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A Personal Post Regarding Goals and Fitness

I have written this entry in my mind dozens of times over the past year.  Normally it was when I was in pain, hurting badly, and just wanted to give up.  Then I would think of writing this blog post, and I’d press on.

Now, sadly, I have thought a few times about not doing this, mainly because I have enemies who are so beneath reason, so beneath honor and fairness, that anything I say can and will be used against me, no matter what sacrifice of truthfulness or logic that may require.  As has been seen lately, there is no depth too low for some people to go to attack those who would dare to speak the truth in our day.  But, at the same time, knowing the danger, I also have talked to a small number of folks who have thanked me for writing on this subject, and have said I was at least a small part of what encouraged them to make changes in their lifestyle.  So, it is for those folks I take the risk that this article represents.

WARNING:  this entry is about cycling and related topics.  If you are one of the folks who do not think I should ever talk about anything but how Arminians are bad, bad people—skip the rest of this post.  Thank you!

2013 was a monster year.  Ironically, it was so in a number of ways.  I traveled more in 2013 than ever before, advancing to the highest ranks of elite preferred fliers!  I never expected to do that, but I have certainly become accustomed to the inside of an aircraft.  Dublin, Hawaii, Berlin (via Frankfurt), London, and South Africa, along with lots of trips around the US (and into Canada once) meant that I was really only “home” to ride about 45-46 weeks total, I would say.  When you keep that in mind, what I managed to pull off was pretty amazing.

Until 2013, the most miles I had racked up in a twelve month period was around 9,300; the most in a calendar year 8,700.  Still those are much larger numbers than I had put up when I was riding between 93 and 98, when my largest year was 6,300.  Evidently, you really do learn to suffer more as you age!  But more on that later.  The year really did not start out strong, and my weight inched up after the holidays.  I did manage to win the recumbent division in El Tour de Mesa in April, which was a pleasant surprise.  But I was not nearly as strong for the Double Triple Bypass as I wanted to be in July, and it showed in my times.  But the massive altitude training I did in July of this year really helped to kick start the rest of 2013, and my miles/week continued to rise.

But the biggest thing that allowed me to accomplish record distances and climbs this year was related to technology.  Specifically, I discovered the UP band by Jawbone.  This tremendous device, together with its associated app, allowed me to drop at least another ten pounds, those difficult, hard pounds.  I managed to drop into the body fat range that really allows for high-level riding, in my case, hovering around 10%, sometimes dropping as low as 8.3%.  [Please don’t send in emails—those online charts are not for athletes, which is why some of them don’t even have a listing for men over 50 years of age that low].  I really cannot recommend the UP band more highly, especially since it allows you to analyze your sleep patterns as well, charting both light and deep sleep.  It is truly an amazing device, and I credit it with much of my success in the second half of 2013.  I made the commitment to accurately enter my food intake into the app, and oh my—does THAT put a restraint upon the appetite!  It was quite revealing.

Also, one other addition this year was Strava, the online community of wild-eyed cyclists and runners and the like who compete against each other all over the world.  It’s a great encouragement, it really is.

I should also note that there are a few people, a very few people, and one person in particular, who have been so gracious to me in helping to keep me on the road.  They have graciously been benefactors in providing bikes and shoes and rims and tires and chains and helmets and riding clothing and the like, and I am very much indebted to them for their personal kindness to me.  Few things encourage me more than a new gadget for my bike or, at the beginning of this year, a new bike itself (a Cannondale Super Six, which is now my racing bike).

In any case, I trained hard for El Tour de Tucson in November, including almost freezing my fingers off on a descent down from the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff (25 at the top with snow, 20 mph wind coming up the mountain, 30+ descent speed, meant incredible windchill), but we got rained out in Tucson (most rain we’ve ever had during El Tour).  But I had seen, around October, that if I worked hard, I could make an annual distance I had never thought I could reach: 10,000 miles.  I started working the numbers and working hard on the goal.

There was something else I wanted to do.  My wife has ridden three doubles.  A double is a 200 mile ride in a single day, quite a distance, to be sure.  Now, I knew I could do it, but to be honest, after about six hours on the bike, I start getting bored.  It’s more mental than anything else.  I knew it would be a mental battle.  But, on December 14th I headed out, and 12 hours and 13 minutes later (at least as far as on-bike time is concerned) pedaled home having ridden 201.04 miles.  Another goal crossed off the list.

Now, cycling is not my only fitness activity.  I have a Concept2 rower (black model D, PM4 for those interested) and have already put 2,000,000 meters in the log book.  My goal for the year was 750,000 meters.

Finally, in light of the climbing I did, especially in Santa Fe and Colorado, I wanted to set a record in ascent, too.

So, how did it all come out?  Well, in 2012 I rode 8752 miles.  In 2013, 10,504.  Why 504?  It’s 202 x 52, or an even 202 mile/week average.  Of course, taking my travel into consideration, it was more like 235/week.  In any case, 10,504 miles is a whole lot more than I expected when I started riding in January.  I also set another record I had never expected to:  four months out of this year I rode more than 1000 miles in that month (July, August, November, December), and in one I rode nearly 1,200 miles (November).  I had never ridden 1k miles in a month before.

And as for ascent?  In 2011 I climbed 374,602 ft. (70.95 miles).  In 2012, 405,267 (76.76 miles).  In 2013, 433,728 ft. (82.15 miles).  And, I rowed exactly 750,000 meters in 2013 as well.

Now, am I going to go for 11,000 miles and 85 miles and a million meters in 2014?  No, I am not.  2013 may end up being my record year for distance and climb, lifetime.  I know it is much better to adopt the “quality, not quantity” maxim and set aside some of these goals for even more important ones.  So, I have already begun doing more interval training on my trainer (and, Lord willing, I will get a much more advanced trainer, with power meter functions, in March of this year to help out).  Shorter, high intensity work both on the bike and the rower, coupled with doing good, long distance rides each week (just not as many) should keep me in top shape despite the traveling I will be doing (together with my UP bands!).  So, while I set a single week record this year (401 miles), this week I did only 200, but that included a very hard 78 mile ride, solo, climbing 3700 ft., at an average speed of 18.0 mph (in traffic).  But it also included Spinervals 19.0, the toughest indoor cycling workout I’ve ever done (on bike work coupled with squats and iso-squats—I will be in pain for days!).  I do want to get another 750km on the rower, as that will allow me to join the 3,000,000 meter club on Concept2 as well.

I have set a time goal for my major race for the year, and that will keep me crawling out of bed at 3am in the summer here in Phoenix.  I do need those goals, for like us all, I have to fight sloth and strive for discipline, and for me, goals are very important.

So thanks to all who pray for my safety as I pedal around the Valley of the Sun or climb Snowbowl in Flagstaff or crunch up Mt. Lemmon in Tucson or have that wonderful opportunity to visit my friends in Santa Fe and Boulder and Denver as well.  That on bike time remains my most fruitful study time, and is vitally important to my preparation for debates and the Dividing Line.  And one thing is for certain: I know that I am significantly less likely to become discouraged by the constant attacks of the enemy when I am fit and focused physically.  A good hard 70 miler on the bike can change one’s perspective for the better, that’s for sure!  So as long as the Lord gives me the strength, I hope to keep riding.  In fact, as of this writing, my lifetime distance stands at 83,463 miles.  I’ve circled the globe at the equator more than three times.  Only 16,142 miles to go for my fourth trip, which will also put me very close to the 100,000 mile mark!  I hope for a real nice pizza party if I make 100k!

Why I Love Riding in Arizona

1024130634Just had to stop a couple of times today to snap a few pictures as I rode once again in South Mountain Park.  After a pitch dark ascent long before sunrise, on my second run up Dobbins I saw this, and had to stop long enough to record it.  Just glorious sunrises here in the Sonoran Desert.

And speaking of the Sonoran desert, here’s a later point in my ride, looking west.  Arizona is truly a beautiful place.  Blessed to live here.

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New River Sunrise

This is about 30 miles north of Phoenix this morning about quarter to six. I already had nearly 40 miles in (total of 70 for the ride) and was really enjoying the downhill with the tailwind (after the long slog uphill against the wind) but I just had to lose a bit on the final average speed to stop and snap this picture. “Joy comes in the morning,” and here comes the morning!

An Early Morning Riding Picture

Haven’t posted a lot of pictures from my early morning rides recently, but as I came around the bend on the climb up to the Dobbins Lookout in South Mountain Park this morning I had to stop and take this shot. Always thankful for the health to be out there (206 miles with over 10,000 ft. of ascent this week), and during our monsoon season, thankful for the gorgeous sunrises! Of course, isn’t the old saying, “Red morning, sailor’s warning?” Hmmm!