Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Like to Ride my Bike

I like to ride my bike.

You may be shocked by that.

You probably think I just like to “train” and deprive myself of delicious food and tasty beverages while trying to make it sound like you should do that too.


I had been thinking about this topic for some time, and then Fatty beat me to it.
So . . . why do I like to ride my bike?

It gives me a chance to get outside. I’m inclined to be a hermit, so I can happily hole up indoors with a good book, or at the computer, or in the kitchen, or even cleaning the bathroom. For days at a time. That isn’t healthy. Biking gets me outside. I need that.

The sense of accomplishment.

All the cool gear/gadgets/gee-gaws. Toys. Yup. Love ‘em.

Spending time with people who share my passion

Surviving epics and finding out how strong I truly am. It may be sick and it ultimately may be the end of me, but I love getting out and pushing myself to overcome perceived physical obstacles. I’m not very athletic. I like shooting hoops and playing golf, but let’s be honest – I suck. Cycling allows me to challenge myself and test myself against myself. Oh sure, Phil and I have a friendly competition going on, but that’s just grist for the mill. Frankly, it’s all about me. What did I accomplish? How was I challenged? How did I react to that challenge? Did I quit, or did I dig deep and push myself farther than I’ve been before?

Eating with Impunity. Mexican hamburgers smothered in green chile. Chips and salsa. Hawaiian pizza at Woody’s. Red vines licorice. Peanut butter. On anything. Or alone from the jar by the spoonful . . . okay, you get the picture.

Drinking. Cold beer after a hot ride – nectar of the gods.


Cheaper than Prozac. . . . Well, it would be if I wasn’t a gear junkie. Addiction is never pretty.

Because I can. I agree with Fatty on this one. Someday I may not be physically able to ride. But today, I am. That is a gift. Who am I to squander so generous a gift?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Solvang Spring Tour Photos, II

Trip summary:

Day 1, Solvang Century - 103 miles looping through the entire Santa Ynez Valley, ending on a Ballard Canyon Road with a rollicking series of short, steeps climbs.

The stars of the show, resting up for a big week.

Cool in the mornings; jackets or vests and arm warmers were a must.

Day 2 - Supposed to be 65 miles, including Alisos and Cat Canyons. But . . . I ended up double flatting about 12 miles into the ride. Phil rode an individual time trial back to the hotel, got the car, and came back to rescue me. (I was prepared to change 1 flat, but not 2. For the rest of the trip I rode loaded for bear - I was ready to change up to 3 flats! Luckily, I didn't have any more troubles. I run 650c wheels which creates problems, as most other riders run 700c, so they can't help me out with spare tubes.) We ended up heading back out for another 30 miles after I got my flat fixed, riding Alisal Road then over to Los Olivos. I did 42 miles, and Phil did close to 55.

Day 3 - Figueroa Mountain. 49 miles. This description of the ride is going in the opposite direction from how we rode it, but you know how it goes - it is uphill both ways, so this is a great summary of the ride when done later in the season. I had a little mishap, sliding out in a slimy creek crossing. I got completely soaked (even though the water was only 5 inches deep) because I got caught in my pedals and couldn't unclip. I wallowed like a hippo in a mud pit for a few minutes, then extricated myself. Ended up with a mild case of whiplash from smacking my head, but all is well that heals well . . .

On Happy Canyon Road before hitting the big climbs.

They have some good looking livestock in California!

Phil at the first summit (there are 3 little false summits, just to keep you guessing . . .)

A stunning hillside of poppies and lupine on the descent.

Day 4 - 77 miles. Rode to Casmalia in a howling wind. Finally rode out of it at about 50 miles, thank goodness. Fighting the wind just sucks the life from me.

Day 5 - 79 miles. Rode to Jalama Beach - a true highlight of the trip. Gorgeous views and quiet roads (except for an unfortunate 3 mile stretch along Hwy 101 that was absolutely terrible - lots of debris, bad pavement and heavy traffic).
There is a restaurant at the beach that is famous for its burgers. Knowing I would immediately regret eating more than a simple gel packet, I passed on the burger. But when we got back to the hotel and it was time to decide what to have for dinner, I insisted on finding a burger - I'd been thinking about it for 40 miles!! We ate at the Firestone-Walker Brewery in Buellton and I had a Kobe beef burger - and it was excellent!!

Day 6 - easy recovery day. We did a 24 mile loop on Ballard Canyon, stopping in Los Olivos for coffee and a cookie as big as my head.

Day 7 - Tepesquet Canyon Century. 107 miles. Another day of beautiful riding on quiet contry roads. The weather was cool and overcast, but we stayed dry, and the cool temps probably were a blessing in disguise, keeping us from getting overheated and dehydrated.

Descending Tepesquet Canyon Road during our final day of riding.

Phil on Foxen Canyon.

More handsome livestock!
Very misty and cool in the morning.

At Surf Beach.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Snow

I promise to post more photos from our Solvang vacation, but thought I'd share some shots from yesterday's snowstorm.

We didn't get hit as hard as the weather guessers originally predicted, but we got enough to make a fine mess (and finally get a bit of moisture for our parched yard.)

The view from our kitchen window out toward our front stoop.
The driveway - before Phil powered up the snowblower and spent 3 hours clearing it and also improving access for all the neighbors.

The view this morning - got another 2- 3 inches overnight.

Our neighbor won't be driving his "vintage" truck anytime soon . . .
The sun is out now, melting off the snow. Unpredictable Springtime in the Rockies - gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photos First, Stories Later

After all the anticipation, we had a great vacation. Reasonably good weather, good luck with our bikes (mostly . . .), friendly bike-loving people to share the adventure (hanging with our "peeps," as Jeffrey would say), and wonderful restaurants at which to gorge after the rides. If you like to ride, I'd highly recommend the Planet Ultra Solvang tour.

You know you aren't in Colorado anymore when you see the Bird of Paradise flowers.

Santa Rosa Road outside Buellton, at the start of the Solvang Century on Sunday, March 14. There were around 4,500 riders. This was the first hill, so the crowd (and the morning fog) was beginning to break up a bit.

One of the first aid stations. There were more high-end bikes (custom/independent boutique framebuilder's bikes/carbon carbon everywhere) at this event than I've ever seen at a Colorado ride - and that is saying something!

One of the rest stops later in the ride . . .!

Lush green vistas everywhere we went all week. I'm so looking forward to spring!

My badges of honor. It was a really beautiful ride with very little climbing. A good omen for the week.

Our home for the week: kitschy, but clean, quiet and affordable. With an in-room fridge for my diet Pepsi and a coffee pot for Phil - we couldn't ask for more!

We stopped at Nojoqui Falls County Park one afternoon and stumbled across a vintage Volkswagon rally. This "short bus" was super cool; the guy took a couple busses, cut them into pieces and re-assembled this one from the parts.

Phil at Nojoqui Falls.
That pretty much covers the first two days of our trip. The real biking began on day 3 - I'll post about that within the next few days.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vacation at Last

After planning and anticipating for weeks, we head off for our biking vacation in Solvang, California tomorrow. Woo Hoo!

We shipped our road bikes to a shop in Solvang last week, so they will be waiting for us when we get there. Saturday we’ll start off the adventure by riding the Solvang Century. I plan to take lots of pictures and I’ll post updates about the week’s rides (and off-the-bike adventures, too) as time permits.

Here’s hoping for sunshine and dry roads.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Packing for a 10-Day Road Bike Vacation

In the past our biking trips have been mountain bike trips. We camped on those trips, and there were strict limits on the amount of gear you could bring, because everything had to fit in a support vehicle. So, we had tents, and sleeping bags and sleeping pads, and then we had to be careful about the gear we selected.

This trip to Solvang is much different. First, we have already shipped our bikes, so we don’t have to juggle those through the airport security/baggage maze.

Second, we’re staying in a hotel (hot showers every day – YESSSS!) so we don’t have to worry about the camping gear.

So perhaps you can explain why I seem to be bringing enough gear to single-handedly stock a brand new REI store??
Maybe it’s because we’ll be mixing with civilized people when we’re not on the bikes. Wearing our stinky bike clothes at the end of the day won’t be quite as acceptable as it is on the camping trips.

Also, over the course of 10 days, the weather can be quite changeable. So, we need warm weather gear, cool weather gear, rain gear . . .
We need to bring our preferred our on-the-bike food. Between us, we’ll have about 40,000 calories worth of gels, bars, and electrolyte drinks. And recovery drinks. Don’t forget the recovery drinks!

Oh, and we hope to squeeze in a few rounds of golf . . . or least a couple short-game lessons. So that means another whole set of clothes and equipment.

I realize that pioneers crossed the prairie on the Oregon Trail in wagons transporting their life’s possessions, and carried less than I have managed to shove into my Eagle Creek bag. I’m okay with that.

Trust me, if I’d been with the Donner Party, everyone would have had plenty of food and warm clothes. I was never a Girl Scout, but I’m a gear junkie. I have the right gear for every eventuality – and snacks. Plenty of snacks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Role Models for My Next 30 Years

[For those of you who think training for a 100 mile mountain bike race is just a bit crazy, here is an article written by one of very few people who is trying to become a Leadville Trail “Leadman” – completing 282.4 miles of running and mountain bike events this summer: 50 mile mountain bike race, marathon, 100 mile mountain bike race, 10K run and 100 mile run. I can’t even imagine . . .]

The headline caught my attention – “Aging Competitors Defy Conventional Wisdom.”

Consider that the world best marathon time for men 70 or older (2:54:05) was set by a 74-year-old. That is more than four minutes faster than the winning marathon time at the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Games in Athens.

The gist of the article is that in the past few decades more graying athletes are competing, ignoring conventional wisdom that aging ends your playing days.

Now, at age 45, I don’t consider myself to be as inspiring as Henry Sypniewski, who shattered the national half-marathon record for 85-year-olds by nearly 15 minutes this past summer (2:11:57).

But I do take pride in knowing I’m at least as fit now as I was in my 20s; frankly, I’m probably in much better shape now than I was then.

A recent study found that while you will slow down as you age, you may be able to stave off more of the deterioration than you thought.

Researchers say that you should be able to maintain your muscles as you age, including the muscle enzymes needed for good athletic performance, and you should be able to maintain your ability to exercise for long periods near your lactic threshold, meaning you are near maximum effort.

But you have to know how to train, doing the right sort of exercise, and you must keep it up.

That means doing things like regular interval training, repeatedly going all out, easing up, then going all out again. These workouts train your body to increase its oxygen consumption by allowing you to maintain an intense effort.

When you have to choose between hard and often, choose hard. High performance is really determined more by intensity than volume. When you’re older, something has to give. You can’t have intensity and volume so you have to cut back on the volume and give yourself more rest days.

With proper training, I may have several more years of personal bests to look forward to. How cool is that?

[On a somewhat related note, here is a great article about women’s participation and performance improvements in athletics over the last 30 years.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Resolution Update

When I posted my New Year’s Resolutions, I hoped that making them public might keep me accountable. It may be working!

My five goals were:

1. Get lean. I’d like to lose about 5 – 7 pounds, but more important, I’d like to reduce my percentage of body fat (I’m not going to tell you what it is today – just that I’d like to drop it 4 or 5 points);

2. Ride the 2009 Mt Evans Hill Climb in 2 hours 45 minutes (my current PR is 2 hours 55 minutes);
3. Break 11 hours at Leadville this year (my PR is 11 hours 11 minutes);
4. Be thankful. Consciously choose to focus on all I have to be thankful for;
5. Be more accepting.

I still have several months before the Hill Climb and Leadville, but I have made progress on my other goals.

I have lost between 5 – 7 pounds (my weight fluctuates a little bit, but I’m right where I’d like to be for the season). I have also dropped my body fat percentage by 4 points. I still have room for improvement there, and hope to get just a bit leaner. More lean muscle will help my metabolism stay revved up, making it easier to keep the weight off.

With the dire economic news we hear each day it might be easy to focus on the bad stuff rather than the good. I don’t see much point in that perspective, though. I am genuinely thankful for:

my health;
for my job;
that my friends and family members are – knock on wood – still employed and weathering the storm;
for the good health of my friends and family;
and that we have several cases of nice wine in the basement . . . just in case!

I don’t know how to measure whether I’m doing a better job of accepting others – their opinions, points of view, approaches to problems or how they squeeze the tube of toothpaste. But I’m mindful; and I’m trying. I think that’s all I can ask for now.

How are you doing with your goals?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How it All Started

In the spring of 1986 I was a senior in college at Montana State University ("Go Bobcats!!"). Having bailed out of my Chemical Engineering major after realizing that advanced calculus and stoichiometry made my head hurt – a lot – I was on my way to graduating with an-oh-so useful Political Science degree. That meant I could look forward to a super job waiting tables/bartending, or go to law school, or maybe grad school in some liberal arts field. Anyway you looked at it, I was going to have some time on my hands . . .

In the meantime, my older sister had a real job. She was a nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Billings Deaconess Hospital. As a grown-up with a real job, she was entitled to vacation. Really, is America a great country or what? Being a bit of an adventurer, and knowing a few like-minded souls, she planned to take a self-supported bike trip down the Oregon coast with two other nurses in the summer of 1986. Also, being one the very best big sisters a person could ask for, she invited me along.

The plan was for her and her friends to take 3 weeks of vacation. We'd drive out to Oregon, ride as far as we could in the time allotted, and then deadhead home to get the working girls back on the job.

I didn't even own a bike. But I went to Billings over Spring Break, and with Eileen's help, I picked out and purchased a beautiful blue Schwinn Le Tour road bike.

Back in Bozeman, I started to "train." Looking back, it is pretty comical. I had another sister living in Belgrade, about 15 miles from Bozeman. So, I'd ride out to Mary's house, look pitiful for a while, get her to feed me real food (remember, I was a college kid), then she'd feel bad and give me a ride back to town.

I clearly remember the first time I rode the Bozeman to Belgrade round trip; I got to my apartment, took a shower and very gingerly walked to a bike shop and threw down for a pair of cycling shorts with a chamois. The best investment I ever made (at least up until that point in time).

After graduation I moved to Billings and roomed with Eileen. I got a very important job at the Target store (I worked in the jewelry "boat"), because I only needed something to tide me over for about 2 months before I quit to head out on the bike trip.

Nurses have the hardest job in the world. But, they get a lot of time off, depending on the unit in which they work. At the time I lived with Eileen she worked 3 12-hour shifts, and then had several days off in a row. So, between my slacker retail job, and her schedule, we actually had quite a bit of time to ride and train for the trip.

The two other silly girls who were participating in the adventure were Mary R and Vicki H. To this day, Vicki is one of the strongest women athletes I've ever met. She had a high pain threshold, a great attitude, and strong strong legs. Mary was our peacekeeper; even-tempered to a fault and able to ride her bike all day, every day, over and over and over again.

I don't have nearly enough time or space to share all the details of our trip (and I’m quite thankful none of the incriminating photos are digital . . .), but it was a life-changing experience for me.

I had never pushed myself physically to the point of complete exhaustion. I had never anticipated how truly wonderful a hot shower could be at the end of a long day riding in the cold coastal mist. I never knew that I could be hungry enough to eat half a sandwich before realizing not only was it not chicken (which I ordered), it was still mostly frozen! Vicki's bike was a flat tire factory, so we all became quite competent at changing flat tires – a skill I'm still rather proud of today.

I also learned that cyclists are non-threatening to the natives; especially four forlorn girls. All the people we met on the trip were interested in our adventure; amazed that we were doing it; slightly bothered that our parents were allowing such a thing (I was the youngest at 22 – our parents had long ago given up the reins); and encouraging in every way.

So that is how my biking life started.

When we got back to Billings I landed a job waiting tables and tending bar, and had plenty of time to go riding. Since I was fairly broke, it was a perfect outlet – it doesn't cost anything to go for a bike ride. I had riding buddies anytime I wanted to go (again, that great nurse's schedule), and riding kept me from becoming as big as a house, since I was on a fairly high carb beer and more beer diet at the time . . .

I've been riding for 23 years now. Cycling has taken me to wonderful places and I anticipate it will take me to even more over the next several years.

Eileen gave me the gift of a lifetime – and a lifestyle - how can I ever thank her?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Weekend Evaporated . . .

It’s Sunday night. How does that happen so darn quickly? I could swear it was 3 pm Friday afternoon only an hour or two ago. Oh well.

We had a good weekend. Nothing epic, just a nice weekend doing weekend stuff.

Saturday morning we took a walk to our favorite bagel shop for breakfast. It is about a four-mile walk, round trip. We deadhead up there so we can fill our tummies with bagels (and Phil can get his elixir of life – coffee). Then we come home via a more roundabout route that takes us near Clear Creek for much of the return journey. It is a great way to start the weekend and we really enjoy it.

Phil is working on the shop in the basement (painting and putting in cabinets and organizing heaps of stuff). His plan is set up part of the area as a mini-bike shop. We’ll store our cyclocross bikes there until autumn and also have a centralized location for our random bike tools, spare parts, spare tires, chain cleaner/lube stuff, etc. He got in several hours working on that project this weekend.

Saturday afternoon we did a 2 hour mountain bike ride on and around South Table Mountain. We had clear blue skies, but it was deceptively cool – maybe 50 degrees at the warmest point.

Saturday evening we went on an actual date. Honest. No exercise involved! We saw the Rhythm Angels, an acoustic singer/songwriter duo. [You can listen to several of their songs on their MySpace page.] It was a really enjoyable evening.

Sunday we had our typical big breakfast while we read the Sunday paper. A big Sunday breakfast is a tradition I brought to our marriage. Growing up, my mom and dad made a big breakfast when we got home from church – then you were on your own until dinner. As one of my brothers-in-law says – “Eat up – it’s a long time ‘til dark!” Phil usually finds a way to sneak off to Home Depot or run some other errand so he can pick up a bite to eat; he just can’t make it from breakfast to dinner without a snack.

It was supposed to be in the high 60s today. I think it probably finally made it, but there was a high cloud cover that sucked the warmth away before it got to ground-level. We went out planning to do a 3 hour mountain bike ride, but about 1 hour into it Phil’s rear shock blew up. Bummer. So, we headed home, then into the bike cave to finish off our workout.

We couldn’t just hop on our road bikes and head back out because the road bikes are in transit to California for our vacation – yee ha.

Our mental toughness was tested (we failed the test) – it is hard enough to ride inside when there is no option due to weather, but when it is nice outside it is absolute torture. After about 75 minutes Phil was DONE. So, we wrapped it up and called it good enough.

And now it is time wonder what happened to the weekend . . . and try to get revved up for another work week.