Friday, Jul. 22, 2005
Dear Diary

I've never been particularly interested in bike racing or the Tour de France but this being Lance Armstrong's swan song and all, I decided one night about a week ago that I'd drop in to the OLN evening summary of the day's events.

I expected it to be a yawn fest because obviously a bike race is just a bunch of people on bikes pedalling their guts out for an insane amount of time. I figured I'd grab a few stats and then channel surf my happy way along to Veronica Mars.

Well, it turns out it's not that at all. There is cunning. There is planning. There is courage. There is luck. There is heart stopping dare deviltry and athletic feats that make me want to weep. The commentators really know their stuff and they turn what I thought would be a snoozapalooza into gripping tee vee.

Hello, my name is Marn, and I am hooked on the Tour de France.

Wait. It gets even more embarrassing.

It's been unspeakably hot here for the last few weeks and with all the rain we've had we've been breeding insects large enough to carry away a cat. The extreme heat, humidity and mobs of voracious insects have ended me being dragged around by walking my mom-in-law's dog. Driven indoors, for my cross-training I'm back on my exercise bike.

To the great hilarity of the spousal unit, I drag my exercise bike into the living room and pedal along with the Tour de France.

Feel free to point and snicker.

When the riders get into sprints I get so wrapped up in it I find myself sprinting too. I know. The word "pitiful" doesn't begin to cover this, eh?

Look, I realize that these guys are at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to human endurance and fitness. I know that. But it's kind of hard to figure out what that means exactly until you play around some of the stats the commentators toss out about heart rates and watts.

Last night the riders were going up and down mildly hilly terrain at about 30 mph and one of the commentators said the riders were using about 330 to 350 watts of energy and their heart rates were under 140 bpm. One of them remarked that Lance Armstrong is capable of 1,100 watts of energy if he really wants to pour it on.

So of course, because my appetite for humiliation knows absolutely no bounds, I had to measure myself against Joe Average Tour de France Rider.

I have inferred that when they're in the peloton—that clot of riders that forms so they can shelter in each others' draft--they putt putt along at 30 mph. They often go faster, but 30 seems to be the putt putt speed. So the first order of the day was to get my exercise bike up to 30 mph.

I'm not capable of pedalling fast enough to get my exercise bike up to 30 mph. Oh, don't think I didn't try because I did. Oh, but I tried. Even worse, when I went as fast as I could to get as close to that speed as I can, my heart rate rocketed up into the 180's, which means I'm red lining my engine.

So the average Tour de France bike rider when he's cruising can ride for five or six hours at a speed I can't even achieve, and not exert his heart above what I do when I jog for a mile, which takes me about 10 minutes.

But here's the kicker: if I run for more than 10 minutes, then my heart rate will slowly but surely climb out of the 140's.

Fine.

The only machine at my gym that measures watts is the elliptical trainer. Today I toyed with the notion of seeing just what kind of effort it would take for me to produce 330 watts, but decided that having a stroke in a foreign country might not be one of my better ideas, so I didn't try.

Tonight will be Tour de France time trials. I have no idea what a time trial is because I've never seen one. Hopefully there's not too much sprinting involved because I'm still trying to recover from the sprints from last night's ride.

I know. The words "rich inner life" don't begin to cover it, do they?

--Marn

Mileage on the Marnometer: 750.97 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duckhalf way smooch Half way there. Oh, man, please let this be over

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers


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