Under the Wire!

Wow, I'm managing a whopping 2 posts for the month!  That is more than I can say for March or April with their solo posts.  Not training for any really big races or events removes a lot of the focus from my riding and running and leaves me without a lot to say.

I honestly thought I would enjoy a year without the stress of race training a lot more.  I DO like not feeling tied to any sort of concrete plan...but I also find that I'm REALLY good at making excuses to slack off.  I had promised myself that I would run AT LEAST 12 miles EVERY week (ie a 3, 4, and 5 miler, minimum).  But we've ended up with the hottest Summer in my entire life.  Most weeks I'm lucky to manage 10.  Were I training for a running event of any sort I'm certain I would force myself to slog through the miles, but I'm not.  And I am running slower than I have since the very first year I was running.  I think I was probably running faster that Summer, even, but I'm not about to go look at my log to confirm my suspicions.

Truthfully, I was generally running too hard for my fitness at that point, anyhow, so those paces are likely meaningless.  Nowadays my runs are solely for general fitness and pleasure.  I really enjoy running in the evening when shadows are long and most people are eating dinner.  I see a lot of wildlife venturing out once the heat of midday has dissipated some.  It's just very peaceful.

©Suzi Hass
Earlier in the month we headed home (Door Co., Wisconsin) for a childhood friend's wedding.  We had a great long weekend staying in a cottage near my parents' place.  The weekend included a run with the bride on her wedding morning with another childhood friend and one of the bridesmaids.

We also put 80 miles on our bikes.  First with a 55 miler on the northern half of the route for the Ride For Nature century we did last year.  2 days later we pedaled another 25.  The roads up that way are so buttery smooth and a real joy to ride.

I've not been logging quite the bike mileage that I'd hoped, but I have been getting out for a few single track miles here and there, which is really nice and a LOT more work/mile than rolling along on my skinny-tired bike on the road.  I'd be doing more off-road riding, but it's still not entirely easy with DS home from school.  He rides "my" bike and I ride a friend's borrowed mountain bike, but it's a poor fit for me (much too small--she and I are pretty similar in size, but she likes bikes smaller than I do...differences in our individual mechanics/preferences.  Her tiny XXS/12.5" frame is generally recommended for people no taller than 5'2" and I am nearly 2" beyond that) and too much bike for DS.  I can't ride it very long without paying in the form of knee, middle back and shoulder pain (I've been battling the back and shoulder stuff for a few days since doing 11+ miles of bike path and trail miles with DS and friends a few days ago).  We'd have DS ride her bike, since it would probably be a perfect fit for him, but it's a lighter, faster, twitchier bike than mine.  We think he'd struggle with her bike, since it's less forgiving.  I even find it a little overwhelming with my own noobieness.

Epic Bruiser!
Last week DS was at camp and I "borrowed" my bike back to roll some trails with friends for a couple of hours--10 miles on the nose.  That bike is still a hair small for me (XS Cannondale, when a S would be a better fit for me), but there's at least room to get the seat up higher and the reach is longer.  It was really a nice day and I felt pretty strong and surprisingly coordinated...at least until I tagged a tree with my handlebars on the hardest loop out there.  Bam...got some pretty colored blobs on me from that.  Fun fun!

This Summer I've really come to understand why DH's favorite miles are the ones he covers on his mountain bike--and he doesn't fall nearly as much as I do!  While I have no interest in spending $140 to DNF a 100 mile mountain bike race, I am VERY eager to try my legs at shorter races, like MI's Iceman Cometh 27 mile race in the late Fall.  We have a 6 and 12 hour relay coming up, too (solo or relay teams of 2 or 4).  Iceman is already sold out for 2012 and I haven't committed to the relay.  It's only a week before the 150ish mile ODRAM ride.  If someone needs an extra person for a 6 hour team I'd be happy to join, but I don't have a bike (or training) that would be comfortable for more than 2 hours or so of cumulative riding (each lap is 4 miles, so I'd probably get in 2 for a 4-person, 6 hour race).

Salsa El Mariachi 3 29er
Hopefully we can figure out how to get me on one of these pretties on the left, really soon (the sizing charts put me smack-dab in the middle of the XS/14" size with plenty of standover, so I'm really eager to talk more with our LBS buddy about adding one to our stable).  It's only about another 5 weeks before the road riding "season" starts to give way to cyclocross.  What better way to work on CX bike-handling skills than riding some singletrack?  It makes a CX course seem sorta easy, by comparison (well, except for the whole dismount/barriers/remount business).  That Salsa El Mariachi 3 is steel...while I am a bit too big for my friend's tiny Salsa Ala Carte, I do LOVE how smooth that steel frame feels riding on asphalt and it absorbs roots and bumps so much nicer than the aluminum Cannondale (the one my kiddo has taken over).  I already have a carbon road bike and an aluminum CX bike.  Seems like all that is missing from my personal stable is a steel mountain bike, right (and a titanium fat bike, ha!)?  

I've even named it...because I am a Dykstra and we are the family that names everything.  Looks kinda like Gossamer from the Looney Tunes cartoons, huh?

In other new gear news, I FINALLY got my hands on one of those Ergon SM3 saddles that I've been anxiously wanting to try for many months.  They kept pushing back the release date, but I was able to find one at one of the small handful of retailers who have them available for sale.  I decided to try one of the low-end models, in case I didn't like it -- I wouldn't take as much of a loss selling it.

When it arrived I had my doubts of it being a good fit, as the relief channel is not nearly as deep as it appears in photos.  The extreme T-shape footprint is really awesome, though.  It's surprisingly firm for a mountain bike saddle.  It seems like most saddles intended for off-road are more on the spongey side, but this has a nifty suspension feature built into the points where the rails insert to the saddle body.  I was finally able to squeeze in a short (12 mile) ride with it yesterday.

Ergon SM3-L saddle - 145mm
Verdict: Wow, I think it might be a really good fit for me.  It's still going to take some longer rides to be certain, but most no-go saddles are pretty miserable within the first 5 miles.  I would have ridden further, but yesterday was technically a run day for me and I didn't want to leave the rugrat home any longer than necessary.  Tonight I have a 30 mile women's ride, so I'll have a better idea of fit from that.  I did have to tilt the nose up a hair, since I think I didn't get it as level as possible and I felt like I was sliding forward a bit.  It's also lower-profile than the Bontrager InForm Affinity RL that I've been using, so I had DH raise my saddle a quarter inch.

Even though the relief channel is smaller and shallower than what's on my Bontrager saddle, it seems no less effective.  And the more abrupt transition between nose and rear should keep my gracilis muscles from feeling beat-up after longer rides (or having to push myself back on the saddle so much).  I had no pinching, pressure, or chafing issues up-front and it felt good for a brief stretch riding in the drops.

I really like that suspension feature, too.  Even though the saddle is technically a mountain bike saddle, it's nice when rough spots/cracks/and small holes don't leave my rear-end so beat-up after riding on the road.  The saddle really flexed under me when I'd hit bumps.  I could see that being wonderful on a hardtail mtn. or CX bike, too.  No need for a lot of squishy padding on a mtn. bike saddle when the saddle is so flexy (I made that word up, but I like it) through the frame.

If I end up loving this saddle I'd probably spring for the next model up for my road bike (carbon shell, white, slick silicone stuff at the inner thigh to protect shorts from friction wear) and plop this one on my CX bike.  Perhaps I'd even get another of the "cheap" one for a future mtn. bike, though my butt and girl bits never seem as sensitive to different saddles on mountain bikes--likely because my position is relatively more upright.


Another Contender

Awfully smug, aren't we?  Bastard.
In the past week the temps and humidity have risen to record levels. Grand Rapids is experiencing it's first back-to-back triple digit days in about 90 years. It's sorta crazy hot for these parts--I believe we are currently hotter than much of Texas. It's kinda tough to live in a climate that can swing >100º in the course of 6 months. And I could swear one of the local weather guys blogged a couple of months ago saying that most of the weather models were predicting a relatively cool Summer...when? This shouldn't come as much of a surprise after our record warm March that destroyed a lot of crops (cherries, in particular, bloomed too early, then April frosts destroyed 90-95% of the state crops).

2 days ago (July 4) DH rode one of his longest rides, ever...about 119 miles, I believe.  The heat made it extra challenging, too.  DS and I joined him (DS on the back of the tandem) for 56ish miles.  DS's longest ride, ever.  That kid is so heat-tolerant!  I hope it lasts.  At his age I tolerated heat even less well than I do now.  I blame it on my heavily Nordic bloodlines.  As much as I don't like Winter, it's more an issue of gray skies and poor footing than it is a temperature issue.  I'm almost always perfectly comfy once I get out the door.  This time of year the reverse is true, much of the time.

I'm really thankful that we didn't have childcare for that 4th of July century.  By 40 miles or so into our ride I was starting to develop chills--which in mid-90s temps and high humidity is NOT a positive thing--and twinges of imminent calf cramps.  I guzzled fluids and popped probably at least a half-dozen Endurolytes electrolytes capsules in a 2 hour period and still was really struggling to fend off heat sickness symptoms.  I went to sleep that night with a headache and was hardly peeing until AM...and very bloated.  My fingers and feet swelled-up to the point that my feet were getting pinched in my already wide men's cycling shoes.

Today I'd planned to run, but today is the hottest day, yet, and it's messing with my gastric function, which means I'd be starting out already semi-dehydrated.  Totally not worth the risk.  Tomorrow is also not looking promising...so 4 miles for the entire week may have to do.  At least I've managed >100 miles on the bike, so I don't feel like a total slacker.  It's looking like a picnic supper at the beach is on the agenda...and not much else.  So thankful we live just a 4 mile drive from a really great Lake MI beach!

2012 Salsa El Mariachi 3
Last night we took a short, but sweet little family single-track ride at the park near us.  It was still hot and buggy in the woods, but we were protected from the sun's rays, which helped.  DS continues to progress on "my" mountain bike and I am enjoying borrowing my friend's Salsa Ala Carte 26er.  It's really teeny tiny--I have determined that it's a 12.5" frame, when I would ideally be on a 14-15.  I think I may be becoming enamored with steel, though.  I have a carbon road bike, an aluminum cyclocross bike (with carbon fork), and now am giving some serious looks at the Salsa El Mariachi 29er bike once our LBS buddy has a chance to see what is in store with their 2013 models...though I do kinda like their 2012 "3" model in Jungle Fever Green.  Standover looks like it would be good, especially in the XS size (I could probably fit on the S, just fine but the smaller frame would be lighter and give me more wiggle room).

I found out that the Cannondale Tango SL will have 3 model levels (and sizes), but, in true Cannondale form, it appears that the best color (Tangerine Dream!!!) will go to the bottom spec'd bike, which kinda irks me.  I'll be interested to see what components are offered on each bike, too.  The top-level Tango SL will be priced comparably to the El Mariachi 3, but I suspect the Cannondale may have a lower end component package.  I'll know more next month, when Salsa announces their 2013 line-up.