The secret to going fast

I love sleep.

And it’s a good thing because I also aspire to speed on the bike.

According to Bicycling magazine, sleep is key to speed.

Here’s the tl;dr version:

“Extending sleep time can improve endurance performance, according to the first study of its kind published in
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The study found that cyclists who extended their sleep time by 90 minutes for three days improved cycling endurance performance by 3 percent in a 60-minute time trial.

The researchers recommend sleeping more than 8 hours a night to optimize endurance performance.”

It’s low hanging fruit when it comes to performance. There’s nothing magic about it. Just go to bed early and log more than eight hours of zzzz’s.

One of the challenges of training as one ages is recovery. You need more time to recover between workouts. Too much exercise just wears your body down without time to rebuild and make gains in speed and strength. The answer: rest days, yes, but also sleep.

Being well rested helps when it comes to keeping up with the youngsters. I’ve done lots of multi stage riding where at the end of day one, after dinner, the young people have drinks and stay up late. The over 40 set head to bed. The younger riders might have been faster on Day 1. Come day 2 we’re more evenly matched. That’s been true on charity rides, bike tours, and spring bike camp.

The one downside? Time. If you’re like me you’re working out lots while trying to do all the usual stuff: buy groceries, watch the occasional show, read the occasional book, walk the dog, attend family events, see friends, etc. You’re tempted to cut corners when it comes to sleep. Just don’t.

My particular challenge this summer, since I’m getting to with my son for his early starting summer job at 5:30 am, is going to bed early enough. I don’t always manage and there’s been some napping going on to catch up on sleep. It’s hard to go to bed while it’s still light!

High performance athletes sleep a lot, many logging more than nine hours a night.

How about you? What’s your sleep schedule? Do you get more than 8 hours a night?


Do drivers pass closer to men or to women?

This story is in the news right now Bicycles, Gender, and Risk: Driver Behaviors When Passing Cyclists.

From the story, “Recent research here at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs shows that women have real reason to be concerned. In a field experiment, we found that drivers were significantly more likely to encroach—i.e. to pass closer than three feet—on a female cyclists than on male cyclists. Our study illustrate the scope and pervasiveness of the gender gap in cycling, confirms female cyclists’ concerns about safety on the road, and underscore the need for greater investment in safer facilities like protected bike lanes. “

That’s interesting and the authors speculate it might be part of the story about why fewer women ride bikes.

But’s also interesting because it contradicts other research on the same issue.

See our blog post from six years ago, Women cyclists, implicit bias, and helmet pigtails.

From that blog post, “Want to get more room on the road while riding your bike? Here’s one way. Have drivers judge that you’re female. Study after study shows that drivers give more room when passing female cyclists. They also give more room to riders without helmets but that’s another issue. The original study was done in England by Ian Walker.

“Research suggests drivers tend to believe helmeted cyclists are more serious and less likely to make unexpected moves … the helmet effect seen here is likely a behavioural manifestation of this belief. The gender effect could be the result of female cyclists being rarer than male cyclists in the UK, or it may again be related to drivers’ perceptions of rider experience and predictability.”

You can read about it here: results have since been duplicated in the United States. The US study found that on average drivers passed cyclists more closely when cyclists were dressed in “bicycle attire” and if the cyclist was male. The study was unable to determine the reasons on this passing behavior and the authors of the study speculated that, “it [was] possible that motorists perceived less risk passing riders who were in [a] bicycle outfit.”  You can read about this study here:

I’m going to dig a bit deeper and get back to you!

Blue sneaker, grey pants, a red dutch bike with white tires and fenders. Photo by Maxi Corrado on Unsplash .

aging · Dancing · fitness

Regrets, Sam’s had a few

This morning, on Facebook, one friend said that the most disturbing aspect of growing older is the closing down of possibilities conjoined with the pressure of time. Ouch. But they’re right.

And the other posted this.

Cheerful, but I think wrong. Sometimes you are too old and it is too late.

I guess I’m trying to be realistic when I say that there are things for which it’s definitely too late, I’ve blogged before about my commitment to stop saying, it’s never too late. I won’t give birth to more children, for example. I’m not sad about that but it’s obviously true

I’m thinking about limits and aging this week as yet another friend is being forced to give up soccer and running because of knee problems. It’s so hard. I still miss soccer and running and Aikido.

So all of this got me thinking what can I do now that I might not be able to do later? What opportunities should I seize because possible now and might not be later?

I’ve written about my regret that I didn’t play team sports until late in life. As it turns out by the time I started there weren’t many years left. See my older post on team sports and childhood regrets. What else might be like that? What should I start now?

Regret is one thing we might think about when making decisions. Yes, we want to maximize our future happiness. We might also think about minimizing future regret.

What all I regret if I don’t do it now?

I started thinking about this as two other bloggers here posted about dancing. Christine is doing a 100 days dancing challenge. Catherine recalls her dancing days and her ongoing status as a dancing queen, even if it’s in her kitchen.

I’d love to be able to dance. My current dancing style has been described as “sexy Muppet.” I’ve got some work to do.

Maybe this is me! Maybe I don’t have actual learning to do. I just need to find more opportunities to dance.

#deanslife · cycling · fitness · monthly check in · weight lifting

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the June/July version (CW: discussion of weight loss)

What’s up?

I’m riding lots. Newfoundland was challenging and beautiful. I’ve got a summer of biking and boating activity planned. I feel like a cyclist again and I’m going to write about what that feeling is and why it matters to me in another post, later. I’ve been strength training lots and I’m feeling strong. It’s also summer. The sun is out. I started a new blog, #deaning.

Sarah and I have been learning to race the Snipe.

What’s not to like?

See below!

What’s down?

I saw the knee surgery guys at Fowler Kennedy last month and was told that I shouldn’t have any more synvisc shots since I’m on the countdown to surgery.

They didn’t have positive things to say about physio or physical activity either. Long term neither will fix my knee. Now that I’m on track for surgery they want me to focus on weight loss which is the single most important thing I can do to aid surgery and recovery.

And the thing is this is a team I trust. They refer me to studies. They treat my larger body respectfully. They’re giving the same advice to the aging male athletes there. There’s no judgement and no body shaming. It’s all very neutral and evidence based.

But still it feels shitty. I’ve worked super hard to love my body at this size. I do. I cheer on Fuck fat loss! but now, having thrown those looks-related reasons for dieting away, I’m dieting anyway?

These are lots of reasons for wanting a smaller body that aren’t my reasons.

I’m trying to be clear in my own mind about my motivation but in this fatphobic world that’s hard.

I’ve lost some weight but I need to lose more

I’m rereading Ann Cahill’s work on weight loss. I really like the compassion she retains for her larger body.

“I don’t look back at photos of myself from a year ago and shudder. That was a different body that I lived, with its own set of possibilities, practices, and abilities. And there are certainly cultural contexts where that body would be more useful and conducive to my survival than the one I’m living now. Come the apocalypse, those extra pounds would come in handy.”

It’s important for me to keep the positive attitude about larger bodied me because weight loss might not work. It’s not any easier when it’s for health reasons. Your body doesn’t care about your motives. So in my bag of weight loss tools I can’t have dislike of the way I look now. It’s more that a larger body isn’t such a good match for my injured joints. The best motivaton is that even now, just a few pounds smaller, it hurts less.

What am I doing? Nothing dramatic. I’m trying to maintain a calorie deficit through exercise and tracking food. I’m eating lots of vegetables and protein, the usual thing.

Luckily there’s good food on campus. Lunch today is kale and beet salad, lentils, assorted veggies and hummus, and sunflower seeds.

Speaking of joints, my knee hurts a lot and I’m getting grumpy about the things I can’t do. Yes, I said goodbye to soccer and to running, but staying back at the tent when everyone else was off hiking on our activity day at Gros Morne was really hard. Sitting around and reading a book while others are hiking isn’t me, I think. But also, I think being grumpy isn’t me either. I’m a pretty resilient, ‘happy even in the face of sad, hard things’ person but the pain and lack of mobility is getting to me.

I’m jealous of friends posting step counts and runs and CrossFit classes on social media. For the first time I get why people who can’t do those things might find it tiresome. Grump. It’s so not me. Usually I’m the friend who loves it when you post your travel photos. I have friends who do iron distance triathlons and long long ultra runs. Usually I think it’s great that my friends get to do such fun things. This has clearly taken me off my usual path, my usual way of being in the world.

Oh, also on the “what’s down” front, I broke my bike frame. It’s not repairable. Compared to my knee that seems like small potatoes. I’ve got a second string road bike and maybe a third so I’m shopping, without pressure, for another bike.

Sad face. Broken frame. It’s not just the derailleur hanger sadly.

On the bad side, it happened on our bike trip. On the good side, it happened on day 6. That day was 130 km so Sarah and I split the day and we each rode half the distance on her bike.  We spent the rest of the day in the van. The next day was out and back to L’ Anse aux Meadows. I took the morning ride out there (Yay! Tailwinds!) Sarah got to sleep in but didn’t have as much fun riding back.

It’s such a beautiful place. I’m already scheming to go back. Next time maybe with my mother and a rental car. 

Puffins guarding my latte at the Dark Tickle cafe and gift shop.
boats · competition · fitness · racing · sailing

Serious sailing, serious fun: Sam and Sarah race the GCBC Commodore’s Cup

Sarah and I raced our first weekend race today on the Snipe. We’ve done a couple of evenings of short course races at the club but this was our first longer event.

“Serious sailing, serious fun” is the motto of the Snipe class. The Snipe is described as a tactical, racing dinghy. It’s 15.5 feet and it’s raced by two people. Today Sarah was skipper and I was crew.

The good news? We had fun and no one drowned. We finished the course and didn’t crash into any other boats. Our peak speed was 7 knots. We had a good amount of wind. Also, thanks to us an 8 year old racing a laser is very happy he wasn’t last! We’re a pretty good team and we’re getting better at communicating on the boat.

Also it’s a great community. People were very happy to have us out there and recognize that we’re beginners and have lots to learn. We’ve been attending Thursday night race training where an experienced sailor follows us in a motorboat offering tips and advice. Thanks Harri!

The bad news? We lost Sarah’s hat overboard, attempted to rescue it but didn’t succeed. The line for our pole which allows us to fly the jib like a spinnaker came undone and we had to do some fixing underway. We were very much dead last.

But we’re learning lots.

Our experience reminded me of a conversation I had on our Newfoundland trip about the advantages of racing, both bikes and boats. I like riding in a community of cyclists where everyone races because there are skills you only only acquire in that context. It’s true for boats and sailing too. Everyone learns to race as part of learning to sail.

Our day ended with a moving ceremony to remember Mark Parkinson, former Commodore for Life of Guelph Community Boating Club. His grandchildren were there to raise the colours and a bench overlooking the race course has been named after him. We also awarded the Commodore’s Cup to the winning boat. At GCBC it’s filled with jujubes not beer or champagne. Congrats Julian!

Oh, and a friend asked recently about sailing as a fitness activity. I guess it depends. There’s always work getting the boat in and out of the water, even on a trailer. It weighs 380 lbs. There’s moving about the boat as we tack and jibe across the lake. Today we did lots of hiking, getting our body weight out over the edge of the boat to keep the boat flat. That’s a pretty good ab workout.

charity · cycling · fitness

Bike Rally, Year 6 for Sam

This year, 2019, is the 6th year of the bike rally for me. The Friends for Life Bike Rally is an annual fundraising ride from Toronto to Montreal to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

Sarah and I (and David too) are doing the 1 day ride, the first day of the rally. You can sponsor me here. Please sponsor Sarah here.

What’s the 1 day ride like? “This amazing 1-day experience will give you a taste of what the Bike Rally is all about. You will be fully supported with crew cheering you on, keeping you fueled, and making sure you arrive in Port Hope to celebrate an incredible day.

Departing from the heart of Downtown Toronto, your journey will take you out of the urban sprawl and into the beautiful countryside. You will arrive in Port Hope at the beautiful Haskill cliff-top property overlooking Lake Ontario. Following a celebration and dinner, we bring you and your bike back to Toronto with plenty of time to rest for the week ahead.” You can register here.

I wanted to do the full, 6 day thing, but this is the last year of the Triadventure and they overlap so I can’t do both.

(In 2019 I’m doing the full thing, knee surgery permitting. I miss it! I love the ride, yes. But it’s the community I really miss.)

In 2018, year 5, it was my first summer as Dean and I was nervous about my new big job. I didn’t get that much riding in in 2018 but we made it. See Sam and Sarah’s first metric century of the summer on the 1 day version of the Friends for Life Bike Rally: We made it to Port Hope!

In 2017, Year 4, it was David and me, back to the original crew, see Thoughts on the bike rally year 4: This is a thing my body and heart can do, #f4lbr

We were joined by Sarah, Joh, Judy, and Catherine who did the one day version of the ride.

2016 was Year 3, my biggest bike rally year Susan and I were team leads! Our team was called Switching Gears and included many of the bloggers, and David and Sarah, and some other lovely people.

2015 was Year 2, me and Susan, see our posts Riding the Friends for Life Bike Rally at a friendly pace and Of Course You Can. . .PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally and Expanding Community.

2014 was Year 1. It all began with David and me. See How was it? Could I do it? Reflections on the bike rally.

fitness · Guest Post

Pedaling for Parkinson’s (Guest Post)

By Susan Fullerton

Last weekend I participated in the Pedaling for Parkinson’s event in Prince Edward County, with one of my best friends, Susan Murdoch. We were members of a team called the “Rigid Riders”, made up of people with Parkinson’s and their supporters. I’d never been to PEC before and loved the early morning ride (38 km) through the countryside. It was the first time on my bike this year, so I was glad that all went well. But two things stand out for me about this event.

First, I raised over $3500 in less than a month. I was, and am still, overwhelmed at the immediacy and generosity of those who donated, especially since I exceeded my original goal ($500) on the first day. I know that my circle is for the most part financially privileged, but as the donations rolled in from friends near and far, I felt enwrapped in love and support.

Secondly, the spirit of our team and the entire group! I know that there is evidence that biking is good for PD, but what these studies don’t capture is the impact of camaraderie; the joy at seeing someone finish the ride who, before signing up and training with the team, had never ridden more than a few km before; the interesting chats with strangers biking beside you; and the strong sense of potential that, maybe just maybe, some of the funds raised will help a researcher find a cure.

Someone recently asked me what PD feels like. It’s very difficult for me to explain. Of course, on bad days, there’s the obvious – uncontrolled twitching and difficulty handwriting – but even on good days, when I’m mostly asymptomatic, I struggle with making my body do what it used to do automatically. I’m one of the lucky ones though. My community is strong and supportive. Since my diagnosis, I appreciate my personal relationships more than ever and value the caring I feel in return.

As I write this, I am gearing up for another ‘biker chick’ adventure as four of us including Murdoch travel to Scandinavia for sightseeing and a week of biking in Denmark. I do so knowing that biking is good for my Parkinson’s, but so too is spending time with thoughtful, caring women who make me laugh.

To read more about the P4P event, see

Susan Fullerton, a lawyer working for the government, lives in Toronto. She is an avid traveller who has had varying levels of fitness throughout her life. These days, she’s focused on being a reformed hoarder, trying to make better choices about how she spends her time and money.