Friday, May 29, 2009

Lost in the riding

Last night was the weekly women's group ride - 26.5 miles under grey but not rainy skies.

I have to say that my legs were tired yesterday. Though I kept up with the group, I didn't feel like the same powerhouse that I did last week. We all have those days, though, I know! It was about 55 degrees out - you never know what you're going to get for weather in May in Michigan. One day it will be 75F and sunny, the next day it will be 50F and raining. You gotta love it, or you'll go crazy! The cool air made my nose runny, and because it was grey enough not to drive my car in sunglasses, I forgot to put them on before the ride. I kept getting specs of dust and bugs in my eyes. What a pain!

Still, none of those minor annoyances took away the shear fun of the ride!

I love chit-chatting with the ladies while we ride. However at one point, one of the girls pointed out, "Hey! You're really quiet back there!" I realized that I was just lost in the peace and escape of biking. It's such a relief to have nothing to think about but swooping down the road. Sure, I often had to focus pretty intensely on not hitting the tire in front of me...or a car...or a giant, man-eating pot hole. But there are still moments of just pedalling. Just flying.

Aaaaaaaah.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No dis

I've gotten several wonderful and encouraging comments lately about my training for the century. Thanks everyone!

So in light of the fantasticness of everyone who actually reads my blog, I just wanted to put it out there that I mean no disrespect to anyone when I say something like "I only rode 18 miles today." I give myself permission to use "only" when referring to what would otherwise be a lot of miles simply because I keep looking ahead to the day (which is fast approaching!) when I will have to ride 105 miles. On that day, when my legs feel like jello-filled sausages (to borrow from Lunicyle), I will wish I was riding "only" 18 miles!

I really believe that whatever distance you ride, the important thing is that you get out there and that you have fun!

Woo hoo! Let's ride!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Growth

Over my Memorial Day weekend, I only ended up riding a short 18 mile ride instead of the long 60 mile ride I should have done. Oh well! I may not have made much growth as a cyclist this weekend, but I'm hoping for another kind of growth as a result of my labors.

I finally got my vegetable garden planted! It's a little late perhaps (I planted seeds, not plants), but I don't care as long as the veggies grow. I can't wait to have fresh tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, green beans and zuchini from my back yard!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Feeling strong

The ladies' group ride last night was great, as usual! I met my goal of riding with the lead group this week. I don't have any idea whether they rode more easily than last week or not. I had to work at a few points to keep up, but I did it! I was very happy with myself.

After the 28 mile ride, about a dozen of us hit a sandwich shop for dinner. I told one of the women that I had only recently started biking, and she was impressed and said that I was a strong biker. That made me feel really affirmed!

I also met a woman named Tracy who doesn't live too far from me. We exchanged numbers so we can ride together some time!

I told my hubby that the group ride is probably the funnest activity I go to all week, and he asked me why. It was hard to explain! It's just such a cool experience! But I'd have to say that the following things contribute to my feeling of enjoyment:

- I get to ride my bike;
- I get to socialize with some interesting and zany women;
- I feel like I fit in with a group that has similar interests;
- I get to ride fast, and I push myself harder than when I ride alone;
- I'm developing a sense of confidence in my riding ability;
- It feels safer to ride with a group of people;
- When we're all chugging along in a pack, weaving and pushing up hills...even though we're close to each other, it feels somehow comfortable;
- We get to have good food and drinks afterward.

How can you beat that?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ride of Silence on day of local cyclist's death

I wasn't able to attend the Ride of Silence last night, so it wasn't until reading the news this morning that I learned about a local cyclist's death yesterday afternoon.

It was in the Grand Rapids Press (here) and the Detroit Free Press (here).

A 55-year old man on a bicycle and a city dump truck collided resulting in the man's death.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was scheduled to give a speech at the Ride of Silence, but he gave a prayer for the victim and his family instead. He also participated in the ride along with over 200 other cyclists. The RofS had special significance for Grand Rapids this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ride of Silence

The Ride of Silence takes place tonight at 7:00pm out of the Riverside Park island shelter entrance. This is a ride taking place across the country to remember those who have been killed or injured while riding bikes. I really wanted to participate (especially after becoming one of the "injured"), but my husband has a company bowling party tonight. That should be a blast, too, but my thoughts and prayers will be with the victims of car-bike accidents and their loved ones tonight.

In other news, I think I've successfully talked my friends Cat and Melissa into doing the 100 Grand with me. I'm so excited about that! We'll be able to both entertain and encourage each other when our legs start begging us to stop pedalling.

I'm also excited because it's going to be 80 degrees F today. When I got up this morning, I decided to ride my bike to work. It's a good thing I did, because after I got all ready to go, I discovered that my husband has my car keys. I would have had to ride my bike or my Spree in anyway. What a beautiful day it will be!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Musketawa Trail

When I was in college, I took a physics class. On the first day of lecture, the professor wrote the word "RELENTLESS" in large block letters on the board. He explained that that's how the class was going to be throughout the entire semester. And it was.

I thought of that class yesterday as I rode a 55 mile training ride on the Musketawa Trail. I pedalled against a relentless headwind the entire way out! Then, thank goodness, I got to turn around and let it push me home. Needless to say, the trip back went a bit faster!

I decided to check out the Musketawa Trail, which runs from Marne (northeast of Grand Rapids) to east Muskegon, for the first time yesterday. It was a bit of a drive from my house to the trail head, but it was worth it. What a nice trail. I like riding through forests and farm lands on my bike, and that was pretty much all I saw along the entire trail.

All 25 miles of trail were well paved, and there were porta-potties at each trail head. There were even beverage vending machines near Muskegon. Overall, there was little civilization to be seen other than a couple little towns. One of these villages is Ravenna, where they are restoring and displaying memorabilia from the old rail road. Here is the restored rail road water tower.



There were some little country stores and ice cream shops that I didn't stop to explore this time around, but I will in the future. They at least inspired me to take my hubby out for some soft serve when I returned home. I also passed over some wetlands and a couple small rivers like this one.



There were lots of breezy fields like the one below. This picture is a bit washed out and unfortunately doesn't do justice to the incredibly blue sky.



About a mile before the western-most end of the trail, I saw this prison through the trees. The inmates were out walking in the yard. I imagined myself in there looking out at the people biking and roller blading on the trail, and I was glad to be on the outside of the razor wire enjoying my bike in the sun.



I'm getting stronger with each long ride and recovering faster afterwards. I'm still pretty done by the end of them, though. My legs get tired and my neck and shoulders hurt. It will really take my willpower to finish the century. But I know I can do it!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Maybe I'm fast

Last night's women's group ride was great! Having just put air in the tires and lubed the chain on my bike, I was ready for the 28 mile ride. When I arrived in the bike shop parking lot, I chatted with the youngest participant in the ride - a 13 year old girl who is getting into racing for the first time this year. Her dad is into cycling and encouraged her to give it a try. I wish I would have discovered bike racing when I was young. I think I would have liked to try it. I had no idea it even existed! But who says I can't try it now, right?

Then my mother-in-law arrived to ride with us. She's been trying to get me to ride in the weekly time trials put on by the Rapid Wheelmen, and I've been inviting her to the women's group ride. She's shown up for me, so I guess it's my turn now. To be honest, part of my desire to have her join us on the group ride was to see how I compare to her in biking ability. My in-laws do a triathlon every year, so they've been biking for a long time. I'm new to biking, but I've been putting in pretty good miles. So I was curious.

At 6:30 sharp, we took off. At a couple points, we all stopped to regroup then continue on. In this process, I discovered that I actually am faster than Mom and that I climb hills better than I thought I did. I changed how I approached the hills this week. Instead of shifting down to a really easy gear and pedalling at a high rate, I shifted down a little less and pushed a little more with my legs. That seemed to make me much faster! I had thought that I was supposed to maintain the same level of effort on flats and hills and use shifting alone to adjust. But maybe that's not the best approach.

After the regroup at about mile 12 of the ride, I started off at the back of the group. The fast riders took off and we all spread out a bit. Then I decided to see if I could catch up to the front group. So I pushed the pace and started closing gaps and passing people. I eventually caught the second group and decided that the lead group was still pretty far up, so I stuck with the 2nd group ladies for the last 6 miles. I wish I knew what my average speed was for the ride. Unfortunately, my computer started displaying strange alien symbols just prior to the mile 12 regroup point. It was a $20 computer. I guess I got what I paid for. Annoying.

So, making up so much distance over the ride and pretty much smoking my mother-in-law made me feel like maybe I could be a pretty fast cyclist. At least for a newbie. I think that if I started with them, I could keep up with the lead group. I'm going to give it a try next week! And if I can ride with women who are on race teams, maybe I should try racing myself! I'll probably be mediocre, like I was at running, but who knows. Maybe biking is my athletic niche.

Or perhaps, this is just like what happened to me in cross country in high school. I would run 20 miles a week all summer and come to the first day of practice in better shape than everyone who was lazy all summer. Then, they would all catch up, and I'd sort of burn out early and end up somewhere in the middle of the pack.

In any case, my list of bike related things to try now includes:

- mountain biking
- a road race

I'm doing the century in June, but I don't really think of that as a speed race. I just want to finish it. But what about something shorter? What skills do I need to do a race like that? Could be interesting!

I never imagined I'd be thinking about racing when I started casually riding my bike three years ago. But I guess I'm getting more gutsy as I get older. I endure more muscle burn, more fatigue. I've been through it before, so I know I'll survive. I've skidded on some pavement now, so falling over on a tight turn (though definitely a sucky thought) is less scary. And I'm told that at 29 I'm in my athletic peak. I should be lifting weights more - I need to put the increasing testosterone in my system to use! lol

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Biking as preparation for kickball

My hubby and I have a plethora of outdoor hobbies when the temps finally rise in the spring - biking, running, frisbee golf, geocaching, tennis, river tubing, roller blading...and recently kickball!

One of our good friends works in technology at a charter school company, and his fun-loving co-workers have organized a kickball team. Last night was the first game of our second season playing with them on a local kickball league. Before last year's season, none of us had played kickball since grade school! It is so much fun to play as an adult. I'm much more confident and coordinated than I used to be.

I was a little nervous before the game last night, because last year I pulled a quad muscle while sprinting to first base in one of the season's early games. That was not a fun experience, and it made me feel old. ;)

But I think all the bike riding I've been doing warmed up my legs for the challenge this year! No injuries this time...just some warm rain and cold beer after the game. And we won - what a way to start the season!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bike to Work Week

In honor of Bike to Work Week, I'm commuting to work by bike as much as I can this week. Which sadly turns out to be only two of the five days. But I'm happy to get out on my bike even that much, and I look forward to commuting more often as the spring and summer progress.

Since buying a house close to work this winter, my commute is now only 7.5 miles round trip. When I drive, I usually get to work early. This is cool because it means that when I bike, I don't have to leave the house any earlier! How cool is that?

I look forward to the ride home today - it will be a sunny 67 degrees F. Just about perfect for a bike ride!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cycling haiku

Lunicycle wrote a haiku in his head while riding his bike this weekend. Check it out here.

He inspired me to write one of my own about my 50 mile ride yesterday.

Cycling takes so long
But what more could I ask
On a sunny day?

LOL! I'm no Shakespeare - or even Lunicycle, for that matter! But it was fun to write a poem. I haven't written a haiku since high school.

Making up for lost time

Sunday afternoon, a month after my crash, I finally got the chance to do the 50 mile ride that I was working on when I got hit by the car. It was definitely tiring, but I think if I can just increase my long ride by about 5 miles each week, I'll be pretty good to go for the race on June 6. At that rate, I will have ridden a 60-65 mile ride before century day. If I can get that far, I should be able to mental through 40 more miles. I'll just have to be extra conscious of eating enough and taking breaks off the bike. If one or two of my friends decide to do the race with me, it'll be even easier. The company and encouragement would be huge to me.

The most annoying part about doing my long training ride each week is how much time it takes. During the women's group ride last Thursday, I rode 25 miles in under 2 hours. That was on country roads with little traffic and few intersections. However the 50 mile ride around my home area took me 4.5 hours. It takes so much longer to ride around the south side of Grand Rapids using the bike paths and busy streets. I have to stop at a lot of intersections and slow down for other people using the paths - dog walkers, children, etc. I don't normally mind these delays, but they sure make doing a long ride take a big chunk of the day.

I'm debating whether driving somewhere more conducive to riding without interruption would actually save me time. It depends on how much less time I would need to ride and how long it would take to drive there. For example, it would take me almost an hour to I drive out and back to the route that the group ride used. That's not a time savings.

Oh, well. I've only got 4 weeks of training to go. I guess a few extra hours on the bike isn't such a bad thing!

Also, Happy Bike to Work Week!

Friday, May 8, 2009

First Ladies' Group Ride

First of all, I picked up my road bike from the shop last night, and I'M SO HAPPY TO HAVE IT BACK! (Yes, I meant to make that all caps!) The bike shop did a great job. All the new parts look shiny and are working smoothly. They even did the bar tape for me. Now all I have to do is make an attempt at putting a new tire on the rear wheel. At some point. Right now, all I want to do is ride.

Last night, I also attended the first of this year's weekly women's group rides. My first group ride ever. It was awesome! I had so much fun. There were about 20 women, all on road bikes with bike shorts, jerseys and clipless pedals. I'm glad I had my road bike back. My mountain bike would have been painfully slow. I also picked up a jersey in a highly visible yellow color the other day, so I wore that. One of the women said she could see me a half mile ahead. Nice. Here's me beaming after the ride on my resurrected bike.


Riding with a group for the first time was very educational. I learned not to draft too close when going up a hill. I learned verbal signals like "car up" and "car back" and hand signals for stopping and pointing out obstacles in the pavement.

I enjoyed meeting a group of women who is interested in and good at road biking. It was so cool to feel like a part of that community. To know that there are other's in my city that like what I like. To feel like I fit in. A few of the women were riders for local race teams. I felt so proud keeping up with "elite" riders like that, even though this was probably an easy ride for them. Here are a few of the women getting ready to go to a sandwich shop after the ride. A couple of them rode the orange and red tandem that you can partly see leaning against the truck. How fun!


The route was a hilly 25 miles around the Ada, MI area (here's the route map). I really enjoyed a particularly long stretch of downhill on which I reached about 33 miles per hour - my personal fastest. I also confirmed that I'm not a climber. I make it up the hills just fine...but I'm not fast. I often got behind another rider on a long hill and then caught up again after.

One really cool moment for me was when the group stopped at an intersection to let everyone catch up. When we took off together, it was funny and wonderful to hear the clickity clack of 20 cleats simultaneously locking into pedals. It was like bike popcorn!

I will be looking forward to Thursday night all next week! I can't wait to go again!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Slick is back!

The bike shop just called and Slick is ready to be picked up! I. Am. So. Geeked.

Just in time for the first weekly women's group ride of the year, which is tonight at 6:30 out of Ada Bike Shop. I'm pretty excited to ride with some of the ladies from the Rapid Wheelmen.

I hope there are no hiccups with the new hardware.

Here I come, Slick! I'm coming to take you home!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Will I make it?

The bike shop is still waiting on delivery of some of the parts they ordered for my road bike. They expect to get everything in this week some time. Four weeks to the race and still no road bike. My longest ride has still only been 40 miles, and that was three weeks ago.

Am I going to make it? Will I be ready for the 100 Grand?

There's another century in Holland, MI in July. I could just forget about the 100 Grand and shoot for that one, but I'm really determined to stick with my original plan. Ready or not. Plus I registered for it yesterday. I'm locked in! Oops! LOL

Friday, May 1, 2009

Off Road

Since I've had to ride my mountain bike for the past few weeks, I decided to finally let it be a mountain bike and actually take it off road. This will be my second time ever riding dirt trails instead of paved ones!

I recently discovered Plaster Creek park, which is about a mile and a half from my house, and noticed that there were some mountain bike trails heading off of the paved trail. So I decided to explore today. It turns out that there's quite an extensive network of trails in this park! Nothing too technical, except for some obstacles that I considered impassible without getting off of my bike. I have just a hair above zero knowledge of mountain biking techniques, and I'm also kind of a chicken, do I didn't go trying to teach myself anything new today.

For example, I did not try to jump these dirt mounds.

I did not try to ride over these logs (or any of the many other logs across the trail), though I'm sure someone who knows what they're doing would not find this too challenging.

And I did not fall into the river here.

I did however ride about 5 miles on the dirt (about 8 miles total) and had a good time. I really should consider mountain biking more if I ever get sick of road biking. ;)