12.26.2012

A picture...

...tells a thousand words:

The rugrat is damned lucky that I'll be unable to ride for probably at least another month.  For now "Mongo" is all his.

12.19.2012

I had my suspicions...

6 Days ago I posted the following to my favorite online women's running group re: my spouse's sudden off behavior:
I have an inkling that he may have bought one of these in an XS: [photo of 2013 Salsa Mukluk 3 removed]

Why do I think this? Well, he's been overly giddy for days...like he has a secret that he is dying to tell and can barely contain.

Also, DS and I could share one right now and DS's current bike is more cumbersome for him to handle than a fat bike...and the kid has been obsessed with Mukluks since he rode one 3 weeks or so ago.
So a few days ago DH whispers to me that he had a lead on an acquaintance's available 2012 3 with only 70 miles on it and would I want it (ummm, duh, such a silly question to ask, really).  She is selling it for over 1/3 off of original retail!

2012 Salsa Mukluk 3
Granted, the 2013 is visually more appealing in a sort of blaze orange metallic with orange hubs, but it has SRAM trigger shifters, which I find require a lot of finger strength vs. Shimano triggers (one reason I waited for the 2013 version of my mountain bike was for Shimano triggers--0 regrets).  The 2012 has grip/twist shifters, which may be easier for me to operate sooner with my gimpy right wrist/hand.

Plus there are things we can do to bling this bike out.  The stock rims are solid aluminum, but holes can be drilled to save weight.  People have done really creative things with decorative duct tape or wide ribbon as rim liner.

And I have a local friend with the current orange frame...being too matchy-matchy would be extra dorky.

Like last year, I am finding the days pass so slowly as I anticipate DS's reaction to seeing an awesome new bike "under" the tree.

I expect DS will gain a lot of confidence riding on snow and sandy 2-track with this bike, with us along on our 29ers.  I'll be able to join DH for rides on his 2012 Muk 2, too.  Now this wrist needs to heal so that I can go play with the new toy, too!

As for the wrist, healing is going well and alignment was deemed good, so I will continue to be in this long arm cast until 1/4 (4 weeks of cast + 9 days of splint immediately after crash).  At that time the cast will come off and I will either get a short arm cast or a "fancy splint," as my ortho called it, for another couple of weeks.  I am all for the fancy splint, for obvious reasons:


Weight loss is continuing to progress.  I lost over 8#s in the first week, then stalled for close to a week.  In the past 3 days I have dropped another 2#s.  Now comes the difficult time.  When I first did Atkins I lost 40#s in the first year.  It took close to 2 more years to lose the last 20#s, which is what remains.  My body fights weight loss tooth-and-nail once I start nearing a size 6, which in vanity sizing on my short self isn't really small.

12.11.2012

I resemble this.


Seems to be the story of my life when it comes to mountain biking.  Before fracturing my wrist I gave myself countless massive hematomas, scrapes, mildly sprained fingers, and my left shoulder is still a bit jacked-up from a fall maybe a month ago (so I am really forced to sleep on my back, which angers my lower back ever since that bout I had with back stuff earlier in the Fall).  The worst of these things have all occurred with my new bike--I was only sort of kidding when I said it would get me into trouble faster!

Ironically, my little sidebar quote of the day is:
She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.  ~  Frances E. Willard
The latest in gimpy fashion
Fortunately my sassy new cape/poncho should arrive tomorrow and the forecast looks nice (for December in MI), so I have every plan of getting out for a walk.  Ortho never told me I couldn't do THAT!  Cape is heavy fleece with nylon lining...ideal for venturing out in the cold with a monstrous cast that doesn't fit inside any other outerwear items I currently own.  DH believes his 2XL fleece jackets should suffice, but they are large even on his 6'2" broad-shouldered frame.  On my shrinking 5'3.5" small-shouldered physique I look like a little kid trying on dad's clothes.

And it was only $40 at 6pm.com and I don't really own anything suitable for both jeans and dress-up.  This should suffice.

Perhaps I will start sleeping better if I am able to get some physical activity beyond one-armed laundry and meal prep.

12.10.2012

I'm Bored! *cries*

Stoopid.
I had anticipated the ortho would put me in a short cast with waterproof liner so that I could run on dry roads or treadmill and ride the recumbent "nowhere bike" at the little local gym.  No such luck.  Instead I am trapped in a full arm cast that still has to be covered for showers.  Harumph!

And doctor's orders are NO EXERCISE until at least my post-New Year's appt. when he might replace the long arm cast with a short with waterproof liner.  Fuckity.  I will easily have at least 5 weeks of inactivity.

It also really screws with my sleep, as I am 100% a side-sleeper and cannot comfortably sleep on either side.  Sleeping on my back is uncomfortable and I wake a lot.

Accomplishing the simplest of chores is difficult, too.  My right (dominant) hand is mostly worthless.  I cannot write legibly at all with my left hand (and my penmanship was never good to begin with!).  Typing my last 2 blog entries have taken an eternity with hunt-and-peck typing and going back to fix an abundance of errors.  I have become reasonably skilled with left-hand mouse operation, however.

Fortunately we have the new iPad and DH finally caved for a Netflix streaming acct.  We've watched The Artist, Hugo, and Limitless.  I really like sitting in bed with a big glass of wine and a movie.  It feels entirely luxurious.  Renewed my library card to get some ebooks, too.  Last week a friend of mine lent me a Kindle book...nifty that one can do that.  The iPad is easy to operate one-handed...even a simple book is tough to manage without 2 fully-functional hands!

On the bright side of all of this, weight loss is a piece of sugar-free crustless cheesecake.  A week ago I started back on Atkins Induction (not followed to the letter a couple of days...wine/alcohol, nuts, and going over 20 net carbs are no-nos) for the first time in 7 or 8 years ago.  The first time around I dropped 60#s in 2 years.  I managed to regain half of that over the years...but it's tough to lose while eating for endurance sports training and competition.

As of this AM I am already down 8.2#s in a single week (entering ketosis allows cells to release all the excess water required to process carbs and store glycogen).  After this past week my loss should slow considerably as my body fuels itself on fat (both stored and ingested).  I'd really be happy to drop even 15-20 while I am laid-up and rebuilding fitness this Winter.  My ultimate goal is to lose 25-30#, depending upon body fat.  I will certainly lose fitness, but with a smaller physique to haul around I may not lose any speed.

Atkins is ideal for healing busted bones, since it's easy to eat ample protein and calcium-rich dairy.  Win-win!

This weight loss thing could get $$...another 10#s down and I will likely need new bras (sports and regular), undies, bike shorts/knickers (that's gonna be especially $$), jeans/pants...  Big goal is 125-30, depending upon body fat %age.

12.03.2012

Oops...

Right distal radius and ulna...busted!
So...if we're friends on FB, IRL, or via my favorite running or cycling support boards you have likely seen the predicament I got myself into 5 days ago.

I'm still not entirely certain HOW I broke my right wrist...I mean, yeah, I was on my mountain bike, and then I wasn't (I can get myself into trouble so much faster on my new bike!) and it was on a totally namby pamby section of trail.  I know I had some wheel slip around a corner and then likely overcorrected.

Surprisingly I didn't find things to be all THAT painful (I think decades of dealing with endometriosis have given me a warped pain tolerance, to be perfectly honest).  I can't recall if I fell or if I reached out to avoid ramming trees.  I wasn't covered in dirt, that I can recall, and didn't have tell-tale lower body bruising.  I think when I gave myself a 2nd degree left ankle sprain during a trail relay a couple of years back it hurt worse, in my recollection (and I managed to run another 9.9 miles on that injury).  And initially I didn't realize it was broken.  It was only after I pushed up my sleeves and saw my wrist that I was all "hmmm...that doesn't look right."  Before looking at my wrist I thought for a moment that I could carefully ride out...until I tried to put weight on it.

I wasn't sure if DH and our riding buddies were planning to wait for me at a trail junction, since they were planning to do an extra short loop and after ~18 miles I was ready to head to the car and change out of my cycling bottoms...so I started pushing my bike back with my good arm.  Not long after DH comes back on the trail to find me.  He was truly far more upset by my predicament than I was.

I am right-handed, naturally, but I am getting good at doing stuff with my left hand.  It probably is to my advantage that I have a lot of lefties in my family.  One-handed typing is still a slow, arduous PITA.  Today the iPad we ordered on Black Fri. should arrive.  My phone has been easier to type on than my computer keyboard, but the tiny screen leaves something to be desired.

The good news is that the ER was able to do a good job resetting things and the ortho doc doesn't foresee my needing surgery, unlike my 2 friends who have fractured their wrists this year.  Phew!  Ti hardware can be problematic in the event of future fractures.

My good hand could provide mid race nutrition in the form of bacon!
Yesterday I attended another CX race as a benched rider...last Kisscross race of the season.  Between injuries and illnesses I ended up only doing about 2/3 as many races as I had originally planned.  But cheering and heckling are almost as much fun as racing.  I managed to pass out 2 boxes worth of pre-cooked bacon hand-ups!

Today I started my first day of low-carb eating, as planned pre-injury.  After I get my permanent cast on in 4 days I will likely join a little local gym with recumbent stationary bikes, treadmills and ellipticals.  When roads are clear I hope to run outdoors.  I hope to not lose too much fitness before I start training for the Go St. Louis Half Marathon in Jan.  I was planning to start with a 15mpw base.  I think that will still be manageable, especially if I can drop 10#s or so in the next month.  Totally do-able if my past history doing low-carb is any indication of potential results.

11.19.2012

Ready to climb back up on the wagon

I recently picked-up The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Volek and Phinney. It has been really eye-opening. It shouldn't be. I lost 60#s years ago while following Atkins for about 2 years. I got down to 124#s from a high non-pregnant weight of 185#s (and pushing a size 16 on my just shy of 5'4" frame). Then I fell off the wagon and regained 20. I started running almost 7 years ago in the hopes that I could re-lose the weight without "dieting." FAIL. I am now 30#s over my low weight and halfway back to my heaviest starting point.

For years I have struggled with how to go back to eating a low-carb/ketogenic diet AND engage in my favorite activities -- running and cycling. I fell victim to the aerobic-exercise-requires-carbs myth. A few times I tried cutting my carbs down to a "moderate" level of 100-150 net/day, but could never run or bike for more than about 45 minutes before bonking. And the insane hunger with even that many carbs in my system. That has been the biggest challenge any time I have tried to cut calories. Atkins was like a dream come true for me. I lost weight without crazy hunger and felt healthier than ever, even on a caloric deficit.

I'm only about a third of the way through the aforementioned book, but reading it has given me a big DUH moment! If I'm not actually in ketosis and I cut back on carbs, then my body has no clue what to do once my limited glycogen stores are depleted. BUT if I don't let my body run on glycogen from the outset, then it has no choice but to power itself on fat stores. This was true before I became an endurance athlete and did weight workouts. It's still true.

Both of the authors come from athletic backgrounds and demonstrate the effectiveness of low-carb for non-sedentary, aerobically active individuals (people like ME) -- a population that hasn't really been well-addressed previously.

I found a great interview with Dr. Phinney, MD, PhD.  I like that he discusses the Human populations that thrive on keto diets and have exceptionally active lifestyles, including the Inuit and Maasai.:


Dr. Peter Attia, MD's The Eating Academy website has also been really enlightening.  He dropped about the same amount of weight that I am hoping to lose while being aerobically active and documents the enormous benefits reaped in fitness and VO2 max testing done before and after adapting to a ketogenic diet.

I still have 2 more cyclocross races this season (so I need to wait to start back up with low-carbing until race season is over, since I will likely have at least two weeks of adaptation away from carb-fueled fitness.  During that period I will likely have no choice but to scale back on the effort and duration of my workouts), but starting 12/3 I will be back on the ketosis wagon. I'm really looking forward to it. I will miss beer and wine, but I can't wait to indulge in all of the keto-friendly foods I can eat with gusto, again (my love for bacon and cheese are the stuff of legend).  I won't be able to indulge in bread and sugar, but I'll get to make up for that with the things I really love...cheese, nuts, berries, meat, salads...mmmm....  And I won't miss the 20-30#s that I hope to lose in the next year. I would love to be able to set some new race PRs with a lighter body.

And I turn 40 in Feb., so I want to get my weight off before it starts to become an even bigger challenge with middle age.

11.05.2012

You take the good you take the bad...

...you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life...

OK, that was cruel.  What a crap earworm to start the week.  Sorry!

The past couple of weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.  The sad part of the physical exhaustion is that I can't blame workouts for it.  I'm probably the least fit that I've been since I started running 6.5 years ago.  Or maybe that's not true, but it feels that way.  It's been nearly 2 weeks since my new mountain bike arrived and I spent at least a week of this time with limited ability to move, due to a really jacked-up lower back.  I've never before dealt with that and really feel for folks who battle that regularly.  I started doing core work at least every other day and a few yoga stretches nearly daily.  It's made a HUGE difference.  I had a couple of days where my left hip tweaked-out, too.  Certainly related in-part to the back nonsense...and, um, other activities (TMI).

Falls from the new bike have not helped much, either.  My lower back feels a ton better, BUT yesterday I tagged a tree in a narrow spot and was sent flying.  I landed on my left knee and had some pretty intense pain from that.  My kneecap appeared to be what took the blow, but the worst pain was on the outside of my calf, just below my knee and to the side, a bit.  By last night I was really gimping around.  Today it feels a lot better.  Tonight DS and I have a 2 mile run planned (his first 5k race is now only 5 days away!) and I hope to do an extra mile or two.  I have high hopes that my leg will tolerate that fine.

What hurts more today is my left shoulder.  I suspect my upper body got a bit yanked as I maintained grip on my handlebars while they were forced abruptly to one side (I'm not even certain which side tagged the tree--it happened fast.  DH was behind me and wasn't entirely certain which side snagged, either).

I'm starting to think that I should have taken up this sport a decade ago, so that I could have gotten all this falling business out of the way in my early 30s, when I was a faster healer.  On the cusp of 40 I'm not doing myself any favors beating myself up on a regular basis.  Hopefully 2013 will be the start of figuring out what I'm doing on 2 wheels in the woods.  The new bike is offering an all new learning curve, since it fits me better (prior bike was way too small), but the handling is a fair bit different going from a bike with 26" wheels to one with 29" ones.  And it can get up to speed a LOT easier than my previous bike, which means that I can get myself into trouble with greater ease...ow.  But it's really nice to go out and do a few miles without tiring so fast.  The previous bike always had me wanting to quit by about 10 miles, since I was so whooped.  That limited my ability to really practice any skills.

So that's the physical exhaustion part.  The emotional comes from some new news received nearly a week ago.

Almost 5 weeks ago our son had an assessment done with a really excellent neuropsychologist.  He was diagnosed with ADHD back in kindergarten, 6 years ago.  Since that time he's been on various forms of extended-release ritalin drugs.  This allowed him to function in the classroom and in other settings where running in circles and being completely unfocused are not acceptable.  On his meds it's like the Jekyll half of Jekyll & Hyde is revealed and able to flourish.  He does well in school and has great impulse control.  Off meds he's a noisy perpetual motion machine.

But he's always struggled socially.  We were left wondering if it was the result of him being an only-child and having not lived near his classmates since 1st grade (he attends a charter Montessori school near his dad's work, which has been a wonderful environment).  We have some kids in our neighborhood, but many of them are sort of transient and live in an income-qualification apartment complex.  We've had some rather negative experiences with the residents of this complex, unfortunately, including at least one confirmed episode of theft from a child who used to reside in this building.  There are also frequent episodes of domestic disturbances requiring police visits.  Most of the other neighborhood kids are significantly younger than our son.  As a result it's been really difficult for us to encourage him to play with neighborhood children.

For a few years his teachers have been concerned about his communication skills with peers.  We were never certain whether he was simply a loner (his dad is also an only child and was fairly quiet and independent as a child, and my brother was also not particularly social.  Dane is very much like my brother in many ways--sometimes almost horrifyingly so).

Late in the 2010-2011 school year Dane started working with a speech therapist to help him with some R-distortion issues (my sister went through speech therapy for the same symptom).  By the time his 1 year speech assessment was completed, she and his teacher both were concerned about more than just his R pronunciation.  I mentioned that my brother had recently been diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD or NLD) and that I have an autistic nephew and Dane's teacher, speech therapist, DH and I all agreed that having Dane assessed to see if he may also be dealing with something in addition to the ADHD was necessary.

We filled out a questionnaire similar to the one we completed when he was diagnosed with ADHD; it was a 2-part survey--one for the parents and 1 for the teacher.  Dane also underwent 2.5 hours of testing, including an IQ test.

Last week DH and I met with the doctor and it was revealed that Dane indeed is ADHD, but also suffers from Asperger's syndrome...aka "high functioning" Autism.

I'd be lying if I said this diagnosis came as a shock.  Perhaps to anyone else it might have, but over the years we've seen the similarities and parallels between Dane and my sister's autistic son.  Dane and Soren are more alike than Soren is like his own "neurotypical" brother.  And Dane is SO much like my brother.  We actually suspected NLD before Dane was even assessed.  It was really my brother's diagnosis that had us most suspicious.  We've joked that I gave birth to a clone of my brother.  Mostly this is a very good thing.  My brother struggled socially all through his childhood, but really came into his own in college when he was surrounded by so many other "quirky" people and was able to find his niche (in Engineering, vocal music, and Big 10 marching band).

The ways in which Dane differs from my brother make his struggles a bit greater, though.  My brother is also ADHD, but with not nearly the severity in symptoms that Dane struggles with.  My brother was not diagnosed until his 30s and managed all the way through a tough master's program in Computer Science.  He also has a genius-level IQ that likely helped make up for his social deficiencies.  Dane is still a smart little whipper snapper with an IQ of 114, but ~30 points lower than his uncle doesn't give him that same academic edge.

While the diagnosis was no great surprise, it still hit me hard by the next day.  Granted, knowledge is power and with our new knowledge we can better serve our son -- and diagnosis or not, he's still the same kid he was without the new label.  The way we approach his limitations will be changing, as will his IEP.  Thus far we've treated only his ADHD symptoms and have had him on a fairly high dose of medication so that he can focus on his academic work.  BUT we have found that his current dosage is making his autism symptoms worse.  His focus is better...but so much better that he's not able to see "the big picture."  He dwells on all the little details.  He misses sarcasm while on his meds...or he catches it, but not until he's analyzed the literal aspect of a joke or sarcastic comment.  It makes him appear awkward and weird to other kids.  Because we don't see him on his school day meds and interacting with others, it's been easy for us to miss some of these things.  When not on his meds or on a lower weekend dose he's a bit of a comedian.

Never without a well-worn book
Many of his formerly "oddball" quirks now make sense to us.  Like the way he refuses to watch TV without closed captioning.  He learns and understands best what he reads.  He was already a voracious reader -- reading things well above his grade level -- and we understand why this is, now.  What he sees isn't processed as well by his mind as what he reads and hears.  Like with my brother's NLD, Dane struggles with facial expressions.  He can't perceive when others are angry or bored.  As a result he struggles to have positive interactions with his peers.

We also understand why he has a tendency to chew on the collars of shirts and jackets and the cable on the Wii remote that connects the nunchucks.  He's not pulling our legs when he tells us he doesn't realize he's doing it--he really doesn't.

And at movies and concerts he will be fully enjoying what he is hearing, but still covers his ears a lot.  Yesterday we saw Wreck-It-Ralph (awesome, BTW).  He said afterwards that it's one of the best movies he's ever seen...even though he spent most of it with his hands over his ears.

And the food texture issues...nearly everything he eats has at least one "bad piece," even mac-n-cheese.

Now that we have full understanding of the whys we can approach these things with more patience and less criticism and help him to hopefully develop the skills to be aware of his symptoms and try to work beyond them.  While I wish we would have pursued a diagnosis earlier, sometimes the ADHD label was already more than we wanted to deal with...and the thought of adding another label was overwhelming.  I'm thankful that he will have tools to work with before puberty and adulthood -- things my brother didn't have.  As successful as he has been, I'm certain childhood and college would have been less of a battle for him, had he known the whys of his own quirks.

Now our struggle is how much should he share with his peers.  They already realize he is different.  Will telling his classmates that he has a mild form of autism make them more supportive and accommodating or will they make him a pariah (at a regular public school I am certain I know the answer to this, but he attends a school where bullying is truly not tolerated and there is a strong community atmosphere)?  We're thankful that he has band (like his uncle he is really enjoying trombone) and he loves Destination Imagination.  The neuropsych recommended that he take part in formal activities with other kids at least once/week, so these things can really serve him well by giving him opportunities to hone new skills and make friends with similar interests.  Once he enters high school he will be at a new school and potentially not know anyone.  That transition will be so much easier if he has Music and/or DI to help him fit in with a group right away.  My brother was never as shy or self-conscious as Dane is, but Music was always his "in," too.  He excelled at trombone and vocal music.  He always had friends in the small circles of Jazz band and show choir.  I would be happy if Dane felt comfortable in these sorts of environments.  Feeling safe and accepted at school is something every kid deserves.


10.29.2012

Procrastination has bitten me in the ass

...and lower back and hips.  My chronically cranky (as of the past 2+ months) lower back finally reached the breaking point in the past week--just in time for the arrival of my new bike (why naturally!).  I managed 2 weak rides on Gossy before I had no choice but to leave him in the garage for the weekend.  Friday and Saturday the rugrat and I put in a couple of easy runs.  Saturday our loose plan was to do 2ish miles together, then I would add another 1-3 solo.  But I was hurting through my hips (primarily on the left side) from the very first step.  I was actually thankful that he was feeling somewhat unmotivated and happy to take many walk breaks.  I was not up for anything more ambitious than that.

This guy pretty well explains what I've got going on:


I had planned to make a call to a nearby sports med office if I didn't have some relief by today (Monday).  Over the past few days I have been yoga-ing the hell out of my back and doing some gentle core strengthening work, as well as exercises to strengthen my glutes and things are feeling a bit better, so I'm holding off.

I've always thought of my butt muscles as being strong, BUT I think this was more the case when I was running more than 10ish miles/week.  Clearly big ≠ strong, heh.  Running is one of the very best butt-strengthening exercises there are, but for about the past 6 months the balance of my workouts have tipped strongly in-favor of cycling...something that strengthens my quads, but my glutes and hamstrings have likely been allowed to languish a bit, as a result.  Having overly strong quads without equally strong glutes, hammys and core is pretty much recipe for things getting yanked painfully out of alignment (and this would likely explain why tough uphills on the bike always made it feel like my glutes were being yanked downwards, dragging my lower back along--ow!).  For months my lower back has been whispering at me to pay attention and get back to the variety that has worked so well for me in the past.  I also need to consistently work on core strength and flexibility.  I don't really enjoy these exercises, but I loathe pain and being unable to run and bike even more. Having a brand new bike collecting dust in the garage is NOT making me a happy girl, at the moment.

The only upside to all of this is that it's taking place towards the end of competition season.  This would be a miserable thing to deal with if the weather were nicer.  As I type this Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the East Coast and the edges of that storm system are having an effect on our own weather, as well.  The next couple of days won't be nice for outdoor workouts, so more yoga and perhaps some gentle  "nowhere biking" will be on the agenda, instead.  This Winter regaining running fitness, strengthening my core, and dropping some weight need to be my top priorities--not grinding away on the nowhere bike for hours in front of the TV.  That activity almost certainly is especially detrimental, since I am not even using my core for balance when my bike is on the trainer.

I was really bummed yesterday to skip out on a cyclocross race that I likely would have won for the women's C field, based upon where I typically placed relative to other racers who were in attendance yesterday (BUT the woman who did win was moved up to Bs...so I really dodged a bullet, there!).  It was sorta bittersweet watching DH kick major butt during the B master's race.  The # of benched riders associated with our LBS is growing.  I really want to be off that bench for the race in 2 weekends.

10.26.2012

Worth. The. Wait!!!

About 72 hours ago our LBS texted the following to my phone:
Introducing: Gossamer, the 2013 Salsa El Mariachi 3
aka "Gossy"
I'm not kidding when I say that I think my heart stopped for a brief moment.  Or maybe that was the sensation of my gut flip-flopping in my abdomen.  Anything I'd planned to do that afternoon was tossed aside.

I showered, inhaled a quick lunch, made the hour trip to our LBS, walked in, and found my new friend up high on a rack with a "sold" sign hanging from his handlebars.

I picked out a seat bag (for spare inner tubes, snacks, and other necessities), a bottle cage, and Nate -- one of Velo City Cycles' super mechanics -- cut about 11/8" off of the handlebars on each side, bringing them from 28" wide to ~26" (my previous bike had 24" handlebars and I knew the stock handlebars were too wide for me after demoing the El Mariachi 2, recently).  Mike "MC" flipped the stem, since it was set-up pretty upright for me.

Me, Jan, Sophia, Pea
While I was in the shop my friends Pea and Jan arrived (Jan with fresh cookies from her bakery--bonus!!!) and another "Short but Mighty Race Team" (™MC, I think) member, Sophia.  Only shorty missing was our friend Kaat.  Eventually I think we will all have taken a few miles on this bike.  Thus far I am the only one with a 29er (Kaat has a Salsa Mukluk that she has converted to a 29er, but the geometry is a bit different, so handling would not be quite the same).  Sophia is in the market for a new MTB, so she's particularly interested in giving my bike a spin to see if she would like the big wheels, too.

After paying for our new family member, Gossy and I were ready to head home, picking up DS at school on the way.

Gossy meets Dash -- yes, we name everything, even cars
Gossy was surprisingly easy to fit in my car, even though it has those big wheels (and really big tires--high profile and pretty wide).  It doesn't help that this bike weighs 2-3#s less than my previous bike.  that doesn't seem like a lot, but my back has been pretty jacked-up for the past couple of months (more on that later), so I notice every extra ounce when I have to hoist a sort of cumbersome object into a relatively small back-end of a vehicle (and still have space to fit an 11 year old person in the back, too.  Life with bikes will be easier when he's big enough to sit up front, for certain).

Speaking of life with bikes and kids who have grown up with more-bikes-than-humans (more bikes than humans and cats, combined, even).  Dane gets in the car and I say "hey, look at what I got!"  He looks around and notices nothing new.  Me: "look left."  He looks puzzled.  Me: "LOOK, my new bike."  DS: "oh...COOL!  Huh."  Yeah, it took him a moment.  He's not at all a stranger to sharing the backseat with a bike...but I'm not sure how he missed all that RED and shiny-ness.

Bike in the back!
Of course, we get home and he asks "hey, can I ride your bike?"  I told him that he's still a little small to ride it, but the XS/14" size is recommended for riders 5'2"-5'6", so soon.  He's just over 5', I believe.  By next Summer perhaps I will be willing to let him bomb around on it, some.  I'm afraid he's not want to give it up, though.  The difference between the Cannondale he is inheriting and this bike is profound.  The El Mariachi is not a high performance, lightweight, responsive machine relative to other bikes at the same price-point, but compared to that Cannondale it is still at least 2x the bike...which makes sense, since the original retail is 2x what that Cdale sold for, originally.

When we got home we had to leave Gossy in the car--it was POURING rain, complete with thunder and lightning.  No maiden voyage on Gossy that night, much less a run for DS and me.

The next day was rain-free, so I took a jaunt over to a nearby little park with some quiet, easy single-track for Gossy and I to get acquainted.  I took it really easy, because the handling is quite different from my previous bike, but also because I've been battling lower back evil for a couple of months and it's been at it's worst this week.  Last night I soaked in the tub with epsom salts and then popped magnesium and calcium before bed (I'm not good about getting enough of these minerals and I suspect that plays a factor in this chronic back irritation.  Our mattress may be in need of replacement after 10ish years, too.  I also need to be a LOT better about doing core work and/or yoga.  And last Sunday's hilly and horrifically rutted CX race really seems to have been the straw that broke the Zoomy's back).  This is the most severe and longest-lasting lower back issue I've ever endured.  I feel very fortunate to have never been prone to lower back pain (upper back/neck/shoulders...that's another story, thanks in large part to a certain feline who steals my pillow and pushes my head off at odd angles).

Truth be told, I wanted to get out to take some photos of the bike before big winds came and stripped what pretty leaves still remain on trees.

It was pretty wet from the previous day's rains, so I also took it easy to avoid crashing on the wet leaves and roots. Success!

Last night DH and I went back to the park to get some loops in before darkness fell.  He was on his Salsa Mukluk...we must have looked like an ad for Salsa!  I got my first fall on Gossy out of the way...and my 2nd.  The first fall was the result of sliding sideways along a root covered with loose leaves.  DH nearly lost it on the exact same spot.  He caught himself, I didn't.  I even ended up with a small scrape on the left side of my chin.  There were some little kids right there with their dad.  I made sure to get up fast and brush myself off so that they would have every reason to see that mountain biking isn't scary and falls are no biggie.  The little boy was funny and wanted to know why we ride with water bottles on our bikes.  Kids notice those funny details that we don't think twice about after riding on a regular basis for a while.

My 2nd fall was one of those stupid, klutzy kind of things with a bit of new bike, new handling learning curve thrown in.

I'm really glad I held out for the 2013, instead of snatching up a 2012 a month or two ago.  My previous bike had SRAM shifters and I found the triggers to require a lot of oomph to shift to a larger gear on the front rings.  But I was never really sold on grip/twist shifters.  I took a spin around a parking lot on a friend's bike with the exact same Shimano triggers that equip the 2013 and found them to work better with my small, pathetically weak hands, heh.  I'm pretty content with a triple on mountain bikes, too, even though my road and CX bikes both have SRAM compact doubles (which worked better for my smaller hands than the Shimano road shifters I had on my first road bike).

If I had one criticism of the bike it might be the overly long steerer tube on a small bike (they likely use the same tube for all sizes of the bike), but that's something that can easily be cut.  Right now there is about 1/4" of spacer above the stem and at least 11/2" underneath.  I could do with at least an inch being removed.  DH doesn't mind a bunch of spacers atop his stem, but I don't like the look or the risk of a big dent in my sternum if I landed funny.  And my bike computer won't fit on the stem if we stack spacers on top, either.

Not sure I love the stock tires, either.  They seem great on sand, but a little high-profile, which makes the standover pretty high and they feel a little sketchy on tree roots (hence my first fall and a few other eek moments).  Of course, I can't see the roots under the leaves, so it could very well be that I'm not rolling over the roots like I would if I could see them.  Once I get out to a really sandy trail system near us (may not be until closer to Spring, since they will be closing to bikes in < 1 week and open entirely to hunters) I will probably appreciate those monster tires.  Pretty soon I may find them really valuable on snow, too. *sigh*

10.17.2012

Scenes from my Saddle

I'm continuing to have so much fun using Instagram.  I'm not actually using the app to record each photo (I use an iPhone app called ProCamera, which seemed to yield the most control and best results of any app I'd tried), though maybe I should give that a try.  Right now it's a multi-step process using a separate app to take each image.  This isn't all that cumbersome, however, since I'm not doing any Instagram manipulation until later.

Today I rode 31+ miles including a pass through one of my very favorite parts of our area.  Duck Lake State Park was especially lovely on this blustery day.  Here are 3 of my favorite shots taken from my bike (while stopped and straddling the top tube--I am far too big a klutz to actually shoot while moving...and I like my phone too much to risk dropping it).
Lake Michigan



Speaking of scenes from the saddle, a couple of weeks ago I found video that someone had done from a handlebar-mounted camera during our Kisscross race on September 30.  At the start my kid yells "Go, Kirsten" and friends cheer "Go, Zoomy!"  If you zip ahead you can actually see me pass on the left at 13:08.  In about a minute's time I jumped from women's 6th to 4th place (this is after getting pushed into the tape around a crowded corner, then having to readjust my saddle, which gotten knocked cock-eyed on a plastic pole. It took me over a lap to catch back up to the field).

10.16.2012

Instagram has "jumped the shark"

Of course it has, because I opened an account and am creating my very own square "masterpieces" of previously shot images on my cell phone.  I predict it will be a has-been within 6 months, heh.

For anyone not in the know, I actually possess a BA in Photography -- under the umbrella of my alma mater's Communications department and my minor was in Sociology with a heavy dose of Cultural Anthropology coursework, so my bent has always been towards more of a photojournalism or environmental portraiture style of capturing images on film...er...or on memory card, nowadays.

For a while I was doing some candid portraiture work, primarily weddings.  I was just starting to see an uptick in my business about a year after I got it off the ground.  Then the economy really tanked and the number of calls and e-mails I received exponentially dwindled to nothing.  The fall of the economy only tells part of the story--now everyone has a friend or relative with a "fancy," high megapixel camera (I once had a guy tell me that he and his bride-to-be couldn't hire me for their wedding because my professional grade camera had fewer megapixels than their point-n-shoot camera...fer realz.  Nevermind the fact that my lenses each cost more than his point-n-shoot and the lens is FAR more important than the # of megapixels in the final-product equation), so paid pros started falling by the wayside.  It started with photographers simply selling the digital files outright to be able to offer a cheaper product -- but a product that took creative control of the final product out of their hands.  It also removed the ability to work as an artisan paid appropriately for his/her skill, eye, and training.  Those thousands of dollars invested in college tuition, equipment (2 of everything to guarantee no technical difficulties mid-wedding), insurance, marketing...none of that comes for free.  I've talked to a couple of self-employed photographers who shuttered their own businesses in recent years.  And a friend of mine recently left the studio she'd worked at for years (in their front office) -- their business was rapidly dwindling after decades in business.  I had worked in their lab for a couple of years during college.  Back in the mid-90s business was booming, but that was when film was still king.

Nowadays the "Photography" I do essentially amounts to funnin' with my cell phone.  I really can't be bothered to drag my beefy DSLR around.  Sure, quality suffers, I lose control over exposure and depth-of-field, and I can't make 20x30 enlargments, even with 8 megapixels (I could do this with my 6.3 megapixel Canon 10D), but I have the ease of uploading everything to iPhoto and/or Facebook and sharing with friends and family digitally.  This is so much more ideal than print photography, because everyone is so far-flung nowadays.

The biggest downside with cell phone photography is the inability to do much post-processing.  I miss the creativity of the darkroom, even if the darkroom is simply Photoshop.  This is where programs like Instagram come in.  I've tried similar apps, but I really never found them to yield results I liked as well.  And I really like the forced square format.  My eye has always liked the uniformity of square.  I grew up during the Polaroid era, so casual snapshot documentation of every event was confined to that little square.  It's a throwback that I'm really happy to see returning.

Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI
Anyhow, last night's insomnia yielded some fun results.  I did a few more this AM after going back through my iPhone's camera roll and finding more gems that struck me as shots that could be extra cool with some tweaking:
Fast rolling on Grand Rapids, MI cobblestone

Zoomy Hubby
Duck Lake State Park, MI


Gravel road roller
Rugrat
Hubby kickin' ass on his now retired "CX" bike
Lake Tahoe
Chase
My first Instagram "masterpiece"
I think this might be my favorite...

10.08.2012

*stretch* *yawn*

Today is definitely one of those Mondays when I feel like I can't get out of my own way.  It's a gorgeous, sunny Fall day with huge, bright, poofy clouds.  Our sugar maple by the garage is nearly blinding in the intensity of chartreuse and orange leaves.  But it's also pretty gusty outside...definitely a day to hold onto one's hat!  At this rate the leaves will not last long.  I have that vague feeling of dread as I consider what our area will look like in a week or two--naked and brown.  At least I have an impending mountain bike delivery to give me something to look forward to.

On Friday (3 days ago) DH took the day off and we hit the newest mountain bike park in the area, the Merrell Trails (yes, that Merrell...the wonderful Wolverine Worldwide shoe line.  WW is headquartered right here in West MI).  It was his second trip to the trails and my first.  I must say that the park lived up to its reputation.  What an amazing place!  I really look forward to exploring it more, especially trying it in the reverse direction (on alternating days it runs either clockwise or counter-clockwise to help the trail not wear unevenly).

Salsa Cycles was doing a demo day while we were there, so I even had the opportunity to do my first loop on the upgraded version of the bike I will be receiving soon (like, this week soon.  According to the Salsa guys they shipped the El Mariachis last Thursday and they take 4 business days, so any day now!).

I really liked the El Mariachi 2 (mine will be a 3), though it did handle a lot differently from my current bike.  In large part because the handlebars were WAY too wide for me.  I was really feeling it in new places on my arms and upper back by the end of that brief ride.  Right away we'll be having at least an inch lobbed-off on either side of my bars.  I think my current bars are 24" and the stock bars on the El Mars are, I believe, 28".  So starting with 26" is probably a wise plan.  There were some narrow spots through trees that I simply walked.  I didn't feel confident trying to get those wide bars through on an unfamiliar bike.  And I ate the ground at least once when I tagged a tree with the bars.

One thing that was VASTLY different with the El Mariachi was the way I didn't really feel uphills on the trails.  After returning the demo bike and doing 2 more laps on my current bike I was suffering.  Wow, what a difference.  Granted, that El Mariachi was almost 3x more expensive than my bike was at full retail, but...wow.  My new bike will be about 2x the price of my Cannondale, so it should still be a much, much better bike for climbing.  It weighs a few pounds less, even with bigger wheels.

It was also nice riding with a woman that we know via Facebook.  She participated in our ODRAM ride this year and we have mutual friends.  She also demo'd a couple of bikes and we really had a good time chattering about our bike-related passions as we rode.

Look at that skinny stride!
I took Saturday easy, with just a 2 mile run/walk with my rugrat.  He has already come so far with his running. The first week he was running his average mile pace was 14:10. Week 2: 13:23, week 3: 12:40.  This week will be his 4th week and I expect he's going to be closer to a solid 12 minute/mile pace with minimal walking.  As it is he did one 2.1 mile run in his 2nd week when he only walked for about .1 of a mile...mostly because a couple of little dogs were loose and running from their house and we didn't want to encourage them to run further from their people.  I expect that his first 5k race on Thanksgiving could be sub-30 minutes.  My first 5k 6.5 years ago was a 31:13...little punk!

On Sunday we woke dark and early in preparation to make the 1:20 drive to the day's cyclocross race.  The C race (my event) starts at 11, so we wanted to be there about an hour early for me to register and warm-up.  We're still trying to talk the kiddo into doing the 1-lap kids' race, but he's not super interested, so we don't push the issue.  He's really enjoying running with me, so I'm just happy that he's happy to do that.  He also wanted to play with his trombone at the park and heckle the racers by horn.

I was really looking forward to this race.  Last year this venue was the unofficial Kisscross Halloween race.  It was also was a really enjoyable race for me, so I anticipated a repeat pleasant experience.

My warm-up lap was pretty unnerving, at least for about half of the course.  Shortly after starting we have to ride down a really rough, rutted, gravel hill, then make a hard right turn and go a few pedal strokes before dismounting and climbing back up an even steeper section of that sort of bluff.  This was sandy and loose and full of long weeds and branches and assorted yuck.  At the top we'd get back on our bikes, do a little zig-zag, then back down a relatively steep and fast hill with another turn at the bottom...then back up a smallish hill, down, up, up a ramp, then down an off-camber and sandy bit before making another brutal, but short climb.

All of this loose stuff and sharp turns at the bottoms of hills really had me a bit rattled.  I don't do particularly well on making my bike stop (perhaps it's time to look into better brake pads.  My brakes are low-end, but better pads would likely help them to grip the rims better and aid my stopping power).  I have learned after doing at least a dozen CX races that the warm-up lap rarely has much bearing on my actual race experience.  I think the oxygen deprivation suppresses the fear and sanity portions of my brain during the actual race.  Things that should terrify me no longer do.  I go into "let's get this shit over with as fast as we can" mode.

The weather yesterday was pretty chilly and damp.  Off-and-on drizzle seemed to keep the crowds light, at least the C race seemed smaller than usual.  My women's C race typically has had 7-8 participants, but yesterday there were only 5 of us.  Last week's winner was moved up to the Bs and a friend of mine was also absent, so maybe that accounted for the light field.

I started sort of smack-dab in the middle of the C field (still smiling, because I'm a fool!).  I was a bit further-up than I like, since I tend to start slow and hate feeling underfoot of faster riders in the first lap.  The really tricky stuff is early in the race, too, so I especially didn't want to be going up and down technical hills with faster folks bearing down on me.  A minute or so into the race  I had that expected wave of terror/apprehension/regret/stupidity overcome me.  I know this feeling...it happens every time.  Fortunately it seems to hit about the same time that my lungs rebel, so my brain can't hold those feelings long before the need to get oxygen in NOW takes precedence.

Zoomy zoomin'
Somehow I managed to get through the scary parts of the first lap without getting run-over or crashing (so far I've yet to fall this season *knocks on wood*).  Even more shocking was the fact that I was somehow in first place for the C women...WTF?!

For the rest of the race I was pretty much leap-frogging a sweet 12 year old boy who does all of these races and is nearly as willowy as my own almost-12 year old (we actually had a moment of chit-chat during our 3rd lap during a flatter stretch).  I can't recall which of us ended up finishing first...  What I do recall is my friend Kaat being all over that course and telling me that I was in the lead.  During the first lap she made it clear to me that the 2nd woman was gaining on me.  For a brief bit I felt like backing-off...if I was in 1st it must mean that I'm going out too hard and am going to pay later in the race.  And then I realized how foolish that thought was.  Go big or go home, girl!

By the 2nd lap no one was telling me that anyone was gaining on me...it was surreal and nothing I've ever experienced in any race.  For the rest of the race it was simply cheers from Kaat and MC (the guy that keeps us in bikes) and my husband yelling "Go, Zoomy, you're in FIRST PLACE!!!" (typing that now makes me really misty, for some reason).

I spent most of the race with the singular goal of keeping my lead, not doing anything stupid, and enjoying myself.  I succeeded at all 3.  The 2nd woman did have a faster last lap than I did, but I think mostly because I fully expected to only finish 3 laps before they started pulling us from the course (we have ~30 minutes for our race.  If a person's laps are 10 minutes they are likely to be pulled after they complete lap 3.  I was finishing my laps well under 10 minutes, which I totally didn't expect).  I was really tiring and I knew I had a decent lead, so I didn't want to let overexertion make me sloppy and clumsy--I KNOW how I get.

Maybe a half mile from the finish on an out-and-back bit I saw that the 2nd place woman was closing my lead, so I pushed it harder for that last stretch to guarantee not losing my win, should she have a sudden and unexpected sprint left in her legs.  This wasn't difficult, since it was the stretch of the course that I liked best...a bit of a single-track dive in the woods, followed by some meadow 2track, finishing with a brief uphill singletrack grunt and sprint to the finish.

I finished in FIRST PLACE (yay!!!) 23+ seconds before the next woman.  Only 3 of the 5 women in the C race even finished all 4 laps.  And I'm reasonably certain that I was the oldest woman in the race and probably have a few pounds on all those other whipper-snappers, too.

And to think, 2 years ago I said I would never do a cyclocross race (I also said I would never mountain bike, but there is no doubt that my meager time riding singletrack this year has made me a much stronger and more skilled CX racer) and now I wonder if I could even manage to race B Masters, in the future.  Some bike improvements (better wheels that stay trued and weigh less and brakes that stop, for starters) and some ME improvements (ie dropping at least 20#s of excess baggage) could make it happen.  It's sorta surreal that I could even be thinking in these terms....

9.24.2012

JDRF Ride to Cure Day (Lake Tahoe part 3)

Back to part 2...

2 weeks ago most of the West MI ride team and I were on our way back to MI and "real life."  I'm still struggling to process all of the awesomeness of the day on the saddle with friends and over 1600 other non-JDRF team cyclists making the trek by bike around Lake Tahoe (some riders were able to cut the journey by cruising across Lake Tahoe via ferry and meeting up with us at the lunch stop).

The hubby and I muggin'
After a quick breakfast and donning of ride kits we rode our way to the starting area "dark and early."  The JDRF riders were given a half-hour head-start on the rest of the field.  After a few minutes to congregate, hit port-a-johns, and sing the national anthem we were off.

The ride started on the Nevada side of the lake, but we were back in California within moments.  I believe about 2/3 of the ride is within CA lines.

For maybe the first hour I followed directly behind my husband and our teammate Linda C. (our team's head coach's wife) was immediately behind me.  Those early miles are really flat and a good warm-up before we started hitting big climbs.

Around the time the road started to tilt upwards Derek dropped-off to keep tabs on the riders back a ways.  This is more than I saw of him in Death Valley, which was nice.  On team training rides I often don't see much of him, either, since we tend to break up a bit and the coaches "sweep" and make sure that all of the team makes it back to our ride starts safely.

Near the top of the first climb several of our team were congregated to touch-base and take in some already amazing views, as well as shed some clothes that were rapidly becoming unnecessary as the sun started warming the air.  Since it was starting to get congested along the guardrail and cars were making their way through we got back on our bikes and started rolling towards the big switchbacks.

Now, before the ride a LOT was made of the challenges of these switchbacks...that a lot of riders would have to walk up portions.  I also suspected my lungs would protest badly, since they had felt pretty off on the EASY warm-up ride the prior day.  So once I started up the switchbacks I was loathe to stop.  I had a good pedaling momentum and was picking-off people who were struggling and many who started walking their bikes as soon as they hit the first upgrade.  I REALLY credit the bit of mountain biking I've done for having strong climbing legs.  And my lungs were surprisingly well-behaved, which surprised me.  But I was paranoid to risk stopping and having to restart if the asthma kicked-in, so I motored-up.  And I was surprised when I reached the top.  I had the impression that there were more switchbacks.

In some ways I regret not stopping and taking in the view more, BUT there is at least one notorious section of the switchbacks where we apparently were on sort of a narrow ridge with massive and steep drops on both sides.  I don't think my fear of heights would have had me tolerating that.  I suspect that really could have set my lungs off and paralyzed me with fear, some.  As it is, I didn't really look to either side of me while making my way up.  I was focused on the road immediately in front of me and not running into anyone.

At the top of the switchbacks there was an unofficial break-point with pit toilets.  Another part of the reason I made it up the switchbacks fast is that I had to PEE!  After remounting my bike for the trip back down the other side some guy asked me if I had any baby wipes (which is kinda funny, since I am the gal who always has a pack in her gym bag for quick clean-ups post-ride), since he had puked on himself.  Word of advice, dude...it's not a race.  If you are hammering so hard up the hills that you barf on yourself you are kinda missing the point of the day.

After the rest area we had a brief and STEEP downhill where at least one rider on our team managed to hit 55mph.  I rode my brakes down all of the big hills, in large part due to unfamiliarity with the course and later because we had cross-winds that were pushing us around with some unpredictability.  My Garmin recorded 37.5mph as my top speed.  Not the fastest I've ever hit on my bike, but fast enough for this day.

Our first official SAG stop was on a scenic overlook at Emerald Bay.  The Tour de Tahoe really put out an amazing spread.  I had a couple of the most amazing strawberries ever!  That's one bonus of being in CA--FRESH California strawberries.  I also had some delicious blueberry fig bars.  Totally hit the spot.

From this stop I rode out with Tom S. and his son, Ian.  I rode with them to the next stop. Most of the course between these spots was sort of downhill, if memory serves.

Team West MI with full bellies ready to roll, again!
We lingered at this stop and when we went back out we did so with about half of our team in Tahoe.  It was really cool.  And we rode out with my husband for a bit.  I was really loving getting to see so much of him in this amazing place and sharing some of the same sights at the same time.  Our group stayed together pretty well until we rolled into the lunch stop at King's Beach State Park.  We lingered again here to get the entire team caught up (with the exception of our 2 hot-rods, Ross and Mark, who likely finished hours ahead of us).  At lunch we also picked-up our ferry-riding teammates who were fresh and eager to go.  Lunch featured great subs from a local sandwich joint, Red Vines licorice, brownies, chips, and other good eats.  Never have I done a supported ride with such a great spread at each stop.

Within about a half mile back on the road we hit a pretty long, relatively steep uphill.  That was kind of unpleasant after eating, but once we topped-out we had some pretty gently rolling terrain for a while.  It was going up this hill that we heard a good-natured heckle from a car headed down--"go, Lance!"  By and large the traffic on the roads in Tahoe was entirely respectful and careful.

Soon after lunch we rode back into NV and off of the busy highway for a bit through a VERY "1%" neighborhood in Incline Village.  These were the sorts of homes I envisioned surrounding all of Lake Tahoe.  In reality there are a lot of pretty modest homes all around the lake.

Eventually we met back up with the highway and this is where we found the part of the route that I found to be the most beautiful.  I really regret not stopping along the shoulder to take some photos (though I doubt anything snapped with any cell phone camera could do it justice).  We hit a scenic overlook, but it wasn't easy to access this with road bike shoes.

The waters here were turquoise and crystal clear just below the highway.  It looked like the Caribbean.  I want to go back and rent kayaks to float around in this little bay.

The high I felt after taking in this view would take me up the long (6ish miles, I think) climb immediately following.

I found the climb to Spooner Junction to be more difficult than the switchbacks, but this could have been due to it being later in the day, hotter conditions, and beating sun.  Midway up there was a SAG stop to refuel and empty our bladders (which was good, since the toilets at the rest area at the bottom of the climb were a true horror show.  It looked like something had backed-up in all of them.  Nasty!).  Onward and upward!

At the top of Spooner junction we had one last SAG stop, then turned right back onto the 4 lane highway that would take us mostly downwards to the start/finish.  Down...and not an easy down.  I have never ridden down such a LONG downhill.  And we had gusty cross-winds, so it was impossible to relax and enjoy gravity, since the winds were doing their best to blow me sideways into traffic in the lane to my left.  My hands were sore from feathering the brakes for miles and my entire upper body was achey from supporting my weight for so long without pedaling.

Near the bottom of this big descent we went through what everyone had dubbed "the wind tunnel," with good reason.

Here I caught up with several teammates.  Kaat and I waited for another couple of newer teammates (who didn't show after a long while, so we assumed they had taken an extended break midway down).  While standing here we saw a pick-up truck go flying through and swerve to miss a cyclist, then nearly rear-end a car in the left-hand lane.  Moments later a cop flew through the tunnel with lights and sirens blazing and a mile or two down the road we saw the jackass in the truck pulled-over.  I hope they threw the book at him.  His actions could have yielded an unnecessarily tragic ending.

Greeting JDRF riders until EVERY last one is done!  It's how we ROLL!
The remainder of the course was not nearly as flat as elevation profiles suggested.  There were at least 3 climbs in these last miles that had me cursing under my breath.  I'm sure it didn't help that the last few miles were more business/residential and we no longer had consistent view of the beautiful body of water and mountains that had kept us so blissfully distracted for the prior duration of our ride.

About a half mile from the finish Kaat and I caught up with teammate Tom M. where we waited for Linda T-P so we could all roll across the finish together.  As is West MI tradition, our earlier finishing teammates were waiting for us and we would join them to cheer the rest of our team across the line, as well.

A few JDRF hunks (hubby is 2nd from left)!
After we were all safely done (and by ALL I mean that our entire finished team waits until EVERY JDRF rider is safely back to the finish, not just our own, but anyone sporting the jersey from any part of the world.  Our West MI coaches always take it upon themselves to shepherd in our back-of-the-pack riders, too) we headed over to the post-ride BBQ to satisfy our hunger for food and for tales from the day.  Everyone was all-smiles and our team coach (also a national head coach) described the day as one of the best JDRF ride events that he has ever been a part of (and I think he's been involved with something in the neighborhood of 30).

Post ride we cleaned-up, hit the hotel's complimentary happy hour, and then attended an emotional, celebratory dinner to close a wonderful weekend of reward for months of fundraising.  One of our own teammates won the young rider award.  He was very deserving of this honor.  At 14 he has been battling this disease since he was < 2.  He was such a vivid reminder of why we work so hard to raise so many millions of dollars as an organization.  He is always all-smiles, but it's a brave face that no kid or adult should have to wear.  With every ride we get closer to the day when these folks won't have to.


9.18.2012

Tourists in Tahoe (Lake Tahoe part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

After our tune-up ride and showers we headed out to find lunch and get to know Lake Tahoe better.

Several of us found a nice Mexican restaurant (Peppers was the name of it, I think) at the base of the Heavenly ski resort gondola, while others noshed at a pizza joint nearby.  I had a delicious shredded pork burrito loaded with beans and lettuce and veggies on a whole wheat tortilla--good eats!  It was perfect weather for eating el fresco, so we sat at a table outdoors and watched the gondola cars going up the mountain and returning to the base.

It's such a long way up the mountain!
As soon as we finished eating we all met back up to take the gondola upwards.  This trek had me both thrilled and scared shitless...I do NOT do heights well.  My entire family suffers from some pretty serious fear of heights and vertigo issues.

Our friend and teammate Jason was just as freaked-out as I was.  Derek and Kaat got a kick out of our whimpering and hyperventilation!  Jason has skydived (skydove?) before, so it was sort of ironic to me that the gondola made him so tense.

The views from the gondola were pretty amazing...huge rock formations jutting out at all angles, blue skies, twisty trees toppled over while still living trees grew at seemingly impossible angles.  I enjoyed the trip up to the overlook platform until I made the "mistake" of turning around to look behind me.  Holy crap, that was a scary vantage point!  I spent the rest of the ride to the top sort of hunched-over and refused to look behind me.

Midway up the mountain we were able to exit the gondola and check out the view from a platform that circled a peak.  Now, this platform was VERY large and stable, but I still would not go anywhere near the railing.

Brave souls leaning on the railing - Kaat, Ross, Linda, Heather, Michelle
Before exiting the gondola car we were coming in hot on another car filled with other West MI teammates.  Jason had a moment of hilarious panic as he thought a rear-ending of their car was imminent and hollered "Oh, god, STOP!!!"  We're still laughing about that over a week after the fact.

After we'd had our fill of viewing Lake Tahoe from way above we re-entered a gondola car to ride further up the mountain to the main Heavenly ski resort (I'm not entirely certain, but I think maybe the only way to access the resort is by gondola.  I never saw evidence of public road access by car).

The resort area was pretty surreal...it didn't really feel like we were on top of a mountain, since the resort is nestled in a small valley.

Because I'm a dumbass I was talked into a $10 chairlift trip that would bring us closer to the very tippy-top of the Heavenly ski resort.  Now, I have been on chairlifts before, even big ones in CO. Those really didn't scare me in the least--because they have like 10'+ of plush snow below and I'd be covered in several inches thick cozy ski attire.  On this particular chairlift ride there was nothing to protect my fragile body from a far fall from the chair onto BOULDERS!!!  Every time the lift would stop our chair would swing and pitch sort of forward...oh, shit!

At the top of the chair we got off and wandered around a bit.  We didn't go very far, but I think there are runs on the back side of the mountain, too.  Someday I will have to look at a resort map to get a better feel for how big Heavenly was.  I'd really love to ski there, too.  We haven't downhill skied since before DS was conceived, so probably almost 13 years ago.  I really enjoyed alpine skiing, though.

Hiking around on top of the mountain really was a lung challenge, though.  We were somewhere in the neighborhood of 9k feet and I felt it.  We didn't stay up there long before taking the chairlift back down to catch the gondola to the base, again.

My smile is totally fake...see the flexed tendon of terror in my neck?!
It's almost enough to distract from my lack of defined chin and jawline.
If I thought the chairlift up was terrifying it didn't compare to the trip down...oh.  I have never been on a chairlift headed downwards.  And now I could see the ground AND really felt like we were going to tip off the front of the chair as we were moving forward at a downwards angle.  I had a death-grip on the bar in front of us with one hand and my other hand was gripping the seat.  It's funny in hindsight, but I was really wishing that I'd chosen to hike down, since there were people doing that--SMART people!

See how mean my husband is, all relaxed and stuff while I am staring forward directly towards my impending demise?!

The gondola ride back down was less scary, relative to the chair ride.  Jason was still sorta freaked every time the gondola car would rattle along over the wheelie deals on the towers.  I am certain that he and I both lost a few lives on that trip (though he did let go of the lift chair to take that photo above, so maybe he's not as big a freak as I am, heh).

Team West MI has glittery balls...on our helmets!
Once down we did a bit of souvenir shopping for the rugrat and then returned for our ride-eve dinner and traditional helmet decorating party (it makes it much easier for us to spot our teammates during ride day and is just plain fun).  Special jerseys were handed out to the top individual fundraiser and we learned that our team was the top fundraising team of all teams represented at the Lake Tahoe ride.  We also got to meet Curtis, who is the ride director for the entire Tour de Tahoe.  He has made it his mission to give as much promotion to the JDRF as he possibly can.  The official Tour de Tahoe t-shirts (given to all 1800 riders, in addition to the JDRF riders, who made up < 1/10 of the entire field) all have a huge JDRF logo on the front, which is pretty neat.  Hopefully his promotion of the organization will bring more new riders on for 2013.

After we finished decorating our helmets we made our way back to our respective rooms for a good night's sleep before the big ride day.

On to part 3...

9.14.2012

1 Totally Surreal Week Ago... (Lake Tahoe part 1)

At this time last week (Friday, Sept. 7) we were somewhere between here (MI) and Lake Tahoe, CA on our way to our JDRF Ride to Cure weekend.  I couldn't tell you exactly where we might have been.  It was noonish in CA.  Our flights were mostly uneventful, aside from our 2nd of 3 flights being late and only having 12 minutes to get from the jetbridge of flight 2 to flight 3 ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SAN FRAN AIRPORT prior to take-off.  We found the shuttle that would take us there faster and an assistant on the bus radio'd ahead to the pilot of the plane bound for Reno to wait.  We somehow managed to make it there with 5 minutes to spare.  I'm way impressed with SF's airport, as a result.

Members of the West MI JDRF ride team
+ 2 dudes from another team
Waiting at the Reno airport was another shuttle bus to take us the rest of the way to Tahoe.  Several of us grabbed takeout from a burger joint in the airport, since our short layovers had prevented us from eating solid food since early AM EST.

The drive to Lake Tahoe from Reno was really beautiful...even moreso than the drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley last Fall, perhaps.  We also got a preview of the massive and long downhill that would greet us towards the end of the 72 mile Sunday Tour de Tahoe ride.  Even in a vehicle there were some vistas that gave me a bit of mild vertigo--yikes!

After arriving at the Tahoe Embassy Suites and settling-in we were hit the hotel's happy hour briefly, then were greeted with a JDRF welcome reception complete with chili and other snacks.  Most of the team then reconvened at a nearby brew pub for some more substantial dinner, though DH and I were by this point kind of sick of snacky foods and craving greens.  We split a chicken caesar salad and enjoyed beers to wash it down.

By this point it had been a very long day and we headed to bed for a good night's sleep before our warm-up ride in the AM to make sure that everything on our bikes worked well.

Most of the West MI JDRF Ride to Cure team
(that's me in the front, 4th from left)
Prior to our warm-up we had breakfast in the hotel.  This was no cold continental breakfast, but had scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, hot oatmeal, and an omelette station, in addition to cold cereal, fresh fruit, and yogurt.

The warm-up ride was really short, under 3 miles, so several of us did 2 "laps."  It was astounding how winded I felt from even the smallest hills, thanks to the elevation.  This did NOT bode well for the following day, I feared.  My biggest fear leading up to this trip was the effect of elevation on my wussy, asthmatic lungs.  Ride day with its ~4k feet of elevation gain could be a really long, painful one for me if the warm-up was any measure.

West MI riders mid-warm-up
(yours truly on the left)
On the bright side, even if my lungs were totally uncooperative I would at least have the amazing views to distract me from my lung dysfunction.  There are worse places to feel less than spectacular and have a good excuse to take one's sweet time.

Once we cleaned-up post-ride it was time to find some lunch and play tourist.

More to come...