Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cannonsburg SGA

I've been talking with my co-worker, Jared, and his wife, Tammy, for nearly a year now about going mountain biking with them. At first, I was really nervous about it but willing to try it. Since I've gotten more confident in my road riding, I've felt more and more ready to try out trail riding. I always loved running through the woods when I was younger, so why not biking? Last night, the stars and schedules finally aligned, and we went for a ride on the beautiful 8 miles of trail through the Cannonsburg State Game Area. I've got pictures to prove it!

Jared, Tammy, another co-worker named Mike and I gathered a little after 7:00 and hit the trails. I felt a little strange riding my mountain bike again. It felt enormous and heavy compared to what I've gotten used to. But strangely enough, as soon as those fat tires hit the sand, gravel and roots of the trail, it all felt natural.

First of all, let me say that this ride was a TON OF FUN! Jared warned us before the really technical sections, so we knew what to expect before literally diving into them. I let myself take it at my own pace. I know very little technical riding skills, so I walked over the obstacles that I wasn't comfortable with. But overall, I spent a lot of time out of the saddle, and I road nearly the entirety of all four sections of the the trail.

Cannonsburg SGA was a great place to start mountain biking. It was not too insane for the noob but challenging enough for the seasoned rider. I can see why this sport is addicting to people. I REALLY want to go again!

After the ride, we enjoyed a recovery Fat Tire from New Belgium brewing, which Jared and Tammy brought back from Colorado with them after their mountain biking trip to Crested Butte last year. They leave tomorrow to go back for two weeks, and they promised to bring more Fat Tire home for everyone. Yah!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Timetrial

As anticipated, I completed my first time trial last night! I was actually very happy with my time for the 12-mile course. It was super windy on the way back, so I tried to go as fast as I could on the way out and keep my pace as close to that as possible on the way back. I talked to myself a lot - "You can do it! Keep it up! Give me everything you've got left!" I rode almost entirely in my drops, too, which is unusual for me. I need to get the bike shop to adjust my brake levers, so I can reach them from the drops.

Anyway...I finished in 37:16 (that's about a 19.1mph average). I've never ridden so hard for an extended period of time in my life! But it was great!

I'm confident that I have room to improve, but I'm quite proud of my first attempt at a TT.

After everyone had finished the course, the organizer gathered us around to announce our times. She said, "First time rider, Melissa Hansen...37:16. Have you been racing?"

"No, I've never raced. I've done a couple centuries."

"How many years have you been riding?"

"This is my first."

"Wow! Two centuries in your first year!"

I felt so proud of myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another first

Before digging back into some house painting yesterday (after weeks of not working on it - hey, it's hard to want to work inside when it's so nice outside!), I road an easy 16 miles just to stay loose for another biking first for me tonight - my first time trial!

The Rapid Wheelmen host an out and back, 12-mile time trial every Monday through the summer. My in-laws have been doing this time trial nearly weekly for the past few years. They've been asking me to come check it out, and this is the first time that interest and schedule have aligned to make it happen for me. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also a little nervous.

It's not a long course, so I'm totally confident in being able to finish it. But I don't generally ride to go as fast as I can through an entire route. When I ran, I was not a sprinter but a long distance runner. When I bike, I am not a sprinter either. So I will try to maintain what feels like a hard pace but something I can keep up for 12 miles. I have no idea how hilly the course is or what condition the roads are in. So it is all another mysterious adventure! We'll see how it goes!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pics from the dry wet dry ride

Mackenzie just emailed the pictures from the ride last night. As promised, here they are!

This is our paceline. I'm at the bottom right, just pulling up to follow to the front. As you can see, I'm still getting the hang of staying really close to the wheel in front of me. Sometimes I have to catch up a little.

And here's the ladies at the gazebo. We were all swatting mosquitoes until the very last second before Mackenzie hit the shutter button. Can't even tell, can you?

As Linda commented on the last post, I really have found a great group of people to ride with!

A dry wet dry ride

We gathered for the ladies' ride last night under a sporadically cloudy sky. It was kind of a collage of blue sky, white puffs and dark heavy clouds. The weather forecast said that rain was about 40% possible, but we set out on our route anyway.

For about 6 miles, it was warm and sunny. Then suddenly, huge globules of water started splashing down on the asphalt. It took a few splats to realize what they were! One made a direct hit on my bike computer obscuring the whole display. The massive droplets became more and more concentrated...and more and more solid.

The lead riders stopped at an intersection to let the rest of the women regroup and discuss whether turning directly around or finding another route back to the bike shop would offer the shortest distance. Right as I pulled up to the corner, lightning struck out in a farmer's field across the street. We were getting really wet and chilled now. It was time to get back to shelter.

So we decided to keep going forward and cut across the loop we had started to return to the bike shop. This was my first time riding my road bike in the rain. I was extra careful to avoid gravel, puddles and road lines on my slick, skinny tires.

After about a mile, we had ridden out of the storm. It was suddenly sunny and warm again! However, not trusting the unpredictable weather (and not wanting to mess around with lightning), we continued to head to the bike shop.

This was kind of exciting, because we ended up riding down a street that I've driven many times and always wanted to try on my bike. It has a HUGE hill that I thought would be a big challenge. It turns out that in the direction we went, we hit the biggest hill going down - fast and thrilling! I'll have to give it a whirl in the other direction some day. I'm not sure I'll be able to climb all the way to the top!

We ended up back at the shop dry and safe after about 18 miles. I figured that was it for me when I heard a small group of women rolling back out of the parking lot beckoning me to come with them for 10 more miles. Oh, what the heck. Sure!

So back out on the road we went. What a great decision! This was a really fun group of girls to ride with! We kept a fast pace, but still chatted and joked around. We set up a pace line for a while, which one of the girls got really jazzed up about. She was cheering for everyone and taking pictures of us performing our cooperative rotations.

Then someone shouted that we should stop in this random front yard for a picture. It turns out that this yard was beautifully landscaped with a creek, a bridge, a lush lawn and a big gazebo with picnic tables. We all gathered under the gazebo for a photo while a swarm of hungry mosquitoes descended upon us.

When we took off again, some male cyclist friends came up behind us and joined in our conversation for a while. Then we broke off and headed back to the bike shop once again. At the end of the ride, one of the racing girls showed me the course for the Ada Crit on August 15. I think I might try it out!

I also plan to try out my first time trial this Monday. It's a 12 mile course that I've never seen before. Should be interesting!

In the end, we finished with 32.5 miles. A great ride!

(The photographer on our ride said that she would email out her pictures for me, so as soon as I get them, I'll put them in another post!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Le Tour

I don't have TV reception at home, so I've been following the Tour de France online. This has consisted mostly of checking the standings at the end of each stage, reading people's blog entries on the subject, and recently, reading my first live blog on I'm evolving.

I had heard that shows live video of the race, but I haven't been able to get the video to work. I've been dying to see the high speed action of professional cyclists pedalling faster up the sides of mountains than I do on flats.

Well, finally today I got the free video option working, and it was so cool! If you haven't seen any video of Le Tour yet, you should really check it out at They also show some helpful information throughout each stage which makes the action easier to follow: where the riders are in the ranks, distance, speed, a course map, an elevation chart and some brief commentary.

I didn't think watching a bike race could be so interesting. But this is the biggest, baddest bike race of them all, right?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Holland Hundred

It's been a while since I posted, but I'm back! It was a busy week in which I didn't get to ride at all. But it ended in a beautiful Saturday for the Holland Hundred!

Two weeks ago, one of the women that I chat with a lot at the Thursday night women's ride (her name is Jaimie) said that she would ride the century with me, so I was totally excited. Then early this week, it looked like her friend might be visiting from Alaska this weekend, so she wasn't going to be able to ride. But the Alaskan friend decided to come into town next weekend instead, so we got to do the ride together after all! It is so much more fun to ride with a friend for 100 miles than to do it alone (or so I imagine). I was really glad Jaimie could make it. It was also a great time getting to know each other better.

Here's Jaimie

So, we met up at the Herman Miller Greenhouse in Holland, MI at 7:45am to get our wrist bands and maps for the ride (if you want to check out the route, the maps are online here). Then off we went! The weather report was threatening rain throughout the day, but it turned out to be perfect. Not too hot, sunny and dry.

For the past month, people have been telling me how flat this course was supposed to be. Ha! Flat like my husband's chubby Dutch butt! I'll grant that it was indeed flatter than the 100 Grand course, but it was still frickin' hilly! And super windy. OMG

So anyway. We skipped the first rest stop at 11 miles. We really weren't tired or hungry yet. But the second stop at 28 miles was great. So many bikes! We had a pancake breakfast and ran into our friends from the Priority Health team. Two of them ended up doing their first century on an tandem. How cool!

Pancake breakfast

What a great sight! So many bikes!

Me, loving the day

The only equipment issue I had all day was a dropped chain - just like the last century! I guess I should figure out what combination of shifting and climbing a hill causes that...and not do it! Oh, well. It's an easy problem to fix. Of course, I had just lubed my chain, so I had the black fingers to prove my mechanical prowess. lol

The second stop was at about 43 miles at the Fenn Valley Winery. I did a wine tasting here this spring as part of a bachelorette party for my friend, Cat. This stop was also fun because as I was picking snacks from the food table, a guy wearing a jersey with the Rolling Stones tongue on it (his name is Kevin - see the comments) came up to me and asked if I had blogged about the 100 Grand. He did the 100 Grand this year, too, and was trying to explain the ride to his friends. They didn't get it - so, it's a race? It's how many miles? He ended up googling "100 Grand" and found my blog. Then he referred his friends to it to help explain exactly what this crazy century ride thing was. I met a reader! Woo hoo! (By the way, cool jersey, Kevin H!)

Fenn Valley Winery

I love food!

Priority Health friends come in on their tandem ('s behind the sign post. Bad shot!)

Ready to continue, we hopped back on the road. After a while, I seriously started to hit the wall. My legs were dying and I was hungry. It's at this point that we consulted our route maps to see how far it was to the next rest stop. 30 miles between stops! I wanted to die. I did not have the same crazy stamina that I had on my first century ride. I think I was just not on that day. It had been a tiring week. I kept trying to make it to the designated stop. I kept thinking it would be just up ahead. Why stop now, it's just a couple more miles? Not so! I eventually declared my own rest stop to eat a banana that I had shoved in a jersey pocket after the pancake breakfast. That helped. My brain wasn't so fuzzy, but my legs still did not want to turn the pedals over. I was a little sad because I cruised through the first 50 miles, and now I was slowing down. But finally at mile 73, we found the park with the next stop.

After that, it was a mental game. There was one more stop about 12 miles away in the town of Saugatuck and then 15 miles to the finish. One little section at a time! I could do that.

Lake Michigan after the long section of the ride

We hit the stop in Saugatuck at around 3:00. There was some kind of festival going on downtown by the river. There were people and cars everywhere! We sat in a gazebo for a while watching the chain ferry shuttle tourists across the river. I did not want to keep going. I wished my car was in Saugatuck instead of in Holland. But I did it anyway.

Back in the saddle for the final push! We passed right by my friend Cat's apartment. Then finally...gloriously...the wind was at our backs! Just what we needed to finish strong! It's amazing how much of a difference that makes. With the wind at our backs, we were rolling at an effortless 22 miles per hour, whereas previously, we were lucky to struggle at 13 mph into the gale.

And at long last...the end! 99.8 miles in 8 hours. I may have felt slow for the second half of the Holland Hundred, but I finished it in a full hour less than I did the 100 Grand. My average speed for the day was 15mph. Not too bad, but I think if I pace myself better and keep getting stronger as a rider, I can improve on that.

The Holland Hundred was a really fun ride on a gorgeous day. I look forward to doing it again next year. Now, what ride shall I do next?!?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Riding partner

The women's group ride last night was a shorter ride than usual - 25 miles - but it was a hilly one!

After the ride, I knew the hubby was playing Left4Dead with his buddies, so I stuck around to have dinner with the girls at the Schnitz Deli above Ada Bike Shop. It was a great time to get to know each other. I had a black and blue burger and a bottle of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter:

Both were yummy! This shows that my taste in beer is changing. I never liked the darker beers before, but now I'm trying several and really enjoying them!

I'm super excited because one of the women I've been riding with at the group ride is almost certainly going to do the Holland Hundred with me! We have connected well and often end up chatting through entire rides. I know having her as a riding companion for a century will be great!

Some of the women from the Priority Health race team also invited us to a criterium this Saturday in Kalamazoo. They said it is a good one to try for your first time because it's a wider course, so the cornering isn't so intense. I'm actually interested in trying it out! Unfortunately, I can't make it this Saturday. Maybe I'll have to try another one some time. This has truly been a summer of cycling firsts for me, and I'm still hungry to try more new things!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not enough

I just read Lunicycle's entry for today, and I really empathized.

The weather forecast for this whole week is beautiful! 70s and 80s F and sunny until Friday. That's the stuff! So, I decided to ride my bike in to work yesterday.

The ride in was cool and got me moving, which is a definite bonus before sitting down to stare at my computer all day. The hubby and I had an appointment after work, which was only about a mile from my job, so I rode over to that, too. Unfortunately, due to time restraints, my bike was loaded into the back of my hubby's car for the drive home.

I only got to ride 5.2 miles total. Not enough!

My body wanted to move more than that after work (due to all the sitting and staring at my computer that I mentioned before). But I lucked out. We got a short run in before heading off to the Grand Rapids City Counsel meeting, which the hubby needed to attend for his job.

Still, I will not be satisfied until I get to ride more!

(On a side note, I was surprised and excited when one of the commissioners at the GR City Counsel meeting proposed discussion on new laws related to bike helmets and careless drivers! He was concerned after a cyclist was killed by a truck this summer on the morning of our Ride of Silence. His attitude was that there are more and more people in the city riding bikes. If we truly want to become a bicycle friendly city, maybe we should start exploring laws to increase the safety and awareness of the public.

Our mayor is a strong advocate for cyclists in GR, and now it sounds like we have another one! I look forward to seeing what comes of his suggestions.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've been published!

One of my favorite web comics is The System by Rosscott, Inc. I highly recommend it. He uses those warning sign guys - you know, like this one... share his loves, hates and funny thoughts about work, computers, graphic design...and cycling!

I was inspired recently to do a fan comic, and it got posted today! Check it out here!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bicycling in the Motor City

EcoVelo posted today about an article in the NY Times fantasizing about the economically depressed city of Detroit as a new bike haven. Check it out here.

I grew up about a mile from Detroit, and I would love to see the city as a cycling utopia. The article talks about how with the people (and therefore the people's cars) moving out of the city, bike commuters and bike shops are beginning to thrive. Maybe a change in economic focus - from auto to velo - is just what the doctor ordered! As the author of the New York Times article, Toby Barlow, says:

"Maybe it sounds far-fetched, but then again maybe it’s just destiny. Look at a map and you’ll see that Detroit is designed in the shape of a wheel, with streets emanating like spokes from the downtown hub. It looks like a premonition, a city uniquely designed to alter transportation forever.

"So, who knows, maybe the bike will follow the car. After all, it’s happened before. In 1896, when Charles B. King steered Detroit’s first automobile across its cobbled streets, following King’s progress with a keen and intelligent interest was Henry Ford, riding on a bicycle."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bailed out on

The hubby and I had lunch with some family Friday afternoon, and his Aunt Lisa and I planned to ride the Musketawa Trail together Saturday morning. I was very excited to ride the 50 mile route with someone!

So Saturday morning, I got myself and my bike ready and drove to the trail head. It was grey and possibly rainy looking, but I didn't care. I was going for a ride. If a storm came up, I figured we'd just turn around and ride back to the shelter of our cars. Slightly damp but not far from home. No biggie. So, after waiting about 15 minutes with no sign of Aunt Lisa, I gave her a call. Apparently she had left a message for me...on the hubby's phone. I didn't think to check that before leaving home.

So anyway she bailed out on me. I respect that she was willing to admit why she bailed, though. She said, "I'm a total priss, and I really hate riding in the rain." lol

Since I was already at the trail head, I decided to get my ride in anyway. Which was great! I felt a few drops of rain for about a minute and half, and that was it. It stayed grey the whole time, but I was able to do the whole 49.5 in just a little more than 3 hours. I was pretty happy with my 16.1mph pace.

That will probably be my last really long ride before the Holland Hundred. I should get out for more shorter rides, though.

I love my bike!