Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hike and Bike

Its always hard to get outside in the winter for some exercise so when Jack asked if I wanted to join on a hike I said why not. We ended up doing a hike around the lake at Mercer County Park. I had been on most of the mountain bike trails over the years so it was a familiar area to walk around. Jack Laura and I started from the boat house and did a clockwise loop around the lake. I haven't done any real hiking in about 5 years and really don't have good hiking shoes or jacket but made do with some work boots and a ski jacket.

I was a long hike of 7.7 miles that took about 3 hours. We had to stop about halfway though to fix Laura's boots because the soles were falling off. Although it was just above freezing I was warm once we started the hike. The hike gave me a chance to see a couple areas of the park that I haven't been before. It was the longest that I hiked in years and I was a little sore by the end but would do more hikes this season if I wasn't able to get out on the bike.

Sunday Laura had a ride on the canal path from Blackwell Mills to the end of the canal by Rutgers. We had been up to the to where the Raritan meets the Millstone a couple of weeks ago so Laura wanted to go all the way to the end. There was some snow left over from a flurry on Saturday so the path had patches of snow on it

It was just Laura, Peter and myself as we worked our way north. The first 6 miles was familiar since I had done it a couple of weeks ago. Because of the cold and snow it wasn't as muddy as last time. The path was in good shape most of the way. There were  a few rough spots around Bound Brook. Once we got to Landing Lane and cross the road the last quarter mile to the actual end of the canal was more a single track than a path. We spent a few minutes taking pictures of the end of the canal before starting back.

It was just over 13 miles from the Blackwell Mills to the end so it took us a while to make our way back. It was a little warmer and the path was a little softer in spots but not much worst than the way out. We stopped for a quick break where the Raritan meets the Millstone. Then road the last 5 miles back.

I still haven't done the part of the canal path from Washington Crossing to Trenton but now have been on almost every part of the canal path.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Year End Stats

Happy New Year!

 Dog I meet on the Union Transportation Trail

I hope you are all enjoying the new year. I am glad we are done with 2016 as it was an overly busy year for me both personally and professionally and I'm looking forward to having a less intense and more relaxing year in 2017.

At the beginning of each year I take a look back at the previous year and review a few things like my investments to see if I should make any changes in my plans for the new year. This year I kept better track of my riding than in previous years. I was inspired by a presentation I saw by the women's US pursuit team on how they used data used from HR sensors, power meters, etc to help them improve their performance. I also got a free HR monitor from work. I wanted something simple to maintain that might be useful in measuring my performance and give me some insight to improve it. I settled on a simple spreadsheet where I record the following information for each ride.

  • Distance Ridden
  • Avg Speed
  • Elevation Gain
  • Avg HR
  • Max HR
  • Temperature 
  • Wind Speed
  • Weather (Sunny, Partly Cloudy, Cloudy)
  • Feeling After Ride (Good, OK, Tired)
  • Ride Type (Group, Solo)
  • Bike Used
I could record this information in 5 mins after a ride by looking at my cycle computer and HR monitor. I either estimated the elevation gain from plotting out the route or by downloading the data from my GPS when I used it on a ride. I used the RideWithGPS site for my measuring the elevation gain. This site is probably 10-15% lower than actual but is a good standard for comparisons.

I spent about an hour looking over the data, writing a few macros and creating charts like the one above to see if I could find any trends in the data. I learned a few things. The chart above shows that my avg speed drops as the elevation per mile increase which is common sense although it really isn't linear. Some 3000 ft rides are easier than others. Some other factors like temperature, wind speed, weather and total miles didn't seem to affect avg speed much. No matter what type of ride I did hilly or flat my avg heart was steady at about 130 bpm. I give blood a few times a year and usually wait 24 hours before I riding. I have never felt bad riding after giving blood but my heart rate even 2-3 days after giving blood was 7-10 beats higher which shows the affects of giving blood last longer than I thought.

The days where I cramped up were usually hilly rides that were hot and humid which is not surprising but means I need to prepare better for hotter rides. For the century I did this year I made a conscious effort to keep my HR 5-10 beats lower by using lower gears and not pushing the pace. That definitely helped but the humid weather slowed me down at the end.

In general as a bike and computer geek I find the data useful and think it will help me improve my ride preparation and help me finish rides a little stronger. It also is a good baseline to help me measure how things change as I age.

I plan to try and automate the collection of data to make it easier to maintain the spreadsheet and analyze the data.  I already started collecting data for 2017 as I did a quick 25 mile ride today and recorded my stats. I will see if insights I gained from the data I collected last year will help me in the new year.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Post Christmas Ride

After being rained out last weekend and this past Saturday it felt good to finally get a ride in. I sent out an email to a few of the regulars to meet at Etra and ride with team social security. It was a cold and cloudy day so I wasn't sure who was going to show up. Laura and Peter met me at my house for the ride over where we met Chris, Joe M, and a few others of team SS.

Joe ended up leading us on a long loop around Allentown. It was a standard ride on local roads that we have done many times before but it just felt good to catch up with people be on the bike again.

Although it can be fun to get together with family and celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Make Up Your Mind Day or whatever holiday you celebrate it can also be very stressful. The wife and I do a lot of driving to visit both sets of relatives for Christmas so we are usually exhausted by the time we get home on Christmas day.

Monday's ride was a good way to destress and work off some of the Christmas cookies. I wanted to try and get 50 miles in so at the end of the ride I split off with Peter, Laura and Chris to added an extra 5 miles. I ended up with 48 miles and got home before the unexpected brief rain storm which was enough. I have the rest of the week off so hope to get a little more riding in if the weather is good enough.        

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Code Blue

The city of Philadelphia declared a code blue on Saturday. That is when the wind chill is below 20 degrees and they open additional shelters to give homeless people the chance to get out of the cold.  This also meant that it was too cold to ride on the road so I went on Laura's ride along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. 

Cold is a relative thing. At the start of the ride we had a surprise visit from Cheryl and who drove up with Dave C. Cheryl came up from Florida to surprise people at the PFW party on Saturday. To people who live below the mason-dixon line anything below 50 is cold. Here in NJ we don't start complaining about the cold until is gets below freezing. I have been following a person I met in Alaska who lives above the arctic circle and took the picture above. He doesn't consider it cold until it is below zero degrees fahrenheit. The picture is of methane bubbles frozen in a lake. The lake freezes from top to bottom and since the top freezes first the methane bubble from decomposition get stuck in the ice. As each layer freezes another set of methane bubbles is trapped. Its a beautiful scene but unless you don't mind a couple of months without the sun and can tolerate 20 to 30 degrees below zero it not a place you want to live. I will enjoy pictures like this from the warmth of my home.

Today's ride was the beginning of the winter riding season. We will try to be on the road when we can but when it gets close to freezing we still find ways to get out for a ride. The Lawrence Hopewell trail is a good choice for cold weather riding. The path is well maintained and a good part of it is in the woods so you get some breaks from the wind. 60% of the trail is paved and the rest is packed gravel so it is an easy surface to ride on with any bike with wide tires.The main problem with the trail is that it isn't really marked very well. If you don't know where you are going it is easy miss a turn and get off the trail. I have done the trail 6 times and got lost 4 of the 6 times.

We started from the parking lot by the corner of Princeton Pike and Provinceline Rd. Laura had a good turnout for a cold day. The first mile is on dirt through the woods before we hit a paved path thorough Lawrenceville and across 206 on our way to Mercer Meadows. This part was open and where we felt the wind as we made it to the high point of the ride that delineates the Delaware and Raritan watersheds.

From there we went around Rosedale Lake on our way towards Pennington. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail isn't completely finished and stops on Wargo Rd. I usually take Bayberry to ETS to pick the trail up again but Peter said they just completed another section of the trail so we headed up Pennington Rd to the new section which goes from Pennington Rd over towards Carter Rd. When the trail ended again we were on Carter Rd which some one suggested we take to Cleveland which we did. From there Laura wanted to go down Provinceline over the a new bridge. This part of Provinceline is closed to cars.

The bridge was pretty and gave us a good view of the river. This however required us to climb a short but steep hill then take a grass trail to get to ETS and back on the trail to our starting point. This was a good detour and it is good to see that they continue to add sections to the trail to complete it. This is an enjoyable ride on a cold day so we will probably do it again sometime this winter.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Check List

I ended up doing Laura's ride to Upper Black Eddy this week and you can read the details about the ride Here and Here. At the beginning of the ride I lent Jim a water bottle because he had forgot his. This got us into a discussion about a check list. For the last 5 years I have used a paper check list to make sure I did not forget all the things I need for a ride. Since I have been using it I have never drove to a ride and not have everything I need. Now as important as having a check list is learning to use it the correct way. What I do is before I leave my house I take out the paper check list and for each item on the list visually check that it is in my car. This insures that everything I need is actually in my car because if you just mentally go through a check list with out actually checking the item is in the car you are going to THINK you have something when you actually don't.

This is a similar methodology to check lists used by pilots Of course forgetting your water bottle for a ride is not as tragic as a plane crashing because the pilot for got to deploy the flaps but there is no reason to not use a simple check list to make sure you always have all your stuff. 

Here is my list. I don't always need everything on this list (e.g. Jacket) but this way I don't need different lists for different times of the year.
    • Shoes
    • Camelback
    • Helmet
    • Sun glasses
    • Gloves
    • Snacks
    • Bagel
    • Water Bottle
    • Paper Towel
    • GPS
    • Maps
    • Jacket
    • Arm Warmers 
    • Shoe Covers
    • Ride sheet
    • Pump up Tire
    • Sunscreen
    • Tail Light

      Sunday, November 27, 2016

      Riding Solo

      It was a very busy 3 day week at work so it was nice to have a long weekend to forget about work and get out for a couple of rides. Unfortunately I had some maintenance work at home and at our place at the beach that needed to be done so I had to squeeze my riding in between those jobs. This meant I missed riding with the normal crew this weekend and had to ride solo.

      On Friday I got out early and decided to do a quick ride on the canal for a change of pace and to give the mountain bike a quick ride to see if it needed any tune ups. Beside a changing a flat tire up front before the ride the mountain bike is in good shape and ready to go as I expect to use it more as the winter gets colder. I drove to Princeton by Carnegie lake and did a quick out and back to Rocky Hill. This is my favorite part of the canal as it well maintained and has good scenery.

      On Saturday I did a one way ride to the beach. It was the standard route to Belmar by way of Farmindale and gave me a chance to ride by the Manasquan reservoir. It was just over 50 degrees and mostly sunny so not a bad day for a ride. I got close to 50 miles in and was at the beach by noon. I then had another couple of hours of physical labor at the condo I was done.

      Afterwords we headed to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for a good dinner and coming home to finally relax after a busy couple of days. 

      Sunday, November 20, 2016

      No Turkeys Here

      Some days mistakes and unexpected circumstances come together to make a good ride. My Turkey ride was suppose to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving but because of an error some where in the process it was scheduled for the Saturday before. I had more people on the ride than expected including some riders who I haven't ridden with in a while. There was 5k race blocking some streets which could make it hard to make through Bordentown. These things make me a little apprehensive about the ride as we started out from the Peter Muschal school on our way to the pinelands along this route. I did perform the holy kickstand ritual before the ride just in case.

      The route I planned took us through Bordentown. There was a flock of vultures on top of a school watching us go by which was another ominous sign but none of the streets we took were blocked by the 5k and traffic was lighter than normal. We continued on down to Axe Factory Rd which has been closed for at least the last 5 years yet is the most passable closed road in NJ. The road itself is freshly paved and the only issue is a barrier across a bridge you can actual ride through if you are careful. I suspect the bridge itself is not safe for cars which is why it is closed and assume the state has no plans to fix it ever.

      After passing through Columbus we made our way to Vincetown along the way there were a couple of strip brakes as the weather warmed from 50 to 60 degrees very quickly. In Vincetown I by passed our first Wawa but stopped at a park for a bathroom break as I knew the Wawa in Browns Mill doesn't let us use their bathroom.

      We maintain a quick pace as we made our way through the pinelands and to our rest stop in Browns Mill. This is not one of the nicer Wawa and is in need of an update but it is in a convenient location. There were some kids out side the Wawa getting donation for their sports facility so we threw a few dollars their way while we were there.

      I took a different way back and went around the south side of the lake to add a few miles. This gave us a better view of the lake as well as took us past some active firing ranges of Fort Dix. The wind had picked up a little and was at our back so we formed a pace line an cracked up to Cookstown at 20mps+. I almost lost the group as they got ahead of me and missed the turn in Cookstown.

      The wind continue to push us back for the last 10 miles and we ended up coming in at a 16.7 pace which on the fast side. The good weather, favorable winds and lack of any problems with the ride make this great ride.