New Strava PRs & #1 rankings 👏

At the end of each month, I rest for 2-3 days, and then re-test myself. When the gyms were open, I’d complete an FTP test on a spinning bike. These days, I time myself up the steepest, most challenging, local hills. I’m fortunate to have 4 right out my back door. They are not long (1.5 km), but have grades ranging from 5-13%. These are my new monthly test.

Yesterday I climbed them all in succession. My objective was to set a PR on each, and claim the #1 ranking for my age group if possible. Surprisingly, I did both 😃

I have been climbing more this past month, and have been feeling stronger, but I didn’t really expect to claim all of the top rankings.

I’m ready for the local mountain climbs next 😂

“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?

Nothing.

Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

My solitary place …

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I’m a creature of habit. It’s daft really. For 20 years, maybe longer, I have stopped on my bike, this very bike, under this tree overlooking English Bay to sit, relax, read, meditate, refuel, and exercise. I stretch, do Pilates, and now pushups. This is my place. The one place I am at piece. I don’t stay long, 15 minutes, an hour at most. It is the best part of my day. I stop here all year, and in all weather. It’s on the ride home. It’s on one of may favourite training routes. I am here during the week, and frequently on weekends. This is a solitary place. This is my place.

 

Chance encounters …

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I am always surprised by the people I meet when I am on my bike. Perhaps it is because I am travelling slower, and see more. Maybe I am more relaxed, and open. Whatever the reason, I have met some of the most remarkable people while cycling.

When I travel in the car, there are few opportunities to stop, and it is usually to fill up, take a pee, or find food. On a bike there are innumerable opportunities to stop, listen, and talk. At street corners, in the local parks, and on the road while overtaking other cyclists.

My chance encounters with interesting people could fill a book. The young couple I met on a ferry in the Cyclades islands that had just travelled across Europe on bikes. The school principal I met in Quito that offered me a job to help pay for my trip. The distraught woman I met on a park bench in Stanley Park that I helped find a new job. The intriguing young woman I met in Douglas Park that was in transition. And, all the cyclists I met on long climbs that offered words of encouragement.

The most memorable encountered occurred 20 years ago. I was working in a small mill town in the interior of British Columbia. I had flown there with my bike, and used it to commute each day to and from the mill office. It was a short commute, 10 km at most. On sunny, warm days, I would cycle back into town for lunch at a popular cafe that boasted an outdoor patio with a scenic view of the mountains.

One day, as I sat outside with my customary black coffee and sandwich, an elderly Englishman rolled up on a vintage steel frame touring bike with fully loaded panniers, front and back. This man was heading somewhere. Curious, I asked him to join me.

After he got his tea and muffin, he sat across from me in the afternoon sun. We sat for an hour, maybe longer, as I listened in awe. I never asked his age but I would have guessed 75, maybe older. He had a small but athletic frame, and looked like a seasoned cyclist. Several months earlier, he had lost his wife of 50 years. It wasn’t unexpected but, nevertheless, devastating for him. They had been inseparable their whole lives. He had 2 grown children but, as he was quick to tell me, he didn’t want to burden them. No, he was a proud, stoic, and independent man looking for one last adventure.

He had always wanted to cycle across Canada. Since immigrating to Canada as a teenager, he never had the time, or the money for such a luxury, as he called it. After his wife’s passing, he wondered what he would do with himself, and his house. He wanted an adventure. He wanted to do something different, he said. He was healthy for his age, and had saved up a little money. It was time for a change, he thought.

He rented his house. He would decide what to do with it later. He tuned his bike, loaded his panniers, and headed off across the country. Alone.

If you have never visited Canada, you have to understand it is big. 6,100 km from coast-to-coast. And, it has a very substantial mountain range on the west coast. The Rockies. This is not an easy crossing for anyone, let alone a 75 year old on a fully loaded bike. When I met him, he was half way across the mountain ranges, and looked no worse for wear. On the contrary, he was having the time of his life. He wore a wide, permanent smile and laughed easily. I’m sure he had difficult days. But on this day, he was in a good mood, and anxious to share his adventure.

I never saw him again. I have no idea if he made it. This was before the internet, blogs, and cell phones. I regret not staying in touch, and have been curious ever since.

This gentle man has been an inspiration. Because of him, I realize you are never too old to chase a dream; that travel by bike is more enjoyable, and enlightening; and, when you have a chance encounter like this, always exchange contact information.

I have had numerous chance encounters like this. One day, I’m going to write them all down. Somewhere nestled amongst them is my epitaph.

Compact crankset …

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I have been waiting a long time to write this post.

My son gave me new, compact chainrings for Christmas this year. For those of you who may not be familiar with compact cranksets, they have two smaller chainrings that are particularly well suited for climbing. At the time, my son didn’t realize they wouldn’t fit on my standard crankset.

What was I to do?

I had learned over the past several years that for the type of cycling I do, not to mention my age, they are preferable. I have a compact crankset on the Roberts and love it. I haven’t lost any speed, except perhaps on long descents, and I climb more easily, and faster.

There was nothing else to do but purchase a new compact crankset. My son and I looked online, and eventually found a good deal. This past weekend, we installed the new cranks, and I immediately went for a ride looking for hills to climb.

For a road cyclist, hills on a light, carbon bike with a 50-34 crankset is like a bone to a dog. You just can’t get enough. Hills are easier to climb. On the flat, you maintain a higher cadence and tire less quickly, travelling farther with less effort. Is there anything better?

I got my first taste of compact cranks on a road bike several years back. I took my kids there for a holiday. A week in the sun to swim, snorkel and relax. And, cycle. We discovered a bike shop near where we were staying that rented carbon road bikes equipped with compact cranksets. We couldn’t resist, and one day cycled the West Maui Loop, an epic ride around the perimeter of the small volcano which includes several category climbs.

I subsequently learned that professional cyclists are equipped with compact setups, particularly for the long, climbing stages. Where had I been? Now, both of my road bikes have compact setups.

So, if you are out there considering a new road bike, or wanting to upgrade the one you already have, ask about compact cranksets. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Last long ride …

This morning, I did a 75 km ride. The last long ride before next weekend’s Pacific Populaire. I rode out to New West and back along River Road, up and over Little Mountain to Stanley Park, a lap on the road around the park, up the Prospect Point Hill climb, down the long, fast descent and back up Little Mountain.

Surprisingly, it was more difficult than I expected. I felt terrific for the first 45-50 km. And then, despite hydrating regularly and 2 Cliff Bars, I seemed to “bonk”. I finished the ride maintaining a decent pace but, I was spent.

I’ll spend this week trying to figure it out. Was I too cold? Did I wear the right clothing? Did I eat enough? Did I drink enough? Had I fully recovered from yesterday’s “Very Hard” workout? It’s a mystery.

I had one small bottle of water with electrolyte for 3 hours. Probably not enough. I ate 2 cliff bars, 1 every 45 minutes. Probably not enough. At the 60 km mark, I felt like a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I wore 3 layers – a long sleeve synthetic base layer, a long sleeve marino wool top and my cycling rain jacket. The jacket doesn’t breath well (but good in the rain). When I got in, the 2 under layers were soaked. And, I felt chilled most of the ride. I think I may have worn the wrong jacket.

Performance is more than conditioning. I know that I am physically prepared for next weekend’s ride. I am in better shape than I was at the end of last season. So many other things can affect performance. Proper nutrition. Proper hydration. Proper clothing. The elements. Heat. Cold. And, wind. That’s why it is important to ride in all conditions so you learn how your body responds. I do, and yet, I get caught off guard sometimes.

The good thing is the bike, the Roberts, performed better than I did. I train on this bike mostly. It is an old steel frame equipped with a Shimano Ultegra 10-speed group. It is a very comfortable and, relatively fast ride. I’ll give it another good cleaning and lube before next week’s ride but I don’t worry about it performing well.

It’s just me that needs attention.

reclaimed spaces …

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I belong to the Vancouver Racquets Club, an unpretentious athletic club in my neighbourhood. In years past, I was a competitive squash player. These days, I train for cycling in the gym.

There are two squash games. The International version played on a wider court with a softer ball and, the North American game played on a narrower court with a harder ball. In the 1990s, the North American game fell out of favour. The VRC has courts for playing doubles, International and North American singles. When demand for the North American game began to decline, the club converted the courts into a workout gym. Fortunately, the courts were beside one another. An opening was built between them, a glass wall and doors were installed to open up the space and cardio & weight training equipment was installed.

I like the space. It is seldom busy. This is not a macho gym. A good mix of men and women of all ages use the facility. We even have a personal trainer available. Initially, there were no spinning bikes, just the traditional cardio, sit up bikes. I petitioned the club to acquire a proper spinning bike. We purchased one with the intent to add more as necessary. Interestingly, it is hardly used. I think of it as my bike. It seems I am the only regular user. It appears racquet sports and cycling don’t mix. The tread mills and step machines are busy but the spinner, not so much.

I usually cycle to the gym. And, I am not the only one. You wouldn’t know it from the picture above but the bike racks are usually filled. These members don’t spin in the gym often but there are a number of serious cyclists among them.

If I were ever to build a home gym (and I have considered it) it would be like the club’s gym. It wouldn’t be too big, only include equipment I need and would reclaim unused space. I always hesitate because the club has features I can’t replicate. A steam room. A sauna. A wide selection of beer. And, a social aspect that keeps me motivated. I hang out with a group of like minded people, learn the most effective training techniques and, improve my fitness at the same time.

Yesterday, I completed an 85 km ride in preparation for the Pacific Populaire, the first century of the season. Throughout the winter months, I have been training in the gym for this event. I commit to the ride because it keeps me training during the colder, wet months. I know my legs and engine can complete the century. It’s my butt I worry about. I have not been on the bike much in recent months. A 60 minute workout on a spinner or trainer is nothing like a 3-4 hour ride.

I was pleasantly surprised with yesterday’s ride. Although only 85 km, it was more difficult ride than the upcoming century. I finished the ride with a 3 km climb that was relatively easy. I am confident I can complete the century and am in better shape than any previous year thanks to the many hours spent in my gym.

Even my butt felt fine.

 

He asked ” … are you faster … ?”

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He asked “With all of this training you have been doing, are you faster?

It’s a fair question. After all, I have spent a lot of time, burned a lot of calories and dripped a lot of sweat over the past 2 months to get into better shape for the cycling season. You have to understand, I am not a racer. I like going fast, and do, but I cycle for fitness mostly and enjoy long, scenic rides.

I replied “That was not my objective. I train so I can climb the local mountainous terrain more easily and, so I can cycle longer distances more easily.

Yesterday was the test. Yesterday was my first road ride since completing the 8 week, indoor training program on the spinning bike. I cycled a familiar route – laps around Stanley Park, a route I have done numerous times for almost 25 years. I know every turn, bump, climb and descent. Two laps around the road and back home is 50 km. A good first test.

I was pleased with the ride. I climbed the Prospect Point hill faster and in a higher gear than I ever have. I descended down the other side 5 kph faster than I ever have. On the flats, I maintained a pace 5 kph faster than I usually do. And, I wasn’t trying to go fast. This was to be a tempo ride. I wasn’t even on the Garneau, my faster bike.

Yes, I was pleased with the ride. Clearly, the hours of indoor training have made me stronger and technically more proficient.

So, I say “Yes, I am faster!“.