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  1. #1
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Modest Progress - but at least there is some progress

    This weekend I decided to go back to the "Beast."

    The "Beast" being an easy bike trail that runs on an old highway in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in central Wisconsin.

    Last September I was taking a 3-day weekend up there to relax and at the last moment, threw my Bridgestone CB-1 into the back of my hatchback. Over the last 15 years I'd only ridden it a few times, on neighborhood cruises. Longest ride over that period was probably 2 miles on level streets. On this trip I wanted to try to ride it to see if I might enjoy biking again & in hopes of using that to get in better shape.

    I followed through and saddled up at Kickapoo. It was a humbling experience. I had barely started down the trail when my rear started hurting. I was using a Vetta gel saddle and it no longer did the trick. After about a mile, my hands started hurting. Then I hit a long incline, not too steep - maybe 4%, but I wasn't ready for it at all. At the two mile mark, I got off of the bike for 10 minutes to rest my lungs, legs, butt, and hands. Then I turned for home. Coming up the other side of the incline I had to stop 3 times. By the time I got back to the car, I was in agony.

    Not giving up too easily, I tried another section of the trail the next day. My legs were still tired from the day before and I ran out of steam on another long incline. And my butt was screaming in pain. Rode for only 3 miles.

    Saturday I went back. Now on my "dialed-in" Trek 7600. Higher hand position. Terry Cite saddle. Padded shorts & gloves. After lightly (well short of my goals) working out over the winter & spring. But at least I worked out some on my exercycle and ridden maybe 18-20 times since then. And have been taking the stairs at work 100% of the time (2 to 3 floors depending on the trip). I knew I wasn't in good shape, but I was hoping that some progress would be realized.

    I strap on the helmet and head into the "Beast." In 10 minutes I'm passing the point where I turned back last fall. Then another half-mile to the point where I started ride 2. I struggled some going up the long incline but it wasn't too bad. Another 7-8 minutes and I passed where I turned back on that ride. It was on to the end of the trail and then up the final steeper (est 8%) hill. Distance was about 5 miles and it took me about 35 minutes.

    My legs were feeling it. That last climb was hard for me, I kept dropping my gears until I kinda walked up the last 50 meters on my small front cog and 3rd on my rear. I was determined not to drop all the way to the granniest gear of all.

    Then I rested for 10 minutes and headed back. With my legs now tired, I fought my way up those long inclines. Inclines that most of the riders here would have barely batted an eye at. But I made it the entire way back with only one brief stretch stop.

    So a very modest ride of approx 10 miles over gently rolling terrain. Inclines were steeper than rail trails, since it had been a highway, but not a whole lot. My performance was still very humbling, but it sure felt better than what I had done just a few months ago. No hand pain at all, didn't even use my bar ends for different hand positions.

    Oh, and like a true Fred, I forgot to check the pressure in my tires and rode the entire course at 45 psi (supposed to be 65)- making it harder than it needed to be.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  2. #2
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Now, the topper.

    Earlier today I decided to take a second ride, on the famous Elroy-Sparta rail trail. This trail has three tunnels on it and was one of the first, if not the first, rail trail in the USA.

    I drove to Wilton, WI to begin my "assault." The unfriendlies there had not bothered to unlock the trail bathrooms and I had to change in the woods. So I'm off on a late start, heading toward Sparta. The max incline on this trail is said to be 3 degrees. You ride up to each tunnel and then downhill for a while until you start up toward the next tunnel.

    I rode 7 miles toward Sparta, riding through Tunnel #2, 1694' long. I wanted to make it to #3 but the winds kicked up and I was hit by a few drops of rain and got nervous about having to ride back 8-9 miles in the rain, without rain gear on. So I turned back.

    It was a glorious ride through the countryside. You ride through hills, past farms, through tunnels, most of the time in the woods.

    I didn't think I'd make it back up the back side of the tunnel incline on the way back. My legs weren't 100% from the workout of tackling the "Beast" the day before. I put my head down and focused on spinning. Spin, spin, spin. I was about spun out when I look up and see the tunnel entrance right in front of me. I almost had a "Rocky" moment.

    When I got back to my car, I had done 14 miles and was feeling good. So I rode a couple of miles off in the other direction & back, making it a total of 18 when I finished. 18 isn't much, I know, but this is the most miles I've ridden in a single day in 35 years.

    Combined with the day before, that made 28 miles in two days. As I titled the thread, it is progress albeit very modest.

    So it was off to "Pies are Square" in downtown Wilton, for a slice of blackberry pie.

    I've got a good friend coming to Wisconsin in 4 weeks and we are planning to do a 25 mile ride. Up until now, I didn't think I had it in me. But maybe, just maybe, I can do it.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  3. #3
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Outstanding. Small gains become much larger as time and distances go up. This is a sport where effort makes the job easier on following days.

    There are fewer hills that I face on foot today than there used to be.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Did you ride through the tunnel or walk it? I brought a pretty good light for our tandem, but trying to ride through the tunnels is a real trip. There's nothing to show you what's straight or vertical so it's harder to ride than I expected.

    I've also eaten at "Pie Are Square". Denver Fox would approve.

  5. #5
    Senior Member ?? Beverly's Avatar
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    Woo Hoo! You're making great progress.

    I've read about the Sparta trail and would love to do it one day. I find those long gradual grades on the trails can be tough. It's almost like riding into a strong headwind since you can't stop pedaling.
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  6. #6
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Now that you mention it, on my trip back, it was into a headwind of about 12-15 mph. That's why I had my head down spinning, thinking that I would never get back up.

    I'm not going to pretend that a 3% grade is a biking challenge, but with a headwind, on a 2nd day of riding, it was challenge enough for me! 5% would have done me in for sure.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 05-06-07 at 06:55 PM.

  7. #7
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    Did you ride through the tunnel or walk it? I brought a pretty good light for our tandem, but trying to ride through the tunnels is a real trip. There's nothing to show you what's straight or vertical so it's harder to ride than I expected.
    You are supposed to walk though the tunnels. They have signs up saying so. But I brought a flashlight and rode through. There was almost no one else on the trail, only saw 2 people in my 18 miles, so there was no danger of bumping into anyone in the tunnel.

    It was an interesting experience riding through. The light from the other end works against you, as it makes it more difficult to see the tunnel floor. When I flicked off my flashlight to see what that was like, it was nearly impossible to keep my balance. There were no visual clues that one uses all the time as references. Just blackness all around with a single bright spot ahead.

    I look forward to going back, on a nicer day.

    Tunnel #3 is about 4000' long. Don't know if I could ride all the way through that one. I've heard tales of people who couldn't even bring themselves to walk through. I was surprised by how cold it got inside of the the 1700' one.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  8. #8
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    If anyone ever had a dream of running a pie/sandwich shop, with some collectibles included, in a small town right on a beautiful rail trail, then consider that "Pie are Squared" is for sale. You could even take winters off if you wanted.

    I chatted with the owner. She is no hurry to sell. The business is doing okay. She hopes to sell it to the "right" person at some point in the next three years.

    It's in the middle of beautiful rolling hills and open meadows. Lots of farms and fields filled with horses nearby.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  9. #9
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Way to go, Tom. Keep on riding!
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  10. #10
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Ride reports like this just lift my heart. The struggle back is hard, hard, hard but patience and determination pay off. I am doing things today that were unthinkable this time last year.

    Keep on keepin' on
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Tom, reading this really made my day. Good on you.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    When I got back to my car, I had done 14 miles and was feeling good. So I rode a couple of miles off in the other direction & back, making it a total of 18 when I finished. 18 isn't much, I know, but this is the most miles I've ridden in a single day in 35 years.

    I've got a good friend coming to Wisconsin in 4 weeks and we are planning to do a 25 mile ride. Up until now, I didn't think I had it in me. But maybe, just maybe, I can do it.
    That's good work, Tom. Keep riding. In 4 week's time, you should be able to do the 25 miler with no problems. Who knows, you may even ask your friend if he wants to tack on another 10 miles just for fun!!!

  13. #13
    just over the next hill cruzMOKS's Avatar
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    Great job. The more you ride the more you can ride. Keep your spirits up.
    Enjoy the ride.
    Bianchi Volpe 2006; Fuji Tahoe 1990

  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Progress comes slowly and the big problem is to get that progress started. For some of us- Progress may appear to come easy but I can remember back to my early days of riding and all that was planned for most weekends was a 30 miler. After about two miles we hit a rough track for 3 miles and that was hard. up and down numerous slopes and loose gravel all the way. Then it was up the hills for about 10 miles and I walked the last bits of the two hills on this "Easy" route. Down for a Coffee and "Pie" (I was into pie 17 years ago), and I felt so rough that The pie was normally tasted but not finished. Then a 10 mile mile home up a MUP with an average 3 deg slope all the way and it used to finish me.

    So 30 miles for a fairly fit person and all I used to do for the rest of the day was Sleep.

    I still get the sleep in after rides but even that is now normally just a Doze, but those rides are easy. That 30 mile ride I used to do at the start is one of our easier rides that we take newcomers out on and it is surprising how many Newbies cannot do it.

    You may be taking a comparitively short and not too tiring a ride for some of us here- But believe me- In the early days of riding you have done well. Just try that same ride next year and see the difference. AND if some of us look back to our early days riding- they will realise they struggled as much as you. I know I did.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  15. #15
    Senior Member MichiganMike's Avatar
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    Way to go. Gives you something to build on. Sounds like a nice place to ride.

  16. #16
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Tom, you're doing great. You could have another performance boost immediately if you would simply get out the razor and...well, you know.
    Visit my blog! The Leadership Almanac
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  17. #17
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    Me too! Better than last year, trying really hard to go slower on the uphills, but keep moving! Stories like this are a true inspiration!

  18. #18
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    DG, shaving my legs would not help!

    Shaving off some of my stomach would help!

  19. #19
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I did something else that I haven't done before. I found Clif bars on sale at my grocery store for 99 cents each. I picked up a few and took one with me on the Elroy-Sparta trail.

    I carefully placed it into my jersey pocket and zipped it shut. During my ride I kept my eyes peeled for Cross Chain, as I did not want to reach into that pocket and find an empty wrapper.

    I did eat it along the way - an 18 mile ride for me takes 2 hours. First time I've ever tasted one.

  20. #20
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    As with all things bicycle.....its good to suffer .......

  21. #21
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Before this thread vanishes, I want to add some observations about my bike.

    1) Rail trails have a lot of bumps. They have ruts, rocks, washboard sections, they bump over bridges and roads. I found myself being very appreciative of my suspension fork, and even more so of my suspension seat post. I think I might do okay without the fork, but as I'm riding pretty upright now, the suspension seat post is wonderful. Never had one until I bought this bike last November and this is the first serious riding I've done on it. I wish I'd had one for the last 5 years.

    I notice that some very nice bikes are now coming with suspension seat post as standard equipment. Such as the $1100 Cannondale Road Warrior 800 and the $850 Bianchi Strada, a steel "flat bar road bike"
    http://www.bianchiusa.com/07_strada.html

    I can understand why one wouldn't want one on a lightweight road bike, but for trails or around town, they make sense to me.

    2) I appreciate the quality of my bike. Many hybrids use lower end components. My Trek 7600 would probably cost in the $1000 neighborhood today, especially if it still had a Made in the USA aluminum frame as mine does. The Deore LX component group shifts precisely. The Rockshok fork is of very good quality. I love the low MTB gearing. I'm feeling good about picking it up for $300 with 800 miles on it, which included a tuneup by the LBS selling it.

    3) When one can go on a 2 hour ride and experience no pain in their hands, shoulders, back, knees, or rear, it makes taking a bike ride a much more pleasant experience. Now if I can only get my legs into better shape so that it doesn't take as much effort to go up modest inclines.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  22. #22
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
    Before this thread vanishes, I want to add some observations about my bike.


    3) When one can go on a 2 hour ride and experience no pain in their hands, shoulders, back, knees, or rear, it makes taking a bike ride a much more pleasant experience. Now if I can only get my legs into better shape so that it doesn't take as much effort to go up modest inclines.
    I'll be honest and say that even for experienced riders- The 2 hour mark is when you have to think about a rest. Now as to the legs- they will lack energy for a while. You could try a few strengthening exercises and The best one I have found is Steps. Stand at the bottom of a stair way and just step onto the first step and then down again. Do it for only a couple of minutes initially and build up the time as you can to 10 minutes. When you can do it for 10 minutes and still stand up at the end of it you have some pretty good legs.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

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