Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We had a great time on our trip. I wrote about on our travel blog if you are interested in reading it, here's the link. Surprisingly, I injured my left calf on our 7ish mile hike on Friday. (I say surprisingly because I have been entertaining the notion lately that I am actually in shape). All the cycling I've been doing did a great job preparing me for the 2.4 miles of up (1900 ft), but left me quite lacking for the longer nearly 5 miles of down that we did. About two miles from the car I could tell that my calf was done. But, what do you do? You are in the middle of nowhere...you have to keep walking.

I've been taking Saturdays off of all activity (I spent the afternoon sipping wine and making dolmas - lovely), but when Sunday came around I was disappointed to discover that my calf still really hurt. I did a short two-mile errand on my hybrid just as a test. Clearly, riding was out of the question for the day. Damn.

Two years ago, I injured this same calf really badly and it took months to heal. So, when I woke up Monday morning and my calf was much improved I rejoiced. It was no longer a stabbing pain, but more like a needling pain. Time for another test. I rode to the grocery store to get some supplies for dinner. My heart sunk as I felt with each pedal stroke that my calf was just not ready. My mood plummeted as I wandered aimlessly around the store. The lack of endorphins (and no promise of a dose for today) left me blue and cranky. To console myself I bought sushi and chocolate for lunch. Riding home I tried to pull myself together. "Sara!" I say. "It is not going to kill you to go three days without doing cardio. If you make the same kind of improvement tomorrow that you made today you'll be on your bike tomorrow for sure."

This morning I woke up and my calf just felt like the slightest ache. I can ride on that. I plan out a flat, easy spin ride around the east side. With virtually no hills I ride pain-free for 21 miles and mostly just feel so happy to be back on my bike. It's raining but I pass many other cyclists out in their colorful jackets enjoying what must surely be for all of us the highlight to our mornings. It wasn't a great workout, but it was gratifying. There are lots of other ways I could get in 90-minutes of cardio. Believe me, I've tried them all. But, with all of those, my cardio time was usually preceded by a sigh and the words, "I need to get my cardio in." Riding is just so different and this minor little injury just reminded me of why I love it so much. Because whether today's ride had been a 21-mile spin ride or a 60-mile hill ride, I've got a grin on my face. I got to ride my bike today.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Goal

Okay, I'm just going to say this: I want my odometer on my road bike computer to click past 3000 by the end of the year. I'm actually not too far away from 3000 miles total for the year if you count both bikes. I racked up a lot of miles on my hybrid before I got my road bike, but this goal is simply for Amie. 3000 miles since I bought her in March. Currently, I'm at 1668 which leaves 1332 left to do over the next 18 weeks. If I figure that I'll take two weeks off out of that 18 (for vacations and whatnot) that means that I need to average 83 miles a week. Sounds easy, I know, but when the rain really gets going, my stationary bike and elliptical start looking more and more appealing. "Come, ride us," they say. "You can stay warm and dry and watch a movie instead." This makes racking up even more mileage over the course of September that much more important. September is beautiful in Oregon and I could easily put in 500 miles that month. Which leads me to today's ride.

I start all my calculations for the week on Sunday. Sunday did 7.5 miles on the elliptical, did some Pilates and watched the movie Whip It in an effort to cross-train. Monday I did 27 miles. It wasn't a very exciting ride (aside from narrowly missing running over a snake) so I didn't blog about it. Tuesday was my rest day and tomorrow we leave for 3 days of hiking and camping. I made my goal of 3000 miles the day I went to pick up Amie from the bike shop and even with the excuse of our mini-vacation (boy, I hope it feels like that) I didn't want to drop below 83 miles so early. Which meant I needed to do a 56-mile ride today.

I was in it for the miles today, pure and simple. I wasn't interested in climbing hills (which I did on Monday). I just wanted to ride hard and fast. So, I headed over to the Springwater, which to my dismay was under construction today. Before and after every light, they were pouring concrete into little ditches. Whether it was fresh concrete or the ditches you had to slow down and ride over gravel and grasses to get to the other side. Not for the first time this reminded me of how great my bike is. Amie took the abuse like a champ.

Having completed the full length of the Springwater and looking for more mileage, I headed south on the I-205 bike path through a great stretch of fast turns and smooth pavement. At one point after riding down a hill and hitting a flat with all that momentum I was going 31 miles an hour and thinking, "So this is what it feels like to be Lance Armstrong."

Heading back north I got to my favorite stretch of Burnside and started pedaling east. I was starting to feel a little tired, so I ate a banana and drank some water. Then as I was heading into the next stoplight I was actually thinking, "I most decidedly will not bonk!" and I had that little momentary lapse of concentration that is all it takes to tip you the wrong way. I fell pretty hard into the pavement and gravel, cutting my leg and scraping my elbow.

A very nice man wearing a U of Oregon shirt helped me up and said, "Are you okay?" I did a quick check, and aside from the blood gushing down my leg, I felt fine. Embarrassed, but fine. So, I got on my bike, noticing as I was riding that the handlebars were a bit crooked and the right brake was bent in. But, it seemed to be working alright.

The strange thing was, the adrenaline and embarrassment had completely rejuvenated me. I felt great and pedaled happily all the way home. When I got home I realized I had made the best time I'd ever done on a 60-ish mile ride(90 minutes faster than my first 60 mile ride - of course, that included a 40 minute break to walk my dog and refuel).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rest Day

I'm not very good at resting. I mean sure, I like a good movie or to sit and surf the web, but to go a whole day without exercising for me is next to impossible. I've been putting in lots of miles on both bikes plus doing a couple days a week on my elliptical (I'm trying to actually cross-train) and when I woke up this morning I knew it was time for a day off. Legs were t-i-r-e-d. Mentally, I didn't have much to draw on beyond mustering the incentive to walk my dog. So, I did that and came home and relaxed in our sauna. While I rested in the warm steamy heat, I stretched everything. Hamstrings (two ways), inner thighs (two ways), IT bands (two ways), hip flexors (two ways), glutes (two ways), quads (two ways), the gastrocnemius and soleus of the calf, and the low back. I couldn't believe how tight my leg muscles have gotten from so much time in the saddle and the very minimal stretching I do when I get done. It felt like each stretch in the 200+ degree heat (holding for a minute or two) was desperately needed and long overdue.

Thoroughly relaxed and stretched, I took a cold shower, dressed and collapsed into bed for a 30-minute nap. I awoke refreshed and restored. So, I hopped on my bike to get a few errands done before my afternoon and evening sessions. (I told you I wasn't very good at resting). It really wasn't a big ride (maybe 2.5 miles) and I just did that coasting kind a riding where you only apply a few needed pedals every so often. It was hot and I didn't feel like getting all sweaty again, anyway. But, I'm certainly not going to DRIVE to the library! :)

This weekend we are going camping in the mountains which feels like the first official step (unless you count our two nights sleeping in the back yard as our first official step) to becoming cycle tourists. By the way, the Exped sleeping mats were great. Very comfortable and easy to inflate and roll up the next day. We're car camping because we don't have panniers or a little tent (our tent is actually embarrasingly large - it might be bigger than our little bedroom in our bungalow). We want to buy our cycle touring supplies slowly so it doesn't feel like one gigantic expense. And, we want quality stuff so it will last for many trips. So, here's hoping that two nights in a campground in the mountains in Oregon will spark a love of camping that takes us on a 6-week trip through Europe in the (not-too) distant future. I, at least, am going to try to love it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cycle Touring Dreams

This weekend was filled with lots of cycling, eating, drinking and dreaming. Cycle touring dreaming, that is. But, I'll get to that later.

We started with a ride to Peter's periodontist (his 8th appointment this year - yeck!) and while he was in there getting his checkup I hurriedly tacked on a quick 11 miles. I was riding on a street that had cars parked on the right hand side so I had to vigilantly watch out for drivers opening their doors, but I had fun. One driver did try his best to hit me with his maladjusted window washer (before and after a stoplight), but I deftly maneuvered my bike to avoid a direct hit muttering to myself, "You're maladjusted."

After Peter's appointment, he needed a drink. Not being one to recommend cycling under anything stronger than good cup of coffee, we opted for a pub close to home, Bridgeport. Peter got the ESB and I had a Porter and they were delicious. The pleasant buzz I got, sitting outside (keeping an eye on the bikes) was partially from the strong, thick beer and partially because doing two hours of cardio (as hard as I can ride) is now just commonplace for me.

The beer was powerful and after checking our wallets for cash we decided we needed a little ballast. So, we headed a few blocks over for the best tacos in town. Lindo Michoacan, the taco cart across the street from Lauro, makes one of the best things I have ever tasted...the taco al pastor. We ordered one each and sat in the sunshine enjoying them on this perfect Portland summer day.

For dinner we rode over to Gladstone Pizza to use a gift certificate my friend Lori gave us. She felt bad for Peter having to go through gum surgery and got us a 20 dollar gift certificate to use after he felt better. The pizza was great, Lori! Thanks!

Friday morning, I was back on my road bike, doing a 4-time up Tabor, 20-mile ride. The more I ride, these days, the better I feel and this one was a great one.
When I got home we decided to walk downtown which is about a 6-mile roundtrip walk, but it was beautiful and we were in the mood. We stopped first for some crawfish pies which were tiny and tasty and a great appetizer for lunch. I had a greek salad for lunch and Peter had chicken paprikash with perogi. We sure were eating well.

On the way home I said to Peter that I'd like to go camping next weekend. He said, "We need some sleeping bags and something to sleep on." So, we stopped at Deek and Bryan's and spent the next hour trying out sleeping bags and sleeping mats. We've been talking about taking up cycle touring. A little cycling around Oregon, a two-week trip to the Netherlands, and (the real dream) a 6-week trip from Paris to well, wherever we can get to in six weeks- Copenhagen, maybe. Stockholm if we are feeling ambitious. From now on any camping equipment we buy will be cycle-tour friendly.

When we got home we dug out all the camping supplies (tent, cooler, my old mats, picnic basket) and decided to set up the tent in the backyard. We just spent 400 bucks on camping equipment and we want to try it out! The sleeping mats we got were made of bamboo and you had to blow them up. The were in the shape of a mummy bag and super light. But, at 2 am we both were woken up by backaches. We decided to let a little bit of air out of them and this helped, but this morning we decided to take them back. We are willing to spend more for a little more comfort and our research says the Exped air mattresses are the way to go.

So, we cycled back to Deek and Bryan's and they very graciously took back our mats. Then we rode over to REI and got the Exped Synth 7 air mattresses which immediately feel more comfortable, but I'll let you know how it goes tonight. It's possible that we are WEE bit pansyish from our super high-end expensive king size bed. But, if there is anything that I learned from RAGBRAI, it is that the number one thing you need to be able to accomplish something outside your comfort zone it is determination. More than training, equipment, food, hydration, whatever...determination. And, we've got that in spades.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crown Point By Myself

At 6:01, the alarm starts screeching and I bolt out of bed. My plan is to ride up to Crown Point, maybe tack on a little extra mileage if I feel good, and be home by lunch time to avoid the heat. It seems to take me an hour and fifteen minutes to do everything I need to do (including walk my dog) so at 7:15 I am on my way.

I like starting most of my long rides these days with a trip over Tabor. I'm used to it, the way there is second nature and it gives me a chance to warm up on a cool morning. Today, there is a bit of wrench thrown into my sleepy climb. An angry brown and white mutt has set his sites on my pink, fleshy right calf and he is barreling down the hill with blistering speed towards me. "Noouh?!?" bleats his 100 pound owner unconvincingly as she is dragged down the hill behind him. "Oh, shit!" I yell out and I try to pick up speed (which is hard on a hill that steep) and move over to the left. I feel exposed all clipped in and flinch as the dog snarls with lips curled toward my leg. At the last possible moment, the woman digs in her heels just as the dog is jumping, mouth open, inches from my calf. "Arp!" the dog yells out as his collar must have nearly crushed his throat he was moving so fast. He falls back to the road, gets a severe scolding from his owner, and I pedal gratefully up the rest of the hill...a little shaken, but otherwise unscathed. This would be the most terrifying event of the day. As I'm about to learn, I can do a 7-mile descent (if I've had a chance to try it once before) without freaking out.

I think the way to Troutdale is a little bit downhill because I seem to be able to keep a 20-21 mph pace. This times the lights almost perfectly so I'm to the Historic Highway (about 16 miles later) in no time. Starting the climb, I notice that it already feels easier than last time. It's amazing how the body can adapt. As I climb, I think mostly about Larch Mountain. This climb, which is 14 miles past the turn off for the Crown Point Vista is the recommended training ride to prepare you for Cycle Oregon. I want to do Cycle Oregon so I need to tackle this 4,000 foot (elevation) cinder cone. I'm actually not too incredibly worried about going up it. If it is like the climb to Crown Point (only 3 times longer) I've got plenty of gears to be able to spin up. Coming down is what scares me because last Thursday coming down from Crown Point I got really freaked. I decide as I'm riding up today that I might just try it in 2-3 mile sections. Not today, though, for today climbing to Crown Point seems like enough.

I make it to the top and feel much less hungry than last time. Grateful to be able to fill up my water bottles and use the bathroom, I only stay for about 10 minutes before I unlock my bike from the strangely designed bike rack and pedal up away from the vista.
There is no shoulder on this windy section of road and it scares me a bit when I see an idiot in a red sports car peeling around the curves and breakneck speed towards the vista. Slow down there, buddy. Nobody is impressed. Now, the guy I saw doing this on a skateboard. That is impressive.

Heading down the long descent I look at my mileage. "You'll be at Stark at around 30 miles," I say. I shift up to my big chain ring so I've got some ability to maneuver and pedal/coast all the way down. No freak out...I actually enjoyed it. This was the triumph of the day.

Making it down terror-free really boosted my spirits and I start the long climb up Stark into Troutdale feeling like I wanted more out of this ride than 46 miles. I've got plenty of food (bananas, gels, granola bars) and water so I decide I'm going to go for 60. When I get to the I-205 bike path, I turn north, ride up to the river, and ride for a few miles on my favorite stretch of bike path.
It's a hazy day so it is hard to see the mountains, but the river looks beautiful rippling gently in the breeze. Geese and ducks cool themselves by splashing water over their backs along the edges and a steady stream of happy cyclists ride by with cheerful hellos.
When I know I've done enough mileage to get to 60 I turn around, getting hot now and looking forward to the shady streets just north of Burnside, and head home. When I get home I feel ready to get off my bike, but my mileage says 60.2 which is .1 longer than my longest Portland ride. That tenth of a mile, my triumphant descent, and my intact right calf make today's ride a very rewarding one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Reilly Day

I set off today dressed in a lovely Carol Anderson pink, two layered skirt and a dressy tank. On my feet were a pair of my favorite go to Teva dressy flip-flops. Hmmm...15 miles of errands in a skirt and flip flops on my hybrid. Does this count as cross-training?

My plan is to cycle to the Taco Truck for lunch, eat a taco, then continue on east on the bike streets to the Bike Gallery. Unfortunately, the taco truck is closed on Mondays, so I pedaled on, lunch-less, figuring that if I get too hungry I've got a granola bar in my purse.

When I reached 82nd, however, an idea struck me. Bahn mi! That lovely French-inspired Vietnamese sandwich is perfect riding fuel and a stop in an air-conditioned restaurant on this 95-degree day sounds perfect. I head south for a bit on 82nd and lock up my bike in the only bike rack I can find.

HA & VL is the name of the restaurant and at 3 bucks for a pork bahn mi it feels like I am robbing them blind. I take a picture of the cute decor, sip my ice water and relish the air conditioning. A foursome beside me are slurping away at my favorite food, pho, and chatting amiably.

(I love all the little sauces that go with Vietnamese food)
(My warm delicious sandwich)

When I have just a few bites left, a woman comes in to complain about where my bike is parked. Apparently it is too close to the entrance to her shop. I explain that I am almost done and will move it in 2 minutes. Hurriedly, I finish my sandwich, drink the rest of my ice water and unlock my bike. Realizing that I have no idea if I have cilantro stuck in my teeth (and having no mirror to check) I snap a pic of my teeth with my camera. All clear.
Next stop is down Division for a bike computer for my hybrid, some new water bottles (the lids of mine melted in the dishwasher yesterday), and a much more powerful taillight for my road bike. Daryl recognized me right away when I walked in and asked me about RAGBRAI. I thanked him for the stem extender and told him what a difference it made for me and my back. As he tried to figure out where to put the computer on my bike, he laughed and said, "You sure do have a lot of things on your handlebars." It's true, with my bell, my umbrella attachment, my light, my reflector and my Japanese phone charm there was really only about 2 inches left for the computer.

I leave and head back toward the I-205 bike path with my new fancy computer telling me that I was going an easy 18 mph and the temp was 95 degrees. Following the advice of Bycycle.com (I love that site) I head north to Burnside, then to 74th, to Tillamook and then ride the bike streets over to Irvington. On 30th and Broadway is my next stop. I need a new battery for the light on my helmet. At this point, my thermometer on my bike computer is registering 98 and 100 degrees, but amazingly it still doesn't feel as hot as Iowa felt. Humidity is what makes all a difference, I decide.

After what seems like an eternity waiting behind a woman who is doing the watch battery version of "Who's on First?" with the woman who worked there, I get my battery replaced and head home, all on bike streets pulling into the driveway with the exact mileage of 15 miles.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Soap Box Derby

We learned our lesson about starting too late on Thursday...too hot! So, this morning we were out of bed at a quarter to 6 and on the bikes by 7am. I wanted to introduce Peter to my Two Volcanoes, 5 Climbs ride. He's never done the backside of Rocky Butte before and has been dreading ever trying climbing Yamhill for a year now. Many times we've been out on rides and we've detoured around this climb up the east side of Tabor because it is so steep. He expresses his trepidation as we start our ride on Tabor. "You're making it into too much of a mythical thing," I tell him. "You'll be fine. Just gear down, open your chest and spin up."

Tabor is filling up this morning with soapbox race cars and their beer drinking crews. Part of me is thinking, "It's 7 o'clock in the morning!" but the other part thinks, "Good for you. I'm glad you're having fun." I stop to take many pictures of the early group of cars. As we ride away from the collection of cars we hear one of the crew members say, "Hangover, a cup of coffee and a beer. Every year."

This is where the race ends...clearly closed to cyclists and hikers today.

Mt. St. Helen's in summer.

Riding early on a Saturday morning means you can ride all the way to the top of Rocky Butte without seeing a car. "Good morning," I say to a women striding purposefully up the long hill. "Beautiful one, isn't it?" she replies.

We head down the back side of Rocky Butte and I tell Peter to pay attention as we go down. Knowing what you're climbing always makes it easier. We turn around at the church, pedal our way back up and then notice a sign for the Amazing Race. I run up to check it out. It's just AN Amazing Race, not THE Amazing Race. Oh well.

We head back over to Tabor and tackle YamHILL (as Peter calls it). He does great, staying right with me the whole way up. Before the last little bit up Tabor (where you have to weasel your way around the gate) the parking area is overflowing with soapbox racers. "You want to just head home?" I ask. "No way!" replies Peter. "I want all 5 climbs!" Without too much difficulty, we make it through the crowd, up and around the top and head back down. I stop for some more pics. These are quite impressive.

We get back home at 23.5 miles, switch bikes, and head right back out to Whole Foods. Yesterday, we saw that Albacore tuna was going to be on sale today for 2.99/pound. We buy a 20-pounder (which ends up being about 10 pounds of fish) and pedal back home with an entire paper grocery bag filled with tuna in my bicycle basket. Total mileage for the day: 28.5. My total mileage for the week (a non-RAGBRAI record): 191.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crown Point

In the mood to try something new, Peter and I set off to Crown Point, a vista overlooking the Columbia River that is some 900 or so feet above sea level. After carefully studying Veloroutes, Bycycle and Googlemaps last night we decide that Burnside and Stark (via Mt. Tabor) with their consistent bike lanes are the best way to get out there. This ends up being a wise decision because the bike lanes are ample and the lights timed well so we make great time getting out to Troutdale.

Before too long, Stark curves around and makes its way down to the river where we cross a bridge and turn onto the East Historic Columbia River Highway. To our relief most of the road has a nice shoulder and the cars passing you give you plenty of room. We start climbing and climbing. At about 16.5 miles, I start feeling the need for a snack, so we stop for a banana and then we continue on. Up, up, up.

The way to the Crown Point Vista House is clearly marked so I know I could do this ride by myself. Going up, I lose track of how long we've been climbing. It's not too terribly steep so I'm not in my lowest gear and I even manage to snag a picture of a field of cabbage? as we ride up.

Half a mile from the Vista House we start descending and lose our shoulder. As we come around the last of many curves, we are greeted with undoubtedly the most beautiful view I have ever cycled to.

To our further delight there were clean, very nice, bathrooms and a water fountain at the top. We look out over the view, eat some snacks, and drink some Gatorade. I was surprisingly hungry at this point...much hungrier than I was Tuesday at the 23 mile mark. I eat an extra banana and a granola bar and shrug. "I guess some days you are just hungrier," I think.

As we start back up the .5 mile or so of climbing out of the vista our legs feel tired and stiff. We wind our way up and I say, "My legs are getting warmer, but they are about to get stiff again." We crest and start the long journey back down to Stark. We go down, and down, and down. I'm a little skittish with descents but I'm doing okay until I look at my cyclometer and it says we've been going down now for 5 miles. I start to get nervous. When do we get to go uphill again? "Uphill, uphill," I start saying to myself. I brake a little to get myself together and then finally after 7 miles of descending we are at Stark. 7 miles! We went up for 7 miles! No wonder I was so hungry at the top.

The next fairly long uphill stretch feels soothing to me but Peter is getting tired. "Remember that when we get home it will only be half of what your longest ride ever is. For me it will still be one of the longest rides I've ever done," he says. He's doing great though. Most of the time when I look back to see if he is there, he is right behind me.

We decide to skip Tabor on the way home and just follow the bike route down Burnside, Couch, and Davis all they way back to our neck of the woods. Pulling into the driveway I check our mileage: 46.1. Peter's second longest ride ever and with it's over 5000 foot raw elevation gain, certainly his hardest.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rain and River

Portland is temperate. It's an oceanic climate so it rarely gets cold and it rarely gets hot. But, it does rain and if you are going to be a cyclist in Portland you have to learn how to ignore the rain. 2 minutes before I start my ride today, it starts to drizzle. I take off my sunglasses and put on my light jacket. The jacket is more to keep me from getting chilled than keeping me dry. I have a whole different set of rain gear for bike commuting (pants, jacket, shoe covers), but for a fitness ride I don't mind getting wet.

I start my ride by going up over Mt. Tabor. A few brave hikers are out in the rain with their dogs. The city is hidden by a cloud as I circle the top and make my way down Yamhill, my breaks squeaking from the rain.

I ride north on the I-205 bike path and get to the Columbia river as the rain stops and the sun comes out. Turning west I glide over the beautiful trail, almost alone. This is bicycling nirvana.
This section of Portland's bike path system is my favorite. The river glides mightily beside you, hosting a few bobbing boats, some kayakers and the occasional motorboat with a water skier behind. Lining the path are tall grasses and wildflowers. There's a bit of a headwind heading west today but I know it will be at my back when I turn around. Riding like this, alone, my thoughts seem to have lightened their touch on my psyche. In an almost dreamlike state I yearn to just continue like this for the rest of my life, pedaling rhythmically to the sound of wind whistling through the straps of my bicycle helmet.
I stop for a break to eat a banana, rest my back and drink some more water. Airplanes fly directly overhead, but I still don't see a soul. I get back on my bike and pedal away, back east, with the tailwind behind me.
There is a nice stretch of bike path east of the I-205 bike path, so I ride on the shoulder of Marine Drive to get to it. I'm rewarded with views of the riverbank across from me almost completely devoid of human habitation. At the end of it, I notice that the road has been repaved. Fresh asphalt and a wide shoulder beckon me so I continue east. It's a busy road with semis whizzing past, but everyone gives me plenty of room. I ride like this for a few miles, taking a detour south for a bit through a neighborhood before I turn around and head back.
Getting back the the I-205 bike path I decide I'm not ready to go home. I ride west again, now with a few more other cyclists and walkers. It's exactly 10 miles out and back on this pristine bike path. When I get done with these 10 miles I finally feel ready to go home.
These last 10 miles include 5 speed killing stoplights, but I make good time in between them. Feeling a little sluggish at Maywood Park I stop and eat a gel, throw out my used banana peels, drink a bottle of water and head back towards Tabor. Getting to Tabor I climb most of it, but decide to skip the park and head straight home (my back is a bit tired). Pulling into the driveway, I look down at my mileage of 51.3 which puts me at over 100 for the week (since Sunday). Relishing my cycling glow which today is made up of one part simple mileage and one part spending so much time is such a beautiful place, I lock up my bike, greet my ecstatic dog, and make plans for my next amazing ride.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Your Left

One of the joys of owning your own business is that you can work long breaks into your day. I usually work until 7:30 or 8:00, but early afternoons are all mine to read, nap, and more often than not, ride. This afternoon I had a 4-hour break so I made sure I was all ready to go (trunk bag packed, water bottles clean and filled, bike unlocked, tires pumped up) and the second I was done with my session I was on my bike.

I thought I'd give the newly repaved Springwater a try since it has been a while since I rode the whole thing. Being an introvert, Sundays used to bug me a bit because there were so many more people on the path. But after RAGBRAI it seems positively deserted. "On your left," I call out as I pass couples out on their hybrids, families with trailers and little ones weaving uncertainly in front of them. The path is smooth and black and I glide effortlessly over it at 18-20 miles per hour. "Nice trail," I say back to a couple of mountain bikers I had passed (they caught up with me at the light). "I'll tell you what's nice," one of them says. "It is so nice to have a roadie actually say 'On your left' as they pass you. Thank you." "Your welcome," I grin back.

I think about how this is not hard. If you get bored, you can say 'On the left' or 'left side' or just 'left!' as you fly by. 8 miles later I see a crash. A woman with a skinned up left knee is sitting on the ground and two cyclists on mountain bikes are standing over her. I slow down and ask the woman if she is okay and she responds with dagger eyes. As I ride away I hear her say this to the two cyclists, "I had no idea you were there! If you had just said, 'On your left' I would have heard you and moved over. Please, please say 'On your left.'"

I ride into Gresham past the strangely deserted farm I love so much. Not an animal in sight. I pass a woman on horseback that I manage to snag a picture of while riding. Further into Gresham I notice that all the cyclists, joggers and walkers have pulled over to the edges. They've been beckoned by ripe, wild blackberries and when I get to the end of the trail I join them and eat a couple dark, tart berries right off the bush myself. I've gotta move on, though. Gotta get home, showered, and back to work.

At this point I'm at 22 miles and curiously my heart rate monitor is registering many fewer calories than usual. I must be in vastly better shape because of RAGBRAI and (no doubt) the 9 pounds I've lost in the last two weeks.

I catch up the the woman on horseback. I slow way down so as not to spook the horse and relish the clip-a-clop-a clip-a-clop-a sound the horse makes as it ambles leisurely down the trail.

At the I-205 bike path I turn north and ride at an easy pace uphill towards Tabor. The climb up Tabor feels effortless on my legs but my back gets really, really hot. I take it easy, making it all the way to the top where I stop to give my back a rest. Then, I ride home gently and pull into the driveway with a total mileage of 41.3. I remember when that used to seem so long.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

20 Miles

I have no idea what the recommended protocol is for the week after a ride like RAGBRAI, but after taking 2 days off of riding this week to take care of my husband (who had gum surgery Tuesday - I'll spare you the details so you'll be able to eat today) my back was a mess. The more I rested and iced the worse it got. By the time I woke up Thursday morning I was in yelping pain (though not dry heaving pain as it has been sometimes) and finally succumbed to the siren song of my morphine-derivative painkiller Darvocet.

My bike came in on Thursday and I hobbled in to Bike N Hike to get it put together. About 4 hours later, it was done, but I felt terrible so we just decided to wait until Friday morning to get it. Friday I was starting to show some improvements so when I picked it up I took it for a little spin ride. Easy pace, no real hills, about 45 minutes. On the bike, my back was pain-free thanks in no small part to my new stem extender. When I got home I needed some ice to be able to stand up straight, but it seemed like no real harm done by being on the bike.

Today, when I got out of bed my back felt pretty darn good. I decided to give a 20-mile ride a try and just see how my back handled it. I started by going over Tabor nice and slow. Riding up on the shallower side I hear a man's voice cry out, "RAGBRAI!" "RAGBRAI!" I respond. We got to talking and he's done the ride 8 times (years ago). This is going to be fun.

My back feels great while I'm riding...no pain. When I stop and lights and stop signs it pesters me a bit, not wanting to straighten out. But as the miles pile up, it slowly gets better and better. I ride to the Columbia river, turn around and make my way back to Tabor. Seeing Tabor from this side and the little house in the distance some ways up it, I notice that it really is a substantial climb (and stop for a pic).

Riding back up Tabor again, my back gets really warm, but no pain. I ride down the steep side to give me a different route coming home. Stopping at the light, I put my foot down and my back feels perfect. Standing straight up, no pain. "Maybe this is the secret," I think and make plans for my ride tomorrow.