CIRREM MIC DROP

You’ve all had the chance to read about my dropping out of CIRREM at the checkpoint, just 20 miles before the finish. You’ve also had a chance to read about my health/weight issues and how that is going.  What you HAVEN’T seen is the super classy video of me dropping out of the race that beautiful Saturday. Without further ado, here is the unedited video of yours truly (at about 310+ lbs) dropping out of a race at mile 45. Enjoy.

Sam, CNB

The (Broken) Promise Of Spring

Today I’m going to do a really typical Midwesterner thing and bitch about the weather.  I’ve had it with the ups and downs of Iowa climate, Monday it was in the 60’s, yesterday it snowed but got to the low 50’s, it’s goddamn 30 right now.  Preparing to ride in this shit is very frustrating. Our winter here was pretty mild, too mild, and afforded some nice long days in the saddle. It was pretty much road bike weather all winter. I used my FATBIKE sparingly, and generally just when I was too lazy to find gloves as I have pogies on the bars. There was no real snowfall this winter in my neck of the woods. So, unfortunately I had to get everywhere much faster, total bummer.

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Road Biking in February. WHERE’S MY SNOW??

My body is no longer acclimated to the “Winter Temperature Scale,” that thing that makes you comfortable wearing shorts towards the end of winter in temperatures that would have you wearing a base layer in the fall.  I’m not sure where or when this happened, I generally train/ride underdressed so I can carry less layers on me or on the bike. As a rule, if it’s not cold enough to cause physical damage to your skin, you’ll live. I’m also built like a goddamn bear, so I suppose that it’s easier for me to just “stay warm”

Ok, I’m making no real point here. Yes, spring weather is unpredictable. Yes, it’s frustrating. I’m also looking directly at the temperature, which hasn’t changed in a few hours. It’s 8:30 am. Maybe I should just shut ‘er down and get on a bike and ride. Sounds like a good plan.  Wait, I need to go to the grocery store. Later. Thanks for humoring me by reading this today.

Sam, CNB

Favorites: J-Paks GravelPak

I’ve been a frame bag user for quite some time, using Revelate full frame and Tangle bags on my gravel/fat/mountain rigs, and a sweet Porcelain Rocket custom frame bag (thanks to my deer friend Zen Biking), on my Ti Fargo. I’m a big fan of these convenient packs, but I have one problem. I’m a pack rat and my frame bags end up looking like something out of “Hoarders, Bike Edition.” The “map compartment” side is usually stocked with old cue cards from races past, random keys or mud scraping devices (aka ti tent stakes), licorice ropes, batteries, empty gel packs, and the main compartments are a collection of mini pumps, ancient granola bars, lighters, expired gel packs, gas station trinkets, a goddamn red clown nose (???), crushed beer cans, and it just goes from there.  Basically, my frame bags become a rolling landfill. Pretty rad.

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The J-Paks Gravel Pak on my Salsa Warbird Carbon Gravel Rig Of Doom

Enter my new favorite bike thing: the GravelPak from J-Paks. I picked one of these up a few months back, and it has become my go to for bringing along anything I need on a ride. It’s similar in shape to the ubiquitous seat packs you see on most bikepacking rigs, but it’s smaller and less unwieldy than it’s larger brethren.  There is enough space for a tool kit, phone charger, base layers/jacket, extra gloves/hat (I always carry spares, especially in the cooler months. I like to change out these items about half way through a ride), some food items, maybe even an extra water bottle or can of beer if you feel so inclined without taking up frame space, and you hardly notice the seat pack. Somehow the GravelPak also lends itself to repacking and keeping things organized, and since it is a roll-closure and not something you simply unzip and toss crap in, you are less likely to pack rat away all of those cool (useless) gas station finds.

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GravelPaks in the not so wild. Image ripped off from jpaks.com

The Gravel Pak is great for switching between bikes, its two clipped straps for the seat rails and one very secure velcro strap around the seat post can be easily popped/undone and moved to whatever steed you are riding today. You can have your “winter kit” on hand and move it between your gravel rig, fat bike, whatever bike, and with so much less hassle than undoing 400 velcro straps you find on frame bags.  You can use a regular seat pack for things like this, but the J-Pak bag is like the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of short to medium range riding. It’s just the right size.

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Hey! Hooman! Paws off my #$%&ing porridge!

Due to the ever changing Iowa winter weather, I have been using this bag between my road bike, my gravel bike, a single speed, and my trusty Mukluk with no problems at all. It’s a sturdy build that shows no signs of wear after over 500 miles of mixed use and many bike swaps. I’m looking forward to a good spring of many more miles with this bad lad, and to maybe picking up a few of J-Paks other offerings from their J-Paks Shop.

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J-Paks GravelPak on my trusty road bike outside Jamaica, IA

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And here it is on the trusty Mukluk. (Thanks, DMPL, for gently shoveling around my steed)

Yeah, that’s it. No crazy stories, just a solid piece of kit that will keep you organized in your travels, and transfers easily between bikes.  Kudos, J-Paks. Thank you for the righteous gear.

Sam, CNB

Less Breathless

As the tens of you who have been reading along here know, I have recently hit a brick wall with my health.  I had been eating like a huge asshole, and I do mean huge, to the point where not even riding was helping out. I was the heaviest that I’ve even been in my life, a full 70 lbs more than when I was in “racing shape,” and I felt it.  My joints ached, my hips were really unhappy on long rides, I would get out of breath putting on my cycling shoes, and I realized I had been lying to myself about what was going on with my health.  It was time for a change.

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I’ve gone from milkshakes to smoothies.

This week I have hit another milestone. I put my Sidis on without having to gasp for air. This may not seem like something to brag about, but in my 18″ of space it is a reason to celebrate.  When I weighed in yesterday, I had gone from 302.8 to 288.2 lbs in one week. There was a full week prior to my initial weigh in that was undocumented, I would say that based on losing 14+ in the past week, my actual weight at the start was closer to 310-315 lbs. (my poor wheels). I’ve dropped about my first 20, and I am already feeling great. My shirts are fitting better, my mood is better, and I don’t feel as sluggish on the bike. I’m excited, as the weight loss has been from simply changing my diet and getting adjusted to eating Vegan again. I haven’t joined a gym, I have actually been riding less due to being fairly busy, I simply cut out meat, dairy, cheese, etc. This wasn’t an abrupt change, I had been planning this and purging my pantry and fridge for two months, and I have spent a few years eating Vegan in the past, so the groundwork was laid.  I just needed motivation like failing at a bike race that by all means I should have been able to finish.

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Tofu Scramble, Spinach, Tater Crowns, Home Made Vegan Biscuits w/Fig Preserves. Breakfast of Champions.

The Stoker is pleased that I’ve decided to actually look out for my health instead of plowing through life expecting things to just be ok, even though things were most decidedly NOT ok. We are looking forward to a summer of cycling, I’ve decided to cut back my “race” schedule a bit and focus on using 2017 as a recovery year from the past few years of just letting myself go.  It’s time to rebuild, have fun, and get things going the right direction again.

Sam, CNB

Dusty Inspiration

At times during your life you read something inspiring. Something that someone else wrote (not just a meme, kids) that speaks not only to your heart, but seemingly from your heart.  It’s a thing you feel like you could have written, from your own perspective, to explain why you do what you do. My good friend Guitar Ted published something today on the Guitar Ted Productions blog that pretty much sums up what makes Gravel Travel such an enjoyable thing for me. YOU CAN READ HIS POST HERE.

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Bike Iowa Gent’s Race 2: The Careless Whispers. Cumming Tap Bob, D-Corn, Steve Fuller, Guitar Ted, and yours truly. I love these guys. 

I’ve cultivated a pretty good solitary bike life over the years. As a lifelong introvert, I spent (and spend) a lot of time by myself. I wasn’t really liked by other kids when I was young, so I rode my bike alone quite often. Most kids wouldn’t want to ride like I did, or simply weren’t allowed. (This was around the time of the paperboy kidnapping in Des Moines, and although we were in Denison, some parents were a little freaked out and wouldn’t let their kids out of their sight)  These rides might be across town to my one good friend’s house to watch Chuck Norris movies,  or down to the creek to work on building a fort, or just to see how many laps I could do around our block.  Either way, if it was summer time these rides would sometimes last from morning until after dark, putting me well after when I was supposed to be in the yard. In or around 8th grade I got my first road bike, and took to the highways of Western Iowa riding from town to town, mostly alone, enjoying the peace and fresh air.  My mind was, and still is, always buzzing.  Riding bikes helped quiet that a bit, and in my adult years I have used these rides to organize my ideas and sometimes flesh them out a bit. I carry a notebook with me, and use the voice recorder on my phone quite a bit. Riding and being alone works well in my little world. I do have the luxury of being fairly well known now, so when I do get out of my own space I have many wonderful people to see and talk with. It’s a good balance for me.

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In case you were wondering why it is called a “Meat Up” Pre Race meeting for TIV8

I’ve also cultivated a pretty good social bike life over the years.  I’ve done the BRAI and the ride out, and have gone on countless party rides where I have made some of my best friends to this day.  The bike scene in Iowa is one of the strongest, most cohesive, that I have witnessed in all my travels. I love all of my bagger friends, my party friends, but gravel riding… this is where GT’s words really come in to play.  Gravel folks are a different breed.  Humble, kind, smiling through pain, accepting, they are some of the greatest souls I have had the privilege of meeting.  They push their own boundaries and limits in order to get to a place they want to be.  There is a certain comraderie in this “scene” that is made up of what I would call Social-Solitary individuals.  Everyone* at these events has been through similar training, hours upon hours of sitting in the saddle while banging along those old dusty trails, many if not all of those miles and hours done alone, or sitting alone on a trainer in the winter just turning cranks and sweating to whatever movie or show you are binge watching.  When they all get together, it’s time to talk, smile, share, and look forward to crushing some gravel with like minded individuals. You can be grilling a steak at the Grinnell Steak House for the Trans Iowa Pre-Race Meat Up with RAW champion/Endurance Wunderkind Sarah Cooper and DFL slugs like myself at the same time, no egos, no bullshit, just smiles, laughs, and talks of dog chases and hill climbing**  I have met some of my favorite people and good friends through these events and going on gravel group rides, and formed life long bonds. I love riding with them, and even more my introverted side loves reading about their exploits.  When you know someone well enough that you can picture their words and tone when faced with problems on the road.  That’s what I’m talking about. I’m actually getting a little choked up here. Maybe I need to lay off the coffee.

What I’m getting at is that gravel folk are good peeps, and one of the main reasons I ride the shit that I ride. Love you crazies. GO READ GUITAR TED’S POST,  I should probably stop typing now, it’s time to ride.

Sam, CNB

 

*The last few years have seen a number of Type A mentality types trickling in to events.  They have taken to turning some of these grass-roots races into your typical draft-line road race.  That’s cool and all, but gravel grinding wasn’t supposed to be the domestic version of the Paris-Roubaix.

**Coming from a profession where the Ego is often oozing from my contemporaries, it’s refreshing to not have that stiff necked smirk across the table during conversation.

Ride Into Grocery Glory

Ride Into Grocery Glory

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THE NEW FOURTH & COURT HY VEE. Photo Courtesy BikeIowa.com

This is where I stop bitching about the new HyVee store at 4th & Court. At least for the moment. It’s not exactly what we were told they would build for us downtown folk. Ok, got it. They built what they wanted, now we move on and either shop there or not.  I’m choosing to shop there as I have really been wanting a full on grocery store that didn’t require travelling 8-10 miles by bike. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but having the ability to hop on a bike or walk to pick up spur-of-the-moment goods is what we were really missing in the area. They do have a few Vegan prepared food options amongst their vast multi-station food court, just in case I get a little hangry while shopping, and there is a little bike parking out front, making it just a few steps from checkout to packing your bike. Very nice. This is so much easier than shopping by car (which also seems pretty convenient  with the parking garage out back).

Opening day at lunch time was a shit show, to say the least.  It was simply a mission to scope out the selection and strategize my future trips.  I ended up buying a few things for dinner that night, running into a cousin of mine a few times, and being jammed up by customers of the store and every company food/product rep that ever walked the face of the earth seemed to have shown up.  It was jam packed, as expected on the opening day, but it really wasn’t too bad to do a little shopping. I suppose now I know what the aisles will be like when another snowpocalypse hits the city. This first trip softened my opinion of the spot.

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Parked out front, loaded up and ready for the mile-ish trip home.

My second trip was pretty casual.  It was early in the morning, and the place was near deserted save for the seemingly massive morning staff and a few other fellow scruffy, unkempt customers. This trip was my first time shopping Vegan at this location, and I was prepared for disappointment.  I was sorely disappointed to that end, as my shopping was easy, the selection of pre-made Vegan items was very good for the size of their grocery section, and the produce section carries everything I was looking for. Not bad, Hy Vee. Not bad at all. The gentleman cashing me out was super rad, the cheese department guy standing close was getting in on the positive vibes, and all was good.

This last trip, my third, was right before lunch.  It was a snowy, cold morning and the place was fairly quiet. I encountered no problems, aside from learning they do not have the Vegan “lunchmeat” I like (probably just need to request it), and they were out of LAVENDAR OIL (working on making my own beard oil), but these are definitely not complaints.  I picked up a bunch of produce, some canned goods for the pantry, and went on my merry snowy way.

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The Grocery Getter for Trip 3: The Mukluk w/Chrome XXL Messenger Bag for the groceries

Downtown residents finally have that grocery store we’ve all been wanting.  It’s walkable, bike able, and they have a B-Cycle kiosk out front for when you buy some things that you might want to throw in the basket of a bike and haul somewhere, or even an impromptu bike picnic. It’s a really nice touch. Overall, I feel that the place suits my grocery needs and I will continue shopping there in addition to Gateway Market, New Oriental Market, Jung’s, and La Tapatia. I’m really stoked to have such a solid produce section so close to home, and hell yeah, they have a great liquor and beer selection for when I’m feeling like it’s bag beer time. That still happens from time to time.

Sam, CNB

Discovering The Root Problem

Warning: This is going to get a little personal.

I recently decided to make a return to the realm of Veganism. I spent a good chunk of my 30’s living meat free, but after returning to eating meat  I’ve spent the first few years of my 40’s as a chunk. Dining without restraint for the last few years has been quite an adventure. I’ve eaten the best of the best and the best of the worst from coast to coast, it was an incredible journey which culminated in me starting a Fried Chicken Blog and feeling like shit. I’ve failed miserably at races and rides, have problems being on my feet for more than a few hours, get out of breath easily, and it was pointed out by the Stoker last night that I have felt like shit after almost every meal we have had together as of late.  She told me to go to the damn doctor, and to maybe put the batteries back in my scale and weigh in to see where I was at.  I started with the scale thing yesterday.  Whoa. I was shocked at what I saw.

Health problems are no stranger in my profession, where there is a high rate of alcoholism/addiction, mental health problems, suicide, and a generally unhealthy regimen to eating.  Our time is short, stress is high. Meals are eaten at odd hours, lots of inadvertent binge eating happens, fast food rules the roost, we have to taste product (those calories add up), and when you dine out you fucking DINE OUT.  It’s awesome, the food, the fun, the networking over beers and whatever, it’s hard to trade those experiences away.  BUT there is a point when your body has had enough, and here I was standing on a scale looking directly at the first solid proof that my body has had enough.

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Damn, Homie.

I’m not a small person to begin with, but this is absurd. My normal “operating” weight has been around 270 +/-10lbs the last few years, and in my Vegan days it was around 225, which is more in line with what I should weigh.  All those years of unfettered food shoveling has finally come to a head. I broke 300lbs. Goddamn. Now I have a good idea why my climbing has been so bad this year, why my endurance has been down considerably even with training and getting miles in during the winter.  My joints have been aching, my clothes don’t fit, exhaustion has been setting in after just a little time being active, I get out of breath tying my shoes. It’s been a rough state of affairs, and this number tells me that the changes I’ve instituted in my life are needed now more than ever. I’m the embodiment of the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.” BUT I AM AN ACTIVE CYCLIST, WHAT GIVES?

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Chunkier than the gravel, it’s me on CIRREM this year.

I can’t even imagine where I’d be without cycling. It would seem safe to assume that I would be fatter, sicker, and even more near death. Maybe I would be at 350? 400? More? I can’t.  I will say that the last week of plant based eating has me more energetic, positive, and mobile than I have been in a long while, but there is a long way to go before I am out of the health woods.  I’m still planning on doing my best to keep to my race and ride plan for this year, but my doctor has final say in this matter.  I’m still going to keep plugging away at “training” and I’ve accepted that the next few spring races are going to be really difficult to complete (TIV13 will be impossible, but that’s what it is anyway), and that I may have to spend more time riding shorter rides until I get back to multiple century shape.  One of my goals for 2018 was to ride the entire Trans-America Route, and I joked about being the fattest person to finish that Route in under 45 days.  That will probably push back to 2020, and I had better not be the fattest at that point.

This isn’t about a number. I’m not just bitching about my weight, this is a statement that I’m making a change for overall fitness. This is also a warning that you are probably going to have some opportunities to read about this portion of my life journey in the future.  I have family and friends that would probably like to have me around for more than a few more years. I’ve got BIKES TO RIDE DAMMIT, and so much more life to live, adventures to uh…adventure.  I’ve discovered the root of the problem, a root to which I’ve been turning a blind eye, and it’s time to choose life over just living. There’s a difference.

Sam, CNB