Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘training

Adding Minutes

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Amid all the various birthday events over the weekend, I was able to sneak in three consecutive days of increasing duration bike rides, which will hopefully reduce the discomfort of suddenly riding all day long for a week starting this coming Saturday on the Tour of Minnesota.

Although I rode for more minutes each day, all were woefully short of what would truly help my preparation. I have been exercising my body for multiple short rides, leaving my endurance muscles shortchanged. It was rather noticeable in yesterday’s longest ride for me this spring.

I’m currently a better sprinter than I am a long distance rider.

Last week, I forgot to give a shout out to my sister, Mary, with an anecdote she will appreciate. One year when we were both on the bike trip, we were sailing along at a pretty good clip, side by side on a trail in a relatively small group. After grabbing my water bottle for a swig, I reached down without looking to slide it back into its cage.

However, it wasn’t actually in the cage when I simply let go of it. The bottle hit the pavement immediately in front of Mary’s front wheel and with a thump-thump she rode right over it without missing a beat. There wasn’t time to do anything else, which is probably how she heroically avoided crashing horrendously.

Of course, to all around me, it looked as though I was trying to kill my sister. I understand how my reaching down with the bottle and then just letting go of it must have seemed curiously suspicious.

Well, Mary, I thought of you when I was riding along at good speed on a country road last week and lowered my water bottle to replace it, and then just let go when it wasn’t inside the cage. I blame mental fatigue. Luckily, this time there was no one with me to put at similar risk.

Yesterday I headed out from Edina toward roads in Eden Prairie that I had ridden frequently for years and years. We’ve only been away for five and a half years, but apparently, my memories are not so sharp. I made decisions on the fly as I reached intersections that required a choice, changing my idea of where I was heading multiple times.

At one point, I got turned around and thought I was riding west, when I was actually closing a loop that brought me back toward a point from which I had just come twenty minutes earlier. Oh, well. That gave me a chance to ride directly to our old neighborhood.

I rolled down the street a ways and found someone working in their yard. I paused to chat and learned he had just moved in recently. I asked about some of the neighbors, but he only knew a few, and only by their first names. I was able to genuinely assure him it was a great place to live, based on our twenty-five year experience raising children there.

From there I rode past the EP high school and eventually completed an intentional loop to bring me back to a confident return route to Cyndie’s parents’ house, admittedly far short of enough miles to serve me as well as I’d have liked.

Regardless, my recent riding has me prepared enough that I expect to do just fine next week, no matter what.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

Training Pause

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From the “no good deed goes unpunished” file, my zealous efforts of Friday produced a reward in the form of a strained muscle on the left side of my lower back. It doesn’t take much brilliance to figure out the wielding of a heavy pole saw with an engine on the low end and a spinning chain blade on the top turned out to be too much for my limited strength.

It has forced a pause in my biking and plank exercises that has altered a plan to maximize my conditioning prior to the start of The Tour of Minnesota biking and camping trip in June. Maybe it was fortuitous, because the weather has taken a harsh turn to oppressively HOT!

I am resting my painful muscle in the shade of the house. In a meager effort to be conscientious about the use of energy, I struggled to keep the house comfortable yesterday by managing open windows and closed shades. It was almost successful.

This morning, I have already closed the house up and turned on the AC. If I am going to get anything done outside today, as I slowly try to regain function, being able to return to a comfortable house will be very valuable.

I am home alone for a spell as Cyndie went to the lake place for a couple of days to contribute to the opening work-weekend. Jackie had a trip out-of-town planned before she moved in with us, so I am minding the ranch.

Delilah has been a sweetheart, allowing me to rest without constantly begging for attention. I think maybe she notices how crazy hot it is outside and her fur coat doesn’t like being out in the blazing sunshine on days like this.

Walking does seem to be good therapy for my sore muscle however, so we have made the rounds, staying in the shade of the woods as much as possible. This morning, we were rewarded with deer hoof prints on our trail that revealed the presence of a brand new fawn, based on the teeny-weeny size.

I tried to capture an accurate depiction of how tiny the little prints were, but even that doesn’t do justice to how surprisingly small they really look.

After we looped around on another trail, Delilah almost pulled my arm off when she struggled to chase some deer cutting into the woods by the labyrinth. The only view I could get was of a tail. No babies in sight.

Our next stop was the barn, to feed and clean up after horses. While we were in there, both Delilah and I noticed some shadows moving outside the front door. It was the chickens! They are expanding their territory nicely.

I’m impressed.

I’m also anxiously counting their numbers every time I come upon them. Still twelve.

Here’s hoping baby deer and baby chickens all find a way to achieve a healthy first year, and my strained muscle finds a way to heal fast enough that I can get back to biking, despite the heat.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2018 at 10:40 am

Rode Again

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The momentum is going in the right direction for me. I got on the bike for the second day in a row yesterday. As expected, my butt was not entirely happy with the pressure of the seat, carrying a little tenderness from the day before. But, after a few miles, that faded in with the rest of the aches and pains of resuming a different exercise after a long hiatus.

My legs were noticeably stiff about pushing the pedals so soon after the previous workout.

To keep things interesting, I planned a route in the opposite direction of my Tuesday ride. It did turn out to be very interesting, but my ultimate plan was foiled by an unexpected gravel road —a constant threat to random exploration around these parts.

I was headed north when the pavement ended, so I turned around and backtracked my way south, visible as the single line up to nowhere on the map.

Actually, it was probably a good thing, because my legs would likely have objected had my original plan worked out. The shortened ride turned out to be plenty enough exercise for day two.

Other highlights included a close encounter with a yapping lap dog who completely ignored the fervent screams for obedience which emanated simultaneously from everyone in the family who happened to be out on the lawn at the time.

I was thrilled to find a variety of locations where wild trillium is growing among ferns in the ditches of nearby roads. It bodes well for our plan to establish a carpet of our own in the woods by our house.

There was nary a home that didn’t have someone out mowing grass or planting fields. It is the season of growing and the farmers are all in a hurry to get their crops to join in the explosion of growth that is visible in how high the grass is advancing by the hour.

I also finally located the bison herd that George had told us about on one of the nearby properties. The first clue was the height and robustness of the fence around the pasture. I had to search for the animals, because they were congregated at the far end from the road, right before the elevation dropped and I zoomed away down another hill.

I’m proud to report that I successfully silenced the squeak in my shoes, so it was an all around splendid ride, with nothing but the sounds of nature and tractors to serenade me.

I also got the bike computer back up and running. Based on the data from the app on my phone, I got the settings right on the computer, because results matched very close for speed and mileage.

It’s always nice on a bike when the feedback about speed is accurate. It’s bad enough when the number reveals I’m going so slow the tip-over alarm might go off, but finding out the speed is artificially high or incorrectly low can be very unsettling to otherwise mild-mannered cyclists.

May the road roll past our tires…

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Green Everywhere

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For the first time since last October, we can’t see the chicken coop from the driveway. The green of innumerable leaves has returned in a blink.

Complimenting all the green exploding in every direction was the blue sky. Just the kind of weather that would be perfect for an inaugural bike ride of the season, when a person has failed to take advantage of any previous chances.

That meant I needed to hustle home from work, and focus exclusively on cleaning and re-assembling my bike. That is to say, no more disassembly allowed. Unlike my usual self, I somehow made short work of getting the trusty two-wheeler back into riding shape.

After a break for a quick dinner, I decided to see how it rode. I mentioned out loud that I wouldn’t have my bike computer because the battery was dead, and Cyndie reminded me I could use my phone.

It had been so long since using the “Map My Ride” app, I needed to reset my password to get logged in, but once that was done, I was ready to ride.

I like a quiet bike, and I’m proud to say that my bike didn’t utter a single annoying mechanical peep. The problem with quiet bike though, is anything else making unwelcome noises becomes that much more noticeable.

I’m pretty sure it was my shoes. I have a cleat mounted in my shoes that snaps into my pedals. The longer I rode, the more I became aware of what sounded like a squeaky chair as I muscled my way up hills.

Those cleats will get a serious snugging before my next ride.

I made it home just as the sun was dropping below the horizon. By that hour of the day, the low spots on the road take on a dramatic chill compared to the rest of the air. I paused on top of the first high spot of our driveway and checked the app.

Eight miles in 36 minutes, including several fair-sized hills. Minimal traffic and only a couple of farm tractors to pass. Startled someone’s horse napping in a pasture and got stared at by a lot of cows.

That’ll do just fine for a starter.

Now if I could just do that every day for a month, maybe I would be in reasonable shape at the start of the Tour of Minnesota.

The first day mileage will be 80 miles, so I’d rather not show up under-prepared for that.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

Training Happens

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IMG_4256eThis is what it’s all about. Yesterday we hosted a training session led by Cyndie and Dunia that was the closest thus far to the type of teaching we long ago envisioned happening here. The 3 of us probably experienced as much learning as the people who came to participate in the session. We discovered a few minor details that can be improved upon for subsequent sessions.

Happily, the hot and humid weather we are experiencing did not spoil the activities outside involving the horses. Legacy was a rock star endurance athlete during round pen exercises, doing laps with each participant as if it was a comfortable day and each time was his first. The rest of us slowly became fatigued (and we had the shade of the canopy!), but he showed no signs of having had enough of the work out in the hot sun.

IMG_4268eIt is fascinating to watch how the process works with these lessons. Different people have different things to learn, and the response from the horses changes accordingly.

While Legacy was putting on his command performance in the round pen, we experienced a little sideshow of the other horses mixing it up in the paddock, as the newly emboldened Hunter let the other two mares see his change in attitude.

With ears pinned back, hooves flew during agitated negotiations over changes in the pecking order that previously existed. Later in the day, after guests had all departed, I wandered down to feed the herd and witnessed Legacy step into the fracas, essentially telling them to put a lid on all the bickering.

They don’t question his instructions, but it was cute to see Hunter take up a strategic position on the far side of Dezirea, where he felt safe from reproach, but could still taunt Cayenne that she wasn’t the boss of him.

Kids.

We are going to do it all over again today, with a new group of participants, hopefully in more comfortable weather. It is incredibly energizing to see this phase of the dream coming to life and witness the horses sharing their wisdom. Together, Cyndie and Dunia have put incredible effort toward preparing the horses and making this all happen.

I have a sense that, with all the support we have received recently from the Walkers and the Morales family, we are as ready as we’ll ever be to take this to the next level. Lookout world, Wintervale Ranch and Retreat Center is getting ready to go viral.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2015 at 6:00 am

Behavior Modification

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I’ve been taking it slow and easy the last few days, as I’m feeling twinges in my back that tell me I’m on the verge of an episode. I’m trying not to forget that I shouldn’t bend over, or even, lean forward. That is easy to remember after I am in dire pain, but prior to that, it is something that doesn’t happen naturally for me. I’m always leaning forward, it seems.

DSCN2311eAs a result, Delilah and I have been doing a lot of walking. With her confined to being on a leash, it is something convenient we can do together. I have been walking her in circuits around the perimeter of our property, in both directions, with repetition. Part of me feels like it might help convey the boundary of what is ours. It will help to have her familiar with our property-line if I end up needing to use a shock collar to train her not to cross that border.

I’ve read that training dogs with positive reinforcement works better than negative, but I have a hard time rewarding her for staying with us (how will she know that is what we are rewarding?) in a way that will inform her that it means she shouldn’t stray. It seems so much more immediate to address misbehavior as it happens.

I have taken to doing just that, indoors, the last couple of days. Delilah has moments of frenetic energy over spotting a critter out the window, in which she frantically claws at the window, ignoring any and all admonishment for her to stop. I’ve taken to immediately putting her on a leash and securing her to a spot away from any windows. Training against her negative behaviors. What is the other option? Give her a treat whenever she isn’t clawing the window?

Obviously, I haven’t gotten this dog training thing down yet.

With my repeated trekking of our trails, I kept seeing where branches and trees needed to be cut back. I finally gave in and brought a saw with me yesterday morning. I hooked Delilah’s leash to a tree and started sawing, doing my best to pay attention to my back. She immediately tried to help. If I threw a stick out of the way, she would go get it and bring it back.

She wandered around, through, and under branches to collect as many burrs as she could find, then barked at me when she couldn’t figure out how to get back out again. I did as much clearing as I could with the one little saw I brought with me, and then vowed to return after lunch with more weapons. I needed a shovel to dig root bundles and rocks; a pole saw to get high branches; an ax to chop out roots; and a tree felling wedge to keep my saw from getting pinched.

I spent the second half of the day lumberjacking. Imagine how well that went while trying to be cognizant of my fragile lumbar discs, at the same time I was also trying to convince Delilah I didn’t need the help she was offering.

It just occurred to me, maybe I need to start giving myself treats whenever I don’t do something ill-advised for a guy with degenerating discs. Positive reinforcement behavior modification. Think it would work?

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

Delilah Maturing

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DSCN2058eA shot of Delilah taking a moment to look up when we do a status check on her. We have been giving her chances to roam off-leash while we are working around the property, but we try not to let much time pass between our calls for her to confirm her whereabouts. So far, so good. She seems to have picked up some new insight about our expectations after her recent re-training time back on the leash. I won’t be surprised if this lesson will need to be repeated several times before she ultimately overcomes the urge to take off and explore distant properties, but for the time being, we are enjoying this little period of success.

Our little baby just might be growing up.

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Written by johnwhays

July 18, 2014 at 6:00 am