Once more unto the breach

Now that 2012 — in many ways (but not all) one of the worst years I’ve ever had — has passed completely into the black — I’m thinking a little bit more clearly about what this year might bring.

Powering up an alley during the Powderhorn 24 (photo by XXXX)
Powering up an alley during the Powderhorn 24

But, I’m not one to make resolutions, at least related to some arbitrary day on the calendar. However, I do have some plans for 2013. Some of them are specific events, others are just general directions.

Events

Trans-Iowa V.9. Yep, the grand-daddy of all gravel races and my first big rendezvous of 2013 — in fact, the big rendezvous of the year, racing-wise. Makes me break out in a cold sweat whenever I think about it.

Almanzo 100. After a DNF in 2011 and a DNS in 2012, I’m ready to take on the A and see the finish line — from the long way around this time.

Great Lakes Randonneurs Brevet Series. I’ve wanted to ride these for years, but never had anyone else interested in riding with me. That’s changed and it’s time to give it a shot.

Powderhorn 24. For the third year running, we’ll go to Minneapolis to stay up all night, ride around town, and do odd things at the bonus checkpoints. And drink beer. Tons of fun, no matter how well our team does.

And that’s it for events. I’ve nothing planned for the second six months of 2013, mostly because I’m still leery about making too many plans after last year’s series of illnesses, injuries, and DNSs.

Directions

Rehab my shoulder. After a crash mountain-biking in November 2012, I’ve been struggling with pain, stiffness, and weakness in my right shoulder. I’m in the middle of a course of physical therapy now, and it’s showing some improvement — slowly. Let’s keep it going that way.

Improve core strength. My core is pretty strong without much work, which usually means that I neglect strengthening it further. But I can always tell when I haven’t been paying much attention to core strength, because long hours in the saddle get much more painful as my core and upper body fatigue. My wife has made a five-minute plank her goal for 2013; I’ll try to do the same.

Improve flexibility. Flexibility, on the other hand, I’ve never had much of. What stretching I do usually amounts to a rear-guard delaying action that merely prevents things from getting worse. I need to get better too, especially since I’m recovering from various injuries.

Beat the heat. As some of you know, I had a little bit of a problem with the heat last summer. The day in question wasn’t that hot, but it had been really hot for the month prior. And we ran out of water and food. Took me nearly two months to recover fully. Not wanting to repeat that again, I’ll be riding less in the really hot weather and doing more early morning and night riding. Besides, riding at night in the summer is awesome.

More touring and camping. After a rather long hiatus, I finally got back out for some bike-camping in 2012. It was such a good time that it makes me wonder why I haven’t been doing much of it lately. So I’ll fix that by going on at least a few more S240s and perhaps one or two longer trips.

More ride variety generally. One of the side-effects of riding with the Church this year is that quite a few of my weekend rides fell into the same mold: a road ride of 50-100 miles with a cafe stop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’d like to mix things up a bit: more touring, more destination-oriented cycling, more fat-biking, more dirt-cycling, more early morning rides for coffee, and more messing about town after work.

Ride for time, not speed. The other side-effect of doing most of my weekend rides on the road is that these rides — at least for me — focused a little too much on miles and pace instead of smiles and hours. Ditching the GPS helps with this, to be sure, but it also requires a shift in thinking so that it doesn’t matter how fast I’m riding, but how long I’m out, while making sure that it’s neither too long or too short.

Become a better wheelbuilder. I recently took a wheelbuilding class and have now built one wheel to completion. My lovely wife gave me a Park TS 2.2 for Christmas, so I’m primed for more. I’d like to build at least one wheel a month in 2013, so that I can improve my skills to the point where I can, I don’t know, build two wheels per month. And ride my own wheels with the same confidence that I ride my other handbuilt wheels.

Become a better mechanic. I’m not a bad mechanic, but there are quite a few skills that require some extra polish — mostly those to do with standard, derailleur-shifted drivetrains and with disc brakes.

Catch up in the shop, generally. The project backlog in the basement bike shop is starting to look pretty daunting. Several frames to build up, lots of little maintenance and reconfiguration projects, and a massive amount of cleaning and organizing. In particular, I need to find a better way to hang frames, wheels, and complete bikes so that I’m not tripping over them when I’m moving a bike or myself through what is often a minefield of scattered bits and pieces, large and small.

Take more photos while riding. There have been far too many rides in the last couple of years when I either didn’t take the camera, didn’t take it out of the bag or jersey pocket, or simply didn’t stop to take a photo that I knew that I should have stopped to take. This year, I intend to make it a habit to take the camera on every ride — even commutes — and take several shots per ride, at least some of which should be from a stationary posture.

Ride more with Karen. Now that Karen is more interested in riding, I’ll be riding more with her. Sometimes, she’ll come along on rides with the Church. But sometimes we’ll also just head off by ourselves for some day or overnight touring. Or just a ride to lunch and coffee somewhere that we don’t normally reach in our daily car-free rounds.

And most importantly, just stay healthy and uninjured — because from a health and wellness point of view, 2012 sucked.

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