Earn it

I did another gravel race today. I should be elated – I set a bunch of personal records on power and heart rate.

But I’m not elated. I’m not a very patient person and I think I expected to see results faster. And I know I’m seeing results so … what is it?

I actually felt worse than I look after the ride

In the simplest terms, biking rewards many years of consistent effort. And I’m basically 6 months or 2 months into giving consistent effort.

I’ve learned there are many things in life that can be obtained by brute force. Most business things don’t require many years of output. Instead, businesses are made up of projects that are thought of in 3, 6 or 12 month terms.

I’m pretty good at getting results when brute force works.

But brute force doesn’t make biking easier. You can’t brute force a 44 mile ride. In fact, it’s the opposite. You have to train so that eventually your heart rate stays down and your power output increases.

My bike coach explained it simply: “there are things in biking you have to earn.”

Another example comes from the movie Iron Cowboy (highly recommended). The main character talks about the many years of letting his body transform as he put in the work to be great at triathlons.

I’m drawn to racing bikes because it’s not something I’m good at. I was about to write that I don’t like putting in years of effort to get good at something. But that’s not true. I worked nine years at my company, grinding on it day in and day out, before we sold it.

So I guess I’ll have to earn it.

Celebratory beer post ride

Crushing gravel

I have a future post in me about “why do sports?” But today I just want to say:

I crushed my gravel race yesterday. Major progress was made.

There are a lot of lessons here.

What you eat matters. I made some simple switches to what I eat during a ride and went from barely finishing a race to sprinting to the finish.

I went to bed the night before the race fearful of the weather. It turned out to be perfect — cool and only slightly wet. I was worried about nothing.

Also I will note that I passed three riders the last 10 miles of the race. That felt really really good.

I am 41 years old. It’s nice to know I still can do “it” — whatever that is. I’m locked in on riding and ready to see how far I can push this.

Also if anyone is reading this and needs tips on how to ride 50 miles in the rain at about 55-60 degrees. First don’t wear leggings, they get wet and heavy. I went jersey, vest, and arm warmers. No hat. And I used gloves with no fingers. It was the perfect riding outfit for that type of weather. It didn’t rain much though.

It’s amazing how much planning has to go into a four hour bike ride.

Rain and gravel again

I’m jinxed. Tomorrow is my second gravel race, this time in Smithville, Missouri. For the uninitiated, gravel races are on… unpaved roads. Like gravel, and mud and whatever else.

Going into my last gravel ride, which was my first, I had one wish: don’t rain. So of course the night before it rained. The course was definitely wet but manageable. And it didn’t rain the day of.

This is the weather forecast for my race tomorrow:

Rain rain go away

There’s an 80% chance of rain at race start. Lovely.

I’m still going to do it. I’ve been psyching myself up all week. But man, I generally avoid riding in the rain.


Why do I avoid riding in the rain? Why do humans not like to be rained on? Is it some primordial instinct that makes us want to avoid the rain? That’s a weird thing to me — what is the root cause for wanting to avoid rain? Rain doesn’t burn our skin or really do any other harm. I guess rain theoretically can make you cold which makes you susceptible to sickness.

Logically the rain shouldn’t bother me. I’ll do the race, get wet and then dry off.

I do need to remember to pack a towel and spatula.

My cycling breakthrough

So when you have a break out, a breakthrough, it means you’re changing how you see things. And when you change how you see things, then things change. So when you change how you see things, the things you look at change. So the constant improvement is great to have improvement, but a breakout has to do with, so you could be improving and being a little pawn and it’s good for the little pawn. But to really break out, to really go beyond that, it’s you have to just be — have what courageous initiative is like. It’s nice I can hit singles all day on playing baseball, just get a single — instead of single, but you want to be able to not only hit a single, but hit whatever the heck you want, hit home runs, hit whatever. So I would say the vision of possibility is bigger in one versus the other, where it’s keeping you playing small and it’s comfortable versus being big and having a breakout.

Ferris interviews Mumford

I finished my ride, turned on the car, and this came on. What great timing. I had a cycling breakthrough.

Up until now, it’s been all incremental improvements. But look at this:

I broke my 1.5 hr watts record by 10 watts. Crazy! And I wasn’t even riding hard. I had power in the tank.

The key to this breakthrough wasn’t anything to do with a bike, or pedaling. It was about what I ate.

Here is what I ate and drank during the second ride on the list:

  • 5 Lara bars
  • 3 bottles of water

And here is what I ate on today’s ride:

  • 9 Cliff blocks
  • 3 bottles of water mixed with Intensiv powder

I can’t tell you how much of a difference this nutrition made. Basically I went from 30 g of glycogen to 90 g of glycogen per hour (I need to double check that math).

During the ride, about an hour in, I thought to myself “oh man, I feel so much stronger.” It turns out the extra glycogen made my heart work a lot less:

That is not even close. 138 beats per minute versus 166 beats per minute.

Thanks to my coach Kent for making this change suggestion to me.

Yo Saturday looks rough

Saturday looks rough. I got my workouts for the week. I’m supposed to go over 2000 kilojoules in 2.5-3 hours. No clue if I can do that.

I’ve been riding without power for the last week. I had a bike accident. My bike fell off my car while I was on a highway.


But I got really lucky. The bike was covered by the manufacturer (sort of). They gave me a discount on a new bike frame. So I should have my road bike back in June.

Meanwhile I found a gravel bike online. This was a super lucky find because the whole world seems to be out of bikes. In fact, it is out of bikes:

When COVID-19 hit last spring and the only activity deemed safe involved being outside, the demand for bikes spiked, local bike owners and sales managers say. At the same time, the bike pipeline dried up last year, because of COVID-related shutdowns of bike manufacturers in Asia.

It’s interesting to view the micro and macro events caused by COVID-19.

At the micro level, I think about how I picked up biking in August 2020 because I wasn’t comfortable going to the gym. And then I realized I was tired of cross fit cult stuff. And I loved going far on a bike and having a break from my house.

How many of these micro adjustments will stick? I don’t plan to go back to a gym or cross fit (ever). I plan to buy more bikes. Heck, I’ve bought three bikes in less than a year. I’m doing bike races. I love the experience of bike riding and studying my data and trying to get better.

At the macro level, it seems like our manufacturing and shipping systems were very vulnerable and COVID-19 exposed that. It starts with a supply and demand problem. Supply was at a normal level; but demand ramped way up as everyone wanted a bike. Bike manufacturers could not ramp up supply in response.

On the other side of the pandemic, I expect an influx of “used” bikes. People smarter than me will be thinking about this. If I was an entrepreneur, I’d be creating a bike exchange of sorts. Or a bike Airbnb where you can rent bikes (because people will be traveling more and bikes are a great way to get around).

Whatever. Saturday is going to be a killer ride.

Bike riding

What is it about bike riding that I have fallen in love with?

I suck at it. I love working at things I suck at. These are the results from my first gravel race:

I sucked in my first race

I should add that the results above were from the C class. And I got passed by someone in the D class.

I love the hard work, the grind of getting good at endurance sports. There is no magical formula — you must put in the hours and hours and hours.

My first gravel race was near Wichita, the Rage Against the Chainring series. Going into it, my first bike race ever, I wanted one thing: no rain.

Of course, it rained a lot the night before the race. Parts of the race were a complete mess. Unfortunately I didn’t take any great pics.

Mud ride

But that picture does the trick. That’s a picture of the entrance to the first gravel portion of the ride. Notice the standing water?

But I finished the race. That was the goal going in. Just finish. I collapsed on the back 25 miles of the race, though.

I know I pushed hard, maximum effort. I’ve been riding for about a year and keeping track of watts and heart rate for every ride. Training Peaks is fantastic software for tracking all this data. So I was pleasantly surprised to see I had set personal records during this race.

I’m not sure what to take away from my data. Red is heart rate, yellow is cadence and magenta is watts.


Basically my performance declined across all three measures the entire ride. We had two stops, one to get water at 25 miles and one when Stu violently cramped.

So this is the starting point. I remember during the ride thinking to myself, “if I ever do this again, I am hiring a coach.” After the ride, I decided I enjoyed the ride and I was doing it again. so I hired Kent at Move Up Racing.

The next race is May 15. I’m going to shoot for one a month. My goal is 3:30, which is a lot faster then 3:50. But I anticipate a few things:

  • The conditions will be better
  • I won’t stop for water or for a cramp
  • I’ll have a better idea of what I am doing
  • I’m going to change up my riding fuel based on advice from Kent

I need to get in at least one long, hard ride before May 15. New gravel bike comes this week so I’ll probably try to do a hard gravel or road ride on May 8.