You see, Dakota Ridge was my backyard and while I didn’t mountain bike when I lived in Colorado, I know that area well.
And for a few hours, my heart ached to be back in Colorado riding my bike.
Ached I tell you.
Then I fed the fire by looking up the Strava segments for Lookout Mountain and realizing that getting to the top of that mountain was not just achievable for everyone else in the world, but it would be achievable for me. Looked at Google Maps to see the trails crisscrossing Green Mountain.
Friends, I’m telling you. Physically ached.
Last night as I was waiting to pick up my oldest child from an evening school activity, my youngest child and I were talking about how sometimes we miss Colorado. She misses her friends and is sad that one particular friend hasn’t written back in almost a year. One of her new friends reminds her of her best friend in Colorado. We talked about how people move on, make new friends, stop writing letters and leave the old friends in the past. I shared with her about when I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado – I was about her age and was sad when the letters started to trickle off. But I focused on my new friends and eventually, I was able to move on too.
And as we were talking I realized many of my friends are leaving Colorado too now – for Portland, Seattle, Nashville. We’re all scattering across the country. So even if we did go back to Colorado, it wouldn’t be the same.
(well, the mountains would be. And the trails. And the friends I have who are staying.)
The answer isn’t to keep looking back at the past but to look forward and enjoy the times that we have with our new friends … and savor the times with our old friends whenever we can get together again.
I had plans to go riding today but woke up with significant congestion and a sinus headache so I opted to stay home and rest today in hopes that tomorrow’s ride plans will still be on. I’ve spent the morning sipping warm beverages and reading many recaps of this year’s achievements. Truly I am blessed to be surrounded by so many awesome people, even if it is “just” on the internet.
(Although to be totally honest, my brain keeps thinking of ways I can still get out on my bike today. But I’m forcing myself to stay home. Better to rest today and ride tomorrow than suffer today and be worse tomorrow.)
Acquired a mountain bike and have been out several times – love it
Ran 58.1 miles (!!)
Walked 225 miles
Some goals just didn’t make the final tally, like biking to Brooklyn for dinner or both days of the MS 150, due to Life. Schedules changed, my dog died – it just didn’t work out. I feel like my GI issues took center stage from May through September, which inhibited some of my intended riding for sure. Of course, all but one test came back totally normal so who knows what’s going on there.
Recently I was at a 10,000 mile celebration for a friend and everyone around the room said where their total mileage was expected to end up. Everyone but myself and one other woman was 5,000 miles or more, with many hovering around 9,000 miles. I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not doing too bad for a recreational cyclist with three kids still at home, a full-time job, a Girl Scout troop to lead, and serving on the board for the local bike club. My 3,000 miles seems paltry and there’s always something more I wish I could be doing.
Or as my friend says about my thoughts: “How can I be more awesome than I already am.”
(which is a really good point)
So for 2014, I’m setting no mileage goal. No event schedule. The only thing I’d like to do more of is ride my bike for fun. As if I ever ride my bike for any other reason.
Start bike commuting again once Daylight Savings Time comes back. Twice a week minimum.
Try bike touring. Maybe pack up for an overnight camping somewhere, just to get a taste. Plan a bike trip with my mom. Currently looking at Erie Canal or GAP/C&O.
Try some new cycling events or revisit the ones I skipped this year.
Ride with my kids more. Teach my middle child how to mountain bike. Take my oldest child on longer road rides. Find ways to make riding more enjoyable for my youngest child.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014! See you on the road!
I’ve been eyeing my trainer warily lately. I’ve been so lucky to not have to hook up my bike to it thus far. My first wish has been to be able to ride outside all year.
But then my other wish came true, and that is for snow. It started last Sunday when I was out mountain biking with my friend Heather. We emerged from the woods into a high meadow and the flakes started to fall. By the time we got to the bottom of a fairly technical descent (rocks and roots and ruts oh my!) it was starting to stick to our tire treads. Powered up another big hill, then back down to the creek.
Now the snow is sticking to everything – so we decide to stick to the main path. Soon the snow is a few inches deep and the men passing us in the other direction are jovially calling us crazy. Winter Storm Warning issued. We decided to head back the five miles to the car. At one point, we had a runner pacing with us at 10 mph in several inches of snow for about a mile, mile and a half. We laughed and joked and had a blast, the snow stinging our cheeks and our breath fogging our glasses.
A few inches of snow on Sunday.
A few more on Tuesday.
A dusting last night and potential for accumulation on Saturday.
I’m so happy about the snow.
I’m so sad to think I’m 188 miles from my goal of 3,000 miles for the year and the weather may be forcing me indoors.
I told myself I wouldn’t get into a place where I would stress out about meeting my goal miles for the year. Because every time I’m out on my bike I’m not getting chores done or making cookies with my kids or relaxing with my husband. But here I am – roughly three metric rides away from goal. And I’m stressing.
The world won’t end if I hook up my bike to the trainer. I was just hoping I wouldn’t have to.
See you on the road, in the woods … or through the window as I pedal to nowhere.
Good morning, dear reader! It has been so long since we last connected – like everyone else, my life has been full of the things that make our lives rich. Busy is an understatement for many of us and I am not immune to over-scheduling and finding no time for blogging.
In the past couple weeks I have gone out with my friends on Most-Of-The-Day rides – the ones where you head out on your bike to brunch around 9 and don’t get back until around 4. The goal is to hit 50-60 miles per trip for two selfish reasons: we are all very close to our cycling mile goals for the year and to keep our base miles up for spring. It’s getting more difficult to be motivated as autumn takes a final bow and winter starts to creep in.
One of the problems I had last winter was what I refer to fondly as Fish Stick Toes. I was using my summer cycling shoes with toe covers and thick wool socks. For temps 40* – 60*F, this setup is perfect – no issues. But should the temps dip below 40*, even “real feel” temps, within 10 miles my toes were frozen – every time. There is no greater dread than knowing it’s going to be painful to rewarm them so that hot shower you are dreaming about will ultimately be a lukewarm shower that will not be nearly as satisfying. Or that you are riding on frozen fish sticks. I tried everything – stuffing my shoes with plastic bags, doubling up my wool socks. Summer shoes are simply too well ventilated for winter riding.
Yes, I realize this is a DUH. But I was really stubborn about making my existing gear work instead of spending more money on specialty items. Especially winter shoes/boots – at $200+, I don’t know if I ride enough in low temps to make it worth the expenditure. But as we all know, there isn’t any bad weather – just poor gear choices.
Last spring I picked up a pair of Shimano Winter Cycling Shoes when they were on sale ($150). I decided to get 2 sizes larger than my summer shoes to be able to wear thick wool socks without constriction. The fit is good – I can easily layer my Woolie Boolies with a base layer sock without feeling constricted. And since it was late enough in the spring, I never got a chance to try them out.
A couple of weekends ago my friends and I decided to bike to brunch in New Jersey. It’s a 60 mile round trip and the temps were going to be mid-30s to mid-40s. Totes doable! Dressing for the 30s is not the same as dressing for the 40s so I tried a new layering plan that worked out well except for my toes. Frozen in the morning when it was in the 30s; totally fine in the afternoon when it was in the 40s.
Welcome to winter riding – where layers are king and somehow you don’t feel as strong or fast.
Definitely a layering win – my toes were only starting to feel cold when we rolled up to the restaurant after 22 miles and felt great the whole way home when the temps were “warmer”. Core stayed mostly cooler on the flats and descents, toasty on hills. Thermal tube pulled up over my mouth to keep my cheeks warm when needed. Overall a great ride for a hot lunch (with hot cocoa and whipped cream too).
What I didn’t anticipate is how heavy the winter shoes are. Every pedal stroke worked my legs differently than my lightweight summer shoes. While I most certainly hadn’t depleted my muscles on the 50 mile ride, my legs were tired. Hills were significantly more work. I felt incredibly slow and frustrated at my (perceived) inability to keep up with the guys. I felt wiped out by the end of the ride – but as soon as I stopped pedaling, my legs were clearly nowhere near obliterated. Even this morning, there is no stiffness or soreness. Clearly did not work as hard as I thought.
I suspect the heavier shoes working my muscles differently contributed to my feeling of less power, although I certainly liked not having fish sticks for toes. Definitely worth the trade-off – and I should adjust my expectations for my abilities on cold rides. I’m hoping I will adjust to the different feel of my winter shoes as the season goes on.
Friends, I am going through some serious mountain biking withdrawal.
(Not quite this bad but still pretty bad)
You may recall my continued allegiance to Felt Bicycles and when I saw the Felt Nine Sport 29er, one of the Best Buys for Under $1000, for a very reasonable non-stolen sum in my size I jumped. A few weeks later I took him down to my friend Heather’s house and we pedaled over to the local park to get some easier/beginner singletrack under my belt.
(This bike is a dude’s bike and the orange made me think of Michaelangelo, the Ninja Turtle. So for now, the bike has been dubbed Michaelangelo)
Whoomp. Whoomp. Whoomp.
I rode on the flat pedals with trail running shoes, which were stable but slightly off-center. We rode around the twisty wooded trail, just two girls out on their bikes. It was awesome. I was able to roll over some obstacles I wasn’t sure I could. We rolled over a small bridge, through a stream, and up and down the hillside. Sunlight was fading so we headed back.
Whoomp. Whoomp. Whoomp.
Is there anything more satisfyingly hilarious than mountain bike wheels on the road?
Anyway, the next weekend we hit the trails again. This time I opted for some commuter boots, thinking because I didn’t have cleats on them they would bee better on the platforms. Wrong. My feet slid all over (and off) the pedals as I navigated the rocky, rooty terrain. I even walked down a hill because I could not be certain I wouldn’t crash when my feet wouldn’t stay on the pedals. We didn’t stay out as long and despite the poor shoe choice on my part, I had fun.
It’s time to throw on the clipless pedals and cleats. Who ever would have thought I would feel better being attached to my bike?
So Heather lent me her Egg Beaters. I can’t wait to try them.
This past week I was off work on Friday and my friend Heather also happened to be available so we made plans to ride mid-morning. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans, ones that included vicious wind, torrential rain, and generally unpleasant weather. We decided against muddy trail riding (protect the trails folks!) even though the weather eventually cleared and warmed up to a beautiful day.
What is it about mountain biking? There’s something most excellent about getting away from the roads, the people, cars and responsibilities and experiencing nature, quiet, and peacefulness. The crunch of leaves under your tire. The bushes brushing against your legs. Noodling through twisty trails between trees, over fallen logs, and staying upright through a shifty rocky rooty area.
In a fast-paced world, we all need a place to get away from it all. For me it’s on my bike – and even more so on my bike, in the woods.
Since the first time I started bike commuting, I have desired to hold the Strava QOM on a particular three-successive-hills segment near my neighborhood. Not quite a mile, the road pitches steeply under the freeway, levels out with a small downhill while passing the cemetery, and then pitches up to a stop sign before a very short leveling and final slog to the top.
(The segment linked is a little over half a mile but skips the first 2/10ths of a mile from the stoplight – the full road is here)
Last winter my commuting friend and I were out on a fun ride and decided to try to QOM it. I was doing lots of Big Ring riding whenever I wanted to go fast – so I pushed as hard as I could, him leading the way pulling me up the hill. I achieved the QOM at a whopping 13.9 mph average. It felt awesome.
Anytime I tried to get that last tenth-of-a-mile-per-hour, I fell short. 13mph. 13.5mph. 11mph. Every time the segment would kick my butt. I’d stay in the highest gears I could until I couldn’t hang any longer.
Forward to this summer. After the supremely hilly Lake Nockamixon Century and a conversation about spinning versus mashing high gears, I decided to try spinning more seriously. The Little Ring Challenge, I deemed it. And I started staying in my small ring as much as possible for entire rides.
Spinning feels weird if you aren’t used to it. I had a fairly high cadence (75-80) naturally but most cycling publications will mention a “90-100 rpm” threshold for spinning. Spending time furiously pedaling can feel counter-intuitive at first. But then the body adapts and spinning feels natural. You’re able to hold higher speeds in smaller gears for longer. And hills (or distance) start to not wear out your legs so much. It’s a beautiful thing.
Anyway, I’ve been sticking to my Little Ring Challenge through the Scenic Schuylkill and City to Shore centuries. My overall speed improved and I wasn’t completely dead by the end of the ride. Maybe there’s something to all this.
So the other day I decided to meet my commuter friend downtown for a road ride before we headed back to our neighborhoods. I spun up the familiar Three Hills, thinking they felt great but I probably wasn’t going to best my previous best. We met up, stayed on the west side of the river (and the steep hills that come up from the riverbed) before heading homeward. A little over 40 miles with a little over 3000′ of gain. Sure – just a Saturday Spin.
Turns out I did best my previous PR … I’m now the QOM at 15.1 mph average up those hills.
Spinning works my friends. Give it a go sometime.
* * * * *
The last few weekends I’ve been going out with my friend on mountain bike rides. We’re heading to gentler trails near her neighborhood and I’m having entirely too much fun. Having to choose Mountain or Road is so tough. I’m loving the quiet of the woods and the varied terrain – some of the singletrack is smooth and/or flat but others are rocky, rooty, or slick with gravel, leaves or mud (but the creek crossing). I’m loving my 29er. There’s a blog post in my brain about off-road cycling that will probably get written soon.
Friends, if you are ever in the Philadelphia area the second weekend in September, I highly encourage you to sign up for Philly Bike Club’s Scenic Schuylkill Century. This year was my second year riding and I hope to keep going as long as I have friends to help the miles pass.
The Scenic Schuylkill is an incredibly well-supported ride that showcases the beauty of the area just outside Philly. Starting at the iconic Boathouse Row and winding north into the hills of Manayunk to Cedar Grove then on to Evansburg State Park. The view of Philly from Potshop Rd is unmatched – the city so far away it’s ethereal. From Evansburg you can choose to head back to the city (and complete a metric) or head northwest to Schwenksville. Do not be discouraged by the 6,000+ feet of elevation gain – there are very few monster hills. The hills are really after the second rest stop in Evansburg State Park and are more rolling-hills than Super-Steep-Why-Am-I-Doing-This.
Which, if you like sudden steep and long climbs, go ride the Suburban Cyclists Unlimited’s Quad County with ICU Option and Lake Nockamixon Century, both of which will punish your legs and lungs (and lower back). Or move to Colorado. I’m sure my Colorado friends are laughing at me right now …
Another rest stop at Camp Hope then more climbing before you see more downhills than uphills. Do not be fooled though – there are still some hills on the way back into the city. But nothing compares to bombing down Main Street in Manayunk on the way back to pizza and liquid refreshment.
Improved my time this year as well – 102 miles in 7:40 last year; 103 miles in 7:20 this year. And yes, I made it back to the start in time to get a few plain slices and two full-sugar sodas. No, I didn’t feel bad about that.
Three weeks and not enough riding later, I set off on another century, the annual Bike MS: City to Shore ride from Cherry Hill, NJ to Ocean City, NJ. This is most people’s Big Ride of the year and they train all summer for it. As a year-round cyclist who tries to keep her base miles around 50, this is probably the easiest century in the area. It’s mostly flat – only about 1900′ of elevation gain and probably only because of the two bridges at the end of the ride to get over the harbour to the Shore. It is incredibly well-supported – the century alone has about seven opportunities to take a break.
My neighbor and bike commuting friend and I carpooled to the start again. This time instead of sitting in off-ramp traffic, we opted to go one more exit further and parked within minutes. Unfortunately this also meant not getting to the festivities at the main start but we were only a quarter of a mile up the (not very well maintained) road. We hit the road around 6:15am – before the sun came up. Totally didn’t think it though so I borrowed my friend’s long-sleeve lightweight shirt to stay warm until we got past the first rest stop.
I also opted for my new lightweight thermal three-quarter tights from Twin Six. Picked them up at an incredible deal during a sale and they are supremely comfortable. Perfect for the chilly autumnal mornings when you need a little more now that won’t overheat you later.
We ended up skipping the second rest stop option (“Lunch Stop Ahead!” “wait – it’s only 8:30am … too early!”) and also the century loop rest stop, averaging about 25 miles between rest stops. We took only 15 minutes at each stop – enough time to use the port-o-let, refill water, shove some food in our faces and hit the road again.
I should note two things here:
1. I was having stomach issues again leading up to this ride and sure enough there was about a 25-30 mile portion in the middle of the day where I struggled to keep it together. I felt really bad for my friend because I had to dial down my speed a bit because I was hardly eating and didn’t want to bonk from over-exertion/under-nutrition. And I wasn’t talking at all because I felt incredibly nauseous. I eventually got back on the level, picked up the speed, and finished strong.
2. I have decided to improve my spinning and stayed in the little ring all day. Averaging 17+ mph on significantly more miles than not was incredibly gratifying and my legs still felt relatively fresh at the end of the ride. I’m hoping this winter will continue to be fairly mild (let’s be honest, I miss big snows) so I can continue to work on increasing my cadence enough to switch to the big ring and spin the hell out of a bigger gear.
The weather was perfect for the ride. My favorite moment was between the two bridges when you are on a little two-lane road right up against the beach, the ocean waves crashing and rolling up the sand. SO PERFECT. I was so sad that I wasn’t going to be spending one last weekend Down The Shore.
But the reason I wasn’t staying down the Shore was because I had an appointment to get some new ink. I was supposed to get it last year but it didn’t work out. This year I made it happen.
My tattoo artist is the best in the biz and she was guest spotting at a shop on Long Island, a few hours from Philly. The piece is Cycles Perfecta by Alphonse Mucha (1902 bicycle company advertisement) that perfectly captures the essence of a girl and her bicycle. Four hours of line work with minimal breaks (like 10 min each hour). Next time I see her it will be to get this colored in.
In health news, I had an endoscopy this past week and they biopsied some tissue for testing. Hoping to know more next week – praying for a relatively easy fix. I’m tired of feeling terrible all the time. My diet is severely limited some days. I lost five pounds in a few weeks due to dwindling appetite. Funny how fasting the day of the procedure was NBD because not eating keeps me feeling relatively normal. Totally unsustainable, I know. That’s why I’m getting help.
This weekend is expected to be gorgeous but I’m going to take a quick break from my bike. Even though I really want to go mountain biking.
1. Tattoo needs to stay out of the sun. It’s going to be too warm for long-sleeves and it’s not ready to put sun sleeves on (elastic at the top).
2. Health. I need to take care of myself until I hear back from my GI doc. I can tell you 100% I did not eat enough on my City to Shore century – less than I did for the Scenic Schuylkill (and that wasn’t much). And I still need to get back into running – my 5k is in about a month. And it’s been that long since my last attempt at running.
So maybe not this weekend, but I’ll see you on the road or the trail soon.
Friends, it was only last summer that I took the bold move of heading out on my bicycle sans-unders. For guys this may have been a no-brainer but for girls, it seems to be more of a concern to be out and about without proper undergarments.
Since then I have stuck to the first brand I purchased, which was also the only brand that the local bike shop had in stock that didn’t make me feel more than slightly awkward plunking down in front of the guy at the counter.
When I was preparing for the Elephant Rock Ride in Colorado, the shop had trial sizes of my usual brand … and Hoo Ha Ride Glide. Intrigued, I picked up a few for the long ride. I ended up using the first packet the following day on 10 mile mountain bike ride and immediately noticed the cooling sensation, which told me it was working. I also noticed the exceptionally pleasant smell.
I didn’t bother to ask my companions if they could also smell it because there really isn’t an easy way to ask if your booty cream smells nice.
The first ride was fine, nothing special … but it was enough to prompt me to pick up a full-size bottle. Anymore, it’s my go-to ride cream. It’s not too thick, lasts quite a while, and smells nice. I like that it’s formulated for women and the trial sizes come in environmentally-friendly packaging. Plus it’s quite a conversation piece when the conversation inevitably turns to chamois creams (what, you don’t talk about that stuff on your group rides?).
From their website:
Reflect Sports feminine chafing cream, Hoo Ha Ride Glide® protects your Hoo Ha from saddles sores, chafing, friction burns, irritation and inflammation. Our chafing cream provides healing and prevents saddle sores and chafing from exercise. Focused on the sensitivities of the vaginal area our product is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition to having healing agents, our chafing cream is enriched with barely extract, lavender, eucalyptus leaf, tea tree and peppermint oil. These specialized ingredients provide a lasting cool feeling so you enjoy your ride, run or spin class.
For the third time in a week, I have ignored my 5:30am alarm.
For the third time in a week, I have chosen sleep over bike commuting.
How far I’ve fallen from just a few weeks ago.
This summer has been tough for getting good ride time for me. Lots has been going on outside my world of cycling. Somehow I get it in my head that everyone else in the world is out every day. Everyone else is also better, faster, cooler, and more dedicated than me. I try to keep up with the false notions my brain feeds me. I feel like I should be pushing through … but for what? I’m not training for anything other than to keep up with the Jones’.
The difference from two weeks ago is family. They are paramount and when they were otherwise occupied, it was easy to get up early and ride. I only had to be concerned for myself. Now I am trying to make sure summer homework is getting done and we squeeze the last bits of freedom out of summer. My in-laws are coming for the weekend and we still need to clean the house. And my stomach issues are still there (better but I’m aware) – and the GI doc is on the calendar for just after Labor Day.
And there’s the stuff I want to do but just haven’t found a way yet: mountain biking; hiking; camping. I’m so frustrated with not being able to do everything I want to do. Not like this is a surprise or anything – I always feel like I should do MORE.
So I’ve decided to let it go for now. Let go of the ridiculousness that is trying to keep up with everything. Go on fun rides with friends on the weekends if It works out. Tinker with bike commuting later in the morning (even though it means riding without the benefit of my awesome bike commuting friends). Get my plans together for my daughter’s Girl scout troop. Sleep in and relax more. Go bowling. Go out-of-town with the family.
Find balance in my life again.
I’ll leave you with my most favorite event photo ever. It was taken by Sundance Images in Castle Rock, Colorado. I love this photo so much I ordered it as the cheesy “magazine cover” (Rad & Bad bikes anyone?) because it has that “cover girl” look. I even ordered a second copy for my mom. It reminds me of why I ride – the wind in your face, the scenery, the pavement zipping by. It’s a picture of happiness and ease … you’d never know I was churning up a decent hill.
After Elephant Rock and a nice hot shower, my mom was still sad that she wasn’t able to ride the event this year due to health issues stemming from last summer. My mom has been a life-long bicycle rider and uses it to stay fit as she gets older. So I saddled up on my (much taller) baby sister’s mountain bike and told my mom we could go out on the trail by her house.
It wasn’t the longest ride or the fastest ride I’ve ever done – but it was nice to get out with my mom and dad on bikes and see the route they use to gauge their fitness. While it’s sad to see how far my mom’s fitness has fallen, it’s incredibly encouraging to see her on her bike, getting stronger each ride. And my dad has never been a fitness guy but he likes riding his bike with my mom too.
The next morning I loaded up my sister’s mountain bike (with her permission of course) and headed up to Pike National Forest to do some light mountain biking with my friend James and my friend Andrea. We rode a washboard-riddled dirt and gravel road from the trailhead to the paved part of the road and back before we noticed a short stretch of relatively flat singletrack on the other side of the river. So we did what any self-respecting cyclists would do and rode it to explore.
After our ride, we adjourned to Andrea’s house for tall glasses of chocolate milk on her deck overlooking nothing before heading back to the city.
I also tried a new chamois cream – Hoo Ha Ride Glide. The cream was silky smooth and had a distinct cooling sensation that was … interesting. I usually use Chamois Butt’r which doesn’t have a tingle to tell me it’s working – but it wasn’t unpleasant. Unfortunately the cooling sensation was gone by the end of our relatively short ride (less than 10 miles) so I wonder about its effectiveness on long rides. The upside is that it smelled nice. This is huge, as I generally feel that chamois cream smells medicinal and meh. But Hoo Ha smelled amazing. So more to come on this as I go get a tube (instead of the take-it-with-you trial size I purchased).
What else? I spent so much time with my friends and family. It was awesome. When I got home I told my husband I was planning to go back next year and he smirked, asking when he gets a kid-free vacation. I told him when he actually goes somewhere instead of just staying home. 🙂