up speed.  He wobbled a few times as his dad let go of the handle bar, but Lad didn't fall over.  He never hit the pavement because he knew his dad was still running beside him, holding on to the saddle.  Lad was safe.  His confidence grew and his balance stabilized the more he pedaled.

Within an hour, Laddie achieved freedom.  He didn't realize it, but his dad had let him go.  Laddie was riding alone.

His dad cried out, "Keep going, son.  Your doing great.  Its all you."

That's when Laddie discovered he lost his safety net.  He swerved right.  He swerved left.  Panic started to creep into his head, but he remembered to pedal, just as his dad had instructed him.  he pedaled and stayed on two wheels.  He did not fall.  He screamed out with joy, "I'm riding.  I did it."

His dad caught up to him, and breathing heavy, he said, "Push back on the pedals to stop."

It worked. Laddie stopped after pushing on the pedals in reverse and his dad grabbed hold of the saddle and congratulated the youngster.

"You did awesome."

That was how it all started.  It started that way for most of us.  Riding a bicycle was the beginning of our journey toward independence.  We could ride anywhere.  Our first rides were to our friends homes.  Then together, with our best friends, we rode to the five and dime, to the park, or just around the neighborhood.

Laddie had a similar experience, he immediately rode his bike to his buddy's house.  Jake could ride a two wheeler and their journey started riding up and down their block for a few weeks.  They soon desired to ride around the block; a few times they even rode to the community park to play on the monkey bars and the swings.  Riding a bicycle was fun, and it also gave them a way to travel to other places without asking for a ride or depending on their parents, however.  Laddie and Jake did ask for permission to ride throughout the neighborhood; their parents knew where they were going, and Laddie and Jake always wore their helmets.

Oh, the helmet.  These two fellas loved their helmets.  The helmet was for safety, but for these two boys, the helmet was an expression of who they were.  Laddie wore a bright red helmet.  It was a traditional bike helmet with sleek lines and small openings for air to flow through to keep his head cool, but he added a few stickers and a small pin that read "Keep on Pedaling" that remained pinned to his chin strap for several years.

Jake wore a skater helmet that his older brother had worn while skateboarding and it had well placed scratches and small cuts on it from Jake's brothers small falls and spills while doing tricks at the skate park.  Jake thought it was cool.  He painted it electric blue and added a few stickers, too.  Jake had one sticker on the lower portion of the back of the helmet that read, "Just roll'n."

From training wheels, to dad holding on to the back of his saddle, Lad now could ride to see his friends and ride to play at the park.  What adventures could he plan next?  Or would a bike adventure find him?

Til then,  I will see you on the road.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Cycleops and Bike radar

This post is an update regarding my indoor cycle training.  I use my fluid trainer everyday, especially  on indoor/treadmill running days.  I want to comment about these dual training days.

On these dual training days, I ride the Cycleops Fluid Trainer for 35 to 50 minutes.  I set up my Mac Book and log in to YouTube.com and use the Bike Radar videos which lead several Cycleops Trainer training sessions or I utilize one of the other trainer videos available to give me direction for a good work out.

The Bike Radar clips run around 30 to 35 minutes in length and fluctuate the cadence between 105 and 60 while some of the other programs increase the cadence as high as 110.  Those high cadence programs generally last upwards of an hour in length.

I love the Cycleops trainer.  The more I use it to off set running or as an additional workout, the more I can't wait for the weather to clear and warm up so I can take it t o the streets.  Until then I will ride my Cycleops Trainer and hit the treadmill for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes three days a week and run a couple of times outside and a couple solo Cycleops Trainer rides.

Has the Cycleops Trainer helped my endurance?  Absolutely.  Two time I was able to run the first two miles of my runs below 18 minutes.  That  is pretty fast for me.  I will slow down after that mark and just coast for a few more miles to enjoy the run and return home for a shower and a meal.  It feels great to eat after you have earned it.  I wish every meal could come after a bike ride or a run.  Could you imagine NYC if  Mayor Bloomberg had been a runner or a cyclist?  He would have made a law.  No run, no McDonald's.  That would have been more draconian than limiting the size of soft drinks. 

Please don't vote for a commie-lib and run or bike for your daily bread.  I will ride tomorrow and see you on the road.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gear List

As spring nears and the temps, at times this winter, begin to rise above freezing the thrill of completing my first overnight bike camping trip fills my veins.  Each month my Surly LHT gets outfitted a little bit more.  On a daily basis I ponder about the remaining items I may require for a successful trip.

I need to think about purchasing the correct shoes.  I will require spd clipless mountain bike shoes so I can get on and off the bike and be comfortable.  I need small toiletry items to stay neat and tidy.  I am a clean freak; I wonder often if being a little dirty may scare me off from accomplishing my goal.

I know I need a few more items to be sure I am all set for the Erie Canal this April.  My trip will take me from home to Rome.  I will spend one night camping if the weather is right and return the following morning.

So, I have started investigating checklists to be sure I have what I need, and if not, start planning on acquiring those items for the best possible price.  I BOLDED the items I still need.  So peruse the list below and visit their website.  You may catch the touring bug too.

See you on the road.

This list below is from the web site www.bikeovernights.org.  This is a website I like visiting to learn more about Cyclo Camping or bike touring.  I love the phrase cyclo camping.  I think its cool.

The Basics for Camping:
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pad
  • Small tent, bivy sack, or camp hammock
  • Food (or a nearby dining establishment)
  • Personal items: toiletries, etc
Deluxe Gear List:
Perhaps you’re not a minimalist. Just remember: everything you bring adds weight to your bike. If you have much hill climbing or a lot of mileage planned, you may want to reconsider how much you take along.
Deluxe Camping Gear List:
  • Route map(s)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pad or air mattress
  • Small tent, bivy sack, or camp hammock
  • Camp pillow or stuff sack
  • Cooking equipment (small stove, cookware, utensils) including food
  • Camp chair
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Pocketknife
  • Waterproof matches
Deluxe Personal Gear List:
  • Toiletries
  • Two sets of bike clothes
  • Two sets of off-the-bike clothes
  • Raingear
  • Cold weather gear
  • Shoes/sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
Other possibilities:
  • Books
  • Camera
  • Playing cards
  • Sports equipment
  • Fishing gear
  • Radio/iPod/MP3 player
  • And more!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Running Minneapolis

I love running in the cold while the snows gently falls.  However, its a rare winter's night that the snow falls gently to the ground. Usually the flakes are small and crash to the ground by the force of a bone chilling breeze.  Those are the nights, if its snowing, you kind of think twice about gearing up and stepping outside.  Who in the world looks forward to being struck in the face by lake effect snow pellets?
Hmm... Raise your hand.  Ok. I do.
Well last week was definetly cold.  I ran at home and in Minneapolis but there was a stark contrast. In Syracuse that weekend it snowed every day. Each morning saw a fresh six inches of the white stuff.  That means its a snow blower morning and a treacherous day of driving while working followed by a slippery and snowy run.
I survived the weekend runs. I ran once outside. Beautiful run. Cold? Yes. Snowy? Absolutely. Yet, it felt great. When I run after work, I feel like i have earned my evening meal and a badge of honor because few people, runners, actually get out to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a cold, snowy run. It may be slick. The snow striking your face hurts sometimes, but you get beyond it. The miles bring your body tempeture up. After a couple short miles the snow isn't even a thought.  Its the rythm of your breathe; the sound beneath your feet; and the memories of today and thoughts of tomorrow that bring you to the finishline.
Oh, but running in Minneapolis.  Thats another different tale. 
Minneapolis is a beautiful city. You do not get a feel about how cold it can be since all the buildings are connected by the Skyway, a series of indoor, over the street tunnels between the buildings.  So it feels comfortable. Looking out the windows at the sun can be deceptive as to how cold it really is.  The high on a couple days was 4.  Tuesday was the warmest day; the high was 33.  IDC ended at 4:30pm. We returned to the hotel by 5pm. I was changed and ready to roll by 6pm. I waited for a friend til 6:15pm.
I have run in Minneapolis before so we ran to the river and headed up and down for 6 miles.
It was cold. It was about 20 when we hit the road.  The breeze we wicked coming off the river, hitting us directly in the face on the way out. The path was icy in spots and snow covered in others. I only fell once over some snow covered chopped up asphalt that hadn't been cleaned after the city made some improvements.  It was a good fall.  I stumbled for 20 feet attempting to stay on my feet as a running back may stumple to stay up long enough to cross the goal line.  I didn't stay up. I fell after hitting a second pile of rubble.  Never a fun experience although funny after the fact.
Once we reached our turn around, Minneapolis was lit up.  The skyline is gorgeous.  The buildings were different colors and the three bridges, crossing the river into St. Paul, had their own splendor.
The run back to the hotel was swift and uneventful.  I didn't fall.  I stayed on my feet.  Our pave was around 9:35 minutes/mile. 
I look forward to running in Philly at our next meeting when the weather ought to be better.  Maybe, just maybe, i could wear shorts.
See you on the road.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

One Good Question: Inside or Outside?

Its been a few weeks since my last post.  So, it is time to dive back in and tell you all what I have been doing on the fitness front while the cold has taken over the northeast.

Runners, during the winter, we have many options to stay fit.  We can run inside on a treadmill; we can run outside in the cold and snow; or we can ride a spin bike or use a bicycle trainer.  Well those a generally my options.  This past winter, as you may see by the evolution of this blog, I have started to ride more than run because of general aches and pain caused by running, and my desire to stay indoors for training because I no longer enjoy the cold, so I thought.  This is where the question above comes in, and the answer may surprise you.

Running inside is boring.  I can only stand running while staring at a TV or a wall for about 30 minutes, only enough time to get about 3 or 4 miles in depending on how I feel.  Not to mention that sometimes running indoors can be torture during the winter because the heat in the house is turned up and gets warm fast.  If you run inside on the treadmill, purchase a fan.  It makes for a significantly cooler and more comfortable run.  To tolerate the treadmill run, I added a 40 minute to an hour training bike ride so I achieve 70 plus minutes or so, depending on how I feel, to get more out of my daily exercise and increase my calorie burn.  I do like that method of training indoors best.

The spin bike was a great option for me until I broke the spindle holding the cranks in the spinners bottom bracket.  Now I wait for repairs before I can start spinning again.  I love spinning.  Its simple.  It affords me more training options than the bicycle trainer which I feel, a times, does not offer amble resistance to stand for extended periods of time.  The spin bike allows me to stand anytime and with greater resistance options it duplicates a hill climb better than a trainer.

Oh, now for the outside training... no bicycling in the snow and sub 40 degrees (much below 40 this past month) so that means running.

When I started running in 2008, I loved hitting the road in the winter. I remember running at Onondaga Lake Park (OLP) at 5am with a friend.  The wind blew off the lake cold.  The snow pelted your face.  You froze for the first 5 minutes then you would sweat for the next 30 to 40 minutes and freeze again the last ten minutes before you blasted the heat in your car for the ride home. Yet, it was a badge of honor to tell your friends and co-workers and fellow runners that you had braved the elements and beat mother nature and ran the good run under the circumstances.  Damn that felt good.

It felt even better to run outside while the snow fell, especially that first big snow.  Running the miles listening to the fresh powder crunch beneath your feet was glorious-- is glorious.  Unlike the summer, there is no need for music because the silence of a snowy night is bliss.  Sure your footing may be unstable, but the focus to pace yourself safely, the added stress to balance and push through the pain in your quads is an added benefit you can only have while running on a sandy beach in the summer.  Not all of us have that opportunity in the summer never mind the winter.

I have shied away from the winter outdoors run because I let the cold beat me mentally, mother nature pushed me back indoors and mocks me when I drive passed a runner on my way to the store.  I have had enough of that old hag; no more!  I shall run outside because I love it.  I have hit the road again in the cold.  I have suited up.  I have ran in the slush, the packed snow, and the fluffy powder.  I have ran in the sub freezing temps as low as 17 degrees again, and I like it.  I have pushed old momma nature off my stoop and twice a week I run outside while holding my head up high as the cars drive by and wonder what the heck is that dude doing tonight.  I have taken a spill, but I jump right back up.

 I do not run as I did in years past.  I run slower now.  I do not plan to run anymore marathons, but I do plan to stay in shape.  To accomplish that goal, I aim to run 6 miles minimum even in the cold, heartless winter.  I had forgotten how warm you get while running.  The tendency is to wear too many layers.  But being overheated outside, just as inside, is not good.  Its uncomfortable and messes with your head.  Dress intelligently.  I wear a base layer long sleeve wicking shirt under my half zip jacket and an outer shell up top, and I wear a base layer wicking tight under my running tights with over the calf socks and my usual running shoes.  I wear a pair of gloves, usually made of a wicking fleece and a wool cap.  On really cold nights I will wear a balaclava.

So, to answer the original question, Inside or Outside?  I choose Outside.

Enjoy this horrible winter by making it the best running winter ever.  I will see you on the road.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

To Helmet or Not to Helmet, that is the Question

An interesting question was asked during the Bicycle Touring Pro webinar that I listened to this evening.  Darren Aalf is the moderator of the bicycletouringpro.com, and a listener inquired as to why he, Darren, would not wear a bicycle helmet at times since it may set a poor example for children to emulate. 

I would like to discuss this question of bike helmets.  Is it really necessary?
Thinking back to when I was a child, there were no helmet laws for children. As a matter of fact, we didn't even think about wearing a helmet. We just rode our bikes. Our parents placed little to no restrictions on where we could ride never mind thinking about us wearing a silly helmet.  Hell, back then we didn't even put seat-belts on while riding in our parents car. Our parents wanted outside, playing, having fun, and being kids.
 
We rode our two wheelers to friends' homes, to the store like the 5 and 10, or the bike shop Sally's Cyclery, or other places of childhood interest such as  the pizza shop, and the ball fields.  We even rode randomly from town to town without any thought of getting hurt or struck by a car.  We lived the life of kids and used that devil may care attitude to our advantage and explored our community, the hamlet of West Islip and nearby villages. 

When we were young teens, I can even recall a trip I made with a friends across the bridges to Fire Island.  We hung out at the beach and drank a few beers while listening to AC/DC chilling in the dunes. Never, not once, did we ever think of wearing a bicycle helmet. It was silly.Could you imagine a couple of teenagers jamming to music on their boom box riding with "protective gear"?  Not me, never.  I wanted to look cool.  And believe me, I was coll. LOL.

I did get into several accidents with my bicycle.  I ran into parked cars, flipped over the handlebars while riding in dark alley ways, and I was struck by a mail jeep too.  Not once did wearing a helmet ever enter into my mind nor my parents.  I survived all collisions including that incident with the mail jeep.  Yes, a mail jeep sent me into the air landing me abut thirty feet away from where we had banged into each other.  I was bleeding bad, the left side of my face was practically gone, and I tore a huge hole on the top of my forehead.  It was horrible.  I was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital and stayed for three days.  Over the next several years I had surgery to open my scares on my face to remove pebbles from beneath my skin that rose to the surface.  I truly had "rocks in my head."  I was twelve years old.  I started riding again and still no one, not even my mom, ever thought about putting a helmet n my head.

So where do I fall on the helmet scale?  on a scale of 1 to 10? With 1 being not to wear a helmet and ten being to always wear a helmet, I would fall in the middle.  A solid 5.

Young children learning to ride while their dad holds the back of the bike, I say it depends on the dad, but I would say, no helmet.  Its a safe environment, and the helmet bothers kids and distracts from focusing on balance and having fun.

Young, pre-adolescent children ought to wear a helmet because they start to get less cautious and begin demonstrating their independence by doing stupid things like riding off ramps and riding with little regard for the rules of the road.  While teens and adults should make the call for themselves.  For example, if you are riding to a buddies house or to the library after school, no big deal, but if you are riding for sport, whether road racing or mountain biking, a helmet, is essential.

Helmets these days are considered cool because kids want to look like the pros and parents are over protective. But the cool is what sells.  So wear a helmet.  It may be too hot, yet its cool.  Make your momma happy too.

See you on the road.

Cycleops Fluid Trainer

I was pedaling on my spin bike a couple of days ago, and it started making a noise from the crank area.  I soon was pedaling with one foot, crank still attached to my left shoe.  So, a broken hub/bolt ended my workout.

As bikers and runners, we see opportunity at each disappointment.  this disappointment was an opportunity to purchase an indoor trainer; something i have been contemplating for a while now.  Its funny how events kind of fall into each other.  Just that morning I had bumped into a cyclist friend of mine who trains for cycling events and triathlons.  He was the first person who told me about trainers and when we spoke again the other day I had asked him about the trainers he recommends and/or uses.  He said the Kinetic or the Cycleops fluid trainers.  He has a Cycleops.

I finished my day and jumped on youtube to see what I could find about these two trainers.  Both are simple to use and provide exhaustive workouts with a real road feel, and both trainers accommodate beginners and experienced riders.  I looked at the manufacturers websites and reviews on Amazon.  There were no glaring differences.  So I went to the bike store first thing the next morning.

It was a cold morning, and I had many things to do, but I drove over in the snow and freezing cold to Syracuse Bicycle just before opening.  Within ten minutes I had purchased the whole kit and caboodle of the Cycleops Fluid Trainer with floor mat, sweat guard, remote holder, and two front tire mounts.  Yes!  I was ready to start working out.

My first workout was just a up and down interval ride.  I did not keep track of calories/HR, only cadence. It was a tough one hour.  Lots of sweat.  I followed that up today with another hour more intense intervals while wearing a HR monitor and I burned 711 calories according to the monitor.  Not too bad.


As I continue my indoor training, I will let you know my thoughts about the Cycleops performance.

I will see you on the road.