Transformation is defined as “the act of changing in appearance or reality.” In this post, Part I, I want to talk about a transformation that is taking place within myself. Part II will discuss a transformation that I want to take place within my community, but am losing confidence that it may come about. Be sure to catch the sequel to this in the immediate future here at RAM!
After riding in the beautiful Blue Ridge foothills, and cycling on some very challenging climbs last fall in North Carolina at the Hincapie Gran Fondo, I was as excited about cycling going into the off season as I can remember. I left that event with a feeling of wanting to step my game up. So I did. Sometime in the middle of winter, as I began my off season training, I decided to go big this year. Do some serious riding this year, and sign up early for some major events. This was my answer to a reflection of the last couple of years.
As I reflected on the big rides I had completed last year, it genuinely smacked me in the face that I suffered through a couple of those. I decided I have to be true to myself, and that was the unfortunate reality! I bonked in the upper 90 degrees heat at the Horsey Hundred, and fought for nearly 40 miles just to finish. Then with no real big events scheduled through June, July, and August, I slacked off while my sons’ baseball seasons were in full force through the summer. Upon deciding to do the Hincapie ride in October, I tried to crank it back up, but being honest with myself, I didn’t work too hard. And it showed again. I didn’t bonk there, but the climbs were unlike the tough ones around here, mainly because of the distance. My true reflection revealed to me that on several occasions last year, I did not enjoy the past time that I claim to love in cycling.
I’m no fan of “New Years Resolutions,” because I think we mainly set ourselves up for failure, but at the start of this year, I made a very tough decision to transform my health. Not just for the enjoyment of my big bicycling events, but more for the pure aspect of being a healthy person and setting a good example for my children who happen to be growing up in an era of obesity acceptance. I reminded myself of how hard I had worked once before to become healthy after quitting smoking and gaining weight. Actually, like when I gave up the cigs, this decision was really not tough because it’s what I want to do.
Here’s my secret transformation formula. I’m a chips and dip fanatic, and I quit eating them. I even gave up popcorn and my favorite, pretzels! I also quit drinking all soft drinks, which I only consumed on occasion, but not any more. I have scaled back immensely on ice cream and cakes/pies, only eating them on special occasions (well, every weekend is special enough for ice cream). Another significant change in my eating habits is portion control. I commit to filling my plate only once at each meal, and don’t go back for seconds or thirds like I used to. That sums up the food intake part, the rest of my personal transformation has occurred because of my change in exercise habits. I now strength train my upper and lower body, cycle as much as possible, and even still ride indoors when I work late or the weather is bad, and I do stretching and core workouts regularly.
Well that’s the formula, now here’s the results. The bulk of my training rides last year were in the 25-35 mile range while averaging a pace around 15 mph, and this year I’m riding generally between 30-60 mile rides averaging over 17 mph and I even rode a pace over 17 mph for my first century ride of the year. I have gone down six holes on my belt, and now a lot of clothes that were too tight for years are almost too loose. I weighed 248 pounds on new years, and I have gradually dropped to 215. I still have some excess weight and stomach fat, so I’m nowhere near stopping. In fact, I plan to continue what I’m doing, obviously it’s working. I figure my body will know when to plateau on its own. My goal was to be around 200 in time for my toughest ride of the year, and it is now only about two weeks out, but I’m committed to my ultimate goal, which is to become healthy!
I’m happy I decided to make this transformation, it has renewed my passion for cycling as I can now enjoy a 100 mile ride event, rather than suffer through it, struggling to make it to the end. I keep telling myself, “I’ve still got a little ways to go!” I was given some great advice from cycling friend Jim Simes, from South Carolina, “keep telling yourself that. Always.” Please stay tuned for Part II to be released soon, when I discuss and offer a bike friendly update (or lack of) on my community. I will also give my perspective on the recent accident that claimed the life of another local cyclist.
The next big ride event I will be completing and writing a review for is the Assault On Mt. Mitchell. In full disclosure, I have recently done a little moon lighting, because I was asked by Aaron West, the lead blogger for The Assaults, to help with some of the blogging. Of coarse, I obliged, and have written several short pieces, talking a little about myself, my training, and how I am preparing for such a difficult challenge, in hopes that I may offer a different perspective and some relation to other riders who will be making their first attempt to climb to the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River.
I stumbled across Aaron’s personal blog titled “Steep Climbs” some time in the last two years, and have enjoyed reading about the rides he has completed, which include Assault On Mt. Mitchell, and numerous other tough climbing events in and around the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains. In one of my blogs for the Assaults, I spoke about the necessity to develop a game plan for success at any challenge, especially one with the magnitude of assaulting Mt. Mitchell. I owe it to my personal viewing group here at RAM to offer MY game plan, then follow the ride up with an official review of the event.
My game plan consists of three main criteria: physical, mental, and the ride! First, I will address the physical aspect. I set out a training plan around the start of the new year that included overall body strengthening, increased flexibility, loss of excessive weight, and consistent cycling time. The strengthening plan includes weight lifting for both upper and lower body, and a challenging core and stretching workout three days per week. To date, I have lost 33 pounds, while adding significant strength, and my road miles are the most of any year I’ve ridden, plus more than I care time in the saddle on my indoor exercise bike.
The mental game plan is probably just as important as the physical, because attitude determines how far anyone will push themselves. To mentally prepare for this challenge, I decided to look at the route elevation profile (this scared the hell out of me), and develop a plan for how I will train now, and what my plan will be for the big day. Also, I chose, against my better judgement, to ride in the A group at our club rides, which rides routes with rolling to moderate hilly terrain for 25-50 mile rides while averaging a pace above 18 mph. I knew I ran the risk of getting dropped early on, but I have made significant fitness gains by riding with this group, and it has definitely boosted my mental confidence.
The final criteria for my personal game plan for success at Assault On Mt. Mitchell, is to set a specific plan for the ride. My entire game plan is somewhat of a guessing game, and this part will include multiple levels based on weather, if I experience any mechanical issues, etc. I have received some great advice for this part of the plan from Aaron, another strong Carolina cyclist Jim Simes, and by reading what others have posted on the Assaults Blog. My primary plan is to settle in with a strong group similar to my club, and get to Marion with an average pace around 18+, while not expending too much energy (trying to stay mid-pack as much as possible, without pulling too often). Upon arrival at Marion, I plan to eat a light meal, while getting off the bike for 30 minutes or so to rest. Once I depart for the Blue Ridge Parkway climb, I will be in for a battle, where the rest of the plan will be to use my mental and physical fitness gains to get me to the top. I will not set a time to beat, since this is my first attempt, but my ultimate goal, given the toughness of this ride is simply to finish! And finish, I will.
Don’t forget to check back here after May 20, for stories from my epic battle in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see the view from the highest point east of the Mississippi River in the U.S. Please share this article with others, and leave a comment, let me know if you know anyone else training for the Assault!
Is London, KY the cycling capital of the bluegrass state? If the success of their annual spring cycling event, the Redbud Ride, is an indicator, it’s very possible. For me personally, the 2013 Redbud Ride marked my third consecutive year completing a century ride in early April, with the Redbud back to back years now after completing the Wheels O’ Fire Century Cycle in Georgia in 2011 (in route to spring break in Florida). The Redbud Ride has evolved into an entire weekend of cycling craze in southeastern Kentucky, and this year it has left me in cycling crave mode. It’s easy to judge an event generally by how you feel as your leaving it. After completing the “Big Red Route” (100 mile) at Redbud Ride 2013 on Saturday, I couldn’t wait to get home on Sunday and go for another bike ride.
I had signed up early for this event, knowing that the weather could be difficult, found that out in first person last year, but knowing I need some tough training to be ready for Assault On Mt. Mitchell in May. I also encouraged and talked my brother-in-law (new cyclist) into giving this ride a try. I was pleasantly surprised in the week of the event when I heard news that my good friend Jim Simes was coming up again from South Carolina to do the warm up ride on Friday, then ride the century with me. And surprised one more time when good friend Chris Schmidt called Friday night and said he was leaving Nashville to join us. Both of these guys are very strong riders, and I knew I would have to ride hard to maintain their pace, which is also what I need to help me train for this great cycling season.
We rolled out from the London Farmer’s Market around 8 AM with over a thousand other cyclists who were at the Redbud Ride to complete one of the four route options offered. This year, the weather would not be a lasting memory of mine as it was from the year prior. It was a chilly start, but with mostly sunny skies, and warming as the miles accumulated. I would say overall, the weather was perfect for completing my first century of 2013. We rode with and passed numerous cyclists of all shapes and sizes, riding many different brands and styles of bikes, dressed in a rainbow of jerseys and spandex. The roads were so lightly traveled by vehicles, I actually wondered if we were on bike lanes for a good portion of the route. There was a few patches of rough pavement as we rode through the Daniel Boone National Forest, however, each and every spot was marked by road warning signs and caution spray paint around the hazard on the road surface. All of the route was also marked with color coordinated arrows on the roadway before, during and after each turn. We had zero trouble finding our way along the century route while intermingling with all of the other routes along the way.
The rest stops were conveniently located as we all maintain good hydration and needed a bathroom break at all the stops except the last. Redbud Ride holds an annual “best rest stop” competition. Last year, I voted for the stop in Livingston where we were warmed up with hot coffee and a genuine bluegrass band. I’m not saying who I’m voting for yet this year, but everyone at every stop we hit was very friendly, very informative. I will say this: the first stop has left a lasting impression. Last year at the rural fire station we were greeted by “biker babes,” and this year they raised the bar with an “80′s Prom theme.” I was a little surprised and humbled when they selected me to be the prom king! I like it when they make you wonder what will they do next year. Maybe beach party theme?
I had so much fun at the Redbud Ride 2013, I’ve been reminiscing and talking about it for a week now, and I could easily write for hours about it here, but let me just say this. If you read this review and don’t sign up for Redbud 2014, shame on you. You will miss out on one of the most amazing cycling events this great state has to offer, not to mention it’s the first leg of the new Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge. I do owe it to the readers and followers of RAM Cycling to grade some important subjects that put the ride together.
Route: The route was well marked, very safe, minimal traffic ( and the traffic I did see was very bike friendly), beautiful roads and scenery, challenging climbs and awesome colors as the redbuds and dogwoods start to bloom
Support: we saw SAG (support and gear) vehicles along the route in every section, awesome rest stops with very friendly folks, a new bike shop in downtown says it all
Organization: I was kept well up to date on events at the Redbud Ride and tons of local happenings surrounding the event, walked right up to registration and checked in without wait, and I love the twitter feed
In general, I can’t really offer any advice for improvements. Obviously, I give the Redbud Ride 2013 an A+ rating from the Masher, and look forward to doing it again next year, and bringing even more family and friends. Keep up the great work organizers of Redbud, until someone proves it otherwise, I would say continue to own your phrase “London is the cycling capital of Kentucky.” In closing, I would also like to leave you with a few comments from the guys I rode with.
“I would highly recommend this ride to anyone, especially first time riders. The roads were well marked and all the rest stops were helpful. I will return next year with my wife riding hopefully. I was amazed at how many cyclists were at the event. It was well organized and the email updates helped. The London locals went out of their way to welcome us all and everyone seemed bike friendly.” – Jamie Garrett, from Gravel Switch in Marion Co. Kentucky (my brother-in-law)
“I TOTALLY enjoyed the 2013 Redbud Ride. It doesn’t get much better than a beautiful sunshiny day, riding 100 miles with over a thousand other cyclists. Especially my friends Kevin and Chris, two cycling beasts who let me hang with them. It was very refreshing for me to enjoy a ride without concentrating on the time. Thank you Kevin for the invite to the ride!” -Jim Simes, owner and operator of a recording studio in Anderson, South Carolina (good friend of mine, and very strong cyclist)
“I loved the Redbud Ride. Just a wonderfully beautiful choice of roads that twisted and turned their way through the foothills. Climbing up the side of a long hill, bombing down the other, floating along the rollers, beside the creeks, and the fellowship of the rest stops made it one of my top events. I’ll be back next year!” -Chris Schmidt, Dean of students at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY (also an Ironman, and great friend “Big Dog Schmidty”)
“I had heard great things about Redbud Ride from my son Kevin, and I decided to do the ride because my son-in-law Jamie Garrett asked me to join him on his first group ride event in London. He signed up for the 22 mile route, but we opted for the 35 mile route before we began and decided to do it because we had all day and just wanted to have fun. The Redbud Ride was such a great event, it has inspired my daughter Charlsie to invest in a new road bike so she can start cycling with us. I love the downtown restaurants and the spacious hike and bike shop and the friendliness of everyone I met. You all are great ambassadors for adventure tourism in Kentucky. Thank you.” – Charlie Pearl, retired writer, photographer, newspaper editor form Frankfort, KY (my dad “Pops” and the reason I first began cycling)
To view my Redbud Ride details on Strava please visit: app.strava.com/activities/48637642