Reflections

This has not been my month for exercise.

 

After doubling my monthly mileage in a single day last month, I’ve done pretty much bupkis. Mostly riding my Schwinn to the train because it’s convenient and I can leave two hours later than if I ride all the way in to work. I managed to fully bike commute once last week and it was lovely – but now real life is calling again and I’m homebound for at least another week.

 

It’s pretty sad … I’ve only put in 55 miles this month so far, 16 of those running, hiking, and walking.

 

Yesterday my daughter and I participated in The Color Run 5K – one of those 100% Fun events. No chip timing, no clocks. There were so many people there, mostly walking, that any sort of running was kindof moot. Every kilometer was a color station where you run through a giant cloud of colored cornstarch with dust filter-protected staff squirting it all over you. It was fun – we both had a good time – but I can’t see myself doing it again. It’s hard for me to get SUPER PUMPED at 7am.

After the run we came home and got cleaned up before heading to the local diner for breakfast. We decided to ride our bikes there since it’s about a mile and a half from the house. Yummy food and then a short ride home, this time slightly different to avoid going up a hill on a busier road. Instead we went up a hill on not busy roads. ūüôā

Then it was onward to the Nap phase of our 5k triathalon – I was down for the count for a full hour, so I’ll count that as a 5k Nap. 5K walk/run followed by 5k bike ride followed by 5k nap. That’s my kind of tri. ūüôā

 

I noticed about a week or so after I stop cycling regularly my muscles ache. They ache to move and churn and spin through the miles. And eventually if I don’t get out and ride, that ache goes away. I feel like it’s a message from my body that it’s about to turn back time and stop being chiseled quads and gastrocs. And certainly I can tell my legs are still fantastic – but softer.

Sometimes I think back to the winter days when it was so cold and I struggled to keep my toes from freezing, dreaming of the summer bike rides, and wish I had more time. But I can’t say I’m not enjoying the time off too. Keeps me balanced as long as I don’t let it go too long, right? Moderation in all things.

 

And there’s a little bit of me that wants to strap on my running shoes again and throw down a 5k in the neighborhood for fun. Who’d have thought I might enjoy running just a tiny bit?

 

Anyway – hope to see you on the road soon. ūüėÄ

C’est la vie

Since we last met dear friend, life has happened. My oldest child celebrated a birthday, most of my extended family arrived for a visit at the always-appropriate hour of 4:30 in the morning, and the Fourth of July came and went.

The sad news: very, very little bicycle riding happened. I flaked out on a planned Sunday morning ride due to the aforementioned family arrival time in favor of getting some sleep. It’s amazing how little kids don’t seem to understand that 5am is probably not the right time to start telling me all about their road trip. Although later in the week, I did get my mom on The Beast while I hopped on Free Spirit and we tooled down to the tiny post office at the bottom of the hill. Of course that meant going back up the hill to get home but c’est la vie.

The good news is I fully immersed in Life. I got to spend an abundance of time with my family – my mom, dad, one of my sisters, my niece, and my nephews – for eight full days. Over doubling a household size could have been cause for alarm but the younger kids spent the days dressing up, wielding Nerf weaponry, building with the unending amount of Legos we have … and generally playing as hard as cousins can. The older kids alternated between helping the younger ones and quietly slipping off to their rooms or the family computer for some time with kids their own age.

Cookies were made. Dinners prepared. The girl cousins each ended the week with a new outfit made by their grandma. Tours of television studios and monuments of historical significance. We hiked the Wiss. One evening my sister, my husband and I took off for an Adults Only meal at the oldest continually operating tavern in the country. We also headed out for brunch one morning. We went down the Shore for a day to beat the heat – and get some yummy boardwalk treats.

The first half of the week was unending rain. The back half of the week was hot and humid. Dew points are well above 70* F and temps have a “real feel” of about 5-6* warmer.

On a fitness front, my sister is a runner so I ended up running with her on her shorter routes. She did a 12-miler on Monday morning and was cursing the humidity. We did a four-miler on Wednesday morning, a simple out-and-back that I somehow came up short by half of a mile so I had to jog up and down the sidewalk near my house to get the full mileage. Then she needed a six-miler so we decided to head out to Valley Forge so I could do the five-mile run and “earn” my race shirt (and she planned to just tack on an extra mile at the end).

It was hot. It was humid. We ran with a 16oz water bottle each. In the shade it was just hot and sticky – but in the bare sun, it was brutal. After the first mile-and-a-half I started to alternate running with walking to avoid overexertion – running in the shade, walking in the direct sun. I finally caught up to my sister around mile 2.5 to consult the route (and rest a bit – did I mention it’s hot and she’s not acclimated to the humidity?). We misread the map and resumed running – only to discover we made a wrong turn and would have at least a mile longer to run. Crossing a covered bridge, we landed on a shaded trail adjacent to a creek¬†– and it felt amazing! The next 1.5 miles of shade were much easier to run. Back into the sun (and the last big hill) for a couple of miles before a delicious descent to the parking lot and my car.

Seven miles! My longest run to date. Even though I walked about 40% of the route, I feel pretty proud of this accomplishment. Just earlier that week the four-miler had been my previous best. And the bonus? My quads didn’t hurt the next day – because they were accustomed to the motions of running. It all makes sense – the more I run, the less it will suck.

Ultimately though, I missed riding my bike. I missed gliding along the pavement, the miles slipping by like water over the rocks in the creek bed. Running is good – cycling is my passion.

Yesterday morning I bid my family goodbye. It’s bittersweet to know we probably won’t see them until next year sometime but it will feel good to get back to mostly normal.

Until next time, see you on the road.

Be Kind to Yourself

My commuter friend is a Very High Mileage rider, dedicated to riding any day it’s not raining (and sometimes even when it is). His personal commitment to cycling is inspirational. I have explored more boundaries by riding with him than any other cyclist – mostly because he doesn’t make excuses not to ride. The bike is there – just go ride it. He has a wealth of experience to tap into – and I regularly try to pick his brain to avoid mistakes as much as possible. That being said, everyone is different and I’ve been known to be bone-headed more than once.

The other day my commuter friend and I were grinding up the hill from the creek back to civilization and talking about the National Bike Challenge. He’s on a team with other Crazy High Mileage cyclists and they are doing very well in the challenge. Every member is out every single day, logging not just trips to the store or to work but serious miles. I can’t even comprehend being able to spin that many miles day in and day out without burn-out or loss of happiness. I know that I tend to lose interest in things and can burn myself out very quickly when something fun becomes an obligation – a chore – yet another thing that has to get done today that I will feel poorly about myself if I can’t accomplish.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in balance. I am constantly reminding myself that what I do already is totally awesome, I should be proud of my accomplishments and stop comparing myself to others who are in completely different situations. I am one of the few people I know with school-age kids who gets out for long rides on a regular basis. I have ridden over 1100 miles so far this year – more than the last two year’s mileage-to-date combined three times over – and had a lot of fun. I’ve ridden in heat, cold, rain, thunder, and sunshine. I’ve seen views that are so amazing your heart aches. I’ve seen skylines disappear on the horizon, lingering¬†devastation¬†from last year’s hurricane, and more animals than anyone could have thought to see in a metropolitan area.

The thrill of bicycle commuting is palpable – it is never easy to wake up early, but putting the feet to the pedal tends to clear up any lingering doubts about whether this is what you really want to do instead of sleep in. I remind myself that I am a bicycle commuter even though I only do it 2, sometimes 3 times each week. Because doing it even once a week is more than never. I feel like I occupy a weird space too: my commute is long enough to necessitate Lycra – which is what most “how to bicycle commute” articles indicate is not necessary – but most of our commuter “gang” are somewhat anomalies¬†in that we commute 10 miles or more each way. If I lived closer to work, I would ride every day no question. If I didn’t have parental and relationship obligations in the evenings, I would ride every day no question. But I’m not just a Kick Ass Girl. I’m also a wife and a mom.

On the flip side, I have a regular life too. School is wrapping up for the kids so there are field trips, dances, and End Of The Year celebrations. The last five weekends had events and trips with my Girl Scout troop. We went camping and had a blast despite the damp and rainy weather. A few days ago we took the kids out for water ice at the local stand because the proceeds benefit our middle child’s school. This weekend we are planning a cook-out in our neighbors in our communal yard – last year was so wonderful with the kids running¬†around¬†catching fireflies and bugs in jars until it’s too dark to see. This is what life is all about!

Finding the balance isn’t easy and we should all support each other where we are. Keep it fun – riding your bicycle shouldn’t be a chore or just another item to check off at the end of the day. It should be integrated into your life seamlessly so that you have balance and honor your authentic life.

See you on the road!

Pause

Last week was pretty busy so I was only able to bike commute once. Fortunately it was the evening of the Ride of Silence, honoring cyclists who have died on the roads in the past year. A very somber and sobering event. Then I spent the weekend camping in the rain with my Girl Scout troop. My girls are rock stars!

 

Unfortunately, I also noticed my pinky on my right hand was freaking out. It didn’t want to straighten. I thought back to the SCU Quad County and how my pinky felt zonked after that ride too. It’s also happened a few times this year, each time a little longer to get full functionality back into my finger (because¬†I’m stupid and keep riding). As in, I can’t put all my fingers together and straighten out my right hand. It’s ¬†frightening to think about permanent damage from something you love to do.

 

I did some Googling (check out this blog about someone else experiencing the same thing!) and discovered this is most likely due to excessive compression on my ulnar nerve¬†even though I have padded gloves and padded bartape. The only cure is rest, stretching exercises, and making sure your bike fit is as good as possible (seat low, handlebars high). With this knowledge, I’m thinking all this bike commuting has been screwing me up (since Lady Rainicorn‘s frame is slightly too big for me). Or perhaps I messed up the geometry when I swapped out the saddle. Or maybe it’s my new bike gloves – they are a touch too big (I thought the Mediums felt a touch too small so I opted for Large).

 

Sadness – I know!

 

So I’m going to do a couple of things:

1. put the original saddle back on the bike and see if that helps (I didn’t notice problems before I started messing with the seat)

2. get a bike fit even though I don’t want to (it can be hard to justify spending almost half the cost of your bike on a fit – remember, she’s a Craiglist find under $300)

3. dial back my riding until full functionality returns to my finger (I dislike this the most)

 

* * * * *

Next week I am heading out to Colorado for a week of fun and happiness! I’m flying with my bike again on Frontier Airlines – they are THE BEST when it comes to traveling with your bike. I don’t have status with them this year so I’m going to do my best to get my bike box under 50 pounds (it was 51 pounds last summer). I already have an appointment to get my bike reassembled when I arrive and will work out the return trip when I get there. Super psyched to be cycling with my friends and family again!

* * * * *

 

See you on the road!

 

 

Infographic!

my miles to date this year. like WHOA.
my miles to date this year. like WHOA.

 

Something I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I am a data nerd. I love¬†quantifying¬†how awesome (or terrible) something is. I have a job that involves analyzing data every day (although not to the extent of a researcher – that’s crazy data). So it should be no surprise that I use Strava to quantify my everyday cycling as well as my weekend jaunts. I want to know if I really was as fast as I felt this morning or if I was really a slow-poke. How does this compare to other times I’ve ridden this route?

And I can get competitive too … but mostly I just like putting data around my fitness.

 

Remember that century I rode in late February? Yeah. I’d only been out five times prior this year. Granted I kept my base miles up all winter by riding as often as possible on weekends – but I’m still impressed with this feat.

March was a tough month to ride – I was on vacation for two consecutive weekends – but clearly I got out more than January and February combined (# of rides, not total distance).

April has been an explosion of bicycle happiness – over double my miles month-over-month. I’ll hit one thousand miles in seven more bike commutes. Seven! My cycling-for-transportation miles have exceeded my cycling-for-sport miles fairly consistently this year mostly because I have been plugged into the bike commute scene. It’s probably the most refreshing way to start and end a workday – fresh air, usually sunshine, and the gentle hum of the wind between your spokes.

 

Ok – enough geeking out on this. See you on the road!

Plus Minus

Today has been such a hodgepodge I can only hit the highlights in a plus/minus system:

+5 points: second consecutive day bike commuting – and I was on time today!

+5 points: the weather was phenomenal – like 60*F when I left at 6:28am!

 

-10 points: get call from school nurse in the afternoon. Daughter needs to be picked up.

 

-10 points: Flat back tire when I get my bike from the rack.

+5 points: I’m a pro at fixing flats. Like it only took 15 minutes. Woot!

-5 points: hands covered in grease, blood, and sweat by the end of this particular flat repair.

-5 points: three spoke have poked through the rim tape! Wondering how the hell shitty tires AND pokey spokes got past the LBS when I sent the bike in to be overhauled. Did they even LOOK at my bike?

 

+100 points: ingeniously deciding to use tube patches to temporarily seal the pokey spokes away from my new tube.

– 1,000 points: CO2 inflates cold, quickly, and if you slightly overinflate on a hot day – BOOM.

(yeah, I did hang my head there and felt slightly defeated – burned through my only spare tube!)

 

+100 points: commuter friend has a spare in my tube size! hooray!

+100 points: AND he has a hand pump with a pressure gauge!

 

And we’re off …

 

+100 points: detouring up Rex Avenue after viewing two hidden statues in the park

-200 points: 10% grade, no climbing gears, big rocks. Had to throw in the towel only a 1/10th of the way up the half-mile. Walked my bike a boss.

 

it's pretty ... much a very old cobblestone road
it’s pretty … much a very old cobblestone road that goes UP

 

Feeling beat cycling home. Backpack feels heavy and legs feel shredded.

Take daughter to the local urgent care – sure enough, she broke her arm.

Finally getting dinner at 9:30pm. Hate to admit I’m taking the train tomorrow – today was just too much excitement.

 

As a parting image, here’s a snapshot from yesterday’s commute. I’m wearing my very favorite jersey (Twin Six Grand Prix) which just so happens to match my commuter bike. I couldn’t resist being all matchy-matchy. Jersey came first, just for the record. ūüėÄ

best jersey/bike combo ever
best jersey/bike combo ever

 

See you on the road …. just not tomorrow.

Safety First

There’s a lot of information out on the internet on how to bike commute (or just ride) safely – things like Avoid the Door Zone, Be Visible and Predictable, and Get Used To Being Honked At. It’s all true and great information. But if I may, I’d like to share another piece of safety advice that is often overlooked: your emergency pack.¬†Sure you probably toss a spare tube, some tire levers, and either CO2 or a hand pump in your saddle bag or rack pack … but I’m not talking about gear.

Every ride, you need to have the following on you so that Go-d forbid something were to happen you can get help quickly.

  • Government-issued photo ID or driver’s license
  • Medical insurance card
  • Cash. $20 will cover a number of situations.
  • Emergency contact info, be it on paper or tagged as ICE in your smartphone.
  • The code for your smartphone if you use password protect.

Also, if you are riding solo – tell someone you know and trust where you are going and when you plan to return. Bike safe, friends!

* * * * *

I’m on Week Two of bike commuting twice a week and it’s going amazing. I had one day where I failed to have an afternoon snack before I rode home from work and even though our time didn’t increase, I felt horribly sluggish and full of effort. Lady Rainicorn doesn’t have climbing gears so steep hills are a challenge – but worth it. I can feel my quads getting stronger. I’ve also noticed that technique counts – when I mash my pedals, I tire quickly but when I focus on round pedalstrokes, the hill doesn’t seem so hard.

I’ve also been exploring multi-modal commuting – commuting using a combination of cycling and public transportation. On the days I am not able to bike all the way to work, I’ve been riding to the train station and locking up there. It’s actually quite nice to zip down the street in the morning and then be home at the end of the day in under 5 minutes.

 

part of my bike commute. in the city.
part of my bike commute. in the city.

 

Yesterday I rode to work and back with my commuter friend. On the way home we detoured up through Forbidden Drive. It was a lovely jaunt through the Wissahickon Valley Park at a lower speed, admiring the old stone bridges and beautiful surroundings. The 1.2 mile uphill slog from the creek back up to Mount Airy was better than I expected. It’s great because you come out of the creek basin and suddenly you are almost home. Refreshing and relaxing!

Keep on truckin’ friends – see you on the road!

 

Surprise!

Rode my bike to work this morning, even though it was cold and dark when I woke up. It’s going to be about 50* F today so the ride home will be excellent. But it’s still hard to want to wake up at 5:30am to hit the road by 6:30am.

 

I’m just not a morning person.

 

+5 points for Gryffindor: I wore my winter cycling shoes, thermal liners, and thermal insoles. Toes were chilly but definitely not cold or worse, frozen. Conversation was great. Re-acclimating to Lady Rainicorn was smooth. SPD pedals made me very happy (no more toe clips here!).

 

-100 points: forgot my lock.

 

*facepalm*

 

(at least I didn’t forget my pants. or underwear. That would be awkward.)

 

Fortunately my commuter friend keeps a lock on the rack at his office, which is across the street from my office. And the day is saved.

 

Forecast

6am

Clear

Temperature: 30*F

Feels Like: 19*F

51% Humidity

Winds out of the West/SouthWest at 14mph

Sorry Wednesday, I’m going to pass on bike commuting. You’d be a great test of my new cold weather gear but I have a thing against getting out from under my mid-weight down comforter to get up in the dark and cold to ride my bike to work. We had this conversation in October.

The following Tuesday’s current expected high of 50*F and a low that is above freezing is much more promising for Lady Rainicorn and I.

xoxo,

Laura

* * * * *

On week two of Not Being Able To Ride Because Real Life Calls. ¬†We’ve celebrated a birthday, we’ve taken the Girl Scouts to learn about our nation’s government, and also took a little time to catch up on sleep and reading (one of my long-time favorite things to do). We’ve also started roller hockey season – which is also one of my favorite times of year.

It’s tough … but not¬†as¬†tough when it’s cold and rainy. Or cold and frozen rainy. Ah, springtime in¬†Pennsylvania!

I’m thinking about how I want to structure my athletic-type endeavors – cycling, running, and yoga. I’m currently planning on cycling (for sport/fun) two days per week, running one day, and yoga one day. This of course does not take into account my bike commuting, which I want to do two or three times per week. This type of schedule will be tough until summer, when the kids don’t have any real commitments and I can maximize my personal time. Until then, I need to get running onto the calendar first. My friends all run sub-10min miles. I feel like a schlub – but you can’t get better if you don’t even get out the door.

See you on the road!

Pure Joy

I’d been checking the weather reports all week, looking for the one day when it won’t be “as cold” or “snowy” or “dense foggy” to get out and ride my bike again. When today came up as a high of 50*F, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t ride.

Quick text to my commuter friend, who has still been commuting in all kinds of cold and crappy weather, who is all kinds of surprised.

Weather looks great tomorrow so I’ll see you at 6:32am.¬†

The actual commute this morning was cold. I always forget that 34* and dark is not the same as 34* and sunny. And I’m still working through my footwear situation. This morning’s poor selection was my Converse One Star sneakers. They fit into my toe clips much easier than my trail shoes this past weekend, but my toes also took a huge beating in the cold department. Like Lukewarm Shower To Slowly Warm My Toes So They Don’t Burn and Itch and Make Me Cry cold.

But as usual, the conversation was good. We talked about a lot of things, at one point discussing how my mind can’t wrap itself around the concept of a bike ride without a million layers and spinning a really high cadence to keep warm. We met up with another woman about half-way in and the three of us had a great time chatting and zipping by all the runners on the trail.

I also was able to get my left shifter to go from the little ring to the big ring and back several times without dropping. Finesse. Patience. Being in tune with your bike. All good things.

 

 

But the real joy happened this afternoon. Temps not only got to 50, but they got to 59*F.

I can’t even describe to you, dear reader, how absolutely delicious tonight’s commute was. It was a small slice of what’s to come in a few weeks time, a drop of last spring’s sweet nectar to rekindle the fire after the fuel is mostly spent. Truly it satisfied my soul and hit all the right dopamine points in my brain.

And that was just riding my bike home from work.

 

Cycling is a hell of a drug.

 

See you on the road!

 

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