This is my first blog on cycling this season, excuse my absence, but a lot has happened and I'm excited to fill you in!
Last season, I ended with a 75 mile ride, which is the Twin Lights ride. I was really hoping to do 100 (a Century, as it's known by cyclists) but opted to do 75 because I didn't think I could handle another 25, especially if it had a lot of climbs. Anyways, the 2018 season was a success and changed my life significantly by having an outlet for my body and mind. A good long bike ride really clears the mind. Especially if you suffer a little and grind out to the end. You can't be obsessing over menial life issues when you're out on the road in the hot sun, your legs are gone and you've still got 15 miles to go. Then, the mind goes into a kind of survival trance and all your problems fade away. I found that I needed this. Needed it at least two or three times a week.
In the off season, I discovered the spin bikes at the gym and had never done spin before. There's a big screen, video tutorials and rides thru Corsica, Belgium and other Euro landscapes. It's cool! So, I did those thru the winter. Spin is challenging because the bikes don't have freewheel, so you have to pedal all the time, no coasting.
So, after a winter of spin classes, I hit the bike fresh in March and bested all my previous times on the first day out. I was shocked. The spin classes had put me in "go mode". My average speed increased about 2 or 3 mph. that's big!
Also, I made the switch to real cycling cleats and clip-in pedals. Another game changer. Being clipped in connects you to the bike and gives you power on the up-stroke of your pedal stroke and uses more muscles. Not to mention, now I feel like a real cyclist!
Another thing that has helped is weight training. I decided to start doing squats in the gym and as awkward as they feel, eventually I can do them comfortably and man, they make a big difference. The power in your legs in key for cycling and by adding some strength to your lower body; quads, hamstrings, glutes, the power you can generate dramatically increases.
The length of my rides went up. Last year my norm was 25. Now, this season the new bench mark became 45. After several 40 mile rides this season, I felt like I could do a century. My goal was to do one in June, but the wife and I moved into a new house and my riding took a backseat to packing, moving, unpacking. That's ok, because we love the new house and life is much better. But, the Twin Lights ride was approaching and now I gotta do make the dream come true. The century!
Oh yeah, a week before the big ride, I got a different bike. The 1981 Schwinn I was riding just wsan't cutting it. It weighed 28 pounds, was squeaky and the gearing was getting worse and worse. So, Steve at the local North Plainfield bike shop, The Bike Stand, hooked me up with an aluminum frame Trek from the 90s. A huge improvement. Who knew that indexed shifting was so awesome! It's not totally modern brake lever shifting, but still, a big improvement. But, I was really apprehensive about riding 100 miles on a bike I'd not ridden that much.
So the Twin Lights Ride was upon me. I was nervous and wondered if my legs were gonna have it in them. But, I figured, what have I got to lose? Nothing. Let's go for it.
All shapes and sizes of riders were out there doing the century. Teams of guys with matching jerseys flew bike in single file as if they were sprinting for the yellow jersey in the Tour De France. People in their 60s who clearly have experience, were just clicking along like it was nothing. And, there were some pretty big folks out there, with big bellies, sweating it out and I was frankly amazed at their resolve. It was a reminder that everybody has their place, and as long as you're out there going for it, then more power to ya.
Somewhere around 57 miles, my hamstrings locked up and at a rest stop I wondered if they'd open up again. And, that wasn't the worst of it, the worst was my shoulders, they were just killing me, my neck and shoulders were in serious pain and no amount of stretching and moving around was helping.
At mile 75 I took a rest and laid in the grass, staring at the blue sky. 25 more miles.... and there are a few big climbs at the end... shit! Well, ya do what ya gotta do. I got on the bike and continued.
I don't have a bike computer, by choice, I ride to escape technology, I don't wanna know the mileage, I just wanna be out there. So I was estimating where I was. Around this point I got a second wind. My legs opened back up and I was able to climb a lot faster than most the other riders. People were cramping up and pulling over. I felt bad for them. I just kept my gear low and kept "spinning" at a high cadence, surprised at being able to even pedal that fast, but it kept the legs open.
At mile 93 I stopped at a rest stop. I heard a guy say "Only 7 more miles" and I got excited. I'm gonna make it! I ate some cookies and drank a bunch of "Nuun" hydration water. The "Bike New York" organization really has your back on these rides, there were mountains of peanut butter sandwiches, energy bars, trail mix, bananas, oranges and good stuff. They were cheerful and supportive. I needed it. One woman saw me and said "Have some of this Nuun water... I can see it in your face, you need it."
The final two climbs that everybody was dreading were not that bad. Nothing close to the climbs in the highlands down by Sandy Hook I'd been training on all summer. To my surprise, they felt easy. The training paid off.
At the finish line my wife Laurie, who did the 30 mile ride was waiting. She'd been training too. Her ride had finished four hours earlier. She'd been at the park at the finish line hanging out with the cycling people. She knew it meant a lot to me. It was a happy moment that I'll never forget. I'm happy she's into cycling now, too. It's a great thing, a wonderful community of people.
We took photos, listened to the band, sampled some of the health foods and watched riders come in, exhausted and happy. Groups of riders were taking selfies and smiling and celebrating. What a scene.
Having now ridden a century I feel a sense of accomplishment that I've never felt before. It took two seasons to do it, but it was worth it. I'll do more of them, maybe in some different locales. Cycling has changed my life and after 33 years of being a professional musician has given me a new outlet. Now I feel more confident. And happy.