I keep track of my bicycle exploits on a great website called MapMyRide. It lets me map my in town bike rides (no surprise there) but it also lets me keep track of my calorie expenditure from those bike rides, and even enter in other forms of exercise (there are other things to do besides ride a bike?!?) and their calorie values. It also has a feature that lets you keep track of your calories consumed each day, using their calorie numbers or putting in your own. And then it coordinates it all, so that you can see how much you should eat, how much you do eat, and how much of what you eat you're burning up riding your bike. That's a lot of cool stuff from a free website.
When July finished up I checked on my monthly totals to see how I'd been doing. It felt like I'd been riding quite a bit, but a lot of my rides are short in duration in order to fit into the chinks in my schedule. In the 31 days of July I got in 28 workouts - all but 6 were bike rides, and those 6 were either trail work or gardening. I rode just under 143 miles, and burned about 16,000 extra calories. For me that's pretty good, though I have a co-worker who just rode 150 miles last weekend. For me, that's Riding A Lot.
So out of those 22 bike rides 10 of them were on dirt. Most of those were in the 1-1/2 hour to 2 hour duration (time is more important to me than distance when riding on dirt), so they were definitely good workouts, but not even close to anything epic. The rest of those 22 rides were mostly rides around town that last between a half hour and an hour, with a couple rail trail excursions thrown in for variety. Once again, not extreme by any means but at least I'm keeping active.
And what does all that riding get me. Well, with the heat lately I've been leaving my leg protection at home, so I have a pretty good collection of pedal stings on my shins. Every time they start to heal up I'll slip while trying to ride over a rock and mash the pins on my pedals into my legs again. Nothing like bloody socks at the end of the ride to show that you were giving it your all.
I also have a closer understanding of my hydration needs. You see, I perspire freely. Or to put it another way, I sweat like a lawn sprinkler. So with the temperatures hovering around the mid-90's for much of the summer I've had lots of opportunities to think about hydration. I'll try to drink a goodly amount before starting a ride, often with a little caffeine in the mix, then bring several bottles of water with me on the ride, and finish up with water and sports drinks to bring back up the electrolytes. This sounds like an easy plan and not that much of a chore to do.
But it's not the routine, it's the quantities that get start to drive me up the wall. Last weekend I hosted a Slow Guys Ride at West Branch State Park near my home. The temps were once again in the mid-90's as four of us headed out for a ride. The heat was brutal, and the air was so humid it felt like breathing cotton. We set off trying to set a pace that would let us conserve our energy in the heat. Being slow anyways, and dealing with the heat just dragged out the afternoon so that it was well over two hours before we finished our lap and made it back to the parking lot.
All my clothes were soaked. My shoes were soaked. My PACK was even saturated. I'd been sweating so much that the skin on my fingers was wrinkled as if I'd spent too much time in a bath. I'd had Mountain Dew before, water during, and started on the Gatorade afterwards. On the drive home I felt more than tired, I felt weak and dizzy. I kept on drinking - fruit juice, more water, more electrolytes - and I still felt bottomed out. Once at home I laid on the couch and tried to sleep but my head was spinning. More water, more Gatorade. Finally late that night I topped off my tank and replaced the last of the lost fluids from the ride (How could I tell? Think about it a second.) Relieved, I took a moment and added up the intake from when I started the ride - it came to 168 ounces. Approximately a gallon and a third.
I started thinking - a gallon is pretty good sized. I'm not a really big guy - 5'-7" and about 175 pounds. You'd think it would be difficult to remove that much mass from a body that sized and still get it to work correctly (not that I was feeling "correct" at all). That's about the size of my HEAD for example. I guess that would account for the muscle cramps and dizziness. This is a lesson that I have to learn at least two or three times a year.
The other thing that all that riding does is helps with the technical skills needed to ride over rocks and roots. After spending two years working on riding slowly over technical rocks while standing, finally last month it all came together and I understand what I'm supposed to be doing. I've spent hours and hours riding out of the seat, trying to build the muscles, balance and skills necessary to stand while riding rock gardens. It seemed like I was getting better, but it was just an incremental thing - the big breakthrough eluded me. Then one day last month it just fell together, and I made a step up to another level of tech riding. It was such an unexpected surprise that I was laughing out loud as I hit the rock gardens.
I have to say, it's pretty gratifying to still be able to learn something - ANYTHING - after this many years.