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Sunday, August 28, 2011

New PR

Rode the Bike Psychos Century today with the hopes of finishing sub 6 hours. I rolled into the parking lot after 5:55, average speed 17 mph. Given the beastly hills and the 10-15 mph winds, I was utterly and completely happy with my efforts. I now have a new marker to keep in mind when I ride my next century.

This ride came after a night of very restless sleep. I figured I was going to bonk at some point simply because I was running on so little quality sleep. To help prevent the bonk, I ate and drank often. This time around, I didn't pack the energy gels or bars. Instead, I ate the fruit, the pbj sandwiches, and the other goodies offered at the rest stops. I took the advice of Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka, authors of The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling, and ate real food. I also made sure to drink, drink, drink. Not once did I feel low on energy, and I attribute my feeling good the whole 100 miles to taking these two guys' advice.

The route took us along the Illinois river, so the scenery at times was different than the usual corn fields, soy bean fields, and pastures I'm used to. The roads were shaded more often than not, keeping the air cool and in turn keeping me cool. Because we were following the river, this meant hills, very steep hills. When I saw the first climb, I was regretting my hills ride I did on Thursday. I thought maybe I was going to still feel the after effects of the hills from three days ago, and I did, but not to the extent that I couldn't get to the top in okay fashion. In fact, I kicked some major booty. Let's just say pace lines aren't all that helpful on really steep hills.

During the return portion, I kept eyeing my average speed. At the 72 mile marker, I saw my average speed dip to 16.9. I knew I was going to have to dig deep if I was going to keep the average speed from going down any further, but with the near headwind, I wasn't too sure I could keep this from happening. The rest stop was just a couple of miles in front of me. If I could make it there and fuel up, I might be able to find some reserve energy.

I ate some pasta, a banana, and some crackers at this stop, being sure to down a bottle of water, too. The next eleven miles would tell the tale, and what it told was I maintained the 16.9. I credit being able to keep the speed level to getting on the downs. I usually ride on the hoods, but again, Burke and Pavelka suggest riding on the downs when dealing with a headwind. I figured I had nothing to lose. At this point, my speed was 16.5. As soon as I dropped to the downs, my speed went up to 18.5, sometimes 19. I was stunned. Talk about a total game changer. Feeling pretty happy about things, I made it to the last rest station, ready to fuel up one last time.

As I was walking up to the tables laden with oranges, bananas, crackers, grapes, watermelon, and pbj sandwiches, Hubby called. He had made it through the 50 mile route and was waiting for me at the starting point. This is the longest ride he's completed this season, and he did a great job of going at his own pace, taking breaks when he needed to, and just making the ride his own. He told me the rest of the way in was flat and mostly with the wind. Hallelujah! I believed I could actually get the average speed back up to 17 mph. And I did. At the 100 mile marker, I wanted to throw my arms into the air like the pros do when they cross the finish line, but I'm not a no-hands kind of rider. I most likely would have gone down.

The coolest thing about the ride happened when I went to get my ice cream sandwich from the Schwan's people. A young man getting his own ice cream looked at me and said, "You did an awesome job. Every time we were at a rest stop, you rolled in, and I was just amazed. You rode this whole thing alone. I couldn't do that. Just awesome." I thanked him, telling him I ride alone all the time. He again commented on how great I did. As I was walking away, glowing in his praise, I thought about how I wouldn't know how to ride a pace line, but believe me, there were moments today with the wind that I wish I did.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ride Finds

Went out for a shorter ride today to shake out the legs and to just enjoy the time available. Some fatigue from yesterday's hilly ride, but in general, I felt pretty good. Just ambling along made the ride all the more enjoyable, though all the rides I take are truly enjoyable. Even the hilly ones.

Sometimes when I'm out, I find treasures. Not too long ago, I found a droid cell phone on the shoulder of the road. I slipped it into my jersey pocket, and when I got home I pulled it out to show Hubby. He took it, pushed the on button, and within minutes he had the owner's husband on the line. Seems the phone's owner had laid the phone on the bumper of the truck she was using to haul wood and forgotten to remove it before driving the truck. About an hour after talking to the husband, the wife showed up at our door, ready to pay us for finding her phone and calling to return it. We declined the money, saying we were just happy to help.

Today, I was rolling along, not really thinking about anything in particular when I saw a tripod on the shoulder. The legs were fully extended, so it was an easy item to see. I stopped to check it out. Though it's not an expensive model, the tripod is in good shape, appearing nearly new. I considered just setting it up a little further off the shoulder, thinking the owner may retrace his/her steps to see if he/she could find the tripod, but then I thought what if someone besides the owner sees it and takes it. I really didn't know what to do. I left it next to a gate close to where I found it, hoping it would be gone when I rode back by. It wasn't. I decided to slip it down into my one open water bottle holder and bring it on home. I still may take it back out to the location and set it up just off the shoulder.

Other things I've seen but not picked up are needle-nosed pliers, a small bungee cord, a large bungee cord, a stainless steel fork, and a package of red plastic cups. I've seen an assortment of other things over the months, but I don't have a real good way of carrying things unless they can slip into one of my jersey pockets. I had the thought that I might start picking up the smaller things and using them to create a found-item piece of art. That could be a lot of fun.

Maybe tomorrow during the century ride I'll be able to find a few items to stash in my jersey pockets. These could get me started on the art project. If I don't find anything, that'll be okay, too. Less I have to carry around all day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Long Ride Friday

It's Friday, Friday! Which meant I was able to get a longer ride in. Starting Wednesday, I thought often about rolling out right after my youngest set off for school, and that's exactly what I did. I didn't have a route planned out like I usually do. I just went, and when I reached the point of having to make a decision on which direction to go, I followed whatever popped into my head. What popped at Spin Lake was "hey, take the route you rode for the Miles of Smiles century backwards." So I did. And when I reached Congerville, what popped was "hey, you can ride the part you missed during MOS." So I did. Very quickly I found out what I missed: hills, hills, and more hills. A couple were 10% grades, a couple were 7% grades, and one was even an 11% grade. Towards the end of the ride, I was hearing a noise on and off, coming from the crank. The hills put a lot of pressure on the crank today, so I won't be surprised if some maintenance is needed. 60 miles later (actually around 64 miles--I forgot to start the Garmin after stopping to remove a rather big bug that had flown into one of the open parts of my helmet and was clawing at my scalp), I rolled into the driveway, ravenous, tired, hot, and sweaty. All this adds up to being fully satisfied. Yeah, it's Friday, Friday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Swinging at the Curve Balls

See what happens when life throws curve balls at you? Well, they may not have been all that curvy, but they were enough the last couple of weeks to keep me from blogging. I've thought about blogging. I even opened up a new post at one point. I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and actually write. I guess that would be a strike. The same kind of thing was happening with my writing. I thought about story ideas. I opened up a story on several occasions with the intention of working on it. Three minutes later, after staring at the words on the page, I'd close the document. Strike two. Thankfully, now that the semester has begun, things are starting to fall into place and I don't feel nearly as discombobulated as I had been. I'll give myself a ball there. So the count stands at 2-1.

If the first week is any indication, my classes are going to be fun. I have some sharp students. Each class has its own personality, which changes things up nicely. If they were all the same, I'd be bored silly. The most amazing thing that's happened so far is all the students in one of my Comp I classes have shown up both times we've met. This has never been the case in all the years of my teaching. I truly, truly hope this continues all semester long. Ball two.

Because of the new school year beginning, the cycling is not happening. The time to just clip in and pedal for hours is no longer available. Now I'm having to fit an hour in here, an hour there. This along with my six mile commute helps alleviate the yearning to get out and go, but I still find myself longing for the days of three, four, sometimes five hours in the saddle. On the way to school yesterday, I thought I should just up and quit my job, pack my panniers, and head out West. I entertained the daydream all the way to campus, where I was smacked back to the reality of my life: kids, husband, dog. I truly do need this job. I can, however, dream about next summer and the possibilities for cycling adventures. Ball three. Full count.

On the upside, I have a century ride Sunday. I'm going to give the 124 mile option a shot. Just thinking about it now puts a smile on my face and makes the frustration of the last few weeks fade even more. Base hit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer's End

Last Friday we did our usual first weekend of August trip to Door County, Wisconsin. I loaded up Sweetness, excited to be able to see the beautiful countryside of Door County from a bicycle this year. Friday evening I only had time for a short ride, so I did a HIIT workout on the road that follows the Bay coastline. I managed to cycle 12 miles in 38 minutes, the fastest I've ever done 12 miles before, going 19.l mph. I was quite happy with that. Saturday morning, I tip-toed out the hotel door at 7 am and spent two hours exploring the back roads. At one point, I came around a bend and over a gentle rise to find cows being herded across the road. The man herding them called to me to stop as the cows didn't know what I was and might want to investigate. Not wanting to be attacked by a herd of huge black and white bovine, I stood as still as I could until the herding was finished. Though I only got in the two rides during the three-day stay, they were very good rides.

Yesterday I took Sweetness to the shop for maintenance. The chain began slipping about a week ago and slipped quite a bit on Saturday's ride. So, with the road bike out of commission, I decided it was the perfect time to put fenders on my commuter and get ready for my return to work next week. The plan is to ride everyday, even in wet weather, and to avoid the dirt line up the backside, fenders are a necessity. Putting the fenders on, however, didn't happen without frustration. I read the directions several times, but they were mostly useless. I truly believe they were written by bicycle mechanics to keep the average Jane from working on her own bike. Finally, with Hubby's help, I figured out how the fenders were to be installed. I'm even more determined now to learn how to maintenance my own bikes.

If you haven't picked up the latest Bicycle Times magazine, you should. The current issue is full of really good articles. One in particular is about wearing or not wearing a helmet. I'm torn on this. While I truly believe a helmet can protect a cyclist, I'm not convinced a cyclist riding around town, on paths, at a slow speed, really needs a helmet. I'll definitely keep thinking about this, do some more research, but I do have to agree with the author's suggestion that those who push the helmet issue create an atmosphere of fear where there shouldn't be any.

Only a few more days of summer break remain before I have to report back to work. I do love my job, but I also love having time to cycle and just goofing off with the family. The last two weeks have been full of goofing off--lots of episodes of "Bones" via Netflix (we only have one episode left to watch!), a movie at the theater (the boy wizard movie), Door County, lively conversations at meals, and more euchre. The boys are full tilt into football practices, and my lovely daughter is gearing up to return to China to study the language for the entire school year. While the summer is coming to a close, I'm excited to see what the new school year brings for all of us.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August Already?

My epic walk on Monday left me with a blister on each of my feet, both exactly in the same place near the heel. These aren't just run of the mill blisters; they're ginormous. The one on my right foot is the bigger of the two, and yesterday evening I was in some major pain. I've had blisters before, and none of them ever hurt like the one I have now. The slightest pressure on the skin near the blister was painful as well. I was fearing it was becoming infected. As soon as I got home (we were at football practice with my youngest), I dabbed triple antibiotic ointment on it and took a couple of pain relievers. An hour later, the pain was nearly gone. Today, the pain is there, but it's much less than what I was dealing with last evening. I've not had to take any pain relievers today, so hopefully whatever it was is on the mend.

With it now being August--can you believe it?--the last couple of days I've been mulling over my goals for the summer. At this point, I've nearly completed one of the two goals. The second still has quite a bit required to call it finished. I can't truly say I did what I set out to do over the summer, but the first goal, a collection of short stories, is in good shape. I could call it finished, but I see areas I want to work on, and I have two more ideas taking shape, adding two more stories to the collection. I finished one of the stories while I was staying with my mom, and at this point, the latest story is my favorite of them all. Like the other stories in the collection, the ending leaves it open for the reader to determine what happens, and when Hubby read it after I returned home, he flat out didn't like the ending. I think it bothers his sensibilities. And that's what I want--I want the reader to be bothered.

My second goal is still very much in its infancy, so I'm just going to keep plugging away at it. The moment it's finished, I'll share.

In between all the cycling, work, and family time, I guess I did okay with my goals. I know I let my garden go unattended. It looks withered and completely neglected. I harvested exactly one green pepper, a handful of pole beans, two servings of snap peas, three cucumbers, and several onions. The herbs are doing fine, but the zucchini, the watermelon, and both the bush and pole beans have not done well at all. On top of these veggies dying on the vine (literally, even though I watered and weeded), the tomatoes have brown calluses on them--every single one of them. My lovely daughter commented just the other day about how last year my garden was gorgeous and this year not so much. I agree. I tended it through June then let it go. Next summer the garden will receive much more attention.

Like so many seasons, I've been caught by surprise at how quickly these last two months have gone by, but I can look back and smile over how my days were spent. I've definitely had a lot of fun this summer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Scratching the Walk Itch

With it being the first of August, and since I rode over 140 miles Saturday and Sunday, I decided to welcome the new month with a walk. The last time I had my tennis shoes on was sometime back in May, I think, so lacing them up felt a bit strange. My feet were wondering what the heck as I have been barefoot or wearing flip-flops since spring. I gathered up my Garmin and cell phone, and set off to see just how far the local trail extended to the east.

About a half mile into the walk, I looked at the Garmin. It showed my speed, but nothing else was registering. After a couple of steps I realized I'd not pushed the start button. You'd think that three weeks into using the darn thing I'd remember to do this when I begin a ride or a walk. Hopefully, I'll not forget the next time I go out, but knowing me, I probably will.

I started out later this morning than I usually like to. To be honest, I hadn't decided to walk until after getting up, and I didn't get up until much later than I usually do. Today was supposed to be a rest day or a low-key workout day, but the bug to walk bit me. I had to scratch the itch the bite caused. I figured since I didn't have anything else on the calendar for today, I could find out just how far it was to walk from my house to the end of the trail heading east. I found out it's around 5.8 miles. By the time I was done, the Garmin read 11.05 miles, and adding in the part I missed because of not pushing the start button gives me right around 11.60 miles. Not a bad day's walk.

The trail I took also goes north, south, and west, so I have four more walks to take to see how far each direction will take me. I think these walks will be perfect for the days marked as rest days after long-ride days.