When is a failure a success?

How was your weekend?


That’s great to hear.  Mine was spectacular too – thanks for asking.


I went for a ride. 




This all started 12 days ago with some sage advice from the LBS owner that required me to go out and ride my bike an excessive amount.  So I did, and in the process rode a distance that created a new 3 day record for me (that’s the new me in the 21st century, not the young fit me that no-one has seen for the best part of 2 decades).  Then I got all cocky and went out and rode up a hill that I hadn’t been near for over 15 years.  Then my study got in the way and I had a day off the bike.  Followed the next day by a light 34km (21mi) spin.  The next day I had good intentions and had actually started to execute them when my bike started to self-destruct, so that day turned into a dismal 3 mile joke.  In the last paragraph of that post I hinted at a long weekend with long rides.  And…


Saturday was a wonderful day.  And it stayed that way.  132km (81.6mi).  With a climb.  A nasty climb on a coarse, dead surface.  As well as 25km (15mi) of dodging abuse and debris from rednecks that were coming down out of the hills for the annual country music fair.  But even with the bad roads and bad drivers it was still an enjoyable trip.


Sunday was a wonderful day.  And it stayed that way.  101km (62.6mi).  Flat.  I planned on riding 94km (58mi) but as I rolled up to the end of my street I was overcome by the siren song (or male ego) of the triple digit ride and so completed a circuit of the estate I live in to knock the total over 100.


Monday was initially planned as being a 150km (93mi) day.  When I was looking at the numbers on Sunday night I noticed that ride number 3 was tantalisingly close to a nice round number of 100 miles (161km).  So that started to look like the goal for today.  Then I noticed that a ride of that length would put me very close to a nice round number of 400km (248.4mi) for my 3 day total.  You can see the trend here, I’m sure.  And thus 248.4 miles is very close to 250 miles which seemed like a sensible place to stop.  Therefore, 170.4km (105.8mi) became my goal for today, and a single day total that was more than double my longest ride up until 2 weeks ago.


So I rolled out this morning with enough fruit bars and batteries for the MP3 player to last 8 hours.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t come too close to home during the ride to avoid the temptation to bail out.  If I was cutting this ride short it would be by way of the call of shame.  Despite my promise, when the day dawned I rode a route that would take me on a southerly loop of 95km (59mi) then a south-easterly loop of 75km (47mi), with the end of the first loop/start of the second loop bringing me within 3km (1.9mi) of my front door.


On the outward leg the wind was coming from a strange direction, so while it felt like a headwind I was still making reasonable time.  And when I turned around at the far end of the first loop my legs felt great.  I stopped at a truckstop at 54km (33mi) for my first scheduled 10 minute break and junkfood fill up.  Then on the road again and despite travelling in the opposite direction, the wind still felt like it was in my face but without any significant impact on my progress. 


I can handle pain. 


As I rode up the highway towards completion of the first leg of the ride, I noticed a burning.  Not the muscular, lactate threshold type burning.  But rather, the sweat-soaked, ill-fitting, synthetic-fabric type burning.  And there was no amount of squirming or adjusting that could make the pain recede. 


I’ve ridden 400 miles in 4 days in high summer with not sunscreen.  I rode my bike later the same day when I broke my skull, cheek and spine.  I was back riding 8 days after I broke my collarbone in 2 places.  What I can’t handle is chafed “boy bits”.


When is a failure a success?


So I failed.  But I succeeded.  I failed to achieve the original goal.  Or the ultimate goal.  But I still feel I succeeded.  I rode 326km (202.4mi) in 3 days.  A new “new-me” record.  And when I stepped off the bike my legs felt great.  There’s no muscle aches, there’s no joint aches, there’s no bruised bum or hands.  The distance didn’t damage me.  The ill-fitting clothes suited to a fatter me caused all the damage and pain.  But earlier this week I ordered new knicks and a jersey from the LBS so in a couple of days I’ll be shooting for distance again, but this time in snug fitting clothes designed for the purpose.


Revolution update.


This week was a close call on the points front.  16 points, and a lot of the damage was done by junkfood.  A by-product of the increased distances being ridden.  Refueling at the drive through.  But after a small gain last week that followed a no change week, it was nice to step onto the scales on Sunday morning and see a 2.5kg (5.5lb) loss for the week.


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14 Responses to When is a failure a success?

  1. Courtney says:

    Chafed boy bits?!  The horror!
    Be careful with those – they’re my favorite part of any man.

  2. uncadan8 says:

    Kinda nice for the tighties to become saggies, eh?

  3. cosmogrl says:

    Ok—I just got caught up with reading after my brief disappearance from the world.  I’m glad I’m not the only one to pull off some niffty bull-shitting about the tooth fairy–hahahhaha.  Ummm, ok, glad the polite search dogs didn’t find anything as it would have annialated my perception of you being all around nice guy and devoted husband/father.  Now about the ‘boy bits’—YEOWWWWWCH!  Do be careful–no amount of excercise is worth damaging the goods…..  Ok, lastly, a question:  How much does cycling affect your joints, etc.?  I want to take it up after having the baby and I want Frroggie to do it with me–but he has issues with his knees, ect.  I’ve heard that cycling is actually one of the best sports for low impact on joints and such.  Please share anything that might be helpful.  Good to be back and get a much needed dose of your one-of-a-kind humor! 
    Wen 🙂

  4. Burra King says:

    Snifffffffffff. Ahhhhhh. I smell & breathe in the inspiration. Am i sounding corny/sucky!
    Sorry, but i am always inspired.
    Being a newbie cyclist in the past months i have found myself wondering if i really needed those male bits anymore, at least the dangly round shape things, and if there was some operation to get rid of them would it make cycling better. Am i willing to sacrifice my nads for cycling? Is that dedication or just brain rot setting in. And that wind it always seems to be in your face.
    Elaborate some as a BIg person what you take in your pockets to fuel you riding trips? I used to take bananas but now that one banana costs more than a 3 litres of petrol, at least where i live, i’ve got to look for alternative stuff that is also not too harmful to the diet and easy to eat while riding?

  5. BIg Mike In Oz says:

    Courtney – they’re my favourite bit of me too.
    Dan – it’s rewarding, but better still is the new stuff that will arrive at the LBS this week.
    Wen – I enjoy pleasures of the flesh as much as the next man, but over a 3 day period, 11 hours of rubbing exactly the same spot without lubricant or a woman nearby is a bit excessive.
    Bike riding, cross-country skiing and swimming are reputedly the best for overall fitness with minimal issues regarding joint impact injuries.  Skiing is limited by geography and season, swimming is limited by boredom.
    Now for the bike… There are a couple of things that can make a huge difference.
    1. Make sure the seat is the correct height (too high means rocking hips causing lower back problems, too low means joints and muscles are working outside their optimum angles).  You’ll get pretty close with – bum on seat, heel on pedal at the bottom, no twisting of the hips.
    2. Pedal speed (cadence) makes a huge difference to how far you can ride and whether your knees get hurt.  Get a computer for the bike and spend the extra $10-15 to get one that measures cadence .  I pedal at between and 85 & 100 rpm.  This may not feel comfortable for a new cyclist or riding a MTB.  Shoot for 70-90rpm.  Pedalling too fast will bruise your bum, too slow will strain knees.
    Tom – I’ll defer to Lance Armstrong on the relative benefits of reducing "male" balast.  Food… If the ride is much over an hour I take Woolworths Homebrand Blueberry Fruit Bars and snack sized Mars or Flake bars.  The fruit bars are about 105 calories each and the Flakes are about 60 calories.  I take them in at the rate of about 1 each every hour.  Cycling burns between 800 and 1500 calories per hour depending on speed, stature and terrain so I’m in front by 600+ per hour.  On rides over 3 hours I stop at around 2 hours and then every 60-90 minutes for 5-10 minutes.  At those stops I’ll get a 1.25 litre Coke… fill one bidon with coke, the other with water and finish off the coke.  Maybe a sandwich if the cafe looks clean enough, thus conserving fruit bars.  Example – my Friday 132km ride was 4h43m in the saddle and I made 2 such stops, 1 at 2 hours (coke and chocolate) and 1 at 3 hours (coke).

  6. Suzanne says:

    Now chaffed bits is a DAMN good reason to stop!

  7. Unknown says:

    Tom, the stomach can take up around 400 calories per hour.  Coincidentally, that works out to one Clif bar, and roughly one 24 ounce bottle of your favorite electrolyte-laden sugar water – Gu2o, Gatorade, Powerade, or whatever.  Complicating things is the complex/simple carbohydrate mixture.  The folks at Hammer nutrition swear up and down that you can power yourself on simple carbs (candy bars, raw sugar, Gu itself) or complex carbs (muesli, many breads, I think Clif bars and some other sports nutritionals) and raw fruits.  They will tell you, however, that when you mix complex and simple carbs, that your stomach’s nutritional uptake drops to around 200 calories / hour.  If you are riding pretty hard, that’s a recipe for bonking.  And no, Courtney Big O, it’s not the fun kind of bonking.  It’s more like the prison version of it on a bike. 
    Mike seems to be a simple sugars guy.  A lot of folks stick with simple carbs, because it satisfies the body’s itch and does it right away.  You can go for the more sugary sports drinks, Coke, etc – just keep throwing the stuff in there to stay fueled, and it seems to work fine for them.  Mike even mixes in real food like sammiches, a good choice, and gets the body burning a bunch of different fuels. 
    On longer rides I take a different approach and try to stick to the complex carbs.  I prefer a sports drink that is complex carbs (Hammer, for instance) and try to stick to foods that are complex carb-rich, the Clif bars come to mind, but also snack crackers, cornbread muffins and the like.  I find the simple carbs give me a sugar rush for about 15 minutes, then leave me flat.  Then I need to hit the button again maybe with a Gu packet, followed by a spike, followed by a flat, etc.  With the complex carbs, I can just graze as I ride and I don’t have any big highs, nor any major lows.  I can also eat the sandwich at the 7-11, the wheat bread I order is mostly complex carbs and the body seems happy burning the same type of slow-burning fuel. 
    A couple other things help.  On a ride over 45 miles, I try to drink one bottle of sports drink, one bottle of water every 25-30 miles, and one Clif bar, a fat sandwich or 2-3 pieces of fruit in that period.  Steady grazing keeps you on an even keel so you can train at a consistent, relatively high level of effort.  If you’re tooling along at recovery pace you don’t worry about this, if you are doing aerobic level work or higher, you need to think about it.  Additionally, I love to carry a couple baggies of nuts with me, especially cashews and peanuts.  They go down pretty easy and provide a lot of healthy calories from fat and protein.  The only downside to nuts is they won’t pick you up out of a bong very quickly – though their slow steady burn rate will tend to keep you out of one and the salt tastes great on a hot day when you are sweating a lot.  
    Final caveat, you probably want to experiment to find out which approach works for you.  Some people subsist on long rides on Gu packets and the most sugary things they can find – chocolate chip cookies at rest stops, the most sugary sports drinks, etc.  Other people will eat nothing but slow burning food, carrying peanut butter sandwiches in their jersey pocket, alongside nuts, and drinking only water.  The only key is that if you want to ride hard, you need to think about putting a steady 3-400 calories per hour into your body, and to take into account how long it takes your stomach to draw nutrition out of the food you are stuffing into your piehole.  Kent Peterson, an accomplished distance rider, appears to subsist on long rides on candy bars and Coke.  I wouldn’t recommmend it, but it seems to work out really well for him. 
    Final note – I use Body Glide on the boys.  It has zinc in it and gives just a little bit of lubrication, preventing almost all of the chafing.  It’s cheap too, about $6 for a stick of it. Udder Cream (which they sell for cows but breastfeeding mothers sometimes use) will also work pretty well, some boys in Vermont sell the same stuff in smaller containers under the name "Bag Balm."  Chamois Butt’r is pretty good as well, and you might even be able to get away with high zinc diaper cream.  Just don’t use petroleum based products, they’ll mess up your chamois.  The nose angle on the saddle might also be too high, and it might be positioned too far forward if the boys are getting turned into jello when you ride in the drops.   If you haven’t done so already, you might want to go to a good local bike shop and get the bike fitted properly – ask your local velo clubs which shops do a good high quality bike fitting.  That *may* help. 

  8. Burra King says:

    BIg Mike & Al Maviva – Your advice is GOLD, Thank you, thank you nothing like advice from those who actually ride & "know".

  9. Burra King says:

    I’ve been thinking about your words on intake during the day (whilst i was working of course, i call it multi-tasking, my wife calls it bludging) it’s no wonder i feel buggered at the end or towards the end of a ride. I don’t eat much more than a banana, or drink 1 bidon of gatorade and 1 of water! From the fear of nullifying any potential weightloss. But obviously it would be a good idea to have a bit more and it wouldn’t hurt. 

  10. BIg Mike In Oz says:

    Tom – If you’re riding at 25kph you can afford to take in 2-400 calories per hour and you are still burning plenty more than you are taking in.  Just don’t binge when you get home.
    Have a look at http://www.nutritiondata.com/calories-burned.html .  I use that site and Allan Borushek’s Pocket Calorie & Fat Counter to work out my energy intake and consumption.  The book retails for under $10 at most new agents.  The website allows you to input your height, weight, age, gender and number of minutes of different types of exercise and it throws back a calories burned number… be careful with the height / weight in metric / ‘mercun. 
    Just so you know, my Saturday ride generated 10531 calories according to the website.  If I weighed 80kg instead of 109kg the calorie usage would only be 8020.  Sometimes it pays to be fat.  Fat me burned around 1500 calories per hour of exercise over and above the sedentary value, skinny me still burned over 1000 calories per hour. 
    Eat, drink and pedal yourself skinny.

  11. Steve says:

    OK, you still qualify as a real man.  Chafed boy bits is a legitimate excuse. 
    I also liked how you kept upping your goal to the next higher milestone.  It’s exactly the opposite of what pole vaulter Sergei Bubka used to do.  He had cleared heights in practice that were 6 inches above his world record, but in every meet he was in for a while, he’d break his old record by a scant quarter inch each time just to keep his name in the news. 

  12. Siobhan says:

    Ouchy.  That’s about your weight goals, you’ve done great to get where you are.  I bet you look and feel so much differently.  But rationalise the junk food, it’ll feel better.
    Oh btw Mike, head over to Steve’s place and convince him leaving us is a bad idea.  I need back up, mate.

  13. Sue says:

    Wow, you’ve really been putting in the miles. Personally, when I’m putting in the big miles, I eat like a pig all the time and don’t lose weight. I’m just starving all the time.
    It takes a couple hours of hard work to burn 1000 calories biking, but I can eat that many calories in about 17 minutes!

  14. BIg Mike In Oz says:

    Steve – a real man, but slightly less, with some of the skin ground away.
    Siobhan – I’ve lost 5 inches since Christmas – some of it from my waist and some from the chafing.
    Botched – If you eat right during the ride, the huge hunger surges don’t seem to happen.  I know what you mean with the speed of calorie intake – I can eat 1000 calories before the second set of traffic lights after the McD drive thru.

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