Category Archives: Cycling

No Fun

We are about halfway up to the start of the singletrack from where this photo was taken. It’s a brutal hill in any weather, but the July heat made it even worse.

Two miles of hot, dusty gravel road. One mile, at least but it felt like much more, not riding my bike, but forcing it up the hill beside me. We weren’t even five miles into our ride and I was experiencing a new “first”. I was not having fun. My cyclometer wasnt recording my mileage. I was carrying the Camelbak water pack; something I hate doing because it adds another five or six pounds to the already large amount of weight that is my body on the bike.  Sweat poured off my body like water in my morning shower. Dust coated everything; my body, my sunglasses, my contacts, my bike tires.  I wondered, feebly, what kind of effect this dust was having on my chain, crankset, and derailleur.  I knew this meant work cleaning my bike later; a necessary inconvenience, but one I wasn’t in the mood for. A quick glance at my sketchy cyclometer says it’s 105 degrees. It’s really about 95, but it feels every bit of 105 today.  “Why am I here?” I wondered to myself. ” This is not fun.”

I told my son I needed to stop and rest. By this, I did not mean get off my bike and haul it up The Hill Of Death. I was already doing that. I really meant I had to stop. Completely. Sit down. Take my helmet off. Breathe. Clearly something was wrong. I never, ever have to stop. Not on a ride. Not like this. And never, ever this early in. I was tired.  I was depleted.  I was mostly very, very hot.  I can ride in rain and cold, if I have the right gear.  I can ride at night, usually without much gear at all.  The one condition that stops me still on my bike is the heat.  I’m not talking about just a warm day that seems bad until the air from riding your bike cools you.  I’m talking about that still, heavy, oppressive heat that makes even breathing hard.  Regardless of the temperature on the thermometer, when this kind of heat hits, I simply lose all power.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m at the age where, most of the time, I’m experiencing my own personal summer anyway.  So, when the weatherman says it’s 95, I’m experiencing 115 degree temps.  I simply melt when this happens.

We rested for about 15 minutes then we muddled on to another location, where there was a rock I could sit on in the shade. This location was a hundred feet from the start of the Payette Trail around Applegate Lake. We practically crawled to the start of the trail, me spewing misgivings the entire way when, usually, I am the one encouraging everyone else onward.  We ventured forth, deciding to tackle the singletrack trail for a little while, then turn back.

Immediately, I knew I was in trouble.  I was riding my brakes almost entirely on the descent which characterizes the first half mile or so of this trail.  My bike didn’t feel stable under me, but I think that was due to the fact that this was very rocky single track and I have become accustomed to the solid asphalt of the road.  I was already tired and in no mood to exert the required effort that manhandling a mountain bike on a downhill requires.  Further, I wasn’t exactly excited about packing my bike up that hill, especially after the hill I already climbed.  I let my bike roll for a few more yards, then I called out to my son, who’d disappeared from  view.  A few moments later, he appeared below me, his bike and his youth handling this trail with far more success than I. I told him I wanted to go back and he, surprisingly, agreed with me.  We turned our bikes around, rode back up as far as we could, trudged the rest of the way to the top, then rolled down the dusty road that we’d just walked up.

Three unknown boys sit contemplating whether or not to jump off the rocks at Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon.

Later, while lounging in the sun at the swimming hole that we discovered at Applegate Lake, we were reflecting on this experience.  Last year, at about this time, we made this very same ride.  Sure, we had to walk up that initial road, but I don’t remember feeling quite so spent at the top of it.  I also don’t remember feeling nearly this apprehensive when tackling the downhill.  We have done this ride twice, with minimal mishaps.  Last year at the end of the ride, I missed on a switchback, landed on my back wheel and tacoed the thing.  This cost me two days of ride time while my bike was in the shop.  Not something I was especially thrilled about, but neither was it a traumatizing event that left me scared to ever attempt this ride again.  We speculated about the heat, the fact that we’ve become used to riding the road, the fact that on a day like today, the swimming hole looked far more inviting than the trail.  There are any number of reasons for today’s ride fail.  All of these factors could have contributed to the dread I suddenly felt heading down that hill.  I don’t know.  I suspect, more than anything, I am not in the same mental and physical place I was last year, and something deep within me knows this.  Somewhere inside, I sensed I wasn’t up for the challenge of this trail.  I was too tired.  I would likely make mistakes that even I, as a rookie mountain biker, would know not to do.  I was afraid of the consequences of such mistakes.  I’d spent enough time in surgery this year.  I wasn’t about to sign up for another visit.  Maybe I’m still experiencing a wee bit of radiation fatigue.  Admittedly, this week is far better than last, and last week was better than the one before.  I’m feeling like I do have more energy every day and I am accomplishing more, though not nearly what I hoped and planned to accomplish by this time in the summer. More than the physical drain, I just mentally didn’t have the strength and the determination to make that ride today and I knew it.  Deep in my psyche somewhere, I knew I couldn’t handle it.  I’m not sure what that’s about or why.  It could be I just like the smooth flying sensation of the road as opposed to the adrenaline-driven jarring ride of  the singletrack. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Whatever it is, I am okay with it.

My son and I spent the rest of our day enjoying the water.  That was much more fun.

My son’s bike with mine behind it. Dusty.

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I Don’t Wanna!

I love cycling. Cycling  is easier than walking.  Walking or jogging or running (should I actually get to that speed) is slow, tedious, laborious, and painful. Cycling is easy.  I just get on the bike and keep the pedals turning.  Steady, continuous, effortless, fast.  Well, until that roadie on the expensive Felt wearing the aerodynamic helmet and fancy kit zips by.

There’s not a day of the year that I don’t look forward to getting on my bike and taking her out for a spin.  I don’t care where.  I don’t really even care about the weather, as long as I have the right gear and as long as it isn’t icy. I might stay in if there is pouring rain…and standing water.  Water does make the stripes on the road awfully slick.  I’ve ridden in the mud, pouring rain, over fallen trees, on single track in the middle of December.  While I’m not exactly a beast when it comes to singletrack or downhill, I’m certainly not anything close to a fair weather cyclist.  My mantra, and the mantra of The SO (Significant Other)  and My Son is, “Even a bad day on the bike is a pretty good day.”

But lately, I’m ill, and I know I’m ill because I just don’t wanna.

I just don’t wanna ride.

Actually, that isn’t entirely true.  I do want to ride.  I just don’t want to do what it takes to get in the saddle and I’m not up for anything more than collapsing after I roll up into the driveway at the end of the ride.

While I’m on bike, though, I’m golden.

All those 50-year-old aches and pains disappear.  Any drama or stress I’m dealing with dissipates, because, seriously, I can ride 40+ miles in a day and want to go for more.  Problems?  Issues?  Really?  There aren’t many people my age, doing what I’m doing and even fewer women.  Let’s talk about strength, endurance and ability to mentally persevere.  Yeah,  you go try to take that two mile hill without coming off your bike, Mr. Financial Pressure and see how you do.  You go and try to keep pedaling at that rate Ms. Whatever Might Come Your Way.  I can take you you on.

See?

That’s the thing about cycling…at least…for me.

When I ride, it’s better than any drug, not that I was ever a druggie type.  (Just watch your baby-sitter get wheeled out of your home on a stretcher because of an overdose and you’ll never be tempted to even experiment with any kind of narcotic. Trust me.  And, no, I’m not making that last bit up.  It was terrifying, and the best drug awareness education I could have received.)  But I digress…

When I’m on two wheels, wind blowing past my face, feet clipped in, sun on my shoulders… I’ve become one with the bike.  I am truly invincible.

On all counts, I’m stronger than most anything life dishes out, on and off the bike, specifically because of my efforts on the bike.

Exercise, according to my surgeon and my oncologist, will cut my risk of recurring cancer in half.

Even if that weren’t documented by research, I’d love cycling because of how strong I feel when I’m riding and how I can note my progress with each mile, each hill, each ride.

So, what’s up with the “I don’t wanna” mentality?

I’m guessing this is just a side effect of the radiation treatments.  They warned me.  They told me I would experience fatigue for a while after the treatments were done. I’m hoping that’s all it is.  I mean, it isn’t that I don’t want to ride, but I just don’t seem to have the energy it takes to do all the prep and the after work.  Thank God I have people in my life that do that for me or I’d never ride these days.  I’d just sleep.  (Which, I hear, is probably not a bad thing either.)

But, I’m still a little worried.

What if this fatigued feeling doesn’t go away?  What if this is the new normal?  What if?  What then?

I think I would start by crying.

I can’t even think of it.

So…

I muster up the energy for another ride.

After all, once I’m on the bike, I’m golden.

And when I’m on bike…really…nothing else matters…I’m still strong and healthy and that is everything.

 

The Bike Guy

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Craigslist is a wonderful thing. When I moved from my old house last fall to the “Treehouse”I now live in, I got rid of virtually everything I owned. The Treehouse is 400 square feet larger than our old house, two story, and surrounded by large old cedars. In fact, one grows right up through our very spacious back deck. Since the Treehouse is much newer, having been built in 2005, than our old place which was a 1970’s style 1-story ranch home desperately in need of some updating, we were loath to bring anything into it that was not also newer (at least to us). I essentially sold all our furniture on Craigslist, except for a few choice pieces, and replaced it all with items I found on Craigslist. I even spun a few extra furniture deals in the process, mixed and matched table and chair sets to create the dining arrangement that I wanted, and sold the castoffs as a set, all the while making money on the deal.

When I’m not trolling the furniture section of Craigslist, I’m scanning the bicycle section. On a number of occasions I’ve seen ads for used bikes at reasonable prices from one particular person. I’m talking about really nice bikes: Treks, Cannondales, Specialized and the like. Apparently, he finds the bikes used, then fixes them up and resells them. Of course, he also sells the Schwinns as well. I’ve even responded to a couple of his ads, the last being for a balloon tire cruiser which he’d already sold by the time I called.

The other day, we were driving through the neighborhood to drop off one of my daughter’s friends and there, next door to the neighborhood corner market (which I happen to love, by the way), I noticed that a new shop had opened up. I was especially pleased to note that this shop, of all the kinds of shops it could be, was a bike shop. I love my new neighborhood for so many reasons. The addition of a bike shop, especially a bike repair shop, right around the corner, is just one more way this place keeps getting better and better.

The Fun Wheels needs a new seat. It has needed one for a while which is one reason I haven’t ridden it much lately. Today, we decided to take the Fun Wheels down to the new bike shop and see if they could order a new seat. The shop was closed (strange for a Saturday) but here is the sign that was on the door:

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It turns out that the new bike shop is none other than the Craigslist Bike Guy and he just happened to set up shop right around the corner from the Treehouse. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked. I plan to get to know the owner very well, and maybe one day he’ll come across that used road bike that happens to be just my size (and the right brand and color, of course) for a price I can’t say no to.

The Bike Guy is clearly starting up on a budget. He’s outgrown his home and needs a shop. He’s opened the doors, but you can tell he’s keeping his overhead low, which hopefully will come back to customers in terms of reasonable prices on repairs and used bikes. I , for one, am doing my part to help him out by spreading the word to my small neck of the woods. I’m still completely loyal to the bike shop where I purchased my Specialized Ariel Elite, which is where I ended up going today. They will try to see if they can track down a new seat for the Fun Wheels. Even so, for those small things I don’t want to go across town for, The Bike Guy might prove to be convenient.

If you live nearby you might check out The Bike Guy. Maybe he’ll have the perfect bike for you.

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The End

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We usually think of it as a bad thing; the end of a romance, a good book, a great concert, or fun vacation. Sometimes, even though they can be emotionally laden, endings can be positive. They can provide long awaited closure to the loose ends in life. They can be the end of stressful events, situations or unresolved dilemmas in life. Endings aren’t always a bad thing.

This has been a year of transitions or, more accurately, conclusions, for me. Endings. Finales. Mostly, life just goes on from one phase to the next, from one event, day or season to the next, without much fanfare. This year, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of endings to things that have been going on in my life, some of them for years. Things I’ve been working on cleaning up and moving off my plate are going away and, with them, the accompanying stress. I find it interesting that while 2012 has been an absolutely disappointing year, at least I can say that a great deal of the stressful chapters in my life are closing.

Since May of last year, I have been working on resolving the situation with my home which has become an overwhelming financial and physical burden for me. The tax break was nice, the hedge against inflation nice, the stress not so nice. Also, the fact that it gave me a negative net worth wasn’t exactly cheery either. I am pleased to note, that this chapter should be concluded by the end of July. That takes a huge amount of stress off my plate. I can’t say I’m disappointed. This signifies closure on one of the most unhappy and nightmarish periods of my life. For many reasons, I’m eager to say goodbye to this home and all it symbolizes.

My second oldest child is graduating from high school this year. We are in the midst of all the last minute preparations to close yet another chapter in our lives. For both of us it is an ending and a beginning of new things; new ways of being with each other as she adjusts to the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. While, she is not necessarily going far away to go to college, her role as a college student and theatre major will mean that she is, for the most part, not around. She will be making more of her own decisions and this reality ends my role in her life as it has been until now.

Another school year is winding down. This is always a bittersweet experience and this year it is even more so. It’s been a bumpy year. While it couldn’t be helped, I do wish it could have been different. I can’t change it now. 11 more days and this school year is a wrap.

For the last seven years, I’ve been driving around an older SUV. I believe the life of this vehicle is nearing an end. When I look at the cost of insurance for my 18-year-old who drives it now, combined with the cost of gas, I am certain that my days of driving any SUV around are nearly over. In fact, this brings me to recognize a fun new beginning in my life: that of transitioning from the car as my primary mode of transportation to the bicycle.

It took me almost the entire year to figure out a routine and how to make the 2.95 mile commute to work feasible, but for the last month, I’ve successfully commuted by bike to work, then to radiation treatments, then out for some riding time, then back home most days of the week. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. Obviously, the savings in gas costs is significant. It also means that I am able to get a 20+ mile ride done at least 5 days a week. I no longer have to worry about fitting a ride in after school or dinner or before it gets dark. I’m looking forward to the day when I can say goodbye to the old SUV for good, replace it with a more fuel efficient economy car then drive only when absolutely necessary. This chapter of car insurance hikes, exorbitant gas prices and spendy car repairs is one chapter I can’t turn the concluding page on fast enough.

The best news this week? Monday, I went in for my radiation treatment thinking I had 11 treatments left. I was informed that I have only five treatments left and, if I double up on one day, I will be finished with treatments on Friday. So now, at the time of this writing, I have only two treatments left. My short, little journey with cancer diagnosis and treatment is ending. I’m going to miss the techs, the bike commute across town, and the great routine I had worked out, but I can’t wait for my skin to heal, my energy to return and summer to finally and officially arrive.

Some goodbyes are just good.

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Suddenly Summer, But Some Sad Stats

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There were rumors all week that this weekend would sport some glorious weather. I almost didn’t want to get my hopes up because the last several weekends boasted predictions of sun, but the actual weather, while rideable, proved somewhat disappointing. Further, it rained consistently all week long. I wasn’t holding my breath.

I am not a fair weather cyclist nor am I wimpy when it comes to riding, but I decided pretty early on in this cycling venture that a career as a downhill racer was something I was just a bit too old for. I tried some trails. I even braved some single-track around a lake in the mountains near where I live and I was actually getting the hang of it. Mountain biking and downhill definitely have their positive points, especially if you are a thrill-seeker. It just took me one good spill, where I missed a turn on a switchback and ended up coming off the bike, to convince me that I was leaning toward becoming a roadie. (This was the same ride that drove home the importance of being in the right gear and underscored, yet again, that timing is everything. Shift into gear before you hit the incline.) I ended up putting the bike down in thorns and rocks and landing on top of the bike. This put the bike in the shop for a new wheel which took out two days of riding last summer.

Mountain biking definitely increases my odds of needing repairs on the bike, at least while I’m learning. This is something I have no patience for. I want to just get on the bike, put my head down and ride. Coming off the bike, for any reason except food and beverages, is annoying. The fact that I am pushing 50, less agile than I used to be, and very unskilled when it comes to technique, means that mountain biking is also potentially life-threatening. Of course, any kind of cycling has its risks, but for me, it seemed clear that road was probably going to suit my temperament and patience level better than the trail…unless the trail is relatively smooth.

So, while I’m not courageous enough to try to excel at technique on the trail, I’m certainly willing to ride in just about any conditions except snow, ice or standing water from torrential rain. The weather forecast, for the most part, is irrelevant. But there is just something about riding with fewer layers of gear on. So, I found myself hoping again that this weekend’s forecast would be as predicted. It was, but in spite of the beautiful weather, our riding this weekend was pathetic.

Friday morning the weather was a bit spotty, but by Friday afternoon it was rocking a nice 70-something degrees. We were delayed in getting out due to tube replacement and repair, but we still got in 17 miles. One of the tube repairs didn’t hold so toward the end of our ride the SO had to keep stopping to pump up his tire. That was frustrating, but at least we could roll home instead of walking.

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Saturday dawned clear, exactly as forecast. Sadly, due to being out in the middle of the night because of an emergency with one of our cats, the SO, was not feeling up to hauling himself out of bed at 7, in order to repair his tire and be on the bike by 8 so that we could meet up with the Velo Club for the 23-mile ride we’d planned on. That was pretty disappointing because we couldn’t ride later due to having a number of things planned. Saturday ended up being a wasted day where cycling was concerned.

Saturday evening we entertained a good friend at our place. The SO picked up a bottle cheap red wine and we barbecued hamburgers, sipped wine and sat out on our back deck in the shade of cedars and talked for hours. I think it was midnight before we turned in.

Cycling Tip # 348: Too much cheap red wine and a late night will ruin all chances for a morning ride.

Sunday dawned bright and clear. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even wake up until ten. It was another couple of hours before my head stopped hurting and I could get moving. I was determined to ride, so at about 1:30 in the afternoon we rolled out.

Cat’s Cycling Tip #487: Cycling with a hangover is painful.

Okay, I didn’t really have a hangover. Wine, of any kind, just doesn’t agree with me anymore. I end up with a massive headache and a sluggish feeling for a good 24 hours after, even if I only have one glass. Though I had no headache nor nausea, I was feeling that sluggish feeling and this made the riding a challenge today. Add in the fact that it was midday and 86 degrees, and I had the makings of a grueling ordeal instead of my usual enjoyable time on two wheels.

We decided to just slow things down and not push. The effort of pedaling was challenge enough. By about mile 11, I was beginning to feel much better, still weary, but much, much better. The rain began to fall during our last mile and a half. Big drops. Hot rain. It felt great.

We ended up cycling 39 miles for the weekend which is dismally pathetic, in my opinion considering it was such perfect weather.

I’m already looking forward to next weekend.

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A 100-Mile Weekend

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The first weekend in April was a three day weekend for me due to a school reduction day. It was also projected to be very nice weather so Saturday morning the SO and I were rolling out by 10:30.  I had a plan in mind.  I wanted to try to ride a hundred miles in three days.  I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to be able to make it.  After all, we hadn’t really ridden for a few weeks since my last surgery and I have a way of biting off way more than I can chew.

We rolled out.  I’d made arrangements for us to meet up with the Southern Oregon Velo Club for our first group ride ever.  The plan was that we would meet up with the Slo-Mo group (average pace of 9-12 mph) at 1:30 that afternoon.  I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to learn to ride in a group without the worry of us getting dropped from the ride for being too slow.  The problem was that the scheduled ride was not going to be long enough for us.  So, the plan was that we’d just ride south toward Ashland on The Greenway watching our time in order to time our arrival back at Bear Creek Park (a large centrally located park in the area) in time to meet up with the other Velo Club members.

It turned out that this was a great plan.  We rode on the greenway to Exit 19, at a nice leisurely pace.  It was, after all, my first lengthy ride since my last surgery.  Two weeks out of the saddle is too long. Once we got to Exit 19 we figured we should turn around if we wanted to make it back in time to meet up with the club members.  We made it back in plenty of time and enjoyed a nice ride with some other cyclists.  The pace this group rides is just a little slow for us, but it was a great opportunity to meet some other cyclists in the valley.  After all, we’d only been club members for almost a year, but hadn’t ever done anything with the club. It was time.

Halfway through the ride, everyone stopped at the Bad Ass Coffee Company at the downtown location.  We stopped along with the rest and had some refreshments.  Instead of heading back to the starting point with the rest of the club members, we decided to head on back toward home.  We had our 40 miles in for the day and were feeling great.

The next day we put in 37 miles, again, on the greenway.  On Monday, my son joined us for a shorter, but brisker ride of 27.63 miles.  My son took the pull home in some pretty strong headwinds. That was really fun.  We clocked an average pace for the ride back of 16 to 17 mph.  We were sore, but happy.  100 miles in three days.  If I can keep up that pace throughout the summer, we should really be able to stack some mileage on.

Unfortunately, the rest of April wasn’t nearly as glorious as this one weekend was.  We ended up riding 205 miles in April.  Not bad for only being able to ride on weekends and for also starting radiation treatments.  It is an improvement over March’s 129.59 miles.  I’m definitely anticipating a better month in May.

No Two Rides Are The Same

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One of the things I love about Southern Oregon is the mild winter weather. On one of these delightful weekends, the weather was warm, reaching the low 60’s at times. I took advantage of this wonderful winter climate and managed to log 63 miles on the Fun Wheels. We normally spend our time on the greenway, but yesterday, I wanted to try something different. We headed for the open road. On a bit of a whim, we decided to see if we could ride all the way to Jacksonville and back.

The day dawned bright and clear, but soon clouded over. A quick check on The Weather Channel’s app told me that rain was likely beginning at 3:00. We decided to get in gear and get a move on before the rain prevented us from heading out. Our anxiety was wasted; we experienced mild weather and got in a great ride. We even stopped along the way for lunch.

On another such weekend ride, we headed in another direction over some hilly terrain to another nearby town. It was a windy day and there were moments when we wished we’d just stayed on the greenway because it is so much easier than the hilly stuff we experienced that day.

Most of the time, though, we stay on the greenway, mostly because we don’t really have to think much and our biggest decision is how far we can go in the time have. I’m sure this will change as time goes on and as we become stronger riders, but for now this works for us.

Lately, I’ve noticed that every ride is different, even if the route is the exact same as the day before. Some days the ride is mostly effortless and I can ride forever. Even as we end the ride I feel as though I could go another 10 miles. On other days it is an effort to keep a 9 mph pace (slow for us) and it seems to take forever to settle into the right cadence. On other days, I never can find the right gear, though this happening is less and less. This Every-Ride-Is-Different phenomenon is exactly why I love cycling instead of heading to the gym. I like the gym. Don’t get me wrong. Strength training is important and I definitely need to do more of it. A trip to the gym always makes me feel a little like the hamster on its exercise wheel. When I’m on my bike, even a bad ride, makes me feel carefree and strong. Rolling out on two wheels helps me clear my head like nothing else does. I’m hoping my health and fitness last so I can enjoy My Life In Gear for a long, long time to come.

Monthly Rides

March 11 was the last day I rolled out without kids in tow. It was the day before my last surgery. Kids on a ride, while enjoyable, slows the pace significantly. My 17-year-old son keeps up very well, but he doesn’t always pay attention to his use of the path. It can be alarming the way he weaves around. He’s also been known to stop without warning. I hate that. My 11-year-old daughter, can’t keep up. With her, we slow the pace significantly and we shorten the distance. She’s able to make a 20 mile ride, but it has to include lots of stops, a plodding pace, and the promise of a park with a playground somewhere along the way.

Since my surgery, I’ve been out on a couple of rides, but they haven’t been long ones, because the kids ended up going along. The weather has also been nasty and, while I ride in just about any weather, pouring rain is one forecast I’d rather not encounter on my bike.

On Saturday, there was a break in the weather and I was able to get out and ride to my heart’s content and until my legs gave out. It was the most mileage in a ride ever. The SO and I logged 42 miles in 3:34:00. That’s a pretty steady 11 mile an hour pace. It’s not the fastest we’ve ever ridden, but considering it was my first long ride since surgery and in a month, I don’t think that’s too bad for an ole gal getting back in gear.

The fun thing about this ride is that it also included our first group ride with the Southern Oregon Velo Club. We’ve been members since last May, but have not felt confident enough in our riding skills or in our endurance level to attempt a group ride. A month ago, I found out that there is a group that rides shorter distances at a slower pace so I got on the email list in order to be notified of upcoming rides. Yesterday it finally worked out that we could attend a ride. The only problem is that the ride scheduled wasn’t going to be nearly long enough for our purposes.

To remedy that, the SO and I got up early and headed down the greenway on our own. By the time we met up with the other club members, we had almost 27 miles in. We rode 10 miles with the club, and then after an enjoyable stop at the Badass Coffee Company, we parted ways and headed home. It was a very positive first group ride experience and we learned some cool stuff. We also learned that as soon as we are able to get those road bikes. We’ll be ready to join the group that rides a little further at a bit faster pace. Without the road bikes though, we will slog behind the faster group.

By the time we got home, the SO’s legs were cramping up. I’m doing fine so far and am only mildly sore. Just lucky this ride, I guess, because that’s not always the case after a long ride. I hope we can head out for another long ride again today. Putting in 80-100 miles on a weekend would be a new milestone to celebrate.

Slowly Getting Back in the Saddle

As much fun as the surgical party was, the time spent convalescing wasn’t nearly as smooth this time around.  More pain, more fatigue, less weather that cooperated with me getting out on the bike, and more of the daily stuff of life that can just get in the way of feeling 100 percent.  That being said, I’m sporting a pretty wicked looking 4-inch scar.  I can, at least, still proudly announce that I do have all my original body parts. I’m certainly glad that it wasn’t worse than it was.

Two days ago, the weather relented, and I ventured forth on my first ride after this last surgery. My significant other, my son and I logged 17.04 miles in an hour and 26 minutes.  Not too bad for a first day out.  The SO kept asking how I was doing and telling me not to push too hard.  After my typical sucking air for the first 10 minutes, I was fine.  After the first 30 minutes, I was fully warmed up and having a great time.  The weather was perfect.  Of course, there are some who would not consider overcast and sprinkling weather as perfect, but I was ecstatic to be on two wheels again, with the wind in my face. The ground was mostly dry, large puffy clouds scudded across the sky, every now and then we were hit by a few sprinkling drops of rain, but nothing significant.  Fruit trees are beginning to blossom and trees are beginning to leaf out around here.  It was beautiful.  I was disappointed only by the fact that we started out late and due to time constraints had to head back much earlier than I wanted.

It was good we headed back when we did, though, because my body was screaming at me for going out that far and that hard after two weeks of complete inactivity.  I was pretty grateful for a few of the remaining pain meds that night.

A Windy Saturday in March

It was shaping up to be a disappointing Saturday.  Face it, during the school year, for a teacher, the best and most wonderful day to ride is Saturday, weather permitting.  Sunday rides have to be shortened due to getting ready for the week.  Rides during the week must be shortened due to running out of daytime.

This Saturday, was beginning to look like it was going to be a wasted one where riding was concerned. The weather was perfect, but the night before, my Significant Other broke a spoke on his back tire.  We both thought one or the other of us had hit a rock, but no, it was his back wheel. It shortened our ride that evening significantly.  Since we were six miles out with no other transportation available he rode the six miles home on it. On the return trip I watched his rear wheel wobble more and more with each mile. We definitely needed to head into the Bike Shop for that repair.

To make matters worse, my bike was creating all sorts of annoying rattles, creaks and squeaks.  In particular, there was this loud and very irritating click, click, click on every down stroke of my right pedal.  My bike most of the time, is entirely silent when I ride, so I was fairly worried that it was complaining so loudly to me on this first ride off the trainer.

The combination of these woes, cut our ride short on Friday night.  It also meant that our first objective Saturday morning was to get the bikes into the shop to see what and how serious the trouble was. We feared the worst, that our bikes wouldn’t be back out of the shop until Monday.

I can go into all the details of what exactly was wrong, but that’s boring for most people and I don’t yet have all the vocabulary to adequately convey what was wrong.  In the end, what we thought was going to mean missing a weekend of riding really only ended up delaying our Saturday ride, by a couple of hours.  The guys at Marty’s Cycle and Moore literally dropped what they were doing and fixed both our bikes right there on the spot.  They didn’t have to do this, but we are so grateful they did.  About an hour and $47 later, we were walking out the door with our bikes healed.

We wasted no time getting on the road, since we heard rain was on the way.  I figured we still had about 20 miles to go to make our hundred for the week, so we needed to get on the road quickly.  After some waffling about whether to take it easy on the greenway or hit the hilly road and head out in the country, we opted for the road. We definitely took the more difficult option.  The roads between Central Point and Gold Hill are not for the weak.  In fact, there are several really intense, long hill climbs on Old Stage Road between Scenic Avenue and the I-5.  These climbs weren’t made any easier by the presence of a very strong headwind and the fact that we were riding hybrids instead of road bikes.  Even in our marginal fitness condition, we would climb those hills faster on a road bike.  Which, makes me really want a road bike very soon.  This in turn depresses me, because I don’t believe that will be my reality for at least another year.  But I digress.

We inched up those hills at a whopping 5-6 miles per hour.  It was the toughest 5-6 mph I’ve ridden to date. Every muscle in my legs burned (this is good), I was fighting for every breath, and I even felt as though I might vomit at one point (yeah, that’s probably not so great).  Then suddenly, about halfway up the climb, I hit the right gear and, crazy as it seems, I was able to almost rest while I climbed.  I was still pushing hard, but I caught my breath and kept going. I felt a small amount of comfort when after glancing back I realized the Significant Other was suffering just as much as I was.

The downhill on the other side made it all worthwhile.  Except that the headwind slowed our descent significantly. We were still having to push even when going downhill.

It was a crazy ride.

Upon arriving in Goldhill, we stopped in at a little dive bar called the Longbranch Saloon.  It clearly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon.  We tied up our mechanical horses and stepped into the local watering hole to quench our thirst and gear up for the ride back.

Instead of coming back the way we came (read, we chickened out and tried to get out of facing those hills again) we opted for the Blackwell Road route home.

I’ve heard that one of the cycling rules of the road is that you always have a map and a repair kit with you.  At minimum, you should know where you are going, shouldn’t you?  We had the repair kit, but we had no idea where we were going.  All I knew was that if I took Blackwell Road in far enough it was going to come out somewhere near I-5 and Central Point and I could probably find my way home from there.  The SO was following me blindly, trusting that I knew where we were going.  Little did he know…

Blackwell Road proved to be just as challenging as Old Stage Road in its own way.  The climbs weren’t as steep, but they were longer.  Trying to avoid the work, and really wishing by this time that we had some more level terrain to deal with and no wind, we turned onto Tolo Road.  Around the corner, there it was, another hill and beyond that one, another.  At this point, my entire body felt like mush and I wondered seriously if we were going to make it home without having to get off and walk…or call for help. Just as we wondered if we should turn around and head back we saw Scenic Avenue in the distance and knew we were within 3 miles of home.  From the intersection ahead, the ride was going to be a nice downhill ride leveling off once we reached town. We knew we were going to be okay.

We rode the hardest 25 miles we’ve ever ridden since beginning our cycling adventures.  We hit our highest speed on a downhill of 29 miles per hour, which means we were flying on our bikes, and dead if we’d fallen. We returned home tired, but happy, because we’d pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and succeeded.

We stepped up to a new level in our riding.  Hill work is now going to be a regular part of our riding.  It has to be. There’s nothing more painful at first, but it is so rewarding when you crest that hill knowing you still have gears left to shift and energy left to ride.

When we got home, I turned to the SO and said, “You know, that was a really hard ride.  How many people do you know that could have stayed with us on that? I think, other than the guys at the bike shop, I know about two.  Those two would have dusted us, but other than that…I can’t think of  anyone who could have done 25 miles uphill both ways like we just did.”

Not too bad for an ole fat lady pushing 50.