Monday, June 29, 2009

Fred Meijer Millenium Trail System

Happily, I got out for a good 50-mile ride on Sunday. It was sunny and beautiful, but windy! Wow!

I decided to check out the new Fred Meijer Millenium Trail system, the first stage of which was completed this month. So I rode the Kent Trails up to the Millenium Park area and hopped on the new trail. It is really nice! Rolling, curvy, well paved and fun to ride. It goes right through the middle of the lake at a couple points. I felt like the wind was going to blow me right into the water! I've ridden my bike in Millenium Park before, but one bonus for me was that the trail led me to areas of the park that I've never seen. For example, there's a small beach there that I've heard about but never visited.

Josh Duggan of PedalGR did a great job taking photos of the trail, so I don't feel like I need to add any of my own. Check out Josh's post here!

An enjoyable perk of riding the area bike trails is all the woodland creatures that I get to see. Yesterday I spotted squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, geese, dogs and a turkey. In the past I've also seen chipmunks, deer, snakes, cats, moles, etc. Michigan is fun for all the animals that seem to find their wilderness niches in the middle of urban/suburban areas!

I was impressed by a meaningful little community service project at my mile 43. It was hot, and I was running out of liquids. I was starting to wonder where I was going to find more, when I spotted a little tub full of ice at a road crossing. Posted next to the tub was a wooden sign that said, "Free water." Perfect! Exactly what I needed! Each bottle of water had a sticker expressing the blessings of a local church. What a nice service on a hot day! I'm sure many trail users appreciated that cold water. I know I did.

I'm also still trying to work out this issue with my left hand. I've been moving it around on the handlebars a lot, which seems to have kept the problem from getting any worse. In fact, it is getting better. But I'm still uncomfortable. Maybe I'm leaning too hard on the bars, but it feels like my position doesn't give me much choice. I've also thought about tilting the bars down a little more to change my wrist position, which I really should try next time I ride. I think that might change where the pressure is hitting my hands. But it seems that that would stretch me out even more. I'll just keep experimenting until I figure it out.

Overall, the 50 miles felt great and I'm confident that if I keep it up, I'll really enjoy the Holland Hundred next month. Doesn't riding your bike all day sound like a ton of fun?!

Friday, June 26, 2009

My year in mileage

We did 30 miles last night for the women's ride. It was hot out again! But I spent most of the ride chatting with a girl named Katie and drinking from my new Fat Cyclist water bottle, so I hardly noticed the heat or the miles flying by.

Speaking of miles flying by... Last July, when I decided to start getting ready for a bike trip up the White Pine Trail from Grand Rapids to Big Rapids, I started logging my biking miles. I know there's a few days left in June to ride (and I hope to get a long ride in this weekend), but I'm excited to share my first recorded year in cycling miles.

From July 2008 to June 2009 so far, I've ridden 1405 miles. Not too bad, I think, for my first year! I know it'll be higher for the next year. Since January 2009, I've ridden 781 miles, so if I just double that number, that's already a couple hundred miles more.

Anyway, I definitely hope to increase my mileage this coming year. More time in the saddle for me - woo hoo! (Check out Lunicycle's funny rewrite of Back in the Saddle Again!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer is here at last!

Monday was a hot but excellent bike commute to work. It's been in the mid- to upper 80s F all week and over 90 F today! That's pretty warm for Michigan! It's finally summer!

I've been trying to be careful about watering my garden on these balmy summer days. Most of the seeds I planted in May got eaten by sneaky little roguish birds. All that came up were some zucchini and lettuce, so my hubby bought me some already started plants - various peppers, cucumbers and various tomatoes. The only thing missing is some green beans, but I think I can live without them. There's no more room for them in the garden anyway. Now that I actually have growth, I need to be sure those plants get lots of cool water! I can't wait for veggies!

Speaking of cool... We made our first tubing trip of the year down the Thornapple River Monday night. Yah! That is such a fun and relaxing way to cool off after work. I highly recommend river tubing, if you've never tried it!

Unfortunately, our new house doesn't have central air, so we've been sleeping in the basement until we can get one of our window air conditioners installed. We almost finished that last night - just a little more insulating around the window and we'll have a cooler upstairs!

Back to biking, though. The Holland Hundred is only three weeks away, and I haven't gotten a long ride in (or much riding at all, for that matter) since the 100 Grand. The women's group riders tell me that the Holland Hundred is a flat course, so it's easier than the 100 Grand. If I get a 50 miler in this weekend, I'll feel better about having kept up my fitness for another century. Lots of water and sunscreen, here I come!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feel the burn

The weekly women's ride last night was great, as always. The hubby and I lifted weights Tuesday night, and my quads were still sore from that. Our 27-mile route was super hilly, so my poor legs burned the entire ride! I pushed it, too...no letting up. It was so good to get back out on the bike!

After the ride, S.J. served chips and beer out of the tailgate of her purple mini-van. I had an Oberon. It was a nice reward for my hard work!


The ladies couldn't believe that I'm 29 years old. I get that all the time. One of them made me show her my driver's license. At least they were being sure not to serve alcohol to a minor, right?!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Laser

I saw this article on treehugger.com today about the "Laser," a device that shines a laser light in an elipse around your bike making you more visible. It also has sensors that respond to objects crossing the laser beams. If a car, for example, enters the elipse, the laser light turns from green to red, and the the devise sounds a horn until the car leaves the space of the beams.


While this doesn't seem like a bad system, I personally prefer the Light Lane concept product, which I've posted about before. It looks more classy and clearly says "bike here!" - at least visually.


Other thoughts about the two products? Has anyone seen similar systems on the market or in development?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yehuda Moon is back!

I'm not the first blogger to shout this exciting news from the virtual rooftops, but I'm such a fan that I had to do it, too!

Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery is back from hiatus and will now update again dialy. Sundays will feature the new Joe King comic, which I think will be really fun.

Check it out here! (The link is also on my sidebar.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Washington DC

The hubby and I visited some friends in Washington DC this weekend for a bachelor/bachelorette party. It was a great trip! Maybe a bit too much drama with all the drunk lawyers at the party, but fun anyway. And though I didn't have a chance to get on my bike this weekend (actually, I haven't been on my bike since the century...), I did keep my eyes open for cyclists in DC.

Bike commuters in the city were quite numerous, but infrastructure was light. I saw one or two bike lanes and some racks, but that was about it. The hubby and I rode the metro everywhere, and it was neat to see people bringing their bikes on the train for the street level portions of their journeys.

I did catch a glimpse of a SmartBikeDC bike rental depot. I tried to take a picture of it, but it was dark, so the photo came out like this:


Anyway, here's me down the street from the Capital in my Velo Kitty shirt.

I'm itching to get a ride in as soon as possible. I hope I can do that this week!

Friday, June 12, 2009

More on the 100 Grand

The photographer at the 100 Grand caught Cat and I riding into the first rest stop. I think it's a cute pic! I've always wondered what I look like on the bike...I guess the answer is tall and skinny.



I was also wondering if anyone has experienced soreness or weakness in their hands after a long ride. My hands were a little sore for a couple days, and my left hand felt weak when I tried to pinch or squeeze things. Am I squeezing my handlebars too much? Am I putting pressure on the wrong places on my hands? I'm not overly concerned about this, since I don't ride that kind of mileage all the time, but if it's something I can correct in the future, that'd be great! I appreciate your advice!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Packing

Hope to pack in a few miles tonight

This evening is my weekly women's group ride, but it's raining right now. I hope it stops so I can ride! I wanna ride! It'd be great to get a few miles in before flying to Washington DC for the weekend.

Need to pack for our trip

The hubby and I are leaving for DC tomorrow to attend one of our couple friend's bachelor/-ette party on Saturday. It's going to be a combined men's and women's event. I don't know what we're going to do exactly, but it should be fun! Knowing our friends, beer will be involved. I also hope to visit the National Air and Space Museum while we're there.

You packed all that...in there?

During the century this past weekend, I recounted everything that I had packed in my under-saddle bag to my riding buddy, Cat. I was kind of amazed and impressed at everything I fit in there. The list includes:

a spare tube
tire levers
a multi-tool
two CO2 cartridges and pump
a granola bar
a baggie of pretzels
a baggie of almonds
two fruit roll-up type things
a small travel bottle of sun screen

Not to shabby, huh? I also had a hand pump attached to the frame of my bike, and my jersey pockets contained my cell phone, a camera, my ID/money, a clif bar and I later added some twizlers and a rice crispy treat.

With all the food that was provided at the ride, I didn't end up needing most of what I packed, which is good to know for next time. And by next time, I'm referring to the Holland Hundred, which is the next century that I'm considering doing on July 18. Anyone else in?!?!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The 100 Grand

Saturday was the big day...the day I've been looking forward to and preparing for for almost a year - the 100 Grand!

It. Was. Awesome.

I arrived at about 7:30am to get my wrist band and the map of the route. My friend, Cat, called me to let me know she was running late. My other friends, Melissa and Ben, were supposed to be coming from Chicago to join us, too. Unfortunately, their car broke down on the way to GR last night, so they didn't make it. A mechanic informed them later that someone had put tampons in their gas tank. Classy, huh?

So, Cat arrived and we started the ride at 8:30. The first thing I noticed was how difficult the map was to read. Fortunately, every turn in the whole route was marked with a color coded arrow indicating which direction to go for each of the distance options. It was very well organized, and I hope every ride I do from now on has similar markings. I didn't have to remember to watch for streets...just look for the bright neon spray paint. I loved it.

The first rest stop was at 21.3 miles. They had lots of snacks and fruit, water and Gatorade and a bake sale to keep us fueled up. I bought a peanut butter, chocolate covered rice crispy treat that tasted amazing! We also ran into lots of women from the group ride. My in-laws were also at the ride, but they started earlier than us riding with some fast Bissell riders, and we never saw them again after the start.

At the first rest stop (I'm in yellow, Cat's in red)

The second rest stop was at 40.4 miles. At this point, I was beginning to have some doubts about my endurance. I was feeling nauseous and tired. However two things at this rest stop actually restored my energy and excitement - lunch and potties. They provided chicken wraps, BBQ sandwiches, fruit...it was tasty. And apparently, my body needed to "get rid of some no longer needed materials," so the nice clean bathroom was quite welcome. After this, I felt great and was ready to keep going.

Feeling unsure but ready to keep going

At this point, the ride split up. Those doing the shorter distances turned one direction and those doing the full 105 miles turned another. It was pretty lonely on the long route, except for a large group from Herman Miller who came up behind us. At this point, I had my only mechanical issue - I dropped my chain while shifting. But I easily slipped it back into place, and off we went.

As Cat and I and the Herman Miller group were waiting to cross a busy street, Cat didn't want to clip out, so she started riding circles around us. As she came around behind me, she cut it too close and hit my back tire falling over and knocking me over with her. We both got a scraped knee out of the deal. It was kind of hilarious!

Our minor battle wounds

The third rest stop came at 66.2 miles. This stop was memorable for how awesome the trail mix tasted! It was just what we needed. I couldn't believe how good I still felt at this point in the ride. I was now past my longest ride ever, and I was ready to keep going. The entire route was hilly. I didn't know Grand Rapids had that many hills! And some directions presented a nasty head wind. Even so, I felt like we kept a pretty good pace going.

Still feeling great at 66 miles

The fourth and final rest stop was back at the park where we had lunch. More cookies and fruit to snack on. A few of the riders who've done the 100 Grand before informed us that the last part of the ride is the hardest. I was ready to tackle it!


No! No more! Just kidding.

The final 25 miles were indeed the hardest. They saved the biggest hills for the end. Cat and I started counting down every five miles and rewarding ourselves with twizzlers for making it each time.

My awesome hubby was waiting for us at the finish - my own personal cheering squad! He even brought me a taco! What a sweety.

The total ride distance was 103 miles, and I honestly could have kept going. Our average speed was 14mph - slower than I expected but very acceptable considering all the hills and wind and not riding in a group. The whole ride took us 9 hours, including a good hour of stop time. My bike performed wonderfully, and the weather was great. Around 70 degrees with the rain holding off until after we finished. I am very happy and ready to do another century! Maybe the Holland 100 in July...

We did it!

Yeah!

My route map

John Ball Park

The Thursday night ladies' group ride starts out of a new location for the month of June - John Ball Park. This park is near downtown Grand Rapids and has a pretty nice zoo with a ropes course and a zip line. It's not a bad zoo to visit. However, if you're in Michigan, I recommend the Detroit Zoo. It's a very large zoo with lots of different animals and an impressive polar bear exhibit.

The ride was a lot of fun, as usual! 30 miles, part of which was on the course for the 100 Grand. It was fun to see a little bit of what I would be facing in a couple days.

After the ride, one of the women pulled chips and cooler of Oberon and Corona out of the back of her van. Nice, huh?! Biking and beer, together again!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

T-minus three days!

Just three days till the century! Woo!

My friends Cat and Melissa are going to ride it with me. We're working on some kind of team sign to pin to our backs. I put one together just for fun. This is only a first idea and will most likely change drastically, but voila, the first draft:

Monday, June 1, 2009

White Pine Trail

Having skipped my long ride last weekend, I was eager to get out yesterday for a ride in the sun. I decided to drive up to the White Pine Trail this time. This is a great trail that runs from Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park up to Cadillac, MI. It's a rail trail, most of which is gravel and dirt, but there are a couple nicely paved sections that are perfect for road biking.

Yesterday, I rode the paved section from the ballpark north to Sand Lake and back. I rode this trail a couple times before - mainly when I rode from the ballpark to my cousin's apartment in Big Rapids last fall. That was my longest trip ever - 55 miles each way (with an overnight in Big Rapids in between), most of which was on gravel. Personally, I find the paved section much more fun to ride!

It was a beautiful day, and many people were taking advantage of this popular trail for biking, running, walking and stopping at the scenic outlooks like this one.



This is the Rouge River, which I found confusing at first, because I thought the Rouge River ran through the Detroit area, where I grew up. But Wikipedia set me straight! Apparently, the Detroit area river is officially called the River Rouge, even though everyone calls it the "Rouge River." I learned something about my state. Nice!





I used the end of my ride to explore some of the new extentions of the paved trail that have recently been built into the Comstock Park and Walker areas. The ride ended up being 46.5 miles.

So, my longest pre-century training ride has been 55 miles long. I'm feeling pretty good about that even though it's less than I originally planned. The whole getting-hit-by-a-car thing really put a pause in my training schedule. But I know century day will be filled with stops for lunch and snacks, so I think I'll be fine. I know I'm just going to go out there and have fun! Part of me wants to see how fast I can do 105 miles. But maybe for the first century, I should just focus on finishing and having a good time.

Five more days! I can't wait!