Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How time flies....

It's hard to believe that the Pigman is less than a week away already. The spring seemed to fly by in a blur...

...from my kitchen window.

I've spent a good portion of the past two months in front of my ovens trying to bank as much for vacation as possible.

I forget every year how busy April and May can be for cake orders. It wasn't until this Saturday that my busy season ended. Nothing more on the books until August for now.

Sadly this has limited my time to train as I had wished, though I think I have spent more time on my bike than I did last year.

My brother asked me this morning if I felt that I was ready for "the piggie."

I think that I am despite not getting as much time in.

I know what to expect. I'm familiar with the course. Half my cheering squad will be missing from the sidelines as I have conned them in to joining me, but I'll keep on truckin'.

T-minus 5 days and counting.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Part I - Portsmouth, Oh

I made it just south of Waverly, 34 of the 58 miles to Portsmouth, to White Lake.

It started out nice enough, cooler than expected, but sunny for the most part.

The winds were exactly what we expected unfortunately. Mostly annoying cross breezes in the beginning, the turned to head winds that occasionally make you feel like you hit a wall.

My brother-in-law Nick was my companion for a good deal of the ride, until just outside of Waverly.

I began to really struggle on the hills and preferred to ride them alone. I really hate feeling like I'm slowing others down, so he picked up his pace and stopped waiting at the top of the hills for me.

I turned on to 23 and bikes for a short mile or two with traffic, passing places my family had stopped on the way to or from my Grandma's.

I had just made the turn where 104 splits off when I remembered that I was in the home stretch for the first stop. Deciding to take a quick stop.

That's when it happened.

I pulled onto the gravel drive and forgot to unclip my sandal.

Yup, my first fall was witnessed not only by all of th traffic on 23, but radio support and an ambulance.

Well, at least I was in good company.

I waved them off with what I hope was a sheepish grin, caught my breath and continued on my way.

I hit the causeway that ran through the lake and was slammed with head/cross winds again. I knew that I was done, had hit my limit.

A quick turn off that bridge and I was in the first rest stop where Nick and his wife Ang were waiting.

"Where's the food?" were the first words out of my mouth.

They both pointed to the top of a hill and replied, "Up at the top of the stairs."

"Stairs? I can do stairs," were my famous last words.

The wonderful organizers had put the snack pavilion at the top of one last wicked hill. My legs burned before I even made it half way up.

Bananas, granola bars and orange wedges never tasted so good.

Nick took off to finish the last leg to Portsmouth and shortly thereafter Pete and his other brother Stephan came rolling in, having completed three legs of the 118 mile trip down.

We all hung together until they were rested enough to continue on.

I hopped into the car with Ang and drove to the day's finish line.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"I cannot go to school today"

I feel like little Peggy Ann McKay in the Shel Silverstein poem "Sick."

But I can't ride TOSRV tomorrow, my knee feels all tweaky.

My rear break is too loose?

It's too windy?

Too sunnny?

Oh, all right, fine.

We arrived in Columbus in the wee hours of this morning, bikes and camping gear in tow, and adventure in our hearts. I dropped into the bed at my father-in-law's around 2 and suddenly 8 o'clock came to early. My body was not yet willing to give up on sleep, but apparently my brain had other plans.

"It's light outside, so it must be time to get up!" it kept shouting at me.

I rolled out of bed and wandered upstairs to the kitchen for my required cup of coffee: it was time to get the day moving.

After a leisurely breakfast of yummy bagels and cold cuts, we moved outside to start organizing our gear: rolling and repacking our tent, stuffing sleeping bags that had just been tossed into the car, into their stuff bags, the hunting down of biking gloves that had gone astray from their helmets during the trip.

We adjusted my seat (to hopefully eliminate the tweaky knee that resulted during the last long ride), gave my handle bars a tiny turn up (wish I had done that a year and a half ago), and tightened the aforementioned loose rear break.

My saddle back has been packed with tools and spare tubes that I am completely unsure of how to use in the event of an emergency. But I did receive coaching on that as well. "Pull out the tools and the tube and then just play dumb. Someone will stop to help you," were my husband's sage words.

Excellent, no problem there.

Okay, yes, I should learn how to change a tire. Bicycles do not come with AAA after all. And how big of deal is it when I already know how to tighten my breaks and align my gears? One of these days....

The weather forecast had been promising, mid 60s and sunny. 

That has since changed to mid 50s, cloudy and winds at 25 mph from the WSW.

Great. We'll be bike SSE.

Sunday is slightly better. The winds drop to 12-15 mph but shift to coming out of the WNW, the direction we'll be heading.

Good times.

Here's to hoping that the weather man is wrong.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's black and blue and red all over?


I prayed for rain, thunderstorms, a tsunami and the like, but the rotten weather wouldn't comply. Instead of a torrental downpour on Saturday, we were graced with wonderously clear blue skies and cool temperatures.

The ride to the Amanas was on.

Swim was swim. A new session for sure; only two of us left in the "not afraid to put our face in the water" level. But it's still the same drill routine and I'm in need of some change.

My other half has given in and joined the Y. A good thing too, since I've brainwashed him enough sign up for the Pigman as well.

Saturday morning he prepped our bikes and off we went to the Y for a swim prior to our departure for the Amanas.

After swim I did everything I could think of to delay the inevitable. We biked a few blocks to the Czech Village and fueled up on coffee, donuts and flaky apple streudel before making our way past the city limits.

The news had said to expect gusty winds and they were right. Though cross winds threatened on occasion to push us farther into lanes of traffic, there were times that the winds were at our backs, making us fly.

We lunched, wandered through the village and tried some cheeses before parking ourselves on a sunny bench. Exhausted still, I caught a short catnap, and then downed a quick iced mocha, hoping for energy to get me through the return trip.

We hopped on our bikes once again and turned onto the main thoroughfare home.

And up a 3 mile hill.

Into 20 mile an hour head winds.

I made it half a mile (I'm probably being very generous) before I pulled completely onto the shoulder to sob.

My loving husband walked me through a plan of attack, setting small goals to get us to our destination, and teaching me how to ride half a tire's length of his back wheel.

It was nearly dark, the street lights flickering on, as we entered the park next to our house nearly 4 hours later.

My legs were bruised from whacking myself with my pedals.

My arms were burnt into a nice farmers tan.

But I made it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Calm, cool, confident.... and a little bit panicky

TOSRV is a little less than a month away and I have yet to ride more than 20 miles in a single day. Much less than the 100 miles required.

I haven't ridden in two weeks for various reasons. One of which is the wedding cake I just finished delivering and setting up.

Which brings us back to the confidence that I am trying very hard to exude in an attempt to cover the panic that's simmering just below the surface.

Tomorrow, at my request, my husband and possibly some friends will bike to the Y for the usual Saturday swim, followed by a ride to the Amana Colonies.
Potentially 60 miles round trip.

I haven't looked at the forecast because I don't want to know anymore than it's going to hit the low 60s and be sunny. But right now gale force winds are bowing the prairie grass to the ground, making me a little concerned about my bright idea.

Here's hoping for a calm ride.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Once more, with feeling...

It's amazing, the greening that is going on right now. I swear that my garden was a dull pile of brown dirt just a couple of days ago. But the Hostas are insistently poking their creepy little worm-like talons up out of the ground now. Bushes and trees are starting to take on the green haze of early leaf buds. My favorite, the tulip trees, are getting ready to explode with their lush, pink chunky blossoms.

And as I bike more and more, I am beginning to appreciate the little things that you don't really notice when you're traveling by car. The croaking toads that I had mentioned earlier for one. The canopy of trees that cover a street that you bike up for another.

I took a new route home from the Y on Saturday: Bever Avenue.

It was a different type of hill than what I had been riding. Mostly they had been long and slow. This was a little more rolling. Different on a Saturday morning than the normal busy weekday, I decided to take it on since it was an unknown. If I had been hoping for an easier rode home, I was sorely disappointed.

After a decent swim workout, about 1000 yards, my legs were already on the tired side. But there was the promise of fresh chocolate croissants from one of the best places in Cedar Rapids: Croissant du Jour. Well, they are certainly the best places in Eastern Iowa for croissants, as far as I'm concerned.

So I pushed on.

Bever Avenue turned out to be a different sort of hill challenge: shorter, slow climbs, mixed with short downhill spurts and an actual traffic light.

Thankfully, the last stretch was a flat/downhill combo, before it came time to tackle The Hill.

Yes, those are capital letters.

I'm paying The Hill the respect that is due. It's the last hill; the hill home.

I have not made it up to the top since that one time, so long ago that it's now only a vague memory. I have, however, learned to respect it and what it can teach me.

Small goals are my way of conquering it now. Each time, half a driveway more until I stop. The last drive on the right before the first cross street was my best.

Somehow, somewhere, on these few trips to work or workout and back I have learned how to attack. Maybe it was the dreaded spin class where I learned it and the addition of the clips have helped put it to use in the real world, I don't know. I attacked the long, slow hill up Blake a couple of weeks ago, making the first time I made it up without stopping ever.

I did it again, though this time I was aware of what I was doing, up the last portion of The Hill.

And it was an amazing feeling.

I'm down to one stop on The Hill. That's the most that I will make anymore.

Yesterday, I was to that last drive on the right, ready to throw up, when I figured I would try to shift down one more. And to my amazement, there was one more gear to go down.

And one more.

And one more.

And one more still.

If I had been better aware of the gear that I had been in, it was entirely possible that I could have gone on to Ridgemore, and then on to Terry before crossing the buckle in the road that I consider to be my finish line: the line where the road levels out and begins to slope ever so slightly back down to my street.

I guess I'll never know if it could have happened. But it will happen one day. And one day soon.

My breath was hard, my legs jello-y, as I flopped down onto the couch in my living room, begging for my chocolate croissant and the cup of coffee.

The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination. ~Tommy Lasorda

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The pros and cons of catching pneumonia

Spring has finally sprung in Cedar Rapids.

The 50 feet of snow that had blanketed my lawn has melted.The oak in the backyard has given up its leaves. It is officially spring.

I have been hemming and hawing about starting to bike into work.

I've been blaming daylight savings since it now doesn't start to become light until 6:45.

I've been blaming the fact that we switched my pedals to clip-ins so I can ride with my new bike sandals and the fact that between work and cake orders, I've been too busy to get out and ride.

I've been blaming the weather for not being warm enough or for being too rainy.

Really, it's been the fear of the frustrations the biking causes me. Hills are still my nemesis. And I'm sure that in the 6 months it's been since I've been outside on my bike, I haven't magically gotten better at it.

But I had quickly run out of time, considering how soon TOSRV will be here, followed shortly by the Pigman.

So I packed up my new bike bag last night with clothing for today, set out my sandals and collected my riding gear: bike shorts, thermal tights, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, bike gloves and helmet. Well, it was only going to be in the high 30s when it was time to set out.

7 am came fairly quickly and I began to second guess my decision. The recent, very fast thaw, followed by buckets o'rain had flooded the Cedar River again and it was quite possible that my bike trail would be submerged still at certain points. This wouldn't be a huge deal, but using the bike path allowed me to skip certain monstrous hills and tons of traffic.


I'm being a bit dramatic. I live in Iowa after all.

Tons of traffic doesn't really exist. At least not in the direction that I was headed.

My husband offered no sympathy, though he did admit to being mildly concerned about me being alone on the 4 miles of bike trail that runs through the woods. Not because he was concerned for my safety (see above reference to living in Iowa), but because I was clipping into my pedals. He is fully aware of my lack of coordination and was worried that I might fall and break something.

I relented and off we set, heading down the hill and through the park together until our paths diverged.

And I was left alone with my thoughts.

Which, to be honest, consisted mostly of, "um, why the hell am I doing this again?"

I don't know if it was the addition of bike shoes and pedals or maybe the effort I've been putting in has just paid off, but I certainly felt stronger. The ride that I had made a couple of times last year seemed easier.

The trip itself was uneventful. The portions of the trail that had been washed out by the floods of '08 had been repaved and were dry, though they were still covered with sand where the river had taken over again. I was able to stay within myself when the climbing became difficult, not paying much attention to what awaited ahead. I focused on the gearing advice that been given to me by someone who had many century rides under his belt.

I got into work an hour later than usual, which had been expected. It threw my day off as I'm so accustomed to being the first one in our set of pods each morning.

Unfortunately a quick peek at the weather forecast around lunch time showed that the 10% chance of showers at 3pm turned into 60% by 2. At 3, I checked the radar. There was almost only green on the screen with a big blob of yellow storms sitting over Cedar Rapids.

With Pete having biked in to work as well, I had no choice but to set out for home in the rain.

I was mostly surprised with the results.

Early in the trail portion of the route, I became concerned by a sound that I could not identify. I turned my head to to try to get a better ear and realized that the path was winding through some swampy lands. The sounds that had caught my attention was many happy toads wallowing in the rain. Definitely not something that I would have gotten to experience had I driven in.

I arrived home, soaked, sandy and cold, but really, it hadn't been as miserable as I thought it would be.

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect it’s successful outcome.” ~William James