When I first began to cycle, I used excuses as my motivation to ride. One excuse was that I didn’t spend much time with my father, “Pops,” and since he was into cycling, I thought this would be a great way of bridging the gap. A second excuse was my fitness, or at this time, my lack there of. As a former multi-sport athlete in high school, and a U.S. Marine with a completed contract, I seemed to have lost good reason to stay in shape, and now I longed for the return of my athletic competitive edge. Finally, and possibly the most significant excuse for me to ride was GABRAKY. I always excel at achieving my goals when I challenge myself through personal determination. My good friend and close riding partner, Tim the Renaissance Man, says “Effort without execution equals failure.” I tend to agree, and I feel like a good start is wasted, if you don’t finish it.
GABRAKY is a fundraiser bicycle ride for the Grand Theatre in Frankfort, KY. It was started by my good friend, Ed Stodola, an avid cyclist who has ridden with me on every “Horsey Hundred” (an annual century ride on Memorial Day weekend sponsored by our local bike club, the Bluegrass Cycling Club) that I have completed. Last year, Ed rode across the United States from Washington state to Maine. GABRAKY was originally called “Grand Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky,” but in 2009 it gained a backing from the state government and the name changed to “Governor’s Autumn Bike Ride Across KY.” This year the ride takes on another name change because the format has been slightly altered to improve some of the event logistics and allow for a more accommodating finish. This year’s name is “Governor’s Autumn Bicycle Ride Around Kentucky,” and the ride will not travel coast to coast as it always has in the past. Initially, it may seem that this would cause the ride to lose some of its’ luster or attraction, however I believe the true experience of this awesome three day ride will still produce the same cycling and group connection results.
The primary reason that I highly recommend this ride to any and all cyclists is for the total experience it provides. Leading up to the ride tends to produce some anxiety, and on Day 1, I usually experience a “what was I thinking moment? 225 miles in 3 days over the hilly roads of Kentucky?” Then, you will begin to settle in to a certain comfort level by lunch time on Day 2, realizing that you are in a war, not a battle. You will begin to enjoy the “group connection” that is mutually shared by all riders. Then on Day 3, as your mind begins to wander from the doses of adrenaline, energy, and fatigue, you will reach a point where you realize you ARE going to make it, and at that very moment, your overall cycling passion level soars to a new high. This same moment also lets you know that you are capable of completing any bicycle ride you set out to. And although you reach a moment when you are ready for the ride to just be over, on Day 4, you will experience a void that was filled by your bike the previous three days.
The first year that “Pops” completed GABRAKY, he did it on his Trek hybrid bike. He immediately purchased a Giant carbon road bike afterwards, and he’s been hooked ever since. After riding GABRAKY near the end of my first ever cycling season, I discovered my passion for pedaling, and I haven’t used any excuse to ride since. I also bought a new Trek carbon frame road bike shortly after. My good friend, Tim the Renaissance Man, completed his first GABRAKY with only about 3 months of cycling under his belt, and he too rode it on his Giant hybrid, but is looking forward to completing it on his new Litespeed carbon frame road bike this year.
I could go on forever about my memories and awesome experiences of riding in GABRAKY, but the feeling of accomplishment you receive when you complete it yourself, will trump anything you can read about it. So, if you are passionate about pedaling, and want to experience a cycling euphoria, PLEASE give GABRAKY a chance! To register, simply go to www.gabraky.com. I hope to see you at the State Capitol on Friday morning, October 7, 2011, ready to ride. You won’t regret it, I promise.
2012 Cycling Goals – Making it Happen!
Wow, 2011 is almost over! I cannot believe how fast this year has flown by and how many miles the Masher and the Renaissance Man have rolled out. By some standards our 2011 mileage may be small, but for my first full year in cycling, it was a big first step. So after seeing that all things are possible on a bike, I am setting some pretty big goals for 2012. So let’s get started:
Goal #1 – Ride 4,000 miles. This represents a 60% increase in mileage over 2011 mileage of 2,500. This is very attainable if the weather cooperates and I get the winter miles in that I skipped last year.
Goal #2 – Ride 6 Century Rides. – 2011 saw the RAM Cycling team burn up 3 century rides. 2012 is going to see us move to double that number. We are already working on our calendar and feel very confident in meeting this goal.
Goal #3 – Ride more hills and more rides per week. This is my only goal that I do not have a firm number to measure against. How will I know that I succeeded? The test for me will be in October at the annual GABRAKY ride. The big hill on Day 3 – there will be no walking.
Goal #4 – Increase my average speed to 17 mph. As a beginner cyclist in 2010 (and a hefty cyclist weighing in at 270 lbs.) my average pace was a less than respectable 12.3 mph. 2011 saw me increase this 16% to 14.3 mph. Why the increase? Weight loss, better conditioning and a new road bike all played a part. How do I plan to get to 17+? I plan to be more consistent in my training and to work hard at achieving the goals above.
To be successful in achieving these goals, I must work hard to integrate the goals into my lifestyle. Ride more frequently and shorter distances (2011 saw an average ride distance of 26.1 miles per ride) at a faster pace. I am definitely excited to get rolling in 2012! So let’s make it happen in 2012! Follow the adventure right here at www.ramcycling.com.
Wow, time certainly flies and I can’t believe 2011 is now history. Well, it was a memorable year, one that helped me find focus on cycling again, after a great finish to 2010. We recently posted short blogs by Renaissance Man & Masher with their Goals for 2012, but we have yet to publish the Goals for RAM Cycling, until now.
First, let’s reflect on the awesome happenings by RAM Cycling in 2011, then we can take a look at where the road leads for 2012 and beyond. Some simple, but important events accomplished by Renaissance & Masher in ’11:
* First century ride of the year (first ever for Renaissance Man) was the “Wheels O’ Fire” in Hamilton County, Georgia on April 2, 2011
* The idea of RAM Cycling first came to light on a Renaissance & Masher shared spring break vacation at Jacksonville Beach, FL during the week following that 1st century ride
* Our second century ride of the year was “Horsey Hundred” in Georgetown, KY on Memorial Day weekend 2011
* RAM Cycling was officially launched on the world wide web & twitter around the start of July 2011, we are claiming 4th of July as our Birthday
* Renaissance & Masher cycled in the sunshine state some more on vacation at Panama City Beach in July
* The months of August and September saw RAM put in miles and miles in prep for GABRAKY
* RAM Cycling rode in GABRAKY 2011 in October, a 3 day cycling event that travels around Kentucky (this was our second consecutive year, and included our 3rd century of the year)
* RAM Cycling closed out 2011 moderately by posting several hundred more miles before rolling into 2012
Now that we have reflected on the recent past, RAM Cycling can only move forward by setting some Goals, just like Renaissance & Masher did personally. The good news is, RAM is a reality, and here are some of the goals we hope to achieve this year or in the very near future:
*** Bring excellent news and memories from our charity and group ride events to life right here at the RAM Cycling website
*** Fight to have legislation introduced and passed into Kentucky Law to raise awareness and safety for bicycling, including a 3-FEET TO PASS LAW, more bike lanes, more Share The Road signs on roadways, more local bicycling events for the public & more
*** Gain corporate backing of some close partners, in order to help support our push for legislative updates and help us promote a more healthy and bicycle friendly America, and also help us support local charity groups that host events we intend to ride in this year and in years to come
*** RAM Cycling intends to host it’s own bicycle ride event, however the details are still in the planning phase for time of year, course, total miles, and location (expect this to be 1st class when it happens!)
*** Design and purchase our own cycling jersey to wear at events to help promote RAM Cycling, and t-shirts to give away
*** Obviously, we intend to support Renaissance & Masher in all of their bicycling endeavors
*** We want to develop a free membership club for the purpose of distributing important cycling information and legislative updates through a monthly newsletter
*** Finally, we will be excited to publish all of the good news we can find and relate to regarding bicycling
Thanks for visiting RAMCycling.com We hope you will continue to visit throughout 2012, as we try to accomplish our mission. So far it has been a wonderful ride, but it’s a journey that we are glad you are sharing with us. PLEASE feel free to leave a comment on any post we publish, or send us an email at any time. Your feed back is important to us and helps us improve our site for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @RAMCycling. Here’s to a great year in 2012!
I met Chris Schmidt at my first GABRAKY (Governor’s Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky) in 2006, and at our brunch stop at his place of work on the third and final day of the ride, I learned that he is married to one of my wife’s friend and softball teammate from high school. Chris is the Dean of Students at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY and is an avid cyclist with infamously massive calf muscles on his legs. Funny as it may seem, those are the two things that I related to Chris when we came in contact after that first ride across the state together: his wife and his calves.
I have gotten to know Chris a little more each year as he is the face of Lindsey Wilson as an annual partner and one of the main sponsors of the GABRAKY ride. He is an intelligent, hard working, genuine family man, that has a passion for cycling, and really has a way of connecting with people of all different sorts of cultures. As we follow each other on Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice some of his posts from early in the year mentioning some cross training in swimming, cycling, and running. He confirmed that he was training for the Ironman Competition that comes to Louisville, KY every August. I was a little surprised to learn of his intentions, because I had never pictured Chris as a marathon runner, especially after swimming and cycling another 114.4 miles! After all, they don’t call him “Big Dog” for nothing. One thing that didn’t surprise me though, was when he tweeted: “I did it. I am an Ironman!” on the evening of the annual competition in Louisville. A little over a week ago Chris was part of a team that ran over 200 miles across Kentucky in the annual Bourbon Chase Race Event, then turned around and just completed the annual bicycle ride across the bluegrass state in GABRAKY covering nearly 250 miles on the bike from Ohio to Tennessee. I was lucky enough to catch up with him at Buddy’s Pizza, a local restaurant in Frankfort and hear all about his Ironman experience. Now, I’ll share it with you.
Chris has been a road cyclist for years as both recreational and some competitive. As he was helping his wife attempt to get into cycling, she decided to try a sprint distance duathlon, so he also gave it a try. After one race in the triathlon format, he decided he liked it much better than the road rage he had experienced in the criterium road racing, and hence he was ready to go all out. So in a round-about way, his wife was the initial inspiration to try the Ironman event. The family affair didn’t stop there though, in fact, his wife Becca and son Cole, both were his main trainers and coaches. “The whole family made sacrifices financially, and with their time, menu, and physically, as they both helped me train. I also had two friends also training for the Ironman competition, Claude in western KY, and Toby here in Columbia with me, and it made all the difference having others to help,” claims Chris. He also received some genuine advice from a friend Lyn Bessette, a former pro female road cyclist, Olympian, and spouse to his long time friend Tim Johnson, also a pro cyclist in road and cross. She told him to always end EVERY training ride with a run, even if it was only a mile or two. So he did, every time he finished a ride on the bike, he immediately went out for a minimum 5K run, and in the end, he felt this advice to be very beneficial.
I mentioned the financial sacrifice, let me elaborate on some stuff I had never given a thought to. Chris saved every receipt he had relating to anything that had to do with his Ironman registration, training, and actual competition weekend, so he could reflect at the end and see just how much it actually cost to pull it off. Registration is just the beginning. The real expense comes from proper training. There’s cost to set up your bike, everything from wheels, to seats, to aero bars, to tubes and tires, then running. Especially for someone who was not previously a runner. There is shoes, and shoes, and more shoes, trying to find the right pair for his style of stride and stature, and don’t forget, those shoes have to run miles and miles and miles, to ensure he could cover 26.2 on the day it all mattered. Oh, let’s don’t forget swimming! Goggles, polar or tinted lens, etc.? And we haven’t even mentioned clothing, socks, nutrition, gels, bars, energy drinks, and so on, and so on … not sure if he kept the receipts in a shoe box, or a treasure chest. It certainly mattered what it cost to pull off this great feat, but it wasn’t something that Chris and his family were going to allow to be a road block, only a hurdle, as he admitted to gathering and selling some of his cycling gear he was no longer using.
When he arrived at the venue for the 2012 Ironman Louisville Competition, his vision of having the Ironman logo tattoo came to light in his mind as he witnessed all those already proud to display their achievement. “I was amazed at all the Ironman ink. Young, old, fit, or fat, it seemed like everyone had IM ink to immortalize their accomplishment,” says Chris. “Big Dog’s” ink is the IM logo on his right calf, so you can imagine how noticeable it is! Something else that amazed him was how well organized the event is. He says they dot all the i’s, cross all the t’s, to pull off an outstanding competition weekend. He commended the Ironman team for what an excellent job they do throughout the entire event. Unfortunately, their organization, brought up some of his more sad memories also. “When the clock strikes midnight, it’s over! They roll it up, close it down, it’s over. That realization didn’t quite hit me until I witnessed some competitors coming in as I was still in the streets, beaming with confidence from the feeling of what I had just achieved, only to see them comforted by loved ones for finishing, but not in time to receive a medal or acknowledgement from Ironman officially. Once that feeling of sadness I felt for them and their families and friends set in, it was nearly as tough as any emotion I experienced during the actual race. They finished, they were all Ironmen and Ironwomen in my book.”
Chris definitely thinks the mental aspect is more key to success than the physical. He said the whole event was an emotional roller coaster filled with highs and lows, and he doesn’t discount the physical aspect one bit, but he did mention seeing competitors he referred to as in much better physical condition than him laying on the side of the road, broke, done, finished but not completed. His plan had him committed to comfort and managing those emotions. Don’t let the highs get too high, likewise, don’t let a low, be too low. He placed simple items of comfort and happiness in his personal transition bags, and he contributes much of that tactic to his success. He even made a cycling sacrifice in training leading up to the competition and a running sacrifice on the fly in the actual race. Before the competition, he had his times checked and noticed he was laying down cycling time splits that rivaled the overall top 10 (yes this includes the pros) for half IM distances, and the top 5 for olympic and sprint distances. He dialed it back a little, to make sure he had enough gas to complete his first ever marathon run. Speaking of running, he had set out a plan to run four, walk one, and repeat until finished. As he approached the 10 mile mark of the run, he decided to change socks, since one foot was very sore and getting worse. This is when he found two toes that had blisters rubbed raw to the bone, so he altered his run plan to run six, walk one because it actually hurt worse to walk than run.
All of the pain was nowhere to be found as he saw the smiling faces of his wife and son waiting for him as he crossed the finish line and received his official Ironman medal! Chris is a very humble person, but he admitted confidently, that when he reflects on everything he went through to achieve the right to be called an Ironman, he feels like maybe his head is held just a little bit higher, and his chest stuck out just a little bit now. For those of you wondering about the total cost, how much all the receipts came up to when he got home, I offer this: “The second thing my wife told me after ‘Congratulations’ was that it didn’t matter what it had cost them, it was worth every penny they spent for him to accomplish what he did at that very moment! She was absolutely right. I went home and threw all those receipts in the trash and never once looked at them,” exclaimed Chris. In closing, he says that he is planning to do another Ironman competition next year. Not sure if it will be IM Louisville again or another venue, but now that I have the experience, I will set a lofty goal for my time, and set out to beat it! Congratulations Chris, you have always and continue to be an inspiration to me, both personally and physically. I don’t plan to join you in an Ironman any time soon, but I always look forward to you challenging me on the back roads of Kentucky on our road bikes.
Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s already a new year, 2013! Time truly flies, it seems like only yesterday we were finishing with George at the “Gran Fondo Hincapie.” I went into this off-season with a head of steam from that great final group ride event, and have begun to train for the upcoming season that will be upon us before we know it. It is awesome to think that we have already passed the winter solstice and already the days will slowly begin to gradually shed more and more daylight. It is also a little scary to think about how soon the first century ride of the new season will be here, followed by what I hope to be my most challenging month ever in May.
What I Learned In 2012
End the season with a great group ride event as late as possible! It definitely helped keep me motivated to work hard going into the off-season, rather than just hang the bike up and get lazy for a couple of months. I came home from a very tough ride in the Blue Ridge foothills craving more, and it has translated to putting in work for this next season. I definitely plan to find another tough ride to tackle near late October, early November.
I’m putting GABRAKY back on the schedule. That is one ride I truly missed last year, that I have done frequently in the past. I wouldn’t dare trade the fall vacation I had with my wife from last year, because it was spot-on, but I will make my plans around that ride this year. I know averaging around 60 miles per day doesn’t sound like a whole lot towards the end of the season, but when you do it for 4 consecutive days over the rural bluegrass landscape of Kentucky’s back roads, it is challenging enough to give you a real sense of accomplishment and I’m always ready for that finish line. Not to mention the cycling camaraderie that is felt by the passionate cyclists I have met on GABRAKY. See you in the fall!
Maybe the most important lesson I learned from last year is to make plans for June and July. As I reflect on my riding from 2012, I notice a big fall off in rides and miles in the middle of the summer. This year I will find rides in those months to keep my cycling stamina strong throughout. I will also utilize a great cycling tip for the busy dad that came to me from my good friend Chris “Schmidty” Schmidt (a.k.a. the Big Dog): when my children play games on the weekends, I should ride my bike to the county where they play and then meet up with the family; and if parents have to go separate directions with children, just simply take your bike with you and ride in between games. Great tip, Schmidty, now I can be a multi-tasker like my wonderful wife. No more excuses.
On The Slate For 2013:
Slate is a great term for my proposed ride schedule for 2013, it should also be somewhat colorful and tough just like the rock. I definitely plan to continue what I started in ’12 by riding with my local club (Bluegrass Cycling Club) out of the Georgetown location on Tuesday nights, along with some of our varying local group rides on the weekends. As far as organized events, here’s what I am thinking for now, of coarse, always subject to change, but I’m confident that I will complete the century routes at these great venues:
1. Redbud Ride in London, KY on April 13
2. 3 State-3 Mountain Challenge in Chatanooga, TN on May 4
3. Assault On Mt. Mitchell in Spartanburg, NC on May 20
4. Horsey Hundred in Georgetown, KY on May 26
5. Preservation Pedal in Frankfort, KY on June 22
6. Old Kentucky Home Tour in Louisville, KY on September 7
7. GABRAKY across the state of Kentucky in early-mid October
I also plan to get some good rides in down in the south central heart of the bluegrass with Schmidty and some of the Lindsey Wilson College crew. There is an outside shot that I may tackle the RAIN Ride (Ride Across Indiana), but it will depend on summer vacation and my summer work schedule before I will commit. I would love to do another ride or two or more in other states as well, but it will have to depend on timing and investment, I do this as a recreational hobby. Please feel free to send us your favorite ride and I will attempt to get there and ride in it, then publish my official review!
You can also send us your thoughts or comments about various rides via Twitter, and consider following our journey: @RAMCycling
Cheers to a safe, happy, and healthy new year with plenty of cycling in 2013!