Saturday, April 30, 2011

And at the finish line...cardio beats car!

With April drawing to a close, I am happy to report that my month-long quest to outrun/out-bike my car has been a success! And I did it without having to become anti-social! (well, at least not more than usual)

My driving mileage for the month ended at 576, with the vast majority of those miles coming from two road trips to places (St. Cloud and Wabasha) that go beyond practical distances for biking. For in-town commuting, I used my car for the following this month: 2 plasma donations, 1 bike repair at Scheels, and once as a sober cab for a friend that needed a ride home from the downtown bars (he still owes me one, by the way). That's it.

On the flip side, my biking/running totals ended up at 625 miles collectively (108 by foot, 517 by pedal). Averages for that equate to be about 3.6 miles of running and 17.25 miles of biking per day. My longest run of the month was 8 miles, and my longest non-stop bike ride was 33 miles.

Pretty modest totals compared to what some of the hardcore duathlon junkies are doing, but still a respectable amount of exercise on a daily basis. And since I keep a pretty busy schedule, I won't complain.

Even for a person that's relatively in shape like myself, the effects of regular exercise like that are noticeable. By the end of the month, my legs pretty much stopped feeling sore after long bike rides and felt like they were recovering faster from weightlifting. Not to compete with my co-worker's "fight to be fit," but I also lost seven pounds for the month.

Beyond that, I noticed a definite improvement in cardiovascular endurance.

I haven't done much for serious training runs since I ran the Mankato 1/2 Marathon last fall. I still run regularly (pretty obvious since I topped 100 miles last month), but the pace is usually leisurely and the distances have been shorter (3-5 mile runs are pretty normal these days). Conventional wisdom says that my running times should be slower now than they were when I was cranking out 40-mile training weeks last spring.

But thanks to all the biking this month, my spontaneous decision to push myself on the YMCA treadmill yesterday yielded some surprising results: 8 miles in 53:41 (about a 6:43 average per mile) and I felt like I could've kept going at that pace for a few more miles. Compared with my race times from last year, it's almost like I never stopped marathon training.

The other big surprise came in how many less miles I drove with my car this month than I normally would. I can usually count on driving about 900-1,100 miles each month, depending on the frequency of out-of-town trips. But thanks to in-town commuting on my bike, I was able to keep the drive total low and add to my biking miles at the same time.

The two in-town destinations I biked to most often were the YMCA and my morning job near River Hills Mall. The distances from my apartment to those two locations are both pretty mild (roughly 1 mile to the Y, 4 miles to the morning job), but they add up over the course of a month.

I work at my morning job four days a week, which adds up to 32 miles of commuting per week and 128 miles every four weeks. Although I don't have a set schedule of attendance at the Y, six visits a week is a pretty fair estimate, which translates to 12 miles a week and 48 miles in four weeks.

Add it up, and that's 176 miles I didn't drive with my car in April. And since those are in-town locations, a safe assumption would be that I saved on having to buy around 8 gallons worth of gas for those trips (my Kia gets about 30 miles to the gallon for highway mileage). Given the direction gas prices are headed, that's hardly chump change.

Despite the challenge being over, I plan on continuing to use my bike for most in-town commuting. It's been a great boost to my exercise schedule, it's good for the environment and, quite frankly, I enjoy biking a heck of a lot more than I enjoy driving my car.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moments that make an uncle proud

As much as I enjoy riding my bike, it usually feels pretty good to get done after a long day of cycling.

My ride this past Monday was no exception. With the day off from work, favorable weather conditions and my stomach in full-scale recovery mode from the onslaught of Easter (in retrospect, cherry cheesecake AND pumpkin pie probably wasn't the best choice for dessert), I decided to visit the old stomping grounds.

Starting from my parent's house in Sartell, I did a 35-mile bike loop of the St. Cloud area, making four stops along the way: the YMCA for weightlifting, a local sandwich shop for lunch, club rowing practice for nostalgia and the downtown bars for drinks in the non-water variety (here is the route I took, though the map probably means little to my Mankato-centric readership).

The day of biking was most certainly enjoyable. The weather was beautiful, my bike cooperated (no flat tires or any other malfunctions that have befallen my $85 Kuwahara) and it was cool getting to visit old friends. It also helped reaffirm my beliefs that Mankato is a far superior community for biking (more bike paths and motorists that actually watch for cyclists).

However, the best part of the ride came at the very end of it when I got back to my parent's house. This wasn't due to exhaustion from biking, though I was pretty psyched to have my mom's homemade rigatoni for dinner.

No, the real enjoyment came from what I saw as I approached my parent's driveway: My 4-year-old niece Alaina was riding up and down the driveway on her single-gear training wheel bike complete with handlebar basket, princess colors, tassels and glitter. The tires on her bike were flat, but she was still grinning ear-to-ear at the site of her uncle getting home, anxious to show off her styling ride to a fellow biking enthusiast.

She pointed out the features of her bike with the excitement of a seasoned cyclist who just bought a $10,000 ride. After commenting on my bike's lack of a handlebar basket, she led the way on a down-and-back trip up the driveway while I told her stories of her uncle's clumsy beginnings in cycling and reassured her that I would never be able to beat her in a race.

Really, it was a moment to cherish. I'm still kicking myself for not having my camera handy. Just about every uncle worth his weight in piggy-back rides will claim their 4-year-old niece to be the most adorable thing on the face of the earth. But at that point in time, I felt I could have made a valid argument.

It might have been the sheer elation of getting to hang out with my niece (I don't make it up to St. Cloud to visit as often as I'd like), or the joy of seeing her take after her uncle hobby-wise. But I could not have been prouder.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Winning the race against my car

With nine days to go (including this one) in April, I am happy to report that my month-long goal to bike/run more miles than I drive with car is shaping up (no pun intended) to be a victory for the cardio/conservation side.

I'm currently sitting at 455 miles combine between running and biking against 307 miles of driving. Save for a day trip to Wabasha, I've used my car exactly three times this month for a total of less than 40 miles. I drove once to get my bike fixed, once to donate plasma, and once to sober cab a friend home from the bar.

In-town commuting on a bike really hasn't been as tough as I thought it would be. Due to traffic lights and other factors, I've actually found that I get to places in town about as fast on my bike as I do in my car. This wouldn't be the case if I were trying to commute to New Ulm or the Twin Cities, but for a 1-mile trip to the YMCA or a 4-mile trip to River Hills Mall, it's a wash time-wise. (provided I don't get a flat tire, of course)

Really, the biggest adjustment has been running errands that require hauling something. The best example of this would be my grocery shopping experience -- which I blogged about last week -- but imagine one would have similar issues with something like doing laundry or delivering food. There's a lot more planning, balance and strategy required to haul something on a bike than there would be to simply throw it in your car.

As far as bike rides go, I've mostly been sticking with Mankato-area trails and haven't really ventured into outlying communities. The ride I did yesterday was probably my favorite of the bunch: a 25-mile loop of Mankato that used every bike trail in town.

I started downtown, biked toward Highway 14 on Madison Avenue (normally I would've been on the Minnesota River Trail, but it's still flooded), headed up to Highway 22 on the Sakatah Trail, biked over to River Hills Mall on the bike path along Highway 22, and took Adams/Victory/Balcerzak to MSU. Once at MSU, I took Monks out to Highway 90, hopped on South Route Trail, headed to Minneopa Falls, then took the Minneopa Trail back to Mankato.

I've probably biked that route in sections before, but I've never attempted it all in one ride. Not only does it avoid most of the traffic in town, but it's also a great mix of hills and scenery and goes past a lot of the major landmarks in Mankato. I'd highly recommend the ride to anyone who has the time for 25 miles.

As far as running goes, I've mostly just been sticking to the treadmill this month. A combination of crummy weather and a nagging hip pain have put a damper on my outdoor running habits. However, I've still been able to get miles in, either on the aforementioned treadmill or an elliptical if my hip's really bugging me. Most of the runs have been in the 3-5 mile variety, with the occasional 7-8 miler to really stretch things out.

My basic goal for the running portion of this challenge is two-fold: to keep myself in decent running shape for the 7-mile trail run at Seven Mile Creek next month, and to keep the ratio of biking to running relatively close to what they'd be in a duathlon/triathlon. For the races I've encountered, that generally means a ratio of about 4:1 or 5:1 for biking vs. running. Since my totals currently sit at 375 miles biking and 80 miles running, I'm well within that range.

Why is the ratio part of the goal? Well, since my biking totals have drastically increased, I figure I'll probably be in decent shape for a duathlon or two this summer. There's a race in my home town of Sartell at the end of May that I'm eying up, and I may try another one later in the summer if I can talk some friends into doing it with me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mankato trail updates, bike column and other musings

Just a few quick notes:

  • Here is a link to a column I wrote in today's paper about my experience of grocery shopping on a bike. Anybody who read my blog post on the topic should enjoy it. Unlike the blog entry, it's less about the groceries I was able to get (i.e. no grocery lists or pictures of groceries spread out on my dinner table) and more about the strategy and mindset I used for it.
  • Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai broke the world record today for fastest marathon time, completing the Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds. His time bested Haile Gebrselassie's previous record -- set in 2008 in Berlin -- by almost a full minute. Because the race had a strong tailwind, and because the course is predominantly downhill, Mutai's time won't be recognized as the record by track's international governing body. Tailwind or no tailwind, it's pretty incredible to average a 4:42 mile for an entire marathon. I only know a handful of people who can run a SINGLE MILE at that speed.
  • An extensive amount of biking in the area over the past few days has revealed the following trail updates:
  1. The Minnesota River Trail is still mostly closed due to high river levels. However, after looking at the trail from the viewing pier at Riverfront Park, it likely won't be closed for long. The river level is gradually dropping and only small sections of the trail remain under water.
  2. The new support pier at the Red Jacket trestle bridge is still under construction, so trail users still have to use the detour on the Highway 66 bridge across the Le Sueur River if they want to continue on to Rapidan. According to the Blue Earth County Communicator newsletter, funds have been obtained for the project through FEMA Emergency Disaster Assistance and the bridge should be completed by fall 2011.
  3. A section of the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail just east of Mankato that had previously been under construction has been completed, making the area considerably safer for trail users. Previously, the trail required users to cross the railroad tracks in order to continue on toward Madison Lake. However, the trail now links up with a newly-constructed overpass bridge that crosses that tracks without interrupting the trail. Even better: there are no longer any unpaved sections of the trail for users to endure. I wrote last fall that the Sakatah needed a lot of work to make it a premier regional trail. Well, this was a big step in the right direction.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Building character on a bike

For as long as I can remember, my favorite comic strip has been Calvin & Hobbes.

There are a multitude of reasons for this (like the fact that it's awesome), but as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate it for the adult themes spliced into Calvin's childhood adventures. One of those themes is the concept of "building character."

Every time Calvin despised performing a task assigned to him by his parents, his dad would simply say "It builds character" and leave Calvin to ponder the meaning of the phrase.

This one actually hits close to home for me. Growing up, my family was big on camping, backpacking, hiking and other outdoor-oriented activities. I however was not enthusiastic to the concept. I liked watching TV, playing video games and watching more TV.

As you can probably imagine, anything that drifted beyond those activities was not met with enthusiasm on my part.

I complained a lot when we went on family camping trips, whether it was about mosquito bites, rainy weather or having to sleep on rocky ground. My brothers usually responded to complaints with the classic "Stop being a wuss!" line. For my dad, it was the "It builds character" line.

Like Calvin, I wondered what the saying meant. I always figured it was a clever way to either ignore my problems or get me to do something.

But looking back on it, my interpretation of the phrase has evolved into something a little less selfish. I think it's meant to teach a person how to better deal with adversity. Or in "manly" talk, it teaches a person to be more "tough."

Adversity can play a big role in teaching a person to appreciate the things they have in life. I mean, how can you take pride in your accomplishments if you never struggled to achieve anything.

However you want to interpret the phrase, I can definitely say that biking in extreme windy/rainy conditions is a form of building character.

Like most people, I normally would've resorted to my car during the unfavorable weather we had last week (seriously, is spring ever going to be here to stay?). However, since I'm trying to outpace my car for the month via biking/running, I still resorted to my pedaled companion for commuting around town.

It wasn't anything I'd call pleasant. I had a 20 mph head wind blowing into my face for my entire ride out to Good Thunder the other day, plus I had to deal with my fair share of horizontal rain while biking up the River Hills Mall area later in the week. I won't lie: I probably directed an obscenity or two toward Mother Nature when the biking got tough.

But I made it to where I needed to go. And because I had to endure the elements to get there, I had a much deeper appreciation for the destination than I would have had I simply driven there in a car.

I guess that's what this month has taught me more than anything thus far: Appreciating the destination. I've done more than my fair share of recreational riding in the past, but when you're biking as a form of commuting, it takes on a greater significance. It becomes an integral part of your daily routine, not an optional part.

And when you have to bike up that giant hill or pedal through that wind or rain, you can bet the destination will look a lot friendlier, even if you're biking to work or something else you'd normally dread going to.

I suppose that counts as "building character."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grocery shopping on a bike: An exercise in practicality

Earlier this week, my fitness/commuter goal for April was put to the test by general necessity.

My cupboards were bare, my fridge nearly empty and the only things left to eat around my apartment were ranch dressing, pancake syrup and leftover Buffalo Wild Wings food from Lord knows when.

It was time to go grocery shopping. However, since my biking/running totals are still catching up to my driving mileage for April, I had to figure out a way to pad my mileage. Beyond that, gas prices have been going up like crazy lately and unfortunately, my modest salary is not matching that rate of inflation.

So with that in mind, I put my car keys away, grabbed a backpack and did my grocery shopping on a bike. My shopping included stops at Cub Foods, Kwik Trip and Aldi.

Surprisingly, it wasn't as difficult as one would think. I essentially bought all the groceries I would have gotten with a car, only I took two trips. The method I used for packing the groceries included my backpack and dangling a pair of grocery bags from my handlebars (first photo on the right).

The most difficult aspects of it were figuring out how to make everything fit and keeping myself balanced for the bike ride home. The only real trial and error came from determining that the weight of items in the grocery bags on the handlebars had to be relatively light, otherwise steering would get awkward (I initially tried this with a gallon of milk in one bag, bad idea).

I will touch on the experience more in a column I wrote for Monday's paper, but for the time being, here is a list of groceries I was able to carry home on each trip, with photos accompanying each list. As you can probably guess, the second trip was a lot tougher to package and carry than the first.

First trip (Cub Foods and Kwik Trip)
  • 2 bags of hashbrowns
  • 1 pound of grapes
  • 2 pounds of bananas
  • 4 boxes of cereal
  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 1/2 gallon of orange juice
  • 2 bags of pizza crust mix
  • 1 dozen eggs

Second trip (Aldi)
  • 1 bag of apples
  • 2 jars of peanut butter
  • 1 jar of jelly
  • 4 cups of yogurt
  • 1 package of breakfast sausage patties
  • 1 box of pancake mix
  • 3 boxes of rice
  • 1 box of banana bread mix
  • 1 package of chocolate chips
  • 1 container of bread crumbs
  • 1 package of tortilla shells
  • 2 jars of spaghetti sauce
  • 2 pounds of shredded cheese
  • 1 package of dried fruit
  • 1 package of baby carrots
  • 1 box of mashed potato mix
  • 1 6-pack of bagels
  • 1 package of pepperoni
  • 1 box of cereal

(Note: this isn't intended to depict me as a hulking figure of grocery getting ability. Rather, it is meant to illustrate how much a person can actually carry on a bike if they organize it correctly. Also, I realize my eating habits probably seem a little odd, but I happen to like cereal ... a lot.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A different breed of crazy: My first exposure to 100-mile races

Some scattered thoughts on the Zumbro 100, a 100-mile trail run near Wabasha that a friend of mine raced in this past weekend. I drove to the race to assist him as a pace runner which, if you're keeping track of my mileage for the drive vs. run/bike challenge I've got going on, is the reason why my driving miles all the sudden jumped from 9 to 278 (looks like I've got some catching up to do):

  • This was hardly Boston Marathon for race participation. Only 24 runners raced in the Zumbro, several of whom dropped out before finishing. Most road races are either short enough in distance or big enough in participation numbers where you almost always have someone running near you. That's definitely not the case here, where several hours can separate one runner from the other at the finish line. My friend had pace runners (myself included) for about 1/3 of the total race, and he ran with little or no company. Think about how lonely it'd get to be running on a trail in the dark (the race lasted through the night on Friday/Saturday) by yourself for hours at a time.
  • Taking place entirely at the Zumbro Bottoms state park the race venue was hardly one to encourage speedy times. The trails along the Zumbro River were in pretty rough shape from spring flooding (LOTS of sand) and the hills were pretty brutal. Aside from that, tree roots, rocks, fallen trees and just about everything else you could think of obstructed the trail at every turn. How bad was it? One participant came into a checkpoint with a sizable gash on her knee from taking a tumble on the trail ... and no one was even remotely surprised that it happened.
  • To be clear, the term "running" is used pretty liberally in a race like this. During my brief stint of pace-running with my friend, we spent a lot more time walking at a brisk pace than we did running. The little running that we did do was more or less light jogging and was reserved for downhill stretches and straightaways with few obstructions in the trail. In all fairness, my friend was already more than 80 miles into the race when I started running with him and probably wanted to strangle me when I suggested we try running 7-minute miles.
  • The winner of the race finished in about 22 hours 30 minutes (actual results haven't been posted yet, but that's what I heard through the grapevine), which broke the course record by more than hour. With some quick math, this equates out to averaging a little less than 4.5 miles per hour, or a little more than 13 minutes per mile. By comparison, marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie completed the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:59 in 2008, averaging a 4:44 mile for the whole thing. See what I mean about running being a liberal term?
  • When I was interviewed John Storkamp for the Arrowhead 135 article I wrote in January, I remember him saying that he preferred ultramarathons to regular road marathons because there were so many more variables to account for. After watching the Zumbro 100 up close, I finally understand what he meant by that. Aside from the aforementioned difficult terrain, there's also calorie intake throughout the race to consider (most estimations for the total calories burned in a race like this are over 12,000, which is about what my co-worker is consuming in 10 days with her current diet), night-time running to account for, clothes to change in and out of (my friend went through 4 separate outfits during the race) and a whole different level of aches and pains to deal with. From the perspective of a pace runner, there's also a much bigger variable of time to consider. In a marathon, a runner might be off a few minutes one way or the other for an estimated pace, whereas in a 100-mile race, they might be off by several hours. This came into play for me Saturday morning, when a combination of bad cell phone reception, my friend's estimation being off and my general lack of preparation led to me getting about an hour of sleep in the cramped backseat of a car the night before. Had I known what time I was actually going to be needed for pacing, I could have slept for eight hours in the comfort of a hotel room.
  • Despite wanting to quit numerous times and apparently falling asleep for a brief time at one of the aid stations, my friend finished the race, coming in at about 32 hours, 30 minutes. Not only was this his first 100-mile race, but it was also his first race of any kind longer than a half marathon. Needless to say, he got a few weird looks when other participants inquired about his racing background. Who says you need to work your way up?
  • I've found myself getting more and more intrigued by trail races lately, both because they offer more nature for scenery and they seem like they'd be easier on my knees/hips. Trail runs also combine two hobbies of mine -- hiking and running -- into one activity, so it seems like something I would enjoy. I've already signed up for the 7 at 7 Trail Run next month and I'm strongly considering the Nerstrand Big Woods Run this fall. I'm probably not going to sign up for anything like the Zumbro 100 anytime soon. That's a LONG time to run without sleep and I don't know if my body can take that kind of punishment.
  • Speaking of punishment, one runner needed ALL of his toes and the bottoms of both his feet taped up due to blistering and he walked with a stiff-legged gait reminiscent of Herman Munster when I saw him at Mile 83. Despite all that, he kept going and finished the race. I don't think I've ever seen someone in such rough shape that didn't drop out of a race. I can only imagine how long it would take to recover from something like that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I guess my mp3 player has a good luck charm

In this world of iPods and digital music, like many people, I'm probably more emotionally attached to my mp3 player than I should be.

For me, it's on the par with my cell phone for outfit accessories. I literally take my mp3 player (A Sony Walkman, pictured right) everywhere, whether it's work, the gym, road trips or bike rides. My collection of songs is relatively modest, but they are with me through thick and thin to capture my mood (currently a "U Can't Touch This" kind of occasion, don't ask) and give rhythm to my day.

So you can imagine how I felt the other day when I discovered that my mp3 player had fallen out of my pocket while biking home from the Y.

Normally, I would've been listening to music and would have known I had lost it. But since it was a high-traffic time of day (about 3:30 in the afternoon), I reasoned that it would be best to keep my ears open to the cars around me and didn't know it was missing until I got home. Making matters worse: I didn't have time to go look for it, as I had to be to work by 4.

Now, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, an mp3 player really isn't that important. It doesn't feed me when I'm starving, it doesn't quench my thirst and it doesn't keep me warm in the wintertime. Countless people make do without music during workouts and long runs, and the Amish have been doing just fine without mp3 players (or electricity, for that matter).

However, that didn't stop me from taking my dinner break to go look for it that evening. It also didn't stop me from figuring out how much I could set aside for a new mp3 player with my next paycheck. Heck, I even debated on making a "missing" sign for my lost musical companion; much like the ones that used to be seen on milk cartons.

I have already experienced exercise without music at my fingertips. It occurred last spring when my iPod broke while I was training for Grandma's Marathon. Since I had no money at the time, I concluded that it would be awhile until I could buy another one, and that I would simply have to make do on long training runs.

"Awhile" lasted for about two weeks, when I gutted out a 20-mile training run in the rain with no music and nobody else to talk to. If there's such a thing as "Workout Hell," that was pretty much it. I remember muttering out motivational phrases and trying to recall all the movies I'd seen with Robert De Niro in them just to take my mind off of how miserable I was.

When the run mercifully came to an end, I ran an ice bath, looked up Red Hot Chili Peppers on Pandora and cranked up my laptop to full volume to help recover from musical withdrawals.

Since I would rather get another root canal than go through that again, I had every intention of using my entire dinner break to solve the mystery of the missing mp3 player. But as luck would have it, I found it in the road within five blocks of the start of my search. Even better: It hadn't been run over by a car and was still in working condition!

After praising the powers that be for keeping my mp3 player safe, I slobbered it with affection (not really, that'd just be weird), promised it I'd never leave it again, put on a White Stripes playlist and went for a leisurely 8-mile ride.

With that kind of luck working in my favor, perhaps my bike can go the rest of the year without getting a flat tire!

No, probably not.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flat tires: The ultimate cycling buzz kill

No matter what kind of bike you have, if you ride enough miles, you're going to encounter a flat tire at some point.

There's never really a convenient time for it, and unless you do the majority of your biking within two blocks of your house or a bike shop, it's not going to happen at a convenient location either.

Anybody who's kept up with my blog knows that I've encountered my fair share of flats on a bike. Three during a trip to Blue Earth, a flat at the the turnaround point of a 20-mile ride (long run home), and a valve breaking in the middle of Minneapolis.

Some people might wonder why I ride so much if I encounter so many flats, and the answer simple: I'm not afraid to deal with them. It's a pain in the rear to change a flat -- especially if you've got some place to be at a certain time -- but to avoid riding because of it is idiot's logic. By that reasoning, you shouldn't drive your car either because you might have to fix a flat.

I bring this up because I encountered my first flat of 2011 on my way to the mall yesterday (more specifically Barnes & Noble). It occurred on Adams Street about a block shy of the BioLife Plasma Center, which meant I was about half a mile from the mall.

Taken at face value, this doesn't seem like a bad place to encounter a flat, what with Scheel's being in the mall and all. But being the prepared cyclist that I am, I happened to have a patch kit and air pump with me and decided to fix the flat right there and then. After a few tire lever struggles, a lot of grease and a little swearing, my bike was right for riding again.

This worked out fine for getting to mall. I locked my bike up, read for a couple hours at Barnes & Noble, and the tire was still inflated when I left the mall.

But on the way home, guess what happened? Another flat.

This time, while removing the tube, I determined that there was a small hole in the tire itself (for terminology's sake, the tube is the inner part of the tire with air in it, and the tire is the outer shell). Even if I had replaced the tube, the tire likely would've gone flat again shortly, as a hole in the outer shell makes the tube more susceptible to rocks,glass and whatever else is on the road.

Luckily, the flat occurred about five blocks from my apartment. So the walk home was relatively short. However, in order to get my bike in working condition again, I was going to have to (gasp!) drive to a bike shop to get a new tire.

Since I'm currently trying to run/bike more miles than I drive in my car for a month (blog entry here plus you can view my monthly totals on the right-hand side of the blog), I'm obviously reluctant to use my car unless it's absolutely necessary. But I really didn't have much of a choice, unless I wanted to walk it the 4+ miles to Scheel's (the only bike shop in town that's open on Sundays).

Had I not been so adamant about fixing the initial flat myself, I could've walked over the Scheel's while at the mall, gotten my bike fixed and saved the car trip -- a trip I had to make a hours later anyway.

Oh well, I guess hindsight's 20/20.

As a reference point, here is a pretty decent YouTube video on how to change a flat tire on a bike.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Starting the month off right

Let the month of alternate transportation and exercise begin!

As mentioned in a previous post, I have made it my goal to bike/run more miles than I drive in my car for the month of April. I turned my car on long enough this morning to write the mileage down (118,015) and then promptly turned it off again, hoping I won't have to use it for a while.

I'm actually kind of excited about this. Not only will it give me an excuse to exercise more, but it'll save me some money AND bring focus to my daily routine. Instead of finding ways to procrastinate around my apartment, I'll keep this goal in mind and try to find ways to pad my mileage.

If April Fool's Day was any indication, it should be a good month. I kicked off the month with a bike ride out to Minneopa Falls and back (approximate route here, the new Minneopa Trail still doesn't show up on maps). After that, I checked out some of the parks in town to see how they're recovering from the floods (Land of Memories disc golf course is sort of accessible ... by kayak) and headed over to the Y for a workout.

Grand totals for the first day: 24 miles biking, 3 miles running and NO miles in my car. Once the flood levels go down and all the snow melts off the trails, it's only going to get easier to plot out long rides.

Mileage padding will definitely be needed in the early going. After writing up the initial blog post on this little goal of mine, I remembered that I volunteered to be a pace-runner for a 100-mile race a friend of mine is doing next week.

In the spirit of my goal, this wouldn't seem like a bad thing to recall. After all, pace-running at 10-minute miles is a pretty painless way to tack on some extra distance (I normally rotate between 6:30 and 7-minute miles on runs, so a 10-minute pace should be cake). Besides, I get to help a friend get through a grueling race by running alongside of him for the toughest part of it. I call that a worthy trip.

However, the race isn't exactly a local affair. It's the Zumbro 100, which takes place in Wabasha, roughly 115 miles away. Definitely not an easy distance on bike, and even less feasible considering that I have to run 10 miles once I reach my destination.

Ironman triathletes might eat those distances for breakfast (mmmm mileage!), but that's one cardio buffet I don't care to digest. I felt like crap after biking back to Mankato from Red Wing in one day last fall, and I'd rather not repeat that if I can help it. I know my physical limitations, and a Wabasha bike trip goes well beyond them.

So my mode of transportation then turns to my car, with the trip likely to require 250+ miles of driving. I normally wouldn't make anything of a road trip like this, especially since I'm helping a friend in the process.

However, with my monthly goal to consider, it means I will have to put on some serious miles to make up for it.

Memo to Mankato drivers: Get used to the sight of a Kuwahara road bike being out and about.