Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Training Statistics!

Steve's blog is full of impressive facts and figures about his training. I'm nowhere near as meticulous, it turns out, but I did note my odometer readings at the beginning of the year.

So far, since January 1, 2010, I've put 1,874 km on my old mountain bike, and since I got my road bike in early May, I've put 586 km on it, for a total of 2460 km. That means I've been doing an average of nearly 500 km per month, which includes rainy old January, sunny February, so-so March, wedding-month April and honeymoon-at-the-start-drowning-in-rain-for-the-rest May.

My longest ride to date was about a week ago, when I did 135 km. Most of the ride was on the table-flat alluvial plains of Richmond and Delta, and I still felt like I was going to die by the end of the ride. The following day I was in no condition to get back on my bike.

We don't have much time to train. We've only got about a week and a half to really ride, because we're planning to avoid long rides for the last week before the ride to Seattle.

I am going to make it to Seattle for sure. I've decided that's the case. I just might not feel that awesome when I get there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Bike!

I haven't been posting much and unfortunately, that's a pretty accurate reflection of my training routine lately. Erin and I went on our honeymoon, which was a nice, long visit to New York City. It was amazing, but there wasn't a lot of training happening there. We did rent bikes there one day, but the other ten days involved no cycling. They involved a lot of walking, and even more drinking beer, going to jazz shows, and eating American food. It's the only nation in the world that thinks that a sandwich with an inch of meat in it is a normal lunch, not a novelty.

On the bright side, I got a new bike! She's so beautiful! I can't wait for you to see her. Unfortunately, I still haven't taken a proper picture of her, but I will.

The story of my new bike goes all the way back to February, when I ordered her. Labour shortages at Chinese frame factories were blamed. Several other things happened. In the end, I waited three months and got her in early May. The whole time I was like a kid waiting for Christmas, except that I kept receiving false information and I always thought that Christmas was somewhere between a week and a month away. You can imagine my agony. And then I get the bike and it rains, and I ride her in the rain, and then I have to go on a stupid honeymoon with my stupid new wife.

But now I'm back! And the sun shone for a few hours yesterday and a few more today and I now know I've met the second true love of my life. It's a shame that Erin had me for so few days before I became a bigamist, but sometimes that just how the cookie crumbles.

How do I describe my new bike? She's magical. Riding her is like riding no bike at all, she's so light and the road friction from her skinny tires is so low.

She's a beautiful road bike, with a steel frame, awesome Shimano STI shifters, derailleurs like swiss watches, and a beautiful, welcoming leather saddle. Riding downhill is like flying two feet above the ground. Riding uphill makes me feel like I've got a rocket tied to my ass. Plus, she's beautiful.

She's really wonderful. She's enough to make God himself jealous.

Part of my new hill climbing ability comes from my clip-in pedals. I've got special shoes that clip into my pedals, so I can pull up on my pedals as well as push down. I've never had these things before. I've got more torque on my pedals than I ever imagined possible.

The trick is, you've got to remember to unclip your feet from your pedals when you stop.

Tracy, the nice lady who built my bike, told me that everyone falls over once when they're getting used to their pedals. I chose to believe her, and yesterday I was nearing the end of my first longish (75km) ride on my bike and I started to wonder if I'd dodged the bullet. I had 140km on my odometer and I hadn't fallen over with my feet clipped to my pedals.

Then I reached an intersection and slowed down to look for cars. I started to go and noticed a car at the last minute and slammed on my breaks, and sure enough, I tipped over and fell on the street.

That's not the worst of it. While I was falling, the horn of my saddle banged into my back and snagged the waist of my cycling tights, breaking the drawstring and pulling them halfway down my ass.

So I hit the street, hard enough to hurt, but not hard enough to damage anything, and I lay there with half of my ass sticking out of my pants and both of my feet still clipped to my pedals. It was pretty embarrassing.

Then two people across the street who'd seen me fall yelled and asked if I was alright. Then it got really embarrassing.

So I yelled back, "yeah, I'm okay. I just have new pedals."

Erin got new pedals for her old bike, too. To make a long story short, halfway through our ride today she told me that she wasn't going to have her one requisite fall. Then exactly 9 blocks away from where I fell, on the very same bike route, Erin was about to cross the street and we saw a car and Erin unclipped her right foot. Unfortunately for her, she fell to the left.

She's got an awesome bruise on her ass now. Nothing else was hurt, except maybe her pride a bit.

So we've both fallen once. I'm now practicing emergency unclipping procedures.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Last weekend, Erin and I got married, which turned out to be great for fundraising. Man, can you make people donate when you ask for it as a wedding present.

Between the stag and the wedding and all the preparations, neither Erin nor I have done much in the way of riding lately, but yesterday I had a nice, long ride. I rode my bike 95 km and I ended up back home with Erin. I guess I still like her.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Steve's Blog

Our good friend, neighbour and teammate Steve Holmes has finally got his own blog online.

It turns out that Steve has a lot more to say about cancer than I do.

You should check out Steve's blog:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Photo of Victory!

I found a photo online of Erin and I riding during the Pacific Populaire.

I must admit, it ain't much. It's blurry, and Erin is mostly obscured. For what it's worth, here it is, republished without the permission of the photographer.

I'm the guy in the red jacket with the awesome white sneakers. Erin is the guy in purple, peeking out from behind the yellow helmet to the right of me.

Still, pretty cool riding in a big pack of bikes like that, right?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Erin and I finished the race! We won!

Of course we didn't beat the other cyclists. We came in 189th place. But we won the race against our not finishing the race.

Our official time was 4 hours, 54 minutes. Before the race, my stated goals were:

1. Finish the race
2. Don't come in last
3. It'd be nice to do it in less than 5 hours

So we were three for three! We won!

I should really stop calling it a race. The Pacific Populaire isn't a race. There's no prize for being first and most people are just out to have a good time. But still, they do keep track of your time, so it's pretty hard not to race.

And even though we were pretty much racing, Erin and I finished in a four-way tie for 189th place in a field of 275 riders who did the 100k ride. We are in no way ashamed of that fact. You should have seen some of the other riders' legs! And their awesome gear!

I'll admit that when it comes to bikes, I am a covetous person. I wanted to steal almost every bike I saw. Including the people who rode the 25km and 50km distances, there were 369 cyclists there at the starting line. There was well over half a million dollars worth of bikes present, and about 90% of them were better than mine.

The ride was super fun, particularly the beginning. It's an amazing feeling to be in a pack of 275 riders clogging a street together. It wasn't long before the pack stretched out and finally dispersed as all the people who looked like they had grapefruits stuffed under their skin of their calves, riding carbon fibre bikes worth more than my truck went whizzing past us and vanished into the distance, never to be seen by us again.

The fastest time this year was 3:07, which is an average speed of 32.7 km/h for 102 consecutive kilometers, in spite of the ferocious headwinds we faced all the way across Richmond. That's plain crazy. By the time we finished, that guy had collected his finisher's pin, gone home, had a shower and a snack, taken a short nap, and read the first two-thirds of the Sunday edition of the Vancouver Sun.

Whatever. Erin and I are proud of ourselves. We were strong. We made it the whole way without bursting into tears once. We established a pace and kept up with the other riders who were going as slow as we were. What else can you ask from us?

And on the other hand, the slowest time was 6 hours 41 minutes -- by the time that guy finished, Erin and I had collected our finisher's pins, devoured half of the oranges the organizers had laid out, gone home, whimpered pathetically while unloading the bikes, devoured an entire loaf of bread, devoured all of the leftover lasagna, drank water until the pressure in our taps had noticeably diminished, moaned pathetically while climbing the stairs, half-heartedly bathed ourselves, and then collapsed on the couch, unable to muster the energy to turn the pages of the books we were pretending to read.

This is a huge step in our training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June, obviously. On that ride, we'll have to do two consecutive days of about 130 km each. Here it is, the beginning of April, and Erin and I are already capable of doing 100 km. What's more, in June nobody will be timing us, so we'll be able to take all day to do the ride if we feel like it.

Our early success can only mean one thing: it's time to get complacent. It's time to rest on our laurels. We're so good at cycling that we can happily dedicate the next two months to sitting on our duffs and eating chips.

Or perhaps not.

For proof that Erin and I finished the race, check out the standings here:

And for photos of what this crazy thing looked like, check out the galleries here:

There is precious little Ben-related content in any of the photos, but on the far right-hand side of the 10th photo on the first gallery, you can make out a partially-obscured Erin in her purple fleece.

Lessons I learned from the Pacific Populaire:
1. Carbo-loading and a couple of days of laziness before a ride really work. I felt great -- better than I can remember ever feeling during a ride, actually.
2. My ass-to-seat interface will continue to be my weakest point, but with the help of padded shorts and obscenity-laden prayers offered to the unhearing, unfeeling universe, I will make it to Seattle.
3. Drafting can be a huge help, particularly if you're riding into a headwind. Drafting behind a large pack of cyclists helps even more than drafting behind one person.
4. Guys with grapefruit-like bulges in their calves and awesome bikes with skinny tires go much faster than dumpling-shaped men with potato-sack-like bulges around their middles, riding converted mountain bikes with wind-catching fenders and 1.5-inch wide tires.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Carbo loading

Erin and I are doing the Pacific Populaire on Sunday, which is a 100 km race that we have no intention of winning.

It turns out the funnest part of cycling is carbo-loading. The weather has been terrible lately, and I haven't even touched my bike in a couple of days. We've basically just been sitting indoors and eating, which my sketchy research of internet resources indicates might not actually be a bad idea. Other people call it overeating, but we call it carbo-loading.

It's odd how the intention to do a sport in the future can turn a fat man into an athlete.

Contrary to all logic and reason, I do believe we will actually finish the race. Erin's neck may be a concern, and there's always the chance of some random new debilitating pain cropping up in me, but we've got the legs and lungs to do it, and with our modest ambition to place in the top 80% of a pack that includes septuagenarians and sufferers of chronic inner ear infections, we have the time to work through it.

(To be clear, I fully expect to be beaten by the majority of the septuagenarians in the pack -- but not all of them.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Still Training

It is not true that the reason I have not been blogging is that I have not been training.

I have actually been training quite a lot. I finished an 80km ride last week, which is my longest so far, and just two days ago, Erin and I did an extremely hilly 65km ride to Belcarra via Port Moody, which is her longest to date.

The reason I've not been blogging is that I foolishly hooked up this blog to Google Analytics out of curiosity, and found that virtually nobody reads this blog. Even more foolishly, I found that discouraging. I have to admit to myself that the reason I write is similar to the reason I talk: not to communicate to others, but to hear the sound of my voice. For me, not being read is no reason not to write.

So enough of that nonsense.

It turns out that training is quite difficult. I've done a fair bit of cycling in the last few years. When the weather is decent, cycling is my main form of transportation around town, and I routinely do rides of 30 km or more for the pleasure of riding 30 km.

I've been finding, though, that riding longer distances, like 50 km, you start running into problems that you never considered before. Working your way up to 30 km, it's almost all about the strength of your heart, legs and lungs. Then you do a 40 km ride and find that your forearms start going numb on that 10 km stretch of unbroken road. You do a 50 km ride and your bike seat, with which you previously thought you had an understanding, is suddenly doing everything it can to inflict pain on your ass. You do a 60 km ride, and the next day you can't move your neck and you need to see a physiotherapist.

This last thing is what happened to Erin yesterday, the day after our ride to Belcarra. She has been ridiculously confident about her ability to ride 100 km in a day, seeing it as being a 30 km ride, but more so. Now she's learning that doing twice 30 km doesn't just make your legs twice as sore; it identifies other weak spots in your body and mistakes in the way your bike has been set up for you, and turns them into fonts of agony.

Until you figure things out.

I bought a new bike seat, returned it, bought another one, added padded cycling shorts, and now I'm more or less confident that my ass will get me to Seattle. Erin is going to go to physiotherapy, learn some neck exercises, and change the set-up on her bike so she sits more upright and has to crane her neck less. We're both going to start doing core muscle exercises, in addition to cycling, to strengthen those muscles that need strengthening before they announce themselves to us when we're in the middle of a ride, 30 km from home.

We'll make it there.

And our fundraising is off to a fine start as well.

Ben: $550
Erin: $300
Tucker: $150
Steve: $0
(Poor Steve!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Warning

A warning to everyone in the Metro Vancouver area: you probably shouldn't swim in the Burrard Inlet.

It's full of my spit.

I can't help it. Every time I bike over the Lion's Gate or the Iron Workers Memorial bridge, I stop at the apex and spit. If it's not too windy, you can see your loogie all the way down, and it's a long way down. After about four seconds, your depth perception goes screwy and you're positive it's about to vanish into the waves, but it keeps going. After five seconds, you realize it's still got a ways to go, but after six, you think it's done for. And then it keeps falling for two more seconds.

And then you spit again and watch it all over again.

Well, maybe you don't, but I sure do. I can't help it. I know boats drive through that inlet and seabirds float on it, and maybe crazy people even do swim in it, and I know it's wrong. I wouldn't want anybody to spit in my shower water, that's for sure, but I go ahead and do it anyway. I spit in that water that's going to get all over people's boats and seagulls.

I feel like hell about it.

And I want you to all know about it, because I'd hate for anyone I know to swim in my spit: don't swim in the Burrard Inlet.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Biking Burnaby

I've gone for a couple of rides in Burnaby this week. I get bored with biking around Vancouver all the time and I like to go for tours of the region, and Burnaby is in between me and much of the region, so I've biked through Burnaby quite a lot.

The City of Burnaby did two nice things at the same time. First, they spent a lot of money on street signs for bike routes, and second, they hired a mentally challenged person to plan the bike routes and decide where the signs go.

I bet they got a really nice tax credit from the feds for hiring their mentally challenged bike route planner, but actually biking the routes gives you an unsettling look inside the mind of someone who sees the world very differently than I do.

Bike routes in Burnaby frequently have reassuring signs that tell you to continue going straight down a perfectly straight road, but then they often have no sign at all when the bike route takes a 90 degree turn off the street and onto a narrow pathway. Sometimes your pleasant ride down a sleepy back street will change suddenly into a harrowing nightmare of "sharing the road", when you get dumped onto a major traffic artery.

But it's okay. The City of Burnaby and their special cycle route planner have made provisions for the safety of cyclists on these busier roads. First, they put signs up, like the one below, alerting drivers that they are presently "sharing the road", which, as you can see in the photo below, is the number one preoccupation of everyone driving down this arterial-connector-cum-cycle-route.

And then they intermittently paint pictures of bicycles on the road. These paintings are intended to scare drivers when they see them in their rearview mirrors by fooling them into believing they've driven over a white ten-speed. After their heart-pounding escape from their imagined hit-and-run, it is hoped that these drivers will resolve in the future to be more alert to the presence of cyclists.

My favourite Burnaby bike route moment came earlier this week when I followed the sea-to-river bikeway, which I assumed went from the Burrard Inlet (the sea) to the Fraser River. I discovered that the bikeway actually comes to an end about two kilometres from the river, when it steers you into a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a steep hill. Burnaby's bike map will assure you that the route continues through the cul-de-sac and out onto Marine Drive, but I can attest that no such thing is possible. My conclusion is that some important person at the City of Burnaby lives in that cul-de-sac, and wanted a convenient route for cycling into town.

The jewel in Burnaby's mentally-challenged bike route crown is the much-ballyhooed central valley greenway, which opened last summer. Translink, our regional transportation agency, spent $30 million on this pathway, which links New Westminster to Vancouver. Translink spent (in my estimation) the first $29 million or so of that money on this beautiful bike and pedestrian bridge in Burnaby:

Unfortunately, this bridge left them with very little money to complete the route, so they had to cobble it together out of existing pathways, linked together by confusing signage and the planners' imagination. The route, which is touted as a walking, biking and rollerblading path, frequently changes from asphalt to gravel to dirt to a sidewalk beside a busy road. It also prominently features confusing junctions with signs pointing out landmarks in three different directions, but not indicating which of the three directions the path continues in.

Biking in Burnaby: it's exercise for your legs, and your brain!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The team grows, again!

Now this is getting ridiculous.

New team member Steve and I went for a practice ride, and my lovely wife-to-be Erin came along for a spin. About 5 km into the ride, Erin had a flash of inspiration, and announced that she, too, would be riding with us to Seattle. So now there are four.

Steve looks like he'll be a solid addition to the team. On his first ride in many months, he kept up with us with ease and he finished the 25 km without his face turning any shades of red or purple. Plus, he's got a sweet 25 year-old custom made road bike with Italian componentry, which will definitely give our team a much-needed touch of class.

I'm not renaming the blog, incidentally. "Tucker and Ben and Steve and Erin Conquer Cancer" is just a ridiculous name.

Speaking of names, now that there are four of us, we'll definitely need a team name. I've been trying to think of a name, but I can't come up with anything that doesn't involve meat. (Wheels of Ham? Beef on the go? The Bottom Round Gang? Pastrami for a Cure?) I must be hungry.

If any of you, our dedicated readers (all two of you) have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them. As for me, I'm going to go have a sandwich and see what I can come up with. Most likely, it'll be something nap-related. (Snooze Cruisers?)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Team Grows!

Tucker and I have only been a team for three days and we've already got a new teammate!

My friend and neighbour Steve Holmes has announced (though not nearly so publicly as this) that he is going to join us on our ride to Seattle. This is exciting news; it means that we have someone who can carry my feet after I pass out and Tucker has to drag me off the road. That'll save me from having to shake the gravel out of my shoes when I come to.

I put up a link to Tucker's donation page today, and we'll get a link to Steve's up as soon as we can. Also, for the ladies, I'll see if I can get a photo of Steve in biking shorts.

Until then, you'll have to satisfy yourself with a photo of me in my less-than-sexy winter biking gear out at Spanish Banks yesterday, along with a couple of photos of my beautiful city on a beautiful winter day. You can click on the photos to get a much higher resolution version of them.

(In case you're wondering, the ride to Spanish Banks was a hilly 33km. I was starving when I was finished. Fortunately, the ride to Seattle will be fully catered.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting Started

Today, in the middle of January, I rode my bike 30 kilometers, across the Lion's Gate bridge, down the north shore and back across the Iron Workers Memorial bridge.

But why, Ben? That sounds hard, and you like things that are easy!

I'm glad you asked. Why, it's because this June my friend Tucker and I are riding our bikes to Seattle in order to conquer cancer. It's called the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and we're each trying to collect a minimum of $2500 in donations so they'll let us ride along with them.

To be honest, I don't actually believe that this or any other bike ride will ever conquer cancer. It's entirely possible that cancer will never be conquered. If we ever find a cure, I'm sure that the cure itself will be found to cause cancer. You know: all human endeavour is futility, yada yada &c.

The real point is, we'd look like a bunch of chumps if we just rolled over and all died of cancer without even trying to conquer it, so I'm getting on my bike and doing my part. Besides, It's going to be wicked fun. My neighbour David Pfeiffer did this ride last year on a borrowed racing bike that must have weighed about 10 pounds, and it sounded like he had a great time.

Tucker's mom died of cancer, which isn't something you'll ever hear him bring up in a conversation, so it's up to me to tell you. My family aren't really the cancer type; we're more heart attack and stroke people, but my parents seem to lose a friend to cancer every couple of years, so yeah, what the hell, let's go and conquer some cancer.

This blog has two purposes. First of all, I need encouragement. I do like to ride my bike, but I also really like to drink beer, and consequently, I'm a good 30 or 40 pounds overweight. It's going to be a hell of a lot of work to drag my fat ass to Seattle. I'm going to need to train, I'm going to need to lose weight, and I'm going to need to somehow do it without completely giving up beer, because as I'm often heard saying, I'm never going to quit drinking beer; beer is why I do everything else.

The second purpose of this blog is fundraising. We need $2500 in donations each to even join the ride, and anything extra will just make us look like superstars in front of all of the other cancer riders. All of the donations go to the BC Cancer Society and are fully tax deductible.

As an added bonus, Tucker's employer, Encana, will match all donations to his ride up to $25,000. So once I get my $2500, everything is going to him.

I’ve just discovered that this policy only applies to pledges made by Encana employees. Sorry for any misdirected excitement I’ve caused. —BC.

I've just I don't expect the donations to start rolling in yet; it's only January. But this is fair warning: when spring rolls around, I'm going to start passing the hat. If you don't want to give, you'd better just avoid me altogether.