Monday, April 28, 2008

Sports Injury

I got a new sports injury this weekend and it wasn't even from riding and crashing. That's because I didn't ride this weekend. At all. We were supposed to ride on Saturday, had the bikes in the car, had the biking clothes and gear in the car, were over on that side of the state and drove right by Fort Custer on the highway. You heard it right. We completely wussed out. A little taste of spring weather and suddenly we didn't want to ride because it was overcast and only about 45 degrees. So much for pre-riding. Our backup plan is that we're going to try to do it after work on Wednesday, but we'll see how that goes.

So my sports injury? I got it when my nephew Sebastian stepped on my foot with his soccer cleat when I went to see him play. Nice. And don't even mention my cuticles. I'm getting a pedicure this weekend, all right?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Haro Escape Rides Again

Somewhere around 1999 I decided I wanted a bike. I hadn't had a bike since before college and I thought it might be fun. I opted to buy a mountain bike because they seemed cooler than a road bike, I'd never had one before and I didn't want to ride "all bent over."

I remember when I tried to explain to the guy in the bike shop (who is now a good friend) what I was going to use the bike for and even told him I would ride on trails "a little." It's funny how different my perspective and my knowledge has changed over the years. Not that there's not a ton of stuff I don't know, but now I'm the person in my office people ask for advice when they want to get a new bike. I cringe now thinking about how silly it was for me to buy a mountain bike just for tooling around when it really wasn't the appropriate bike for what I wanted to do, but because I thought it looked cooler than a road bike. Now I have a road bike, a mountain bike, a cross bike and yes, even a cruiser.

At any rate, it was at this point that I bought a Haro Escape. (A couple months later I upgraded from a 7.0 to a 7.1 when the first one was stolen.) The Haro Escape wasn't the fastest or the lighest—it was entry level, but I ended up being really glad I bought it. During the summer of 2006 I finally upgraded my bike to a little higher end Haro. Of course with the years in between, each level now had more stuff, and by upgrading a little I really got an enormously better bike.

So that Escape has been sitting in the garage. Recently a pharmacy intern we had in our office asked my advice about a bike she was looking at online. She's getting ready to graduate from pharmacy school, get married and move to Traverse City and she told me she wanted to get into mountain biking. Now I'm not going to write a ton about pharmacy here because it's what I've been writing about all day every day for the past 7 1/2 years. I will say this, pharmacy school is expensive. After six years of school, you come out of it with a doctorate, a pretty much guaranteed high-paying job and usually about $100,000 in loans. Needless to say, I'm sure she didn't want to spend a lot of money on a bike for a sport she may or may not like.

The bike she was looking at was a department store bike and I felt I needed to save her from it. She was about my height and has about the same length of legs (although she is slender and beautiful and I am, well, me) so I offered her the Escape. She said she wanted to give me some money and I told her to wait until she rode it first to see if she thought it was worth anything. I cleaned off the mud, took off the SPD pedals so she could get some flat ones and brought the bike to my office where she could pick it up.

She e-mailed me the other day and was very excited. She had already gotten pedals and a helmet and had taken the bike out riding. She had a great time and already had plans to go out riding again. It made me feel good to know that she didn't buy a crappy department store bike that would fall apart and cost more to fix it than it was worth. It also made me feel good that she was having fun and that Haro Escape was getting some use after a lot of down time.

Now maybe next year, if the racing goes well, I'll need to upgrade again. Maybe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

MP3 = Faster?

Okay, I know what you're going to say. I know you're not supposed to do it and I've never done it before. I would also never do it on the road, but on a trail where I hardly ever see another rider except Chris, who's in front of me, it's different.

I wanted to try it today. It was an experiment, see? Anyway, I rode with my MP3 player. I was rocking out. Okay, so I was listening to Sugarland and John Hiatt, not exactly Iron Maiden, but that's as close to rocking out as my music library gets. I know mountain bikers don't listen to country music, but we don't need to talk about that. We also don't need to talk about how four years ago I despised country music. Let's just blame it on
Chris and move on.

So, my experiment was to see if I would ride faster if I was listening to music. I'm not sure it was exactly scientific.There were an awful lot of other things factoring into it. My back didn't hurt as much as it did on Tuesday thanks to 600 mg of a lovely little nonsteroidal anti-inflamatory drug Chris likes to call Vitamin I. We were also trying to beat impending rain and a Wings game starting at 7:30.

At any rate, the verdict is that I finished the trail about 12 minutes faster than on Tuesday. Is that significant? Probably not. The music was a nice change, though, and didn't seem to hurt anything. My confidence and intenstinal fortitude seem to be increasing, too. I find myself taking the downhills and obstacles less hesitantly each time I ride. I think I'm braking about 75% as often as I was last summer. It's slow going, but it's definitely progress.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Wonder

We went riding at Bennett Park again on Tuesday. It didn't start out very well. I came down hard on my saddle and injured myself (I won't get any more explicit than that). About 30 minutes into the ride I really wanted to quit because my back and my neck were super sore. I don't know how I could feel so good after finishing the race and feel crappy after 1/2 hour of riding at a leisurely pace. I guess the race pace just finally caught up with me. It's really easy to bail early at Bennett Park, too, because the trail is really twisty but doesn't go very far away from the trailhead.

I stuck it out though. I stopped and rested for a couple minutes and it was better after that. I was able to ride the entire trail. It took about an hour and 15 minutes.

One thing I noticed when I was out there was that in the beginning there were a couple of hills I couldn't get all the way up (or could I). Closer to the end when I was sick of getting off my bike I started making it up hills I originally thought it couldn't. The same thing happened at the end of the Yankee race. What usually happens is that I will shift as far as I can go (in my middle ring) and then if I'm still struggling and the trail is still climbing, I'll hop off and figure I can't make it. What I noticed the last two times I rode is that when I get to that point if I just dig in really hard and start grinding it out, a lot of times I can make it to the top.

The whole thing made me wonder—how many hills have I walked up that I could have ridden? Now I know there are some hills at Yankee that there's no way I could have ridden up, but I bet there were at least a few I walked that I didn't have to walk.

I've been looking ahead to some of the races we have later this summer, particularly the six hours of Drummond Island we're going to attempt. I need to figure out how to train for an endurance race, but I'm really excited about it. One thing I do know is that after we get back from Key West I need to start riding a lot longer rides and doing multiple laps of a trail instead of one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Countdown

Three weeks from today, I'll be standing in this garden in the lovely Conch Republic, saying "I do." How exciting is that!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yankee Springs Race Report (I did it!)

Race day really didn't start out very well, but I recovered. I lost my timing chip not once, but twice before I started the race. I did, however, find it both times. They changed around the original race start times after we got there, so we just had to listen for the announcement that our class was going to go. I was distracted and almost missed my start. I looked up and noticed there were women lined up and went to ask one of the workers which group that was. He said it was all beginner women and I was supposed to be in that group so I tried to get at the end of the line and the guy working said "do you have a helmet?" Oh yeah, I left it back at our team tent along with my gloves.

My mom ran back and got them for me and luckily I was able to leave with my group. The race was exhausting, but was actually a lot of fun. I got passed by several people right at the beginning and then didn't see anyone for a long time. The amazing thing was that I didn't even crash for the whole entire race. I did get rear ended by a tandem going up a hill but no harm was done.

I had to walk a lot of the uphills, but amazingly didn't walk any downhills, which I think means I am making tremendous progress in becoming less scared and cautious while mountain biking. The last three miles were super fast (for me) and fun and I was pumped when I finished the race.

Even though I said I just wanted to finish and not hurt myself, I really thought I was going to finish with a time over two hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I finished in 1:47:20. It's not a great time for that course, and I finished last in my age group, but I really feel good about it.

Bring on Fort Custer!

Race Day

Well, today's the day. Usually, when I get nervous my stomach starts feeling like someone's twisting it in knots. It's something nice my little grandma passed on to me. Right now, the feeling's just starting. There's just a little fluttering so far which I expect to build throughout the morning.

I've been trying not to think about the race a lot, worried I would freak myself out. Today there's not really a way to avoid it, though. I start at 12:25, Chris starts at 12:08, so we're going to leave here by 9:30.

The news yesterday was that the race is going to be ridden backward from how the trail is. That means that those who have the trail dialed in won't have as much of an advantage. For my nerves it's probably also not such a good thing. I know I have only ridden it once, but the purpose of my pre-ride was more to prove to myself that I could finish it and that there was nothing so gnarly out there that I couldn't handle it. Now I don't really know. Going backward means all the downhills will be uphills and all the uphills will be downhills. I guess I'll just hope for the best.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wedding Present

Chris gave me my wedding present early. As you can see, it's a beach cruiser.

It's a Nirve Lahaina, and it has lots of cool tropical, beachy images on it.

It's even in our wedding color.

It has surfboards.

It has tropical flowers on the fenders.

It has sunsets.

It has a pretty, painted chain guard.

(Don't mind our sketchy, ghetto yard in the background.)

It has cool stitching on the saddle that goes with the theme.

It has three speeds.

It has front brakes and flowery grips. (It has coaster brakes, too.)

How cool is this? It even has patterned tires.

Even though I love my other bikes, I am excited to have one that I can just get on and ride, without having to put on bike shoes, bike shorts, etc. I expect Chris and I will ride our cruisers downtown on summer evenings to sit on the patio at Kelly's and have cocktails. I can't wait.

First though, I have to do my first mountain bike race tomorrow. Yikes!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


We got out on the trail today after work. We went to Bennett Park, a new trail in our area, for the first time. It was great weather for riding, low 70s and fair. It was quite windy, but that didn't matter out in the woods. There was actually more to the trail than I originally thought and we ended up being out for about an hour and a half.
The first part of the trail was pretty mild. It was what Chris and a lot of other mountain bikers would call "boring," so I really liked it. There was nothing really gnarly about it, but it was pretty twisty. It reminded me of how poor my bike handling skills are. I'm actually really excited about riding this trail a lot this summer, because I think it will be good practice for me.

I came to the conclusion today that this summer is probably going to be full of hard lessons. Most of my mountain biking lately has been all about learning experiences. I don't think I'm going to end up having a lot of success this year on the bike, but if I stick with it, I think all of the experiences will help make me a better rider in the long run. So, even though I'm going to race Yankee this Sunday and I'm planning to do the other races I have on my schedule, they'll probably end up being more like training rides than actual races for me. Even so, I think they'll build my experience level better than just going out riding.

Honestly, it scared me even more than I was already scared about Yankee to see how much trouble I had today with an "easy" trail. I was slow and my technique was kind of pathetic. I clipped trees with my handlebars more than a couple times. I was also somewhat dismayed to find I couldn't make it up a lot of the small mounds of dirt (too small to even call hills) on the trail. I figured out later that they were so small I was expecting my momentum to carry me over them without pedaling and I wasn't going fast enough for that to work. I was doing things a little better by the end. Still, I was awfully tired when I finished considering the trail I'm going to be racing on Sunday is so much longer.

I did get a chance to try out some fuel during the ride. I ate some Clif Shot Blocks for the first time and those seemed to work out pretty well, though I have to work on my technique of getting them out of my jersey pocket.

All in all, I think it was a pretty successful ride. I had a good time despite being somewhat discouraged and tired at the end. I'm looking forward to riding this trail again.

I am also looking forward to getting on a plane bound for the Conch Republic three weeks from today.

And yes, I was wearing my cool Twin Six jersey again. I'll probably wear it out before the summer is over.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Good News and Bad News

The good news about Yankee is that I've finally ridden it. We headed out on the trail at about noon yesterday. The weather was perfect for riding—sunny and mid-60s and judging from the parking lot when we pulled in, lots of other people felt the same way. Even though there were quite a few people out on the trail, everyone was really nice. Now it may be different on race day, but everyone just greeted me, passed me when they could get around me and wished me a nice day when they did. Everyone I apologized to for being slow and for clogging up the trail told me not to worry about it. They seemed to all just want me to do my own thing and they would figure out how to pass me when they could. That makes me feel good because one of my fears is being in the way on race day.

Another thing I was worried about was if the trail would be too difficult (scary) for me. For the most part, though, I was able to ride everything except a few of the uphills. Downhills are what I usually walk because I'm scared and I didn't do that at all. So, either Yankee wasn't as bad as I was anticipating or I really am starting to grow that pair I've been wanting for so long. I did crash once, but I didn't hurt myself too badly, and I got back up and started riding again. The funny thing is, the part where I crashed wasn't even a part I was worried about. I just hit a big rock I didn't see until the last minute and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.

Here's the only bad news for the day. Physically, the trail kicked my butt. I wasn't riding anywhere near race pace and I was still completely exhausted and dogging it the last couple of miles. The race course is about 11 miles and that's just way longer than the trails I'm used to riding. I'm going to try to get out there at least one more time before the race, but I think my goals on race day truly will be just to finish and not to hurt myself too badly. I think anything else would be too ambitious.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


After several weeks in which I didn't use the Bowflex, rode very little, blogged very little, was sick and was generally very lazy, I decided to dig myself out of my hole of sloth yesterday. Somewhat coincidentally, the evil Michigan weather decided to cooperate and finally bring us spring, just in time for my coming out party.
We spent a couple hours in the morning doing trail maintenance at Burchfield. I don't know if it was the first sign of good weather or some other reason, but a ton of people showed up. After two hours the entire park was done.

After lunch, we headed out to Rose Lake to do some riding. Everything still looks very brown, but the trails were dry with just one or two extremely small spots of latent slush. I know I did a lot of complaining about a winter this year. It just seemed to drag and drag and we got so much more snow than we have in recent years. It was good for skiing, but not much else. Despite all the complaining, though, I wonder if it would have felt as good as it did to get out there yesterday in the mostly sunny, 60-degree goodness if it hadn't been for the rough stuff that preceded it.

It's the best feeling ever to hop on my bike without six layers of clothes and not have to worry about being cold or my toes freezing. Of course, it also feels good to have new, cool stuff to ride in. I used my new mountain bike shoes for the first time, and Chris and I both had our cool new Twin Six jerseys that my mom got us for Easter. We also tried out our slick new Optic Nerve glasses.

We didn't spend a ton of time riding because today the team is meeting to finally get a crack at Yankee. It'll be interesting to see how it goes with the race only two weeks away.