Monday, November 9, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

I didn't think I'd make it. With less than 100km to go to my goal back in mid-September, I came down with a nasty head cold that turned into a lung infection. That was followed by no less than a month of feeling know and the worst cough I've ever had in my life. By the time it cleared up to a point where I felt like I could ride more than 5km, it was late October and the weather had turned past the point where I enjoy riding. It was of course cold and wet, and with a bazillion leaves on the roads, more slippery than I dare to risk. I could have gotten the last 100 in with small rides here and there I suppose, but honestly, I'm just not a fan of cold weather riding.

So going into November, it looked pretty bleak for me to reach my goal of 2100km. Then, out of nowhere, we were hit with this past weekend. The weather was absolutely amazing and perfect for riding. Saturday was sunny and 16*C and yesterday was even nicer. While Saturday was a little breezy, there was almost no wind to speak of on Sunday and the temps got as high as 18*C. What they call Indian Summer I believe if that isn't a politically incorrect term these days.

On Saturday, I set out to do 30k and ended up doing 44, mostly because I felt really good. I wasn't in tip-top shape after the long layoff, but I was surprised that I was in as good a shape as I was. That left me with 50k to go and a great forecast for Sunday.

The weather on Sunday morning didn't disappoint, so I took advantage to try for the last bit of mileage that I needed. I felt OK at the start, but didn't have much after about 30k or so. The layoff combined with lack of recovery from Saturday didn't leave much in my legs. Still I managed to finish out a slow 61k, only averaging 24 kmh, to push me over the top and hit 2111km for 2009... exactly double my mileage of 2008 with 3 extra kilometers to spare.

Believe it or not, today is supposed to be even nicer still, but I think I'll pass on a ride. My legs need a rest day and my mission of 2100 for the year has been accomplished. Barring another stretch of great weather, I think it's time to hang the bike up for the winter and start planning for 2010!

Cheers to all who've followed my blog and tweets and gave me words of encouragement in your comments. I hope you found it somewhat entertaining and worth the time to read.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2000 KM

A really short blog post this week, simply to say that, with my latest two rides of 68 and 61 km respectively, I've successfuly reached the 2000 km mark for 2009. If you told me at the the beginning of the year I'd ride 2000 km this year, I probably would have laughed at you, but there you go. Looking back it seems like quite a distance to ride, so I thought I'd see if I can put it into perspective. My now 2006 km would have taken me (give or take a few kilometers) from:

  • My hometown of St. John's, Newfoundland to Edmunston, New Brunswick
  • My current home of Toronto, Ontario to Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Los Angeles, California to Vancouver, British Columbia
  • London, England to Naples, Italy

At a rough average of 25km per hour, that also amounts to approximately 80 hours in the saddle. Not bad for a weekend rider.

Now, with my goal set at reaching 2100 km, I'm only 94 km short of one hell of a season on the bike.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another 51k closer

Since my latest ride was really a very short 51k, I'll follow it up with a very short post today.

Given my lack of regular riding lately and the recent leg cramping issues I've been having, I've decided to go easy for the next little while by doing shorter rides. I'm doing this in hopes of regaining a little of my mid-season form before I attempt another long distance ride.

My ride was quite enjoyable actually. The weather around Toronto was fantastic on Saturday and perfect for cycling so I took the opportunity to hit the road and bite off another chunk of my 2100 km goal. In hopes of avoiding any sign of cramping, I took some advice from a friend on Twitter and brought along loads of fuel (food) this time around. I really shouldn't need this advice of course, but I just never feel like eating while riding so it always becomes an after-thought. I basically have to force myself to eat while on a ride.

I brought along lots of drink, energy bars and even a banana and was pretty much empty handed when I got home. Fortunately, it seems to have helped as there was no sign of any cramping. Mind you, it was a pretty short ride but it's usually around the 50k mark that I start to feel the onset of cramps. I managed a fairly good pace of just over 27kmh as well, so I certainly wasn't taking it too easy.

My biggest problem on Saturday was getting started. On Saturdays, the traffic around Toronto is pretty crazy, so rather than ride north from my house, I decided to drive up to my start point where the country roads begin and traffic is much less congested. After about a 30k drive, I pulled into the start area parking lot. As soon as I shut off the engine though, it hit me. No shoes! I forgot to bring my cycling shoes. After banging my head on the steering wheel a few times, I started up the truck and headed back home. Undaunted though, I grabbed my shoes and returned once again to the start area some 30k away. Other than that glitch, the ride was perfect... albeit a little environmentally unfriendly. 51k of riding, approximately 120k of driving. Al Gore would be proud!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Closing in... slowly

Well, another few weeks have passed since my last post. Unfortunately, time and circumstance have prevented me from doing a lot of things over the last little while, including keeping this blog up-to-date. I haven't been able to do a lot of cycling over the last several weeks and as this blog is supposed to be about my cycling exploits, there hasn't been a whole lot to report. In fact, August was pretty much a total write-off in terms of cycling.

I am happy to report that I am closing in on my second mileage goal for the year, albeit very slowly. If you recall, I reached my first goal of 1200 km back on June 27th and at that time, I reset my target at 2100 km by the end of the cycling season. Here it is now, more than two full months later, and I'm at just over the 1800 km mark (1825 to be exact). Only a little over 600 km in more than 2 months. Not so impressive in retrospect.

My last two rides, separated by two full weeks, totaled 55 and 65 kilometers respectively. Neither ride was remarkable and worthy of much comment really. The first started as a group ride scheduled for about 100 km, but having suffered out a couple of cramp-fests in previous long rides, I decided to peel off the group after about 30k and solo back home. I actually found it to be a very enjoyable ride. Riding a sensible distance (given my lack of recent conditioning) at my own pace sort of reminded me how much I enjoy solo cycling. The long cramp-filled rides before had started to discourage me a bit and I more or less decided that I'd rather enjoy a short ride than suffer a long one.

I stuck to that line of thinking for my most recent ride of 65k just this past Saturday, but unfortunately couldn't avoid the cramps again. With about 15k to go, the first sign of cramping in my quads started and I struggled home from there. I could blame it on a lot of things, but mostly I think it is simply a case of poor conditioning with such low mileage recently. I also think it's time to switch back to a more specialized electrolyte drink like Gu2O. Mixed Gatorade just doesn't seem to be getting the job done.

The best news out of my recent rides is that I finally fixed that annoying click in my crank set. After 2 months of listening to that, and a overhaul of my bottom bracket that didn't solve it, I decided to turn my attention to my pedals. I removed each, coated the threads with lube, soaked the bindings in Jig-a-loo and it seems to have done the trick. Not a click to be heard on my last 2 rides.

With nothing else noteworthy to report, I guess I'll end this post with a couple of pictures from my most recent ride. My favourite route takes me past a rather nice horse farm and I can't help but stop and enjoy the scenery there when the horses are out. There are about 7 or 8 foals with their moms and they are really quite remarkable to watch. They even came over this week and let me pet them, which I found kind of surprising. I thought the foals would be more cautious with a stranger. Maybe I have a little horse whisperer in me. Anyway, without further ado..

Monday, August 17, 2009

Catching up

Wow! I'm way behind on my blogging. From the looks of things, my last post was July 20th, and today is August 17th. Almost a full month. I'm surprised all of my regular readers haven't revolted. Regardless, it would appear I've got a fair bit of catching up to do.

To be truthful, I think I've only been on my bike twice now since July 20th. In fact, I was looking this morning at my account on Twitpic, and the day I uploaded the photo proclaiming my success at reaching the 1200km mark was June 27th...50 days ago. Since that milestone, I've only put another 500k in on the bike. Not very impressive after getting off to such a good start for this year. So, let's see what excuses I can come up with for my lack of riding.

Availability of time certainly isn't one. I thought that following my layoff in mid-July I'd get in tons of riding considering that my weekdays are now pretty much wide open. Having said that though, maybe they aren't as wide open as I thought they would be. I've been pretty actively looking for a new job and find that that is taking up a pretty good portion of my days. Not quite sure though why I spend so much time at it. People haven't exactly been lining up to give me an interview, much less a job. Either way, unfortunately my cycling has become a bit of an after-thought at this point.

I can always use vacation as an excuse. My family and I spent about 10 days in St. Charles, MO (just outside St. Louis) visiting my sister-in-law. That accounts for 10 days of no riding, with no access to a bike.

Hot summer temperatures could be used as an excuse too I suppose, although it has been much cooler in Toronto this summer than in previous years. It's really only within the last week that we've had the oppressive temperatures and humidity that we usually have here during the summer months. Being from Newfoundland, riding in scorching heat is not something I'm naturally accustomed to.

That kind of leads me to a recap of my two latest rides. After an 18 days layoff, I hit the road again a week ago Friday for a little run. It wasn't particularly hot that day... mid-20's celsius... but obviously the layoff had a terrible affect on my legs. I was going along great until the 40k mark and then without warning my legs burst into flames on a short but relatively steep hill. By the time I got to the top, cramps had completely taken over and my legs were shot. Unfortunately, I was 40k from home, so I struggled the rest of the way back to finish out at a little over 80k. The next day, I could barely walk.

After another full week off the bike, I set off again yesterday with the Toronto Bicycle Network, looking to do a short 66k run that was posted on their schedule. When I got there however, only 2 other riders were doing that route, so I opted for a bigger group and the longer 84k ride. Turns out though that that group was actually doing a 104k route. Yesterday was blazing hot and humid, so in retrospect, I should have peeled off after about 35k and finished out a shorter ride on my own. But my eyes being bigger than my legs, I stuck with the group to the rest stop at the 65k mark. I was actually starting to fade at about 60k and dropped back a bit, but of course caught up again at the stop.

Some drink, a bite to eat and a reload of my bottles later, we hit the road for the final 40k. It wasn't long though before I knew I was in trouble. I could only manage the pace for about 5k and then at about the 75k mark the first signs of cramping started to appear. I backed way off but it didn't help. Once I start to cramp, that's it for me. I struggled back, fighting off perhaps the worst leg cramps I'd ever had, and must have taken a good hour and a half to finish the last 25k. And that didn't include the stops I had to make when my legs completely seized up. In short, it wasn't pretty. I've always had trouble with cramping as I tend to perspire quite a bit. I even remarked at the rest stop how some of the other riders looked so fresh while I was practically drowning.

I try to drink as much and as often as possible, but there's only so much fluid I can carry. I need about 6 bottle holders on my bike, but that, in addition to looking ridiculous, would make my bike too heavy to ride.

Anyway, I guess the lack of riding lately and the heat did me in this time. Hopefully things will improve, but to be honest, the cramping really takes all the fun out of cycling for me. I think until the fall at least when some cooler temps return, I'm going to have to limit my distances.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two rides in one

This week's recap is actually a bit of a 2-in-1. The main reason for that is that last week, rather than writing about my Sunday ride, I decided to put in a plug for the MS Bike Tours. So this week I'll start with a recap of that ride first.

This first ride was another group ride with the TBN, and actually followed the same route as the one I did a few weeks back when I totally bonked and barely made it home. This time around however, things went much better, but I can't say it was totally without some adventure. First of all, I came much better prepared, with lots of food and liquids in hopes of avoiding the dreaded dehydration that led to my previous bonk. It's probably a good thing too. Unlike the previous ride, this one for some reason started out much faster, with the group pushing a pretty high pace right from the get-go. I was fine with that as I like a little higher pace than we had done on the previous ride.

What I didn't like was getting another flat and losing the group at about 40k in. What was unusual about this flat was that it was most likely the result of a pothole I hit at about the 25k mark. Once again, I hit it pretty hard and thought for sure I would flat immediately, but it didn't. It wasn't until I was going downhill at about 45kmh much later than the air finally let out. I certainly didn't hit anything, and the tube damage had all the earmarks of a pinch puncture typical of a pothole hit. Anyway, I was left alone with no way to catch up to the fast moving group after a 10-minute repair stop.

I checked my map and realized that if I cut-off the top part of the route's loop, I just might be able to rejoin. My shortcut trimmed about 5k off my ride total, but I couldn't have timed it better. Just as I reached the crossing point, sure enough the group was right there. I hopped back in and finished out the ride at a pretty steady 30-35kmh pace. In all, 109km in 4h06. Perhaps the most notable moment of the return ride was that I fianlly made it non-stop over the dreaded "Weston Wall". I've been up that thing 3 times now, and this was the first time I didn't have to stop for a breather. I also learned that the "Weston Wall" is actually called "Strawberry Hill". That certainly sounds a lot less daunting, but it is still brutal none-the-less.

4 fifths of my group heading south back to Toronto
4-fifths of my TBN group heading south back towards Toronto
Yesterday's ride was also a TBN group ride following a different route to the northeast and a little town called Mt. Albert. The morning sky was very grey with a cool breeze, and I actually went back to my long sleeves for the day. This kind of cool is almost unheard of in and around Toronto in July. Normally it's low 30's celsius and 90% humidity. The cool makes for great riding, but a lot of people are starting to wonder if we'll ever get a summer. I think maybe it's time for someone to give Al Gore a wake-up call too.

This turned out to be a great ride and pretty well paced. Nothing eventful of note to speak of, other than climbing a hill next to a shooting club and listening to the pop of gun fire. We were just hoping they were shooting in the other direction. Unlike the Tour de France, we cyclists shouldn't have to worry about getting shot at. After a short stop for a bite to eat in Mt. Albert, our remaining group of 5 headed back south towards Toronto and I totalled out at 103k in 3h45. That now puts me just over 1500k for the year.

I should have no trouble reaching my next goal and perhaps even a bit more. Now that I am unemployed again, I've got no shortage of time for riding. So much time in fact that I've decided to turn pro. Sure there's not a lot of money in it at my level, but at least I can fill in the gap on my résumé with a job title until my next paying job comes along. By the way, if there are any pro teams out there looking for a domestique, I'm currently accepting offers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

GearingUp for MS Bike Tours

As a participant back in June in the Becel Ride for Heart, and having seen first hand what cyclists can accomplish for charity, I thought I'd start out this week with a little plug for some other upcoming cycling events created to raise awareness and much needed financial support for a very worthy cause.

Since 1989, the RONA MS Bike Tours have combined fun with fundraising as cyclists of all ages and fitness levels ride to end Multiple Sclerosis. In the years since that first event, the RONA MS Bike Tours have raised over $50 million for the MS Society of Canada. The various Tours include food and beverages, rest stops, cyclist support vehicles, first aid, basic bike repair services, and a finish line massage and barbecue.

This year, there are five MS Bike Tour events on the calendar throughout Ontario and a total of 21 events right across Canada that are expected to attract more than 10,000 cyclists from coast to coast. The local the RONA MS Bike Tour here in Toronto will be held on Sunday, September 13th and offers routes of 30 and 55 km, perfect for cyclists of all levels of ability. Rides will start and end in Centennial Park in Etobicoke and will be followed by a barbecue lunch for all participants.

Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with three more people being diagnosed each day. Women are diagnosed three times as often as men. For people living with MS and their families, your fundraising and participation in the RONA MS Bike Tours may be life-changing. Proceeds of the Tours will fund world-class research into the cause and cure of multiple sclerosis, as well as innovative programs and services for people living with MS. More information is available at

The MS Society of Canada has also launched a great new blog called Gearing Up, offering news and tips about the RONA MS Bike Tours and cycling in general. You can visit it at

So if you're looking for a great cause to ride for this summer, register for the RONA MS Bike Tour nearest you today. In exchange for your fundraising efforts, you will be awarded with various prizes based on fundraising total, including a very nice Louis Garneau semi-relax cycling jersey.

Choose a Tour. Choose a distance. Choose to end MS.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Weekend Off

Although I started this weekend with every intention on doing my regular weekly ride, I actually ended up deciding to take a weekend off from the bike. Due to a family commitment, I couldn't ride on Saturday, which left today as the only opportunity to hit the road.

As it turned out, I didn't go for a ride today either. The first reason why I didn't get going was that the Toronto Bicycle Network, with whom I normally do my group rides, didn't have a 10am "tourist" class ride scheduled for this morning from the start area nearest my house. There was a 55k "Easy Roller" ride scheduled, and I thought of joining that for a roll-out before splitting off for a solo to extend the distance. Not being a big morning person however, I had a bit of a sleep-in and would have had to rush to make it for the start time so I decided to pass on that.

During breakfast, I thought about going for my typical solo ride, but for some reason, just couldn't seem to get myself going. It had nothing to do with the weather as it was a beautiful day for cycling. I think what it really boiled down to is that I just felt like I could use a little break, both physically and mentally. My last couple of rides had been pretty tough and I had successfully reached my first kilometer goal for the year last Saturday, so the timing seemed right for some time off. So instead of a ride, I opted for some chores around the house. Besides, because this past Wednesday was Canada Day and a holiday, I did sneak in an easy 55k ride, so my week wasn't entirely cycling-free.

I also spent a bit of time on Saturday working on that bad click I've been hearing coming from my bottom bracket. My nearest local bike shop, Spokes and Sports, very kindly loaned me the tool I needed to take my BB apart and I overhauled it as best I could. I have no idea if I was successful fixing it, as a good test ride is really needed to determine that. Fingers crossed though, problem solved.

Needless to say, like a lot of fellow amateur cyclists, I've also been glued to OLN TV (Canada's version of Versus) and the first 2 stages of the Tour de France this weekend.

I don't think that my break will have a negative impact on my reaching my new goal as I suspect I'm soon going to have lots of time for cycling in the coming weeks, if not months. Unfortunately, due to a significant slow down in a major project at work, I got my 2 week notice for a layoff on Friday. It wasn't a big shock and I had actually expected it for some time. Things have not been very busy at work for really a couple of months now. It does kind of suck though as I don't get paid to ride a bike. So, in addition to lots of cycling ahead, it's back to looking for a new paying job, which is something I kind of dread. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 29, 2009


I’m starting to think that I should have called my blog the “Monday Morning Cyclist”. Seems I can never get around to doing my post-ride write-up until I get to work and actually have some free time (Shhh! Let’s just keep that between you and me). Anyway, better late than never.

1200km and mission accomplished
A quick pause for a picture at the 1200k mark.


Celebrating 1200 kilometers
Post-ride, celebrating my 1200km.

This was a milestone weekend for me on the bike. If you’re one of the millions of faithful readers who’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I started this year with the target of riding at least 1200km in total in 2009. I’m happy to report that during my 105km ride on Saturday, I surpassed that goal, and finished out the day with a total of 1225km. Now I realize that a lot of you probably don’t consider 1200k a lot of mileage (in fact thanks to Twitter, I know of at least one person who doesn’t seem too impressed), but if I can put it in context, maybe it will make more sense.

Over the last number of years, I had kind of gotten away from my bike a bit due to various other personal commitments and priorities. While I always continued to ride, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of it. In more recent years however, I rediscovered my bike and the joy of cycling so I’ve been gradually riding more and more. Last summer, a friend and I each set a goal of riding 1000k. I achieved that goal of course, but I got off to a much later start at it than I did this year and I really spread the distance out over the summer. It wasn’t actually until mid-September that I surpassed the 1000k mark, and I finished out ’08 with a total of 1054k. Based on that, I decided this year to push the envelope and try for 1200k. After a much earlier start and a much greater commitment to riding, and here I am…end of June and already over the top. With a solid 3 months of good riding weather still to go my next step is to reset my goal and see what I can do for the rest of this year. More on that later.

Beyond reaching my goal, this Saturday’s ride was better than last weeks’ disaster, but I have to say that I still struggled a bit. My lungs are great, but I just can’t seem to find the right power in my legs. Now I realize that I am not training properly and I’m sure there are lots of people more than willing to point that out as the reason for my lack of power. I’m really not that concerned about proper training as I’m not really training for anything in particular. What I find frustrating though is that I seem to have so much less power now than I did when I had only 400k under my belt. A couple times on Saturday, I really had to yell at myself to push. Mind you, the first half of my ride was into a headwind, but even so, that’s nothing new.

The good news is that I didn’t bonk like last week. I took everyone’s advice and followed it as closely as I could. I drank…and drank…and drank through the entire ride, fired back a GU2O gel just before the halfway point, stopped for a quick PowerBar lunch at around 60k and even gulped back a half-liter of chocolate milk with about 25k to go. I felt a lot better and my legs didn’t tie up in knots, but I still only managed to average 26.2 kmh over the 105k. That’s not bad I guess, but it’s still only 2 kmh faster than last week when I was dying. I actually like to think I’m riding a bit faster than that anyway. A good 30k of my regular route involves a lot of red lights and stop signs as I try to get out of and get back into the city. Of course, coasting to a required stop slows things significantly.

The only two other noteworthy items are more mechanical in nature. Mid-ride, my cycling glasses more or less exploded. I took them off during my little lunch break and as I put them back on, one of the lenses dropped out. On closer inspection, the frame was broken, which was odd because there was certainly no impact that could have caused that. Fortunately, I was able to jury rig the lens back in place and it stayed put until I got home.

More annoying than that though is that my crank set seems to have developed a nasty clicking sound, which has been there really since I rode in the rain during the Ride for Heart. That’s the main reason I hate riding in rain. It’s not that I dislike getting wet. Just seems like every time I do, my bike develops some mechanical quirk that drives me crazy. The worst with this little tick is that I can’t pinpoint it because I can only hear it when I’m actually riding with real pressure on the pedals. It has to be in the bottom bracket though, as I’ve pretty much eliminated the crank, pedal or cleat. Problem is I don’t have the right tool on hand that I need to overhaul the BB. I soon will though, along with new glasses.

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for. I’ve decided on going for another 900k for an even 2100, exactly double what I did in 2008.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Agony of Defeat

If you’re old enough to remember, back in the 70’s and early 80’s, the intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports included a clip of a ski jumper falling on his way down the take-off ramp and spilling over the side. That iconic clip of course became forever linked to what athletes know as “the agony of defeat”. For some reason, that clip popped into my mind while I was riding yesterday and I couldn’t help thinking that I wished I was that guy instead of being where I was. What’s my point? Simply put, my ride yesterday can only be described as a horrible train wreck. That ski guy had it good in comparison.

Sunday's TBN group heading north on Dufferin
Sunday's TBN group on the 116k route, heading
north on Dufferin
It all started out well enough. I showed up well in advance for the 10 am scheduled group ride with the TBN and opted to go with the group doing the 116k route. The weather was great, although the temperature was slowly climbing and it was somewhat humid. We started out at a very slow pace of only about 20kmh and stayed at that for the first 15k at least. On two occasions, I went to the front to do some pacing and turned it up a bit to about 25kmh. Each time I looked back though, no one had grabbed my wheel. I was alone off the front with the group intact about 500m behind. So both times I just sat up and drifted back to the group.

Then the first of my problems began. At about the 20k mark, I started to develop a stitch and that made it very difficult to find a good breathing rhythm. Unfortunately, the next 20k were pretty much uphill and into a pretty stiff headwind, so I couldn’t shake it. It wasn’t until a turn at the 40k mark and a slight downhill respite that the stitch finally dissipated and I got back into a comfortable cadence. Because of my stitch though, I didn’t feel like drinking a lot, which is where my real trouble began.

Over the next 15-20k, I finished off bottle #1 and was just starting bottle #2. I took one sip from #2, but as I went to put it back into its cage, it slipped from my fingers and starting skittering along the pavement. I glanced back just in time to see a guy about 5 lengths behind me go right over top of it. Fortunately for him, he hit it square and the pressure of his wheel popped the top allowing the bottle to collapse. It could have easily taken him down and that could have been messy. He actually apologized for crushing my bottle, but I told him I was just glad he didn’t take a spill. I couldn’t care less about the bottle.

The lower part of the Weston Wall
The lower part of the Weston Wall.
The upper part of the Weston Wall
The upper part of the Weston Wall.
It's as steep as it looks.
Unfortunately though, I lost a full bottle of Gatorade and now had nothing to drink with a good 20k still to go to the rest stop. Over that distance, the first real signs of dehydration started to show. Some minor leg cramps and the first sign that I was losing power. At this point, I decided to try a Powerbar Gel that I brought along, but I honestly have to say that I didn’t notice that being of any real benefit. Just a pile of goop in my mouth that I couldn’t wash down, and no noticeable increase in my energy level.

At the rest stop, I reloaded on liquids, had a bite to eat and drank as much as I could. After a good half hour break though, back on the bike I still had nothing. I stayed with a couple of other riders for a bit, but as soon as we hit the first real hill, I was done. They were gone and there was no way I could muster any kind of strength to stay in touch. And the worst was yet to come.

This particular route returns back south towards Toronto on Weston Road, which has a hill that is affectionately known as The Weston Wall. If I had to guess, I say this hill climbs about 9000ft in probably about a half a kilometer (OK…that’s a gross exaggeration, but you get my point). With nothing in the tank I had no choice but to stop halfway up and try to recover a bit. After a 10 minute break, I jumped back on and forced myself over the top, but that pretty much finished me off. The next 15k, it was all I could do to turn the pedals. I spotted a convenience store and running low on drink again, decided I better pull over and reload. As soon as I stepped off the bike, both of my legs completely knotted up. I managed to struggle myself to a sitting position on the sidewalk, and after about 10 minutes my legs had loosened enough that I could once again stand. I wobbled my way into the store and grabbed a Gatorade for the roughly 25k still to go. During my stop, another rider from our original group showed up at the store, so we finished out the ride together. The rest was pretty much all downhill and with the exception of a few minor cramps was relatively easy. I was indescribably glad to see the parking lot and the end of a 4h45 (riding time), 115.7k disaster.

It was one of those days that I just couldn’t wait to get off the bike, and it’s clear that I bit off more than I could chew. I hadn’t been on my bike in 8 days and I obviously wasn’t ready for the distance. And once you start to get dehydrated, it’s pretty much all over, at least for me. The only good news is that I’m now just over 80k from my goal for year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How I earned $4.77 with Google Adsense in only 2 months!

Yes, you read that correctly! I earned an incredible $4.77 with Google Adsense in only 2 months, and you can too just by following my easy 3 step program.

Earn Big Money with Google Adsense Today
I know what you’re thinking. “But that’s a lot of money. It can’t be that easy.” Well, believe me when I say “Yes, it is!” In fact, it’s so simple you’ll wish you didn’t wait this long to get in on the action. So what is my easy-to-follow program? Just follow these steps and you’ll soon be on your way to earning big money…just like me.

Step 1 Start a blog!

“Start a what?” you ask? A blog is a basically an online personal diary, a website that lets you write and share your thoughts, experience and expertise with the rest of the world. Now I hear you saying “But when it comes to computers, I’m a moron”. Well, maybe you are a moron, but that doesn’t matter. The best part about starting a blog is that you don’t have to have any background in creating Internet websites. Just go to a site like, sign-up, pick the blog design you like and start writing.

“But what would I write about?” I knew you were going to ask that. You can write about anything you like. It doesn’t even have to be interesting. For example, I write about the ins-and-outs of my year as an amateur cyclist. All you have to do is pick a topic that you know something about and off you go.

Step 2 Sign up for Google Adsense

Google Adsense?!? What the…?” Yeah, I know. You don’t even know what Google is, let alone Adsense, right? Google Adsense is a free program that enables website publishers (like you) to display relevant Google advertising right on your blog and earn revenue from those ads. All you have to do is create a Google Adsense account and follow their easy step-by-step instructions for creating Google Ads. They’ll provide you all of the HTML code you’ll need to place the ads on your site.

Step 3 Wait for the cheques to start rolling in

Yes, you heard that right too. Once you’re up and running, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your Google Adsense cheques to start rolling in. In just a couple of months time, you could be as much as $5 richer as well, at least on paper. You don’t actually get a cheque from Google until you’ve earned something like a minimum of $100, but if you earn $4.77 in only 2 months just like me, do the math. It’s only a matter of time before the cheques start filling your mailbox.

“But I want to earn Google money even faster!” I know you do. Afterall, who doesn’t? Basically, you earn revenue 2 ways...through ad impressions and ad click-throughs. While you can earn as much as 1 whole cent if you get 50-100 ad impressions, the trick is to get your site visitors to actually click on the Google Ads that are on your blog. That’s how I’ve earned so much. Of the now 1,168 impressions I’ve had, I’ve had 9 click-throughs for an incredible click-rate of 0.77%. “Whoa, that’s a pretty big number and you’re an Internets expert”. Actually, no I’m not. I’m just a regular person like you. If I can do it, so can you.

So what are you waiting for? Start my program and start earning today.

Stay tuned for my next article when I take an in-depth look at the greatest invention of the last half-century…The ShamWow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two behind the dugout

This was a different kind of weekend for me for cycling. For starters, because of family considerations I didn't get to do any rides on the actual weekend. Unfortunately my wife has been away on business and that left me on daddy duty. Regardless of that, I suppose I could have done some riding as my daughter is plenty old enough now to stay on her own, but I chose to spend my time with her instead of on the bike.

There are really two main reasons for that decision. First of all, she'd prefer I stick around when her mom is away and I'm perfectly OK with that. Secondly, cycling being inherently risky, I would prefer that she not be alone at home if I was to, God forbid, get creamed by a car 50 kilometers from home. Now that probably sounds silly to some people, but to be honest, cautious is my middle name. A gambler I am not and chances are you'll never bump into me in Las Vegas.

The view from behind the Bullpen
The view of the Jays-Marlins game on Saturday
from behind the "Dugout"...aka the Bullpen.
Instead of riding on the weekend, I took my daughter to a Blue Jays game on Saturday, which is something she's been asking me to do for a little while now. The Florida Marlins were in town for an afternoon game, so we jumped on the subway and headed downtown to the Rogers Centre. On our way to the box office, we of course were accosted by more than one scalper with a handful of tickets to unload, so I figured I try one and see if I could get a deal. At first he offered me up a couple at $60 a piece, but that was way more than I wanted to spend. As soon as I nixed those however, he offered me another pair for $40 a piece in the first row behind the "dugout", even though the face value said $31. He gave me some song and dance about that being the season ticket price and I figured that that was at least pre-tax anyway so $40 was probably about right. I paused for a minute and then offered him $60 for the pair to which he immediately agreed. Transaction completed, we headed inside with me thinking I did a pretty good job of knocking the guy down.

Inside though, it turned out our seats weren't behind the dugout, but behind the bullpen beyond the right field wall. At first I felt a bit burned, but in retrospect he may have said "bullpen" and I just got mixed up.'s pretty much all the same to me, not being a big baseball fan and all. Still, the seats were pretty good and I could've paid $80 for them instead of $60. And believe me, that extra $20 came in handy when it came to buying a couple of hotdogs and some Cokes. It actually turned out to be a pretty good game (even though the Jays lost again) on a great day for baseball.

I daughter ride horses.
I daughter ride horses.
Sunday meant taking my daughter to her equestrian lesson up north, so a ride was out of the question for this morning as well. And for the afternoon, some household chores were on the agenda. In addition to missing my regular Sunday ride, I also missed my scheduled Tour de Grand down around Cambridge which I signed up for a number of weeks ago. Unfortunately I signed up for it before I knew my wife's travel schedule, but it was only $15 for a good cause so no big deal there.

The good thing was that I did know my wife's travel schedule early enough to foresee that I wasn't going to get any riding in on the weekend. So my only option was to take advantage of the fantastic weather we had on Friday and blow off work for the afternoon in favour of a ride. Now if you recall, I mentioned in my last post about how I felt my ride last Saturday was my worst ride of the year. What a difference a week makes. This Friday's 83.4 km in just over 3 hours may have been my best of the year. I felt great from start to finish and even had reserves in the tank when I got home that could have carried me another 30-40k easily. I just ran out of time and had to get home. The other great thing about this ride was that just before the corner back onto my street, my odometer clicked over to the 1000k mark for the year. I didn't see that happen last year until sometime in mid-September, so I'm way ahead of schedule for my goal...which now looks to have been set a little low.

Better to aim low and succeed than aim high and fail I guess.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

..99..100..Ready or not, here I come.

This is an entirely new concept to me so let's hope I'm doing it correctly. Looks like I've been tagged by Weiland, which means I'm it and must now tag someone else. Groover... you're it!

This particular meme was started by Fat Lad, and the idea is based on the “my old mother went to the market and bought” memory game. Only in this case, each blogger in the thread lists something that was bought at the LBS in June. Here’s the list thus far, with my addition at the bottom:

  1. Fat Lad went to the bike shop in June and all he bought was: A new PC971 Sram Chain and a Cassette Spanner and a chain wear tool.
  2. TOB went to the bike shop in June and all she bought was: a new pair of ruby red Sidis and some X-Series Cleats (but it’s only the 4th!). (Editors Note: Surprise, Surprise…a lady cyclist bought shoes…Ruby Red no less…LOL!).
  3. Mike J went to the bike shop in June and he bought two Gel Flasks and some Handle Bar Grips.
  4. 331 Miles went to the bike shop in June and he bought a pair of Performance Ultra II Bib Shorts.
  5. Biking To Live went to the bike shop in June and picked up a new tube and CO2 cartridge.
  6. Weiland went to the bike shop in June and looked at clip on aero bars. However, I bought a dozen CamelBak Podium water bottles from Bonktown.
  7. Roadrash went to 2 bike shops in June and, in preparation for the Ride for Heart bought 2 new 700 x 23 Bontrager RaceXlite folding tires (Trek Toronto) and a new tube to replace one I popped while inflating (Spokes and Sports).

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ride for Heart and other weekend cycling

It seemed like a long time coming, but yesterday finally marked the running of the Becel Ride for Heart in Toronto. I say it was a long time coming because if I recall, I registered for this event back in February when I hadn’t so much as turned a single pedal for the year. In that time, I managed to raise $355 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. That might not seem like a lot but it’s probably about $330 more than I’ve ever fundraised before. Unfortunately, separating people from their money is not something that I’m particularly good at. Compare my total to that of the top individual fundraiser who, according to the Ride for Heart website, raised over $29,000. Regardless, I’m more than pleased that I managed to come up with my amount and big thanks go out to all of those who supported me.

Ride for Heart 75K Route Start Line
The 75k route riders gather at the start line of the 2009 Becel Ride for Heart.
Ride for Heart 75K Route Start Line
Looking back at the rest of 75k route riders.
Ride for Heart on the Gardiner Expressway
About 8 km in, no real groups had formed yet under the
gray skies of downtown Toronto
Now before I go into the details of the ride itself, I’ll start with a recap of my lead-up. The week leading up to the event started of course with my semi-crappy riding weekend last week, when I only managed to squeeze in 66km, due mostly to the semi-crappy weather that has gripped southern Ontario this spring. Then when the early forecasts for yesterday came out last Monday, the call was for more of the same... wet and cool. I kept an eye on it hoping it would change as the week went by, but nothing doing. With rain apparently a lock for yesterday, I thought it might be time to pick up a couple of new tires. After 3000+ km over the last 3-4 years, my tires were wearing thin and I didn’t relish the thought of riding in the rain without any real tread to speak of. So off I went to the local Trek store and picked up a couple of 700 x 23 Bontrager Race X Lites.

I switched out my tires and decided my bike needed a tune, so I cleaned and re-lubed my drive train and repacked my bearings as well. Unfortunately, it took quite a bit of fine tuning to get things back to normal, and I actually put about 4k on the bike just going back and forth in front of my house trying to get it just right. Finally though the bike was ready for the road again and come Saturday, I decided to go for a little shake-out ride in prep for Sunday. It was relatively warm and sunny and I looked forward to a solid ride. Now if you read my post-ride twitter tweets, you already know that didn’t work out so well. I managed to do 70k, but I have to say of the now 900+ km this year, those 70 may have been my toughest. For some reason, the bike just didn’t seem to want to go. I did a full 40k before I started to feel good, and that only lasted for 20k. For the last 10, I was back to feeling like crap and I struggled home as best I could. I felt like I was carrying a gorilla on my back. At first I thought maybe the new tires, with new tread, were causing increased road friction, forcing me to work harder but that was really just grasping at straws. Whatever the reason, it just seemed like I was rolling through mud. Worst of all, it didn’t make me feel great about what was to come on Sunday.

With a scheduled 6:45 a.m. start time for the Ride for Heart, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 and had my pre-ride breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, OJ and coffee. It wasn’t raining yet, but the sky was pretty gray, so it looked as if the forecast was dead-on. I gathered up all my gear and headed off to the start line in downtown Toronto. The 6:45 start was for riders doing the 75k route and quite a few had gathered. Right on time, off we went. Of course, a lot of riders look at events like these as informal races, so they shot off right from the get-go. I was a bit surprised though that the rest of the pack didn’t immediately form into groups. It was a good 10k before I managed to find a group of 10-12 riders doing a pace I was comfortable with. We stuck together until a rest stop at the top of the course at about 30k where the group split up. By this time though, the rain had started and conditions were a bit messy. The rain itself wasn’t bad, but the wet roads made for some tough group riding with blinding rooster tails coming off the wheels up ahead. The run back down without a group wasn’t too bad as the rain had started to subside, but the temperatures had dropped noticeably which made being soaking wet all that much more uncomfortable.

The 75k route meant a second trip up to the top of the course and by this time, all of the novice and ultra-novice riders doing the shorter 25 and 50k routes were on the course. That of course meant having to navigate around a lot of slower riders inexperienced at holding a line, but that didn’t bother me. It was all for charity and not a race so I paced myself going back to the top. I have to say though that it is a tough course for a charity ride. The route back to the top is pretty much 10k all uphill which I would imagine is pretty tough for novice riders. I found the second go pretty tough actually and managed only a pace of about 17-18 kmh. Organizers would probably do well to flatten the course out a bit for inexperienced riders I think. After my second climb, my legs were pretty tight and I struggled a bit on a short but stiff incline with about 20k to go. Once past that though, my form came back and I latched on to the wheel of a couple of guys who paced me the last 10k or so at about 35 kmh. Wet, cold, hungry and mission accomplished, I loaded up my bike and headed home to spend the rest of the day recouping on the couch watching a Band of Brothers marathon.

Much like Saturday, my bike still seemed slower than normal, but I did complete a total of 77.5 k in 2h42, which is better than my average, so it must be just me. Maybe just an off week for my legs and lungs. Who knows? We’ll see what happens next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A cycling FAIL… of sorts

I didn’t make an official plan for this past weekend, but I’d have to classify my unofficial plan as an unquestionable FAIL, at least in terms of cycling. It all started I suppose Friday morning during breakfast. I mentioned to my wife that the Toronto Criterium was scheduled for that evening around Lawrence Market in the downtown core and that I was thinking of going down after work to watch. It was a beautiful sunny day and I thought it would be ideal to join in the festivities and snap a few nice pictures. I had planned to go to it last year, but rainy weather made me think better of that.

After getting to work, I sent around an email to a few of my friends to gauge their interest in joining me. I figured we could head down, grab a bit to eat and a beer or two at one of the bazillion pubs that litter downtown Toronto, and take in the race. Due to various commitments, I only had one taker but that was plenty. The plan was sealed. Soon after though, my one cohort told me that his cousin was coming in from Waterloo (an hour outside of Toronto) with tickets for that evenings Blue Jays-Red Sox game. Since he decided to take advantage of that, I decided join in on the game as well. So, the Criterium was out and the Jays game was in.

Great seats at the Jays-Red Sox game
Not the Toronto Criterium but great seats at the ball game.
Boston's Big Poppy gets ready to fly-out again.
This was probably a dubious decision as I’m really not much of a baseball fan. I more or less consider baseball the athletic equivalent of watching paint dry. Mostly overpaid, and from what I can tell, over-weight guys whose maximum athletic expectation is to sprint 90 feet….or 180 if they’re lucky. If they’re really lucky, they get to run 360 feet, but they are only expected to do that at a jogging pace. Regardless of that, baseball has beer, hot dogs, and all the rest of the essential food groups, so it’s good for a chuckle if nothing else, especially when the drunken guy behind you starts yelling slurred obscenities at the poor players. Anyway, in the end the Jays won 6-3 and the Toronto Criterium was missed 2 years running.

Saturday was sunny and warm and my plan for that day was to do a short warm-up ride in preparation for a longer group ride on Sunday morning. I was thinking maybe only an easy 40km, but that quickly turned into a fairly fast paced 66km. It was largely uneventful, except for the fact that Toronto’s drivers seemed to pick this day to reach for a new height of idiocy. Over 66k, I had 4 separate run-ins with drivers doing either stupid or outright dangerous maneuvers. I won’t go into all of them but suffice to say I will be doing everything I can to avoid cycling within the city from now on. Normally I don’t anyway, but I had to ride downtown to retrieve my car from my office, which I left there overnight.

Sunday’s forecast wasn’t promising, but I figured it was good enough at least to get my group ride in. When I got up however, not only was it cold, but the wind was howling again. Like I said before…cold I can deal with, wind I can’t. I could have forced myself out there, but since it wasn’t ideal, I had other things to do including taking my daughter to her equestrian lesson so that my wife could catch up on some work. Besides, I figured I could get in an afternoon ride when it warmed up a bit. By mid-afternoon though, it was even windier and thus colder than the morning, so I opted out altogether. Instead, I stained my deck, a job overdue now for a little while.

So in the end, my weekend of cycling and cycling related events turned into nothing more than a mere 66km solo ride. A great little ride, but a far cry from what I set out to do. My next stop is next Sunday’s Becel Ride for Heart charity ride. And the early forecast calls for rain. *Sigh* The deck looks good now though.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My first Donut

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but yesterday I did my first Donut Ride in Toronto. What is the Donut Ride you ask? Good question. Before Friday, I had no idea either. In fact, I had never even heard of it before. It was only brought to my attention by one of my newest followers on Twitter, who is also a roadie from Toronto.

Through our tweets back and forth, I got the basics of it and looked it up online for a few more details, which I found on Wikipedia. To make a long story short, the Donut is an informal ride held every Saturday and Sunday morning (and Holidays) that attracts well over 100 cyclists for rides ranging from about 85-125 km depending on the route taken. Its actually been a bit of a cycling tradition in Toronto, dating back about 35 years now. The reason it's called the Donut ride is that it starts in the parking lot of a donut shop, or at least it did in the early days. Apparently, the donut shop is now a bagel shop.

Anyway, you don't have to be at the start to join the ride. A lot of riders join in as the peleton progresses north, which is exactly what I did. Turns out the route runs relatively close to my house, so I joined in at roughly the 10k mark. There was a pretty large group and being somewhat unfamiliar, I chose to jump on to the tail end and see how it went. I have to say that it was very cool being at the back of a peloton of what was easily over 100 riders, and maybe closer to 150. It reminded me a lot of watching a shot of the Tour peloton taken from a motorcycle at the back. All I could see ahead was a sea of helmets. I did notice though that a lot of riders were wearing local team kits, so it was apparent that this wasn't going to be any kind of leisure cruise. These were real cyclists. I was feeling pretty confident that I could at least hang on to the back though as I have been thinking that I'm in pretty good riding shape. As a matter of fact, after 600k in a little over a month, I'd say I'm probably in the best cycling shape of my life.

This is where my story starts to tred the fine line between a good thing and a bad thing though. Once out of the city and onto the clearer roads to the north, the peloton picked up the pace significantly. I wish this was an exaggeration, but I was dumbfounded at the speed at which it took off. Like I said, I'm in the best cycling shape I've ever been in, and these guys dropped me like a bad habit on New Year's Eve. I was riding literally at about 112% and could not even come close to staying in touch. Sure there were a few stragglers that were in the same boat as me, but even staying with those guys was a monumental task. Here I was at maximum capacity and these guys made it look effortless.

The Donut Ride group just after our pit stop
The Donut Ride group just after our pit stop. The full peloton had well over 100 riders.
Afterwards, I discovered that the main peloton took off at about 50kmh, while I was lucky to be doing 30, which is pretty much my current max for a steady cadence ride. Sure I can go 50, maybe 55 in short bursts and with a little downhill help, but over a long distance, forget it. I can't even chalk it up to being 43 years old, because there were guys there a lot older than me who seemed to be doing OK. I chatted with one guy who is 61 who I finally caught up to, but that was well after I got dropped by the pack.

Fortunately there's a coffee break at the halfway point and a lot of the group came back together. It was shortly after the remount that I managed to snap my picture and I was happy that I managed to stay with this group for some time. Eventually though, I got dropped again and was once again left with a handfull of stragglers that it took all of my concentrated efforts to stay with. Before long, I was alone and heading home.

Now I'm not quite sure how to look at this. A couple weeks back I talked about wanting to maybe race again. That's pretty much out the window. Finishing last is one thing. Getting destroyed doing it is something different entirely. On the other hand, I did do 86.5km in 3h07 for an avg of 27.75kmh, which is faster than my usual. So it was either a very good personal ride, or a very discouraging group ride. I'm leaning to the former as I'm actually not that discouraged. I sure would like a nice new carbon-fibre road bike though. Yeah..that's right. I can always blame it on the bike.

Oh, and as a footnote, the guy who tipped me off to this ride apparently has over 7000k in this year, compared to my now 696k. Maybe the distance and training is the secret, but even if I could do 7000k, I just don't see it improving my performance much more than its current state. Hell...I'd have to quit my job to have the time to do half that anyway. Hmmmm... (to be continued).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another 100k and past the halfway mark

Wow! I'm really behind on my blogging. Here it is Wednesday and this is the first real chance I've had to write about my latest ride, which was on Monday. After my ill-fated attempt at a group ride last weekend, I decided to try my luck again this week by once again joining in with the Toronto Bicycle Network weekly ride from Finch station.

The TBN Group gathers at Finch Station
The group slowly gathers at Finch station.
My first thought was to join in on Sunday, but as some of you may have read in my Twitter tweets, Sunday's weather just didn't add up to an enjoyable ride, at least not for me. Although it was sunny, it was cold (only 7*C) and very windy (35kmh with gusts up to 50). For the most part I can deal with the cold. After all, my first ride this year was in -6*C weather. The wind on the other hand I can't deal with so I chickened out in hopes of more favourable conditions on Monday.

Now on Mondays, I'm usually at work, but being in Canada we of course had our first long weekend of the summer, otherwise known as Victoria Day which has something to do with the former Queen Victoria I think. For a lot of Canadians (especially Newfoundlanders) it's better known as the May 2-4 weekend, not just because it's usually on or near May 24th but also because it's the first camping weekend of the summer and 99% of the time, the weather is too miserable to do anything but sit in your tent, trailer or cabin and drink a 2-4 of beer. Anyway, that's all a bit off topic.

Monday was much nicer with slightly warmer temperatures and a lot less wind, so off I went to the parking lot where a lot of the TBN rides start from. A pretty large group of riders quickly assembled, but split off into 2 groups with 2 different route options. Hoping to crack 100k again, I opted for the longer route and our group hit the road. I have to admit though that I'm really a bit uneasy about riding in a group, probably because I'm just not used to it. Avoiding the unexpected twists, turns and slowdowns of other riders as well as the ever present and unseen hazards in the road ahead is a bit unnerving. One thing I did make sure to do this week was to avoid my pothole. We were taking the same route and I knew almost exactly where it was and when to expect it. Sure enough, I spotted it, gave it an obligatory sneer, and breezed right by.

The core group cruising on McCowan Rd.
The core group cruising north on McCowan Rd.
For some reason in these group rides, there's always a couple of guys who think they're in a race and feel compelled to shoot off the front. Once those guys got flushed out, we settled into a pretty steady group of 7-8 riders heading for the wide open side roads north of Toronto. After an uneventful first 40k on familiar roads, a left hand turn took us to a middle section that I had not been on before. The section started out with some gently rolling hills which gradually seemed to grow exponentially larger and more frequent. On no less than 5 occasions, my relief at cresting a hill was immediately displaced by the horror of seeing another steeper, longer hill ahead. After 3-4 of those, my legs started to wobble a bit and I have to admit I dropped into the granny gears for just a bit. Even crossed my mind to stop, but I sucked it up and forced my way to the top. How these pro guys, juiced or not, do 250k over HC mountains I'll never understand.

The hills split our group a bit, but on the turn back south on more gently rolling terrain, most of it came back together for the run into the scheduled lunch stop at the 80k mark. Unfortunately for me, it seems like the worst thing I can do is stop. I always find that when I climb back on, my legs are as useless as a couple of broken rubber bands. I wanted to stay with the group however, so I joined in on the 1/2 hour pit stop for cup a coffee and a pecan butter tart.

After that, the first 5 k of the remaining 20 were a struggle to regain my legs, but they came back OK and myself and one other rider (the rest had split off by then) finished out the last 10k or so back to the start point. With the parking lot in sight, I was at 96k so I decided to carry on a bit longer for the extra 4. I pulled back into the lot with exactly 100k showing on my computer in a total of 3h54 of riding time. All in all, it was a great ride and I was very pleased to have gotten to 100k again without so much as a single muscle cramp (thanks possibly to my new regimen of electrolyte drinks).

I'm also happy to report that I weighed in this morning at just under 175lbs, down from the 182 and change I was just about a month ago. This week's ride also pushed me past the halfway point of my 1200km goal for the year. 608 down, 592 to least until I reset my goal.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I almost forgot...

I got a bit side-tracked blogging about my "group" ride and what my own personal little pothole has been up to that I forgot to add my usual note on my progress towards my goal this week.

This week's 103k ride got me over the 500k mark (508 to be exact), leaving me with just 692k to go. Knock on wood, reaching 1200 should be pretty easy but I don't want to jinx myself by resetting the goal too soon. Let's just say for now that I'm starting to give some thought to a new target.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My first "Group" ride of 2009

Having missed my regular Saturday ride this past weekend due to the horrible weather around the Toronto area, I decided to join in on my first group ride of the year with the Toronto Bicycle Network on Sunday morning. I could have certainly done my usual solo ride on Sunday, but wanted to join the group for two main reasons..(1) to enjoy some of the comraderie of riding with a group for a change and (b) to use the group's energy to try and crack the 100k mark for a single ride.

A fairly large group of riders had assembled at the start point and things looked very promising for a good ride. The weather was OK, with a cool but bearable temperature of 10*C. The wind was up a bit though, but with the group, that looked like it wouldn't be a big problem. So off we went. The group took a little getting used to, making sure to keep safe spacing from the wheel of the rider(s) in front of me. One of the things I don't like all that much about group riding is that it's hard to see the road ahead. Little did I know what was ahead.

My Bike at Musselman lake.
My bike mugging for the camera at Musselman Lake.
No more than 15k into my 100km ride, while sitting on the wheel of another rider, I slammed a pothole as hard as I've ever hit one. My front tire immediately collapsed and after I peeled off and dismounted,I heard the telltale hiss of a puncture coming from my rear wheel as well. The group of course checked to see if I was OK, but ultimately and as I would have expected carried on without me. So here I was again, just like 4 weeks ago (see 999k to go) stuck with 2 flats from 1 pothole. To make matters even worse, believe it or not, I'm almost 100% certain it was the very same pothole I hit 4 weeks ago. I set up next to the same fence and started my repairs. I was better prepared this time with a couple of extra tubes, but by the time I was ready to hit the road again, the group was long gone. I joined in with some of the slower riders who were bringing up the rear and stayed with them for a bit, but ultimately, I wanted to ride a little faster pace. So I set off on my own thinking my hopes for 100k had been dashed, especially now that I was into the headwind on my own.

After 30k and my normal turnaround point, I was feeling pretty good though and decided to keep going north. The scenery further up was fantastic and made the extra effort worth it. By the time I headed for home after a loop around Musselman Lake, I was close to 45 k in and started to think 100 wasn't out of the question. My return trip, punctuated by a quick stop for a cup of coffee at Tim Horton's, was as nice a ride as I've been on and my legs felt great. When I pulled back into the starting point parking lot, my computer read 103km in a total riding time of 4h05. Mission accomplished.

Next stop was Spokes and Sports for a resupply of tubes and then home to re-true my back wheel. Unfortunately the rim has a nice dent in it now, but so it goes.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Cambridge Tour de Grand

With my charity ride in the Ride for Heart on June 7th fast approaching, I decided to think about what I might do after that one is done. Since it will still only be early June, there will still be a lot of time to get involved in some other organized rides. Believe it or not, it even crossed my mind to look into getting back into doing a little racing. Mind you, I wasn't thinking of doing that with the goal of winning any races. This thought came to me moreso with the idea that it might be fun to try a little informal racing after close to 25 years out of competition. After being able to stick with the Cervelo guys for a bit last week and reading so many tweets on twitter and blogs from fellow amateur cyclists who go out for races, it kind of inspired me to think I might still have enough in the legs to race a bit myself.

I did a little research to see if there was any such "casual" racing going on in my area, starting with the Toronto Bicycle Network ( It turns out that they are strictly a touring club, but I was pointed in the direction of the Midweek Cycling Club in Mississauga. I took a look at their website and sure enough, it does seem as if they offer the kind of racing I'm looking for. My only problem is the mid-week part. With work commitments, making it to Mississauga in time for an evening race would be tough if not impossible. I do have to read their site a little more closely to see if there are any weekend events that are up my alley, but for now that idea is on hold.

12th Annual Cambridge Tour de Grand.
In my search, however, I did find a site for the 12th Annual Cambridge Tour de Grand. For those of you not familiar with Ontario, Cambridge is a town about an hour west of Toronto down the 401. The Tour de Grand is not a race, but rather a fairly popular annual touring ride in and around Cambridge. So, after reading the info on the site, I thought it would be fun to join in and ride through some countryside that I normally wouldn't get to see living in the Big Smoke. I could have signed up for a 100k or 160k ride, but decided to go with a 72k route. That's pretty much my comfort zone for a ride right now and it means I don't have to get up quite so early to get there for the start.

I have to say I'm really looking forward to it. Should be fun and it gives me something else to focus on beyond my ride on the 7th. As for the racing, I'll keep looking for something my speed and keep you posted. I sure would like to win one of those nice red participation ribbons that the guys who come in last get.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

794 km to go..

At almost 62km, yesterday's ride turned out to be a bit of a milestone of sorts. Having passed the 400k mark for 2009, I'm now a little over 1/3 of the way towards my goal of 1200 on the year. Considering I'm only 1 month into the season, and with at least 5 good months of riding left to go before the fall cold sets in around Toronto again, I'm starting to think reaching my goal of 1200 should be pretty easy. Now I don't want to jinx myself, but at my current mileage, I'm on pace to actually do between 2000 and 2400 km. For now though, I'll leave my goal at 1200k and re-calibrate when the time comes.

Anyway, yesterday was a great little ride in and of itself. It was a little cooler around the GTA again, so I went back to wearing my Under Armour long sleeve under my jersey, but I stuck with the shorts rather than full leggings. I was thinking that might have been a mistake after only a couple of kilometers, but I soon warmed up and the temperature became quite tolerable. The wind however was up again, but at least it was at my back for the first 30k.

I actually started out with the intention of doing only a 30-40k leg stretch, as I was planning on joining a group ride this morning, but once I got going I just decided to carry on. Strangely enough, I had some minor calf muscle cramps after only 15-16 kilometers, but I backed off a bit and worked those out pretty quickly. I did 20k on my trainer the night before and, being indoors, dropped a lot of sweat, so I may have been a bit low on hydration and sodium level.

Team Cervelo passes me on Leslie St.
The Cervelo boys just after they passed me. Great guys!
The coolest part of yesterday's ride happened just after I made the turn for home. At about the 35k mark, I was caught and passed at a red light by a guy riding a Cervelo and wearing a full Cervelo kit. I stood up on my pedals to try and latch on to his wheel, but just as I did that, I was passed on my left by another rider decked out in Cervelo gear. Before I knew it, 6 more went around me and I was on the back of a full pack of Cervelo team riders. Most if not all of them acknowledged me as they passed which I thought was neat. Even neater, or so I thought was that I managed to latch on to their wheel and stay with them for at least 5-6 km. Not bad for an old guy with only 400k on his legs for the year. I may have been able to stay with them even longer, but I was busy snapping pictures (here and here) and even trying to take a video. Anyway, once I got unhitched, they were off and out of sight in no time and once again it was just me and the headwind.

When all was said and done, I finished out at 61.8k and felt great. Much better than I did at the end of my 76k ride last weekend. Being much cooler, I didn't drop nearly as much water this week, which probably made a big difference. I also followed some online advice and tried some post-ride recovery drinks this week to rebuild my glycogen stores. Seemed to work.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why do I ride?

I just read a great little article on the Accu-Chek Cyclebetes blog entitled "Why DO YOU ride?" and it got me to thinking. Why DO I ride? I already answered that question to some extent in my little 'About Me' blurb on the right there, but the question made me want to go a little deeper. Although the statement "because I love every minute of it" kind of sums it all up nicely in the end, there's much more to it than that.

I ride for the solitude. I would have to guess that of the 10,000 plus kilometers I've rode in my lifetime, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 90-95% of that has been solo. That's not because I'm against group riding or anti-social or anything. I just enjoy the solitude that being out on the road by myself brings. I enjoy the time it allows me to think. I'm not a spiritual person, but I enjoy the inner peace that cycling alone brings me.

I ride because I'm good at it. This sounds like bragging perhaps, but I was once good enough at it to be considered for the provincial cycling team for the Canada Summer Games. I remember my first race, a 30 lap criterium that I led for the first 29 1/2 laps after a solo break from the start line, only to be caught and passed with half a lap to go. I also remember having enough left in the tank to take 2nd in a sprint after dropping to 3rd on the final straight. While those racing days are long gone, I'm still good enough at cycling to be able to ride 76.5 km by myself in a little over 3 hours, and there's a certain level of personal satisfaction that goes with that.

My daughter on her first solo ride in 2003
My daughter on her first solo ride in 2003.
I couldn't have been more proud.
I ride because I remember the day I learned to ride a bike almost 40 years ago like it was yesterday. I was the youngest and smallest of my group of friends, and I was the only one of the bunch that couldn't ride a two-wheeler. On my best friends' borrowed bike and with their encouragement, I kept trying until I got it and I still remember the pure joy of that accomplishment and of showing off to my parents.

I ride because I remember the pride I felt on the day not so long ago that I first let go of my daughter's seat and she rode her two-wheeler without my help for the first time.

I ride because my father, at the young age of 52, had a mild heart attack and his road to better health included riding a bike. I can't recall having ever seen my father on a bike before that, and I'm happy to say that he's still going strong at 81. I ride because I still want to be riding when I'm 81.

I ride because I've been struck by cars twice but remain undeterred to be on my bike regardless of the risk involved. I remember after my first and more serious run-in with a car losing most of the skin on my forearm (now you know where the name of my blog comes from), getting a nasty ding on the forehead, and the attending doctor shaking his head in disbelief that I was still alive.

I ride because it allows me to challenge myself, to push my personal limits of endurance, to race against myself. But most of all, I ride because I love every minute of it. There is nowhere else I'd rather be than on my bike.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

856 km to go..

Yesterday was a fantastic day for a ride around the Toronto area. As promised the skies were blue in the morning, temperature in the mid-20's (Celsius) and very little wind to speak of. I couldn't miss the opportunity to go for a big ride and test my limits after last weeks 65k ride. After about a 10k warm-up, I was feeling pretty good and headed north for farm country and wide open roads.

Unknown riders cycling north on Warden Rd.
Unknown riders I caught, clicked and passed
while heading north on Warden Road.
The most eventful moment of my ride happened at about 25k in when I had to stop at a railway crossing for a passing freight train. It was a pretty short train, but it never-the-less gave me a moment to take a little rest and a much needed drink. By this time, the temperature had climbed to 26-27*C and I was just starting to get a pretty good sweat going. When the train passed, I continued north until I reached Bloomington Rd. and the 40k mark, meeting several other cyclists along the way. You can always count on running into cyclists on the roads north of the city.

When I made my turn for home however, I realized that I was now heading into the teeth of a stiffening breeze. Being from Newfoundland, I am used to riding in the wind, but it's never been my favourite thing to do. The last 35k or so of my ride were pretty tough, made no less tougher by the fact that in the last 2k there is what amounts to a 1km vertical wall of a hill. With my legs on empty, it was all I could do to reach the top. My legs were screaming for mercy at that point.

All in all, I managed 76.5k in 3h13, but that is pretty much the limit of my personal endurance, at least for a 27* solo ride. I dropped 7 lbs as well and to be honest, I'm still trying to recover. On the bright side, I took a big chunk out of my goal of 1200k and it's still only April.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OLN and Cycling...or lack thereof

One of the things that I love to do the most, other than cycling, is watching professional cycling on television. Every year, I can't wait for July to roll around, when the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) brings Canada daily coverage of the Tour de France. For my American readers, what you now know as Versus is still called OLN in Canada.

OLNs coverage of the Tour is fantastic, mostly because they broadcast the Versus feed of the Tour de France, with live race coverage in the mornings and then a shortend taped version of the day's race that same evening. I never miss a stage, much to my family's chagrin. Unfortunately though, that's pretty much where the similarity between Canada's OLN and the US's Versus ends.

While Versus provides its American audience with coverage of many of the high profile stops on the professional cycling tour, the Tour de France is all we get. No Liege-Bastogne. No Fleche Wallone. No Veulta a Espana. Nada. Just the Tour de France. To be honest, I'm not even sure if OLN is carrying the tour in Canada in 2009. A quick visit to the OLN website, and all I can find is a brief report on the 2008 tour. There's nothing in their schedule to indicate any planned coverage of this year's race.

OLN does however now show 'Dog The Bounty Hunter'. Now there's a show that just screams outdoor life. I guess because Dog and his posse of nitwits spend most of their time chasing criminals through backyards and down the street, that counts as outdoor activity. Anyway, I digress.

I just can't help be curious as to why OLN doesn't carry more of Versus' cycling feeds. I think I'll email OLN and ask that very question. In fact, if we all emailed them, maybe they'd at least think about carrying more cycling events (and hopefully less 'Dog'). If you'd like to help out, you can email them at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Team Will going the distance

Team Will for childhood cancer research
If you're looking for a great cause to follow and help out, I highly recommend visiting the web site of Team Will. Team Will is...

".. a community of cyclists of all levels and ages committed to raising public awareness and funds for childhood cancer research through a mixture of cycling activities and events. Team Will's mission focuses on providing a coherent, credible voice to educate society about childhood cancer."
Team Will, founded in Sacramento, CA in 2005 hosts and organizes a variety of local and national cycling and related events with the goal of promoting health and safety through education and training and to raise fund for children's cancer research.

Please visit their site and follow their updates on Twitter at

My blog has been Blogged

I've officially achieved Internet star status. Well...sort of. My blog has been reviewed and listed on, a directory of blogs on just about every subject from every corner of the world.

My editor rating is 7.6 (out of 10) which makes my blog "Very Good" and puts me listed at #105 in the Sports > Cycling category that currently includes 551 blogs. Not bad for starters.

With the help of some positive reader ratings (wink, nudge), maybe I can move up the list a bit and crack the top 100, the Holy Grail for cycling bloggers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So much for playing nice

It's raining cats and dogs in Toronto today, and for the next 2 days apparently, so there's very little in the way of cycling news to report. Instead, I'll post a link to this video of the sprint finish from the 8th stage of the 2009 Tour of Turkey.

Theo Bos throws yellow jersey rider Daryl Impey of team Barloworld into the race barriers
I'm guessing the Rabobank rider involved, Theo Bos, won't be including "Plays well with others" on his résumé anytime soon. Apparently though he won't face any disciplinary action from the UCI. The Daily Peloton has a report on the incident in which it appears Bos deliberately throws yellow jersey rider Daryl Impey of team Barloworld into the race barriers. According to the report Impey suffered..
"...a fracture of the third disk of his lumbar vertebra, a micro-fracture of his neck, a facial trauma, a few broken teeth and a deep cut in his lips. Impey will to stay in the Alanya hospital for observation for 24 hours.
Amazingly, Impey managed to remount a bike and finish the race with the help of teammate Patrick Calcagni. I won't post it here, but there's a pretty nasty looking picture included with the report of Impey receiving medical attention afterwards.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

934K to go...

Well, I had been looking forward to this ride all week. I've been doing some indoor training on the stationary bike, punching in 70K while watching various shows on television, but riding indoors just isn't the same. The weather forecast all week long for today was for lots of sun and 22*C, so I couldn't wait to get out there.

Cycling along a wide open 19th Ave, north of Toronto.
Hard to get a decent picture on a solo ride.
Unfortunately things weren't so promising when I woke up this morning. Myself and a colleague decided to go for a beer after work yesterday and that beer turned into 2 pints. When I got home, I discovered that my wife had invited our neighbours over for a drink on the deck, it being such a nice evening and all. Before I knew it, there was a full fledged neighbourhood party going. Not being a party pooper, I settled in and spent the next 5 hours enjoying more than a couple glasses of wine.

That led directly to this morning, when I awoke feeling a little less rarin' to go than I normally would. Then I looked outside and noticed that the weather forecast was a touch inaccurate. Rather than the bright sun I was promised, it was dull, gray and very overcast. It even looked as though it might start pouring rain any minute. So I delayed my start and took an hour or 2 to recover from my self-inflicted wounds.

Finally, feeling a bit better but still with no weather improvement in sight, I hit the road. The rain, with the exception of a scattered drop, held off and surprisingly enough, once I got going I felt pretty good. About 35km in, the sun broke out a bit and it became quite pleasant and I ended up doing 65.6km in 2h38m, which I thought was a pretty decent pace for a solo ride. Better still, I felt great at the end, although I will admit that my legs feel like lead at the moment. I was planning to join a group ride with TBN tomorrow morning, but I don't think I'll have the legs for that. We'll see.

Oh..and no, I didn't get to try out my new jacket. As expected, even though I'm sure it didn't hit 22* today, it certainly wasn't anywhere near cold enough to warrant wearing it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

Tyler Hamilton riding for Rock Racing (Reuters Photo)
You've probably all heard the story by now about American cyclist Tyler Hamilton annoucing his retirement after testing positive for the steroid DHEA, apparently the result of taking an over-the-counter anti-depressant. I was just reading the story about it on ESPN Cycling and couldn't help notice a quote from Michael Ball, owner of the Rock Racing team for which Hamilton rides. He said, and I quote...
"For him to have to retire on this note is a very tough pill to swallow"
Strikes me as a bit of a poor choice of words, but more than likely entirely unintended. Either way, I can't help but feel a bit for Hamilton. I know taking performance enhancers and doping is a very serious issue in cycling, as it should be, but it really pales in comparison to the effects of suffering from depression. Here's hoping that Hamilton can win this battle.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I've reached my first goal

I'm very pleased to report that I've reached and surpassed my personal fundraising goal for the Becel Ride for Heart for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Ontario, thanks to my many friends, colleagues and family members.

I originally set out to personally raise $350 for the foundation and now have $355 in donations secured. The donations need not stop there though and your continued support would be more than appreciated. Every dollar counts and you can still donate and support my ride by going to my donor page here or clicking on my ad on the right.

Once again, thanks to all of my donors, current and future!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Got Blog?

If you have a blog about cycling, mountain biking, triathlons, or anything related to the world of cycling, I'd be happy to add it to my blog roll. Just drop me a note here or send me a tweet on twitter with your blog details and I'll drop it in my list.

If you can add my blog to your list in exchange, I'd greatly appreciate that too.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cycling Odds and Ends for Monday

Well, I had every good intention of getting out for another ride yesterday after putting in 60k on Friday, but even though it was a very nice day around Toronto, the wind had quite a little chill to it. I just didn't feel like digging into that again without a jacket, which until today was a long overdue purchase for me. I finally broke down and took a lunchtime run down to Mountain Equipment Co-op on King West and picked one up. As you can see, I went for the yellow one, figuring if nothing else, I'll be visible on the road. Now all I have to do is hope it stays cold enough to warrant me actually wearing it. I'm sure though that now that I've bought one, we'll be in the 20's before the end of the week.

Anyway, since I didn't get on the road yesterday, I did 25k on my stationary bike instead while watching the 250cc Grand Prix of Qatar. For some reason, I've always been fascinated by motorcycle racing. Maybe it's a 2-wheel thing or maybe it's because these guys have to be completely nuts going over 250 kmh on a motorcycle. Not sure who won, but I did get a decent workout.

The other thing I noticed this weekend is that The Sporting Life on Yonge doesn't seem to sell Cervelos anymore, which struck me as odd. Not that I had planned to buy one or anything, but I enjoyed going in there to check them out. I remember they used to have the TT bike that Dave Zabriskie rode in the tour once, which I thought was kind of cool.

Oh... and this has nothing to do with cycling, but my beloved Chicago Blackhawks are back in the playoffs and hosting the Calgary Flames starting on Thursday night. TSN is carrying the full series if you're interested.

Last but not least, I've now raised over $300 ($310 to be exact) for my Becel Ride for Heart ride coming up in June. If you'd like to help push me over the top of my $350 goal, please go to my personal Ride for Heart Sponsorship Page and donate any amount you can spare for a great cause.

Friday, April 10, 2009

999K to go...

Hopefully, that will be my most eventful ride of the season. The weather and forecast for the Toronto area was very promising this morning, so I set-off with the target of riding 60k. Right from the get-go, it seemed to be a little cooler than I had expected, but it was clear and sunny and supposed to go to a comfortable 10*C, so I hung in there and headed north up Bayview Ave.

It being Good Friday, traffic was pretty light, which is always good, but what little wind there was was right in my face. Other than making it colder than I like for riding, things were going generally good. I found my legs about 11-12k in, but then at the 19k mark, disaster struck. I pounded over a very small pothole I didn't see coming and punctured both tires. That's a 100% increase in punctures over my entire season and 1154k last year, and I'm only 200k in for '09.

To make matters worse, I didn't realize the front was gone until I had fixed the back with my only spare tube. That left me in a bit of a predicament. I tried to call my wife to come to my rescue, but no got answer. My only option was to try to patch glue what was left of the front tube, which I thought was torn beyond repair. Fortunately the patch held and I got back on the road.

I thought about heading home since I now had no repair options left if I got another puncture, but I figured I'd come this far so I might as well carry on. Back into the cold wind and a few stops to add pressure to the front (I guess the patch wasn't perfect) and I totalled out at 60.15k.

Now I'm off to Spokes and Sports for as many new tubes as I carry.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

1059K to go..

As promised the weather was much improved today over yesterday, so I got my ride in. Only managed 41K though as I can't say I'm feeling 100% this weekend. Went for a little jog yesterday, just to remind myself how much I hate running, and sure enough my legs felt (feel) like lead today. I also bought a new bathroom scale yesterday and weighed in at a whopping 182 lbs. That reminded me just how much I hate winter...and love eating. I'd like to drop at least 10-15 of that, but that's easier said than done.

My physical disposition may have also been affected by the bottle and a half of wine I drank last night with some friends. I'd highly recommend the wine though, a Tenuta Di Castiglione 2006 bottled by Marchesi de Frescobaldi vineyards in Italy's Tuscany region.

Oh, and by the way, my new gloves were awesome. Very comfortable. If you're in the market for a new pair of gloves, I'm happy to recommend those as well.