Health

I had my annual check up recently. It’s always nice to see your health benchmarks and track progress (or lack thereof) over the years. I’ve been particularly interested since my cholesterol came back borderline several years ago. Since then I have worked hard to improve my nutrition and fitness through small, manageable means: more fresh, less pre-packaged; more veggies and fruits, less meat and grains.

Although bread will be my undoing. Seriously. There’s nothing like a loaf of challah fresh from the oven.

homemade challah french toast is wicked good.

Keep in mind, it’s not about omitting things! It’s about moderation, staying active, and finding little changes so they stick. I have a newspaper article from 2004 clipped and posted on my fridge: Simple Steps to Better Fitness. It includes such gems as “walk” and “drink grape juice” and “No TV with dinner.” For a while at work we got a group of us to do what we called Walk Up Wednesdays – every Wednesday we’d walk from our office on the 30th floor to the cafeteria on the 43rd floor to get lunch. It took 5 minutes to go up 13 floors – about the time it would take to wait for the elevator and then actually get to the cafeteria with “local stops.”

This year I had my lowest overall cholesterol score since I started tracking. My HDLs are up and my vLDLs and LDLs are low. I felt so great knowing the little changes have been adding up to one healthy mama. My main fitness go-tos are yoga, dancing, and of course cycling.

 

ANYWAY … I’ve been off my bike again for a week – how does this happen? oh yeah, I have a life outside of my bike – including sleeping through my scheduled BikeMS training ride last weekend. Oops. I’m still 12 days out from my first century so I can’t totally slack off now!

So I’m going to commute by bike for the next three days. 30-ish miles round trip each day – that will put me at 90-something miles for the week. I’m hoping to get out sometime during the weekend to get to 100 miles but we’ll see. This weekend is also slated to involve ripping out the carpet in my daughter’s room (beautiful hardwoods underneath!), getting the attic bathroom sink working again, and maybe spending some time playing Dance Central 2 on my XBox Kinect.

My friends James and Rachel sent me some pics from when I was riding out in Colorado – here’s one that shows off my AWESOME jersey tan.

welcome to the (jersey tan lined) gun show!


Til next time, see you on the road!

 

 

Milestones

Yesterday I rode out with my fellow Sturdy Girls to get lunch at a farmer’s market in Doylestown. The weather was overcast and a touch on the chilly side, a sharp but somewhat refreshing reminder that summer is waning. The ride was about 52 miles and predominately flat, save a really nice, steep hill on Alms House Road and the rollers I decided would be a fine idea to ride on the final 3 miles home.

Strong, sturdy girls (that’s me, third from the left)

A couple milestones occurred on this ride:

1. The realization that 50miles used to be something to train for. Now it’s just a jaunt to get coffee or a sandwich – a leisure weekend ride with friends.

2. My bike computer’s odometer rolled to 701.

 

701 since the first week of April. This is huge!

 

My total for the year thus far is 977.6mi, including rides on Buzzkill (Heavy Bike has been named!) and a rental Scott CR1.

My goal for this year was originally 1,200mi – averaging 100 miles per month – and I’m well on track to meet this goal. I can’t wait to see my odometer roll over 1,000 mi too. I wish I could share with you exactly how awesome riding my bike makes me feel – there’s no rational reason to love it this much.

 

In other news …

I’ve been conversing with the proprietor over at Sip, Clip, And Go Coffee and she’s got me wondering about this madness known as cyclocross. I did a little snooping and it looks like there are quite a few local events being organized for the upcoming season. Hoping to maybe check out a race. One even had a women’s novice ‘cross clinic for the two hours leading up to the race – Free! I would totally go except I don’t have a cyclocross bike and am already riding another event that day. Will need to keep my eyes on the races and check it out before making any decisions on potential investments.

Kids and Bikes

Remember the freedom of riding your bike to your friend’s house, the daring responsibility and independence. Allow your children the opportunities to experience age-appropriate independence.

We need to support and empower the next generation to be productive citizens. Free range isn’t leaving them to the whims of fate but instead guiding them to truly autonomous decision making and citizenship.

FreeRangeKids

Hi Readers! Laura Alves is a mom of 4 who has made a change in her  world — and beyond. As can we all! – L

Dear Free Range Kids: I’d like to share my little story (actually three) of Free-Range happiness in our small central Wisconsin town.

I have four kids, ages 9, 6, 4, 2. I generally allow and encourage (and sometimes require) my older two to ride their bikes. My philosophy is that if it is safe and reasonable for them to propel themselves somewhere, than they should. I have little kids at home who don’t want to spend their summer days in a minivan while I chauffeur the older two around. A neighbor, whose daughter is 10, asked me if I let my kids ride their bikes alone to the park, which is one and a half miles away with one busy County Highway to cross. I…

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Dropped

This weekend I was dropped for the first time on a group ride.

Blame my overly-cautious sandbagging (not on purpose), but I’m usually one of the stronger riders on a given ride. I feel most comfortable riding sweep only because I like to keep the group in front of me so I know where to go. I’m about fifty-fifty on hills – sometimes I gear down low enough to stay behind the person in front of me, other times I attack. Depends on my mood that day or how slow I need to go to stay at the back of the group. The goal being to not be the person everyone groans about because they picked a ride too far outside their abilities.

Bouyed by my successful first time of bike commuting on Heavy Bike, I got up super early on Sunday to ride to the start of a training ride for the team I’m riding with for the Bike MS: City to Shore event in late September. It’s only 15 miles and riding on Electric Dream Machine, it only took an hour to get to the ride start. Simulating the ride profile, the training ride was on the Schuylkil Trail from Center City to Valley Forge and back – a false flat with a few hills in Manayunk.

The training ride split into two groups – Fast (15+ mph) and Slower (12-15mph). I decided to stick with the Slower group – more people to chat with and didn’t want to obliterate myself before heading to brunch with some girl friends. Ultimately I’m glad I did – definitely ended up on the higher end of the average spectrum without killing myself.

About 5mi from Valley Forge, we saw the Fast group coming back and decided to take a communal break. Most of the Slower group planned to continue on, one of the Fast group decided to ride to VF again with his wife, and two of us from Slower group decided to head back (we were running about 20min behind schedule). So I’m now in a group of four: Three fast guys and me.

Even though I was maintaining a rolling speed of 19-21mph, which is fast for me, I was slowing getting dropped. I watched the three guys become much smaller on the trail ahead. In this moment, you have a choice: give chase or solider on where your abilities are. I chose the latter. I wasn’t upset or angry or even frustrated – this is the reality of life. Someone will always be better and faster than you. It’s OK.

My bike commuter friend happened to also be out riding (different route). He rode up behind me and we chatted for a few minutes before he turned around to continue his ride. It boosted my flagging spirit.

At some point the guys realized I wasn’t with them and stopped at an underpass. One rode back to find me and I wasn’t TOO far behind so he encouraged me to just keep going. As I rode by the resting guys, I yelled “Drop me like a bad habit, eh?” with a big smile and the chase was on! They finally caught up to me and we rode together as a group. After a short rest break, we hit the trail again. We were doing fine until the same Super Fast guy took his turn at the front. The guy behind me said “Time to pick up the tempo” and once again, I was left behind.

I didn’t mind, really. It’s my own issue if I can’t keep up, not theirs! And on this ride, we were on the path – there really wasn’t a way for me to get lost. It was just this one guy – his turn at the front meant rolling 21+ and I’m just not there yet even in the Big Ring. To his credit, when he came off the front this time he noticed I wasn’t in the pack, slowed a bit, and let me draft him for a few miles while the other two Fast Guys rolled slightly ahead of us.

The rest of the ride was good – I was able to keep up with the group as we rolled back into the city … until the Super Fast Guy caught someone’s tail and zoomed off. I tried to chase this time, but after 50mi of riding near the top of my abilities my legs were gstarting to feel hosed. The two other guys were behind me and eventually caught up and the three of us rolled back to the start together. Great ride.

Post-ride Brunch was fantastic. My legs were definitely less enthused on hills going home, which is all uphill. Ended up riding 72mi and averaging 14.7mph over just shy of 2000′ of elevation gain. Pretty respectable.

Maintenance

Because our family has been separated by travel so much over the past six weeks or so I turned down an invitation for a lovely 50mi ride on peaceful roads that included a mid-ride sit-down breakfast this past weekend. But another week off the bike means I am jonesing for a ride like nobody’s business.

So what do you do when you can’t ride? You read about riding.

I recently picked up “Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling” by BikeSnobNYC at my local library (on my bike, of course) and am enjoying it immensely. His wit and humor bring levity to the often pretentious world of cycling and frankly, makes me feel better about myself for not being Super Fast, Super Skinny or my quad’s lack of effective rippling when I walk.

That wouldn’t be scary or anything.

So I get to the chapter that talks about maintenance, specifically the bare minimum any cyclist should be able to do:

  • Flat Repair
  • Chain Maintenance
  • Saddle Adjustments
  • Handlebar Adjustments
  • Wrapping Bars
  • Brake Adjustment
  • a list of your Must Have Tools.

These include a set of Allen keys, a floor pump, and a correctly-sized wrench if you don’t have quick-release wheels. Which of course, prompts me to think about my bike and the few minor adjustments I’ve been meaning to make since my last ride.

As I’m tweaking my handlebars and seat post – in the middle of my living room, much to my husband’s amusement – I’m reminded of a recent thread on the local bike club listserv that became very heated over group ride leader responsibilities and more specifically, should club riders on lower-level rides (D through C+) be required to know how to change their own flats or at the very least have adequate supplies for basic repairs?

(SIDE NOTE: The thread was charged mostly because there was a dispute over whether the group should have waited for the broken-down rider to be picked up or if they were correct in going on after securing contact info and another rider volunteering to stay behind. And before you jump in, keep in mind I am withholding a lot of facts/speculation because a) I wasn’t there and b) am somewhat confused by the whole situation. Interestingly, I had considered going on that very ride but decided I didn’t want to go to the end destination and instead went on a wonderful 40mi ride for coffee with a new cycling friend. That whole weekend was whack.)

I digress!

Can we realistically expect new riders (or low level riders) to know how to do these repairs? Should there be a requirement to attend a basic bike maintenance course when purchasing as a new rider? Many shops in the area host basic bike maintenance clinics once a month … So it’s not that the information isn’t out there. And heaven knows The Google will bring forth most information you seek.

But I’m not really one to talk, right? I am certainly guilty of buying a sweet ride and not knowing how to deal with flats or anything else for that matter. And I was fortunate to be with a great group of riders when I did experience my first on-ride flat. I asked the more experienced cyclists to guide me, since I’m a hands-on learner, and in the end it worked out very well. Can I change a flat quickly? No … But I’ve done it once and that’s more than I have previously. And I always ride prepared with an extra tube, levers, patch kit, and CO2.

Also, in taking with the guys at my shop, I’ve picked up a few things too. Like how to clean and lube my chain and at what intervals. How to adjust my handlebars, cleat position, seat post and saddle. They even showed me how to adjust my brakes and to some extent how to adjust my chain guide thingy. And that’s really where the value is … in developing a relationship with your favorite bike shop. Learning the tricks of the trade so you can maximize your enjoyment. Because the shop wants your business – not your ride in their maintenance queue.

 

In other news, I am pleased to report I am attempting my first bike commute this week. I outfitted my hybrid with a rack and pannier; the fenders and new lights will arrive this weekend. The local shop was having a huge sale so I prepaid and just need installation. Yay! I’ll let you know how it goes …

Specialized Crossroads Sport hybrid
now with sexy new rack and pannier!

See you in the road!