Monthly Archives: June 2013

About going faster/longer

Before I started this blog, I wrote an essay titled “On Not Riding 100 Miles“. It was my defense for not striving to complete the coveted century ride. I realized that it is OKAY to not want to do a century. And it was therapeutic for me to write that.

And then I realized that the day I rode 85 miles, 85 miles was just about all I could’ve possibly ridden. At the end there was no way I could’ve entertained riding just 15 more miles;  I’m quite sure I glared at my spouse when he suggested I could do it. I had to admit that my choice to not ride 100 miles was influenced by the *fact* that the century was just a little beyond my physical abilities that day.

Fast forward to this year, and my issues with trying to ride with a group who, simply put, goes faster than I can. Those folks make me really angry! How dare they leave me behind!  I don’t *want* to go faster, faster, faster all the time. I like to observe the scenery, and carry on conversations, and just enjoy life by bike.

But the day I got dropped from a ride because I was too slow, I had to admit that, hey, I simply cannot ride as fast as those folks. Grant Petersen & others claim that for every 12 lbs of weight you lose, you can ride 1 mph faster. And guess what, I carry a few multiples of 12 pounds of extra weight. It is hard for me to admit that I could probably ride much faster if I lost some weight. Losing weight is hard! I can do it, and I have done it, but it takes a very concentrated effort and amount of mental energy that can wear me out when I’m also trying to do so many other things like train for RAGBRAI, improve my 5K time, work full time, cook dinner, feed my cats, water the garden, etc., etc.

So I just work on getting stronger as a Rubenesque cyclist, with or without weight loss.

But I have a feeling that even if I lost a bunch of weight and could go faster, I still might not enjoy riding with folks who are more intent on performance than enjoyment.


On running

Note to the world: I am not a runner. And I have no designs on becoming a runner.

However, a month ago on a Wednesday my spouse wanted to run a 5k “fun run” after our local farmers market. I said, what the heck, I can easily walk 5K; I’ll walk it and maybe intersperse a little slow jogging. It took me 48 minutes to finish.

This past Wednesday, having done virtually no other jogging or even any exercise walking in the previous four weeks, I shaved three minutes off my time. (All my time has been devoted to putting in cycling hours.)

Now I wonder what my time might be if I actually *tried* to do better. So spouse & I went out & bought new running shoes today. He also signed up for an autumn half-mari. I’ll cheer him on but am not interested in running it.  I’ll try to put in some HIIT sessions on the treadmill, which should help with both my RAGBRAI and 5K training.

As I said, I have no designs on becoming a runner. But I like the idea of being fit enough to spend more of my 5K time jogging instead of walking.

A 56-mile day yesterday

My total mileage yesterday was 56. It was broken down into a 19-mile road ride with one friend at 6:45 a.m. Then a six-mile ride to work and about three miles home. Then a 28-mile club ride in the evening with DH and another friend. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs (and body) weren’t too tired for the evening ride, especially on top of the previous day’s ride plus a 5K walk-jog.

56 miles is an average distance for this year’s RAGBRAI. So, I’m a month out and I can easily do an average distance.

Also, I mentioned my fears about Day #2 of RAGBRAI (LONG and hilly) and my dear spouse pointed out that the second day of RAGBRAI 2011 (which we did) had 4700 feet of climb, even more than the 4200 feet I have been obsessing about. Note to self: See, I’ve done that before! I can do it again!

We don’t have a lot of hills around here, but I felt that I climbed a few pretty well yesterday. A Rubenesque cyclist tends to be fast on the descents and slow on the ascents, but DH validated my climbing technique last night, and I appreciated his comments, breathless tho I was.  My biggest obstacle is the argument going on inside my head about if and when I should decide to walk to rest of a given hill;  after the first time I walked a hill, walking became a possibility for ANY hill.  I wish I could un-learn this, LOL.

I guess I have turned the corner from anxiety to feeling pleased with my progress over just the past week, and hopeful about the four weeks left for training before we head for Iowa.

Today I’m planning on having a restful day, and two-hour club ride at 4:30 p.m., and more road rides over the weekend.

Now I’ve gone and done it….

I’ve been meaning to write about some of my struggles with keeping up with other riders. The cycle club I belong to is notorious for “velocity creep,” where rides are posted at a particular pace, but faster riders show up and kind of force the group to go faster and faster…and the ride leader does not correct this behavior, or, worse, is the perpetrator.

Now, I have some *issues* and being in this kind of situation really pushes my buttons. I blame it on being the youngest kid in the family and always having to catch up with the “big kids.” Who knows?  Anyway, a few weeks ago I had a particularly unpleasant experience that I won’t go into here (for fear of looking like a gigantic crybaby) that led me to avoid going on all but the slowest club rides.  And that’s fine–I’ve had some great times with other pleasure riders!–but it’s not enough cycling for me in light of RAGBRAI looking four weeks away.  So then I started riding with one friend, and that has also turned out well.

So well, in fact, that I have learned my way around some country roads, mapped a route, and bravely posted two new rides on our club’s calendar, next Tuesday and Thursday at 6:45 a.m.  “Come ride slowly,” my entry reads.  And, “free coffee afterward,” by virtue of the start/stop point being across from my house.

I’ve known for a long time that the best option for making our cycling club fit ME is to lead my own rides.  It’s not the only way I’ll get a ride I love, but it is pretty much guaranteed to please me.  I hope some others will come along, too.

A little less anxiety

My current training objective is to simply ride every day. Now, I already ride to work every day, but I’m trying to add on extra road rides on top of my commuting. So, I commuted about 15 miles Monday, 8 miles Tuesday, then did a 27-mile road ride Tuesday evening & a 20-mile ride Wednesday morning. Now I’m about to head out the door to work, and have a Thursday evening road ride planned. And Sunday morning. (Might skip the Saturday 8:30am ride b/c my in-laws will be here.)

I learned during RAGBRAI 2011 that your body catches on pretty quickly that daily riding is the drill, and adapts accordingly. It’s quite amazing, actually. So, I decided to let body figure that out BEFORE the big ride starts! After another week or two of nearly daily rides, I’ll start lengthening them. The longest day of RAGBRAI is 83 miles, with 4,239 feet of climb. I.e., Long, AND hilly. The other days are in the low 50’s, with 63 miles the last day.

I feel good. Last night my legs felt a bit tired, but I was riding with pace-compatible friends. After another week or two, my legs’ll be able to ride all day.

Now my anxiety has shifted to the weather, and fears that it’ll pour rain all week during RAGBRAI.


On May 29th Elly Blue visited my town of Lafayette, Indiana on her Dinner and Bicycles tour.  She & her crew rolled into town & cooked up & served a gourmet vegan dinner.  Local craft brews were on tap, and we talked about bicycle advocacy with a very eclectic group of like-minded people.  Then we watched a documentary about how the Critical Mass movement got started in Portland, OR.

Blue’s recent essay in Bicycling magazine about the physical and mental health costs of a car-oriented lifestyle really resonates with me.  Last night I was driving home from the Indianapolis airport at 11:30 p.m., feeling tired, stiff, and achy, and I recounted for my traveling companion how a week spent largely in the car last August left me with an aching back, warning signs of sciatica, and a bad attitude.  When I got home from my trip, I swore off using the car for seven days.  Granted, I probably wouldn’t have used the car very much in those seven days anyway, but I do own a car and I usually use it to haul my groceries.  That week I rode my bike for food and every other errand I needed to run.  Both my body and my mind needed to stay out of the box, the metal box with wheels.  And guess what:  it worked!  A week later I was all better.  Back didn’t hurt, mind felt bright.

Cost of gas aside, I see commuting to work as a soul-sucking activity.  When the weather turns cold I often walk to work instead of cycle.  I LOVE my 40-minute walk!  Clears the head!  Gets the blood pumping!  I get to see neat things like snowmen and other snow creatures built by college students all over campus!  But I cannot wrap my head around what toll a 40-minute drive each way would take on me.  The day I saw all the snow creatures, I had left my office feeling pretty tired & stressed out, but when I saw the first snowman & realized I see more as I continued my walk, I was immediately rejuvenated!  I got out my phone-camera and started hunting for them! And I wouldn’t have seen anything like that had I driven home.

I know a lot of people simply aren’t afforded the luxury of living close to their jobs, and I’m sorry for that!  I wish you all could experience the joy I feel when I walk or cycle to work.  If you ever have the opportunity to engineer things so you can walk or bike to work, I feel strongly that you would never regret doing so.