Sunday, February 28, 2010

Becoming a Cyclist

I rode off today squeezed into my best cycling lycra. I have on a white dry-fit shirt, chamois shorts under my cycling tights, cycling gloves(ugh!) and (I can't believe I'm going to admit this) a black fanny pack around my waist. Since I wasn't wearing a coat and I don't have a jersey I needed somewhere to put my keys, phone, wallet and 1/2 sandwich. Riding away all clipped into my new road bike I think, "Is this really who I am becoming?"

Riding to Tabor is effortless and familiar. I have really mastered Mt. Tabor and I need to ride in places that are unfamiliar to prepare me for RAGBRAI so I round the top of Tabor and head down Yamhill towards Rocky Butte. It's a quick trip on the bike streets on my new bike and before I know it I'm heading up my second volcano. Just as I am starting I see a weed growing up out of the middle of the asphalt. For a few moments, I admire that little weeds ability to grow in the most inhospitable environment and I hope it survives. About 1/2 way up is the first time I even notice my back and I think, "I think this fanny pack is keeping my low back warmer."

I stop at the top to eat my sandwich, admire the beautiful view, and curse that I forgot my camera. As I ride around the castle-like top a beautiful Mexican girl runs down the steps dressed in an absolutely stunning ball gown. She stops to let me pass and I say, "Pretty" as I ride by. "Thanks!" she beams.

I decide to try today to ride down the back side of Rocky Butte, which I have never tried before. Unlike Mt. Tabor, the road is well-maintained so I feel more comfortable as I scream down the mountain. Tears stream away as the wind gets to my eyes. At the bottom on this side is a GIANT domed shape building with little eaves and windows sticking out all over it that looks nothing short of ridiculous. Checking out the sign for the building as I turn around to climb back up I see that it is a church. "Well, that's appropriate," I think.

Climbing back up I see that I am only going 6mph, but I make it to the top without too much of a struggle and head back down, through the tunnel, towards Tabor. As I ride through the neighborhood a 10ish year old kid is dancing in the street listening to his Ipod. I smile as I pass, and he becomes shy and turns away.

Turning to climb back up Yamhill I am faced with a short monster climb. Before I know it I am in my lowest gear and huffing and puffing. I make it to the top and head back into Mt. Tabor park. The park is busy today which is not my favorite time so for a moment I consider not doing the 5 climbs that I had vaguely decided I'd like to do today. I stop at the top to admire the view, get off my bike and stretch my back. Then I get back on and decide to climb one more time.

As I climb up the Salmon side a group of 6 skateboarders pass me, weaving gracefully and somewhat unpredictably down the mountain. I have such admiration for the balance and grace it takes to skateboard and think there are few things more beautiful than a skateboarder coming down a hill. It's a nice moment and before I know it I am at the top. 5 climbs, 2 volcanoes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tapestry Coat

Yesterday was our first long ride on our new bicycles...Amie and The Ballbreaker. Peter got a new bike too the day after I got mine. His is retro looking with maroon and cream on the frame, a leather seat and brown tape on the handlebars. Riding it home from the record store, Peter says, "Easy there, Ballbreaker, easy." And so, the bike was named.

We wanted to do something familiar for our first ride on the new bikes so we did the same Springwater ride we did last 2 miles. It was lovely as usual and we even saw a peacock (along with turkeys, chickens and a goat) as we rode home. My back got fatigued pretty quickly on the new bike, but I think after you've put in 30 miles it really becomes more comfortable than a hybrid. For the legs and knees it is no question, the road bike is far and away better.

Of course, the seats on road bikes are harder and more narrow, thus requiring the dreaded chamois shorts. Nothing kills the dream of being well-dressed on a bicycle faster than wearing spandex shorts with a diaper sown into them. They say that for every mile you want to ride you should spend a dollar on your chamois shorts. I say go for the gold and get the Louis Garneau cycling shorts at Indie Bike. You will not be dissapointed...they are like riding on a freaking pillow. Add a little Chamois Butt'r to the chamois and it won't be your seat that will be calling for a break.

So, about being a well-dressed cyclist. I plan on wearing beautiful summer dresses on my bicycle as well as doing lots of mileage in preparationg for RAGBRAI. Farmer tans absolutely will not do. The pockets on the back of the jersey are incredibly useful though as you can keep food and an extra water bottle back there. A tiny little zippered pocket just isn't big enough. Enter Sheila Moon. She has designed fabulous artsy, sometimes even strappy, cycling tanks with full pockets in the back! Yes! I plan on ordering three as we get closer to summer and I think they will even give my Louis Garneau's some fashion help.

Today we took the bikes to Banks and rode a little of the bike trail to Vernonia. It was a nice climb, gentle and long, and was complete with beautiful forests, a long trestle, a stream and a pony. At one point I got Amie up to 27 mph but had to slow down because it felt too fast.

As soon as we got home I hopped in the shower and got dressed to go to my massage. Peter got a picture of me riding away in my tapestry coat. Riding 125 miles in a week gives a massage therapist a lot to work on. It was excruciating. Of course, that is what I pay her for. My calves, quads and glutes were really "sticky" as she says. It felt good to warm up the muscles a bit on the way home after that abuse.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Amie and Reilly

I got up early this morning to take my new road bike which I have named Amie out for a short ride. I realized that my back just needs to get in shape for this new position and starting out with a 100 minute ride and 1500 feet of elevation gain was probably not the best idea last Friday. I also wanted to try out my new cycling shoes and clipless pedals (called clipless because they are instead of toe clips which are the cages that go around your shoes). Peter thinks calling them clipless even though you clip into them is ridiculous, but nevertheless, that is what they are called. First of all, they are awesome. I never realized how much my feet bothered me when I ride until I tried these. Second of all, they are really not that scary. I've been riding with toe clips for months and had one dramatic fall on them so I am used to thinking about getting my left foot out at stop sign. Plus, when you do fall it is in slow motion and maybe you skin your knee but that is something anyone over aged 12 should be proud to show off.

My ride on Amie was great. My easy cruising speed was 15 miles an hour and it wasn't too hard to get it up to 26 mph. I went for about 40 minutes and noticed my back a bit after 30, but not too much. I decided that was enough for my back for today and decided to take out my red hybrid bike for my training ride. I spent the whole first 30 minutes of the ride wishing I had on my cycling shoes and thinking of a name for my red bike. I decided on Reilly. It was my Irish great-grandmother's maiden name and I've always loved it. In fact, I'm named after her. She was one tough lady and lived to be (I think) 94 years old. She was sharp and healthy for almost all of her years.

I thought about the difference between the two bikes as I rode. Reilly is old and rumbly and felt so heavy after riding Amie that I actually stopped at one point to check to see if my back brake was rubbing again. Amie is light and smooth and WAY easier on the knees and legs. Amie's road-style handlebars offer lots of options and a way to get out of the wind. Reilly's mountain bike-style handlebars keep you more upright and give you lots of control while steering. And, thinking about these differences I realized what I really want from both bikes...a feeling. I'm not terribly concerned with speed although I do like the feeling of going fast. I just love the feeling of calm exhilaration I get on a bike. I like the focus and purposefulness. This is all I am doing right now...riding this bike. Amie means friend and I hope that we many great rides together for years to come.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Bike

Thursday started with a fantastic 40 mile ride with Peter to Gresham. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. We had a great time, despite a flat tire in Gresham, and came home ready to eat. After showering and throwing our cycling clothes in the wash, we headed over to our local pub for beer, burgers and fries. It was well deserved as my HR monitor indicated that we had burned over 1800 calories.

After our celebratory lunch, I headed over to the Bike Gallery to try out a Trek Pilot that they had sent over for me. Riding it on the test drive it felt much better than the two other road bikes I had tried the week before. It felt like riding a thoroughbred as opposed to the work horse my red bike is. Feeling adventurous, I told them, "I'll take it." 2.5 hours later I was fitted with cycling shoes and my bike was outfitted with dual sided pedals, kevlar tires, slime tubes, lights, a simple cyclocomputer, a saddle bag and water bottles. Plus, I had to buy a rack to get the darn thing home.

I hardly slept that night. I was nervous about crashing. I had just spent a huge chunk of change and desperately wanted to like my new bike. But, how could I ever like it as much as I like my red bike...the bike that has helped me work through so many things?

The next morning I headed off on my new bike, sans cycling shoes to Mt. Tabor. I felt unsteady, slow and my back was aching. I lumbered up the hill, getting out of the saddle to climb the final stretch in the most wobbly manner. At one point, I thought, " I can't wait to get off this bike."

As soon as we got home and got showered, I took the bike back to the shop. We picked out an angled stem to get me more upright and I asked them to put in some in-line brakes so I don't feel so pressured to ride on the hoods.

I was depressed. I felt like I had made a huge mistake. Why couldn't I just have been happy with the way things were? As we watched the Olympics the tears poured out and I asked my husband, "I'm going to try really hard to like this road bike, but if I don't like it can I go back to riding my red bike?" He very understandingly said yes.

I was blue and the only thing that would make me feel better was to go on a bike ride. So we rode to the record store for an AC/DC album and I felt much better.

Today I went to go pick up my bike from the shop and the angled stem and in-line brakes made a huge difference. It actually felt comfortable to ride it around the neighborhood. I'm excited to get up early tomorrow and try out my cycling shoes and clipless pedals.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Broken Spoke

I was really bummed about napping through my riding time on Sunday so I woke up early today to go for the ride I should have done on Sunday. About a mile into I hit a big bump, my kick stand swiveled and started hitting my wheel. I stopped, pulled the kickstand back out and continued with my ride. I could tell that my wheel wasn't true so I knew it was going to need to go to the shop, but I continued on anyway.

I used my heart rate monitor as my guide for where to gear and it was much lower than normal. I kept looking down to see if my back tire was flat because the bike just felt sluggish. I was really trying to train properly so I stopped for stretching breaks and was only about 15 miles out when I had to turn around. I was thinking, "Man, how am I ever going to keep up with my dad on RAGBRAI if this is my proper riding pace?"

Of course, when I got home, I looked at my back tire and a spoke was broken, the left brake pad was hooked on the rim, and the right brake was rubbing intermittently. No wonder I was going so slow.

Over lunch I took my bike to my local bike shop, Coventry Cycle Works, and they fixed it in about a half an hour while I grabbed some lunch. The mechanic explained that I had installed my brake pad a little too low and it had created a little lip that that gotten stuck on the rim. I happily paid a dollar for my spoke, plus labor, some new brake pads and some lube.

With no time to spare, I was bike on my bike again climbing up for my massage with Taya on Mt. Tabor. Exhausted from a whirlwind day, I collapsed onto the table in that state of physical exhaustion that every athlete knows and loves.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just Ride

I rode off today trying to shake off a terrifying nightmare...or really a napmare. My dad and I have signed up to ride RAGBRAI (the (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). I'm super excited and trying to temper that excitement with the reality that we ARE in a lottery to get in. Our chances are good though and in preparation I read a great book about long-distance cycling this weekend to make sure that I train smart, not just train hard. The book recommended a short nap before afternoon rides and feeling a little groggy from some allergy medicine I took last night I thought I'd give it a try.

Two hours later I woke up covered in sweat and with trembling hands. I'd dreamt that I'd lost my mom to a frightening event and couldn't get my hands to stop shaking. I called my mom and she was, indeed, how I'd remembered her being and then I called my husband. At this point, my hands were still trembling too much to ride my bike so I was thinking of riding my stationary bike, but after a short conversation with my husband I was laughing and my hands had settled down.

Needless to say, I needed something from this ride besides a good workout. And, I got it. As soon as I got to the Springwater I put on the song Zion by Fluke, kept an eye on my heart rate to make sure it didn't get too high, and tried to spin my legs. I counted my RPM for a minute to be about 70 which is right in the desired 60-90 that you want. Sipping from my homemade cocktail sports drink and remembering to stand up and pedal every 20 minutes to stretch out my back, legs and give my seat a break, I pedaled happily down the trail in the rain.

At 45 minutes, I turned around and it was here that I had the moment that I want to remember. The sun was low over the hills and was lighting up the rain as it gently hit my face. The bridge was up ahead and this woman with a dog smiled so nicely at me as I rode past her. I held this moment with me as I pedaled through Sellwood, along the Willamette river and past OMSI.

Just after passing OMSI I pass a family taking up nearly the whole trail. As I slowed down to pass them I saw that they were huddled around a two foot snake that had wandered onto the trail. Not being a huge fan of snakes, I still could appreciate the wonder of seeing this wild animal in the city and smiled.

Keeping a careful watch on my heartrate, I pedaled happily home up the hill. Next time I think I'll skip the nap and just ride my bike.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Squeaky Bike

Yesterday I went for a ride in the sun with my very squeaky bike. It's second least squeaky gear was 3-5 (4th hardest) so that was what I rode in. The least squeaky gear was a climbing gear so that wouldn't have worked. I rode merrily down the Springwater listening to techno music with lots of high pitched squealing sounds in it and pedaling rhythmically to the beat so I blended right in. People were looking at me because my bike was so loud, but what could I do? It was a beautiful day and I wanted to ride.

I had a client yesterday afternoon at 5, but had mistakenly thought it was a 5:30 since my appointments usually start on the 1/2 hour. So, while deciding how long to ride out I thought I'd just try to be home by 4:45 so I had 15 minutes to shower, 15 minutes to ice, and 15 minutes to walk Dexter. I'm glad I didn't realize my mistake until I was about 45 minutes from home because the extra time I got in riding was past farms with horses, sheep, baby lambs and goats. There were ducks swimming in the stream and Canadian geese flying overhead. It was a lovely 39 mile ride and my client didn't seem to mind when she walked in and I had ice packs on both knees and wrapped around my back. I have the best clients.

After work, I got showered and dressed in a fabulous outfit that I wish I had a pic of. White jeans, shiny purple blouse, my antiqued copper CAbi collector's coat, and high heel brown boots. I carefully mounted my very dirty bike and rode to Fred Meyer for some milk. And, this is what I learned. First, I will cycle in anything, even white jeans. Second, high heels work far better for cycling than for walking.

Today, I called Bike N Hike, my favorite bike shop, and they had some suggestions for my squeak. So, I cleaned my derailleur, lubed the little sprockets the run just below the derailleur and voila! the squeaking is gone. Then, I cleaned my bike from top to bottom because a well-dressed cyclist really deserves a clean bike and took it for a little spin around the neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Springwater Savior

The sun was shining when I rode off today dressed in my bicycle tights and my ride sweatshirt. My goal today was to ride 40 miles and I've prepared myself by eating a hearty lunch, drinking lots of water and packing two water bottles and two peanut butter and cherry jam 1/2 sandwiches.

When I get to the Eastbank Esplanade I switch on my Ipod to my current favorite, The Freestylers, and I start my ride in earnest. I'm amazed as I ride at how much easier it feels than two weeks ago when I rode to Powell Butte. I've made some serious strides in my cycling fitness because my legs are just spinning effortlessly. Ten minutes later I'm at the Sellwood park and it has taken me 10 minutes less than it usually does from my house.

"Right on," I think as I turn off the Springwater Corridor for a short trip through Sellwood. I turn off my Ipod for this part and pedal casually through the neighborhood. When I get back to the trail a few minutes later I restart Drop the Boom and really get into it.

Before I know it I'm an hour into my ride and passing Powell Butte. I take it easy for a song, eat one of my half sandwiches and revel in that "I'm somewhere I've never been before" feeling that anyone who experiences serious wanderlust knows.

There are lots of pedestrians on the trail and I usually just ring my bell if they are a little too far to the left. Today as I was coming up on a threesome I rang my bell, and the severely obese man on the left puts out his left arm with his hand in a fist right where my neck would have been if I had been trying to pass him. I wait until he puts it down and he moves over a bit then and as I ride by I say, "Thanks, " sweetly. Of course, "Geez, what an asshole," was what I was actually thinking.

About a minute later I stopped at a stoplight and across the street is a 60ish man riding a recumbant bike with one of those colorful bike condoms on. He looks ridiculous and it makes me smile. But, he returns my smile by creepily checking me out by looking me up and down. "In your dreams, Grandpa," I say as I ride away.

A minute after that I come across two elderly, tiny but round Russian women talking to each other emphatically and taking up the entire path. They see me and hurriedly scoot out of the way. Thinking back on that last 1/2 mile I think, "You definitely don't get that on a stationary bike."

The awesomeness of my ride is hitting me now as I look down at my clock and realize that I definitely have time to do 40 miles. I notice now that the Springwater Corridor signs now have the town of Gresham on them and I stopped to take a picture. "I've cycled to another town," I think as I watch the miles click by. At 19.5 on the mile post which is about 22 miles from home I turn around.

At this point, I've switched to my riding mix and I've moved into the endorphin high. This makes the music sound even better so when I get to the David Byrne song that I had my perfect moment to last week I decide to just ride easy, eat my second sandwich and bask in my cycling high. And then, pop! my tire blows.

I feel too good to panic so I just blow up the tire and hope I can ride home with less than three stops. Two pedals later, it is flat again. Darn! I've got to change it. No problem, I've done that before. So, I flip the bike over, pop off the wheel, unhook the chain, and set to work. Five minutes later, I'm back on my bike, my hands are a filthy mess and I'm calling my mom to tell her what I just accomplished. Wait, what's that? Oh no, it's flat again.

At this point I am still seven miles away from home and I have an appointment in an hour. My client, Amanda, had said that if I ever had a bike emergency to call so I give her a ring. No answer. I call my father-in-law. He is very confused, has no idea where I am and has dinner in the oven. He says he'll call me back. Then I see that Amanda called me while I was talking to my father-in-law and I rejoice. I call her back and she says she knows exactly where I am. She's got three kids with her but she'll make it happen. Yes, my savior!

It's getting dark now and I shiver at the corner of Johnson Creek Blvd, talking to my mom about Tolstoy and living a full life and Amanda shows up. I make it home in time for my session even though I am dirty and stinky. Feeling satisfied that Tolstoy would have been very pleased with my day I sit down to calculate just how many miles I did do and, lo and behold, I got in 35 miles. Its my longest ride ever, I changed a flat tire and I got to experience how much a beloved client cares about me. If that's not living life to the fullest, I don't know what is.